Tag Archives: flash fiction

The Youth Coordinator

It’s the second last letter of the alphabet! Time for the letter Y in the A to Z Challenge. This was the most difficult job to figure out. I didn’t even know what it would be until about 24 hours ago. But here it is. You get more of Solona. Enjoy!

The Youth Coordinator

Ariadne

New Athens

Sixth day, fifth month, thirteenth year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (5/06/13 AE)

Carl Snyder sat on the sofa, a tablet in his hand. Next to him sat Solona Knight. He had his assignment, one that the Governor hoped would be successful.

“Solona,” he said. “I’ve asked you here to make a proposal. You may be only eleven, but you have shown a lot of maturity, so I’m going to speak to you like an adult.”

She nodded. “Okay.”

“You’ve shown some great natural leadership skills, and you’ve done an amazing job helping the other kids who have the same abilities as you. But Governor Fernandes wants to have something more formal in place. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yeah. I think he wants a group made for us,” said Solona.

“Yes, that’s right. And he would like you to be in charge in the future. But for now, there will be adult supervision, mainly from me. This group will help all of the kids, including you, develop their skills in a safe environment. We don’t want any of you getting hurt trying to figure all of this out by yourselves. We think there should always be a responsible adult around, but it’s better if you could all practice together. What do you think?”

“It sounds like a good idea. You want me to be a leader?”

“Yes, I’d like you to be the leader for the other kids. I’ll just be supervising and making sure no one gets hurt. In two or three years, you could take over as you learn more leadership and management skills. How would you like that?”

“I think it’s what I’ve been doing all along. So, yeah, that’s no problem.”

“Okay, great. Is there anyone you’d like to assist you?”

Solona looked at the list of children on Carl’s tablet. “Mmm, I think Chisa Hara and Danny Bosch would be great.”

“Chisa’s only nine right now. Are you sure?”

“Yeah, she’s great. She’s very responsible. And Danny is great with the kids. They all look up to him. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s good.”

“Okay, I’ll have to talk to them and their parents about this. We can talk more tomorrow about how to set it all up. Thanks, Solona.” He held out his hand for her to shake. She slowly raised her hand and stopped.

“One thing, though. I can’t stop kids from practicing by themselves. I don’t want to be responsible for them making that mistake and getting hurt.”

“I wouldn’t expect that of you. I just think you’ll be a great teacher and role model for them,” said Carl.

Solona smiled and shook Carl’s hand. “It’s a deal.”

The Xylophonist

The letter X! Surprisingly, this was not the most difficult letter of the alphabet to use for the A to Z Challenge. That honour goes to the letter Y.

Before you begin reading this part of the story, I just want to remind you of the calendar system used on Ariadne.  There are twelve standard months of twenty-nine days each. But at the beginning of the year, there’s a Celebration month that is three days long, unless it’s a leap year. Then it’s four days long. The leap year comes every ten years. You can read all about it here.

Now, enjoy the magic!

The Xylophonist

Ariadne

New Athens

First day, Celebration month, eleventh year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (0/01/11 AE)

Twelve thousand people stood before him. Konrad Fleischer occupied the stage with the Governor of the Ariadne colony, Paolo Fernandes. He had never been at such a large event. Half of New Athens must have been there. It was the first day of the new year, the tenth anniversary of landing at this site. This very site, now called Landing Square. This was also the first leap year. The Celebration month this year was four days long. He expected a big party. But here he was, standing on stage with the most famous man on the planet ready to play the xylophone.

Konrad looked around at the audience. Many familiar faces. He noticed that the Governor had been speaking, but had no idea what he was saying. He forced himself to pay attention.

“The first ten years of our colony have been an incredible success. There have been some disappointments, but most of all, amazing surprises. Tonight, we have one of those surprises. I’ve invited Solona Knight to the stage to demonstrate something for you. I’m sure you all know what it is, as some of you with children have seen this with your own eyes.” Paolo Fernandes looked back at Konrad and nodded. “Solona, please join us on stage.”

The young girl, wearing a green dress and her long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, climbed the steps to the stage. She must have been around nine years old, if Konrad’s math was correct. She was the first to display the magical ability of energy control. It wasn’t really magic, but everyone kept calling it that. Some form of telekinesis, or something like that. He didn’t know the terms. He was a musician, not a scientist.

Solona stood next to the Governor. “I’d like to thank Governor Fernandes for inviting me up here today on this great anniversary. I’m sure you know my story, but I’m not so sure if you’ve seen what I can do. I’ve heard some of you may be scared of what I can do. But please don’t be scared. I think this is an amazing gift from Ariadne, and I want to use what I can do for the good of everyone.”

Such poise and confidence, Konrad mused. She was a celebrity, and she knew it.

“Let me show you a little of what I can do,” she said.

Konrad readied his mallets. He struck the fiberglass bars, beginning his own composition, Ariadne Landing Movement Number One. Then he heard the gasp of the audience. He smiled as he saw the fire above Solona form into a dragon.

The Waitress

We now enter the final four days of the A to Z Challenge! It was actually rather difficult to choose the jobs for the final four letters, except for Z. I’ve known what Z would be for quite a while. X is tomorrow, and I had a tough time with that one. Y still hasn’t been chosen. But here is W.

The Waitress

Ariadne

New Athens

Fourth day, seventh month, ninth year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (7/04/09 AE)

“Sal, I’m going on break,” said Kaoru Hara as she walked through the kitchen and back to the staff room.

“Right,” he responded. “Bit slow out there now?”

“Not a single person out there. Shane’s taking care of everything.”

“Enjoy.”

Kaoru grabbed a tablet from her bag and checked her messages. Two messages. That’s odd, a message from the school. She tapped on the call icon and watched the small waveform animation. A face appeared on screen. Margaret Sanderson.

“Mrs. Hara? I’m so glad you called,” she said.

“Is there something you wanted to talk to me about?” asked Kaoru.

“Yes. I’m afraid there’s something I need to see you about. It has to do with Chisa.”

Chisa? She couldn’t have fallen off the table, could she? She’s always climbing up there. “What happened?”

“Well, this is a bit hard to explain. You know the incident two years ago with the young Knight girl?”

Knight girl? Kaoru’s eyes widened. “No. I mean yes, I know what happened. But there must be a mistake. Chisa? She couldn’t—“

“I’m afraid this isn’t the second time a child has exhibited unusual abilities. Chisa has shown the same abilities as Solona Knight. She showed me a small flame. It always seems to start with fire with these kids. I suggest you come over here to see her. She’s really frightened.”

“Of course, I’ll be there in a few minutes,” said Kaoru. She turned off the tablet and ran to the kitchen.

“What’s up?” said Sal.

“Sorry, Sal. I need to go to Chisa’s school. Something happened.” She pulled off her apron.

“No problem,” he said. “Take care of your kid.”

“Thanks. You’re the best.”

Kaoru dashed to the break room and grabbed her bag. Why does this have to happen to my kid?

The VTOL Pilot

On the letter V in the A to Z Challenge. That leaves us with a challenging final four letters. But I get a day off to contemplate what to do for them. This entry contains some language, so if four letter swear words offend you, then you don’t read enough non-YA fiction. Just a friendly warning.

The VTOL Pilot

Ariadne

New Athens

Eighth day, second month, eighth year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (2/08/08 AE)

“Landing pad is clear,” said the voice on the radio.

Barry Wong lowered the VTOL. Then it was dark. The lights and all instruments went out. He jerked the manual controls up. “I have a problem here,” he said.

“What’s happening? We lost computer contact,” said the control tower.

The lights returned and instruments turned back on. “I don’t know what just happened. I lost all the lights and screens in the cockpit,” he said as he regained control. “Everything is back.”

“We have contact again.”

“I’m getting this thing down before it does anything like that again.”

Barry landed the craft without any further incident. He checked the instruments and everything read normal. He removed his straps, opened the cockpit door, and bounded down the steps.

“Hey, Barry,” said a young blonde woman. “What the hell happened up there?”

“Never thought I’d see your face again, Kristina,” said Barry. “Nearly pissed myself up there. Everything went dark in the cockpit. I need a diagnostic run.”

Kristina connected her tablet to the VTOL data port with a cable and tapped a few times on the screen. “Diagnostics running.”

“Shit, that scared the hell out of me. Never seen anything like that happen before. With all the redundancies in the systems, that should never happen,” said Barry as he gesticulated.

“Well, I don’t have your answer. Diagnostics complete. Everything is normal. The computer recorded the power drop, and it was within the power system for the cockpit itself. The backups would’ve failed anyway. It lasted one point six seconds only, enough to make you shit your pants. But all systems are normal now.”

“That shouldn’t happen. How is that even physically possible? The circuits themselves stopped working?”

“That’s what it says. I don’t understand it, either. But I’ve been hearing about this kind of thing happening all over the place. Sudden power cuts, but the cause is unknown.”

Barry sat on the steps to the cockpit. “I need a drink. Is this planet screwing with our electronic systems? Some strange magnetic field or something?”

“Well, I’ll get this data to the university, then I’ll dig around inside this piece of beautiful garbage,” said Kristina.

“I’m getting my drink now.”

The Urban Planner

We’re getting closer to the end of the A to Z Challenge. Now it’s the letter U, and after this, it just gets more difficult to find jobs. Can you imagine what I’ll do for X and Z? V is ready to go, and quite appropriate. Enjoy the U story!

The Urban Planner

Ariadne

New Athens

Fourteenth day, eleventh month, seventh year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (11/14/07 AE)

Paolo Fernandes peered down at the map on his desk. He nodded his head. “I like this. It looks good. Very efficient, too.”

Breaking into a smile, Tabitha Pierce said, “Thank you. This is only the beginning. New Brasilia has the potential to be a great city.”

“I think I may retire there,” said Paolo. “Brasilia on Earth was a planned city. But I love how you’ve incorporated the forest into the city.”

“Lowest impact possible, you said.”

“Indeed I did.”

“Although there are only one and a half thousand people living there now, it’s quite vibrant. But with the arrival of the second ship, there should be a huge influx of people. We need to be ready to house another twenty-five thousand people.”

“Well, yes,” said Paolo. He hesitated. “Of course, they won’t all go to New Brasilia.”

Something was wrong, Tabitha was sure of it. Paolo was apprehensive. “Has something happened?”

“No, nothing,” he said. He opened his mouth to say something extra, but shook his head instead.

“Where are the other colonists?” asked Tabitha. No need to dance around the issue. “They were supposed to be here four years ago.”

“I don’t want this government to be full of secrets. I don’t want people to worry needlessly, either,” he said, looking at the map. His eyes met Tabitha’s, showing an intensity she’d never seen before. “No secrets. The truth is that we haven’t heard anything from the other colonists. When we left Mars, there was a threat from the Earth government. We left early to escape them.”

Everything connected in her mind. “I understand now,” she said. “That’s why everyone was so tense. Everyone at the top knew?”

“Yes. We didn’t want anything to go wrong with the launch. And there was information about someone infiltrating the project. We couldn’t let on that we knew. We had to proceed as if everything was fine.”

“Will they arrive?”

Paolo shook his head. “Unlikely. I don’t know. They might. Or we may never hear from them again.”

“Has there been any communication?”

“We send messages regularly, but we haven’t received anything. It’s not encouraging. This leads me to believe that the Earth government has taken over Mars. And this was decades ago now.”

“What should we do?”

“Carry on. Keep planning for their arrival. I won’t have hopelessness on my watch.”

“Understood. I’ll do my best,” said Tabitha.

The Teacher

The letter T has come to the A to Z Challenge. This is a very important letter. Of course, teachers are important, but this part of the story is also very important. I won’t say anything more. Just read and discover what exactly is going to happen on the world of Ariadne. I just had to post this one a few hours earlier than usual. You’ll notice we’ve jumped ahead in time with this part. I look forward to your comments.

The Teacher

Ariadne

New Athens

Second day, seventh month, seventh year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (7/02/07 AE)

The giggles, the chatter, the shouts of joy. Margaret Sanderson loved the sounds of young children playing. She watched the seventeen kindergarten children running around and playing. These were the oldest of the children born on Ariadne, all four and five years old. But not every child was playing with others.

She saw the girl crouched down near the edge of the school grounds. Solona Knight. Bright, enthusiastic, and popular, she was her star pupil. But what was she doing?

Margaret approached Solona from behind. “Solona, is everything okay?” she asked.

Solona’s back straightened and she gasped, “Miss Sanderson.” She glanced at her sideways. “I’m okay. I think so. Really, I am.”

Margaret recognised the guilty behaviour of a child who’s been doing something she shouldn’t. She decided to let Solona lead the way. “What are you doing?” she said.

“Oh, nothing,” she answered. She hesitated. “No, not nothing. Can I show you something?”

“Of course. You can show me anything.”

“Promise not to get angry?”

“I promise, Solona,” said Margaret, smiling. She wasn’t sure if it was anything bad, or if it was an innocent mind thinking something normal was bad.

“Okay. Come over here.”

Margaret bent down to see what Solona was looking at. She was holding out her hand, palm face up. “What do you want to show me?”

“Watch,” she said.

Margaret looked around, but didn’t see anything. At first, she thought it was a small animal in the feathergrass, but there was nothing. Then she saw the glow. A flame. Her jaw slackened and her eyes widened. An orange flame flickered above Solona’s open palm. That shouldn’t happen. That can’t happen. “How?” she said, but no other words came to her mind.

“I don’t know,” said Solona, almost whispering. “I just think about something hot and look at the place I want to be hot. The fire starts like that.” The flame disappeared. “I can do more things.”

“What?” said Margaret.

“Look at the grass.” Solona extended her index finger and touched a frond of feathergrass. Frost appeared on the plant around her finger and spread out. Ice crystals formed.

“How?” Margaret didn’t hear anything. She stared at the frozen grass. She realised Solona was looking at her and saying something. Ten seconds, thirty seconds, a minute, she didn’t know how long she was transfixed on the grass. “What? What happened?”

“Did I do something bad, Miss Sanderson?” asked Solona. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I don’t want to scare anyone. I don’t know why I can do this. Please don’t get angry at me.” Tears rolled down Solona’s face.

Margaret realised Solona was frightened. “No, no. I’m not angry, Solona. You’re not in trouble. I’m just surprised.” She forced a smile. She wasn’t sure what to think or feel. Was it even real?

“Are you going to tell my mom?”

Was she?

“Did you see that?” said a boy to her left.

Yes, she was.

The Surveyor

Here we are with the letter S in the A to Z Challenge. This time, a little bit of a trip away from the main colony. And not everyone is happy. And not all is going well with the colony. Something isn’t right. Find out what it is in this installment.

The Surveyor

Ariadne

New Brasilia site

Seventeenth day, twelfth month, third year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (12/17/03 AE)

Hoots and whistles filled the rainforest with a cacophony of sounds as the group of twelve men and women stood around the VTOL aircraft in a small clearing. James Kipchumba shifted his weight from foot to foot while he waited for the team leader to give them instructions. Frank Garner stepped up onto the VTOL stairs and raised his hand to quiet the group.

“Your task here is pretty simple,” said Frank. “We’re going to fan out around a kilometre square area and measure the topography. You have your assigned areas with your partner. There will be six groups. Make sure you coordinate your figures with the data block in the plane. If you run into any wild animals, remember your training. I’ve heard there’s a giant herbivore around here, but it’s rather gentle. But it’s better to be safe. You know what to do.”

Frank stepped down and James turned to his partner, Felicia Gomez. “Well, we have the waterfront,” said James. “Want to check out the beach?”

“Probably more like a swamp there,” said Felicia.

“You’re probably right.”

They ambled through the trees to the west. James found it impossible to see the tops of the tallest trees. The canopy blocked the view of the sky. The darkness didn’t cool the air. It was humid. But as they approached the shore of the great inland sea, a light breeze helped change the atmosphere. It no longer felt like a sauna.

“James,” said Felicia. “Do you ever wonder what happened to the second ship?”

“Why are you asking me now?” he answered.

“Well, it was supposed to arrive by now. It’s kind of strange that we’re doing this after it was supposed to have landed.”

“I guess so. From what I heard, they were going to be delayed, so I think that’s why.”

“My sister is on that ship. I talked to her before we left, and she heard nothing about any delay.” Felicia looked out to the sea which was now coming into view through the mangrove-like swamp. “I don’t think they’re telling us everything.”

“Maybe not, but moping around about it isn’t going to help us get our job done faster. Let’s just get this done and worry about that later, okay?” said James. He put his hand on Felicia’s shoulder. “Look, I’m sorry you haven’t been able to see your sister in so long. I have friends on the other ship, too. But I keep saying to myself that I will see them again. It may not be this year, it may not be next year, but they will come.” He looked Felicia in the eyes. “You’ll see your sister again.”

“Thanks, James.” She sighed. “I wish I could be as optimistic as you.”

The Railroad Engineer

Going on to the letter R in the A to Z Challenge, we have an entry that’s more of a worldbuilding piece. But it’s a major thing that will become a factor in a future book.

The Railroad Engineer

Ariadne

New Athens

Twenty-fifth day, ninth month, third year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (9/25/03 AE)

Paolo Fernandes studied the tablet screen while Susan McKinley stood rigid in front of his desk. She’d been working on the design for two years with her team and had several setbacks, including outright rejection. This was it, she was sure. They’d met all the conditions given to them.

“Mmm, very good,” said Paolo. “Much better than the last few designs. I like this.”

Susan exhaled and smiled. “Thank you. We worked hard to meet the requirements.”

“I especially like how you’ve designed it so we can add station at any point on the line without any alteration to the structure. Ingenious. Very good job.”

“I’m relieved to hear that.”

“I know it’s been difficult. But we had to make sure we made as little impact on the environment. I understand it’s difficult to construct a maglev line that’s entirely elevated and underground for several thousand kilometres, but we can’t have anything at ground level,” said Paolo. His tone became firm and serious. “That was one problem on Earth where wildlife was segregated into small patches of land and risked their lives to cross over any barriers. And with a nine hundred kilometre per hour train, I’m sure it would be disastrous if anything was hit. There are some large animals out there.”

“That’s why we worked so hard on this design. The amount of concrete involved will be astronomical, though. But with the new method we devised to extract rocks and make the concrete on-site, it should have minimal impact and be much faster.”

“Susan, this will be a very long project. I’d like you to be in charge of construction.”

“Sir, there must be someone better. I’m just an engineer.”

“You know this design better than anyone. I’m confident you’ll make sure it’s built to your specifications.”

“I don’t know what to say,” said Susan. Excited, nervous, confused, she felt it all. “I’ll do my best.”

“I know you will,” said Paolo. He smiled as Susan turned and walked toward the door. She realised how generous the Governor was. Could she do this? She could only try.

The Quarry Worker

It’s a new week and a new set of posts for the A to Z Challenge. This time, it’s the letter Q, which isn’t an easy letter to do.  But I got a good one.

The Quarry Worker

Ariadne

The hills northeast of New Athens

Eleventh day, seventh month, third year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (7/11/03 AE)

Jeffrey Small attached the precision explosive device to the boulder in the exact location the simulation program told him to put it. If everything went as planned, it would be pulverised. He walked back to the control room, which was more like a small high-tech shack, and closed the door. His supervisor gave him the thumbs up. Jeffrey pressed the button. He heard a dull thump as the boulder disintegrated into a rough gravel.

“Collect that rock, and we’ll take a break,” said the supervisor.

“Got it,” said Jeffrey. “Hey, Scott, what is this I hear about a railway? Sounds kind of old-fashioned.”

“Ah, it’s not exactly a railway like the old kind, but it’s an elevated maglev train,” said Scott. “All this rock is going to make the concrete pillars to support it.”

“Seems like a big project for such a small population.”

“Well, it’ll go all the way up north to the second colony site. I think they’re calling it New Brasilia. The second colony ship is supposed to arrive in the next few weeks.”

“A link, huh?”

“Yep. Should help support a lot of settlements between here and there. Can’t wait to see the thing going.”

Jeffrey nodded and stepped out of the shack. He looked back at Scott. “Guess we’ll be blowing up rocks for years for this project.”

“At least until we get some streamlined system going. This is painfully slow work, and I don’t think we can keep up to the demand.”

“Automation?” asked Jeffrey.

“Gonna have to be,” said Scott.

“Hope we won’t be out of a job.”

“No worries. We’re always guaranteed a job.”

The Palaeobotanist

We’re at the end of the week for the A to Z Challenge.  The letter P is up, and this is an entirely dialogue driven entry that is going to allow me to focus more on another story thread which has appeared.  Enjoy!

The Palaeobotanist

Ariadne

Southeast of the Cloud Tree

Seventeenth day, second month, second year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (2/17/02 AE)

John Thompson stood on a hill surrounded by a flat plain. To the northwest, he spotted the Cloud Tree, as everyone called it now. He thought it was an interesting name. It was probably the only tree in the world that had its own lenticular clouds. It was twenty kilometres away, but still stood prominently above everything on the plain. Next to him was Malika Said. He met her eyes, then looked down at the hill they were on.

“Malika, do you know what you’re standing on?” he asked.

“I’m guessing it’s more than just a hill,” she said.

“Of course. In fact, I’ve found several of these hills arranged in a roughly straight line to the southeast.” He pointed. “These hills rise from the plain about every fifteen to twenty-five kilometres. It’s kind of like a hotspot volcano. You have one big one at the leading edge, while each one trailing behind gets smaller and smaller. This is the biggest hill.”

“It has something to do with the Cloud Tree?”

“Absolutely. I did some digging here, and found the same material as the outer layer of the tree. The core of the trunk had decayed, so we know it’s soft. But look over there, to the west.”

She looked in the direction he indicated. Small rounded hills and a few longer ones. “Could those be an old Cloud Tree?”

“It’s the remains of one, yes. Somehow, it fell. There was a weakening of the base of the tree, which we are standing on right now. It appears that over time, the natural concrete weakens, and something like a strong storm could knock it down. But what I found interesting is that the ages of all of these hills are roughly every thirty thousand years.”

“So the trees live thirty thousand years, and somehow release a seed which drifts in the wind toward the northwest.”

John nodded. “It appears so. While the Cloud Trees are male, they may spontaneously change to a female at the end of their lives and send off a seed to grow another male tree.”

“Were they solitary?” asked Malika.

“Yes. Only one alive at a time. It’s imperative that we protect the tree.”

“Our opposition has lost his drive to use the wood, I’m happy to say,” she said and smiled.