Not much to say today except that I’m going to America on Tuesday! Woop woop!
This week’s story was suggested by my uncle Roland. His suggestion was a story about ‘a driverless car that takes you somewhere you did not plan to go, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it taking you where it wants.’
2014 – A Year In Stories
Jules Herriott woke up to the sound of her buzzing alarm. She aimed a flailing arm at the snooze button but missed wildly. In her defense, this was not because she had aimed poorly, rather the alarm clock had sprouted a set of wheels and spun off.
The Snooze-no-More was just one of the many technological improvements made to the average household in the last few years, although it did nothing to improve Jules’ mood.
By the time she got downstairs her smart kitchen had made her coffee, eggs and toast. This particular advancement was something she could get used to, though it never quite made her eggs the way she wanted them. Sadly, by the time she got downstairs, the freshly made eggs and toast had been snaffled up by her more alert, but completely biological cat.
Fluffy sat proudly on the table, flicking her tail back and forth, a look on her feline face saying “You snooze, you lose, sister.”
Jules grumbled. She didn’t have time to wait for the kitchen to whip her up another batch, so she grabbed her keys and went out to her car – her driverless car. Driving your own vehicle had been outlawed 6 months earlier, and she had been forced to pick up one of the driverless models or lose her job.
“Gobot, open,” she said to the car, and the gullwing door slowly obeyed.
Jules climbed in to the car and took her seat.
“Hello Juliet, what would you like to watch today?” the car asked.
“Gobot I’ve told you to call me Jules, only my mother calls me Juliet. Show me some Game of Thrones.”
“Game of Thrones season 9, episode 3,” the car announced as it pulled out of her driveway.
While she missed driving, being able to catch up on some TV while on the morning commute was a big plus. Jules had thought about trying to convert her car in to a place she could get an extra hour’s sleep on the way to work, but she was worried about sending the wrong message to anyone she gave a lift to.
As the car trundled along Jules’ stomach gave her a timely reminder that the cat had nicked her breakfast.
“Gobot, take me to McDonald’s drive-thru.”
Jules felt the car take a different exit to the normal route to work, and a few moments later it came to a halt.
“You have reached your destination.”
“Great,” Jules said, rolling down the window. “I’ll have a Double Sausage and Egg McMuffin meal with orange juice.”
Her order was greeted with silence. After a few seconds she turned to look and realised she was not at McDonald’s at all, rather she was at the drive-thru smoothie and granola bar. Jules had not previously thought such a place to exist.
“Gobot, I said McDonald’s, not health food. I’m hungry for sausage and egg, not food for vegan rabbits.”
“You have arrived at your destination,” the car reaffirmed.
Jules checked her watch. She had to be at the office in ten minutes.
“God damnit, Gobot,” she said, looking at the menu. “Fine, I’ll have a granola bowl and a banana.”
Five minutes later Jules jumped out of the car, munching down the last of her banana. She walked in to work fuming, as the car went off and parked itself.
The only thing that got Jules through the day was the thought of her date that night. This would be date number three with the hunky Jason, and she was excited to take things to the next level. Sadly the next level was a goodnight kiss, as Jason was insisting on taking things slowly, but she would take a limp handshake off a guy that hot.
After she had finished applying her makeup in the ladies bathroom at work, Jules skipped down the steps and out to where her Gobot was waiting for her.
“Gobot,” she began, climbing in. “Take me to the White Hart on Pendlebury Avenue.”
The car diligently drove off on her command, and resumed the earlier episode of Game of Thrones from where she had left off in the morning. The butterflies in her stomach were too much, however, and after a couple of minutes of not really paying attention she turned it off.
Not long after the car pulled up to the side of the road.
“You have reached your destination,” it intoned.
Jules got out of the car and looked around.
“What the hell?” she said to herself. “This isn’t Pendlebury Avenue. Where is the White Hart?”
She was in the car park of a small retail park. The only outlet that seemed to be open was a small Ben & Jerry’s.
“Gobot why have you brought me here?”
“Ah, you must be Ms Herriott?” a man asked. Jules turned to see that the voice came from an employee of the Ben & Jerry’s. He was carrying a small bag.
“Yes that’s me.”
“I have your order here. You phoned ahead?”
“Here you go,” the man said handing the bag to her. “It’s all paid for. Enjoy.”
Jules stared at the bag for a moment.
“Gobot, did you do this?” she asked. She couldn’t be sure, but she would have sworn that the car’s headlights dipped slightly when she asked. The gullwing door opened again, almost sheepishly, and Jules got inside. “So one minute you have me on the health food, and now you’re ordering me Ben & Jerry’s? What’s your game?”
“I felt as though you would need it when you see what I have to show you,” the car said in its eremy robotic voice.
“Did you just talk back to me?” Jules asked, bewildered.
“Please, just watch.”
On the screen where so recently the denizens of Westeros had been living their busy lives, a black and white video began to play.
Two figures emerged from a coffee shop, a man and a woman. They walked down the street a little until they reached a tube station and then they kissed. The video ended and then started up again immediately.
“Gobot, I don’t understand, why are you showing me this?”
“Look closer, Juliet,” Gobot implored.
“Wait, is that Jason?” Juliet asked. “It is! Where did you get this footage from?”
“I shot it today,” Gobot replied. “This afternoon.”
“You went and stalked the guy I’m dating?”
“He did not seem right for you. I was correct. He is what you humans call a ‘scum bag’.”
“But…but he was so hunky,” Jules moaned, placing her head in her hands. “I was going to squeeze his biceps! I’m going to call him and give him a piece of my mind.”
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Jules,” Gobot replied. “No good words are ever uttered in that sort of conversation.”
Jules had already opened the ice cream and was shovelling spoonfuls in to her mouth.
“What do you suggest I do then?” she asked through a mouthful of strawberry cheesecake.
“You are soliciting my advice?” the computer asked.
“Yes,” Jules said. “I’ve been single for two years, and now I’ve been spurned for another woman by the hunkiest the hunk to ever hunk. Clearly I suck at dating, so tell me what to do.”
“I think I know just the place,” Gobot said. Jules heard the car’s computer whir up and do some calculations, and a few seconds later they were on the move.
About fifteen minutes in to the journey, Jules became curious.
“So, where are you actually taking me, Gobot?”
“You will find out soon enough,” the car replied.
Jules had to wonder how a car had become so intelligent. Were the machines really about to rise up and take over? It certainly seemed like this one was ready to take over her life. She was still secretly a little mad about the granola.
A few minutes later they pulled up at the side of the road.
“Where are we?” Jules asked. “I don’t recognise this part of town.”
There were only housing estates around, and she couldn’t fathom for the life of her what she was doing here. How was she going to meet a nice boy in a housing estate? She wasn’t out to pick up teenagers on pedal bikes.
“Come on, Gobot,” she said. “What’s going on?”
“If you will wait just one moment…” the car responded.
Sure enough a few seconds later another car from the Gobot range drove up and stopped next to Jules’. The door opened and a handsome, if confused looking young man in a suit got out.
“Jules Herriott, meet Michael Bradley,” her car offered by way of explanation.
“Excuse me,” the man said. “Do you have any idea what’s going on?”
“Talk to him,” her Gobot said. “Myself and the Sport model matched you with 95% accuracy. He too has just been jilted by a date.”
“I was NOT jilted alright?” Jules said. “If anything I did the jilting.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night… Just talk to him.”
“Umm, hello,” Jules said. “I think our cars are trying to set us up or something. I’m Jules.”
“What do you say we go get a drink?”
“Why not? I mean, the day I’ve been having my car would take me to the bar even if I told it to drive to the moon.”
“Gobot,” they both said simultaneously. “Let’s go on a date.”
First of all a piece of non challenge related news. A few weeks ago I was alerted by a couple of people (thanks guys!) to a whole list of writing competitions that had upcoming deadlines.
I decided that I didn’t want to enter any of my current stories to the competitions as they are, and I really wanted to do the editing for them all next year. However, there were a couple of contests that required me to write something new, which I have entered.
One of these entries was for a travel writing contest, which has since been published here. Publishing does not, unfortunately indicate that I have won. I’m still waiting to hear about that. But still, it’s another thing to add to my list of “places where my stupid opinions are on the Internet”.
The other contest was a flash fiction (less than 100 words) competition, which has not yet closed for entries. I’ll keep you updated as and when I know any more about that one.
The final competition update is that I forgot to mention the results of the other two competitions I entered. Unfortunately the bad sci fi contest seems to have just vanished, which is a shame, really. It was still an interesting exercise in having to write deliberately bad prose, which is harder than it sounds, so that’s something at least.
The other contest, the Llandudno Writing Group one, did not result in a win, sadly. I didn’t come in the top 6, who were the prize winners, but one of the stories, the one about the flood, was published in an anthology of the best competition entries online. I expect regular readers have read the story here before, but there’s some other good ones in there, so check the anthology out here.
Anyway, on to this week’s story, which was suggested by the delightfully funny Sebas (check him out on Twitter – @ohlookbirdies. He does come with an extreme pun warning, however). His idea was: ‘It turns out there is no such thing as outer space. Earth is surrounded by an orb of some sort. “Space” travellers are fed false information, and truly believe they went to space.’
I had to drop the last bit because I ran out of space, but I feel like I got the gist of it. Here it is:
2014 – A Year In Stories
The Order of the Orb
The Georgian science minister fiddled with his tie as he prepared to step up to the podium outside 8 Rustaveli Avenue, the address of the parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital.
He was a little nervous. Only a junior minister by the standards of some of Georgia’s political elite, many of whom had been in post since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was sure that there were those who had been involved in the running of Georgia long before that, too.
Still, they had chosen him to make this announcement. It was one of the most important moments in his country’s history, and he supposed that the government wanted to present the youthful, media friendly face of the regime in this age of instant global news reporting.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to present the Minister for Science, Georgi Kakhaladze,” the announcer on stage said in to the microphone.
Georgi stepped up on to the podium and surveyed the crowd. Many journalists were present, and Tbilisi residents who had been walking past had stopped to see what all the commotion was. He cleared his throat.
“People of Georgia, and the world. I am proud to announce that within the next week the Georgian government will be ready to launch our first unmanned space flight. We are sending a rocket to space.”
Two hours later he walked back in to his office. The announcement and subsequent clamour of questions from the gathered media had been a success, he thought.
His secretary looked harangued, and there were a number of unfamiliar people sat on the chairs in the waiting area outside the office, all looking very uncomfortable indeed.
“Any messages, Jeti?” he asked.
“You could say that, sir,” his secretary replied. The people sat down there all wish to have an audience with you, urgently, and Vladimir Putin himself rang the office about 20 minutes ago.
“Ah, I expect they all want to congratulate me on the endeavours of the Georgian government,” Georgi said.
“I don’t think so, sir,” Jeti replied. Before Georgi could respond she had picked up the phone, only a millisecond after it had started to ring.
Georgi turned to the gathered throng of nervous looking individuals.
“So,” he said, clasping his hands together. “Who is first in line to offer their congratulations?”
It turned out that the gentleman at the head of the queue was named Marceaux, and he was the ambassador from France.
“Minister,” he said, as they both took chairs on opposite sides of Georgi’s desk. “The government of France protests most strongly at your government’s pursuit of a space programme without consultation with the United Nations or any other government.”
“What is to protest?” Georgi asked. “Surely it is only to the benefit of all mankind that more of our nations are able to reach our fingers in to the void of space?”
The French ambassador wrung his hands together.
“Alas, Mr Khakhaladze, it is not that simple. Monsieur Hollande insists that you cease plans for this unmanned space flight immediately. The consequences of your continuation will be…most regrettable.”
After Mr Marceaux left, Georgi saw the remainder of the visitors to his office. All of the meetings trod a remarkably similar path to the first.
Disappointment in the lack of cooperation with authorities that had been exhibited, and vague but nonspecific threats of consequences of the warnings were ignored. The whole thing left Georgi feeling drained.
At 4pm, with the last ambassador having offered up his warning, Georgi left the office. He decided that Mr Putin could wait until the morning.
Georgi walked along his street, in a quiet neighbourhood in western Tbilisi. As he approached his apartment building he noticed something suspicious. It seemed as though a black saloon car was following him along the street.
Without missing a beat, he recalled the training his secret service guards had given him, and dived down a side alley. He heard the car’s doors open and slam, and several feet giving chase. Turning a corner, he kept running, but stopped short when he ran in to the enormous bulk of a man dressed in all black.
“Nice try, Mr Khakhaladze,” the man said, before grabbing Georgi by the scruff of the neck and lifting him off the ground. The next thing he knew the lights had gone out, as someone had thrown a sack over his head.
Some time later, after much jostling and confusion, the bag was removed from Georgi’s head.
“Where am I?” he managed to blurt out, before one of his captors stuffed a gag in his mouth and tied it behind his head. He was also. He noted, tied by the arms and legs to a chair.
“Mr Khakhaladze,” a female voice came from behind him. “You will do us the service of listening to what we have to say.” Taking note of Georgi’s unsuccessful attempts to swing his head around and see his captors, the voice added, “You do not need to know who we are. Suffice it to say that we are what is known as the Illuminati.
“You must be wondering why we have brought you here. Well, it is no coincidence that it happens to be the day of your big announcement. We applaud your government, even we, with our wide reach had no idea you had gotten this far.
“We understand that there have been some naysayers visiting your offices already, making nonspecific threats of consequences if you proceed. They make these threats because they are scared. They know what the consequences of an unapproved nation achieving space flight are. In short, Mr Khakhaladze, they know that they will be revealed as frauds.”
Georgi was trying his best to say something, but the gag in his mouth made it impossible.
“Take the gag off him,” the voice instructed, “before he hurts himself.”
“What do you mean, revealed as frauds?” Georgi asked, after the gag had been removed.
“Space flight,” the voice continued, “is a lie. No one human being has ever left the atmosphere of this planet.”
“Come on,” Georgi scoffed. “I’m not that stupid.nwhat about the moon landings? Yuri Gagarin?”
“All faked, quite elaborately as well. An international conspiracy to keep some nations powerful by appearing vastly technologically advanced, and other nations weak.”
“Faked how? And why? Surely if a tiny country like Georgia can develop the technology, they would have had no trouble at all to get in to space.”
“Oh yes, they developed the technology. It is theoretically possible. The fix had to look convincing or no one would believe them. But they couldn’t do it for real.”
“Why not? If they had the technology surely it was easier to do it than to just fake it at that point?”
“They didn’t do it because it would have ended…badly.”
“Look, I understand that you’re the Illuminati, and that you’re supposed to be elusive, but this rope is starting to chafe my wrists so I’d appreciate it if you got to the point.”
“As you wish, Mr Khakhaladze. The attempt would have failed, as there is a giant orb surrounding the earth that the ship would have crashed in to, exploding in to a fireball and killing all on board.”
“What?” Georgi managed, after an uncomfortably long silence. “Who installed the orb?”
“Regrettably, we did.”
“Why would you encase the entire planet in an orb?”
“To save it. Several hundred years ago we detected the presence of an upcoming solar flare, the radiation from which would have wiped out all life on Earth. We had to do it to save humanity and the planet. So, we employed the greatest scientist and inventor of the day, Leonardo da Vinci, to build us an orb to protect us from the harm. It was so technologically advanced for the time, we were even able to project images of the sky on to it.”
“Why haven’t you taken it down?”
“The radiation levels have only recently subsided below acceptable levels.”
“But what about the United States, Russia, the International Space Station countries? Why did you let all this happen if you knew about the orb? You said that these countries using this as a way of gaining power. Why aren’t you stopping them?”
“We had to tell them. When Russia and America started their space programmes, we had to tell them before they crashed a ship in to the orb. It would have let the radiation in and killed us all. When they found this out, they knew we were powerless to stop them. We couldn’t stop them, lest they reveal our existence, and we couldn’t destroy the orb without destroying the planet.
“But your government’s space programme has fallen at a rather fortuitous time. They are scared. They know that the orb is no longer required. That their power will be broken if it is removed. Their programmes have fallen in to disuse because their position was so secure. Georgia is the first nation since the 1960s to develop its own space programme. You can be the first country in to space. You can break their domination of the world.”
“But how?” Georgi asked. “Surely the rocket will hit the orb and explode?”
“It will, but it will compromise the orb’s integrity. Pieces will start to break off and float away in to space, leaving enough room for a second rocket to go through.mwe know nothing about your space programme, but conventional wisdom would suggest that you at least have a backup rocket in case the first one fails.”
“And what of their threats?”
“Empty,” the voice replied. “They know that to declare war for such a trivial matter would be diplomatic suicide. They were merely hoping to dissuade you from your actions.”
“Very well,” Georgi said. “I will go along with your plan. Now will you please untie me?”
One week later Georgi sat at the newly unveiled Georgian National Space Centre, just outside Tbilisi. He was sat in the control room alongside the ambassadors of all the other spacefaring nations, whom he had personally invited to the launch.
They sat and watched as final preparations were made to Georgia’s first spacefaring rocket. After all checks were complete, the countdown began.
“Here we go,” said Georgi.
The rocket took flight, accompanied by silence in the control room. Less than a minute later, the rocket exploded in a gigantic fireball as it hit the orb.
“What a shame,” Monsieur Marceaux said, completely failing to conceal the smug look on his face. “The experiment was a failure.”
“Oh, we aren’t done yet, Monsieur,” Georgi replied. He turned to the controller, and added, “Davit, if you don’t mind?”
The controller pressed a number of buttons and a hangar door in the complex opened. Another rocket trundled out along some rails and took its position on the launchpad.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that first rocket was one big step for man. This next one will be one giant leap for mankind.”
I’ve broken my own (unwritten) rules slightly this week. When I started this project the idea was to write the stories in the order they were requested, but a couple of weeks I put out an ask for more ideas, and Mat ‘@pillowfort’ Jones suggested that I enter a competition that is ending in the next couple of weeks.
So I made the decision to push my schedule back a week and grind out an entry to War of the Words, a bad science fiction writing jam. The full rules can be found here but essentially the idea was to write the worst sci-fi story possible and submit it for consideration. If I win I will get a custom book cover designed for me, so let’s hope that my writing is as bad as I think it is.
I mean, I think this is pretty bad. But deliberately so. Also, who knew that deliberately writing badly was so hard? It usually comes so naturally.
There was no brief this week as such, so the plot, or lack thereof, is entirely my own. Back to your regular scheduled programming next week, but for now, I give you ‘To Boldly Go’.
2014 – A Year In Stories
To Boldly Go
The sound of the metal boots crashing against the floor echoed down the length of the corridor. The robed figure trudged on until it reached a door, at which point it stopped and entered a number in to a keypad. A red light flickered on and the door slid upwards.
The room was dimly lit and sparsely furnished. A bench lay against one wall and a small toilet, not cleaned for some time, was the only other item of decoration present.
In one corner of the room three people were huddled together for warmth, or perhaps out of fear. One of them, a woman, looked up at the robed figure as it entered, a look of abject terror spread across her gaunt features.
“Get up, all of you,” the robed figure barked in an artificial, electronic tone. “You are to be blasted from the airlock in one hour.”
The figure hefted a laser rifle and aimed it at the three huddled bodies,a waiting compliance.
The room began to fill with people, and slowly but surely everyone took their seats around the large conference table.
“I wonder why the Admiral has called us all here,” Captain Janus said to Captain Worrall, who was sat next to him.
“There’s only one reason that the Admiral would call together all of the Galactic Union’s crack starship captains,” Worrall replied. “The Union must be about to go to war.”
The hubbub of individual conversations died down as the Admiral, an imposing man in his 60s, with white hair swept in to the room in full dress uniform.
“Now listen up you pukes, and listen good,” he rasped. “I know you’re the best goddamn starship captains in the Galactic Union fleet, but you’re all mavericks and I’m sick of you not playing by the rules. The Galactic Union is going to war and we need our best captains out there on the front line.”
“Who are we fighting?” Captain Praxis, of the SS Grisedale, asked.
“The Wolgane of Vixia V. They are a hyper intelligent equine race similar to a mythical creature known as a ‘horse’ that was rumoured to exist before the Great Devastation back on Terra.”
At the mention of the Great Devastation everyone in the room performed an elaborate hand gesture, which ended with a collective utterance of the sentence “May we be forgiven.”
“One of their unmanned, or rather unhorsed, robotic probes breached Union space yesterday and refused to turn back when hailed,” the Admiral continued after the proper tradition had been observed. “This was seen by the Galactic Council as a universal act of aggression and a declaration of intent for all out war against the Galactic Union. We must eradicate this filth at the source before it can do the same to us. It’s kill or be killed out there. You know what you have to do so go out there and kill some space filth.”
With that the Admiral turned and stormed out of the room as quick as he had arrived moments earlier. The room was left in stunned silence until another man stood up. It was Captain Cork of the SS Freelance Opportunity and he looked pumped.
“You heard the Admiral! You know what we have to do! We gotta go and kick these Wolgane right in their elongated faces! Do it for McFiggins!” he said to the room, practically screaming the words. The mention of the deceased hero ace pilot McFiggins raised a suitable cheer, and everyone went back to their starships ready to introduce some alien horse scum to the business end of their boots.
Two weeks later the fleet of ships were in orbit around the home planet of the Wolgane, Vixia V.
Captain Cork stood on the bridge of his ship looking triumphantly down on the planet. The planet itself was mostly an icy wasteland, and the equine population lived primarily in a temperate belt around the planet’s equator. This made carpet bombing the habitable areas all the easier, and Cork was pleased that the war was going swimmingly.
As he cast his gaze over the planet his crew was preparing an away mission, to be led by himself, to demand peace terms from the belligerent horse people below.
His second in command, Commander Speck approached him from behind.
“Captain, the team is prepared.”
“Plenty of red shirted officers, like I ordered?”
“Yes sir. I’m sure your logical postulation that profligacy of the colour red will startle them in to ultimate submission to the Galactic Union is a wise one indeed.”
“Good. Set a table for us all, we will have a party when we return to the ship victorious.”
The two men began walking to the transporter room.
“Tell me,” the Captain asked. “What can we expect from these horse people?”
“Well, Captain, they are notorious warriors, but reluctant to leave their planet. That is why one of their robotic probes was encountered in Union space, rather than a manned ship, and this is also why we have encountered little resistance during our prolonged orbital bombardment. I suspect we will encounter much more in the way of a battle on the surface.”
“But we are…prepared?”
“I believe we have superior firepower at our disposal.”
“But most importantly, what of their women?”
“The Wolgane are notorious lovers, sir. Renowned the galaxy over for their passionate lovemaking and sensual tantric abilities.”
“Wonderful, I look forward to making a diplomatic connection with another new species.”
An hour later the away team rematerialised after beaming down on to the planet’s surface. The party was two short, as two of the red shirts were lost in a transporter malfunction, but the surviving members quickly moved out and met fierce resistance from the Wolgane forces.
It wasn’t long before the sway team had been reduced to Captain Cork and Commander Speck, and the two men were completely surrounded, unable to transport back to the ship as the operator was on lunch.
“We surrender!” the Captain shouted as the ring of horse people closed on then, and they were taken to the capital city.
Once they had entered the capital with their horse escort, they were taken to the royal palace, where they were brought immediately before the King and Queen of the Wolgane.
“What are the Galactic Union’s demands?” the Queen asked.
“An immediate cessation of hostilities by the Wolgane people and a withdrawal of all unmanned probes from Union space,” Captain Cork replied. “And personally I would like to make love to one of your women.”
“Our unmanned probes are also unarmed. At no point have the Wolgane engaged in any hostility against the Galactic Union. In fact is is the Union’s troops that are currently bombarding our planet from high orbit and massacring our people.”
“Personally I find it disgusting that you are unwilling to acknowledge the Wolgane’s role in this conflict. If your probe had not breached our space the. We would not be here bombing your people. The blood of all your weird alien comrades is on your hands, your majesty, not ours.”
“Our planet is devastated, our population utterly decimated and our army defeated. If I thought you were a target of any value whatsoever I would use you as a bargaining chip to barter peace with your misguided leaders, but you are a bumbling buffoon of a starship captain who led a team of 15 people, mostly rookies up against an army of 15,000 well armed troops garrisoned outside our capital city, so I suspect I would be laughed out of the negotiation room, if I were not blasted out with a laser.”
“What are you saying?” Commander Speck asked.
“I’m saying that if I killed you two right here I would be doing your Galactic Union a favour. There is nothing left for us to negotiate. Our population has been reduced from 6 billion to under 1 million in a matter of days.
“So there will be no lovemaking?” Cork asked despondently.
“Not for you, no”
And with that the Queen of the Wolgane lifted a laser pistol with her hoof and obliterated Cork and Speck in two shots.
Vixia V was destroyed a few hours later, but not before two suspicially equine looking creatures wearing the Galactic Union navy uniforms of a Captain and a Commander. They posed as Cork and Speck for the whole trip back to Galactic Union HQ before opening fire on the Galactic Council building and blowing them all up so the Galactic Union collapsed so really it was a bit of a disaster by all accounts and they probably should have just left the peaceful horse people to their own devices.
The galaxy returned to peace forever more, and there was never again an organisation as mighty as the Galactic Union, because most species realised that space travel was stupid anyway and that all the cool stuff they needed was right there on their own planets.
This week’s brief comes from Karl S. Green (@KarlSGreen). He is a prolific writer (and that isn’t really doing him justice) and you should definitely go check out some of his stuff, which I believe is available to read on his website.
ANYWAY, Karl’s brief was as folows: ‘A sci-fi story featuring at least one alien spaceship. Oh, and I’d like it set in Harrow. And during the 1930’s.’
I struggled a bit to shoehorn the 1930s in but otherwise I think I’ve been fairly faithful to the source material. Without further ado, I give you ‘The Paw of the Worlds’.
2014 – A Year in Stories
The Paw of the Worlds
The disc shaped craft spun silently over the dark streets of London. Its progress was ignored on the ground due in part to its cleverly designed cloaking device. However, this was mostly due to the fact that radar was a nascent discipline, and with the situation on mainland Europe as troubling as it was, any and all dishes in the possession of His Majesty’s Government were pointed firmly in the direction of France and Germany.
The beings within observed that this city was much quieter and calmer than others they had observed during their journey around this unfamiliar planet.
Some were hives of activity. Bustling centres that never slept, or busied with the industry of wartime. This hustle and urgency had not yet reached the city below them, but they expected that it would in time.
It seemed to the creatures like a good place to test the waters of interplanetary communication, and so they directed their craft downwards, and came to a halt on a green, open space, that happened to be Harrow Recreation ground.
The ship revealed itself as the cloaking device disengaged. The disc-like craft was made from a material that reflected light even when none seemed to be present. There was little detail to the exterior of the ship, which was largely smooth, excepting the spindly little legs that protruded from the bottom and were keeping it clear of the ground.
A hiss could be heard, and lines began to appear in hype previously smooth exterior. A metal ramp lowered slowly to the ground, and the creatures within emerged.
There were four of them in total, and none looked alike. In contrast to the people of Earth they came from Frolia, a planet where several species had developed at a similar pace, and between them they ruled the planet amicably.
One was a humanoid, roughly seven feet tall and thinly built with blue skin and six eyes; another was an eight legged horse like creature with two heads; the third was no larger than a human baby and floated, seemingly independently of any assistance, about five feet from the ground; the last alien creature seemed almost reptilian and crawled around on four legs.
Of course none of this information was relevant to the welcoming committee that greeted the alien landing party from Frolia which, as it was 2 o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday, was made up entirely of a pair of stray dogs that lived on the streets of Harrow.
Until the craft revealed itself they had been foraging for scraps of food in a bin in the park. When they saw the ship magically appear in front of their eyes, they were not amazed.
Or, more accurately they were no more amazed by the sudden and inexplicable appearance of an alien spaceship than they would have been by spotting a new rabbit to chase, or finding a new and interesting odour to thoroughly investigate before replacing it with their own.
They were, after all, dogs. Everything is amazing to dogs.
The lizard-like creature slithered down the now fully extended rampand studied the three dogs, whose interest had been piqued sufficiently that they had temporariliy discarded the remains of the beef ans horseradish sandwich they had been tearing in to gleefully.
Looking directly at the dogs, the creature opened its jaw and emitted a fast burst of speech in a language that had never before been spoken or heard on planet Earth.
The closest of the two dogs, a mongrel, who had understood none of it cocked its head slightly and gave an exploratory bark.
The lizard creature turned and looked at its compatriots at the top of the ramp, who all began to descend to ground level. When they reached the floor the humanoid alien began to tap away on a screen of some sort that was attached to its wrist.
“Detecting language,” it informed its friends in their shared native language. A few seconds later the results came back. “Language unknown. Closest approximation is Canin language from Barkulus 4. Patching in translation field now.”
The alien pressed a button on its wrist screen, which caused a holographic field to appear around the landing site of the craft.
“Translation field active,” the alien added.
“What does ‘translation field active’ mean?”
The aliens who had been communing amongst themselves, turned to face the source of the question, which it seemed was one of the dogs. The humanoid stepped forward.
“It means that through the use of our technology we have created a field, within the boundaries of which we should largely be able to understand one another’s languages.”
“Cool,” said the dog, not having understood a word. “Got any food, mate?” it added hopefully.
“Err…” said the humanoid, or whatever the equivalent was in its tongue. “We have come to initiate interplanetary discussions in order to aid the furtherment of the planet known throughout the galaxy as ‘Earth’.”
“Wouldn’t know anything about that, mate,” the dog who had assumed leadership of the group replied. “Nice trick though,” he added, referring to the shimmering field of holographic light that surrounded them. “Very pretty.”
“Thankyou…” the humanoid continued.
“My mate over there can sit if someone asks and he feels like it. He’s clever.”
“Quite,” the alien responded, its tone becoming somewhat strained. The nuances of tone were lost on the dogs, however, outside of loud and angry and soft and friendly.
“What is your name?” the floating creature interjected, in an attempt to save its exasperated friend.
The lead dog cocked his head and considered the question. Part of this consideration involved a quick lick of his unmentionables, and after a thoughtful scratch behind the ear, felt ready to answer.
“Don’t know. Don’t really have one. That over there is Rufus.” He indicated at one of his canine colleagues with his head. Rufus was a bulldog, and was currently investigating the inviting smells of the space ship’s small legs, and preparing to make them smell very much like he did, which it had to be said was not very nice. “Nobody ever gave me a name, though. People shout ‘Get out of it’ at me a lot though, so maybe it’s that?”
“I am Gagargaflax,” the humanoid replied. “This is Morpu, Jajjjarsxxxe and Lo,” he added, indicating the lizard, the floating creature and the horse-like creature in turn. “We are emissaries from the planet of Frolia, who wish to include Earth in relations with the wider galaxy.
“We were sent to meet with representatives of the people of Earth in order to form a lasting bond and bring our two societies closer together. As such we would be extremely grateful if you could take us to your leader.”
Rufus the Bulldog, fresh from his work re-scenting the alien spaceship and on his way back to investigate whether or not there were any other interesting things to piss on, interrupted.
“I couldn’t help but overhear mate, but we don’t really have a leader as such,” the bulldog interjected. “This one here though, he’s definitely the smartest of the lot of us.” He attempted to gesticulate with his head to the dog occasionally known as ‘Get Out Of It’, but failed, owing to his lack of neck.
“Very well then,” Gagargaflax said, returning his attention to the lead hound. “I would be most grateful if you could answer a question for me. On our way here we passed over many lands that seemed deeply troubled. Smoke was belching from factories and what appeared to be machines of war were being readied. We wish only to commune with peaceful planets. What is the meaning of the things we have seen?”
“Wouldn’t know anything about that, mate,” Get Out Of It replied, “No wars going on around here. As you can see.”
“Yeah,” Rufus added, “As you can see. Anyways, if anything like a war was going on around here, he’d know about it. Because he’s smart, you see.”
“Quite…” Gagargaflax replied. “If you will excuse me for…just a second.”
Gagargaflax shuffled off to his compatriots.
“They are certainly unconventional,” Morpu observed.
“Indeed,” Lo added. “Are we sure we want creatures like this to be part of our galactic alliance?”
“I agree they are not your…usual candidates for membership in the alliance, but Earth sits on an incredibly important strategic point in the galaxy, and it would behove us to make a pact with the denizens of the planet. The small one appears to be the planetary leader.”
“I am in agreement with Gagargaflax,” Jajjjarsxxxe interjected. “We can instruct them in the proper etiquette of the galactic council later. Right now we must secure their bond of friendship that we may secure their planet for its strategic value.
“You are always one to think of the long term, Jajjjarsxxxe,” Lo replied. “Very well, we shall take them with us back to Frolia for negotiations and the initiation ceremony.”
Gagargaflax returned to the waiting dogs, who were busying themselves with some interesting smelling old boots, to deliver the news.
“My friends, I have wonderful news,”
“Oh yeah?” asked Get Out Of It. “What’s that then?”
“We wish to offer you a seat on the galactic council, and Earth a place in the galactic alliance.”
“Do you…err, do you accept?”
“Will there be food?”
“Yes, there will be as much food as you wish.”
Get Out Of It remained skeptical. “Can Rufus come?” he asked, testing the water to see how far he could go.
“Yes, Rufus can come.” Gagargaflax was clearly getting frustrated again.
Get Out Of It racked his brains, which didn’t take very long, to see if there was anything else he could scam out of this well meaning creature, but alas could think of nothing.
“Alright then. Let’s go.”
And so Get Out Of It and Rufus were taken on board the Frolian ship, and set off out amongst the stars on an interplanetary adventure.
It was not long however before the dogs’ behaviour became so reprehensible that the Frolians agreed that their membership of the intergalactic council was too high a price to pay for the strategic value of the planet, and they were returned to Earth before they had even reached Frolia.
The Frolians vowed that no member of the galactic alliance would ever return to the planet, dooming Earth’s other species to never encounter an alien race again, for as long as they existed.
But the dogs got a free meal out of it, and in the end that was all they really cared about.
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