Calliope Njo: Computer

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Computer

 Calliope Njo

With the buses lined up along the side of the school, I went to the front gates to wait for Dad. Silver Lexus SUV, Rocky Road 24825 Fig. Yup, that was it.

I opened the door and Dad looked at me. “I’ve gotta meeting to get to and I promise, we will get something after,” Dad said. “Your choice as long as it’s not something like tarantula pizza or maggot casserole.”

Up a highway that led to a backlog of traffic that dissipated before another street we had to turn down. Pluto Communications Corporation, in gold letters on a black sign. The guard at the gate seemed nice. At least he smiled.

We parked inside a parking garage on the second level and stood in front of an elevator. It dinged and he put his hand on a black panel. It took maybe a second before we stopped. We walked on a walkway above the street.

He slid a card into a slot by a set of sliding doors. He took wide steps down the hall while I ran next to him. We stopped by a hallway and he pointed. “Look, my office is down the hall. Last door on the left. Can’t miss it. It’s OK to use the computer in my office. Authorization not necessary. Bathroom’s attached. Just stay there and do whatever it is you have to do. Be done as soon as I can.”

“Yeah. OK. And Dad, Ew. Maggot casserole and tarantula pizza?” First Mom, then Dad had a meeting. Brian doesn’t count because… he didn’t.

Dad went one way, and I another. I pushed the lever, and the door opened. The light switch was easy to find. Dad’s posters were all the same. An enormous blue bubble in the middle of a black piece of paper. As if whoever saw it was supposed to understand. He told me once that his colleagues thought it was great. The poster had to be the most uninteresting picture I ever saw.

I sat at his desk and finished my English homework in under an hour. I could type it up on my laptop at home. That left math.

Math was the subject I had the most trouble with. Beyond basic math, I always got lost. Mom helped with math and got me through whatever my math teacher didn’t.

Mr. Barbonski’s lecture about absolute values went through my head as I looked at the page. When I got to the assignment, however, that lesson might as well have been a dream. Out of desperation, I turned on the computer and an enormous picture of the galaxy appeared. There were icons, but no labels. I clicked the one with the picture of a satellite and hoped it was somebody’s idea of an internet link. A blinking cursor at the top left almost beckoned me to type in something.

I remembered my manners and plugged in my problems. After whoever helped me by explaining the process, I finished my homework. Before I had a chance, the page disappeared. I couldn’t find it again.

I turned off the computer and counted to thirty before turning it back on again. I hit the satellite icon and typed in a basic math problem without a response. Someone out there helped me with this issue, and it was my duty to find out who. Problem was, I couldn’t think of a TV program with a similar issue.

Then the screen turned red. “Warning. Unauthorized access. Warning. Unauthorized access.” A loud horn sounded at the same time as the room flashed red.

I turned off the computer and packed up all of my stuff. About as sudden as it started, the lights and noise stopped. One Mexican man and a Black woman came into the office. “Evening. What are you doing here? You realize this section is for personnel only,” the woman said.

“My dad, he dropped me off. He’s supposed to be in a meeting right now. I’d call him for you, but I don’t know what the number is. I’m sorry. I just wanted to play a game.” You’re a big fat liar.

“All right,” the man said. “Nothing going on in here?” He came inside along with the woman. They inspected every desk drawer and the long cabinet in front of the desk to be concluded with the filing cabinet. I had no idea what they were looking for. They stood in the doorway. “Just be sure you don’t touch anything you’re not supposed to. Understood?”

“I understand.” I smiled.

I could tell he didn’t believe me because he raised his eyebrow. That and I had a hunch. They left the office and closed the door.

I took in a deep breath and let it go. Nothing happened, and at worst, I’d get a Dad lecture about faith and values and ethics. That was when my stomach growled.

Maybe I should’ve asked them if they had vending machines. Of course, I could get their attention again. No, that wouldn’t be a good idea. I had to hang in there until Dad finished. Oh, I wished he’d hurry it up. Nature called. Wait a minute, he said it was attached.

Once I found the door, all was right again except my hunger.

Dad came into the office. “I heard about the incident. Explanation?”

“Sorry Dad, but I was just trying to finish my Algebra homework. When I found something, it shut off before I could thank them. That was when the sirens and lights went off.”

He walked to his desk and turned on the computer. “What exactly did you do?”

“I turned on the computer, clicked the satellite link, and typed in: If anybody is out there, I need help with absolute values. I would greatly appreciate any help you can give. Please? Thank you.”

I watched him and he got nothing either.

I shrugged. “It happened.”

“Yeah. Yeah. OK.” He typed in a string of letters and numbers that didn’t make sense. Nothing came up after that. He made a phone call and stared at the screen.

He looked at me and stood from the desk. “Well, I’m not sure what you did. I’m not saying you’re lying. According to a coworker, they had dismantled the satellite tower. All links to it should have been scrubbed, but it wasn’t. I’ll look into it in the morning.” He turned off the computer. “So, what would you like? Remember your vegetables.”

Right. Sure. Why is it I had to remember my vegetables but nobody else did? “Ms. Huang’s Chinese Food. They have awesome soup dumplings, also their fabulous vegetable chow mein, sweet and sour pork, walnut shrimp, their shrimp siumaai is to die for and that would be about it. Oh, and Iggy’s Ice Cream for their strawberry cheesecake ice cream.”

“I got everything but the ice cream. You have that and you will be rolling instead of walking. Let’s go.”

I took the hint but still groaned about the loss of ice cream. Strawberry cheesecake ice cream was the best. Everybody had to have it.

“I need it.”

“No, you want it. You need food. You want the ice cream.”

“Yeah, I need it.”

“That’s enough whining. I’ll cancel the Chinese food order and get a raw vegan meal instead.”

“You wouldn’t.” A complete meal with only vegetables? I’d die.

“You know I would.”

I crossed my arms. “Fine. I’ll just tell Mom.”

“And you know what the result of that would be.”

I looked at him and fluttered my lips to avoid the endless string of cuss words. I hated parents. I couldn’t get my ice cream.

On the way there, I imagined all sorts of torture I could inflict. He came back with the food and gave it to me to hold. The aroma that came from the bag made me think twice about torture. I used every restraint to keep from tearing the bag open.

About to pull out of the parking lot his phone rang. “Answer it for me, would you? Take a message. At this hour, everybody should be home and relaxing.”

“Hello?”

A computer voice answered. “The string is incomplete. Please resend transmission.”

“Hello?”

“We cannot proceed as the instructions are incomprehensible. You must fix and resend.” It hung up.

“Who was that?” asked Dad as he pulled into the driveway.

“I don’t know. It just said to complete the string and resubmit.”

“It?”

“Yeah, Dad. It.”

He started the car again and left the driveway. Maybe I should’ve lied and said it was a wrong number. I’m going to starve to death.

We returned to Dad’s work, and I carried dinner. I was not going to starve on account of Dad. That would not happen.

He sat at his desk typing into the computer while I ate. I left enough food for him to eat. Although he would complain and declare he would learn how to cook Chinese food.

He looked up at me. “All right, call them again.”

“I didn’t call them to begin with. They called me.”

“How did they call you if you didn’t call them? You had to have contacted them somehow.”

Dad never watched TV. “It’s really easy to hack someone’s phone number. Because, hello, internet?”

“Try it.”

“I can’t. I don’t know what number to dial.”

He stood and searched me for his phone. “Well, where is it?”

“Assuming you’re asking about your cell, it’s in the car.”

He ran out of the office while I wished I was home watching TV. I was missing my favorite show about vampires. The boyfriend was supposed to tell everyone he’s a real live vampire, and I missed it.

Dad came back and pushed a bunch of numbers. “Where is it?”

“Why are you asking me? I don’t know.”

Something beeped. Dad watched his screen. “What the—”

“Greetings. I am here to serve you. What would you like me to do? It is eighteen-thirty hours on two thousand and twenty the fifteenth day of the tenth month.”

“Dad, who was that lady?”

“That was the computer.”

“Computers don’t talk.”

“This one did.”

“There are two in this room. An older male and a younger female human. Have both been invited?”

Dad put his head on his hand. He stared at the screen while his mouth hung open.

“No response. Security protocols will proceed.”

Dad sat up. “No. No. Don’t do that. Everything is fine.”

“Understood. Anything that requires immediate attention?”

“No. Everything is fine. Thank… thank you.”

Oh my God he stuttered. Dad never did that before. Maybe the computer sucked his brain or something.

“Very well. Will shut down until further notice.” The room went dark. I couldn’t see anything.

Dad must’ve turned on the computer screen because that was the only light in existence. I found the light switch but it wouldn’t turn on. Dad got out his cell and turned on the flashlight.

Dad stood from the desk. “How about if we go home? Sound like a plan?”

“Uh. Yeah. Sure Dad. And Dad?”

“I have no idea what just happened or even who that was. I don’t even know how to explain. Did you need something?”

Did I need something? I looked at my hands and discovered I still held Dad’s portion of dinner. “No. I still have your portion of dinner.”

“Right. Dinner. And with any luck, Iggy’s is still open.”

I didn’t want to ask and make him realize what he said. I didn’t want to take my chances. I got my ice cream.

We left the building and climbed in the car. Dad took out his cell and plugged it in. I watched as bit by bit a smiley face materialized on his screen. That smiley face wouldn’t be on Dad’s phone. He hated them. They were too fake, he always told me.

We pulled up in front of Iggy’s and they were still open. He left the car and came back a few minutes later with a quart-sized container. He handed it to me and I peeked. Strawberry cheesecake ice cream.

I stomped my feet a couple times before I remembered Dad hated that. I took a quick glance and no reaction. Maybe he was still stunned.

He picked up his phone again and no reaction. After punching in something, he started the car and returned to the building.

“Let me guess, your office?” Where else?

“Yeah. I have to talk to someone about this. Just stay there.”

“Right.” I went into his office still unlocked.

They must have some security system not to lock their doors. I tried to turn on the light but it wouldn’t do anything. “How do I turn on the light when it won’t turn on?”

“Ah. Yes. Did you need servicing?”

“What?”

“If you watch the monitor, I am here and ready to be of service.”

“Could you turn on the light? It’s pitch black in here.”

“Yes.”

The lights turned on. I looked around and expected something to be in here. Something like a robot or an android, but nothing. So I did what I was told to do and holy macanoli. Another smiley face, but this one on his computer.

“Greetings. I am the interface with which you communicate. I am able to transmit anything to any place and assist with anything. What I need from you is a designation? A name, if you will.”

Uhm. Right. OK. “A name? I don’t know. I just can’t get over the fact that Dad’s computer is talking to me. A name? I don’t know. Computer comes to mind.”

“Computer it shall be then. You were the one that searched for assistance at seventeen thirty on this date. Confirm or deny.”

“Uh. Confirm.”

“Do you require more assistance?”

“No.” Oh boy. Brian would never believe this in a million years and neither will Mom for that matter. Holy macanoli, I only wanted help on my math.

Did I even want to find out if this thing could break into the government’s computer? Nah. I shouldn’t. It would be neat to try, but the boatload of trouble I would get into. I did not need another lecture from Dad. “So. Do you have any computer games? Dad might be a while.”

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Anita Wu: But They Told Me

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But they told me

Anita Wu

I had always been the gullible one. It wasn’t until I trusted them on something so incredulous, that I learned too late that they had always been lying.

They told me it would be pretty.

When I got up here, I would be greeted with a feast and a party — the brightest explosion of color that even the people on Earth would be able to see. A supernova — they would call that explosion, as the lucky few stared in awe. Astronomers would study the event. “It’s a miracle.”

They told me that people would be waiting for me. Family and friends who had long gone ahead of me, strangers I made an impact on in this life. They would welcome me with open arms. They would dance to the music at the party and feast on gourmet dishes to their hearts’ desire.

They told me the stars were my loved ones watching over me. Twinkling, they showed me the way to their place, and I should follow. I should not let them wait too long, they said.

They told me that my dreams won’t come true here, but they will come true there.

So I trusted them.

But perhaps I shouldn’t have.

I saw only the darkness.

Without the pull of gravity, I lost the connection to “life,” to a purpose, an aim. I floated meaninglessly in the empty vacuum, waving my arms as though they would do something. But I felt no resistance. I stared at the void. It stared back: cold, hard, calculating. Empty.

It was surely a miracle — to see nothing even though I felt my eyes open. Moving my head to find something, but no matter where I turned, nothing came into sight. The hairs on my arm pricked up, and a chill ran down my spine. I realized how wrong I was.

I screamed, but no voice came from my throat. No one answered back. There was no party, no feast. No person.

I only wished…that someone would take care of my loyal cat Mire, who curled up beside me, as I lay curled up beside my bed, not wanting to dirty the sheets in case someone checked the next morning.

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Kenneth Lawson: Starting Over

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Starting Over 

Kenneth Lawson

I barely noticed the red floodlights that bathed the cell tower as I drove by or the majestic Milky Way in the night sky. My destination was the farmhouse down the road. 

In the darkness of early fall, the lights of the old farmhouse that sat far off the road were inviting. As I pulled into the driveway, the long drive to the main house gave me one last chance to change my mind.

No. I’d made up my mind. I was going to go through with it.

It would be easy to wimp out and bow to her wishes and slink away like a coward. But no, I loved her, and no matter what her mother or any of her cronies said or did, I was going to marry her daughter.

I had stood up to her before and refused to disappear when they took a dislike to me. I wasn’t good enough for their favorite little girl. Hell, no one would be good enough for her, but she had stood up to her mother and refused to make me leave. 

I had told her the only way I was leaving was if she asked me. Instead, she invited me to live with her in the old farmhouse. I refused, but it made the point, and the row that day was epic. 

Threats made and promises broken, and in the end, she left with me.

We hid out in town for a week before deciding to return to the farmhouse to live. It was more practical, but back at the farmhouse, her mother treated me like a servant when I was there. I did and said little, but when we were alone, I told her I was working on a way for us to marry.

I stopped at the main house, and after killing the motor, I sat in the dark for a minute. She knew I was coming. I had sent her a message earlier that day, telling her it was time to make a stand. 

Knocking on the front door, I waited for what seemed like ages for it to open.

Her mother stood in the doorway. 

In the dim porch light, I could see her face turn to hate the second she saw me. I ignored it. “Jane is waiting for me,” I said flatly and firmly and pushed past her into the living room. She moved aside quickly to avoid my shoulder hitting her as I passed.

 “How dare you come in here like you own the place. You… little shit!” 

For all her high and mightiness and better-than-you attitude, she could swear like a drunken soldier. I’d heard her let loose on more than one occasion, and there would be more swearing tonight. I ignored her, which made her angrier.

Jane came into the living room from the back stairs, carrying a large duffle bag and a backpack. She wore a t-shirt and jeans. She dropped the bags and hurried to meet me in the center of the room. Our hands found their favorite places as we kissed. 

Her mother remained standing in the open doorway. We broke the kiss, and holding Jane’s hand, I addressed her mother. 

“In a polite society, where you pretend to be but are far from it, it’s tradition for a man to ask the girl’s parents for permission to marry their daughter. We both know you won’t give it to us. I’m not asking. I’m telling you that I am marrying Jane. You’ve never liked me from the moment you set eyes on me. While you were running around hating everyone you didn’t think was good enough for you, I’ve been busy investigating your family. I know where you got all the money.

“I know who you killed to keep it quiet. I know how your husband died, and I have the proof. I could easily make an anonymous call to the FBI or the local police. Both would be interested, but I won’t because I’m marrying into this mess of a family. Jane is leaving tonight with me, and we’re not coming back. The next you see us will be at the wedding. You’ll show up, be polite and cordial, and be as friendly as you can. You’ll be nice to my family. If I so much as hear one story of you being a bitch, or one comment out of line, calls will be made. After the wedding, we’ll be leaving the state. You probably won’t see us again, but rest assured, I’ve made plans, should you try to interfere with us ever again. This little empire of yours will crumble, and you’ll be under it.” 

She tried to speak, but no words came out of her mouth.

I picked up Jane’s bags, and we marched out of the room. On the porch, I turned and looked back into the house. She was still standing next to the open door. 

Putting Jane’s stuff into the back of my car, we piled in. I stepped on the gas a little harder than I needed to as I threw it in reverse and spun the back of the car around, throwing gravel on the porch. One last gun of the engine as I put it in drive left another shower of gravel as we left the old farmhouse.

A few minutes later, we passed the tower again. This time I gazed at the wonderment that was the ribbon of stars framing the tower and laughed. The universe knew everything, but what the old bitch didn’t know was that I was bluffing on most of the things I said in the house. I chuckled as we drove toward our new life. I did know enough to make her life miserable if I had to.

*****

 

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Marian Wood: A Case of Universal Germ Warfare

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A Case of Universal Germ Warfare

Marian Wood

Year 3020 – Germ warfare

Emma

The stars shone in the rich purple blanket. For centuries man has watched the sky. Many have asked if we are alone. Is the universe really infinite? Do we somehow at some point come back on ourselves? Could there be spacecraft living out there? If I could travel in a straight line across space at over 50000 mph for 100 years what would I experience and see? The planets and the unseen universe. Would I still be travelling forward in a straight line? Future germ warfare had not been considered.

That night, as I looked up, I felt a sense of hope. Things were bad here on Earth. With people now taking holidays to the moon and exploring Mars and Hitania, a new germ warfare had been created. The scientists had struggled to find a cure as the diseases were alien. This was the day. One of the scientists, Mr. Francis, had found a way to communicate with the Hitanians. A small unknown planet in the 21st Century.

Speaking a different language, deciphered by technology, we needed answers. I’ve never been into space but my dad talks a lot about Hitania. He’s an Astronomer. All my life his stories have fascinated me and now he’s making history. Humans have been trapped indoors too long. I’ve read about the Corona virus in 2020 and the Spanish flu. They had nothing on the fear and torment that Hitanian pox has caused. The heartbreak and lives lost. We have lived, but if no cure, it would take a miracle to keep the human race alive.

An agreement

Sitting in the meeting room listening to the Hitanian minister with live interpretation, I was in awe at how generous their race was. It was us that had insisted on connections with their world. After fighting, and us ignoring their protests, we had been allowed to visit.

The destruction that humans had done to Earth had started on Hitania and Mars. We had destroyed what was once unspoilt, and here the Minister was telling us how to cure our sick. Listening to what was being said, gasps and ssssching surrounded me. As usual, humans had not heeded warnings. Our world leaders had been so determined to legally visit other planets, they had ignored the obvious. Martians and Hitanians carry different illnesses to humans. Our bodies weren’t meant to fight each other’s illnesses. The discussion was now one of trading medication universe-wide.

As the life-changing trade deal was made, this would change things forever.

Ten years later

As the harmony steadily dissipated, new rulers were now making different decisions. Dad, now in his late sixties, had to decide whether to leave us for Hitania. Summoned by the new minister and unsure why, he felt he had no choice but to leave planet Earth.

That day as the tears flowed, I knew that I might never see him again. Saying goodbye, I knew I needed to put the needs of the population first. My heart broke as the rocket took off. I had my memories and knew I would next see him on the big screen if things go well.

David

Reaching Hitania, the sweat was pouring off me, having to meet face to face with the new minister. Green faced with horns and a voice that commanded those around him, I tried not to shake as we bowed in greeting, with an interpreting device fitted to our ears.

“Hello, Mr. Khelon, nice to meet you.”

“Hello, Mr. Hales, good journey?”

“Yes sir, but glad to finally be here.”

Putting his arm around my shoulder he said, “Come, come, sit down.”

Looking around, we weren’t alone. We were being watched by green scaly men. This was the strangest moment of my life. Armed with an alarm under my shirt with instructions to push if things go wrong.

A problem

“The reason I’ve called you here is because we need a new strategy. All humans must return to Earth and all alien beings need to go back to their respective planet. The side effects of the drugs have led to the races mixing.”

I wasn’t expecting this sudden turn in events.

“Our business here is universe travel. We need a different way.”

“Any suggestions? Your humans are becoming ill and waking up with horns. This evolutionary change has raised too many questions.”

“Mr. Khelon, I came to build relations, not cut all ties.”

“Well sorry to disappoint, but this union ends here. We need you to speak to your people and take them home. This exchange is too dangerous. The Martians and Hitanians are suffering the side effects along with the Earthlings. The travelling doesn’t work. I will be sending a man to Earth to organise the return of all Hitanians and Martians.

“But sir, you know the bosses will not like it.”

He raised his voice. “I don’t care about your bosses, this union ends here. If it doesn’t, we are facing germ warfare.”

I wasn’t sure what to do. I pushed my alarm button.

Emma

Hearing the alarm, Rupert the commissioner opened the emergency transmission. On hearing that the business meeting was not going according to plan, I watched him put his head in his hands and rake through his hair. This could be the end of the agreement, they needed to think fast.

“This is bad but we’ve known about the germ problem for years.”

“Yes, but Rupert we have medicine.”

“Emma, you heard Mr. Khelon, the medicine has caused side effects.”

“But the business.”

“There is no business, or are we telling your dad to prepare for war?”

“Of course, not.”

“Send David the get-out message.”

Wiping sweat from my hands, I looked at those around me. A sea of shaking heads and frustration. Signing, I sent the signal to agree to Mr. Hank Khelon’s terms.

David

“If I agree to end the universe trade agreement, there is a financial problem here.”

“No, it’s a matter of germ warfare.” He then shouted, “Get your Earthlings off our planets.”

“What about those that have moved to other planets permanently?”

“They will all have to leave.”

I knew there was no way around this, not today. Earth will lose millions of pounds. There must be another way, but today we had to listen to the green horned man sitting opposite me. It was time to get everyone back to their own planets and for now, end the travel. I hope in the future there is a way to restart it, but now I just wanted to see my daughter, Emma. For now, there seemed no other option, universal germ warfare was not worth entertaining. However, what about the mixed-race — Hitanian / Martian Earthlings? They were going to be a bigger problem.

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D. A. Ratliff: The Way Home

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Admin Note: “The Way Home” is a sequel to D. A.. Ratliff’s July 2020 Write the Story! “The Way Station.”

The Way Station

The Way Home

D. A. Ratliff

Footsteps echoed in the deserted corridor as a grey-haired man walked toward grad student Lucy Wilton’s lab. He rapped softly on the door, announced it was Dr. Puffin, and entered on her muffled come in. Her office was dark, only the light from several monitors illuminated Wilton in an eerie bluish glow.

“Anything?” His voice rose above the chaotic static emanating from the radio telescope array.

Wilton swiveled her chair in his direction. “Nothing. We have the Green Bank dish trained on the coordinates for the signal coming from Pyramid but nothing.”

Puffin sank into a chair beside her. “A long shot, I know, but we have to keep trying.”

“Doctor Puffin, what makes you think they are alive?”

He shrugged. “Just a gut feeling. When I saw the data after they went inside, I noticed a huge energy spike that traveled along those same coordinates. The signal got stronger then reverted to what we hear now. Something happened inside that mountain, Lucy, and we need to figure it out.” He stood up. “Meanwhile, as long as we can reserve time on the arrays, we listen. We owe it to Etta.”

As he closed the door behind him, Puffin rested against it and dropped his head, only one thought whirling in his brain. He was a fool. He owed Etta because he sent her to possible death.

~ooOoo~

Dr. Mason Henley floated, suspended in swirling, shimmering colors of blue and green. He experienced no sensation of warmth or cold, the beating of his heart, or a single breath. All he wanted was to float forever, weightless, and content.

Then darkness and air rushed into his lungs, causing him to gasp deeply. He felt heavy, nearly collapsing before regaining control of his body as his feet hit solid ground. Beside him, he felt Etta sinking and wrapped his arms around her to keep her upright. For a few seconds, they clung to each other in silence.

“Mason, where are we?”

“Too dark to tell, but I’m gonna guess we are on Tanus.”

“It’s musty in here. That smell is disgusting.”

“It’s like rotten garbage only…”

He stopped as a buzz sounded, and lights began to flicker. Mason was aware of Etta’s heart pounding against his chest as rapidly as his. The lights came on, and both gasped.

Etta whispered in a strained voice. “It looks like where we were, but bigger.”

The chamber was similar to the one in Pyramid Mountain but twice as large. There were two platforms, both standing beneath a dome. Artwork of various alien races hung on the wall but displayed more diversity than those on Earth. They barely had time to look around before an attendant, identical to the one on Earth, sputtered into view.

“Wel—wel—welcome to Tanus. I am Automated Attendant 107. Please state your destination.”

Mason took a step toward the AI. “Where are we?”

“You are on Tanus. Please state your destination.”

“What are our destination choices?”

The AI cocked its head. “You may travel wherever you wish. If you wish to remain on Tanus, you must step onto the local terminal. If you wish to travel to other star systems, you may remain on this terminal and provide the location.”

Etta glanced about the room, then asked the AI, “All these images of beings on the walls, can we go to any of their locations?”

“I am only programmed to transport you to locations that will sustain your lifeform.”

Mason let out a deep breath. “Well, that’s a relief.” To the AI, “Is there a main city where we could find the Tanus government?”

“Yes, the chief city of Tanus is Varun. Would you like to travel to Varun?”

With a side look at Etta, who nodded, Mason answered. “Yes, we would.”

The AI winked out and appeared on the other platform. “Please step onto this terminal.”

They were within ten feet of the terminal when the swirling blue-green portal opened. Expecting to step through to their destination, Mason and Etta recoiled in surprise when several humanoid figures emerged, dressed in military-looking garb and carrying what appeared to be weapons. They surrounded the pair as a single figure emerged from the portal.

Dressed in a military-style tunic, adorned with several medallions, the man appeared human but possessed prominent bony ridges along his temples.

“I am Commander Inat Beso of the Central Police. By order of the Tanus government, you are under arrest for traveling to Tanus from a forbidden planet.” Turning to the AI, the commander ordered, “Create a portal to Central Police Headquarters.”

The existing portal collapsed, and within seconds, a new one reopened. With a nod from Beso, police officers grabbed Mason and Etta and escorted them into the blue and green swirl.

~ooOoo~

They emerged in a smaller circular chamber, this one unadorned. Their escorts hurriedly moved them into a long corridor lined with doorways toward a clear tube at the far end. Mason attempted to peer into the open doors, but the officers jerked him along.

The transparent tube proved to be an elevator operated by spoken commands, in this case, detention. Levels passed with lightning speed, and Mason had no idea how many floors up they had traveled. When the doors opened, officers separated them, taking Etta in the opposite direction.

“Etta, just tell them the truth,” Mason managed to yell to her before the officers shuffled him into a small room holding only a table and three chairs.

“Sit. The commander will be with you shortly.” His escorts then left, leaving him alone in the room.

The silence in the windowless room was deafening. Traveling through the portal left him shaky and unable to take a deep breath. His hands were trembling, but he wasn’t sure whether it was due to how they arrived or how scared he was. And he was scared.

The door opened abruptly, and Mason managed not to jump out of his skin in reaction. The commander entered, and with him, a striking woman in an elaborately decorated dress. The commander spoke.

“Stand in the presence of Preceptorem Ragi.”

Mason remained seated. “Preceptorem?”

The commander grabbed him and jerked him to his feet. “You will stand.”

The woman gave him a slight smile. “Release him.”

She sat and motioned for Mason to sit as well. “Preceptorem is the title for the leader of our planet. I am that person. Please tell me your name and where you are from.”

“I am Doctor Mason Henley, and you know where I am from—Earth.”

“Doctor?”

“An archeologist—I study the past artifacts of our planet.”

“Ah… I see.” She paused, her gaze never leaving him. “Earth, which is what you call Orbis? Tell me why you are here.”

“Just curious.”

“Curious. I do not believe you. Tell me the truth.”

It was Mason’s turn to pause and glare. “I will tell you the truth. A mysterious signal began emitting from a place on our planet called Pyramid Mountain. Our government sent my companion, Dr. Bernedetta Clark, a radio astronomer, and me to investigate. We discovered a panel, opened a doorway into the mountain, and found a chamber like the one here. A virtual attendant appeared and informed us that once inside, we couldn’t leave. We must continue our journey. We would have died in the chamber if we had not chosen to come here, so we decided to take our chances.”

“Tell me what you know of the Erons.”

“The who? I have no idea who you are talking about.”

“I do not believe you. Is that why you are here, to scout for another attempt at invasion?”

Mason responded with an unintended chuckle. “If you think we are an advance force, then you guys must be pretty paranoid.”

“Considering what we have been through, you and the woman are certainly no threat to us, but I do suspect you are spies.”

“Spies for who? We had no idea you existed.”

She arched an exquisitely manicured eyebrow. “I still do not believe you.”

“Listen, Preceptorem, my colleague and I simply stumbled into the chamber trying to solve the mystery of the signal. We believe an earthquake activated the signal. Before today, we had no idea anything existed inside the mountain.” He paused, staring into her hazel eyes before continuing. “Time you answered a few of my questions. Who are you, and what is that chamber doing on Earth? How long has it been there?”

It was her turn to chuckle. “I think that we owe you no explanation at all. You invaded our territory. You will tell me who sent you and why.”

Mason’s gut clenched. She wasn’t going to listen to anything he said. “I told you the truth. Nothing else to say.”

The Preceptorem stood. The silky fabric of her dress rustled in the quiet. “I think you will.” She turned to Beso. “Commander, please introduce our guest to Master Zui and tell him we need answers.”

As the door closed behind her, the glint in Beso’s eyes told Mason he was not going to like Master Zui.

~~oOo~~

The guards ushered him several floors down and into a small windowless room with a chair similar to one a dentist chair would use in the center of the room. To the right, a bank of monitors hung over a workbench, and a cylindrical machine with several cables attached sat beside the bench.

Commander Beso entered behind him and stood, hands clasped behind his back, as the guards forced Mason into the chair. Metal bands snapped into place around his wrists and ankles, and the guards pulled a metal band from the headrest and attached it around his neck.

He glared at Beso. “This isn’t necessary. You won’t learn anything else from me. I told you the truth.”

Beso’s mouth turned up in a slight but sinister grin. “The Preceptorem did not believe you. Therefore, neither do I.”

Before Mason could respond, the door opened. An older man with a broad square face entered, followed by a younger woman and man who did not have the temple ridges. The man immediately went to the workbench and began touching keys on a pad embedded in the bench. As the monitors activated, the woman started pulling thin cables from the machine.

With a respectful bow, Beso addressed the older man. “Master Zui. The Preceptorem wishes for you to conduct a psychprobe. She suspects this Orbiserin is holding back vital information.”

“Someone from Orbis? Then the rumor is true? They came from the Orbis station?”

“You have already heard? I am impressed by how quickly the gossip moves in the Imperium.” He paused, allowing his disdain for gossip to show on his face. “They arrived from the Orbis way station and claimed not to know the Erons. The Preceptorem is not convinced that they are telling the truth. It is your job to prove her theory correct.”

Zui raised his eyes from a monitor to give Beso the same look of disdain. “I know my job, Commander.”

The tech sitting at the monitor bank spoke. “Master, the power levels are at optimum.”

At Zui’s nod, the woman approached Mason and inserted short needles attached to the cables into his scalp. Mason winced from the sharp pain as the needles slipped through his skin. When she had connected all the cables, Zui uttered a command. “Raise the level to one hundred.”

A slight hum accompanied the command, and Mason screamed from searing pain as his brain felt encased in fire.

No, he didn’t like Master Zui at all.

~~oOo~~

“What the ….?” Mason threw up his hand to shield his eyes from the blinding light pouring into the room.

“You’re awake, thank god.” 

Mason rose toward the voice, Etta’s voice. “You okay?”

“Yeah, think so. They used some kind of mind probe on us. Pain was horrible. But it wore off a bit ago.”

He tried to open his eyes again but closed them quickly. Squinting, he pointed to the source of the light. ”Can you turn that off.”

Etta laughed softly. “No, that’s a window. It’s almost dark. Your eyes will adjust to the light soon.”

He sensed her lean against the wall, sitting at the end of the bunk where he was lying. She sighed, then spoke. “I heard one of the guards talking as they brought you in here. They didn’t get anything from either of us.”

“Well, they wouldn’t. We have nothing to hide.”

“We don’t, but how do we get out of here?”

“I don’t know, Etta, but we will—somehow. You sure you are okay?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.”

“Let’s try to get some sleep while we can.”

To his surprise, Etta curled up next to him. He slipped an arm around her, and they fell asleep.

~~oOo~~

A clicking sound woke Mason and Etta simultaneously. Mason sat up and swung his legs over hers and stood as the door to the cell opened and a single beam of light shone in his eyes. A hushed voice spoke.

“If you want out of here, come with us.”

“Who are you?”

A figure stepped into the room, the male tech from Master Zui’s lab. “Does it matter? You want to go home? This is your chance. You have to trust us. We are on your side.”

Etta grabbed his arm. “What do we have to lose?”

“Can’t argue with that.” He pulled Etta up and turned to the tech. “Lead the way.”

There were four men in total. The tech and one other were in front of them, two others behind. The tech whispered. “I am Janka, do as I tell you. Stay as close to the wall as you can. We have the sensors disrupted, but we will be vulnerable until we can get to the turboshaft.

Sliding their bodies along the wall, they were in sight of the elevator that Janka called the turboshaft when they heard footsteps. They held their breath, waiting in the shadows as two guards turned the corner. Within seconds, Janka and the tech took the guards out with swift blows and removed their badges. With a smile on his face, Janka held up the crystal chips, “These will come in handy to mask who is using the transporters. Let’s get to the turbo car.

Two of Janka’s team took the turbo car first, and when the next platform arrived, they followed. Mason recognized a sign on the level they disembarked, which told him this was the level where they first arrived. Maybe they were getting out of there.

Janka spoke. “Where you arrived on Tanus is an abandoned center, but the AI on Orbis apparently had those coordinates stored. We will take the government portal to another location then back to the main transport center. There may be few people there this time of night. Stay close and move when we tell you.”

Once in the government chamber, Janka activated the AI using one of the badges. They stepped into a portal and came out in a smaller chamber where several people awaited them.

A woman with flowing silver hair approached. “These are the people from Orbis?”

Janka bowed slightly. “Yes, Dominae Miski.”

She smiled warmly. “You are our salvation.”

Pulling her toward the portal, he said, “We will do introductions later. We need to go.”

Using the stolen badge again, Janka activated the portal, and they arrived at the large main terminal. A few people were waiting for the central platform, so Janka motioned everyone to remain close to the wall. Once those people left, he turned to the Dominae. “It is time to go home.”

Janka strode to the platform, the others on his heels, and said one word. “Orbis.”

The familiar swirling blue and green portal opened, and Mason grabbed Etta’s hand, and they ran through with the others. This time Mason was thrilled to feel air rush into his lungs and thankful to find himself in the familiar portal on Earth. At least, he hoped he was there.

Janka checked that everyone made it and then turned to the Earthlings.

“I am sorry we had little time to tell you who we are, but we needed to leave Tanus quickly.” He motioned to the silver-haired woman. “This is Dominae Miski. She is our leader. We are from Eron.”

She grasped Mason and Etta’s hands. “You do not know what a service you have given us. We were not an invading force but one seeking a peaceful meeting with other planets. The Tanusians told us they destroyed the way station on Orbis to prevent our returning home and tell our world of their existence. We now know it simply malfunctioned and according to what Janka learned during your psychprobe, a natural event reset the signal.”

“Why didn’t they want you to return home?” Etta’s voice shook as she asked.

“Because my child, the Tanusians are the invading force, and they were planning to go to our world to plunder it for their own needs. It is what they do. They did not want advanced warning for my people, but the malfunction thwarted their plans.” She smiled a most sinister smile. “They will be in for a rude awakening. For we are far more advanced than they are, and my government will not take kindly to their efforts.”

Mason sighed as he tried to absorb all that the Dominae told them. “Did you build these transports?”

“No, the system has been in place for eons. We do not know who created it, but our scientists worked on how to recreate the portal. We came here over 140 of our cycles ago. The original contact team is dead, but we are among their descendants. The Tanus sought to assimilate us into their world, but we secretly resisted, searching for a way home. You gave that to us.”

“The question Dominae, is how can we get home? Hopefully, our people have detected the signal, but this station is far from civilization.”

Janka paused. “How do you communicate here?”

Mason pulled his cellphone from his pocket. “This is a cell phone. Don’t know why they didn’t confiscate it.”

“Likely meant nothing to them. How does it work?” Mason told him of the network of cell towers and satellites, and Janka called over one of the others and explained it to him. “Can you boost this signal so he can make a phone call?” An affirmative answer, and within a few minutes, Janka handed him back his phone.

“You can leave this place as you have entered here. The door should be open. Tell your people of us. Tell them that is our technology attached to your phone, allowing you to send this signal to the nearest cell phone tower you described. Your people will see that we are advanced. Tell them the Tanusians are dangerous, but you are not alone. You now know how to find us. We will keep this way station operational.”

“Thank you, and thank you for saving us.”

“Thank you for giving us a way home.” He called for the Automated Attendant, who appeared. “Greetings, travelers. Welcome to the Orbis Way Station. May I ask your destination?”

“Eron.”

The portal opened, and Mason and Etta watched as the others left. She smiled. “Race you to the door.”

They exited into the bright sunshine sucking in deep breaths of Earth’s air. Mason held up the phone. “Who do we call?”

Etta smiled. “Dr. Puffin at my lab. He will be listening for us.”

~~oOo~~

Bored from hours of monitoring the signal, Lucy Wilton had turned the audio feed from the telescope to max while she listened to a book on her Kindle. When the burst of energy surged through the speakers, a glance at the monitors showed the signal was not emanating from the telescope but a nearby cell tower. She called Dr. Puffin to come to the lab immediately. Seconds after he entered, his cell phone rang.

His eyes widened. “Lucy, it’s Etta.” He answered and listened for a moment, his smile broadening by the second. “Not to worry, rescue is just a helicopter ride away, then home.”

~~oOo~~

Weeks later, Etta was in the lab she shared with Lucy, when she detected a signal spike from Pyramid Mountain. Someone was coming. 

Author’s Note: When I submitted “The Way Station” for the July 2020, Write the Story! prompt, some readers requested a sequel, which was flattering and much appreciated. It just so happened that one of the WU! admins., Michele Sayre, had suggested the tower with the Milky Way behind it as a prompt back in May, and we decided to use it in September. It was a perfect prompt to base “The Way Home” on, and I hope you enjoy the continuing story.

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Please visit Deborah on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Caroline Giammanco: Babel

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Babel

Caroline Giammanco

The dimming light of a long day hung over the horizon. A lone workman stared across his bird’s-eye view and smiled in wonder. For the past fifteen years, Larry Wilkins had climbed towers like this one to troubleshoot and repair failing transmissions equipment. 

“You’re crazy for climbing up something that high.” His brother Wes never understood Larry’s career choice. “If you fall off one of those towers, there won’t be enough of you to scrape off the ground. Hell, we won’t have to bury you. You’ll already be six feet in the ground.”

Larry simply shrugged and smiled in his own quiet way. He’d learned years ago there was no sense trying to argue with Wes. Besides, there was an element of danger to his job. Danger was one of the things he liked best about it. The quiet daredevil began this tantalizing life early by climbing his first Forest Service fire tower when he was eight years old. 

Heights had never bothered him. People did. Up here on a tower, no one could intrude upon his thoughts, and Larry Wilkins was a thinker. 

Making the last adjustments before he began his descent, Larry took a moment to look up into the skies. Faded hues of pink and purple formed. Soon the blackness of the night sky would fill with blazing stars. A few times Larry had stayed on a tower past quitting time just so he could admire the view. At this height, it almost seemed like he could touch the stars. Few men ever experienced the perfect solitude Larry sometimes took for granted. It became a part of who he was, and sometimes he forgot to enjoy it. Tonight he enjoyed it. 

Always a deep thinker, Larry considered mankind’s condition. Why did people act the way they did? What motivated people to always strive for something else? Was it boredom? Curiosity? A sense of inadequacy or overcompensation? He’d seen men who, as individuals, did everything they could to appear more important than what they were. Did mankind as a whole fall into the same trap?

Larry swiveled in his harness to look at the twinkling city lights below as streetlights and houses illuminated. Most of the homes and businesses relied on the communications towers he made his living servicing. Few people these days lived without television, internet, or cell phones. 

Larry wasn’t that old, but he remembered a time when people weren’t so obsessed with listening to, and being heard by, so many others.

Is this the hubris that I read about in Greek studies? Are we so full of ourselves that we are setting ourselves up to fail?

Larry looked at the equipment on the tower. Signals sent from it reached for how far? Really, couldn’t radio waves travel infinitely farther than we could imagine? The faintest of twinkling stars appeared in the night sky. 

Larry thought about science fiction movies in which humans sent signals toward distant planets in hopes of making contact with alien races. 

Do we want them to know we are here? Would we learn from them? Be equals to them? Be subjugated by them? Be eaten by them?

A breeze swept past Larry and he shivered. It was silly, really, to get himself so worked up by his own thoughts that his ideas would unsettle him so. Still not content with climbing down, he pondered other stories he’d heard. 

The Bible told of people who built a tower to reach heaven. They wanted to make themselves equal to God. He struck them down and scattered them across the globe. 

The wind picked up and reverberated the metal. 

Why, could the messages sent by this tower reach as far as heaven itself? I guess it’s possible, depending on what your idea of heaven is. Are we modern-day gods? Do we know more than anyone has ever known before? Would lesser beings view us as gods if we stumbled across them on some distant planet? 

Larry envisioned alien workers worshipping him and chuckled at what a sight that would be. 

As darkness fell, Larry decided he’d been left to his own thoughts for long enough. This long day must come to an end. He had a two-hour drive to his next service call in the morning. 

*** 

Far away, beyond the clouds and stars, the Entity watched with concern. Known as God, revered by some, mocked by others, He and His Counsel gathered. 

“We must act soon. No longer can we wait to deal with the menace.”

“I agree. We know what we must do.”

It wasn’t radio waves or satellite beams that drew the final wrath upon mankind. It was the thoughts of one man, Larry Wilkins, who dared to sit upon a tower and imagine himself a god.

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Please visit Caroline on her blog: https://carolinegiammancowrites.home.blog/

Dr. Paul’s Family Talk: Experts — Book Reviews

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

As Martin’s characters says, a thousand lives are waiting for us in books. For the reader and the writers, books are a wealth of knowledge, experiences, and enjoyment.

As part of the Five-Month Expert Series on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” radio program on Impact Radio USA, Writer’s Unite admin Deborah Ratliff will join host Paul W. Reeves for a monthly book review segment.

September 2020

Camino Winds  by John Grisham 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty 

Listen Now: Book Reviews September 23, 2020

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Resources:

Camino Winds: https://amzn.to/3cyWWWI
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: https://amzn.to/3cyWAzm
Nine Perfect Strangers : https://amzn.to/335ZAQB

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA

Live Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 11:00 am ET

Join host  Paul W. Reeves and his sidekick, Arrogant Al for great music, contests, news, sports, interviews, and jokes! 

http://www.impactradiousa.com
(click on the LISTEN NOW button)

~~~~~~~

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Lynn Miclea: Final Assault

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Final Assault

Lynn Miclea

Paul glanced at the tower above him, a smirk crossing his face. It was almost time to check in. He was sure his team knew — they monitored everything. He needed to send in a report and then return to his home base for a short while.

Taking out a hand-held device, he punched in a code, then a string of instructions. Satisfied that all was well, he put it back in his pocket. This was going better than planned. He looked up at the tower again, grateful for what it did for his people.

As he turned to leave, one thin man with a moustache approached him. “Hey, what are you doing?”

Paul sucked in a breath. “Nothing, sir, I am a maintenance technician. Just checking to be sure everything is functioning properly.” He hoped that would satisfy this man.

The thin man stared at him, a strange look on his face. Paul felt a nervous quiver in his belly. Did this man suspect anything? Could there be a problem? He quickly nodded at the man, said a quick, “Good day,” and turned to go home. He hoped the man accepted what he said without any suspicion. He was not sure. He was too close to the end to let anyone interfere or stop him.

Walking quickly to his small house, he scanned the area to make sure he wasn’t being followed. Not seeing anyone, he entered and shut the door, then let out a long breath. It was good to have privacy again and feel safe, even if it was in a temporary strange dwelling. An Earth home.

None of the furniture quite fit his body comfortably, even with a temporary human body, but that was to be expected. The furniture was really for show, in case someone visited or looked in the windows. Everything would look normal to these humans.

He went into the kitchen and looked in the fridge. A jar filled with slimy, crawling worms and bugs was in there, tantalizing him, making him realize how hungry he was. He grabbed the jar, unscrewed the lid, and shook a few morsels of delectable, squirming bugs into his mouth. Relishing the feel and the taste, he placed the jar back in the fridge.

Paul entered the closet in the second bedroom, which had been renovated into a system of operations and a portal. Several computers, more powerful than anything that was developed on this backward, juvenile, and unsophisticated world, lined one wall.

He sat on the wooden chair, filled out a report of his findings, and sent it to his supervisor. His boss would be pleased. He had done a good job on this strange planet, investigating and infiltrating the lowly human defenses.

Turning toward the control panel along the back wall, he punched in his code, hit a few buttons, entered the target code, and held the handle on the transport device. Everything around him fluttered and turned misty white, then slowly dissipated.

Letting out his breath, he exited the small receiving chamber and strode down the long familiar metallic hallway. He breathed in deeply the sharp, pungent air. It was good to be home. The Earth clothes hung in tatters on his long, scaly limbs as he returned to his normal appearance. No matter, he could always get more clothes.

A wide grin crossed his bony face as he entered a large office of glass and dark metal.

His boss was waiting for him, and the large, scaly reptilian creature leaned forward across his dark gray desk. “Partanelloq, welcome home. I’ve looked over your reports.” He waved at Paul to take a seat. “Please tell me how your research on Earth is progressing.”

Paul smiled. “It’s going quite well. They call me Paul there, and they think I’m a maintenance technician. So far, no one suspects anything. I have observed and analyzed the habits of those archaic Earth humans. Very strange, infantile beings. They are at the beginning of their development and have a long way to go still. They have no idea who I am or what I am doing. And they have no idea what is coming.”

The boss nodded, pleased with this report. “That is good. They really suspect nothing? Amazing. So we can move forward as planned?”

“Yes.” Paul leaned forward eagerly. “I have infiltrated their computers, their communication devices, their weapons, and their so-called security measures, even at the highest levels. Even their weather has now been programmed. Everything is in place and ready. We can begin on your command.”

Exhilarated, Paul sat back in his chair. Maybe he would even be promoted after this and be able to oversee the takeover of other underdeveloped planets himself, rather than do the legwork for others. But that could wait. He hissed in anticipation as he waited for his boss to respond.

The boss smiled, his sharp, pointed teeth glistening. “Excellent. I will give you one week Earth time to test out the areas we have infiltrated and see how it affects these Earthlings. Test out a different section each day and report back to me. We will have them under our control very fast. They are no match for our intelligence or our technology.”

“I agree, sir.” A rush of pride and excitement filled Paul as he nodded. “It will be my pleasure to test out each area. These lowly humans won’t even know what hit them.”

The boss nodded. “Good, good. I look forward to your continued daily reports, Partanelloq. And then in one week, if all goes well, they can be annihilated and the planet will be ours.”

Paul’s tongue slashed back and forth as a hiss of excitement came out. “And I have your permission and authority to push the button for the final assault?”

The boss nodded. “Yes. It will be at your discretion.” He hissed as his eyes lit up. “Thank you. You may go now.” He waved a thin, scaly arm, dismissing him.

Paul got up, bowed in respect, turned, and left the office. Before he returned to that backward planet, he needed one good meal first. He made his way to the cafeteria, chatted with a few friends, and loaded up his plate with squiggly, squirmy creatures still covered in mud. Ah, a nice feast before he returned to Earth.

An hour later, he went to the chamber, coded in the target of his small home on Earth, and pressed Enter. The air sparkled with a white mist, he felt the familiar vibration, and then the mist cleared. He found himself in the closet of his Earth home.

He had work to do. First he checked on the tower that monitored Earth movements. All was working as planned. He hissed in delight. This was almost too easy.

Turning to his sophisticated computers, he programmed several sectors, hissed, and pressed Enter. Each section, one per hour, would affect communications, computers, and electronic devices. Then he would program and disrupt minor brain functions of the inept humans. Severe weather changes would come after that. The excitement was almost too much for him, and he could barely sit still.

Exiting the closet in the second bedroom, he walked to the front of the house and looked out the window, overlooking the street. He watched streetlights flash and go dark, as they malfunctioned. Unable to contain his glee, his hiss turned into a barking laugh. Incredibly excited, he kept constant vigil at the window. Car headlights went dark, and the sound of vehicular crashes reached him. Excellent!

The following day, Paul was thrilled as televisions, cable, and telephones in the city went dead. He watched as a neighbor stumbled out the front door of his house, confused, walking erratically. It was progressing splendidly. It was almost too easy.

He returned to the closet and his computer, checked the feedback from each sector, and made a few adjustments. Each day more sections of Earth would be infiltrated, controlled, and shut down. The excitement in him kept building. He checked the tower — it was working perfectly, monitoring and recording all electronics, all computers, all life, and all behavior of the backward humans.

He sent another report to his boss with all his latest findings and calculations. Murders had increased — people enraged and killing each other over nonsense. How could it be this easy?

That afternoon, a warning beep got his attention. Paul checked the information from the tower. The weather across Earth was changing sooner than expected. Fires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and volcanoes all were becoming more active. He checked the controls again. That should not be happening yet, that was due days later, not now. He reviewed the findings again and thought through the ramifications. The fires and hurricanes had been scheduled to take place just before the end, not this soon. He adjusted the coding instructions. But maybe it wouldn’t matter. It was only a few days away now anyway.

One day later, Paul allowed his body to start reverting back to its natural state. He clapped his bony hands together. The planet would be theirs within hours. The final assault was at hand. And he was in charge. He squawked gleefully. The mounting excitement was reaching a crescendo.

A loud crashing sound suddenly reverberated throughout the small house. What was that?

Voices reached him — human voices. “Where is he? The signals are coming from this house. We traced it back here.”

Another voice called out. “Search this place. Now!”

No! Nothing would stop him. It was too late to prevent what was about to happen on this backward planet, and the time was now. Paul’s scaly fingers hovered over the key.

The humans made noise as they searched the small house, room by room. They were getting closer to the room where he was.

It wouldn’t matter anymore. With a hiss of pure delight, he pushed Enter and waited for the shock waves to hit.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2020 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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And visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

S.McC.: Comb 1

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Comb 1

S.McC.

“The stars shine brighter from this station,” said Bjorn to Maria, looking into her blue eyes that were firmly fixed upon them.

”Yes,” she said a little breathless, a hint of sadness upon her delicate features. “But do you not miss home?” She turned towards him slightly awaiting his reply.

Bjorn thought for a moment. Did he miss his home on Earth? The lush green fields and clear swimming waters had turned to nothing but barren wasteland in the aftermath of the nuclear wars. Nearly everything had been wiped out, but some governments had thought ahead for a disaster such as that and built The Combs.

The ship was one of five in which the last of humankind was trying to survive on. Their delicate yet complex layout was based upon the honeycombs in which the bees used to make upon Earth. If one were damaged in any way, it would be able to be ejected without causing damage to the rest of the ship. The combs were giant, each spanning a mile across. The most extensive comb, being the outside one, spanned three miles across, and this was the one in which they were now standing.

“Yes,” he said, knowing that he had taken his time to consider it and that she would be gazing up at him, wondering why it had taken him so long. He was usually quick to answer, and anytime he thought about subjects for a while meant he was trying to avoid answering properly. Usually, these subjects were about his past and his life upon Earth, a past she knew that he longed to forget.

He towered over her five feet in height, but what she lacked in strength and stature was made up in abundance with her mind. Her mind that fascinated and intrigued him. The mind that had saved them both from being left behind upon the barren wasteland called Earth.

As she looked at him, a question creasing her forehead and those blue eyes framed by hair that was as dark as the space they were travelling in, he knew a one-word answer wouldn’t be enough. Knew that she would wheedle away at him like she had done before until she had gotten a response that seemed satisfactory to her.

“I miss the time when fish ran in the river, when birds sang through the trees. I don’t miss the mess that those in charge put us through. The mess that now lies upon our once beautiful Earth.”

She nodded as if in understanding. “I miss that too,” she said softly and quickly wiped away a stray tear sliding down her face.

It had only been a few months since they had flown past the Milky Way, but its colourful presence had been one that they had sought since the beginning of their journey into space. When work upon the radio tower had been slow, they had come out here with mugs of tea and either stood watching its colours or sat upon the strange grass that was laid out around the tower.

The tower had been slow every day since they had left, everything upon it working as it should. However, no news had come from the other ships, and that worried the both of them. Bjorn knew that it worried Maria more than she could bear as she had designed the metallic structure with the help, small help, of Bjorn.

The metallic object seemed to loom above them in the starlit sky. It was protected like the rest of the comb by a force field made of technology that had been borrowed by some unknown alien life form. The technology was only known to Maria, and so she had saved her and Bjorn by constructing the metal tower, saying that the ships needed it to protect themselves. She never gave up the secret of the technology but had let on that Bjorn knew of it as well to those in charge, just so that she could get her friend on board; otherwise, he would have been left behind upon the dead planet.

The same alien life forms had sent a message to Maria many years ago urging her to leave Earth. They had known that it would be barren soon. Fate throwing them in each other’s paths that night that Maria had had her first vision seemed like many lifetimes ago, but was only a few years. He had heard all about her concerns since then as they had worked hard together upon the tower.

Bjorn sighed and turned to go inside the comb, not knowing if he would be able to continue getting Maria’s thoughts off of her worry, as she still stood there gazing at the stars, when a sudden flash of pale blue struck the forcefield. The tower lit up red, a warning Bjorn thought as he looked towards Maria.

“Let us get inside,” he said to her as she gazed blankly at the stars. He shoved her forward, but her legs stayed firmly fixed upon the ground. He looked around, not knowing what to do, or whom he could call for help as none were there.

Another blue flash rippled across, but Maria no longer saw what was happening, her gaze and thoughts a thousand miles away. She was expressionless as she looked up into the bright stars, her body tense underneath her gaze. Another vision, Bjorn thought.

“Please forgive me,” he said exasperated and lifted her firmly off of the ground. She weighed nothing, he thought, as he walked briskly inside the comb, not looking back to see if the forcefield was still flashing.

He closed the metallic hatch firmly with one of his giant calloused hands, but he didn’t rest. Time was not on his side; he knew that he had to snap Maria out of her trance before someone saw her. Those in charge did not take kindly to people slacking or losing their minds, knowing that they were a risk to the others on board. The ones that had lost their minds had never been seen again, and he had no wish for Maria to be like them.

He walked the metallic corridor as quickly as he could with Maria slung upon his back until he reached the comb underneath the tower. Closing the metallic door of the comb, he was glad that he hadn’t been seen. He carefully placed Maria onto the small couch. The couch, looking more like a rectangular box with cushions, was just the right size for her small frame to lie across.

He looked at her small body lying there upon the couch, as he checked her forehead with the back of his hand, but she seemed cool enough to the touch. He worried and decided to grab the small first aid kit which he kept there for minor injuries. Turning his back on her for a second, he strode the three steps that were between him and the cabinets which held their supplies—not knowing if any of it would be useful.

As he opened the cabinet, Maria’s soft lilting voice came at him from across the room. “Bjorn, we have work to do on the tower if we are all to survive the next few days,” she said matter of factly as if she were detached from the perilous situation at hand.

With that announcement, she got up off of the couch, grabbed the nearest bright orange toolbox and headed back out the way they came in. Bjorn, sighing, wondering what she had seen, got up and followed closely behind her.

END

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Chester Harper: Sacrifice

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Sacrifice 

Chester Harper 

The Griffins were enjoying a rare family dinner when Adam and Jack’s communicators went off simultaneously. Columbine had been telling a story about one of her students. “That can’t be good.” 

“Maybe it’s a drill?” Willow provided halfheartedly. 

“Nope. An emergency security meeting has been called for 2000.” Adam patted his stomach. “That gives us time for dessert.” 

“Pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream coming up.” Willow rose to get dessert and it gave her a chance to send out feelers for the general atmosphere of the community. She sensed tension in the main security office. Otherwise, it all seemed normal. She frowned. That means an external threat

Adam gave his wife a knowing look as she carried everything in on a tray. She smiled sweetly and served the pie. 

Adam got home late and was rumpled. His hair stuck everywhere from him running his hands through it, a sure sign of stress for him. 

“Is it bad?” 

“A probe has been detected. Somebody is trying to find this community.” Adam ran his hand through his greying hair once more. 

“Adam, stop. You’re going to pull all of your hair out.” 

He smiled and hugged his wife. “You always know how to lighten my mood.” 

She laid her head on his chest. “How about you tell me about it over pie and coffee?” 

“That sounds great.” 

Willow lay awake thinking about what Adam had told her. Somebody was attempting to get a lock on their main computer. With the IP address, they could use GPS and pinpoint their location. Why would anybody do that? As far as she knew, anybody who knew about their community also knew where they were. Members of the society who worked outside of it, would never voluntarily even hint about their secluded Ozark Mountains community. How would anyone even know to search for them? She drifted off to sleep still wondering. 

*** 

Bleary-eyed scientists and communications officers sat on the stage with the high leader, Buck, standing at the podium. Adam and Jack, as heads of security, were in the first row, as was Auntie Willow, head medical officer. 

Buck cleared his throat. “There is a continuing attempt to breach our security. We believe this is an attempt to locate our community. Our experts, with much hard work, have back traced the signal to one Garrett Townsend. Does that name mean anything to anyone here?” Buck, at well over eight feet tall, was an intimidating presence. 

Adam stood. “Unfortunately, I think I recognize that name.” He looked at Jack. “Son, can you pull up the files on the Memphis mission.” 

At mention of the Memphis mission, a stir started in the room. Jack’s furry fingers flew over the keyboard as he pulled the record. It never ceased to amaze Adam that his huge, recessive son could operate a keyboard at such speed. “I cross referenced Garrett Townsend. That is the man Egret was staying with in Memphis.” 

“That is what I feared.” Buck gazed over the crowd. “I need volunteers to infiltrate his operation. He is quite wealthy and has ads out for expert computer operators to assist in his search for…” Buck chuckled. “Aliens.” 

Columbine stood. “I would like to volunteer.” 

Her fiance, Bluejay, better known as Jay, stood beside her. “I, too, volunteer.” 

“As do I.” Everyone gasped as Auntie Willow stood. 

“Dr. Willow, I think we need to leave this to the younger generation.” 

“I agree with the high leader,” Willow, Dr. Willow’s namesake niece, added. The set of her shoulders and the fire in her eyes quieted Dr. Willow’s protestors and they let her continue without saying more. “I am responsible for this entire situation. If I had reported those young people for their antics, bordering on insubordination and treason, none of this would have happened.” 

“Very well. I don’t approve, and I could stop you.” Buck held up a hand as Dr. Willow started to speak. “But, I won’t.” He and the doctor exchanged a knowing glance as he continued. “The team will meet at 0800 in the communications meeting room. Meeting adjourned.” 

*** 

“Miss Griffin, Mr. Stone, we welcome you to Stargazer Communications.” Garrett Townsend shook their hand. “I’m sure you will be happy here.” 

Columbine, now known as Celeste Griffin, and Jay, now James Stone, shook hands with their new boss. 

“I look forward to the opportunity,” Columbine replied. 

“Not as much as I, I’m sure,” an eager Jay added. 

*** 

The elderly housekeeper moved through the office emptying the trash, combining trash containers when possible to conserve liners. Columbine smiled, nobody would suspect the shuffling aged housekeeper was Dr. Willow.

“Excuse me, dear. May I get your trash?” The tremble in her voice almost made Columbine laugh. 

“I’m sorry,” Columbine said, as she moved her leg to give Dr. Willow, the housekeeper known as Agnes, access. 

“Thank you.” The old woman slipped some papers into Columbine’s purse as she replaced the trash can. 

As Agnes shuffled off, Columbine couldn’t help thinking perhaps her great aunt had missed her calling as an actress. She had no problem passing herself off as uneducated and slightly disabled. She looks old. Columbine reflected and realized Auntie Willow was in her late seventies. In non-society that seemed old but not in their society where citizens lived well into their second century. Auntie Willow still worked a fifty- to sixty-hour work week. 

Columbine left the papers in her purse without looking at them. The office was full of security cameras. Townsend’s paranoia was contagious and she, more than anything, didn’t want to raise suspicion. She would look at the papers later tonight in the apartment with the team. For now, a little subtle sabotage to the program searching for her home. 

The apartment was, purposefully, far from the office and Townsend’s luxury penthouse. This put them close to historic Beale Street, and tonight they were enjoying Memphis barbeque. “Did you look at those papers I gave you?” Auntie Willow licked BBQ sauce from her fingers. 

“Not yet. I didn’t want to look at them in the office.” Columbine swirled her finger around in a circle. “Cameras everywhere.” 

“Why is he so paranoid?” Jay asked as he dove into a half chicken plate with beans and slaw. 

Auntie looked at him and realized he might not know the entire story of the Memphis mission. “He did have a man removed out of his bed in the middle of the night and was completely unaware.” 

“Out of his bed?” 

“Yes.” Columbine put her hand over his. “It was not common knowledge that when Egret was removed from Townsend’s home…” she looked at Auntie Willow, who nodded. “They were in bed together.” 

Jay swallowed a bite of chicken, wiped his mouth, and nodded. “That explains a lot.” 

Columbine raised an eyebrow. “Oh?” 

“Well I am an attractive man and Townsend was putting out feelers as to 

my…preferences.” 

They finished their meal and went to the apartment to look at the papers. 

***

“This is quite incriminating for Townsend and proves we are on the right track.” Auntie looked at Columbine and Jay over her readers. “This letter mentions Edgar putting Garrett Townsend’s name as joint holder on all of his accounts and holdings. It also mentions Edgar, our Egret, as belonging to a secret society. This part bothers me the most.” Auntie pointed to the last paragraph and read, “‘Even with my superior psychic powers, I have been unable to pinpoint the location of the secret society’s community.’ The word pinpoint tells me that Egret and Townsend have been successful at minimal communication.” 

“How is that possible? Egret is in stasis.” 

“Yes, my dear niece, but he has fought it as hard as possible. He is a very strong telepath.” She took a sip of coffee. “I felt an attempt just last week. He is still very angry with me.” 

Jay smacked the table, making both women jump. “All the more reason to stop this, now.” 

*** 

“Mr. Townsend, the lower disc on the tower, the one reserved for your search for intelligent life project.” 

“Yes, go on.” 

The young man’s hands shook as he continued. He knew how the boss didn’t take bad news well. “We keep setting the search parameter to cover Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois…” 

“I know the states covered in my search parameter. Get on with it, please.” The last word was intoned in a way that meant just the opposite. 

“Yes, sir.” The man dropped his papers and bent to pick them up. “I’m sorry, sir.” 

“What is going wrong with my tower?” Townsend’s face began to turn red. 

Straightening his papers, he continued. “The parameter keeps being reset to a 100-mile radius.” 

“Under whose authorization?” Townsend’s face was thoroughly red and a vein throbbed on his forehead. 

The young assistant closed his eyes and swallowed. “Your authorization, sir.” 

The icy stare was paired with just as icy a voice. “My authorization.” He turned and looked out his penthouse office windows. “Have the code traced back to the PC it originated from. Let me, and only me, know as soon as possible. 

*** 

Auntie Willow let herself into their Memphis apartment for the last time. They had received notification that the added security measures were in place and no matter how he searched, Townsend couldn’t find their community. Jay and Columbine were out to eat, leaving Auntie alone. They had enjoyed their time in Memphis and it wouldn’t surprise her if they chose to work in non-society occupations after this mission. Auntie tensed. Someone was here and somehow they had blocked her sensing them until now. 

“Good evening, Agnes.” Townsend switched on the light and pointed a gun directly at her. He wore some sort of headband with blinking lights. “Put this on — now.” He held an identical headband out to Auntie Willow. She hesitated and he barked, “Now.” 

“Mr. Townsend, why are you in my apartment? I don’t…” 

“Stop the act.” He placed the band over Auntie’s hair and pressed a button. 

She winced as tiny needles pierced her skin. “My personal computer was hacked and we traced the hack to James Stone’s PC. I expected to find him here…” 

A rare smile lit Townsend’s face. “Dr. Willow, the infamous head medical officer of the Boggy Creek Settlement.” 

The look of shock on Dr. Willow’s face made him chuckle. “Shocked? You see, my band blocks the frequency your people communicate on. Isolating the frequency was one of the last endeavors Edgar accomplished. Your band, however, isolates your frequency to broadcast to my band only. I have you, bitch.” 

*** 

Simultaneously, Willow, Columbine, Jack, and Buck’s faces blanked and then turned to masks of fear, as they received the S.O.S. Columbine jumped up. “We have to go, he has Auntie.” Jay struggled to get money from his wallet. “Now!” 

“Keep the change,” Jay called, as he ran after Columbine. 

As they raced towards the apartment, Columbine filled him in. “Auntie sent out an S.O.S. of ‘Come Townsend is,’ then she disappeared. She’s not dead or unconscious. I would know that. She’s just…not…there.” 

“But how? We’ve been so careful.” 

They arrived at the apartment to find an open door and a note. Columbine’s hands shook as she read it. “I have her. She will die but not before she sees me succeed and I hurt her the way she hurt me.” 

“What does he mean by ‘the way she hurt me?’” 

Jay took the note and read it himself. Columbine grabbed the note, crumpled it, and threw it across the room. “It means he fooled us. He somehow found out about us and now he is holding Auntie Willow hostage, like we are holding Egret.” She fell into Jay’s arms. “Or, he thinks Egret is dead and he means to kill Auntie’s love.” 

“Dr. Willow’s love? Who?” 

“Head leader Buck.” 

Jay sat down hard. “Oh…I didn’t…”

“Nobody did — well, almost nobody.” She grinned. “I caught them kissing right before we left on the mission.” 

Jay put his arm around Columbine as she sat beside him. “What do we do now?” 

Looking up into his eyes, she said, “Wait.” 

*** 

Townsend stood at the foot of his tower and looked up at the two discs, ignoring the beautiful starry sky. He chuckled as he looked down at Dr. Willow, zip-tied to a wire mesh at the base of the tower. 

“I’m going to change the settings on your headband.” He sneered at the petite woman. “After I give you your instructions.” 

“What makes you think I will do anything for you?” 

“Oh, it’s not for me, my dear doctor. It’s for your society.” He watched her face change, ever so slightly. “You see, I located your community two days ago. I knew my office had been infiltrated, so I set a trap, and Mr. Stone fell into it.” 

“What has that to do with me here, now?” 

“The top dish,” he pointed up, “is the main collector. It has your main computer IP address isolated. In three minutes it will collect all of your information and upload your location to every major newspaper, television station, and government agency. It will also broadcast pictures and medical records of all citizens. The monsters will be exposed.” 

“Why are you doing this?” 

“I will get Edgar back. You will lose…everything, no everybody you love or care about.” 

“And you have the nerve to call my people monsters.” Dr. Willow was buying time. She had been able to bypass the headband and contact Columbine. It had given her a tremendous headache but he had underestimated her abilities. Columbine and Jay were on their way. She felt a shock go through her entire body. 

“Stop trying to contact them. That wire mesh is electrified and I have control of how much voltage you get and when, understand?” He held up the remote. 

Dr. Willow smiled sweetly. “Perfectly. I understand perfectly.” 

The smile confused Townsend until his feet started moving. A look of terror came into his eyes. “You can’t; you wouldn’t.” He began to cry. “No, please, no.” 

A tear trickled down Dr. Willow’s cheek. She hated to harm any human being, but she had less than a minute to stop him. 

Townsend’s face paled to a sickly green and he screamed, “No, a charge of that magnitude will shut down the entire grid. You can’t win, No!” 

“Come here, sweet boy, Auntie needs a kiss.” 

“No, please…” Tears streamed down his face. “Please.”

As their lips met, his finger pressed and held the remote’s button, sending enough voltage through the mesh to instantly kill them both. The lights went off over the entire grid, the timer shut down with only five seconds to spare. 

Columbine saw the flash. Her blood-curdling scream told Jay everything. Dr. Willow, Auntie Willow to some, beloved by all, was gone.

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