Publications featuring my short stories are currently 50% off, use promo code SPRINGSALE: OFFER NOW ENDED
Dancer flipped the arm rests down and eased back into the drivers seat. He stared out of the narrow viewfinder at the sheer rock face on his left, then across the open bushland to the right, randomly dotted with boulders of various sizes, probably dropped by some ancient, retreating glacier. The blue-purple sky was getting darker with every passing second; there was maybe thirty minutes of light left at most. Drawing in a long, deep breath and exhaling slowly, Dancer grabbed his datapad. He already knew his schedule, he’d checked it every day for the last week, but now that the work cycle was coming to an end, he enjoyed looking at it all the same. Eighty six days on world, four to go. He just had to deliver this last consignment and get the roller back to the depot, then he was off on the next shuttle to orbit, and from there, the next cruiser back to Earth for two months rest. But right now, he had other things to think about. Setting down the datapad, he looked out the viewport once again, trying to spot something, anything, that was remotely familiar. Yeah, something wasn’t right. Better wake Steffens thought Dancer, grabbing the internal comms mic and, as a mischievous smile crossed his lips, cranked up the volume level in the bunk module to maximum.
“Hey Steffens, rise and shine! Better get up here! we’ve got new orders from base. Come on Steffens, I need your eyes up here on the double!”
“Jesus Dancer, you trying to give me a heart attack back here?! I’m telling you, it wasn’t funny the last time and it sure as hell isn’t funny now! Anyway, I’ve still got three hours of my rest period left, what’s so important that…”
“Hey, like I said, orders from base. They sent us a nav update a while back and…”
“Yeah yeah, spare me the details. I’ll be right up.” Then, under his breath, “ Jackass.”
“Hey, I heard that!”
“Yeah yeah… turn the damn volume down you jack… ah forget it.”
Dancer switched off the mic, chuckling to himself. He knew he should probably stop messing with Steffens, he was bound to get him back one day. On the other hand, he was senior driver and outranked the new kid, so might as well have his fun while it lasted. Feeling satisfied with himself, Dancer had just settled down into the drivers seat once again when the roller hit something, probably one of the smaller boulders, and the vehicle bounced up in the air, coming down with a thump and almost throwing Dancer out of his seat. The auto-nav was programmed to avoid any objects large enough to cause damage to the roller, but this one must have been just outside of the parameters. Just about audible over the rumble of the engines and the crunch and grind of the huge, two hundred inch wheels, Dancer heard a loud bang and clatter from the bunk module, followed by a pained yelp from Steffens. He chuckled to himself again, bursting into uproarious laughter as the door to the bunk module opened to reveal a flustered looking Steffens, sweating and dribbling blood from a superficial head wound.
“Thanks for the heads up, genius! You knew I was up and about, least you could do is keep your eyes on the road! I mean… oh, just fuck you. Fuck you Dancer! You like that? Fuck you man!”
This only encouraged Dancer more, and it was several minutes before he managed to compose himself, by which time Steffens had settled down into the co-drivers seat.
“Ok Steffens, I’m sorry, playtime is over now, ok? Anyway, we got a problem up here I need you to take a look at. Can you keep an eye on the auto-nav readout while I try and get my bearings with the external cameras? I don’t really know how to explain it to you, but I just get the feeling that we aren’t where the nav-com says we are.”
“Yeah, no problem Dancer, but I’m telling you, I can’t deal with
any more of your crap today…”
My short story "Fury world" has been published in the new issue of Nebula Rift magazine, available here: http://www.fictionmagazines.com/shop/nebula-issues/nebula-rift-vol-04-no-02/
“Dancer… Dancer I don’t like this. What is going on, man? It’s like you said earlier, with the rock formations, and the unbroken earth… we aren’t in the right place. Rodriguez must have overridden the sat-com, rigged it to send out a false position… I dunno, I’m no radio technician, but… ah, man, where the hell are we going?”
Dancer was silent, staring out the viewfinder. Making every effort to remain as calm as possible, he lifted the radio and, through gritted teeth, hissed “Yugo base. This is Dancer in Roller Twelve. Do you receive me. Over. I say again, Yugo base, this is Dancer. Are you receiving me? Hello? Is anybody receiving me at Yugo base? Rodriguez, Jenkins, will someone respond?”
The channel cracked and hissed, but no response came. Dancer switched to the general emergency channel, just in case there was another Roller nearby – he knew there wasn’t, but anything was worth a try now. Again, there was no response.
“Steffens, we have no choice, we are going to have to ride it out until dawn and see for ourselves where in the hell we are when the sun comes up. We’ve been off course for more than four hours, and we could easily be in unmapped territory by now. God damned company! You know buddy, the first couple of years out here were great, really great. We got all the training, all the support, all the spare parts you needed and then some. If anything went wrong, even the slightest niggle with the Roller, there’d be support vehicles despatched from multiple locations to guide you home. There weren’t any decommissioned relief bases, or comm stations with only one technician on duty. There were three men to each Roller, and they even made some of the more important runs by dropship. Now though, it’s like this whole place is falling apart. I can’t believe they actually gave me a co-driver for this run now that I think about it; I’ve been running solo out here for, oh, the last two or three work cycles. Some of the guys I joined up with back at the beginning, lifers like me, just stopped coming back after their off time back on Earth. When I tracked a couple down back home, they told me they got laid off! You’ve seen all the raw materials we’re carrying around out here, right Steffens? No way anybody should be getting laid off, this planet is an embarrassment of riches. Then they replace them with… no offence kid, but, well, you new guys just don’t get the training we got. When they first planned this expedition, we were signed up to three years training – yeah, that’s right, three years! Toughest part was the acclimatisation simulators. You see that rebreather you carry around there? Well us old timers don’t need them because we spent months cooped up in pressurized chambers, to teach our bodies to breathe the atmosphere here on 296e. But you new guys, you get six weeks training, and then get sent out here with no clue what you’re doing, unable to breathe the atmosphere, and barely getting paid enough to make coming all the way out here worthwhile! I mean, Steffens, you’re alright buddy, don’t take it personally, but I really miss some of those guys, you know? Ah hell, forget about it. Sorry to go on about it, it just gets to me. But hey, it passes the time, eh?”
“Erm, yeah, sure thing Dancer. Thanks for the history lesson. I’ve, er, got some news feeds I’d like to take a look at if you don’t mind…”“yeah, whatever, I’ll shut up for a while. Have at it, kid.”
My short story "The bad, bad luck of Judson Worley" has been published in efiction magazine, available here: http://www.fictionmagazines.com/shop/efiction-issues/efiction-vol-06-no-12/
As the planet shook, the creature stirred. It’s massive body, wrapped around the planet’s core like a dog warming it’s belly by the fire, began to expand and contract as it flexed long dormant muscles and tendons. It took stock of it’s extremities; countless tendrils, each many miles long, spread far and wide throughout the planets mantle. Their tips rested amongst underground caverns and fissures, drawing in moisture and minerals that were, for the most part, impossible for any drill to exploit, although a small percentage of the creatures appendages did come within reach of the surface. Still, it had no desire to go up there. It was cold, and barren on the surface. No, it would not travel to the edges of its world. Not unless it had no other choice.
Many years ago, they had come. They had dared to come to it’s world, to change it for their own needs, and to walk upon it as if it was their own. The first time, it had not been ready for them, and once the terra-ships had left, it seemed that their activity had become minimal. The creature, though angered, allowed them to remain. For now. If they respected it’s world, it would respect them.
Years later, the ships returned, and the creature remained idle no longer. It extended a tendril and plucked the Tau Ceti out of the sky as though it were a child’s toy, but it allowed the other ships to flee, returning to it’s eternal slumber. A warning, then.But now, they returned a third time. Had they no value for their own lives? Was it’s world so important to them? There were other worlds, uninhabited worlds, ripe for the taking. But they chose to return here once more. It had lain here for millennia, waiting for another of it’s kind to make contact. Perhaps it was the last, it did not know. But there was one thing that it did know - It would no longer tolerate these pathetic mortals to walk upon it’s home, to change it, to pile their waste upon it, to build their structures and land their vessels. They would pay the ultimate price for their transgressions. The creature, enraged, began to dig.