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Here’s my entry for Trifecta Week 97. We were asked to use the word “ass” in a postpositive sense. Having fun with that one yet? It means that I got to write a story with “dumb-ass” as a key word. It’s short (333 words, so long-ish for Trifecta) and a little silly, but here, nonetheless, is “Stranded.”

“You know, sir,” Nolan said, finally finding his voice. “Dumb-ass over there has a point. If we don’t get back in the next three hours, the ship will leave without us.”

“Yeah,” Beckett chimed in. “Because he’s the one who set the auto-pilot before leading us out on some wild-pteranodon chase.”

“I want a pteranodon,” Shyle murmured, continuing his doodle in the sand.

“Not the point, Shy. Also, Beckett? Weird expression. Don’t use it around Shyle again. You know how he gets. And Nolan?”

“Yessir?”

“You’re right. I hate to say it, but Harker’s right too. We’ve got to get in high gear if we’re going to make it back to the ship. Harker. How far off course are we? Never mind. Don’t talk. Beckett, ping the ship. Get us a route plotted, double time.”

“On it, sir.”

“Nolan?”

“Commander?”

“I don’t care if it’s true or not. Don’t call Harker a dumb-ass. He’s still a part of the team.”

“But he was wrong! There was nothing out here. Not a scrap of salvage. Nothing worth even making the trip, not to mention the risk of getting stranded.”

“Hey guys?” Beckett called. “I’ve got a course to the ship, but you’re not going to like it.”

“Why not?”

“Well, sir, take a look. According to Harker, we’ve now got under three hours to make it back to override the autopilot, right?”

“Yes. Why?”

“Because according to the beacon, the ship is currently ten klicks farther than our original touchdown point. Which means either we’ve gone way past what our suit gauges say we’ve traveled, or…”

“Or someone’s moved the ship. Damn. Where’s a pteranodon when we need speed?”

“Said I couldn’t have one,” Shyle mumbled.

“Keep drawing, Shy. Where’s that leave us, Beckett?”

“In a word, sir? Screwed.”

“How screwed, scale of 1-10.”

“Shut up, Nolan. Go sit with Harker.”

“Uh, Commander?”

“What, Nolan?”

“Harker’s gone, sir.”

“Beckett?”

“Ship’s gone too.”

“Crafty son of a bitch…”

“Yes sir.”

“What now, Commander?”

“Hope for pteranodons.”

Douglas Adams would have been 61 years old today. He passed away on May 11th, 2001, two days before I turned fourteen, and he has been incredible influence on me. I first encountered Douglas Adams when I was browsing my uncle’s science fiction and fantasy book collection, and a seemingly innocuous little book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy caught my eye. If I had only known then what I was getting myself into. 

I was instantly enthralled by Adams’ writing style, the seamless blending of standard sci-fi with a healthy does of dry British wit. It was the best kind of escape, and all I needed was to know where my towel was at any given time. I don’t remember how long it took me to read Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect’s first adventure. There was a lot of laughter. There may even have been tears (brought on by too much laughter). Now, many years and several sequels later, I’m still just as much a  fan of a brilliant series. Happy birthday, Mr. Adams. You are greatly missed. 

And here’s number 3 in my latest series, pieces inspired by Cowboy Bebop episode titles. This one’s called “Honky Tonk Women.”

 

 

“Do you really think that life will be that different out there? I mean, we’ve got it pretty good here, all things considered. The bar is even starting to turn a profit.”

“I don’t know. I want it to be better, but I don’t know. All I know is that they’ve offered me the job in Valentine.”

“Abby, you know we can’t afford to go to Mars!”

“They’ve offered to pay my way. Full coverage of relocation. Not just me, actually. Both of us.”

“Us?”

“You know I can’t imagine going anywhere without you. How long have we been together now?”

“Two years, next Thursday.”

“Exactly. What better way to celebrate our anniversary? We can even go out for a fancy dinner, steak, or sushi, or something, maybe go see a show. When was the last time we went out? It’ll be my treat, Emily.”

“But you always pay for dinner…”

“No buts, missy.”

“Fine. But on one condition.”

“To dinner, or to my taking the job in Valentine?”

“To your taking the job, I guess.”

“Okay.”

“Well…are you going to tell them about me? About us?”

“They already know, Em. I had to put someone down as my beneficiary if something happens to me. I sure as hell wasn’t going to leave anything to my parents after what they said to you.”

“You’re…but…why?”

“Because I love you, you big dork.”

“I love you too, Abby.”

“So, they’ve offered us relocation expenses, including a ride on the TPE next week. Our stuff will be sent along as freight, so we don’t have to worry about having some jackass movers meet us there. We’ve already got a lease ready to sign for an apartment in central Valentine, just down the street from the library. They want me to start as soon as we can get there.”

“Oh my God…”

“I know. We’re going to be set, hun.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“They just got back to me yesterday. I wanted to surprise you with the news, but you were at work, and I didn’t want to tell the whole bar. It’s not like you could’ve heard me over that godawful country crap they play in there.”

“What are we going to do about it?”

“The bar? Sell it! Hasn’t James been talking to you about converting part of it into a hookah place anyway? Let him have the whole building. Start a new one on Mars! You can call it ‘The Mars Bar’ or some other lame pun like you love so much.”

“You know me way too well…”

“I thought that was the idea.”

“So, you’ve got a new job that’s going to take care of both of us.”

“Yup.”

“It sounds like they thought of everything.”

“There’s no other library like it in the solar system. They said they wanted the best people to work for them, and they picked me, so here we are.”

“So, when do we leave?”

“How quickly can you pack?”

“I don’t even know what to say.”

“Say you’ll come with me to Mars, and we’ll be able to live our dreams together.”

“I’ll go.”

Each month, the wonderful Sonia M. over at doingthewritething presents her fellow bloggers with a writing challenge, usually to create a piece of microfiction that fits within a particular word limit and based on a simple prompt. It’s a great way to connect with other writers, and it can only help to boost your creativity. Isaac Asimov even wrote under similar limits, once crafting a short piece of fiction designed to fit on the back of a postcard. The man was a genius, but I digress.

This month, Sonia’s challenge for us was “First Impressions and Famous Last Words.” We were allowed to write any genre, but we were limited to one hundred words and told to create either the opening or closing lines to a story. Here’s my contribution.

*     *     *     *     *     *

The explosion shook me off my feet, hurling me into the bulkhead. The airtight doors around me began to seal, red hazard lights flashing as artificial atmosphere vented. I scrambled for my emergency oxygen mask, knowing that precious seconds would make the difference between living and dying. As soon as I was breathing normally, I looked around again, pleased that my training had saved me but terrified of what could’ve caused such a catastrophic failure in the compartment. My communicator was still attached to my belt, but it had been damaged in my fall. No signal. I was truly alone.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Was it the first or last hundred words of a story? I don’t know. I like that it could be either one.

Number Two in my series of microfiction stories inspired by Cowboy Bebop episode titles, this is Stray Dog Strut. Some influence comes from the same source as the poem I posted. It’s also set in the same universe as the other story in this series, Asteroid Blues, and my earlier piece, Trans-Planetary Express. Reading any of the other stories is non-critical to understanding, but you will see further references to them as time goes by.

Stray Dog Strut

My name is Dog. Well, it is now. It’s not a real name, I suppose, but it’s one that I go by out here. I’ve gone by a lot of names in my life, so Dog is as good as any.

I used to work for the Express back in the day. That was right after things really calmed down in the colonies on Deimos. With half of the other moon blown to hell, tourism dropped off big time. The layoffs hit everyone hard, but people in my line of work usually found something to do, whether it’s private security or public military service. But not me.

Things just never seemed to go my way after I lost my job with the Express. Without the cash for a ride home, I was stuck on Mars. They’d built the planet into an ecumenopolis after the terraforming, and they called the city Valentine, like it would have any connotation for the illiterate masses flooding in from Earth and Luna, or the few surviving Phobian refugees. I don’t like it here, but I don’t have a lot of options at the moment. I’m keeping my head up, though. I knew a guy who let it get to him. Last I heard, he was on Phobos at the time of the blast, and might’ve even been involved. No thanks. Not my bag, not anymore. I got out of that lifestyle years ago, and the Express hired me.

The new transports are faster and nicer than the Express was, even in her glory days, but they lack the sentimental quality she had. Now it’s all surgical steel, emotionless smooth bulkheads, spartan quarters. They’re more expensive and not as nice. The TPE, now she had everything. She was a spaceliner, though, built for affordable luxury travel from Earth to Mars. I’m sure that I could find work on one, if I really tried, but I need to get myself cleaned up before I try.

Out here, I’m what they call a stray, so going by this name is all the better for me to fit in until I feel like the time is right. Maybe I will get back to Earth eventually, but here, I’m a person who can accomplish things for the rest of the strays. Valentine’s beautiful, but not without its flaws. There are others out here who depend on guys like me. We look after each other. Besides, it’s Earth. From what I’ve head, it’s almost back down to 2023 in terms of population, so that’s a good indicator that things are looking up, despite the exodus to the colonies. They’re talking about building Io up into a global city too, so I’ve got no desire to move further outward again.

My great-great grandpa owned a little piece of land back home. Should still be family around somewhere. Maybe I’ll try my hand at farming. It’d do me good to get out of the cities for a while. Anyway, I should get on my way. I’ve still got to find a place to bed down for the night. Good luck to ya, son. Thanks for listening.

 

One of my fellow wordpress bloggers recently “liked” one of my posts on here, and so I decided to look at her blog to see what she had to say. I was fascinated when her blog contained this. You see, Joanna is a fan of my favorite anime series of all time, Cowboy Bebop. She also happens to be a writing blogger, and she has given me great inspiration. She’s working on a series of short fiction pieces based on the titles of the episodes that make up the series. Please note that this series will not attempt to directly reference Bebop or its universe in anything other than the titles. This isn’t supposed to turn into fan-fic. This is #1 in what will hopefully be a 25-26 piece series of original microfiction. Here I present “Asteroid Blues” for your reading pleasure.

Asteroid Blues:

You don’t expect the depression. It sneaks up on you in a place like this. You can do whatever you want to try to find a way around it, or a way to fight it. Doesn’t do you a damn bit of good. I’ve seen it a lot, so much so, in fact, that I didn’t recognize the symptoms in myself until after I’d seen to half of the crew being sent off. I just dismissed the signs, telling myself that it couldn’t happen to me. I was the strong one. I was in denial.

The Kuiper Belt is no place to make a living. The corporations set up the mining facilities and a few of the basic necessities, then they left. Now we’re here, sucking out ice to transport back to Earth. I’m sick of it. I’m tired of having nothing better to do when I’m done with work than going out and drinking. I’m tired of being so far away from my wife.

I know that I can get better. I just can’t shake the feeling that something big is about to go down. Something. My last memory of Earth was walking to my car, getting ready to leave for this job. It was the first real week of spring, and she was standing on the porch in a cotton dress, waving goodbye to me and whispering “I love you” in the breeze.

Why does that sit in the front of my mind, six months later? Because she’s gone…I got word today. The accident took her. Now there’s no reason to go back. Her funeral was a week ago, and I just found out. Guess I should leave the damn bar and go home, but I don’t really know what I’d be going back to. Maybe just one more beer…