Short Story: Rock ‘n Roll Lifestyle

Scents of fresh cigarette smoke mingled with stale beer and dry sweat; the same scents that greeted Ethan every early afternoon at work. The painful truth of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle was that it didn’t really exist, never had. In fact, one of the few things it accurately claimed to have was long nights and late mornings, and even those weren’t the same, really. Fringe benefits, Ethan called them, hard truths of sound engineering for the local dive.

That’s all he could ever think to call the Club. It had an official name, but nobody used it– a claim to Ethan’s generational droves offlowing apathy. The Club wasn’t a club. It wasn’t even a bar, though it had one. It was a collection point for the aimless and brainless to nightly smash into each other. If they weren’t doing that, they were smashing other shit into their brains or veins. Regardless of its seeming differences, the road taken was always the same: ride the groove of the latest, least-audibly offensive metal jocks stuck in Podunk like the rest.

Every night was roughly the same. Unless the joint was bust from a cancellation, the band or bands arrived, set up, ran sound check, then lingered until their slot whilstdoing their best not to drink away the night’s profit. Most did. If, after the long wait, they were still fit to play, they went onto the makeshift stage and did their best to murder a set or two. By the end of it, the drinkers were drunk, the stoners were high, and everyone else was everywhere in between.

More often than not, Ethan watched from behind the mixing board. Drugs and booze made their way through the crowds. He could always tell the inebriated minors from the crowd; they didn’t move in time with it, as if knowing they stood out and completely incapable of helping it. No one cared. What was a few wasted teenagers to a crowd?

It wasn’t just the music and intoxicants that drew the kids either. The girls did their best too. If the bartenders and concession girls didn’t appeal, there were always the few regulars– cougars and their younger counterparts on the hunt for more stamina and cum than brains. Sometimes, even the occasional flamer or dyke surfed the crowd. Like the others, they too, found their select few to get something from or give something to.

Ethan still laughed at the thought of his closest brush with the rock ‘n roll lifestyle: He went to piss, walked in on a freshmen poking “Lightning Lucy.” She was fast, easy. Before Ethan knew what was happening, he was suddenly double-teaming Lucy with the freshmen– who was more and more jealous of the fact.

But Lucy was quick and easy because she wanted to be. It made life easier. The last thing she wanted was strings. By the end of it, Ethan figured he’d done the kid a favor: gave him a story to tell and made the break easier. The last thing anyone wanted was a love-sick hanger-on, Lucy especially.

That was the closest Ethan had come to the rock ’n roll lifestyle he’d been promised. Even then, he had a hard time believing it had happened. Life was hardly as fast and easy as the legends made it sound. Mostly, it was standard fare; sit at a board, keep the lights green, and ensure no-one skipped out on the tab.

Maybe that was why it felt like every other day to Ethan. Maybe it was just his generation’s total apathy from the knowledge that they’d missed “the good ole’ days.” Maybe it was nothing, or everything, or some of one thing and a little or none of another. All he knew, was after the fact, he knew even less than he’d thought he did.

He took his place behind the board to watch the lights. The latest incarnation of wannabe rock-star nobodies were on stage. They droned on with the same bullshit metal sound Ethan heard night after night. There was nothing original in town nowadays. The only thing that distinguished one set of screeching vocals and open-string pounding from the next were the various shades of gray eyes or their faces. The bands around were as dead as the horse their music beat.

The guys on-stage that day were no different. The only thing even relatively noteworthy was their singer’s utter lack of vocal enthusiasm. He looked like a caricature of late Floyd-era Syd Barret; on stage, head down, guitar hanging; no life whatsoever to him. The only real indication of his continued existence was the noises emanating from below his head. He seemed to be doing his best to do nothing at all, and was succeeding expertly– not that he’d have noticed nor cared. Someone had left a hang-dog expression hanging too long, and this was the result.

The drummer finally exploded with rage, angry at another night potentially ruined. It was then the singer came to life… in the most awful way Ethan’s apathetic generation could muster. He rounded toward the drummer, suddenly raised a loaded .45.

Where it came from, Ethan still wasn’t sure, all he knew was the sound of a round fired off into the drummer’s forehead. Then another, into the bass player as he booked it for the door. The third cut down the rhythm guitarist at the edge of the risers. After him, one-by-one, went all of the crew and the hangers-on that had tried to flee but weren’t quite fast enough.

The barrel angled onto Ethan and the frozen, deer in the headlights expression remained unchanged. The rampaging frontman stopped, stared. To an outsider, he looked as if trying to decide if Ethan were a man or an armless marble statue. Something suddenly shifted in the guy’s face. The gun turned on the shooter, and the guy let himself out as he had his mates.

Through all of it, Ethan was frozen, petrified. Terror had coursed through his veins. He was terrified, of course, but also utterly confused and entirely confused. A creature of such despair and hang-dogged emptiness had managed to erupt into a ball of fire. It was as if the last pocket of existence inside a formless shell had burst forth to ensure it be remembered, for good or ill. It was safe to say it had completed its task.

Ethan was more concerned for himself; a dozen people were murdered in front of him, and he could do nothing but blink. For a while, he wondered if someone had slipped him acid or peyote again. Instead, the police and EMT’s arrived to find him standing, staring, traumatized.

It took a long while to coax him back to reality. In the end, he returned from his curious fugue state unharmed carried on with life. The Club eventually began functioning again too, as much as it could be said to. Ethan wasn’t sure what life he nor it led, but something told him neither qualified as rock ‘n roll.

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Back in Sol Again: Part 8

8.

Packed Like Guinea Pigs in a Beer Can

Simon’s cabin intercom screeched with incomprehensible sounds, tearing him from sleep beneath Lina. She awoke with such a start she nearly leapt to her feet. The sound soon dissipated to Niala’s voice.

“I assume you’re up now. Good. Get dressed and meet us in the shuttle bay. Bring your suit,” Niala said, then added, “You too, Lina.”

Simon and Lina reeled from the jarring wake-up call, no doubt Niala’s idea of a practical joke. Rearden would’ve been in on it too. He’d have used the ship’s internal sensors to locate them, then once realizing where they were, why, allowed her to enact her scheme. Lina gathered what remained of her clothing and wrapped herself tightly in her robe.

“I’ll meet you there,” she said, yawning.

“This… doesn’t have to mean anything i-if you don’t want it to.”

She patted his head, “If I didn’t want it to, I would’ve left last night.”

His brow furrowed confusion, but she kissed his cheek then sauntered away, deliberately throwing him off-track.

The cabin door shut and he snapped into action; showered, dressed still-wet, and grabbed up his gear for EVA. Niala’s call could only mean the outpost was ready for activation. He ensured he had everything necessary for an extended stay, then made for the shuttle bay in the ship’s lowest aft section. Like him, Lina had prepped in record time. They met at the elevator, rode downward for the long walk to the bay, away-bags shouldered.

Unlike before, this activation required an extended stay. Given Gliese’s true outpost was on the far-side of the system, Niala and Ingstrom had decided to release EVA-1 for recon while the backup team followed Homer on its mission. The reasons were two-fold: the ship and its crew still had a job to do, and the fewer people in orbit, the less likely it was an incident would occur.

First contact was assigned to Niala and her team on the basis that they were the foremost experts on tech and EVA aboard Homer. As such, it was assumed they were also the foremost experts on making that tech seem less magical, more mundane. EVA-1 was also designated the foremost recon unit aboard Homer as a result of all but Lina’s presence during the investigation into the ISC theft. Somehow, that bit of Solsian detective work made them qualified for first contact duty; supposedly, as a result of their ability to decode and discover things.

In other words, no-one else wanted the job for fear of starting another interstellar war. So EVA-1 drew the short straw, or rather, was given the short straw.

Simon and the others entered the shuttle to launch. Behind them, all manner of supplies and gear, was packed and secured for flight. The shuttle itself looked like a cross between a beer can with its face cut to an angle, and a 747 fuselage compressed to the size of an angle-cut beer can.

That angle as a true-to-life viewport made of something resembling glass with an external repulsion field and an internal holographic display. The latter allowed for the pilot to view various informatics streams, while the former was purported to be a means of avoiding micro-asteroid ruptures, and thus explosive decompression.

Purported being the operative word, of course. As Simon knew, the tech was new, had never been shown to hinder nor hasten explosive decompression. It was all theoretical. So many things regarding Homer and its tech were. Being that EVA-1 were considered a front-line team for all matters, Simon couldn’t help feeling more like a space-fairing guinea-pig than anything.

He could see himself, as if from on high: encased in glass. On all fours. Fat and stupid. Features smushed into the cute, fat-headed shape of a guinea pig. Jaws chattering like pistons alternating on ludicrous-speed. Dullard eyes gleaming. Fur-covered cheeks puffed euphorically.

Then, Simon vaguely recalled the creatures most used in experimentation were albino mice.

Nonetheless, his mental imagery began a slow zoom-out. It widened beyond him to encompass the other, thick-headed, unsuspecting guinea-pigs beside him, chewing as he was. Super-imposing the image of Niala’s Feline face onto a guinea-pig might’ve given him a laugh if he weren’t so consumed with what was being built to.

Soon enough, his mental imager was looking at him through the viewport of his high-tech, angle-cut beer-can as it hung in the emptiness of space. It seemed to speak thousands of words, as images were wont to do, but none coherent. Certainly, none were of any import. Why it was there, no-one would know, its furry inhabitants least of all.

In a way, they were glorious. Beautiful. A picture of perfection. The perfection of ignorance. The perfection of gleaming, dull-eyed complacence. The perfection… of idiots.

Simon snapped from his mental wanderings. The shuttle’s comm sounded with a voice Simon wasn’t familiar with. It was nonetheless soft, soothing, formal in its way but nowhere near harsh. Simon suspected the woman had been chosen to (wo)man the comm for those very reasons.

“EVA-1, you are free of the bay. We have you on external sensors. Proceed to bearing eight-eight-point five-nine and accelerate to ten meters a second.”

Niala confirmed the instruction. A compass with 360 degree markings appeared near the viewport’s bottom. The stars outside hung motionless above and beyond it, a frosted-glass effect only slightly visible directly beneath. As she angled the ship around with minimal thrust, the stars pivoted along the horizon.

The shuttle slowly came about to match bearings. A flicked switch subdivided whole numbers into decimals between one and nine, then further again with another flick. As it did, Niala’s movements became less refined.

Simon knew, though he’d largely ignored the memory, that with finer compass settings came a finer shift in the maneuvering system. The thrusters fired differently. Otherwise mouth-sized plasma jets along the shuttle’s hull engaged their telescopic nozzles. The nozzles tightened, their plasma streams narrowing to allow finer control of the ship’s heading.

The system was capable of going from fist and head-sized openings to pinhead sized ones in micro-seconds. With it of course, the shuttle went from angling between planets to angling between flea’s tits just as quickly. Currently, it was set somewhere between those two extremes and rotating to view the nearby outpost.

Unlike the other outpost, this was meant to be a temporary fixture, thus was much smaller than the others. It was also more modular, in the event that it needed to become permanent. As a result, it looked like a series of interlocked cylinders and rectangles. Stylistically, it appeared more like inflated descendants of the original ISS and Mir Modules than the “true” outposts. Those were much less modular, much larger, and much more like the Jacks of their eponymous game.

True outposts were also more accommodating for more people. Indeed, the trio were sure to have enough room to roam and survive, but the temporary station lacked many of its bigger sisters’ luxuries. Its essential systems too, were scaled down versions. Like most things in astronautics, the reason was as much space-saving as mobility and ease of use.

A true outpost may take only a few people to activate, as EVA-1 knew first-hand, but it took over a hundred people to keep running over each day-night cycle. That was, if no-one on the team was given time off. Then, it was two to three times that. That was part of the reason Homer had so many people aboard, and had disgorged so many in Proxima Centauri. Traveling and visiting space were one thing, living there for extended periods was another entirely.

The shuttle crossed the void of nothingness between Homer and Gliese-Beta, the unnecessarily official name of the outpost. Provided it became permanent, the name would remain in an official capacity, with a more colloquial name in quotes. Had he’d been bothered to think about it, Simon would’ve found it a bit of bureaucracy as colloquially “pointless” as the bureaucrats demanding the moniker in the first place. Solsian life was like that; packed with redundancies and unnecessary speed bumps on roads to progress.

Simon unconsciously gripped his seat. The top-side, or rather, one of the circular faces of the station came into view ahead. The whole cylinder rolled sideways, its top-side perpendicular to the shuttle’s path. Just as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared. The shuttle had angled to face away from it. A live feed from a stern cam appeared, centered in the viewport with a variety of information.

Ahead, Homer and its massive rear-end were only just visible. The majority of its nearly 2 Kilometer length was still hidden to the right, but it remained a sight to behold.

Simon suddenly felt small. Immensely small.

Lists of facts and figures concerning the ship bubble from somewhere in his mind. That he’d designed most of the colossus’ engines and drive systems was overshadowed by something greater; Homer and its ilk might end up his Magnum Opus, but even that behemoth of scientific and engineering prowess; that symbol of Solsian progress from primordial ooze to star-fairing genius; was barely a speck in the infinite immensity of the universe itself.

It made him marvel and shudder in fear, awe.

Niala made a move that re-focused his attention. He suddenly realized he’d missed their docking. Evidently, only part of him though, as his fingers still clutched his armrests like a cinema-goer at a too-real horror-flick. He wasn’t as afraid of their docking as he was acutely aware of his current, guinea-pig role for unproven tech. That it had been tested and rated didn’t matter. Each part could pass all the tests it wanted, he was just as much a frozen, floating corpse if it didn’t work together right.

Niala reported back to Homer. “Comms, we’ve made connection. Beginning ingress to activate the station. Will radio again on full power-up.”

Ingstrom’s gravel begrudged them an affirmation. “Sky’s blessings. See you on the other side.”

The mention of another side didn’t help Simon’s floating-corpse fears, but it did remind him to double-check the seals on his space-suit. He lifted his helmet from his lap, examined and patted its seals and latches, then fitted and locked it. He rose for his air tank with his female companions doing likewise, and fitted and checked them. With thumbs up, they formed up beside the rear door.

Niala radioed over their short-range helmet comms, “Equalizing in 3… 2… 1…”

Blasting air gave way to a minute loss of gravity marking the millisecond shift between Earth-Normal and the activation of their magnetic boots. Immediately after, the lights in the rear-cargo section winked on and off, then glowed red. The rear-door unsealed, then sank. Their head and chest lamps switched on, illuminating the freshly constructed interior.

“Control should be just ahead,” Simon reminded.

Unlike the other outposts, this one was controlled by a single room running off battery-power charged by solar panels hidden within the station’s rounded faces. They stepped forward in slow-motion, every breath echoing over the comms. Rearden led the way, its flexible lamp and optical sensor throwing its beaming gaze along the corridors.

The eerie terror Simon had during the first activation returned. Along with it came an undeniable fear of something more lurking beyond. He didn’t fear the station, nor the darkness. This time, he feared the outpost’s activation; as if Homer leaving were a trigger to something larger. It might well be, he knew.

With Ingstrom and the ship out of reach, they’d be utterly alone. Anything, good or bad, was on them. The good was just as likely as the bad. While the shuttle was stocked with emergency provisions, if something happened to it there was nothing they could do. Even if they managed to alert Homer of any distress, they might not return in time to save them.

A million things could go wrong, but a million more would if he worried too much.

He steeled himself as best he could and followed Lina to the control room. Ahead of them, Rearden’s light fell over a doorway ahead of Niala. It proceeded inward, the room rather more average than Simon had expected, despite the various monitoring and control devices, it was hardly cramped. No doubt the space spared here would’ve been taken from elsewhere.

Rearden led Niala to one of the consoles while the other two awaited instructions. With the turn of a knob and the flick of a switch, the station came to life. Gravity returned, automatically disengaging their mag-boots. It would take a few minutes, but soon enough the station would have air too. For now, Niala reported in to Homer.

Homer, this is E-V-A-one; happy to report we’re in the green. Oh-two rising steadily, and station otherwise fully-functional.”

The soothing-voiced woman sounded again. “We read, E-V-A one. Will contact you again in seventy-two hours. Until then, keep yourselves safe.”

“Will do, Homer, same to you,” Niala replied, giving herself a crooked smile. Their communication ended with Homer’s sign-off. She turned toward the others. “Alright, we’ve got a job to do. Rearden, send the bots to scour for any possible issues. Meanwhile, I’ll get the water running. Lina; solar station. Deploy the panels and check the batteries. Simon, start an inventory of all food and medical supplies aboard, make sure nothing is damaged or missing. Keep in contact and report anything out of place.”

With that they broke for their various duties. Simon had, again, pulled a short straw somewhere. He figured it his lot in life. He’d done it so many times he was no longer sure if the game was even rigged. Nonetheless, he began his long, tedious, boring job. Still, it kept the nagging fears away.

Perhaps, had he trusted his instincts slightly more, he’d have realized what was going horribly wrong. All the same, he soon found himself face-to-face with it. Or rather, a mirror image of it.

He’d long since become utterly bored with his job, but tedium had a hint of meditation to it. One he found enjoyable in the absence of anything else. Inventory seemed pointless the more he did it, but he knew it could become crucial later on. Having an accurate count of food and medicine might save their lives. How, he wasn’t sure, but he guessed it had to do with being stranded. He didn’t like the idea, even less when it wouldn’t go away.

He took a break to use the bathroom, found himself parched from still-dry air. The O2 was flowing nominally, but the humidifier would take time to fully saturate the station.

He bent to drink from the faucet with a cupped hand and splashed water at his face. He rose with just enough time to swallow, then caught the one-eyed face of a Feline behind him. A flash of swift movement preceded sudden, persistent blackness.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Still Sleep

The air is thick, muggy.
The effect of too many
pollutants,
toxins,
and age-old ideologies.

Ours is a way,
only violence knows.
One where green grass,
never grows.

When we were young,
we dreamed of such things.
But they were nightmares,
and tore us from sleep.
They made us weep.

Now, before our waking eyes,
the world burns,
and all point their fingers at us.
But we did none of it,
the fuse had long been lit.

Now, the rashness of ignorance,
is a cloud of omnipresent fumes,
that we all must breathe.

And we wonder if we’ll keep.
And we wish we didn’t weep.
And we would rather still sleep.

Short Story: Escape

Billy Hollis walked with a hunch, clearly up to something. He looked it, shouldering his way through the rain, trench-coat pulled tight in a style that, in the past, would’ve been enough to indicate suspicious circumstances. Nowadays, and largely due to Billy and his ilk, every rebellious youth sought to emulate the look. Few were willing to emulate the lifestyle further. Fewer still, as deeply as Billy was in.

He was an addict, he knew it. Addiction clawed at him daily. The hours he wasn’t trying to score, he was soaking in the score. The only way to ensure one got him through to the next was to sink as deep into it as he could go. There was no denying that. There wasn’t even a denial of the addiction itself. Contrary to popular belief, for some, admitting the problem was even less than a step. Billy had a problem. He admitted it. But he liked it.

Liked it so much in fact, he’d managed to fall into a rhythm of daily use. A usage society despised him for, but one he enjoyed so thoroughly he didn’t mind. Despite it, he managed to hold down a job four days a week.

And every second he could, he fled from stocking shelves to the bathroom stalls to use.

He had little else in the world, lived in share-housing with a few other addicts. Each was of his escapist persuasion. Each shared drugs in the unusual benevolence of addict-cohabitation.

The group of five or six– depending on the week, and the relapsing rhythm of one of the inhabitants– managed to scrape together just enough cash for rent, food, and drugs. There was never enough food, but the rent was always on time. Otherwise, there were fees and less money for escape.

Billy and his housemates awaited their supplies via dead-drops. It was the only way to buy in bulk these days, and they needed bulk.

Unfortunately, a major supplier had been shut down recently. The local addicts, and daresay junkies, were still scrambling to recover. It wasn’t going well.

In retrospect, that should’ve been Billy’s first sign of something wrong. It still was, technically, but he wasn’t thinking that way, too focused on procuring his next escape.

He slogged through the driving rain for the abandoned lot where he was to meet the dealer, unsure of what he was even escaping from anymore. All he knew was there was a means to do so, so he used it. Reality wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible; a couple guys he lived with tended to come down from their use like tweakers, becoming immaculate cleaning machines. As a result the share-house was always clean where most addicts’ places were dingy, abandoned sewage holes.

Billy’s past wasn’t too awful either. His parents had loved him. They’d even treated him better than most parents treated kids. He was an elder child, but had long abandoned the notion of being a role model. Two younger sisters meant always being at odds with them. Moreso, he was always being piled on for things “girls shouldn’t do.” Whatever the hell that meant.

No, some addicts could claim a poor home-life past or present as motivation to use, but not Billy. He wasn’t sure he had a reason to use outside enjoying it. He wasn’t sure, either, why he was planting each step into a driving, freezing rain. The rain had forgotten winter had turned to spring, its outer gray reflecting Billy’s inner gray with a haze of uncertainty.

Perhaps that was it, he thought, the gray. Perhaps using had something to do with the gray having blanketed the world. His mother had always said he had a sensitive soul– not the homosexual kind, he was quick to say, for fear of leading anyone on. Rather, the poetic kind.

If that was the case, it wasn’t a surprise someone like Billy turned to escapism. The world was a mess. Most people followed the same path. Especially nowadays, everyone had their thing. Billy’s just happened to be illegal. Why, he couldn’t say. He wasn’t hurting anyone. Maybe himself, but it was his life. He did his best to balance things; contributing as he could to society; never hurting anyone unless in self-defense– though thankfully, that had yet to come up.

Those were his rationalizations anyway. He wasn’t sure it was entirely healthy, but he wasn’t going to lie about his feelings. That could never help. His addiction made him feel good. In the end wasn’t happiness, feeling good, the important thing? Everyone was allowed their hobbies, why not have his be two things in one? Addiction and hobby? Seemed more efficient to him.

None of that changed the fact that spring had forgotten it was here. Or that winter had forgotten it had left. Or that the rain seemed to embody both. It especially didn’t change what the fates had already sown for Billy, for his housemates. It wouldn’t be long before they were all just more statistics, detoxing in rehab clinics, or hoping for just one more moment of indulgence.

The guy Billy was meeting seemed out of place, more sketchy and suspicious than most dealers. His head kept whipping from side-to-side, like one of those inflatable waving creatures at car-dealers. He was that, in a way, but shouldn’t have been. That was Billy’s second clue; the second he only recognized in retrospect.

The dealer, whose name was never mentioned, dropped a back-pack from his shoulder. In a swift, almost sleight of hand like exchange, he gave it to Billy whom slid a thick, manila envelope over. The dealer was gone in an instant, but just as well, Billy was too focused on checking the bag. The weight was right, the contents were right. Clean deal.

He made for home, the slums. Everywhere was a slum nowadays. Physically. Ethically. One or the other. The ones for addicts were the physical kind– though they weren’t as bad as the junkies’ into even harder stuff.

Billy was in the front door, greeted by the others as if toting dog-food home to starved hounds. With the utmost ceremony, he stepped over to the tattered couch and coffee table and upended the pack.

The cascade was like something from a dream: A galactic palette of superhero colors. Moorish grit. Soothing, Indie tones. Everything in-between and around.

The junkies dove, grasping, clutching, each for a hit. They’d get around to all of them eventually. Each would get their chance with each. The papers between might be a little more worn, but the effect would be the same. Everyone would get a first hit. Everyone would get a last hit. They’d all smell, sweet, taboo ink. Read the lines inked in black and gray. Feel the glossy pages.

Or so they thought.

Billy had his hand on something whose title he wasn’t sure of. The cover was an alarming red with a silhouette of detective noir. The door exploded in off its hinges. Life became a rush of images.

A rush that lasted months.

At light speed, he saw himself and his house-mates tackled by the ACTF– Anti-Comic Task Force. He saw his housemates shoved into the paddy wagon ahead of himself. He saw, felt, the booking, processing, delousing. He saw the public defender, their meeting, his arguing against charges on the grounds of “Graphic Novels, not Comics.” He saw himself pleading guilty for a reduced sentence. He saw he and his friends arrested, again, on television; watched the comics burned later that evening at the police department.

Sometime later, he stood before a judge, hearing the final charges of “Possession of Comic-Books, and Comic-Book Paraphernalia, Felony First class, partial time-served.” He heard the verdict of two-years probation, weekly room-checks, inpatient rehab. Detoxing had been done already, the court system slow as it was, but this formality was meant to help him straighten out his reasons for using.

Last of all, Billy saw himself standing before the judge, hearing the sentence over the nearby cries of his mother, her begging, pleading for him to “get clean.” Then, time resumed its natural pace. Days began to pass slowly, in utter boredom.

He entered his room at rehab, found the slightest protrusion of color from beneath his mattress.

He yanked at a corner of it, found that same, noir-like cover; where had it come from? When? How? He was ready to sprint to the nearest orderly, have it destroyed. He didn’t. Instead, he put himself in a corner, carefully opened the cover.

His eyes drooped. His brain lit. He smiled dully, stoned; whisked off on another escape.

Back in Sol Again: Part 7

7.

The Colloquial Human

The few people aware of the anti-Humanist development were on-edge, Simon among them. Something about knowing utter chaos is poised to break out makes one absolutely paranoid. This is yet another example of universal phenomena. Every sound was an attack. Every light-flicker an assault. Every shadow an assailant.

Were it not for occasional trips to the break-room, and seeing Lina there, Simon might’ve lost his mind. She fared more or less normally. He grew worse over time, internally and otherwise. His feelings became mirrored, first by rumpled clothing and dishelved hair. Then, in a grease-slick face and wide, red-veined eyes.

Ultimately, Niala had been right; hours could pass as quietly as needed, but even five minutes before contact was enough it to a mockery. Simon still remembered confronting Josie– or whom he assumed to be her– and having his throat cut. Things had gone from zero-to-bloody carnage in a blink.

Lina didn’t quite understand that. She was an innocent, in her way. While he wouldn’t recommend near-death experiences– or rather, near-murdered ones– blissful ignorance made it impossible to relate. Then again, she wasn’t entirely ignorant, just in disbelief of her own vulnerability. At least, she treated it as such.

Despite his gratitude for her reassurances, she simply couldn’t make things better. Danger turned him to rubber. Until forced to become stone or become dead, he was useless. He’d done well with the stone part in the past, but his wasn’t an on-off switch engaged at will like Niala’s.

He was tense. So were many others. Like Lina with him, the whole ship felt it even if most didn’t know why. Sleep was restless, difficult. Lina felt it too–

And materialized unexpectedly at Simon’s apartment.

He’d zoned out on his couch, staring at a Vidscreen. Nowadays most people had dual, inbuilt Vidscreen/holoprojectors, but given the cabin’s circumstances, vidscreens alone would do. As spacious as the state-rooms were, space was at a premium. Yet another con to add to the ever-spooling list. Simon didn’t care. In fact, the movie he was currently watching was older than anyone or anything ship-board.

On-screen, the 1000ft tall lizard, played by Haruo Nakajima in a heavy rubber-suit, stomped out and belched atomic breath across Japan. The metaphorical atom bomb Godzilla represented seemed the perfect fit to Simon’s circumstances. Much like the atom bomb, no-one really knew what to do in the event of this new species being met. Everyone had their theories, their protocols to be adhered to, (or discarded) but no-one really knew how to act.

Nor could they. Not until the moment had passed and they could benefit from hindsight.

Much like them, Simon was indecisive, uncertain. He’d inherit enough of the chaos sure to overwhelm Homer’s crew when, if ever, it descended. He currently preparing for that possibility by imbibing as much down-time as manageable. Though something was bound to come and ruin it eventually, he felt the knock on the door premature.

Then the door opened, and there was Lina.

The first thing Simon thought was to check his watch: Despite being more light years from home than most of his species could manage, everyone aboard Homer still went by Zulu Standard time. That is to say, Earth-standard 24 hour day whose zero-hour aligned with the zero hour of an arbitrary line drawn upon a map of “Earth, Sol system” somewhere far far away.

Consequently, the debate of time’s existence and effects is a long, heated one which most often descends into fecal flinging no matter one’s location in the universe.

His first thought was answered by his digital Casio, which gave the time as 02:30.

His second thought was spoken aloud, went, “Lina? What’re you doing here?”

Her eyes fluttered, brighter than she’d have liked. The air around her said she was wired. Simon sympathized, but for once it wasn’t his reason for remaining awake. He’d simply become used to sleeping a certain way aboard Homer. Given the last week was their first aboard, he saw no reason to break the habit yet.

Lina replied to his question with an involuntary sigh. “Can I come in?”

He thought of what happened the last time she’d entered his stately hell-hole and realized he was once again in his underwear. She pushed past for the couch and vid-screen, took in the screaming, atomized breath of Godzilla.

“Old monster flicks? I had no idea.”

He eyed his exposed lower-half, its tightie-whities persisting despite their generations of unflattering fashion, and shrugged. He shut the door and sat beside her on the couch, only then noticing she was clad in a robe, with little more than boy-short panties, slippers, and a dark, see-through tank-top on beneath.

“Y-yeah,” he stammered. “So… is everything alright?”

She nodded, eyes glued to the screen. “Just can’t sleep. Too much work. S’like running on I-V adrenaline.”

He did his best to be at ease with things that otherwise made him feel nervous. Perhaps that was Lina’s plan; arrive as relaxed as possible and catch him in a similar state.

She leaned her head against his shoulder and his eyes fell to her, then beyond to spy the hint of pink peering from beneath her bra-less, tank-top. Panic shifted his attention to his tightie-whities that tented swiftly despite his will.

He squirmed in terror. The heart attack sure to come was fed by the path he found himself on and a dark primal desire. The path was one of real, deep love for Lina. The desire was a hot, slobbering, myopic beast that sought nothing but another of its kind.

The cause, unfortunately for Earth descendants like Simon, Lina, and every other creature hailing from Sol, was the very thing they owed their existence to. An act of bonding between two halves of genetic data in formation of one, new one. This act, known as conception, was an incident (or more oft-times, accident) stemming from succumbing to one or another’s love, lust, or simple boredom driven by that primal, beastly desire.

Early in Solsian history, the goal of this desire was building a genomic legacy that, in the grander scheme of things, was as self-serving and pointless as all other activities life engaged in. Despite never receiving an answer as to its purpose, life was not dissuaded in its attempts to carry on. In parlance, this process was done through “having sex,” “doing it,” “fucking.”

In reality, there was no purpose to life. As evidenced across Sol, the Milky Way, or indeed the known universe. For, in order for it to bear purpose it required one assigning said purpose, a reality with even less evidence than a “life’s-purpose” itself. Like everything, life merely existed. Reasoning was an abstract side-effect of intellect and sentience, just as it seemed, was making an ass of oneself. Believing otherwise was the result of imagination, ego, and the need to belong, to understand.

If one required a meaning for life, in an effort to fulfill some facetious need, they must first recognize that need was no more necessary than life’s existence itself. One would then need recognize “purpose” was merely their own desire to have purpose. Only then could any purpose be ascribed. Thus one must recognize all of the preceding as moot; as unnecessary as anything could be.

If one managed thus, and was not turned away from pursuing the result entirely due to existential dread or elsewise, the following could then and only then, be regarded as life’s purpose– as evidenced by its own commitment to one, inherently adhered to principal; to persist.

The only purpose life, known and unknown, might be said to have was that which coincided with empirical evidence. From the vacuum of space, to the molten core of Earth, and beyond it entirely to the volcanic world of G876-d, and beyond it still, life had done nothing but attempt to, and ultimately succeed in, persisting. In doing so, it had made possible adaptation through the process of evolution.

And thus, it reinforced the idea of persistence as a means of course. That purpose, in its way, was so grand yet simple it seems the greatest rationale as any might find, especially where science is concerned. Grand as it was in its attempt to persist, Nature; the conglomerate of living things and forces acting upon them, had thus imbued the varying species and races with implements to continue persisting.

For Sol, these methods of persistence, fucking, were carried out via the concept of attraction. The bridging force of spaces between two beings capable of mating, attraction, led colloquially, to fucking. As all things regarding evolution, fucking required primers be engaged before the act could be carried out– no matted how satisfied or not the effected parties found themselves after.

For most, Solsian males (and Human males in particular) one of these priming events was the inward flowing of blood to the male sex organ, officially known as the penis, colloquially known as The Rod, Dick, Cock, etc. The blood, then kept from flowing out again and forced to pool, filled The Rod’s spongy, internal tissues. The experienced erection, or “hardening” of The Rod, continued until it more or less stood freely of its own accord. (Other Solsian males, most often politicians, merely found themselves a few inches taller.)

Life’s intent and success at persistence had imbued itself, and Simon specifically, with this tightie-whitie tenting capacity. Blood cells had arrived, and as a family at picnic on a breezy summer’s day, had pitched a tent as large and wide as they could muster. Some were shamelessly proud of it.

Contrary to logical deductions and life’s own “purpose,” this was absolutely the last thing in all the universe Simon wanted to happen.

Or so he thought. For the actual last thing was what came next.

Lina giggled. “Happy to see me?”

He tried to hide it by crossing his legs with an obviously desperate chuckle. Instead, he thrust it forward and grunted. (Recall the male propensity for grunting.) Lina snickered. Before he realized it, she was atop him, straddling The Rod in all its hard glory.

“Lina, I–”

She shut him up with a kiss. Then another.

And a third.

Like their male counterparts, Human females too, had ways of preparing for the act of mating– fucking. It involved a series of secretions released within the reproductive organ, (officially termed Vagina, but also known as pussy, snatch, satin pouch, etc) that lubricated it for The Rod’s reception whilst signaling arousal. (Personally, Lina preferred “pussy,” but like The Rod, there were equally as infinite an amount of names.)

Lina’s body had been worked to a near frenzy before ever arriving at Simon’s door. Admittedly, her intentions had never been to straddle him, but as they were both rather enjoying it now, she saw no harm in it. Rather, it was a reaction to seeing that, like her, he found himself involuntarily aroused by their combined presence.

The near-frenzy she’d achieved before her arrival was the result of her inability to sleep. Temporary insomnia had been a problem of Lina’s since she was a young girl living outside Sussex and dreaming of bigger, more amazing things than England’s southern grasses.

It had taken quite a few years to master her bouts of temporary insomnia, but most of the time, could be done with a single act. If however, that act failed, as it could from time to time, she would be forced to toss and turn restlessly until sleep came far too late and far too short– unlike her.

Incidentally, that act of stress relief was meant to also temper the lust of Solsian creatures. An act that, as a result of Solsian life’s evolved methods for persisting, required essentially fucking oneself somehow. Literally.

Lina had used masturbation as much as a tool for relaxation as for relieving pent-up sexual tension. Since her early youth, when insomnia attempted to rear its ugly head, she skirted and explored her own southern, English grasses until climax left her writhing like a drooling, drugged psych-patient.

From a youth experiencing it for the first time, through restless post-adolescence and adulthood’s nights of grad school, and now to her place on the first expedition outside Sol, Lina’s use of the act had varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, as then with now, failure meant not only failing to achieve sleep but also the intended climax– cumming, and largely the only conscious reason for any creature to attempt fucking, alone or with others.

Lina had failed to sleep, failed to cum, and failed to relieve herself of the growing tension within. Instead of wallowing, she felt it best to visit Simon, hoping to spend her restless night in the company of a warm and familiar embrace, if nothing else. What she did not realize, nor could Simon have anticipated in a million years, was the sudden, unconscious drive that would seize Lina at seeing The Rod so proudly supporting the raised tent.

She wanted to fuck.

Simon.

And Bad.

Thus, the pair found themselves half-clothed, fully aroused, and headed for “the next level.”

The painful confinement of Simon’s tighty-whities suddenly gave way to sexually-heated air between his and Lina’s groins. In a breath, that too gave way to a welcome, constricting wetness. After minutes of astoundingly extreme physicality, the pair collapsed on the floor beside the couch, pleasure trickling through them.

Neither could help wanting more, nor receiving.

Events repeated in prolonged fashion until they once more found themselves on the floor, propped on pillows, with Lina’s robe across them for warmth. Simon was still a ways from it himself, but Lina quickly fell into sleep, her head on his chest and her body against his.

There was no doubt this would prove only the first of many such encounters. They’d already established that desire and more in one another’s minds. Thus, such fucking undoubtedly led to that most highly-regarded of delusions, love. And though Simon could only vouch for himself thus far, he was perfectly fine with it. As other, omnipotent forces could relay however, Lina felt exactly the same.

Unfortunately, things can get much more complicated before settling for any protracted period. For Simon, Lina, and others prepared to board the temporary outpost over G876-d, that time was roughly… now.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Coast to Coast

When the daylight is gone,
and the earth has gone cold,
the madness will come,
and take us away.

From sea to sea.
From land to land.
From coast to coast.
We’ll leave hand in hand.

For the satellite’s reign,
will ne’er be the same,
when the sun swallows our sky,
and bakes out our brains.

From heart to heart.
From mind to mind.
From coast to coast.
We’ll love in kind.

And when at last,
Earth’s time has passed,
swallowed whole,
we’ll know for certain,
whom will outlast.

Short Story: Good Show

Helicopter blades thumped in percussive repetition. Their drives whirred a piercing whine behind headsets and through gaps in pilot speech that bleeding over them. The AW101, callsign Lancelot, banked wide against a black sky. SAS veteran Lft. Alfred Douglas watched his rag-tag team of would-be mercenaries hang against their safety-belts. Still unaccustomed to operational flight, only one stood out as having been in any way prepared for the shift.

That operative, former MI5 agent Daniella Dawn, was all but sleeping. She had the former-agent/soldier mentality of rest as the highest of luxuries to be indulged whenever and wherever possible. Having spent most of her adult life in-air or on infiltration ground-side, this was just another day for her. Douglas couldn’t claim quite as many flights, but found himself aligned regardless.

Unfortunately, he was also leading the mission. What once would’ve been termed “command,” was now something more akin to a small group of shared ideals. He and the others were ideological mercenaries; soldiers in the same sense that the American Revolution’s had been. They were paid, certainly, but to do a job they’d have done anyhow.

Ostensibly, they were fighting for freedom from tyranny. One greater, even, than that of a two-cent tea tax. In fact, this fight wasn’t about taxes at all. Perhaps indirectly, but Socialised as certain aspects of Brit-society were, equally more were exclusionary or smothering. None was a more egregious example of this than so-called state security. No-one aboard Lancelot knew that better than Douglas or Dawn, and most of all they knew what it meant in the modern age.

It meant cameras on every street corner. Rozzers with trunks of automatic weapons; indefinite detainment. No justice. It meant, that despite all their progress, the UK was turn of the century America. Parliament and their string pullers had seen how that went, and still found it a preferable alternative. They used men and women like Douglas and Dawn to raid and murder over drugs, guns, “illegal” porn– anything for an excuse to fear monger and flex authority, power.

The most terrifying thing wasn’t the force used. It wasn’t the media portrayals as righteous, or the “preventative measures” conveniently put in place in their wake; it wasn’t even the lack of public outcry. It was the simple, unassailable fact that a pattern had emerged. Every raid, bust, attack– run under the guise of counter-terrorism and state-security– were on the poor.

It was classism. Pure and simple. As if they hadn’t learned from the French Revolution centuries before. Then again, such imbecilic arse-hats couldn’t recall their own species as human, let alone that species’ own past.

Officially, the first riots began as a result of surveillance. The Nanny state, ever more intrusive, had crossed a line. Illegal porn was one thing, but no-one ever expected it to actually affect them. Proxies and such were the easiest way to overcome that, tech-wise. Boot-sales were the second best, although it required a physical intermediary– something to play it on. Unfortunately, the Nanny state had extended even to that, making it impossible for the average person to have electronics that weren’t also being monitored.

Those same systems monitoring the cameras monitored everything else too. Inhuman speed. Inhuman response. Sub-human purpose. In the end, it wasn’t about security. It was about control. Power.

Douglas knew that. Dawn knew it. So did millions of others. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. No-one should have known that better than their countrymen. No-one. They’d been every form of tyrant yet somehow never learned it. At least, not the ones that mattered.

So, there was only one response; revolt.

The effect was a skyline ravaged in a way unseen since the Second Great War. It would never be the same now, no matter how many generations tried to preserve or rebuild it. It could never be what it was.

That was hardly a bad thing. They’d had it all those years before and it hadn’t made anyone remember how close it came to being lost. Perhaps it being gone would be the reminder the future needed. Time would tell.

Douglas turned from his introspection as Lancelot began to sink. They’d had the government on the run for weeks. What was left of it. Most of the Royal armed forces holding out were doing so more from fear. There’d been times to pick sides, long since past, and now that theirs had lost they feared retribution. At least someone had learned something from the French Revolution. If only the resistance had La Guillotine’s influence. Instead, they had only Alfred Douglas, Daniella Dawn, and their team.

Lancelottouched down outside a palatial estate. The kind of place Bond Villians might inhabit on the continent before spiriting away to their island lair in the second act.

But there was no second act here, just an end.

Douglas and Dawn split their eight man team in two. Each led their half out one side-door. They advanced through darkness in two lines, diverging at the edge of the main building. Like any elderly mansion of respectable heritage, the place was all stone and wrought-iron. Dawn wanted it turned to ash.

The place was good, Douglas knew. Better for infiltration. Small sounds didn’t travel as easily through stone. He was at the front door, stacking up; he at one side, his trio on the other. A radio click sounded. Dawn’s was team in place at the back-door. Each team prepped small bits of plastique. Two clicks. The plastique was ready. Three clicks, the three second count began.

Doors blew inward, locks pulverized.The teams charged in through smoke. The house was quiet. Eerily quiet. Smells of death, betrayed the immaculate cleaniness. The lights were on. The help was nowhere to be found.

Hand signals further divided the teams to searched the rooms in twos: Brass fixtures. Antique furnishings. Ever more luxuriant décor and pointless knick-knacks. A study. A kitchen. A dining room. Elegance. Power. All of it, empty.

The first floor was empty. The two upper-floors were empty.

The two teams regrouped at a cellar entrance; a dungeon, more-like. A long corridor of rooms both private and common led to a circular section. In moments, the teams were there, breaching into an old smoking parlor. The eeriness shattered to the peace of a modern tomb. Death-stink was heaviest here emanating from the six, dead bodies strewn about the furnishings. About them were drinks, hinting their self-poisoned contents with putrid scents.

Douglas straightened, at-ease in the wake of the empty home. Its purpose was obvious now. They didn’t want anyone to know. Douglas’ people into a more causal stance with him. Each one stood, confused, armed with an utter lack of purpose– all of them, save Dawn.

She followed Douglas to the bodies, instantly recognizing a few: A former PM turned advocate. A magistrate justice. A current ambassador. These men weren’t directly in power. Rather they were in places beside power– the better to manipulate things and retain benign appearances. Their faint stink said they’d been dead a day or two, but long enough for rigor and death’s other regularities to set in.

Douglas focused on an antique coffee table sitting between the various bodies. A single parchment, stamped with the old government’s seal bore official-looking signatures– no doubt those of thepresent and dead. Douglas lifted the page slowly, reading. Dawn watched, waiting, surveying the dead.

Douglas suddenly sneered, snarled, and shoved the paper at her. He turned and marched off. She read the handwritten script, still clearly legible:

We believed. Every step. Good show, old boy. Ta.

Dawn felt fury surge through her. Externally, she showed indifference. Douglas’ rage was evident; the resistance had won, but not on their terms. It was the last slight. Intentional, as everything ‘til now.

She crumpled the page, and followed Douglas out.