Sci-fi short story
October 12, 2021 at 12:25 am #142698
I’ve spoken a little about my current WIP here I think. It’s a short story under 8,000 words. I decided to post it here to see what you all think! if you want to, I’ll post some questions I’d like answered:
- does this even count as sci-fi and how realistic do i need to be to write a sci-fi?
- do the characters seem realistic?
- any favorites?
- what do you think of Jake, Marian, and Fabian? Who was your favorite?
- are the themes and message coming out clear?
- any tips of reducing word count?
- Is my pacing good?
- What do you think will happen next?
- Would you like to know?
- Are my descriptions coming in clear?
- is the plot sound?
- What were your favorite scenes?
We crazy people are the normal ones.October 12, 2021 at 12:41 am #142699
13: what is this short story missing, if anything?
14: can you all think of any other name for a creature than thrid or is thrid fine?
15: Am I showing instead of telling?
16:Do any scenes drag?
Thank you for reading this! (Every time there’s a seperate post there’s a *** scene break in the original text) this story has also been polished considerably from the original, so it’s not a rough draft.
<p style=”text-align: center;”>Ice</p>
<p style=”text-align: center;”>By Dawn Robin (ScoutFinch180/190)</p>
Jake had never killed a monster before. But that didn’t mean he hadn’t killed before. He used to take contracts occasionally – but he preferred stealing or running cons to keep his mind occupied.
Jake knew, as he sped along the surface of the ice-moon Pagos, that this job would keep his interest. True, it would be more comfortable sipping some ambrosia while deceiving an heiress, or sneaking into a treasury cracking a safe – but doing challenging jobs always kept his mind off his troubles. He grimaced – it was difficult however when he could almost feel the HSI breathing down his neck.
They had told him to kill an experiment on a thrid and return the body to pay off his debt. Oh, and of course there was some tiny stolen phial of a chemical they wanted him to obtain as well. Jake turned into the jet-stream of an oxygen-generator, the gust shooting him forward. He had considered running away but messing with the Human Sciences Institute would be a bad idea… if he messed up, he may wake one morning to find he was no more than a lab-rat. Still, he wished they had allowed him more time before going to work. The past few months had left him weary.
Jake rolled his shoulders and focused on the screen in his visor while listening to the whirring of the hover-mobile’s engine. He veered left and followed a line of mountains that was approaching. Jake’s gaze turned to a dot indicating the location of the target shifting across the screen as numbers appeared beneath it.
He braked and the mobile glided to a stop. He turned off the engine, feeling it sink down as he dismounted. He tapped one of several buttons on the side of his helmet to activate the mobile’s tracker before switching on the cloaking device. As he watched the grey paint dissolve into the background, he hoped that it would be enough to keep Marian off his tracks. But still, he almost wished she would find him if he could convince her to not arrest him.
Jake shook his head and turned his gaze to the range of peaks, searching for the best path. There was no point in looking back, it simply wasted time. He eyed the jagged slopes pointing to the faint outline of the planet Pagos orbited. His gaze locked on a small protrusion of ice nine meters up.
Jake took advantage of the low gravity to leap to the spot. He lifted himself by his metal arm, the climb was so much easier than if he had attempted it six months ago. The bomb – but that was why he wanted to keep his mind off things.
Jake straddled the narrow summit, looking at the chemical dump spreading past the horizon – what would his brother say if he saw him now? Forced to go and kill some monster? He wrinkled his nose as the sickly-sweet smell of anti-freeze invaded his helmet, what was up with him? This was not a time to reflect.
Jake surveyed the area. More symbols indicated everything from the temperature, the gravitational power of the planet, to the distance of anything he set his eyes on. But all he needed currently was about a dark mass of machinery adjacent to the ocean. He squinted and the screen focused on a run-down generator for producing oxygen, its fan paralyzed. Even from so far away, the machine appeared as big as a hyper-ship’s main thruster.
But that was all. Where was the wreck of a spaceship that brought the thrid here? There was no sign it landed in the generator itself, and with constant wind, any furrows from scraping the snow would be gone. There was nothing to do but investigate.
Jake slid down the mountainside, the low gravity turning his descent into a smooth glide – until he fell into a snowdrift. Shivering and muttering a string of curses, he reemerged. He dusted some snow off his shoulder, Isn’t the spacesuit supposed to be able to handle these blasted temperatures? While the suit camouflaged to any environment, for all the tokens it must’ve cost it should have been warmer. The HSI probably cut some corners on his equipment… they didn’t care much about debtors.
He pressed his lips together and sighed, Marian would’ve been able get him out of this mess. Maybe if she hadn’t broken up with him, she would be able to help after – he cleared his throat, there was no time for wishing. She wasn’t here, and the last thing he wanted was an enforcer – even if it was his girlfriend.
Jake’s eyes fixed on the generator. He stepped close to the drifts, crossing his arms. He always hated being near the outside of gigantic machines, it made him feel small – like he had never shaken his childhood, when he learned how to fool a lie detector, to steal what he needed at no cost to himself… a cold fear of what might happen if he was found out. He began to move towards the machine, thinking through what he had to do as he would before pulling a heist or while getting ready to con a mark:
1: Find the thrid. Already doing that.
2: Kill the thrid. A blue lizard-like reptile armored in its own scales – although the HSI provided him with an extremely powerful blaster, a thrid’s hide had higher resistance levels than the strongest metals man had come up with… and as if it wasn’t dangerous enough, it was the size of ten grown men. For good measure he had his lucky pistol at his hip, he knew he never failed a job with that.
3: Find the phial. It shouldn’t be too hard… he was the best thief in the galaxy of course.
4: Drag the thrid over a mountain range and across the plain to his ship. Not so easy, but he could tow it with the mobile.
5: Give the scientists what they wanted and go somewhere none could find him.
Jake heard snow crunch and froze. Unseen, he dove among the snowdrifts and tapped the side of his helmet, turning the suit to white as he got a second look. He cursed under his breath. The HSI forewarned that he was going after a highly intelligent thrid and to be prepared – but he was not anticipating a creature walking on its hind legs and dressed in an exploration suit that was a far better make than his. He grumbled another expletive. It was the HSI’s project… of course it would be crazy…
The thrid’s gaze focused on the anti-freeze. Jake pressed a button on the side of his blaster, it whined as energy built inside the chamber. He glanced at a yellow cylinder by the button, only two shots before he needed another charge. He inhaled deeply as he brought the weapon to his shoulder. He had good aim, but when anxious, it was easy to miss. And he did not want a ton of blue muscle charging after him. Jake hissed through his teeth, causing the filter to rasp.
The thrid’s head swiveled, turning towards Jake in time to see him shoot a jet of yellow light. The creature shouted as it ducked away, its hoarse voice drowning out the noise of the blast as the shot struck its shoulder.
Jake pulled the trigger again and hit the monster in the chest. It staggered and crouched, watching as Jake approached while inserting another charge. It shouted: “Sta!”
Before Jake could react, the thrid’s tail knocked his legs out from under him and he fell on his side. The thrid snatched away his blaster and fled towards the generator.
Jake pursued as he drew his pistol. The monster turned around and hit him again, sending Jake flying across the terrain and tumbling to a halt. He stumbled to his feet; blinking the stars from his vision as the thrid switched his blaster to stun. Jake tried to back away but felt the lip of the ice over the anti-freeze crumble under his boot.
Thinking in the speed of a force-field disintegrating, Jake aimed his pistol and pulled back the slide, but before he could fire, the thrid shot Jake in the chest with a purple lightning bolt and he careened backwards into the anti-freeze, his pistol flying from his hand.
The filter choked up as Jake’s muscles froze. His bionic limbs recovered, and he scrambled for the surface – but the metal made him sink like a meteor. As Jake’s lungs constricted, he was dimly aware of a hand reaching for him like death as his arms stretched upward. Then everything went dark.
We crazy people are the normal ones.October 12, 2021 at 1:01 am #142700
A metallic clank crashed Jake into consciousness. He stared at the dark ceiling, where was he? Then he recalled the fight with the thrid, and a shudder went down his spine… had the HSI found him after he failed? What would they do to him now? As he tried to turn his head he froze and cringed, waiting for the pain in his neck to subside. The surgeries that repaired his face were able to lessen the pain, but the surgeon wasn’t skilled, and skin was still healing in places… not to mention he looked entirely different than before the attack.
When Jake was able to rotate his head, he was relieved to find the HSI had not forced him to be part of some experiment but didn’t know if it’d be a worse shock than seeing the thrid.
It was seated at a workbench, holding his helmet and scraping some blue junk out of a crevice. It wore pants, but its exposed chest revealed muscle rippling under its scales. Jake gulped; that monster could easily tear him apart. He felt an unpleasant shrinking feeling, the same sensation he’d gotten when he was nearing the generator. This thing was too large, too strong. Jake reached for his pistol; his heart fluttered – why was he in his underwear?
Jake’s attention focused on the beast’s handlike claws. They were strong and dexterous as they scrubbed some dried anti-freeze off the surface of the helmet. He frowned. An anthropomorph? No brainer HSI wanted the body back along with whatever he had to steal. This was anything but common.
Jake turned his attention to the rest of the room, scanning for any exits, something that may look like what the scientists wanted, or weapons. There were metal walls and floor, their dented surfaces scarcely reflecting the warm light coming from horizontal windows along the ceiling, and a heater near the foot of the bed, both of which contrasted a heavy-duty lantern’s white gleam. But from where Jake lay in an alcove with three mattresses lined up, there was no way to see the exits… nor any reachable weaponry.
Jake pushed himself upright before his arm buckled. He rolled his crippled limb out from under him with a stifled grunt. His gaze travelled from his solitary ring and pinky finger shriveled with healed burns, the purple bruise that covered much of his side, to where the grey sheets should have draped over his right leg. What was he doing here? Waiting to become the thrid’s dinner?
“Ah, uh, h-ell-o.”
Jake froze, turning slowly towards the thrid.
The monster set its work aside, its round eyes staring at Jake, “D-o ya… y-ou feel al-right?”
Jake answered slowly as he propped himself up with his undamaged arm, “Fine, besides the bruise.” He scanned the room again, “Where are my clothes and prosthetics?”
The monster glanced to the part of the room Jake couldn’t see, then went back to his work, “I… w-anted t-o m-ake sure that ya… y-ou… w-w-eren’t hurt.”
Jake raised an eyebrow, “To make sure I wasn’t hurt?”
“Yes.” The monster wiped off a blue smear.
“I feel pretty alright.” He frowned as the thrid narrowed his eyes at the button on the side of the helmet, “What are you doing with that?”
“Trying ta… t-o fix a glitch.” The thrid pressed the button, and the helmet camouflaged with the background, “Y-our suit was gl-itch-ing wh-en I pu-lled y-ou out of the chem-ical.” The helmet reappeared in a garish pink.
The thrid set aside the helmet, “I w-was never good with… tech-n-n-nolo-gy.”
Jake pushed his mousy hair behind his shoulders, “How long was I out?”
“Several hours.” The thrid got to its feet, “I sh-ould check yar vitals.” it took a medical scanner and approached Jake.
While the monster had no aura of malice about it, and Jake recognized the instrument, he could not help shrinking back when he realized that he appeared as a child next to this technological advancement. The monster squatted beside him, “Settle down, I w-on’t…” it shut its eyes and mouthed the next word before forcing it to its throat, “B-ite. I know I have the face uf… of a thrid.”
Jake’s attention was drawn to the thrid’s large eyes as they peered down the long muzzle. They were an unnatural, chemical blue. Instead of slit pupils, its looked normal, almost human. He leaned away, the expression in those eyes was a plea. It has to do with his lack of facial muscles.
The thrid held up the white stick. “It’s no w-earon… I m-ean, w-ea-pon.”
Jake let it go under his tongue. Speaking around the medical instrument, he said, “Tho, why an I ear?”
The thrid removed the scanner and examined small symbols and colors that arrayed themselves on it, “Gud. B-ut you are still w-weak… and tell m-e w-hat y-ou w-want t-o kn-ow later.” The monster went out of view and returned with an oversized jacket. “You can w-ear this to keep w-arm.”
As Jake reached for the garment the thrid touched his wrist, “I don’t think that y-ou can do very w-ell with the zi-pper.”
Jake flinched and tried to rub the coldness from the monster’s palm off, “I don’t need it zipped.”
“Oh.” The monster rubbed the soft spines along the back of its neck, “I gu-ess that it is w-arm.”
“Understandable,” Jake took the jacket, “You are cold-blooded I guess.”
The monster’s face deteriorated into a slight grimace. “I w-ill get y-ou a snack and a drink.”
Jake guided his right arm through the sleeve as the monster went away. What was the creature doing here of all places? It wasn’t even the closest landing point from where it had escaped, and the surface was so freezing even humans couldn’t survive without proper clothing. The metallic sound of a drawer opening and closing brought Jake back to reality. He shook his head; he wasn’t here to think about why the thrid had come to this blasted rock.
The monster returned with a food bar and a metal bottle, “Here.”
Jake took the bar and nibbled at the edge, then sniffed the bottle’s contents. Satisfied that neither were poison, he began to eat, “Where am I?”
The monster gestured around the room. “M-y hut.”
Jake swallowed a sweetened chunk of the bar, “But where is it?”
“You w-ant curdinits – I m-ean, c-oord-inates?”
Jake raised an eyebrow, “You know about those?”
The monster straightened, “Yes.”
Jake pushed his hair behind his ear, “Hm.” He looked at the places he had hit the monster; there was light bruising, but other than that, nothing. He frowned, that was the most powerful blaster available… wasn’t it?
The thrid pulled up a stool and sat by Jake, “Why did y-ou try to kill me? Are you ge-tt-ing pa-id?”
Maybe I should shoot it in the mouth next time… but why wasn’t I told where a weak spot was? “In a sense.” Jake sipped his drink. The dynamic of this relationship was obvious, what point was there in lying? “But then why am I here? Information?”
“N-ot really,” The monster looked down and away, running his hand along spines on the back of his neck, “I d-on’t kn-ow exactly w-w-hy. Pr’aps – ugh! P-er-haps – ‘cause hu-mans should hel-p each o-ther more than they do…” The monster shrugged and looked down at his hands. “And I do-n’t want pe-ople to die.”
Jake hmphed, “From my experience, humans only help others if they intend to get something from them.” He crossed his arms, “So really, why did you bring me here? There’s no such thing as innocent motives.” A smile played at the corner of his mouth, “You can’t be that idealistic.”
The monster stared at him for a long moment, then got up and muttered, “B-ecause,” he sat by the workbench, taking the helmet in his hands and scrubbing at it, “life is p-recious… that’s the on-ly answer I can give.”
“Well, suit yourself.” Jake saw his gun’s black handle near where the brush had been, “But thrid, since I am your captive, I’d like to know what you are going to do to me.”
The monster jerked as if he had touched an open wire. “I… intend ta send y-ou a-w-ay. By the w-ay, wh-at’s your nim – I m-ean – na-me?”
Jake narrowed his eyes, “Why d’you need to know?”
The thrid shrugged, “I d-on’t w-ant you t-o call m-e thrid and I want to call you by y-our na-me. M-akes u-s f-feel less like ani-mals.”
Jake smirked, But you are an animal.
The monster put a hand on his breast in the usual gesture of introduction, “I am Fafian,” he frowned and looked down, “Fa-b-ian.” Fabian gestured towards Jake, “And you-rs?”
Jake forced the tension out of his rigid shoulders, this was simply a monster that shared his brother’s name, nothing more. “You can call me Jade. If you want to know my job, I suppose it’s obvious that I do a contract occasionally.” Jake downed the last of the drink and wiped his mouth, “And it doesn’t take much brain-power to know that you probably survive for a living…” Fabian’s fingers flexed around the brush, “unless there’s some hobby of yours or something that you do besides that.”
Fabian looked back at his work and scrubbed. “I s-ur-vive…” he shook his head, “You’re after m-y br-ain?”
Jake laid down and studied the ceiling, “Attached to your body, preferably.” What was Fabian avoiding? Was it something to do with the chemical? Why was he concerned about his brain? The HSI wanted his body. He twisted the bar’s wrapper. There was more to this than what was on the surface.
Fabian rubbed his neck and sighed, “Why a-m I relea-sing you?”
Jake put his arm under his head. “You said it already, you have some strong morals for a… whatever you are.” This was beginning to feel like talking to his little brother. He rubbed his sternum. His brother’s memory kept on clinging to him, like the boy had in life… at least before he found out what Jake really did.
Fabian cleared his throat and rubbed his neck again, “You sh-ould begin to get ready now, evening’s cl-osing in. The days here last m-onths, nights even l-onger.” Fabian lifted the metal arm and leg from somewhere out of Jake’s view and laid them on the bed. “You can ga… ugh! g-o, h-o-me.”
Jake slid his limb into the bionic arm, the reassuring pressure of the metal as it reattached itself to him soothed his tight skin. Jake’s brow furrowed as he moved his arm about: “Why’re you allowing me to leave?”
Fabian looked up, “D-on’t you h-ave a life? Even if y-ou’re bad?”
Jake laughed, his voice hollow, If you can call playing around the galaxy a life, then I have one.
Fabian disappeared behind the wall, “Why d-o you laugh?”
Jake pulled on his metal leg, bending the knee and foot joints. “You talk nonsense. Like my—” Jake cleared his throat, “a-a friend of mine.” He stood.
Fabian reappeared with Jake’s backpack, he scratched the back of his neck, “D-o I?”
Jake stood, “Well, you talk like life’s a bedtime story.” He smirked to hide a frown, “In fact, the universe is just a big ruse that’s played on us by whatever gods there may be, or it’s simply a big accident. No matter what we do or who we are we’re nothing more than a bunch of animals – science they teach the smallest child in half the words.” Jake swept a hair out of his eyes, “Where are my clothes?”
“That’s a sad way to l-ive.” Fabian went into the next room again before reappearing with Jake’s clothing and suit, “You’d rather n-ot know if the-re was m-ore to life than that?”
Jake shook his head as he began to get dressed, “I may look like I’m young, and I am – but…” his carefree expression creased, “I’ve lived long enough to know there isn’t.” Jake forced a smile. It looked like his first destination after this job would be going to a pleasure-station, and an unmentionable amount of alcohol. “The only thing that drives us is survival of the fittest.”
Fabian leaned forward, “But don’t you think that –”
Jake jerked his jacket collar so it would lay in its most striking manner, “You did a decent job cleaning up the suit.” He picked it up and examined it, “You’ve been quite busy.”
Fabian shrugged and put the gun in his pocket, “I… haven’t much to d-o.”
Jake rolled back his shoulders, “I can see it being pretty boring here.” But it won’t be for long.
Fabian’s eyes widened as Jake shoved his legs into the suit and zipped up the front. Jake frowned as he put his arms in the sleeves. Fabian stuttered: “I-I c-an sh-ow you the w-ay ou-t.” He handed Jake his backpack. “But I won’t give you your g-un.”
Jake slung his burden on one shoulder, “Got it.”
Fabian motioned Jake to follow him. They entered the space Fabian had so many times vanished into and approached a door made from a piece of tarp, a golden glow seeping around the frayed edges. Jake paused and glanced around the room; his blaster was in the farthest corner among a forest of newly cleaned machinery – primarily communicators, detectors that came out of a spaceship, some cabinets, miscellaneous screens, and some portable batteries. Jake narrowed his eyes, What’re you looking for?
Fabian pushed aside the tarp. Jake squeezed past and in one expert motion his hand slipped into Fabian’s pocket and drew out the gun, hiding it in his backpack as he stepped into a fungus garden.
For a moment Jake’s eyes followed the contour of the strange and plant-like shapes as they curved and rippled over every surface of a room big enough for a whole living complex. He sighed and shook his head, dispelling the languid hovering of glowing spores that softened his newly angular features. There was no time to admire even the prettiest of spectacles. Anyway, he had gone to find his brother in the fungus jungles so often the sight wasn’t that captivating.
“Y-Y-ou w-ill need these, air’s not very breathe-a-ble.”
Jake turned to Fabian, whose scales had lost some of their blue pigment, What’re you scared of? “Smart living situation you’ve got.” his gaze caught a stairway leading to a door with a crank in it. “Are we inside a generator?”
Fabian stared at him fixedly and didn’t respond.
Jake repeated himself.
“Yes.” Fabian looked at Jake’s helmet (which had returned to its normal color) and a small oxygen-tank he was holding, “I m-made the hut, it w-as w-armer here than the ship.” Fabian offered them to Jake, “Y-You need these.”
Jake put on his helmet, the shaded visor darkening the room. He took a breath, “You changed the filter.” He squatted in front of his backpack, “I doubt I’ll need that tankard.”
Fabian’s eyes fixed on Jake. “It’s b-blizzarding ou-t there – the ice dust will lower the o-xygen.”
“Fine, I’ll take it.” Jake received the metal cylinder, pretending to rummage in his bag while he checked to see if a bullet was in the chamber.
Fabian opened his mouth and closed it again, he stared at Jake, “Ja—?” his voice died in his throat.
Jake drew his gun and pointed it at Fabian’s face, “Where’s the phial?”
Fabian’s eyes widened in an expression Jake understood all too well – betrayal and fear, but why? Didn’t it anticipate this? “Ph-phial?”
Jake got to his feet, “The one you stole?”
Fabian blinked rapidly, his chin dropping to his chest. “I-I des-troyed it.”
Jake raised an eyebrow, “I have trouble believing that.”
“I-I can-t t-ell ya.” Fabian stepped forward and Jake backed away, “Th-ere’s m-ore ta this than ya kn-ow!” He searched Jake’s visor-shielded face before looking down. “I… I-I need ya…y-our help.”
Jake blinked, “What?”
Fabian straightened, “I-I need your help. I’m being hun-ted.”
Jake’s finger caressed the trigger as he mulled over killing Fabian now, or waiting for what he had to say, “Well of course you are. I’m hunting you.”
Fabian gulped and nodded, “P-lease hear m-e out.”
“Why?” Jake shook his head, that phrase… he huffed and tightened his grip on the gun, Why can’t I shake that kid!
Fabian opened his mouth, then Jake’s tracker began to beep. He seethed, “Look, if I don’t accomplish this mission, I’m dead.”
He froze, “My name’s Jade.”
The roar of a spaceship landing crashed down on his ears and his tracker screamed at him… Drat. “Get me out!” he yelled.
Fabian hurried up the metal stairs and to the door. He turned the crank and grey light issued into the room. “It’s safe f-or a g-ood three meters out the dur… d-oor.”
Jake hurried through a tunnel and into the main interior of the oxygen generator. He turned around as Fabian stood, staring at him. for a brief moment they made eye contact before Fabian slammed the door.
Now that was weird. Jake turned away to see a misshapen hunk of spaceship – Militia property judging by the logo on the side. But why would Fabian have a ship designed for detecting signs of life? A fighter would be faster, and both types were kept in the same place at the facility Fabian had fled. And what was the thrid trying to tell him anyway? How did it know my name?
Jake forced himself to think of the present and set down his backpack. He looked out at the landscape; a blizzard had turned the scenery a solid white. Fabian said he destroyed the phial. Jake recalled how Fabian had been almost ashamed to tell him of the chemical’s destruction, and when lying his brother had the same tells as the thrid.
A woman shouted, “Drop your weapon!” As a man stepped from behind the ship and Jake fired. The enforcer fell and others emerged, training their blasters on him. The same clear voice demanded, “Don’t fire again Jake, or we will kill you.” Jake held up his hands, smiling at the woman who had spoken. She stepped forward, her albino face in high definition behind her clear visor.
Jake laid his gun between his feet, he smiled, “Missed me?”
Marian’s nostrils flared as she kicked away his weapon, “You’re under arrest.” She took out her handcuffs, “You should know better than to fight.”
Jake smirked, “I never do.” he kicked her with his metal leg.
Marian flew back farther than expected. As she landed, she somersaulted and righted herself in one fluid motion, “Bad move.”
He agreed under most circumstances. But he’d had time to dive for his gun and shoot at one of the enforcers as they readied their blasters, but Marian hit Jake’s bionic leg.
He clenched his teeth as he fell and the electricity paralyzed him. He felt his heart pound as the other soldiers aimed, preparing to kill. Why was Marian such a good shot? A man stepped forward and kicked Jake onto his stomach, pressed his foot on his back, and poised his blaster centimeters from Jake’s head. He should’ve tried to shoot Marian instead of the soldier, but he could never bring himself to do that… and neither could she.
Jake looked over his shoulder at Marian’s steely purple eyes as she approached, trembling as adrenaline pumped through him and the clenching of his muscles ebbed away… she might just let him die even if her feelings rebelled. Or the enforcer would disobey her… if he didn’t give the fool an abrupt reminder that this wasn’t standard gravity.
“Sta!… I m-ean, st-op!”
Jake turned to see Fabian dressed in his spacesuit. What the…?
Fabian flung up his hands, “Don’t shut – uh, sh-oot! I…” Fabian glanced at Jake, “I am-m Fa-b-ian. Y-ou are a-b-out to kill Jade… I m-ean, Jake.”
Marian’s lips parted. What was going on inside her brain? Jake had always wondered how she might think being an Entek. But he had no time to wonder. Before anyone recovered from the shock of the thrid Jake located his pistol and hid it under his shoulder.
The thrid lowered his shaking hands, “I-I need him a-alive.”
She whispered, “Who are you?”
Fabian looked down, “I… am noduddy, ugh! No-b-ody.”
She raised her eyebrows, “Then why did you tell me your name?”
“W-ould you b-elieve m-me if I told ya…” Fabian shook his head, “you the tr-uth?”
Marian glared at Jake, “I know a liar when I see one.” She lowered her blaster, “You’re only scared.”
Fabian looked up from staring at his boots, he rubbed the back of his neck: “W-hat ab-out J-Jake…”
Marian’s sharp features relaxed, her eyes warming from their usual knifelike gaze. “I can’t make promises for the safety of criminals, but I do what I can for innocents.”
Fabian gulped, “I a-m Jake’s b-rother.”
Marian’s eyes narrowed.
Fabian hugged himself so tightly his arms shook, “M-Marian p-please… hear me out… you’ve got t-o be-lieve me I… I… help me.”
After a long moment of silence Marian nodded sharply.
Jake’s glove made impressions of the lining on his palm. This had gone too far. He needed to stop this ghost. As he leapt out from under the soldier, he roared, “Don’t lie to me!” and fired at Fabian.
As Jake’s missed shot ricocheted, the soldiers ducked, and he made for the exit. Marian shouted words his hot ears didn’t bother to translate as he dashed into the outdoors, the wind battering him in a flurry of white wrath as he heard a beating sound behind him, having no time to get his bearings before a weight smacked into him. His arms were forced at his sides and he thrashed against Fabian’s body. Jake glowered into the stolid, scaly, face.
Fabian forced Jake into the snow, “Jake! Sta! Ya ‘ill b-e al-right!”
“NO!” Jake worked his arm free and shot the visor, shattering it. Fabian immediately loosed his grip and fell back as Jake ran into the fogged distance, his hollow heart throbbing inside his chest.
But as he ran, he began to feel his muscles moving slower as the cold seeped deeper into his form. He forced himself onward, wrapping his arms about himself and trudging through, the oxygen-poor air raking his lungs. The wind beat him until he was on his knees. Finally he fell, his vision going out of focus…
We crazy people are the normal ones.October 12, 2021 at 1:11 am #142701
The next thing Jake knew was his breath coming in gasps. The blizzard had passed, and the stars in the darkening sky gaped at him. He sat up, dusting a thin layer of ice off his suit. How long had he been unconscious? The unfamiliar peaks turned vivid red in the fading light, and he brought his knees up to his chest, shivering.
Jake’s visor glitched to clear, the brightness of the closest star as it sank behind the planet glared into his eyes. He switched on his visor again. He may as well stop for now; he was an easy target wherever he went… he hugged himself, dying of the cold was his only option besides arrest.
Jake picked up the gun beside him. His fingers shook as he followed its angular contours. It could not have been Fabian, as in his brother, that he had killed. It was a monster trying to influence his emotions – maybe Fabian’s ghost… the kid never had a proper burial.
Though it was an old superstition, a dead person’s soul was not at rest without proper cremation. If not, he could possess animals, appear as a ghost to haunt his loved ones, or transform into an animal if some deranged god took pity on him. Could Fabian have possessed the anthropomorph? But that was superstition. It was impossible. There were no gods.
Then the image of the boy flooded Jake’s mind, his small frame half-incinerated… he shook his head. But still, though he had thought it impossible, could it be true? The monster did have Fabian’s mannerisms, the way he rubbed the back of his neck and how he asked so many questions, even the simple fact that he’d helped the man trying to kill him! Besides, none had seen Fabian’s body after the attack… and who would want to? The bomb hadn’t left much to burn. Except his head. Jake swallowed a lump in his throat and pressed his trembling lips together, “It wasn’t him.” was it possible he’d failed him… again?
Footsteps crunched the snow behind him.
Jake grabbed his gun and struggled to his feet. It was Marian, her albino face highlighted by growing purple shadows. She stepped nearer. Jake pointed his pistol at her. Marian coolly aimed her blaster back at him. The end of Jake’s gun quivered, and he clutched it with both hands. “Go away – or… a-and I won’t kill you yet.”
“Where would you go?” her eyes locked with Jake’s.
“Leave me or do you really find me that attractive?”
Marian squared her shoulders, “I have my duties – and you yours.”
“I’m bound to no one.” Jake smirked, “Not even you.”
“Quite true,” Marian’s pale lips turned into a hard line. “But you’re wrong. Your father asked you to…”
Jake tightened his grip on the gun, “I know…” he began to examine the snow about their feet, “we don’t have to talk about it.”
Marian lowered her blaster and put her hand on his shoulder: “Your little brother could be dying. Jake, don’t you think that it should concern you?”
Jake shrugged off her hand. “Quit tricking me.”
“I’m not trying to trick you.” Marian stepped back, “There are laws… and…” she glanced to the side, “I… would rather you not break more than you can help.”
Jake bared his teeth in a smile, “You still like me.”
Marian’s head snapped up and she glared icicles at him, “No.” She stepped back, “Quite frankly it’s a wonder I don’t let you die – and others are coming. If you let me arrest you, I won’t have to use force.”
Jake sneered, “You just wish you hadn’t ended what was between us.”
Marian clenched her jaw, “I have no regrets.” Her gaze focused on Jake again as his skin bunched below his eyelids, “Your brother’s afraid… of you, and of what might happen to him. But if you come to him now, you have a chance to”—
Jake paled. “My brother’s dead.” But is it because of me?
“I’m telling the truth, but you don’t want to hear me.” Marian’s eyes hardened like two laser beams, “What d’you want me to say? If you come with me, you’ll be alive for longer than if you stayed here. You’ve broken the one promise you tried to keep… in fact, you may have killed the one person I thought you ever loved.” Marian’s countenance grew firmer as she prepared another blow to the wounds in Jake’s heart: “If your father were still alive, he’d be heartbroken.”
“Stop!” Jake bellowed into the frosty air.
Marian’s eyes locked on Jake as he bowed his head. She sighed and opened her mouth.
“Drop your weapon!”
Jake looked up. A few enforcers trained their blasters on him.
Marian took away his gun before he could react. He smiled bitterly, “Good move.”
<p style=”text-align: center;”>***</p>
When Jake was escorted through the entry bay on Marian’s ship, he saw him. Fabian lay on the floor with some enforcers preparing to move the body… he’s still connected to the equipment that couldn’t save him. Jake trembled as Marian’s grip on his shoulder tightened, he saw Fabian’s closed eyes and began to sweat as they entered the prison bay. That’d been his brother, unmistakably – and now he was dead.
When Jake’s exploration suit was discarded, Marian touched his hand, her thoughts shooting like electricity up his arm: a picture of Fabian as a human flashed through his mind, being replaced by the corpse of the thrid.
Before Jake could see the rest of her message, he pulled his hand away and stepped into a cell – “I get it already! Would it kill you to just leave me alone?”
Marian flicked a switch in the wall and the force-field closed between them.
Jake sat, he swallowed hard, and rested his forehead on his knees – a tremor passed through his body like a wave, and he squeezed his gray-green eyes shut… eyes his mother said were almost his namesake.
Gods, if any of you are even there, why, of all the souls in this sick galaxy, did you let me kill my brother? Jake did not care for any gods as they didn’t appear to care for him, but it seemed like he’d been given a chance for once in his life to truly succeed, and he’d ruined it. Yellow mist began to taint the air, perhaps that failure would’ve happened regardless, especially for a man like him.
Jake looked at his hands, this catastrophe was just as inevitable as the gas would make him sleep – and what was to happen next. His fingers curled into fists; it would be much less of a tragedy – who cares for the death of a criminal? And besides, who would be there to grieve him? His parents – and now Fabian – were dead. His heart began to pound, and the cell felt emptier than ever. They would simply be doing what he was too afraid to… take his life and free him from his endless pursuit of security and happiness. Jake smirked before his expression crumbled, who even believed in happiness anyway? He’d tried to pursue it, but he’d found it to be nothing more than a rip-off.
Jake laid on his side, recalling how similar it was to the position he had been in when he first saw his brother after the attack. He clamped a hand over his mouth and stifled a cry, remembering the boy’s wide eyes and his mouth open in a suffocated scream, the scent of burnt flesh and the agony in his body mirroring what Fabian must’ve felt as… he shook his head, groaning “No.” But as the air became opaque and his vision grew dark, he knew he could never escape. He was the monster that should be killed.
We crazy people are the normal ones.October 12, 2021 at 1:11 am #142702
Thank you for reading!
We crazy people are the normal ones.October 12, 2021 at 1:16 am #142703October 12, 2021 at 1:16 am #142704October 12, 2021 at 9:43 pm #142726
@joy-caroline (I just saw you’d joined SE! I am @ScoutFinch180 on KP)
We crazy people are the normal ones.October 13, 2021 at 11:37 am #142729Brian Stansell@obrian-of-the-surface-world
Very good story, Dawn!
It had me engaged with it throughout.
I think I liked Fabian the best. He had admirable qualities and a consistent action following his beliefs, and that is always refreshing.
Yes, it does count as Sci-Fi.
1. does this even count as sci-fi and how realistic do i need to be to write a sci-fi? There is no hard and fast rule on what level of “science” one must include to qualify as “sci-fi” piece, however, there does need to be a reliance on science/technology enough to make the story unworkable without it. Your story includes interplanetary travel, weapons tech, survivability tech, and an awareness of scientific classification in identifying species differences.
2. do the characters seem realistic? Yes, however, Marian is confusing to me. I don’t understand what attraction, if any, she has for Jake, unless the “attraction” is all in Jake’s mind, or perhaps he is “teasing” and taunting her with her hesitancy to shoot him outright, ascribing it to a desire for a romantic relationship. With the cynicism Jake has, it is possible he is mistaking her sense of ethical behavior and natural human compassion for being something else with a self-serving angle.
3. any favorites? Fabian.
4. what do you think of Jake, Marian, and Fabian? Who was your favorite?
5. are the themes and message coming out clear? I think so. The mercenary mentality and self-seeking suspicion are pitted against genuine familial love and loyalty. In the end, Jake’s illusions are taken down as he realizes how harmful his own cynical attitude has become, even to the point of blinding him to his brother’s love and true identity.
6. any tips on reducing word count? Not really. I think the WC is fine as long as it does not impede the pacing of the story, which it doesn’t. Sometimes the WC is more of a stylistic thing. For instance, Hemingway was more of an austere writer and focused more on dialogue than description. He rarely, if ever, described emotions. The important thing is to pursue your own naturalistic style. Find your balance.
7. Is my pacing good? I think so. As long as the movement between the scenes follows a regular cadence and tempo, you’re fine. Think of scenes in terms of rhythmic beats, with a metronome keeping the baseline.
8. What do you think will happen next? Do you mean at the end of the story? I hope Fabian survives and that Jake has a chance to repent of his ways, now that the realization is finally catching up to him. I think there should be consequences to Jake’s stubbornness, but if he is to be show clemency, I would want to see some contrition and realization of that. Perhaps to see him finally do something for others rather than living completely for himself.
9. Would you like to know? Yes. Unless the present end is meant to be a “tragedy” and it could stand on ending in Jake’s regret.
10. Are my descriptions coming in clear? Yes.
11. is the plot sound? I think it works. Though, I still would like to know what the vial contained and why the HSI wanted it. And why they wanted Fabian’s body intact…is he “the experiment”? Did Marian know that Fabian was Jake’s brother?
I would also like to know why Marian and the other team showed up so soon. Did they assume Jake would fail? Does Jake have a tracker on him?
12. What were your favorite scenes? I think when Jake wakes up and realizes that the “thrid” is not going to kill him, but it actually helping him. I think this creates the pivotal conflict in Jake’s mind, that he struggles to understand because it is so different from what he would do. He is not accustomed to “Mercy”.
13. what is this short story missing, if anything? A little more character development for Marian, with some background on her motivations.
14. can you all think of any other name for a creature than thrid or is thrid fine? Thrid is perfect. It is easy to say, mono-syllabic, and has a simple mystique about it.
15. Am I showing instead of telling? Don’t let this aphorism fool you. In principle it is good, but there are instances where telling is appropriate. In a short story, once cannot show everything because it will cease being a “short story”. You have to balance the tempo and pace with the need to show and tell. Consider what is most important about each scene and ask yourself if that is clearly represented enough to keep the focus on the present action. Flashbacks can be distracting. Make sure the story is rooted at the moment, but you can “tell” about some branch actions to keep the attention and engagement from straying. A better application of “show” vs. “tell” is “show the action you want the reader most connected to” and briefly “tell the reader what information they need to make sense of the present action you are showing”. Think of “show” as the main food/meal and “tell” as the sprinkled seasoning and balance accordingly.
I think you do a good job in this tale.
16. Do any scenes drag? I didn’t notice any. Your pacing seems fine.
I do still want to know what Fabian wanted Jake’s help with. I do not understand why he was ready to release him to leave but then asked for his help.
Jake’s visor glitched to clear, the brightness of the closest star as it sank behind the planet glared into his eyes. He switched on his visor again.
Should the “,” be a period? How can the visor glitch if the power is off? Wouldn’t a visor need to have its own redundant power source (say a solar cell) that could not be turned off? In space, the difference between unfiltered light and shadow can be extreme and blinding with a thermal component that is crippling (From -260 c in the shade to 100 c in the sunlight). A survival suit should be able to respond in life-threatening seconds, so it should not be something that can easily be disabled. Since the planet on which this story takes place has a breathable atmosphere those extremes would be mitigated, however, the suit Jake wears should have the capability to respond to the non-atmospheric extra-planetary terrains he visits as a freelance mercenary for hire.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read your story.
Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
I was born in war.
Fighting from my first breath.October 14, 2021 at 1:43 pm #142757Cathy@this-is-not-an-alien
*unsuspecting me peeks in starts reading*
*first post; critically analyzing but beginning to sink into the plot too much*
*reading very intently has forgotten to analyze*
*so involved in the story*
*have to see what happens*
WHAT!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME!!!!!!!! YOU KILLED FABIAN!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! WHYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!! YOU CAN’T END IT THERE I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*not happy fandom*
*very unhappy fandom*
*screams of fan*
also HI @OBRIAN-OF-THE-SURFACE-WORLD I MISSED YOU!!!!!!! *Hugs, squeezes tightly* <3
Don't let the voices in your head drive you insane;only some of them can drive; most are underageOctober 14, 2021 at 6:19 pm #142767
Thank you so much for your feedback! It’s really helpful for me, especially since sci-fi is an unfamiliar genre for the hopeless fantasy nut. 😊
Marian and Jake (at least for now) were in a relationship in the past, but Jake had been hiding his illegal lifestyle from her and when she found out she ended the relationship. But she still is attracted to Jake because he was the first human man who ever treated her with honor and respect after she was exiled from her home planet. She also knew Fabian because he was a bit of a third wheel, and they remained friends after Jake and she broke up. Also, Jake still likes Marian and he’s a bit bitter about them breaking up.
Marian and the enforcers arrived so soon because they were told Jake would be there. they had the location of Fabian and there was a tracker planted on the ship Jake used to get here.
Fabian was ready to release Jake because he didn’t recognize Jake until he saw Jake outside his hut. then he realized Jake could help him with his plan to transform himself back into a human form. (the phial contains a chemical that makes this possible, and Pagos is one of the only places it can be processed easily)
I was thinking that something to provide background on Marian might help, but I was concerned about sacrificing word count. do you think it’s alright to sacrifice some word count?
Thank you for pointing out the problem with the suit! Maybe the visor should have a reactive lens like those glasses that are regular glasses indoors and then sunglasses outside (whatever they’re called)?
My first fan?! I’m honored!!! I’m so happy you liked it!😁
Also… I never said Fabian died, it’s Jake’s assumptions😉. And I want to know what happens next as much as you!
And Jake’s wondering if all the attention goes to Fabian or does he get some of the fandom as well?
We crazy people are the normal ones.October 18, 2021 at 8:17 pm #142885Cathy@this-is-not-an-alien
My first fan?! I’m honored!!! I’m so happy you liked it!
lol I’m so happy I liked it too 😛 And you must let be beta read morrrrrre!!!!
Also… I never said Fabian died, it’s Jake’s assumptions. And I want to know what happens next as much as you! And Jake’s wondering if all the attention goes to Fabian or does he get some of the fandom as well?
Lol all is good then (:
Haha tell Jake I wouldn’t trust him with a plastic water-gun within a ten mile radius. But I am fascinated by his character and really all the characters here I can’t pick a favorite they’re all so interesting!!! I’d probably love to hang out with Fabian most, but I’d want Marian for a tough situations and Jake I’d want a couple miles away from me but still watch at a distance.
Ok questions, gonna skip 1 cos it’s sci-fi to me and I’m new to that genre anyway 🙂
“2. Do the characters seem realistic?” Absolutely, they were very dynamic and interesting for the window of characterization allowed in a shortstory. I thought Jake’s flashbacks were pretty skillfully handled and flowed smoothly with the narrative and made me all the more intrigued by his inner conflict. Fabian was very sweet and childlike and much more trusting than I would be in that situation, I personally woulda at least handcuffed Jake or had a few safeguards for when he woke up. Marian didn’t get as much screentime as the others but she remained memorable and retained the thread of a question whether or not she actually did have feelings for him, but she definitely did have inner conflict about him although I wouldn’t know about romantic conflict necessarily as much as post-romantic conflict that might spark back again later (but I personally frown on that in novels XD)
“3. Any favorites?” Mmm that’s hard. I really liked/felt protective of Fabian but I slipped more into Marian’s shoes for some reason (possibly the never being taken seriously/unromantically even when waving a gun and kick-butting thing that always drives me crazy) and Jake was just all-round interesting and engaging.
“4. What do you think of Jake, Marian and Fabian?”
Jake: very conflicted, holds a lot of self-hate and terror that greatly strengthens his complacency trying to defend what he’s doing even though he knows it’s wrong. Has a very crass attitude as a defense mechanism, still kinda flirts with Marian like somebody flirts with a lost childhood. He’s attracted to her but probably more the memory of her and when things were “safe”, it’s more nostalgia than love at this point although there might still be some level of connection that was broken and maybe the possibility of new connections. Is in stark denial of Fabian being his brother because that would force him to confront his own crimes with the boy’s idealism or double his guilt to a point he probably couldn’t stand.
Marian: straight-laced level-headed one probably holds a sense of guilt or shame for letting Jake into her heart to begin with but is also a good person who still wants what’s best for Jake which simply won’t reconcile with his life choices. So she has the conflict of how far do you go for someone who isn’t willing to help himself, and how far do you walk away? Definitely protective of Fabian (or maybe that’s just my older sister “MUST PROTECT SMOL ANYTHING THAT CROSSES MY PATH”). Clearly incredibly accomplished and tries to keep her head over her heart but she’s got a lot of emotions to sort out and doesn’t strike as the type that accepts help too well after being burned in that relationship, but she still shows a certain level of emotions and a level of openness with Jake as still recovering from the betrayal but still wanting to help him. She walks that fine line between too cold and too caring there and it should be interesting to see how she stands between legal duties and ideals. I’m sure their past relationship involved a lot of him expecting/begging understanding and forgiveness and her own needs being pushed to the side because he was so wrapped up in what he thought he needed and what he thought he needed from her so I just wouldn’t find it healthy for them to ever get back in a relationship unless that was exceptionally well-handled.
Fabian: soooooo naïve and innocent and sweet, but dang I was screaming that whole time he was letting Jake out “DON’T GET SO CLOSE!!! WATCH HIM DANG IT HE WAS HIRED TO KILL YOU AND THAT MEANS HE’S GOOD AT IT!!!! DON’T YOU HURT MY CINNAMON ROLL OR I’LL SHOOT YOU THROUGH THE FOURTH WALL JAKE!!!” That Fabian was always fiddling with some mechanical thing or other was a cute quirk and his mannerisms and voice all made an interesting contrast with his hulking body and that added to his charm/intrigue. So he was a darling but I wanted to scream at him to be more careful or just be somewhere safe and spoiled and eat cupcakes XD
“5. Are the themes and message coming out clear?” There’s a lot of interesting themes here on regret that neither Marian or Jake are handling too well; both are trying to cut themselves off from the pain and do what they’re doing but Marian makes her slight shift appealing to Jake for his little brother. Jake still hasn’t quite learned his lesson that surviving just isn’t enough it you live for nothing and no one, but he’s hit rock bottom and might just have his turning point depending. Fabian’s theme that every life matters is very powerful and tangles into Marian and Jake’s thing very dynamically because they both have to allow themselves to care and be real.
“6. Any tips of reducing word count?” Don’t. Write exactly as much as presents it most powerfully; no more no less.
“7. Is my pacing good?” Fantastic, I really got sucked into pretty quick (and I thought I was just gonna kinda skim with the five minutes I had until I woke up and I’d finished the story lol)
“8. What do you think will happen next?” Jailbreak. Possibly with Marian’s aid but noted Jake and Marian’s previous relationship I tag as toxic unless otherwise indicated. I imagine Marian’s going to protect Fabian as well as she can and the baddies that hired Jake are gonna be out for blood and their runaway experiment Fabian which in all likelihood resulted from Jake betraying his brother in some convoluted way where he didn’t fully understand what the consequences of his actions would be until boom too late. We’ll probably get more backstory and political/social atmosphere and a broader understanding of the current intrigue and how it relates the rest of the world and exactly what they’re up against cos they’ll totally be forced to work together in some way or other.”
“9. Would you like to know?” mmm how do I put this? YES!!!!!
“10. Are my descriptions coming in clear?” Yurp and engaging.
“11. Is the plot sound?” Certainly from what I know of it I still have questions of course (: Like what’s gonna happen next
“12. What were your favorite scenes?” idk when Jake wakes up and finds himself in a situation where the thrid has complete power over him was a dynamic tables-turn that really set their characters and the tension but all the build up and the action was super engaging
“13. What is this short story missing, if anything?” meh, the only thing I’d change is how you show Fabian’s speech impediment; it works fine for a short stories but it’s not quite easy on the eyes ya’know, I’d keep the accent just only show it for the “key points” where his accent is strongest in each sentence and let the readers “fill-in” naturally, but I’m still struggling with how much to “show” my characters’ accents too so that just might turn out to be bad advice so…XD
“14. Can you all think of any other name for a creature than thrid or is thrid fine?” thrid’s quick and easy to remember, if you want a particular meaning you can always google names with meanings or google translate whatever adjective you want to associate into Swahili or something. Depends on if/how much you want the name to be thematic but otherwise thrid’s great.
“15. Am I showing instead of telling?” it was engaging idc idk
“16. Do any scene drags?” Nope, it was fast-paced and high-action.
Don't let the voices in your head drive you insane;only some of them can drive; most are underage
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