Ice, Ice Everywhere, But Nary a Place to Skate

Space

Fourchad took the first step on planet Khione, entirely blanketed with ice, ripe for exploitation. They’d melt the ice and create water for the colony.

Brevard scraped a sample of the ice into her scanner. “Something’s not right.”

“What is it?”

“Water has unique physical properties – the weight of your body should add enough pressure to turn the ice into water and cause you to slip.”

Fourchad’s heart skipped a beat. “If it’s not ice, what is it?”

“Scanner says carbon dioxide. Dry ice.”

Wind chilled their hearts and the dead planet. They didn’t have the fuel to leave.

***

This was written for the May 23rd Carrot Ranch Promptno ice.

This was based on a chemical engineering practice test I once took.  Suffice to say this is about water’s physical properties and the weird slope of the solid/liquid line on the PT diagram. Carbon dioxide, dry ice, won’t melt due to pressure, so you won’t slip on it.

 

The Last Forest

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I plodded into the forest with a tape measure. The age of a tree couldn’t be divined without coring, but I don’t have that equipment. Size will have to suffice.

Grandma once told me that the forests hold memories and grudges. She taught me how to ask forgiveness from the apple tree in the backyard, to seek the oldest tree for the absolution from a grove.

I decorated what limbs I could with prayer tags. “Please, don’t leave. Please grow again.”

It didn’t work, but maybe that wasn’t the oldest. A lot of trees had a five inch diameter.

***

This was written for the May 16th Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge. Inspired by Japanese kodama and buddhist prayer tags, I wrote a story about what I imagine to be a girl in rural China who lives near the last existing forest. Yaaay, global warming…

Chemistry and Peace

Everyone who knows me probably sees my name and thinks, “Oh, it’s the prompt nut.”  You’re right.

One thing I’ve realized since curating a page detailing many prompts is that there are LOTS more prompts out there that you might not know about.  So, until I either get tired of it or run out of prompts to talk about, I’m going to start an effort to highlight some of those prompts which don’t get enough love.

Today, I’m showcasing Write Now, a prompt that hasn’t seemed to come across the radar of my corner of Writing Blogs.  The objective of Write Now is to encourage people to write something for 5 minutes or more in a stretch.  The prompt for February 19th was:

“The award she received was unexpected and, some thought, undeserved.”

***

1BNA

I made this picture using UCSF’s Chimera and PDB file 1BNA.

The award she received was unexpected and, some thought, undeserved.

The audience seemed unhappy at her receipt, but they clapped nonetheless, beamed with false smiles on false faces.  She took to the podium, received the golden statue, and bent the microphone to better receive her speech.

“Thank you,” she said, her harsh tones causing the speakers to crack and whine.  “I never expected to win an award for my work in biochemistry, even though my discoveries have really been effective.”

The audience knew what she’d done to receive the Nobel in chemistry.  And the old people didn’t like it, either.

“Since Global Castration efforts have gone into effect, my nanobots have systematically hidden from any attempt to destroy them.  They have killed any sex cell, foetus, or human with genes they find inadequate.  Because of this, all of humanity is stronger, and we can now face the effects of global warming without having to sustain the dregs of society.”

On her way back to the seating in the room, the Peace Prize winner came up the stairs.  “Bitch,” she said, then clocked the chemist and took the prize away.

Deus Volt – Part 6 (Final Installment)

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Father Richard bent down to one knee and released Binnea’s minimally cleaned claw.  “The real ‘Father Richard’ is a disembodied brain in our ship, up there.”  He pointed to the sky where millions of stars twinkled.  One of them was Sol, star of Earth, I supposed.  “When the ship arrived, it cloned up several bodies, all the memories of which were connected back to the original brain.  If one considers the continuity of memory to be indicative of life, then Father Richard can’t die until the ship is destroyed.  All the Father Richards on this planet are one – it’s as if you cut off one of my arms, Binnea, but it’s not like murder.  Not like you feared.”

I formed fists.  “Is this the way your god is, then?”

The priest nodded.  “Our God lives in each of us, as He does in each of your people who believe.  Destroying this image, as you have, can’t kill the god.  I do as He wills simply because He wills what is right.”  He put a hand to the side of my face, rubbed some of the fur gently.  “Are you worried?  Worried that your people’s ways will disappear?”

Unable to do anything, I chirped a cry and nodded yes.

“What would you want us to do instead?”

“Go away.  Let us be happy.”

The priest smiled.  “If we leave, the electrical plants leave.  You won’t have the night heaters.”

“Then just give us the night heaters-”

“That’s what school is for.  So you can make your own night heaters, so you can learn to plant your own crops, make your own writings.  Would you rather us leave you for thousands of years of frozen nomadic life?”

I shrugged.

“Then come in.  I’ve got a nice stove, and I can make you some warm milk while you wash up.”  The priest stood and waved for us to follow.

***

The child in front of me lifted a brow, skeptical.  “And that’s how come you and Binnea got to be Wise Ones?  Because you followed the star to the God?”

I shook my head.  “Oh, no.  We were wise before, understand, because we figured the humans’ puzzle out.  We used our clues.”  I handed the kids some candy.  “And that is why we do a scavenger hunt for Christmas on this planet.  So be smart, right?  Use the clues I gave you, and find as much candy as you can!”

I watched as my own children scattered to the wind, chasing after the bright star and checking their instructions for clues.

Merry Christmas to all, and may your own traditions be wondrous!

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Deus Volt – Part 5

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“We’ve got to run!” I said.  I sheathed my own bone claws and shook Binnea by the scruff, but my friend remained stunned.

More lights turned on in the nearby facility.  Shadows fell on the windows as the humans inside hustled.

I shook Binnea again.  “They’re coming – we’ve got to leave!”

Binnea pulled its claws close to its chest.  “I think that was Father Richard.”

“No – no way.  He’s still back home, a day away.”

The humans burst out of the door.  It was possible for us to run – our skating was faster than their running – but they would have mechanical beasts that could soon find us.  We’d have to sleep when it got much colder, whether the humans did or not.

The humans moved their torches to shine on us.  I looked at Binnea’s claws, covered in the glistening red goo from the dead human.

“Children!” a voice asked, “What have you done?!”

Binnea shook its head.  “I didn’t mean to!  The human just snuck up on me!  Please, don’t shoot!”

One of the humans put down its torch and took out a cloth.  It reached out to frightened Binnea’s hands and wiped some of the red goo off.  “What you did was very, very bad.”

I raised my hackles and curled my lips.  “Does it matter?” I growled.  “We just killed your god.  Now you can’t have Christmas, and you’ll have to go home!”

The human holding the torch sighed, a strange noise of whistling air.   “Then you’ll be disappointed to know humans already tried that, and God came back more powerful, forgiving, and awesome than ever.”

I shook my head and took a fearful step back from the human priest.  “Then… then this priest isn’t dead?  He’ll come back too?”

“That body is dead, yes, which is very bad.  But Father Richard?” the priest moved its light to shine on its own face, then on the face of the priest next to him, and the one after that.  All the human faces looked the same, all of them appearing like Father Richard more than a Mother Abigail or Sister Greta.  “Father Richard can’t be killed so easily.”

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Deus Volt – Part 4

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The lights were generated by the human mechanisms, but many were odd: small, blinking, multi-colored lights lined doorways and were wrapped around statues of something I’d never seen before.

Binnea tapped my shoulder lightly.  “Look.”

A set of human statues, white like ice carved with extreme skill, were illuminated by flood lights on the ground.  The human statues were guarded from the elements by a roof, upon which stood a human with large protusions coming from its back.  Above that statue was a bright… star.

I yanked Binnea’s scruff until it fell behind a bush with me.  “That’s it,” I said.   “That’s got to be what your book was talking about!  The baby god is here!  What do we do now?”

Binnea shook its head and opened the book.  “The next part was about bringing the baby god gifts.  I didn’t understand that part.  But I think the baby was put in the food trough.”

“They fed their god to animals?!”

“No – at least, I don’t think they did, because he goes on to do other stuff when he grows up.”  Binnea poked its head out of the bushes and surveyed the statue scenery.  “I think we have to destroy the sculpture in the food trough.”

I gulped  This seemed so risky.  But what other choice did we have?  Bow to our human overlords?  No.  “Alright.  We’ll sneak as close as we can, then claw out its eyes.  Destroy it however we can.”

Binnea nodded and flexed its claws.  “Alright.  Let’s go.”

We slunk across the ice, hiding from the blinking lights by sinking into the shadows.  Nothing seemed to notice us, so we stood upon the final approach to the little shack.  I noticed now that some of the statues were of creatures – at least, I guess they were creatures, judging by the presence of eyes – I’d never seen before.  I held my breath, not knowing their powers.

Binnea steeled itself and unsheathed the bones in its fingers.  “Here we go!”

I unsheathed my bones and shredded at the ice sculpture with Binnea.  The tiny human sculpture in the food trough was soon blinded then degraded down to ice shavings.

A tall creature took a quiet step, casting a shadow on us.  “You rapscallions,” a human voice said, “You’re very far-”

Binnea squealed at the announcement and whirled around, bones still out.  Its fingers landed in the human’s chest, which spurted a strange, red liquid all over us.

The human fell limp and slid off Binnea’s bony fingers.

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Deus Volt – Part 3

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“Binnea!” I shouted.  The morning was cold and dark, but I didn’t think it wise to be shouting for a potential traitor when the humans were awake and could hear us.

A rustling in the nearby bushes caught my attention, and I saw Binnea’s head pop up.  “Over here!”

I crouched behind the bushes, noticing both our breaths forming mist in the winter air. Binnea’s eyes blinked a couple times as they glittered in the light of Renaux, our largest moon.

“I think I figured it out.”  Binnea patted the human book.  “The baby appears almost right in the middle, so it was hard to find, but I got to the passage with instructions.  Apparently, we’re supposed to follow the brightest star in the sky.  That will lead us to an inn with a food trough for farm animals.”

I squinted suspiciously.  “That sounds vague and easy to mess up.”

“It’s foolproof.  Two separate groups found the baby god – one a bunch of farmer hillbillies and another a bunch of scientists.  It’s going to work.”   Binnea turned its feet to their sides and pushed forward over the ice. “You coming or what?”

I didn’t argue further.  We only had two days to stop this baby god, after all, before it hatched or was born.

We skated over miles and miles of terrain, following the star both of us agreed was the brightest.  Daylight took away our guide, but we still had an idea of direction and could use the sun to keep our path straight.  We ate some of the food we’d packed, supplemented with the red winter berries on bushes that erupted from the ice beneath.  The afternoon sun turned the landscape orange, and the light glinted off the ice with perfect twinkles.

We grew tired by the time night fell, but we kept going, hoping to find the inn described by the instructions.  I was the one who pointed through the fog to a bright light in the distance.  “Is that one of those human lights?”

Binnea squinted.  “Has to be.  It’s too bright to be a candle.”  It pushed forward on its blade-bone feet, skating closer.  “Let’s go check it out.”

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Deus Volt – Part 2

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Binnea beat me to Old Yaroux’s field, but I had started second so it didn’t matter too much.  We breathed heavily, bent over while we wheezed after such a hard run.  Once my breath was back and my chest wasn’t burning from the deep breaths of cold air, I asked, “Are you really that afraid the humans are going to be bad?  They haven’t done much, and it’s been six years for us – 15 for them.”

Binnea lay down in the snow.  “My Dad says that something’s got to be wrong with the situation.  They’re giving us all this technology for free; what’s in it for them?  Too good to be true.”

“I think their god told them to do it.”

“Maybe Father Richard, yeah, but not the humans as a whole.” Binnea sat up and rubbed thin fingers over its face.  “I dunno.  Just my Mom, Dad, and Ternary seem scared of what’s going to happen.”

I sat down in the snow next to Binnea.  “What do they think they can do about any of it, though?”

Binnea looked around, then leaned in close.  “You’ve heard a little of this Christmas stuff before, right?”

I nodded.

“This is the first Christmas on Venerux, and Christmas is when their God is born.  My parents say that if we can stop their Jesus from being born, we’ll be able to send the humans back home.  They won’t stay on a planet their god isn’t on.”

“Wow.  That’s pretty smart!  How do we do it?  I mean, time’s running pretty short.”

Binnea’s whiskers pulled taught with happiness as it removed a book – a human invention, obviously stolen – from within its cloaks.  “I’ve got an instruction manual.  It’ll tell us how to find the baby god.”

I swallowed.  “So that’s what you’re doing since school’s out, isn’t it?”

Binnea nodded.  “You bet!”

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Deus Volt – Part 1

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Venerex takes about two and a half Earth years to orbit its star, Alloix.

At least, that’s what the missionaries told us.

The humans landed six Venerex years ago.  Out of their starships came people armed with weapons the likes of which we’d never seen.  The humans called the weapons ‘technologically advanced, not divine or magical.’  Starting last fall, they offered to teach the children of our planet their ways, and hastily opened a school at which attendance was not optional.

One winter day, the human teacher closed its blackboard and stacked its electronic papers.  It smiled and said, “Tomorrow, there will be no school.  The Holy See has decided that, on this planet, Christmas shall coincide with the seasons and times of your orbit rather than Earth’s.  As such, seeing as tomorrow is the third day following your winter solstice, you will stay home and teach your parents about the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and two days from now you will the anniversary of His birth.”

The smartest kid in the class, Polioux, stood.  “How are we supposed to do that appropriately, Father?”

The old human in its brown cloak used its face muscles to pull the brown mouth into an awkward shape.  I gathered this was a happy appearance, but it looked so unnatural. “Well, on Earth, we exchange gifts, but the Holy See’s decision may be at too short notice to do that justice.  Many families cut down a tree to bring inside and decorate, but your native plant life simply won’t do.  Your bodies are not made for feasting, so that is right out.  For this year, while the higher ups decide on something suitable, it’s enough to enjoy your families and determine your own, small celebrations.”

The school bell rang, and everyone immediately filed out of the building.  I was one of the dumb kids, you could say, so I was one of the first to fling the doors open and romp about in the snow outside.

“Two days off!  For nothing!” Binnea cried out before clapping me on the back with a bony hand.  “What you going to do?”

I bobbed my head side to side.  “I dunno.  Probably see if the church requires the adults to do anything.  I don’t want Mom, Dad, or Ternary to get tossed in prison, you know.”

Binnea chuckled.  “Not me.  I’m going to make the most of this.  Those humans are going to force our lives to match the shape they want, one way or another, so I’m getting as much out of my time now as I can.”  The child skipped along the icy road.  “Race you to Old Yaroux’s field?”

“I’ll win for sure!” I called back.  I turned my feet to their side and, using my sharp nails, glided on my bladed bones across the thick ice.

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Europa

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“You aren’t old enough to appreciate this.  If you’d been here when we first colonized Europa, you’d understand just how precious this liquid is.  This light.”

The kid leaned over the dinghy and swiped his hand through the water.  The wave fell back slowly, pulled back toward the iron-nickel core of Jupiter’s moon by gravity a tenth of that which Earth boasts.  “It’s dark under the water.  Was that the way the whole moon used to be?”

The child’s father paddled again, urging the craft onward.  “The moon used to be solid, covered in ice.  There were no waves.”

“But then no one could paddle.”

“So you understand, son, why losing Earth was so terrible?”

The kid lifted a brow.  “That old story again?  Why do you care so much about that place?”

The dad wiped a tear from his eyes, but the surface tension held it precariously on his finger in the low gravity.  “Like I said, you don’t understand because you’re so young…”

(165 words)

***

Thanks to Yarnspinnerr for the picture!  The short story was written for the FFfAW challenge #193.  I was inspired because of the set of books I’m reading in December… visit me next Tuesday to find out what they are!