(a science fiction adventure story)
by Steve M
Yeah, I wrote this. Blame no one else.
Earth - 2019
Journal - 1
It was a lousy arrival, late at night. They pushed me out in a place called Florida in a lightly populated place further named Interlachan. 29°37'37.5"N 81°53'02.7"W. Thin trees, sandy soil, and lots of small lakes. I looked at a map before leaving the ship.
By the time we reached Earth I was sick of the crew. There is a cruelty to being a jailer and the crew of the ship were strictly Ministry of Justice. They’ve got attitude from the time they leave home till the time they get home. A special case of meanness about them. Cruel too. I was thrown on board the ship into a transfer cell head first by the Transfer Commander and two of his goons.
99.9% of all of their runs are from prison to prison, they move the prison pop around to disorient them and spend the budget. Me? They’re turning me loose. But I’m not really free to go. They’re just put me back in the field. This confused the transfer crew at first. But they decided I was still prison scum until my feet were planted on Earth. Rotten bastards. They use the juice sticks just for fun. I wasn’t doing anything wrong and they fried me anyway and laughed about it. They were smart though, they never got off the ship, too scared I’d want revenge. I would.
I am what they call a poli prisoner.
Political? No. Unless you consider being married to a Palagordian a political act. When did love become political?
We met at a party and knew each other for almost two years before we made it official. That was almost ten years ago. Times were good back then. Peaceful, economic stability. El’s business was doing good. We were happy and considering starting a family. Then it changed.
Things stopped going so well on Yirgo. Everyone was looking to blame someone. The government fell to the opposition. The Palagordians were custom built for blame. They preferred to own their own businesses and were considered superior traders and negotiators. Everyone on Yirgo has a Palagordian trading story centered around frustration and overpaying. We all know derogatory jokes about them. Best of all with respect to blaming them? They are pacifists.
When the new government stripped all Palas of their citizenship, Eldoron and I protested. We went down to the central plaza in front of the Empty Plinth and gathered with a hundred thousand like-minded Palas and Brunes. I’m a Brune. There were many speeches. We left feeling good, like we were unstoppable and recent laws would soon be overturned. Our exuberance didn’t last long.
When they started rounding up all of the Palas, we ran. My husband is not political. But his people are being used as a weapon. Control through hate. And that’s sad because Eldoron is probably the nicest person you’ll ever meet. Always so kind and thoughtful. He escaped, I have to keep reminding myself. He avoided the camps. I’ll tell you about those later. They are horrible.
Poli prisoners get the worst of everything. Worst food, worst cellmates, worst treatment. Reminds me of field training, just more sadistic, if you can imagine hat. Still I had taken the deal. An Earth sentence. Maybe even a chance of seeing El again. It was the best deal I was ever going to get. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t. I studied Earth like a student after I accepted the deal. Still I wasn’t ready. My problems began not long after they dumped me.
A domesticated carnivorous mammal. I’d never seen a canine before. My introduction was very loud and unfriendly. It was on a chain near a metal housing unit next to one of those small lakes. We landed nearby in a clearing with a large concrete slab but nothing else, the vegetation began reclaiming the square plot of land. The animal barked at me and would have attacked if not for the chain. There was no signs of life at the housing unit. I walked around the structure. Beside it on the other side was another new thing for me.
My lenses called it a bicycle and displayed a simple animation of how it works. I examined it for a few moments then understood it was for transportation. Simple in principle, yet surprisingly difficult in practice. I fell down six times before I understood how to keep it going without falling. Earth only has sixty two percent of the gravity of Yirgo and this made falling down much easier. It took me almost an Earth hour to succeed. But once I did, I found it enjoyable. Good exercise. Transportation was one of my primary concerns, along with food, shelter, currency, and weapons.
The lock on the door of the metal housing unit did not survive. One hard pull and it came out of the thick foam filled door. I entered the metal housing structure to a smell I knew. I instinctively reached for my blaster but didn’t have one. I wasn’t issued one and the transfer crew wasn’t going to give me one, that’s for sure. It was the smell of death. It’s unmistakable. It carves itself deep in the memory, just waiting for that moment to leap out again bringing the terror with it.
I picked up a long knife in the food room before moving further inside of the structure. There were no lights on. I tried the electron interruption device, up then down but nothing changed. My lenses were showing outlines of furniture in the dark and switched to night mode.
Pullman, Jarvis was dead in the bedroom at the back of the structure. He was slumped over in his bed. There was an unfamiliar blaster near where he once was sitting upright, before a projectile came out of the blaster, removed part of his skull and killed him. Beside his bed was a table crowded with small bottles that contained chemical medicines. Pullman, Jarvis had been a very sick man for a long time. There was a cylinder with oxygen connected to a mask beside the bed. My lenses told me that Pullman, Jarvis died 3 days ago. Now I understood.
The animal outside was starving. I fed it with the intestines of Pullman, Jarvis and gave it water from a flexible polymer pipe. Then I broke the chain and set it free. It ran away for a while then came back. A few minutes later I heard it barking at the door and let it in. It came inside and laid down on a rug in the largest room. It was no longer hostile to me.
I pulled the OpTool from my pocket. Time to get out of this uncomfortable form. I turned it off. My human appearance was instantly replaced.
Yes, I’m green. That’s because of where I’m from. It’s very green on Yirgo. Or it used to be before the industrial revolution. It became part of our camouflage against predators millions of years ago. The predators are now extinct but we kept the color. Why not? But it’s not the color that is uncomfortable. It’s the human shape.
I ate something called a marshmallow that first night. Now imagine having to shove one into a container much smaller. You sort of smash it down into a mold. That’s what it’s like. Normally I’m green and about 1.956 meters (6’5”) and weight about 117.94 kilograms (260 lbs). Imagine having all of that stuffed into a 5’6” female human body that should weigh about 56.6 kilograms (125 lbs). It’s like wearing boots that are much too small, it feels so good to take them off.
I plopped down into a chair that creaked under my weight and savored the moment of release.
Pullman, Dervis would provide the housing I needed for the initial phase.
Journal - 2
Accoring to the Ministry of Justice I am inmate 8752946.2847651. My name is Makeda Keita Defo un Reduff. People call me Duff, I suggest you do likewise. Apologies I should've introduced myself earlier. I've was a little overwhelmed with the arrival. I had less than two days to study your planet. Usually I get a lot more time, especially on a primitive. But that's pretty much how it's done these days, some brainiac thinks it's a good idea to put someone on a primitive planet with insufficient research, training, or material. "They'll do fine" and "it's not like it's a tier 1 research planet" are the sort of phrases spoken between planners to justify their poor choices. They are correct, earth is not a tier 1 research planet. But I was available and expendable so why not? What's the worst that could happen? I answer that question as me getting killed. I suspect the planners would answer differently.
I don't require as much sleep as you. Four to five hours a night does me well. I can also go for a couple of days without sleep and then catch up all at once, although I'll admit I feel bad when I finally wake up. I watched the sunrise over the lake. Damn it's uncomfortable getting stuffed into shape again. I slept big and green and it felt so nice. Can't do that too often, I need to get used to staying in shape. It's the only way to stay safe and I know it. Had to stay in shape for 143 days one time and it was a smaller humanoid than now. I hated it. When I finally turned it off it was almost 2 days before I can move normally again. Muscle atrophy prevented me from walking correctly. It was a day and a half before I could even stand up straight. The massages helped but it was still a horrible time. The lake is 5 m or 16.4 feet deep at its deepest point according to the upper right corner of my lenses.
One of the effects of sleeping less is the need for more body fuel. I woke up hungry but this is a normal state for me. I should've eaten before I went to sleep but two days doesn't provide very much time for researching food sources. My primary concern was weapons capabilities and government security procedures. I left the shore of the lake and returned to the metal housing unit. I entered the food preparation and storage area and began foraging for food.
I was in such a hurry I went right past the section that said that you are still carnivores. I can’t believe I put that in my mouth! When you’re big and green vomiting is much worse. It last longer and is more violent. And the smell association becomes intense with similar smelling items causing sympathy vomiting. Now I've eaten bacon. It stayed inside of me less than three minutes and I can't say I enjoyed the taste. I was careful not to eat the packaging. What a mess. When I finally regained control of my stomach, I adjusted my lenses to prevent more mistakes.
I found the bacon in a box that was very cold on one side and cool on the other. On the cold side I found a bag with the word ‘cauliflower’ in big letters. Oh yes, I was much happier. From the first bite I savored their frozen crunchiness and gentle flavor and that ever so slight smell of farts. They were just the right size too, perfect single snacking or stuffing a handful into my mouth and crunching away at them. I took the bag of cauliflower and entered the room next to it. I opened one of the searches and loaded it to my lenses.
Useless, absolutely useless. One of these days they're going to figure out how to present the right information instead of overwhelming us with everything. All I wanted to know was how to engage and operate something my lenses said was a television and instead I was getting diagrams of how broadcast systems work on your planet. Consolation came from another excellent piece of frozen cauliflower. I walked over to the big screen. There was no big button on the front of it, that would've been too easy and helpful. We must have similar design engineers, too clever for themselves, always outsmarting themselves. However I did find some very small buttons on the right side bottom edge of the screen.
The first button brought a picture to the screen. They were a human man and woman sitting next to each other talking about terrestrial weather conditions overnight. Then a third person from somewhere else joined the conversation. She was standing in front of a metal building that was missing part of the top protective covering, which was laying twisted in the background on top of a engine driven transport device. Then I remembered that I hadn’t seen any weather drones. Usually I get two weeks to study the planet and attend some operational rehearsals. I like the operational rehearsals. They are full of good information, like going through the public transport system on a planet without attracting attention.
I popped another cauliflower and looked at the screen. The report of weather damages ended and another began. The President of the United States visited Orlando the previous night. He gave a speech at the first of it’s kind million dollar a plate fund-raising dinner. An enthusiastic crowd of over over 200 gathered to support the man who has given them each an average 17.1 million dollars in tax cuts. The image changed to that of protesters outside of the event, yelling and holding signs like ‘impeach the president’ and ‘lock him up’.
Amazing image for someone from Yirgo. Protest is mostly forbidden and will result in a quick trip to prison back home. I’ve been to one protest in my lifetime, when they stripped Palagordians of citizenship. It seemed like such a crazy thing to do. We would only need to go to one protest and everyone would come to their senses, like giving someone the answer they had forgotten. I was wrong. This is coming from me and I used to work for the Ministry of Information. The ministry of everything about you. Listening and hoping you’ll get better. That’s them.
The woman on the screen was considered pretty on your planet. I pointed my Optool at her image and adjusted it until I was an identical image of her. I looked at myself in the mirror. This would work very well out in public.
I heard the sound of an engine driven transport outside. It was coming down the sandy track to the metal housing unit.
Panic starts in a instant. What should I do? I moved to the window and looked out cautiously. The transport came down the sandy trail and parked in the open area next to a tall brown fibrous pole which held up electrical wires. Inside the transport I could see a woman. She was singing along with the music playing. I needed a plan. There was only one door and she would see me leave. I moved away from the window. What? Come on? What? I kept screaming in my head. Do something!
I ran back to a bedroom. I pointed the Optool at Pullman, Jarvis. Within seconds I was dialing back his image a little to make it look more lifelike, mostly removing the bullet hole in the head. I ran to the exit, opened it and stepped outside. The woman getting out of the car stopped when she saw me for a moment before pulling herself to her feet with a handle in the transport.
“Well I’ll be damned,” said the large woman almost as dark as Pullman, Jarvis. “I thought I’d find you dead. Look at you. How are you out of bed? You must be one of god’s sweet miracles”.
I didn’t respond.
“And walking too. It’s a full on miracle. It’s been years since you walked. If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it. Praise Jesus.”
Who is Jesus? I wondered.
“Look at you, I bet you could run if you wanted to. Sure as hell outrun me.”
I could outrun her and any other human. Big and green doesn’t not mean slow.
Mandy Bristol wore loose fitting clothing and had a stethoscope in her pocket. She walked over to me. I was unsure of her intention. I prepared for battle. She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed me gently.
“Jarvis Pullman, you are indeed a survivor. Oh my god, you’re burning up baby.”
Oh dear. You can shove me into a human shape but you can’t reduce my body temperature. In fact it goes up when I’m in shape. Of course she would think something was wrong if I were human. My body temperature is approximately ten degrees centigrade higher than humans. It wasn’t a life threatening fever but she didn’t know that.
“Come with me, come with me, we’ve got to cool you off, honey.” She grabbed me by the arm and pulled me towards the metal housing unit. “We’ll get you in a cold tub of water. That’s will bring your temperature right down. If that don’t do it, I’m going to call an ambulance.”
She kept pulling me. I didn’t want to go but was unsure of what to do so I went along. She pulled me up the stairs and into the housing unit.
“What is that smell?” she said and waved her hand under her nose. “My god that is awful.”
I did not answer.
Mandy Bristol stopped pulling my arm. She began to walk towards the back of the unit, towards the back bedroom. I was still not sure what to do.
The woman on the television was talking about the effects of heat on your pets.
“Don’t go in there,” I said softly.
But it was like she was caught in a landing beam, it was pulling her despite everything from common sense to fear telling her not to go.
A few second later she was standing in the doorway to the bedroom looking at the body of Pullman, Jarvis. She turned to look at me again, then quickly turned back to look at Pullman, Jarvis. Then me again. She put her hand out to grab the door frame for support. She was a big woman for a human and looked to be strong and capable. Still at that moment she needed support to remain upright.
I stood motionless and unsure of what to do.
She didn’t give me much time to think. She turned around from the sleep room door and ran towards the exit. I got in her way, she ran into me, and we both fell down. For a large woman she was very quick to get back onto her feet. She grabbed a lamp from a table and threw it at me. I avoided her projectile. Mandy Bristol made it to the door and was on the small front porch when I caught up with her. My tackle sent both of us through the railing of the porch and down to the ground below. I heard her grunt when I landed on top of her. She didn’t move. I weight a lot even if I don’t look like it. When I got to my feet I noticed the blood. Then I saw the pavement stone under her head. I lifted her head slightly to examine the extent of her injuries. That’s when I saw her open eyes and the lack of life.
Complications, I hate them. Two bodies. Wonderful. This is not how this was supposed to happen. Find a safe place, observe and report. Not find a safe place with a dead body, create another one, observe and report. This is almost going as bad as the Frieda arrest. That was a blood bath. I mentioned before that some people will resist apprehension. Frieda was one of those and she had people who helped. I came within 3 millimeters of being dead, that’s how close the projectile came to my head.
Cursing does help, if there is not a time constraint. So I spent the next minute venting my anger and frustration. Incestuous mother. Sexual sister. Biological waste for food. My venting ended when I remembered that Mandy Bristol arrived without any warning. Perhaps other humans would do the same. It would not be good for them to find a large dead woman laying in the yard. I grabbed Mandy Bristol by her large meaty legs and pulled her to the side of the metal housing unit. I put her under a large piece of blue material that was covering furniture and small pieces of fibrous wood.
The temperature was going up to 37 degrees Celcius (99 Fahrenheit) according to my lenses. I needed a body storage solution.
But what I really needed was to reset my Optool.
The Optool does many things, too many for me to remember all of them. But the one thing it did that it wasn’t doing was synching the translation with the my projected image. No, that part was acting up again. It is always a problem between the connection with the translation implants in my ears. The connection gets delayed and my words come out loud and clear then a moment later my lips finally start to move. It completely negates the advantage of a projection. A few minutes standing in front of a mirror and adjusting it…again. Intermittent errors are the worst kind. Not enough clues to fix it. In my case I certainly wasn’t qualified to go into the code. It’s all gibberish to me. Manage it, that’s the best I could do. I hadn’t bothered managing it before. Why should I?
I was stuck in a small prison cell with a cellmate that hated me but was scared of me. So when the synch got out of, I left it that way. Just because it was no burden on me whatsoever. But if it slightly annoyed the guards, well that was reward enough. And my cellmate? He’s was a professional snitch, the people that makes a living sending others to prison. I’m pretty sure that the reason he was my cellmate was because the administration of the prison knew I wouldn’t kill him. My cellmate however reached a different conclusion. To him I represented the system that sent him here, a place where he would be murdered for his past transgressions. A woman knows a man who died in prison because of the work of my cellmate. So the man in the top bunk has this fixed point in time, that moment when he is murdered by another inmate. It is one of the biggest reasons I took the Earth deal. My cellmate may have snitched but when he did, he had to talk to somebody. That somebody was someone like me. I was an interviewer for four years. I had my own fixed point in time if I stayed in prison.
At least on Earth I had a chance, a chance to see El again.
Besides Earth is a Tier 2 planet, not really expected to make the cut for colonization.
I finished eating all of the frozen cauliflower.
I hope you will join me for the weekly episodes of this science fiction adventure.