Sometimes I write words that aren't about children dying. Sometimes these words are halfway decent. This is a place to showcase my stories that I'm actually fond of, I guess!
- [+] Spoiler
- "'Top 20 Holding Cells You DEFINITELY Want to Miss!', maybe?" Clara muttered to herself while she crouched in the corner of the brig; typing out a few quick notes on the keyboard projected by her holo-eye. She sighed, "no. Doesn't catch the eye enough, not compared to the guy that got thrown into a Glixokian justice pit and lived to sell the story." Bastard had cornered the jail tourism market.
A glance at her fellow cellmates confirmed that the situation hadn't changed much. Some Unghra drooped, defeated, with their front tendrils weakly wrapped around the bars of the cell. A pair of Hylia in the corner desperately pecked at the wall behind them with their metallic beaks, pausing occasionally to screech at each other. The only other human was loudly questioning the nesting practices, physical prowess, and carapace care of the lone Glixok guard standing outside the cell, who in turn angrily clicked his mandibles. Not very exciting, but effective enough imagery that somebodyd be filling to pay a couple sbux for it.
Clara winked, snapping a quick photo. Under most circumstances the guards would have already disabled her holo-eye. Luckily, they were a bit preoccupied by the unstoppable, all-devouring white hole that had spontaneously appeared in the center of the space station thirty minutes ago, lazily sucking in entire sections at a time into its shining maw. No one knew what was on the other side, and no one was in any particular hurry to find out, either. An evacuation had been ordered immediately, of course, but it seemed that the thousands of prisoners on board had been overlooked, along with the grunts in charge of guarding them.
The worst part of it all, really, was how helpless she felt. Clara had always figured that shed wind up way over her head one day, but not like this: locked in a cramped prison cell out in the fringe of civilized space. She had already gone through every step of the 10 Weird Secrets For Coping With Your Imminent, Painful Demise! article that she had saved to her eye for easy reference, but it hadnt helped much.
The door to the brig slid open with a cheery pneumatic hiss, revealing a new guard with an opaque riot helmet, subtly buckling under the weight of the gun they were carrying. Hey, bud, they said, their voice heavily distorted. Heard ya were havin some trouble with a prisoner. This stasis gunll shut him up for a while. The Glixok chirped, happily accepting the weapon.
As the guard heaved the stasis gun onto his shoulder and took aim at the paling prisoner, Clara realized that she had seen that model before: in the research she had done for Wow! Youll Want to Shoot the People Who Named These 12 Guns! Preferably With Their Own Guns! Look out! She shouted, yanking the man out of the way just before an absurdly large laser beam shot out, narrowly missing them and instantly disintegrating the cell bars that had been in its way. The inventor of that particular stasis gun had operated under the philosophy that the easiest way to keep a thing from changing was to completely erase it from existence.
There was a brief moment of silence as every prisoner turned to stare at the brand new gaping hole. In its surprise, the Glixok had dropped the gun on its foot, and the riot guard was nowhere to be seen. Oi! You trying to kill me? The human bellowed, charging at the pained Glixok and tackling him. The rest of the cells inhabitants followed his lead, loudly cheering as they sprinted, slithered, and slimed their ways to freedom. Clara cautiously trailed behind them.
Clara crept out through the brig door, only to let out an undignified shriek as she was snatched by the riot guard, who had been lurking just out of site. Where do ya think youre goin, prisoner? They drawled, the laziness of their words strangely at odds with their imposing appearance. Clara raised her hands in surrender.
For the record, I thought taking unauthorized pictures of an AxTularian politician was just a little illegal, not arrest you so hard you need to be transferred across the galaxy illegal, so youre probably better off trying to catch the real criminals, especially when the station is literally falling apart? Please?
Unsurprisingly, the guard burst out laughing. Surprisingly, they then proceeded to release their hold on Clara and remove their helmet, casually tossing it to the floor and revealing the carefree face of a familiar woman. Nah, youve got it right, kid. If I hadnta stepped in, youdve just been slapped with a fine. It took a lotta work to get you here, lemme tell ya, so you better praise me."
You seriously got me arrested, Lark?! Clara sputtered, not sure whether she was more offended or impressed. Larks connections were legendary in the industry, but even Clara hadnt expected them to extend so far.
Yeah? You ain't in jail anymore, are ya, so I dont see the problem, Lark said cheerily, slinging an arm around Clara. Cmon, we gotta get you out of the prison system before we start anythin else. Ill explain on the way.
Id appreciate it if youd give me some warning before snatching me halfway across the galaxy. I was researching, Clara said, watching Lark as she bypassed the prison consoles security.
What, researching for cutting-edge journalism like Conspiracy or Coincidence?! 30 Politicians that Look Like Famous Rock Stars? Lark scoffed.
...Movie stars, actually, Clara admitted, blushing slightly. Its not like she didnt have any sense of professional pride, but a paycheck was a paycheck.
Lark shook her head. Whatever. Point is, the games changin, kid. Youre not gonna stand out just by taking nice pictures. Dya really think the bored assholes that click on your article are gonna take any notice of the quality? All theyre lookin for is somethin to distract them for a minute or two. You wanna catch their attention for real, you gotta be loud. As Lark said this, warning klaxons started to sound from the console. She turned back to Clara and grinned, The 5 Most Effective Ways to Fuck Over a Space Station, for instance.
Chaos exploded around them as prisoners flooded out from their cells, pure weight of numbers flattening any resistance the guards could have mustered. As Clara watched, taking a near-constant stream of photos with her holo-eye, a huge chunk of the wall was torn out, sending anyone nearby flying into the white hole. Didnt exactly plan on this, but the white holes a pretty clear-cut #1 entry, Lark laughed, shaking Clara back to reality. Cmon. I locked down two escape pods for our getaway route.
Werent you just going to remove my name from the system? Clara managed, overwhelmed by everything happening around her.
I did! Just happened to wipe everyone elses name while I was at it. Officially speaking, theres never been any prisoners here in the history of the station. Hilarious, innit?
Snap. Two Hylia, pecking out a guards eyes. Snap. Entire wings of the station, wiped cleanly from existence. Snap. The endless majesty of the white hole. Everywhere Clara looked, she saw once-in-a-lifetime photographic opportunities, and photograph she did. By the time the pair managed to make their way to the pod bay Lark had promised, Claras holo-eye was nearly filled to its capacity.
You got one of those two KrukChel that were stranglin each other even as they got flung into space, right?
Nice. Keep it separate, we can probly throw together some pithy words about the futility of revenge an shit, make it legit journalism, Lark grinned. So, Clara, now that youve got a taste of the high life, whaddya say? With my guts and your eye, we could make one helluva team.
I dont know, Clara admitted, violence sells, I get it, but
people are dying, Lark. Doesnt seem right to make money off of it.
Just wait till ya see how much money were talking about, Im sure youll change your- oh. Shit. Lark paused, one step into the bay.
Whats up- fuck, Clara echoed, once she had stepped close enough to Lark to see inside. Only two pods remained in the bay, one on each side. One pointed into the safety of open space. The other, directly into the white hole. Before Clara could react, Lark reached into her sleeve and pulled out a stun baton, slamming it into Claras head with an electric jolt. She collapsed.
...Sorry, kid. Didnt mean for it to turn out this way, but I gotta look after myself first, Lark apologized, stepping over Claras prone figure. I was honestly tryin to give you a leg up, yknow? Deal ya into a game that actually counted, for once. She hesitated for a moment in front of the pod, turning back to look at Clara, Ill list ya as a co-author in the article Im gonna make from this. Use some of the money to build you a nice memorial
she trailed off. Whatever legitimate regret there had been on Larks face slowly vanished, replaced by a self-satisfied smirk. Course, whats a memorial without a lil somethin to remember the deceased by? Not like youll be needin those photos, anymore. The last thing Clara saw before she passed out was Lark casually strolling back towards her, slipping a scalpel out of her pocket.
The dull, thudding pain living in Claras head was quickly joined by a sharp, stabbing pain as emergency sirens started to blare around her. She sat up in a cold sweat as the blast doors descended, sealing her into the pod bay. The white hole had been hard at work while she had been sleeping, having sucked up any part of the station she could have used to try and escape.
More importantly, the now empty socket where her holo-eye had been hurt almost as much as it had when she had first lost her real eye. Clara slumped. Shed kept everything on there. Every photo, every article, every scrap of an idea shed ever had, gone along with half her vision.
What the hell could she do, now? Even if a passing ship miraculously happened to pick her up before the white hole did, what came next? Would she forfeit any amount of time in the sun she could have ever hoped to achieve, penniless; stuck watching Larks rise to the top? As she published Claras photos? Getting direct revenge was out of the question, she was too smart, too tough, too well-connected.
No. Shed have to do this Larks way. She needed something big. Something new and bold, something no one had ever seen before. There was still the one pod left, aimed directly at the white hole. Sure, other people had been sucked in, but none of them had entered it on purpose. They were surprised and exposed, unprepared for whatever lay on the other side. With the pod's protection, though, Clara might have a real chance.
Clara strapped herself in and slammed the launch button, a manic grin on her face. Try topping Secrets of the Universe Exposed! True Stories from a White Hole Survivor!", motherfucker. The thrusters ignited, sending her flying into infinity.
- [+] Spoiler
- The GPS doesnt know where the hell they are. Mollys glad they have something in common. She squints at the open road ahead, looking for a sign. Hopefully literal, but shed take a good enough metaphor at this point. She shoulda hit the rest stop two hours ago, and its been four since she shoulda been sleeping, legally speaking. Molly doesnt like fudging the books, but its almost corporately mandated now, specially with all the drivers decades younger than her who dont mind driving through the night so much. She hasnt resorted to uppers like some of the other old hands have, but the cups of coffee and energy drinks littering her cab can only do so much.
Are you satisfied with your life? The radio crackles at her.
Dont worry. Trusted scientists have told us that no one is.
Youre not alone.
Isnt that wonderful?
Doesnt that make you happier?
Next up, some smooth jazz to help you swallow whatever the world vomits at you next.
Molly sighs. Damned things been turned off for hours, but she knows that public radio personalities arent the type to take no for an answer. Some stubborn broadcasts have followed her across a dozen state lines. Shes learned to tune them out when she needs to.
Her headlights suddenly catch a sign up ahead, the first thing to break the monotonous farmland for miles. PLEASE. ROAD STOP. A cold, black monolith mirrors the world, stretches into the sky. Flickering street lamps protrude from it, lighting a massive parking lot. Her GPS still isnt picking anything up. Must be a new monolith.
Soon as Molly drives into the empty lot, haphazard parking job spreading the truck diagonally through several parking spaces, she closes her eyes, slumps in her chair. Passes out almost instantly.
Peace doesnt last long. A minute later, she starts up as the highway in front of her explodes into a parade of lights and honking horns, a blur of constant motion thats too frantic for her to make out any details. A young man is in her passenger seat, intently watching the procession. Looks like a John, like someone Mollyd see checking out her groceries or serving her shitty diner coffee. The worlds passing you by, you know, he says, staring ahead.
Molly groans, rubbing her eyes. This look like a fuckin taxi service to you, kid? John doesnt reply. For want of an icepick, Molly digs out the next best thing, an old, unopened pack of cigs, and offers it to him.
He turns to look at her for the first time, accepts it, raises an eyebrow. Molly half expects his face to start melting or something, but no, still just a John. Dont want the first smoke? he asks.
Molly shakes her head. Lifes got its hooks in me, but if the addictions this bad, I sure as hell dont wanna find out what the withdrawal feels like.
John laughs, opening the pack and popping a cigarette into his mouth. He chews loudly, then swallows it whole. Mm. Vintage flavoring. He turns back to the road, which hasnt quieted down. Seriously, though. You know the cheap bastards barely wanna pay you, as is. Theyre making self-driving cars now. How long until youre obsolete? He continues snacking on the cigs as he speaks.
Molly snorts, taps the GPS. Damned thing loses its shit soon as you take it down a backroad. You wanna tell me that if you throw a whole bunch of computers on the road, none of themre gonna plough straight through a preschool cause they thought it was a highway ramp? Not sayin' corporate would give a damn, but people'd start complaining.
No one knew what a computer was, fifty years ago. Weve only had smartphones for, what, a decade? Whos to say that theyre not gonna perfect the tech in a coupla years?
If anything, theyll probably just sneak somethin' in the fine print so they can cut our brains out, stick em in a robot, have us drive for the rest of time. All our trucker experience without having to worry about any pesky shit like sleep or 'salaries' gettin in the way of our productivity.
Damn. I thought I was a cynic.
Youve got a lotta years ahead of ya before you can match an old lady in that department, hon.
Guess Ill have something to look forward to. John burps, looking despondently at the now-empty pack. Thanks for the conversation, and the meal. Ill just go and shove this into the trash for you, he says before diving out the window. Molly waits a few minutes for him to come back, just to be polite, but his type never sticks around long.
She doesnt much feel like sleeping, now. The last of the cars on the road speeds past in the blink of an eye as Molly pulls her truck back out, and shes alone again. She wishes it'd stay that way.
You changed your number again, Brad says over the CB radio. Its almost like you dont wanna talk to me, baby. His vomitous laughter hurts Mollys ears more than the static it drags along in its wake. She silently drives on. Aw, you havent been home for years, Mol, I dont think its too much to just wanna hear your voice.
I dunno how you got the time to talk to me, Brad, Molly says, not bothering to pick up the mic. Figures it wont make a difference either way. Im sure theres hordes of the impressionable younger women youd obviously much rather be with.
Brad laughs again, breaks into a coughing fit halfway through. Aw, dont be like that. You know youre the only real woman in my heart. The other girls, theyre just timekillers, sall. Molly hits the gas, ignores the flickers of movement from the sides of her eyes, ignores whatever's banging on the trailer wall.
"Funny story, actually. Oneve them had a real bitch of a friend, didn't like the way I was eyeing her buddy up. Thought I'd follow her home, but oh, was she was good with a knife, he hacks, and wet blood splatters onto her windows. Im still here, though, don't worry your little heart. It's dark and I'm bleeding, but I can still see you, babe. Hear your voice. Looks like were on this road for the long haul, Mol.
The world shouldve passed you by a long time ago, someone says behind him.
What? The fuck do you think you're doing with that- Brad screams, once, before he begins to choke, gurgling. Molly hums along to the jazz on the radio. Afterwards, her GPS finds itself and leads her to the promised rest stop. Molly pulls in, parks, drifts into a dreamless sleep.
The road looks after its own.