Thursday, July 25, 2013

Prompt: Switch up the genre, part 1

This is a re-write of yesterday’s story as a science fiction tale…

I had the biggest crush on Eric Stanton all through Corps training. We came in the same recruiting session and competed neck and neck through the whole twelve weeks. I never thought he gave me a second thought until the final week, when my flyer got hit by an unregistered meteor and I spent eight hours hanging in space waiting for emergency retrieval.

“Peyton! Grace Peyton? You having fun out here, or you want a ride home?”

His voice pierced my fading consciousness and I thrashed around in my suit, trying to get oriented. There was no up, and I felt like I was falling.

“Peyton! You okay? Hang on, I’ve got you! I’ve got you, Grace!” I felt the rescue line loop around me, and I grabbed on for dear life. That was my last conscious act until I woke up in the infirmary four days later. I’d missed graduation, and the rest of my unit had already shipped out. I figured I’d never see him again. I didn’t even get to say thanks for saving my life. He didn’t leave so much as a note or Corps contact. He called me Grace.

I won a pretty cushy deployment at MAPS, the Mars Agricultural Pods Station. Didn’t even have to wear suits inside the pods, although I spent most of my time on the outside. I had a few partners now and then, but no one ever felt right. I got a reputation for being hard to please at both work and rec, which seemed to please my COs, because I was on the fast-track to be the youngest CO on Mars.

We thought the first fire was an accident. It started at night and took out two pods before we got it contained. No one had any more injuries than some smoke inhalation that the infirmary cleared in a couple of sols.

The next fire started midsol on one of the remote pods. The whole pod was a loss, but it didn’t spread any farther this time. The onsite team got out and opened it up to freeze the fire in Mars’ atmo.

 We were running non-stop systems checks to safety failures and coming up empty. Rumours were already flying about sabotage, but the official word was not possible. Security was on high alert, with all personnel restricted to work stations and quarters, and hourly check-ins. I was managing about 3-4 hours of sleep a sol, running on sheer adrenaline. We were all waiting. We didn’t want to say it was for the next fire.

I was riding a light skiff, patrolling outside the remote pods in the Ibragimov crater when I saw the crawler. It reminded me of an old military tank, rolling across the dusty landscape, tucked in close to the crater walls. I paid attention to the prickle of unease that ran down my back and ducked down, hopefully out of sight.

“Peyton here. Do we have anything out in Ibragimov tosol?”

My comm line crackled, and Jekaterina Berezin’s gravelly voice replied, “Negative, Peyton. You’re the only one out in Ibragimov tosol.”

“Berezin, I have visual on an active crawler. Someone is out here. Please confirm.”

“Stand by, Peyton.” Berezin was diligent. She’d push for answers.

“I’ve got nowhere to go,” I muttered, offcomm. I watched the crawler making good time around the crater’s edge. Suddenly it made a hard left and drove straight into wall. And disappeared.

I jumped up and started forward on my skiff, then thought better of it and hunkered back down. I couldn’t see any sign of an entrance, but clearly there was some sort of tunnel or gap. I had the growing feeling that whatever I had stumbled on was not Corps-sanctioned activity.

Suddenly, a single skiff emerged, headed straight for me. I fought my momentary panic and stood straight. I was Corps, for crying out loud. I was also alone and unarmed. I could see the rifle slung behind the skiff rider’s back.

The skiff neared, and I lifted my faceplate and held my hands out in a peace gesture. The rider put one foot down and leaned on the handlebars. His faceplate lifted, and I saw a face that had haunted my dreams for years.

“Grace Payton. Didn’t think I’d be seeing you again. Need another rescue?”

Eric Stanton gave me a lopsided grin and held out his hand. I walked forward and took it.

“Sorry, Peyton,” he said, and I felt the neuro blast from his hand crash through my suit. He caught me as I fell. I kept my eyes on his as long as I could hold them open. Accusing.

“I’ve got you, Grace,” was the last thing I heard.
Tune in tomorrow for a fantasy tale...

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle, Bacon
Beethoven, String Quartet No. 2 in G, Op. 18 No. 2
Time writing:
45 minutes
July word count:

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