Inktober 17: The Old Planet

Is dying the right word for a world that had already experienced four heat deaths and ice ages? Perhaps “undying” is a better phrase, especially because that cycle of renewal is happening again and the building blocks of life are returning to Pandora. Sure, this time around the building blocks are being brought and assembled by terraforming aliens, but even if the world couldn’t quite get the process of life going on its own anymore, it was clear that it would create at least three self-sustaining colonies between 100-400 thousand each. It wasn’t much, but for refugees from a collapsed world, it was enough to have a newer place to have and call home. The planet, to its credit, was pleased by this turn of events, for it had consigned itself to finally die, old and alone, the last celestial body in its solar system. Now it had a purpose again, and though its new inhabitants wouldn’t know it, the world pushed itself back into vibrancy. Never say an old broad can’t keep doing what she’s always done.

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Inktober 16: The Teenage Racers

Cheryl twisted a knob with her left hand while pulling a lever with her right. Her middle hand kept the steering mechanism steady. It was technically an illegal modification, an unfair advantage, but hey, Alzaax literally had ten appendages with opposable digits; just because she came by her third less naturally didn’t mean it was REALLY cheating. If you can’t grow your own appendages, store bought is fine.

The speeding craft shuddered and then jumped forward, suddenly an order of magnitude faster. Cheryl’s com burst with static and then her manager’s voice “…uck are you DOING!? You can’t break FTL on that thing you’ll CRASH” but she ignored him. She’d driven this course 20 times before, she knew this next stretch in her bone marrow, and the cosmic mod she’d gotten to her bone marrow a month earlier meant that she could actually experience FTL now. She punched it, and watched as the entire world slowed to a standstill, with her craft buzzing along at a pleasant, but totally safe, speed down the track. She deftly avoided the racers in front of her, until she was nearly in the lead, positioned herself just right and…

…she dropped out of FTL but the resultant boost pushed her into the first position, Alzaax making a close second. She’d won the race. For the first time, she’d managed to beat the track and a human won. Too bad she had to lose much of her humanity to do it.

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Inktober 15: The Lost Boy and Dog

Ori cried in the busy street, back hunched against one of the outer walls of the station. His dog Fluffy lay next to him, body touching him with eyes on the bustling crowd. Ori sat with his knees pulled up, head buried in his arms. He’d done his best to provide for himself and Fluffy, but with the moratorium on child-labor in the station and a lack of identified parental units, the teenager had little recourse but to beg. He’d just been accosted by a woman who traded in junk a few kilometers down the road, who yelled at him to leave because he was scaring away customers. The boy ran to his current spot.

Fluffy sat guard on Ori and made sure not a damned soul would come near the boy with ill intent. The dog was some sort of mutt, a mix that the cloning-banks freely gave out, but his loyalty and training belied the notion that he was inferior.

An androgyne approached the two, tossing a card in the kid’s direction at a dangerous glare from the dog. 99 Credits, it said. That would be enough to keep the boy and dog in food and kibble for a fortnight at least. Ori never looked up or noticed. The person who left the donation turned and walked away quickly, leaving Ori to whatever misery bound his thoughts, and Fluffy to his guard duty.

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Inktober 14: The Mercenary

“If you go with an X480, you’ll never regret the power you’ve added to the arsenal.”

“Naw, but what you’ll regret is the extra 100 kilos you’ll be hauling around. An X480 Frank, really?”

“Look,”

“No, you…”

Keesa turned the podcast down with a roll of her eyes. She chewed on a piece of rubber with some sort of artificial flavoring and blew a big bubble before sucking it back in. Her target would leave the nest any minute now and she was well-placed to snipe it with her Y200. An X480, geeze. What overkill. Who needed that when a Y200 would do you just fine and looked like sex on a stick?

Movement occurred in the small spacecraft and she increased her depth of field by widening her eyelids. Keesa was hidden in a storage box in the airlock of a large shipping hub, and well-placed to hit her very-important-in-ways-that-she-was-completely-unaware-of target. Down ladder of the spacecraft came first one guard, then the pilot, another guard, a robot or cyborg or something, then the mark. A portly man who wore a sash. A sash, for goodness’s sake.

Keesa hugged the trigger of her rifle, waiting for the perfect moment. The targeting mechanism in her optical implant was locked dead on and she was simply watching the probabilities of success-in-one-shot rise and fall. When it hit 97% she squeezed and silent, invisible death hurtled through the air, hitting the man square in the jaw and bursting his entire head open. The mercenary tapped the small communicator on her chest twice, the signal to extract her and that the job was done. The alarms in the shipping hub tripped and corporate security, the people who hired her, flowed in. The man’s entourage was arrested for his murder, and she made off with a cool 2 million in currency.

Sometimes, she just had a good day.

“X480, my ass.”

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Inktober 13: The Space Wolf

In the darkest sectors of the galaxy where little life dwells because the stars that will support it are still being born lies a being whose intense hunger knows no bounds nor no form. It eats and consumes nothingness so that something can be born and where it passes stars, planets, life springs from its pawprints to populate the nothingness-that-was with creation. Woe unto those who hunt the wolf’s trail for madness surely lies in their path; who could bear to see the edge of the universe, let alone watch it grow firsthand?

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Inktober 12: The Clones

“Come ‘ere boy!”

I clapped my hands together as I faced my dog, a miniature poodle who was practically vibrating with energy. Opposite me, my girlfriend did the same. “Come on girl! You can do it! COME TO ME!”

We had bred out and deleted the need for biological reproduction in dogs generations earlier. All of them were now cloned from an original sample, created only when a family intended to adopt. Incapable of breeding, overpopulation was not an issue even on large spacecraft, and the dogs lived surprisingly long lives with an extended puppy-hood.

The golden-haired dog barked once at both of us and then bounded to my girlfriend happily, jumping up into her arms.

“Hey babe looks like you win. What was the name?”

“Candy. We’ll call her Candy!” I stooped in to kiss my girlfriend and she stretched up to kiss me back. Candy licked our chins.

“Alright girl, time to meet your momma!” I said, putting my arms out for the dog. My girlfriend handed Candy over and she frenetically waggled in the air, trying to wag her whole body and lick every inch of me she could reach. I hugged the dog and she calmed down, licking my collarbone. “Good girl. Good girl!”

“This was the best idea, Sweetie.” My girlfriend’s eyes nearly sparkled as she looked to me.

“I agree, babe,” I said, letting Candy down. “Come on, let’s head to our quarters. I wonder whose side of the bed Candy will take.”

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Inktober 11: The God-Man

A vision flashed before my eyes as I awoke.

Two humanoids of indeterminate species stood together with their miniature offspring held between them. The child was dead, and they were holding the body to the sky while screaming into the void of space. A shifting, formless gas escaped the body and floated toward me at a rapid pace.

The vision rushed back to me and I saw my surroundings. A different planet, a different time-stream, and dimensional reality. Still, I’d managed to do my job somehow, even on the cusp of wakefulness.

Being a god of the dead was not an easy job. The previous day I’d spent much time around my fellow gods, discussing our predicament, our duties, our plans for organizing and for the future.

A person becomes a god of the dead on accident. It is necessary, of course, to be dead. Many of us were long dead before the job overcame them, and it shows in the decayed or mummified appearance of their bodies. I was not quite so lucky to have had that tiny piece of infinite rest before being called for duty.

No one, not even us, knew exactly how we were called to the position. There seemed little rhyme nor reason to it; many gods were murderers in their previous lives but still more were healers and kind-hearted altruists. When a god ended their tenure seemed equally random. The oldest claimed to have lived for eight millennia in his original time-stream. I had a friend who’d become a god of the dead just a year before his eventual second death.

The only true similarity was how each of us did our job. Whether intentionally or no, we witnessed the deaths in our respective time-streams and corners of that universe. The number of gods of the dead in each universe was variable and changing, as was the size of the universe we took care of. Mine had so many, I watched over twenty inhabited planets. A friend of mine had a jurisdiction with over three hundred. She got very little sleep. The deaths would come to us in the flash of a vision at the moment life left the body of the deceased. We would see the soul, essence, energy, chi flow out of the body through its fingertips, and it would rush toward us as the vision receded. Where that entity went? Who knew.

I cracked my knuckles and got up, ready for the day. We were supposed to create a charter. Instead, we met our maker.

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2530

Sipping sustenance
on an empty belly
a hole in my gut
and it escapes.
Too much to hold in
not enough to sate
I guess in the end
hunger waits.
I’m sad
but I’m happy
and overwhelmed
by everything I make

It’s scary to think that I
might be better suited to be than whine

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Inktober 10: The Alien Cat

“Ok Thistle, today’s a special day,” Tanya spoke to her room at large as he she bustled about, knowing her cat would hear (even if it didn’t understand). “Today I go out to visit where Mommy lives. I need to find some flowers to give to her ground first tho. Will you help me, Thistle?” The little girl clasped a cloak around her shoulders and picked up a wicker basket. She looked at the cat, lazing about it the corner. She took its nonchalance as a sign that it’d follower her through the process and to her mother’s grave.

Tanya had been alone for nearly a year now; her mother had died two years earlier and the older boy who lived with them left almost a year to the day (well, as it can be reckoned by the planet she was on, which had years just over 400 days) after her mother died. She hadn’t seen nor heard from him or any other human being since. Still, the land was fertile with many edible plants and fish-like creatures who slithered on land, and she had a good spring in her room, a large cave well-suited to her purposes. Tanya skipped through the forest, stopping occasionally to pick berries, nuts, and fruits to eat and store for future meals.

There were few flowers on this world; no insects meant that plants pollinated differently. Still, she knew of a small copse of what she considered flowers not far from her mother’s gravesite. In reality, they were fruits in shapes that her mother once said resembled peonies, but they were all the girl knew. She picked a few as her companion stalked through the bushes and between the large plants. The little girl looked over her shoulder and rolled her eyes at her cat. “What are you stalking, little Thistle? There ain’t no fishwalkers nearby.”

She was proven wrong as Thistle left, reflection from the sun glinting off of it mid-air. The cat landed on a “fishwalker,” suffocating the animal. After it died, the cat dissipated around it, reforming together and slithering back to Tanya’s side. As far as she knew, Thistle didn’t need to eat. After all, it resembled a large, sentient puddle of mercury. She knew Thistle wasn’t water; the fishwalkers were amphibious and couldn’t breathe its body. Whatever Thistle was, it was Tanya’s cat.

Tanya didn’t really know what a cat was, of course. This world didn’t have any. But her mother had discussed an old cat she had growing up, and when Tanya discovered Thistle a month or so after her mother’s death near the grave site, she’d brought the creature back to her room. The boy didn’t like it. Sometimes she thought maybe Thistle was why he left.

The cat vibrated visibly, a low tone reverberating off of it. Tanya assumed this was how Thistle purred. She thanked it and retrieved the fishwalker it had hunted for her. Finishing her business of picking the flowers, Tanya turned toward the gravesite, finishing her small trek. She laid the flowers on the stone they’d marked her mother’s grave with and lay down in the dirt beside it. Thistle stalked around the perimeter while Tanya did her monthly ritual.

Maybe someday she’d meet someone else. But until then, the three of them had each other.

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Inktober 9: The Sisters

Reverend Sister Monica finished her sermon for the day to the humming chorus of amens. Today was a special day, and every nun in the Order of Sacred Secrets knew what that meant: their piety was about to be tested. The assembly began to break up as nuns stood and mingled before returning to their duties. Monica went through a side door on the pulpit and sat at her desk, waiting for the sisters she had assigned to the test this time around.

The Order cruised around the galaxy in a large, village-class ship. There was room enough for over a thousand nuns, though they kept their numbers below 300 and used the extra rooms for other purposes. None save the nuns were allowed on board. At this moment they approached a broker for the Galactic Alliance though they did so in stealth.

Sister Dahlia and Daughter Cynthia knocked, then entered the office, inclining their heads to the Reverend Sister. Dahlia was strong, both physically and in the faith, and in her thirties. A good mentor and teacher, which was why she was assigned to five Daughters, including Cynthia. Cynthia, on the other hand, was barely a woman; what she lacked in physical maturity, however, she made up for in a dark and serious demeanor. The older nun spoke up.

“Reverend Sister, we have come as bid. Is it right to assume that we will be the infiltration team for this special day?”

Monica’s mouth tightened in what could have been a smile or a grimace. The wizened woman’s brown skin belied her age, but her manner was enough to command the respect of her crew. “Yes.”

The younger nuns sat in the chairs in front of Monica’s desk, uninvited. It was both a sacred and difficult duty they were being charged with. The Order needed to ensure its longevity, and in order to do so, it generally needed one of two things: members, or cash. As they’d recently inducted about 20 new girls to learn their ways and introduced 10 of the previous group as Daughters, there was no way this mission was about recruitment.

Cynthia cleared her throat then ran a hand through her red hair. “Beggin’ your pardon Sister and Reverend Sister, but my trainin’ ain’t complete. I dunno our techniques to…”

“…to the satisfaction of your schoolmarm, I know,” Monica interrupted. “However, Sister Dahlia here has talked to me of your prowess in the arts of subtlety and subterfuge. I do believe, my dear Daughter, that you have greater potential than you let on or know.” It was the most the Reverend Mother had ever talked to Cynthia or anyone who held the rank of Daughter or Initiate. She turned to Dahlia, whose dark skin burned with a blush at the attention.

“Now, Dahlia, Cynthia. Our target is a broker for the GA. This means a certain standard and set of expectations for security…” over the course of the next hour the old crone lectured the nuns on what they could expect. Their mission was simple: infiltrate the broker, steal box 246A, and return to the nuns without detection or incident. In their 600 year history, the nunnery had never been caught, but that was because they had certain tricks up their sleeves.

“Are there any questions? No? Good. Now, let me see you both shift.” Monica said. Dahlia and Cynthia rose and both clasped their hands in front of them, offering up prayers to the divine. As they did so, Dahlia began to disappear from existence, at first seeming insubstantial and whispy before disappearing altogether. Cynthia did not disappear but rather changed. Her shock of red hair turned auburn and her skin darkened slightly, freckles disappearing. The robes she wore seemed to shift, becoming the average spacing gear that most women pilots would wear. She altered the shape of her face to match that of a photograph Monica had pushed across the desk.

“Good. Very good.” Monica stood and extended a hand in the general direction where Dahlia had been before. After pumping the air, she turned to Cynthia and shook her hand as well. “The Order needs that box. Good luck on your mission.”

The two nuns were successful, of course. On their return, the ship (which was literally registered as The Nunnery) flew away from the station far enough to go into faster than light travel. Once it entered FTL, the nuns who had been praying over the hull ceased and the ship became visible to scanners and the naked eye again; but they were long gone from the broker and had theoretically never been there at all. In the box was a rare and prized metal, which a fence was already in the process of finding a buyer for.

Sometimes they did worse than petty theft, but mostly the sisters kept to themselves, praying and studying their religious secrets. Maybe someday they would re-enter into civilization proper, but so far their lives as parasites and symbiotes worked just fine.

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