Category Archives: Short stories

Science fiction on parade!

meeks-books-small

I’ve never published a print book version of any of my books, but this wonderful graphic by Chris Graham is the next best thing. He just ‘whipped it up’ and sent it to me in an email. I have no idea how he put it together, but I love it. Thank you, Chris!

And while I’m at it, I’d like to thank everyone who left reviews on Amazon for Innerscape. You may not know this, but if you add up all the pages in all the episodes of Innerscape, they total about 1014 pages. I say ‘about’ because Amazon only displays page counts for episodes 2-5, so I had to guesstimate the page number for episode 1. Slight inaccuracies aside, that makes the story of Innerscape about 200 pages longer than George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones’ which comes in at 819 pages. So to all those brave souls who have read all the way through to the end…THANK YOU!

Now, I’m a polite girl, and polite girls don’t crow, but here are the reviews for Episode 1, including the 1 star by Austin Myers. 😀

David Prosser
Can Innerscape really live up to it’s reputation, can Miira live on without her bodily ills and find some happiness. Given an introduction is like watching world building at it’s best. You’re there and can see it but don’t have to cope with all the technical side.
Ms Flory has created characters real enough to evoke emotion in the reader. You’ll like, love and possibly hate too but you won’t want to stop reading.
I was given an advance copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Stephanie Briggs
Personal hopes and private fears leap from this writer’s imagination and grab the reader’s attention. Once she piques your interest, the conviction to know more will fuel your desire to read the next Episode. A. C. Flory does for science fiction what sunlight does for soil. She incubates an idea until it flourishes and feeds the deep hunger in us all.

Chris James
Anyone who’s read this author’s first book, Vokhtah, will know that she can deliver when it comes to entertainment. Innerscape part 1 doesn’t disappoint. The story tackles one of the most thought-provoking ideas in science fiction: what if, as your health failed and you approached death, you could effectively download your mind to a virtual reality and live on in the freedom of youth for as long as science could keep your decaying body alive?
We follow the dying Miira as she enters Innerscape and goes through her “orientation” into this virtual paradise. But right from the beginning, Innerscape shows one side to its Residents, while hiding real-world complications behind its pristine veneer of professionalism.
I finished this first part with my curiosity peeked and wanting to know what will happen next. It is a terrific introduction to what promises to be an outstanding series of books.

Candy
I thoroughly enjoyed Episode 1 of Innerscape and just downloaded Episode 2! The alternating perspectives, the vivid characters, and the intriguing vision of the future all work together to create a compelling narrative. Miira and Dr. Wu are sympathetic protagonists and the prospect of futuristic corporate villainy in the next couple of episodes seems likely. A.C. Flory has succeeded in creating a coherent, reasonable, and scary future, where the virtual and real exist side-by-side.

Candace Williams
This is the first episode of a smart, well written sci-fi series with a fascinating premise. I’m looking forward to finding out what’s really going on in both worlds, Kenneth’s real world and Miira’s utopian VR, Innerscape. There’s plenty to think about – a must in sci-fi, imo – within a storyline that captivates. An excellent read!

Dawn
Well. This was a delightful surprise. I’m quite traditional in my thinking- I always say to people I’m more of a crafter than an artist; and I think that shows in my reading. Much as I like to be fully absorbed in a novel, I find that most fantasy is just too fantastic for me to suspend disbelief. Same often goes for science fiction. For example – TV wise – I’m more of a Battlestar Galactica / Caprica girl than Farscape. My favourite authors writing for adults in this genre are Margaret Attwood and Iain Banks.
Having completed Episode One of Innerscape, however I think I might be adding AC Flory to my list.
Really convincing new technology and logic behind it; borderline dystopian; well realised characters; interesting premise throughout. Additionally it’s set in a future just sufficiently distant as to make all these things feel as though they may be about to occur, yet the lead character (a woman – hurrah) is incredibly relevant; especially reading this at the tail end of 2016. Oh – and unusually well written; no typos, no gaps or character name swaps, no odd leaps or discrepancies.
I bought this book, and am looking forward very much to buying all the remaining ones in the series.

EllaDee
A great start, introducing engaging characters who invite you to champion, fall in love with or hate them.

Austin Myers
There may have been a story of some sort but it was taking far too long to get to it.
Note to author: The first few pages / chapter has to grab the reader and pull them into the story. This book failed to do anything of the sort. This was disjointed and boring. I hope your next effort is better.

Penny I Howe
From page one, I could not put the book down. It was simply wonderful. Gripping & excitingly realistic. I’m getting ready to order the next episode (book ) right now. I would highly recommend this book. Excellent and entertaining. Exactly the way I like my Sci-fi!

And thank you to everyone who comes to my blog as well. You’ve made me a ‘very happy, Meeka’.

-hugs-

Meeks

 


Would anyone like to contribute to a chain story?

voting picMany years ago, I was part of a threesome -wink- of friends who set out to see if we could write a progressive story, and no, there was no sex in it. Sorry.

Every night we’d take it in turns to write, and email, an installment of the story to each other, with the only rule being that each installment had to ‘follow on’ somehow from the previous one.

The experiment was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of work and eventually fizzled out. 😦

A few years later I tried a similar thing with just one email buddy. Again, it was fun but we never quite finished the story. Then today, I discovered a chain story thread on Goodreads! If you belong to Goodreads you can find the thread here :

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1985946-chain-story?comment=107112496&page=3#comment_107112496

Anyway…. the Goodreads thread reminded me of the lack of creative fiction in my life at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thoroughly enjoying the physicality of landscaping, and I really don’t have the energy for full on creative writing, but I do miss the whole storytelling side of things…

Gah! Enough beating about the bush – would anyone like to join me in writing a chain story?

At this point, I envisage comments as being the medium, and I’m tossing up the idea of imposing a :

1.  10 word installment minimum, and

2.   A maximum of 100 words.

The rationale for the maximum is that I don’t want the storytelling to become a big, angsty chore. By the same token, however, I do harbour a secret hope that between us we may come up with something worth reading. 😀

So, what do you think? Does the idea need more work? Is it too much work? Is it too much commitment? Or is the whole thing just a huge yawn?

cheers

Meeks


Flash fiction competition – please VOTE!

Photo by K.S.Brooks

Photo by K.S.Brooks

It’s voting time again, and I have to say my spy/romance/tragedy story is up against some very stiff competition, so stiff I ended up voting for someone else’s story.

I still like mine, but…

Ahem. I won’t tell you which story I voted for, that wouldn’t be fair. However if you go HERE you’ll be able to see all the contenders for this week’s crown.

Once you’ve read them you can go HERE to vote for your favourite.

I won’t lie, I would really, really like to win as I’ve never won anything like this before, but I know there’s a better story that deserves to win so I won’t mind coming second to that one. Let’s see if your taste is the same as mine. 😉

Intrigued? Good. Now please vote. Pretty please with a lump of rich, dark chocolate on top!

cheers

Meeks


No Regrets – another flash fiction story

“Look out!” I cried as I upended the table in Valentin’s face.

The heavy cast iron seemed to float through the air, as light as a feather, but I wasn’t paying it any attention. In that timeless moment of extreme stress my mind was busy ticking things off my internal to-do list.

Shield Valentin with the cast iron table. Check.
Reach for gun in purse. Check.
Lunge out of chair. Check.
Shoot assassin…

You can see the photo prompt, and read the rest of my latest attempt at :

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/10/05/flash-fiction-challenge-hell-comes-to-breakfast/

While you’re there, why not write a story of your own? It’s just 250 words and the winner of each weekly challenge is selected by readers’ choice, so we all have a chance to win. 🙂

Happy Sunday,

Meeks


Flash fiction – The Forestal

I don’t often get ideas for flash fiction pieces, but the prompt on Indies Unlimited sparked something in my brain today. I think it was the combination of gruesome and extraordinary that did it. 

You can find the picture, and the prompt here :

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/09/07/flash-fiction-challenge-the-headsmans-block/

The IU flash fiction contests are open to everyone so if the prompt inspires you, give it a whirl. Just remember, it cannot be more than 500 250 words!

For those who are interested, this is what I came up with. Enjoy.

The Forestal

James Bolger thought of himself as a Forestal. He rarely came into the burgeoning timber town at the edge of the great forest, and when he did, it was only to harangue the townspeople about the trees.

The townspeople did not listen. Why would they? To them the forest was just a resource. When the loggers marked a new tree for felling,  they saw only fine timber, nothing more.

After a while, James Bolger stopped going into town entirely, but he made his presence felt in other ways. He set traps around the marked trees. Some would swing an unwary logger high into the air, to dangle by one foot until someone cut him down. Others broke limbs. None were designed to kill.

James Bolger’s traps could not stop the tide of destruction eating away at the forest, but they certainly slowed it down, so much so that the mill owners decided something would have to be done.

When a logger had his neck broken by a hidden trap, the townspeople blamed James Bolger. It took them three months to finally catch him, but when they did their justice was swift. They dragged him to The Block, and the mill owner was given the honour of swinging the axe.

Just before the axe could fall there was an almighty crack. The tree that dropped killed the mill owner and ten of the townspeople, but not James Bolger. He escaped into the forest and was never seen again.


Gruel, and The Vintage Egg

I love being one of the Indies Unlimited minions…ah, I mean team members. 😉 Not only are the other members fantastic people, and extraordinary writers, the gruel is pretty good too. You might want to bring your own sugar and milk though. Oh and a bowl… and a spoon… and maybe a bib…

Ahem, I digress. I’m pleased to announce that The Vintage Egg is now featured on the Indies Unlimited website, and a pic of the cover is on the sidebar too. Happy, happy.

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/08/19/featured-book-the-vintage-egg/

Thanks, and a big hug to Kat Brooks, and the Evil Mastermind from a very happy minion.

cheers

Meeks


And the winner is…. The Vintage Egg!

vintage egg FINAL

Thank you to everyone who responded to my call for help on the new cover!

As you can see, ‘The Vintage Egg’ was your favourite title, but only by 9 votes to 6. I looked at those numbers and realised ‘Postcards from Tomorrow’ would be great as the title of a series, so that’s what I’ve done.

For the moment, a series of short story books is more aspirational than anything else, but I like the idea. 🙂

I’ve also fixed the layers issue I was having, and now the graphic shows the cockpit cover as it was meant to. Phew.

Finally, I took note of the comments about the readability of the small text, and changed the font. I realise this still won’t show up on the normal Amazon book list, but should work on the ‘look inside’… assuming anyone gets that far.

Thanks to all your feedback I believe this cover is now done! And I have to say I’m proud of it. Very proud. I’m also very touched at all the support you guys have given me. David, Ilil, Metan and EllaDee did a superb job as beta readers, [and proofreaders as well!] and all of you helped make the cover an order of magnitude more professional than it would otherwise have been.

Thank you. I love you all.

Meeks


The Pirate Captain’s Daughter – by Yoon Ha Lee

I was looking at sites that publish short stories when I stumbled across this gem written by a Korean-American lady by the name of Yoon Ha Lee. YHL lives in Texas, and has become one of my new, favourite authors! Read on :

***

‘The pirate captain’s daughter had no name, although her mother’s land-born lovers, male and female, sometimes amused themselves thinking of names for her. Such strong hands, such a lithe frame, one might say, and suggest a name from an island known for its wrestlers. Another might admire the way her straight, dark hair was pulled back by pins with dragonflies on them, and name her after summer nights.

Once, a small woman, dark-skinned and improbably delicate, looked at her for an unnerving moment before suggesting that she be named after a certain type of two-handed sword that had not been forged for over three centuries. “You’ll grow tall like your mother,” she had said, “and like a fine sword you’ll wear leather stitched with bright thread.” The pirate’s daughter had liked that best of all.

But pirates upon the Unwritten Sea had traditions as surely as did their prey. No one traveled the Unwritten Sea save by poetry. For the little fisher-boats that never ventured far from shore, a scrap of chant handed down from parent to child might suffice. For the dhows and junks that ventured into the sea’s storms, cobwebbing the paths of trade between continents, more sophisticated poetry was required: epics in hexameter, verses structured around jagged caesuras; elegantly poised three-line poems with the placement of alliterating syllables strictly dictated. A poem would guide a ship only so far ahead and no farther, and one had to use a fitting poem for the weather, the currents, the tides, the color of light on the foam and the smell of the wind.

Lesser pirates might content themselves with smaller commodities: chests packed tight with baroque pearls and circlets of wire, rutilated quartz, and the bones of tiny birds, all cushioned with silk cut from the coats of hanged aristocrats; spices named after extinct animals, but no less potent for all that; oils pressed from the fruit of trees planted during meteor showers and comets’ passing.

Pirates of the highest tier, the ones whose names and exploits were discussed avidly even in inland cities like those of conquering generals and master calligraphers, raided poetry itself. To understand her trade, a pirate must be a poet herself, and could not take a name until she had scribed a poem in the language of her sea-yearning soul.

And so the pirate’s daughter had a problem. She didn’t want to leave the Unwritten Sea. Her mother had birthed her on this very ship, the Improbable Dragon, on a night when dragons blotted out the five moons with their battling, and their blood mottled the sea the color of bronze and copper. The sea’s dark waters had baptized her, staining the birthmark on her left forearm dark within dark, like a dragon-whelp curled within its storm-shell…

Read more…

Meeka’s comment :

Not only is this an innovative, out-of-left-field kind of story, but the very prose in which it is written evokes the poetry at its core.

I’m not drawn to poetry, or literary work  for its own sake, I just love beauty in all its forms, and this short story is beautiful. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Meeks


2083 – The Christmas Roast

The technical ideas for this short story are not new – I worked them out over ten years ago – but the human angle came from my own more recent feelings of guilt at keeping a worm farm. Memories of my Grandmother keeping live chickens in her tiny apartment also had something to do with it but that is a story for another day. Enjoy.

2083 – The Christmas Roast

Christmas was supposed to be a time of happiness and good cheer but fourteen year old Caitlyn Nguyen knew that Christmas, or to be more exact Christmas lunch, was going to be horrible this year. That was why she was still awake at 3am on Christmas morning.

Caitlyn’s two younger brothers, Jeff and little Michael, had gone to sleep hours before and she could hear them snoring softly in the bunks below. They were probably dreaming of the presents they would find under the tree when they got up in the morning. It wasn’t a real tree of course, it was illegal to grow pines anymore because of the bushfires but the fake Christmas tree was still very pretty and Caitlyn had been happy to help decorate it until the moment her mother started talking about the huge roast she was going to bake for Christmas lunch the next day –  real potatoes, real carrots, real pumpkin… and their very first, home-grown SL’ick.

The boys had jumped up and down in excitement, wanting to know if they could help get the SL’ick out of its tank. Neither one of them had given a single thought to the fact that taking the SL’ick out of its tank would kill it. All they had cared about was that there would be meat for Christmas lunch…

Carnivores! Caitlyn thought as she stared up at the ceiling just a couple of feet from her head. All they care about is food!

Before being assigned to their very own apartment in the undercity, Caitlyn had been much like her brothers. They had never gone hungry, her parents worked very hard to make sure that never happened, but still, meat was not something they could afford to eat. There had been special occasions of course, birthdays and anniversaries and such, when they would all go out to have a hamburger as a treat but the meat inside the bun had been mostly soy anyway, with just a bit of SL’eef for flavour, so Caitlyn had never really had to worry about where the meat came from but eating a whole SL’ick was different, especially when it was a SL’ick she knew

Like everyone else, Caitlyn had grown up knowing about Synthetic Life Animals. She knew they made precious compost because they were engineered from earthworms. She knew they had no bones, or eyes or anything and she knew that her family was incredibly fortunate to be assigned an apartment with its own SLA tank but none of that changed the sense of horror she felt. No matter what anyone said she knew the SL’ick in their home tank were not just giant worms!

When the Nguyen family had moved into their apartment everyone had been given one special chore, even four year old Michael. As the eldest, Caitlyn was given the important task of feeding the five tiny SL’ick her mother had bought. Three times a day she would have to scrape the leftovers from their meals into the SLA tank and three times a day she would have to look down into the tank and see the brown, segmented things that moved around inside.

While the SL’ick were small she hardly even noticed them, however once they became bigger a curious thing began to happen; instead of staying below the surface of the compost in the tank, the SL’ick began squirming up to the top, their toothless mouths opening and closing as if in anticipation of the food she was about to give them.

When Caitlyn told her parents about the SL’icks’ odd behaviour they both laughed it off, saying that it must have been a coincidence because SL’ick were too rudimentary for such ‘purposeful behaviour’.

Even the boys had laughed at Caitlyn’s fanciful story so she had not brought the subject up again but the strange behaviour of the creatures in the tank continued. She did notice however that the SL’ick only seemed to respond to her. Whenever anyone else opened the tank they would hide below the compost. It was almost as if they recognized her in some weird way.

And then two weeks ago the biggest one, the one that was going to end up as Christmas lunch, began bumping its mouth-end up against Caitlyn’s hand, almost as if it was saying hello or something. The first time it happened she had fled to the holoscreen, desperately searching for answers but all the wiki clips said the same thing – SLA did not have heads as such because they didn’t really have any brains so there was just an in-end and an out-end. Nonetheless every time the big SL’ick  bumped her hand it was always with the mouth-end, the end that would be its head if it had a brain. Could it be that these SL’ick were different? A mutation maybe?

Fearing the ridicule of her friends and family, Caitlyn told no-one of her latest suspicions but in the privacy of her own mind she began thinking of the big SL’ick as Buffa. It was a silly name from a little kids holo but somehow the name seemed to fit because just like the fat cat in the story, Buffa really was very smart. Before each feed it would bump up against her hand as if telling her to hurry up but afterward it would slide gently beneath her fingers, back and forth, for all the world as if it was saying thank you.

Buffa is smart, Caitlyn thought as her throat tightened up and the first tear slid down her cheek . More tears followed, leaving cold, wet trails down her face before pooling in her ears. Rolling onto her stomach she buried her face in the pillow but the tears kept coming. Soon the sound would wake the boys and then they would wake her parents and…

Sliding to the side of the bunk Caitlyn grabbed the guard rail with both hands and swung her feet onto the rungs of the ladder that connected the three bunks. Once on the floor she tip-toed from the small cubicle and slapped the panel that closed their bedroom off from the round hallway at the centre of the apartment.

Like all of the apartments in the honeycomb of the undercity the Nguyen’s 20 foot square of living space had a circular multifunction ‘hall’ in the middle that provided access to the two bedrooms, the kitchen and the communal living space. However when all the openings in the hall were closed, the circular space automatically turned into a bathroom.  The toilet and basin would rise up from the floor while the shower-dryer would drop down from the ceiling. The bathroom was also the only space in the apartment that was sound-proofed.

As the door leading to her parents’ room was already closed Caitlyn only had to close off the living and kitchen spaces to gain the privacy she needed. In moments she was alone in the bathroom but she made no attempt to use any of the fixtures. Instead she just sat on the toilet, hugging herself and crying. She had already made up her mind that she could not, would not eat any of the SL’ick her mother served up for lunch, no matter how much trouble she got into but now, as she sat there with snot running from her nose and her shoulders bouncing up and down with hiccups she knew that refusing to eat was not going to be enough; Buffa knew her and trusted her. She couldn’t just stand by and let it die. She just couldn’t.

When the hiccups finally stopped Caitlyn took a deep breath, washed her face and hands and opened up the doors. Creeping back into the room she shared with her brothers she grabbed her coverall, shoes and school bag before creeping out again. She now knew exactly what she had to do but her hands were clammy with apprehension as she crept into the tiny, compact  kitchen.

The only light in the apartment came from the dim night light that always burned in the hall but the apartment was so tiny that even that was enough to see by. In fact, as Caitlyn pulled on her coverall and sealed off the opening with a quick swipe of her hand, she could not help wishing that there was no light at all. If one of her parents got up to go to the bathroom and saw her standing in the kitchen fully dressed they would know that something was up.

Placing her shoes and the bag on the floor with exaggerated care, Caitlyn held her breath as she opened the SL’ick tank. During the day the soft hiss of the servos was impossible to hear against the background noise of five people moving around inside a very small space but now, in the silence of the night even that slight sound seemed unnaturally loud. Caitlyn spun around and stared at the door to her parents’ room, expecting to see it slide open at any moment. She could almost see father standing in the doorway with a cricket bat in his hand, ready to repel intruders but as the moments dragged by with malicious slowness the door remained firmly closed.

Trembling with fright Caitlyn turned back to the SL’ick tank, desperate to grab Buffa and leave before her imaginings turned into reality but when she looked into the tank she could not see the big SL’ick anywhere. The little ones were all coming to the surface but there was no sign of Buffa. Had her mother killed it already? Was that what her parents had been doing after the rest of them had gone to bed?

Sorrow, relief and guilt battled it out in Caitlyn’s mind as she stared at the small SL’ick waiting hopefully for an unscheduled feed. I’ll never see Buffa again. I won’t get into trouble. I should have rescued Buffa sooner

After all the crying Caitlyn had done in the bathroom she should have been all out of tears but there they were, blurring her vision all over again.

“I’m so sorry Buffa,” she whispered as she gently patted the surface of the compost. “I did try. Really I did.”

Caitlyn was just shaking the compost off her fingers when when something wet and slightly slimy rose up and nudged the palm of her hand. It was the big SL’ick and it was still very much alive!

“Buffa!”

Thrusting both hands into the compost Caitlyn scooped up the big SL’ick and placed it gently in the bottom of her bag before quickly covering it with some of the moist compost from the tank. SL’ick could survive in the air for a short time but she knew Buffa would never survive the trip to the surface without compost. She was just about to close the tank when two of the medium sized SL’ick slithered up, still looking for food. They were only about half the size of Buffa but as she watched their little mouths open and close in entreaty Caitlyn knew she couldn’t leave them behind either. Even though they were small her mother was a very determined woman and she had set her heart on having roast SL’ick for Christmas.

Sorry Mum, Caitlyn thought with a silent giggle as she grabbed a SL’ick in either hand. They too went into the bag with a blanket of compost. Catching the two smallest ones was a little harder as they were only as big as her index finger and quite fast but she  kept combing her hands through the compost until she had them both.

After covering all the SL’ick with a few more handfuls of compost Caitlyn quickly sealed the bag and hoisted it onto her shoulder. Five SL’ick and a load of compost turned out to be a lot heavier than she expected but desperation and a strange, wild excitement gave her the strength to slip into her shoes and tip-toe away.

A few moments later the front door irised shut with a soft snick as Caitlyn and her SL’ick made their escape.

* * *

The first, unconfirmed sightings of feral SL’ick hit the news about six months later. When she saw the holo someone had taken of the SL’ick in the wild Caitlyn just smiled.

 


2082, the vintage Egg

This short story is a little longer than my others but I hope you like it. The concept and graphics for the Egg were created over ten years ago while I was working on my first ever story. It was a sci-fi thriller that just grew and grew. I still haven’t finished it but I thought you might enjoy a short story based on some of the tech. 

***

“Pop! Pop! Pop!” the child shrieked as he came running in from the main airlock.

“Timmy come back here!” his mother yelled as she tried to catch him.

“Watch that chair!” Gloria Flynn cried as she snatched the child into the air just a heartbeat before he crashed into her new Eames chair. It was a 1950’s original and had taken her forever to find.

“Sorry Mum,“  Jean Flynn Flannagan huffed as she waddled into the kitchen on swollen ankles. She was seven months pregnant with her second child and was finding the first one rather hard to handle.

“Sit down love,” Gloria said. “I’ll put the kettle on in a sec. Just let me say hello to this young man!”

Timothy Flynn Flannagan was only two but he already knew there would be no escape until he had received the obligatory dry kiss that was his grandmother’s highest form of affection, so he stopped wriggling and put on a winning smile. “Nannan!”

“Hello, you young rascal!” Gloria cooed as she pecked him on one rounded cheek. “Look what Nanna has made for afternoon tea.”

Glancing down at the kitchen table, Timmy’s eyes lit up at the sight of the huge mound of home-made chocolate biscuits. “Bikkie!”

“Yes, your favourite biscuits Timmy. I made them just for you.”

“Bikkie now?”

“In a minute. First we have to wash your hands and call Popp-…”

“Pop! Pop!”

The biscuits had distracted Timmy for a moment but the mention of his grandfather brought on a renewed bout of wriggling.

Giving up in resignation, Gloria put the child down and said, “Why don’t you go tell Poppi that afternoon tea is ready?”

“Pop pop!” Timmy agreed as he aimed himself at the reinforced door that lead up into the workshop. The door slid back into the wall at his approach and closed with a barely audible hiss once he was through.

“So how is Dad?” Jean asked as she lowered herself into the vintage Le Corbusier. It was the oldest chair in her mother’s collection and she worried about damaging it but knew it would be the only half-way comfortable chair in her present condition.

“Oh, you know,” Gloria said with a dismissive shrug as she picked up a shiny red kettle and held it under the spigot over the sink. The kettle, the spigot and even the sink were anachronisms and never used on a daily basis but she loved showing them off on special occasions and having her daughter and grandson home for a few months was as special as it got.

When Jean had sent her a holo asking if they could stay for a couple of months until the baby was born Gloria had said yes without hesitation. Then she had spent a whole week packing away her most precious possessions.

She had not been able to do much about the furniture but she had cleared a playroom for Timmy and had set it up with climbing frames and even a small sand box. She had had to think long and hard about the sandbox – the old jarrah floors would not take kindly to being scratched and scuffed by small, sandy feet – but then she had seen an advertisement for a cat mat that guaranteed to suck all dirt and grime from a cat’s paws as it walked. She had bought ten straight away and had covered every inch of the playroom floor with them. Hopefully they would work as advertised.

“Your father’s bought himself a new toy and now he spends all his time up in the workshop.”

“What is it this time?” Jean asked as she rubbed the small of her back. The chair was comfortable enough for an antique but she was already missing the modern chairs in her own apartment. They all had lift sensors and deep massage units that made sitting down and standing up just so much easier. She would miss them terribly but knew that the antiques were a small price to pay for her mother’s help with Timmy. The nannybot had proved to be useless once he had learned to walk. She had thought about upgrading it but had known she would need it for the new baby.

As her second pregnancy advanced she had asked her husband if they could buy a toddler unit for Timmy but Jim had just grunted that they could not afford it. She had not pressed the point because she had known how sensitive he was to the difference in their backgrounds. Despite everything he still saw her as a ‘rich bitch’. He had been furious when she had said she was going to her mother’s place until the birth but the doctor had been on her side for once…

“He’s bought an old rust bucket and intends to do it up,” Gloria said as she handed Jean her tea in a delicate Royal Doulton cup and saucer.

“Ah, lovely. Thanks Mum,” Jean said as she took a sip of her tea. Like everything else in her mother’s house the tea was real and utterly delicious.

One floor up, Charlie Flynn was busy yanking the mouldy seat covers from his new toy when the door hissed open and a pint-sized rocket slammed into his legs.

“Whoa there Tim!” he laughed as he peeled the toddler from his legs and threw him up into the air.

“Pop! Pop! Pop!” the child yelled with glee.

“I’m pleased to see you too, mate!” Charlie laughed. Giving the child a quick hug he set him down on the floor again. “Come see what Poppi’s working on.”

Hand in hand the big kid and the little one walked around the battered shape suspended on a cushion of air in the middle of the workshop. The vehicle was hardly a rust bucket as it had no metal parts but it was in a sad state of disrepair. The curved hull had a rather nasty dint in it, the three wheels were just plasteel  rims, the persplaz hatch cover was crazed with tiny cracks and now lay in two halves on the workbench and the parasail hung from the ceiling like a limp, rectangular balloon. ToCharlie though, the wreck was beautiful.

“She’s a bit of a mess now,” he said, “but once we fix ‘er up she’s really gonna fly!”

“Egg fly?” Timmy asked in confusion as he looked up at the strange machine. One of his favourite toys was a small plane that he could fly using his special ‘gloves’. The little plane had wings though. How could something fly without wings? “No wings?”

“Sorry mate,” Charlie said with a rueful laugh. “What I meant was that she’ll go really, really fast. On the ground. Here, I’ll show you.”

Snapping his fingers, Charlie said, “Parasail vehicle, circa 2025, 1 to 10 ratio to actual.”

As Charlie spoke, a beam of light stabbed down from the ceiling and hit the floor three feet in front of them.  Motes of light swirled in a wild dance until a three dimensional shape slowly resolved out of the chaos.

“That’s what she’s meant to look like,” Charlie said with pride.

“Egg um-bella?” Timmy asked.

“Mmm… I suppose it does look a bit like an egg with an umbrella,” Charlie conceded.

The holo model showed the parasail racer running at top speed. The small front wheel was retracted into the hull and the racer was balanced on its two rear wheels. The clear persplaz nose was pointing up at an angle of 45 degrees as the parasail pulled it along.

“Want to see it moving?” Charlie asked. Without waiting for an answer he muttered, “Run cycle begin and loop.”

The image of the racer dissolved into motes of light again before quickly reforming into a new configuration. This time the egg shaped racer was in a horizontal position with all three wheels on the ground and there was no sign of the parasail. 

“Watch!” Charlie said in a whisper. He had seen the run cycle many times before but still felt a thrill every time he watched it.

As the two continued to watch the holo with bated breath, the area beneath and above the racer began to fill in. Hard packed sand appeared beneath the racer’s wheels and a hot blue sky materialized above its canopy. As the rays of the invisible sun hit the top of the hull the shiny black surface began to bubble and stretch. In moments it inflated into a smooth black shape a couple of inches thick. Then the corners detached themselves from the sleek hull and continued to rise, trailing glittering filaments that remained attached to the hull. In moments the centre of the black material detached itself from the hull as well and then the perfect curve of the parasail was rising majestically into the air.

“Volume up,” Charlie muttered.

At first Timmy could hear nothing but a soft whisper but as the sound increased he realised he was hearing the sound of the wind. It was a sound he recognized from some of the educational holos his mother made him watch.

As the sound of wind increased the parasail rose even higher until it reached some optimal point. Then it slowly tilted towards the ground. Almost immediately a different sort of sound became audible as the wheels of the racer began to turn. Slowly at first and then faster and faster the racer began to move forwards.

“Zoom out by 10,” Charlie said.

The holo of the racer seemed to shrink as it faded into the desert background but Timmy could still see the moment when the narrow, pointy end of the egg left the ground. The small wheel in front retracted inside the hull with a soft snick and then the racer was bouncing along at a great speed, pulled along by the massive parasail that caught and focused the wind high above the Egg.

Desert scrub flashed past as the racer headed towards the bumpy red hills lining the horizon.

Timmy had no idea what a horizon was and was a bit hazy about hills as well but he understood speed and in that moment he knew that nothing would ever match the thrill of watching the egg run… except maybe to be inside the egg while it was running.

“One day we’re gonna take the Egg outside and let ‘er run,” Charlie said, as if reading his grandson’s mind. They were both still watching the holo when an irate voice sounded from up the passage.

“Charlie? Timmy? The tea’s getting cold!”

The sound of Gloria’s voice was punctuated by the sound of footsteps drawing closer.

“Holo off!” Charlie muttered quickly as he swung Timmy into his arms and turned towards the doorway. “Coming love.”

“I don’t know why you won’t let me install a comms unit in here,” Gloria said in annoyance as she loomed in the doorway. “Well, come on then you two.”

“Right behind you,” Charlie said with a grin. “Just turning the lights off.”

“Hmm! You could have saved me a walk by coming sooner!” Gloria retorted as she turned and headed back up the passage once more.

As Charlie started to follow his wife, Timmy still in his arms, he bent his head and whispered, “This has to be our little secret sport. Ok? You know how scared your Nanna is of the outside.”

“Thecret!” Timmy whispered back. He was a little scared of the outside himself but he knew that he would brave anything if it meant he could be inside the Egg when it went for its run.

The Egg took far longer to fix than either Charlie or Timmy expected and Charlie died of a sudden, massive stroke before he could fulfill his dream of putting the racer through its paces but Timmy never forgot the dream and when he came into his inheritance at the age of 25 the first thing he did was to complete the work his grandfather had begun. Two years later he donned an enviro suit and made the dream come alive by circumnavigating the continent… in the Egg. Some dreams are too precious to waste.


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