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