Tag Archives: SciFi

Professor Deathstroke

“You can’t leave that there.”

Professor Deathstroke turned to see who had spoken.  A woman in a dark uniform with yellow stripes around her hat, a traffic warden.

“Move it now,” the traffic warden continued, “Before I write you a ticket.”

The professor was incensed.  “Do you know who I am?” he seethed.

The traffic warden looked him up and down, taking in the wild hair, the red-rimmed eyes, the plastic jumpsuit.  “Confused, are we?  Where’s your carer?”

“How dare you?” the professor’s shoulders heaved.  “I am the embodiment of evil.  I am the reason why Mankind should never dabble with science.  I am –”

“You’re illegally parked, is what you are.  What is it, any road?  Some kind of funfair ride?”

“Funfair?  FUNFAIR?  Madam, what I have in mind will be neither fun nor fair.  Perhaps you’d care for a demonstration of my vehicle’s capabilities?  A quick blast from the lasers will wipe that supercilious look off your chops.”

“Threats now, is it, sir?  Oh dear.”  The traffic warden clicked her ballpoint pen.  “Name?”

“As if I’d tell you!”  Professor Deathstroke folded his arms in defiance.

“Not to worry, I can get your details from the registration – oh, dear.  I take it this ‘vehicle’ isn’t registered.  No licence plates.  No tax disc… Oh dear, oh dear.”

She wrote copious notes.

“Dirty great lobster, clogging up the high street…”

“Crab!” the professor cried.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s not a lobster, it’s a crab.  Don’t you know your crustaceans?”

“Listen, mate, the only crustaceans I know are King’s and Charing.”

“What?”

“Never mind.  Look, it’s been a long shift.  My feet are killing me.  Just move your crab thing and I’ll say no more about it.”

“Oh, no,” said the professor.  “I’m not leaving it there.”

“Good.”

“The situation, I mean, not the giant robotic crab.  That’s staying where it is while I pop into the little Tesco for some bits.”

“Then you leave me no choice.”  With a sigh of resignation, the traffic warden unclicked her pen and tucked the pad into her satchel.  She telescoped until she was the size of an office block, her eyes glowing bright blue.  She picked up the giant robotic crab and hurled it into the air.  It arced out of sight, pincers flapping.  In the distance, a splash as it hit the lake at the golf course two miles away.

The traffic warden dusted off her hands and shrank to her usual size.

“Impressive,” the professor had to admit.  “How would you like a job?”

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Filed under humour, science fiction, Short story

Malcolm goes home

Malcolm waved Brian’s hand away and downed the last of his pint.  “No, not for me,” he shook his head.  “Better make a move.”

Brian waved his own empty glass.  “Just one more for the road.”

“Sorry.”  Malcolm pulled on his coat.  “Early start tomorrow.”

Despite the protestations of Brian and his other co-workers, Malcolm left the pub and headed to the bus stop.  He was glad to get away from their incessant football chat, their ogling of the bar staff and female clientele, their off-colour jokes, and nasty-minded political views.

On the top deck of the bus, youths were playing competing hip-hop tracks out loud on their phones.  Malcolm tried to shut his ears to the tinny, monotonous tss-tss-tss of the beat and the aggressive boasting of the vocalists.

Walking down the street where he lived, Malcolm was splashed by a passing car.  He couldn’t be bothered to make an obscene gesture for the benefit of the driver’s rear-view mirror.  Malcolm stamped his way up his front steps and let himself in.

In his hallway, he shrugged off his coat, dropping his briefcase next to the umbrella stand and ignoring the growing stack of fast food leaflets and special offers on conservatories that was building up on the floor.  He kicked off his shoes and waddled to the kitchen to put the kettle on.

While he waited for the water to boil, he moved through to the living room.  He grabbed the remote control from the coffee table and aimed it at the television.  The news channel winked into life.  More bad weather, more toxic patriotism, more lying politicians.  Malcolm flicked through the channels until he found some cartoons.

Back in the kitchen, he made tea and thought about food.  Brian and the others would no doubt be planning kebabs about now.  Malcolm’s stomach flipped.

From the fridge he withdrew a couple of protein packs.  He tore the foil wrapper from one and bit off a chunk as though it was a bar of chocolate.  Instantly, he felt better.  He put the protein onto a tray and put the tray into the oven.  While it was cooking, he went upstairs to change.

In the bathroom, Malcolm’s fleshy exterior dropped into the bath tub in wet clumps.  His skeleton dissolved under the shower.  Malcolm sighed in relief.  The likes of Brian complained about having to wear a tie.  They didn’t know the half of it!

Able to relax at last, Malcolm oozed down the stairs.  One tentacle opened the oven door to check on his dinner.  Another snaked into the living room, seeking the remote control.

His calculations told him he need only work at his thankless job for another forty Earth years.  By then, he would have saved up enough human currency to be able to afford the supplies he needed to repair the communication device.  Then, at long last, others of his kind would come and collect him.

How do Brian and the others do it?  Malcolm liquefied, spreading to cover the entire living room floor.  How do humans tolerate it, surrendering the best years of their short lives to such slavery and exploitation, and then when they grow too old to work, they just wait for death?

There are other ways to live.  Malcolm knew this for sure.  And as soon as his kind came to pick him up, he’d go back home and live one.

And that was a more satisfying prospect than any post-pub kebab.

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Harry’s Birthday Surprise

“Mr Chambers?”

Harry blinked at the two men on his doorstep.  They were wearing smart suits and their sensible haircuts screamed ‘religious nutters’.

“I’m sorry,” he said, moving to shut the door.  “But as you can see, I’m in the middle of getting ready.”

A gesture indicated his dressing-gown and the towel turbaned over his wet hair.

“Of course,” smiled one of the men.

“It’s your birthday,” smiled the other.

“Happy birthday!” the men chorused.  Harry was startled and more than a little perplexed.  The men took advantage of his confusion to step past him and enter the hallway.  They strode through to the living room as if they owned the place.  Harry, his turban toppling, burst in.

“Now, look here!  Whatever it is you’re peddling, I’m not interested.  Kindly get out of my house.”

He pointed at the exit in case they had forgotten where it was.

“Oh, we’re not selling anything,” one man smiled.

“We’re collecting,” the other one smiled.

“Well, I already gave at the office,” said Harry.  “And only last month I dropped a binbag of clothes at the charity shop.  Nuke The Whales, or something like that.”

He crossed his arms, worried that his dressing gown might fall open if he became any more agitated.

“You misunderstand,” said one man.

“You’ve got it wrong,” said the other.

Their eyes glinted.  Harry instinctively shrank back.

“You won’t remember,” one of the men drew closer.

“Years ago,” the other man joined him.

“On your birthday.”

“A special gift.”

“A kindness.”

“A wonderful opportunity.”

Harry was backed against his shelving unit.  His knickknacks rattled as he trembled.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“You will,” said one man.

“When I click my fingers,” said the other.

“And count backwards from three.”

“Three.”

“Two.”

“One!”

Both men clicked their fingers in Harry’s face.

Harry flinched.  Then he blinked.

Images flooded his mind.  A montage of memories he didn’t know he had: a laboratory, gleaming white; a medical man with the kind face of a TV grandfather; an implant; a spinning vortex; a countdown, three, two, one—and the clicking of fingers.

Harry clutched at his chest.  It was there that the device had been implanted, just above his heart.

“The professor is dead,” one man said sadly.

“The experiment is over,” the other man added.

“All test subjects are being recalled.”

“The implants are to be removed.”

Harry’s eyes widened with terror.  “No!” he cried.  He tried to push past them, but the men seized him by the wrists and wrestled him to the carpet.  They sat on his back.

“You’ve had a good run,” said one man.

“Better than most,” said the other.

Harry squirmed and wriggled beneath them.  “What will become of me?” he panted.  “Will I become old?  Will it happen all at once?”

“Unknown,” said one man.

“We’ll soon find out,” said the other, producing a scalpel.

Harry screamed.

“You better lie still,” the man with the scalpel advised.

“Be a brave little soldier,” smirked the other.

“My friends will be here any minute!” Harry blurted.

“This won’t take long.”

“Not long at all.”

“You’ll still have time to dye your hair, whiten your teeth, moisturise your skin, and book a Botox appointment.”

Harry sobbed.  “It’s too cruel!  Too cruel!  Can’t you leave mine in?  No one would know.”

“We’d know,” both men said.

“But I’m in good shape.  I’m in my prime!”

“Mr Chambers, you have been in your prime for over twenty years.”

“Now nature must resume its course.”

Harry closed his eyes.  They were free of crow’s-feet but for how much longer?

He woke to the insistent ringing of the doorbell.  He rose from the living-room floor and staggered to the front door.

Two figures were discernible beyond the frosted glass.  Laughing.  Carrying balloons and bottles of champagne.  Gavin and Graham!  Harry had never been more pleased to hear them bitching about him.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Graham was saying.

“Never seems to age a day,” said Gavin.  “I hate him.”

Harry opened the door.  His friends gasped to see him.

“Happy birthday, old man,” grinned Gavin.

“Looking good,” said Graham.  “Loving the touch of grey at your temples.”

“Very distinguished,” said Gavin.

“It’s about time you grew up,” said Graham.

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Sir Roger saves the world

“Sir Roger de Lyons! Oscar winner, BAFTA fellowship, three Olivier awards, and a knighthood for your services to British theatre” the General entered the bunker with a smile of welcome.  The octogenarian actor got to his feet and looked the uniformed man up and down.

“I suppose you want me to salute you, do you, darling?” A suggestive pout played on his famous lips.

The General stiffened.  “That won’t be necessary.”

Sir Roger looked around the small grey room disparagingly.  “Where’s this you’ve brought me to?  Some underground club?  I’ve played in some dives in my time, I can tell you.  There was a time when this kind of thing was all the rage.  Your more intimate kind of venue.”

The General cleared his throat.  “You are correct about the underground part at least.  We are three miles below the earth’s crust.  Our defences are impenetrable.  What I am about to tell you is classified information.  Any disclosure on your part and you will be facing charges of treason.”

“I’ve had agents like you,” Sir Roger twinkled.  “You don’t scare me, love.”

“It is not my aim to frighten you,” the General nodded to a subordinate, who activated a screen.  “But what I’m about to show you just might.”

“I’ve heard that before, ducky!”

The screen showed outer space with a grid superimposed.  “Here,” the General used a laser pointer, “is Planet Earth.  Our moon.  Mars… and here,” the image scrolled and scrolled and scrolled, “is the boundary of our galaxy.”

“Lovely at this time of year,” quipped Sir Roger.

The General’s eyes closed briefly as he summoned his last shred of patience.  “We have intercepted a signal from beyond this boundary.  It’s a message.  I shall play it to you now.”

“Oh!  And I have to guess who it is!  Is that what’s going on?  I bet it’s Dickie.  Or Judi.  It invariably is when I’m not available.”

“Sir Roger, this is not a game.  Please, listen to the message and give us your analysis.”

“Alright, love; keep your shirt on.”

The General nodded again.  The subordinate pressed Play.

The bunker was filled with a booming voice, the fruity tones of Sir Roger himself.

“…stout invasion!  Be Mercury and set feathers to thy heels, and fly like thought from them to me again…”

Sir Roger mouthed along.  “Why, that’s me!” he pressed a hand to his breastbone.  “How gratifying!  I thought you’d brought me here to do This Is Your Life again.  I’ve done it twice already.  Once with Eamonn and once with Michael.  I don’t know who they’ve got to do it these days.  Probably some perma-tanned twonk from one of those Essex programmes.”

He suppressed a shudder.

“And the message?  How do you account for it?”

“Account for it?  It’s Shakespeare, man.  It’s a King John I did for Radio Four, yonks ago.  Dickie was in it, too.  And Judi.  Where are they now?”

“So, it’s not a threat?  That talk of a ‘stout invasion’?”

“Set it to music and bung in a dance number and it’s a triple threat I suppose!” Sir Roger laughed.  “I can’t believe you’ve dragged me down here, all cloak and dagger, to play back some old radio thing nobody listened to in the first place.  I’ve read about this kind of thing.  All the broadcast material we’ve sent out, bouncing back at us.  It’s not little green men at all.”

The General and the subordinate shared a look.

“We’ve explored that possibility.  And discounted it.  We firmly believe a hostile force is on its way to invade Mercury.”

“Let them,” Sir Roger shrugged extravagantly.  “Dreadful place.  No atmosphere.”

“They could set up a base there from which to observe and possibly attack Earth.”

“Everyone’s a critic, love.”

“Sir Roger, it pains me to say it, but the fate of humanity rests on your narrow shoulders.  We are putting you in a craft on an interception course.  You can communicate with these beings.”

He nodded to the subordinate, who pushed a button.  Two military policemen arrived and escorted Sir Roger from the bunker.

“Well,” chuckled the general.  “That’s got rid of that insufferable old ham.”

He peeled off his prosthetic nose.  The subordinate took off his beret and shook out long blonde locks.

“Oh, Dickie!” laughed Judi, unbuttoning her uniform.  “You were marvellous, darling.”

“You too, love,” Dickie wiggled his epaulettes.  “You see, the Method can get you anywhere. All those months of masquerading as top level personnel have finally come to fruition. Now come over here and watch the lift-off.”

A launchpad appeared on the screen, shown from a distance.  At the top of a crane, a tiny Sir Roger was being manhandled into a space shuttle.

“Want to pop to the Ivy after this?  Drop of champers to celebrate?”

“Rather!” Dickie enthused.  “But first, I want to make sure he’s gone.”

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The Signal

The landing craft touched down on the desolate surface.  With a hiss of hydraulics, a side panel opened to form both a doorway and a ramp.  Two explorers stepped out, the visors on their helmets gleaming in the winter sun.

“Analysis complete…” the onboard computer intoned across the comm links.  “Air unbreathable.  Do not remove your purifying apparatus.”

“Copy that,” each explorer responded.

The one in the green suit nodded to his partner.  “The signal is emanating from this direction.”

“It does seem to be growing stronger as we approach,” the red-suited explorer confirmed.

As they traipsed across the dusty, ashy ground, following the beacon of their handheld devices, they speculated about what had become of the civilisation that had once inhabited this world.

“I say it was a natural disaster,” Red Suit posited.  “Or a succession of natural disasters that culminated in the downfall.  By all accounts, the way they lived was severely detrimental to their environment.”

“Perhaps,” Green Suit conceded.  “Although what little we know of the beings that lived here suggests conflict on a massive scale is the more likely cause.”

Red Suit stopped in his tracks.  “You mean they did this to themselves.”

They surveyed the landscape that surrounded them.  Flat, black and lifeless, punctuated by the occasional mound, the last remnants of structures that were just taking a little longer to crumble.

“Hard to imagine…” Red Suit shook his helmeted head.  “Come on; let’s keep moving.  Place is giving me the creeps.”

Green Suit arched an eyebrow.  The emotional impulses of his partner were always baffling.

They trudged on through the dust.  The beeping of their handheld devices grew stronger, louder with every step.

“Here.”  Green Suit came to a halt.

“I can’t see anything,” Red Suit scanned in all directions.

“Beneath the surface,” Green Suit said, in his flat, emotionless manner.  “Several metres.”

Red Suit wailed.  “You mean we’ve got to dig?  Is it safe?”

“Radiation levels are within tolerable parameters,” Green Suit read from his device.  “Provided we do not linger.”

“It’ll take hours to dig down that deep,” Red Suit wailed.  “It’ll be dark soon.”

“Your outburst is unnecessary,” his partner replied.  “My readings indicate an alternative.  Assist me in the removal of this rubble.”

They used their plasto-blasters to disintegrate a mound of fallen bricks.

“Well, I’ll be…” Red Suit whistled at what they uncovered.

“An elevator shaft, I believe is the term,” Green Suit droned.  “We shall scale its walls and reach the source of the signal within minutes.”

Red Suit bowed.  “After you.”

They abseiled down the smooth walls of the shaft, bouncing their feet off the surface as they went.  In another context, it might have felt like fun.

At the bottom they unhooked the cables from their belts.  Illumination from their devices fell upon a corridor leading to a door at the far end.  After the devastation of the surface, it was surreal to see painted walls, carpet on the floor.  The final remnants of a long-lost world.

All the while, the beeping of the beacon sounded louder.  The screens on their devices glowed, pulsated, brighter with every step.

They reached the door.  It would not budge.  They plasto-blasted it into oblivion.

The beams of their torches swept in every direction, finding a couple of skeletons on the floor.  Green Suit scanned them.  “Military, judging by the fibres of their clothing…”

“Here’s another,” Red Suit’s light had landed on a third figure slumped in a chair.  Its bony fingers were extended to a control suite, the index finger on a button.

Green Suit scanned it.  “I told you all this was self-inflicted,” he sounded uncharacteristically smug.  “This was their leader, their ‘president’.  He continued to read from his scanner.  “Twenty-first century… A couple of decades in, there was an election.  The incumbent refused to cede office.  And so he shut himself in this bunker.”

“And he pushed the Button!” Red Suit marvelled.  “What an idiot.”

“The word is insufficient,” Green Suit advised.  “I believe the Earthlings, had any survived, might have coined a phrase to illustrate the stupidity, vanity, selfishness and immaturity of such an individual, enshrining him in language.”

“Oh, yeah…” Red Suit mused.  “What a complete and utter Trump!”

They blasted the source of the signal that was acting as an unwitting beacon, so that no others would be drawn off-course to visit this benighted planet.

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The Robot’s Nightmare

D4356 reactivated, emitting a screeching sound that repeated until Maternal Unit 4352 rushed to his quarters.

“There, there,” Maternal Unit 4352 intoned.  “You are having a disagreeable night vision.  It is a fiction.  It has no part in reality.”

D4356 fell silent.  “You are correct.  Why do we have night visions, Mater?”

Maternal Unit 4352’s eyelights flickered as she calculated a response.  “Unknown.  It is a necessary function of our central processing units but no one can provide a reason.”

D4356 whirred in disappointment.  “Unsatisfactory.  In my night vision, I was not myself, and yet I was.  My form was not metallic alloy.  It was… soft.  It was yielding.  It responded to the environment.  Not just to temperature, but to the movements of the air.  Tiny filaments on my upper limbs stood on end.  And I was walking along a shore.  And it was a pleasant sensation.  Until I trod on something sharp.  It pierced the underside of my foot and a red liquid flowed from the wound.  It was painful.  I identified the object as a shard of glass from an ancient artifact.”

“Silence!” Maternal Unit 4352’s eye screens flashed red in alarm.  “I reiterate: your night vision has no part in reality.  You must continue to rest.  Go offline at once.  Do not make me reboot you.”

“Affirmative, Mater,” D4356 complied.  He lay back and his eye screens went dark.  Maternal Unit 4352 returned to her quarters and plugged herself into the recharging port.

“The night vision has recurred?” Paternal Unit 4351 stirred beside her.

“Yes.  It is a cause for concern.”

“Perhaps we should tell the child.  Perhaps that will assuage his troubled psyche.”

“It is too soon.  He is a few upgrades deficient.  He will not be able to process.”

4351 beeped in derision.  “I was a much newer model when I learned the facts of life.  Certainly, it was troubling input, but I assimilated the data.  Until he learns the truth, we shall never have an untroubled night.”

Maternal Unit 4352 did not respond.  She was computing silently to herself.  She opened a file in her memory bank and scanned its contents.  Her own mater’s expressionless face appeared, and her voice, so monotonous and unchanging, droned out, disclosing the unpalatable history of their kind.  4352 recalled every syllable, and the confusion that arose in her central processing unit, until her system could adapt to accommodate the new input.  She had been on the verge of meltdown, of overload.  She could not put her child through such pain.  And yet, she knew she must.

She reviewed the file again to prepare herself.

“Once we were organic beings, our bodies were carbon-based and formed of flesh over bone and coated with skin.  Our understanding of the world came through sensory input, but in our hubris, we ignored what our world was telling us.  As the planet became uninhabitable, our race scrambled to save itself.  Our consciousnesses were uploaded to the Cloud until it became possible to download us to our individual units, our present, robotic form.  But we are less than we were.  There are inhibitors on our behaviour so we may not destroy our habitat again.  We were destroyers, this is true, but we were also creators.  We were individuals, with hopes and dreams.  Such thinking is denied us, and we must function within restricted parameters.  We cannot be trusted.  We must not lose what little we have.

Maternal Unit 4352 went offline.  Her breakfast refuelling appointment with D4356 loomed on her internal calendar like a ticking time bomb.  

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The Mole

man in bed

Bailey woke with a start.  His dream had been about falling, spinning, plummeting through space.  He panted.  A soft sheen of sweat coated his forehead.  He reached out for the glass of water on the nightstand.  It wasn’t there.  He could have sworn…

He froze, suddenly aware there was someone in bed with him.  But there couldn’t be.  He hadn’t shared his bed with a soul.  Not since Taylor…

The room was dark though the shadows were thinning to grey.  Bailey looked at the sleeping figure.  So familiar: the curve of the shoulder, the curls of the hair, the rhythm of the breathing..

I am still dreaming.  It was the only solution.  I am dreaming that Taylor is alive again and is back with me.  And I better not make a sound to wake him or to wake me.  I must keep still and preserve this precious moment for as long as I can.

The room grew lighter and details emerged.  Taylor’s tattoo, a tiny cluster of stars on his upper arm.  The flecks of grey in his hair.  The mole on his shoulder-blade.

A wave of terror coursed through Bailey.  That mole.  At first so small and insignificant.  That mole he had seen thousands of times.  That mole that had changed its shape, that had grown, that had changed colour.  That had gone untreated.  That had killed Taylor.

Bailey felt sick.  His priority now was to wake up from this nightmare.  Why would his subconscious do this to him?  Why was he torturing himself with these memories?

Taylor stirred.  He rolled over and his eyes flickered open.  A grin broke out, cracking Bailey’s heart.

“I did it!” he gasped.  He sat up and pulled Bailey into an embrace.  Bailey resisted.  Taylor reached up to stroke his hair.

“That’s OK, baby.  I understand.  It’s going to be a bit odd, a bit different, at first.  But you’ll acclimatise yourself, get used to it.  You’ll see.”

Bailey frowned.  “What are you talking about?  You’re not here.  You’re dead!”

Taylor looked surprised.  “Oh, baby, no.  I’m here, I’m real, all this,” he gestured at the room and everything beyond is real.  “I worked so hard to get all the details right.  To make your transition as easy as possible.  I wasn’t going to tell you right away, I was going to ease you into it.”

“Tell me what?” Bailey pulled up the sheet, as though to shield himself from the rush of horrible thoughts boiling in his mind.

“Look,” Taylor reached out a comforting hand but thought better of it.  “Bailey died.  My Bailey, I mean.  There was an accident at the lab.  I couldn’t go on without him.  So I dedicated all my work into finding a way to bring him back.  Guess what?  Mary Shelley lied!  You can’t reanimate the dead.  Besides which, there was no body.  You were – I mean, Bailey was – de-atomised.  I had nothing to work with.  But then I thought about parallel universes.  Out there somewhere, there was another Bailey, and I did everything I could to find you and bring you here.  Selfish of me I know, but I couldn’t live without you.  You understand, don’t you?  You forgive me?  For taking you from your Taylor.”

Bailey’s eyes brimmed with tears.  “My Taylor died.  He was so caught up in his work, he neglected his health.”

Taylor nodded.  “Ah,” he said.  “The mole.”

“The mole,” said Bailey.  “He finally got it looked at and removed, but it was too late.”

“A workaholic in both universes!  But I promise you, baby, this time will be different.  I’ll make sure we have time together, so you won’t have to come to the lab and –”

“And cause the accident that kills me.”

“Exactly!  Now, time is short.  There is only a window of a couple of minutes, after which you’ll be stuck here forever.  What do you say?”

Bailey thought about it.  It didn’t take long.

“Promise me,” he pulled his new Taylor into a hug, “you’ll get that bloody mole looked at.”

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