The Pay Phone Puzzle

pay phone

© J Hardy Carroll

“What kind of phone is it, Grandpa?”

“An old pay phone. You used to put a quarter in to make a call.”

“Why not use a cell?”

“Well, little one, because they hadn’t been invented when people used these. This one is so low so that people in wheelchairs could reach it.”

“Who uses it now?”

“I don’t know. We’re in the Refugee Center so…”

“Ahem.”

Denise and Grandpa turned to see a refugee from the planet Gorlick behind them. He was green and only about a meter tall.

“Spare some change? Got to make a call.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo prompt writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as an inspiration for a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 97.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Ceres

ceres

Found at: solarsystem.nasa.gov

The Forerunner sphere was off course and out of control. It was going to miss the portal into the dwarf planet Ceres and crash on the surface!

The lighting changed in the control cabin and a loud, intermittent buzzing sounded, probably an alarm.

The configuration of the panels as well as shapes and colors of the controls shifted as if made of melting plastic. One panel in front of Ross stabilized and the panel sections glowed with a bright white.

Murdock stared at the panel. It was so familiar but he wasn’t sure what to do or if he should do anything at all. Finally, he pressed the panel to the far left twice. It started glowing yellow and he could feel an electric shock that made him jerk his hand back.

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Space Flight

ceres

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Travis Fox stood with a security team as he witnessed the wonderful and horrible miracle of the Forerunner spaceship launching from the surface of the Earth.

While Ashe and Murdock were in the past supervising the preparations for the ship’s time jump, Travis reluctantly agreed to remain in the present. He couldn’t stay away from home too long without his wife Cassie, his uncle Wendell, and even his three small children wondering what he was really up to.

The project managed to find an alternate source of water to keep Wendell from having the ranch hands at the Double A drive the herd to the Canyon of the Moon and discovering Folsom Base. Travis had even gone home for a week to show everyone he was fine and to reinforce his cover story that he was helping an old teacher of his with an archaeological dig.

Fox managed to convince his family that he needed to return to the dig, but in fact, for the past two days, he was at this end of the large time gate waiting for the culmination of the mission; bringing an alien spacecraft forward in time 10,000 years.

When the ship materialized in the field, he almost expected Major Kelgarries and his troops to break out champagne but they were all business. There were cheers when the ship appeared and the temporal field was extinguished, but they were short-lived.

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The Second Ship

nebula

Credit: Detlev van Ravenswaay/Science Photo

The quintet descended slowly into the small valley containing the second alien spacecraft. There was more vegetation here than in the previous depression and it partially obscured the vessel.

“Only two stories tall. Maybe a scout craft. Similar construction to the two others but there seems to be some coloring and maybe ornamental differences.”

“Ornamental, Ross?”

“Hard to say, Gordon. I don’t know if the shapes and colors on the hull are functional or not. After all, we put markings on the outside of our aircraft and spaceships to indicate the type of vessel and its nationality.”

“Are you saying there are different alien nations or even extraterrestrials from different planets visiting Earth?”

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Derelict

ship

From one version of the cover of Andre Norton’s novel “Galactic Derelict”

The Canyon of the Moon was selected as the location for the construction of the time gate not only because it yielded the unusual ancient artifacts Ashe had shown Fox, but because it was very remote. It was not thought, however, to be the main site where the spaceship could be found. In fact, the area Murdock saw in this mind, the map that was communicated to him telepathically by Romanovich, yielded nothing useful in the present. On the other hand, the dating of those artifacts gave them an era to which to time jump, approximately 8,900 BCE.

Ashe hadn’t shown the Apache, at least at first, everything he had discovered, particularly the fragments of Forerunner technology that were found in the same area as the U.S. Army issued Beretta M9 handgun. The archeologist assumed that a soldier providing security for their team had, or rather will lose his sidearm during a jump back. Exactly how that happened or will happen was unknown.

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Gateway

ship

From one version of the cover of Andre Norton’s novel “Galactic Derelict”

The Ninth Story in the Time Travel Adventures of Ross Murdock

The very fact that Rossa woke up surprised him. The last thing he’d heard was a gunshot and then he felt an impact in the middle of his back. His back hurt, but not like a gunshot wound. Tranquilizer dart?

The room he found himself in was dimly lit and resembled the huts of the villagers. There was a crude wooden table in the center of the room and sitting on upended log on the other side of the table was a man.

The man was dressed similarly to the Axmen but his hair and complexion were darker. The man looked past where Rossa was lying on a loose collection of furs and nodded.  He felt himself being lifted to his feet by men on either side of him. The two other men, dressed the same as the first man, pulled him to a seat by the table facing the man who seemed to be in charge. He nodded again to the two men and they left.

The man spoke in the language of the Axmen and Rossa had spent enough time with them that he understood the basic question, “Who are you?”

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Captured

fog

From the 1980 film “The Fog”

The Eighth Story in the Time Travel Adventures of Ross Murdock

All four men on the team from the future reflexively reached for weapons as the quartet of raging Axmen charged. Suddenly Ai pushed past Assa and Rossa, held forth the rune covered amulet she wore around her neck, and then loudly cried out in a language the rest of her party could barely understand.

Three of the Axmen abruptly stopped and cringed as if confronted by their worst horror-filled nightmare. The leader of their band stopped too and half-bowed but as he looked up to peer at the woman opposite him, rage and hate still filled his eyes.

“Daughter of Gaea. Think not the Axmen of the North are so easily swayed by your powers. We flee something much worse.”

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Ghosts

bronze age stone art in sweden.

Found at fotosidan.se

The Seventh Story in the Time Travel Adventures of Ross Murdock

“The reason I’ve invited you to this briefing is that you both already have some idea of what we’re looking for and the stakes involved, although if the higher-ups had their way, you’d both be put in Guantanamo.”

Major John Kelgarries, military commander of Operation Retrograde stood at the front of his audience in the conference room specifically addressing Gordon Ashe and Ross Murdock.

It had been several months since they returned from their mission in Bronze Age Britain and discovered the Soviets had destroyed their covert base disguised as a Beaker trading post. Ashe, Murdock, and the outpost’s only survivor McNeil had just barely escaped an armed Soviet detachment who had attempted to capture them before they could be extracted by submarine. McNeil had cracked under the physical and emotional pressure and was now off team. However, in the aftermath of their mission, the roles of Ashe and Murdock had shifted.

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The Cache

Sunlight over ice floes.

© National Geographic

The Sixth Story in the Adventures of Ross Murdock

The modern city of Dover had been inhabited since the Stone Age, so by the advent of the Bronze Age, it was a thriving community, one which the three agents from the future were determined to avoid. Ashe, Murdock, and McNeil, or rather Assa, Rossa, and Maka, in the guise of Beaker traders, stayed away from the well-used trails that led in and out of Dover in search of a mystery.

This was circa 2,000 BCE and they had been sent back in time by Operation Retrograde to recover technology and perhaps even the location of a spaceship left behind by the alien race they called the Forerunners. However, their outpost, disguised as a Beaker trading post, had been destroyed by time traveling Soviet agents using weapons from the present, leaving the trio fugitives, not only from Red spies, but from the local clans who believed they were cursed by the gods. Their only hope was to hold out until the extraction team aboard the nuclear submarine USS Thetis returned just under two weeks from now and they could be transported out of Britain and back to the time gate at their base in the Arctic.

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The Curse of Lurgha

rocket launch

Photo: Reuters

The Fifth Story in the Adventures of Ross Murdock

Assa and Rossa stood on a rise and gazed at smoke ascending from a burnt ruin at the far side of the valley. At that distance, there was no obvious sign of what had caused their trading post to burn to the ground. Lightning maybe? No people or other evidence of attack was visible.

“We proceed carefully, Rossa,” Assa hissed. Murdock’s senior partner moved forward cautiously and Ross, or rather Rossa followed. It was more important than ever for the twenty-eight year old former thief for hire to think of himself only as a Beaker trader, that he was the apprentice of his master Assa, and that this was the only life he had ever lived. Murdock pushed away his memories of the 21st century and continued to follow Assa from one point of concealment to the next on the future Island of Britain four-thousand years before he was born.

An hour later, they had crossed the valley and were standing just meters from the still smoldering ruin and ashes of the trading post which had served as a small outpost for the investigating temporal team from Operation Retrograde.

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