The Clockwork Dragon

Image of the Trans-Mongolian Railway station found at towardsrisingsun.com

“Bored, bored, bored.” Atlan manipulated the energy projecting into the boiler, cooling the steam. His partner Narangerel stood behind him in the locomotive’s cabin dilating time and slowing matter as they approached Sükhbaatar’s Trans-Mongolian station.

The eighteen-year-old girl looked at the back of her lover’s head. “You always say that, Atlan, but we are still apprentice elemental guides learning our craft.”

“I know.” The water cooled, he turned to her. “I’d just like a little excitement.”

As Narangerel released time and fixed the wheels of the stopped train, she looked out and up. “Atlan!”

From over the Russian border it appeared in the air, lit by the first rays of the sun. It was a man on a dragon, but the wings were made from massive brass rods and gears.

Atlan stared over Narangerel’s shoulder as the gleaming clockwork dragon and the dead engineer began the greatest adventure of their lives.

It wrote this wee missive for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to use the photograph/location presented by the Pegman as the prompt for crafting a tale no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Sükhbaatar, Mongolia.

I admit that it’s been a long time since I participated in one of these challenges. Truth to tell, the steam has run out of me. I’ve encountered a number of personal and professional reverses and it’s left me tired and bored.

It’s true that so far in 2019, eleven of my short stories have been chosen for publication, but as the deadline looms for several more, I feel empty.

The story above is set in the universe I’d like to write my next story in (though it never occurred to me to set it in Mongolia) where people can naturally manipulate the elements as that world’s form of technology. The “clockwork dragon” and his dead (resurrected) rider, the engineer, are actually the beginning of the story, but I don’t have the heart to dive in.

So I created my 150 word introduction, if you will, as an attempt to jump start my creativity. So far it’s not working.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.

One December Morning in Stuyvesant Square Park

suyvesant

Snow in Stuyvesant Square Park, Second Avenue & East 17th St, Manhattan

The three teens, two boys and a girl, all ran out of The Halal Guys restaurant across 2nd Avenue near the East Village. “Anyone chasing us?” 14-year-old Brenda asked her brother Brad, pushing her red MAGA cap up over long blond locks.

“No, don’t see anyone.” Their leader, 15-year-old Ken, took them up toward Stuyvesant Square Park. It was still early morning and they’d decided to harass the old Muslim couple who’d gone into Halal for breakfast.

“Didn’t think that white guy would defend those Arabs,” Ken mused.

The trio stopped as they saw three black teens running up behind them. The oldest, a girl, said the two guys with her, “We got away.”

“Yeah,” said the youngest guy. “Who knew that black dude would defend that old white couple we were messing with.” On a nearby park bench, the mysterious Never Man was having a little fun with justice.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Manhattan Island (yes, it is an island). Manhattan has an impossibly rich history, so choosing one topic upon which to base my wee tale seemed an enormous task. I decided to look up the local news and found an article titled Teens Wanted in Village attack on man defending elderly couple. Apparently three African-American youth between the ages of 14 and 17 were harassing an elderly couple in a McDonalds in the East Village. A 44-year-old man came to their defense, and the trio punched and kicked him before fleeing. Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously hurt.

Since this is Black History Month, I wasn’t sure how well this story would be received (even though the news story is factual), so I decided to illustrate that anyone is capable of prejudice and cruelty, regardless of race, social perspective, or politics. I resurrected Jonathan Cyfer, the “Never Man,” who has the ability to alter time and space for purposes of justice, though 150 words hardly does him or his activities “justice.”

Oh, the Halal Guys is a real restaurant just outside the East Village (I couldn’t find the McDonalds on Google Maps), and if I ever visit Manhattan, I’d love to eat there.

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

The Last Invader

cybercafe

Exterior shot of the Suyash Cybercafe in Mumbai, India

Twenty-seven-year-old Alicia Vasquez rapidly manipulated the keyboard in front of her at the cybercafé in Mumbai, not far from Mahim Bay. She’d left Ranbir at a local cinema watching that superhero movie while she arranged for the two of them to join the next Chadar Trek. The fellow who’d died of a heart attack a week ago in Ladakh had put off most of the tourists, at least temporarily, so she was able to get a discount.

However, that man, wasn’t just a man, he was resistance, like her, and his death wasn’t accidental. Alicia would use Ranbir as a pawn, planting an electronic signature on him indicating he was the agent, not her. If the ancient alien machine hidden in the Tibb Cave detected the sign and attacked, she’d have time to plant the detonator, ending the ancient alien invader’s resurrection forever. Long live the human resistance.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 148.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Mumbai, India. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, has such a long and rich history, there are many stories that could be told. I looked up news items for Mumbai and came up with Dead trekker’s family urges caution from “The Times of India.” Apparently, a 35-year-old man participating in the Chadar Trek, a ten-day hike across a frozen river bed at extreme altitudes with temperatures reaching -35 degrees F, and with hazards such as oxygen deprivation, perished of a heart attack near Tibb Cave.

With no disrespect to him or his grieving family, I used this as the jumping off point for my wee tale of the potential revival of an ancient alien threat and the long-lived human resistance attempting to eradicate the last strongholds of the extraterrestrial machines.

Find out more about the trek at MountainIQ.com.

Oh, I used the Suyash Cyber Cafe as the scene for my story.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

By the way, now that my first two short stories have been accepted for publication, I’ll probably have less time for many of these online challenges, as I’m redoubling my effort in creating tales to submit to anthologies and periodicals. I’ll still be around from time to time, though.

The Return of Flight A-10

RAF Ascension

RAF Ascension Island – January 2002 – licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

“There it is again. Let me put it on speaker, Richard.” Thirty-eight-year-old Kristen Hines was on assignment for the NSA at the RAF Ascension Space Communications facility on the mid-Atlantic island. Richard Porter was the fifty-five-year-old civilian division chief.

As the static switched from Kristen’s headset to the speakers in the secure communications room crewed by a dozen specialists, the regular pinging became a fragmented voice.

"Surrender...Nazi...A-10...spacecraft...aliens...releasing us..."

“Mr. Porter, Sir. Got something on radar.” Roger Bennett’s gaze didn’t deviate from his screen. “It’s entering Earth’s atmosphere.” Hines reached for the secure line to Washington as Porter muttered. “So the bloody Nazis did manage it.”

“What?” Kristen’s hand paused.

“Granddad was only one of six intelligence agents to discover that before the fall of the Reich, the Nazis had launched a manned rocket into space.”

“How could they have survived all these years.”

“They’re on re-entry. Guess we’ll find out.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image/location and use it as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in the middle of the South Atlantic.

I did my homework and discovered that RAF Ascension, also known as Wideawake Airfield or Ascension Island Auxiliary Field, “serves as a space-based communications, signals intelligence, and navigation nexus and hub (Ground station). One of only four GPS satellite ground antennas is located there.”

I also discovered that during World War Two, the island was used by the Allies “to base patrolling anti-surface-commerce-raider and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces against the Axis powers’ naval units.”

When I was looking up signals intelligence, I found an online copy of the last German message intercepted by the British during the war signaling Germany’s unconditional surrender.

Putting that all together, I wondered if there were any “conspiracy theories” based on a Nazi Manned Space Program, and lo and behold, I found the answer at Astronotes which used information about Nazi Germany’s Aggregat Rocket Program.

It was a lot of fun to write, but 150 words doesn’t do it justice.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com (link fixed).

A Hero in Harare

movies

Sterkinekor Lusaka Arcades Centre in Lusaka, Zambia – found at afrotourism.com

“I want to meet this Miles Morales,” twelve-year-old Miriro murmured spontaneously as he and his eleven-year-old sister Anesu did their maths homework at the kitchen table, warm afternoon sunlight streaming in the western window.

“What are you talking about,” she replied in irritation. “He doesn’t even exist. He’s a cartoon.”

“Uncle Tongai took me and my mates to see Spider-Verse over the weekend. The movie said anyone could wear the mask and be Spider-Man.” He was grinning, his mind completely diverted from his textbook.

“You’re daft. This isn’t Brooklyn, America. It’s Harare, Zimbabwe. Just because black Americans look like us doesn’t mean we’re all the same. Our lives are different.”

“Anybody can be a hero, Anesu.”

“Be a hero and finish your studies before Mama comes back from the market and we both get in trouble.”

But it was too late. Miriro was already thinking about his new costume.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps location/image as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Harare, Zimbabwe.

Yesterday, I saw the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) with my son and my nine-year-old grandson. I subsequently published my review online and obviously still have the movie on my mind.

One of the things I’ve been considering, both with this movie, and especially with the Marvel Studios film Black Panther (2018) is that in the African nations, culturally, black people have widely varying cultures compared to African-American audiences, so the differing populations may not have as much in common with each other as people in the U.S. might imagine.

Having said that, the central message of “Spider-Verse” is that anybody can wear the mask. It was meant as a commentary about how historically, superheroes have been white, but it doesn’t automatically have to be that way. Any kid, no matter who they are, can be a hero.

I decided to put a spin on the message and say that any kid anywhere in the world also can aspire to be more than who they are, mask or no mask, even a twelve-year-old boy living in Harare.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

The Hidden Immortal

Kraków-Płaszów

Kraków-Płaszów in 1942 – This photograph is in the public domain

Norbert Salomon, though today he went by a different name, had survived the Kraków Ghetto, he had survived the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, he had survived the Polish persecution of Jews after the war, eventually emigrated to a newly born Israel, survived acts of war and terrorism by the so-called “Palestinian” Arabs, and he would survive this.

“I thought America would be a safe haven.” The twenty-five year old Ashkenazi Jew (for centuries, he always appeared to be between twenty-five and forty-five, changing identities when anyone suspected), sat in a darkened room, his youthful face and dark hair illuminated by his laptop screen, nimble fingers rapidly tapping keys. “But with the synagogue shootings, and now Muslim antisemites elected to Congress, something has to be done. Ah, I’ve cracked her d-base. Now to dump all her dirty little secrets on the internet. With any luck, she’ll be deposed even before inauguration.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image/location and use it as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Krakow, Poland.

In Googling “Krakow,” the autocomplete came up with “Krakow Ghetto,” so I rolled with it, particularly since my wife and children are Jewish. Not only did I find information on Kraków Ghetto but also the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp.

I wanted to do something about a death camp survivor and landed on the idea of a Jewish man who had lived long before Hitler’s Holocaust and who would continue to live long afterward. A Jew who had seen so much persecution across the long centuries might either hide out or choose to fight back, not with guns and bombs, but this being the 21st century, with information.

I know some will disagree with my interpretation of recent political events and figures, but from Salomon’s point of view, it makes sense to publicly expose threats to the Jewish people at every turn as a matter of continued self-preservation.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Survivalist

garnet mountain fire lookout

© Google 2017

Forty-five year old Faith had been hiding from the Qu’Tufot for over six months, ever since she’d escaped the work camp near Logan. There’d originally been four of them. Jodi and Kurt got shot by the Guard, what the humans collaborators with the aliens called themselves, and Ernie had a heart attack during the climb up Garnet Mountain. He showed her how the alien field generator they’d stolen worked. As long as she wore it, her energy signature was invisible to orbiting and ground sensors.

Hunting near the Fire Lookout was good. Pa had taught her to be a survivalist. The battery on the softball-sized generator would last another year, which would also keep her warm and reclaim water from the air for drinking.

It was just dumb luck that this was a storage cache for the local Resistance. Now all she had to do was wait until they returned.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image and/or location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout, Big Sky, Montana. I looked up the site at Recreation.gov and consulted a map of the general area for several hundred miles around.

The name of the aliens and the general situation is taken from a story I’ve submitted and that is still under consideration for an anthology about the fourth world war (yes, you read that right). The location and characters are different, but there are plenty of stories to tell under these circumstances.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com. Oh, I’m late today because we had our three-year-old granddaughter sleep over last night, and she’s been up since about seven this morning. I’ve got a bit of a window to write now that she’s taking her nap.

The Hunted

Frankfurt Christmas Market

The Frankfurt Christmas Market – image found at frankfurt-tourismus.de – no credit listed

The Israeli had been born in Frankfurt, so the Christmas market was familiar. He used to sneak out with his Christian friends as a boy to sample the lights, the music, and the smell from the food vendors (though he was still observant enough not to partake).

Elon Rosenberg, late of the Israeli Air Force, victim of a tragic air crash after his F161 fighter had been shot down by a Syrian missile, horribly mutilated, and rebuilt from scratch by an eccentric Scottish scientist, had altered his appearance to look like a typical Frankfurter. His would-be assassins did not recognize him, but he saw the pair very clearly.

“I could just walk away,” he muttered. “But no one must know my secret.”

Hours later, a cook found the two bodies in a garbage bin. By then, the synthetic man was halfway to Wiesbaden and his next assignment.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps image/location as the prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 147.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Frankfurt, Germany. I discovered that there’s an annual Christmas Market in Frankfurt. Also, being a child of the 1960s, I love a good cold war thriller set in Europe, so I borrowed a character introduced late in my Mikiko Jahn/Synthetic Woman saga and inserted him here.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Legend

bridal veil falls

Image credit: Tom Smart, Deseret News, – 2011

“So Gray Eagle and Norita were like Romeo and Juliet.” Gola looked up at the frozen Falls, her partner Ash having convinced her to make the frigid hike.

“That’s what the legends say.”

She looked up, the mist of her breath wafting toward the fur around his eyes. “I love you when your romantic, but I’m freezing my tail off. Couldn’t you have told me the story at home?”

“With the clan living with us for the winter, I wanted to be alone with you.”

“That’s sweet,” she murmured, nuzzling against his warm neck. Then she nipped the tip of his ear making him yelp. “But I’m freezing my tail off.”

“You win. We’ll go. I’ll have to speak to the Evolutionary about making the next generation more resistant to cold. Let’s go home, Ms. Fox.”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Fox.” Then the orange-furred pair trotted down from the Falls.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw photo writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps location/image as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Bridal Veil Falls, Utah (which I visited many years ago). I looked up the history of the Falls which told me, among other things, that it can be dangerous to hike there, particularly in winter.

I also found a legend about the falls which included the tale of two ill-fated lovers Norita and Gray Eagle. Click the link to learn more.

I didn’t want to write an “ordinary” romantic scene, so I made Gola’s expression about her tail more literal. Mankind has become nearly extinct, and after many ages, the climate of the Earth has returned to a pre-humanity state. To re-populate the planet, a human scientist known as the “Evolutionary” (which I shamelessly stole from the Marvel Comics character the High Evolutionary) has artificially evolved, among other species, a clan of foxes, making them more humanoid and giving them a much higher intelligence, along with, we can only hope, greater wisdom.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com (and submit something since it seems I’m the only one in the “room” so far).

A Slight Miscalculation

grand canyon

© Google 2018

Eccentric billionaire Randolph Houston was making the adjustments on the temporal transfer device at the bottom of Arizona’s Grand Canyon as his fourth wife, 26-year-old Paulette watched.

“Why not wait for that expert, what’s his name?”

“Carlos Bradley, and he’s late.” The aging scientist continued his adjustments.

“What is he? A geologist, paleontologist, archaeologist?”

“All, which was why I hired him. By attaching the TTD to strata here in the canyon, I can travel back to the formation’s origins 2.5 billion years ago.

“How do you know what you’ll find?”

“Bradley, if he had been on time, was to tell me.”

“You’re going now?”

“The battery will only last fifteen minutes. Tempus fugit.” The 75-year-old flipped a switch and vanished.

Carlos arrived and passionately embraced Paulette.

“You’re sure he’s never coming back.”

“My dear, 2.5 billion years ago, there was almost no oxygen in the atmosphere. He would have died in seconds.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Grand Canyon, Arizona, which I’ve visited many times. I looked up the history of the Grand Canyon and found that “nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock.”

I looked up what was going on about 2.5 billion years ago, and found out, among other things, that there was hardly any oxygen in the atmosphere. Too bad Randolph didn’t do his homework.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.