The Legend of Earth

glimmer

© Sue Vincent

Luke Wallace stumbled over the alien terrain as the dawning sun rose to his left, but it was the twinkling of tiny lights directly in his path that had been holding his attention for the past three hours.

The biologist was the sole survivor of the “Hawking,” an exploratory superluminal spacecraft owned by Blue Astra Space Corporation. The primary power coupling blew just 92 hours after they’d returned to normal space, and 15 minutes after they’d entered orbit around Kessel-Origan B, the most Earth-like exoplanet ever discovered, and only 167 light years from home.

He was the only one to get to an escape pod in time as cryonic gas from the exploding coolant system filled the command module. He ejected the pod, passing through energy ripples caused by the dying FTL drive, what Hicks once called “the probability machine.” The exotic radiation passed directly through the pod’s hull, and it felt like he was swimming through liquid fire when it hit his body.

Five hours ago, he regained consciousness. The pod had already landed, or rather, crash landed. His safety couch had deployed insulating gel,which had shielded him from the shock of impact, but the controls, radio, emergency beacon were all gone. He was lucky to retrieve a three-day supply of water and rations, but there was no going back. He would either have to find a way to survive on an alien world or die.

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The Shoals of Time

water

© Sue Vincent

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NASB)

They say time is like water with currents, eddies, backwashes, yet it flows inevitably in one direction, from the past into the future. I’m standing on a narrow shoal looking out over a shallow sea. The clouds are particularly lovely at dawn, the subtle blues intermixed with hints of pink and white.

Of course, it’s all an illusion. No, that’s not fair. It’s better to say it’s all a metaphor. Even though I’m dead, my human senses and cognitive processing won’t allow me to perceive time as it truly is.

I’ve heard it said that there’s no such thing as time, it’s just human perception as we have to organize and make sense of our moment by moment existence. I’m living, well, not in a corporeal sense, proof that’s untrue.

I used to be a man, a living human being, just like other living human beings. I woke up, went to the bathroom, ate breakfast, brushed my teeth, got dressed, checked my email, and went to work just like everybody else.

And then I died, just like everybody else.

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The Last Hrtedyp

fall

© Sue Vincent

There were tears in seventeen-year-old Latoya Kelly’s eyes as she hiked toward the small waterfall and realized this would be her last Hrtedyp. It was always held on the first full day after the Fall Equinox, precisely at 4:33 p.m. She had only been five when she had her first Hrtedyp, and that had been by accident. She had been camping with her parents and grandparents, and the tiny child wandered off. She had been lost, and hungry, and scared, but by the time Daddy found her, she was full of Bueno Nacho, Everlasting Gobstopper, and was laughing and singing in a language nobody knew anything about. She tried to tell Mommy and Daddy about the Hrtedyp, but they thought she’d fallen asleep and had a dream.

Every year, they’d camp in the same place to welcome autumn, but she hadn’t been able to sneak away again to attend the Hrtedyp until she was eight. Then, she always made an excuse, year after year, to go on a hike alone, always from just before four until right after sunset.

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The Algerian Exchange

pillars

© Sue Vincent

Twenty-five year old Eileen Kateb could only hear the sound of her own breathing and her soft footfalls as she slowly made her way between the columns of the Cathedral de Sacre Coeur, which had recently been converted to a library. Her grandparents had quietly immigrated to England during the heyday of French rule over Algeria, so she could have blended in among the millions of Muslim women in the coastal city of Oran who looked just like her. However, she chose to dress as a European instead of clothing herself in a hijab, because, after all, Houari Boumédiène and his thugs knew she was here. That was the point.

“You can stop right there, Miss.” The man stepped out from behind one of the pillars to her left about ten meters ahead. He was average height, medium complexion, dark hair slicked back with Brylcreem, neatly trimmed mustache, pressed tan suit. He looked like an Arabic Peter Sellers. “I’m surprised the Americans didn’t send a male representative.”

“Actually, I’m British, and James Bond was too busy killing SPECTRE agents and seducing women in the Bahamas to accept this assignment, or perhaps you haven’t seen that movie.”

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The Grayland

spectral

© Sue Vincent

At first Alise Egan thought she had been trapped in a cursed painting of herself facing an ocean wave, but then she realized it was an interdimensional gateway to another reality. In the painting, the twenty-two year old MIT graduate looked much as she appeared in real life, tall, what her billionaire benefactor, the painting’s owner Keyne Harlan and men of his generation would call “curvy,” long, blond hair streaming behind her along with her extravagant crimson gown, a ostentatious gift from said-benefactor, the man who adopted her after her parents died.

But once across the chaotic field of alabaster and sapphire, she entered the realm of the dead. Well, that’s what they had wanted her to believe, all of the non-corporeal entities who inhabited that realm. Two of them had initially passed themselves off as her dead parents, but then she saw them for what they truly were, invaders intent on using her as a bridge from their world to hers for reasons unknown and undesired.

But one of them said, “Physical laws don’t apply here. There’s no difference between science and magic.” That’s when she realized she could do anything, and so she did. Alise pushed back, at first driving a few away from the threshold, then hundreds, then thousands, and finally all that there were, millions and tens of millions.

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Parting Lovers

hills

© Sue Vincent

“We’re almost at the snowline, Diann. We made it.” Randolph Withers adjusted his backpack and his rifle’s sling, took his young companion by the hand, and then they both strode toward their goal with renewed hope.

“Do you think the outpost will still be there?” She glanced up at the man who stood barely half a head taller than her, though he was over six feet in height.

“It’s our only chance. It will provide basic shelter, and we’ve seen signs of abundant game as we approached the mountains, so we’ll have food. Now if I can get the radio equipment working again, we’ll be in business.”

“What about the Seltin Beasts? You said you thought it was your radio experiments that brought them down on your people…our people from their lair in the high peaks.”

“It’s a chance we’ll have to take.” He patted the Colt .45 resting in its holster for reassurance.

“But they killed all of the others in your party, almost killed you.”

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The Last Frontier

forest

© Sue Vincent

“What am I doing here? I wanted to get away from it all, but the smoke’s even worse here.” Gary Flowers didn’t hike often anymore, but life in the city and suburbs had been wearing him down over the last decade or so. Married, three children, two grandchildren, divorced, semi-retired, he had in his grasp what people used to refer to as the American dream. Of course, all those who didn’t have the opportunity to seize that dream resented people like him, or maybe they just weren’t in the right place in history he had been when he was up and coming.

Yes, he had grasped the American dream, but then slowly let it slip away. Life had become dull and meaningless. His children were grown and didn’t need him anymore, and besides his grandchildren, he couldn’t say that anything mattered to him these days.

And every summer there were these fires. The governor blamed global warming and the utilities company, and the news agencies blamed the governor’s poor wildfire planning, and his emphasis on social reforms over thinning the overgrown forests.

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Time’s Up

forest and stones

© Sue Vincent

Remington had lost count of the number of times he had wandered among these stones. It had been so long that he’d forgotten which one was his. When was it? He could hardly recall. Yes, he did remember the Great Heathen Army. His grandfather had been felled by them at the Isle of Portland while serving under King Beorhtric. Remington himself was dispatched by one of their leaders called Ivar the Boneless, a thousand northern savages by his side. Was it at Wessex then?

It didn’t matter. Here he was as if he had always been here. That other life was so brief by comparison, it almost didn’t matter.

“Remington.”

“Who’s there?” He hadn’t spoken in so long, his own voice sounded strange, almost as eerie as the woman who called to him.

“It is time, Remington.”

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The Pleiades Mystery

summer

© Sue Vincent

Elio Hudson let out a deep breath as he looked at the idylic scene on the small console monitor. It was a photo he had taken of a field of wildflowers last Spring in southeast Texas, a hundred miles from the Houston Space Center and his other life.

“Hey, you might want to save that for later. Where we’re going has a much broader canvas.” Eledoro Salazar tapped Elio on the shoulder while sitting in the co-pilot’s chair. Although the mission leader and Naval Commander had only met the Spanish computer scientist eleven months ago while they were training for this mission, they had become fast friends.

Hudson removed his restraints and lifted his muscular frame from the pilot’s seat. “Routine systems check complete, Eledoro. Let’s go join the others. Our mission update from Houston is scheduled to come in about five minutes from now.”

“Right you are. Let’s go.”

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The Proposal

path

© Sue Vincent

Fear drenched Simon Clark like the sweat that covered his body. The wooded path made it look like a morning in early Spring, but the reality of the brutal August heat and the hazy smoke of a dozen wildfires across the west belied the scenery.

“I can’t do this. It’s too hard.” He wasn’t muttering to himself, but to his unseen companion.

“You have to, Simon. Too many people are depending on you.” She always sounded like a young woman, but there was something slightly mechanical about her tone.

“I just want to go home.”

“You are home.”

“I don’t mean that. I want to go someplace where I can be safe. Someplace where it’s cool and dry and I can relax.”

“You don’t have time for that right now. You have a job to do.”

“Why does it have to be me? I didn’t ask for the responsiblity.”

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