Futurism is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.
How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.
How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.
To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.Show less
Chapters 1 - 11 can be read at: Deep Sky Stories & Illustrations
Not very far away, Sergeant Jim Cash slowly drove his police cruiser down the quiet dusty country lanes. Good ol' sleepy Delta-Town was just fine with him. So calm...so predictable... so... (blip-blip).
"What the—," old Jim said as his usually quiet computer work-station signaled for his attention. Touching the respond-to-call icon on the thin electro-wet, illuminated screen, Jim was given an instant aerial view of one of the small roads leading out of town. This was provided to him by a small, autonomous, free-flying "Crime-Seeker" drone which flew random patrols high above the public areas of the town.
Posture and body-language profiles which were most likely to indicate criminal or violent activity were programmed into the little machine's Artificial Intelligence templates. Thus, any act or movement that it observed which matched any of its profile templates would raise a warning flag in its system. It was this flag which had now been passed on to Sergeant Cash's in-car computer.
Toggling the Seeker's zoom-lens from his console, Jim was then given a crystal clear close-up of two males involved in a scuffle over something which one of them was carrying. By all appearances, this was a robbery in progress, but the two people that the offence involved made old Jim sit up with a start and peer at the screen with sharp interest.
"Very, very interesting," he whispered intently. One of the people he knew from long work experience but he was usually a quiet and reclusive sort. "What the heck are you doing?" Jim said, as though he expected an immediate reply from the old face with the pale gray eyes.
The officer jabbed the Enroute icon, spun the wheel, and accelerated toward Main Street. A worried frown creased his usually deadpan face as he noticed who Old Elliot, the town hobo, was scuffling with.
"This is too weird," he said to the inside of his car. "Why are you bothering the new guy in town, old timer?"
For starters, scruffy Old Elliot had never bothered a single soul before. He was just an odd-ball old vagrant who seemed to have been a fixture in dusty little Delta-Town for the last twelve years or so. He scratched out a meager living collecting and selling old junk and scraps from people's back lanes or from the old abandoned scrapyard, farther out of town.
This was the first time Jim had ever seen Elliot getting into a fight with anybody, let alone the newly arrived doctor. "Humph, doctor my arse-end," Jim finished the thought out loud. He recalled their earlier meeting all too well. Oh, he seemed to be a pleasant enough guy—smiling and saying all the polite and proper things although he smelled like he needed a bath in the worst way.
No... there wasn't any one aspect about the doctor that raised his eyebrows. No, it was just a certain "something," perhaps the shake of the hand which was too, too brisk with friendly firmness. And Jim could see no respectful nervousness in the newcomer's eyes when they first met. Just a straight, cheery kind of stare or something. That was just "not on" as far as he was concerned... and now, this! "Who are you, really, Doctor Kirstt?" he mused dispassionately as he turned onto Main Street.
He came upon the two men still in the throes of a rather violent struggle. As Jim gazed at them through the windshield, a quirky smile touched his lips for a moment; what an odd struggle it was, though. It looked like the kind of struggle that might occur at an airport or bus station from time to time. Two people might get into a dispute over a suitcase that each of them thought to be their own. Their conversation could go something like, "Excuse me, I think you've got my bag" (stiff, polite smile).
"Your bag—oh no-no, I'm so sorry, but this is mine and I would know my bag anywhere—now if you would be so kind..." (hard, toothy grin).
"Now just a minute, friend. I distinctly remember that color of blue. It matches my suit perfectly" (pull).
"It doesn't match your suit at all, pal" (yank).
"Are you insulting my fashion-sense, buddy?"
"What fashion? Did your mommy dress you today?"
Sergeant Cash quickly assessed the situation then stepped out of his cruiser to intervene before things got too out of hand. The two men were indeed in the middle of a tugging match over the doctor's briefcase of all things. Stranger still was the way they acted during their constant struggle. For they kept staring at each other with tense, haunted, and glaring animal eyes. There was even an unnatural familiarity between them which made a sudden shiver run up old Jim's spine.
For whatever reason, there was a sharpness in the air that had not existed before... a hard seriousness which thickened and grew the longer the two stood there grappling for that one black briefcase. Now that he had come closer, Jim noted an odd bulge in the case, because it had clearly been over-stuffed with something. They exchanged not a word, save for subdued grunts as each attempted to wrest the briefcase from the other. So intently were they focused on their silent match of brute strength that neither man took notice of Jim's approach.
It was all such a disturbing scene when juxtaposed against the otherwise quiet little town-line street. A soft, cool breeze rustled and whipped up the dry fallen leaves on the dusty ground around them. And what would normally have been a routine intervention between two town-folk to break up a minor neighborhood dispute had been twisted about and changed into an unnatural something else.
A crawly feeling touched the nape of old Jim's neck-hairs, making them stand stiffly on end. A gut instinct which he had always trusted made Jim begin backing away slowly from the two grunting, staring men. But that was when the doctor shifted his dark hollow eyes from his opponent's to those of the policeman. The look he gave Jim was icy cold and void of any normal humanity as though his very soul had deserted him long ago. And when he spoke, Doctor Kirstt's voice was hard, brittle, and dry like the scraping withered leaves that shifted under his feet.
"This other is disturbing me... dear, kind officer... please remove him... from us!" Immediately after speaking those few rasping words, he shifted the hard, hard eyes back to staring at old Elliot as they continued their intense battle of wills. And all this was over the rather ordinary looking briefcase being gripped tightly and held horizontally between each.
Ordinary, except for that strange bulge which threatened to burst it open at any moment... and what was that gooey green stuff frothing out of it? Didn't it move just then, or was that just the midday sun shining off the glossy black plastic?
No, it did move!
The large lump shifted and twitched so that the tightly stretched walls of the briefcase popped and crackled loudly between the two growling men. Yet still they wrestled with clenched, white hands and hunched over shoulders, neither one of them giving ground.
"I... know... you!" panted old Elliot between breaths.
"Elliot... what...?" Jim gasped on hearing the pops and cracks growing louder. He backed up further and now his left hand came up defensively while his right rested uneasily on the butt of the long-barreled automatic at his hip.
"Get away, Jim... get away… now," Elliot snarled his stark warning. A thrill shook the officer as the shell of thick plastic suddenly cracked open with the sound of a gunshot and a head was revealed. It shivered viciously and hot, raging anger shot from thin, red slit-eyes.
"Oh my God," Cash breathed as the terrifying reality reared ugly and true before him. A thick, green mucous clung to the creature and, as it slowly emerged, the slime clung cloyly to it, stretching further and further. The slit-eyed thing shivered again and the slime fell away.
The two men on either side of it cried out in horror and let the shattered briefcase fall as they staggered backward. Apparently not even the doctor had been truly aware of the orange and black striped creature which now emerged from hiding and hovered before them on thrumming, beating, black wings. A horrible transformation had occurred overnight and the thing now whuzzing and hovering before their eyes resembled more a huge Wasp than a Fly.
In a flash the angry thing shot straight for Sergeant Cash and a terrifying, rasping, "buzzra-buzzra," crackled through the air. A split moment in time was all there was left to Jim... but it was all that he required.
Fear galvanized him into instant action!
He never knew why he drew his Stinger Stick instead of his pistol but as his hand shot out and the steel alloyed baton lashed out long and thin, he knew he'd made the right choice. A defending jolt of stunning electricity shot through the large streaking creature and the full weight of his solid two hundred pounds went into Jim's forward swing as well!
Smacked aside hard and given an unexpected shock to boot, the wicked insect-bot succeeded only in knocking Jim to the ground. Then, veering away wildly, it suddenly flew blindly back toward the two remaining men. Jim heard a sharp scream of pain, then deathly silence fell over the quiet, dusty street.
An angry blur of orange and black was all that was seen as the snarling, buzzing thing flashed off, making wild, injured zig-zags through the air. A long, needle thin shaft of steel like a monstrous bee's stinger still stuck out gleaming and deadly from its tail. And it dripped red. Having gone berserk and then been deflected from its first target, the furious black-striped creature lashed out blindly with a blur of vicious stabs at the next nearest human before flashing away.
"Elliot!" yelled Jim as he recovered from the awful attack. Getting back up and still in shock, he cast frantically all about trying to regain his bearings and see if anyone had been hurt.
That's when he saw the old man. He was kneeling over the body of Dr. Strikt who lay on the ground, bleeding from several ghastly wounds in his chest. This alone was bad enough but a venom that had also been injected from the stinger was swiftly bringing the doctor's life to an end. Professor Strikt (for that was his true name), trembled violently but seemed to be trying to tell Elliot something important. He also recognized Elliot, whereas, before, he hadn't at all.
Now, just before dying, he was finally released from the terrible mind-control that the creature had had him under for so long. Harold Strikt reached weakly into the breast pocket of his blood-stained lab coat and took out a neatly folded piece of paper which was now punctured and stained red. Leaning in closer to hear, the two men were puzzled by the doctor's dying words.
"The boy... with the map... he must be warned," he whispered urgently. "I was a fool to trust the Others... Find Wallace... He has the map... He knows the boy... Save the boy... please... You must hurry, there is little time left.
Elliot, the Others... they are changing... adapting to Earth. They must be stopped before..." But that was all. The man gave a final shudder then lay still. The policeman looked into the old derelict's eyes and saw the same puzzlement as he felt.
"A boy?" "Who's Wallace and who are the Others?" he asked, but then he saw the stained and punctured sheaf of paper still clutched in the dead man's hand. Unfolding and studying it, Jim was surprised to see what looked to be a printout of a picture of some sort; a picture drawn totally with black pencil dots. It was like a child's artwork project, but of what he had no idea.
"I knew him many years ago," old Elliot abruptly said beside him. "He is, or was, a research scientist." Before he could continue though, a small red and white First Responder Robot which had been dispatched by the Crime-Seeker arrived at the scene and skidded to a halt with two small red and white strobe lights flashing. It had come prepared to use its array of on-site medical emergency tools in whatever way possible.
Long, flexible yet strong robot arms unfolded from its three-wheeled teardrop shaped body as it drew near. But a cursory examination by its sensitive cardio-respiratory sensor confirmed the worst and the robot sent a silent data and video transmission to the enroute paramedics. A nearing siren indicated the swiftly approaching ambulance. The crew would do their best but for the ever anxious and fearful Harold Strikt, there would be no more fears now, only rest, once and for all.
The two old men stood for a few minutes lost in their private thoughts, studying the scene of the short but deadly encounter with numb silence. One was nearing what he thought would be the end of an uneventful police career, while the other was a quiet and strange old man who no one in Delta had ever truly known.
But now, with a dangerous creature on the loose somewhere in his town and only a few dying words and a scrap of paper to go by, Jim Cash knew he needed much more information—and quickly.
"You said you knew the man, didn't you?" he said, leveling his flint-gray eyes on Old Elliot.
"Yes," Elliot said.
"Come on then, we need to talk," said Cash and he gently but firmly directed Elliot to his waiting cruiser.
Zin the Fly who had learned to adapt to Earth's heavier gravity by stretching out her body-shape into that of a Wasp sped off on her way, but the human had injured her. She felt dizzy and confused. The other human that she had attacked during her blind fury had been her unwitting host and collaborator all these years. It was an unfortunate loss of a very useful human, but in time, he could have revealed many secrets about Zin and the Others to the rest of humankind.
No, Professor Strikt's loss was a necessary one and besides, his primary deed had been done years before, if only in a partial way. If he had completed the betrayal and prevented the man known as John Faraway from escaping to Mars then Zin would not have had to travel back to this small town after all these years.
Things did not go as smoothly as planned eleven years ago and now there was unfinished business to attend to. The time of the Great Change was nearly at hand on the Masters' Homeworld. Therefore, all those humans who could be found before they became a serious threat to the Others and their plan needed to be dealt with swiftly.
The map of the Valley which had been passed on from ancestor to ancestor, down through the ages through their natural link with Mars, had now been revealed for all to see. It was obvious now that the boy who revealed the map had strong Remnants within him which would soon manifest themselves in other ways.
His continued use of a Luss would ensure that the activation of his Remnants had probably already occurred. For the Others to move on with their ultimate plan, the original map would also have to be found and used for their own desired purpose back on Mars. One copy had already been made but it was of little value because only an original map told the entire story.
The original map had to be found soon.
Not only that concerned the Wasp, the Luss Transform Strength which the boy commanded had increased ten-fold during only his first battle. There seemed to be a dreadful omen tied to all these related happenings. This did not bode well for the Others should the human evade them and become yet more powerful.
Fortunately, although she had not found him at the school, a trap had already been previously set and would most certainly prove fruitful. Yes, Zin mused slyly, it was all becoming clear to her once more as the confusion in her mind dissipated at last. The effects of the human's electrical weapon finally faded away and Zin recalled the plan for the invasion with perfect clarity.
The treacherous Wasp buzzed swiftly away toward the old scrapyard and her Nest on the distant outskirts of Delta-Town. The Others were gathering there and preparing to commence their war against Alex's people but before that happened, Zin first would become the Queen and ruler of her own kind. By any means possible...
Next: Chapter 12 (Part 1) - Elliot and Cash, and Parallax
Elliot Jansen reveals to Jim Cash his past life as an astronomer and the astounding discovery he made while searching the night sky twenty years before. But, exploring the cosmos can also lead one down a treacherous path, and into an insane maze beyond this reality.
As of 2019-05-22, Chapter 11 (Part 3) can be read at: DeepSkyStories.com