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"Lord Draagh, it appears all is going according to plan."
An older, robed gentleman, possessing a medium-length beard with a long mustache stylishly braided within responded, saying, "Yes, Socrates. So far, that is."
Turning around, the old man looked at Socrates as it floated in midair; its visage composed of wafting, golden particles. More than a face, Socrates resembled a comedy/tragedy mask of Earth's ancient past, but possessing neither Thalia's smile, nor Melpomene's frown. Its expression was more of concerned delight.
"Query: Now that events have been set into motion, what is your next plan of action, Lord Draagh?"
"I shall need for you to set coordinates for me, old friend," said Draagh.
"Query: And what shall these be, my lord?"
"I have a new location. I am entering primary 4D coordinates now for Kamiliak calculations." Draagh waved his arm out, somehow lighting the room in which he stood.
Looking like private chambers in an ancient castle, the room was filled with arcane objects; a globe with landmasses nowhere close to Earth's, various compasses, dowels and test tubes, as well as books, manuscripts and candles. Draagh liked candles. They added ambience.
But he didn't need them.
Again waving his hand out to his front, he created a semitransparent display that hauntingly hung unmoving in the air. Once he finished entering a long string of data into the tangible light panel, he turned lazily to his left where Socrates floated nearby.
A beautiful creation of the oldest species in the universe, Socrates was a critical component in the Prīmulī's ability to travel through space and time. The nearly-opaque face slowly spun 360 degrees to port and stopped after completing a full rotation, with various trailing particles catching up to properly reform the mask.
"Lord Draagh, please note your staff has been updated with both the primary insertion point and those of your requested destination of 6.3.4267 EP for the specified geo-spatial coordinates. Query: shall I verify?"
Draagh looked back at the floating face and nodded. He was always one who preferred safety over haste.
Socrates spun in a slow manner 360 degrees to aft and then stopped in place. "All coordinates verified. Safe travels. Query: while I am familiar with 6.3.4267 EP, may I ask what you plan on doing on 6.3.2818 EP? It is sparsely inhabited, and mostly by superstitious nomadic tribes. It could be quite dangerous."
Draagh grinned softly, the cycling light levels causing his blue eyes to sparkle and reflect the random, flashing imagery on the view screen.
"I am going to change the future, old friend…"
The face made what would be considered a wry smile; if it didn't look on the verge of dematerialize at any moment. "Ever the mysterious one, my lord. As always, I am here to help. Please do remember that once you have left The Hub there shall be an access lag if you need to call on me."
Of course, my friend," said Draagh, as he pulled his long, gray ponytail out of the way and lifted his hooded cloak up over his head. Quickly changing his garb to a tunic made of tawny, coarse fabric, black leather pants and a black, mid-length leather coat, he no longer looked like an old man covered in robes. He now more clearly resembled an aged, yet quite fit Viking warrior of centuries past.
"Your outfit indeed suits you, my lord," said Socrates.
Draagh smiled. He had no need to say anything. He was aware that Socrates' response, although sincere, been programmed into it millions of years prior. Still, the old man was not without certain graces.
"Thank you, Socrates. I have one more favor to ask, if you could."
"Please access view portal 1.3.2818 Azul Cargalia. I am entering the latitude and longitude coordinates now."
"Query: why is that, my lord?"
"I wish to check up on the other actor in this grand production."
"Query: are you referring to the female?"
"Yes I am," Draagh responded, nodding.
"Query: would that not be spying, my lord?"
"Nonsense! I do not… spy. I merely wish to make sure all goes according to schedule. This is quite an undertaking, as you well know."
After entering the desired coordinates, Draagh's video display changed from looking into a chaotic sub-dimensional realm, where a small space ship was being pulled along to its destination at unimaginable velocities, to a simple alarm clock on a bedside table.
New Sydney, Oz, Azul System 2819
"Jennie… Jennie, are you all right? I heard a loud thump."
The incessant knocking on her bedroom door woke her up, not the fall.
Begrudgingly, Jennie slowly opened one of her enormous, cocoa-brown eyes, both of which were surrounded by generous amounts of smudged eyeliner she had declined to remove the night before. Her going away party was epic, as well as the top-shelf tequila she drank with a guy she liked a lot, so when she got back to her apartment she walked over to her bed and fell into it like a rock.
Now she was on the floor, hung over as Hell, her abnormal position accentuating her painful condition.
"I'm good, roomie," she groaned. "Stop knocking already."
"Okay, sweetie. I'm making some desa. Come out when you're ready," said the voice from the other side of the door.
My. Poor. Brain. I know Becks means well, but… my head is throbbing. Ack.
Jennie had a sideways view of her bathroom. Actually, it was more of an upside-down/sideways view, being her legs were still up on the edge of the bed and her head was on the floor. Her contorted position more closely resembled a difficult yoga pose than anything.
She grabbed the edge of her bedside table, using it as leverage to pull herself up, knocking her alarm clock over in the process. Tiredly squinting, she picked up a semi-transparent paperscreen lying next to the lamp. It was addressed to Lieutenant Jennifer Escalante.
Holding the paperscreen in her hands, the plastic material turned opaque and a scrolling list of text appeared, with block paragraphs taking their places on the page. Dated April 3, 2819, and signed by Rear Admiral Luigi Bagatelle, the orders placed her on the newest, most advanced spacecraft in the Navy—the ADF Revolution.
Coming out of her sleepy state, her eyes lit up—slightly. Just like all of her previous transfers since graduating from the Naval Academy, she was going with Bagatelle. That much made her feel fortunate; that much made her feel good.
Her stomach, however, felt entirely the opposite.
She dropped the paperscreen and fell to her knees. Luckily, there was a solid waste bin next to her bed.
Once she had settled her stomach and dumped the contents of the trashcan into the toilet, Jennie stumbled a couple of meters over to the bathroom mirror, wearing nothing but a pair of pink panties.
No time to hit the salon. Nails are fine. Groovy.
Bringing her gaze up from her hands, she stood sideways, scanning her figure up and down in the reflection. She wondered if her breasts would ever start to sag.
They wouldn't, but she didn't know that; she had no idea.
Jennie dropped her panties and climbed into the shower to let the hot water soothe away her aches. She could have sworn she was dancing the limbo the night before, using muscles long ignored. Her glutes seared with pain, and her lower back felt like it had been repeatedly hit with a cricket bat, so she directed the water nozzle onto her affected parts in a vain attempt to relieve her aching muscles. She didn't care about going over her water allotment. It was connected to the apartment anyway, so Becky's annoying boyfriend would have to bathe at his own place.
Once she finished her shower, she activated a playlist on her personal console. Then she started going through her morning dental ritual. Her teeth were pearly white and perfect. She intended to keep them that way. She had never required dental implants or even corrective braces, and something she remembered her dentist telling her when she was young was only floss the teeth you want to keep. It was meant to scare her, and it did.
Done with her flossing and brushing routine, she danced around her room with the music blaring in the background. While she sang she envisioned the song's vid that she had seen at least a hundred times. She wasn't a very good singer. In fact, she was barely on key, but she loved that band, and found it a shame she would never, ever meet them. They were long dead; their bodies were now only dust, buried beneath two meters of dirt on a distant planet.
At the end of the first song, she pulled her military dress whites out of her closet and set them down on her bed. She had already packed her duffel for transit to the Revolution, but being an officer she was always required to show up to a new duty assignment in her ceremonial uniform.
Throwing on a tank top and pair of panties, Jennie left her room and went straight for the living area, sauntering along to her music, which she had turned down just a tad, just to be polite.
Jennie greeted her roommate, Becky Branson, the same way every morning—when she wasn't out on deployment, that is. Also military, Becky worked in the scientific division. The woman wasn't stunning like Jennie—she was actually quite plain. So was Becky's boyfriend Josh Mannheim—a skinny, tech-type with poorly groomed hair and a tendency to snort whenever he laughed. Jennie always envisioned Josh wearing glasses, which no one wore anymore, thanks to prenatal gen-mods. Of course, sunglasses were worn, even though surgery could give anyone the ability to tint their vision via a thin layer of transparent sclera that resided over the cornea, but some people still liked to accessorize.
Jennie didn't mind Josh so much, but she found it annoying when he talked to her because he never looked her in the eyes. He focused on her breasts, which were hard to miss that morning, poking out of her white tank top. And her copper-colored skin made them all that much more visible.
As was his luck, he was good at hiding his stares from Becky, whom Jennie knew loved him very much. Jennie felt they fit each other well, and she was sure the two would get married one day—in a geeky wedding, and probably in some sort of costume theme with a fake castle.
Jennie wanted to get married one day too, but not to a science geek. She wanted somebody powerful, with connections; somebody like Ryder Johnson, the man with whom she had been sharing copious amounts of tequila the night before.
Becky smiled while Jennie whirled around the living room of their small, shared apartment, but seemed to display a touch of sadness at the same time. While many women were jealous of the lieutenant's looks, Becky loved Jennie for who she was. She had said so on more than one occasion; mostly when they were out drinking. People were most honest when drunk.
"So, Josh, anything new in the geek factory these days?"
Jennie was being sarcastic. It was her way of telling him not to look for headlights poking out of her tank top. She noticed his averted stare while he mumbled and poked at his eggs.
"Naw, just doing nerdy things in a nerdy way. You know us, always on the cutting edge."
"Josh has been trying to get into the SSCC department," said Becky, "but they keep telling him to wait."
"Aw, keep trying, sweetie, and you'll get there," said Jennie, with a smidgen of unexpected compassion. "I can't wait until they put that stuff on a ship and we can get to other planets—now that would be cool. As it is, my new ship was built so whenever the Feds give the word the engineers can install SSCC tech in space. No more docking planet-side."
Josh looked up briefly, eyes scanning up and down her. Jennie gave him her look of death. He turned his glance elsewhere. She didn't know what he was looking at, whether it was the wall or the entrance to the toilet—she didn't care—as long as it wasn't her chest.
"Jen, sweetie, have some desa. You probably won't eat for a while," said Becky, as she handed her friend a steaming plate of fried eggs and ham.
Jennie took the plate with a smile and held it up to her face at an angle, letting its contents slide into her mouth as if she were a vorlax tragarnosh—an indigenous, fungi-like creature that consumed anything unfortunate enough to fall into its great maw.
The woman was completely devoid of table manners. It was her one fault as a pretty girl. She tried to use a bit of elegance when dining out, but usually refrained from eating on dates, knowing that any rational man would look upon her with horror as she shoveled food down her throat like a starving quadrinium miner. To her, eating was a required function, not something to be used to impress people.
After finishing inhaling her breakfast she popped over and kissed Becky on the cheek.
"Hey, Becks, I gotta get dressed—new duty assignment starts today! Woohoo!"
"Okay, roomie. You go get 'em! And message me about you and Ryder."
Jennie smiled and wiggled her brow, knowing her roommate loved salacious details about her adventures with guys. Becky would jokingly refer to Jennie's love life as Lifestyles of the Tan and Stacked. Jennie had dated a lot of attractive men, but had never accepted any proposals of any sort. She was waiting for the big one, and she thought that maybe Ryder would be the right guy.
"Yeah, Hun. I'll let you know. But don't expect anything too descriptive. Not my style, got it?" She grinned and then turned around, slapping Josh in the back of the head.
"Take care of her. Understand, dork?"
"Yeah, yeah. You know I always do, Escalante," he responded.
Jennie left the living area going back to her room, looking back and winking at Becky before she shut her door to change.
Once she had put on her uniform, a white jacket and slacks with orange stripe accents, her world's colors, and a white Australian-style slouch hat, left side pinned up in the classic bush style of centuries before, she grabbed her duffel and used her private door to the hallway. Preferring to not go through a tear-laden goodbye with Becky, she took the stairs down to the first level and hailed a cab once she was on the street. A tubular-looking vehicle floated down and a door opened, beckoning her to enter.
"BlueMil Spaceport, please. Entrance Zeta," she stated, once she had taken her seat in the cab. The automated transport then dutifully zipped up into the overhead traffic and went straight to her requested destination.
Then, after a short shuttle of one hour she would dock with the Revolution, starting the next phase of her career.