Science Fiction Wheelchair
  • Troy Williams
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Keith Hobson Meets Erin Smart – Keith’s View

The following scene was not cut from The Fundamentals, but it is missing. This is Keith’s and Erin’s first meeting told from Keith’s point of view. When editing the final version of The Fundamentals I found that I had a few chapters told from minor character viewpoints. That was important for me to understand the story; I had to get inside their heads, but it was not important to telling the story. The result was that below scene was altered to Erin’s viewpoint. This is an interesting look into story development. Reading it two years after it was written, I am surprised how well the scene survived my final edits.

Keith Hobson sat in the dark and watched the raw video feeds that became the news. Earth Channel One captured the video for storage in London’s DNA data center. The raw footage—kept for historical purposes—was the real news. The EC approved streams that ran over Earth Channel One's many networks was the news humanity needed to hear.

Earth Channel One was his idea, his and Charles Clark's. Charles wanted a genuine propaganda wing for Explorer Corporation. He wanted every story—every disaster, every storm, every murder, every fire, every lost child—every detail of local, national, and global life connected with his vision.

When EC One had conquered the news, they manipulated other forms of media. They altered songs, plays, movies, shows, and books to reflect Charles Clark’s view of the future. Public apathy meant they didn’t have to alter older works, they offered new criticism instead; a revolutionary understanding of the past. EC One influenced every bit of media humanity consumed. A greater accomplishment than the Explorer Bridge. Space folding merely transported humanity, EC One had transformed it.

Knowing the leviathan, he ignored it. Since his retirement, on August 8, 2240, he hadn't read a book, seen a movie, or listened to music produced after the twenty-second century. His retirement was one date he remembered with clarity, the date was tattooed on the inside of his left arm. Someone, maybe himself, had cut a complex network of lines and arcs over his right arm. Whoever created the work, they had left a network of scars without meaning. He studied it now.

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A Living Flame dancing in space
  • Troy Williams
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Evacuate!

“Evac Protocol.”

The female voice announced through ship-wide speakers and personal receivers. The volume of the announcement cut through equipment noise and ear protection like a woman’s scream, but the voice was calm and certain. The piercing-calm intonations made Robert Lanigan jump, but he didn’t move, he didn’t have the time for this nonsense.

As the Santa Maria’s Cost Engineer for the Economic Comptroller his responsibility was to tag and track every component in the Santa Maria’s blockchain. Evacuation meant damage, if he didn’t complete this accounting, then this equipment would be non-existent. Comptroller Central did not accept non-existence or unaccounted value.

Every centimeter of this spaceship was logged into the largest blockchain in human history. The Santa Maria’s twenty-six years of service, (or eighty-four, depending on how you accounted for the space station orbital platform version of her existence) ensured that she was well documented. This new equipment—loaded for the First Expedition Crossing—contributed to her value. Comp Cent required an accounting.

As evacuations go, he was in an enviable place; tagging components in a Sled. Sled was a simple name for a simple structure; a ladder frame dock for up to three Space and Multiple Atmosphere Crafts with independent habitation and propulsion modules in case of an emergency. He had finished with the attached SMACS and propulsion module when the evacuation protocol sounded.

“Shit! Lanigan, are you seeing this? We should go?” Tran’s voice over his helmet’s speakers. They were both wearing the new composite-metal-foam atmosphere suits developed for the FEC.

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  • Troy Williams
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Special Correspondents Lottery: Part 1

What you can’t imagine is worse than the imagining. Ryan Jameson couldn’t have imagined the events of the past day, that they would lead him to this cabin in the New Mexico spaceport to face his demon. Yet here he was, staring at the red glittery substance that was his downfall, Rainbows, his favorite mix of space dust.

One line and he would unsee everything he had seen in the past four hours, two and he would forget the pain, three and he would be a junkie again. Being a junkie was easy. Running an affiliate of the Public News Network was hard. He liked easy.

A month or more of covering the First Expedition Crossing from the Santa Maria was the break The Terra Channel needed. He could be the star of the ‘A’ block, or he could be a junkie. The Viking wanted him to be a junkie, take the fall for what happened at the lottery. That plastic bag on the pillow was an invite. A temptation he wouldn’t be considering if he had not accepted that first invite, the one to the Special Correspondents Lottery.

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  • Troy Williams
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Special Correspondents Lottery: Part 2

The Terra Channel’s office was in Education Corporation’s downtown Austin campus. The campus had a short running trail looping its perimeter. Most mornings Ryan lapped the other joggers on the trail, his tall frame and long legs gave him the edge. At one in the morning the trail was empty. The space dust dealer worked the trail near the interchange. He turned off the running trail for a sidewalk that cut through the heart of the empty campus. Best to avoid temptation.

Not so easy when a bag of Rainbows is lying in front of you like a mint on a hotel’s pillow. The Viking knew he was a junkie. But how? He didn’t have a record. He limited his public profile to the work he did at TTC. But, here was a bag of Rainbows.

Rainbows was the perfect mix of space dust. Half-way between a rocket-ship and a hibernate, it was an amazing trip. You entered a psychedelic wonderland where the grass talked to you, and the clouds came out of sky to be your friend. Space dust wasn’t special, it’s just phencyclidine—PCP—but mixed with a narcotic or an amphetamine.

You could go down or up with space dust; hibernate, or rocket-ship, your choice. What made space dust special was that if you went up or down you had the same experience. The problem was that once you rode the rocket-ship; you needed a hibernate to come down without getting sick. And if you went out like a bear, the pain of moving again made you crave rocket-ship. Addicts claimed they had mastered the art of managing the space dust cycle, and Ryan was a professional addict.

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  • Troy Williams
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Special Correspondents Lottery: Part 3

If he had missed that train, he wouldn’t have seen Kitty again, wouldn’t have hooked-up with Emily, wouldn’t have witnessed a man cut in two with a laser scalpel. If he had missed that train, he wouldn’t have been there to carry Emily away from the carnage at the lottery, and The Viking wouldn’t be trying to frame him for that carnage.

He should have missed the train, should have been excluded from the lottery because he was late to Earth Channel One’s tower. But once through the security line, a woman in a skintight white jumpsuit asked if he needed help finding his party.

“I am here for the Special Correspondents Lottery,” he said, showing her his ticket.

“They are boarding a train to the spaceport. If you hurry, you should catch it,” she said, pointing to the far end of the tower.

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  • Troy Williams
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Special Correspondents Lottery: Part 4

Emily smacked her lips, fresh lipstick, an invitation to something that had to wait. Ryan groaned. They shouldn’t have done that, but at that moment he was glad they did. He thought that Emily would leave Kitty and she would come back to Austin. Now, he knew otherwise.

He snatched the bag of space dust from the pillow, opened it. Part of Rainbows charm was the fragrance, sweet, like candy. Emily smelled the same He poured the contents of the bag onto the nightstand. The red and white powder sparkled against the dark wood. It reminded him of the parking lot where they met Marcus.

Marcus's fire engine red minivan was two parking spaces away. He leaned against the van, brushing his horseshoe mustache. “Bomboncita,” he lifted Emily and spun her. She kissed his cheeks until he put her down.

“What is this?” Emily said, looking in the windows of the minivan.

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  • Troy Williams
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Special Correspondents Lottery: Conclusion

When he found his dead parents, he had wished that he had been there earlier. He wished that he would have skipped school that day, would have come home earlier, not spent that extra five minutes flirting with the girls in homeroom. Ever since that day, he felt like he was just missing out, just a minute late, just a second too slow to make a difference.

Now he wished that he had missed it all. He folded the plastic bag between his fingers, so it formed a rigid edge, then used the bag to gather the red and white space dust into a pile. Making the lines were part of the ritual. His face grew flush. He shouldn’t do this.

Scoop to a pile, then separate. His groin pulled in anticipation. He wished someone was here to share the experience. He pushed the lines apart. Three of them, just as he planned. Do the short one first, to take the edge off. A few minutes later, when the dust had erased the guilt he would do the second. That would get him high. He would go outside, stare at the launch tower, get one last look at that nighttime sky. Then he would come in and do the third line. A big line. Enough to overdose, enough to end up like his parents. Something clicked inside him. A click like the sound of those doors opening at the Exposition Coliseum.

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