Figment

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In Figment, Police Lieutenant Evander Rainer, at a loss for clues on a murder case, resorts to a bride, a telepathic individual who will scan four major suspects to unravel the tangle for him. Alas, as a virus attacks the mind of the
12. Figment
bride, and Rainer begins to recall things which aren’t his own, he realizes there is much more at stake than meets the eye, and redoubles his efforts to find and deliver the criminal to justice.

It’s a novella of about 34,000 words.

 

 

Figment

 
 

Helpless Theseus lost in the maze of our brain,
we seek Ariadne’s thread, but there is none.

 
 
 

I

The emptiness between the table and the ceiling of the flying lounge fluttered with zero-gravity jetsam: a few opaque acetate sheets, an electronic pad and a stylus, and a copy of the Moon Herald. They spiraled in slow motion around each other in a silent dance.

The Herald unfolded its pages, revealing a publicity box from where blue Myosotis arvensis bloomed, next to the beaming face of an old man. The ad read:

Don’t be confused anymore! If your memory is like Swiss cheese, it’s time to try Forget-Me-Not! Restore your memory in one easy step! Incremental backups and restores are now available for senior citizens. Forget-Me-Not! Get a free consultation at home! Call us now at 5336-687-5336!

The Herald gradually regained its weight. It softly perched at the foot of a spotless white couch where a man lay, strapped to it, taking a nap.

The speakers of the moving lounge dinged, and a gentle female computer voice spoke.

We’re scheduled for landing in fifteen minutes.

The voice repeated the announcement, but it was lost on the dozing man, who just kept dreaming.

 

Pushed by its blazing rockets, the flying lounge sped across space, passing by thousands of blinking dots of the orbiting private demesnes scattered around Earth. Its destination wasn’t one of the many billions of stars populating the desolate vastness of the beyond, but a far closer and familiar globe—the Moon.

In its slow magnification, Earth’s satellite revealed, amidst its barren and hollowed surface, the outline of a branched-out installation. It wasn’t a mining facility, but plush residential quarters which included verdant gardens rife with trees, basins, manicured lawns and flowerbeds arranged in curlicues among which paths pleasantly unwound. Everything was sheltered under airtight glass domes—it stood out from the gray dust like an elaborate jewel of ivory inlaid with emerald.

The thriving marvel beckoned from the portholes of the flying lounge, but nobody was there to look at it. The one man inside it had awakened at last, but he was more interested in examining the acetate sheets in his hands than contemplating the beauty at the end of the vertiginous chasm of space.

The man featured inquiring eyes, a straight nose, and a slightly angular jaw that gave him authority. He wore clean shoes and a suit that fitted him like a glove; a sartorial creation way too perfect and functional to be but a masterfully crafted uniform.

The man glanced at the clock on the lounge wall and sighed, wondering how much longer he would’ve had to endure the torture of vacuum-traveling. The answer to the unvoiced question came immediately as, with a jolt, the rockets reversed their thrust, slowing down the lounge in its descent toward the landing platform assigned to it.

 

The door to the decontaminating chamber opened, and the man in the suit emerged from it. He found himself in an aseptic corridor. Orienting himself, he directed his steps toward a desk behind which a torpid clerk sat. Without saying one word, he presented the latter with his identification. The clerk inspected the documents, and motioned the newcomer further down the corridor.

 

“Lieutenant Evander Philippe Rainer,” Responsible Dahlie articulated, stepping forth to meet him.

However, the heavy, matronly woman didn’t shake hands with him; she kept them close to the overflowing pearl robe that covered her body. She gave the police lieutenant a narrow once-over, barely concealing her dislike and contempt for all earthly matters.

“We’re always eager to help the Police Department, whenever it needs us,” she lied.

“Is the bride ready?”

Responsible Dahlie tutted condescendingly.

“Yes, our sister is ready. I was wondering, though, if you rather prefer one of our more experienced sisters. You see, this is the first time for Sandra. She has little familiarity with the outside world, and—”

“Sandra will do nicely, thank you.”

Responsible Dahlie groaned heavily.

“Very well. After all, she too has to start somewhere, sooner or later… Before I entrust her in your hands, let me remind you a few things: all sisters in the zenana are special; we don’t introduce them to strangers, not until they are of age—by that time, they can look and fend for themselves. All the same, their first journey to Terra can be overwhelming. I must ask you to never let her in a room with more than three peoples at a time, other than you two. Be considerate about her; her mind is a very sensitive and precious instrument, and as such it must be treated.”

“We’ll be away only a few hours—I promise nothing weird is going to happen to her. I’ll bring her back so quickly you’ll think she’d never left.”

Dahlie pursed her lips like a mother worried for her child. She turned and glanced past the glass separating her from a contiguous waiting room. Rainer peered in the same direction… and was blinded by the sudden flare of the rising sun. He shielded his eyes in marvel at the mighty explosion of celestial glory. Only when the halo receded could he glimpse—the bride.

As if she had been born to the light, her entire body glistened with gold. Her ritual dress was simple—white stripes of cloth dropped from her shoulders, joined at her waist, and again parted, barely concealing her flat belly and her shapely legs, revealing her ankles and her sandaled feet. It was that flimsy, skimpy dress which earned the mind-freaks on the Moon the nickname ofbrides. However, unlike real brides, the ideal party for lunar brides weren’t grooms, but cunning criminals.

 

“Detective Roy Vagrant died last Sunday morning at 6:00 AM. Someone shot him. Unfortunately, as extensively as we have searched, we couldn’t find any clue about the murderer.”

Both Rainer and the bride were back to the moving lounge, strapped to their couches. The slightest thrum transmitted through the insulating layers of the floor, a sign that the lounge was moving again. The bride had made herself comfortable on her couch, heedless of her veils floating about alluringly in the zero-gravity. She kept her well-chiseled ankles together, revealing the golden string which bound them. It complemented her figure in such an exquisite way one would never think the peculiar ornament was, in fact, a real chain. Rainer shifted his eyes from the superb handicraft of the chain to the ankles of the bride, to her knees, her legs, her waist and her breasts, up up to her neck—to her bright face. Rainer met deep, hazel eyes tinged with copper, which stared back at him intently.

Rainer felt a vague twinge of embarrassment, but he deliberately ignored it. There was no point of being coy with a bride. Even if she was legally forbidden from reading but the criminals and the suspects exposed to her, when a bride was out of the zenana, there was no real way of knowing where her mind would ramble. As far as the limited powers of his intuition suggested him—above-the-average powers, standing to the lieutenant badge he carried, but trivial compared to the bride’s—she already was totally conscious about him; about his hopes, his fears, and his cravings, too. Denying the fact or resisting it would be stupid. He could do better than that; he could pretend nothing of that was happening, and the bride would graciously do the same.

Rainer cleared his throat and went back to rifling through the acetate sheets in his hands. He passed on one which portrayed a burly, square-jawed man in his sixties. The bride reached out and studied it.

“The one camera in Vagrant’s home office recorded continuously from when he entered, at 5:30 AM, to when he died, half an hour later. And then until the next Monday, when his maid found him. Alas, even the camera’s wide angle couldn’t frame the murderer.”

Rainer handed the bride a second acetate sheet. She tapped one of its corners to play a soundless video.

It showed a bargain office furnished with a desk, a bookcase, a clock on a mantelpiece, and blue roses in a vase. A man, clearly Vagrant, sat in his chair, working at some documents. Suddenly, he lifted his head, as if someone else entered the room. Vagrant stood… but he didn’t look surprised at seeing his murderer—did he know him already? Vagrant approached the off-frame visitor… when an intense light flashed, hitting Vagrant square in the chest, causing him to keel over on the floor, where he lay motionless.

The sheet of acetate played the idle image of the deceased for a minute or so, until the bride stroked its corner to fast-forward the video: the sunlight coming in from a window behind the desk faded rapidly into the evening, and then into the night. Dawn chased away the night in a circle, and the sunlight bathed the office once again. It was exactly then when Vagrant’s maid came in. Shocked at seeing her employer on the floor, she knelt, shaking him for a sign that he was alive, understanding from his cold body that he was long dead.

The acetate sheet became opaque again.

“Neither the investigation, nor the team of forensics could provide enough evidence to identify beyond any reasonable doubt the murderer. Still, we have tracked down four possible suspects; I’ll present them to you shortly—I’m sure the killer is one of them. Just tell me who he is, and your job on Earth will be over.”

The bride stared at Rainer, then went back looking at the video without saying a word.

 

Rainer’s service car pulled to the curb. It wasn’t the tall building of Blue Haven’s police station which rose in front of him and his guest, but a pleasant stretch of grass, trees, paths, basins, and a meandering canal.

“The city park is not the zenana gardens, but I hope you will appreciate it all the same,” Rainer said.

He and the bride stared at the park, which was just then being stormed by workers and students either out for lunch or lesson break. A lot of families would take advantage of the midday pause to reunite, too; so while adults ate, chattered, and relaxed, their children would momentarily run about and play a little.

Rainer leaned onto the car dashboard, and was lost for a moment in the plain beauty of the scene.

“Let’s take a walk,” he told the bride.

“I thought Responsible Dahlie stated that I mustn’t see more than three people at once.”

It was an assessment rather than a remark, for even the bride seemed to be soothed by the sight.

“This isn’t a sightseeing tour of Blue Haven, and I’m not your guide. I want you to test and calibrate your reads on common people before you meet the suspects. Since this is your first journey to Earth, I don’t want you to make mistakes—mixing up strong emotions and facts; taking the not uncommon desire to kill someone for the real thing. Let’s have a walk. As we proceed, read as many people as you can. This will give you a nice idea of how real people’s brain work in this town.”

They got out of the car. Rainer moved around to the rear hood, then opened it to retrieve a folded sweater. He gave it to Sandra.

“People better don’t know who you really are. Also, even if this walk is standard practice, it’s still illegal.”

Sandra unfolded the sweater and put it on… when she registered the faintest smell; a nice smell—that of perfume. A delicate scent of flowers she hadn’t picked up before on Rainer—that cloth didn’t belong to him, but to a woman.

Sandra looked at her bound feet.

“Right you are,” Rainer said.

He removed a tiny key from his pocket, kneeled and undid the chain around the bride’s ankles. He handed it over to her, and she deftly draped it around her wrist in a fashionable bracelet.

“Can we go, now?” he insisted.

 

Rainer and Sandra walked down the graveled paths, meeting as many pedestrians as they could. Each time, the bride would close her eyes, take a deep breath, and get a glimpse of the different minds.

“How’s it going?”

“I trained for ages to tell memories about emotions from memories about facts. This promenade, however pleasurable, is perfectly pointless.”

Rainer ignored Sandra.

“Look, Frank’s cart. Frank’s are the best sherbets in the world. Let’s don’t miss them!”

Sandra lifted her eyebrows and rolled her eyes, but she didn’t have the heart to resist the lieutenant as he took her hand and pulled her along toward the cart.

Rainer nodded at Frank, an old man with a leathery, tanned face covered in wrinkles. He looked like an old salt in his tub—he was a bit, standing at the helm of his pushcart. He smiled at seeing Rainer, then bowed in surprise at the woman in his company.

“And who would this flower be, Rainer?”

“She’s Sandra. She’s just a coworker.”

“Well, maybe it’s time I get another job, too.”

He winked at the bride, and she smiled back.

“How’s it going?” Frank asked Rainer.

“Same old, old man. Same old.”

“Well, what will you have?”

“Raspberry,” Rainer said, then he turned to Sandra. “What about you?”

The bride didn’t say anything.

“C’mon, it’s your first time on Earth, after all, huh? Let go of yourself—take it easy. It’s on the house.”

Frank waited patiently with his scoop in his hand.

“Oh, well. I’ll have… lemon and—licorice,” she said.

Beaming, Rainer paid, snatched the two ice creams, and gave Sandra hers.

“Have a nice day,” he told Frank.

“You too, guys. You too.”

Rainer and Sandra left, resuming their promenade, enjoying their treats a little at a time.

“I should’ve said peach, huh?” Sandra said.

She stopped, and Rainer glanced at her, oblivious.

“I’m not your Christine, Lieutenant Rainer; I’m not here to remind you of your bemoaned wife. I’m here to deliver a criminal to the justice…”

Once again, the words of the bride sounded more like a plain assessment than a cutting remark.

Rainer nodded his head and exhaled.

“Of course. We better go, then.”

 

Four one-way mirrors hung along a dark corridor, giving onto four tight rooms, each containing a table and a chair. Rainer and the bride, unseen, moved to the first window. Beyond it, a woman stood, nervously rubbing her hands. Her hair was unkempt, and she had big, black purses under her eyes, a sign that something tormented her. Was it remorse? Pain? Guilt, maybe? Only thebride would tell.

“Vagrant’s maid, Margo Price, fifty-two. She’s been working at his dependencies for about ten years now; she could’ve held some grudge against Vagrant. We have tested her retina for laser-gun radiation damage, but we got a negative—the laser might be shielded, or maybe she wore sunglasses. Well, she’s all yours.”

The bride closed her eyes, and focused on the maid for a moment, expanding her senses. Then she looked up again.

“Who’s next?” she asked.

Rainer frowned, impressed by the unusual speed at which the bride had obtained her first response. He made way to the next mirror.

In the second room a man broodingly sat, curled on himself, spewing curses under his breath, and shooting occasional side glances at the mirror.

“Jeremy Maddens, sixty. He’s a chief accountant at the revenue service agency of Blue Haven. He hired Roy Vagrant to look into his daughter’s alleged suicide. About a month ago, Joan Maddens was found dead in her apartment at Bright Oaks. The medical examiner ascertained that she died from an overdose of Excedril, a highly performing drug that hit the market of late. Jeremy Maddens stirred a controversy with the police, accusing us of doing nothing against the pushers and the suppliers that infest Blue Haven, and of covering up the big shots of the city that sucked his Joan into a deadly spiral of vice. But the police archived the case as suicide, and that was it. That’s why Maddens turned to Vagrant; in the hope that he would find who was responsible for his daughter’s death, and deliver him to justice. Maybe he wasn’t happy with Vagrant’s job, he flipped out, and he killed him. You tell me.”

Rainer stepped aside for the bride to scan Maddens, which she did. This time, however, it took her longer. Rainer realized that Maddens’s murderous instincts must be exceptionally strong—did Sandra find the man they were looking for already?

When the bride looked up, Rainer didn’t ask her what she’d just seen in Maddens’s mind, but moved to the third one-way mirror. In the adjacent room, a well-dressed man sat composed, with his fingers woven together, looking at them. He was either contemplating his reflection in the mirror, or trying to pierce the glass and see through it.

“Maynard Alders, a rich lawyer of sixty. According to a lot of rumors I’ve been able to pick up, he’s a drug-addict. Allegedly, it was him who first introduced Joan to the plush environment of Blue Haven, including its vices. Joan started doing heavier and heavier drugs, until she was never able to recover again anymore. Despite her father’s attempts at pulling her out from that perverse world, he couldn’t save her—she always wanted to go back to her deadly golden cage. When she eventually died from it, Maddens swore to himself he would have exposed all those who had to do with her demise. Alders was one of those. Maybe Vagrant was about to tell the world what depraved vermin Alders was. Maybe he didn’t have the chance. Maybe Alders reached out first and killed Vagrant before he did.”

The bride glanced into the mirror, then closed her eyes, reading all about Alders and his lust. When she opened them again, her face had lost part of its color, and Rainer knew what a horrible job a bride’s must be.

“Sandra? Are you fine? Do you need a break?”

The bride shook her head. “I’m fine.”

Rainer motioned her to the last mirror, inside which an unsavory, arrogant young man slumped. A freshly broken nose and a jester sneer marred his otherwise comely features. He donned an exceptionally beautiful and expensive suit, but it was badly in need of cleaning and pressing. The fool propped his handmade shoes on the table, idly in wait, nibbling at his filthy nails.


[ … ]
 
 
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Posted on by Marco in Novella, Scribd, Stories | Leave a comment

Art.Hu.R.

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Art.Hu.R. is an artificial person appointed with the task of keeping ship-shape a huge spaceship on her thousand-year journey to a planet on the other side of the universe. Little does he know that major setbacks will soon put him in charge of everything, and that
11. Art.Hu.R.
he’ll have to fight against impossible odds to get the half a million unaware passengers stuck in a frozen sleep onboard safe and sound to their destination.

It’s a novella of about 27,000 words.

Enjoy!

 

 

Art.Hu.R.

 

I

The little girl put on her pink sneakers, deftly tied them up, then reached out for the battered skateboard tucked away in the nook of the apartment entrance. As soon as she pulled open the heavy ceramic door, a waft of hot air came in, like dragon’s breath, mussing her hair and drying her nose. The torrid gust flooded the apartment, poking into the rooms, alerting someone bustling about in the kitchen.

“Lucy? Is that you?” a worried voice wondered.

“I’m going out with the skate.”

“We’ll be leaving in two hours. I don’t want to have to scrub you all over, so mind you be right back.”

“All right, Mommy, I’ll be just outside the door.”

Lucy swept out and shut the ceramic slab after her.

 

She found herself in a hot and dusty street leading to the main square at the bottom of Hole 44, one of the many thousand-feet-deep wells mankind had dug in the plain to protect itself from the scorching heat of an expanding sun. The once lush prairie stretching as far as the eye could see had turned into an arid desert of crumbling rock and sand; the life which had infested it had crawled into the holes, wearing on in the cooler night which had become everybody’s day.

At five in the morning, dawn brightened the sky already. Soon, the sun would rise and cook everything in an unbearable heat, and Lucy would have to go back to the thick shell she lived in—until then, she possibly had about a quarter of an hour all to herself.

Lucy put down her skate, set her right foot on the board, then, with a couple of pushes, there she was, off and running down the sidewalk.

She glanced at the familiar shells that had been her friends’ abodes as she passed them. One by one, Beth, Maggie, Paula and the others had left. Milo had gone only two days before. Lucy too was going, with her mother. They were the chosen ones, the lucky ones who would’ve abandoned forever the sweltering pebble Earth had become.

Lucy loved skating; in fact, when she glided parallel to the street with her arms spread out, she always felt like flying. Even if she had never been on an airplane, she could pretend she wasn’t in the Hole anymore, but up there, in the air, like some bird of times past.

She lifted her head and peered at the satellite clouds stuck high above in the otherwise empty sky, in the monotonous repetition of the same-old interlocking hexagonal module. Lucy had seen the fluffy clouds made of vapor in the videos at school, of course. Even so, she had a hard time believing they could take every shape they fancied—from dragons, to rabbits, to cats, to elephants, before they changed again.

She had also seen footage of the crops and prairies which had once covered the plain; of the trees and the horses; of the endless stretches of water called oceans, where enormous animals swam, some as big as houses. But she had never seen all that in person; it was gone already long before she was born—how could she ever miss it? However, the ever-changing clouds were a whole other matter; she was so curious about them!

They were like… magic.

Milo told her where they were going the sky would be thick with clouds. They would bring in storms, and rains so thick one would literally drench in water—how crazy and weird was that, drench in water in the open?

Lucy’s train of thought broke off suddenly when the front wheels of the skateboard caught a crack in the sidewalk, projecting her hard on the concrete floor.

“Ouch!” she cried, holding her scratched knee.

She glanced at the exposed layers of her skin as tiny droplets of blood began seeping through.

“Darn, it hurts!”

“You bet it hurts!” a voice behind her cried. “That’s how your body reminds you to be more careful!”

Lucy looked up and saw a man in a green overall; he had a strange, eternal smile on his face, as if he found the world amusing. He leaned over, inspecting Lucy’s knee, revealing the name embroidered on his bib:

 

Art.Hu.R.

 

“Is that your name?” Lucy asked. “Arthur?”

“Sure, it’s me. I’m Arthur. Oh, let me see this—no, it ain’t broken, it’s just a scratch.”

The man retrieved a first-aid kit from his pocket, opened it, and took out a sterile gauze. He cleaned Lucy’s knee, sprayed some antiseptic on the wound, waited for it to dry up, then put a bandage on it.

“There,” Arthur said. “Give it a couple of days and you’ll be as good as new.”

“Who are you, some environmental operator?”

“Nah. I’m just a repairman.”

“Well, you repaired me…”

“Yeah, it seems so,” Arthur said, loving the sound of it, his face brightening genially. “You better go home, now. You don’t want to be out when the sun rises.”

He helped Lucy to her feet, picked up her skate and gave it to her. He followed her with his eyes as she limped back to her shell and disappeared inside it.

Arthur smiled, proud of accomplishing a good deed that early in the morning, then warily glanced at the still sky, expecting to see the disc of the sun appear any moment now. He crossed the main square and walked toward one of the largest buildings facing it.

 

“The Susan Constant will leave tonight at 0:00 AM,” General Moore said. “It’s going to take off from Moon base, carrying its human burden in the longest, most daring and dangerous journey man’s ever made.”

Moore, a square man with short, graying hair, spoke with the grave voice reserved for momentous events, addressing the selected audience in front of him.

“A new era opens for mankind. This very night, the first stage of a project started eighty years ago will come to completion. Thanks to the joined efforts of us all, half a million people will have the chance to leave a dying sun and system, to start over again on a fresh new planet which will become our second homeland. Sure, we’ll take nearly a thousand years to cover the four-point-three light years which separate us from Ermitara; but with the innovative technology in our hands, reaching it will feel like a minute-long trip—”

General Moore stopped talking as the double doors in the back of the meeting room opened and someone in a green overall came in. The whole assembly turned in wonder as well.

“I—I apologize, I didn’t mean to intrude,” Arthur said. “I’m due for a job interview, but it looks like they pointed me to the wrong room. Just ignore me and go on with your, huh… oration.”

“Come forth, Arthur,” the general bid.

“Do you know me, sir?”

“Everybody knows you, here, Arthur.”

Arthur thought they couldn’t possibly know him; he had, in fact, never seen even one of them—who were they? Why would they be expecting him? What for, anyway? Why didn’t anybody tell him? And yet, the big man on the dais seemed quite sure about it.

Arthur stepped forth, drawing along the stares of the bystanders. He moved up the rows, until he arrived in front of General Moore.

He invited Arthur to climb with him on the dais.

“I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else, sir. I’m not a bigwig, I’m just a modest repairman looking for a job. See? I don’t think I’m your man at all.”

“But I actually have a job for you.”

“I bet it’s the air conditioning system, isn’t it? Oh, that junk always breaks down. If you told me where the main unit is, I would fix it in no time—I don’t want to vaunt myself, but I’m quite good at that!”

“I know. That’s why you’re here, Arthur. Or should I say, ‘Art.Hu.R.’—Artificial Human Resource?”

“I’d rather you called me an artificial person.”

“The job is not here, Arthur. It’s out there,” General Moore said, pointing his forefinger at the ceiling.

“On the roof, sir?”

“Almost. What about keeping in working condition a huge spaceship, for a long, long time?”

“Thank you for your consideration, sir, but I don’t think I qualify to take on something that big. I handle small appliances—I know nothing about spaceships.”

“Yes, indeed. You might not look like it, but your memory contains the complete schematics of every nut and bolt of the Susan Constant. Your duty will be to keep her in shape for the whole length of her journey.”

“And that would be… a couple of months, I guess?”

“More like a thousand years. Yep, you heard right, Arthur. We’re leaving this red-hot bucket for good.”

Arthur scratched the top of his head, evaluating that monster number.

“Sir, I’ll be long dead by then!”

“On the contrary. We spent one fifth of the mission budget to develop and inject you with groundbreaking picotechnologies that will keep you well-alive, young and fit for the required time span. While everybody sleeps away, frozen in their cradles, you’ll be mopping around and cleaning and replacing malfunctioning and worn-out odds and ends of all kinds.”

“You mean I’ll be all by myself? I’ll go crazy, sir!”

“We also designed your mind to maintain maximum control over yourself in every situation—you won’t flip out, Arthur, don’t worry. Anyway, you won’t be alone. The Susan Constant’s mainframe computer will keep you company—you’ll be good friends with Jerry.”

“Jerry, sir?”

Arthur, taken aback more and more with every bit of news, just stood there, totally baffled.

“I don’t know what to say, sir.”

General Moore rolled his eyes at the crowd, causing it to stir with laughter.

“Just tell me if you want the gig!”

“Maybe I should accept your offer, after all, sir. It’s so hard to find a proper job, these days…”

 

Lucy glanced at the mechanical cradle in front of her, not entirely convinced she should get inside it. The black-metal coolant pipes snaking around it looked less than friendly.

“Are you sure this thing is safe?” she asked.

The female technician standing in front of Lucy and her mother smiled patiently.

“It’s perfectly safe. After you enter the sleeping unit, it will activate, lowering the temperature of your body to the point that it’ll freeze like a snowflake. That way, as if a clock had stopped ticking, your every metabolic process will be paused and you will be able to travel across space without aging. Of course, the process will be reversed on arrival, and you shall wake up again.”

“Sleeping through all that time? It scares me.”

“Shut your eyes and your body will follow. I promise you when you come to again, you’ll think only a few hours have gone by.”

Lucy peered at the weird sleeping suit she had put on, then looked toward the huge hall of the cryogenic chamber, thick as it was with egg-looking cradles.

“Is Milo there?”

“Who is Milo?” the technician asked.

“He’s my friend. He left before I did.”

“I’m sure he’s already deep asleep, then, somewhere in the cryogenic hall. Now, will you lie down, too?”

Finally won over, Lucy climbed into the machine. The technician worked deftly, stroking the controls on the side of the cradle, starting the hibernating process.

Lucy yawned. “Mom? I feel drowsy…”

“Sleep then, my child.”

“Hold my hand?”

Lucy’s mother reached out for her daughter’s little hand and held it in hers. As Lucy fell unconscious, her fingers gradually lost their warmth, until they became icy. With a worried sigh, Lucy’s mother kissed her on her forehead, then stepped back and watched the lid above the cradle shut on the child, delivering her to the stillness of the millenary sleep.

“She’ll be fine there,” the technician reassured the woman, and pointed her to the next freezing unit.

A bit unwillingly, Lucy’s mother lowered herself in it and lay back—in moments, she too fell asleep. As the second lid fell into place, the technician moved down the suspended catwalk, meeting more families waiting for their turn to hibernate.

 

Arthur swabbed the metal deck carefully, humming to himself. Since he had climbed aboard the Susan Constant, nobody had paid attention to him; they were all too taken up with the final preparations before takeoff, so he had grabbed the first mop he could put his hands on and had kept himself busy that way.

General Moore told him his mind was designed for a balanced behavior; all the same, he couldn’t deny he was… restless. He stopped swabbing and approached a large porthole past which space could be seen.

He glimpsed, in the darkness and relative coolness of Moon’s shadow, the scaffolding where the Susan Constant had been outlined first, then built, then fitted for the long journey to Ermitara.

A sudden jolt quaked the ship.

Arthur gulped and hung to his mop, wondering if that was it; if the long-awaited for time for takeoff had finally come, realizing it had.

The Susan Constant ignited her rockets, inched out from her scaffolding and majestically paraded in front of the tiny farewell committee launch, dwarfing it with her immense bulwarks. A salvo shot from the launch, christening the departing ship, wishing her a smooth and troubleless journey. The firework flashed along the ship’s hull, brightening Arthur’s awed features, then it dwindled and died out, leaving only the ubiquitous darkness of space.

Arthur, struck by the absolute silence at which the rockets of the ship flared, glanced at the Moon and at the yellowing, scorched Earth as they shrunk away. His thought went to the thousands still hiding in their holes—there wasn’t for them another ship leaving.


[ … ]
 
 
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Float City, the screenplay

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Float City, the screenplay

This screenplay is adapted from my novelette by the same title.

I’ve added a whole beginning, improved on Crane’s acrophobia, Val’s need for a vacation, a couple of things here and there, and streamlined more the heist angle. Fleshed out the end as well.

This 104-page long publication is in the standard, life-sized movie script format.

Enjoy, and cross your fingers that one day it sees the light as a science fiction / action movie and thriller on the silver screen.
 
M.

 

Posted on by Marco in Screenplays | Leave a comment

Credence, the screenplay

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Credence, the screenplay

This screenplay is adapted from my novel by the same title, a 2011 Page Awards finalist in the Science Fiction category.

This 112-page long publication is in the standard, life-sized movie script format.

Enjoy, and cross your fingers that one day it sees the light as a science fiction / action movie on the silver screen.
 
M.

 

Posted on by Marco in Screenplays | Leave a comment

The Forgiveness Machine

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The Forgiveness Machine tells the story of greedy businessman Bill Pearce. Haunted on his deathbed by the thought of the many people he’s ruined in his life, he seeks a late forgiveness. He turns to his inventor son, Mark, who develops and casts
10. The Forgiveness Machine
an oneiric network all over the country in a collective dream where the most delirious things happen. In this cathartic experience, Bill will have his last chance at redeeming himself. This novelette is about 16,000 words.

Enjoy!

 

 

The Forgiveness Machine

 

Lester Greene marched down the long periwinkle-blue corridor, occasionally glancing at the abstract sculptures and the stylish pottery sitting on elongated daises as he passed them. He wondered what such an uncouth, rude person as William Pearce could possibly find in them, other than their money’s worth. What a waste, he thought, to hide away all these masterpieces; how much better off they would be in an art museum, where everybody could see and truly enjoy them.

Greene stopped at the one door in the corridor and swept in. He found himself in a large, stark room, flooded in a dimmed whiteness, at the center of which a four-poster brass bed rose. In the bed, a large man lay, in a dark silk robe brightened with bird motifs.

Even in his fatal sickness, William Pearce was wary. He stared at the ceiling, his nostrils engulfed in oxygen tubes, his bluish arms injected with dripping IV.

Greene approached the bed, obsequiously standing at its side, without speaking, waiting for his employer to bid his will. Pearce turned his head, acknowledging his faithful lawyer and valued handyman.

“So?” he barked, looking forward to hearing about the task he’d sent him for.

“None will come,” Greene sentenced.

Pearce went back to contemplate the ceiling, taking in his doom, exhaling in a long, desperate sigh.

“I expected it,” he croaked, his voice now tainted with doubt and fear.

“What about George?” he asked.

“Mr. Tidwell’s Rottweiler made sure I didn’t get within thirty yards from his house’s entrance door. He didn’t mind neither the ringing nor my shouts.”

“Norman, then.”

“‘Tell that greedy bastard son of a bitch to go to hell. If he wants to talk to me, he’d better call my lawyer,’ that’s what Mr. Roach told me,” Greene said.

“Patricia?”

“Miss Lamb would not receive me, despite all my efforts. I sent her a bunch of flowers, but she returned them with their heads cut off.”

“What about Rose? She’s my wife, after all—‘in good and bad times.’ That should still hold true.”

“Mrs. Rosalind hangs up the phone every time I call her and won’t answer her door…”

Greene unclasped his hands, stared at them, then clasped them again, coldly assessing his work. Like his employer, human relations were a field he had little experience in; no wonder he had failed.

Pearce shook his head, then dabbed at a droplet of water which had formed under his right eye, quickly, before Greene could see it and think it was a tear.

“I deserve all of this,” Pearce told the ceiling. “I have been ruthless with each of them—my friends. I have ruined them, mistreated them, including the countless others I don’t remember. But these I once knew. If they don’t forgive me, nobody else is going to.”

“Give them time,” Greene daresay. “You can’t expect them to come at the snap of your fingers like they’ve always done.”

“Time? How much time do you think I have?”

Pearce grabbed the medical report from the nightstand and angrily hurled it in Greene’s face. The lawyer didn’t move. He just watched the sheets snow on him, finally settling on the floor.

“Any news from Mark? The last I heard from him, he had a teaching post at the university.”

“Not anymore. The university cut off the funding for his research and kicked him out. He’s opened a little repair shop now. He fixes computers by day and keeps working at his inventions by night.”

“Always with his useless inventions. What an idiot. I expected from my only child a splendid career in the financial world. Had he followed in his father’s steps, he would be rich now, not toiling away at some stupid, ungrateful job.”

“He has the right to live his own life…”

“Nonsense! He never forgave me for having left his mother, that’s the truth. He retaliates against me that way.”

Greene stood there, the obedient employee. Then he thought that, soon, he wouldn’t be so anymore. Why not to speak level to Pearce, then? Why not put him in front of his responsibilities? How long had he deserved a lesson about the windbag he was?

Greene took a deep breath and spoke.

“With all due respect, you know what the problem is with you, Bill? Nobody has ever punched you in the nose hard enough for you to reconsider. You spent your whole life thinking you were the center of the world and that everybody else should conform to your will, or go. How wrong you’ve been. Even I always felt threatened by you. I never put you in your place. But now that—”

Greene stared at Pearce. His flushed, outraged face turned pale at the realization of the bitter truth. He was so weak he wasn’t a threat to anybody anymore. His illness had taken that power away from him, confined him in that aseptic bedroom. Soon, he would die and be buried in a damp, cold grave and nobody would ever remember him.

Pearce put his hands on his face, sobbing. When he looked up again, his eyes were flushed with tears and his voice broken.

“What should I do, Lester? Please, tell me. Be frank with me. I promise I won’t get angry.”

 

The girl stopped her bicycle in front of the repair shop. She retrieved a scribbled note from her pocket, making sure it was the right address. She leaped from the bike and removed the computer case precariously strapped to the bike’s rear rack. She lifted it and held it underarm, stepping toward the shop, where, on its dusty window, a sign read:

 

COMPUTER AND PRINTER REPAIR

 

With a smile, the girl lugged the case to the shop door. She pushed it, entering a cramped front office stacked with discarded computer parts taped together, ready for the dumpster.

She put her computer on the counter, waiting for a clerk or someone, but the shop seemed deserted.

“Hello! Is somebody in here? Anybody?”

Nobody answered her.

She studied the place, sliding her forefinger on the counter to stare at the neat, white ellipse the gathered dust had formed. She scowled—the shop needed a cleanup, the walls could use some paint and the floor was in bad need of washing.

She reached out for a nearby notepad and a pen, about to write a note to the shop technician about her malfunctioning computer, when a strange smell came to her nose—that of burned plastic.

She looked around her, trying to locate the source of the stink. She sniffed at her computer first, shaking her head—it couldn’t be that. Then she pointed her nose at the counter, then at the haphazard junk to be found around, until it dawned on her the stink must certainly come out from a door in the back.

“Hello!” the girl repeated. “Is anybody in there? I think something is on fire. I don’t mean to butt in, but—are you sure you’re all right?”

Again, silence.

Worried now, the girl lifted the countertop, moving past the desk and the shelving unit separating the shop from the back room, arriving at a small laboratory. It overflowed with circuit boards of every size and shape, printers’ yellowing bodies, and arrays of screwdrivers, a couple of soldering stations, disparaged odd-looking tools and air-spray cans.

But what left the girl flabbergasted was the vision, in the corner of the room, atop a pile of technological junk, of a cage—inside it, an alarmed squirrel wrung its front paws around the bars shutting him in, staring at the only other person in the laboratory.

The technician, a strapping fellow in his thirties, sat in his chair, presently fast asleep. He wore a weird contraption on his head—a sort of helmet. Above it, a squat cylinder made of small metal plates spun madly. Every time a plate brushed against the electrodes the helmet was surrounded with, a spark lit up. Seemingly, the cylinder axle had overheated, sending in the air a billow of black, acrid smoke…

With a sudden burst, the helmet went up in flames, causing the girl to jump and shout in fear.

“Hey you!” she shrieked. “Your head is on fire!”

She shook the man in the attempt of awakening him, but he stubbornly kept to his funny dream world, idiotically smiling to things only he could see. Now really worried, the girl tried to push the helmet off the man’s head, but it was held in place by a leather strap. She fumbled with it, but it was fastened too tight to unhook it. She glanced at the wires linking the helmet to a nearby computer—she yanked them, dislodging them, cutting off the power supplying the helmet… but the fire kept flaring all the same.

The girl squealed at seeing the helmet was coming apart now, and that blazing pieces of it had started to drop, rolling everywhere in the laboratory. She scoured the premises for anything to douse the flames with—until she saw a faucet in the corner opposite to that containing the cage with the squirrel. She darted there and turned it on, but all that trickled out from it was a spit of rust and a gurgle.


[ … ]
 
 
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Posted on by Marco in Novelette, Scribd, Stories | Leave a comment
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