My short story, “Starfire”, about Eve Arnold, a disabled but determined farmer/aerospace engineer taking on the challenges of warfare in 2030, was a finalist in the US Army’s MadScientist speculative fiction contest. It was just published here by the Modern War Institute at West Point.
The task : “Write about the following scenario – On March 17th, 2030, the country of Donovia, after months of strained relations and covert hostilities, invades neighboring country Otso. Donovia is a wealthy nation that is a near-peer competitor to the United States. Like the United States, Donovia has invested heavily in disruptive technologies such as robotics, AI, autonomy, quantum information sciences, bio enhancements and gene editing, space-based weapons and communications, drones, nanotechnology, and directed energy weapons. The United States is a close ally of Otso and is compelled to intervene due to treaty obligations and historical ties. The United States is about to engage Donovia in its first battle with a near-peer competitor in over 80 years…”
A short clip from the story:
January 10, 2030
It was a slow day at the Sunnyside Diner so they turned on the news, which was far from sunny. Eve Arnold slouched as she listened, and when she did, the thin edges of her exoskeletal support brace pressed against her ribs. The AI embedded in the brace sent an auto-nag to her phone. “Stop slouching.” She ignored it and finished the dregs of her coffee as Oklahoma Today discussed America’s slow march towards war.
So happy to be a part of such a creative project !
The first symptom of the virus isn’t the sore throat or the vomiting — it’s denial.
Thirteen-year old Amelie was working at her mom’s video rental store in Avalon, an Outer Banks town with a great view of Earth’s rings. A strange customer arrived, telling tales of an alternate Earth where America won the Cold War and the Soviets never nuked the moon. Despite that, life in his alt-Earth wasn’t so great. He said, if she wanted life on her Earth to be good, she must respect the Octopus and listen to its song.
Yeah, he was a nut, but he was more entertaining than the usual tourist.
Then the pandemic came, a ‘Mommuck’ virus that combined the worst of the Spanish flu and rabies. Most of the people who got it died fast, but others turned into raging monsters who had a talent for eating faces.
Eighteen year-old Amelie, armed with a fast bike, her father’s guns and her mother’s determination, is the sole human survivor in Avalon. Everything is hers, from Dirty Dick’s Crab Shop to Miz Daisy’s mushroom patch.
But something is smashing her octopus traps. It’s fast, smart and it’s coming for her. She figures there’s only one former person it could be — the nutty tourist from the alt-Earth.
[This story was inspired by a somewhat disinterested tourist I saw in Venice]
Life used to be good. On a regular day, I’d get up around noon. Maggie was at work, Angie was in school, I could shower my meaty self and smoke in peace. Then, comb my thick black hair, pray the first novena, put on a pair of sunglasses to cover my bloodshot eyes and go to the cafe. Bang down some high-test espressos. Watch the skirts go by, shoot the shit with Uncle Stanz and the guys.
Before the tourists got in, I’d pack the underside of the seats with bootleg smokes and JoySticks, cover them with a cushion before the cops cruise by. Then wait for our marks, umm … chumps … umm … tourists to show.
On a scale from one to ten, farm girls from Tuscany in town for a bachelorette party were the best tourists, definite nines. Silicon Dendrites from one moon over were my least favorite. They were great trading partners – who else would buy tons of brine waste from our desalinization plants – but they talked in farts and ooze. Not great conversationalists.
Second from the worst were Deepwater Blavoks from two moons over. Educated and urbane, they saw us the way we saw the dendrites; lower creatures. With them it was a short exchange of sharp-toothed pleasantries, swipe the credit card and slither into the water, on their way to a methane spa.
The best, the absolute tens were our lost cousins, the Earthmen.
“Miss Patel’s Holiday” is part of the awesome, futuristic, Visions VI, Galaxies anthology, edited by Carrol Fix.