Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the tag “earth”

Every Sparrow that Falls: the Final Chapter.

The voice in his head sounded desperate. But.

‘Who are you?’ Chuck asked. ‘What are you doing in my head?’ His mind was trying to convince him that everything was fine. But it wasn’t fine. He’d been shot at. His head was killing him. So was the radiation. And now he had voices in his head. And nobody ever thought that was a good sign.

Friend, his head told him. Here to help. Dying. Stop. Stop radiation.

‘Are you a min-min?’ he asked. He still didn’t quite trust the energy blobs. His only response was a sense of puzzlement. He felt puzzled. ‘I mean, one of the energy balls.’ And comprehension dawned on him.

Yes. Min-min. Dying!

Chuck felt a sense of urgency during that last statement. He realised with shock that Caitlin was right: the radiation was dispersing the energy balls. And the energy balls were alive. They were killing his guides. Had killed them, for all he knew.

Yes! Stop it!

‘Cait!’

‘Is it working? I can-’

‘Turn it off! Quickly! We made a mistake!’

‘You made a mistake!’ Caitlin retorted. ‘No, no, never mind,’ she continued as he tried to repeat his plea, ‘I am a professional. I turned it off as soon as you told me. Your skin won’t stop burning until we get you treated. And that should be soon. Get back to the ship.’

‘I’m coming,’ Chuck said. ‘You won’t believe this. I’m hearing voices.’

‘What won’t I believe?’ Cait asked.

‘Ha, ha. I’m on my way.’ Chuck signed out and prepared to run.

Go now, the voice said. Plenty of time.

The laser beam burned a hole in the back of his left boot as he hit the stairs running.

 

Back in the sunlight, Chuck slowed.

‘Who are you?’ he asked. There was a long pause. ‘Well?’

Wait, came the voice. Difficult. Looking for speech. Ah, there it is.

The change in his passenger’s language was immediate and obvious.

We are human, said the voice. It was female, from its cadence. It was like a voice remembered, one that had spoken only moments before, but it bypassed his ears. When your ancestors left the planet I am assuming you are from Earth originally?

Chuck went to nod, realised that might be completely useless, and said ‘Yes.’

When your ancestors left, she continued, many stayed behind. Some were mad. Most were useless. A very few were brilliant. We fought the machines and subjugated them. We concentrated on restoring the planet. The main obstacle to that was humanity itself. And then we realised that we could live forever without our bodies. It seemed like a fair trade. Immortality and a planet restored for the simple price of our flesh.

‘I don’t know,’ Chuck said. ‘I kind of enjoy my flesh.’ He looked back over his shoulder, remembering. ‘Wait! Your friends, the min-min. Did they survive?’

The moment these words formed in his mind to be spoken, a great wave of sadness hit him. Tears welled up in his eyes.

No, she said. They were dispersed.

‘You were close to them?’ he asked.

No. But emotions are always experienced strongly within the host. I cannot help it. I am sorry. The loss of the team is unfortunate. We rarely reproduce, especially with the machines being so belligerent. But no, I was not close to them. There is your ship!

Chuck’s eyes were drawn to the ship. It was a lot further away than he should have been able to recognise it. A pleasant side effect. Pleasant.

‘You’re female?’ he asked.

Yes, she said. Apologies. My name is Flip. Philipa Nias. I grew up in Melbourne the city you are in now and was lucky enough to be involved in the last conversions. I dont honestly know why we bothered to keep our gender-alignments. I think it is just a part of who I am. And you can stop thinking whatever youre thinking. I can feel your hormone levels rising.

Chuck blushed.

‘We’re almost there,’ he said. ‘What are you going to do? I need to go back to the ship for radiation treatment. I’ll need to make a proper report about my experiences since arriving, including the existence of a new life form or three. Are you coming with?’

Flip considered this. Off the planet? The radiation would disperse me.

‘I’ll ask Cait, but I think that we are shielded enough for you to come aboard safely.’

Something new to ride, Flip mused. Chuck felt himself being persuaded, which was an unusual sensation. They arrived at the ship. I think I should. Yes, that would indeed be an experience.

Feeling unusually happy, Chuck whistled as he ran through the pre-launch activities that would get him and his invisible passenger off the planet. As he was packing away the last of the supplies he had removed from the ship, his eye caught the corpse of a small bird. He tried to look away, but his gaze was fixed.

Wait, Flip said. Please. We need to bury him.

Chuck thought: ?

I owe him, Flip said. As I owe you. Please.

Nodding, Chuck dug a small hole in the soft earth and placed the sparrow gently into it. He covered the bird with soil and replaced the grass divot.

Do you still have religion? Flip asked him. The Bible? God?

‘Well,’ Chuck said. ‘Gods. There are a good number of them. But there is The One God. Not that anybody believes He’s the only one any more. He had a Bible.’

Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing, it says. Thats what makes a Rider. Take care of the individuals and the world will be fine.

‘That sounds like a plan,’ Chuck said. ‘Who knows what will come from this meeting of two individuals?’

All thanks to that little guy, said Flip. Oh dear. Im starting to sound like you now. Before we go, I think theres one person that should come with us. She established a link and gave her friend the invitation. Chuck caught the gist of it through their shared thoughts.

 

‘Hang on, Captain who?’

 

Space: The final frontier.

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Every Sparrow – Chapter 8

The glow of the energy balls gave off very little light as Chuck descended into the depths of the building. There was a low hum that he associated with machinery. Maybe the min-min, not able to communicate with him directly, had brought him to a computer of some kind, to attempt a link that way.

There was a sudden whine, the blobs scattered and a beam of red light lanced through the darkness and burned a line across his scalp.

Or, he thought, dropping to the ground, they couldnt kill me using their microwaves so they decided to try a more direct approach.

The stench of burning hair filled his nostrils and he slapped at his head. The whine repeated and he rolled desperately to one side, narrowly avoiding a second deadly beam.

‘Stop shooting at me!’ he yelled, crawling to his feet and diving to safety in the darkness. Unfortunately, between his current location and safety was a steel cabinet, which he struck hard with his forehead. The third shot missed him because of the erratic movement of a semi-concussed man.

As the whine rose in tempo for the fourth time, he found the edge of the cabinet and crawled around the side. He had no idea where the beam was coming from, or whether he was still a target from this new vantage point, but his head felt exactly as if he had just dived headlong into a metal cabinet, and his thoughts were scattered.

The whine of the beam remained at a mosquito-buzz pitch for a moment and then the weapon powered down.

Chuck slumped against the cool metal of the cabinet and waited for the world to stop spinning. His brain seemed to be still rattling inside his head and to make matters worse, his skin was itching again.

All around him was the high-pitched meaningless chatter of the coloured blobs. They must be telling the shooter where he was hiding. He had to get back upstairs, to the relative safety of a world he never thought he’d call ‘alien’.

‘Scout to ship. Cait, come in. I’m in trouble!’

‘How did you manage that?’ Cait asked.

‘Ambushed. Trapped. Something shooting at me,’ Chuck said, trying to focus his thoughts. ‘My hair is on fire. The min-min sent me into a trap. I’ve got to get out!’

‘Holy hells. You’re not kidding, are you?’

‘Why would you think that I was?’ Chuck asked, incredulous.

‘Oh, I don’t know. Does “Aargh!’ ring a bell?’ Cait asked.

‘Fair enough. Look, I’m going to make a break for it. Can you do anything from up there?’

‘I don’t think so, but- wait. If I narrow the scanner beam onto your location, I think I can flood the very immediate area with radiation.’

Chuck tried to get his rattled head to process that statement.

‘You’re going to irradiate me?’ he asked. ‘And that’s what you call “helping”?’

‘It’s a slim chance, but there’s a possibility that it could disrupt those “min-mins”, which will mean you can get back to the ship without being followed.’

‘And if it gets dark, I won’t need a torch, because I will glow in the dark!’

‘Don’t be a baby. We have anti-rad treatments up here,’ Caitlin said. ‘I think – yes. There it is. Say when.’

Chuck could see the faint glow coming down from the top of the stairs. It was only a few long strides away to the first step. He was well into the room before his attacker fired the first time. He should be fine.

‘OK, go,’ he said. He pulled himself into a crouch. His skin was prickling, and then-

‘Right. Done it,’ came the voice from the ship. The prickle turned into a burn. At the edge of his range of hearing, the high-pitched chatter had turned into a squeal.

Got em, he thought. He stood. The whine of the laser started up again. Chuck spun but as he readied to run, his legs buckled, and the pain in his skull doubled.

Wait, said a voice in his head. You must stop! Make it stop!

‘That’s not me!’ Chuck muttered.Cait to the rescue

 

Every Sparrow – Chapter Four

Chuck’s skin was itching.

It wasn’t painful, but it was insistent. His skin was itching and his teeth were starting to buzz. He’d walked from the clearing near what looked to be a library, along the remnants of a road, towards the cube buildings on his map. He’d been completely unmolested the entire way, although the local fauna kept a wary eye on him – an unknown species that could be a predator. But as he neared the structure, could see it jutting out of the landscape amongst the trees, he began to feel an unpleasant sensation.

There is a chill you get in your skin when you think about something distasteful or when someone runs a finger just above your skin. Chuck shuddered, and then shuddered again. He stopped and looked around. His skin began to prickle, starting at his neck and spreading across his face and down his back. He stopped walking at an unpleasant thought: what if he were being bombarded with radiation? He grabbed his tablet, swiped his fingers across the screen and brought up a radiation scanner. There was something in his vicinity, random pulses of energy, but nothing that could be considered harmful. He popped up a panel on the wrist of his landing suit. His gear wasn’t registering any harmful chemicals in the air. In fact, the air on an earth unsullied by humanity for a thousand years was incredibly pure.

Slightly nervous, but unable to come up with a reason to retreat, Chuck walked onwards, itchy and uncomfortable. Now, he could hear a tiny high-pitched squealing, just at the edge of his hearing. It wasn’t a voice. It wasn’t a creature. It was, he realised, the sound of data. Somewhere close, something was transmitting a good deal of data across a spectrum that his hearing could pick up. He looked up for no real reason and tapped the communicator on his chest.

‘Scout to orbiter, come in?’
‘Heya Chuck, what’s going on?’
‘We’ve got definite activity down here. No obvious signs of life, but a number of anomalies worth checking out. Plus, there’s some definite data chatter. Could anyone else be here?’
‘Nope. Uh uh, no way. Unless you believe in aliens, we are the first ship to come back to this sector of space since the Exodus.’
‘And we didn’t, you know, leave anyone behind when we left Earth the first time? Cos they’d be justifiably annoyed.’ Chuck took another look around, trying to think of a way he could be itched to death. There were a lot. He realised that Caitlin up on the ship hadn’t responded yet. ‘Cait?’
‘We-ell,’ came the voice in his ear, ‘Some people didn’t want to go. Certain religions, ridiculously optimistic people, complete nutjobs. We don’t generally tell people, but it’s here in the records.’
Chuck held his hand over his ear at the word ‘nutjobs’. He wasn’t sure if whoever was here could pick it up.
‘OK,’ he said. ‘So I could suddenly be attacked by lunatic proto-humans carrying clubs made up of recycled paper? And that wasn’t something you thought I needed to know.’
‘You worry too much Chuck,’ Caitlin said. ‘You were with me when I did the scans. There’s no sign of sentient life anywhere. None of the structures show signs of repair. There’s nothing there.’
‘Fair enough,’ Chuck said. ‘There’s nobody here. Two things: Firstly, What’s the data chatter that I can hear? I can’t capture it using the tablet, but I can hear it. Second, can you think of any way that someone can kill someone else in a way that would make their skin itch?’
‘There are plenty of ways to kill you with itchy skin. Poison, radiation, slow-working acid, killer nano-robots..’
‘You can stop helping now,’ Chuck said, scratching his neck. ‘And the data stream?’
‘No sign of it,’ came the voice from the ship. ‘There’s definitely some technology still active on the planet, which is strange after a thousand years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anybody still living there.’
‘Righto,’ Chuck said, ‘I’m heading to a bunch of energy anomalies I picked up on the tablet. I’ll let you know what I find out. Ciao!’
‘Sayonara,’ Caitlin said and the communicator bleeped out.

Chuck ignored the itching and his vibrating teeth and strode with purpose towards the square.

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