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Friday, February 26, 2021

F³ Unhappily Pt.1

             “Thanks for your time, Mrs. Lee. We’ll look into your husband’s disappearance.” I closed my notebook and shut off the recording.

            “Be sure to check down the hall. They’re always doing something weird at the end of the hall. Strange sounds and lights. It’s not natural. They must’ve had something to do with it!”

            I nodded to her and turned to go.

            “Aren’t you going to check down there?” she pointed at the apartment at the end of the hall.

            I barely suppressed a sigh. “I’ll go check.”

            I went to the door and knocked. “This is Detective Faraday, NYPD. Please open up.” I repeated the knock three more times to no answer.”

            “See,” said Mrs. Lee from her doorway, “they’re suspicious!”

            I looked down at the floor and sighed, which is when I noticed the fog. It crawled out from under the door in slow tendrils, one of them clinging to the door and snaking up it. Motes of light sparkled in it, like twinkling stars. I squatted and fanned my notebook at it. The fog reacted, but it was delayed, like an internet video buffering. And when it did, it was in slow motion.

            I sniffed at it, but there was no odor. Nothing chemical that I could distinguish from the ordinary smells of the building.

            I pounded on the door again. “NYPD, open up! Something is coming from your door.”


            “I’m coming in!”

            “Yes, get them!”

            “Mrs. Lee, go back into your apartment and stay there.”

            I got on my rover, asking for the FDNY to come out. If this was a precursor to a fire, I’d want them here, pronto.

            I tested the knob, the door was unlocked. Very unlike any Brooklyn apartment. I pushed the door in, uncovering a room full of the same sparkling fog. Light came in from the window, but it wasn’t as bright as it should’ve been. But on a patch of floor near the window was a lump that looked a lot like a body, like someone had collapsed due to whatever the fog was.

            I took a deep breath and plunged in.

Friday, February 19, 2021

F³ Fairy Tale Dentistry

             I hated dentists. Really, who didn’t hate dentists? But right now, I desperately wanted one. A molar had broken on me, and what was underneath hurt like hell. The left side of my mouth ached into the jaw, and the slightest touch of liquid sent an electric jolt through me.

            I was even desperate enough to try the local solution, a fairy tale witch with potions and whatnot. She was hunched over and sounded older than she looked, really, with a smoker’s rasp in her voice though no evidence of the habit. She plucked leaves and berries and other odds and ends from various earthenware jars and ground them all up with a mortar and pestle. Then she whispered words of magic and twinkling motes of green, gold, and purple danced over the concoction. She thrust the thing at me as it bubbled coldly, each popping bubble releasing a noxious skunk odor or peppermint or even smoked hickory. My nose and tastebuds didn’t know what to make of that combination.

            “Drink, and all the pains of your mouth will disappear.”

            I was about to bolt when my sigh hit the exposed tooth, spearing my jaw with fresh pain.

            I downed the draught in one gulp, doing my best not to breathe while I did so.

            Nothing happened.

            Of course, nothing happened. It wouldn’t be dramatic if it happened right away.

            I belched, sending out a literal purple cloud of the skunk/peppermint/hickory mix.

            The pain went away.

            I belched again, and felt a weird sensation from that side of my mouth. My tongue sought it out to find the jagged edge of missing tooth replaced by smooth enamel.

            “Wow. That’s some good—” I belched a series of smaller clouds, now, then felt pain from all over my mouth as well as a sharp sound. In short order my mouth filled with bits of things. I spit them all out into my hand to see a couple of porcelain crowns and several metal fillings.

            I ran my tongue over my teeth, feeling each one had been restored to good as new, no modern dental work remaining in my mouth.

            “No wonder your mouth hurt, chewing metal. Silly man.”

            Sure beats any dentist in Brooklyn. Sometimes this fairy tale place isn’t so bad.


Friday, February 12, 2021

F³ Reeducation

             Flynn eased the thruster control up. He tried not to let his nervousness show, but the jerk of the ship in response to the thrusters gave him the lie.

            “Sir, are you sure about this? Officers aren’t known for doing real work,” Eltie said.

            “Says the lieutenant.” Flynn shot back. “So I’m a little rusty. It’s been a while since I conned a ship out.”

            “And the enlisted did it for you?”

            “I still called out the orders, though.” Flynn turned the yoke, adjusting their heading. The ship, slowly at first, turned to the new heading. “See, that wasn’t so bad.”

            “We’re still in system.”

            Flynn sighed.

            Yeah, that.

            “Not for long.”

            The ship coasted through the bow shock and into interstellar space. Dark energy winds filled the sails, pushing them at faster-than-light speeds. Alarms blared as the sensors registered a negative trim: the bow was tipping forward. Technically, in space, this didn’t matter as it would in water. However, FTL sailers that trimmed too negative or positive could flip entirely. It wouldn’t hurt the ship, but the masts might rip out and the sails shred, entirely.

            “Captain?” Eltie said, alarmed.

            “I know, I know. The dorsal sail is filling while the ventral isn’t. I just need to get the angles right.”

            Flynn’s hands flew across the controls. He adjusted the lines, slightly luffing the dorsal sail. Then he worke don the ventral sails, trying to get the telltales—the small flag sensors built into the sails—to break even. He overcorrected more than once, but finally got the wind flowing smoothly over the ventral sails. The trim evened out, and Flynn got the dorsal sails to do the same.

            He sighed in relief. “See, no problem.”

            Flynn looked over to Eltie, who had a white-knuckled grip on the arms of her chair. “You were working on that for over half an hour.”

            Flynn’s eyebrows went up, and he checked the time himself. “Okay, so I need to put in some more practice.”

            “And hire a pilot.”

            “Hey, it wasn’t that bad.”

            “Anything that makes a marine nervous is bad.”

            “Marines always get this way when sailors do their jobs.”

            “Maybe if sailors didn’t do it so poorly.”

Friday, February 5, 2021

F³ Naval Tradition

             Flynn looked at the senior staff assembled in the ward room. This was the first meeting of them on Atlas. The XO had just gone through the usual business according to the agenda she and Flynn had discussed, previously. A lot of this was standard procedure, bordering on naval tradition. The usual round of questions came from the department heads, which the XO fielded with Flynn’s expectations. Finally, all the business was done, and it was time for Flynn’s speech.

            He stood, giving a gesture to have the staff remain seated.

            “The Navy has traditions that we’re all part of. Atlas has its own part in naval traditions, as well as her own story. In mythology, Atlas holds up the sky. We bear the weight of the universe on our shoulders. I’m honored to be part of Atlas’s story. It’s a weight and an honor.”

            Flynn gave a nod to the XO. “Years ago, when I was still vacuum-behind-the-ears as an ensign, a chief gave me some good advice. ‘Sir, everyone always thinks about the load on their shoulders, but that weight goes all the way down to their feet. You make your feet comfortable, and your shoulders won’t mind so much.’”

The XO began passing parcels to all the senior staff. “So with those wise words, I propose a new tradition on Atlas to make our feet comfortable. Go ahead and open them.

Each officer opened their bag to reveal pairs of socks personalized with their name and rank as well as “Atlas,” and the words “Broad Shoulders, Comfy Feet.”

“Sir,” Lt. Commander Benton, from engineering spoke.

Flynn nodded for him to go ahead.

“This is the finest tradition I’ve ever seen started on a ship. Our sister ships are going to be so jealous.”

“As they should be,” Flynn said to smiles and chuckles throughout the wardroom.

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