Author Topic: Star Train's Last Stop  (Read 297 times)

Eater of Clowns

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Star Train's Last Stop
« on: December 05, 2011, 11:43:05 pm »
This is station designation Star Train.

Alan Bryce never heard any alarms.

Please come in.

There must not be any.  He was reading Dr. Seuss into the communications console when heavy footsteps and a gritty voice first became audible.  Finally, he wasn’t alone.

Please come in.

He jumped out of that uncomfortable chair as quickly as he could.  He tossed a pile of civilian clothes aside to find a wrinkled, unused uniform and put it on as quickly as he could.  Whoever was in the station waited patiently at the entryway, speaking lowly as he laced up first one unpolished boot, then a second.  The hat was a lost cause.  His first project to improve it was an excellent lesson in park issued quality.  His second project to improve it was to turn it into a functional flying disc, bereft of any similarity to the hated hat but with the benefit of keeping him occupied for roughly one afternoon.

Star Train has come under…attack.

Tucking in his shirt, he was the picture of a park employee, albeit an unkempt one, all in blue and another type of blue and a shiny badge.

“All right then what do we have he…” Alan stopped as he turned the corner out of his office.  Standing at the entry to the station were four heavily armed soldiers.  It was about time someone showed up.  Although he wished it were human soldiers.  Not enemy soldiers.

He breathed deeply and slowly.  He was trained for this.  Visitors, that’s all.  Armed, red eyed, wet nosed, toothy and grey visitors.  They hadn’t killed him yet.  This was important.  “Welcome to station Star Train!”

Star Train still flying.  I’m okay.

They stared at him, weapons leveled.  They hadn’t killed him yet.  “Uhm.  Originally a double deck luxury Earth railway car, Star Train was the first station retrofitted for use in space!  The success of the conversion led the way for all manner of space faring objects, allowing for a ready and affordable means of bringing more people to the stars.”

Here he paused.  It was a good idea to let his introduction sink in while the kids looked around.  When there are kids, that is.  Instead, one of the soldiers spoke in that low, gritty voice to the others.  They lowered their weapons.

There does seem to be a slight problem though if anyone is out there.

Maybe the Haeltid didn’t have tourist destinations.  Alan hoped they were just as confused as he was.  He skipped to the more technical aspect of the tour.  Usually this part was for the end but it seemed more prevalent than going through the construction and funding parts.

“These days Star Train’s primary purpose is education.  It was designated a historical landmark twenty years ago and supports a small staff, yours truly, standing by to guide you through one of humanity’s first important steps into space.”

Again the same Haeltid soldier gritted something out.  Then, louder than he thought their voices could be, all four of them rumbled together, their voices fading in and out rhythmically.  Then they turned and walked back through the airlock.  One of them tossed a device behind him just before the door closed.  At this, they rumbled together again.

Alan couldn’t help but think they were laughing.

They left something behind.

He put the microphone down.  What he wouldn’t give to find out what he was holding.  Or to hear a human voice, for that matter.  Almost a year ago he received a transmission from Park Base, all broken up and panicked.  Something about the Haeltid and a war.

He hardly left the communications console in the office for the first few months.  He’d transmit and transmit, plead and yell, sob and receive nothing.  Not even static, just dead air.  He would stare out the windows and look at the blinking lights far in the distance.  They were still operational.  Someone would come eventually.

Two months prior he started reading Dr. Seuss into the console.  All the other options seemed senseless so he might as well try something equally so.  Right now, though, right now that silent station hurt just as much as it did those months ago.

“Star Train?  Star Train, the historic site?  You guys are still operational?”

A voice.  From the communications console.  Alan’s dive to pick up the microphone was perhaps the most athletic moment of his life.

“Yes, this is Star Train, I-we’re still operational.  Just had contact with a Haeltid party.  They left something behind.  Who am I speaking to?”

“Wait, left something behind?  You’re still alive?  What did they leave behind?”

“I don’t know.  It’s about the size of a football.  It has a button on it – don’t worry, I haven’t pressed it.  It’s heavy, and warm, uh…”

“Oh.  Star Train.  I am so sorry.”
“What, why?”

“Star Train that’s an explosive device.”

Fuck, Alan thought.  Give me evil aliens.  Or monster aliens.  But for fuck’s sake, why give me asshole aliens?  I’m so tired of dealing with assholes.
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Hoser McRhizzy

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Re: Star Train's Last Stop
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2011, 03:34:21 am »
You, good sir, receive my first pair of :fuckmittens:


He was reading Dr. Seuss into the communications console when heavy footsteps and a gritty voice first became audible.  Finally, he wasn’t alone.

ridiculously beautiful set up you did there, btw.
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Eater of Clowns

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Re: Star Train's Last Stop
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2011, 03:45:17 am »
Ah haha...thank you?
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Richter

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Re: Star Train's Last Stop
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2011, 04:14:01 am »
 :mittens:  Definitely.  This is really 2 page sci-fi periodical caliber. 

Only critique: The last lines are great, but the "That's an explosive device" part comes off a bit flat.
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Eater of Clowns

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Re: Star Train's Last Stop
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2011, 02:53:59 pm »
:mittens:  Definitely.  This is really 2 page sci-fi periodical caliber. 

Only critique: The last lines are great, but the "That's an explosive device" part comes off a bit flat.

It's probably better left just understood, yeah.

I had a lot of fun with the concept, I just don't think the result is as good as it can be.  It's been a while since I've written and it feels garbled and unwieldy.  Might have to retool it.

Thanks, dude.
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Eater of Clowns

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Re: Star Train's Last Stop
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2012, 02:48:47 am »
BUMP.

This is being massively retooled.  The first part, which encompasses what's found in this thread, is currently at 5,415 words, making it the longest single thing I've written since the Nessies (yikes).

Story differs significantly from this, but the setting and the rest remain the same.

I'll post a bit of it if anyone is interested, probably tomorrow.
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The Good Reverend Roger

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Re: Star Train's Last Stop
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2012, 02:57:46 am »
BUMP.

This is being massively retooled.  The first part, which encompasses what's found in this thread, is currently at 5,415 words, making it the longest single thing I've written since the Nessies (yikes).

Story differs significantly from this, but the setting and the rest remain the same.

I'll post a bit of it if anyone is interested, probably tomorrow.

Of course we're interested.
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Don Coyote

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Re: Star Train's Last Stop
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2012, 03:02:08 am »
How did I not see this the first time? I especially love the last part.

 But for fuck’s sake, why give me asshole aliens?  I’m so tired of dealing with assholes.

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Eater of Clowns

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Re: Star Train's Last Stop
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2012, 03:10:17 am »
   “You don’t look like pilots,” Alan declared, “so I’m going to guess that you aren’t here to bring my relief?”  He voice rose hopefully at the end.  “If you’re only dropping off Jeffrey and popped in to use the facilities I’m afraid we’re an older station and can’t accommodate your…uh, physiologies.”

   At this the Haeltid rumbled for a few more seconds.  The shorter one on the right looked thoughtfully at Alan.  “Not…pilot.  Yours…not.”  The others turned swiftly at them and their gravelly speech rose and quickened, all three fighting to speak over the others.  They turned back to face Alan.

   “Well then,” he looked around.  He didn’t know what was going on but he was still going to do the job he was placed on this station to do.  “You must be visitors.”  He brightened and his arms reached out to display the space around them.

   “Welcome to Star Train.  I’m Interpretive Sol Historical Park Ranger Alan Bryce.  During your visit, I’ll be guiding you through this rich and significant step in our, er, humanity’s early steps toward the stars.  Now if anyone has a question, feel free to stop me and I’ll be happy to answer you as best as I can.  If there is anything I can’t help you with, our own Star Train Empathic Learning Apparatus,” he stopped, and winced.

   “Do you have a question,” came a small voice from behind Alan.  He’d forgotten the part in the tour where he shouldn’t mention Stela by name.  She always seized upon it.

   The Haeltid guests looked alarmed.  The one in front said something quickly and another walked to where Stela waited.  He bumped Alan roughly as he strode by.  Alan noted the stiffness of his clothing.  And, hesitantly, noticed how solid a figure the alien presented.  The investigating Haeltid called something back to the others and then made his way to the entryway again.  They seemed relaxed.

   Alan decided to press forward.  “No, Stela, we don’t have any questions,” he called politely.

   “If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them,” she said soothingly.

   “As I was saying,” he continued, “if there is anything I can’t help you with, Stela is our own hol-“

   “Do you have a question,” Stela repeated at her mention.

   “Our own holographic information center.  As you can see, she’s very happy to-“

   “If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them,” Stela said again.

   “Yes,” Alan said crossly, “that.”  This could be going better, he thought.  At least with schoolchildren, this ineptitude might prove amusing.  The Haeltid just stared.

   “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you through the early life of this humble little station that has had such a huge impact on the destiny of our, uh, my species.  And yours, I suppose, given all the ties our people have.”  He was regaining his composure.  He knew how to do this.  Alan motioned for them to follow as he made his way down the single narrow room.

   He motioned to his left.  “Here you’ll see an old photograph and newspaper article christening the Silver Stag.  The Silver Stag was the pet project of Earth billionaire Curtis Mayhew.  His entire life the man had a fascination with trains and the bygone era they represented.”  He turned to face his audience.

   He found them exactly where they had been.

   Nervously, he waved them forward again, and continued louder, “so when he made his fabulous wealth, Mr. Mayhew decided to build the most luxurious train the rails had ever seen.  It boasted two levels, high class dining cars, gaming cars, and even a dancing car.  Yes, the Silver Stag was so beautifully engineered she was steady and smooth enough to dance on.”

   With some relief he noted that they strolled toward him.  They stopped two feet away and peered with curiosity at the photograph, muttering.

   “It would appear, however, that the world did not share Mr. Mayhew’s fascination.  While not as successful as he imagined, the train did attract a small, interested segment of vacationers for a number of years.  For two decades it carried families and couples across the countryside.

   “And this is where the real story began.  In all that time, Irena Fastille had been working.  She and her team were pouring constant hours into a revolutionary new process.  It was when they saw an article,” Alan pointed to the adjoining photograph, “marking the retirement of the Silver Stag that they began to dream.”

   He led the strange team further along the thinning carpets.  He had to admit it was the strangest presentation he’d done, but they were a fantastic audience.  They were quiet, attentive, maybe a bit confused, but at least they seemed to understand him.

   They stopped on the other side of the hologram pedestal.  “Right on this side of Stela you’ll see-“

   “Do you have a question,” the little blue woman asked as she appeared on the pedestal.

   Alan groaned.  He waited a few seconds expectantly.  In the silence the three Haeltid began to move about.  One went to inspect Stela and the others stood quietly before the old newspaper articles.

   “You’ll see Ms. Fastille’s team worki-“

   “If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them,” came the voice again.

   “Ms. Fastille’s team working their design on one of the cars of the Silver Stag.”

   “Oh, you have a question about Irena Fastille?  What would you like to know about her,” Stela asked.

   “Stela, off!”  Alan barked, finally.  She wouldn’t shut down unless he flipped the switch behind her again.  So long as he didn’t keep saying her name she should stop interrupting, though.  The Haeltid looked, if anything, amused at the exchange.  Maybe they weren’t as different as he’d thought.

   “Ms. Fastille quietly purchased the entire Silver Stag train.  In a massive move, each car was brought individually by barge to her team’s laboratory in New Mexico, United States.  There they began the project that would change us all.

   “It was the three cabin cars that they focused on.  Each was given a different fitting, a different experimental rigging.  They were built to withstand a launch and subsequent orbit into space.”  Alan’s voice fell on the last word, hushed to near a whisper.  Whatever the visitors felt at this part, he was always in awe.

   “The first of the three never made it through the atmosphere.  The failure was so huge that they doubted either of the others would make it either.  It seemed that the massive project was doomed to fail.

   “Nearly a year passed before the second car was launched.  It fared significantly better than its predecessor.  In a sight many of them had secretly thought they wouldn’t see, it surged through the atmosphere and ultimately hung in the great black peace of space.

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Eater of Clowns

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Re: Star Train's Last Stop
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2012, 03:11:56 am »
   “Some time later, the third car was sent up.  It joined its brother among the stars.  Not only did Ms. Fastille’s team do it, it would appear they replicated it.”

   The four odd companions continued down the train car, stopping just shy of the stairs and outside the single remaining cabin.

   “Unfortunately, as time went by, that third car proved to be a failure as much as the third.  It was inundated with problems and, more importantly, unable to support life.  The team was down to one, and the most ambitious and dangerous part of their trial still lay ahead.”

   A silent video played in the display beside Alan.  In it, a young man, an astronaut, smiled and answered questions standing at a podium before a plethora of microphones.  Flashes went off and he smiled for the photographs.  He turned and joined a pretty woman and a young boy on the side of the stage and hugged them both.  More flashes accompanied the act.

   “This is Mark Haley.  His is the name you’ve, uh, well many humans have seen on plaques and monuments across the galaxy.  This brave man lived on the retrofitted subway car, alone, for one year.  The project was coded WSOI46431.  It was on his daily transmissions calling back to Earth that he signed on and off as Star Train,” he paused, “the name stuck.”

   Alan thought about his own solitary time on board this rig.  He knew it was safe to live here.  He called on a very similar transmission in the mornings and evenings.  And, he reflected, he had the nerve to be bored.

   “Well, sirs,” Alan addressed the three Haeltid.  “That concludes the early part of Star Train’s life.”  He waited a moment.  “Are there, er, any questions?”

   It was at this moment he noticed the strange alteration of his guests’ behaviors.  The three stood transfixed, frozen.  They were children, their yellow eyes filled some human expression, but which he could not tell.  It was that image of Mark Haley that held them so enraptured.

   The ranger looked from the aliens, then to the screen, and back again.  He asked hesitantly, “do you have any questions about Mr. Haley?”

   The one who stood in front pointed at the video.  Its long, fat finger hung there perfectly still.  Its rough skin was more mottled than the other two, its eyes more wary and slightly paler.  The coarse black bristle running atop its head seemed grizzly.  This head was turned at Alan now while that finger still pointed.  Briefly Alan’s eyes were drawn to the insignia on its chest.  A purple line, rather than the red of the others’, ran across the black patch to form the outline of a cragged mountain, its peak touching a sickle that may have been a moon.  Just beneath it was a short patch of rounded script.

   “I don’t know,” Alan said to it quietly, honestly, “I’m sorry.  I don’t know what it is you want.”

   Now the pointing finger quivered.  The Haeltid’s grumbled came out quickly and loudly.  The two behind it reacted by tensing themselves, seeming to prepare for action.  An eternity passed as Alan froze in place, unsure what would come next.

   The Haeltid’s arm lowered slowly to its side and it said something to the others.  They firmly moved Alan aside and trekked up the stairs to the second level.  Alan followed.
EoC, you are the bane of my existence.

EoC doesn't make creepy.

EoC makes creepy worse.

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the afflicted persons get hold of and consume carrots even in socially quite unacceptable situations.