Tag Archives: sci fi

Car Park by Shawn Van Tol

The car rolled up to the curb and stopped. Bob quickly hopped out and walked around the back side of the car to Catherine’s door. She smiled to herself, touched by the small act of chivalry, blissfully unaware that Bob was using those precious seconds to release gas pressure that had been building to dangerous levels over the last four minutes of the drive. He allowed the breeze to carry his flatulence away and then opened the door with a cool smile. She took his hand, extending lovely legs onto the sidewalk, and exited the car. Bob closed the door and pulled out his phone.

“Now watch,” he said, tapping at the screen. “The app tells the car where to park and how long to wait based on the time of the movie.”

Catherine snuggled in close to his body and peered at the screen. “That’s so cool!” she said.

“Yeah,” Bob said. “You can even instruct the car to park in the shade. The solar panel on top will trigger the car to move to a different spot if it’s sitting in direct sunlight for too long.”

“What time is it?” Catherine asked. “Are we late?”

“Oh, yeah. We’re cutting it close,” Bob said. “Let’s go.”

He tapped his screen, selecting the option for shade, and the self-driving vehicle pulled away and made its way toward the parking lot. Bob couldn’t help but smile as he saw Catherine’s beautiful legs leading the way into the theater. She was always so frisky during these midday matinees. They hurried through the glass doors and into the air conditioning of the large building.

Bob’s car, a brand new 2021 Nissan Soulare, wound its way around the hot parking lot. Sensors and GPS signals guided it safely along as it searched for a suitable spot of shade. But in every place, the solar panels indicated direct sunlight. It exited from the lot and drove itself down the street.

The car moved easily down Franklin Boulevard, rounding a sloping bend that led around a park. Two teenagers, well into their first experience with LSD, watched the driver-less car pass by. One saw the car as a UFO that split the sky open like a sheet while the other knew with absolute certainty that the vehicle was an orb of pure light coming to restore all that had been lost from humanity. The sensors of the Nissan Soulare found no appropriate places for parking and moved on.

Further downtown, traffic snarled around two lanes worth of construction. A hefty man, resting his ample belly on the handle of a jackhammer, spat on the window of the car as it passed by. “That’s for my brother, you piece of shit! He used to be a cab driver!” The Nissan Soulare sensed the foul discharge of moisture and began to spray its own windshield and activated the wiper-blades. The eyes of the hefty man went wide as he accidentally drove the jackhammer into his big toe. He fell to the ground in pain, and the car moved on.

The vehicle pulled into the vast parking lot of a Stuff Mart and began searching for shade. On the other side of the lot, another Nissan Soulare was doing the same. They scouted the lot like sharks following a faint scent until they both closed in on the same spot. The two vehicles simultaneously turned in, then, sensing the other’s proximity, stopped abruptly. Servos wound up and down. Sensors scanned and signals pinged. On a server based in Silicon Valley some seven hundred miles away, two sets of logic collided in an endless battle of zeros and ones for the final spot of shade.

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Shawn Van Tol is an amateur writer who is secretly training to become a lazy man. He hopes to one day conquer the literary world with books so that he can quit his day job and never wear pants again. More of his stories can be found here.

 

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What Should Have Been the Voyage Home by Sean Leonard

The giant white creature glided across the dark blue water, the most intimidating breaststroke the two men had ever witnessed, an equally giant, equally intimidating shadow following along the bottom of the tank. They did not trust the apparent smile across the beast’s face, nor did they have any reason not to. One enormous paw after the other slapped down against the surface of the pool, sending waves crashing against the surrounding walls, two inch thick glass the only thing preventing their heads from becoming volleyballs. The men shuddered in unison, moments away from hugging like spider monkeys. Ignoring the uneven clink and clank of rapidly approaching footsteps, their four eyes remained transfixed on the strange beast.

“Hurley, what are we going to do with a polar bear?”

Captain Steadman gained momentum as he neared the two befuddled officers, then stopped on a dime, picked it up and put it in his pocket. Eventually he was Pisa-towering over Hurley and Watt. His jaw was clenched, his eyes open wide, and if steam suddenly shot from his ears, no one would have questioned it.

Seconds felt like hours as Steadman counted backward from ten, allowing his color by number face to lighten from terror level red to Georgia peach. The daggers of his eyes remained at the throat of Officer Watt even as he addressed Watt’s partner.

“Officer Hurley, what is your current assignment?”

“Engine room, sir.” Hurley coughed nervously, jealous of the protection his cervical vertebrae provided the frog occupying his throat.

“I see. The engine room. Yet you are in the transporter room. And you are in the transporter room because…?”

Steadman’s question remained hanging in the air long after Hurley’s hurried exit from the transporter deck, leaving only the overwrought officer, the curious captain, and the playful polar bear.

“Would you care to explain what we are dealing with here, officer?”

Officer Watt looked down to his left boot, shiny black against the silver steel floor, then over to his right boot, a bit scuffed at the toe. Out of boots, he looked up to his boss.

“We, um, we…we made a mistake, sir.” Watt tried to will the words back into his mouth before they reached the Captain’s ears, but without the powers of telekinesis the effort was futile.

Before Captain Steadman could birth the rage that was conceived by the officer’s words and then gestated inside his rigid, angry body, it was aborted by a roar echoing throughout the transporter deck. The polar bear had climbed up from the cool blue sea and stretched out across the partial ice platform that had appeared with him. He turned his head toward the two men and seemed to ask a low, guttural question that neither of them could answer.

“So let me get this straight, Officer Watt. Do you mind if I call you Mike?”

In a situation like this, someone in the position of Captain Steadman might have lit a cigarette. However, he did not. It wasn’t so much that he had quit as that he had never been a smoker.

“Um, my name isn’t Mike, sir. It’s George.”

“Mike, would you say that we ask too much of you? Would you say that the orders I give you are unjust in any way?”

“No sir, it’s not that…” Officer George Watt tried to answer, but was cut off by the man ten years and five ranks his senior.

“We had enough Zirconian crystals for one transport. One. And we are weeks away from a new supply. Of course Officer, you already know this, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you were assigned the simple task of transporting the Venuvian Ambassador onto the ship. A task that, if I understand correctly, and without getting into the science and back story of it, is as simple as pressing three buttons in succession. A task that you have been properly trained on and have done numerous times over the past few years. Correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

Captain Steadman began walking the perimeter of the enormous glass enclosure, squinting one eye as he watched the polar bear swim toward the floating blue barrel that bobbed up and down in the water. He massaged both of his temples in unison. Officer Watt did not follow him but stood still, hands pocketed, his red uniform shirt darkening to maroon around the armpits.

“The Venuvian Ambassador was the one person who could have ensured peace in our  war-ridden galaxy. The whole reason we are out here, floating above some hostile planet, is to save him. The whole reason I came out of retirement and left my wife at home…did I mention I recently married?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, I did. Met a nice lady, decided it was time to settle down, and she said yes. She makes me laugh. A real looker, too. And she loves me for me. Anyway, the whole reason I left her at home alone was to lead the most important mission of my life. And now I’m sitting here with a damn polar bear on my ship while Ambassador Klimek is, at this very moment, no doubt being devoured by the cannibal tribes of Stolar-7.”

Captain Steadman stood frustrated, his back against the glass wall. The polar bear looked on from behind, treading water and becoming Steadman’s giant white shadow. As the captain took a step forward and contemplated the fate of the galaxy, the polar bear pushed himself back to the floating barrel, hugging all four limbs around it. One of the two had a smile on their face.

Steadman walked to where his subordinate still stood staring at the ground and grabbed his collar. Watt was too slow to react, not that he would have even if he had had the opportunity, and so he found himself face to teeth-grinding, brow-furrowed face with his angry boss.

“First, we lose half our crew when we ‘accidentally’ land on SGJ-5, the werewolf planet during their full-moon, because somebody inverted the coordinates. Then your ham-handed approach went all thumbs and, instead of saving the one being that could bring peace to our galaxy, you somehow managed to transport a polar bear from God-knows-where onto our ship, draining our crystal supply and leaving us only enough energy to get home. You’ve gotten us into this mess, now how do you propose that we get out of it?”

Officer Watt thought for a long moment. He thought about the job he worked so hard to attain and now was on the verge of losing. He thought about his accidental role in the forthcoming destruction of the galaxy. But mainly, he thought about all of the late-20th/early-21st century American television he had been bingeing on since he joined the ship’s crew. About his recent discovery that the actress who played the mom in that old horror movie about the killer doll was the same actress who played the mom on that religious family drama that everyone loved. He couldn’t help but wonder if there was any relation. And then, recognizing that he had not thought about the Captain’s question at all, Officer Watt responded with what he honestly thought might be a good answer.

“Maybe the polar bear can help us save the galaxy? Like, maybe it can communicate with the alien life-forms that are threatening us and let them know we are friendly…sir.”

Captain Steadman wanted to slap his colleague.

“Polar bears aren’t exactly known for their communication skills, Watt. This isn’t a goddamned humpback whale.”

“Well, maybe we should just make the best of it, sir. We, um – we could keep him. You know, as a pet. If he’s a boy, we could name him George, and if he’s a girl, we could…”

Captain Steadman did slap his colleague.

“A polar bear on a space ship? Get a hold of yourself, man! That makes about as much sense as a polar bear on a tropical island. Just how the hell do you propose that we explain this?”

Officer Watt found his mind wandering back to all of the television he had been watching, these classic “re-runs” supplying the only knowledge that seemed to stick in his brain anymore. And then it hit him, the answer coming out of nowhere like a sudden cloudburst or a smoke monster.

“Who says we need to explain it?”

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In 1987, after hearing Poison’s “Look What the Cat Dragged In” for the first time, Sean Leonard decided he wanted to play drums. After realizing all rock stars wore leather pants, he changed his mind and traded in those dreams of fortune and fame for 80’s sitcoms, horror movies (which he reviews at HorrorNews.net), and punk rock. Sean’s short stories can be found in Solarcide’s “Flash Me! The Sinthology,” Bizarro Pulp Press’s “Bizarro Bizarro: An Anthology,” Chupa Cabra House’s “Axes of Evil,” and online at Cease, Cows. www.seanofthedead.net

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