April 23, 2014


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

SF & F & H Trope: “The Space Whale Aesop suggests a real, viable course of action ("don't perform nuclear tests") by presenting fantastic consequences ("radiation from the tests will awaken a giant monster that destroys Tokyo") instead of a more realistic but not quite as dramatic example ("it can burn whole buildings if someone is careless"). Overlaps with Gaia's Vengeance if the intended message is an environmental one, which it often is.”

Current Event: Earth Day

Paraskeui Russo pursed her lips and said, “Everyone’s positive this is a safe test?” She wasn’t one of the science staff overseeing the test of a fast reentry vehicle. In fact, she wasn’t even out of high school yet, but after she won second place in a contest that was supposed to provide a near-instantaneous evacuation of Space Station Courage.

Mychajlo DÄ…browski shook his head and said, “They wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t safe.” It was his project they were testing. His was the First Place Winner. Not that this was exactly what he’d proposed. His idea had been to keep bunch reentry pods made of waste-metal, melted and inflated with pressurized waste CO2. The rapid expansion of the gas would have cooled it, cooling the bubble. Cutting a doorway, outfitting it a rebreathing mechanism, then coating all of them with melt from the asteroid smelter orbiting a bit higher that SS
Courage. They could be tethered anywhere, everywhere.

Para shook her head, “Lots of scientists thought fission was a safe idea.”

Mych grunted. The contest was supposed be an innovative solution that would prevent an incident like the Sindikat Rossiyskikh Soyuznikov Space Station Muzhestvo – which had been badly holed and there hadn’t been enough life pods to save more than a hundred of the five hundred people who lived there. “No argument from me.”

Para looked at him, surprised. “You agree with me?”

Mych shook his head and hissed. “They’re launching.”

She scowled, but turned her full attention to the viewscreens. Instead of waste-metal bubbles, the Combined Forces part of the station had taken Mych’s idea and left out the rebreathers – those could be snatched while evacuating – and replaced them with variable explosives. Now called Situational Design ReEntry Shrapnel – SiDeReES or Sidereez – the things were being live tested today.

The first cluster of what looked like a large bunch of silver grapes was drifting out of orbit, headed down to Earth. They disappeared from sight. The window shivered and a sensor image replaced it. The capsules had started to glow red. Even as they did, the alarms in the space station suddenly began to shrill and wall panels began to glow red, fade, then glow red again. Station Command came over the public address, saying, “All crew please report to emergency stations. All others report to your emergency gathering points. This is not a drill.” The voice went on to repeat. Para looked at Mych and said, “What do you think’s happening?”

Mych’s eyes bugged wide. She turned to look at the screen. He said, “The planet – something’s happening.”

First a hole appeared to open abruptly in the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Then it widened into a gap, for all the world like a mouth opening. Where the nose would have been on a face, were the Hawaiian Islands. They were fiery pustules in the ocean that spread to engulf the entire chain, spewing lava into the water that boiled into steam. The Sidereez fell toward the mouth. For whatever reason, water was no longer pouring into the mouth-like crevasse. Simultaneously, it appeared that volcanoes had erupted in northern Mexico and on the Russian Syndicated Federation’s side of the Bering Strait.

Para blinked and whispered, “It looks like a face...” Space Station Courage shivered.

The voice said, “All personnel report to evacuation pods immediately. All personnel report…”

That voice cut off and another took its place, low, resonant, but definitely female. It was just definitely not Human and spoke words that neither teen had ever heard before. Mych said, “She’s speaking Russian.”

“Not Russian, Greek,” Para said. They looked at each other, then grabbed hands and ran to an evac pod, a few dozen meters from where they’d been watching. The station shivered, loud groans echoing down hallways whose pressure doors could no longer shut because the frames were no longer true.

The voice of the planet sounded, no matter what language they heard, like an immense Humpback Whale singing as it said, “Enough is enough...”

Names: Greece, Italy; Ukraine, Poland

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