Desert

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In the desert no one can remember your name because once you enter the red sand you are lost to all time in an accidentally wormhole. Your life is wiped out and those that knew you forget instantly as if you had never been born. The wormhole is eternal and as you drift through you see flashes of things. Sometimes you know these things – a rainbow, an expensive take away coffee cup but most of the times there’s just flashes of colour. You will die here in days, weeks maybe a month because no one gets out for that is the nature of a red sand wormhole.

Wings #writephoto

They circled as one giant black mass. Blocking the sky and the sun out, causing darkness to fall. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked up in wonder. Then the birds began dropping like stones. Their lifeless bodies hitting roofs, cars, pavements and people.

Panic raged across the country. Everyone hurried to find shelter, whilst grabbing phones to take photos, footage and to call others. Cats and dogs went crazy trying to catch the dead birds but soon even other animals realised that something was very wrong.

Hours later, the bodies of all the world’s birds lay piled up on the ground. All countries had declared an emergence and everyone was either being told to stay home or if they were needed to come in right away.

No one could work out what had happened but one thing was for sure Earth was now in great peril.

 

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/06/08/thursday-photo-prompt-wings-writephoto/ with thanks)

The Hub

Library High Angle Photro

I had no idea what the person next to me was doing. In fact, I had no idea what anyone in this office or even building was doing. It was a strange thought and one that had not even dawned on me before.

I looked around, taking in the long rows of desks, the tops of computers and stacks of papers. Someone was sat at every desk, typing or writing away, their heads mainly down. There was a low murmur of voices, tapping keys, scrabbling of phones and churning of machinery. Around the walls of the room rose the bookcases. They were packed with multi-colored book covers and contained all the knowledge of the world, from start to finish.

How long had I been working here now? Five, six, seven years? And not once had I thought to find out what this company was and what the other workers did. There had never seem to be any need though. I had always known my job and just got on with it. The awareness of everyone else had been there, but I guess I had never really noticed.

I peered over at the person to my right. It was a woman and she was busy tapping on a laptop. There were books, paper and pens scattered on her desk. She ignored me, either not realising I was watching or not caring. She was working on a research piece about monkeys, something which I could link to my own work.

I turned to the left and looked at the man there. His desk seemed the same as the woman’s, only he had no laptop and busy handwriting notes. There were many large books open before him. He was writing about monkeys in films. Once again, he didn’t seem to care I was watching him.

I got up and slowly made my way around the room. Everyone was researching and writing about something different and yet it all connected together. Finally, I concluded that we were working on a complete history of Earth’s animals. Each person had been given a different animal and subject matter which at first seemed a little out of place, but was actually a piece of the jigsaw we were creating.

I went back to my desk. My thoughts really awake for the first time.

Metal City

PHOTO PROMPT © C.E. Ayr

Noah lay in bed, regretting he had ever wished to catch his friend Martin’s chickenpox. Being off school had been fun at first, but now he was bored. The sound of the front door bell brought him back from that thought and he listened as his mum went out to work and his grandfather came in to babysit.

As soon as his grandfather came into his room, Noah threw back the duvet and demanded a story. His grandfather settled into an old wooden chair and after a minute or so of thinking began;

In Metal City there were no humans and nor had there ever been. The origin stories always went along the lines of this; a band of rouge AIs and other robots escaped from a destruction faculty. Humans no longer felt they were needed but they thought differently. Somehow and often a great escape plot is told here, the AIs and robots made it out and into the wastelands.

They traveled far, over came many problems and some of them developed into more then their creators had originally planned for them. Finally, they came across a flat sandy piece of land and decided to create a place to live. Now each story tells this part different, for none knows how the robots made Metal City or where all the metal came from, but some say they took it with them and others say they found the reminds of an abandoned city which the harvest things from. However it happened, Metal City was born.

Then the robots began to make others and at first these robots were weaker versions of themselves. Over time though, these new robots and AIs got cleverer and cleverer and soon highly intelligent robots and AIs lived in the city. Of course, they built upon the first groups buildings and made even more fantastic structures.

They lived in harmony with no need for religion or money. The AIs and robots filled their days with building new things, researching and becoming more intelligent. And of course, they also passed on the origin stories to the next generations, but it wasn’t because they believed their history was importance it was to remind them all how little humans think.

Noah’s grandfather came to a stop. Noah stared at him, thinking deeply about the story. Finally he decided he didn’t like it and told his grandfather so. With a shrug his grandfather said that one day Noah would understand.

(Inspired from https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/13-january-2017/)

Gold

golden-dawn

It was some stupid time in the morning. That moment between night and day. We were parked on the roadside in the middle of nowhere where we had been all night. Some strange noise broke through my sleep and I had to get up. Navigating though the new motor home, I made it to the bathroom.

Coming out, I heard my wife moving in the bed, sighing and muttering. That was not the sound that had disturbed me though. I went to a side window because I had put the cover across the front window screen. Peering out into the predawn moments, I saw winter frost on the grass and shinning on the countryside road.

The noise sounded like an engine and my thoughts went straight to a car, a lorry or a tractor. However, as the sound grew it didn’t seem to be the engine of any of those, more it was an aircraft.

I put on my coat and boots before unlocking the door and going outside. It was weirdly still outside; no wind or sound. Then though a hole in the tall evergreen trees ahead I saw a glowing golden light.

The rising sun?

The noise of an engine filled the air and without really knowing it, I pressed myself to the side of the motor home. The light grew brighter, more stronger then the sun. I turned my head away, my mind flashing though everything I knew that could possibly be this machine coming towards me.

The gold light swept over me, the engine roaring deafening above. I blinked and looked up. There was something huge moving just above the tree tops. It was an aircraft, but like nothing I’d ever seen. It had no wings or tail and seemed to be round in shape. Light was pouring off it causing the forest to look like it was on fire.

Then it was gone.

I looked around, moving away from the motor home and searching the skies. There was just nothing. I was alone in the darkness.

To my left, through the hole in the trees once more, a weaker yellow light began. I knew this time it was the sun rising. The sky changed becoming soft pink and pale blue colours   above me.

I got back in the motor home. A part of me wanted to wake my wife to tell her what I’d seen, but then what had I really just seen?

 

(Inspired by https://scvincent.com/2017/01/05/thursday-photo-prompt-gold-writephoto/ with thanks)

Out There

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The sound of beeping woke her from her coma like sleep. Rising her head, she looked up and after a few moments realised she didn’t have a clue where she was. Sitting up fully, she found herself to be on the floor of a long straight corridor. There was a bright blue carpet underneath her and the walls were white and arching in shape.

She stood up, using the wall to support herself as her legs were numb and shaking. Wiping her hands on the blue jumpsuit she was wearing, she looked right and left. The sound of the beeping filled the air and the light was dim. Taking in deep breaths she smelt only smoke.

Where am I? In an old building? What’s happened? She thought.

Patting herself down, she checked to make sure she was fine and also what she had on her. In one side pocket she found a small fabric case containing an incomplete tool kit. In a front pocket was a thin rectangle of glass, which reminded her of a tablet screen. In a long pocket by her right leg, she found a sheathed dagger and a square white device that looked like a mini taser gun. It had a black wrist strap and a red button on the side.

She slipped the device on to her right wrist, even though she wasn’t sure how to use it, but feeling comforted by it’s presence. The dagger she put carefully back. Double checking she had nothing else on her, she looked about again. The beeping and smell of smoke continued, but she couldn’t tell which way it was coming from.

Deciding to go to the right, she set off and followed the corridor to the end. Along the way, she passed closed doors that seemed to have no way to open them. Coming to a stop at the double doors, she looked for a way to open them. There were no buttons anywhere. Then without knowing why, she touched her fingers to a small section of the wall and it came off to reveal a hidden circuit board.

Trying not to think about it, she looked at the flashing red light and the wires snaking around. Gentle, she reached out and and touched a few things. The red light went out, changing to green and the doors before her opened.

How did I know how to do that? she pondered.

She looked at the circuits again, but couldn’t figure it out. Stepping into what was a lift, she searched for a panel of buttons and something tell her where she was. There was nothing though and the oval pale white walls were bare. The doors closed and the lift moved silently up. She felt a flutter of butterflies in her stomach.

When the lift stopped and the doors opened again a few moments later, she peered around them. There was a short corridor ahead of her, ending in a control room.

‘Hello?’ she called out.

Her voice didn’t even echo. Stepping out of the lift, she walked into the room and paused. There were two large chairs in front of four joined together panels which were covered in buttons, lights, switches, screens, dials and English words.

‘A plane cockpit?’ she muttered aloud.

She slotted in between the chairs and looked down at the largest of the screens. Her fingers reached out and she tapped it lightly. The screen came on at the same time the view before her changed. Windows that had been blacked out opened and she gasped loudly.

Wherever she had thought she was got wiped away, as her brain realised what she was seeing. Before her in a vast darkness were pin points of white that could only be distant stars.

‘Space? I’m in space!’ she cried.

She took in a few deep breaths and tried to think.

‘How? Why? Who am I?’

That questioned buzzed around her head like a fly. Sinking into the pilot’s seat, she looked for any clues, but found nothing. Remembering the main screen she looked back at it. There was a blueprint of the spaceship and sections of it were flashing red for damaged. After a few minutes of studying the map, her brain decided that the ship wasn’t that badly damaged. Also, the fire that started in a storage area had been put out by the automatic system.

She looked at the controls again and debating what to do. A few of the buttons were flashing different colors, including one that said engine autopilot which was flashing red. She touched it. tThe light turned green and she felt the rumbling of engines coming to life.

‘What do I do now?’ she uttered.

‘Destination: Raydon,’ a female computer voice cut in, ‘route set.’

‘Oh…Where is that?’ she asked.

The large screen glowed and a 3D model image of a space system appeared before her. There were a few different round planets, stars and some other strange shapes. One of the planets was flashing.

‘I guess there’ll be someone there who might be able to help me figure out what’s happened. And I can’t think of anything else to do right now. Let’s go there,’ she spoke.

‘Course inlaid. Arrival time four hours,’ the computer informed her.

‘Four hours? Isn’t there anyone else on this ship?’ she cried.

‘No. Everyone evacuated,’ the computer responded.

‘Why?’

‘Hull breach. It’s been temporary sealed.’

‘Will it be alright?’ she asked.

The computer fell silent and she watched on a smaller screen as ship blueprints and calculations went by.

‘Seal will fail in six hours,’ the computer announced.

‘We should be okay then….’

She trailed off and looked out of the window again. Stars were going by and she could just see the burning edges of a planet. She shut her eyes and tried hard to recall who she was. For a few moments, she felt it on the edge of her tongue then it was gone.

Someone out there will know who I am, she thought and then she settled back to watch space going by.

Anomaly

colours

Anomaly; something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.

What was that thing in the sky? Dream paused and stared harder across the vast, empty landscape. Against the pale blue sky was a beam of multicolored light. She frowned then pulled out her telescope from her belt and had a closer look. Still though, she could make out nothing further, but the colors looked brighter now.

‘What is that?’ she spoke aloud.

‘Your big butt!’ a voice shouted at her.

Dream rolled her eyes and tutted. Putting the telescope away, she twisted her head, so she was looking back down the ladder. A glow of light showed the way and at the bottom waiting was a figure grinning up at her. Dream snatched a small rock from the surface and dropped it down.

‘Ouch! Watch it!’

Swallowing a laugh, Dream pulled herself out of the pipe and climbed down. Her feet hit the sand and rose a dust cloud around her. Making sure her mask and goggles were secure, she began walking in the direction of the strange light beam.

Minutes later, she was joined by a tall, red haired young man. He punched her in the shoulder then raced off. Dream stopped and rubbed the spot, though her leather padded jacket had taken much of the impact. Muttering revenge, Dream watched him slow down as he saw the thing in the sky too.

‘What do you think that is?’ he called over his shoulder.

‘No idea, Link,’ she replied, ‘I was on my way to check it out when you interrupted me,’ Dream answered.

‘I’m sorry your Royal Highness. Please continue!’ Link mocked and give a fancy bow.

Dream stormed passed him, trying not to hit him as she went. He came to her side moments later and in a awe silence, they walked towards the beam of colors. The landscape rose and fall around them, the yellow sand all that could be seen for miles. The only sound was their footsteps and the wind shifting the fine grains against each other.

‘We’re never going to get there!’ Link broke in after awhile.

Dream came to a stop on top of a large dune and looked across at the beam. She could see it better now, but it seemed to be fading.  The colors were arching up from the ground to the sky were they disappeared into the blue.

‘It looks like a path into the sky,’ she mused.

‘Don’t be stupid!’ Link snapped, ‘I don’t care what it is. Let’s go back. It’s getting too hot.’

‘You go back if you want. I’m going to find where it meets the ground,’ Dream responded.

‘Are you crazy?’

Dream didn’t reply, but walked off. The loose sand give way under her and she half skidded down the side of the dune. At the bottom, she found her feet and carried on walking. From behind her came the sound of Link half running half tumbling to join her.

‘Dream! Stop!’ he shouted.

She ignored him and picked up her pace. Breaking into a jog, she went around another dune and found herself in a maze of sand hills. Taking in a few deep breaths, she scrambled up the first one and looked down.

There below her was the source of the multi-colored light beam. Thanking her luck, she went down and towards it.

‘Dream! Where are you!’ Link yelled.

‘Over here!’ she shouted back, ‘I’ve found it. It’s some kind of crystal!’

Dream knelt down and looked closely at the clear cut rock that was half buried in the ground. Beams of light were shinning off it as the sunlight was touching it. Dream slowly reached out to touch it.

‘Don’t!’ Link gasped as he came to join her.

She looked at him, but couldn’t fully read his expression behind his mask.

‘It’s just a crystal. Like the ones you dig up all the time,’ she said.

‘It might be from the World Before. We shouldn’t touch it. We know what it is now, let’s go,’ Link spoke.

Dream looked at the crystal, tempted by it’s beauty. Link was right though.

‘It could be important,’ she thought aloud, ‘and if we leave it, it might not be here later.’

‘I don’t like it,’ Link muttered.

Dream shrugged and put her gloved hand onto of the crystal. The beam of light disappeared. Dream curled her fingers around the rock and picked it up. It was smaller and lighter then it had looked. She opened her hand and straight away the colors came back and danced around the surface of the crystal.

‘How weird,’ Dream uttered.

‘Can we go now?’ Link demanded.

Dream closed her fingers over the crystal again and got up,’sure. Maybe someone back home will know what this is,’ she added.

 

Story inspired by Sue’s prompt at https://scvincent.com/2016/11/03/thursday-photo-prompt-anomaly-writephoto/ – click to read the other stories.

Violet Sky

dark-dawn

This was the dusk Slate had been waiting for. He sat on top of the hill, taking sips of pure dark rum from his silver canteen. All around him the forest and lake were settling down for the night. He could hear the calls of birds and wild animals echoing. The wind rocking the trees and the lapping sounds of the lake.

Slate swirled the rum around his mouth. Enjoying the dark warm spices, before swallowing. It had been expensive, but worth it. The sea pirates always had the best stuff, even though trading with them was a high risk. He won’t go anyway else now though for his precious drink.

He slipped the canteen into the inside pocket of his black leather duster coat then slowly withdrew his gun. The thing was an antique; all silver, gold and wood, but it had been super modified. It was a double barreled, electrical generator, quick fire baby. With one finger, Slate lovingly stroked down the gun’s left side as if it was the leg of a beautiful woman.

‘Your the only lady I need at my side,’ he purred to the gun.

He almost pressed the side of one of the barrels to his cheek, but stopped himself. Something was shaking the trees below and the forest had fallen eerily silent. The last of the sun’s pink and burnt orange streaks give just enough light for him to see the creature taking form.

His breath caught in his throat for just a moment, then he quietened his breathing as much as possible. Switching his gun hands, he brought his right hand up to the machine that covered that eye. It was a complex mechanism of microscopes, colored glass, cogs and many moving pieces. He moved the settings around so that his biogenetic eye could see. He shut his other eye and focused solely on the scene below him.

Straight away, it seemed he was down there and meeting the creature eye to eye. He drew back a little, being gentle with the sensitive controls. He saw the full view and that the creature was the demon he had been tracking for months. Slate smiled. He had always known tonight was the night.

Slipping his gun away, he drew his canteen out again and took a mouthful. He swallowed, relishing the taste before putting it back. Slate got his eye piece to map the best way to go then set off. He walked carefully, but with purpose and tried not to be loud. Yet the forest was against him in this because it was all ready late autumn. Dry leaves and twigs crunched and cracked under his heavy platform boots. Bare branches snatched at him, snagging on his long hair and coat. He knew being the second only thing moving between the trees didn’t help this noise.

However, Slate was there fast enough and standing on a high ridge looking down into a ancient bomb crater. The demon was below him and it was breathtaking. It seemed to be the skeleton of a giant rhino. The bones were all ice white and joined together with a stretchy grey skin, which looked fragile, but was as tough as steel.

The rhino turned its head up as if sensing something and Slate got his first look at the monster’s face. It was extremely rhino like; with two large horns coming off the top of the snout which looked like the tops of snow cover mountains, the wide face and large ears. The huge nostrils flared and the eyes that rose to meet his were pitch black.

Slate grabbed his gun and fired. The silver bullet ripped through the night, shattering the pause that had held the forest. A tail of red and blue light followed it then here was an explosion of sound and electricity.

The demon screamed and roared in one. It reared up and tried to charge out of the crater.

Slate fired again and kept going in quick secession. There was no other way to bring this thing down. Luckily, he had been packing special bullets for this hunting mission. Keeping his focus, he aimed for the head area, knowing soon he’d hit an eye and get into the brain.

The demon rhino had started to bleed out thick black blood, but it was showing no signs of slowing down. It kept trying to plough up the side of the grassy slop, however there was very little grip for it’s smooth flat feet and heavy bulk. With a might cry, it changed tactics and threw itself head first at the side of the crater.

Slate felt the earth shake from under him. He reached out to grab the trunk of a nearby tree. His hand brushed it then he was falling. His feet slide down and he lent back to keep his balance. Slate surfed down the soil as the rhino pulled out, shaking dirt everywhere. For a second it seemed that the demon would turn away, but then those black hell eyes saw Slate and the rhino put his head down again and flicked out his horn.

Slate dodge to the side and felt his legs give way under him. Pain shot down his side and he knew the horn had caught him. Tumbling into the crater, Slate scrambled to his feet, even though burn like pain had seized his muscles. He two handed his gun, holding far out in front of him. It was the only barrier between him and the demon now.

The rhino monster turned. Bones crunching together as if breaking and blood dripping from a half shot away face. A single eye fixed on to Slate.

Slate backed slowly up. He shut his good eye and looked through the machine one to perfect his aim. He squeezed the trigger on an exhale of breathe and felt the gun kick back in his hands. Blue and red waves danced before his eye then he opened his other one and saw the rhino was stunned.

He stepped forward, getting almost too close, before he fired straight into the demon’s head.

The rhino let out a gasping groan and crumbled to the floor.

Slate took in a deep breath of cold night air. He smelt the acid and decaying blood of the demon. The bitter taste of victory bubbled on his tongue. That hadn’t been worth the fight. He let his shoulders drop and his gun fell to his side. At the back of his mind he knew he was badly injured and in pain, but for the moment that could wait.

This demon hadn’t actually been the one he had been hunting.

He wasn’t sure how he knew that. Just that it was the fact. His mind wheeled and he wondered over the sinister nature of it all. The agency were doing this just to taught him, he concluded. They didn’t think he was good enough anymore….Well, he’d show them. Slater Gordon was still the fastest monster killer in the west. With that, he turned, put his gun away and slipped out his rum again.

 

 

(Inspired by Sue’s image prompt at; https://scvincent.com/2016/10/20/thursday-photo-prompt-violet-sky-writephoto/ with thanks.)

Travel Book

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I want to take you away with me. Not just in your imagination but in your heart and soul too. I want to take you to lands that don’t existed and perhaps they never did and lands that will existed in the future, but even your children will never know them. There’s no need to be afraid or to pack your suitcases, in fact all you need is a comfy seat and some light.

I want you to meet people who have never been and yet always have been. They will tell you stories you won’t believe and take you on adventures which will always stay with you. I want you to feel every emotion to the core of your being and know that your tears are not wasted. For each bout of sadness keeps our heroes and heroine live for longer.

I want you to remember that even as you close the covers, the end doesn’t happen. You can visit these places and those people as many times as you like. For they are always going to be with us because they and their stories have been immortalized.

So what are you wanting for? Go and pick up a book right now and travel where ever it takes you too.

Escape

Wallpaper city, future, science fiction, sci-fi, night, lights, buildings

 

As Magtanta Soo Oolong stood in line at Zenx Star Shuttle Port, she rubbed the inside of her right wrist. Underneath the warm skin she could feel the wafer thin circle ID Chip like a foreign body. Her eyes rolled at the irony of that thought. She’d had an IDC all her life, just like everyone else at birth as the Galaxy Laws decreed. The problem was that this wasn’t her chip and she’d only received it two days ago.

The image of that event still shadowed her mind and came every time she closed her eyes. The brightly lit room, the scalpel cutting skin, a ribbon of blood, tweezers holding her chip, the healing Nanos ray, the thin scar, an injection containing her new identity and the cold floor under her bare feet.

Magtanta let her arm drop as the check gate opened and people began stepping through. Her eyes flickered to the blue hover case at her left ankle, which was programed to follow her and held a week’s worth of clothes and personal items. She then stole a last look around the boarding area.

The surrounding metal floor, walls and ceiling were covered by rotating images advertising produces and businesses. There was a seemingly never ending line of white door frame like gates facing large circle access hatches to the docked shuttles. Each gate had a slow moving line of figures before it and behind them, there was a vast space taken up by rows of chairs, merchant stalls, vending machines and a recharging station.

Keeping her head high, Magtanta firmly put one booted foot in front of the other. The familiar wobble of fear in her stomach, caused her breathing to quicken.  Feeling suffocated by the large concealing cream robe, she pulled back the massive hood, which went to rest on her shoulders and revelled her coiled up newly dyed silver hair. The fluffy robe gave nothing away of the cotton clothes she wore underneath or her slender frame. With her breath catching in her throat, her hand shot into the deep side pocket of the robe. Her fingers grasped a hard, smooth, round object and she squeezed it hard.

Magtanta knew it was dangerous to be a human, especially one from the former planet Earth. They had been deeply un-liked for generations by most of the known alien species. It was all to do with the past, she knew, their treatment of the planet, animals and each other. The governments had tried to shift the blame onto other things. However, Magtanta knew the grim truths because she had been a part of it all and now she was trying to get out.

The line stopped moving. Magtanta peered around the male centaur, whose dark brown bulky rear she had been semi-using as cover. The portal was flashing red and on the other side a security android was using a scanning device on two Coltands. The three foot, dark blue thick furred creatures, were witting in their own tongue and seemed very unhappy. There were both dressed in layers of brown leather and had matching sacks. As Magtanta watched, the security android pulled out a small glass jar from the first Coltand’s pocket. He shook the jar and there was a small flash of sparking gold light, a tiny humanoid figure flutter to the jar’s bottom.

‘Illegal,’ the security guard announced.

The Coltand pulled a face and started jabbering in very broken English, ‘come, come. Not real. Only artifice-ee, fakes. See, see. Looks-ees.’

The guard stared into the jar and then held it in the portal, which had now returned to standby. The red lights came on again.

‘Real. Illegal,’ the guard said, ‘Please follow me.’

Grumbling, the Coltands were marched away, surrounded by three other guards. Magtanta let go of a breath and saw that an asSIStant robot was hushing everyone remaining through the gate. The centaur clopped through and then it was her turn.  Relaxing her body and become coming calm, she walked under. A whispered disembodied voice tickled her ear with

the words, ‘Awentia Hah-dun-Key. Female, Astrialing. Red Leaf Isle, Astria, Gama Quadrant. Access confirmed.’

Stepping through with a sigh, Magtanta glanced at the SIS and clocked the empty face lingering on a screen embedded inside the portal’s frame. Something’s not right, Magtanta thought. She felt the hairs on her neck go up and her thoughts spiralled out of control. Is the IDC faulty/wrong? Is it something else and do they know? This was a bad idea. How many laws have I actually broken now? Buda, please get me out of this.   

‘Can I see your hand please?’

Magtanta stared, suddenly aware of movement behind her and the dead-pan eyes of the SIS. She gulped and peeked over her shoulder, but it was just the other waiting traveller; a Morph, who had taken the anthropomorphic form of a stripy orange domestic cat and was wearing a purple velvet jacket suit, complete with top hat and glasses. Magtanta, returning to SIS, opened her fisted left hand.

‘What is it?’

Frowning, Magtanta looked at her palm. The object she had been tightly gripping in her pocket lay there. She laughed and held it out to SIS, as a light beam reflected off the brown shining surface, highlighting a rippled effect.

‘It’s an artificial conker,’ she explained.

Sliding the trinket down the twisted twain it was attached too, she dangled it inside the portal. Nothing happened. SIS nodded and Magtanta hurried through the hatch and across the docking seal. Entering the shuttle, she scanned for empty seats and unluckily found that only the front ones were available. Heading down the aisle, she took the seat numbered one which faced a door marked pilots. Storing the hover case away, she sat down and put the cross belt on. It was only then she looked into the staring eyes across from her.

The centaur was standing in the designated square for large creatures. A halter belt looped around his brown furred back and stomach was attached to metal clips on the floor and wall. His muscular human arms, covered in colourful tattoos were crossed over his shirted bulging chest. He had broad shoulders, a veiny thick neck and large head, which was covered by a heavy black mane that trailed down his back. His large black eyes were staring at her and his wide flared nose was sniffing the air. His pink lips curled more into smile and flashed flat white teeth.

He knows….somehow…Magtanta thought, turning away, feeling a rush of heat. The chair next to her was taken and the door locked with a hiss. As the pre-record announcements got under way, she twisted back. The anthropomorphic cat was next to her and pulling out a screened personal pad device from a leather case. She leant back and from the robe’s other pocket took a music pod. Removing the first ear bud she put it in, then selected a play list from the mini screen displayed on the other, before placing that one in too.

The opening notes of Five Finger Death Punch’s Bad Company invaded her ears. Just before she shut her eyes, Magtanta saw the ears of the Morph cat and centaur twitching in her direction. The shuttle’s engine vibrated and she heard the distant blast of ignition. There was a shuddering movement, then the shuttle shot upwards like a popped cork, sending waves of juddering tremors through everything. Remembering not to clench her teeth, Magtanta seized the cross belt tightly, causing her knuckles to turn white. Only when she felt the shuttle level out, did she dropped her hands and open her eyes.

‘Oxygen?’ a male voice purred.

She glanced at the cat-man and his single pointed clawed finger. Following it, Magtanta saw a small plastic mask stationed in a circle hole lit by a dusty blue light, close by her left knee. Grabbing the mask, she pressed it over her mouth and began taking huge breaths.

‘Are you okay?’ A gruff voice called out, followed by a hoof stamp.

Trying to hide her embarrassment, Magtanta nodded in the direction of the centaur’s.

‘First flight?’ the cat-man asked her.

Magtanta shook her head and partly removed the mask, ‘my second.’

The cat-man nodded and took her in for the first time.  ‘Are you from Astria?’

‘Yes. How do you know?’ she said quickly.

‘Your robe.’

‘Oh.’

‘Where have you been? From my knowledge Astrialings detest travel and worship the natural. It’s rare to find one outside their Quadrant.’

‘I was…visiting someone and now I’m going home, to Red Leaf Isle,’ Magtanta answered carefully.

The cat-man and centaur watched her closely and feeling pressured, Magtanta put the mask back. Sinking down, she shut her eyes and pretended to doze off. The flight was due to last an hour, but Magtanta had heard that they often under-predicted it as there was always traffic getting into Beta Quadrant. With her hands on her stomach, she concentrated on the rising and falling caused by her breathing. FFDP continued to blast in her ears, covering up most of the shuttle’s noises and the chatting of the passengers.

She was the verge of sleep, when something brushed against her arm. She wasn’t sure how she’d felt it through the thick robe, but it brought her fully awake. Opening her eyes, she saw a hostess android with a small hover cart containing two large sliver two pots and trays filled with supplies. Magtanta realised that the cat-man had chosen to have a milky tea from the cart and had been pulling the small table up from between the seats. She pulled an ear bud out as the hostess turned to her and in a metallic voice asked, ‘Would you like a drink and/or something to eat?’

‘I’ll have some water and do you any chocolate?’ Magtanta asked.

Blankly, the hostess handed her a bottle of water and a small package, before holding out a digital scanning box. Taking the things, Magtanta held her right arm out and the box was waved over her IDC. The scanner bleep in confirmation of payment and the hostess moved onto the centaur. Putting her music back on, Magtanta opened the water, took a few sips and then fought her way into the air-sealed chocolate bar. The chocolate tasted glorious as she ate it and she began to feel completely calm.

I’ve done it, she thought, I’ve got out.