Author : Patricia Stewart
The annoying throb of the proximity klaxon woke the two security guards (aka, Comet Cowboys) from their mid day rest period. They drifted into the control room and floated above the sensor-generated hologram of the â€œherd.â€ The â€œherdâ€ consisted of approximately 3,000 mountain-sized blocks of ice that once were comet 2P/Encke. In the early twenty third century, The Mars Water and Mineral (MWM) Company bought the rights to the comet and spent years breaking it up into manageable fragments. Then, every 3.3 years (when its orbit brought it nearer to Mars) they would â€œcorralâ€ a few blocks and sell the water to the farming conglomerates on Mars, at a substantial profit of course. However, the conglomerates considered the markup so unreasonable that they revolted. They hired ice rustlers to raid the herd and steal large fragments of the comet; thus starting the Great Ice War of 2279. Eventually, the United Worlds stepped in and negotiated a peace, but there were still some bands of freelance rustlers who would occasionally try to steal a block or two to sell on the black market.
Roy Cody surveyed the hologram and spotted the intruder. â€œJust one ship,â€ he said pointing the sole flashing red light amongst the 3,000+ drifting white dots. â€œThey must really be stupid to think they could slip under our sensor grid. Iâ€™ll handle this one myself.â€
â€œFine,â€ said his partner. â€œBut remember the treaty. You canâ€™t blow them up unless they fire first. But feel free to disable their engines, or cut their grapple line.â€
When Cody arrived at the designated location, he discovered a dilapidated one person skiff, which was at least 100 years old, and it was struggling to flee the herd with a comet fragment the size of a small house. Roger pressed the ship-to-ship communications button. â€œThis is security. Unknown ship, please identify yourself.â€
â€œCody, is that you? Itâ€™s Buck, Buck Cassidy. How did you know I was out here?â€
Buck was one of the original â€œcowboys.â€ He had worked the herd during the war, and had trained Roy when he became a guard in â€˜98. Buck had retired a decade ago, and didnâ€™t know about the security upgrades.â€
â€œYeah, Buck, itâ€™s me. Where you goinâ€™ with the cube old friend?â€
â€œIâ€™m desperate, son,â€ he replied. â€œThey stopped delivering water to Demos. Theyâ€™re trying to drive me planetside. Iâ€™ve lived on Demos all my life. Iâ€™ll never survive Marsâ€™ gravity. Look, Roy, this block wonâ€™t survive perihelion anyway, and it will last me the rest of my life. Canâ€™t you cut me a break?â€
Cody knew Buck was right; they donâ€™t shield these little chunks. It would probably evaporate next time it passes the sun. What the hell. â€œAll right, Buck, get moving. And, listen, donâ€™t shoot back.â€ As Buck continued to limp away, Roger fired two shots across his bow. â€œBase, this is Ranger One. It was just some teenagers on a joy ride. I ran them off. Iâ€™m heading back to the barn.â€
365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.
The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.
"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."
We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.
Voices of Tomorrow
Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.
If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact email@example.com