August 17, 2019

Free Fiction Friday: The Hunt for Beagle Part 1

It’s here!

As promised in 2015, we’re going to start offering excerpts from some of our free scifi novelletes, all available on Amazon for a few shekels. This week’s first story is set in our Solar Winds universe, and hey, if you’re not careful, you’ll get a lesson or two on early space exploration history before we’re done…

The Hunt for Beagle

By David Dickinson

 

“Ms. Makati, are you with us today?”

Andrea picked her head up from her holo-desk. Ancient Earth History was never one of her favorite subjects.

“In what year did the first successful unmanned mission land on Mars?”

A dead silence ensued. No electronics were allowed in these classes. She only had her now failing grey matter to rely on. The bell couldn’t come quickly enough.

“Think bell bottoms…” Zeke whispered to her from behind. But that clue made absolutely no sense.

“Looking out over the Martian landscape won’t help you,” the teacher continued. “The Lander is now a thousand miles away.”

“Ummm,” she stammered, “1950?”

“Wrong, of course,” the teacher spun around. “Anyone else?”

“1976,” Jessica Sabbath announced triumphantly. “The Viking 1 Lander sent by the United States successfully landed in the western range of Chryse Planitia.”

“Correct, as always,” the teacher quipped.

“The Viking 1 Lander sent by the United States…” Andrea mocked under her breath. I wish my fist could successfully land in her face!

“Miss Makati, do you have something to add?”

“Negatory.”

“Then you won’t mind engaging in a ten page extra credit assignment that I beamed to you.”

Andrea groaned. Now the bell rings… they streamed out of class in frenzy. School was finally out for the evening. They made their way down to the transport tubes, as they were swept along by the tide of bodies. Andrea walked out in trance as Zeke strode up behind her and slapped her square on the back.

“Hey kid,” he said. She hated when he called her that. “What’s the dig?”

Zeke was always trying to invent his own slang, as if repetition would cause him to become the progenitor of his very own teenage fad. The fact that Andrea had told him countless times that this made him even less cool never seemed to deter him.

“Why don’t you just climb over me with a Crater Crusher,” she replied, glumly. “My summer’s shot!”

They both cued up for the waiting tubes. Outside the habitation dome, the sky had shifted to an improbable salmon pink.

“What’s the matter, not getting the low-grav gymnastics scholarship of your choice? That’ll be the Martian Leagues’ loss! Isn’t that just too…”

“Take a look at this…” Andrea beamed her assignment to Zeke’s cyber-link. It flashed before him on his retinal heads-up display.

“Wow, who did you piss off…”

“The instructor for InterPlan History wants this report in ten cycles…it’s the whole freakin’ history of unmanned space exploration!” Andrea looked dejected as the Martian landscape slid by. “As if anyone cares! Jessica Sabbath gets to cruise with her stupid “Hygiene on Titan” piece and now, I’ll never be able to make the team this year!”

“It’s Huygens…”

“Whatever,” Andrea shot back. “My moms’ probably already got the assignment. Somebody just shoot me with a sonic pistol.”

“I wouldn’t say that too loudly,” Zeke whispered. “Our friends might be happy to oblige.”

They both glanced up as a heavily armed Terran solider walked the corridor of the car. Their presence had escalated as of late.

“I’ll help you out,” Zeke continued. “How hard can writing about some old space junk be?”

“Hard enough to put my skull into orbit,” Andrea trailed off. What I need is some thing unique. That’ll show Jessica Sabbath and the blasted instructor, she thought. That’ll show everyone.

“C’mon,” She blurted out impulsively. “Let’s get off at Grandpa X’s!”

Andrea jumped up, grabbing the hand rail, and hit the call button. The magnetic rails began their imperceptible deceleration.

“Do you think that’s a good idea, kid? It’s getting late…”

“You can attend my execution later,” Andrea leaned and called back, “I’m sure it’ll be on tele-vid”

She blew the Terran solider a kiss as they stepped off the platform.

He looks like he could use it….

 

Andrea’s grandfather Xeres lived alone on the outskirts of Saganopolis. One of the last of the original first generation Martians, he preferred to live alone, although he always welcomed a visit from his favorite grand-daughter. She would sit for hours and listen to his tales of early days with the Terran Merchant Astronaut Fleet. “Who ever the techno-geek was that built those old junks,” He’d reminisce, “they didn’t put much thought into the design of the toilet! We’d be in diapers for weeks…” He’d show her how to predict a transit of Deimos or Phobos in front of the Sun. You were born on that tumbling rock, she’d tell herself as they held filter specs to their eyes, though she barely remembered her existence anywhere but Mars… he’d show her neat tips, like how to gauge an incoming sandstorm, and how to take cover if caught out on the Martian plains. “Don’t tell Alexi I took you out here,” he’d say, referring to his daughter and her mom. Andrea loved her grandfather and found a visit to him was a refuge from the pressures of school and family.

She found him by the entry room table, winding magnets and listening to a Terran broadcast.

“…the Blessed Empress has allowed limited departure of several anthro-centrists from the Terran system…”

“They’ve blasted done it!”

Xeres pushed away from his console and stood facing the window, glass of Martian homebrew in hand. The stuff was expensive and hard to come by. Andrea was one of the few souls that knew Xeres made it himself.

“There’s still a few sane souls in the human race that give a damn about exploration!”

“Hi Gramps…” Andrea called out. “Whats’ new?”

“Stay around til dusk, and I’ll show you,” Xeres said thoughtfully, stroking his beard and looking out at the Martian desert. “Mars is due for some visitors soon.”

“What’d ya mean?” She replied, between bites of apple from Xeres’ green house.

“History, girlie, history. What are those drone teachers filing your head with?”

“Useless crap… stuff about old robotic probes.”

Xeres shrugged in confirmation. “Did you know more than half of those old probes simply crashed and were never heard from again? Mars is littered with them.”

“Really?” Andrea and Zeke had never heard of these failures.

“Sure…only the successful few ended up in the Saganopolis Museum… but I suppose those teacher drones are just as dumb as those old probes!”

They both laughed at that. Grandpa Xeres had a way of putting folks at ease. His wife Belinda had passed away shortly after Andrea was born and he always welcomed company, as long as, in his own words, “it wasn’t those blasted Terran tax collectors!”

Zeke departed soon after, but Andrea and her grandfather played chess for the next few hours. Andrea won more often than not, and Xeres would get impatient and demand she take back a move when she did something bold such as capture his queen or put him in check in the very opening moves. “You’re stabbing straight at my heart,” He’d cry. But it was all in good fun. She knew that he detested technology for its own sake, preferring such games as this. “Don’t ever let em’ sink their thought-trodes in your head, lassie,” he’d say between moves, “The real classroom is out there: the universe.”

And deep down, that is what Andrea loved about her grandfather. She wanted to do and see, not just read and hear.

to be continued…

Read The Hunt for Beagle in its entirety.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] promised, here’s part II of our Mars-spanning epic. Also be sure to check out last week’s Part I, and read The Hunt for Beagle in its [...]

  2. [...] Mars-spanning adventure set in the Solar Winds universe. Read it as a stand alone, or start back on Chapter I.  Or read The Hunt for Beagle in its [...]

  3. [...] adventure The Hunt For Beagle. This puts us neigh half-way through the tale… head back here to start from Part I. If you want to check out more stories in the Solar Winds universe featuring an older Ms. Makati [...]

  4. [...] Mars-spanning adventure The Hunt For Beagle. You can read the entirety of the tale, or start from Part 1 online. Expect more tales from the Solar Winds Universe to [...]

  5. [...] it ’tis… chapter eight of our young adult, Mars-spanning adventure! For Chapter One, head here. You can read The Hunt for Beagle in its entirety over at [...]

  6. [...] fanfare is the conclusion to our Mars-spanning adventure The Hunt For Beagle. You can start back at chapter 1 and read the entire tale here a chapter at a time on Astroguyz, or read the tale in its entirety [...]

  7. [...] of a brand new tale. This one is set in our Solar Winds universe, which fans will remember from our The Hunt for Beagle tale. This also begins the saga of Andrea Makati as an adult and the adventures of Scorpius Cell. [...]

  8. [...] -Read free original science fiction from Dave Dickinson every Friday, including ongoing chapters from The Hunt for Beagle. [...]

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