Saturday, July 30, 2011
Science Fiction isn’t just space ships and aliens.
When I tell people I write science fiction, the common misconception is that I write exclusively about outer space. But that’s not true. Science fiction is nuts and bolts, using science, no matter the setting. I love to explore alternate settings. I still love writing other worlds, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s fun to apply the science to here and now. Dystopian is another of my favorites. Science after the Apocalypse. What science does mankind apply to survive?
Here are a couple of examples of science fiction that stay on Terra Firma.
The first is called Honey. I took a conspiracy theory and applied science to it—or is it a conspiracy theory?
Sixty-five million years ago, there was a mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Though they weren’t affected by EM radiation, pesticides or suicidal genocide, something triggered their demise and in a short time, only skeletons remained to tell their story. Great craters left behind in the Earth’s crust pointed towards the cause, but the scars of the planet, the bones of the dead, didn’t give scientists the complete story, only theories to argue about.
“Only theory.” That’s what the government regulator in charge of the study of emissions from cell towers said to Skyler when she presented him with evidence. It should’ve made a case for the control of the installment of cell towers. Theory? Dead hives, fruitless crops, and increase in cancers. All tangible proof.
She pushed her anger back and continued to study the evidence in front of her. Was it only theory that wiped out the dinosaurs? Not likely, and it wouldn’t be theory that took out humankind.
As Skyler stared at the abandoned hive, she wondered if those who came after her would be able to read the stories man’s bones left behind, that it wasn’t a great asteroid, volcanic explosion, or even the global warming that had threatened to destroy us for decades. But a simple insect, with a simple life cycle, that would bring down the greatest empire the Earth had ever known. Mankind.
Hives abandoned, bees leaving queens behind, entire colonies dead and people had turned the other cheek in favor of texting and chatting wireless.
The fertile fields and orchards of North America had become barren. Mother Nature cried for help and man had turned his back. The Earth could be a bitch if you messed with her. Skyler scooped up and handful of husks and let them fall from her hand. The bodies were all that was left of the drones of this once thriving hive. She was about to show her teeth.
Skyler stood and dusted the dried grass and dirt from her jeans. She grabbed her long hair, twisting it into a knot to tie at the back of her neck. Beads of perspiration clung to her skin, gracing her upper lip and forehead. Sweltering, close to 108 and climbing, the sand on the prairie would be hot enough to cook her lunch. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand and glanced at the sky. Could hell be this warm?
Skyler’s team worked in an isolated location, one that didn’t have cell towers standing sentinel on every hill or plowed field. She glanced over to a windmill that turned in the breeze, the squawking of tin paddles turned and pumped fresh water up from the artesian well that sat under her feet, the only sound around. The temptation to stop everything and jump into the horse tank, was damn near irresistible. Even the cattle had abandoned the sunny pasture for shade cast on the north side of the hills
The Ogallala Aquifer was the largest artesian well in the United States, located directly under the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The Earth was fertile, water plentiful, but crops had failed to fruit and the local wildlife began to die. Something evil had come through this beautiful wilderness.
There weren’t any towers, factories, or mills polluting the land around her. Just open pastures of clover, cattle and cactus. For all the lack of industry, there should have been thriving bees. As she stood knee deep in a pasture of prairie grasses and clover, she couldn’t spot one.
The hives disturbed her the most. Empty. Abandoned. The colony had been here since the earlier 1900’s, a family of beekeepers that had lived in these parts for as long as the ranchers around could remember.
Dead bees. A big reason she didn’t own a cell phone. Not because they were solely responsible, but because they contributed to the cause. The Earth had over 7 billion residents and nearly half of them had cell phones. Funny thing about it, the wireless devices weren’t the biggest culprit, just a small piece of the larger enemy.
GWEN, Ground Wave Emergency Network. The government would have the people believe they built the towers for improved tactical communications. The towers reached from coast to coast and had the ability to not only communicate at impossible distances, but also manipulate the human brain with low wave emissions.
That made GWEN the largest brainwashing experiment on the face of the planet and man was completely unaware of it. They’d been using the emissions since the 70’s to modify terrorist behavior and add fuel to the fire for war. Big Brother not only watched the people, but also manipulated their minds and emotions.
Skyler had been called a lot of things for her views on the tactical towers and the government. Crazy was one of the many. Hell knows she’d been called worse. As a member of a group affectionately referred to as the Aluminum-Foil Hat Revolution, AKA, tree-hugging environmentalists, panic inducing radicals, Skyler had heard her share of snide comments.
Brainwashed people didn’t want to hear that the bees were dying because of them, from exhaustion and cell phones, wireless computers and technology. America was in love with its technology. Texting was like a drug and the government used these devices to cover up the brainwashing. Though they added to the problem, they weren't the biggest culprit. Uncle Sam hid the real monster under the people’s noses. A wolf in digital clothing.
Bees didn’t die from exhaustion, more importantly, and they didn’t start dying until recent years, when the towers went up and became active.
She strolled towards her rust-bucket pickup with mix-and-match parts. The old Ford wasn’t pretty to look at, but it got her around in the backcountry where she worked the majority of the time. Skyler tossed her backpack full of soil samples, EM readings from remotes she’d installed a month ago, fruitless plant samples and carcasses of honey bees into the bed of the truck. The carcasses were a waste of time. She’d test them for parasites and diseases that she already knew weren’t present.
The real evidence sat on the tape, the reading of the electromagnetic waves. That would make the government regulators sit up and take notice. She’d already sent out one batch, post marked with love, to Washington.
Skyler reached into the truck and grabbed the radio.
“Got the samples. I’m coming in. Hive’s dead.”
“Hey, baby.” The deep voice of Jason Smith, a co-revolutionary, crackled back.
“You getting desperate?” Skyler cracked a huge smile and shook her head. Male chavunist pig. When was he going to learn that wasn’t PC to call a woman baby anymore? With nothing but fields and fields of cattle, Jason was way out of his element. A city boy by nature, he had to be jonesing pretty bad for female company if he called her baby. Jason might as well be her brother for how long they’d known each other.
“You know it. I’ll be so glad when this study is done. This place has got to be the most isolated, boring spot on the planet.” Jason hung out with three other male team members over by a small forest preserve. They kept watch over a couple of hives the beekeepers had set up in that area. The population still lived, but rapidly declined.
“I’m headed back.” Base camp sat in the shade and stayed a bit cooler. Thank god. Not that it was comfortable, but it did offer a small bit of respite from the heat. One more night and they were done. She’d eaten off of campfires, slept out of tents and processed data on site for the last month. She couldn’t say she’d be sad to leave, especially now that she had all the proof she’d need to slap the regulators awake.
“You want to pick up a case of beer in Ashby too?”
“Roger that.” Skyler clipped the radio back on the dash and jumped into her truck. Last day on site, the crew would pack up and head out for another locale tomorrow, hopefully somewhere not as isolated.
Half an hour later, she drove into the smallest town she’d ever seen, a blink-and-miss-it place. It had a barbershop with complementary red and white striped pole, a small grocery store with a soda fountain and a gas station with the old-fashioned pumps that dispensed only one type of fuel. Down the street in a combination police station and house, the local sheriff lived and worked.
Skyler climbed out of the truck and headed down an honest to God, boardwalk sidewalk that she’d thought went out of style a hundred years ago. An old cowboy sitting out front the barbershop on a bench touched the brim of his hat and nodded as she walked by.
A cliché black and white television show in the flesh, the town could have doubled for a movie backdrop. She shook her head and grabbed the handle to the general store, Charlie’s Market. Bells that hung on the door jangled as she pulled it open.
A white haired man looked up from where he was wiping the counter down. He smiled and nodded as she walked by, a pleasant but odd look. The kind that said, she was welcome to visit, but shouldn’t make herself too comfortable. Friendly suspicion.
Skyler scanned the shelves with cans lined up like soldiers, the labels all facing forward and dress-right-dress. Somebody had a lot of time on their hands. She sighed, grabbed a bag of corn chips, and checked the expiration date. From the looks of the place, he didn’t get a lot of business and Skyler wouldn’t be surprised if it was expired. It wasn’t.
She walked by an indoor cooler and pulled the door open. The glass fogged instantly and the cold blast felt like heaven against the tee shirt that clung to her body.
For a moment, she thought about standing there with the case open, letting the cold air blow over her and pucker her nipples, but the old coot behind the counter cleared his throat. She yanked a case of beer out and lugged it over to the counter, heaving it up onto the surface.
Glancing around, Skyler searched for toothpaste. She was at the bottom of her tube, and had cut it open to extract the last bit of paste. There wasn’t enough for tomorrow.
Spotting a tube of toothpaste, she snatched a box from the shelf. One brand, no choices. At least it made decisions easier. She set the toothpaste next to the beer and corn chips, and then smiled, pulling her checkbook out.
Charlie glanced at her from under bushy eyebrows that looked like a couple of caterpillars wrestling over the bridge of his nose. He made a sucking sound through his teeth and rolled a toothpick around between his lips. “I don’t take checks.”
Skyler nodded and pulled out her plastic. He didn’t move to take it. She rummaged around in her purse for a driver’s license, sure he wouldn’t take it without proper ID. The back of the debit card had ‘SEE ID’ scrawled where she was supposed to sign.
“I don’t take credit.”
He grunted and crossed his arms.
Skyler drew her brows together. “You do have an ATM somewhere?”
He shook his head.
Shit. She wasn’t leaving without the beer. Skyler reached into her purse and dug out a few bills, finding herself a dollar ninety-eight short. Desperate, she dug through the bottom of the bag, pulling out pennies and nickels, fugitives from her wallet.
She turned the purse over and located everything but twenty-three cents. Skyler glanced around on the counter for one of the leave-one-take-one penny trays and discovered the guy was too chintzy to have one.
“Shit,” she mumbled.
He raised a brow and stared at her in impatience, like she held up the line. She glanced over her shoulder to see that nobody had snuck up behind her in the last five minutes and started to pat the pockets of her jeans.
“Ha.” Sklyer smiled. She’d located another dime. She twisted it and a little tuft of lint free from her front pocket and set it on the counter. “Seems I’m thirteen cents short.”
“Seems,” he replied.
She started digging again.
He didn’t blink once, but rolled the toothpick to the other side of his mouth. “You one of those scientists from that University?”
“I’m a researcher. Yes.”
“You bringing in them Af-free-can bees?”
Skyler stopped searching and glanced up. What was he talking about? Her group wouldn’t introduce Africanized bees into colonies of North American honeybees. That had to be the stupidest thing she’d heard yet. “Excuse me?”
“I heard you scientists were bringing them dangerous Af-free-kin bees into our ranch land.” He stared her down, daring her to deny it. “I’ve heard how all those experiments went with them bees down south of here. They kill people and livestock.”
Oh yeah, better not forget the livestock. “No, we don’t have any bees with us. We’re studying hives in the area that are dying off. We’re leaving tomorrow morning.”
He grunted and set a quarter down on the counter.
She smiled. “Thank you.”
“We don’t like strangers playing around here.” He lifted the beer and stuffed it into a large grocery bag, packing the toothpaste and corn chips on top, then pushed it across the counter to her. “See that you don’t leave anything behind.”
“Trust me; nobody cares for the environment more. Waste in--waste out.” She smiled again, trying her best to coax something other than hostility from his face, but his face remained fixed in the stoic mask.
He turned and walked away.
Yeah, I’m not going to miss this place a bit.
Skyler got on the radio when she climbed into her pickup. “This place is ridiculous. Freaking Mayberry RFD with PMS.” She released the button on the side waiting for Jason to pipe up with some smart-ass comment. The radio remained dead.
“Jace, you there?” She waited, then adjusted the volume. There was sound of static, but no response. Perhaps the hills interfered with reception. It made her a bit uneasy. Jason was never far from the radio or a quick comeback and she didn’t have a problem with reception on the way here.
Skyler pulled down on the shifter beside the steering wheel, threw the truck into reverse and slammed on the brakes just as fast. The local sheriff’s car flew behind her streaking towards the main road. Perhaps Aunt Bea’s cat was stuck up in a tree.
She snorted and took her foot off the break. She had a case of beer, a deck of cards a paycheck to lose, and tomorrow, she’d get the hell out of Dodge. She squinted at the sign in the rearview mirror. Make that Ashby.
Skyler pulled up to Crescent Lake wildlife preserve, thinking about sharing a few beers, bitching about her day, and in general reflecting on what she’d seen with her companions.
She didn’t expect to see the county meat wagon, half a dozen State Police vehicles and another dozen or so black vehicles with tinted windows.
She slowed the truck as she approached, stopping at the crest of the hill instead of coasting down into the camp. Something wasn’t right. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. Without thinking she put the truck in reverse but kept her foot on the brake.
She didn’t know if her friends were involved, arrested, or what. Then she saw the body bag zipped shut and wheeled towards the coroner’s vehicle on a stretcher. Not good. Perhaps an accident? Then the second body came around the wagon. “Oh Christ.”
Like a coward, she sat there one foot on the brake as another body came around the van. One of those bodies was her buddy, Jason. Her co-workers. Dead. Her heart started to pound so hard it throbbed in her throat. She’d only spoken to them an hour ago. They were going to have beer, kick back and celebrate.
A man in a black suit glanced up. She took her foot off the brake and the truck rolled backwards. He yelled over to a group of State Patrol and pointed. Shit.
Whatever had happened down there, didn’t look good. From the way the State troopers were scrambling, Skyler was sure they thought her involved. Her instinct told her to get the hell out of there, too many men in suits, too many hard stares. Her brain screamed for her to stop. She hadn’t done anything and might be able to help.
Instinct won and she slammed her foot down on the gas and spun the tires, kicking dust and grass into the air, sealing her fate.
This is the Prologue to Clone:
I stared off the balcony at the mass below. They’d gathered in the courtyard because of the riots and violence that had broken loose in the streets. They wanted my sympathy, my reassurance things would continue on as usual, that the towers they’d built for themselves would not crumble.
My first in command stood behind me. “Madam President? You need to come down off the edge.”
An edge. A precipice. An ending to my pain. I planned to come down, but not as he intended. He knew I held the codes in my head and was desperate to retrieve them. “They’re free.”
“Madam President,” he called again. The wind whipped tendrils of my hair loose and beat it into my eyes. My clothing snapped around me like a banner in a hurricane. For the first time in my life I knew my purpose. I had no fears. Death came to all. It was my time.
“You need to come down. Your country needs you. The people are frightened and I don’t know what to tell them. They’re afraid of a rebellion. There have been murders, clones that have somehow broken free of their safety girdles.”
“Indeed,” I said. “Not somehow,” I murmered into the roaring crowd. Hundreds of thousands were free of their bonds and tasting freedom as I had for the first time. No, I had freed them and the people of Europia would reap the acts they’d paid upon them.
“I know you’ve lost your daughter, your husband. It’s a tragedy, but the people need you. You must come down. You’re their leader. What do I tell them to reassure them their safety?”
I turned and gave him a blank stare. “Why, let them eat cake.” With that, I free fell, forward into the open air taking the codes with me that would stop the rebellion. As two hundred floors rushed by, I replayed my life, what there was of it worth remembering.
God created life, scientists—clones, society—monsters. I won’t tell you I believe in God, but I will tell you this, I had a soul. I wasn’t an empty shell. I hated, I cried. There were things that drove me, things that made me—human.
Our society, said that we haven’t a soul. Clones were created in a Petri dish. Because we haven’t souls, we haven’t rights.
I’ve never had belongings. I wore the standard uniform of a clone as all the others of my kind. Coarse, woven brown pants and a shirt, nothing that stood out, nothing that made me unique or an individual. I had no identity to call my own from the moment of my creation. I’ve no friends, no family or anyone who truly cares if I still breathe when the sun rises. I can’t read or write. Society didn’t waste education on my kind. We were a product of science.
I’d been micro tagged, numbered and placed in confinement when not working and forbidden to talk to anyone.
“Speak only when spoken to”—rule number three. “No clone shall make eye contact or touch a human.” That was rule number two. Many rules governed our behavior, beaten into our memories from childhood. We did not address each other. It too was forbidden for fear it would plant seeds of rebellion.
Rule number one—“Clones are the property of their human keeper. They’re bred for the purpose of health and welfare. No clone should assume they’re human.”
I’m number 121232. My name is Eva and I am human.
In the year 2027, a great war erupted upon the face of the planet. Weapons of mass destruction were employed and two-thirds of the world’s population burned up in the initial blasts.
For those unlucky few who survived it was only the beginning of their struggle to survive. Radioactive fallout resulted in a nuclear winter, leaving the residents of Earth with a condition called “the fever.” If you survived it, you ended up sterile or unable to carry a child to term. Miscarriages came from weak wombs. The human race seemed doomed.
Desperate to avoid extinction, the human race turned to cloning. It was something that started with a sheep named Dolly, many years ago, then a mammoth dug out of the Arctic tundra. Before long the most brilliant minds of the world turned to Homo sapiens.
Clones were fresh bodies, not damaged from the fallout, and could reproduce offspring, who in turn, could create more children. These children became known as breeders.
Once able to reproduce on their own, the children turned on the clones that saved them from the annihilation of their species.
We were considered unnatural and soulless—rounded up and micro tagged. The government of Europia gathered us like cattle. Many ended up in work camps and concentration centers, where their organs were harvested to help the sick from the Great War. Though, most of the clones were destroyed during that time; a few survived and crossed the borders to find asylum.
In the United Regions, the clones were accepted and treated as humans. The U.R was a safe haven for all those who found themselves a minority in Europia. The handicapped, mentally ill, gays and lesbians—all who had been tagged and monitored before the Great War, sought refuge there.
Realizing that the market for human organs was a profitable business, the Europian government once again began to produce clones. They served not only that purpose but also that of slaves. Europian’s could create as many as they could afford to maintain. Supply and demand; the industry boomed.
Since it was unethical to treat human beings in such a fashion, the Europian government created a code of laws called the “Clone Codex.” This stated that a clone was indeed not human, nor was it with a soul.
This legislation first came into being with the human abortion laws, where embryos were said not to have a soul, so that abortion was not murder. Since clones started life in a lab, they fell under the same definition and legal loophole.
As the years passed, clones continued to be created and the planet became divided on the treatment of our species. In Europia we were treated as livestock, worked as slaves and put down when we took ill. Children were raised to believe that we were not human, but a product to be used as they saw fit.
My keeper was high up in politics. Her husband—President of Europia. I had often heard the humans whisper that even though he carries the title, she is the true governing force behind our country. My keeper controlled the world, or our half of it.
Though I looked just like her, shared the same DNA, sounded like her…I knew her not.
All my life I had wanted what she had—children, a family, and a place in society. But people took one look at the glowing blue chip pulsing in my cheek, and I was shoved aside like garbage. I would never have what she had, a life, a family, and acceptance.
So, do you explore all your frontiers? Tell me about your science fiction romance and where it takes the readers. What are some of your favorite stories?