Seven weeks in, all the 2022 bingo cards have already flown out the window. But in all weeks, there is stability, for there are prompts. Whether it sparks a new tale, helps you wrap up the work in progress, or merely frazzles your brain, the prompt challenge is here for you.
Even if that idea wasn’t supposed to happen yet. Sometimes plans are best disrupted.
|Fiona Grey||The invading aliens had but one weakness…||AC Young|
|AC Young||The colonists on Arcticus V loved playing games on the ice.||Leigh Kimmel|
|Leigh Kimmel||You’re waiting to make a left turn. As you get the green arrow, a car blows through the red light on the cross street. You look again and realize the car is in the form of a giant roller skate.||Becky Jones|
|Becky Jones||The wind changed everything.||Cedar Sanderson|
|nother Mike||Something was chewing its way through the firewall… and it wasn’t a computer virus!||Fiona Grey|
|Cedar Sanderson||You are not a burden||nother Mike|
Not feeling the trade? Forgot to send one in? Noncommittal and hesitantly testing the waters? Don’t worry. We don’t bite. Although earworms make some of us very twitchy. The point is, we have a list of spares just for your perusal and selection.
|Spare||The man standing on the stadium rooftop was the distraction, not the threat.|
|Spare||Cheese swayed the rest of the crowd into submission.|
|Spare||A new winter sport: The Caledonian Combined. After two runs of 4-man bobsleigh, the fastest 8 quartets then compete at curling – straight knockout with the fastest quartet starting with bonus points.|
|Spare||The last trucks out of town sprayed the roads with a Teflon coating.|
|Spare||Under the tombstone… we’ll be having some fun…|
Want to join? Jump in below, in the comments, or send in a submission to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you in one of those places!
Header image by Fiona Grey, Frozen City in Shadowed Mist
This week my prompt was a challenge from Fiona Grey: The invading aliens had but one weakness…
My first thoughts were War of the Worlds, and the martians inability to cope with our germs. But I didn’t want to repeat that solution. So, I came up with the following, set in the very near future:
The Lunar Truce was signed on a spaceship in orbit around the moon. The signatories were the five permanent members of the Security Council, on behalf of the countries of Earth, and the representatives of the Venusian Collective.
About a year prior…
Astronomers had seen the fleet coming. It had entered the solar system from beyond the orbit of Pluto, and had been spotted within the week. It took less than a month before the experts were convinced that these were powered craft, not large, strangely shaped rocks, as they adjusted course to intercept Earth.
The news quickly slipped out, and there was plenty of speculation as to what the fleet was, what the crew looked like, even if there was a crew – might they be robot ships?
We got some of the answers as the fleet came closer to Earth and we were able to see the ships in more detail. They were all shaped like weird squashed spheres, and the outer shell appeared to be some form of blackened metal.
We got even more of the answers as the fleet passed the second Lagrange point, and the James Webb telescope was vapourised.
A week later the fleet entered orbit around Earth. Our satellites were systematically obliterated. The International Space Station was destroyed. Then the remnants of junk in Earth orbit were vapourised. Only when the local space was clear did the fleet come within the moon’s orbit.
A number of countries had the ability to destroy satellites from Earth. All of them tried to use the technology to destroy the alien fleet. They all failed. The missiles were destroyed once they left the atmosphere.
Then the alien fleet disgorged smaller ships. These looked like they were atmospheric-capable, and proved it by flying into Earth’s atmosphere.
Once flying in our airspace they used lasers to destroy anything else that flew. Fighters from all countries were sent up to fight. But none could approach close enough to do the alien craft any damage. Surface-to-air missiles were tried, but the missiles were blasted out of the air by the alien weaponry, and the missile launchers were swiftly targeted.
It wasn’t long before the aliens were the masters of the air. Nothing else moved above the surface of the planet.
Finally, one of the alien craft landed. The hatch opened, and then nothing happened.
It took an hour before anyone had the courage to check. The aliens inside were all dead.
Someone sent a message up to the alien fleet, volunteering an autopsy to find out what had caused the mass casualties. The aliens responded by setting off an auto-destruct in the vehicle. Everything was destroyed. Every alien inside was vapourised.
The next phase began. The aliens landed armoured vehicles. But they never opened the hatches, never got out of the vehicles.
It was only a matter of time before someone set off an IED. It didn’t do much damage, but it did pierce the outer shell of the aliens’ vehicle. And all the aliens died.
This time no-one sent a message to the alien fleet. The aliens were autopsied. It wasn’t clear what had caused their deaths, but the best guess was that they were used to planets with much greater atmospheric pressures. Trying to breathe in Earth’s atmosphere was fatal to them.
The tactics of Earth’s defenders changed. Rather than trying to destroy the alien vehicles, they switched to trying to damage them. Minor damage (by normal military standards) would be enough to cause the craft to lose integrity, and leak gas into the outside. This would kill all the crew.
Another benefit was that by not destroying the alien vehicles the scientists of many countries gained access to the aliens’ technology.
The result was a stalemate. Without a lot of research the defenders of Earth couldn’t drive off the aliens. But the aliens couldn’t risk their vehicles on or close to the ground.
The stalemate was only likely to be broken in one direction. Either the aliens would run out of trained personnel to man their vehicles, or Earth would master the alien technology. Either way, the aliens would lose.
So, to no-one’s surprise the aliens finally contacted Earth and negotiations commenced.
After a few months, half of which was needed for the negotiators to learn enough of each other’s languages, a suitable agreement was reached.
The aliens would colonise Venus (which had a suitably dense atmosphere), and would leave Earth alone. Earth would leave Venus alone. The remainder of the solar system was interplanetary territory – anyone could operate space probes and spaceships there.
The aliens consequently received their final name. They became known as the Venusian Collective.
Arrangements were made, and Earth’s representatives were allowed to make their way off-planet and dock at one of the alien spaceships. There they reviewed the text of the truce agreement.
Upon confirming that the text said what it should, all signatories were appended to the document in the required places.
No sooner had the representatives of Earth returned to their craft, and cast off back into space than the alien fleet left Earth to head to Venus.
The next few years were hectic. A lot of satellites needed to be replaced. The alien technology needed to be understood, and whichever country got there first would have a significant military advantage in the short term.
Ten years after the Lunar Truce, further negotiations with the Venusian Collective resulted in the Venusian Treaty. This permanently ended the conflict, and permitted interplanetary trade between Earth and Venus – initially carried solely by Venusian freighters, but Terran freighters were allowed and it wasn’t long before they were built.
The next time an alien fleet entered the solar system, Terran and Venusian warships faced the unknown craft side-by-side.
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Ooo, nice, I like the atmospheric pressure idea!
Thanks. It wasn’t my first choice – I looked into the aliens breathing in gasses other than oxygen, but I couldn’t find anything suitable.
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Sometimes second choices are even better. 🙂 And the ending is a great hook.
Nother Mike, I hope I did your combined ideas justice.
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Oooh! Wicked! Very nicely done… now if the AI doesn’t block it….
[…] Week Seven of Odd Prompts, my prompt came from Leigh Kimmel: You’re waiting to make a left turn. As you get the green […]
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[…] can read all the prompt responses, and join in on the prompt challenge, over at More Odds Than Ends. Please come have fun with […]
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My entry, a bit of flash fiction. https://www.cedarwrites.com/2022/02/22/odd-prompts-warmup/
Mine is now up on my LiveJournal at https://starshipcat.livejournal.com/1104189.html. I ended up writing the backstory to last week’s writing challenge. At first i was really struggling to get the words to come, and then I hit a point where they were flowing and i actually got the entire scene written.
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Cedar Sanderson raised the issue…
You are not a burden.
[Shades of he’s not heavy, he’s my brother… hum…
mostly to get it out of my head]
The car pulled into the parking lot of the First Baptist Church and parked. Harold turned to see who it was, and then stopped. Mr. Green! But Mrs. Green was driving, and she got out of the car slowly. Their two daughters hopped out of the back. And then Mrs. Green walked around and opened the passenger door. And reached in, helping Mr. Green slowly swing around and lean forward.
Harold shook his head, and walked over. He knew them, but hadn’t seen them at church recently. Supposedly, Mr. Green was spending most of his time at the hospital. And he looked… well, his bones were showing.
“Can I help?” Harold asked.
Mrs. Green looked around, and then smiled, a little.
“If… well, John can’t walk. Could… could you carry him inside? We came for the service, but I didn’t know how we would get him inside.”
Harold gulped. He wasn’t a big teenager, but he thought he could try. So he stepped forward as Mrs. Green moved back, and he leaned down and got one arm around Mr. Green. He lifted as Mr. Green leaned forward, and they got him out of the car, on his feet. Then Harold sighed, and put his arm down under Mr. Green’s legs and lifted the man up in his arms.
Mr. Green had been a big boned, hearty man, but now… his bones were still big, but he didn’t weigh very much. And he was shaking. Little tremors, as if he was cold.
Harold smiled at the man, and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you inside now.”
The man shook his head. “I don’t want to be a bother.”
Harold shook his head. “Now, you know I’m a Boy Scout. And we’re supposed to do a good deed every day. So this is mine for the day.”
Mr. Green grimaced. “Don’t want to bother anyone.”
“Don’t you worry. You are not a burden.” Harold smiled, and started to walk, slowly, into the church. Mrs. Green and the two girls followed him.
When they got near the doors, one of the girls ran ahead and opened the doors. Harold turned sideways a little as they went in, to avoid hitting Mr. Green’s feet or head. Then he walked up the aisle in the church, and set Mr. Green in a pew.
Mrs. Green was right there, and thanked Harold.
That was the last church service Mr. Green ever attended at the church.
Later, his father would explain that Mr. Green’s kidneys had failed completely, and he was getting dialysis every day. However, just a few months later, they heard that Mr. Green had refused dialysis, and died.
[there’s another story, about a therapy circle and the therapist identifying cognitive concerns that cause their issues, with the repeated chorus of “you are not a burden, you are an opportunity for change in action” but that one seems to need some more time to jell. So… maybe later.]
[so… a bit at least…]
Hector looked around the circle. No one seemed to want to start this week’s session, although the therapist was looking around, waiting for someone to talk. Hector shook his head, and lifted his hand. They all looked at him, and the therapist said, “Go ahead, Hector.”
He looked down at his hands.
“I was really upset this week. See, the rule at lunch is that each person gets one dessert. And I saw that big orderly take two! I couldn’t believe he did that!”
The therapist chuckled.
“Okay, so did you get a dessert?”
“Yes, but… I mean, the rules are for everybody. We all need to follow them.”
The therapist nodded.
“Yes, in general, we need to follow the rules. But… sometimes people do break the rules, and it isn’t such a big thing. In fact, sometimes you need to break the rules, and you shouldn’t feel guilty when you do, if there’s a good reason. Be careful about the shoulds, about thinking that the rules are always to be obeyed.”
Hector looked up. They were all looking at him. He shrugged.
“I’ll try, but I really want everyone to follow the rules. I know, I’m a stickler for them, but…”
Now the therapist laughed.
“Hey, we all get stuck on them sometimes. But…” He looked around, and lifted his hand. The other members of the circle grinned. Then they all said it, together.
“You are not a burden. You are an opportunity for change in action.”
Hector smiled as he repeated it with the others. Maybe he’d take an extra dessert one of these days.
[a snippet at least…]
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