Author Archives: Pastey

Pseudo-Science (Fiction)

One thing about running is that you get time to think, you can take a small inkling of an idea that you have, and turn it over in your head until it’s grown into something more, something usable in a story.

Over the weekend I was discussing personal force fields with a friend of mine, the sort to keep the rain off rather than the sort to deflect lasers – I live in Manchester after all – and I pointed out that the theory is already sound, using ultrasound.

In very basic terms, ultrasound uses sound waves to produce a thin “wall” of air at a fixed height away from the generator. You can move your hand underneath it and meet no resistance, but the wall of sound will push back. And it’s totally invisible.

Tests and experiments have shown that small objects can even be pushed along, and I recommend looking up videos on acoustic levitation and seeing water droplets being suspended in mid-air. Researchers in Tokyo took this one step further a few years ago, and rather than suspending small objects, created touchable holograms. Sensors detected where the hand was, and when it came into contact with a holographic object, ultrasound was used to create pressure on the hand, and give the impression of touch.

So when out running this morning I was thinking more about this, and what other uses it could be put too. I’m not a scientist, I’m a writer, so I don’t know if what I came up with is actually feasible or if there’s something pretty important I’ve overlooked, but it’s by coming up with these ideas, and writing them into books, that we hope that the real scientists will read them and act on them.

What I was thinking about was how artificial gravity works on spaceships. There’s lots of idea out there, based mostly on rotational or linear movement. But I was thinking, what if we’re going about this the wrong way? What if, instead of trying to create gravity, we instead created the impression of it? What if the ceilings of spaceships were lined with ultrasound generators and sensors, and as someone walked along, ultrasound was used to push them down to the floor? There’d be no need for massive flywheels or huge power supplies either.

We wouldn’t be creating gravity, we’d be mimicking it. Muscles and bones would still have to work against a force, so deterioration of muscular and skeletal structure shouldn’t be a problem, and having an “up” and “down” would help with the mental effects of long-term free-fall. Obviously this wouldn’t work when you got close enough to a planet where its gravity would take over, but it’d certainly work for space itself where it was only pushing against nothing.

It would take a very fast computer to monitor all crew and passengers, and to shift the ultrasound along with them, and there would most likely be a fair amount of heat generated behind the ceilings, but we’ve all seen in films that spaceships have lots of air ducts, perhaps this is the reason why?

30ShortsIn30Days: Review, Part 2

In part one of the review, I looked at each story, and gave my thoughts on them, but what of the exercise as a whole, was it worth it?


Even though I work from home and can give as many hours as I like to writing, in amongst the other stuff I do, it was still quite difficult to get the stories written during the day. Instead I’d spend most of the day doing that comfortable pastime of procrastinating under the guise of thinking up ideas. The first few stories were much longer because I’d been thinking of them in the days running up to the start of the month, so was better prepared for them. Around the middle of the month though I’d run out of pre-planned ideas and was spending more of the day trying to think of something to write.

Once I get going with an idea I can write quite quickly, but it’s the getting started that’s difficult. As Calvin & Hobbes once said “You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.” They also go on to state that the right mood is last-minute panic, and they’re right. Too many of the short stories I wrote were written later at night, or even cut shorter than I wanted because I was running out of time.

I certainly intend to come back to most of these shorts and spend more time on them, some of the ideas deserve it. And I think this is one of the main reasons why it was good to do this exercise, to force myself to come up with lots more ideas than I normally would. Either expanding out throw-away lines in stuff I’ve already written, testing out ideas for stuff I’m currently writing, or coming up with something completely new. The other main reason why it was good to do is because it has provided you, the reader, with something (hopefully) entertaining to read while I finish the next book.

I think it’s also helped to show what goes on in a writer’s mind, I can’t speak for others, but it’s not all jumbled up in there. It seems that lots of ideas can be dragged out and looked at, and then when we find one that just seems to work, we run with it. This certainly happened with the duality ships idea. I was thinking about writing something different from the No Pandas characters, and the obvious (to me of course) was to write something sci-fi. In part one of this review, and previous ramblings, I’ve touched on the idea that belief can only be stretched so far. I fully believe in that. You can’t just make something completely incredible up and expect readers to go along with it, as soon as you’ve stretched it too far, the bridge into the world that you’ve created for the reader collapses and they’re not likely to come back. I suppose that the best examples of this are in characters themselves. Too many characters just aren’t believable, “heroines” who swoon, “heroes” with bulging biceps and IQs approaching two hundred. If you write and you write about people like this, then please go into any city centre and look around you. The world is populated by normal people, and these normal people are the ones that do extraordinary things.

So I try to make my characters normal, believable people, and when I got the idea to write some sci-fi, I tried to do the same with the universe I was going to be putting them in. There’s a few science fiction stories and television shows I like that seem to have got it right for me. Red Dwarf comes straight to mind, well the earlier episodes. There are no aliens, there’s no shiny white command deck that you can’t see because of all the lens flare. The people aren’t all poster posers for the marines. They’re normal people on a dirty old ship that actually does some work. Another is Enterprise, a lot of Star Trek fans hated it, but I loved it. Okay, it had aliens and that was okay. What it got very right though is my mind, was showing the “here to there” of space travel. The bridge of the ship was laid out in a similar way to a submarine, in fact the whole ship was laid out based on how warships and submarines are. The writers and set designers gave some real thought to how it would look and work, and for me that really made the series. That and the characters made mistakes, they weren’t heroes for being muscular and killing things, they were heroes because they were ordinary (albeit highly trained) people doing great things, and giving others the hope that they could too. The third one that’s worth mentioning is Firefly, this got the ships right, it got the people right, but most of all it got the universe right. The here to there was there, there was a background that was believable, there were worlds that you could associate with, and language and culture progression. Again, thought had been given to it, and it showed, it made the whole thing more realistic.

So after that ramble that will almost certainly get turned into a blog piece of its own, when I got the idea of the duality ships, I spent quite a lot of time thinking of how they would work, how they would be laid out, how they would be piloted, crewed and fuelled. I started looking at characters, what they would be like, why they’d be in the story. And I started thinking about the universe, why it would have these ships and these people, and what they’d be doing in it. And then I started thinking about the short stories that I could write, once the background was there the stories started to come quite easily. Too easily in fact, so after a few days I had to cut them off. I want to do them the justice they deserve, and to do that I’ll be turning them into a full length book, maybe even a series of them.

So as a writer, yes this was a very worthwhile exercise. And in case you’re wondering, the most read short that I wrote was Joan and the Armourer, which I think is possibly the best stand-alone short of the month too.

30ShortsIn30Days: Review, Part 1

The idea behind 30ShortsIn30Days was to write a new short story every day in April. There weren’t that many rules:

  1. They couldn’t have been started before the day, although they could be planned to a degree
  2. They had to be over 200 words
  3. While they may be able to be linked together, each story had to be able to stand alone.

Initially, this sounds reasonably easy, after all, 200 words isn’t really that much. I’ve done eighty eight up to the end of this sentence. In part two of this review I’ll go over how it wasn’t that easy, but this part will cover the stories I wrote, and my thoughts on them.


Dodo Kebabs

I had the idea for this one kicking around in my head when I was writing Endangered Creatures, I was thinking of putting it in as a scene, but it just didn’t sit well anywhere I thought of putting it. So I didn’t bother writing it. I do like the idea of it though, because it annoys me that trading standards or some other industry watch dog steps in to “protect” the customer from perceived idiocy. I remember as a child a brand of crisps going through huge legal battles because they were called “Hedgehog Crisps” and more recently a sausage manufacturer in Wales had problems with their Dragon Sausages, named because the dragon is on the Welsh flag. It galls me that companies like this are prevented from trading like this, yet other companies, usually the very large, rich ones that fund these watchdogs are able to get away with blatant lies, such as producing a “cider” with only 17.5% apple juice content when the tax office in the UK states it must have at least 34%.

It really does seem that if you’re making the rules, you can do what you like. But if you’re not, you’re subject to the most ridiculous restrictions all in the name of protecting the consumer.


The Tour

I really wanted this story to be a lot longer. I liked the idea of the estate in Endangered Creatures, run by Bob the dragon overseeing everything, and I liked the idea of how a human might, or might not, fit in with all the wonderful creatures there. I had in my mind that the tour would see them being introduced to everyone, and being made to feel very unwelcome. And then, over time, being accepted and made to feel part of the family.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the time to write all of that, and while I was writing, this seemed to flow out.



I put a throwaway line into Endangered Creatures about the vet being away treating yetis for colds, and I loved the idea, and I’m also interested in what are now thought of as natural remedies, and not long ago were thought of as quack or pseudo-science. We got along not too badly for thousands of years without the big pharmaceutical companies, so we must have been doing something right. Then all of a sudden we were told that the medicines and treatments we were using were all a load of rubbish, and we should be taking two of these little pills, twice a day, come back in a fortnight if the symptoms still persists. Yet not many years later, the pharmaceutical companies are now telling us that these wonder remedies from plants are the next best thing, that they’ve been researching them and are even patenting treating illnesses using them; I’m not making that up.

So I thought how would you treat the common cold? And was able to expand out the previously barely mentioned character of the Programme’s Vet.


Goblin’s Teeth

This is another short that stemmed from a throwaway line in Endangered Creatures, and another one that I thought should be longer. I keep seeing the scene play in my head, and it is longer, but when I came to write it down, it wasn’t. I do like it though, I like the idea of what a mixed school, humans and endangered creatures, would actually be like, and what sort of things could go wrong. I may write more around this idea.


Happy Workers

In Endangered Creatures I mention a few of the job interviews that the main character Connor has had in the past, and what went wrong with them. Yes, they’re (mostly) based on personal experience. This short starts with a bit of a bugbear of mine, people being employed because they tick the boxes decided upon by human resources, rather than because they can actually do the job properly, and would get on with the rest of the staff. Humans aren’t drones, yet most work places treat them like such. And the current fad in the education systems of teaching students to pass tests, rather than preparing them for a working life, means we’re seeing a workforce that isn’t really capable, and leads to a very high turnover rate. Which probably explains why I get more spam email from recruiters “offering” me jobs than I do from Nigerian princes selling me Viagra.



One of the things I loved about writing Endangered Creatures was “debunking” the Bible miracles. I was brought up in a Catholic household, went to church every Sunday and major saints days, and was taught the Bible and to not question it. Then I lucked out at secondary school (also a Catholic institution) and got a religious education teacher who taught us to question everything rather than take it at face value. His view was that if you questioned something, and then still believed in it, it was a much stronger belief. And if you no longer believed in it, then at least you found out early enough to stop wasting your life.

I’m also a fan of locked room mysteries, Sherlock Holmes and Jonathan Creek style ones, so having my two main bad guys being angels, gave me the opportunity to look into how the miracles could actually have been stage managed. I have a couple of them in Endangered Creatures, and another on this site in the Short Stories section, but the problem is, there aren’t actually that many different miracles. Mostly it’s heal the sick or feed lots of people. This one though, this took a bit of thinking, and a reasonable amount of research too.

Oh, and my mother, who’s still a devote catholic, doesn’t approve of these parts of my writing, but she can at least see the funny side even if she does think I’m likely to go to hell.


The Big Sleep

This didn’t start out like it ended. I was taking a break from NoPandas related stories to write something a bit more serious, but not too much. It was going to be a mayfly narrating, fitting a life into a single day, but as I wrote it it changed, and it got more and more sad. I didn’t want to write something as serious or depressing as this, it’s just the way it came out. However, I do like it.


Joan and the Armourer

This came about from a conversation I was having over on where we were discussing, or rather moaning about, the generic book covers you always seem to get, and how the women on them are always wearing the same inappropriate outfit that almost certainly isn’t even in the story, but is thought to appeal to the teenage boys they’re trying to sell the book to.

It’s a bit of an old joke about how they’re totally impractical, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. And I’m very pleased with it, especially the line “all I’ve got between me and the horse is a cheese grater” which still makes me laugh. This also took a bit of research too, because every single part of a suit of armour has a special name, and having a list of those handy might help when reading this.



I can’t remember how I came up with the idea for this one, except that while writing the sequel to Endangered Creatures (called The Breeding Programme), I realised that while Belia’s in it a bit, Polynius isn’t in it at all. Which is a shame, because I really like those characters. There’s a lot that could be done with them that I just wasn’t doing. So this short somehow came about, and I really like it. It explains more about the angels as creatures, and about Poly and Belia as characters, and when I finished this I realised why I wrote it, because although I’ve already given a draft of The Breeding Programme to my editor (who’s also my wife) there was a gap in it. An angel shaped gap, and a pregnancy shaped gap. When I get the draft back from its initial review and cursory edit, this short is going to be worked into it. I love the idea of a pregnant angel, and how Poly and Belia react as individuals. Plus it also fits in very nicely with the outlines I’ve written for the third book.


Turkey Trouble

This is another one of those that started as a throwaway line in Endangered Creatures, and I wanted to expand it out. It’s also another one of those that seemed better in my head than when I wrote it down. I’d like to revisit this one because I still like the idea, I just don’t particularly like the way I’ve written it.


Sick On Thursday

This one started from a remark on Twitter, the idea about 24 hour bugs, and never getting the hang of Thursdays. It’s a totally made up creature, I think, something I don’t normally do. Normally I take an extinct creature, or an existing myth, and work out how it could actually be real. This time, I just made something up to suit a situation, rather than a situation to fit a creature.

I quite like this idea, and do wonder about thinking up some more creatures to fit situations.


The Killing Game

One of the things I like about writing, is planning how to kill people. Sounds a bit sick doesn’t it? But it’s the thinking I like, the logical puzzles and the planning. Don’t worry, I’m never likely to actually kill anyone, but it is kinda fun figuring out how you could do it.

This actual method of killing I worked out years ago, and strangely enough not long afterwards someone tried it. They didn’t kill, but they made a lot of people very ill. I’ve thought of several other ways of killing, and at times wonder about writing about a serial killer, but at the moment there seems too many other serial killer stories out there. So it’ll sit on the back-burner for now.


Love & Lunacy

One of the things that’s always bugged me about Endangered Creatures, was never being able to properly explain how Bridget got out of the convent. It’s been one of those little niggles that’s kept getting to me. So this was an excuse to try and work it out. It also gave me an opportunity to write a bit more about Edith. Her character so far has been a bit set in the background, but I rather like her. She comes out more in The Breeding Programme, but I wanted to try and work with her a bit more.


Military Manoeuvres

One of the short stories I wrote prior to releasing Endangered Creatures had the two dragons, Bob and Fred, watching humans at a jousting tournament, and commenting on them, and I really liked that. I like the idea of watching history from an external viewpoint, and the way that Bob and Fred comment on it in a bemused way. So I thought I’d give it another go, and I quite like the results, so I think I might well write more on these two throughout history.



This is an old joke too, why do people run towards the screams? Surely you’d run away from the screams?


Daniel In The Lion’s Den

Another sort of miracle debunking story, but not really explaining how it could be done. The idea was actually thought up by my wife, but I loved to run with it. Again though it’s one that I wanted to do more with but time got in the way.



I had to be careful writing this one, it was based on a scene I saw in a pub several years ago, that was a little more graphic and explicit in its conversation. I really couldn’t believe what the two blokes were doing, sitting in the pub in the middle of the afternoon being very graphic about this young woman. So you can imagine how hard it was for me to contain my laughter when it turned out to be the sister of one of them.


Something Fishy

One of the things that I think give credibility to the premise of Endangered Creatures, is the coelacanth.  For years it was thought that they were extinct, and then all of a sudden, there they were alive and well. So if the coelacanth survived, what else did? And I like the idea that it was saved in secret, and reintroduced into the wild.

So this short follows that reintroduction, and the sheer stupidity of people.



Another miracle debunking story tale, this one took a while to work out. Bringing someone back from the dead? Yeah, no problem. But making a paralysed man walk, that took a bit of working out. Thankfully the English language is such a flexible thing. But this is another one where I wanted it to be much larger, but just didn’t have the time to do as much with it as I wanted.



I read recently that some sloths have lichen growing on their backs because they move so slowly, and I thought that’d make a great defence mechanism for a large, slow moving animal. The one that come to mind was the woolly mammoth, obviously.

I didn’t mean for this to be set in the No Pandas world, and in a way it isn’t. It’s not part of the Programme, and it’s not exactly humorous either. However, it does contain a supposedly extinct creature. But it is part of the No Pandas world, along with Endangered Creatures and The Breeding Programme, and writing this gave me the background for the third book in the series. I already had a lot of notes about characters and the things they would do, but didn’t really have a backdrop for it. Until now. So after writing this short story, I went to the pub (no surprise there) and sat and wrote out the full set of chapter plans for the third book. Yes folks, there’ll be more woolly mammoths.



This is yet another one of those that was a lot longer in my mind, but when I came to write it out it ended up a lot shorted. I’m not really happy with this one. There’s so much more I could do with it, expand the characters out, show their lives other than the main thread, in short, make a proper story out of it. And I’d like to come back to it and do that, because I like the idea, but not this short.



Again, this was longer in my mind. Which seems to be a running theme. I was determined with this one though to make it at least a reasonable length, and it is better. But there’s still a lot I didn’t put in because I was short on time.

I liked what I wrote about Edith earlier, and I wanted to write a bit more. So I took another throwaway line from earlier writing and wrote about Gerald and Edit meeting and going on a date. I also wanted to show a bit about Bridget starting to lose it a little. She was quite coherent in the earlier tale, but by Endangered Creatures she’s much older, and quite a bit madder. So this had to show her somewhere in between.

All told though, I like this story and want to come back and write some more on it.


Not From Guildford

“Not from Guildford after all” is a wonderful quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when Arthur finds out that his friend Ford is actually an alien. I loved that idea, and thought about what would happen if you found out that a friend you’d known for a few years turned out to be a visiting alien, what would you actually do?



I’ve always liked science fiction, books, films and television series.  The problem is though, they’re usually so unbelievable. Even the ones without aliens. It’s almost as though civilisation has taken a leap from where it currently is, to where the writer wants it to be without any thought of how it could get from here to there. It’s like a lot of the fantasy books, where the story gets written into a corner, so magic is used to get it out. I can understand that a bit in fantasy, it’s fantastical after all. But I’m not keen on it. A good magic system can add so much more to a world, using it as a Deus Ex Machine just seems like a cop out to me, no matter how much it’s needed. And I feel the same with a lot of sci-fi that’s around. There’s no link between what is, and what it has become, and I think that science fiction has lost something there.

So I started writing this idea about the duality ships, I sat down and planned out a ship, how it would be laid out, and how it could work. I also started thinking about the worlds that it would be set in, full of normal people. And then I realised I’d already written about the characters in Not From Guildford, three people just bumming around the universe having a laugh. So I expanded them out and started writing about them stealing a ship. And this has really taken off.



This story was where the from here to there comes in. And without an apocalypse, something else that bugs me. I mean, are humans so bad that we’re doomed to annihilate ourselves? Can’t we perhaps maybe, just maybe, get it right? Or at the very least not totally mess it up.

So I thought about how we’d get there, what would it take? And I came up with a couple of blokes in a pub, who actually put their money where their mouths are, something that rarely happens. This again though is something that I want to be longer, and I’m definitely going to come back to this and expand it out.


New Gaia

Part of working out the worlds to set my sci-fi stories in, was to actually create worlds. I’d been thinking about how colonists used to create countries, moving away from persecution of some kind usually, so brought that into this series. I’d also been thinking about the ship itself. I’d created them to be long-haul craft, but minimum crew and therefore minimum facilities. Which wasn’t really going to work for what I was looking for. So I needed a way to get a mechanic on board and do the ship up, and I came up with New Gaia, a planet on the edges, and Wrench and Socket, a father daughter team from a nomadic tribe that I’ve loosely based on the American Indians.

But again I wanted to make it believable, so in came the pirates and the debris, because it’s not a perfect world, even if it didn’t start from a total mess.



I seemed to have got stuck on my sci-fi bent doing this, but I also wanted to keep it realistic, something I seem to worry about quite a bit. To this end I thought about how Wrench and Socket wouldn’t get on with the crew in close quarters, at least not straight away, it just wouldn’t happen. Also, I wanted to make their ship quicker than the others around. If they were going to be on the run, they needed to be able to run.

So this short allowed me to work on those points and set the worlds up for the rest of the stories I want to write. I’m definitely looking to write more with this crew, I’ve got another couple of crew member ideas, and quite a few planet ideas to put them into.



This should have been a lot longer, but I ran out of time, again. I’ve pretty much worked out how the crew will be able to make money, not just to survive, but to try and buy their freedom, and I started writing about it in this story. I wanted to get away from sci-fi for a bit though, because I was wanting to write too much of it. I could easily have sat down, planned out, and written the book about the MHC-1 and her crew (really must find a better ship name) but needed to restrict myself while doing the shorts.

I wanted to take the crew out to Florian, and to set up the trading, exploring the trade routes more, and the people that work them. But there just wasn’t time, and I needed to rein it in a bit.



My sister-in-law has just had a baby, it’s her third, and she’s a nurse on a children’s ward in her local hospital. So she knows a thing or two about babies, through experience and proper training, which is the right way. It’s always amused me, the idea that you can give a kid an egg, or a rabbit, cat, chick or other small animal and expect it to learn all about parenthood from that one experience. They can’t. What’s the worst that happens? A small animal dies. Yes, that’s quite tragic, but if you’re worried about the small animal, don’t let the kid have it in the first place. And kids aren’t stupid, they know it’s only a game, it’s not like the real thing. The whole idea is ridiculous.

Which is why I thought of Belia and Polynius when I was thinking about it. They try, but they just seem to get things wrong.



I have a cat, or rather I inherited a cat with the wife. It’s definitely her cat. And yes, this was based on him a little, especially in the descriptions of how he looks.

I liked the Kitty story, but wanted to do a bit more with it. I also liked the idea of Bridget, the mad old lady, having a cat. But more in the sort of evil genius cat way. So I started writing this.

Like with Kitty, this could be a bit longer, and a lot better too. That’s one of the difficulties with short stories, you’re pretty much limited to a single thread, and a single set of characters. But also like with Kitty, I’m going to try and work this story into The Breeding Programme, because I really like the idea.

30ShortsIn30Days: Cat

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.


  The small fire blazed in the wall of the apartment; an occasional crackle coming from the logs as they burned was the loudest noise in the room, accompanied by the creaking of a rocking chair as its occupant pushed themselves back and forth.

  The apartment had double glazing and central heating, but there is something about sitting and watching a fire burning away gently in the hearth that helps people to relax. And Polynius needed all the help he could get to try and relax. Since the vet at London Zoo’s Endangered Creatures Programme had informed him that he was pregnant, Polynius was trying to keep calm. Unfortunately their companion Belia wasn’t a great help.

  It had been a long time since an angel gave birth, thousands of years. The angels were very, very long lived. They also didn’t have genders, or rather they had both genders and no genders, or rather they could pick and choose which gender they wanted to have, or rather the situations they found themselves in chose their genders for them, or rather… it was complicated.

  Belia however, was getting fully into the role of incompetent prospective father. So far one of the rooms in their apartment had been repainted eight different times, in eight different colours, to make a nursery for the coming child. It had also been fitted out with new furniture eight different times. There were so many unsuitable toys that Polynius had taken to boxing them up and putting them into storage while Belia was out at work.

  “Poly, I’m home!” Belia called as he came through the front door into the small hallway. “I’ve brought you a present!”

  “Belia, please. You’ve got to stop bringing things home. We’ve more than enough stuff here already.”

  “Don’t worry Poly, this is for you, not the baby,” Belia explained walking into living room, carrying a cardboard box.

  “You’ve brought home another cat haven’t you?” Poly asked, looking at the box with an air of dread. “How many times do I have to tell you, you can’t just pick up creatures from the zoo and bring them home.”

  “Don’t worry so Poly, this one isn’t from the zoo. I went to a cat rescue centre and talked to someone there,” Belia said as he put the box down in front of Polynius.

  Polynius leaned forward and lifted the flaps back from the lid of the box before reaching in and lifting out a large, scruffy looking cat.

  “What is this?”

  “It’s a cat,” Belia replied.

  “Are you sure?”

  “Absolutely. The nice lady at the rescue centre told me it’s a pedigree.”

  “I think,” Polynius said as he turned the cat around in to examine it, “that she lied.”

  “Oh no, she gave me a certificate and everything. That’s a pedigree Persian,” Belia said beaming with pride.

  “What happened to its face?”

  “They’re supposed to look like that,” Belia explained.

  “Really? You mean that someone sat down one day and thought ‘Hey, let’s breed a cat that looks like it’s run into one too many walls?”

  “It’s not his fault, he didn’t ask to be born like that,” Belia replied taking the cat back from Polynius’ outstretched hands. “I think he’s just adorable.”

  “I think he looks like he’s hit too many walls and been in too many fights.”

  “Well, yes, he is an old cat. And his fur’s been a bit clumpy, and shaved off a bit here and there to remove the dreadlocks. And he is missing a few teeth, and there is that little incontinence problem too, apparently,” Belia explained as he put the cat down. “But you have to admit, he is gorgeous.”

  “Belia dear, I have to admit no such thing,” Polynius replied. “And you believe that getting this cat will help us to be more responsible parents?”

  “That is the theory,” Belia replied as he watched the cat wander over to the fire and curl up in front of it before falling instantly asleep.

  “Fine, you can keep it if it’ll stop you bringing more things home. But it’s your responsibility, you’re the one that needs practice it seems.”


  Getting enough sleep is vital to any healthy lifestyle, and more so when you’re expecting. Once a baby arrives, the late night feeds, changes and cleans can make sure that whatever sleep you do manage to get is very, very welcome. So catching up on sleep before the baby arrives, that’s vital.

  “Belia, it’s your turn,” Poly said rolling over slightly in the bed.

  “Is it?”

  “Yes, it’s always your turn because it’s your cat that’s meowing outside the bedroom door!” Polynius replied through clenched teeth.

  “He just wants a bit of company, he’d be quiet if he was allowed in here to sleep on the bed.”

  “And if he comes in here to sleep, my allergies will flare up,” Polynius replied. “He’s staying out there.”

  “I’ll go and shut him in the kitchen then.”


  The aromas that come from the kitchen of a good cook can be some of the best you’ll ever smell. The blends of spices and fresh vegetables cooking and make your mouth water even if you’ve just eaten. These however can be overpowered, and totally ruined, by a bad smell.

  “BELIA!” Polynius shouted.

  “Yes Poly?” Belia replied joining him in the kitchen.

  “Your cat has crapped in the litter tray again. I’m trying to cook.”

  “Sorry Poly, I’ll get it cleared up now.”

  “Most animals, Belia dear, most animals know to cover up their scat. What’s wrong with that one?”

  “I think he’s just nervous Poly, and he is old.”

  “Old or not, teach him to use the litter tray, or he goes.”

  “But Poly, we can’t get rid of him,” Belia pleaded. “He’s helping us learn about responsibility.”

  “Belia, he’s so far left puddles all over the house, clawed almost every item of furniture, eaten food while we’re still cooking it, has a habit of crapping while I’m cooking, and only stops meowing when he’s eating or sleeping. Which is most of the time,” Polynius explained. “I’m sorry Belia, but I’ve had enough. I need sleep and relaxation, and he’s depriving me of both. Find him another home.”


  “Ah Gerald,” Belia greeted the manticore. “I was wondering if you would like to take in our cat. We’re looking for a new home for it.”

  “Sorry Belia, I’ve been trying to cut down on spicy food.”


  “Ken, hello, glad I caught you,” Belia waved to the centaur as he approached the stables. “I was wondering, would you like to take in our cat? We’ve got to give it up you see.”

  “Ah Belia, how nice to see you. That’s a cat is it? My, they’ve changed since I last saw one,” Ken replied, looking at the animal the angel was carrying.

  “He’s a pedigree Persian,” Belia replied proudly.

  “Really? Wonderful. And, er, what are you supposed to do with it?”

  “Do with it?” Belia asked.

  “Yes, what’s the point of it?”

  “Well, you feed it, and clear up after it,” Belia explained.

  “And what does it do in return?”

  “Mostly it sleeps,” Belia replied looking at Ken’s expression. “You don’t want to look after it, do you?”


  “Ah Jerry,” Belia said as he met the Programme’s Head Keeper in the staff canteen.

  “No, I don’t want a cat,” Jerry replied, cutting short their conversation.


  Rehoming the cat wasn’t going well. So far he’d been mistaken for a potential lunch three times, a novelty draught excluder twice, and as a self-cleaning duster once. Belia was afraid that he would have to take him back to the rescue centre, where he’d probably never get homed again, so was passing some time sat in the gardens, stroking the cat.

  “Hello Belia, I never took you as a cat person.”

  Belia looked up and saw a late-middle-aged lady looking down at him.

  “Hello Bridget,” Belia said to the Programme’s resident Banshee.

  “He’s adorable isn’t he?”

  “You like him?” Belia asked hopefully.

  “Like him, I could just take him home and keep him. Why?”

  “Well, I got him to help Poly and me learn about responsibility, but, well, he’s done nothing but meow all the time he’s not eating or sleeping, and Poly’s allergic to him, “ Belia explained.

  “So what are you going to do?”

  “I’ve got to find a new home for him. I don’t want to take him back to the rescue centre, he’s an old cat and would likely be there for the rest of his days. Would you take him home?”

  “Belia, I’d be delighted to. I’m already a mad old lady, might as well finish off the reputation and get a cat.”

30ShortsIn30Days: Kitty

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.


  It is said that home is where the heart it, and that an Englishman’s home is his castle. People find a place to live that suits them, and when people live in one place for any length of time, they change it to suit them more. Rooms get decorated in colours and styles that the residents like, and the furniture gets picked to fit in. When two people start to live together, things can change. The odd piece of odd furniture gets introduced, usually a scruffy old armchair that someone can’t bear to part with, and a room or two will get redecorated in such a way that makes it stand out from the other rooms in the house. Over time however, those people’s tastes get more and more alike, and the rooms get decorated in a way that suits both of them, and the furniture gets replaced and once again becomes full, matching sets.

  Polynius and Belia had lived together for a very long time, longer than either of them could remember.  That was one of the advantages, and disadvantages of living so long, the memory started to go. And angels lived for a very, very long time. It wasn’t that they couldn’t remember if they tried, they just no longer had any real need to remember little things, like when their birthdays were, or how long they’d been together. It wasn’t until something came along where they needed to remember, that they would sit down and think about it. And then after a while, sometimes a day or two, they’d remember. The memories would come flooding back as though they were fresh, for even though the angels were thousands of years old, they hadn’t lost any of their faculties.

  Nobody knew where the angels came from, or how long they’d been around. But they’d been part of the Endangered Creatures Programme at London Zoo since it started, a Programme to look after the reportedly extinct or mythical creatures.

  Polynius was sitting in an armchair by the fire in the living room when Belia came in.

  “Poly, I’m back, and I’ve brought you a present,” Belia called from the entrance hall to the apartment they shared.

  “Please don’t let it be something else for the baby. I’ve told you, we’ve got enough stuff already.”

  One of the things that Polynius had recently been trying to remember, was about babies. Two months ago the vet had informed them that they were pregnant, and since then Polynius had been trying their best to remember everything they could about young angels, something that hadn’t been seen for over two thousand years. And Belia had been behaving like a first time father with no experience whatsoever. What further made the matter confusing for all concerned, was that angels didn’t have a gender, or rather they had both. Or more accurately, they had a gender when they wanted one, or needed one.  Angels referred to each other as “he” but really they were “they”; it all got very confusing.

  “Don’t worry,” Belia said coming into the room holding a large cardboard box. “It’s not for the baby, it’s for you.”

  “It’s in that box isn’t it?”

  “It is,” Belia smiled widely. “You see, I know you’ve been thinking a lot recently, trying to remember what being a parent was like, so I thought I’d get something to help.”

  “Please tell me that’s not what I think it is.”

  “You see,” Belia continued as he put the box down in front of Polynius. “The humans have developed this thing recently, where to help new mothers get used to the idea of being a mother, they give her something to care for, something to look after.”

  “You’ve got me a kitten haven’t you?” Polynius asked.

  “You guessed!” Belia exclaimed happily.

  “I could smell it,” Polynius replied as he leant forward and lifted back the flaps of the box.

  “Well, I did give it a bath before bringing it over, it looked like it needed it.”

  “Belia, do you know anything about cats?” Polynius asked.

  “Other than they go well in chilli sauce? No, I’m afraid I don’t,” Belia admitted. “But I’m sure we can find out together.”

  “And when the baby comes along? What of the kitten then?” Polynius asked, lifting the sleeping animal from the box. “Did you think of that?”

  “I’m sure they’ll get along fine, they’ll both be babies and can play with each other.”

  Polynius held the kitten up and looked at it dangling limply from his hands, turning it one way and then the other, to get a good look at it.

  “Somehow Belia, I don’t think they’ll play well together.”

  “Sure they will. Babies love to play, don’t they?” Belia asked, with an edge of doubt creeping into his voice.

  “Some do yes. Tell me though, did you happen to get this kitten from one of the goblins working at the Programme?”

  “I did, but don’t say we have to take it back, please. I mean, what’s wrong with it, don’t you like it?” Belia pleaded.

  “Belia dear, I think it’s adorable. But it’s an adorable tiger cub.”

30ShortsIn30Days: Traders

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.


  The MHC-1 floated through space with nothing but a very faint blue glow showing from its cockpit. Any cursory scans would have shown it as an asteroid, and deeper scans would have shown it as a crewless derelict floating on emergency power. Inside however the crew were sitting down to a meal.

  “Are you sure we’re well shielded Wrench?” Clare asked as she joined the rest of the crew, carrying her plate through from the kitchen area.

  “Absolutely, we’re inside a double bulkhead,” Wrench replied.

  The dark red skinned man was one of the two mechanics on-board, his teenage daughter being the other.

  “You’re cargo fuselage is big, so we were able to put parts of a passenger fuselage inside it, bolted onto the cargo skin. Chopped it into four quadrants, bolted it to the inside of the cargo, and turned the gaps into the corridors and some spare storage space under the floors.”

  “I’ll take your word for it,” Clare replied as she started on her dinner.

  “So why are we hanging out here sis?” Asked one of the two identical looking men sat at the table in their soiled ship-suits. Anyone looking at them would assume that they were twins, but Matt and Hugh were actually triplets, along with their sister Clare.

  “Currently, we’re hiding,” Clare replied.

  “From?” Hugh nudged his sister.

  “Traders. Not far from here is Florian, standard colony, been running a few generations now,” Clare explained. “They’re currently due a trading ship passing by before heading to the outer laying colonies. That ship will be dropping off tech from the inner planets, and picking up a standard cargo of foodstuffs to take to newer colonies.”

  “And why are we hiding from them?” Matt asked.

  “So they don’t see us, silly,” Clare replied. “When they’re gone, we touch down on Florian and have a chat with their settlement leaders. Back at the academy, when we were instructed on what planets were where, colonisation techniques, and what trade routes were planned to support the new colonies as they developed, I couldn’t help but think that all these plans were being put into place without asking the colonists themselves what they actually needed.”

  “And you think that the folks on Florian,” Matt started.

  “Will know what folks on a newer planet will want?” Hugh finished in their twin-speak.

  “She’s got a point though,” Socket joined in. “After all, if you want to know how to improve any company, the first thing you should do is talk to the staff. Managers always come in and tell you what the book says, the staff however have first-hand experience of the problems.”

  “So what’s the plan then?” Matt asked. “We land, find out what the colony is likely to actually need, and then follow the main trade route out and sell on?”

  “Not quite,” Clare replied. “I’ve been checking the data on the newer colony, and it’s very new. Was settled four years ago, still known by its designation of NC205. From most angles, it’s almost identical to Florian, but is slightly warmer. I figure we can land, find out what they’ll need, and then get out to NC205 before the main traders get there.”

  “Before?” Hugh asked.

  “With leaving later?” Matt finished.

  “Yup,” Clare replied. “It’s eight weeks of empty space between here and there, almost no asteroid fields, no planets, no traffic. Pretty much nothing to worry about hitting, and with the adjustments that Wrench and Socket have been doing, we’ve got a faster ship. I reckon as long as we’re less than a week behind leaving Florian, we should get to NC205, land, sell and leave before they others even turn up.”

  “Isn’t that going to annoy the official traders though?” Wrench asked.

  “Probably,” Clare replied. “Almost certainly in fact. However I’m not feeling too sorry for them, they’ve been fixing the prices for the newer colonies for so long now, they can lump it.”

  “Apart from the few freelancers around,” Matt explained. “Trade to the newer colonies is pretty much limited to the bimonthly ships that the central planets send out.”

  “And the colonies have to buy from them,” Hugh continued. “It’s written into their charter that they have to buy a fixed amount of goods from the supply ships for a fixed amount of time. The actual amounts and time varies, but they have to buy it.”

  “So why would they buy from us?” Wrench asked.

  “Because we’ll be there first, there’s always a black market willing to buy extra stuff just to have it first. Plus we’ll hopefully be taking stuff that the regular traders won’t be, stuff they need,” Clare explained.

  “And selling them what they need, early means we’ll be able to get some pretty good credit,” Matt continued.

  “Which will help go towards paying off the bounty on this ship we’ve stolen,” Hugh finished.

  A small, but insistent beep came over the ship’s speakers and interrupting the conversation.

  “Ah,” Clare said. “That’ll be the traders leaving Florian, which means we should be able to head down after dinner. Maybe after dessert.”

30ShortsIn30Days: Upgrades

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.

  The ship rattled as it broke orbit, everything was stowed properly in the cargo hold, but there was a lot of it.

  “More power boys, we’re struggling a little here,” Clare called from her navigator’s seat behind the two pilots.

  “Not likely,” Matt replied.

  “We’re at full power,” Hugh finished in their twin-speak.

  “Then we’re going to have a bumpy ride for a while. You two okay back there?” Clare asked, leaning around to check on the passengers strapped into the two bunks further back in the cockpit.

  “We will be,” the middle-aged man in one of the bunks called back.

  “Socket, what about you?” Clare asked.

  “If breakfast stays down I might be,” the teenaged girl called back.

  “Well try and hold onto it, we should be clear soon.”

  As the ship broke out of the atmosphere the rattling stopped and the crew relaxed. The father-daughter mechanic team released their straps in the bunks and sat up while Clare went through her systems checks and Matt and Hugh brought the ship around to the bearing for their destination.

  “Before we make planet fall again, make sure I’ve fitted those extra engines eh Socket?” The male mechanic moaned.”

  “Will do dad, don’t worry about that.”

  “Don’t worry you two,” Clare said, getting out of her seat to go to the food preparation area behind the bunks for a glass of water. “With the amount of stuff you’ve filled the hold with, we’re bound to keep you busy. What’s your order of work Wrench?”

  “First up is the crew quarters,” the man replied. “I’m not sure I can take another lift off like that.”

  “It’ll also free up the most space in the hold,” Socket continued. “No doubt you’ll be wanting to mine some fuel soon, that lift must have burnt a lot.”

  “Too much,” Clare replied. “I hope you two have brought along everything you need, because we’ve got just about enough fuel for a month’s space flight, a week if we have to make planet fall.”

  “What’s the destination?” Wrench asked, getting a glass of water for himself to help with the nausea that lift off often induced.

  “An asteroid field we’ve used occasionally, we need to refuel. I figure you’ll want some time to sort out the upgrades you’ve been planning, and we’ve got enough food for a couple of months. If you can empty that junk out of the hold, we can fill it with ores before heading back to trade it out for more food. So I guess you’ve got a week until we get to the field, and then a couple of weeks while we mine before we have to head back to a planet fully laden. Can you manage that?” Clare asked.

  Wrench looked at his daughter, this was their first trip aboard the MHC-1 since signing on two days previously during its planet fall on New Gaia. They had bartered ongoing travel on the ship in exchange for upgrading it and providing ongoing mechanical support. Now they had to put their spanners where their mouths were.

  “No problem,” Socket replied with a cheeky smile.

  “Sure, we’ve packed so we can work inwards,” Wrench said.

  “I have no idea what you talking about, so I’ll leave you to it,” Clare said heading back to her seat in the cockpit.

  “A week to get the hold clear enough for the fuel mining?” Socket asked of her father.

  “Shouldn’t be a problem, first stage is get the crew compartments in, then move most of the rest into there. We can fit the new engines while they’re mining, and by the time they’re done so should we be,” Wrench replied.


  Any long journey can really seem to stretch time. When people are cooped up together nerves can grate, and even the best of friendships can be stretched to breaking point. This was one of the other reasons why twins were preferred as pilots for the Duality Ships, apart from their superior flying skills, with their reduced error margins, it had been found that twins didn’t mind each other’s company over long periods of forced close company. The twin pilots got to choose their navigator, the third member of a Duality Ship’s crew, and often went through four or five different candidates on short runs before they settled on someone they could spend extended periods of time with.

  Hugh and Matt got along with their navigator very well. They weren’t twins with a third crew member. Along with Clare they were triplets, a now very rare occurrence, and they were more than happy to spend months on end in each other’s company.  The addition of the two new crew members though, making five in a cockpit designed for three, pushed things slightly. Thankfully for all concerned Wrench and Socket only came into the cockpit to refresh their space suits. The cargo hold wasn’t pressurised like the rest of the ship, and they had to wear their suit while they were working in there.

  The design of the Duality Ships was considered revolutionary by many standards, not just the two pilot system. One of the highlights of the design was that the fuselages was interchangeable, the cockpit was a self-contained section with its thick skin and rear bulkhead could be detached and reattached from fuselages according to what it was set to transport. The MHC-1 lifted off on its maiden voyage with a cargo fuselage, a huge empty space and large, slow but sturdy engines. This could be swapped over for a passenger fuselage if needed, smaller, sleeker and faster. The need wasn’t likely to arise however as the ship was stolen on its maiden flight. Matt, Hugh and their sister Clare absconded shortly after lift-off and were now trying to raise the bounty on their heads to pay off the cost of the ship before the bounty hunters caught up with them.

  Wrench and Socket had been working in the cargo hold since shortly after lift-off, six days when they rarely came into the cabin. They had decided between themselves very early on not to stretch the limits of their hopeful future friendship. If they were going to be on-board for a while, which was likely, then making sure that tensions weren’t pushed was as much a priority as clearing enough space in the hold for the minerals soon to be mined for fuel. They slept in their suits, and ate from the protein tubes, a week of discomfort was a small price to pay, and besides, as a mechanic team they were used to working to tight deadlines in uncomfortable conditions.

  The airlock at the rear of the cabin spun open and the two mechanics stepped through from the darkness beyond into the dim blue light of the cockpit. The helmets were already removed from their suits and they both bore big, almost smug smiles.

  “Captain,” Wrench greeted Clare.

  “We have a captain now?” Matt asked.

  “Since when?” Hugh continued.

  “Since she was so obviously your boss,” Socket finished for them.

  “True,” both Math and Hugh laughed.

  “How goes it Wrench?” Clare asked.

  “Well, if you’re able to set the ship to float safely for a while, we’re fed up with tube food and would take pleasure in a decent meal, if you’d care to join us?” Wrench replied with a flourishing bow towards the open airlock.

  Socket shrugged out of her suit as Clare and her brothers set the ship to float and unstrapped themselves from their chairs, before leading them through the airlock. Four days previously the airlock gave way directly to the cargo hold, now they stepped into a dimly lit corridor. Wrench got out of his suit and following them pressed a console next to the door. Lights came up slowly to show three doors either side of the walkway, with a spiral staircase towards the end.

  “Lady and gentlemen,” Wrench said from behind them. “May I introduce you to your new crew quarters. Six cabins, all with en-suite wash basins, toilets and showers. Down the stairs at the end is a similar corridor for your new passenger cabins. Six again, all en-suite.”

  Socket opened the door to the first cabin, a bunk lined the far wall, and just inside the door was a shower unit with a built in toilet, next to it against the corridor wall was a small desk and chair.

  “Of course, we’ve not decorated any room yet,” Socket said as the other members of the crew looked in. “Or even allocated them, I guess that’s up to you to decide.”

  “Wow,” Matt said.

  “I’m impressed,” Hugh finished.

  “We’ve got twelve rooms like this?” Clare asked.

  “Yup, all identical at the moment,” Wrench replied. “But let’s move down to the end,” he gestured.

  Socket led the way beyond the stairs, the corridor opened out to the full width of the large cargo fuselage. The space however was filled, to one side was a fully fitted kitchen area, in the middle was a table large enough to seat twelve people, and to the other side was what could only be described as a lounge. Sofas bolted to the floor faced a large video screen on the wall.

  “Your new crew quarters,” Socket gestured as people walked in.

  “And, just beyond on the far wall is the airlock through to the main cargo hold,” Wrench explained. “This area, like the cockpit, is fully airtight and can be sealed off if needed.”

  “And,” Socket continued. “Underneath this area is a separate area for crew and passenger luggage.”

  “How much cargo space have we lost?” Clare asked.

  “Thirty percent,” Wrench replied. “We were initially looking at twenty five, but the additional amount is more optimum for personal well-being.”

  “What?” Hugh and Matt asked together.

  “You can relax better with more space,” Socket clarified.

  “And now,” Wrench continued. “If you’ll take a seat we’ve topped all this off by cooking a proper meal, served on proper plates, at a proper table.”

  “And as a celebration,” Socket said as people took their seats. “We’ve also chilled a bottle of the New Gaian Champagne.”

  The meal that followed was full of smiles; good food in good company is one of the best things that anyone can experience. In passing dishes back and forth amongst the diners, conversation ensues and friendships are forged, and after almost a week of self-enforced separation all of the crew were happy to relax.

  “So,” Clare said as she helped herself to some more food from one of the platters on the table. “We’ve six crew quarters and five crew, plus the bunks in the cockpit, and six passenger cabins.”

  “If you don’t mind,” Wrench interjected. “I’d like to remove the cabin bunks.”

  “Oh?” Clare prompted.

  “When we do the work on the engines, I’d like to have two additional crew stations in the cockpit to monitor them.”

  “You want to monitor the engines?” Matt asked.

  “What are you planning to do to them that needs monitoring?” Hugh continued.

  “We’re looking to introduce a whole new engine configuration,” Socket answered. “We’d be remiss to not set up proper monitoring stations.”

  “Plus,” Wrench added. “With converting the navigators seat to be a third pilot, a back up navigation and comms station wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

  “Fine!” Clare said holding up her hand. “You’ve outstripped our expectations with the crew quarters. For these alone you’ve got travel as long as we’re flying. Anything else, I think we can trust you with.”

  After months of inflight meals being taken individually, being able to sit around and relax had bought the new crew members a lot of slack.


  Fuel mining was a tedious job, not difficult, just tedious. Because the Duality Ships were often expected to go long distances between planet fall and refuelling stops they were all equipped with emergency fuel mining equipment. The minerals that fuelled the engines could be mined from some of the asteroids that floated through space, and the pilots were trained, encouraged and to a degree forced to stop and mine fuel if their reserves ever got low. When you were flying a stolen ship, that was far more often than refuelling on land. The equipment itself was simple, a dozen posts that could be hammered into the surface of the asteroid marking the extent of the mining field, and a small robot digger, a bit like a vacuum cleaner with two very long hoses, that moved around inside the posts, digging up the rock and crushing it to a fine powder before separating it into fuel ore and waste. The fuel ore came through one hose to a waiting container and the waste was pumped through the other hose and dumped outside of the digging area.

  The operation had to be overseen by a crew member though, mostly to change the containers when full or make sure that the hoses didn’t get tangled. Hours on end of watching a small robot trundle back and forth in an ever deepening hole, and occasionally moving a hose.

  “I’m bored!” Matt moaned through the intercom in his suit.

  “And we’re not exactly enthralled by your repeated statement of that,” Clare laughed back at him.

  They had been mining now for eight days, normally the amount they were collecting would have taken only four days but with the new quarters they were more than happy to spend a bit longer and have time to relax too. While there was only the two bunks, rest and relaxation was taken on a rota, now the crew had moved more towards a day and night, work and rest pattern. It took longer, but they felt better.

  “Matt, pack up and get in now!” Clare shouted over the comms. “Hugh, get your arse up to the deck, we’ve got visitors. Wrench, Socket, I hope you’re inside or close, and this ship had better be ready to fly, we’ve got a light ship heading towards us fast, eta of half an hour on the long range.”

  “We can be in in twenty,” Wrench replied.

  “You’re going to have to do better than that, we need to pull away in fifteen if we stand a chance of not being followed.”

  “Are you sure they’re hostile?” Socket asked.

  “They’re fast, they’re direct, and we’re not taking chances,” Clare replied. “Matt, status report?”

  “Recalling the ‘bot now, can you get Hugh out to help get the posts in?”

  “On my way bro,” Hugh’s voice came over the comms as he ran down the ramp from the cargo hold.

  “Wrench, Socket, get in here as soon as you can. Fifteen minutes and we’re prepping for launch, if we leave you behind you’d better hope that you’ve got enough oxygen in your suits until we can safely come back,” Clare warned.

  Wrench and socket made it back in before Matt and Hugh had finished getting the mining equipment back on board, but only just, and the rush to get equipment stowed in the now almost empty cargo hold seemed far more fraught than all parties thought it should have been.

  “Matt, Hugh, I could really do with some pilots up here!” Clare called over the ship’s speakers.

  “On our way!” Matt shouted back as all four ran up to the cockpit before the brothers settled into their pilot chairs and the mechanics took up their positions at the new monitoring posts where the bunks used to be.

  “Okay boys, get prepped,” Clare shouted with adrenalin running through her veins. “They’ve not slowed down and close range sensors show external weaponry. It’s definitely pirates, time to prove your flying is a unique as your ego.”

  “Navigator,” Wrench called from his chair. “Do we have a clear flight route in any single direction?”

  “We can’t out run them Wrench,” Clare replied.

  “Repeat navigator, do we have a clear flight route,” Wrench insisted.

  “There is one, but I repeat, we can’t outrun them.”

  “The new engines are showing as online ma’am,” Socket called from her chair. “Set off in a clear direction and warn those pretty boys of yours that they’re about to shit themselves.”

  “Okay, you heard the girl, pretty boys, straight and fast at the co-ordinates I’m sending through now,” Clare called to her brothers as she swiped the information from her central console to the two side consoles that mirrored and controlled the displays her brothers used. “Flight in five, four, three, two and one!”

  The MHC-1 pulled away steadily from the asteroid that they had recently been mining and headed towards the clear flight route. No ships, asteroids, planets or suns in the way, they could run at top speed for two days.

  “We’re moving,” Matt called back from his pilot’s chair.

  “But they’re still gaining.” Hugh finished.

  “Are you ready and concentrating?” Wrench shouted from the rear of the cabin.

  “If you’ve got something,”

  “We can take it.” Matt and Hugh shouted back in their twin-speak.

  “Then take this you pretty boys,” Socket murmured as she swiped upwards on her own console.

  The new engines kicked in and the ship lurched, bucked, and then ran. The original design of the MHC-1 was a cargo ship with a large fuselage and two large, powerful, but cumbersomely slow engines. While they had been mining fuel however, Wrench and socket had fitted the four passenger class engines they had reclaimed from a derelict on New Gaia where they had signed on. Adding the power of these smaller, faster engines to the grunt of the cargo engines kicked the MHC-1 into speeds that the pilots weren’t expecting. Passenger ships couldn’t run as fast as the engines could power them, the margin of human error in flight was too great, but with a straight line and a need to get away quickly, the short bursts were considered an acceptable risk.


  “Fuck,” Matt and Hugh said as the acceleration pushed them back in their chairs.

  “And that,” Wrench said as he watched the approaching craft disappear on the screen in front of him. “Is why you’ve got us on board.”

  “What was that?” Clare asked as the ship slowed down to a more manageable speed for her brothers to pilot.

  “That was your two grunting cargo engines and your four new nippy passenger craft engines all working together to put a bit of distance between us and whoever they were,” Socket replied. “If we can get your pilot error margin down to ten percent from twenty, we should be able to make that sort of speed available to you on a more regular basis.”

  “Regular basis?” Matt asked.

  “Not until we get better laundry facilities on board.” Hugh finished.

30ShortsIn30Days: New Gaia

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.


  Go to the top of a high hill, away from any cities, and lay on your back and look at the stars. They’re not just pinpoints of light in the dark of the sky, they’re everywhere. There are so many stars out there that in places they look more like oil spills, shining colours of light in the skies over our heads.

  We can lay down and look up at the stars, but we can never really understand how many there are out there, because we can never see them all. But the higher up we can get, the more we can see. And when you’re in space, you’re very high up.

  The MHC-1 hung in the air alongside the asteroid, drifting gently in rotation with it as it spun slowly along its path. The main engines were idle and only a dim blue light was showing from the cockpit, all non-essential systems were obviously switched off. Occasionally a small burst of gas would jet from one or two or the stabilising thrusters, keeping the ship steady alongside the asteroid.

  Underneath the ship, the cargo ramp extended down and more of the dim blue light filtered out onto the asteroid and covered the space suited figure of a person pushing a large crate towards the ship.

  “This is the last of the mining equipment to come back on Clare, d’you want to bring the systems back up now or wait until we’re fully stowed?”

  The voice came over the internal ships communications from the figure on the asteroid.

  “I’d rather wait Hugh,” Clare replied over the comms. “There’re recent reports of pirates in this sector, would rather keep on silent running until we can run.”

  “Not a problem,” Hugh commented as he pushed the crate up the ramp on its big wheels. “Should be stowed in about five minutes.

  Each of the Duality Ships carried an emergency mining kit, their main propulsion required the ores and minerals that could be found in most asteroids if fuel ran out between stops. Solar cells covering the cockpit ensured that electricity would never run out, but movement would be very limited without the fuel for the manoeuvring thrusters at least. All pilots were under strict instructions to use the mining kits on the first suitable asteroid if fuel reserves ever fell below ten percent.

  “All stowed now Clare,” Hugh informed the crew over the comms. “How’re you getting on with filling the tank Matt?”

  “Done and dusted while you were still cleaning up outside,” the voice of Hugh’s co-pilot, and brother, came back. “You gonna get your arse up here so we can get out of here?”

  “On my way.”

  In the cockpit Matt got out of his bunk and floated into his pilot’s seat, behind him Clare started her pre-flight checks. The cockpits of the Duality Ships were laid out with the two pilot’s seats in the front, with the navigator’s seat directly behind. Behind them, on either side was a single bunk and a table between them, and further back was a small toilet and a food preparation cabinet. The ships could be flown by one pilot on their own while the other members slept or refreshed themselves, but to fly them at speed needed all three crew members.

  Hugh floated into the cockpit and turned to seal the airlock, the seals clunked into place and the cargo area depressurised as Hugh made his way into his pilot’s chair and strapped himself in.

  “Settled then boys?” Clare asked from behind them.

  “Aye ma’am,” both pilots replied in unison.

  “Okay then, let’s get out of here. Co-ordinates coming through to your consoles now, no rush, it’s a two day flight and we’ve still got food for five.”

  All three crew members took a look above their heads at the stars, a pre-flight ritual that they performed before every flight they took together, a hangover from their childhoods when they would lay together at the top of a hill and look at the stars.

  After a few seconds Clare turned her attention back to the three consoles in front of her and distributed the flight instructions from her central console to the ones to either side that replicated, and to a degree controlled, those of each pilot. As Matt and Hugh studied the incoming information, Clare started the procedure on her central screen to bring the ship back to life.

  “Systems online,” Matt started.

  “And we’re on our way,” Hugh continued.

  “New Gaia, here we come.” Clare finished.


  The Duality Ships were designed to be capable of being flown by one pilot, but were ideally flown by two. The engines were powerful enough to go a lot faster than the human mind could cope with, the margin of human error was too great to push them to their limits. But with two pilots flying the ship, and a computer to calculate the mean path, the margin of error reduced significantly. The smaller the difference between the movements of the two pilots, the smaller the margin of error, and the faster the ship could be flown.

  For several generations Duality Ship pilots had been picked at birth and carefully nurtured to ensure that the space programme had its pick of the best. The best were the very rare twins with their subconscious psychic links. Unfortunately less than one in ten thousand of the populations of the system planets were twins, and until the space programme had started to encourage them to marry amongst themselves the percentage had been dropping rapidly. Now it was just about stable.

  Matt and Hugh had been snapped up by the programme in their early teens. The programme officials had seen Matt and Hugh on a regular visit, two identical looking boys with their smaller scrawnier sister Clare. Their home wasn’t on one of the central planets so they had managed to have a large degree of freedom in their childhood. Clare had entered the navigators training programme two years after her brother had entered pilot training, and it was no coincidence that the pilot training took two years longer. The three children had planned from an early age that they would all graduate close together, and that they would all finish their probationary periods together.  It was their best chance to steal a ship.

  What the programme officials hadn’t realised was that Matt and Hugh weren’t identical twins. They weren’t even twins. Along with their sister, they were triplets. Two pilots and a navigator that were able to think together on a subconscious level meant that they could fly faster than anyone working for the space programme, they could out run any pursuit as they journeyed through the stars of their childhood. Flying a stolen ship did however mean that they couldn’t touch down on any of the central planets, or even trade with them. They had to refuel from the asteroids and get food directly from some of the arable worlds that they came across. They didn’t care though, they were back together and that was all that mattered for now.


  “Clare, you might need to wake up.”

  A gentle hand on her shoulder emphasised what she heard and she opened her eyes to see Matt standing next to the bunk.


  “We’re approaching New Gaia, and there’s a fair bit of debris in the upper orbit.”

  Clare moved the covers aside and sat up.

  “What sort of debris?”

  “We think it’s ship debris,” Hugh called from the cockpit as Matt got back into his chair.

  “Ship debris? Great.”

  “That’s what we thought,” Matt said.

  “So we’re holding a longer range orbit,” Hugh finished.

  Clare strapped herself into her navigator’s chair and started to bring information up on her central screen.

  “It’s definitely ships. Not dualities thankfully, looks mostly to be old freighters and a couple of fast leisure ships,” Clare informed her brothers, reading aloud from her screen and sliding some of the results across to allow her brothers to see.

  “The planet’s taking pot shots?” Hugh asked.

  “Wouldn’t have thought so, New Gaia’s a pilgrim planet. They’re a sort of vegetarian hippy community, early settlers that left Earth to form a colony where no animals were farmed or harmed. They shouldn’t even have any planetary defences according to their charter,” Clare explained.

  “So pirates picking off the population then d’you think?” Matt asked.

  “Doubtful, the population is low tech, they don’t have their own space flight. They trade food and cloth, but no ships of their own.”

  “Is it me, or are some of these pleasure crafts carrying rather heavy weaponry?” Hugh asked, sliding the relevant records back to his sister and brother.

  “That’s pirates then,” Clare pointed out. “Small, fast leisure craft with heavy weapons to disable ships, and the freighters to come in and take everything away.”

  “What’s the plan then?” Matt asked.

  Clare cleared her screens and started bringing up new information. “Same as before, there’s nothing on long range. We’re the only ship nearby, we’ve got at least two hours flight window clear. Take us in slowly and direct please, I’ll open up a channel to the Gaians. But be ready to turn and run if needed, something’s blown those ships up.”

  Matt and Hugh edged the ship forward, lining it up for a landing approach while Clare opened a communications channel to the planet below.

  “New Gaia, this is MHC-1 requesting permission to land and trade, over.”

  “Hello MHC-1, this is New Gaia,” came a reply over the speakers in the cockpit. “Your call sign is unrecognised, please state origin and intention, over.”

  “New Gaia, this is MHC-1, our origin is freelance traders and our intention is purely to trade. We’ve got a hull full of fuel ores and very little food. Would appreciate being able to land to rectify this, and a few days of real gravity and air wouldn’t go amiss either, over.”

  Matt and Hugh looked around at Clare, the Gaians were being very cautious, and there must be a reason for it.

  “MHC-1, this is New Gaia, please list all weaponry that you’re carrying, both ships mounted and personal. As you may have noticed we’ve been having some trouble recently, over.”

  “New Gaia, this is MHC-1, our ship has no weaponry and our personal arsenal amounts to two tranquiliser pistols and my brother’s sharp wit, over.”

  “MHC-1, this is New Gaia, you’re cleared for landing. Please be advised that your ship will be tracked on its descent and will be subject to inspection upon landing. We can’t be too careful at the moment I’m afraid, over.”

  “New Gaia, this is MHC-1, no problem with your stipulations there, we’ll see you on the ground,” Clare replied before breaking the connection.

  “Was it just me,” Matt started.

  “Or are they being overly cautious?” Hugh finished.

  “It’s not just you,” Clare replied. “I think they’ve been having quite a bit of trouble recently, more than they’re saying. Would certainly explain some of this debris. We’ll soon find out, take her down boys.”


  As the MHC-1 touched down on the landing field the three crew looked out at the fields surrounding it. What were once blast clearance areas, left empty in case of accidents, were now home to spaceship husks. The landing field was surrounded by a ship graveyard, derelicts and parts littered the area.


  “Boy,” Matt and Hugh commented in their twin-speak.

  “You can say that again. Don’t shut the ship down, keep it ready to lift at the first sign of trouble, I’ll go meet the landing party and see what’s going on,” Clare said as she unstrapped herself from her chair.

  “Take care sis,” Matt started.

  “And go armed.” Hugh finished.

  The brothers watched the landing party approach as their sister went down the cargo ramp to greet them. Six large, heavily armed men and a smaller, very thin man leading them, left the ground cart. Cart was a very good description. From the look of it, until recently it had been an beast pulled cart, but seemed to have been converted to run under its own power using scrap, most likely from the ships that littered the field.  Both Matt and Hugh moved their hands to check their tranquiliser pistols were near hand.

  The armed guards stayed with the cart on the landing field while the smaller man came forward to talk to Clare. After a couple of minutes Clare turned back to the ship and came back up the ramp accompanied by the man who had been talking to her, Matt and Hugh got out of their pilots seats and unclipped their pistols. The residents of New Gaia may be being cautious, but so too we the brothers.

  “Put them away boys,” Clare called from the cargo hold. “Everything’s absolutely fine.”

  Matt and Hugh walked through to the hold to join their sister, and got a better look at the man she had been talking to. Dark skinned, short and wiry, with lots of scars visible on his hands and face, and wearing a heavy leather jacket and trousers. Wearing leather, he was definitely not a native of New Gaia.

  “Matt, Hugh, this is Wrench. These are my brothers, the pilots,” Clare introduced them.

  “Wrench?” Hugh asked.

  “My tribe name their children with a birth name, and then with an adult name. Our adult names reflect our skills. I am a mechanic, and I chose the name Wrench.”

  “Good to meet you Wrench, how come you’re on Gaia though?” Matt asked. “You don’t look like a native.”

  “I’m not, my ship had to make a crash landing here. My people are nomads, we were escaping pirates and while I managed to evade them, my ship was too badly damaged to get far. New Gaia was the nearest inhabited planet so I landed here. Myself and my daughter have been here for four years now, making ourselves useful, working our keep until such a time as we would be able to leave.”

  “Wrench here’s responsible for the wrecks, both in orbit and down here. Seems one of the first things he did was create an orbital canon,” Clare explained.

  “Your ship was armed?” Hugh asked.

  “No, but an engine can also be a weapon. A small, remotely operated control unit and it could catch pirate ships before they attacked, and destroy their controls.”

  “Neat,” Matt said.

  “Thank you,” Wrench replied. “The locals have appointed me as head of customs, so I can authorise you to trade openly while you’re here. Welcome to New Gaia, I hope you enjoy your stay.”

  Wrench left them and went back down the ramp to his escort.

  “Clever bloke that,” Matt commented as the three of them went back through to the cockpit.

  “So, first stop a hotel,” Clare said as she grabbed her kit bag from a storage locker. “I really want a bath.”

  “You’re not the only one,” Hugh replied.

  “I think we all do,” Matt finished as they also grabbed their kit bags.

  The two brothers and their sister left the ship, closing the ramp and headed towards the space port facility in search of a hot bath and a soft bed.


  The space port of New Gaia was the tallest building on the planet and stood four storeys high. Around it, stretching away from the landing field was the town of Mater. Closer to the space port the buildings were mostly two storey, and further away towards the far outskirts they were almost exclusively single storey. It was a lightly populated planet of farmers who lived by the motto of ‘Leave no trace’. All the buildings were off wood, insulated and reinforced with compressed straw. The entire town could be dismantled, and within a few years it would be hard to tell there was even a settlement here. Even the roads were pressed dirt tracks that could be ploughed up again.

  Clare and her brothers sat in the hotel bar on the third night of their stay. They had traded three quarters of their fuel ore and had been able to fill their food stores with enough for a prolonged stay in space, and a generous allowance for their stay on planet. A short mining stop at the next suitable asteroid and they’d be set for several months at least.

  “Do you mind if we join you?”

  The three of them looked up to see Wrench stood next to them with a teenage girl by his side.

  “Of course not,” Clare replied. “Please take a seat.”

  Wrench and the girl sat down at the table, she was dressed in similar clothes and shared the same dark red skin tones as Wrench.

  “This is my daughter, Socket,” Wrench explained. “This is Clare, Matt and Hugh.”

  Socket nodded to each as she was introduced.

  “How do you find New Gaia?” Wrench asked.

  “It’s a bit, er,” Hugh started.

  “Dull.” Matt finished.

  Wrench laughed and Socket smiled.

  “Yeah, it can get to you like that. They’re good folks, they like a simple, quiet life. But, I think it’s time we moved on, so I’ve got a proposition for you.”

  “You want a lift somewhere?” Clare asked.

  “Something like that, more a ride for a while. Sign on as crew as it were.”

  “You did notice it’s a three man ship?” Matt asked.

  “Yup. Socket, could you go to the bar and get some beers. I always barter better with a beer,” Wrench asked of his daughter. “I’ve already told you our tribe are nomads, I’ve no idea where they are now, but I’d like to get back to them at some point. Until then, we’ve not really got anything to do. This planet’s safe, I’ve trained a couple of the locals as mechanics, they’re not too bad, and word seems to have got around to leave it alone. The last attack was a year ago. It’s time for us to leave.”

  “And you’d like to join us?” Hugh asked.

  “For a while.”

  “Wrench,” Clare said. “I’m not sure if you’ve guessed, but we don’t actually own our ship.”

  “We kinda stole it.” Hugh finished.

  “I guessed,” Wrench nodded. “I also checked, the bounty on it’s pretty high. Duality ships aren’t cheap.”

  “And you’re okay with that?” Matt asked as Socket returned to the table with a tray of four beers and a glass of fruit juice.

  “Absolutely,” Wrench replied. “In fact, that suits us better. You’re less likely to go near the busy shipping routes for a while, at least until you’ve earned enough to pay off your bounty, so we’re more likely to bump into my people that way.”

  “We’re still left with the issue that it’s a three person cabin,” Clare pointed out.

  “At the moment it is,” Wrench smiled, reaching forward and taking a glass from the table. “This is where I think we can earn our lift. Socket’s almost as good an engineer as I am, better in some respects, we think we can help you improve your ship.”

  “Improve a Duality Ship?” Matt asked incredulously.

  “Indeed, they’re good, but they could be better.”

  “How so?” Clare asked.

  “Well, Sprocket’s got some ideas,” Wrench said nodding to his daughter.

  “Your cabin is set for two pilots and a navigator, with two bunks. But you’re triplets aren’t you?” Sprocket asked.

  “You noticed?” Hugh said.

  “Not many people do,” Clare commented.

  “What’s your current error margin rating?” Socket asked.

  “Twenty percent,” Matt replied smugly.

  “Pretty low, very low in fact,” Socket said. “What do you think it would be if it was rigged for three pilots?”

  Clare, Matt and Hugh stared at Socket, occasionally looking at Wrench who nodded at them.

  “It’s just an idea, one I’ve not been able to try out obviously,” Socket continued. “But if you can get an error margin down to twenty percent with twins, how low could you get it with triplets flying it?”

  “I’m not a trained pilot,” Clare pointed out.

  “You know the theory though sister,” Matt said.

  “You can fly it slow speed when needed,” Hugh finished.

  “You two like the sound of this don’t you?” Clare asked of her brothers.

  “It’s definitely worth thinking about,” Matt replied.

  “Also,” Sprocket continued. “Your fuselage is a standard cargo model, usually way too large unless you’re shipping something massive, which you’re not likely to do out here. Part of it could easily be converted to carry passengers, with some decent enough living quarters. I believe I could fit eight cabins, kitchen and recreation area.”

  “Passengers can bring in more money,” Hugh started.

  “Than cargo,” Hugh finished.

  “How much cargo space would we lose?” Clare asked.

  “With a bit of care, you’d still be able to carry the same load that you landed with,” Sprocket answered.

  “That’d require extra power though,” Clare mused. “A full cargo load, and the added weight of the passenger compartment, and passengers, that’d burn up a lot more fuel to get on and off planet.”

  “I think we can help there too,” Wrench joined in. “You see, you’re running standard cargo engines. Lots of power at low speed, quick burst of high speed. I think we can complement those with a set of passenger engines.”

  “A second set of engines?” Matt asked, thinking of the speed they might be able to achieve.

  “And the extra weight of them,” Clare brought them back to the reality of the proposal.

  “Yes, the extra weight would be noticeable but the power to weight ratio would increase,” Wrench pointed out. “You’d have to refuel more often, or land less, but I think that the benefits far outweigh the costs.”

  “As for the costs,” Clare said. “How much would this extra hardware cost us? Your passage in exchange for fixing the ship up, but the equipment you’re talking about doesn’t come cheap. And if we ever want to pay off the bounty on us, we can’t start taking on more debts.”

  “That’s the beauty of this,” Wrench replied. “There would be no extra costs. The ships out there have been cannibalised for the planetary defences, but the parts we’re looking at weren’t needed. Everything we’ve just discussed can be found out there.”

  “And the planetary officials will allow you to just help yourself?” Clare asked.

  “Sure, they’ve already agreed to let us build a working ship so we could set off on our own,” Wrench replied. “This way they’ll probably get to keep more than we would have taken.”

  “So, in exchange for letting you sign on as crew for an indeterminate period, you’ll improve and then maintain our ship?” Matt asked.

  “Yes,” Wrench answered.  “With the improvements we’re talking about, you’ll have a better chance of paying off your bounty before someone collects on it.”

  “How long would it take to make these improvements?” Hugh asked. “We were planning on leaving in a couple of days.”

  “We could do them in flight,” Sprocket answered. “A couple of days would allow us to find and strip the parts from the derelicts, and load them into your hold. We can then fix things up as we’re flying.”

  Clare looked at her bothers for their opinions, Matt raised his eyebrows slightly in a facial shrug, his way of saying ‘Why not?’, Hugh twitched his mouth into a quick smile.

  “Wrench, Socket,” Clare said. “Welcome aboard.”

30ShortsIn30Days: Flotsam

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.


  When you get two or more people together in a pub, after a few drinks, they will inevitably set about putting the world to rights. And in the morning as they sober up they’ll inevitably forget it all. Sometimes, however, the ideas are remembered and they then have to overcome the next hurdle in their development, apathy. You see, most people who sit in the pub, have a few drinks and then try to put the world to rights, are rarely in a position to do anything about it. But sometimes, just sometimes, the idea can be so great that the people that come up with it wonder how nobody ever did before. The morning after the night before, the idea still seems to be a good one. And sometimes, those very rare times, the people who come up with the idea are in a position to do something about it.

  Just sometimes.

  But first, there’s usually the drinking.

  “I’m telling you, it’s the greatest source of salvage going. And we’d be doing humanity a favour, I’d be surprised if we couldn’t get a grant or something to help us do it too.”

  “Steve, you’re pissed.”

  “We both are, but seriously, point out the flaws. You can’t.”

  Steve and Luke had been in the student bar since the lunchtime lecture they missed in preference for a quick pint. They’d now also missed the afternoon lecture as well as dinner, a few packets of crisps and peanuts had replace proper food.

  “Okay,” Luke said. “How would you get up there?”

  “In stages. The first would have to be the shopfloor.”

  “Nope, first you’d have to get the living accommodation up there,” Luke pointed out. “If you’re going to have people working in orbit, you’re going to have to provide them with somewhere to live. And it’s going to have to be decent enough accommodation that you’re not shipping them back down every couple of months.”

  “True, definitely true. So first of we get some living accommodation up into orbit, then we get the shop floor. NO!” Steve shouted to himself. “Next, next we get the collection units up there.”

  “Collection units?” Luke asked.

  “Yeah, to collect up all the scrap.”

  “Nah, you’re getting ahead of yourself. You’d need some sort of workshop, just a small one, and a small collection facility,” Luke explained. “The big expense you’d be looking at is getting stuff from the planet up into orbit, but if what you’re reckoning is right, there’s enough stuff up in orbit to build what you’d need. As long as you had some way of collecting it, and changing it into what you needed it to be.”

  “So, a small workshop, and an outdoor dockyard type thing? Yes! That’d work,” Steve agreed. “And then, with the bare minimum you build everything else you need.”

  “You’d need to take up plants and stuff though, generate your own oxygen up there.”

  “Yeah, but the bio-dome could be built from scrap that’s already floating in orbit.”

  “Pretty much everything could be built from the scrap,” Luke agreed. “You know, I reckon you’re right you know. You could do this.”


  Four years later and Steve and Luke weren’t sat in a student bar, but in a coffee shop. Steve was scribbling notes and drawings on his notepad when Luke joined him.

  “We’ve got it! Steve we’ve got it!”

  “You’re joking!? They went for it?” Steve asked.

  “Enthusiastically. There’s some hoops to jump through, but they’ve agreed in principle.”

  “What hoops?”

  “We’ve got to set out a full timeline, what needs to be produced on Earth at which stage, how much it’s likely to coast, including forecast economic variations for those stages, and what we can use from the scrap in orbit,” Luke explained.

  “Is that it?”

  “Is that it? Have you any idea of the amount of work involved with that? Do you know how much scrap is in orbit, what it’s made of and what its actual orbit is?”

  “Yeah, a lot,” Steve said getting out a thick folder from his rucksack. “This is a full list of all defunct, scrap or lost satellites and other space junk that I’ve been able to get from the US, UK, Russian and Indian space agencies. A lot of it was restricted and quite hard to get hold of, so I went to their insurance companies. The potential disaster cost if any of these lost their orbit or hit a live mission is astronomical. Seriously, the amount we’re asking for is a pittance to the potential payout the insurance companies would have to make. So, a chat with a few of their accountants and I got the lists.”

  “And these lists tell you all the stuff about the satellites?” Luke asked.

  “I wish,” Steve laughed. “No, these are just a list of the satellites. Now I guess we need to go through this, and get a list of what parts and materials they contain.”

  “And then balance that against what we’ll need at each stage, and where each of these things is floating.”

  “It’s a chore,” Steve pointed out. “But it’s doable. We can do this Luke, I know we can.”


  The student bar gave way to the coffee shop, which in turn gave way to the board room. The idea had become a pitch, which in turn had become a plan, and now two middle-aged men sat at the head of the long table looking at the team they had assembled over the last ten years. They had spent the time well and had drawn to them the best minds that their enthusiasm could attract. Between them they had worked out exactly what needed to be built, and when. What would have to be built on Earth and what could be cobbled together from parts in space. Before them now sat the final plan, a five year plan that would see the first habitat unit taken up into orbit by rocket with the collector suits, a variation on the old space suits and jet packs that astronauts used to wear, through to the end goal of a fully working, orbiting space dock collecting the scrap that man had left to forever clutter up the atmosphere of its home planet.

  Steve was right, the parts for most of what they needed could indeed be salvaged from the equipment floating around in space being a nuisance and a danger.  The rest could be made by melting everything else down, reclaiming the precious metals used and rebuilding it into the parts needed. All being well, and five years from now the factory would be ready to start work. Another ten or twenty years and the first ships would be ready to take off from their orbiting dock to explore other worlds.

  There was still a lot of work to do, but they now had the plan of how to manage it. They knew what they needed, and how to do it, and by then end of this meeting they would have the funding.  There was no doubt about that, Luke and Steve had had private meetings and informal chats with the representatives of the various governments that had become their friends over the years. Funding was guaranteed, this meeting was purely a formality. The last small step by a few men towards a great project for humanity.

30ShortsIn30Days: Duality

Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.


  Matt and Hugh stood on the runway and looked up at the star ship they were soon to pilot. Their exams were a year past and they were now out of their probationary period. From today they were able to choose their own navigator, and choose their own commissions.

  It took six years to train as a star pilot, six years of long days studying star charts and logic circuits, honing bodies and minds to the point where they could manage the dual controls of these extraordinary ships.

  The duality ships were the pride of the planets, they could in theory be flown by one person but they were designed for three, two pilots and a navigator. The speed that the ships could fly was too fast for a single pilot to manage with no errors. So the duality ships were designed, two pilots that flew together with a computer picking the middle path, and the best pilots were twins. Two minds that could think together could fly together, less margin for error, less chance of hitting an asteroid or a planet. The chances of hitting other ships were still high though, which was where the navigator came in. The navigator sat behind the pilots and monitored the flights of other ships. Between the three crew members, the ships could fly fast. Not as fast as they were capable of flying, the speed of the engines could still outstrip the speed that the twins could think at, and the engineers were oft heard to remind them of it.

  As Matt and Hugh climbed into their pilot chairs and started their pre-flight preparations their chosen navigator arrived with their commission co-ordinator.

  “Gentlemen, this is your navigator, Clare. This is Matt, and this is Hugh,” the commission co-ordinator introduced the navigator to the pilots who nodded to the new arrival. “As for your commission, it seems you’ve chosen a freight pick up from Calliope, at the edge of the system. A bit remote and long for a first run isn’t it?”

  “Not really,” Matt replied.

  “Gives us time to get to know each other,” Hugh replied.

  “Sounds fun,” Clare added.

  “Right, okay, I’ll leave you to it then. Good luck,” the commissioner added as he left.

  Matt, Hugh and Clare looked at each other as Clare took her seat directly behind them.

  “Well,” Clare said. “Fancy seeing you two again.”

  “It’s been a long time,” Matt replied.

  “Sister,” Hugh finished.

  “Shall we take this ship out then?” Clare asked, the sooner we’re off the ground the sooner they might realise that we’re not intending to bring it back.”