Cairns Writes 2017 – Video Fifteen – What’s your favourite series?

In which I attempt the impossible… again! I know, it’s madness, but someone’s got to do it. This time, it’s my favourite series of fantasy/scifi/horror books… Hit me up with yours, or simply tell me why my choice is wrong :)

Podcast – Dying – A Science Fiction Short Story

 

Welcome to the Cairns Writes Fiction Podcast. Every week I’ll be reading a short story or piece of serialised fiction.

This week’s story is called Dying

Paul was a soldier, a hero in the wars that wiped most of humanity from the face of the Earth. Now he lies in his hospital bed, searching for meaning, searching for something. Perhaps Dr Ferris has the answer…

Written, Read and Produced by Michael Cairns

The next episode will be available to download next week. Happy listening.

 

Podcast – Clouds – A Science Fiction Short Story

Welcome to the Cairns Writes Fiction Podcast. Every week I’ll be reading a short story or piece of serialised fiction.

This week’s story is called Clouds

There’s a landing coming in today. Off-Worlders and those from ‘down below’, all coming to the city. Some will stop by the bar, to meet the old war hero and listen to the stories. That’s if he wants to tell them… On landing days, his mind is somewhere else.

Written, Read and Produced by Michael Cairns

The next episode will be available to download next week. Happy listening.

Podcast – Above – A Science Fiction Short Story

Welcome to the Cairns Writes Fiction Podcast. Every week I’ll be reading a short story or piece of serialised fiction.

This week’s story is called Above

Sky City One is ten years old. For Taylor, one of the first recruits up there, it’s home. Everything he has is there; his boyfriend, his job, everything. But the secret they keep from the Earth below won’t keep much longer. The swarm is moving, and time is running out…

Written, Read and Produced by Michael Cairns

The next episode will be available to download next week. Happy listening.

Podcast – The Letter – A Science Fiction Love Story

 

Welcome to the Cairns Writes Fiction Podcast. Every week I’ll be reading a short story or piece of serialized fiction.

This week’s story is called The Letter

Daniel’s received a letter that makes very little sense. It seems to come from the future and there’s no doubt that the writer knows him very well. There is a life, hiding behind doors in his mind Daniel never suspected existed, and those doors are finally opening…

Written, Read and Produced by Michael Cairns

The next episode will be available to download next week. Happy listening.

Five Minutes – A Sci-Fi short story part 2 of 2

 

Jimmy stalked from his apartment, went down three floors in the lift and out into the Hov park. Rows and rows of Hovers were parked up, each with its own signature flash or embellishments. Jimmy’s was black. Entirely black. It matched his clothes and was easy to find in a line of Hovers, which was the point.

He pulled out, dropped into the low lane, and settled back. He’d ask nicely and if things didn’t go to plan, he’d introduce the gun. Five minutes was all he needed, surely Sutton would see that.

A few minutes later, he dropped out of the Loop and into the Undercity. The streets were slick with grease and he drove closer to Sutton’s place this time. The evening traffic was building above and he didn’t fancy finding out if the rumours of rain were true. There was a chance it would feel like real rain, but he doubted it. He wouldn’t know one way or the other, and it would feel like a betrayal of Grandpa even pretending.

He stomped until he found himself outside Sutton’s door and took a deep breath. It opened to his touch and he crept down the corridor. He didn’t know why he was sneaking, the two flashing red lights made it quite clear he was being watched the entire way, but it didn’t feel right being brazen.

He knocked on the door, realised he was holding his breath and let it out. He took another and held it long enough to decide Mr Sutton had left the office. He raised his fist to thump again and the door opened.

‘Jimmy.’ He’d never heard his name used as an insult. He sucked air in between his teeth and pulled a smile up from somewhere.

‘Mr Sutton, I know it’s late, but I was hoping we could talk.’

‘I thought I had made it quite clear what my conditions were for further conversation, Jimmy. Do you have the cash?’

‘Not as such, I—’

The door slammed closed. At least, it tried to, but somehow Jimmy’s boot was in the way. It bounced open and Jimmy followed it in. Mr Sutton glanced over his shoulder as he paced across the room and sighed. ‘Jimmy, this really isn’t the right way to be going about things.’

He made his way behind his desk and sat. Jimmy didn’t need to see his fingers to know he’d pressed the panic button. He located the hidden door moment’s before it burst open. He was already moving and the first guard was met with three stiffened fingers in the throat.

The man went down, flapping like the netted birds the street kids caught, and Jimmy put his boot on his face as he stepped over him. The second guard was only slightly more prepared and his gun was halfway out of his holster. Jimmy caught his arm, pulled it and the gun out, then snapped the wrist so the gun was pointing straight at the man’s gut.

‘Fire away, please.’

He was relieved when the man made the wise choice to drop his pistol. He pulled the arm back out, drawing a whimper of pain from his assailant, then spun him round and rammed him face first into the wall. He dropped beside his fellow and Jimmy finished it with a kick to the head.

He turned back to Sutton, cracked his knuckles and pressed his hands flat against the desk as he leaned over it. ‘Five minutes. That’s all.’

‘You know, you do your squad a great disservice.’

Jimmy clamped his teeth together as his breath hissed in and out of his nose. Arrogant, stupid son of a bitch. ‘You don’t know anything about my squad.’

‘I know you served. I know they won’t be proud of you.’

‘My men can’t be anything. They’re dead. Which is what happens to you if you speak about them again.’

Something in his tone drew what he thought was the first genuine response from the prick the other side of the desk. Mr Sutton rose, fanning his face with one hand, and indicated that Jimmy should follow him.

A narrow door behind his desk slid open and Jimmy paced behind him into the darkness that lay beyond. The tunnel was long and lit only by the occasional red light sunk into the wall. ‘What’s with the dingy lighting?’

‘The children don’t like it.’

‘Children?’

Mr Sutton stopped and Jimmy only just stopped himself from bumping into him. ‘What do you actually know about my machine, Jimmy?’

He hated the way he kept using his name. No one used your name that much, but this guy couldn’t get enough of it. ‘It allows me to see the future, whenever I choose, wherever I choose. Right?’

‘Almost right. But yes, that’s close enough. What do you know of how it works?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Well, you are aware no doubt that I operate slightly separately from the law. In part, that is because time travel has been banned and despite this not actually being time travel, it is close enough to cause concern in certain areas.’

‘Yeah, doesn’t bother me.’

‘Good. The other reason I remain underground is that power for my machine comes from Loopers.’

Jimmy sucked in a breath that suddenly tasted stale. ‘I’m sorry?’

‘Yes, it gets most people that way. Loopers. The government uses them up and tosses them away.’

‘It doesn’t toss them away. It gives them retirement and believe me, I’ve seen the films. I wouldn’t mind retiring where they go.’

Mr Sutton barked a laugh that somehow managed to sound posh. ‘You believe them? You fought in the wars, how can you believe anything anymore?’

There was something in the way he said it that gave Jimmy pause. It almost sounded like Sutton had been there as well. Jimmy sniffed and decided to play along. ‘What do they do, then?’

‘Once they have extracted all their wonderful, mysterious power, they dump them in sink estates down here, in the Undercity. Trust me, I’ve visited them. They are as far removed from the retirement homes you’ve seen on the videos as you can imagine.’

‘Bullshit.’

‘Believe what you want, Jimmy, I don’t particularly care.’ He carried on, gesturing to the walls around them. ‘Most Loopers leave the service with enough power to carry themselves along. Very occasionally one may be able to handle a Hoved. They can’t be used in the big Loops anymore, but they have power. Most just want something to do.’

‘So you use them?’

‘Of course. Why do you think it is so expensive, Jimmy? For every trip my machine makes, I have fifteen or twenty brain dead Loopers on my hands needing somewhere to live after I’ve burnt their sorry little brains out.’

Jimmy raised his clenched fist in the darkness, preparing to smash it down on Sutton’s head. But if he brained him, he wouldn’t get to see the future. The snooty bastard was relying on that and calling his bluff was almost motivation enough to do it. But he shoved his hand deep in his pocket and took a deep breath.

Mr Sutton nodded slightly, just the silhouette of his head visible. ‘So you see, I give them meaning, if only for a short while. And afterwards, they don’t know any better. They don’t know anything, really.’ He chuckled as he came to a halt before a door. His hand fit snugly on the pad and it swung open. In the light that came from within, Jimmy glanced back down the corridor.

Through the glass walls, he saw shapes. Kids, some barely out of nappies, crammed into beds. Loopers, every last one of them dumped by the government, used up and spat out. Was Sutton telling the truth? It was hard to know one from the other, these days.

He turned his eyes forward and followed Sutton in. His soul was curling up inside him, but it was already burnt and battered, so what difference would this make?

Inside stood the machine. It reminded him of the flight packs they’d used in the first war. This was smaller, but it still had the massive wings stretching to either side and what it lacked in rockets, it made up for in wires and blinking lights. It was made of metal struts, clamped together with black plasticam bands.

Sutton turned to him. ‘You do understand, you won’t get away with this?’

Coming from anyone else, it would have sounded like a cliche. From Sutton, it sounded like fact. ‘I may operate outside of the law, but I have plenty of support from people in power. If you go through with this pathetic action, you will owe me fifty credits and I will take them from your flesh.’

Jimmy thumbed his nose. ‘Yeah, well, maybe you will and maybe you won’t. What happens now?’

Sutton raised his eyebrows and gestured to the machine. ‘Please, get comfortable. I will need the date and place.’

Jimmy settled himself on the seat and stretched his arms out to either side. Straps emerged from the wings and wrapped around his arms, clamping him in place. He would have felt vulnerable, but his feet were still free and Sutton had retreated to a console on the other side of the room.

‘June 17th, 2213, Apartment 1274, Blue Sector.’

Sutton nodded, humming as he tapped in the information. ‘This may hurt a little. Most people come back with a slight headache, but nothing major. I also need you to read and agree to this small disclaimer.’

Jimmy looked at the pad in his hand and shook his head. ‘Give me the headlines.’

‘Very well. It says that any actions you may take following your trip are in no way the responsibility of myself or my machine and that any attempt to blame me for anything will result in you getting sued all the way to the Undercity.’

‘Yeah, fine, whatever. Just do it.’

Mr Sutton was smiling as he pressed the button. In the next instance, he was gone. His head felt like it was being put through a press, every hair being dragged out and his cheeks pressed so hard against his teeth they stung. Then the world slammed back into focus and he was staring at himself sat in his apartment. He was alone, watching some inane football game on the Screen.

He watched himself watching and waited. Nothing happened. His future self leant forward, shouted at the Screen for his team to sort it out, then slumped back again. More nothing happened.

Where was Malisa?

He realised with a sinking feeling that she could be anywhere. She could be out at work. She could be in the bedroom. She could be in the frigging kitchen. She could be anywhere.

‘SUTTON?’

There was no answer. The clock above the Screen read 10:04. Late for football, but it was June, they started late some nights. He watched, eyes flicking back and forth between his future self and the clock.

10:07

10:09

‘SUTTON!?’

It was more than five minutes. A movement to his right made him turn and stare. All he saw was his apartment, just a little more tatty than before. Another movement behind made him spin around. A shape, larger than he, vanished into the wall. The wall rippled and swam before his eyes. He took a deep breath and rubbed his temples.

On the Screen, the other team had just scored. His future self pulled himself out of the sofa, flicked the screen off and wandered towards the bedroom. Jimmy held his breath as the door opened. Malisa’s voice floated out. ‘You coming to bed now, sweetheart?’

Jimmy beamed as his future self replied in the affirmative and took his first step into the bedroom. Then he stopped, and for a brief moment, flickered, like a hologram when the battery stops working.

‘SUTTON? Come on, you bastard, take me back, I’ve seen enough.’

Silence. His future self flickered again and winked out of existence. He heard a gasp from the bedroom, but a movement behind made him spin. This time, the shape came with claws.

 

The next story, Protection Racket, will be here Thursday 18th December