ScareScapes Book One: Phantom Limbs!, страница 1
Scarescapes Book One:
A PERMUTED PRESS BOOK
Published at Smashwords
ISBN (eBook): 978-1-61868-520-9
SCARESCAPES BOOK ONE
© 2015 by Jake Bible
All Rights Reserved
Cover art by Jack Keely
This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.
109 International Drive, Suite 300
Franklin, TN 37067
About the Author
“Good morning, Captain McNeal.”
“Good morning, Pilot,” I reply, spitting toothpaste into the sink. I look in the mirror at my pale skin that’s covered in freckles and the tangle of red hair that insists that “friz” is a style. “But what have we talked about?”
“I am to call you Isla since you consider your father to be the true captain of the Scorpio,” Pilot responds. “However, since you are acting captain it would be against my protocol to call you by your first name.”
“I’m twelve, Pilot,” I say, turning from the mirror. I look about the three meter square space and see that my boots have been set out for me. “I’m still a kid. Call me Isla, please.”
“You are 1013 years old,” Pilot says. “That makes you an adult by all legal standards. That is why you are able to perform as captain.”
“I’m 1012, Pilot,” I reply.
“Today is your birthday. You are now 1013.”
I pause as I slip my boots on.
“My birthday,” I say. “Wow…”
I shake my head, not wanting to dwell on the fact that I won’t be able to celebrate with my parents. They aren’t exactly waking up anytime soon, as far as I know.
“Pilot, for my birthday, I want you to start calling me Isla. Can you do that?”
“I would prefer not to, Captain McNeal.”
“But can you? Will your protocol let you?”
He is silent for a minute and I smile, knowing he doesn’t need more than a second to process the request.
“I can, yes, Capt— Isla, but I would prefer not to.”
“How about just today then?” I ask, standing and kicking my boots against the wall to make sure they have sealed properly to my grey and blue uniform. “As my birthday present?”
“For today, I will,” Pilot says. “Tomorrow I will resume calling you Captain McNeal.”
“That’s a deal, Pilot,” I smile as I wait for my door to open. “Uh, Pilot? Is Security having an issue?”
“Is your door not sliding open, Isla?”
“No, it’s not.”
“Let me confer with Security.”
Three seconds later.
“Security has informed me that diagnostic tests will be run today. There may be occasional issues, but you and the rest of the crew are not to worry.”
“Thanks, Pilot,” I say as the door finally slides open. “Have Security let me know personally when the tests are complete.”
“I believe you will be well aware of when the tests are complete,” Pilot says.
“What does that mean?”
“That is what Systems has told me to pass on,” Pilot says.
“Uh…okay. Keep an eye on things, will ya?”
“Yes, Isla, I will.”
I leave my room and step out into the main room of the cabin I was supposed to share with my parents and little brother. But my parents didn’t wake up from cryosleep, so it’s just me and Felix representing Family McNeal.
Felix is ten, but you technically have to add 1000 years to both of our ages since we didn’t wake up 100 years after leaving Earth like planned. Instead there was a glitch and we slept for 1000 years.
Yep, Pilot wasn’t kidding, I’m 1013 years old.
“Would you like your morning report, Isla?” Pilot asks, his voice echoing from one of the speakers set into the ceiling of our cabin.
“I’m going to wake Felix up first,” I say, heading to my little brother’s door across the cabin.
“He is already awake and is being very difficult with Supply at the moment,” Pilot says.
“Fruit again?” I sigh.
“Yes, Isla, fruit again,” Pilot responds. “Health has calibrated the diets of every active crew member precisely. If Felix does not eat his rations then he will have to be removed from active duty and returned to cryosleep. That is something I would prefer not to do since Systems has yet to understand why the remaining 9993 passengers aboard the Scorpio have not awoken as expected.”
“Systems is a thousand years late on that one, Pilot,” I laugh. “I’ll go talk to him.” I walk to the cabin door, yank on the handle, and wait. “If Security will let me out.”
The door slides open.
“My apologies, Isla.”
“Don’t apologize for Security, Pilot,” I say, stepping into the passageway so I can hurry to the mess hall and kick my little brother’s butt for being such a pain.
“I am the senior Artificial Intelligence protocol, Isla,” Pilot says. “It is my responsibility to make sure all other AI protocols are functioning properly. I may have to perform a few tests to diagnose the issue.”
“Do what you need to do, Pilot,” I say, turning a corner and stopping in my tracks.
“Are you alright, Isla?”
“I’m peachy, Pilot,” I say, taking a deep breath. “Just stunned by the view, as always.”
Most of the passageways are bland grey with the occasional porthole looking out into space, but the wall of this passageway is three feet thick plastiglass that looks out onto miles of barren asteroid. Far off I can see the shimmer of the primary shield dome that protects the surface structures of the Earth Colony Asteroid Scorpio—a retrofitted hunk of space rock that is one of twelve designed for long range, deep space travel.
I never get used to the fact I’m floating in space, a couple million light years from Earth. An Earth that probably doesn’t exist anymore, not after the way humanity destroyed it, and especially not after a thousand years.
But that’s not something I want to dwell on. So I keep walking and leave the view behind, taking the many twists and turns through the Scorpio until I reach the mess hall.
It looks like almost everyone else is here, all laughing at the way Felix is standing in the middle of one of the many long tables, his arms crossed, his mouth clamped shut. He also has a mass of red hair like mine, but nature spared him the freckles. He keeps shaking his head back and forth as a galley robot, one of the many hover bots that perform various functions throughout the Scorpio, tries to pry his mouth open with small, metal pinchers.
You’d think that would be easy since a robot is much stronger than a ten year old boy. Except Felix has a cybernetic jaw. And left eye. And right arm.
I should probably mention that I have two cybernetic legs. My flesh and blood legs didn’t make it through the thousand years of cryosleep. When I woke up, I found that Health and Systems had replaced my legs with cybernetic ones—basically I have robot legs. They look real
“Dude,” Carlos Barraza laughs. “Just eat your fruiting fruit.”
“Yeah, dude,” Carlos’s brother Enrico nods. “Supply is under orders to make sure you eat your fruit. You don’t eat it and Health will have to put you in a box. We won’t be able to stop him.”
“But we will draw funny mustaches and things on your box,” Carlos says.
“Totally,” Enrico nods.
Carlos and Enrico are eleven year old identical twins, with dark hair, dark brown eyes, and tan skin. Carlos had to have his spine and ribcage replaced with high-impact alloy steel, while Enrico had his entire larynx, sinuses, and auditory system replaced. You should hear him do impressions with his cybernetic voicebox. It’s eerie how good he is.
Their family was to be in charge of Health, since their parents are doctors. But, they were the only two that woke up. That puts them in charge of Health.
And Health doesn’t listen to them at all.
I don’t either since they are full of fruit most of the time.
Fruit: our catchall swear word. Trust me, if you could ever taste the “fruit” that Supply gives us you’d know why. Not good.
But, just because the fruit tastes like fruit doesn’t mean Felix doesn’t have to eat the fruit.
“Felix Lawrence McNeal!” I shout. “You’ll eat your fruit just like everyone else. I don’t care what it tastes like, eat it!”
Felix glares at me, which can be weird since his cybernetic eye just kinda glows red. He shakes his head, still refusing to eat.
“Yes, you will, young man,” I snap. “It’s my birthday. Did you get me a present?”
Felix glares some more then shakes his head again.
“I didn’t think so,” I sneer. “So your present to me will be that you eat your fruit. That way we can be done here and get on with our duties. Understood?”
Felix keeps glaring then sighs. “Fine,” he says. The second his mouth opens the galley bot shoves a handful of multicolored, cherry-like things right in there. Felix gags for a second then chews quickly and swallows.
“I hate you,” he says, pointing a finger at the galley bot. The poor thing hovers off as fast as possible, its propulsion panels glowing bright blue. Felix looks at me. “You, I’m not sure of.”
“Be nice,” a voice says by my shoulder. “It’s her birthday.”
I look over and all I see are teeth and eyes and dimples and—
“Oh, hey, Landon,” I say, trying to be cool. “I didn’t see you there.”
“That’s because I was behind you,” Landon Fields says, that crooked smile on his face that just makes me—
“Happy birthday, Isla!” Landon’s little sister Ajay shouts as she jumps at me and wraps her arms about my waist.
Ajay is nine, and small for her age, but I guess we are all small for our ages once you add in the extra thousand years. But dang if she isn’t a cute little thing. Wavy black hair with light chocolate skin, Ajay is so button cute I want to eat her up sometimes.
She’s also a little clingy, and a little immature for nine, but what little girl whose parents are stuck in cryosleep wouldn’t be?
Landon is thirteen and tall. He’s like almost half a foot taller than me, and I’m five feet and three inches. His skin is chocolate like Ajay’s, but his hair isn’t wavy like hers, instead it’s curled tight to his head. He keeps it really short and it’s cool as all heck.
Uh, I’ll shut up now.
Like the rest of us, Ajay and Landon have cybernetic enhancements. None of us were spared the difficulties of cryosleep. Which isn’t surprising since the cryosleep technology was only developed a couple years before the ECAs set out. Basically you get in a plastiglass box, like a high-tech coffin, and you go into a deep coma. You sleep for as long as the trip takes, that way you don’t age or die along the way.
Kinda cool. If they worked like they were supposed to. We’re still waiting for everyone else to wake up. But, hey, we’re alive, right? So that’s a win.
Little Ajay had to have her lungs replaced, which is something I can’t even, like, comprehend. The girl has new lungs. Crazy. Landon didn’t lose any limbs, but he did have every joint in his body replaced and his bones reinforced with alloy steel in order to stand the force and pressure of those new joints. That’s pretty crazy too.
Landon and Ajay’s mom was supposed to be security chief, while their dad was supply chief. Since Ajay is so young, Landon handles both duties. Not that there’s much for any of us to handle since the AIs do all the work.
AIs—Artificial Intelligences. Computer programs that can think and act independently. They are what really run the Scorpio, making sure we don’t drift into a star, or run out of air, or die of malnutrition. That kind of stuff. They’re handy. We don’t really have to do much as a crew except stay out of trouble. Which the twins and Felix don’t seem to get.
I’m busy smiling like a fruiting doofus at Landon when Bessie comes into the mess hall. Blonde hair that she dyes bright pink, blue eyes, and a face dotted with grease, Bessie Sacher is only a few months younger than me and in charge of Systems. She sees me next to Landon and frowns.
You can probably guess why.
Her hands are just as greasy as her face. Unlike the rest of us, whose cybernetic enhancements can’t be distinguished from regular body parts, Bessie’s hands are shiny metal and glowing lines of fiberoptic lights. The girl loves to fix things and the synthskin was always being replaced so she told Health just to leave the synthskin off.
Landon thinks it’s cool. Ugh.
“Hey, Bessie.” Landon smiles. “You working already?”
“Getting some hover bikes operational.” Bessie smiles. “Thought maybe we could hit the forest later and run the trails.”
“That would be great.” Landon nods. “Security is running diagnostics, so how about after those are done? It’s my duty to make sure it all goes smoothly.”
“Hasn’t been doing that,” Carlos says. “The smoothly thing. I got stuck in the fruiting latrine for fifteen minutes this morning. Stall wouldn’t open up.”
“I thought he’d fallen in and got ejected out into space,” Enrico says. “It was a bummer when I found out he wasn’t.”
“Pilot said that there may be issues while Security runs the diagnostics,” I announce. “I don’t know if hitting the trails on hover bikes is a good idea. At least not until Security gives the green light.”
“That’s for Landon to say,” Bessie smirks.
“No, no, it’s Isla’s duty as captain to make that call,” Landon says.
I know he’s trying to diffuse the situation, but it makes me bristle a little when he does that around Bessie. I don’t need him to stick up for me; I’m captain, after all.
“We can use the time to get in a session with Tutor,” I say, ignoring the groans from the twins and Felix. “We’ve been lax on our studies as Tutor has reminded me every day this week. Just because we’re kids and our parents are still asleep doesn’t mean we get to slack off, even if the AIs run everything.”
“I hate Tutor,” Felix says. “That AI can kiss my fruit.”
“Don’t be crude,” I snap.
“Can we pick the subject today?” Enrico asks.
“I vote for science,” Carlos says. “Maybe we can do some chemistry experiments and learn how to make explosives.”
“We know how to make explosives,” Enrico says.
“No, I mean ones that work,” Carlos says.
“No explosives,” I say. “Do you really think explosives are a good idea when we are floating in the middle of deep space?”
“Yes,” they both reply.
“Then you’re wrong,” I say. “Maybe Tutor can explain why.”
“I would be happy to, Isla McNeal,” Tutor’s melodic voice says from the speakers. “Today would be a good time for a refresher lesson on the history of Earth Colony Aste
“Boring,” Felix says. “Boring, boring, boring.”
“I will try to make it more engaging for you, Felix McNeal,” Tutor says.
“I doubt it.” Felix frowns. “No stupid AI can be anything but booooorrrring.”
Our mother was supposed to be in charge of education on the Scorpio. Felix tends to lash out at Tutor for that reason. Especially since Tutor’s voice sounds like Mom’s. So there’s that.
“Shush,” I say. “We’ll have a Tutor session while we wait for Security to run its diagnostics. That’s an order.”
“You’re not Dad,” Felix snaps. “You can go fruit—”
“Felix McNeal knock it off!” I shout. He cringes a little and I can see his eyes well with tears.
“Whatever,” he says as he jumps down from the table. “Let’s go learn fruit.”
I sigh and shake my head.
“Good leadership there.” Bessie smiles as she watches Felix leave the mess. Carlos and Enrico are right behind him. “It takes a special person to turn their own brother against them.”
Bessie laughs and walks out, leaving me with Landon and Ajay.
“I should probably apologize,” I say.
“No, you shouldn’t,” Landon says, patting me on the shoulder. “Being captain doesn’t always mean you make people happy or feel good. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions that no one likes, not even you.”
“You should be the captain,” I say. “You’d be way better at it.”
“No he wouldn’t,” Ajay says, tugging my hand towards the door. “You’re the best captain.”
“Thanks, Ajay.” I smile. “That’s sweet of you.”
“You were chosen,” Landon says. “Pilot and the AIs have kept us alive for almost a year now on our own, so I trust he knows what he’s doing.”
“You’re pretty trusting,” I say.