jen bets bigwowQuite a week! Libary plus library plus con. Lovely to meet folks and talk geekery. Thanks to Bridgett Spicer for sharing booth and mental space, and to the Chair Man who got us chairs and was kind, and our booth neighbors who were also splendid, and all the folks who came by and said hi and went away with books and prints and all the people who stole buttons from the table – of whom there were many but I’m glad you liked the buttons. And to my girl and minion who keeps it all organized so my head doesn’t fall off.

Come see me Sunday May 3 at Borderlands Books in San Francisco! 3pm. There will be reading and signing of “Silverwood.” There are rumors of a “We Like the Moon” singalong. We might add ukulele. There will be a playlist. Also I recommend allowing time for shopping, mural gazing and Mexican food. RSVP to mailATbetsystreeter.com so I know how many cookies to bake.

Other new news! I’ve just signed on to hang out at A Great Good Place for Books May 2 for Bookstore Day and to also be at BayCon in Santa Clara, CA for their Women of Wonder fabulousness. Rock!

If you have ideas for venues for signings or talks about geeky things and women in tech and women in sci fi and writing novels and illustration and all of it, please contact me. A lot of why I do this is meeting and hanging out with people who enjoy science fiction and writing – it makes this so worth it. But it’s hard to keep track of all the events. So let me know!

Today we are to write 200 words on the theme “Man vs. Man” with this photo prompt:

THE VERDICT

Bobby bursts into the room breathless. “Sam! The jury have reached a verdict. They’re coming back into the courtroom.”

Sam looks up from his desk. “That was fast.”

Maybelline turns from the window. “What does that mean? That’s good, right?”

Sam frowns. “Not sure. Guess we’ll find out.”

Maybelline throws her arms around Sam. “He’s innocent, right? They’ll find him innocent? I know you won, Sam, I just know it. He’ll go free, and then I can finally marry him. That’s right, isn’t it?”

Sam takes Maybelline’s hands from his shoulders. Her hands are small, light.

“He’s a good man,” Sam says.

“You’re the best, Sam,” Maybelline says. “I just know you won this one. I have faith in you.”

“We’ll see, May,” Sam says softly. He takes in her brown eyes for the last time. The light hits her curly hair. Like it did in first grade.

Maybelline straightens her hat. She must look her best for the verdict, the photos on the courthouse steps, headlines blaring about her impending nuptials. She smoothes her skirt, picks up her purse from the desk. “Here we go,” she says, and walks out.

Sam looks after her, then glances at Bobby, who looks down.

———-

Do go check out the other stories at Flash! Friday. They are well worth it.

146

“Are you ready?” Darby says to Edward.

The two men stand side by side in the yellow dirt. Featureless landscape stretches away from them in all directions. Toward the horizon the Very High Speed (VHS) corridor hums with life.

“Push the button,” Edward says.

Darby holds a square controller in one hand on which there are a pair of thumb-sized buttons. He presses down on one of them.

The soil several yards in front of the two men heaves upward and a wide and gleaming glass structure rises from beneath the ground. It’s got floor-to-ceiling windows held together by silver upright posts all around the outside. At the center of this glass room sits a shiny black circular bar winding around a clear glass column. It is a shining masterpiece.

The structure slides upward until it reaches full height and stops. Now colorful lights illuminate around the edges of the roof and up and down the walls and bar. It is a jewel-like oasis.

Darby looks at his friend. “We are in business.”

“Almost in business,” Edward says. “Now we need something to serve. That would be our next to-do item.”

“Indeed it would,” Darby says. “But to start with we have a storm-proof venue in which to serve it. Let us procure the finest hops and barley and begin production.”

———-

NEPTUNE ROAD ©2015 BETSY STREETER. PLEASE SHARE WITH A SCI-FI LOVING FRIEND!

145-scar-city-search

The Tumbleweed reduces speed and falls in with the traffic flow on the main drag of Scar City. Vehicles pass and maneuver around each other on the ground, in the air, and up and down the walls of the skyscrapers. Life in Scar City runs in every possible direction.

Feller reaches out the window and slaps a trajectory indicator onto the outer wall. Like a police light, the indicator offers warning to other drivers of a vehicle’s general trajectory – and when it might change direction. Most of the time the indicator lights just point straight ahead but when a turn is imminent, they can prevent mass collisions. Faster vehicles stay closer to the ground while the slower sightseeing ones float along up higher.

“How close are we?” Rebecca asks.

“About a block away, according to the coordinates,” May says, poking data into her keyboard. “We should see it up here on our right.”

The airship Tumbleweed is like four RVs stuck together, an oversized tour bus lumbering through the city. Most smaller craft make way for it. Every so often a hovering bike or other tiny object will bounce off the side. The driver might wave a fist or spit out a few choice words but then they move on.

“Right… here,” May says. They all lean forward and look out the front window to their right. There sits a monolithic grey high rise about a block wide and many stories tall. It’s got almost no features but Rebecca remembers the spot where she fell out onto the sidewalk. They can see the Tumbleweed reflected back at them in the dark windows.

“That’s it,” Rebecca says. “We were in that high rise. At least Sam was. I was invited to leave. I wonder how we can get in there and see what’s going on without being detected. I don’t want to do anything to endanger Sam.”

“Hey May, let’s try something,” Feller says. “Remember those codes you had that looked like Casino security, but it turned out they were not? Do you still have those?”

“Yeah,” May says and fishes a scrap of paper out of her high-top sneaker. “Right here.” She unfolds the paper and flattens it out in front of her with her palms.

“Let’s see if we can get a better look at that thing from the outside,” Feller says. He hops out of his chair and grabs a see-through viewer from the console. The viewer is a rectangle the size of a large picture frame with handles on the sides and glass at the center. He affixes the viewer to the front window so they have to look through it in order to see the high rise.

“There we are. Put one of those codes into this thing and let’s see what happens,” Feller says to May. “I’ve got a hunch.”

May’s fingers fly across the keyboard. The viewer’s screen fills with lines like a blueprint superimposed on the real building. Walls fill in while labels and coordinates appear. When the process comes to a stop they can see a complete schematic of the high rise complete with who supposedly occupies each floor.

Philo appears in the doorway. “I see you found a use for those codes. I have been analyzing them as well. They provide access to hidden information about the building when used correctly.”

Philo plugs a long cord into the side of his head. Next he steps forward and attaches the other end to the viewer in the window. The blueprint on the glass now fills in with more details and labels in between the ones that were already visible.

“Can you magnify that?” Rebecca asks.

The view expands and Philo focuses on the top several floors. With the new information they can see that these floors belong to “VTT.”

“I saw those letters when I was there,” Rebecca says. “But I never saw it spelled out.”

“VTT stands for Vertical Technologies Testing,” Philo says. “Angelica told me that this is a secret testing facility for technologies relating to upper atmosphere activities.”

“Upper atmosphere,” Rebecca says. “Like the sunlight amplifiers?”

“Perhaps,” Philo says.

“Interesting,” Rebecca says. “Now we have to find a way to determine where Sam is, if he is still there at all.”

———-

NEPTUNE ROAD ©2015 BETSY STREETER. PLEASE SHARE WITH A SCI FI LOVING FRIEND!

144

“I can’t raise Sam,” Rebecca says. She’s standing on the Tumbleweed bridge, leaning on the console and staring into a monitor which should be displaying messages. Instead, it blinks at her with a single cursor and nothing else.

“Maybe the channel was discovered and cut off,” May suggests. “I can try to find another one. We’ve got lots more stolen codes that probably do stuff.”

“Yeah, and some of them are the same format as the one you were using to talk to Sam before, Beck,” Feller says. “They all seem to relate to the systems of this place called VTT.”

“Okay, try it,” Rebecca says. “See if you can get an alternate channel. It’s not like Sam to just go silent like that. Not when there’s stuff to break into and rip off. I would think he’d be contacting us to come pick up all his stolen goods by now.”

Rebecca looks out the window. “No, this isn’t right.” She punches a button in the console. “Philo? Can you contact Angelica? I need to talk to her.”

“Of course,” Philo says through the speaker.

May punches in code after code. The first several do nothing; they appear to be dummies or out of use. But one gets her in. She types a few commands and tries the same channel they had been using to talk to Sam. There is no response, only dead air.

“If I had to guess,” Feller says, tweaking the Tumbleweed’s course, “Sam has left the building and we will hear from him shortly.”

“Hello?” Philo says through the speaker.

“Yes, Philo, do you have Angelica?” Rebecca asks. “We need to know where her son has gone.”

“Funny thing,” Philo says. “Angelica is nowhere to be found. I cannot locate her in our systems, even though we just finished downloading her.”

“She didn’t get erased, did she?” Rebecca asks.

“If she did, she erased herself,” Philo replies. “It is as if she was never here.”

Rebecca’s face clouds. This is not good.

“Alright, Feller, let’s put on some speed back to Scar City,” Rebecca says. “Time to bust into this control center, or VTT, or whatever that place is. Sam has either left, or things aren’t going well. Either way, he’s going to need backup.”

The Tumbleweed turns and accelerates over the Badlands, back toward Scar City. Soon the enormous canyon in which the city sits appears on the horizon.

Rebecca watches the canyon grow in the viewer, and ponders how her childhood friend could have found himself so entangled in so many things. Sam always had a knack for seeing situations in unique ways, finding the tiny details that everyone else missed. But this disappearance – it is uncharacteristic. She hopes that he has managed to stay physically safe. And that he did not play a role in the death of his mother.

———-

NEPTUNE ROAD ©2015 BETSY STREETER. PLEASE SHARE! INDIE STORIES LIVE ON SHARING. AND, BREAKFAST CEREAL.

 
 
DMS