Author’s note: This week’s story comes from the [fiction]friday prompt provided by the great folks at WriteAnything. I hope you enjoy it.
“Hey Dad, check out those clouds,” said Danny to his father who promptly ignored him. “Hey Dad!”
“What is it Son? Can’t you see I’m setting up camp? You know you could help me out instead of just sitting there staring up at the clouds.”
“Sorry, it’s just I’ve never seen clouds like that before. Look at them, does it mean we are going to get rain?”
Danny’s father let out a long sigh. “You’re twelve now Son. Sooner or later you’re going to have to stop daydreaming and grow up. The weather reports indicated both suns would be out for the next several days.”
“Dad, for the love of the Creator look at the sky.”
Danny’s father looked up and froze.
“See, I told you there were a lot of clouds. Why are they all in straight lines?”
Danny’s question went unanswered as his father ran back to the shuttle. He stopped, spun around and hollered to Danny.
“Come on Son. We have to get back to the city.”
“But what about our trip?” asked Danny. “We can’t just leave all our stuff out here. Is it the clouds? What about them?”
“Those aren’t clouds Danny, they’re contrails. Now please, hurry. We haven’t got much time.”
Danny’s brow furrowed at the word. Where had he heard “contrails” before? Rockets. History class. The U’mat War. But it couldn’t be. His father had said those damn U’mats were all killed.
Danny stood, eyes on the sky, pinned to the spot by the weight of his understanding. A series of three quick beeps repeated itself from somewhere in the cockpit. He watched as his father reached into the shuttle and retrieved a case Danny knew well. His father carried the locked case with him wherever he went but as far as Danny could remember, he had never opened it; until now.
His father quickly entered the lock’s combination. The case sprang open revealing a beeping communicator, several items which looked like badges and pins and a gun. How did his father have a gun? Only soldiers or outlaws have guns. His father picked up the communicator and answered it.
“Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wales reporting in.”
“Sir. The Admiral of the Fleet has ordered all officers to report to Defense Platform Alpha ASAP. You are ordered to rendezvous there at which time your commission will be reinstated.”
“Rodger that. I’m en rout now. ETA to DP-Alpha 2 hours.”
Danny and his father climbed into their shuttle. They lifted off and elevated up to two hundred feet before hitting the thrusters. Danny had never flown this high before. Two hundred feet was a restricted height. Only military shuttles were allowed up this far. He felt his stomach flop as he realized there were probably many new things he was about to experience; none of them good.
“Son, I hoped to hell this day would never come. Thought we had beaten those U’mat buggers back to hell. I guess we were wrong.”
His father continued to increase height. The thinner air allowed the shuttle to fly faster.
Danny looked over at his father, straight-backed, eyes focused ahead, piloting the shuttle at a surprising speed. Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wales. How had he never known his father was a Naval officer? His father reached across and turned on the shuttle’s large spot light and marking lights then turned to his son and gave a weak smile.
“You’ll be wanting to hold on tight now.”
The shuttle rocked and pitched as shock wave after shock wave pummeled the small craft. They seemed to take forever to pass and Danny was sure the shuttle would be ripped apart.
“That was the rockets exploding then?” asked Danny.
“It was. How much did they teach you about the U’mat War in school?”
“Just that it was awful. Cold. And many of our people died in the first hours of the initial attack. That’s all the government would let us know. One of our professors, Professor Ulrik, was fired for handing out banned text books. I never saw them though.”
“Here’s the truth Danny. When the U’mat first landed they seemed peaceful. Gave us technology, helped heal our diseases, everything was great. But what they were really doing was infiltrating our society. Before long our military, banks and farms were all under U’mat control.”
“Why what did they want us for?”
“Not us, our planet. Our suns to be exact. Something about the ionic radiation they give off is vital to their survival. We were defeated; save for one last, desperate measure.”
“What was it? How did we beat them?”
“Keep watching out your window Danny. We’re going to the last defense platform on the planet.”
Danny looked out the window scanning the horizon for the secret weapon. He glanced back at the shuttle’s dashboard and looked at the clock. 1:00pm. Something’s wrong. 1:00pm and the suns were setting. No. Not setting. Going out.
“What the-” Danny watched as both massive suns dimmed and darkness spread across the land.
“One desperate measure,” said the Lieutenant Commander. “They need our suns to survive. Your professors were right about one thing. The U’mat war was cold. Cold as hell.”
I’m not much of a sci-fi reader but I enjoyed this piece. By the time you closed it out I wanted more.
Thanks for sharing
greedy aliens, they could have just taken one sun!
A very different sort of cold war, here!
I like the switch from his father tiredly and completely believing the weather report to becoming a soldier. And then it doesn’t let up. Great pace, Chris. And chilly ending.
I’m not much of a sci fi reader but I found this piece exciting, compelling and I wanted more…thanks, Chris
I knew once I read “two suns” it was going to be good. I like sci-fi and I wanted more when I was done reading.
I don’t usually read sci-fi, but you kept my interest so you must be doing something right 🙂
This was really good, Chris. I was riveted!
Great pacing and dialogue.
The aliens always say they come in peace. But what they always really want is a big piece of their new home!
Last sentences show that, in this case, turning off the heat will make the squatters leave, eh?
I would love to see more of this and find out what happens. The idea of them sacrificing the suns and waiting it out to kill the invaders is awesome.
So, wait…they destroy one of the suns? Wouldn’t that be catastrophic to the life on the planet? I’m confused…
I also enjoyed the way it switched from a mundane father/sun talk to dad revealing to his daydreamer son that he actually led a secret life. Nice.
Yup. It’s a race against time. Stop the invaders before killing the planet and themselves.
I really enjoyed this piece. I like how the father knew what was going on right away, rather than having the darkness be a mystery to uncover. I loved the ending, too. Great job!
The description of the U’mat reminds me of V. I like it.
Great sci-fi piece that makes me want to see a whole novel developed from this. Lovely pace and tension to keep things rolling along.
If there are two suns, are we on Tatooine? 🙂
I hope they’ve got another world in their pockets. Life without a sun would be harder than life under oppressive rule. I wonder what their back-up plan is. Interesting idea, Chris.
When I began reading I thought this was going to be slice-of-life type story and had to read the line about two suns twice before it hit me – sci-fi, and very good sci-fi at that. The mis-direction of your opening was excellent, as was the pacing and characterisation throughout. I would love to read a follow-up if you could be persuaded to write on?
Nice switch in pace from camping to military response. Great concept and your story held me captive!
I really like the premise of this Chris and it is an interesting choice of age for the son – 12 being on the cusp of adolescence. It will be an interesting story to follow via #TuesdaySerial
I would have liked to have seen a few smaller details at the beginning which might have eased us into the story and given us a few clues about the relationship between father and son… for instance (and you know you can always tell me to shut up and go away!) – how is his father coping with putting a tent up (this gives the reader an insight into how often they may have been camping together – part of me feels like this might be a first time?)
I’m also not sure about the tone in the son’s voice when he’s speaking to his Dad about the clouds – the voice sounds as though it belongs to a much younger child. By 12 if his father was want to ignore him, would he not have given up badgering his father? Who knows… I’m probably just babbling.
Lots of interesting threads to explore in this all the same. Come play with the cool kids!!
Good catch Jodi. The first draft had Danny at six, the second had him at eighteen. I settled on 12 because i wanted to explore his development into adulthood further on in the story. I guess I didn’t pluck out all the six year old aspects out of his voice.
You’ll get a few more details in further installments.
It took me the longest time to work out what wasn’t working in this for me…glad that what I said highlighted something (I felt like right bitch writing it!) And looking foward to reading more on Tuesday. Excellent to see you writing regularly again.
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Very nicely done. I couldn’t think of a single way to respond to the prompt, but the fictions I’ve read have been brilliant – yours, in particular! Neat take on the concept of a Cold war.
I like it! There better be more. Don’t leave me hanging. Loved the way that they infiltrated the goverment and contoled the banks, farms and military. I also love how the schools and professors banned books and information from the youth like during the Cold War.
I’m also not a major fan of sci fi but this is a very intriguing piece! Would like some backstory on the war though–
It’s quite an interesting idea. A tough way to fight a war. Well done!
Really good story. I thought the boy sounded a bit younger than 12, but I love that he had no idea his father was a soldier.
Great suspenseful pace and description, too. I’d love to read lots more of this.
This is an excellent piece of writing, Chris. I am not a big sci-fi lover, but your story kept my interest and left me wanting more. Great job.
I was carried away and raced thru to the end. Fantastic pacing and I’m a softie for a sci-fi tale. Well done.
(Jodi gives good advice too.)