EXCERPT THE CHI THE PREQUEL TO THE SIR WILLIAM & MAC LIFE WITHOUT SLIPPERS NEW SCI FI HUMOR SERIES
Prequel: Teo held her two children close to her. The alarms screeched around them. The ground rumbled, buildings exploded and fires from the once beautiful city shot black smoke into the sky, wiping out the normality of sunshine. “We should go down to the basement! What’s wrong with you?!” It was her daughter, not quite adult, not quite child. “That’s what they say to do in a storm! We should go down. The basement!” Teo held her toddler, Cazzi, the child was oddly quiet and Teo would have preferred that she cry or scream. Silence wasn’t expected for a child in this danger. The truth was that Cazzi was barely breathing, her body cold. Shock. Teo couldn’t stop it but smoothed the black, thick hair, tears now streaming down her face.
No one knew where it came from. No one knew why it had chosen Fidea. But the scientists knew one thing. “We have days, perhaps a couple of weeks, no more, and,” Professor Chord stared at his feet.” And, at that point Fidea, and all of its inhabitants will be consumed. Transformed into energy. The planet destroyed. Poof.” He spread his arms wide then raised them over his head. “Poof. Gone. Forever. Our children. Our hopes. Our dreams.” He choked back a sob. “Gone. We can move many to the outposts and colonies, but, it is our hypothesis, that it will follow those travels, the ships, and it will feast, consume, and grow.” He took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose, looking away. “It will go where the food is. We predict it will hit Earth first. Billions of lives. Soon humankind will be obliterated. Gone.” He did the arm, explosion gesture again. Leeber stood and joined him in the center of the Assembly, patting him on the shoulder as the shuddering man struggled on. “Professor Chord, we acknowledge and thank you and your teams tireless work. Is there any hope, any bit of a chance?” Leeber asked. Many of the assembly leaned forward, many with tears they tried to hide. He shook his head. “I have sent 89 of our agents to their deaths. Eighty-nine souls. I sent them. I see their faces in my nightmares, the faces of their grieving families, their children. Each time we thought we had the answer.” He looked up at the open dome of the ancient, spectacular building, the sun shining on his sallow face. “I am so sorry, ladies and gentlemen, we have to accept that we cannot kill the monster. The Chi Pequel, this crystal encased photon beast, is too strong, too adaptive. It is now three times the size of Fidea. It has consumed entire continents now, the crumbs of its bites raining down on our world. Killing and killing and killing!” He shook his fisted hand in the air. “Our oceans are in turmoil, monstrous waves, destroying entire cities. Our losses are occurring so fast that we cannot count the people lost. Only one week ago it was twice the size of Fidea. I have to tell you that the evacuations must happen faster. The colonies cannot handle all of the Fideans, however. We will have to choose who survives. And who stays. And who dies.” Leeber, his hands clasped behind him, staring at the floor, paced around the floor of the round hall. He looked at the members, slowly, capturing their eyes. “We. Will. Not. Die! We will find a way. We will find a way. As long as we are breathing,” his voice cracked, “we damn well will fight this thing. We will survive!”
CHAPTER 1: William and the elephants “I thought it was hilarious.” I knew my boss wasn’t buying it. I knew what he was going to say next. And I knew that the day would end with me looking for a job over an ale at Height’s Bar. “You don’t understand, Stu.” I sat on the corner of his desk, which he didn’t like. “I am one of your most outstanding employees, but you just don’t realize it yet. Most of the people who work for you simply go and pick up a herd or a swarm, take it where they’re supposed to and dump them, never asking the cargo how they’re doing or making sure they are happy through the whole ordeal. For some of them this is the worst day of their little lives. Unlike those who take this job lightly, I –” “Cut the crap.” Stu Yeller was short, smart, and sickly. Yelling at me seemed to exaggerate the sickly areas. “No, you listen to me. I take the time to do it right. I went to the elephants, scoped them out, and met the big guy, Bricker, and his mate, Halli. Sweet couple. I told them about the new place, showed them pictures, played with the two baby elephants until everyone was comfortable and were roaming about by themselves without drugging or confining them onto my barge. “But here’s the thing, Stu. They wanted to go sightseeing. After all they’d only seen their jungle,” I said, shaking my head at him. “So I took them sightseeing. And this is where I suppose I could have made a better choice. One of the little guys, Victor, thought it would be fun to drop down right in the middle of traffic, just to see what it would look like.” Stu held a nebulizer to his face and inhaled. “You think this is funny, don’t you? You think that no one noticed how many transports were crushed? Didn’t you know that elephants love to sit on things and squash them? It’s right in your orientation manual!” “I’d heard rumors, but I didn’t know. Does anyone even read those manuals?” I said, raising my eyebrows at him. “But, c’mon Stu, no one was killed. Most people, the ones who didn’t run off in utter, ridiculous panic, really liked it. Some even laughed. I swear to you, it was a big hit!” “You’re fired!” Yeah, I knew that was going to happen. My transport sitting outside the facility had a ground sensor problem and had a propensity to bump up and down the road, kicking out parts at will. It was totally embarrassing, so I walked to my pub, the one that I always went to, in the pouring rain. It didn’t matter, my shoes were old anyway. “William!” Height yelled as I walked in. “Damned if you didn’t top the last fiasco. You know, the time you set fire to the poor man’s brain when you were supposed to be recording his thoughts?” I smiled and took my usual chair at the end of the bar. He handed me my Height’s Bar slippers and I kicked off my soggy shoes and slipped them on, incredibly warm and comforting. My ale sloshed in my hand, and the look on my friends’ faces told me they thought my stunt was brilliant. Well, maybe not brilliant – more like the funniest thing they’d seen all day. “The man burned his own brain, Height. I was recording his experience bombing that outpost and the image of that explosion, where he killed hundreds of people, including kids, ducks, and kittens. He fried his own brain thinking about fire and explosions,” I said, running my finger around the rim of the glass as I grinned up at him. “At least that’s my story. No one’s going to miss him. He didn’t belong in a reprogramming center.” Height, who was called so because of his unusual tallness, clicked his tongue, nodding. “I know. I know, but we can’t just fry people, Will. Still, he was a monster and in some ways that was justice done. But, today? Elephants? That was a classic. Classic!” I shrugged. “If classic had a monetary value attached to it I’d be rich. Far as I know, it doesn’t.” “Now what are you going to do?” “Oh you know, Height, I’ve been offered so many great opportunities. I’m thinking I’m going to have to think about them, hard. Might take weeks.” “Got money piled high to get you through?” “Nah. Not much. I could last, oh, about another hour or so.” Height liked that answer. “Drinks and food on the house until you get working. Just appear, give out autographs, maybe a good news interview with name of my bar in the background.” Height was the best. “Deal.” As people were getting off work they began to file in, most of them congratulating me on my accomplishment of the day. Ruby, a familiar character in Height’s, came up behind me and put her arms around my neck, kissing my cheek, then my mouth. The woman had a rare power of becoming a person that you had known, wanted, or even momentarily fantasized about. To my surprise she became a woman with long blonde hair who almost glowed. “Who are you now?” I whispered in her ear. “Who you want. In the past, in the future, in another realm, I don’t know. Taste my kisses and maybe you’ll know.” How could I refuse? But then the room suddenly dropped in temperature and I could hear moans from people all around me. Dixie slipped away and found another dance partner. I didn’t have to turn around to know who had just walked in. “Bax.” I tried to sound chipper. “How great you look tonight.” “Liar. You haven’t looked at me. But, I am looking great. Nothing new there.” She grabbed my arm and turned me around. I smiled. “How are you?” She glanced at the multiple feeds above Height and clicked her tongue when my elephants showed up. “William! Ridiculous! How can I take you out to the Princess Wonderful Gala with this kind of press going on? How are you going to handle this?” “Now, see that little one?” I said, pointing at the baby elephant. “It was his fault. He thought the whole thing would be outrageous. And he was right! Everyone loved it.” The feed showed pods being smashed and people being chased all over the street by the younger elephants. I let out a small laugh. “You are impossible. I should take someone else with me,” she said, arching her back, showing her full form to me. Bax was one of the most beautiful women in all of Fidea. Blue was her favorite color and throwing and forming ice was her impressive talent. She had genetically changed her skin to a shiny blue and her hair to a brown that had a silver shimmer. But, most impressive, was her lithe and perfectly proportioned body. It made ignorant men hot around the collar, but she had the opposite effect on me. “I see your vines are doing well.” She had recently acquired skin vines and had an artist embed jewels in them so that the light bounced off them. The people who found her attractive watched, some almost drooling, but no one wanted to actually talk to her. If you said the wrong thing, Bax could kill with her ice. Over the years she’d been suspected in more than one death. “Don’t change the subject. Friday is the Gala. I’ll have Lang come by and fit your suit. You’re not looking raggedy when you’re with me.” I walked away, getting a shot from Height, who had it waiting. Then I turned, looked at her and calculated the risk of telling her what I wanted to tell her versus saying what she wanted. I was a coward. “Of course not. Tell Lang to call me.” She smiled and kissed my cheek, pleased with the answer. “We should go away, do some time leaping. We haven’t done that in so long, William. It’s great fun, and now that you’re out of work you have the time.” I stared at the floor and drew a line in the dust with my slipper. “I would absolutely love to, sweetheart, but I have to find another job. I’m tied up, you see.” She put her arms around my waist. “William, William, William. I can pay you hundreds of times what you can earn out there. You could be my consultant or assistant. You could manage one of my properties. We could be together, all the time. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” I stroked her slicked back hair, very aware of everyone pretending not to be looking or listening. I knew I had to play it safe, to say no and yes all at the same time. Luckily, I was gifted in this area. “That sounds more wonderful than I can imagine. Heaven. We can talk about that on Friday night. But I have to think about long term and how I respect myself as a man. I cannot have a beautiful woman like you support me. I’m sure you understand.” Bax stepped back and she wasn’t smiling. I stepped back. “Okay. I’ve heard this a thousand times.” She looked around the room and they all quickly went back to their games and chatter. “But we will discuss it Friday.” She stomped out, leaving a sharp icicle hanging on the door handle. When she was out of range everyone clapped. I laughed and wiped my brow dramatically. “Man, that was close,” I laughed and saluted everyone with the fresh ale Height had waiting for me.