This month’s flash fiction challenge, prompted by Jeffrey Ricker, involved a science fiction genre, auditorium setting and a computer tablet as the object to include. I’ve also decided to include original furry characters developed by Mark Merlino in this story, the skiltaire, and I mention his longtime mate, Rod O’Riley, as a mink! I hope this brief homage and nod to furry cons goes over well. Enjoy!
Rose’s blue eyes opened. She took in the bright lights of the massive auditorium in shock, her pupils constricting and dilating, then rapidly constricting due to the intense exposure. She let out a low groan, and an irritated hiss.
Rose, can you hear me? It’s Theta, came a distant voice, frail and yet millennia old. Rose realized she was outside of her crash-landed ship—she had somehow wandered into the abandoned auditorium overnight. She pictured the pale blue and yellow bellied skiltaire, lounging on a couch somewhere, as Theta had been apt to do lately—while athletic in her youth, the millennia had caught up with her body and mind. The mental image made Rose shake her head, pressing her digits into her temples, as if fending off a prodrome of a migraine.
Rose, please…come in, Theta went on as Rose finally got her bearings. The skunk sat up, shielding her face and eyes from the lights, wrinkling her nose and sighing. You will need to locate the tablet—ancient tech left here by humans.
“What?” Rose finally grunted. Drool slathered from her lips, and she felt as if she was intoxicated. Space sickness, she realized with dread. How long was I out?
It’s been twelve hours, Theta replied telepathically. Rose managed to get on her hands and knees. She crawled weakly toward a row of empty seats in the auditorium hall. She blinked several times, hard. She gasped and nearly fell backward, lurching at the sight of the dozens of stairs below her, and the rows upon rows of seats. Take it easy—you’ll need to find a way down, I think…
“You want me to…go down there?!” Rose whimpered. The flights of stairs toward the center of the auditorium, which led to a massive center stage, were daunting enough when she was sober, and not as dizzy.
You must retrieve the tablet for us, Rose, Vinson’s voice now echoed in her mind. The humans last contact with us is the key to allowing us to return to Earth once more…
The mink didn’t project the same mental image as his mate, Theta, but the cajoling from both was enough to get Rose to growl at them aloud.
“Fine, fine,” Rose unsteadily got to her feet. Her large boots helped her stand, and she shut off the gravity adjusters, allowing her to feel less lightheaded. She still felt like throwing up, the longer she looked down the stairs. “Why did humans have to invent these damn things?” she gruffed as she wobbled down the first step of thousands. She held onto the seats’ arm rests for dear life as she hobbled down slowly.
This place seems familiar…Theta trailed off as Rose tried to concentrate on the next step down. She began to pant, to cool herself—she felt her body temperature rise considerably the more nauseous she became.
One of many such places we’ve been to, Vinson dismissed the thought.
“You both came here to Earth…to…be…in…a place…with seats and…a stage?” Rose managed between gritted sharp teeth. She stumbled for a moment, and gasped, gripping the arm of the seat by her very tightly.
Lots of skiltaire, and others, did! Theta began to recall, a warmth and joy entering Rose’s headspace.
The humans organized these events, usually, to bring us all closer together, Vinson sighed sadly. Their silence is worrisome…
Rose finally clunked her boots at the last step, gasping. She hadn’t fully adjusted to the smog permeated air of the planet, nor the recycled smoggy air, much colder, in the auditorium space.
You made it! the skiltaire and mink cheered her on.
“Woo hoo,” Rose rolled her eyes. At least my sarcasm hasn’t ebbed away from the crash…
Laughter filled her mind, and she finally managed a smile despite feeling exhausted and sick to her stomach.
Rose scanned the stage area. The control panels backstage were dark, and then, out of the corner of her eye, Rose saw a bright red orb, flickering weakly.
“Low battery,” Rose read the darkened screen of the tablet.
Give it a good whack, human tech works best if you smack it, it’ll come to! Vinson encouraged.
Rose shrugged. She then raised and lowered the tablet hard against the concrete of the auditorium floor. The gasp and hiss of Theta on impact of the tablet made Rose and Vinson wince simultaneously, despite being thousands of light-years apart.
The tablet vibrated in Rose’s hands. A harsh blue light emanated from it, and she lowered her visor to filter it. “It says…hello,” Rose wondered.
“G’day, actually,” entered a blonde Australian man, in his early thirties, in space regalia.
Rose bristled, tucking the tablet under one arm. She fumbled for her phaser, twitching her ears for the sounds of her comrades.
“Who’re you!” Rose snarled, her white fangs gleaming in the lights of the auditorium stage.
“You don’t remember me?” the Aussie was hurt, his voice echoing in the empty arena. He crossed the stage to get to her, arms spread wide in a conciliatory gesture.
“No,” Rose felt the migraine returning, and froze.
Get out of there! Vinson and Theta urged. But Rose watched as the human approached even closer.
She’s safe here, mates, was the Aussie’s telepathic reply, and Vinson and Theta stared at one another, jaws agape and Theta’s antennae quivering curiously. I won’t hurt her. I promise.
“Who are you!” Rose demanded to know again, her lids drooping and eyes rolling back.
The Aussie ran over, and caught her as she slumped forward, landing on her knees.
“You’re alright, love, you’re safe with me,” the Aussie reassured. “I’ve always been here, anyway.”
“What…what do you…mean?”
Rose! Rose?! Came the frantic cries of the mink and skiltaire, in their own spaceport thousands of light-years away.
It’s been two hours, she’s been out too long…! Vinson worried. Theta let out a loud, hmmm in thought.
The dissociative episode will end, and she will bring us the tablet, Theta reassured her mate. She has to…