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Old December 4 2008, 09:52 AM   #48
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Location: Between the candle and the flame
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.


Days Of Future Passed by Mistral

Ensign Jorge Ruiz looked out at San Francisco Bay. The water was less than knee deep for as far as his eyes could see. Reeds grew higher than the water was deep. Bird-like creatures with spectacular plumage and glistening scales flashed amongst the plant-life, diving for their dinners. He glanced back at the wrecked shuttle he’d just crawled out from where it sat, smoking, on a moss-covered hill that should have been Starfleet Command. “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” he said.

The heat was intense, more appropriate for the tropics than San Francisco. If Jorge hadn’t gotten a glance at the coastline before impact he would have thought he was in his native Puerto Rico. He thought back over the accident as he gathered what supplies he could from the wreckage. There wasn’t much to be found. He’d been on his way from McKinley Station to Mojave Spaceport with a Mark IV shuttle when a round craft or probe had flashed by him. A moment later, a starship had followed and then both had vanished in a ribbon of energy. Jorge thought he caught the name Enterprise on the larger craft. Sadly, Jorge’s shuttle had been caught in the wake of the starship’s plasma exhaust and had struck the energy manifestation on an oblique angle. A few seconds later the engines had all but failed and Jorge had to fight to keep the crash from being an explosive one. That he had walked away was a miracle in itself.

He sat on a hill that should have been the Admiralty and assessed his supplies. A knife, a tricorder, a partially crushed phaser and three days worth of emergency rations were all that he had found that hadn’t been burned or spoiled by chemical leaks. He glanced around at the landscape and saw clumps of giant ferns off in the distance. A weird howl echoed out over the grasslands that made up most of the surrounding countryside. He glanced again at his limited rations and then eyed the bird-like creatures speculatively. “Well, a man’s got to eat,” he said to no one in particular. Picking up the knife, he waded out into San Francisco Bay, a grim expression on his face.


Jorge sat as far from the fire as he could reach with his fernwood spit, slow-roasting a lizbird for dinner. Even though the tricorder claimed it was after six in the evening, the sun still lit the sky. He pushed the reed hat back a little off of his forehead and tapped the ‘RECORD’ button on the tricorder.

“Well, today is Day 365 and I’ve been here for a year.” He turned the lizbird slightly. “I’m still not sure when here is but judging by the bits of garbage I’ve dug out of Admiralty Hill, it’s been a long time since anyone Human has lived on Earth. At least, in my little corner of it.” He checked his dinner and, satisfied with its progress, continued his log entry. “Although there are bits of masonry under the hills, the ruins I’ve uncovered are ancient. I fear that, like the Time Traveler in Well’s story, I’ve somehow come to a point in Earth’s history when time is ending, so to speak. None of the wildlife I’ve encountered resembles what I knew. Except that rat I encountered a few months ago.” He traced the scar on his leg with a fingertip. “It looked just like the rats from my own time only three times bigger. And the claws had evolved towards a more finger-like shape. Some day they may be the top dog around here and launch their own starships-but I’ll be long gone by then.” He pulled the lizbird out of the fire and began brushing the burnt scale-feathers of the carcass. When the detritus was clear he devoured it in a perfunctory manner. Afterwards, he extinguished the flames and adjusted his reed skirt. The sun was finally trying for the horizon. He sat in front of his reed hut until long after dark, staring up at the stars that were now forever out of his reach. The ruins of the moon, now a ring around the Earth, flashed bits of light at him as it circled.


Jorge had been taking the reed boat out everyday for five years. He didn’t even think about the necessary steps anymore, he just did it. Grasping the pole he’d fashioned from a giant fern, he poled out into the bay. Lizbirds wheeled above his head. He’d gone out to the edge of the reeds to a special spot he’s found where fish-like creatures swam. Wrapping the fern rope around his wrist and tying it off, he grasped the spear with his precious knife on the end and waited. Eventually, a ‘fish’ swam too close and he launched his spear. It flashed into the water, missing the ‘fish’ by a hair and struck something hard. Swearing, he reeled the spear back in with the fern rope and examined the knife. The tip was bent a tiny bit. Jorge had split soft rocks with his survival knife. He dumped his rock anchor overboard and tied the spear to one of the spars in the boat. Tossing his reed skirt aside, he carefully slipped into the water and dived down to see what his blade had hit. The water was murky and he couldn’t see very well but his hands found…a smooth surface. Probing, he found a seam and then a very familiar latch. After going up for more air, he dived back and pulled the latch. The door took all of his strength and two more dives but eventually he pried it open. He realized it was a Starfleet shuttle of some sort, mostly encrusted in coral and anemone-like creatures. The fourth time he dived, he went in and grabbed whatever his hands found. Coming to the surface, he discovered he had an emergency survival kit. He chucked it onto his boat and dived again, but there was nothing else that his hands could pry loose. His lungs gasping for air, he surfaced again.

Once he got back on the boat, he used the knife to worry the kit open. Most of the contents disintegrated and rushed out with the water that spilled from it. The only thing that remained was a phaser of an unknown design and what looked like a hypospray. Taking the phaser out, he checked its readout. It was dead. He glanced back, speculatively, at his hut where the remains of another phaser, its energy cells still charged, sat. A smile creased his face.


The hurricane had come with some warning and Jorge had used a plentiful amount of the giant ferns to reinforce his hut. While the wind howled outside and the rain pelted his home he huddled beneath the furs of the giant rats he’d killed. Water threatened to roll in past the breaks he’s built in the doorway. He reluctantly pulled his phaser out and steamed off a few cubic meters of it to keep his hut from flooding. In the ten years since he’d cobbled the weapon together out of the parts at hand he’d avoided using the power cell as much as possible but now it was on its last few shots. He prayed to a God he no longer believed in that he would survive the night. The water rose again over the next few hours and he was forced to deplete his remaining power reserves to half of what he’d started the day with. He shivered under the giant rat furs.


Jorge looked into the tiny reflective surface of the tricorder. He could see the grey in his beard and the lines in his face. Sighing, he collected the walking stick he’d fashioned from the piece of honest-to-God wood that had been left behind by the hurricane so many years ago. Slipping the spear he’d made from the same piece of driftwood over his shoulder, he collected his knife, now relegated to its original purpose, into the sheath on his hip. He glanced at the painting on the inside wall of his hut. It was an image of a starship chasing a Borg sphere into some kind of energy ribbon. He’s painted it during one of the periodic times of madness that swept over him as an explanation for his presence. Someone might someday find it, but he had his doubts. The wall was organic and a hundred years after he died it would be gone. Grasping his net bag in hand, he made his way down to his boat, the Excelsior. He’s taken to naming the reed barks he made after famous starships. It was his conceit, his way of remaining a member of Starfleet after all of these years. It was time to fish.


He was watching one of the regular meteor showers that came in the night. He had long since decided that they were caused by bits of the broken Moon being pulled down by Earth’s gravity. Suddenly, for the first time in forty years, he saw something different. His long-dead Starfleet instructors would have been proud of him as he swiftly gathered his net bag and the bone tools he’d made from his hut. He collected his spear and knife, placed his hat upon his head, and gathered all of the dried fish and lizbird meat he had. Carefully securing his phaser and the few precious shots that still remained within the pocket of his ratskin cloak, he slung the tricorder that contained his log entries over his shoulder and took up his walking stick. Facing south towards what had once been Los Angeles, he began to hike, never looking back at the hut that had been his home for so many decades. He had a goal. He’d watched the meteors come down so many times over the years but tonight had been different. One of them had changed course! He headed out in the direction it had come down. The ache in his bones that he’d felt for some time didn’t bother him tonight and he walked vigorously off into the darkness.
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