I did a little research on whether it was a good idea or not to publish some short stories here on the MediaCrash blog. One of my concerns was the basic risk of plagiarism and copyright infringement. Some people believe that most small-time authors worry too much about their work being ripped off, but that attitude is foolish. Much material is stolen, and quite often work can end up in some jerk’s screenplay or script. You get no credit and no money.
My other concern was whether the stories were something that people would even want to read. I figured that, since the work was already written, what harm could come of it. It wasn’t like I was wasting my time thinking up stories. They were already on my hard drive.
I decided that it was worth it. I still decided to take the pains to register the copyright of the works. The next step was figuring out a format. So here it is: I’ll take the short stories, break them into 1500 word (or smaller) chunks, and publish them here in serial form. I call it the J.A. Wynn Short Story Series.
So, with no further ado, here’s the first one:
by J.A. Wynn
Even as I had rebuilt the ship from scratch three years before, I knew that it would lead to disaster. I did not know what the disaster would be, I did not know what form it would take but, as sure as death, I knew that disaster was in the cards. I had retrofitted the scow in the scrapyard near the long minefields and had made an attempt to turn it into a Surveillor. It was a misguided effort; I was aware that the craft was too small, too beaten, and too outdated but I had nowhere else to put my equipment. My equipment was the result of years of scratching, working, begging and scheming and it was definitely not waterproof. Not even a little. Surveillance probes and ‘tronic amplifiers, expensive computers and delicate mics don’t take kindly to humidity, dampness or even dramatic temperature changes. I knew that the scow in the scrapyards had been a bad move. It had flooded there before.
“We were lucky that the coup passed us by,” my older brother remarked, looking out the back hatch. “But it looks like this rain might be even worse…” He glanced down at the makeshift barrier I had built out of old scrap and sandbags. I saw the look in his eye. He was laughing inside. It’s not that he was particularly cruel, it was just that tendency that we all have to smirk at misfortune, as long as it’s not our own. I guess I deserved it, I’d done my share of smirking too. The rain began, and I began to pick up the more fragile pieces, the stuff that wasn’t fixed to the deck, and began to place them as high up as I could reach. I looked out past my brother’s shoulder and saw the darkening sky. A rolling feeling of nausea hit my gut. I could hear the roaring of the river that was just beyond the fenceline, still swollen from the tropical storm that had pillaged the coast. The water began to creep towards the rear hatch.
“Could you take the hose from the pump and run it out till it’s just over that little berm?” I asked. I turned to point to the coiled hose by the pump, but my brother was already gone. He had his own ship to keep dry, his own sodden enterprise. I put my poncho on and ran the hose out myself, then I sat down and waited and watched the rising tide. I lit a cigarette as the rain grew in intensity, beating a horrid rhythm on the hull above me. I had a little time to reflect upon my idiocy, upon all the stupid decisions I’d made that led to this one absurd moment. Why was this ship sitting in a area that was known to flood? What sort of fool would do something like that? It boggled the mind! If she totally floods, she’ll never leave planetside, I thought. And if she did, she’d have no working spy gear aboard. I shook my head in disgust and the water rose higher.
Little trickles started to pour in around the sandbags. I couldn’t make them totally watertight; they were simply a stalling tactic. First, the water would begin to fill this little airlock that was between the outer hatch and the dump bay. That’s where the pump was. Then, it would head toward the main cargo bay. The deck of the airlock was about six inches lower than the deck of the main bay. All I had to do was keep the water away from the main bay and the little scow was saved. If the cargo bay and my gear became a sponge, all was lost. The water would seep into the bulkheads and, from there, into the ‘tronics. After that, nothing but a miracle could save me, I would be stuck planetside for good. I heard the pump kick on.
I stood up and sloshed through the inch or so of water that was filling the airlock. It always flooded here, even when it wasn’t a state of emergency level storm. It was because there were hairline cracks in the hull of the airlock and the airlock was much lower than the scrapyard outside. Whoever designed this beast had definitely been on crack…, I thought to myself. The pump was humming merrily away and still the water was rising. It was now at two or three inches and coming up fast. I anxiously looked over my shoulder into the cargo bay. Some of the gear looked frighteningly close to the deck and I was now starting to think that maybe I should have done more than just pick the stuff up. Maybe I should have gotten it totally out of there. I saw how fast the water was rising and started to get genuinely scared. I reverted to a technique that I had used before in the airlock. I started sopping up water with old rags and wringing them into a bucket. Then, I ran the bucket outside and dumped it over the berm where the pump hose was draining. It wasn’t working. The water climbed relentlessly toward the main bay.
I saw that it was useless but I kept bailing anyway. I figured that any water that went outside instead of into the ship was good. I don’t know how many trips I made with the bucket; it seemed like I had always been wringing rags and trotting out over the hill. Again and again I ran out with the bucket, the rain and wind whipping my poncho around me. But I saw that it was futile. I was soaked and demoralized.
Then, suddenly, miraculously, it stopped raining. The water was about an inch below the main bay door when it started to recede. I sat down again and watched as the little pump began to win its battle against the swampy water. Man, I loved that pump! It kept chugging away, spewing the invading river out over the hill. I saw the water line going down and I knew that the scow was saved. I let out a long breath and saw the sunlight flicker across the small pond that now covered the scrapyard. It seemed very quiet outside, the silence only broken by the hum of the pump. I heard a bird sing.
As I reflected on the near miss, I knew that I wouldn’t be so lucky next time; I had to get the scow off planet, and soon. I was lucky to have scored the surveillance runs and I watched the feed that night and saw that others hadn’t been so lucky. The flood had drowned their ships and their hopes. I was starting to learn to trust that foreboding sensation; sometimes you can smell doom in the air.