Sunday, October 3, 2010

LSQ: The Tourist

As I've mentioned before, Luna Station Quarterly is hosting 31 days of writing challenges. You can jump in at any time. This is day three, but I'm taking a break from other things to pop in with this odd bit of sci-fi.

The Tourist

The Mars Central Time Converter malfunctioned, sending the twelfth tourist that day back three hours and into a transistor dump that had closed sometime in the 2750's. They already had Rosa stationed there, waiting, though at the Grifton Desert Plateau, they naturally told everyone that such occurences weren't liable to happen anymore, since Mech Services had fixed the bug in the code. Please, enjoy the Plateau. Explore to your heart's content, knowing you are in complete safety. And remember, freshly made ice cold sno cones, just like on Earth, waiting at the concessions once you've finished. All flavors, including rainbow!

Rosa stared at the newcomer. He sat on his ass atop a heap of ancient transistors, his expensive loafers knocked off by the fall. His hair flopped in his face, not unattractively, and the surprised look he wore almost made her job worth it.


"So sorry for the inconvenience, sir. Please, have a complimentary pass to the Infinity Deck atop the hotel, and here is a voucher for the dessert of your choice at the Bradbury restaurant, Mars' only Michelin-starred dining facility."

He stared dumbly down at her hand. "How do I get back to the Griffin--"

"Grifton Desert Plateau." She waved, sighing to herself. "Over there. We've established a temporary port that will return you to the lobby." A necessary untruth. The lobby belonged to a research office in which the unfortunate party would be forced to wait as they caught up to the moment from which they'd been abducted, an entertaining visit that would also, subtly and unknown to the visitor, re-set their body clock by a minute amount. Hardly worth mentioning.

"They said this wouldn't happen again."

"Your vouchers, sir." Best to keep the conversation short. How she hated to get into arguments out here. "I'm sure you'll want to get back to your friends or family as quickly as possible."

"No. I'm here alone."

Alone? No one came to Mars alone, unless he was here on employment tags. It didn't matter. The male to female ratio was outrageously in favor of the ladies, and Rosa had had quite enough of being hit on by lonely engineers and construction workers thirty-six million miles from home.

"They said it wouldn't happen again, but I took a chance."

"Yes. And once more, we apologize."

"Don't apologize." He grinned, showing teeth so perfect only a dentist-droid could have made them. "This worked out perfectly."

"I'm..." Rosa frowned. This was not how they usually reacted. "Excuse me?"

"Where did you say the portal was?"

Another sigh. She turned, exaggerating with her arm. "Right over th--"

Her breath choked off, as efficiently and sharply as if she'd stepped outside the domes into Mars' own atmosphere. For a startled moment, she thought that was what had, indeed, happened -- that the damned engineers had made yet another mistake, and the transistor dump's dome had moved, evaporating and leaving her exposed. But instead of crushing heat, instead of a red landscape, she saw, frantically, that nothing had changed.

The pressure around her neck increased. She clawed first at her mouth, then at his hands. His impossible hands. What was he doing? A game? Dear God, dear God, she couldn't breathe, her eyes hurt, her lungs screamed, and she fell to her knees.

When he was finished, Jack Shott dragged her body to the edge of the heap and pulled a minimal amount of transistor debris atop her body, just enough so that her corpse would not be obvious when the next tourist fell through. And then he waited. Mars had grown too fast, become too popular. Repair services were notoriously delayed, and often shoddy. It could be days before they fixed the code.

While he waited, he fingered the vouchers in his pocket, thinking of which dessert he would pick.


Thank you for stopping by and reading.

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