05 August 2011

"Kangaroo Fails"

By Curtis C. Chen

I step into the lounge and go blind. I think I make a noise as I close my eyes, and then I notice the overload indicator in the corner of my vision. I move my eyes around until the night vision enhancement switches off. All this I do instinctively, so I don't even feel nervous until I open my eyes and see the three security guards standing in front of me, stunners raised.

The one in the middle and closest to me is a tall woman with cold, pale blue eyes. I wonder if they always look like that, or if it's only when she catches a trespasser. The two men flanking her seem just as unhappy to see me.

"Hands where I can see them," the woman says. Her finger just touching the trigger. She really wants an excuse to shoot me.

I raise my arms slowly. They're much too concerned about a mere trespasser. They were looking for someone. Someone dangerous. The woman is holding her stunner too firmly, and her arms are braced against a nonexistent recoil. She's wishing she had an actual firearm, so she can drop me if I make a move. What the hell is going on?

"Mike, pat him down," she says. The man to her right holsters his weapon and gives me a very thorough frisking. I decide not to make the obvious joke. These guys aren't in the mood.

"He's clean," Mike says.

"Look, I'm sorry," I say, doing my best to sound pathetic. "I—I didn't think anybody would—"

"Shut up," the woman says.

I shut up. She's actually thinking about whether she should shoot first and ask questions later.

"Danny, scan him," she says.

I wonder what kind of scanner a cruise ship's security personnel would have access to. I stop wondering when Danny grabs my head and flashes a penlight in my left eye. The retinal imager strobes for a second, then beeps. Danny looks at it and frowns.

"It's giving me an error," he says.

"Try the right eye," I offer. "I've had surgery." It's not a lie.

"Do it," the woman says.

Danny blinds my right eye for a second, then reads off the result. "Evan Rogers. Passenger list says he's a researcher for the State Department."

The woman seems disappointed, but doesn't lower her stunner.

"What were you doing outside the ship, Mister Rogers?" she asks.

"I just wanted to do another excursion. By myself," I say. "I did a spacewalk yesterday, and it was so amazing, I just wanted to enjoy that—that freedom without a bunch of noisy people all around me. I'm sorry if I caused any trouble."

She mulls this over for a moment, probably trying to decide if I'm lying or not. I'm pretty sure she can't tell. I'm good at my job.

Then she takes one step foward and jams the tip of her stunner up under my chin.

"What the hell were you doing outside the ship?"

Apparently I'm not that good.


Image: Mooki FAIL by Chuck Olsen, February, 2010

01 August 2011

The End is Near... for the Clarion 2011 Write-a-Thon

This is it! The sixth and final week of the Clarion UCSD workshop, and also the last days when you can donate to this year's Write-a-Thon.

Why should you care? I can't say it any better than Mishell Baker already has:

And now, the more specific incentives:
Ready to donate? Go for it!

Of course, you're also free to support the other fine writers also participating. Your entire, tax-deductible amount goes directly to the non-profit Clarion Foundation, which runs annual workshops to train the best and brightest new talent in speculative fiction. We writers are participating to help this genre flourish and grow, and we hope you'll donate because you want the same.

Thanks in advance!