Some Science Fiction films

Another film post, reblogged from 2013. David and Keith have seen it, but I think few others have. Science Fiction this time.

beetleypete

What is Science Fiction? It can be argued that this means different things to different people, and with justification. I will deal with those films that take a futuristic view of events, and try to imagine what life might be like, in an alternative reality, or in centuries to come. I will try to avoid ‘monster’ films, but will include robots, and space travel. Some of these are incredibly famous films, and I could not justify omitting them from this short list. If you think you know them well, have another look, and discover something you might have missed.

Things to Come. Written by H.G.Wells, and directed by Alexander Korda, this 1936 film spans a huge time period, from 1940, through to an imagined 2036. It is famous for its predictions; of the destruction of cities by massed aerial bombardment, the use of chemical and biological warfare, and post-apocalyptic…

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Guest Post: Shaily Agrawal

Something different from book promotion, today I bring you a guest post, a short story from my Indian blogging friend, Shaily.
Shaily Agrawal is an Instructional Designer with a love of telling stories. This is her first Science fiction.

Shaily is a fully-engaged blogger, and a real part of our community. Please take some time to read her story, and perhaps visit her blog to find out more about her and her work.
https://fishinthetrees.home.blog/

The Phlebologist

2266 AD.

This assignment was a bad idea. The signs were evident right from the beginning—not sure how I missed them all. Maybe, the gold in sight had blinded me with its glare. Now I could do nothing but freak out inside this dark place, waiting for someone to return for me.

I wish I had missed that call from Mikhael, my employer, six days back. He had called me back from my vacation for the fourth time in a row. If I could spit venom, I would have killed his hologram that grew from my watch.

“You better make it worth my time. I’m killing my vacation for you. Again.”

But he knew exactly how to pacify me. “Petra dear, the client promises to weigh you in gold.”

With those golden words, he had all my attention. Nothing motivated me better than money. Love I had too much of—being a tall, curvy blond—and stopped counting after my 25th boyfriend.

“Can’t tell you the name for obvious reasons, but the client is a giant in the Blood Test industry. They own thousands of laboratories across Earth with the annual turnover of several billion dollars. They are looking for information about…”

“…Sangue Heder Labs,” I finished his thought. He nodded.

“Of course! The fastest-growing laboratory chain on Earth…I assume, our client is looking for the ground-breaking technology that diagnoses the complete list of diseases, including Cancer, from a single vial of blood, that too within minutes.” He nodded again.

The breakthrough was nothing short of a miracle and was all over the papers last year. By providing general health check-ups at unbelievably low rates, they had wiped out the smaller competition in a matter of months. Now, even bigger competitors were struggling to stay open.

“I’m on it. I’ll have results in a week or less. Keep that gold ready.”

Day 1

My internet search was the first sign that I should have backed out.

In a universe connected tightly through the Universe Wide Web, celebrities can’t sneeze without someone publishing it. Yet, hardly any information existed about the most successful lab chain on Earth. All I found was that the Sangue Heder Labs were owned by Marco De Rossi, the youngest member of a multi-billionaire family. In 2099, his family was one of the first to move to Proxima Centauri B, the closest habitable planet. They traveled on the legendary Spaceship Noah’s Ark, which was loaded with seeds of all kinds and pairs of all variety of animals in the cryopreserved state. Most of them survived on Proxima, unlike Earth, populating the nearly empty planet in the next 200 years and became a wildlife preserve and favored travel destination for the super-rich celebrities around the known universe. But the family declined to share any pictures publicly throughout its 500 years history on Earth and Proxima, a practice Marco De Rossi seemed to have kept alive till date.

His company was equally elusive. Sangue Heder Labs’ website stated an address on Proxima as headquarter. They mentioned using an “ancient technique” to diagnose diseases from the blood. But there accuracy was up to three decimal digits. Was it possible with anything ancient?

Next, I contacted the patent office, off the record, only to find nothing. Sangue Heder Labs hadn’t patented the “technique”. Or maybe they couldn’t, if it really was ancient. To check whether there was any ‘ancient’ technique offering diagnosis through blood, I deep searched medical sites from Earth and Proxima, but to no avail. Some Proxima health resorts offered ancient healing through local herbs, animal extracts, and solar heat but there was nothing about diagnosis through blood.

The pictures left me wondering how it would be to live on a planet where trees still grew in forests and not pots. Someday, maybe I will too.

Day 2

The next day, I moved to Plan B, looking for the employees of Sangue Heder Labs on Social Media. Employees are a treasure of information. There is always someone complaining about their job and technology challenges. But soon, I realized that they probably had some employee agreement barring them because I found no one.

With a couple of days gone, I decided to contact them personally. Everybody has a price tag: some talk for money, others for ‘love’. But the contacts from the Earth Employee Benefits organization could not dig out a single email, address or phone number since both the organization and its employees were ‘foreign’ and protected by the inter-planetary laws.

I should have stopped then but my reputation as the best Industrial Spy on Earth wasn’t for nothing.

Day 3

I decided to catch an employee during a lunch break and strike a conversation. A couple of drinks and an attentive listener can loosen a tongue easily. Usually, they begin with the rant about too much workload, bad managers and difficult clients, and, with careful steering, can easily overstep the line of discretion and divulge their technology without really knowing.

So, I donned a brunette wig and boarded my trusted faded-grey copter—both common and anonymous. Blonds and stylish rides draw a lot of attention and blending in with the crowd was imperative for my job. I flew to the biggest Sangue Heder Lab and parked in the overcrowded rooftop parking of the Food Court next door. I sat down next to the biggest window and could see the reception of the lab through the glass wall as I ‘worked’ on my palmtop.

The receptionist was a tall gorgeous man with red hair, and suddenly I wanted to visit the lab just so that I could look at him closely. I shook my head to clear it. Where did that come from? A couple of lab technicians—different races but just as breath-taking—collected blood samples. Are all Proxima natives like that? Does fresh air and unprocessed food make you look like Roman Gods?

I waited at the cafeteria all afternoon. The Food court was busy but none of its clients were Lab employees, only the patrons nursing their pinpricks and their attendants. The closest couple was discussing the blood results they had received via email within a couple of minutes of tests. The stream of patients coming for tests never ceased, and nobody came out for lunch. The organization was probably ordering food and drinks for its employees to stop them from leaving their desk to eat. I gave up at midnight.

The facility was the biggest and busiest, so I decided to try at a smaller facility the next day.

Something wasn’t feeling right about this assignment—probably the fact that most of the clientele belonged to the low-income societies. They wouldn’t have been able to afford these tests if it wasn’t for Sangue Heder Labs. They all could have died without a diagnosis.

Conscience pricked me for a short moment.

Then it passed. I could see myself luxuriating at the Proxima resorts, looking like a Goddess, with fresh air and unprocessed food, and preferably with a boyfriend from the same planet.

Day 4

On day four, I took the Airbus to a different city and haunted the streets outside a different facility of the Sangue Heder Labs, on my uber-expensive featherweight ecobike. It was ideal for following people. When needed, I could simply fish it out of my purse, unfold it and get going at a moment’s notice. It removed the need to switch between following on foot or rush to the parking area to retrieve my coptor first.

I had planned to follow any employees out for a coffee or stroll, and meet them ‘by chance’. When the female receptionist ventured out alone late evening, I saw an opening, but as I drew closer, I had an urge to walk over and touch her skin—so flawless that it glowed in the moonlight. Considering I am straight…

By the time I had collected my wits, she was gone and returned shortly with an icebox. The opportunity to strike a conversation had passed. I was exhausted and left for the day.

Day 5

Next day, I tried another facility. While I waited for the employees to walk out to a close by cafe for a break, I searched the employees online by uploading the pictures I had taken the day before. Nothing. One of the pictures resembled one of the war prisoners from the First World War, but I wasn’t interested in ancient history right now.

No employee came out all day. At midnight, they closed the facility and all of them walked out together. I followed from a distance, hoping to catch one of them once they split-up at the Airbus station, but lost them once they turned into a dark street.

I should have given up then, considering the next move was too risky. But I was nothing, if not pig-headed.

Day 6

Now that I had tried everything else, I moved to Plan C—entering the facility. The plan was simple in theory. Get in close to closing time, hide behind something until the place closes up, and spy around after it is empty of people.

Simple…in theory.

In reality, it is too difficult to hide my 5’8” frame in a lab. Huge head offices are simpler with too many unused rooms to hide in, but labs are quite small with less number of rooms and usually no cover. I had seen it before. At that time, I had walked back out pretending I was looking for rest rooms, because Trespassing is a crime. Getting caught could earn me jail time, and my pictures in the news as an Industrial Spy could kill my anonymity and career.

So, I saved it for the most difficult and most paying cases. This one definitely qualified as both.

I had deliberately waited till Sunday, a public holiday, and chose the busiest close of the day hours to ensure that the facility was packed with people to give me the much-needed cover and more time to hunt for information, in case I didn’t get a space to hide.

Three technicians were collecting samples of fifteen patients at a time with three to four minutes between batches. With 75 patients ahead of me, I had 12-15 minutes, if I did not get a cover (which seemed like a greater probability). The hidden cameras in my earrings were already capturing footage. As soon as the technicians took samples from the people in the front, I quietly left my place.

I pretended as if I was looking for the washroom and, stealthily, slipped inside the door with the “Employees only” sign. The short lobby ended in a hall—no cover. I had a couple minutes at the most before the technician came out for more samples and discovered me. I should have turned back right then but the lure was too strong—I was a bat, blind and focused on the target alone.

I peeped in the hall. It looked like all offices. The room was bustling with activity and sounds of chit-chat. Several employees sat on comfortable chairs with the latest Palmtops. Some of them used huge Wall screens with virtual keypad holograms floating close to their fingers. Small racks of labeled blood vials sat atop a drinks table in the middle. There was no microscope in the sight to test the blood. The gray-haired man closest to me had just finished filling a blood report form on his Wall screen and sent it to the patient’s email.

I focused on him as he picked a vial, excited to finally know the trade secret of Sangue Heder Labs.

He took a long swig of the blood, swirled it in his mouth and started filling the blood report form.

I let out a tiny gasp.

Suddenly, all the eyes in the room zeroed on me. The gray-haired man I had been concentrating on was suddenly behind me and had blocked my retreat. His canines grew. I think I fainted.

I remember hearing a voice from afar. “Set her aside for dinner, Luke. We are trying to concentrate on work here.”

Now I lay inside my coffin, probably six feet underground, complete with fangs and all. Having tried unsuccessfully to claw my way out for a couple of hours, now I wait for them to come back for me. I hope they might give me a job too as a Phlebologist.

Science Fiction Fans: Please Read

I have received some information about magazines that contain great stories for fans of the Science Fiction genre. I am pleased to note that one of those featured is Unfit Magazine, from the publishers of Longshot Island. Please check out the links if you are interested.

Eight Times the Gift of Science Fiction

Here are 8 places to find great science fiction short stories. The list is divided between 4 magazines (1-4) with a more traditional lineup of authors and 4 magazines (5-8) that typically showcase younger authors. All the magazines listed here have both, making any of them a great choice as a gift for someone who wants a little of everything.

1. Galaxy’s Edge – This magazine starts with “The Editor’s Word” and believe me, Mike Resnick’s got something interesting to say each time. Although this is a newer magazine, it tends to be graced with stories by older, traditional writers, such as Robert A. Heinlein. You’ll also see Gardner Dozois who worked as an editor for Asimov’s Science Fiction (below). This magazine has wide respect among the science fiction heavy-weights.
http://www.galaxysedge.com/

2. Analog Science Fiction and Fact – Everybody loves Analog. This magazine began as Astounding Stories of Super-Science in 1930. John W. Campbell took over the magazine in 1937. It grew out of ‘the golden age of science fiction’. The name was changed to Analog Science Fiction and Fact in 1960. In 1972 Ben Bova took over and today it is run by Stanley Schmidt.
https://www.analogsf.com/

3. Asimov’s Science Fiction – What better name for a magazine than the man himself, Isaac Asimov, one of the ‘big three’ authors of science fiction, one of the originals from the golden days. This magazine began in 1977, and like Analog, is owned by Penny Publications, which handles over 80 magazines. Sheila Williams is the magazine’s current editor. The long list of established writers found within these pages includes: William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R.R. Martin, and of course, Isaac Asimov.
https://www.asimovs.com/

4. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction – Critics claim the quality of the magazine has remained consistent throughout the decades. This magazine was started in 1949 as The Magazine of Fantasy. Gordon Van Gelder took over the magazine in 1997. Today it is run by Charles C. Finlay. Along with Analog and Asimov’s, it’s one of the ‘big three’ magazines to watch out for.
https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/

5. ClarkesWorld Magazine – This magazine comes straight out of the realm of the newer digital publications. It tends to publish younger writers while working with industry superweights such as Gardner Dozois (above). The number of awards this magazine has collected is impressive for such a short run. The magazine began in 2006, is overseen by Neil Clarke, and is named in reference to him. Breaking with the traditional format, the magazine showcases stories in full on the website and offers digital copies at a reasonable price. Annual collections of the stories appear in print.
http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/

6. Unfit Magazine – This magazine has the attraction of a newer publication aimed at a younger crowd while still giving a strong nod to traditional authors. You’ll find both Robert Silverberg and Ken Liu on the pages. SFRevu calls it “a promising new magazine”. The editor is Daniel Scott White.
http://unfitmag.com/

7. Apex Magazine – The covers are fantastic. This magazine began as Apex Digest in 2005 by Jason Sizemore. In 2008 the name changed to Apex Magazine. Inside, you’ll find something new and something old. Past authors include Neil Gaiman, Ben Bova, and William F. Nolan.
https://www.apex-magazine.com/

8. Lightspeed Magazine – This magazine began in 2010 with John Joseph Adams working as the editor. The next year, Adams bought the magazine. It’s a balance of original stories and reprints. Adams is known as the “the reigning king of the anthology world” after publishing an impressive run of short story collections including authors such as Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. Adams worked as an assistant editor for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (above) prior to purchasing Lightspeed.
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/

Just been watching…(78)

Project Almanac (2015)

I love films about time travel. I have made it my business over the years to try to watch them all. No matter how obscure, old or new, I have sought them out. There are still a few waiting for me to catch up on, but I didn’t even know about this one, which popped up on a TV film channel a while back. I just got around to watching it, courtesy of a wet and dreary day in Beetley.

Before you read any further, I should perhaps caution you that this is not a great film. It is not in the same league as ‘Timecrimes’, and not as involving as ‘Primer’. But if you are as interested in the subject as I am, then it is definitely worth watching, especially free of charge on TV.

It starts like a typical American high school teen film. A bunch of ‘nerds’ who are too clever to be popular, and ignored by the good-looking girls at school. They are accompanied by the sister of one of them, David, a boy who is hoping to get into the prestigious M.I.T., with his project on drones. When he and his sister discover that their mother intends to sell the house to pay his tuition fees, they search the attic, trying to find something that their deceased father might have left behind that they can use for a new project.
They discover an old video camera.

Looking at old family films on that, David sees something that cannot be explained. His reflection in a mirror, at his own 7th birthday party. But it is the teenage David they can see, not the boy enjoying his cake. This sets the scene for the film. David, his sister, and two brainy friends begin to search the family basement, where they discover the plans for the Project Almanac of the title, a government plan to build a time machine. So they decide to build it. After a few mishaps, they eventually manage to send a toy car back in time for a few minutes, and then feel it is time to try the machine out on people.

What follows is quite entertaining. These teenagers do the things that you might expect. They go back in time with winning lottery numbers, alter exam results at school, and get VIP passes to a band’s concert. Very soon, they are the most popular kids in school, and rich enough to buy anything they need, as well as saving the house from being sold. But David is in love with one of the hottest girls at school, and uses the machine to go back in time, to make her fall for him.

Once he starts time-travelling alone, all sorts of knock-on effects begin to happen, and it is soon very apparent that using the machine to change the future has serious consequences.

You have to keep your concentration levels high when watching this. Much of it appears as jerky, ‘found footage’, as they continue to film their adventures on the old video camera. Some scenes repeat with very small differences, not unlike in ‘Groundhog Day’, and there is a lot of flashing, bright lights, and rewind/fast forward footage to deal with too. I didn’t know any of the cast, and will not bother to list them. But that worked to my advantage, as I had no preconceptions of their talents, good or bad. The special effects are kept to a minimum, and that makes the whole thing that much more realistic.

All in all, not a bad effort, and a time-travel film to tick off my list.

Retro Review: Logan’s Run (1976)

By the time I was 24 years old, you might say I had already seen pretty much everything. Years of sitting in small film clubs, watching Art House films and World Cinema, or going to the big London cinemas to watch the epics of the 1960s, and the emerging American independent films too. I was getting quite snobbish about films by then, I confess. But for some reason, I decided to go and see a new science-fiction film that was being talked about.

The cast seemed to be reliable enough. Michael York and Jenny Agutter were popular British stars at the time, and there was also the American Richard Jordan, known to me for his tough role in’The Friends of Eddie Coyle’. Peter Ustinov was also listed, along with Farrah Fawcett. A film set in some distant future, (the 23rd century) and very loosely based on a book of the same name.

This shows us a world where life is lived underground. People are given numbers instead of surnames, and a computer provides everything anyone needs for a happy and carefree existence. But all that comes at a price. Each person has a crystal embedded in their hand, and as they approach the age of thirty, it changes colour. This means that they have to go to the ceremony called ‘Carousel’, where they are spun around, eventually disappearing into the space above. They are told that those who survive Carousel are renewed, to live again in this utopia.

Some of the inhabitants try to avoid Carousel, by fleeing the city. They are called ‘Runners’, and men called ‘Sandmen’ are employed to hunt them down, and liquidate them. Logan 5 (York) and Francis 7 (Jordan) are both Sandmen, enjoying a privileged lifestyle in this society. They are aware of a secret rebel group, whose aim is to help the runners escape, to a place on the surface known only as ‘Sanctuary’, and Logan 5 decides to investigate this unknown place. Logan meets a young woman, Jessica 6. (Agutter) They become lovers, and he enlists her help in looking for the rebels, and finding the elusive ‘Sanctuary’. But when his friend Francis 7 discovers what Logan is up to, he is determined to hunt them down.

Logan and Jessica, go on the ‘Run’ of the title. On their journey they avoid capture by Box, a robot who freezes any runners it can catch, and eventually emerge into the outside world, where they discover their crystals no longer have any colour, and their life span has returned to normal. They encounter an old man, (Ustinov) the first person they have seen over the age of thirty. He is living with his cats in a derelict library, and they ask him to return to the underground city with them, to prove that people can grow old in the world above ground.

I really enjoyed this film. Helped in no small measure by the fact that Jenny Agutter was very good to look at in 1976, and also that the cast played it completely straight, and treated the unusual story very seriously. The sets and costumes were convincing, (at the time) and the dystopian vision of the future had not been overplayed in films by then. One to appreciate with a nod to nostalgia.
And it won an Oscar too, for ‘Special Visual Effects’.

Guest post: Why I wrote a novel on Climate Change

I am very pleased to be able to bring you a guest post from the accomplished writer, Felicity Harley. She is a generous and helpful community blogger and Twitter user who does much to promote the work of other writers. So I am also happy to promote her new novel here on this blog.
I will add links at the end, but here is her post for you to enjoy.

burningyears-510

WHY I WROTE A NOVEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE

I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. My favorite writers are Herbert, Asimov, Bradbury and Orwell. I tend to like science fiction writers who explore what happens to human beings within the context of societies like ours which divorce us from our essential humanity. That’s why I like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and the End of Eternity.

I think Herbert was quite prescient when he wrote Dune, because he imagined a planet and human beings living there who had to exist without water. In fact he was one of the first authors’ to popularize the importance of preserving our planet’s ecology. In my mind as well, all these authors in one way or another, examine the relationships between religion, politics and power, and also between bureaucracy and government.

Because of my own fascination with these themes, and because I’m also a student of social science by training, I set out to write a quartet of novels which would place a group of humans in a futuristic society that had failed to stop runaway climate change. I was fascinated by Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything, and both she and her book served as inspirations to
me.

The first book in my four book series entitled Until This Last, The Burning Years has recently been published by Double Dragon Press and explores a lot of hard science around what is causing climate change.

The arc of the plot is set against U.S. government of plutocrats that has fled underground, who have saved themselves and a few others, the brightest and the best. Of course there are insurgents, and one of them is a female scientist who is heavily involved in geo-engineering the weather. The book takes place about sixty years in the future, just about the time when we may experience the most dramatic effects from climate change.

I deliberately did not want to write a dystopian book, but one that was full of hope based on our finer instincts as a species, our desire to return to smaller communities, and our current and future knowledge of technology.

Now I just have to figure out how to get people to take climate change seriously. I plan to use the book as a tool to get them involved.

Please check out to buy The Burning Years on my site below and hopefully review it on Amazon for me, and to see how you can get involved with 350.org so as to keep our planet safe and livable in the future.

https://theburningyears.squarespace.com

From inside the flap

In the year, 2060, Sophie, a top female scientist, dismantles the government weather modification program and steals the male and female trans-humans who hold the promise of extended life.

While the remaining inhabitants of Earth are forced to design new underground habitats in order to survive a harsh, overheated world, Captain Rachel Chen, takes the worldship Persephone to Proxima Centauri, hoping that this new star system will provide a refuge for the survivors of the human race.

Reviews and Awards

“I LOVED this book. Even more than my just “loving it,” though, I feel very strongly that it critically bridges and transcends audiences and the timing is beyond perfect. I believe what you’ve written is incredibly important.

Your science, both current and future, is sound and far-reaching. You tap into so many levels of what’s going on, and what can possibly go on (travel beyond our planet). I really like the “voice” throughout the book, regardless of which scenario you’ve dropped the reader into. All are equally engaging and the character development is even and (almost) clinically objective. I think this will really (also) appeal to a sci-fi audience, which is awesome and very “in line” with today’s readers.

Additionally, I have to admit that I was haunted by your descriptions of the plutocracy and their reckless disregard for the vast majority of living things on Earth. What OTHER possible explanation can there even BE than yours (that they consider everyone but themselves to be “takers”)? Your descriptions of the political elite align perfectly with real-time scenes playing out across America right now.

The mix and “balance” of gloom and despair vs. incredible scientific achievements removed what might have become an almost claustrophobic effect. Example: The US population goes from 318 million to 10 million VS Rachel’s living, breathing personal space on Persephone which made me think of the vividness and aching beauty of the forests in the movie, “Avatar.” Very hard to achieve this effect,

[Side bar: VERY nice weaving of string theory, parallel universes, quantum entanglement, Maslow, and the heliosphere’s foam zone in the book! Also, excellent timing with “Stranger Things” making the US Department of Energy out to potentially be devastating in the future– and you’ve got DARPA. Perfect!]

After I finished the book, I again visited your website for The Burning Years. As I scrolled down to the pictures at the bottom, seeing them for the first time, it was SO NEAT. I advise anyone who reads the book to do the same thing.

https://schatziesearthproject.com

“Here’s a fiction that’s not afraid to tackle some of the biggest topics of our time.”

Bill McKibben, author, The End of Nature and numerous environmental books, and founder of 350.org

“…the journey through a different way of inhabiting our solar system based on the latest technologies, developments, and beliefs about who we are and our relationship to living, life, and space…It’s wonderful―”

Rachel Armstrong, TED Senior Fellow, Professor and Pioneer of “Living Architecture”

You can check out Felitity’s blog here, and read more about her work.
https://theshammuramat.wordpress.com/
The book is available here from Amazon.

Aurelia’s new job

This is another fictional short story. Science Fiction seems to be popular, so I thought I would try my hand at it. It is just over 1800 words.

She woke up to find someone removing the stickers from her body, and sliding out the various tubes. They were not being too gentle, but she hadn’t come around properly yet, and the plastic guard in her mouth made it impossible to talk. A torrent of water suddenly descended on her, hot and soapy, smelling a little of disinfectant. This was followed by blasts of warm air, powerful enough to make her have to close her eyes. She reached inside her mouth, and pulled out the guard. It was supposed to stop you grinding your teeth, and biting your tongue, but it felt like someone’s hand was in there, and she was immediately thirsty when it slid out.

The flight operatives helped everyone out of the cubicles. They gave Aurelia a micro-fibre smock to put on, and a large beaker of water, which she drained in grateful gulps. Her legs felt surprisingly strong, despite the lack of exercise, and she was able to walk over to the long row of tables without difficulty. Looking around at some of her fellow passengers, she mentally counted, ten tables, eight to a table. They were a mixed bag, mostly young women, with a few hard-looking guys dotted here and there. A bowl was placed in front of her. It looked like porridge, but smelt like cabbage. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Eat it slowly, take lots of time. Don’t bolt it.” The operatives repeated this like a mantra, as they put each bowl down.

She had seen the advertisement for the job on her thigh pad, as she sat reading through some Alliance News. It had popped up, offering jobs on a distant planet, at great rates of pay. Three million Yuan a year was more than twice what she got for supervising machines in the factory that made things that she didn’t even know what they were used for. Watching robots for ten hours a day, pressing buttons to confirm manufacturing targets, and nobody to talk to, except her complaining manager. The high spot of the day might be a breakdown, and having to call in the repair crew. After more than four years of this, Aurelia was wondering what she was going to do with her life, and the bright advertisement came just at the right time. She had never heard of the numbered rock, or the thing mined there, Magnatite, which was apparently used in the latest propulsion systems. Still, she had nothing to lose, so she pressed the button to be contacted by the company.

The interview process was more medical than academic. Scans, tests, and more tests. Access to her doctor’s records had to be allowed, and she was asked interminable questions about her health. It left her wondering how hard it was going to be. She was only twenty-two years old, and fit and well, as far as he was aware. The so-called ‘Space Training’ was nothing like she had expected. When she asked about space suits, they laughed. ” You won’t ever be outside.”, she was told. There was a lot of stuff she did’t really understand. Even with the latest and fastest ships, it still took over a year to get there. Most of that would be spent in a sort of induced coma, watched over by flight operatives from the airline. They were told that once they arrived, over ten years of Earth time would have expired, so that everyone they knew would be ten years older, but they would only have aged one year. Because of this, they wanted people with no emotional attachments, who would not be missing any partners, or family.

After fourteen days, she was told that she had the job, if she wanted it. They gave her twenty-four hours to decide. She would have to give up her apartment, settle her affairs, and prepare to live on the planet, according to the company’s rules and regulations. Food and utilities would be supplied, and the salary could be banked, to be drawn on as required. It seemed alright to Aurelia, so she entered her signature code, and agreed to the contract. Seven days later, she was due to report to the interstellar transport, and her new life. Part of her felt content. She was now employed by Magnatrix International, and they would look after her for the duration of her fifteen year contract. There would be room and board, and all training and uniform would be provided once she arrived. The job options were vague, but most involved service industries, like Hospitality, or Reception. She and her colleagues would make life run smoothly for the hundreds of miners that worked there. At that salary, she couldn’t care less.

Once they had been orbiting for a day or so, Aurelia felt stronger, and more like her old self. Some solid food had made all the difference, and she had been told that the planet shuttle would be there to collect them later that afternoon. Everyone had been given a grey trouser suit, and some toiletries. Before the transport arrived, she was excited to get the first glimpse of her new home, through the observation portal on the departure deck. It was a huge planet, twice the size of Earth, and completely black. No blue skies or water could be seen, as all the natural water was below the surface, and had been purified by years of industry and difficult construction. They had told her that the mining colony was only two square miles, just a tiny percentage of what she could see.

The trip was short, and once through the marginal atmosphere, it was very smooth. At the landing dock, the men and women were separated. The men went off to the mining camp and dormitory, and the women were sent along a mechanical walkway to the reception and welcome area. Her tag was scanned, and she was assigned to a group of ten. They were shown into an elevator that took them many floors below the surface. There was a lot of noise. The rattle of the fans, the excessive hum of the air circulation, and the constant announcements from the unseen public address system. After so long at peace, it felt like being in a busy market, and Aurelia failed to catch most of what was being said. They arrived in a large room, full of tables, and smelling of stale food. The walls were decorated with old posters, historical artifacts from the days when people went to buildings called cinemas, and watched things called films. They showed monsters and spacemen, fantastical aliens and unrealistic space liners. Everyone knew by now that there were no aliens. No monsters lurked in the distant reaches of the galaxy. There were only humans, and their quest for new minerals, and planets to colonise. They were told that this was called the Rest Room, and that they would eat here, on their breaks.

An attractive young woman came to talk to her group. She said that they would all be assigned a room, and that they would be expected to start work immediately. After all, they had been paid to sleep for a year, so they had to catch up on what they already owed the company. Aurelia thought about this, for the first time. Had she not been paid for the trip? Did they count the long journey as part of her contract, or expect her to owe them that time? She raised her hand to ask these questions, but was waved down by the supervisor. The woman slapped her hands together, and told them that the company expected full cooperation with their instructions, and that any refusal to carry out the allotted tasks would result in a return to Earth the following year, with a reduction in pay. Aurelia couldn’t understand why she was being so shitty about things. She looked at the other girls in her group. Heads down, staring at their sandals, they seemed beaten and compliant, and they had only just arrived.

She was taken away with the rest, and shown to a room in a long corridor. It was hardly larger than the double bed on a metal platform that almost filled it. A video screen filled one of the walls, and behind the bed, a partition hid a tiny bathroom, with toilet, sink, and shower. The supervisor told her, “Make sure that you keep the credit slips. They are the only way to prove that you have worked, and the only guarantee that you will be given food and medical support.” She indicated some stuff that lay on the bed, adding, ” Put on your uniform, and then press the green button on the video screen. That tells Central that you are ready to work. Make sure you press it correctly, and on time, or someone will come to check. And you don’t want that to happen.” The rest of them left, followed by the supervisor, and the door slid shut with a whoosh. Aurelia looked at the uniform. It was black, and completely see-through from neck to ankles. It resembled a gauze, floating and insubstantial.

She threw it back on the bed, and sat down, inspecting the small room. The bed was hard and uncomfortable, and too large for the space. It almost touched the door at one end, and was hard against the partition at the other. She checked the bathroom, running water from the sink, and splashing it over her face. There was a noise from next door. The screen had come to life, and the face of the young supervisor was there. “Put on your uniform now.”, she ordered, ” And press the button in the next two minutes, or there is going to be trouble.” Aurelia could tell by her tone that she wasn’t fooling. She removed her clothes, and slipped the flimsy dress over her head. Reaching out, she pressed the large green button at the bottom of the screen.

A few minutes later, her door opened and a man entered. He was huge, ugly, and dirty. He looked to be about forty years old, and his shaved head was covered in black dust. He started to unbuckle his trousers, not even looking at her. “What do you want here?”, said Aurelia, her voice high-pitched and assertive. His accent was strange, probably European. “What I have worked for, and paid for”, he growled, pushing her back onto the bed, and lifting her dress. He showed her the credit slip, then returned it to his pocket. His weight was unexpected, and drove the breath from her. As his tongue licked her neck, she shuddered. For some reason, she thought of the posters in the Rest Room. One of them had some strange words on it. She had thought at the time that they were unusual, and she had never heard anything like them.’In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.’

The man slipped his trousers down around his knees.

Aurelia screamed anyway.