Microcosms 125

Greetings, everyone, and welcome to Microcosms 125. Apologies for the brief delay. My first time back in months, and I’m a little rusty with the time! Apologies for the lengthy absence, and HUGE thanks to Geoff for carrying the torch for so long. I had a prolonged illness but am doing so much better, now. And I’m thrilled to be back!

It’s been a while, and I thought I’d do a throwback to the old days and choose elements based on today in history. Most of the characters and settings you’ll see involve that.



(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be a guest host, please contact us.)


Our contest this week begins with THREE things: character, location and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Activist, Location: Newsroom, and genre: Steampunk.

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button, and the slot machine will come up with a new set – character, location and genre. You can keep clicking until you have a set of elements that inspires you.

*** HEY! Remember to include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry – not included in the word count.


  • News Reporter
  • Soldier
  • Activist
  • Accused Murderer
  • Miner
  • Educator
  • Actress
  • Newsroom
  • Battlefield
  • Prison
  • Courthouse
  • Mine
  • School
  • Film Set
  • Steampunk
  • Crime
  • Poetry
  • Memoir
  • Sci-Fi
  • Mystery



Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Stephanie Cornelius, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.


REMEMBER: all submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length (excluding the title).

You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EST) to write and submit your masterpiece.

You have an extra 15 minutes because I goofed!

*** If you are new to Microcosms, remember to check out the full submission guidelines. ***

All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 126
Microcosms 124

26 thoughts on “Microcosms 125

  1. Twitter: @billmelaterplea
    300 words
    News Reporter; School; Crime

    What If They Actually Did It?

    So, I’m driving down to Clarence Burbridge High School lickety-split with my photographer-sidekick, Billy the Kid Bunsell, and I’m thinking, “Kee-rist, somebody is paying attention to that buffoon and look what happens.” Billy’s like, reading my mind, because he punches me on the arm and says, “Stay in the right lane, Dumb Quixote,” which works ‘cause I was veering into oncoming traffic and that ain’t no way to get a story.

    “Sorry, Billy,” I say, and I get us back on track.

    I catch a glimpse of old Clarence B off in the distance and nod, “We’re almost there.” Billy bounces back with, “Yeah, I know. It’s my Alma Mater,“ which is news to me.

    We try to pull into the school parking lot, but the Constabulary has the place surrounded and apparently don’t want the press underfoot. I park a few hundred yards down the street. We get out and watch the mayhem. Kids are pouring out of the exits like they are a broken bag of marbles, hands reaching for the sky, tripping over each other like they’ve never been in a riot before.

    “We’re not gonna get much closer, Billy. Let’s see if we can grab a student. Billy spots a couple of the urchins weeping on a strip of lawn. He snaps them, and I ask, “Hey, we’re from the Chronicle. Can we talk to you?”

    One, a boy, couple of unfortunate pimples on either side of his nose, says, “What’s the Chronicle?”

    I have no idea if the sweet lad is yanking my chain, so I clarify. “We’re reporters. What happened? Did you see the shooter?”

    “It was old man Bubblehead. Teaches Chem. Hair trigger on his gun.”

    “Bubblehead?” I ask. “Is that a name?”

    “Term of endearment,” he says. “Shot the Bunsen burner dead.”

  2. Twitter: @CarinMarais
    300 words
    News Reporter; Battlefield; Sci-Fi


    “We can’t broadcast this.” The suited man stared in disgust at the reporter’s footage of the aftermath of one of the battles on Babylon.
    The reporter’s red-rimmed eyes stared at the screen. “It shouldn’t be hidden.” He used two fingers to zoom in on the two figures in the centre of the screen. “Everyone should see this – both sides.”
    “Like hell they will!” the man tried snatching the phone from the reporter. “I haven’t spent half of my money to let everything be destroyed by some kind of set-up between an alien and a human.
    “Have you ever been to the aftermath of a fight where your weapons are used? Seen the maggots, flies and carrion animals? Smelled the stench of rotting flesh and blood? I have. All while you have been sitting safely in your office.” The reporter’s fingers flew over the screen, posting the video to social media. Views began to stream in.
    “Bastard!” the man shouted and a shot rang out. The reporter crumpled to the floor. The phone fell out of his hand, the video still playing on loop; this time with sound added.
    An alien crouched over a dying human soldier. The soldier, trembling, reached to his pocket, pointing and the alien removed a small, red book. The alien looked from the Gideon’s Bible to the man.
    “I don’t know your religion well,” it said slowly. Its English accent showed that it was probably one of the scholars who had studied with the humans before the war.
    “Pray for me,” the soldier sobbed, clutching his enemy’s hands. “Forgive me, I had no choice.”
    The alien started at this. “Neither did I,” he said.
    The human began to mumble, the alien repeating his words. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”

  3. Twitter: @steveweave71
    282 words
    News Reporter; Battlefield; Poetry

    Ship To Shore

    There is only a gentle autumn sea breeze. I’m reporting from the shoreline of a disappearing sea. I am with a band of beggars sitting on a beach that is red, stained with the blood of the many. The tide may come in and wash it away, and with it the bodies, the detritus. For the past week, this beach has been a battlefield.

    “Couldn’t you run, escape, get away from the invaders?” I ask them.

    “What’s the use?” I am told by these forlorn survivors. “We are an empty pocket, the split lining, inhabitants of the poor zone. It’s the same old story always told. They told us we were the first line of defence. From what? They didn’t say. They gave us guns that were faulty. It was like taking a fart to a shitfight. We were hopelessly outnumbered. The reinforcements didn’t materialise. There was nowhere to go. When the battlefield is a beach, you can’t hide in the trees, there are none. You can’t run for the shadows. There are none of those, either.”

    For these are the times we’re living in,
    Huddled together, sheltered in slums,
    Our bellies empty, we living on crumbs,
    It wasn’t like we set the bar very high,
    Just to the mist, the moon and the midnight skies.

    I remembered the poem they chanted. It was taken from a song by a long-ago London group called The Strange Band. I’ll check when I return to the newsroom. I think it was called ‘Ship To Shore’. But, for now, this is Caleb McEvoy, for Station XLYPK, here on Makepeace Beach, scene of the most recent, dreadful invasion, returning you to Vincent Best in the studio.

  4. Twitter: @NthatoMorakabi
    300 words
    News Reporter; Newsroom; Steampunk

    The Epoch of a Reporter

    There’s a constant clacking from Cindy O’Toole’s typer in the other room, followed by the hiss and clang of the carriage setting back in place. A haze of smoke sits in the newsroom like a cloud of sulphur from the cigs in everyone’s mouth. We all puff endlessly.
    It is otherwise silent – even Ben Johnson from the funnies has no quips to the rolling film that plays on the wall behind Editor Ken Dunham. His bulky arms, usually crossed, hang by his sides in defeat.
    As the film flickers to an end, he swivels to us, skin sicky pale.
    “That’s… that’s all we have.” He says, tired eyes falling on each of us with the languidness of a dying ticker. “Who wants to report it?”
    We sit silent. Glances are diverted to feet, blank notepads or the wall peppered with past editions of trivial occurrences here in New Melwell. Nothing this big.
    “No one?” Dunham asks, before letting out a long sigh that billows smoke from the almost smouldered smoke in his mouth. He pulls it out and stabs it into the tray on the table.
    “I will.” I finally say, and there’s an almost audible relief across the newsroom.
    “Davis. You sure you’re up for it? This… this is some bad shit for a greeny.”
    I shrug. “Ain’t nobody signing up so…”
    Dunham thinks for a moment, scans the room and sees no one coming to my rescue. He snaps the film from the tripod and slides it across the table.
    “Detective John Falon is the guy to talk to.”
    I nod. I know.
    It had taken a while for my murders to be big enough for the newsroom. Now I could cover my own story while keeping abreast of the city bobby.
    I hid my smile.

  5. 192 words
    Activist; Newsroom; Steampunk


    “Good evening, and welcome to ‘Strange but True’, from the newsroom of Valley Independent TV. Tonight we introduce the famous activist and inventor ‘Dragonfly’.

    “Dragonfly, please tell us about your work.”

    “Greetings. I am the founder member of ‘P. O. O. S. C.’ (Preventing Out-of-Season Comestibles). I graffiti polytunnels, egg and flower bomb government officials, and chalk our slogans on pavements outside council offices.”

    “Have you ever been arrested for these activities?”

    “Oh, dear me, no. Mainly due to my invention, and incidentally the inspiration for my codename – Dragonfly.”

    “I see you have it there. Could you put it on and explain its workings for us?”

    “Certainly. As you see, it is in the form of an anorak, and contains a rocket assembly, battery-powered ignition and a small but sufficient quantity of fuel which provides a rapid airborne escape.”

    “Er… sorry, Dragonfly. While putting on your flying thingy, you seem to have dislodged your lapel-mic. Can we have an engineer, please? Simon, thank you. Be careful! Don’t touch the red button… don’t tou–! Oh dear…

    “Er… While our next guest is getting ready, a word from our sponsors.”

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  6. 223 words
    Activist; Newsroom; Steampunk

    What is a Soft Target?

    “I can’t believe you did that. You bloody fool!” he screamed at the top of his voice. All the newsroom heads swivelled in his direction. A lame grin spread across his chubby features.
    He continued in hushed tones. “Did anybody actually see you?”
    Melody, his fellow reporter, co-conspirator and occasional lover replied with a gentle simper. “Of course not!”
    “Why couldn’t you wait until the weekend?”
    “You always tell me to use my initiative.” An unanswerable riposte.
    Why had he trusted her with the task? Of late, there had been little to report. Nothing you could really get your teeth into. And then he had a brainwave. We’ll create the news and then report it. Simple solution – some damage, no lost lives!
    Two days later.
    Failed Assassination Attempt on well-respected Senator Gradbach – no new leads!
    “It was weird that the explosion occurred in the very front carriage of the Senator’s luxury steam train. He was never really in any danger! mused Eleanor Shoosmith, Editor in Chief of the Chronicle.
    Meanwhile in the open plan office next door, a brisk conversation ensued.
    “When I said choose a soft target, I didn’t mean a much-loved philanthropist.”
    “Yes, but I’ve never liked the fact that he promotes free rail passes to those of so-called limited means. You get all sorts of riff-raff on the railways nowadays!”

  7. 298 words
    Activist; Newsroom; Steampunk

    Printed Feelings

    He was a true activist. Not the kind from the 21st century, who was all talk and no show. Here, in the newsroom, sixty floors under the Empire State Building, was where the magic happened.

    The huge, steam-run, printing press was the only one of its kind and it printed the newspaper of tomorrow. He ran this press that determined the weather, the politics and the sports. He did all this, so that those who lived “up there”, would have their Utopia. He was proud of his work and had reason to be. There hadn’t been a war in the last two centuries. Illness had been eradicated. Human beings lived forever. There was no poverty and no crime. All he had to do was get the paper to the people.

    He looked around him. The newsroom was buzzing with excitement. Some things never change. The press was hard at work printing tomorrow’s news. A cute scandal involving dogs, a beauty queen crowned, a good rainfall in the farmlands. It was all going well until a screeching sound halted the printing.

    Everyone froze. This had never happened.

    He began to panic. Sweat poured off him as he checked the machine from top to bottom. He knocked about inside and came out looking like a chimney sweep. Eventually he kicked the machine, tears of frustration making streaks across his face. With a sigh and a rattle, the machine started up again, clanking away, printing papers. Everyone sighed with relief and carried on.

    It was only later when he was binding the late edition that he saw the small article at the bottom of the back page about a machine that had been abused that day. Feeling ashamed, he walked over to the press, patted her gently and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

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  8. 300 words
    Actress; Film Set; Memoir

    The Bishop and the Actress

    To this day I’ll never forget the time when the bishop visited the film set. The star of our production, Miss Karmen Ghedit, could not restrain herself. She welcomed him onto the set with the words, ‘Why don’t you come inside? As the actress said to the bishop.’ Every time she opened her mouth, out came a stream of innuendo and dubious comments of a licentious nature. The bishop was a good sport and played along saying, as she bent down in front of him to genuflect, ’For what I am about to receive, may the Lord make me truly thankful.’ They discussed swapping autographs and she asked whether he’d be good enough to give her one.

    This all kept the film crew in stitches. The banter went back and forth as phrases such as, ‘It’s too stiff for me to manage it’ and, ‘Sorry, it just slipped out’ were worked into the conversation. The double entendres came so thick and fast that they were hard to swallow. The highlight of the day had to be when the bishop managed to cut his thumb while arranging some roses from a fan for Miss Ghedit, she later enquired after his injury, asking, ‘how was his prick?’ to which he replied, ‘Throbbing.’ There wasn’t a dry eye on the set.

    She kept it up to the very end, when saying goodbye at the end of the day she was heard to say, thank you for coming, before adding that she expected to see him at the premier of the film where she’d expect a warm hand on her opening. Later, when I questioned her about her behaviour, she explained that the thought of being with a bishop just brought out her naughty side, saying, ’I didn’t know I had it in me.’

  9. 300 words
    Accused Murderer; Newsroom; Steampunk

    Crime and Judgement

    “Pippa, just wait–”

    The box of newspapers was surprisingly aerodynamic. Faust hit the ground. His legs splayed backwards and smacked some sort of table, and there was a mighty crash. Papers fluttered down around him like butterflies.

    “You kill President Donner, and then you break my printing press?”

    Thoughts flooded to Faust: it’s not broken, it’s just a model, but none of them. “I didn’t kill President Donner!”

    “You were caught on live television!”

    Faust dodged as a keyboard flew out of nowhere. “I know! I know, Pippa! But it wasn’t me! I don’t know what happened! No, I never loved President Donner! But I’m not a murderer!”

    He looked at her from the floor and saw her relax slightly, curling in on herself. “No. You’re not. You idiot, you just complain and complain and can’t be proactive to save your life.”


    Pippa held up a pencil like a knife.

    “But you understand! I wouldn’t have done it!”

    “Then who…”

    “I don’t know.”

    Pippa cast her pencil to the side and gave a rough laugh.

    “I’m so sorry, Pippa. I knew what he meant to you. What he meant to everyone. Real free press for the first time in twenty years–I hated him, but that was something amazing. There are plenty of people that hate him for my reasons. I was just the most vocal. I never would’ve–but you know that by now.

    “Someone knew I was a good scapegoat and stole my face, I don’t know, but now I need your help. I need you to help me clear my name. To figure out what happened.”

    Faust pushed himself off of the ground. Pippa was gazing at him with turbulent eyes. She looked angry, haunted, tired.

    She closed her eyes and then sighed.

    “Alright, Faust. Let’s do this.”

  10. 297 words
    Accused Murderer; Film Set; Memoir


    When I first tried out, following my acting ambition- I didn’t expect to land the role of the ‘Accused Murderer’. However, me being me decided that if I wanted to make it anywhere in Zollywood, taking this chance was all I had. So there I was on the film set, reading over my lines for the 27th time that day. Ignoring the other actress for the time being as she kept glancing at me. At first it seemed like maybe she was checking me out; but as the day wore on, I noticed more of a darkness behind those shiny eyes. The set was impressive- we were acting in a living room setting, so it wasn’t super intimidating unless you had a problem with a lot of film crew sticking Boom Mics and cameras in your face. Not to mention all the times I screwed up my lines. I had just delivered a perfect line, so flawless that the director said he was chilled by my skill. We chose to wrap up for the night after that take. The set felt eerie with the crew leaving- it was then when someone hissed in my ear “Good day. It was a good day.” I had tried to see who had spoken but they rushed out. A dead body was what I saw behind the brown leather couch. I nearly screamed at the bloody figure before me. A camera man came over to say goodbye, when he found the lifeless mass as well. He called the authorities. I remember being questioned vigorously, maybe because of the part I was cast- but after awhile, they let me go. No one is quite sure who did it but personally, I have a suspicion. Also, I don’t act for soap operas anymore.

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  11. Twitter: @VicenteLRuiz
    299 words
    Activist; Newsroom; Steampunk

    Public Statement

    “Has she started?” the jourmalist panted.

    “Hi, Alan! No, not yet. Man, you gotta get your shit together. We’ve been here for ages.”

    “I know, Mark,” Alan said, picking his portable aetherographer. “I don’t need to tell you what being a journalist means, nowadays.” He started scribbling.

    “Let’s see…” Alan said,”‘At the press conference of renowned suffragette…'”

    A hand snaked between the two men and picked the pad.


    “Here,” the owner of the hand said softly, “I corrected it for you. I just can’t stand typos. It’s not suffragette, it’s w-o-m-an.”

    “Thank you, Claudette,” Mark smirked. “Much appreciated.”

    “You’re welcome. This is the 19th Century, Mr Carruthers. Act as if you’re aware of it. And don’t you dare laugh, Alan Smythe, you’re not much better than him.”

    “I disagree, Claudette,” Alan said. But he wore his disarming lopsided smile. Mark was mumbling something about Mr Carruthers being his father.

    There was some disturbance and the journalist cloud stirred, the visiographers struggling to get a good image in front, while the rest readied their aetherographers in the back.

    An impressive woman entered the room, wearing her trademark trousers and jacket. Her attire had stopped being scandalous a decade ago: most of the female journalists present wore similar clothes. Her hair, however, was cropped short enough that the scar on her scalp was visible. She carried no papers, and she stopped by a dais in the center of the newsroom.

    “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the press,” she said. “Twenty years after we obtained the vote for women, we have a new goal.” She pointed at the door she had used. “We will fight to get vote rights for automatons,” she added, as a mechanical man entered.

    All the journalists started shouting at the same time.

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  12. 299 words
    Miner; Mine; Memoir

    Knock Knock

    He’d been a trapper with nothing but a candle for company unless a putter came through, pushing their cart of coal. He’d spent hours alone in the dark, stomach growling and rats squeaking, yearning for talk, but time took the edge off silence. So when the tunnels proved almost as quiet, he hadn’t minded.

    He wiped a black finger under his nose, smearing coal dust, and for a moment, looked older than thirteen. A few of the others shuffled near and sat down on lumps of stone. The oldest breathed heavy, coughing hard until black gobs broke free to be spat out. In the pub, he’d joked about his veins turning to rock and when he died he’d be worth more in coal than he could ever earn as a miner.

    They ate silently, one of them tossing a few crumbs to a canary which twittered happily in its cage. It seemed strange to him that something so used to light and air could be seemingly so happy in this cold and dark place. But he’d heard of chokedamp, and a dead bird seemed a smaller price to pay.

    He went to stuff the last bit of food in his mouth when a gnarled hand grabbed his. Startled, he looked up and into eyes that glinted like stars on a dark night.

    “Don’t be eatin’ that, lad,” muttered an old man. “Throw it o’er there, in corner…as an offerin’.”

    His gaze drifted past to the others, and he watched on bemusedly as they all threw their last mouthful of food into the darkness.

    “We need all the luck and blessin’s we can get when we’re so far from grace and this close to hell.”

    But canaries sing louder than the Knocker’s warnings, and only he got out in time.

  13. 271 Words
    Activist; Newsroom; Steampunk

    Truth or Lies?

    Bernard was, yet again, standing on his street corner soapbox – speaking the truth as he understood it to all who would stop to listen to his oratory.
    The crowd today was larger than any before, and he knew that today was the day.

    “We will storm the newsrooms!” he cried to whistles and murmurs of assent.

    “They have been feeding us propaganda and lies for years! Let them write what the people need to hear!”

    The cheers started slowly and rose to a crescendo as word spread through the crowd. New bystanders joining as they got caught up in the madness.

    Chants of:
    We want our news!
    Stop feeding us lies!

    Swept through the streets ahead of the enraged crowd. They were set on having it out with the people printing the newspapers.
    As they crowded through the door of the building, Bernard was leading them, shouting his slogans and determined that absolutely nothing could stop them.

    … until…

    .. he saw the engine… the news engine….

    Cogs turning, steam bellowing and gears squealing, all connected to a printing press on one side and a thought catcher on the other…
    The crystal and steam powered machine was glowing as it collected thoughts from everyone in the city, processed them into popular opinions and printed the news. In fact, Bernard stood, jaw agape as he watched the morning edition begin to print.
    The headline reading:

    We want real news – Local Activist rallies the city to protest.

    “Are we making the news? Or are we the news?” he thought as he slowly backed out of the room and shut the door firmly.

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  14. 300 words
    Activist; Newsroom; Steampunk

    It Wasn’t Really About Whiskey

    “There it is! Just above the horizon.” Guinevere pointed to the small cylindrical floating balloon between them and the Adirondacks.

    “We are close.” Brigadier John Ashley responded. “Sound call for the guards.”

    The deck sentinels retreated below the airship’s quarters to alert his regiment.

    “Can I get a quote from you upon the sighting of the enemy?”

    “You wheedled and wrangled your way aboard. Your press set up its facilities here. The seven of you are granted room and board. Do I now have to write it for you as well?”

    “You have crossed the Canadian border. An international incident- weeks after the debacle at Sheffield- would not please General Washington.”

    “General Washington wanted all dissenters reengaged on our soil. I know with what I have been entrusted.”

    “Why this military excursion? Grumblings have said the rebels are going to be allowed amnesty. Why not just let them go?”

    “Our countryside in a state of martial law. Our citizenry are being plundered by rebel forces. This is not the way to start a new country.”

    “You speak as one who truly believes.”

    “One day, we will live free. Looking back does not profit unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors. We must always guard against pretended patriotism. True liberty, when it takes root, is a plant of rapid growth.

    Guinevere smiled. “You’re quite eloquent when you want to be. May I quote you?” And with that she ran to the newsroom to send her story.

    “I didn’t say those words, General Washington did!” His response was heard only by the closed oak door.

    “Corporal,” nodding to the closet sentinel. “They wormed their way onboard, I’ll be damned if they get in the way of our duties. Bar the door. Then order the navigator to take us down.”

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  15. Twitter: @geofflepard
    295 words
    Activist; Newsroom; Crime

    Just How Real Do You Want Your News?

    ‘Who the hell are they?’ Ed Glint grabbed the microphone.
    On screen, four black-clad figures surrounded Roger Primm’s desk.
    ‘What’s going on, Rog?’ inquired Ed, irritation saturating his voice. The large clock showed seven minutes until they were live.
    ‘Beats me, Chuck,’ Roger remained his calm, unflappable self. ‘It must be ‘Bring a Nutter to Work’ Day.’
    One of the infiltrators said something. Roger sighed, removing his mike and earpiece. A voice, reedy and possibly female boomed around the control-room. ‘We demand you get real. This programme is fake.’
    Ed squeezed his eyes shut, as he said, ‘What? An end to fake news? Cos we…’
    ‘Shut up.’ The second figure, pencil-thin, moved next to the speaker. ‘We demand you change your approach. We want…’
    The third said, ‘Real teeth.’
    Ed frowned. He looked at his colleagues. ‘WTF? Is this some sort of dental protest?’
    The fourth figure joined the others. He was decidedly camp. ‘Make his clothes real.’
    Rog rolled his eyes and said loud enough to be heard in the booth, ‘I’ll remove my dentures and broadcast naked if that helps.’
    Ed felt his heart race. Breathing slowly he said, ‘I don’t think the quality of the news will be enhanced if the newsreader…’
    ‘Anchor, darling,’ Roger looked mock-offended.
    ‘… newscandy looks like some down-and-out with jagged gnashers…’
    The invaders appeared to have stopped listening; they’d turned on Roger who looked utterly disinterested. Then the first interloper dug into a bag and pulled out a set of hair clippers.
    Ed felt his blood drain away. ‘Jeez, it’s the Tonsorial Terrorists. Rog, Rog, get out now…’
    But he was cut off by the four figures surrounding Roger, muffling his screams as they started to remove his signature Barnett.
    At last, things had got really real.

  16. Twitter: @GriffithsKL
    300 words
    Miner; Battlefield; Sci-Fi

    Hip Miner

    First, the soil quivers, then a grimy hand penetrates the haze, tosses a sensor. After five minutes the sensor gives the all-clear, and a man bursts from the ground like a locust. Like most organics, locusts were long gone. But sometimes Ada pretends he’s a locust, or that he’s doing that romantic shut-down called “sleeping” while the battle rages overhead. A hip miner is patient. Locusts were patient.

    Ada smiles at the taste of fresh air, but he doesn’t dawdle. From body to body Ada jumps. Clinically. His lips are pressed in concentration. Find. Test. Pass. Retrieve. Find. Test. Fail. Find. Test…

    As he’s extracting a hippocampus or “hip” as they’re called, he freezes. A moan. He’s sure he heard one. Somehow they missed someone. 

    She’s beautiful, and Ada immediately begins resuscitation. Her arms are strong as she tries to fight him off, but Ada is tender as he tourniquets her severed left leg just above where a knee would be. 

    “How’d they miss you? They never…” Ada’s thoughts trail off as he scrounges for the magnetic cuffs, to stop her from hurting herself…or him. 

    “An officer.” He nods. “Impressive. I’m Ada.” 

    The officer’s response is to jam the neodymian charger into her ear. 

    “No you don’t.” Ada swipes it before it can do more than break her eardrum. “Stubborn, aren’t we?” Then he shoots her full of oxycodone and sets his course.

    The officer wakes as they arrive, and her eyes dart around the cabin. She struggles frantically against the cuffs. 

    Ada speaks into the headset. “I’ve got a live one.” 

    “Clearance, gate D-93.”

    “They put us to the head of the line for you.” 

    The officer spits.

    “Not like you’ll feel it. Donation’s a breeze compared to mining.” Ada kisses her head right where her hippocampus would be.

  17. In case, it’s useful…

    A trapper used to sit in a cutting in coal mine tunnels and open and close doors to allow other children or adults to push carts through the mine (putters) and also at intervals to allow air to flow through the mine. They were usually young children who were not yet old or strong enough for other work. In this story, laws had been introduced which resulted in children not working until they were 13 (from 1870).

    Canaries were employed as early warning systems in the 1910s, and…well…you guessed it…died, suffocating on gases (‘damps’) otherwise undetectable.

    The Knockers are similar to the Irish leprechauns or brownies, associated with mischief, little thefts and minor strange incidences; in Cornwall, they were also thought to be the spirits of dead miners, providing warnings of imminent collapses and tragedies by making knocking noises, and offering them the last bit of your pasty encouraged their favour, a concept that spread to other countries, particularly the US, when miners emigrated for work. In US, they’re better known as Tommyknockers.

  18. OK, since the Replies don’t seem to be working properly…

    Sian Brighal – Fantastic story! It’s great you give the extra info about putters and trappers. I knew about the canaries, guessed about the Knockers.
    Nikky Oliver: clever as hell!
    Roger Shipp: THIS is steampunk. Loved it!

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  19. 294 words
    A Chance to Vent
    Nadia sets her sign down as soon as she walks in, intimidated by all of the technology in here. When they told her she would have a chance to get on air, she didn’t hesitate, but now, seeing all these people rushing around, she’s not sure she belongs in here. Maybe she should have let Donner do it. He’s been through this before and knows all the ins and outs. Besides, he’s human and she’s, well, she’s illegal. That’s what this protest is all about.
    “Sit here please.” A woman with her arms full of makeup gestures with her head at a chair and Nadia drops into it with a sigh of relief. She’s been carrying that heavy sign back and forth for hours. The long desk is right in front of her and she can see the anchor having her mic set as the producer counts down the last few seconds with her fingers from inside the booth.
    It’s hard to see in here there’s so much fly-back from all the cameras. Every time one vents, the humidity level goes up by ten percent. Most of the makeup on her face is specifically for absorbing the moisture but Nadia has a hard time keeping her hands from her face as she waits for her turn in front of the cameras.
    “You’re on in five, miss.” Someone rushes up to tell her and they herd her toward a set with only two chairs and one huge steaming camera sitting in front of them. Wait until they see her engine, she thinks with a secret smile. She’s going to make their cameras look like dinosaurs when she lifts her shirt on air. Then she’ll finally be able to vent, she thinks, sweating just a little.

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