1. Katie Grace says:

    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been on last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply.
    Normally she would comply, but the new “normal” had changed in a matter of moments when she had to proofread the latest news. Right there–on the front cover–she knew that face. Same eyes, same spiked, dark hair, and same mischievous look that tended to get itself in trouble.
    Her brother.
    The text under his image?
    And to comply with the government, all Jennah had to do was publish the article.
    Simple. Or not.
    Jennah stared wide-eyed at the computer screen, heart pummeling in her chest. She minimized the window and clamped her hands in her lap, hoping that no one passing by would hear her startled gasp or notice her shaking figure.
    The light from the raised tablet held Jennah frozen in place. Her mind whirled on a wheel, turning one thought over and over and over in her mind: I can’t betray my brother.
    Then the wheels in her mind clicked to a different thought: What did he do?
    Jennah tore away from the prison of her stilled fear and reopened the article. Her brother’s face popped up again, his expression almost taunting, seeming to say, “What are you gonna do about this, sis?”
    “Oh, Damon,” Jennah muttered under her breath. She skimmed the article.
    …Damon Air, wanted for thievery and disruption of order in the city…
    Last seen: October 2nd, 3024, in the city’s underground transit.
    Height: 5’10.
    Weight: 170.
    Eyes: Blue.
    Hair: Dark brown. Short.
    Distinguishing Features: None.
    Jennah gritted her teeth. The Damon she knew wouldn’t do any of this. Yes, people knew him for his playful tricks and pranks, but they were always harmless. No one could convince her brother to do any of this. 
    She paused. Unless…  Unless someone’s life was in danger.  
    Jennah twisted her seat around and grabbed the glassy tablet so she faced the entrance of her small office. Please let no one bother me.
    She clicked “edit” in the document. She changed every Damon to Spencer and manipulated the photo until Damon’s face could no longer be recognized. A tweak here and there; the article pointed nothing to Damon.
    Only to Spencer, and only to herself after the article went out.
    But that wasn’t until tomorrow morning. She glanced at the clock. 10:42p.m.
    Jennah had roughly six hours to pack, escape, and run.
    Complying with the government Supervisors? Ha, not anymore.

  2. R. J. Skaer says:


    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply. It only meant she knew the consequences if she didn’t. Not death—that would have been too barbaric, too crude. Rehabilitation.


    One moment, one chance to make this choice. The tiny fetus’s thin arms and meager legs were moving more slowly now, in brief jerky movements that tore at her heart. She shouldn’t look. If she turned away now, if she forced her feet to move out of that sterile closet, away from the cold shine of the metal cart and its helpless burden, she’d be okay. Everything would be normal again.


    It was a boy. She shouldn’t have noticed that, it only made it harder, and…his skin was cold to the touch—oh God—so very cold and soft. And his body was light, such a tiny burden in her arms, cool against her chest, the little head cradled against her arm. What was it they said, thirty-two weeks? A sob choked her.


    “I’m sorry.” Her whisper was loud in that tiny space. No, there was no one behind her, no one to hear. The door was shut. She was trapped—no, safe—alone with her shame and her choice. “Please forgive me. Forgive us. I’m sorry, oh little guy, I’m so sorry!”


    A tear fell on the little wizened face, and as if in response the infants’ lower lip trembled, then puckered and he gave a mewling cry.


    “Don’t cry, please don’t cry.” She sounded like a little girl, her voice high-pitched and frightened. “I couldn’t help you. You need nurses and oxygen and everything—I don’t know the first thing about all that stuff. You’d be—you wouldn’t last a day no matter what I did.” He’d die anyways, and she’d still lose everything. The Supervisors knew all, they had eyes everywhere. She’d loose her position, her freedom, maybe herself; no one went in a rehabilitation center and came out the same. She’d be like Mrs. Jennings, glassy-eyed and soft-spoken, never without her icicle smile, the perfect citizen.


    Jennah forced herself to slow her frenzied rocking of the tiny form in she held. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t. This was some other woman’s choice, and she had to respect that. This was freedom. If only she hadn’t come in here looking for another box of gloves, and found the cart with it’s gruesome burden…


    What if her—her fetus—had been a boy? Would he have looked like this? She didn’t need to bear the burden for this strangers’ child too, the long years of silent grief that couldn’t be reasoned away, the piercing pain of every silent anniversary, the bitter hatred of her slim, barren body.


    A whispering creak from came behind, a breath of cold air fingered her neck. Jennah spun to find Supervisor Hauksbee filling the doorway, blank shock on his florid face.




  3. Lisa Godfrees says:

    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but
    that didn’t mean she had to comply.

    The annoyance. The complete inanity of the status updates they were required to paste and propagate. 
    What if?  She thought.
    A devious smile quirked her lips as her mind navigated the navboard. Not typing, but deleting, inserting, revising.
    She read the required update one last time. Pleased, she blink-posted and waited to see what would happen.

    I am not very selective when it comes to befriending friends and family, that’s why I have so many on Socialbook. I’m doing this at least once, so if you don’t do it now, you can catch up with me later………or not at all.
    It occurs to me that for each and every one of you on my acquaintance list, I catch myself skimming through your pictures, sharing selfies and memes, and maybe posting a cute cat picture during good and bad times (if the Socialbook algorithm is in your favor and I happen to see your post). I am also ambivalent to have some of you among my friends.
    We will see who will take the time to read this message until the end……. If you hate your friends and family from all over the world enough to manipulate their emotions through guilt and shame, copy this into your status, even if it’s just for a minute. But bonus points to you if you pin it to the top of your page.
    I’m going to be cyber-stalking to see who takes care of the friendship, just like me, the epitome of true friendship and lemming to the masses. Thank you all for being a part of my chain letter.
    Copy and paste this. DON’T SHARE!! (Because I don’t want anyone to know that this originated with me). If no one reads my wall, it’s understandable. But, if you read this, vote YES. It’s only ONE word, but life is a
    popularity contest after all, isn’t it?

    Then copy & paste this to your wall so it can be a successful
    chain letter. Afterwards, you might want to go out into the garden, roll around, and pretend you’re a carrot.

  4. Cassie Stevens says:

    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply. 

    At the time, she’d seen it as a well deserved promotion; recognition of her hard work and diligent effort on behalf of the people of Olymppolis. From her start as a cub reporter she’d worked her way onto the evening news and become a well-respected anchor. People trusted her to inform their opinions, to present factual information about a crisis—and that she cared.

    Jennah massaged her temples, feeling the beginnings of a tension headache. There were two versions of the story on the desktop in front of her: the official report and the truth.

    As Supervisor she had a say in which items would be given air-time. She’d seen it as a privilege and responsibility. But the government had their own ideas about what was news. The list of regulations was a metaphorical brick. Some regulations made sense; there was news that had to be phrased in tactful terms for all audiences. But others swept the truth under the rug—buried it in a dark cellar and threw away the key—and deliberately changed the story to meet someone’s vision of utopia.

    She salved her conscience by stepping down from the post after six months, claiming the position took time and energy she’d rather pour into her latest public interest documentary. It was easier to let others hand her the news and forget about what might have been edited out.

    There was a tap on the doorframe and the broadcast operations manager warned. “Five minutes to air, Ms. Jennah.”

    It was a story like this that had promoted Jennah from reporter to anchor. She remembered the praise she received for her handling of the volatile subject, the compassion she projected, and how people saw her as genuine and honest. If she read this with the city watching and listening, she’d go against everything young Jennah believed. If she didn’t read this, there would be a private inquiry and she could loose her position. If she told the truth…

    Jennah looked at her neat office—clean and professional but with little homey touches that made it hers—the carefully filed memories of people and stories that filled one wall—the zinnia on the windowsill—the plaques praising her work.

    Was it worth it? It was only one story, told today and forgotten tomorrow. No one remembered how she got here anymore. No one would wonder if she was using her position and reputation to hide an inconvenient truth—except those directly affected and they would be hard pressed to find someone to tell their side of the story.

    For the few, it meant everything.

    Jennah blinked back a few tears, blaming them on the headache, and walked out of her office with her head held high. She’d see how far she got before someone noticed how her words deviated from the script.

    • YES, Cassie Stevens. You did a great job portraying the dilemma Jennah faced. Really good. I liked the fact that it took a little different angle from what might expect. I would have liked to see some speculative elements included, but the tension created by her decision tipped the scale for me.


      • Cassie Stevens says:

        Oh, whoops, about the more speculative elements. (I knew there was a reason I started with the idea of Jennah-on-air being a CG rendering and the Supervisors tampering with the script thus causing Jennah’s anxiety about her integrity being compromised…)

  5. Anna Johnson says:

                   Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she had been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply.
                    Plastering the largest, fakest smile she could on her face, she quickened her stride toward the marble steps of headquarters and joined the masses of workers sweeping along towards the metal detectors. Every person in line was eerily identical; same smile, same posture, same dull eyes that were the trademark of a Supervisor.
                    Jennah was worried about her disguise. She was legendary among Supervisors and in a bad way. Would something give her away?
                    There was no more time to worry as Jennah shuffled right up to the machines. She passed through the archway, but no raucous beeping interrupted the steady efficiency of the entryway. A guard pawed through her bag. When he finished, Jennah made eye contact, said thank you and breathed a sigh of relief as she started off in the direction of the heart of the building.
                    Ten minutes later, a large door creaked open in a restricted hallway and a figure slipped into an entirely white room. The media hub was always empty and locked, as the programming that enslaved the population was completely automated; thankfully, Jennah had learned a few tricks from some very good, very underground friends.
                    Hurrying over to what appeared to be a blank wall, Jennah felt for the node along the paneling that would open the circuitry box for the central computer system. The wall slid away and a tiny red light began to blink above the rows of wires and motherboards, the weapons of choice of the government, a veritable mechanical Satan that spewed the rhetoric sanctioned by the people who controlled the world with fear and chaos.
                    Using her fingernail, Jennah pried open the plastic cover of the storage space hidden in her forearm to reveal the flat, rectangular jump drive.
                    “Jennah Sampson,” said an amused, mechanical voice above her, “We should have known you would be back. It is almost shameful that very soon you will be dead.” “Fat chance,” Jennah breathed as she glared at the red light while shoving the infected jumpdrive into the computer’s port
                    A siren wailed out. The call for guards to report to the media hub echoed as Jennah ran, throwing open the door a second before the sealing bolts shot out of the frame. To the right, Jennah knew her escape route was a hallway away, but turning the corner, she ran into the barrel of a government security guard’s weapon. Heart pounding, she gazed first at the .40 caliber aimed directly at her heart. Then she looked up. Her eyes found those of a clear blue and with a jerk of his head, the guard directed her towards the departure point that would take her to freedom.
                    Sliding out into the alleyway, Jennah straightened her clothes and walked to the intersection to join the streaming populace in obscurity as everyone made their way to the central square to stare in amazement at the pages of scripture rolling across the huge screens in place of images of war and death.

  6. Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply. “I’m afraid you’ll have to find someone else,” she said, crossing her arms and leaning against the door post. This was apparently not what Agent Williams had expected.

    “W-what do you mean,” she asked, double checking her tablet, “did I get the wrong address, I thought you were –”
    “I am.” Jennah looked down. “I also am not going to help put up any Beacons. It’s too late for that.”
    “But, you can’t be serious, they’re our only chance!”
    “Chance? We lost our chance when the Supers revealed their true nature before we could convince the wide-eyed comic fans to let us properly monitor them. If we had built the beacons six months ago we would have had a “chance”. Now though?” Jennah looked the agent in the eyes. “A single Beacon will barely slow them down, Tokyo proved that. The same would happen to us even if we could finish it.”
    “The Beacons have proven effective, you should know, you were part of the team that invented them.”
    “I was. I also always knew that each Beacon could only produce one neutralizing frequency, and most Supers have more than one power.”
    Anger flashed in Williams’ eyes. “So you’re just giving up?”
    “There just aren’t enough of us left.” She looked back inside the house. “Right now, I can’t risk my family.”
    “They’re already in danger! Or do you actually believe that when the Super’s masters arrive they’ll do anything other than enslave us all?”
    Jennah snapped back to look at her. “What do you mean, ‘masters’?”
    “You haven’t heard? It almost got missed in the chaos, but NASA spotted something just outside Jupiter’s orbit. It’s thousands of feet long, doesn’t look or behave naturally, and on it’s current path will enter Earth’s orbit in five months.”
    “The extra amino acids,” Jennah whispered after staring for a few seconds, “they really were alien, weren’t they?”
    “Yes, it would appear so. It makes sense, in a way, they alter some humans to gain powers, then take control of them to soften us up for their invasion.” All the anger had left Williams’ voice, leaving only pleading. “I know the odds are against us, but we need your help, or everyone will be doomed.”
    Things might have gone differently if her phone hadn’t beeped an alert just before she could open her mouth to agree, but after looking at the photo on the news she made the only decision she could.
    “It’s too late,” she said, holding up her phone and showing her the human shaped crystals, frozen while in the middle of running for their lives. “Geode has already reached the county. I suggest you find your family and head for the country like me.”
    “I . . .” Williams looked frightful at first, but then covered it up with a determined grimace. “I won’t. You’ll see, we’ll beat him anyway, Beacon or no Beacon, with you or without.” With that, she turned around and marched back to her car.

  7. John Turney says:

    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply.
    “Never, again,” she whispered to herself. Her breath puffed in the chilled air. She leaned against the rain soaked wall of the alley. Wet brick mixed with the scent of discarded foodstuff and rusted  metal.  The lowering rain clouds made the night even darker than normal.
    Jennah peeked around the corner of the building, where the alley dog-legged to the entrance of the alleyway. There several figures waited, their shapes  darkened by the streetlamps behind them. By their distinctive leather greatcoats, peaked caps and jackboots Jenna recognized the Supervisors. Their shadows stretched down the wet stones of the alley.
    “Not good,” she said. She withdrew and leaned back against the wall.
    “What?” The whispered question came from the young mother standing next to her. The mother held a baby in her arms. Though a thick blanket wrapped the child, the mother wore a thin shirt and jeans with holes in the knees. She had to be cold. Yet, the mother didn’t complain.
    Nor did the dozen others, hiding behind dumpsters or stacks of garbage.
    Jennah motioned for everyone to stay still. And to be quiet.
    She moved down the alley, checking the doors and windows. After several failed attempts, she found a solitary basement window someone failed to lock. She eased it open and peered inside. A dank odor drifted out of the widow, tickling her nose.
    Don’t sneeze. Her eyes watered. She covered her nose and mouth with her hand. Don’t sneeze.
    Seconds passed and so did the desire to vomit air.
    That was close.
    She shone her flashlight around the room. Old boxes on warped metal shelving. Turning off the flashlight and returning it to her jacket pocket, she gave the room one last look-over. Something didn’t feel right, but they couldn’t stay out in the alley. The Supervisors were bound to discover them.
    Jennah studied the faces of her new friends, the Forgetables. Frightened faces. Eyes dulled by hunger. Rags for clothing. The people society wanted to cast aside. Get rid of them. Hide them in a camp. Or simply dispose of them.
    Not if she could help it.
    Jennah motioned to them to come to her. When they huddled around her, she said in a low voice, “We’ll hide in here until the Supervisors pass. But we must hurry. They’re going to search this alley in a few minutes. Children and adults with children first.” Jennah nodded to the mother clutching her baby. “You go first.”
    One by one, the Forgetables slipped into the basement. Jennah tapped her foot. This was taking too long. She inched back to where the alley turned to the entrance. She saw the Supervisor’s shadows still reflecting off the ground. At least they hadn’t moved. That had to be a good sign, right?
    That’s when she heard the dogs barking.
    “Not good. Not good. Not good.”

    • Stephanie Christine says:

      Yes, John

      I liked your story and I really wonder what happened after the dogs came!  This contest was fun, but it’s the first time I’ve ever done something like this before.  Good luck!

  8. Pam Halter says:

               Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply. Besides, they were a bunch of scum sucking deviants who didn’t care for a single soul. People mattered! Lives mattered! And these were children, for God’s sake.
                “Meet me at Starbucks,” she whispered to Daniel. “We’ll be able to talk without being overheard.”
                As Jennah walked down the crowded sidewalk, she worked to not make eye contact with anyone. As a former government Supervisor, she should have protection, but after her five year stint in the agency, she knew no one was safe. The rounding up of the children was proof of that.
                At the coffee shop, Jennah ordered a pumpkin spiced latte and sat at a table in the corner, away from the window, and waited. The same fear that caused untold horror a hundred years ago on this planet was again rearing its ugly head. Who had restarted the rumors?
                She took a tentative sip and let the hot, sweet liquid run down her throat. Coffee was, hands down, her favorite thing about Earth. There was nothing like it on Crenrick. A moment later, Daniel slid into the chair across from her. They said nothing for about a minute.
                “Who restarted the rumors?” Daniel echoed her thoughts. “Krayble?”
                “Most likely,” Jennah said. “He is the most paranoid, unreasonable Crenrickling I’ve ever encountered.” She took another sip of her latte. “Drink your coffee. We need to act natural.”
                Daniel complied and Jennah went on. “The problem this time is he’s brought in the religious fanatics. He’s spreading fear that ALL the Earthling children are carrying demon seeds, and he’s learned enough of human nature to start here in the United States where there is more destructive power.”
                “Stars, I didn’t realize it was that bad,” Daniel said. “What is our next move?”
                Jennah glanced around the coffee shop before leaning in. “We’re sending in Moira.”
                “Yes, Grand-Repa Zibeth wants to strike fast and hard, but we need more inside information before she will send the fleet.”
                Daniel sat back and rubbed his head. Jennah smiled. It had taken a while to get used to having hair, but once they did, she couldn’t imagine going back to being hairless. Why hadn’t God seen fit to give the inhabitants of  Crenrick hair? Well, she couldn’t worry about that now. The problem now was to make sure Moira would pass for a child, get herself captured, and start gathering information. Without getting killed.
                Jennah reached out and grabbed Daniel’s hand. “Pray with me for a miracle, my friend.”

    • Yes!

      While I am a little confused as to what a supervisor does or the connection between the aliens and humans, your use of aliens at all makes this interesting to me.

      • Pam Halter says:

        Thanks – I’ve never written sci-fi, so I thought I’d try it. That’s a good point about the government supervisor job. I’ll have to think about that if I decide to flesh this out.

        • Now that you mention it, everyone has been doing sci-fi for this one. I’d definitely vote for a fantasy example, since I can totally understand how hard it would be to pull that off given the prompt.

  9. Okay, please DON’T vote for me. I won last time, and I don’t think it would be fair. 🙂  But I wanted to play along, even if I shouldn’t win!  Here’s what I came up with…  I want to revise it as flash fic at some point. 😀

    – – –
    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply.

    It was more interesting watching them from the tree.
    She cocked her head, gears turning inside her neck, and scanned her environment again.  Now the Supervisors were in the sewers.  Peculiar.

    The young teenager she’d rescued clung to the branch beside her, his face lit by the moonlight filtering through the foliage.  He looked even paler now than before the Supervisors began following him.

    Jennah recalled his name.  Josiah Allen.

    “They are in the sewer,” she reported.  “They believe you have fled under the street.”

    Josiah’s eyes widened – a look of surprise.  “They can’t trace you?”

    “I was decommissioned.  I am a HouseBot now.  I am a Servant, not a Supervisor.”  She turned on her smile.

    No, recalculate.  Smiles are for happy things, and being decommissioned is supposed to be sad.

    Jennah switched to a frown.

    The boy shifted away from her on the branch, suddenly putting a hand over his shirt pocket.  “You’re after it, right?  That’s why you grabbed me?”

    “I do not know what you mean.”  Jennah ran a memory search.  Nothing.  “Those Supervisors do not belong in this jurisdiction.  That is why I rescued you.”

    He relaxed, but she still read caution in his face.  “Why would you care?”

    “I am no longer a Supervisor.  I serve humans.  I am free to disobey protocol if a human requires assistance.”

    Her scanners read something small tucked inside his pocket.  “I see you are protecting something.  What do you carry?”

    He shook his head, dark curls shifting.  “If they catch you they’ll search your memory and find it.”
    “They could.  But I or my master can permanently delete any of my memories.”

    He let out a relieved breath.  “Who’s your master?”

    “I belong to Isaac Carpathy.”

    Josiah’s hands clenched around the branch, eyes wide again – dismay.  “You’re kidding.”

    Jennah put on her sad face.  “I am a robot.  I cannot make any jokes that are not in my programming.”

    “I can’t stay with you.”  The boy made a move to leap from the branch.

    Jennah caught his arm and held tight with her metal fingers.  In the struggle, Josiah lost his balance and fell with a ringing cry.  Jennah kept her hold, letting him dangle over the sidewalk below.

    “Supervisors are programmed to respond to cries of distress.”  She watched him claw frantically at her arm with his free hand.  “They will respond within five minutes.”  Scanning the streets again, she saw the other robots marching toward the ladder leading to the manhole down the street.  “I apologize.  Four minutes is more exact.”

    Josiah let out a strangled cry.  He was exposed in full view of the street.  “You care about humans, right?  What if I told you I’m carrying information that will help hundreds of humans?”

    “I do not have the ability to determine if you are lying.”

    “Let me show you, then,” he pleaded.  “Please!”

    Jennah tugged him back onto the branch.  “Insert it in my reader.”

    Josiah pulled the memory card from his pocket…

  10. Kimberli says:

    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply.

    “Well? What are we going to do?!”

    “Be quiet and let me think!” Jennah bit her bottom lip. She didn’t mean to snap at her friend, Coral. Things were not going as planned. Taking the orb from the Gyon government was easy. She knew every inch of the floating fortress. But now the appointed supervisors knew one of the core weapons was missing, and sent dragon warriors out to retrieve it—bringing the thieves in dead or alive. Being stuck in a dark, damp tunnel only added to Jennah’s bad attitude. “I’m sorry.”

    Coral walked over to Jennah. “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to watch the entrance.”

    Before Coral slipped out of sight, she turned and looked over her shoulder. “Look to Yahweh as you always do.”

    Jennah let her friend’s words sink into her heart. She was right. When Jennah supervised last year, to oversee the distribution of the orbs, she had knew their purpose. Once she found out, she refused to follow the rules and was relieved of duty. She stared at the round object, the size of an apple, mesmerized by the colors swirling inside. It was beautiful, but used for evil. Yahweh wanted it destroyed and that’s what she would do.

    Kneeling, Jennah grabbed a large rock with sharp edges and raised the orb above it, not giving thought to what would happen once the outer shell was cracked. Would it explode? Jennah swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. Hopefully Coral was far enough away to be unaffected by the outcome. Using all of her strength, Jennah plunged the weapon of destruction toward the rock.


    Jennah jumped at the sound of a familiar male voice, dropping the orb. Her pulse quickened and thundered in her ears. What was Jacob doing here? And why was he pointing a spear at her?

    “Put it down.” Jennah shivered at Jacob’s harsh tone. The darkness of the tunnel cast a shadow on his face, making him look evil.

    “What are you doing? You know this is a weapon that eliminates other worlds. It must be destroyed.”

    Without responding, Jacob walked over to her and raised the spear. “Are you prepared to die for what you believe in?”

    “Yes.” Jennah didn’t want to cry, but a tear slid down her cheek. Jacob was someone she cared for though she’d never told him. He knew of her plan. Was it a trap? She would never know. Jennah closed her eyes.

    A swift breeze swished by Jennah’s face followed by the shattering of glass. Her eyes flew open. The orb was in pieces. Jennah looked up at Jacob. A grin spread across his face.

    “The rock wouldn’t have worked.”

    Jennah collapsed against the cold wall. She didn’t know whether to hug him or punch him. She’d decide once her heart started to beat again.

  11. LadyArin says:

    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply. Whatever force the law might still have behind it, it meant nothing in the sewers.

    She had to admit, she felt a little sorry for the man. With his nice suit and neat hair, talking to a sewer runner had clearly not been his idea. He was making an admirable attempt to keep smiling, but from the way his nose kept wrinkling and his feet kept shifting, Jennah knew that his insides were wriggling like a mass of night worms.

    “I’m not surfacing,” she said. “Not for all the berries in Green End.”

    The Supervisor visibly wilted. “Please, it’s only a few questions. It won’t take long, I swear.”

    She rocked on her heels, and gripped the wall next to her with a gloved hand. The whistling he couldn’t hear was getting louder, and if he had the authority to force her, he would have already used it. “No.” Unable to wait any longer, Jennah started to back down the tunnel. “And if you knew how little it would help, you wouldn’t ask.”

    Last year, Jennah would have given him a supportive pat on the shoulder. Now, she wanted to laugh at the idea that he could learn anything from a runner. The Supervisory Office still wanted to believe in the world that had existed before the Crisis, and while Jennah couldn’t really blame them for it, she wanted nothing more to do with them.

    The Supervisor was not following, so she turned and broke into an easy jog. Water sloshed over the tops of her boots and soaked the hems of her jeans, but the tunnels were relatively dry, and would stay so until the next eclipse. Almost automatically she closed her eyes. It was easier to hear the whistling that way.

    When she first started hearing it a year ago, she had known instinctively there was no way she could explain it to her superiors. She had left for the sewers without even turning in her resignation. The runners had welcomed her. Even if they didn’t hear the same music she did, they understood. They had become runners for similar reasons.

    The whistling reached its peak, and she halted abruptly. The tunnel to her left was unusually dark, even to her eyes, and she couldn’t remember the last time she had seen someone use it. She dug into her pockets, pulled out a piece of red chalk and drew three vertical marks on the entry arch: a warning sign. As she returned the chalk to her pocket, the whistling faded into silence.

    Jennah remained where she was, staring into the void-like blackness of the tunnel. After a year of running to the whistling in her head, marking tunnels for the benefit of those who didn’t have their own warning system … maybe now was the time to find out what dangers she was protecting others from.

    She pulled out a piece of white chalk and drew a triangle under the first mark, then entered the tunnel.



  12. Eliza says:

    Vignette Title:  “The System”

    Content Warnings:  Language



    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked because she had been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply.


    “Fuck the rules, sir!  This son of a bitch has it coming!”


    “That as may be, Lieutenant, but not today,” said Supervisor Jones.  “Dequeue the targeting package.”  He had a calmness about him that was out of place in Crow’s Nest, but his authority was unquestionable.  RUMINT — rumor intelligence — held that he had been a legendary operator in his day.  Most burned out in a spectacular pyschotic break, but he had retired gracefully into a Supervisor role.  Unheard of.  Drones and cyber had almost completely replaced humans in the field, but PTSD rates were still high — especially in Crow’s Nest.


    Still, that RUMINT had to be a lie.  No operator would stomach letting this target off.  But Supervisors were so goddamn rule-bound, so obsessive-compulsive about every law, executive order, directive, policy, and memorandum.  They would rather cancel, delay, or neuter an op than run it.  “But sir, this guy is two minutes from crawling back into his hole and it may be years before he comes out again!  We might never get another — !”


    “Dequeue the targeting package.”


    “But sir –”


    “Look at where he is, Lieutenant!  Look at who he’s with!  We can’t hit him.  Let him go.”


    Reluctantly, she keyed the command.  On the other side of the world, a drone hovered over a town in waterless mountains.  Its onboard fire control switched from ready to standby.  Unperterbed, it waited with infinite machine patience for another tasking.  Jennah watched on infrared as the target’s heat signature faded.  “We could have had him,” she muttered rebelliously.  “And his buddies too.”


    “We don’t have authorization for the others,” Jones said dispassionately.


    Jennah gave him a resentful look.


    He sighed, made to go, thought better of it.  “You know why you didn’t make a good Supervisor, Lieutenant?”


    The question caught her off guard.  “Why?”


    “Because you don’t leave room for divine justice, but you’ll bend the rules to fit in your own vengeance.  The system isn’t perfect, but it’s what restrains us from turning into the bad guys.  It’s what lets us be an instrument of judgement when the time is right.”


    “And if it never is?”


    “Then there is Someone coming to judge the quick and the dead, and when that day comes, there won’t be a hole anywhere deep enough to hide.”


    Disdainfully:  “You believe that myth sir?”  What nonsense.  In Crow’s Nest!  From a Supervisor!  Who could believe such a thing these days?


    “Lieutenant,” Jones sighed, weary and sad, “I’ve been here a long time, seen a lot of bad shit go down.  I’ve watched good people die — or worse — and the bad guys get with away with it and couldn’t do a goddamned thing.  There are days when that — myth — is the only thing that keeps me from losing my mind.  And I pray to God it’s true, because if it’s not, then none of this makes sense, none of this matters, and we’re all just pissing in the wind and this job means fuckall.”

  13. Stephanie Christine says:

    Jennah knew how the government  Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply. 

    Jennah’s finger hovered over the “send” button.  She didn’t have much time and she had waited so long for this moment!  Why couldn’t she press it now?

    When she was twelve she had watched her father being taken away and never to return.  For ten years she had prepared for this.  It wasn’t easy to infiltrate the main building and get access to the control room.  For ten years she had to watch the people suffer.  For ten years she had secretly gathered evidence.  FOR TEN YEARS she had waited to free her people!

    Once she had pressed the button her message would be irrevocable.  The Council would see the sad truth about her colony’s government and the treatment of her people.  This was the only place her message could be sent.  All other Units would be constantly monitored.  THIS WAS HER ONLY CHANCE!

    Why couldn’t she press the button?–Because the button meant her death.  As soon as she pressed it, they would trace it back to her.  Surely she would be killed!

    A battle raged inside her.  I have to do this!  It’s the only way and then no one would have to suffer again.  

    But what about Momma, little Kara, Uncle Jerry, or–Todd! I shall never see them again!   

    But if  I don’t do this they could be silanced too,  just like father was!  I have to save them!     

    Her finger darted towards the button with new resolve, but she pulled it back again.

       Why did it have to be me?  Why couldn’t someone else do it who had no family and didn’t care about life? 

    She knew the answer though.

      It was always supposed to be me.  

    She pressed the button.

  14. Katherine says:



    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d

    been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply. Resenting

    the Supervisor’s intrusion into her home, she sat on one of the hard

    folding chairs in her kitchen as the pinch-faced vulture sitting

    across from her cited a complaint of theft.

    “Why should I submit to a Veritest like some criminal when you

    don’t have a warrant?”

    “Kandar Systems claims you stole some property from them while

    you were consulting on their gene repair technology,” the Supervisor

    said. “I would hope a former Supervisor would have enough respect

    for the government to cooperate.”

    If she refused, and the woman registered her as noncompliant,

    enforcers would come. Jennah pressed her lips together and held out

    one hand in answer. The Supervisor pricked her finger with a syringe.

    As the woman began the interrogation, Jennah started to sweat.


    “Is your name Jennah Elise Taylor?”


    “Did you work with Kandar Systems as a consultant?”


    “Did you steal any physical or intellectual property belonging

    to Kandar Systems?”

    “No, I did not.”

    The Supervisor asked a few more questions, and Jennah answered

    them truthfully. The woman finally stood up, brushing imaginary dirt

    off her pantsuit.

    “Thank you for your time, Ms. Taylor.”

    “Thank you for your service to the Commonwealth, Supervisor,”

    Jennah responded with the required farewell.

    She escorted the Supervisor to the front door and watched her

    leave. Hopefully, the results from that test would buy her some time.

    Jennah walked back to the kitchen and poured two more mugs of tea,

    and fixed several sandwiches. She took the food downstairs, stepping

    over the rickety eighth step.

    Two children sat huddled in a corner, fear twisting their

    expressions. With dark hair, honey-tan skin and brilliant blue eyes

    shaded by long lashes, they were beautiful enough to draw attention

    even without the wings that extended from their backs, or the

    shimmering scales that patterned parts of their arms and shoulders.

    Moving slowly, she knelt in front of them and sat the food down.


    “I’m sorry if you were scared,” she said, keeping her voice

    gentle. “I had to let her in or risk more scrutiny.”

    “Will she come back?” Alisha asked, clutching her older

    brother’s arm.

    “No. She believed me. Veritests are all but impossible to fake.

    As long as we are careful, they will not suspect me.”

    “But you lied,” Evan pointed out. “You did steal property from


    “No, I didn’t,” Jennah said.

    They looked at her as if she’d said the moon was made from candy.

    “You are children. Children are not property, and Kandar will never

    own you again.”

    She half-expected disbelief; they had only escaped one week ago.

    Instead, she got half-smiles and the first flares of hope.

  15. Khai says:

    Argh! Please delate the post above! I suck at formatting and I didn’t realize! I will repost it next.

  16. Khai says:

    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply.
    “You are irrelevant here.” The andro fixed her strange, contracting purple irises on Jennah, with command. Before Jennah could process that she had been deemed untrustworthy, two teachers emerged with a cyborg behind them, obviously summoned to proctor the graduating class.

    She turned and ran, now that she was helpless. She burst under the archway of the science wing.

    “Why are you REALLY here, Quinto? You do these neuron experiments on your lab rat students while teaching them science! You’re in an underfunded pre-conscription program. You could run your own god damn state of the art government lab!”

    He turned off the microscope and looked up. “Is registration getting to you?”

    She knew he didn’t expect her to admit it. They were friends – both desperate for friends a year out.

    “It get’s to you, too.” He left the desk. “The emptiness.”

    At each measured step he paused to talk.

    “You don’t know if anything you ever were has meaning. Your life as one of THEM made you face it – your morality, your character, your personality is a combination of hormones and chemicals in your brain.”

    With each foot forward, Jennah took a step back.

    “Male, female, everything in between. Even-tempered, angry, vicious, none of it is purely me. All of it can be tampered with.”

    He smiled sadly, which made Jennah confused. No one got sentimental about this. Passionate emotions just weren’t the same after – when you couldn’t buy into them.

    “Do you know why religion has died out? People don’t dream of things beyond themselves because they don’t even believe in themselves. The self is an illusion beyond the body. Transcendence can be affected, even severed by the bio-mechanical implants, or even just the meds.”

    “Quinto.” Jennah couldn’t handle the intensity of his gaze. It overwhelmed her and she was watery-eyed. “I’m doing this stupid stint at the school as part of my ‘recovery therapy.’ So don’t patronize me, but don’t waste my time talking bullshit either.”  

    “Maybe registration’s bothering me too.” He gnawed on his lip in the usual spot. “The stress could be affecting my judgment. I still get impulsive sometimes.”

    “What, Quinto!” She needed to speed this up because her nerves were getting jumpy. She was ready to go for round two with that andro, and it wasn’t a good idea.

    “Were you female the whole time you were a Supervisor?” Quinto murmured.

    “That’s private.” Jennah looked hard through the translucent floor into the hydro-farm lab below.

    “Would it surprise you if I had…ASKED them to make me male after my tour?” Jennah’s eyes snapped up. She searched his features for some clue.

    “Jennah, I’m holed away here because I – I want to find out if I have something real. I hope you do, too.” He cringed away a bit, though she’d stopped moving backward and he was standing right in front of her.
    “Or maybe you’re just desperate.” She said. “Have what?” She breathed, before he could change his mind.
    “A soul.”  

    • Eliza says:

      Yes Khai.


      It’s had to follow how the run-in with the andro spurs Jennah to confront Quinto about what’s really going on with his experiments, but I really liked your concept behind the Supervisors and the question of what forms characteristics of our identities and personalities — physical processes, a spiritual element, or some combination thereof.  Reminds me of The Host and Merlin from David Weber’s Safehold series.

  17. KT Sweet says:

    Darn, not sure why but my contest Word document fails the ‘cut and paste’ approach. Tried three times but keep getting an error message that doesn’t explain the problem.

    Any ideas what I can do to fix it?



  18. KT Sweet says:

    Jennah knew how the government Supervisors worked since she’d been one last year, but that didn’t mean she had to comply. The Belarus AquaFarm had to go.

    At seventeen, Jennah had felt overjoyed to win the appointment after earning her advanced degree. Sole provider for her family, her half-sister Molly and brother-in-law Jake couldn’t work. They’d been gassed during the food shortage strikes five years earlier, their lungs permanently damaged. They and their babies needed her.

    AquaFarm was such a quaint term, she’d never suspected. The Belarus Council had commissioned her onsite. The old men and women had clucked and licked their lips over the rows of hydroponic beds. Beds full of babies in different fetal development stages. Handing her a cookbook entitled Young and Delicious, Chief Minister Claudron claimed his were its best recipes. Shocked speechless, a long-banked rage ignited in Jennah’s chest. The ancient Terran practice hadn’t died. It violated all she valued.

    With God everything is possible. She repeated the verse as she tapped her boss’ pilfered code and projected his iris pattern from her tablet into the Farm’s electrical room security panel.

    She re-checked her wrist chip. Molly, Jake and the toddlers had boarded the outbound Rigal transport two hours earlier, for a two-week vacation. She relived hugging them. It renewed her strength as she entered the humming cavern.

    Terra had long ago decreed fetuses weren’t human, so the Federation ruled eating them wasn’t cannibalism. She’d seen how this twisted logic fueled Belarus’ multi-billion rias intergalactic trade. The Council prided itself on being the galaxy’s only source of gourmet fetal organs. Most were shipped off-world, with Council-tested cookbooks. It had to end.

    As she approached the main electrical panel, Jennah felt a wave of anger. Jesus, why haven’t you returned to stop this? It had been a ghastly year. She shrugged, hoping the Lord would understand and forgive her.

    Her mid-year demotion to electro-hazard technician had been a blessing. Relentless nausea from supervising fetal part collections had left her skeletal and on kidney dialysis. Her usefulness was ending as her kidneys failed. The Council had made that clear.

    Worse, the lower technician’s pay tagged Molly’s yet undetected pregnancy a Farm fetus. A baby you couldn’t afford got ‘donated’. The family received increased rations. For everyone’s good. Right.

    Belarus’ non-elite ate freeze-dried kibble reconstituted with water, shipped in from off-world. That allowed the Council’s intergalactic trade relations to remain harmonious while the people starved. Jennah planned a new intergalactic fame for Belarus.

    She pulled the nano-electro-nuclear detonator from her pocket. She’d traded her late mother’s genetic code for the black market parts. That DNA had created Jennah’s odd, whimsical genius. Talent that designed startling products. Quirky intelligence had brought her to the Farm. Now she’d buy it.

    Thanks, Mom, for being one smart cookie. Lord, did I get this right?

    Jennah implanted the signaling device. Its code flooded the power grid, remote activating planet-wide nuclear weapons in near simultaneous detonations.

    AFTERWORD: The cause of the Belarus implosion remains a mystery. It is remembered as the most brilliant intergalactic light show, ever.


    • Katherine says:

      Yes, KT. That was really good. Disturbing and creepy, but good. Love the dark sense of humor.

    • Eliza says:

      Yes, KT Sweet.

      “Quirky intelligence had brought her to the Farm.  Now she’d buy it.” –> Best line.

      Interesting ambiguity in Jennah’s final words.  If you ever fleshed this out, I’d be curious on how Jennah justified in her mind exploding an entire planet with, presumably, a few billion other innocents on the surface, even in the pursuit of eliminating the fetal organ trade.

      • KT Sweet says:

        Thanks, Eliza. It is a good point  you’ve made…I decided when writing it to let it be ambiguous. She might have accidentally over reached rather than planned it.

    • R. J. Skaer says:

      I think I feel a little sick. No, I’m sure I do. Great job!

What do you think?