Thursday, June 25, 2009

Friday Fiction for June 26, 2009

Welcome to Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Sherri over at A Candid Thought. Be sure to visit her blog for the link to the terrific submissions from the other participants.

This week’s composition is a sketch story I wrote this week to explore the concepts in my Weekly Challenge entry,
Exiled with a Fool. The idea of a colony world where empty humans are grown for custom order opens up possible scenarios for either a series of short stories, or a novel-length project.

I don’t know that I’ll incorporate this sketch into any longer work. This was mostly just to work through some concepts and ideas for the culture of the world and the company that produces the Empties. I hope you enjoy the story.

The Requisition
By Rick Higginson

Anita swiveled her chair around at the message chime. Her monitor showed a client entering through the lobby, and the woman’s mannerisms and clothing identified her as one of the Cultural Elite. A short distance behind the client, one of the Ruling Elite stood at the information desk, but the Ruling Elite would be handled one floor up in the Diplomatic Suite.

The Cultural Elite were met on her floor, and Anita was first in the queue for the arriving client. She made a one more quick inspection of her office to ascertain everything was as it should be, and then waited behind the door for the client. Always be ready for any Elite Clientele, but never appear to be obviously waiting for them, the training stressed. Never imply that the Elite are anything but precisely on time.

She waited until the woman arrived in the waiting area, and opened her door before the woman was ready to take a seat. “Esteemed Mistress,” Anita said, crossing her wrists below her chin, with her palms facing out.

The client inclined her head slightly, acknowledging the respectful gesture, and – as expected – said nothing.

“I would be honored to serve you, Mistress, if you would grace my humble office with your presence.” She stood to one side while the client entered the office, and then followed her, closing the door. She directed the client towards the most luxurious chair in the room. “I hope you will find this seat to your satisfaction, Mistress.”

The woman settled into the chair, and after a moment gave an approving smile.

Anita took her seat behind the desk. “How may I serve you, Esteemed Mistress?”

The woman removed her lace gloves before answering, placing them in a pocket of her bag. “I am here to requisition an Empty,” she said. “My husband and I are expecting our first baby, and I need a proper domestic to assist in the care of the child. The domestic should be a young woman, fully programmed with the skills needed for child care and household duties, but - ” She held up her hand to accentuate her instructions. “She is to have the sexual consciousness fully inhibited. I do not expect to compete for my husband’s affections with an amorous domestic.”

“Of course, Mistress; we can certainly accommodate that request. Do you have any preference on physical appearance?”

“Just ordinary is all I ask. I do not want my domestic garnering excessive attention from visitors. She should just blend in as an average person; neither beautiful nor ugly.”

“So noted, Mistress. When do you require this domestic? Programming and awakening will take approximately fifteen days, so we can schedule delivery any time after that.”

“I have just entered the second trimester, and we would like the domestic delivered early in the third to assist in preparing our home for the child. That should give you ample time for optimal programming, I assume?”

“Most definitely, Mistress.” She checked her monitor. “If I may offer a suggestion, Mistress? I see here that you are on the Apex Leadership Committee for Teleman Heavy Industries. Such a position is, I am sure, quite demanding of your time and expertise, and pregnancy can often be very inconvenient. As early in your pregnancy as you are, we have a service you might find valuable.”

“Go on; I am listening.”

“Anthro Resources has perfected the surrogate womb system, which we use for creating the Empties our clients requisition. This system has another application, that of offering an alternative to enduring a full pregnancy and delivery. We are able to transfer your child to the surrogate womb, where the child will continue to develop and grow just as if you were still carrying him or her.”

“That seems rather impersonal for the child.”

“Not at all, Mistress. We give you a Biometric Recorder to wear for a few days prior to the transfer. This will allow us to program the surrogate womb to accurately duplicate the sound of your heartbeat, your voice as it would be heard in the womb, and unique characteristics that help your baby identify with you. As far as the child is concerned, they would still be with you. When it’s ready for delivery, you schedule a time at your convenience, and we deliver the baby right from the surrogate womb to your arms, just as if you’d endured the labor yourself. The beauty is, you don’t have to miss work because of pregnancy issues or recovering from delivery.”

Her interest was definitely piqued. “And this is safe for our child?”

“The only failures we have experienced with our surrogate wombs have all been due to a genetic problem with the child. I assume, Mistress, that your physician has already performed a thorough genetic screen of your child?”

“Of course. We certainly wouldn’t want our child born with a problem that could have been corrected if diagnosed early. If we were interested in this, what would we expect to pay?”

Anita transferred the information to the portable tablet, and slid it across the desk. “I believe you will find the cost trivial compared to the potential fiscal impact of your lost time on the Committee.”

“Yes, you’re quite right. This is indeed an attractive technology. How long would it take to set this up?”

She smiled. For those in the Elite classes, the surrogate womb was an easy sell. All the joy of a child, with none of the unpleasantness of pregnancy. “Depending on how detailed a biometric scan you would like the womb programmed with, we could have the surrogate ready for you in as little as four days. Would you like me to attach the Biometric Recorder for you, and schedule the preparation of the surrogate for you?”

“Yes, I think that would be excellent.”

“Very good, Esteemed Mistress, and we will have your Domestic filled and ready for you as early in your third trimester as you desire.” Her commission from this client would be generous, and she indulged herself a slight satisfied smile. I certainly could have been requisitioned for a worse life, she thought.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Friday Fiction for June 19, 2009

For Friday Fiction this week, I thought I'd try something different. This post should have video included, and while the sync between audio and video from the web cam isn't great, I'm hoping you'll enjoy hearing me read the excerpt instead of just posting the text. This week's host for Friday Fiction is still up in the air as of this entry, so please check over at Patterings for where to find the links to some great reading.
Since several people expressed interest in knowing more about Freki and Geri from "Lana's Pack," I chose this chapter because it gives a nice insight into the dogs and into the theme of the story. Those who remember the previous excerpt from this story will likely remember the dogs were wearing collars when Lana first met them. Since that meeting, Lana figured out the collars had tracking devices implanted in them, and disposed of them in the hope of keeping Freki and Geri safe.
The reading takes about nine minutes, including the title and closing credits. I'm not planning on doing this frequently, but if you do enjoy it, please let me know. Likewise, if this seems troublesome for Friday Fiction, let me know that as well, so that I don't repeat a failed experiment.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Friday Fiction for June 12, 2009

I missed Friday Fiction last week, due to preparations for a weekend trip to Mexico. This week, Patty is hosting over on her blog, Patterings. Look for the links to other Friday Fiction in the comments following Patty’s story this week.

My story this week is one that takes place “behind the scenes” towards the end of “Cardan’s Pod.” Long after I finished the original story, I started thinking about how Josh might have felt during that “transition” time after the crisis is over and he’s coming to grips with a new life.

I also wanted to sketch out Diego Hyland’s parents a bit. His father, Police Sergeant Geoff Hyland, makes an appearance in the book, but it’s very brief. Eventually, I want to spend more time with Juanita Hyland as well, but Geoff gets the larger part in this story, making its premiere for Friday Fiction.

Visiting Home
By Rick Higginson

Josh had heard of people returning to their childhood homes after traumatic events, seeking the security and warmth that they’d known during a time of innocence. It was an appealing idea, but other people owned that house now, while his parents rested in a quiet place beneath a pair of matching headstones. He started the car and began driving. At first it seemed as though he drove aimlessly, but soon he found himself heading down familiar turns towards a modest suburb. He had come this way many times as a boy, and even as a young man this route had been almost automatic for him. Now that he thought about it, he was doing exactly as he had considered, only to a different home.

Diego Hyland’s parents still lived in the large but modest home they’d owned when he’d first met Diego. At that time, the house had been filled with the Hyland family and the numerous friends that seemed to congregate in the warm rooms. Most of the children were grown and moved away now, and Josh wasn’t sure if the youngest still remained at home, or whether she’d gone away to school now as well. He stopped the car in front of the house and looked longingly at the inviting light pouring from the front window. It was getting late, and he hadn’t called to ask if he could stop by. Most of the bedroom windows were dark, with no one occupying them to need the light. Josh wondered how long it would be before the empty nest syndrome drove the older couple to sell the big house and move to someplace smaller and more manageable. It would be a sad day for this neighborhood when they did; the Hylands were like a fixture here, and most all the children in the area knew that in the event of trouble they could find a safe haven with the police sergeant and his wife.

A knock on his car window made him nearly jump out of his seat, and he turned to see the face of Geoff Hyland smiling at him. He rolled down his window to speak with the man. “Mr. Hyland; you startled me!”

“It’s nice to know the desk job hasn’t made me lose my touch. You haven’t called me Mr. Hyland since that first day Diego brought you over for that first visit,” the older man recalled. “Since when have you gone formal on me, Josh?”

“I’m sorry, Pop.”

“Now, that’s better. Are you going to sit out here and stare at the house all night, or are you going to park in the driveway and visit a while?”

“It’s awfully late; I wasn’t sure it was a good time to visit.”

“It’s never too late; you need to come by, you come to the door no matter what time it is. Come on up to the house and say hello; Mama is dying to see you.”

He pulled the car into the driveway and parked, getting out even as Geoff Hyland caught up with him.

“We were hoping you’d come by. When we heard you were missing, it couldn’t have felt much worse if it had been one of our own children.” Geoff placed a fatherly hand on his shoulder. “You had a lot of people praying for you, though it seemed pretty hopeless there for a while.”

They walked through the door and Josh was immediately swept into a fierce embrace by Mrs. Hyland, who pulled his face down to hers to plant kisses on his cheek.

“Mama’s happy to see you,” Geoff commented.

She released him from her embrace. “Oh, and like you’re not happy to see him?” She teased her husband. “Come in and sit down; I’ll get you something to eat.” She instructed Josh.

“I’m fine, Mama; no need to go to any trouble.”

“Nonsense; it’s no trouble,” she dismissed his objection.

Josh sat at the table with Geoff taking the seat across from him. Juanita placed a mug in front of each of them and poured them some coffee, and served up a generous slice of homemade pastry to her guest. Bringing her own mug filled with an aromatic tea, she sat next to her husband and the three exchanged small talk until Juanita was ready for bed. “You are staying the night?” Her invitation implied that the decision was already made.

“I hadn’t really thought about it,” Josh replied.

Her brown eyes were soft and understanding as she looked at him. “You don’t have to tell me that you’re selling your house, Josh; I could see it in your eyes when you walked in. You came here tonight because you needed someplace that felt like home, and as long as there is a Hyland in this house you will always be loved and welcome here.” She kissed his forehead. “The guest bed is ready for you, and the bath linens are where they’ve always been. I’ll see you in the morning.” She kissed her husband goodnight and disappeared upstairs.

The two men sat in silence for a while, sipping their coffee until their mugs were empty. “You need another cup, Josh?”

He shook his head. “If I have any more, I’ll never get to sleep tonight.”

“You know you’re welcome to stay here as long as you want. We’re happy to have you while you look for a new home.”

“I appreciate that, Pop, and I love staying with you and Mama. I’ve already found a new home, though. I just can’t go there tonight since I have some more business here on the mainland to finish.”

“The island where Diego and Sally found you?”

He nodded and smiled.

“Sally said that an angel rescued you; that was all she and Diego would tell us.” He rubbed at his chin. “You know, you don’t have to go out to some island to know that angels are close by, Josh.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said with a chuckle. “Sally reminded me that angels can appear in many forms.”

“What’s really out there that you want to go back? I hope it’s not solitude you’re seeking, hoping to protect yourself from being hurt again like Cynthia hurt you.”

“There’s a family out there, Pop; people that were willing to risk a lot when I needed them, and now they need me just as much as I still need them.”

“I see,” he said. “This family is such that my son wouldn’t tell me about them? Is there something about them Mama and I would disapprove of?”

“I wish I could take you both out to meet them; I really do. The decision’s out of my hands, though. The government stepped in and clamped a security classification on the place.”

“But they’re going to let you back in?”

“I’m part of it now, Pop. I’m not an outsider being allowed to visit; I’m one of them.”

“Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment, then. Why are you a part of this group now? What took you from being an outsider to being an insider?”

“It’s hard to explain without going into details I can’t reveal, but I think it’s best summed up by saying that they were there when I needed them, and then I was there when they needed me.”

“Do you still need them?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Why? What do they bring to the table that you couldn’t get here or somewhere else?”

He thought for a minute before replying. “They bring life, Pop. They bring innocence and joy, strength and vulnerability. When I’m with them, I feel more alive than I ever have in my entire life.”

He nodded. “I see. Tell me; do they still need you? What do you bring to the table?”

“I bring the table, with sustenance. They were living hand-to-mouth on what they could find, and often with barely enough to survive. I bring my voice, and the ability to go where they cannot and be their advocate. I bring them a home and security.”

“You’re bringing an awful lot to the table, then. How long will you keep bringing this to them?”

“I owe them my life; I plan to keep doing this for them for as long as I’m able.”

“A sense of obligation and debt can sour very quickly. What if you start to resent this obligation to them?”

“What if you started to resent having to care for your wife and children, Pop? What then?”

He smiled. “So, you see this group the same way I see my family, then?”

“Very much so; maybe Diego can’t tell you even as much as I have, but if you ask him, he’ll tell you. They’re a family out there, and I’m privileged to have been invited to stay a part of it.”

“Would this invitation have come if you’d been a poor, working man, rather than a wealthy corporation owner?”

“The invitation came when I was a castaway with no more than any of them had, and when we had no idea if I would ever be able to return to the mainland, so yes. Their love for me has nothing to do with my money.”