4 comments

Science Fiction Adventure Fantasy

            Adventures in Altron

                    By Robert Consiglio  


     Alert level 1: Star Shield Testing will commence in 15 minutes.

    Colonel Jecos Diaz checks his smart watch, then again reads the electronic billboard announcing Star Shield inside the MetroTram he is riding in. He grunts and turns to gaze out of a grimy porthole at Altron’s immensity. Everywhere, as far as the eye can see, are jumbles of steel metal spires, towers, and grey and black skyscrapers and apartments, without so much as a single patch of greenery or trees. A brownish yellow smog lingers over the city. He turns his gaze away from it.

   The Altron City MetroTram, fully electric, is on a raised track which twists and turns like a crazed snake into various tunnels honeycombed through the city.. 

   Diaz turns, strokes his pencil mustache, and considers the nejos, lower class Altronians, who are sitting directly across from him. Their clothes are patchy and faded. One of them says something to him, but he ignores him. Diaz’ gaze falls on the bold and colorful advertisements lining the tram’s walls.

    Super Cologne Will Make Her Wild, reads one, below a provocative silhouette of a couple. Mega Casino Paradise in the Heart of Altron, reads a second one.  Altron Super Dry Beer: the Drink of Champions reads another.

    Sex, gambling, alcoholism, Diaz thinks. None of this would be allowed in HelosIt would be forbidden by Shalle.              

    Diaz has a mental image of his beloved Helos, its distinctive turquoise tiled roofs, manicured parks and gardens and Mount Helos itself, soaring into the heavens like some mystical dream. And, most important, are its ubiquitous Shaleein temples. 

     He stares again out the porthole, this time into the ruddy sky above. He can discern hundreds of objects flitting around, likely SkyTaxis and private shuttle crafts zipping around to various destinations. Diaz cannot think of a single place in Altron that he would chose to visit were it his own will. In fact, before his transfer to Altron by Rotean Intelligence, Diaz had never left his native Helos. But Rotean Intelligence had insisted on his transfer to Altron. And that was that.      

    For the first time, Diaz can discern the shimmering blue luminescence of Altron’s defensive energy shield being activated.   

    Star Shield, Diaz thinks. He has a mental image of the dozens of orbiting satellites that make up Star Shield’s first defense being put on high alert. He knows, too, that a simulated Artican space attack has already been programmed into Socrates, Rotean Intelligence’s battle computer, which will soon be put online. . Rotean warships, deploying from the air bases surrounding the Five Cities, will soon begin rising into Tyyrus’ stratosphere and begin their simulated battle against an Artican nuclear missile attack.

    It’s all just for show of course, Diaz thinks grimly. We could never withstand a determined Artican attack. This exercise is designed to reassure the public and continue funding for Star Shield…  

  Diaz silently recites a prophecy from the Holy Shalle: Then they will come, like black locusts, blotting out the sun.

  Now the blue glow surrounding the city is unmistakable. Many passengers on the MetroTram are staring out the portholes as the shield expands above them until it encapsulates the entire city in its embrace. 

  The MetroTram slows, and a voice announces that they have arrived at Altron Grand Station.  


 **********


 “I think I may have an 888,” utters Kamos, adjusting the peak of his cap, upon which is emblazoned the Star of the Five Cities. On his grey uniform is the double headed purple eagle of Altron. 

   Diaz, who had been decoding a message from a Rotean star cruiser, pauses and then takes another big gulp of Bully coffee. As he swallows it, he feels a jolt which makes his eyes pop.

  “The computer is analyzing it now,” says Kamos.

  “Um…” mumbles Diaz, grinning slightly.

   “How can you drink so much of that coffee?” enquires Kamos, glancing at Diaz for a moment.       

    At Rotean Intelligence, or RI, an 888 is any transmission or coded message assumed to be phony or tampered with by the enemy. At RI, Colonel Diaz is known as ‘Mr. 888’ for his uncanny ability to detect them before anyone else.

    “I’ll come and take a look, Kamos, if you’d like…”  

    Kamos laughs so hard he almost topples from his chair. 

   Diaz’s mustache twitches as he watches Kamos. “What’s wrong with you?”

   “I just can’t believe this one,” says Kamos.

   “Well?”

   “It’s a distress signal from one of our warships deep inside the frontier, which makes it hot. And the code checks out. However, there's something quite strange about it." 

 “Strange?"

   “Come and take a look,” says Kamos.

    Diaz inhales deeply, removes his headphones and strides over to Kamos’ station. He stares at his computer monitor and gapes. 

    “That’s an asteroid,” utters Diaz.

   “Indeed,” agrees Kamos. “Asteroid KX142, to be exact.”

   “What’s it doing on your computer screen?” asks Diaz gruffly.

   “The computer calculated the exact coordinates of the transmission at the exact moment it was sent, which placed it's origins somewhere inside this asteroid.”

   “Then it’s an 888,” grumbles Diaz.

   “You think so?” says Kamos, turning to look at Diaz.

   Diaz grunts, and walks back to his console.

   Kamos has a wide grin on his face, but he takes care to make sure Diaz doesn’t notice it.

    “What do you think of Altron so far, Colonel?” enquires Kamos.

    “Too crowded and polluted,” utters Diaz, finishing his coffee in a single gulp. 

    “It has a great nightlife, though,” says Kamos.

    “More coffee?” growls Diaz.

   “You bet.”

    A familiar image appears On Diaz’s monitor. It is a white haired mustachioed man with bushy eyebrows.

    Diaz stares at the face and represses a sneer.

    “Colonel Diaz,” says the man.

    “General Vornov, sir.”

    “Anything to report?”

    “Nothing out of the ordinary, General. A few 888’s. We sent them to Hope City for analysis.”

    “Good. Is there anything you need?”

    “More Bully coffee.”

   Vornov’s eyebrows furrow, then he says “God protect the Five Cities.”

   “God protect the Five Cities,” echoes Diaz. 

     Vornov’s image vanishes.       

     Diaz stares at the empty monitor where Vornov’s image had just been.

     It’s his fault! Diaz screams to himself. Vornov is the one that requested my transfer to this urban jungle nightmare…


    **************


    Colonel Diaz peers out a dusty porthole as the lights of Altron begin blinking into life. He watches, fascinated, as the entire city is illuminated by its countless artificial lights. . Helios has virtually no artificial lighting and is illuminated by small stone lanterns that line its streets. 

    The MetroTram slows at it arrives in Beklos ward, one of Altron’s many popular entertainment districts.   

    Diaz strides out of the MetroTram, scans his identification tag as he passes the turnstile, which withdraws the correct amount for his ticket. Then he joins the teeming masses of humanity heading for ground level.     

     Arriving there, his eyes are greeted by hundreds of bright, flashing pink, red green and purple neon signs. Diaz feels an electric excitement as he looks at the colorful, flashing signs marking the location of bars, pubs, discotheques, casinos and nightclubs featuring live bands and music. His nostrils are greeted by the aromas of street food being prepared at curbside food stalls. The stalls are peddling everything from fried seafood to noodles and spicy soups or a popular Altron delicacy, barbecued shish kabobs on a stick.      

  And so he wanders through the narrow streets, going nowhere in particular, just watching and observing all the sights around him and not missing any detail, a verse from the Holy Shalle comes to mind: The unbelievers move through the eddies of space and time, lost, directionless, drifting aimlessly towards a nebulous future…


  *********   

He found it in the second week in Altron. While window shopping for a new pair of shoes in Beklos ward, he espies a tiny sign that makes his head spin. It is so small, and so insignificant compared of the hundreds of billboards and signs surrounding it, that it is easy to miss it. Diaz stares at it for several moments to assure himself he isn’t dreaming. It has the familiar green and red triangle symbol indicating a Shalle temple!     For the first time since he had arrived in Altron, Diaz really smiles.

However, upon entering the Shalle temple, he finds neither inner peace nor enlightenment. What he does find is her


**********

     “Some of our sensors have picked up something that could be significant in the Lavonian frontier,” says Kamos.              

     “Hmmm..,” grumbles Diaz. 

    “They appear to be Artican probes. They could suggest that an attack on one of our outposts is imminent,” adds Kamos. Major Kamos glances over at Diaz. “Diaz!  Did you hear me?”

     Colonel Diaz peers briefly at Kamos.     

     Kamos notes Diaz’s glazed eyes and the dark circles under them.

     What’s with him? Kamos thinks. Diaz usually goes ballistic at even the slightest hint of any Artican moves in the frontier! 

     Diaz, in fact, has the image of a beautiful brunette with sparkling brown eyes kissing him passionately fixed in his head. He is unaware that his eyes are closed.     

     A voice is calling to him dimly from somewhere, but it is faint. Diaz ignores it.  

     “Colonel Diaz!” roars the iron voice for a second time. It is familiar and sends a chill down Diaz’s spine.

      Diaz opens his eyes and there is the frowning image of General Vornov on his monitor. “Yes, General, sir! " 

     Vornov clears his throat and then says “I want your report about the effectiveness of Star Shield and any improvements you might suggest by 0800 hours tomorrow morning.”   

     “Yes sir,” says Diaz. “God protect the Five Cities!”

     Vornov smiles slightly, then his image vanishes.

      He knows! Diaz thinks. But how? 

     “Diaz!” blurts Kamos, who had wandered over to Diaz’s station.

      Diaz feels a jolt inside his stomach. “What…” 

     “Sorry, Colonel,” says Kamos. “But I think you should take a look at this.”

     Diaz grins slightly, but doesn’t acknowledge Kamos’ request.  

     “Um, are you ok, Diaz?” 

     “I’ve never been better,” says Diaz, his face reddening slightly.

     Kamos represses a chuckle. 

     Well, let’s have a look at what the Articans are up to, shall we?” says Diaz, rising from chair and adjusting his cap.      


      **********

     She’s not coming…   Diaz repeats to himself silently for the third time. He looks again at his smart watch. 15 minutes late…  

     Colonel Diaz sighs deeply and then peers out the window of the Panorama restaurant, located at the top of Altron Tower, soaring over 800 meters over Altron City. As the restaurant slowly revolves, it offers a spectacular view of the illuminated city, which stretches out in every direction. Peering above, he sees a thin sprinkling of stars twinkling away, and a tiny sliver of Helios, Tyrrus' moon.       

     And as he sits alone, staring at the moon, it appears cold and desolate. 

     Diaz peers at his smart watch again. 17 minutes late...                                                      

     “Jecos,” says a soft voice.

     Diaz glances in the direction of the voice and his heart leaps out of his body! There, in a purple dress and looking absolutely radiant, is Reo! 

He wants to shout, but something freezes his tongue.

     “I am sorry I am late, Jecos,” she says, reclining in the seat opposite him.

     “Hello Reo,” says Diaz, gazing at her and smiling so much he thinks his face will burst. “I have a surprise for you.”

     “What is it?” she asks, smiling and gazing into his eyes. 

     Reo's brown eyes seem to sparkle, at least in Diaz’s imagination.   

     “This,” says Diaz, pulling a red rose from behind his back.

     Reo’s face turns pink as she accepts the rose and smells its aroma. “Oh thank you, Jecos. You are so sweet!” She walks over to him and kisses him on the cheek. 


      ***********

     Diaz glances at the first page of the Altron Times, and grunts. Splashed across is the bold headline: STARSHIELD A DAZZLING SUCCESS. 

     Of course it was a success, Diaz grumbles to himself. He flips to the sports page and notes that Helos is leading the Rotean Football League standings.  

     "Hey,” says a voice.

      Diaz looks up and, to his surprise, it is a nejos. He is wearing a faded jacket and a pair of pants with gaping holes in it. 

     “Could I have a look at the sports section?” the nejos asks.

      Diaz’s first impulse is to refuse. After all, it’s his paper! But then he does something that even surprises himself.

     “Here,” says Diaz, handing the entire paper to the nejos. “You can have it.”

      “Thanks buddy!” says the nejos, beaming. “I see you here sometimes.”

      “What’s your name?” Diaz enquires. At that moment, he realizes that he had never spoken to a nejos.

      “I’m Svek.”

      “Jecos,” says Diaz, shaking the man’s hand. He watches Svek take the newspaper over to his friends, who read the sports pages together.

      Diaz recalls a verse from the Holy Shalle: For all humanity is One, thou holy brethren.

      And as he stares out the porthole at Altron now, he begins to discern some fascinating details that before he had missed. In front of every prominent building, which he guesses may be Altron city government buildings, are carved stone statues depicting heroes of the First Rotean War.

     One of the statues makes Diaz’s eyes bulge! It is of the legendary General Chelnov, founder of the Shalle religion!  

Diaz smiles as he recalls his first meeting with Reo in the Shalle temple. He has an image of her face and she is smiling at him shyly, like she always does. 

     Only then does he realize that he has missed his stop.          


      **********

      Diaz hands Reo some shish kabob on a stick and she samples it.

      “Well?” Diaz enquires, laughing.

      “Delicious!” says Reo. 

      Together, they explore the hundreds of food stands lining both sides of a shopping street in Beklos ward.   

      “Slow down, Jecos. You always walk too fast.”

      “Sorry, Reo,” says Diaz. 

      When Reo catches up to him, she grasps his hand firmly in hers. 

      “The flower festival is coming soon, Jecos,” says Reo. “Remember the flower you gave me on our first date?”      

     “Sure, Reo.”

     “I still have it.”

     Reo opens her purse and shows him the rose, which is crushed and faded, but still retains its redness.

     Diaz kisses her cheek.


    **********

     “Listen to this 888,” says Diaz, beaming.

     Kamos adjusts the peak of his cap, and walks over to peer over Diaz’s shoulder at his computer console. 

     Diaz activates the audio button and they listen to the transmission together. It is a distress signal from a Rotean star cruiser under attack by a Space Guardian in the Lavonian frontier and requesting immediate assistance. 

     “Sounds authentic to me,” says Kamos, shrugging his shoulders. 

     Diaz’s mustache twitches, then he says “Well, as you can see, the code checks out and it is on a Rotean wavelength. However, there is one tiny problem.”   

     “What is it?”

     “Well, this particular code belongs to the star cruiser Spartus, which, according to the Rotean naval computer logs, was undergoing repairs at Teros9 at the time of the transmission.”   

     “Ah,” says Kamos, chuckling slightly.

     A red light flashes, indicating an incoming message. Diaz activates the viewing screen. It is General Vornov. His face is grave.

     “Yes, General Vornov,” says Diaz. He feels a cold iciness going down his spine.

     “Colonel Diaz, I must offer you my congratulations.”

     Diaz exhales and forces back a grin. Good news!

     “I have just been informed that your expertise is required by Rotean Intelligence headquarters in Hope City.”

     What! Diaz thinks.  

     “You must know that this is a great honor, Diaz. I wish you luck and good fortune in your new position. God save the Five Cities!”

    “God save the Five Cities,” Diaz echoes. 

      As soon as Vornov’s image vanishes, Diaz’s mind reels.

     Reo! Oh, Reo! I’m losing her!


      **********

   “City Shuttle flight 987 bound for Hope City will now begin boarding at gate 17.” 

   Reo is standing at the gate, speechless. Her cheeks are moist with tears.    

   Diaz can only utter “Take care, Reo.” She puckers her lips, but Diaz, noting that others are watching, doesn’t kiss her. Instead, he steels himself and enters the ramp to the shuttle, not looking back.

   Colonel Diaz shuffles to his seat, plops down into it, and fastens his seatbelt. Before he can even catch his breath, the shuttle is airborne and swoops in a northeastern direction over the city towards the Byros Sea.

    Diaz looks through the window for the last time at the sprawling metropolis of Altron and recalls when he had first glimpsed it, how his breathing had increased and he had fought a creeping fear of the unknown and unfamiliar. Its spires had seemed to pierce him and had filled him with foreboding. Now, as he watches the tremendous city slowly shrinking and being swallowed up by the clouds, he feels punctured.  

   Goodbye Altron, he whispers to the clouds, as tears begin to fill his eyes.


**********   

Several hours later, as the shuttle nears Hope City, Diaz retrieves his carry-on bag and unzips it to read something. He notices a small embroidered box in it.   

    What’s this? Diaz thinks. The box snaps open at a slight pressure. Inside it is a freshly cut red rose and a handwritten note. It reads: Like the rose, our love never dies. See you soon, love Reo.  

     Diaz closes his eyes and kisses his wrist.     


   THE END   

March 18, 2021 19:03

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

21:15 Apr 18, 2021

You really have a gift for Science Fiction short stories! Way to go! Great!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Alice Bolognese
08:12 Mar 28, 2021

hey! I truly liked this story, I find it very original and easy to read: it develops quickly and doesn't leave the reader waiting for ages for something to happen (which is something I greately appreciated). It's quite different from what I usually read and the fact that I enjoyed it nonetheless only proves further how well written it is. Congratulations!!!

Reply

Robert Consiglio
15:40 Mar 29, 2021

Thanks so much for your kind feedback, Alice.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Robert Consiglio
20:33 Mar 18, 2021

The city of Altron is a fictional city taken from a full length science fiction novel I am writing titled Voice From the Stars. Some of the features of Altron are influenced by my own experiences in Osaka and Tokyo, Japan, as well as Busan in South Korea. I hope you enjoy the story.

Reply

Show 0 replies