Flash Fiction Challenge: Ten Words Will Give You Five

Relevant Chuck Wendig blog post. (clicky)

I’m going to a random word generator.

*does that*

There. It has chosen ten random words.

Those ten words are:

  1. Library
  2. Ethereal
  3. Dolphin
  4. Replay
  5. Undertaker
  6. Storm
  7. Envelope
  8. Cube
  9. Chisel
  10. Satellite

You will choose five of those words.

You will include those five aspects — not just as words but as actual components of the story — in your 1000-word flash fiction this week. As always: post at your blog or online space, then link back here so we can all read it. You’ve got a week. Due by Friday the 29th, noon EST.

Pick words. Write story. Go.

(author’s notes appear at the end.)

My words: dolphin, cube, satellite, storm and replay

The Age of Aquarius

By J N Keir

“It’s a dolphin cube.”

“What the hell is a dolphin cube?”

“They made ‘em back in the twenty-third when the war over filtration rights fizzed out and the surface moisture started to dry up. These cubes supposedly had recordings on ‘em, made by cetaceans. If you had one it was supposed to grant safe passage through their territory to some place of religious significance.”

“What could be significant down there? Its nothing but volcanic muck and leftover bits of last millennium.”

“I don’t know; maybe loots, maybe it was politics. Maybe they had Mecca down there.”

“Uh huh. See-Tayshuns, you said?”

“Yeah, sort of. Cetaceans – oceanic mammals.”

“You mean those big things that used to live entirely in water? They were mammals? Yowch; that seems like it would hurt.”

“Back then water was everywhere. It fell from the sky and kept the caustic gasses from accumulating. The big things and the really big things lived in it. Before the United National Platform got into it with ol’ One-Eye and it all went to hell there was a whole field of scientific study dedicated to understanding their language. They even beamed the shit off-world; the language was a system constant.”

“Wow! Do you think we can listen to it- the recording on this cube?”

“I don’t know. Try it.”


“Push on the sides or something, rub it, hell I dunno.”

“Hey, its starting to glow.”

“What’s it doing?”

“Oh shi- Owch! I think that thing had water in it! Look at that; it’s dissolving my manipulator casing…”


It was remarkable – given both the poor positioning relative to the path the satellite took across the upper isthmus, and the overall age of the system – that the up-link completed. The signal was faint but it contained enough binary to report longitude and latitude relative to the planetary magnetic polar axes. The transmitter had consumed itself along with the small amount of organic fuel it contained to complete the communication. The satellite didn’t really care about such things; the degree of artificial intelligence built into its systems wasn’t given to pondering the likelihood of activation of its core purpose programming – only the execution of it.

The satellite, known within the network as ‘Bloop’, photographed the position of the beacon during transmission and cross-indexed it with the locations of other, similar beacons. Bloop ran algorithms and determined beacon transmission values were all within tolerance. In six minutes, the geomagnetic net would energize as it does every planetary year at this time. Bloop’s position relative to the planet and the lunar mass was within tolerance, as it was every planetary year at this time. Gravitational influence was optimum for particle acceleration and predictive launch, as it was every year at this time.

There was enough organic matter on board to execute forty blasts, to be made if and when all the transponders had activated.

Bloop oriented its sails to catch and absorb as much sunlight as possible before it crossed into the lunar umbra, where the target was stored. It disengaged its life-long cladding, shedding a plain, canister body and exposing multi-limbed, mechanical squid anatomy. It revealed highly articulated, delicate manipulators, limbs designed with spiraling hydrostatic musculature modeled perfectly after the ancient organism from which it took its name. The sails near Bloop’s “head” absorbed enough heat and light to liquefy the ice crystals and achieve constant pressure. Cyclotrons mounted within its body turned, spinning off ancient accumulations of interstellar particles. They rotated, and began the conversion of collected solar energy into kinetic energy.

When Bloop exited the lunar shadow six minutes later, the planetary magnetic net hummed with energy. Bloop’s cyclotrons revved up to speed and polarized, achieving a predetermined rhythm. Bloop reconfigured again, discarding more shielding around its core and exposing a combat armature. Mounted in a cradle of metal ribs rested a particle accelerator built from ancient technology. It turned to align with the star at the center of the solar system, adjusted back for orbital drift, and fired a single accelerated particle at several meters per second slower than the speed of light. When the particle was observed in contact with the star, Bloop played a recording across a range of radio frequencies, including those frequencies commonly observed by the surface inhabitants of the planetary body. The recording was a single sound.

The first accelerated particle achieved coronal contact eight hundred seventy-one seconds after launch. Each subsequent particle took on average twenty-four hours plus eight hundred seventy-one seconds to make contact, with a differential of plus or minus two seconds. Once each day for forty days, Bloop replayed its algorithms, adjusted telemetry to compensate for standard deviation using a mass drift theory published the year Bloop was built. Each day for forty days Bloop replayed the recording.

At the bottom of a trench, several miles lower than the surface-average distance from the planetary core, a great, old thing stirred under the sun-baked muck. It heard its name.

Approximately eight minutes after the first particle contacted the star at the center of the system, a coronal mass ejection reached the atmosphere of the planetary body, timed by Bloop’s creator to intersect first with the lunar mass and then the target mass anchored there. The target mass began to soften, and tiny particles drifted into the gravitational pull of the larger planetary body.


“Has anyone figured out what that “Bloop” was on the radio?”

“Not yet, sir.”

“Someone get on it; it means something!”

“Sir, the solar flare is still repeating every twenty-four hours. Our ozone emitters are taking a beating; I’m afraid they won’t hold.”

“Well, get out there and fix them. Shield them or something!”

“All due respect sir, but there’s nothing left in the organic reserves.”

“Sir, look at the sky. Are those clouds?”

“There haven’t been clouds on this planet since… …holy shit.”

“Is that rain, sir?”

“It’s a storm.”

“My exo is melting.”

“Mine too.”

Author’s Notes:

What an unexpected treat. I opted to use the random number method of selection, and figured if I got duplicates I’d worry about that when it happened. It didn’t happen. There was no real plan here, just some brain drifting. If you smell esoteric earth lore and a little nod to The Illuminatus! Trilogy, then you’re on my wave.

The composition editor tells me it came in at 999 words.

2 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Ten Words Will Give You Five

    1. thatjeph says:

      Thank you. I rather liked the idea of flipping it back in time. Alternate history, 40 days of rain, all that? Bleak, certainly.

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