The Iron Writer Challenge #131
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
The Last Avatars
The last avatars gathered in PRINCESS’s digital garden. PRINCESS wore her full royal regalia. St3lthn1nja hadn’t bothered changing his appearance while DragonKin added a yellow sash across his body. Among the flowers the Bumblebee nudged a daffodil.
“When does the server shut down?” DragonKin snapped the daffodil’s stem with his claws, lifting the flower slowly with Bumblebee still hovering over it.
“Three minutes.” St3lthn1nja held out a finger to the flower. The Bumblebee flew away, flitting from one orchid to the next. PRINCESS followed it. Her chat window appeared in the air next to her. <RU sure we can’t do something?>
“All of us are out of money. No subscribers, no crowdsourcing…we tried everything.”
“I lost my house,” DragonKin muttered.
PRINCESS turned her back to watch her garden. A gentle breeze rippled the flowers. <Another server?>
“He didn’t work.” DragonKin’s tail pulled up the orchid where Bumblebee landed and gently brought it up. “I don’t know why. Maybe I didn’t really create an AI. The judge didn’t think so.”
St3lthn1nja cupped his gloved hands around the orchid. “Your brain doesn’t work outside your own head. It’s not the programming.”
“Maybe. But we can’t afford to maintain the entire game environment. And he doesn’t work with anything less.”
<1 min> PRINCESS took off her crown. She glanced at her garden before gathering with the other avatars around the Bumblebee.
DragonKin laughed. “A bee. You had to have a bee.”
<Real gardens need bees.>
The Bumblebee crawled off the orchid’s petals and crossed St3lthn1nja’s palm. “Now the bee is real but the garden isn’t.”
DragonKin laid a claw next to the Bumblebee. He smiled at PRINCESS. “It was real to him.”
PRINCESS smiled back. <He made it real.>
As the sun slid over the horizon on the planet Hive, Buzz Bumblebee shepherded his two young offspring into their cells.
“Please read us a story, Dad,” his daughter begged.
“You need your sleep, young’uns,” he said. “Tomorrow is a big day in the colony, you know. We are going to the launch ceremony for the Ninja space craft that will be exploring the Widerfields that the last lot of Drones discovered.”
“I know, Dad, but that’s so boring. Please read the one about the Princess and the Dragon.” Hummer nudged her younger sister and crossed her feet behind her back.
“We are going to the Launch tomorrow, whatever you say! I’ve worked on the Ninja project for nearly 5 months and we need to know what is out there. Maybe we will find more beeings like ourselves. Who knows?”
Both Hummer and Flower grumbled.
Hummer pouted. “There’s no other life on the outside of our world, Dad, it’s all only hope and theory – you know they need to find a place with more water and nectar for our type to exist, and I don’t think they ever will – after all we can’t travel overly far or for very long into the unknown and survive ourselves!”
Buzz raised his antenna, bobbed his head and gave in to the girls demands. He grabbed the storybook from the shelf and sat on the edge of the bed. He stroked Hummer on her head, wiping away a fragment of pollen that she hadn’t cleaned off.
“Stop with the negativity, Hummer.”
Then he turned to Flower, so pretty that he smiled and opened the book on his knee.
” Lay down Flower. Now…”
The girls wriggled into their comfort of their beds and looked at their father with wide and excited eyes, He began to read.
“Once upon a time the Dragon Wasp flew around the Castle. Princess Properlis was extremely frightened. She called upon her warrior band and….”
Buzz stopped and glanced at his children – they were already fast asleep!
A pile of rubble stood at the cave mouth. On top of the pile sat a small radio. A red indicator light flashed off and on.
“Dragon. This is Princess. Dragon, come in Dragon.”
A few feet away, back to the pile was a figure, clad in a dark red space suit, hunched over a console. Inside the suit, a young man struggled to catch his breath. Warm sweat ran down is forehead and into his eyes. Unable to wipe it away he muttered under his breath.
“Apparently no one at NASA thought cooling systems were important.”
He returned his thoughts to the task at hand, looking down at the console labeled: NINJA Mining Systems. Every day he drilled until his oxygen ran out. Then he slept and came back to drill some more. He’d yet to find anything. No water. No minerals. No nothing.
The eggheads back home estimated three to five weeks to hit their quota. Water and minerals were necessary for the continued survival of Mars colony. This asteroid was the best bet for finding them.
They’d been here for five weeks now. Each day he became more convinced the surveys were wrong. There was nothing here. Nothing but a spaceship, four miners and a whole lot of rock.
Sweat continued to pour into his eyes and Dragon reflexively reached up to wipe his brow. He cursed under his breath again and tried to blink his eyes clear. He could barely see the console display at this point. He realized it was time to call it a day. He reached out and pressed the probe return toggle. He had to squint to make out the fuzzy letters that flashed on his display.
PROBE RETURNING – ETA 5 MIN
Dragon swung around to peer out of the cave mouth. As he turned his head he noticed the blinking light on his backup radio.
“Ah crap” he muttered. He reached out for the radio cable, plugging it into his helmet.
“…incess. Come in Dragon.”
“Hey Princess”, he replied. “Dragon here. Helmet radio is apparently out. Couldn’t see the backup. My bad.”
“Oh thank God”, her voice was laced with anxiety. “Did you find anything?”
“Negative Princess. Just called the Bumblebee back. Whole lot of nada. Again.”
“Damn. That’s not…” Her voice trailed away.
“Princess? What’s up? You don’t sound too hot.”
She didn’t respond for a long time. When she finally spoke up her voice was whisper quiet and shattered.
“They’re gone Dragon.”
“Arthur. Gwen. They’re gone. Working in the engine compartment. Something broke. Exploded. They’re gone.”
“Exploded?” His heart sank.
“We’re stranded. Eight weeks ETA for rescue pick up.”
Dragon’s mind raced. “How much food do we have?”
“For two people? 10 weeks. That’s not the problem though.”
“Yeah, I figured.”
“Five weeks of water.” Her voice was barely audible.
Dragon picked up the radio, turned and set it on the console.
“Well, I guess I’d better find some then.”
He blinked the salt from his eyes, reached out and reset the probe control.
Alis Van Doorn
In a land far away, a galaxy away, in fact, lived a mighty and testy ruler, whom if not always even tempered or wise, was certainly a hardworking, powerful king. But his kingdom was under attack, and King Bumble was not in the best of places, temperament wise.
“Zziiilenzzze!” screamed King Bumble to his assembled subjects, drones, Upper Staff and the uniformly hated wasp ninja’s.
King Bumble quivered, buzzed with indignation.
King B’s mind flashed back a few hours ago, where in his royal beehive chambers, feeling overwhelmed, miserable from the news, Euphimpia, his beloved wife, had waspishly asked “What’s wrong with you?”
Bumble was inclined to cut her some slack; she was in fact, a wasp, but this lack of wifely, let alone motherly concern, was a bit much.
“Uh…in case you haven’t noticed, our daughter’s been kidnapped, our kingdom, our honey banks demanded as ransom.”
Bumble peered somewhat distractedly in the three way mirror. “Do you think I’m losing any velvet on my nether regions, Empi? Because it seems if my stripes are a bit looser down there. It could be this mirror though, do you think, dearest?”
Queen Euphimpia took a deep breath, held it, then satisfied her stays were secure, let it out. “Really Bumble? That’s what you’re worried about?”
“No of course not, Empi; I was just wondering. I mean after all, I’m to face the council, Kingdom of Bees; I do want look my best.” Bumble sniffed, a wounded look of dignity on his yellow soft velvet face.
Empi fluttered a bit; she could never resist that look of charming insecurity on Bumble’s face. It always melted her; why she’d married a bee, when in the history of the galaxy, a wasp had never married a bee. But they prevailed, had a beautiful, gentle daughter, Humble. And it was she, thought Empi grimly, that got us into this. Her face softened looking at Bumble.
“I’ve 10,000 Ninja drones prepared, battle ready, if you choose, love. But really, would it be so terrible?
Bumble stiffened, outraged. “What! You’d countenance a thing? Marriage between our beautiful girl and that, that…?”
Empi fluttered a wing, flitted to the mirror. “Look Bumble, at us. Everyone thought we were an outrage, unnatural. But we knew.”
Bumble’s wings trembled a bit; he was confused, angry because of it.
Empi smiled, sent a tiny drone off with the barest of nods, imperceptible to her mate.
“Zziiilenzzze! Zziiilenzzze in my chambers! As you know, my daughter, the fairest of all, Princess Humble, has been…
RETURNED!” roared King Bumble in relief as the massive doors opened, Princess Humble hesitantly flitting towards him, her handsome tiny Dragon Prince in tow.
“The wedding shall take place immediately, uniting Planet Bumble with Tiny Dragons Planet!”
As a huge buzzing filled the giant hall, Humble caught her mother’s eye, and the briefest of wing flutters acknowledged the power of a mothers love, a daughter’s gentle but determined will and the promise of a dynasty that would rule the galaxy.
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