Had a parcel though the post today from Start Publishing which contained my prize for winning the
Neal Asher competition, a short story to describe the book cover of his novel The Departure. The parcel contained a large and colourful cinema poster of The Europa Report signed by the writer Philip Gelatt and a Blu-ray disc of the film too, again signed. Many thanks Philip and guys! And a special thanks to Anjelica of Start Media who organised the signing and delivery.
The Europa Report is a SF film about a mission to Europa (one of Jupiter's moons) to discover if life exists there and the outcome of their exploration, good stuff and the sort of film I enjoy.
Thought I'd post the story which won me the competition in case you are interested and fancy a read.
The Shell Game by Bob LockKyle Benedict’s eyes opened and took in the scene of devastation. The colony’s control room was wrecked. A last remaining monitor flickered intermittently whilst a thin ribbon of smoke curled up from the bullet-shattered desk. The smell of burnt flesh, cordite and plasma-discharge crept its way through his ruined suit’s filters. Benedict groaned. He’d survived the Prador incursion. ‘Shit!’
‘I am Captain Samark. I am so pleased you are alive, human.’ The monitor stabilized and Benedict saw the Prador captain staring out from it.
‘Pleased? So that you can put me into thrall I guess?’ Kyle replied and his right hand groped for the last grenade he’d managed to hide between his suit and the wall he was propped against.
‘No, no,’ Samark’s huge claws waved across the screen, ‘I want to test you. I want to give you an opportunity for freedom.’
‘I believe you humans call it, The Shell Game?’ Samark asked.
‘You are in the command centre. There are five passages to five outer habitats. I have sent a second-child into one. The other four are empty. Choose one to go to human. If you select an empty one then I will let you take your shuttle and leave unharmed. Choose the one my second-child is in and you…’
‘Get eaten?’ Benedict asked.
‘Why?’ Benedict demanded.
‘Call it an experiment, human. What have you to lose? I could come and eat you now, if you prefer?’
Benedict shrugged. ‘What the hell…’ He stood up and chose an airlock.
‘Choose wisely, human.’
Benedict chose the closest. ‘Bite me.’
‘Perhaps I just might,’ Samark replied.
At the end of the corridor the airlock to habitat three beckoned. Benedict wished his rifle hadn’t been totalled. He shrugged; no matter. He should have died with the rest of his rescue squad when they’d attempted to liberate the colony anyway. He cycled the airlock and entered the dark habitat. Nothing moved. His failing suit’s sensors picked up no sound.
Then something clicked and clicked again. The second-child loomed out of the gloom towards him.
‘So… Samark. Either I’m an unlucky sod or you’re a lying bastard,’ Benedict said towards the surveillance pod in the ceiling as the Prador launched itself at him and hungrily began to crack open his ravaged suit with its massive claws. Benedict pulled the pin from the grenade and thrust it, and his arm, as deep into the second-child’s maw as he could. ‘Crab Benedict on the menu tonight!’ He managed to shout before the huge explosion.
Samark snacked on the bloody mixture of human and second-child flesh as he contemplated. The experiment was inconclusive he thought. His attempt at mimicking a human’s ability to lie and be believed was unclear. Did the human truly think he would be freed? The human’s final outburst made him think no. However, Samark imagined he was beginning to grasp their sense of humour. ‘Crab Benedict,’ he said and attempted a laugh.
Hope you enjoyed it,
and loads of thanks to Neal for allowing me to use and abuse his creations!