No Regrets: A Sci-Fi Short Story

Updated on April 8, 2018
cam8510 profile image

Chris has written more than 150 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

Source

Jim thumbed through the pages of a magazine he had no interest in reading. The headlines about politics and wars, written to grab the reader’s attention, slid past with no resistance. He didn't see the photos of the rich and famous or the ads for new luxury apartments. What was on Jim’s mind was the possible course his life would be on in three more hours.

Seated across the table which held the magazines was an attractive young woman waiting for the same decision to be made for her.

First, they would be interviewed by a panel of sociologists, psychologists, experts in business and work placement. The goal of this session would be to discover if he or she was worth sustaining. Were their academic backgrounds exemplary? Were their leadership skills finely honed? Had they shown all positive signs of cooperation with superiors throughout their education and trial employment?

The second session would be with medical doctors and technicians. They would search his and her bodies from top to bottom, every organ, DNA, bone structure, blood analyses, brain scan, to find every flaw. The discovery of a tumor would end the session and Jim or the young woman would not graduate. In fact, there was a long list of conditions that would lead to the same end. Family history and hereditary medical conditions would also be taken into account.

Finally, the psychological analysis session would take place. Any sign of psychosis or other mental illness would bring the session to a screeching halt. Other psychological weaknesses would diminish their chances of graduating.

Not graduating meant they killed you, immediately, no appeal. Rumor was that the rejects became food for the graduates.

Jim recalled his evaluation of himself. He had set the bar low. If he couldn’t pass his own test, he certainly wouldn’t pass the official version. He had come out borderline. He might graduate, but he could fail just as easily. He caught the eye of the young lady.

Source

“Will you graduate?” Jim tossed the magazine back onto the table.

“How do I know, and what business is it of yours?” The young lady removed her glasses and deposited them on the table beside the magazine.

“Reading glasses. Strike one,” said Jim.

“Stop it right now.” The young woman rose to her feet, fists clenched.

“Explosive temper. Strike two.”

“That’s enough.” She took a step in Jim’s direction.

“Hey, listen, I’ve got a mountain of black marks against me. I’m borderline. Frankly, I think you’re in about the same position as I am. You may survive, you may not.”

“What’s your point?”

“Let’s get out of here and join the opposition. At the very least, we die on our own terms, not theirs.” Jim pointed at the first of three doors they would pass through for their sessions.

“But I still might graduate. How could I give that up?” She wasn’t defensive anymore.

“You know what I ask myself about graduation? How could I accept it?” Jim moved toward the exit, then turned back. “Come with me.”

“I have too much to lose.”

“Don’t forget your reading glasses.” He retrieved the glasses from the table and handed them to the woman, then walked out the front door and held it open while he gave her one more chance.

The young woman looked at Jim and at the first session door. She stared at her feet for a moment, considering her chances, then at the reading glasses.

Jim stepped back and let the door close. He ran down the street past abandoned cars. He had heard that the opposition repaired some of these relics of an age when every household owned multiple cars. Now the privilege of owning a vehicle of any kind was reserved for the elite. Everyone else lived in miles long, layered high rises with public transportation, residences, workplaces, shopping, and recreation on different floors. Jim continued to run along the ground level of one of these structures.

Source

His appointment time at the graduation center had come and gone. Surveillance cameras would pick him up every minute or two. Someone had already been assigned to catch him. The consequence of fleeing was an automatic rejection.

A scream from behind brought him to a skidding halt. He backtracked and peeked around the corner of a concrete piling. It was the young woman from the graduation center. She had fled behind him and been caught by her pursuer who was busy binding her hands behind her back. Her hair looked like a red tornado as she shook her head and screamed again.

Jim crept up behind her captor and sent a loose stone skittering across the pavement. The man, dressed in Chaser’s white, spun around just in time to catch an old tire iron across the forehead. As he slumped to the ground, Jim wondered where this guy had scored on the graduation scale.

He grabbed the woman’s hand, and they ran to the end of the extended highrise. Beyond that were the wilderness of ruined cities, devastated cropland, and empty water basins. They heard the rumble of a diesel engine, then a classic 2020 Dodge Ram sat perched atop the earth berm that surrounded the structure. Jim and the driver locked eyes, measuring, waiting.

“You two are runners, right?” The driver leaned out his window to shout.

“Yes, we just—”

“Then hop in, we’ve got some runnin’ to do.”

Jim and the young woman scrambled up the berm and slid into the cab beside a kid barely out of his teens.

Source

A squad of unarmed Chasers rounded the end of the highrise. Behind them came the whine of an electric motor, no match for the old diesel. The driver of the truck mashed the accelerator to the floor and shot a rooster tail of gravel out behind as he sped down the berm steering toward the group of young, white-clad Chasers. He circled them slowly, window down, smiling. “Any of you want a ride? We accept graduates as well as runners. Hop in the back. I’m serious.”

The men backed away, shocked by the recklessness of the driver. No takers. The electrically powered vehicle rounded the corner of the building and stopped.

“Wave to our friends,” said the truck driver.

The young woman and Jim waved and were immediately set back in their seats when the driver accelerated again. There wasn’t much to the structure of the electric vehicle, but the Dodge was huge and as solid as a mountain. The driver didn’t hesitate or show any signs of fear. He ran the diesel into the front of the flimsy electric while the driver and passengers jumped clear. The driver of the truck wheeled around, roared up the berm and into the wilderness.

“That was crazy.” The young woman was still gripping Jim’s arm like a vice.

“Lady, there’s one thing you got to keep in mind. The establishment has cheapened life, not ours, but theirs and every person’s life who either graduates or fails. We bought and paid for our lives when we ran. We buy and pay for them every day we thumb our noses at the bastards who run the world. Our lives are not cheap. I just risked my own to rescue you. Don’t forget that.”

Source

They drove for a couple of hours into the foothills of a range of mountains until they came to the top of one last rise, and the driver stopped the truck. “Here we are.”

There was nothing to see. Everywhere they looked was more devastation, dead trees, bushes that looked as if they had been the one Moses talked to. Boulders swung aside, and people emerged from dark, gaping holes.

“We aren’t called the underground for nothing.” The driver opened his door and got out.

That evening Jim and the young woman sat on a granite boulder watching the sunset.

“Did we do the right thing?” she asked.

“We chose life over death. Back there, either way was simply a different version of death.”

The woman wrestled a small pad of paper from her pocket with a pen pushed down into the spiral binding. She pulled her reading glasses from her breast pocket and balanced them on her freckled nose. “You’ve never asked my name. Come to think of it, I didn’t ask yours either.”

“I won’t ask for your name now,” he said. “Instead, I’ll ask this. In light of the new life we're beginning, what name would you choose for yourself?

After a moment pondering, the young woman spoke. “I’ll ask you the same. What name would you choose?”

Jim took the pad of paper from the young woman, wrote something and handed it back. She pressed the pen to paper and wrote beneath what he had written.

She picked up a canteen of water, filled two tin cups and handed one to Jim. “To new beginnings.” She held up her cup to meet his.

“To a new life.”

In the distance, the extended highrise dominated the landscape. Lights flickered on as dusk settled in. The man and woman considered where they might be at this moment had they not had the courage to run. They had no regrets.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 6 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        Chris

        This story reminds me of the TV series 'Logans run' and the 'Divergent' books.

        Both are great stories, and so is this one, I can't wait to see what their new life looks like.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 2 months ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        manatita, If Kenya is where you are, then the Christian denomination I grew up in has done much work there. See if you run across any Kenyan Friends/Quakers, also known as the Society of Friends.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 2 months ago from london

        New beginnings Bro and having the courage to run. That should gel with so many of us. They are quite positive steps, but hard to take. I love your vehicle, Bro.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 2 months ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        Larry, Thanks for checking out this story. These short stories are fun to write, and I enjoy reading what others produce as well.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 2 months ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        Ruby, thanks for reading. I'm glad you could see some reality, or at least possible future reality, in this story.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 2 months ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        I want to make a general comment to my readers about the writing of this story. Farther down in the comments I mentioned to Eric that one of the methods of writing good, short fiction is to learn the difference between active and passive voice. That does not mean passive is bad. We need to know when to use it.. You can see one instance of passive voice in the early part of this story when I describe the sessions. Passive voice means the action of the verb is being done to the subject of the sentence. Active means the subject is doing the action. I wanted to emphasize what was being done to the people who were taken into these sessions. They were not the active ones. The panel members were the active ones. But I wanted the readers to see the sessions from the viewpoint of the interviewee. That is where the passive voice came in. Here is the passive voice from the story: "First, they would be interviewed by a panel of sociologists, psychologists, experts in business and work placement. The goal of this session would be to discover if he or she was worth sustaining." So I introduced the sessions with two passive voice sentences to focus the reader's mind on the interviewee as a victim, as one who was receiving the treatment by the panels. After that, I reverted to the active voice.

      • Larry Fish profile image

        Larry W Fish 2 months ago from Raleigh

        That is a great read of fiction, Chris. I love the way you keep stretching the imagination to what is happening next and where it will lead.

      • profile image

        Ruby Richert 2 months ago

        Wow! This was a great Sci-Fi short and not too far fetched! Our world is moving at warp speed...

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 2 months ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        I'll be waiting to read it. :You've done it before and the stories were quite good.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        That is the finest tutorial on short stories I have ever seen. I am going to write one. Thanks for the inspiration.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 2 months ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        Thanks Eric. It's not that difficult. First you cut the unnecessary words and replace them with words that carry the story forward. Then you get a grasp of the difference between passive and active voice...go with the active. Those two things make a story move so much faster. It seems like more story.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Awesome blossom. This is great. I cannot believe how you weave so much in so few words. This one kind of reminded me of being "born again". Free to be defective - that is my kind of place.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, letterpile.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://letterpile.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)