Response to our 100-word fiction contest, "Found in Space," was overwelming: some 80,000 words of entries! Having gone through them as best we can, we've whittled it down to a handful of finalists. Forgive us if we've missed something magical: With such a vast number of entries, it's easy to miss a beat!
Frankly, making decisions is hard. Whim guides our hand. So why don't you make the final decision? Read the finalists, then vote below on who gets the HP MediaSmart server. Poll closes in 24 hours.
P.S. -- there are runner-up prizes, too!
"Daddy, look! It's winking at us!"
A metallic mass glinted in the bright red sunlight, its irregular shape reflecting occassional pulses of light through the heavily tinted windows of a lunar transport shuttle, catching the eye of a young girl accompanying her father to work. As usual, the Luna School System was observing the semi-annual lunar eclipse by having students "shadow" their parents at work. "Shadow days" were perfect for spotting forgotten pieces of junk floating out in space, just beyond the shadow cast by the Earth.
"Daddy, do you think it can see me? I winked back."
He knew that his owners loved him, but that was about it. Benny, a golden retriever, certainly wasn't clever enough to see the irony of his owners only putting up 'lost' signs a mile from his home while he was a great many orders of magnitude further away. Nor was he smart enough to know even the basics of the exotic physics that brought him here in .037 seconds.
He didn't even know where here was, he just knew it looked a little like a place he could call home: green grass, lots of squirrels, three suns in the sky.
By Thought Grime:
We'll go no more a-roving, the immortal words of Byron,
the tattered moon is out of bounds since they brought back the pylon.
Loudly, since the probe returned, the scientists implored,
Daedelus offered secrets that could never be ignored.
Eight months they argued who was best to undertake the study,
to clean the wretched thing because it was so freakin' cruddy.
Finally they started to remove the dense, moon-sand,
excruciatingly because they cleaned it all by hand.
At last the pylon stood revealing secrets from afar,
all Earth was still as they were read, the English words; "We Are".
By Garry Cook:
Reversing thrusters, gaze dropping to the object in his hand, the child glided to a stop in the entrance bay.
When was the last time humans had touched these? Some might consider him a hero, as this could really turn things around for our race. Or it could lead us right back down the path we were on three centuries ago, when the population was ten billion, not ten thousand. An adrenaline rush chilled him to the bone.
His grip faltered and the doors slid closed as it floated back into the ether, unsure if letting it go was intentional.
Finally: contact. Humanity's ultimate question was answered.
A metallic sphere, roughly 3m in diameter, polished to a mirror. Nondescript otherwise except for an iridescent arrow indicating a recessed palm-sized red button.
The StarFreighter HMS Darwin approached the sphere and gently brought it aboard. The harbinger was "weighted", photographed and measured while the various crews of the armada impatiently paced and speculated.
Eventually came the day where the only thing left to do was push the palm-sized red button.
It took the light from the explosion four years to reach Earth.
10 INPUT "Please enter your username: ", U$
20 IF U$ != "Amanda" THEN GOTO 160
30 PRINT "My dearest Amanda,"
40 PRINT "I thought I'd never see you again."
50 PRINT "You've grown."
60 PRINT "I guess I've stayed the same."
70 PRINT "I may not be everything you want me to be."
80 PRINT "But I loved you first, and I loved you best."
90 PRINT "There was a time you loved me, too."
110 INPUT "Come back to me? ", A$
120 IF A$ = "N" OR A$ = "n" THEN GOTO 150
130 PRINT " <3 <3 <3 "
140 GOTO 130
160 PRINT "Invalid username: "; U$
170 PRINT "You cannot access this space."
180 GOTO 10
He rose. First slowly, then a little faster. His feet detached slightly from the ground, and then -- as if rushed forward by a colossal slingshot -- he began flying. At 0.99c, things seem weird, collapsing and color-shifting at whim; but he was not distracted. Mars came zooming past. A myriad asteroids. Jupiter. Enceladus. C'mon. Neptune. Almost there. There it was: Voyager I, glorious in its shine. Farthest human object ever made. Makes your head spin. He could almost touch it, that Sagan golden record in the cold of space...
The first kiss was careful, tentative, almost as if Will Robinson was testing the unknown temperature of one of his mother's meals. But Mom and Dad were long gone, as was Sis and the Major. For years it had just been the two of them and his growing curiosity. Now, at an age when he was nearly too old to be an object of desire, Dr. Smith had finally succumbed to the younger man's clumsy seduction.
Far off, in a dusty corner of the Jupiter 2, the barely functioning positronic brain of a long forgotten robot processed one word: danger.
I don't know how long I stared at that cow. I think she must have escaped from the farm down the hall. It was after midnight on the third-deck workspace and I was alone. She lumbered in and tore a frond from my hydroponic fern. Then she leaned into my desk and it tipped into the air like a ship. I watched in disbelief, paralyzed, as my monitor crashed to the floor. Before, she was just another cow in a spaceship. But now she made history: she was the first ever cow in a spaceship to go on stampede.
He opened his eyes, and it all was gone.
We drifted over Greenland, in the old polar orbit. I spread myself thin, enjoying the cold of space. I could tell she was looking for something. "What is it?" I asked. She didn't answer. Then we passed out of the Earth's umbra, changing from icy cold darkness to glaring sunlight. Suddenly, there was a glint of light. "I see it!" she cried, propelling herself forward. It was a small stainless-steel capsule in orbit, filled with dust. She formed herself around it. "What do you want with that old thing?" I asked. "You wouldn't understand," she said. "It was my body."