I don’t know that, strictly speaking, this one fully fulfills the 500 Club prompt it was written for:
Take two easily relatable points and connect them in a way that you would NOT expect. Examples: Your house to the neighbor’s house via submarine; Your house to China via the center of the Earth; childhood to adulthood via a wormhole through Pangea.
Also, the ending is more than a little ostentatious. Yes, even more so than normal. It either works or it doesn’t, and having just written it I can’t quite decide. I lean toward thinking it’s just a bit much, but feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.
“I don’t understand the problem,” Val said. “You’re in the library–just get the book.”
Carter rubbed the thumb of his right hand into the palm of his left. The bluetooth headset tucked in his ear made it seem like Val was in his head.
“I can’t,” he said in a whisper.
“Speak up. I can’t hear you when you mumble.”
A few feet away there was a girl. Maybe twelve years old. Carter regarded her with caution. Clearing his throat, he leaned in close to the shelf giving the appearance he was looking for a book. “I can’t.”
“Is someone there?” Val asked.
“Okay. Threat level?”
“Of course. Why the hell wouldn’t it be? I want that book. Can you engage the threat? Bypass it?”
“Are you trying to make it obvious you’re not a teacher? Just talk normal. Stop acting like a noob.”
“Sorry,” Carter said.
“It’s okay. Listen, can you give me any specs?”
Carter moved along the aisle, still examining book spines. “Maybe. I can swing by the store later and pick up a gift for her. How old is your cousin? Eleven? Twelve? What does she want for her birthday.”
“Much better.” He could hear the smile in Val’s voice. “Twelve year old girl, right? Does she have pigtails?”
Carter glanced toward the girl. “Yep. That’s what I was thinking.”
“Uh-huh. Okay, I’m looking it up…” He could hear the clicks of her keyboard and then a disturbing silence. “Carter,” she said. “Don’t freak out.”
Carter pulled a book from the shelf and looked at the back cover. “What?”
“I think that’s the new anti-virus they were talking about. She’s still in beta, but shit. Um… she’s replicatable, environmentally malleable…you see one, there could be twenty…and she can do a scan in about 45 seconds.
“How many other people are in the library?”
“I don’t know. Maybe 10.”
“Is she still close enough to hear you?”
Val exhaled. “You’re pinned. She’s scanned you by now. Just grab the book and run. Maybe if you can make it to extraction before she nabs you–”
Carter screamed. His head felt like it was being pulled apart from the inside. His connection to Val broke and everything went black.
A moment later, he sat across the table from her. He pulled his bio-usb from the terminal and retracted it into his left forearm.
“Sorry,” She said.
“Why am I always the one to get caught?” he asked.
A librarian walked around the corner and approached their table. In an authoritative whisper she asked, “Which one of you just tried to access the restricted section?”
Carter signed and raised a hand. “Me.”
“Detention.” she said. “For both of you. And if I catch you in there again I’m sending you to the principal for disciplinary reprogramming.”
She walked away.
“Well, we tried,” Val said.
“Yeah,” Carter agreed, “but there’s got to be an easier way to get our hands on a copy of 1984.”