The Obelisk Chapter 2 – Dinner

Joe and Tomás followed Charles along a cobblestone path to a door on the house’s south side. First, Charles opened the screen door, then the heavier wooden one, letting the two friends inside. They stood in a large kitchen, where two other servants were chopping vegetables.

They descended into the cellar and deposited the boxes of fish. “Right this way.” Charles insisted when they came back up, gesturing towards the door leading to the servant quarters.

The long, utilitarian room had white walls and a grey cement floor. At the far end was a wood-fired stove next to a bathroom with three sinks, three toilet stalls, and two showers. Beds with crisp white sheets and blue wool blankets lined the walls. They looked quite comfortable.

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The Obelisk Chapter 1 – Fish

The fishery was a miserable place, a cavernous building nestled on the Boston waterfront, in an industrial sprawl of concrete and steel. The place was blanketed with the thick smell of fish guts, tinged with the metallic odor of rust and the gritty scent of coal ash.

This was not where Joe Bramovich and Tomás Marcos thought they would end up when they left their hometown back in Maryland. Tomás and Joe were indentured servants, bound by law to labor for their proprietors until their contracts were completed, under threat of starvation, imprisonment, torture, and death.

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The Station: Part I

2334 CE – Year 130576 of The Station

Space is a cold place. The cargo ship had some climate control, enough to keep most goods fresh, but not enough to make it comfortable for any spacefaring species.

A good jacket was important in space. Luckily, Benn Starr had one, made of rugged brown canvas with a thick wool lining. It was part of an old mechanic’s uniform, from Benn’s last job on a pleasant green moon called Tor 5.

Benn reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small tube of red foil, about the size of a crayon, containing a row of sugary red tablets. Each tablet held a dose of tetracyclozine, a hallucinogenic drug commonly known as “zeen”. A handful of empty wrappers; blue, green, and orange, tumbled from Benn’s pocket onto the floor below.

Zeen tablets were one of the most popular hallucinogens available. At low doses, users experienced four to six hours of sustained minor hallucinations combined with euphoria and heightened audiovisual sensitivity. At higher doses, users could be rendered comatose, locked in all-consuming hallucinations for hours on end.

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M.I.N.D. Game

Menelik’s was named after its proprietor. Located in the northern outskirts of Addis Ababa, Menelik’s little bar had been a favorite stopover for travelers coming to and from the city for 29 years, since he first opened the place at the end of the Ethiopian Civil War. His business had been doing better than ever for the past sixteen months or so, since the Chinese construction titan Gezhouba Construction Group begun building a mine a few miles to the northwest. Despite the money they brought in, Menelik and many others in the community were wary of the Chinese and their colossal strip mine, which was noisy, ugly, and catastrophic to the local ecology, including the ecology of human communities.

Ma Bufang was one of these Chinese interlopers, but Menelik liked him because, unlike many of his compatriots, he spoke Amharic, not fluently, but well enough to hold a conversation. What Menelik did not know was that it was Ma Bufang’s job to be just nice enough to be liked, and then forgotten. Like most spies, he was trained and conditioned to be charming, but unassuming.

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Mystery in Cabin John Park

The archaeologist dug another hole. 50 feet north of her last one, this one was relatively easy to dig. There were no tree roots or big rocks in the soil, which was soft and not too dense. She stuck her shovel in the ground and hopped on top of it, sending the spade slicing into the earth. She tossed shovelfuls of dirt into her screen, where she sifted through it, searching for artifacts, before tossing it onto a tarp and dumping it back into the hole when the test was complete. This was how a site test pit was dug. She had dug thousands of them, and she would dig thousands more.

She got down through a couple feet of dirt and hit the subsoil; the layer of soil formed before human beings walked the earth. She thrust her shovel forcefully into the hard-packed clay. She jumped on her shovel again, and heard the sharp crack of metal splitting rock.

The archaeologist stopped digging, crouching to peer into the test pit. She reached in, scooping up rocks and dirt in her gloved hand. She shook loose the dirt and held aloft the rock, examining it.

In her hands were the fragments of quartz spear point, broken in half by her shovel.

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Tomás Dreams of Harvest

Tomás slept, and he dreamed of a better world. In his dreams, people were truly free, and they wanted for nothing. No one was hungry, no one was homeless, no one’s life was devoid of opportunities for meaning or joy and when anyone got sick, or other tragedy befell them, everyone organized help, with no questions asked or conditions demanded.

The village in his dreams was part of a vast community, encompassing millions across a wide swath of the globe. This community had built a world which Tomás, whose world was one of suffering and struggle, called a utopia.

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