Tag Archives: sci-fi

Sci-Fi Short Story: “The Roland Device”

Monday, Dec. 9, 2013

Roll: 4,3. Result: Short Story, Sci-Fi

Roland prepped himself to zork. It had been 30 quanons since the Hinarii raiders took off on the last space train – no no jk. I wish. Aherm.

The Roland Device (part 1)

Roland rubbed his neck, trying to crack it like he’d already done a hundred times that night. He craned back down to the magnifying lens, suddenly unable to see because of a glare. A sunbeam had snuck through his weary blinds; he snapped them closed. The birds were coming to life outside. He applied a drop of solder to one last connection, and dropped his new metal casing into place, pressing it shut with a rubber-tipped instrument. There was a click. He sat back.

A smile spread between his lips, and he enjoyed a brief laugh. His eye caught on the pile of failed attempts in a box beside his desk, and his joy passed. He lolled his head over the back of the chair and let out a sigh.

– – –

“ROLAND!” He threw his arms out in surprise, cracking his wrist on the desk and falling to the floor with a crash. He heard laughter from beyond his door. “Roland, you okay?” Grimacing, he massaged his hand and stood up. He cracked a blind, seeing the sun high in the sky, and froze. He scrambled to get his shoes on and grab his backpack, barely remembering to include the device before dashing to the door. “Roland, shouldn’t you be at-”

He slammed open the door, hitting Lindsey square in the face. “OW! Ow ow ow… Roland… shouldn’t you be at work?”

He continued down the hall, and without looking back said, “You okay? Sorry, gotta go. Yeah, work. Sorry!”

He disappeared out the front door. “Gee, thanks,” said Lindsey, dabbing at her nose to check for blood.

– – –

In the parking lot, Roland drifted into the last space, the one furthest from the building. He was out of the car before its lifters shut off and it floated to the ground, though he had to dash back to grab his bag. He slammed open the front door and started up the stairs straight to his office. At the fifteenth floor, he jogged out into the hallway. “Roland, buddy, you look like shit!” said Eric.

“Okay. Thanks Eric, gotta go,” Roland said between breaths, pressing on. He saw the door to his office open and started to believe the coast was clear when his boss stepped out, spotting him immediately.

“Roland. I was beginning to think you’d fallen ill, or into a tiger pit. You have ten minutes to clean out your desk… unless you have a valid excuse, of course. Try me.”

Roland wasn’t ready to lose his job, or demonstrate his device, but it was one or the other, and at least there was a chance his latest attempt could work. Panting, he gestured for his boss to follow and moved into the office, plopping down his backpack to take out the device and two pairs of safety glasses.

“What is this? I don’t understand,” said the boss, equipping the goggles.

“Do you see the bags under my eyes, Monty?” he asked, before strapping on his own protective eyewear. “Hopefully… this here is my excuse. Watch that pen.”

Roland took a deep breath and switched on the device before leveling it at the pen on his desk. A red laser dot confirmed his accuracy, and he pulled the trigger.

There was a click, and nothing happened. He pulled it again, maneuvering the thumbstick in desperation. Click, click, click.

“So… let me get this straight. You stayed up all night customizing a laser pointer instead of getting ready for your presentation to the international committee? And you missed it. You slept right through it. I’m sorry Roland, I need to let you go. Ten minutes.” He turned and left, muttering, “And I have to fire Rodney today.”

Roland barely noticed he was gone. He sat clicking the device for a minute or so before whipping it against the wall in anger.

“Sorry man, that sucks,” said Eric, appearing in the doorway, wide-eyed. He was holding an empty box. “Boss said to bring this to you. Beer later? I know you don’t drink, but… maybe tonight you will?” He chuckled, handing over the box. “I’m sorry, man.”

Roland took it from him, waving for him to leave, and mumbled a “Yeah, beer…”

Eric backed into the hallway and vanished. Roland took the box to his desk and started cramming everything in from his three measly drawers.

There was a loud bang, followed by silence. Then, a scream. Lots of shouting, running footsteps, another bang. More screams. Roland peeked into the hallway and saw Rodney rounding the corner at the end, pistol in hand. Eric’s head poked out of his own office next door, closer to Rodney. It disappeared into the office as a hole erupted in the door frame.

Roland stared in horror as Rodney strode to Eric’s door and fired into the office. Eric was heard crying out in pain, but quickly cut off by a second shot. Suddenly Rodney and the gun were facing Roland.

He scrambled back into his office, finding nowhere to go but behind his desk. He cowered behind the drawers and waited. A shot tore through the desk to his left and he flinched. His breathing became rapid, and he spotted the device just beyond the safety of his desk. Instinctively he reached out for it, but as he pulled it in a series of shots rang out, apparently mangling the facing side of the metal drawers. In the moment of calm afterwards, Roland fell on his side, hastily pointing the laser in Rodney’s eyes.

Rodney put his hand in front of his eyes, bringing the gun towards Roland. Roland pulled the trigger.

Rodney gasped. “What the-” Roland jiggled the thumbstick and Rodney slapped himself in the face.

Roland pointed the device lower, and Rodney watched his hand move down. Roland jerked it downwards and Rodney’s hand pulled his body to the floor, landing him on his face and causing him to lose his grip on the gun.

With his heart racing, Roland disengaged the device from Rodney’s hand and aimed it at the gun now. He pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t react. He pulled up, expecting the gun to rise, but instead there was a massive groan, the lights went out, and the building shook. He released the trigger in a panic and fell down a foot, onto the floor. There was a thunderous crash. Rodney wailed and crawled for the door.

Roland sat still, breathing rapidly and trying not to move. Rodney’s wails grew fainter in the halls. A siren could be heard somewhere outside, growing louder. Another massive groan, and Rodney cried out. Now Roland began to feel a pull towards the doorway. The groaning continued, vibrating the whole room. Roland was sliding towards the door now. The desk tipped over and smashed into the doorway, joined by the potted fern, pictures from the wall, and the empty bookcase from the corner. As Roland clawed at the floor coming up towards him, his feet met the wall, and he stood up in the corner, one foot on the wall, the other on the floor. For a moment, the tilting halted.

Then the ceiling started to pull away. The room distorted. Light flooded in from odd places. Everything was noise, and Roland crouched, white-knuckled, as the sky appeared above him. He saw the ceilings of every office on his floor topple, along with the upper stories of the building, down to the street below. As they went, they snapped the wall on which he stood, and he was dumped out into the open air, along with his desk, fern, and pictures.

Roland was falling, and he was going to die.

But then, he wasn’t.

After unclenching his tightly closed eyes, he looked down at his white-knuckled hands, and in one was the device, pointed square at his own chest in a vice-like grip, with the trigger pinned. He swallowed hard, not hearing massive sounds of the top half of his building gradually settling on the ground below.

Roland looked down, spotting flashing lights through the dust cloud. He dare not move his hands at all. He heard shouting and screams from the crowd somewhere below, but when the dust finally cleared, he saw them pointing up. He took a deep breath and yelled, full of terror, “HELP ME!”