#FridayFlash: Island of Stability

Island of Stability

by Tony Noland

"Prepare to leave orbit, Lieutenant. It's time we went home."

"Yes, my lord."

Captain Luraleth hooked his way to his cabin, passed through the
curtain and sealed it behind him. He stretched out of his uniform
collar and bent backwards, straining until he felt the vertebrae pop
and the skin crack underneath his dorsal scales. Too long on this trip,
he thought, far too long.

Hanging from the ceiling loops, he looked at himself in the reflection
pool and knew that he was lying to himself.


The fact was, he was too long in this job, too long in the service of
his queen... too long as a male. It was time, he thought. Time to go
home, to go down into the deep caverns and surrender himself to the

The captain let himself go limp, felt the loops cut into his talons,
digging into his flesh and helping him to relax. Yes, he thought, he'd
seen fifty years in this body, and fifty-five in his last one, also
male. Would he come out of the LifeDeath as a male again, or as a
female? There was no way to know. It was a gambler's chance one way or
the other.

He hoped it would be female. He'd heard that being female was easier.
Not that he'd ever been afraid of hard work, far from it, but... he
was tired. They'd been on this boring damned survey mission, hiding
above this boring damned planet for two years (more than eighteen
local years). The aliens were stupid, misshapen and ugly, as always.

With a sigh, he reached for the nosemask of his private methane tank.
He was almost out, had been hitting it harder than he have should of late.
Even off duty, it was no way for an officer to behave, let alone the
captain. Yes, he thought again, it's time to go home.

Four local days later, the ship made ready to break orbit. The
lightdrive engineers slotted in the reprocessed fuel rods for the
condensed fusion generators and confirmed that all was working
properly. They cycled the airlock and dumped the slag from the
reprocessing reactor core, a loose, pebbly grit of useless heavy
elements. With a twisting of space only faintly detectable to the
alien's satellite network, the ship was gone.

The slag fell and incinerated in the atmosphere, reduced to
microparticulates of dust. One hundred and fifty thousand feet above
the ground, one microscopic mote ran into an ice crystal, melted and
refroze, sticking fast. At one hundred thousand feet above the ground,
the ice crystal grew and fell through the troposphere. At fifty
thousand feet above the ground, the ice crystals extended uniformly in
six directions, accreting and growing still heavier, falling faster
through the cold air.

And at five feet, ten inches above the ground, it fell onto the
outstretched tongue of Kyle McAllister, much to the shrieking delight
of his four year old daughter, Henrietta.

Sent from my mobile device

Follow me on Twitter: @TonyNoland


  1. Tony, this was really cool. I love the different time shifts when you describe the scene and the fact that he wanted to be a woman in the next life. And the ending was classic. The world within a world within a world. Nice piece.

  2. The ending paragraph becomes pretty funny with the tag "Sent from my mobile device."

    You had me wondering if "the Sleep" caused them to switch genders. Nice use of scifi tropes throughout to get it that distinctive air.

  3. Good one! Such an interesting story. The aliens have such a story, it'd be interesting to see them more.

  4. Hahah. Wiswell nailed it this time for me. Wondering if he got to complete his cycle...nah. My mind is wandering.

  5. Oh I love this so much! I wan't sure where you were going with it but as usual, you totally floor me with the ending.

    It also adds a new dimension to me running around in the snow last night.

  6. Ha! This was awesome, but I'm never catching snow on my tongue again.

  7. Very cool (no pun intended)
    I might get less annoyed when it next snows, as I now know snow is of alien origin!

  8. Thanks, guys! We had flurries here in Philadelphia yesterday, so the snow was on my mind. Do snowflakes have a backstory? Why, yes, yes they do.

    John: That's fantastic, I didn't even think of that. Gives a whole new dimension to "mobile device". As it happens, I wrote this on my Blackberry while waiting for someone in a parking lot.

  9. Wow! You create a whole species and culture in such a short time and make it all so real ... and then to throw in the ending. I'll never think of snowflakes quite the same way again!


  10. Snowflakes with a backstory, what a concept. Very impressed. Of course, you've now got me wondering what will happen to Kyle once that mote of reactor slag gets into his system.

  11. Good one, Tony. Snowflakes and their backstory, gender-shifting aliens-- doesn't get any better.

    Love it!

  12. I keep wanting to type "A person is a person, no matter how small" but it doesn't really fit :P

    This was fun, but I kind of want to know what the women do within the alien race that their lives are easier. LOL

  13. Actually, Seleste, the females don't really have it any easier, on the whole. Females have different responsibilities, but they work just as hard as the males. The "females have it easy" line is just a misconception the males have about females.

    They don't seem so alien now, do they?

  14. What a fun story! I liked the four year old squealing at the end. Nice one!

  15. You're really good at these surprise endings, Tony. Reminded me a little of your short about the toothbrush. Funny. : D

  16. Good sci-fi Tony, the life cycles of these aliens sounds really interesting. Just now we have a few inches of snow underfoot, and I am laying the blame squarely at their feet. (They do HAVE feet, don't they?)

  17. Life "out there" may, indeed, not be life as we know it.

    Good work building up a sketch of the observing species' culture/life cycles. Interesting to learn more about them.

    But, I'm never catching snow on my tongue again!

  18. This is such a clever story, Tony, really loved the ending as well.

  19. So skillfully done, Tony. Fantasy and real science - my fav combo. Alien surveyors responsible for snow! Quite the seasonal piece. Well done sir.

  20. Very cool story. Clever idea and well executed. Liked this one a lot.

  21. I like how you work in the science fiction tropes; without breaking the flow of the story. Interesting twist at the end.

  22. Thanks for reading, guys! I'm pretty sure that most snowflakes don't come from incinerated radioactive alien garbage... but I still wouldn't risk it.

    I'm glad the "sci-fi transitioning into the scene in the front yard" worked for everyone.

    Merry Christmas!

  23. I'm quite intrigued with your alien and his culture/world. Nice piece of work there.

  24. I think this works so well because you link the alien world so neatly and simply with ours. It brings the possibility of alien/human interraction that much closer. Really intriguing. And written in a car park? You don't waste a minute.

  25. More twists than a hula dancer - love it. Great work

  26. Very clever and even in the short details about the aliens they were so real.
    Adam B @revhappiness


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