#FridayFlash: Yellow and White

Yellow and White

by Tony Noland

From his vantage point on the peak of Mt. Fuji, Specialist 1-C Andrew "Banjo" Randall looked up the Big Valley to watch the first sunrise, a pinpoint explosion of white light between Kilimanjaro and Denali. Once RK-2034-B cleared the frozen haze of the rim, the glare was like looking into the navigation lights of a cargo hauler. He returned his gaze down to the valley floor, still dark with the shadows of the cliffside mountains. It had been a cold night up here, but as soon as RK-2034-A rose, the hoarfrost would sublime away and he'd be able to see well enough to detonate the charges.

Banjo checked his watch. Another half hour before true dawn. As was standard practice, days on this planet were counted according to the rise and set of the larger star. At this point in Bullseye's orbit, that meant about 11 hours of nighttime, 31 hours of daylight. Under a hotter star, such a slow rotation would have made this planet unusable, but RK-2034-A was only a yellow giant. There had been a push by some of the younger guys to name the two stars after characters in one of the historical melodramas: Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Bill and Hillary. It was the usual crap born of youthful enthusiasm and off-watch boredom. In the end, almost everyone ended up using the path of least resistance that guys always ended up using around binary stars, and called them Yellow and White.

It didn't take many tours on terraforming jobs to lose the romantic idealism.

The only reason the mountain peaks had names is that some military geologist had gotten cute when drawing up the survey maps. It was just as well, though. To coordinate their assignments, the various work crews had to call the mountains something, after all. A clockwise "One", "Two", "Three", etc. would have worked just as well as Fuji, Everest, Olympus, Hood, Kilimanjaro, Denali and Vesuvius. It didn't matter, though, and it was easier for the guys to use the names already on the maps.

Living habs, workshops and loading depots had been set up on the little shoulder slabs around and between the main peaks. The crews ion-blasted the tops off several of them to get some flat ground. If these peaks had been formed by geologic activity, the foothills would have been rounded. As it was, all of it was jagged slag, a couple of billions of tons of deep-crust ejecta flash-melted by a massive asteroid strike, and then flash frozen into these leaning daggers. Twenty kilometers across, ninety kilometers long, and eleven kilometers deep at the far end of Big Valley, from orbit it looked like the kind of gouge a thrown rock makes in wet sand.

It wasn't just the most interesting feature on Bullseye's surface, it was the only feature. This was a lightweight world with a thick crust and a small, cool core. Aside from its strategic location near the Chiorrian Empire's northern frontier, the entire RK-2034 system was worthless. All it had was Bullseye, its four tiny moonlets and a few comets. No goldilocks planets to colonize or ice worlds to tunnel into, no gas giants to siphon for warp core fuel or asteroid fields to mine for minerals. The only reason mankind was developing this world at all was as a covert listening post, and, potentially, a forward launching platform for a NovaStrike salvo if the Chiorrians got ambitious again.

Yellow's dim edge peeked over the horizon, silhouetting the cliff edges. Banjo checked his watch again. The communications crews would be up on the mountains already, moving into the last phase of mounting the Planck-space sensor grids on the cliffsides. The main bulk of the personnel, the crew responsible for hiding the fusion reactor down on the valley floor wouldn't get going until Yellow fully cleared the mountaintops, at least another hour.

The Third Arm War had ended in victory for mankind forty-six years ago when Earth used the Nova bomb to drop artificial black holes into the suns of a few of the Chiorrian colony worlds. Just over two billion people died in that attack. Well, Banjo thought, not "people" exactly. In his mind, "people" still meant humans, so technically, Chiorrians weren't people.

People or not, though, they paid extremely well when they had to. He keyed in the command to set off the charges and felt the ground jolt under him in a staccato tremor. The mountains silently shivered and began to crumble down into the valley below.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. They say everyone has his price… I didn't expect him to be a traitor though. Good pacing, esp. for an all-narrative story.

  2. I agree with the first commenter. I didn't expect a traitor. You have a lovely writing voice - you had me from the first word. Good job!

  3. The allure of filthy lucre will turn almost anyone. Great pacing. Been really enjoying your sci-fi stuff of late
    Adam B @revhappiness

  4. great tension here. money can buy most anything. peace...

  5. Man alive, you were in a rank mood when you did this. Remind me to hide my seismotion machine. Where's he going to spend that money if it wrecks up so much of the planet?

  6. I love the way he justifies attacking another species because he can't think of them as being "people". Racism extends to species?

  7. I love the seemingly quiet ending after a nice turncoat even. Nice sci-fi. The fact that you use fancy words as 'staccato' in tandem with 'crap' just makes me smile.

  8. @ FARfetched: I didn't expect him to be a traitor though. Surprise!

    @ Kittie: Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!

    @ afullnessinbrevity: I've been having fun with the sci-fi; I should write more of it.

    @ Linda: Some things about human nature never change...

    @ Troy Worman: Thank you!

    @ John: Man alive, you were in a rank mood when you did this. It started with the ring of mountains, towering in a yellow-white vacuum. What better thing to do with just a majestic sight, unique in all the universe, than to destroy it? Besides, Banjo has an escape plan to get off that rock and go cash his check.

    @ Icy: I was afraid I was too heavy-handed with the allegory of how World War Two ended. Looks like I got away with it?

    @ XM: In space, no one can hear you betray your species. The fact that you use fancy words as 'staccato' in tandem with 'crap' just makes me smile. Ah, well... that's something that I didn't even notice. You should have seen the reaction I got when I once used the word "glissando" in conversation.

    Apr 8, 2011 6:38:00 AM

  9. I had to read the last part 3 times before accepting tht he was indeed a traitor. Well played!

  10. With your great description of this world, I feel that I know it. You also give this guy a real edge and although it is hard to sympathise with him, he is certainly believable.

  11. I love the twist revealing his motives at the end. The descriptions were great and really pulled me into the world.

  12. Very eloquent sci-fi, and I loved the twist in the tail.

  13. nicely paced and seemingly well studied bit of scifi with a hint of a space opera scale. love 'banjo's' attitude, 'well works work' as he flips the switch.

  14. Like the strong visual right off the top. Good level of detail, too - informs but doesn't bog down the story.

  15. A Nova bomb...where can I get one of those?

  16. Very enjoyable, believable world, believabe betrayal

  17. Good read, Tony. Loved the last graph especially.

  18. love that last line and all the above


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