Image Prompt Response 070 – Silent Snowscape


I chose the image of the snowy scene in Dundee Scotland for my twenty-minute sprint.  I’m also still having fun with the idea I started two image prompts ago and continued last month.  So this is a continuation of those two scenes.

Silent Snowscape:

Valerie shivered as she stepped out of the tent the next morning.  There was a dusting of snow over everything, giving the world a hushed feeling and a brightness that didn’t seem to belong in their world anymore.

She made her way to the latrine and then the washing tent to prepare for the day.  By the time she was back Dr. Harrison had left the tent, so she went through their packs and put everything they would need into the smallest two.  They had one last device to install today.  She closed the second pack and sat down on her bunk beside it.  This was the last one.  The last step.  She didn’t know what they’d be doing after today.

Valerie shook her head and got to her feet.  She wasn’t going to get maudlin.  Besides, Dr. Harrison had admitted that he requested her as his partner.  She would likely get to continue working with him if he wanted.

She found Dr. Harrison in the mess tent and joined him for a quick breakfast before they returned for their packs.

“As efficient as always,” Dr. Harrison said, laughing as he picked up both packs to gauge their weight.  He always took the heavier pack.  She tried to load them fairly equally when she could, but she couldn’t argue with him over it.  She was a slender 1.6 meters and he was a solidly muscled 1.9 meters.  She wasn’t out of shape but he was definitely equipped to carry more weight than she was.

They gave their names and codes at the gate and let them know they were returning as soon as the device was installed and headed out on foot.  The camp was tucked between buildings in what was once the city center.  They made their way back across the eerily quiet snow-dusted emptiness in silence.

Valerie remembered Dundee as a bustling city.  Normally there would have been plenty of people out, even on a cold snowy day like this one.  But now the city was a shell of what it once was.  The buildings on one side of the central square had been leveled and the rest heavily damaged.  By some miracle the dragon statue in the middle of the square had survived.

It didn’t take them long to make their way across the empty city to the shores of the Tay.  They took a right past a cherry tree that seemed frozen in time.  It was dusted in snow now, but every time Valerie had passed it in the pasted six months, it looked exactly the same.  The pink flowers just starting to bloom like it was early spring, even though it was late January at the moment.

In the lee of the building behind the mysteriously static cherry tree was what looked like a pile of debris.  Valerie took off her pack and handed it to Dr. Harrison before crouching down and making her way under the first board until she could reach the boat that was hidden there.  She pulled the small row boat completely out onto the snow before accepting her pack again.

They made their way down to the water with the boat carried between them.  Valerie climbed in firt and and Dr. Harrison pushed off as he stepped in.  Dr. Harrison did the rowing and Valerie using a third oar to help steer.  They made for the piles of the old Tay Bridge.  It was going to be a tricky installation, but the location was too good not to use.  The devices were meant to both gather data about electromagnetic activity within their range and work as rudimentary communication towers.

The hope was to determine what was interfering with radio communications and hopefully allow a limited number of cellular devices to communicate.  It would solve one of their largest problems, and allow them to better coordinate and share information.  They still didn’t know what actually happened ten months ago aside from the physical devastation it left behind.  They didn’t even know where the attacks came from.

When they reached the pile they wanted, Valerie shifted to kneel in the center of the boat.  She wanted as much stability as possible while they tried to find a way to anchor the boat to the pile.  If the thing had been big enough they’d have brought along a third person to help them.  One who knew more about boats.

Image Prompt Response 069 – Our Most Reliable Navigator


I chose the image of the bridge and the remains of an older bridge on the Tay as viewed from Dundee, Scotland.  This is actually a continuation of last month’s scene.  I was having so much fun with the idea I wanted to keep going.

Our Most Reliable Navigator:

Valerie and Dr. Harrison arrived at the University’s camp site on the Tay just as dusk was fading into night.

“Who goes there?” The guard posted at the gate called.

“Harrison…and…Tavish,” Dr. Harrison called back between huffing breaths.  “Bravo…Six Niner…and Hotel…Niner Niner,” he added.

“Get in, quickly,” the guard said.  “We’re in the process of locking down for the night.”

“Why do you think we’re out of breath?” Dr. Harrison asked as they dismounted their bikes and wheeled them through the gate.  “It was a hell of a trip.”

“Go get cleaned up and settle your gear,” the guard said.  “I’ll send someone to let Dr. Avery know you’ve arrived safe and will report to her before turning in.

“Thank you kindly,” Dr. Harrison replied, motioning for Valerie to lead the way.

She nodded to him, still too winded by the headlong rush to get to the camp to respond properly to anyone.

By the time they’d secured their bikes along the wall and found the tent reserved for the research team, she was breathing easier and the stitch in her side had subsided to a dull ache.  Everything had gone smoothly for the first day of the trip north, but on the second day, they’d stopped for supplies near Edinburgh, and gotten on the road with seven hours to make the six-hour trip.  Then found the Edinburgh bridge had been destroyed in the three months since they’d last been through.  It took an extra hour and a half to go around, so they’d pushed themselves as hard as they could to make it all the way to the Dundee camp before dark.

In retrospect, she should have recommended they diverge north toward Dunning and take the extra day to get to Dundee, but they’d made it, so at least she didn’t have too guilty about it since Dr. Harrison seemed less winded than she was.

She followed Dr. Harrison back out into the night and across the camp to the planning tent that was set up in the center of every University run camp.  It made it easier for everyone to find and report into their superiors.

“I was beginning to think something had happened to you two,” Dr. Avery said as soon as they walked in.  “Tavish is one of our most reliable navigators.”

“We hadn’t gotten word the bridge was out,” Dr. Harrison replied.

“What?” Dr. Avery snapped, standing up from her folding chair.  “Which bridge?”

The bridge,” Dr. Harrison replied.  “Edinburgh bridge.”

“Damnation,” Dr. Avery spat, followed by a colorful stream of cursing that was inventive enough for any historical sailor.

“Is this your first word of it as well?” Dr. Harrison asked softly.

“Yes,” she said, slumping back into her chair.  “We had another crew arrive back only a week ago, and they didn’t mention anything about the bridge.  Almost everyone resupplies at Edinburgh, so it’s the most used route to us.  Someone must have figured that out finally.”

“Just make sure the word gets out,” Dr. Harrison said.  “It was almost everything we had to make it before the gates closed.  We had an hour to spare, but closer to two would have been more comfortable.”

“You did well,” Dr. Avery said, including Valerie with eye contact and a nod.  “I’ll get word out on the network about the bridge so others can plan for the detour.  We may need to move the supplies to a better location as well.”

“Other than our travel mishaps today, everything went to plan,” Dr. Harrison said.  “Valerie has been indispensable as always, and we’ve got only one device left to install.”

“That was faster than anticipated,” Dr. Avery said, actually looking surprised.  “Dr. Davis had estimated two weeks for installation for the southern sites.  He’s only just now finished his three.”

“As I said, she’s been invaluable,” Dr. Harrison replied.  “I’d never have gotten it done in twice the time without her.”

Valerie could feel herself blushing.

“We’re all very aware of how important Tavish is to this project,” Dr. Avery said softly.  “Why do you think she’s the only student who always gets her first pick of research partners?”

Valerie glanced between them.  What was that supposed to mean?

“Don’t go scaring the poor woman,” Dr. Harrison said to Dr. Avery before turning to Valerie.  “We’ve noticed that you request to work with me and I’m very aware that it’s because the two of us make a very efficient team and you value efficiency.  It’s why I’ve always requested you in return to ensure you get your first choice.”

“I do value efficiency,” Valerie said softly.  It was too embarrassing to say that she also preferred working with Dr. Harrison because he cared enough to explain things as they worked.  She learned more with him, that’s why she really wanted to work with him so much.

“Why don’t you head to bed,” Dr. Harrison suggested.  “I’ll give our report and then we can head out to the Tay first thing in the morning and see if the boats survived.”

“Yes, get some rest,” Dr. Avery urged.

“Thank you,” Valerie said before leaving the tent.

Image Prompt Response 068 – The Common Sense on the Team


I chose the image of the statue (which I think it supposed to be either Atlas or Hercules) with the gorgeous tree behind it for my twenty-minute sprint this time.  I took this photo on a backpacker’s tour called the Welsh Dragon, which may have colored my response.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Common Sense on the Team:

Valerie was crouched at the toolbox when the cursing started again.  At least she assumed it was cursing.  Dr. Harrison was letting out a stream of angry words that Valerie assumed where in his native Welsh.  Even living in Cardiff for three years, she wasn’t usually fluent enough to catch one word in ten, and usually those were the numbers or articles anyway.

She stood up and looked back at the statue they’d set up around.  Dr. Harrison had actually climbed up on the pedestal and was using one hand on the head of the figure to balance while positioning the device over the sphere at the top.

Valerie saw immediately why he was cursing.  He’d gotten the device positioned properly, but couldn’t let go of it or the head of the statue without sending the device and likely himself, crashing back to the ground.

Valerie bent down again to grab the screwdriver she’d come for and hurried over to the statue, actually using the ladder they’d put up on the tree-side so they could reach the top of the sphere.

With quick, deft motions, she tightened down the screws that would stabilize the device and keep it in place on her side.

“I’ve got the device,” she said, making sure she had a solid grip on it with her free hand.  “Here’s the screwdriver,” she added, holding it out over where his hand was braced on the statue’s head.

“You’re a lifesaver as always,” Dr. Harrison said, laughing as he reached over to take the screwdriver with the hand not braced on the statue’s head.

“That’s because I’m just down to earth enough to plan my next move properly,” she replied, grinning.

He laughed so hard he almost fell off, but he still managed to finish with the screws and secure the device in place.  He leapt down as soon as he was done, whipping tears from his eyes.

“It’s not that funny,” she said primly as she came down the ladder.

“That’s the thing,” Dr. Harrison said, smiling over at her.  “It’s not funny at all, it’s true.  The other researchers and I have our heads so focused on the problem and the solution we’re trying to test, that we get a bit lost.  You’ve been our saving grace this entire project because you actually take a moment to look before we all leap and remind us to use safety measures and practical things like ladders.”

“I’m learning a lot,” she said, “so I don’t mind being the voice of common sense while I’m here.”  She was a few months of dissertation work away from being Dr. Valerie Tavish, but she kept putting it off because of the project.

“I think that’s everything for this site, isn’t it?” he asked as he returned the screwdriver to the toolbox in its proper place.  He was Valerie’s favorite of all the researchers on the project because he was willing to take the five seconds needed to read the labels and return tools to their proper homes.  It was so much easier to work when you could find all your tools without even looking.

“We should do a test start,” she suggested.

“Of course, of course,” Dr. Harrison replied, moving over to the Diviner Source Crystalline Matrix (or DSCM) that was positioned at the bottom of the statue and bolted to the sidewalk.

He flipped a few switches and there was a soft hum from the DSCM and then a sharp whine from the devise on top of the statue.  It glowed a soft green before Dr. Harrison flipped another switch and the color faded.

“That’s a success then,” he said.  “Where’s out next stop?”  He started packing away his books and returning the remaining tools to Valerie’s toolbox.

“Next is up in Scotland,” Valerie replied as she started carefully folding the ladder.  They would be back in her home turf, near where she’d completed her undergraduate degree and not far from where she’d grown up.  Not that there was much left of either place.

“It’ll be a few days’ journey then,” he replied, lifting the bags he usually took charge of during their trips.

“We can probably make it in two if we plan the route right and leave at first light each day,” Valerie replied.  She knew the paths, and all the shortcuts between England and Scotland, and she was fairly sure Dr. Harrison knew the same between Wales and England.  The could combine their knowledge and cut out a considerable amount of travel time.  Especially if they could avoid getting too close to London.  You have to travel much slower around the remains of the capital to remain unnoticed.

“I see you have some shortcuts in mind,” he replied with a laugh.  “I can get us to the border in about half a day of riding if we take the shortest route.  We won’t be able to stop at the primary University base for resupply if we got that way.”

“There’s a supply depot near the ruins of Edinburgh,” Valerie offered.  “I think our supplies will last a good four days, which gives us a buffer.

“Let’s get back to camp then and collect the bikes and the rest of our gear,” Dr. Harrison said.  “We’ve got a good four hours of daylight left, and there’s a good camping spot about three hours ride down our route, might as well get a head start.”

“Let’s go,” Valerie replied, following Dr. Harrison.

Image Prompt 044 Response – Shelter in Place


I chose the picture of the fountain at the McKimmon Center.  I wrote this at my weekly write-in and the prompt from the room was to crash a spaceship into it, so I hope you enjoy a little random scifi.  As usual, this is the product of a timed sprint and a quick copy edit. I went a bit over my usual twenty minutes so I could get to the actual crash, so this is a bit closer to a thirty-minute sprint.

Shelter in Place:

Sarah was on duty at the front desk in the McKimmon Center doing her statistics homework.  It was a work-study position, so they had to let her work on stuff when there was no one around that needed help or directions.  It was the only reason she had both rent and all her homework done.

She heard the rumbling and thought it was thunder at first, but when the noise just kept up, she got up and checked outside.  It was bright and sunny. The only clouds were the fluffy white ones that never caused rain. The rumbling noise was still there, and it was getting louder.  She didn’t see anything, so she went back to the desk. If it was worth worrying about, she’d get an alert soon. It could just be related to one of the ever-present construction projects in and around campus.  She’d started ignoring a lot of noises after they began reconstructing Hillsborough Street. You could hear it in any building within a block of that edge of campus.

Sarah was just getting back to her statistics homework when her phone went off.  It was a campus alert telling everyone that there was a national warning asking everyone to get indoors as quickly as possible and shelter in place.  All campus personnel were to stop what they were doing, go to the nearest building, and follow the shelter in place procedures. Continue reading