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Entry Dome

by on October 31, 2010

My armed escort and I have been sent to this suburb to investigate reports of an Entry Dome. The image from the air recon team that I’ve got stashed in my backpack is noisy, but it certainly looks like a Dome. Right size, shape, relative position. We walk down the middle of the deserted street, past the empty husks of houses, shops, offices. I’ve been three months on this job and I’ve never spotted anyone.

I scan the device on my wrist to clarify directions. Left here, then two more blocks up, on the right. I turn to the trooper and nod. She nods back and double-checks her weapon. She doesn’t talk much. She sits on her own in the mess hall. But I trust her. Something about her approach to the job.

We round the final corner and the Dome comes into view. It looks pretty much like the others: like the top half of a big, rusted, diver’s helmet. I spot the access hatch, and take quick, short, steps to the keypad. I crouch down, get out my makeshift tools, and gingerly start prodding at the keypad. Some of them are rigged, booby-trapped. Just last week someone in Team 3 lost a hand.

After a few minutes of sparks and cursing under my breath, something unexpected happens: the door actually begins to slide open. I fall over backwards in shock; my escort brings her rifle sharply up and at the door. On the other side are two humans: a techie, crouched by the other side of keypad, looking as surprised as me; a trooper, standing taut, their gun aimed out at us.

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12 Comments
  1. Found this kinda surreal and very strange in a good way. The dreamlike setting – empty city; unclear images; high-tech barely explained gear.

    I enjoyed the bit about the trooper and why he trusts her -good stuff and subtle.

    The end is interesting but for me very difficult – it seems to obscure the narrative rather the provide some means of understanding it. It use of ‘human’ made me question the specie of the protagonists but I am not sure that this was your intent.

    So for me it was intriguing but frustrating – perhaps I’ll have to wait for you to write the rest of the novel so I can understand what’s what. [or perhaps assume it’s a sequel to my ‘First Day’ Story set years later]

    • Thanks, dude!

      Re end: both the obscuring and the questioning of the protagonist were on purpose, honest, guv.
      I felt like I didn’t want to say much about the dome or how / what / why – just build it up a bit.

      Re First Day sequel: now that we have a rich bank of great stories, I want to start dipping in and out of other people’s a little more. Referencing them, even if it’s obliquely.

  2. nantalith permalink

    I liked the ending of this. I like it when things end and you think ‘what the hell, it makes no sense’. But it actually does when you sit and puzzle it out to your satisfaction.

    The diver’s helmet didn’t work for me though. I know what helmet you had in mind but it’s not what I think when diver’s helmets are mentioned. It’s just a case of what you know in reality versus what you imagine in fiction.

    • Thanks, Nants.

      Re helmet: ah, yes, I can see that with your dad-dive connection you would imagine something very different!
      Maybe I could make it more specific: brass diving helmet. Hinting that’s old style?

  3. cbraz permalink

    This was enjoyable, strange and surreal. It reminded me of the Final Fantasy movie – empty streets and soldiers doing dangerous work in them, and others, and the idea that something has happened some time ago to cause the emptiness. I thought you captured the mind-state of a unit doing dangerous, semi-military work very well. I really liked the brief but powerful description of the soldier, especially “She sits on her own in the mess hall.” It conveys a lot, including the way that the narrator and others live.

    I’m not sure of the significance of the Entry Dome – it doesn’t mean anything specific to me, but suggested a post apocalyptic situation where people have shut themselves up for protection from something. I’m not sure why the narrator and his people are still finding new domes or having them reported.

    I also got the impression that the narrator is not human, or does not necessarily expect to find humans from the “on the other side are two humans” bit.

    It was strange and I’m not sure what it all means, but in quite a good way πŸ™‚

    Three minor grammar issues:
    “She’s doesn’t talk much.” – I presume you meant “She”
    “a trooper, standing taught, their gun aimed out at us.” – I presume you meant “taut”. Also, I don’t like the usage of “their” with a singular subject, although I know a lot of people use it – personal issue I guess, but I would have said “his”, “her” or just “gun aimed out at us”.

    • Thank you!

      The FF movie and the semi-military vibes are what I was going for, so I’m pleased that I managed to get it across.

      Details of the particulars of the Domes were left out on purposes. I have a back story in mind (of course! ahem), but haven;t included any hints to it here.

      Narrator (and soldier) decidedly not human in my mind, but I wanted it to be a revelation / question at the end, so I think that kinda worked.

      Re She’s and taut: argh, godfrakkindammit. I have fixed these. That’s what happens when you leave it late and proof-read while half asleep! 😦
      The narrator doesn’t know the sex of the trooper, so he or she couldn’t work, but I think dropping the their would work, and make for better flow.
      Thanks!

  4. parfles permalink

    I agree with preceding comments – great atmosphere; lovely, subtle characterisation; mysterious story which remains unexplained but where possible explanations suggest themselves.

    I was a little confused at the surprise generated by the dome opening. At first i thought that this is the first time they got one open, but that is not the impression I get from the rest of the story. So I’m a bit confused by what’s so surprising?

    For the record, I thought the protagonists were human, and they were expecting to find aliens on the other side – hence the shock of it being other humans. I would not be surprised if they looked exactly the same as the two of them either!

    Thank you, very awesome story.

    • Thank you, Parfles!
      I can like to be mysterious. In stories.

      I think it’s not very clear from the story, so could use some work, but the idea is that they have found many domes, but not managed to get any open before.
      Hence the shock off popping one open (finally).

      Re protagonists: alternative universe version of the story has them being human, but the one I settled on has them as aliens. I think if I’d have gone with the AU version, I would have phrased the discovery a little differently. “Humans, like us” or “Humans too” or “Not aliens” or something.

  5. An individual of Some Unspecified Importance is heading out into the ‘burbs with an armed escort to investigate an Entry Dome (an object of Unspecified Importance). What we know: there is more than one Entry Dome; the suburb is deserted; whatever is in the entry dome doesn’t want others to get in. What we may suspect: the characters are not necessarily human, and / or they do not expect those things inside the dome to be human. But they do know what a human is.

    The thing I loved best about this was the ending, which stops in mid-action. There can be something marvelous and promising about chapter / story endings like that, and it doesn’t feel out of place here.

    I was unsure about the number of troopers escorting our Individual of Unspecified Importance (IUI). This wasn’t really a problem: I came to the conclusion that our IUI was escorted by only one Trooper.

    Like others, I +1 the description of the trooper and the mess hall.

    Unlike CBraz, I also +1 the use of the singular “their”. If the narrator doesn’t know the sex of the trooper, using “he or “she” isn’t great.

    I wonder how reflexive the whole scene is as well β€” it seems that our IUI and their trooper have met their mirror images, this being Something Unexpected. Except it can’t be merely a mirror image, because while our IUI has crouched down to play with the keypad, ours has also fallen backwards in surprise β€” theirs is merely crouched down.

    • Thanks, Roodles.

      Re ending: glad you like it!
      I was a bit unsure if the mid-action stop would work here.

      Re number: I think by P2 and “the trooper” it’s clear how many (1), but I can see that P1 isn’t quite clear.

      Yay for more mess hall happiness: thanks!

      Re their: mmm, see above response to CBraz’s comment. I think dropping the their would make a better, snappier, bit.

      Re reflexive: my plan was the outside are Our Aliens and inside are Some Humans. Both sets of peeps have been trying to open the Dome doors, but Our Aliens have been trying for longer (and failing a lot), hence the surprise. I like to think that our IUI is surprised that they actually got the door open (by poking at it), our Insiders had just crouched down to start poking at it.
      Or something like that.
      πŸ™‚

  6. I am tantalised! This is not a fic, this is the first part of the opening chapter of one of those very good science fiction novels which throws the world at you as unexplained implication over the course of the first twenty pages. My mind is going to worry at this for the next few weeks, desperately questing for the “a-ha!” moment on p. 21 when it all clicks into place. Which doesn’t help, when what I have is 250 words. Phooey.

    I agree with most of the comments above, including the Requisite English Professional whinge about typos, and a deep happiness at the economy and depth of your characterisation of the trooper. Except that I disagree with Parfles. I like the speaker’s surprise when the door actually opens. I have no idea what the hell it means, but it’s surprising, and I’ll enjoy finding out somewhere between here and p. 20. Oh, wait.

    *fulminates*

    • Thank you, Fulminating of Cape Town. πŸ˜‰
      I may return to this on a later theme, when it fits.
      I do feel slightly cheeky at stopping mid-action, but I think it works.
      Prepare For Launch kind of thing.

      I am deeply shamed by my typos and have flogged myself with various USB cables as penance.
      I trust this is sufficient.

      See above responses re surprise: they’ve seen many, but this is the first one they’ve managed to get open.
      Boing!

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