"Two More Hours"

Endless verdant fields stretched out before Joe like an ocean of grain.  Above him, two warm suns hung in the air and invigorated everything around him.  He felt their calming rays, saw the gleaming horizon in the distance, heard the chirping of birdsong, smelled the sweet, syrupy scent of flowers and nectar.

He walked up a hill and crested its rocky summit, the light wind rustling through his hair.  Three large islands floated in the sky, water falling from them directly into placid lakes on the ground.  Below him was a small meadow with a wooden table and one seat.  A picnic cloth had been thrown over the table, and atop it sat bowls of strawberries, honey, and cream.

Joe walked towards the table and sat down.  He reached for a strawberry, and then opened his mouth to take a bite.

Suddenly, a klaxon-sounding ring shattered from above and everything went sideways.  Static erupted in his vision and he lurched back into another dimension.

“Time’s up!” shouted a voice from outside the pod.  “It’s been two hours!  Time’s up!”

Joe felt himself almost catapulted out of the pod as the two employees pulled him out.

“But I was right at the good part!” Joe pleaded.

“We don’t make the rules,” said one of the employees.  “We check on the users every two hours—no if’s, and’s, or but’s.”

“Well, I’m going back in.  Dock my credit.  Put me back where I was.”

One of the employees pulled up his BOSy and went over the numbers.  “Uh,” he started.  “I’m sorry, it appears your credit line has been declined.”

“Declined? What?”

“Yes,” said the employee.  “Payment not authorized”

“That’s wrong.  Try another line.”

“Sorry,” said the employee, “that’s against company policy.  Come back when you get your allowance, kid.”

“But I—” started Joe, but the two workers left without speaking again.  He looked at the pod from which he emerged, smooth like an ocean pebble.  It was closed.  He struck his fist on the top of the plexiglass and then went outside.

He was hungry and irritated.  His stomach growled in protest, angry at being so cruelly denied the berries and cream owed him.  He determined to find food, but without any money it would be difficult to procure any.

He took a circuitous route through the CORE’s Upper Well, leading past an nano-tech goods store.  He stopped in front of the window, letting his eyes wander over a PantoDynamic hacking tool that displayed prominently in the window.  He stood still for a moment, considered the time of day, and the crowd of people inside.  He took a deep breath and went in.

Joe lingered around the window for a few minutes, pretending to look at the stocked shelves, and waited until no one was looking.  When he was in the clear, he reached his hand towards the shelf and grabbed whatever he could fit in his palm.  He stuffed his haul into his coat pocket and ducked towards the exit.

Before he could get there, someone grabbed his arm.  The grip clamped down and yanked him back from the exit.

“Hey!” said Joe. “Let me go!”

“I’ll let you go after you pay for that,” said the man who grabbed him.

“Pay for what?  I’m just on my way out.”

“Uh huh.”

“Let me go!”

“All right, punk kid, how would you like to deal with the CORE police?”

Joe instead tried to make a run for it, but couldn’t get away.

“Fine,” said the man, “get over here and sit down.  I’m calling the police.”

An older man with a wrinkled face approached the two of them.  “Now, now,” he started, “there’s no need for that.”

He looked over to Joe, who was now sitting in a chair, face turned away.  “My name is Henry,” he said.  “And you?”

Joe eyed him suspiciously.

“It’s okay.”

“Joe,” he said.

“Joe,” repeated Henry.  “Nice to meet you.”

The man who had stopped Joe from escaping shook his head and huffed, then left to go help another customer.

Henry pulled up another chair and sat across from Joe.  “What were you going to do with that hacking tool?” he asked.

Joe didn’t say anything.

“Hack into someone’s files?”

Joe looked away.

“Or…pawn it off?”

Joe looked down.

“Ah, I see.  You needed some money.  You were going to sell this for a quick buck.”

Joe sighed, said, “That’s right.”

“What do you need money for?  Food?  Clothes?  You look like you could use both.  Do you have a home?”

“Yes,” said Joe.

“Then do you need food?”

Joe shrugged. His stomach, preternaturally sensing the question, rumbled loudly enough that Henry could hear it.

Henry leaned back and put his hand on his jaw, said, “Huh.”  He smiled, “Well, that answers that.  Let me buy you some food.  Let’s go.”

Henry stood up and motioned for Joe to follow him, but as soon as he did, the assistant from earlier stopped him.

“Henry,” he asked, “where are you going?”

“I’m taking Joe here to buy some food.”

“Wait, you can’t go.  I have to go take my daughter to the doctor in a few minutes.  You have to keep the shop open.”

“Ah, damn,” said Henry.  “I forgot.”  The assistant departed and Henry looked back to Joe.  “Well,” he said, “I’m not going to go back on a promise.”

Joe eyed him.

“If I give you the money, will you make me a promise in return? Will you only use this money to buy yourself some food?”

“Yes,” Joe said quickly.  “Yes.”

Henry pulled up his BOSy and then contacted Joe’s.  “I’m moving over one hundred, ear-marked for grocery expenses.”  He then put his hand on Joe’s knee said, “Look, kid.  I know life can be hard out here.  But people will help you out if you ask.  There’s a lot of good in the world.  If you ever need food again, let me know.”

Joe nodded and made a move to leave.

“The Eclipse will come soon,” said Henry.  “And when it does, you won’t have to worry about stuff like this anymore.  But you have to take care of yourself until it does.”

Joe nodded, said thank you, and  turned to made his way towards the exit.  He slipped outside and made a quick line for the nearest eater.   

He found his way in a few minutes and stood outside the window, facing an array of Caio’s Cubes--each one with bright colored images hanging above them.  His mouth felt watery and sore, but the sight of the cubes did nothing to satiate him.  He could not afford a good memory glom to go with the cubes, and so would either have to eat them straight and enjoy their spongy tang or simply not buy enough to satisfy his hunger.

He tried to step inside but found he could not do it.  The back of his mind itched, his face felt flush.

He turned and went back the other direction.

Moments later, he was in front of the VR pod.  One of the two VRcade employees from earlier came back towards him, said, “Back already?

“Two hours, please.”

“You don’t have any money.”

“Yes I do.”

The employee ran his credit line again and then smirked and shrugged.  “All right,” he said, “we’ll pull you out in two hours.”

Joe sank back into the pod and the plexiglass cockpit clicked closed around him.

The rolling hills of grain appeared before him again, and the table decorated with berries and

Cream manifested itself just as he remembered from earlier.  He sat down and straightened up.

He picked up a strawberry and ate it.


By Chris Howell, Illustration by Lauren Walsh

"Lunar Sparks"

Here I envision the sparks of the 2nd Nanite War in ~ 1000 words of flash fiction.

Only the sounds of Sergeant Kate Halloway’s breathing filled her enviro helmet. The squad had been on comm silence since cresting over the crater rim.

It was typical tactical positioning. Two people on point. Two in the middle. Herself, bringing up the rear.

Their large power suits plodded over the lunar soil in silence. 

There were only a couple Bubbles this far out. Mostly for solar farmers who eschewed the orbiting cities to oversee operations personally. They traded artificial gravity and amenities for eyes on operations and, what Kate suspected, was some misappropriated sense of independence.

Lunar law dictated that each settlement maintain frequent comms with the orbiting Spires just in case there was an emergency.

Gall’s Bubble hadn’t checked in for over a week. It made the Central Spire nervous. Mars had been aggressive in the New Belt, pushing Earthian miners out. Many felt that Luna’s neutrality in the whole affair would be short lived.

So, Kate and her team trundled over the Lunar soil in their heavy, nuclear powered combat suits to investigate why Fred Gall couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone.

The geodesic dome appeared from behind the next outcropping. The ugly structure was covered in solar arrays, their black paneling causing the dome to dissolve into the black Lunar skyline. 

Earth’s figure lay to her right, it’s brownish hue dominating the rest of the skyline.

With the dome in sight, Kate activated her BOSy and began dialing the facility’s computer.

The computer interface chirped in her mind and began doing the proper handshake. Kate told the computer to flag someone to speak with and it chirped for some time before Kate gave up. 

As they strolled onward, she began soliciting the computer for statistics. The dome’s computer obliged happily, chirping and displaying the requested digits.

Eight heat signatures. Kate thought. This would be the eight workers last recorded as checking in for the week’s shift.



“Turn on thermals once you’re in range.”

“Yes. Ma’am. Two minutes out.”

Kate usually enjoyed these types of patrols. They were often boring and usually ended with having to scold someone, usually by brandishing their military insignia and waving their arms threateningly. 

There had been times, however, when Kate had to bloody some asshole’s nose for the sake of Lunar stability. Those were more interesting, sure, but less enjoyable.

When she looked out at the approaching dome, her stomach tightened.

“Confirmed 8 heat signatures.”

Harrison made a weird exhalation.


“And… they’re not moving, ma'am”


Breaching the Bubble was easy. Sergeant Kate Halloway simply walked up to the main airlock. Her BOSy connection with the Bubble’s computer was waiting for her and kindly opened the door for the five soldiers.

With the airlock closed behind them, the point man began broadcasting external to the suit. A simple audio cue for the Luna Military.

“Attention Please. Security Forces have arrived.”

The announcement was filtered through the suit’s speakers, the distorted voice ringing through Kate’s helmet.

Kate had never heard the announcement outside of a suit before. Growing up on the Central Spire, she had never been on that side of a security sweep.

There was less room to maneuver here in the large, hulking suits, and they had to go one at a time.

Harrison was still on point, and he shuffled around the corner, locked onto the the farmers’ heat signatures.

That’s when another sound emanated from her’s suits speakers. Static? White noise?

They came to a minor four way. Small huts sat diagonal from larger containers. Bodies lay in the middle.

Farmers. People. Kate reminded herself.

They had assumed all the figures were sleeping, considering their heat signatures and position on the BOSy filters.

But now, out in the middle of the small yard, the three figures were positioned awkwardly as though they had fallen in place. Their bodies still gave off heat signatures.

And the white noise here was louder too. A sonar weapon? To knock them out? Riot police had such weapons but why here?

Kate walked around the bodies inspecting one of the large shipping containers. The white noise grew louder as she approached the metal cylinder, it’s door pointed towards the four way for easy access.

Harrison and Jun began checking the bodies starting with the one closest to Kate.

“Christ”, said Harrison. 

Copy of Flash Fiction 3.jpg

Kate stopped inspecting the metal container and looked around at the body.

The man’s face was...dissolved? As though he had been dunked in acid-

Kate considered her weapons knowledge. She inhaled suddenly and turned towards the container.

The white noise grew louder and soon black tendrils came through the seams of the container’s door.

Kate’s BOSy alarmed.

“Fuck”, yelled Jun.

Nanites. It was goddamn nanites.

“Get out of here.” she ordered, swiping at her squad mates.

Maybe they hadn’t been too close to the container. Maybe-

She felt the damn things now. She imagined them crawling over her eyes, through her ears. Into her mind…

She tried to stay calm and focus but her mind raced.

Why were these here? Treaties were in place since the Nanite War. These shouldn’t be here.

But it didn’t matter, she realized finally with cool clarity.

These were a risk. They couldn’t be let out of the Bubble. They could travel, slowly sure, but they could travel and find another Bubble to decimate.

Her skin started to itch and then to burn. Everywhere.

She told her BOSy to release the safety mechanisms on her suit’s core.

She hoped that Harrison and the others would find cover.

Kate began the countdown procedure, the burning intensifying as her sight began to fade.

The irony, Kate realized, was that these damn things were originally intended to help humanity.

The countdown ended and the burning ceased.


Want to experience more from The Mind's Eclipse Universe? Come wishlist us on Steam: The Mind's Eclipse

Story by Donald Campbell

Illustration by Lauren Walsh

The Bargain - New Flash Fiction!

We recently challenged each other to write some flash fiction taking place in The Mind's Eclipse universe. This first story is written by Langdon Herrick. Illustration by Lauren Walsh.

The Bargain

“Will it hurt?”

The black market butcher ignores your question as he presses the screwdriver against the side of your head. Your gasp of pain is drowned out by the whine of the tool next to your ear, and you feel a panel of false skin come unhinged. The tech pinches the panel with tweezers and sets it on the metal table beside the operating chair. He runs a cable from a bulky black computer humming on the floor and you realize that he might be putting more in your head than you bargained for.

The data cable clicks in place as it penetrates your interior BOSy port and you feel your lips and toes go numb as illicit data streams into your brain.

“Once the program is finished latching onto your BOSy’s internal matrix you’ll be able to spread the ads to everyone around you on a peer-to-peer axis. You’ll be reading their firewalls, sending the mirror to our decryptors, who will send spoofs back to you. The closer you are, the faster they’ll break down, and the more exclusive and exciting deals they see the more you get paid. Make sense?”


Your head aches as you enter the arboretum on the CORE and you scratch nervously at the spot on your head where the tech replaced the panel. You take a deep breath and walk towards the spiraling, luminescent trees from the Canthus collection. You spot a couple admiring the shining branches and try to remember to breathe as you try to put them within your radius.

Fifteen meters. Five meters. One meter.

You pretend to look at the delicate curves and scythe-like branches of the nano-sculpted biomatter, but out of the side of your eye you watch the couple. How will you know when it’s working? You wait, and despite the immaculate air-conditioning of the CORE, you sweat.

“Woah. What the hell?”

“What’s wrong? Oh…”

“Are you seeing it too?”

“Yeah…that’s weird. My BOSy is set to filter all ads—“

“I’m seeing another one. And another. Oh my god what is going on—“

The couple swats at the air reflexively, as if the invisible advertisements flooding their vision were biting flies. They leave, gripping onto each other’s arms, and you exhale. A smile spreads across your face as you remember the tech’s words: the more deals they see the more you get paid.

You spot an old woman sitting on a bench and staring at an exhibit of ghostly flowers. You start towards her, then hesitate. She looks so peaceful. She looks like the grandmother you left behind on Luna when you came to the CORE. Back before you started taking odd jobs like these. Back before you realized that the dream of the Eclipse was an expensive one.

You shake your head and remember what you’re here for. You remember that your credit account is in the double digits and that rent is due next week. You remember that your best friend had to run back to his parents on Mars because he ran out of money.

You walk up behind the old woman on the bench and pretend to watch the pale flowers, motionless in the recycled air of the CORE.

“These were my daughter’s favorite flowers,” says the old woman.

You realize she’s talking to you.

“She came with me to the CORE, but she fell in with a bad crowd. Started doing reckless things for fun or money…I don’t know which. Maybe both. I think she got impatient, waiting for the Eclipse.”

The old woman turns and looks you in the eye. You see tears brimming in her blue eyes and you feel like you’ve seen this woman before, somewhere.

“Perhaps you’ve seen her?” asks the old woman. “Mind if I show you her picture? It’s a little old, but I wonder if you’d recognize her.”

The old woman reaches for her purse but stops. Your heart stops as she gasps in surprise and taps the side of her head. She’s trying to clear her BOSy display. She groans again and you wonder what colorful, screaming ads are appearing in her vision, addressing her all at once by name now that they know her identity, now that they live in her head.

“Oh my…help me! Please Samantha, help—“

The old woman falls down while trying to rise from the bench. You rush to her without thinking and she’s clawing at her BOSy implant but her fingernails can’t catch the panel and now she covers her eyes futilely but the ads increase their volume and she has to cover her ears.

“Why have you done this? Why, Samantha?”

You claw at your own head and easily remove the panel. The tech left it looser than he should have. You reach into your BOSy implant and press the cold shutdown button. You have to make it stop. You have to—

A neon cowboy appears in your eyes.

“Well shoot, pardner! I thought you wanted to make a quick buck! I’m afraid you ain’t spread the joy around enough yet. Better keep at it!”

The neon cowboy winks, tips his hat, and the message begins to play again. He is joined by a shirtless man telling you about his exercise regimen, a robot describing pills that will “make you a machine in the bedroom” and a dozen others. They fill your vision, yammering like madmen in hyper-real rainbow detail.

The old woman’s hands clutch your shirt and together you fall to the ground. From her hand falls a well-worn snapshot of the old woman and a girl with dark hair. You look at the photo between the radiant chaos overtaking your vision and recognize that girl. You know that face.  You know—


The girl’s body went limp as her BOSy shut down and rebooted. She stood, her head cleared of all interference, and walked out of the arboretum. She left the old woman crying and clutching the bench like a drowning woman. CORE security found and treated her fifteen minutes later, though a full purge of her BOSy took several hours and she suffered abrasions to both knees and a sprained wrist.

The girl returned to the Lower Well and reentered the black market workshop. The tech looked up from his work and saw her standing in the doorway, blank-faced and awaiting reboot.

“Already? Dammit, Samantha. What are we going to do with you?”