This is the fifteenth in a series of posts featuring speculative flash fiction in translation. The series highlights both new and established spec fic writers from around the world.
Florin Purluca is a Romanian writer, living in Focșani, Romania. He has a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and works in a psychiatric hospital in his hometown. His fiction has been published in several Romanian periodicals, online and in paperback. Translations of his work have been published in Samovar, The Singularity, and Aphelion. He has published five novels so far.
“An Energetic Star” by Florin Purluca, translated from the Romanian by the author
Since it was quite a demanding job, part of the training to become a collector-engineer started from a young age. But that was how the next generation of collectors was selected, and not just any dolt could become one. So, at eight sharp, the driver stopped the school shuttle in front of the power-plant and a small group of students and one teacher disembarked.
“I’ve really been looking forward to seeing a smasher like this,” said one of the anxious students.
“You’re telling me, Kattm?” said another one, as anxious as the first.
The gates of the plant glided open and one employee emerged and asked them to follow him. They did just that, forcing the teacher to wave her hands in a desperate attempt to slow their advance.
“Cool!” said Kattm to his friend Taar, barely slowing down. “We’ll be escorted by a full time coll-e.”
“Nice, dude,” said Taar.
Once inside the massive building, they were told to be quiet and proceed single file, until they reached a translucent wall. The group stopped and the engineer pressed some hidden buttons. The glass became crystal clear. Through it, they saw an army of operators, who swarmed like ants among dozens of square tables.
“As you all know from class, but haven’t seen yet, this is a real collection center,” said the engineer. “I’m proud to let you know that the engineers in this center work hard to process a special kind of energy source: inward energetic stars. Because of them we have artificial light, we grow food, and our ships can fly.”
The children murmured softly.
“So, does anyone have any questions?” added the employee. Like the other kids, Kattm waved his hand impatiently. The engineer pointed to Taar.
“Mister, do we get to see a collection up close?” he asked.
The coll-e smiled, turned away from the group, then pressed some other hidden buttons. They saw a triangulated target, which then zoomed in on a part of the working area beyond the glass wall.
An animal restrained on a translucent metal stand struggled to free itself. Considering the heavy webbing, the fight seemed pointless.
“There you go!” smiled the employee.
All of the students stood quietly absorbed by the view, except for Kattm, who continued to wave his hand.
“Ah,” wailed Taar, folding over and rolling into a defensive position. “This kind of hairless creature is just hideous.”
“Oh, that is certainly true,” added another kid.
The whole group chuckled.
“Ok, ok…” interrupted the teacher. “Any other questions? Yes, Kattm.”
Above the translucent metal stand glided a robotic arm. It stopped right in front of the creature’s head and issued a photonic beam. A trickle of smoke rose up from it and the animal stopped his senseless struggle.
Kattm wanted to speak, but the coll-e’s signs made him swallow his words. After a fast set of input commands on the apparently invisible console, the glass wall ran some visual filters and the engineer decided on a thermal one. Everything seen on the wall took on a shade of matt gray. All but one appeared to be an interesting sketch of the dead animal. That strange halo was hovering above the corpse, imitating the colors of a shapeshifting rainbow.
“By Daa’s will,” marveled Kattm. “That is a really powerful inward energetic star.”
“Indeed, kiddo!” agreed the coll-e. “This is why we prefer to harvest this species’ stars.”
“What is its power energy level?” added Kattm.
The employee stood still, smiling brightly with its two vertical jaws. He winked slyly at Kattm, using his fifth eye.
“You can’t find any other kind of energy source like the one we found when we discovered this planet. This star will never die.”
“Wow!” breathed Taar. “A never-ending source of energy.”
“In a way, yes. Because it never dies,” added the engineer. “Nevertheless, after being used for a while, it needs to recharge itself.”
“And how does it do that?” Kattm asked.
“We find it an organic host and send it back to the planet,” clarified the employee.
“Ok, ok…” the teacher interrupted again. “For an A+, who can tell me what kind of animal we have here?”
The entire hall reverberated with whispers. Taar leaned toward Kattm, placing his tentacle in front of his mouth, as if in possession of some big secret.
“I think it’s ‘homo.’ ‘Homo’ something.”
“Homo sapiens, I think,” Kattm said doubtfully. ”But I’m not sure.”
first published in Aphelion, The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy issue 209 / volume 20/ August 2016