Orphans

Exercise:

Use these three things in your story: An orphanage, a mysterious guest, and a tornado

Way too much going on before we get to the interesting part. That’s what happens when you have an idea rather than a real story. 🙂 About 720 words.

The First Orphan

Louis Serkan, Administrator of the Merklan IV Community Shelter, loved children and his job, but despised the cold. Located almost entirely on the poles, the Merklan IV colony had been attempting to terraform the planet for decades without success. Massive, violent, horribly destructive tornados ruled most of the planet year-round. Equally devastating hurricanes swept across the oceans. They stopped at the northern and southern reaches of the planet. Something about the wind patterns or pressure differential whatsits–Louis was no scientist. The available areas were enough for humans to eke out an existence, but the good, arable land at the planet’s equator remained out of reach. Even when the engineering shuttles reached open land, any terraforming equipment left behind shattered by passing storms in short order.

The cold bothered Louis’s joints, which made him seem irritable, and he hated the image of the grumpy, tyrannical orphanage administrator that tended to dominate the popular image of his work. In fact, he treated the seventeen young boys and girls under his care—most of them the children of dead terraformers—as his own.

The speaker on his desk beeped quietly. Louis set aside the small NewsPad. The headline flickered, “Breakthroughs in Orbital Terraforming!”

“Visitor, sir,” the front desk reported.

“Thank you, Helen, let them in,” Louis said, and the computer acknowledged by initiating the airlock cycle at the front door. The visitor was no doubt the engineer from the Central Dome, come to look into expanding the Shelter. If terraforming efforts were, as the news suggested, about to renew, Louis suspected they would need more room.

The lift quickly swept Louis from his office to the front lobby. The lobby, though insulated as well as any other portion of the dome, always felt chilly to the administrator. Maia, the youngest orphan at the Shelter, sat behind Helen’s desk, keeping the sometimes moody computer company. None of the techs could explain Helen’s occasionally erratic social skills. Louis thought she just hated the cold, too.

“Who is it, Mister Serkan?” Maia asked, exaggerating every syllable. Her parents were dead, their shuttle ripped apart over Merklan IV’s largest ocean two years ago. Theirs had been the last authorized expedition. At only seven years old, Maia was one of the first people born on planet, and possessed extraordinarily high intelligence. The other children avoided her.

“Just Mr. Simmon,” Louis said. He watched her fingers dance across a math puzzle on Helen’s central display. The formulae were completely meaningless to him, but when he stepped away, the problem took on a vaguely funneled shape. “What are you working on, honey?”

“Helen says this will help us take care of her,” Maia said cheerfully.

Louis frowned. “Um, okay.”

The airlock doors hissed, and Louis hugged himself, resisting a shiver as a gentle breeze of cold air wafted across the lobby. The man who stepped from the airlock was not Engineer Simmon from the Central Dome. He stood tall, heavy clothes and white coat draped over a thin body. He did not look a day over twenty-five, but his hair was almost completely grey, speckled with strands of black. Unlike most of Merklan’s pasty colonists, he possessed a dark tan. The stranger stepped forward and thrust a bulky object wrapped in a blanket at the administrator.

“This is a shelter, correct?” the man said. Louis stepped back.

“How can we help you, sir?”

“You’ve done quite enough,” the stranger said. He stepped up and deposited the package atop Helen’s console. It clunked heavily. He then turned and walked back into the airlock. Helen shut the door and began the cycle without prompting.

“What the hell was that?” Louis muttered.

Maia hopped up, standing on her chair to reach the mysterious package. Before Louis could shoo her away, she tore free the blanket. Her face lit up with glee and she clapped her hands.

“I wanna call her Marissa!” Maia called.

Louis stared. It was a small, arched glass case, perhaps eight inches tall. Within, bouncing back and forth against the walls of the container, whirled a tiny tornado. Little storm clouds raged at the top of the case. The miniature vortex of wind ravaged a thin layer of dirt at the floor of the case.

“Shall I ring Mr. Simmon again?” asked Helen. “We’re going to need a lot more space.”