Working Title: The Lookout

Story time! This is a first draft. Notations are after the story. (Yeah, I decided: screw it, let’s post it and see what happens)

Working Title: The Lookout

“What is it doing now?”

“If you got your face out of that book you’d be able to see for yourself.”

You’re the one at the screen.”

“And you’re the one who is sitting there reading a book.”

“Because we take turns and this happens to be your turn to watch that thing on the screen. All I have to do is keep an ear out for the sensors.”

“You wouldn’t pay attention if the sensors beeped. You’re reading.”

“I’m keeping an ear out. What’s it doing now?”

“The same thing it’s been doing for days. Making its way slowly towards The Face and collecting little samples of dirt to send back to its home planet.”

“Not like they’re going to find anything useful.”

“No. They’re not going to find anything useful to them, which is how we intend to keep it. It’s a primitive planet. They don’t need to know that we’re here.”

Cargo One to Lookout.

“Lookout to Cargo One, go ahead.”

Has it cut itself off yet? We’re loaded and ready to head out.

“Cargo One, it is almost ready to cut itself off. I’ll let you know when it’s time to ascend.”

Gotcha. Cargo One out.

“What’s it doing now?”

“If you got your nose out of that book you would see that it is slowing down and chirping to itself.”

“I’m not at the screen. I can’t see what it’s doing because you have a big head.”

“I do not have a big head. When it cuts off, I will let you take over so you can actually do your job.”


“How did you even get this job if you’re not going to do anything but read?”

“Because the boss knows I’m good.”

“The boss must’ve been out of his mind when he hired you. Get your feet off the console.”

“My feet are on the other chair, thank you. You’d know that if you moved your head.”

“I have a job to do.”

“Yes, staring at a screen and waiting for the machine to cut itself off to recharge its power cells and to let me know when it does so I can do my stealth break-in of its processors and make sure the primitive thing doesn’t fall off a cliff.”

“Or find The Face.”

“I’m pretty sure they’ve found The Face by now. It’s just a matter of time before they determine whether or not it’s a natural rock formation. It’s hard to miss The Face.”

“We may have to put in to have the artists hide The Face in plain sight while the machine is still running.”

“Why don’t you send a message to the boss about it?”

“I just did, but I doubt anything gets done about it. Higher up seems to believe that the primitives will firmly believe it’s a natural formation.”

“Yes, because a giant face glaring at you from the side of a mountain is a natural occurrence.”

“Your sarcasm is not appreciated.”

“And yet you’re still talking to me.”

“Because communicating with the primitives is forbidden at this point.”

“Getting cranky?”

“Oh shut up.”

“What’s it doing now?”

“Same thing it was doing when you asked the last time.”

“That’s not helpful. You said it was almost ready to cut off the last time.”

“And it’s still almost ready to cut off. The thing takes its time.”

“You’re just stretching this out so you can annoy the captain of Cargo One.”

“I’m not stretching anything out.”

“How much does that captain of Cargo One still owe you? Ten? Twenty credits?”

“A hundred and fifty.”

“So you’re stretching out the wait time until he realizes what you’re doing.”

“I’m not stretching anything out. The machine’s slowing down slower than normal.”

“Define normal.”

“Get your nose out of the book and actually do your job.”

“I am doing my job, you grump.”

“You’re reading.”

“I am doing my job. I am sitting here, keeping an ear out for the sensors, and waiting for the machine to shut off so I can go into its processors.”

“You’re reading a book and complaining.”

“I am not complaining.”

“Lookout to Cargo One.”

Cargo One to Lookout. We ready to ascend?

“You are good to go. The machine has cut off for the night.”

Finally. I thought we’d have to wait again. Cargo One out.

“Get up so I can have a go at the screen.”

“Do your work, then.”

“Watch and learn, my friend. Watch and learn.”

“I don’t have to learn anything. You’re the specialist who can get into the processors, not me.”

“Then at least keep an ear out for the sensors while I break in.”

“It’s hardly a break-in when you’ve created a backdoor into the processor from the first day you got into it.”

“I like to call it a break in. Keeps it exciting.”

“Whatever. So, have you found anything interesting?”

“It collected dirt samples all day.”

“So? If I sent a machine over 200 million kilometers, I’d want it to collect all kinds of samples. Dirt just happens to be an important thing to sample.”

“Why do they want dirt samples?”

“The same reason why we wanted dirt samples thousands of years ago. To study an alien planet, basic curiosity. Maybe they want to see if the surface is inhabitable.”

“The surface hasn’t been habitable for a while. Not without proper precautions.”

“Not for us, but what about them?”

“Why do you care? Do you think that the surface of our planet could possibly be habitable for argon-based lifeforms?”

“I’m curious.”

“It’s got to be more than mere curiosity.”

“Maybe it’s a deep-seeded need to be the first carbon-based lifeform to introduce themselves to an argon-based lifeform.”

“You just want to mess with their primitive minds.”

“And go down in history as the first alien to make contact. I plan on saying ‘Take me to your leader.’ Hey, the sensors are starting up.”

“Damn. At least I’ve got a little bit of new information on the primitives. They’ve figured out how to input data for new mission protocols, but haven’t found the backdoor I created.”

“Because their technology is severely limited.”

“Yes. But at least their little machine won’t be falling off any cliffs any time soon. I’ve mapped out the best course of action for it to take for the next few days.”

“Heading towards The Face?”

“No, away from it. But, I’ve made it look like it’s just a random sequence that coincides with their perimeters. I’ve also set it up so it goes away from the launch pad so it won’t see when Cargo One comes back.”

“The boss will be thrilled when he hears about that.”

“Yeah. Oh hey, get this, they’ve started sending back small snippets of notes to a program.”

“A program?”

“Yeah, looks like some sort of patch-in.”

“Anything interesting?”

“Looks like…it’s talking to an audience of sorts.”


“Yeah. Let’s see…”

“Are you trying to get in the program? The sensors are showing that something’s happening.”

“Hold on.”

“You need to get out of the machine. We can’t let them know that we are watching them.”

“You’re paranoid.”

“Get out of the machine.”

“Found a sequence.”

“Then tell me about it after you get out of the machine.

“Fine. Ok. There. Are you happy now?”

“Very. The sensors are stopping.”

“Kind of strange. Normally the sensors don’t go off when I dig deeper.”

“Maybe they’ve added something to that patch-in.”

“No. The patch-in just links up to a program where the machine adds little snippets. Like, it’ll transmit simple sentences.”

“Like what?”

“Sampling soil. Shows high concentration of nitrogen.”

“That’s helpful.”

“Might be helpful or insightful to them. Come on, let’s report to the boss and let him know what’s going on. We may need to add some extra shifts. The machine might become more useful as the primitives add programs to it.”

“We might have to kill the machine.”

“If it gets smarter than we’re expecting, we will have to. We need to make plans with the boss.”


The other day, I set up a challenge for myself. Could I do a short story where it’s just a conversation between two people? No description of the surroundings and no description of the actual characters who are talking.

I wasn’t expecting to dip into the realm of sci-fi, but it was a lot of fun. Doing this challenge gave me a few ideas for a sci-fi story. Kind of weird, for me at least, as I’m not used to doing this particular genre. I’m a horror person, but it is fun to see what’ll come out of my head.

Again, this is a first draft. Thoughts, critiques, whatever are welcome. I know I’m not the best in the world, and I’m working on getting back into the groove of writing. But, I’m having fun.

I was afraid that the conversation might be confusing, and I got Jamie to read it. He enjoyed it and said that he could tell the different characters talking and thought it was funny. So it may or may not become confusing to the reader.


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