TITLE: Skycracked
GENRE: science fiction
WORD COUNT: 7,417 (unfinished)
SUMMARY: Nell inherts the strange Bliss Moon Hotel on Jupiter.


The Bliss Moon Hotel stood between the Teriyaki World Restaurant and the New Scotch Boutique, a thin white and black building in the ancient Tudor style between the two slick black hyper-modern buildings. There was no sign advertising the hotel as the Bliss Moon, but it was hard to mistake it. The window shutters were decorated with carvings of half moons.

I trigged my fingers to bring up the map and directions on my eye screen just to double check. With the sensors blinking green, I adjusted the strap of my tote bag on my shoulder and headed to the front door. It slid open soundlessly as I approached. I entered into a long corridor laid with replica wood paneling, timber framing and white-washed walls. There was a table and two chairs padded with velvet next to a large modern screen where visitors could check in. I took in the antique details and wondered how much money my great uncle had sunk into this endeavor.

The long corridor led to a flight of stairs heading up, an old fashioned conveyance. Beside it was a door leading to the lift. But according to the information that I had gotten from my great uncle's executor, there was an area on the first floor for the employees. It was located through a door next to the access screen. There was an identification pad placed next to the door, which I promptly put my hand on. After a second, the pad glowed green and I was allowed through.

I had vaguely known about Uncle Robert. I had met him once when I was a small child. I remembered him as a large, jolly man who seemed quite pleased to see that he had a grand niece. But my parents had never talked about him. Probably because he was viewed as a black sheep. Uncle Robert had started off conventionally enough. After graduating from the University of New Mars, he had worked as a geneticist on Mars, studying the abnormalities that seemed peculiar to the red planet. But then, in his fifties, at the height of his career, he quit and abruptly moved to the sky cities of Jupiter to work menial jobs. Uncle Robert's parents never forgave him for that sudden move. And I suppose the rest of the family just followed suit.

But here I was, at what was apparently Uncle Robert's legacy. “He's been doing some tinkering with the hotel,” Uncle Robert's solicitor said vaguely. “He was probably trying to get it historically accurate or something. He never did quite say. But he did say that you were the only one in the family who would understand what he was doing. So he willed over his estate on Daedalus to you.”

“Me?” I had told the executor, incredulously. “Uncle Robert must have been deluded about my abilities. I'm no architectural historian. I'm a bioengineer.”

He had shrugged. “That's his will, Dr. Rika. Even if he was deluded, the whole thing is yours.”

But since I was out of a job and no one was taking any more bioengineers (they were a dime a dozen these days, it seems), I decided I had nothing to lose by heading to Jupiter. My parents, of course, weren't so keen on the idea. They wanted me to stay on Mars, marry some well-to-do astrocartographer if I couldn't get a job, and pop out grandchildren. But as astrocartographers had the tendency to be insufferably arrogant, I decided that Jupiter was a better bet, even if most people considered it the conservative backwaters of the solar system.

Once I was inside the employees only room, I took a look around at the office space. It didn't seem that unusual. I logged onto the computers with the information that had been given to me in my uncle's will and checked the hotel schematics. It appeared that the whole thing could run itself with very little interference, it seemed. The hotel was equipped with a lot of self-cleaning devices and cleaning robots. Many things in the hotel were automated so that guests could check themselves in and out with little fuss. Aside from the owner of the hotel, there was one other employee who acted as handyman and security guard. According to the computer, this employee was currently downstairs in the basement of the hotel. Probably working on maintenance, I thought.

A message blinked on the computer. I opened it. At first, it didn't seem like anything had occurred, but I was suddenly startled out of my seat by a voice from the far corner of the room.

“Hello, Nell. It's a long time since I've seen you. And it's too bad it's under this circumstance that we meet again.”

I turned around to see my great uncle Robert, just as I remembered him although there was more white in his hair. He was a large muscular man, a cross between a lumberjack and Santa Claus. He had a kindly expression on his face. At first I thought someone was playing a trick on me, until I noticed the platform under his feet.

“You're a hologram,” I said, stupidly.

“That I am, Nell,” said Uncle Robert. “I'm actually an interactive holographic image with an independent AI. Your great uncle programmed me, knowing that I will be of help to you as you try to figure out this place. The Bliss Moon Hotel is his legacy to you. There are many hidden things in this hotel, many of which even I don't really know about. But I'm here to guide you.”

“This is kind of weird, talking to you even though I know my uncle is dead.”

“It is weird,” the hologram acknowledged agreeably. “But that's how your great uncle wanted it to be.”

copyright © 2001-2012 S. Y. Affolee