Monday, August 1, 2022

The Odin Chronicles • Episode 11: “The Apple” • by Pete Wood

INTRO: Welcome to Odin III, a grubby little mining world on the dark and dusty backside of nowhere. It’s a world where everything that’s worth having is already owned by Galactic Mining, and where people come to squander their hopes and lives, working for the company and dreaming of striking it big. It’s also a world where some very strange and peculiar things have begun to happen, and it all started a bit over three weeks ago, in a bar called Weber’s Place, when Ray Cornwall didn’t just warp the fabric of space/time, he completely bent it…

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine | Part Ten

“The Apple”

by Pete Wood

Father Luigi came to a dead end. Damn. Still no backpack. His radio and tablet were in there. He couldn’t imagine surviving the mines without reading. He’d have to backtrack.

He sat on the floor and took a sip of water. At least he hadn’t misplaced his canteen.

Three months in the abandoned labyrinth of mines and he seriously wondered what he was doing. Did the Rock People, mythical aliens who some said inhabited the deepest mines of Odin III, even exist? Father Francis had thought so when he sent Luigi far underground as a missionary. Luigi had seen nobody except for that reclusive ex-Galactic Mining employee some called the Machinist. Thank God, Daraja was Catholic and appreciated Mass or Luigi would have nobody to talk to.

He really wanted to go topside and stay there. But he knew he had to have faith. If not in some eternal plan, at least in himself. He was past thirty and couldn’t keep jumping from job to job. First his short-lived mining career. Then three church assignments in four years.

He usually avoided thinking about these things but three months alone except for Daraja and rare forays topside allowed for much reflection. He couldn’t just escape this thought like he’d escaped the glares of the other miners or the rants of Father Paval when Luigi miscalculated the amount of hops in the monastery’s brewery. And Father Frances wasn’t happy with him either.

Nothing interested Luigi lately. Except for Shelley. He and the new communications officer in the tiny mining village had become acquainted when Father Francis deemed it too trivial to check on messages from Earth himself. Before long, Shelley and Luigi were laughing and talking for hours in Weber’s Place, the best tavern on Odin III. God, he wanted to date her, but that would take a special dispensation from Father Francis.

Something sparkling caught his eye. He flecked away gravel and debris. Embedded in the rock he saw something red, something glowing.

It took about fifteen minutes to dislodge it with his jackknife.

His head throbbed. Maybe from the work. The object was about the size of a small apple.

He needed to get this to the Machinist. Daraja could fix anything.

Luigi clenched the glowing apple and started the hour-long walk through the catacombs to Daraja’s workshop. The piercing pain in his head intensified. He felt nauseated. The apple must be emanating something.

Before he could drop it, everything went black.

* * *

Luigi woke up to the wrinkled face of the Machinist.

Daraja handed Luigi a cup of water. “Drink this.”

Luigi took a sip and immediately threw up.

“Easy,” Daraja said. “Sit up and take some breaths.”

Luigi’s heart pounded. His headache had lessened. He took another sip of water and managed to keep it down.

He saw the  tables cluttered with handmade toys—boats and trains and planes-- and the scavenged equipment from Galactic. Familiar Monet-esque images of Odin that Daraja had painted. Somehow, he’d made it to the workshop.

“Good thing you were out there,” Luigi said.

Daraja blinked. “Out there?”

“I was just starting to your workshop when I passed out. I found this weird thing.” Luigi pointed to the apple laying by a worktable leg.

The Machinist picked up the apple. “Where’d you pass out?”

“Level 16,” Luigi groaned.

The Machinist frowned. “You think I carried you up and down ladders for two miles?”

“How’d I get here?”

“You just appeared.”

* * *

An hour later Luigi dipped Daraja’s homemade ugali into a spicy stew, a nice break from the stale rations Father Francis gave him.

Daraja took the apple from the spectrometer. “You’ve stumped the machine.”

“What is it?” Luigi asked.

The apple no longer sparkled. Maybe it had run out of power.

Daraja shrugged. “A miracle, Saint Luigi?”

“Those seem pretty damned scarce these days.”

“Then alien technology. A teleporter.”

“A teleporter?” came the unmistakable voice of Raisa Popov, the supervisor for the largest section of mines on the planet. “What are you talking about, Daraja?”

Daraja shoved the apple in his coveralls. “What are you doing down here?”

Popov brushed back her thick black curls. “Thinking of reopening some of these shafts.” She dropped Luigi’s backpack. “Found this in sector eleven.”


Popov smiled. “Sure.”

“I’ve been here for eighteen years,” Daraja said, “and Galactic has sent someone down exactly twice. And it sure wasn’t the supervisor.”

Popov wielded great power. She had a dog brought from Earth, one of a dozen on Odin III. She did not like to waste time.

“You’re under surveillance.”

Daraja glared. “You damned—”

“It’s our mine. You’re squatting.”

“It’s abandoned property.”

Popov sighed. “We’re not kicking you out. Just show us that alien artifact.”

“Let her see it,” Luigi said.

Popov squinted at the apple. “This thing teleported you two miles. Amazing. You disappeared there and appeared here.”

“It’s not yours,” Luigi said, surprised he had the nerve to confront one of the people who ran the planet.

“It’s on Galactic property.” Popov placed the apple inside a plastic bag. “Well, thank you, gentlemen.” She gave a curt bow. “Galactic will be very interested in this technology.”

“They won’t know what to do with it,” Luigi said. “Let Daraja have it.”

“I don’t think so.” She took a step towards the ladder.

“It belongs to the Church,” Luigi said. “I’m on a mission.”

“A mission? Come on, Luigi. You don’t really believe that?”

“I’m looking for the Rock People.”

“Luigi, we have motion detection cameras in every square inch of these mines. We’ve seen no Rock People. They don’t exist.”

“How do you explain the relic?”

“I can’t.”

“Give Daraja the relic.” If Daraja discovered something, he’d share the knowledge. Galactic would only look out for Galactic. “You don’t want a fight with the Church. That’s a cultural artifact. It’s part of my mission.”

 Popov stood without talking for a minute or so. She finally handed the bag to Daraja. “Okay, Luigi, you win. Let’s see what Daraja can find.”

Luigi suppressed a smile. It was so unexpected to be taken seriously.

It didn’t even bother him that Popov gave up way too easily. He wondered if Galactic already had some apples. Maybe she wanted Daraja to research it while Galactic did their own analysis.

“I’ll give it a shot,” Daraja said.

“You’re still under surveillance,” Popov said. “Don’t get any ideas that the relic is yours.” She smiled. “But maybe it’s time to take a different approach out here. Earth might not approve, but they don’t understand this place.”

“I see things down here sometimes and I wonder if I’m dreaming,” Daraja said.

“You’re not alone.” Popov started up the ladder.

Luigi knew he couldn’t keep living like this. He didn’t mind sleeping on the ground or looking for aliens who may or may not exist. It was just the running away from problem to problem with the only common thread being that wherever he went people thought him the fool.

And he’d found a damned teleporter. Great. Something else that would help him escape even faster.

But he couldn’t run away from himself.

“Ms. Popov!” he called out.

She turned around. “Yes?”

“I’m going with you. I have to talk to Father Francis.”

“Sure,” Popov said. “Always good to have company down here.”

Luigi grabbed his backpack and started up the ladder.


Pete Wood is an attorney from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his kind and very patient wife. His first appearance in our pages was “Mission Accomplished” in the now out-of-print August 2012 issue. After publishing a lot of stories with us he graduated to becoming a regular contributor to Asimov’s, but he’s still kind enough to send us things we can publish from time to time, and we’re always happy to get them.

For the past year or so Pete has been in the process of evolving into a fiction editor, God help him, first with The Pete Wood Challenge, then with Dawn of Time, and now with The Odin Chronicles, a 30-chapter shared world saga that will be running here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next ten weeks, and that features the creative work of Roxana Arama, Gustavo Bondoni, Travis Burnham, Paul Celmer, Jenna Hanchey, Carol Scheina, Jonathan Sherwood, and of course, Pete Wood. We suspect that Pete’s real love is theater, though, as with the print version of The Odin Chronicles now mostly finished he’s off working on the audio version, which looks to be an even bigger production that his short movie, Quantum Doughnut — which you can stream, if you follow the foregoing link.

In the meantime, stay tuned for Episode 12 of The Odin Chronicles, “Twelve,” by Roxana Arama, coming next Wednesday.



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