Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The Odin Chronicles • Episode 27: “Winds of Possibility” • by Carol Scheina

As Galactic supervisor on Odin III, Raisa Popov had received hundreds of messages from Galactic Mining, but this weather report hit like a lump of ore right in the gut.

Shelley, the Galactic communications officer, waited with wide, concerned eyes. “What’s it mean, a storm’s going to hit the plasma barrier? If it comes down, what’s on the other side of it?”

Popov stared out her office window as she steadied her breath. Dust-coated miners kicked up small clouds as they ambled down the gray road away from the mines. Father Luigi waved hello from an old van.

Looking further down the road, she could see the square gray buildings of the main town. She could make out one of the deli owners chasing a tabby cat out of his shop. Children zig-zagged around the school playground.

And though she couldn’t see it through the window, she knew the red plasma barrier rippled with power, blocking the eastern mountain pass.

Popov kept her voice even. “The barrier will be fine. There’s nothing on the other side. It’s just a way to block the eastern storms. They tend to be stronger than our usual dust storms.”

Shelley bit her lower lip. “How bad will it get?”

 “The plasma barrier will take the brunt of the storm. We’ll need to evacuate the town to the mines. Contact Alma Jenkins. The constable can get people organized. Get word to Father Francis, so the Catholic Church can help too. We’ll need to stock emergency supplies. The storm hits in five hours; let’s aim to get everyone down there in three.”

The communications officer nodded and dashed out.

Shelley had a good head on her shoulders. She’d get the word out, Popov knew. The supervisor looked out her window again, and only then did she let her worries seep in. She didn’t actually know what was on the other side of the barrier, and she wondered if anyone at Galactic Mining had that information. Who’d put it up in the first place?

What she did know was that the storms from beyond the barrier were … unusual. Fifty years ago, 20 of the first Odin III settlers had been caught in a storm near the plasma barrier. The official word was they’d died trying to cross the barrier, but no one had found any trace of them. Galactic monitored for storms ever since, warning that the storms were lethal. There was a rumor that you could see other worlds in the dust but ….

Popov shook her head. This was no time to worry about rumors. This was a serious storm and she was the senior representative of Galactic Mining on this planet. She’d damn well make sure no one was lost like those twenty settlers. She picked up her intercom to alert the miners: there would be more people coming into the tunnels.

* * *

Deep in the caves, people elbowed into the tight spaces of the tunnels, heading toward the more open caverns. Popov spotted a familiar face in the crowds herding a large bloodhound. “Alma! You okay?”

Popov’s girlfriend gave her a quick hug and kiss. “Rasputin and I are just fine. You?”

“Do you know if everyone’s accounted for?

Alma shook her head worriedly. “The evacuation’s been more chaotic than I expected.”

A young girl with a curly ponytail—Kira, Popov remembered was her name—yelled, “Tanya! Your parents are looking for you!”

In the distance, other voices called, “Tanya!”

Popov looked at her watch. The storm was due to strike any moment, but that was the thing about being a Galactic supervisor. You checked and double checked everything. Maybe someone had gotten separated from their family in the caves, but just in case…

“I’ll be right back,” she told Alma. “Keep every down here.”

“Be safe, okay?”

Popov snuck a quick kiss before heading toward the tunnel exit, van keys in her pocket. She’d need to move fast.

Popov parked the van and noted how the town had never been so quiet. Gray clouds turned the dust road several shades darker as it blew in drifts down the empty road. The supervisor made sure her goggles were tight against her face.

A gritty gust hit her face, blurring her vision. The streets rippled, and when her sight cleared, she stood on a different street. On either side, Popov saw tall skyscrapers surrounded by feathery green trees. Ghostly figures strolled beside her. Popov turned to look closer, and dust struck her vision again.

She was back on the familiar dusty road of her Odin.

Outside the deli, a young girl waved a bag of Galactic dried snacks in front of a tuxedo cat. “Come on, boy. We’re supposed to evacuate You can’t keep running!”


The girl looked up. “I haven’t been able to catch him.”

Popov grabbed the small hand. “We don’t have time. Let’s go!”

Another gust whipped her hair and before her was a young boy. “Mama! Want to go down the slide with me!”

Popov gasped. She didn’t talk much about her son. How she’d last kissed that beautiful head before the hair had grown in, when he’d been so small. Too small to have such a serious medical diagnosis.

She’d given up so much to come out here, to Odin III. Yes, taking this job had paid for her son’s medical treatment, had given him life. Yet it hadn’t been a life with them together. She’d never see his first steps, or first day of school. Relativity kept her young, and he’d grown up while she’d traveled.

Popov pulled the boy into a hug, dark hair tickling her chin. Yes, she wanted very much to go down the slide. She could see a ghostly playground in the distance.

She stepped forward.

A small hand pulled the supervisor’s arm. Tanya’s worried face looked up. “Where are we going?”

Popov froze, the boy still in her arms. Her son—her real son—was grown with grandchildren of his own. She was a Galactic Mining supervisor. But this girl, right here, was under her protection.

Popov closed her eyes and pressed the boy’s head into her chest. The things she could’ve experienced with her son if only life had unfolded differently. What if… But this wasn’t real. She put the boy down, a gentle rub over his dark hair, her fingers lingering over his soft cheek. Then she grabbed Tanya’s hand. “We’re getting out of here.”

Dust struck her face, and she couldn’t see the boy anymore.

The supervisor and Tanya took off for the van before another gust could hit them.

* * *

A few people in the caverns claimed to hear voices as the storm raged, but after four hours of whistling winds, the sounds quieted. Faces emerged blinking at the sky’s two suns. Tanya spotted the tuxedo cat and took off running. Popov wasn’t quite sure, but the patterning on the cat seemed different than before.

Other small differences were noticed in the storm’s aftermath. A new crate of wine was discovered in the bar, and the deli owner puzzled over the extra barrel of pickles he didn’t remember stocking. Where the school playground used to have a dusty hill, now there was a slide and swing set. Perhaps it was an old buried set the storm winds had uncovered, people speculated.

Shelley reported to Popov’s office with a new Galactic Mining message asking if the plasma barrier was okay. “Also, people are talking about the storm changing things,” Shelly added.

“Report back that the barrier is intact. And let folks know there was possible mushroom dust in that storm. The stuff’s mildly hallucinogenic. That’s probably what people are experiencing.”

Shelley eyed the supervisor. “Do you wonder what’s on the other side of the barrier?”

The supervisor looked out the window. The miners in overalls trekked up the road to the job site. Children lined up outside the school. Thick dust covered the squat buildings. “We’ve all got jobs to do, lives to live here. We’re right where we need to be. No need to go chasing dreams about what’s out there.” Whatever secrets the plasma barrier held, she’d make sure people would stay safe. Better to keep far away from that glowing red wall.

Her eyes locked on the new slide in the schoolyard as a soft echo sounded in Popov’s ear: Mama!

“Thank you, Shelley. You’re dismissed.”

When the door slammed, Popov turned back to the window. “I’m right where I need to be,” she muttered. She wiped the tear off her cheek.


Carol Scheina is a deaf speculative fiction author from the Northern Virginia region. Many of her stories were thought up while sitting in local traffic, resulting in tales that have appeared in Cossmass Infinities, Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, and other publications. You can find more of her work at


Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorites in the cycle. Thanks!