The Undertow Jackpot

Cover for the book of "The Undertow Jackpot"

An inquisitive teleport technician named Ralph Bowdrie discovers that families are winning trips to tropical islands, but returning with one fewer member—and always a troublesome child. Ralph suspects a government conspiracy to eliminate problem children, and begins planting stories about trouble with his own kid…and then they win a one-week all-inclusive trip to Barbados.

What’s it all about?

Discover the truth in this twisty, thought-provoking science fiction tale.

You can read the first paragraphs of the story below, then order your own copy from your favorite retailer.

The Undertow Jackpot

by Karl El-Koura

Once he caught the scent, it didn’t take long for Ralph Bowdrie, who was smarter than the average bear even if he said so himself, to figure out what the government was up to.

Later he reflected that this was due to three reasons: first, because he was an inquisitive teleporter technician, whose main duty in his large warehouse of an office in Waco, Texas was to receive and safely dispose of old-generation teleporters; second, he had mad Yabing-fu skills, which had helped him get through most of the theoretical classes at school, including at the technical institute in Boulder that had certified him for maintenance and repair of teleporters from first to fourth generation, particularly since he had even trained himself to search his phone one-handed and to glean the information he needed with a single glance; and the third reason was luck, in the form of a passing comment made by someone in the frozen foods aisle at the Walmart on Franklin, pushing and pulling a gaggle of unruly kids and yelling at one of them, a boy who looked about his own son’s age, that you better start behaving and setting a good example, because there’s four more where you came from.

Those words stopped him dead in his tracks that day, right in front of the frozen two-dollar pizzas that Lindsay never let him eat (what kind of nutritional value could we possibly be getting from a two-dollar pie, she used to say when he insisted on loading up their cart in the first few years of their marriage). The large, worn-down lady’s tired but loud voice rang through his mind like an echo—you better start behaving and setting a good example, because there’s four more where you came from—and pieces started to fall into place.

The teleportation devices were sent to his facility for decommissioning, where other technicians had the very hazardous job of dismantling and disposing of the intricate cables, tubes, wires, boards, plates and—most hazardous of all—uranium core that provided enough power to cause a bending of spacetime so that one teleporter lined up with another on a quantum level and passengers could move from one to the next like stepping from one car to another in a two-car train with no engine. His job, after the large rectangular boxes had been gutted and most of their plates removed, was to travel down the warehouse in his forklift, stepping into the skeletal teleporters, carefully removing each computer component and inspecting it, then determining if that piece were still serviceable or if it needed to be junked. Memory cards had to be treated with special care. There was no need for him to cycle through those memory cards and examine their logs: he only had to record the serial number of each card, run it through an overwriting algorithm thirty times, then junk the card if his instruments were showing an error rate above acceptable level, or place it in a container with other memory cards if it still had usable life. There was no need for him to cycle through those memory cards and examine their logs, except that he was curiouser than the average bear.

Find out what happens next: buy your copy of “The Undertow Jackpot”!