Month: June 2017

New Flashfic: Cross the Line

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There is an argument that video games can cause violence. I know for a fact that for many people, it brings solace. It brings relief. And there are circumstances where violence is sadly necessary.
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Simply put, when drink and the night took him, that’s when she came alive.

Phosphor colored dots on a desktop screen; in that digital world she wielded great powers and a blade she found so long ago, when the dragon overtook the High Reaches and she had been sent on a quest by a desperate villager who was willing to part with the town treasure and even promise to help her learn the secrets of the fighting warrior monks of the Lost Valley who left their scrolls of martial techniques in a jar in the local tavern when they ascended to a higher plane.

She had to wipe blood off with the back of her hand. It had been a bad night.

It was hard to look out of one eye. She hadn’t checked it in a mirror, yet. She didn’t want to. Occipital fracture. That was what her face was screaming. But she didn’t know.

He said she was so stupid.

She could hear the music; she rode it to the stars in a ship that had a name like Bravery or Freedom or Star’s Reach and in that moment when the hyperspace engine hit and the universe blurred into motion, she knew there would be worlds ahead with monsters and alien artifacts and mysteries for her to crack, as pirates would come at her and rebels for her to fight or maybe join and she would level her blaster at them and demand to meet their leader.

She didn’t dare turn the volume actually up, in case he found her and took even that small mercy.

Her hands were cramping up something fierce. She tried to remember what she did about them last time. That was when she’d overcooked the pasta. He’d slammed the pot down on her hands. She was grateful it had cooled down some.

She was fairly certain she’d soaked them in milk. She’d have to do that soon.

She could smell the jungle, feel its heat, even the heat of the two guns in her hands, barely cooling down as she cut down wild animals and smugglers searching for that lost treasure because it was actually the key to an ancient civilization that had been destroyed because its power had grown too great and its ability to change the fabric of reality itself had threatened the gods so they had sunk the lands of those powerful people and relegated the whole thing to history.

Why couldn’t she stop crying?

It wasn’t so bad a life. The rent was paid on time. There was enough for food. Sometimes, it was tough to get the bills off. She had a hard time thinging. Thinking. Words could get hard. He knew she was slow.

He didn’t drink every night. He wasn’t angry every time.

The invaders were on the march again and her army was the only thing standing between them and their conquest of the kingdom and she’d been saving her mechanical legions for last, towering things of steel and steam that would lumber above the field and slaughter wide swaths of the enemy but it was sometimes hard to stop them and they’d stumble off the map and into villages and towns allied to her and when she wasn’t concentrating on leading her troops she could imagine virtual screaming of virtual children and women and innocent people.

In the end it was all her fault.

She was too dumb and too fat. Too ugly. Too tired. Too clumsy. She’d only had a couple of years at college. He’d have four. Her friends had even less education. That’s why he didn’t want her seeing them anymore. Their faces remained a thumbprint on her memories, blurred with time, connected to random names like Nancy or Jolene or Bobby.

She was lonely but it wasn’t safe for her to be alone. That’s why he was there for her.

There was a gun in her hand and she looked at it and she held it out and she blew away the driver’s face and she jumped into his car and drove away; the cops came racing after but there was another car, another driver she could take down and that led to the chase on the bridge where she got a hold of a cop car leaving the cop bleeding on the road but the best was when she got herself a tank.

He had a gun.

It was by the side of the bed, in a drawer. He’d never taken it out but he would look at the drawer sometimes. If he was truly angry. There was a phrase he’d use. “Insurance.” Against criminals. Or enemies. Or stupidity. Or clumsiness. Her best behavior would be rewarded. That was always his promise.

He let her know she was never at her best. At least around him.

The oldest game, so simple; two lines maybe an inch long, white and pure, on each side of the screen with a dashed line in the center and simple bright scores on top and a square ‘ball’ that would bounce back and forth and you’d have to concentrate, hard, not to lose it as the ball went faster and faster between the two lines, and even when she had to squint between the tears, in the end she’d always find a way to win.

She pulled the gun out.

She stood over him and she checked if it was loaded. It was. She took the gun and pointed it at his head, an inch away. The distance of a line of phosphor on a tiny screen. Her finger trembled on the trigger. She put the gun in her mouth. There was this horrible metal taste, oil like the backfire of a car. Her hand trembled with restraint. She closed her eyes. She pulled the gun out of her mouth, pointed it, put it back in, out again. It all blurred together; her, him. A single shot.

It was louder than she could imagine.

Categories: Flash Fiction, Intersections, Personal Tags: Tags: ,

New Flashfic: Trooper

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How do you feel if you’re on the losing side of history? A trooper from a familiar franchise comes to the only conclusion he can.

Petrichor.

VX-2068 (Vex, to his squad mates) heard that term when he was off-duty, drinking at a bar off of Kessel. The Tarkin doctrine stated that it was the rule of force (and its corollary, fear) that kept the peace. That required troopers to be aloof, separate. Not Vex’s personal belief, but what could you do about it? Rules were rules. Of course, sometimes, you just had to blow off some steam. You couldn’t help yourself. Sneak off the base, armor off, drink a little, get a little action. In Vex’s experience, for the most part, the brass looked the other way, as long as people weren’t taking too much advantage of the locals. Well… no more than the government allowed, so it kind of varied from post to post.

Petrichor was supposed to be the smell of wet soil after rain.

It’s not that he’d never done rain duty before. It’s just that most of the time it was under armor. There was this time, in this swamp, knee-deep in muck searching for some sort of insurgent leader that had been chased into hiding. Nothing came of it. Last he’d heard, the insurgent leader had been caught back on Coruscant. Or maybe had just died. He wasn’t sure. There was something about it on the news. Big celebrations.

Now… everything was different.

Head on the ground. Helmet cracked from a blow that should have killed him. An improvised local trap—a low-tech stupid indigenous improvised trap—had taken him down. Air flooding in. Dirt in his mouth. Smell of the soil after rain. Petrichor.

His blood tasted coppery and he wondered about that. There were some differences in trooper blood and others. He knew that. Did their blood taste different? Stupid thought. Sitting up was painful. Helmet came off easily and he looked up. The trees surrounding him were, by any aesthetic standard, overwhelmingly beautiful. That wasn’t why he was crying. It was the dull, intermittent booms in the sky, where debris hit the atmosphere and burned. It was the halo of an explosion in the sky, the size of a small moon.

It was seeing all hope die.

Vex was having a hard time wrapping his head around it. The galaxy had been dying 40 years ago. The dream of unity, always a distant hope at best, was breaking apart at the seams. Corporations were inflicting their will on less powerful planets and war was endemic. The Republic served as the galaxy’s policeman, not their savior. It had to reforge itself into a image more fitting for the issues at hand. For the time at hand! It had to come under sterner rule, as the rule of law and the very fabric of Republican society was coming undone.

Vex spit on the ground, dropped the helmet. Listened to the shout of victory echoing across the Valley. Locals. He hated them. He’d seen good men die, friends die, at their hands. And even as he thought that, he knew, deep down, a truth. He wasn’t going to make it off this world. He wasn’t going to make it home.

Home. What was that going to be like? Rule back in the hand of the locals? How were they fit to run anything? Vex understood that they’d evolved there, immigrated there, assimilated there, long before the Republic. But they had no idea how to deal with intergalactic affairs.

That’s what a Senate was for.

Clouds were forming, the result of the particulates from the explosion seeding the sky above. Helmet in hand, Vex headed towards the drop point. Perhaps there was a shuttle there. Perhaps not. But it would get him far enough to be out of immediate danger. Maybe there’d be others who’d made it as well. Maybe they could band together in some remote corner, make a community, live out their lives isolated from this madness. GN-4279 had been interested in gardening. JB-0037 had been studying clean water reclamation from some water farmers. Maybe over time, they could build back a semblance of order, of civilization. Reclaim their place in the universe.

Vex looked down at his helmet, angrily threw it against a tree. It wasn’t fair! It’s not like he’d lived a good life. A fancy life like the senators or governors or even the upper brass. Most people didn’t know that for every 4 soldiers who were on duty, twice that amount were working janitorial services.  A life spent hip-deep in crap or shooting at people he didn’t have a particular problem with. That’s what so many of the locals just didn’t get. It was just a job. Why couldn’t they see that?

Vex wasn’t an idiot. No, not all of the laws were just. Not everyone got fair treatment. But that was simply life. No one guaranteed it would be fair. The locals whining about how the Republicans—and later the Empire—got all of the best perks, like they would have done anything different had they held the reins of power.

Come to think of it, some of those locals did hold spots of power. Just a few of them, sure, but enough of them that Vex had seen them on Senate broadcasts. Wasn’t that proof that anyone could make it if they tried? All of that was well past his pay grade, though, so no matter who bitched about it, his life wouldn’t be any different. Just a trooper, working for a government, that was now seeing his world fall apart.

It just wasn’t fair!

The armor was pressing in on him. He was tired and it was heavy. He’d been in it all of his life.

What would he be without it?

What the hell would he be if he was no longer white?

No shuttle ahead. Others though. Not sure on what side. Not really certain if it mattered anymore.

Slowly, bit by bit, Vex started removing his armor and went to join them.

Categories: Flash Fiction, Intersections Tags: Tags: , ,