The Party: Chapter 15 – Lt Col Flynn, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 15: Lt Col Flynn

Lt. Col. Tyler Flynn stopped in the hallway at work as someone tapped him on the arm. He turned quickly, startled.

“Uh. Sorry sir. You must not have heard me calling you.”

Flynn felt a little ashamed. He still wasn’t used to people calling him Colonel. “Sorry, Captain Woden.” Flynn just now remembered that Woden had been a lieutenant just a couple of weeks ago. He’d been promoted in the catch up the same as he had. “I guess I’m still not used to my new rank yet. What is it?”

“Yes, sir. I agree. Everybody has a new rank and it’s a bit confusing for sure.” He took a breath. “I just wanted to let you know you’ve been relieved of the Interview room duties. Beneath your pay grade, so to speak.”

Flynn took the paper Captain Woden handed him and skimmed through it. Yes, orders relieving him of that task. “It doesn’t issue any new order.”

Woden shrugged. “Probably something coming through the pipeline, Sir. Congratulations.”

“Thank you, Lee. Appreciate it.” Flynn tucked the order into the covered notebook he carried.

“No problem, Colonel. Hope the next assignment is better.” He stepped back, came to attention and saluted.

Flynn saluted back and went on his way as Woden turned to go back the way he’d come. New assignment, he thought as he walked on. He was glad to drop the interviews. He left that room every day drained, with his soul sucked dry.

A couple of hours later, his electronic pad dinged. A new message had arrived. Flynn opened it up. Here was the new assignment. He was to report to Colonel Marcus, a special operations department, he saw. Marcus reported to a General Billings. Mad Dog Bill, he’d heard the man called. That meant he no longer reported to Colonel Green. Not that it mattered about Green. He didn’t know the Colonel all that well though they’d gotten along well enough. He noted that there was an appointment scheduled for three this afternoon. A meet and greet, Flynn figured. Just an introductory thing. It was for the Officer’s Club. So probably multiple new officers. That was fine with him. He shut the email. Special Ops, he thought to himself. Wonder what kind of Special Ops. Something more in line with why he joined the Army, he hoped.

At the Officer’s Club, Flynn checked his hat at the front lobby and went into the bar. Sure enough, several officers were already there, standing in small groups, drinks in hand. The colonel wasn’t there yet. He got a beer from the bar and joined a group with an acquaintance of his, Major Peter Farland. “Pete. Good to see ya.”

“Good to see you, too, buddy. Long time!” Pete clapped him on the arm. “This is Roger Luton, best comm officer you’ve ever seen.”

Flynn shook Captain Luton’s hand. “Nice to meet you.” He thought Pete’s accolade a little over the top. His wife, now out of the Army, was one of the best in his estimation but that didn’t count any longer, did it.”

Pete went on. “Tyler here is the best behind the lines guy you ever want to work with. He can find his way through the dark, blindfolded and still get the mission done.”

Roger grinned. “Good to know.”

Introductions were cut short as the room was called to attention. A solid looking man, crewcut dark hair and dark blue eyes that looked like they didn’t miss a thing strode to the front of the room. He stood on the slightly raised fireplace edge. “At ease.”

The men relaxed, but not too much. Sloppy wouldn’t cut it. “Welcome. You’re all newly assigned to the 708th Special Operations Group. This afternoon is a chance for you all to meet each other. The rest of the group will be in at four-thirty. In the meantime, I’ll be moving around the room to meet each of you. Dinner will be at six. Make whatever phone calls you need to make, dinner is mandatory. As you were.”

With that, he stepped down and began to make his rounds. Flynn was impressed. Direct and too the point. He liked that.

“What a hard ass,” Luton said.

Pete agreed. “I heard he’s a hard-ass. That kind of proves it right there.”

Flynn checked his watch, Just fifteen oh three. “I’ve gotta make a call. Be right back.” He went out to the lobby where it was quieter, and on his cell called his wife. “Laura,” he said when she picked up. “News. I’ve been transferred to the 708th Special Ops Group. I’m meeting the commander, Colonel Bill Billings.”

“Is that good?” Her voice made it clear she was suspicious.

“Unclear. We’ve got a mandatory dinner at six, so I thought I’d let you know.”

“Not social, then.”

Smart woman, he thought. She’d been in long enough, even in this new Army, to read the signs. “Apparently not. Our old friend Pete Farland is here, too. Major now.”

There was a pause on the line. “Interesting.”

“Right.” She knew not to mention her thoughts on the phone. “So I’ll see you when we’re released.”

“Be careful,” was her response before she hung up.

He sighed. He could remember when she would have said, “have fun.” No longer. Now everything was a test of some sort. Thank god, he thought, he had a smart wife. He tucked the phone in his pocket and went back to the party. Water might be the drink of the evening, he thought. Better safe than sorry.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 9 – Stacy Zimmer – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 9: Stacy Zimmer

Stacy Zimmer opened the newspaper that had been left behind by someone as she sat in her local coffee shop. She’d chosen a table in the back. She couldn’t bring herself to sit anywhere else in the store. A view of the entire place was in front of her with no windows or doors behind. She felt better that way. Less chance for error. She hated errors. That’s what got people killed. She knew that from experience. Lots of experience. But that was past, she reminded herself. Past. It was over. She was home. No need to be defensive.

The barista called her name and she jumped. Stacy sucked in a breath. No problem, she told herself. No problem, just coffee. She quickly surveyed the shop, a couple of grandmas, a lone guy on his laptop, two twenty-something women, nothing a threat, she assessed as she slid easily from her chair to walk calmly to the pick-up counter. Nothing to see here. Nothing. Nothing but, she still eyeballed the guy. Suit, laptop and briefcase. Big enough to hold an IED. No, she told herself. This is the States. Nothing here. Nothing here.

Her hand shook the cup of mocha latte as she went back to her table. Nothing. Nothing. It wasn’t working. She felt trapped, here at the back of the store with no way out. She grabbed her backpack and her drink and headed out the door. She was three hundred feet from the shop before she could breathe. Moron, she thought. What the hell? It was just a coffee shop. But that’s not the newsreel that was rolling through her head. That was different. That was the sandbox. That was her and her crew, laughing, taking pics with the local boy selling tea. Tea for Christ’s sake. The boy had called them over. “Tea,” he said, smiling. They’d all laughed. He couldn’t have been more than ten. “Tea, Tea.”

Tears ran down her face unnoticed. God damned tea. She’d never drank it again even though that was her favorite. Her morning ritual. Now it was coffee. She stopped in the park, sat on a bench. Her breathing came back to normal as she popped the sipping port on the coffee. She drank and stretched her back taking a deep breath. It was okay. Not a problem. Just a little scare. Nothing to be worried about.

In the open she felt better, more secure. Daylight, clear lines of sight. Not boxed in. Much better. She took a deep breath. Better. Better. She took a sip of the drink and set it on the bench beside her then took the day’s paper out of her pack. It was good. Read the paper. Drink the coffee. The birds sang in the trees nearby and moms were starting to arrive in the park, their little darlings let out of their carriages and set free to toddle in the grass. Yes. This was fine.

Then Stacy read the third page. The government was taking veteran’s retirement and disability funds to create a wall along every continental U.S. border. All about self-defense, she read. But vet’s payments would be cut by half to solve the discrepancy. Half? HALF? Stacy lept up. She couldn’t live on half. Half wouldn’t pay the rent. Half wouldn’t pay for groceries. Half wouldn’t cover her co-pays for her meds. Even in her mental state, she understood she needed her meds or she’d be worse off than she was now. No. NO!

A mother walked by, stroller in front of her, staring. Stacy realized she was hyperventilating, fists clenched, and teeth bared. She shook herself and tried to smile. The look on the woman’s face made it clear she wasn’t reassuring anyone. She grabbed her pack and stuffed the paper into it as she rushed off.

How can this be, she raged as she raced away from the park? I did my time. I was promised. How can they? How can they?

It was late afternoon when through sheer exhaustion she finally came to herself. She had no idea where she was but realized she was hunkered down behind a building, back of a big trash receptacle. A man sat cross-legged a few feet away.

“Hey.” He gave her a nod from behind another of the big trash bins.

She nodded. “Hey.”

“You okay?”

Stacy drew in a deep breath. Despite having missed her meds schedule, she did feel almost normal. “Yeah. Think so.”

“Afghanistan?”

She nodded.

“Get that myself from time to time.”

She took another deep breath. A fellow soldier. “Yeah.”

“Flashback?”

She looked him over. Old field jacket, unit patch still on the arm. Greasy jeans, tattered sneakers about to fall apart. “Kind of.”

He shrugged. There’s a shelter, if you need it. Not too far from here.

She thought it over. It was almost promising. “You stay there?”

He chuckled and shook his head. “Hell no. They’ll slit your throat for your shoes in there.”

She smiled. “Thanks then. I think I’ll pass.”

He nodded. “What set you off, if I may ask?”

“G’ment. Assholes. Taking our pay, our meds.” She still shook. This was too much.

He spit off to the side she wasn’t on. “Assholes.”

She nodded. “They promised.”

“Yeah. They always promise.”

She looked closer. He was grizzled, wrinkled. He was a lot older. “The same?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Same old, same old.” He sighed. “What’cha gonna do about it?”

Stacy blinked. “Do?”

“Yeah. Do. Don’t cha think they’ve about worn out their welcome?”

She ran her fingers through her short brown hair. “Like what?”

“You been readin’ the news the last three years? You think it’s a quirk that it’s just us white soldiers left? Just takin’ our pay? Just throwin’ us away? You’re young. You can do something.”

Stacy stared at him. Do something? Fight back? She didn’t think she had anything left.

He looked at her. “You’ve got the skills.”

She stared back. “So do you.”

Thank you for reading.

Flash Fiction Friday Story: 4th of July

Fireworks, 4th of July, Randy Cockrell

Fireworks by Randy Cockrell

“OK, people, listen up!”

We were in the cafeteria. The troopers all left off their conversations and turned to the front of the room. Unwashed, wearing rags, they broke my heart these young men and women were so brave. I swallowed the lump that wanted to form in my throat and sniffed back incipient tears of pride.

“We’re as ready as we’re going to get. Everything is coordinated all up and down the eastern seaboard. We strike tonight at 10pm.”

The troopers broke into cheers. They deserved a little celebration. I smiled and nodded and let them cheer. Many of my troopers were orphans, separated from parents when the aliens invaded. They’d been gathered up by what were left of the adult survivors and hidden, fed, clothed, educated as best we could in the twenty years since the invasion. Now we were ready to strike back.

I held up my hands. “Who knows what today is?”

“Wednesday!” Jay Gonzales was my comedian, always had a smart remark. The room erupted in laughter.

“Good one, Jay.” I looked around. “Anyone else?”

“July 4th.” Kim Deming was the cool one and one of my oldest. She was six when we found her hidden in the basement of a bombed out house, a piece of rebar in her hands ready to defend her 4-year-old sister. I understood. At the time I was fifteen and had only just been found myself.

“Correct. Significance?”

“It’s the holiday commemorating the founding of the United States. Our independence from another country’s rule.”

The room had quieted at her calm, steady answer. Her gray eyes burned with intensity. She was driven and the rest of the troopers respected her for it. “Right. And tonight, we do it again.”

“Freedom!” Kim leapt to her feet, fist raised.

“Freedom!” The rest of the troopers did the same. I joined in.

“Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”

#

It took us five hours to get into place. The aliens didn’t spread out, they lived in enclaves, walled and secured. Their nasty crops grew around their city, circles of peace and prosperity in a land still littered with the blasted human cities and towns and farms they’d destroyed. Sure, they were slowly clearing the ruins, but only so their enclaves could expand. I’d watched over the years. Their cities grew like snails, ever circling outward. Clear the blasted areas, create farm land, inch the city out another circle. They were efficient, I’ll give them that.

Tonight the moon rise wasn’t until after midnight so it was dark. All the better for us. Camouflage was the toughest. They had heat detectors that helped kill off a good number of us before we figured out how to hide. The plan was simple. It had to be given our deprived state.

Weapons had been slowly gathered over the years. Assault rifles, ammunition, mortars, high explosives and in some cases, we even had nukes. That wasn’t my troop though. The enclave we were assigned was too small to require nukes. We did have a few HE weapons though that would blow holes in the walls. After that, we were going to have to go in and duke it out.

My hands were sweaty on my rifle. I was 35 and arthritis was kicking in. The medic said it was from living in the cold and damp all these years. Nothing could be done about it. I nodded and left the tiny clinic. As I waited for the signal I thought about what life would have been like if the aliens hadn’t come. I would have gone to college, I think, gotten married, had a kid or two. I swallowed. None of that was mine now. It was enough I had my troopers, fifty of them, as good as having my own.

We all waited in the damp as the minutes ticked with excruciating slowness. Waiting was always the hardest. A low whump and the ground rumbling told me it was time. Fifty miles away another group had just nuked the alien military garrison. An ugly purple glow blotted out the stars.

We charged forward from our hiding spots in the crop land. Kim had one of the HE weapons. She was in front of the gate and firing before the aliens could react. Almost before the smoke cleared and the debris stopped falling she and her squad were running into the breach. My troopers were screaming as the night sky erupted in flashes of gunfire and explosions. No wonder fireworks were used to celebrate when I was a kid. I pushed that thought aside as I led my squad into the enclave behind Kim’s.

It was brutal. The enemy had night patrols inside the enclave but they’d responded too late. My troopers went nest to nest and killed every alien they could find. After years of hiding, they knew all the right spots to look.

By daybreak the enclave was a ruin, alien bodies, adult and young, lying in the streets and buildings. We had planned for outside alien retaliation but it seemed our coordinated attack prevented that. I called my reserves in to help our wounded out of the town. Those still whole, I sent to gather up whatever tech and weapons they could carry. As we retreated back to our hiding places I had a team burn the enclave and those damn alien crops.

Now we had to wait. Aliens were planet wide. They weren’t going to like what we’d just accomplished. Too bad. We were all headed for the mid-west where we were planning to do the same thing all over again. With luck other humans would be encouraged and do the same. We just might get our planet back. Happy 4th of July!

The End

957 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday Post: Meet and Greet

Locust, Dark-Raptor

Hello Miss Big Eyes by Dark-Raptor via www.DeviantArt.com

Prompt: Photo of Raphidia mediterranea (a grasshopper looking bug) by andrea hallgass, copywrited photo seen on Flickr Photo Sharing for a writing prompt challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog, TerribleMinds.com.

 

First Officer Bergid Svensdotter studied her reflection. This was her first official function on her new ship, the Federation of Sentient Species diplomatic ship Asimov and she wanted to appear perfect. Ribbons were aligned on her dress white jacket; no stray hair out of place.

There would be twenty different sentient species at the cocktail party in the ship’s ballroom. All oxygen breathers, thank goodness, Bergid thought. The problems with communicating with methane breathers would be left to another day.

In the ballroom she found Chief Engineer, Rob Busey, a scotch in hand. “Bergid.” He held up his glass. “You ready?”

“A glass of water with lemon, please,” she told the crewwoman behind the bar. “I guess I am.”

“Water! You don’t want something stronger?”

“I do,” Bergid admitted. “But if I drank anything now I’d vomit all over the guest’s shoes.”

“Oh, yeah, you’ve been on battleships your whole career. Not used to the diplomatic thing.” He sipped his scotch. “You’ll get used to it. You had aliens on your ships.”

“We did, but not the more,” she groped for the right word, “exotic ones.”

“You’ll be fine.”

Bergid sipped the water. She didn’t want to screw up.

As the guests arrived, escorted from the teleporter by FSS Asimov crew members, the Captain greeted each one. Then they moved into the room, some for the bar, others greeting guests they knew. Bergid’s job was to mingle. She’d been briefed on the hot button topics for each species and had been supplied with appropriate responses. She was expected to deal with hard line questions and belligerence in a way that maintained the peace.

The first aliens she greeted were from the Koa system. Humanoid in appearance, they were covered in a fine blue fur. She’d served with Koans on her previous ships and found them to be easy to work with.

She placed her empty glass on a passing drinks tray; they hovered all around the room for the convenience of the guests, and moved on to the next group feeling more confident. These were the Einess, humanoid with a definite porcine cast. They were half again the size of a human, aggressive and quick to anger. Incredible fighters, Einess served on FSS battleships but they had a hard time getting along. She spoke a greeting in their language and was treated to what passed for a smile. The Showan, their ambassador, asked her opinion of Einess being granted sole rights to the Aamaz system. This was one of the touchy topics. “I’m sure the FSS council will consider all sides of the proposal, Showan.”

He snorted. “That’s what your Captain said.”

Bergid bowed a fraction. “It is a decision considerably above my rank, Sir.” She knew the Einess were sticklers for rank.

“Fair enough.” He moved with his entourage to the next group.

She breathed a sigh of relief. At least she wasn’t causing a planetary incident. Thinking she’d get a glass of wine, Bergid turned to her left. A foot from her face was the delicate form of a basil iridescent green insectoid species, the Raphidia ambassador.

Bergid flashed back to her childhood. She was outside in the middle of a locust swarm screaming, arms waving as the locusts flew into her hair, ears, eyes, mouth. Shaking, she pulled herself out of that memory and back into the ballroom, stumbling backward two steps. She could feel the sweat start on her forehead. “Um, I beg your pardon, Ambassador.”

She could hear the Ambassador’s chitters but her implanted translator gave her, “My apologies.” It used it’s forelegs to wipe its eyes, all eighteen inches of each of them, from top to bottom in a sign of apology.

“My fault entirely, Ambassador.” She cast around in her panicked brain for a new topic. “Your trip has been productive?”

He signaled to one of his followers. It was a small bronze Raphidia, a quarter the size of the ambassador. “We have secured several trading contracts. One with your own Earth.”

The small creature moved in front of the ambassador. Bergid wondered if the ambassador thought she was a threat. “I’m pleased our two species have found mutual points of agreement, Sir.”

That’s when the ambassador ripped the head from the smaller creature. Ichor spurt from the bronze neck. The ambassador turned the head neck up and with a thin tongue, sucked up the inside as two other bronze Raphidia took the remains away.

Bergid swallowed as her stomach rolled. She could feel her blood pressure drop and she began feel dizzy. “Ah,” she wasn’t going to make it. She vomited on the ambassador’s tiny middle feet.

She could hear the guests gasp. Two crewmen rushed over, grabbed her by the arms and hurried her out of the ballroom. The Captain came into the med bay half an hour later. Bergid leapt to attention. “I’m so sorry, Captain.” She focused on the bulkhead behind him.

Hands on his hips, he scowled. “Damn, Svensdotter, you made quite the show.”

A blush started at her neck and raced up her face.

“What do you have to say?”

“I was traumatized by locusts as a child. When the Ambassador ripped the head off of that little one and started sucking the brains out,” she began to gag again.

The Captain stepped back. When she recovered, he nodded. “Well, that must have been a trial. You knew they eat that sub-species live, right.”

“Yes, Sir. But to actually see it.” She struggled not to gag.

“Yeah, the old bastard does it to all of the new human crew. Thinks it’s funny.”

Relief flooded through her. “I didn’t cause an incident?”

He laughed. “No, but you’re going to have to live with that story.”

“Great.”

The Captain clapped her on the shoulder. “Go back to your cabin. You’ve had enough excitement for the night.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Wish I’d seen it,” he opened the door. “I would have loved to see his feet covered in vomit.”

 

The End

999 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday Post: Warrior Defeat

UNSC Army Soldier by Lordhayabusa357 via www.DeviantArt.com

UNSC Army Soldier by Lordhayabusa357 via www.DeviantArt.com

Ensign Zara Slater took off her helmet and wiped the sweat. Three days she’d been in her stinking battle armor but it didn’t look like she was going to get relief anytime soon.

“What do you see?” Corporal Masi Waters checked his weapons belt, counting the number of HE bombs, gas grenades, and smoke bombs he had left.

She slid down the rock they were sheltering behind to sit beside him. “Bomb craters everywhere. You could hide a battalion out there and we’d never see them.”

“Crap.”

“Yep.”

The corporal checked the charge on his laser rifle. “You got anything left to eat?”

She coughed. The smoke rising from the blasted landscape was scraping her throat raw. So much for fresh air. “No. I split the last food bar I had with you yesterday.” Zara sipped from the nipple coming up out of the collar of her armor. The suit captured her sweat, distilled it and stored it around her body until she drank. It tasted flat and warm but it at least wet her dry mouth.

“We have to get back to the cruiser. The Captain sent us out to recon, at least one of us needs to get back with the info.”

“What for?” Masi rubbed an eye. Neither of them had slept in twenty-four hours.

“Because that’s what we do.” On board the ship there would be no talk of “what for” but out here, separated from the rest of their command, things didn’t look all that good. “We’re fighting for our rights, you know that. To keep people safe.”

He snorted. “Safe? Tell that to the people who used to live here. We bombed the crap out of this planet because someone told someone else who then issued orders to wipe the place out because the Mords were supposed to be here.”

“Well,” she said, the tired seeping up through her bones. “They are here. In numbers.”

“Fine.” He jammed his helmet back on his head and seated it. “Let’s get on with it then.”

She sighed and put her helmet on. As soon as she sealed it, the displays reconnected and a series of status updates appeared on the inside of her visor. Ambient temperature, wind direction, humidity, appeared in the upper right corner of the screen. She clicked the infrared and red hot spots showed in the area all around her and the corporal. Mord soldiers, a lot of them. Another click and she pulled satellite information for the area. Her battle cruiser was five clicks in front of them. Symbology on the map told her where the Mord concentrations were. There didn’t seem to be any way through to the ship.

“Sending you the overhead.” Zara clicked once more.

“Got it.” After a moment, “Crap. How the hell are we going to get through?”

“I was hoping you’d see something I missed.” She studied the map. “If we go left, there seems to be an open area, no heat signatures. That would put us a klick closer and maybe something will open up by the time we get there.”

She could hear a sigh over the comms. “Yeah, why not.”

Zara crept out from behind the rock and moved with as much stealth as possible. The battle armor was coated with stealth materials but that didn’t stop a pair of eyes from seeing her. They were both breathing hard when they dropped behind the broken wall of some building still smoking.

“Is it worth it?”

“What,” Zara answered.

“This info. If they don’t know the Mords are here they don’t deserve to be in command.”

She was too tired for this. “It’s all I’ve got.”

Another look at the map and she thought she saw a way through. She shared the updated map. To the east, it looks like the Mord are maneuvering.”

“I don’t see anything on the map that looks like our forces. Maybe they’re getting ready to attack the cruiser.”

Zara wished she could call them but the Mord would pick up the transmission and use it to find them. “They must see this, too.”

“Where are all the other recon teams? We could hook up, strength in numbers and all that.”

“Unknown. Let’s move. We’ll follow the Mord. That will at least get us closer to the cruiser.”

After a klick Zara was exhausted. After two, she was pulling on her reserves. At three klicks they were both stumbling like drunks. “Rest,” she gasped.

“One more klick,” Masi groaned. “Can’t we call them to come get us?”

“Not yet. We’re still too far out.” She sipped more water. Jets screamed overhead leaving white contrails in the blue sky. If they were scanning, she and Masi were already dead. “Gotta move.”

He groaned but rolled to his feet.

They were less than half a klick from the cruiser when the Mord began their attack. The ship was surrounded. They dove into a ruined basement for cover. “What can we do?” Masi sighted his laser rifle on a passing squad.

Zara pulled the barrel down. “Don’t. You’ll kill four or five and we’ll be found.” She heard him mutter under his breath but he put the rifle down.

They watched as their ship was pounded from all sides. It was full dark and the glow of fire from the ship lit the night sky in front of them.

“Hold still,” they heard behind them.

Masi twitched. Zara put a hand on his arm, holding her rifle out to her side straight armed. “Take it easy.” She dropped her weapon and raised her hands. Beside her, after a moment, Masi did the same.

“Take two steps back and turn around. Slow.”

They did.

“Kneel down, fingers clasped behind your head.”

They did that too.

“You are now prisoners of war. Prepare yourselves for the camps.”

Zara sighed. No one ever came out of those alive.

 

 

The End

983 Words

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Serial: Lost Rainbows Chapter 14 – The Battle Goes Poorly for the Leprechauns

Lost Rainbows by Connie Cockrell

Lost Rainbows by Connie Cockrell

Chapter Fourteen – The Battle Goes Poorly for the Leprechauns (Lost Rainbows – Serial)

By Connie Cockrell

Shamus O’Malley is on a quest to recover the Leprechaun Kingdom’s magic rainbows and gold before the rainbows are lost forever. To do so he must travel to the new world where he finds the evil wizard, David Bannon, intent on using the magic from the rainbows and the gold to conquer the Leprechaun Kingdom. He also finds an ally, Becca Bannon, the wizard’s niece. Can Becca and Shamus recover the rainbows and gold and defeat her wizard uncle?

This entry is part 14 of 16 in the series Lost Rainbows

Want to start this serial from the beginning? Click here for links to all available chapters.

The Battle Goes Poorly for the Leprechauns

Becca shut her eyes and tried to block the screams from her hearing. What did the Princess tell her about calling lightning? Becca took several deep breaths. She thought about a stormy sky, how the clouds turned black and blended together. Twice she lost her concentration as the screams broke through her focus. The third time, she had the picture firmly in mind. She raised her hands and visualized lightning streaking out of the sky and hitting the robots. Over and over again, she pictured the lightning falling from the sky onto the robots.

Like the time she did this magic with the Princess and the Advisors, she felt her fingertips tingle. Becca took another breath and as she flung her arms forward, fingers outstretched; she screamed a word she didn’t know. Lightning flashed down from the sky and the robots in front of them began sparking and exploding. The leprechauns that were still standing dashed away from the fires and watched as the robots fell.

“You did it!” Shamus screamed as he controlled the rearing pony and his own horse, both animals frightened by the electricity.

Becca dropped her arms and slumped in the saddle. She was so tired.

Horses under control, Shamus jerked his water-skin from his side and raised her chin. “Drink, regain your strength.” He poured water into her mouth.

She didn’t think she had enough energy to swallow. Half of the water ran out of her mouth onto her armor.

“Becca! Drink!”

She swallowed a little, then a little more. “Enough,” she said weakly. “I’m fine.” She pushed the skin away and struggled to sit up. “How are our people?”

Shamus surveyed the field. “The robots are down. The soldiers still whole are running to the King’s side. It looks like about fifty are still able to fight.”

“What about the other companies?”

“I can’t tell, Becca. They’re behind the ruin.”

She took a breath and rubbed her eyes. “That was very hard.” Becca spotted the King. He and the remaining soldiers were near. The wizards had retreated behind the ruin. “Uncle will have a plan, Shamus. We need to join the King.”

When they reached the rear of the King’s remaining company, Becca could see that the Captain’s company had the same kind of trouble as the King did. She stared. “Shamus, there aren’t as many robots here. I know I saw two companies of them march around the ruin.”

“The leprechauns made them disappear. We have that much magic at least. The problem is that they’re so large, it’s hard to do. Like you, Miss Becca, magic drains our strength.”

As the two of them watched, they saw the Commander’s company working its way toward the King. The wizards were nowhere in sight. The fighting was difficult. This part of the terrain was overgrown with trees and thickets. Becca watched as many a leprechaun soldier tripped over a bush as he tried to fight. The robots also found the terrain tough going. “Look, Shamus!” She pointed. “The robots are having a hard time moving along the uneven land.”

“Good eye, Miss Becca.” He left her alone and rode up to the last line of fighters, pointing at the robots and waving his hands. In a moment, the leprechauns surged forward, swarming a robot and tricking it into tripping over fallen pieces of castle, bushes, and downed trees. Shamus returned to Becca. “That helped.” He wiped his face with a handkerchief. The early summer sun was beating down on the fight, making it hot. He drank a swallow of water. “Are you recovered, Miss Becca?”

Becca felt light-headed and too hot. What she wanted was to lie down and take a nap. “I think so, Shamus. Look, the companies have joined, now they can eliminate the robots.”

They saw the King directing the soldiers as the Captain and the Commander’s companies merged. They were nearly in battle order when the wizards appeared around the ruin from the direction the Commander had come. This time, they all had staffs.

“We were afraid of that.” Shamus reined in his excited horse. “If they all have staffs, they must all have magic.” They heard the King’s signaler blow the horn blast for retreat. “We’re going back to the meadow, Becca, where there’s room to fight.” They wheeled their horses around and raced back to the meadow where they’d started.

The King stayed in the rear guard and Becca saw him fighting off the remaining robots so that his soldiers would have time to get to the meadow. The soldiers raced past the fallen robots and their friends who lay wounded on the field. There was no time now to provide aid.

The leprechaun army formed up at the far end of the meadow, where they had descended the hillside behind them earlier in the day. There were only half the soldiers forming up compared to how many they had started the day with. Becca and Shamus joined the King when he arrived. She asked, “Can you make the wizards disappear, like the robots?”

The King shook his head. “Not living beings, no. More’s the pity.” They watched the robots form lines in two groups, one group on each side of the wizards. The wizards began to pound their staffs on the ground.

“What are they doing?” Becca had to sharply rein in her pony. It began to rear and squeal.

Shamus was having the same problem with his horse. “I don’t know, but the horses don’t like it.”

Soon the leprechauns could hear the pounding, a low rumble at first, then growing louder until it sounded like thunder. The companies grew uneasy. Then the ground began to shake.

“Earthquake!” Becca screamed. Her pony reared and whinnied.

“Charge!” The King waved his sword over his head and pointed it forward. The soldiers charged. Before they had gone fifty feet, the ground opened up in great yawning cracks. Several of the leprechauns fell in, screaming. The sky grew dark and lightning began to strike randomly among the charging soldiers.

Shamus held Becca at the rear of the charge. “Can you do something?” He had to yell to be heard over the quaking and lightning and now, a torrential rain.

Becca had nothing. She’d only studied for a month. There was no way for her to counter the magic of one hundred well-trained wizards. It was all lost; her uncle was going to win and conquer the leprechauns. Tears began to fall, mixing with the stinging, cold rain.

 

~~~~~

 

Lost Rainbows

To be continued…

Come back for more! Look for the next exciting installment each Wednesday.

 

You can read more of this story serially on this website for free or you can buy it and read it now at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

See more at: www.ConniesRandomThoughts.wordpress.com or https://www.facebook.com/ConniesRandomThoughts

 

Thank you for reading. You can support the story by commenting or leaving a review. Buy my other books for more reading pleasure. If you’ve enjoyed this chapter, please spread the word, tell a friend or share the link to the story by using the share buttons to your right. The author is part of the Forward Motion Flash Fiction Friday Challenge and the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour.

© 2015 Connie Cockrell

Flash Fiction Friday: The Vipers

Female Soviet Snipers, himymRobinStinton, Deviantart.com

Female Soviet Snipers by himymRobinStinton via Deviantart.com

 

I thought of this story one day when I read an article about Soviet Army women sharpshooters from World War II who were called The Witches.

The Vipers

It was graduation day. Katarina had spent the last year in training for this moment and now it was here. The graduation was secret, as was her training. No one must know about the mission she had volunteered to assume. She and the other women in her training squadron checked their appearance one more time then lined up in alphabetical order to march single file to the auditorium.

They were the last fourteen of a class that had started with one hundred young women aged sixteen to twenty-five. They marched down the corridor from their dorm, the only voice was the woman at the head of the line giving orders for the turns. They made those turns with precision, just as they had completed their assignments. The final exam was the real test, of course. Six of the young women who had made it this far in their training failed that last test.

Katarina was in the middle of the group of fourteen. They marched out onto the stage, made a left face upon command of the first young woman, and held her head high, eyes forward. She could see a handful of people in the audience. The Forces Commander was there, as was the Chairman of the Department of Homeland Security. The Base Commandant and the Cadre Training Sergeant were on the stage with the women, standing at a podium.

After a few introductory remarks, the Commandant nodded to the Training Sergeant who pressed a button on the remote for the holographic projector. There, between the graduates and the dignitaries, was the record of each recruit’s final exam.

Each one of them had been given a different target. Katarina knew better than to reveal any emotion as she watched the tests of her friends. They had pledged themselves to each other, calling themselves The Fourteen, last night as the vodka flowed freely in the rec room. Each of her friends had been given just as difficult a target as she had. When her recording was played she began to sweat, heart rate racing. It felt just as if she were back there. Katarina had been allowed two weeks planning time, budget to scope out the site, and a case handler, just as for a real mission. She remembered the smell of jasmine in the night air from where she waited for her target. The shot was a long one, the limit of the weapon’s beam range, but the humidity in the air and the fact that there was no breeze made her believe the shot could be made.

Mosquito’s buzzed her head, attracted to the carbon dioxide she released from deep, slow breaths. She remembered telling herself to slow her heart rate, relax her muscles, rest her eyes. There would only be one chance. Even if she managed to escape it would be useless if she missed her target. She would be denied graduation and be sent back to the regular ranks, cannon fodder for the rebel front lines.

As she watched the recording play out she remembered watching the delegation’s air cars land on the roof of the building down the street. The men on the roof moved toward the air car, lining up on either side of a red carpet. The city’s mayor was at the car’s door, opening it, bowing as the War Lord descended the air car’s two steps. The rooftop was lit clear as day as Katarina peered through her scope. She took a final, relaxing breath and placed her finger on the trigger.

The crosshairs fell on the War Lord’s cranium. She had a perfect view of the side of the orange-scales that decorated the side of its gold-skinned head. The creatures all had them, right over where their brains resided inside of their skulls. The War Lord stopped to say something to the Mayor, still bowed. She applied just enough pressure to fire her weapon without any jerk that would throw off the beam.

It took a moment before she could see if she hit it. The tracking ionization for the beam had been disabled so it couldn’t be seen. Through the scope she could see the creature’s head explode, brain, skin and bone showered the Mayor. The War Lord’s body guards surrounded their leader scanning in every direction for where the shot had come from but it was too late. Katarina wrapped her weapon in rags, stuffed the rifle in her bag and hurried from her rooftop position. On the street she looked like any of the thousands of human women combing the refuse piles for food or tradable debris.

Katarina barely saw the rest of the recordings she was so lost in her own memory of the satisfaction she’d had at killing the War Lord. The Training Sergeant called them to right face. Her body obeyed automatically. The Commandant took the podium.

“We are here today to congratulate these recruits for surviving the rigorous training program of the last year. Of the one-hundred young women who started, thirty-seven died in training. Twenty-three were medically discharged from injuries and the remainder washed out of the program or resigned. These are the best assassins in their class. Congratulations, soldiers.” The dignitaries stood and applauded as did the Commandant and the Training Sergeant.

Their names were called one by one, a sharp-shooter medal was pinned to their chests, a photo shaking hands as they received their diploma was taken and they returned to their place. Neither the medal nor the photo could be shown to anyone outside their particular service.

The Commandant spoke one last time. “Gentlemen, I give you the newest class of The Vipers. Glory to the Human Race, may the aliens be destroyed soon.” The applause was sweet in Katarina’s ears.

The End

961 Words

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Monday Blog Post: Freedom of Speech

Pen, Pencil, Newsprint, Charlie Hebdo

Pen and Pencil on Local Newsprint in support of Charlie Hebdo by Connie Cockrell

A more serious blog post for me today than I usually write. I refer to the terrorist attack on the French newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. My blog picture today is a reference to the French demonstrators using a pencil to make their point. An old saw goes, the pen is mightier than the sword. This is the truth, I think, at least in the long run. In the meantime, blood flows in the streets.  I wasn’t going to comment on the attack; it was days ago, after all, and so not very timely for today’s blog post. However, Sunday I see in my internet news feeds, that there were demonstrations in Pakistan against the French demonstrations. They feel Charlie Hebdo’s satire is a direct attack on them.

I can sort of understand. If someone says something bad about one of my family, I’m offended. How much more so if someone says or draws something unflattering about my prophet? However, hurt feelings aren’t an excuse to go around shooting people. You feel insulted, go ahead and draw a caricature of God, or Jesus, or Budda, or Krisha. My feelings might be hurt, but no one dies.

So in my own little protest, I’ll be using the above picture of pen and pencil on a page of my local newspaper to support the freedom of speech. It’s not much of a protest in the larger scheme of things but I want people to know that even if I disagree with someone’s spoken comment, written statement, or drawing, that person has every right to say, write or draw it. I spent 20 years in the Air Force defending that constitutional right. I’m not going to stop now.

I’ll update my writing, gardening, and hiking next week.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today.

The Downtrodden: a Brown Rain Story released November 22nd! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

Flash Fiction Friday: The Enemy Rule

The day they came by steve2727 d3ddhcp via www.deviantart.com

The day they came by steve2727 d3ddhcp via www.deviantart.com

Today’s story is thanks to the Chuck Wendig Challenge of August 1st at http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/08/01/flash-fiction-challenge-random-title-challenge/ . He provided a list of story titles and it was my job to pick one and write a story to it. This type of writing exercise really stretches the brain. Here’s my take on the title I picked:

The Enemy Rule

I watched as a pair of soldiers stapled an eleven by fourteen inch sheet of paper to the telephone pole. Little knots of people stood around every other pole along Main Street, reading the sheets the enemy had just posted.
I had just come out of the Co-op. There was nothing inside except a few exotic canned goods. One of the first directives to come from the enemy was for farmers to take all of their produce to the industrial park where they had set up an efficient shipping line. Everything was sent back to their country.
When they marched on to the next pole I stepped up to read the notice. A notice! We were back to the seventeenth century. The enemy had dropped four electro-magnetic pulse bombs across the country. That’s all it took to fry every electronic device we depended on and send us back nearly to the stone age. An antique car sputtered down Main Street. Everyone on the street turned to watch. The old cars weren’t electronic so anyone with a rusting hulk in the back yard was doing their best to resurrect the beasts. It was hard to do when parts had to be scrounged locally.
I read the poster.

ATTENTION
1. Curfew is sundown. Anyone outside after sundown will be tried in the People’s Court of the New Republic and shot.
2. No groups shall form larger than three non-family people. Anyone found in a non-family group larger than three people will be tried in the People’s Court of the New Republic and shot.
3. No travel is permitted outside town limits. All travel across town limit borders must be approved by the People’s Superintendent of the town. Anyone found travelling without the proper permits will be tried in the People’s Court of the New Republic and shot.

It was clear they just wanted to shoot us all and make way for the immigrants. Half of my block had already been cleared. The Wilson family next door were all shot the first day of the invasion. John tried to keep the soldiers out of his house. They dragged the whole family out on the front lawn and shot them, including the dog. I was thankful that I lived alone. That was a month ago. Last week the soldiers helped a family from their country move in. They’ve already dug up the whole yard and started planting vegetables. They even ripped out Emily Wilson’s prize yellow roses. It happened all up and down the block. The new people move in and they begin planting vegetables immediately.

A squad of soldiers came around the corner in a column of two. I stepped into the street and bowed low keeping my eyes on the pavement. That was Rule One on Day One and it didn’t take us long to learn it. A lot of people were shot on Day One.

My stomach growled. My pantry was nearly bare and my tiny vegetable patch wasn’t keeping me fed and it was the height of summer. No food was reaching the markets. I stood up after the squad passed and finished reading the poster. It was more of the same. I turned away. Nothing posted since Day One told us what to do to get along, to survive.
On my block I noticed all the new families out in their yards, tending the new gardens. I bowed politely. They bowed back. There was no point in trying to talk to them. Not only did they not speak my language, they’d retreat into the house if I tried to approach. I could tell which houses the newcomers were in. They all had gardens. I stopped to count. Six houses left with original owners.

An cargo truck was parked outside a newcomer house at the other end of the block. Soldiers carried boxes and bags of food to the house. I slowed my pace and watched. The truck stopped at every newcomer house. At the Wilson’s old place I could see bags of rice, beans and boxes of canned goods and fresh vegetables, even some butcher paper wrapped meat. My stomach growled again.

When the Sergeant looked my way I bowed. He frowned. I went up my front walk and opened the door. His crew came back to the truck and delivered food to the house across the street. I shut the door and hung my shopping bag on the hook in the front hall. Are they getting food because they’re from the conquering country or because they’re cooperating by growing food?

I went out to the garden shed. Like any gardener, I had a lot of seed out there. I looked through the packets; some of it was pretty old. I dug out my seed starter trays, filled them with the last of my starter soil and wet it down. I planted one whole tray with cabbage. It was too late for pumpkin but the acorn squash might mature before the next hard frost. Those went into another tray. I held the Swiss Chard packet in my hand. This stuff could go directly in the ground and it over wintered. I put that one aside. It went that way until I ran out of trays. I pulled my tiller out of the shed and peeked into the gas reservoir. Half a tank. There was about three quarters of a can of gas. I filled the tiller tank and pulled the cord. It started right up.

It took three days to clear the sod. I noticed the new neighbors watching. The third day I even had a brief nod from the new missus over there. The Swiss Chard was the first thing I put in. Then my remaining summer lettuce seed, herbs, cucumbers, and anything that had a chance to mature before winter.

The next month the supply truck stopped at my house. I bowed to the Sergeant. He nodded back and made a check on his clipboard.

The End

998 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday: Fourth of July

Fire works 2013 4th of July by Randy Cockrell

Fire works 2013 4th of July by Randy Cockrell

Fourth of July

Ernie lay on his back in bed, left arm under his head propped up on a pillow. He took a drag from the first cigarette of the day as he watched the daylight grow stronger through the pulled shade of the tiny camper he lived in.

He jumped at the sound of poppers in the dirt road that ran past the front of his trailer. A glance at the clock made him groan. Seven-thirty in the morning and the little brats were already out playing with fire works. He flung the sweaty sheet away and stood up. It was a single short step to the screened window. After he pulled the shade aside and winced from the full brunt of the early morning sun in hung-over eyes, he yelled, “Knock it off,” then slammed the window shut.

Ernie sighed. That was just going make it hotter in the camper, but he couldn’t take the constant pop, pop, popping. It sounded too much like gun fire. The ashes from his cigarette, still between two nicotine-stained fingers, dropped to join the remains of its brethren on the lifeless carpet beside the bed.

In what passed for a kitchen he scooped coffee into the maker and filled it with water. He punched the start button and was made a slightly less grumpy as the sound of water begin its path through the fresh grounds.

Shouts of warning rang out from the road outside, the kids set another string of poppers alight. Ernie braced. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, in rapid succession with screams of glee coming from the now larger pack of kids gathered from the trailer park. He stared out of the tiny window over the sink at the trailer next door, smoking the cigarette and waiting for the coffee.

He wanted to get out of town, get to the country, someplace without parades, crowds and fireworks but the car was in the shop. Before the coffee was done he poured some into his least dirty cup, letting the still brewing coffee pour over the hot plate, hissing and steaming and adding to the burnt coffee smell. He shoved the pot back under the stream and sipped the life blood of his day. His nerves were already on edge from the popping and screaming outside.

When the phone rang he jumped. Who the hell is calling at five till eight? He picked up the cell phone lying on the table amidst the remains of take out wrappers, bags and empty cans of beer.

“What?” he snarled.

“Good morning to you, too, buddy,” the voice responded with a laugh.

“It’s too early, Brian.” Ernie scrubbed the cigarette out in the overflowing ashtray next to the loveseat. He put his coffee on the stained arm of the sofa and plopped his feet on the coffee table, scattering more take out wrappers. “The damn kids are outside already, firing off poppers and screaming like the Viet Cong.”

“Come on out to the house, Brother. I’ve got brats and ribs and Mary’s made potato salad. No fireworks, I promise.”

Ernie’s interest picked up. His brother Brian had the childhood home, an old farmhouse they grew up in. He swallowed some of the still too hot coffee. “Car’s in the shop.”

“I’ll come get you. I know how the 4th brings out your PTSD. Say yes.”

Ernie lit another cigarette with his Zippo. His engraved unit crest nearly rubbed away. A screamer went off. It sounded like it was right outside his trailer. He dove for the floor, coffee flew all over the loveseat and ragged carpet.

A tinny voice came from the phone, now on the floor just under the kitchen cabinet. “Ernie? Ernie? What was that? Are you OK?”

Face flushed with shame, Ernie got up and retrieved the phone. “Yeah, I’m all right. Damn kids set off a screamer.” He walked back to the loveseat and picked the cup up. He poured more coffee into it and shoved the kitchen table wrappers off onto the floor to sit down at the table.

“Are you coming out?”

“Yeah,” Ernie scrubbed his three day old beard. If he stayed here much longer those kids would be dead. “Yeah. Come and get me. I’ll be cleaned up by the time you get here.”

When Brian arrived in his new SUV, Ernie was sitting outside his camper, shaved and in clean clothes, smoking. Brian got out and gave his brother a hug.  “I don’t see any kids.”

“I chased’em off.”

“Glad you’re coming out. Mary made your favorite, lemon meringue pie.”

The two of them got into the car. “You two are too good to me. I’m a mess.”

“That’s what family is for, Ernie. You did your duty, time for us to pay it back.”

Ernie stared out of the passenger window as his younger brother backed out of the parking spot. The camper was rusted and ugly. The lawn chair he’d been sitting in was missing half of the webbing. He could still hear the pop, pop, popping of gun fire deep in his memory and if he took his hands off of his knees, they’d be shaking. He felt the way his camper looked. “Thanks, Brian. I appreciate that.”

 

The End

874 Words

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