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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Flash Fiction Friday Post: Loathsome Sport

Polo, Horses, Mounts, Men, Players, SAMLIM

The Polo Player by SAMLIM via www.DeviantArt.com

The air was just breathable.

Captain Jenkins and I stood at the side of a large field, the aliens arranged in ranks around us as though at a soccer match. Not that they had jerseys. Their scales changed color, apparently at will. On our side the natives had all changed to a purple-fuscia color that rippled from dark to bright and back again as they gurgled and hissed in rhythmic ululations. The opposing side was in lime green and lemon color. Their sound was of the ocean, a low rumble that morphed into a hissing crash. Danged if I knew how they did it.

The Captain pressed a finger to his ear piece. “Keep a scan on the whole crowd. I want to know if anything seems wrong.”

I felt the sonic vibrations of the two sides. It was as though they met in my chest and churned. I asked, “Sir. What if things go wrong?”

He snorted. Not a good sign as far as I was concerned. “Then we’ll take it like men, Jordan.”

Since I was a bit behind him he didn’t see me roll my eyes. Always the drama queen, the Captain was. I didn’t really fear. The security force hovered above us in stealth mode. These aliens didn’t have a clue that they were there. But the chanting from both sides seemed intense and, to be honest, my last visit home for the local soccer team championship sounded quite a bit like this. Twelve people died in the rioting. I didn’t want to be an alien statistic.

“Jordan, keep an eye on the other side. The Most Holy told me in audience today that there might be trouble.”

“Aye, Captain.” What else could I say? The Most Holy seemed to me to be a psychopath. Last news I had was that he exterminated then burned the northwest quadrant of his land because he thought there was an earworm invasion. I wondered what story we’d have heard from the Premier on the lime green-lemon colored Teepar continent. After all of the reports, I’m thinking we should have landed in the other hemisphere.

After a long interval of confusing parades and discordant horn blowing, the teams lined up on opposite ends of the field. Each alien was astride an eight-legged beast that looked all the world to me like a cockroach. They held mallets that were curved, quite elegantly to say the least, and ended in a cupped blade.

It looked to me as though the cupped blade would hold a ball quite well. Hence, when the Grand Marshall trotted to the middle of the field on his cockroach painted in red and black, I was unprepared to see a lime green and lemon colored ball tossed onto the middle of the field.

The Grand Marshall rode up, bowed and pointed his spear at the Captain. There was some squeaking, the Captain’s translator must have handled it because I saw him go pale.

“I’m sorry,” he told the Grand Marshall. “That is outside of our mandate to refrain from interfering in other planet’s politics.”

The Grand Marshall hissed. I don’t know how that translated but the Captain turned to me. “Jordan. I have to do this. Turn on your body camera if you haven’t already done so. Record everything and get back to the ship, no matter what.”

Well that didn’t sound good. But I watched him take a cloth, purple-fusia, from the Grand Marshall and put it on. He hauled himself onto the cockroach with no elegance but once atop the beast looked as though he’d been made for the task.

I double clicked my tongue against my upper pallet to activate the recording. My Captain was being brave beyond the call of duty and as second in command, it was up to me to document every moment.

He kicked his mount in the sides and with awkward sawing, managed to get the beast to the correct side of the field. The Grand Marshall sounded what looked like a conch horn but to be honest, I was too far away to see clearly. Captain was trying to control his beast when there was a horn blast fit to blow out the ears of any creature.

The cockroaches, and really, I have no other way to describe the foul creatures, leapt forward. The Captain was nearly unseated but managed at the last second to right himself and lean forward, low over the carapace of his mount.

I saw the lime-lemon ball being batted with those hooked sticks, back and forth at the far end of the pitch. It rolled erratically. Under inflated, I thought. Captain began to maneuver his mount with some skill. He was a horseman on Earth. I suspected he was bringing to bear some of that skill though how a cockroach compared was beyond me.

The ball bounced downfield toward our side’s goal. The alien crowd made sounds like the hissing of an overheated tea kettle. The Most Holy stood up in his box as the ball crept ever nearer to his team’s goal. I worried for the Captain, involved in a game he didn’t expect to be playing in. What if the team lost? Would the Captain be blamed? I muttered quick instructions to the cloaked ship above.

At the end of the field, near the Most Holy, I watched as the ball neared. Several hard blows had sent it my way. As it rolled to a stop, the coverings came undone. The ball was the head of the opposition envoy. I gulped. The Captain rode up and with the stick, smacked the ball back into the middle of the pitch. He signed me. I spoke quickly and with a twinkle, he and I disappeared from the grounds.

On the bridge, he still wore the colors of the Most Holy. “Jordan, quarantine the planet. They’re not ready for admittance just yet.”

“Yes, sir.” I jotted notes on my epad. I wrinkled my nose. The Captain smelled of cockroach.

The End

722 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday Stories: Bingo

Bingo Card

Bingo by Banasre25001 on DeviantArt.com

We stood, shivering, in the steel cold room. Not that they cared, it was a balmy temp for them. They were lounging around on divans, if my memory serves of tales about Romans and orgies. We can just do as told.

I’ve survived so long. It had to happen one of these days. I was just sixteen when the skies opened and the ships came. I was in the city, to shop. My prom was coming up and I didn’t like any of the dresses in my small town stores. I had to have something special, different. I’m long past grieving for that simple life. Scooped up, with something others have told me were tractor beams but they don’t know. Old SciFi geeks, they call themselves. The tech is too advanced, we’re like dogs, ordered to sit, stand, fetch. We do what we’re told.

Now I’m part of the select, that’s what they call it. The Select, like it’s something special. It’s special all right. A special way to die.

We’ve been pampered all month. Well, it’s thirty sleeps for us. The day night cycle is long, longer than humans can tolerate. I heard stories that when they first started taking humans, they expected us to work on their schedule. People just died from exhaustion. Now they understand, we need to sleep often, at least often on their schedules. So households have many servants, we work in shifts to clean, entertain, cook, take care of their offspring.

Don’t get me started on the offspring. The nanny corp needs constant replenishment.

Anyway, here I am, dressed in the special robe, nanotech flashing a number on my tunic. An amplified voice speaks the alien numbers as a screen flashes them up for the gamers to see. If a number shows on the screen, the human who bears that number disintegrates. The masters moan in their own way but I’ve already lost six friends today. I stand stone-faced but several are weeping. Silently, of course. There will be no unseemly wailing to disrupt the fun. I’m just angry.

At the end of each game there is a winner, and those of us with the right symbols are excused. Back to the approved master, of course, no one is ever freed. I can’t imagine what Earth is like now. Did they take over? Did they just scoop us all up and leave the planet alone? I have no idea.

Now it’s my turn. My group is herded forward to stand on the similarly numbered squares and the game begins. At each called number, a player around me disintegrates. The dust of them makes me cough and my eyes water but I’m not crying. My teeth grind together as my nails dig into my palms.

As far as I can figure, I’ve made it twenty years in this hell hole. I’m thirty-seven and have borne eight children, none of whom I’ve been allowed to see after the birth. I’ve figured I’m so old that I’d be among the select sooner rather than later though the method of choosing us is a mystery.

The booming voice keeps chanting numbers. Some sort of random number generator the rumor has it. More of us disappear. One of the aliens whistles and throws one of their upper appendages into the air. Many of the other aliens moan. I look around; I’m one of the last five. We’re led from the arena and taken to another room. Other humans undress us and lead us to the steam baths. We’re given food and wine. How the aliens found out about that is beyond me. They drink something that others have told me resembles hydrochloric acid. I enjoyed the wine, whatever it is. I’ve earned it. I won’t be chosen for the Select again.

There is a rumor that some humans are gathering together to fight the aliens. What a joke. Like they can work any of the tech. Do they have four hands? Do they even know what the tech does? Wishful thinking by humans about to use whatever tool they can find to make their own end.

Tomorrow I’ll be back in my master’s kitchen mixing up the chemicals they call food. There’s a rumor there was a game like this on Earth, though not deadly. Bingo. What the hell is Bingo?

 

The End

722 Words

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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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Flash Fiction Friday: Near Miss

Turkey by Randy Cockrell

Turkey by Randy Cockrell

Zalon and his wife, Willow, slaughtered the last turkey from their flock. As he cleaned the axe, Willow held the bird to the feather plucker. The rotating drum with flexible fingers pulled the feathers off quickly. He remembered the first time they used it. Willow had held the chicken too close and the machine pulled not only feathers, but skin and nearly pulled her hands into it.

Their son, Bai, was picking up feathers and stuffing them into a bag. Zalon planned on keeping some of them for his own projects but the rest would be sold. Several artists used the heritage breed turkey feathers for their art projects.

Willow dropped the plucked bird into a bucket of water to clean it. “Last one,” she said as she rinsed her hands. “I’ll keep this one for the feast.”

“How ya doin’, son?”

“Good, Daddy.” The boy held out his bag.

Zalon smiled. Bai had feathers in his hair and stuck to his clothing.

A big grin spread across his  five-year-old face. It was the first time he’d been allowed to help. “I’ve got lots of feathers.”

“Yes you do. Mommy and I are going to wrap and freeze these birds for this winter. You finish picking up the feathers.”

“OK, Daddy.”

Zalon watched Bai squat down to grab more feathers next to the plucking machine.

Willow pulled the turkey out of the bucket and patted it dry. “This one will feed a lot of people. I’m so looking forward to tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast. I haven’t seen my parents or your’s in a month.”

Zalon began wrapping the birds in plastic. “Me, too. It’ll be nice to just relax at a party for the afternoon.”

They finished wrapping the birds and began the process of carrying them into the house where the industrial-sized freezer was. It took several trips as they could only carry a couple of birds each at a time.

They were putting the last of the birds in the freezer when they heard a scream. Zalon was first out of the door and into the yard. There he saw Bai backed up against the plucking machine, a Bashnall, a green and gold lizard-looking creature found on Titan 3, was nosing around the bucket where Willow had been rinsing the turkeys.

Zalon whistled for King, his domestic wolf. “Get a gun, Willow.” He dashed toward the Bashnall. He wondered at a Bashnall so close by. The wolves had begun hunting the Bashnall four years ago. He hadn’t seen one this close to town in a long time. The Bashnall knocked over the bucket, water flowed across the ground. Not finding anything to eat there, the Bashnall turned to Bai, still holding the bag of feathers.

“Drop the bag,” Zalon called to his son.

The boy stood, white-faced and big eyed, staring at the approaching creature, the size of the family wolf. King raced around the corner of the barn and streaked for the Bashnall. Zalon reached the boy, pulled the sack from his hand and threw it at the lizard as he spun around to the rear of the machine, Bai in his arms.

King gave a low growl and launched at the lizard. The Bashnall screamed making Zalon’s blood run cold. The animals were in a tangle, dust and mud flew in the air as each one scrambled to kill the other. Zalon used their distraction to back away then circle around to the house. He met Willow halfway across the yard. He handed her the baby and took the gun. “Get inside,” he told her then moved toward the animals.

It was hard to get a shot. King was rolling over and over with the Bashnall, snarling as he tried to reach the creature’s throat. Zalon followed the pair as they rolled. He wanted to get a shot off before the lizard hurt the wolf. He had his chance when the two broke apart. King crouched for another attack as the Bashnall whirled around to face its attacker. Zalon fired his blaster, the beam passing closer to his wolf than he liked. Don’t move, boy, he thought. The beam hit the predator in the head. It stood for a second as King leapt. The wolf grabbed the creature by the throat and shook the animal. Ichor and gobs of lizard flew in every direction.

“Easy, boy.” Zalon approached the wolf. “You got him, boy. Let him go now.” The wolf gave the creature another shake then dropped it at Zalon’s feet. Zalon stroked the wolf’s head. “Good job, King. Good job.”

The wolf huffed then nosed the Bashnall. He pointed his nose at the sky and gave out a long howl. Zalon chuckled. “The same way I feel,” he told the wolf.

Willow came out, Bai in her arms. “That was close,” she said as she stared at the creature in the dirt.

“It was. I wonder why this one is so close to town?”

“I don’t know. But it’s dead now.” She kissed Bai on the forehead.

Zalon hugged them both. “Thankfully, King was here to help.”

Willow stroked the wolf’s head. “I think a bone will be in order for him tonight.”

 

The End

867 Words

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Mid-Month Update for July

Horn Worm in the Tomatoes by Randy Cockrell

Horn Worm in the Tomatoes by Randy Cockrell

I cannot believe it’s the middle of the month already. July is a busy month and I guess that’s why it’s going so fast.

Fourth of July was pretty much rained out here in Payson. The town held the fireworks but very few people were left to watch them fire off in the rain.

The garden has been going like blockbusters. I’m harvesting blackberries, swiss chard, herbs, and sungold cherry tomatoes. The other tomato plants are producing but they’re all still green. There is no sign of hornworms yet, which makes me thankful. They get as big as my forefinger and can eat a tomato plant to just stem in no time flat. This is the time of year they show up so I’ve been carefully examining the plants every time I water. Unfortunately, they look exactly like a tomato leaf so they’re tough to spot. Other plants in the garden, hot and sweet peppers, cantaloupe, summer squash, butternut squash, peas, and green and yellow beans. The cantaloupe have, so far, produced two small ‘lopes but the pill bugs are eating them before they are even close to ripe. I don’t generally like to use bug killer but if I don’t, there won’t be any cantaloupe for me. The picture at the top of the page is of a hornworm, just in case you’ve never seen one before. It looks like an alien, doesn’t it?

July’s Camp NaNo is proceeding nicely. I have a 7K short story done and yesterday I completed the first of two novelettes for my new Brown Rain series. The novelette, titled The Beginning, finished at 21K words in the first draft which puts it in the novella category. I don’t mind. Longer is nearly always better in my opinion. I’ll start the second one today and continue my march toward the 50K NaNo goal for the month. I’m at 28K, past the word mid-point with time to spare.

I’m 18 chapters into the semi-final revision of Revolution, a little over half way done. I’ll hand it off to one more editor, my hubby, for a final look see then one last edit before formatting for release. Yes, the editing, rewriting process takes longer than the 1st draft writing. Be patient, it’s on its way.

The Goodreads site offers a Question the Author option. What do you think, are there questions you’d like to ask and no place to ask them? Would you be interested if I signed up for that on the Goodreads site?

Thanks for stopping by my blog today.

Like any author, my books sell based on reviews. Would you be interested in getting a free copy to review for me? Go to the button on the right side of the blog or go to my Newsletter tab to sign up. Or sign up here. Use Control, Click to access the link. Let me know you’d like to be a reviewer on the e-tailer or Goodreads site of your choice.

I have an in depth interview on my Smashwords Author page. You can read it here. Don’t see information about me you’d like to know? Leave me your question in my comments and I’ll try to answer it.

Hard Choices: A Gulliver Station Story released May17th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

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Flash Fiction Friday: Mystery on Titan

Ice Dragon by Aerin Kayne via www.deviantart.com

Ice Dragon by Aerin Kayne via www.deviantart.com

This story came about because of a challenge on Chuck Wendig’s site. So I rolled the random generator and got Military Science Fiction and Comic Fantasy. Ack! It took me a couple of days to come up with a mash up of those two genres. After you read this, go back to Chuck’s site and check out what other writers came up with. I’m sure you’ll be entertained.

Mystery On Titan

“What a pit,” Airman First Class Carl Andrews said as he rubbed his hands together on his first day on the job. “People used to complain about being stationed in Thule, Greenland. Hell, that’s a garden spot.”

Staff Sergeant LeAnn Rice sniffed. The heat in the new base on Titan, the sixth moon of Saturn, wasn’t up to the task of keeping the base warm. Her nose ran constantly. “Well, the scientists love studying the atmosphere and the hydrocarbon lakes. We’re just here to provide a forward lookout to the edge of the solar system.”

Carl snorted. “You think aliens are gonna come streaming in from the far edge of beyond to say hi?”

She shrugged. “Doesn’t matter what I think, we’re here to monitor the satellites they sent out to Pluto and send a call to Earth if we see anything. It would have been nice if we could have been on the sunny side of Titan though. It’s kind of depressing being always in the dark.”

By necessity they were on a four year tour of duty. It took too long to get to Titan to make the time on base any shorter. Two years went by and in a schedule that put them together every two weeks, Carl and LeAnn were again on duty together.

“Look,” Carl pointed at his monitor. “A ship is coming in.”

LeAnn looked up from her monitor where she was making notes in the log. “Can’t be. The supply ship isn’t due for another two weeks.” She got up.

“I know that,” Carl said, “but it looks like an incoming ship to me.”

LeAnn leaned over his shoulder to peer at the screen. “It’s coming from sun-ward, that’s for sure.” She went back to her desk, changed her monitor to pick up the signal from Carl and keyed her mike. “Unidentified ship, this is Titan Base Herschel, please identify yourself.”

Carl turned to stare at her. “It’ll take a few minutes. Shouldn’t we call the Captain?”

“And tell him what?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. Just seems like he should be informed.”

“Give it a minute, Carl.” LeAnn tapped her fingernail on the desk. She turned to a second monitor and pulled up the records from the last supply ship. Tapping the screen she scrolled to the record of the last ship’s approach to the base. The flight path traced from Earth, on its nearest rotation around the sun to Titan. The path in a blue dotted line made an arc, directly between Earth and Titan. Carl got up and stood behind her.

She tapped a command into the first screen and a dotted red line traced out behind the mystery ship, a record of its path since the computer first noticed it. LeAnn blinked. “It’s not from Earth.”

“Crap.” Carl dashed back to his seat and began a staccato tapping on his keyboard. “I’m extrapolating the path backward,” he told her. “It, uh, looks like it slipped in around Uranus and is sling-shotting toward us.” He whipped his chair around. “It’s alien.”

LeAnn hit the button to call the Captain. “We’ve got aliens on approach,” she said when he answered.

“I’ll be right there.”

Three minutes later he and Dr. Gifford, lead scientist, burst through the door. “Where is it?” Captain Brooks skidded to a stop beside her.

LeAnn pointed at her screen, the red-dotted path now longer. “I sent a call out eight minutes ago.”

“Why?” Dr. Gifford asked as he pulled his glasses off and wiped them as he stared at the screen.

“We thought it was the supply run, early.”

The speakers came to life. A thin, reedy voice nearly drowned in static came through, “Herschel Base, this is the Atamattal ship Thahhsskkt, on approach to the moon you call Titan.”

The Doctor stopped polishing his glasses mid-stroke.

The Captain grabbed the headset from LeAnn and jammed them on his head. “Thassktt,” he mangled the word. “What is your purpose?”

“Annual holiday,” the crew heard over the static. “We come here every fifty of your years.”

Captain Brooks stared at the Doctor.

The Doctor shrugged. “Must be a pretty cold species to vacation on Titan. Ask if they’ve been to Earth?”

The Captain did that.

“No, the third planet is too hot for us. Our people have been picking up your transmissions for a hundred years, so we can communicate with you. We’ll be setting down at the northern pole. The lakes are beautiful this time of year.”

“Uh, we’re happy to meet you, Thassktt.”

Two days later, a team went to speak with the aliens. The alien ship was settled on a rock outcropping and the human shuttle landed beside it. The shuttle commander and Dr. Gifford stared. There, on the so called beach, were six dragons of varying sizes. “Must be children,” Gifford pointed at two of the smallest who were throwing pawsful of the petrochemical mist at each other.

The largest dragon turned at the sound of the shuttle and spread wings, taking off in a down blast that sent smog whirling in all directions. It landed in front of the shuttle and peered in through the windows. “Sorry you can’t join us,” it said through the glass, “too cold for you.” It sighed. “It’s too bad, we love this moon but I suppose now that your species is here, we’ll have to find another vacation spot.”

“Not for a long time yet,” Gifford said. “We’d like to share cultures with you.”

The dragon nodded. “We get that all the time. An official delegation is needed, you know. It’s not for the likes of me to talk but thanks for the offer. I’ll make a report when I get home.”

He turned and rejoined his family. No amount of coaxing would get him to talk again.

Back at base, Captain Brooks made his report to Earth. The long wait began.

 

The End

985 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday: Saving A Life

Prison Bars by Choney25 via www.deviantart.com

Prison Bars by Choney25 via www.deviantart.com

A little late but still on Friday. Enjoy.

Saving A Life

Emil and Teresa Gerhardt huddled with several hundred other humans in the camp the Aliens had put them in. Their children, fourteen- year-old Mikail and ten-year-old Ruth sat between them.

“Mom, what are they going to do with us?” Mikail whispered.

Teresa didn’t know. Their colony, founded three generations ago, was emptied yesterday by the aliens, the Krtit, who had let them settle here. The aliens, pink shaded, six legged hippopotamus looking creatures with eyes like crabs and circular mouths like sea anenomes with razor sharp looking teeth herded them through the Alien city they called Rylab, and into this fenced area yesterday. “I don’t know, son.” She looked at her husband.

He shrugged. “If we knew why they rounded us up, we might make a guess.” He was worried. The Mayor was at the gate, talking to one of the aliens. Hopefully trying to get them all released.

A bell sounded and they stood up. The Krtit had prepared food and the humans lined up to get it. It wasn’t much, two dried bars each and a bottle of water. One bar was savory and hard to chew. The other was sweet and soft. Both of them made the people thirsty. The line at the tap to get water was always long.

#

Bice was at home in his pool. The Krtit were ocean creatures in their distant past. They were land creatures now, but still, a pool was an essential part of any Krtit home. He manipulated the controls of the communication device on the wall with the first pair of legs which had twenty fingers on each. He watched the news of the human round up as he floated in the pool. “It’s not right,” he told his spouse when she joined him. “We told them they could live here.”

“You know what happened. The government changed and the groups that didn’t want them here began to control the government. There’s been increasing anti-human sentiment for the last few years.”

“They want to exterminate them. It’s not right. Why don’t we just have them get on their ships and move away?”

She shrugged, a motion that caused her entire body to wave in the salty water. “What can we do, Bice? We’re just one couple.”

“Something has to be done. Look, they have young in the camp too.” He pointed at the screen.

She nodded. “I agree, but what?”

The next day he called the government office that was responsible for the round up. “I’d like to pay for some of the humans to leave Ytic. Can you arrange that?”

The official was stunned to silence. When he recovered he said, “I don’t know. It’s not been offered as an option. I’ll contact you when I know more.”

A few hours later Bice was called back.

“It seems that if a toll is paid, you can choose your humans and send them away.”

Bice worked out the details and closed the connection.

He began calling friends. This was going to take a lot of credit.

#

A week later, Emil, Teresa and their children were called to the gate along with four other families. Emil was nervous. Other families had been called to the gate in the last three days. The Krtit didn’t say what was going on and the other families had not returned. Rumors flew around the camp; humans were being killed, the families were being released, no one really knew.

Outside the gate they were loaded into a transport and Emil could see they were heading to the spaceport. “Maybe they’re releasing us,” he said.

Teresa’s face was grim. Two of the other wives were weeping. “I hope so.”

At the spaceport they were lined up beside the transport and handed plastic cards. An officious looking Krtit told them, “These are your identicards. They contain your personal history and one thousand credits each.” The Krtit, pointed at a space liner on the tarmac. “You have each received permission to leave Ytic. You are never to return.”

“But I had more than a thousand credits in the bank! I have a business, property” cried out one man.

The Krtit stared at him. “You may now board the ship.”

“But what about…,” another man began to say.

The Krtit cut him off. “Enough. You can leave. You’re passage has been paid.”

Emil put his hand on his wife’s back and urged her toward the ship. “Let’s go before they change their minds.” They grabbed their children’s hands and headed for the ship, the other families followed.

#

Three weeks later the Krtit government declared war on the Human race. The remaining families were slaughtered.

Bice stared at the communication screen from his pool, his wife beside him, the video of the slaughter on the screen. “You tried,” she told him.

“We saved some at least.” He turned the screen off. “What a waste.”

The End

817 Words

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