Posts Tagged ‘flash fiction’

My answer to the challenge I posted last week. I ended up with Hardboiled Space Opera, and this is the kind of thing I came up with. Over the wod limit and hardly my best work, but its also the most I’ve written recently, so there’s that I guess.

Malachi sat in the spaceport bar of Copernicus Station, a half-filled glass of chilled vodka in front of him. His smart glasses told him it was “morning,” but that didn’t mean much in a stable orbit around a gas giant being mined for hydrogen and helium. He blinked when his commlink chirped, and his virtual assistant popped up in front of him, a diminutive hologram named Clara who perched herself on the edge of the bar. She’d opted to go for the standard secretary look this morning, hair in a bun, horn rimmed glasses, skirt falling exactly at mid-thigh, the first few buttons on her blouse undone. He’d tried to adjust the settings so that she would appear the same every time, but either they were buried so far down in the system settings as to be impenetrable or she’d deliberately moved them to somewhere else in her operating system.

“Drinking this early?” Clara asked, peering at Malachi’s glass over her glasses.

“Early?” Malachi asked. “I’ve been up for… what,” he checked his heads-up display, “four hours already. It’s a mid-day aperitif.”

The bartender, a four-armed, vermilion skinned Karaxxian looked over at in his direction, but Malachi waved him off. He’d have to remember he was in a public space and pitch his voice accordingly given only he could see Clara and her voice was being piped directly to the subcutaneous speaker implanted behind his ear.

Clara sniffed. “If it weren’t for me, you’d be nothing more than a dissolute degenerate.”

Malachi regretted getting her the thesaurus upgrade, and not for the first time. “Yeah, yeah. So are you just going to bust my balls for having a drink?”

“Not at all. You have a client.”

Malachi blinked. “You couldn’t have led with that? So what’s the case?”

“Missing person. Client says she’s looking for her daughter.”

Malachi wrinkled his nose. “Isn’t that what station security is for?”

“According to her, she already went to them. They’re processing but… well, you know how it is,” she replied.

“Yeah, yeah.” He finished his drink. “Send me the details.

“Adriana Baraxan. Human. States that she is a pilot for an independent cargo hauler.”

“So a smuggler,” Malachi interjected. It wasn’t a judgement statement, only an observation.

“Probably,” Clara conceded.

“What does she want?”

“She didn’t state a reason. Says she’s only willing to discuss the case in detail in person. Maybe she doesn’t trust the station’s network security.”

“Huh.” Malachi scratched at the stubble on his chin. “So she’s smart. Okay. Let’s go see what she wants. Did she give a location?”

A map popped up on his overhead. He recognized it as leading to a green space with a great view of the planet they were orbiting. “Interesting. Public space, but with enough space to make it hard for someone to eavesdrop. Seems our client knows what she’s about.” Malachi nodded in professional approval. “When did she want to meet?”

“Fifteen minutes from now.”

Malachi swore under his breath. He’d have preferred a bit more time. Time to go back to his one room square of an apartment and change his clothes at least, if not take an actual shower. No joy there though. Instead, he tapped his device against the contact pad at the bar and tipped his bartender before stepping out into the thoroughfare outside. The park was a short walk away, easy to get to without having to hop on the maglev. The stations’ gravity was enough to keep him balanced, but he’d grown up on a terrestrial world. Looking up to see the void of space and the looming giant of the planet instead of blue sky always sent a shudder down his spine.

He arrived at the park with about five minutes to spare.

“So where’s the client?” he asked.

“Ah, of course. Here is her location.” A golden halo appeared over a woman sitting on a bench. Malachi approached from an angle where he would be clearly visible to her as he walked up, hands buried in his pockets. The woman had the pale, nearly translucent skin of someone who spent all her time in her space. He could tell, even though she was sitting down at the moment, that she’d be taller than him if she stood up, and her body would have the elongated look of a person unaccustomed to normal gravity. She wore simple enough clothing, black flight jacket over a blue high-necked shirt, black flight pants. She wore her dark hair close cropped and held a tablet on her lap, scrolling through… something. New feed maybe. Contract list more likely, if she was what she said she was.

“Captain Baraxan?” Malachi didn’t offer to shake hands.

“Ahh. You must be the detective. Malachi, isn’t it?” She turned off the screen on her tablet and stood up. Like he’d guessed, he had to stare up a bit to meet her eyes. “Thank you for meeting with me.”

“Private investigator,” he corrected her. “What can I help you with?”

She flipped the tablet so that it was facing him. She touched the screen and an image popped up of an older man, graying temples, sagging jowls. One of his eyes was brown and the other a brass colored orb. “One of my partners has gone missing. I was able to track him down this far, but, well, the man has gone to ground. He owes me a considerable sum of money and I would like to have a rather involved discussion with him about it.”

Malachi snorted. “I’m sure you would. What’s his name?”

“Harrod.”

“Just Harrod?”

“We did business. That’s all. So do you think you can find him?”

“Clara?” Malachi asked, tapping his implant.

“Already on it boss.”

“Who’s Clara?” Baraxan asked.

“My not-so-silent partner,” Malachi replied.  “She helps with the leg work.”

Baraxan frowned. “Is that the woman I spoke to earlier?”

“Yeah, let’s go with that,” Malachi replied.

They stood, awkwardly, in the park, watching the space craft silently dock and depart as they drifted in high orbit above the swirling clouds of the giant planet planet below. Malachi had to repress the everyday panic of knowing that only a thin amount of material separate him from the vacuum of space, and that if any part of the delicate system failed, all he would have to look forward to was an agonizing death by asphyxiation as the oxygen levels depleted on the station.

“Okay, boss, I’ve got a hit on some of the public cameras,” Clara piped in his ear. “But you’re not going to like it.”

“Yeah?”

“He’s down in Yellow Sector.”

Malachi bit back a curse. “Any idea when he got on the station?”

“There’s no record of him in the public Customs reports,” Clara confirmed. “How ever he got on the station, it wasn’t through official channels.”

“Okay,” Malachi said, addressing the captain. “I’ve got a bead on where he is, but I’m going to have to go in and verify.”

Baraxan raised a delicately thin eyebrow. “Why’s that?”

“He’s in Yellow Sector. Think of it as the local bad neighborhood. There isn’t much in the way of video surveillance down there, which means he’s gone to ground. Someone looking like he does though… well, someone is bound to have seen him.”

“Very well. I shall accompany you.”

Malachi gave a short bark of a laugh, then realized she was being serious. “I don’t know that’s such a great idea,” he said. “Yellow Sector types can be a bit rough.”

The captain gave a small smile. “I’m not unused to the coarser types, detective. Lead on.”

Malachi felt the difference as he entered Yellow Sector. There were no outside view ports and more graffiti and the air felt closer, stuffier. He led, Captain Baraxan trailing behind. They’d stopped at his office so he could pick up his sidearm, an air compressed needle gun, the tips dipped in a paralytic. Nominally non-lethal, though a shot in the neck could lead to asphyxiation. He’d offered to give the captain a weapon, but she declined. He wondered if she concealed a weapon under her bulky jacket, but decided it would be impolite to inquire.

They entered the Cosmic Joke, a speakeasy run by an acquaintance of Malachi’s named Jules. Jules had the coal black skin and heavy, compact build of a Politanian… a denizen of a world known for its high gravity and brutal solar radiation. He waved at Malachi when he saw him enter. Captain Baraxan hung back, checking out one the holographic displays projected into the middle of the space.

“What’s with the navy with you?” Jules asked

“Huh?” Malachi asked.

“The spacer over there. You telling me she isn’t military?”

“Civilian captain,” Malachi corrected him.

Jules made a noise in the back of his throat. “Could have fooled me. All right, what can I do for you?”

“Looking for someone. Someone in particular.” He pulled up the image of Harrod, broadcast it on top of the bar. “Have you seen him?”

“Funny you should ask. He was here, what, two days ago? Said he had something to sell and was looking for a buyer.” While he spoke, Jules poured two glasses of chilled vodka and pushed one across to Malachi.

“You know what it was?” Malachi asked.

“No. He wasn’t asking me, which means it wasn’t drugs or booze.”

“Who was he talking to?”

“You know Warrix?” Jules asked.

“Yeah, I know him,” Malachi confirmed, before downing the rest of his vodka, a pleasant numbness spreading through him. “Wish I didn’t. Thanks Jules.”

“Yeah, no worries. On the house, okay? Just don’t get yourself dead.”

Malachi rubbed at the back of his head. “Yeah, wasn’t on my to do list, don’t worry.”

As he walked back over to Captain Baraxan, Clara piped up in his ear. “I don’t have to tell you what a catastrophically bad idea this is, do I?”

“Nope, you don’t. Got a pretty good idea already,” Malachi replied.

“You’re going to go through with it any way though aren’t you?”

“Yep.”

Clara ran through her new thesaurus, Malachi recognizing many of the terms as being synonyms for stubborn, stupid or both.

“Any luck?” Captain Baraxan asked.

“Your boy Harrod has been meeting with a local crime boss, name of Warrix. Anywhere else, he’d be small fry, but he’s a player here. We, uh, have a history.”

“Do I want to know?”

Malachi shrugged. “I might have shot him once. Okay, twice.”

“Hmm. Where can we find him?”

Malachi shook his head. “Are you sure you want to go through with this? I mean, I get that Harrod owes you money, but you can’t spend it if you’re dead.”

“Do you want out?” The captain stared hard at Malachi, and he realized she was weighing him, deciding what kind of person he was. To his surprise, he decided he cared.

“No,” he said, somewhat to his own surprise.

He led them out of the Cosmic Joke and down into the service tunnels that made up the bulk of Yellow Sector, passed the makeshift shelters and jury-rigged habitations of those poor souls who couldn’t quite afford either regular station housing or a ticket off. He knew where Warrix would be, down in a disused security station, surrounded by his men, secure in his territory. Warrix’s guards spotted them long before they got close, but no one challenged them, which means Warrix wanted to talk to them. Or wanted to personally kill them. Malachi figured it could go either way.

“Well, if it ain’t my least favorite detective,” Warrix boomed from his translator speaker mounted on his hover chair. The boar headed sapien was restricted to the chair, his spinal cord having been severed when Malachi shot him. “Got a lot of nerve coming down here.” The various degenerate scum that made up his court laughed and chuckled along with him.

“I’ve got business with you,” Captain Baraxan said, stepping forward. Malachi tried to pull her back but she flowed around his clumsy grasp, leaving him with nothing but air. “Man named Harrod. I’m looking for him.”

“Hey, Harrod, someone’s here to see you,” Warrix called out.

One of the men threw back the cloak he’d been wearing, an evil grin on his face, his brass eye gleaming in the low light.

“Hello, Captain. Me and Warrix here came to a bit of an understanding, see? So you and the detective can just walk on out of here.”

Captain Baraxan tilted her head to one side. Malachi wondered how big of a mistake he’d made. Then she moved.

A metallic ribbon dropped from the sleeve of her jacket and she flowed through the room. The ribbon sliced through the air, parting Harrod’s head from his body. Weapons were out and firing, and Malachi dived behind a column, keeping his head down as charged blasts ripped through the air. He spared a glance out, fully expecting to see the captain’s lifeless body, but the shots fired at her bounced off an invisible field, sparks flying up as the protective shield she wore deflected the attacks. Malachi saw Warrix trying to guide his chair out of the area, so he lined up a careful shot and caught him in the side of the neck. The chair careened to one side, nearly dumping its occupant on the ground before coming to a soft stop against a wall.

Most of Warrix’s people had the good sense to know when they were overwhelmed and fled the captain and her ribbon blade, and she had no interest in pursuing them. With the room cleared, she stooped down and collected something from Harrod’s body.

Malachi looked around at all of the bloodshed, feeling sick to his stomach and realizing he was at least partly to blame.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“Captain Baraxan. Kilvarian Navy Intelligence. This scum,” she kicked Harrod’s corpse, “was attempting to sell stolen information.”

“What kind of information?” Malachi asked.

She turned and left the station, and Malachi knew he’d never get the answer he wanted.

Later, back at the Cosmic Joke, Jules tried to ask him what happened.

It took three vodkas to get the story out of him.

Right, so this week’s challenge: click on a link, get a random phrase, incorporate that into a 1000 or so words. This piece could definitely be part of something longer, but I’m already over word count AND in the middle (3.5k words or so) of a longer piece I’m trying to develop. The phrase I was assigned is in bold within the story.

That said, I like Ewan, and, in fact have used him before. He’s the kind of character I really should do more with. Probably didn’t help (or hurt) that I’ve recently finished reading CASINO ROYALE.

As always, comments are welcome.

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This week’s challenge: starting with a dead body. This falls under the category of a piece that could be turned into a longer piece, and I’m well aware of that. Word count limit was set at 1k, and this could easily be double that. Ahh well.

As always, comments are welcome and encouraged!

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So this week’s Chuck Wending Challenge is a continuation from last week’s. I decided to take on the slightly Southern Gothic start that darkvirtue posted and added my 500 words to it. I hope he doesn’t mind too much me playing with his toys. (Sadly, no one has picked mine up yet. Sniff.)

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My response to the Chuck Wendig challenge this week. My words were a pile of napkins, a blue punch card, a dark potion, a broom, a small machine, a hardhat, a flashlight, a diploma. It’s a weird sci-fi/fantasy/mashup. Probably wouldn’t be too bad with a bit more polish.

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A different flash piece. The challenge was to use rubber duck, blind donkey, and scarecrow all in the same piece. 500 words or less. This is what I ended up with.

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Ring Finger (Flash Fiction)

Posted: June 27, 2014 in Fiction
Tags: ,

I’m always losing things. Doesn’t matter what it is, either, I’ve lost it. I’ve lost wallets and credit cards, thermoses and keys. Sometimes it’s a matter of thoughtlessness, like putting something down on the bus seat next to me and forgetting to pick it back up again. Other times I’ll give my credit card at the restaurant, and leave without getting my card back. I’d love to say I’m just focused on other things, but really, I’m just not good at keeping track of things. Hell, I can’t even keep track of passwords.

So a year ago, my fiancée at the time asked me, “What do you want to do for a wedding ring?”

I admit, I gave her a blank look. Never mind the fact the wedding was looming large on the calendar, only six months away. I honestly hadn’t given it much thought. See, I’m not one for jewelry. As in I don’t wear any. Then there’s the always losing things, and the thought of losing a ring, especially a wedding ring means I don’t want to spend a lot of money on something I’d just end up losing anyway.

“Check these out, will you?” She had her laptop open, a whole series of tabs open on her browser. “What do you think of these?”

She must have sensed my carefully constructed air of indifference.

“Don’t you want a ring at all?”

I tried to explain the always losing things, which, she admitted, she’d noticed. I then asked her the last time she ever saw me wear any jewelry. She admitted she couldn’t think of a time.

“A wedding ring is different though!”

I nodded, agreeing with her. I’d feel a lot worse when I inevitably lost it for instance. The next day I was at my local, complaining over a beer at the ‘tender Jim.

“Why not get a tattoo?”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Seriously, look.” He tugged his ring off, showing me that underneath the metal band, a ring of ink circled his digit. “It’s not like you are going to lose your finger, right? By the way, here’s your hat. You left it here last week.”

I broached the idea to the fiancée.

“You hate needles.”

A fair point, but in this case I’d make an exception.

“You’re getting a real ring, too. I’m not going to have a tattoo artist working on your finger while we exchange vows.”

I agreed, and we settled on a brushed titanium band. It wasn’t too expensive, and what I saved on a ring, I could splurge on ink. About two weeks before the wedding itself, I went in with my fiancée, and got the ink done, a cursive band around my ring finger with her name. It still stung a bit when she forced the wedding band down over it though.

Anyway, I lost the wedding ring three months ago when we went to Costa Rica. I swear it was on my finger when I went into the ocean, but it was gone when I came out, never to be seen again. I still have the ink though.

And that’s how I got this tattoo.