Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Flash Fiction - The Upset, Part Three

Good evening,

 I spent an extra day as THIS IS HUGE. This the third and final part of The Upset. Hope you enjoy.

***

Arnie used to live with Clarke and his parents after a fire took his apartment. On the insistence of Clarke’s mother, it was only until he could find a home of his own, but soon they had grown used to living together. The basement became his, a den populated with old magazines and antique cassettes. Clarke remembered going down there to hear music long-forgotten and to rife through his uncle’s effects, hearing stories of days gone by.
It was Christmas Day when war was declared. Sparked by an attack on Stockholm from the Colonial Liberation Front during the preceding week, the World Union announced its intent to retaliate. It was a time of dark decisions. Weapon development bans were lifted across the globe in order to battle the growing strength of the C.L.F. 
Fifty long years after the last modified man was built, human weapon production became legal once more.
He remembered being a boy of eight, sitting in the kitchen as his mother begged her brother not to join. Pleas turned to threats and threats to pleas again. Nothing could dissuade him, though; Arnie’s decision was final. He wanted to avenge those lost and fight back the C.L.F. Young Clarke thought he was brave; no-one else shared his enthusiasm. 
Arnie walked out of their home a man; four years later, he returned as something else.
His skin became greenish from the fluids circulating through his body. Iron bracings covered his arms and legs. His skeleton and muscles were modified and reinforced in order to withstand his implants. He lost weight; his face had grown gaunt. His eyes stayed the same, but they were grim and told only horror stories. 
Clarke’s mother couldn’t bear it. She tried to love her brother as she had before, but every smile she sent his way was dipped in anger and fear.
Meanwhile, the world changed. Promises were made to make modmen like Arnie into productive members of society. Many put their blades to work in harvesting grain or at lumber mills. The strongest were given tasks of heavy lifting, or hired by construction site managers. Field medics, their arms augmented with so many pneumatic drills and buzz-saws, found work in factories. 
But there were those who brought the war home with them, those who had seen so much strife that they could not live like people anymore. For them, the Federation was formed, what some called a fighter’s league and others a tournament for the damned. This was a place for weapons to become weapons again, for humanity to be set aside in favour of brutality.
When Clarke found a Federation enlistment form in Arnie’s room, his mother threw a fit. The words ‘monster’ and ‘lunatic’ were slung at the once-man until he could take no more. Fire fled his eyes, his shoulders slouched, and his mouth twisted. Clarke’s mother was crying at that point. She fell onto the ground in a heap, his father hugging her around the neck. 
Arnie packed his bags as she was led from the room.
Even for his age, Clarke understood nothing. He stood there and watched Arnie, his hero, put his magazines and cassettes and clothes into so many boxes and cases. He heard his father belting at him to go upstairs. Defeated, Clarke made his way out. As he left, the boy looked back and asked to know why his uncle was leaving. 
“Because I’m like crotch-rot, kid,” the old man answered, casting one last glance at the boy, “Nobody wants me.”

            It was then that Clarke realized he was standing in that arena ten years after that moment. It was then that he remembered that he was one of two in a sea of thirty thousand men and women who did not chant against his uncle. His senses returned to him as he saw the beating Arnie was put through. 
After tossing his prey around, the hulking champion put his uncle, who the public knew as Crotchrot, in a chokehold. The monster called Rageman yowled as the crowd cried for more. In his massive hands, the giant held the challenger down and squeezed his neck. Crotchrot winced and tried to pry the bony sausage-like fingers from off of his throat.
Clarke ground his teeth together. He cast one last look at Minnie, the madwoman at his side, and faced the mat. Taking in a deep breath, he screamed his uncle’s name. 
Arnie’s eyes snapped open.
A stream of fire burst from his forearm. Wheeling it up, he aimed the blaze at the titan’s mouth. It shrieked and let go, stumbling back and seizing its steaming face. The crowd screamed in shock. The referee scrambled and ran to the giant’s side as it tossed and screeched in pain. Arnie rose, looking around the arena until he stopped. The gaunt warrior focused on the exact spot where Clarke stood. 
Clarke could feel the electricity in the air. Murmurs and the odd set of boos bustled. Minnie turned to him wide-eyed. He paid her no mind. His attention was directed to the stage, and Arnie Cambpell’s attention was directed right back at him.
In seconds, he remembered. Anger and confusion covered his face as Arnie looked at the man his nephew had become. “Came to watch an old man die?!” he called out to him. 
            With Minnie gripping his arm and asking something he could not hear, Clarke straightened up and bellowed back: “I came to watch one win!
Behind the old man, the champion screamed. With one hand he threw aside the referee and howled. Whirling round, he faced the exposed back of his opponent. Hissing and spitting with fury, he charged. The crowd’s cheers rose again. Minnie screamed. Clarke tensed. 
Arnie lowered his head and shut his eyes.
            His leg blossomed in flame. 
Time seemed to slow as his old friend spun. Rockets in his leg burned the air as he wheeled the kick at the champion. Minnie’s nails dug into Clarke’s arm. The crowd held its breath.
And Clarke smiled.

***

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 23, 2012. EDITS! By the way, The Upset remains one of my favourites.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Flash Fiction - The Upset, Part Two

Good evening,

 The second part of this growing epic is up and running.

***

They were placed near the front. Pyrotechnics from the arena blazed high, fireworks careening towards the rafters and bursting into arrays of coloured light. Heavy rock music groaned against the speakers as the two combatants took their places on the mat. When he and Minnie found their seats, the crowd was already chanting the champion's name. 
Clarke looked at the men in the ring and shivered.
The man he bet against was seven feet tall, black metal grafted onto his pale flesh. Sharpened teeth bared themselves from underneath an obsidian half-helm covering the man’s eyes and nose. Bulbous muscles from years of steroid therapy and muscle-growth hormone use pushed against a full-body harness that was riveted in place. Black cords fell from his scalp and were fastened into his chest. The giant seethed and drooled and paced around his side of the arena. 
Squatting in the corner opposite him was Crotchrot. Scraggly grey hair fell in tangles across his unshaven face and the sides of his head. His body, nearly gangrenous in colour, was waxed and wiry in contrast to the champion’s hulking mass. Brown leather with tassels was what he wore on his legs and for a vest. Iron bracers sat on his forearms and calves, hiding the barely-used rocket thrusters that were buried into his limbs.
Minnie couldn’t contain herself when she saw him. “Oh my gods oh my gods oh my gods I’ve never been this close before!” she squealed, clapping like a true fan would. 
Tense, Clarke folded his arms. He wanted to say that he had been closer before, far closer, but that was a surprise to save for later.
A man too fat for his tuxedo stood between them and announced: “Now begins our final match of the evening, ladies and gentlemen! Get your tickets ready, because this face off is going to knock your face off!” The crowd squealed with anticipation. 
He gestured to his right, “In this corner, The Challenger! The Ghost of Oldville! The original Rocket Man himself! Weighing in, parts and all, at only two-hundred and sixty-one pounds: CRRRRRROTCHROT!”
A mix of cheers and boos met him. The challenger waved a hand limply at them. From his space in the crowd, Clarke nodded solemnly to himself. He forgot how light the old man was. 
The man in the tux shot a finger at the behemoth to his left, “Aaaaaand, his opponent! The Death Valley Dragonslayer! Hero of the Skulltown Rebellion! Weighing in at seven hundred and fifty-five pounds: RRRRRAGEMAN!”
Rageman reared his head back, stretched his arms out and roared triumphantly. The auditorium met him, roaring back. 
All except for Minnie, of course, “BOOOO!” she cried, aiming a flipped-bird at the giant, “Crotchrot for life!”
A bell rang. The announcer ran out of the way and let a referee come in. Slowly, Crotchrot rose to his feet and stretched out his arms and back. His face tensed like it hurt so much to do. Rageman lumbered towards him, still seething and slobbering all over the mat. 
Crotchrot launched his offensive. Wheeling his arm back, he rushed the goliath and spun a clenched fist over his head. Near the giant, he let the first punch go, slamming it into the champion’s left breast. The blows he dealt to Rageman were quick and fierce. Hard jabs and straight kicks to the monster’s body barely fazed Crotchrot’s opponent. A stray uppercut to the champion’s jaw sent a loud clang ringing through the arena.
The next punch came like a bullet. 
Steam burst out from Rageman’s elbow as he reeled back and caught Crotchrot in the jaw. The old man flew and bounced off the mat. His back hit the edge of the ring. Rolling onto his side, he forced himself up just as the giant was on him. Seized by the same massive hand Rageman had struck him with, the challenger was lifted into the air and thrown against the ground behind the giant. He bounced again. Rageman followed and seized him once more for another throw.
Clarke rang his hands together. Use your mods, he thought, biting the inside of his cheek, Come on, old man, use your mods. There’s no honour here, so get up. 
Turning his head right, he scanned the audience howling with delight as Crotchrot was thrown around like a ball. He saw children in Rageman shirts clumsily applauding their hero. A buxom woman with dyed green hair jumped up, holding a ‘Rageman 3:16’ sign. Swarms of spectators clapped and pumped their fists with each blow. The crowd was against him.
All except for Minnie, of course, but when he looked to her he saw the same bloodlust her eyes that he saw in theirs. No doubt she remembered his fighting history more than anything else, his many clashes with Cain The Able, Loverboy Jones, The Living Dead, and Brother Doom. It was clear she remembered the hits, the throws, the sound of broken bones, a world of steam and blood and pain. 
But Clarke remembered another man; a veteran from the Great War who smelled of tobacco and brought him comics for Christmas. Clarke remembered a man who smoked too much and laughed his pain away. Clarke remembered a man no-one wanted.
Clarke remembered his Uncle Arnie.

***

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 23, 2012. Edits!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Flash Fiction - The Upset, Part One

Good day,

 This one is actually turning out to be a bit longer than I thought, so I've decided to release it in small chunks.

 Here is Chunk One:

***

            “Ten-fifty on Crotchrot,” he said proudly, sliding his bills in front of the woman behind the desk.
            She glanced at the money on the counter and raised an eyebrow at him. “Nobody bets on Crotchrot,” she said. A field of ashtrays channelled themselves through her voice. 
            Pocketing his hands, he shrugged, “Well, I am.”
            A sigh; she took the money and shook her head, “Your funeral, kid.” 
            “Four-eleven on Crotchrot!” a chipper voice behind him called out.
            He glanced over his shoulder. Whoever she was, she stopped just shy of his ribs and was all in black. Silver studs sat burrowed into the shoulders of her jacket. A low-collared tank top barely concealed her chest. A loose skirt stopped half-way down her thighs, an inch before a set of stockings slid into a pair of boots. Hair an unnatural shade of red was shaped into a pixie cut. Grey eyes, a button nose, and tight lips stood out on her round face. 
            Throwing her hands in the air, the woman at the counter rolled her eyes, “Sure, come on. When the champ puts Crotchrot through the mat, don’t come crying to me.”
            “Oh, we won’t,” the giddy little stranger said, dipping into her coat pocket and producing the bills she needed. 
            He couldn’t help but smile, “Crotchrot fan?”
            “I loved him back when he was in the Murder League with Bill the Bulldozer,” she admitted, taking her ticket, “He’s still got charisma, even when he loses. I love that!” 
            “He’s been losing a lot, lately,” he said, mordantly. Her enthusiasm was as intoxicating as it was infuriating.
            The girl shrugged and dipped her head to one side, “Doesn’t mean he hasn’t had memorable fights.” 
            “Nobody forgets his match with The Bombinator,” he mentioned, hoping that would set something off.
            It did. She gasped and seized the sleeve of his jacket, “I love that fight! That big turnaround at the end where Crotchrot puts him in that headlock and wins?! 
            “The whole crowd went silent,” he muttered. In his mind, he recalled the wave of gasps of shock and the whispers of discontent that burrowed through the crowd. No cheers, no boos, no thrown drinks; mere astonishment was the only soundtrack.
            Taking in his words, she nodded slowly, “Yeah, but… It’s crazy, but I re-watch that fight sometimes, right?” She put her up and rubbed her cheeks, a dreamy look creeping across her round and youthful face, “When I’m sad, I watch that fight again. I think it’s inspiring. It helps me get through my problems, y’know? It tells me, ‘You shouldn’t give up, Minnie; Crotchrot never gives up, no matter what! So why should you?’” 
            This made him smile. Mounting evidence suggested that the girl was mad, and just what he was looking for, “Well, isn’t that the damndest thing? By the way, Minnie, my name’s Clarke, and might I ask: did you come here alone?”

***

 Chunk Two comes next week.

 See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 23, 2012. Edits!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Flash Fiction - Shrapnel

Good day,

 Let's get back to flashing. Shut up, I know what words mean.

***

            Pain pounded against her head. Slowly, the throbs and aches worked their way down to her shoulders and the left side of her body. Blackness clouding her vision melted away to reveal red earth. Rolling over, she forced herself up. Weak muscles fought against her, but she fought harder. Finally, she was on her feet; the smell of burning oil hung in the air.
            To her left, one of the wings of her Starscreamer lay embedded in the earth. Assorted parts and scraps of metal lay across the ground. Half a turbine had landed in front of her. Beyond it laid an overturned mass of wreckage. She recognized the nozzle of her ship and the right wing which had bent inward at the tip. It snapped off just as she rose to her feet. Burnt steel along its sides showed where the missiles had pummelled it.
            Wasting no time, she hobbled over to the ruined vessel. Head down, she paid no heed to the scenery. This was no time to sightsee. In time, she reached the cockpit. Both hands reached inside and seized a latch for a small door on the console. A monitor broke free and dropped onto her wrist. She ignored the pain. A box attached to a long cord fell out of the glove compartment and flopped into her hands.
            “Hello?” she said, tapping the device and bringing it to her lips, “This is Kali Newell of Starscreamer Number 0080. H.Q., do you copy?”
            A gurgle of electric screams, followed by English: “This is H.Q. Kali, please repeat your SS Number.”
            She groaned and spoke slowly, “Zero-zero-eight-zero, H.Q.” 
The pause from the other end told her what was coming. “Your Starscreamer is named The Loli-Popper?
I lost a bet!” she howled into her radio, hands shaking. Her head throbbed, and she groaned again, “Never-mind. Where’s my evac?” 
“We’ll drop one down when we can,” he uttered, “Interference from the New Colonial Fleet’s main jammer is keeping us from locking onto your co-ordinates. You were part of the fleet orbiting Planet AU-673, correct?”
“Bingo.” 
“Can you describe any major landmarks?”
She huffed and looked around, telling her contact: “I see a big spike of rock sticking out of the ground to my left. Hills in the distance, one’s kind of shaped like a giant tit. I think I see a tree.” 
“Sorry, a tree?” the man said, shocked.
She squinted. Wood spiralled into a long, grasping talon covered sparsely with flat leaves that she estimated were as long as her forearm each. “Yeah, it’s definitely a tree.” 
“We didn’t think anything was alive down there! This is a big discovery!”
“Will it get me off the alien planet faster?” 
“Sorry, sorry,” the man said, now breathless with enthusiasm, “Keep going, please.”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, there are big craters ahead of me, like from meteors or something. I’m counting three but there may be more. Everything else is just sand and –” 
Something hopped into view.
She stopped everything and watched as the dark blue thing bounced across the landscape. It hopped around the fallen turbine in front of her and came closer. Pear-shaped, its body sat suspended on a pair of thick legs and long, wide feet. A pair of bulbous black eyes sat on two fleshy stalks that waved in the air. 
Kali? Kali, are you there?
“There’s something alive here.” 
A loud bang; she winced. On the other end, the man scrambled to pick something up. “Did you say something’s alive there?! Like an animal?!
The creature looked her way. She shrugged, “I mean I’m face to face with some fat, bouncing thing.” 
“Can,” her contact said, gasping, “Can you describe it?”
“It looks retarded?” she responded. 
“Blb,” squawked the creature as it skipped by.
The man from H.Q. laughed raucously, “Animals, too! This is a miracle!” 
Kali grit her teeth and seethed into her radio. “Yeah, you know what’s a miracle? Me being alive. Where’s my evac?”
We’ve been looking for habitable planets for years! This news could turn the whole war on its head! You could stand to be a little more excited, you know,” chided her superior. 
“Yeah, I kind of had a feeling that it was habitable,” she said with a huff.
The man seemed curious now, “How so?” 
“Well, because my helmet got knocked off when I was shot,” she said, running fingers through her hair, “And the fact I didn’t suffocate was a big sign.” She paused, thoughtfully looking up at the wide, grey sky above her, “Or did I not mention that?”

***

  Here we go again.

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 23, 2012. Edits!