Category: Fictional Science

FPL2 – The Last Pilgrimage

Welcome to Flash Pulp Live 002.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Last Pilgrimage

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Groggy Frog Thai Massage.

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, we bring you a fantastic tale of travels, beliefs, and works.

 

The Last Pilgrimage

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and produced by Jessica May & Peter Church

 

Flash Pulp Live 002 - The Last Pilgrimage

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

210 – Free Alaska, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and ten.

Flash PulpTonight we present, Free Alaska, Part 1 of 1.

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the In Broad Daylight.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, we present a tale from Flash Pulp’s future history, a time of terror, tyranny, and automatons.

Flash Pulp 210 – Free Alaska, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

He wasn’t a terrorist – he’d done nothing wrong, beyond being born in a place full of oil, and this wasn’t the Middle East, were Logan Clark’s thoughts as he snapped down the last of the zip ties.

They were overkill, and he knew it, as his welding job would either hold, or the device would be too imprecise to be useful, but he’d been nervously filling time before his departure.

The Alaskan sky above his two-car garage was cloudless and unending, a blue canvas stretching from horizon to horizon, marred only by the occasional flashing streak descending from altitudes beyond his ability to see naturally.

Reflecting on the fact, Clark patted the plastic telescope absentmindedly, his eyes tracing the wire connecting the Warlmart-purchase to his laptop. His absorbed state meant missing the entrance swing open.

“Dad?” asked Trinity, fourteen. Both of her hands were tucked in her blue sweater’s pouch pocket.

Giving his head a shake, Logan replied. “Yeah, baby?”

“Mom seems pretty mad.”

“Ah, hell.”

His knees popped as he stood, and his back ached as he bent to wipe the dust from his jeans.

What followed was another explanatory conversation which he knew wouldn’t end in his favour – but he also knew it didn’t matter much, as he’d made his mind up.

The argument concluded with the bedroom door slamming in his face, and his apologizing through it to no response.

As he moved towards the living room, he retrieved his battered Miller’s Trucking ball cap from its resting place on the kitchen sideboard, then, still wearing his boots, stepped onto the beige carpet and addressed Trinity, who was working the TV remote hard to find something other than news coverage.

“If she comes out, tell her I’m sorry,” he said.

“Dad – what exactly did you do? Mom hasn’t been this mad since you cussed out Aunt Kim at Gran’s wedding.”

“I’ve got some stuff I gotta take care of – just a quick trip.”

Trinity chewed her lip and muted a Pillsbury commercial.

She asked, “you aren’t messing with those idiot rebels, right?”

“Hah, as the man said, I wouldn’t join any club that’d have me as a member. Make sure your Ma eats, I’ll grab something for myself on the road.”

He didn’t wait for a reply, and he intentionally forgot his goodbyes.

“Just a quick trip,” he said aloud, as he stepped back into the garage.

* * *

The drive out of Juneau had always left him relaxed in the past, but, as the pickup cruised north, his shoulders grew increasingly rigid.

Looking to distract himself, he engaged the radio.

“Hey,” said an announcer he didn’t recognize, but who, to Logan’s ear, seemed to have a Floridian accent, “we should just be happy that the drone strikes are so surgical. There aren’t stormtroopers knocking on every door, there aren’t tanks in the streets of Anchorage, so calm down.”

The twang in his radio tone stood out strongly after the eighteen month long ban on civilian flights.

“Perhaps,” Clark replied, to the empty cab, “if there were, the folks down south who still believe in justice might raise a stink, and citizens wouldn’t be quietly murdered in their beds by flying robots.”

“They aren’t killing us,” said Florida, “they’re killing the terrorists – the pipeline saboteurs, and secessionists, have brought this justice from on high upon themselves.”

Logan punched the power knob.

“Ain’t no way a teenager staring at a tiny screen from a thousand miles away knows shit about shit regarding ‘saboteurs or secessionists’. It ain’t twenty-twenty-five anymore, they want to have some say in matters up here, they’ll have to march some actual boots our way.”

The bobble-headed husky on his dash nodded in agreement.

* * *

By the time he’d reached the tumbled hunting cabin, his neck was stiff and his wrists ached.

Once the property had belonged to his father, but the bank had taken the land not long before the cancer had taken him, and the shack had rotted to the ground in the shadows of the Yellow Cedars. He was concerned that the family connection might link him to his actions, but he knew from experience that the military were no detectives, they were missile lobbers, and no one would come looking if they somehow managed to stop him.

He’d been to the area two years previous on a hunting expedition with a few friends from work. They hadn’t managed to kill anything beyond cases of beer, but a stumbling tramp through the woods had reminded him of Platform Rock. The jumbled stone formation, named by Logan’s father for its flat crown, provided a clear view over the tree-tops, and he’d spent an evening deep in thought after making a drunken ascent.

Now he was discovering it was a long way to haul equipment, even with a handcart, but Clark was a man who’d learned patience via a storied career in the muck of the mining industry. The ore sniffing business had also introduced him to the newest advances in high-powered portable lasers.

Night had fallen, and he was huffing, by the time he had once again booted the laptop, and plugged the telescope in. With a last check of the laser’s battery slug, he tugged at the pull cord of the small gas engine intended to power the computer, then hurried down the slope.

The racket would certainly be noticeable for some distance, but he knew no one would come to investigate.

The online fellow who’d put together the rig’s simple software package had thought to apply a delay before start-up, but Logan found himself too worried that he’d somehow pooched the process to make for his truck until the show had begun.

He could see little from down below, but the ratchet of the mount’s directional motors was easy to hear, even over the chug of the generator.

The laser clicked twice, and Clark was sure something was wrong.

It clicked again, and there was a flash to the west – a drone being eaten by its own suddenly-flaming fuel supply.

The clatter of aiming recommenced, and Logan, smiling, ran for his vehicle.

By the time he reached home, it was starlight alone that glittered in the night sky.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP162 – The Last Pilgrimage, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and sixty-two.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, The Last Pilgrimage, Part 1 of 1.

Download MP3
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Tonight’s episode is brought to you by Jessica May’s birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. President.

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, we bring you a fantastic tale of travels, beliefs, and works.

 

Flash Pulp 162 – The Last Pilgrimage, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

On his eighteenth birthday, Muggon went on the pilgrimage. His eldest brother had long fancied the journey, but, by the time he’d reached a proper age for it, he’d already found himself wed by way of a squalling bairn.

In truth, when the boy first set from the smattering of sod huts that had made up his young life, he was little excited for the path ahead. He’d never thought it would come to his living upon the road, and he’d never dreamed higher than a plot of earth to scratch at, and a wife to help eat the returns.

Yet, there was no choice. The land had run dry, and seemed to devour the rain as it fell – it came to him to make the fool’s journey of finding a god to pray to.

Standing at the crest of Bigfall Hill, he ran his wrist across his nose, and blinked away the results of his final goodbyes. In the distance he could see his mother alongside his brother and new wife. Their arms had grown tired from waving his departure, but they once again raised their hands, knowing this was their final opportunity before the hill swallowed him from view.

He would miss them, but was glad they could not discern his tears.

They were not the only he’d spill in the next year, as each inn and camp reeked of rumour without substance. Most had some word to impart of the gods, there were even those amongst the eldest who claimed to have been in the presence of one in their youth, but all provided directions based on a tale overheard by an cousin’s acquaintance’s butcher’s nephew, each of forgotten name.

Once in the world, it was tempting to drift into a new existence, but he inevitably found there was only a cold welcome for a wandering man of few means, and his experience came hard won. Two months after the first time he’d laid with a woman, and two-months-one-day after he’d first been forced to kill in self-defense, he met a trader who’d come from the Northlands of Dund.

The man wielded a beard of immense size, and his cloak looked as if every meal he’d ever trapped and eaten had been incorporated into its makeup.

“Yes,” he said, “I’ve seen the column with my own eyes. Three seasons ago I decided to ride hard south – there’s more demand where they’ve yet to be.”

“Do you know which it is?” asked Muggon.

The trader’s fingers disappeared within his riot of facial hair.

“Aggie The Sower.” he replied.

“Did… did you see any of his works?”

“Yes – hence why I’m here. The prayers of his pilgrims often leave all in better stead, not just the few. I’ve found when crops are plentiful and pantries are well stocked people’ve less interest in bargaining against my toothless scowl.”

To commemorate the event, Muggon purchased a small rattle from the merchant, hopeful that he would soon be home to share the bauble with his nephew.

As way of thanks, he did little haggling.

He’d heard of Aggie, often about the yearly fire on Bigfall Hill, on Dying Day, when the harvest was done and the spirits were said to roam. It was whispered that The Sower was one of the greatest of the gods, that his mighty fingers had once corrected the flow of waters as a child might alter a puddle to enhance the course of a twig-raft. From the hushed tones of friends and family, he had learned that the deity could see the future; could alter his size to such a proportion as to crush flat his hamlet of origin without thought; could even summon storms to shatter the landscape and drown any who did not believe in his supremacy.

These stories filled Muggon’s mind in the ninety days he spent overtaking his goal: the column.

A thousand souls shuffled, in packs, across the snow-dusted grass. He’d chased them from a place called Sur, whose inhabitants were still celebrating the return of a pilgrim of their own. Better still, to his ears, was the news that the god’s recent passing had been accompanied by the raising of a massive barn. The main-beam had been the heart of a thousand year old tree, and whose colossal girth had been set in place by Aggie’s hands, and his alone.

His third life began then – his plea was heard on the first day, but by those who acted as intermediaries. He was warned vehemently against approaching the gleaming saviour that lead the band, as any obstruction was ill regarded: each missed step was a delay not just from the current destination, but from all those beyond.

Order came from a council of sorts, comprised of those who’d furthest traveled, and some who had given up their prayers and sought only to continue the path of hardship, punctuated by celebration, that was the god’s shadow. Each sojourner knew their position, determined by the tasks necessary to reach their own home.

When Muggon first presented his request, he was informed after only a short time that he was five-thirty-seven. Unlearned in numbers, he hadn’t understood its meaning, but several moons upon the trek, and in the company of gamblers, taught him math and its uses, including the significance of the ever decreasing number that was his place in the sequence of works.

Arithmetic was not all, however. At each stop, it seemed he learned some new skill necessary to aid the pilgrim that had beseeched The Sower for assistance, so that the journey might be expedited. He learned of tillage, and animal husbandry, and the natural medicines. The god’s commands were law, and Aggie instructed his followers to their own best advantage.

Uncounted years later, while restoring a tower of ancient provenance – a structure that would allow great vantage for the onset of fires which ravaged the area each fall – Muggon was informed of news he’d been longing to hear.

“Three,” said Gon, his oldest friend. The speaker cleared his throat before adding, “but – The Sower has requested your presence.”

The news explained why the messenger had not grinned to bare the anticipated dispatch.

Muggon ran to respond.

In recent months the god had grown quiet in its march, and this newest summons did not seem to bode well to his disciple.

As was customary for private conversation, the column had fallen back some way, allowing the pilgrim to tread alone with his lord.

As he spoke, Aggie’s voice held crisp surety – as always.

“Jesus, man, you really came from the middle of nowhere. I figure we’ll be be two month’s over the average job completion time, and that’s just to get there.”

“I apologize!” Muggon replied, his lips pale.

“Relax, relax. Listen, the old atomic ticker’s only got about that long anyhow. We’re gonna make a run for your place, but I don’t know how much use I’m going to be once we get there.”

“I don’t understand?”

“What I’m trying to tell you is that I’ve only got enough juice left for a few more jobs, then it’s off into the sunset with me. Only so much one farm-bot can do, even in days like these. Sure been a pleasure helping you folks, though. Now, your the brightest lad I’ve seen in a while, and I figure the best thing doing at this point is to talk out your problem, see where you’re at, then I might be able to teach you how to fix it yerself.”

It took Muggon a moment to dissemble his saviour’s dialect, but, realizing what was being asked, he was pleased to finally have an opportunity to speak his prayer directly.

“The land about my people’s homes is barren. Please, have mercy, bring us water.”

“Yeah, yeah, got some rivers near by? Guess a lake is too much to hope for? What’s the water table like? You know what to watch for, for that sort of thing?”

What came next was a tutorship as rarely received. In the months that followed, Muggon’s mind was filled with every category of practical learning that had been otherwise forgotten. The first matter was the written word, as without it the man knew his mind could never contain the breadth and depth of the flow that overcame him.

He wrote the history of a terrible plague, and the savage madness that arose in its wake. He devised a calender, to Aggie’s specifications, and he charted many stars and their seasonal significances.

As his skills grew, he recounted the final pair of heroic acts carried out by The Sower. The first was the purification of a well by way of removal of poisons from within the turf – a feat which had required the construction of massive earthworks, and the transference of an artifact to an enclosed crypt, now posted with a warning to never again breach the seal, under dire consequence.

The second was establishing a standing orchard of many thousand trees, all with the intention of providing fruit which might curtail a terrible illness of nutrition which had befallen the inhabitants of the surrounding countryside. The time taught Muggon much about the rudimentaries of genetics, and the splicing and tending of timber.

In the end, The Sower made it as far as Bigfall Hill. He’d been busy imparting minutia regarding algebraic geometry, and his eager student, with his eyes and quill upon homemade parchment and makeshift tablet, had not recognized the approach as any different than the thousand such he’d seen before. It was only at the peak, with the village spread before him, that he realized he’d arrived.

It was Aggie who broke the silence.

“Well, Pard, this is my stop. Like I said, you ever happen to run by a Hokkaido Electric TU-13 power cell, feel free to run it on by. It’s an easy install, goes right in my mouth. Pop it down the chute and the internals’ll take it from there. Otherwise, think I’ll just take a rest – you though, better get cracking on that irrigation system. Won’t be nothing but kids play for ya.”

They were the god’s closing words. In the years to come, children would play at Aggie’s feet, and each Dying Day the still figure would stand guard at the edge of the fire, as the tales of The Sowers’ undertakings were told.

First, though, for the pilgrims, came mourning – and then, heeding their master’s last command, the work.

Muggon was happy to finally deliver the rattle he’d bought so many years previous, even if it was to his brother’s seventh-born. He was pleased too, to see how the people had fared, even under such circumstances. When the final strut was built, and the flow of nourishment redirected to flood the farmers’ thirst, he beamed with the knowledge that they would now prosper. Even with his labour, there was time for tale telling, and to teach his brother some of what he’d learned upon the road: of numbers, and barn raising, and tonics.

Then he’d stood to leave.

He did not cry this time – he knew he must find the holiest of relics, the battery of resurrection, and that, as he moved across the land, he must spread the wisdom of Aggie and the book of The Sower.

The column followed.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP161 – Unheard Of, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and sixty-one.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Unheard Of, Part 1 of 1.

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Walker Journals

Dead men tell no tales. They just moan. Constantly.

Find out how to deal with it at youtube.com/walkerzombiesurvivor

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, we bring you an auditory tale of crime and injury.

Flash Pulp 161 – Unheard Of, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The Denny’s lunch service had been rolling along smoothly until the waitress with a name-tag declaring “Jenny” dropped her double order of Moons-Over-My-Hammy.

She couldn’t really be blamed, however, as she’d caught a premature glimpse of the stubby shotgun beneath the coat of the restaurant’s latest customer – or assumed customer, as the whisky-smelling arrival had no intention of asking about the soup of the day.

In truth, Brian Stokes wasn’t entirely sure what he’d come for – he’d told himself repeatedly it was robbery, but the liquor seemed to speak of something different.

Morgan Shaw, a slight blond sitting in a booth facing the entrance, was having an interesting day.

The previous afternoon she’d been asked to come down to the restaurant by a reporter, Terrance Herrera, who was interested in discussing her recent discharge from the military. She was pleased to discover Terrance was quite a nice fellow, and, although they’d technically completed the interview, she’d decided to stay and finish her pancakes, while conversing on Stella Ramos, the woman who’d referred him to her story, and a scientist she’d met in an acoustic research lab she’d visited upon her return from overseas.

It was the fact that she would have already gone if she’d stuck to her original plan that first came to mind when Stokes exposed his weapon. She grabbed for her cellphone.

“All eyes on me!” said the gunmen. He was quick to hone in on Morgan’s busy thumbs, but, before he could make anything of it, she dropped the device.

“We’re all going to be friends now, because you’re all going to listen to me. First off, you there -” he pointed towards gray-shirted Jenny. “- close the blinds.”

The woman moved with a speed her Sunday customers scarcely could believe she had.

The commands continued.

“Everyone away from the windows. Get over on the far side of the booths and sit on the floor. You too, back in the kitchen. Come out here or I’ll go in there.” He cleared his throat. “Then, uh, wallets out. I’ll be passing around a bag shortly.”

The majority of the patrons slid along their benches in compliance, but Morgan sat still. Terrance’s hands flitted in an urgent blur.

“Get away from the glass or I’ll throw you through it,” screamed Stokes, his firearm shaking involuntarily.

“She can’t hear you, she’s deaf,” said the reporter, keeping his tone flat.

His busy digits completed the swoops and dips of the signed message, and the woman was quick to pick up her purse. They were the last of the parade to find seating on the harsh-patterned carpet.

Seven patrol cars had been deployed on the road that day, initiating an early Spring police effort to bring down traffic speeds on the major thoroughfares. They’d spent their morning pulling over tardy church-goers, but, now, the spat of panicked text messages which emanated from the beleaguered establishment were met with an already mobile response.

The converging sirens made the situation apparent well before the would-be thief had even cleared the register.

Despite his chain of expletives, Stokes smiled.

“Well, guess that’s it.”

The full clarity of forty ounces of whisky, and a life wasted, had finally struck him.

A phone rang behind the welcome desk, and he made short work of ripping its cord from the wall.

“I ain’t leaving here. The second they open the door, I’m startin’ shooting. They’re gonna have to drag our bodies out.”

He ratcheted the gun and began to pace.

“Just gimme an excuse to use this thing. Any excuse,” he muttered with increasing agitation, as he stalked the empty aisle of seating.

Terrance silently indicated to Morgan that everything would be OK. Her only reply was a frown.

The clock counted off seconds, then minutes, as the coward worked at his courage.

While Stokes moved, he sampled cooling bacon and melting ice cream from the abandoned plates. With the sirens off, the only noises in the room were muffled weeping, and his groaning ramble.

Then the bass started. At first it seemed like nothing more than the rowdy result of exuberant youth, but it soon became apparent that it was no passing traffic. With the blinds drawn, the source remained unclear even as it seemed to scrape between the scattered vehicular barriers and cease motion in front of the handicap-only parking – closer to the building than the septuplet of cruisers.

The floor began to vibrate with a rhythm only a smattering of the hostages recognized, but the former Lieutenant was one of the few. Her rant became a furious storm, and the stir caught the reluctant suicide’s attention.

“I think she recognizes the song, she calls it, uh, stress?” shouted the newspaperman.

“I thought you said she was deaf? What in the sweet, sweet, tears of the weeping baby Jesus could she possibly know about it?”

“Uh, she’s asking if the car that just pulled up is a red 1967 Ford Fairlane?” replied Terrance.

Stokes risked pulling back a snatch of blind.

“Its red, yeah. Looks old. The hell?”

Morgan’s signals had become frantic, but repetitive.

“Dammit,” said the drunk, “what is she saying!?”

The reporter glanced at the expectant face of the teary ten year old not a foot away. “Uh, poop, poop, poop.”

As the music hit a lull, a car door slammed.

Stella Ramos’ fists were full. In her left was a hardhat with built in goggles and ear protectors. In her right was a box which the officers watching her movements immediately misidentified as a cat carrier.

When she was a girl, Stella had been known for over-reacting. She’d found little acceptance amongst the mill workers’ children of the small town of Hattiesburg, and she’d clung desperately to those few she had befriended. At twelve she’d been involved in a schoolyard fight with five kids of similar age – one, a girl named Amanda Darr, who’d she’d thought of as a compatriot, had turned on her during the chants of “Fella.” When the lone female amongst the aggressors had started punching, the rest of the mob had been quick to join in.

All involved had been suspended for a week, but it was only Stella who’d avoided the rough mercy of the school nurse’s iodine. Her fury had allowed none closer than the reach of her fist or foot.

It was this same tenacity, and need to prove herself, that had driven her to her physics PhD.

She’d been at work when she’d received the text message, a simple cry for help that said only “man with gun in restaurant.”

It had been all the summons she’d required.

Ignoring the warning shouts of the officers behind her, she put on the helmet.

The song had been a favourite of Morgan’s while on patrol – although she knew it more recently only through the resonance that shook the chassis of the car, the pair had still spent many hours sharing the reverberating memory as they’d displaced the dust of country back roads, hand in hand.

She aimed the curved dish that projected from the face of the beige box – the prototype result of an intensive ninth months funded by the American government under the name of Project Moussai – at the single eye that tracked her movement from behind the blinds.

Stokes, in response, claimed it as his moment of truth.

As the rising gun-barrel became visible between the green slats of the window shades, Stella flicked the cat-carrier’s sole switch. There was a brief sound, as if an electronic kitten had sneezed, then the obstructing pane of glass evaporated. Behind the dispatched window, the intended-killer’s eardrums followed suit, and he fell, thrust into unconsciousness by the sonic-laser’s trauma.

After two lengthy legal trials, his permanent hearing, and Stella’s employment, were the only casualties of the day.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 120 – The Rocket Men, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present: The Rocket Men, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp120.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This episode is brought to you by Mr Blog’s Tepid Ride.

It’s not him, it’s you.

Find it at http://www.bmj2k.com

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, four men engage in their singular obsession.

 

Flash Pulp 120 – The Rocket Men, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

There were four of them: Chris, Paul, George, and Chuck.

Chris was good with math, Paul was a born artist, George’s Dad ran a scrap yard, and Chuck was a genius.

At the age of eight their skills mattered little, as their friendship was forged in a common goal: the destruction of all Martians. While about them their compatriots wasted their recesses imitating the cartoon ninja spectaculars of the day, the four took up the mantle of The Rocket Men, laser toting defenders of Earth. Whatever the weather, the group could be found beating back the imaginary green menace, and keeping the schoolyard safe from alien doom.

Eventually, though, the Martian threat no longer seemed so ominous.

By the age of ten, one thing remained: their combined love of rockets. Each boy had an image of their own custom space vehicle, hand-drawn by Paul, and each was sure that, given enough time and access to George’s father’s sprawling rubbish pile, the group would be able to create a ship capable of carrying them beyond the bonds of gravity, and their mundane lives.

In July of their twelfth year, Chris’ father gathered The Rocket Men into his Chevy Astro and spent two days subjecting the boys to New Country. They didn’t mind, however, as they knew where they were headed: Florida.

On a warm evening, surrounded by hundreds of other enthusiasts of all ages, the former Martian-fighters witnessed the launch of an actual NASA flight – it was a moment they would reminisce on during sleep-overs, while camping, and, one day, with their own children.

During their fourteenth Earth-bound year, Chuck struck upon a plan, and presented it with a smile: they would build a rocket. It took a summer’s worth of saving, and no small number of raids upon George’s familial heap, but a week before entering ninth grade, the boys gathered. They met at dawn, and by the proposed time of launch their sneakers were soaked with the night’s condensation.

They’d created a thing of beauty.

The red cone, entirely decorated by Paul – except the sharpie signatures they’d scrawled along the side – was to be largely driven by powder salvaged from fireworks they’d purchased at a disreputable convenience store. The resulting explosion was a topic of marvel and remorse that would remain a point of contention amongst the boys for months.

At the sight of the destruction of their labour, the youths had nearly fallen into despair, and that might have been the last of The Rocket Men had it not been for an outburst from Chuck. The prodigy had always suffered through any defeat or disappointment in the same way: wild laughter. Within moments the entire group had taken his lead and tumbled to the ground, their jaws aching with mirth.

When they finally collected themselves, each one scooped up a shard of peeled metal as a reminder. As Chris and Chuck spent long hours arguing the math of the thing, Paul and George would often fill the time by staring longingly at their keepsake fragments.

All were agreed that someday they would make another attempt.

At sixteen, the group took up model rocketry. It never scratched the itch that building something entirely of their own design had infected them with, but each success was a spectacle that drew them together, even as life seemed to be pulling them apart.

They still talked of constructing a flight from scratch, but privately they could feel the chance slipping away as college loomed.

At eighteen, Chris left to become a physicist, Paul departed for art school, George joined his father amongst the garbage, and Chuck received a scholarship in aerospace engineering.

Letters, phone calls, and emails, were exchanged, but, in time, they petered to a halt. A wedding in their thirtieth year marked the last meeting of The Rocket Men for over a decade, despite the tipsy promises of renewed communication that each had made during the reception.

Eleven years later the silence between them was broken, and it was Chuck who once again brought them together.

The plans he’d prepared were complex – well beyond the model rockets they’d built in their high school days – but he’d also fitted the bill, and provided plenty of suggestions on where to locate any answers they might not have.

After six months of weekend effort, The Rocket Men once again found themselves in the dewy grass of a breaking summer morning, now accompanied by Chuck’s wife, Cynthia, who’d transmitted her cancerous husband’s designs and request.

It wasn’t a massive ship, it could really only manage to lift the dead man’s ashes, but, still, the grinning maniac of their youth had had the last laugh: he would be the first amongst them to reach orbit.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 110 – Deliberation, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and ten.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Deliberation, Part 1 of 1
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the the new Nutty Bites Podcast

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, we present a tale of futuristic justice.

 

Flash Pulp 110 – Deliberation, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

“Well, they all look like over-sized mars rovers, and they all roll around killing cows – that’s about it, mostly.”

The prosecutor smirked at the rough-handed man currently on the stand.

“A country understatement if I’ve ever heard one. You’re familiar with the farm’s operations? With the unit itself?”

“I’ve been working on the Lancaster’s spread for fifteen years, although only with, uh the unit, for the last four.”

“- and you knew Gregor Petrov personally?”

“Yeah, I knew him. We worked together five days a week for seven years.”

“What about the day he died?”

“I wasn’t actually on-shift when it happened, but the only surprise was that the robot had done it – I figured it would have been one of the other guys.”

“You were the sole maintenance man for the farm?”

“Well, no, I mean, I’m definitely the guy who does the hard stuff, but most folks on a farm know how to twist wires and pour gas.”

“Fine, but for something as complex as a portable abatoir…?”

“Yeah, sure, I was probably the only one who knew enough to plug a laptop in and poke at the interface, and I did a lot of the mechanical maintenance, but that doesn’t mean I have clue one about his electronics. I’m sure you know how to set your microwave’s clock and can replace the spinning platter if it cracks, but that doesn’t mean you can build one from scratch or even fix it if someone dumps a mug of coffee in the back. We have seven of the units, and Grumpy is the only one I’ve ever seen acting weird.”

The lawyer took a sip of her water, then re-approached the witness box.

“Do you think what happened was a mechanical or software failure?”

“No.”

“Do you think this robot was programmed to kill?”

The cowhand licked his lips.

“Not especially. People might not have liked Gregor, and I could possibly see someone wanting to do him in, but changing Grumpy that much would be way out of my league, and I know I’m well ahead of the rest of the pack back at the ranch.”

“Do you think the company that built it might be culpable?”

“Well – not exactly. I don’t know how their learning software works, but I have to wonder.”

* * *

The technician which now occupied the hot-seat pulled at his tie, considering his answer.

“Before this incident we’d only had one human fatality. The units use something we call the adaptive education matrix to learn to make smarter decisions, but only in areas related to what they do. They learn to recognize who they need to be partnered with, and some of their human companions preferences – it learns the map of the area it operates in… but certainly nothing that we might think of as emotions. It’s mostly just a computer.”

“Doesn’t it have something of a sense of humour as a sort of emotional assistance to the human it’s working with in the slaughter house? My understanding is that it picks up jokes from the people it works with and passes them on?”

The tech shifted in his seat before replying.

“Sort of – all it’s really doing is analyzing a history of how often the people that it knows know the punchline interact with the person its assisting, then, if it thinks there’s a low incidence of crossover, it’ll try it out.”

“Frankly, Mitch, that’s how I tell my jokes as well.”

“We’ve been over his code with a fine toothed comb, repeatedly. After what happened last time, we actually reformatted him, just in case. We’ve got over ten-thousand of these guys out in the wild, and this is the only one that’s killed a man. If it hadn’t been for the fact that one of our quality assurance ladies has an obsession with perfection that drove her to memorize his serial number, we wouldn’t even have been aware that it was the same unit.”

“You refer to it as a “him”, why is that?”

“Oh, I, uh, don’t mean it, it’s just that after a long while of working with a ‘bot you start to project – it’s probably because the milkers we build have suction cups, and the slaughterers have a pneumatic spike.”

“What happened the last time your product killed someone?”

“Well – it was ruled an accident. We ran tests; we stripped him down; in the end we couldn’t pinpoint what the problem was. You can’t always anticipate what’ll happen when you bring that many interfaces together, but it was obvious from the volume of alternates we had in the field, and the number of man-hours logged without incident, that it was a fluke.”

“- and still a fluke the second time?”

* * *

It took the jury four days to determine they weren’t going to come back with a proper verdict, and the press were relieved that a hung jury meant they could keep the ratings going for at least a few more months.

When the announcement was made, Grumpy rolled gently back and forth, twice. The robot’s lawyer put a hand out onto the unit’s boxy shell – unbeknownst to both, a Time cover in the making – then directed his client out of the courthouse.

The defendant rolled past the cameras without comment.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 096 – The Ad Blitz, Part 1 of 1

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Ninety-Six.

Tonight we present The Ad Blitz, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp096.mp3]

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Ella’s Words.

These are not some of them:

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
I went home.

(With apologies to Robert Frost.)

Find the poetess’ work here.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present a tale of slightly silly visitation and confrontation.

Flash Pulp 096 – The Ad Blitz, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The city of Cleveland disappeared beneath a thick gray cloud the week before Christmas.

Cars, dogs, tanks – anything that entered the fog, disappeared.

Neither could radio, television, or cell signals escape the blanket. An unnerving number of military and scientific personnel were sent into the haze, only to lose contact. On the third day, the general order was given to simply wait.

After thirteen sunrises filled with silence, a trickle of pedestrians began to stumble out of the gloom, their only memory of the time being that they seemed to have watched quite a lot of television. Relieved at the apparent lack of harm, late night television hosts began to joke about the recent improvements to the Cleveland skyline.

Seventy-two hours later, the cloud was gone, and the aliens had made themselves known.

They said they meant no harm, that they’d come to trade with our genetically rich planet, but that their true forms would likely terrify our primitive minds, so they’d taken on the guises of our most beloved cultural icons.

This news was largely disseminated by having a brightly-afroed clown from Beta Pegasi on The Today Show. Along with massive ratings for the network, stocks in the McDonald’s corporation took an immediate rise.

Only the lawyers seemed off-put by the sudden animation of so many beloved corporate mascots.

In the following months it became commonplace to see the Pegasans in every major city, making no effort to hide as they walked the streets as talking bears, or giant two-legged jugs full of sloshing red drink, or geckos with British accents.

A brief, but intense, period of cultural exchange began. The world’s militaries took on a gleam-in-their-eye when presented with energy weapons to revolutionize killing each other, scientists marvelled at the genetic materials and high-end molecules they were presented, the criminal element was soon frozen in carbonite, the new generation of children’s toys became an enticement to all ages, and law students began to pore over complex systems of intergalactic judicial consideration.

No transaction went unrecorded in contract form, in triplicate, and no new novelty was presented without some price. Within a year all that might be bartered for had been given to the aliens, and, worse still, humanity began to suspect that the invaders were laughing at them behind their backs.

Earth’s lack of coordination had lead to disaster. Each government had secretly promised swaths of land and communal protections to the Pesagans, only to discover that their rivals had made the same bargains, and that the Pegasans now owned a larger percentage of the globe than did the humans themselves.

The planet’s militiaries reacted first. To their surprise, their new weaponry was a match for those maintained by the invaders, and their tenacity brought several early successes. Despite the victorious aggression, hostilities were quickly brought to a halt when a massive starship appeared in the pacific skies. From deep within came a message from the Stellar Trade Commission: cut it out, or face embargo. Unwilling to risk the competition within their own race receiving an advantage, the world’s forces called a halt to their march.

Even as mankind was being forcibly migrated from lands their ancestors had known for thousands of years, a cabal of scientists attempted to put forward a report proving that long term co-habitation would eventually lead to mutual ruin. The Pegasans were quick to respond with their own study determining that another century of observation was necessary to prove the theory. They did, however, offer to submit the paperwork for the Stellar Trade Commission research grant that would be required.

The criminals were too well contained to even attempt to pop the Michelin Man. The children simply shrugged their shoulders and returned to their holo-gaming.

Milo P. Schwardenbach, however, was not amused.

Milo was but one of the lawyers which Nintendo Of America retained on staff, but he was the only one that had buried the sharpened end of a pencil into his ham and pickle sandwich the first time he’d seen a life-sized Italian plumber walk past his working-lunch. So he’d spent six months learning the galactic common speech, then began reading.

Where diplomacy crept with tender feet, copyright law moved with steel-toed boots.

After Schwardenbach was victorious in STC court, and Nintendo was awarded most of the British Isles, a flood of cases eventually retook the entirety of what had once been mankind’s.

There was another round of human-complaints, but, in the end, it was generally felt that at least it was their United States of Budweiser.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 054 – Life & Limb, Part 1 of 1

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-Four.

Tonight, we present Life & Limb, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp054.mp3]

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This evening’s episode is brought to you by tardiness – and we apologize.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present a rumination on the human, and inhuman, of the future.

Flash Pulp 054 – Life & Limb, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

Manny Espinoza was 19, and sweating heavily under his combat gear while watching a goat wander a barren yard. To his eye, the house he was guarding looked like little more than a pile of sun baked mud that had had some rogue lumber laid across it. The poverty of the shanty wore at him, so he instead turned to the surrounding scrub-land, in an effort to ignore it. Depressingly, the alternative only forced him into mental comparisons with the lush forests surrounding his parents’ home in Maine.

A chicken scrambled from a shadow at the corner of the building, heedless of Manny’s weapon pointed in its direction.

The bird was followed by a boy of eight, who glanced nervously at the American, and attempted to shoo the fowl away from the gathered assault rifles and watchful glances. Manny once again put the hard question to himself: would these people be better served if he had instead opted to become a teacher? His mother would have said yes, his father no. As the boy finally hustled the hen away, Manny took comfort in the knowledge that he’d have plenty of time to teach his own child after he’d made it home – and after he and Angela had tired themselves sufficiently in the efforts leading to conception.

He smiled at this bright spot in his imagination.

There was a shout from inside the house, and Manny turned, suddenly aware that this wouldn’t be just another door knock.

* * *

He awoke in Germany, only vaguely aware of the trip, and not at all able to recall the explosion that everyone had insisted on telling him about when he’d occasionally manage to swim out of unconsciousness.

He cried hard at the loss of his legs, but damned the loss of his manhood.

* * *

By the age of 27, Manny had largely put himself back together.

After physiotherapy, he’d found himself behind the front desk at his father’s construction company. At first he’d longed to be on site with the old man, but he soon found he had a knack for working the phones, and, being able to sit all day, most of the folks who came through the office didn’t even realize he’d been injured.

Veteran’s Affairs had also played a large part in his recovery – while there would never be a replacement for his ability to have children, nor for Angela, who had left him before he was even fully weaned from morphine, his carbon-fibre legs allowed him to move with nearly the same agility he’d had before the incident.

The explosion was forever lost to his memory, but he’d read the details: how he’d responded to Lipski’s shouting; how he’d somehow clobbered the two guys who’d been hiding in the house, even as they were tossing a grenade after his hastily departing Sergeant; how his attempt to dive out of the way had left only his lower half shredded by shrapnel.

The medals were nice, but did little to increase his mobility, nor to ease the looks of terror he saw creeping into young children’s eyes at his approach – usually seconds before being scooped up by a soccer mom who would then give him a polite smile of apology while being sure to maintain eye contact.

* * *

Manny, now 32, was on a bench in the small park across from the office, eating his lunch. He’d spent most of October on the oak planks, the chill having given him an excuse to lay a blanket across his lap. The covering meant that the children romping around the play structure took no notice of him, and he could spend his midday meal daydreaming over a variety of sons and daughters he would never have.

This was especially a relief, as he’d spent three hot and painful weeks in August having his simple prosthesis replaced with appendages that whirred like a television robot as he moved, but otherwise allowed him to run twice as fast as he’d ever managed. The development was so new they hadn’t had time to work out proper cosmetics for it, and, even when covered by pants, his limbs had an odd, chicken-leg appearance as he moved. Jumping to the top of the list for the experimental procedure had been the first advantage his medals had ever really brought him, and he’d celebrated the whole affair by spending the majority of September on an extended hiking vacation.

A breeze carrying the scent of late-season barbecue brought him back from memories of the Appalachian trail, and he wiped sandwich crumbs form his lap, still surprised by the coldness of the titanium beneath.

From the corner of his left eye, he noted a red pickup jump the curb.

It had entered from the furthest point of the park, meaning it had to cross over the baseball diamond before reaching the play structure. For a moment, Manny thought it would likely stop, but by the time it had obliterated the chalk line between second and third base, it had plenty of momentum and time was short.

He stood, sprinting towards the slide.

“Get out of the way!” came from his mouth, but the children needed no words. Their parents had long warned them to keep half an eye on the man with skeleton legs who spent long afternoons watching them at play.

One such mother looked at him in surprise, her back to the rapidly closing truck, and Manny pointed past the woman, still running at the structure.

“Ed!” the woman said as she turned. She dove from the Ford’s path.

Manny attempted to stop short of the truck’s trajectory, but there had been little reason to practice stopping suddenly from a full tilt run, and he went over sideways, landing directly in the trucks path.

He didn’t feel the tire roll over his neck.

* * *

It was a coincidence that the letter arrived on his 35th birthday. His Mother had come to the small white room regularly, and she often brought his mail to read to him aloud, as it was tough to maintain proper conversation with a man who could only blink to communicate.

Usually their time was spent rambling through junk fliers, but Manny was still grateful for the effort.

It was hard to understand what the terms of the thick envelope were attempting to imply, but Manny’s mother had wept during its reading, and when the trio of lab technicians arrived a week later, he could do little but blink yes to their barrage of questions and release forms.

Before he’d turned 37, he found himself standing in front of a full length mirror, in a room that seemed half surgery theatre and half mechanic’s shop. He was flexing arms and legs made entirely of lightweight composite materials, materials he was assured would have been capable of shrugging off even the impact of the Ford.

He was impressed by every aspect but his face. His jaw had been torn away in Ed’s third attempt at running down his ex-wife, who’d survived the attack by using the play structure as a shield. The pink triangular flap that acted as the mouth for his digitized voice disturbed him with its jerky clockwork motions.

Two months after his release from the hospital, at the insistence of his mother, he slunk into a mall food court, in his first public appearance since the new surgery. His heavy coat and broad hat allowed him to pass with only the looks afforded any man wearing clothing inappropriate for the season, at least until a five year old had rushed by in an attempt to chase down his slightly older sister. The girl had been careful to give a wide berth, but the boy had seen the shortest path as running alongside Manny’s table, and had taken it.

A flailing arm knocked away the hat, and, after hearing an admonishing name call from his mother, the boy turned to apologize, even as Manny stooped to pick it up.

“It’s OK,” Manny said, not looking at the boy.

He could feel his pseudo-chin sagging as it clicked open and shut.

The boy, suddenly caught up in terror, began to shriek and weep.

As the vet slammed his hand down in frustration, the cheap plywood table cracked. The attention of the gathered having already been drawn by the screaming, the shattering wood sent a panic through the crowd.

An hour later, cautious police led Manny, still leaking tears, from a side entrance.

* * *

At 42, he finally found his calling. It had started eighteen months previous, after he’d had what he called “The Idea” while wasting away another afternoon in his shuttered bungalow, watching cartoons.

A flurry of emails had followed his inspiration, and now, having argued his case and won, he stood in a large change room, his ears filled with the hum of the sea of people outside. The presentation was taking place in a high school gym, but children of every age had been bussed in to assemble cross legged on the hardwood floor.

Pushing open the door, he peeked at the brightly lit platform. Principal Ebert had taken the stage, smoothly entering into the spiel that Manny, and the team who maintained him, had put together.

His final modifications hadn’t added any new functionality – if anything, they’d subtracted, although Manny didn’t count the removal of the nightmare-jaw as any sort of loss. His face was now a smooth chrome surface, broken only by the holes that allowed for vision and a small grate approximating where his mouth would be, and from which his voice projected.

In fact, every visible surface that extended from beneath his crisp white t-shirt and khaki shorts gleamed, even in the low lighting of the sweat smelling room.

Ebert finished, and Manny took his cue, entering the A/V club’s spotlight to a swell of music.

The speakers faded away, and there was a hush.

After they’d subsided, Manny began his practiced speech decrying discrimination, occasionally emphasising his point with a demonstration of inhuman physical prowess.

With the glare in his eyes, it was hard for him to know how well he was being taken, but at least there was applause every time he lifted something heavy.

As he concluded his talk, he stepped down to the left side of the platform, butterflies rising in the remainder of his stomach as he opened himself to being approached by the gathered.

It would be hours before the line of children, all waiting for a photo of themselves resting atop Manny’s tirelessly flexing biceps, would let up.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 038 – The Dance, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-Eight.

Flash PulpThis evening: The Dance, Part 1 of 1

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Tonight’s episode is brought to you by the Facebook Flash Pulp fan page.

It’s just like that show Cheers, but without all the stereotypes or inevitable liver problems.

To join, click here!

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present a rumination on the future of effort.

Flash Pulp 038 – The Dance, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

June

“I’m surprised she has any students at all. She started swinging that cane and I swear, I near started crying. One to the calf: “not extending high enough”, one to the thigh: “not taut enough.” I mean, come on, I’d just finished showing her a Martinique beguine to a jitterbug that led out with an Irish stepdance! What more does she want?”

Fiona had been eating lunch when Marty had stepped up to the opening of her cubicle, and as he finished, she rubbed bread crumbs from her fingers.

“What it sounds like is that she wants it done right.”

Marty glared down at her.

“Well, I say it IS right.”

“Well, I say you hovering over me while I’m eating my lunch is ruining my twinkies. Either sit down, get back to work, or go be the guy that complains that the consultant is wrong – and risk revealing that you’re a lazy whiner.”

July

Marty and Fiona had encountered each other in the parking lot, and Marty was taking the opportunity to finalize a day’s worth of complaining.

“She’s like my fifth grade teacher, no matter what, she’s never satisfied. At least back in math class I could show my work – the woman has no interest in listening, she just tells me to do it better.”

Overhead, an irritated flying security camera circled their animated discussion.

“She was dancing professionally at an age when you were still sleeping off Jagermeister and cheeto benders in your Mom’s basement: I think she knows what she’s talking about. I don’t blame her for being a bit ornery considering she spends her day in a wheel chair teaching tomorrow’s ballet queens.”

“Who hires a cripple to instruct dance anyhow?”

Fiona, shaking her head, hit the starter on her car.

She climbed in.

As she reversed from the lot, Marty could see through her windshield that she was still looking at him, shaking her head.

August

Marty and the woman were in the studio again. It had been their longest session yet.

He’d spent most of the time sweating, and wishing the woman, in her crisp black leotard, would call the proceedings to an end.

“Yes – now hold it, hold it.” The woman wheeled her chair about his ballerina posture. “You’re getting closer.”

Still striking a perfect second position arabesque, Marty protested.

“What? What more is there?”

“Your transitions are sluggish. When caught by a sudden tempo change it looks as if the dance is being conducted via satellite from Baghdad.”

“Listen, I thought you might say that, and I’ve compared tape with amateurs – we’re talking well within error constraints, shouldn’t that be good enough?”

“No. If it isn’t worth doing perfectly, why bother doing it?”

“What do you know about it? You don’t understand the work.”

“I understand that if you were as good at your job as I am at mine, you wouldn’t be receiving complaints.”

She stared up at him, her pointer across her lap.

He left.

September

He was surprised to find her seated on the floor as he entered. Her wheelchair rested against the wall, and he guessed that she’d used the barre to lower herself before crawling to the center of the room.

He suddenly felt guilty about his fifteen minutes of pre-planned tardiness.

She skipped the traditional introductory beratement.

“I will dance today,” she said.

There was a hitch to her voice that he thought might be the edge of tears. Setting down the big blue duffel, he began to remove the exoskeleton.

As he helped the dead weight of her legs into the suit, he realized he’d never been this close to the woman before.

Somehow, at this range, she seemed younger than he’d previously thought.

He placed the sensors at the base of her neck and helped her upright.

They’d had music at every session, but it had always been held low enough to allow chatter. She wobbled at first, but her opening baby-steps within the suit were to move to the stereo. By the time she’d crossed the room, each stride was firm and sure.

Her thumb spent a long moment against the volume button.

The clack and whir of the rig was lost beneath the thrum of the beat that filled the space.

She began to dance.

After an hour the battery began to wear low, and she was forced to return the volume to a conversational level.

With the last of the juice, she grabbed a white towel and gently settled to the floor.

It was only then that she allowed the concentration she’d shown to be broken.

Finally, she spoke.

“Yes, now it is right.”

She smiled.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 013 – Say It Ain't So, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirteen.

Tonight’s story: Say It Ain’t So

Flash Pulp[audio:http://media.libsyn.com/media/skinner/FlashPulp013.mp3](Click play to listen or subscribe via libsyn RSS or iTunes)

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This evening’s episode, and every episode of Flash Pulp, is partially inspired by Marvelous Bob.

Google it.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Tonight we present a tale of science fiction, originally published on 365Tomorrows.com. It’s a story of high level corporate maneuvering in a not so terribly distant future, a story which opens with a simple question of identity.

Say It Ain’t So – Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

“So, are ya?” He’s maybe twelve, wearing blue shorts and a Mexico City Raptors t-shirt, a leg up on the wrought iron patio fence. My lobster is getting cold.

“What?” I ask.

I realize he’s holding up a thin rectangle the size of a credit card, alternating his squints to get the thing’s picture to match my face.

“CEO Benjamin “Crush ‘Em” Hinton?”

I remember signing off on licensing my likeness to FlatMedia last May, but I hadn’t seen the cards in the wild.

I ignore him.

That might have been the end of it, but a serving girl swings by my table.

“Your bill, Mr. Hin – Ben.” She says, smiling uncomfortably.

That’s what I get for flirting with the wait staff.

“It IS you! Could ya sign my card?”

He thrusts a red stylus and the card at me. I accept, mostly just interested in checking out the cheap display on the back. There’s a rundown of my resume; schooling, management experience, time spent on corporate boards.

I tap on New Youth Limited. Not much my rookie year, but the second I was apparently one of “The Resurrection Seven”, a voting bloc that saved N.Y.L. by moving from chemical processes to genetic engineering. I remember the vote, but I don’t recall anyone using the snazzy nickname.

Sliding through the listings, I notice some of them have been marked up in a child’s block script, often with arrows pointing to individual entries, things like: “Bob may have had seniority, but not the votes!”

“Anywhere?” I ask.

“Sure!” He says with a sloppy grin.

I tap the pen icon.

“Is it true that you punched Director Jules Wilson?”

“Heh, yeah. I mean, Wilson always came in drunk, but he messed up my presentation of that quarter’s preliminary financials – by the time he started pawing at Kathy Reed, I was just looking for an excuse.”

I look up, wondering if I’ve said too much for a kid his age, but he seems to be eating it up with moon eyes.

“You ever gonna work somewhere huge like Kalstock again?” he asks, face imploring. I give a quick scribble with the stylus and hand him back his card.

“Maybe.”

His saucer eyes begin to droop.

“Hey,” I quickly add, “I mean, there’s talk that Kalstock may revisit their policy and have me back for another term, but it’s hush hush.”

He brightens. I imagine him lording the harmless secret over his friends for a week.

“Tedward says you got lucky with the Talibi Merger because CEO Norma Donald was kicked by Talibi’s oversight expert system. I think he’s a craphead. You’re so smart you must have done something.”

I smile, mentally re-living my best maneuvers.

“I bought shares in a number of Talibi subsidiaries using various fake names and then put out a lot of crosstalk showing a lack of stockholder confidence. The system got nervous. I paid good money to insert low numbers into that week’s financial reports, and the system went to red alert. Things would have been fixed as soon as they saw the next round of numbers, but I used the whistleblower hotline to point out a lie on Norma’s resume involving her university rowing team. With so much bad happening so suddenly, the computer thought the world was ending and booted Norma – the only one who understood Kalstock’s real intentions.”

The kid’s smiling the whole time I’m talking, but as I finish he turns and waves to someone. That’s when I see the New Youth product watermark on the back of his neck.

Without looking at me he says:

“Mr. Hinton – Carl Nochek, special agent for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Benjamin Hinton, it is my duty to inform you that you are under arrest.”

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.