Category: The Irregular Division

FP464 – The Irregular Division: Violations, Part 3 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Violations, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp464.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Atheist Tiki Hour: Your Guide to a Secular Blast!

 

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 the Irregular Division encounters an unexpected presence.

 

The Irregular Division: Violations, Part 3 of 3

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

 

[Head, excerpts from the WIRED interview article “Like A Hole In the Him”, continued]

Mustard was almost to the door when I caught up to him. His body blocked most of the rectangle of light but I could see he’d set up a little nest beyond: He’d laid out a sleeping bag on the gray tiles and placed a tiny TV on top of a squat cardboard box. The rest of the windowless room was covered by shelves full of binders that had that blue and orange look of technical manuals

My shoes were squeaking on the cement of the factory floor as I danced, but Timothy’s heavy earmuffs, and the distraction of his young prize, meant he didn’t notice until something caught his attention in the darkness to his right.

His head swivelled and he squinted into the machine-filled shadows, then, continuing his spin, he spotted my drifting arm.

I didn’t think much of it – the music had me shuffling along at an oblivious bebop. I wasn’t thinking of Atlas, somewhere behind me and probably cursing my name for having taken off without warning. I wasn’t thinking of the weirdness around being assigned a gig that was so obviously a police matter.

I wasn’t even thinking about the boxcutter Mustard retrieved from his pocket as he placed himself between me and the child.

He turned, and I simply didn’t care.

He raised the blade, ratcheting it out with a series of flat clicks, and I just stood there nodding my head to the beat.

“Miles-” said another voice, and time stopped – no, that’s not right, time couldn’t provide me any such favour.

Forget the boxcutter. Fuck the boxcutter. Something I feared worse was coming and there was nothing I could do to stop it. No black magic jukebox could have saved me from the terror of that next word. Imagine me as one of those kids in a teen slasher flick – I’ve wandered into the spooky old house and the man with the machete has the drop on me as I stumble into the study. Suddenly Godzilla arrives.

My mother named me Milo, but my father was never the type to use a given title if he could find a nickname he preferred.

“- Davis.”

[Atlas, excerpts from Operation Pay the Pied Piper debrief, continued]

Though my enhanced optics gave me an advantage over both Smith and Mustard, my lack of familiarity with the structure meant I was forced to approach choke points with a certain amount of care. It was, after all, a military matter, and as such I gave the scenario the full weight of combat zone considerations.

If it wasn’t dangerous, I reasoned, they would have simply sent local law enforcement.

Unfortunately this delay may also have been the cause of our objective’s failure.

[Head]

SmithI didn’t answer – the music wouldn’t let me – but it was enough of a shock to pull my head around in his direction.

My intended murderer didn’t hear the words, but he did see my reaction. He turned too – and so did his knife.

Then he said the last words he would ever utter.

“Mulligan?”

“Mr. Slug,” answered my father.

That’s when Dad tased the hell out of him.

I watched the old man writhe after dropping to the factory floor. The music played on.

When the predator was finally still Dad moved towards me. He was also wearing a pair of industrial ear muffs, yellow and weirdly bright against the grubbiness of the hooded leather jacket he’s always worn.

Even under the mind numbing influence of the song’s rhythm I dreaded what would happen next. He approached the boombox, knocked aside by Mustard’s flailing, and I almost wished, in the tiny part of my mind that was still mine, that he wouldn’t be able to stop it – that I’d at least have brainwashing as an excuse to avoid confronting my father directly.

If there was any consolation it was that it at least seemed we’d get through the incident without any bloodshed.

Then, behind me, the door I’d entered by shattered.

[Atlas]

I came upon the scene and discovered our objective in the grip of Mr. Mustard. Though there was a child in the area I judged him at a safe distance to engage in aggressive maneuvering. While initially upset at Smith’s ill considered reaction, I quickly realized that he’d likely both kept our target from escaping and prevented harm coming to the civilian.

Who knows what would have happened to the youth had he not been present.

In doing so, however, Head had put himself directly in the path of Mustard’s weapon, which was inches from his throat. I had no option but to aggressively react. I quickly subdued the scene, but there was unfortunate collateral damage.

[Head]

Atlas had no problem ignoring the music’s charms. Later I realized that was exactly why we’d been sent: Whatever mechanism was causing the hypnotic effect must have depended on good ol’ fashioned human ears. She may not have my processing power – all of her limbs and enhancements hook directly into her meat where her original body was sheared away – but even her ear drums do some digital processing ahead of pushing their info into her nervous system.

I should have seen what happened next coming, but I’d been so concerned about returning to my old stomping grounds that I hadn’t considered the obvious: The military may have rebuilt her body better, stronger, faster than before, but her mind had been shattered by the death of her daughter just a few months previous.

Oh, they’d gotten her the best brain pokers money could buy, but their focus was entirely on getting her back into the field. Easy enough, given that her mental condition meant the field was all she wanted as well. Not because she’d recovered – no, because she had frustrations she wanted to work out. Memories she wanted to avoid.

Worse, was the gig: I hadn’t understood that she’d been boiling beneath her “Yes Sirs” until she was halfway across the room, but an unelected civilian suddenly at the top of the chain of command? Being sent to do a cop’s job? With specific orders not to detain a pedophile but to retrieve his aging cassette tape?

She could have broken his arm and called it a day, but, in retrospect, that was never going to happen.

The only upside was that Dad had disappeared when she’d entered. David Copperfield has nothing on that man – he has an ability to fade into the shadows that would leave Batman baffled and slightly jealous.

[Atlas]

I was lucky to reach the pair quickly enough to save my partner.

[Head]

Mr. Slug never had a chance. The noise from her throat – I can’t call it a scream so much as a Kaiju roar – was so loud it momentarily blotted out the boombox.

Then the car crash hit Mustard as he tried to get on his wobbling feet.

No – it was more like a rhino with a meat grinder strapped to its face slammed into him. It was so quick, so angry, that an outside observer might have assumed she’d popped a balloon full of ground beef and cherry Kool-Aid.

I think she’d always intended on destroying the tape instead of turning it over to Turtledove, but by the time she’d finished bludgeoning Mustard with the boombox she was literally just shoving shards of plastic into a jumble of goo that used to be a face.

All that was left for me to do was retrieve the kid and wait out by the car.

[Atlas]

Despite my concerns over Smith’s reaction, and the failure to return the objective to command, I must report I was pleased with the results.

It was the first time I felt like we’d really worked as a team.

[Head]

We were on the way home – back at the airport, waiting for a civilian flight east and coordinating the lies we intended to tell Wily in our debriefings – when I finally allowed myself to review my recording of Dad’s appearance. Maybe I was trying to convince myself that he hadn’t been there at all. That’s when I noticed the footage had been deleted. Someone had been rummaging around in my hardware – in what I considered my gray matter, frankly, since I didn’t see much of a difference even back then.

Someone had hacked my brain.

It was the first time I realized just how seriously fucked I was.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP463 – The Irregular Division: Violations, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and sixty-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Violations, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2 – Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp463.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Six Stories Told at Night!

 

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 return to the near future, where the founding members of the Irregular Division – Milo Smith, AKA Head, the corporate thief with his brain hooked into a prototype computer interface, and Jennifer Glat, AKA Ms. Atlas, a military lifer whose body was augmented by science after massive combat injuries – find themselves in an increasingly upsetting meeting.

 

The Irregular Division: Violations, Part 2 of 3

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

 

[Atlas, excerpts from Operation Pay the Pied Piper debrief, continued]

Departing the initial meeting we were furnished a vehicle in which Colonel Wily drove us to the airfield. While enroute I raised a minor concern regarding the integrity of the chain of command. I was quickly straightened out.

[Head, excerpts from the WIRED interview article “Like A Hole In the Him”, continued]

Now, I’m not saying I’m a complainer. Atlas would, but I’m not. I like to think of myself as a vocal realist: An activist on the behalf of reality, if you will. That said, as we exited Atlas surprised me by, for the first time I could ever recall, immediately questioning Wily’s judgement.

The vehicle Dame Judy Dench had driven us in was still sitting along the mighty U that marked where the drive encountered the house, but she was lost somewhere else in Vlad Tepis’ summer villa. As such we were provided with – and by we I mean Wily – the keys to a Benz from, and I quote, “the motor pool.”

That’s what I’m talking about when I try to differentiate the level of wealth. Some folks have garages, some people even have car collections – Theodore Turtledove had a motor pool.

Anyhow, like I was saying, Atlas had questions. Sometimes it seems like her high-powered cyber vision only sees things in black and white, so having her wonder about matters beyond “how many people will be attempting to murder us” and “how many people will I be attempting to murder” struck me as unusual.

I’m not sure Wily noticed though. He hadn’t spent my hours locked in cushionless vehicles with her, nervously trying to kill time before it came time for something to try and kill you.

It’s funny – the Irregulars are sort of like family in that sense. Atlas isn’t the kind of person I would have picked up as a friend on my own, yet she’d become my wrongheaded sister. I might argue with her over how we conducted business, but, even then, I knew biting at her thumbnail was the only sign she’d ever allow of nerves, knew that the reason she preferred being busy was because the alternative was still sitting in an empty room mourning her dead daughter, knew that at some level she sort of wished they’d left her ragged body to bleed out in the field instead of turning her into a patchwork mix of woman and Terminator – and knew, especially, that asking even small questions meant she was carrying some large doubts.

Doubts like:

“How does a civilian find himself giving orders to military personnel?”

“What exactly is the nature of Mr. Turtledove’s business?”

“Will local law enforcement be involved in this operation? It seems, to me, to be more appropriately under their jurisdiction.”

Now, I had a lot of thoughts I wanted to share coming out of that meeting as well, but mine were mostly about the dead-eyed torso I’d spotted behind Theodore’s shower curtain.

Maybe her questions carried my own curiosity, or maybe I wanted to stoke that tiny spark of rebelliousness I thought I’d spotted in her tone – whatever the case I decided my questions would wait and instead backed my partner.

“No, seriously though, what is Turtledove’s involvement in this?” I asked.

“He knows people. We wouldn’t be on top of this thing without him,” replied Wily.

“So you’re saying he’s deeply connected in the world of pedophiles?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all, and you know it.”

I was a lot more willing to chase the point than she was – I’m sure she felt even her minor questions were already a step to close to a court martial or some nonsense – but I didn’t get anywhere either. Wily’s a man so vague he refers to his mother as “a woman I knew once.”

The dodging annoyed me. Maybe it’s a hereditary thing, but it just made me want to dig harder.

It was a bit of a drive, and I got nowhere.

Finally I decided to drop my secret weapon: “What’s with the torso Turtledove has a straw stuck in?”

It was too big – too weird – a question to avoid entirely, but I suspect the reality is that Wily gave me a bit of an answer both to shut me up in the moment and because he knew that whatever I’d seen had been recorded in my monitoring software.

To paraphrase: Turtledove wasn’t just an elderly man, he was an ancient man. He’d aged along the cusp of technology for decades – limb transplants, nutrients baths, and hormone replacements had kept him alive and vigorous for over a hundred and thirty years. Now he was onto the newest development, parabiosis.

You should Google it, but the basics are all well understood lab techniques. Connect an old meat bag to a young meat bag and you can sort of turn them into one mega meat bag. Cycle the senior’s fluids into the junior and watch the miraculous results: A return of physical strength, rejuvenated mental prowess, and, most importantly, extended lifespan.

Turtledove’s pruned sidekick was a brain dead car crash victim whose family had rented him out to pay off his medical debt. The tubes, Wily pointed out helpfully, were so that he could be replaced once his meter ran out.

His approach wasn’t illegal. Though it might shorten his human battery’s life, so would have a career in the coal mines. Was it Turtledove’s fault that he was rich enough to use an obscure, and yes, perhaps distasteful, method to extend his life? His contacts and breadth of knowledge were exactly what made him such a valuable asset.

Or such was the argument the Colonel laid out the rest of the way to our plane.

I remember Atlas was quiet for that part of the conversation, simply nodding.

[Atlas]

The flight into Capital City was short and conducted on a light jet. We landed at the commercial airport and were met in the parking lot by a man wearing civilian clothes and military regulation haircut. The decision was made that I would drive, as I often suspect Smith gets distracted with online nonsense while operating vehicles. I didn’t need the operation compromised by his crashing the car while watching the new Queen Sofia Esperon trailer.

[Head]

While we were flying in I skimmed the video from the meeting to see if I’d missed anything, and it was only then that the name of our target fully connected: Timothy Mustard.

Oddly, I’d met him. He’d been something of a boogey man when I was a kid. Not long after we moved to Capital City he appeared one day at my Dad and I’s door. It was rare to get an unexpected knock like that, as we lived in an apartment and visitors usually had to call up first to be rung in, and I remember his thin face staring down at me over a huge brown-toothed grin when I answered.

He’d seemed very friendly. He’d seemed, in fact, like a kid at Christmas.

Then Dad put his hand on my shoulder and shuffled me out of the way. Ten minutes later I heard the deadbolt flipped shut and I was told not to speak to the man again – to, in fact, keep watch for his greedy eyes and be sure I was never caught out alone with him.

I was still thinking on that when Atlas pulled our gray sedan up along the curb.

I’d barely noticed that I’d arrived home.

[Atlas]

While I will fight to the death to defend it, I do truly hate Capital City. I hate how close everyone is, how exposed you feel on its streets, and, most of all, the traffic.

It was then especially annoying that our assignment devolved, at that point, into aimless driving.

[Head]

Our little plan was conspicuously missing a deadline. Usually these things are laid out with a bunch of specifics to be handled at oh-eight-hundred hours, or whatever the hell, but here we simply had a task with an address: Go to 403 Pine, retrieve a white audio cassette from one Timothy Mustard, convicted pedophile. The cassette would likely be unlabelled but a yellow smiley face sticker would be visible in the upper left corner of the B side.

We were not, under any circumstances, to listen to the recording.

About that last part: As far as I was concerned we might as well have been retrieving wax cylinders for one of Edison’s phonographs. I had no idea where I’d even be able to find a machine ancient enough to play such a thing.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I had to agree with Atlas. What the hell were we doing on this gig? There was no PR angle here, there was no mass panic to quell or patriotic points to be scored. If you stripped it right back it was like we’d been flown in to steal an ex-convict’s mixtape.

We’d been given a credit card against which we were supposed to pile up receipts for gas, food, and lodging as necessary. I was all for checking into the Capital Hilton when we arrived at Mustard’s and found he wasn’t there, but Atlas was, as far as she was concerned, on duty until we were back on a plane. I think the city was also getting to her. She just white knuckled the steering wheel and kept pushing us down side streets in an expanding figure 8 that brought us regularly past Timothy’s shabby little bungalow.

It wasn’t the greatest neighbourhood – it was flanked on one side by the last dregs of a slowly emptying commercial block, and on the other by an ever-expanding industrial park.

We batted theories as to why we’d been sent back and forth while we conducted our tour: Mustard’s house, past an empty building whose paint was still whiter where the KFC signage had once been, past Mustard’s again, then by a sprawl of chain-link fences, rusting barrels, and the sort of warehouses that are so large they don’t bother fixing the windows if a few up top get shattered.

Dusk settled in and so did boredom. If Atlas wanted to pace I’d let her, but I was increasingly sure we were better off getting a decent night’s sleep and knocking on his door the following day.

I’ll be honest, I was poking around on social media to see if any of my friends were still in the city when I spotted him.

We’d been given a picture – his mug shot – for reference, but it was my memory of that day at the door that hit me when we crossed his path. Jailhouse photography couldn’t have captured that filthy grin.

Here was Timothy Mustard, ancient and yellowing, out after dark with a boombox in one hand and a child of maybe eight holding the other.

Atlas had been making a left and I’d glanced out the window to the right. I’d had the pair in my sight for no more than three seconds total, but seeing him opening a maintenance entrance into one of the great brickwork buildings was enough to cause me to yell, “stop” and then leap from my seat.

I guess he just looked so old – so fragile – and the kid so young. I wasn’t really thinking I was in any danger.

[Atlas]

Flash Pulp 463Smith’s sudden evacuation of the vehicle was, in some senses, a positive development, but again I was left in an awkward position due to a lack of clear operational boundaries. Was I in a position to violate local traffic laws? Could I have justified the legal or financial risk of simply exiting the car in the middle of the street in a high-risk Capital City neighbourhood?

I was forced to find some middle ground by reversing onto the street we’d just departed and then pulling to a stop at the curb. Head had, by then, disappeared into the factory, and knew I was several critical seconds behind.

[Head]

Despite my shouting to stop, he didn’t hear me. He was wearing a pair of those construction-site industrial ear protectors – they were ridiculously oversized on his shriveled old man head. I didn’t know why he was wearing them, and, frankly, I was more caught up in the mystery of why the little mop-headed brat wasn’t even turning to acknowledge me.

His steps were strangely docile for someone of any age being led into the darkness of a black factory. You might see one on TV every now and then, but you can’t understand just how spooky those totally automated shops are until you’re walking the floor after dark.

There’s no glow from displays – there are no displays at all, no one would ever see them – and there are no lights unless you know where the switch is. I didn’t and Mustard didn’t seem to care. He was headed towards a rectangle of light on the far side of the floor – the door into the next area, where he’d apparently already prepared a nest.

So the bony-elbowed predator and his young prey drifted forward ahead of me, the roar of mechanical systems operating in the blackness to our right and that stupid boombox lost in their hum.

The problem with having a computer in your brain is that you stop carrying a phone. I really could have used a flashlight at that point. Trying not to think about what kind of thrashing metal pistons might be pumping beyond my vision, I made a dash for the silhouettes receding towards the exit.

I still don’t understand the technology behind it, but the moment my ear distinguished the music’s rhythm from the thumping of the machinery my brain kicked into autopilot.

It wasn’t that I blacked out – I knew where I was, who I was. I just – I wanted to stroll along to that tempo forever. I suddenly had all the affection in the world for that song. My heart lifted, my steps lightened. I’d have followed Mustard anywhere even though he still wasn’t aware I was a dozen steps behind him.

“No reason to be scared, I helped build this place. I kept a key,” he was telling the child, who, honestly, didn’t look like he was minding much at all.

For a moment we danced there in the dark, both terrifyingly out of control and blissfully unaware of the blood that was about to flow.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP462 – The Irregular Division: Violations, Part 1 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Violations, Part 1 of 3

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp462.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Six Stories Told at Night!

 

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 return to the near future, where the founding members of the Irregular Division – Milo Smith, AKA Head, the corporate thief with his brain hooked into a prototype computer interface, and Jennifer Glat, AKA Ms. Atlas, a military lifer whose body was augmented by science after massive combat injuries – find themselves in an increasingly upsetting meeting.

 

The Irregular Division: Violations, Part 1 of 3

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

 

[Head: Excerpted from the WIRED interview article “Like A Hole In the Him”]

I should have realized we were a submarine in an outhouse the first time we were taken to meet Theodore Turtledove. This was back when it was just Atlas and I – the Lovesick Twins had survived the fall of Britain but were still having their brains descrambled by people with notepads and soothing voices.

Well, as descrambled as they were going to get, but that’s a story for another time.

Turtledove wasn’t the first vaguely sinister government-type we’d met, but Atlas’ background meant she was always “yes sir, nice to meet you sir,” and that seemed to satisfy them. My criminal record meant most of the ribbon carriers felt a need to take a poke at me.

Still, there are worse fates than being fed a nice lunch and shaking hands with old white guys – at least when the alternative is being sent into a combat zone. Thing is, we didn’t meet Turtledove in some nondescript weapon’s manufacturer’s strip-mall satellite office, nor any aerospace industry skyscraper filled with sensible shoes and salon haircuts. Both had happened a few times, mostly for the benefit of men in well-pressed business suits who maintained long friendships with men in well-pressed uniforms. More commonly we’d simply have some gray-haired starch-collar toured by us on one of the various bases at which we were housed.

You’ve got to remember, we were basically nomads at that point. The Irregular Division was barely even a thing.

A Skinner Co. ProductionTurtledove, though – Atlas and I were escorted to a black Escalade late one afternoon and told to get inside. Our own Major Nelson Wily was already in the passenger seat, but the driver wasn’t military. Her hair was short, but the crisp cut of her black suit and white silk blouse was decidedly private sector. The easiest shorthand is that she looked like a mean Dame Judy Dench, and she was obviously making too much money to be a government employee.

It was also clear she hadn’t achieved her position by playing chauffeur, but – well, she had the air of someone who’d gotten where they were by approaching matters with their own two hands. It wasn’t erratic, but she drove fast and with the confidence of that jerk who feels their business is more important than that of anyone else on the road.

[Atlas, excerpted from debrief of Operation Pay the Pied Piper]

We were picked up at oh-nine hundred and, despite repeated complaints by Smith regarding the hour, were promptly greeted by Major Wily and [REDACTED], a civilian with whom I was not otherwise familiar.

It was a two hour drive, and, despite repeated attempts by Smith to engage in complaints regarding the distance, I took the opportunity to power down and catch up on shut eye – as is my habit during any period of travel.

[Head]

It’s odd, I find it hard to read a paper book in a moving vehicle, but I have no problem using my implant to browse the web for hours. I guess it’s a different sort of visualization.

I remember our arrival well because I thought it was funny that I was skimming an article about the latest Dracula reboot as we pulled up to that huge black gate.

Now, the rest of the place didn’t look like a vampiric lair. Frankly, it looked a lot more like a golf course – all rolling hills, strategically placed stands of trees, and a terracotta-coloured manor looming at the head of the driveway – but there was definitely something ominous, even while drenched in sunlight, about the slow opening of the black mass of spirals and dragons that regulated access to the grounds.

I suppose my concern should have been more for the guys with buzz cuts and assault rifles standing in the shadows behind the stone pillars on either side, but, weirdly, I’d gotten to a point where large men with guns were just another part of the scenery.

[Atlas]

The perimeter was well defended, but the contractors were clearly civilian. Walmart-style camouflage patterns and sneakers under their makeshift uniforms led me to believe they were either private security or possibly even imported mercenaries. They were a little too casual in their stance for my liking, but it’s not my castle.

[Head]

Dame Dench didn’t get out with us. She nodded to Wily, he nodded back, and when the Major stepped from the SUV we followed suit. There were three long white steps leading to a wraparound porch, atop of which were two more beef arms with bullet chuckers on black nylon straps. The main doors were double-wide, and the entrance hall did nothing to dispel the idea that I was strolling into the clubhouse of a highly paranoid golf course. Glass cases displayed random objects: Ancient daggers, shards of pottery with writing on them that probably meant something to someone but definitely not me, long tables with books carefully distributed across their surface to appear casually strewn, and a ceiling high enough to consume both floors of the condo I used to sublet back in Capital City.

There are levels to having money. I’ve had moments where I thought I had it made, back when I was borrowing sums from corporate accounts, but wealth on that scale – well, it requires a certain sort of attitude. You don’t come by it accidentally, and you have to wonder what exactly those who possess it did to find themselves atop such a hoard. In my experience there are three routes to that kind of income: Killing a lot of people, selling something that kills a lot of people, or inheriting it when one of the first two dies.

[Atlas]

The front hall further deepened my conviction that we were not dealing with any sort of military personnel. There is no position at any tier of the armed forces, that I am aware of, that would allow for such extravagant decorating.

[Head]

Our destination was a mostly-white room flooded in light by a half-dozen windows and two glass doors that exited onto a garden that looked liked a huge pain in the ass to weed.

Before us sat an ancient man on what I guess was a couch. I mean, it was a long piece of furniture with cushions, but when there’s that much hand carving and custom sewing involved I’m sure the salesperson refers to it as something with a loftier title. A settee maybe? I don’t know.

Anyhow, this was when we were introduced to Mr. Turtledove – or, really, Mr. Turtledove and his curtains.

[Atlas]

The study was also well appointed, and it was there that we were introduced to an aging Mr. Turtledove. He provided the intelligence briefing.

[Head]

Theodore himself was bald and thin-faced, but one of those people who survive into a phase of undecipherable age. I couldn’t have guessed if he was a slightly ragged sixty or a healthy ninety.

Those curtains though. They were hung from the ceiling with bronze chains that matched the earthtone highlights dotted around the rest of the room. I’m not talking screw-in Home Depot hooks, these things had been properly mounted. It reminded me of when I had my tonsils out as a kid. I had to share a room with this brat who’d broken both his legs and the only privacy I could get was by pulling at that green drape that was on a U track surrounding my bed.

His curtains formed a perfect little white box of mystery sitting directly beside Mr. Turtledove. Maybe the width and depth of a cat carrier, yet tall. It was clear this was not erected just for this visit, this was so necessary to the old man’s existence that they’d marred the ceiling’s paneling to hang it in place. I tried to convince myself it was his dialysis machine.

He didn’t refer to us by our names, he used our PR titles.

“Ms. Atlas and Head, welcome, welcome. It is good to see you escaped the English nastiness unscathed.”

Was the attack on Britain an act of war? A crime against humanity? A possible sign of the apocalypse? I might describe it as any of those things. “Nastiness” though?

We weren’t offered seats.

As Wily passed along his hellos from other folks in their shared circle of acquaintances I did my best to pry from a standing position. When Turtledove raised his right arm it became apparent that the curtain he was sitting beside had been tailored to be raised without bunching.

I’m a known pryer, from a long line of pryers. You ever poke around a bit at a funeral? The old man’s suit reminded me of undertaker tailoring; You know, how they cut the backs out of the suits or whatever to make dressing easier. The edges on Theodore’s otherwise finely crafted formalwear had been cut to allow access – or a connection – to something beyond the curtain.

If you’ve seen the media photos you know what I mean about Turtledove’s age, but they could never convey the sheen that always on the man’s skin, nor how his smile in motion looked like a skull unzipping.

I’d checked out of the conversation until his jaw pulled that awful trick and he said, “clever bunch, those spider cultists.”

To my mind, at that point, the Kar’Wickians were almost cartoonishly evil monsters, but before my brain could stitch together a clever rebuttal regarding the things I’d seen in the UK, Wily replied, “Yep.” and Theodore changed the topic.

“This thing in Capital City is also a ball of nastiness.”

Ever tried not to laugh in a library? I guess it’s the same thing when you need to pee in the middle of a service station desert. You just get so focused on that one thing it amplifies the problem and the whole situation starts spinning out of your control.

The longer it went unaddressed, the more I found I was getting that way about the curtain.

Was he worried we were going to covet his prized fish tank? Did he have a dozen hooded arachnid worshipers stacked in there like 1950s college kids piled into a phone booth? Was it a tumah? An attached twin?

Still, the mention of my home town set me back a bit. Exactly two years previous I would’ve likely been in Capital City crashed out on what we would mostly definitely have only called a couch, but instead there I was, loafing in daytime-Dracula’s million dollar living room while wondering what kind of medical condition was lurking behind door number one.

How had my life sunk so low?

It was about to get lower, however, as I checked into the conversation just long enough to hear Turtledove say:

“You will go to Capital City; you will find this pervert, Timothy Mustard; and you will take away his toy.”

All of his sentences were delivered in slow drips, like cold syrup, and I’ve got to admit, I’d planned on reviewing the whole thing via my implant’s recording when I could do so at double speed on the way home, or on the plane to whatever godawful place they were about to send us – but Capital City? That had been home once – and I’d heard that name somewhere, though I couldn’t quite place it.

Timothy Mustard – how could I have forgotten it?

All of that was just wind whistling through my empty skull as we exited though. We were standing, and it was the first time we’d really gotten close to Turtledove. He was old school and clearly expecting a handshake even if he wasn’t going to rise to do so.

It was then that I finally caught a glimpse through a crack in his curtains, and then only because I was watching the window behind him and trying not to think about how leathery his fingers felt.

Through that little slit I spotted a face. His eyes were open but engaged with nothing, his mouth was slightly askew but unmoving, and he was naked except for a large diaper that was that shade of blue indicating Serious Medical Business.

That wasn’t the odd thing to me though. If a body was going to fit in that tight little curtain box beside Turtledove it would have to be just a torso. There was no room for arms, no overhang that would allow for legs. He was strapped into some sort of rig – it reminded me of a kid’s car seat – and I don’t believe he could have remained upright without it.

There was also a bundle of tubes that seemed to loop around his chest from somewhere behind him. I thought at first that they were red, but it became clear when the colour started drifting that I was really looking at a crimson fluid moving through clear conduits.

I shook, the human bonsai stared at me over Turtledove’s shoulder, and we left.

Then things got weird.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP432 – The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp432.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

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 join the Irregular Division – currently consisting of Ms. Atlas, cybernetically modified wonder of the American military, and Head, occasional thief and government contractor – as they take an unlikely journey across Britannia’s decaying countryside.

 

The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3

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

 

November, Year One
Excerpt Source: Verbal Debrief Three Days Following Operation Blighty

Adviser: Major Nelson Wily
Subject: Milo “Head” Smith

Head: “It was some real Alice through the Looking Glass BS, let me tell you.”

[Inaudible, then the sound of a chair being adjusted]

Head: “Yeah, as if the landing wasn’t rough enough, Atlas was so quick to kill the chumps on the ground I didn’t have time to suggest that we should attempt to take a hostage.”

Wily: “You disapprove of her behaviour on the ground?”

Head: “Nah, I guess not. Who’s more excited about dying than a doomsday cultist, right? – and, to be fair, those guys seemed quite intent on shooting us.”

Wily: “The video of their setup makes it appear pretty simple?”

Head: “More firepower than you’d expect in a gun-less nation’s park, but otherwise it mostly looked like they were winter camping. We secured the site, which is to say we picked up their weapons and had a poke about. In their packs we found zip ties, a portable satellite internet connection, and enough tranquilizers to tuck in Michael Jackson.

“At that point it was obvious that we’d either interrupted a particularly kinky weekend, or they’d had some abductions in mind.

“While Jen phoned home, I used the network password you’d provided to get myself back online.”

Wily: “That’s when you had your clever little idea?”

Head: “Well, let’s say it was half ‘clever idea’ and half ‘bored habit.’ Our intel guys had found the encampment based solely on the fact that it was the only site still generating human-based internet traffic, and it was the same sort of notion that put us on the road.

“I was mentally flipping through British streams and feeds; some sites that I visit – uh, used to visit – regularly, some that I hadn’t thought of in years, and I found myself wandering by BBC Radio 1. I paused there for a moment, as they’d left a maudlin take on God Save the King running on loop.

“The weird thing was, it stopped, skipped back thirty seconds, then started again at half speed.

“That’s when I started yelling, which you can probably make out on Atlas’ call log.”

Wily: “I’ve heard it. You sound excited.”

Head: “Well, it was the solution to an unexpected puzzle. If the genocidal nutters had been intending on kidnapping someone, then they must have expected there to be survivors. This kind of made their camping location, at the center-ish of the island, make sense.

FP432 - The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3“The machines, on the other hand, didn’t know or care if anyone had survived. There were still tiny European cars idling away as we passed, and I feel confident they gladly did so until their fuel ran dry. On that same note, there’s no reason at all for an organization like the BBC to have live-to-air audio chopping and dropping. Clearly someone, likely someone who had no idea what they were doing, was messing with the controls.”

Wily: “That meant a drive to the BBC buildings in London.”

Head: “Uh huh. Easy enough to commandeer a ride – like I said, some of them weren’t even fully parked when the infection took hold of their drivers, but they’d mostly been reasonable enough in their lusty passions to pull over. We ended up in a white Ford Fiesta with the steering wheel on the wrong side and an engine that sounded like it had been stolen from an RC car.

“Honestly, I started off being a bit of a smartass about it. I even used the sat internet to blast Lindsey Buckingham’s Holiday Road as we were leaving the parking lot. I knocked that business off pretty quick though.

“In a weird way it was almost as if a terrible wind had passed over the land. Even with frost on the windows, every lawn, block of sidewalk, every abandoned park seemed to hold random collections of laundry and dead bodies. Bodies knee deep in a snow drift without pants, bodies with jaws shattered from use, bodies crushed flat by the weight of those grinding on top of them.

“We must have passed thousands of the dead, but the thing I won’t be able to shake was the smile on each of their faces.

“From the empty highway we began to spot fingers of smoke on the horizon. Fires, no doubt, caused by forgotten stoves, dropped cigarettes, and a thousand other accidents waiting to happen once their tenders wandered away from the switch to chase their groin.

“I remember crossing a river and noting a hole in the thin ice down by the shore. There was this Bentley poking out, its front end submerged, but it was clear the passengers had managed to get clear. They were both there: A thin bald guy and a lady with bad teeth. Tweediest mofos you could ask for.

“Though they’d exited, they hadn’t made it back to land. The ice must have thawed and re-froze in the time of their rutting, as his corpse had been locked into the ice up to his ears, and she was stuck at her hands and knees.

“Then we were passed them, and I had some other horror to stare down. At least in that instance there merely two of them.

“We have only the virus’ intensity to thank for this thing not ending everyone. If the incubation period had been any longer we’d all be, well, fucked.

“Thing is, there were these ugly little scenes, but, especially as we cruised the streets of London, there was also much beauty. Buildings that had stood for centuries and statuary with more history than my hometown will ever care to know. I started thinking, you know, about how the history will remain, they just won’t be making any more of it.

“I started yammering to Atlas: Have you considered that you’ll never hear the accent on anything but recordings now? Maybe we’ll setup zoos for the ex-pats, or teaching schools so that actors can carry on the tradition.

“Eventually I turned the glitching BBC signal up just for the noise.

“When we finally reached Broadcasting House I was out of the car like a kid hitting Disneyland. I’d seen too much death, and the notion of finding something living struck me as especially exciting.

“What I wasn’t expecting, as we pushed open doors and shouted down hallways, was what we encountered: A couple, or an apparent couple at least, fighting.

“Our rescues may not have known each other beforehand, but they certainly bickered like they’d been married a decade.

“Martin was repeating something Annabel had just stated, though he was using a voice that sounded vaguely like a Hanna-Barbera character had taken a sharp blow to the head, when Atlas went into Atlas mode.

“Even with the medical precautions you’d shoved into our arms before takeoff, I could feel the pull of their nanotech-rewritten pheromones. Within ten feet the virus makes you think – oh aren’t they quirky and fun. Isn’t he gruff but lovable, isn’t she witty and sharp tongued. If Atlas wasn’t more machine than woman I might have been worried, but she had them on the ground and in the surrender position before you could quote the COPS theme song.

“By then you were screaming at us to come home, so we immediately stole a jetliner – and that, mon Capitaine, is how we came to find The Lovesick Twins under our roof.”

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP431 – The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-one.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp431.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Elysian Springs Kickstarter!

 

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 report on unpleasant and indecent acts as they unfold across Great Britain. This episode, dedicated to Captain Pigheart, is definitely not safe for children, workplaces, or your parents.

 

The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 2 of 3

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

 

November, Year One

Source: The Capital City Citizen

Headline: UK TERROR ATTACK

Body:

We have reports, most from what remains of the BBC, that Great Britain has been the target of a well-coordinated string of bio-weapon attacks conducted by an unknown group of aggressors.

Indications began to crop up on social media feeds around 10PM London time, and it has been confirmed that an emergency declaration was made to European Union officials, by British parliament, shortly before midnight.

Though transcripts of the conversation have yet to be released, the discussion was obviously dire: A naval task force was immediately deployed, and fighter jets scrambled.

No official tally has yet been provided, but witness reports from one Princess Cruises ship, re-routed from its Brest-to-Plymouth course by military vessels, claim that at least three fishing-class boats were sunk within view of the vacationing families watching from the liner’s balconies.

Aircraft were also targeted, as cellphone photos of wreckage, taken in the northern provinces of the French countryside, have surfaced online. Though currently unconfirmed by Citizen staff, information on the ground is that all lives on EasyJet flight U2-7142 have been lost. It is unclear if the infection had spread to the passengers and crew.

FP431 - The Irregular Division: Part 2 of 3While every death related to this incident is an unfortunate loss, it appears the hastily erected quarantine blockade is holding.

Satellite and fly-by imagery was hampered during the night hours, but dawn has found a very changed island.

Social media reports seem to indicate rioting, but no observers were prepared for the swathes of human flesh that they were presented. While the plague’s transmission mechanism has yet to be determined, it is clear that close contact is more than enough to spread the epidemic.

One man was spotted sprinting away from a crowd in a panic, along the Liverpool docks, only to stop some dozen feet ahead of his pursuers, possibly due to a shift in the wind. When he halted, so too did the twenty to thirty revelers behind him. He immediately began to strip, first removing the scarf he’d wrapped about his face and the goggles he’d been wearing but not stopping until he was completely nude. Though the crowd howled at his display, they could not join him in disrobing: Each was already in a state of undress.

It is reported that those giving chase were endlessly grabbing at each other, and themselves, in their anticipation.

Finally naked, the man apparently turned back towards his stalkers, and what can only be described as an orgy ensued.

The merchant ship that spotted the activity, its Norwegian crew having drawn up its entry at the earliest indication of trouble, cut ties from the shore and moved into open water once it was obvious that, after an hour’s brutal sexual interaction, not all members of the clench had survived the ongoing copulation.

However, as of press time, the sole government-acknowledged release has been from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, who set down a light aircraft at the Manchester airport at approximately the same hour as the incident reported by the Norwegian crew. For reasons of expedient public disclosure, the center’s visual link was provided to news sources uninterrupted and unedited.

Video from the cockpit shows two armed analysts moving from the plane only to be caught up in a tide of naked humanity flowing from the terminal in search of a target to sate their lust. Though the recording provides no audio, the pair can clearly be seen attempting to retreat from the flood until their suits are breached by groping hands. Once their barriers are violated, both members of the ECDC strip away their gear at top speed, their tongues making lewd gestures towards the infected even before they were free of their suits.

What follows is a horrifying sight: The group falls to the tarmac as a single pulsing mass of limbs and genitals, and remains there for the majority of the broadcast. In the end, just three of the dozens who entered the frame stand to depart, the rest having evidently died of dehydration, exhaustion, or simple brute injury during the act of mob fornication.

Though the survivor is not visible, a slight shake then indicates the plane’s engine was restarted, and the perspective swings to an empty runway.

The remaining lovers – two men and a woman – turn as one at the noise, running directly towards the small plane’s single prop. Though the males’ libido is clearly on display, the look of hunger in the trio’s eyes is perhaps what is most unnerving. The fervor remains unchanged even as the group move to embrace the escaping craft. While the view provides little detail, it is clear that their embrace of bone and meat is enough to damage the propeller, and the final seconds of the transmission are a quickly approaching utility hangar.

There is no confirmation as to if the pilot perished in the impact. Perhaps it would be the better option.

As of the time of this printing, millions are expected dead.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP430 – The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp430.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Elysian Springs Kickstarter!

 

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, the Irregular Division find themselves landing in a very changed British forest.

 

The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 1 of 3

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

 

February, Year One
Source: Presentation to Working Group Alpha
Presenter: Head

[…]

Ever been at 35,000 feet and have someone punch out your pilot?

Fine, smartass spec ops guy at the back of the room, ever been at 35,000 feet and have someone punch your pilot completely out of your transport?

It was the old “I leave you now – TO YOUR DOOM” scenario, and Ms. Atlas was having about -10% of that bullshit.

In fact, I believe the fellow in question, apparently a Kar’Wickian turncoat, was about halfway through his dialogue when she said “You announced you were leaving, so fucking LEAVE,” and then she hit him.

Now, listen, I’ve been in situations where an unexpected punch is thrown. I’ve been in locations where “and then he hit him” was not an out of place option. You’re sitting in a bar, the guy five stools down is mouthing off, the fella whose wife he’s making fun of turns around, boom.

There’s usually some blood, maybe a broken pint glass, maybe some apologies to the barkeep if you’ve made a mess.

When I say “and then she hit him,” I don’t mean he fell to the floor and groped for his missing teeth, I mean it was like watching a Dodge Ram with a novelty fist strapped to its fender slam into someone. His body passed cleanly through the skin of our admittedly fragile high-altitude insertion vehicle, and I doubt he was in any condition to pull his ripcord on the way down.

In instances like that I like to remain cool and calm, I like to deliver a witty one-liner and perhaps sip on an extremely dry martini.

There was no booze service on the flight, but I do believe I managed to utter the line, “holy fuckity fucking fuck.”

The Irregular Division: Hostilities, a futuristic podcast with a certain heroic flavourNow, have you ever seen a largely cybernetic She-Hulk gracefully touch down an injured craft as if a sparrow alighting on a willow branch while dawn’s gentle tendrils crest the horizon?

Me either, because she grabbed the controls and dropped us to five hundred feet at such a high rate of acceleration I thought the tail section was still a good half-mile above us.

I remember her laughing and laughing while the wind howled through the Wile E. Coyote hole in the wall.

Betrayal, as it turns out, is extremely low on Atlas’ list of preferred daily events, and I could tell she wasn’t in the greatest mood as the wingtips grew closer to the grasping trees of Sherwood Forest. We’d picked up a lot of speed from our sudden descent and the titanium skeleton was shivering in the clutches of that much g-force.

Then as quickly as our pilot had gone truly airborne, we came across the target site. Abruptly the windshield was full of stars, and I swore I could feel the frame giving out under the pressure, which was kind of okay with me as we were just as abruptly staring at the ground – then we were on it, skidding through frozen dirt and tufts of snow.

Atlas didn’t bother to use the door – hell, she didn’t even bother opening the tub full of expensive firearms we’d been supplied.

Some poor murderous schmuck came up to the hole, AK-47 poking in like a curious dog’s nose, and then there was no more schmuck, there was only Atlas, and, like a magic trick, it was suddenly HER AK-47.

Yes, I’d say that’s when the shit really hit the fan.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP424 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twenty-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 3 of 3

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp424.mp3]Download MP3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

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 complete the flight of Aurelio Medina, a man who went in search of a home but received, instead, unexpected talents.

 

The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 3 of 3

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

 

September, Year One
Excerpt Source: [redacted].com/rambling/Aurelio.html

Author: Head

Title: You Will Believe a Man Can Fly

Body:

[…]

We held him for about five days, then – well, you’ve probably seen the leaked footage. It starts with a time lapse of Aurelio wandering around the small safehouse room that was acting as his temporary cell. With that weird moth-like motion that people get when sped up, he flits from a small table, where he eats dinner, to the barred window, to sitting on his bed, to making use of the room’s prison-style toilet.

Finally, after a chat through the door with the uniform on duty, he lies down in the lower right hand side of the screen, getting comfortable as the light beyond the drawn blinds fades. I’ve heard conspiracy theories that there’s a different shot, from a better angle, but if the footage exists, I’ve never encountered it.

What I know – what I’ve seen – is a bunch of restless blankets moving, then an eel, specifically – as I’ve been told by the team that was assigned to review the footage – a conger eel, writhing from the bedding and onto the floor.

Those same lab coats told me this was easily the longest one on record.

Now, Aurelio’s escape wasn’t pretty, but, honestly, neither was how we’d treated him. We’d chased him with robot dogs, forced him from the sky with armed drones, and, frankly, implied pretty heavily that we were going to have to take him apart to figure out how he could accomplish his feats of bioengineered prestidigitation.

You might say he’d already gone through so much shit, what was a little more? Especially when it meant his freedom.

Down the drain he went, and into the world. Must have been a hell of a squeeze through the toilet’s s-bend.

In the department’s defense, the safehouse was never intended to hold massive eels.

FP424 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 3 of 3What I find most amazing, though, is that he didn’t simply turn into one of us. Surely if he’d waited long enough he could have slipped into the guise of being a white guy – hell, an exact duplicate of his guard even – and made a, uh, clean break.

Of course, Uncle Sam wasn’t willing to let him, you know, wriggle from our grasp.

As far as we could tell from the conspiracy theorist websites, a man sporting majestic wings had been spotted gliding from an empty chunk of Texas and south towards the Chihuahuan Desert. Our man at the top nearly lost it over that, as we’d done a fairly decent job of keeping the nature of the operation secret until then.

The poor bugger who reported it should thank the Saint of Sasquatches that we didn’t have to knock on his door, as would have been the case if he’d managed to grab any credible video.

Anyhow, under the auspices of an ongoing anti-drug joint task force, we were given limited authorization to cross the border and operate in and around Aurelio’s former hometown. We were told to keep it quiet, as we didn’t need the Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional putting together the pieces with their domestic intelligence guys.

So there we are, Atlas and I, sitting in Aurelio’s otherwise abandoned shack. He wasn’t joking when he said he just picked up and left, there was still a pair of mugs in the sink that had been left to dry, and the square of garden hadn’t yet had a chance to wither.

We’re mostly sitting in the dark, as Atlas is all “mission security” and “standard operating procedure” and “silent running” and blah blah blah, so I was sharpening my Spanish by reading Mexican webcomics when we heard an engine outside.

Now, they gave me a gun, but I’m still pretty laughable on the range. I mean, I can flatten an entire opposing team in Call of Duty, all while they complain that having a neural interface hooked directly to my game console is cheating, but I still differ to Punchy when it comes to knocking real people over.

– and, of course, we were supposed to be taking Aurelio alive.

Thing was, it wasn’t Kafka’s birdman that came through the door, it was a local idjit named Bruno and a couple pals who thought they’d arrived to pummel a destitute local into keeping his mouth shut about how they’d killed his grandfather.

You wanna know what pisses Ms. Atlas off more than chasing a prisoner she’s already captured? Realizing that, despite all of her precautions, her operation has been compromised by some nosey punks with no clue what they’re actually getting themselves into.

Worse, they had gall and bad manners enough to try and shoot at her.

She’d lost all the robotics below her right elbow, and her patience, by the time she disarmed them, and there was so little of the hacienda left after she was done tossing them through, around, and over it, that we had to scrub the mission entirely.

A day later word came down the chain that Aurelio was to be forgotten – that is, at least until the media leaks started.

Stories still abound of the Nagual who supposedly walks, crawls, and flies across the southern Mexican states, but I can’t help but wonder: If we’d just been perhaps a bit more welcoming, maybe he’d be our Nagual.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP423 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twenty-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp423.mp3]Download MP3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

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 run from a car crash and find ourselves under the watchful eye of the law.

 

The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

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

 

September, Year One
Excerpt Source: Verbal Debrief Following Operation El Soñador

Adviser: Major Nelson Wily
Subject: Corporal Jennifer Glat, AKA Ms. Atlas

Atlas: I’d have thought the target would simply surrender once injected with a foreign substance and having his arm shattered in a wrecked vehicle, but I rarely understand the motives in this sort of incident.

We deployed to the scene after a unit involved in [redacted] detected the signature of a dangerous strain of bioengineering.

Wily: Did you actually see any of the new dogs in use?

Atlas: Yes, we had three helping us with door knocking. They’re really just smaller versions of the room-sized machines immigration uses to weed out potential medical problems in green card applicants – cancer, lung issues, inherited conditions, whatever might be a drag on the healthcare system – but they’ve managed to cram it all onto the quadruped mechanical frames that normally only hunt the stinkier narcotics.

Wily: Huh.

Atlas: Anyhow, as I was saying, the dog’s footage clearly indicated five runners, and, since we knew [redacted] and his bodyguard had nothing more than an empty needle on them, we figured the [redacted] had to have been squeezed into one of the absconders.

Head and I were sent directly from the facility in [redacted], and, as per orders, we split duties. He went aloft to coordinate the drone and helicopter patrols, and I was left to ground pound with law enforcement.

As all highway and sideroad access had been locked down at the first sign of contamination, we were 90% sure the target was still within the city limits.

Wily: Just like we had him locked down at [redacted]? Hell, just like we’ve locked down the border in general?

Atlas: [redacted]

Excerpt from the interrogation of Aurelio Medina
Conducted [REDACTED] at [REDACTED], the afternoon of the subject’s escape
Interviewer: Major Nelson Wily

Aurelio: Honestly, at first I couldn’t even believe I was able to stand up. I mean, I looked over and the trio of teen girls seemed to be all right, but the brothers were clustered around the youngest, yelling at him to get up. He wasn’t going to though – not then, not ever.

At least they got to escort his casket back when they were deported.

Anyhow, I ran. Eight blocks over I found a 7-Eleven, amazingly one with an exterior payphone, and I managed to dial my, uh, friend, whose name and address I can’t seem to remember. He drives a cab under the table. I remember sitting on the bench, clutching my arm and breathing heavily. I was probably in shock, but no one approached to ask if I was okay. There were never even news reports that I’d been spotted there, although plenty of people had wandered along to buy smokes and lottery tickets.

FP423 - The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3It was like I was invisible.

I was a sitting duck on that bench. I kept losing consciousness. I had this dream that my mouth had disappeared, that I was helpless and alone, and it seemed like I woke and wasn’t able to scream. Maybe I did.

A second time I floated up, and I was lying in the cab, but the beating of the crash had set in. My body felt bruised and swollen, and it felt like I was expanding to fill the whole back seat. My cousin told me later that he was afraid I was going to push out the windows or break the doors.

Wily: Why didn’t you seek medical attention? Your, uh, friend didn’t want to get caught with you?

Aurelio: Ha – yeah, right. I was a border jumper who’d fled from a car crash partially caused by a US government hunting machine. I’d been injected with what I thought was a high powered drug causing me to hallucinate all sorts of weird things, and I had no money to cover whatever care I needed even if I could get it.

No, I don’t blame him for not dropping me at the hospital – I thank him.

Wily: So where did you end up?

Aurelio: Let’s just say it was a townhouse shared by a few others. I was given a mat in the basement, and I guess my cous – uh, friend, had to fight pretty hard to keep me there. His roommates had seen the news, and they weren’t excited about having a bunch of guys in riot gear pounding down the door. They simply wanted to be left alone to earn a few bucks and help their people back home. I don’t blame them either.

There were more dreams while they argued. My arms weighed a million pounds and I couldn’t lift them. My fractured bones were grinding against each other like the other half of my forearm was a snake trying to cuddle up to me..

For a night and a day and a night, I slept, then I rose hungry. So hungry.

There was a cup of water beside me, and I drank it in one long gulp. No one was around, they all had jobs to be at, so I stumbled to the fridge on the main level and pulled it open. It was a mix of stuff – fresh vegetables, takeout leftovers, random condiments – I ate it all.

It was while I was chugging down the last of the milk that I realized I was using my broken arm to lift the carton. The pain was gone, and so was the break.

The thing is, I was still exhausted – or maybe it was the big meal making me tired. Whatever the case, I refilled my water cup and went back downstairs.

Now, you have to understand, this wasn’t a fancy place, this wasn’t a McMansion in the suburbs, it was a dozen bodies living in a too-small space, but, with my belly full, my body whole, and my bed firmly in America, I went to sleep pretty satisfied.

I dreamt I was flying.

Shouting woke me a few hours later. The owners of the food I’d eaten were chewing up my friend and he was trying to keep them from heading down the stairs to kick my ass.

Still, I felt lighter. Trimmer. Limber.

Turning the corner at the top of the landing I figured I’d make some apologies, promise them that I’d pay them back as soon as I made a few bucks – and, by the way, did they know of any jobs?

Thing was, they all stopped to stare as I came into the kitchen. I was spreading my hands wide, you know, to show I was sorry and didn’t mean any harm, and I felt my shoulders brush against the walls.

September, Year One
Excerpt Source: [redacted].com/rambling/Aurelio.html

Author: Head

Title: You Will Believe a Man Can Fly

Body:

So there I was in the helicopter, but, if I’m totally honest, I wasn’t crazily into the whole thing. Sure, it was neat to be deploying clusters of drones from a whirlybird, and to mentally send those whizzing around the block, but, once I’d gotten yelled at for losing a couple toys while conducting an alleyway re-creation of the Deathstar Trench run, most of the fun was out of it.

We’ve done things I can get behind. We’ve made a difference, I think, but – well, chasing some poor bastard who really only wanted to blend in and live a not-miserable life didn’t seem like the best use of a guy with an illegal computer in his brain and a woman who can punch buildings sideways.

That isn’t to say, though, that it didn’t have its moments.

I’m sitting there, supposedly scanning social media for any personal communications or sightings that might give us a lead, but really just boredom trawling, when the chopper’s heat rig – usually used to bust grow ops with hot roof tiles – goes nuts.

It was the fever caused by the serum that gave Auerlio away.

Well, I mean, that and his giant soaring wings.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP422 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twenty-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp422.mp3]Download MP3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

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 hear the tale of Aurelio Medina, a man on the run.

 

The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Excerpt from the interrogation of Aurelio Medina
Conducted [REDACTED] at [REDACTED], the afternoon of the subject’s escape
Interviewer: Major Nelson Wily

Aurelio: I loved Mexico, but I wasn’t sure I could survive my corner of it. While there were many places in my beloved country that I’d heard were beautiful and untouched by the violence upon my doorstep, I knew there was little chance I’d ever see them in my Abuelito’s broken down pickup.

Yet America was inescapable: It arrived to me on my cousins lips and through the very air around my radio. If you don’t want people to come to this country, why do spend so much time advertising yourselves?

We sometimes sat on the roof of our squat home, waiting for the summer heat to drift out the open windows, and I’d wonder what made this patch of desert so different than what I’d seen beyond the fence outside Ciudad Juárez.

When I asked my grandfather he’d just say, “it’s the same sand.”

Every now and then a relative from down south would come by, looking to stay before meeting with the sort of unshowered fellas who run secret trucks across the border. They’d always make the same pitch to me – you’re young, strong, smart, come with me – but my answer was always no.

The old man had spent most of my life looking after me, and, though he’d never admit it, his knees were getting bad enough that he needed me to return the favour.

They weren’t the only people trying to sucker me into something though, and some weren’t willing to take no for an answer.

[inaudible]

Aurelio: No, it wasn’t fear – not exactly, anyway. One day Tito was down at the shop, grabbing a pack of Marlboros, and he caught a local tough guy, Bruno, screaming names at his aunt. Apparently Mrs. Rojas had given his mother an ear full of news on her son’s misdeeds, and even some gangsters still blush to hear their mama is disappointed in them.

FP422 - The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3Bruno hit his tia, slapped her across the cheek, really, and my Tito gave him some of the same. I can’t imagine there was much force behind his stick arms, but the thug got back in his truck and took off.

Pops was shaking when he stepped into the kitchen and told me the story. He finished by saying it was the end of it, but we both knew it wouldn’t be. It wasn’t even the end of it for that day.

We were on the roof, that night, when an SUV came barreling down the road and swung into our yard. Abuelito stood, shielding his eyes and telling me he thought it was Mr. Torres come to return his ratchet set, and there was a Pop-Pop-Pop.

The engine noise was disappearing over the horizon by the time I managed to make it to the patch of dirt where my grandfather had fallen.

Maybe I could have moved south. Maybe I should have. My nearest relatives, though, were really only an hour’s drive away – well, if it was a quick line at the border.

I guess I knew who to ask, enough of my cousins had gone over, but I also knew I couldn’t trust anyone who knew Bruno, and that made things tricky.

That’s how I found myself in the back of a short box truck, huddled behind a plywood board that was supposed to fool immigration into thinking it was the back wall of the storage area. It was me, a couple with a baby, four thick-armed brothers who complained the whole time that they’d had a better plan but had been held up visiting family, a trio of teen girls looking to be nannies if they could stay away from the grabby-handed bastards behind the wheel, and two others.

Listen – those two others… they’re the ones who did this to me. One looked: Well, let’s just say he was making a statement with his knuckle tats – but his partner’s fingernails were manicured, and he was getting a nice suit dirty. They also knew the white guys behind the wheel.

Wily: Interesting – and these two men held you down and gave you wings?

Aurelio: [Inaudible]

Wily: Sorry, just a joke. They look, you know, majestic – I mean, they’re feathered at least. A pair o’ leathery bat wings would be creepy as hell.

Aurelio: Just fix it. Please.

Wily: Oh, yeah, that’s just what I need, a bunch of Texan taxpayers getting wind that we’re giving you free medical care.

Both: [Laughter]

Wily: Honestly, we don’t know how to help until we know what you were stuck with. Finish the story okay? Every little bit helps.

Aurelio: It was a long trip, and it was hot. There was a lot of moving and braking and moving again, and there wasn’t enough room for more than the lady with the baby to sit down. Eventually we stopped, it must have been six hours in, and there was a pause.

We could hear talking outside the truck, then a curse, and the guy who originally took my money started yelling “run!”

Well, we weren’t sure if he was talking to us or to his partner, but we were halfway to the door before the engine gunned it and the floor lurched forward. Papa caught Mama who held baby, but we all went down like bowling pins.

Knuckles managed to get one of the double doors open, and we see a dog.

I don’t know if they call them that over here too. I mean one of those four legged robots that sniff drugs and such at the crossing.

Wily: Yep.

Aurelio: It was a big dog, bigger than they look on TV at least, and it was chasing us at top speed. I swear it was digging pits in the pavement as it ran.

Tats and the suit started arguing, then a well-tended finger was raised in my direction, and I was grabbed. Everyone else was already screaming, so I joined in, but it didn’t matter. I don’t know if it was just the panic, but the needle looked huge – like the kind of thing you’d see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Anyhow, they poked me, and we made it maybe three blocks. The driver was hauling too fast for his corner, though, and we went sideways. Both doors were flapping by then, and we started tumbling around in space like barbie dolls caught in a dryer.

Suddenly, I was on the lawn. I don’t know if I passed out, or if I just don’t remember the middle bit, but my arm was broken. I realized there was a trail of us, spread across a kids playground like discarded toys. One of the white guys had jumped from the cab and started running, so the dog headed his way.

That’s when I went the other.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP412 – The Irregular Division: Eye of the Sturm und Drang

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twelve.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Eye of the Sturm und Drang

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp412.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Get Published

 

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, the public has its first encounter with the government-assembled group of misfits who would one day become known as the Irregular Division.

 

The Irregular Division: Eye of the Sturm und Drang

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

 

Fragment One:

March, Year One
Source: Verbal Debrief Following Operation Pancake Grid

Adviser: Major Nelson Wily
Subject: Corporal Jennifer Glat, AKA Ms. Atlas

Wily: Okay, it’s recording. Just give me the rundown of how you saw the operation unfold. Who knows, maybe kids will be listening to this at a museum exhibit someday.

Atlas: Uh huh.

Following a two week period of downtime I was collected from a West Coast VA facility to meet in an administrative office in a Capital City hospital. Special Operative Head and I were formally introduced, and he was provided with a rundown of the situation. He was sarcastic and questioning. He challenged the plan, and insinuated that my daughter’s recent death would cloud my judgement.

I’d like to go on record as saying that, while I appreciate the opportunity to lead this unit, I feel that Head is not up to what was envisioned when the surgeons scraped what was left of me off of that floor in Aleppo.

I admit to an outburst that may have been peppered with a mild threat or two.

Wily: [unintelligible coughing]

The Irregular Division, a science fiction/fantasy Flash Pulp podcast brought to you by Skinner Co.!Atlas: The situation was brought under control, and we were briefed on a fast moving scenario in New York state.

We were told a computer security expert by the name of Morris Fulbright had taken down essential components of the electrical grid, and that the operation zone, including New York City itself, was in total darkness. Fulbright had anonymously released a statement that the flaw he’d found in the public utility’s software had allowed him to run portions of the network at extreme heats until they burnt out. He also claimed he was working on behalf of a larger organization, although no evidence of that was found.

Intelligence intercepted the message before it got too far on the net, and the brains were hoping to turn the GDCF into a PR win by sending in a small strike force to subdue the what they termed a “cyber-terrorist.”

Eager for hearts and minds, the man responsible for the death of my daughter and I were sent to collect, as we were told, “a computer nerd from his plush suburban home.”

I recall one of the tech guys in the office telling us there was no way Fulbright could know we were coming, as the technology to break the encryption he’d used to anonymize himself was classified.

Despite the secrecy, however, it’s my understanding that the time and location was somehow misplaced so that a single news helicopter was on the scene to witness our arrival.

* * *

Fragment Two:

July, Year One
Source: [redacted].com/rambling/Operation-Flapjack-Grill

Author: Head

Title: Action Squad, Go!

Body:

I get it. On paper it looks perfect: They’ve got this guy with a prototype computer interface stapled to his brain and a vet that military doctors and cyberneticists have remade into the world’s first death dealin’ cyborg. The IT expert and the muscle, just like in any spy flick.

It’s funny on screen when the murder droid threatens to crush their geeky backup, but less so when you’re the backup.

There wasn’t much space to move around in the gun truck either. Strange how quickly you start unthinkingly using that sort of slang: Gun truck.

Anyhow, that’s when I realize that, as pissed as she is, and as much screaming as she’s doing at me, Atlas isn’t really moving. I finally understood that she was sitting in a [redacted], and that she likely didn’t want to break away from her charging plug.

Still, the longer we sat in that tiny space the more I wondered how many extra percentage points on her battery meter my life was worth.

With everyone stuck in the deep dark, civilian cell service was down, but there was a mesh of military drones overhead providing a connection as fast as anything AT&T has on offer. I was internally Googling possible escape routes from that model of tactical vehicle when the buggy came to a sudden stop.

“Go, go, go,” says the Major, and Jenny – she really likes it when I call her Jenny – was up and away.

“Remember that Atlas is in command on the ground. Listen to her if you want to stay alive,” says Wily, and I’m thinking listening to her may be the least safe thing I’ll do that day when the door slams shut behind me.

Now, I’d gotten pretty used to my neural pipeline by then, and I’d already fallen into the habit of flipping between social networks when nervous. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with service, as the major sites began to flood my feeds with updates on the second surge.

Over a hundred hard working line men and women, fried with their hands in boxes that were only ever damaged in their reporting software. Fulbright was one sneaky bastard.

A sneaky bastard with a television feed, as well, as he was apparently watching the news chopper’s feed as Atlas peeled away the front of his house.

That’s when the poop hurricane – the shite-nado, if you will – really began.

* * *

Fragment Three:

March, Year One
Source: TNTV.com/2047/03/NY-State-Power-Hostages

Author: December Hook

Title: New York State Powerline Terrorist Attack Thwarted

Dramatic footage captured by a Total News Television helicopter seems to show a military special operations force invading the Blooming Grove home that we now know to be the epicenter of the state-wide blackout.

A declassified communique, provided by anonymous military sources, indicates that the home’s owner, Morris Fulbright, released a rambling and incoherent message in which he claimed sole responsibility for the attack, and also specified that he was working alone to avenge a list of grievances that, as the source remarked, “can only be classified as being the figments of an unbalanced mind.”

Grainy footage shows government forces on the scene, believed to be led by Jennifer Glat, the soldier the press dubbed “Ms. Atlas” after a series of miracle surgeries replaced the majority of her charred muscle mass with high-powered electronics.

Unbeknownst to the operation, inside the house, Fulbright, who’d created a virus to fool utility overseers into believing a number of powerline assets had been physically damaged, had just forced a reboot of systems which went on to kill three dozen workers and injure over eighty others. Several remain in critical condition.

Anticipating a response, the accused cyber-terrorist had planted several pounds of improvised explosives at all exits of his household, and, as the strike team leader pulled open the front door, the madman was waiting with detonator in hand.

Although the explosion seemed to have left the woman’s right arm shredded at the elbow, the video shows her prying the brass knob from her dangling hand, then lobbing it into the building. Reports confirm that the missile lodged itself several inches into Morris Fulbright’s chest, killing him instantly.

An unnamed military spokesman referred to the effort as “a triumph” and remarked that it was unlikely that this would be the last we’d see of The Irregular Division.

This journalist, for one, is glad to have them watching over us.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.