Category: Joe Monk

FP537 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Long Thought

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode five hundred and thirty-seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Long Thought

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nostalgia Pilots!

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you every Friday evening.

Tonight, a conversation with a space goat.

 

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

 

FP537 - Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Long Thought

 

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.

FP456 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Ladder

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fifty-six.

Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Ladder

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by BoopQuest!

 

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 find Joe Monk, the last human and future Emperor of Space, standing in a swamp at the edge of the known universe.

 

The Haunting on Cedar Crescent

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

 

As the boxy shuttle touched down, Joe Monk – one-day Emperor of the vast stretches of void and the specks that litter it – patted the multiple pockets of his orange and blue jumpsuit in search of the plastic cubes the locals considered currency. He tipped as heavily as his expense account would allow.

It seemed only fair, the cabbie was actually a runabout from the export station further into the sun’s orbit, and their approach to the shanty town had made it clear there was no chance of a random fare heading back the other way.

The round being that piloted the taxi had been silent the entire trip, yet as soon as the craft lifted off Monk was missing its quiet thereness.

At the edges of the development it was difficult to differentiate what was wild growth and what was constructed shelter. With materials in short supply the inhabitants had taken to burrowing into the massive trunks that rose from the knee-high water, and scattered ladders had been nailed into the hardwood to build skewed platforms on especially stout low branches.

From behind reed mats strung across otherwise open windows he noted large eyes marking his progress

Soon, however, he was passing the homes’ inhabitants with increasing regularity. They were thick-limbed bipeds, their arms overlong for Joe’s liking. Their stout bodies were covered in a short layer of fur – enough to keep them warm during the planet’s chill night cycle, but not so long as to hide their lack of the dangling bits that Monk associated with romance.

While several nodded as he passed, there was enough potential in their muscled shoulders that the human’s simple instincts had him wishing he still carried a weapon. He’d lost the right when he’d been promoted out of his position as an agent of the law for the Council of Ten Stars.

The timber and scrub thinned, giving way to rough-hewn stilt houses. Here was a brown-haired giant dipping barrel legs into the water from a crude porch; here was an almost identical colossus using ropes to clamber up one of the wide trees to collect the fruits in its mist-veiled heights; here was a nearly perfect copy of the other two napping in a ragged hammock patched with moss.

FP456 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The LadderMonk was beginning to spot the subtle differences between the locals. Though there seemed little sign in variation in the length of their fur, they’d taken to shaving their faces and arms in elaborate patterns. Ahead of him stepped a tall-necked Goliath with trimmed bands of broadening width climbing its biceps, and an inverted pyramid of slashes under its ostrich-egg eyes exposing the gray skin beneath. Further along Joe encountered another who’d cut an intricate series of labyrinthine spirals onto only the left side of their face. It did not take a former lawman to note the tight loops must must have required close and careful upkeep.

Between the fern fronds and tin-sheet roofs Joe caught sight of the tower that had guided his landing, and the sound of machinery began to grind through the insect song.

Now he began to see signs of black market activity: Lovely but inexpensive gems harvested from the mine and sold, unbeknownst to the suits that had set up the operation, upon porches and small slat-sided booths – at least until the inventory wranglers could arrive and realize the worth of what was slipping through their security nets; Sickly green ration blocks broken down into stews with a hefty dash of local vegetation despite strict corporate policy against such experimentation; Versions of the identical giant dressed in sliced tarps, their fashion meant to imply a sexuality that their naked forms were incapable of. Though briefly tempted to stop and speak with these members of the oldest profession, if only to determine what kind of services a race without apparent genitalia could offer to satisfy the others of its kind, Monk pressed on towards the mechanical roar.

Finally, with his boots soaked and his jumpsuit slowly filling with muck-laden water, the last human reached the heart of the remote mining settlement.

The rocket had settled as a single stacked tower and its fuel tanks jettisoned to be scavenged to form portions of the housing surrounding him. Two modules had also been deployed, likely in the final stages of descent, to act as outbuildings of a higher quality than anything the neighbourhood’s architects had, given their meager materials, been able to construct.

To the left of the column stood the cap to the open mouth of the mine, the cage elevator and winch system having arrived as a prefabricated whole, and to the right stood a similar shelter, though this half the size of the pit entrance. Its smell was acrid and clung to Monk’s nostrils and tongue, but it was a familiar reek – this was not his first encounter with the sort of trap intended to gather local animal life to be mashed into component parts and reconstituted into what the suits considered useful forms ready for labour.

As he watched a four-legged beast, likely having been lured this far into the camp by food scraps, approached the stench of pheromones and mating musk. Having appeared on its eastern side, an iris no larger than a watermelon slid open and awaited its arrival with endless patience, and before Monk could think to hiss at the compound-eyed animal, to perhaps save it from a gluey fate, the last of its pale green tail disappeared into the enticing tube.

“Dammit,” said Joe, really only to himself, and he was forced to wonder if he was already just as late in assisting the labour force shuffling about behind him.

Shrugging, he made his way towards a similar iris, this one his own size and dominating the face of the central spire.

Inside he encountered the first non-natural lighting he’d seen since arriving. No doubt the mine below was also lit with bulbs strung from the rocket’s core, but apparently there was no energy to spare from the craft’s nuclear heart to light the village that serviced the rock crusher.

The rooms inside were low, segmenting the tube to maximum efficiency. The bottom-most chamber was dominated by a ring of chutes, and Joe knew that if he’d arrived on market day there’d be a crowd of the giants, each carrying a basket, bag, or simply a cloth spread wide to catch their weekly allotment of the food blocks he’d spotted earlier in his inspection. Wedged between two of the chromed channels stood a ladder, but the chamber above was locked. Still, the very reason Monk had been reassigned from his law enforcement position was the cracking of a similar door – one that had been the entrance to a black market garment factory that turned out to be the property of a Planduckian ambassador’s son-in-law. The arrest had been upheld, though the fine was little more than a slap on the wrist, yet the Council of Ten Stars had quickly come back to Monk with the offer of a promotion.

It was only once behind his new desk that he’d realized how limiting his position truly was. He’d been raised in the silence of space, and being trapped on the core worlds, to vote once a week and spend the rest of his time in expensive restaurants in hopes of being seen by social scene columnists, had felt like a step down even if his pay had increased. It was not for a lack of information coming to him – rumours of improper operations abounded – yet how was he to take action when everyone around him was ordering freshly slaughtered shelmdon smothered in lemon sauce?

In the end he’d told Macbeth he was heading out for a weekend of fishing on the second moon, then he’d used his new found wealth to buy a berth on a trawler headed rimward. The complaint file he’d taken with him was simply the most recent to arrive, and may as well have been selected at random.

The lock popped with a satisfying electronic chirp, and the room above had the unsettling look of a surgery. There was a reclining table at the room’s center, large enough to hold the form of one of the mine labourers, and above ran a series of tracks and thick-cabled manipulation claws. The edges of the room were lined with tanks: More of the bodies slowly being formed from the fauna captured in the adjacent module. The tubs also seemed to drain into the chrome chutes he’d seen earlier. No doubt any nutrients left unused in the creation of new bodies was being processed, compressed, and delivered to the hungry mouths below.

For safety reasons – those of the technicians who’d constructed the craft, certainly not his own or the beings it built to labour – the next hatch up had a transparent window, and here Monk had to halt: He was not equipped to enter the bulk cryogenics chamber, he hadn’t thought to pack sub-zero gear while landing in a humid swamp.

Still, the telltale signs of Space Brains were all over the room.

Space Brains, of course, were the press’ sneering term for the frosted neurons of a great many races. Each sentient faction, at some point in its development, attempted to combat death through cryogenics, and it was generally before gaining enough awareness of the space beyond their own solar systems to enter the greater empire. Maintaining other people’s grandparents was an expensive business, and contracts were often formed with corporations looking for cheap labourers, generally to operate under unpleasant conditions. Any excess body mass would be cut away, keeping only the neural core, and then a factory rocket could be fired at any backwater in the universe to pile up resources until such time as a freighter was sent around to retrieve them.

Of course each entity was given an option, upon defrosting, to re-enter cryosleep, but the yes/no interface screen also included a running tally of their bill, and a warning regarding service outages if the total amount went unpaid for too long a window.

Technically such labourers were paid for their time, and it was a frequent talking point of the pro-Space Brain lobby that a non-company body could be purchased on the free market, but the statistics indicated it was almost an impossibility to save for even the lowest quality replacement while already making regular payments on their current body. Reconstitution was, of course, also invoiced.

Worse, the modular bodies, so foreign from the various races’ originals, were often of shoddy design and prone to rapid disintegration. The climates into which they were sent rarely eased the process.

That said, Monk knew this operation to be below galactic standard in almost every way. Minimum housing necessities had not been met – though rent would no doubt be extracted from each worker’s pay – and any work site of this size was obligated, under galactic law, to have at least a dozen non-indentured oversight foremen to maintain safety standards and proper corporate conduct.

Yet who wanted to ship away from their kids for a year or two on a copper-rich mudball? The distances involved meant a lack of supervision – or inspections – in exactly the places they were needed most. Though such locations were ripe for citation, which low-level inspector had the budget for such explorations, or the job security to indict the same interests that filled the Council’s pockets?

This abandonment also meant Monk didn’t have any shirt lapels to grab and immediately blame – but he had an idea on how to fix that part of the problem at least.

Back on Prendax Prime the cost of a meal at the chop house preferred by the majority of ministers – say a sweet Klebnarian porterhouse and a bitter Jandaxian whiskey, always signed-off on as necessary expense to cabinet business and thus covered by the taxpayers – was such that it was often jokingly stated you could live a year on belter pizzas for what an afternoon in a Prendax eatery would pull from your pocket.

That said, while they’d taken Monk’s gun, they’d also, at least, given him a credit chip.

Stepping from the cold metal floor to slowly settle back into the swamp muck, Joe reached into the depths of his jumpsuit and pulled out the only other item of value his new post had provided him: A small notepad with his position’s seal across the top and a tight block of legalese at its base.

Across the front of the top sheet Monk simply scrawled, “Closed for labour violations,” then he slapped the self-adhering slip to the right of the iris he’d just exited.

Though few in the camp could read English, the block of text at its bottom, translated into the dozen most common languages, clearly set out that whoever held the pad carried galactic authority, and Joe’s hooked thumb did the rest. He did not allow another worker to enter the mine head, instead pointing to the note, then back to camp. These were unmistakable signs in any language, and, besides, there was little eagerness to dispute his claim.

Finally, nearly twenty Earth hours after touchdown, he was sure the last of those below had ridden the cage to the surface module. It had required going down himself, to shout and prod through the small spaces, and it was only his experience of having been raised in the limiting confines of his ship that had kept the claustrophobia of the place from weakening his knees.

By the time he’d completed his roundup he’d gathered a decent surface crowd, including the being he’d come to think of as Left-Side – he or she with the intricately shaven spirals. With little else to do with their sudden free time, the throng seemed happy to help with his undertaking, and Left-Side soon became a fast friend in getting the others organized.

It took a dozen of them to pull the elevator’s cage free of its confines, but it was intended for deep-shaft operations and there was plenty of slack with which to entwine the trap module’s stink. A sound like laughter came from between the teeth of Left-Side and the rest as the button was pressed and the cable tightened its loops, eventually collapsing the outer walls of the protein gatherer. Then the high-powered winch – built to tote heavy loads of ore – pulled the crumpled unit across the muck, halting only once the damaged capsule was firmly lodged in the mine’s open maw.

Monk had considered doing similar to the central tower, but he dare not risk the frosty sentients inside.

The damage was well beyond the automated systems, so the computer had likely already launched a request for a repair crew. By the time the call center had issued a work ticket, however, he would have placed his own request to the Council’s law enforcement arm, and arrests would be made as the specialists touched down. He felt for the maintenance people, but they wouldn’t be imprisoned long: They were union, and the technician’s guild’s lawyers were to be feared. The shark-faced litigators of Fendex would quickly point out that the tool jockeys were simply following orders, and a game of hot potato would begin. Monk doubted it would climb so high as the boardroom responsible, but the stress of the litigation might better the quality of the next instant colony.

He would see at least. Joe planned on finding out not long after it was planted.

There was, though, a lingering pang of guilt regarding the amount of baked flat-bread the shuttle who had delivered him was about to begin shipping between the station and the camp, as it would still be a while before there was anyone at hand who could afford the return trip. He resolved that he’d simply have to tip well for every delivery.

He was, after all, the newly appointed Deputy Minister of Labour.

 

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.

FP382 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Preservation

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Preservation
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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 encounter the youth who will one day be ruler of the cosmos as he seeks privacy above an apparently barren rock.

 

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Preservation

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

 

Joe Monk, the last of Earth’s heirs, had spent the majority of his youth in the empty rooms and silent hallways of the ship that had birthed and nurtured him, but, in recent days, the spread of his reputation had called down followers like flies. He could no longer make out the gentle hum of the engine that had mothered him, much less bask in it.

That was why, on an evening deep into his Council of Ten Stars educational tour, he found himself alone in a shuttle at the edge of his unexpected fleet.

Not even Macbeth, his chief counsel, knew of his location – the craboid had been increasingly tight pincered about the human’s doings, and it was not in Joe’s psyche to listen to another hour of his mentor’s nagging.

The armada, such as it was, was spread from the rings of the inner planet, Straws I, through to the very surface of the system’s sun. The halt had been announced to accommodate those ships requiring a hydrogen-rich source to refuel, but, as those crews conducted their gassing runs, the remaining vessels took the opportunity to jettison garbage and run basic maintenance.

It was a backwater of the loneliest sort. Macbeth had complained that nobody would ever linger there unless they needed a pit stop – but the notion of that sort of solitude had been too alluring to the man who would eventually be emperor of all space.

He could not have expected the distress call that would interrupt his isolation.

At first he assumed the source was amongst the heaps that made up his caravan, as it would not be the first time an engine fire had spontaneously broken out on one of the third-hand craft that had been so deeply jury-rigged that their manufacturers would have been hard pressed to recognize their work, but his onboard computer tracked the weak signal to a source on the third moon of the nearby world.

That put him closest by quite a distance; even with the shuttle’s underpowered thrusters he knew he’d be at the site well before the Egg could get itself turned around.

Opening the throttle he dropped the fusion power plant into gear and grinned his way through the g-forces pinning him to his seat.

He was flush with adrenaline as he set down and pulled on his suit, but somehow the subtle tendrils of prudence that had begun to infect the human’s maturing brain managed to fire off a quick “I’ve got this” message before he stepped through his refuge’s tiny airlock.

The moon was little more than a barren ball of carbon dust, and that fact could not have made Joe happier. From horizon to horizon there was only a single visible stirring, and that was simply the slow red blink of a light some two hundred feet away.

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space, a Science Fiction PodcastThere was room to run, and the forgiving gravity allowed Monk to turn a trip into a series of belly-laughing cartwheels.

Still, he had presence of mind to strike a stoic pose as he pushed the large crimson button that the winking illumination acted to indicate.

He could not read the signage scrawled across the tube that broke the surface, but he’d experienced enough alien skyscrapers and shipboard transportation to identify an elevator. As such, he stepped inside.

The descent was rapid, but outside his stop all was blackness. He did not remove his helmet – he’d learned the hard way that an atmosphere does not always mean oxygen – yet even through the muffling layers he could hear a forlorn gurgling.

Steeling himself he stepped into the dark, which immediately evaporated. Ceiling-mounted bundles of automated lights began to spread from his position, bringing into view a set of hallways stretching off on either side and a great window directly in front of him.

The room beyond the glass also came alive, and within sat a massive being of stone and purple. It was hunkered low on its haunches, and the area on its chest that seemed to act as its face was buried in the broad rocky planes of its upper hands.

Though Joe did not recognize its physiology, he could only interpret the crackling whimper that emanated from within the stranger’s round chest as the sound of tears.

From behind the third door to Monk’s left, a large droid with a body like a vending machine rolled into the hall. It’s left side held a trio of arms, each with sharp implement at its end, and the right was dominated by a single thick limb toting a circular saw.

It began to advance on him, its speakers grinding out a tongue the earthman could not comprehend, but which had certain unpleasant characteristics in common with his homeworld’s German.

“I’m coming, big guy,” Joe told the window, but there was little at hand with which to defend himself.

A second robot appeared then, this one tall and no thicker than a broom, though also on triangular treads. It approached the human with both arms extended, its grasping fingers raised.

The monkey-cousin was too quick, however, and the pull of gravity too faint.

Avoiding its probing pinches, Joe snatched the stick-bot and swung it hard over his head, shattering the bulbs above and plunging its base directly through the plastic panel that made up the box-droid’s chest.

The sounds of combat brought the massive captive to a howl behind its barrier, even as those lights that were yet undamaged took on an erratic blink and sirens began to bleat throughout the complex.

At the center of the chaos, Monk stood, legs planted, awaiting a second charge.

Instead, beyond the carnage, the elevator delivered a calm bing.

Before its passenger had even fully disembarked, Monk knew he was in trouble.

“What are you doooooing!?” asked Macbeth in a tone that seemed to realize just all too well what it was he was doing.

“I’m, uh, saving that guy,” answered Joe with a finger crooked towards the window.

“That’s a Brindax, fecal-neurons! They go insane during the third portion of their life cycle and need to be saved FROM THEMSELVES. You haven’t almost rescued some pathetic prisoner, you’ve nearly freed a self-incarcerated madman!”

Joe shrugged.

“It – it was so dark, and he was, you know, crying, and these robots started coming at me…”

“Yes, you’ve successfully managed to destroy thousands of credits worth of antique medical droids. Now get back to your shuttle or I swear I’ll make you repair them yourself.”

Seconds later they were again on the surface, but little could either know that within months Monk would receive his first honourary doctorate. The spread of his tale was only the beginning of a galaxy-wide expose on the neglects of the Brindaxian health care system, though it would be but one more jewel in Monk’s crown.

 

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.

FP375 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Cuckoos

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Cuckoos
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by We Are Not Here To Please You

 

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, Joe Monk, the last human and one day ruler of known space, finds himself in a seedy bar on the backwater world of Mengi.

 

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Cuckoos

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

 

Joe Monk, the man who would one day be Emperor, Macbeth, his craboid counselor, and the small fleet of interstellar craft that had begun to trail their roaming egg of a ship, had landed on Mengi as part of a PR tour on behalf of the Council of Ten Stars. The Council had funded the expedition as an educational venture. It was their hope that the novelty of seeing the last example of a dying breed would hold their youths attention long enough for the man’s simple but altruistic view of the universe to take root in their obviously increasingly degenerate neural networks.

In truth, however, the circuit was as educational for Joe himself as it was for any of the smart-mouthed adolescents who attended his rambling Q&A sessions, though much of his studies took place in the sort of low-cost fermentation dispensaries that grease the grind of a tight travel schedule.

His brief stint as lawman had brought Monk into contact with a dozen races, but the metropolitan worlds of the Ten Stars were awash in shape and colour. He was finding it difficult to keep personal identifiers separate from species names, and more than once a mottled green mouth or purple-furred set of ears had descended at his unintended bigotry.

Still, he had no trouble telling Asbelene and Oshkosa apart, and the fact that they were Krebbles, from the thickly populated jungle planet of Kerees, was very clear in his mind.

They’d told him so when they’d introduced themselves, but the Krebbles reputation was well known.

The vaulted ceilings of the orange-walled bar were lit in a low spectrum so as to be friendly to even the largest eyed patron, but to Joe’s thinking it was as if the night had flooded the room and brought with it the thick booze and high-nosed spices that filled Mengi’s tourist market.

Monk and Macbeth had seen and drank as much of the planet as they could manage, and the earthman had promised the unmarked establishment would be their final stop.

Still, he’d made the promise some two hours earlier.

As their conversation had progressed, Asbelene’s stool had slowly travelled around the bend of their round table. She’d first introduced herself while offering a gloved appendage wrapped in the deep shade of purple that covered her form in a velveteen crush of robes and veil. She knew all about his story, she’d said. She’d seen it on the NewsNets. What a romantic notion, the last of an entire race – but what a sad and lonely one, she’d added.

Monk had only been able to agree. Eventually, however, he tired of talking about himself.

“Been on Mengi long?” he asked.

“Quite a while,” replied Asbelene, “we can’t all hop around in our own ship you know. Besides, it’s warm here and the sun lingers. What more could you ask for?”

She lifted back the light veil that covered her brow to reveal a pair of human eyes. They were the same shade of purple as her garb. Joe couldn’t recall reading any books in the egg’s library in which a character had violet eyes.

He smiled.

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space“Oh,” said Joe, “the nomadic lifestyle has its advantages. There are a lot of gorgeous sights I wouldn’t have had a chance to see otherwise. You’re right though, it can be lonely. The scenery doesn’t change much between stops and I find it hard to sleep when I don’t have the thrum of the engines in my ears.”

“That’s funny,” Asbelene replied, “I’ve just travelled in freezer freight, but I’ve always pictured ship beds as tiny and uncomfortable.”

“The people who built my rocket pony had to guess at how big I’d get, so I’ve got room enough for two of me – actually, it may sound ridiculous, but my bed honestly is built for high G maneuvers and sudden impacts.”

Her robes shifted slightly right and she let out a distinctly human giggle.

Excusing herself, Asbelene stood and retreated to one of the personal sanitation rooms nestled in the shadows at the rear of the tavern.

With her purple figure briefly out of view, Joe remembered that he’d arrived with Macbeth. Optimistic at the likelihood of his companion’s own enthusiasm, Monk turned.

Macbeth was not smiling.

Neither was his conversation partner, Oshkosa.

Finally having caught the earthman’s attention, both of the self-appointed mentor’s eyestalks stiffened, and he hooked his large right claw across his shoulder.

“Can I talk to you over there?” he asked.

Joe couldn’t see much of anything but decorative pottery in the corner, but he knew it wasn’t really a question.

Once out of Oshkosa’s earshot, Macbeth immediately took to whispered yelling.

“Do you understand what these girls are!?”

“Friendly?” asked the human.

“Krebbles,” replied Macbeth, dropping the word heavily, as if it were the only response he required.

Joe nodded and tried to look serious. “Okay.”

Macbeth sighed a fermented sigh and nodded, but he still required assurance. “Okay?”

Monk did his best to give it. “Okay.”

“Great, I’m glad we’ve agreed to leave.”

Before he’d finished the sentence, Macbeth was already digging in his satchel for a method of payment that was actually valid in the establishment.

“Uh, you can head back if you like,” said Joe, “I think I’m going to spend a little more time getting to know Asbelene.”

The pseudo-crustacean dropped his bag.

“The Krebble? Do – do you know what their disgusting genetic imperatives drive them to do? They start as piles of formless goo! Goo! Then they steal your DNA! That’s what she was doing when she first shook your hand you know – but that’s not even the worst of it!

“She’s shedding under there. Her gooey, lusty, flesh is drying and flaking, and soon she’ll shed her current shape like a cocoon. She could be in there right now doing it! She simply wants to make herself appear to be a viable mate so she can plunder your breeding juices!

“These filthy Krebbles are built to endlessly evolve their reproductive systems by sucking down the seed of others! She’ll seem the perfect mating partner – rounded in all the ways you like, cooing in just the way you idiot monkeys enjoy – but they’re nothing but masquerading eugenic harlots.

“In terms you might understand, they’re cuckoo women! Cuckoos!”

Joe nodded. “Er, I think in this metaphor it would be the children who would be the cuckoos, right?”

“You. Idiot. Do you not understand what I’m saying?”

“You’re saying I’m in danger of having Asbelene be exactly what I’d want in a sexual partner, and perhaps, uh, misplacing my genetic heritage?”

“Yes.”

“That sounds suspiciously racist, but we’ll talk about it back at the ship – say in the kitchen, around breakfast time tomorrow? That’s when I’ll be back.”

With that, he turned.

It would be only another hour before the last man would see his first womanly form.

He was late for breakfast.

 

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.

FP359 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The New Guy

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and fifty-nine.

Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The New Guy
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Mac of BIOnighT

 

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, Joe Monk, Emperor of Space, considers the nature of change and forward time travel.

 

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The New Guy

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

 

There came a time, before his rise to Emperor, when Joe Monk’s reputation in war and justice had spread to the stars as fresh adventure in a stale universe. His passion seemed a cure to the bureaucracy of the era, and, as the last human, his voice seemed to hold the total weight of his dead world.

Stepping from the shelter of a cave adorned with well-worked pelts, the neanderthal shielded his eyes against the bright yellow glare of Sol.

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space, a Science Fiction PodcastThe hillock on which he stood had a single well trodden path leading downwards, and, at its midpoint, a barrier of wood and stone had been constructed to narrow the approach as added defense against predators.

Atop his ledge the almost-man tracked the drawing near of a small cluster of ten figures.

This was no war party – no, simply a man and woman trailed by their brood of unwashed youths.

Still, the difference was unmistakable: These were not neanderthals at all, but homo sapiens drifting in from some distant grubby hole.

The shelf of the homeowner’s brow fell to a new low and he grunted thrice.

Time slid by, and it was 54 BC.

A Roman galley, bristling with oars, was bearing down on the British coast, its drumbeat moving with sure and steady purpose even as it rose and dove amongst the waves.

The light upon its stern had drawn the eyes of a filthy faced child of twelve who’d been wandering the cliffs in search of a mislaid sheep, and the lad’s long thin legs were soon pounding towards the hut he called home.

Within moments his family and extended clan were beside him at the drop’s edge, pacing the bobbing landing.

Spitting, his taut-faced father laid a blow across the boy’s right ear and said, “gonadh inimriche.”

Time again took on an unlikely momentum, pausing in Earth year 1997 AD.

A man of sixty was sitting on a worn wooden bench that looked to have been built even before the crumbling gas station it sat in front of.

Cracking open a peanut the slouched grandfather tossed the shell amongst the dust at his feet.

From his right came the ringing bell that marked an exiting customer, and a stout figure in blue overalls emerged from the area that housed the loafer’s wife’s cash register.

Stepping back into his rusting white and red pickup, the driver offered a, “gracias,” then turned over his vehicles reluctant engine.

The truck rolled onto the highway, lingering but a moment on the horizon.

The man on the bench said, “goddamn immigrants.”

The landscape shifted a final time, now settling on Joe Monk’s increasingly renowned ship as seen through the viewscreen of a law enforcement tug. A too-round Smegmarian in a Solar System Traffic Cop uniform punched in his scan but could find no contraband on Monk’s approaching space egg.

Dropping a news printout with Joe’s face and vessel splashed across the front, the entity scratched at the pant seat of his uniform – universally hated due to its speed limiting bureaucracy – and grunted, “shhhpffdd ferfferl.”

Monk’s craft became the focus, and the length of speckled black behind it lit up with massive letters.

“Kwarvox has been Planduck’s Senator for the previous 324 years,” they said before being replaced by: “Change Happens. Get Used To It.”

A much smaller addendum floated over Joe’s uppermost engine strut. “This Message Endorsed by the Committee for the Election of Beethbo for Galactic Senate.”

The holoscreen went black.

As illumination returned to the cramped boardroom, the trio of Planduckians that made up the Committee for the Election of Beethbo for Galactic Senate smiled. It was generally very difficult to license the history of an entire people, but Joe’s lone survivor status meant that the collected cultural heritage of the human race had been bequeathed to his estate. It was their hope that Monk’s celebrity status, mixed with their own people’s past as stellar nomads, would strike a chord.

Meanwhile, across the small conference table, Joe’s companion’s mind raced. Macbeth knew it was essential to remain mindful of diplomacy while stringing together his polite mouthful of titles, false compliments, and refusals.

Before he could embark on his finely honed rejection, however, Joe’s jaw finally flapped shut.

“I’m in!” he blurted, and thus began his political career.

 

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.

FP317 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Cold Blooded Murder, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventeen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Cold Blooded Murder, Part 1 of 1
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp317.mp3]Download MP3
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Shadow Publications

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 Joe Monk, eventual interstellar king, finds himself fishing for a murderer.

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Cold Blooded Murder

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

Years before his rise to the galactic throne, Joe Monk found himself responding to an unexpected summons to the edge of Crumf, a binary system with no planets. As an odd side effect of not being killed by the Spinesians during a recent sticky diplomatic situation, Monk had been given an Extrasolar Deputyship – a title he’d considered largely ceremonial till the grinding bleat of an incoming message had interrupted one of Macbeth’s repeated attempts to teach the last human proper maintenance of their ship’s engine.

Joe had been pleased with the break from his craboid teacher’s prodding claws and scrutinizing eye-stalks, at least until the viewscreen filled with the barely-fading-from-memory visage of the Spinesian Ambassador who’d appointed him.

The ensuing debate had ended when the alien informed them “whoever is the closest law,’ that is our way.” The sudden hang up that followed had prevented any further argument.

Now Monk and his scuttling companion were aboard a Spinesian whaler, staring through the thick transparent doors that held the ship’s atmosphere within the loading bay. It was the freighter’s sole window, and its only room large enough to double as a courtroom.

The First Mate had briefed him in the Captain’s quarters, a cramped closet with a folding bed and walls covered in images that Joe would have recognized as pornographic if he’d held a deeper knowledge of exotic anatomies.

“The skipper was murdered, sure enough,” the second-in-command had told him, “hard to say who it was though – Cap was the kind of fellow to make more enemies than sandwiches.”

Joe Monk, Emperor of SpaceConsidering the motley crew, Joe could believe it. The ship’s AI had provided a listing of recent complaint reports – a compilation that had required several hours just to skim through – and it had simply proven that not a being on the vessel was without reason to have killed their Spenisian commander. Had it been Goarth, a mantis-like giant who’d nearly fallen unconscious while in vacuum after rushed orders had had his environmental suit’s air mix accidentally replaced with that of Mylonx, a stout carbon breather? Was it Mylonx himself, who’d nearly been sliced in half by a cutting laser when the captain had demanded an abrupt angle change before checking that the area was clear? Both lives had only been saved by warning klaxons from the mainframe’s safety systems.

Worse, there were twenty-five shipmates and each had a similar grievance. At least the work team of ten that were currently in cold space could be discounted – they’d been busy meat-mining when their leader’s skull had had an access hatch repeatedly closed on it.

Through the transparent panel, the reluctant lawman eyed the glitter of energy beams as the underpaid labourers danced across the ebony skin of the moon-sized pseudo-beluga. Soon, he knew, the bay they were occupying would be filled with the shavings of pre-cauterized gourmet flesh, and yet he was no nearer to a solution.

As if it had anticipated his thoughts, the computer informed the gathering, “fifteen minutes till re-entry, at current harvest speed. Operations proceed at optimal levels.”

Macbeth, who seemed to have no interest in the fishing expedition beyond, leaned close and said, “I think it was your friend, the next in line to take the helm. Promotion is as likely a motive as the rest.”

Joe nodded, but he wasn’t sure he agreed – even if he did, how could they prove it?

“Wait,” he said loudly enough to startle the assembled workers on their makeshift crate-chairs. Using the same voice, he asked, “What are your main job priorities, computer?”

There was no answer.

“Call him Ishmael,” suggested the First Mate.

“Ah – Ishmael, what are your main job priorities?” repeated Monk.

“Ship navigation, the safety of the crew, and the collection and delivery of the galaxy’s finest whale cutlets.”

“Yeah,” continued Joe, “on that middle item: How’s your accident record?”

There was a pause before the machine responded, “There has been one casualty this expedition, bringing the total to five in our last trio of outings.”

“Would it be fair to say that your dead skipper was responsible for the first four?”

There was a second silence, then a flat “yes.”

“Okay, and would it also be fair to say that your dead skipper was the greatest threat here?”

The system’s hardwired logic couldn’t avoid providing an answer. “Yes.”

“Ishmael, did you repeatedly attempt to close the hatch to access port five when you knew it was obstructed by the captain’s skull?”

“Yes.”

Macbeth’s claws gave three quick snaps and Monk knew his mentor was impressed – for his own part, however, the human simply wanted to return to the comfort of his considerably less talkative ship.

Monk’s discovery of the murderous mechanism – which would go on to be labelled a system bug – would later be lauded as theoretically saving millions. Dour faced statisticians, however, would often be quick to point out that he may have also theoretically killed billions more.

Whatever the case, it was yet another step completed in Joe’s rise to power, and the beginning of his renown as a lawman.

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

FP299 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Fruits of Peace, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and ninety-nine.

Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Fruits of Peace, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp299.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Mike Luoma.

 

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 find Joe Monk in an age well before his ascension to the throne, while he was still yet learning to handle diplomacy. Consider this episode Skinner Co.’s tonic to last week’s entry, Lingering.

You’re welcome. Sort of.

 

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Fruits of Peace, Part 1 of 1

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

 

After having laid waste to the stellar fleets of two warring star systems, Joe Monk had found himself in the awkward position of having to apologize for his bout of enthusiasm. Macbeth, his scuttering companion, had made the necessary diplomatic calls between rounds of beratement.

“Monk, I swear you’re going to visit the Spinesians alone,” he’d said from beneath quivering eye-stalks. “Good luck pal, and pack a pillow. There isn’t a comfortable chair to be found in the breadth or depth of their culture. Everything they build looks like it’s mimicking a fat flamingo on the cusp of collapse – hold on, I’ve finally got the minister’s secretary on the line.”

– and so the cycle had continued until the barricades of red tape had been sufficiently navigated, and the ruling councils of the disputing systems had been properly coaxed.

The combined rage raised by Joe’s action was cause enough to bring about the first meeting of the Spinesians and the Smegmar in nearly three centuries, a historic event likely only made possible by the thorough devastation Monk had brought to their combat craft.

Both races had been quick to send drones to create baroque structures on the neutral moon that was to be the site of their conference, but ego and distrust prevented either side from entering the other’s settlement.

In the end, after a day of mediating long-distance bickering, MacBeth had simply transmitted a time and location, then pushed Monk into their landing vehicle. Their possession of the runabout was the result of extensive haggling on the crabinoid’s part, and he was sure to pull on his goggles at any chance to initialize the shuttle’s overpowered engine.

“You know, I’m really getting to like this little jalopy,” he said, as his pincers probed the controls.

Monk shared none of his companion’s chipper mood, but, then, he also knew he’d be responsible for most of the talking.

“Maybe they won’t show up. Traffic or something,” replied Joe.

Macbeth’s took in the mass of orange fauna that blanketed the rapidly approaching continent. “Yeah, well, whatever the case, let’s just hope these muckamucks are too far from the frontlines to notice that we’ve borrowed some of the scrap from your little shooting gallery.”

The rest of the trip to the mountaintop meadow was filled with the roar of their descent.

Within moments of their arrival, the Spinesian retinue came into view from the west, their caravan of elegantly curved fliers appearing as if a parade of crimson long-necked birds.

Their touchdown was cushioned by regal music emanating from recessed external speakers, and Monk guessed that the extension of their access ramp had been slowed to maximize the impact of their entrance. The Spinesians were a tall, six-legged people, with thin features and torsos capped with gray, nose-less faces. The being in the lead, obviously a lesser functionary, wore flowing panels of silver cloth over a magnanimously rolling segmented body.

The council exited the transport at a pace that was both authoritative and restive.

At the midpoint of the incline, the herald paused.

In flawless English, it said, “Behold, the Grand Council of the Benevolent Spinesian Empire, Keepers of the Hundred Suns and Priests of the Ultimate Wisdom. Behold, Shelny Miblorth, First Minister of the Tenth Parsec Kingdoms, Mother of the Kimblax Pact, Daughter of the…”

As the well practiced litany was recited, the fifth minister back, by Joe’s count, let forth a gassy discharge and a trio of wet ejections from beneath his or her crimson robes.

A Spinesian youth in the rearguard stood down from attention and began moving with purpose towards the head of the in the procession, even as the listing of names continued. Retrieving a synthetic sack from the sling about his neck, the child stooped and enclosed the excretion in the green-tinted bag. With practiced digits, the thick aroma that had begun to fill the air was sealed away.

The introduction ended as the collector retreated, and the party of diplomats renewed their ponderously-proud forward momentum.

Monk took the moment of distraction to hold counsel with his advisor.

Leaning towards Macbeth he whispered, “that was super gross.”

“It’s their culture,” side-mouthed the oversized lobster. “It’s not something they worry about.”

“It’s barbaric!” replied Monk. “That poor kid!”

“That poor kid? That poor kid is paid well and doesn’t think twice about the job. His parents probably display their pride with a bumper sticker.

“Hell, it might have even been a father and son act, the Spinesians are notorious for their nepotism.”

Though it was hard for Joe to read the group’s alien expressions, their dislike of him was made obvious by their occasional habit of raising a silent, slender finger of accusation in his direction.

Before any further declarations or expulsions could be made, however, the Smegmar arrived.

A single blocky dropship settled into the orangery, and its pilot wasted no time in entering the scene.

Even as the hatch slid wide, the insect-like occupant was delivering a high-speed chittering that Joe could only assume was a stately speech in its own language. Rather than wait for further disapproval, the human decided it might be best to make a better impression with an immediate act of contrition. Perhaps, if only interested enough to send a lone emissary, the Smegmarians were less concerned about the incident.

Interrupting the stream of quavering vowels, Monk stuck out his open hand in what he hoped would be recognized as a universal sign of peace. After a moment of consideration, the Smegarmarian reared under it’s beetle shell, presenting a bristling selection of limbs, and offered an extension from its lesser projections.

There was a moment of vigorous shaking, then the Smegmar crowed loudly and pulled Joe close for a hug between it’s knobbed dominant arms.

Once released, Joe returned to Macbeth’s side. Leaning close, he said, “I didn’t understand a word it said, but it seems happy enough now.”

Through clenched lips, Macbeth replied, “he basically said ‘I apologize for my late appearance, there has been upheaval in my court. I feel today we must make a change for the future – my people are in need, but my dukes think me mad.

‘Will you prove me right? Will you, the warrior who defeated the shells and mandibles of our war fleet, join me in my apparently-insane hope for an end?’”

“Huh,” nodded Joe. “I’ve never shook hands with a bug before. Wasn’t sure if he was going to spit acid at me or something when he stood up like that.”

“No, that was the male of the species’ procreation stalk. It’s sort of how Smegmar say hello to very, very close friends. It’s part of their surrender reflex, but, uh, most species are too disgusted to, er, accept the gesture.”

Striding past them, its body still set upright, the mantis-like head continued its victorious talk of treaties.

Macbeth continued his translation. “He says he’s been looking for a way to stop the fighting since he was hatched. He says you’ve given them the first real shot at a cease fire in decades.”

Even the Spinesians, with their great faces nodding, seemed taken by the moment.

With all sensory organs on the prince, Joe wiped his palm on his pant leg.

Despite the advancement, the historic Peace Accord of Orange Meadow was another week in the forging.

It would be marked by historians as the beginning of Monk’s rise to power.

 

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 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.

208 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Art of War, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and eight.

Flash PulpTonight we present, Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Art of War, Part 1 of 1.

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp208.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Asunder.

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, Joe Monk, and his intergalactic traveling companion, Macbeth, find themselves at the receiving end of unexpected alien aggressions.

Flash Pulp 208 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Art of War, Part 1 of 1

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

Joe Monk, Emperor of SpaceJoe Monk, the youth who would one day be Emperor of the Universe, was sitting at the main console of his ship, pleased to have been left alone at the helm for the first time since he’d undertaken to learn to operate his long-time home.

With diligence, he scanned the displays before him, watching the banks of numerical counters, and trouble lights, glow with a steady serenity.

He’d sat in his beige leather chair for eight hours, but he’d only noticed the absence of Macbeth, his tutor and companion, thirty minutes previous. The unexpected freedom had made him reluctant to leave his post, or even break his gaze from the outputs, despite the fact that his vessel required very little moment-to-moment intervention.

As he considered what his friend might be up to – perhaps taking in one of the library’s Astaire musicals – Monk began to feel the weight and power of his responsibility.

He smiled.

“It’s all up to me, while you’re off messing around,” he muttered, his voice taking on the pitch he used to simulate Macbeth’s chittering tone.”

Time passed, and the readouts stood steady. Joe grew bored.

Considering his rare opportunity, and unable to resist the call of the instrument panel, he decided it was an ideal opportunity for practice in evasive maneuvering – or, at least, as evasive as his rickety ship would allow.

As he attempted to override the autopilot, however, something unexpected happened: Although the light indicating his control remained red, the craft’s massive Sagan Drive engaged.

Joe immediately threw his hands into the air, to demonstrate his lack of guilt. After a moment of panic, he began to search around the room, but turned up no scapegoats.

His eyes returned to the information provided from the exterior sensors, at which point, the drive fired a second time, as a braking measure.

The override indicator was now a solid green.

His history of misplaced hands, knees, and sandwiches, had Joe concerned that the lurching would summon Macbeth, and he pushed himself to at least have an answer as to their location, should the alien bluster in.

His concern was quickly forgotten, however, as he discovered a double column of frigates above and below his new position. He couldn’t identify their place of origin, but a quick inspection of local energy discharges showed they were firing at each other with apparent vigour.

Now wishing Macbeth was at hand, Joe’s fingers flew across the helm’s broad keys.

The Sagan drive, so eager to perform just seconds before, refused to initiate.

Sweat began to form on Monk’s brow.

His intention was merely to remove the craft from immediate danger, but even as they took on momentum, a host of dials lit crimson under the sudden attentions of the surrounding warships.

The gravity compensators made the movements smooth, but Monk pictured what his flying egg must look like from the exterior, glowing with laser fire, arcing away from the plane of combat.

He’d always daydreamed a lot more general shaking when fighting, but, as it was his first time, he figured it must simply be another aspect overplayed by the movies he’d seen. Still, the meters clearly announced a spike in radiation levels, which was rarely a friendly gesture.

The projectile launcher Macbeth had equipped a week earlier had been intended as a tool for teaching, and he’d given Joe multiple lectures regarding how ridiculous using slow-moving masses as weapons, in the vast reaches of space, truly was.

It did little to stop Monk from initiating the targeting system.

With his left hand, he ordered the computer to auger sideways, in an effort to avoid incoming fire – with his right, he began dispatching the simple, formerly educational, metal spheres.

His wrists moving as quickly as his brain would allow, Joe convinced the ship into postures he would have otherwise thought impossible. It was only after his ammunition had run dry, and his brow was slick with concentration, that he realized he’d punched holes through every attacker.

Macbeth reentered, his pincers clapping rapidly.

“What are you doing!?” he demanded, but his eye-stalks did not await an answer.

“I beat them! We won!” Joe replied, slapping his friend across his plated shoulder joint.

Then, with a long exhale, Monk understood that he may have single-handedly slaughtered thousands of beings.

“Defeated them?” said the crabinoid, ”You idiot, all you’ve defeated is three thousand years of ritualistic military tradition. Normally this fight would have destroyed two percent of their drone fleet, tops, and that over a course of weeks – in five minutes you’ve turned both sides into junk. The Spinesians have made an art of war – prodding and poking, and name calling. Do you know how much threatening they must have intended to do? Have you considered the cost? Those people are in a major fiscal slump, and you’ve crushed the financial investment, and raw industrial output, of hundreds of worlds; not to mention the reality entertainment, and illegal gambling, you’ve disrupted.”

“Drones?” asked Joe, “Like robots?”

“Yes.”

“So I didn’t kill anyone?”

“No.”

Monk grinned.

There was a long silence as the pair inspected the field of hulks, one beaming, the other fretting.

“I guess,” Macbeth finally said, “your idiotic behaviour may have actually given the Spinesians’ stagnant economies something to rally behind. I sincerely hope that that something isn’t a murder squad to come hunt us down.”

“Bah – I’d knock them down too,” Joe replied.

With a sigh, his companion took up the helm and began dictating diplomatic apologies to the communications array.

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 081 – Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eighty-One.

Flash PulpTonight, we present Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 3 of 3
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp081.mp3](Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episode are dedicated to the recent marriage of Elektro and Anycheese – long may they live and love.

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, Joe learns the terrible truth about Lol, planet of the cactus people.

Flash Pulp 081 – Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 3 of 3

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

Joe was on the roof by himself for quite a while.

After the tower fell, his scarlet clad companion had spent ten earth-minutes berating him in a variety of buzzes and hums. As the human did nothing in response but stare at him with a slack-jawed expression on his face, the elevator operator had eventually made a crossed limb gesture, which Monk could only assume was rude, and then disappeared back into the box.

Realizing there was no other exit, Joe had kicked the downed antenna, stubbing a toe in the process, then used the toppled rod as a seat.

He still held out some small hope for a victory parade.

After a time he became convinced that the elevator operator was a spy for whatever evil puppet-master was running the planet’s zombies, and he was sure his best chance was that a resistance of newly freed cactus people would spontaneously rise up, rescue him from his perilous perch, and then praise him as their saviour.

While he savoured the daydream, two round robotic drones topped the edge of the building and began to fly in slow circles, the shining lenses at the center of their metallic bodies focusing on his movements.

An hour later the elevator re-opened, depositing Macbeth onto the rooftop.

His claws ground against each other as he approached.

“I told you to stay in your room,” he said. The severity of the situation was made obvious to Joe by the trilling notes in his friend’s voice – when Macbeth was truly angry, his English accent became increasingly worse. In this case it sounded as if he was speaking through a flute.

“I was just trying to help. These people are all zombies! Some sort of evil hive mind has control of them!” Joe stood, approaching one of the two cactus-people in blue who’d accompanied Macbeth to the roof. Miming to the cactii that it should spin in place, he tugged at the collar of its overalls, revealing the metallic disc, with its blinking green light. The light was now dark. “I saved these people!”

The grinding of Macbeth’s claws doubled, and the human could clearly see flakes of chitin falling from his pincers.

“You saved nothing, you jerk. I told you before that these people are on a very long life cycle – they sleep ten of your years at a time! Fine if you’re on a world with no other higher lifeforms and you can just nap for a decade, safe behind your spines, but these people have lives to lead and they need cold hard cash to do it – so why not work it off?”

Monk’s face clouded with confusion.

“These folks are all slumber-labour!” Macbeth continued. “They open the doors, they run the elevators, they even drive the cabs, and they’re all controlled by a central computer that you’d be shot twenty times before you could even sneeze on. That’s why the repair work is so good and cheap – it’s all computer controlled! You managed to wake up a five block radius or so, and you’re incredibly lucky that a runaway taxi, or startled nanny, didn’t accidentally kill someone.”

“I – but.. I…” Joe attempted to interject.

“No. No “buts”. You’ve not only lost these people some pay, but you’ve acted out the equivalent of running into someone’s bedroom in the middle of the night shouting “Ooga-Booga!”. You’re going to need to apologize big time to these guys, and we can only hope that they don’t sue you for their missing income. If they do, you may need to get a sleep-job yourself.” The eyes at the end of Macbeth’s dual stocks shrank to a slit. “I happen to know a place that pays well for exotic-species dancers.”

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 080 – Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eighty.

Flash PulpTonight, we present Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 2 of 3
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp080.mp3](Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episode are dedicated to the recent marriage of Elektro and Anycheese – long may they live and love.

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, Joe finds himself attempting to save an entire planet from an unseen puppet master.

Flash Pulp 080 – Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 2 of 3

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

It was only once he’d found himself thoroughly lost that Joe, future emperor of space, realized he was unsure of how to proceed. He knew it was his duty to free the slaves of Lol, but it was tough to know where to start in a world largely lacking signage.

His epiphany had only been reconfirmed by the slack-limbed responses of those few cactus people he’d attempted to stop for directions. His first idea had been to pull at some of the blinking discs he now saw to be omnipresent at their collar lines, but they were well implanted.

He’d spent twenty minutes shouting at one of the passers-by to “help me help you!”, but he’d gotten little reaction. He wasn’t sure where the optical sensors were located on the cactus folk, and it bothered him that he couldn’t even meet them eye-to-eye.

It was a coincidence then that brought him to the largest building in the area, its height in no way lessening the inscrutability of the structure.

His eyes turned upwards, hoping to spot some sign from the gray-brown above, and he noticed a large antenna at the apex of the otherwise flat-topped architecture.

With his mind churning, he stepped towards the sliding entrance at the tower’s base, and was gratified as it opened of its own accord. There was a desk at the center of the room, and, behind it, six further sets of doors. At the long empty surface sat another of the cactus people, this one adorned in a teal jumpsuit.

“Hello,” Monk said to the room’s apparent guardian.

The being sat, impassive.

“Er, I’d like to go to the top floor, please,” he added, slowly sidling around the far corner of the desk.

He was startled when he actually received a response, even if it was simply to have one of the receptionist’s many limbs point at the right most access.

“Thanks,” Joe replied, his stride gaining confidence as he approached the opening.

Before he reached it, the portal slid open.

Another cactus sat in the small box.

Joe stepped inside, recognizing similar devices from many of the situation comedies he’d researched with Macbeth.

“I’d, uh, I’d like to go to the top, if that’s OK?”

The tender of the transport did not respond, but instead punched a button on the panel it faced. Once the doors were shut, Monk felt the pull of gravity in his stomach as he was elevated to the upper levels of the building.

The exit opened directly onto the roof.

Joe was unused to heights, at least unless there was a thick layer of window between him and the drop, and he turned to the helpful cactus before he stepped from the box.

“I’ll, uh – I’m here to help. If you want to wait, I wouldn’t mind.”

There was no response from his companion, so Monk stepped out into the sunlight.

The antenna was of solid construction, and its destruction would have required an incredible effort on Joe’s part if it had not been for the handle. As it was, the human simply pulled a large ripcord, one of the few well marked items he’d encountered on the planet, and, after a brief squeal of protesting metal, it fell safely sideways onto the rooftop.

Turning, he saw the elevator-cactus stumble from its post, two black round portals blinking in the area above its collar. The dark globes brought themselves to a squint, as if unused to the light.

Joe could not translate the hum and squeal of its language, but he knew agitation when he heard it.

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.