Category: The Irregular Division

FP541 – The Irregular Division: EOL, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode five hundred and forty-one.

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


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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, your girl, Harper Tierny, learns many secrets – but be forewarned: Please keep both earbuds in until the ride has come to a complete stop.

The Irregular Division: EOL, Part 3 of 3

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

 

 

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.

FP540 – The Irregular Division: EOL, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode five hundred and forty.

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


Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

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, your girl, Harper Tierney, gets a sharp lesson in the realities of life in The Irregular Division.

The Irregular Division: EOL, Part 2 of 3

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

 

FP540 - The Irregular Division: EOL, Part 2 of 3

 

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.

FP539 – The Irregular Division: EOL, Part 1 of 3

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

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


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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Chrononaut Cinema Reviews!

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, we meet some new friends, encounter some old friends, and find ourselves dug in, at last, with the full complement of The Irregular Division.

The Irregular Division: EOL, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Tonight, we meet some new friends, encounter some old friends, and find ourselves dug in, at last, with the full complement of The Irregular Division.

 

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.

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.