Category: The Irregular Division

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

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

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

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

 

The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wily: Huh.

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

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

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

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

Atlas: [redacted]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wily: So where did you end up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I dreamt I was flying.

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

Still, I felt lighter. Trimmer. Limber.

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

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

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

Author: Head

Title: You Will Believe a Man Can Fly

Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

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

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

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

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp422.mp3]Download MP3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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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 hear the tale of Aurelio Medina, a man on the run.

 

The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[inaudible]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aurelio: [Inaudible]

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

Aurelio: Just fix it. Please.

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

Both: [Laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wily: Yep.

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

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

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

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

That’s when I went the other.

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

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

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twelve.

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

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(RSS / iTunes)

 

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

 

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

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

 

The Irregular Division: Eye of the Sturm und Drang

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

 

Fragment One:

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

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

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

Atlas: Uh huh.

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

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

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

Wily: [unintelligible coughing]

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Fragment Two:

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

Author: Head

Title: Action Squad, Go!

Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Fragment Three:

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

Author: December Hook

Title: New York State Powerline Terrorist Attack Thwarted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

FP411 – The Irregular Division: In the Beginning

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and eleven.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: In the Beginning

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp411.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

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

 

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

Tonight we introduce The Irregular Division, the newest, and final, thread of the Flash Pulp universe. Here it all begins to come together – and here it all begins to unravel.

Please be forewarned that this episode contains scenes of violence and strong language intended for mature audiences.

 

The Irregular Division: In the Beginning

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

 

July, Year One
Source: [redacted].com/rambling/First-Date.html

Author: Head

Title: Our First Lunch Meeting

Body:

So, apparently this blog is now considered government property, along with the rest of me. As such, I’ve been instructed to post my version of how our little family came together. I suspect that means they want me to tell you the happy tale of Operation Pancake Grid, but that’s not what I’m going to do.

In my mind, and maybe in yours if anyone other than the NSA ever bothers to read this, everything started at the McDonald’s in Tucson.

Given the layout, I could’ve been walking in the same store I’d visited in San Fran for breakfast or on the outskirts of Vegas for lunch. I came in the door beside the counter, and worked hard to ignore the squealing from the ballpit while I ordered. Once I had another Big Mac in my hand I hustled around the ordering slab and took cover behind some plastic foliage. My ass was just starting to numb up on the formed plastic bench when the cast of a heart-warming sitcom about non-nuclear families took the booth across from me. The little girl couldn’t have been fourteen yet, but she spoke with the firm tone of a self-assured authority.

“I don’t care what Mom says, Dad, I don’t want to move again, and it’s not fair to make me go somewhere I can’t visit you.”

Dad, his well pressed suit looking a little out of place in the house of the Golden Arches, tightened his grip on his partner. The partner was really the wacky breakout character of the group: bright friendly eyes and black wiry hair on every inch of exposed flesh made him look like an old timey grizzled prospector.

“Hun,” says Dad, “you know we love you to pieces, but there’s nothing the court will let me do. You need to be a little older before they’ll let you decide where you want to be, and even in this day and age they’d still rather you tag along in a war zone with your Mother than let you stay with an old gay married couple.“

See, the problem is that I wasn’t in a position to use any public internet access. Normally I would’ve just logged in wirelessly and forgotten the world around me as my mouth drowned in secret sauce, but I knew certain unpleasant fellows would be ringing me up for an audience before I’d even hit Google. There was definitely something compelling about the girl’s oratory though, she’d’ve been a general, a politician, or a CEO given the time.

At a My Little Pony pitch, she started, “I don’t give two shits about those asshats from court. You actually listen to me. You actually care about –“ then Dad interrupted.

“Whoa, hold on. Your Mom might not take a lot of input, but if you seriously think she doesn’t care about you, you need to pull your head out of your butt. She does have a set of standards she lives by, whatever the hell they may be, and for better or worse she’s trying to raise you to them. Mike and I love you, but so does your Mom, just in a different way.”

For a moment all mouths were full and conversation paused.

A smiling maw broke out of Prospector Mike’s face tribble.

“Hey,” he said, “she never moves for long, and both of you should calm down and cut her some slack, it’s not like she’s actually going overseas this time. I don’t think she can be blamed for heading to the coast to recoup, not all that unreasonable considering most of her body EXPLODED.”

Father and daughter simultaneously took a tight lipped sip of cola.

Dad cleared his throat, saying, “Listen – “ and that’s when everything went to shit.

With my back to the wall, and my seat opposite the door nearest the washroom, I had no problem noticing the beaten black pickup truck roll to a halt at the curb. Made gigantic by its oversized tires, its shadow seemed to stretch right through the glass. The two hillbillies who took long steps down from the cab would have made Bo and Luke Duke piss themselves if they’d caught them out behind The Boar’s Nest. They made no attempt to hide their 12 gauges.

I reviewed all of this from under the table, of course. If anyone had been observing my booth they might have seen something akin to a blow up doll half doing the wave as it slid out of sight at high speed. I’d brought my burger with me in the hope that my tray would simply look deserted. Honestly, it was instinct once my brain registered a black vehicle coming to an abrupt stop, but after checking over what exactly I was dealing with I wasn’t convinced it had anything to do with me. They didn’t strike me as dressed up enough. That said, I’d also kind of envisioned using the rear door as an exit in case anyone did find me, and hadn’t really thought through that they might not enter from the front of the store.

All of this happened within the span of a breath, and it was only as I watched their denimed knees scuffle past me awkwardly that I was sure they hadn’t noticed my duck and cover.

I named them by the condition of their jeans.

“Where is he?” shouted hole-in-left-leg.

“Fucked if I know,” replied frayed-at-cuffs.

Hole-in-left-leg went running to where the row intersected with the main serving area.

As he rounded the corner and into the Playland he parted a sea of panicked murmurs with his a repeated and plaintive cry of “Fuck!”

Frayed-at-cuffs began to pace the short length from the bathroom to the third booth in, obstructing any ideas I might have had of making a go at the exit, and bringing a repeated “Hurk!” intake of breath from Dad every time he passed.

“Would you cut that shit out!” Frayed-at-cuffs demanded, his voice cracking.

The Irregular Division: A science fiction Flash Pulp podcast from Skinner Co.“Hey listen –“ began Prospector Mike.

“WHAT!? WHAT!?”

I was leaning a bit now, trying to see what was going on, and I made out that Frayed had gotten a handful of the girl’s hair and was pressing the shortened shotgun barrel against her temple.

“Listen –“ it was Dad’s turn now, “her mom is going to be here soon to pick her up and we don’t want any trouble and if you simply move on we’ll just sit here quietly and wait for her and everything will be ok because –“

Dad’s mouth had lost it, and it was obvious Frayed had decided a simpler solution might be had by simply swinging the barrel of his cannon around. It was then that Mike decided to make a play, flying off his bench and around the table even managing to push over Frayed without plugging Dad. That was the end of his luck though: As the hick landed heavily on his ass his shotgun let go. Down went Mike, missing a chin. That was also when the goon decided to look left, directly into my eyes. He jumped to his feet.

“TEDWARD! TEDWARD GET YER ASS –“

Dad started wailing.

“SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” screamed Frayed, once again pressing the barrel of his gun against the girl’s temple. “TEDWARD! HE’S –“

At that point I frozen with the knowledge that I was absolutely fucked. I was staring at the murderous farmer, waiting for Tedward and the hole in his jeans to swing back from where the food is served, and I remember feeling a bead of sweat fall on my hand. I remember stupidly thinking it was raining.

Then the exit turned into a ball of glass and heat and light.

In the video it’s as if she just appears, a pistol the size of a small East Asian nation in her hand.

She looked at me. She looked at the hick. She looked at Tedward, somewhere in the wings beyond my perspective.

She said, “Michael? DAN? Nancy!?” in the order of surprised; upset; angry.

Frayed suddenly unfreezes long enough for his trigger finger to reflexively operate, and the top of Nancy’s head disappears.

Everything until then had felt like a rollercoaster, with the chain of events moving along much faster than even I could compensate for, but the world stopped at that second.

I know that all of the local recording devices bit it – that only those who were there heard the cybernetically amplified howl the media calls the “banshee’s scream” – but you don’t want a recording. Imagine the sound a humpback whale might make going through a meat grinder, impart to it the unknowable grief of a mother losing her child before her very eyes, and then amplify it to the point that .76 seconds of exposure leaves every customer and counter jockey in the restaurant stone deaf and bleading from their ears.

That’s when my memory stops, but my questionably-borrowed neural rig just dumbly kept gobbling up whatever my glazed gaze fell upon.

Deeply in shock I began to list to the left. Still, I have video of Mom – Ms. Atlas – closing the distance between her and Frayed like a rabid gazelle. The speed is such that you can barely see her arms move as she rips off his right leg at the socket, a stabilizing combat boot, peaking from below her sensible slacks, resting on his groin.

The spray of blood across my face is the last thing I witnessed before I thankfully fell into darkness.

Five days later I awoke, like the rest of the store patrons and staff, in a military hospital having my eardrums replaced by government surgeons.

Unlike the rest of the patrons and staff, however, there were two generals standing over me wanting an audience and an explanation – then they suggested that I might not go to prison over my stolen brain chip if I teamed up with their vengeful mother of a public relations disaster.

That, to me, is the day the Irregular Division formed.

 

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.

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