Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and eight.
Tonight we present, Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Art of War, Part 1 of 1.
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, Joe Monk, and his intergalactic traveling companion, Macbeth, find themselves at the receiving end of unexpected alien aggressions.
Flash Pulp 208 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Art of War, Part 1 of 1
Joe Monk, the youth who would one day be Emperor of the Universe, was sitting at the main console of his ship, pleased to have been left alone at the helm for the first time since he’d undertaken to learn to operate his long-time home.
With diligence, he scanned the displays before him, watching the banks of numerical counters, and trouble lights, glow with a steady serenity.
He’d sat in his beige leather chair for eight hours, but he’d only noticed the absence of Macbeth, his tutor and companion, thirty minutes previous. The unexpected freedom had made him reluctant to leave his post, or even break his gaze from the outputs, despite the fact that his vessel required very little moment-to-moment intervention.
As he considered what his friend might be up to – perhaps taking in one of the library’s Astaire musicals – Monk began to feel the weight and power of his responsibility.
“It’s all up to me, while you’re off messing around,” he muttered, his voice taking on the pitch he used to simulate Macbeth’s chittering tone.”
Time passed, and the readouts stood steady. Joe grew bored.
Considering his rare opportunity, and unable to resist the call of the instrument panel, he decided it was an ideal opportunity for practice in evasive maneuvering – or, at least, as evasive as his rickety ship would allow.
As he attempted to override the autopilot, however, something unexpected happened: Although the light indicating his control remained red, the craft’s massive Sagan Drive engaged.
Joe immediately threw his hands into the air, to demonstrate his lack of guilt. After a moment of panic, he began to search around the room, but turned up no scapegoats.
His eyes returned to the information provided from the exterior sensors, at which point, the drive fired a second time, as a braking measure.
The override indicator was now a solid green.
His history of misplaced hands, knees, and sandwiches, had Joe concerned that the lurching would summon Macbeth, and he pushed himself to at least have an answer as to their location, should the alien bluster in.
His concern was quickly forgotten, however, as he discovered a double column of frigates above and below his new position. He couldn’t identify their place of origin, but a quick inspection of local energy discharges showed they were firing at each other with apparent vigour.
Now wishing Macbeth was at hand, Joe’s fingers flew across the helm’s broad keys.
The Sagan drive, so eager to perform just seconds before, refused to initiate.
Sweat began to form on Monk’s brow.
His intention was merely to remove the craft from immediate danger, but even as they took on momentum, a host of dials lit crimson under the sudden attentions of the surrounding warships.
The gravity compensators made the movements smooth, but Monk pictured what his flying egg must look like from the exterior, glowing with laser fire, arcing away from the plane of combat.
He’d always daydreamed a lot more general shaking when fighting, but, as it was his first time, he figured it must simply be another aspect overplayed by the movies he’d seen. Still, the meters clearly announced a spike in radiation levels, which was rarely a friendly gesture.
The projectile launcher Macbeth had equipped a week earlier had been intended as a tool for teaching, and he’d given Joe multiple lectures regarding how ridiculous using slow-moving masses as weapons, in the vast reaches of space, truly was.
It did little to stop Monk from initiating the targeting system.
With his left hand, he ordered the computer to auger sideways, in an effort to avoid incoming fire – with his right, he began dispatching the simple, formerly educational, metal spheres.
His wrists moving as quickly as his brain would allow, Joe convinced the ship into postures he would have otherwise thought impossible. It was only after his ammunition had run dry, and his brow was slick with concentration, that he realized he’d punched holes through every attacker.
Macbeth reentered, his pincers clapping rapidly.
“What are you doing!?” he demanded, but his eye-stalks did not await an answer.
“I beat them! We won!” Joe replied, slapping his friend across his plated shoulder joint.
Then, with a long exhale, Monk understood that he may have single-handedly slaughtered thousands of beings.
“Defeated them?” said the crabinoid, ”You idiot, all you’ve defeated is three thousand years of ritualistic military tradition. Normally this fight would have destroyed two percent of their drone fleet, tops, and that over a course of weeks – in five minutes you’ve turned both sides into junk. The Spinesians have made an art of war – prodding and poking, and name calling. Do you know how much threatening they must have intended to do? Have you considered the cost? Those people are in a major fiscal slump, and you’ve crushed the financial investment, and raw industrial output, of hundreds of worlds; not to mention the reality entertainment, and illegal gambling, you’ve disrupted.”
“Drones?” asked Joe, “Like robots?”
“So I didn’t kill anyone?”
There was a long silence as the pair inspected the field of hulks, one beaming, the other fretting.
“I guess,” Macbeth finally said, “your idiotic behaviour may have actually given the Spinesians’ stagnant economies something to rally behind. I sincerely hope that that something isn’t a murder squad to come hunt us down.”
“Bah – I’d knock them down too,” Joe replied.
With a sigh, his companion took up the helm and began dictating diplomatic apologies to the communications array.
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