Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and ninety-nine.
Tonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Fruits of Peace, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Mike Luoma.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, we find Joe Monk in an age well before his ascension to the throne, while he was still yet learning to handle diplomacy. Consider this episode Skinner Co.’s tonic to last week’s entry, Lingering.
You’re welcome. Sort of.
Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Fruits of Peace, Part 1 of 1
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
After having laid waste to the stellar fleets of two warring star systems, Joe Monk had found himself in the awkward position of having to apologize for his bout of enthusiasm. Macbeth, his scuttering companion, had made the necessary diplomatic calls between rounds of beratement.
“Monk, I swear you’re going to visit the Spinesians alone,” he’d said from beneath quivering eye-stalks. “Good luck pal, and pack a pillow. There isn’t a comfortable chair to be found in the breadth or depth of their culture. Everything they build looks like it’s mimicking a fat flamingo on the cusp of collapse – hold on, I’ve finally got the minister’s secretary on the line.”
– and so the cycle had continued until the barricades of red tape had been sufficiently navigated, and the ruling councils of the disputing systems had been properly coaxed.
The combined rage raised by Joe’s action was cause enough to bring about the first meeting of the Spinesians and the Smegmar in nearly three centuries, a historic event likely only made possible by the thorough devastation Monk had brought to their combat craft.
Both races had been quick to send drones to create baroque structures on the neutral moon that was to be the site of their conference, but ego and distrust prevented either side from entering the other’s settlement.
In the end, after a day of mediating long-distance bickering, MacBeth had simply transmitted a time and location, then pushed Monk into their landing vehicle. Their possession of the runabout was the result of extensive haggling on the crabinoid’s part, and he was sure to pull on his goggles at any chance to initialize the shuttle’s overpowered engine.
“You know, I’m really getting to like this little jalopy,” he said, as his pincers probed the controls.
Monk shared none of his companion’s chipper mood, but, then, he also knew he’d be responsible for most of the talking.
“Maybe they won’t show up. Traffic or something,” replied Joe.
Macbeth’s took in the mass of orange fauna that blanketed the rapidly approaching continent. “Yeah, well, whatever the case, let’s just hope these muckamucks are too far from the frontlines to notice that we’ve borrowed some of the scrap from your little shooting gallery.”
The rest of the trip to the mountaintop meadow was filled with the roar of their descent.
Within moments of their arrival, the Spinesian retinue came into view from the west, their caravan of elegantly curved fliers appearing as if a parade of crimson long-necked birds.
Their touchdown was cushioned by regal music emanating from recessed external speakers, and Monk guessed that the extension of their access ramp had been slowed to maximize the impact of their entrance. The Spinesians were a tall, six-legged people, with thin features and torsos capped with gray, nose-less faces. The being in the lead, obviously a lesser functionary, wore flowing panels of silver cloth over a magnanimously rolling segmented body.
The council exited the transport at a pace that was both authoritative and restive.
At the midpoint of the incline, the herald paused.
In flawless English, it said, “Behold, the Grand Council of the Benevolent Spinesian Empire, Keepers of the Hundred Suns and Priests of the Ultimate Wisdom. Behold, Shelny Miblorth, First Minister of the Tenth Parsec Kingdoms, Mother of the Kimblax Pact, Daughter of the…”
As the well practiced litany was recited, the fifth minister back, by Joe’s count, let forth a gassy discharge and a trio of wet ejections from beneath his or her crimson robes.
A Spinesian youth in the rearguard stood down from attention and began moving with purpose towards the head of the in the procession, even as the listing of names continued. Retrieving a synthetic sack from the sling about his neck, the child stooped and enclosed the excretion in the green-tinted bag. With practiced digits, the thick aroma that had begun to fill the air was sealed away.
The introduction ended as the collector retreated, and the party of diplomats renewed their ponderously-proud forward momentum.
Monk took the moment of distraction to hold counsel with his advisor.
Leaning towards Macbeth he whispered, “that was super gross.”
“It’s their culture,” side-mouthed the oversized lobster. “It’s not something they worry about.”
“It’s barbaric!” replied Monk. “That poor kid!”
“That poor kid? That poor kid is paid well and doesn’t think twice about the job. His parents probably display their pride with a bumper sticker.
“Hell, it might have even been a father and son act, the Spinesians are notorious for their nepotism.”
Though it was hard for Joe to read the group’s alien expressions, their dislike of him was made obvious by their occasional habit of raising a silent, slender finger of accusation in his direction.
Before any further declarations or expulsions could be made, however, the Smegmar arrived.
A single blocky dropship settled into the orangery, and its pilot wasted no time in entering the scene.
Even as the hatch slid wide, the insect-like occupant was delivering a high-speed chittering that Joe could only assume was a stately speech in its own language. Rather than wait for further disapproval, the human decided it might be best to make a better impression with an immediate act of contrition. Perhaps, if only interested enough to send a lone emissary, the Smegmarians were less concerned about the incident.
Interrupting the stream of quavering vowels, Monk stuck out his open hand in what he hoped would be recognized as a universal sign of peace. After a moment of consideration, the Smegarmarian reared under it’s beetle shell, presenting a bristling selection of limbs, and offered an extension from its lesser projections.
There was a moment of vigorous shaking, then the Smegmar crowed loudly and pulled Joe close for a hug between it’s knobbed dominant arms.
Once released, Joe returned to Macbeth’s side. Leaning close, he said, “I didn’t understand a word it said, but it seems happy enough now.”
Through clenched lips, Macbeth replied, “he basically said ‘I apologize for my late appearance, there has been upheaval in my court. I feel today we must make a change for the future – my people are in need, but my dukes think me mad.
‘Will you prove me right? Will you, the warrior who defeated the shells and mandibles of our war fleet, join me in my apparently-insane hope for an end?’”
“Huh,” nodded Joe. “I’ve never shook hands with a bug before. Wasn’t sure if he was going to spit acid at me or something when he stood up like that.”
“No, that was the male of the species’ procreation stalk. It’s sort of how Smegmar say hello to very, very close friends. It’s part of their surrender reflex, but, uh, most species are too disgusted to, er, accept the gesture.”
Striding past them, its body still set upright, the mantis-like head continued its victorious talk of treaties.
Macbeth continued his translation. “He says he’s been looking for a way to stop the fighting since he was hatched. He says you’ve given them the first real shot at a cease fire in decades.”
Even the Spinesians, with their great faces nodding, seemed taken by the moment.
With all sensory organs on the prince, Joe wiped his palm on his pant leg.
Despite the advancement, the historic Peace Accord of Orange Meadow was another week in the forging.
It would be marked by historians as the beginning of Monk’s rise to power.
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