Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Seventy-Nine.
This week’s episode are dedicated to the recent marriage of Elektro and Anycheese – long may they live and love.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, Joe makes a prickly discovery while he and his companion, Macbeth, await repairs to their ship.
Flash Pulp 079 – Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 1 of 3
Macbeth, Joe’s claw-handed friend and advisor, was providing the future emperor of space counsel.
“You need to be on your best behaviour here. These folks are going to fix the ship after that little ding you put in it…”
“I’m sorry, everything was blinking and bleeping, I didn’t…”
“- we’ve already discussed it. It was your first time driving, and I don’t blame you, but now I need you to stay calm and, well, just don’t say anything, all right?”
Their giant egg of a spaceship was bleeding off speed as it approached the Lil solar system. There destination was the only habitable planet around the dwarf sun, Lol, known for its technical prowess, work ethic, and terrible cuisine.
“I’ll be good.” Joe said, his eyes locked on the monitor which displayed a blow up of the clouded atmosphere. “Are there any ladies there? I mean – human ladies? Or, pretty human at least?”
“No – and it’s best not to ask. The people of Lol are on a long life cycle, they only mate once every 80-something Earth years, and you’ll find nothing to interest you amongst the cactus people anyhow. Still, they work fast, and at a great price. You’re lucky I have some outstanding credit they owe me.”
Joe considered pushing the point, but he’d learned to read the tight snapping of Macbeth’s pincers to mean that the subject was closed. He stared down the monitor another moment, but, unimpressed with the planet’s progress in approaching, he opted instead to spend his time reading through an ancient tome of his people, The Da Vinci Code. He understood few of the references, but their cryptic nature assured him that the book must have been of great importance to his people, and he was happy that Macbeth had managed to locate it, as well as several other artifacts, for download at what the shelled-alien called a swap-meet.
* * *
He was nearly done his chapter when the ship finally found itself in a wide orbit around their destination. There’d been a series of taps at their airlock, to which Joe had been tempted to respond, but Macbeth had spent the time simply staring at him.
“Seriously. Please. Just keep your hands to yourself and don’t say anything,” he told Joe, after a long pause.
“I promise.” Joe replied, setting the book on his chair.
The airlock door slid back, revealing two multi-limbed cactus beings. They moved forward using their lowest offshoots as legs, although Monk could see little difference between the upper and lower extremities. The pair wore something he equated with overalls, with openings tailored to allow full movement to their prickly arms. At the end of each protrusion was a brown flower, which Joe realized were equivalent to fingers once half of the duo moved to Macbeth’s control panel and began to methodically punch buttons.
The remaining cactus motioned Joe and his companion back onto the shuttle it had arrived on.
The trip to the planet was short, which was just as well as Monk was disappointed to find the utilitarian craft windowless. The trio sat in near silence throughout the ride – Joe had twice attempted to ask questions only to be cut short by a shush from his friend.
The planet’s surface was bright and dry, although it seemed to the visiting earth-man that every inch had been used for construction. Gray buildings stretched into the sky, each entirely unadorned and unmarked as to its purpose. More of the cactii-inhabitants moved steadily about, maintaining prim rows, making no noise but the hiss of their needles against their coveralls. Each wore the same attire, although they seemed to be color coded – Monk noted that groups of browns clustered with groups of browns, and all of the motorized vehicles appeared to be driven by yellows.
He hadn’t attempted to ask any more questions on their way to the hotel.
“This is your room. Behave.” Macbeth said, his eye stalks extended to put his sight on level with Joe’s.
With one pincer he pushed the future emperor inside, and with the other he locked him in.
There was little to do but nap, and Joe quickly found himself snoring.
He awoke with a start when the door was suddenly opened from the exterior, and a cactus moved inside carrying a suction tube.
Joe stood, stretching from his sleep on the plush carpet, and began to question the intruding housekeeper as to its purpose. He’d seen the movie Maid In Manhattan twice, so his questions were somewhat facetious, but he longed for the company.
It was then that he saw the device implanted above what he might consider the roaming cactus’ collar line – a small metallic disc with a single green light on its left-most side. It seemed to him that whenever the maid stopped, the light would begin to blink rapidly, only ceasing once the maid was back to dusting or fluffing pillows.
Joe had spent the last several months taking in every television show that had ever been shot into space by his long dead race, and he knew now what he must do.
“Hive-mind slaves! I must save them!”
He strode from his room, left unlocked by the industrious cleaner.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.