Friday, August 28, 2015

Flash Fiction # 161 -- Illusion

Tana was in the canteen sipping bad tea when the call for pilots sounded.  She tossed her tea aside, grateful for a reason to waste it, and headed for the bay.  The call had been unexpected.  Usually they had some warning of trouble in a sector.
Krisin caught up with her at the bay entrance.  Their Catchin team mate Lisel already prowled, around the craft. His long pointed, furry ears twitched with agitation. People snarled his way as they passed; few people trusted Catchins.
Other fighter teams darted around the bay, but her craft would be the first one out.  Maybe not wise, but at least it gave her more options before everyone else got in the way.  She was a scout. They did not fly formation.
"Any idea of what's going on?" Lisel asked.
"None." Tana climbed  into the pilot's seat.  Krisin got in behind her at weapons and Lisel took the copilot's spot.  He began to automatically key on the systems while she checked the engines. A green light flashed to her left.  "Odd. We already have the okay to launch."
"Very odd," Lisel agreed and his cat-like ears went almost entirely flat to his head.  "They always want checks before clearance.  This doesn't look good.  Do we really want to be the first out?"
"Why get wise now?" Krisin asked.
Even Lisel found that one amusing.  Tana keyed the pad down and they took the quick drop  from ship to the launch bay and then to void.  She didn't see anything. Was this some sort of new drill? They didn't usually waste fighter resources --
"Behind us," Krisin said softly.
Tana glanced at the screens but couldn't make sense of the spots.  Her mind refused to believe, until she spun the craft around and faced --
"How the hell did they get that many werecraft this close without notice?" she demanded, suddenly more angry than afraid.  That was her own personal insanity.
Other fighters had begun launching but all she heard was the jabber of panicked voices. She cut out that commline.
"We can clear out," she said, glancing at Lisel.  Krisin made a little sound, but she couldn't tell what it meant.  "Because the reality is --"
"Real," Lisel said and suddenly began to run his long fingers over the controls.  His claws were out and they made clicking noises against the board.  "What if they aren't real?"
"They have to be real.  We can see them out there and on the scanners!"
"We're seeing something on the scanners," Lisel said.  "But they aren't reading like wereships."
"Some kind of change in configuration of the craft?" Tana asked. "Is that how they got so close?"
Tana keyed a commline straight to the main ship's control deck.  "Information, please," she said, keeping her voice as light as possible.  "How the hell did these things get so close without any warning?"
"We're looking into the possibility of in-ship systems failure," someone answered.  "They just suddenly appeared."
"Thank you," she replied and probably sounded insanely happy as she keyed back off.  "Okay, Lisel: real or not?"
"My guess would be not exactly what they appear to be.  They are something, but -- no weapons coming up.  And they're holding pattern far too well."
Tana studied the data, then looked back at the craft before them while still moving in closer.  "Makes no sense.  Why would they bother?"
"To hide something else," Krisin said.  He was suddenly sounding anxious.  "If this is mostly illusion, then there might be something back behind it.  Like a werecraft mothership."
"Oh hell," Tana her hand pulled back from the boards.  "Lisel?"
"The configuration could hide a craft that large.  If you don't turn aside in the next two minutes, I think we'll be getting irrefutable confirmation on all answers."
"Should we turn back?"
"No," the other two chorused.
"What is everyone else doing?"
"Deploying around the Belgium," Lisel said.  "Wise, probably.  We could be wrong."
"Weapons ready?" Tana asked.
"Ready," Krisin answered. He sounded anxious, but not worried.  "I'm going to clear a path straight ahead of us.  If there is something else out there, we'll know soon enough."
"It's not picking up on the scanners," Lisel pointed out.  "But maybe that's part of the illusion."
Tana knew she was crazy to keep going.  She almost turned aside . . . but the werecraft were not coming after them like they normally did. This was not right.
Krisin's first shots took out six of them -- just flashes and gone. Tana kept going while taking side shots.  They were doing well until two things happened; the real werecraft showed up and they reached the mothership.
"Maybe we should have had a plan," Krisin suggested.
"Friendly craft following us in.  We need only stay alive for three minutes and 11 seconds before we have help."
Those were a damned long three minutes, especially after they lost one engine.  However, they had the chance to see what no other humans alive had ever seen: a werecraft mothership up very close.
"I'm not impressed," Krisin said.  "Big, but ugly."
Big was an understatement.  It could have held a hundred Belgiums without any trouble. How many of these ships did they have?
"Weapons coming up," Lisel said with another tap of claws.  "Aiming at the Belgium, which is closing in for the kill."
Tana saw the hot spots. Her  fighter couldn't move fast enough to take up the battle with the smaller ships again, but they could target the mothership weapons. They were close enough that the larger ship couldn't aim at them.  In the end, the only problem they had was getting clear before the Belgium blew the larger ship to hell.
They had been the first out of the ship; they were the last back in, limping to safety. They'd done the impossible and everyone knew it. For once no one glared at her Catchin crew member.
The three went to the canteen and had something stronger than bad tea.

999 words

For more about Tana and her team read:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Flash Fiction #160 -- Web

The end had come at last.
Tania watched the impenetrable darkness spread across the horizon, muting the last bright colors of the sunset. Tonight she stood alone as she waited for the enemy to attack again. The last of her companions lay wrapped in white coverings at her feet. She whispered a last farewell to them.
No moon tonight, robbing her of the sight as the enemy arrived.  She heard their inhuman voices and soon felt the caress of their many legs as they spun of a thousand webs around her body.
They won the final battle for the world.

(Drabble, 100 words exactly) 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Flash Fiction #159 -- The Messenger

Something was changing in the world.  Hermes could feel it like a growing anger in the air. He had pulled over and sat on the motorcycle as he looked at the city sprawling on the distant horizon, pinpointing the place he needed to go.  He could deliver the note to his half-sister and leave.  The city was filled with distractions for him.  So many businesses, so many opportunities for someone who had been, among things, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates. . . .
He missed the days when they wrote poetry about him.  He missed the simplicity of the old life, which was why he still delivered messages for the others.
Cars passed him by, more than a few slowing to take a closer look at the cycle.  Custom built, of course.  Heph, his half-brother, had done most of the work and he was really good with metals. 
Hermes had and unusual family, but he also had enemies.
Sometimes he could go for years without crossing paths with one of the people he'd annoyed in the ancient past.  Sometimes he even got lax, and this was one of them.  Hermes had started the cycle and pulled out into traffic, determined to get the work done and get on with whatever it was he wanted to do.  A few minutes later he saw the antelopes running along the edge of the desert and hardly gave them a glance until they got nearer and he felt the magic --
By then he was already forcing the cycle to stop, swerving out of traffic amid the blasts of horns and screeching tires.  The creatures ran straight at him and he heard startled cries of humans where there had been curses a moment before. Circe's work!  He could feel her touch and he lifted his hand to carefully (and without much show) send the animals darting away from the open road where they would have been killed and likely taken some of the humans with them.
He saw her standing out in the desert, hands on her hips, her hair flying.  No one else could see her, though.  He wanted to go grab her and shake some sense into that brain.  What a stupid thing to do just to try and hurt him.  He would have survived --
Something hit him just below the knee --
And the teeth sunk in.
"Son of a bitch," he whispered.  The words brought a surge of power and a flash of wind.  His leg was already on fire.  He wasn't certain the snake would survive, but he would.  It just wouldn't be pleasant.
Circe was gone.
He still had hold of the cycle but  wasn't certain it was safe to drive it into town now.  What would he do instead?  Fly?
He climbed on, started the cycle  with a bit of magic rather than the usual way, and then put enough magic into the all-too-normal tires to keep them balanced on the road.  He headed for the city because if he could reach Athena, he could get help.  She was very wise, his half-sister.
Besides, he still had the message to deliver to her.
The poison sent waves of pain and fever through his body as he rode away.  He thought for a moment that he heard Circe laugh, but he wasn't sure.  Why had she suddenly taken up the old disagreement?  Was he imagining the feel of trouble growing again?
The storm that came suddenly was not his imagination.  Lightning flashed across the sky and Hermes looked up, letting the rain fall across his face.  He couldn't think clearly, though.  He could only look ahead and watch as the night fell across the land and the stars rose in glory.  Poetry, he thought.  There used to be poetry and ships and battles that he really didn't want to see again.  He thought he saw trouble playing out in the skies above him --
Athena found him.  Good.  He didn't have to go find her in the city after all.  She strode down the now empty road, larger than life of course, and he stopped the cycle.  There were still cars around, but not where they stood, in a slightly different place.  He heard them as whispers and saw them as the fleeting ghosts of humanity.
"Message from father." Hermes drew the sealed packet from inside my jacket.  "I think there is trouble."
"No shit, Sherlock," she said with a nod up at the sky.
She took the packet and tore it open while Hermes leaned forward over the handlebars and thought about crawling off into the desert.
"Who did this to you?" she asked. Her cool hand touched the side of his face. They'd never been very close, but they were not enemies.  "Hermes?"
"Circe," he said and forced himself to sit up.  "I wish she'd get over it.  Find a new hobby rather than annoying me.  Anything to keep her busy."
"We are all going to be busy soon," Athena said.  Hermes looked at her, worried.  She met his stare with a nod of her own, her gray eyes sparkling.  "A war is coming.  I think Circe has already chosen her side.  What side will you choose?"
"Not the one with Circe," he mumbled.
"Good decision," Athena said.  She took his arm and pulled him off the cycle.  The storm had already passed, or perhaps simply wasn't here.  It had likely been a portal and he stood now with Athena in a place of stark sky and bright stars, beyond the world of technology.  An old and ageless place.
"A war?" he asked.  "I wish he'd said something to me."
"Father left choosing our warriors in my hands, Hermes."  She stopped and shook her head.  "We go to war like the old days.  There will be glory --"
"And blood and death," Hermes said.  And poetry.  "Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage. . . ." 
The battle was coming.

999 words