The Guns of Saint Adamis

Father Provious Del Ladra stared out the window at the green planet. His hands were clasped in front of him, his eyes closed, and his head bowed.

“And please, Father, bless the 237th, especially Commander Nadia Ryes, as they protect your works so that these people can be brought to your everlasting…”

A soft succession of chimes gently noodled around a central tone.

“… light and love. Please look out for their safety and please return them to us unscathed. If that isn’t possible …”

Again, the chimes.

“… then take their souls into your loving embrace and, if you will, grant them an eternity of warmth as a reward for their devotion and dedication to your war against the Californs. Amen.”

He unclasped his hands and turned to the door. “Enter,” he said.

“Please excuse the interruption, Father Del Ladra.” The woman bowed deeply, her bare head reflecting green from the window.

“What is it, Attendant Theodre?”

“Father, I’ve been sent to inform you that we’re losing. The 88th and 237th have been overrun, and none of the leadership is replying. The others have requested your approval in triggering the Pre-Apocalypse.”

“It’s that bad now? Is the Michael still with us?”

“Yes, Father. Barely. They are drawing fire away from us as much as they….”

They stumbled toward the door. The ship shook as klaxons sounded. A young male voice came over the speakers.’

“We’ve been breached! I say again, we’ve been brea…”

The speakers went silent.

“Father, you have to get to your escape pod!”

“You go. I need to stay with the ship. There are things I must do when a ship is about to be ransacked.”

“But Father, they will be boarding…”

“I know, I know. Go. Your services are needed elsewhere. Remember, you have been chosen. I’ll try to make it, but I must finish my tasks. Now go.”

Theodre rushed out the door, paused to look back at Provious, then the doors hissed shut.

“Good kid, that one. She’ll make an excellent angel.”

Provious calmly walked to the window and again, looked out at the mostly green planet.

“Thousands of years of work. All the terraforming and guidance and preparing. So unfortunate.”

He watched as grey egg-shaped escape pods shot out from the ship towards the planet. If they made it to the lower atmosphere, they would open in a blast of splendor and light and be welcomed as angels sent to purge the world of demons. This belief had been instilled in the populace ages ago. It was rumored that Saint Adamis himself had chosen this planet a thousand years ago as one of the twelve to begin. He had established himself as a great Father of the war, leading more successful operations than any other of the higher clergy, but he saw that no one was winning. The Californs had many aliens as allies. Adamis came up with something to give them the eventual edge. He planned to find lifeless worlds and make them into believer worlds that would give all to the cause. Already seven planets had come to fruition, and the war was quickly tipping in their favor.

“Provious to Captain Grange.”

“Here, Father! What’s the plan? Can the Adamis make it out?”

“No. I believe our last act will be as a heavenly sign to accompany the arrival of angels.”

“Understood. Michael out.”

The door behind him exploded, skidded across the floor a few feet to his right, and crashed into the wall under the window with a crunch. He did not flinch nor stop looking out at the descending pods.

“Father Provious! We meet at last.”

“General Paige Remanth. I’m surprised to see you so close to the action.”

“Once I had confirmation that you were on board, staring out a window, I had to make sure I addressed you.”

“Ah, so you would come to make sure I am treated fairly then, out of a soldier’s respect for a worthy foe.”

“Hardly. I wanted to be the one to shoot you myself.”

“I see. I take comfort in that I did so well in my tasks to warrant your direct attention. God will be pleased.”

“Well, you’ll certainly have a chance to find out. Turn … around.”

Father Provious, his hands still clasped in front of him, tapped a cuff link on his bright white jacket. A deep rumble started and quickly rose in intensity.

“What’s that?”

“Engine overload, General. In a few seconds, too fast for you to get out, this ship will join the Michael in an explosion that will be seen all over the surface. Many will see it and recognize the new star in the East. The star that announces the arrival of angels.”

“But you haven’t sent your artificial Jesus yet. You can’t destroy that. Your people put a lot of resources into its construction.”

“It’s a setback, no doubt, but we’ll get one down there eventually. First, we need to make sure the people below keep believing enough to drive you and yours back into space when you eventually land, that is.”

“You know we don’t operate that way. We do not interfere in anyone’s development. We merely observe and…”

“Yeah, sure. You don’t have anyone down there right now, trying to undermine God’s plan with your teachings.”

“I don’t know about such things. I just know I make sure people like you become extinct.”

“Well, let me help with that. Saint Adamis, guide me home.”

As the ship erupted, the escape pods dropped through the clouds. They burst open and revealed their majestic passengers, who soared down to the astonished people below. Hundreds of thousands began to pray as a new star flickered gently in the night.

Opportunity

“Well, I guess it’s time to head out.”

“Where to?”

“Grandagar.”

Sri tapped some keys behind the bar and read the display, his face glowed a deep reflected red then blue as he worked down the list of ingredients.

“That’s going to be a thousand credits.”

“Sure thing.”

Sri began to mix the blend, bright fluids moved through hoses, and into the glass in front of him.

“What’s there?” Sri asked.

“Interview.”

“Really? Got a good shot at it?”

“Yeah. I’m one of the few who can not only speak Zeln, but I’ve got months on a Piccadilly Decruster. The giants are paying massive for someone to help clean them up after an incursion.”

“Nice.”

Sri finished the glass but moved it out of sight as he placed another, and started to fill it. His customer didn’t notice.

“How long is the job?”

“Forever if you want. They have a solid immortality package as well as some pretty sweet enhancements, all paid for. Stick it out for a couple hundred years and you could probably buy a fringe planet outright.”

“Wow. That’s amazing,” said Sri. “Congrats, man. By the way, do you know a Constance on Praelen Sil?”

“I don’t know anyone there. Too crowded. Heard it can take days to get there due to the backup. No cocktail can get around it either.”

“Okay, just wondering. You kind of looked familiar and my implant thought maybe you knew her. Okay, your drink is ready. Best of luck to you.”

“Thanks.”

Sri’s customer took the drink down in one large gulp.

“Hey, wait a sec. That doesn’t taste like a Grandagar mix. That tastes more like Prae…”

The customer faded away, his scream of frustration faded out before anyone else could hear it. Sri smiled.

“Yeah, sorry man. By the time you pop in at Praelen Sil, I’ll be settled, and the giants won’t care about what happened here. Besides, I have years on those Decrusters. I’m more qualified.”

Sri jotted down a notice that ended his employment, took off his apron, and tossed it on the bar. He downed the drink he had set aside, set the note on the apron, and faded away.

To Die With Light In Their Eyes

Jaller scrambled across the engine’s surface, checking for microfractures and loose connections. The recon ship had taken a direct hit to its hull which both shut down the engine and sent them spinning off course. They had gotten so close.

As he worked, he listened to the details of the battle as they were announced over the speakers. Technologically speaking, this new race was a bit ahead, but nothing that couldn’t be dealt with.

Due to the unknowns of dealing with aliens, transmissions over air other than sound were banned. This meant Jaller flew around the engine with many wires connecting him to the main repair system. Along with the repair work, he had to reach back and unhook the wires from various snags.

The captain came over his headset.

“How far are you, Jaller?”

“Halfway done, sir. Lots of microfractures. Nothing has broken so far though, so just this patchwork and we’ll be good to go.”

“Thanks.”

He loved fixing microfractures. Nothing made his day like knowing that he had taken proper care of the engine, especially things about it few others knew about. He knew this love was encoded in him and most of his personality traits had been chosen before he was born, but it didn’t matter. As with everyone, he was made for a purpose.

Then came that odd moment of pity he felt when he thought of all the worlds they had encountered where life was random and finding one’s purpose was a flailing in the dark. It had taken some doing but every race they had met had been given the joy of predetermination. No one had to wonder if they were in the right place. No one had to get up in the morning and dread the day ahead of them. He couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to hang on to such a miserable existence.

With that thought, his work was done. All fractures were repaired, and the engine was ready to go.

“Done! Fire it up!” he shouted into his headset.

The engine came to life in a controlled explosion of energy and centrifugal motion. He laughed aloud as waves of joy washed over him.

They reached their goal a moment later, positioning themselves between their home and the star they were sent to investigate. He heard the life pods ejecting and the subsequent evidence of their destruction. They weren’t making it very far at all. Though there was no sound in space, there was sound when debris from a destroyed pod hit the hull.

Jaller set the necessary traps and laid out various tools to give the targets a false sense of the tech they faced. Anyone analyzing the upcoming debris of the ship would assume their level of advancement was low.

Heading to an escape pod, he paused briefly at a terminal to absorb more information that had been collected about this new race, focusing on propulsion and power sources. It became apparent that it would be a short fight and, in the end, this race that called itself Humanity would be cured of the horrible disease Free Will.

As the pod shot out into space, he faced the star ahead and threw out his arms. He felt the pod tear apart and the burning heat of the explosion as it tore through his skin. Like his shipmates, Jaller concentrated on the facts of their targets, smiled deeply, and died, his essence and knowledge being caught in a stellar wind and carried along towards home.

Gypsy Curse

“Write a story under 1,000 words inspired by the following prompt. Please keep your story rated for everyone. You have had a curse placed on you by a gypsy. What is the curse? Why did the gypsy place it on you? How do you try to get the curse removed?”

Flash Fiction Prompt: 08/28/2021 — Writing Fiction

It wasn’t my fault. A tire had blown on the car to the left of me, and it swerved right at me. I had no choice but to hit the brakes and go to the right. It was pure reflex, pure panic, nothing more. Anyone would have done the same.

I saw the car to the right of me swerve to avoid my swerve. As I hit the road’s shoulder and felt the vibration of gravel, I saw the vehicle to the right go off into the swamps. In my peripheral, I saw it flip end over end.

I came to a stop as a semi missed me by inches and hop-skidded to a halt with wheels squealing. I looked in the rear-view mirror and expected to see another vehicle’s front end an instant before I got demolished, but all I saw were other cars come to a stop.

I dove over to the passenger side and climbed out the door. I ran down through the ditch into the swamp.

The water was a good foot deep, and the mud felt even deeper. I hadn’t thought ahead and felt one of my new shoes become part of the swamp. I sped on, going as fast as I could toward the sound of the engine ahead, the swamp’s reed higher than my head.

I followed the path the tumbling car had cleared as it flew through the swamp. It was only a few feet in the end, but the swamp made it seem much further.

The car was on its right side, the front end facing me. The windshield was shattered and lying on the ground to the left. I glanced in the car. No one was in it, so I kept going past it, listening for any sound of pain, or cries for help. Nothing.

Then I found her as she lay on her back, her body twisted unnaturally, her face to the sky. Her eyes were glassed over, and long gray hair framed her face like a picture frame, but she did not have the peaceful, vacant look of death. I almost jumped out of my skin when those eyes suddenly turned and stared right at me.

Through bubbles of blood, she said something I couldn’t understand. Then she fell silent, and her face became lifeless serenity.

I felt it in my stomach first. Then my legs, then my chest, then my back. The pain increased, and it was all over me and in me. White-hot pain erupted everywhere. I fell to the ground, unable to even take a breath from the sheer force of it.

All I remember now is that I was lost. And that I wasn’t ‘right.’ I was inside some huge soft thing, so I hopped, crawled, and wrenched forward. Suddenly, light stung my eyes, and fresh air filled my lungs. I was free!

Something still felt wrong. I was wrong. I could hear a crackling of some kind and the shouting of some larger animals. I felt drawn to the sound.

So, I hopped in that direction, careful to stop every couple of hops to listen. I needed to get there, though, to be right again.  To be what I was supposed to be. Whatever happened, I couldn’t stay this way. That’s all I knew.

I finally got to the edge of the swamp, but for a moment, I thought about turning around and going back into the swamp as far as I could. I was getting hungry, and there wasn’t much to eat here at the edge.

Again, I felt the pull. Some tiny part of me wanted out of the swamp. I needed to be with those big voices.

I made my decision and hopped across the big, long hole and the hard rocks and crawled onto the dark, hard ground.

Then the pain came, severe pain. I shook and wiggled and let out the loudest sound I could. One of the giants was staring at me, their eyes getting wider and wider.

I was naked on the side of the road, staring at someone whose eyes would have fallen out if anyone had tapped the back of his head. Someone got me a blanket, and eventually, I remembered who I was, why I was, and even the accident and the blur of my frog life. No one believed me, just like no one believed the man who saw me change back. They said it was a delusion brought on by the stress of the accident and it happens all the time. I sure hope not.

The rest of last summer, I felt the calling of the swamp. It let up once winter came, but now, on hot, muggy summer days, all I can think about is walking back into that swamp. I didn’t know how much longer I could resist it. A fly was dying on the windowsill at work, and before I knew it, I had snatched it up and eaten it.

So last month, I got a house in the country, with a pool. I broke up with my girlfriend, and now I spend all my time in that pool. I let it go wild a couple of weeks ago. Frogs moved in last week, so now I sit out at night and talk to them, sharing stories and jokes.

Frog humor is slippery, subtle, with sudden twists at the end. They love my stories and have collectively decided I need to stay human so that they can have a safe place. That sucks for me, but it’s for the greater good. Though the pool is swamp-like, I stay human, even when I slide under the water to hang out. It’s not the best life, but it’ll do. I have also learned to hold my breath for an exceptionally long time.

A Lesson In The Stars

The Slippers ate too much and Jance would have to cull. His joy from saving them evaporated as he realized there was not enough food.

They stared at the dispenser hungrily, their eyes pulsed in the strobe of the Wait light. Their patterning would hold them, but eventually, their hunger would grow, and they would eat the ship. Granted, their ‘output’ would be quite rich and worth much more than their normal diet of asteroids but replacing what they ate would cost more than selling it.

He would have to eject almost half of them.

The accident could not have been more inconvenient. It was his first solo run, since his apprenticeship with the guild ended, and his family was counting on him after his father’s death.

A stray missile, most likely a leftover from the last system war, had done it. Jance imagined a deft fighter pilot dodging it with some insane maneuver, the missile shooting out into the dark. After a decade of hunting, on its way out of the system, it locked onto his father’s mining barge and in a fireball of fuel, turned Jance into the hope of the family.

He would not get half the haul he hoped for, but he’d get enough to cover expenses and take care of everyone long enough. Jance would get keep getting ahead until he’d built an income buffer of three months, like his father.

Jance remembered the times he got to go with his father, watching those hands dance across the panels like a musician, running the control lights and markers that kept the Slippers alive, eating, and filling the holds. It was like a Christmas performance as his father also whistled while he worked, the memory a treasured combination of light and music. He had no idea what the tune was, but it was a part of his soul, and he found himself whistling it while he learned the panels himself.

He herded the Slippers to the right place for separation and dropped the pen walls. Next, he would send them to their deaths, but his hands hovered over the controls. This was not fair. He had been so fast and sure in his saving of them.

It had been a part of some ancient ship, spinning from the dark, and took out seven holds and the wall of a larger Slipper pen. If he had not been watching things out of nervousness, he might not have pulled it off, but he was able to react fast enough to seal the breaches and disengage the right locks to save all but a few Slippers and most of the ship.

He tapped the buttons and Slippers tumbled out into the void. He wiped away a tear and set his jaw. Slippers were monstrous and vicious, but still, they were his and they were needed. He thought about whistling the old tune, but it wouldn’t be proper. Instead, he apologized to the air, took a deep breath, and turned the ship to attach to the first of many asteroids he would work today. If he had prioritized saving holds over Slippers, he could have gotten more on the run.

It was a hard lesson, and in an odd way, Jance felt a bit closer to his father as the stars gently spun in the windows.

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