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Flash Pulp 120 – The Rocket Men, Part 1 of 1

21 Jan

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present: The Rocket Men, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This episode is brought to you by Mr Blog’s Tepid Ride.

It’s not him, it’s you.

Find it at http://www.bmj2k.com

 

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, four men engage in their singular obsession.

 

Flash Pulp 120 – The Rocket Men, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

There were four of them: Chris, Paul, George, and Chuck.

Chris was good with math, Paul was a born artist, George’s Dad ran a scrap yard, and Chuck was a genius.

At the age of eight their skills mattered little, as their friendship was forged in a common goal: the destruction of all Martians. While about them their compatriots wasted their recesses imitating the cartoon ninja spectaculars of the day, the four took up the mantle of The Rocket Men, laser toting defenders of Earth. Whatever the weather, the group could be found beating back the imaginary green menace, and keeping the schoolyard safe from alien doom.

Eventually, though, the Martian threat no longer seemed so ominous.

By the age of ten, one thing remained: their combined love of rockets. Each boy had an image of their own custom space vehicle, hand-drawn by Paul, and each was sure that, given enough time and access to George’s father’s sprawling rubbish pile, the group would be able to create a ship capable of carrying them beyond the bonds of gravity, and their mundane lives.

In July of their twelfth year, Chris’ father gathered The Rocket Men into his Chevy Astro and spent two days subjecting the boys to New Country. They didn’t mind, however, as they knew where they were headed: Florida.

On a warm evening, surrounded by hundreds of other enthusiasts of all ages, the former Martian-fighters witnessed the launch of an actual NASA flight – it was a moment they would reminisce on during sleep-overs, while camping, and, one day, with their own children.

Science FictionDuring their fourteenth Earth-bound year, Chuck struck upon a plan, and presented it with a smile: they would build a rocket. It took a summer’s worth of saving, and no small number of raids upon George’s familial heap, but a week before entering ninth grade, the boys gathered. They met at dawn, and by the proposed time of launch their sneakers were soaked with the night’s condensation.

They’d created a thing of beauty.

The red cone, entirely decorated by Paul – except the sharpie signatures they’d scrawled along the side – was to be largely driven by powder salvaged from fireworks they’d purchased at a disreputable convenience store. The resulting explosion was a topic of marvel and remorse that would remain a point of contention amongst the boys for months.

At the sight of the destruction of their labour, the youths had nearly fallen into despair, and that might have been the last of The Rocket Men had it not been for an outburst from Chuck. The prodigy had always suffered through any defeat or disappointment in the same way: wild laughter. Within moments the entire group had taken his lead and tumbled to the ground, their jaws aching with mirth.

When they finally collected themselves, each one scooped up a shard of peeled metal as a reminder. As Chris and Chuck spent long hours arguing the math of the thing, Paul and George would often fill the time by staring longingly at their keepsake fragments.

All were agreed that someday they would make another attempt.

At sixteen, the group took up model rocketry. It never scratched the itch that building something entirely of their own design had infected them with, but each success was a spectacle that drew them together, even as life seemed to be pulling them apart.

They still talked of constructing a flight from scratch, but privately they could feel the chance slipping away as college loomed.

At eighteen, Chris left to become a physicist, Paul departed for art school, George joined his father amongst the garbage, and Chuck received a scholarship in aerospace engineering.

Letters, phone calls, and emails, were exchanged, but, in time, they petered to a halt. A wedding in their thirtieth year marked the last meeting of The Rocket Men for over a decade, despite the tipsy promises of renewed communication that each had made during the reception.

Eleven years later the silence between them was broken, and it was Chuck who once again brought them together.

The plans he’d prepared were complex – well beyond the model rockets they’d built in their high school days – but he’d also fitted the bill, and provided plenty of suggestions on where to locate any answers they might not have.

After six months of weekend effort, The Rocket Men once again found themselves in the dewy grass of a breaking summer morning, now accompanied by Chuck’s wife, Cynthia, who’d transmitted her cancerous husband’s designs and request.

It wasn’t a massive ship, it could really only manage to lift the dead man’s ashes, but, still, the grinning maniac of their youth had had the last laugh: he would be the first amongst them to reach orbit.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 110 – Deliberation, Part 1 of 1

22 Dec

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and ten.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Deliberation, Part 1 of 1
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the the new Nutty Bites Podcast

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 present a tale of futuristic justice.

 

Flash Pulp 110 – Deliberation, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

“Well, they all look like over-sized mars rovers, and they all roll around killing cows – that’s about it, mostly.”

The prosecutor smirked at the rough-handed man currently on the stand.

“A country understatement if I’ve ever heard one. You’re familiar with the farm’s operations? With the unit itself?”

“I’ve been working on the Lancaster’s spread for fifteen years, although only with, uh the unit, for the last four.”

“- and you knew Gregor Petrov personally?”

“Yeah, I knew him. We worked together five days a week for seven years.”

“What about the day he died?”

“I wasn’t actually on-shift when it happened, but the only surprise was that the robot had done it – I figured it would have been one of the other guys.”

“You were the sole maintenance man for the farm?”

“Well, no, I mean, I’m definitely the guy who does the hard stuff, but most folks on a farm know how to twist wires and pour gas.”

“Fine, but for something as complex as a portable abatoir…?”

“Yeah, sure, I was probably the only one who knew enough to plug a laptop in and poke at the interface, and I did a lot of the mechanical maintenance, but that doesn’t mean I have clue one about his electronics. I’m sure you know how to set your microwave’s clock and can replace the spinning platter if it cracks, but that doesn’t mean you can build one from scratch or even fix it if someone dumps a mug of coffee in the back. We have seven of the units, and Grumpy is the only one I’ve ever seen acting weird.”

The lawyer took a sip of her water, then re-approached the witness box.

“Do you think what happened was a mechanical or software failure?”

“No.”

“Do you think this robot was programmed to kill?”

The cowhand licked his lips.

“Not especially. People might not have liked Gregor, and I could possibly see someone wanting to do him in, but changing Grumpy that much would be way out of my league, and I know I’m well ahead of the rest of the pack back at the ranch.”

“Do you think the company that built it might be culpable?”

“Well – not exactly. I don’t know how their learning software works, but I have to wonder.”

* * *

The technician which now occupied the hot-seat pulled at his tie, considering his answer.

Science Fiction“Before this incident we’d only had one human fatality. The units use something we call the adaptive education matrix to learn to make smarter decisions, but only in areas related to what they do. They learn to recognize who they need to be partnered with, and some of their human companions preferences – it learns the map of the area it operates in… but certainly nothing that we might think of as emotions. It’s mostly just a computer.”

“Doesn’t it have something of a sense of humour as a sort of emotional assistance to the human it’s working with in the slaughter house? My understanding is that it picks up jokes from the people it works with and passes them on?”

The tech shifted in his seat before replying.

“Sort of – all it’s really doing is analyzing a history of how often the people that it knows know the punchline interact with the person its assisting, then, if it thinks there’s a low incidence of crossover, it’ll try it out.”

“Frankly, Mitch, that’s how I tell my jokes as well.”

“We’ve been over his code with a fine toothed comb, repeatedly. After what happened last time, we actually reformatted him, just in case. We’ve got over ten-thousand of these guys out in the wild, and this is the only one that’s killed a man. If it hadn’t been for the fact that one of our quality assurance ladies has an obsession with perfection that drove her to memorize his serial number, we wouldn’t even have been aware that it was the same unit.”

“You refer to it as a “him”, why is that?”

“Oh, I, uh, don’t mean it, it’s just that after a long while of working with a ‘bot you start to project – it’s probably because the milkers we build have suction cups, and the slaughterers have a pneumatic spike.”

“What happened the last time your product killed someone?”

“Well – it was ruled an accident. We ran tests; we stripped him down; in the end we couldn’t pinpoint what the problem was. You can’t always anticipate what’ll happen when you bring that many interfaces together, but it was obvious from the volume of alternates we had in the field, and the number of man-hours logged without incident, that it was a fluke.”

“- and still a fluke the second time?”

* * *

It took the jury four days to determine they weren’t going to come back with a proper verdict, and the press were relieved that a hung jury meant they could keep the ratings going for at least a few more months.

When the announcement was made, Grumpy rolled gently back and forth, twice. The robot’s lawyer put a hand out onto the unit’s boxy shell – unbeknownst to both, a Time cover in the making – then directed his client out of the courthouse.

The defendant rolled past the cameras without comment.

 

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.

Flash Pulp 096 – The Ad Blitz, Part 1 of 1

19 Nov

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Ninety-Six.

Tonight we present The Ad Blitz, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Ella’s Words.

These are not some of them:

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
I went home.

(With apologies to Robert Frost.)

Find the poetess’ work here.

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 present a tale of slightly silly visitation and confrontation.

Flash Pulp 096 – The Ad Blitz, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

The city of Cleveland disappeared beneath a thick gray cloud the week before Christmas.

Cars, dogs, tanks – anything that entered the fog, disappeared.

Neither could radio, television, or cell signals escape the blanket. An unnerving number of military and scientific personnel were sent into the haze, only to lose contact. On the third day, the general order was given to simply wait.

After thirteen sunrises filled with silence, a trickle of pedestrians began to stumble out of the gloom, their only memory of the time being that they seemed to have watched quite a lot of television. Relieved at the apparent lack of harm, late night television hosts began to joke about the recent improvements to the Cleveland skyline.

Seventy-two hours later, the cloud was gone, and the aliens had made themselves known.

They said they meant no harm, that they’d come to trade with our genetically rich planet, but that their true forms would likely terrify our primitive minds, so they’d taken on the guises of our most beloved cultural icons.

This news was largely disseminated by having a brightly-afroed clown from Beta Pegasi on The Today Show. Along with massive ratings for the network, stocks in the McDonald’s corporation took an immediate rise.

Only the lawyers seemed off-put by the sudden animation of so many beloved corporate mascots.

In the following months it became commonplace to see the Pegasans in every major city, making no effort to hide as they walked the streets as talking bears, or giant two-legged jugs full of sloshing red drink, or geckos with British accents.

Science FictionA brief, but intense, period of cultural exchange began. The world’s militaries took on a gleam-in-their-eye when presented with energy weapons to revolutionize killing each other, scientists marvelled at the genetic materials and high-end molecules they were presented, the criminal element was soon frozen in carbonite, the new generation of children’s toys became an enticement to all ages, and law students began to pore over complex systems of intergalactic judicial consideration.

No transaction went unrecorded in contract form, in triplicate, and no new novelty was presented without some price. Within a year all that might be bartered for had been given to the aliens, and, worse still, humanity began to suspect that the invaders were laughing at them behind their backs.

Earth’s lack of coordination had lead to disaster. Each government had secretly promised swaths of land and communal protections to the Pesagans, only to discover that their rivals had made the same bargains, and that the Pegasans now owned a larger percentage of the globe than did the humans themselves.

The planet’s militiaries reacted first. To their surprise, their new weaponry was a match for those maintained by the invaders, and their tenacity brought several early successes. Despite the victorious aggression, hostilities were quickly brought to a halt when a massive starship appeared in the pacific skies. From deep within came a message from the Stellar Trade Commission: cut it out, or face embargo. Unwilling to risk the competition within their own race receiving an advantage, the world’s forces called a halt to their march.

Even as mankind was being forcibly migrated from lands their ancestors had known for thousands of years, a cabal of scientists attempted to put forward a report proving that long term co-habitation would eventually lead to mutual ruin. The Pegasans were quick to respond with their own study determining that another century of observation was necessary to prove the theory. They did, however, offer to submit the paperwork for the Stellar Trade Commission research grant that would be required.

The criminals were too well contained to even attempt to pop the Michelin Man. The children simply shrugged their shoulders and returned to their holo-gaming.

Milo P. Schwardenbach, however, was not amused.

Milo was but one of the lawyers which Nintendo Of America retained on staff, but he was the only one that had buried the sharpened end of a pencil into his ham and pickle sandwich the first time he’d seen a life-sized Italian plumber walk past his working-lunch. So he’d spent six months learning the galactic common speech, then began reading.

Where diplomacy crept with tender feet, copyright law moved with steel-toed boots.

After Schwardenbach was victorious in STC court, and Nintendo was awarded most of the British Isles, a flood of cases eventually retook the entirety of what had once been mankind’s.

There was another round of human-complaints, but, in the end, it was generally felt that at least it was their United States of Budweiser.

 

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.

Flash Pulp 054 – Life & Limb, Part 1 of 1

16 Aug

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-Four.

Tonight, we present Life & Limb, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This evening’s episode is brought to you by tardiness – and we apologize.

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 present a rumination on the human, and inhuman, of the future.

Flash Pulp 054 – Life & Limb, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

Manny Espinoza was 19, and sweating heavily under his combat gear while watching a goat wander a barren yard. To his eye, the house he was guarding looked like little more than a pile of sun baked mud that had had some rogue lumber laid across it. The poverty of the shanty wore at him, so he instead turned to the surrounding scrub-land, in an effort to ignore it. Depressingly, the alternative only forced him into mental comparisons with the lush forests surrounding his parents’ home in Maine.

A chicken scrambled from a shadow at the corner of the building, heedless of Manny’s weapon pointed in its direction.

The bird was followed by a boy of eight, who glanced nervously at the American, and attempted to shoo the fowl away from the gathered assault rifles and watchful glances. Manny once again put the hard question to himself: would these people be better served if he had instead opted to become a teacher? His mother would have said yes, his father no. As the boy finally hustled the hen away, Manny took comfort in the knowledge that he’d have plenty of time to teach his own child after he’d made it home – and after he and Angela had tired themselves sufficiently in the efforts leading to conception.

He smiled at this bright spot in his imagination.

There was a shout from inside the house, and Manny turned, suddenly aware that this wouldn’t be just another door knock.

* * *

He awoke in Germany, only vaguely aware of the trip, and not at all able to recall the explosion that everyone had insisted on telling him about when he’d occasionally manage to swim out of unconsciousness.

He cried hard at the loss of his legs, but damned the loss of his manhood.

* * *

By the age of 27, Manny had largely put himself back together.

After physiotherapy, he’d found himself behind the front desk at his father’s construction company. At first he’d longed to be on site with the old man, but he soon found he had a knack for working the phones, and, being able to sit all day, most of the folks who came through the office didn’t even realize he’d been injured.

Science FictionVeteran’s Affairs had also played a large part in his recovery – while there would never be a replacement for his ability to have children, nor for Angela, who had left him before he was even fully weaned from morphine, his carbon-fibre legs allowed him to move with nearly the same agility he’d had before the incident.

The explosion was forever lost to his memory, but he’d read the details: how he’d responded to Lipski’s shouting; how he’d somehow clobbered the two guys who’d been hiding in the house, even as they were tossing a grenade after his hastily departing Sergeant; how his attempt to dive out of the way had left only his lower half shredded by shrapnel.

The medals were nice, but did little to increase his mobility, nor to ease the looks of terror he saw creeping into young children’s eyes at his approach – usually seconds before being scooped up by a soccer mom who would then give him a polite smile of apology while being sure to maintain eye contact.

* * *

Manny, now 32, was on a bench in the small park across from the office, eating his lunch. He’d spent most of October on the oak planks, the chill having given him an excuse to lay a blanket across his lap. The covering meant that the children romping around the play structure took no notice of him, and he could spend his midday meal daydreaming over a variety of sons and daughters he would never have.

This was especially a relief, as he’d spent three hot and painful weeks in August having his simple prosthesis replaced with appendages that whirred like a television robot as he moved, but otherwise allowed him to run twice as fast as he’d ever managed. The development was so new they hadn’t had time to work out proper cosmetics for it, and, even when covered by pants, his limbs had an odd, chicken-leg appearance as he moved. Jumping to the top of the list for the experimental procedure had been the first advantage his medals had ever really brought him, and he’d celebrated the whole affair by spending the majority of September on an extended hiking vacation.

A breeze carrying the scent of late-season barbecue brought him back from memories of the Appalachian trail, and he wiped sandwich crumbs form his lap, still surprised by the coldness of the titanium beneath.

From the corner of his left eye, he noted a red pickup jump the curb.

It had entered from the furthest point of the park, meaning it had to cross over the baseball diamond before reaching the play structure. For a moment, Manny thought it would likely stop, but by the time it had obliterated the chalk line between second and third base, it had plenty of momentum and time was short.

He stood, sprinting towards the slide.

“Get out of the way!” came from his mouth, but the children needed no words. Their parents had long warned them to keep half an eye on the man with skeleton legs who spent long afternoons watching them at play.

One such mother looked at him in surprise, her back to the rapidly closing truck, and Manny pointed past the woman, still running at the structure.

“Ed!” the woman said as she turned. She dove from the Ford’s path.

Manny attempted to stop short of the truck’s trajectory, but there had been little reason to practice stopping suddenly from a full tilt run, and he went over sideways, landing directly in the trucks path.

He didn’t feel the tire roll over his neck.

* * *

It was a coincidence that the letter arrived on his 35th birthday. His Mother had come to the small white room regularly, and she often brought his mail to read to him aloud, as it was tough to maintain proper conversation with a man who could only blink to communicate.

Usually their time was spent rambling through junk fliers, but Manny was still grateful for the effort.

It was hard to understand what the terms of the thick envelope were attempting to imply, but Manny’s mother had wept during its reading, and when the trio of lab technicians arrived a week later, he could do little but blink yes to their barrage of questions and release forms.

Before he’d turned 37, he found himself standing in front of a full length mirror, in a room that seemed half surgery theatre and half mechanic’s shop. He was flexing arms and legs made entirely of lightweight composite materials, materials he was assured would have been capable of shrugging off even the impact of the Ford.

He was impressed by every aspect but his face. His jaw had been torn away in Ed’s third attempt at running down his ex-wife, who’d survived the attack by using the play structure as a shield. The pink triangular flap that acted as the mouth for his digitized voice disturbed him with its jerky clockwork motions.

Two months after his release from the hospital, at the insistence of his mother, he slunk into a mall food court, in his first public appearance since the new surgery. His heavy coat and broad hat allowed him to pass with only the looks afforded any man wearing clothing inappropriate for the season, at least until a five year old had rushed by in an attempt to chase down his slightly older sister. The girl had been careful to give a wide berth, but the boy had seen the shortest path as running alongside Manny’s table, and had taken it.

A flailing arm knocked away the hat, and, after hearing an admonishing name call from his mother, the boy turned to apologize, even as Manny stooped to pick it up.

“It’s OK,” Manny said, not looking at the boy.

He could feel his pseudo-chin sagging as it clicked open and shut.

The boy, suddenly caught up in terror, began to shriek and weep.

As the vet slammed his hand down in frustration, the cheap plywood table cracked. The attention of the gathered having already been drawn by the screaming, the shattering wood sent a panic through the crowd.

An hour later, cautious police led Manny, still leaking tears, from a side entrance.

* * *

At 42, he finally found his calling. It had started eighteen months previous, after he’d had what he called “The Idea” while wasting away another afternoon in his shuttered bungalow, watching cartoons.

A flurry of emails had followed his inspiration, and now, having argued his case and won, he stood in a large change room, his ears filled with the hum of the sea of people outside. The presentation was taking place in a high school gym, but children of every age had been bussed in to assemble cross legged on the hardwood floor.

Pushing open the door, he peeked at the brightly lit platform. Principal Ebert had taken the stage, smoothly entering into the spiel that Manny, and the team who maintained him, had put together.

His final modifications hadn’t added any new functionality – if anything, they’d subtracted, although Manny didn’t count the removal of the nightmare-jaw as any sort of loss. His face was now a smooth chrome surface, broken only by the holes that allowed for vision and a small grate approximating where his mouth would be, and from which his voice projected.

In fact, every visible surface that extended from beneath his crisp white t-shirt and khaki shorts gleamed, even in the low lighting of the sweat smelling room.

Ebert finished, and Manny took his cue, entering the A/V club’s spotlight to a swell of music.

The speakers faded away, and there was a hush.

After they’d subsided, Manny began his practiced speech decrying discrimination, occasionally emphasising his point with a demonstration of inhuman physical prowess.

With the glare in his eyes, it was hard for him to know how well he was being taken, but at least there was applause every time he lifted something heavy.

As he concluded his talk, he stepped down to the left side of the platform, butterflies rising in the remainder of his stomach as he opened himself to being approached by the gathered.

It would be hours before the line of children, all waiting for a photo of themselves resting atop Manny’s tirelessly flexing biceps, would let up.

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.

Flash Pulp 038 – The Dance, Part 1 of 1

7 Jul

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-Eight.

Flash PulpThis evening: The Dance, Part 1 of 1

(Click play to listen or subscribe via libsyn RSS or iTunes)

Download MP3

Tonight’s episode is brought to you by the Facebook Flash Pulp fan page.

It’s just like that show Cheers, but without all the stereotypes or inevitable liver problems.

To join, click here!

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present a rumination on the future of effort.

Flash Pulp 038 – The Dance, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

June

“I’m surprised she has any students at all. She started swinging that cane and I swear, I near started crying. One to the calf: “not extending high enough”, one to the thigh: “not taut enough.” I mean, come on, I’d just finished showing her a Martinique beguine to a jitterbug that led out with an Irish stepdance! What more does she want?”

Fiona had been eating lunch when Marty had stepped up to the opening of her cubicle, and as he finished, she rubbed bread crumbs from her fingers.

“What it sounds like is that she wants it done right.”

Marty glared down at her.

“Well, I say it IS right.”

“Well, I say you hovering over me while I’m eating my lunch is ruining my twinkies. Either sit down, get back to work, or go be the guy that complains that the consultant is wrong – and risk revealing that you’re a lazy whiner.”

July

Marty and Fiona had encountered each other in the parking lot, and Marty was taking the opportunity to finalize a day’s worth of complaining.

“She’s like my fifth grade teacher, no matter what, she’s never satisfied. At least back in math class I could show my work – the woman has no interest in listening, she just tells me to do it better.”

Overhead, an irritated flying security camera circled their animated discussion.

“She was dancing professionally at an age when you were still sleeping off Jagermeister and cheeto benders in your Mom’s basement: I think she knows what she’s talking about. I don’t blame her for being a bit ornery considering she spends her day in a wheel chair teaching tomorrow’s ballet queens.”

“Who hires a cripple to instruct dance anyhow?”

Fiona, shaking her head, hit the starter on her car.

She climbed in.

As she reversed from the lot, Marty could see through her windshield that she was still looking at him, shaking her head.

August

Marty and the woman were in the studio again. It had been their longest session yet.

He’d spent most of the time sweating, and wishing the woman, in her crisp black leotard, would call the proceedings to an end.

“Yes – now hold it, hold it.” The woman wheeled her chair about his ballerina posture. “You’re getting closer.”

Still striking a perfect second position arabesque, Marty protested.

“What? What more is there?”

“Your transitions are sluggish. When caught by a sudden tempo change it looks as if the dance is being conducted via satellite from Baghdad.”

“Listen, I thought you might say that, and I’ve compared tape with amateurs – we’re talking well within error constraints, shouldn’t that be good enough?”

“No. If it isn’t worth doing perfectly, why bother doing it?”

“What do you know about it? You don’t understand the work.”

“I understand that if you were as good at your job as I am at mine, you wouldn’t be receiving complaints.”

She stared up at him, her pointer across her lap.

He left.

September

He was surprised to find her seated on the floor as he entered. Her wheelchair rested against the wall, and he guessed that she’d used the barre to lower herself before crawling to the center of the room.

He suddenly felt guilty about his fifteen minutes of pre-planned tardiness.

She skipped the traditional introductory beratement.

“I will dance today,” she said.

There was a hitch to her voice that he thought might be the edge of tears. Setting down the big blue duffel, he began to remove the exoskeleton.

As he helped the dead weight of her legs into the suit, he realized he’d never been this close to the woman before.

Somehow, at this range, she seemed younger than he’d previously thought.

He placed the sensors at the base of her neck and helped her upright.

They’d had music at every session, but it had always been held low enough to allow chatter. She wobbled at first, but her opening baby-steps within the suit were to move to the stereo. By the time she’d crossed the room, each stride was firm and sure.

Science FictionHer thumb spent a long moment against the volume button.

The clack and whir of the rig was lost beneath the thrum of the beat that filled the space.

She began to dance.

After an hour the battery began to wear low, and she was forced to return the volume to a conversational level.

With the last of the juice, she grabbed a white towel and gently settled to the floor.

It was only then that she allowed the concentration she’d shown to be broken.

Finally, she spoke.

“Yes, now it is right.”

She smiled.

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.

Flash Pulp 013 – Say It Ain’t So

11 May

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirteen.

Tonight’s story: Say It Ain’t So

Flash Pulp(Click play to listen or subscribe via libsyn RSS or iTunes)

Download MP3

This evening’s episode, and every episode of Flash Pulp, is partially inspired by Marvelous Bob.

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Tonight we present a tale of science fiction, originally published on 365Tomorrows.com. It’s a story of high level corporate maneuvering in a not so terribly distant future, a story which opens with a simple question of identity.

Say It Ain’t So – Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

“So, are ya?” He’s maybe twelve, wearing blue shorts and a Mexico City Raptors t-shirt, a leg up on the wrought iron patio fence. My lobster is getting cold.

“What?” I ask.

I realize he’s holding up a thin rectangle the size of a credit card, alternating his squints to get the thing’s picture to match my face.

“CEO Benjamin “Crush ‘Em” Hinton?”

I remember signing off on licensing my likeness to FlatMedia last May, but I hadn’t seen the cards in the wild.

I ignore him.

That might have been the end of it, but a serving girl swings by my table.

“Your bill, Mr. Hin – Ben.” She says, smiling uncomfortably.

That’s what I get for flirting with the wait staff.

“It IS you! Could ya sign my card?”

He thrusts a red stylus and the card at me. I accept, mostly just interested in checking out the cheap display on the back. There’s a rundown of my resume; schooling, management experience, time spent on corporate boards.

I tap on New Youth Limited. Not much my rookie year, but the second I was apparently one of “The Resurrection Seven”, a voting bloc that saved N.Y.L. by moving from chemical processes to genetic engineering. I remember the vote, but I don’t recall anyone using the snazzy nickname.

Sliding through the listings, I notice some of them have been marked up in a child’s block script, often with arrows pointing to individual entries, things like: “Bob may have had seniority, but not the votes!”

“Anywhere?” I ask.

“Sure!” He says with a sloppy grin.

I tap the pen icon.

“Is it true that you punched Director Jules Wilson?”

Science Fiction“Heh, yeah. I mean, Wilson always came in drunk, but he messed up my presentation of that quarter’s preliminary financials – by the time he started pawing at Kathy Reed, I was just looking for an excuse.”

I look up, wondering if I’ve said too much for a kid his age, but he seems to be eating it up with moon eyes.

“You ever gonna work somewhere huge like Kalstock again?” he asks, face imploring. I give a quick scribble with the stylus and hand him back his card.

“Maybe.”

His saucer eyes begin to droop.

“Hey,” I quickly add, “I mean, there’s talk that Kalstock may revisit their policy and have me back for another term, but it’s hush hush.”

He brightens. I imagine him lording the harmless secret over his friends for a week.

“Tedward says you got lucky with the Talibi Merger because CEO Norma Donald was kicked by Talibi’s oversight expert system. I think he’s a craphead. You’re so smart you must have done something.”

I smile, mentally re-living my best maneuvers.

“I bought shares in a number of Talibi subsidiaries using various fake names and then put out a lot of crosstalk showing a lack of stockholder confidence. The system got nervous. I paid good money to insert low numbers into that week’s financial reports, and the system went to red alert. Things would have been fixed as soon as they saw the next round of numbers, but I used the whistleblower hotline to point out a lie on Norma’s resume involving her university rowing team. With so much bad happening so suddenly, the computer thought the world was ending and booted Norma – the only one who understood Kalstock’s real intentions.”

The kid’s smiling the whole time I’m talking, but as I finish he turns and waves to someone. That’s when I see the New Youth product watermark on the back of his neck.

Without looking at me he says:

“Mr. Hinton – Carl Nochek, special agent for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Benjamin Hinton, it is my duty to inform you that you are under arrest.”

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.