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FP144 – The Glorious: Key, Part 1 of 1

23 Mar

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and forty-four.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, The Glorious: Key, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Ladies Pendragon.

Find out more about their Pendragon Variety Podcast at http://pendragonvariety.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 we come across an odd conversation at the edge of the Valhalla’s eternal warfare.

 

Flash Pulp 144 – The Glorious: Key, Part 1 of 1

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

 

The stranger hadn’t noticed Leroy “Cutter” Jenkins belly-crawling through the rice paddy, and Cutter was nearly on top of him before the large man started out of the reverie he’d been engaged in while reclining against the dirt that held the shallow water.

Leroy felt some kinship for the man, as he was not unfamiliar with becoming lost in thought while staring into the unchanging blue sky that blanketed the daytime portion of the endless fight and feast cycle that was Valhalla. His opponent’s beard and moustache, made up of stringy patches, also brought old high school chums to mind.

The man fumbled for his weapon – an eighteenth century broadsword – then noted the grin on Jenkins’ face and sat down heavily.

“Hi. Name’s Moe – if you don’t shoot me, I’ll share some of the deer-flank that I saved from last night’s feast.”

“I could shoot you, then take it,” Cutter replied, making it an obvious joke by tucking away his rifle and taking a seat on the mud.

Moe smiled as he responded.

“Do it and I’ll be sure to bleed all over it before I go.”

The GloriousIt was fine meat, as always, and both men were soon speaking over greasy fingers.

“If you’ll excuse my saying so,” said Leroy, “you don’t have the face of someone who lived a life full of combat.”

“Oh – I was in the military, certainly, but I was a computer technician,” replied Moe. “I wasn’t bright enough to design systems or engineer missiles, but I could jockey a keyboard like no one else – but it is a lengthy story.”

Cutter waved towards the sounds of gunfire drifting to them from the east.

“I certainly don’t have anything better to do.”

Moe nodded, coughed, then began:

“The trouble in my country had begun when I was very young, and for much of my childhood I lived with my mother, overseas. When she came to a point where she could no longer stand to be away from the rest of her family, we moved back. Qalat was a poor area, but the things I’d learned brought attention, and I was soon ushered into our ragged army.”

He plucked at the hilt of his weapon, never lifting the blade from the muck.

“Much like this, our weapons were largely cast-offs, and acquired cheaply. Still, the world is eager to supply an angry hand, and our little tinpot eventually found his fist filled with missiles which could strike his enemies down from many miles away.

“Qalat was not a particularly nice place, as I mentioned, and there was a boy, whom we called Bulldog, who made my transition back a misery. His youth was spent punching anyone smaller than himself, and I was regularly the outlet for his frustrations. Oddly, however, once I’d been torn away from the familiar to conduct my military service, I found him to be one of the few whom I spoke with regularly – he had been assigned to the same command as myself, but, where I was a technician, he was one of what we referred to as “the doormen”, thugs who did not associate with the computer people.

“Although Bulldog and I continued to hate each other, our relationship changed. Often we would exchange quick snatches of gossip as we passed, items from home, or theories regarding future actions that the separate sections were not privy to. He would always end the talk with abuse, as if I needed reminding that I shouldn’t think him a friend. It was not cute in a comedic sort of way, it was simply mean.”

Moe licked his fingers, tossing away a stray bone.

“Before I died, we were on high alert, dealing with what seemed like an endless series of rebellions. It wasn’t the first time I’d been made to key in the commands necessary to prepare the array of missiles which lay at the far end of my computer network, but I had never actually fired one of the expensive death-dealers.

“That night I finally received an order to do just that – to flatten Qalat, no less.

“I couldn’t do it

“We’d always known the doormen weren’t on hand for our protection, but for rough encouragement, and when it was obvious I wasn’t carrying out the extensive typing that I ought to be, Bulldog approached.

“”It’s home,” I said in a whisper, trying not to raise the attention of the others.

“”So?” was his reply, and he followed it with a twisted lip which told me that whatever conversation we had exchanged was certainly not an excuse for friendship. He spoke loudly, and the situation became obvious to everyone seated in front of a glowing display, or standing at the entrance, rifle in hand.

“Bulldog was quickly ordered to inform me of my duty, and I informed him of what I thought of his obligations. He shouldered his rifle, removed a pistol from his belt, and held it against my head, saying it was my last warning.

“My response was not voluntary – it is a hard thing to allow a wasp to land on your forehead without reflexively swatting it away. With that act of defiance, I had no option but to continue on with my small rebellion, and I stood from my chair. Bulldog fired his sidearm once into the floor before I’d gotten hold of his hair, then I thrust his face into the sharp electrical mouth of my computer monitor, just as I was shot in the back. His smoking, jerking, dance, was my last earthly sight.”

There was a rare break in the constant din, as if the distant combatants wished to pay a moment of respect, which Moe punctuated with a throaty burp.

“I do not honestly know if I saved any lives in Qalat, but I do know that I’ve found myself here.”

Cutter nodded, and both men reclined, groaning at the satisfaction of their full bellies.

They were still staring into the cloudless sky as dusk began to fall.

 

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.

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Flash Pulp 082 – The Glorious: Minerva’s Last Ride, Part 1 of 1

18 Oct

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eighty-Two.
Tonight, we present The Glorious: Minerva’s Last Ride, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

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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 once again return to the halls of Valhalla, this time to hear the tale of a girl named Minerva Peabody.

Flash Pulp 082 – The Glorious: Minerva’s Last Ride, Part 1 of 1

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

The smoke filled halls of Valhalla were a rough location to start up a friendship, and few had it tougher than Minerva Peabody. The girl, permanently locked at the age of fourteen, was the sole warrior amongst thousands to be adorned largely in hot pink – a relic of the period in which she’d earned her place, the mid-1990s.

She’d walked the long benches many a night, finding little comfort in the rough hewn tables and legs of boar that adorned them. Few of the violent men that filled the rows had interest in a girl her age, and most who did had only the wrong intentions.

It was with great pleasure then that she dined with Leroy “Cutter” Jenkins – his own daughter had been her age when he’d died, and it felt like some small measure of home to have her sup with him. They’d met at the center of a melee in a swamp, caught between a division of Persian immortals and 300 Maori warriors. The groups had circled the tangling vines and muck drenched ground for an entire afternoon, hoping to happen upon an exposed flank, and the odd pair out, Cutter and Minerva, had used the opportunity to ignore the sniper rifles they’d been issued and instead swap stories about their respective lives.

“So -” Cutter said, one evening well after their introduction in the bog, “How’d you end up here, anyhow?”

It was usually the first question of any new encounter within the glorious halls, but somehow in the intervening weeks they’d both danced around the topic.

She took a long moment before answering. Finally, shoulders squaring slightly, she began to tell her tale.

“I was in central park with my Dad, it was fall and the air was crisp and we’d been out shopping for a few hours and were just looking for a street-meat vendor that didn’t look too sketchy so we could sit down on a bench and take a break.

“I saw the guy first, although I guess it didn’t really help any. He was tall, in his early twenties, hair cut super short and with a black trench coat on that didn’t really fit him. One minute I’m thinking “Look at that weirdo,” and then he’s suddenly got a shotgun in his hands.

“I’m pretty sure I cussed – I think it was the only time Dad ever heard me do it, he definitely looked up fast enough. He’d been talking about dinner plans and random junk; how excited Mom would be to see the stuff I’d picked out. We hadn’t been talking much lately – not on purpose or anything, he’d just been busy doing his thing and I’d been busy doing mine – anyhow, it was a pretty great day, and then this shaved DB pulls out the shotgun.

“Boom – first shot takes out the lady he’d been talking to. Boom, Boom – second and third shots take out a couple of people picnicking on the grass not far from him. Dad stands up, figuring I guess he’s going to save me somehow, and boom, the left side of his head is gone.

“I don’t really remember how I got under the bench, but I got down. This cop on a horse comes pounding up, but, boom, down he went. I’m pretty sure he was dead before he hit the ground, but his neck made an awful sound when his helmet bounced off the cement path.

“I could see the whites of his horse’s eyes as it reared up, and there was the smell – I didn’t know what it was then, but now I’m all too familiar with a good whiff of burnt gunpowder. People were running everywhere and the guy had this look on his face like he was ruler of the world.

“I couldn’t stand it – up till then I’d just been scared, but while I was staring at what was left of Dad and the cop with the funny bend in his neck, the day I’d just had flashed before my eyes – ten minutes earlier I’d been ruler of the world, and that guy, for whatever reason, had decided to take a dump on it.

“I started crying, but it didn’t stop me. I busted out from under the bench, and one handed the reins of the horse. I’d spent the previous six years worth of Tuesdays and Sundays at Appleberry Stables – I didn’t have my stupid beige breeches, or my stupid chaps, or my stupid black helmet, but I was pretty sure by then that I’d probably never need them again anyhow.

“The guy had started walking the other way, just strolling and firing at anything that moved as he passed.

The Glorious“People – I mean back there, not here – they’ve kind of forgotten what horses are, why we raised and rode them. It’s easy to flip on the TV and see how brutally fast we’ve built our cars, but people have forgotten what it is to have a couple thousand pounds of horseflesh baring down on them.

“He spun and fired at the last moment – sheered my arm right off. I don’t know how I managed not to lose control of my mount, I guess the bloodlust was upon us – I’d have given him the finger if I’d still had a free hand to do so.

“The guy fired again when we were right on top of him, and the horse reared, kicking in his skull. I fell off then, and died staring at his exposed brain.”

The girl sniffled as she sipped at her inexhaustible wine.

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 053 – The Glorious: The Taking Of Hill One-Five-Niner, Part 1 of 1

12 Aug

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-Three.

Tonight, we present The Glorious: The Taking Of Hill One-Five-Niner, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This evening’s episode is brought to you by MayTunes.com

It’s like a leprechaun riding a unicorn to victory in the Kentucky derby.

That’s MayTunes.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 we present a tale of combat and glory; of objectives and intentions.

Flash Pulp 053 – The Glorious: The Taking Of Hill One-Five-Niner, Part 1 of 1

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

“I’m just saying that it feels a little weird, is all,” Cutter said.

“I ain’t ever flown a mission and not felt the pins and needles, boy,” responded the gunner position’s tiny speaker.

As Captain Jack Ignatius’ words crawled through the bomber’s guts to find their way to Lt. Leroy “Cutter” Jenkins, hunkered behind a dual-barrelled machine gun, they picked up a mushy crackling that had Jenkins wishing for better equipment.

“Sure, Cap’n,” he replied. He flicked the chromed switch, closing the circuit.

The Captain’s flare for drama had brought them in low, and as he waited for the objective, Leroy turned his attention to the shadow of the plane, now sliding over a city blackened by flame and scarred with the wreckage of smashed housing.

None of it looked much like Michigan, and his heart longed to be able to cast an eye over even the bombed out wreckage of a double-wide.

The creak of the airframe did little to comfort Cutter, and he decided this was likely the last time he’d accept an invitation to fly.

“Two minutes, tops,” came the Captain’s voice over the speaker, throaty with the scent of the kill. The cityscape gave way to thick jungle.

Jörgen The Bold’s broken english came crackling over the speaker.

“Two fly,” he said, his thick accent flattened by the technology.

“What’s that?” The Captain asked, annoyance in his tone.

Leroy flicked the microphone switch.

“Jörgen says we got a couple of… I see them now sir, two, uh, zeros, maybe?”

From the rear of the plane, Leroy heard Jörgen roar a war cry, then open fire.

The approaching aircraft split away briefly, only to readjust to a tighter angle of attack. It was an impressive sight – like watching bees dance – and for a moment Cutter sat mesmerized, not bothering to fire, even as the angry insects waltzed between his gun barrels.

However, as One-Five-Niner drew into sight, a dotted line of sunlight opened along the plane’s flank, nearly intersecting his Plexiglas bubble. It was enough to derail his train of thought, and he rattled off a spray of metal in return.

There came a scream that even the rotors and gun fire couldn’t blot out, and the bomber shook.

“No! Not Timothy! Not now!” his speaker whined. Leroy felt the plane ramp into a climb.

The GloriousJenkins debated making a run for a parachute, but decided instead to ride it out in his dome.

He’d stopped firing.

Timothy Martin brought the nose of his jet into a tight upward loop, at a level of force that would have ripped the shuddering flying fortress to pieces, and, on his downward return, let fly with a taste of his payload.

Uranium shells pinned the bomber like a beetle on cork board.

After a moment, Cutter was aware that he and Jörgen had been detached from the front-end of the plane, and through the small hatch above, he could see spinning, ragged sky.

He considered his situation and sighed.

At least he was away from the Captain.

There was no time for parachutes now, so he waited out his descent by attempting to locate the ground.

Hill One-Five-Niner spun in and out of view.

The first impact knocked the wind from his lungs, and sent a spray of wreckage through the entwined leaves. After a moment of recovery, Jenkins was surprised to find himself amongst the upper limbs of the jungle’s canopy, the rest of the tail having continued on without him.

Uncertain of where the fuel tanks were on the old plane, he risked a high speed descent along a palm trunk, afraid that Jörgen might be caught up in a fire.

His worries were unfounded, however, as the he discovered the man pulling himself away from the wreckage with his singular remaining arm.

Upon spotting his compatriot, Jörgen rolled himself upright against a broad tree.

“One-Five-Niner!” The Bold said, his face stretching into a bloody smile.

Leroy reached into a pocket, pulling forth his daily ration of smokes. He offered one to the bloody viking.

The one-armed man shook his hand to indicate a pass, so Cutter followed up with a looping motion around his forearm, to suggest a tourniquet. Again, Jörgen shook him off.

Jenkins shrugged.

Jörgen drew a sharp line across his throat.

Leroy’s shoulders sagged as he stood, drawing his sidearm.

He offered it to the man, who refused, levelling a trembling finger at Cutter.

Raising his arm, Jenkins fired once into his compatriot’s bushy hair.

Without pausing, he started up the hill.

As he gained height, the jungle thinned, giving way to a bald slope. He could not spot a place on which One-Five-Niner was not filled with humanity: the east seemed covered in shifting battle lines, while the west was a gale of slaughter and horses.

It was hours before he reached the outskirts of the combat, and the Grecians he encountered could only point further up the peak when he mimed them a question regarding a radio.

There were far more bodies than sets, but after a stumbling search, Jenkins came across a band of Mongols nestled in a ravine. Over the crest, Cutter could hear double rows of French musketeers shouting and firing, but at the center of the Mongols sat a serene man from Bristol, Avery Snott, and Leroy was relieved to spot a familiar face.

The leader of the horsemen was red from his extensive denunciation of the English radioman’s lineage, and at Leroy’s approach, the audaciously moustachioed man threw up his shoulders as if to say: “you do something about this guy”.

Leroy said “Hi.”

Avery raised a hand.

The entire encampment was flattened by artillery.

* * *

Cutter’s next moment of clarity found him at the edge of a smoking crater, horse limbs and half-cooked meat spread around him.

His leg was missing, and the pain was enormous.

Through the shock, his hands fell into the familiar routine of extracting his medical kit from his gear and preparing the morphine injection.

Twenty minutes later, he was still short a limb, but he was much less likely to notice. He lay on his back, bleeding into the muck, watching a trio of Vietnam War-era helicopters circle overhead.

As the edges of his vision grew dark, the sun finally touched the far horizon, and the air was filled with the caw of the Valkyries’ ravens.

Leroy smiled at the thought of returning to the comfort of his bench in Valhalla.

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.