Hmm…

Not sure what’s going on with the website, been working on it, but I haven’t been able to update the Flash Fiction menu for two new additions. I’ll fix it when I can, but in the meantime, two new flash fictions published. 

One, “A Bacterium’s Life” on 365tomorrows.com (linky link here). I wondered what the perspective would be of bacteria gone sentient. Never mind that it’s impossible. 

Next, “Just Fine” is now in the archives of AntipodeanSF, available courtesy of the Australian government

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“On Time and Intent”

I had a train of thought develop on the way home from work, another variation on the “world-ending collision” theme. I tried addressing how our perception of time skews the way we see events taking shape in the universe in an unpublished flash fic, “The Secret is Perception”. I think there is more tweaking to do to it to really draw out what I was trying to communicate. In any case, I exorcised the theme temporarily while considering the possibility that maybe what seems like a random, chartable cosmic phenomenon is some much more patient intelligence’s idea. “On Time and Intent” is now available at 365tomorrows.com. Enjoy.

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“Float on By”

Happy to report that my flash fiction, “Float on By”, is available starting today at 365tomorrows.com. The short inspiration, so to speak, was rifling through the bills on the 16th of the month and watching the paycheck I just got go to someone else. I initially wrote it a while ago but haggling with property and flood insurance may have also been an influence. Insurance companies – a thing of the past, a thing in the future, so please click the link and enjoy.
 
 
 
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“Mad’s 104th, Reporting for Duty”

by Brian C. Mahon

Suddenly, in the moist, windless cirque basin, the crack of the last rifle sounding off startled Lime. His earpiece chirped to pre-alert an incoming message.

“Sir, Nguyen, grid alpha four check complete, all Zetas cleared.”

“Nguyen, Lime, copy check completed. Report if all skull, collar, and pelvis cortex minors verified destroyed and report status of purple pigmentation, over.”

“Sir, Nguyen, all cortex minors verified destroyed, and all Turned faded. Sergeants Benitez and Roth are supervising second checks. I watched the last one blanch, over.”

“Understand all, over.” Lime sighed in wearied satisfaction. “Connect command.” He waited for the bell, stiffened up, and reported as formally as exhaustion would allow, “Colonel sir, Eighth Company reports all grids checked and deceased verified, over.”

The Colonel, Phillip “Mad” Madrigan, was a man to deliver, and he delivered the day’s victory.

Mad’s 104th Space Expeditionary Regiment was the only tried and true combat unit effective against the Zeta’s Turned. The 104th cut teeth scouring New Babylon of Mars with flame and gamma bombardment and, with exquisite meticulousness, later obliterated every Zeta spore on the Europan and Enceladian forward stations. The Colonel’s thorough nature was his strength. Where Mad left a footprint, resurgence didn’t dare follow. Sometimes, Mad’s nature got the best of him, and tales of 104th’s CO bleaching and scrubbing his office’s tile grout until nightfall was part of his legend.

A response chirp preceded the Colonel’s voice. “Allen, Madrigan, you did well. You did a great thing today.”

“Thank you, sir,” Lime smiled from behind his air-fed copolymer mask. “Eighth Company follows orders, sir. Gunnery Sergeant Nguyen reports second checks in progress.”

“Very well. Allen, you got that nickname ‘Lime’ on lunar liberty two years ago, right?”

Lime chuckled and slung his rifle to check his wrist display: rebreather green, in-line spectrophotometer showing no contaminants. “Yes sir, that was the, um, the margarita incident, with the, er, entertainment. Hoped they would forget, but no one did.”

The Colonel laughed, full and generously. “We all have a story like that. JO’s believe us old men don’t have them, and CO’s like me hope you never hear them!” After a pause, the Colonel’s tone took an abrupt about-face. “Lime, the Zetas know where we live now. It’s a blessing Space Warfare New London’s Atlas Net is sensitive enough to detect spore pods. Earth will always have a chance.”

Lime nodded along.

“I’m proud of you, as I am the rest of the 104th. You, Captain Allen Prairie, and your fellow company commanders Captains Caila Luhr, Jim Cook, and Dejounte Johnston, as well as battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Atkinson, and our orbital team. We are… well, we’re fortunate phases two and three were not required, and only First Battalion hit the field.” Lime heard a sniffle, and the Colonel’s voice grew quieter. “I’m proud to have been down here with you all. We did a great thing today.”

Lime waited to respond. Words like “tension” and “anxiety” did not capture the eviscerating dread of the previous twenty-one hours since orders came down to deploy to India. No one slept. Everyone was quiet but active, automatons getting battle ready. It was Earth, after all. Lime was certain the Colonel was just letting his emotional stresses go, so he blurted with forced enthusiasm, “Yes, sir! Mad’s 104th always delivers!”

The Colonel did not offer the immediately expected “oorah”. Lime shifted his weight uncomfortably between his feet.

“Lime, we, um, we all understand the significance of a Zeta pod on Earth. You saw Mars. It’s a sinister, a real malevolent, uh, intelligence that creates something like this, and I tell you, I would have thrown every warhead in all of Earth’s inventory at their planet if I could. I absolutely would have.”

“We’re getting there, sir. At least we know their direction of origin now,” Lime awkwardly responded, now less certain of the conversation’s direction.

“You can’t let one spore go,” the Colonel said in a dull monotone that caught Lime’s attention.

“I agree, sir. That’s why we’re here. And we stopped them, sir.”

“Not. One.”

Lime crouched down. “Yes. Sir.”

“You’ve heard my standards. A leader leads. A leader shares victory and shoulders defeat, and a leader, a good leader, never gives an order they would not execute.”

“Sir, I’m… sorry, sir, I’m not tracking.”

“You understand, we had to strike fast, keep them occupied, keep them from running or firing up triple-A’s, but this isn’t the Europan scenario. Too many variables. Air currents. Microbes, insects, pollen. We can’t afford half-measures.” His voice trembled, but he continued, low, with forced measure, “This is Earth. And we did a damn fine service. Everyone on the field today will have their names emblazoned in Victory Hall. I made sure of it.” The Colonel’s voice changed again, either in anger or exultation Lime could not tell, but he noticed now their discussion was broadcasting on all channels. “The world will know our names, and no one will ever forget what the 104th Space Expeditionary Regiment sacrificed for their home! All of Earth watches and bears witness to our deeds! When we take the oath, we dream of moments of glory. We hope to walk away heroes, legends, but most retire without ever tasting the vindicative sweetness of doing something history remembers. This is our moment. This is ours. It was an honor, everyone.”

Lime crumbled backwards. This should have been a surprise. He knew the Colonel meant to be certain. The man never suffered half-measures. The man was always so very thorough, so obsessively thorough. There could be no half-measures here. It was home, after all.

Discarding his rebreather helmet, Lime drew in the stinging sweet and acrid mixture of spent munitions among the spring blooms and dewy underbrush. It was the scent of fleeting catharsis. He felt a calm pride, a muscular release and serenity in a smile, as a triad of hypersonic bombers zipped overhead to deliver several thousand degrees of irradiated, sanitized certainty.

 

End

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Doppelganger Day

The below flash fiction was an experiment in a bullet-style format of fiction writing that I’ve seen published in arenas such as Daily Science Fiction.  It is my first attempt at discontinuous story-telling that I personally liked doing.  Earth-shattering depth?  Nah, not so much.  A fun little read?  I think so.  Please enjoy, “Happy Doppelganger Day, Stranger”.

  “Happy Doppelganger Day, Stranger”

February 27, 2000:

Dear Journal,

Happy Doppelganger Day! I can’t believe it’s been eight years since the quantum tunnel between Earth and Aerth was discovered. It was crazy, but with everything happening in 1992 (Bosnia and Herzegovina, ending apartheid, LA riots, Noriega, and NAFTA for a few) it was lost in the mix until the tunnel opened again exactly one year later. That became the first official Doppelganger Day.   

Bad thing is it didn’t appear in the same place, which is why Doppelganger Days are terrifyingly fun, or funnily terrifying(?). The first official Doppelganger Day started for us about 8:00 at night when the news reported a bunch of cars driving through a London suburb disappeared. Mom and Dad yelled for me and Will to come downstairs to watch Cambridge physicists probe the tunnel live.

That’s when everyone saw the first Aerther.

Our blonde Dr. Amelia Kurzner met their red-headed Dr. Kamelia Arzner. Arzner stepped out of nowhere into the quarantine area where the cars vanished. She was wearing like a black raincoat or trenchcoat or something socio like that. Anyway, Dr. Arzner, with a lot of body attitude, looked Dr. Kurzner up and down and punched her right in the mouth! Whap!

That’s the way it’s been with Aerthers. Every year it’s something new from them.

Doppelganger Day 1993:

An Aerther Airtrain 4000 suddenly appeared on a Brazilian control tower’s radar. The air crew spoke Spangerman, a Spanished version of German or something. Using three interpreters, the control tower got them to understand they needed to land. The problem was, Aerthers use light signals, and aircraft marshallers (had to look them up) are used only in emergencies. The pilot, a patriotic Brazelander, read the flag signals as saying hijackers were on the gangway waiting to board the plane. So, what did he do? Rammed the extended gangway! Luckily, no one was seriously injured.

As a happy ending, the first Brazelanisch steakhouse opened here in Lubbock last year. Endless spatzel!

1994:

Three Aerthers showed up in Des Moines and took a movie theater hostage. We stayed up all night praying the hostages would be okay. After a three-day standoff, SWAT burst into the theater. That’s when America found out Aerthers were really, really good at holograms. No one was actually tied up in the lobby. The Aerthers spent three days eating candy and nachos and watching movies for free, and they racked up like a $10,000 bill. “Final Destination” was apparently their favorite movie by far.

1995:

Cruise missile, right through the chute and into Mount Rushmore. It was a blind shot, but the Aemericans (yes, with two “e”s) showed us what it takes to kill a bull moose. Our President vowed we’d retaliate on their Vengeful States of Aemerica. There were more Army and Marines recruiting commercials, but nothing else changed. 

D-Day 1996:

The VSA and WMTO (West Mongolia Treaty Organization) sent a fleet of single seater-submersibles through to attack the Florida coast. Turns out, Aerthers don’t do coastal living. They have shallow water marine cities, where submersibles with .50 caliber machine guns are a real threat and, I guess, good strategy. We watched for six hours as NATO planes flew circles over their submersibles, and WMTO submersibles did maneuvers off Miami. No shots were fired in the stalemate, and they surrendered when they realized they forgot to bring a way to refuel.

1997:

Mark “Hud” Hudspeth’s Aerther double arrived with his entourage in Hong Kong. Our Hudspeth is CEO of probably the evilest corporation in this hemisphere. Caught and sued five times for illegally dumping pesticides and heavy metals in salmon river runs, Midwest irrigation ditches, Lake Mead, and elementary playgrounds. When Hudspeth’s anti-twin pledged to make good for all the bad things Aerthers did, it made sense. He challenged our Hudspeth for company control based on his status as also a Mark “Hud” Hudspeth and won. We all wanted our Hud gone. Environmental groups everywhere celebrated, and New Hud paraded his super-charming smile over all the morning talk shows.

Did-they-do-it Day? 1998:

Nothing happened (that we know of). Mom bought a home security system just in case, and dad got Will and me helmets, pepper spray, and made what he called “old timey bayonets” out of discarded iron fence posts he found on trash day.

Doppelganger Day 1999:

A nuclear bomb the size of a Boeing appeared at UN headquarters. That was how we found out New Hud wasn’t a good guy. New Hud started a press conference from his mansion (our Hud’s old mansion) to talk terms of surrender. But! Our Hudspeth jumped out of a bush and knocked him cold with a softball bat! Stepping over other Hud to the mic, he yelled something about getting his company back, a $100 million dollar bonus, and his face replacing Roosevelt’s.

Nobody out evil’s the Hud.

The army took custody of the bomb. I hope it’s safe. God knows water out west isn’t anymore.

Today:

We survived Y2K two months ago, and now everyone’s trying to guess what Aerth will do this time. How do you upsize from a nuclear bomb?

Besides them, there’s a lot of things to look forward to. New millennium, new friends when I start college this fall, and new technologies everywhere! My parents finally bought a cellular phone for the family, and soon (I think) we’ll all be able to access GPS – just imagine, no more maps! I mean, even the internet was barely useful five years ago, but now, Gugolplex’s search engine can find anything on the World Wide Web! They started like two years ago and went from nobodies to a household name. Internet browsing, web shopping, Gugolplex made everything easier. Maybe I’ll become a software engineer and work for them when I graduate? I’ll be part of a worldwide movement!

Dad’s calling us downstairs. Time to watch the news and see what the Aerthers have planned this year. I’ve got my helmet and bayonet just in case. As the Brazelanders say, buenen Nacht!

-Diane  

End

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“Message from the Fleet”

It is with more than a little satisfaction that I invite you to take a look at 365tomorrows.com, where my flash-fiction “Message from the Fleet” is published. Since they have a new story every day, you’ll have to search for it by title, or, if you’d like, start with *today* and work your way backwards to August 28, 2020. The folks at 365tomorrows run a great site that has been posting daily stories since 2005. So if you’d like a good read, and not just for my sake, get your beverage of choice and sit a spell. There’s plenty of great flash-fics to enjoy.

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