And here is the result of this week's terribleminds' flash fiction challenge - the first line is from David Novack's entry to last week's challenge. Enjoy!
The Dinabranki in Defeat
“Well,” Jimmy muttered, “it was clearly a mistake picking this room to piss in.”
He’d give them this: they hadn’t taken the safeties off until he’d closed the door behind him—and then a volley of clicks had clattered around the room. Add the sudden presence of a large, square barrel pressed against his skull, and Jimmy had very nearly wet himself.
It was clearly a mistake to have come in here at all, but Jimmy hadn’t been planning on pissing when he’d tickled the lock and slipped quickly inside. Jimmy had been planning on finding out exactly what the dinabranki were hiding behind their corporate front, what interest they had on a colony world so distant from their own. He looked over his shoulder, saw old-fashioned side arms, and well-armoured soldiers, and slowly turned. Now he knew.
Taking a breath, he opened his mouth, but that was as far as he got. A large splay-fingered hand slammed into the base of this throat and pushed him against the door. The dinabranki equivalent of ‘Silence!’ rattled against his skull, the impact of the half-heard, half-felt sound setting his teeth on edge. Jimmy fought to feel past the sensation, registered the body search that took his lock-picks, his concealed rattlegun and the sonic calypso from his jacket. It also lightened his belt, shirt and boots of stun and melt grenades and the electro-blade. A quick goose in more private places relieved him of the general toolkit. Damn.
‘This way.’ No sound this time, just a rough invasion of his mind that left him knock-kneed and dizzy.
The hand released its grip on his throat and Jimmy followed. The mind-speak, painful as it was, had intrigued him. The rumours said they needed permission—and he wasn’t going to give it.
‘It matters not.’
Jimmy gagged, stumbling under a sudden sensation of vertigo. Hands steadied him, curled over his head to guide him through a door in the far wall. He figured if they mind-spoke him again, he’d black out. He didn’t want to black out. The dinabranki were showing him exactly what he’d come to see.
Beyond the grubby façade of a storage room, via a concealed door and short, dark length of corridor, was the platform for the dinabranki transport line. Jimmy was trying to orient it with what he knew of the building, when his captor ‘spoke’ again—‘Get in’—and the lights went out.
Jimmy came round to the sour smelling fumes of galogen. Great, now he was gonna puke. No human known could fake sleeping through that stuff. His stomach cramped, and he rolled onto his knees, losing his lunch into a quickly produced bucket. These guys had come prepared—Jimmy tried to steady his thoughts—which meant they’d known they were out to catch a human… which meant they’d known someone was going to try and do exactly what he had tried to do.
His stomach quietened and he waited for the second round. There was always a second round. Jimmy used it for some more thinking.
They’d been waiting for him… or someone like him. How had they known?
Something scratched across the raw inside of his head and he groaned. The sensation went away. When his captor spoke again, it used speech.
“You come,” it said, helping him to his feet, and turning him away from the transport. They were in a hangar-like area, except there were no aircraft, only a single opaque sheet of bronze across the far end of the room. It glistened slightly, wavering before his eyes.
Jimmy wanted to protest that he wasn’t going anywhere, and definitely not near that shifting bronze curtain. His dinabranki guardian correctly interpreted his reluctance and curled its hand around his bicep, walking him forward. Matter transferral, Jimmy had heard, was better done when conscious—and it could hurt like a—
The dinabranki walked him straight into the curtain, and Jimmy tensed. There was no pain, not even when the light turned to verdigris, before shifting to bronze. No pain, but the sight that greeted him as he stepped onto the dinabranki home-world, made Jimmy catch his breath. After moving him a few shuffling steps forward, his captor let go.
“You are from the government, yes?” At least the dinabranki was still speaking out loud.
“You will speak for us.” It wasn’t a question.
Jimmy wanted to say he didn’t have the power to reach anyone important, that very few paid any attention to his reports. He wanted to say no one would listen, then remembered the recording device tucked behind his eyes. It saw what he saw, heard what he heard—unless, of course, the sound was solely in his mind.
“I will report what I see,” he said.
“Then scan everything you can see, but be quick; we are very short of time.”
Jimmy did as he was told, scanning the sky to record the sheets of smoke covering it. He scanned the horizon showing the row of volcanoes erupting in concert, scanned the land between, showing the crevasse that had ripped its way through the centre of what had been the dinabranki capital, and which now boiled with sea water from the nearby ocean, which had rushed in to fill the gap—filmed the silent crowd, gathered before the gate. Done, he took a breath, choked on ash-laden air.
“What happened?” he croaked.
“We lost the war,” the dinabranki said. “Above the clouds is a fleet of warships. When we refused to surrender, they concentrated their fire power on five specific weak points in the world tectonics, setting off a chain of earthquakes. The volcanoes are erupting as a result. Sometime in the next 24 hours, a hot spot will erupt, and then the world will descend into another ice age. Guesses are it will take over a century before the world can support us, again. We need refuge until then.”
Jimmy scanned the crowd.
“I will speak for you,” he said.
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