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Short Story – Impact in…

This is going to be interesting and it’s probably going to hurt quite a lot as well.

Those were the first two thoughts to cross my mind when there was a bang from behind, an explosion of air and the oxygen mask dropped down in front of me. I automatically pulled it on, certainly different from my last plane crash, which was ohhh… 1917. A Forker managed to bounce me in my Sopwith Camel and stitched a line of bullet holes across the engine. I was lucky – it didn’t catch fire, otherwise I would have sizzled all the way down. Still I broke both my legs and it totally put me off flying for fifty years. The nice lady beside me who had been bending my ear about her daughter, the one whose PHD graduation she was going to attend, starts screaming. Damn shame about the daughter; she’s going to end up associating her moment of triumph with her mother’s death. Oh well what can you do?

I look over my shoulder and… hey, would you look at that! The plane just sorta ends a couple of rows behind me. We have us some full on structural failure – air crash investigation here we come; bloody modern rubbish, at least my old Camel stayed in one piece. The screams around me are fading now as oxygen deprivation kicks in. I consider pulling on her face mask and decide against it; she might come round again and that would be no kindness. With that decision made, all I can do now is sit back and enjoy the ride, so to speak.

Funny whenever death gets close I can always feel my brain speed up, I’ve tried drugs, sex, even rock and roll, any substance or experience that would give that same rush without the pain of actually dying. Never found one and obviously I haven’t enjoyed every death. My first time in particular sucked. Just before that Roundhead soldier stuck his sword through my throat, I remember dropping my pike, pissing my pants and screaming like a little girl. I guess it’s a bit like sex; the first time is never much good, just most people don’t get to have another go.

I suppose I could go find this daughter, tell her how proud her mother was. But then I get awkward questions like ‘how are you still alive?’ and hell I’ve been asking myself that one for centuries. Still this is one is going to be interesting. I’ve been stabbed, shot, bludgeoned, drowned, burned, overdosed and on one really memorable occasion, got stamped to death by an angry bull elephant but I always come back from it. This time round though I’m going to get smashed to smithereens; I wonder is this the one that finally kills me? Well soon find out.

Wow, this is taking longer than I expected. Come on, come on, I got things to do! I wonder how much longer to impa-

 

 

 

POSTSCRIPT: This one is the result of a writing group I attend, the word limit was 500 with the prompt – An immortal is a passenger on a jet that is going to crash

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Short Story – Lucky Old Us

There was a metallic bang from inside the Mark IV tank Big Bess, followed by a stream of expletives that started in English and switched to Irish as the volume ratcheted up.
“Do you think he’s making progress in there?” Private Frank Plumer asked, rainwater dripped off his forage cap as he peered carefully over the edge of the trench.
“You want to go in there and ask?” Bill Carney replied
“Think I’m safer out here mate.” Just as he spoke a bullet whistled past and pinged off the Big Bess’s left hand sponson. “Although not by a lot,” he added.
Bess, had broken down just as she was crossing Fitz’s support line. The two six pounders were still manned and covering the trench, the rest of them unshipped the Lewis guns and piled out. Their engineer Pat Gleasure had been trying to Bess going. He’d been at it for over two hours already but going but the periodic outburst of swearing, wasn’t making much progress. Another bullet whizzed past and Bill responded with a burst from the Lewis Gun. About twenty five yards behind them, a portion of Fitz’s front line seemed to still have its original occupants; who rather unsportingly didn’t seem to be doing the right a proper thing and retreating.
“You know I thought we have a nice unspoken agreement. We left them alone, they left us alone-”
“At least until we get Beth going again,” Frank interrupted.
“True. But apparently that’s just too damn complicated for Fitz. I mean shouldn’t they be retreating anyway.”
“Why?” asked Frank.
“They’re behind our front line.”
“I thought we were behind theirs.”
“That’s nonsense If we’re here then we’ve pushed back the line,” said Bill. “This bit is ours now.”
Frank peered over the parapet, back over the muddy, cratered wasteland.
“Well lucky old us,” he said.

 

 

Edmond Barrett is a hobby writer, his longer works can be found:

The Nameless War, available on Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo and paperback.

The Landfall Campaign, available on Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords and paperback.

The Job Offer, available on Kindle Kobo and Smashwords

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Short Story – Waiting Room for the Unforgettable

“It won’t kill you, in fact it can’t kill you,” said King Arthur reasonably.

“Yes but it will bloody hurt!” Elrond, Lord of Rivendale, replied heatedly.

“Ah,” said Arthur after a moment of consideration, “this is that elven allergy to iron thing, isn’t it?”

“No, because it’ll squish me like a bug and it will hurt and I’m not doing it,” Elrond said before stomping off in a huff.

“Elves shouldn’t stomp!” Arthur shouted after him before slumping in his throne. Avalon hadn’t always been like this. In fact when he’d first turned up it had been quite pleasant. The funny thing was Arthur could remember being real man. Well not just a man; he’d been a chieftain. Three whole villages and more men than he could count – so over forty – had been his to command. Then he died, choking on a chicken bone and instead going to the halls of his forefathers or even that ‘Heaven’ place the Christians had always banged on about, he arrived here. At first it had been just him, a few of his old pals and a couple of old gods wafting about the place. Not bad really. But then it started to change, the Myths of Arthur really got started and his old pals just sort of faded away. They weren’t part of the story any more and no one remembered them. Instead they were replaced by the people from the tales of ‘King’ Arthur. When he’d been a live he’d had a wife, wide of hip, with a voice that could have stripped paint and the ability to force feed a man his own knee caps if he didn’t respect her. Now that that had been a real woman, not like the simpering Guinevere that myth had lumped on him instead. She spent most of her time was off fooling around with that pillock Lancelot, because that was what the myths said they did. King Arthur could always feel the Myths tell him he should be upset about that but Arthur the man felt the two could have each other.

One of the old gods had explained it to him once, Avalon was the home to that which had been once imagined but not yet unforgotten. The only thing Arthur could ever remember imagining as a man was his enemies’ heads on spikes but the people out there in the real world kept imagining more and more things. By god they came up with some strange fish, a werewolf policeman with an odd sense of humour turned up last week. There were probably thousands of spaceships with strange names like ‘Mississippi’ and one very improbable design that looked to Arthur like just a blue box. Monsters, heroes, robots, aliens even cartoon women who ‘weren’t bad, they were just drawn that way’. People in the real world imagined things and when they turned up here, as King of Avalon, Arthur had to explain it all to them. He tried to fob it off on others occasionally but the myths said he ruled here so it remained his job. It was always a hard sell and some new arrivals didn’t take it well.

The giant robot was the one of those troublesome one, a huge clumsy thing, it had been blundering around treading on people. With a sigh Arthur motioned it forward and hoped he wasn’t going to get stood on again. The robot lumbered to a halt in front of the throne but before Arthur could speak, there was a pop and a cat appeared. It gave the robot a look of searing contempt before walking off.

“Oh no! Not more Grumpy Cat Memes,” Arthur groaned to himself.

 

This is a modified version of a piece I put together for a writing group I am part of. Originally 300 words the count has gone up a bit since then.

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Short Story – Gorilla in the City

For the past few months I’ve been going to a writers group and I have decided to start putting up the results. This one is referring to somethings that are going on in Ireland at the moment.

 

Gorilla in the City

 
Officially it is now autumn. Back when I was a kid and people were still arguing whether global warming was a real thing, that actually used to mean something. The summer holidays were over, the schools had started back and each day, nightfall came a little sooner. Now the months we used to call autumn are really the summer, by which I mean a heat you can actually enjoy. What was the summer, most people now call The Hot. For six months the whole countryside just burns up and you’d be hard pressed to understand how this island was ever called the Emerald Isle.

 
The wife didn’t want to move to Big Smoke, didn’t want it so strongly she became the ex-wife. But I was tired, tired of breaking my back trying to plant and get in crops on either side of The Hot and failing at least one year in three. Thought I’d find opportunities, found politics instead.

 
Saw the party members in their big cars where everyone else walked. Saw their big houses with watered lawns when other struggled to find enough to drink and I wondered how did it go so wrong? How did we hand so much to so few for so little? Some say it started with the abolition of the Seanad. Others that when The Hot began people panicked and looked to those who claimed to have easy answers. Me I think it was an almost inevitable consequence of a culture that saw crooks and chancers as heroes instead of a cancer.

 
Well we’re going to change that. Or least I hope we are; maybe I’m too old and cynical to be a real rebel. It’s going to be bloody work; there are good girls and lads who are going to die because they don’t know they’re on the wrong side or even that there are sides. I’m going help to bring fire and blood to the streets but for a few more days, I’m going to enjoy autumn in the city.

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The Five Minute Ships (PART ONE)

Roll on the Yorktown, the Titan, the Hood, this one engined bucket is no bloody good!
Excerpt unofficial Battle Fleet anthem

I’m sure you’ve all heard the old saying that war is hell. It’s short, it’s punchy and it’s to the point. Definitely a good saying. It’s also flat out wrong.

In time of war, you spend ninety percent of the time sitting on your arse, complaining about being bored. The other ten percent, you’re suddenly remembering that no one has ever really died of boredom.

Anyway on this particular day, Oh six hundred hours found us all sitting inside the main personnel compartment of our ship, the Battle Fleet vessel A-Nineteen, waiting for the skipper to turn up and tell us whether this was going to a ninety or ten percent kind of a day. When he stuck his head through the airlock from the tender and gave us the usual look of faint resignation, we knew that the answer was ten.

I suppose that I should really give some introductions at this point, so from bows to stern here goes. The skipper of the A-Nineteen was Lieutenant Andrew Miller, handsome in a square jawed all American kind of way, but with a permanent expression that said ‘what the hell am I doing here?’, which made him a bit depressing to be around. On the other hand, by that stage we’d all been aboard for about three months now, without coming down with a bad case of dead-as-doornail, so I guess he knew his job. Next up, Rating First Class William Net, helmsman and a man who if whining and complaining were Olympic sports, would bring home gold every time. Moving aft we have Petty Officer Marie Perben, sensor operator and the definite high point of the line-up. French, with a figure that made you wish survival suits were even more form fitting, cheekbones so sharp you nearly shave with them and husky French accent that could make reading a vid-phone directory sound sexy. In short the hottest thing to hit that particular piece of the universe since the big bang. Of course this might just be hazy recollection on my part; I spent a lot of time cooped up inside that tin can and after a while, any woman starts looking pretty fantastic.

Anyway to bring us firmly back to reality, we reach me. Rating First Class Michael Beeson, communications rating. Tall… and that’s where the good stuff ends. I’m one of life’s mediums, medium looks, medium competence, medium initiative, medium courage, the kind of person people miss, particularly when there’s a French goddess in the neighbourhood…

I’m sorry, I again digress.

Moving swiftly long we reach our gunner, the unquestionably least sane person in the line up, Rating Tsenduk Altanhuyag. Small, Mongolian, a man who in short lived for the opportunity to switch the gun to manual and fire across open sights. Given that to do that we’d have to be really, really close to the target, the rest of us felt could manage just nicely without that particular life changing and probably life ending experience. Finally we reach the Chief Petty Officer (Engineering) Horst Halperin, German, beardy, muttered a lot, but just piped at the post for title of ‘most insane’ due to not displaying any noticeably suicidal impulses.

The final, by far least loved, member of our mildly depressive little band was A-Nineteen herself, an A class escort. Now, if you’re reaching for your copy of Jane’s Starships, don’t bother, the A class ain’t in it.

These were the early days of the war. The Nameless, as we all know, fought with ultra long-range missiles. Human warships on the other hand, were built to fight people at relatively short range with energy weapons. Nameless missiles were a bit too sturdy to be reliably shot up by point defence guns, but knocking them down with plasma cannons and railguns was a bit like trying to swat a fly with a hammer. The only weapons the fleet had that could reliably knock down a Nameless missile were flak guns. Therein lay the slight catch; at the start of the war a grand total of seven ships in the entire fleet carried flak guns and about thirty minutes in, that figure dropped to six.

Flak guns could be fitted to cruisers and battleships but only if they were taken out of service while the work was done. Since the Nameless smoked a good chunk of the fleet in the first week of the war, that wasn’t really a runner. Ships that had to put back into docks to be put back together again got them, the rest had to soldier on without them for a while. Then some bright spark in headquarters had an idea. Take one civilian lunar tug, of which there are lots. Cut two holes in the hull. In the upper one, put a small turret with a flak gun. In the lower one, an escape pod. Re-condition the engines so it can just about keep up with a heavy cruiser and hey presto you have an A class escort. A stopgap solution they called it.

I bet someone in headquarter got a medal for the idea. Probably said on the commendation ‘for original thinking’. I’ll also bet that that same person never had to go into action in one.

There were a few… flaws in the concept, to put in very mildly. By the time we got to this particular day they’d been in service for about four months. In that time, the class had racked up an impressive list of nicknames with the fleet. Coffin Ships, One-Hit-Wonders, my personal favourite, The Martyr Makers and the Thirty Minuters, to name but a few. Those of us that actually flew them called them the Five-Minute ships; I’ll let you figure out for yourself why.

Anyhow, the skipper told us that the escort A-Twenty Five and ourselves, were going to be running escort for the Heavy Cruiser Bellerophon. We were going to doing a recon sweep of one of the neighbouring solar systems. Hopefully nothing too heavy.

Hopefully.

The A class didn’t have a jump drive, not even an in-system one. When I found myself assigned to A-Nineteen I thought that would mean we would be sticking close to base. Talk about being an innocent. No, the cruisers going out on patrol needed an escort so instead we’d stick close to the cruiser as it jumped out and we could ride down the jump conduit with it. Obviously if the cruiser got smoked we would have no way of getting back to base, but I guess that counted as an incentive package.

On this particular day the journey was completely uneventful and I managed to get a bit of shut-eye. Six hours later we were in-system and doing our stuff. Recon sweeps basically consisted of jumping-in, going to Silent Running and drifting along on a ballistic course listening real hard with passive sensors. Now if you’re about to make a clever comment about ‘Silent Running’ and how scientifically daft it is, then don’t bother, it’s just a term we use, lets just accept it and all move on with our lives.

The reason we went to Silent Running was the other rather unpleasant fact about the Nameless. Their sensors were a lot better than ours. The only way to stay ‘under’ the radar, was to keep all emissions down and hope to God they didn’t spot us as we jumped in.

What we were looking for was Nameless support ships or supply dumps, or some damn thing the heavies could jump in next to and molest with gunfire. So there we were, the skipper and William were busy making sure we held our position in Bellerophon’s two o-clock, while A-Twenty Five held at eight o-clock. Marie was in psyche communion with the sensor display, while the chief was muttering in the back. Tsenduk was sitting up in the turret, twiddling his thumbs and I was trying to keep the laser link to the cruiser, which by the way, should have been automatic but needed to be manually adjusted every five sodding seconds. In short it was all going smoothly. Then Marie went and said some thing that spoilt our day.

“Contact! Bearing zero, eight, six dash zero, eight, zero!”

Oh I should have mentioned, not only was Marie good looking, she was also good at her job. Some people have all the luck. She was looking at the cruisers sensor data, sent to us via the laser link up, the cruiser has at least eight people on sensors but Marie beaten them all to the punch.

“Second cont- third, fourth all on same baring,” she continued. “We have incoming!”

Right about that point, I stopped listening. Bellerophon had just lit up her drive and I needed all my concentration to maintain our laser link. The link isn’t just about communications, it also allowed Bellerophon to control our gun with their much better fire control system.

Now I know what you’ve seen on videos and I know what you think combat in space is like. You probably think that we started jumping around, shouting really macho things at each other. Well, no. If people needed to speak, they used the minimum possible words; instead of shouting and jumping around, you got the really intense silence that comes from six people all concentrating on not dying. The only real break in the silence was the buzz of the gun turret swinging round to bear.

I risked a glance round at Marie’s display and saw enough to know that we were in ‘Houston-we-have-a-problem’ situation. There were at least five separate missile streams coming in on both sides. We had, what in layman’s terms is known as, blundered into an ambush. Or to put it more colourfully, there were several generous portions of hostile intent inbound.

As the first of the missiles entered effective firing range, our flak gun cut loose at the ones coming in from our side. Inside A-Nineteen, it was like being in a tin shack when someone drops a bucket of pebbles on the roof.

What constitutes ‘the worst bit’ varies from person to person, but at that moment, we’d reached my personal choice. I had no way of knowing how we were doing, were we stopping them or were there more missiles coming in than we could deal with. I always hated the not knowing. Marie reckoned the knowing wasn’t much better but as I say, each to their own. What really made it fun, was the fact that our gun was under the cruiser’s control. So they might choose to stop a missile that’s coming for them, rather than one that coming for us. On a professional level I think we could all accept that. What’s more expendable, a ten thousand ton of cruiser with a crew of a hundred plus or a eighty ton escort, with a crew of six. But on a personal level, I have to say it sucked royally.

Nameless missiles take an average of four minutes from detection to reach our effective gun range, from there a further one minute to cross through our firing range. All of which offers a long time to contemplate mortality.

My station came with a powerful camera that I used to keep the coms laser locked onto Bellerophon’s receiver. It also meant that I could see the first of the Nameless missiles arrive.

“Billy Ruffian is taking hits,” I reported using Bellerophon’s nickname. “None of the big hitters have got through, but there’s too much small stuff to stop them all.”

The gun had been firing now almost continuously for two minutes, with only brief pauses to track a fresh target.

“We’re bugging out!” the skipper called out over the intercom. “Everyone button up!”

If you thought it was fun before, let me tell you, this was where you really got to the breakout-the-fresh-underwear moment. If we were to make the jump-out, we had to close up on the cruiser. Usually we’d hold position about forty kilometres clear of the ship we were escorting but to make it into the jump conduit, we had get within three clicks. That made us horribly vulnerable to soft kills; fragments that had bounced off the cruiser could go straight through us. We’d all seen escorts come home looking like a sieve, usually with at least one member of their crew laminated across the inside.

Things were now really tense. I’d just heard the beep that indicated we were down to two minutes of ammo. I could see A-Twenty Five just behind and beyond Bellerophon; they must have got within a few hundred meters of the cruiser. I clearly remember hoping that they hadn’t got too close. The thought had barely crossed my mind, when I saw a flash of escaping atmosphere and then their turret popped off like a cork as the ammunition brewed up.

“Twenty five has just bought it!” I reported out before I was pushed back into my seat as we swerved in toward Bellerophon.

“Jump-out in five seconds!”

“Incoming to the front!” Marie snapped out.

I half turned to look past the skipper and through the front view port. I could actually see three missiles locked on to us and powering in. Space has it’s own ranges, dirtside ten kilometres is a long way away, in space ten clicks is whites-of-their-eyes range. So when I turned and could see the missiles, none of them much smaller than us, with my naked eyes, well lets just say I found god.

Our gun was still being used to fire at missiles targeting the cruiser; I have to admit I really thought we were dead.

“UP! UP!” the skipper barked at William.

My stomach literally headed for my toes as we powered upwards, hoping to get outside the missiles radar cones. I was pleasantly surprised when five seconds later, I noticed I was still alive. I was just taking to be a good sign, when a shockwave sent us tumbling.

“Bellerophon jumped out! We’ve missed the jump!” William screamed.

So our ride had just bugged out. We were under fire and the only friendly unit in the neighbour had shuffled off the mortal coil. Things weren’t looking good.

Ah would you look at that… running dry. I guess that me about done for the night… Another drink? Ah if you’re buy that very good of you. No, no, you go on. I can wait for you to get back.

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