Friday, September 16, 2011

Flash Freaking Fiction Friday

Well, You asked for it, you got it (toyota! Or am I the only one who remembers those commercials? Nevermind, I'm old. I know.)

I asked for some flash fiction prompts. I've only gotten one at a time thus far. Not this week, no, no... this week I get SEVEN! Holy crap!

So... Keep your eyes on the ball, and I'll get back to you!

Dave B asks for: shards, endless, sundering, tree
Kyra gave me: train, cowboy, run, rainy
Rhonda tells me I should do: chimpanzee, pwn (or own), pioneer, sunset
Lenora gives me: tryst, petticoat, morose and bonded
Zac wants to see what I'll do with mysterious, betrayal, war and flee
Liz likes feline, pinned, stalk and frame (with words like that, this one might be NSFW... we'll see)
and Elliot wants to know about chalice, reproach, honor, and pickling.

I'll let you know as I complete them!

And here is my offering for Dave: (shards, endless, sundering, tree)

Quade Reston, Scanlon's first mate and co-pilot, eyed the pair as they climbed the rope ladder into Meduzoa's basket.

“We're ready to launch, Captain,” he said, leaning against the woven side. Quade was as fair – blonde haired, blue eyed, as the Captain was dark, with her mahogany coiffure and her flashing coffee-colored eyes. “Thought we were for Bath until Tynwald's Day. Somethin' happen?”

“You might say that, Reston,” Scanlon said. She extended one gloved hand and Reston assisted in hauling her up the rest of the way, noting as he did so that the bespectacled toff behind her was not keeping his eyes appropriately downcast, but instead watching the flex of the Captain's backside. “We'll be giving Professor Landers here some assistance.”

“He's footing the bill, then? We're up ten shillings for the early cast-off. The 'ship's fund ain't hardly endless, you know,” Reston said. He didn't like the toffy fellow, his coat looked expensive, but ill-cared for and dirty.

“I assure you, good sir,” the professor began, “when we retrieve the Haliphon, I shall have more than sufficient funds to reimburse your captain for her expenses and difficulties on my behalf.”

“In other words, we ain't getting' paid.” Reston ignored the outstretched hand.

“I've not failed on your contract yet, Reston,” Scanlon primed the lift's pump, then released the mechanism, allowing the basket to be drawn up into the airship's gondolla. The moonhatch closed behind them. “Welcome aboard the Meduzoa, Professor. Reston, have Tinks show him to a cabin and see to anything he needs, then meet me in the map room.” The unspoken command there was to have Tinks “look after” their guest; Tinks was a huge, muscular brute from Africa with arms capable of sundering steel chains. No one caused trouble when Tinks was looking after them.

“Mr. Steele!” Scanlon hollered as she headed to the aft-end.

Charlotte Steele, the Meduzoa's navigator scrambled out of her bunk, knocking her tea mug to the deck. It exploded into ceramic shards, splattering lukewarm tea all over Steele's trousers. She leaped over the mess with a curse, then stopped short as she nearly ran her captain down. “Yes, Captain?”

“You watched the mark, like I asked?”

“'Course ma'am. He launched this morning, just like you thought he would. Near to scraped himself off on the tree, there, but made south-southeast. I talked with Angie Mack, she was running the tower this morning. Good girl, there, Captain, if you ever need a communications officer -”

“I know all about Angie Mack, and when I see fit to put your lover on the payroll, Mr. Steele, I'll let you know. What did she say about our quarry?”

“Portsmouth was his claimed destination.”

The Captain toggled the chatter-box near the aft cabin. “Finney!”

“Captain?” The engineer's voice erupted out of the 'box. “We're cleared by tower as soon as maybe, and not after ten minutes from now. Got two rigids headed in for landing and Angie Mack don't want her skies all cluttered up.”

“Get us in the air, Finn. South, southeast for Portsmouth. Captain out.”

Let's step back a few days and see what Jo found so entertaining about Prof. Landers, shall we? Here they are from their lunch at the Savoy, courtesy of Kyra, who gave me the prompt train, cowboy, run, rainy.

“I was in the Americas last summer,” Professor Landers said, waving his teacup around, and in danger of overturning it entirely. The waiter at the Savoy paled, reaching under his apron for a cleaning rag, and hovered anxiously near the professor's wayward elbow. “Dry out there. England seems to be perpetually rainy, but in the Americas, you can go weeks without seeing a drop. And do you know, they have the most wonderful train system. You can get 'board a locomotive in Chicago and take it all the way to San Francisco. I spent only five days on the train and traveled well over two thousand miles! Simply astonishing.”

“I've never been,” Jo laid her hand against Landers, nudging his teacup back towards the tabletop and giving him a winning smile. The waiter heaved a sigh of relief, giving Jo a grateful nod. “It must be a fast train, it takes a week to travel from Portsmouth to Gretna by airship, but you know, we're rather a bit slower.”

“Do you, then, do the run to Gretna for eloping couples?” Landers asked.

“I've done it a few times,” Jo said. She bit her lip and looked down at her plate. Truly the Savoy had outdone itself this day, and she took another nibble of the beer-breaded croquette. “Mmmm, fantastic.”

“Well, the trains are less romantic than an airship to Gretna Green, and perhaps a little more dangerous. Halfway across Nebraska, we were attacked by a band of cowboys; train robbers, as you would. They forced their way aboard, armed with Mag-rifles, and demanded valuables from all the passengers.”

“So, how much did you lose?”

“My dear airship captain, do you really think I handed over my watch to a bunch of American ruffians?”

“Of course you did. Smart thing to do, too. Heroes end up bleeding on the floor. You can entertain me with the tale of how you got it back later.”

And back on board the Meduzoa

The enormous man called by the misleading name of Tinks leaned on the door. Professor S. McKeon Landers wasn't going anywhere. Unless he developed wings. And pioneered a shrinking potion. He would never be able to get his shoulders through that porthole.

“They should have called you 'Tank' instead,” he muttered at the door. A deep rumble of a chuckle answered him. He was tempted to try the door again, but why exhaust himself. He'd been pushing at the unmoving mass of man for near to an hour without budging.

McKeon examined his cabin; there was a bed-rack mounted to the wall with webbing to pull over himself – did the Captain really engage in such maneuvers as would risk passengers rolling out of bed? McKeon considered that for a moment, then firmly reminded himself to always engage the webbing.

Painted onto the wall was an elaborate mural of the planets, including the now-disproved Vulcan. McKeon traced the tiny, dark planet with one finger. McKeon's own father was one of the astronomers who looked into that particular bit of nonsense; whatever Edmond M. Lescarbault had seen, no one ever saw it again. It certainly wasn't another planet. Landers the elder, however, would be interested in this contemporary artwork featuring the mistaken mathematics. McKeon took out his sketch book and made a quick copy of the art.

After he returned his notebook to his jacket pocket, he winced. Somehow, in all the excitement, he'd forgotten to tell the Captain that, in addition to stealing the Haliphron, his former assistant, Piers Gorry, had also managed to throw McKeon out of the gondola. Admittedly, he'd taken the landing well, falling into a wagon full of straw, and yet his chest ached every time he took a deep breath.

Slowly, McKeon peeled off his dusty and torn jacket and stained white linen shirt. The tiny mirror nailed to the wall of the cabin revealed that his chest rather resembled a sunset, purple and red, orange and yellow bruising marked up most of his left side.

“I don't suppose, Tinks, that I might prevail upon you to have some mercy? I could use bandages, and perhaps a surgeon, if you have one on board?”

“Naw, don't ship out wit' no doctors, professor. But I kin get for ya some supplies, if ya give me ya'r word that ya won't leaf the cabin. Cap'n'd be sore wit me, if ya did.”

A few minutes later, there was a scratching on the door. Bemused, McKeon opened the door. Tinks was nowhere in sight. For a moment, McKeon considered bolting – the first obligation of a prisoner was to escape, after all. But perhaps he was not actually a prisoner. Just an untrustworthy passenger.

He went to close the door and was nearly startled out of his skin by a cry somewhat like a small child who'd had a drawer shut on her fingers. Looking down, he saw a tiny chimpanzee – monkey-like creature clutching a basket. Tucked in the basket were several rolls of clean linen and a few brown glass bottles of tonic and cleaner.

“Well, aren't you a smart little fellow?” McKeon dropped to one knee and held out a hand. With a sing-song cry, the little creature handed over its parcel, then scrambled up McKeon's arm and perched on his shoulder, grabbing great fistfuls of McKeon's wheat-blonde hair. “Ow, little rascal...”

“That be Baobab,” Tinks said, giving McKeon a second scare. How could someone that large move that quietly? “Cap'n got her on our last trip out to Madagascar. She be a lemur, and she got a powerful good sense about who she can just climb all over.”

“And here I was hoping you'd tell me she was a good judge of character.”

“No, sir, she ain't. Just got a sense when someone might be talked into feedin' her.”

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