A few years ago, I had my Facebook friends contribute random words. I took batches of five to produce some short fiction just for a fun writing challenge and really liked some of the results. I think I may post a few here for kicks! Enjoy!
The voice came through harsh and tinny. It always gave him the impression of cold electric.
“Miller, I need you on deck! Yesterday!”
The acting commander, Turk, seemed to always need him yesterday. Everything was a crisis. If he thought about it, he’d be surprised if something wasn’t a crisis on an assignment like this.
Miller dropped his crossword on the table and slid across the steel flooring on his wheeled chair stopping himself against the wall by smacking the green call button on the intercom with a practiced palm.
“Copy that commander. Tux or T-shirt?”
“Tux, Miller. Double time.”
Great. Away mission. “Be right there, sir.” He released the call button and huffed, but without hesitation he was headed for mission prep to suit up.
Ten minutes later, Miller stood in the small demarc chamber next to command. His quarters were smaller, but only just. The wall on the far end of the dull, gray room was framed by large coiled strands of metal cabling. They ran down the edges and back to where he was standing, gathering and disappearing into a floor mounted console covered in buttons and sliders. He had no idea how the contraption worked. Wasn’t his job to know. He was the muscle.
Turk stood to his left and another crew member they called Race occupied the space before the complicated looking console.
“What do we have, commander.” Miller asked.
“Details are vague. Some kind of shenanigans on one of the outlying planes. Normally nothing to concern us in this corner of the universe, but as our luck would have it, the regular authorities are…otherwise occupied.”
A look of understanding washed over Miller’s face. “You have to be kidding me. Is this Iresa again?”
“Iresa is fine, Miller. It’s her staff. As far as I’ve been made aware, she is off-world in some kind of negotiation right now. If she would take my advice, she’d have twice the police force with half the personnel.”
Miller had met Iresa before. She was a capable leader, but much more comfortable with political maneuvering. Not so much with this kind of mindless enforcement.
“Alright then.” Miller said, nodding as he checked the herma-seal bands around the cuffs of his suit. “What’s the job?”
Turk produced a pad from behind his back. The black screen danced with orange lettering as the details of the mission scrolled by. The pads were on a multi-dimensional network that filtered jobs to the most convenient units.
“According to the report,” Turk began, clearing his throat as he studied the scrolling text, “This has something to do with the same creatures that have been causing unrest in several of the adjacent sectors. They’ve gotten into the habit of jumping from world to world.”
“That isn’t good. I thought we had a handle on them after the last incursion.”
“Looking like they’re a little more…resilient, than we assumed.”
Miller thought a moment, chewing on the prospect of fighting those things again. They really were just hunters. Didn’t seem to eat their kills, or even kill for a particular reason. It had seemed like sport.
Turked pecked at the pad’s screen before answering. “A handful. Maybe five.”
Miller nodded, and looked around exaggerating his glances. “And I assume you’ve gathered me a force of ten to twenty galactic marines to dispense them, right?”
Turk only raised his eyes from the pad and looked sternly at him from beneath his furrowed eyebrows.
Miller blew out his cheeks and shook his head.
“Right.” He stooped to grasp the rim of his helmet in his right hand. “Look. If you’re sending me through alone against five of those things, then I want the Talisman.”
That got Turk’s attention. “The Talisman? Are you insane?”
“I’m working for you aren’t I? Yes. The Talisman. It’s proven to work against their hide and I need the firepower. I’m not going to risk five on one with this squirt gun and a stern glare.” Miller lowered his left hand to the marine issue peashooter on his thigh. Thirty rounds of police ammunition against five of those monsters?”
“You know I can’t just lend that thing out, Miller.”
“Do you want them to keep ravaging? If so, by all means send me in as-is.”
“It’s worth more than you are soldier.”
Miller only waited, meeting Turk’s eyes.
Finally, and after some doubt had formed in Miller’s mind that the request would be granted, Turk’s shoulders fell and he lowered his gaze.
“Fine. But you so much as scratch it, and your head is on my wall, understood?”
Miller nodded. “Sir.”
Turk and Miller walked back out to command and across to a blast-proof glass panel. The commander pressed a sequence of numbers on a small adjacent keypad. The glass slid to the side and a flat metal base pushed out from the recessed alcove. Mounted there on a pedestal was the Talisman.
It was unremarkable, really, at least in appearance. A gold oval band. A bracelet, with two blinking blue lights on the top facing edge. Turk stepped aside, and reluctantly gestured for Miller to step forward. He did so, and picked up the Talisman. He slid the simple band over his left wrist until it nested into place on his armored suit. Every suit was equipped with an interface for a Talisman, but so few still existed, that they were rarely used.
Upon hearing the audible click as the Talisman slid home, Miller felt a kind of gyroscopic pull on his left arm. Miller had worked with the Talisman bands at the academy, but that had been years ago. Still, the operation was as familiar as if it had been yesterday. He made the correct mental adjustment and the band blossomed open impossibly, covering his left arm in a shining gold gauntlet. He felt the weight increase, and could not help being surprised as the Talisman’s primary weapon erupted from the back of his wrist. A heavy energy cannon. They still didn’t know how the device functioned. Probably never would. It was tech far more advanced than anyone could manage. Deadlier than any weapon a single soldier could wield by a factor of ten and rarer than blue apples.
Miller relaxed his mental state and the Talisman retracted in a complicated series of sliding, folding clicks and whines. “This will do, commander.” He didn’t wait for Turk to respond, but turned and started back toward demarc. Turk followed, grumbling behind him.
“Miller, you had better take care of that. We only have the one and it’s not as though we can requisition another.” Turk actually sounded nervous. That was a welcome change from grousing and angry.
“I’m sure it’ll come back without so much as a ding, Turk. Relax. You act like you’re the one about to waltz through a wormhole and fight monsters.”
Turk favored Miller with what passed for an uneasy smirk, but said nothing. He turned to look at Race, who was still stationed at the console. She nodded and began a sequence of adjustments before poising one hand over a large switch. Her eyes went to Miller.
“Ready when you are, Miller.”
He was always impressed with the demarc operators. They could open a wormhole to anywhere within seconds. A feat that, by all accounts, was a mathematical task beyond 99.7 percent of the remaining population. And Race was the fastest. Hence the name.
“Roger that, Race. Ready.”
Miller hoisted his helmet over his head, settling it into the herma-seal and hearing the hiss as the suit achieved containment.
Race raked her hand across the switch, and the light’s dimmed a moment before returning to normal. Across the room, a burnt red shimmering gate appeared within the frame of coils. Miller only faintly heard the sizzle of the wormhole through his suit.
“You are go, Miller.” Race’s voice blared through his helmet comms.
“Copy.” Miller answered to confirm the functionality of his microphone.
Race nodded that she heard and Miller turned to Turk.
“Don’t wait up, Turk.” Miller yelled through the helmet. Turk wasn’t wearing comms.
“Commander Turk to you.”
Miller tried his best to leave Turk with the impression that he had no intention of exercising caution. The fact was he was always careful. But it was no fun letting everyone in on that little secret.
Miller checked the Talisman to make certain it was fastened securely. He checked his seals once more, and with an informal salute, trotted through the gate.
This was the life. A life anyway. Well, life. Anyway, it beat a crossword.