FlashFiction: Spies, Scouts, and Miracles

The scout stumbled through their perimeter two minutes into the night’s second watch. They nearly shot her, guns knocked and ready, before someone recognized the blue crest clutched in her fingers. They demanded rank and name. Teeth-chattering and trembling in the cold, she glared at them and collapsed in the snow.

Brass was skeptical. Her uniform was that of their army, nearly ruined beyond recognition, but those could be stolen. No identification papers or orders were found with a cursory search of her unconscious body. Against some judgement she was brought to the medical bay.

They had to cut the mess of fabric off her back to find the wound. The medics peeled back the frozen layer of mud and blood off to find a deep rend, the length of a hand, set deep the side of her spine. No weapon they’d ever seen would be responsible for the ragged wound. Malnourished, frostbitten, and anemic, it was a miracle she’d managed to get through the winter woods.

The scout breathed steadily as they eased her dead weight into the rejuv-tank. The woman was lucky she’d stumbled into this camp. Most of the outposts didn’t have such a well stocked medical facility. It would be days before the woman would be able to make a report, but the tank’s cell plasma was already regenerating her blackened nose into new bronze flesh.

The doctors shook their heads and shooed the leadership’s aides from their hallowed facilities. Her fingerprints and genetic identifiers could be gathered and passed over, but for now they were going to do their jobs and bring their new patient back to life. They’d leave the brass to questions of spies, scouts, and suspicious miracles.

Legal Theft: Watching the Pot

The city’s scintillating towers and reflective edifices became somber and dark in the downpour. Black umbrellas clogged the sidewalks, obscuring the faces of those beneath them. From behind tempered and tinted glass, Simon watched the rivers of people attempt to escape the worsening storm.

“A rainstorm, that’s all,” Simon’s uncle, Adam, said from behind him. The older man moved about the office, expensive shoes clicking softly against the hardwood floors. They were alone in the building at closing time, everyone else had been sent home.

Simon leaned forward until he could feel the cold radiate off the glass. “I hope so.”

Seventy stories below them cars struggled their way through the traffic, the dirty water rising around their wheels. Simon couldn’t hear the cacophony of the streets or the rain, but he knew it was there echoing between the buildings. He’d never seen it rain this long before.

Adam snapped his briefcase closed. “If there is anything to handle, the others have already handled it. I’ll give you a ride home.”

Neither spoke as Simon followed his uncle out of the oak paneled office, into the immaculate hallway, and past the empty secretary’s desk. Adam stepped into the elevator. When he turned around his nephew was still outside in the hallway

Simon jerked his chin down the opposite way. “I’ll take the stairs.”

Adam’s mouth thinned to a line as he met Simon’s eyes, his hand still holding the elevator doors open. “Come home, a watched pot never boils.”

“Good.” Simon left his uncle standing in the elevator and went in search of roof access.

Not a thief this week, but perhaps an inspiration for them. 

Flash Fiction: Amends

Ahvia possessed little experience making amends. Making an escape? Yes. Devising ingenious schemes, in spades. She’d even orchestrated a few revenge plots, all of which had gone swimmingly. But anything resembling reparation? That she’d never attempted.

The clink of packs and armor filled the tunnels as they fell into silence and their own thoughts. As the party navigated the dark trails Ahvia mused over the strange surface custom and whether it might be called for.

It’d taken her a few days to realize something was amiss in the first place. Ennah was taciturn on her most talkative days. But Ahvia’s normal chatter was met with pointed disregard instead of fond, if frustrated, groans from her friend.

She’d even caught Ennah testing the wine skin Ahvia shared, as if any good rogue would be stupid enough to attempt poisoning someone of the ranger’s constitution. That implication was just rude.

Ahvia watched the Ennah and one of the dwarves rush into the grasp of some plant monster, and vaguely wondered if perhaps the brutish bearded creatures were rubbing off on the elf. Ennah certainly fought like one, ripping limb and leaf apart before getting inelegantly smashed by the overgrown topiary. Ahvia sighed, aimed a crossbow bolt, and dismantled the verdant monster with a well placed shot.

Something would have to be done, she thought, as Ennah picked herself up and continued to ignore the person who’d saved her from the walking hedge.

The question was what…and how…and for which reason. Even if Ahvia could figure what had gone wrong, apologies were things designed to lure the gullible into a false sense of security before another inevitable betrayal. And friends didn’t do that to friends, per surface custom at least.

Until she figured it out, Ahvia could not even make a charming joke about organ harvesting without getting a growl from the elf.

I did something fun this week with characters from my Dungeons & Dragons game. Thank you More than 1/2 Mad for letting me use her character (even though I didn’t ask or tell her about it).

Legal Theft: Feral

There were ants on her skin. The feeling was far off at first, like a particularly unpleasant dream. But then Sabel registered the insects’ paths across her body and their stinging bites.

The second sensation she regained was the horrible tightness in her chest and a pressure between her eyes. Sabel’s first breath in a long time was a ugly sputter of coagulated blood. She opened her eyes to emerald sunlight filtering through the leaves above her.

It was a long time before she could really move. She turned her head towards the massive corpse next to her. The monster was dead, actually dead, unlike whatever she’d been an hour ago. Bloated flies hovered around the clotted wound at the base of its skull. There amidst the blood matted fur, Sabel’s long knife remained stuck hilt deep.

She wouldn’t be getting that back. Sabel turned her head the other way, noting the pain beginning to boil its way past the numbness of close death. The clearing was empty. Her brother was gone. So were the others. Sabel did not know what had happened after the beast’s tail lashed through her spine.

Night would fall eventually and she was prone next to a soon to be rotting corpse. Any starving predator could finish her off in this state. She started slow, turning herself over, and testing her strength.

Sabel dragged herself two feet before she had to stop and wait for the pain to lessen its convulsing hold. She took comfort in it, as she gathered her strength , not dead, not crippled. Only the living can feel pain.

The hollow of a fallen tree provided little shelter, but she wasn’t in the open any longer. It would have to do. Now curled inside, Sabel gave into the pain and exhaustion, blacking out as the sun faded from the clearing.

******

An indistinct murmur of voices woke her. They were strangely accented but in the common tongue, and close, dangerously so. Sabel shifted, feeling a new fire rise deep in her back, separate from the previous haze. She stifled a whimper behind gritted teeth and peered from a narrow break in the dead tree’s bark.

Shapes circled the beast’s corpse in the dappled moonlight, now quiet. Sabel recognized the easy alert in their poised stance and the unmistakable silhouette of weapons in their hands, soldiers. As she watched, one leaned over and pulled Sabel’s knife free from the mess of fur, blood, and bone.

Many, wounded and helpless, would have called out to them. Without supplies and only a bad turn away from death, the soldier’s mercy was more likely than the wilderness’s.

Sabel kept her breathing as soft as her wounds would allow. She held her tongue.

Though the moonlight wasn’t bright through the trees, she could make out the edge of the occasional jaw or the glint of an eye. Sabel remembered the primal prey drive that begged her to run as she faced down the beast. She felt it again.

One turned towards the hollow log, the silver light from beyond the leaves lighting his features. She’d never seen that expression on a human face before.

Sabel closed her eyes and controlled her breathing. In the feral turn of the man’s mouth, she’d read exactly what would happen if they found her.

I have stolen the line She’d never seen that expression on a human face before. From the Librarian at The Gate in the Wood.  Why you ask? Well you see, I am a deplorable thief with no respect for the law (and she told me to.)

Flash Fiction: Hunter and Thief

The girl hopped the turnstile without a second thought, hands on the metal, feet up and over the narrow bars. Her ballet flats hit the gum stained concrete and she was dashing towards the open train.

The silver doors closed. She skidded to a halt on the platform, nearly losing a shoe.

The woman paused behind the dirty chrome of the turnstile. A roused guard does not move, but his eyes swept across her tailored white suit and gold linked sandals. The woman shone against the dirty underground. When she vaulted the bars, he lunged, and then lurched ambisinister.  She was gone in the crowd when he picked himself from the floor.

The tracks were empty, the platform busy. She picked her way through the benign throng, edging around commuter, vagrant, and squalling child with equal disdain.  A man with long unkempt hair catches her eye from the corner.  He reaches up from his blanket and she passes a bribe into his ruddy hand. He points a grime covered finger towards the tunnel and the tracks leading into the dark.

The girl doesn’t stop running. Trash litters the tunnel, grease stained paper and the ripped plush toys. Behind her, the sound of someone else’s feet echo through the dark. Somewhere, she loses her shoe. The girl leaves it behind.

The woman pursues the sound of uneven footfalls. Her own pace is rhythmic; her sandals slap the ground as she follows the thief’s trail.

The girl sees the hunter first. Swathed in white, shining with gold at her ears, on her fingers, on her feet. The sound of her steps rang with past chases, hundreds of them. The girl is the hunter’s itch, to be scratched. She stares into the dark, waiting.

The woman only pauses when the tunnel shivers. This was an inevitability, but the thief is ahead, so she does not stop. The refuse around them trembles with promised destruction. She swings around a bend in the tunnel, and stops.

The girl is on the track waiting. The tunnel fills with the shriek of motion.

It has been a while since I’ve completed a Wordle. This one is from the talented Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie.

Legal Theft: Curses and Choices

The knife dropped from her fingers and clattered into her camp bowl. Bits of hot stew splattered her face, turning cold in the open night air. Chesa gritted her teeth and squinted at her offending hand through the dark. She could feel too sharp bones beneath her skin.

“Forget how to eat Captain?”

Chesa tucked her left hand into her lap before turning to her second with a short laugh. “If that’s a ploy to get my portion, it’s not going to work. Who told Javoc he was in charge of entertainment?”

Her second looked towards the center camp where a few of the company was drunk and trying to start up a song. The attempt was laughably poor and just distracting enough. Chesa stood, taking her bowl in her good right hand, and slipped back towards her tent.

She abandoned her dinner in the dirt outside. Her appetite was gone. Inside the canvas walls, Chesa flicked up the lantern light until her small cot and foldable desk were bathed in steady pale light. Then she looked at her hand.

The wound was healed, nothing left of the damned shard but a pale red line in her palm. It wasn’t gone through; she knew that somehow that sliver had wriggled under her skin and done …something. Since she’d cut herself the bones of her left hand were wrong. It was if they didn’t fit together anymore, constantly grating and catching when she moved it.

And now,  Chesa sucked in her breath. Her wrist was knobbed, the skin red and stretched over the too large and sharply angled joint. Chesa swallowed, holding her jaw tight at the sight of the growth.

“You’re missing out Captain, it got better.” Someone outside the tent laughed, the shape of a hand pressing against the flap.

“Its like you haven’t seen a thrice-damned drunk before!”  Chesa snapped before she took a breath and fumbled around for a glove. The someone grumbled outside, but their footsteps stomped off a moment later.

Chesa closed her eyes in short-lived relief. There was no place for weakness in the wilds. A captain could not ask her company to do anything she herself would not. With her hand, and now her wrist as the affliction spread, she could not climb, swing a sword, or pick a door. She couldn’t even manage a steak knife. They’d find out soon enough.

She could cut the whole damn hand off and hope whatever  it was wasn’t deep in her bones already. But that didn’t keep her place in the company much better. Chesa took a deep breath, forcing herself to think calmly.

Twenty minutes later, her horse’s hooves kicked up sand as she raced away from the camp. The company was still hers, and she wasn’t ready to lose it, but her second would have to manage while she found a cure.  With the moon high over the desert dunes, Chesa leaned over her horse’s neck and spurred the beast faster.

This week’s (early) Legal Theft comes to you with a stolen tough decision from Bek.

Midnight Snack (5)

It wasn’t right to hope something would happen, but it was almost midnight and Lis had a calculus quiz first period tomorrow. She sighed and lowered the camera, peering past the haze of yellow streetlights. Why had she expected criminals to be punctual?

The wrought iron of the fire escape dug through her sweatshirt and into her back. Despite the discomfort, it was the best vantage point on the block. Half perched, half curled on the cold metal, she could easily see two of the three entrances to the medical supply warehouse. Someone would have to show up eventually.

At least they did if Lis was going to get paid. No evidence of corporate sabotage, no check. And without that check there wasn’t anyway her little sister was going on her eighth grade DC field trip. The price tag had been steep when Lis had been in middle school, and she’d not been able to go. Rachel hadn’t mentioned it yet, but Lis sure as hell wasn’t going to say no if Rachel did.

Reminded of her other responsibilities, Lis fished for her phone in the depths of her camera bag. She’d missed two texts from Rachel an hour ago. She sighed and put the phone back before she could feel too guilty about it. Paper crunched under her fingers.

Lis frowned and pulled the brown paper bundle from the deep camera bag. She hadn’t put that there.

Inside, wrapped in plastic,  were two halves of a cucumber sandwich with the crust cut off. Three foil covered chocolates waited at the bottom of the paper along with a note in Rachel’s round writing.

Lis read the note and smiled as her eyes prickled a little. She unwrapped the sandwich, took a bite, and picked up her camera. She’d stay until she got something. Evidence, check, Rachel’s trip.

It was as simple as that.