Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction (Cycle 48) Falling Up


Friday Flash Fiction Prompt: Use music in a short fiction piece
Genre: Any
Limit: 750 words
Deadline: 9/14/2011 at 8:00 p.m. ET

(Author's note: The Discovery Channel show "Curiosity"recently ran a serious episode with experts in varying fields discussing the possibility of an alien invasion. I have based the story on that episode and my musical influence came from listening to the  "Linkin Park'" song "What I've Done". A video clip from that "Curiosity" episode can be found at the bottom of the story)

Looking up into the sky watching the derelict starship pass over me I realize why the young these days have no idea what the world and Humanity went through sixty years ago and how it utterly changed everything. At best, the only concern they have for the now dead alien ship is its gradually decaying orbit and the attempts by the world government to push it further away from the planet. More than likely, they only see it as some historical remnant associated with their aging grandparents and the boring stories they tell of the era before its arrival.

Humanity is on a different course now, gone are the wars over religion, ideology, and resources. Discounting the titanic efforts by the United Earth Peacekeeping Forces and the economic development teams working to stabilize the various underdeveloped regions of the planet there is simply too few of us left to even consider sliding back into our pre-first contact barbaric ways.

My grandchildren consider me insane for speaking aloud my thoughts on how we got this way, but until the day they finally lower me into the ground I believe we have the squids to thank for Humanity’s second chance. But after what I saw in the final days of the war all those years ago, I keep to myself the even crazier thoughts that it could have been so much better.

***

“The thermal image shows both the port and starboard cannons on the squid tank are dead cold along with the engine Lieutenant Stevens. We have a HEAT round loaded, you want me to light it up?” Specialist Thomas Hunter said to me over the intercom on the Abrams tank I was commanding while looking at the targeting screen. He was my gunner in the last days of the war and we were just outside the ruins of Chattanooga running cleanup operations with the rest of the Second Armored Division.

“No,” I responded, “hold your fire and order Sergeant Rivera to dismount the infantry squad in his Bradley to scout the area. I want to get a closer look at that thing.” A few seconds later, I was out of my Abrams and on the ground walking towards the alien tank.

Despite traveling untold light-years in a six-kilometer long starship the squid’s idea of an armored tank was the same as Humanity’s. It was a tracked vehicle with a rotating turret on the top.  The two visible differences were that the squids had two main cannons on either side of their turrets and that their tanks were made of a stainless steel looking alloy giving it the appearance of a maniacal work of art. In all the years I had been fighting I had never been this close to a squid tank without fearing for my life. M1A2 Abrams tanks and their crews could defeat the alien armored vehicles but it was done on sight and usually from the extreme end of effective range.

Squid tanks were fast and their two main cannons were electromagnetic rail guns that fired off kinetic energy rounds which could punch through the best human tanks like a hot knife through butter. Even with those advantages, the rail guns effective range was less than the Abrams and their armor, despite its appearance, was not all that good. To have one abandoned just a few meters away and completely intact was an opportunity I could not pass up.


Six years before that the squids had entered orbit around Earth and within the space of nine months had come damn close to wiping us out. In the first week, they destroyed every civilian electrical grid on the planet using electromagnetic pulse satellites. A week later, they caused massive tsunamis across the planet wiping out the mass of humanity living along the shore by bombing the oceans with kinetic weapons. The final attempt at genocide was engineering, then letting loose various plagues to kill us off. The result was the human race seemly broken into scattered, isolated pockets and reduced down to a little over two billion people. However, we pulled together somehow and fought back, the result being our own use of  very crude but massive kinetic weapons launched from Earth that destroyed their huge ship in orbit leaving it a crippled hulk.

By that time, the squids had setup forts and small colony towns on the surface and fought viciously to protect them. After the first squid settlements began appearing it didn’t take rocket scientists to figure out that they were guarding what amounted to nurseries for baby squids. But Humanity had lost so much but after we crippled their ship and organized our efforts at resistance on a global basis it just became a question of how long the squids could hold out.

Before their arrival I never considered myself the soldier type, in fact when I thought about it the idea of killing any living creature it turned my stomach. Now after what they had tried to do to the human race and the planet, I reveled in every squid I ran over with my tank. 

Lost in my in my own thoughts while examining the alien war vehicle I was surprised by an adult squid coming out of the destroyed remains of one of their buildings not ten feet away from me. One of its three legs was injured so it’s unusual step by human standards was made even worse. In two of its arms, it carried what was clearly a dead squid larva and it held the smaller creature with a tenderness bordering on recognizable human emotion. In the hand of its third arm it was limply carrying a large machete-like blade.

“Hold your fire!” I yelled when I heard the pounding boots of infantry troops running in my direction. In every encounter with squids, they had treated humans as if we were cockroaches but this one was looking straight at me as if I was an equal. If it had wanted to kill me, it could have long done before it came out in the open. So with a surreal calmness I stepped closer to the creature and took the blade away from it.

“It didn’t have to be this way you sorry bastard!” I yelled feeling overwhelmed as I looked it in the face. “You could have asked for help, any number of nations would have fell all over themselves to assist your people. We could have learned so much from each other!”

The squid fell to its knees, gently laying the small dead creature on the ground. The adult's feeding tentacles at the base of its head were limp, a strange behavior that I somehow attributed to despair. It then looked at me and while they had never once tried to directly communicate with humans, I knew what it wanted.

“Thank you,” I said to the thing knowing that their arrival and actions had utterly changed Humanity forever. Its eyes showed no further emotion or awareness of me but after it lowered its head, I raised the massive blade and brought it down hard across its neck.


23 comments:

MichaelStivic said...

fellow parrothead,

On that sad day marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I was reading the article "Dems Fret Aloud Over Obama's Re-Election" and all the comments in my NYTimes. It looks like a lot of fellow Democrats want to throw Obama under the bus and I can understand their frustration. The number of people Obama has thrown under the bus would give me carpa tunnel syndrome if I had to type them all!

I am really starting to get nervous that Rick Perry would run over Obama in the presidential election.

I think its time we started supporting Hillary to challenge Obama in a primary. I'm hoping we can start a grass roots movement in the blogosphere.

Let's face the facts fellow Democrats. Obama has really turned out to be a poor president who has been bought by the Multi-national banks and corporations. His only ability is to give smooth sounding speeches and campaign!

Distributorcap said...

if i was a squid - i would move to Cardassia or Vulcan or even Romulus - but definitely not the US

Beach Bum said...

Michael Stivic: Dude, you have highly pissed me off to no end throwing an unasked for political comment on a piece of non-political science fiction. The only reason I have not deleted it is because I just want to say you are an idiot.

Stop whining and looking for fucking saviors and get out and protest the shit going on in this country. If you and others like you had not only challegened actively the Tea Baggers but kept Obama's feet to the flames just maybe he would have acted like a more progressive leader and not a spineless wimp.

Yeah, Rick Perry scares the hell out of me but what in God's name makes you think Hillary will run?

DCap: Okay cool I think.

Windsmoke. said...

Well written story of survival with the good guys winning in the end that had me hooked right from the start to the finish, this one has gotta be one of you're best ever, well done :-).

David Barber said...

Great story, Ron. Really enjoyed how much info you packed into this piece with so few words. Your writing is improving with every story!

Well done, my friend.

Akelamalu said...

You have such a fantastic imagination Beach, I am in awe of you more and more with every new piece you write. Don't stop. :)

Beach Bum said...

Windsmoke: The depressing thing is I wanted to write a story about a complete alteration in human perception when it comes civilization and how we view each other. The only way that made sense was having the Earth invaded and Humanity facing the possibility of extinction.

David: Thanks David!

Akelamalu: Don't stop!?! I can't, its the only thing keeping me sane.

thegoodgreatsby.com said...

Interesting story. You certainly have a lot of apocalyptic themes in your writing.

mjunta said...

looks good

Mike said...

Very good story on parallel evolution Beach. You left it up in the air as to the squids motivation in attacking but showed that there was some commonality among us. Very impressive the way you did that. That final act of the squid, atonement? guilt? or just not wanting to go on after the death of the infant. Who knows? Once again a great story well told.

Mike said...

Dude; a little harsh on the meathead. Granted this was the wrong place for that comment but it does fit with other posts that have been presented here. You're right on though when you say that activism is the way to make it known what the people want. As terrible as it sounds you can't change the system by sitting on the sidelines.

Beach Bum said...

Thegoodgreatsby: I do have a number of Doomsday stories, I never realized it till now. May have to make a conscious effort to steer clear of them for a while. Now I would have to make a bit of an exception for this story. I wanted to write something about the greater bulk of the human race having their basic reality totally changed.

The depressing thought of course is that while in real life we face dangers from climate change, wars, pandemics, ecosystems collapsing, and others the only thing that I could "realistically" come up with that we could rally around is an alien invasion and the possibility of homo sapiens going extinct from it.

Damn, now I'm depressed again thinking about it.

Mjunta: Thanks!

Mike: In the darkest corners of my commie mind in way I meant the squid as an allegory to American arrogance. Sure we love or kids and liberty but for the most part the rest of the world can go to Hell. I our general response to poor countries that dislike us is heavily armed unmanned predator drones flying in their airspace. For countries we can't attack we either call them nasty names and pout because they will not play or games like the French. Or, we kiss their asses and go into massive debt to them like the Chinese.

As for Meathead, yeah I went off to much and I apologize. But I stand by my comment, because while Obama is a spineless wimp Meathead seems to have forgotten Hillary was rejected because she was already viewed as having compromised too much such as voting for the war in Iraq.

Simply put, I do not believe in human political saviors anymore. If this country is going to be changed it going to have to see an uprising by all the poor and disenfranchised people the republicans hate and the corporations want to keep placated with bread and circuses.

Pixel Peeper said...

Doomsday with a sprinkle of optimism - I like it!

Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx for the intense sci- fi read Bum, you have a talent for this stuff indeed! and for the vid clip view as well. A buddy who has a dvd store just turned me on a month or so ago to a dvd to check out that was called something like "Battleground Los Angeles" (?, cant recall the exact title off hand), but was a sci- fi piece on these alien's that of course invaded Los Angeles and already took out the entire west coast, and our military was up against them ... just wanted to bring it up, it was intense as far as action. Later Guy ....

Glen said...

Well done you - you have shown me just what is possible under a prompt that completely threw me really. You have an imagination on you - you really do

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: Yeah, this is about the best "possible" future I can come up with right now.

Ranch: Yeah I saw "Battlefield Los Angeles" and liked it very much. I did see a couple of problems with the plot but who am I to complain.

Glen: I've got to admit, I like this story and I'm in the process of revising and expanding it considerably.

Randal Graves said...

Now that's not the Cthulhu I know, he'd just eat everyone up like a roly poly fishhead yum. Now, give us another part, dammit.

One non-story quibble, sir. Obama's not spineless, merely part of the corporate machine.

Beach Bum said...

Randal: You know I was actually under the word limit when I first published this story. Blew that all to hell.

Correction noted on POTUS, I had forgotten about him picking the General Electric CEO for a jobs creation panel with the corporate dude recently sending thousands of high-paying technical jobs over to our good Chinese friends.

lime said...

how many times has this played out to one degree or another just among human cultures?

Beach Bum said...

Lime: Excellent point, but its one most people do not want to think about.

Michael Stivic said...

hey BeachBum,

I want to apologize about my first post. I was smoking some really good stuff and am not sure how I arrived at your planet.

I am sober with this post and see from your Friday Flash Fiction post that you have better herb than me -)

peace out

John McElveen said...

I LIKE your Testicl---TENTACLES!!!!! Keep o writin Bro!

J

RegCPA5963 said...

I do so love a good sci fi tale. Loved this one, it captured my attention right from the beginning. I also agree you captured alot of detail and info in such a short piece and still managed to move the story forward at a nice pace.

L Turner