Space Hero For Hire

“There will be the slight matter of my fee for this service.”

The tall man extended his hand with palm upwards.

“But Mr. Gregorious…” the wizened old fellow said.

“That would be ‘Sir Gregorious.'”

“Sir Gregorious, you know we are a poor folk here on this world. I thought you Knights of Orion were heroes.”

Gregorious lowered his hand and raised his chin at an angle to the ceiling of the tavern. His cape rustled behind him, revealing a few spots worn through the old fabric.

“Of course the Knights of Orion are heroes! For centuries we have protected humanity from the terrors of the void! Struck fear into the alien hearts of our enemies! Upheld the right!”

The old man shrugged his shoulders.

“Then why would you need payment for ‘upholding the right’ and dealing with these space-pirates? If the crop shipments don’t get through, the whole planet’s economy will collapse!”

Gregorious lowered his chin and tapped the battered blast-gun holstered at his waist.

“Arms cost money. Provisions and fuel for my ship cost money.”

“We can offer you fuel and food at no cost, but we have no weapons to speak of. And unless the freighters get through, we will have no money.”

Gregorious sighed.

“Might there be any security you could offer pending the money arriving? Collateral of some kind?”

The old man hunched closer over the table.

“Well, I have been reading up on the history of the Knights. Was there not a time when a Knight’s only reward was the favor of a fair maiden?”

Gregorious’ eyes widened and his mouth fell open.

“You can’t be serious. That was a long time ago.”

“Nonetheless,” the old man said, “the provision remains in the rules of your order. You are required to accept the request of a fair maiden in return for a kiss.”

“Well, perhaps this task is not for me at the present,” Gregorious started as he began to turn away from the table. “Perhaps another Knight will be along soon?”

The old man pointed a finger. “Shawnalee…”

Gregorious found his escape blocked by a young woman. She was nearly as tall as he was, and sported a shock of flaming red hair. Her green eyes were framed in a perfectly symmetrical face.

“Sir Gregorious,” she said, “couldn’t you please take care of those nasty space-pirates for little-old me?”

Her broad red lips approached his face.

Gregorious was so stunned he forgot to move out of the way.

Smack!

The old man chuckled.

“Sir Gregorious, my granddaughter Shawnalee has made a request of you. Even provided payment in advance.”

Oh no! thought Gregorious.

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Matt Ross. Helicopter Pilot. Crash Survivor. Earthman.

Matt Ross yanked the yoke to starboard. The helicopter began to veer away from the plume of dark volcanic ash towering before him.

“Faster, Matt!” said Dr. Ignasio from the passenger seat. “I think the eruption may be any minute now.”

The pilot glanced at the scientist out of the corner of one green eye.

“Don’t worry, Doctor, I’ll get us back to base ASAP.”

Sudden turbulence spun the chopper as a darkness swept up from behind. Matt fought with the yoke to keep the craft steady.

“Hang on!”

Streaking balls of orange fire fell through the cloud, but Matt could still barely see more than a few yards ahead.

He glanced down at his flight instruments.

The compass needle jerked violently from side-to-side, and the GPS had lost signal-lock.

“We’re flying blind, Doc!”

“Perhaps it is magnetic emissions from the eruption,” Ignasio said.

The helicopter shuddered. Bangs and pops sounded from behind the cockpit.

“Engine stalling!”

As he struggled to keep the chopper flying, Matt glanced up and saw a patch of blue through the ash plume.

I think it′s the edge of the cloud!″

He aimed the nose in the direction of the gap as the craft lost altitude.

There was a blinding purple flash…

Attempted Flash Fiction

An attempt at flash fiction for an anthology submission. Rejected so might as well post it here.

Pursuit to Infinity
by Spencer E. Hart

″I’m gonna kill him!″

Mark hopped into the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut.

″You coming or not?″ he growled at Bruce while fumbling for his key.

″Laura’s my sister, man. ′Course I’m coming,″ Bruce said.

The engine roared to life as Bruce tossed the baseball bats into the back seat and climbed in next to Mark.

A cloud of dust rose in the moonlight as the car tore off down the dirt road.

* * *

Mark tossed his baseball bat over the tall wooden fence before clambering over the barrier himself. He landed in a crouch and grabbed the bat off the damp grass.

“Here goes!” came a muffled voice from the far side of the fence.

A second bat fell over the fence, followed by Bruce. The second boy landed clumsily on his rear-end with an “Oof!”

“Be quiet, Bruce!” hissed Mark. “We don’t want Mr. Chambers to know we’re coming.”

Mark set off for the farmhouse visible about a football-field distance away. Bruce trailed a few feet behind.

All the windows in the house were dark as the boys crept past an oak tree in the yard. The only sound was their breathing and the faint squeak of sneakers.

“Let’s check the back door,” whispered Mark as they rounded the corner.

A low shape charged out of the darkness with a growl, fangs bared as it leapt at Mark.

Mark fell back in alarm as he tried to get his bat between himself and the German Sheppard’s teeth.

He fell on his back, the hot breath close as the dog latched onto the narrow end of the bat. The dark eyes bored into his mind with a promise of bloody death.

With a sickening crunch and a yelp the dog flew sideways and off him. Bruce’s bat rose to strike again.

Mark got to his knees and crawled over to the writhing, growling beast and joined Bruce in smashing it until it stopped moving.

″You OK, man?″ whispered Bruce.

″I’m good,″ Mark said as he rose to his feet.

There were no lights on this side of the house either. The back door was latched.

A low humming noise started up.

The boys whipped their heads around to see where it was coming from.

″What the…″ started Mark.

A pulsating blue light shone from the gaps in a nearby barn. The humming came from that direction.

Mark started walking in the direction of the barn.

Bruce followed in his wake.

The flickering blue light shone out from the cracks around the closed doors and windows. The humming rose the closer they got.

Mark tried to peer through a crack, but saw nothing but the dazzling light.

″Hssst!″ Bruce hissed between his teeth.

Mark turned and saw what Bruce was pointing at.

The overhead loading door to the hayloft was partially open, a wide beam of light shining out.

Bruce pointed at something lying on the ground next to the barn. A ladder!

Mark grabbed one end of the ladder and Bruce helped him stand it up against the barn. The increasing loudness of the hum masked the jostling of the wood.

Mark climbed the rungs with one hand while he carried his bat in the other. When he reached the hayloft door, he swung it open farther. Mark’s body showed as a black outline against the streaming pulses of light.

Mark maneuvered from the ladder to the hayloft, and motioned for Bruce to follow. A little awkwardly, the second boy climbed up.

Crawling forward, they advanced to where they could peer down into the main barn.

″Holy…″ Mark gasped under the near-deafening sound.

A bizarre hodge-podge of machinery and racks of electronics full of blinking lights and small displays stood in a circle in the center of the barn. The weird blue light shone from a large metal cylinder a yard across and over two yards tall.

Mark saw a dark shadow sweep around the room in the harsh light. Squinting his eyes, he made out the small skinny form of Mr. Chambers in front of one of the electronic racks only a few feet below him.

There was a tap on Mark’s shoulder. He saw that Bruce was pointing at the big cylinder.

Mark saw that there was a clear panel near the top of the cylinder from which no light shone forth. He made out the shape of a human head through the window. Long hair framed a face.

Laura!

The humming sounded higher as the blue light pulsed faster and faster.

Mr. Chambers′ arm reached for a large red button.

The bat slipped from Mark’s grip as he launched himself from the edge of the hayloft at the man.
Mark landed on Mr. Chambers and they fell together against the console in a jumble of arms and legs.

A sharp crack split the air. A solid wave of blue filled the barn.

The glow faded as Mark found himself pinning Mr. Chambers to the floor. Bruce stood there with a foot on the limp man’s neck.

Mark realized that the hum was barely audible.

″You got him, man?″ asked Bruce in the sudden quiet.

″Yeah,″ panted Mark.

Mark climbed to his feet while Bruce went to check on Laura.

″She’s gone, man!″ Bruce shouted. ″It’s empty!″

Mark kicked at Mr. Chambers.

″Wake up you rat!″

A low chuckle came from the man on the floor.

″What happened to Laura?″ Mark bent down and grabbed him by the shirt-collar. ″What′d you do to her?″

Mr. Chambers′ eyes bored into Mark’s own.

″I’ve sent her to the Master.″

″Bring her back! Now!″

Mr. Chambers face contorted into a sickly grin.

″The machine only works one-way.″

Mark held a fist close in front of Chambers′ face.

″Bring her back or so help me…″

″I cant.″

″Hey, man,″ Bruce called.

″Yeah?″

″This thing sent Laura away? Like some kind of transporter like on TV?″

Chambers chuckled again.

Mark balled his fist so tight the nails dug into his palm.

″That what it is?″ he yelled into Chamber’s face.

″Your friend is smarter than you are.″

″This row of buttons, man. Green, yellow, and red. The green one is still lit,″ Bruce said.

″So?″ asked Mark.

″He was reaching for the red button when you jumped him. What if the yellow button charges it up and the red one fires it off?″

Mark glared at Chambers.

″Can it be used again? Could someone else go where Laura went?″

″The Master would not be pleased,″ Chambers said.

Mark’s fist sailed into the man’s jaw. Chambers slumped back onto the floor.

″Bruce?″ he called. ″I think you’re onto something with those buttons.″

Mark stood up and picked his fallen bat off the floor, then walked to the cylinder.

″If I can just open this thing.″

″You’re not thinking…″ Bruce started.

″Yeah, I am.″

Mark swung the side of the cylinder open.

″You crazy, man? You don’t know where it goes!″

Mark stepped inside.

″If it goes to where Laura is, that’s good enough for me. Someone has to find your sister.″

Mark closed the door.

Bruce walked close and looked at Mark through the glass.

Mark pointed at the door.

Bruce sighed and fastened the latch.
Mark watched through the window as Bruce returned to the console and a finger stabbed downwards.

The humming started rising again, and the blue light filled the barn.

Mark waited for what seemed an infinity.

His heartbeat raced.

The light pulsed faster and faster.

Mark saw Bruce’s arm stab down again.
Blue.

-END-