Friday 29 June 2012

Flash Fiction: Ghost, Abandoned

Mercy presses her back to the solid oak of the balcony, the dust has settled and she can hear nothing moving in the church below. She squints in the sunlight slanting alternately bright then stained through the broken glass window in front of her, and waits. Her breathing slows.

There is a crunching, drawn-out squeak as someone pushes the heavy front door open, sweeping rubble and fallen masonry aside. It is a testament to the workmanship of ages past that the church is still standing after the pitched battle that just passed within its walls.

Mercy whispers to her pistol with her mind. Scorpion is an ancient weapon, from late in the first technological age. He has been with Mercy for years; she has kept him occupied and well-maintained and the Lords have never recalled him.

He whispers back to her. Two ogres have entered the church. He warns her that he has only two bullets left.

Her left hand disappears into thin air as she reaches between Realms for a weapon. She is hoping for something heavy... high calibre, high rate of fire, something in black. She gets nothing. She tries again. Not a new clip for Scorpion, not even a dagger, nothing comes to hand.

The Lords of the Armoury have withdrawn their patronage.

She looks down at Scorpion. He is more than a weapon to her, he is her partner. He was granted to her as she haunted the frontlines for an ascendant Britannia, but then came the Regiphage, the King Plague, to decimate their ranks, and soon after that, the Saxonite Betrayal. He is an Artefact; the technologies beneath his matt, black casing cannot be replicated by today’s engineering.

Scorpion weighs heavily in her hand. The Lords are neutral only in as much as they arm anyone who might one day win. Something must have happened, some other unforeseen blow that has made the Armoury utterly lose faith in Britannia.

She whispers inquisitively to Scorpion.

The Lords have requested his return. And he has refused their request. He adds that one of the ogres is at the foot of the stairs to the balcony. The other is moving to the back of the church, below them, to check the vestry.

Did no one tell them about haunted houses? You never split up.

There is no cover up here, just the wooden steps downwards and at the other end, a spiralling stone staircase leading up inside the bell tower. She holsters Scorpion and creeps softly across the floor, relieved as none of the floorboards creak. She hides against the wall and listens as his heavy steps cautiously approach.

He glances her way but she slides between realms and ghosts behind him. He is twice her height and much wider, and most of that bulk is muscle and steel-laced bone. They are vat grown things, ogres, warrior thugs. Not many people have taken one on at close range and survived, the modified build and bone left few weak spots, even without taking their armour and uncanny speed into account.

Mercy snatches a machete from his waist, phasing it through its sheath, and she jumps. She ghosts the blade again as she rises, shoving it through his head and letting it rematerialise inside his brain. Armour and a thickened skull are not so much of a problem when you can move things between Realms.

His swinging arm barely misses her and takes a chunk of stonework out of the wall. She rolls out of the way, back onto the balcony. The primary brain is down, but the secondary at the base of the ogre’s spine still drives him after her.

She dives, grabbing his trouser legs and ghosting. He falls through the floor with her but she is clear first and she leaves him stuck, the wooden floor piercing his stomach. She hangs from his twitching legs for a second, then drops safely to the ground.

The other ogre swivels to face her, pistol in hand. His revolver is almost artillery, probably too heavy for her to even lift, certainly too wild for her to ever fire; the recoil would break her wrists. There is a deep boom as he fires.

She shifts.

Stone disintegrates as the thick bullet punches straight through the ancient wall behind her.

He fires again and she flits between Realms, closing the distance, haunting right up to him.

Scorpion yells danger as the ogre drops the revolver and draws a knife. It is a phase blade, existing through several realms. She will not be able to shift herself out of its way.

She back flips, dodging as the ogre lunges for her. He grins, he knows where she is and she can’t ghost. He has taken her two main advantages away.

Scorpion whispers to her that this entire section of floor, the raised dais where an altar, lectern and priest might once have stood, is made of a single massive block of stone.

Mercy drops and puts a hand to the floor. It’s a lot of mass, but nothing she can’t handle.

The ogre looks surprised as his feet fall through and then angry as she brings the stone back, holding him in place by the ankles. She sees him contemplate throwing the knife, but that would remove his only defence against her.

This would be a lot easier if she could be sure of refreshing Scorpion’s ammo, but she must conserve. She backs towards the door, never turning away from the ogre’s malevolent stare or his wicked knife, relying on Scorpion to let her know if any new threats approach.

She walks out into a war torn city; its cracked towers are empty, its hollow streets are quiet. The gusting wind whips brick and concrete dust into brief spectres. She needs to get back to Britannia. She needs to get home.

And thus ends the second year of the Xeroverse.
Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting. ^_^

Two years! Let's celebrate. =)
Starting this Sunday (July 1st) will be the second Xeroversary - a week a guest flash fiction from some of my favourite flash writers.

Check out last year's afterparty for a taste, and do pop by next week, it's an open party! ^_^


  1. What a cool set up, moving and shifting between realms to combat your opponent.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  2. Wow, that was astonishing! Any plans to expand this?

    1. Thank you, Icy. ^_^

      No plans right now, but it's one that will definitely sit on the back burner. Would love to expand it some time...

  3. Wild and wow-inducing as always!

    1. Upon a second reading, I could see this becoming a novella or maybe a full novel. She would have to find out why the Lords have abandoned her before she can get home. And could Scorpion refuse to return for very long? Hmmm.

    2. It's one I would like to go back to some time, Larry. So many things to work on though... so little time. =(

      I think another key tension would be Scorpion's primary purpose, crossed with a lack of bullets. Would Scorpion himself become dissatisfied without being able to actually shoot anything...?

  4. A psychic gun would be very handy, even if I can't stop giggling at it.

    1. Ah, but how will she keep Scorpion happy now that he can't go killin', so much... ;)

      Thank you, John. =)

  5. Brilliant imagery and imaginative writing John, absolutely fantastic sci-fi.

  6. Now this I like! Brimming with cool concepts while remaining accessible.

    Ghosting powers are always broken, which is why they should never be given to players in RPG's. Won't make that mistake again!

    1. Thank you, Pete. ^_^

      In the hands of devious players there are many, many exploitable powers. GMing is no easy task! =)

  7. The world building and everything else about this blew me away! I agree with Larry, I can definitely see this working as a longer story. You've got some really great ideas here.

    1. Thank you, Sonya. Everyone's been pretty encouraging about this one, maybe I'll try and get my brain to prioritise it for something longer. =)

  8. Bloody brilliant story John! I'm speechless after reading. Great imagination and idea and what a fantastic writing to deliver it.

  9. I think this must be one of the best things you've written. It certainly has the potential to be far more than a flash - I hope you consider it.

    1. Thanks, Helen. I really like the characters, so, who knows!? =D

  10. I liked this a lot -- like Helen, I'd like to see more of the world and the conflict.