Monday, November 09, 2009

Short story: Crimes Against Science Fiction

I want to give a shout out to Suzanne Vincent and the editing crew over at Flash Fiction Online, who gave this story one of the kindest and most encouraging rejection letters I've ever received. This was really my first stab at flash fiction, and as such its rather derivative -- I was channeling a bit of Douglas Adams when I threw this together -- with a weak ending. I had fun with it, but it's time to put this little experiment out to pasture. Thus, Crimes Against Science Fiction is trunked here for your enjoyment.


When Tommy stumbled half-awake out of his apartment this morning, he didn't expect that the future would be waiting outside to kill him. Or that the future would be so fat.

"Stand fast, and prepare to answer for your crimes!" the one of the left shouted, pointing an exotic firearm at Tommy. The assailant was dressed in a flamboyantly colorful excuse for a military uniform, though the garment was clearly intended for someone far thinner than the rotund, pimply-faced gent breathing heavily in Tommy's parking space.

The one on the right interrupted. "Wait, we have to explain his crimes to him first. He isn't guilty of them yet." This one was slightly taller, and rail thin, except for the almost comically out-of-place beer belly swelling beneath the belt of his…er…outfit. He was wearing some bizarre hybrid of 17th century samurai armor and 21st century leather fetish gear while carrying a wildly impractical, oversized sword.

"We've only got five minutes, I don’t want to waste it!" whined the apparent soldier.

"You're wasting it now," snapped the pervy one.

"No, you are!"

"More coffee. Kill hangover," Tommy mumbled, and began to move past the pair toward his car. Then the pervy one swiped at him with his sword, slashing Tommy's shirt.

Tommy looked down in barely-conscious disbelief. "Well, that kinda sucks."

"Sorry," the pervy one yelped.

"Don't apologize!" yelled the soldier.

"Sorry," the pervy one repeated.

Tommy rubbed his bloodshot eyes. "Are you guys part of an improv-anywhere group, or something? Because I'm not really into this."

The soldier pointed his weapon at Tommy again and puffed out his chest. "I am Colonel Jack Churchill, team leader of StarCorps Alpha. This is my ally, Avenger Black. We are here to prevent you from destroying the future. "

"Okay, so, is this gonna be on YouTube?"

"We are not performers!" The Colonel screamed, panting at the exertion.

"Well, I mean we kinda are…" The pervy one disagreed.

"Not now," the Colonel snapped.

"Look, guys, this has been trippy, but I've got a big presentation due today at work and…"

"Project TubeSock." The pervy one smiled oafishly at his pronouncement.

"What?" Tommy asked.

"You will not complete it," the Colonel growled. "You will not commit your crimes against science fiction."

"Science fiction?"

The Colonel drew in a breath and lapsed into a practiced speech. "The software you create allows television viewers to pick any item onscreen and purchase it from the Internet. Suddenly, product placement completely supplants old-fashioned commercials. Hollywood designs shows based on what they can sell, rather than how cool they can be. The same thing happens to the movies. Sitcoms about car salesmen and fashion executives take over the world. Science fiction is left out, because you can't buy antiproton pistols or starskipper battleplanes or Zarconian she-slave androids…"

"God, if only…" The pervy one mumbled.

The Colonel rolled his eyes. "Without a revenue stream, the genre will all but die, kept alive only by the most devoted followers. Followers like us."

"Wait, I know you guys…" Tommy exclaimed. "You're dressed like those dudes from that lame TV show, the one that got cancelled after, like, six episodes."

The Colonel lunged for Tommy. "It wasn't lame, it was a cult classic!"

Tommy fended off the Colonel's attack with a simple sidestep. This led to the Colonel running headlong in Tommy's car door and his firearm skidding out of reach.

"Dammit," the Colonel wailed.

"Dude, watch the paint job."

"Avenger," the Colonel screamed, "Strike him down."

"You said you were going to shoot him," the pervy one whined.

"I lost my slugthrower. Just kill him."

"I don't want to kill him," complained the pervy one.

"You want kill me?" Tommy asked, surprised.

"No," said the pervy one.

"Yes," shouted the Colonel, scrambling to regain his weapon.

"Because of this TubeSock thing?" Tommy asked.

"It was Jack’s idea," shrugged the pervy one.

"Quit talking to him," ordered the Colonel.

"Because I stopped working on TubeSock last year," Tommy continued.

"What?" said the Colonel.

"What?" said the pervy one.

Tommy shrugged. "My venture capital fell through, so I had to get a day job."

"But the 'Net lists you as the TubeSock inventor," the Colonel insisted.

"I told you not to use the StarCorps wiki," the pervy one said.

The Colonel raised his recovered weapon. "Maybe they just got the date wrong. We should kill him anyway."

"No," the pervy one stomped his feet. "We only paid for one timeline change. If we don't kill him, maybe we can get the fee back."

The Colonel frowned. "And if we can't, we don't have enough money saved to jump back again."

"We could sell your replica Dragon Armada command throne," the pervy one suggested.

"No way. Sell yours," the Colonel countered.

"Mine is nicer," the pervy one said.

"Exactly, so we could get more…," the Colonel began, when a device on his wrist started beeping. "Oh, no. You made us waste…"

In that instant, the pair disappeared.

"I didn’t just see that," Tommy said to himself as he stared at the parking space where the pervy swordsman and fat Colonel used to be.

“Yeah, you did,” said a man across the parking lot.

“You saw it too?” Tommy asked.

“Saw it. Heard it. Trying to forget it,” the man replied.

“You think those freaks were really from the future?”

“If so, that’s the dumbest future ever. What kind of jackass is watching the crap I make when you can spend your free time boinking Cleopatra or shooting Hitler in the face? Screw cable, I’m gonna whack me a Fuhrer.”

“And you are?” Tommy asked.

“Ricky Ransom, Ransom Note Productions.”

“You make TV shows?”

“I produce the number three police-procedural comedy on basic cable.”

“Ever thought about funding some software development, Mr. Ransom? I bet I can sell an assload of donuts with a cop show.”

Ransom smiled. “I think there’s a future in it.”

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