Author’s Note: this picture was so inspiring this week that I had to double-dip it. That said, both stories fit well with one another, so enjoy…. Backstory: Another tale in the ongoing saga of Emir & Zithri as they venture into recolonizing Terra Firma…
Emri stood in the promenade, staring up at the lights. He’d always taken them for granted. Now, he looked at them in a different light. In a few minutes, they would be extinguished and the era of shipboard life would be ended. He’d come back to the ship for the last day’s festivities. After the lights were dimmed, they would be removed and transported down with the last load of what could be recycled. It was the ending of an era, and the beginning of a new one.
With a shaking hand, he reached out…
The world went dark.
Zithri twisted her hands; after all this time, they would have electric. It would only be what the generator could provide… but, there would be light. She’d missed the gentle glow in the evenings as they’d danced on the promenade or watched movies at the cinema complex. She felt a clogging in her throat and a burning in her eyes as Emri lifted the end of the cords and held them out to her.
‘Do you want to do the honors?’ He smiled.
‘Let’s do it together.’ She put her hands on his.
Light suddenly filled the room.
Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here. This week’s photo has been graciously donatedby: Liz Young.
Several hours later, Jonquil stepped through the kitchen door, inhaling deeply. Pot Roast. Then, he sighed. As happy as he was to have his favorite meal, he regretted the news he least expected to be sharing.
Elizabeth heard the back door open and smiled. Jonquil was home, finally. She’d worried because he was so late. It was a rare occurrence that he was late without calling ahead. Before she could rush to him, he held up a hand to tell her to stay back. She took in his stained and torn uniform with a frown.
‘Jon?’ She swallowed.
‘I’ll change in the laundry room.’ He told her.
‘Have you seen the news?’ He ventured to ask.
‘Bits and pieces.’ She shrugged. ‘ You know how it is with Charles.’
‘I was in the Capital today.’ He spoke as if that would answer all her questions before disappearing into the laundry area off of the kitchen.
Elizabeth stared after him in shocked surprise. She had caught glimpses of the riots and heard a report that the dictator had been assassinated. But why would Jonquil be on that side of the wall? The base where he worked was at least several hundred miles on the free side of the European wall. Now, she was confused.
Soon, Jonquil returned, freshly showered and dressed in sweats.
‘What happened?’ She asked, dishing up a large plate of pot roast and all the fixings to go with it.
‘All hell broke loose.’ He muttered, smiling at the plate she set before him. ‘I’m starved. Thanks for keeping it hot.’
‘You’re late. You didn’t call. I was worried.’ She rattled at him.
‘Sorry about that. By the time I got to where I could call you, I was already on the way home.’
‘I’ll forgive you… for a kiss.’ She leaned into his embrace.
‘I’ve been called up for deployment, Liza.’ He came out with what he needed to say. ‘Word came down as I returned to base. I report next week.’
Elizabeth pulled back out of his reach. ‘No. They can’t do that. They don’t need a lawyer in combat. Just like I don’t see why you had to go over the wall today. You had no business in that place… and today of all days. Do you know what happened there today?’
‘People stormed the palace, Jon. They killed every official they could find. They – they even assassinated the dictator, Jon. Why the hell were you there?’
‘Sorry, Liza, that’s classified.’ He dug into the pot roast in front of him.
‘They can’t deploy you, Jon. You’re not a combat soldier.’ She swayed back to the deployment issue; knowing that once he said something was classified, she’d never get a clear answer. ‘You’re a lawyer, Jon. What are you going to do? Are you going to lob books at them, or fire words in their direction?’ Elizabeth bit back tears. Her worst fears were bubbling up to the surface and trailing down her cheeks.
‘I’m still a soldier, Liza, just like any other soldier. I’m trained for combat. I’m prepared for war. It’s what I do, Liza. You knew that before we married that there might come a time like this.’ He reminded her.
‘I – I never believed they’d send a lawyer into battle, Jon. It’s wrong. You’re a paper-pusher.’ She sniffled into the napkin he offered her.
‘I’m a soldier first, Liza. Look, it’s been a very long and tiring day. I don’t want to argue with you about this. I have my orders.’ He sighed. ‘I’ve trained for war my entire life, Liza. I’ve always prayed I’d never have to fight, but it has come. It’s just something you have to accept.’
‘I can’t. I won’t.’ She allowed him to wrap an arm around her waist.
‘I love you, Liza. No matter what happens, don’t forget that. He pulled her to him and kissed her deeply.
Coming up for air, she muttered against his lips. ‘Is there any way to get out of it?’
‘No. It’s my duty to serve God, the Corps, and family.’ He kissed her again.
This time, Elizabeth pulled back. ‘Family’s always last, isn’t it, Jonquil.’ She picked up his plate and took it to the sink. ‘I want to go back to America; Jon, and the sooner the better. After what I saw today… And now, you being called up… I want to go home. – sniff – If…if the worst…’
She didn’t have to finish before he responded. ‘I’ll make the arrangements in the morning.’
Elizabeth blinked back tears as she pulled the plug in the sink and watched the water circle down the drain.
Another adventure of Emri and Zithri upon the recolonization of Earth….
Tears coursed Emri’s cheeks as the first load of crops exit the field. It was something he had dreamed of seeing for all of his life. It represented the fact that they could survive here, versus the ship that still orbited above.
‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it?’ Aaron asked.
‘Yes, it is.’ Emri smiled. ‘God has truly blessed us and we will give our portion back to him.’
‘The women have created a feast to celebrate the harvest.’
‘Tonight’s fire will be bright.’ Emri nodded to where they would stack the bales, add the first harvests of vegetables and fruits.
Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here. This week’s photo has been graciously donated by: Sandra Crook.
This is how the poem is intended to appear. Here’s how WP screws it up…
The day America’s tears
fell in torrents
into rivers of raw fear
and flooded the tributaries
of unfathomable grief
until they converged
into an ocean of anger
with undercurrents circling
around hidden reefs
of rage and retribution
yet… never forgotten.
c. 2021, McQuinn
Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here. This week’s photo has been graciously donated by: Penny Gadd.
Author’s Note: The poem reflects where my heart is this week. Already, the 9-11 tributes are rolling in. I’ve unplugged the television, and limited my online presence and will do so probably for the rest of the month. As much as I don’t want to be reminded, I will NEVER forget… nor should anyone. Our nation has suffered a tremendous loss, but we are a strong people who can navigate our little boats amid the torrents if we choose to do so. Find what brings you joy this week, and cling to it.
As oxygen filled his lungs, the sparkles began to fade from his vision and his thoughts cleared. He took several moments to consider the new advantages to his current predicament. All he needed now was to be able to use his weapon if necessary. It could mean the difference between living, or dying at the hands of the mob that seemed to be right on top of him.
By his mental estimate, he still had a good thirty minutes before the extrication team arrived. Until then, he had to wait. He wasn’t comfortable with the time. He was a man of quick, decisive action, after all. Inhaling deeply, Jonquil felt a sharpness in his side. Shifting ever so carefully, he moved just enough to remove the discomfort while at the same time freeing the business end of his smoker. Finally, camouflaged as much as he could be, there was nothing left to do but wait. Wait, and pray.
Hours later, Jonquil still waited beneath the refuse, anxious to get out of the hell he could hear happening around him. Any moment, he feared both detection or acquiring a stray bullet. For a moment, he started to consider how he was going to extricate himself from the area. He considered the possibility that the team was unable to get to him. The fear was sobering, and oddly exhilarating, too. Now, he needed a new plan.
‘Commander Montgomery?’ He heard a voice hiss above him. ‘Commander, are you here?’
Jonquil stirred slightly at the sound of his name.
‘Extract One, Sir.’ The trained eye found his despite his cover. ‘Ready to blow, Sir?’
Jonquil didn’t have to hear the words twice as he exploded out of the debris. ‘Definitely, Major. Let’s get out of here.’
‘Problem that, Sir.’ The Major confessed. ‘We had to fight our way in, looks the same heading out, Sir. We’re about two mile out. Close as we could get.’
‘Lead the way, Major. My wife’s making her famous pot roast for dinner, and I can already taste it.’ Jonquil smiled despite his disheveled appearance.
‘Stick to my six, Sir. I’ll get you home before the meat gets too dry to eat.’ The Major chuckled as he bumped elbows with the Commander.
As they neared the end of the alley, Jonquil saw the uncontrolled mayhem of the citizens finally taking back their freedom from tyranny. Jonquil gulped at the sight. Internally, he took it all in. Was this chaotic scene the result of his singular act? Or, was his act merely one of many flashpoints that set this conflagration into motion? He’d never stayed around long enough to see the consequences of his skill. It was sobering, he thought, as a heaviness settled into his bones.
‘Keep your head up and your wits about you, Sir. It looks like we may have to join the melee.’ Major Edwards grinned as he signaled his team to move forward. ‘Go. GO! GO!’
Jonquil followed and was nearly crushed by the force of the rabid crowd. His breath caught in his chest as he fought the need to cry out. Hands tried to grab hold of his smoker. He fought against them, knowing that if he lost his weapon, he would be lost as well.
‘Ye- ahh!’ He bellowed as he began to use his smoker as a bludgeoning tool. Again and again, his smoker slammed into heads, and bodies fell. Whether they were unconscious or dead, he didn’t care.
To his immediate right, Major Edwards deflected a steel pipe that barely missed crushing Jonquil’s skull. A know of fear gripped Jonquil’s heart as an image of his son playing war flashed through his mind. So innocent, so naiver. Jonquil knew, in that moment, that he had to get home, now matter what it took. Adrenaline surged through his veins, tingling in his limbs and burning through his brain. Survival instinct kicked into full gear as he unleashed his pent up hostility. He used his failing marriage to fuel his fight against any who opposed his progress. Together, Jonquil and Major Edwards drove forward against the crush of the crowd. At times, they defended each other. At others, they aggressively drove the angry mob aside.
‘This way, Sir.’ Major Edward’s confident voice urged him onward. ‘Almost home, now, Sir. Can you smell the pot roast, yet?’
‘Yes, I can.’ Jonquil chortled, following the Major’s gesture upwards.
Note: We left Jonquil needing to hold his position for an hour until the extrication team arrived…
‘This is insane.’ Jonquil muttered. ‘Things are moving too fast. I’ll need to change the plan.’
Glancing around at the alley, he noted that it was blocked in on three sides. This, too, was not strategically good. the strategist who had chosen this particular location for extrication was ill-informed or.. or, this was deliberate sabotage. Neither thought sat well with him. Behind him, echoing through the parking structure, he could hear the angry mobs growing in intensity. Grumbling about misplacing his trust in the strategist, Jonquil reassessed his situation.
If only he’d double-checked the plans personally. He’d seen the warning signs that not everyone was akin to the plan. He’s seen them, but the gravity of his mission had clouded his mind in that moment. He knew that not everyone on the planning team was for the mission to unseat the dictator. Many were too frightened of the reprecusions should the mission integrity become breached. Dictator or not, some felt that it was a game of ‘better the devil you know’. Now, he chastised himself for not acknowledging his instinctual doubt in the young strategist’s plans.
As the sounds of the mob grew louder, Jonquil’s mind reassessed the plan. He cursed. He still had forty-five minutes to wait before the extrication team arrived. Three quarters of an hour, that’s what he needed to buy… but, how?
Instinct brought a slight twitch as Jonquil heard a shot fired so close it echoed in the alleyway. It was soon followed by an answering volley.
Cover… He needed cover. Here, amid the debris of hospital waste; his clean, crisp uniform would stand out like a homing beacon. If he could just – …
His eyes scanned the alley again, falling on the debris piled around the dumpster.
‘Bags… garbage… perfect.’ He almost smiled.
Keeping as low as he could, Jonquil made his way across the open roadway and over to the overflowing dumpster. Many of the bags piled around were marked bio-hazard and smelled of rotting flesh. Jonquil wrinkled his nose. Death always did have a distinctive smell to it.
Between the rotting flesh, and a myriad of chemical smells, he couldn’t help but to gag. As he toed one bag, the all too familiar smell of human decay accosted him full-force. It stung his nose and constricted his throat as he fought his stomach’s need to expunge itself. Gulping, he forced himself not to add to the miasma as he did what he needed to do for protection.
As quickly and as quietly as he was able, Jonquil wedged the barrel of his smoker under the edge of the refuse pile. Then, using it as a lever, he managed to work his way underneath the heavy bags of waste. The putrid odor causing reflexive gagging as he maneuvered into as comfortable of a position as was possible.
At the moment, Jonquil thought, the only upside to the situation was that the aerobic reaction of decaying waste was creating warmth. A warmth that was more than welcome to his half frozen limbs. In fact, before he could get settled, he was already beginning to sweat, and sweat heavily at that.
Between the weight of the debris and the plastic that blocked the flow of air, he was finding it exceedingly difficult to breathe causing his eyes to sparkle due to lack of oxygen. He knew he wouldn’t last the hour if he didn’t get a good draw of air. His body’s automatic gag reflex was creating danger to his safety as well. The way it wracked his body between gasps for air threatened to reveal his hideaway. He needed air… clean air. Cautiously, Jonquil stirred the debris over his head, just enough to create a hole large enough for air to pass through. It was barely enough, but it would have to suffice. The air still reeked, but he could now breathe without choking. He only hoped that he was still hidden enough to avoid detection.
Jonquil Montgomery clutched his smoker to his chest and tried to slow his breathing. The fifteen story climb had left him a little winded. With as winded as he was at the moment, he’d never be able to get off a straight shot, let alone a kill shot. He needed a kill shot. Without it, his mission would fail. Or worse, he could be captured. Jonquil knew all too well what happened to military prisoners. It was something he’d already had the unfortunate opportunity to experience, and never wished to experience again.
Jonquil rested on his faith that he could make the shot. He always did. He’d take out the target from a distance; then, he’d find a place to wait for the extrication team to pick him up. To him, this was all routine. Get in. Take the shot. Get out in time to have dinner with his family. Jonquil was good at what he did, and he wasn’t being the least bit cocky about his abilities, either. It was fact. He was THAT good.
Sliding his hand into his pocket, he let his fingers be warmed by the bundle of tattered cotton he carried there. It was the remains of an old flag once carried in combat by his father, and his father. It was a talisman, giving him a focus point. Likewise, it reminded him of the ideals that what he was about to do would defend.
This mission, this particular assassination, would have world-wide reprocussions for generations. He focused on that as his breathing slowed to normal. There was no other way beyond this mission to remove the dictator from the equation that was vastly unequal in every respect. And though Jonquil had been the one to draw this mission, he’d prayed hard about it. He would complete the mission today. After months of preparation and planning, he would take the kill shot when it was presented to him, and without hesitation. It was his duty.
With his breathing now controleded into almost non-existent, Jonquil raised his smoker with slow ease and sighted through the long range scope. Then, he waited…
The shot silently split the air.
His target fell, lifeless, into his bodyguard’ arms.
Simultaneously, Jonquil stepped back into the shadows. With the ease of a ghost, he used the shadows to disguise his digress through the long abandoned domicile. Unseen, unheard, he made his way down the back stairwell, emerging into an overgrown vacant lot.
Shivering against the sudden drop in temperature, Jonquil knew it would be hours before anyone traced the trajectory of the bullet back to this building. By then, he would be sitting at the dinner table eating pot roast. The thought warmed him as the icy winds began to howl through the hollow buildings. Dodging a piece of blowing garbage, he slipped into an alleyway between the hospital and parking garage.
Everything had gone according to plan so far. Everything that is except for the unexpected appearance of a citizen led militia. That, in a greater sense, was part of the plan to peace; but that would be weeks away. Not here, and not now.
Jonquil needed to hold his position in this alley for at least another hour. Yet, from the growing sounds of chaos, he was getting nervous. He had hoped to get in, complete his part of the mission, then meet up with the extrication team with none the wiser to what he’d accomplished. One hour, that’s all he needed.
‘This is insane.’ Jonquil muttered. ‘Things are moving too fast. I’ll need to change the plan.’
Charles paused by Stephen’s bookcase, his eye catching on an old metal toy. ‘Where did you get this?’
‘The last Terran excavation.’ Stephen explained.
‘Has it been tested?’
‘Yes, radiation levels were deemed safe.’ Stephen rose to join him.
‘So, now they’re selling off pieces of Terra as tourist trinkets, too.’ Charles sighed.
‘That bothers you?’
Charles glared at him. ‘This is a child’s toy. A child…’ His voice broke. ‘… a child lost through adult stupidity, Stephen. A whole world lost to human stupidity.’
Stephen nodded silently, watching as Charles lift the toy with shaking hands.
Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here. This week’s photo has been graciously donated by: Lisa Fox
Authors Note: Glad to be back up and running. Hope you have a great week. Stay safe, and don’t be afraid to mask up. 🙂
From his pocket, Charles withdrew a tattered fragment of a flag that had once belonged to his father, and had once flown over a capital on Terra Firma. the flag itself had once represented an ideal concept of freedom for all. He pulled the fragment to his lips before dropping it to the bar in front of him, saluting it despite its sorry state. Then, he began to address anyone who would listen to his drunken diatribe.
‘To a once glorious land where everyone tasted freedom! We believed we could be the change our world so desperately needed. We tried to enforce that change by fighting anyone who didn’t actively pursue what we believed was a sacred right to our version of freedom. Our young men and women died; living sacrifices to that ideal. And, we honored them for it!’ Charles punctuated his slurred speech to freedom with a fist pounding the bar as ale rolled down his bearded chin.
The sight of his inebriated personage was not one befitting the war hero that he was. In fact, his present appearance was as disgraceful as it had ever been. In short, he resembled the tattered fragment of flag in front of him too well. He’d gone downhill since the last memorial service. Today, was an anniversary of sorts that reminded him of Terra Firma and all that was lost there.
So it was that every year on this night, he would come out to Ol’Salts to rant upon the injustices of life in general, and the loss of Terran ideals in specific. Each year, he’d bolster his spirit and insanity with the purest ale he could afford. And, every year, he’d drink a pint, or several, in honor of his homeland, the late Terra Firma.
‘May she ever rest in peace.’ He thought, not entirely referring to the planet.
‘Ye see this here flag, my friends? This – this flag – died! Just like its ideals, it died. It died from apathy and neglect… neglect, I tells ya. The worse form of abuse there is in this life, too. Those people entrusted – trusted- with its care, let it rot away… untended… ignored until – hic- until it was too late to save her.’ Charles paused for a draught.
‘Terrans took their freedoms for granted. They forgot – FORGOT – that freedom came with a hefty price tag… that price paid in the blood of its brightest and best. They forgot the men and women who gave their lives to keep it alive. That’s what they did, my friends! That IS what they did!’
Charles rose, the tears on his face ignored as he raised his mug into the air. ‘My father rescued this flag for me – He did! He pulled it down with his own hands and wrapped it around his shoulders as he died. MY father – the HERO!’
Overcome, Charles wept and wailed for several moments. ‘It was given to me, so I would never forget his sacrifice! I’ve carried it since. I fought for freedom! I fight for freedom – Freedom for ALL! This – this scrap of flag may be tattered and faded, but its values … its ideals… they are still alive! Kelt it all, it still stands for something!’ To FREEDOM!’
Charles slammed his fist down on the bar hard enough to rattle everyone else’s tankards. He rose unsteadily and began singing an old Terran anthem at full voice and off-key. The song spoke of star spangled banners and the red glare of bursting rockets; most of all, it spoke of giving proof that freedom was still alive and well amid the battle. When he finished, Charles Collapsed on a barstool as he was once again overcome with grief and pride. Between sobs, he cursed reality.
The barkeep, Ol’ Salt himself, sat a fresh pint in front of Charles before stepping back. He’d seen this tirade before. With practiced ease, Salty placed a call to security, hoping they arrived in time to prevent the inevitable. Last year’s tirade had left his tavern without liquor for an entire cycle while he waited for replacements. No, Salty didn’t want to repeat that incident again this year.
A few moments later, a young security officer stepped through the door and up to the bar. Ol’ Salty nodded in Charles’ direction as he began removing his stash of expensive liquors.
‘Excuse me, Sir. I need you to come with me, Sir.’ The officer kindly suggested.
Charles wobbled his head sideways to squint at the young man. ‘Let me tell ya something, Sonny. This here – …’ He jabbed at the tattered fragment. ‘… This – flag – means something.’
‘Yes, Sir, I’m sure it does.’ He nodded.
‘Ye don’t believe me, do ye?’
‘Believe what, Sir?’
‘In freedom; my boy, in freedom!’ Charles’ voice rose.
‘Sir, I need you to come with me, now, Sir.’
‘Tell me, Sonny, do ye e’en know y’er fightin’ for? Ye got that fancy-dancy shirt and that shiny sidearm, but do ye really know what y’er fightin’ for? Do ye e’en understand that – that y’er fancy shirt won’t do ye any good? It only makes ye a walkin’ target, Sonny. All it’ll do is get ye kilt! Ye’ll be as dead as – as this flag. D -E – A- D – Dead!’
‘Sir, perhaps it would be better if we took this discussion to a a different venue, Sir.’ The officer suggested patiently. ‘Sir, it would be in your best interest if – …’
‘Best interest? Did ye hear what ye jus’ said? Y’er worried about me best interest… ‘ell, ye ain’t e’en old enough ta know what an interest is, Sonny.’ Charles tipped his tankard, sucking it dry.
‘Sir, please don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be, Sir.’ The younger officer laid a firm hand on Charles’ shoulder.
Charles suddenly sobered. ‘I sincerely suggest that ya remove that hand, Sonny.’
‘Sir, I sincerely suggest that you come with me, Sir. And, without causing more of a scene, Sir. I’ll escort you home, Sir, professional courtesy.’ The officer’s tone was firm if not compassionate.
Charles looked into his empty tankard before setting it down gently. Then, he frowned.
‘A scene, ye say? Well, Sonny, ye ain’t ever seen a scene like this one.’
With that, Charles lifted the younger officer from his feet and launched him down the length of the bar. The young officer made contact with the shelves, sending bottles of liquor tumbling and crashing around him. Beneath the shattered glass, the officer was now unconscious.
In complete calm, Charles withdrew his credit chip and clicked it onto the bar. Nodding to Salty, Charles pocketed his precious fragment of flag and quietly walked out the door.
Author’s Note: I have made some serious revisions to “Where Honor Lies” so I felt that I should start the serials from scratch. I haven’t figured how to tag/ categorize with this new site yet, so you’ll just have to scroll. I might just do a tag cloud.