Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-two.
Tonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Preservation
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight we encounter the youth who will one day be ruler of the cosmos as he seeks privacy above an apparently barren rock.
Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Preservation
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Joe Monk, the last of Earth’s heirs, had spent the majority of his youth in the empty rooms and silent hallways of the ship that had birthed and nurtured him, but, in recent days, the spread of his reputation had called down followers like flies. He could no longer make out the gentle hum of the engine that had mothered him, much less bask in it.
That was why, on an evening deep into his Council of Ten Stars educational tour, he found himself alone in a shuttle at the edge of his unexpected fleet.
Not even Macbeth, his chief counsel, knew of his location – the craboid had been increasingly tight pincered about the human’s doings, and it was not in Joe’s psyche to listen to another hour of his mentor’s nagging.
The armada, such as it was, was spread from the rings of the inner planet, Straws I, through to the very surface of the system’s sun. The halt had been announced to accommodate those ships requiring a hydrogen-rich source to refuel, but, as those crews conducted their gassing runs, the remaining vessels took the opportunity to jettison garbage and run basic maintenance.
It was a backwater of the loneliest sort. Macbeth had complained that nobody would ever linger there unless they needed a pit stop – but the notion of that sort of solitude had been too alluring to the man who would eventually be emperor of all space.
He could not have expected the distress call that would interrupt his isolation.
At first he assumed the source was amongst the heaps that made up his caravan, as it would not be the first time an engine fire had spontaneously broken out on one of the third-hand craft that had been so deeply jury-rigged that their manufacturers would have been hard pressed to recognize their work, but his onboard computer tracked the weak signal to a source on the third moon of the nearby world.
That put him closest by quite a distance; even with the shuttle’s underpowered thrusters he knew he’d be at the site well before the Egg could get itself turned around.
Opening the throttle he dropped the fusion power plant into gear and grinned his way through the g-forces pinning him to his seat.
He was flush with adrenaline as he set down and pulled on his suit, but somehow the subtle tendrils of prudence that had begun to infect the human’s maturing brain managed to fire off a quick “I’ve got this” message before he stepped through his refuge’s tiny airlock.
The moon was little more than a barren ball of carbon dust, and that fact could not have made Joe happier. From horizon to horizon there was only a single visible stirring, and that was simply the slow red blink of a light some two hundred feet away.
There was room to run, and the forgiving gravity allowed Monk to turn a trip into a series of belly-laughing cartwheels.
Still, he had presence of mind to strike a stoic pose as he pushed the large crimson button that the winking illumination acted to indicate.
He could not read the signage scrawled across the tube that broke the surface, but he’d experienced enough alien skyscrapers and shipboard transportation to identify an elevator. As such, he stepped inside.
The descent was rapid, but outside his stop all was blackness. He did not remove his helmet – he’d learned the hard way that an atmosphere does not always mean oxygen – yet even through the muffling layers he could hear a forlorn gurgling.
Steeling himself he stepped into the dark, which immediately evaporated. Ceiling-mounted bundles of automated lights began to spread from his position, bringing into view a set of hallways stretching off on either side and a great window directly in front of him.
The room beyond the glass also came alive, and within sat a massive being of stone and purple. It was hunkered low on its haunches, and the area on its chest that seemed to act as its face was buried in the broad rocky planes of its upper hands.
Though Joe did not recognize its physiology, he could only interpret the crackling whimper that emanated from within the stranger’s round chest as the sound of tears.
From behind the third door to Monk’s left, a large droid with a body like a vending machine rolled into the hall. It’s left side held a trio of arms, each with sharp implement at its end, and the right was dominated by a single thick limb toting a circular saw.
It began to advance on him, its speakers grinding out a tongue the earthman could not comprehend, but which had certain unpleasant characteristics in common with his homeworld’s German.
“I’m coming, big guy,” Joe told the window, but there was little at hand with which to defend himself.
A second robot appeared then, this one tall and no thicker than a broom, though also on triangular treads. It approached the human with both arms extended, its grasping fingers raised.
The monkey-cousin was too quick, however, and the pull of gravity too faint.
Avoiding its probing pinches, Joe snatched the stick-bot and swung it hard over his head, shattering the bulbs above and plunging its base directly through the plastic panel that made up the box-droid’s chest.
The sounds of combat brought the massive captive to a howl behind its barrier, even as those lights that were yet undamaged took on an erratic blink and sirens began to bleat throughout the complex.
At the center of the chaos, Monk stood, legs planted, awaiting a second charge.
Instead, beyond the carnage, the elevator delivered a calm bing.
Before its passenger had even fully disembarked, Monk knew he was in trouble.
“What are you doooooing!?” asked Macbeth in a tone that seemed to realize just all too well what it was he was doing.
“I’m, uh, saving that guy,” answered Joe with a finger crooked towards the window.
“That’s a Brindax, fecal-neurons! They go insane during the third portion of their life cycle and need to be saved FROM THEMSELVES. You haven’t almost rescued some pathetic prisoner, you’ve nearly freed a self-incarcerated madman!”
“It – it was so dark, and he was, you know, crying, and these robots started coming at me…”
“Yes, you’ve successfully managed to destroy thousands of credits worth of antique medical droids. Now get back to your shuttle or I swear I’ll make you repair them yourself.”
Seconds later they were again on the surface, but little could either know that within months Monk would receive his first honourary doctorate. The spread of his tale was only the beginning of a galaxy-wide expose on the neglects of the Brindaxian health care system, though it would be but one more jewel in Monk’s crown.
Flash Pulp is presented by https://www.skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.
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