Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-two.
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 join the Irregular Division – currently consisting of Ms. Atlas, cybernetically modified wonder of the American military, and Head, occasional thief and government contractor – as they take an unlikely journey across Britannia’s decaying countryside.
The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
November, Year One
Excerpt Source: Verbal Debrief Three Days Following Operation Blighty
Adviser: Major Nelson Wily
Subject: Milo “Head” Smith
Head: “It was some real Alice through the Looking Glass BS, let me tell you.”
[Inaudible, then the sound of a chair being adjusted]
Head: “Yeah, as if the landing wasn’t rough enough, Atlas was so quick to kill the chumps on the ground I didn’t have time to suggest that we should attempt to take a hostage.”
Wily: “You disapprove of her behaviour on the ground?”
Head: “Nah, I guess not. Who’s more excited about dying than a doomsday cultist, right? – and, to be fair, those guys seemed quite intent on shooting us.”
Wily: “The video of their setup makes it appear pretty simple?”
Head: “More firepower than you’d expect in a gun-less nation’s park, but otherwise it mostly looked like they were winter camping. We secured the site, which is to say we picked up their weapons and had a poke about. In their packs we found zip ties, a portable satellite internet connection, and enough tranquilizers to tuck in Michael Jackson.
“At that point it was obvious that we’d either interrupted a particularly kinky weekend, or they’d had some abductions in mind.
“While Jen phoned home, I used the network password you’d provided to get myself back online.”
Wily: “That’s when you had your clever little idea?”
Head: “Well, let’s say it was half ‘clever idea’ and half ‘bored habit.’ Our intel guys had found the encampment based solely on the fact that it was the only site still generating human-based internet traffic, and it was the same sort of notion that put us on the road.
“I was mentally flipping through British streams and feeds; some sites that I visit – uh, used to visit – regularly, some that I hadn’t thought of in years, and I found myself wandering by BBC Radio 1. I paused there for a moment, as they’d left a maudlin take on God Save the King running on loop.
“The weird thing was, it stopped, skipped back thirty seconds, then started again at half speed.
“That’s when I started yelling, which you can probably make out on Atlas’ call log.”
Wily: “I’ve heard it. You sound excited.”
Head: “Well, it was the solution to an unexpected puzzle. If the genocidal nutters had been intending on kidnapping someone, then they must have expected there to be survivors. This kind of made their camping location, at the center-ish of the island, make sense.
“The machines, on the other hand, didn’t know or care if anyone had survived. There were still tiny European cars idling away as we passed, and I feel confident they gladly did so until their fuel ran dry. On that same note, there’s no reason at all for an organization like the BBC to have live-to-air audio chopping and dropping. Clearly someone, likely someone who had no idea what they were doing, was messing with the controls.”
Wily: “That meant a drive to the BBC buildings in London.”
Head: “Uh huh. Easy enough to commandeer a ride – like I said, some of them weren’t even fully parked when the infection took hold of their drivers, but they’d mostly been reasonable enough in their lusty passions to pull over. We ended up in a white Ford Fiesta with the steering wheel on the wrong side and an engine that sounded like it had been stolen from an RC car.
“Honestly, I started off being a bit of a smartass about it. I even used the sat internet to blast Lindsey Buckingham’s Holiday Road as we were leaving the parking lot. I knocked that business off pretty quick though.
“In a weird way it was almost as if a terrible wind had passed over the land. Even with frost on the windows, every lawn, block of sidewalk, every abandoned park seemed to hold random collections of laundry and dead bodies. Bodies knee deep in a snow drift without pants, bodies with jaws shattered from use, bodies crushed flat by the weight of those grinding on top of them.
“We must have passed thousands of the dead, but the thing I won’t be able to shake was the smile on each of their faces.
“From the empty highway we began to spot fingers of smoke on the horizon. Fires, no doubt, caused by forgotten stoves, dropped cigarettes, and a thousand other accidents waiting to happen once their tenders wandered away from the switch to chase their groin.
“I remember crossing a river and noting a hole in the thin ice down by the shore. There was this Bentley poking out, its front end submerged, but it was clear the passengers had managed to get clear. They were both there: A thin bald guy and a lady with bad teeth. Tweediest mofos you could ask for.
“Though they’d exited, they hadn’t made it back to land. The ice must have thawed and re-froze in the time of their rutting, as his corpse had been locked into the ice up to his ears, and she was stuck at her hands and knees.
“Then we were passed them, and I had some other horror to stare down. At least in that instance there merely two of them.
“We have only the virus’ intensity to thank for this thing not ending everyone. If the incubation period had been any longer we’d all be, well, fucked.
“Thing is, there were these ugly little scenes, but, especially as we cruised the streets of London, there was also much beauty. Buildings that had stood for centuries and statuary with more history than my hometown will ever care to know. I started thinking, you know, about how the history will remain, they just won’t be making any more of it.
“I started yammering to Atlas: Have you considered that you’ll never hear the accent on anything but recordings now? Maybe we’ll setup zoos for the ex-pats, or teaching schools so that actors can carry on the tradition.
“Eventually I turned the glitching BBC signal up just for the noise.
“When we finally reached Broadcasting House I was out of the car like a kid hitting Disneyland. I’d seen too much death, and the notion of finding something living struck me as especially exciting.
“What I wasn’t expecting, as we pushed open doors and shouted down hallways, was what we encountered: A couple, or an apparent couple at least, fighting.
“Our rescues may not have known each other beforehand, but they certainly bickered like they’d been married a decade.
“Martin was repeating something Annabel had just stated, though he was using a voice that sounded vaguely like a Hanna-Barbera character had taken a sharp blow to the head, when Atlas went into Atlas mode.
“Even with the medical precautions you’d shoved into our arms before takeoff, I could feel the pull of their nanotech-rewritten pheromones. Within ten feet the virus makes you think – oh aren’t they quirky and fun. Isn’t he gruff but lovable, isn’t she witty and sharp tongued. If Atlas wasn’t more machine than woman I might have been worried, but she had them on the ground and in the surrender position before you could quote the COPS theme song.
“By then you were screaming at us to come home, so we immediately stole a jetliner – and that, mon Capitaine, is how we came to find The Lovesick Twins under our roof.”
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.
Text and audio commentaries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.
– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.