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FP432 – The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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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.

FP432 - The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3“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 http://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.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP411 – The Irregular Division: In the Beginning

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and eleven.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: In the Beginning

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Get Published

 

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 introduce The Irregular Division, the newest, and final, thread of the Flash Pulp universe. Here it all begins to come together – and here it all begins to unravel.

Please be forewarned that this episode contains scenes of violence and strong language intended for mature audiences.

 

The Irregular Division: In the Beginning

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

July, Year One
Source: [redacted].com/rambling/First-Date.html

Author: Head

Title: Our First Lunch Meeting

Body:

So, apparently this blog is now considered government property, along with the rest of me. As such, I’ve been instructed to post my version of how our little family came together. I suspect that means they want me to tell you the happy tale of Operation Pancake Grid, but that’s not what I’m going to do.

In my mind, and maybe in yours if anyone other than the NSA ever bothers to read this, everything started at the McDonald’s in Tucson.

Given the layout, I could’ve been walking in the same store I’d visited in San Fran for breakfast or on the outskirts of Vegas for lunch. I came in the door beside the counter, and worked hard to ignore the squealing from the ballpit while I ordered. Once I had another Big Mac in my hand I hustled around the ordering slab and took cover behind some plastic foliage. My ass was just starting to numb up on the formed plastic bench when the cast of a heart-warming sitcom about non-nuclear families took the booth across from me. The little girl couldn’t have been fourteen yet, but she spoke with the firm tone of a self-assured authority.

“I don’t care what Mom says, Dad, I don’t want to move again, and it’s not fair to make me go somewhere I can’t visit you.”

Dad, his well pressed suit looking a little out of place in the house of the Golden Arches, tightened his grip on his partner. The partner was really the wacky breakout character of the group: bright friendly eyes and black wiry hair on every inch of exposed flesh made him look like an old timey grizzled prospector.

“Hun,” says Dad, “you know we love you to pieces, but there’s nothing the court will let me do. You need to be a little older before they’ll let you decide where you want to be, and even in this day and age they’d still rather you tag along in a war zone with your Mother than let you stay with an old gay married couple.“

See, the problem is that I wasn’t in a position to use any public internet access. Normally I would’ve just logged in wirelessly and forgotten the world around me as my mouth drowned in secret sauce, but I knew certain unpleasant fellows would be ringing me up for an audience before I’d even hit Google. There was definitely something compelling about the girl’s oratory though, she’d’ve been a general, a politician, or a CEO given the time.

At a My Little Pony pitch, she started, “I don’t give two shits about those asshats from court. You actually listen to me. You actually care about –“ then Dad interrupted.

“Whoa, hold on. Your Mom might not take a lot of input, but if you seriously think she doesn’t care about you, you need to pull your head out of your butt. She does have a set of standards she lives by, whatever the hell they may be, and for better or worse she’s trying to raise you to them. Mike and I love you, but so does your Mom, just in a different way.”

For a moment all mouths were full and conversation paused.

A smiling maw broke out of Prospector Mike’s face tribble.

“Hey,” he said, “she never moves for long, and both of you should calm down and cut her some slack, it’s not like she’s actually going overseas this time. I don’t think she can be blamed for heading to the coast to recoup, not all that unreasonable considering most of her body EXPLODED.”

Father and daughter simultaneously took a tight lipped sip of cola.

Dad cleared his throat, saying, “Listen – “ and that’s when everything went to shit.

With my back to the wall, and my seat opposite the door nearest the washroom, I had no problem noticing the beaten black pickup truck roll to a halt at the curb. Made gigantic by its oversized tires, its shadow seemed to stretch right through the glass. The two hillbillies who took long steps down from the cab would have made Bo and Luke Duke piss themselves if they’d caught them out behind The Boar’s Nest. They made no attempt to hide their 12 gauges.

I reviewed all of this from under the table, of course. If anyone had been observing my booth they might have seen something akin to a blow up doll half doing the wave as it slid out of sight at high speed. I’d brought my burger with me in the hope that my tray would simply look deserted. Honestly, it was instinct once my brain registered a black vehicle coming to an abrupt stop, but after checking over what exactly I was dealing with I wasn’t convinced it had anything to do with me. They didn’t strike me as dressed up enough. That said, I’d also kind of envisioned using the rear door as an exit in case anyone did find me, and hadn’t really thought through that they might not enter from the front of the store.

All of this happened within the span of a breath, and it was only as I watched their denimed knees scuffle past me awkwardly that I was sure they hadn’t noticed my duck and cover.

I named them by the condition of their jeans.

“Where is he?” shouted hole-in-left-leg.

“Fucked if I know,” replied frayed-at-cuffs.

Hole-in-left-leg went running to where the row intersected with the main serving area.

As he rounded the corner and into the Playland he parted a sea of panicked murmurs with his a repeated and plaintive cry of “Fuck!”

Frayed-at-cuffs began to pace the short length from the bathroom to the third booth in, obstructing any ideas I might have had of making a go at the exit, and bringing a repeated “Hurk!” intake of breath from Dad every time he passed.

“Would you cut that shit out!” Frayed-at-cuffs demanded, his voice cracking.

The Irregular Division: A science fiction Flash Pulp podcast from Skinner Co.“Hey listen –“ began Prospector Mike.

“WHAT!? WHAT!?”

I was leaning a bit now, trying to see what was going on, and I made out that Frayed had gotten a handful of the girl’s hair and was pressing the shortened shotgun barrel against her temple.

“Listen –“ it was Dad’s turn now, “her mom is going to be here soon to pick her up and we don’t want any trouble and if you simply move on we’ll just sit here quietly and wait for her and everything will be ok because –“

Dad’s mouth had lost it, and it was obvious Frayed had decided a simpler solution might be had by simply swinging the barrel of his cannon around. It was then that Mike decided to make a play, flying off his bench and around the table even managing to push over Frayed without plugging Dad. That was the end of his luck though: As the hick landed heavily on his ass his shotgun let go. Down went Mike, missing a chin. That was also when the goon decided to look left, directly into my eyes. He jumped to his feet.

“TEDWARD! TEDWARD GET YER ASS –“

Dad started wailing.

“SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” screamed Frayed, once again pressing the barrel of his gun against the girl’s temple. “TEDWARD! HE’S –“

At that point I frozen with the knowledge that I was absolutely fucked. I was staring at the murderous farmer, waiting for Tedward and the hole in his jeans to swing back from where the food is served, and I remember feeling a bead of sweat fall on my hand. I remember stupidly thinking it was raining.

Then the exit turned into a ball of glass and heat and light.

In the video it’s as if she just appears, a pistol the size of a small East Asian nation in her hand.

She looked at me. She looked at the hick. She looked at Tedward, somewhere in the wings beyond my perspective.

She said, “Michael? DAN? Nancy!?” in the order of surprised; upset; angry.

Frayed suddenly unfreezes long enough for his trigger finger to reflexively operate, and the top of Nancy’s head disappears.

Everything until then had felt like a rollercoaster, with the chain of events moving along much faster than even I could compensate for, but the world stopped at that second.

I know that all of the local recording devices bit it – that only those who were there heard the cybernetically amplified howl the media calls the “banshee’s scream” – but you don’t want a recording. Imagine the sound a humpback whale might make going through a meat grinder, impart to it the unknowable grief of a mother losing her child before her very eyes, and then amplify it to the point that .76 seconds of exposure leaves every customer and counter jockey in the restaurant stone deaf and bleading from their ears.

That’s when my memory stops, but my questionably-borrowed neural rig just dumbly kept gobbling up whatever my glazed gaze fell upon.

Deeply in shock I began to list to the left. Still, I have video of Mom – Ms. Atlas – closing the distance between her and Frayed like a rabid gazelle. The speed is such that you can barely see her arms move as she rips off his right leg at the socket, a stabilizing combat boot, peaking from below her sensible slacks, resting on his groin.

The spray of blood across my face is the last thing I witnessed before I thankfully fell into darkness.

Five days later I awoke, like the rest of the store patrons and staff, in a military hospital having my eardrums replaced by government surgeons.

Unlike the rest of the patrons and staff, however, there were two generals standing over me wanting an audience and an explanation – then they suggested that I might not go to prison over my stolen brain chip if I teamed up with their vengeful mother of a public relations disaster.

That, to me, is the day the Irregular Division formed.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://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.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.