Written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. This week it was: roll for conflict! And I got “The Apocalypse has arrived.” This might count as cheating, but whatever. Enjoy!
There were stars out that night and was amongst them; crashing rocks that burned as they hit the planet’s atmosphere. He tumbled amongst them, encased in the exosuit he managed to put on just in time. “It’s always funny how space always seems so loud but I can’t hear a thing,” he said to himself.
“ERROR ERROR ERROR ERROR” nagged his suit.
“Right, aside from you that is. Computer! Disengaged emergency notifications! Command code double-zeta, double zeta!”
That was a trick he had picked up in his youth; consequently, it was also his first time in the drunk tank. Some friendly policemen caught him trying to pry bills out of an ATM and after they lightly beat him black-and-blue they dunked him in a 4x4 cell. There were two other men in the cell with him, both of them hobos-no hiding that. He never caught the name of the man that taught him how to hack, he just said: “You got caught hackin’? Well, what’d ya doo? What? Brunt force-son, you ain’t even gonna open yer sweetheart’s diary with brunt force. You gotta play them defaults! Now tell me, what’s the brand of that there police lock?”
He examined the lock but it bore no markings or symbols of the manufacturer.
“No problems. The government thinks it can get away from that whole password crap but them’s still humans like us. Meaning that eventually someone’s going to forget their password, know what I’m sayin’? So they install override codes instead of them defaults and 1234s, but there ain’t no difference really. Say this kid: Double Zeta-Double Zeta”
He did, and the lock clicked open and made him a free man. But he didn’t take it, making the hobo speak up to him again: “Go on! Git! And don’t forget them magic words boy! Double zeta, double zeta!” He really accumulated a lot of records that day, or he would have, had he not deleted the precinct’s entire database. Turns out no one really cares about changing default passwords. Something he learned that he’d carry with him for years.
But he was falling through the stars now. Stars, that he just realized, that were probably the remains of his ship, the Fist of Endeavor. He tried to fly himself-steer himself behind one of the larger pieces of debris. Movies always make it looks so easy, but his suit didn’t have any sort of flight-maneuvering applications to speak of-unless. He quickly put his head to his should and started reaching out with his tongue. Lucky for him the suit he managed to slip into was built like comfortable coffin, all snug and encasing, so he had easy access to his neck; as well as a really long tongue. He snagged the leather strap of his necklace and ate it until he thumbdrive he hung as a pendant. He placed it between his teeth and quickly smashed it into the emergency slot at the base of his helmet interior.
It had become standard protocols for marines to carry their own thumbdrives on their person ever since command got sick and tired of having to wipe suits’ databases after they would get mixed up and sent to the wrong marine or squad, or regiment. So just like any other good marine, he always kept his thumbdrive, with all its data, on his person. He remembered the first time he booted his custom-OS overlay from his thumbdrive. The other members of his team, Randy and Jones, were already moving about in their suits. It was the first time they had actually suited up and you nothing really prepares you for the moment where you cease being a man and become a 12-foot tall killing machine of blood and circuitry.
“Yo man!” Randy called, “What’s taking you so long, man? Get in that suit already!”
“Leave him be, Randy. He’s got some custom OS running; caught a glimpse of it too. It’s filled with pictures of his wife and kids or something” Jones but in.
“Family, man. I gotta respect that. Tell your honey not to worry! Jones and I will keep you safe. But hurry up and get your ass out here! We’re gonna be the last squad out at this rate!”
He waved them off before pulling down the hatch of his suit and booted up his OS. A red-haired vixen suddenly appeared on his display and thrust her breasts at his face, “Welcome to Roxxy Galaxy’s Interactive Porno Interface! How may I please you, sir?”
But he was falling through the stars now, and Roxxy wasn’t there to greet him. He thrust the thumbdrive into the emergency slot again and again but Roxxy didn’t show.
He tried something else: “Computer! Manual install rxyglxy2137.exe!”
“Installing: Time until completion one minute and fifty-five seconds. Do you want to conti-“
“Yes! Yes! Damn!” he curled his legs back just in time to dodge the burning jet of plasma that shot past.
“Computer! Run flightsim.exe!”
Immediately his display changed to reflect this: altimeters and tacometers popped up, although they did little good as were meant to work with gravity. But the program also came with a built in guidance system for landings, as well as a score counter. He was starting to sweat now; the meter on his display gave him around two minute before he burned up and died. He looked around himself for anything and then he saw it. Maybe the ship hated him and was trying to kill him again; maybe it loved him enough to keep its ass-ends together, but there it was: The main bulkhead of the engineering section, all 24-glorious-inches of plasteel and neo-metal intact and heading his way.
He set the simulator for an intercept course and told him he had to move three meters if he wanted to reach the bulkhead in time, and 1000 more points to his score. And he moved, commanding the suit to vent his oxygen as he flew. Thirty seconds before shield failure.
He thought, briefly, how funny it must’ve as he tried to swim through space.
Suddenly, the suit’s hand grabbed onto something secure: a handle. He pulled himself in and placed the bulkhead between him and the approaching planet.
“This is probably as secure as it’s going to get: Computer! Lock in and brace for impact.”
“Error,” the computer said once more, “rxyglxy2137.exe requires interface restart to fully install, would you like to restart interface now?”
“Go ahead. Restart.”
The displayed dimmed until it died out completely. He sat there in the darkness and waited. Listening to the burning of space around him, that gradually died away to the whistling of wind.
“Wait, computer? How much longer until impact?”
He heard a purr call him out from the darkness
“Wake up, Gilligan,” it was Roxxy.
“Hey Roxxy, where am I?”
“Oh Gilligan! I don’t know!” she teased at him.
He pulled up a hardware check and tried not to look at Roxxy and she crawled all over his display. The suit torn here and there but otherwise she was ok. He moved his legs and felt the stressed servos groan in movement.
“Alright sweetie, turn on the audio and video feed.”
The world around Gilligan screamed. Roxxy, suddenly leaped from his view, as if to hide. He jerked upwards and recoiled as he found himself surrounded in flames. Remembering about the shielding he had, he walked past them and saw the destruction he had wrought. The Fist of Endeavor, true to her name, was falling onto a city made of glass and crystal. He saw a larger section of the ship crash into the distance and shatter it.
“Gilligan! Look out!” Roxxy screamed!
That was her proximity alert! He rolled and brace for an attack but non-came from the small creature. It was barely a foot tall with stalky-eye like a slug, and was bleeding a purple ooze. Gilligan picked it up in his massive palm as it collapsed. It spoke, or at least, he thought it did.
Roxxy, what’s he saying.”
“Examining datasbase, tee hee,” she replied and translated it for him.
“Paaaainful. Paaaaiinful.” The creature spoke once more.
“What’s this planet called!” Gilligan spoke at it in the creature’s tongue.
“Planet… ughh…. Paaaainful,” it said, and died.
“Did he say Planet Painful?” He wondered, but the computer (not Roxxy) disrupted his thoughts.
“Emergency code: 1184 enacted. Unknown Planet #47 hereby named: Painful by Marine Gilligan, remaining command on ship, Fist of Endeavor.”
He’s never heard that before, that’s for sure. He must not have programmed Roxxy for it.
“Gilligan, I’m scared. Can’t we just go somewhere and play?” Roxxy teased.
Gilligan looked at the burning city of glass, “You know what baby, I think we should do nothing else for a while,” to which Roxxy squeed at, and hugged him, sort of.