07 August 2009


By Curtis C. Chen

The planet screamed, but nobody heard.

José felt the cable wobble in his grip as Master Histian clapped. Histian always preferred to watch the destruction wrought by his weapons from outside the ship. José supposed it was one of the few remaining thrills which the old man could experience firsthand, with his own eyes.

It would be so easy for José to simply release the cable. But that would not be justice.

Long minutes passed before Histian stopped cackling and spoke: "Bring me in, boy."

José hoped it had been long enough. He took his time reeling in the cable.

"Magnificent, wasn't it?" Histian said when they were both inside the airlock. "Such a glorious demise!"

"Yes, sir," José said, sealing the outer door.

"Why must you always be so glum?" Histian asked, scowling. "Would it kill you to smile once in a while?"

José split his face in a fake grin. "Is this better, sir?" he asked through clenched teeth.

Histian's scowl deepened. The inner airlock door hissed open. José followed Histian into the ship, where they both climbed out of their pressure suits and then returned to the bridge.

"Show me the spectrographic analysis," Histian said, settling into his throne—it was too ornate to be called a chair—on the central platform.

The main screen lit up with a glowing array of graphs. José scrolled the display in response to Histian's grunts and hand gestures.

"Interesting," Histian said. "An unexpected spike in the ultraviolet. And that appears to be plasma filamentation." He leaned forward and steepled his fingers. "Tell me, boy, does this mean anything to you, or is it all just pretty blinking lights?"

José curled the fingers of his left hand into a fist. "I'm very happy for your success, sir."

"Of course you are," Histian sneered. "You're going to sneak an extra portion of beefmeat while I'm enjoying my wine tonight."

José kept his back to the throne, hiding his face and biting his tongue.

"Did you think I wouldn't notice?" Histian continued. "Do you think I depend on you for everything?"

"No," José said, pressing a button. "Just enough."

The door on the opposite side of the chamber slid open, and eight armored commandos entered. The first fired a barrage of stun pellets at the back of Histian's throne, pinning him down. The second commando launched a police net. The rest surrounded Histian's platform with their weapons raised.

The police net landed on the throne, trapping Histian. The webbing contracted and dug into his pale skin. He cried out in pain. José allowed himself a genuine smile.

One of the commandos stepped onto the platform and said, "Histian Winterfield, you are under arrest for theft and conspiracy to transport illegal armaments across stellar boundaries—"

Histian ignored him and glared at José. "You did this? Why? Why betray your master?"

José walked up to the old man and looked down at him. "You're not my master," José said in a low, quiet voice. "And I don't like you."



LC said...

Hmmm.. don't love this one, but I may be missing something.

* Don't love the repeated telegraph of Jose's dislike for his master. Not only did that waste words, it felt one-dimensional. There's no doubt, sadness, moral failure in his hatred?

* Not clear why Jose hangs out. Doesn't have to be spelled out for us but more context gives us more emotional response when we read about Jose's actions.

* Jose's gloating over his master in the end is the flip of the one-dimensional anger with equally less color.

Again, I'm probably missing something.

CKL said...

No, it's probably the story that's missing something. You're right about Jose needing more depth. I started writing this as a con job, but didn't have enough room to explain all the mechanics...