03 July 2009

"Art Attack 2"

By Curtis C. Chen

They stood on the precipice, ready to fall. Their legs were bent in a half-crouch, bracing their weight against the edge of the cliff. They held makeshift blades and shields in a defiant pose that matched the expressions cast in their unmoving metal faces.

The statues towered above Brennan and Drake as they dragged their equipment to the base of the pedestal. Drake tipped his head back, emptying his canteen, and stared at the monument: "Angels' Courage."

The "angels" were Abraham and Anna Zenter, the last of the human colonists to die in that fateful battle. As they fell, pushed backward by hordes of Sefral, Abraham and Anna had triggered explosives buried in the cliff and destroyed their attackers.

Drake closed his eyes and listened to the wind howling through the canyon below.

"I can't do it," he said.

Brennan looked up. "We're not doing this again."

"Look, I'm sorry," Drake said. "I know what we decided. It's just that—well, now that we're here, now that I'm looking at them... I can't do it."

Brennan stood up and grabbed Drake's chestplate. "I'm going to give you the benefit of a doubt and say this is dehydration talking. Drink your water, eat your rations, and as soon as you're thinking clearly again, we'll start."

Drake waited until Brennan had released him and walked away. Then he said, "This is quite possibly the last remaining piece of human sculpture in the galaxy. We can't destroy it just because there's a chance some old legend might be true."

Brennan whirled and came after Drake. Drake skittered around to the other side of the monument, keeping the statues between himself and the angry soldier.

"It's not a legend!" Brennan shouted. "My father, and his father, and his father before him—they all knew."

He repeated the verse:

Hidden where the angels fell,
Ancient power dreams and dwells;
As even void itself can sing,
Broach courage: Let freedom ring.

"Am I the only one who thinks it's ironic that I'm the artist, but you're the one always reciting poetry?" Drake asked.

"It's real," Brennan said. "It's here."

"Then why didn't someone activate it earlier?" Drake asked. "And if they had zero-point technology centuries ago, why haven't we been using it all along?"

"Maybe it only works here," Brennan said. "Maybe this place is special."

"Yes, it is special, but it's not magical," Drake said. "This is part of our history, our culture. Our memories are what make this place sacred."

"This place won't exist for much longer unless we stop the Sefral," Brennan said. "Now help me with the drill."

"It's been weeks. We don't know what's going on up there!" Drake said. "For all we know, the war could be over."

Brennan smacked an open palm against the Abraham statue's metal leg. The sound of the impact resonated. "This war isn't over until every last one of those animals is dead!"

Drake started to say something, then stopped, then asked, "Is this thing hollow?"

Brennan's scowl changed into a smile. "Let freedom ring."


Audio: "Art Attack 2"

Here's the thing about audio flash fiction: You don't have an entire novel, or even a few thousand words, to establish a character and explore his or her vocal nuances. This is more like a thirty-second radio commercial, where every person has to read immediately as a certain (stereo)type. There's not a lot of room for subtlety.

Which is my roundabout excuse for why my military types all sound like McGruff the Crime Dog. "Take a bite out of crime—and take a cough drop for that sore throat!"

Music: instrumental stems from "Chiron Beta Prime" by Jonathan Coulton, licensed under Creative Commons.


An Open Letter to Ferdinand Feghoot

To answer your unspoken questions:

NO, this story has nothing to do with the first "Art Attack." It is related in theme only.

YES, it did take all my self-restraint to not title this story "Art Attack 2: Electric Boogaloo."

NO, I do not endorse the destruction of historical artifacts in the pursuit of mystical treasure.

YES, I have watched way too much Stargate.