Thursday, May 19, 2011

Belly of the Beast by AJ Powers

The final guest flash fiction piece this week comes from author AJ Powers. This story wraps up the week well, giving us some fiction that has some action. This is the first time I can recall reading a piece of flash fiction that is sci-fi action based, and I have to say it's a fun, fast-paced read. As AJ mentioned to me, you can definitely see the influence of Star Wars, Starship Troopers, and Independence Day in this piece of flash fiction.


AJ Powers wanted to make sure you all knew that he is a professional game developer by day, and a writer by night. (This is too cool, as I'm a big Xbox 360 gamer. It's pretty awesome that I can get a game developer to write something for my blog.) Over the years of working in the games industry, he has come to appreciate great story telling and he's made it a personal mission to tell compelling and thrilling stories that keep the readers on the edge of their seats. AJ Powers current available work is Loose Ends, his debut novella, and he plans on a few more novellas followed up with a full length novel. For more information on AJ Powers visit his website http://www.twistedlexicon.com/ or follow him on Twitter @aj_powers.


Enjoy the story!



Belly of the Beast


Copyright © 2011 AJ Powers

“Black Knight four is down! I repeat Black Knight Four is down!” the voice cried over the radio.


Lieutenant Pakulski listened to the chaos bursting through his radio as he flew in formation; speeding up to mach 5.  His squadron was the fourth and final wave of an aerial attack on Yohrt, or better know to the pilots as Alpha-Charlie-One-One.


Alpha-Charlie-One-One was the gateway to the intricate underground world that lived just beneath the surface.  The opening was merely a hole on the surface no bigger than one of the RS-17’s Pakulski was piloting.


Lieutenant Pakulski was now flying in his 23rd aerial assault; but none that came before this one had made him tenser than he was right now.  Cephei-12 wasn’t just another planet; it wasn’t even just another planet with aliens.  The planet itself was considered one giant alien being.  Despite being classified information, everyone knew what unspeakable things could happen to any poor soul wandering on the planet’s surface.  How can you hide from an enemy that is literally everywhere you are?


“Bishops, accelerate to mach 7 and keep your eyes peeled for squirmmers,” Pakulski’s commander ordered to the squadron.


The seasoned lieutenant shuddered at the mere mention of the squirmmers.  He had seen his fair share of intel on those little assassins.  Nothing more than a biochemical compound produced just beneath the skin of the planet, squirmmers got their name from their worm like appearance wiggling back and forth as they rocketed into the air.  It was quickly discovered that this chemical had a corrosive effect and would chew through the aircraft’s metal in mere minutes.  There was little you could do except sit back and wait for your demise.


Just when Pakulski thought the squadron was in the clear, those yellow devils came flying up into the air like rain in reverse.


“Squirmmers at twelve!” Pakulski called out.


Standard evasive maneuvers were executed, but it was not enough for Bishop Six and Bishop Seven.  There was nothing anyone could do, nothing anyone could say.  Bishop Seven broke the silence.


“It was an honor, gentlemen,” he said as debris from his ship started to tear off like shingles in a hurricane.  Within seconds, he was in a tail spin towards the bottom of the canyon.


Bishop Six crashed into the canyon wall, intentionally guiding the 14 ton projectile into a lurcher that was scouting the canyon.


“Bishops, press forward to mach 11 and raise altitude by 400 meters.  The target is five mikes ahead,” the commander ordered.


The elite squadron elevated above the canyon.  Now targeted by Squib sights, their only hope was to outrun the fire coming from below.


Though a few close calls, the remainder of the Bishop squadron made it to the target.


“Black Knight One this is Bishop One, what’s your status?” the commander requested.


“Bishop One, Black Knight Six here, I’m the last one left and I am losing power.  God speed, Bishops.  I hope you have better…” the transmission cut off.


“Bishops, check your payload!” the commander ordered.


The pilots each called off a confirmation of their readied arsenal.  Pakulski looked down at his control panel.  His eyes only paid attention to the readied ThermTac hanging from the belly of his aircraft.  He responded to the commander. “Bishop Eight: Check.”


“Bishops, slow your speed for attack maneuvers and prepare to drop.  Bishop Five, you’re on deck.  Provide some covering fire, Bishops.”


The mouth of this beast was heavily guarded.  Pakulski took out two Slayers that were barreling down fast on Bishop Five.


“Five, you’re all clear.  Deploy!” the commander shouted.


“I have tone, Bishop 5, Tac Drop,” the nervous pilot said over the radio.


It was as if time came to a complete stand still.  The pilots dodged around incoming flak and aircraft, yet all of them watched as the five thousand pound bomb dropped shrieked towards the surface of the planet.


A huge cloud of dust spat into the air 200 meters from the entrance.


“Negative penetration,” the commander reported back.  “Bishop Two, get ready.  We’re swinging back around; punch that thing right in the mouth.”


As the squadron came back around, the flak was coming in hard.  Bishop Two would not have his chance to live a hero’s life as flak detonated closely to the jet and blew a wing off, sending the ship to the ground in a hurry.


“EBNER!” a voice cried out over the radio, as Bishop Three broke formation and followed the plummeting remains of Bishop Two.


“Bishop Three correct your course immediately!” the commander demanded.


There was no response, and Bishop Three would never ascend back into the skies.


“Gentlemen, it’s up to us three,” the commander reported.  “I’m moving in to deploy.  Stogner and Pakulski, cover me.”


“Sir!” Pakulski interjected “I’ve still got my ThermTac, let me try first.”


“No way, ‘Longshot’, you’re a damn fine pilot but I can’t trust your accuracy to something this important,” the commander replied.


Pakulski had a hard time swallowing that, but an order was an order. “Aye, sir,” the veteran replied.


The brave commander increased his speed and continued to evade enemy fire.  The RS-17s began their approach to the gateway.  The commander targeted and began to countdown to his release.  Suddenly, the commander’s rear wing was clipped by some ground fire; he had lost significant power and could barely keep the aircraft steady.


“I can’t keep this thing on course,” the commander alerted the other two pilots; an ensemble of alarms screaming through the radio.  “I guess it’s your chance, after all, ‘Longshot’.  Make us proud, Lieutenant.”


The commander banked hard to the right and began to head away from danger.  His aircraft’s damage was severe, but still intact enough to make the journey back to the cruiser in orbit.


Pakulski and Stogner were now alone; millions, if not billions of enemies between them and their goal.


“Alright, Aaron,” Pakulski said to himself, “time to shine, time to get rid of that horrible nickname that’s followed you around like a bad smell.”


The remaining two Bishops were screeching towards the mouth; one last attempt to rid the universe of this menacing planet.  Pakulski engaged his ThermTac and began to count down as the hole fast approached.  He closed his eyes for a moment and exhaled deeply.


“Five…Four….Three…”


Just then, a slayer passed by, missing his aircraft by mere meters.  During the startling moment Pakulski unintentionally pressed down on the release for the ThermTac.


“Nooooooo!” Pakulski screamed.  “Command this is Bishop Eight, my ThermTac has been deployed…” he paused for a moment, releasing the communication button long enough to sigh, “the drop was…”


“BULLSEYE!” Stogner shouted, cutting Pakulski off.


Pakulski’s eyes got wide hearing the news.  His perfect timing was interrupted; how could it have been a hit?


“Bishop Eight this is command, you are clear for detonation once package has reached a depth of 15,000 meters,” a voice on the radio came through.


Pakulski pulled back on the throttle propelling his ship high into the atmosphere, gradually escaping the reaches of the ground fire.  He looked down at a gauge on his console, it read “14,000.”


“Wait for it,” the pilot patiently told himself.  “15,000! Boom!”


Pakulski pressed down hard on the little yellow button.  About two minutes after the detonation, the surface began to ungulate.  A mixture of the alien’s blood and other fluids started to fill the canyons on the surface like rivers.  Within five minutes, the entire northern hemisphere began to collapse.


Shouting and cheer came buzzing over the radio.  Pakulski and Stogner slowed their speed as they approached the cruiser.  Pakulski grinned at his achievement.  Perhaps it was time for a new nickname.