I won the flash fiction competition for my Goodreads group. To do it, I had to follow a number of guidelines in constructing this story. Here are a few:
- Had to be a scene involving battle
- couldn’t use the words: night, dark, die, fight, angry.
- someone had to die
- I’d get extra points for using the words “sandwich” and “brother”
If you’re interested in a Goodreads group with a wide range of interests and who do a lot of cool things like quizes, reading/writing contests, giveaways, etc, I can’t recommend Pro-Active Destruction enough.
The Emperor’s New War
The Imperial Legionnaires had been bombarding the planet for three days, reducing most of the buildings in the planet’s six population centers to rubble, with one exception: the rebel headquarters. General Foxworthy had whole star systems of ordinance available at his fingertips, but he’d spared the troublesome base.
“General Foxworthy?” his assistant said. “The rebel leader Carter is waiting to see you.”
“Thank you Eliot, please send him in. Oh, and would you ask Rose to make me a sandwich?”
Moments later, Elliot escorted in a young man dressed in a Mark-3 Zherun war suit. Capable of withstanding impossible compression ratios, the suit could survive almost any sort of conventional attack. Standard-issue suits also came with a complement of sophisticated weaponry molded into the frame. Foxworthy knew about the suit, and the weapons, but had said nothing to Elliot about disarming the man.
Carter surveyed the lavish cabin, his eyes finally drifting to the enormous viziframe covering the wall. It showed the rebel planet C3JU625-Andrew-Prescott. Five hundred standard years previous, the legendary Captain Prescott had discovered the remote little world during his famous exploratory voyage. He’d named it according to the imperial planetary classification system. Two weeks before the General’s bombardment, the planet had been renamed “The Emperor’s A Big Fat Donkey” by Carter, who transmitted news of the change by a looping broadcast throughout Occupied Space.
“Greetings General,” Carter said. “How goes the war?”
“See for yourself.”
Foxworthy pointed a small remote control to a circle on the screen. The image zoomed in on an abandoned church in an evacuated town. He clicked a button. A moment later, the church vanished with a puff of smoke.
“Nice shot,” Carter said. “Twilight Co. antimatter bombs?”
The general shrugged.
“Possibly,” he said, smiling. “I don’t remember, to be honest. We have so many weapons, you know. Every day they get better and better. We even have something that teleports burning cores from nearby suns to anywhere we want. Supposed to be a helluva thing to watch. We can take out whole planets and replace them with big beautiful sparks that’ll burn for a million years.”
“Is that what you’re planning for The Emperor’s A Big Fat Donkey?”
General Foxworthy barked a laugh.
“Hardly. Though I should, after a stunt like that. What were you thinking? The Emperor’s not fat…officially. He hates being called fat. And beaming it around like that for everyone to see? Now all we get are snarky coms from pissed-off mining or farming colonies, making fun of his weight. Sent anonymously, of course.”
Carter, always a flighty sort of rebel leader, had stopped listening. He was looking at the control in the General’s hand.
“Can I see that little doohickey?” Carter said, pointing at it.
The General hesitated, briefly, then tossed it to him.
“Hah hah,” Carter yelled triumphantly. “You fool—now I have the power to destroy your whole fleet!”
The screen changed to show the grouping of imperial Leviathans looming menacingly over the tiny rebel world.
“Knock that off,” Foxworthy said. “Let’s get this damn surrender over so I can get on to Rilan-4.”
“I hear there’s going to be a teensy-weensy uprising over in Rilan-4,” Carter said, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
“Oh brother. How about we finish this one first, ok?” the General said, before handing a folder to the rebel leader. “You’ll find the terms of your surrender are quite generous, all things considered. Have a look for yourself.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” Carter said, and flipped open the folder. He removed several sheets of paper and started reading. Then, frowning, he took out a pen and began marking it up and crossing out sections he disagreed with. Then he returned the documents to the folder and handed it back.
The General rolled his eyes, took out the marked-up pages and scanned them.
“This is preposterous,” he said. “We are not buying you your own Imperial Leviathan…nor a…a sun teleportation thing.”
“Why not?” Carter said. “You’ve got thousands of Leviathans, and they’re not doing anything. And I can think of some good uses for that sun teleportation gizmo.”
“That’s not the point—you’re a rebel!”
Carter crossed his heart and said, “I’ll change my ways, I promise. Straight and narrow, all the way.”
For the first time, the General took on a faintly troubled expression. Without rebels like Carter, the golden flood of tax revenue from tens of thousands of worlds would dry up, reducing the empire to a liberated confederation of planets pursuing their own destinies—with no need for an emperor, nor hideously expensive battleships, nor Generals like Foxworthy to fly around in them.
The General shivered, despite himself.
“You certainly will not,” he said, turning it into a growl at the end. “You do your job and I’ll do mine. And none of this straight and narrow nonsense. I’ve worked too damn hard for my mansion-planets and I’m not giving them up.”
“Well then, you better learn to improve your spelling.”
“Yes,” he said, tapping the line that said how much the empire would pay the rebels for surrendering. “You spelled this bit wrong—right here.”
The General huffed a cursed under his breath and stared at the spot. He blinked in confusion.
“Seven trillion credits—yeah? So?”
“You spelled ten trillion wrong. You’re not the only one who wants a few more mansion-planets.”
And so the negotiation went. In the end, Carter got his sun teleportation thing and an off-the-books Imperial Leviathan. Several years later, he teleported a sun into a sun and made his very own black hole, accidentally killing himself in the process (which everyone thought was sort of interesting).
For his stunning success at the battle of “The Emperor’s A Big Fat Donkey”—a name that stuck even after officially changing it back to C3JU625-Andrew-Prescott—the General received a citation and an automatic pay bonus. A month later, he received yet another citation/bonus after defeating Carter at “The Emperor Has No Clues,” then another at “I Sure Hate That Stupid Emperor,” and yet another at “The Emperor’s a Dummy, The Emperor’s a Dummy”.
And so it went for a great many years, until a day came when the colonies were so weak and the empire so mighty it didn’t even need fake rebels anymore.