Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Fourteen: Another Way To Die

(I have officially run out of cutesy Bond titles and I don’t think they are that informative anyway.)

14. Another Way To Die, Jack White (from Quantum of Solace). The Daniel Craig era of Bond has produced, thus far, superior films and superior songs; we have seen songs from all the other Bonds (excepting George “one movie is not a sufficient sample size” Lazenby) lower on this list. “Quantum of Solace” is, perhaps not coincidentally, the worst of the Daniel Craig movies so far, and even that is not too bad. This list is not intended to be a referendum on the movies themselves, but it seems that better movies generally get better songs; or perhaps I’m just remembering the songs more fondly from better movies. In any case, Jack White at least avoided using the terrible title, though he did work “solace” into the song, so kudos for that.

Fiction: Another Way To Die

They forced him off at gunpoint, unable to hear the shrieks that echoed inside his head. He had turned the radio off at first, but that didn’t stop the screaming, of course, so he turned it on again to at least provide some counterpoint to the noise, something to focus on other than his helplessness.

“Cruelty no,” the four-armed pirate said into a handheld radio nestled into the web of sticky fingers that made up its golden-brown “hand.” Two of the others had guns trained on Captain Kim, while the fourth caressed the door panel. “Rescue yes. Hours yes, days no. Liquid yes.”

“Ship,” Kim pleaded, gesturing up at the bulbous silver shape, “no!”

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! echoed in his head. He winced, stumbled backwards as one of the pistols prodded him in the chest.

“Regret no,” the alien said. “Money yes yes.”

Kim fell backwards onto stone. His Kar-Ball suit hit sharp crags and soft sand with the same imperturbability the pirate showed. The screaming in Kim’s head reached ear-splitting volume, if volume had any meaning to thought. “Kill yes.” He gestured at his chest.

“Cruelty no,” the alien repeated. “Kill no.”

And then the door slid shut and the planetary lift engines whirred to life.

DON’T LEAVE ME DON’T LEAVE ME DON’T LEAVE ME

There was no chemical flame, nothing to exceed the temperature threshold of the suit.The words in his head dissolved again into incoherent shrieks as the ship separated from the ground. It rose into the air, and the volume of the shrieks did not diminish. Instead, they continued on as the ship hurtled upward toward the Kurtzmann-Nguyen threshold. Kim waited, tears blurring his eyes, and when the screams cut off abruptly, the distance too far to transmit telepathy, he fell to his knees.

The silence was worse than the noise. His ship was gone, gone, and he would never get it back. The pirates would disassemble it; in the best case, it would be bonded to another. He fumbled at the air valves on his suit, but a smooth, distanced mechanical voice said in his ear, “Life systems may not be manually adjusted in unsurvivable conditions.”

His hands, both of them, fell to his sides. Unsurvivable conditions: that was his life now. The ship’s absence burned inside him like the cold of deep space, and nothing his suit could supply would fill it.

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