Writing and Other Afflictions

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

Tag Archives: fiction

Fifteen Minutes of Bond

Ranking the Bond theme songs and doing a little flash fic of each…

15. Tomorrow Never Dies, Sheryl Crow. It’s a fine song, and I guess it works with the movie in that it would work with just about any movie. Crow is a good choice as a Bond songstress; her work is often terrifically atmospheric and evocative of a place or feeling, which should be perfect for Bond. But she doesn’t quite nail the Bond aesthetic here. It’s not her worst song by a long shot, but just listening to the rest of her work, I feel like she could’ve come up with something more personal to say about Bond.

Fiction: Tomorrow Never Dies

We were going to be in the spaceship for two years, give or take a month: nine months for the Mag drive to spin up to full speed, three months to cover the three hundred and fifty light-years to our destination, and then another nine months for the drive to spin down. Then two to four months for verification of the probe’s evaluation of our colony planet, deployment of the dome, and so on.

Most of the colonists were in deep freeze, so to them the trip would last for one long night; they would go to sleep and wake up tomorrow at their destination. Roy, Ai, Sveta, and me were the skeleton crew, mostly awake in case something happened to the corpsicles, because if something happened to the ship it would happen so fast there was fuck-all we could do about it. Mag drive failures were documented in picoseconds. They tended to be spectacular and devastating and, fortunately, quite rare.

One of the things we learned on the ship is that we had total control of time. The ship’s lights were cycled to an Earth day, but Ai had been a hacker in her early days, so it wasn’t long before we’d reset the lights to be under our control, not to mention unlocked what was supposed to be a celebratory Welcome-To-Our-New-Home dinner. Giddy on champagne and the twenty-sixth hour of daylight, we almost imagined that tomorrow had come, that we had arrived at the planet and that soon enough, everyone would be waking around us.

And then Roy, Ai, and Sveta went off to bed and left me alone in charge of everything. This had been our standard practice ever since we’d figured out that the three of them were straight and I wasn’t, meaning that I had nothing to offer them in bed, and vice versa. Carelessness on the part of New Wave Colonies, who had undoubtedly selected two men and two women for the voyage on the premise that we’d pair off during the two years.

I decided to leave the lights on for as long as I could. There were stimulants in my locker, unending coffee on the flight deck, and I didn’t even have to go to sleep when the others woke up. If I never went to sleep, then today would be tomorrow and we would eventually arrive at the planet.

Ai had opened up the registry of the colonists for us to peruse during our trip–if you think the library of a hundred thousand books was more attractive than snooping on your fellow passengers, then you’re a better man than I. I skimmed through hundreds of entries looking for single guys, people who might be gay and around my type when we landed (if New Wave had a sexuality question on their application, I wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with). Sort of like a very one-sided online dating service.

One guy caught my attention. Three years younger than me, not attached, pretty cute, and he was a poet. I kept coming back to him, and the more I saw him looking out of the screen at me, the more certain I was that not only was he gay, he was gay for me. I became convinced that I could actually wake him up. There had to be something in the cryo mechanisms in case of emergency. What if, what if (I reasoned with myself) another probe found a better world closer while we were en route? We had backup destinations, so why couldn’t we have an alternate if new information came in?

Well, because once the Mag drive spun up we would be out of contact, but that wouldn’t happen for another five months and two weeks and three days. And besides, wasn’t my sexual frustration an emergency? Who knew what I would do if I had to endure two years of this? I read paragraphs of the cryo documentation over and over again.

The next thing I knew, Sveta was shaking me by the shoulder and it was tomorrow and we still were not at our home. Five hundred tomorrows to go. But I could always try again today.

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This Mission Is Code Named 16, Double-Oh Seven.

16. License to Kill, Gladys Knight. I thought I hadn’t seen this movie until it came on late-night cable a few weeks back. Then I realized that I had seen it, but I had blocked it out of my mind because it was so terrible. It might challenge “View to a Kill” as the worst Bond I’ve seen. At least “View to a Kill” had campy Roger Moore and Grace Jones and Christopher Walken and it was almost thirty years ago now. But anyway, this is not about the movies. The song is fine, there’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s nothing particularly memorable about it. It’s a late-eighties formula song with a Bond stinger. At least Gladys Knight delivers her lines with more feeling than most of the people in the movie. Sorry, I keep forgetting.

 

Fiction: License to Kill

There are three showers in the laboratory level, and Devin is worried that there should be more. The disinfectant smell no longer bothers him, after five years; only its absence does. He talks casually with his colleagues, jokes and smiles, but when following lab protocol, he is deadly serious. Of the thirty-seven tests he has completed in five years, only one was questioned for testing irregularities.

Today the mice cannot even move. He takes the usual measurements of activity, respiration, heart rate, and notes them down alongside the results of four hours ago. Devin had not taken his own measurements before coming to this facility; there were always graduate students and lab assistants for that. But when working on antidotes to the biological weapons agents the government feared its enemies were developing, the fewer people granted clearance, the better. So Devin prepares his own test protocols, cross-checked with one of his few colleagues, and rotates the duties of recording data.

The antidote is not working; the mice will soon be dead. Devin does not note this unscientific appraisal, but he shares it with his colleagues over lunch, and they agree. The number of mice incinerated in this facility could feed a city of cats for a year, Janelle jokes. They all laugh.

Devin doesn’t own a cat–why would he keep an animal that attracts fleas and shits in the house?–but he has long admired them, along with spiders and hawks: creatures that eat vermin and keep the world clean. Contrasted with the lab, the world seems to grow filthier every day, and there is nothing Devin can do but work longer hours in the white, bright lab, breathing in the smell of disinfectant and killing mice with weapons-grade viruses.

Eventually, though, he has to go home. Government regulations against overwork and scientific protocols against tired researchers drive him out, up the elevator, into the dirt and smog-filled city. He hurries to his car, drives to his building, where he takes another elevator up to his apartment. On the way, he passes an old man who coughs into his hands and then pulls the same door Devin just touched; he spies three disturbingly unidentifiable stains on the walls and floor of the elevator; a bag of garbage in the hallway left by the woman who lives two doors down from him. He has complained to the apartment management many times, but still she leaves her garbage in the hall.

What is a man to do, forced to live among these disease-ridden, dirt-cloaked creatures? Has the world really become so disgusting in a few short years? Perhaps the problem is in him, he thinks. Perhaps the problem is that he is a cat afraid to take on the mice.

I’m On My Way To 18, M

I’m ranking the James Bond movie songs, counting down, and writing little flash fics to go with each one.

 

18. Goldeneye, Tina Turner. Again, there’s not much here to complain about. It’s a mid-level Tina Turner song. She does her thing and it’s cool, but it doesn’t really evoke the movie or anything. See, we’re already starting to get into the realm of “songs I don’t have any particular quibble with but which are unremarkable.” Full disclosure: I never saw “Goldeneye,” nor two of the next three movies. That might figure into the low rankings. Side note: Tina Turner is probably the closest in voice to Bond mainstay Shirley Bassey.

 

Fiction: Goldeneye

Jake got a gold nose piercing, and Molly got a gold tooth, and they talked big around me and Sherry, like we wasn’t worth what they were just because we didn’t have gold in our face. Like gold is expensive or something; it just looks cool, but I could basically go down to the Lunar Co-op and get a gold nugget for a couple packets of chewing gum if I wanted. If chewing gum wasn’t so damn ‘spensive. So when we got in that fight with the 8-0-1s and Sherry got hit across the face and they said the left eye was a goner, I told her she should get a gold eye.

She was in the hospital, lying back on the bed with a big white patch over the eye, or I guess where the eye’d used to be, and the medibot was ticking down my minutes with big red numbers that even I could read. “Maybe I will, Shooz,” she said, talking slow like when we got drunk, only I was pretty sure nobody snuck sunbooze in the hospital.

“You full-on should,” I said.

“Hey Medibot,” Sherry said, still slurry-slow, but the bot understood and beeped at her. “How much fer a golden eye?”

My numbers were ticking down to zero, and while I hold that rules are like fences–it’s better on the other side of them–I’d already tried to stay past my time a couple days ago and got jabbed by a needle and woke up in the parking lot. Hadn’t figured a way around the medibots yet, so I left Sherry in the middle of a numbers discussion.

“She’ll never do it,” Jake said.

Molly ran her tongue over her gold tooth. “It wouldn’t look right on her.”

But damned if Sherry didn’t come out of the hospital with one eye blue as the seas on Earth up in the sky and one eye golden metal with a black hole in its center. It moved around when she moved her head, and she told Jake and Molly it was just a mini-gyro, but when they were gone she told me she could really see out of it.

I couldn’t figure how; it was metal. To prove it, she closed the other eye, which made her look more normal and I don’t know how that worked, because nobody on the Moon had golden eyes. Mr. Devereux has a glass eye, but everyone else has two working ones. I figured she was just peeking when she reached out and touched me right on the nose, dead center, and after that she didn’t tell me she could see out of it again.

But Jake and Molly were pissed because now Sherry outranked them by their own system. Nose ring, tooth, they didn’t compare to an eye that moved around and gleamed and was worth all their gold put together and doubled. They made noises about how Sherry’d stolen to get it, but we all knew Jake had gotten his nose ring off a guy from the Northsiders, so the noises died out fast. The situation didn’t get better, though, and I was worried our gang might split up, Jake and Molly with their friends, and me and Sherry with ours. I watched Sherry’s back, but they didn’t try anything right away.

No, they waited until one night three months later when I was working on the scaffolding and I’d told Peanut to keep an eye on Sherry. I heard the story from him later: he’d been sitting with her when she fell asleep, and she always slept with the golden eye open. Jake and Molly came up behind him and gagged him, tied him up before he could make a sound. Jake stood over Sherry and reached down to grab that eye, and when his fingers were an inch away, she hauled off and planted her foot between his legs, so hard Peanut could hear it.

Well, Jake deflated like he’d been pressure-bombed, and Molly lurched forward like she could help. Reflex, I guess; we look out for our own. Sherry’s hand lashed out and slashed Molly across the face, and after that the two of them hightailed it out of there.

The weird thing is Peanut told me Sherry woke up after that, and didn’t remember a thing about it. But, he said, when he was telling her, he kept seeing the flickers of light off her golden eye, just like the thing was winking at him.

Let Me Guess, M…#20

[I’m ranking the James Bond movie songs and writing a short fiction with each. Intro here: https://timsusman.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/an-odd-little-project/ ]

20. Moonraker, Shirley Bassey. Bassey has done more Bond themes than anyone, but “Moonraker” is her weakest effort, though she tries gamely to re-create her earlier successes. This one and “Thunderball” are probably the worst titles actually incorporated into the song (Rita Coolidge wisely took a pass on “Octopussy”). There’s just not much for Bassey to do with it, and the flat, uninspired song does no favors for the over-the-top campy movie.

 

Fiction: Moonraker

They’re guarding the site in shifts now, but entropy is his ally and they will fail eventually. He considers, puffs of air from his suit’s feet smoothing out the dust on the lunar surface below him, keeping him suspended above it. With a shift in his weight to the left or the right, he glides across the surface, leaving a smooth, unmarked trail in his wake, almost as if no-one had ever been there. Almost. 

In another two days, darkness would cover the site, and no doubt they thought that he would strike then, because at the last site, he had come skidding down the crater wall, gathering speed, silent in the airless world. He’d been through the site before they’d known he was there.

But here, he wanted light. He gauged the distance, which was hard along the featureless surface. If this site were in a crater, he could roll one of the boulders down the sides; that was something that might naturally happen. But no; on the flat marais, he had to bring his own rocks, gathered in a small pile at his feet. 

The first one curved in a high parabolic arc. Rumor had it that his daddy’d once thrown a rock that reached escape velocity. He wasn’t sure if that was possible or not, but he believed it anyway.

The rock landed a little ways to the left of the site. The guards nearby noticed it. He could see them looking around for the source. The second and third rocks followed it. 

He hoped he wouldn’t hit any of the guards. They were looking for the rocks now, so they should be able to avoid them. 

They didn’t see the second or third rocks, but he got them squarely in the center of the site. Already they were running around, and one of them noticed him, but by then he’d already thrown two more rocks, and he would be able to get the rest of them before they got halfway to him.

And in an attempt to avoid the sixth rock, one of the guards leaped too far and ended sprawled across half the site, obliterating the footprints there that the rocks hadn’t already marred.

He stopped to laugh, and then turned to run, and behind him his jets left a smooth trail of dust, as though nobody had ever been there.