Flash Fiction Friday 006 – Terrors of the Deep

The Viribus sails the cosmic seas. But there are dangers that lurk out in the dark expanses. Can the Viribus survive or is it doomed to be consumed by the universe?

Crow’s nest duties were always the worst. It was supposed to be done by convicts, but the trip had been long and there were no convicts left. A quarter of them were back in their cells below babbling incoherently. The rest had disappeared.

The crow’s nest needed to be manned, however. So it was that Marius was sitting in the small wooden circle atop the mast. He had shown a little too much disrespect to his section lead. Normally this was punishable by a little extra duty and a forfeiture of pay. Given the need for lookouts, though, he was ordered up to the top of the mast instead.

He shivered as he stared out into the darkness. There was no real day or night out on the cosmic seas, but it was the twenty-third hour. The decks below were as silent as the cosmos surrounding Marius as the majority of the crew slept. The solar winds provided no warmth and only heightened the feelings of isolation.

Out in the distance, a sole balaeic drifted through space, its massive body undulating and writhing on unseen currents. The Jues Nebulae glittered beyond the bow, a red and green beacon that signaled the final leg of their journey. With a little skill and a little luck, the Viribus would be back at a friendly dock within a week.

From the shadows below Jues, a glint of light caught Marius’ eye. He fetched his looking glass and lifted it in the direction of the flash. The image of another ship jumped into his vision. The vessel was thin and sleek, bearing a single mast, and its bow was carved into a strange shape. While it was still too far to make out the design of the bow clearly, the shape of the ship was unmistakable.

“Pictusings! Pictusings below the Jues!”

In response to Marius’ cries, the bell on the deck below began to ring out its alarm. A flurry of motion erupted below him as the crew was woken. They rushed to their battle stations as the Pictusings ship approached.

It wasn’t long before the Pictusings were upon them and the battle was made. The clash of swords and the thud of clubs exploded around the two ships. Screams of the wounded and dying pierced the air. Even though the Viribus was a larger ship with a skilled and hardened crew, the Pictusings were known for their fierceness, dragging the fight on longer than it should have. Longer than was prudent.

Out from the depths of the cosmic seas, a shadow moved. It was drawn to the sounds of pain and scent of blood. There was no form to the shadow as passed by the battling ships, only an indescribable sound. The sound bore into Marius’ ears like a screw digging into wood, removing shavings of sense and sanity. His screams were echoed by those below until a fog passed over his mind, blurring out reality.

* * *

The Viribus drifted into the port of Helenesopia. Once secured, the dockmaster strode up the gangplank, notebook in hand, ready to record the declarations from the ship’s logistician.

“A little more trouble than normal on this run Heraclon,” the logistician reported. “We lost all our convicts about eighty percent of the way through. Mindeaters and the like seem to be growing in the Adriomos region. Had a little run-in with the Pictusings near Jues as well. I recommend you put a notice out on those two spots.”

Heraclon nodded absently as he made the notes. “Of course. We will also start the paperwork to refill your stock of convicts. Any thing else to declare?”

The logistician tapped his chin a moment in thought. “No, not that I can think of. Cargo is all accounted for and our paperwork is in order. All in all, I would say it was a fairly successful trip.”

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Random Thoughts – Protagonists vs Antagonists

So I’m watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark today, and I was struck by something. First of all, it is still a great movie. There is so much visual storytelling in there, it is crazy. Go rewatch it, and if you haven’t seen it, go fix that flaw in your life. It’s one of the only flaws you can fix within two hours, especially because spoilers for….37 year old movie? Good night.

Anyway, I’m watching Raiders and the interaction between Indiana Jone and Belloc, his rival archeologist. There was a scene towards the middle where Belloc is rather blunt with the view, but Belloc says that he and Indy are the same. It would only take a nudge for Indy to become like him. Of course, almost 30 years later, we get another example of this as I realize Nolan’s police room interrogation between Batman and Joker was a rip off of Speilberg…kidding. The two scenes are different, but not, but are.

That’s beside the point. Belloc is so confident that he knows Indy that later in the movie, the Nazis and Belloc have the ark. Indy tracks them down and threatens to blow it up with a bazooka. And what does Belloc do? Use the many Nazis with automatic weapons to shoot Indy figuring that he couldn’t get a good shot off? Nope. Dude tells the Nazis to clear out and calls Indy’s bluff. “Blow it back to God,” he says because he knows Indy won’t.

Indiana Jones is standing on the high ground pointing a bazooka at a group of Nazi and a potential holy weapon that the Nazis now possess. His love interest is nearby, but she is also far enough away by Hollywood standards to survive the explosion. Just a squeeze of the finger and the Nazis lose. We are sitting there as an audience, watching Indy, wanting him to shoot that bazooka. But what does Indy do? He drops the weapon and surrenders because Belloc was right. He couldn’t bring himself to destroy a piece of history like the Ark.

And that is why Belloc was such a good antagonist for this movie. He really was like Indy. They ran into each other all the time. They searched for the same items and got there about the same time. Yeah, Belloc sold them on the black market. Indy sold his to a museum. Makes Indy better right? Except when the museum curator basically calls Indy out for questionable practices.

So there are a lot of similarities between the two. That is what made their interactions so fun. That one little line that separated them. Just a slight difference that showed the contrast between the two. They had the same goals and similar motives, just a difference in motivation and method.

Of course, those always make the best protagonist/antagonist pairs. I joked earlier about Batman and Joker from the Dark Knight, but they were also very similar. Both used theatrics and fear to pursue their goals. It added more to their interactions and helped elevate them to an iconic opposition.

So what protagonist/antagonist pairs do you like and why? And remember to like and share. Finally, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.