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Speculative fiction writer, wife, mum, gamer, and adventure seeker who just wants some sleep. She lives in sunny Queensland, but often fantasises about snow capped mountains in cooler climates.

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NYC Midnight Flash Fiction 2022 Round 2

Saturday, November 12, 2022 by Sarah Hegerty

Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay


The second round was much the same as the first in constraints. 48 hours to write 1000 words. This time I got Spy genre, set on a Freighter, and I had to include a flame thrower. I don't really read a lot of spy books, either, it turns out. I think what I wrote may have been based on experiences from watching Burn Notice and MIB. I placed 15th with this one, which combined with my 9th place in the first round put me in 14th overall. Pretty happy with placing in both rounds on my first attempt at this challenge, with two genres I'm not familiar with. And loving all the feedback on my writing—which is the real reason I sign up for these things. The feedback for this story was incredibly positive, and focused mostly on improving the action elements of the story. Having more physical action and making it so the reader feels the action more. These are definitely things I can work on trying to improve. :)


Crisis Control


Worried Mamba and I discard our underwater propulsion vehicle and launch ourselves at the hull of the freighter. A quick tap on the sleeve of our customized wetsuits engages the magnetic lock mechanisms in the gloves and boots, allowing us to climb onto the ship unnoticed. The best part of working for an agency that doesn’t exist is using bleeding edge technology that lets you show up in places people least expect you to be.

We were the closest specialized extraction unit when the distress beacon was triggered five hours ago. No abnormalities were detected on the satellite scanner—it looks like a normal cargo ship enroute across the Pacific Ocean. The beacon signal says otherwise—hopefully we’re not too late. The intel brief mentioned the company that owns the freighter is involved in black market trading of rare sea creatures—we suspect they’re up to something far worse.

Once on the deck, we deftly strip out of our wetsuits, revealing black combat uniforms underneath. After shoving the wetsuits into a duffel and wedging it between two crates, for later if needed, Mamba opens another bag with our portable armory. He throws me my pistols, grenades, flash bangs, and a few other goodies and I quickly fasten them into their holsters.

“Okay, let’s do this.” Mamba says with the hint of a tremble in his voice. Is he worrying again? The plan is solid.

I open the comms channel with Mission Control. “Bright Cookie and Worried Mamba in position to recover Precious Cargo. Will update when Cargo secured.”

The comms device on my wrist pings with the location of the beacon on a diagram of the ship’s schematics. We semi-crouch and run, staying close to the walls with our pistols at the ready. The mission seems too easy—there is hardly any resistance on board the vessel for our line of work.

We reach the door of the room that has the flashing beacon within. I peer inside and see what looks like a laboratory with two guys in lab coats conducting experiments on something large. I signal to Mamba, and he kicks the door in before I rush through with my pistol leveled at one of the scientist’s heads.

“Stop right now,” I say.

“Thank you very much, I need somebody with a human touch,” an armored dolphin starts singing while being restrained on a table in the middle of the room, then lets out a trill laugh and flashes a devious grin.

One scientist has a flamethrower—the nozzle droops suddenly toward the floor as he stands in a stupor. The dolphin whimpers, then adds, “about time you showed up, can you believe that monster was about to use that on me?”

“...It speaks,” Flamethrower shrieks.

“And it knows the Spice Girls?” The other whispers.

Both look momentarily frozen in shock. So, I decide to educate them.

“Firstly, Cetaceans are an ancient species, so perhaps some respect wouldn’t go astray. Secondly, what on Earth were you planning to do with that flamethrower?”

Then Mamba yells. “Specifically, the Sonkaith are refugees protected by an intergalactic treaty! Are you trying to start an intergalactic war?” His eyes are wild as he stares at me. “Why are people so stupid?”

“It…speaks,” Flamethrower pulls the nozzle back up into a defensive position, as if that is somehow an answer to our questions.

I sigh. “Of course, they speak—they’re sentient. They’re distant intergalactic relatives of our dolphins and they’re very intelligent. There is so much about dolphin history you don’t know! And don’t call them an it—it’s rude.”

“Thank you, child of Earth.”

I nod deferentially to the Sonkaith. “We will be going now and taking the refugee with us. Stop killing innocent sea creatures. Are we clear?”

I watch him, waiting for his response. Mamba keeps his pistol trained on Flamethrower.

“Like hell.”

Stupidly, we’re both fixated on Flamethrower. I don’t notice the other guy move. He lunges at my side, trying to tackle me like a football player. Just before his arms connect with my knees I leap up and kick him in the face. My feet land either side of his body as it slides between my legs. He groans. I bend down and kidney shot him with the butt of my pistol.

“Stay down.”

I look up and Flamethrower and Mamba are locked in a death stare. Flamethrower looks unstable.

“Lower the flamethrower and no one gets hurt.”

I step over Moaner, moving toward Flamethrower, while he eyes me suspiciously. Guess he’s never seen a girl take martial arts lessons. I try to weigh up the odds of getting flamed. “Come on, you look like a scientist, not a killer.”

Flamethrower’s body shakes involuntarily, sweat beading on his face. He looks feral—unpredictable. These next moments are critical—I can’t spook him. I lower my pistol and inch closer, slowly and steadily—still remembering my training for disengaging civilians without casualties.

“Pfft. Just shoot him. He was happy to try and kill me with that flamethrower a moment ago. Practically breached the treaty already.”

The color drains from Flamethrower’s face and he reflexively pulls the trigger of his weapon, still pointed at the alien.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Silence. And then Flamethrower crashes to the ground in a heap.

I glance at Mamba, and he shrugs his shoulders. “We were going to have to do something anyway. It’s not like civilians are allowed to know aliens actually exist.” And then he adds apologetically to the Sonkaith. “Sorry, you know how it is, it’s for your own protection.”

“What about the other one?” The refugee asks hesitantly.

Mamba pulls a device out of his combat vest that looks like a halo. “I guess we could use the Neural Wipe to slag his memories.”

I notify Mission Control. “Cargo secured.”

“Witnesses?” Mission Control asks.

“Only one.” I look regretfully at the dead body. “And they’re clean.”

“Excellent work, Bright Cookie and Worried Mamba. Another crisis averted.”