Flash Friday: Anyone Can Learn to Drive …

… at the Intergalactic Driving School on the plains of Chocolatum. Have the instructors at the Hazduke Racing School given you your walking papers? The pilots from the Snoop-Baronian Academy shot down your hopes? Even the intrepid adventurers of The Temple of Doomnation turned you away? Not to worry. The Intergalactic Driving School (Head-Heart-Hope-In-Transportation), otherwise known as IDSHHHIT, is pleased to offer you the least exciting, most soothing, totally risk-free drivers’ education experience in the known galaxies.

All drivers who study with IDSHHHIT are guaranteed to pass. (They do not guarantee what you will pass, only that you will pass something). Each student driver is assigned a highly competent, expert instructor who hovers nearby, calmly guiding every move. The instructor may even, occasionally, gently pat a shoulder or forearm to remind students of a critical point. Even the most anxious students relax in the professional atmosphere of an IDSHHHIT class session.

IDSHHHIT training ships are modern, spacious, and comfortable, specifically designed to give a smooth, level ride. Seated in the capacious captain’s chair, you can feel the engine thrum far beneath you. The responsive joystick represents the very latest in driving control, allowing you to turn on the proverbial dime with just the brush of your fingertips. You will enjoy every moment of each lesson. Even the occasional mishap generally results in laughter and the chance to try again, as classes are held on the Plains of Chocolatum, where conditions are accommodating and, indeed, have a reputation for being highly forgiving.

Geography
The Plains of Chocolatum cover a wide expanse on the low-gravity planet Ganashinatum. The terrain has the consistency of what is known on Earth as “chocolate silk pie” – that is, the ground is soft and yielding. Even the soft grasses that cover the plains bend and fold at the slightest touch, leaving the haunting scent of roasted cocoa drifting through the air.

The atmosphere of Ganashinatum has been described as “thick as pea soup”. As IDSHHHIT literature points out, a dense atmosphere is excellent for muffling the conversations between students and instructors, ensuring that any unguarded remarks remain a private matter. The air seems particularly pea-soup-like over the Plains of Chocolatum, but this is likely an illusion and definitely not a result of intestinal responses to turbulence or sudden changes in altitude.

Ganashinatum is part of a complex solar system orbiting the sun Insurioso. This system has become known for its low-cost, high-return business investments. The planets and moons in this system include Collisio, a metal-based planet specializing in mechanical repairs; Superficio, a large, colorful planet with an extensive network of paint shops and dent removers; and J(unk)Y(ard)503, a tiny, far-flung moon that functions as a sort of informal drop-off point for ships beyond repair.

Intergalactic Visitors and Arrivals from Alternate Dimensions
Ganashinatum welcomes everyone equally. Intergalactic visitors are asked to register online at the Office of Intergalactic Distribution of Specie before arrival. Please include banking information and preferred form of payment. Travelers arriving from Alternate Dimensions are asked to bring currently accepted galactic credits or kindly requested to continue on their journeys.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Flash Friday – The Zephyr

The joy of fully realizing and knowing the bond of our friendship had deepened over the last three years made my heart sing that fateful morning. Seen from a distance the early rays of dawn glistened against the silhouette of The Zephyr exiting the barn. That The Zephyr existed was a triumph of the bond shared between Philip and I. Through the trials, tribulations, and victories of our endeavors as our shared vision took shape so too did our relationship grow from friendship to brotherhood.

Our combined skills in engineering and electrical sciences produced this magnificent airship. While not as large as its successors would be, this ship would be the proof of concept which would change the world, ushering in a new age of commerce and transportation. This maiden flight would test and confirm our theories shining as a beacon of hope for the future.

Preflight checks all seemed to be in order. The rudder and planes responded well to the controls from gleaming brass and polished wooden controls in the wheelhouse. The small Donkey engine aft generated a good head of steam as it spun the two dynamos up to speed. Dials spun as they engaged both in the engine compartment and their duplicates in the wheelhouse. They reflected the steady pressure of the Donkey engines chug-chug and the current flow from the dynamos. A third dial held a steady vigil as the batteries held their charge while four smaller dials below read the amperage fed to each of the powerful electric motors ready to spin the propellers.

A steam engine required to power even a ship this size weighed more than the ship could lift, besides and cargo capacity being negated by the requirement to carry enough fuel to feed the monster. Our concept used a very small donkey engine to charge batteries. It was light weight, could be tuned off for extended periods while the ship was powered by its batteries therefore requiring much less fuel. At least that was the idea.

I lost the coin toss to Phillip. It would be he who piloted our craft as I operated the engine and tended the batteries. Our six backers and their wives would occupy the small, but well appointed, passenger cabin and we would carry 250 pounds of mixed cargo. Our future plans would aim for up to 100 passengers or as much cargo as large freighter. Other designs might allow for a mix of passengers and cargo. Yes, our optimism was high.

The ground crew loosed our bonds the earthly realm. With hardly a bump, our beautiful craft with its crimson and gold gas bag adorned by the saw-toothed stabilizer fins bore us heavenward.

We circled the town, checking our systems and operations, allowing our backers to, “ooh and ahh”, as we dipped low enough to view landmarks. A tight circle of the town’s clocktower confirmed the trim crafts maneuverability. All conducted in silence.

The intent was we would fly northward to our capital, showing our invention to the government. Surely after such a prolonged period of devastation, an invention such as ours might inspire them to back us as well. The possibilities were endless. Our dreams were of the pie in the sky variety, for our heads and our invention were in the clouds.

Our Backers were ecstatic, fortunately the weather was good, and they gushed over how comfortable the travel. Even the best trains were loud, and smelly. This was almost as comfortable as sitting in their own parlors. Their schemes at attracting passengers soon outstripped Phillips and mine most grandiose of plans. The only sound the occasional chug-chug of the Donkey engine to keep up the charge.

As the batteries charged two things happened. First they generated heat and this in itself could cause them to boil out exposing the plates seated in the sulfuric acid potentially causing a spark. This results in the second problem of explosion. For as the batteries charge they generate not only heat but hydrogen gas. This gas is the very thing suspending our craft between heaven and earth. A spark could ignite it.

Phillip solved these problems in two ways. Each battery resided inside a glass housing. Ingeniously a stopcock attached to each of these housings allowed the hydrogen to be siphoned off and stored for future use. This would solve one of the questions posed in obtaining a supply for our ships. A creative system of ductwork flowed over the batteries removing the oxygen produced as part of the process which had the effect of cooling both batteries and the engines. The controls to open these ducts resided in the wheelhouse. The siphoning process could be controlled manually at the batteries or from the wheelhouse.

We made the trip from Texas to Washington D.C. in less than 14 hours. A three day trip by train reduced to less than a day. The trip was a complete success for our vision of the future.

Well, mine at least, for I noticed the temperature of the batteries rising. This had occurred a couple of times during the flight but each time Phillip had opened the ducts rapidly cooling things down. There was no cool down.

The speaking tube engendered no response. Worried I went to the wheelhouse only to find the door locked. My knocks produced no more response than the speaking tube. Concern for Phillip led me to break open the door. In the interest of lightweight, the doors and nonstructural components were made of the lightest materials, the door collapsed under a determined assault.

“Phillip, what is wrong?” stunned as he seemed to be piloting the craft normally. I could just see the capitol through the front windows of the wheelhouse.

“There is nothing wrong Emmet. I aim to repair history. We never should have lost that war and now carpetbaggers steal our ways of life. Take our property and our lands, do you really think those men back there are not plotting to take every cent from our toil? When this ship crashes into the capitol our brethren will rise again, throw off the shackle of these northern oppressors.” Madly throwing controls The Zephyr abruptly canted downward. If action were not taken swiftly our dreams would turn from an optimistic vision to a thunderbolt of Zeusian vengeance.

“Phillip, after all we have come to understand each other how can you dash our dreams? The war was lost, slavery was on the way out as machinery changed the economics. Ours is a time to look to the future, rebuild from the ashes and create new things, things like the Zephyr. Please Phillip, step away from the controls.”

“I knew you had gone soft Emmet, when you mourned Lincoln, I knew it then. You are a good man but you just do not understand. The idea came to me as we flew. I knew you would never understand what this chance represented. ”

“I understand Phillip. I understand too well there are those who cannot that times change. There will always be those who want to hold dearly to old ideas, will fight to prevent change. Even change for the better where all mankind might learn to live as one brotherhood. How can I convince you this is not the course to take? Only evil can come of it.”

With a glance to the controls Phillip spun to face me.

“I can’t let you do this Phillip.”

“I can’t let you stop me Emmet.”

Without further word, we both launched at each other.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Flash Friday- Inquisitor Report , A story of the Iron Dragons

As Papa Aegrorum stirred his great cauldron, imagining what foul contagion with which he could bless his minions and bring others to him in their glory of corruption, he sought images in the swirl of festering gobbets of his past and current glories. Aromas of his odiferous swill rising to fill his gardens as he worked, a smile of rotten maggots filled his maw. Peering into the materrium he could see there a plague, here boils which erupted with flies, bleeding sickness, swarms of all sort, yes, many good examples of his work over time. And yet, there seemed to be a dark spot on his otherwise bright path of disease across the galaxy. There seemed to be a place he was not exerting power, yet showed a touch much like his……

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On Vhoorl the awakening to the Great Ones power was continuing. Great Cthulhu, while still trapped in the pocket dimension of Rl’yeh, was able to exert more and more influence. The Iron Dragons and their allies, the Arkham Confederacy, were becoming acclimated to The Great Old Ones directions. Only the Space Marines seemed capable of containing the powers with which he could infuse them. These mortals too quickly burnout, they become husks of themselves. More would be needed to replace them. Indeed, many had taken to worship of The Black Goat with a Thousand Young.

As members of the pact displayed greater power, toughness, invulnerability and psychic ability, speed and precision and when needed a berserker’s lust for combat, more were joining the pact. Soon, joined with the degenerate descendants of the Oruk, they would be able to take more territory in the materrium, gathering more followers, building enough psychic focus to free him from this imprisonment. Then, then the galaxy shall know the resurgence of a golden age.

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At Papa Aegrorum direction, Nirgali arrived on Vhoorl. The suffering of a colony of burnt out shells of humans providing a portal into the materrium. One look and it became obvious the half human husks were not the work of a loving god like Aegrorum. These creatures had nothing left; there was no joy in their suffering, no exultation to Aegrorum for an easement, no begging for death or for others to join them. They merely shuffled, wasting their potential service.

Nirgali had grown to follow Aegrorum while on Curwen, once he had been a priest of the Imperial Presence, preaching of the Galactic Empire, but when the Emperor failed to answer his prayers, Aegrorum did. Aegrorum nurtured him and as his faith grew, he brought other to know the joyous suffering of Aegrorum. The near immortality offered by the constant renewal of disease.

Going straight to work, Nirgali began giving them the NOX virus, turning these doddering meat cases into rotting zombies with a will to serve.

And Nirgali knew just the mortal servant to make use of these putrefied slabs of gangrenous meat. And so, Panderia was summoned.

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When the Apothecarium reported to Inquisitor De Salis and Captain Kal-Mari of the infections breaking out in the hive city both knew what to do or so they thought. The victims were quarantined with the rest of the corrupted, once-human husks who could not handle the power of a Great Old One coursing through them. It was on realizing the wretched half corpses were beginning to contract a new disease becoming, if anything, more animated.

After hundreds of case were brought forward, the Apothecarium reported in the bowels of the Miskatonic library, was reference to a chaos wrought illness known as the NOX plague, creating a zombie like state of undeath. In swift decision it was decided any new cases would be driven to the pits and burned. Meanwhile, at the risk of exterminatus being declared, a request for aid with the virus would be requested, it was defeated before but the tomes onboard the Miskatonic did not have all of the information as to how. And at the same time a request for more civilian colonists could be made….

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Ordo Xenos:

Inquisitor Nathaniel De Salis Reporting

Vhoorl Disease Survey

Binary Star AL-Janubi

Segmentum Obscura

 

Planet: Vhoorl

Date: 6793014.M41

 

Within the last year, there have been numerous cases of a disease the Empires Apothecaries have been unable to diagnose. Workers in the Hive City have been disappearing and this has been reducing production and efficiency.

 

When reported, the Apothecarium believed the malady to be an unknown strain of a common virus and seemed to respond to treatment. Then relapses began among those considered cured.

 

The relapses were particularly virulent. Blood running form all the orifices, greenish tinge to the skin, clammy and gave the appearance of rot. Yet, there have been no fatalities reported. These cases responded to no forms of treatment.

 

The Ecclesiastical arm has been involved as a cult seems to have sprung up surrounding those infected.

Quarantine seemed called for, both for the physical and spiritual health of the workforce, in camps set up in the swamps at the far end of the continent furthest from the MegaCity.

 

While there is always instances of desertion, and even defection, from the Light of the Empire to other cults, the efforts on this planet seem to have more than the usual numbers.

It is suggested by this Inquisitor the planet has its civilian population cleansed and replaced with a new force. The system is too important strategically to abandon.

 

Immediate dispatch is requested of a unit of Ashen Cabelleros and a member of the Assassins Guild to Vhoorl to provide assistance in cleansing the planet, both civilian and military forces. A Sample of the virus has been encased and forwarded to the Empires Apothecarium.

 

Flash Friday – Challenging the End

Slowly, the insistent knocking roused Sir Michael from his deep, dreamless sleep. He shrugged into his tunic and opened the door. Breathless from his run up the stairs, Alakka stumbled into the room.

“Sahib! Come quick, there is a messenger from Qatni with an urgent message for you!” he pantingly implored Sir Michael.

As Sir Michael dressed to meet the messenger he glanced out of the window. From the position of the moon it must be only a couple of hours before dawn.

The courtyard shadows danced as the torches showed him two of his men-at-arms standing to either side of a young Bedouin and his mount. His message must have been urgent indeed to use up such the once beautiful stallion as a mixture of froth and blood puddled on the flagstones. It would likely have to be put down judging by the visible swelling around a sprained, possibly broken ankle.

‘Alakka, have the beast tended to at once.” he commanded. Grieved as the animal limped away, refusing to put much weight on the one foot.

The young Bedouin was doing a good impersonation of standing on hot coals as he pranced from foot to foot. Seeing the deference the men-at-arms gave Sir Michael, he rushed forward.

“Effendi, Sahib Petain is in our village and has been badly hurt. He sent for you, please, it is most urgent he speak to you!” explained the boy.

Sir Michael grabbed the boy by the shoulders, demanding to know the whole story. A long time friend and brother in arms, Sir Petain had disappeared repelling a raid almost a fortnight ago, only to surface now in a village a hard ride away. Yet, all they could get from the boy was that Petain had stumbled out of the desert a few days ago, badly hurt and near death. The village healers had done what they could for his wounds but he lay hovering between worlds for days.

He gave orders for his horse and four others to prepare to ride. If they started soon they could make considerable distance before the desert sun took its toll. With luck they would arrive in the boy’s village the next day. Before leaving he left instructions for more to follow armed and with supplies while the garrison prepared for their return.

The grueling ride left them exhausted but they made the village by dawn of the following day. Sir Michael was led to the Sheik’s tent, Sir Petain was in the section for those who are sick are cared for and treated.

Sir Michael gasped to see how quickly the virile and robust Sir Petain had been reduced to a shadow. He was gaunt, with skin two sizes too small drawn over his large frame. Asleep, he had been propped into a position where the angrily glaring welts of a whip did not contact anything.

Whatever heroic trek he made out of the desert had not been kind. The bitter-sweet aroma of dead flesh hung cloyingly and from he stood Sir Michael could see the greenish ooze of pus from some of the wounds.

Michael knelt at his friend’s side to offer prayers for him. Petain opened his eyes and rejoiced at the sight of his friend.

“Thank you for your prayers, but you could wait until I am dead,” in a voice firmer than his appearance would have suggested.

Michael laughed as tears welled up in his eyes, “You can’t blame me. You looking like you have joined Fionn and his heroes already. What happened to you old friend?”

“During the last battle I was knocked unconscious. I awoke trussed and packed like a sack of barley over the back of a camel. When they realized I was awake, they tied my hands to a tether and pulled me along behind the camel. I am not sure how long we traveled, but we came to some cliffs. Here the leader of the group shouted in a tongue unknown to me and a gate opened in the side of the cliff.

Inside, I was paraded around their streets to the jeers and prods of his men. All the time they pelting me with garbage while some struck me with clubs or daggers. When they tired of this sport, I was tied to a post and whipped until I passed out.

I awoke behind bars in a rough hewn hole in the cliff side. Each day I was given just enough water but no food. Daily I hung from that wretched post and was either whipped or used as a target for the men would ride past and slap me with the flat of their blades. When they locked me away each night it was with words, “Sleep well, for tomorrow we will kill you.”

The day came when I saw all the good horses were gone and hardly anyone in sight. I was able to surprise the guard who was dragging me to the post and took his sword. With surprise on my side I won my way through the eye of the needle and began my trek here.

These are the bandits who have been hounding this region. Look for the cliff to the south and west of here. Swear to me you rid this land of the scum and avenge me.”

“Brother I swear to you on my sword and by Our Lord old friend, vengeance shall be reaped for what they have done to you and the blood of the innocents they have spilled. Sleep now, try to regain to your strength.”

The remainder of the day Sir Michael spent speaking to the tribal elders working out the most likely place the fortress of the raiders would be located. The remainder of the time he spent sitting by his friend’s bedside.

Three days after he arrived, so did the rest of the men he had instructed to follow him. He explained their mission to his master sergeant and ordered the men to rest before they would all start out again. Sir Michael kept vigil that night at Petain’s bed. Early in the morning Petain awoke, coughing heavily. Sir Michael offered him a glass of watered down wine.

“It seems fate has brought us full circle my friend.” Petain choked out as he sipped from the goblet. “ Not that long ago I was helping leech you after you were run through, your body though was allowed to heal. Michael, I have a favor to ask.”

“ I know what you are thinking and please, do not ask this of me. God would not take you from us when there is much left to do in his name. Our prayers will be answered.”

“No Michael, I appreciate your faith and how you feel but my body is not lying to me. We have never had false words between us and now is not the time begin them. I am already dead or soon will be. I beg you, as your brother, do not let me die weak and helpless from the degradation evil has caused. Let me die as I lived, a warrior. Put steel in my hand that I die as I lived, by the sword.”

Slowly, reluctantly, Sir Michael stepped outside, asking the first of his men he spotted for his sword. When he returned Petain was sitting on the stool which he himself had been sitting at earlier.

He drew his own blade and offered it to Petain. Tears blurred his vision as he had to assist his friend to uncurl his fingers that he could grasp the hilt. Then, hefting the borrowed blade he saluted his friend.

A prayer on his lips for his friends soul, he thrust at his heart. And nearly burst out laughing when Petain parried.

“I told you I wanted to die fighting” he smiled weakly.

Sir Michael nodded, as he did not trust himself to speak, and began to fight. Slowly at first, testing for a speed his friend could manage. Petain held nothing back, indeed, if any of his blows had landed, Michael may have been waiting to greet him as he ascended.

Men of both the Sheiks household and Michaels troops crowded the entryway, attracted by the noise of battle.

Soon, Petain’s strength waned, and with a final prayer Sir Michael delivered the coup de gras to his brother and long time friend.

Kneeling beside Petain’s body he began a long, low wail that rose gradually in both volume and pitch. His heavy heart began to swell with pride as he realized each man present, Scot and nonScot alike had taken up the keening.