Writers’ Wednesday: Flash Fiction Challenge Results

First, I’d like to thank Brad Skiff for responding to this one early and to anyone else who submits a story before I publish this. I posted a challenge last week to write a story about a duel, and I’m going to publish Brad’s story in this post below my own submission. I haven’t read Brad’s story yet, but I know him to be a hell of a writer and artist extraordinaire, so I know it’ll be good. When I’m finished writing mine – which I’m doing right now – then I’ll read Brad’s and copy and paste it here.

Something different for me…

When I was working on my Master’s degree, a lot of my creative writing classes had us re-write scenes from our favorite books or movies. Usually these assignments would have us switch perspective, or narrative voice, or sometimes it was just an exercise in matching style.

The two examples that immediately jump to mind are one in which I rewrote a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from the perspective of Nurse Ratched (if you’ve only seen the movie, do yourself a favor and read Ken Kesey’s novel. It’s all written from the Chief’s perspective. He’s the protagonist, and McMurphy’s a trickster… I digress).

The other was an assignment where I wrote an additional chapter for Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, which will always be one of my top three novels of all time. I had a blast doing those assignments – putting my own spin onto another author’s universe is a lot of fun, but other than those times, I’ve not done it. So for this challenge, I mentioned something in the original post about “Pistols at dawn, lightsabers in the spaceport, a really intense chess match,” and well, the lightsabers in the spaceport thing really sunk into my mind. I have no idea why. I’ve never done a piece of fan fiction before, but here it is: My 1000 word Star Wars fan fiction duel story, which takes place in the Timothy Zahn canon of stories.

The Birth of a Dark Jedi

Original artwork for Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire series with the title of my story "Birth of a Dark Jedi" imposed in yellow letters over the top.

Toral Nokwan walked into the Calius saj Leeloo tapcafe the inner rim world of Berchest knowing he’d find his prey there, and he knew exactly where.  He was no Jedi, but Mara Jade, Talon Karrde’s lieutenant and, shall-we-say “disciple” of Luke Skywalker himself, had identified him as a Force adept, and she was beginning to show him some of the ways he could tap in to his connection to the Force and grow in it.  He’d never be a Jedi, most likely, but as a smuggler interested in growing with Karrde’s organization, and seeing how Mara handled herself, he was understandably enthusiastic about exploring his newfound power.  

The way Toral saw it he had to take any advantage he could in life, especially with the turmoil surrounding the New Republic lately.  Even with the smuggler’s alliance that Karrde had set up, things weren’t going to get easy overnight, and so for this job, before he entered the tapcafe, he took a moment to center himself, to connect with the Force and to feel the energies around him.  He breathed deeply and the Force gave him a vision of his target and exactly where he was sitting.  He saw that the Twi’lek had two friends with him – an Ithorian and a Rhodian, and that they were engaged in a game of sabacc.  He also saw that they looked like they’d gotten a good start on their drinking for the evening.

Toral had also decided not to take a blaster in with him.  Talon Karrde had connections with the governor here in Calius saj Leeloo, but too much attention on a job like this was never a good thing, and besides, Mara had shown him a thing or two about how to use the Force to handle his vibroblade, and he was sure he could coax the Twi’lek out into the alleyway for a proper showdown.

His orders were to find Bal Atornu Ri, the Twi’lek in question, and eliminate him.  Karrde had inside information that Bal had stumbled upon a cache of old Jedi relics, including lightsabers, from the wreckage of the Imperial palace on Coruscant during the turmoil and confusion following the Battle of Endor.  Karrde didn’t say how Bal had gotten his hands on these Jedi relics, but he did say that Skywalker wanted the relics back.  Bal had also, apparently, been raising interest in selling the lightsabers and attracting Force adepts like Toral.  There was no way of knowing how many he’d already sold, but if Skywalker was planning on restoring the Jedi order, then he would find all of the information Bal Atornu Ri could give him. 

Toral had done his homework.  He knew that Bal had a temper, and could be provoked easily if the right buttons were pushed, and if he were drunk.  He walked into the tapcafe and noticed a typical inner-world run of clientele.

The city had once been a tourist destination for it’s glowing crystal spires and it was an important trade post as well, but after Thrawn’s defeat, Berchest had joined the New Republic. Still, that was only recently, and there was a good chance he could run into some Imperials or sympathizers inside, so he did his best to not be noticed as he walked through the cantina toward the sabacc tables in the back.  The bartender, a Devaronian with some of the biggest horns Toral had ever seen eyed him with mild curiosity as he strode past.  Toral had on his long coat, which concealed his vibroblade very well, and he was hoping the bartender wouldn’t notice.  In order to make sure, he decided to divert the alien’s attention. “You got any keela behind that bar, friend?” he said, walking up between a human and a Rhodian.  He made sure to keep his coat close.

“What do you think this is, Fhost?” the Devaronian said.  “If you want backwater piss you can have a Batuu Brew, that’s the closest we got.”

“That’ll do.” Toral said.  As he gave the bartender his credit stick, he felt a change in the force.  He had no idea what it meant, but it unsettled him.  He took his drink and turned to see Bal Atourn Ri and his two goons standing right behind him.

“Outside.” he said to Toral.  “I know who you are and why you’re here.  We do this outside.”

Toral downed the Batuu Brew quickly and said with all of the false confidence he could muster, “Okay then.  Let’s go.”  

The alley behind the tapcafe was lined with red crystals and gave an eerie glow to the atmosphere there.  Bal led the way outside, and his goons followed Toral.  As soon as the three of them had crossed the threshold of the door and were outside, Toral spread his arms, pushing with the Force toward both of the goons behind him.  The Ithorian hit the wall right in the front of his oddly shaped alien head and was out immediately.  The Rhodian, on the other hand, hit the opposite wall, but blocked the impact with his hands and began to turn around.  Still it gave Toral a moment to draw his vibroblade and hack off the Rhodian’s hand when the alien turned, blaster drawn.  The Rhodian screamed in agony, holding his cauterized stump and falling to his knees.  He was out.

Almost immediately after Toral had processed the Rhodian falling, however, the Force told him to raise his vibroblade and turn.

As he did so, he saw something he couldn’t believe, even though he should have expected it.  A bright green lightsaber blade swung toward his vibroblade and as the two impacted, the power cell of his vibroblade overloaded and was destroyed.  Toral was now holding a normal sword with about four inches of the tip cut off by his opponent’s lightsaber!  He had not anticipated any of this at all.

He pushed out with the Force, and the Twi’lek flew backward about ten meters, but he didn’t fall.  He steadied himself and threw the lightsaber toward Toral.  The lightsaber twirled horizontally at Toral’s head and he had only a fraction of a second to duck out of the way.  He hit the deck and saw the lightsaber turn in mid air and circle back toward him.  He frantically rolled out of the way and the lightsaber bounced off of the ground where he’d been only a moment before, sending heated shards of crystal everywhere.  The weapon shut off, and Toral reached out for it with the Force.

Bal reached for his lightsaber at the same time, and now the two were in a tug of war with each trying to channel the Force more powerfully than the other.  Until now, Toral had not known that Bal was a Force adept, and now he didn’t know if he could win this fight.

Mara had told him that the best way to access his full Force powers was to remain calm, but Toral was afraid right now.  He was afraid and he was beginning to get angry.  As his anger grew, the lightsaber moved closer to him.  He felt his power growing with his anger and he embraced it with all his concentration.  In an instant, the lightsaber flung toward his hand.  He dropped the vibroblade, caught the lightsaber and ignited it.  It’s green blade glowed brightly against the red crystal backdrop of the alleyway, and Toral looked across at his foe. 

The effort of gripping the weapon had drained him, and he fell to his knees.  Toral breathed deeply and felt total hatred in his heart for this Twi’lek scum who had dared to upset his plans.  He felt power – unbridled power like he’d never felt before – never under Mara’s tutelage – and he loved it. 

He walked up to the defenseless Twi’lek kneeling before him, his hand raised in submission, and without hesitation, he plunged the green blade right through Bal Atornu Ri’s forehead.


Okay, now for Brad’s story. I’m so excited because I haven’t read a word of this yet, and… paste!

“RABBIT HOLES

APRIL 11, 2019

Here is a flash fiction story I wrote for a contest. The theme was “Duel” and something important had to be on the line. It had to be 1000 words or less.

Rabbit Holes

Dust motes swirled in the yellow beam of Clarita’s flashlight. She stooped beneath a dangling mass of leaves and peered into the darkness. The tunnel was coarsely hewn into the hillside, and three irregular slabs of shale framed the entrance. Clarita scowled at the root ends and sporadic strands of web dangling from the tunnel’s roof. Recent scuff marks on the dirt floor delved deeper into the hill than her frail light could penetrate.

“You little shit,” she spat. “Taye! You in there?” Her call was swallowed by the dark. How far back does this thing go? she wondered as she knelt before the opening. The girl angled her flashlight all around the sides of the passage, but could see no structural reinforcement.

Stay out of the tunnels, her grandfather had warned. They’re old, maybe hundreds of years old, and kids die in them every year.

Were they once mines? Clarita had asked. Grandfather shook his head.

Why haven’t they all been closed up?

Just stay out.

“Taye, you know you’re not ‘sposed to go in there, so get your scrawny ass back here now!” She stared into the unresponsive shadows. Grandma leaves me to watch my cousin and this happens, she fumed. Haven’t seen the little jerk since I was here two years ago. He was a lot more fun when he was seven. She pulled her phone from her hoodie: Three bars, do I call for help and trigger an avalanche of BS, or crawl into this stupid hole… She slid the device into her rear pocket and wiggled belly first into the mouth of the tunnel. Taye’s voice squeaked in her mind, “Bet you’ll never find me! I got one of Grandpa’s old coins. If you can find me before they get back, you can have it!”

Clarita didn’t give a damn about that coin. It was a Mercury dime, a really old one, but so what? If Grandpa entrusted it with Taye, it must be worthless, she figured.

Dust stung her nose as she wormed down the narrow passage. Although she had room enough to kneel, Clarita found that staying low kept the tangled roots, and any creepy-crawlies in them, out of her long hair. Thirty feet on, the tunnel bent to the right and angled downward. Clarita stopped, uncomfortable with the steep slope.

“Screw this,” she muttered, and began to wiggle backwards. From the darkness ahead, she heard a giggle.

“Taye!” No response. “Taye?” Her phone rang. Clarita reached back and tugged it from her jeans: it was her cousin. “Where are you, you little monster?” she hacked.

“Just a little farther, moron” he taunted, then hung up. Clarita quickly redialed his number. She could hear his phone echo faintly ahead, but he didn’t answer. “Taye, this isn’t funny!” With her light in one hand, and phone in the other, Clarita began to move downwards.

Her flashlight was growing dim. The tunnel leveled out and Clarita found herself in a low junction of three passages. Her phone rang. She glanced at the time, then answered it.

“Grandma and grandpa are home now, it’s after four. You win, you little weasel! Now, I want to get out of here!”

“The passage on your left joins with another tunnel that you can take to the surface. The middle one I’d avoid. Nasty sudden drop. The tunnel on your right will take you to me. But only if you’re brave. Y’know, Clarita, like a man.”

The girl squinted in anger at her phone. “You sayin’ I’m afraid ‘cause I’m a girl? You’re dead, you little fucknoodle!” She pressed an app on her phone and it transformed into a compact, X-Stealth missile launcher.

“What? You can’t do that!”

“What?”

“Have her push a button and turn her phone into a missile launcher!”

“Sure I can. It’s a work of fiction.”

Tandem fiction, and there are rules as to what you can do.”

“No there aren’t.”

“Yeah, there are. We agreed to let Alexa create a story start, and that anything we write had to be drawn from that!”

“Well, I felt a compact X-Stealth missile launcher fit Clarita’s need nicely. I was going to give the story back to you before I blew Taye to pieces.”

“No way! And what the hell is ‘X-Stealth’ anyways? You gave her a friggin’ missile launcher. Nothing stealthy about that! Not to mention that last line was sexist as hell.”

“It’s my creation. Look, you’re the one who challenged me to a writing duel.”

Good writing duel—as in, who could create the most compelling character, not as in ‘who’s character could blow the shit out of the other’s with some Power Ranger wet-dream missile launcher!’”

“Then it looks like I win.”

“What? Why?”

“You can’t think of anything better, so I win.”

“I barely got any development time! Seriously, I got like two sentences in after your expansive, overly descriptive tripe. Taye was setting Clarita up.”

“What, with some bullshit Taye dug a hole and put poisonous spikes in the bottom of itcontrivance? You’re too late for that, bucko, Clarita has a missile launcher, an X-Stealthmissile launcher.”

“Too late? Too late?” He lurched across the table and wrapped his huge hands around the other writer’s throat. “Maybe you’re too late, you self-aggrandizing hack!” he growled.

“Xlzythpso Xsvatic Xmostroqq!” [You can’t kill my avatar!]

“Zmnogctoc Zerphzliq Zagnogostra.” [My planet set the rules.]

“Xylrophriqqiq Xon Xrxxtrapaff Xhseyshaxx.l” [It’s against tradition.]

“Zfuqq Zatt.” [Screw that.]

“Ximeophiq Xkantaniqq Xaestromogott Xnaristiqqon.” [Tradition keeps the peace between our worlds.]

“Zfuqq Zatt.”

“Xwar?”

“Zwar!”

© Brad Skiff”

Wow…

Okay, so that one had me in tears, literally, with laughter. I told y’all Brad is a brilliant writer. He’s also a hell of a photographer, cartoonist, and art teacher. He will always be one of my best friends, and I hope you’ll check his work out at Craters on the Sun!

Alright. Since none of the rest of you did your homework, we’ll have to go back to regular old lessons. I think we’ll tackle organization next week. Also, don’t forget to check out tomorrow’s Thought’s for Thursday, in which I continue my exploration of individualism vs. collectivism.

2 thoughts on “Writers’ Wednesday: Flash Fiction Challenge Results

  1. Ha! Thanks for the shout out, Brandon. I loved your story, especially the last bit, which really worked for me. Is Toral permanently evil now? I guess we’ll have to wait! Thanks again for the challenge!

    Like

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