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Suspense Friendship Science Fiction

      “You know something?” Wesley said.

Anders peeked over at his ship; a bit of flame was coming off his nose.

      “What?”

      “I’m bored.”

      There was a silence on the line that Wesley could virtually feel Ander's eye’s staring at him with that squint he had when he thought you said something stupid.

      “You’re…bored?”

      “Like a bird with no wings.”

      More silence.

      “This isn’t entertaining enough for you?”

      Anders gestured forward to the planetary event in front of them.

      The horizon was pinched from above by the dark sphere of Rudolf VII. Its surface plagued with glowing red cracks of hot molten lava. The surviving light of the sun was now a bright but thin line of yellowing orange. Below the clouds were sporadic as flat wavy splotches floated next to towered thunderheads. Reaching as high as the Hopeless Hunters themselves. Lighting flashed as if a dance show was happening within the dark towering mountains. The dark of space and the specks of distant worlds and systems above them would almost be a calming peace if it didn’t mean that the atmosphere itself was collapsing. Being pulled off the planet by the helpless Rudolf VII like a tarp over a painting.

They flew into this hell, scanning every frequency for survivors too stubborn or proud to leave their homes, or maybe never believed this day would come. It was truly Armageddon. That was why Anders and Wesley’s unit was called what it was, to stay now was hopeless. And as the coming planet pinched out the last of the light on the horizon, and as they soared toward the red menacing glow of an oncoming collision, Wesley said one word.

      “Meh,” he shrugged, with the interest the average ten-year-old gave calculus. “It’s just kinda old at this point.”

      Anders shook his head and looked back at the frequency scanner.

      “Well, then you may want to consider a different profession.”

      “Oh, fuck off I love this job and you know that,” Wesley said waving him off. “It’s just… like we’ve seen this a thousand times.”

      “We have not done a thousand of these.”

      “High hundreds?”

      Anders glanced upward to the open space above them as if the answer was there.

      “Sure.”

      “Yea, and you’re telling me you still get the same excitement every time?”

      Above them suddenly a few of Rudolf VII’s cracks began to grow wider. The molten rivers of lava started to stretch across a fourth of the planet like twisting and curling fingers. The air outside was suddenly filled with a sound similar to opening a bag of chips as part of the planet started to split off. Pulling away and tearing off like an egg kicking off its shell. Lava twirled after it in an almost beautiful rose-like spiral, if it weren’t for the fact that it was millions of gallons of molten planet blood burning at well over 2300 degrees.

      Anders leaned back slowly, his eyes following the twirls of fire for a moment.

      “Ok, fine I see your point,” he admitted.

      “Hah!” Wesley yelled. “See told ya, it’s boring as fuck.”

      “Ok, I wouldn’t go that far.”

      “Whatever, but we should make it more exciting.”  

Anders looked at the frequency scanner and then at his friend of almost a decade of hunting.

      “Is there more to that sentence?”

      “I wanta wager.”

      “No.”

      “What!? Why?”

      The duo sliced through a black thunderhead. The only sight the two had of each other was the occasional blink of their lights on the wings. Around them, the air was filled with flashes of lightning in the repetition of a firefight. Thunder shook them with a force to make even a mountain tremble. But the two continued talking like there was a café table with two espressos between them.

      “Because the last time I wagered anything with you, I ended up married and with a small baby nine months later.”

      “And she is a beautiful baby,” Wesley said like a happy grandpa.

      Anders smiled and shook his head as a flash of lightning connected with the tip of his S-Dart. The only effect was that the display got a little brighter.

      “Yea, she is, but not the point.”

      “Well, it’s not that high stakes, just a casual who can fill the manifest faster competition,” Wesley said like it was as harmless as collecting more daises in a meadow competition.

      “Sounds like a great way to gamble people’s lives.”

      “Oh, yea because they haven’t been doing that already,” Wesley mocked. “I mean for god sake’s they’ve only known this was coming for the last two thousand years, that’s not nearly enough time to move their asses.”

      Anders chuckled as they passed through the thunderhead. Under the clouds, he could see the coast of the central continent. The ocean was invading in force, hundreds of city blocks were already under the crushing waves. Tsunamis had been slamming the edge for months and pushing over steel and concrete structures like they were made of sand. As they soared across the sky, a 155-story sky scrapper started to list right. Concrete dust exploded out from its lower levels as glass rained down from the upper floors.

      “Fair point.”

      “So, what do you think?”

      Anders sighed.

      “Seems kinda dark don’t you think? Betting people’s lives?”

      “Well, you can decide on the way, we got our first blip,” Wesley said.

      Just as he said it the signals started to come in. Anders straightened his back and in that small motion, five more appeared.

      “Oh, seems like we got a lot of contestants.”

      “I don’t know man-,”

      “Too late! Time to work!” Wesley yelled and before the sentence was done his ship banked right and soared down into the dark cloud bank below.

      “Shit,” Anders muttered and dropped his nose.

      His heart lifted to his throat and the rhythm of its beat grew faster, the flight suit tightened around him, and after passing through the dark overcast pregnant with lighting, he entered the arena of their wager.

The city was both burning and drowning, a large mass of more than a hundred blocks had snapped upward like a sinking ship in the sea as the skyscrapers to his right burned with dark smoke rising past their spires.

      “Skyrider 1-1, approaching first distress signal what’s your status over?” he radioed to the frequency.

      It was a frantic reply, a mother claiming she had been left behind by the initial evacuation crews. He banked right under neigh the collapsed edge of one skyscraper leaning against another.

      “We’re in a park near downtown,” the mother continued out of breath. “I think it’s Addams’s”-

      “Keep the line open and I’ll land on your position in two minutes.”

      Anders dipped in lower, entire neighbors becoming blurs in his peripherals as the speed of the S-Dart was enough to rip a water tower off its hinges and throw it to the street below.

      “Three on board Anders, and headed for one moorre,” Wesley teased drawing out the last word. “You playing or not?”

      Anders saw the mom and the kids; they were crouched under the playground of the park. Flipping the S-Dart into hover mode the suit pressed him back into the seat. The pod doors lowered and a holographic instructor was projected for assistance with the belts and pod.

      Please approach the craft, secure all children and elderly before locking yourself inside. Barf bags will be distrib-

      Anders focused on the scanner; three more signals had popped up.

      “Well?” Wesley asked,

      “Three.”

      “What?”

      “Three on board.”

      He looked at the pod computer to his left and saw all three were in the green and retracted.

      “You never said go!”

      “Neither did you asshat!” he both scoffed and yelled as he lifted up. Then took off like a gunshot toward the next signal.

      Ripping through tornados as wide as football fields, and natural gas explosions that rose dusting and scorching the underside of his ship. Anders couldn’t help but feel a kind of boyhood joy. Something about this was fun in a way. He felt his heart racing with excitement and a tingle in his fingers wrapped around the controls.

      “Two more,” Wesley snickered.

      Anders soared over downtown where the ocean was starting to race in, slamming the cars and buses against the buildings like seaweed on a beach. He saw a long and whipping HELP! sign hung off the side of a building. The small figures franticly waved in his direction on the building's edge.

      He swung the back end of the ship toward them. Flinging dust and soot in the air as the pod doors lowered.

      “Five,” Anders said when the pods retracted successfully.

      He dashed away turning vertically and splitting the gap between two skyscrapers in front of him.

      “What! You’re a goddamn liar,” Wesley said.

      “Check it.”

      He grinned in anticipation of his reaction; the next signal was taking him up the coast away from the city toward the flaming and tornado-filled suburbs.

      “Lucky prick,” Wesley sneered.

      “Well step it up, it’s your competition anyway.”

      “I’m aware.”

      The suburbs were sparse, a family of four, a local elderly woman who thought her time had come then got scared. And a religious couple who thought this was destined to be. Always a couple of those idiots, Anders thought as he lifted off. He was roaring over the hilly outskirts of the countryside when another signal came through. The once-green landscape that would normally be popping with flowers this time of year was now black as the sky above. A battle line of fire advanced across the unburnt nature throwing up a curtain of grey smoke.

      “22,” Anders said as he zipped through the curtain, the smoke twirling over his wings.

      “21,” Wesley replied.

      “Oh, see there ya go, you’re getting it, buddy.”

      “Don’t you fuckin patronize me,” Wesley said in a tone that Anders thought might be genuine frustration. It brought on a devious.

      Ahead was the mega-church where the signal was originating from. A tall blocky structure with long glass pane windows facing the almost boiling ocean. A tall cross sticking from above it. He saw a gathering at the front gate and spun the back end of the ship toward the group.

      “Oooh baby,” he said excitedly.

      “What?”

      “I got me a doomsday cult, about to have a whooole big lead on your ass.”

      “I hope they chicken out and face oblivion.”

      “Wesley Adam Myers!”

      “Tell’em to show a little follow-through here, I’m trying to win.”

      Anders looked at the horizon, Rudolf VII was taking up most of it now. The world around Anders had turned a stark red color like they were under a heat lamp. He could almost see the flowing rivers of molten core rippling above him.

      “You’re dark bro,” Anders said.

      “Whatever….25.”

      Anders glanced at the exterior camera; the large group was suddenly stopped by a man in a long flowing black robe. He was holding the good book and in the other hand a revolver.

      Anders rolled his eyes. Fuckin assholes messing with my high score. He lifted and swung the nose toward the group.

      “Please proceed to the craft. Planetary collision is imminent. All evacuees must proceed to,-”

      “You!” the preacher suddenly yelled; the distortion of his boisterous tone echoed through the mic. “You are not the will god! For he seeks only to bless the holy man and woman with his gift of salvation!”

      “All evacuees should-,”

      “No!” the preacher yelled and leveled the revolver at the crowd. A few of them had tried to walk past him.

      “You must seek salvation in the fires of Babylon! You must stay true to god’s plan! You”-

      As soon as the preacher raised the gun to the sky the turret on the front of the S-Dart dropped and fired. The gun snapped out of his hand, and he spun with wide eyes and a tight mouth to the smoking turret.

      “How’s that for god’s plan?” Anders said over the loudspeaker. “All willing evacuees please proceed to the pods. Collison will occur in 30 minutes.”

      They started to slowly trickle around the preacher, who was watching them walk by with a newfound fear on his face. His bible shaking in one hand.

      Anders was glaring at him, the reticle of the cannon placed on his torso. When the pods were green across the board and retracted, he brought up the turret and returned to flight mode.

      “Good luck with salvation Father,” Anders said. Then speed off down the coast leaving him to his fate. What an asshole, Anders thought as he looked at the cargo manifest. Then suddenly realized something.

      “Hey…”

      “…”

      “Hey, Wesley…”

      “…”

      “Wesley!”

      “What! You goddamn five-year-old!?”

      “I won.”

      “What do mean you won?”

      “55, baby.”

      “Bullshit,” Wesley said, and Anders let out a long laugh as he was pissed now.

      “Check it again, I can’t lie.”

      Anders pulled back on the stick and angled upward to the flashing storm clouds, Rudolf VII was on his left and breaking off another chuck.

      “Skyrider 1-1 to Mother.”

      “Go Skyrider 1-1,” Mother responded.

      “Got a full cargo hold and headed back to ship for deposit, ETA ten minutes.”

      “Roger 1-1, be advised planetary signal scans are showing a gathering of signals in the North Sea, think you can make it?”

      “Negative Mother, once I get back collision will be,”-

      “-This is Skyrider 1-2, I’m inbound.”

      Suddenly the thrill of competition was gone, Ander's heart turned cold and he looked North. He could see the shimmering speck and white trail of Wesley’s ship headed in the opposite direction across the planet’s surface.

      “Fuck are you doing Wes?”

      “I’m winning this goddamn bet, that’s what I’m doing.”

      “You got twenty minutes till collision,” Anders worried.

      “You’re not my mother,” Wesley said like he was joking.

      It only made Anders more furious, his fist slamming down next to the controls as he entered the black endless beyond of low orbit.

      “Wesley,”-

      “I’m winning this bet, Anders.”

      He banked around and turned toward the planet again. The two spheres overlapped as the clouds in the atmosphere pushed aside like a chemical reaction evaporating fog.

      His heart drummed as fast as a death metal band in their finale. Wesley’s signature was marked with a blue diamond that was disappearing in the overlapping of the spheres.

      “Skyrider 1-2, strongly suggest you pull back,” Mother radioed.

      He didn’t reply, but Anders heard him over the radio giving instructions. The ocean on the planet was beginning to spread. Its white waves would be reaching heights of almost 30 miles up. This idiot’s gonna fucking get himself killed over a wager, over boredom!

      “Wesley! Hurry the fuck up!” he yelled with urgency. His stomach coiling like a constrictor.

      “Skyrider 1-…trouble…headed…close.”

      “Skyrider 1-2, you’re breaking up repeat last,” Mother radioed.

      The only response was static. Anders looked at the countdown clock it was at five minutes to collusion.

      “Wesley!”

      Slowly, a ring of dust and soil from both planets began to stretch out from the collision point. The ring slowly turned a fiery red and jets of debris started to fly up into the atmosphere. Rudolf VII started to spin into the planet, the strands of lava flinging over the surface like an abstract artist's painting.

      Suddenly everything froze, and Anders was now white-knuckling his controls. It felt like there was a hand around his throat. He watched the collusion feeling like he was solidifying into his ship. You fuckin idiot…he thought. You fuckin-

      “-IDIOT!” the thought escaped him and he slammed his fist down hard on the panel next to him.

      “It’s a game! A bet! You stupid ignorant dumbass”-

      “Skyrider 1-2, headed back to you Mother.”

      The thoughts were swept away with a broom to his mind, and he saw coming way the blinking lights of Wesley’s S-Dart.

      “Roger 1-2, good to hear from you,” Mother radioed.

      Ander's heart dropped, his stomach slowly unwinding.

      Wesley banked to his left.

He didn’t know whether he was about to yell, vomit, or cry. Probably all of the above at some point.

      “What are you waiting for me?” Wesley said.

      He couldn’t see them, but Anders had tears ready to drop. His hands were finally unclenched when he heard his friend's voice.

      “You’re out of your fucking mind you know that?” he finally said.

      Wesley shrugged.

      “Maybe, but I got a full manifest now…plus one.”

      Ander's head tilted when he noticed something was moving around in the cockpit with Wesley. At first, he thought it was a snake, but then he heard it through the comms.

      Meow

      His brow lifted and he looked closer.

      “Are you fuckin kidding me?”

      “I am not, I’m thinking about naming him Clutch.”

      There was a pause between them, and then his tears of joy fell as he laughed to himself, after a moment he heard Wesley chuckle too.

      “Clutch?”

      “Yea because he came in”-

      “Yea, I get it. It’s stupid.”

      “Well either way I win,” Wesley said turning his ship.

      “How! It’s a cat.”

      “The rules clearly state more survivors rescued.”

      “Yea, people.”

      Anders followed him, the two leaving the collision behind and heading for the lights of the Mothership in the distance.

      “We never put that in writing,” Wesley argued.

      “We never put anything in writing,” Anders argued back, the tears of joy rolling harder. He’s never gonna shut up if he sees I cried.

      “Well, we’ll have to leave this up to Mother.”

      “It’s a fuckin Cat.”

      “Counts.”

      “No, it doesn’t!”

      The two bickered long until they were back in the hangar. And after the survivors were unloaded and the ships scrubbed, it would be determined by the technicality that Wesley Addams Myers had won this wager.

June 17, 2023 03:14

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