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Fiction Science Fiction Suspense

“Cut!” 


The lights above the entrances stay lit, bleeding their artificial red warning into the synthetic gloom beyond the stage. Still live, just as planned


Looking up from the presenter's desk, I shuffle papers filled with our masters' practiced lies into a neat pile, just as I have done for thirty two years. Tonight will be my last. My trembling hands drift over the laminated circular tabletop as I gather my nerves. So much of my life spent here reading the nightly “news”, so many "truths" told, so many lives ruined.


“I said cut!” roars the director, Mitch Holloway. Storming from the sound stage's recesses to stand between the rolling cameras, tonight's script scrunched into a baton in his shaking fist, he roars again. No one even flinches. We all know what has to be done. Enough is enough. The time is now.


I swallow the lump in my throat and quiet the words of doubt screaming behind my eyes. The clock is already ticking, I am merely a cog.


“Ladies and Gentlemen of the United Allied Continents, you may be wondering why I am still on your screen, this is not a mistake and there is no point changing the channel, we have taken control of central broadcasting….”


“Someone get him off the air now!” Mitch screeched, brandishing his papery weapon as if charging into battle, but his rage blinds him and my PA/Bodyguard is as quick as a snake. With a wheezing crunch Mitch is flattened to the ground, a meaty hand clamping his muffled outrage as he is dragged back into the auditorium. We knew years ago there was no point trying to sway him to our side, he was the very definition of a company man.


“Throughout the last four decades I have broadcast the evening news to homes across the allied nations, delivering some of the most devastating and impactful stories directly to you. From the horrific collapse of moon base six and the hundreds of lives lost that day, to the ascension of the child emperor Mandias, I have been here..."


A racket of jostling heavy equipment erupts, causing me to pause. I evaluate my surroundings under the guise of clearing my throat, tool chests squeak, spools of cabling rattle, and ordered shouts resound in the background as everything is piled against the doors. For all the good it will do.


"I have looked on as greed trampled goodwill, as freedom became a cheap brand filled with political caveats, us versus them, and as identity once praised as unique has been used to fuel hate. I…we cannot continue in this folly. So tonight, I bring the most unimaginable news to you live. Take a moment to hug your loved ones as we only have mere minutes."


The huge scrolling screen behind me flickers from an idyllic overview of the central dome, to a black and red countdown. It begins - 2:32


"I, along with every other staff member in this room will most likely be dead when this countdown ends…as will most of you. Please, try not to panic."


"No doubt Centrus are deploying Justices as we speak. The sky will fill with Watchers, but they will not succeed. We can not be stopped. Let there be no question as to our meaning, this is not a rebellion, coup, or revolt. We have no desire to place another dictator into power, nor do we want reform. You cannot reform what is absolutely corrupted. This is the end… and I am its herald."


There is movement, frantic and jarring in the control booth at the back, floating above all like a great eye. I squint, but it is of no use.  


“Citizens, investigative journalism is a figment of a bygone era, extinct in everything but name. The so-called news brought to you by the powers that be is no more than a fanciful script delivered by the Hierarchy, complete with required inflections. The truth has become subjective, and in a world where two truths can exist at once, there can be no reality.”


1:32


“When our world began to turn against us, when the temperatures fluctuated wildly and sea levels rose, the Hierarchy moved inland and built the sprawling domes we now call home. They were touted as marvels of engineering, but in truth, mankind was running scared. When animals, birds, and fish started dying out, developments by the Hierarchy’s scientists brought them back. We continuously turned our backs on both our problems and what made us great, empathy, compassion, love, ever increasing our reliance on our tyrannical betters. We pretend everything is as it should be as we savor the melody of digital bird song and revel in the caress of the turbine driven breeze. The truth is the world outside is already dead, and we are rotting away in cities made of glass, feasting on a banquet of lies, pretending, hoping the problem will fix itself.”


1:00


“We, The Unseen Hand, have been working behind the scenes. For many years now, in every aspect of life...” My voice quavers and cracks, “hoping beyond hope that it would not come to this…”


The crew begin gathering, hugging, sobbing, kissing, one last touch of humanity before it is gone.


“...but as of 11.56 central time control has been established over seven ballistic missile submarines and eleven microwave satellites. When this countdown ends, all stockpiles will impact. All Domelands are targeted, all communication hubs, all military installations….”


The unmistakable thud of armored boots echoing outside stops me mid speech. Our barricade judders precariously as a battering ram collides with steel.


“My dear viewers, welcome to the end. Our actions today will cut out the cancer eating this planet, excise the corruption at civilisations heart. Should any survive, they will inherit what remains, irradiated and broken. But free of us, of blight. Ready for rebirth.”


0.10


A shot shatters glass in the control room, something falls from a broken window, crunches sickeningly wet below. A spool crashes and rolls across the floor, a tool chest careens out of the way. Militant call signs trickle through as gas canisters burst both left and right. I must finish.


“We hope that any who do make it realise we did this for love, not hate.”


0.05


Shots boom and crackle. Camera men spin shaking to the floor, sound engineers smash to the ground, their limbs jerk and tremor as lightning arcs across their bodies. Stun shots, they want us alive. Fools


0.03


The stage lights halo multiple soldiers and their rifles, but I know they are pointed at my chest. 


0.02


“...Goodnight humanity. Forgive us.”


0.01

July 21, 2023 16:22

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20 comments

Michał Przywara
22:09 Jul 22, 2023

I wasn't expecting a sci-fi take on this prompt, so that's a nice surprise! It's the moment before the apocalypse - the pre-post-apocalypse. Horror all around here. What happened with the planet, the dystopian hell theyive in, and the fanatics planning to murder it all. There's some lovely irony that in a world engineered to be us-vs-them, and indeed via a media that the narrator is part of, a group of uncompromising idealists rise up to "save" the day. And how? Well, mass murder of course :) Yes, terrifying all around. We don't know if th...

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Kevin Logue
06:13 Jul 23, 2023

Cheers for reading and commenting Michal. I actually had a second part of this were the presenter wakes up in a lab and looks across and see himself floating in a tank, then realises he can't move or speak as an engineer starts rewiring his brain and laughing that they actually thought they were live. Whilst another scientist says giving the droids real personalities from actual humans brain waves was always going to bring up the same issues as this wasn't the first time it happened. But as it progressed and I meet the minimum word count I...

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Michał Przywara
20:53 Jul 24, 2023

That's a cool idea too! Though a very different story. What does it say, if every time we create something like a human, it ends up trying to destroy itself out of a mania of "we are too evil to live"? You're probably right, it would have been too much for this piece with the word limit, but it's an idea worth keeping and developing elsewhere.

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15:48 Jul 22, 2023

Suspense and tension cranked up to the max. Love a good dystopian future story . Enjoyed this immensely. Some commentary here too on how news is controlled and presented to the world. Not a completely unbelievable scenario. Ps I had a load of stories started beginning with the word Cut too but I wasn't feeling any of them!

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Kevin Logue
17:40 Jul 22, 2023

Thanks for the feedback Derrick. Glad you enjoyed, yeah definitely some sociopolitical themes seeping in.

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Ken Cartisano
18:53 Aug 03, 2023

Kevin, Thank God I'm too simple-minded to develop an inferiority complex. Another great story here. You have made the apocalypse planned, violent, and positive(?) An amazingly entertaining read, for such a dire plot line. It appears the 'Volatile Critiquer' has been silenced for the time being. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a 'limited third person POV.' I'll have to look into that. I suppose there is, if you limit it. I think I get it. I think I already do it, just didn't know what to call it. I wondered how the narrator...

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Kevin Logue
19:05 Aug 03, 2023

That limb jerking line hasn't sat well with me since the story was approved. It's like a scab that wants to be picked, but you've cut your nails so you can't get purchase for satisfactory removal, ha. Sneaky English language! Third person limited it when you write as he/she and only have internal thought and feelings from thay POV character. You do yourself an injustice good sir, I don't think anyone could call you simple minded! I shall be working through your back catalogue over the weekend.

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Ben LeBlanc
02:15 Jul 28, 2023

Wow, great little sci-fi vignette. Very nice world-building. I like how you start with a stick figure plot and slowly color in the details, really makes you want to read more. The pacing, especially during the countdown, was great. For some reason, interspersing the broadcast with descriptive paragraphs made me think that the broadcaster and the one noticing the details were different people. Maybe you could've transitioned between the two with lines like "But I forced myself to look steady into the camera..." or something like that. Overa...

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Kevin Logue
11:30 Jul 28, 2023

Thanks for reading and commenting Ben, it is much appreciated. Was experimenting with the countdown suspense so I am very pleased it came through as I wanted. Agree with the derivative nature of the content, I really wasn't expecting such a good response to this story as I thought myself it had be done so many times it was rudimentary but wanted to post something. But that's the benefit of fresh eyes, too close to the forest and all that. Good shout on the extra line too, I probably could have reinforced who was speaking further into the p...

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Michael Martin
20:30 Jul 25, 2023

Really love your take on the prompt here. The slow reveal was incredibly well done, something I appreciate and try to emulate (to varying degrees of effectiveness). I also really appreciate the content of the message (if not the method of delivering said message, I'd prefer to avoid that), definitely a valid message in today's day and age! One thing I'd consider in this is possibly switching to third person limited perspective instead of first person; I only say that because there were times when the narrator was, well, narrating things a...

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Kevin Logue
21:38 Jul 25, 2023

Hi Martin thanks for reading and leaving feedback. Glad you enjoyed it. The books I read are nearly always third person limited and being new to short stories I've been both trying new narrative types and learning from others. Shorts definitely seem to tend towards the first, I believe for closer emotional response. But you make valid points. I'd say first to third is a preference as all that really changes is the pronouns. Good luck with whatever projects you are working on. Cheers 👍

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Ty Warmbrodt
10:59 Jul 23, 2023

Great dystopian thrill ride!

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Kevin Logue
10:59 Jul 23, 2023

Cheers Ty. Glad you enjoyed it!

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Michelle Oliver
10:09 Jul 23, 2023

This pre-apocalyptic take was awesome. I like the social commentary on the media and it’s influence, the concept of human nature and it’s self destruction. Interesting that the solution to the problem is extinction of the whole human race. A great story with quick pacing and heightening tension with the count down.

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Kevin Logue
10:42 Jul 23, 2023

Thanks very much Michelle, appreciate the positive feedback. Here I was worried it was two dimensional and done to death, but hey that's the benefits of getting others to read it 😁 Now back to self aware characters lol...

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Chris Miller
09:29 Jul 22, 2023

Nicely executed bit of dystopian sci-fi. Great work, Kevin. Quick and punchy. A very enjoyable read.

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Mary Bendickson
02:35 Jul 22, 2023

You came up with stupendous end of the world scenario after claiming difficulty with prompt. That's the kind of creativity needed to write a great short story. Well done.

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Kevin Logue
06:39 Jul 22, 2023

Thanks Mary, if you seen the shear amount of half stories I have that starts "cut" you would probably laugh. Glad you enjoyed, I though when finished it was kind of rudimentary but posted anyways. Always best to get fresh eyes. Cheers again.

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Unknown User
03:54 Jul 22, 2023

<removed by user>

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Kevin Logue
06:18 Jul 22, 2023

Thanks very much for the great feedback A.G, I had real doubts about this one being flat or two dimensional. And cheers for the bodies catch, how did I not see that! Ha.

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