Fiction: The Hero of Monarar

[February 2009]

“Ours is but a small existence. We are but simple people. On this planet of ours, superheroes were but stories. Until today. We are gathered here to give thanks to the new Hero of Monarar, the almighty Ora. No-one knows from whence he came or where he goes. No-one knows how it comes that he moves so fast, predicts events with such precision. No-one knows why he has no tail, why his skin is dark, why his ears are sideways on his head. But it is to him we owe our utmost gratitude. It is he who freed us – who will continue to free us – from those that seek to imprison and enslave.

“We must support him as he travels our planet, rescuing villages, saving families.

“Here is to Ora the tailless, Ora the Hero of Monarar!⁂

The applause was deafening.

“Why didn’t I take the gloves?⁂ Ora mumbled to himself. The rock was grazing his palms as he scrambled up the near-vertical cliff face.

“Because you’re a moron,⁂ replied his subconscious. “Oh, I won’t need gloves. It’s not like I’ll be going anywhere cold, or, or doing any climbing. Moron.⁂

“Shuddup,⁂ Ora spat. “Either shuddup or get out of my head and help, why dontcha? Huh?⁂

“Hows about you keep climbing, how about that? Oh, watch out.⁂

The blast of a laser smacked into the rock an arm’s reach above his head, and Ora ducked in time to dodge the heap of dislodged stone that tumbled down onto him.

“Oh some sixth sense you are. Warn me about a laser blast that’s already hit the rock. Nice work.⁂

“I warned you! It didn’t hit you, did it?⁂

“Waste of good coin you were. ‘Revolutionise your life’ my rear end. Just a pity you don’t come with a mute function,⁂ Ora continued to grumble as he climbed. His subconscious reluctantly helped guide his limbs, warning him before he put his weight on unsteady outcrops, or grasped at stones that were not well attached to the surface, and occasionally to hesitate in time to avoid the lasers of those that were targeting him.

In the village, children were crying for their mothers. Mothers they could see, but not reach. A wall of men with guns divided the room into three sections; one for the mothers, one for the boys and one for the girls.

The men had once been fathers, husbands, sons, but now were faceless, armoured robots, unrecognizable to the ones they had once loved. They were hardly men at all.

Two days ago, Millsy and her brother had been collecting berries on the outskirts of the village. Her brother had paused for a rest, falling asleep by a bush beneath the warm, afternoon sun, and Millsy had wandered off alone, in search of adventure.

As she skipped further and further from the village boundaries, her mother’s words had begun to echo through her mind.

“Stay together when you’re out now. When you’re on the edge of the village, always keep one eye on the horizon. Keep a lookout, and if you see them coming, you run back and warn us all so we can get ourselves hidden, you understand?⁂

No-one had bothered to explain to Millsy exactly who them was, but she had caught enough glimpses of the news over the past few weeks that she knew that village after village on her tiny planet were disappearing off the map.

Her brother said it was invaders from outer space, and that had scared her until he had pulled her tail and run away, giggling “no such thing! No such thing! Millsy believes in aliens, there’s no such thing!⁂

And so despite her mother’s warnings, Millsy wandered away from the village, encouraged by her childish confidence that there were no alien invaders, and so nothing could be coming that was a danger.

When she saw the lights on the horizon, she stopped to watch. Darting, flashing beams. Bright colours, sparkling, glimmering, dashing through the sky and across the ground. Her neck craned farther and farther back as she watched those in the sky. Soon they were above her and surrounding her. There were straight flashes, like lightning; curling spirals of colour; pulsating circles and tiny pinpricks in the sky.

They overtook her, and Millsy spun around at once, chasing them back towards the village, not wanting to miss out on the display.

“You still haven’t justified why I paid so much for you,⁂

“Duck – incoming, eleven o’clock. Because I’m the best. There are no other warning systems like a sixth sense.⁂

“So far you’ve just been an annoyance.⁂

“Oh, and all those laser blasts, you could have dodged without my help?⁂

“I wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for you. I’d still be enjoying myself on the Fourth Moon of Rasta.⁂

“You’re blaming me for your insatiable need to try new, mind-altering technologies? It’s my fault that you got me installed in the first place? And where… Not that one, it’s loose. And where did you get me installed, again?⁂

Ora mumbled.

“What was that? A back alley in Rasta’s infamous Flea Market? I’m certain you only have yourself to blame if I’m not what you expected.⁂

Ora growled. “Look, are we nearly at the top yet?⁂

“Not too far now.⁂

Then the device attached to his belt began to beep slowly, and Ora smiled. “Right you are.⁂

The beeps became more high pitched and more frequent as he continued to ascend. The relief was enormous when he could finally see the top of the cliff.

Millsy was whimpering alongside the others. She could see her mother across the room, but her brother was not to be found, and this upset her more.

A small arm snaked around her shoulders. Her best friend, Lella.

“Don’t cry Mills. You believe in the Hero of Monarar, don’t you? You know he will come to rescue us. He’ll set us free and put the men right again, just like he did in the other villages. It was on the news, my Mummy said. You’ll see.⁂

“How many more do I need?⁂

“Just one.⁂

“Really?⁂

“Yes, really. But what am I, your secretary? You shouldn’t rely on me to know these things for you, I’m an extra sense not more memory.⁂

“Well you might have to start learning to be memory, it’s a damn sight more useful than whatever else you do, and I’ve already gone over the maximum safe number of extra memory installations I can have.⁂

Ora heaved himself the last few inches of the climb and rolled over the ground at the top, breathing heavily.

“Move a foot to the left.⁂

He obeyed at once, rolling out of the way of yet another laser blast.

“Haven’t they given up yet,⁂ he grumbled.

“Apparently not,⁂ replied his mind. “Maybe you should find some shelter while you work out where the next device is.⁂

He pulled out his frantically beeping scanner. “Whatever, it can’t be far.⁂

Ora stood up, trusting his sixth sense to warn him of any more incoming lasers, and scanned the landscape. He could see buildings in the distance.

“Looks like they’ve got a fireworks show or something going on over there like at the last place. For a backward developing planet, they sure are celebrating a lot.⁂

“You should run,⁂ suggested his subconscious, and Ora complied.

“Of all the planets to crash on, I not only hit a backward one, but a backward one that keep their nuclear cells inside yooge great fireworks machines.⁂

“Did it occur to you that the cells might be powering the fireworks machines?⁂

Ora was lying flat on his belly beneath what appeared to be a carpenters workbench. The workshop had apparently been cleared out – equipment heaped carelessly against the walls – to make room for the enormous multi-faceted machine in the centre. It was shooting out streak after streak of light in every direction. The beams rebounded off walls and furniture until they escaped through windows, or through the increasing number of holes in the walls.

The machine was slightly translucent, and Ora could see the power source he needed behind a series of hinged flaps leading to the heart of the thing.

“Here we go again.⁂

“You shouldn’t steal.⁂

There was a pause.

“Sorry,⁂ said his subconscious. “Still a bit of official programming in me. I’ll work on it.⁂

Ora rolled his eyes and began to creep forwards. He had ordered a fully stripped down version of the sixth sense; it was all very well programming morals into mindware, but it didn’t half screw them up in conflicting situations.

A number of the women leapt to their feet, squealing and crying as the not-men moved to surround the small huddle of boys. The terrified lads were ushered to stand and guided slowly out of the room. The mothers wailed, pushing against the unmoving wall of men as they tried to reach their children. The boys themselves were silent, too terrified even to cry, panicked eyes staring back for one last time at their mothers and sisters before they were lead across a courtyard to the carpenters workshop.

“There are people coming.⁂

Ora froze. He had got through two of the compartment doors – there were just two more layers between his hand and the nuclear cell. His fingers brushed the third door, searching for the minuscule lock.

“I can do this. I can’t stop now.⁂

“It’s too late for you to hide now. But they won’t see you from the doorway. Just hurry.⁂

The first boy was pushed in front of the machine. He stood there, trembling, staring up at the dark, hulking construction. It was spewing sheets of light from every surface. Ora could roughly make the lad out through the semi- transparent innards of the machine. Nothing else seemed to be happening as Ora scrabbled frantically with the third lock, breaking it, reaching further in to move on to the fourth.

The boy flinched as a rebounding streak of light hit him in the chest. Ora did not see the child crumple to the ground, or begin to twitch as plates of armour appeared from nowhere, sliding themselves over the small limbs. The boy became upright as the armour covered him. He was standing by the time a helmet grew over his head. Then he walked stiffly, as if controlled by strings, to join the ranks of the other not-men.

The next terrified child was pushed into position.

Ora had missed the entire transformation, squinting upwards with his tongue sticking out as he worked the fourth and final lock.

The lock broke, the door swung in, and he pushed his arm further into the machine, straining to wrap his fingers around the cell.

The second boy, hands over his mouth as he awaited his fate, caught sight of movement through the machine. He saw the hand in the centre, followed the arm back to a face wrought with concentration.

His eyes widened. “Ora, Hero of Monarar,⁂ he breathed. The stories were true. The legendary hero was here, was going to save him, as he had saved so many others. The lad watched in awe as Ora’s hand closed around the heart of the lightning beast, and wrenched it directly from its body. The beast shuddered and died, spitting out a final few shards of light as it did so. The not-men crumpled to the floor, armour plates dissolving into nothing as they retransformed.

The boy cried in relief and turned to the others to tell them what he had seen – who he had seen.

“Leggit!⁂ Shouted Ora’s both conscious and subconscious simultaneously, and the hero bolted out of the workshop, back in the direction of his ship.

🏷 fiction flash story writing

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