This is the winner of the Matthew Cross Writing Contest-September

Illustration by Joe Cross. Copyright 2022.

The winner of the Matthew Cross Flash Fiction Collaboration Contest is

Alan K. Dell

I started the story below. See how Alan starts after the red line and immediately engages us with a witty tale full of Sci Fi twists and action.

Incoming!

BY ALAN K. DELL AND MATTHEW CROSS

The two missiles came out of nowhere.

Shelby was on a geomapping mission on an uninhabited planet, S2-298.3890, so the last thing he expected was missiles.

Riding along in the bus, he had kicked up his feet on the navigation control panel and was checking some sports stats on his handheld when the audible alert sounded. The main screen flashed a warning in red: “Incoming projectile.”

Shelby nearly fell out of his chair.

“Emergency evasive maneuvers,” said the bus’s AI. “Fasten harnesses.”

Shelby saw the missiles appear in the corner of the main screen. Then the bus tilted sharply and Shelby did fall out of his chair.

Faster than he could think, his body slid from the chair and into the leg space under the navigation control panel. Like an idiot, he just curled up and covered his head as the sound of the engines and the rushing wind outside grew so loud it overcame the bus’s sound dampening.

The bus only had shielding for atmospheric conditions, not military grade stuff. If those missiles exploded nearby, his hands over his head weren’t going to do him any good.

As he curled in the dark crevice, the strangest thoughts passed through his mind. He didn’t find himself praying or calling to his mother in desperation. Instead, he remembered the first time he laid eyes on the bus.

On Shelby’s first day aboard the Ever Loving, Captain Herb gave a tour of the ship, ending Cargo Bay 4. It was reserved for the bus and Shelby’s gear. The bus was 20 metes long with a wingspan of 40 metes. The body was a fat cylinder with a barely rounded blunt nose. The fusion engine took up the back half of the craft, and the imaging and analyzing equipment filled the front. The bus’s geomapping equipment probably cost more than the Ever Loving

The bus was spaceworthy but it was built for long glides in planetary atmospheres. The fusion engine could keep the bus aloft for a month in normal atmospheres.

“Sturdy and long lasting,” Herb said with an approving nod. “Plus, she flies herself.”

He gave Shelby an appraising look. Shelby got the distinct impression that Capt. Herb did not think Shelby measured up to the craft.

As a pilot, Capt. Herb was right. The only craft Shelby had ever flown were in gaming simulations. In fact, growing up on an urban planet, he had never driven any sort of vehicle because all the vehicles drove or flew themselves.

The bus shuddered and then there was stillness. Not silence. In fact, if anything, the wind sounds had grown even louder than the engine noise.

Shelby opened his eyes and found himself floating in the middle of the cramped cabin. The bus did not have artificial gravity, so when the bus was in space, the passengers were weightless. And when flying through atmospheres, the planet’s gravity applied.

In wonder, Shelby watched minute flecks of water splatter against the main screen as soft, gray streams of fog roiled as far as he could see. Then Shelby’s head gently struck the ceiling, and he came to his senses. The bus was in freefall. That was the reason he was weightless.

The bus was plummeting towards the planet. The gray mist outside was the cloud layer he had been flying over. The bus was falling through the cloud.

“AI, craft status update.”

Shelby pushed off the ceiling, grabbed the top lip of the chair, and swung himself into the seat. He clung to the webbing with shaky hands as he snapped in the five-point harness.

“Explosion imminent,” said the AI in a calm voice.

Then Shelby heard two pops in quick succession. They sounded distant. He almost breathed a sigh of relief when a roar washed over the bus and the entire craft shook. Even fully strapped in, Shelby was nearly shaken from his seat again. He could feel his molars tapping together like dice in a cup. It seemed like every bolt of the bus was shaking and grinding. Shelby imagined the entire structure separating into its component parts, all flying in separate directions into the sky, leaving Shelby strapped in his seat in midair like a cartoon character.

In a panic, his mind returned to the first day aboard the Ever Loving.

“I’ll see you in the mess at 6 ship’s time for dinner,” Capt. Herb said. Then he left Shelby to examine the bus and get to know her. Shelby quickly walked around the ship’s perimeter. It was just a big, bulky hunk; nothing exciting. Nothing like the gleaming, sexy craft available in gaming. He climbed inside and the AI automatically booted up.

Sitting in one of the two seats, Shelby ran through the AI’s introduction videos. They covered the bus’s specs, details about the fusion engine, and operating conditions in literally hundreds of atmospheric types. Before Shelby knew it, it was 6. He wandered through the Ever Loving, trying to find his way to the mess. He ended up 15 minutes late. Facing Capt. Herb’s glare, he promised himself to be on time for dinner the next day.

Capt. Herb and Shelby were the only two aboard the Ever Loving. Capt. Herb had his routines. He had only a few rules. One, don’t touch anything that’s not yours. (“The Ever Loving is not yours.”) Two, keep to your quarters, the mess, the head, the main corridors and Cargo Bay 4. Three, dinner’s in the mess at 6 sharp. Four, dinner topics are captain’s prerogative.

Capt. Herb kept to himself except for dinner. Dinner was an event. Capt. Herb personally prepared dinner each night and served it piping hot at precisely 6. He chose the evening’s dinner topic, and he slowly teased every morsel from his guest on that topic. On topic per night. As Capt. Herb put it, they had a month together and most people’s life story took less than a month to tease out. So Capt. Herb spent the month in transit slowly savoring Shelby’s life story, asking probing questions and sometimes even sharply questioning the details of Shelby’s life.

After the first week aboard, Shelby realized he had not done much in his short life. Barely out of university, this gig was his first real job. He felt slightly guilty that he did not have better stories to entertain Capt. Herb in return for the homecooked meals.

Shelby spent the first week in the bus’s cramped compartment. He completed the bus’s video manuals, but there were no vid materials on flying the craft and no simulators. He tried poring through the written manual in the ship’s computer, but it was so technical, he gave up after only a couple of hours. Then he threw himself into analyzing the geomapping data from the two drones that had been sent to map the planet. Both had reported anomalous readings of the planet’s geothermal zones. The Type M planet with its healthy fauna and breathable air could prove to be an excellent colony, a valuable commodity. But the subsurface readings showed very active geothermal reservoirs on all four continents. 

Shelby, a geomathematician, had been sent at great expense to scan 3890 again and to determine what dangers the geology may pose to colonists. After the first week aboard the Ever Loving, he felt comfortable with the bus’s scanning and analyzing equipment. So he spent most of the second week analyzing the data available in his roomier quarters. He was going to spend a cramped month inside the bus flying over 3890 before Capt. Herb came back to retrieve him, so he decided to enjoy the room aboard the Ever Loving while he could.

Halfway through the transit to 3890, Shelby decided he had done all he could with the data provided by the two drone expeditions. He had a lot of free time, and he found himself spending more and more time working on a side project he had started in school. He was developing a mathematical model to predict the outcomes of one-on-one first-person fighter games, Shelby’s favorite sport. If he cracked the code, he could win a fortune gambling.

The bus stopped shuddering and at almost the same time the viewscreen cleared. The clouds disappeared and the blue expanse of an ocean filled the screen. Off to the left, Shelby could see the mottled greens and browns of a continent. The continent seemed to be growing and Shelby realized the bus was still diving towards the planet.

“AI, can you straighten up or flatten out or something?” Shelby couldn’t find the right words. He felt like “horizon” might be one of them, but he prayed the AI would figure it out.

“Emergency controls have been compromised. Switching to manual control.”

“What? Manual? No!”

The panel in front of Shelby slid open and a joystick surrounded by buttons slid towards him.

“AI, engage automatic pilot!”

“Automatic pilot has been compromised. Manual override engaged.”

The right side of the main screen filled with symbols that probably made sense to a pilot, but Shelby was no pilot.

The continent below filled half the screen and was growing.

Shelby grabbed the stick. He had not played any flying games since childhood, but he remembered that in some craft the stick goes forward for down and in some you pull back.

“Here goes nothing,” Shelby said and pulled the stick back gently. The stick felt small, light and cheaply built. It felt like he could break it with one swift jerk. Clearly the manual controls were an afterthought. But the stick turned out to be responsive. The bus’s nose came up gradually. 

It took a few harrowing minutes, but with a little coaxing, Shelby managed to bring the craft level. He wiped his brow and leaned back in his seat. He scanned the readouts on the right side of the main screen. He found a graph showing his altitude and an outline of the bus in a circle showing the angle he was flying at.

“Whew, glad that’s over,” Shelby said.

“Proximity alert,” said the AI in a calm voice. “Two aircraft have matched your vector and are accelerating. Threat estimate: 92 percent chance of hostilities.”


“AI, can you open a comms channel to the aircraft?’ Shelby said.

“Affirmative, channel open.”

Shelby gulped. He had no idea what to say. In his games, the characters would say something short, snappy, exuding confidence. He was running out of time. Could he, with his knocking knees and chattering teeth, muster up enough swagger to convince these aircraft to back down?

With a deep breath to calm his racing heart, he stammered, “I don’t want to die! Please don’t kill me!”

Shelby clamped his hand to his mouth.

Smooth, Shel. Real smooth.

The aircraft continued their rapid approach, with no response to his message.

“I don’t think they’re listening,” said Shelby, squinting out of the side window. “AI, evasive maneuvers.”

“Negative. Manual override engaged.”

“Oh . . . right. Still me. We need to go faster.”

Another panel opened and a throttle control slid out, stopping to his left.

Shelby pushed forwards on the new control. The cockpit rumbled with the acceleration. He dipped the bus’s nose down sharply, then banked hard to the right.
Something shot past the cockpit. It was nimble, needle-like and gleamed iridescent blue.

The bus turned. Shelby pulled back on the stick as the second fighter buzzed past, too close for comfort. Compared to these strange vehicles, the bus had all the maneuverability of a brick.

“Hostile aircraft closing,” the AI said as the bus levelled. “Missiles incoming.”

There were mountains below. Opening the throttle to maximum, Shelby directed the bus towards a narrow pass between two of the towering peaks.

“Proximity alert.” Lights flashed red around the cockpit.

With improbable skill, he tipped the bus’s wings and passed through the gap. Two sharp pops told him the missiles had impacted the rock.

Level again, Shelby puffed out his cheeks and slumped. “AI, hostiles?”

“Hostiles have disengaged.”

The bus was now clear of the mountains and low to the ground. The air in front of the craft shimmered like a heat haze, and Shelby frowned.

A city appeared from the haze; a huge metropolis of impossible shapes, gleaming coloured glass and chromatic metal.

Then something clipped the bus’s right wing. Alarms sounded and the bus dipped.

Shelby barely had time to register what had happened before the craft hit the ground with an almighty crash and everything went black.

Shelby blinked open his eyes; his harness had saved him. Everything was wrecked, but he was alive at least. He unbuckled himself and crawled through broken glass and shorn metal.

Outside, he stood facing the impossible city, now fully uncloaked.

He heard a chittering sound behind him. The fighters had landed nearby and their pilots stood, holding weapons. They had six mantis-like limbs and wide-flat heads with four insectoid eyes. Shelby was rooted to the spot as one approached. A tentacle whipped out from its body and attached to his temple.

Within his mind he saw a vision: His trespass. War. The Republic was doomed.

As the creature towered over him he muttered, “What have I done?”


I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Alan K. Dell and I wrote together. He’s a great collaboration writer!

If you enjoyed Alan’s prize-winning ending, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Win a $50 cash prize if you write the best finish to my story

This is a finish-my-story contest where all you have to do is write the ending in 500 words or less.

Illustration by Joe Cross. Copyright 2022.

September: All submissions are due by midnight September 15, 2022.

Incoming!

The two missiles came out of nowhere.

Shelby was on a geomapping mission on an uninhabited planet, S2-298.3890, so the last thing he expected was missiles.

Riding along in the bus, he had kicked up his feet on the navigation control panel and was checking some sports stats on his handheld when the audible alert sounded. The main screen flashed a warning in red: “Incoming projectile.”

Shelby nearly fell out of his chair.

“Emergency evasive maneuvers,” said the bus’s AI. “Fasten harnesses.”

Shelby saw the missiles appear in the corner of the main screen. Then the bus tilted sharply and Shelby did fall out of his chair.

Faster than he could think, his body slid from the chair and into the leg space under the navigation control panel. Like an idiot, he just curled up and covered his head as the sound of the engines and the rushing wind outside grew so loud it overcame the bus’s sound dampening.

The bus only had shielding for atmospheric conditions, not military grade stuff. If those missiles exploded nearby, his hands over his head weren’t going to do him any good.

As he curled in the dark crevice, the strangest thoughts passed through his mind. He didn’t find himself praying or calling to his mother in desperation. Instead, he remembered the first time he laid eyes on the bus.

On Shelby’s first day aboard the Ever Loving, Captain Herb gave a tour of the ship, ending Cargo Bay 4. It was reserved for the bus and Shelby’s gear. The bus was 20 metes long with a wingspan of 40 metes. The body was a fat cylinder with a barely rounded blunt nose. The fusion engine took up the back half of the craft, and the imaging and analyzing equipment filled the front. The bus’s geomapping equipment probably cost more than the Ever Loving

The bus was spaceworthy but it was built for long glides in planetary atmospheres. The fusion engine could keep the bus aloft for a month in normal atmospheres.

“Sturdy and long lasting,” Herb said with an approving nod. “Plus, she flies herself.”

He gave Shelby an appraising look. Shelby got the distinct impression that Capt. Herb did not think Shelby measured up to the craft.

As a pilot, Capt. Herb was right. The only craft Shelby had ever flown were in gaming simulations. In fact, growing up on an urban planet, he had never driven any sort of vehicle because all the vehicles drove or flew themselves.

The bus shuddered and then there was stillness. Not silence. In fact, if anything, the wind sounds had grown even louder than the engine noise.

Shelby opened his eyes and found himself floating in the middle of the cramped cabin. The bus did not have artificial gravity, so when the bus was in space, the passengers were weightless. And when flying through atmospheres, the planet’s gravity applied.

In wonder, Shelby watched minute flecks of water splatter against the main screen as soft, gray streams of fog roiled as far as he could see. Then Shelby’s head gently struck the ceiling, and he came to his senses. The bus was in freefall. That was the reason he was weightless.

The bus was plummeting towards the planet. The gray mist outside was the cloud layer he had been flying over. The bus was falling through the cloud.

“AI, craft status update.”

Shelby pushed off the ceiling, grabbed the top lip of the chair, and swung himself into the seat. He clung to the webbing with shaky hands as he snapped in the five-point harness.

“Explosion imminent,” said the AI in a calm voice.

Then Shelby heard two pops in quick succession. They sounded distant. He almost breathed a sigh of relief when a roar washed over the bus and the entire craft shook. Even fully strapped in, Shelby was nearly shaken from his seat again. He could feel his molars tapping together like dice in a cup. It seemed like every bolt of the bus was shaking and grinding. Shelby imagined the entire structure separating into its component parts, all flying in separate directions into the sky, leaving Shelby strapped in his seat in midair like a cartoon character.

In a panic, his mind returned to the first day aboard the Ever Loving.

“I’ll see you in the mess at 6 ship’s time for dinner,” Capt. Herb said. Then he left Shelby to examine the bus and get to know her. Shelby quickly walked around the ship’s perimeter. It was just a big, bulky hunk; nothing exciting. Nothing like the gleaming, sexy craft available in gaming. He climbed inside and the AI automatically booted up.

Sitting in one of the two seats, Shelby ran through the AI’s introduction videos. They covered the bus’s specs, details about the fusion engine, and operating conditions in literally hundreds of atmospheric types. Before Shelby knew it, it was 6. He wandered through the Ever Loving, trying to find his way to the mess. He ended up 15 minutes late. Facing Capt. Herb’s glare, he promised himself to be on time for dinner the next day.

Capt. Herb and Shelby were the only two aboard the Ever Loving. Capt. Herb had his routines. He had only a few rules. One, don’t touch anything that’s not yours. (“The Ever Loving is not yours.”) Two, keep to your quarters, the mess, the head, the main corridors and Cargo Bay 4. Three, dinner’s in the mess at 6 sharp. Four, dinner topics are captain’s prerogative.

Capt. Herb kept to himself except for dinner. Dinner was an event. Capt. Herb personally prepared dinner each night and served it piping hot at precisely 6. He chose the evening’s dinner topic, and he slowly teased every morsel from his guest on that topic. On topic per night. As Capt. Herb put it, they had a month together and most people’s life story took less than a month to tease out. So Capt. Herb spent the month in transit slowly savoring Shelby’s life story, asking probing questions and sometimes even sharply questioning the details of Shelby’s life.

After the first week aboard, Shelby realized he had not done much in his short life. Barely out of university, this gig was his first real job. He felt slightly guilty that he did not have better stories to entertain Capt. Herb in return for the homecooked meals.

Shelby spent the first week in the bus’s cramped compartment. He completed the bus’s video manuals, but there were no vid materials on flying the craft and no simulators. He tried poring through the written manual in the ship’s computer, but it was so technical, he gave up after only a couple of hours. Then he threw himself into analyzing the geomapping data from the two drones that had been sent to map the planet. Both had reported anomalous readings of the planet’s geothermal zones. The Type M planet with its healthy fauna and breathable air could prove to be an excellent colony, a valuable commodity. But the subsurface readings showed very active geothermal reservoirs on all four continents. 

Shelby, a geomathematician, had been sent at great expense to scan 3890 again and to determine what dangers the geology may pose to colonists. After the first week aboard the Ever Loving, he felt comfortable with the bus’s scanning and analyzing equipment. So he spent most of the second week analyzing the data available in his roomier quarters. He was going to spend a cramped month inside the bus flying over 3890 before Capt. Herb came back to retrieve him, so he decided to enjoy the room aboard the Ever Loving while he could.

Halfway through the transit to 3890, Shelby decided he had done all he could with the data provided by the two drone expeditions. He had a lot of free time, and he found himself spending more and more time working on a side project he had started in school. He was developing a mathematical model to predict the outcomes of one-on-one first-person fighter games, Shelby’s favorite sport. If he cracked the code, he could win a fortune gambling.

The bus stopped shuddering and at almost the same time the viewscreen cleared. The clouds disappeared and the blue expanse of an ocean filled the screen. Off to the left, Shelby could see the mottled greens and browns of a continent. The continent seemed to be growing and Shelby realized the bus was still diving towards the planet.

“AI, can you straighten up or flatten out or something?” Shelby couldn’t find the right words. He felt like “horizon” might be one of them, but he prayed the AI would figure it out.

“Emergency controls have been compromised. Switching to manual control.”

“What? Manual? No!”

The panel in front of Shelby slid open and a joystick surrounded by buttons slid towards him.

“AI, engage automatic pilot!”

“Automatic pilot has been compromised. Manual override engaged.”

The right side of the main screen filled with symbols that probably made sense to a pilot, but Shelby was no pilot.

The continent below filled half the screen and was growing.

Shelby grabbed the stick. He had not played any flying games since childhood, but he remembered that in some craft the stick goes forward for down and in some you pull back.

“Here goes nothing,” Shelby said and pulled the stick back gently. The stick felt small, light and cheaply built. It felt like he could break it with one swift jerk. Clearly the manual controls were an afterthought. But the stick turned out to be responsive. The bus’s nose came up gradually. 

It took a few harrowing minutes, but with a little coaxing, Shelby managed to bring the craft level. He wiped his brow and leaned back in his seat. He scanned the readouts on the right side of the main screen. He found a graph showing his altitude and an outline of the bus in a circle showing the angle he was flying at.

“Whew, glad that’s over,” Shelby said.

“Proximity alert,” said the AI in a calm voice. “Two aircraft have matched your vector and are accelerating. Threat estimate: 92 percent chance of hostilities.”


I can’t wait to see what you write!

Submit your story ending

Please post your story endings below. And if you just want to leave a comment, that would be great, too!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. If you have any trouble pasting your story ending below, just email it to matthewcrosswrites@gmail.com by the deadline and you will be entered. MC 🚀✨

Read a thrilling and feel-good ending by Jeremy Wilson

Illustration by Joe Cross. Copyright 2022.

I’m sharing the finalist stories from the June Contest. Here’s a hopeful ending with a twist or two by Jeremy Wilson.

Sur Veil Lance

BY JEREMY WILSON AND MATTHEW CROSS

I fly up in an arc and hover over the city lights of Minimagemma.

When I reach the peak of the arc and hold steady, my hoverpack hums a little louder. I’m not supposed to do this because it wears down the hoverpack faster. But there are so many rules under the Republic, who can keep them all straight?

Minimagemma means little jewel.

At least, that’s what I’m told. I don’t know Latin. I keep meaning to learn because the leaders in the Republic eat up all that ancient Roman stuff. Statues, robes, pillars. All that random debris.

To honor that tradition, the leaders of Minimagemma re-covered their aboveground fiber channels to look like an aqueduct. I don’t know what that is, exactly. It looks like a bridge to nowhere, to me. But I heard the local Republic delegation was very impressed.

They covered the thing in blue lights, so you can’t miss it.

“Hey,” says Jolo, breaking my reverie. “You gonna hang up there all night? Or are you gonna do your job?”

Jolo is joking of course. He doesn’t care about the job any more than I do. And why should he?

The job is basically to terrorize the good folk of Minimagemma.

We are the Sur, the guardians, the watchful eye from above. Sent by the great and beneficent leaders of the Republic to protect this petty little planet. But protect them from what? This planet is so far from any of the Republic’s enemies, there’s no chance of an invasion. And what could Jolo and I do, just two lances, against a determined invading force?

That’s right, two lances per shift to protect the whole city. And some of the smaller cities only get one lance.

So . . . think about it. Two lances flying over the city day and night. Showing off their flashy compound wings like some kind of Angel of Death and carrying glowing lances. Are we really there to protect the city from the Republic’s enemies? Or, just maybe, are we there to remind the good folks of Minimagemma that the Republic is watching over them?

Here’s a hint. The Republic always sends Sur from other planets. We never protect our own planets, our own homes. Wherever we are sent, we are always strangers. And on this planet, also called Minimagemma, I don’t think any of the Sur are even from the same planet. We’re all strangers to each other. Makes it harder to get chummy. Makes it harder to trust each other.

Jolo is in charge tonight. He’s more senior than me, been on planet maybe three years, which is apparently a long time. He decides we’ll do some maneuver practice, which is my favorite.

Jolo and I are the lucky ones. And we know it. Even though we were both basically kidnapped from our homes as children and shipped off planet, there are a lot worse things than our current duties. We could be serving as Auxilia in the Republic’s wars with the Polity and other enemies. Because of our skills and test results—and passing all the necessary loyalty tests—we joined the Sur. And, for now at least, we “protect” Minimagemma by flying overhead most nights with our glowing lances.

And let’s face it, flying with wings is pretty cool.

My first station with the Sur was on a massive farming planet. We actually rode these smelly, native beasts called Loxo. They were twice as tall as me, covered in tangled hair and smelled like waste matter. But they were very loyal, and some of the lances taught their Loxo to do tricks.

My second station was only one year on an Inner Ring planet. There we actually flew patrol ships with our traditional glowing lances built into the ships’ weaponry. Now that was a cool station. There was so much to do there that I blew through my stipendium fast. I still owe a few guys back there, but it shouldn’t take me long to send the credits. There’s really nothing worthwhile to do here except fly, and I can do that for free.

I’m not gonna lie. When I saw my first set of wings, I thought they were hokey. And on the transport here, I’d heard some stories about Sur falling out of the sky because the old machinery was so busted. But that was mostly legend. Despite a few falls, almost no Sur has actually ever died “in harness.” As they taught us in training, as long as the hoverpack is operational, the worst that will happen is a slow descent to the ground. The magnetically articulated wings do take some of the burden off the hoverpack by allowing for gliding and breaking a dive, but they are not essential to staying aloft. Which is good because it’s the vaccing wings that are most likely to fail.

I follow Jolo down to an altitude just above the building tops. For practice, we follow the network of streets. We are playing a game of “Match This” with me trying to imitate Jolo’s moves. I’m pretty good in the harness—a natural some say—but Jolo has two years on me, and he can still trip me up sometimes. We work our way towards the city center, which is a little odd. The city center is where the most elite and loyal of society live. Not that we care about local crime, but there’s rarely even a mugging in the tightly guarded center. We only go there to stand pretty behind the leaders giving speeches. Our brilliant, white wings, our glowing lances and our silver “veil” masks are paparazzi  favorites.

Jolo flits between the arches of the aqueduct, blue lights playing over the constantly moving testa of his wings. I follow, trying to make the minute adjustments to replicate his flares and barrel rolls. It takes all my concentration, and I barely notice we are approaching the Forum Romanum. He exits an arch at near top speed and follows the top of the blue-limned wall surrounding the Forum Romanum. Every planetary capital in the Republic has a Forum Romanum sealed inside a wall. Some even have an inner wall and an outer wall. What are they so afraid of? Mixing elbows with the dirty masses?

“Evasive maneuvers!” Jolo shouts through his Veil right into my ear.

Without thinking, I bank a hard left downwards while Jolo banks a hard right upwards. I assume we’re still drilling until I see the glare of the rocket tail, a shimmering trail of light pointing straight at Jolo.

I see him hanging there in the dark, night sky. An unearthly figure, with white wings outspread, his dark flightsuit lit beneath by the city lights and in the reflection of his Veil I see the rocket’s bright glare.

Then the rocket explodes between us. The brilliant explosion blinds me before my Veil’s autodimming feature kicks in. I’ve drilled for blind flight. I follow the Veil’s audio prompts until my flight is level. It will take precious seconds for my vision to clear and taking evasive maneuvers while blind is probably more dangerous than any rocket fire. So I take a moment to send a distress signal to Sur headquarters.

I make a guess as to the last direction I saw Jolo and I begin a gentle glide path in that direction. It’s a stupid move, but instinct tells me that the rocket exploded without hitting Jolo directly. He knew something was up and had begun evasive maneuvers, so maybe he survived the blast. But if he did, he’s likely injured.

My nightvision returns, and my eyes sweep the horizon and then the streets below for any sign of Jolo. Instead, I see dark figures emerging from almost every building on the outside border of the wall. They are flowing towards one of the major gates to the Forum Romanum. The Righteous Victory Gate, I think it’s called. They are chanting something, but I don’t know enough of the local dialect to understand it. Jolo has learned a good bit of the local patois. Too bad he’s not here to help me

I see a flash of white in the dimness. It disappears in an alley. I bank hard to follow.

Then I see something I’d never expect in a million years. A tank is crawling up the avenue that leads to the Righteous Victory Gate. It’s a homemade job. Really just a heavy hovercraft with a plasma cannon mounted to the top. But I’m pretty sure it can take out the gate. 

Wow, I think, what has happened on Minimagemma? This is a full-scale rebellion!

I take careful aim and zap the tank with my lance. A golden shaft of light—a very powerful laser—strikes out and destroys the tank. That probably leaves one more charge in the lance. It’s powerful, but it sucks juice like a Loxo sucks water. It’s hard to believe the lances once were actually considered good weapons.

I rise higher, ignoring the crowds and looking for any sign of Jolo. Any reflection of samite white. Any glow of a yellow lance.

I follow my Sur training for nighttime maneuvers. I close my eyes for ten breaths and when I open them, I keep them unfocused. I pay attention to any change in my whole peripheral vision. Only then do I detect the faint yellow glow, moving along an alleyway. It’s headed towards the gate, not away.

Silently, I alight at the mouth of the alley, my lance at the ready.

A handful of dark figures running towards me pull up sharply. Two of them awkwardly carry a set of wings. A third carries the lance. And at the back of the group is Gremaine. His silver veil hangs around his neck.

By the light of the glowing lance, I can see his eyes widen. “Leila!”


“Gremaine, what are you —” but I don’t get to finish. Gremaine lunges forward and grabs me in a tight hug.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” he manages through tears. He releases me and notices my armor. “You’re a Sur?”

“What are you doing here, Gremaine?”

“They’re gone Leila. Mum, Da, the colony, all of it . . . gone.”

I hear his words but they make no sense. “What? What are you talking about? No, you’re wrong.”

“I was there, Leila! I had to watch it burn!”

“Wha— . . . the Polity?”

“No—” his chest convulses, “No, it was the Republic. The colonies peacefully protested the tribute of children and the Republic made an example of them. They sent Planetkillers, Leila! PLANETKILLERS!”

I fall to my knees, unable to breathe. My vision blurs. Through my tears, I’m dimly aware of the chanting again as a mass of angry figures passes the mouth of the alley, heading toward the Righteous Victory Gate. “What’re they saying?” I mumble, desperate to distract myself from the horrible truth tearing through my brain.

“The tide is rising. The storm has come. You will repay the blood you have stolen.”

“What does it mean?”

“You know what it means, Leila. The people will no longer cower while the Republic sends their children to be fodder for the Polity’s plasma cannons.”

“But why here?” I ask. “There’s nothing here. We’re on the outskirts of the empire,” my mind grasping for anything to wake up from this nightmare.

“Leila—” he drops to his knees to look me in the eye, “this is happening everywhere. They’ve gone too far. As for Minimagemma, what better place to hide an experimental weapons lab than the outer rim, on the other side of an impenetrable wall, surrounded by those most loyal to the Republic?”

I don’t want to believe it but something inside me screams that he’s right. I lift my gaze to meet his. “What happens now?”

“We have to bring down that gate. Otherwise the people will be slaughtered. A fully charged lance should be able to do it but this one was damaged when your partner fell.”

His mention of Jolo must have stirred something in my eyes.

“He’s banged up and unconscious but alive,” he reassures me. “Do you have any charge left in yours?”

“Should be enough for one shot.”

“Let’s hope you’re right.”

We exit the alley onto the Via Sacra, taking cover behind the charred husk of the tank. Once the lances are primed, we fire. For a moment, daylight seems to descend as the wall is bathed in golden light. A cloud of dust and debris obscures the gate. We hold our breath, waiting for the smoke to clear. Moments turn into agonizing minutes.

A gentle breeze coaxes breath into our lungs and reveals a tangled, glowing mass of alloy and stone. With a deafening groan, what’s left of the gate crashes down and a wave of anger, righteousness, and hope crests through the opening.


I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Jeremy and I wrote together. Jeremy is one of my favorite collaboration writers and a frequent competitor in the writing contest. His writing is so compelling that if he does not win the contest, he always makes the finalist’s cut. You may recall that Jeremy was the March Contest winner, and as one of my 2022 Champions, he cannot win another contest in 2022. He also won the April 2021 Contest.

If you enjoyed this story, I know you’ll love the version written by Frasier Armitage that won the June Contest. Frasier was the very first winner of the contest in September 2020 and he has gone on to win the contest in 2021 and now again in 2022 with this June Contest. Check out Frasier’s prize-winning ending.

If you enjoyed Jeremy Wilson’s ending, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Read a finalist’s ending from the June Contest

Illustration by Joe Cross. Copyright 2022.

I’m sharing the finalist stories from the June Contest. Here’s a quick ending by Ayten Suvak.

Sur Veil Lance

BY AYTEN SUVAK AND MATTHEW CROSS

I fly up in an arc and hover over the city lights of Minimagemma.

When I reach the peak of the arc and hold steady, my hoverpack hums a little louder. I’m not supposed to do this because it wears down the hoverpack faster. But there are so many rules under the Republic, who can keep them all straight?

Minimagemma means little jewel.

At least, that’s what I’m told. I don’t know Latin. I keep meaning to learn because the leaders in the Republic eat up all that ancient Roman stuff. Statues, robes, pillars. All that random debris.

To honor that tradition, the leaders of Minimagemma re-covered their aboveground fiber channels to look like an aqueduct. I don’t know what that is, exactly. It looks like a bridge to nowhere, to me. But I heard the local Republic delegation was very impressed.

They covered the thing in blue lights, so you can’t miss it.

“Hey,” says Jolo, breaking my reverie. “You gonna hang up there all night? Or are you gonna do your job?”

Jolo is joking of course. He doesn’t care about the job any more than I do. And why should he?

The job is basically to terrorize the good folk of Minimagemma.

We are the Sur, the guardians, the watchful eye from above. Sent by the great and beneficent leaders of the Republic to protect this petty little planet. But protect them from what? This planet is so far from any of the Republic’s enemies, there’s no chance of an invasion. And what could Jolo and I do, just two lances, against a determined invading force?

That’s right, two lances per shift to protect the whole city. And some of the smaller cities only get one lance.

So . . . think about it. Two lances flying over the city day and night. Showing off their flashy compound wings like some kind of Angel of Death and carrying glowing lances. Are we really there to protect the city from the Republic’s enemies? Or, just maybe, are we there to remind the good folks of Minimagemma that the Republic is watching over them?

Here’s a hint. The Republic always sends Sur from other planets. We never protect our own planets, our own homes. Wherever we are sent, we are always strangers. And on this planet, also called Minimagemma, I don’t think any of the Sur are even from the same planet. We’re all strangers to each other. Makes it harder to get chummy. Makes it harder to trust each other.

Jolo is in charge tonight. He’s more senior than me, been on planet maybe three years, which is apparently a long time. He decides we’ll do some maneuver practice, which is my favorite.

Jolo and I are the lucky ones. And we know it. Even though we were both basically kidnapped from our homes as children and shipped off planet, there are a lot worse things than our current duties. We could be serving as Auxilia in the Republic’s wars with the Polity and other enemies. Because of our skills and test results—and passing all the necessary loyalty tests—we joined the Sur. And, for now at least, we “protect” Minimagemma by flying overhead most nights with our glowing lances.

And let’s face it, flying with wings is pretty cool.

My first station with the Sur was on a massive farming planet. We actually rode these smelly, native beasts called Loxo. They were twice as tall as me, covered in tangled hair and smelled like waste matter. But they were very loyal, and some of the lances taught their Loxo to do tricks.

My second station was only one year on an Inner Ring planet. There we actually flew patrol ships with our traditional glowing lances built into the ships’ weaponry. Now that was a cool station. There was so much to do there that I blew through my stipendium fast. I still owe a few guys back there, but it shouldn’t take me long to send the credits. There’s really nothing worthwhile to do here except fly, and I can do that for free.

I’m not gonna lie. When I saw my first set of wings, I thought they were hokey. And on the transport here, I’d heard some stories about Sur falling out of the sky because the old machinery was so busted. But that was mostly legend. Despite a few falls, almost no Sur has actually ever died “in harness.” As they taught us in training, as long as the hoverpack is operational, the worst that will happen is a slow descent to the ground. The magnetically articulated wings do take some of the burden off the hoverpack by allowing for gliding and breaking a dive, but they are not essential to staying aloft. Which is good because it’s the vaccing wings that are most likely to fail.

I follow Jolo down to an altitude just above the building tops. For practice, we follow the network of streets. We are playing a game of “Match This” with me trying to imitate Jolo’s moves. I’m pretty good in the harness—a natural some say—but Jolo has two years on me, and he can still trip me up sometimes. We work our way towards the city center, which is a little odd. The city center is where the most elite and loyal of society live. Not that we care about local crime, but there’s rarely even a mugging in the tightly guarded center. We only go there to stand pretty behind the leaders giving speeches. Our brilliant, white wings, our glowing lances and our silver “veil” masks are paparazzi  favorites.

Jolo flits between the arches of the aqueduct, blue lights playing over the constantly moving testa of his wings. I follow, trying to make the minute adjustments to replicate his flares and barrel rolls. It takes all my concentration, and I barely notice we are approaching the Forum Romanum. He exits an arch at near top speed and follows the top of the blue-limned wall surrounding the Forum Romanum. Every planetary capital in the Republic has a Forum Romanum sealed inside a wall. Some even have an inner wall and an outer wall. What are they so afraid of? Mixing elbows with the dirty masses?

“Evasive maneuvers!” Jolo shouts through his Veil right into my ear.

Without thinking, I bank a hard left downwards while Jolo banks a hard right upwards. I assume we’re still drilling until I see the glare of the rocket tail, a shimmering trail of light pointing straight at Jolo.

I see him hanging there in the dark, night sky. An unearthly figure, with white wings outspread, his dark flightsuit lit beneath by the city lights and in the reflection of his Veil I see the rocket’s bright glare.

Then the rocket explodes between us. The brilliant explosion blinds me before my Veil’s autodimming feature kicks in. I’ve drilled for blind flight. I follow the Veil’s audio prompts until my flight is level. It will take precious seconds for my vision to clear and taking evasive maneuvers while blind is probably more dangerous than any rocket fire. So I take a moment to send a distress signal to Sur headquarters.

I make a guess as to the last direction I saw Jolo and I begin a gentle glide path in that direction. It’s a stupid move, but instinct tells me that the rocket exploded without hitting Jolo directly. He knew something was up and had begun evasive maneuvers, so maybe he survived the blast. But if he did, he’s likely injured.

My nightvision returns, and my eyes sweep the horizon and then the streets below for any sign of Jolo. Instead, I see dark figures emerging from almost every building on the outside border of the wall. They are flowing towards one of the major gates to the Forum Romanum. The Righteous Victory Gate, I think it’s called. They are chanting something, but I don’t know enough of the local dialect to understand it. Jolo has learned a good bit of the local patois. Too bad he’s not here to help me

I see a flash of white in the dimness. It disappears in an alley. I bank hard to follow.

Then I see something I’d never expect in a million years. A tank is crawling up the avenue that leads to the Righteous Victory Gate. It’s a homemade job. Really just a heavy hovercraft with a plasma cannon mounted to the top. But I’m pretty sure it can take out the gate. 

Wow, I think, what has happened on Minimagemma? This is a full-scale rebellion!

I take careful aim and zap the tank with my lance. A golden shaft of light—a very powerful laser—strikes out and destroys the tank. That probably leaves one more charge in the lance. It’s powerful, but it sucks juice like a Loxo sucks water. It’s hard to believe the lances once were actually considered good weapons.

I rise higher, ignoring the crowds and looking for any sign of Jolo. Any reflection of samite white. Any glow of a yellow lance.

I follow my Sur training for nighttime maneuvers. I close my eyes for ten breaths and when I open them, I keep them unfocused. I pay attention to any change in my whole peripheral vision. Only then do I detect the faint yellow glow, moving along an alleyway. It’s headed towards the gate, not away.

Silently, I alight at the mouth of the alley, my lance at the ready.

A handful of dark figures running towards me pull up sharply. Two of them awkwardly carry a set of wings. A third carries the lance. And at the back of the group is Jolo. His silver veil hangs around his neck.

By the light of the glowing lance, I can see his eyes widen. “Leila!”


“Leila, keep the gate!” Jolo calls. “Those rebels have gone crazy and will kill anybody in their way!”

I stand frozen, my mouth open. I don’t understand what is happening.

“They’re fed up with this planet’s strict rules about leading a decent life without any adventures. They built a spaceship in secret to fly away to other planets,” Jolo yelled at me with the last breath in his lungs. He dropped dead.

I couldn’t do anything else but leave with the rebels with the hope of opportunities for founding new lives in this endless universe.


I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Ayten and I wrote together. This is Ayten’s first entry ever into the Matthew Cross Flash Fiction Collaboration Contest, and we hope to see many more in the future.

If you enjoyed this story, I know you’ll love the version written by Frasier Armitage that won the June Contest. Frasier was the very first winner of the contest in September 2020 and he has gone on to win the contest in 2021 and again in 2022 with this June Contest. Check out Frasier’s prize-winning ending.

Please make sure and share some kind comments for Ayten below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

This is the winner of the Matthew Cross Writing Contest-June

Illustration by Joe Cross. Copyright 2022.

The winner of the Matthew Cross Flash Fiction Collaboration Contest is

Frasier Armitage

I started the story below. See how Frasier starts after the red line and provides us with an action-packed, Sci Fi twist and a dramatic, cinematic ending worthy of the big screen.

Sur Veil Lance

BY FRASIER ARMITAGE AND MATTHEW CROSS

I fly up in an arc and hover over the city lights of Minimagemma.

When I reach the peak of the arc and hold steady, my hoverpack hums a little louder. I’m not supposed to do this because it wears down the hoverpack faster. But there are so many rules under the Republic, who can keep them all straight?

Minimagemma means little jewel.

At least, that’s what I’m told. I don’t know Latin. I keep meaning to learn because the leaders in the Republic eat up all that ancient Roman stuff. Statues, robes, pillars. All that random debris.

To honor that tradition, the leaders of Minimagemma re-covered their aboveground fiber channels to look like an aqueduct. I don’t know what that is, exactly. It looks like a bridge to nowhere, to me. But I heard the local Republic delegation was very impressed.

They covered the thing in blue lights, so you can’t miss it.

“Hey,” says Jolo, breaking my reverie. “You gonna hang up there all night? Or are you gonna do your job?”

Jolo is joking of course. He doesn’t care about the job any more than I do. And why should he?

The job is basically to terrorize the good folk of Minimagemma.

We are the Sur, the guardians, the watchful eye from above. Sent by the great and beneficent leaders of the Republic to protect this petty little planet. But protect them from what? This planet is so far from any of the Republic’s enemies, there’s no chance of an invasion. And what could Jolo and I do, just two lances, against a determined invading force?

That’s right, two lances per shift to protect the whole city. And some of the smaller cities only get one lance.

So . . . think about it. Two lances flying over the city day and night. Showing off their flashy compound wings like some kind of Angel of Death and carrying glowing lances. Are we really there to protect the city from the Republic’s enemies? Or, just maybe, are we there to remind the good folks of Minimagemma that the Republic is watching over them?

Here’s a hint. The Republic always sends Sur from other planets. We never protect our own planets, our own homes. Wherever we are sent, we are always strangers. And on this planet, also called Minimagemma, I don’t think any of the Sur are even from the same planet. We’re all strangers to each other. Makes it harder to get chummy. Makes it harder to trust each other.

Jolo is in charge tonight. He’s more senior than me, been on planet maybe three years, which is apparently a long time. He decides we’ll do some maneuver practice, which is my favorite.

Jolo and I are the lucky ones. And we know it. Even though we were both basically kidnapped from our homes as children and shipped off planet, there are a lot worse things than our current duties. We could be serving as Auxilia in the Republic’s wars with the Polity and other enemies. Because of our skills and test results—and passing all the necessary loyalty tests—we joined the Sur. And, for now at least, we “protect” Minimagemma by flying overhead most nights with our glowing lances.

And let’s face it, flying with wings is pretty cool.

My first station with the Sur was on a massive farming planet. We actually rode these smelly, native beasts called Loxo. They were twice as tall as me, covered in tangled hair and smelled like waste matter. But they were very loyal, and some of the lances taught their Loxo to do tricks.

My second station was only one year on an Inner Ring planet. There we actually flew patrol ships with our traditional glowing lances built into the ships’ weaponry. Now that was a cool station. There was so much to do there that I blew through my stipendium fast. I still owe a few guys back there, but it shouldn’t take me long to send the credits. There’s really nothing worthwhile to do here except fly, and I can do that for free.

I’m not gonna lie. When I saw my first set of wings, I thought they were hokey. And on the transport here, I’d heard some stories about Sur falling out of the sky because the old machinery was so busted. But that was mostly legend. Despite a few falls, almost no Sur has actually ever died “in harness.” As they taught us in training, as long as the hoverpack is operational, the worst that will happen is a slow descent to the ground. The magnetically articulated wings do take some of the burden off the hoverpack by allowing for gliding and breaking a dive, but they are not essential to staying aloft. Which is good because it’s the vaccing wings that are most likely to fail.

I follow Jolo down to an altitude just above the building tops. For practice, we follow the network of streets. We are playing a game of “Match This” with me trying to imitate Jolo’s moves. I’m pretty good in the harness—a natural some say—but Jolo has two years on me, and he can still trip me up sometimes. We work our way towards the city center, which is a little odd. The city center is where the most elite and loyal of society live. Not that we care about local crime, but there’s rarely even a mugging in the tightly guarded center. We only go there to stand pretty behind the leaders giving speeches. Our brilliant, white wings, our glowing lances and our silver “veil” masks are paparazzi  favorites.

Jolo flits between the arches of the aqueduct, blue lights playing over the constantly moving testa of his wings. I follow, trying to make the minute adjustments to replicate his flares and barrel rolls. It takes all my concentration, and I barely notice we are approaching the Forum Romanum. He exits an arch at near top speed and follows the top of the blue-limned wall surrounding the Forum Romanum. Every planetary capital in the Republic has a Forum Romanum sealed inside a wall. Some even have an inner wall and an outer wall. What are they so afraid of? Mixing elbows with the dirty masses?

“Evasive maneuvers!” Jolo shouts through his Veil right into my ear.

Without thinking, I bank a hard left downwards while Jolo banks a hard right upwards. I assume we’re still drilling until I see the glare of the rocket tail, a shimmering trail of light pointing straight at Jolo.

I see him hanging there in the dark, night sky. An unearthly figure, with white wings outspread, his dark flightsuit lit beneath by the city lights and in the reflection of his Veil I see the rocket’s bright glare.

Then the rocket explodes between us. The brilliant explosion blinds me before my Veil’s autodimming feature kicks in. I’ve drilled for blind flight. I follow the Veil’s audio prompts until my flight is level. It will take precious seconds for my vision to clear and taking evasive maneuvers while blind is probably more dangerous than any rocket fire. So I take a moment to send a distress signal to Sur headquarters.

I make a guess as to the last direction I saw Jolo and I begin a gentle glide path in that direction. It’s a stupid move, but instinct tells me that the rocket exploded without hitting Jolo directly. He knew something was up and had begun evasive maneuvers, so maybe he survived the blast. But if he did, he’s likely injured.

My nightvision returns, and my eyes sweep the horizon and then the streets below for any sign of Jolo. Instead, I see dark figures emerging from almost every building on the outside border of the wall. They are flowing towards one of the major gates to the Forum Romanum. The Righteous Victory Gate, I think it’s called. They are chanting something, but I don’t know enough of the local dialect to understand it. Jolo has learned a good bit of the local patois. Too bad he’s not here to help me

I see a flash of white in the dimness. It disappears in an alley. I bank hard to follow.

Then I see something I’d never expect in a million years. A tank is crawling up the avenue that leads to the Righteous Victory Gate. It’s a homemade job. Really just a heavy hovercraft with a plasma cannon mounted to the top. But I’m pretty sure it can take out the gate. 

Wow, I think, what has happened on Minimagemma? This is a full-scale rebellion!

I take careful aim and zap the tank with my lance. A golden shaft of light—a very powerful laser—strikes out and destroys the tank. That probably leaves one more charge in the lance. It’s powerful, but it sucks juice like a Loxo sucks water. It’s hard to believe the lances once were actually considered good weapons.

I rise higher, ignoring the crowds and looking for any sign of Jolo. Any reflection of samite white. Any glow of a yellow lance.

I follow my Sur training for nighttime maneuvers. I close my eyes for ten breaths and when I open them, I keep them unfocused. I pay attention to any change in my whole peripheral vision. Only then do I detect the faint yellow glow, moving along an alleyway. It’s headed towards the gate, not away.

Silently, I alight at the mouth of the alley, my lance at the ready.

A handful of dark figures running towards me pull up sharply. Two of them awkwardly carry a set of wings. A third carries the lance. And at the back of the group is Jolo. His silver veil hangs around his neck.

By the light of the glowing lance, I can see his eyes widen. “Leila!”


The lance fires. Its flash rips through the air straight at me.

I trigger the emergency release and uncouple my harness. My wings and veil explode in a deafening blast. Sparks rain from above as I drop, free-falling to the ground.

This is going to hurt.

I smash against a pillar, slamming my lance against the stone. The blow breaks my fall, along with a bone or two. I ride the lance down the pillar’s side. More sparks erupt as I slow. I hit the cobbles, and blood drips from my arm. My knees roar. But I’m alive. And my lance is intact. Just about.

Jolo.

I rush through ancient streets. These ridiculous Romanesque structures look smaller from above. It’s easy to forget how big the sky can be when I spend most of my time flying through it. From down here, the buildings tower with a menace that unsettles me more than the numbness creeping up my leg.

Ahead, a mob emerges from the tank’s flames, brandishing weapons.

“Stay back!” I shout, raising my lance. “I mean it!”

From the crowd, a figure approaches, regaled in a Senator’s robes. Their bodyguard holds Jolo in a vice-like grip, before throwing him to the ground.

I can’t believe my eyes.

“Senator Braxis. You’re behind this?” I ask. “But why? Why would the Republic mutiny against themselves?”

Braxis smiles. “You know, if the people of the inner worlds believe the Polity are mounting uprisings all the way out here, don’t you think public opinion might be more favorable to a . . . shall we say, a more assertive stand against them?”

“You’re kidding! This is all to get support for a war that’s happening hundreds of planets away?”

“Surveillance is a weapon, my dear. One just has to know how to use it. I’m sure the final readings from your veil will be most useful to the Senate.”

“You won’t get away with this.” I aim my lance at Braxis’s heart, if he even has one. “Let him go.” I nod towards Jolo.

Braxis laughs. “You have done well, Leila. You’ve rendered a valuable service to the Republic, and we thank you for it.”

“I said . . . let him go.”

Jolo lifts his head. “Leila. Don’t . . . This is bigger than us.”

“Do you still have access to your nesting protocol?” I ask him.

He nods, but his eyes widen. “Leila. Don’t do this.”

“Time to fly.”

Jolo shakes his head. “You can’t win, Leila.”

“Being a Sur isn’t about winning. It’s about protection.”

“Protection?” Braxis balks. “And what exactly are you protecting?”

I smile at Jolo. “My minimagemma.”

I set my lance to overdrive and slam it on the ground. In the moment before it detonates, Jolo taps his wrist. His wings shoot across the crowd, clasping around him. Nesting protocol, engaged.

A fiery blast spreads outwards, demolishing pillars around me in a fury of light, and I glimpse Jolo’s shadow rising through the destruction—the prettiest jewel I ever saw.


I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Frasier Armitage and I wrote together. He’s a great collaboration writer and one of my favorite Sci Fi writers of all time!

If you enjoyed Frasier’s prize-winning ending, please make sure and share some kind comments below. You can also find tons more Sci Fi stories by Frasier by following any link with his name.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross