Okay, here’s the flash fiction I promised you. It’s not great, particularly in the ending, but it’s decent for a few hours of work. Now, time to get back to work on Fugitives from Earth.
By Brad Wheeler
The tiny castle of Benten Lydecker stood above the world on a high mountain. The violet fungal wastes of Agrippa stretched out before it for a thousand kilometers.
Yesterday, Benten Lydecker had ruled Agrippa. Now, he merely shared it.
The seedship had landed in the night, but already the castle of his new neighbor—his intruder—sprawled across the wastes. The seedship’s maniples had created turrets that brushed the sky, chambers that sank into the planet. Once it was done, this new person would build another, and another, and soon there would be nothing of Agrippa’s natural beauty left. Such was the way of the planetcrafter.
It seemed that no matter how far he traveled the surging press of humanity found him.
“Make my ship ready for departure,” Lydecker said, and it was so. The seedship stood ready on the plains below, and Lydecker gazed at it with some consternation. The long years seeking solitude and bueaty were beginning to outnumber those spent enjoying it. Eve when he found a world, odds are it had already been toyed with and discarded by the planetcrafters.
When Lydecker left his castle for the final time he carried only the clothes he wore, and these only out of habit. He took a final breath of Agrippa’s mold-tinged air, and he started down the cobble path toward his ship.
“Good morning, neighbor. I’m Indira Karakanes.” said the intruder.
Lydecker stopped walking. This…woman had decided to pay him a visit? In centuries, he had never known such rudeness, but there she was, thin as a whip, bright orange hair, clad in strap and harness, standing barefoot on the path to his ship. Lydecker just shook his head and walked around her.
“I was just leaving,” he said. “The planet is yours.”
“What? Why?” Indira followed him. “I just got here.”
“And already this planet has been despoiled,” Lydecker said. He did not trust himself to speak further. Already the anger was starting to throb in his chest.
“Despoiled,” she scoffed, still padding after him. “But you’ve barely used this world at all.”
“No, I have not ‘used’ this world,” Lydecker said. He whirled to face her, jabbed a finger at her delicate collarbone. “I’ve been enjoying it in a state of nature. But that’s already gone. Just let me go.”
Lydecker sped up his walk, but the ground before him rose up. Surrounded by the airy wisps of her maniples, it took the form of a vast stone wall, one that utterly forestalled him.
Feeling a torrent of rage completely unknown to him, Lydecker whirled on the woman. “What is the meaning of this…this insult?” He shouted.
“Why are you acting like this? You’re a planetcrafter too.”
“No. No, I am not.” He pointed angrily to the seedship at the base of the path. “The seedships were designed to keep us alive on alien planetsafter the cataclysm, not to toy with them. I’m sure their designers didn’t intend for their maniples to build garish castles that are immediately discarded.”
Indira looked pensive as Lydecker ran out of steam. He sighed, waved at the wall. The ghost of his maniples swarmed over it, burning a man-sized hole in the stone. “Now, I’m leaving before I have to watch you do that to Agrippa.”
“You selfish ass,” Indira shouted at his back. “You want to dominate planets the same way we do. It just takes less work.”
Lydecker paused mid-step, turned, and stomped back to Indira. Staring right into her vivid green eyes, he set his mind in motion.
In the fungal valley below, on one of the high, thin turrets of her castle, his seedship maniples slowly burned away a chunk of superstructure. The turret held for a moment, swaying in the breeze, then caught, tipped, and fell. Needle-thin at this distance, it nonetheless erupted into a massive cloud of dust and debris. A moment later, the boom echoed up the mountain.
“What the hell was that?”
“You want to walk all over my peace? I’ll do the same to yours.” Lydecker said, his eyes daring her to complain.
“Fine,” Indira said, and looked down the mountain. Lydecker followed her gaze and saw that the undulating, violet surface of the fungus mat had developed a blight, an angular tumor of stone. As he watched, it slowly grew until a flat area dozens of paces wide despoiled the place’s natural beauty.
In the same breath, Lydecker set to tearing down the wall of her castle, and raising up a bright orange eruption of lava from deep beneath Agrippa’s crust. The molten rock, forced out with tectonic pressure, flowed into the nooks and crannies of the castle.
Meanwhile, Indira had leveled the mountain they were on.
“All right, enough.” Lydecker shouted, tearing his eyes from the level plain that stood where his castle had. “This world is already a waste. You’re welcome to it. You deserve it.”
“And I think you deserve to be alone, Lydecker,” Indira called after him. “You care only for yourself.”
“Eh,” he grunted, not turning around until he reached his seedship at the base of the mountain. He didn’t hesitate once he reached it, either. Agrippa was dead to him now.
As the ship’s maniples swarmed into their storage tanks and the engines warmed up, he watched Indira’s handiwork. She was laying the foundation for an even larger castle, perhaps even a complex of them. It would be hideous.
As the stars appeared, he steered himself toward the nearest yellow one. The search had begun once again.