This week’s challenge from Chuck Wendig was to write a story in your own ‘punk’ genre. This was in honour of the release of his new book Under the Empyrean Sky, which he calls ‘cornpunk’.  I’m slightly familiar with cyberpunk, steampunk, and a search on wikipedia explained a few more to me.  Generally these are dystopian worlds based on some sort of technology.  I don’t generally think of the Princelings world as dystopian, but The Flintstones was given as an example of Stonepunk (stone age), so I reckon a world running on strawberry juice (and raspberry juice in the north) gives me the ideal unique genre – Fruitpunk!

If you haven’t read any Princelings stories, you may get a little lost in this one.  The characters are just leaving Castle Vexstein at the end of the regular Kings’ Council meeting, where they discuss anything they like, but mainly things to keep their realms in peace and prosperity.  This story would take place in a few more year’s time, a couple of years after the Adventures of Victor – which is the next book due out in the spring.  Once more I think a collection of short stories taking my world forward is a good idea. They show you how the world is changing without having a big problem to solve to make a good story out of.   I’ve cut some things that I’d like in the story but aren’t relevant in a piece of flash fiction, so it might come out in a different form in future.

This piece of flash turned out at 1002 words including the title!

How to uncover a vampire

Castle Vexstein“That was a surprising conclusion to Lord Smallweed’s report,” Prince Lupin of Buckmore muttered to King Fred of Marsh and King Miles of Fortune as they left the meeting of the Kings’ Council.  Despite his preference to be called Prince, Lupin outranked them all.  Shades of his playboy past echoed in it.  “How are you getting home, anyway?”

“George is coming for me in his latest invention,” said Fred, while Miles just waved at his flying machine, standing ready for his attention at the end of the flat field cleared for visitors.

“What’s he done now?”  Miles was always interested in the latest designs.

“It’s only got one pair of wings! I thought it wouldn’t fly, but he’s made it work.”

“Ah, good, good,” said Lupin, as if he knew something the others didn’t.  Fred raised an eyebrow at him.  “All in good time, young Fred,” Lupin said.  “George will let you in on the secret eventually.  How long has he been flying it?”

“About two months, I think.  He wanted to do a certain number of hours in it under different weather conditions before he’d take anyone else up.”

“Does it ever crash?” Lupin mused as they watched the flyer from Palatinate take off and arc round to the north.

Fred laughed.  “He’s splashed down a couple of times; he says it handles differently in crosswinds and under bumpy clouds, but of course we’ve got the room for unusual landings.”

They did indeed.  At Castle Marsh they’d cut out miles of strips between the reeds; waterways catered for landings in all wind directions.  The worst that happened in a crash was getting stuck in the reeds.

“Do you think Smallweed meant to be so specific about the vampire threat?” Miles asked Lupin.

“He’s playing one of his games again,” Lupin responded.  “He and Colman have been having one argument after another recently.  It sounds like they’ve fallen out permanently.”

“Is that good for the Progressives?” asked Fred.

“I’m not sure.  Smallweed will never be progressive.  As for Colman, well, who knows… hello, what’s going on now?”  Lupin broke off as sounds of shouting came from the castle gateway.

An antique carriage had collided with the archway when the horses pulling it had taken fright at a motorized velocipede which buzzed past them.

“Who’s the hooligan on the motorpede?” asked Lupin.  His companions shrugged.

“We’re going to have to invent some sort of code of practice with all these vehicles on the road now.  Different types have different impacts on each other,” said Miles.

“Oh, not more rules and regulations,” sighed Lupin.  “Why can’t people just be polite to each other?”

Miles and Fred both grinned.  Everyone was polite to Prince Lupin.  He hadn’t any concept of what life was like in the rest of the realms.  The language in the strawberry fields was shocking, especially at harvest time.

“Who’s in the carriage, anyway?” asked Miles.

“Colman, I expect.  He doesn’t like being too close to the fuel cells.  Says they give him a headache.”

“It looks like it’s badly damaged,” said Fred.  “If he wants to get home tonight, he’ll need a lift from someone.”

“Well, he won’t stay here with Smallweed after that report,” laughed Lupin.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” said Miles.  “I can give him a ride home.  It’s hardly out of my way.”

“Do you think you’ll be safe with him?  Will you be home before dark?”

Miles looked at Lupin. “Are you serious? Do you really think he is one?”

Lupin gazed at Miles’ flying machine as it stood proudly on the grass.  He was fairly sure, and Smallweed’s report had concluded with a thinly veiled accusation at Colman.  It could be just jealousy on Smallweed’s part, of course. “You’ll have to draw your own conclusions,” was all Lupin replied.

“Well, I’ll do some research on the way home,” Miles said, and walked over to offer Lord Colman a lift.

“How are you getting back?” Fred asked Lupin.

“Oh, Pippin will be here with my taxi. Do you think he’ll let me fly it?”

“You never know,” said Fred, masking a grin. Pippin had far more sense and was probably the safest flyer in the realms.

He looked up as he heard the faint hum of two flying machines coming towards them. They made a fine sight flying together.  Then Pippin turned, lost height and landed on the grass. He drove up to Prince Lupin, and got him to climb straight in.  They watched George land after making an extra circle round the castle.  His new machine looked strange – the first with only one set of wings – the others all had pairs, one above the other.  He glided in and settled smoothly, bumping to the end of the grass strip and finishing beside Miles’ machine.

Fred waved at Lupin and greeted George, joining Miles and Lord Colman as they walked to the other machine.

“I tell you, I’m quite happy to wait for the stage,” Colman was saying.  “Flying makes me feel sick.”

“The stages from here run on aviation juice now,” Fred said conversationally.  “They go further before topping up.  It’ll be much quicker for you to fly.”

“And you’ll want to get back before those vampires Lord Smallweed was talking about start roaming the hills,” Miles added.

Colman gave him a dirty look, but climbed into Miles’ machine.  “The fastest around, you say?”

“Yes, we’ll be at Deeping within ninety minutes.”

“Less,” said George, “the wind’s from the north this afternoon.  Take it up higher and you’ll find it, Miles.  Hi, Fred.  Are you ready?”

Fred climbed into George’s machine and they followed Miles to the end of the landing strip, ready to take off.

And sure enough, only seventy minutes later, Miles unloaded a sick and miserable Lord Colman at his home, Castle Deeping.

The addition of garlic to the strawberry juice aviation fuel was doing wonders for clearing out the vampire population. George was a genius.

(c) J M Pett 2013.  All rights reserved.

Friday Flash Fiction: Fruitpunk
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