Rise Up is my thought for the illustration in the badge – Freedom Morning by Claude Clarke. It’s a tricky one, because I’m combining the WEP flash fiction challenge with the A to Z Challenge where we’ve reached R. Rise up against Racism is one of the ideas floated. And although I promised to keep my post nearer 600 words this month (as I went way over last), this is just under 1000.
I’m also doing Camp NaNoWriMo, and the version NaNoFinMo, which is the challenge to finish my novel. As the month has gone on, I’ve got further behind with Zanzibar’s Rings, yet more involved with the world it’s set in, so coming out to do Rise Up kept getting pushed to the side. Then I realised… it’s a plot scene. All I had to do was get far enough into the book to get to this scene and write it. Talk about last-minute–I wrote this last night. Apologies for any typos not spotted. Maggie is one of the principal characters, along with Pete and Lars, who are elsewhere. And it’s scifi, I suppose I’d better warn you of that. Come back on 30th April and see if I finished the book 🙂
Maggie Ingleton watched the Federation troops stomp through the town. So far they’d not bothered rounding up the remaining population, after they’d gunned down those who tried attacking them, or refused to obey their orders. Or just a random sample, as a reprisal.
“We’ve seen these tactics before,” Arthur Grantworthy said. He was one of the four Elders of Sunset Strip, a simple beach resort, once a popular tourist destination, even if it was on one of the most remote planets in the galaxy.
“It’s only remote if you’re a long way from it,” the brochures said, “unless you really want to get away from it all.”
Now it was a smoking ruin, courtesy of a Federation fighter force backed up by several hundred robot troops.
Three Elders had gathered under the ruins of an inn, the “Why Not?” and asked Maggie to join them. Pete and Lars were on the council, but they were off on another mission, much to Grantworthy’s disgust.
“What can be more important than protecting the lives of a planet?”
Maggie was not at liberty to tell him, and anyway, it was too complicated. Now it was Us versus the Fed. And the Fed had more firepower, better communications, and no need of food, by the look of them.
“How do you mean?” Maggie asked, in response to the question of tactics.
“Kill off the first defenders, which reduces both the available firepower and, usually, the best fighters. Kill off anyone who disobeys them, to dissuade others, and, just to make sure nobody thinks they can outwit them, kill people at random, especially as a punishment for any act of insubordination or sabotage. People stop their fellows from breaking the new rules, just to save themselves.”
Maggie looked at the others. Tylene Smithson, erstwhile leader, seemed exhausted. Ever since the communications blackout, when all the satellites failed and normal comms ceased to work, she’d been working tirelessly to turn those people stranded in the town into self-sufficient citizens. Planning for a limited future. Setting up food banks and skill sharing. Planning to keep those that were here healthy and well until the next crop came, and the one after that, until they became a self-contained community.
Grenita Farmint, representative of the farming community; the one with all the pressure of turning the agricultural businesses into community resources, feeding more mouths with less seedstock. Finding alternatives to technological solutions. It hadn’t helped when someone had raided their precious seedbank and taken a large selection of precious seeds. Tylene had thought it was off-worlders wanting to set up independent communities, but now nobody was sure. Maybe it had been the Fed agents stuck here while purporting to be on vacation.
Arthur Grantworthy was the most abrasive personality, but Maggie could see why he was an Elder. He was a major landholder, the principal requirement, but he questioned everything they did. This often turned a hopeful plan into a realistic one. Now his insight into the tactics made them think of other places, other wars.
“So, we need a solution that has worked before,” Tylene replied. “Those committed to a free planet will rise up. Some won’t, the ones who toady to the overlords. There are always some.”
“It would help if we had some idea how to disable these robots. Nobody can get near them to disarm them.” Grenita said.
“Well, I don’t suppose anybody here knows how to do that,” Grantworthy sniffed.
“If Paris were here, he’d know,” Tylene said.
“But he isn’t.” Grantworthy stamped on the thought, as much to avoid talking about their fourth member, Paris Strongarm, who had gone missing, feared dead.
Maggie remembered thinking Paris had been a spacer once, from something he’d said. Some swearwords, in fact. She smiled, which gave the others the wrong impression.
“I’m sorry, I was just thinking of something Paris said to me once. In fact… what about the other spacers around? What do they know?”
“Nothing.” Grantworthy dismissed them all. “All they want is for your fellows to reappear and get them to their ships. Fat chance of that happening now.”
“There’s someone else who’s managed to rise up against occupying troops,” Tylene said, looking at Maggie.
“You mean the Corsairs?”
“I do. Can we contact them via that old-fashioned radio thing you were talking about?”
“I’ll try. What do you want me to find out?”
“See if they know how to disable these Fed robots. If they can come up and do it, all the better.”
“I don’t think they can do that,” Maggie said. The storm belt at their planet’s equator meant only high atmosphere travel, and that had been a victim of the comms failure. All computers used comms. “I could ask them, but we don’t know if the Fed are monitoring the radio channels. They can’t be scrambled or anything.”
“Try anything, Maggie. If we die because of it, it’ll be better than dying later wishing we had tried.”
It took a week to put the plan together. All the remaining townsfolk had their share of the essential ingredient needed to disable the robots. Tylene had spoken to each family and group, assessing who might turn their back on the scheme. Only a few off-worlders were suspect. Arthur engaged them one night and got them talking about another plan entirely. With his gammy knee, he was not the best person for saboteur work.
The rest of them assembled at their designated spot a few minutes before dawn. As the robot guard changed, they attacked.
Spraying soap on the robots, their guns, their feet, and into the visual orifices did exactly what the community in the south had said: disabled them, blinded them, and toppled them.
The spacers stranded in the city took great delight in disassembling them for spare parts.
And most importantly, discovered their novel method of communication, which they could use to improve their own lives in the years to come.
© J M Pett 2021
So how am I doing on my NaNoFinMo? Caught up a little since Monday, partly due to pushing to get to a stage where I could see this piece and write it. Need to do 2500+ words a day to finish my NaNo target on time. I might make it… see the progress bar below.