Fiction Exercise: Music to My Sunburned Ears

I wrote this for a workshop exercise back in January, a bit of action-oriented sci-fi. Hope you enjoy.


Carter settled in the corner of a ruined cafeteria, where some of the gunmetal gray ceiling still remained to give him shelter. Gunshots and plasma blasts whacked against his ears, the kind of music that would race his heart and sweep him up in the wash of adrenaline. A music that put him at the edge of death, and gave him a stronger sense of life than anything else could.

His dark green trench coat swept dirt and broken glass and flakes of dried blood over the floor, his fingers plucking shots from the bandolier and poking them into the chamber of his Frenesat rifle. Creaks resounded through the wrecked ship underneath him, as if the massive craft were trying to revive itself and leave the battlefield. Fighters shot by like piloted missiles, chasing each other through air that stung with smoke.

“Base, base, come in,” Carter said through his headset, which crackled with static. “Carter reporting, come in.” For an eternity, he only heard the static, behind cover, with only the hours-old bodies of the crew to keep him company. Any minute now an incandescent green streak of wayward plasma could evaporate the bulkhead and end his life before he felt the burn.

“Base-” he shouted.

“Base here, Carter.” One of the lower captains barked into his ear. “Go ahead. You have a sit rep, Corporal?”

“Same as everywhere I’ve been today, sir. SOL. Bad luck’s following me like a lost puppy. I’m on the upper mess hall for the Lightning Revenant. Something tore an awful big hole in its back, after it dropped out of orbit. Could there be any survivors here?” He gave a glance to one of the bodies, a young woman in a green jumpsuit, with very little blood around her. He could have sworn she moved. The ship shook from a missile strike, is all, he told himself.

“We got no report of survivors leaving the Revenant,” said the captain through a momentary flurry of static. “If you got no other orders, you can work your way down through the decks. That spacecraft’s the best shelter out there, in any case.”

Carter stood up, cocking the silver rifle and letting it rest in his grip like a lover’s palm. “Agreed. I’ll continue inside. Carter out.”

Just as his first sprinted step took him out from the scrap of ceiling and bathed him in a bright blue sun, the girl in the emerald jumpsuit moaned. He wheeled around to find her pushing up from the field of corpses on one arm. The other one was broken, awkwardly contorted in its sleeve, and her hands were leathery red from sunburn. She must have lain there the whole time since the Revenant’s crash.

“Help me,” she mouthed, her bloodshot eyes finding Carter’s. “Help me. Please.”

Carter dashed to her and gingerly slung her good arm over his shoulder. A stab of resentment couldn’t be entirely ignored. The battle was no longer his idea of fun, a game, a jungle gym with shrapnel. Now he had to save someone’s life other than his own.