Music Be The Food flash fiction continues on with the eighth round. This time the song is “I Am Dust”, by Gary Numan. Listen to the song and then read the next piece of fiction, by Todd Skaggs.
It was said that the soul of God himself was covered in nuke-dust. It was everywhere. Certain times of day were worse than others. Certain times of year, too.
Today was one of the worst, on both accounts.
Oculus looked across the city from the roof of an abandoned building. Those were everywhere, too. One followed the other. First the nukes came. Then the abandoned buildings. And finally, the nuke-dust.
The figure next to Oculus cleared his throat.
“It won’t help,” thought Oculus. Nothing helps.
“So, the big guy is really coming, huh?” It wasn’t so much a question.
“Yeah.” Oculus nodded as he said it. Pointing out past the docks, long since abandoned, he said, “The word is that he will be coming in via sub. He’ll clear the biozone at dawn when the waters are still. They will have him in an armored convoy and at the St. Peter’s as fast as they can load him.”
“Who is handling the Op?”
Oculus tore his gaze from the horizon and stared at the man standing next to him. His contact had told him that the man’s name was Tuck. As in Friar Tuck and that he was ex-Vatican Special Forces. Rumor has it that he lost it when the Pope pulled a King Herod and went after the firstborn males in every city where there was a pulse.
The hold of the Church was tenuous. With no economy to speak of after the fallout, their currency was fear and control. Both were old familiar bedfellows to the church since the first Church took hold. Tuck had seen horrible things. And had the grace of God to walk away.
“You ask a lot of questions for a gutter scout, Tuck.” Oculus was getting annoyed. But worse than that, he was getting suspicious.
“Hey, I just got an inquisitive mind, what can I say?” Oculus assumed by the tone of the other man that there was some kind of attempt at a smile under the industrial filter of the gas-mask.
“I don’t know. They don’t tell a chimney sweep like me anything like that.” Oculus went back to scanning the rooftops and hoped that Tuck would go back to keeping watch of the streets. In silence.
“Oculus. That’s a funny name. What kind of name is that anyway?”
Tuck apparently did not get the telepathic hate mail Oculus was sending him.
“It’s Chinese. Mom was a hardcore gamer. Back when there was anyone to give a shit about that sort of thing.” Oculus didn’t know this guy well enough to get in to the whole story. Besides, it really wasn’t anyone’s business.
Tuck chortled through the mask. “So..what? Your brother’s name is Rift or somethin’?”
“No. Rift is my sister. But you probably don’t want to make fun of her. She has quite a bit more pull than I do in these parts.” Oculus didn’t like pulling the ‘my sister is the local resistance leader’ card if he didn’t have to, but he didn’t see any other way to shut Tuck up.
“Perfect” Tucker said to Oculus.
He turned to look just as the other man was lifting the darkened lenses of his goggles.
“Fuck a duck, Tuck, what in the hell are you doing?” No one raised their goggles outside. It just wasn’t done. That was lesson number one.
“Ah. The goggles. Well, you see, Oculus, I like to see the face of the person I’m killing.” Tuck’s left hand reached up and pulled the goggles and face wraps off in a quick jerking motion, letting the wind pick up the fabric and take it somewhere else.
Fear and panic raced through his mind. Oculus tried to grab the other man’s hand as it started pulling. It was no use. He could feel the nuke-dust making its way down his throat. He was quickly passing the point of no recovery. Screaming would accelerate the work of the nuke-dust. He was so focused on trying to breathe that Oculus didn’t notice what was in Tuck’s other hand.
A sharp pain came from just below his left rib cage. Looking down, he saw his robes getting darker as the world started to spin. A hand gripped his chin. Tuck’s hand.
“Nobody is getting the Pope, Oc.”
The pain in his ribs got sharper. He could only assume that Tuck was driving it in deeper. He could feel his knees getting weaker.
“By the way, Oc. There is no such thing as former Vatican Special forces. You retire when you die. Then you join the Angel Army. Either way, no one touches the Pope. Not even God himself.”
That’s when everything got dark for Oculus.
“Bad news from the Bio-Dome, ma’am.” The man standing before her was probably in his twenties. Not too bad looking. If this were another place and time, he’d probably be high on a long list of regrets.
Nobody had time for regrets these days.
“What is it Price?” she looked at him, waiting for him to speak. “Price, for fucks sake. Spit it out.” The impatience was racing the dread up her spine. It was too close to call which would settle on the back of her neck first.
“It’s Oculus, ma’am.”
“What happened?” She already knew the answer. She just had to hear it, officially. The conversation had to be logged. As did all of her responses. She waited for Price’s reply.
“Another sweep found him. He didn’t check in. They sent two sweeps out to his last known assignment. Found him dead on the roof.”
“How?” She knew the who, but not the how. She needed the how to fuel her rage. “How did he die?”
“His Respo-Hood and goggles were ripped from his face. And-” Price paused. Rift wasn’t sure if he was trying to spare her, or keep his lunch down.
“And?” She prompted, hoping she wouldn’t see his rations come back to visit.
“And his fucking lungs were punctured, ma’am. A silver rod jammed deep in to his lungs. Not deep enough to pierce his heart and kill him easily, mercifully. The rod stopped just short of mercy, ma’am.”
Rift could see a growing spark behind the pain in Price’s eyes. Beyond the pain. Anger. Hate. Vengeance. Price and her brother had been friends.
“Ma’am? Our scouts say that it was such a close-range attack that it was likely someone Oc knew.”
“That’s right, Price. It was. It was Tuck. ”
“Holy fuck, Rift. Uh, Ma’am.” For the second time today, he had forgotten the chain of command. Rift let it slide. She knew what Price was going through.
“It’s OK, Ben. I’m not looking to bust you today. Today I need you. Today I need you to get the word out. Get the word out on the streets that Friar Tuck is a dead man.”
“Yes ma’am. I’m on it.” Price turned to leave, but Rift grabbed his arm.
“And Ben, get the word out. Stop short of mercy. I want that asshole to pay.”
She let go of his arm and turned back to her monitors.
She pulled up the keyboard on the screen and initiated the secure communique.
SUSPICIONS RE: FRIAR TUCK CONFIRMED.
OCULUS DIAMOND KIA.
BOUNTY ON FRIAR TUCK: 100 GALLONS, DISTILLED. NO MERCY.
She turned away from the screen, allowing a single tear to fall from her eye. 100 Gallons was the highest bounty they had offered in the last couple of years, but she needed every street cleaner coming out of their hole for this one. Tuck had to be contained before he could get back to the Vatican.
Rift didn’t care what he knew. She simply didn’t care.
That asshole was going to die for what he did to her brother.
As God is my witness, she thought.
But she knew he wasn’t.
God gave up on this rock long ago.
Read more from Todd at toddskaggswrites.com.