A Simpler Plan (Friday Flash Fiction)

One of the things I like about short stories—or any fiction, really—is imagining the lives of the characters beyond the last page. If the story continued, what would they do next?

When it’s my own story, I can answer that question fairly easily: write more!

And that’s what this bit of flash fiction is. Back in 2012 I wrote a story called “Scorned,” which appeared in an anthology called The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy.It ended with a new beginning of sorts for the main character, Marcus, who goes by the name Megawatt because he has a (deadly) way with electricity.

So when ’Nathan posted the photo below for a recent Friday Flash Fiction, it led him to revisit his story in that anthology as well. In my case, flames are not the same as electricity, but close enough.

This story also contains a passing nod to a character in an unpublished story, one that I never sent out because I wasn’t sure where to send it. In the same way that villains are fun to write, sidekicks frequently deserve more exploration, and combining worlds from different stories and books is so much fun for me as a writer, and as a reader.

I might send that story out to my mailing list, so go sign up, yo. Meanwhile, read on and enjoy.

Image of a raised fist enveloped in fire

A Simpler Plan

“This isn’t going to work.”

Across the table, Evan stared with deep concentration at the half-transparent building hovering above the surface. When Evan got that look, Marcus had learned, he was digging either deep into the past or into multiple future possibilities, looking for scenarios where the outcome would be what they wanted. So when he said their plan would fail, Marcus listened.

Lochley was not so patient. She got that smirk on her face that reminded Marcus of the gymnast who never looked impressed by anything. “Why not just—“ She flicked a finger toward the diagram, which splintered into pixelated fragments. Dale yelped. “—clean house? Well, House and Senate.”

Dale summoned the scattered photons of the schematic back into place above the table. “I spent a lot of time programming this, thank you very much.”

“Plus, that high a level of collateral damage would… displease Mr. Smith,” Evan said. No one had to look into the future to know that was true. Besides, Mr. Smith hadn’t officially sanctioned this operation. It was a strictly a side gig. And since they weren’t getting paid… more like hobby work.

“Besides,” Evan continued, “not everyone has allied themselves with that man.”

There had been an almost tacit agreement never to mention the madman by name, Marcus noticed.

“Pfft.” Again, Lochley flicked a wrist. “Better to start from scratch and let the early retirements of their predecessors send a message to those who’d succeed them.”

“Do that,” Evan said, “and you’ll bring every branch of law enforcement and the military down on us. Don’t be stupid.”

Marcus had to admit that Lochley’s approach had a certain appeal, but Evan was not wrong, either. They’d be one and done. And dead.

Marcus should have left the country when he had the chance, before the borders closed. Yes, he could probably have blasted his way out, and still could. But that would attract attention, and attention was not what an escaped felon with metahuman powers necessarily wanted.

On the other hand, everyone would know he was involved when the alleged leader of the alleged free world was abducted during a major speech and his corpse deposited at The Hague where he was wanted on human rights violations.

C’est dommage.

“This is too public,” Marcus said. He circled the schematic counterclockwise, passing behind each of the other metas, watching how they each reacted. He was the oldest—not a distinction he necessarily enjoyed, but age did have its benefits. They listened to him, even if only to dismiss him as a conservative old man. “I know you want to make a statement, but this statement will get most of you killed, without a high probability of success.” Marcus caught Evan’s eye. “I think you can back me up on that, yes?”

Evan nodded, then looked away. His eyes were the loveliest shade of blue, pale enough to almost be violet, like Liz Taylor’s.

“‘Get you killed,’” Lochley repeated. “Are you saying you’re not going to be part of this?”

Around him, Marcus felt the air shift. Lochley’s fingers twitched. Smiling, he raised a finger. “Patience, my dear,” he said, and for punctuation he sent an arc of electricity through his fingertip and curled it around his fist. He kept it playing as he continued, enjoying more than a little bit the way everyone’s hair frizzed a little as he did so. “I’m fully on board with this, as long as we are sensible about it. We need to rethink our tactics.”

“Come at the target a different way?” Evan asked.

“Different way, different time, different methods, but just as effective. And better yet, we all live.”

He gestured toward the simulation and Dale closed it down. Grabbing a pen and a sheet of paper, Marcus leaned over the table and began to draw. He liked doing things the old-fashioned way.

“Now, tell me what all of you know about playing golf….”