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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: “Attack of the Cliche Circuit”

This prompt for Flash Fiction Friday was one of the most difficult for me, especially since I used a very loose interpretation of what an antagonist is.  I chose to write a science-fiction story and I never realized how much you have to keep track of: ranks, ship layouts, and command procedures (to name a few).  I gave it my best shot and only went a couple hundred words over the word limit this time.  Thanks for reading!

Prompt: This week’s prompt is to start with one conflict and reverse the polarity.  Let’s see what happens when the tables are turned and your protagonists or antagonists are suddenly holding the fate of the other in their hands.
Genre: Any
Word Limit: 1,300 words
Deadline: 10/19 by 8:30 PM ET

Attack of the Cliche Circuit

Admiral Morgan awoke to blaring sirens and flashing lights. Still tugging on his uniform, he stumbled down the corridor towards the bridge. So intent was he on reaching the command room, he nearly ran into Lieutenant Gaffreys. He was standing in the middle of the hallway, staring out a side window into space.

“Gaffreys! Why are you just standing there?! This is a full emergency!”

“Oh, Admiral! I was on my way to the bridge when I looked out this porthole to see if I could glimpse the threat...”

Lieutenant Gaffrey's words trailed off as he started staring out the window once again. Morgan touched the lieutenant's shoulder to get his attention.


“My God... It's full of stars...”

Gaffreys' words startled Morgan because they were so strange. They teased at the corners of his memory, but the alarms were sounding and there was no time for remembering. Morgan left Gaffreys looking out the window and sprinted the rest of the way to the bridge.

Morgan entered the command room shouting. “I need a report of the situation!”

“We, uh, appear to be in the middle of a meteor shower, Admiral. It came out of nowhere!”

The Admiral turned towards the speaker in surprise.

“Ensign Creed? What are you doing manning the bridge? Where's the Vice Admiral?”

“She started feeling ill halfway through the second shift. She's in the med bay right now recovering, but before she retired she put me in charge while you slept.”

“Creed, you're the least qualified person on board to run this ship! Why would she choose....Oh my God.” The pieces started to fall into place in the Admiral's mind, his expression slowly changing from surprise to horror.

“Sir? I've actually got it under control. Even though the shields are offline, the navigation system is still running and our pilots are getting us through the shower.”

The Admiral shrugged him off and grabbed the intercom. He yelled into it, “I want all hands on deck who aren't otherwise engaged to find me Captain Logan. Make this your top priority!”

“What's so special about Captain Logan, Admiral?” Creed asked.

“He's BLACK!” the Admiral responded.

“That's not very racially sensitive, sir” piped up one navigator nervously. “He may be the only African American on board, but that's no reason to single him out.”

Before Morgan could reply, a second lieutenant came running into the command room, urgency apparent on her face. “Admiral! Sir, there's a problem with the AI!”

“Give me a report, Lieutenant Liu.”

“It started in the mess hall, sir. Second shift was trying to order rations from the Substance Processor when all the orders started coming out wrong. We tried getting through to the tech department through the comms, but no messages are getting through. Now the door access system is malfunctioning. We've got personnel trapped in rooms with no way out!”

The Admiral sat back, arms crossed as he contemplated these developments. Sitting up, he addressed the terminal in front of him. “Computer, find me the coordinates for the Gamma system.”

A mechanical voice responded with “I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.”

The crew looked at each other in confusion.

“Is your first name Dave, Admiral Morgan?”

Ignoring the question, Morgan switched off the terminal. Covering the intercom, he whispered to the navigators “Get the pilots on the manual navigation system.” Turning to Second Lieutenant Liu, he said “The AI's gone rogue. Quarantine it.”

Liu ran out of the bridge just as a group came in escorting Captain Morgan. He was out of breath, his red shirt showing sweat stains down his front and back. Seeing the Admiral, he broke away from his escort.

“Admiral! What's going on? I was on my daily run when the alarms suddenly started going off and then these guys came and told me you need to see me right away.”

Relief flooded Morgan's face as he grasped Logan's arms. “Thank God you're o.k., Captain!”

“Sir? What is goi-”

The Admiral cut off the Captain midsentence. “There's no time to explain, Logan. Creed!”

Ensign Creed appeared behind the Admiral's right shoulder and awaited his instructions.

“Creed, I want you to stay by Logan's side and never leave it for a second. We need him safe. Take a group with you. I want you all armed.”

Ensign Creed escorted a very confused Captain Logan out of the bridge. As they were leaving, the Admiral caught sight of Logan's shirt and yelled after them “And for the love of God, change Logan's shirt. Anything but red!”

“We're out of the meteor shower, Admiral,” the head pilot reported.

“Good. Stay on the manual drive and someone find me Lieutenant Liu. I need a report on the AI's status.”

Morgan sank into his chair, his hand covering the worried look on his face. “Please don't let this be what I think this is...” was all he said for several minutes. His other hand fingered a key he had hanging around his neck and the remaining crew looked at one another, no one wanting to disturb his contemplation.

Second Lieutenant Liu jogged in and broke the silence. “Sir? You wanted an update?”

The Admiral sat up, his face all business, and turned to face the second lieutenant. “Give your report, Liu.”

“Well, sir, we have the AI isolated in the mess hall. We managed to contain it in a toaster.”

“A toaster?”

“Yes, sir. It was the only piece of equipment not connected to the network. We felt it was safest.”

“As long as it worked. Jettison it into space; we'll install a new AI when we reach port.”

“Understood, sir.”

“Good work. You're dismissed, lieutenant.”

Just then Ensign Creed came running in, panic stricken and covered in blood, shouting “He's gone!”

The Admiral jumped up and steadied the shaking man. “Where's Logan, Creed? What happened?”

“We were in the laundry room getting a change of uniform when Captain Logan noticed how quiet it was. Usually you can hear all the machines going down there. Right after I said 'Too quiet' a monster reached down from the air shaft and took him. I tried to grab him, but...”

“Where was your armed escort?!”

“It was the laundry room, sir. We didn't think we needed them in there...” Creed started crying and wringing his hands.

“What did the monster look like, Creed? Did it have tentacles?”

“How did you know, sir?” Creed marveled. “Did you know it was on board?”

Morgan shook his head and paced the bridge, fingering his key again. Worry lines creased the Admiral's forehead. Stopping, he turned to a navigator and asked him to pull up the personnel files.

“What am I looking for, sir?”

“I want you to find me the woman on board with the biggest breasts. Once you identify her, send a dispatch to bring her here.”

A murmur started among the crew and someone piped up, “Just what is going on, Admiral?”

Admiral Morgan sighed and said, “We need Samson.”

The navigator cleared his throat, catching the Admiral's attention. “It's Lieutenant Sky, sir. She's already in here.”

Morgan immediately slipped the key off from around his neck and handed it to the lieutenant.

“Go to the last capsule in the Cryo chamber. Use this key to start Samson's rehydration process. When it is complete, bring him here. And hurry!”

Lieutenant Sky sprinted out of the room as quickly as her ample bosom would allow. Once she was on her way, Morgan turned to look at his bewildered crew.

“While we wait for Samson, let me explain what I know. They warned us about this in the academy, but I never thought I'd ever actually encounter one. What we are experiencing is a rare occurrence that has been documented no more than twice in the last 2000 years. It's called a 'Cliché Circuit.' Every ship carries a fail safe on board in case of it, but it's more a precaution than anything. That fail safe is called Samson.”

The bridge erupted into anxious conversation as the crew internalized the Admiral's announcement. As time passed and the group quieted down, noises could be heard coming from the supply closet.

“Sir, there's something in the closet. Should we-”

“No! Do NOT open that door! Logan's gone so any one of us could be next!”

The scratching noises got louder, and the crew huddled together around the room, waiting. After half an hour, Lieutenant Sky returned, holding a wiggling puppy in her arms. The more she attempted to keep it from licking her face, the harder it tried, its tail knocking against desktops and chairs as it wagged wildly.

The Admiral sighed in relief and took the puppy from Sky. Patting him on the head, he turned to his crew and said, “Samson's here. Everything's going to be alright.”

Photo credit: Sweetie 187


LMAO! BRILLIANT! I totally forgot the title as I read, but then the Admirial mentioned the "Cliche Circuit" and it all clicked right into place. I love it!

I loved the story :) and it made crave old sci-fi movies that contained a plot, and believeable characters. It really is brilliant, and despite full of clichees, it's so original. You creatively weaved together so many bits and pieces from other sci fi clichees and textured a beautiful tapestry. I wonder what will happen to them next, but I am also more curious as to why that all started happening. In space, very strange things can happen. You show us that in your story. I love how Samson the puppy saved the day. I had so many laughs reading it. BRAVO!

I love them all, Ms Writing Simplified. I love the stories. My students are dead tired from benchmarking and pre-assessment OAKS test. Basically they pretest them before they pretest them for the Oregon state test. So I'm printing your stories, birthright, this one, and currency of death and we will spend three days reading them and analyzing them. As a social studies teacher I've been trying to spark an interest in the students in historical fiction, and your stories just might do the trick :O)

So anyway, about your story, I truly loved it! I didn't see any clichees though, and I was left wondering about the name. My husband had to point them all out to me. Congrats on a great story. I think you've found your niche; science fiction is definitely your thing.

Amanda from Oregon

Carmen - To say this is brilliant is an understatement. I love your treatment of the genre, and even though you use a lot of cliches (the point of the story), there is nothing 'obvious' about your writing... it is unique and original.

A very well-crafted story. Thank you!

I gotta say, you had me until the very end. You're a wily one, you. I didn't see any clichees until the end when the chief says cliche circuit, it was then that it all made sense. Good work, and quite original. I liked this. I didn't get the one about the red shirt, I didn't know that was a clichee. The girl with the enormous breasts, that was a nice clichee to throw in there. This was very original, and fun to read.

-Edith Gravois

Thanks, you guys! I love writing these short stories but I'm afraid they're taking me away from the original vision of this blog. I'm half way through writing a blog post about why spellcheck and grammarcheck are less than helpful and can never ever replace a human proofreader. I can't wait to hear what your students think about the stories, though :)!

You said you wanted to hear what my students thought of your stories. Before I tell you, I gotta tell you that I loved them, my husband loves them, and a lot of my friends that I have shown them to also like them. So don't interpret their reaction to the stories as a criticism on you or your stories.

My students have the attention span of a gnat, and are lazy and refuse to read. A lot of them didn't even wan to try, and some could not bear to read more than 2 paragraphs. It was as if it was painful for them. But please don't interpret that as your stories being bad. What I have is a lot of hopeless students who are not fit to live in this world. Sometimes I ask myself why am I teaching them if they don't want to learn. They literally shut down and REFUSE to learn anything. After the way they behaved when I wanted to have a fun day reading stories, I feel like I want to invent a time machine, travel back in time, and convince their mothers to abort them. Is it this bad everywhere? Or does god hate me and issued me the worst kids in the world? I can't stand how lazy they are. Sorry I'm venting, but this is to show you their reaction had nothing to do with your stories. I loved them.

My star pupils liked them a lot, especially the one about the exorcists. They wanted to know what happens after. The majority of my students are, I hate to say it, not worth teaching. But all 6 of my star pupils loved them. we all got our chairs in a circle, read together, and talked about your stories. The other bad apples put their heads down, some texted, and others were unable to be quit so I kicked them out, all 22 of them. I got them all suspended because the principal saw how bad it was. Me and my students, we had a blast.

Thank you for the wonderful stories, and keep writing.

Amanda from Oregon

Hi Amanda!

Don't feel badly! I would have been surprised if your experiment had ended in any other way. When I was teaching at community college, I tried using very short excerpts from online fiction I enjoyed (like to teach transitions, topic sentences, etc. and it completely flopped. Some stories worked; "Death by Scrabble" ( was always a huge success with students when teaching symbolism. I had so much success in college with online fiction, I thought I'd do the same in high school. I was in for a HUGE shock when I started teaching high school.

In high school the textbook passages bored the kids to death so I constantly hunted down pertinent short stories (most from I spent so much time and energy trying to make lessons as engaging and enjoyable as possible, that it felt like a slap in the face every time they refused to participate. My students literally REFUSED to read. I would ask one to read and s/he'd say "No." I'd let them read silently since reading aloud was always a battle, then I'd ask about what the paragraph they just read said. I'd get "I don't get it" or "I don't know" all the time. Then I'd say "O.k., let's break it down farther. How about you tell me what this sentence means?" And I'd get the same responses. I'd go down to the word level and they still refused to cooperate. Most would just put their heads down on the table and sleep. I was so desperate to get through lessons, I'd read out loud TO them and then try to discuss the reading. I had students bragging to each other about how they had never read a single book in their lives and weren't about to change that.

I'm glad you have a core group you can count on. I'd do that too - pull a chair up in the corner and have those who wanted to learn something crowd around me and go over the lesson together while the rest of the class did whatever they wanted to do. It was chaotic but we weren't allowed to remove students from the classroom no matter how disruptive they were (because if they're not in the classroom, then they're not learning) and the police on campus did absolutely nothing even when told a student had threatened you with violence. They just told you to go back to your room and deal with it. I was the teacher who called parents regularly - even in the middle of class if a student refused to cooperate. The kinds of responses I'd get from parents ranged from verbal abuse aimed at the student to it aimed at me for bothering them. One even told me when I called to tell her that I sent her daughter home for showing up to school wearing shorts and a bra that unless her daughter was hit by a car, she didn't want to hear it.

I hope you teach in a public or charter school. I still have some hope left that private schools will save this nation. My parents took out loans to send me to private school and goodness, am I ever thankful for that now.

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