With The Greatest of Ease - Flash Fiction

It's been a while since I played with flash fiction challenges. However, this story practically begged me to tell it. You see, last Monday I was on Facebook and someone posted the formula for your steampunk name. It is as follows:Lord/Lady + The name of the main character in the last video game you played + the kind of tea you last drank + your favorite weapon I was christened Lady Valkyrie Chai Molotov. And I have to say I adore this name. It sounds like the heroine from bad 30s pulp serials. I decided I wanted to do something to that effect with said name. THEN Chuck Wendig posted his weekly flash challenge. This time we penmonkeys are to go here and generate a random crime-fighting duo. Pick your favorite, write it in 1000 words or less, post and have a drink. I realized that this was the perfect time to play with Valkyrie Molotov's character.

What did the random generator come up with for me? Several things. Here's the one that I loved most:

"He's a superhumanly strong zombie matador in drag. She's a cynical cigar-chomping bounty hunter who believes she is the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian Queen. They fight crime!"

In playing with the ideas for this flash piece, I've come to see that I want to do much more with her, Greyson and this idea. Containing her to 1000 words is very difficult and I think this is just too fun. I've decided to turn this into a serial story. Each will be a flash piece (rough draft, 1000 words or less), but they will be a continuing story.

Cheating? Yes. But guess what? I'm the author. I outrank the rules.

Anyway, here's the first in the Valkyrie Molotov serials. I hope you enjoy it.

With the Greatest of Ease by Jamie Wyman

Greyson snapped his feather-fan shut and crossed his arms over the bodice of his gown.  “Well done, Valkyrie,” he sneered. “Once again your tracking prowess has led us straight to the den of evil.”

Teeth tight around her cigar, Valkyrie snarled, “Shut up, rotter. Mobius is here. I can feel it.”

“That’s what you said last month in…Majorca was it? And before that it was a shabby little town in the Italian Alps.”

“My instincts took me there. Just as they’ve led us here.”

“Well, could your instincts please take us to Paris sometime?” Greyson worried at his bustle. “I’m thinking something in an emerald green silk would look fabulous with my complexion.”

Valkyrie spat into the straw beneath her boots. “And here I thought you wouldn’t be caught dead in green.”

“Seasons change, Val. Besides, I’m caught dead in everything.”

She didn’t look at him but sensed the grin on his face and imagined the wink of his long lashes. Valkyrie Molotov had no glances to spare for Greyson when the bounty was so close.

“He’s here,” she growled.

“But where, oh wise one?”

She’d been hot on his trail from London south to the peaks of Gibraltar. They’d played a vicious game of hopscotch across the islands of the Mediterranean, danced up into the Continent proper. But Vlakyrie had always been a step behind. Now, though, she’d caught up to him. No more chasing a ghost. No more dancing with shadows. Her white whale swam in this sea of rubes and circus performers.

However unlikely it might be, this place reeked of Victor Mobius’s greasy presence.  The slime of his shadow coated everything: the muddy earth, the pennants snapping in the wind and cars of the train snoozing on the rails. Valkyrie let her eyes sweep over the tattered tents, their squat forms reminding her of mushrooms. Somewhere in that fungal forest lurked a creature more deadly than the most toxic of spores.

Valkyrie closed her eyes, listening. Barkers crowed of bearded women and sword-swallowing men. Games jangled in a cacophony, dissonant with the music of a calliope. As the crowd milled about, they created their own music of rustles, bustles, ohs and ahs. She had to dig down beneath the din of the circus and find the signature drag-thump of Mobius’s awkward gait, the metallic clicking of his clockwork leg and the jingle of his ornate pocket watch.

“Bast,” she cursed under her breath.  “Come on, Greyson. Let’s find the bastard before Mobius has a chance to get up to mischief. And keep your head down,” she added. “Wouldn’t want someone to add you to the freak show.”

Valkyrie barged into the crowd, her broad shoulders cutting a swath through humanity as she followed her instincts. The carousel. Was it spinning a little too fast? Over to the menagerie. Would he cause the elephants to stampede? As a child passed nearby with penny candy, Valkyrie wondered if the fiendish doctor would poison the lemonade.

As if he heard her thoughts,  Greyson bent and whispered into her ear. “He’ll be where he can cause the most damage.”

From the largest of the squat tents, a brass band blazed a fanfare. The crowd’s current shifted to flow under the big top. Valkyrie eyed the glowing portal ahead of them. The flickering lights within the tent showed the hunter pictures, strange silhouettes of too-large men and gargantuan creatures. Something called to her bones. Perhaps the gods of old whispered to her. She needed no clearer sign than the dancing shadows to know…

Valkyrie puffed once more on her cigar before throwing it to the ground and stamping it dead with the heel of her boot. “Finally.”

She led the zombie out of the sea of people and into the dark recesses of the lot. The stink of greasepaint, manure and grain alcohol grew thick as they edged around the rear of the main tent.  Valkyrie slipped in, her gaze alighting up to the center of the big top. Squinting, she could just make out something strapped to the king pole. Something all too familiar. The phantom scent of a charred village outside of Turin filled her nostrils.

“There,” she said.

Greyson gasped with understanding. “He’ll bring down the whole tent.”

“And burn everyone inside,” Valkyrie confirmed.

Valkyrie wrenched off her leather coat and thrust it into the zombie’s arms.  Twisting her braid and knotting it at the base of her neck she barked, “Find him! I’ll get up there and see if I can disarm whatever he’s cooked up this time.”

“Hurry.”

“Isis, grant me your wings!” Vakyrie breathed.

And then she was off, scaling rope ladders and shinnying up the poles. She climbed higher until the audience was little more than a blur below.  At the center of the big top, she examined the glass canisters secured there. Amber fluid bubbled and gurgled inside while watch parts ticked a wicked rhythm. She had no idea how much time she had, or what precisely would happen when those minutes expired. Experience warned her, however, that it would be catastrophic if she failed to stop Mobius’s plot.

“My dear friend,” sang an unctuous voice.

Her blood simmered. “Mobius.”

Join us next time for the continuing story of Valkyrie Molotov.