The latest anthology from Inklings Press - Tales From The Universe - included stories by several authors new to the imprint. One of those was the splendid Rob Edwards, who featured in a Q&A on this site just the other day. Here, he kindly presents a free story, a piece of flash fiction, a bon mot as a bonjour. Consider it a teaser for his work. If you enjoy it, his story Upgrade To Murder is ready and waiting in the new anthology. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin...
Operation: Throne War
by Rob Edwards
“Mark,” whispered Simon.
I gave the slightest of nods in return.
Two stories above, Hope was going to work, she was the best I’d ever worked with and if anybody could provide the distraction we needed it was her. Michael was up there with her, and for a moment I wished it was me. But no, Michael knew his job, and had quick hands. Besides if I’d been made, the whole operation would have been a bust.
Simon was counting down under his breath. On “Three” I stretched, leaning back, arms outstretched in a faux yawn.
I caught a flash of movement right where I’d expected it. I didn’t even have to adjust where my hand was. Michael truly was a wonder. A short, sharp pain, as the bunch of keys dropped into my waiting palm.
“Go!” I said and Simon stood, together we moved to the stairwell. Above I heard Hope’s gentle laughter, a pleasing sound, although not her real laugh. Her real laugh had a surprisingly earthy sound that spoke right to limbic system. I knew.
I shook my head against a sudden strong memory and followed Simon up the stairs, two at a time.
Simon’s job had been the hardest, he’d had to infiltrate this level over the last few days, establish his presence as the norm without arousing suspicion. Not easy in this cloud of paranoia, but Simon had a knack for it. It gave me the chance I needed, he could maintain lookout and cover my retreat without alerting the locals. He leant by the lift, pressing the ‘Down’ button. I had seconds.
For a moment, I fumbled the keys, but then, with a click, the door opened. My prize was in the middle of the room, begging to be taken. I stared, entranced, for a moment.
Simon hissed from the corridor “Lift’s here, hurry up.”
But I couldn’t resist. Slowly, reverently, I lowered myself into the chair. Brand new. 7-way adjustable. Lumbar support. Bliss. I leaned back, revelling in my victory.
And then I discovered my plan lacked one tiny detail. A small bolt that secured the seat to its stand. Missing that, the chair collapsed, and I toppled backwards, and landed flat on my back.
On the ceiling was blu-tacked a small sign. “The new chairs are for Accounts, not Tech Support, keep your thieving hands off,” it read and was signed “Mark.”