Mon. Feb 6th, 2023

For this story I had 48 hours to write it and was given the following prompts – It had to be action/adventure, the location had to be a launchpad, and it had to feature an ambulance somewhere. It also had a limit of 1,000 words. This story placed 13th in a heat of 36.

TEAMWORK

No one would suspect an ambulance. At least, that was the thought. The first two checkpoints waved Jake and his wife Darlene through without a question asked. It wasn’t until the third and final checkpoint that they encountered someone of a more scrutinising nature. He wanted to look in the back of the ambulance and they happily obliged. Jake opened the doors, and while the checkpoint guard took a peek, Darlene jabbed him in the neck with a sedative. Jake took the arms and Darlene took the legs as they carried the guard’s unconscious body back to his hut and raised the barricade. They both always said that the key to any successful marriage is teamwork.

            The rocket towered over them as they approached the launchpad with a deep-space vessel attached to it like a backpack. The rocket felt like the ultimate monument to its owner’s obscene wealth and power. A giant phallus with which he could claim the stars. That phallus belonged to their boss, Kevin Walker, who built his considerable fortune with the online shopping platform EZ. All your shopping needs were just a click away – EZ. He even put the logo on the side of his spacecraft in case any passing aliens needed a reminder to buy some cookware. Jake and Darlene hated the bastard. They had both busted their butts in one of his warehouses for 20 years with squat to show for it. Even smoke breaks got deducted from their pay. They cooked up this plan together the very moment they heard that Kevin wanted off this rock like all the rest of his rich buddies.

            When sea levels started to rise and people started to migrate, the billionaires started leaving the planet in droves, settling on a habitable world that the scientists called Proxima Centauri b. The first settlers had a bidding war to rename it. The winning bidder called it Elon, if you can believe that. They aspired to build a utopia on Elon, but Jake figured the whole thing was as doomed as the Earth itself. If your entire population is rich and powerful, then no one is rich and powerful, and those who have experienced power are not quick to release it without a fight. Jake and Darlene’s survival plan involved a bunker and some supplies to wait out the worst of the coming chaos. They just needed one big score to be all set.

            A line of EZ trucks all waited their turn to drive up the ramp and load their cargo onto the craft. It would be a one-way trip for Kevin, so he had decided to take anything of value with him, hoarding it all like Smaug from The Hobbit. He couldn’t directly transfer money from Earth to his new home, so Kevin had turned his wealth into portable assets and loaded those assets onto trucks from his fleet. There were rumours of several Picasso’s, a couple of Van Gogh’s, and even a few works from Da Vinci amongst Kevin’s collection. Just one of those trucks would probably be worth more than most people could earn in two lifetimes of honest work.

            Jake parked the ambulance beside where the Rent-A-Soldiers stored their munitions. They both climbed into the back and changed from their EMT uniforms into the EZ uniforms they used at work. Looking the part, they grabbed their guns and left the ambulance behind, walking towards the line of trucks with caps on and heads down. Kevin personally watched over the trucks with two soldiers at his back. He didn’t trust anyone else to supervise the proceedings with his whole fortune out there in the open. They tried to sneak past quickly, but he watched everything like a hawk.

            “Wait, why are you wearing warehouse uniforms? Who are you two? Show me some credentials.”

            “You got it, boss,” Jake said as he reached into his pocket and pressed the button on a remote trigger he purchased from EZ.

            BOOM!

            The ambulance exploded and ignited the munitions tent beside it. The ground shook with the force of the explosion as men were thrown almost as high as the rocket itself. A fire truck raced to the scene, and the two Rent-A-Soldiers at Kevin’s back ran to check on their men.

            “Where are you going!?” Kevin demanded of the soldiers as he looked about in wide-eyed panic. Darlene stepped up and pistol-whipped Kevin to the ground.

            She said, “I quit,” before making a run for the trucks while the distraction still pulled people’s attention away from them. Most of the drivers had stepped out of their vehicles to get a better look at the explosion; their faces all lit up bright orange. Jake and Darlene raised their guns while running for the trucks nearest them.

            “Nobody be a hero,” said Jake. “We only want the trucks and that piece of shit doesn’t pay you enough to die for him.”

            The drivers lifted their hands in the air and stepped aside. Jake took one truck, and Darlene took another. They got them moving and sped towards the exit. Kevin rolled over and spat some teeth on the ground as the trucks moved past him.

            “Stop them, you idiots!” he shouted through a mouth of blood.

            The soldiers turned their attention away from the fire and started shooting at the approaching trucks. Jake drew most of the shots as the lead truck, but he ducked his head, and Darlene returned fire from behind him, forcing the exposed soldiers to take cover. They crashed through the checkpoints and were home free.

            At a safe distance, Darlene and Jake got out to see what they actually stole. Both trucks were filled top to bottom with solid gold bars. A currency good in both the old world and the new.

            “Will it do?” Jake asked his wife as the sunlight made the gold glimmer.

            “It’ll do,” she said before kissing her husband deeply.

            Like they both said before, a successful marriage requires teamwork.

JUDGE FEEDBACK

”Teamwork” by Michael McGovern –     WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {2183}  The narrative takes a straight forward approach in its direction while poking fun of the major billionaire moguls of today. The chaos is well written, and the interactions between Jake and Darlene continuously reinforces this theme of teamwork. The satire is right on the nose and creates a comedic touch to the narrative.    {2112}  This is an exciting, action-packed read. It’s just close enough to real life to be alarming. I liked the clever refrain: the key to a successful marriage is teamwork.   {2121}  Jake and Darlene are a modern day Bonnie and Clyde as they rob the billionaire Kevin Walker, the owner and boss of their former place of employment. The relative ease with which they successfully infiltrate and steal trucks full of gold indicates how wealth and power doesn’t get you loyalty; Kevin’s Rent-A-Soldiers barely put up a resistance, wisely valuing their lives over a paycheck.    WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {2183}  There could be more struggle in Jake and Darlene’s path. It’s true that they reach obstacles at their third checkpoint and get caught be Kevin himself, yet there’s not a moment where the reader genuinely believes the couple could be in danger. By creating this kind of moment, it would raise both the conflict and stakes. Their journey does have its challenges but could use bigger bumps in the road.   {2112}  I think it would be fun to see a little more detail of just how disgruntled Darlene and Jake are. A few more examples of how they were mistreated in the warehouse, coupled with a few more details of Kevin’s overindulgences, would really sell it and make us even more squarely on team sabotage.   {2121}  Even though the two stole trucks full of gold bars, is it really going to affect a man with Kevin Walker’s level of wealth? What did they ultimately achieve by stealing? The two could potentially discuss this between themselves after they e made their escape. They clearly weren’t planning on killing him, but this theft also won’t stop Kevin from still escaping off the planet. Their attack may have been more impactful and satisfying if they happened to destroy the rocket in the process, or if the couple saw a final news report of some kind assessing the aftermath of the damage and loss.

By Michael