The Break Up

This week’s flash fiction challenge: The Plot Scenario Generator

***

“Nothing better than grilled cheese Tuesdays, right?” said Duff as he sat down to eat the mountain of stacked sandwiches he had assembled.

“This isn’t working for me anymore.” said Marianna.

“I know you’re trying to eat healthy…”

“I’m talking about us. I think we should break up.”

Duff felt like the whole dining hall had suddenly gone silent.

“Duff, I love you, but…”

“It’s my family, isn’t it?”

“Listen, Duff, it’s more complicated.”

“To hell with them, I don’t care if they don’t approve of you.”

“I can’t be the wedge that drives you apart from your family. It’s too much. I’m sorry.”

“So you’re willing to throw away five years, just like that? We’re graduating next year, I thought we were about to start our lives together.”

“I did too, but what kind of life would that be? The disowned Van Asch heir and his low-born wife – it sounds like the plot of a bad Victorian novel.”

“I don’t care about where you were born or who your parents are, I told you that years ago.”

“I know, D, I know. You don’t know how hard this is for me.”  Her eyes could not hold back the tears any longer.

“Then stay. We’ll figure it out together.”

“I … I can’t. I’m so sorry, more than you will ever know.” She rose from the table.

“Mar, wait, where are you going? We need to talk about this.”

“Good bye Duff.”

Duff stared at the grilled cheese until it was well past cold. As he got up, he felt the weighty gaze of two hundred eyes fixed on him. He walked to her room but it was already empty.  That was the thing about Mar – she always traveled light.

The glint of metal caught his eye as he walked back to his room.  As he got closer, he saw a sword lying alone on the ornate carpet that lined the hallways of the Academy.

“That’s funny,” thought Duff, bending down to pick it up. “The suits of armor are only in the basement.”  A look of horror flashed across his face as he grasped the familiar hilt.

It was his sword.

The Academy had one rule – no weapons. Apart from the kendo shinai, no Academy student was permitted to use anything other than their body in their seven years of training. Duff’s sword had been locked up with the family weapons from the other students the day he had arrived six years earlier.

He heard footsteps approaching from behind.  As he turned, the grinning of face of Wallis Abaroa greeted him

“My, my. What do you have there, Duff?”

“You!”

“Who, me? I have no need of that dingy scabbard of yours, or have you already forgotten about my Hanzo spear? You must have seen it when you purloined your sword from the cache.”

“I didn’t take anything! It was just sitting here on the carpet.”

“Sure, sure. Someone broke into the most heavily fortified place in the Academy, stole your sword, got away undetected, and then left it gently on the ground just as you were walking by? It just sounds so … implausible, don’t you think?”

“I’m in no mood for your shit, Abaroa. My day was already going terrible.”

“Oh.  Then it’s about to get much much worse.”

Duff did not hear the footsteps coming. In an instant, they had him completely surrounded.

“DROP THE WEAPON NOW!”

Duff’s sword landed with a soft thud on the carpet.  Soon, a dozen other swords made themselves known. As Duff put his hands in the air, he saw Wallis shoot him another nasty grin.

“It was Abaroa! He set me up!”

“Baseless accusations will get you nowhere, Mr. Van Asch,” said the headmaster as he parted the swords and walked into the circle. “You are expelled from the Academy, effective immediately. There will be a car waiting for you outside in 30 minutes.”

***

The Van Asch name was still worth something, it seemed, and so Duff’s expulsion was stayed. pending a formal expulsion hearing. His family sent a lawyer, but no one else.

“Mr. Van Asch, do you have anything to say in your defense?” said the middle elder on the dais.

His lawyer had told him to admit everything and throw himself on the mercy of the tribunal. Duff had other ideas.

“Sirs, I have been framed.”

“We’ll hear no more of your unfounded allegations. Mr. Abaroa has 15 witnesses who will testify that he was eating lunch at the time of the incident.”

“But that’s impossible! Wallis was right there when I found the sword.  He…”

“ENOUGH. Is there anything else …?”

“May I be heard?” said a voice from the back.

“Ms. Casales, I thought you’d left us for good,” said the elder on the right.

“I had a change of heart,” said Marianna as she strode to the front, throwing a small smile towards Duff.  “Sirs, I’m afraid you have the wrong man. May I approach?”

“You may.” Mar handed up a small folded piece of paper.

“Now, the weapons cache is protected by a multitude of locks and barriers. We’ve learned to break through similar things in our classes over the years and have been graded accordingly.  What I’ve just handed you are the scores for Mr. Van Asch.”

“These scores are abysmal.”

“Precisely.  I know Duff better than anyone, but I’m afraid he couldn’t break his way into a room with the door wide open.”

“I resent that!” said Duff. Mar shot him a look.

“Thank you, Ms. Casales. We will retire to chambers to consider.”

As the elders walked out, Marianna joined Duff at the front table.

“You came back!” whispered Duff. “Listen, I’m..”

“No, I’m sorry Duff. I knew I was wrong the minute I walked out of the dining hall. I had been wanting to come back ever since, but with the expulsion…”

“It’s not important. I’m just happy you’re here now.”

‘Me too.”

***

My random plot scenario:

The story starts when your protagonist breaks up with a romantic partner.

Another character is a martial artist who claimed your protagonist was responsible for some crime s/he committed.

Morning Commute

This week’s flash fiction challenge: Last Lines First

***

“That plan didn’t fly, superhero, and now we’re short a bazooka,” Mar said as she chucked the spent weapon aside.

“I hate it when you call me that,” said Duff, surveying the wreckage of what was five minutes ago a charming antique shop.

“Sorry you don’t appreciate my humor.”

“Considering the situation, maybe you should save the witty banter for later. We’ve already killed two too many people, and it’s not even 9 AM.”

“I seem to recall that recon was your responsibility. Last time I let you tail a girl. You were probably too busy staring at her chest.”

“Look, we can point fingers all day, it might have been my fault, it might have been your fault, but maybe we should put some distance between us and this smoldering rubble we created first.”

“Don’t you dare drop the royal we on me, this is one thousand percent your screw-up.”

“Agree to disagree.”

Duff only just dodged the back of her hand.

“Remember all that talk about paperwork earlier? Well guess what, honey? You’re up to your neck in it now.”

***

The girl on the subway was nervous. She clutched her pink satchel close to her body, her mousy brown bangs hanging over the top of her sunglasses. Mar hated sunglasses on the subway, but this morning found her sporting a similar pair. She was also rocking mousy brown bangs, and clutching the exact same pink bag. The piece de resistance was her matching arrow tattoo on her wrist.

“Duff, have you figured out where she’s going yet?” Mar whispered to the small bug in her ear. “I’d like to get off this train as soon as possible, people are starting to notice.”

There were many weird occurrences on the New York City subway, but girls dressed in identical outfits still attracted attention. Luckily for Mar, the girl was lost in her iPhone and did not notice her doppleganger across the car.

“Downtown, she’s going downtown.” Duff chirped back.

She could have smacked him.

“You’re cranky in the morning, you know that?” said Duff after Mar went silent for three stops. “I’ve narrowed it down to two places. We’ll know which one after the next stop.”

Sure enough, the girl got off at the next stop and walked across the platform. Mar followed, concealing herself in a crowd of hipsters.

“She’s getting on the local.”

“Then she’s headed for Gregorson’s Antiques in the West Village. I’ll meet you there.”

Mar emerged from the hipster throng and walked toward the car door, not noticing that her bag had snagged a hipster’s headphones. As she tripped forward, the girl spotted her through the subway window and turned pale white.

“Shit, shit, shit. She made me.” The girl darted out of the car and up the stairs, as Mar regained her balance.

The girl was quicker than Mar expected, as she had already made it out of the station by the time Mar got off the platform. She ran up to the street and saw the girl tumbling over the hood of a car.

“Trying a little Parkour, are we missy? Two can play at that game.”

Marianna broke into a sprint and jumped onto the trunk of the nearest car, ran up to the roof, and then tumbled down on the hood. The girl was several cars ahead of her, but Mar was running on pure adrenaline and adrenaline always beat fear. She had nearly caught up when the girl darted sideways out of the road and down an alley. Mar followed.

The girl scrambled up a fence as Mar strode slowly toward her. Duff greeted the girl at the top and she fell backwards onto the pavement.

“Nice of you to show up, my darling husband. You could have at least brought me a coffee.”

“The line was too long.”

The girl stumbled to her feet, as Duff and Mar closed in.

“Just give us the bag and you can go,” said Mar.

The girl’s eyes darted back and forth between the Van Aschs, as if considering which one she stood the best chance against.

“I should let you know that we’re both equally deadly, so don’t go picking on my beautiful wife because you think she’s a pushover.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere my dear.”

The girl ignored their playful banter and made her decision. She feinted toward Duff but then quickly turned and pulled something out from the small of her back. Facing down firearms in close quarters was nothing new for Mar, but the girl’s mini bazooka seemed a bit much.

“That seems a little much for city combat, no?” quipped Mar.

The girl’s face betrayed no emotion as her finger moved slowly toward the trigger. She did not feel Duff’s sword in her back until it was already out. The girl crumpled to the ground, as Duff dove to catch the bazooka before it hit the pavement.

“What the hell, Duff? Did you have to kill her? I had everything under control.”

“First of all, you’re welcome. And second of all, as much as I admire your reflexes, I did not want to spend the afternoon filling out paperwork after she blew up half a city block.”

“Enough bickering for the morning, let’s just head down to the antique shop and make the exchange,” said Mar as she started walking away.

“Umm, Mar? Why is your tattoo on your right wrist?”

“What? Because the girl’s tattoo is on…” Mar turned around to see Duff holding up the tattoo-adorned left wrist.

“FUCK, FUCK, FUCK! How did this happen? You were tailing her for weeks!”

“I must have been looking at her reflection that first morning.”

“HER REFLECTION? You’re lucky I’m not holding that bazooka.”

“Look, maybe they only care about the tattoo and not what hand it’s on?”

“YOU’D BETTER HOPE SO!”

As the Van Aschs soon discovered, they did care about the left hand.

The Couple That Kills Together…

This week’s flash fiction challengeDown The TV Tropes Rabbit Hole

***

The exit was only 10 feet away.  Hunched behind a table, armed collectively with only a sword and a six-shooter loaded with one bullet, it seemed much further.  Especially given the 12 gun-toting men standing in the doorway.  But Marianna and Duff Van Asch had seen worse.

First, it was a steel table, with hints of titanium.  Duff had surmised as much by knocking it a few times with his sword.  A good vintage.

Second, Duff’s sword was not just a sword; it was the sword.  Well, one of them, to be precise.  The swords of legend – Excalibur, Masamune, the Heavenly Sword – were all cut from the same cloth, if that cloth were an ancient metal forged deep underground.  Duff couldn’t tell which version of the sword he had, but needless to say, it was a pretty good one.

Third, Marianna was saving that bullet for someone else.  Frankly, she hated that she had to carry the gun at all. As a graduate of the Academy, Marianna was well-trained in the lethal arts. She prefered to work with her hands.  But, traditions were traditions, and every Academy student had to choose a signature weapon upon graduation.  Duff was lucky, he had gotten his family’s sword.  Marianna had had to choose her weapon by sticking her hand in a wooden barrel and fishing around like a teenager trying to unclasp a bra (which Duff had ironically done to her bra later that night).  In the end, she had pulled out the six-shooter, much to her chagrin and the amusement of her classmates. And if that wasn’t enough, the gun had a note tied to the handle, which read glibly: “Only in case of emergency.”  This hardly qualified as an emergency.

“Mar, what’s our plan?” whispered Duff.

“Why do I always have to decide? You’re the one with the sword, you figure it out.”

It was a constant refrain in their marriage. Normally they left their bickering behind when they were on the job. The typical marital squabbling did not play well in their line of work.  But Marianna was particularly miffed at having to dream up another escape plan today, especially when Duff was the one who tripped the alarm in the first place. There was no doubt that Duff was an excellent fighter – he certainly didn’t need her help handling these amateurs – but Marianna wished that he would take more initiative sometimes.

She knew that he was more than capable; after all, he managed to woo her at the Academy (although it had taken Duff the better part of their first year to ask her out).  Duff tried the  formal upper crust courtship routine, but he soon realized that Marianna was a different type of girl and he was going to have to step up his efforts if he wanted to land her. And land her he did, but not until end of their final year at the Academy, which culminated in the Blind Duel Challenge.

One by one, each member of the graduating class faced off, blind to their opponent’s identity, by way of ornate masks.  Duff and Marianna had been an item for a couple of years at that point, but Duff felt he had to prove to her that he was not some entitled brat and the challenge provided the perfect opportunity. His path to the finals was relatively easy.  Although weapons were not allowed, Duff was a pretty good martial artist in his own right, and he had quickly dispatched his opponents with a few carefully-timed punches and a series of quick throws.

His final opponent was a different story.  He or she moved with such an effortless grace, swatting away Duff’s punches casually with the back of a hand.  Part of the challenge of the tournament was masking your fighting style.  The Academy students had trained together for so long, that by the time graduation rolled around, everyone knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Duff knew that Mar preferred quick, intense movements, and while he had hoped that he could face (and beat) her in the finals, he figured his opponent was probably that jerk Wallis Abaroa.

Duff continued to rain punches and kicks on his opponents, but was having little success. His thoughts turned to the box back in his room and the different challenge he faced later that night. He wasn’t sure if he should more nervous about that conversation or his present opponent.

Who had just vanished from view.

Before he could turn around, it was too late, and his opponent landed a stiff wrist to the back of his neck that sent him staggering forwards. Regrouping, Duff spotted an opening and he took it.

***

“Alright, I get the point,” said Duff. His eyes moved from her to the table.  “On three?”

“A little messy, don’t you think?.”

“I didn’t realize you had grown so attached.”

Mar kicked the table forward as the shots rang out. Several red shirts dropped to the floor even before Duff sprang up.  He deflected one bullet back to its owner, dodged another, and soon only one opponent remained, a towering brute with a giant gun to match. Duff drew his sword back with both hands, but before he swing forward, his opponent crumpled to the ground.

“He shouldn’t have turned his back on me,” said Mar as she lowered her leg.

“A lesson I know all too well,” said Duff, rubbing the back of his neck.

***

My TV trope: “Battle Couple