Gunners in a Dangerous Time

330-word flash fiction.

Written in 2022.

I once wrote a boy-meets-girl short story about a couple who worked together as weapon technicians on an orbital space station.

Neither were fully aware of what their jobs would ultimately entail, but they were happy in their naiveté. They met in one of the station’s ten-thousand cafeterias and they smiled that first time they sat across from one another, seeing how they’d both ordered the gluggnock soup. Gluggnock meat was known to make the heart flutter, but the couple knew there was likely more to what their insides were feeling. They held hands as they left the cafeteria, and kissed clandestinely as their bellies still digested the soup, all the way to their next shift. As it happened, it took exactly two gunners to blow up the entire planet of Shi-Frang, and it was this couple who pulled their levers in unison that day. They both felt incredible guilt immediately afterwards, watching on their monitors as an entire world was vaporized, chunks of icy mountaintops left even colder in the deep, dead of space. Their boss assured them that turbolaser gunner duty was one of the highest honors in the galaxy, but it sure didn’t feel that way. They spent days trying to figure out a way of quitting their jobs, escaping from their lives, and getting off that massive battle station, with the hope they’d maybe come to terms with what they were once a part of together. They had it all set up, too: they would take a shuttle pod after scanning out from their next shift. But before their plan came to fruition, the freedom fighters secretly assembled and launched an attack on the space station to avenge the good people of Shi-Frang. There was a lucky shot fired, and those two gunners, along with each and every other person onboard, died in a dramatic, sparkling explosion.

Admittedly, it was a fairly shitty ending for a story about love, but the reality is that’s how things really do end sometimes.