Flash Fiction: Prepare for the Siege
Last month I combined a couple of #WritePhoto prompts and stories for a single tale of castles and aliens. You can read that here. This week, though I missed Friday (I really missed Friday. Thanks to working on my taxes, it never even crossed my mind about a Friday post), I have another installment for the intrepid defenders of Earth, at the base somewhere in Scotland. That's because last week's prompt (which I missed entirely) was a cannon, aimed out an embrasure. Continuing with my imaginary castle this week, James Campbell and his motley crew are preparing for another attack.
|Image by KL Caley, New2Writing.com|
IV Preparing for a Siege
The aliens had gone—for now. James Campbell wasn’t naïve enough to believe that driving them from this one castle one time was enough to save them. What was going on outside—beyond the castle and the village—was anyone’s guess. Radio signals had stopped a few days after they defeated the aliens.
Okay, a few days after Gertrude MacDonald sent away the unruly tourists, as she saw them. Rory thought his aunt was just a bit batty, and maybe she was, but she had a point about keeping the visitors in line. What made them think they could take over everything? Aside from superior weaponry, and a lot of unprepared governments.
James considered the cannon in front of him. It must date back to the 1800s, and lord knew when it had last been fired. But it had possibilities. They were at work on extending the moat, as well, now that they knew the aliens couldn’t swim, and weren’t very good with boats, either. In fact, the aliens seemed to really dislike water in any form. A broad moat would help, especially if they could import some moat monsters. Too bad crocodiles couldn’t live in Scotland.
What they most needed was defense from the sky. The last attack had been ground- and water-based, but surely the next would hit them where they were weakest. Most of the castle had lost its roof about 1860.
The cannons, though. There were a half a dozen, all on the one part of the ramparts that hadn’t collapsed, and badly rusted. There was the trebuchet, too. The National Trust had set it up outside, as an exhibit about how the castle might be attacked. James and ten of the others had gone out a few days after the first attack and dragged it into the courtyard. Rory MacDonald and Clair Campbell were busy figuring out how to make it fire over the walls, or up into the sky. At least someone had kept it in working order, probably because it was so much fun to play with. Yes, there were possibilities there.
He'd slip out tonight and get Gertrude to round up what they needed. She wasn’t more than half crazy; she knew what was at stake. Of course, she’d make them clean up the field after any battle, but that was a small price to pay. Meanwhile, Angus was the man for cleaning cannons. He wasn’t any too bright, but he was strong, and he was persevering, if you once got him going in the right direction.
“You want what?” Gertrude was looking at James like he was the crazy one, not her. That was the trouble with formidable old aunties. They were hard to keep ahead of.
“A gross of balloons,” he repeated.
“You aren’t going to release balloons into the air? Are you thinking that will confuse their airships?”
Actually, he hadn’t thought about it, and didn’t think much about it now. “No, not that.”
“Good. You know what those balloons do to the birds, and the fish and all.”
“Right.” He’d take a chance. “Did you see how the aliens reacted to water?”
“I did, and I see your point. Well, it might help. But you’ll have to comb that field for the remnants of the balloons after any battles you insist on having. Water balloons do make a mess, and not just with water.”
“We will, Aunty,” James promised. Good thing none of the troops could see him knuckling under to this old lady. Though Gertrude wasn’t one of those tiny aunts you could at least expect to dominate physically. She was large and far more imposing than her nephew Rory, however good the young man was at scrounging. And at trebuchets.
“You’ll have your balloons. They’ll work in the trebuchet, but the cannon will burst them before they leave the muzzle,” she added with one of her annoying bursts of common sense.
James sighed. “We’ll have to find something else to fire from those.”
“You’ll think of something. By the way, young man, with so many of you over there, you might want to take a few more goats back with you. And that silly couple from the States has run off somewhere, and left their milk cow. You might take that off my hands. The children will do well to have some milk. You can learn to make cheese if there’s any extra.”
Within days, James was doubly frustrated. Not only had he still not found what could be fired from the cannons, but the animals were making a mess of the courtyard. Coming out one morning with his cup of stewed twigs they tried to pretend was tea, he was annoyed to find Claire staring at the pile of dung rather than working on the trebuchet.
“What are you doing? Aren’t you on maintenance this morning?”
She shrugged, in that annoying way the young had when talking to their elders. And Claire was usually a good soldier!
“The trebuchet is in perfect working order. I’m thinking.”
“Oh?” He tried hard not to sound too sarcastic. He maybe succeeded a little? She didn’t seem to notice one way or the other.
“It was frosty this morning,” she said.
Was that a random comment? James looked at the pile of dung. It was steaming in the cold morning air, but with luck the dropping temperatures would tame the odors soon.
“You suppose the stuff will freeze?” James looked at the pile some more, thought about his own question, and smiled. “I believe we have something,” he told the girl.
“As long as it gets cold enough and stays cold enough,” she said. “We’ll need something else by summer, I guess.”
Had the kid seen it before he had? Well, the young were more flexible. Not his fault.
Three days later, following a frenzy of work as the temperatures dropped, their meager harvest was in—and balls of dirt and dung were freezing in long rows on the ramparts.
Maybe they’d fall to bits as soon as they were fired from the cannons. Maybe they’d be too soft to do any damage to the enemy. But by George, they had cannonballs. And no one wanted their sleek, pretty vehicle covered with dung. The fastidious aliens might back off from a barrage of dung balls.
Harvest, livestock, weapons. They were as ready as they could be for an attack—or a siege. Was there anyone left out there to come help break a siege? Because their plans for defense against a bunch of aliens with technology vastly superior to anything humans knew was beyond insane.
On the other hand, if they weren’t insane, they wouldn’t be here.
“Prepare the cannons for a test.”