Trope or Choke: Episode 1

The challenge: write a complete story in 500 words or less following these guidelines…

Setting: On a train

Genre: Sci-fi + Military

Trope: Blown cover

Two characters: A dumb blonde and a mad scientist

POV/tense: 1st person/past tense

The result:

The Screams of the Acolytes

The bards would sing of Asmodeus, the golden capital of the Bartolic Republic, but their songs turned to cries when the republic turned to empire. Brandon Sathanis, that cyborg chimera, that corruption, secured his infamy as our last elected leader. Then he gutted the vital freedoms one by one until none remained but the freedom to agree.

I’d been exiled from Asmodeus for twelve years. This troop transport train to Asmodeus’s central station, would end that chapter. The odds were high, the wager my life, but success could bring counterrevolution. But the enemy was cleverer than I expected.

This captain, this man with silver bars and green uniform and black boots, no cyborg enhancements visible, eyed me with simmering contempt. “You’re no lieutenant.”

“Not for Sathanis.” I spat in his face. Spittle flecked his left cheekbone. He didn’t wipe it away.

“Eyes not truly blue,” he said. “Hair not truly blond. Fraud.” He clucked his tongue. “But what else to expect from a recidivist. Vermin, really. We’ve already disposed of five this week.”

I bucked. The cuffs that locked my wrists above my head dug into my skin. “Disposed of?”

The captain motioned to the gray-haired woman hunched in the corner, the left half of her face a dull cyborg chrome that melted into her human flesh. “You’re choices are thusly, lieutenant. Defect. Repent of your recidivist tendencies and embrace the truth of the majority.”

“Or?” I asked.

“Or Doctor Gressil will commence your unraveling.”

The doctor’s cyborg eye flashed orange. A rumble emanated from her throat. “The process is most unpleasant,” she said. “Truly unpleasant. For the participant. For the spectators, so much fun.”

The train jostled through the spiraling suburbs of Asmodeus. Soon it would pierce the heart of the city. “Here is my answer. Brandon Sathanas is the king of lies.”

The captain clapped. “I was hoping this would be your choice.” He turned to the doctor. She tiptoed toward me and pulled a silver vial from her pocket. “Your plot will tumble from your mouth as your gray matter dissolves,” she said. She twisted my head and rammed the needle into my ear. I howled. I panted. I felt nothing except a throbbing in my ear.

Then, happiness. I couldn’t say the colors of the train car. Even my own name became a puzzle. Drool hung from my mouth. I grinned at the nice man and woman before me.

“Good, good, my boy,” the captain said. “Tell us what you’ve plotted.”

I laughed.

“Tell us,” he said.

“You go boom,” I muttered.


“You go boom.”

He grabbed his phone just as the pulse rippled through the car. He clutched his chest—his enhancement beneath the skin. The doctor shrieked as her cyborg face sizzled. The train swayed as if drunk, then rolled onto its side. My chained body twisted among the collapsing metal and shattering glass, mind still dumb but alive.

Outside the train I heard the screams of Brandon Sathanis’s acolytes. And I laughed.

[Photo by Tom Dahm on Unsplash]