Short Story: To Be Continued…

Vance fumed in his chair. He was ready to lead across the desk where his editor sat, Vance’s latest manuscript in hand. Vance thought it was best story yet, one that destroyed all his previous ones.
“I can’t accept this, Vance,” his editor said.
“Why not? It’s the next chapter in the ‘Flights of Fancy’ series you asked for.”
“It’s the last chapter,” the editor roared. “You kill of Pilot and Gunner. You crash The Scout.”
“But they do defeat Dr. Madd-”
“Not before he sets fire to Globerra. You literally scorched the earth so you wouldn’t have to write any more stories in the series.”
Vance leaned forward in his seat. “I don’t want to write any more of these trite stories. I’ve been writing them for ten years. I am sick of catering my style to kids and arrested development adults. I am a serious writer. I want to write serious things. This world,” Vance gestured towards the manuscript, “is dead to me.”
“But the movie rights and the theme park rides-” the editor started.
Now Vance was in a full rage.
“You aren’t hearing me. I don’t care anymore. I don’t want to even think about these characters again.”
“Your contract-”
“-ends with one more book. That is the book I am handing in.”
The editor was flummoxed. “We’ll sue you.”
Vance smiled. “Go ahead. I too can buy the best lawyers. After all, you made sure ‘Flights of Fancy’ was profitable for all.”
Vance got up to leave. Nothing would change his image as a writer of fluffy fantasy more than a lawsuit where he could show how he wasn’t kid-friendly. Perhaps he could even show some of the unfinished drafts of his other stories and say that the publisher rejected, though he never even showed the drafts to anyone, and fish for a new company. For once, he would be able to control his own PR and he would make sure that the furthest thought from anyone’s mind was Globerra. He would say the movies stunk, he would say his own writing stunk. He would be born anew like a phoenix, he thought.
As Vance exited the office, his editor made one last plea. “Vance, c’mon. Think of your fans. Think of what you created.”
Vance cast a look over his shoulder and smiled again. “No promises. As far as I am concerned, that manuscript in your hands is the last I will ever be associated with the series. As far as I am concerned, everything connected to ‘Flights of Fancy’ can rot in hell.”

Vance pulled up to his house, head full of ideas for his next novel. A hard-boiled detective story. Or perhaps that tale of the neglected boy he had been kicking around for a while. But, he said to himself, absolutely nothing to do with magic, flying devices, or mad scientists driven to destroy whole worlds. Vance chuckled to himself over that last item. He had succeeded where Dr. Madd had failed. He had destroyed Globerra. The secret was to be God.
Vance entered through the front door and threw his keys on a nearby table. He was almost too deep in thought. He nearly missed the sound of someone knocking about in his kitchen. He momentarily thought about calling the police, but still high from his triumph over his editor, he decided to confront the intruder on his own. He crept towards the kitchen, full of confidence.
When he rounded the corner into the kitchen, all the color drained from his face. There, rummaging through his fridge, was someone dressed as Pilot, the main character in the “Flights of Fancy” series. Aviator glasses, leather jacket with the words “Scout Pilot” embroidered on it, thick boots.It was Pilot alright, thought Vance. A fan had broken into his home, in full costume, to rob him. Vance’s earlier rage returned.
“Get the hell out of my house!”
Pilot turned to him, then looked behind Vance and shrugged. From Vance’s back, a hand came onto his shoulder. Then a voice, one only Vance thought he could recognize, spoke. Vance was sure it was the voice he thought in while writing the character Gunner.
“Sir, please calm down. We aren’t here to hurt you.”
Vance spun around. Sure enough there was a man dressed as Gunner. Vance eyed the man’s gunbelt with suspicion. Got all three mag-guns there, Vance observed. Another nice attention to detail. To the left of Gunner was Dr. Madd, lab coat flowing to the floor like an ancient robe. Dr. Madd’s glasses were illuminated blue as they were in the books. The ludicrousness of the situation hit Vance and he started laughing.
“Well, the gang’s all here! Who sent you? My editor, no doubt. Trying to convince me not to kill you three off. Sorry, not gonna work. But hey, you can keep those costumes. They look professionally made.”
Pilot rejoined his compatriots, sandwich in hand. He spoke.
“No one sent us. We came for ourselves. We’ve come to plead for our lives, I guess.” Pilot took a bite out of sandwich. He made a face. “That weed was not millsprouts, Gunner.”
Vance laughed again. “Millsprouts? I think I mentioned that Pilot liked millsprouts in one sentence in the second novel. You guys certainly did your homework. Except one thing. Pilot and Gunner would never work with Madd.” Vance jerked his thumb in the direction of the old scientist.
Madd spoke in a deep voice that seemed to come from the earth itself.
“Annihilation breeds strange bedfellows. They needed my portal technology and I needed their knowledge.”
Vance’s eyes took on the mocking tone his words conveyed. “And what would that be knowledge of?”
“Of you, Vance. They said they would know how to convince you, what your line of thinking would be. After all you wrote a lot more of them than you did of me.”
Vance laughed again. He just couldn’t help it. “Yes, you were never fully fleshed out or so the critics said. I just never cared for you. Now, if you excuse me, I am going to call the police.”
Vance went to grab a nearby phone. Gunner quickly drew a sidearm and shot towards the device. The phone was forced out of Vance’s hand and stuck to the wall behind him.
“I don’t want to hurt you, sir, but I won’t hesitate to keep you listening,” said Gunner.
Vance was amazed. “That isn’t a prop. That isn’t possible. The sticky gun does not exist! Who…who are you people?”
Dr. Madd replied, “We’re your creations. But we are also our own people. We lead our lives independently of you, but you still guide us. And we know what you want to do. You want to kill us, blot us out. We can only live in the world you give us. And as much as I want to destroy that world, I want to save it. I am not ready to go into the darkness yet just because you are bored and spiteful. I know spite and I know it leads no where good.”
Pilot stepped forward. “You want to crash The Scout? Fine. It is a mighty airship but there are others. But you want to kill my best friend? Me? Then we have a problem.”
“We used all my technology to get here,” said Madd, “to get us to you. To convince you not to set in stone what you think we deserve. To show you we are worth saving.”
Vance was bewildered. “This must be a nightmare. My subconscious not read to let go of the cash cow. No way Pilot, Gunner, and Dr. Madd are in my house.”
Gunner, twirling his stick mag-gun in his hand, smiled. “We are here. We will get what we want.”
“I won’t go back,” Vance yelled. “I am a grown man. I will not write fairy tales! You won’t make me!” Vance leaped towards Gunner, trying to get one of his guns. But Vance wrote Gunner too well and the character drew a second sidearm and shot the author. Vance was frozen in place, a look of horror on his face and his hands out in a desperate grab for his sanity.
“Get him to the portal,” barked Madd. “We can’t leave him here. We’ll have to take him back. Time for Plan B.”
Pilot and Gunner looked at each other. Pilot smiled grimly at his friend. “Strange bedfellows indeed.”
The duo picked up the man who had given them life and carried him, following Dr. Madd into another part of the darkened house.

A new manuscript arrived on the editor’s desk the next morning. It wasn’t Vance’s best work, the editor thought, but it wasn’t the hatchet job the previous draft was. At the climatic battle where Pilot and Gunner couldn’t stop Dr. Madd from blowing up the world but were rather killed, along with Madd, in the explosions set by Madd, a new character arrived. Calling himself The Creator, he claimed to be in charge of Globerra and stopped the world from burning with a wave of his hand. He said he was their god and he could decide their ultimate fates, not then.
The editor was perplexed as to why Vance would essentially write himself into his own story. The editor wasn’t too fond of the use of the Deus Ex Machina either. But with the emergence of The Creator the series had a new villain and new life. Pilot, Gunner, and Madd teamed up at the end of the manuscript and swore to fight The Creator, saying only they would control their destinies.
It was a suitable endpoint for Vance’s take on the series, the editor thought. A new writer could easily come in and continue the stories. The editor would allow Vance to continue on with whatever endeavors he wanted to seek. Yes, the editor ruminated, the “Flights of Fancy” stories would last another decade at least now with this new character, The Creator. The Creator would be the new face of the franchise. And Vance would finally be free of it, the editor thought. Vance finally got what he wanted.

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