A response to T.S. Bazelli's "Author Aerobics: Setting Challenge" posted in her blog, Ink Stained. The Challenge: Write a piece of fiction (1000 words or less) that includes moments of internal dialogue. The theme: "fireworks".
Hundreds of missiles lay prepped in their Falun half-pipes. Zephyran interfaced with his missile to customize the AI programming and to mod the body. _We have too few rockets, a disadvantage in a war of attrition. Hopefully, they won't expect this._ Replacing the Pashal missile's thrust panel, Zephyran's mod pack interfered so the panel didn't lie flat. He smeared chewing gum over the joint. _Smooth as the Thassos cliffs, but I'll only make it worse if I play with it longer._
"Mods will slow it down. A waste of time."
Zephyran raised a hand to block the sun over Panagia Erithiani Parish's dome. Notus frowned, the first half-dozen hairs of his mustache twitching. He was one of the few new bloods, like Zephyran, who joined his father's church even though they lost every year.
"Their AIs know our moves," said Zephyran. "Any two-bit hack can predict the Pashal's flight paths. I'll be unpredictable."
"And dead." Notus tapped his forehead. "It's what is in here that counts. If you've got no soul, no kills."
Zephyran studied the marred panel. "I'll do it my way."
"Go ahead, die kill-less like last year." Notus bent the chicken wire mesh shielding the church's façade.
Zephyran fingered the missile's interface to check his AI tweaks for any possible bugs. _Doesn't matter if you're the kill leader, if our side can't get a single score off their bell._ Zephyran placed the missile in the half-pipe to wait for the launcher's fire while he followed Notus into the parish.
Zephyran shrieked out of the Falun half-pipe to fly over the mastic trees that studded Chios's hills. _I must fly low._ Zephyran guided the missile low through the trees so the leaves scraped his sides as he watched for Saint Mark's bellringers. Radar and electronic sensors were silent. _Damn them and their stealth upgrades._ High in the heavens, he saw the contrail of a descending bellringer. Overriding the AI, he pitched his rocket upwards to intercept the bellringer.
Two attack missiles locked onto Zephyran, buzzing like hornets behind him. Their lasers flashed along his sides. The gum seam bubbled. An attacker lit its afterburner to ram Zephyran, disabling him. _I'm too predictable even with the modded AI. But, they won't expect this._ He executed his custom routine, the missile flashed and he was reminded of the time Notus burned his hand. The thrust panel blew off and lifted him from the path of the charging attacker. Stray shrapnel collided and the explosion rocked Zephyran, while the other attacker ignited in a chain reaction. No longer pursued, he sped towards the bellringer. His lasers melted the bellringer's payload, the missile's black powder and copper glowing hot. A blue flash. The bell didn't ring.
Zephyran checked his remaining fuel. _Sixty seconds. Time to ring their bell._ The Panagia Erithiani bellringers had all blossomed without a single hit and the remaining fight occurred above their dome. He left, no longer tracked by the attack missiles rising high. With his last spluttering gasp, Zephyran aimed the missile towards their bell. He hit the apogee, returning to the Earth speeding through the air's ash of his brethren rockets. Four attack missiles bleeped on his radar. They arrayed themselves to time their attack and avoid the chain reaction that claimed their brethren earlier. The AIs already learning. _I've got one more surprise for you._
As the first attack missile closed, Zephyran released the parachute out the open panel to arrest his momentum. Jerking to a stop, the attackers raced by -- one, two, three, four -- unable to readjust to Zephyran's slowed approach. The last mod was a redesign of the missile's nose so he could light the black powder for a final approach to the bell.
BRANG. Saint Martin's bell chimed.
Zephyran blinked his eyes from his crèche. It felt good to win.
A video of the fireworks war (non-missile based so-far).