I Guess We're Heroes by Graham Fluster Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
A team of scientists discover intelligent alien life, and start a dangerous race to capitalize on the opportunity. As the decades pass, however, first contact fades from living memory, and is mysteriously absent from any official historical records. For the next five centuries humanity ventures out to the stars, their various political factions leaving no shortage of problems for an enterprising crew to make a living off of. The mercenaries of Specialized Support Contractors were only looking for small jobs befitting their fledgling company, but soon find themselves forced into the limelight when their employer’s ambitions place an ancient alien weapon in their possession. Digging deeper into the origins of their cargo brings even more heat from vested interests who want the truth of humanity’s first contact with alien life to be kept secret. With entire planets caught in the crosshairs of a looming interstellar war, any choice the mercenaries make could have catastrophic consequences.
“What about you?” Kell asked, leaning in close to Mei. “Did you take my stim pen?”
“I don’t use stims, I sleep like a normal person,” Mei said, turning her head away from Kell’s bad breath and taking a step back.
“Well then where is it?!” Kell screamed.
“I took it,” Julia said, walking up to the rest of the group and stopping a few meters away. “And I destroyed it, because it made you nearly kill our prisoner.”
“I don’t need peptrothol to kill,” Kell said as he reached for his pistols, but he barely had them out of their holsters before Julia had her pistol drawn and pointed at his head.
“Everyone calm down,” Bernard said. “We’re standing next to several tons of high explosives, if one of you misses it could kill us all. It’s a miracle these things didn’t blow up when we took the hangar.” Mei knew that the warheads were highly unlikely to be set off by a bullet, let alone one with as little power as those fired from a handgun, but she saw no need to bring that up; if Bernard could prevent a fight with a misconception, why get in the way?
“I can work with that,” Kell said, pretending like Bernard’s warning was the reason he put his guns away, and not the fact that he had been too slow on the draw. He took out his oversized combat knife and twirled it around a few times. “Shall we?”
“What?” Bernard said. “No, that’s not what I—”
“If you insist,” Julia said, holstering her pistol and deploying her bayonet.
Julia took a defensive stance and studied her opponent; he was fighting for pride, not any tactical objective, so if she could hurt him badly enough to make fear replace his anger, she could quell his revolt without killing him. Kell rushed towards her and opened with a feint slash at her face, then made a sweeping kick at her knee. Julia brought her bayonet up to parry the knife and stepped back to dodge the kick. As his leg passed her, she brought her blade down and slashed open the back of his calf. Kell gritted his teeth at the pain, unable to shrug it off as easily as he normally did with the help of his stims.
“Beginner’s luck,” Kell snarled, and charged again. This time he threw one of his smaller knives as a distraction while he stabbed his main knife towards the gap between the breastplate and shoulder plate of Julia’s armor. She was too slow to dodge the thrown knife completely, and received a deep cut on her cheek as she sidestepped it, but she recovered her balance before Kell could stab her. She grabbed the wrist of the arm holding the large knife and swung Kell around so the momentum of his charge slammed him face first into one of the cargo crates.
“Had enough yet?” Julia asked. She was doing well so far, but even with Kell’s reflexes slowed from his withdrawal, it was still difficult for her to stay out of reach of his knives, and she figured that provoking him would make him sloppier.
“I’ll have had enough when your guts are covering the deck!” Kell shouted, blood streaming down his face from his broken nose. He drew another knife with his left hand and charged again, this time stabbing with both weapons, one at the gap in the armor at the shoulder joint and the other at Julia’s waist just beneath the breastplate. Julia tried to parry the attack from her left with her armored forearm and the one from her right with her bayonet, but only had limited success; she stopped the smaller knife, but the larger one dug into her elbow just past the forearm plate.
Deciding she had learned enough of his fighting style to not focus primarily on defense, Julia pivoted to go on the attack. Her left arm was slower after the hit to the elbow, so she kept that side of her body turned away from Kell and slashed repeatedly with her prosthetic right arm. Kell parried and dodged several strikes, using his larger knife for defense, and landed a few hits on Julia’s right arm with his smaller knife, but the blade did little more than scratch the surface of the metal limb.
Once Kell’s focus was entirely on her right arm, she brought the left back into play and caught his wrist again as he repeated his tactic of blocking with the large knife and stabbing with the small one. Before he could twist free, Julia impaled his forearm from the unarmored inner side and slashed upwards towards the elbow, then released him and took a quick step back to evade a potential counter attack. Blood gushed from the massive wound as Kell collapsed to the ground screaming, doing what little he could to apply pressure and slow his demise.
Graham Fluster’s love of writing began with creating stories for tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, GURPS, and D20 Future, and has since evolved into the (slightly) less chaotic formats of science fiction and fantasy novels.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
My interest in writing began with tabletop roleplaying games, with my favorites being Dungeons & Dragons, D20 Future, and GURPS. I loved creating vast and detailed worlds for the player characters to interact with, and coming up with contingencies for whatever direction their actions steered the plot. While I usually enjoyed the chaotic nature of the TTRPG format, I sometimes felt a little boxed in with what kinds of stories I could tell, since I only had a loose influence over the actions of the main characters. Shortly after noticing that sentiment, I saw a Reddit post along the lines of, “wouldn’t it be fun to write a D&D campaign where you controlled all of the characters?” with the top comment being: “wouldn’t that just be writing a book?” After briefly feeling stupid for not coming to that conclusion on my own, I started mapping out my more detailed ideas in novel format, and leaving the more open-ended ones for my TTRPG campaigns.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in Pullman, a small college town on the eastern side of Washington (the state, not the capital city). I moved to Seattle in 2011 to study physics at UW, and have lived here ever since.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I usually prefer either single player RPGs like the Fallout series, or casual multiplayer games like Quiplash. Sometimes I’ll play something competitive online like Starcraft or Overwatch, but that can become stressful if a teammate gets mad at you for “bringing down the team,” even though they’re just as bad. Like, come on buddy, if you were any good at the game, you wouldn’t be ranked low enough for the algorithm to put you on a team with me; we’re all trash down here in bronze league!
What can we expect from you in the future?
For books, I’ve already started the sequel to I Guess We’re Heroes, so expect that within the next year or so. For games, I write modules for single-session TTRPGs (up to 6 players) and murder mystery parties (up to 20 players). I’ve written and play tested several modules already, and am currently putting the finishing touches on them before posting. For updates on any of my projects, follow me on Twitter (@GrahamFluster), and you’ll be the first to know when they’re available!
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
The characters in the near-future plotline were based on several archetypes of academics that I noticed in college: those who learn for the intrinsic sake of learning, those who learn so they can improve the lives of others, and those who learn so they can make money. I made sure that each of those motivations was represented by one of the main scientists.
The characters in the distant-future plotline were written in the reverse order: I started with making the world around them, and then thought about what sorts of people would be produced by that environment.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
I’ve always enjoyed the premise of characters who have no business saving the world being roped into saving the world, and the title I Guess We’re Heroes felt like it captured that vibe perfectly.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
When I’m in the early world building stage I like to listen to music; the distraction makes my mind wander, which is precisely what I need to get new ideas. Once it’s time to fill in the details, however, I need silence, otherwise I won’t be able to focus on one subject long enough to get anything done.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
One book at a time, but I always have multiple projects of different types going at once so that I can channel whatever type of creativity my brain has selected for the day (sadly, I do not have access to that control panel). When I’m feeling high levels of focus, I work on my current novel, taking satisfaction in crafting the precise details. When I’m feeling medium levels of focus, I’ll work on my long-term D&D campaign, enjoying the light brainstorming required to map out a few options for where it could go next. When my attention is bouncing all over the place and the only scenarios coming to mind are delightfully chaotic clusterf#%@s, I’ll work on a module for a single session TTRPG or murder mystery party, and try to anticipate the various ways that the characters could achieve victory or perish horribly.
Another great aspect of having multiple project types is that while the creative process for each may vary, the results can overlap; what starts as one can easily become material for another. Some of the characters in I Guess We’re Heroes were originally created for a single session TTRPG about a monster getting loose on a freighter in deep space. Most of the setting didn’t get used beyond the game itself, but the gleefully murderous robot H8-U-4LL and the comically naïve adventurer Jack Danger stuck in my head long enough to get fleshed out into full characters for a novel.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Always the computer! I constantly re-write various sections to see which version I like best, and having to do that without a word processor would not only be exceedingly tedious, but would also make me feel guilty about wasting so much paper. Typewriters have the advantage of making that fun clickety-clack sound while you work, but you can get most of that effect on a computer if you use a mechanical keyboard.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Absolutely. If I’m trying to force ideas out when I don’t have inspiration, it won’t produce anything of quality. This is one of the reasons I like to have multiple projects of different styles going at the same time; if I’m not in the right headspace to work on one type, I’m usually feeling up to working on another type.
It’s also important to know when to take breaks; sometimes your brain will just not have anything to give, and you need to go do something else for a while. Many of my best ideas have come when I wasn’t working on a writing project, which is why it’s important to always carry something with you to take notes; whether it’s a pocket-sized paper notebook or an app on your phone, being able to record an idea when inspiration strikes is critical.
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