11111 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH 44106

The Future of Black Friday

In the early twenty-second century, mankind turned to the stars for refuge from a broken world. What had once been an adventure driven by simple curiosity was now a desperate search for a new home. The ships carrying man were scattered among the stars and colonies emerged on distant, unfamiliar worlds. Mankind branched out as far as it could reach. Some colonies lost touch with the rest of mankind. Some colonists lost touch with what it was to be man.

The Westborians, colonists lead by the domineering Phelps clan, settled on a remote world as unforgiving as their leaders. Cut off from the rest of mankind, the Westborians became a people bound to a culture of strict adherence to religious tradition and the destruction of all those who would deny their truth. Those who came across the Westborians were captured; their ships stolen. Any who refused to convert and embrace their dogma were purged as filthy affronts to the one true god. Yet this was not enough. They needed to spread their truth to the heretics.

There could be no better day to track down infidels refusing to honor the sacred holidays than when the space between the planets was filled with consumers seeking only to worship materialism.

Welcome to Black Friday, 2235 A.E.

__________
Officer Burns grimaced as he read that morning’s headline: “Teens trying to reach Anthromorphologie killed a light-year away by Westborians.” A galactic highway patrol officer, it was his job to prevent just this kind of senseless violence. He had a different job that morning, though. The Chrismahanukwanzakah shopping season began that morning and there was a retro 3D television his girlfriend had been eyeing for weeks. He had just enough time to pick one up before work. Checking his power armor and donning his helmet, he paused to consider the armory by his door. Although use of his weapons was strictly forbidden when off-duty, he would need them while on patrol later that day. Where was the harm in carrying them along? Burns shrugged and grabbed his Saiyablaster 9001 – his most trusted sidearm.

Burns’ first stop was Better Buy – a hotspot on this day of sales, you could always expect a bloodbath inside. The trip was over quickly enough. Whether his speedy journey was the result of his skill or his exemption from the standard rules of interstellar travel as a patrol officer is anyone’s guess. He touched down in the Better Buy parking lot and glanced at the mass of bodies jostling to get in the doors. Burns secured his ship, checked that his pistol was holstered, and headed into the fray.

When he entered the doors, employees shunted him into holding room with around 200 other shoppers. On the other side of the gate awaited the gauntlet. Burns eyed his competition – lots of scrawny shoppers wearing old armor held together with duct tape and wielding an assortment of energy swords, clubs, and flails. Burns looked at his own power armor – government-issue energy shielded riot gear – and his own trusted sidearm. He liked his odds.

A red light on the ceiling flashed; the gates opened; and the rabid tide of shoppers surged forward. As per store policy, the shoppers were forbidden from opening fire until the gates were opened and all shoppers were on the other side, but a few nervous trigger fingers fired lasers off into the crowd with reckless abandon. Officer Burns kept low and forced his way through the crowds, steering clear of haphazardly aimed laser and blaster fire. He ducked and watched an energy mace miss his head and brutally connect with another shopper’s back, and then he was through.

Burns ducked into the relative safety of the aisles and began weaving his way through the shelves. When he reached the electronics, Burns found only one retro TV left. The box was surrounded by a halo of flickering light from errant blaster fire and the flashes of energy swords connecting as shoppers maimed each other over gadgets and movies. As Burns reached for the box, he was aware of someone closing in on his right. Dropping into a crouch and drawing his pistol, he spun and shot the approaching man through the leg. The man staggered but continued his advance, raising his Pro-Rated SpikeShield to defend against the officer’s pistol. The man lifted his energy flail and swung high for a devastating overhead. Burns dodged to the side sending the flail crashing into the ground. He grabbed the man’s shield and slammed him into the shelving before pistol whipping his would-be attacker.

With the challenger stunned, Burns grabbed the TV and headed out of the aisle for the registers.

Sprinting for the registers, Burns passed all the madness of Black Friday: teenagers battling in the entertainment aisles for Dance Dance Revolution VCMXXXII and Call of Duty Pitch Black Ops; grown men slicing at each other with energy swords for engine parts in Stellar Engineering; and a few crazed women throwing data crystals of this summer’s blockbuster movies and hiding behind displays as employees closed in with stun batons. Fending off half-hearted advances from the defeated and dying, Burns pushed his way to the register and smirked as he paid for the TV. With this gift, he was totally getting laid.

Angry red lights, the roar of engines, and the crunch of a spaceship being crushed by something much larger drew his attention to the exit. There, beyond the giant glass doors, a Westborian ship had just landed on a line of parked vehicles and the insane Westborians were emerging to gun down the shoppers in the lot. Burns glanced down at his watch: a minute past noon. He was on the clock and there was a standing order to kill all Westborians on sight. Duty called. Drawing his pistol and checking his armor, Burns passed through the glass doors and charged into the chaos bellowing, “Today is a good day to die!”

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