Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Nineteen: The Price of Beer

The below is a section of the novel that I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. It isn't a stand-alone story, and it's probably not worth your time to read. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month so wordcount is valued above quality. This is a good thing, as it encourages people to actually finish a project. Nobody expects that the result will be ready for public consumption without heavy editing. If you want to read it for some reason you can view the whole thing in one place HERE although that's still totally unedited and terrible. You have been warned.

This doesn't feel right. This feels like a trap. When I went into that building with the feds I was in charge, and I could feel Big Dave there just out of sight, like I had the whole bar of backup at my fingers. This feels like the opposite, like we're isolated and surrounded and the military has set some kind of trap that we're marching right into. Dave is puffing along beside me, and that feels like part of the problem. He's not going to be able to hold his own in combat, and with this interference he keeps talking about he can't help me from somewhere safe. That means bringing an extra body into the job that will more than likely have to be carried back out on a stretcher.

Walter, Rodriguez, and Jezebel can hold their own. I'm not worried about them. Slim, the Squid's bouncer, is already helping us just by being here. That freaky little scarecrow is our ticket in. Still, I would feel better about all this if we had some real firepower… that kid I busted out from the Feds could clean this up in a second if he were here, but it seems like nobody sees much of him these days and I can't wait around for him to notice there's a problem. Crazy Ike… well, we'd need a power source for him to do any real damage but honestly I think that an aluminum baseball bat would make Ike more dangerous than Dave or Slim.

We're low on defense, too. Once we blow Slim's cover there's nothing to keep those guns from turning us into ground beef. White should be here, would have been here… but Big Dave ruined that. The two of them have been all over each other since he got back from Mexico, and now he wants me to believe she needs to stay at the Squid in case they hit it while we're out hitting them. I know what he's doing. He has as bad a feeling about this as I do and he wants her somewhere else so she doesn't get killed. I couldn't even argue with him, because he was smart enough to say it in front of everyone and get them in a panic. He knew I wouldn't steal their security blanket when I was already taking Slim. Big Dave seems like this harmless teddy bear to most people, but he's got it in him to be one sinister son of a bitch if he wanted.

Walking past all these soldiers is making me feel more than a little uncomfortable. I know that thanks to Slim they're seeing us as other soldiers or not at all, but he flat-out told us that that wouldn't get us very far. Already they're on alert, we must have triggered a bunch of sensors when we arrived. There's something going on, a search pattern, with radios and detection gear. The screens on their scanners are going to tell them everything is fine, but that only works locally. Someone watching the security cameras should have spotted us by now. We're on borrowed time.

Shit, it looks like I jinxed us. The soldiers are all sweeping towards us, following orders from their radios.
"Stay calm." Slim says. Sure, of course, calm. That's easy.
They're aiming weapons at us, or at least in our general direction, and I feel like we need to do something while we have the element of surprise. In a second they're going to slaughter us and we'll still have out thumbs up our asses.
"Wait for it. Wait." Slim insists, keeping a hand on my arm. He must be able to tell I'm getting antsy… well, he had better have one hell of a plan.

And the shooting starts. The soldiers are laying down heavy fire just to my right, splattering their own friends against the walls. It's chaos, everyone is shooting at everything but us. One of the army guys hoses down three of his pals, yelling "They're deflecting my bullets! I can't hit them!" while another has his friend in a choke hold, hollering that he caught one. Slim's fedora falls off and I can see veins bulging out all over his balding head. He's sweating, straining, and more soldiers are coming to replace the ones that got hit.
"Rodriguez, Walter… cross through that building and follow another path up in case we don't make it. Jez, Dave, get ready to carry Slim because I think he's about to pass out. I'll cover you."

Walter and Rodriguez are gone almost as soon as I stop talking, and I start grabbing guns and bodies and throwing them into anything that's still standing. Sure enough, Slim grunts and drops halfway to the ground before Jez and Big Dave grab him, and all eyes are on us. Way, way too many.
We break and run for cover, and I hold down the trigger on the automatic weapon that flies to me. I'm not used to it, and mostly end up firing into the air or ground, but it buys us a second. I only have one more ace up my sleeve.
"Dave, I need Jezebel's power at range. Now."

That meaty hand clamps down on my skull again, and I can feel it sink right down into my brain like he's playing cat's cradle with Jez and I as the string. If this doesn't work we're all about to die. The soldiers are being careful, circling around into a better firing position - maybe even getting something that can punch through the concrete behind us. I need to wait until I can see them… closer… closer… oh, screw it. I step out as far as I can with Dave's arm on my and start swinging. I can feel as I connect, and watch a soldier thirty feet away go all glassy and topple. They're trying to fire but I'm clipping them too fast - one by one they're falling over or freezing in place.

We're going to do this. It's going to work out. I forgot the incredible rush of linking up, the absolute power that comes from mixing abilities. They can't stand up to this. Nobody can. In a minute it's just going to be a field of statues, as… no. No! I duck back into the doorway we're trying to shelter in and turn to yell at Dave for breaking it off. I had them, I was winning! And then… I see Jezebel. She's staring up at me - through me - without focusing. There's a perfect dark hole in her forehead, and a spray of red on the wall she had been standing against. Slim is still passed out, and Dave is staring at me like a lost puppy. Like I'm supposed to know what to do.

The gunfire stops, and I hear screaming. I risk a look and Walter is there in his alien-looking crystallized armor, barbed spikes throwing the last non-petrified soldiers aside. I grab Slim with my telekinesis and run towards Walter, Dave in tow. He looks past us at Jezebel's feet, dangling into the road, and then follows. Just a little further down they're getting a vehicle prepared to move something - something important, if it's worth moving during an attack. Some burly MPs are hauling Mary and Tamara out of the building, but they see us and stop. I'm a sitting duck, out here in the open, and I doubt Walter's armor protects worth crap against anything more powerful than a .22 or a kitchen knife. We scatter as the bullets hit around us, and I end up separated from the others. I crouch behind a Jeep, trying to peek out. I don't see any bodies in the street, that's a start. They're focusing fire on Walter, who I can't even see. Shards of ectoplasm are flying into view like a cloud, he must be spinning a shield as fast as they blow it away. Nobody is looking at me, but I don't have a shot.
"We don't know if we can hold this position," one yells, "kill the prisoners so they can't escape if they take us down."

I can't stop it. There's nothing I can do. If I attack them they'll kill me, and Slim, and they'll still be able to shoot Mary and Tamara. They're at least fifty feet away, I don't even have that kind of range. I tried my best, but hopeless is hopeless. Two of the MPs are holding Mary by her arms, and a third pulls a gun and walks over to her. Sorry, Mary. I don't think you'll be able to heal a headshot. He's about to pull the trigger when Dave comes barreling towards him, weaponless, at top speed. That dumb son of a bitch. Round after round hits him and his momentum almost gets him there. Almost. He goes face down and he's breathing, but just barely.

Is that what I'm supposed to do? Throw my life away like an idiot just on principle? Forget that. I'll admit it, I'm selfish. I'm not the kind of guy who wants to die for his cause - I wanted the feds to die for my cause, and I wanted Franklin dead partly for that and partly for personal reasons, and… well, if I'm honest about it I rescued Tamara and Walter as much for the free beer the story would get me as for anything else. Is that so much to ask? A pat on the back, a bunch of free drinks? I never wanted to be a folk hero as a full time job. I've got a clear path to the exit if I move fast and stay alert, there's no way I'm going to risk that. I never promised them anything, that big bad fed-smashing hero thing was a one-time deal.

The soldier is turning back towards Mary, who is trying to reach a foot towards Dave. He's reaching too, barely. He can't reach, not even close. Even if he could, what good would it do?

But his brain really is devious.

Damn it.

I charge out, reaching with my mind. Ten feet. Fifteen. I shove Dave towards Mary right as the bullets start tearing into me, but it only hurts for an instant.