Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Seven: When In Rome, Standoff Like the Romans

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.

Where the hell am I?
"Iraq." A voice says. Shit, I didn't mean to ask that out loud. Iraq? The answer sounded sarcastic, but all I can see is brown. Wherever I am, it's hot and dusty. I'm face-down, and my whole body feels strange - sore and numb at the same time. A foot hooks under my chest and rolls me over, and as my hands twist under my back I feel them just as a lump against my spine - there's no feeling in my arms. Just like that it comes back to me, Franklin holding my implants in his hands with blood dripping from them, a burning pain running from my fingers into my chest… what kind of damage did it do? Someone is looming over me but they're just a silhouette with the sun behind them. I have to be very careful what I say here. I have to play this just right.

"Hey fed, the three of us want to talk deal." The one leaning over me says, and it sounds like the same one that answered me before. I heard that voice last night, too. Edward Shorehoff. Telekinetic.
"Go fuck yourself, Eddie." That deep voice is the bouncer, whatever his name is.
"Sorry, Francis. Forgive me, fed, I meant the two of us. My pal here isn't down with the plan. He can't tell the difference between opportunity and betrayal. This is the first one, in case you couldn't tell. Opportunity, fed. It just knocks once."
Three of them, right. There was gunfire, and the world lurched, and I passed out… but I remember seeing three people. I woke up to the sound of a wall shaking itself apart, and then someone was slinging me over their shoulder and… something hit me on the head.

Another freak moves into view, and this time I can see his face right away. David Brunner, one of the only loose ones we have a full file on.
"It's not… it's not a bad plan, Francis. Maybe we could start something, maybe if we convince them to let us help they won't be so fast to shoot on sight, you know? This could be good."
I can't twist around to see the bouncer but I hear him storm off somewhere. David offers to talk to him, and just like that I'm alone with Edward.

There's a feeling around me, not quite weightlessness… I lift off the ground and rotate to face him. He's holding me there with his mind - I don't know if it's a reminder that he's in control or just so he can look me in the eyes.
"Let them argue," he says, "They don't really need to be part of this if they don't need to, you understand?"
I nod. "I'm listening, Edward. What kind of deal were you thinking about?"
His face splits wide open in a grin. "Call me Eddie, fed. And no, I don't need to know your name. I was thinking, there's a service I can provide to you that nobody on your team can seem to do on their own. I can deliver Franklin to you. All tied up in a bow."

I'm going to take him up on it, on whatever he wants. The question is how much I should pretend to think about it so he believes I'm not going to kill him as soon as I get the chance. "What would we give you in return?"
He makes a big show of thinking it over, but I know he has a plan in mind. I look past him, over his shoulder, and see we're behind a little adobe building of some sort. I can see tables inside, like a bar or something. I don't really want to see another bar right now, though I could use a drink. David and Francis are inside, arguing. I can't hear the words very well, but I can make out enough to catch that Francis wants me dead. Maybe Eddie too. Trying to make a deal isn't making Eddie any friends.

"Here's what we want," he says finally. "We want to work for you guys, like consultants. You want to do some tests on us that don't involve injury or death, we'll let your scientists do their thing, check out teeth and take our temperature. Whatever. You want us to help round up someone who keeps making trouble for you, we can do that too - if he's actually a threat. In the meantime we get to just go about our lives without you nice folks attacking us and kidnapping our pals. How does that sound?"
I force myself to look thoughtful, like I'm considering it, but it sounds like pretty much the worst idea ever.

When you get into the agency, the first thing they do is take you to Disneyland. It's still sealed off and untouched, sixteen years after the attack, and you can walk between the blasted ruins of old rides. They aren't just burnt, most of them have actually changed into something else. Black crystals like onyx or obsidian have replaced metal and plaster, making it feel like you're on another planet entirely. They don't point anything in particular out to you, they just let you wander. They wait to see how long it will take for you to come across the bodies.

Those have been crystallized too, individually throughout the park or tangled in horrifying mounds at the exits. Many had the flesh burned from them before being petrified, so grinning black skulls seem to be everywhere, staring with empty eye sockets. We don't need to be reminded that all that damage was done by a single freak. It just takes one. The only agent who would go for Eddie's deal is Black, but he was always crazy. Going easy on the freaks one minute, ordering a strike with maximum lethal force the next. Still, anything that gets me out of this place alive - plus, I'll be able to bring David and Eddie in.

"It… it sounds good. Once I get a chance to talk with my superiors I can pitch it to them. I'll make sure they understand you didn't hurt me, that you helped me get back safely."
Eddie makes a dismissive gesture. "Yeah, yeah, subtle. Of course we won't hurt you. Hell, we already gave you some pain killers for those arms of yours. Well, I say painkillers but really it's more like anesthesia. Same difference, am I right? Hang on, I'll tell the others the good news. Hey!" he yells towards the little cantina and the others look. "Good news! We've got a deal!" Francis still looks unhappy, but before he can say anything some uniformed officers burst in from the other side of the entrance and train guns on them. Of course.

"¡Tiren sus armas y bajar en el suelo!" one yells. That seems to confirm what I already suspected - we're in Mexico. The Mexicans have started having freaks show up too, like it's spreading out from Disney a little more each year. If anything they're more brutal about them than we are in the states, although they aren't as good at locating them. I have to actually hope Eddie and his boys win this fight - they're not likely to turn me back over to the agency under these circumstances. Out of nowhere, Francis and David have guns trained on the officers and everyone is screaming at once. I'm airborne, for just a second, and then I crash down on the ground as Eddie runs toward the building.

Everyone starts firing. It's impossible to count the shots as they pile up on top of each other like a string of firecrackers in a trash can.

With my arms still numb it's hard to move, but eventually I manage to get turned around and on to my knees. There's dust, and the smell of gunpowder, and I can see Eddie standing in the doorway looking at the floor. Rising to my feet unsteadily I can see the bodies - three officers and two freaks. Eddie steps from body to body, firing off a single shot to make sure nobody lingers too long. I keep my distance. When he comes out, leaving a trail of muddy footprints as blood on his shoes mingles with the dust, his face is set in a scowl and I'm half expecting him to kill me on the spot.

"Walk." He says. There's an old jeep nearby that he's heading towards, trusting me to follow. I fall into place behind him, keeping my mouth shut and praying he still wants to deal. I go ahead and throw a little thank-you into the prayer as well, for taking care of Francis. The moronic idea that the agency would ever work alongside someone like Eddie could definitely do without a voice of reason. We climb into the Jeep and he starts it on his third try, pulling onto the dirt road and accelerating until it feels like I'm going to fly out.

We drive for an hour before hitting a real highway and seeing a sign. Only a hundred and fifty kilometers to Calexico… where the hell were we? I guess I'll have time to think about it on the way back - even being closer to the United States than I thought it will be a while before Eddie gets to Los Angeles. We stop for gas somewhere, right as I'm getting used to the pain in my arms. Whatever they did has worn off, but as much as it hurts I'm starting to think there isn't any real damage. Eddie finishes filling the tank, and walks over to me. That grin still hasn't returned.
"I want you to know something, fed." I stay quiet, I don't think opening my mouth is a good idea with the mood he's in even if I'm as polite as possible.
"I want you to understand… our situation here, it's not like it was for my friends in that shootout. It's not like it was for me at the Drowned Spider, either."

"Right here, in this situation, we aren't having a stand-off. If I want to I can kill you, even if we're in public. You can't do the same to me. I'm not surrounded; I don't have any guns pointed at me. This isn't a staring contest because I can blink all I want. But if you blink… if you make trouble for me at all on the rest of our little road trip… I will not hesitate to crush you. Are we clear on that?" I nod, trying to look scared. It's not hard. He gets back in and we pull away from the gas station. There's no way around it - Eddie really is in charge for now - but when we get back I'll get to watch him squirm as they strap him into the Extractor and rip the telekinesis from him. Enjoy your freedom, Eddie, because soon you're going to be as dead as your friends.