Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Twenty-Four: On a Need to Know Basis

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.

I disarm the main alarm system easily, as well as the separate and more subtle alarm system that I wasn't supposed to see. Another, smaller alarm goes in its place - this one linked to the phone in my pocket. If Black comes home unexpectedly I'll have enough warning to duck out the back and avoid a difficult confrontation. I'm not here on official business, so if he wants to he can even shoot me on sight and tell the police he thought I was robbing the house. Police? What the hell am I talking about? Right now it's the National Guard or nothing, and they're a little overwhelmed.

The rooms are fairly sparse and impersonal. I scan the walls as I go, looking for a safe or hidden compartment, but everything seems normal. Normal is the last thing I expected here. The kitchen looks like it's never been used, and the refrigerator just has the stereotypical Chinese take-out cartons. It almost feels staged, but I know this is his house. I head into the bedroom and immediately something registers - there's a metal object behind a painting. Really, Black? A wall safe behind a painting? Still, there are no alarms or anything attached to it so I might as well.

The lock is electronic, and it's one that I have the government code for - a requirement on all new safes. There's only one thing inside, a manila envelope. I reach in, and -

- I'm on the floor, with spots floating across my vision. Oh god, there was some sort of tazer in the safe. I've pissed myself. The envelope is laying next to me, and against my better judgment I open it. There's a photograph inside, a close-up of my face with a moustache and goatee drawn on. Of course. I take far too long to stand, but eventually get upright. It's been a long time since I was tazed. It's clear this isn't going to get me anything if he already knew I was coming, I should just put the picture back and get the hell out of here. I slide the photograph back, replace the envelope, and close the safe.

"Leaving so soon, Ferris?"
I don't react. I think I don't react. I turn slowly, trying to look calm, and of course he's right there in the doorway. Just as I'm congratulating myself on being so cool and in control I remember about the urine dripping down my leg. He can probably smell it. Worse, I bet he won't say anything about it. It would be somehow better if he rubbed my face in it, stuck to immature taunts. Black can be immature, but I know in this case he's going to act like I just stopped by for tea because he wants me to feel stupid.

"You did a good job on the alarm systems - the ones that you found, I mean. Not bad at all. I think most agents would have found the second one, but the notification I received was triggered by the third alarm rather than a clumsy disabling of the second. That's an important distinction." He pauses, but I can't think of anything to say so I just glare at him. "Well, then. I'm going to duck into the next room and make myself a drink. There's a change of clothes in your size hanging in the bathroom, feel free to put them on and join me." He walks out and closes the door behind him. I thought I hated Black before.

I go ahead and change clothes. What am I supposed to do, defy him by walking around in wet pants?

When I get out to the living room Black has taken a seat on the couch and is sipping on something clear in a crystal tumbler. He gestures towards a set of bottles and glasses but I sit in a chair opposite him without taking anything. I'm trying to suppress the nagging feeling that the alcohol wasn't there when I was searching just a few minutes ago, but I probably just don't remember because I was focused on finding Black's files. Probably.
"Do you know what this is, Ferris? This is a party. A very exclusive one. It was going to be just myself, in fact, but when I realized you would be crashing it I was overjoyed. I'm vain, and much like Doctor Toht who I know you've just spoken to I like to hear myself talk."

Oh, good. I get to listen to more inane monologues and vague hints at some supposed conspiracy. That's just what I wanted from my day. "Fine, Black. I'll humor you. Do your best Bond villain impression and ramble on about your master plan."
He feigns offense, and then takes a breath as if to speak - but instead it turns into a sigh and his face falls. "I don't have one, Ferris. Right now my master plan is to get very, very drunk and hope that we survive the next few hours. At dawn tomorrow if I wake up at all I will set about making a new plan, one that will start with leaving the United States entirely and then shedding this identity like a snake sheds its skin. Maybe I'll be a goatherd somewhere, who knows?"

"David is your son." It's not a question. I'm sick and tired of the cryptic comments and I want to get some of this out in the open. Black smiles.
"My last name, as you have guessed, is Brunner. It's been a long time since I answered to it, however. I thought about telling David so many times, explaining the situation to him, but my position in the government was important and I couldn't risk it. Any other revelations you'd like to share, agent?"
"You knew the freak that destroyed Disney. Personally."
He nods, and then empties his drink. "I did. Yes. I helped to make him what he was, and then I fought him, and he won. He… destroyed everything and everyone I knew, my entire life. He was injured, worse than me, and your people found him. He was the basis for the line of research that created David, although I have reason to believe you would have stumbled across that energy one way or another even if I had managed to kill him.

It's so strange to just be told things like this. I've been suspecting it all, and Doctor Toht filled in some of the blanks, but I never believed Black would admit to it.
"Who were you working for? How did you make him?"
Black laughs. "Well, 'how' is a question for later, if ever. As for the who, I can tell you that we weren't exactly friendly with the United States government. In fact, I have some scars I can show you if you get me drunk. Yes, Ferris, I'm the enemy. A traitor, a double agent. Feel free to arrest me at any time. I've hated working for you people, you know that? Every day it makes me sick to my stomach but I've done it all the same just to keep history from repeating itself. I will not allow the event at Disneyland to be re-created."

"Is it the same freak? Is he still out there?"
Black shrugs. "…no. No, I think he's really gone now. He required some very specific… assistance… in order to gain that power again, and that shouldn't be possible with Darryl Holst and Franklin Reese dead. We should be safe. Still, I plan on being very drunk tonight just in case. Tonight is when he was going to act, you know. Tonight or tomorrow."
Black is refilling his drink, and I reach for the bottle before he can cap it. I tilt it back and taste Whiskey burning down the back of my throat. He raises one eyebrow at me, clearly thinking I'm making an attempt to bait him in some way. I wish I was. I wish this was just some mind game.
"Black… how bad would it be if Darryl Holst were still alive? If he were the John Doe that escaped from the facility?"
Black closes his eyes, seems to sink into a meditation. After a moment he opens them again. "Agent Ferris, there were three freaks that I was actively tracking. David, Darryl, and Franklin. All three were reported dead. We know now that David was faking his death, and you tell me that Darryl's execution was a lie meant to… pacify me, I suppose. That leaves me with only one question to ask. I know that I watched Franklin Reese die on a live video feed, but… is he somehow alive?"

I take another shot of whiskey. Black is going to murder me, he's going to kill me right here and bury my body in the back yard. "The team that shot him… had some men in position prior to the shooting. Before his body was cold they rushed in and were able to successfully Extract it." Black is shaking, veins lifting off of his forehead. "The team arrived back at the facility during Eddie's attack, and their vehicle was stolen by Walter Schwarz and Darryl Holst. The Extractor is currently unaccounted for."

Black stands up and walks towards the door. He pauses with his hand on the door knob and stares back at me; he looks old, tired. "Agent Ferris, I am only going to say this once. One wrong move right now will almost certainly result in nothing less than the end of the world. This is not an exaggeration. You are going to come with me, and we will find and kill Darryl Holst as quickly as possible - if you attempt to involve the National Guard in this endeavor they will be certain to make everything worse by taking control and provoking the freaks into acting sooner than they otherwise would. Nobody will believe me but you, and nobody will believe you but me." He walks out the door, and the phone in my pocket vibrates. The alarm. Of course.

I don't know what to do. I hate Black, I hate that everything terrible that has happened since the first freak appeared might be his fault. He's an admitted traitor and liar and terrorist. And he's right. Besides, I can always call for backup later; if I do it now, Black will cut me off and I'll never know where he's taking me. I take one last swig of the whiskey. "To the end of the world," I toast.