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Short Fiction Fridays: War In the Streets

Adrienne Carter limped out of the building burning behind her. Pain shot through her left leg as she struggled not to fall to her knees. She took another step, heat searing her back and then another, hoping she could get away from the building fast enough. She hoped whatever that was in there died along with the rest of the building.

Sweat dripped onto her glasses, she could feel her body shutting down from the whole ordeal. She kept walking, pushing herself, staring at the chain link fence that enclosed the building. If she could just get out there, she knew she could lie down until the fire department got there. She’d be safe.

Bile welled up in the back of her throat. She looked toward the fence before collapsing onto the ground. She was only halfway there. God dammit, she thought. She retched onto the ground, but nothing came up but spittle.

She rolled over onto her back and looked at the towering inferno in front of her. She was still close enough to the flames to be a danger, but the giant fire was at least something she could be proud of. She was never sure if she could conjure up enough fire to cause this much damage, and maybe she could get rid of everything in there.

She dragged herself across the ground, careful to avoid broken glass and jagged pieces of concrete, but everything still hurt so much. Her legs wouldn’t respond like she wanted them to and she was too afraid to look at the wound she got on the inside, at least while she was sitting this close to the fire. Looking over her shoulder, she saw the fence, still not far enough if something exploded, but not too close for the fire. At least, she hoped so.

Adrienne had no idea how long it took to get past the fence, too long, she thought, but when she got there, she forced herself not to fall onto the street and collapse. Grasping at the fence, she pulled herself into a sitting position and finally looked at the wound in her left leg. It was in her upper thigh, well away from the artery, of course, she’d be dead by now if that were the case, but what bothered her was the black gunk seeping out of the puncture hole along with the blood.

Poison, probably some kind of paralyzing agent based on the fact her leg was slowly numbing, and one that would be difficult to treat. Great, this day just get’s better and better.

Turning to look at the burning building she immediately cursed herself for treating her leg wound as if it was the worst thing that could have happened to her today. A tall figure walked undaunted out of the burning building, patting his shoulder and putting out the fire there with only his hands. Adrienne frantically looked around for some rubberneckers or concerned citizens. No one would run to help her, but maybe if there was a crowd, this guy would be less inclined to put a knife through her chest.

Sirens blared in the distance, but the only people she saw were faces looming from the inside of buildings. That was very unusual, and not good for her. Adrienne knew she had to get away, to run and hide, but she didn’t think she could do that with the poison rushing through her veins.

Grasping at the fence, she pulled herself to her feet and willed her self to stand. If she was going to die, at least she’d die on her feet. With one hand on the fence and her legs spread, she tried to look defiant, while mentally cursing her right leg as it wobbled under her weight.

The figure walked slowly towards her and Adrienne could see now that his immaculate, embroidered robe and cowl were not harmed by the fire at all. At least she got all of his crap there. Small victories.

In his hand was a wicked, curved dagger, dripping with more that black crap that was oozing down her leg underneath her jeans. He was not happy, hatred warping his face and radiating from his body. Adrienne felt weaker just by being it his presence.

“No one is coming for you, I made sure of that,” he said, his voice raspy and weaker than it had been inside.

He made one swift motion, driving the blade toward her heart. She didn’t have time to dodge or get out of the way, so she put everything she could into one final spell.

“Fuck you,” Adrienne growled and pure force smashed into him like a truck. He didn’t go flying, but after a nasty cracking sound, he was pushed back a few feet and that ugly knife of his flew back toward the burning building. The man landed on his head and upper shoulders, loosing a dull groan when he hit the pavement. He squirmed, trying unsuccessfully to get to his feet.

It felt like fire surged through her veins as she cast that spell. She felt her bones creak and she fell onto her backside, the pain blinding her. She could hear the guy, but she didn’t know where he was, so she crawled across the street towards an alley. Thanks to the towering flames, there were shadows she could at least hide in for a little bit until he left her alone. Then maybe she could drag herself to a hospital and not die from the poison.

When her eyesight finally came back, she found herself huddled in the alley way behind a trash can. She peered around the dumpster and saw the man standing back up. He had been hurt pretty bad, but he was already putting his bones back together. He was getting weaker though, because as he began to walk away from the giant fire, Adrienne could see he had a limp.

“Time to get away,” she whispered to herself, hoping that he didn’t have some sort of enhanced senses or something. Then she saw him sniff the air. That was not encouraging.

Adrienne knew she was only a couple of miles from the hospital right that second, but she didn’t think she had any more magic left in her, so trying to stand and fight would be suicide. Plus, she had only a tiny bit of feeling left in her leg and she didn’t know if she could run, either.

Taking her chances, Adrienne crawled away from the trash can and into another alley. There, she found a drain and forced herself to stand. She dragged her self out northwards, towards the hospital. She knew if she could make it that far she could get some sort of protection, but in her current state, she wasn’t going to rely on that.

Leaning against the wall, she dug out her cell phone and tried to dial someone who could help, but all she got was a dial tone, which was didn’t make any sense. Except now she knew her hunter was serious when he said no one could help her.

Cursing mentally, she placed her cell phone back in her pocket and walked slowly through the alleys. She tried to stay out of sight as best she could, and she knew that getting on the road would kill her. Fuck.

It took too long to make it through the first mile. The pain from the spellcasting was burning down to her bones and her leg had was all but numb. She was trying to stumble through the detritus in the alley way when a shadow arm swung at her. She stumbled and fell head first, missing the attack, but nearly breaking her neck.

The shadows coalesced into the wizard. It took him a couple of moments between gaining his shape and becoming fully solid. Adrienne could see pain crossing his eyes and she knew what she had to do. With her good leg, she reeled back and kicked him as hard as she could in the knee.

He started to crumple over, before turning into shadow again. He reappeared next to Adrienne and drove his dagger into her shoulder. She tried to scream, but she couldn’t find her voice, instead a cracked wheezing sighed out of her.

Pain surged through her arm, but she knew she couldn’t let it end here. Grasping at all of the power she could summon, she crashed all of it into his head. She didn’t know how much damage she did to him, but she didn’t care.

Scrambling to her feet as fast as possible, she stumbled out of the alleyway, not looking back. Adrienne had no idea how much power she put into that last spell, but she was sure it was going to be her last if she wanted to stay alive. Her body hurt and only when she stumbled out against a wall did she realize the dagger was sticking out of her shoulder.

“This is such bullshit,” she breathed. She felt her arm going numb much faster than her leg was and she wasn’t sure if it was safe to remove the blade from the wound. She tried to get comfortable against the wall and, looking at her previous stab wound, pulled the dagger out of her.

Pain exploded through her upper body as her vision vanished for a moment into pure white. It took just a few moments for the blade to slide out, but when it did, it felt like the most painful thing she could imagine.

It was fortunate, sort of, that her opponent had chosen to stab her left arm, so she could at least defend herself a little bit if he showed back up. Adrienne sighed. She knew it was just a matter of time before he showed back up. However, she noticed he was in pain too. He was using too much magic at once.

She checked her phone again and noticed the suppressing field was still there. The spell was still in effect, and that had to be hurting him. Then something caught her eye. Headlights.

Not caring who was in the car, Adrienne hobbled out towards the vehicle, waving her good arm frantically. When the car screeched to a halt, she realized it was only because of the knife she was waving around in her right hand.

Adrienne nearly fell on top of the car when the window rolled down. It was an older man who was driving.

“Please, I don’t want any trou…” he began to say.

“Please, please, please, sir, he’s trying to rape me,” Adrienne croaked into car. She wasn’t sure if she was crying, but crying out like this might help.

The door unlocked and Adrienne nearly tore it open getting in. The man looked terrified, but he began driving immediately toward the hospital. Adrienne must have looked like hell.

“The knife was his,” she said. “It was still in when I got away.”

“Do you have any friends you can call?” He said as he did a u-turn. Adrienne realized he was coming towards the suppressing field, so she might be out of the woods there.

“Yeah, I’m going to call my boyfriend,” she said. Well, maybe he wasn’t a boyfriend, but whatever.

She dialed and it rang, but there wasn’t an answer. That wasn’t a surprise when she saw the clock. It was well after midnight. God dammit. She left a message about being in the hospital and hung up.

“I came from the fire back there,” she said, indicating the huge pillar of smoke. “I was there visiting a friend when the warehouse caught fire. I came out to see when this big guy in a robe attacked me. I was so scared.”

The man asked more questions. Adrienne neglected to tell her that she was the one who set the place on fire to begin with, or that she was actually being tracked by a malicious wizard. Probably best not to make the old man think she was a crazy person.

Just when she thought it was all over, the old man stomped on the breaks. She looked out her window and saw they were near the hospital, but then she saw the wizard in the road in front of them.

“What’s this guy doing?” The old man said.

“Sir, that’s him!” Adrienne tried to say, but it was too late. The wizard shifted into shadow again and materialized right by the old man’s window.

He punched it as hard as he could, shattering the plastic window as Adrienne fumbled out of the car. The wizard grabbed the old man by the throat and little blue lines of electricity were drained from his eyes, nose and mouth and into the wizard.

“Don’t fucking take him,” Adrienne screamed, grabbing the old man and pulling him out of the car with her.

They collapsed in a heap together, the old man breathing hard but barely conscious. The wizard stalked around the car, picked up the old man and through him off of her. Some sort of black fire sprung up around his hand and he pointed it at her head.

Adrienne realized the dagger was still in her hand so she jammed it into the wizard’s leg as hard as she could. He reeled back, screaming in pain, falling to his backside. To make sure he stayed down, she cast one final spell of force, cracking him in the face and knocking him over.

Woozy, Adrienne reached for her phone. She managed to call 911, but she fell into unconsciousness before she could say a word.

Later, she awoke to sirens and men crowding around her. Someone lifted her into a vehicle while she was strapped to something. A board? No idea, couldn’t move.

“This kid’s beat up,” someone said. A woman this time. She didn’t see a woman outside. “It looks like someone tried to drug her.”

“Is she going to be ok?” Male voice, this one worried.

“Yeah,” the woman said. “I think so.”

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Short Fiction Friday: I Swore An Oath

Scott had to wait until the hail of bullets subsided before he could run to the men and women laying out in the street in front of him. Automatic rifle fire rattled against the mailbox he was ducking against as he prayed to any deity that would hear his medical supplies were still intact. Cursing under his breath he looked at the bullet riddled bodies from underneath the mailbox seeing about six people lying or ducking within his vision, and there were probably more he couldn’t see. Of those he could, only a couple were uniformed soldiers.

The gunfire ended just a couple of seconds after it began, but Scott didn’t stand up immediately, instead keeping his eyes on the wounded. The government soldier across the street was dead, but it was unlikely her comrades would pick her up no matter what US Army regulations said. It was too dangerous, and the retreating militia forces were already returning fire from the alley and building behind Scott. This time though, the guns were shooting over his head, so maybe he could make it to the people in the road without dying. Hopefully, the giant red cross on his blinding white uniform would protect him.

Scott looked over at his partner, Dr. Ostermann and mouthed “I’m going” towards him. Ostermann looked incredulous, especially when Scott dove out from his hiding spot and rushed, hunched over, towards the wounded. He stopped at a kid, probably late teens, with a bullet wound in his lower leg. Scott could see the bone was probably shattered and the kid couldn’t walk, but he could probably carry him.

“My name is Dr. Michaels,” Scott said. “I work in a hospital not far from here, can I carry you away from this?”

The kid nodded and Scott lifted him up just as the wounded militia soldier’s out-stretched arm was blown clean off. The man screamed as Scott passed him.

“Hold on, I’m coming back for you,” Scott told him as he walked by. The soldier’s screams stopped suddenly a couple of seconds after Scott passed though, and he didn’t bother to look back at what was left.

He pulled the kid over to Ostermann, who already had his medical supplies ready. Ostermann may not be crazy enough to run and grab somebody from a live firefight, but Scott wasn’t going to doubt his skills as a healer.

“Who shot me?” The kid said, woozy from bloodloss.

Ostermann took a quick look at the kid’s leg before offering his opinion. “Entry wound is from the front, but not dead on. I couldn’t tell you, but probably a stray shot from a government soldier.”

The kid laughed, which Scott couldn’t believe, and said “It couldn’t have been one of those goddamn rednecks, huh? Shit.”

Scott peered around as both sides seemed to be shooting more intermitently. Heavier weapons were probably in the process of reloading.

“Jack, is that militia soldier still alive?” Scott asked Ostermann.

“No, the bloody terrorist was killed by one of his own buddy’s grenades,” he said calmly as he began to work on the poor kid’s leg. “Come on kid, stay awake. I’ve already called for an armored ambulance, but you could probably grab one more before it gets here.”

Scott looked out at the people in the street. He looked at the nearest person he could find and almost made a break for it when a grenade exploded over the building behind him, causing debris to rain down. Looks like they brought back out the heavy weapons.

Scott took a deep breath and charged back out. The nearest person was crushed under the debris and it would be too risky to try and dig him out. Instead, he made a bee-line for a middle-aged woman who looked like she had take some shrapnel in the side. She was still awake, but he couldn’t tell how wounded she was.

“My name’s Dr. Michaels,” he said when he got there. He was about to ask permission to pick her up when he saw her eyes were a million miles away. “Fuck. Come on lady, stay with me.”

He pulled out some gauze to staunch the bleeding. When he was finished, he picked her up by the armpits and dragged her out to cover. Cursing the whole way, he laid the woman down on the pavement and began to work.

“Hey Jack,” he said, looking at his partner, who was finishing up the splint for the kid. “How much longer before the ambulance gets here?”

Jack shrugged. “I think we just need to work,” was all he said.

Two hours later, Ostermann and Scott were back in the hospital. Chicago was torn up by gunfire and neither of them had slept much in the past couple of days. The kid Ostermann had helped was on his cell calling his mom and crying.

“We’re lucky that woman was the only one who didn’t make it,” Scott said, sipping tea from a can. He wanted water, but that wasn’t an option right now. “I’m not sure how much of this I can handle to be honest.”

Ostermann nodded. “None of us ever signed up to fix up a war, Scott. ”

Ostermann was on his fourth cup of coffee since getting off of his shift an hour ago. It wasn’t like he could go home though, since in way out of the city was blocked. He was just waiting for the next ambulance to go out.

“On the other hand, ‘course,” he said, grinning at Scott. “I guess I’ve got it a bit easier. I didn’t have some old lady say, what was it she said again?”

Scott laughed. A deep, belly laugh bringing mirth to the depths of his soul. He raised his voice to a high falsetto and said “I don’t want no damn nigger working on me.”

“Stupid fuckin’ broad,” Ostermann said, laughing. He sighed when he was done though. All of the cheer evaporated from his face. “I hate to see some racist bitch get treatment when that poor lady had to bite it on the street though. She had kids you know. Enrique called them up about twenty minutes ago while you were with that little girl.”

Scott shrugged, but he didn’t feel as nonchalant as he wanted to feel. “Yeah, fuck…”

“I’m not sure whey we’re treating these goddamn rednecks either,” Ostermann said, anger filling his voice. “I’d bet half my pension, if it still existed that is, that racist old hag supports those damn militia terrorists.”

“Yeah, she probably did, but they’re the ones who shot her too. This whole thing is fucked up from top to bottom though.”
“It doesn’t excuse her though. I’m sorry she called you that.”

“Yeah well, it happens. Some people are jerks.”

Ostermann nodded and finished off his cup of coffee. The doctors sat in silence for a bit. Scott turned to look out the window. He really couldn’t see what was going on out there, but he knew the fighting was still raging on out there. It was just a matter of time before he was dragged back out there.

He got up and excused himself to grab some sleep. He figured what he saw would keep him up, but as soon as he got to one of the make shift cots they had set up, he was out like a light.

Before he even knew he was asleep, Ostermann was shaking him awake.

“Come on Scott,” he was saying. “We got a call out in a hotel. About six militia soldiers and a bunch of civvies were hit.”

Scott cursed a few times, dragged himself off of the cot and grabbed a medical bag and some body armor on his way out, following Ostermann. Both of them jumped into an armored ambulance and rode in the back while stray shots bounced off of the hide of the damn thing. At this point, they didn’t even bother him any more.

Upon arrival, it looked like a blood bath in the lobby of the hotel. Several of the civilians were torn to shreds from what looked like mortar fire and even more of the militia soldiers were dead. Scott spied an unharmed boy, covered in the blood of a militia soldier who had been split in half. There were scorch marks under the body, indicating a grenade.

“Christ, they were protecting them,” one of the other doctors, one Scott didn’t know, said. Just as he finished, one of the windows exploded, sending glass flying.

“Fuck, work fast,” Ostermann cried out.

The nearest person to Scott was an old man with a bullet in his arm. It missed anything important, but the guy was in a lot of pain. Scott got the bullet out and cleaned and dressed the wound before moving onto the next guy, a militia soldier with a gut wound.

A big round had torn right through the man’s body armor, but it looked like he was going to make it.

“Go for the civilians,” he rasped, but Scott shook his head.

“We’ve got enough doctors and at this point, there isn’t much of a distinction.”

Scott worked fast. This wasn’t the first time he had to save a man with a gaping wound in his stomach. None of the organs had been damaged as best as he could tell, thanks to the body armor, but he was bleeding pretty bad. He’d have to get checked back out at the hospital though.

Right before he finished with the bandage, he heard a clinking sound, like a soda can bouncing off of tile. There was a huge flash, followed by a ringing in Scott’s ears. Gunfire and screams followed. Scott struggled to his feet, not his best plan, and tried to see once again.

“We’re civilian medical practitioners,” Scott cried out, still unable to see. “We’re just here to help.”

“You’re giving aid and comfort, motherfucker,” the voice was quiet and came from a figure right in front of him.

“Please,” Scott said. “I swore an oath.”

“So did I,” the voice said. At that second, Scott could see again. The voice was a kid, younger than the one he dragged out of the street earlier in the day. Then, his rifle flashed and Scott found himself on his back.

There was pain, but his mind was elsewhere. He heard another man’s voice yelling.

“What the fuck was that, Jenkins? You just shot a mother fucking doctor.”

“He was helping one of those goddamned traitors, Sarge.”

“I don’t give a fuck who he was helping, Jenkins. Ramirez, get over there and help that poor bastard out.”

A young man, about five years younger than Scott popped into his vision.

“Christ almighty you’re lucky,” Ramirez said, crossing himself. “Jenkins is a fuckin’ awful shot. Didn’t even make it through your body armor. Sarge, this one’s awake.”

The sergeant squatted down next to Scott. “You got ID, brother?”

Scott nodded. The bullet may not have actually gone into him, but he was starting to feel a lot of pain. He handed the soldier his ID badge.

“Fuck, we can get you all to this hospital,” the sergeant said. “Least we could do after….”

“You guys did this?” Scott said.

The sergeant looked up, anger and revulsion crossed his face, then sorrow and regret.

“Yeah,” he said.

 

Copyright: Justin Langston.  7/1/2011

Friday Short Stories: Commander Allison Maxwell

It began as a countdown. Allison Maxwell held out three fingers, returning one to her fist every second before pushing the button on the detonator, blowing the door off of its hinges. Simultaneously, the door across the room exploded open with armored figures crowding into the opening firing automatic weapons.

Allison burst into the room, assault rifle first and fired at a man reaching for his gun. She let out a small, controlled burst before turning to a woman about to shoot a man tied to a chair and unleashing another quick belch of fire. A third one almost drew a bead on the man with a shotgun next to her, but the assailant was cut down before the trigger could be pulled.

Inside the room, Allison began to undo the bindings on one of the men tied to the chair when a pistol went off behind her. Turning to the sound, she saw a man with a rifle slump against the wall with a new hole in his chest. Her gaze shifted and Sergeant Jimenez nodded at her, the barrel of his pistol smoking.

“Commander,” he said, before kneeling to help free one of the prisoners. Allison turned back to the man she was helping before. After releasing him from his locks, she checked his DNA against the ID stored on her armor’s on-board computer. He checked out.

“Hostages secure commander,” one of her squad said about half a minute later. “Should we move on?”

“No, check the bodies, this hardware isn’t civilian,” she said, looking at the rifle at her feet. She pressed a few buttons on the forearm of her armor and a small holographic display appeared, diagraming the body of the woman she had shot just a few seconds before.

“Hmm, specially modified organs and cybernetic bone enhancements are not something normally found in garden variety terrorists,” she said to herself. She activated her armor’s onboard comlink. “Patil, I need info on the data you extracted from the ship’s hard drive. Tell me you’re past their firewalls.”

A young woman scoffed through into her earpiece. “Don’t insult me commander. There’s a lot here to sift through though. Give me a minute…hold on. Oh crap, this doesn’t look good.”

“Patil? Patil, what’s the issue?”

“I’m sending you a list of the ship’s personnel. Let me know if the ID’s match up with the terrorists on board.”

Allison received the upload and immediately transferred the files to her squad. “See if any of these ID’s match with the targets,” she said during the transfer.

A second later, the dead woman on the ground matched up with an ID in her database, as did the other killed crew members around her. Moments later, confirmations rang out from the rest of her squad mates. Still, that made sense to Allison. This was supposed to be a civilian ship, it would make sense that the crew would match.

“They match, but I don’t see the connection, Patil,” Allison said.

“Shit, shit fuck,” Patil cried out. Allison could hear her fuming over the radio. “These guys were registered as a science team with the Westerian government and they sent out an SOS saying they were being raided by pirates. I’m going to try and cover our tracks, but we need to get out of here, Patil out.”

Allison nodded and turned to her squad. “Patil thinks this may have been a set up. Jackson, Jimenez and Reyes, you’re with me. We need to get these VIPs back to the ship. Kovacs, Marcos and Bloodgood, take these charges and set them at the ship’s drive core. Detonate when you get back to the ship. Let’s move.”

On the way back, Allison ran through possible scenarios in her head of the possible outcome. It couldn’t have been as bad as Patil thought. She always had a tendency to overreact and she was new to this type of conflict. This was nothing new and as soon as the hostages were secure, and Kovacs, Marcos and Bloodgood back to the ship, she’d explain how these sort of things work with Patil.

It was nearly a half an hour before Kovacs pressed the detonator and Allison watched the tiny ship balloon into a silent, orange fireball on a view screen next to Captain al-Akair. She turned to her captain and saluted.

“Permission to leave to speak with Private Patil concerning the mission, sir?” She asked.

“Granted,” he said. The captain had monitored all of the communications during the operation and he agreed with her plan to explain the subtleties of how conflicts worked this far out on the frontier. The kid was smart, she’ll learn, Allison thought as she walked to Patil’s work station.

Lieutenant Saanjh Patil was the head of the ship’s cyberwarfare and electronic warfare division and fresh out of the academy. Allison and Captain al-Akair chose her personally; this far out into the frontier, they needed the best hacker they could get.

Because of Patil’s requirement for specialized equipment, she had an office entirely to herself, which was more cluttered than any work area a navy ship would normally allow. Filled with used cups of instant ramen, cheap instant coffees and teas and lots of drained bottles of energy drink, Allison was one of the few who bothered to venture into Patil’s den.

Patil herself was small and thin and she looked like she didn’t always remember to take her meals. She had dark hair, much longer than regulation allowed (although Captain al-Akair didn’t care too much for hair regulation and Allison’s own red hair went past her shoulders) tied into a loose pony tail. Today, styluses stuck out of her hair and her uniform looked like it had been slept in for a couple of days.

“Commander, I’m sure you’re here to tell me that this is all pretty routine for you to find soldiers posing as terrorists out here and all that.”

Allison nodded “well, yeah, I was…”

“See that’s the thing,” she interrupted. “I’ve been evaluating the data over the past several raids and I think that there is just something odd about the types of people we’ve been running into. Normally wouldn’t you expect to run into pirates or slavers this far out on the frontier? Specialized commandos with cybernetic implants is just odd, especially with the frequency they’ve been spotted out here.”

“It is odd,” Allison had to admit, it was pretty strange that she’d run into any real commando units on this kind of mission. “It’s something worth exploring, but in the mean time, I want you to keep quiet about it.”

“But Cap…”

Allison held up a hand to stop her. “I agree with you, this is odd. Everyone on that ship had military grade weapons and enhancements and while that’s not odd in and of itself, those hostages were strangely high profile for being this far out. It could be something, or it could be that a bunch of terrorists are amping up their game and want to deflect their actions to another government.”

“OK, that makes sense,” Patil said, but she didn’t seem particularly convinced.

“So, continue your investigation and keep looking into the info, but do it quietly and don’t bring anything up to anyone. Come to me and I’ll come to the captain if there’s any proof. Do I make myself clear?”

Patil nodded. “Yes ma’am.”

“Good. Let me know what you’ve come up with as soon as you can.”

Patil saluted and Allison returned it before leaving. Allison knew it had to be nothing but terrorists or slavers. The frontier was crawling with would-be revolutionaries, mad-dog killers and people who would do anything for a little bit of extra cash, but there was something bothering her in the pit of her stomach.

“Patil, you better be wrong.”

Written by Justin Langston, June 2011

Superheroes

I must have been 15 when it happened.  I was on a school trip downtown when the sonic boom tore through the city and threw the bus over our heads.  It took a second for any of us to know what was going on, and it was not very pleasant.  One kid, a girl I had a crush on, actually, was so scared she just shut down.  The teacher practically had to carry her away so she wouldn’t be crushed by the falling debris.

See, normally, when superhumans brawl, it’s not like in the comics.  Guardians are trained to do everything they can to pull the fights away from populated areas and the military is always brought in to evacuate, section off and support when an uncontained superhuman shows up.  This was just like it was in the comics.

We didn’t know it at the time, but a psychic terrorist, Justice, had killed nearly 10,000 people, an entire town, with a single psychic burst.  I’m still not sure how the brawl wound up here, but it started with Sovereign, the leader of the Guardians, hurling Justice and himself into a building at over 2,000 miles per hour.  Sovereign’s fury caused building’s to crumble and streets to be ripped to shreds before he stopped Justice from causing another psychic burst by tearing his heart out.

I later found out that all of the major news outlets carried the story unedited from the live feed.  I saw the clip of CNN a year later on the Internet, and the anchor didn’t even say a word.  Just twenty seconds of a man punching another man to death, before pulling his heart out of his chest with his bare hands unaccompanied by commentary.

Six people were affected by the infant burst Justice shot off moments before he died.  Five died.  I didn’t.  I woke up in a military hospital with tubes and shit plugged into my body.  I never made it back to school.

There was a trial and Sovereign was acquitted on all counts.  11 people died from the damage to the city during the fight, and another 15 died of injuries in the hospital later.  Over 100 were hospitalized and survived, but nine of them were crippled for life.

I’m a Guardian now.  They call me “the Wizard” because someone fucked up my treatments and gave me energy manipulation powers.  They thought Justice jumped into my brain, which was why his psychic death rattle didn’t kill me, so they pumped me with every treatment and serum they could think of and hoped something worked.

“You need to work better with the rest of your fucking team,” Alexander Chang said.  I’m sitting in a glass box that takes away my powers, or I can’t use my powers on the box or something.  I don’t know, but I can’t get out.

I’m just glad I don’t have to smell his breath, but I can still see that stupid Dirty Harry revolver stuck in his shoulder holster.  Time for another time out.  Yay!

“You have a job to do, Knowles, and you fucked it up again,” he said.  “The perps got away with nearly a million dollars and they didn’t even have powers.”

“That girl would have died,” I said.  I didn’t bother to look at him.  Sovereign was in the back of the room.  “If I hadn’t flown her to the hospital, she would be dead.”

“I don’t give a shit, Knowles, because your job is apprehension.  You need to stop the bad guys, because if you don’t, it just encourages them.  Think about it.”

Chang got up and left.  Sovereign walked up to the glass.

“I know what you’re thinking, but he’s right,” he said.  “We can’t let them win even once.  They smell weakness and they’ll bite.  Your heart’s in the right place, Jason.  It just needs some tempering.  Think about what he said.”

“Go fuck yourself,” I said.  He shook his head and floated away.  I’ve got some time now.

No One Gets Left Behind

Bullets whizzed over her head as she ducked behind the overturned table.  Angie had a bullet hole in her shoulder and Thomas was crouched over her trying to wrap it.  He spoke quietly as he kept pressure on the wound.

“It’s okay,” he said.  She was breathing hard and her eyes darted around the room.  “It was a clean shot, you’re going to be okay.”

Marielle cursed as she loaded another clip into her pistol.  Last one, 10 bullets.  She wished she brought something bigger with her, but she didn’t expect it to go down like this.

Rex was dead already.  She knew it.  Sure, the heads up display he was piping into her glasses was still running, but his download stopped five seconds ago.  In the lower left hand corner of her vision, she saw his pulse dropping rapidly and there was no way for Thomas to get to the other room with this gunfire.

“We’re fucked,” Marielle said.  “Leave her behind and we can get out.”

Angie’s eyes went wide.  “What?”  She sputtered.  Marielle was surprised blood didn’t spurt out.

Thomas’ eyes were red hot.  “No.  No one should die like this.”

Marielle knew what it was like to bleed out, but she didn’t care.  Angie had been dead weight and she was keeping Thomas from doing his job.  Didn’t he realize that?  What a waste of resources.  Hopefully he’d get downsized when they got back to the company.

She shrugged and checked her HUD.  Rex’s tiny camera feed showed one of the guards was closing in on their little pow wow.  She pressed a button on her sunglasses, which changed the feed.  Other guards were on their way, but if she popped up for a couple of seconds, she’d have a clean shot at the closest one.

She stood out of cover and fired a single bullet.  It struck the hapless guard just above the cheekbone.  She ducked before she saw the bullet tear his face apart.  She smiled.

“He’s not going home to his kids,” she muttered to herself.

“You’re an awful bitch,” Thomas said.  He was finishing the dressing on Angie’s wound and no longer looking at Marielle.  “See, I told you.  You’re going to be okay.  Give it a couple of seconds before you move it, okay?”

Angie nodded and Thomas turned back to Marielle.  He grabbed his shotgun from the floor, spun on the balls of his feet while still crouching and sprang up.  The shotgun roared twice and Marielle heard the sickening thud of something dense and heavy striking a human torso, following one thud of something heavy hitting the ground and the clacking of something falling into the display stands.

Thomas turned towards the front of the store.  They were holed up under the help desk in the middle of the store.  Marielle was sure they could get a good look at what was going on from here, but they were short one guard.

“God dammit,” Angie said.  She reached her own pistol and fired.  Marielle turned to her six just at the right moment to see a tiny dart pierce the neck of the last security guard.  He fell down unconscious.

“Tranq gun?”  Marielle said with disbelief.  Why was she not surprised that Angie was such a pussy.

“No need to kill these guys,” Thomas said.  He pulled some gel rounds out of his coat and loaded them into the shotgun.  So, non-lethals for Thomas too.  What a loser.  He was going to get downsized.

“Rex?”  Angie breathed.  “Are you okay?  Rex?  We gotta go to him, guys, he’s not answering.”

“He’s dead,” Marielle said.  “Mission’s fucked.  Let’s just get out of here before these idiots wake up and you get us all killed.

Marielle stood.  Thomas helped Angie to her feet.

“No,” Angie said.  “Rex is still alive.  We might have a chance.  We have to take it.”

“Screw off.  You’re lucky you’re alive.”

“And so are you.  That guard I shot had his rifle right on top of you.  I saved your ass.”

“Oh fuck you bint.  Thomas tell her she’s…”

Thomas was already away from the help desk and running towards where Rex was supposed to be.  Angie looked at Marielle and then hobbled after Thomas.

Marielle shrugged.  Better make sure these guys don’t fuck up those idiots.  She walked over to the guard Angie downed.  He was out cold, but no sense in cutting corners right?  She put the gun down and fired.  He was just cold now.

“Oh yeah, I’m a bad ass,” she said, satisfied smile creeping across her face.  She walked over to the other two.  One was buried in displays, completely out of it, and not getting up.  The other was motionless.

It didn’t look like Thomas’ gel round did too much damage, but better make sure.  She got a bit closer and pointed the gun at his face.  Suddenly, she lost all of her balance when something heavy struck her knee.  She fell to the ground and in a split second, the guard was over her.

“That gunshot woke me up,” he said with a smile.  “Now you’re gonna pay for that, bitch.”

The guard raised his rifle, Marielle grabbed her pistol and it met its match.  All she had to do was pull the trigger and take him out.  His face was blank, but his eyes were angry.  She saw his finger about to squeeze.

Then he fell over.  He hit the floor about a body’s length away from Marielle’s feet.  She stood and turned.  Angie had her tranq pistol pointed right at Marielle’s heart.

“Rex is okay and he’s walking Thomas through the download,” Angie said.  “Maybe you should go wait in the car.”

Marielle looked around.  Angie didn’t lower her gun.  It’s just a tranq.  Not like it could hurt.  Still, Marielle had done her job.  She protected them.  Not like she needed saving, right?  Unlike Angie.  Besides, she could use a drink.

Marielle shrugged and walked away.  What a fuckin’ pussy.

The Landing: Gloval’s Perspective

Gloval stared out at the sea.  He couldn’t smell it from the observation deck.

It was hard to believe how much more real the sky looked on Earth.  There was a horizon here, which the holographic sky the city had lacked.  Just a wall.

He looked down and smiled at the party below on the flight deck of the Prometheus.  Finally, the civilians could go home and would be out of danger.  He tried to push the names of the 10,000 who had died since that first fold out of his mind.  His smile vanished.

He stared at the top of the sky while chewing on the end of his pipe.  Zentradei warships would descend on them within hours, if Vanessa’s was right.  I hope to God she isn’t, he thought to himself.

“Your report is away, sir,” Lisa said from behind him.  Her crisp voice startled him.  “I’m surprised you haven’t lit that sir.”

“No tobacco,” he barked.  Gloval stuffed the pip back into his pocket.

Lisa looked at him for a moment.  There was something in her face.  Worry perhaps?  Her expression vanished almost immediately, and Gloval knew he would get nowhere if he pressed the issue.

Wordlessly, Lisa handed him a cup of strong black tea ans she joined him looking out the window.  She was staring down at the party below.  She had a faint, longing smile on her face.

“Why aren’t you down there?” He asked.  He knew the answer.

She smiled sardonically and gave an almost mirthless chuckle.  “Why aren’t you?”

“I just wanted some peace and quiet, before we head for Alaska tomorrow,” he said.  Truthfully, he wanted some time by himself.  Just a break from his responsibility.  Lisa’s appearance, though, made him somewhat happy.  He sipped the cup.  It made him smile again.

Lisa let out a long sigh.  She was dreading the trip.  “Do you think they’ll take them back?”  There was hope in her voice.

“I would like to think that they would.  No reason to continue using innocents as a shield.  Why do you ask?”

She had another heavy breath.  “No reason really.”

“Do you think they will?”  Gloval immediately regretted that question.

“No,” Lisa said, staring down at the Prometheus.  “No, they won’t be going home again.”

First Day of Vacation

I was going to finish up that vignette about Vanessa Leeds last week, but things got really busy on Thursday and Friday and I couldn’t get to my computer.  Part of it was preparing for my vacation at work, I got a lot of copy done so the rest of the paper wouldn’t be behind.  On Thursday, I helped my girlfriend move, saw District 9 and Inglorious Basterds.  On Friday, I went out to dinner with my family to celebrate my brother’s birthday.  So, not the best excuses, but that’s what they are.

Besides, I wasn’t particularly happy with the way that story turned out, so I plan on revising it in a few days and picking it back up.  The point is to add a bit of back story, since Vanessa’s story will probably never show up in the actual fiction.  A little disappointing, perhaps, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about fiction writing is that you don’t use half of what you write.  It might even be for the best.

So, despite all expectations, I’m actually looking forward to Final Fantasy XIII.  There’s just something about it that looks pretty freakin’ cool.  I did really enjoy Final Fantasy XII, but that doesn’t mean anything since I have a strange relationship with the series anyway.

Anyway, I can’t stop myself from watching every new video that comes up and I can’t say why I’m so interested.  What’s really weird is that a year ago, I couldn’t care less.  I didn’t expect anything but garbage from this game, but now that it’s about to hit, I can’t wait.  I think I’ve been fully caught up in the hype machine.

Now that I’m on vacation, I’ve finally got some time to myself to catch up on my video games.  I’ve got Valkayria Chronicles sitting mostly un-played in my Playstation and I’ve got Final Fantasy XII sitting there, begging to be replayed.  I kept saying I was going to go through it again, this time making a point of playing straight through and not taking months long breaks when I get stuck, but the game scares me a bit.  Yes, it’s my favorite Final Fantasy (hell, favorite JRPG), but damn, I just don’t know.

Oh well, so much for a cluttered Monday.  Hopefully tomorrow’s entry will be less insane.