11-20-14 Writing Warm-up
11-20-14 Writing Warm-up
Artwork © Chuck Pires (Owned by Wandering Men Studios), All Rights Reserved - http://chuck-piresart.deviantart.com/
Story and Characters © Ken Naga, All Rights Reserved
Brought to you by Four Fools Press: “Crazy Good Stories”
(An excerpt of Upstart, by Ken Naga, coming in 2015 from Four Fools Press)
A cold barrel jammed into my eye socket, jarring me from sleep—it was not the best way to wake up.
“Get up, you stinkin’ scab! GET. UP.” The last two words were punctuated by a steel-toed boot playing hopscotch on my ribs. Broken asphalt—my bed—dug into my back. It was weird, sleeping under the skeletons of the ruined overpasses of two once-great but now ancient interstates: 565 and 559. It was like lying on the picked-clean bones of commerce and prosperity.
Another kick, this one followed by a harsh curse.
Like most sane people, I really don’t like being awoken. I’m really not partial to being awoken by a gun barrel in my eye and a boot in the ribs. I’d have to say I kinda hate it, actually. I hate it almost as much as I hate cursing. It’s just so very…unimaginative and unnecessary.
“Get a thesaurus, you clod,” I growled.
The GPF—Government Protection Force—agent cocked his masked and goggled head like a confused mutt. “Huh?”
My rage boiled out of me like a molten gout of pure inferno, and I blasted the guy thirty feet straight up into the air. He didn’t have time to pull the trigger or even make a sound before he slammed into the underside of the overpass. My power makes no noise, but I’m pretty sure that the tree-trunk pillar of blazing energy caught a few eyes, though. The panicked screams began erupting around me like popcorn:
“What in the-?”
“Max? What happened to Max?”
“Help! Oh God, somebody help us!”
“We’ve got a CODE BLACK on our hands! I repeat: CODE BLACK! We have a rogue Super here! Send backup!”
I rolled to my feet, taking in the scene. Standard issue GPF Team: five guys, only one with any semblance of training or experience. I knew if I did not take him out first, I was done for…I’ve handled GPF teams before and, unlike most, lived to tell the tale. These guys had already called for backup, though; I didn’t know if I could handle an entire Squad on my own. They’d be here soon. I glanced at the cloud-clotted skies; it was still early, and that might work to my favor.
I prayed the bulk of the GPF’ers were still sipping their morning joe and pulling on their fancy black body armor while they chatted about last night’s GALnet comedies—or whatever the heck these guys did in the morning.
“Stand DOWN! I repeat, Stand DOWN!” One of the GPF agents—the shortest of the bunch—had his rifle trained on me. There was only a little jiggle in the pitch-black death hole at the end of the weapon, so I figured that this guy had at least fired one before. Most of the GPF’ers were little more than gangbangers, thieves, or thugs that’d been conscripted. Times were really tough, and ironically, sometimes not even crime paid. Unless you worked for the corrupt government, I guess.
I raised my hands, adding a little jiggle of my own to them. “Oh…oh…ok! I…I give up! P…please don’t hurt me! It was an accident! I don’t know what happened…”
The broken pavement grated underfoot as the Lead GPF Agent took a cautious step closer. The black tactical mask undulated where his jaw should have been. I assumed he was keying his mouth-mic. “Everyone. Fan out into a DELTA pattern, keyed on me. Subject is surrendering.”
I grinned, chuckling. I sing-songed the GPF motto, ubiquitous in presence and insidious in nature: “We’re the GPF, and we’re here to help!” I tried my best to layer in as much ironic displeasure as possible.
“Excuse me?” the Lead Agent asked. His voice was laced: half confusion, half fear.
Raw, directed hatred blasted from my hands and slammed into the Lead Agent like a Mac truck.
Bones popped and crackled like sticks on a fire, and the Agent’s scream squalled into the radios of his team. I caught sight of one of them as he jerked in response—his leader’s death cries likely piercing his eardrums. I knew what was coming next and broke into a dead run for some cover; luckily there were plenty of old wrecks, rusted barrels, and the general flotsam of a civilization in decay scattered nearby.
Chips of pavement, stone, and asphalt began flying like a caustic cloud as the sounds of rifle-fire exploded all around me. I tried to blink the stinging dust from my eyes while I tried desperately to avoid an even more stinging slug of lead. They had the high ground, and I was a proverbial fish in a proverbial barrel. I was trapped, and they had reinforcements coming in—this was really shaping up to be a bad morning.
Everything around me was as slick as snot; it had rained most of the night, and it was still very early. What little wan sunlight that might soon elect to bathe Kiln for the day had not yet risen. I hit a patch of slime, or barf, or who knows what, and my slick-bottomed, worn-out boots did little to provide traction. I went down in a tumble, my ankle twisting. Pain gleefully ripped a jagged path into my calf from the base of my foot, and I stifled a scream.
Ricochets resounded from the metal and concrete maze around me like a chaotic symphony. Beneath those sounds of impatient, hungry death, I could make out the panicked screams of the remaining members of the GPF team. I knew I had to keep them off-balance so I could make a run for it…my only hope was their impatience, their panic, their fear.
I channeled my own fear, mixing it with the hot red swirls of anger and frustration and tossing in a dash of guilt for the two men I’d already ended this morning. I popped up from my hidey-hole and directed four quick blasts in random directions. I didn’t even see what they hit—if, in fact, they hit anything—and then ran-hobbled towards the interstate on-ramp. I ducked and dodged amid ragged weeds and rusted wrecks that had been there for what looked like eons.
Every step made me want to scream bloody murder. It felt like someone was jabbing a serrated ice pick into my leg just below the calf. A bullet zinged off a burnt-out husk of a jeep beside me. I whipped around and flung my arms in two massive arcs, peppering the entire area before me with blasts forged from my raw will and anger. I heard a cry from what sounded like a woman, and then saw one of the GPF Agents topple over the interstate railing. I spun and was able to gain a few steps before hearing the sickening crunch.
I kept running.
The top of the on-ramp loomed before me: stark, open and almost devoid of cover. Sweat dripped in my eyes, and my breath came in ever-slowing pulls. I prayed that I had enough juice left. I mentally wrapped a protective shield of raw emotion over my back, envisioning a picture of a turtle I’d seen in one of Vox’s books. Bullets pinged off my shielded back, and I shuddered with each blow, keenly felt but thankfully harmless. I briefly entertained the thought that I just might make it out of this mess.
That was when the hovercraft showed up.
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