Archive for the ‘sci fi’ Category

“I don’t get it.” Garrick said aloud as he shrugged. He considered responding to the post with “Tl;dr”, but that didn’t really convey his confusion. “WTF?” also came to mind, as did “lolwut” and “O_o”. In the end, however, he went with a simple “huh?” He pressed “enter” and sat back, waiting for the response.

Denyse boggled on her end of the screen. She had put forth a well detailed argument, complete with citations and examples (and links, even, dammit!) only to have it all negated with a four – character reply. God, how she longed, longed, to be able to reach through the computer screen and grab people by the throat and shake them exactly the way you’re never supposed to shake a baby. She was at a loss. She let loose a torrent of thought on the screen, possessed.

“The English language is made up of these things called ‘words’,” Denyse typed. “These ‘words’ stand for, are the place-holders for, these things called ‘ideas’. ‘Ideas’ are the the things that are traded back and forth between sentient creatures in a process called ‘conversation’. One ‘idea’ leads to another one, and so forth and so on, until a thing called ‘understanding’ is achieved. I could tell you, for example, that water is wet. You might reply that beer is also wet. This might lead us into a thing called a ‘discussion’ on the differences and similarities between beer and water. What is not allowed, however, is this bullshit about one person responding ‘huh?’ to something that was so clearly laid out as what I wrote to you. Are you saying that I lost you somewhere? Where did that happen? What does ‘huh?’ mean? What is ‘huh?’ a response to? You are, ostensibly, a functional adult. Use words.” Enter.

Now, Garrick was hurt. A little bit. Denyse and her big brain. Her big words. Her logic, that he was never allowed to argue with. The one big word that occurred to him at times like these was ’emasculating’. If she provoked an emotional response out of him, however, it would mean that she had won. He pursed his lips. Popped his knuckles. Concentrated.

“What I meant by, ‘huh?’,” Garrick haltingly began, “was that I don’t understand why you think that it would be such a bad thing for people to have their health and well being monitored for them, for their own good. What’s wrong with a restaurant suggesting a lighter option for a customer, if the waiters can tell at a glance on a screen that this person’s heading towards type II diabetes, for example?” It had taken Garrick quite a while to type that out. He’d had to make constant references back to Denyse’s original post, just to make sure he wasn’t about to mis-quote or mis-understand her. Denyse was known to be quick witted; however, the speed of her reply still jarred. As though she had been watching over Garrick’s shoulder as he typed, she thundered back.

“Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘agency’?” Denyse asked. “Does the thought of ‘personal responsibility’ ring a bell? Why should the body politic, be it collectivist, statist, or capitalist, have any say in the affairs of the citizenry, especially when it comes to such personal issues as health? Have all notions of privacy been thrown away? Has -”

The screen went blank. Garrick looked over his shoulder. His boss looked on, shaking his head ruefully. “Another failure,” he sighed, shutting the ‘Denyse’ program down.

Garrick nodded. “We’ll get it, eventually. Just a little bit more tweaking. The last ‘Denyse’ was a little too much of a sycophant; this one … well, you can see the problems. A bit more ‘tough love’ than we really need.”

“Right,” the boss agreed. “We need to dial it in. Come up with a personality that most people will accept, that won’t rub people the wrong way. This app is gonna go on everything, after all. Can’t have it going around spouting off about stuff over everybody’s head.”

 

words © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

This is a long one. It is also the last one. Thank you for following along. I hope it didn’t suck much. Go back to the beginning, or go to the previous episode. Again, thanks.

Cheryl ran on tip-toe down the hall. Her hand hurt like a sonuvabitch, but it had been worth it. Just because you had a last minute change of heart about me, she thought, doesn’t make up for what you did. This thought, however, made her stumble a tiny bit.

Somewhere in this trap they’d set up, Fran was looking for her. Trying to save her.

If Fran only knew, Cheryl thought. A wave of guilt shook her, shook her violently. She flashed back to that night, two years ago, at the Midnight Moon. Terrible things happened. Cheryl inhaled sharply.

You gotta make it out of here, she thought. Make it out of here or you won’t be able to … make things right with Fran.

Cheryl rounded a corner, and gasped.

Fran stopped dead in her tracks, and gasped.

Wordlessly they ran at each other, so hard that Cheryl almost knocked Fran over. The embrace lasted forever, but not nearly long enough.

“We gotta get outta here,” Cheryl blurted. “This is a trap.”

“Shh. I know. Perfect bait, too,” Fran replied with a grin. “But we can’t go just yet. Me and Killswitch got some unfinished business – ”

“And we’d be only too happy if you stayed around,” came Franklin’s voice; seemingly from all around them. He appeared from around a corner, briefly; just long enough to point something that flashed twice. Cheryl and Fran dropped to the ground.

Now, how do I move them? “Fenris! A little help?” Franklin called.

~~~

Sub-vocals and hand signs. Signals. The SWAT team moved into position. Breaking through the roof, the windows, the doors. Palmetto-Bug Man/ Ping Bai Mah heard them. Sloppy. In China, such sloppiness would not have been tolerated. A group, three or four, approached him, guns drawn.

It wasn’t enough.

Bullets bounced harmlessly off Ping Bai Mah, just like in the good old days. Palmetto-Bug Man felt oddly rejuvenated as he bent their rifles into balloon-animal shapes. It was as if knowing the truth had set his aging process back. Something to muse on as he beat one officer with another officer. When they were all incapacitated, Ping Bai Mah moved on. By memory, he made his way to what he knew must be the command center. He had some things to discuss with his handlers.

~~~

Vanglorious heard the SWAT team breaking in. Sloppy, he thought. If I were in charge of them, I wouldn’t tolerate it. He heard gunshots, then a laugh; muffled and choked screams followed. He hoped that it wasn’t Fran.

“Don’t move.” A voice from behind him. Female. “Flinch and I will put large holes in several of your organs. Do you understand?” Vanglorious nodded. “Hands straight out to your sides and fingers spread, please,” the female voice continued. He complied, dropping the metal staff he carried. It clanged on the ground, then shrank to a rod about a foot long.

“Hm. UHY-97 Bo Staff. Memory steel. Unlicensed, I’m sure.” Bamela Divers, Bureau Agent, nodded in admiration. “An elegant weapon, wouldn’t you say? Nothing loud and sloppy like the SWAT team. Now, carefully – and I can’t stress this enough – carefully kick that back to me. Then turn around.” Vanglorious did what she asked.

“You’re that ‘Mister Vanglorious’ guy, right? What are you doing here?” Bamela asked, stooping to retrieve the staff while never taking her eyes off Vanglorious.

Vanglorious shrugged. “I got lost,” he answered. “A friend of mine told me about a little Hurricane Melpo party.”

“Right. I think I got the same invite.” Bamela nodded.

“Okay. You got me.” Vanglorious casually remarked. “Now can I put my arms down? They’re getting tired.”

“Slowly,” Bamela answered. The gun never wavered. Vanglorious yawned. This triggered needle darts that shot out from hidden shooters in his sides that sped towards Bamela. They hit home, slowing her reflexes. She fired, but too late. Vanglorious wasn’t where she was aiming anymore. He snatched the gun out of her hand. As Bamela lost consciousness, she saw Vanglorious shrug.

“Sneaky and old’ll beat young and quick every time,” or something like that she heard him say, as she slumped to the ground.

~~~

“What do you think we should do with ’em?” Fenris asked.

“Whaddya  mean?” Franklin replied. “We follow the plan. We’ll film Commando Girl here, we chop off her head or whatever, then we do the same with her friend.”

“What are you going to do with the traitor?” came Forbes’ voice. He had Pamela by the arm, a gun in her back. “I had my suspicions about her ever since the school incident.”

“Let her go.” Fenris’ hands reflexively formed into fists at his side.

“Shut up.” Forbes shouted.

“Freeze!” Officer Smith yelled. The SWAT team, minus the several that Ping Bai Mah took out, burst into the room.

“我会毁了你!” bellowed Ping Bai Mah.

“So, we’re all here,” Forbes called. “Good! I’ve been waiting for this – ”

Fran was groggy. Slowly she came around. There she was, tied up. There was Cheryl, next to her, tied up as well. She could just barely make out voices, all yelling, all at once. People-like shapes swam in and out of her consciousness, her field of vision. Someone pointed a gun at Cheryl.

Then, it got weird.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She jumped in front of the gun. It was her unprotected head, and not the bullet proof vest with the target painted on it, that intercepted the bullet. Dead, instantly.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She grabbed at Cheryl, pulling her out of the way of the bullet at the last second. Somehow, there were brains and skull bits on her bullet proof vest, right near the target she had painted on it. They ran from the room.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She leaped at the face wielding the gun. There was a shot. She heard a scream.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She tackled the swat team. All of them. At once.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She took Ping Bai Mah down a second time.

Fran was free! She didn’t know or care how. She met up with Vanglorious in the hallway. “Come on!” she yelled. “The shit’s goin’ down!” Vanglorious followed.

She kicked Franklin in the throat.

She broke Fenris.

She snapped Forbes’ arms like twigs.

She stood and stared at Pamela. She couldn’t bring herself to do anything to her.

She paused to glance at the twin sister, Bamela. Bamela slowly came to, a look of comprehension dawning on her face.

All these things happened at once.

Bamela shook her head. “You figured it out,” she sighed. “The dis-entangler.” There was a small army of “Fran”s, one for each possible choice Fran could have made at that instant. Several had died. Others were kicking ass. They won.

And then they vanished.

~~~

“Way I see it, we need each other,” Bamela said. Vanglorious, Fran, and Cheryl, had separated themselves from the crowd of police and EMTs. A quick badge flash from Bamela was all it took to quell any questions or double takes.

“Wait,” Cheryl asked. “What’s gonna happen to them?”

“Who? Franklin and Fenris are going away for a long time. Forbes too, most likely.  Palmetto-Bug Man is the Bureau’s responsibility. He’s a clone with a limited life span. We’ll try to calm him back down, let him live out the rest of his life in peace. My sister has some explaining to do. Did I leave anyone out?”

Cheryl thought for a moment, then shook her head.

“Who needs who?” Vanglorious asked.

“Ms. Braithwaite needs our training. She’s a natural, but there are some things you don’t learn at the community college annex. And the Bureau could use her – she’s the first person who’s ever figured out how to work with the dis-entangler.” Bamela looked across to Vanglorious. “We could use a man with your resourcefulness as well, Mr. Douglass. – Oh, don’t look so surprised. The Bureau’s been keeping tabs on you since you got all ‘Black Power’ -y back when Flava Flav mattered.”

“Do I have a choice?” Fran asked. “I think Vangl – Mr. Douglass could use some help from me, too.”

“There’s always a choice, Ms Braithwaite,” Bamela answered. “You of all people should know that.”

“Good. We’ll let you know.” Fran nodded. The three of them left.

~~~

“Fran, there’s something I have to tell you.” Vanglorious had dropped the two of them off at their apartment. The wind was dying down. It was too – damn  -early – in  – the  – morning thirty.

“You’re leaving? I knew that part.”

“No, that’s not it – shit, this is hard for me.”

Fran put a hand over hers. “Take your time.”

“You know, two years ago, when – ”

“Yes. What about it?”

“I … I saw what was  … happening. I saw you, struggling, hurt, the fear in your eyes. I could’ve stopped it. But I … I didn’t. I was too scared.”

Fran grinned a little ruefully. “I know.”

“WHAT-” Cheryl blurted.

“Listen. Shh. Let me tell you what happened.” Fran stroked Cheryl as she pulled her close, leaning against her. “I saw you. I saw you looking so terrified. I saw the guilt come over you in the weeks and months later. Did you think I was just out to get revenge?”

“Well, yeah, kinda.” Cheryl shrugged.

Fran nodded. “‘Well, yeah, kinda’,”, she mocked. “There was that. All the people I fought for, that I tried to save? I knew that they’d have someone at home, someone who’d beat themselves up all the time because they thought they’d failed their friend, or their spouse, or kid, or whatever. I saw what that did to you. I couldn’t stand the thought of that happening to anyone else, ever. They didn’t fail. You didn’t fail.

“You were a human.”

The End (of book One)

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

So, it occurred to me that I need to make something that explains what is going on in Allosaurus; especially since there’s a lot of different characters and motivations and all that. You can read this, you can skip it, you can do whatever. It’s kinda like Zombo.com in that regard. You can do anything. And as always, here’s the link to the first episode of this thing.

In the present day and age, in an America not too dissimilar to the one we know, there is a city on the Gulf Coast of Florida. This city, for reasons not yet known, is experiencing an epidemic of costumed vigilantes. Some of these people are comical, or just doing it for a laugh; some, not so much. Each of them is an “other”, an outsider in some way. Perhaps it is this sense of being “not quite the same” that fuels these “superheroes” in their night time activities?

Francine Braithwaite –   Two years before our story starts, something … bad happened to this young woman. Something turned a carefree, music loving, slightly spoiled daughter of West Indian immigrants into a dark, brooding machine of vengeance and wanton violence. Some people think she’s one of several reported “Commando Girls” stalking the city’s criminal element. What ever you do, however, don’t call her Frannie.

Cheryl Jefferson – Francine’s girlfriend, and once-upon-a-time band mate. A few years older than her, Cheryl is very protective of  Francine and her secrets. However, this bass-playing momma bear has a few secrets of her own. Also, she hates toe tags.

Palmetto-Bug Man – A man who has taken, for his totem animal, the tank-like Floridian cockroach  with whom he shares a nearly indestructible nature. He often works in conjunction with the mysterious Bureau. An amnesia victim, Palmetto-Bug Man goes by the name “Bud” when not in his crime fighting ensemble in shades of doo-doo brown.

Mister Vanglorious – Lawyer by day, black nationalist superhero by night. Vanglorious, also known as Gerard Douglass, was one of the first of the masked vigilantes to appear in the city. Together with the Enforcer and Arctica Winters, Vanglorious is something of a community leader/elder stateman in the spandex and cape set.

Larry Forbes – Former Bureau agent with an axe to grind. Forbes has a jones for cheese curls, highly caffeinated citrus soda and complicated revenge plots. Sells arms and surplus weapons tech to the highest bidder; however, Forbes sees this as merely a means to an end.

Project KillswitchFranklin DeSoto, Fenris Quarters and Pamela Divers (or Kracko, Teppo and Oxmyx) are three best friends who, for some reason, are not running the city as they would expect. They formed Killswitch as a means of pooling their intellect and nerdy abilities to rectify this unfortunate circumstance. They have been receiving some guidance and equipment from Forbes, but they are starting to chafe under his dictatorial rule.

Bamela Divers – twin sister of Pamela Divers, Bamela works for the Bureau where she acts as a handler for Palmetto-Bug Man. With her cover as his girlfriend, Bamela is able to provide Palmetto-Bug Man with intel and instruction. She has no idea that her twin is anything more than a perpetual college student and cashier at a grocery store; she has, however, an inkling as to who Palmetto-Bug Man was before he lost his memory.

Arctica Winters – She may be from another world. She’s not telling. Whether extraterrestrial in origin or not, Winters has an uncanny knack for controlling ice and for freezing things. Which, by the way, is an ironic superpower for a vigilante in Florida.

The Enforcer – Genetically engineered super-soldier from the future, Keith Stuart-Windsor was trapped here in our time by an accident. At least, he claims it was an accident. Vanglorious suspects that both Winters and the Enforcer have hidden motives.

Lady Justice – Irene Sadowicz alternates between referring to herself as Zaria the Honorable and Lady Justice. She considers herself to be the vessel for the Slavic goddess of valor and protection.

And The Rest – Amazin’ Ape, Kid Kaos (R.I.P.), Maxine Mistress, The Mighty Green Aphid, Gang Green (also R.I.P.), Los Stupendoids, and Ms. Potato, Girl of a Thousand Body Parts: Other vigilantes that make appearances from time to time, or not. Maybe.

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus part sixteen. Catch up with part fifteen, or go back to the beginning.

The trip to the warehouse had been a quiet one. Fran was restless, rocking back and forth in her seat, arms folded across her chest. “You figured out who I was just from that one conversation we had that night?” she asked. Her words ruptured the silence so completely it made Vanglorious jump.

“What?” he asked.

“You were telling me about ‘projection’. I accidentally called that woman ‘Frannie’. You must be some kinda detective.”

Vanglorious softly grunted. “Lawyer, if you can believe it. – And, I looked up your case, if you don’t mind. I can’t believe those guys got off so lightly – ”

“Drop it.” Fran said, voice like stone. Vanglorious dropped it. Without a word, they continued on.

“Stop here,” Fran whispered. She got out. Vanglorious made a move to follow her. “No,” she ordered, gesturing for him to stay back. She paused, looking at him. “Thank you,” she nodded, shaking his hand. “For …”

“Yeah,” Vanglorious replied. “Go get ’em.”

~~~

There was a special knock. It had to be just the right rhythm, or it wouldn’t work. This knock opened the first door. The second one was at the end of a maze. One had to time one’s journey through to maze to arrive at it, so that the second door would open; not a moment too soon or too late. Otherwise, a trap door would spring, and one would be staring at the inside of a broom closet for a weekend. The third and final door didn’t look like a door at all – it was a very convincing hologram that look just like the street outside. One had to slide past this at just the right angle to not actually wind up back outside. It was a very tricky setup. Lady Justice scoffed at it, considered it to be overkill. Amazin’ Ape had to be walked through it, each time. Vanglorious had designed most of it, seeing as how the conference room it led to was in his law firm. Even as tired as he was this night, he made short work of the twists and double-backs, entering the conference room to find Arctica Winters and the Enforcer waiting for him.

“Sup?” Vanglorious muttered in greeting. He began shrugging out of his mask and armour, down to a turtle-neck and black khakis. There was a decanter of gin on a nearby table. He poured himself a shot and tossed it back.

~~~

Fran bolted into the dark and rain, pulling the goggles over her eyes as she ran.

So, you got a plan for this, dearie?

Nope.

Wonderful. Always makes sense to charge into a trap with no idea what to do, right?

That’s how it’s happening tonight. Deal with it.

Hm. You’re gonna die, then.

Yep, probably. At least, I’ll be rid of you, so there’s that.

You might wanna sneak in through –

Nope. Kicking the door in.

Fran’s steel toed boot crashed through the door with a loudly satisfying clang. She grinned like a feral monster.

Nothing like it!

Nothing like it, indeed!

“Alright, bitches!” she roared. “Come on out so we can do this!”

“You really are a bit of a thug, aren’t you?”

Fran whirled to face the voice.

Grabbed an arm.

Twisted.

Threw.

Palmetto-Bug Man sailed overhead, crashing into an iron pillar. It dented slightly.

“Ow! That hurt, you little -” Palmetto-Bug Man lowered his head and charged like a battering ram. Except, faster. It caught Fran off guard, knocked the wind out of her. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he panted.

“Shut up,” Fran growled. The powered gauntlets hummed as Fran pounded Palmetto-Bug Man’s face. Blows that would have cracked cement, stung and bruised him. Not long ago, he thought, it would’ve barely tickled. He grabbed her hands, held them tight, tight.

“You’ve got some property that doesn’t belong to you,” he said, struggling to peel the gauntlets off.

“And …” Fran grunted, fighting back with every ounce of strength, “You … can have …. them … when I’m … DONE!” She kicked, hard.

Palmetto-Bug Man went down, whimpering. Why do they never think to wear a cup? I know I would, Fran thought. She knelt down over him.

“Don’t follow me,” she ordered. She grabbed his head and slammed it into the concrete floor. He was out.

“Who’s next?” she called.

~~~

“You smell a bit … earthy,” Arctica wrinkled her nose in disgust. It must suck to have senses that acute sometimes, Vanglorious thought.

“I’m fine, thanks for askin’,” he said. “Also, thanks for the help, guys. Couldn’ta done it without you. Oh, wait.”

“You knew this was her fight,” Enforcer replied. “There wasn’t any reason for us to get involved -”

“Why are you doing this, then?” Vanglorious barked. “Look, it’s not like you need to put on your technicolor bondage gear to sit around and do nothing. -Or maybe you do, Keith. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I’m just sayin’ -”

“I take it it worked out,” Arctica broke in. Her voice was measured, deliberate. Otherworldly. Well, well, well, take a look at us – we’re the leaders of the superhero community, Vanglorious thought. A woman who may or may not be an extraterrestrial, a genetically engineered super-soldier from the future, and an over-amped Black Nationalist. He glared at the other two.

It worked out, he thought. That was Arctica’s main concern. She and the Enforcer were better suited to dealing with bug eyed monsters from Venus, than the rough and tumble crooks and delinquents that tended to be on Vanglorious’ beat. For some reason, however, they saw fit to show up in town, just as all this superhero stuff started getting underway. Vanglorious sensed that there was something they weren’t telling him. No matter. I’ll work it out soon enough.

~~~

Larry Forbes sighed. Taken down by a girl, he thought. He walked over to Palmetto-Bug Man, looked down at him with disappointment. Larry reached into a pocket. No, that’s where I put the cheese curls. The other one. He pulled out a small leather satchel. A syringe, a bottle of some fluid. He injected Palmetto-Bug Man in the neck.

“Wake up, Bud,” he whispered. “Come on, big fella.”

Palmetto-Bug Man stirred. “Wha … Hoozat … ?” he mumbled.

“Hiya, Bud,” Larry cooed.

“Uh, hey, pal,” Palmetto-Bug Man offered. “And you are …?”

“The name’s Forbes. Larry Forbes, Bud.”

“Um, great? Do I know you?” Palmetto-Bug Man furrowed his brow in deep concentration.

“No, but I see that the little hamster on a wheel you call a ‘brain’ isn’t generating the required horsepower for you to complete a thought right now, so lemme do some dot-connecting for ya. I know who you are when you aren’t all dolled up in yer fancy-pants and goggles. Bud.”

Palmetto-Bug Man sat up. “Are you … are you from the Bureau?”

“No,” Larry replied. “Not any more, anyway. Listen. I got a message for you. It’s a very important message, so you have to really pay attention.”

“What are you-”

“Shh. Listen.” Larry leaned in close. “I’m here to cure your amnesia, Bud. And all it’s gonna take is one word. One little word, and you’ll remember … well, everything. There’s just one catch. You might not like what you recall.”

Palmetto-Bug Man was shaking, in spite of himself. “… I …”

“Here it comes,” Larry whispered into his ear. “Al-gol.

And suddenly, Palmetto-Bug Man remembered everything. Every. Thing.

A village in China.

Winning medals.

Chosen for a special honor.

The first man in space. Not from the Soviet Union, not from the Yankee imperialists. The Glorious Peoples’ Republic. It was to be him.

Pin Bai Ma.

An accident.

Lost.

Falling, falling, forever.

Dead.

… alive?

Captured, tortured, by Americans.

Killed. Again.

Alive, again. Over and over.

“A clone, grown over and over from what they found left over in your crashed space capsule,” Larry whispered. “A tiny, little scrap. A ‘bud’, if you will. Used, over and over again, by the Bureau.  So sad. I resigned, in protest, of course.”

Palmetto-Bug Man was Bud. Or wasn’t he? He remembered that he was Pin Bai Ma. Didn’t he? And the pain, always the pain. A slave. At the hands of the Bureau.

“Yes,” Larry nodded. “The Bureau. They did this do you! Only you can stop them now! I’ve set you free!”

“F-free?” Palmetto-Bug Man whimpered. His fists tightened in rage.

“Yes, my friend. Free.”

And suddenly, Palmetto-Bug Man knew. He knew where to find the nearest representative of that evil Bureau, that had robbed him of his life so many times, that had used him, played him, even while pretending to be his friend.

He knew he would find …

Bamela.

He stood, howling like a berserker.

Well, Larry thought. This should work out just fine. I should be able to get rid of these Killswitch idiots AND the fools at the Bureau, all in one night. He smiled.

Yay me.

~~~

“Never mind the sarcasm, Vanglorious,” the Enforcer interjected. “Is Project Killswitch -”

“Project Killswitch is … neutralized, as you might say, Keith.”

Wordlessly he nodded to himself. Neutralized. Nice word for it. He poured himself another shot of gin, gulped it as if by reflex. He’d seen a lot of weirdness go down tonight, and he wasn’t in any hurry to let it take root in his long-term memory.  This looks like a job for … Inebriation!  Vanglorious thought. He was thankful that it was his name over the door of this place. One of the junior partners could run the business in the morning; he would go home, get some rest. Watch some ‘toons, maybe.

“I’d prefer you call me ‘Enforcer’ -”

“And I don’t really care about your preferences at the moment, Keith,” Vanglorious snapped. “I’m sick of all this bullshit. Sick of it. Something big, real big, went down tonight. Bigger than all the spandex cosplay freakshow crap everyone’s always on about. What bugs me, though, is two things. One, what happened with that Braithwaite girl. B, or two, or whatever,  the two of you are connected to all this, somehow. So, Keith, you’ll forgive me if I don’t really feel like referring to you by your ‘scene’ name at the moment.”

“Very well, Gerard,” Arctica pointedly responded. “Do you suggest that we terminate this arrangement?”

“No, nothing of the sort. Not after tonight. Tonight convinced me that I need to keep my eye on you two, more than ever.”

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved

I’ve written better, I think. But, I want to just get this out here already, because if I don’t, I feel like I’ll never finish this. This is part fifteen; here’s part fourteen. And here’s the beginning. This could change, so don’t take this as canon yet.

“We got you some clothes. Sorry we had to cut yours off you.” Pamela put the set of coveralls in Cheryl’s hands. Blindfolded, but with her limbs now freed, she shrugged and struggled into them.

“Fuck you,” Cheryl hissed. She fumbled with the buttons. “Since you’re probably gonna kill me anyway, fuck you.”

Pamela chose not to respond. She’s right, she mused. I don’t think this is gonna end well. For anybody. “Are you thirsty?” she asked. “I could get you some water …”

“Could you? And be a lamb and put a lemon wedge in it, please?” Cheryl grunted.  “And then, could you shove it up your ass and GO FUCK YOURSELF!” she yelled.

“Shut that bitch up!” Franklin called. “Where’s the fuckin’ duct tape?” He strode across the room towards the two of them. Raised his hand to strike Cheryl.

“No.” Pamela grabbed his arm. He struggled against her surprisingly strong grip, then he relaxed.  She let him go. Franklin scowled as he stormed off.

“Fine,” he grunted, rubbing his wrist where Pamela had grabbed him. “Just keep it down, will ya?”

Fenris sat off to the side, saying nothing. He watched, he listened.

“Do you know the kind of stuff your girl gets into?” Pamela asked.

Cheryl sighed. She had been afraid of this moment. Someone would call her out, someone would know Fran’s little … secret. She always figured that it would happen when Fran wound up in jail, somehow. Jail or the morgue, where her toe tag would get some use at last. Someone would see Fran rotting away in a cell, and ask Cheryl, “How could you let Frannie come to this?” Their eyes would burn with indignation. “What kind of person lets someone they say they care about put her life in jeopardy every night?” they would accuse, looking down at Fran’s broken body.

She just never suspected that it would be like this.

She never knew she would feel so …

Relieved.

Cheryl nodded, mute. Hating herself for feeling the burden ease off her shoulders. Hating herself for not putting a stop to it all, somehow. Hating herself, because now, she realized, she was just bait.

They want her to come after me! They want to trap her!

“… She won’t come,” Cheryl lied. “We broke up. I … I cheated on her, and she left me.”

“Well,” Fenris spoke up, in his too-deep-for-his-skinny-body voice. “You better hope she has a change of heart.” So bland, so matter-of-fact.

“What’s it like?” Pamela asked.

“Huh? What’s ‘what’ like?”

“Living with someone like, like that,” Pamela finished. “I mean, do you help her get her armor on? Do you have to come up with alibis and explanations a lot? Take her costume to the dry cleaner?” She shook her head. “It’s gotta be a rough life.”

Cheryl blew a short breath from her nose. “It’s nerve-wracking.”

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus continues in part Heterodox.

Allosaurus part 14. Here’s part 13; here’s the beginning

Fran slowly crumpled the letter from Project Killswitch. She couldn’t look at it, she couldn’t. She had read it over and over again for the past hour or so; read it until the words no longer made sense. She didn’t remember turning the TV on. She didn’t remember when it started getting darker outside, or when the wind outside began picking up.

” … the thirteenth named storm of the season has turned into a hurricane, with all the spaghetti models showing that Melpo’s on track for making a landfall sometime in the next day or so,” the weatherman was saying. Fran couldn’t hear. “I guess thirteen is our unlucky number this year. Make sure if you are in a hurricane evacuation zone that you …”

I … I … Fran shook her head.

What?

… I don’t know what to do.

Don’t give me that. You know exactly what you’ve got to do.

I promised. I promised her I wouldn’t do it anymore.

Yeah, and now they’re gonna send her back to you in little bite-sized chunks if you don’t. I’m pretty sure she’ll be madder at you if you don’t do something and she gets killed, than if you show up in your superhero get-up. What the hell is wrong with you?

But … these guys are serious. They killed –

THEY’VE GOT CHERYL. WHAT ABOUT THAT IS HARD FOR YOU TO UNDERSTAND? THEY WILL KILL HER, TOO. You’re pathetic.

No, I’m not!

Pathetic and weak, just like you always were. Frannie.

Stop.

Make me. Frannie.

Stop!

Fancy little Frannie fran-fran, doin’ the can-can

Stop it!

Doing little girls ’cause she can’t handle a –

“AAAHHH!” Fran put her hands over her ears and ran. It was no use. They caught her, again, just like they did two years ago. Laughing, leering faces. Hands pulling, tugging, punching. Mauling her. A foot mashed her head into the ground and cracked her jaw.

“NO!” Fran yelled. It wasn’t a plea, not like before. It was a command. The faces, the hands, the foot, all vanished. She found herself on the floor in the studio, in front of the closet. Gasping, choking back a building fury, she opened the door. The boots, the gauntlets, the bullet-proof vest, the goggles. They were all there. Even the dis-entangler.

Even the toe tag.

Don’t let them do that to Cheryl. 

I won’t. I can’t.

Fran tied on the toe tag.

~~~

There was a back stairwell to the roof. Fran had used this to escape the building before. She hadn’t been back here in a long time. It was still dusty, neglected. No one should see her.  She opened the door. Wind was picking up; it almost tore it from her hand. The deepening twilight showed an angry red-violet to the west. The clouds would cover the stars, the moon. It would be a pitch perfect night for someone to slip among the shadows, Fran thought.

“Hiya.”

Fran whirled around in the direction of the voice. “You,” she grunted. “What is it now?”

Mister Vanglorious chuckled behind his red black and green mask. “Nice to see you, too, CG.”

“See wha?”

“You know. Short for ‘Commando Girl’. I guess that’s what you would prefer to be called.”

“Whatever. I don’t have time.” Fran spun around to leave.

“Hey, wait!” Mister Vanglorious called. “Don’t you wanna know …”

Fran leaped from the roof in silence. “… Why I’m here,” Vanglorious finished. He ran to the edge and peered over. “Damn, that’s a long drop,” he muttered. “Oh, well. Not gettin’ any younger.” Gracefully, with the agility of a man with long years of training, he bounced and tumbled his way to the ground. Lightly touch on this balcony, swing on that railing. Roll on that ledge. The gusts of wind made it more difficult than it looked. Vanglorious made short work of catching up to Fran.

“So, ah, you just gonna walk there?” he asked.

Fran’s eyes narrowed. “Walk where?”

Vanglorious sighed. “Look. Couple of things you might wanna know. Some of us aren’t loners, okay? We work with, um, some people. We watch things. We hear things. We -”

“Point?” Fran snarled.

“We know that Project Killswitch has your friend. I’m … I’m sorry.”

Fran felt her face burning, but her expression remained fixed. “I see. So, the whole city knows who I am, then?” she asked in a measured, deliberate tone.

“No, no, not at all. Some people do. The ones who are luring you into a trap do. The other people I work with do.”

Fran surreptitiously  pressed a switch on one of her gauntlets. There was an eerie hum. “Be very careful, Vanglorious. The next words you say could be your last.”

He sighed. “Yeah, okay. Look. YOU ARE WALKING INTO A TRAP. I am trying to help you, you tiny idiot, you. Killswitch ain’t the only problem you got right now.”

“Who else?”

“The Bug Man’s been looking for you, too.”

“Who, Monster Maggot, or Captain Cockroach, or whatever his stupid name is? That guy? The hell I do to him?” Fran chuckled darkly in spite of herself. “I think I got some Raid back at the apartment -”

“This is serious, woman. You don’t wanna mess with Palmetto. He works for some kinda government agency, apparently. The agency you got your gadgets from.” Vanglorious paused; more for dramatic effect than for anything else. “They want their shit back.”

“Fine. He can have it. Soon as I get Cheryl back and break Killswitch into little pieces.” She turned to go. “Thanks for the heads-up,” she finished.

Dammit, Vanglorious thought. He shook his head. “Stupid, stupid,” he muttered. “I can get you there faster than you walking, you know!” he yelled after her.

Fran paused. Her shoulders slumped by the slimmest of fractions. She turned. “I can’t have anyone with me,” she sighed. “They’ll kill her.”

“They’ll probably do that regardless. I’m just offering you a ride. For now. And, maybe I can help you with Palmetto Bug Man.” Vanglorious shrugged. “Listen, Insect-o-Guy is pretty diesel. He’s actually a super-human. He don’t need a bullet-proof vest or a jet pack, alright?”

“What do you care?” Fran scowled. “What’s it to you?”

Vanglorious sighed. He reached up to his head, and with one swift motion, he pulled the mask off. He stood there: a black man maybe in his late forties – early fifties. Hair grey around the temples, forehead creased with years of care, faint lines etched around his eyes and mouth. “I had a daughter, once,” he whispered. “She was … attacked. I lost her. I … I couldn’t do nothing. You know what that feels like, I suppose. Feeling helpless.”

Fran didn’t move. Then, she reached up, and pulled the goggles from her face. A dark flame illuminated her eyes.

“Where’s your ride?”

The wind blows, the bells are silent.

words and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved

Allosaurus continues next time in Girlfriend In A Refrigerator.

At long last, here’s part thirteen of Allosaurus. Part twelve is here. Part one is here. Thank you. 

He was distracted, lost in thought. So the two – by – four to the back of the head caught him by surprise. It upset his balance, and he fell from the ledge.

Fourteen stories down.

Dammit, he thought. This is gonna hurt a little.

Palmetto Bug Man had only a second to adjust his positioning before he hit. He just barely avoided the Lexus. As it was, the crash shook the ground enough so that the car’s alarm went off. Slowly, gingerly, he sat up, shaking the impact dust away.

Now, I’m pissed. He wasn’t powerful enough anymore to clear fourteen floors in one leap.

Eight, then another six.

It had only been a year or so ago when he could’ve easily done twenty stories. When his senses were so acute he  could hear a gnat fart. When two – by – fours didn’t hurt so bad. Man, I never thought I’d get so … old! He scanned the roof top, squinting. Squinting? Dammit all to hell! 

He finally found them: a couple of bums. They appeared to be stealing the copper tubing from an a/c unit. How much could they possibly get for that? he asked himself. And yet, there they were, they were risking their lives for it. Just some scared, desperate men with no money. They took one look at Palmetto Bug Man and ran away.

He lost the heart to chase after them. It was pointless. Panting, he sat down on an air duct. Since the Killswitch debacle, there had been a distinct lack of big name-brand crime going on. Just little stuff like this. Probably a good thing, really. No big threats – and no Commando Girl. 

Palmetto Bug Man reached in a pocket for his phone. Call Bam, tell her tonight was another no – show. 

The phone was smashed. Bits of plastic and glass. He’d probably landed right on the thing. Fantastic, he thought. I just bought it, too. Had to stand in line and everything. 

~          ~          ~

The bank employees parked in a basement lot. There were closed circuit security cameras all around. Security guards and ID checks at the entrance. And that was where the weak point was. One of the security guards had been fired recently for erratic behavior. Behavior that was brought about, in no small part, by a handshake with someone who was wearing a very thin, transparent glove laced with powerful hallucinogens. Fortunately, a replacement had been found.

Cheryl passed her ID to the new security guard. “Haven’t seen you before,” she said to him.

Franklin smiled warmly. “Yeah, I usually work at the Gulfport branch. They called me in to take over for Gary. Didja hear what happened to him?”

“I know, right?” Cheryl replied. “Never thought Gary would flip out like that.” She pocketed her ID again. “Have a good one,” she waved.

“You do the same,” Franklin nodded as he let her through. He pulled out his cell phone. Brand new. He’d stood in line to get it and everything. Really nice features. He texted a message. One word. naDevvo’. Go.

The security cameras would run a seamless loop, hiding the nondescript white van that pulled up next to Cheryl’s car. Hiding the two figures in white coveralls and balaclavas who placed a chloroformed rag over Cheryl’s mouth. Hiding the brusque way they tossed her limp form inside. Hiding the way they casually drove out the exit. Franklin received a text. Qapla’. Success.

Fenris shuddered just a little from the excitement of it all. His teeth ground together. Adrenaline made it hard to drive slowly. He wanted to jump up, to shout, something. That’s why they made him drive. When they’d kidnapped Kid Kaos, he had to be held down. Driving gave him something to concentrate on. Pamela sat in the back with Cheryl, zip-tying her limbs together. She checked Cheryl’s pulse. A little erratic. Don’t die on me, bitch, she thought. Pamela turned toward Fenris.

“How you doin’ up there, Fen?” she asked

Fenris nodded. “I’m okay. I’m okay. Oooo-kay.” He whistled tunelessly. “Don’t you think we should use the names? What if she can hear us?”

Pamela sighed. “She’s out cold,” she replied. “Her pulse is all over the place. I hope she’s okay. – Fen, I-”

“Names!” Fenris grunted. “I’m Teppo, remember? Remember, Oxmyx?”

Pamela rolled her eyes. “Yes, Teppo,” she exhaled.  “Teppo, didja ever think that we might be in over our heads?”

Fenris drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “Of course, we are,” he answered. “That’s the thing about it. Everybody’s in over their heads. You, me, Frank- Kracko,” he corrected himself. “This Cheryl chick, her girlfriend. Everybody.” He sang. “E-e-e-everybody-y-y-y.” Nodded to himself. “That’s the only way we’re gonna be able to make it. All in over our heads. We gotta swim. Sink or swim.”

Pamela looked back to Cheryl. Poor Fenris, she thought.

The van bumped and rattled along to the warehouse.

~          ~          ~

When Fran got home that evening, she found a red envelope taped to the door. There was a sticker over the flap with “To Francine Braithwaite” printed on it in Times New Roman. This from the landlord? she thought as she tore it open. As she read, however, she collapsed to her knees.

“Commando Girl,” it began, and her heart thudded in her ears.

“Commando Girl, we have a friend of yours (see enclosed picture).” The picture was of Cheryl, arms and legs zip-tied, blindfolded and naked.

“We have a friend of yours. Thought you might appreciate the outfit. We enjoyed taking the pictures. A lot. We intend to hold on to her, until you come and rescue her. You’ll probably need to do some fighting for her, though, so you should come prepared.

“Time is of the essence, however. To ensure your cooperation, we just want you to know that we will be sending her back to you, a piece at a time, till you show up. (See enclosed lock of hair. We had to be creative in retrieving it, seeing as, you know, she’s bald. But not all over, fortunately.)” Fran pulled out the tiny ziplock bag with its several strands of short and curly black hair. Her ears grew hot.

“We will be sending more parts to you every day – fingers, toes, kneecaps, what have you – til you show up. How are you at reading longitude and latitude? (See enclosed coordinates.) And, of course, come alone. Or we kill her.

“Love, Project Killswitch.”

Fran rubbed the scar on her jaw. It started to ache.

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus continues next time in Slivers.