Posts Tagged ‘short story’

This is sort of a “sideways” story, a tangent from Allosaurus. You don’t really have to read any of that to get anything out of this, if you don’t want to, or if you already read enough about Fran and Palmetto Bug Man. Just a thought that I had from listening to Laurie Anderson this afternoon.

“Who told the 80’s they could come back, anyway?” Morgan sighed, in between bites of his sandwich. “Popped collar polos, Ray Bans, bright ass colors … and this music you kids listen to these days!” He took a long pull from his extra large size soda. “Not one original guitar riff! Not one! Jesus Christ, I liked Vampire Weekend a lot better when they were called Peter Gabriel -”

“Sir,” the young woman behind the deli counter started, ” you sound a little bit … agitated.” “Sir” and “agitated” were said as though they were questions. The young woman continued. ” I’m going to have to ask you to calm yourself down a little bit, mmk?”

“Don’t take that tone with me!” Morgan blurted. “Who are you, my wife? ‘Calm down’, she says-”

“It’s just that we’re showing some elevated signals here on your blood pressure and anxiety levels.” The young woman pressed a few buttons on a console in front of her. “Plus, it looks like you lied to me earlier. You had a regular cola just the other day.” She extended a hand to him. “You’ll I have to give me that one back and accept a diet lemon/lime or water.”

“Oh, really?” Morgan sneered. “No unsweetened ice tea?”

“Hmm. Nope. You’d be over your caffeine limit for the day.”

“You. Have got. To be. Kidding.” But, the young woman was resolute, and Morgan couldn’t afford another interaction with the Powers That Be. He gave the young woman back the cup with a sigh. “Lemon/lime,” he muttered, a broken man.

It was during his last tango with the Powers That Be that he’d been put on a modified potassium diet. A bit moody and restless, they’d said. More bananas, they’d ordered. Morgan hated bananas – yellow, mushy, obscene. Who knew what horrors they’d introduce him to next time? Gluten – free? Morgan grew up on his mom’s baked spaghetti. Not happening.

Just then, Morgan’s pedometer broke in. “Look, I don’t wanna start anything,” the pedometer said in a pleasant, slightly matronly tone, “but you’ve got another 4,000 steps to go before six p.m. this evening. Now would be a good time to start walking in place, don’t you think? I mean …” The pedometer trailed off, the audio version of a rather passive/aggressive shrug. Morgan rolled his eyes and began to march about in place.

The screen above the counter displayed the news of the day. Morgan glanced up to read as he continued his lunch – gulp, step, gulp, chew, step, step, step.  Gulp, step, gulp, chew, step, step, step. Bombings over here. Shootings at this school or other. Building collapses. Weirdos in spandex making a mess of things in Saint Pete. Gulp, step, gulp, chew, step, step, step. He looked around the deli. The other customers seemed to be engaged in the same shuffling dance, with eyes on TV screens or smart phones or tablets. The same matronly voice from the pedometers exhorting the dancers. From the tablets. From the TVs. A safe, soothing, comforting voice.

words (except “O Superman”, which is linked from youtube and is by Laurie Anderson) © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.


So, I finished the rough draft of the first book of Allosaurus. I did a quick and dirty word count, and it comes out to just around 19,300 words. Those of you who are familiar with National Novel Writing Month know that the goal is 20,000 in one month.

Took me seven.

Still, it’s the first time I’ve written that kind of volume without being on some sort of manic episode – thus, putting the tales of Fran and Palmetto-Bug Man ahead of the original Ashland* by leaps and bounds. Also, the original Ashland has been, mercifully, lost. So, yay meds.

A lot of people look at writing as homework that you have to do, every day, for the rest of your life. Forgot who said that. It doesn’t feel too far off the mark. But there was also an element that felt like I was compelled to write. Even on days when I was tired, or didn’t “feel” like it, Fran and company beckoned. I could see her in my head, arms folded, foot tapping. “Dude, let’s go!” she’d exclaim, while Fenris and Pamela checked their watches. “I got asses to kick! C’mon!” And so I’d follow them along, writing as I went. When I would try and write something that was out of character for them, they would look back at me, incredulously. “You know I wouldn’t do that,” Mister Vanglorious would say. This made it a bit difficult to stick to the original plan of my story, in which Fran dies. It also allows me to go further in exploring what I really want to write about with these characters, which is the way a person can become a monster – and how they can, maybe, win back their humanity.

Speaking of Mister Vanglorious, there are several characters that I “borrowed” from my best friend Doc. Doc’s a hardcore gamer, with experience working in the industry designing peripherals. He’s that serious. He came up with D – Nforcer, Vanglorious and Arctica Winters as avatars for DC Online and Champions Online. Thing is, he more or less killed them off in the games, so I was only too happy to give them new life in Allosaurus. Thanks, Doc.


*Ashland is a story I’ve been writing on and off for about twenty years, in all honesty. The basic theme of Ashland is the way things lose their real value when everything has a price. I stopped writing it because, as a satire, it slowly became indistinguishable from reality.

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.

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?


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.



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.


Falling, falling, forever.


… 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 …


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 …


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.

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.

Part twelve of Allosaurus. Here’s part 11. Here’s how all this got started.

Once upon a time, there was a social stigma attached to wearing glasses as a child. Especially if you lived in certain parts of town. If you lived in these parts, and you wore glasses, you needed to develop some self defence skills. You needed to be able to fight, or be able to run faster than anybody else, or be funny enough that people thought you were too cool to actually beat the crap out of. If, however, you were too weak and uncoordinated to fight, or too slow to run, or your jokes tended to sail over the heads of your audience?

You were gonna catch a few beatings.

There were a bunch of kids, a whole school full of them actually, cowering. Under desks. Hiding from the bad people who were shooting just outside, while their teachers tried to reassure them that everything was going to be all right. They just needed to stay calm.

And then, all their hearts stopped beating, as if someone had flipped a switch.

Pamela Divers played this scene out in her mind, every single night since it had happened. Every night she would wake up ice cold and drenched with sweat, gasping as all the screams were suddenly cut off. There was a little boy whose face was always the last one she’d see: his brown, expressive eyes would grow wide with shock and fear, and then he would simply fall to the ground.




No one had told her what the weapon would do. Forbes had given them some song and dance about it being a “defensive field generator”, that was supposed to stop people from attacking you. The three of them, herself, Franklin and Fenris, had reasoned that she should be the one to carry it. She was the weakest one, after all.

God help you, if, on top of all that, you were smart. If you knew the reasons why the bullies were picking on you, all the time. You knew it wasn’t because of what your parents were saying. Those other kids weren’t jealous. Jealous? Of what? Your pudgy ass? Your habit of pronouncing words correctly? Or the fact that you always had your face in a book, maybe? Really? The other kids beat up on you because they were jealous of that? Good one.

You learned to deal with it, over the years.

You reason that those other kids are beneath you, anyway. When we all grow up, they’re gonna be the ones in shitty, dead end jobs with no future. You, on the other hand, have unlimited possibilities. You could become anything you want. That’s what the teachers all told you.

“It’s not your fault,” Fenris told her. Pamela knew he meant it. Fenris took the blame for everything. He always did. He would reason that he should’ve been closer to her, so that she wouldn’t have felt so endangered that she might need to use that horrible awful weapon. Or that he should’ve been the one to hold on to it, and somehow protect her with it. Now, he was also blaming himself for getting her mixed up in all of this.

“Thank … thank you, for saying that,” Pamela sighed. She squeezed Fenris’ hand. Fenris nodded.

“We can still make it, you know.” He said. Almost as if he believed it. “We can still make things right.”

It was particularly galling, then, for Pamela to find herself ringing up groceries.

Especially when her twin sister, Bam, was doing so well in her career.   

Bam, who always struggled with school. Always hung with the cool kids. Always laughed along with the others when they made fun of Pamela’s super-thick glasses. Pretended not to know her when Bam’s friends were around. Bam got a well-paying job in some government agency that she couldn’t talk about, while Pamela wrestled with philosophy and literature and hadn’t even graduated from college yet.

“I don’t think we’ll have to be taking orders from Forbes much longer,” Franklin yawned. “We do this kidnapping thing, get this, this whatever it is offa her. Gotta be something with a lotta firepower, right? More than the BMP gun he gave us, at least, or else he wouldn’t want it back so bad. Think about it.”

Fenris nodded. Pamela merely grunted. Franklin was logical, mathematic; a super computer plopped down in the body of a rap cliché. Many people took him too lightly. They later regretted it. Pamela knew that if Franklin had a plan, it was bound to be one that had been mapped out like a grand master’s chess moves.

“We get that shit from this Franny chick, gear up, take out Forbes,” Franklin continued. “Then, this town is ours.”

Underachiever. Slacker. Wasted talent. No one hardly ever called her that to her face, but it was the underlying accusation, always. “Look at how well your sister is doing!”  “Did you see the new car Bam just bought?” “I heard your sister just got a promotion on her job, sweetie.” “That man Bamela brought around to the family picnic is such a thoughtful gentleman, isn’t he?”  It was just so … unfair. That was the best word for it, Pamela decided. Simple, unadorned, no frills. Was that, the basic inequality of her existence, what led her to this?  Holed up somewhere in a warehouse taking orders from some guy on a computer? Perhaps.

Perhaps, she figured, it wouldn’t be long before she wasn’t the one taking orders.

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus continues next time in One Day, The Bottom A Go Drop Out.