Posts Tagged ‘your mom’

“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 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.

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.

My mother didn’t drive. At least, not in my memory. I think I’ve heard my brothers talk about her driving around before I was born, but I never saw it. My memories are of my father tooling about in whatever GM car (Always GM; never Ford, certainly not Chrysler, and definitely nothing foreign – we were, after all, in Dayton, Ohio) we had at the moment, with Mom in the passenger seat. I don’t recall ever even seeing her making a move toward the driver’s side of the car.

As a family, we would take long road trips a lot. Brother #2 used to go to Interlochen for high school, so every year we would pile into a station wagon and drive up into the isolated woods of northern Michigan to drop him off in the fall, pick him up at Christmas, or scoop him up in the summer. Dad drove the whole time. Mom would unfold her maps and chart the course. This continued even when brothers #1 – 3 had grown up and moved out: Dad would drive on his business trips to Chicago or D.C. or New York, Mom would hold the maps, and I would be knocked out in the back seat. Same thing when we went to Florida (tell you about that one another time). Dad drove for eight grueling hours til we reached Atlanta, where we spent the night. Woke up the next day and drove another eight while an impatient little kid sat in the back wondering when we would ever get to Disney world. Mom charted the course around the orange barrels and through the congestion in whatever cities we went through.

I never realized it at the time, but Mom was awake pretty much as long as Dad was.

I’m sure she could find her way to any place in the U.S., knew those roads as well as Dad knew them. “This is the Stuckeys where we stopped last year, dear,” she would remind him. “We should just be around the bend from the sign for the next rest stop,” she would tell us as bladders were about to burst. “You can hold it another ten minutes.”

It was, therefore, an issue that was thrown into sharp focus when my mother passed away.

We were all gathered at the hospital, my Dad, my brothers and their S.O.s, my nephews and my niece, my brand spanking new wife and I. Mom had slipped into her last coma, hanging on just barely while the machines connected to her beeped and buzzed away. Brother #3 made it up from Atlanta at last, to find us all there, in a tiny hospital room filled with origami birds we had made, each one a prayer for Mom’s health. As soon as brother #3 arrived, and she was sure that every one she loved was around …

… She left.

Wordlessly, soundlessly. There was no change in the beeps and hums from the machines; the doctors had told us that those things would keep her lungs pumping and her heart rate stabilized as long as there was power.

But her spirit had gone.

I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t breathe.

Brother #2 wailed as though he’d been stabbed.

My father, whom I’d never seen cry, stood with tear soaked eyes, his hands clasped around hers. “Who’s … who’s gonna be my navigator now?” he pleaded.

His Navigator.

It was then that it occurred to me. All those trips. All the plans. All the dreams the two of them shared. Raising four boys. Running a house.

Mom had been the one to chart the course.

Dad had been the one to come up with the destination.

Both equal partners, equal responsibilities in life.

I woke up hella early this morning. Not an unusual scenario these days. Figured I’d bug God for a while.

He reminded me of all of this.

I am not a Pilot. Which explains a lot. Should be pretty obvious, if you know me. I know a million ways to do things, and will happily tell you A) how to do them, B) which one would be the best one for you, given your circumstances and C) why I’m right and you, earnest though you may be, are hopelessly wrong. Navigator – type behavior. However, since I have a Y chromosome, it’s been assumed that I should be the Pilot. Never been comfortable put in that role.

There are some people who are given the task of finding out how to get from point A to point Z, while others have the equally important job of figuring out what point to end up at. Some of us are Pilots. Some of us are Navigators. You put two Pilots together; there’s gonna be drama. Rarely will they come up with the same destination, and even when they do, they will argue incessantly on how to get there. A Navigator paired with another Navigator? Plans and plans and more plans on how to get from one place to another, but nobody can decide where to go, or even where the starting point is. Even if you put a Pilot and a Navigator together, one or the other of them could be mistaken as to their role. A Navigator that thinks she or he is a Pilot is bad news, and vice versa. I should know.

But a top-notch Pilot with a kick-ass Navigator?

There is nothing that can stop the two of them.

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Part 11 of Allosaurus. Bet you were wondering what happened to the band, huh? Or look at last week, or start over. Whatevs.

“Good morning! What can I get started for you today?”

On the other side of the counter from Fran, the woman with the fastidious pixie hair-do furrowed her brow in thought. Her daughter, a teen with a shock of pink hair covering one of her heavily mascara’ed eyes, looked as embarrassed and as put upon as only a teenager could. She sighed in impatience as her mother decided.

“We-e-ell,” the mother began, “can I have a short, double, half decaf soy mocha, very wet – wait, is your cocoa cruelty free?”

“Mo-o-om!” the daughter sighed, turning “mom” into a five syllable word full of exasperation.

Fran made a face. “You know, ma’am, I’m not really sure – ”

“That’s okay,” the mother interrupted. “Better make it into a latte, then. A double, short, half decaf soy latte, very wet … do you have hazelnut? Sugar free?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Fran nodded.

“Okay. Sugar free hazelnut. And vanilla. Make sure the hazelnut’s sugar free, but not the vanilla. Just one pump of each, please.”

“And your name?” Fran asked.

“Bonnie.”

Fran turned to the guy at the espresso machine. “Gimme a number 3 for Bonnie, Billy,” she called. Billy nodded nonchalantly.

~~~

The shift was finally at an end. Fran was coated in spent espresso grounds, her hands sticky with syrup residue, and there was now a steam burn on her arm from the frother wand. She counted her share from the tip jar: eight dollars apiece between her and Billy.

“Sweet,” Billy uttered unconvincingly. “I can get a couple gallons of gas.” He looked at Fran. “Goin’ to the fake Irish bar with the Jens. Wanna come?”

Fran shook her head. The “Jens” were three other girls that worked at the coffee shop, all college students, all with “Jennifer” somewhere in their name. Fran found them to be annoying; just the type that she’d have to rescue from a mugger or something, sooner or later.

Strike that.

Would’ve had to rescue, but not anymore. Fran hadn’t been on patrol for a while, now.

She didn’t miss it, at all.

Really.

She never thought about it.

Not even once.

“No, thanks,” she replied at last. “I, um, I’ve got a rehearsal tonight.”

“A rehearsal?” Billy actually seemed to perk up. That would be the only time he ever appeared to be interested in anything, Fran would later realize. “For what?”

“I’m in a band,” Fran answered. Then she thought about it. I’m in a band. I’m really in a band. Wow. “I play trumpet.” Or, I used to play trumpet. I haven’t picked it back up yet, but … “Yeah. Trumpet.” She nodded, as if to convince herself that that was really the truth of things. In her head, she could see the case, black leather with gleaming brass latches. She could feel them as she opened it up, lifted aside the blue velvet cover, pulled out the silver mouthpiece.

The strangest thing happened.

Fran …

grinned.

She immediately covered her mouth with a hand.

Billy nodded. “Cool. You guys play out much?”

“Well, we used to play at the Midnight Moon, but – ” And with that, Fran froze.

The Midnight Moon.

Two years ago.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. Rubbed her jaw. Opened her eyes.

“We haven’t played out for a while,” she finished.

Billy took no notice of the personal flashback Fran was having. He merely nodded. “Yeah, I hear ya. I used to deejay sometimes. Then my ex-roommate stole my stuff. You know how that is.”

“Huh? Oh. Yeah.” Fran looked down at her hands. They were tightly balled into fists. They were stiff, unclenching them was a conscious effort. She looked back up at Billy. “Well, so, anyway, gotta go. Have fun with the Jens.” She hurried off to the bus stop, not looking back.

~~~

“You sure you wanna do this?” Cheryl asked. She wrestled Brunhilde into the back of her red hatchback, huffing. Geez, when’d this thing get so heavy? she thought.

“You been on me for months about this. You trying to talk me out of it now?” Fran replied. The bravado was not entirely real. She wasn’t sure. They climbed in the car. “I … I missed making music with you,” Fran stammered.

Cheryl burst out laughing. “Oh, migawd, that just sounds so, so corny, girl!” She glanced over at Fran, to see an oddly hurt expression.

“Oh, sweetie,” Cheryl sighed, “I didn’t know you were serious – I thought that you -”

“Shut up.” Fran pulled Cheryl’s face close to hers. They kissed.

After what seemed like hours, or mere instants, either one, they came up for air. “So, ah, let’s go make some music!” Cheryl chuckled.

“At the rehearsal,” Fran admonished softly.

“Of course,” Cheryl nodded. “Rehearsal. Yeah.”

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus continues next time in Behind The Music With Project Killswitch.

Allosaurus, part 10. Part 9 can be found here, or perhaps you’d like to see how all this mess got started? Happy hunting!

Ahh, video, he mused. The red light on the camera on his computer blinked into life. Larry Forbes took a swig from the soda bottle: green, tooth crackingly sweet and hyper caffeinated. This is the end result of the century or so of progress. Flickering, static filled, prone to drop out at the whim of an errant satellite or solar flare. Astounding.

Presently, the connection was established. On the screen, Project Killswitch appeared before Forbes, unmasked. The one calling himself Teppo was a black male in his late twenties. He had the look of the constantly harassed. Kracko looked to be a few years older. Also a black male, he was beefily constructed with a confident air that contrasted sharply with Teppo’s. Oxmyx, the girl, looked like the picture of nerdy innocence.

She was the one who wiped out the SWAT team.

I may have to … replace her, Forbes thought. He decided he’d begin with a bit of history. A change of subject matter that would catch these fools off guard.

“Since the 1920s,” he announced, “the ability to transmit and receive video has given mankind the promise of instantaneous, face to face communication. It was hoped and believed that this would usher in a new worldwide utopia of knowledge transference,  learning and culture would expand to the masses, and the Golden Age, long prophesized, would at last come to be.” He shook his head slowly, deliberately.

“We were, instead, treated to a pipeline directly into our homes; a sewer fount of advertisements for toothpaste and hairspray. These noxious ads paid for the so – called comics and entertainers that served to take our minds off the gurgling crapfest the modern world had become.”

Teppo fidgeted with impatience. “This goin’ someplace, Mister F?” The poor connection speed made his words out of sync with his mouth, so that he looked like a poorly overdubbed foreign film. His voice, seemingly too deep for his slight frame, didn’t help this impression.

“I’m sorry, Teppo, do you have somewhere else to be? Prison, perhaps?” Forbes asked. “I’m sure there are a lot of people, police included, who would love knowing just where you sleep. I don’t think you’d actually make it as far as jail, however. There are less complicated means of suicide, you realize.” On the screen, Kracko whapped Teppo on the back of the head. The slap sound was delayed for a couple of milliseconds. Oxmyx rolled her eyes. “Do I have your permission to continue, Teppo?” Forbes harrumphed. “Yes? Good.  – This stuttering mess of video conferencing is what currently passes for state of the art communication in our world, as I was saying.

“On the plus side, I was able to catch the latest antics of your little coterie more or less as they unfolded, thanks to the miracle of ’round the clock news’. And I gotta say: I was less than impressed.”

Oxmyx lowered her head. Kracko looked off to study something just offscreen that suddenly captivated his attention. Teppo flared his nostrils. “Mister F, if I’m not mistaken, you asked us to ‘engage Gang Greene’. It’s hardly our fault that they decided to take cover in a school, you know, and – ”

“Shut it.” Forbes growled. “One thing I did NOT, and I mean that I specifically instructed you NOT TO DO, was to get the police involved. I also did not authorize the use of the Bio-magnetic Pulse Generator. That was you, Oxmyx? Am I correct?”

Oxmyx looked up, looked at Forbes directly. “Yes,” she said, in a calm, even tone. “I pulled the trigger.” Teppo shot her a glance, as if he could, by sheer force of will, make her take back her words and unsay what she’d just said. Hm, Forbes thought. How loyal.

Kracko finally spoke up. “It’s my fault,” he began. “Gang Greene had us out-gunned there, and then the police came … It just got a little outta hand.” He shrugged. “She was surrounded. I told her to use it.”

Forbes nodded. “I see. Who decided to bring it in the first place?”

The three of them glanced at each other nervously.

“It was a mutual decision,” Kracko finally replied.

” ‘Mutual’, you say?”

The three of them nodded. Forbes wondered what had happened in these three people’s lives that made them so fiercely devoted to each other. Replacing one of them would be difficult; perhaps prohibitively so. He sighed.

“You’re going to have to lay low for a while,” Forbes decided. “This will put a crimp in our plans. I had a client who purchased a device from me. She seems to have retired. It was my idea that the three of you would draw her out somehow.”

“What kind of device did she buy from you?” Oxmyx asked.

Forbes shook his head. “That’s not really important. She’s just another one of these vigilantes. Likes to beat up muggers and such. I was going to have you step up attacks in her usual patrol areas. She’s a bit sloppy; the Bureau had begun to take an interest in her.” He was thoughtful for a moment.

“How good do you think you’d be with a slightly more subtle approach?” Forbes asked at last.

“Like what?” Teppo asked.

Larry nodded approvingly. Get them back into line, back in the program. Back under control. “I think,” he began, “that you three might be able to exploit her weaknesses. Her loyalties. She has a, a friend, that she lives with. I believe her friend and her are rather close. A bank teller. Name’s Cheryl Jefferson.

“Francine Braithwaite might not come out of retirement to fight the odd mugger or purse snatcher, but she might just find the courage to track down her girlfriend’s kidnappers.” Forbes concluded. “I’ll give you some addresses, but I would prefer to leave myself out of the details. Forbes out.”

The screen went dark as Forbes broke the connection. Miss Braithwaite’s reappearance will, no doubt, cause the Bureau to tip their hand, he pondered. Then, Pin Mah’s clone will act, as expected.

And I will get my revenge. 

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus continues next time in Everyday, The Bucket Goes To The Well.

Part nine of Allosaurus. You can refresh your memory of the previous post here, or you can start from the beginning. Yer choice, bub.

“What effect will criminal gangs of self-styled super villains like Project Killswitch have on the current vigilante epidemic? We’ll have details on that, as well as the predictions of this year’s hurricane season at eleven.”

It wasn’t the first time that Tricia Gutierrez wondered about her role in all of this. How long ago was it, she wondered, when the vigilantes were just a short little human interest story? Filler at the end of the night’s broadcast: local masked man rescues kitten from storm drain, neighborhood watch group speaks to elementary students about fire safety. Bored and /or lonely geeks who read too many comic books. Oh, sorry – Graphic Novels. Then, when people like Lady Justice and Arctica Winters started making their appearances, it was big news because now, the girls were getting involved. They were strong, they were unstoppable – Winters seemed to have some supernatural abilities, even – and they were sexy. They had sought Tricia out, had confided in her. Of course, her colleagues had pretty much let her deal with them. “We’ll handle the real news, Gutierrez,” they smirked. No one cared much that she’d bagged the first exclusive with Palmetto-Bug Man. Just one more of Gutierrez’s nut brigade. So, when the Palmetto-Bug Man made his big splash, cleaning up the North End and tracking down mob guys like Werganovicz and Bustamente, and the major networks wanted to know who had the inside track on him, on all of them, Gutierrez suddenly became a hot commodity. People started whispering things like “Woodward” and “Pulitzer” and nodding in her direction. And, she liked it. Leading slots every night, just about. Choice assignments. Maybe even a chance at the big time.

Soon, however, everybody and they momma was suiting up. They exploded into the public consciousness with their bizarre names, fashion sense, back stories, leagues. New ones were added every day, apparently. The Commando Girls, Kid Kaos, Mister Vanglorious, The Amazing Ape, The Mighty Green Aphid, Maxine Mistress – an entire menagerie of spandex and cape wearing weirdos came out of the woodwork. All but the Commando Girls bombarding her with their manifestos, their agendas, their demands for air-time. Gutierrez had become the de-facto mouthpiece for the  masqueraders, and you couldn’t see a story about them without her name being tossed around.

But, as usual in this business, the public’s attention span was shown to be only as long as the next commercial break. Enough, already – people were getting bored with the super heroes. Somebody somewhere was boning someone they weren’t supposed to, after all. This actor had started to let himself go. That politician lied about something or other. The owner of the one company called the other one a racial slur, and then of course, there were the gays. No one had seen a Commando Girl in weeks. The city’s baseball team was actually winning games now, and it wouldn’t be long before Series Fever started getting to everyone and the vigilantes would be yesterday’s news. Along with Gutierrez.

So, the unmarked betamax(!) video tape that showed up on her desk one morning could be looked at as a godsend, provided one were cynical enough.

It was gruesome. It was almost funny, in a dark way. Three dopey looking losers in white coveralls with a fourth one in a bright yellow leotard, trussed up like a Christmas ham. Some high-minded rhetoric that Gutierrez didn’t even think the speaker himself believed. Then, one of them whipped out the biggest machete she’d ever seen, and chopped Kid Kaos’ head off with one powerful stroke. It couldn’t be real. Had to be CGI or something.

When the police found the body (minus the head) dangling from a pylon at the pier downtown, the laughter stopped.

 

Author’s Note: The events described in this section never really set well with me, and considering the events of today (12-14-12) I have decided to delete this part of Allosaurus. I will be seriously re-thinking the direction of this story. There needs to be something done, in this society, that will work against the death worshipping cult that prevails today. “Guns don’t kill people”, they say, but it’s damn hard to kill a large number of people with a knife. Alternately, without the mindset that devalues human life, a gun is a hunk of metal. As the Onion said today, “Fuck It All.” Thanks for listening.

words  and pictures © Christopher Ward. “Arctica Winters” and “Mister Vanglorious” by permission of Darrin R. Ford. All rights reserved.

Allosaurus continues next time in The Marquess of Queensberry Does Not Approve.