Monthly Archives: April 2014

Day 8: Short Fiction 2014 – Adventures in the NNS Part 4

Over the next week Andrew fell into a groove. He’d go to work at the warehouse, load freight all day, and then promptly go to sleep once he got home. His avatar would load beside a desk, he would sit down, and the instructor would begin to teach. There wasn’t any interaction available between other students while the instructor taught, but Andrew didn’t mind; he had things to do. Today was no exception.

He walked up the stairs to his apartment, sealed the door, and began his routine before getting to sleep. First he’d take a shower to wash off the remains of the day, then he’d have something to eat, and once all that was done he’d unlock his safe to clean the visor. It didn’t really need to be cleaned on a daily basis, but it had cost him nearly two months wages so he wanted to take care of it.

Andrew checked the door to make sure the locks were engaged and then stretched out on his bed. The visor slid easily into place. A slight hum began to emit from the equipment as it engaged. Two long blinks and he drifted off to sleep.

LOGGING IN . . .

Instead of the lecture hall he was in an open auditorium. There were voices behind him. Andrew turned around in a slow circle to find a table of four students talking over open notebooks. They were all dressed in the uniform green outfits, he found that the two-piece suit was a popular choice as it was now repeated three times with his arrival.

“First time?” The andy on the right asked.

“For?” Andrew ventured.

“Study group.” The same student waved a hand at the open seat. “At the end of each week of classes there’s a study group. It helps the program track your progress and load the next sections.”

“Oh.” Andrew sat at the open seat. He looked down at the table. Everyone else had identical notebooks and pencil cases out in front of them.  “How do I get those?”

“Open your inventory.”

“What?”

The talking at the table stopped. Eight sets of identical eyes rested on him.

“What?” He shuffled under the collective gaze.

“Move your right hand like this.” The andy raised his hand and popped his wrist up.

Andrew mirrored the movement. A small, semitransluscnet box about the size of his hand there were three icons on the display: a notebook, a piece of paper, and filmstrip. He tapped the notebook icon and his very own supplies appeared in front of him.

“What are the other two?” Andrew tried not to look up as he spoke.

“Class transcript and entertainment.” The same student offered. “I’m Quinn, I’ll add you as a friend.”

“Thanks.” A notification popped up in place of his inventory, he hit accept. “Andrew.”

“The tutorial is kind of lacking, right?”

“Yeah.” Andrew tapped the pencil box and a facsimile of a writing utensil appeared in his hand. “What section are you on?”

“Emergency medicine.”

“Wow, you’re really ahead of me. I’m only at the endocrine system.”

“That’s not bad.” Quinns’ leaned over. “Can I ask you something personal?”

Andrew paused. “Sure.”

“Why did you choose nursing?”

“It seemed like a good idea.” Andrew shrugged. “I mean, we’re always going to need hospitals and people to work in them. If I get lucky I could work at a private one.”

“Interesting.”

“Why?”

“You’re pragmatic.” Quinn pointed a faux pencil at him. “I want work, so I’ll go into a field that needs workers. You just log in for classes, right?”

“Well,” he shrugged. “Yeah.”

“What’s your specialization?”

“Emergency Medicine.”

“When you go for it, you really go for it, eh?”

“There’s always something going on.”

“True enough, but have they talked to you about burn out Listen, I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but I’ve seen a bunch of people like you come through the course and just…” Quinn mimed a streak through the air and an explosion. “Do you think we all just study constantly?”

“No?”

“You need a break, you need something to relax.” Quinn leaned back in the chair. “Why do you think they gave you that entertainment option?”

“Because it’s a billion dollar industry.”

“Fair enough, but then why can you earn free time with your completion?”

“You can?”

“Pull it up, it will show your balance.”

Andrew flipped up his inventory and selected the filmstrip. A small readout told him he had two months of free time at his disposal.

“I’ve got two months.”

“Well, one month.” Quinn shrugged. “They give everyone a free month to start, but the second one you’ve earned through class.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” Quinn leaned in. “Do you want to check it out?”

Andrew looked down at his notebook. “I should really get back to class.”

“No class today.” Quinn smiled. “Today is a free day, default setting is the study group. Check your transcript, do you have any open assignments?”

“Sweet.” Andrew smiled as he read the transcript. “I’m running three days ahead.”

Another invitation menu popped up by his inventory.

“Join me for a game?” Quinn held the smile. “You need to defrag.”

“Sure.” Andrew returned the smile and hit the button to accept.

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Day 7: Short Fiction 2014 – Mallory’s Bad Day Part 3

Red emergency lights popped on along the center of the car. Outside a mild yellow light barely lit the world around them. Her hand found the smooth fabric of Smith’s suit. She tugged him back to his feet and pulled him along toward the back of the car. The people around her murmured their discontent as they regained their feet, but no one cared enough to panic. Decorum of the working masses kept them from making too much of a stir, no one could afford to be banned from the circuit. Even the gangs mostly respected the peace in the subway.

“Shouldn’t we wait here?” His voice had a bit more weight to it.

“Wait for the clown to catch us, or for your panic team to come in blazing?” Mallory hissed.

“They wouldn’t do that.”

“Today is just a day of wonders.” She let go of his collar. “Listen, if you think you’re better off on your own, then you’re more than welcome to take off. I’m going this way and hoping that Bozo didn’t get a good look at my face.”

“You could take a different train.” Smith offered.

“I have to get off the train somewhere, don’t I?” Mallory shrugged. “Follow me, or don’t. You weren’t going to pay me anyway.”

“Yes I was.” A tinge of indignation crawled into his voice.

“How? You don’t even remember my name, do you?”

“Uh.” Smith scrunched up his face in concentration.

“It doesn’t matter.” She turned back toward the far end of the car and began to wade through the milling people.

“Wait.” He rushed to follow her. “Melanie.”

“Nope.” She didn’t look back.

“It started with an ‘M’.”

“Look.” She turned around. “Mister Smith, the longer we spend together the more I begin to wonder who you are. The clowns did a smash and grab on your car. A car.” She emphasized the word.

“Yeah.” He shrugged.

“Listen, you ignorant…” Mallory took a deep breath and tried again. “You’ve got a car, a driver even, and a panic button. That means big money.” She waved a hand at him. “I don’t see big money when I look at you, so that means two things.” She held up two fingers. “One, you’re close to someone rich and they think that they can leverage you for a ransom.” She put down one finger. “Or two, and the more likely, that you’re not exactly the most clean person out there. Since you didn’t have any security beyond a driver, I’m guessing you thought that your big bad reputation would keep you safe from something like this.” She looked up at him to see the color from his face had drained. “Am I close?”

“They sure are.” He pointed over her shoulder.

She turned to see three clowns advancing from the rear of the car.

“How much?”

“What?”

“How much are you going to pay me?”

“Fifty thousand.”

She flinched. “Damn.”

Mallory took a step back and hunched a little lower. Her eyes scanned the car. Bozo hadn’t made an appearance from the other direction, but that didn’t mean he was out of the picture. What she knew for sure was that there were three clowns heading straight toward Mister Smith and the car was too crowded for a hasty retreat.

“The door.” She pointed toward the closed doors nearby. “Try to open them.”

“They’re sealed.”

“Do it.”

“What about you?”

“They aren’t looking for me.”

Mister Smiths’ eyes went wide. “You’re leaving me?”

“No, you idiot, just open the doors.” She took another step back and melded with the crowd.

Mister Smith looked at the trio of clowns as the slowly made their way to him. He looked back to where his reluctant guardian had been, but found no sign of her. Biting back a curse he rushed to the doors and began to try to pull them apart. The doors resisted the movement even though the electronic locks were disabled for an emergency stop to enable quick evacuation. His breath began to quicken, his hands slipped on the door.

“Smith,” a familiar voice hissed incredibly close. “Don’t look for me. Just calm down and open the doors.”

“I thought you left me.” His voice cracked as he spoke.

“I can’t take on all three head on, you moron.” He could hear the sigh in her voice. “Now open the door and get out there. Don’t touch the yellow rail.”

 

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Day 7 is going to be late

I just started a summer class. My brain is kind of numb & I’ve got homework. Hopefully this won’t kill my flow.

Thanks for waiting.

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Day 6: Short Fiction 2014 – Mallory’s Bad Day Part 2

**Disclaimer: There is 1 piece of foul language at the end of the piece.
Please skip the last line if you find yourself insulted, or upset by strong language. **

 

Mallory pulled the old man along. They were two cars down from where she had shocked the clown, but the next stop wasn’t for another five minutes. That was plenty of time to get caught.

“Keep moving.” She growled as her hand slipped on his collar.

“Where are we going?” He wheezed.

“This way.”

“Why?”

“Because if we stop he’ll find us.” She glared back at him. Why the hell had she helped him? Stupid old man got tangled up in the clowns, she should have just let him go. “Did he have any friends?”

“What?”

She pulled him by his shirt collar. He was about an inch taller than her, so she tugged him down to her level.

“The clown.” She hissed as her eyes darted around the car. “Was he alone?”

“I think so.”

She let him go with a sigh. “You think, or you know?”

“It all happened so fast.” He shifted from foot to foot. “I was in my car, something exploded, and then the door opened up and they pulled me out. They dragged me to the subway before I even knew what was happening.”

She took a deep cleansing breath. “You keep saying they.”

“The big guy took me on the train.” He shrugged. “I don’t know about the others.”

“Why did they take you in the first place?”

“I don’t know.” He whined.

“Break times over.” She pulled him along. “The clowns aren’t as stupid as they let on, they’ve got a plan, and it includes you.”

“Why does it matter?” He shrugged out of her grip, but kept following.

“Then I’ll know how bad they want you.” The unmistakable pop of the car door opening put an extra pip in her step. “Duck down, move slow. Hunch if you have to.  He’s looking for someone your height.”

“How do you know this?” He shook his head as he slouched over.

She pulled the overcoat off of him and draped it over a sleeping tramp.

“What are you doing?” He stared wide-eyed at her.

“That jacket is too nice. He’ll be looking for it.”

The old man pulled some things out of the pockets and stuffed them into his suit coat.

“An old man in a suit one the subway.” She growled. “Yeah, no one will notice that.”

“I’m not that old.” He huffed as the moved along in their slouched shamble.

“Suit, car, and stim treatments to fight off age.” Mallory stole a look back at the front of the car. “Were they after a ransom? Grab the rich guy and hustle him back to whoever cares.”

“You seem to know a lot about his things like that work.” The tips of his ears went pink. “What did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t.” She flashed a urchin grin. “Mallory. What about you?”

He hesitated. “Smith.”

“Fine, Mr. Smith.” She rolled her eyes. “Let’s keep you alive long enough to get you safe.”

“I have a panic button.”

She stopped. “You do?”

He held up his wrist, a little red light flashed on his wrist. “I pressed it the moment I got away from him.”

The lights on the train flickered, and then died a moment before the car lurched to a stop.

“Well shit.” She groaned.

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Day 5: Short Fiction 2014 – This Isn’t Cannon

“I have to say.” The bounty hunters grimy teeth showed as he smiled. “I’m a big fan.”

“You’re mistaken.” My shoulder creaked as I turned back to my drink.

“Oh, no.” A crusty hand slapped down a wanted poster on the table near my drink.

I pushed the cup out of the way. His stench and the flecks of whatever was stuck to his skin chased away my thirst. There was no denying that it was me in the picture; a few years younger and with shorter hair, but still me. No one would mistake the web of scars on my cheek for a shaving accident.

“Walk away.” I muttered. “Live another day. Take a shower even.”

He pressed in closer, something hard ground into my side. “Says dead or alive, I ain’t picky. Now, stand up.”

I sighed. “Fine.”

I slipped off the bar stool. My knees and back popped in protest. The bounty hunter snickered. I stretched for a moment and rubbed at the pain in my back. Maybe I should just let him take me in. It had been a few years, surely the wounds weren’t as fresh. They probably didn’t miss that outpost all that much anymore.

My hand closed around the barrel of the gun. I twisted it up, catching his finger in the grip, and pulling him to the ground. He whimpered as he clawed at the gun with his other hand. A sharp blow to the elbow made his hand spasm, the gun practically leaped from his grasp. I caught it, took a step back, and centered the sight on his forehead.

“You’ve been doing this long?”

He cursed at me. I looked around, the other barflies didn’t even bother to look up from their drinks. A wiry little fellow in the corner chuckled, but made no move to intervene.

“Where’s your ship?”

“Docking bay three, docking bay three.” The bounty hunter wheezed as he rubbed his sore hand.

“Let’s go then.”

“What?”

I smiled, he flinched. “I feel like visiting old friends.”

 

 

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Day 4: Short Fiction 2014 – Other Stuff (Mallory’s Bad Day Part 1)

** A day late due to illness. Apologies. **

The rhythmic thrum of the train lulled the packed car into a few moments of silence. An unspoken rule kept the conversation to a minimum. Even people that boarded as a group rarely spoke once they found a place. Mallory didn’t have to worry about that, she didn’t ride the train with friends. They were something she lacked. She didn’t consider that a bad thing. Friends meant baggage, she didn’t do baggage.

A subtle wave on her left caught her eye. It didn’t take long to see the cause. A hunched old man desperately weaved through the crowd of passengers. He looked from one direction to the other in search of a helpful face. Mallory doubted he would find one. This wasn’t the part of town that helped those in need. Keep your head down, do your time, and move on. Those were the rules, the fourth and unspoken one was ‘die on your own time’.

Another form moved through the crowd. A tall, thick thug stalked down the car straight for the old man. The tough had bright red spiked hair and cheap grease clown makeup to mark him as one of the many gangs in the area. She had lost track of the gimmicks, but stayed up to date on the color schemes. Red meant the clowns, yellow for the goblins, and white for the suits. Mallory didn’t understand why the three fought over the right to claim this little patch of paradise. Not even the tweakers and the burnouts were desperate enough to call this stretch of city home.

“Please.” A weary voice said near her.

She looked down to see the old man had stopped next to her. His short gray hair was stained crimson along his brow and his lip had been split sometime recently.

“Keep moving, man.” She looked away. “We all got problems.”

“I can pay you.” He begged.

“Why me?”

“Sure you can.” She looked back at him. Aside from being a bit ragged for wear his clothes weren’t too shabby. “You aren’t from around here.”

“Please.”

“Hey.” Another voice, it had to be the thugs, but it was higher than she expected. “This aint’ your business, nako.”

Mallory stared at the clown for a moment. He was a good three inches taller than her and his arms were as thick as her legs. “How much is he worth to you?”

“Ain’t no worth, nako.” The clown stepped forward. “He’s mine and you hand him over to me or get a pie in the face.” He held up a fist. The word ‘pie’ was spelled along his knuckles.

“Clever.” She sighed. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”

“Please.” The old man pleased as the clown closed in.

The clown clamped a heavy hand down on the old mans’ shoulder. A twisted grin flashed across the thugs face as he started to pull his quarry along. The old man cast a look back at her as he was pulled away.

“Damn it.” She groaned under her breath.

Mallory began to push through the crowd to catch up to the clown. Her hand closed around the tight around the plastic block in her pocket. She flicked to cap off as she closed the distance.

“Hey, Bozo.” She called.

The thug turned around. His painted face twisted in a snarl.

“Dance for me.” She stepped in close before he could speak.

Her taser snaked out of her pocket and into the clowns’ chest. He went rigid as a a few thousand volts pulsed through him. She counted to five before she disengaged the trigger.

“Come on.” Mallory grabbed the old man by the shoulder. “He’s a big guy, we don’t have much time.”

“Thank you.” The old man almost started to weep.

“Quiet.” She pulled him toward the back of the car. “Just keep moving before my brain starts working again.”

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Day 4 Short Fiction- Postponed

Argh.

This may be what the early transition into a zombie feels like.

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