Welcome to my worlds!

I'm James Maxey, the author of the Bitterwood fantasy quartet, Bitterwood, Dragonforge, Dragonseed, and Dawn of Dragons, as well as a pair of superhero novels, Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn. (Click on the titles to be taken to Amazon.) My Dragon Apocalypse series combines both superheroes and epic fantasy, and so far three books have been published, Greatshadow, Hush, and Witchbreaker. The fourth book in the series, Soulless, is still under construction, but, I swear, it will see the light of day! I've also published numerous short stories, the best of which are reprinted in my collection, There is No Wheel.

This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public.

Coming out in 2014 will be my Oz inspired novel Bad Wizard, published by Antimatter Press. I'm currently working hard to finish up another superhero novel, Cut Up Girl. Watch this space for news!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There is No Wheel.... Wait! Yes, there is! And you can win one!




It's my great delight to announce that my short story collection, There is No Wheel, has just been published in a print edition by Spotlight Publishing. It's now available on Amazon. I originally self-published this collection as an ebook, and it's done pretty well to date in that format. But, I still have a fondness for actual paper books, so when Spotlight approached me about releasing a physical edition, my answer was an enthusiastic yes!



I got a few contributor copies out of the deal, so it's time for a giveaway! I've got three signed copies that I'm prepared to mail anywhere in the universe. This is a chance for all you Venusians to get your hands on some free fiction! Since this is a collection of short stories, all I ask is that, to enter the drawing, you submit a short story. Like, really, really short. Under one-hundred words, including title. If you give me permission, I'll post your story in a future blog post. All entries will go into a drawing for the free copies. I'll announce the winner September 7.


Email your entries to nobodynovelwriter (at) yahoo.com with the subject line, "Wheel Giveaway."


Good luck!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Five tricks for writing a novel in a week

Okay, so I wrote a novel in a week. Now that I’ve had a week away from that task, here are a few key tricks that made it possible:

1. To capture lightning in a jar, bring a jar.

I had a stack of note cards filled with significant plot points for Burn Baby Burn. By the end of chapter one, I’d rendered half of them useless. But, while my efforts at outlining in advance weren’t terribly useful in the details, I did happen to create a structure that I maintained throughout the writing. I realized, based on my rough outline, that the book would unfold in four major acts. In part one, I’d introduce my supervillain protagonists and have them go on a crime spree. In part two, a team of superheroes would come after them. Part three would involve the supervillains trying to escape by finding sanctuary in a foreign country that had no extradition treaty with the US. In part four, the heroes would come after them anyway, and the resulting battle would place the world in danger. For reasons of simple symmetry, I decided that each of my four major acts would be built out of four chapters, and the target length for the chapters would be four thousand words. This would produce a novel sixty-four thousand words long.

By keeping this structure in mind, I never had moments where the immensity of the project overwhelmed me. I could just focus on the development of my current four chapter arc. Breaking the story telling down into these manageable components was a key factor in making me feel as if the work confronting me wasn’t particularly formidable. Deciding on the structure provided edges for the jigsaw puzzle of story I was going to assemble.

2. Now what? Then what? Then what?

This one is so simple I’m almost embarrassed to put it on the list. But, lots of times during the week I was writing Burn Baby Burn, I’d run my imagination dry. I couldn’t keep typing because I didn’t know what would happen next. On most of my previous novels, if I reached this point, I could just walk away and come back another day. By the third day of BBB, I was walking away, then waiting for twenty minutes while my brain answered the question, “Now what?” Then I’d go back and write the one event I’d imagined, and be stuck again. On days 4-7, I got past the horrible sensation of constantly running dry on ideas by walking away, thinking, “Now what?” and then, before I would go back to write, I’d figure out the next two “Then whats?” It worked! Thinking three events ahead is actually a rather modest goal, but it reduced the demoralizing moments when my imagination felt empty.

3. It can’t be that easy.

Another really obvious one, but probably the most important thought I had all week. It was fairly early in the book when I finally had the good guys face off with the bad guys. I was really happy to reach this chapter, since I’d already figured out how the bag guys would escape. So, I just cranked out the whole fight as I imagined it… and had 1000 words. Eek! I’d planned to fill a whole chapter with the fight! So, just when it looks like the heroes are thwarted and the bad guys are getting away, oh no! The toughest superhero, who’d had to run off to take an wounded civilian to a hospital, races back onto the scene. The fight continues! They run over him with a truck. He shakes it off! Etc., etc. The key thing to take away is that, for the rest of the book, any time I’d get a good idea for getting my protags out of a jam, I’d figure out how this good idea would go horribly wrong. It creates much more suspenseful action scenes, and, more importantly, it gets more words onto the page.

4. Never look back.

This is advice I always offer for first drafts: Never stop to read what you’re writing. If you’re writing fast, you’ll be making mistakes, and the temptation will be to stop and fix the mistakes. This will kill momentum. Obviously, correcting your errors and polishing your prose is key to producing a professional manuscript. But, the first draft isn’t the time to do this. The only thing you need to focus on is what comes next.

5. Take your foot off of the brake.

The most perverse fear a writer can possess is this one: “What am I revealing about myself?” If you’re dragging fifty thousand words out of your brain in a short period of time, it’s almost impossible to pull them out with out snagging a good bit of yourself. My characters, being human beings, have lusts and fears and crazy beliefs. Scrape aside the thin film of fiction, and you find my lusts and fears and crazy beliefs. But, I’m writing a book about people who can fly, or are bulletproof. I’m firmly in territory where an average person might justifiably think, “Well, that will never happen.” Fancy lies will catch people’s attention, but can only hold it for so long. Eventually, you have to put something true on the page. But putting true things on the page is risky. In order to function in society, most people spend the majority of time not being open and truthful. There are categories of things we regard as private and don’t want the world to know about us. But, in fiction, readers want to see these private moments. You could follow the safe route and simply recycle fictional private moments you’ve seen in movies or read in books. Plenty of writers do. You simply write cautiously, advancing carefully across the most dangerous terrain, your foot on the brake. But, when I was writing Burn Baby Burn, I didn’t have time to search my mental catalog for appropriate fictional moments to mimic. I just had to take my foot off the brake and write what I knew. What I really knew.

Was it worth it? I think so. I suppose readers will be the ultimate judges.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Crop. baby, crop!



Here's the cover cropped more tightly. Better?




Sunday, August 14, 2011

Burn Baby Burn, the possible cover, and a few thoughts.



So. I've written a complete first draft of a novel in the span of a week, starting Monday 7 am, finishing Sunday, 5:30 pm.


I really don't know if this is happy news, or terrifying news. I've kind of shattered my comfortable expectations of how much writing a person could reasonably accomplish and still be productive.


Can't really think about it right now. My mind is numb.



Whipped up the cover before I ever started, in case I self pub on Kindle. Any thoughts or criticisms?

Burn Baby Burn Chapter Sixteen 3190 words. The end, baby!

She hasn’t moved since I got here. She just hangs there, a little sliver of the sun, shining down on us goats and chickens and fools.

Used to think that one bullet was for her. But, I’m starving. So thirsty I’ve drank my own pee. I’ve been here so long even my pubes have turned white. I bet I’m a hundred years old. Hell, maybe older.

Nothing here rots, but I age. I age because I’m human.

And so was she.

And she’s dead. Starved or died of thirst, or maybe her air burned up. Probably thought she was all alone.

And I guess she was. I guess, in the end, we all are.

The revolver is cold and heavy in my hands.

Typing out these little scraps of memory used to keep me from blowing my brains out. We all want our stories told.

But my story has come to an end.

Chapter Sixteen
Burn Baby Burn

Sunday’s cleaver had long since melted. Her arms ached. Her hands were numb. She had trouble feeling the ceramic knife in her hand.

She wasn’t keeping count. She wasn’t even thinking now. She was flying faster than she’d ever flown, far to fast to think, in utter, eerie silence, all the whispers of doubt long since left behind.

She climbed back toward the stratosphere. She wasn’t sure how she was still breathing. The shockwave of compressed air that had formed when she’d gone supersonic had spared here from her most morbid visions of wind ripping off her flesh. The high pressure air seemed trapped even when she pushed up to the very edge of space to find her next target. They were getting harder and harder to spot, both because they were fewer in number and because they were now back in daylight.
There.
She dove, pushing to speeds she couldn’t even estimate. Mach six? Mach seven? Mach eight? Photons were flying out of her at the speed of light. Was there any limit to her speed beyond the ones Einstein had written down?
She slowed as she raced up behind her target. She readied her knife and went in for the kill.
At the last second, the drone spun and pushed Sunday’s arm away. A few of the other drones had spotted her and shown similar rudimentary defenses, but she’d fought those before her arms turned to lead.
The drone kneed her in the belly and they both went into a tailspin. The drone kept her hands clamped on Sunday’s knife hand.
If this was the last one, it didn’t matter if they both plunged into the ocean. If it wasn’t….
She eyed the camera cluster where the head should be. Why didn’t these things burn? The chimps were geniuses, and were developing a reputation for building advanced materials that were stronger, lighter, and tougher than anything humans had whipped up. But, this was still just matter. Even if the Sundancer body was immune to solar radiation, this thing had to have a melting point.
She set out to find it. The ceramic knife suddenly warped like a vinyl record, then vanished in a spray of droplets. She felt the old pressure building in her gut as they raced toward the ocean and with a sudden release the wormholes surrounding her doubled, then tripled. The webcam vaporized and the drone went limp.
Sunday never reached the surface of the ocean, because the surface of the ocean moved as she approached it, boiling away in a flash. She pulled from her spin and climbed.
She tried to close the wormholes, to reduce her intensity.
She couldn’t find the invisible switch in her mind that controlled them.
With so much power channeling out of her, the second she switched off, she was going to die.
And she didn’t want to die.
A blue blur flashed across the corner of her vision. It was Skyrider, racing toward her much faster than the drones had moved. She was carrying a ridiculously large rifle, which she aimed at Sunday. She pulled the trigger when she was only a few hundred feet away.
Whatever came out of the barrel vaporized as it came within a dozen feet of Sunday. Skyrider veered to avoid a collision, but passed close enough that her rifle turned to putty in her hands. Suddenly, her flight suit caught fire, including her helmet.
Skyrider slid to a hover and yanked her helmet off, gasping for breath. Her face was covered in a silver mesh. As the flaming fragments of her suit fell away, the silver mesh proved to cover her whole body, sheer as pantyhose.
Skyrider squinted as she stared at Sunday. “You’ve got a head!”
“I’m the original,” Sunday shouted back.
“There are only three left,” Skyrider shouted. “But we’ve got radar locks on all of them and missiles in the air. Time to draw the curtain on your little doomsday play!”
“I didn’t want this!” Sunday screamed. “I tried to stop it!”
“Then stand down,” said Skyrider. “Turn off your flames and surrender.”
“I can’t!” she screamed. “I think… Dr. Trog pumped the drones full of adrenaline so that they would be living bombs. I’m running on nothing but adrenaline now!” She swallowed hard. “I think… I think I’m going to explode.”
Skyrider said, “You don’t have to explode! Just turn down your flame and wait. The Covenant employs the finest scientific minds on the planet. We can fix this!”
“Call them!” screamed Sunday. “I surrender! Just do what you can to save me before I take half the planet with me.”
“Um,” said Skyrider. “I can’t call them, actually. My radio was in my helmet.”
“I don’t have time to wait for you to go get help!” said Sunday. She looked down at the glimmering blue ocean. She saw a few patches of white sand in the distance. “Where are we?” she asked.
“Just north of Midway atoll,” Skyrider shouted. “The island is empty except for a research station. Don’t move! I’ll go use their radio to call Covenant Command.”

Pit couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Ap was still pumping his fists in the air.
“We’ve won?” he asked.
“Servant ambushed a drone over Nevada and Chinese jets just shot down the last one!”
“I thought Servant was dragging the island?”
“How could you…?”
“Dr. Trog said so.”
Ap shrugged. “We Covenant move in mysterious ways.”
“Right,” said Pit. “Space machine.” He rubbed the hole in the back of his skull. “I probably would have got that if I hadn’t just pulled damned metal spike out of my brains. Anyway, if the drones are finished, what happened to Sunday?”
“Not sure,” said Ap. “Skyrider had visual contact, but then we lost her signal.”
Pit shook his head. “Sunday fried her.”
“Don’t think so. The lab boys have outfitted her with some fancy thermal underwear.”
“What have long-johns got to do with anything?”
“Not that kind of thermal underwear,” said Ap. “It’s a silver mesh networked into the space machine. It detects highly energized particles that collide with it and automatically cut and paste them into the earth’s core. Sarah can’t even get a tan.”
“Hold on,” said Ap. “I’m getting a message from Simpson.” He grabbed Pit by the wrist. “You wouldn’t be a World War Two buff by any chance?”
“I spent most of the war years drunk,” said Pit.
“Too bad,” said Ap. “We’re about to be tourists!”
Then Pit experienced the familiar sensation of being folded by the space machine. His backs of his elbows twisted to slide along under his nuts as his eyeballs bent to stare directly at one another. Then he dropped to his knees on a beach of white sand.
Ap was by his side, and Servant and Skyrider were standing in front of him. It was high noon, with the sun directly overhead. Except, as he looked to the west, the sun was also down on the horizon.
“What’s he doing here,” Servant growled, staring at Pit.
“You want me to just leave him?” asked Ap.
“I want him in a cell!”
“He’s eaten himself out of every jail he’s ever been thrown into,” said Skyrider. “He’s probably safer in our custody.” Pit tried not to stare, but he could see all of Skyrider’s lady parts through the mesh of her thermal underwear.
“Here’s the situation,” said Skyrider. “Sundancer says she feels like she’s about to explode. She’s putting out enough radiation that if she were over a population center right now, people would already be dying. I’ve already had Simpson cut and paste the researcher here to safety, but safety isn’t what it used to be. If she experiences the sort of exponential flare up we witnessed in some of the aborted drones, she could carve a hole out of the planet that would rival the comet impact that killed off the dinosaurs. Nowhere is safe.”
“Cut and paste her out into space,” said Ap.
Skyrider shook her head. “We never got any targeting nanites into her. And, with the radiation she’s putting out, satellite sensors just go blind when we try to get a lock.”
Servant shook his head. “Is this a joke? Let’s just break her neck.”
“The problem with that—” Skyrider never finished her sentence.
“Up one mile, Simpson,” said Servant. He vanished.
Suddenly the sun overhead began to fall toward them.
“Ghost mode!” shouted Ap.
Sand and seashells flew all around them as Sunday and Servant slammed into the island half a mile away.
“Breaking her neck might trigger the explosion!” Skyrider shouted.
“Servant!” Ap screamed. “Stand down! Stand down!”
A volcano began erupting where the two had crashed. Beads of flaming lava rained down, sizzling as they burned little holes into Pit’s clothes and the flesh beneath.
“He’s not answering!” Ap said, sounding panicked.
The heat and light pouring of the spit of land were almost unbearable. Even here, the sea was boiling. Hurricane force hotter than a furnace winds nearly knocked Pit from his feet.
Pit lunged at Skyrider and grabbed her by the shoulders. “Strip!” he said.
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“Take off that fancy underwear! I need it. I’m the only one who can stop her!”
“Johnny, if you record a single frame of this I will murder you,” she said, eying Ap.
“You’re going to do it?” Ap asked.
“I don’t have a better idea!” she said, lowering the invisible nanozipper that sealed the front. Pete averted his eyes. It was what a good cowboy would do. She shoved the suit into his hands and said, “Ap. I can’t stay here without protection. You’re safe in ghost mode. It’s up to the two of you!”
Ap nodded.
Then, she was gone.
Pit struggled to pull on the flimsy garment. He didn’t know what the hell it was made of, but it was tough. Real panty hose would have ripped as he pulled them on over his jagged toe-nails. Not that he’d ever actually tried that, mind you. The springy fabric stretched over his clothes, but he felt like his balls were being pulled up into his belly as he tried to yank the suit tight and pull the hood over his head. When he finally had it on, Ap pointed out the zipper, which Pit would never have found on his own.
“I’m coming with you,” said Ap.
They marched into the inferno across bubbling earth, along shores now completely dry as the ocean was pushed back a mile in every direction. Once or twice Pit fell, and had to crawl in the face of the horrible winds. Even protected from the heat, his mouth and nose and eyes went completely dry in air where every molecule of water had been torn asunder.
They reached the crater where Servant and Sunday had fallen. It was now a sheet of glass. In the depth beneath, a naked man with an ogre’s face was frozen in mid scream, though he looked more angry than in pain. He’d been trapped in the molten sand like a fly caught in amber.
And further down the beach was Sunday. She sat with her knees drawn up to her chest, her arms wrapped around them, staring at the sunset.
He slogged through magma to reach her. He placed his hand on her shoulder.
She looked up. “Is there hope?” she asked.
Her eyes had already answered the question.
He dropped to his knees and wrapped his arm around her. She rubbed her cheek against his cheek. They kissed once again. Her lips were completely dry.
“I can’t stop burning,” she whispered.
“Then don’t,” he said, his voice trembling. “Just… do what you do best. Burn, baby. Burn.”
And then he opened his other mouth and closed his eyes. There was a familiar tickle at the back of his throat, a familiar fire. And when he opened his eyes she was gone.
Ap stumbled as the hurricane force wind suddenly stopped. “What just happened? Did… did she just get away?”
“Naw,” said Pete.
“Is… is the world safe?” Ap asked, scratching his hair, or trying to. In his ghost mode, itches apparently were impossible to relieve.
“Naw,” said Pete. “No more than it ever was. Nobody gets out of here alive.”
Ap glanced back to the crater that held Servant. “You think he’s still alive?”
“Couldn’t care less,” said Pit.
“Let me get Simpson online,” said Ap. “Let’s go home. Well, my home, at least. Guess you’re going to have a new home.”
“Yeah,” said Pit. “Guess I will.” Then he shoved his fist into his mouth. He swallowed. And kept swallowing.

He’d arrived in a world of trash. A vast ring he couldn’t begin to measure, in orbit around an elongated star that poured out heat and light. He’d pulled off the thermal underwear and shouted at her for days, or what felt like days. There was no way to measure time. She never showed any signs of hearing him.
There wasn’t much gravity. Things in the ring did tend to pull together, though. He’d found a few things to eat in the garbage. Felt like he was dying of thirst until he found an old soda machine and managed to pry it open with a crowbar he’d swallowed back in 1973, along with the arm of the man who’d swung it at him. He drank sodas and ate from a desiccated deer carcass while he watched living chickens and goats cavorting in the distance.
Later, he’d had to go to the bathroom, wiping himself with pages from a Dallas phone book. It wasn’t his first clue, but it felt like proof that he was normal again. Whatever Eleven had done to freeze his body in time no longer had any effect on him.
One day he found a typewriter. An old one, a Remington, completely manual. Just like the one he’d written his screenplay on. To keep from going crazy, he’d started typing, filling up scraps and bits of card and any thing flat he could roll through the machine. He thinned out ink from a ball point pen he found in his own urine and soaked the ribbon to refresh it when the letters had finally faded to nothingness. He was surprised when this actually worked.
He was always worried that one day he would run out of paper.
But, in the end, he ran out of memories. He ran out of things to say.
So he’d placed a pistol against the roof of his mouth.
And then, for a time, he’d been dead.

It was nighttime when he woke up. He’d been resting on short, thick green grass, like what you’d find on a gold course. He sat up, and saw a glimmering sea in the distance.
He could tell from the air that he was back on Pangea.
Eleven floated before him.
“I’ve completed my mission. It is time for us to leave.”
“Oh,” said Pit. “Hmm. What mission was that?”
“I came here to catalogue the sentient beings of this planet. I’ve finished my recording of the beings of this world, as well as the five sentients of this world that currently reside on Mars.”
“There are men on Mars?”
“You’ve met two of them,” said Eleven. “As for their offspring, I’m unsure you would classify them as men.”
Pit looked at his hands. They were young and strong again. Well, not young. He looked like he had when he was in his forties or fifties.”
“Was I dead?” he asked.
“You had regressed to your lowest biological threshold,” said Eleven. “Only the bacteria in your gut were still active.”
“Do they count as part of me?”
“Who else would they count as?”
Pit looked up at he stars. “You left me in there for a long time.”
“In the relative time frame of your four dimensional existence, you were only gone two weeks. I saw no need to retrieve you prematurely.”
“Two weeks? It felt like decades.”
“Then it was,” said Eleven. “There is no precise formula for reconciling times between the two realities you inhabit.”
Pit stood. It was then he realized he was naked. “You couldn’t pull me out some clothes?”
“They will serve no purpose where we are going. If there are sentient beings in the Centari system, it is highly unlikely they will care if you are wearing pants.”
“How are we getting there?” he asked.
“We’ll walk,” said Eleven. “But I know a short cut.” Then Eleven splintered apart and splashed against Pit’s chest. Pit looked down and found himself covered with triangular stripes, like a tiger.
“Ready?” Eleven asked.
“No,” said Pit. “I can’t leave without… without knowing what happened to Sunday.”
“She perished,” said Eleven. “Due to the time variance, by the time you followed her inside, she had long since failed to receive the primitive but necessary chemical fuels that powered her life functions.”
“You fixed me,” he said, holding up his hand, staring at the stripes that now coated it. “Fix her.”
“We’ve been a braided life-form for a long time,” said Eleven. “I can restore your cognitive abilities because your thoughts are my thoughts. Even if I could reassemble Sunday’s material form, she would not be the person you knew. For now, her presence within our dimensional hold is most fortuitous. The solar radiation she emits will provide plentiful power for our travels. Were it not for her, you would need to devour a mass the size of Mount Everest to generate the required energy for us to escape this planet.”
Pit nodded. He crossed his arms across his chest.
It wasn’t fair. But that wasn’t the way of this world. Some travelers reach the end of their journeys while those who loved them traveled on. And like every other person, all he could take were memories, and the warmth of knowing that he carried some part of her inside him.
Only, less metaphorically.
He stepped forward, and was gone from earth.
And on a world with green skies he gawked at unfamiliar stars, and laughed.
He’d gotten out alive.
3190 words

Burn Baby Burn Chapter 15 3684 words

Raw first draft.

----

(Note: In the previous scene of the chimp restaurant there is a chef with a huge cleaver who hacks up a lemur. This scene will be modified in the next draft to show the chef pulling out a white ceramic butcher knife after he’s killed the lemur and butchering it further.)

Had to punch a new hole in my belt today. Just used a nail I found stuck in a two by four. I was skinny when I got here, but I’m now four belt hole’s thinner.

Almost completely bald now. When I got here, I still had some dark hair in my beard, but now it’s all gone white. I found a little round mirror on a stand, the kind you use for shaving. I look like someone’s grandfather.

Spend most of my days sleeping.

Haven’t eaten in three days.

Funny, given that I’m surrounded by meat. Hundreds of severed human hands, some arms, a few feet, over a dozen heads. Still look as fresh as the day they got here.

I’ve collected them as I found them. One body, I pieced back together, like the world’s goriest jigsaw puzzle. If memory serves, he was a lawyer from Kansas City.

Some people say we taste like chicken.

I don’t guess I’ll find out.

I might be a man-eater, but I ain’t no cannibal.

Chapter Fifteen
Boom Boom Boom

Sunday’s kiss lasted barely a second. She pulled her lips from his mouth and pressed them too Pit’s ears. “Close your eyes and duck,” she whispered.
Pit ducked, covering his head, as Sunday pointed her hands over her head. Her fingers almost reached the low ceiling.
The green beam reached the tips of Pit’s knees as he squatted, his hands over his head. The fabric of his jeans vaporized as the advancing light reached him.
There was a whoosh and heat washed over him, singing his hair. There was a sound like every kernel of popcorn in the world firing off in the space of a second. Flakes and fragments of concreted rained down onto him. The green light fizzled out as it cut a raw hole in his right kneecap the size of a quarter.
He stood up. Sunday was on fire from the tits up.
He said, his voice cracking, “You’ll—”
“Hush,” she said. “It only hurts when I turn my powers off. That’s never going to happen.”
Dr. Troglodytes looked unflustered by Sunday’s destruction of his disintegration grid. He calmly reached into a pouch on his belt and pulled out a gun the size of the derringer that looked like a miniature version of the regeneration ray. A red targeting light cut through all the dust in the air to land on Sunday’s left breast. Pit shoved Sunday and jumped as Troglodytes pulled the trigger. The beam took off his right ear and a chunk of his shoulder before he opened his mouth and swallowed the chimps hand, gun and all, to the mid point of his forearm. With his remaining arm Dr. Troglodyte punched Pit in the cheek. Pit was knocked to the ground, stars in front of his eyes. He spat out a molar as he tried to rise. Then he fell once more, too dizzy to rise. The chimp punched like he had a horseshoe hidden in his glove, if he’d been wearing a glove.
Fortunately, the ape didn’t press his attack. Instead, he ran with inhuman speed, shouting, “Regeneration Mode!” as he veered suddenly to hide behind a concrete pillar. A ball of glowing plasma hit the ground where he’d just stood, sizzling away, leaving a black scorch mark.
Even though she’d missed, Sunday’s splattering plasma must have caught Dr. Troglodytes at least a little, since the chimp gasped in pain as the smell of burnt fur polluted the air.
“Foam Mode!” the chimp screeched from behind the pillar.
Then, Dr. Troglodytes whipped back around the column, the shaving cream like substance bubbling from his skin. He vomited a torrent of the goop at Sunday, forcefully enough that she was knocked from her feet like she’d been hit with a water hose.
The chimp leap upon her and thrust his long canine teeth toward her throat. She twisted at the last possible second and he sank his teeth into the meat of her shoulder rather than into her jugular vein.
Sunday screamed, blowing the foam that covered her lips into the air in a spray of white bubbles. Pit rose to his hands and knees, blood trickling from his mouth. He reached for the chimp in a motion that was half a lunge, half a fall. He grabbed the ape’s foamy right ankle.
An inhuman growl tore from Pit’s throat as he summoned every bit of strength he had left to yank the ape off of Sunday. Fortunately, the foam provided lubrication, helping slide the super-intelligent chimp off. Dr. Troglodytes rolled to his back and opened his foaming jaws, pink with Sunday’s blood, inhaling to shout another command. Pit shoved the monkey’s foot toward his jaws, and took the ape’s leg off all the way up to the hip. Blood spurted from the severed limb as the ape screamed. Then, once more the ape sucked in air. Before he could say anything, Pit punched him in the testicles.
The doctor arched his back and opened his jaws. He looked like he was screaming, but no sound came out. Pit dragged himself closer to the ape, sucked in, and the ape’s hairy belly vanished as a tornado of entrails and organs spiraled into Pit’s mouth. Blood and bile and things Pit didn’t want to think about flecked Pit’s cheeks.
He closed his mouth. The stupid ape was now gone from the rib cage down. Everything that should have been inside the hollow of his ribs had vanished. Pit sat up, wiping his face on his shirt.
His back grew hot as Sunday baked off the foam that had smothered her. He looked back, squinting, and found her staggering to her feet, her hand clamped over her injured shoulder.
“Just sit still,” he said. “You’re hurt. One of them monkey doctors upstairs can stitch you up.”
“Give me the disintegration pistol,” she said.
“What—”
“You just ate it!” she screamed. “I don’t have time to argue! Give me the damn gun!”
Pit reached in and grabbed the gun, with the black leathery hand still attached.
Sunday’s whole body was now glowing, save for her right hand, which was a dark spot against her radiance. She reached for the gun. Her hand was thin and wrinkled. Blood oozed from around her nail beds.
“Your hand—” he whispered.
“Will you just the fuck up?” she screamed as she snatched the gun away. “I’ve got to stop an army of cyborg Sundancers from destroying the world!” She ran toward the door her duplicates had left through. “You start eating computers! Something down her must be guiding them!”
She jumped into the air and flew through the door, leaving behind only a tornado of sparks.

Sunday burst from the tunnel she’d followed for half a mile to find herself in bright sunshine. She’d completely overestimated how much time had passed; she thought by now the sun would have set.
Spinning around, she found it had set. The false day was being created from the hundred duplicates of herself who stood at attention on a low hilltop off to her right. The headless women looked like some cryptic modern sculpture as they stood aligned in ten perfect rows of ten, each precise one arm’s length away from each other. They were pumping out enough heat that the hilltop beneath them had fused into black glass.
Sunday didn’t know what they were waiting for. She didn’t care. She suspected that no amount of heat and radiation she could throw at them would have any effect. Her own powers had never even made her sweat, though she was sweating now. Her heart was beating like she’d run up the tunnel rather than flew. Her fight or flight instinct had kicked in at full power.
So, she did both, flashing toward the grid of bodies firing the disintegration pistol almost blindly. Bodies began to topple as she swept the beam across the cyborg army. In seconds, she’d killed or seriously maimed over half. Could things really be this easy?
Then, the remaining bodies lifted their arms to her, and suddenly there was nothing in the world but fire. Sunday felt as if she was suffocating as the combined blasts of the assembled drones tore the molecules of air surrounding her into a slurry of elemental particles. She raced upwards, out of the blast zone, gasping as she reached intact air. She looked down at the army and point the raygun. But when she squeezed the trigger, it was like squeezing clay that oozed between her fingers. The barrel of the gun drooped like a spent penis. Whatever its melting point had been, the drone attacked had gone over that line.
She looked down at the remaining drones. They had stopped targeting her, and now stretched their arms out stiffly to their sides. The dust and dirt flew up in a ring around them as fire shot out from their palms and feet, thrusting them heavenward like rockets. They lifted slowly at first, but accelerated so swiftly that they reached Sunday, hovering a quarter mile above them, in only a second. She shook her hand to clear it of the molten gun, then clenched her fists, braced for their attack.
Only, they weren’t attacking her. They flashed past without even seeming aware of her. One passed less than a yard away and on pure instinct Sunday kicked it in the gut. Her stomach tightened from the impact; she’d somehow expected the thing to have a hard gut, filled with robotics. Instead, it was warm and yielding, disturbingly… human. But, human or machine, the fortunate effect of the kick was that it knocked the drone off it’s trajectory, causing it to crash into a sister drone that rose only an arms length away. That drone spun out, and in a game of aerial dominoes, three more drones were knocked off balance by the veering bodies. As the naked women bounced off one another, lights on the camera atop their head turned red. The affected drones went into tailspins as their robotic navigation systems lost control. The raced down to messy endings on the ground below, but Sunday had no time to waste watching them. She pushed her self higher, in pursuit of the surviving drones. She didn’t pause to count, but there were still close to thirty.
Then, BOOM BOOM BOOM! Sunday was hit in the chest by a shockwave as the drones above her accelerated past the speed of sound. Now it was her tail in a spin. The ground raced toward her with sickening speed. But, she clenched her teeth and took control of her fall, leveling off a few feet above the ground, leaving a trail of burning earth behind her as she raced toward the chimp city nearby. She blazed down the main street, setting convertibles ablaze, then whipped down the side street where the lemur sushi bar had been situated. She was doing 200 miles an hour when she neared the restaurant, crowded with two dozen chimps having dinner. The chef in his leather apron had his arm raised over his head, the cleaver gleaming with her reflected light. She grabbed his apron and his arm as she sped past him. Unleashing a blast, she ripped the monkey’s torso apart, leaving her holding a hand holding a cleaver, which she pried free. She had the apron draped across her arm. She turned toward the sky as she fished the white ceramic carving knife free.
Years of practice had taught her how well certain materials held up to heat. The cleaver would warp and turn to putty at a paltry 2500 degree Fahrenheit, but the ceramic knife was good to twice that heat, maybe even three times depending on its specific elemental components.
The drones were spread out in the sky in a straight line, just little dots of light. How could she ever catch them? She’d never been able to go past the speed of sound.
Or had she just never had the courage to go past the speed of sound? Those were copies of her up there. Anything they could do, she could do.
With the knife in her hottest hand and the cleaver in the hand she’d cooled to carry the gun, she inhaled deeply, and felt tightness build in the pit of her stomach. If she flew that fast, the wind would peel the skin from her face. If she flew that fast, she couldn’t breathe. She was still clinging to the tiniest fingernail ledge of hope that she’d survive this. Exhaling, she let go, and shot off like a white hot bullet.

As Sunday raced up the tunnel, Pit ran to the computer terminal Dr. Troglodytes had used to activate the drones. He stared at the screen, then stared at all the cables around him. His orders were to destroy everything.
But he couldn’t. These computers held everything there was to know about Sunday’s body. She seemed ready to die, but couldn’t they just build her a new body, then swap her brain into it? It seemed like an idea from B-movie science fiction, but he was on a floating island of talking chimps with robot servants, and the woman he loved was out doing battle with an army of headless clones. No idea sounded dumb at this point.
He tried tapping the computer keyboard. Dr. Trog had left the screen up, so he didn’t need a password. The only thing he needed was a genius IQ and about a decade of advanced training in robotics and genetics and making sense of what he was looking at would be a snap.
Then, either he hit something or Dr. Trog had planned to watch his army launch, because the screen switched to a camera shot from the top of the hospital to a nearby hilltop where the army was gathered, glowing brightly. He watched as Sunday charged, and cheered as she mowed down the army with her disintegration ray. Then his voice caught in his throat as the drones fought back. He watched as, a few seconds later, the remaining drones launched like rockets, rising above the frame of the shot. Then, for reasons he couldn’t guess, a half dozen of them rained back down from the sky and smashed into the burnt ground.
Without him pressing a button, the screen switched to black and a scroll of white words rolled up the screen.
Tokyo: Aborted
Seoul: Aborted
Mexico City: Aborted
New York City: Active
Mumbai: Active
Jakarta: Aborted
Sao Paula: Active
Delhi: Aborted.
The list continued. Pit didn’t even recognize half these cities. A handful of American cities stood out to him: Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, Detroit. All were active except for Houston and Washington
Pit left the terminal and ran up the tunnel. He emerged beneath a darkening sky with a row of glowing stars spread out above him. An even brighter light raced up from the center of Goodall, blazing like a comet. He squinted but couldn’t tell if there was a human figure at the center of the light, let alone whether or not it had a head.
All around him were severed body parts. A woman. Lot’s of women, actually. Bloodied breasts everywhere he looked.
No heads.
Sunday wasn’t part of this field of death.
He ran back toward the hospital, taking the above ground path. “Space donut!” he cried out, panting. “Space donut! Eleven!” That was right. “Eleven!” But, there was no answer. Hope that the alien thing that was turning him into a space ship might help him lift off and chase after Sunday began to fade.
He made it into town. Robotic firetrucks were rolling down the main drag. A dozen convertibles were on fire. Burnt chimps were laying on the sidewalks. Pit leaned against the wall of the parking deck catching his breath.
There was a kind of a whistling sound from somewhere, followed by a thump. He lurched forward but didn’t fall. He couldn’t feel his legs. He looked down and found he was now pinned to the concrete wall behind him by a four foot long shaft of steel a quarter inch around. He looked like a bug on a board.
Without warning, a shadowy form that almost looked like a man grabbed his right arm and pressed it up against the concrete wall. Ffffip! Thump! A second steel rod now emerged from his wrist, trapping his arm.
The shadow man punched his hand under Pit’s chin and slammed his head back into the wall. Fffffip! Thump!
“Ow,” said Pit, going cross-eyed as he tried to see what had happened. He couldn’t move his head at all. His thoughts felt scrambled. Was there really a long steel rod jutting out of the top of his forehead?
His eyes focused on a woman floating in the air a hundred feet away. Skyrider? She was holding an enormous rifle. She squeezed the trigger and suddenly he couldn’t move his other hand.
“God!” the woman shouted. “This job is so much easier when you have the right tools!”
“End Shadow Mode,” said a voice he’d heard before. He could just see the top of Ap’s head.
“Pit Geek, the vessel known as Pangea has just entered American waters. We have been authorized by the proper authorities to seize the ship.”
“Ship?” Pit was confused. “This is an island!”
“It floats. It has anchors. I believe that any court of law will accept the argument that Pangea is little more than an oversized garbage barge. Everyone on board will be taken into custody until the finer legal matters have been resolved. You will be treated a little differently, however. Because, for the crimes you’ve committed against humanity, you’re under arrest. You have a right to remain silent.”
“I’ll talk,” Pit said, firmly. “You listen. A couple of dozen copies of Sunday just rocketed out of here like bats outa hell and are going to explode over the most populated cities on earth. A couple of hundred million people are gonna die if you don’t stop them.”
“Sundancer is next on our agenda,” said Skyrider, floating closer.
“No, dammit!” Pit shouted. “Sunday ain’t the problem. Dr. Troglodytes has sent a whole army of copies out to wipe out humankind. Stop them first! I can show you where to find a list of their targets!”
Skyrider looked at the stars. The Sundancer Legion was now very far off. “I wondered what all those lights were,” she mumbled. Then she turned to Pit. “I’m going to give chase.”
“They’re pretty far away,” said Ap.
Skyrider nodded and said, “Simpson, can you cut and paste me about twenty miles due west and about a mile straight up? I need to catch up to some fleeing suspects.”
Suddenly, she was gone.
“Double-density mode,” said Ap. He yanked the steel rod holding Pit’s head to the wall free.
“Christ almighty, that smarts,” said Pit, squeezing his eyes shut.
“You’re going to show me the list of targets,” said Ap. “These rods are coated in nanite tracers. Simpson can now fix on their signal and grab you with the space machine any time he wants. Fuck with me, and he’ll drop you inside a volcano. We clear?”
“Clear,” said Pit, rubbing his wrists as Ap freed his arms. “I won’t be no trouble. I need… I need your help. Sunday’s dying. Dr. Trog said he’d used your belt technology to make the copies of Sunday. You’re supposed to be a hero. Save her! Make her a new body!”
“Hold on,” said Ap. “I’m not following you at all. Who’s Dr. Trog? What does my belt have to do with anything?”
Pit explained it as best he could as they ran back to the tunnel. Ap nearly tripped and fell when Pit said the name Code4U.
“She was a chimp?” he screamed, recovering his footing to keep up. He shook his head. “Man, you can’t trust anyone in a chat room.”
Back in the basement, Ap whistled as he looked around the room. “You know, it’s been something of a mystery why used game systems cost so much these days. I think I just figured out where all the old boxes are going to.”
“These are just old game boxes?” Pit asked.
“I’m sure they’ve been modified,” said Ap. “But they’re nothing to sneeze at. The graphics on one of these has more computing power than was available to NASA when they put men on the moon. String together a couple of thousand like this, and you can crunch some serious numbers.”
Ap plopped down in front of the system. Enough time had elapse for the screen to go blank. As he tapped the keys, it asked for a password.
“Try ‘banana,’” said Pit.
“That’s racist,” said Ap. But he gave it a shot anyway.
“Ha,” said Pit as the screen returned to the list of cities.
“Simpson!” said Ap. “I just activated my retinal camera. You’ve got a list of a dozen cities in front of you that are being targeted for destruction by individuals who have the same powers as Sundancer. Like her, they are small enough and fly low enough that most traditional defenses won’t spot them. We need jets in the air defending every target ASAP!”
Pit couldn’t hear Simpson answer, but Ap gave a nod that looked as if he’d just gotten confirmation of his orders.
Pit said, “There were more than a dozen.”
Ap said, “Well, now there’s only eleven. Skyrider doesn’t mess around on this saving the world stuff. She’s been doing it a long time.”
“So’ve me and Sunday,” said Pit. “Except. You know. On the opposite side.”
3684 words

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Burn Baby Burn Chapter Fourteen 3047 words

Raw first draft.

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I learned to type back in 1939. Started writing a screenplay, tapping it out with two-fingers. I’d make a mistake and tear the paper out and toss it in the can. I curse a lot and drank a lot over the course of a summer, staying up all night.

The Stick-Em-Up Kid Gets the Girl.

The Stick-Em-Up Kid never had a real name in the movies, but in the script it was Pete Green. He’d come west to mine for gold but fallen in with a bad crowd. Took to robbing stagecoaches, but he never killed nobody.
The gang leader was named Mick Silver. Silver spotted a young girl named Susie Hart inside the stagecoach and dragged her out, telling her she was going to cook and clean for the gang. But Pete tells Silver to leave her alone. They wind up fighting. Pete kills Silver, and has to flee. Susie rides away with the handsome and mysterious outlaw, since she doesn’t want to be left alone in the desert.
They flee into Indian territory. After overcoming a series of obstacles (a swollen river, a pit of snakes), they meet a good Indian named Black Wolf. He warns Pete that a band of bad Indians is headed to the Gold Hart Ranch to kill everyone and steal the cattle. We discover that Susie’s father owns the ranch. Pete rides his faithful steed Lightning to save the day. He kills all the bad Indians and saves Susie’s father from scalping.
As a reward, he’s allowed to ask Susie’s hand in marriage.
They ride into the sunset, living happily ever after.

Because in the movies, one good deed erases a lifetime of crimes. No one demands justice for old sins.

I sometimes stare at the revolver, thinking about the remaining bullets.

Thinking about old sins.


Thinking how sometimes, in the real world, nobody gets the girl.

Chapter Fourteen
A Terrible Actor

Pit didn’t bother to button his shirt as they ran toward the elevator banks. Unfortunately, the shaking of the building had disabled the elevators.
“There stairs?” Pit asked.
“Our legs aren’t really built for stairs,” Cheetah said, opening a door a few yards away from the elevator. Inside was a series of parallel ladders. “We’re more comfortable climbing,” he said, leaping onto the bars. He descended, shouting “Dr. Troglodytes has an office on the first floor. We’re on the sixth floor. Hurry!”
Sunday leaned into the ladder bank, staring at the long drop too the first floor. “It would be quicker if I flew,” she said.
“You know what the Doctor’s said. Using your powers even one more time might kill you.”
“Don’t nag me,” she grumbled. Then she grabbed the rungs and started to go down. “I don’t like feeling helpless.”
“You ain’t helpless,” said Pit, grabbing the rungs. “You’re still my better half. Hell, I’d still be on that bed talking to a space donut if you hadn’t figured this all out.”
“Where did Eleven go?”
“Damned if I know,” said Pit. “Just sort of disappeared once all the shaking started.”
When they arrived at the lobby, the place was in chaos. Chimps on stretchers were screeching loudly as hairy orderlies raced them out to the streets.
Dr. Cheetah was halfway across the lobby, running on all fours. He spun and called to them, “Hurry! The whole building may collapse upon us if this continues much longer. This structure was built to withstand typhoons, but the designers never planned for an earthquake. They simply can’t happen here!”
Pit and Sunny ran, following the doctor deeper into the building, weaving through a stream of chimps heading in the opposite direction.
They followed Dr. Cheetah around a corner and found him shaking the handle of an office door.
“It’s locked,” he cried.
“I’m on it,” said Pit. Then, even though he was barefoot, he ran at the door and put his full weight into a kick. The door splintered at the lock and swung open.
“Ow, ow, ow,” Pit said, hopping. It felt like he’d cracked every bone south of his knee.
“Why didn’t you use your powers?” Sunday asked.
“Aw, this way was more cowboy,” Pit said with a grin.
“It was rather manly,” she said approvingly, looking at him with goo goo eyes.
Except for the fact that the desk was only two feet tall, the office looked like it could have belonged to a used car salesman, just a modest box of a room barely big enough for the three of them.
“This isn’t a very fancy office for your top oncologist,” said Sunday.
“We spend very little time in our offices,” said Dr. Cheetah. His voice was nearly drowned out as the building groaned.
“That was ominous,” said Sunday.
“We should leave the premises,” said Dr. Cheetah. “The value of interrogating my colleague no longer exceeds the value of the risk.”
“You go on,” said Sunday. “We’ll keep searching.”
“But where will you even begin?” he asked.
“I’m thinking this secret door is a good place to start,” she said, moving behind the desk.
Pit squinted. The lights were flickering, but Sunday might be onto something. The pastel green drywall behind the desk had a rectangle four feet tall and three feet wide that had a small seam around it. It looked like it had fit perfectly flush until the twisting of the building had set if slightly ajar in the concealed frame.
Sunday pushed on it. When it didn’t open, she leaned back and kicked it. The door bounced back after the blow. She pulled it open and revealed a shaft with a ladder heading down.
She crouched and hopped on. Pit followed, looking back. Dr. Cheetah stood in the doorway.
“The danger…” he murmured.
“We ain’t asking ya to get yourself killed,” said Pit. “You go on.”
Dr. Cheetah hung his head shamefully as he slinked through the door.
The shaft was dark, light only by the flickering light from the room above. The air in the shaft was cool and dank, smelling of damp concrete. The light grew dimmer and dimmer as they descended.
“I’ve found the bottom,” Sunday announced.
Pit stopped. Her voice was so close, he was worried he might accidentally step on her.
“There’s a door,” she said. “Steel. We’re not kicking this one down.”
“Step aside,” he said. “I can—”
“I’m not a cripple,” she said. There was a sudden flash. Pit squeezed his eyes shut from the painful intensity. There was a hiss, followed by sharp, sour metallic smoke. Pit coughed, and peeked downward. Sunny’s right hand was glowing as she cut around the lock of the steel door. With a clatter, the handle fell out on the other side of the door. Sunday pushed the door open. Pit dropped down.
The light around Sunday’s hand faded. She frowned as she looked around the room. With her other hand, she rubbed her wrist.
“Are you hurt?” he asked.
“It’s just all this ladder climbing and door kicking,” she said. “Flying all these years has made me a little soft.”
The room beyond reminded Pit of a parking garage, a vast space filled with pillars sandwiched between to slabs of concrete. Only, instead of cars, the room was packed with row after row of video game consoles and what looked to be at least a hundred refrigerators. If they were refrigerators. They were a little tall, and seemed to be made entirely of dark glass. In the dim light, he couldn’t make out he contents.
“The good news is, when the hospital collapses down on us, we won’t feel any pain,’ said Sunday.
However, Pit noted that the shaking and vibrations had calmed down considerably. Whatever force had set the building in motion seemed to be dying off. Either that, or the building above ground just shook more than the building below ground.
Sunday jumped as there was a noise from the door to the ladder. Pit stepped in front of her, ready for whatever came out of the door.
It was Dr. Cheetah. “Sorry if I startled you,” the chimp said, softly. “I was halfway outside when I changed my mind.”
“What changed your mind?” asked Sunday.
“When I represented Pangea, I had to monitor human media for what was said about our countries. It galled me to hear radio talk show hosts say that chimps could never display traits such as love, or honor, or courage, since these were purely the reserve of humans. As I was running from danger while you were pressing on in search of truth, these words were like burrs digging into my pride. I can’t live with myself if I think that two mere humans have displayed greater bravery than I have.”
“What if it’s just greater stupidity?” asked Sunday.
Dr. Cheetah shrugged. “Let’s move forward,” he said.
They walked toward the nearest refrigerator with Dr. Cheetah in the lead. Suddenly, a row of green lights lit up on the ceiling in front of him. He swung forward in his four limbed gate and the front half of his body suddenly vanished in a display of bubbling lights. His belly fell to the ground leaving his rear end sticking up. Bright red blood poured out of him. Where it flowed forward, it turned into bright sparks and vanished. A line beyond which nothing could pass was clearly demarked.
Pit looked around. They were now standing inside of a ten foot square marked by the green ceiling lights.
“How regrettable,” said a voice to their left. Dr. Troglodytes stood there with his hands behind his back, just on the other side of the green line. Unlike when they’d seen him last, he was wearing clothes. He wore what looked like a lead apron, the sort x-ray technicians might wear. And, he sported a wide black belt. He was gazing at the remains of Dr. Cheetah with a look of genuine sorrow. He sighed. “I suppose it was a bit fantastic of me to think I could accomplish this without the death of at least a few chimpanzees. And, if someone had to die, he was a worthy candidate. Pangea will be better off with one fewer human sympathizer.”
“What did you do to him?” Sunday growled, letting her right hand flare up.
“Be careful, human,” said Dr. Troglodytes. “You’ll lose that hand if you aren’t careful. From the data I’ve gathered, the degradation of your physical structure accelerates with each use of your powers. Every time the wormholes damage your cells, they produce further mutant cells that generate defective wormholes.”
“I’ll take my chances,” said Sunday.
“As you wish,” said Dr. Troglodytes, gazing up at the green square above them. “The lights on the ceiling are scanners for a teleportation beam. At least, the portion of the teleportation beam that tears matter apart. Alas, I have not installed the sensors needed to capture the data to restore my colleague. These beams are purely for destruction, meant to finish off unwanted visitors.”
Dr. Troglodytes turned away, waddling toward a computer monitor and keyboard hooked into the networked game systems. “Curiously, I didn’t design it to serve as a cage, and yet it seems as if it will serve that function perfectly.”
“You made the regeneration ray, didn’t you,” Sunday asked.
Pit took this as a cue. He reached into his mouth and produced the weapon once more.
“Of course I made the ray,” said the chimp as he turned the monitor on. “But I wouldn’t waste time training it on poor Cheetah. His brain is gone. You could build a new body based on his DNA, but it would be a soulless, mindless copy.”
“Why did you build this ray? Was this an elaborate plot to kill me? What had I possibly done to harm you?” asked Sunday.
Troglodytes bared his teeth and hooted. “You flatter yourself to think I gave even a seconds thought to you. No, my interest in teleportation technology long predates you. I was aware that Rex Monday had once designed and tested a teleportation belt that proved more effective at tearing matter apart than it did in putting it back together. I coveted the technology. The small size of Pangea’s population makes us vulnerable. But imagine how feared we’d be if the robots we employ for our defense were armed with disintegration beams!”
“So when you downloaded my father’s data, you learned how to duplicate the technology.”
“Even better!” said Troglodytes, sounding delighted. “I had some data, true, and had made significant breakthroughs. I have no doubt that, in five years, I would have perfected the technology. But then, to my astonishment, the original source code and schematics for the belt were posted on the internet!” He patted the belt he wore. “I’ve adopted an online persona of a young human female named Code4U and have been corresponding with the clueless hero Ap to perfect the technology. I was wrote his preferred Regeneration Mode code. It was a simple matter to transfer the technology to the gun you bear.”
The chimp began to type with both his hands and feet. He kept talking. “Among your father’s data, I found the dates and locations he was to use to contact you. I had quite a bit of information about your abilities from your father’s notes, but craved further data. The possibility of weaponizing your abilities was too tempting to ignore. The regeneration ray has recorded your genetic make up in detail and transmitted it to me. Now, you will be pleased to know, your physical form is effectively immortal. I need merely provide the raw materials and my teleportation beam can build a carbon copy of you. A soulless, mindless copy, to be certain. But also a copy in full possession of your abilities.”
He glanced at Pit Geek. “Your mate, alas, was not as interesting. Whatever the source of his curious consumption and regenerative powers may be, it does not seem to spring from his DNA.”
Pit looked down at the concrete floor. It wasn’t sparking. The disintegration beam was apparently calibrated to stop at this point. Could he eat a tunnel out of here?
Sunday asked. “So you can duplicate me. But my duplicates would have the same flaws that I have now. Their powers would kill them.”
“True,” said Troglodytes. “Fortunately, they will only need to use them once.”
With a click, lights inside the glass refrigerators clicked on all at once. In every direction, they faced the horror or Sunday’s nude, decapitated body, the head replaced by a small bank of webcams.
“I now command my own legion of Burn Babies!”
“Baby Burn,” Pit correct him.
Troglodytes paid him no mind. “I had told myself I was building these purely for deterrence, but in truth, I always new the day would come when I would unleash these on the earth’s largest human cities.” He tapped a few more buttons. “When these have accomplished their mission, Pangea will be the dominant world power! It shall be humans who live as animals in the forest!”
“I’ve never had the power to blow up a whole city,” said Sunday. “You’ll kill some people, yes, but then the armies of the world will strike back! You think a hundred headless copies of me are stronger than even a single nuke dropped on this place?”
“Most definitely. You’ve never unleashed your full power because your fears hold you back. My army has no such fears.” With a tap of the button, robotic arms moved inside the containers and brought a syringe to the arm of each duplicate. With a jab, dark blue fluid flowed into the bodies.”
“This is pure adrenaline,” said Troglodytes. “It will prime the cells for the fullest release of power. The cities of the earth shall be reduced to ashes!”
“Don’t do this!” screamed Sunday. “The humans haven’t attacked you. They’ve done nothing to deserve destruction!”
“Have you not felt the ground shaking?” asked Troglodytes. “We are currently under attack. The Covenant member called Servant seems to be dragging us into US waters. I have no doubt this is a prelude to war. The navy of the United States no doubt prepares to fend off our incursion. The truth of how our nation wound up moving across the open sea will almost certainly never be reported by human media.”
“The Covenant doesn’t want war with Pangea,” said Sunday. “They want us! You can stop all this destruction just by turning us over to them!”
“She’s right,” said Pit, his shoulders sagging. “It is us they want. We should have known we couldn’t just run away.”
“I assume this is a trick of some sort,” said Troglodytes. “The two of you have never shown the least bit of remorse for your crimes.” He pressed a button. The glass door slid open. “But, if it was a sincere offer it’s too late. Perhaps you’ve doomed mankind by coming here. If this is so--” he looked at them with a twinkle in his eye“--I’ll see that statues are erected in your honor.”
The women throughout the basement began to glow. Waves of heat washed across the cement floor. In unison, they all began to march out of a steel door.”
Troglodytes stood up from the terminal and came to the edge of the green line. “And now I face the question of your disposal. I doubt you will voluntarily walk into the disintegration beam.”
“Probably not,” said Pit.
“And the second I leave to deal with Servant, you’ll simply chew through the floor and escape,” said Troglodytes. “This would not be optimal.”
“Aw, we ain’t going nowhere,” said Pit. “What do we care if you blow up the world? We’re terrorists! Good riddance, I say.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you are a terrible actor?”
Pit grimaced. Being a terrible actor had sort of been at the origin of every problem he’d had since 1938.
“Fortunately for me,” said Troglodytes, tapping a few buttons on his belt. “The grid array is mobile.”
More of Dr. Cheetah’s body vanished as the green lines on the ceiling closed in on one another.
Sunday turned to Pit. “Just one last time to do this, I guess.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
3047 words

Burn Baby Burn Chapter Thirteen 4689 words

Raw first draft, fresh from the gray matter. See chapter 1 for other disclaimers.

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Unless I find more bullets or a different gun, I’ve killed my last goat. A chicken, every now and then, can be pegged with a rock and stunned. Goats just run away.

Two bullets left.

One for her.

One for me.

Chapter Thirteen
The Secret Origin of Pit Geek

The CT scan showed his head was full of shrapnel. No surprise.
What was surprising was when Pit said, “Let’s take it out.”
Sunday wasn’t sure she understood him. “Take what out?”
“All the metal in my head,” said Pit. “I’ve been getting shot in the head on a regular basis for damn near sixty years. It ain’t killed me. But it’s messed up my memory something fierce. So, we cut it out, and I remember who I am.”
Dr. Cheetah scoffed loudly. “Cutting through the required tissue would leave you a vegetable. I might as well run your brains through a blender.”
“If that would get the metal out, let’s try it,” said Pit.
“Pit, I appreciate you want to help me, but I can’t let you cripple yourself,” said Sunday.
“I’ll get better,” said Pit. “I always heal.”
“Brain tissue isn’t like skin or bone,” said Dr. Cheetah. It doesn’t regenerate.”
“Mine might.”
“My oath reads, ‘First, do no harm.’”
“Mine reads, ‘you gotta scramble some eggs if you want an omelet.’”
“Your brains are already scrambled if you think this is a smart idea,” said Sunday.
“Yeah,” Pit said, tapping his finger on the dark black shards that littered the scan. “And all I’m asking is that you unscramble them.”
“It’s amazing you’re alive,” Dr. Cheetah said, as he turned the image back and forth on the computer. “But it’s also possible that these images are corrupted. Look.” He rolled his mouse back and forth, twisting the image of Pit’s brain from side to side. He tapped some of the black shapes. “See? This shard is plainly visible from the front. But, it vanishes when we turn the image thirty degrees. Then, when we turn another thirty degrees, it’s back! I’m getting a similar effect on a dozen fragments.”
“Aw, just go in and poke around,” said Pit Geek. “You don’t need no fancy gadgets. Just a good knife and maybe a sifter.”
Dr. Cheetah shook his head. “If you were anyone else, I’d never do this.”
“You’re not doing it to him!” said Sunday.
Dr. Cheetah sighed. “I understand your reservations. But, Pit is now my patient as well. He plainly has serious, chronic injuries. He has a symptom that greatly reduces his quality of life, in the form of his fractured memories. And, his curious biology does give him a better than average chance of surviving this procedure.”
“You’re both crazy,” said Sunday.
Dr. Cheetah shrugged. “Why don’t you both sleep on it? If you wish to have the surgery, I can perform it tomorrow.”
“You’d perform the surgery yourself?” asked Sunday. “I thought you were more of a general practitioner.”
“My dear, I am a surgeon, an architect, a computer programmer, an attorney, and a novelist. And, until recently, a diplomat. Pangean’s are few in number. We must wear many hats.”
“I haven’t seen any of you wearing hats,” said Pit.
“It’s a human idiom,” said the doctor. “I confess, our language is riddled with them. Until recently, all literature was human literature. Perhaps after a century of chimpanzee literature, humans will begin to adopt our idioms.”
“Like what?”
“For instance, when we face difficulties in reaching a goal, we say, ‘the fattest ants are always lip biters.”
“Okay,” said Sunday. “I’m not sure it will catch on, but I get it.”
“The dung you fling at your enemy sticks beneath your own nails.”
Sunday nodded. “Makes sense. I can almost imagine it catching on.”
“In estrus, even the dominant female has a slick anus.”
She stared at him.
“It means—”
She held up her hand to stop him. “I honestly don’t want to know.”

There were other things she didn’t want to know, but found out anyway. They’d driven to
Goodall, the capital city of Pangea, since this was where the hospital was located. While it was the largest city on the island, it was still small enough to walk everywhere. From one end of the town to the other wasn’t even a mile. The town didn’t even have stoplights.
The hotel had been built with several floors to accommodate humans. The place was stuffy and filled with mosquitoes. Pangeans didn’t like air conditioning; it robbed enclosed spaces of any smell except that of the air conditioner. Dr. Cheetah explained that this would be like decorating a human room with a single unvarying shade of beige. So, windows were left open, and bugs came in, including a spider in the bathtub big enough to have it’s own zip code. Pit Geek chivalrously devoured the arachnid so that she could take a shower.
In the evening, they went out into the streets to see the night life. Every third business was a grooming parlor where rows of female chimps wearing white gloves fussed over their chimp clientele, laboring to pick away all the fleas and ticks that had accumulated during the day. They passed a bar where a chimp band called the Hoot Pants as getting the small crowd to wave their hands in the air as they hooted and panted. These all seemed to be harmless imitations of human businesses until they passed an open air restaurant that resembled a sushi bar. Only, instead of a glass case full of fish, there was wall of small cages holding tiny primates, small monkeys and lemurs no bigger than pug dogs. A group of male chimps were passing a tablet computer around with schematics for some kind of engine. Most chimps spoke in sign language, but these three had the vibrating implants that gave them voices. They were practicing their English by having a conversation where every other word was a number. They were drinking bright red juice from coconut bowls. At least, Sunday hoped it was juice.
But her hopes were dashed when the largest chimp pointed to one of the cages. The chimp stationed at the cage had a leather apron around his neck, with the pockets stuffed with knives and cleavers. He pulled a screaming lemur from a cage and carried to the chimps table. They shoved their computer into a briefcase as the butcher chimp slammed the still wiggling animal down on the table hard enough to stun it. Then he pulled a cleaver with a blade nearly two feet long and a eight inches wide and swung it. The lemur was perfectly bisected I the aftermath. The three chimp’s fought one another to get the two halves of the brain. Two of the chimps hooted as they chewed up their pink prize. Then, one said in buzzing English with a perfectly bland Midwestern accent, "Fast apes eat brain, slow apes suck kidney.”
The chimp who’d had no brain to eat dug the left kidney out of the bisected primate and popped the purple organ into his mouth. He didn’t look happy. He crossed his arms, and sulked.

The next morning, Sunday was covered in welts from mosquitoes. She appreciated the love of smells, especially as a gentle breeze blew floral scents through the room, but didn’t understand why window screens hadn’t caught on.
She pulled her knees to her chest and stared at Pit, who was still sleeping.
Then he snorted, and looked at her with one eye half open.
“Good morning,” he said.
“I don’t suppose you’ve forgotten what happened yesterday?” she asked.
“Probably some of it,” he said.
“How about….?”
“I want the surgery,” he said.
“Fine.” She slid next to him, pressing her body close, drinking in his warmth and his scent. “You better not come out of this a vegetable. I love you, but I’m not changing your diapers.”
“Yeah, you would,” he said.
“Yeah,” she sighed. “I would.”

Sunday chewed her nails as she sat in the surgical waiting room. The surgery lasted hours. A young female chimp passed through the room every hour, offering her bottled water or fruit juice. Sunday wasn’t thirsty.
Which as ironic, since Sunday was certain she was in hell. In the years she’d worked for Monday, he’d engaged in constant mind games designed to leave her contemptuous of other people’s lives. She’d been an easy target. She’d hated every man her mother had brought into the house, and despised her mother for not being a stronger woman. Monday had convinced her that her innate superiority to ordinary humans had already begun to manifest at a young age. It was natural that Sunday felt no empathy for others, because there were no others who were her equal.
Now that she was twenty five, she could see how easy it had been for a fifteen year old to fall for a father telling her she was better than everyone else. He’d been able to take the baseline alienation and rebellion present in any teen and puff it up into full blown psychopathic isolation, where Sunday had been alone as an inheritor of truth and power in a world populated by dull, nameless shadows she would never care to know.
How easy it had been.
How easy it had been to kill.
And now she thought about all cops she’d burned, and all the wives and mothers who’d waited in rooms just like this for word of whether their loved ones would live or die.
If Pit did die….
If….
If Pit did die, she would turn herself into the authorities and ask to be executed.
And maybe, in some small way, this would pay back all those widows and orphans she’d created.
The female chimp came into the room. Instead of offering water, she said, “Dr. Cheetah would like to see you.”

She was led to a brightly lit room where Dr. Cheetah was staring at an array of peanut sized bits of black metal laid out on a blue plastic tray.
“Is he…?” she asked.
“The surgery encountered difficulties,” Dr. Cheetah said, sadly. He shook his head. “His brain tissue… we underestimated his regenerative abilities. His brain tissue was healing nearly as quickly as we could pull out metal.”
“Then is he …. is he … ?”
“I’m sorry,” said Dr. Cheetah. “I didn’t mean to create an air of suspense. The surgery was, perhaps, a failure. But, Pit has survived. We won’t know the state of his mind until he wakes, but he seems strong. He was… we gave him enough gas to tranquilize and elephant yet he kept coming too. We had to halt the surgery before we’d removed all the shrapnel.”
“But you took out all this?”
“We took out far more than this,” said Dr. Cheetah. “I have another tray filled with bullet fragments, shrapnel consistent with a hand grenade, the broken tip of a knife blade, the shaft of a bar dart, and three nails.”
“And what are these?”
“These are eleven of the twelve anomalous fragments we saw on the CT scan. The ones that vanished at certain angles.”
“Okay. But what are they?”
“My dear, since you are the person most familiar with Mr. Geek, I was hoping you could tell us.”
She tried to pick one up. It dropped from her fingers instantly. The fragments looked like lumps of hard coal, but this one had been as yielding and wobbly as a water balloon, and surprisingly heavy. She picked up another one, cupping it in her palm. The rolled it forward with her finger and it vanished, though she could still feel the weight I in her hand.
“The turn invisible?”
“At certain angles,” said Dr. Cheetah. “But more than invisible. From certain angles, they can’t even be touched.”
Which seemed to be the case now. Her fingers couldn’t touch the unseen weight on her palm. So, she shook her hand, and a black lump flew off and landed on the floor.
“Be careful, please,” said Dr. Cheetah, reaching for the fragment with his long arm. “We can’t afford to lose what seems to be a very exotic form of matter.”
“Forget losing it,” she said. “You say Pit still has a piece of this in his brain?”
“One large piece, roughly the size of his thumb. Perhaps some smaller fragments as well. The scan has many mysterious shadows that measure no more than a few millimeters.”
“Fragments?” she said. “Do you think these were once part of something larger? Do they fit together?”
Before Dr. Cheetah could answer, she picked up two bits that looked like inky cheetahs. She jammed the curved bits together. For some reason, they wouldn’t touch.
“What do you think—”
Before she completed her question the two halves flowed together into a ring roughly the size and shape of a mini-donut. It lifted from her palm and floated at the level of her eyes. Then, the donut swelled to the size of a bagel as the fragments on the tray vanished one by one. The whole process took only seconds.
Then the lights went out.

Pit gasped as he woke in darkness. His entire skull was on fire. Sounds and pictures and smells and textures and tastes flashed in his mind too quickly to grasp.
He knew who he was. He knew how he’d stopped being a man and turned into a monster.

1954. Frank Macey stared into the mirror at a face he didn’t recognize. His thick black curls had gone gray and stringy. His square, ruggedly handsome face had begun to sag. His stubble was flecked with gray. He hadn’t bathed in almost a week.
What was the point? He hauled garbage for a living. He was up before dawn every day dumping metal cans full of rot and filth into a truck that smelled like evil, a scent that rose from a black sludge caked into every crevice and cranny of the vehicle, a smell that had gotten into the pores of his skin and would never wash away.
He’d been famous once.
“Stick-em-up,” he said to the mirror, pointing a finger at himself.
He hadn’t come out west to play bad guys. Everyone back home had told him that with his looks and talent, he’d be playing the leading man in every film. And his prophesied success had nearly come true. He’d been hired on the first audition he’d gone to. He’d gone to be cast in the role of the sheriff. The director had said his nose was too big.
“You Jewish?” the director had asked.
“No,” Frank had answered.
“You got kind of a look about you,” the director said. “I can see you as a bad guy. Say, ‘stick-em-up,’ for me.”
Frank did a quick draw with his finger and barked, “Stick-em-up!”
“Not half bad,” the director said.
Frank had been on screen for the first two minutes of the film. He’d come out from behind some bushes when a stagecoach had stopped to move a fallen tree from the dusty trail. He’d fired his gun once overhead as a warning then yelled out his line. The leading lady had screamed and Dallas Smith, Texas Ranger had shot the pistol from his hand and knocked him out.
Audiences loved it. Something about Frank’s face made it a face they enjoyed seeing take a punch. He’d gone to open other films, robbing banks and saloons and trains and riverboats and even a church. He’d gotten more lines. In some films, he’d been able to tack on, “This is a robbery!” In others, he’d shouted, “Dallas Smith!” in surprise and despair when the ranger had popped up from behind some random bit of scenery and shot the gun from his hand.
The job had paid good wages, but Frank never stopped wanting to play the leading man. But anytime he’d try out for another movie, he’d be told that audiences didn’t want to see the Stick-Em-Up Kid get the girl.
Frank hadn’t been able to get the girls in real life, either. His on-screen persona was of a guy who couldn’t take a punch. A punk. A loser. And ladies wanted heroes.
Except, some ladies only wanted money. He’d had to get good and drunk the first time he screwed up his courage to pay a whore. Eventually, the parts dried up, and he ran out of money for both booze and whores, so he chose the booze.
And now it had been ten years since he’d last been in a movie. Ten years since he’d come to Hollywood wanting to be a hero, only to learn he had a bad-guy’s eyes.
He got dressed in the cover-alls he wore to work. They were stained and stiff with gunk. In his pocket was a Colt 45.
He drew it and pointed at the mirror.
He delivered his line.
And then he shot his reflection in the face.

Frank was just starting his garbage route and just finishing a bottle of scotch when he’d turned the truck west and started driving toward Vegas. It was four in the morning. He’d be over the state line long before anyone noticed him missing. In Vegas, people walked around with cash in their pockets. Frank would enjoy some cash in his pocket.
And unlike the movies, his gun was filled with real bullets.
No one was going to be punching him the jaw after he delivered his lines.
And then, just minutes before dawn, on a trackless stretch of highway with not a single car or building for ten mile in any direction, he’d run into…
Actually, he didn’t know what he’d run into. A thing. He’d run into some thing. It had looked almost like an elephant, if you removed the legs and just allowed the elephant to levitate two feet off the ground, balanced on a pencil-thin shaft of glowing green light. It had no trunk or eyes or ears, just a mouth as wide as the bumper of Frank’s garbage truck. It was dark purple, drifting right down the white dotted line divided the highway. Frank was doing sixty, the top speed the truck could handle.
He’d gone through the windshield when his truck plowed into the thing. He should have been killed, but the floating beast had been blubbery. Sinking into it’s body had been like sinking into a bathtub filled with lard and covered with a blanket.
And then the beast had torn apart, and the wheel of his truck bounced past him, and garbage was thrown all over the dark desert.
He’d slid along the asphalt, his cover-alls protecting him from road burn. It had still taken him a moment to recover. By the time he sat up, all the blubbery remains of the beast were bubbling away, evaporating with a smell like ammonia, vanishing into thin air.
All that was left after the accident was scattered garbage and a truck so pulverized that there wasn’t a single piece left bigger than a playing card.
“What the hell?” Frank asked.
His words were answered by a humming sound that released three pulses that matched the cadence of his words.
“Someone there?” he asked.
Again, three pulses of sound.
Then, a black donut had appeared in front of his face.
It hummed three times.
Frank had reached for his gun.
The donut had floated forward and placed itself against his forehead. It was warm and soft, and suddenly there was a voice in his head not his own.
“My apologies,” the unseen voice said. “Do not be al—”
Frank had twisted his arm awkwardly to place the barrel of the gun against the metal ring that touched him. The bullet was aimed straight at his own forehead. It would kill him if it passed through the mystery object.
And he felt as if this would be the best possible outcome.

The donut floated into Pit’s recovery room. Dr. Cheetah and Sunday followed close behind it. Sunday had lit up a single finger to provide light.
“If you use your powers, it will kill you,” said Pit.
“It’s just a finger,” said Sunday. “I’ll be okay unless I really light up again.”
Pit’s focus turned once more back to the floating black donut.
“What the hell is that thing?” he asked.
“I am Eleven,” the donut answered.
Man, woman, and chimp all stared at it, wide-eyed.
“I have learned your language in the years you have hosted me,” said Eleven. “I apologize if my previous attempts to communicate cause you discomfort.”
“You… you were inside me?” Pit asked. “In my head?”
“Yes,” said Eleven. “Part of me continues to reside within you. I thank you all for freeing enough of my form to allow me to reintegrate at least partially.”
“What are you?” Pit asked again.
“I am Eleven,” the thing answered.
“Is that a name or an age?” asked Sunday.
“It equates most closely with the human concept of a name,” said Eleven. “My age would be difficult to convey in your language.”
“You apparently know numbers,” said Sunday. “How tough can it be?”
“I am a seven dimensional explorative construct,” said Eleven. “Time moves backwards in my sixth dimension, and orthogonally in my fifth and seventh dimension in relation to my other four dimensions. If I were to express my age using your constrictive enumerative systems, my age would be expressed as a negative number.”
“Dr. Coco will be most anxious to speak to you,” said Dr. Cheetah. “He recently proposed a unified field theory operative in seven dimensions.”
“This conversation cannot occur,” said Eleven. “I am forbidden to interfere with the affairs of the inhabitants of planets I study.”
“You damn well interfered with me!” said Pit.
“This was never my intention,” said Eleven. “You drove your vehicle into my vehicle. You met my attempt at telepathic communication with an act of violence.”
“Vehicle?” said Pit. “You were driving a damn legless elephant down a dark highway! I wouldn’t have hit you if you’d been in something with headlights.”
“The bioship glows quite strongly in infrared,” said Eleven. “I was not aware of your species limited ocular range.”
“Why have you stayed inside him all these years and never said anything?” asked Sunday.
Suddenly, all the lights came back on. She let her finger fade back to its normal state. She didn’t seem to have any pain.
“My sentience could not emerge while I was fractured,” said Eleven. “I could not heal myself without damaging my new host’s brain even further. Of my ninety-three restrictions, the first is that I shall do no harm.”
“But you did me all kind’s of harm!” said Pit. “You stole my memories. You made me a damn zombie monster!”
“Even in my non-sentient state, core programming required was designed to maintain a bioship. Any damage you have accrued over the years has been repaired. My repair mechanisms strove to keep you in the exact state I found you in. With minor improvements to your fueling systems, of course.”
“My fuel… you’re the reason I can eat anything? And don’t go to the bathroom?”
“Your evolved fuel systems were wasteful and inefficient. You would never build sufficient power for interstellar travel through primitive chemical digestion. All of your world seems woefully underpowered. The rather minimal power I pulled from the environment to rebuild myself was sufficient to damage this structures power systems. You are the most energy efficient creature on this planet, Frank Macey. I have fueled all of your biological needs for over five decades with only the three humans you devoured when you first opened the mass portal. The excess mass you’ve consumed is being kept in stasis until such time as it is sufficient to power your travel through space.”
Pit didn’t really know what to say to this.
Sunday, however, cut to the question that should have been on his mind: “Now that you’re not in him anymore, does he still have his powers?”
“But I am still inside him. I must maintain my hosts systems while I’m still inside him.”
Pit reached into his mouth and drew out the regeneration ray. “You’re in luck, Space Donut. This baby has a ‘remove foreign material’ setting.”
Sunday surprised Pit by jumping forward and snatching away the ray. “No one is removing anything,” she said.
“Th—sk—ha,” said Eleven.
“What was that?”
“My apologies. I was merely stating that it would be wasteful to remove me at this point. Given that my subroutines have already altered your body to serve as my vessel, I’d like to remain within you until such time as I complete my study mission. I apologize that I could not be heard before. The device Sunday is holding is emitting radio waves that interfered with the voice channels I had selected.”
“What do you mean, it’s transmitting radio waves?” asked Sunday.
“I’m unsure how to make my statement any clearer,” said Eleven.
“What’s it transmitting?” she asked.
“Real time data of our conversation. Limited physiological data on the bearer’s body temperature, heart rate, and the ph levels present in sweat.”
Sunday turned to Dr. Cheetah, he voice sparking with anger. “You knew about this, didn’t you?”
“I swear I knew of no such thing.”
Sunday pressed her lips tightly together.
“Dr. Troglodytes,” she said.
“Of course,” said Dr. Cheetah.
“Will one of y’all tell me what you’re talking about?” asked Pit.
Sunday started yanking IVs out of Pit’s arm.
“Ow!” Pit screamed as the needles tore from his veins.
“You’ll survive, you baby. I need you dressed in one minute.” She turned to Dr. Cheetah. “Trog have an office in this hospital?”
“Of course,” said the chimp. “He should be there now.”
“Lead us,” she said. “We can’t let him get away.”
Pit got out of bed, feeling a little woozy from the massive amounts of gas they’d pumped in to keep him under. “Who’s getting away? What are we in such a hurry about?”
“My father is dead!” said Sunday, throwing open the doors of a white cabinet. She said, “Yes!” as he found his clothes. She tossed them to him. “So if Rex Monday didn’t send us a regeneration ray, who did?”
“Dr. Troglodytes? Why?”
Sunday shook her head like she was frustrated by how stupid Pit was being. “He said he’d been studying our biological data! That machine tore us down to our DNA and put us back together. For all I know, he’s trying to give himself our powers!”
“Since your powers are killing you, this seems unlikely,” said Dr. Cheetah. “Still, I would like to discover the truth.”
Pit yanked on his pants and threw off his hospital gown. He grabbed his shirt and headed for the door. “We’ll come back later for my boots.”
Then the floor shifted sideways beneath him and he slammed face first into the wall. He tried to balance himself, but the floor continued to jump and tremble. The IV poles toppled and everything attached to the walls fell off and landed with a crash.
“Earthquake!” Pit yelled.
“Impossible!” shouted Dr. Cheetah, as he clung to the edge of the swaying bed. “We have no earth to quake! Pangea sits atop a fused mass of floating plastic. We cannot be affected by seismic action!”
“Then how the hell do you explain this?” shouted Sunday.

What no one in Pangea could know was that, far below, on the surface of the sea, the anchor chains had all been severed. The central chain, the strongest, was now in the grip of a large man in white tights with a red S on his chest. Servant strained as he pulled the chain northward. He was determined to keep his schedule. In two hours, the northern tip of Pangea would be within 200 miles of the southernmost Aleutian Island, and thus in the territorial waters of the United States. In two hours and ten minutes, Pit Geek and Sundancer would finally face justice.

4689 words

Friday, August 12, 2011

Burn Baby Burn Chapter Twelve 3622 words

Another NSFW chapter.

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And then, for a little while, we were happy.

Chapter Twelve
Monkeys and Robots Make Everything Better

They arrived in Pangea in the middle of the night. Sunday was feeling better after a blood transfusion and two days of rest. The sub had run deep, cut off from radio, and Pit had expected that when it finally surfaced they would be surrounded by battle ships and superhuman waiting to take them back to justice.
Instead, they surfaced in an utterly changed world. Pit didn’t have much interest in politics, but as Sunday read news on the internet, she tried to explain things so he’d understand. The US had faced world wide condemnation for the embassy attacks. China took the incident as evidence that the US was planning a full scale invasion of Pangea. A decade ago, the place had been an embarrassing morass of refuge that no country wanted to deal with. Now, Pangea was turning into an island paradise in an enviable location. China had seen the pattern before. The US would claim that a country was harboring terrorists, then use this as an excuse to conquer the country. The US disavowed any attempt at turning itself into a colonizing power, yet countries around the world were falling like dominoes as the US invaded and installed friendly governments willing to give US corporations generous contracts.
The Chinese had finally had enough. If the US used force against Pangea, China would come to the country’s defense.
“Does that mean we’re safe?” Pit asked.
“I think it just might,” she said.
Dr. Cheetah had driven them along a highway that followed the sea. It was a full moon and the water gleamed in the light. The car was a convertible. Later, Pit would learn that 90% of the automobiles on the island were convertibles, since chimps took delight in the sensation of wind rushing through their fur. But, on this evening, all the knew was that he was in the back seat of an open car with the woman he loved pressed up against him and the sea and the sky stretched on forever.
They were provided with a sea-side villa that had been built as an emergency refuge by the notorious African dictator Zesty Manbuto. Alas, Zesty and every member of his immediate family, and a frightening number of uncles, aunts, cousins, second cousins, and strangers who’d born a mild family resemblance had recently been executed in the aftermath of revolution. The Pangean villa had been built with money channeled through illegal bank accounts. There was no legal document proving it belonged to anyone. It had been built to accommodate humans, so the chimps didn’t want it. (As Pit had discovered during his time on the sub, chimps built their sinks and counters at about the level of his kneecaps, and their toilets barely stood higher than his ankles.) Dr. Cheetah assured them that, for a fraction of their stolen wealth, they could call the place home.
It was nearly morning when they got to the place. Pit thought it looked like a museum with its marble floors and columns. The master bedroom had a bed that looked built to accommodate orgies.
“Zesty had large appetites,” said Cheetah. Then he’d opened the door to the balcony and they’d followed him out. A long lawn landscaped in palm trees and spiky bushes stretched down to a beach white as snow.
The moon had vanished. The sun set the water aflame as it rose to the east. Sunday squeezed Pit’s hand.
“We’ll take it,” she said.
Pit had been unaware they were being given a choice, but he played along. “Sure,” he said. “It’s perfect.”
After Dr. Cheetah had left, he and Sunday lay in bed. He was cautious, worried about hurting her. They kissed gently for a long time, but he made no motion to take things further. He knew she still wasn’t feeling as well as she should.
Finally, in frustration, she grabbed his hand and clambed it onto her breast.
“I’m just dying,” she said. “I’m not dead.”
And then he’d given up on gentleness and caution, determined to test her physical limits. An hour later he was out of breath and too sore to crawl away as she pulled him to her once more.
“I might need the regeneration ray,” he’d said as she grabbed hold of parts of his anatomy that were ready to surrender.
“Or you might just need some extra encouragement,” she’d said, sliding beneath the sheets.
They wound up sleeping until sunset. They awoke drenched with sweat. They’d gotten sweatier for a time. Then they’d gone down to the swimming pool to cool off. They floated around on water lounges while tiny swimming robot butlers brought them pina coladas. Sunday finished her fifth drink and went completely limp in her lounge. Pit thought she might have gone to sleep.
Then she whispered, “I think there’s something wrong with me.”
“Naw,” he said.
“I’m so… happy,” she whispered.
“Oh.” He scratched his chin. “I ain’t sure I’d call that wrong.”
“Shouldn’t I be scared?” she asked. “They tell me I’m dying, and it’s like a weight off my shoulders. War is over. I fought the world and the world won. And now I’m just so … so….”
“Drunk?” he offered.
“At peace,” she said. “Maybe it’s endorphins.”
“You ain’t gonna die,” said Pit. “Dr. Cheetah said he’d have ways to treat you.”
“We’re all gonna die,” she said.
“Well, sure. But there’s no need to be in a hurry.”
“I’m not in a hurry. It’s just… I don’t know.”
“Yeah?”
“I’ve killed a lot of people. A lot.”
“You keep count?” he asked.
“No,” she said, then laughed. “It didn’t matter to me.” She shook her head. “Those rednecks in the bar. All those cops. Who knows how many people I took out back in LA when I went nova to stop my fall. I didn’t see their faces. They didn’t see mine. I had nothing against them. I was just some force of nature, mowing them down, without asking if they were ready, without asking if they’d had time to do everything they wanted to do, without caring if they were in love, or in pain. I pushed death upon them with utter indifference.”
She motioned for the bar-bot to make her another drink. She let her hand drop back into the water while she waited.
“And now,” she whispered. “Now it’s my turn. Whether I’m ready or not has nothing at all to do with it.”
“I ain’t ready,” said Pit. “I ain’t ready for you to go.”
With a soft whir of underwater jets, the pool-bot brought her next drink out to her.
“Damn, these are good,” she said, after sucking down half the glass. Then she rubbed her temple and squinched her eyes together. “Ow!”
“What’s wrong?” ask Pit, jumping up from his lounge and bobbing toward her in the chest deep water.
“Brain freeze!” she said. “I drank to fast.”
“Oh,” said Pit. “That’s the worst.”
She sighed. “Not even by a longshot.”
Pit climbed back into his floating lounge. Sensor directed jets to stabilize the chair as he positioned himself. “This is pretty fancy stuff,” he said. He laned back and looked up at the stars. “Yeah, the good life.”
Sunday sighed as she, too, leaned back. “Monkeys and robots make everything better.”

A few days later, they met with Dr. Cheetah. They’d spoken on the phone a few times, but he told Sunday he had news he needed to deliver face to face. He arrived with a second chimp. In L.A., the embassy chimps had worn clothes to make their human hosts more at ease. On Pangea, all the chimps went naked. This meant, unfortunately, that when the two chimps arrived, Pit couldn’t tell the two of them apart. He hoped he’d pick up on some clue as to which was Dr. Cheetah so he wouldn’t look like a jerk to the ape who’d saved their lives.
“How are you feeling today?” one chimp asked as he approached Sunday.
“Not bad,” she said. “Borderline normal.”
“The pain has lessened?”
“Some,” she said. “I have some stiffness, and sometimes I get these little needles of pain digging around in my shins. But, I had a hangover the other day that put things in perspective. I don’t want to be a wimp about this. The pain is manageable.”
“Excellent,” said Dr. Cheetah. Then, he turned to the second chimp. “Allow me to introduce my superior, Dr. Troglodytes.”
“Troglodytes?” asked Pit. “Ain’t that some kind of monster?”
“I think not,” said Dr. Troglodytes. “The scientific classification for chimpanzees is pan troglodytes. I’m surprised you wouldn’t know this, given that humans have provided the labels for every living thing. I fear I must question the quality of your education.”
Pit furrowed his brow. Was he being insulted by a monkey? Then he grinned. Maybe the ape had him figured out. “I ain’t sure I had no education.”
“Indeed,” said Dr. Troglodytes. He turned to Sunday. “And you are the metahuman whose powers have damaged her?”
“Guilty as charged,” she said.
Dr. Troglodytes said, “I’ve reviewed your scans and blood work thoroughly. I’ve come to present you with options to deal with your bone cancer. I fear none are very good.”
“Hit me,” said Sunday.
“Ordinarily, bone cancer is treated with drugs and radiation. Unfortunately, your tumors don’t possess the genetic markers that would respond to the most effective drugs. Radiation is normally used to target a few localized tumors. You have tumors throughout your body. My colleague may have used the unfortunate phrasing ‘every bone in your body’ during an earlier conversation. This is no where near the truth.”
“Oh?” Sunday asked.
“The human body has 206 bones. You have tumors in 93 bones, fewer than half.”
“Oh,” said Sunday.
“Of course, this is still to many to make surgery an option. If the bones were confined to a limb, we could consider amputation. Since you have tumors in most vertebrae and in several ribs, this is hardly a practical solution.”
“Of course,” said Sunday.
“We could attempt to treat your tumors with a broad spectrum of chemotherapy not dependent on your genetic markers. However, due to the widespread nature of your disease, the doses would be massive. It is a case where the cure could shorten your life more than simply allowing the disease to run its course.”
Sunday nodded. “If it runs its course, how long do I have?”
Dr. Troglodytes shook his head. “I can’t say. There are no previous cases that quite match your condition. I can’t point to any given tumor in your body and say, ‘Here. This is the one that will kill you.’ With your metahuman physiology, I can’t rule out the possibility of spontaneous remission. However, given the extent to which the disease has progressed in the relatively short time since you first used the regeneration ray, my informed opinion is that you may have only weeks left to live.”
“Will I be in pain?”
“Pain can be treated,” said Dr. Troglodytes.
“I guess we’ll just let the disease go where it goes,” she said.
“I can’t take that,” said Pit.
“It’s not your call,” said Sunday.
“We can just keep using the regeneration ray on you,” said Pit. “Rebuild you every morning. You ain’t gotta die!”
Dr. Troglodytes shook his head. “I fear she’s lost mass with each exposure to the ray. You will only increase her agony with such a course of treatment.”
“I’m done with the ray,” she said.
“This isn’t fair!” Pit shouted, throwing up his hands. “Why is the ray working on me and killing you?”
“My understanding is that you possess enhanced recuperative powers,” said Dr. Troglodytes. “The ray may indeed harm you, but your natural biology mitigates the effect.”
“Then put my blood in her,” said Pit.
“Excuse me?” said the chimp.
“Put my blood in her. Let it heal her?”
“You know nothing of medical science, my good man. Your blood types are incompatible.”
“How do you know that?” asked Sunday.
Dr. Troglodytes said, “It was among the biological information we recovered from the ray.”
“When did you recover information from the regeneration ray?” asked Sunday. “Have you even seen it?”
“No,” said Dr. Troglodytes. “Of course I haven’t recovered any information from the ray. What are you speaking of?”
“You just said—”
Dr. Troglodytes held up his hand. “My apologies. I simply misspoke. We were talking of the ray and the word was simply in my mind. I meant to say, of course, the biological data we gathered from your father’s records.”
“Did those records show why I can heal?” asked Pit.
“Not that I can recall,” said the doctor.
“Then find out. Put me in a machine. Take my blood. You monkeys are supposed to be geniuses! I’m a damn puzzle. Solve me!”
There were several seconds of silence as the two chimps gazed at one another.
“We have nothing to lose,” said Dr. Cheetah.
“It would be cruel to inflict false hope,” said Dr. Troglodytes.
“Think of what we might learn!” said Dr. Cheetah. “Whether we cure Sunday is barely relevant. If we could market a drug that safely cured any wound suffered by humans, think of the fortunes to be made. Think of the prestige that would be due our country.”
Dr. Troglodytes turned from his colleague, waving his hand. “I care nothing for prestige in human eyes. And to me, a drug that cured humans and had no effect on our own species would be a drug I would flush down the toilet. Humans number billions while we number in the mere thousands. Why should we use our genius to save them?”
“Until we understand his powers, we can’t know that they only affect humans. We could be saving the lives of chimps as well.”
“Do as you wish,” said Dr. Troglodytes. “I need fresh air. I shall wait for you in the car.”
Sunday furrowed her brow. “Are you sure he’s doing all he can for me?”
Dr. Cheetah nodded. “He’s a professional. I fear we’ve simply exposed a political rift among we Pangeans. Like humans, we chimps have our factions. I represent a political party who wishes to promote trade with humans. I would like to see humans view our island as a desirable location for tourism. The truth is, our nation needs to establish itself as an economic power if we are to thrive. On the other hand, Dr. Troglodytes represents a faction of chimps who feel that Pangea should become completely independent from humanity.”
“Then he’s probably not fond of seeing us here,” said Sunday.
“No,” said Dr. Cheetah. “And Pit’s use of the slur ‘monkey’ cannot possibly have endeared you to him. But, again, he is a professional. I can assure you his personal feelings do not in anyway influence his ability to provide you with the best possible medical care.”
Sunday nodded.
Pit stared out the window and watched the monkey climb into the convertible. He’d be keeping an eye on this one. If Sunday wasn’t taken care of, well… out of all the crazy stuff he’d put in his mouth, he’d never swallowed a monkey. There was a first for everything.

Ap was in the command center working with Nathan to update the firmware of his belt when Servant came in and walked up to Simpson, who was sitting at the controls of the space machine, reading comic books. When none of the Covenant were out on missions, Simpson really didn’t have that much to do.
The command center was cavernous, half a foot ball field long and several stories high, so from the other side of the room Ap couldn’t hear what Servant said as he handed Simpson a sheet of paper.
But he did hear when Simpson turned, started tapping in the provided coordinates, then said, loudly, “Wait a second. These aren’t the coordinates for Seatle… this is Pangea!”
Servant cringed as all eyes turned toward him.
Servant tried to shush Simpson, but Simpson was a nerd straight out of central casting who’d never really learned to control the tone of his voice. He sounded a bit like Jerry Lewis as the Nutty Professor when he said, “You almost got me! Ha, that’s a good one, Mr. Servant!”
“Oh lord,” muttered Nathan, rolling his eyes. “What a moron.”
Technically, everyone in the room except for Ap and Servant was a certifiable genius, but Ap got the gist of Nathan’s sentiment. Nathan snapped the side panel of Ap’s belt closed. “There,” he said. “Your belt had a vulnerability that could have been exploited by a Trojan application hidden in one of your powers.”
“How likely is that, though?” asked Ap. “You guys run everything through the simulator.”
“Do we?” asked Nathan. “Because I found a couple of vision powers in the buffer that hadn’t gone through the normal review channels.”
“Oh,” said Ap. “Right. Those were from trusted sources.”
“A string of characters in a chat room is not a trusted source.”
“I’ve … uh … I’ve met Code4U. Sort of.”
“And I don’t want to know what the application Swinging Pipe does.”
“No, you don’t,” said Ap. “But I’ll uninstall it at once. The vision stuff as well. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“Good,” said Nathan. “Then we’re done.”
Across the room, Servant and Simpson were done as well. Simpson was grinning, laughing at a joke only he was getting. Servant exited the room with a furtive glance over his shoulder.
Ap used his belt to trigger his Shadow mode. He hadn’t yet found an invisibility program that actually worked, but Shadow got him to 95% transparency. With Servant stewing in his failure to get to Pangea, Ap had little trouble slipping past him by hugging the wall and dashing around the corner. He leaned up against the wall, casually crossing his arms.
Servant turned the corner and paused when he saw him.
“Well that went well,” said Ap.
“Shut up,” said Servant.
“You were going to provoke an international incident,” said Ap.
“It wouldn’t be an incident if no one found their bodies,” said Servant.
“Woah,” said Ap. “No more Mister Nice Guy.”
“Right now there are two known mass murderers living like they’re royalty. You can just sleep at night knowing that we could solve this problem for good?”
“By my scorecard, they’ve kicked our butts twice,” said Ap. “Why would this time be any different?”
“Because last time we swept in pretending to be heroes, intent on capturing them. This time, I’m going in as a rogue agent. No one is authorizing my mission. The president can condemn my actions and launch a manhunt for me. I won’t even resist if they find me. I’d gladly spend the rest of my life in jail to bring these two monsters to justice.”
Ap pushed off from the wall. He’d expected to playfully tease Servant. He hadn’t expected quite this level of seething rage.
“Look,” said Ap. “I’m not happy about this development. But, orders are, unless Pit Geek and Sundancer show up on American soil again, we can’t touch them.”
“There are things more important than orders.”
“Yeah. Like the law.”
“There are man’s law. And then there’s God’s law.”
“I’m not a Biblical scholar, but isn’t that eye for an eye stuff Old Testament? If you’re really a Christian, shouldn’t you be a turn the other cheek kind of guy?”
“Don’t question my faith.”
“Fine. Then I’ll question your brains. You aren’t Ogre any more. You’re trying to be better than that. We’re all trying to be better than that. You saw the line of toys they Mr. Knowbokov is putting into Walmart. There’s a little Servant doll! How cool is that?”
Servant sighed. “Pretty cool I guess. Did they make the doll of you where the head blows up like a balloon?”
“Yep. And a Shadow Ap made of clear plastic. Another Ap where you can swap out the feet and hands for various bio weapons. Honestly if there’s anything cooler, I can’t think of it. And yet, somehow, I still can’t get any dates.”
“Code4U came on pretty strong.”
“You know the fundamental problem with that equation.”
“Really want to try that Swinging Pipe mode, huh?”
Ap’s cheeks burned. “You heard that?”
“Everyone’s heard it. Nathan told Sarah and Sarah’s told everyone.”
“Great,” sighed Ap.
“Everyone knew your secret any way.”
“Code4U didn’t.”
“Maybe she was borne without gaydar.”
Ap crossed his arms. “Maybe it shouldn’t be a secret.”
“Whatever,” said Servant. “I hope, on day, you’ll come around to the truth and let me introduce you to some people who can cure you.”
“Why am I talking you out of going to Pangea?” Ap asked. “Wouldn’t my life be better if you were a wanted fugitive?”
“I am already a wanted fugitive,” said Servant.
“Oh, right.”
“But there aren’t any dolls made of that guy. I guess I’ll play by the rules.”
“It would be a shame to bring the value of our collectables down,” said Ap.
Servant chuckled. “Who knows? Maybe we could put out a Sundancer doll. Maybe she’d come back to the US to demand her royalties.”
“Light bulb mode!” said Ap. Suddenly, a glowing egg bulged up from the top of his head, glowing brightly.
“What the hell is that?” asked Servant.
“I just had an idea!” said Ap. “We wouldn’t break any laws at all if we could drag them back into US waters.”
“You’ve got an idea how to do that?”
“Maybe,” said Ap. “Exactly how strong are you again?”
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