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I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. 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. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Burn Baby Burn Chapter Four 3353 words

Things I don’t remember eating:
The Coke machine.
The 1969 Yellow Pages for Dallas.
Two cans of purple paint.
A peacock feather boa.
What looks like it might be part of an industrial sized air-conditioner.
The front end of a Dodge Dart.
An actual set of darts, plus the dart board they were stuck in.
A TV cart.
What might be but almost certainly isn’t the real Mona Lisa.
A five gallon gasoline can, empty.
A bag of airline peanuts, in the bag.
A truly hideous tie, about five inches wide, kind of a snot green with stripes the color of Grape Nehi.
A penguin. It’s dead now. My guess is, it starved. The chickens here eat the bugs in the trash and the goats seem to hang on eating the garbage directly. But I guess I didn’t eat much in the way of penguin food.
A set of three by five note cards, about dozen of them, with writing in what might be Russian. It’s got those backwards R’s and a half dozen other letters I can’t cipher out. Or maybe it’s my handwriting, from back in the years when I had a pound of shrapnel churning up my gray matter.
Oh Sunday. Things were so much simpler when I was dumb.

Chapter Four
Not Bonny, Not Clyde

Their first bank was a Suntrust central office in downtown Richmond. It was crowded, lunch hour, when a lot of people rushed in to take care of business. Pit had thought they should start smaller and with fewer witnesses, but Sunday had been adamant that they should do this big. She said she wanted a bank robbery so spectacular people would talk about it China. Pit had gotten swept along in her enthusiasm. Spectacular was now the plan.
So, step one was to drive a motorcycle right into the bank’s lobby. If Monday had been around, his space machine would have been the right tool for the job, but the morning after they’d used the Regeneration Ray they’d left the motel office to find this beautiful Harley parked next to the Camry and took it as a sign that their crime spree should begin with a little grand theft. They needed some kind of transportation since Sunday was graceful as an angel when she was in flight by herself, but her early attempts at carrying stuff had always resulted in her losing her center of balance and spiraling down to crash landings. Thus, a getaway vehicle was a necessity.
Pit gunned the bike up the plaza steps in front of the bank. The bank had a series of concrete posts near the doors designed to stop people from driving a large vehicle through the front doors, but the Harley slipped right through. Crashing through the plate glass windows might have damaged the bike, so at the last second Sunday stretched her arm out, wiggled her fingers, and BOOM no more window. They skid to a halt amid flaming debris and about a hundred screaming customers.
They had moments before cops showed up, not that either of them were all that worried about cops. When Sunday really lit up, bullets disintegrated before touching her. Pit wasn’t scared of bullets, and was scared even less now that they had a Regeneration Ray.
Despite the fact that the sky was filled with gray clouds and it felt cold enough to snow, this was fine, fine day to be a supervillian.
The first order of business was the rent-a-cop stationed at the bank. His face was red as a beet as he ran toward them, drawing his pistol. He aimed it toward them with both hands and shouted, “Put your hands up!”
Which they both did, but only to take off their helmets. They both dismounted the bike smiling at the guard.
“Put that thing down before you hurt yourself,” said Pit. Then he turned to the rest of the room and shouted, “Everyone on the floor, please! We’ll be done robbing this joint in five minutes and you can all get back to your lives.”
“Put your hands up!” the guard repeated, shouting louder. “Put your hands up!”
Pit sighed. “What are you, a broken record?”
Sunday began to undress as Pit walked toward the guard. Under her biker’s jacket she was wearing a leather halter top and blue jeans that looked painted on. She’d spent the seven longest hours of Pit Geek’s life shopping for these jeans and the calf-high zipper boots that went over them, and she wasn’t going to just blow these things to atoms the first time she wore them in public.
Pit felt a little sorry for the guard. Sorry for himself a little too. They both would have preferred to watch the strip show, but instead their eyes were locked on one another. Pit approached with his palms open. The guard probably wouldn’t fire at an unarmed man.
The guard shot him in the chest from a yard away. When Pit didn’t fall, he shot him again, and again, until his clip was empty.
Pit snatched the empty gun away. “First nice clothes I’ve worn in months and you had to go put holes in them,” he grumbled. He was decked out in biker’s leathers, even leather pants. Secretly, he was happy that the jacket now had a nice pattern of holes. He’d felt a little dainty wearing clothes without even a scuff mark.
Pit pointed the gun at the guard. “Now you get on the floor.”
The guard looked confused. “The… the gun’s empty,” he said.
“So it is,” said Pit. “I knew that.” He frowned. “Well, I’m in luck, because my doctor told me I have an iron deficiency.” Then, in three neat gulps, he ate the gun. He could have downed it in one bite, but it wouldn’t have the same impact. The guard’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his skull.
“Down,” said Pit.
The guard went down.
Pit looked back and found that Sunday had finished stripping. Unfortunately, she was already sheathed in white radiance that forced him to shield his eyes. She walked toward the row of tellers, at first leaving a line of flaming foot prints. Then, as she neared the first customer laying on the floor, she climbed into the air like she was walking up invisible steps. There were red velvet ropes forming a little maze for customers to traipse through. They caught fire as she walked over them. She descended on the other sided of the tellers, in front of the steel vault door. She walked into the steel as if it wasn’t even there, because, by the time she reached it, it wasn’t. At her hottest, she could vaporize steel. Fortunately, in the ten years Pit had known her she’d honed her powers so that she could direct her full body blasts in a single direction, or else everyone behind her would now be dead.
Pit ran toward the wall of tellers and vaulted behind the counter. He could now hear distant sirens. He shouted to the room, “Everybody just stay calm and stay down! Sounds like help is on the way. No need for anyone here to be a hero.”
He ducked to slip into the bank vault. The Sunday sized hole in the door was a good six inches shorter than he was. Inside, Sunday was already vaporizing locks on safe deposit boxes and yanking them open. Gold coins, jewelry, and comic books in polybags were being tossed into a pile. Legal papers were reduced to ash.
Pit sucked down the valuables. Then he turned his attention to all the cash, shoving stacks of hundreds, fifties, and twenties between his teeth. It took several minutes to finish off the vault. Pit wasn’t good enough at math to have a real guess of how much he’d just swallowed. Certainly at least a million.
They went back into the lobby.
“You guys are doing fine,” Pit said. “Give us two more minutes and you can all whip out your cell phones and tell folks how you were just robbed by the modern Bonnie and Clyde.”
Sunday turned her head sharply towards him, in what might have been a nasty look, though with her face too bright to focus on it was tough to say.
She said to the room, “When you get on your phones, you tell people that no bank in the world is safe. Not just from us. The so called authorities of this world create a theatre of safety to make you feel as if your money is secure, while all the time they steal you blind behind the scenes. The safest place for your money is in your mattress. Tell people!”
“What the hell was that about?” Pit asked as they reached the motorcycle. “That wasn’t in the script.”
“I was unaware there was a script,” she said.
“Well, not a real script, but, y’know, there’s a flow to these things.”
“I’ve never gone with the flow,” she said, moving on.
Sunday had folded up her clothes as she undressed and placed them neatly in the saddle bags. Pit secured Sunday’s helmet to the back seat as she floated out to the plaza, the glass windows melting like ice at her approach.
Pit straddled the bike as gun fire erupted outside.
“Y’all keep your heads down, y’hear?” he said to the people laying on the floor. “It’s been a nice, clean robbery so far. Hate to see any of you nice folks get perforated by a stray bullet.”
Then he gunned the motor and roared out onto the plaza. He skidded to a halt to watch the action. He felt rather heroic, standing in front of a smoking bank with a hail of bullets flying around him. Of course, none of the bullets were aimed at him. The flying woman sheathed in white flames had a lock on the cop’s attention at this point.
“No one is safe!” Sunday shouted over head. He stretched her arms toward the first cop car. It exploded, taking out the cops next to it. She pointed toward the second car. These cops were fast learners, and started running. Two seconds later the car went off like a bomb. Smoking bits of twisted steel clattered on the cement plaza like a shower of hail.
There were four more cop cars, and four more booms. Any remaining officers had retreated behind a freshly arrived fire truck.
The firemen hastily hooked a hose to a hydrant. Sunday crossed her arms as she waited for them to finish.
She glanced down at Pit. “See you in Short Pump.”
Pit nodded, then put on his helmet.
The jet of water shot toward Sunday. And then there was steam, vast, billowing clouds of white vapor that rolled across the plaza and quickly reduced the line of sight for the surrounding five blocks down to about three feet. Pit wheeled out ahead of the billowing steam, darting through traffic stalled by the police action. There was a helicopter overhead, but only for a moment. A second sun flashed through the sky near the chopper and it began to spin out of control.
They met up behind an old vacant WalMart in Short Pump. Sunday made Pit turn his back as she dressed.
“We’re not Bonny, not Clyde,” she complained as she pulled on her boots. “Where did that come from?”
“What’s your problem with Bonny and Clyde?”
“To start with, they were lovers,” she said. “I don’t want the world to think we’re sleeping together.”
“Why the hell not?” Pit asked. “You don’t mind being known as a bank-robber and cop-killer, but you’re worried people might think you’re loose?”
Sunday pressed her lips tightly together. Then, she said, “In any case, it’s unoriginal. We aren’t copying anybody. We’re originals. Pit Geek and Sundancer.”
“I don’t want to be Pit Geek no more,” said Pit.
“What do you mean?”
He shrugged. “I got a new face. I got some nice clean clothes. Maybe I don’t want people to know I used to live in a pit and bite the heads off chickens.”
“I have a feeling that, face or no face, people are going to put two and two together. Pit Geek could shrug off bullets and eat solid steel. And, on the debut of your new face, you shrugged off bullets and ate a pistol. I’ve got a hunch someone is going to make the connection, Pit.”
“Devourer,” said Pit Geek.
“That’s your new name? Devourer?”
“It’s more dignified.”
“I don’t like it. It doesn’t roll off the tongue. It has two soft ‘R’ sounds mushed together.”
“Eater?” Pit said.
“Pithier, but I don’t think it’s that much more dignified than Pit Geek.”
“You should go back to Burn Baby.”
“No,” said Sunday. “And it was Baby Burn. And what’s wrong with Sundancer?”
“You’re the one who wants to be original. Any time I hear Sundancer, I think of the Sundance Kid. People will start thinking I’m Butch Cassidy.”
“I’ve heard of the movie,” said Sunday.
“There was a movie?” asked Pit.
“That’s where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid come from,” said Sunday.
“Naw, they were real people,” said Pit. “Butch had a gang that used to rob trains and banks. The Wild Bunch. Sundance was part of the gang. His real name was … was Harry. Harry, uh, Harry Longbow? Anyway, he stole a horse from a ranch in Sundance was how he got his name.”
Sunday gave him a puzzled look. “You can’t remember your own name, but you know the name of some fictional cowboy?”
“He ain’t fictional.”
“Whatever,” said Sunday. “I’m vetoing Baby Burn right now. Burn Baby also. You can call yourself Toiletman for all I care.”
“Since you shove crap down a hole,” she said, sounding as if it should have been obvious.
“Speaking of crap, what was that bit about putting money into mattresses? We want it in banks so we can steal it.”
“You want to steal it. I don’t see much point in us acquiring a lot of wealth. But, I do think that, as you said, the whole world’s on edge right now. The world’s teetering on the edge of another great depression. If we trigger a run on banks, we might bring down the house of cards. Money only has value because people think it has value. Destroy the underlying belief system, and you destroy money.”
Pit patted his belly. “Could you maybe wait until we spent this million bucks we stole before you destroy the value of money?”
“That was a lot more than a million that you wolfed down,” said Sunday. “But, so what? Where the hell are we supposed to be spending it? I mean, I have to lay out some dough each year to keep the yacht fueled so the generators can keep the place air conditioned, but it’s not like I can take the boat anywhere. Dad’s bribed the local officials into ignoring the boat. The cover story is that I’m a mafia informant under witness protection by the FBI. But, I can’t take the boat to another country, because I don’t think the faked paperwork Dad has on file would stand up to scrutiny. And, anyway, why do I need a boat? I can fly!”
“Yeah, buck naked. You could show up places wearing clothes if you had a boat.”
Sunday gave a grim smile as she nodded.
“What do we need money for?” she asked, not looking at him directly. She was staring off in the distance, thinking out loud. “We can’t buy a house with it. Cars? If we want an expensive car, we can just steal it. And we can rob a jewelry store just as easily as a bank. Anyway, who wants jewelry? What’s it good for?”
“Most women like jewelry.”
“Most women like being given jewelry,” said Sunday. “Our warped society has taught them that they only have worth if they have a diamond on their finger. All sexual relationships are tainted by this thinly disguised variant of prostitution.”
“So you wouldn’t sleep with me if I gave you a diamond ring?”
“How about if I make a solemn vow not to give you a diamond ring?”
“Definitely not.”
“What if I were a woman?”
“What kind of stupid question is that?”
Pit shrugged. “You’ve just never shown any interest in men.”
“And that makes me a lesbian?” Sunday rolled her eyes. “The day I met Rex Monday, I knew that I’d never have a relationship with a man. He opened up my mind to the truths of the world, things I’d always seen, but never had the courage to accept as true.”
“Like what?”
“Like I’m not human. I’m the next step up the evolutionary chain. Sleeping with an ordinary human… it’s like you sleeping with a monkey.” She gave him a sideways glance. “You, uh, wouldn’t do that, would you?”
“Naw,” said Pit. There was a pause. Then he added, “I’d eat one, though.”
“I’m sure you would.”
There was another long moment of silence.
“So,” Pit said. “I, uh, I might be another step up the evolutionary chain as well.”
“Maybe,” said Sunday. “But you don’t brush your teeth. You’re make it easy to say no.”
Pit nodded slowly. He turned his head and furtively slipped a finger between his lips, running it along his new teeth. They didn’t feel dirty.
“So,” he said. “What if I—”
“Give up, Pit.”
“So, what next?” he asked, getting back on the bike.
“We go find some hotel in the sticks and watch TV. See if the world collapse. If it doesn’t, we rob a bigger bank. Hell, we’ll take out Fort Knox if we have too.”
“But that’s all we’re spending the money on? Hotel rooms?”
She shrugged as she got on the bike behind him. “What’s your idea?”
“Step one, we go buy us some nice duds, then find a saloon where we can get plastered and dance the night away.”
“I don’t drink or dance.”
“You don’t dance?” Pit said, starting the engine. “It’s right in your name!”
“I picked that name when I was fifteen. I … lord, this sounds silly. I’d been taking ballet since I was a little girl. I really wasn’t good at it, but at fifteen I still thought I’d be a ballerina.”
“I don’t think that sounds silly. Girls like that stuff.”
“Only because we’re brainwashed by a culture of subservience. I can see now how sick it is that people trot out their prepubescent daughters in tights and tutus to advertise their sexual desirability. The world is just one horrible ongoing nightmare once you truly wake up inside it.”
“I don’t know about all that,” said Pit, gliding the bike forward around the speed bumps beside the WalMart. “I just know it’s fun to do the two-step with Merle Haggard spinning on the juke box.”
“What’s step two?” she asked.
“The two-step is a dance,” said Pit.
“No. I know that. I said what’s step two? You started this with, ‘step one.’”
“Right,” said Pit. “I was thinking about monkeys ‘cause of what you said. And, you know, there is one place we can go to spend our dough and live like kings.”
“Monkeyland!” Pit nodded. “The law couldn’t touch us!”
“The whole place is made of garbage!” Sunday said.
“Garbage might start to look valuable if you kill off the dollar,” Pit said with a laugh, though she might not have heard him since that was the instant he gunned the motor and they roared back out onto the highway. Sunday wrapped her arms tightly around him, her breasts pressed up against his back, the cheek of her helmet pushed against his shoulder blade.
The gray skies began to drizzle. The wind howled as if it were in pain as it the bike knifed through the air. Sunday let loose just enough heat to warm them.
It was a fine morning to be a supervillain.
3353 words

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