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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!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Burn Baby Burn Chapter Fourteen 3047 words

Raw first draft.


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

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