(May 20th, 2003, 12:34 pm)
This was the third story I ever wrote, and while that's evident in the prose, it's still one of my favorites, because I had such a good time writing it. Most closely classified as cyberpunk/action SF. Enjoy, and let me know what you think
Brussels, again. He thinks of his many previous assignments in this historic city, the thoughts are not happy ones. At least, he observes walking through the door, the room is plush and has a well-stocked mini-bar. Tramping briskly to the window, he snaps shut the curtains.
"Lights." He speaks to the room.
After the halogen bulbs finally warm up and light the room, he begins to unpack. The travel bag was small, barely containing a change of clothing and his deck. A few minutes searching, he locates the port in the wall and jacks in the deck. With a fifty-terabyte capacity, the deck was state of the art, or rather what the state would be in two years. It was the perks that made him stay in this line of work, like the availability of tech that the masses had no idea existed.
Grabbing a bottle of Heineken from the mini-bar, he notices out of the corner of his eye a rather large mirror. He makes his way towards the mirror, taking an indirect route. Slipping his hand in between the mirror and the wall, he feels for imperfections in the plaster, the kind in which a camera or microphone could be hidden.
"Room's secure, bub." A voice says from behind him.
Turning, he sees her, looking the same as always. She is sprawled upon the bed in a most provocative position; her legs spread just enough to glimpse a pair of silken red panties. Her legs are bare, feet covered by clear blue plastic clogs. The dress is almost see-through, and a shade lighter than the clogs; two thin straps hold the thing up, as if the breasts couldn't. Around her seemingly long neck, she wears a pewter locket on a thin silver chain. She wears her ashen blonde hair short, with two fat curls brushing her cheeks. Large blue-gray eyes regard him unremarkably, nostrils on the small button nose flared just a little, full lips adorned in baby-blue lipstick upturned at the corner, a cute playful smirk, same as always.
"Hello Serenity." He says.
She sits up, legs touching at the knees; feet pointed inwards, same as always. "Greetings from the Bunker, Jonathan Pharaoh." Trace of a Texan accent, same as always.
"Orders?" Pharaoh inquires.
"You are to proceed to the NATO building, and wait." Serenity answers.
"Wait for whom?"
She just sits there with that cute smirk, and says nothing. Same as always.
The former headquarters of the now defunct North Atlantic Treaty Organization was barely lit, only a few scattered lights on the uppermost floors, workaholics. A famous Belgian developer had remodeled the building for office space, it was supposed to cater to very well to do businessmen these days. Pharaoh knew of an office or two in the building that housed some very wrong-to-do fellows.
He was standing across the street from the landmark, hovering in the shadows, dressed as a vagrant. Waiting for his mark, and he had a good idea who it would be this time.
A very tall man approached his position from the south. The man was dragging his left foot a bit and stomping his right with every other step. He had long filthy brown hair tied in the back in a ponytail, and a full beard covered his face. He kept lifting his left fist to his mouth and coughing violently into it. The man's pants were old baggy blue jeans, which were covered in what appeared to be bloodstains. His knee length oversized beige coat was ripped at the shoulder, revealing a flat-black fabric underneath.
The man stopped short of Pharaoh, is if he hadn't seen him. "Gotta smoke, bub?" The voice was raspy but still carried a deep baritone.
Pharaoh reached into the pocket of his old beat-up leather jacket, and produced a half empty pack of French cigarettes.
The man looked at the smokes, as if contemplating the meaning of life. "No thanks, bub. I don't smoke." Lifting his hand to his mouth and coughing again.
"Good for you, it's a nasty habit." Pharaoh said indifferently, as he removed a smoke from the pack and brought it to his lips.
The man pulled out an ancient chrome Zippo and lit the end of Pharaoh's cigarette.
"Nice torch." Pharaoh commented on the rustic lighter.
"Thanks. It belonged to gramps, took it off a dead soldier in the war." He responded
"Does it matter?" He asked back.
"I guess not." Pharaoh regarded the man calmly. "So what're you goin' by these days, Ezekiel?"
"Z, it's simpler." He replied.
"Alright then Z, you ready?" Pharaoh inquired.
With that Pharaoh flicked his smoke to the ground, and they went on their way. The street was empty at the moment, and they crossed unhurried. The two vagabonds followed the sidewalk that ran parallel to the old NATO building, into an alley that led to the back, Z dragging his foot the whole way. Coming to a side door set into a small alcove they stopped, stripped off the dirty clothes to the non-reflective body suits of thin Kevlar. Pharaoh and Z had matching weapons, same as always. They both wore two .45 caliber sidearms of highly tempered ceramic, and at least ten clips of hard plastic ammo velcroed to the nylon belt, fifteen rounds each clip. The only things Z had that Pharaoh didn't, was a palmtop deck no bigger than the pack of smokes, and a small explosive strapped to his lower back. The deck had a single protruding wire that ran along Z's arm, up his neck, and into his left ear. The deck's outer casing was riddled with buttons, or keys, with three main keys along one side that was contoured to his hand.
"What the hell is that thing?" Pharaoh asked.
Z turned towards him, and seemed to be looking right through him for a moment. "Latest in cognitive implants. It's got the Net in real-time, and you don't need visors or screens to recognize the constructs." He tapped his skull with his free hand. "Hardwired to the visual in here, the deck's just a peripheral really. My whole left ear is prosthetic, a plug really, and comes in designer colors."
"Where'd you get it?" Pharaoh asked, astonished.
"Osaka, the Bunker paid."
"Damn, that thing's badass." Pharaoh remarked.
"Straight. Best thing is, you upgrade the deck, not the ear. Just one surgery. Worst part is hearing in mono." He blinked for a long time, so long it shouldn't even be called blinking, but that's what it was. "There, got the codes for the door."
"What, you were hacking right now?"
"Yep, it's called multi-tasking, been doin' it for the past five minutes." Z said, as if it was nothing.
Pharaoh stepped to the keypad that was on the side of the door. The keypad offered a choice of punching in the codes, or sliding a card through a strip on the side. "Alright, read off the code."
Z cleared his throat. "Nine, five, B, one, Q, seven, nine, one, R, N, J, six, enter."
"Click." The door says.
Pharaoh and Z exchange glances, and go through the door. Pharaoh led the way, gun drawn, into an empty hallway. The hall was around twenty yards long, with several doors along the north side, and unlit. They quickly walked down the hall (Z having dropped the limping act), hugging the walls closely. Coming to the end of the hall, Pharaoh looked to Z for direction.
"Where?" Pharaoh asked.
Z took a quick look around. "Clear, go."
They took the stairs in record time, or so it seemed with all the adrenalin rushing. Stopping on the fourteenth floor (although it was the thirteenth by Pharaoh's count, but he knew a lot of buildings didn't have a thirteenth floor because of inane superstitions) for a quick breather, and so Z could receive further instructions from the Bunker via the Net.
"What's the deal, Z?" Pharaoh asked, a bit heavily and rushed.
"Two more floors up. Through the door, turn right. Last door on left, two guards just inside. Take out the guards. Through another door, target straight ahead. Don't wait, just start firing. When he's dead, set the charge, and get the fuck out." Z locked eyes with him, gave him a cool yet very hard stare. "Let's do this. On three, and don't stop no matter what." Same as always. "Three!"
There wasn't a count of one or two, never was with Z.
The two hitmen flew up the remaining two floors like bats out of hell. No stopping at the doorway, just right through it. The floor of the sixteenth level was covered with padded gray carpet, and their feet didn't make a sound, (partially thanks to the sole less boots they both wore). Their pace was even, in between a quick walk and slow jog. Both men's twin guns were drawn, (Z having tucked the deck into his sleeve), one arm of each man's held straight ahead, as if anticipating, or daring rather, anyone to cross their line of fire. Z's other hand was drawn up to his shoulder, gun pointed at the ceiling, same as always. Pharaoh kept his other hand at his side, gun pointing at the padded gray carpeting.
Coming to the last door on the left, Pharaoh slowed his step just a bit, letting Z pull ahead a little so he would reach the door first. Without the slightest hint of hesitation, Z dropkicked the door in. The same instant, as Z fell to the floor; Pharaoh raised his other gun and fired two shots, one from each gun. The bullets hit their marks with that strange sound of hard plastic penetrating flesh and skull (he still wasn't used to it).
Without stopping Pharaoh dropkicked the second door, sending it crashing inwards, and sending him crashing to the floor. Landing on his back, a little too hard for his liking, Pharaoh raised both guns and fired the remainder of the bullets into the figure behind the desk. Z was standing over him doing the same.
When it was all over and the blood had finished splattering the walls, Z and Pharaoh reloaded, and approached the now headless man who had been behind the desk.
"Damn, we must have hit with every bullet." Z remarked.
Z removed the small, yet very powerful explosive from where it had been strapped to his back. He took a quick survey of the room, and finally decided to place the bomb on the desk.
"Go open the window." Z demanded. "A window-washer under the pay of the Bunker should have left a couple packs out on the ledge "
The window was large, and only the corner would open, a pane about four feet high and three wide. Pharaoh stuck his arm out and felt around the ledge for the packs. He found them.
"What the hell's in here?" He asked of Z.
Not looking up from the bomb, "'Chutes." Z replied.
"As in parachutes?" Pharaoh asked, confounded.
"Boy, you sure catch on quick Jon."
"What do we need 'chutes for?" He asked, already knowing the answer, but not wanting to.
Z sighed and looked up at him. "Look man, this bomb's timer only goes up to thirty seconds. I don't know about you, but I sure as hell can't think of any other way to get out of this building quick enough than jumping."
"Damn! I hate jumping off crap!" Pharaoh exclaimed.
"Yeah well, if you like living you're gonna have to. Now put that pack on and toss me the other one. And for god sakes, quit your bitchin'."
He did as Z said; hating what was about to come. After they both had their packs on, Z pressed the big red button on the explosive, and they both ran headlong through the window.
Pharaoh's parachute opened without fault. He glided down the street, the opposite direction from Z. He touched down on the empty street about three hundred yards away from the building, unstrapped the pack, fought his way loose from the 'chute, and took off running towards the hotel.
Pharaoh burst through the door of his hotel room, letting it shut itself behind him. He had left the lights on when he left, and the room was still lit in the harsh halogen glare. He walked over to the mini bar, grabbed a bottle of beer, and sat down in the lone chair in front of the TVnet. He closed his eyes, took a sip, and let out a long sigh.
"Very well done, Jonathan Pharaoh. You will find the usual amount has been transferred to your account. Now get some rest, tomorrow you leave for Paris." A voice says from the bed.
Turning, he sees her, looking the same as always. She is sprawled upon the bed in a most provocative position; her legs spread just enough to glimpse a pair of silken red panties. Her legs are bare, feet covered by clear blue plastic clogs. The dress is almost see-through, and a shade lighter than the clogs; two thin straps hold the thing up, as if the breasts couldn't. Around her seemingly long neck, she wears a pewter locket on a thin silver chain. She wears her ashen blonde hair short, with two fat curls brushing her cheeks. Large blue-gray eyes regard him unremarkably; nostrils on the small button nose flared just a little, full lips adorned in baby-blue lipstick upturned at the corner, a cute playful smirk. Same as always.
(May 20th, 2003, 1:14 pm)
Good, not too original, and has some issues... But I don't know that I can go into them all right now.
A fun read, and along with the other tale I think this shows you have quite a bit of skill. I'll try and make up a list of the problems I found here (not that you need to revise it, just for your future reference), but no promises. :)
BTW: Are you originally from Texas? I know your User Info page shows you live in CA, but you seem to have a fascination with Texas that I admire greatly. :)
(May 20th, 2003, 1:21 pm)
I'm looking forward to hearing about whatever issues you've found. No matter how many times I re-read this and find things wrong with it, I just can't bring myself to revise ;).
And no, I'm not from 'the great state of' Texas, but my grandparents both were. Cali boy, through and through. Though I did grow up a Cowboys fan :)
(May 20th, 2003, 3:35 pm)
Like Semi says, nothing original, but certainly competent (Just once it'd be nice to actually disagree with ssomething Semi says :P).
Some of the dialogue is a bit forced...especially the discussion about the implanted board...no professional would stop and have a discussion like that just before the mission...both would have received a full briefing...or at least they would have gone over the mission before running up to the door. :P
The dialogue just stands out as "this is only here to explain this neat bit of kit"...which is unnecessary as anyone who reads cyberpunk would grok instantly anyway...
(May 20th, 2003, 10:53 pm)
It's completely derivitive, as was all my early work. Neuromancer inspired me to start writing, so for the first year or so after reading it, I was trying to write it. Took me awhile to find my own voice, and it didn't speak in cyberpunk. But I still love it. ;)
(May 23rd, 2003, 8:39 pm)
*That* is some fine work. Finding ones voice is a tough.
I'm scared when I find mine, it will sound, well, high pitched and nasal :)
Strange, your also on the WGB too....welcome!
(May 23rd, 2003, 11:26 pm)
heh, yeah I found this place through a post by Wanderer on the WGB: linked to his own blog in his sig, and linked to here on his blog.
And thanks for the kind words. :)
(May 24th, 2003, 6:43 am)
Though I kept thinking of Pharaoh as Morpheus (I never pay attention to descriptions of characters' appearances)... The whole thing had a little Matrix feel to it, or maybe it's just 'cause Reloaded trailers are all over the airwaves these days.
Smoothly written piece, I liked it.
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