Friday, October 31, 2008

Fiction: As yet untitled vampire novel, Prologue

She ran as hard as she could, hunched over, cool water splattering down onto the back of her neck from the stone of the ceiling. Cursing, she twisted around the next corner, her boots splashing in the fouled waters swirling around her ankles. She refused to look down, but instead pressed her shoulder in tight on the close-fit stone of the sewer wall. Taking slower breaths, she forced her body to reduce the panting from the sudden flight. She did her absolute best to ignore the pounding of her heart, and listen for sounds that stood out from the sewer ambiance.

Her right hand remained curled around the grip of her rifle, as she lifted up her left hand, pressing the hidden microphone in the cuff against her lips. Softly, she murmured into it. “Tom?” she softly said. The earpiece was in her right ear, and she could hear it crackle, ever so faintly.

“I'm okay,” the soft voice said, reasurring her lightly.

“Bill?” she asked next.

“Here,” came a third voice.

“Sergei?” she asked third. This time there was no response. “Sergei?” she inquired again, with a hint more urgency. The earpiece stuttured out a small groan. She reached into her pocket and tugged out a GPS.

“Bill, move north forty or fifty meters. I can see Sergei's signal is coming from there. Everyone else, sit tight,” she ordered. She peered down the sewer tunnel from whence she had came, her high-tech night vision catching glimpses of several sources of heat – a rat, one seemed, as well as several flittering bugs – but none of the tell-tale signs of the creature she was stalking. Or, she feared, that was stalking her team.

A gloved hand ran through her hair, pushing the grey-accented strands back into the hood from whence they had escaped. She could feel the faint tremble of fear running through them. That tremble was a recent development, of the past few months. Ever since she'd adopted Juliet. Ever since she'd fallen for her Romeo. All of a sudden, she was afraid of her mortality.

“I've found Sergei...well. I've found half of him. He's dead,” Bill's voice came. “Adelle, what are your orders?”

“Damn,” she cursed, before lifting up her mouthpiece again. “Let's converge on Bill's location. Tom, are you good with that?”

“Yes ma'am.”

“Bill, take cover, and everyone be careful,” she murmured. Adelle hoisted the slightly modified AK-47 and then moved forward, glancing once at the GPS before she started to slowly move through the muck at the bottom of the sewer. She'd mostly committed the sewer plans to memory. It wasn't too hard. Sixty or seventy metres south, and then up one ladder, and she'd be almost there.

After only a few minutes of careful, quiet sneaking, moving in the necessary crouch, she reached the ladder. It was rusted by years of disuse, and the carefully fitted stone that lined these old sewers had been haphazardly hacked away some decades ago for its access. She cursed softly, and slung her rifle over her shoulder.

The faintest sound of splashing could be heard coming from above. Must be Bill and Tom linking up, she thought. Her goggles weren't detecting much, the standard flicker of yellow and orange in a sea of green and blue. The leather gloves she wore were soaked through, and her fingers had gotten somewhat numb, and she reached up through the hole, grasping at the stone atop her.

The stone was slick, and she staggered, having put too much weight on her hand. With her free hand she grasped the rusting ladder, and the chamber of her rifle collided with the iron. A heavy clank burst forth, echoing up and down the various connected sewer halls. Adelle grew still.

Minutes seemed to pass, and she could feel the dampness seeping more into her. The faintest crackle in her earpiece told her that her team was still alive. Occasionally she could hear Bill turn in the water, or Tom curse as he stubbed his toe. But she didn't move, fear that she might have given away her position awash. It was best to stay still, of course. In the sewers, these things can hardly smell you. They only go there because they can't be found so easily, not because it gives you an advantage.

The ladder was hard to hold onto. It was slimy with years of mucky overflow clinging to the corroded rungs. More of the human offal was dripping onto her hood and her face. She could feel it slowly sinking under the places where her mask, her goggles pressed against her face. The stench of the sewers had long since faded into the background, but she imagined a growing scent of feces and urine stuck inside of her rebreather. It was not terribly pleasant. She pressed her lips tightly closed.

“Adelle?” her earpiece crackled, causing her to stiffen in fright. For a second, her heartbeat sped forward, then she slowly relaxed.

Raising up her glove, she murmured into the microphone, “I'm here. I'm coming.” Only then did she realize the faint glow on her glove, like something was on it, warm, lighting up the receptors in the night vision goggles. She gazed up, and slowly slid a hand down, unhooking the pistol in its holster. She took the next rung, and then the next. Something suddenly dripped down from above, splashing over one of the eyeholes on her goggles. Adelle cursed and tilted her head down, wiping at the glass surface frantically.

The place was getting to her. The taste of something was sliding into her mouth and the scent was filling her nose. Her stomach was tossing. To hell with this hunt. We're getting out of here. I just have to get up this ladder. She grasped the stone of the hole again. It felt more slippery this time. She tightened her grip and prepared to launch herself up into the hole. She rocked her weight down and then tried to leap up out of the break in the stone.

Adelle's hand slipped on the extra liquid on the stone's surface, and her fingers lost their grip. She bit back a small shriek and prepared to fall the ten or so feet to the stone and sewage beneath her. That's why she was even more shocked when something like a vise grasped her wrist, and viciously yanked her up, as if she was as light as a rag-doll.

She twisted with a noise as she shot up several feet, her arm violently wrenched, pain flaring from the surely dislocated shoulder. She wasn't sure what she was seeing – tiny lines of bright red flared in the night vision goggle's view, but then her face was smacked against the stone. Small spots of bright, multicoloured lights splashed before her eyes, failing to illuminate the darkness. She fired the Desert Eagle, and the bullet smacked into flesh, though what she'd shot hadn't made a sound.

There was a small bit of light coming from a sewer grate far above, and her soft, blue eyes struggled to see what was going on. Whatever had her by the hand suddenly jerked, and her body slammed down hard into the flat stone. The gun fell out of her hand and splashed deep into the waste water rushing past in the sewer canal. The grip released her.

She could hear a hiss, and something uttered in German. She rolled to her back and reached for her AK-47. It was gone. In the moonlight streaming in from the too-far-away grate in the Vienna side-street, her eyes finally caught a glimpse of the half-rotten skin of the beast that had caught her. She had interrupted it as it squeezed what sustenance remained from one of Sergei's kidneys into its mouth, and she finally had a name for what she had smelled, and tasted, and what had been dripping into her face on the ladder – blood.

She screamed.

Fiction: The Rise of the Lone Ranger, Prologue

The horses moved in a single file along the track, heading deeper into the Texas wilderness. Each man was watching the track, the brush to the side, and the jagged rocks slowly rearing over the horizon. There were seven horses, the first belonging to a man who was dressed significantly different to the rest. Mike Collins, a known outlaw, was attached by rope to the man directly behind him, Captain Dan Reid of the Texas Rangers.
Dan Reid was holding a Sharps carbine and watching the brown-coated back of Collins carefully. The outlaw was riding slumped over, the tanned back of his neck visible before his broad-brimmed hat covered the rest of his head. He was unwashed, like many bandits, and burn marks from hand-rolled cigarettes covered his hat and jacket.
By comparison, Captain Reid and his troop of Rangers were crisp and clean. Each of them rode along, watching carefully for signs of approach by another group of men. Captain Reid's eyes, however, were only for his captive. They were a unique set of light blue eyes, and they were filled with hatred.
Mike Collins had worked for the notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish, and now, in return for a promise not to be swung from the nearest yardarm or sturdy tree limb, he'd agreed to show the Rangers where Cavendish made his lair. The seven men, thus, were carefully approaching rough, broken ground, where twenty-foot jagged rocks seemed to be common.
Five troopers followed Dan Reid and Mike Collins along the faintly visible path. Taking up the rear was a Ranger by the name of John Reid. He was Dan Reid's younger brother, and shared the same light blue eyes as the older man. Twelve years younger, John hadn't fought in the Civil War like Dan had, and most of the other men in the squad. He was a more innocent sort of fellow, who had always sympathized with the various plights in the wild western outreaches of Texas.
The horses trod forward still, and Dan Reid and John Reid rode deeper and deeper into a slowly developing maze of outcropped rocks and small wadi-like depressions. It was still early in the day - and early in the year - and most of the men were hung over from the New Year's Eve celebrations the night previous. But not Captain Reid, who seemed sharp as a tack as he held his reigns and the noose about Mike Collins's neck in his left hand, and steadily held the Sharps carbine, pointing at Collins's back.
It was another half-hour, at the least, before Collins finally moved to stop. He shifted, gazing over his shoulder at the six Rangers behind him, all of whom drew up into a wedge-like formation. Their white caps caught the bright, crisp January sun and reflected it sharply, though enough of a glint remained to shimmer off the badges all six men wore.
John Reid caught a sly look on Collins's face as the outlaw's bloodshot eyes gazed back to his, for a brief second. The man was unshaven and his upper lip showed signs of having been recently busted open. His lower jaw hung loosely revealing a handful of yellow, broken teeth. He smirked a bit.
"Here y'all go, lawmen," he said. "Butch Cavendish's own hidey-hole."
John Reid was nervous. He had a sense that something wasn't right - that feeling that he was being watched. But he wasn't yellow. If Dan sensed it, he'd say. But would he? Dan had an illogical hatred of Butch Cavendish. Enough that he might throw away his own safety.
A passing cloud obscured the sun, and John realized that the small clearing into which Collins had led the Rangers was surrounded on all sides by steep rocks. There was scarcely a place one could even climb, except for near-to where the Rangers had entered the little cul-de-sac. The younger, less experienced Ranger could smell an ambush.
"Cavendish!" Dan Reid called. "Get out here!" There was no tent, no cave, nowhere where the outlaw could be hiding. John's left hand crossed to his right hip, reaching for the pistol sat. He never finished drawing it.
Dan was the first to be shot, and in the confusion, John was sure Butch took the shot himself. "Here I am, lawman!" he bellowed, and the heavy belch of a long-barrelled rifle. Cavendish was an accurate snap-shot, and Dan's hat was blackened as the back of his head blew out. The little canyon filled with the sound of pistol and rifle shot.
John Reid hit the ground hard as his stricken horse bucked him. Blood splattered over his chest suddenly, and after a second he felt the searing pain of someone's bullet stabbing through his body. Two or three more pistol shots rang out, followed by another loud burst from a rifle. One of John's companions had lived long enough to shoot back.
Lying there, trying not to breathe, John Reid felt warmth spreading over his chest and over his stomach. He shifted, pressing a hand over his guts, feeling moist blood there. He didn't hurt, but clearly he'd been shot in the belly too. The worst way to die, he thought. His ears somehow detected the crunch of boots on sand, accompanied by the occasional clink of a spur hitting rock.
"One survivor, Butch," said a high-pitched male voice. John tried to turn his head, but everything swam when he did. He coughed, and red smeared his lips, splattering over his cheek.
John didn't need to move. The clean-shaven, surprisingly handsome face of Butch Cavendish loomed over his black-rimmed vision. "Why, if it ain't John Reid. Yer brother's got a big mouth...he ain't got no mouth now, but he had a big mouth. Belly wound, hmm?" A sudden pain flared as something pressed deeper into his stomach than he ever thought it could. The blood-coated barrel of a Union Army-issue Colt 1860 appeared in Cavendish's hands. "Bad way to die. Maybe I ought to end it right here for you, lawman," he said.
Someone pushed the white hat down over Reid's eyes, and he felt pressure against the hat, a short, sharp pressure. He closed his eyes, not that it made a difference. Reid'd never been one for prayers, but he prepared to murmur one as he heard a hammer being cocked.
It fell, and he heard a light click. After the firefight, Cavendish's gun was empty. He laughed and John could hear the man's boots moving away. "Lucky man, ain't ya, John Reid? But you're good as dead, anyway. Ain't worth the time for me to fill my shootin' iron. See you in hell, lawman." The boots continued to crunch away, all the pairs of them. After a few minutes, there was only silence.
Slowly bleeding, John Reid wept, feeling far too weak to move. He strained to hear anything, and made soft noises, the best he could do with his strength sapped from the multiple wounds he'd taken. He realized, at the edge of consciousness, that there was a pain in his thigh, meaning he'd likely broken his leg when he'd been tossed from the horse. He wondered what good the knowledge would bring him.
He didn't know how long he lay there, waiting to die, but eventually he could hear something. Not footprints, but the sound of someone rustling through clothing. After a moment, an ever-so-quiet, so hushed murmur in a language he didn't understand.
Reid summoned all his effort, and parted cracked lips. Dried blood made it so difficult. "Help," he groaned. "Help."
He let out a long breath, tinged with pain. He only heard the last two, so light footprints, and then he was blinded as the hat was lifted away. He squinted, surprised he had that much energy left in his depleted body. He heard two voices, arguing in a hushed voice. Eventually he realized two men were standing over him, both with dark skin and long, braided hair. Indians, he thought, despondently. The Rangers had fought their share with the Indians, and the Rangers tended to come off on the better side with the savages in the bloody confrontations.
One native was holding a long knife in his right hand. It had a wicked hook to it, and he made several motions with it, long slashes. Reid looked to the other native, who had a higher, prouder face. He crouched down and slowly, the man's face filled Reid's vision.
"White man, you look familiar to me," he said. "What is your name?"
John's lips moved a few times, before he finally whispered. "Reid."
"Reid." He straightened up and looked to the other brave, before giving an order. The tone was the same that Dan used - had used - when giving his orders. The second brave paused for a moment, but then he moved away. Before long, the two men were tearing open the uniform tunic and binding the wounds as best they could. The pain flared once, twice, and on the third time, when the Indian who was clearly in charge set his leg, John passed out.
When he came to, he'd been placed on the front of a horse, and arms were holding him carefully. Bareback, the beast walked slowly from the concealed place it had been hidden. The brave who had chosen to spare him sat behind him, holding him upright.
"We be careful, white man," the voice said in stilted English.
"My...are they? My brother..."
"They all dead. You lone ranger now," the Indian said. "I am Tonto, white man. Now rest, because you in my hands, and I will do what I can to bring life back to you." The horse rode through the canyon, and John Reid slowly slumped, passing into a form of unconsciousness perilously perched somewhere on the line between sleep and death.

Fact: Edward R. Murrow isn't dead.

So, I fucked off work last Sunday and did what I normally do: sat around watching TV. I turned on the end of Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN, and caught Mr. Zakaria speaking about the current financial troubles in the United States. In a speech that would have been at home on See It Now, Zakaria reminded his viewers about the Suez Canal Crisis, and how then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower influenced Anthony Eden, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to end the Crisis. To summate, Eisenhower threatened to dump the US reserve of British Pounds on the international currency market, which would have precipitated a financial crisis and likely destroyed the value of the Pound Sterling. Zakaria rapidly summated his point, and then reminded the viewer that China now controls enough US Dollars to do the same if they felt necessary.

It was a performance not given to honour the great Edward R. Murrow, but a performance given to educate the American people, and indeed, the world, to the dangers of the current path of the United States. And that is what makes Fareed Zakaria stand beside Murrow in my humble opinion.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fact: Blog Creation

Today, I started a blog. This blog will track my fiction attempts, as well as whatsoever facts I feel necessary to include. Yeargh.