Uncategorized

An adventure. Don’t be fooled.

image

           

image

image

image

image

image

image

Don’t be fooled. A lot of these stone structures were ten feet high, many of these plants are made of thorn. We walked around the inside walls of a canyon. Walls, not floor. This is a restricted section of the whitney mesa nature reserve. There will be a story to come based on this. Possibly about a labyrinth….

“Use your craft add a chance to explore the world” – ?

Standard
Uncategorized

The Test of 69

I read “How to Read A Novel” by John Sutherland recently, hoping for some insight into literary studies. While I learned a little, this book is obviously geared toward young adults and people who aren’t already inclined in the field. It’s entry-level stuff for the most part… still a good read though.

What stood out to me specifically was what [I believe] Sutherland penned as “The 69 Test.” The way it works is: you pick up the novel you are considering and flip through the pages. When you get to page 69, read it. Read the whole page without stopping. Then, if you liked what you read, the odds that you will like the book are extremely high. It has to do with psychology, storytelling, blahblahblah, there are quite a few factors (which Sutherland discusses a little as well), but the bottom line is, page 69 is purported to be the page of revelry. I’ve gone into a bit of research with this and though I haven’t done this test personally, I’ve read excerpts from page 69 of a lot of books. There are tons of great snippits there. It inspired me to check what my page 69 looked like and if it seemed to follow the same apparent trend. I haven’t edited this page yet but… I’m not waiting to try this test out.

Without further ado, here is the coveted page. If you like this page, you should buy this book. If you don’t… buy it anyway 😛

 


I could see his face sharper and clearer than I expected for a man hiding behind a shroud. It was as if I had a flashlight on him. He was rather young, a pale-skinned blonde with bright green eyes and his slim, smooth figure suggested he could never grown any facial hair.

“Forced by whom?”

“Alltech, Agent Del. Tomorrow.”

He turned to leave but Doug stopped him quite aggressively. “Not another fucking step! You know something, you’re coming with us.”  He pulled his cuffs out of their pouch and handed them to me.  I felt a tugging in the back of my brain, something telling me to get away from the scene, not to arrest Dumont. But, it’s hard to override your training. My body and subconscious knew the right thing to do, the only thing to do. In this kind of situation, you arrest the guy.

Dumont stopped and kept his hands in the air. We both kept our weapons trained on Dumont as I crept towards him. I crouched a little and approached him with a quiet and cautious walk, just in case he tried anything. When I got to him, I slowly holstered my gun and reached for his right hand. Just before I applied the cuffs, there was a loud hard boom and Doug screamed out then hit the ground hard, as did his cigarette. People around screamed and ran. Some hid behind dumpsters; others just ran until they were well out of sight.

“Doug!”

 Another shot rang out. I heard the projectile fly past my head and through a nearby window. I leapt through air, diving behind the closest building and drew my gun out. I pointed it out around the corner and peeked my head around as subtly as possible. I popped off five or seven rounds to keep the shooter from firing at Doug again. Dumont already began making his retreat and I couldn’t stop him. I didn’t particularly want to at this point. The area was pretty empty anyway.  Scanning nearby windows and other vantage points for the type of rifle which could generate that sound proved fruitless.  There was no sign of the shooter. I suspected whomever it was only opened fired to keep Dumont out of our custody. The shooting was over, so I ran to Doug and checked him.

“Shit Doug! You’d better be alive!”

“I’m… I’m fine. Goddamnit.” He coughed out, clutching his throat. “That fuckin’ hurt. Check… ugh… It landed over there.” He pointed just a few feet away and I saw a .45 caliber slug – a rubber composite bullet. This kind of bullet is not meant to kill, though that was of little solace. Whoever it was either guarded Dumont to keep him safe or to keep him quiet. It seemed lucky that bullet wasn’t real. It might have just been for us. There may well have been a bullet meant for Dumont. I collected Doug, slinging his right arm over my shoulder and picked him up. Rubber bullets don’t really cripple you. Sometimes they break a rib from close enough but, in general they are used to make you think twice about whatever you’re about to do. A well placed rubber bullet can prevent a firefight from breaking out.


So? What does page 69 tell you?

Standard
Uncategorized

Chapter 2 – Before and After

I haven’t decided if I’m going to do this with the whole novel yet. But, I am definitely planning to do it with the first four chapters. The chapter four I release before was just a teaser. It has yet to be edited, in fact. Well, it was edited back when I first wrote it, as I needed to establish direction for the novel (which I learned was an exercise in futility, as the story wrote itself in the end). Anyway. Here’s chapter two as it was. 


 

By the end of the day, we were all exhausted.  It’s not as easy to read through several thousand pages as you might think.  In essence, each of us read two novels and reorganized the chapters into compendiums which we thought made more sense.  With the number of people working this floor, imagine it as a group of people all reading through the Harry Potter series, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Atlas Shrugged, then reorganizing them into new books based on a few perceived patterns.  Needless to say, we weren’t done at 5:00.

Doug Hanson, another Agent for the DSI approached me as I was cleaning up my desk. Doug dressed sharply on a budget. He somehow managed to find the nicest suits at thrift shops and bargain bins.  He stood a full head above me and had a tightly tied blonde ponytail down to his shoulders. He was pretty scrawny – practically a skeleton with skin – but he could outrun just about anybody I’ve ever met, including myself.  Despite this, he was unusually broad. I’ve been told by more than one criminal that the reason we could catch them wasn’t his speed but, the disorientation cause by seeing his strange frame. I had to agree. At times, it is a little disconcerting trying to reconcile his breadth with his lack of meat. To top it off, he wore small perfectly round glasses. Transitions, they’re called.

“Heather and I are gonna go get drinks, Jim. You in?”

“Yeah, let me get Hendricks too.  Where is the wetting of the beak tonight?”

“It’s that place on fifth and Columbus.  Flattery’s I think.”

“Flannery’s.”

“Right, whatever.  It’s been a long enough day without you doing that.  We’ll meet you there?”

I checked my watch.  Too many people use cell phones for everything these days.  At twenty to nine, I wasn’t going to get to the shooting range tonight and I certainly wasn’t going to start reading one of the many classic novels in my collection.  I’ve had enough reading for the next six months anyway.

“Yeah I’m in,” I replied, “just gotta touch base with Hendricks. We’ll do it on the way over.”

“Will see you there then… I’ll go ahead and get the first round.”

With that, he left.  Doug is a goofy looking individual but he means well and he has a big heart.  He’s another agent I’ve been in the field with.  Maybe it was the ten plus hours we tended to spend in the van – criminals don’t really work on your schedule – but, he’d kept me amused through some times so boring that I’d contemplated committing a murder-suicide.  Just to change the pace.  He could handle himself too.  The department seems to attract people who know how to fight well. Or maybe there is a correlation between IQ and combat savvy. I should look into that, find some studies on the militant mind or something.  I hate wondering about these things, I like answers. Welcome to DSI.

Hendricks was on the phone when I got to his door. I peered through the glass window and made a face at him. He didn’t seem to notice.  Two solid taps on the glass got his attention. He waved me in and wrapped up his call before I could open the door.  “Whew. Long day eh, Jimmy?” He waved a hand at the chair across from his desk. I sat down as he began cleaning up.

“We got it done. I tell you Ryan, they don’t pay us enough for the work we do.”

He flashed me a somewhat sleazy in retort. “Well, they don’t pay you enough”

“Does that mean you get paid more for the work, or you just do less work for the same pay?”

He let out a laugh and tapped his nose.  This Ryan is much better than the one running the ship.  I think he would get more productivity out of the team if he were to utilize his personality. I’m pretty sure I’ve read a study linking that kind of generally happy attitude in leadership reflecting in the work force.

“So, are we gonna go grab those drinks?”

“Yeah, we’re meeting Heather and Doug at Flattery’s Flannery’s. Damn it, Doug.”

“Hah, don’t start making errors on me now. I won’t be able to save you from being fired if you can’t speak-n-spell anymore.”

“I wouldn’t want you to.  Anyway, we got through all three cabinets, separated out security documents, listed out all the ID numbers of those with unrestricted clearance. We pulled out anything that referenced Hyperlite and filed it separately, though there wasn’t much outside of what I previously had.  Ryan, let me ask you something.”

“Shoot.”

“Are there any other floors working on this case?  Any other branches of the government?  I’m just a little confused by Alltech here. They are tying our hands with the information we receive, yet they are demanding we find a traitor in their organization, someone who had the ability to get past every security measure or otherwise gained access to Hyperlite.  It just seems weird.”

“Well, that’s exactly why DSI exists; we crack the cases that no one else can, regardless of the reason.  But to my knowledge, it’s just our team working on this.  Bernier must be pretty terrified to lose information on something so major. At this point, Alltech knows less about this thief than you or I. That’s reason enough for a man as powerful as Monsieur Bernier to be concerned.”

“Even so,” I half-thought, half-said, “he should be able to assume some level of trust to the government. Our contracts with his company notwithstanding, Alltech is still an industry leader in clean energy, cybertech, and a slew of other fields.  He should be able to trust this government enough to at least have a second team from DSI on the case. I would think he’d want as many people as possible in on this one.”

“Look, one thing I’ve learned after getting out of the field is that politics is a bitch.  The more power you have, the fewer people you can trust. It’s only those whom you have hand chosen to handle your affairs that you can trust to get things done.”  He ran his fingers through his greasy black hair and gave me a tired, frank look – one I hadn’t seen since we were making life-or-death decisions together.

I recognized his exhaustion and decided to wrap up the conversation. “Is Hyperlite really so revolutionary that it must be kept secret?”

 “My understanding is that this one is the project that unites every other endeavor Alltech has undertaken.” Hendricks took his jacket off of his chair and threw it over his shoulder. We walked down the stairway, through the empty office, lit only by the big city lights.

We waited for the elevator thirty floors below us, I commented. “Redefining every industry, eh?”

“It could lead to greater things than anyone ever imagined possible in our lifetime, Jimmy. This is the big one, and we need to recover any information that has left their facility so that it doesn’t get misused.”

“Right.”

The elevator finally reached us. Hendricks turned to me and flashed a wide grin, it would have looked villainous to anyone who didn’t know him. “You know what I love, Jimmy? Working with a hangover.”

 

By the time we arrived at Flannery’s Doug and Heather were already on their second or third drink of the evening.  We sat down on either side of them – I on Heather’s left, he on Doug’s right – and began drinking our preordained drinks. The conversation was pleasant; the atmosphere was pretty classic bar.

Flannery’s had red and green stained glass windows.  The lighting was all low-hanging, dim yellow bulbs. The whole interior of the bar was made of cedar – walls, furniture, bar, everything.  The décor was a little bit eclectic, consisting of a large bull skull above the bar, a few vases with a variety of flowers scattered around the restaurant section, and a Canadian flag above the entrance. There was a wooden barrier, about chest high, separating the bar from the restaurant section. It was topped with a slick brass beam running along its length.  Sometimes, I’m not sure what to make of this place but, they have the best happy hour around:  Buy one, get one free.

We drank the next round in silence. On the third round, Heather spoke.

“You know what really irks me about this case?”

Hendricks and I gave a quick glance around the bar; the bartender was in the restaurant section serving a nondescript man. They were shooting the breeze it seemed, maybe old friends. Neither was within earshot. Hendricks nodded at me as an “all clear” sign.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“The hours… We aren’t getting overtime for this. It’s really rather demotivating to spend extra hours every day working on this and getting jack shit for it.”

Doug chortled and added, “We don’t even get a piece of the discretionary fund.  It’s not OUR money, it’s Hendricks’ money.” He looked over at Hendricks. “Maybe we could if someone didn’t have such expensive tastes.”

“When you’re running the office Doug, you can buy all the fancy suits you want. Besides, I got this one when I was a kid.”

“A kid?”

That was a pretty shocking statement, given his stature. All I could muster up was “Jesus, man.”

“How old were you when you first became a giant?” Heather inquired. “I mean, seriously Ryan, if you got that suit when you were a kid, then you were a freak of nature.”

“I hit 6’6” at 15 and just grew an inch a year for a while.”

Doug let out an impressed whistle, I eyed my scotch, swirling it in the cup with a smirk on my face. Heather’s eyes were twinkling with joyous curiosity. Hendricks is always fun when you’re buzzed.”

“The worst part,” he continued, nonchalant as though his freakish size were commonplace, “is that I grew so big, so fast, that I didn’t develop the coordination required to navigate this body until I was in college. I tried out for my high school’s track and field team once; I wanted to do the 110 meter hurdle. I could step over all of them now but back then, I couldn’t get my legs to jump on command; I tripped over all ten hurdles. I even dragged one with me.”

We all had a laugh. Doug and Heather had never heard this story before. I decided to put Hendricks on the spot. “Could’ve been worse though, right? You’re high school crush could have been there cheering you on.”

He threw me a quick look but he still had that cheeky smile on his face, the kind of smile you get when you have a memory you wouldn’t trade for the world. “Stephanie Jorgensen. She was watching from the bleachers… moved to town just a year before.  Barely spoke English but damned if she wasn’t the most beautiful woman I’ve seen, to this day.”

“Thanks for that,” Heather returned.

Doug threw in a quick aside, “You’re plenty hot, don’t sweat it.”

“I broke one ankle and sprained the other when the hurdle I was dragging knocked over another hurdle. I still managed to finish and dropped onto my knees. I cried like a baby and she laughed and laughed.” He snickered a bit on that last note. 

“You’re a lot more fun after work, Hendricks.” Doug patted him on the shoulder. “Have I told you that yet?”

“Every time we drink, Doug. Every. Fucking.Time.”

“Well, it’s still true.”

Heather turned to face them. I had a rather exhilarating view of the back of her head. “Why don’t you act this way more often? You know, I’ve checked out a few studies that concluded a positive attitude in management results in higher productivity in the work force.”  I knew it.

“Our work is different. And anyway, I don’t need the whole team asking about the Advetures of the Intrepid Imbecile.  I’d rather they see me as a leader to be respected and feared than respected and loved.”

“You catch more flies with honey, Ryan.” I quipped, much to Hendricks’ annoyance. I do enjoy instigating from time to time.

“I think the team would really take to you.” Heather added. She turned to me and gave a quick wink. It was nice to see that deviant smile of hers. The whole team is a lot of fun and we get our work done. These are my three favorite people though, the ones I wouldn’t have to worry about protecting in the field. Even the rusty Hendricks, five years out of the field, could step into any situation without missing a beat.

                “But still,” Doug began, “your mindless zombie work face isn’t as troubling as this Alltech thing. When was the last time we had to dedicate the entire floor to a single case, anyway?”

                “Not since I’ve been here,” Heather answered.

                “Nor I,” Doug continued.  “And the CEO, Bernier. He has the kind of power that drives men to madness. Asking us to dedicate our floor to this theft but, refusing us any other assistance. He’s even got other departments in the government refusing to help.”

                “I tried talking to my superiors.” Hendricks interjected, “The orders are to keep it as small as possible. Everyone in the government is required to have Alltech clearance authorization. When virtually anyone working for your multi-billion dollar corporation across the country could be responsible for something, you’ve gotta keep it close to the vest. The second the thief knows someone is pursuing them, it goes from a potential leak, to a leak. And that person would have a lot less junk to filter through to sell the information than we have in figuring it out. Plenty of dangerous people would pay more than a lifetime can spend to have the stolen information.”

                “I’m sure he’s handling the matter internally as well.” Heather reasoned. “He probably has the Alltech security department working on it full time. We are very likely just that extra set of eyes.”  As she said that, she batted her eyelashes in a most befuddling manner, and I could tell all three of us guys took notice.

                Doug rubbed his tired eyes under his glasses. “It’s just all so unorthodox.  Since when does the government take liberties with its policies on corporate espionage and national security?  This guy Bernier says the most important scientific development this government will ever see has been sabotaged and he wants one team and complete secrecy?  Tell me that makes sense.”

                “To your point,” I answered, “The government takes plenty of liberties with all of its policies.  The guys in charge tend to do whatever the fuck they want while the agencies therein monitor exactly those liberties to make sure they aren’t in violation of the very laws they set forth.”

                “Fuck politics so much.” Heather supplemented in a most ladylike manner.

                “As for Bernier and Alltech, I’ll be talking to him on Friday. These are all good questions for me to address with him.  I think I’ll try to spend the evening glued to him. Who knows? Maybe he really is just a terrified little boy worried about what the other kids are going to do with his toys. Maybe I can convince him to get us extra hands, if it comes to that.”

                Hendricks nodded in agreement. “All of this is just unfounded speculation stemming from frustration. Jimmy is going to be the first one of us to speak with anyone from Alltech.”

Doug’s jaw dropped. “You mean to tell me we are the only people looking into this and no one has spoken with Bernier yet?

“Bernier or anyone associated with Alltech. My orders came straight down the chain of command. The only person outside of the team I have heard anything from is my SO, and all he did was give me the mission brief.   But, this happened in July. I’m willing to be it came to us after several other agencies to a whack at it. Hell there could be other teams in the DSI working on it.  The point is, we have no fair reason to make any conclusive statement about the politics and procedures at play until after the banquet.  In the meantime, we hold our noses and do our jobs. Regardless of any external factors, someone stole information that could do real damage. No matter what, we gotta find it.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. I’m just venting frustration.”

Heather put her hand on Doug’s shoulder and gave a reassuring smile. “I’m right there with you.  I never would have had this kind of secrecy going in the Bureau.”

I had one more thought to add as I gathered myself up. I threw a few bucks on the bar for a tip and looked to Hendricks. He gave a slight nod confirming my drinks were covered. “Don’t forget, these are the kinds of cases they created DSI for.  If there weren’t this confusion, there wouldn’t be this job.”

 


 

And now, here is the current chapter two! Over the first three chapters, I’ve subtracted about 500 words but added about 1500. If this trend continues, there will be an additional 7000 words in this novel! Here are 600 of those 7000, mixed in with this chapter.

 


 

By the end of the day, everybody was exhausted.  It’s not as easy to read through several thousand pages as you might think—even with a full team working at it. To put it in perspective, we each read the equivalent of two novels and reorganized the chapters into compendiums which we thought made more sense – the grimoires of Alltech.  With the number of people working this floor, imagine it as a group of people all reading through the Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings trilogy then, reorganizing them into new books based on a few coincidences.  Needless to say, we weren’t done at 5:00.

Doug Hanson, a fellow agent with plenty of experience, approached me as I was cleaning up my desk. Doug was the type of guy who could dress sharply on a budget. He somehow managed to find the nicest suits in thrift shops and bargain bins.  He stood a full head above me and had a tightly tied blonde ponytail down to his shoulders. He was a clear-cut example of a nerd. His features were long, drawn out, and generally sharp. To top it off, he wore small perfectly round glasses. Transitions, they’re called.

“Heather and I are gonna go get drinks. You in?” He placed his hands on my desk, casting a little bit of shadow over me.

“Yeah, let me get Hendricks, too.  Where should we wet our beaks tonight?”

“It’s that place on fifth and Columbus.  Flattery’s I think.”

“Flannery’s.”

“Whatever it is.  It’s been a long enough day without you doing that!  We’ll meet you there?”

I checked my watch. Cell phones be damned, my watch still tells time.  At twenty-to-nine, I wasn’t going to get to the shooting range tonight and I certainly wasn’t going to start reading some intense book like Dracula at this time of night.  I’ve had enough reading for the next six months anyway.

“Yeah I’m in,” I replied, “just gotta touch base with Hendricks. We’ll do it on the way over.”

“We’ll see you there then… I’ll go ahead and get the first round.” With that, he left. 

Doug is a goofy character… but he means well and he has a big heart.  He’s another agent I’ve been with in the field.  Maybe it was the ten-plus hours we tended to spend in the van – criminals unfortunately don’t work on your schedule – but, he’d kept me amused (by which I mean sane) through some times so boring that I’d contemplated committing a murder-suicide just to change the pace.  He could handle himself too.  The department seems to attract people who know how to fight well. Or maybe there is a correlation between IQ and combat savvy. I should look into that, find studies on the militant mind or something.  I hate wondering about these things, I like answers. I feel like there should be research on everything in existence by now. Then I wouldn’t have to ponder so much. Welcome to the DSI mind.

Hendricks was on the phone when I got to his door. I pressed my head to the glass window and made faces at him—a sign that work was over. He didn’t seem to notice.  Three solid taps on the glass got his attention. He waved me in and wrapped up his call in the time it took me to open the door.  “Whew. Long day eh, Jimmy?” He waved a hand at the chair across from his desk. I sat down as he began cleaning up. I think by that point, the chair’s cushion simply knew how to give when I sat down. It had only gotten more comfortable over years.

“We got it done. I tell you, they don’t pay us enough for the work we do.”

He flashed me a sleazy smile in retort. “They don’t pay you enough.”

“Does that mean you get paid more for the work or, do you just do less work for the same pay?”

He let out a laugh and tapped his nose.  This Ryan Hendricks is much better than the one running the ship.  I think he would get more productivity out of the team if he were to utilize his personality. I’m pretty sure I’ve read a study linking that kind of generally happy attitude in leadership reflecting in the work force. I should definitely find the data and present it to him.

“So, are we gonna go grab those drinks?” Hendricks inquired.

“Yeah, we’re meeting Heather and Doug at Flattery’s – Flannery’s!” I cursed Doug’s name.

“Hah!” It was a loud, coarse laugh. “Don’t start making errors on me now. I won’t be able to save you from being fired if you can’t even speak-n-spell anymore.”

“I wouldn’t want you to.” My response came with a classic grin, the kind you shouldn’t sport if you don’t have countless experiences in being right and the resulting job security.  “Anyway, we got through all three cabinets, separated out security documents, listed out all the ID numbers of those with unrestricted clearance. We pulled out anything that referenced Hyperlite and filed it separately, though there wasn’t much outside of what I previously had.”

            I stopped for a moment. I looked at Hendricks to make sure he was aware that something was coming.   “Ryan, let me ask you something.”

“Shoot.”

“Are there any other floors working on this case?  Any other branches of the government?  I’m a little confused by Alltech here. They’re tying our hands with the information we receive, yet they are demanding we find a traitor in their organization, someone who had the ability to either bypass every security measure or otherwise gained access to Hyperlite.  It just seems weird.”

“Well, that’s exactly why DSI exists; we crack the case, regardless of any kind of confusion.  But to my knowledge, it’s just our team working on this.  Bernier must be pretty terrified of losing information on something so major. At this point, Alltech knows less about this thief than you or I. That’s reason enough for a man as powerful as Monsieur Bernier to be concerned.”

“Even so,” I half-thought, half-said, “he should be able to assume some level of trust to the government. Our contract with his company notwithstanding, Alltech is still an industry leader in clean energy, cyber-tech, and a slew of other fields.  He should be able to trust this government enough to at least have a second team from DSI on the case. I would think he’d want as many people as possible in on this one.”

“Look, one thing I’ve learned after getting out of the field is that politics is a bitch.  The more power you have, the fewer people you can trust. It’s only those whom you have hand-chosen to handle your affairs that you can trust to get things done.”  He ran his fingers through his greasy black hair and gave me a tired, frank look – one I hadn’t seen since we were making life-or-death decisions together.

I recognized his exhaustion and decided to wrap up the conversation, despite the dozens of other questions burning my mindd. “Is Hyperlite really so incredulous that it must be kept this secret?”

 “My understanding is that this one is the project that unites every other endeavor that Alltech has undertaken. Hyperlite is purported to be an Alloy that will replace all others. No more plastic, no more metal… Just Hyperlite” Hendricks took his jacket off of his chair and threw it over his shoulder. We walked down the stairway through the empty office, our casual stroll lit only by the expanse of city lights.

We waited for the elevator thirty floors below us. After a minute or so silence, I commented. “Redefining every industry, huh?”

“It could lead to greater things than anyone ever imagined possible, especially in our lifetimes. This is supposed to be the big one, and we need to recover any information that has left their facility so that it doesn’t get misused.”

“Right.”

The elevator finally reached us. Hendricks turned to me, a wide-eyed smile locked on his face. Combined with the way he bore his teeth, the look could have been mistaken for villainous or even demonic to anyone who didn’t know him. “You know what I love, Jimmy?”

It felt like he was setting me up for some kind of shtick, so I bit. “What’s that, Ryan?” 

“Working with a hangover.”

 

By the time we arrived at Flannery’s, Doug and Heather were already on their third or fourth drink of the evening. The two were laughing and wobbling just a bit on their stools.  We sat down on either side of them – I on Heather’s left, Hendricks on Doug’s right – and began drinking our preordained drinks. The conversation was pleasant; the atmosphere was pretty classic bar.

Flannery’s had red and green stained glass windows.  The lighting consisted entirely of low-hanging, dim yellow bulbs. The whole interior of the bar was made of cedar – walls, furniture, bar, everything.  The décor was a little bit eclectic, consisting of a large bull skull above the bar, a few vases with a variety of flowers scattered around the restaurant section, and a Canadian flag above the entrance. The TVs around the bar were all tuned to the same soccer game. There was a wooden barrier, about chest high, separating the bar from the restaurant section. It was topped with a slick brass beam running along its length.  Sometimes, I’m not sure what to make of this place but, they have the best happy hour around:  Buy one, get one free.

We drank the next round in silence. On the third round, Heather spoke.

“You know what really irks me about this case?”

Hendricks and I took a quick glance around the bar; it’s something you learn to do when you spend enough time working with classified intelligence. Secrets only exist with active monitoring. If you don’t keep it secret, then it isn’t. It doesn’t matter if the guy who overhears your discussion is benign. There is likely someone else trying to extract the information you guard and you must assume they would torture and kill any random person to further their goals. A black operative I worked with once told me “paranoia is the key to survival.” When you’re wrong about being stalked, the situation can go south quickly. But when you’re right, you’ll be glad you kept your guard up.

The bartender hung around in the restaurant section, serving a nondescript man. They were shooting the breeze it seemed, maybe old friends. Regardless, neither was within earshot. Hendricks nodded at me, an “all clear” sign. He returned to his whiskey, studiously absorbing every detail of the liquor.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“The hours… We aren’t getting overtime for this. It really is rather demotivating to spend four or five extra hours working on this case every day and getting jack shit for it.”

Doug chortled while adding, “We don’t even get a piece of the discretionary fund.  It’s not OUR money, it’s Hendricks’ money.” He looked over at Hendricks. “Maybe we could have some for ourselves if someone didn’t have such expensive tastes.”

“When you’re running the office Doug, you can buy all the fancy suits you want,” Hendricks smiled without batting an eye away from his drink. “Besides, I got this one when I was a kid.”

“Get out of here! A kid?”

That was a pretty shocking statement, given Hendricks’ raw size. All I could muster up was “Jesus, man.”

“Boss, How old were you when you first became a giant?” Heather inquired. “I mean seriously, if you got that suit when you were a kid, then you were a freak of nature.”

“I hit 6’6” at 15 and grew around an inch a year for a while after.”

Doug let out an impressed whistle, I eyed my scotch, swirling it in the cup with a smirk on my face. Heather’s eyes were twinkling, joyously curious. Hendricks is always fun when you’re mind isn’t buried in work.

“The worst part,” he continued, nonchalant as though his freakish size were commonplace, “is that I grew so big and so fast that I didn’t develop the coordination required to navigate this body until I was in college.” A hard laugh slipped out of my mouth despite my best attempt to repress it. I remember when Hendricks first realized how to long jump with his body.

“I tried out for my high school’s track and field team once,” He continued. “I wanted to do the 110 meter hurdle. I could easily step over all of them now but back then, I couldn’t get my legs to jump on command; I tripped over all ten hurdles. I even dragged one with me.”

We all had a laugh. Doug and Heather had never heard this story before. I decided to put Hendricks on the spot. “Could’ve been worse though, right? You’re high school crush could have been there cheering you on.”

He threw me a quick vengeful glare but he still had that cheeky smile on his face—the kind of smile you get when you have a memory you wouldn’t trade for the world. “Stephanie Jörgensen. She was watching from the bleachers… moved to town just a year before.  Barely spoke English but damned if she wasn’t the most beautiful woman I’ve seen to this day.”

“Thanks for that,” Heather muttered.

Doug threw in a quick aside, “You’re plenty hot, don’t sweat it.”

Heather shot him the bothered look of a tiger before it decides to make you into food while Hendricks continued his story. “I broke one ankle and strained the muscles in the other when the hurdle I was dragging knocked over one or two more hurdles. I somehow managed to reach the tape at the other end. I mean, I crossed it and immediately dropped onto my knees. I cried like a baby and she laughed and laughed…” He lingered on that last note a bit. 

“You’re a lot more fun after work, Hendricks.” Doug patted him on the shoulder. “Have I told you that yet?”

“I shit you not, Doug. Every time we go out, you do exactly this.”

“Well, it’s still true. Take the hint, man!”

Heather turned to face them. I had a sarcastically exhilarating view of the back of her head. “Why don’t you act this way more often? You know, I’ve checked out a few studies that concluded a positive attitude in management results in higher productivity in the work force.”  I knew it.

“Our work is just… different. And anyway, I don’t need the whole team asking about the Adventures of the Intrepid Imbecile.” Hendricks shook his head, chuckling under his breath.  “I’d rather they see me as a leader to be respected and feared than respected and loved.”

“You catch more flies with honey, Ryan.” I quipped, much to Hendricks’ disapproval. I do enjoy the poking of the bear.

“I think the team would really take to you.” Heather added. She turned to me and offered quick wink. It was nice to see that deviant smile of hers. The whole team is a lot of fun when we get our work done. These are my three favorite people though, the ones I wouldn’t have to worry about protecting in the field. Even the rusty Hendricks, five years out of the field, could step into any situation without missing a beat.

            “But still,” Doug began, “your mindless zombie work face isn’t as troubling as this Alltech thing.” He glanced around as he spoke. The bartender was sitting with that fellow, chatting up a storm. “When was the last time we had to dedicate the entire floor to a single case, anyway?”

            “Not since I’ve been here,” Heather answered.

            “Nor I,” Doug continued.  “And the CEO, Bernier. He has the kind of power that drives men to madness. Asking us to dedicate our floor to this theft but, refusing us any other assistance. He’s even got other departments in the government refusing to help. Whatever’s going on, I think we need to be cautious of Bernier himself.”

            “I tried talking to my superiors.” Hendricks interjected, “The orders are to keep it as small as possible. Everyone involved in federal law enforcement and policymaking is required to have Alltech clearance and authorization-”

“That should tell you something right there!” Doug insisted.

Hendricks paid him no mind. “When virtually anyone with access to your multi-billion dollar corporation across the country could be responsible for a crime, you’ve got to keep it close to the vest.”

“The second the thief knows someone is pursuing them,” I added, “it goes from a potential leak, to a leak. So far there is no reason to believe the theft has tried to move the information. They could have been working for another corporation, not necessarily an independent broker.”

Hendricks continued, “And that person would have a lot less junk to filter through in selling the information than we have in figuring it out. Plenty of dangerous people would pay more than a lifetime can spend to have the stolen information.”

“Or spill more blood than a lifetime produces.” I commented. Maybe it was the alcohol but, I felt that line too poetic to pass.

            “I’m sure he’s handling the matter internally as well.” Heather reasoned. She was probably the most rational person in the group. Even though we hadn’t operated together yet, I knew she was DSI material. “He probably has the Alltech security department working on it full-time. We are very likely just that extra set of eyes.”  As she said that, she batted her eyelashes in a most befuddling manner, and I could tell all three of us guys took notice.

            “That would explain our office being the only government team involved,” I responded.

Hendricks added, “It could also potentially write off the concern about our documents being censored. If Heather’s hypothesis holds any water, then I’m sure his security team is looking at more up-to-date and unrestricted information than any of us.”

            Doug rubbed his tired eyes under his glasses. “It’s just all so unorthodox.  Since when does the government take liberties with its policies on corporate espionage and national security?  This guy Bernier says the most important scientific development this government will ever see has been sabotaged and he wants one team and complete secrecy?  Tell me that makes sense.”

            “To your point,” I answered, “The government takes plenty of liberties with all of its policies.  The guys in charge tend to do whatever the fuck they want while the agencies therein monitor exactly those liberties to make sure they aren’t in violation of the very laws they set forth. We protect the common citizenry by watching the national elites and other vermin. ”

            “Fuck fucking politics.” Heather supplemented in her best ladylike voice. She followed the eloquent statement by hammering back a full vodka-cranberry.

            “As for Bernier and Alltech, I’ll be talking to him tomorrow. These are all good questions for me to address to him.  I think I’ll try to spend the evening glued to him. Who knows? Maybe he really is just a terrified little boy worried about what the other kids are going to do with his toys. Maybe I can convince him to get us extra hands if it comes to that.”

            Hendricks grunted his agreement. “All of this is just unfounded speculation stemming from the goddamn frustration. Jimmy is going to be the first one of us to speak with anyone from Alltech.”

Doug’s jaw clenched. Heather was right; we were all getting pretty worked up. “You mean to tell me we are the only people looking into this and no one has spoken with Bernier yet?

“Bernier or anyone associated with Alltech.” I corrected.

“My orders came straight down the chain of command. The only person outside of the team I have heard anything from is my S.O., and all he did was brief me on the situation: the alloy, the thief, the secrecy.   But, this happened back in July. I’m willing to bet Bernier came to us after several private agencies tried to figure it out. Hell, there could even be other teams in the DSI working on it under just as much shroud as we are.” Hendricks noticed the lost look on Doug’s face. He was losing the crowd as the alcohol kicked in. “The point is, we have no evidence to make any conclusive statement about the politics and procedures at play—at least until after the banquet.  In the meantime, we hold our noses and do our jobs properly. Regardless of any external factors, someone stole information that could do real damage to a lot of people if it fell into the wrong hands. No matter what, we have to find it.”

“Jesus, I’m just venting, man.”

Heather put her hand on Doug’s shoulder and gave a reassuring smile. “I’m right there with you.  I never would have had this kind of secrecy going in the Bureau. Over there, everyone needs to know everything.”

“I’m glad we don’t have to deal with oversight committees unless things go terribly wrong,” I smiled and threw a few bucks on the bar for a tip and looked to Hendricks. He tipped his head, confirming my drinks were covered. “Enjoy the rest of the night. I’m going to go home, get some sleep and not feel crappy working at 8am.”

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Exactly 500 words.

Didn’t get in everything I had in my min about this. But, still. 500 words. That’s the practice!


 

Real magic isn’t what most people think. It happens on a real and microscopic scale. In ancient times, mages, wizards, and their kin around the world described magic as traveling to another a higher realm, a different dimension. The truth is much simpler.

As a caster, you are granted the ability to manipulate reality. But, you are still limited by it. The worlds the ancients though they saw were actually magnifications of this world. When it first happened to me, the sensation overwhelmed me.  The air became a galaxy of planets and their moons, what turned out to be oxygen and hydrogen molecules. I could see the blood cells cascading through my body, highlighting my vascular structure.

I realized eventually what I saw and it made things much clearer. I don’t actually understand how I manipulate the world… the first cult of magi wrote a lengthy discourse on the subject but it has since been lost to time. However, I do know that I can will things into action.  Once I realized this, I figured out that casting a fireball is as simple as condensing the air molecules around me and rubbing them together until they create lightning – a small static bolt that ignites the oxygen-rich bubble of air I form.

There are religions and ideologies among magi. Specifically, the religion of the First Cult dominates the hidden world. The First Cult were the earliest known magi to document their methods. Most of what has been uncovered exists as magically ciphered text written on enchanted paper. Whatever the First Cult did to seal their secrets, it was good enough to stump even modern mages.

 For me though, simply studying physics has worked out great. The more you learn about the world you can manipulate, the more you can push the bounds of real. I’ve developed my powers at least in equation with the magic of the faithful. They do have different auras though. Faith magic and sectarian magic are distinct enough from each other that there is reason to study both.

Unfortunately, not all of the organizations out there are as pacifistic as the First Cult. The Consortium is a group whose focus on mind magic has ushered in their followers as political leaders since the early 1900s.  The Consortium is run by the most powerful magi around and the unions that don’t pay them tend to pay another way. As an unaffiliated mage, I get the benefit of being left alone. But, it comes at the price of them leaving me alone. Magic attracts powerful, dangerous people and without the protection of The Consortium’s private tactical forces and far-reaching influence and resource, magi would be a mainstream subject, rather than a closely guarded secret society.

Of course, I’ve been known to let a secret slip every now and then… and with the immense struggle on the horizon, I think it’s time that magi are forced to stand up and use their powers to protect those who lack our gifts.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Another retelling.

Something about the (as-yet-unnamed) novel is that it specifically pays homage to Dracula and his vampirism. Unlike Blade, or he-who-shall-not-be-named-but-is-quite-glittery, Dracula’s powers lie in subtlety and psychology. Even his gross powers like “super strength,” shapeshifting, and gravity defiance/nullification, are used in subtle ways, confusing ways. Dracula doesn’t go out and cause chaos. Rather, like a spider, he lurks in wait and lures you into his web until it is too late to escape. Of course, I made it my own blahblahblah but, the powers and ideology and indeed, some of the character of Dracula made the cut for defining the truly, terrifyingly badass vampire.

The story is, as James Del’s first supernatural interaction, a first-person account. However, in the future, and in the extended version of the novel (about 45 supplemental pages) he will actually be a single character, not the pivotal focus… just one known by the omniscient narrator. Here is a possible retelling of another western myth. If I continued Jim’s adventures with the supernatural, this would be in the second, or the opening of the third book. Just like Bernier is withing spitting distance of being Dracula, this guy would be fairly close, but still my own.

Just some stream-of-consciousness. COMMENT and let me know what you think of this scene!

Note: Those who know this mythic figure will notice I spelled his name “wrong” (counter to common spelling). I don’t care.


“I always forget that you mortals are bound by the confines of time. It must be such a shame to only be able to move in one direction. And when your time runs out, it means you’re dead. As a transcendant of life, time will meet his end before I meet mine. I wonder how humans think. Do you wonder what to do with all the time you have? Or do you find yourself worrying that you have not enough?”

Jim looked at the grey-skinned man, unsure if he truly held an immortal key or had just had one (or ten) too many drinks. Still, this is one of the more interesting conversations you could have with a man sporting yellow eyes. So, he humored the drunk.

“I think knowing that time is fleeting causes most of us to wish we had more. I doubt many people think they have too much time. Of course, those who do will be killing themselves sooner than later anyway, don’t ya think?”

The sharp-dressed man let out a coarse HAH!” and Jim thought his morbid humor might point to vampirism. Then again, there are a lot of twisted mothers out there. I need more.

“So then, Mr. Grey,” Jim began.

The vagrant laughed again and shifted down the bar a few chairs, until they were seated together.

“You can call me Dorian, if that’s your game,” the man smiled.

Jim had been commenting on Mr. Grey’s shade, but he started believing the man may be immortal. Undoubtedly, the man was faced.

“Well, Dorian… What’s it like as an immortal? Do you even take the time to think about time?”

Dorian ordered a couple of beers, stared Jim down, and smiled. ” That would be a waste of time, Sir.”

The bartender set down the beers and Jim took a hearty swig before continuing. “You mean to tell me that with more time than exists, you are still afraid to squander moments?”

“Sir!” The verbose man cried, “My ability to stand outside of time does not preclude its existence. I may have surpassed such silly notions as death but, I still wish to have an impact on the world.”

“But not by coming out as an immortal and being studied? You don’t want to medically help the human species, just play with our history.”

“There are only two reasons to sign a bloodpact for immortality, friend.” Dorian’s eyes narrowed on his mug and he sipped it like a child curiously tasting beer for the first time.

“Care to share, those reasons?”

Dorian had already lost himself in the past. Some transcend and find the key through hardship and asceticism, others through faith and charity. Some, still, simple have enough money to pay for immortality. Dorian, though, was once a plain man who wished to have a bigger say in the world. Hundreds of years ago his ship wrecked in a cove somewhere between England and the New World. His plans to reach the New World and rise to the top as a leader sank with most of the ship’s supplies and crew. One of the devils that claimed his ship offered him eternal life on the single condition that should he manage to lose it, he would spend the remainder of eternity in Hellfire.

That wouldn’t be a problem for an immortal except that devils thrive on sadism and thus sent after the poor tired man, for hundreds of years, ceaseless hauntings, demons, and nethercreatures whose only purpose is to lock the door to immortality and hide it away from humans. Being actively hunted by human organizations is difficult enough… but what chased this tattered soul were far worse creatures with much darker intentions.

“Hellooooo?? Anyone home?” Jim knocked on his head just enough to snap him back to the world. Dorian looked up in a state of mild surprise. It quickly faded to caution as he realized no one in the restaurant spoke. In fact, none of the patrons seemed to move. Only he and his new friend seemed to have any conscience at all.

“What’s going through your mind, pal?”

“Do you notice anything strange about our compatriots around here?”

Jim had already taken note of the oddity himself. After his first supernatural encounter, he learned a thing or two about proper handling of such delicate affairs. Most people think supernaturals are vulgar in their power. Jim had learned the hard way that once a vulgar display of power is made, things have already gotten way out of control.

“For you?” He asked.

Dorian replied, “unless they’re here for you.”

“Shit…”

Jim stood up and unholstered his 33-round Glock 18C – a radical machine pistol. Dorian simultaneously stood up, revealing two silver daggers mounted to his forearms and several throwing daggers of the same high polish in his right hand. The two spun back-to-back and immediately made their way towards the door, hoping there would be no incident.

“I’m still somewhat new to this kind of thing,” Jim whispered, “but, if they still aren’t responding, shouldn’t we just bolt right now?”

“No,” Dorian replied, “Devils just value style. They’ll wait for the most cinematic moment to take a shot at me.”

“You’ve gotta be shitting me…”

“Alas, I am not.”

“What odd creatures,” Jim unholstered a matching pistol from his right-side holster and leveled both guns on a pair whose hoods obscured their faces.

Dorian chuckled under his breath. This guy understood more than he ever expected a random barfly would.

“Well, since we might die in the next few minutes, I may as well tell you…” Jim grinned, “I’m with the government. I’m here to–“

“A babysitter. Of course.”

“Hey, if you don’t want my help…”

“No, no, feel free, really.”

Jim laughed as he readied himself to shoot. “You go out first. I’ll follow. My car is in the alley North of the building.”

“I hope you have some magic bullets in those guns.” Dorian tipped his fedora and ran out just as the clan of monsters began to rise. Jim couldn’t help but notice how picture-esque the moment turned out: cinematic indeed.

“Hah! It’s going to be fun working with you, Dorian Grey.”

Standard
Uncategorized

The sad part is always realizing how much work remains. The more effort you put in, the more there is to do. A quick list of steps in the process of this novel. This is just what I can see now. Originally, I thought Writing > Editing > Publishing. And all of it should only take 3 months total. Now, I realize that to make a quality story, the workload is a constantly growing mechanism.

The writing process led me to realize that drafting has to be done before you can advance in a story. No matter how far away you get from that original outline, it’s still there and it’s still a guide for you to reference. The original outline (roughly three pages of story and two pages of character sheet) contained 27 chapters and roughly 270 pages , which would have broken down to around 81,000 words with my goal of 3k per chapter. Now, at only 20 chapters (plus the epilogue) it is pre-edit 81,267. With my odd brand of editing goals, It should be 85-90k words when publish rolls around.

So, the other thing I missed coming from a strictly academic writing base, which is so easy for me that it actually brings boredom tears out… multiple edits needed. There is the first edit, the “rewrite” that incorporates the edits the author (or publisher) agrees with, then there is another cycle of this. At the end, you have a product that should be read over once or twice more for grammatical and syntax errors – the studious side of creative writing.

After that, the process moves into publishing which involves a whole other series of steps and I honestly don’t know all of the details (although I certainly thought I did when I stepped into this lucrative venture). After that’s all said and done though, the book should be pristine and ready for an audience. Get pumped y’all! We’re in the final countdown!

 

I’m thinking of doing a blog that is more of an article or lesson. Which of the following would you be most interested in reading blather about?

The Comma Machine Gun

I don’t care if Shakespeare was a fraud

Extrapolating literary technique from across multiple media

The bearded woman at walmart

Aside