Posts Tagged ‘blog: fiction’.

The Adventures of Jack Bulletproof

The Cop Who Plays By All The Rules

The night pecked spotty rain against Officer Jack “Bulletproof” Bulletproof’s patrol-car windshield. Through the dappled glass, a Jeep sat idling on the highway shoulder, its blinker still flashing at the black cornfield beyond. In the seat next to Bulletproof, Officer Daytona Follies frowned at the cruiser’s computer. “Looks bad, Jack,” she said, glancing up at the Jeep. “One prior, time served, for petty theft. Could be a runner.”

Bulletproof eased his door handle open, taking in the situation. “Let’s proceed,” he finally said. “With caution.”

Follies nodded. Affixing his cap smartly, Bulletproof stepped out into the sprinkling night, his flashlight tracing a line through the Jeep’s side windows, illuminating a mound of blankets, a couple fast-food bags, a book. When the light reached the driver, Bulletproof tensed — the man was a scarecrow, folded behind the wheel like a coat hanger in a shoebox, his limbs lean and ropy. Still, best to take it by the book. “License and registration,” Bulletproof said, and the man complied.

The license told them nothing they didn’t know, and the tags were in order. Bulletproof handed the cards back to the driver (one Wenslow Ramplewaithe of 418 Oakwood), who squinted in the glare of Bulletproof’s Maglite. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Bulletproof asked, careful not to let his tone betray any irritation. The man was a human being, after all, and it wasn’t his fault it had been a long shift for the cops.

“Dunno,” Ramplewaithe mumbled. Then his eyes lit — “Oh, if it’s that headlight, I’ve got a fix-it ticket already. I’m planning on getting it sorted tomorrow morning first thing.”

“You were going twenty-five miles per hour,” Bulletproof said. “On the highway.”

“The rain makes me nervous,” Ramplewaithe said, as Bulletproof watched a bead of sweat roll down his jawbone and disappear into his collar.

Bulletproof narrowed his eyes. “Step out of the car, please,” he said, as nicely as he could.

Ramplewaithe’s gaze darted from Bulletproof to Follies, standing by the passenger’s door with a hand on her gun, and back. Bulletproof could almost see the man’s brain tick through his possible options, and settle on the only logical one. He pried himself out of the Jeep.

Follies rounded the front of the car and leaned close to Bulletproof. “I don’t like this, Jack,” she murmured. “I say we take him downtown.”

“He hasn’t done anything,” Bulletproof whispered back. “He’s innocent until proven guilty.”

Follies spat on the ground. “He’s nervous,” she sneered. “Something’s up. I say we torture him. He must have done something.”

“Now, now,” Bulletproof said. “Let’s see where this goes.”

Ramplewaithe took off running, headed for the inky darkness of the cornfield.

“I got him, Jack!” Follies shouted, bolting after the man and whipping her Taser from its holster. “He’s coming down!”

“No!” Bulletproof called out, lunging into a sprint and grabbing Follies’ extended arm. The Taser fired into the ground, its prongs bouncing harmlessly against asphalt. Bulletproof reached the edge of the road as Ramplewaithe began sliding down the incline toward the field.

“Jack, are you crazy?” Follies cried, running up behind Bulletproof while struggling to fit another cartridge into her Taser. “I had him!”

“He wasn’t threatening lethal force,” Bulletproof said, squinting at the retreating form, gauging the distance. He plucked his baton from his belt and weighed it gently in his hand. “At his body weight, the shock might have killed him.”

“Well, if you’re not going to shoot him, you might as well run after him!” Follies shrieked, sliding partway down the incline, stumbling for her footing on the muddy slope. Bulletproof cocked his head into the wind.

Ramplewaithe reached the bottom of the slope, only a few short yards from the swaying, shadowed cornstalks. Bulletproof counted to three, hurled the baton, and pegged Ramplewaithe right between the shoulder blades. The man crumpled like a bag of baseball bats.

Follies slid to a stop. “Nice shot,” she said, and whistled appreciatively.

“The Department mandates we attend elective extracurricular training seminars twice a month,” Bulletproof shrugged. “I’ve been to the Baton Hurling one thirty times. It’s my favorite.”

Follies reached Ramplewaithe and turned the man onto his back. “Now listen here, you lowlife,” she growled. “Do we need to get rough here? I can dance all night.”

“Go to heck, copper,” Ramplewaithe spat.

“No! Ramplewaithe!” Bulletproof shouted, making his way down the slippery incline. “You have the right to remain silent! Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law! You have the right to an attorney! If you cannot afford one, one will be provided!”

Ramplewaithe parted his cracked lips to curse, then closed them again. “You’re right,” he breathed. “It’s over. Lissen. In the Jeep. Behind the back seat. Fifteen, thirty-two, ten.”

“Jack!” Follies cried. “Jeep! Back seat!”

“I’m not leaving your sight until he’s handcuffed,” Bulletproof said, reaching the bottom of the slope, picking up his baton and sliding it back into his belt. Ramplewaithe offered up no resistance, considering how easily he could be overpowered by the both of them.

They dragged the cuffed Ramplewaithe back and set him stiffly into the patrol car, Bulletproof directing the man’s head safely past the doorframe. The perp contained, they turned to the Jeep.

Behind the back seat, beneath all the blankets, was a safe. “Fifteen, thirty-two, ten,” Follies said. Bulletproof quickly turned the dial.

Inside was little Sarah Waterbury, reported missing the day before and the subject of a statewide Amber Alert. Gasping for air, she tumbled into the Jeep’s cargo compartment on hands and knees. Follies scooped up the girl, who seemed to be all right, save for a scare.

“If I’d Tased him, and he’d died or passed out — I don’t know what we would have done, Jack,” Follies said sheepishly. “This little girl could have died in there.”

“Ah, ah — save it for the statement,” Bulletproof smiled, reaching for his radio to call in the paramedics. “We’ll be up all night doing paperwork for this one.”

The AUTOMATED Fiction Generator Mark-II

Insert one thrupenny bit.

Behold the next step in Fiction-Generating technology! I was frankly astonished at the speed and felicity with which Marksmen wrote me this morning with programmed versions of the Fiction Generator 2000. Many thanks to Dean R., Nicholas N., Dan, Rod V., Terry L., and Jonathan G. who sent me a Python file.

But I must give top honors to Liam Cooke’s version! This is, as copywriters would say a century ago, “An IMPROVED Model—Frees operator from labor and ensures consistent results FAR SUPERIOR to those hand-wrought. (Circulars sent free.)”

Tremendous thanks to all who undertook this of their own volition — and to those who’ve written about posters, watch for an announcement hopefully later this week.

Genre microfiction

I was talking with a friend about a Twitter-based fiction contest that he’d seen, and he mentioned that this contest had stipulated genre requirements. So, of course, the conversation turned to how short a story could possibly be and still have some recognizable genre. I postulated that it wouldn’t take much at all:

“A final tear dripped down her dying cheek. Cancer! On our wedding day!” [Drama/romance]

“A final tear dripped down her dying cheek. Tuberculosis! On our wedding day!” [Period romance]

“A final tear dripped down her dying cheek. Nanobots! On our wedding day!” [Sci-fi]

“A final acidic tear dripped down her dying, scaly cheek. Dragon cancer! On our wedding day!” [Fantasy]

“A sultry bead of sweat dripped down her heaving bosom. Lust! On our wedding day!” [Erotica]

“A bloody tear dripped down her already-rotting cheek. Zombies! On our wedding day!” [Horror]

“A final tear dripped down her bullet-riddled cheek. Mobsters! On our court date!” [Crime]

“A final tear dripped down her dying cheek. Cancer! On our gay wedding day!” [Gay/lesbian]

“A final tear dripped down her goggles to her sprocket-laden corset. Brass poisoning! On our wedding day!” [Steampunk]

In fact, I bet between all of us we could write microfiction in every conceivable genre. Leave a comment and let’s prove it.

Scenes from my Watchmen novelization

Some excerpts from my upcoming novelization of the Watchmen movie:

page 54:

The Comedian fired again, his tear-gas canister ricocheting from the side of a school bus and into a crowd of protesters. With his goggles’ magnification turned on, Dreiberg could see a woman coughing and weeping. This isn’t what we talked about! he seethed.

Blake worked the action on his shotgun and took aim again. That’s it! Dreiberg slapped the autopilot lever and sprang to his feet. Taking a deep breath, he leaped from Archie and spread his cloak, landing with birdlike ease on the sidewalk below. Foompt! Another tear-gas canister flew into the crowd.

A few long strides brought Dreiberg face-to-face with Blake. His goggles’ infra-red vision indicated that Blake hadn’t even broken a sweat. But the Comedian only grinned. “I love working on American soil, Dan,” he crowed, splitting the gun open and reaching for the shells in his belt pouch. “Ain’t had this much fun since Woodward and Bernstein.”

“How long can we keep this up?” Dreiberg shouted, his voice cracking with dismay. But Blake’s face still wore that infernal grin. He doesn’t see what I see, Dreiberg thought. It wasn’t a realization so much as it was a recognition of what he already knew. We’ve never been on the same side. Not really.

“Congress is pushing through some new bill that’s gonna outlaw masks,” Blake sneered. “Our days are numbered. Till then it’s like you always say. We’re society’s only protection.”

Blake’s voice had taken on the sardonic tone that always made Dreiberg wonder if he was truly serious, or just trying to provoke a reaction. Blake had never been one to cooperate quietly with authority. But the gun in his hands was no joke — people had been hurt tonight, and Blake had been the one doing the hurting.

Still, Dreiberg couldn’t stop himself from protesting. They were supposed to be heroes, for God’s sake. “From what?” he cried, trying vainly to penetrate Blake’s contemptuousness. Little pieces, he reminded himself. Plant the seeds.

“You kidding me?” the Comedian smirked. “From themselves.”

page 81:

Every camera’s flash seemed, to Jon, to take both an eternity and an instant: he could see the carbon filaments in every bulb slowly curling, like a neglected flower dying on a windowsill. So many chemical reactions, he thought. Fascinated, he followed the molecular chain into the camera itself, where photons bombarded the silver halide in the ribbon of film nestled safely in its center. From there it was a simple matter to track carbon interacting with oxygen and nitrogen — their playful interplay was so fascinating that he was taken aback when he realized he’d followed the chain right though the camera, and was now staring into the flesh of the cameraman’s hand.

It was only Wally’s voice that tore him from his reverie. What time had done to poor Wally! It was suddenly 1971, and Wally was dying of cancer. Jon was starting to get used to these shifts back and forth — only they weren’t back and forth, not really; they were all at the same time. Time was a jewel, and right now he was looking at a different facet.

“The superman exists, and he is American!” Wally was saying. Jon had a vague sort of sense that Wally was referring to him. It seemed like a sentiment that would have been terribly important, once upon a time; now two seconds later Jon could barely remember shadows of what Wally had said, as if having awaken from a dream. It was 1971, and Wally was dying of cancer. It was 1959, and Wally was shaking his hand for the first time.

“Nations around the world are still reeling from this morning’s announcement…” The voice of a newscaster, from far away, reporting on what was happening right now. It was tonight, and Jon was watching television.

They call me Dr. Manhattan. They had just informed him of this, and they had been doing it for years.

They explain the name has been chosen for the ominous associations it will raise in America’s enemies. It is 1959, and they crowd around Jon, unsure what to say as Jon draws on his own forehead. A hydrogen atom. The most logical choice for a symbol. They say the marketing people need a symbol. It is 1975, and Dr. Manhattan toys are gathering dust on a shelf.

They are shaping me into something gaudy, something lethal. Jon looks at the tank and sees every piece of it — every bolt, every rivet, every exploding artillery shell. He looks further, and sees every molecule, every spinning mote of iron colliding with every other. He could reduce it to its atoms to show them how it’s put together, really put together, but he knows they will not understand.

He lifts bolts and plates and engine parts and bullets gently from one another, and the crowd behind him gasps as a thousand component elements of tank suddenly float in the air like a school of deadly metal fish. Then Jon closes his fingers around the iron molecules. One hundred thousand pounds of metal hit the desert floor with a crackling thump. The tank has become a stone.

But it is still iron. It is still the same number of particles. Everything is always the same number of particles.

page 177:

“We need to squeeze people.”

Rorschach’s voice sounded like it always did, like gravel through a sieve. Dreiberg wondered how he could ever tell if the man was annoyed. With practiced motions, he began disengaging the fueling pump from Archie’s power port. So many times he had done this…so many nights. “Sure. Why don’t we just pick names out of a phone book?”

“You forgot how we do things, Daniel? You’ve gone too soft. Too trusting.” Rorschach turned and looked as Dreiberg pulled the hose free. Steam hissed around Dan’s hands. Hot. “Especially with women.”

Dreiberg felt his face flush, and it wasn’t from the steam. What the hell did Rorschach know about women? “Now listen, I’ve had it with that! God, who do you think you are, Rorschach? You live off people while insulting them, and no one complains because they think you’re a damn lunatic!”

Rorschach didn’t respond. Dan could feel his heart pumping deep in his chest as he replaced the hose in its cradle. God, this man’s killed children for saying less than that. He began to look around for things he could grab, ways he could defend himself, even as Rorshach stood and approached him. Dan could almost hear Rorschach’s anger boiling over like a teakettle about to blow. He wrapped his hands around the hose. Splash him in the face. Hit Archie’s remote flamethrower ignition. Has it really come to this? They’re setting us against each other –

But Rorschach only stared at Dreiberg. Impassive behind that shifting mask, his eyes lost somewhere deep within the swirling masses of ink. Dreiberg licked his lips. “I’m… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, man.”

To his amazement, Rorschach held out his gloved hand.

“Daniel. You are a good friend.”

His voice sounded no different than it ever did — but Dan was moved all the same.

Tales of Bears in Ill-Fitting Hats

You may know that 2008 was predicted to be the year of bears in ill-fitting hats — and boy was it ever.

But what now, in 2009?

In 2009, we tell their stories.

'Misty', by halcyonsnow
Misty, by halcyonsnow

Misty stood still even as the last rays of sunlight disappeared behind whistling pines, waiting, careful not to move, not to lose hope. She ran over the words a thousand times in her mind — had she said them right? Had she missed even a single syllable? She couldn’t be sure. She didn’t think so, but she couldn’t be sure.

She stood there watching the valley turn from evening slowly into dark, chilly night. The he-bear did not return, though this was the place where he had last stood, she was sure of it. The branches were still broken from his passage, the grass flat from his weight.

She did not think she had said the words wrong — but sometimes, she reasoned, she told herself as the moon finally found her, the magic might take time.

===

'Underwater Bear', by Red Rocket Farm
Underwater Bear, by Red Rocket Farm

It had not been difficult for Brewster to find the chest; the instructions the men had given him were perfect, and the prize itself was no trouble for his long, strong arms. It clinked as he padded softly through the silty sea-bed, and he wondered what was in it — bottlecaps, perhaps? Jars full of stones?

The men had been very keen for Brewster to return to the surface the instant he’d found the treasure, but honey did not spoil; his reward would be equally sweet later, and the water felt cool on such a warm day. He’d never known he could breathe down here, never bothered to try — in fact it was downright peaceful, a nice break from all the shouting and frenzy up where the men waited. With nothing better to do, he sat and fumbled with the chest until it opened, hoping to find seashells perhaps, or possibly bottles filled with acorns.

Inside were hundreds of firm yellow disks. With horror he realized it was honey, frozen or hardened somehow into indigestible slices, and with haste he packed up the chest and raced again for the surface — these men had somehow turned it bad, and he hoped as he kicked that he was not yet too late to claim his wages.

===

'hhHeh Hur', by Ape Lad
hhHeh Hur, by Ape Lad

Madame Hoote shook her head. This experiment could never work; she didn’t know what the knuckleheads down at District were thinking. She knew the social dynamics in her classroom, the problems that could arise from mixing kids from different backgrounds; integration was all the rage nowadays, but she missed the pragmatism it had replaced.

One could not put a bear in the same room as a badger and expect them both to learn arithmetic at the same pace — for bears were slow by nature, while badgers were hyperactive. She could hardly teach Social Studies frankly without offending one party or the other (though most of the politically-charged stuff went right over the poor bear’s head). And, she thought with a sigh, she could have told those fools down at District that bears and badgers could simply not play dodgeball together without someone getting hurt.

It had been sad to see the little creature squeak in pain as it went flying across the playground, but perhaps, she thought, dusting the cone-hat from the closet and sitting the bear gently on the time-out stump, this sorry incident would finally teach someone a lesson.