Diary Entry 8[15]99

[This was originally published in Underground Experts United Issue #514 and mirrored on attrition.org. The exact publish date is not known.]

Sunday night has come and gone, time spent at the usual. I can’t help but wonder why I go to that place with all the preppy assholes. Even dancing alone I feel a thousands eyes staring me up and down, as if they are fighting over which one will come up and verbally molest me next. I can’t even wear half my clothes in that place since they take nice outfits to mean “please, date rape me”. Fuckers.

Tonight was different though. Four hours of public solitude interrupted by some guy who had the nerve to catch my eye. Just as I had resolved myself to give up on dating and men in general, someone stands out and actually makes me wonder. I am not pleased with myself. Becoming a lesbian had a certain appeal.

Nothing stood out about this guy at all. Perhaps that is what bothers me and has prompted me to flesh out my thoughts right now. Average height, average looks. He looked a bit beyond his age from what I could tell, but not unattractive. For all intents and purposes, just ‘average’. dressed in solitary, unrelenting black, except for his shirt, which stated in bleach discolorment “shy”.

No doubt that is what prompted some dickhead jock to start in on him. At first it was just bumping into him while dancing. Then it lead to dirty looks and implied confrontation, as if the jock was begging for a fight. Mr. Shy shrugged it off and continued to dance to himself, barely looking up at anyone, often dancing for minutes at a time with his eyes closed.

I thought nothing would happen. Mr. Shy showed patience and tolerance well beyond what I would have had I been in his boots. Anyone that received that much shit in a one hour period was a likely candidate to go postal (to be politically incorrect). So I danced, all night long as close to him as I could. No matter how much I looked at him I couldn’t get up the nerve to talk. Yes, me, the so called slut couldn’t hit on him.

The last part of the night was a blur, but I won’t forget it I don’t think. The jock squaring off with Mr. Shy under the light in the parking lot. Challenging him and insulting him for every pathetic reason that came to mind. Situations like this disgust me and I guess I wasn’t the only one. Mr. Shy stood there with his hands clasped behind his back, with a look of pity on his face.

Before a crowd could gather, jock loser lashed out and punched Mr. Shy in the jaw. It whipped his head around in such a way I thought his neck could have been broken. Surprise. Instead of falling back or reacting in any normal fashion, Mr. Shy slowly turned his head back around. A trickle of a tear streamed down his left cheek. The smile that adorned his face was one of intense pleasure and evil rolled in one. It had the same shocking effect on jock loser as it did me I believe.

I can’t remember exactly what Mr. Shy said, and I don’t think I heard it all either. He was smiling, licked the blood running at the corner of his mouth and said “Any more of that and you’re going to turn me on.” I don’t know if he meant it or was just saying it to get a reaction out of the preppy asshole, but it worked. Jockboy looked around as if this was some kind of joke, or maybe looking for his friends or merely reassurance that he was still cool. Didn’t matter.

Jockboy tried to don a face of anger and lashed out again, once again to the jaw. Mr. Shy stood there, head whipped back again, hands clasped behind his back. It was my turn to look around as if this was some kind of joke. Compared to the jock, he was small, almost frail even. I had stepped forward to see what was going on and hear anything further. I’m glad I did. Mr. Shy responded to the second hit with a more disturbing comment. “This is foreplay bitch.”

It must have been a minute later, that or Mr. Shy’s reflexes were much better than I could imagine. It seemed like five seconds at the time. Four hits to the face, three to the gut, and a swift kick to jock’s balls making sure he would get no play that night. The controlled rage that must have been pumping through Mr. Shy was impressive. No other way to describe it.

As jock loser lie bleeding on the ground, Mr. Shy sat on his chest pinning him to the asphalt. He reached down grabbing Jockboy’s shirt, half pulling him up, half leaning down. I couldn’t hear what Mr. Shy said, but it had its intended effect. I don’t recall seeing terror personified on someone’s face like it was on Jockboy’s. Scary shit.

The transition from shy dancer enjoying the music to savage ass kicker extraordinaire. Someone so plain and average, yet so different even though we didn’t talk. I’m glad to have seen him for the short term tonight. He is the first guy that has brought back feelings I lost over a year ago after breaking up with John. Strangers dance in the night, and I pay the price of solitude a bit longer.

Dark Rain

[This was originally published on attrition.org.]

The alley stretched out forever in both directions. Dirty old alley lamps created an eerie lighting effect in the pouring rain. Derek had been walking for nearly an hour before he finally stopped. He pushed his lips together and tilted his head back, bathing his face in the downfall. Water rolled off his cheeks and dripped onto the black silk shirt he had bought earlier in the day. In the distance, barely audible over the rain, church bells tolled the midnight hour. Still looking up, he closed his eyes and listened.

Yet another in a series of failed relationships to add to the roster. Worse, the second one that ended on his birthday. A quarter of a century old, life was still plodding along with no noticeable perks. Only pitfalls, setbacks, and mindfucks from mostly disinterested parties pretending otherwise. The rain continued to fall down on his face with no sign of letting up.

Derek opened his eyes as he dipped his head. His eyes came to rest on her. Time stood still for him as he stared deep into her eyes. Had he cared, he could have counted the rain drops racing down between them. She looked back at him with an intensity he had only dreamed about. Without a word, he collapsed to his knees never breaking eye contact.

The shortness of breath he experienced reminded him of the first time he ever kissed a girl. Touch of the lips, quick intake of air, complete shock. Her mere presence did that and more.

Society wouldn’t necessarily deem her beautiful by their standards, yet he found her more than incredible. Taller than most girls, her height seemed overwhelming until he remembered he was kneeling. Her long black
hair flowed smoothly down, as if hugging her neck and back. Despite her tall form, her physique was absolutely perfect. The blazer she wore seemed to fit more like a low cut t-shirt. Her pale skin exposed in the dim light toyed with his imagination. The falling rain played with the old alley lights causing a dancing shadow on her chest. Below the blazer she wore intricate lace leggings that looked like tranquil water in a black night.

Looking back up he studied her face again. Her features were simple perfection to say the least, and they seemed to beg him to pour his heart out to her. Black makeup gave the highlight of hollowed eyes, but the rain had lent its brush to her art. Black smears ran down from the corner of each eye turning her face into the mask of a tortured angel. A face that seemed wise beyond its years.

The corners of her lips crept up the slightest bit giving the most serene and compassionate smile he had ever known. To see such inherent beauty in darkness. It seemed like days had passed since he first saw her, but it had only been minutes. Stuttering and tripping on his own words, he tried to muster enough coherency to introduce himself but failed. Before he could try again she slowly held out her arm. Derek took the offered hand into his own and felt the smooth skin; a reminder that this was not a dream like his others.

Shifting his position, he stayed on one knee while holding her hand. He bowed his head as he drew her hand closer, wanting nothing more than to feel his lips touch her fair skin. Before he realized it, the back of her hand rested against his lips. The kiss he so dearly wanted to give lingered there. She looked down to see his tears join the rain in bathing her hand.

With understanding she stood there, her hand to his mouth. A smile of content and happiness crept over her face. She brought her right hand up and placed her palm on Derek’s head as if she was granting forgiveness.
Upon touching him, she felt the tension flow out of his body and he relaxed, completely.

He could only sit there on his knee in awe, staring at her. The last thing on his mind was meeting someone new, yet here she was. As if they had power of their own, she drug him off his knees with her eyes. Beckoning him, her eyes seemed to reassure him, calm him, make him understand everything. He wanted to fall over onto the pavement and sleep eternal.

Half sobbing he whispered the first thing that came to mind. “Pure hands..” Hearing that she closed her eyes for a second. he stood up in the slowing rain to look at her face to face. No matter he tried he could not get over her beauty.

I know you don’t I?” Derek’s voice wasn’t much louder than the few drops of rain still coming down.

Yes Derek, you do.” Her voice sang forth.

I do… but I don’t know your name or where we met..” His brows wrinkled as he tried to think back. Racing through the past years he desperately tried to remember anything that would give him a clue.

My name is Faith.. and I’m your salvation.

His eyes lit up as if hit by revelation. It instantly became clear to him when she said the word ‘salvation’. He didn’t recall ever hearing her name before, but it just felt right. The best he could come up with was a strong sense of déjà vu, nothing else. This bothered him deeply because he felt he should know or remember more. He could feel that she was more than a previous casual encounter, that she was more in his life.

You can’t think of where you know me from. Maybe a déjà vu feeling at best?

Guilt washed over Derek’s face upon hearing this from her. “It’s ok Derek. We’ve never met actually. You’ve only dreamt about me before this evening.

But I don’t understand.. how do you know about my dreams?

She smiled at him conveying patience. “I am forbidden to go into that right now. I had a feeling that you were in despair, that life wasn’t going well for you. I felt I needed to find you and tell you..

Tell me what Faith?

That life is worth living. That better things away you in the future…

Things? Like you?

Yes Derek.

For the first time in years, he smiled and actually meant it. Withdrawing her hand, she smiled once more at him before turning to leave. She floated down the alley without another word.

Soon I hope..” he said to himself.

Getting his bearings, he turned around to find his way back to the club and his car. Rain started falling again encouraging him to pick up the pace. Walking around the corner he found himself face to face with a flat black blade. Before he could react he felt a swift punch to his lower back a second before two gloved hands grabbed his arms. Behind the blade in front of his face a cloaked figure shook his head. Recognition hit him
like a ton of bricks as he stared into the face of his only friend.

Derek’s first thought was to say something, ask what was going on, maybe beg for his life. Lyell’s eyes told him that course of action wouldn’t help much. A malicious smile crossed Lyell’s face. Time stood still. Derek felt the cold steel force its way into his stomach. Unexpectedly he felt a second blade enter his lower back.

Struggling to breath, Derek fell forward into Lyell’s arms.

You.. know what. Doesn’t really matter any more. Know why?” Coughing a few times he felt the life slipping away from him.

Well?” Lyell asked impatiently.

Faith…” Derek replied.

=-=

Inspired by:

George

[This was originally published in Underground Experts United Issue #435 and mirrored on attrition.org. The exact publish date is not known.]

Your morning paper Mr. President.

Thank you Stuart.

The President of the United States took the offered reading from his aide and continued to stir his coffee. Just like the past two years, the morning ritual of coffee and paper played out. One thing he had learned in his career was that taking the time to see what society deemed important gave him a great advantage when it came time to deal with the press. He leaned back in his chair going over the first section, mentally taking notes about each article’s focus. As the minutes pass and his coffee dwindled, he moved on to sports and entertainment. He had always liked Monday mornings as they gave him a chance to read about the weekend’s activities and get a fresh start on the week.

Can you line up ‘Mercury Rising’ for the next Movie Night? I think Jill will like that one.

Of course Mr. President.

Stuart shuffled off to put in the request after refilling the coffee pot. It seemed to be his boss’ life blood at times. Minutes later he returned to find the President almost done with the paper.

Stuart.. it says that Donald Gray passed away last night. That name sounds familiar; was he on one of the councils?

Yes, the Distributed Security Council I believe.

Hmm.. and what do they do again?

I’m not sure really Mr. President. I can look into it if you’d like.

No matter, I was just curious.

The week had been shitty to say the least. Nice relaxing Monday, and the next thing he knew it, the government was crumbling around him. The President sat at the end of the table looking out across the table at his staff. How could the whole world fall so quickly, leaving him in the dark more than ever?

Day two folks, and I still don’t have an answer.

The most powerful man in the world looked out over the table at the blank faces staring back. They were more in shock than he was it seemed. “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? None of you have an answer for me?! You have three days to figure something out. Three days.

It was only Tuesday and four of his top advisors had resigned in the last twenty four hours. The president looked down on the table and reread the headlines that had started this mess. “Roswell Only the Fourth Coverup.” Each time he glanced down he expected to see some cheezy tabloid name at the top of the page. But the top of the stack that held that headline read ‘New York Times’.

He pushed the top paper aside to reveal ‘The Miami Herald’. For the first time in history the paper had ditched every single ‘A Section’ article in favor of the twelfth page spread that ran this morning. Half the front page was dedicated to bold headlines reading ‘CIA: Cocaine Import Agency’. The next eleven pages gave a detailed list of operatives that were smuggling the drugs into the country. Names of planes and boats followed, along with photocopies of the books detailing kilos and dollars. Those twelve pages summed up the last sixteen years of drug running the CIA had been involved in. As he read through the summary, he could only curse more after seeing them downplay the importation of weapons as if it was no big deal. Three hours of sleep, and it could barely be considered that. He had struggled to get some sleep, but kept thinking about the living hell he could call this week. No chance of getting to sleep, he sat up and called for his aide. With a quiet groan, Stuart appeared in the doorway.

I’ll call the advisors sir.

With that, Stuart stumbled back out the door.

No one said a word. They sat there with folders and laptops sprawled in front of them, grim looks on each face. Newspapers sat stacked at each corner of the large table. The President cleared his throat and began.

Well, what lovely news do we have this morning? Wednesday, May 7th, 1998. Wall Street Journal reports that the NSA has been doing domestic spying on major political figures, industry leaders, CEOs, and others. Detailed listing of who in the phone companies were NSA operatives, lists of domestic surveillance teams, and more.

He looked up and surveyed the people sitting near him. Each and every person hung their head in shame, as if to personally take blame for the material he read them.

Well well, it must be ‘NSA Day’. Looks like we have some kind of network map listing every router the NSA has been sniffing on that internet crap. Hell if I know what a router is, but I can only assume it is a bad thing if Newsweek is doing a twenty-page spread on it. And here… ‘key escrow’ and ‘backdoored encryption’ gets its own section. The biggest baddest spook house gets hung out to dry. Do we have the first clue who is behind any of this?

With that question the room burst into small conversations. Groups of three and four people talked in hush voices trying to trade enough information to figure out who could have leaked such details. Not only the specifics, but the overwhelming proof that followed each and allowed the papers and magazines to run these types of stories without fear of retribution.

Thursday went further downhill if that was possible. Seventeen people had resigned that week, each fearing some kind of retribution for the information leaks. The president knew most of them had no clue what was going on, but he did know they had a right to be scared.

Do any of you people have any idea what this is doing to the administration? Can we all understand the world of shit we are in? Are all of you that far out of the loop? So much that you can’t find who the hell is behind this?

With disgust, the president picked up the latest newspaper and held it up for all to see.

Can anyone tell me what the ISA is and why they would kill JFK? Or better yet, how the director of the BATF has been using and dealing cocaine for the past seven years? Or maybe why the Media Control Board has systematically come up with a new scandal ever three months to keep people interested in the government? Am I the only one who finds all of this disturbing?

Friday’s meeting was the first that anyone had cracked a smile the entire week. Before the president could start in on his yelling and screaming, George Hanna of the distributed security council stood up. “Sir. I have a full report explaining the events that have unfolded this week. Some of the details are sketchy, but we have a pretty good idea of what happened we think.

By all means George, continue. Tell us how this clusterfuck could have happened.

Well sir, it started last week with the death of Donald Gray. As you may know, he was another member of the council and one of the longest standing members. It seems we lapsed in our background checks, and that lapse finally caught up.

A dozen thoughts flew through the president’s head that second. How could he have let this happen? Who was supposed to tell him about this kind of thing? What did this council do that a single person could be so powerful? What more could he expect? He looked to George and nodded for him to continue.

Under article 1, section 1, paragraph 2 of the Distributed Security Council bylaw, everyone must leave the room except for you Mr. President. The rest of you are sworn to secrecy. The DSC has kept people in check until now, don’t let this single lapse fool you into believing you are safe if you violate this law.

The tone of voice and way he recited the article suggested the laws and procedures were being followed verbatim. That scared him more than anything else. When George pulled out his handgun and placed it on the table, he didn’t know how to react. The line to the door shrunk much quicker with the informal motivation.

George walked over to close and lock the door behind the last person. Walking back toward the table, he reached into another pocket and pulled out a small metal pyramid and placed it on the table where his gun sat. He reached for a chair to pull up so he could face the president for the talk. “Well Mr. President, this is what we know so far. Understand, that this information does not leave us. If for any reason you or anyone on your staff try to use us for blame..

The President interrupted: “I think I have an idea George.

Good. Donald Gray was not supposed to happen. Without going into a history of the council and our procedures, let me try to explain. Donald has been a solid but sideline member of the panel for the past thirty eight years. During that time he has performed a wide variety of functions including what we call ‘support’ writing.

That entails access to just about every sensitive document in our country. From the initial reports, it looks as if he has been making liberal use of the copiers. Thirty eight years of research would explain a single person having copies of everything that has been spilled to the reporters. You’re probably thinking that we should have some safeguards against this sort of thing, and of course you are right.

During the past decade Donald has lost every living relative which is our first line of defense. Normally we catch that sort of thing and develop alternative methods of loyalty encouragement. Because of his dealings with the council and long standing membership, he has had access to several slush funds that we control to do the work required. As you now see, it is quite ironic that our own government tax dollars have paid these papers to run the stories and ensure everything ended up in the articles. No family, no personal belongings, no friends.. absolutely nothing to tie him to anything. Donald had set things up so that once he passed away, the information would be anonymously mailed to the various media sources. And it went down exactly as he planned. Which brings us to finding a solution to this whole problem. The people want to know why the government has been hiding this. They already know about all of the secret/top secret bullshit, the conspiracy theories, rogue agencies and more. Since we are that rogue agency they fear so much, and the entire council doesn’t care to lose their jobs, we feel it would be generous for you to take the blame.” Without hesitation, the President burst out laughing at the man sitting in front of him.

That has to be the most absurd thing I have heard in my life. Of course I won’t do that.

George smiled once while nodding. He picked up the gun and handed it to the president who was hesitant to take it.

Go ahead. I don’t want you to get the idea we are going to kill you or anything. Besides, I am sure we can come up with something agreeable to all parties.

With that, George picked up the small metal pyramid on the table and pocketed it. With a half bow, he walked away and left the room. Monday rolled around and the President resumed his morning ritual of paper and coffee. He went over his notes in preparation for his speech this morning. Everything seemed to be laid out perfectly and would hopefully explain the past seven days to the American people. Without warning his eyes glazed over. The notes he held found themselves on fire and being dropped into a nearby trash can before continuing on with his preparations. As he walked to the other end of the white house, he silently went over his speech and tried to guess what questions the reporters would ask. Anything that his current training wouldn’t cover? He certainly hoped not. Like a royal procession, some of his staff followed him toward the press room as usual. Looking around, something seemed a bit out of place, like someone missing. No matter.

The President of the United States stepped up to the podium and faced the crowded room. He recognized many of the journalists in front of him as well as a few members of media relations for the white house mixed in to ask strategic questions. As he surveyed the room, one face caught his attention and instilled fear into him. George sat toward the back of the room, hands in lap as if nothing ever happened.

Good morning. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for showing up. The past week has seen some interesting headlines and a lot of fear and speculation has grown due to it.

While he spoke, he couldn’t help but notice George reach into his pocket and withdraw something. From this distance it was hard to be sure, but it appeared to be the same metallic pyramid as before. Originally he had assumed it was a device to prevent electronic eavesdropping, but now he wasn’t sure. He continued on with his speech giving very little detail and wider speculation as to the source of all the information. His media analysts had indicated that until they could come up with a solid story, no details or they may hinder the investigation later.

With that, I would like to open it up to the floor for questions.” That is all it took for the journalists to go into a frenzy, causing each person to almost climb on each other trying to be recognized. The president started to call Sally from ABC but something occurred to him. His eyes lost focus and he spoke into the microphone, calling George’s name. “Thank you Mr. President. I’d like to ask a very direct question. Who is behind the information leaks, and what is going to be done about it?” The president slowly looked down to the microphone before continuing. Instead of a neutral but varying voice, his eyes lost focus once again as he turned to a more monotone inflection.

To answer that, I would like to speak plainly and honestly. I am tired of mincing words and lying to the public. The truth is, like my predecessors before me, I have repeatedly given the order to hide certain material from the American people. It has come time to make them aware of certain activities their government has been involved in. So, I say to you, that I am responsible. I have leaked this information to various contacts in the media. I have used taxpayer dollars to ensure that this information was printed as lead stories. I have worked directly against certain agencies designed to protect this information.

To answer the question about what is being done, I can only offer this solution..

With that, the president removed a familiar handgun from his suit jacket. Before anyone could react, he held it to his mouth and squeezed the trigger. National TV got a good idea what was on the President’s mind. As the crowd gasped and lunged forward to get a better story, George pocketed the metal object and walked out of the room. Beneath the roar from others around him, he quietly said “I think that was agreeable to both parties” as he walked away.

Black and White

[This was originally published in Underground Experts United Issue #440 and mirrored on attrition.org. The exact publish date is not known.]

The world is grey. I see everything as it is, people for who they are. Nothing escapes my eyes. I can’t begin to comprehend the idea of color. Color seems like the perfect way to ruin beauty. They say contrast of colors make them more appealing. How can that compare with the two hundred fifty six thousand shades of grey I can distinguish? Why do people think contrast is based on color only? My people have names for each shade of grey. Nothing like these vague names people use for colors. In many cases people will call the same shade different names from what I can tell.

The world is so vibrant through my eyes. My sight reaches out and goes beyond what they call “3-D”. When I look at something, I can see it in true three dimensional visualization. Perhaps it is me seeing things for what they are, or being able to “look behind people.” Beyond that I can see their feelings, their pheromones, their fears and more. With all of that showing, it is hard to hide what they are thinking. They see me as another of their kind, unable to see that my eyes are different. The fact that my eyes are a piercing gray with dark grey pupils would stand out in someone’s mind.. or so I would think.

Simple encounters in the street are so much more to me. Try to imagine it for a minute. To read their emotions, to see their uncertainty or perhaps their unfounded loathing based off simple appearance. Maybe read their curiosity in your mannerism, or their pure desire to get to know you better. Empathy for someone else they see, or disgust of someone near them, or pity on the street urchin at their feet.

There are a lot of people that think they are in control of their outward visibility. They think that a straight face and calculated reaction will make them “unreadable” to others. What they fail to realize is that so many aspects of the human body betray them. Their pheromones give away their overall mood, feeling and desire. Even if they wrote their life story in a book for me, it would be more difficult to understand.

I don’t know why I am here. I don’t know why I am different from you. I only know I am because of past awkward conversations about a piece of art, some new shirt, the color of a car or something as equally trivial. During those times I have to explain that I am “color blind” as they call it, and eventually agree that I am missing out on some supposed wondrous sight. The other person is always oblivious to the concept someone else can see or do something better than they. Their loss.

Why am I here… perhaps my ability coupled with my desire to write, study and observe tells me something? Am I to be taking better notes on society? Write a thesis or book on my differences, or maybe describe a world so full of “color” from the eyes of someone who doesn’t see them. Maybe to teach others that there is so much more to be seen than a simple “color?” That when focused, anyone could see everything else a person is saying whether they know it or not? Do I really know what the word “color” means? Can I? My search for the answers to who I am continue on. I am one of a kind thrown in a mix of such similar people, forced to question everything around me. Blessed and cursed at the same time, due to my superior sight. A life of research trying to answer these questions which plague me. I can only remember waking up from sleep, that day so long ago. It is just like waking up any other day, except I cannot remember anything before that. My research puts my origin as alien to your world. No previous records of beings like me, no mention of conditions or ailments that would explain my differences.

With amusement I read of others plight to find someone so much like them. Could they fathom what kind of task that is for someone such as me?

Scenes of the Assassin

[This was originally published in Underground Experts United Issue #387 and mirrored on attrition.org. The exact publish date is not known.]

The thump of the bass shook the walls throughout the club giving the perception it was in a foreign land. Fluid movement across the dance floor spilled out by the hundred or so bodies gyrating in near unison. No one had entered the club for nearly an hour and just a handful had left. Every week for the past year Tric had come here to dance away the week’s frustration that built up within.

Tonight was a good night, one of his best. As he moved around slipping into his musical trance, his hand continually strayed down to his left pocket guaranteeing the lump was still there. It was unlikely he would lose it in the club, but it wasn’t every day you walked around with five thousand in cash. He thought back to the seventy hours he had worked to get the money this week, and the delight of his employer. Well, the delight part was just a guess, it was always hard to tell the real mood of someone through email. Hacking for foreign governments was a very profitable venture.

Drums assaulted the crowd as the singer’s voice cut out and a heavy base line kicked in. Strobe lights began their own dance over the mass of teenagers in the club. As a wide variety of sounds struck out loud, the strobes quickened in pace. Tric snapped his head up and opened his eyes looking straight ahead into the wall. His quick moves of dance morphed into a new form as he shook violently.

A lone figure wrapped in shadows walked out of the club. Tric looked down to his empty pocket as he reached around to feel his back drenched in sweat. The figure in black put on his sunglasses and continued walking down the street. Bringing his hand back around, Tric noticed it wasn’t sweat, but his own blood on the freshly removed knife. One hundred yards down the road the man in black flipped through the wad of cash and checked to make sure his second knife was still secure. Tric fell to the dance floor, dead.

Four blocks away the assassin sat down at a coffee shop and ordered a glass of water. Even though he had done this hundreds of times in the past, his heart beat furiously as he surveyed his surroundings. Ten minutes passed before the first police car sped by followed shortly by an ambulance. He grinned as he watched the ambulance pass since he knew it wouldn’t be too helpful. Even if the mark survived the knife, he had to deal with poison that laced the blade.


Detestable was the only word to describe Draper. He had all of the fine qualities of a wart hog, and the personality to match. Even in the freezing weather surrounding the resort, Draper somehow managed to sweat. Coupled with the old sweat suit three sizes too small, and his lack of bathing for two weeks, he was outright disgusting.

About the only thing he had going for him was his ability to launder money. Somehow his past had taught him subtle tricks in covering his tracks in the financial system, and turned it into a lucrative career. His contacts refused to meet with him because of his hygiene, not secrecy, and that was the way he liked it. Draper had only dealt with a few members of an unnamed government agency in his past, and planned on keeping it that way.

His three night stay in Vail was almost at end. His work had only taken a few hours the first night, but he always demanded time off to “recover” as he liked to say. He packed his bags with a fervor that didn’t match his demeanor. Once done he grabbed his bags after throwing the room key on the table. In the distance he heard the steady beat of the helicopter that would take him back to his home in New York.

Downstairs he stopped at a candy machine hoping for a bag of chips and a Sprite for the helicopter ride. He fumbled for the change needed to get the chips almost dropping one of his bags in the process. The first quarter dropped in the machine with a few clicks. The second followed but had bigger results. A split second before Draper went deaf from the explosion, thousands of shards of glass from the machine sliced through his face and chest.

Draper was dead before he hit the floor. Seconds later, a black Miata sped out of the parking lot, a slight grin on his face. He picked up the mobile fun and speed dialed. As the remote line rang, he turned up the music to drown out everything else. He couldn’t hear the other end pick up the phone, but he knew they would, and the music delivered the message. He would collect the other half of his payment later that day.


Down time was always fun for him. A person can only take so much killing before they have to take a break and smell the roses along the path of life. Movies was his answer. He loved nothing more than a good movie to escape into, often imagining he was the hero or occasionally the villain. Either way, it was his fun time.

The Majestic Theatre was his favorite place to check out the newest movies. He felt as if he owned the place because of the amount of time he spent there, and had considered buying the theatre when he went legite. Until then, more new movies. Today’s movie of choice had the appearance of a typical action flick with lots of guns and mindless violence. Not his favorite, but typically amusing enough to life his spirits.

Today he was accompanied by Juli who worked over at the 82nd Street Deli. Not his first date with her, but he couldn’t dedicate any feeling to her because of his job and lifestyle. She knew it though, and enjoyed his company. Good for him, she was very tolerant and didn’t ask questions about his work, or some past incidents. As the lights dimmed they both kicked their feet up and positioned themselves to enjoy the film.

The previews rolled by displaying upcoming nights where he would be in the same place, at about the same time, maybe even with the same company. Juli nudged him away from his thoughts after she noticed him zoning out, he smiled in return. Seconds after the last preview something happened that he wasn’t quite expecting, his pager went off. For most people this was a typical occurrence, for him, it was much worse.

In less than a second he jumped up as if his seat had caught on fire. Half leaning over, he whispered to Juli while handing her his pager and some money. He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before running down the aisle and out the side door. A small sigh is all Juli could do as she clipped the pager on her belt, pocketed the money, and sat back counting the minutes pass.

Exactly ten minutes later, the theatre burst into living hell as twenty armed federal agents stormed the aisles. Juli acted quite surprised at the intrusion and cooperated with the big armed men. Even answering all the questions about the strange man trying to pick up on her, it still took two hours before they were satisfied with all of her answers.

She walked home with a small grin on her face, impressed that he always managed to get away like that. It was only a matter of days before he called her again, asking to make it up to her, which always turned out to be a nicer night than any of the movies. Until then, work as usual.. and puzzlement over who always paged him like that, why he was wanted, and how he always managed to get away.


Since the first time he received that page, he couldn’t help but wonder who his guardian angel was. Like other parts of his life, the near busts were almost like clockwork, coming once every three months, almost to the day. Someone high up saw it in his or her best interest to keep him alive.. he just wanted to know who and why. Was it his employers looking out for a good employee? Or perhaps someone else higher up that sanctioned his actions.

Each time the page came it only said “escape”. The first time it had happened he almost didn’t make it out in time because he was unsure of what it meant exactly. His latest was unexpected only because he had forgotten it was a leap year. He was expecting it tomorrow even though he had no idea where he would have been.

Two days later he walked into the deli where Juli worked and asked for a BLT and diet coke. Juli smiled warmly at him before telling him it would be another hour before she was off. As usual the place was fairly busy serving the lunch crowd of surrounding businesses. Since Juli opened every weekday morning, she was always off by early afternoon leaving the rest of the day for whatever.

Two o’clock rolled around as she finished up the midday duties. A few minutes after she came out from behind the counter and sat next to him. She seemed quite happy to see him which always brought a smile to his face. He cleaned up his lunch mess before they headed out to spend the day together. Making it up to her was always enjoyable since he usually spent the entire day out on the town with her. From past conversations, he had gathered that she didn’t get out much which would explain her good mood each time they spent the day together. Either way, there was something else about her today that seemed different.


Their first stop was a small café a few blocks away on 91st Street. The café was nothing more than a hole in the wall, but the coffee was outstanding and the place was littered with old computers hooked in to the internet. Since he never bought a computer of his own, but maintained several email addresses to stay in touch with various contacts, trips to the café were frequent. He liked the anonymous access this place gave him. Julie liked to hang out on IRC and chat with a few friends from Texas where she used to live.

Juli enjoyed a Latte while she chatted on “#texas” while he went to each of his accounts checking mail. There were only a handful of people this early in the day, each scattered about drinking and chatting about daily affairs. It ended up taking the better part of two hours to finish everything up. He threw down a twenty to cover their tab and left the rest as a tip for the computer time. From there, they headed toward the zoo.


Despite the beautiful surroundings and the exotic wildlife, the two walked hand in hand throughout the zoo very slowly. Conversation seemed to turn back to a variety of daily chat rather than their normal deeper conversations. Every time he looked at her she seemed to glance away as if she had been studying him. He had a feeling this would come some day or another, not that he was ready for it by any means.

His mouth opened several times but shut a split second later each time. Everything he thought to say to start the conversation on his terms just didn’t sound right after his mouth opened. She saw his nervousness and grinned. Realizing he just couldn’t get things started, she began.

I’ll start, not that I know where to begin really. I guess you are probably expecting this to come some day or another. Hope you understand where I am coming from with this.”

He nodded and smiled to himself, impressed with her strength, as she continued on.

Ever since we met I could tell you valued your privacy, and I know you offer what information or feelings that you can, but I want to know you better. I mean, I know you can’t talk about your job much for whatever reasons, but I know you can tell me more about you.”

It took him several minutes to digest what she said and plan his typical carefully worded reply. They continued walking while he figured out what to say to her. Even after thinking of how to start, it took a poke in the ribs to actually begin.

Well, you’re right about the job. I can’t talk about it for a lot of reasons, some personal, some professional. What you don’t understand is that the personal reasons keep me distant, not the professional reasons. I don’t know how to explain this really. I guess its a really big catch 22 of sorts.”

He took a pause from his confusion and led her down a path toward the aquariums. While he walked he couldn’t help but to look down at his feet, unable to make eye contact with her. Squeezing her hand tightly in his, he continued on.

As for my past, its the typical college drop out story or something. Been on my own since I was sixteen. Finished high school before working as a computer technician for a while. Started contracting for some interesting groups who did some different things. Ended up doing a little college while I worked for them, but dropped out because the money was better. While I worked there they kept training me in different areas, and here I am.”

She half squinted one eye and looked at him as he told his story. She could tell he was leaving the most interesting parts out, but that was fine. It was more than obvious he couldn’t talk about a lot of it. She figured it had to do with one of the secret government agencies or another, and because of his use of computers she guessed it had to do with hacking or spying or something. She didn’t really care to know since he made sure it never affected her.

Even though they had only known each other for ten or eleven months, she felt a deep liking for him. Every time she thought about the whole thing, she could never really tell if it was love until she was with him. Then, she couldn’t deny it.

Well, that’s a start I guess, but certainly not the finish.”

She smiled really big letting him know she was happy with his explanation for now. Not wanting to let him off the hook so easily, she kept going.

First off, can I assume that you haven’t seen anyone else since we started hanging out? And if not, why not?”

He looked over at her surprised at how straight forward she was and laughed quietly. At least this was an easy question to answer.

The reason I am never with anyone is because I need complete and unconditional acceptance from them. But I can’t make them promise that without knowing all about me.. which I can’t tell them without that unconditional acceptance. So I am always in a bind of sorts. This goes back to the Catch 22 and why I don’t talk about certain things. If I could somehow manage to find someone willing to accept me at face value, and to unconditionally accept who I am, then I guess I could be a little more open. Just a matter of finding that person who can truthfully do that. And let me tell you, it would be a little more than ‘disturbing’ what I would tell that person. Do you see what I mean?

He wasn’t sure if she could ever fully comprehend what he just said, and even less sure she would respond positively to it.

Basically, I would tell that person a lot of really frightening things, and have to rely on them to accept them, and then accept me afterwards. Since I know what I would tell them, it gives me a good basis for never telling anyone.”

He glanced at her trying to measure her response, silently hoping this would be it. He had desperately wanted to find a companion in life, someone who could share his dark past and his dark present. Someone that could look past that and see the whole story. He had given up on finding anyone long ago because of the weird nature of his work. The smile slipped away from her as she considered what he said. They both knew it was an offer of sorts, but she wasn’t sure what was to come if she said ‘yes’.

Well, it’s kind of hard for me too. I can’t promise that I will accept it since I don’t know what it is. There are some things that I don’t like and I refuse to deal with. On the other hand there are a few things most people consider ‘twisted’ that I have always looked past.”

Her ability to reason and look at all points of a problem had always been appealing. She knew exactly what was up and just had to decide whether or not if she wanted to take that chance. He gave a sincere smile to her to try to comfort her. She hesitated with her response but finally managed to continue.

Let me think about it tonight. I can see it in your face that this isn’t some trivial bullshit, and that it is something I really have to consider. Do you mind?”

Of course not! Take all the time you need….shit..I’m getting paged.”

He checked his pager to see a message indicating his services were needed once again. Of course he would get paged right now.

I have to go. I probably won’t be able to see you for two or three days but when I get back I will find you.”

I understand. I guess this works out for both of us. It will give me time to think about it, and time for you to worry about my answer.”

She gave him a big mischievous smile after her response. Better keep him on his toes she figured. They said their goodbye’s and took off in opposite directions, more because it felt like a parting of ways, not because they were really going different directions. Both walked with the weight on their shoulders.


It was three days before he returned to town, happy with his performance during the job. The time to wind down was definitely upon him because of minor complications over the past three days. He took some time to clean his place up a little, grab a few days worth of snacks in case he spent time at his place, and to ready himself for Juli’s answer. He actually hadn’t thought about it much because of everything else happening, but now it was the only thing on his mind.

He picked up and set down the phone at least five times before he could muster the nerve to call her. The conversation went a little roughly because of the nervousness on both sides, but he managed to pick a time and place to meet her. Now, he had to find a way to pass the hours before they met. Those hours seemed longer than anything he had ever encountered.

He walked into the restaurant with a fear he had never faced before. The feeling unnerved him to the point he almost couldn’t go through with it. To top it off, his mind raced trying to figure out why he was losing control of himself like this. It was just one woman! He looked around nervously trying to find her, unsure if she had already shown up. He wandered around the various sections to see if she had already grabbed a table.

After walking through the entire place he headed back up to the front to wait for her. As he walked into the lobby he saw her walking through the front door. His heart stopped beating while they took a few more steps to stand face to face. Sweat dripped down from his armpits and his hands were very moist. He wasn’t sure why this was such a big deal, but nothing he did could make his body quit reacting like it was.

They both said ‘hi’ and turned to head toward a table. He glanced over at her and couldn’t help but wonder about the look on her face. She had a very intent look in her eyes which betrayed the half smile she showed. His mind read it as an extreme; either very good or very bad. Something about the way she was smiling today made him wonder about her intentions. This was quite different for him as he was accustomed to reading her like a book.

After the standard procedure of ordering drinks, appetizers, and the main course, it came down to it. He had made idle chat with her waiting for them to be alone for a little bit. Unable to contain himself, he started off.

I take it you have had time to think about our talk the other day…

Before he could finish she was nodding ‘yes’.

So.. after thinking about things.. I mean.. damn you! You’re enjoying this aren’t you?”

A big smile crept over her face as he said that since that was exactly her plan.

So throw caution to the wind..

He scooted up and leaned on the table anxious as he had ever for anything. His hands kept clinching back and forth, sweating like mad. His left foot was tapping quickly to some other beat or thought he had been having. His mind played out every scenario for every possible answer she could give. His heart screamed as he waited for her to say something. It was then that he realized what had made him lose control over all of this. One simple little thing. True and unconditional love for her. Now he only had to wait half a second more before he knew if the feeling was mutual…


Another day on the job. He never knew what order it would be in, just that he would kill, escape, and get paid. It had been like that for years now which was mutually beneficial to both he and his employers. Not that he really knew who they were, nor did he care. Some gut feeling told him that if he did know, someone like him would be hired to pass him along. Oh well, another day… but now, it would be another day with someone who accepted him for who he was. And that meant everything in the world.

#451: Honor Among Thieves

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]


Mark had been with this crew for over a year now. As was custom, you just didn’t ask a lot of questions. He knew very little about the others in the group, only that once every month they would get together, run a score, and back to the daily life of each. One of four, yet as a team they were not to be trifled with. A special task force had been formed three and a half years ago to try and catch the leader of this crew. Over the years, members would filter in and out, but one had stayed in seemingly forever.

He didn’t know much about Jeremy as a person. He could attest to Jeremy’s technical skill when it came to crime. Top of the line entry guy, good with planning and strategy, equally proficient with explosives, sharpshooter, electronics, you name it.. Jeremy could do it. Despite his wide variety of skills, most scores relied on having a well trained crew that trusted each other, that worked well together. Getting on his team was more difficult than getting any job or car loan. Very few people knew about his team, fewer made it on.

There were maybe five teams across the world of this caliber, and he was on it. Sometimes it bug him that he couldn’t talk about it, couldn’t tell his friends what an honor it was. Funny he should think of that word, because most criminals were without honor. It was something that no one could understand unless they were within the criminal element. Most ‘good’ people couldn’t comprehend the thought of ‘honor’ and ‘thief’ in the same sentence. Yet it was there.. a strict yet unofficial code many of them lived by. Jeremy demanded it of his team at all costs.

Conner had been with the team for almost two years from what he knew. As far as a timeline, he had no idea how long Jeremy was active before the task force was formed, only events since that. New to the team was Ben. As was procedure, all members of the crew had to meet and agree on any new members, but Jeremy had final say. Ben had come highly recommended from the network, possessed all the skills needed to fill in the recently retired Lane, and seemed like a good guy all around. As with most new members, proficiency was rarely a problem, liking the person was the issue.

The night had come for their monthly score. The pace Jeremy kept was beautiful. Instead of going for super high risk, super high payoff, he used his skill to plan moderate hits. Each month would bring them money to live six months. This allowed each member to put away money for a healthy and early retirement. In trade for smaller scores, the risk was almost non-existent to them. One thing that you never saw in these groups was the cut this group experienced. It was customary that a leader take an increased percentage for planning and ‘allowing’ others to join in. With Jeremy, it was different. Most hits, he took a smaller percentage than anyone else, sometimes just enough to live comfortably until the next score.

They sat in the basement of some rented house, preparing for the hours to come. Plans of the building, highlighted routes to take, backup plans, emergency escape routes, frequencies of police, even alternate scores nearby if the original couldn’t be worked out. Once everyone had given indication they were ready, they headed out. As was customary in groups of this nature, an unofficial ‘rank’ was held by each member based on time with the group. That put Conner in second, him in third, and Ben in fourth. Since joining the group, there was never a time where this came up, but the feeling was always present, and fully understood.

Mark sat there with Jeremy on the fire escape, quietly watching the neighborhood below. The watch showed ten more minutes before they had to move, giving them both reason to lean back against the wall. Looking at Jeremy he noticed his ever vigilant eyes scanning the scene below, a slight smile trying to escape.

Can I ask you a question Jeremy?

Of course, what’s up?

Well, I was just wondering why you always took a smaller cut than the rest of us. I mean, you plan these hits with such precision, you catch every little detail, and basically provide a foolproof plan. The scores are always well worth it financially.. and other team leads out there seem to take more in return for that. Why are you different?

Hm.. strange that you are the first to ask. Hell, Conner has never put that question to me. Anyway, because of certain incidents in my past, I value loyalty more than you know. There is a certain honor among thieves that I look for. That honor is worth a lot to me, especially in the network now. More and more upstarts are in it for all the wrong reasons, and would kill their mother to score an extra dollar. That is wrong.

Yeah, I have run into a couple like that. Didn’t like any part of them so I always moved on. Dunno what it is about them, but I definitely know what you are talking about.

As I said, past incident have taught me that honor among thieves is foremost in the network, whether people know about it or not. Long ago I vowed never to be in the position where I had to deal with dishonor like that. So, I struck out on my own, and here I am. That is one of the reasons I take my time finding new people to hook up with. Just not worth the the time to deal with someone like that.

Figured it was something like that, but just wanted to see what you thought. Thanks Jeremy.

Yup.

The watch set them into motion. Mark reached into a bag next to him and drew out a grappling iron. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Jeremy nod, triggering his throw. The iron flew out away from the building, dragging a soft black rope behind it. The graceful arc it formed took it over a twenty foot alley and onto the far side of the opposite roof. Pulling it taught, he felt it latch onto the AC unit resting on stilts. Silently, the two thieves swung out onto the rope and slid down.

Jeremy went into action once on the roof. Unpacking various gear, he set up shop in front of the door that provided roof access. It took him several minutes to setup a temporary bypass for the alarm, and only twenty seconds to pick the lock of the door. What was that, five minutes total to get into the building? With an appreciative smile he patted Jeremy on the back once and handed him a black duffel bag. Both slipped into the building, empty bags in hand. He gave a radio check to the other team and slid down two flights of stairs.

Twelve minutes, thirty seconds.. to the second, and they were back on the roof, each with one full bag. Radio check showed the streets were clear, so they made their escape, cleaning their tracks. When the police arrived the next day, they would find no signs of forced entry, no fingerprints, nothing on the cameras in the building, no heat sensors tripped, motion detectors still armed, and one cabinet completely empty of its normal contents.

Profits from that score were nice. They were all amazed at how much clients were paying for information. This last score was one set of manuals from the corporate office of Brindel Security Systems, giving full details of bypassing every alarm they were capable of installing. It was ironic that Jeremy could already do it, but the client wanted the complete set of manuals, nothing else.

=-=

The new month had arrived, drawing them all to the rented basement like moths to the flame. As countless months before, they planned out the score for that night, drilling the plans into their head. Once done with the plans, they decided to split up for dinner before heading on to the site. He and Conner wrapped up and headed for the door, with plans to hit Arby’s. Before he could get out the door, Jeremy asked him to stay for a minute. Conner continued outside to wait.

Thanks for staying Mark…

No, glad you said something. I had a question about tonight but didn’t want to bring it up in front of the others.

I figured you would wonder, so its better that you ask now instead of doubt later.

Yeah. Well, obviously I would be better suited on the back entrance with you. And, you seem to split the team so that you are always with me or Conner… why Ben?

I guess a test of sorts. I have doubts, and this should alleviate those concerns.

Gotcha… see you later.”

Dinner was un-eventful, he and Conner sat in near silence. Both silently reviewed the plans to make sure everything would be fine. Even though they rarely teamed up, conversation didn’t seem natural between them, so neither forced the issue. They wrapped it up and headed out to get ready.

They were all in place at midnight. Things were going smooth as usual. Six minutes after the patrol car turned the corner, Jeremy gave the word that set them into action. He and Conner entered through the second story side window as planned. Unlike other hits, this one involved three people doing entry, only one on watch because of the relaxed environment. Also unusual was the time they spent in the place, almost three hours.. and the time crawled like never before.

=-=

He and Conner were the first ones back to the basement. It would be another fifteen minutes before the other two arrived, so they set down their bags on the table, prepared to view the loot. Instead of emptying his bag he stepped back a few paces and reached to his back. It had never been used before, and he was scared of his own actions now, but it had to be done. While Conner emptied his sack, he screwed the suppressor onto the end of the .22 and leveled it at his team mate.

A guttural cough was all it took to make Conner realize something was amiss. He turned to face his friend, and found a problem.

Why Conner?

What the fuck are you talking about?

You know the rules, why steal from the rest of the team? From Jeremy?

Man, you have flipped… what are you talking about stealing?

Third room on the left, roughly eight thousand dollars in the fourth drawer down. I was watching from the door.

You must be tripping or something. There was no money…

Last chance. Please.. please don’t make me do this…

Fuck you…

Honor among thieves… rule number one. Honor among thieves…

With a look of anguish, he chambered the first round, and waited five seconds. After no response he held the gun up and fired once. Conner went reeling back, the force of the bullet strong enough to knock the other man down. His first and only shot pierced Conner’s heart, killing Conner almost instantly. The shot stunned him.. he had never shot anyone before. Time escaped him as he stared at the body, the world around him far away.

He heard a muffled voice from somewhere. Again. A third time and he realized it was his name. The fourth time and he snapped back to this world and looked around. Jeremy stood at the door, his face featureless. Now that he thought about it, he had just killed the second, without consulting the first. Without a word, he turned to face Jeremy, gun still leveled.

As soon as he realized he was aiming the gun at Jeremy he pushed it out, bringing no reaction from Jeremy. As he sat there with arm outstretched, gun leveled, he could barely comprehend his actions. He let go of the gun, letting it spin around his trigger finger, and the gun came to a rest barrel down. He nodded once indicating that Jeremy should take the weapon. As he let go of the gun, his arm dropped down to his side.

I can explain everything Jeremy…

Hmm… this gun seems light.

Jeremy pulled the clip out and held it up to the dim light in the room. It was as he suspected.

You only had one shot Mark…

Yes. I never wanted to use it, but I carry the gun for that reason specifically. Conner stole from you. From all of us.

I know. I saw him do it tonight, as well as times before…

You… you knew?!

I never said who I was testing earlier. Welcome to my family… brother.

#442: Solitude Standing

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]


I dunno.. I haven’t heard from him in two weeks.

Yeah, me neither. Well, email here and there, but nothing else really.

Think he is alright? I mean, he used to hang out all the time with us…

I dunno… wanna give him a call?

He hasn’t answered his phone in two weeks. Hasn’t returned any pages either I don’t think. Julie said he didn’t return her pages…

Guess he isn’t talking to anyone.

  • day

11:02a on the status bar. An hour and a half had passed and he had already sent 62 pieces of email to 47 people in 4 countries. He pressed ‘x’ and the screen replied “deleting 400, keeping 130“. The mail he considered important had been replied to, mail that would take more effort to reply to left for the afternoon.

  • break

10:44p on the status bar. He had no idea how many pieces of mail he had sent over the day. Well over two hundred; not that it mattered, but it was amusing keeping track. Another day had passed without leaving the apartment. What was that.. three days?

  • day

He woke up at 1:13pm and lay in bed for 10 minutes relaxing. His cat had jumped on the bed and lay across one of his arms, repeatedly nudging his shoulder. Smiling, he reached over with his free arm and scratched the cat on the neck. “I’ll feed you in a few minutes, son.” Climbing out of bed he tried to shake off the fatigue he felt. Another day of three hours of sleep. He reminded himself to look up the exact definition of insomnia later that day.

The shower hadn’t even warmed up before the phone rang; the eighth time that morning. He let it ring a second time to ensure caller ID information had passed, then picked up with a quick ‘hello’.

Yes, I just woke up…

No, I haven’t read my email.. someone’s at the door, I’ll call you later.

He slammed the phone down in disgust. Just because he slept at different hours of the day did not mean he was lazy. Each night he slept four hours less than most of his ‘friends’, yet got nothing but shit about his sleeping schedule. Fuck them. They wonder why he didn’t want to talk to them? If they can’t show simple understanding about such a simple thing as sleeping schedule, how could they understand anything else going on in his mind.. his life? Obviously, they couldn’t. Still disgusted, he climbed in the shower.

  • break

Lets see.. new Fiona single, Portishead, Ani, new KMFDM, and 5th Element soundtrack. How does that sound kid?

His cat looked up at him with an almost quizzical look. Its not like the cat would ever respond, despite a cat having over one hundred distinct vocal sounds. However, the cat appeared to understand the gist of what he said, and loved the attention. ‘shuffle’; ‘play’, and he closed the glass door on the stereo cabinet. Back to the computer to catch up on email and news.

As he sat down he leaned back to think for a minute. He debated on having his phone line turned off. He didn’t use the phone much at all as it was, and he had the two ISDN channels which could double as a voice line. That would just make it so no one could call in… not a bad thing overall. Or would cancelling his pager be a better thing. These days he didn’t get paged much, and those that did never paged with a code so he could recognize the number. That left a handful of random numbers each week, 20% of which he recognized and returned.

He looked over and his son let out a single meow. “Yeah, I’ll decide later.

  • week

Aside from family, only his ex had remembered his birthday. She even bought him a present on top of lunch. He didn’t really care about his birthday, as it meant very little. But the action of at least remembering it would have been nice, especially from the various friends he did favors for. ‘Get this info for me’, or ‘can you pick up this’, sometimes ‘can I borrow ten bucks’. Didn’t matter what they asked, it was all a lot less than what they did for him. But he was used to it, and expected for them to forget.

Along with that expectation came the desire to distance himself. Like many things, it was the principal behind it, not the actions (or lack thereof) themselves. Perception is everything.

  • day

He posted to a mail list the other night, but hasn’t answered my mail yet. I don’t know what’s up with him.

Hrm. I called him a few times over the past days and only got his machines. He isn’t answering pages either. Wonder if he is ok…

What a dick.. ignoring pages like that.

  • day

The more time passed, the less reason he could find to stay in touch with the people he used to call friends. It amazed him that they would drop by unexpectedly, hang out for hours on end watching TV and drinking his liquor, but when they hadn’t heard from him for a week, they would barely try to reach him. Because of his current shift in daily routine, he had drug a patch cord out to the living room so he could stay online but watch TV or a movie instead of listening to the stereo.

As before, he loved getting email, but even that had changed. He eagerly anticipated getting mail from a handful of people, and barely opened his eyes to sort the other hundred pieces from mail lists. On his list were a few local people he still cared for. Others included a friend from New York, someone he had never met from the ‘Midwest’, a handful of young ‘students’ he was helping in various areas, and one or two other random people that wrote with great infrequency.

Despite the lack of physical contact, or voice communication, he felt closer to those people than most others. He wondered what the chances of compatibility were in each person he mailed. Some cases in the past taught him that meeting over the net was not a way to meet compatible people, while sometimes it proved to work out just fine. No clue on what dictated that characteristic or if there was a way to determine it up front. Not like he had to meet any of them or force the issue either. Just curiosity.

  • day

More problems plagued him now than ever before. Not the amount, but how much they weighed on his tired soul. As always, the people that claimed to care about him could barely read him, let alone understand him. It was a known element in his life, and expected. Why he put up with them was beyond him but his own desire for contact and friendship was still there.

The road ahead was unpaved at best, littered with unmarked turns and more than enough potholes. No matter how he tried to look ahead, no matter how he tried to figure out how to get a map, the more obscured his path became. Sometimes he wished destiny or fate would give him a hint as to where to go, other times he didn’t believe in either. Days passed where flipping a coin to determine change in life seemed a pretty damn good method of choosing. Others he was content to sit back and enjoy the solitude of his domicile, content with the world passing him by.

  • break

Whatever happened, he could only rely on where the day takes him.

#409: Shard

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]


Contentness. Satisfaction. With a sly smile, the young man dug in his pockets for his keys. The keyring held various keys for different aspects of his life. A four meg SIMM dangled from it, a sign of his profession. A super mini-maglite next to the RAM. He sorted out the right key and popped the trunk of his ’92 Honda Civic. The trunk lifted up revealing the normal contents he had seen every time before.

A black milk crate filled with car components helped him dozens of times before. Snake light, mini-mag lite, two cans of fix-a-flats, paperwork from his last two car repairs, and other assorted items. Next to that was an old military bag filled with common tools; screw drivers, hammer, wrench, and more. Toward the back of the trunk was a metal pole in case he ran into unfriendly types. He glanced both ways to make sure no one was paying any special attention to him, not that they would have a reason, but he always liked to make sure.

It was a beautiful day out, more so because he rarely left his apartment during the day. He set the red plastic cup on the back bumper and put on a set of cheap gloves. After he emptied the trunk of the normal contents, he set to task. Throughout the trunk were small shards of glass, littering the carpet like stars on night. Starting in the upper right corner, he moved clockwise through the trunk removing the glass. Each piece rolled off his gloves into the cup.

It was only five hours before, his friend had thrown a twenty pound rock through the window of a computer repair shop. He had followed the rock through seconds after and began to gather up items in the store. By the count of ten both men were in the store, thieves of the night. Twenty, and his friend’s bag had several hard drives in it. Thirty and he had removed all cable connections from their primary server, his friend with a full bag already. Forty seconds and his friend was heading out with bag in one hand, a stack of routers balanced on his other. Fifty seconds and he was running out the window he had entered, a full tower server under each arm. Both weighed quite a bit, but felt like empty pizza boxes because of the adrenaline.

Three minutes after the rock sailed through, they were turning onto the frontage road, entering the freeway. No sign of police, nothing else out of the ordinary. It was only fifteen more seconds before they were free to relax. Once on the highway, they were just two guys going home late at night. He remembers pulling into the apartment complex a big smile on both of their faces, content with their new found possessions. Neither could afford it on their individual incomes, but none of the equipment they had liberated were required by any means. Just an easy way to get new toys to play with, to learn about. It was a great way to enhance their skillset in order to progress in the computer industry.

Twenty minutes had passed and half the glass shards were out of the trunk and into the cup. No matter what they did, glass always ended up in the car or their clothes. It would be weeks later and one of them would find a piece of glass in a shirt pocket or cuff of a sleeve. This had almost become a ritual after a night of energy. More minutes and a few neighbors passed as he continued cleaning. It was rare that he gave thought about the right or wrong of what he did. He had no problems doing that kind of thing at night, no moral barriers. The more he thought about it, the more satisfied he was.

People didn’t look at the entire picture most of the time. They saw the short term view, and made a judgement based off that shallow view. The following day someone had to replace the broken window. That provided more work for the glass companies, helped pay the salary of the installation guy, produced more orders for replacement glass. The police would surely be called in to take reports, providing them with their somewhat daily routine. The insurance company of the computer store would receive a call, one or two of their agents would spend part of their day filling out paperwork in order to replace the stolen equipment. The computer store was not full of morons, so because of clever paperwork, the store actually made a few dollars profit on the missing equipment. The companies that made the hardware will receive purchase orders to replace the originals.

Add it all up, and not much was truly lost. More good came out of the ‘crime’ than bad, yet no one saw it that way. Or maybe they did. Maybe that explains why police are so casual about crimes of that nature, and never seem really interested in catching the bad guys unless the criminals happen to fall in their lap. Who knows. The last piece of glass fell into the cup, the trunk closed. He headed across the parking lot toward his front door, and without a second thought tossed the plastic cup into the dumpster. One cup of broken glass is all there was to represent hours and hours of work and legitimate business for all those other people.

Not like it mattered that his actions went unappreciated. He ended up with new equipment to play with. Half a dozen other people ended up with more work in order to pay their bills and move on in their life. If they stopped to think about it, they should probably thank him. But he knew it wouldn’t come to that. He had plenty of thanks already, in the form of a weak security system, poor response time, and bad placement of equipment. He laughed as he thought about sending them a thank you card. As quick as the notion had occurred, it passed on, leaving him with a slight smile. And a small cut on his thumb. Oh the price that is paid.

#355: Loving Solitude

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]


The gavel clapped against the podium a third time, and the room fell silent. Glancing around to make sure everyone was paying attention, the auctioneer motioned for the two assistants to bring out the next piece. From the left of the small stage, two ladies dressed in black carried out a covered painting. Lifting it up a little more, they deposited it on an awaiting stand, and quickly moved off back to the left.

With a final look to the audience, the auctioneer moved over and quickly removed the velvet cloth that hid the painting. As the cover dropped off, a few people shifted to get a better look as it became fully revealed but immediately moved back to their previous position, apparently in disappointment. With a reluctant sigh, the auctioneer moved back to the podium and cleared his throat.

“This piece of work was recently donated to our foundation by an anonymous donor. Nothing is known about the artist, and little is known about the history of this piece beyond a few years. Since it’s age and artist are unknown, bidding will begin at two hundred dollars.”

It took a few seconds before an elderly lady raised her hand to offer the small amount. No one really seemed interested in the piece but everyone knew that if no one bidded on it, the charity would not do as well as it had the previous year. After a few minutes, the bidding reached three hundred and forty two dollars. A small smile crept over the auctioneer’s face when the bidding slowed down, because he knew that the next piece would be much more exciting and fetch a lot more money.

“Three hundred forty. Do I hear three hundred and fifty? Going once….Going twice…”

As the gavel started it’s downward swing, a tall gentlemen who had been standing in the doorway stepped forward and spoke up.

“One thousand dollars.”

Looks of astonishment and surprise hit every face in the room as people craned their necks to see who had bid such a ridiculous amount on this piece of art. Strange looks and questioning glances spread around the room like wildfire as the man slowly approached the
front of the room. As he reached the podium he slowly turned to face the room full of people and spoke up in a deep voice.

“I can help put a more accurate price on this work and tell you the story of the painting if you wish. Believe me, after this story, you shall deem this piece priceless.”

Disbelief could be seen on each and every person’s face as he finished. Turning to the auctioneer he looked him dead in the eye before turning back to the crowd seated before him. No one spoke up to stop him so he continued.

“I shall now relate the tale of Daryth and Aryn as I promised the artist after he finished the piece. Many of you will be skeptical of my story and if so, it is your loss. Know that I tell this….as it truly happened.”


“Our story takes place in the foothills of the mountains in Eastern Kriandia in the year 1056, Year of the Crescent. At the mutual base of the two tallest peaks, a stretch of forest ran through on both sides of a cleared trail. To both sides of the trail, the forest gradually rose to cover each of the peaks and continue beyond. It was several miles from peak to peak and the valley was well over ten miles long. Just over a fortnight to the south was the town of Camishal, the largest trading center this side of the continent. The outlying town of Britania was just under a fortnight to the north, and the only other civilization in the area. Traffic between the two cities was quite heavy, especially during the later fall months, with everyone trying to get to one place or the other so they could settle in for the harsh winters that always came.

This valley between the two peaks was well known as a natural resting place amongst the beautiful trees and open forest. During the more recent years, brigands and bandits had used the place as an ambush sight for weary travelers who were not armed. Rumor had it that for years, the valley was inhabited by a guardian who protected innocent travelers and saw to the safety of the road but years ago, the protection people had relied upon disappeared. It was believed that the man died at the hands of brigands, although some people still maintained that he moved, to take residence in other parts of the land. Regardless, the roads had not been completely safe for years.”

Looking around, the man saw that everyone was becoming more and more interested in the story as he told it. Some of the patrons had leaned back to get more comfortable, and others had leaned forward in their chairs to hear the story better. Either way, he was fulfilling his promise made years ago.


“Eight miles to the north of the valley was a small community of farmers and a few merchants that had settled in a quiet grove. Although more and more people settled there until it had grown into a small town, it was still considered peaceful compared to most other cities. Protection for this town was provided by the Duke of Carolina who had built a keep to the east. Bandits and brigands kept their distance from this town because of the keep and the small army that dwelled there in his keep.

That year was the Duke’s daughter’s twenty first birthday, and a huge celebration was in preparation. Since birth, attendants and maids had taken care of the young woman, and had seen to her every need. The maiden had never left the walls of the city since she was born, due to her father’s orders. Her father had always been protective of her, but she had grown accustomed to living inside the town. Even her trips into market or other places in town were always cut short by her father’s orders and worrying about her well being. When she awoke the morning of her birthday, she quickly ran through the castle to find her father in hopes of catching him before he left for town. In the dining hall she found him and begged to talk to him before he left. When she told him that she wanted to leave the city for the day in order to explore the fields and woods near the castle, he immediately began laughing. He thought it the most foolish request, but he slowly realized that she had turned twenty one and had never left the town.

The sun shone high above head and the noise of the marketplace carried to the front gates of the castle as the massive doors swung open to reveal the maiden. To each side of her was a burly soldier armed with more weapons than a bird has feathers. It was under her father’s orders that if she decided to leave the castle, she would be under heavy protection in case something happened. Running full speed away from the gates and down toward the market place, the two guards struggled to keep up. Seemingly tireless, the young girl wandered the market for hours before heading farther into town to explore even more. Late afternoon approached and the girl hadn’t stopped for one bit, not even to eat or drink, and not a sign of fatigue crossed her face. Her two guards had long ago given up looking rigid and stolid, for the weight of the afternoon sun was almost as great as that from the weapons covering their bodies.

Needless to say, they were not surprised, or happy, when she announced her intentions of taking a walk through the woods to the south of town. Sprinting out of the town gates, the two guards jogged and tried their best to keep up with the young girl, and prayed to their gods that she would grow tired very soon. A cool breeze blew through the forest, cooling off everyone and everything after the long hot day, and the guards felt as if their prayers had been answered. As the sun slowly approached the western peak both men realized they were a good ways from the castle, and that it was getting late. And even worse, should something happen to the daughter of their liege, they would be thrown into prison if they survived their punishment.

Catching up to the energetic girl, both guards quickly spoke up and told her that they should be returning to the keep before it got too dark out. Mock cries of protest rang through the valley as she complained about how much fun she was having and how much she enjoyed being out here. A small but friendly argument ensued and it was finally agreed that they would go back after she took a brief swim in a stream they had passed a few minutes ago. Heading back to the stream she lead the two men on smiling the whole way. Once there she ordered them to head on back a little ways, that she wanted to have some privacy. Slowly removing a strap from her gown, she stopped until they had turned around and left the immediate area.

Sprinting through the woods with no shoes on, her happiness was apparent as her smile shone through the woods, almost lighting the way for her. The sun had almost completely left the woods engulfing it in darkness. What had minutes ago been beautiful trees had now turned into vile monsters intent upon catching her as she ran on. Direction meant nothing to her as she fled the guards behind her and the shadows pressing down and her only thoughts were of getting back to the keep in one piece. The brilliant smile that had adorned her face fled as fast as she did, and a pure look of terror took shape on her lovely features.

She didn’t know how much time had passed, but she knew that she must have been running for a good fifteen minutes in the same direction. Despite the running the woods still looked unfamiliar to her. Stopping to catch her breath and get her bearing it took her a minute to realize that it was now almost completely dark out. The only trace of sun was a deep lavender in the skies above providing just enough light to give the trees a sinister appearance and frighten her. Adding to that fear she began to recall the stories from merchants and travelers that had passed through the woods in-between the peaks. The only other recollection was that the protector of the woods had left years ago, leaving merchants on their own, fair prey for any highwaymen that may be in the area. Trying to push those thoughts from her head, she quickly thought of pleasant stories she had heard growing up in the keep while forcing herself to smile despite the fear that had taken ahold of her.

Hours passed of walking in what appeared one direction before she sat down to rest. Blisters had formed on her feet over an hour ago and the pain from them slowly traveled up her legs and began to fatigue her. Sitting with her back to a tree she began to look around at the trees again once again trying to get her bearing. A single tree caught her attention and thinking back a little, she recalled passing the tree almost two hours ago. A small tear rolled out of her eye and continued down her cheek. With an audible sigh, she pulled her legs closer to her chest and lowered her chin to her knees in resignation. Sleep took her almost instantly.

Time had no meaning while she slept, but no matter how much time had actually passed, an eternity had passed in her dreams. Sometime later a loud snap sounded somewhere nearby. It took her a minute to realize that she was awake, and that the sound had not been in her mind like all of the others. Hesitating, she opened one eye and looked up. Although it was still night, the forest had taken on an odd glow from some light source that reflected off of a fog bank that had appeared while she slept. Opening the other eye while looking up brought her a startling surprise. She was not alone. Around her, five figures had taken position to cut off her escape. Each figure was wrapped in the fog standing about twenty feet from her and after a little closer scrutiny, each was carrying a sword. Terror gripped her and her heart began beating like a rabbit on the chase.

Without a word, all five figures moved toward her brandishing their weapons. Using the tree as support, the maiden pushed herself up with her legs and reached back to grab the tree for support. Her breathing became more labored and her eyes darted back and forth between each of the brigands approaching her. Together, they formed a small ring around her, each pointing their blade toward her. A tall gruff man stepped forward and dropped the tip of his sword toward the ground a little. She thought about screaming but her body would not obey. All she could get out was a muttered gasp.

“Well well. Look at what we got here boys! Seems the little missy got lost and wandered in our woods. ‘Guess tonight won’t be so cold after all.”

The gruff man reached out toward her breasts but seconds before touching her a faint whistle could be heard followed by a dull thump. Looking down she saw an arrow sticking through the man’s hand, apparently appearing out of no where. Screaming and holding his arm, he spun around looking for the person who had shot him. Almost as one, the four figures turned their back on the girl, totally forgetting about her, instead more concerned with their safety. She could see over the shoulder of one of her attackers and glimpsed a silhouette in the distance. The black figure was surrounded by the almost glowing fog that shrouded the rest of the forest. Dropping a bow, the silhouette advanced toward the brigands and drew two swords from sheaths at his sides.

As the brigands advanced to meet their attacker, the girl slid around the tree with intent to run away lest she be captured after they killed her temporary savior. She took one step toward her freedom and ran straight into the chest of another brigand. Grabbing her arm he led her back around the tree and held her tight as he watched the fight. The brigand let out a snarling laugh and looked at his catch.

“Looks like yer savior ain’t gonna live long. Four against one means we is gonna win. Then we gonna take you back to our camp and have some fun.”

Tears ran like a river down her face and fell to the forest floor as she realized the truth of the words. Glancing up she watched as the battle unfolded. A little over twenty feet away, the four brigands had surrounded the dark figure and began taunting him and telling him of the painful death he was about to receive. Looking closer at the group of men she now noticed that each of her attackers held longswords and each wore armor of some kind. None of the bandits seemed to be new to the swords and fighting, and it even seemed that this group was used to fighting together from the way they split up and surrounded the single foe.

Dressed in black, she could tell very little about her would-be savior except that he was tall and well built. He wore a long black cloak with blood red trim that seemed to have a mind of its own. As he moved, the cloak always seemed to stay out of the way of his moving swords, and never opened enough to reveal what was underneath. Despite being attacked from all sides, the lone figure fended off each attack moving in slow circles being careful that he never left his back to a single attacker. It was only a minute later that the brigands altered their attack routine, and began to attack faster and with more precision. With that many swords and that kind of skill, the girl knew that she was as good as dead.

Dancing back and forth, the swordplay kept on for several minutes, with no signs that anything new would happen. The figure in black almost seemed at ease as his twin blades moved around blocking each attack, and seemingly appearing somewhere else to block another a half second later. Growling in frustration, the leader of the group stepped forward intent upon killing this person in hopes of a quick battle. No sooner than he had taken a step, a loud clang resounded from his blade. The maiden gasped as she saw the brigands blade shoot upward and the tip of another sword appear on his back. Falling to his knees, the brigand dropped his longsword and held the wound with both hands as he fell backward, out of the fight.

Seeing their leader drop visibly shook the others attacking this figure. Hesitation by one of the brigands cost him his life as two long gashes appeared on his chest forming an ‘X’, spilling his life in his own hands. With a snap kick to the face, he fell backwards out of the way of the remaining three fighting. A spark of hope flickered in the girls mind as she realized it might be possible for her savior to win the fight.

As soon as the thought entered her mind, it was quickly forced out as the man holding her wrist pulled her backwards toward the tree. Turning her around, he pushed her face first against the tree and planted his knee on her back as he drew some rope from a pouch on his belt. He quickly tied her hands behind her back and then proceeded to tie her feet. Yanking her back around to face her, he growled once and slapped her across the face causing her to fall to ground. Sneering at the girl, the man then moved to join his two remaining companions.

The man in black kept in motion, blocking each attack that came toward him. With only two remaining it was harder to counter the attack since he had to turn 180 degrees each time an attack came in. Looking up from the ground, the girl saw that the brigands had began a pattern attacking her savior that would lead to him wearing down and growing tired, while they kept a safe distance and kept some of their energy. Realizing this, and seeing another foe approaching, the dark figure leaped toward the man approaching him and stabbed outward with both blades producing two lines of red on the bandits neck before he could block either blade. Without hesitation the figure jumped over the body of the fallen man and turned to face the other two brigands who had moved to resume their attack. This time, she noticed that she was right behind him, and the tree right behind her. His move had cost him though, as she looked up she could see a deep cut in the man’s left arm, and another on his right side.

Rolling backwards a little, more in fear of getting stepped on, she hoped to get a better look at the fight and possible get a glimpse of the man who had saved her. With the loss of position, the two remaining attackers lost confidence, and in doing so, quickly lost their advantage. It was a minute later before another man dropped, blood pouring out of where his eyes used to be. Cloak swirling, the figure turned to face the remaining foe and quickly end the fight. Deciding to take his chances on his own in the woods he turned to flee but instead, ended up flat on his face as he got tripped from behind. Breathing deeply he turned over and tried to scoot backwards to escape the man that had just killed the only four friends he had had.

With no expression, and no show of emotion the man in black walked over and touched the tip of one of his swords to the man’s chest. Holding it there, he mouthed something and stabbed downward ending the life of the enemy. Backing up as if in fear of the dead man before him, the savior stopped and looked down at himself. Both swords clattered in front of him as he dropped them and moved both hands to cover his two wounds. An involuntary grunt escaped him and he fell to his knees, visibly hurting. The man in black tried to stay on his knees but could not, and pitched forward into the leaves in front of him.

A faint gasp escaped the lips of the maiden as she watched the figure fall face first, and she realized that he may be dead, because of her foolish actions. She quickly untied the rope bounding her legs and pushed herself toward the fallen man, her only interest in getting to him to help if she could. It seemed like forever before she was even near him and as she drew near she could tell his he was breathing, but it was labored and he was not moving. Cursing herself, the ropes bounding her, and the brigands, she kept moving toward her fallen savior, desperate to help in any way. Finally drawing near she reached out with both hands to feel for a pulse but as her hand drew near another voice sounded out from the woods nearby.

“Do not touch him.”

From behind a tree stepped another figure dressed in similar robes and clothing. On his side were two swords as well. Moving toward her, the new man walked past her and kneeled down to examine the wounded guardian. He checked for a pulse, and then moved on to examine the wounds with his fingers. Wiping the blood on his cloak he rolled the wounded man over and spread his cloak out revealing more of the man beneath. The maiden sat nearby watching the whole thing with a mixture of confusion and concern. Drawing a sword, the new figure stepped back and sliced downward with a quick stroke severing the ropes that bound her.

“Leave us. Head north until you reach a small grove and then turn eastward. Keep moving until you cross a road. From there keep going north and you will be home. Never speak of what you saw here. It is of no concern to you.”

Frightened, the maiden stood up and backed away slowly in front of the armed man guarding his fallen comrade. Visibly shaking, she turned and fled north as instructed, not even looking back to see what was happening. Something in the man’s eyes warned her that if she had protested, she may have ended up like the men who attacked her. As she fled to the north, despite her fear of what took place, something stopped her from running on. Slowing down she placed her hand over her heart and stopped everything. Something felt terribly wrong, she had to turn back. It was beating in her heart, and the compelling thought of returning to help the person who had helped her overwhelmed her.

Slowly she crept back up and stopped behind a tree a good distance from the two figures. She crouched down and made herself as comfortable as possible trying to remain quiet, hoping to find out more about the two men. All thoughts of getting home had long since fled her mind and only the thought of learning more occupied her.

The scene in front of her startled her more than anything else. She was used to such a simple life at the keep, with no worry, and to this day she had never seen a person die, and never even imagined someone dying in such a horrible way. The new figure was moving the bodies of the brigands and arranging them in a row a little to the side of where his fallen comrade lie. Moonlight filtered through the trees above and swept over the small clearing where everyone was, and using the little light from above, she could tell that her savior was still not moving. Perhaps he was dead already, and that thought made her sick to her stomach. Looking back up she watched the man finish moving the corpses away.

The job completed, the new figure once again went to his fallen comrade and checked on him again. The pulse was weak but he had been bandaged and the bleeding had stopped. It still didn’t look good. Kneeling down the man pulled back his cloak, removed his sword belt, and placed his palm flat on the chest of the wounded swordsman. Closing his eyes he began to chant and slowly lifted his head toward the sky. A pale blue light engulfed his hand and spread outward over the chest and on to the arms, and eventually to the wounds. As the light from the healing spell faded the other man slumped down onto his knees, apparently weaker from the spell. Something made him jerk his head up though, and he reached down for his own blades.

The maiden cursed herself for making so much noise. When the spell began, she couldn’t believe what she saw and had gasped, not sure if this were dream or reality. She huddled down, hugging herself behind the tree praying to all the gods that he had not heard, but she knew he did. Footsteps sounded from the clearing and she could tell he was moving toward her. Panic took her and she debated on running away from the man but she knew she was in no condition to run and no doubt, the man would catch her.

Recalling stories she had read, and tales she had heard, she figured she should at least face any threat as brave as the knights of old, and act like a mature women, which she was. She stood up and slowly caught her breath, and with a final shudder, stepped away from the tree. No sooner had she taken one step as two blades sliced through the air, falling a hair’s width from her chest. The realization that she could and should have been dead hit her and she was a loss for words, however she didn’t need to say a thing, because the warrior in front of her did.

“What did you see?”

The tone of his voice suggested that if she lied, he would know about it, and would kill her. Taking a deep breath and summoning all the courage she could, she whispered:

“Almost everything.”

His eyes closed a little and anger flashed over his face. He held on blade to her neck and drew back the other as if to strike her down, and as he did, she closed her eyes, mouthing a prayer to her god.

Instead of the killing blow she heard a loud ring in front of her face. Opening one eye she saw the blade poised inches from her face. She noticed her savior standing beside her, his own sword stretched out, blocking the killing blow. She realized that he had saved her life again. Relief flooded over her and she took a tentative step back. For the first time she heard him speak. He was leaning against the tree with one hand on the deep cut in his side, the other shaking, but wielding his weapon.

“No Lyell. I can not let you kill her.”

His voice was so soft spoken, and so clear, she could hardly believe this had come from the same man who had minutes ago killed five men, and then almost fell to his own death.

“You know of our vow. It is our way and you are breaking it. Hell, you already broke that vow again by saving her in the first place. You must be crazy.”

“I know. I understand what I have done and that is my decision. You have been my friend for just over two hundred years, all I ask is that you support my decision.”

A look of pure confusion hit her at the talk she had just heard. Two hundred years kept flashing through her mind, and she wondered what he meant by that. Not caring about interrupting their conversation she broke in.

“What do you mean two hundred years? Who are you? Who is he? What vow are you talking about? What did he mean by killing me?”

The one called Lyell that had been ready to kill her growled at her silencing her instantly. Lyell spoke up:

“She knows too much and can’t be allowed to live. If she told anyone, you know what the consequences would be. It just can’t happen. No matter what you think of her. These foolish emotions of yours will get you killed, almost like they did tonight.”

The last comment hit him worse than any blade could have, but he stood there as if unaffected. Lowering his sword, he sheathed it and removed the hood covering most of his face. His gentle features matched his voice perfectly, and she questioned how such a person could take lives with the deadly efficiency that he had shown. That was only one of a thousand questions that flew through her mind each second that passed during their conversation.

“I understand Lyell. All I can say is thank you, and you know that I will repay you one day. Lets sit down, rest and have something to eat and talk about this. Things will work out.”

“By the gods you know I owe you my life a hundred times over, but you know how I am…..fine….lets rest and get refreshment.”

From there they walked north toward the stream she had been at earlier the previous day. The maiden followed nervously not knowing what to do, or what to say, if anything. Following them at a small distance, the past few minutes replayed in her mind and she questioned whether she was dreaming or not. Looking up she noticed that the one called Lyell was staring at her.

“You aren’t dreaming.”

That was all he said before he turned his head and continued leading them on toward the stream. Once they arrived they followed the winding water toward the west a ways, until they reached a small clearing nestling against the slow moving current. Tall grass and shrubs concealed this place well, and once closer, the princess could tell that it had been used quite frequently. The two warriors moved to separate sides of a small ring of stones, and each removed their sword belts and placed them within easy reach. Lyell began digging through a few belt pouches while her savior walked to the stream bank and knelt down.

A few feet from the water, on his knees, he straightened up and clasped his hands in front of him. The maiden slowly stepped to the side and down toward the water to see what he was doing. From the side she could see his hands were not clasped, but rather one fist was pushed into the curved palm of the other. His eyes were closed and the gentle wind blew back his long brown hair. Moonlight cascaded off the water and presented the stream bank with a beautiful pale radiance.

Not wishing to disturb the man, she moved back toward the ring of stones hesitantly. It was obvious that the man called Lyell did not care for her, and wished her dead, but she got the feeling that now they were back here, nothing would happen until they had talked about everything.

Reaching the ring of stones she kneeled down and spread her cold hands over the fire that he had built. After warming her hands a little, she took some cheese and bread offered by the warrior. Lyell then sat down and crossed his legs and looked at her. Taking the hint, she sat back and made herself as comfortable as she could on the rocky beach.

“Since we are here, and we have time, I will tell you more about us, so that your curiosity will not consume you. Know that what you hear now has never been told to another mortal and never will be again if it can be helped.”

Lyell finished off his piece of bread and washed it down with a small sip of some liquid he produced from a wineskin. Leaning back on his elbows he began:

“You know of the legend of the guardian of this forest and the protector of the valley no doubt. Most people know about it, but don’t know the whole story. Hmmph. Most people hardly know the tiniest bit of it. If you think back to the few stories told about the guardian you may realize that he has been around for as long as you remember. Yes, he. It is not a monster like some believe. That guardian is the man who saved your life. Daryth is the name he goes by now and he has been protecting this valley for just over two hundred and thirty two years. I am Lyell as you now know.

I know you have a hard time believing that, as you should, but I speak the truth. When you look at him you see a human about twenty five years old. Don’t let that deceive you. The cloaks we wear are magical, and change our appearance to whatever we need. If we wish to be shadows in the night, then that is what you would see. Nothing more. Anyway, he is the first guardian to keep the form he has always known. That is what he looked like when he lived a normal, mortal, life. That is truly him.

Yes. We are both immortal by your standards. He is three hundred and eighty two years old right now. When he was mortal, he committed crimes that led to this punishment. When the town he lived in was overrun with clerics of evil, he did not convert to the new false religion like everyone else. He kept his faith and fought against the evil clerics despite what his goddess told him to do. He was to leave the town, and seek a new home, and to forget what had happened, but he couldn’t live with himself knowing innocent people were being subjected to false and evil gods. Staying, he fought them every way he knew how. His goddess left him and when he was finally captured, he was sacrificed to the new gods of the town.

As the knife plummeted through his heart, he only remembers a bright flash of light, a second or two of what he calls a trial, and next thing he knew, he had been changed. He woke up in this spot with clothes, two swords, and the cloak next to him. The only thing he remembers is that he was to serve as protector of this valley for two hundred years. After that, he could lead his own life and do whatever he pleased, as long as he didn’t come into contact with other people.

I understand that is a little confusing, let me try to explain better. Two hundred years of protecting the travelers and innocent people was a punishment by the gods, but he didn’t see it that way. He loved every day of it, and took his job more seriously than any other guardian in history. The true punishment lie in not being able to see anyone afterwards, including other guardians. Once the last day of the two hundred years guarding the valley passed, he was free as long as he didn’t make contact with anyone, and if he did, he sentenced himself to another one hundred years of guarding the valley, and solitude.

You see us together tonight, but that is rare. We may only see each other if one of us is hurt, and needs help. By morning I must be gone or we both suffer the consequences. So for the past seven years, he had been fulfilling his vow and staying away from people. He had done that perfectly until this afternoon when he saw you. As soon as you entered the forest he had taken up the responsibility of guarding you. He won’t tell me why he did it, but I can see it in his eyes. Your beauty has taken ahold of his heart and seemingly won’t let go. I do know that he has risked many a trip into town, disguised as a peasant so that he may see you and make sure you are safe. It seems that his love for you is deeper than you could imagine. Take that to heart though, for he has never loved before. Not as a mortal, or as an immortal. I am his only friend right now and that is why we look after each other.

Part of our vow, like all guardians is this: No one can learn of us, what we do, and who we are. If it happens they must die or never tell another soul. Since you live a plush life back in town, and speak with too many people, I say you must die. That is how things must be in my eyes. He sees it differently though, and brought you back to this place to talk.”

She sat back in stunned silence, absorbing everything. Several minutes passed before she could even look up and look into the eyes of Lyell. She almost wished this could be all some cruel joke, or that she would wake up from a bad dream safe in her room, but that didn’t happen. Looking over to Daryth, she couldn’t believe that he had followed her through town on so many days, and couldn’t believe that her beauty had captured him like this other man said, it just wasn’t possible!

“I don’t know why, but I believe you. It’s just so hard to accept all that. To think that he did all that for me, and risked his own life for me is so crazy. I don’t exactly have a lot of people that care for me, and especially not like that.”

She took more time to let all of it sink in, and Lyell cleaned up the area and added wood to the fire in front of them. It had been almost an hour since they had reached the clearing, and the night was about to fade into the morning hours. Daryth still sat at the stream bank, apparently praying or meditating, and he hadn’t moved.

“What is he doing? He’s been there for an hour.”

“That is how we can sense danger. I guard a stretch of woods on the other side of the peak and have taken the night off to make sure he is not wounded too bad. Each of us has our own way, but we sit and meditate and pray to our deities in a special place to us. While we do it, we know of any possible danger within twenty or so miles of us and that is how we can react and make sure nothing bad happens. He will be done in a minute though, and I will begin the sequence while he rests for a little, else he would not get any sleep and that would not be good considering the night he has had.”

The warrior and the maiden sat there for a few more minutes before Daryth dropped his hands and stood up. After standing, he immediately stretched his arms and legs and turned to face the others. Walking up to the fire he belted on his swords and sat down on his knees before getting a small snack of his own. After he ate, he nodded once to Lyell and then turned to face the maiden.

“I hope Lyell explained everything to you. I understand if it is hard to accept, and if you have any questions, please ask.”

“I do have one. What is to become of me? By what he said, I know too much and he wants me dead.”

“That will not happen. Trust me. It is hard to explain but let me try. Since I first saw you from a distance something about you reached out and took ahold of me. That first day in town I followed you from a distance, doing my best to get a good look at you, and wishing more so that I could talk to you. But I couldn’t, so I kept watch that night over your room. I sat on top of a building and made sure you slept as sound as possible. I prayed to Mielikki that you be well rested and protected from any danger. That night, I realized that you were the first person to do that to me. Never had I cared so much about a single person as that day I saw you. It was that day that I broke my one hundred year long vow of never loving another person.

For days after that I followed you in town, watched you while you slept, made sure no one bad got near you. I risked everything to be near you when you slept. One night I went as far as to go into your room, and sit in a corner to watch you.

I have prayed long and wished that you could someday meet me, and I wished even more that maybe, by some miracle you could talk to me. You are different Aryn. I can sense it in you from miles away, and now that you sit near me, it beats in my heart so loud. I know that you are different, much more than the people that surround you. Something in my heart tells me that one day you will become much more than you are now.”

He sat looking into the fire, not sure what to say next. Confusion had taken his heart and for the first time in his life, he was unsure what to do. The chaos played itself out in his mind, and finally released him so he could continue.

“I know that you will want to go back to your life at court, and I will let you go. All I can do is hope and pray that you will keep what you know to yourself. I don’t know if Lyell told you, but if you tell another person, we both suffer for breaking our vow. I have faith in you, and my life is in your hands whether you know it or not. Know that when you leave this morning you carry the lives of two guardians, protectors of the woods and nature.

Also know, that I have complete faith in you. I trust you. And…I love you.”

Daryth dropped his head and looked back into the fire, not wanting to watch her face as she laughed inwardly at him. He knew that she would not believe him, and he had already accepted it. Not wanting to hear the answer that was to come, he stood up and turned to leave. He could not bear to hear the word ‘no’ ring the small grove so he left.

Half rising, Aryn extended her hand to stop him, but he had already moved to the edge of the clearing. By the time she stood up, he was gone, and only the gentle breeze was left to follow.

=-=-=

Sunlight filtered through the balcony door, and displayed itself over the bed in the center of the room. The sound of people carried up and acted as a morning alarm to the sleeping figure. Aryn awoke with a start and sat up in the bed, unaware of where she was. Putting her hands to her head she tried to remember what had happened, and what had been a dream.

Unsure of what was real, and what lay in the land of dreams, she stretched before standing up. Without a noise, she moved to her nightstand to gaze into the mirror and brush her beautiful hair. Setting the brush down she noticed a single pendant in the middle that she had never seen before. On the end of a long silver chain, two crossed blades were fastened, a symbolic reminder of her night before.

=-=-=

The hooded figure kept walking. He had been walking since the night before when he left his only friend, and the only person he had ever loved. He scolded himself for walking away, not sure of her response, but something in the back of his mind, and something deep in his heart told him that she would not understand, and would not accept him. It was almost an hour before noon, and he knew what was to come. He could not prepare for it so he didn’t try, he simply walked his pattern until the time came.

Minutes before the sun shone directly overhead, he walked into his clearing by the river. He kneeled down in front of the stream, and eased back a little, ready for what was to happen. The last thing he remembered was a figure approaching from the other side of the river.

Centuries passed, or so it seemed, before Daryth awoke, and as he opened his eyes he regretted it instantly. The sun above him bore down onto him and blinded him quickly. He quickly raised a hand to shield his eyes and adjust to the light from above. As he did, he could feel the presence of someone nearby. He lay back down and closed his eyes before he spoke.

“Hello Lyell. Sorry to bring you back like this, but it is always good to see you.”

“And you my friend. Do you remember any of it?”

“A little here and there. The trial commenced, and my record reviewed. The judge sentenced me to another hundred years. But there was something else. I can’t quite place it. Oh well. And you?”

“Nothing. Yes, I was surprised too. I take it they realized I had no choice this time, and that in my case it could not be helped. I am sorry for you my friend, and I am not.”

“I know. I enjoy the solitude, and love my punishment. Anyway, I am all right. Thank you again for showing, but it is time we went our separate ways once again. Hopefully it won’t be a full one hundred years, but I shouldn’t think otherwise.”

“I am afraid so.”

“I remember. My faith is once again well placed. Our goddess has returned, and she will look out for us. Mielikki is back.”

Daryth sat up fully and stood before his friend.

“Mielikki granted me this one day to do as I please.. I may do as I wish.”

The smile on his face showed his happiness, and Lyell could tell that his friend was in bliss. Lyell stood up and buckled his sword belt and prepared to journey back to his own territory. As he passed, Daryth reached out and clasped Lyell’s hand.

“Wait. I need one last favor old friend.”

“Anything…”

=-=-=

Spiraling down the stairs, Aryn felt better than she had ever felt before. She could recall most of last night and remembered enough to make her realize how lucky she had been. The bizarre events still flooded her mind, and she thought fondly of her savior, and what he had sacrificed to help her.

As she entered the dining hall, her father was more than shocked to see her walk through. Jumping up, he rushed to her and buried her in a hug so big as to almost smother her. She hugged back, and they stood there for a minute letting him absorb that she was safe and unharmed.

“What happened? Are you alright? What…”

She cut him off and sat him down in a chair close by.

“Father! I am alright. I will tell you what happened. During my walk I strayed off a trail and got lost in the woods. I wondered around for hours before it got dark, and finally gave up and rested in a small grove. I remember falling asleep and the next thing I woke up here in the castle. That is all I remember.”

They talked more for part of the morning and she assured him that everything was fine and decided to go to the market place to buy some new clothes. A better part of the afternoon had passed before she returned home.

With a loud bang the oak door to her room hit the wall and she entered. Setting down her new clothes she removed a few other necklaces, careful to leave her new one on and went to the balcony door. Throwing it open she startled herself as she walked out and almost hit something.

As her eyes adjusted to the setting sunlight, she focused on a painting set up on a hand carved stand. Below the picture was a carved plaque that said “Daryth and Aryn” and below that “Sothi Nuinqua Tsalarioth”. Slowly her mouth dropped down, as the beauty and clarity took ahold of her. She stood there an hour looking at it, studying every detail before the sun set and she had to move it inside. It was the most valuable thing she had ever been given and she wished she could see Daryth again to tell him one thing.

‘Yes’.


“And that is the story of Daryth and Aryn. Take it for what you will and know that this piece means a lot more to two people of the past.”

The gentleman stepped back and leaned against the stage where the auctioneer was and let his story sink in. So caught up in the story many people finally blinked and leaned back, unaware they were sitting on the edge of their seats. A short heavyset man stood up and walked out of the room, obviously disbelieving the story. He was the only one to leave the room though.

“What became of Daryth and Aryn?”

The auctioneer had voiced what was going thought everyone’s mind and a near silent murmur rippled across the room.

“That, is a different story.”

The man pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to the auctioneer and walked toward the back of the room. A stunned look was all that registered on his face as he took the item and watched the storyteller leave. Once the door had closed he looked down at the card and turned it over. It said:

Lyell Razdyn
Ranger of Mielikki


This story inspired by the painting titled “The Diamond Warrior” by Michael Parks. The story further inspired by a good friend.

#265: Jake Bastard

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]


Complete shit. Daily life had hit an all time low as far as the standard of living… and everything else for that matter. The turn of the century did not bring radical changes for the better like the president had promised. In fact, things had become much worse, and much quicker than ever before.

It was over a year ago that Congress passed laws making provisions for private individuals to become certified law enforcement officers. It was only two weeks later before those individuals became half mercenary, half bounty hunters. Not exactly the “private police” the government had intended.

Senators that had drafted the bill envisioned law-abiding citizens taking certification classes that resembled police training. With that certification, these people would patrol bad neighborhoods as regular police, but only respond to calls they wanted to… ie: get paid for. The promise of police-like soldiers sounded good to the violent streets, so people pushed for it to pass.

Jake was not exactly a clean cut guy. “Low life”, “scum”, and “bastard” were the usual colorful adjectives used to describe him by the street cretin, his clients, and everyone else. The petty insults didn’t affect him though, rather the condition of society did. Crime was on a drastic spiral downward with no end in site.

He couldn’t complain too much about business though, the need for police service was always present. Fortunate for him, victims of crime weren’t always lucky to get state funded officers, and had to rely on the ‘private’ police. Dispatch for all of the officers was done through a central service with ‘real’ officers getting routed whenever possible. Once that buffer of ‘real’ police had been crossed, people like Jake stepped up to do the job, and get paid for his services.

He looked at his watch and sighed out loud. He had promised himself to complete each shift even though he set his own hours. About the only thing keeping him motivated was thinking about later. He had planned on renting some flesh and kicking back with a few beers. His Big Gulp came to an end too quickly and concluded his break once again. Settling back into the front seat of the hummer he turned the radio back on to monitor police traffic, waiting for the next call. It was only a matter of minutes before it came through.

“One Eight Two… please respond… Four Eleven in Progress”

A quick response to acknowledge the call and he was off. The tires squealed as the big vehicle slid onto Colfax. This was the only road he patrolled, and for good reason. Recent reports indicated that 30% of the crime in Denver revolved around the long and dirty street. Some chalked that number up to the fact it was the longest continuous road in the country, others because of the inhabitants of the area. Either way, it was very profitable for the ‘private’ cops that braved it’s dangers.

The call told him there was an armed robbery in progress but hostages were involved. Not his favorite job, but typically very rewarding financially. Using his knee to keep the wheel steady, he barreled down Colfax checking his two guns for ammo. As usual, both were loaded and ready to go. The white flashing lights on the top of the hummer was more than enough to clear the road for him.

The hummer screeched to a stop about fifty feet from the front of the building. All of the lights were off inside, but the hundreds of bullet holes on the front façade told him he was in the right place. Jake looked over to the two ‘real’ officers that had arrived and guessed that dispatch couldn’t scrape together any backup. He didn’t like that.. the ‘real’ police hated the ‘private’ police more than anyone.

Both of the uniformed officers had their guns out and were trying to keep their eyes on the front of the building. Neither could help a quick glance to see who had come to help them. The look in their eyes told Jake that they didn’t approve of the blue jeans and flannel appearance he preferred. Under the flannel was a D1 rated bullet proof vest that had stopped over a dozen bullets in the past. Jake pulled out his two Sig .45s and moved over to the police car to talk with the officers.

Not ones for chat, the officers roughly clued him in to the situation of five well armed individuals inside, all trigger happy. With no light around, and the few street lights shot out, Jake pulled out his glasses and switched them on. It took a few seconds for him to adjust to the night vision, but it was something that had saved his life almost as much as his vest.

Now his real dilemma. If he moved in now, the officers would not back him up since there was no other backup. If he waited with them, he didn’t get paid. Not a hard choice really, but he always gave it a chance. The glasses switched over to infrared giving him a look inside the building. Looked like four dead figures, two hostages, and only three armed individuals. Typical, the cops had lied to him in hopes of keeping him out of the way.

Jake ran to the very corner of the building and looked around. There were several cases in the past where a sniper lurked from nearby buildings to take out any police that tried to interfere with a robbery. Considering this was a high risk robbery, a sniper was not out of the question. He panned around looking at windows, balconies, and roof tops trying to ascertain just how many people were involved in this hit.

“There he is…”

He didn’t speak very loud, but was happy to notice the extra person. The figure on the rooftop had what appeared to be a high powered rifle aimed at one of the officer’s backs. It was kind of ironic that the person didn’t consider him a threat, but was willing to take out a few cops to help his friends out. He brought both of the sigs up to take aim, and unleashed. Two rounds from each gun shot out and across the street. The glasses he wore allowed him to zoom in and watch as all four rounds struck the sniper in the face.

The two officers snapped around to see what he shot at and immediately realized how vulnerable they had been, and how lucky they were for Jake. Both nodded to Jake and looked back at the front of the building. He knew that was the most he would ever get out of them, but it only costed him two bucks for the ammo. Back to the task.

With his back to the wall, he slid down the south side of the building heading for a back door. He hoped the back door was the entry point for the robbers, and that it would also offer him that same service. As he moved farther from the street, he began to thank his glasses again as they offered him near perfect vision.

Taking position at the back door, he peered around the corner hoping to get a better look inside. The infrared told him how many people were in there, but robbed him of the depth perception of other forms of vision. He kneeled down at the back door and scanned the interior. The back room of the building contained boxes and shelves lined with electronics gear. It was then that Jake realized he hadn’t noticed what kind of store this was.

Pawn shops always brought around the worst robbers. Not only were they well armed, they were stupid. Even if they went in with minimal firepower, once in they had access to anything the store was trying to sell off. That almost always included some nice guns. Robbing pawn shops was something that amateurs did as most stores were equipped with timed safes, remote video monitoring, and other security devices. Beyond that, they rarely brought in cash.

Between all of that, the sniper, and some gut feeling, something seemed out of place. Maybe he was about to shoot three really ignorant people, or maybe there was something else he was missing. Either way, should be easy money for him.

Both guns lead the way, one at chest level, one at waist level. Jake approached the wall that separated them to determine what it was made of. He silently cursed at the reinforced alloy wall knowing he couldn’t shoot through it. Jake also took comfort in knowing the robbers couldn’t shoot him either.

This was it, time for his move. He took a split second to close his eyes and pray to nothing in particular before this went down. Moving toward the door he readied himself for the firefight to come. The door between him and the next room was held open with a small radio. One kick and the door flew open exposing him to the occupants within.

His two guns blazed in front of him firing in rapid succession. It was obvious he caught the robbers off guard as he shot the first two in the back, delivering at least five rounds into each. The third robber was quick enough to dive behind a display case in hopes of avoiding the fate his friends had just received. Jake scanned the room quickly and made sure the two employees were still alive. He had to get paid by someone.

The proverbial standoff again. Jake kneeled down behind one display case while his opponent stayed behind his. The fact that he was able to take out the first two so easily was indication that they were amateurs. The firepower they carried suggested they were some of the better mercenaries you could hire. Either way, the third guy should be pretty spooked right now, and not expecting…

Jake broke into a run across the small store and dove over the opposing counter. As he sprung from the ground his Sigs let out their fury until he rolled to a stop just inches away from the wall. The fact that he didn’t get shot in the back as he stopped told him he was successful. He turned around to see several wounds in the chest of the robber. Apparently, he was lying on his back waiting for Jake to make the move. Obviously, he wasn’t expecting that move.

Cycling through all the forms of vision on his glasses, he verified that no one of danger was left. Holstering his guns, he moved toward the two forms huddled in the corner. After the glasses came off, he assured the two people they were out of danger, and explained who he was. Along with that information came the typical routine of moving them to the front window where they could see the ‘real’ police out front.. doing nothing to help them.

That was usually all it took to get the money. As the police entered the building and began to fill out the report, he started bargaining with the two people there, which turned out to be the owners of the store. Jake was done negotiating his price long before the police finished their reports.

Another Big Gulp, and another two hours before shift was over. He had made his money for the night, but kept his promise to stay out there the whole shift. He was number 182 out of just over 700 ‘private’ police roaming the city. Not exactly the best guy, but one of the best for the job. This was his life, his claim to big money and some kind of future. A kind of future he wasn’t sure about, but one that he had to keep his faith in. It was the only way to make it day to day.