Thursday, January 27, 2011

THE LOCAL HEROES: Holding For A Hero


Holding For A Hero
by
Al Bruno III



“Thank you for calling Prime Computer Technical Support. My name is Vince, how may I help you?”
The customer was ranting and raving from the moment the greeting was over. Vince Marlowe adjusted his headset, leaned back in his chair and let the complaints wash over him. Years of experience had taught him that any attempts to move the conversation forward before the end users litany of grievances was over only aggravated matters. Sadly upper management didn’t understand that, they lived and died by the call times.
“Well I am very sorry to hear about this. Now when you say your computer ‘Doesn’t Go’ what exactly do you mean? The monitor says ‘No Connection’? I see...”
A faint buzzing sound began to echo through his half-cubicle. Thankfully no one else noticed. Pagers and cell phones were forbidden on the call center floor- as were snack foods, reading materials and just about anything else that might make the day bearable. Vince pulled the flashing badge from the pocket of his slacks.
“Excuse me madam,” he said, “could you please hold?”
*
The Blue Bolt sped through the streets of Megalopolis City. His costume was bright blue, save for the clear visor of his helmet, and it was made from a special reenforced friction-resistant material that helped him reach speeds of over 700 miles per hour.
Not that he ever moved that quickly within the city limits, he was very conscious of property damage and shattered windows.
There was a mass of figures up ahead, all dressed in shades of black and brown and marching in tight formation. It was the Vole Men, they were attacking the surface world once more. The Blue Bolt put on a little more speed, he had to act fast. His team, the Legion of Protectors, was currently shorthanded. He still couldn’t believe the Maven had just up and quit and moved back to River City.
The Vole Men were pale and noseless, they wore armor made from stone and carried lances that fired bolts of magma. There was a giant monster bringing up the rear of the strange army, it was scaly with an oversized mouth. It was called a thrombor and the Blue Bolt had never seen one on the surface before. A giant saddle had been chained to its back and Emperor Burrows, Lord of the Inner Earth, was seated there. The strange little man shouted orders from an elaborately designed megaphone.
The front lines of the invading army saw the super speedster heading their way and fired. The Blue Bolt wove easily around each blast of lava. A fifth of a moment later he was in the midst of them. He pulled the magma lances from the first dozen Vole Men’s hands before they could react, then he brought them down with a flurry of punches.
The rest of the Vole Men fired, more afraid of the wrath of the Emperor than they were of hitting their fellow soldiers. The Blue Bolt ducked and weaved but a splash of lava caught him on the shoulder. Pain and heat flared but the velocity he was moving at quickly cooled the molten rock down.
The Blue Bolt ran to the edges of the Vole Man formation and began to run around it in tight circles, moving faster and faster creating an artificial tornado. It sent Vole Men flying in every direction.
The invading army began to break formation, trying to retreat. Emperor Burrows cursed with outrage and then shouted something at his monstrous mount.
The thrombor roared and a wave of heat washed out from its mouth. It destroyed the last remnants of the Vole Man army but it also turned the asphalt of the street into a thick liquid goo. It caught the Blue Bolt by surprise. He stumbled and fell.
Emperor Burrows goaded the giant beast into a charge. The ground shook, the thrombor smashed cars underfoot. The Blue Bolt raised himself to his feet, the asphalt clung to him dragging at his legs like quicksand.
Thinking quickly the Blue Bolt began to spin his arms in tight circles until he heard the familiar POP of the sound barrier breaking.
Twin shafts of concussive force arced out from his hands and caught the thrombor at the knees. It crashed forward knocking itself unconscious. The impact sent the Emperor of the Inner Earth flying from his saddle.
The Blue Bolt drew back his fist and threw a left hook at normal speed. He wanted Burrows to see this one coming.
*
“Thank you again for holding ma’am,” Vince Marlowe said as he sat back down in his seat. The timer on his phone told him he had been gone for a little more than five minutes. There would be Hell to pay with his supervisor later but there was nothing he could do about that. He paused before he spoke again and looked down at himself to make sure everything looked OK. The worst thing about changing your clothes at super speed was that you would sometimes throw your shirt on inside out or worse yet put your boxers on outside of your briefs.
Mistakes like that were what had led to his divorce.
“Well, please let me explain,” Vince continued, “what you are seeing is the monitor’s way of telling you it isn’t getting any signal from your CPU... a CPU is a computer... yes the thing under your desk...”
The other members of the Legion of Protectors had arrived just as he was leaving. Vince had been glad to leave them to clean up what was left of the Vole Men’s forces. He’d never had the patience for repairs and talking to the Press.
“Yes ma’am, the computer needs to be turned on. The button should be...” Vince’s voice trailed off as he heard his Legion of Protectors badge start to beep once more. He rolled his eyes, so much for this month’s performance review.
“Please hold.”

Rebecca Whitaker does it again!

Another great bit of art from 'Becca'. This time she has brought The Legion Of Protectors to life, sometimes she visualizes my characters better than I do. Be sure to stop by her site if you need some artwork.

And for the record these guys are Mighty Woman, Nova Flame, Peregrine, the Mathmagician, Commander Infinity, the Blue Bolt, Dismembro and the Fedora.


In The Shadow Of His Nemesis chapter one hundred

In The Shadow Of His Nemesis


Chapter One Hundred


By AL BRUNO III




Saturday, December 4th 1996





The thing moved quickly, leaping like a spider, and catching itself with limbs that were boneless and thick. Its skin was translucent, revealing a tangle of unknowable organs and a cluster of eyes that slid along the underside of its flesh like bubbles of air moving through water. This was called a biologic locus and it was the closest the creature that played at being Piers Sauno could ever come to inhabiting this world.


At least for now.


“Well,” Jason Magwier said as he watched it trundle their way, “that’s new.”


Zeth looked up from reloading his pistol, he fired off three shots with trained precision.


The biologic locus shifted out of the way, flowing like water. Zeth started to fire again but then it was on him, two of its nine limbs locking onto his wrists. He fired reflexively into the air before pain forced him to lose his grip on his weapon. It secreted an acid that set his clothes and flesh smoldering.


“Jason!”


“Zeth!” Magwier stripped out of his shirt and wrapped it around one of his hands. He dragged himself over to where his best friend was fighting for his life and began to punch at the biologic locus with his covered fist.


The thing’s flesh was tough as an elephant's hide and its secretions set the cloth of the shirt smoking but Magwier got its attention. Another limb wrapped around his throat and its touch burned.


“Bastard!” the biologic locus’ voice was an enraged gurgle. It shook Magwier like a rag-doll back and forth back and forth, faster and faster. Zeth was screaming as the secretions began to eat at his flesh.


Then they were free. Both men fell face first into the snow. The biologic locus was squealing.


“Magwier!”


Jason Magwier looked up at the sound of his name, it was Isobel. “Where...” he flinched, it hurt to speak.


“Look!” Zeth pointed.


Both men recognized the Dread Lord instantly. Chayot had put its right arm through the biologic locus. The thing that played at being Piers Sauno was shivering with its death throws, limbs twitching and curling impotently. The smoky tendrils slipping from Chayot’s fingertips tore at the body, throwing strips of sticky flesh in all directions.


Isobel was at Magwier’s side, looking at his wounds and grimacing, “It isn’t Warren.”


“I know,” Magwier said.


“Son of a bitch,” Zeth whispered, “she did it.”


Isobel ignored him, “I need to know where Galen is.”


“I think he’s near,” Magwier tried to move and then collapsed, “I can’t remember.”


“Then we will find him,” the Dread Lord Chayot said plainly. He dropped the biologic locus. His arm was almost completely burned away, “Come Isobel.”


But her attention was still on Magwier, “What about you?”


“Go now,” Magwier smiled thinly, “before it’s too... oh wait it is. Damn.” Then he fainted away.


A familiar voice said, “Isobel. What do you think of the new me?”


Everyone’s attention turned to the two figures approaching them, a man and a woman. The woman had one arm wrapped around Galen’s throat, in the other she held an Uzi.


Isobel almost didn’t recognize her. The Monarchs had made Cheryl McGlade beautiful, the frown lines were gone from the corners of her mouth and they had thinned her out in all the right places. She was grinning, her teeth were perfect.


Ms. McGlade opened fire, spraying bullets at Isobel.


The Dread Lord Chayot shoved Isobel aside. Bullets tore him to shreds, making a ruin of it. Chayot fell, its head shattered like old pottery, its body leaking pale smoke into the air. Chayot tried to rise but the body it wore was useless.


“One less puppet,” Ms. McGlade said, “now we can really talk.”


The sight of Warren’s mutilated body was almost enough to make Isobel want to start crying again but there were no tears left. There was nothing left for her but Galen, and the creature her best friend had become was choking the life out of him.


Zeth grabbed for his gun but his wounded wrists had robbed him of his speed. Ms. McGlade shot it out of his hand. The look on Zeth’s face was almost comical. He dove for cover before she could fire again.


“Stand up,” Ms. McGlade ordered.


Her knees were watery, she couldn’t catch her breath but Isobel did as she was told. “Cheryl please...”


“Come closer.”


“Let him go.”


Ms. McGlade’s smile became a sneer, “I said come closer. There are no martyrs here. Or heroes for that matter.”


With that she waited. The only sound was the sound of Galen trying to breathe. Isobel came closer, not stopping until they were face to face.


“You’re wondering why he hasn’t changed aren’t you?”


Isobel didn’t answer.


“He can’t,” Ms. McGlade explained, “the chains. Silver alloy. Just like the old stories. There are such things I could tell you if you only had the time.”


“Please,” Isobel hated herself for begging, but did she have any other choice? “please let us go. You’re not like this.”


“I died for you. I died so you could live out your little love story. Was it worth it?” Ms. McGlade’s voice was conversational. “Was he worth it?”


“I’m sorry,” Isobel said.


There was another spray of gunfire as Ms. McGlade drove Zeth back into cover. Then she asked again, “Do you love him?”


“Yes,” Isobel said, “of course.”


And Ms. McGlade let Galen go. As he gasped for air and moved away she yanked at the chains holding his wrists behind his back breaking them like they were paper ornaments. She glared at Isobel, “Even though we were friends I always thought you were pathetic. Too busy trying to find a man to ever to find yourself.”


Isobel wanted to run to Galen, to hold him in what very may be their last moments but he was inching away from them both, his eyes full of desperation.


“Pay attention to me!” Ms. McGlade at Isobel but she kept the Uzi trained on Galen. “And think for once. I want to understand why you deserve what’s coming to you.”


Isobel asked, “What do you want from us?”

“Why did he come back?” Ms. McGlade asked, “Why did he come back to your apartment that night?”


“He saved my life.”


“That’s what happened but why is the question. Why did he come back?”


“He came back for me,” Isobel said, and she couldn’t help but smile.


Ms. McGlade sighed, “For you? What makes you think you’re so special? If it was really the true love you’ve been dreaming about then why did he leave in the first place?”

“What does it matter?” Isobel suddenly, impossibly felt like slapping the half-familiar figure before her.


“He’s been running for years,” Ms. McGlade said, “I’ve read his file. He’s been running for years. Do you think you’re the first friend he’s made along the way? The first time he managed to score an anonymous fuck?”


“You’re just-”


“He came back for you Isobel. He came back so he could cover his tracks.”


The words stung, they stung because it all made a terrible sense. “Galen?” Isobel’s mouth was dry, she felt like she was going to be sick.


He didn’t answer, he wouldn’t even look at her.


“Now close your eyes,” Ms. McGlade said, “I want you to close your eyes.”


Isobel couldn’t close her eyes, not when she was crying, not when she was still staring at Galen urging him to do something, to say something.


“Very well then,” Ms. McGlade raised the Uzi.


A spasm of pain caught Isobel by surprise, she clutched at her stomach. She hadn’t been shot yet but it certainly felt like it. She coughed and a ribbon of darkness slipped from her mouth.


Ms. McGlade raised an eyebrow, “What have we here?”


The last of Damiea curled like a serpent and moved like a flash of lightning. It struck Ms. McGlade in the center of the chest driving her back. The twisting foulness pried and insinuated itself into the half-mechanical body. Ms. McGlade’s twitched, she tried to scream, her eyes exploded outwards shattering like glass. The thing in the center of the mass of ceramic bones, fake skin and copper wire, the thing that played at being Cheryl McGlade convulsed and died as the very fluids that sustained it became squirming poison.


With that done the last of the dark god Damiea turned back to the safe haven it had created for itself. It arced through the air. Isobel started to run, screaming for Galen to save her one last time.


But he was gone.



End of Book Five


Click Here To Go To The Epilogue


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(Recommended Reads) Hell Hath No Fury by Maria Kelly

 

 
“Cheating bastard!” I fumed and waited for Donald to come home...
 
 

The IN THIS TWILIGHT stories are now available in Ebook format! For Free!

These are the current stories of the IN THIS TWILIGHT story cycle. The next serial novel CHAD'S ORACLES will be part of this sequence as well.

 

In This Twilight

(Recommended Hotness) In other news FAY DANIELS continues to be adorable...

MICHAEL MAY'S ADVENTUREBLOG always has something interesting!

The formatting of the #Ebook version of IN THE MIDNIGHT OF HIS HEART from #Smashwords is now fixed.

(Fingers Crossed)

And again I apologize to all you out there for the error.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Paper Hearts And A Red Haired Tart part six

Price Breaks and Heartaches

A journal of retail and failed romance

Chapter Five

Paper Hearts And A Red Haired Tart

part six





Getting my upholstery steam cleaned made me late for work but no one seemed to mind. Paper Shredder location #42 was starting to look more like a store and less like a poorly organized warehouse. Kathleen and Mr. Palmer were putting the finishing touches on the greeting card department; it was three solid rows of wasted paper and canned sentiment. Our selection ran the gamut from generic condolence cards to garish oversized paper hearts.


My eyes were quickly drawn to the intoxicating read hair of Tallulah. She was hard at work in the book department and Bud was helping her, they were chatting and laughing together.


Or at least they were until I walked over. They reacted to my approach in the same way most drivers react to seeing flashing lights in their rearview mirrors.


I thought to myself, Don’t say anything stupid. Be normal...


Then I said, “Hey are you guys going to let me help you put away books or are you just going to be shelf-ish!”


Tallulah looked at me like I was crazy, “Why would we be shellfish?”


“Not shellfish, shelf-ish! Get it?” I said, “Please?”


“Man...” Bud said, “Your sense of humor is about a sharp as a wet loaf of bread.”


Now that got a laugh from Tallulah.


“Al,” she said, “we’ve got it pretty much under control here. Why don’t you go help Chuck set up the shelving units?”


Of course I’d have rather stayed around the cute redhead but I could tell that she’d already had enough of me.


The shelving units were about three feet long and you locked them into a set of brackets set into the walls or aisles. Each bracket was marked so you could be sure you were hanging the shelves evenly but for some reason the shelves I found were all crooked, making it look like we were in a store designed my MC Escher.


Then I saw why, Chuck was hanging shelves at high speed and not watching what he was doing. He kept glancing back to the book department. I grabbed a shelving unit and got to work myself; since I was actually paying attention to what I was doing it took me longer to get done.


“Hey Bruno,” Chuck said, “you getting paid by the hour over there?”


“Actually yes, and you are too.” That stopped him dead in his tracks for a moment.


Chuck snorted, “You're wasting your time, no one is gonna care if the shelves are a little off.”


“What if they notice and make us re-hang them? That would double our work and set us behind for the soft opening.”


“Why do you care?” Chuck said, “This is retail, I’m just here to kill time and make some cash while I go to college.”


I shrugged, “If that's the way you want to do it. I think anything worth doing is worth doing well.”


“Don't go quoting the Bible at me.”


“By the way, what are you going to college for anyway?”


“I wanna be a gym teacher,” he said, his attention shifting back to the book department.


“Why do you keep looking over there?” I asked, “Is there something going on?”


Chuck walked close to me, he had doused himself with a cheap cologne that reminded me of a locker room thick with the odor of ball sweat. He whispered to me, “Bud’s trying to get a date with Tallulah. He wants to beat me to the punch.”


“Bud thinks he can get a date with Tallulah?”


“Why not?” Chuck said, “He’s got a nice car.”


Bud glanced over our way and said something to Tallulah, then she laughed. “So what?” I said, “He looks like John Wilkes Booth.”


Confusion clouded Chuck’s features, “You mean the guy from the old porn movies?”


“No, that was John Holmes.”


“Whatever,” Chuck turned back to his work, “I told him I was gonna ask her. He better not score with her.”


“Him? Her?” the thought made my stomach twist, although actually I couldn’t imagine me scoring with her either.


Chuck leaned in a little closer, “Well you know what they say right Al?”


“That Hell is other people?”


“No! What are you gay?” Chuck laughed at me- not with me, “They say red on the head is good in bed.”


“I don’t think I understa-” then I did understand and I blushed. Tallulah was grinning at Bud. She had the kind of smile that made you want to smile right along with her.


Chuck nudged me with a meaty elbow, “I bet she’s a demon in the sheets.”


“I bet I’d fail my saving throw.”


“What the Hell are you talking about?”


“It’s a stream of consciousness thing.” I replied.


After that we worked in silence. I tried to eavesdrop on Tallulah and Bud but there was no way to make out what was being said over the general noise of the store being set up.


“Red on the head is good in bed.”


That was a maxim I’d never heard before and I had to wonder at the truth of it. Was there any data to back these claims up? Where did women that dyed their hair red figure into this?


I tried to imagine what it might be like if I found myself in bed with Tallulah, with her soft pale skin exposed, her red hair spilling out around her, her lips breaking into a smile as she pointed at my sub-par wiener and laughed.


Ok, I guess I couldn’t imagine myself with her at all. I didn’t even dare to dream it.


But I found the idea of her being in bed with either Bud or Chuck more than a little nightmarish.







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