When I started the final chapter of Connect I ended up getting a bit playful and inserted an Easter egg sort of tribute. I dare say it was somewhat unintentional and was the kind of thing that came out organically in the writing. It is something that usually doesn’t survive a second or third draft, and I have toyed with removing it all together if I get to a more complete re write.
Now with the passing of Bill Paxton I feel like this is something to leave in place. At the very least I will leave it here:
“I don’t wanna be bold
I don’t wanna be cold
I don’t wanna grow old
I don’t wanna go home”
— Recorded Wisdom of Before, vol. 2, ch. 5
“Well Frack. At least we don’t have to worry about getting killed in an ambush.” Hud said as he stood next to the large armored carrier.
“Why’s that?” Vas asked from her gun turret atop the vehicle.
“Because we’re gonna die here of old age before we get near that pass. Right Appo?” Hud said looking up at his unit leader who was standing on the side board of the armored carrier. When there was no response from the dark skinned man, Hud repeated his question, “Am I right?”
Appo looked down at Hud and his face did not return Hud’s smile at all.
Hud ignored the look and asked, “I mean it’s better than being up front and having to take point on whatever assault is coming, right Appo?”
“Bah, we so badass that we should be up front. I’d clear a path with these babies.” Vas said patting the large guns of her turret.
“Well, why dontcha walk on up to the front then? Right Appo? I’d bet they’d put her in charge!” Hud laughed.
Appo looked back down at Hud and held the man in a hard stare. “Shut. Up.” He said in a low voice that was laced with violent promises.
“Hah ha! Appo ain’t having none of your shit today Hud.” Vas laughed from her turret.
“Well you can have my shit anytime you want Vas.” Hud called up to the woman, clutching his crotch for emphasis.
“Please. Not if you was the last dick in After.”
“Bah, that’s probably because you already have a dick!”
“If I did, it’d be bigger than that pimple you keep rubbing all night long.”
“Hud! Vas! Stow that shit.” Appo yelled. “Any more from you two and I’m gonna be in need of two new shooters!”
“Yes Sir.” Hud replied with mock sincerity and a lopsided smirk that had Appo fingering his rifle.
“Appo, come in.” A voice asked over the wireless that Appo had on his weapons harness.
“Appo here. Somebody wake you up Hicks?” He replied into the small device.
“Yeah, we’re all nodding off up here. How you all doing back there on the ass end?” Hicks replied.
“We good. Bored, but good. Just cleared that rock slide and can finally see this damned pass up ahead. You?”
“Hah! Yeah, we are getting ready to go through. Dathan is only letting one group through at a time. Right now we got about half the assault groups through and setting up on the other side.”
“Solid. This is taking too long for my liking. I’m feeling very exposed out here.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. I’m looking up at the walls of this pass and not liking it. Mern cleared it though, and so far so good.”
“Get through there fast then. I don’t want to be sitting here at night fall.”
Just then there was a loud grating rumble from behind them. Appo turned and looked back down the path behind them. He did not see any movement.
“What was that?” Hud asked.
“Don’t know.” Appo replied.
“Something up back there?” Hicks’ voice came over the wireless.
Just as Appo was about to reply there came another, louder version of the same sound.
“The slide!” Vas called as she spun her turret around to the back of the carrier. She cocked the large guns, loading the ammo belts for rapid firing.
Appo looked from Vas back to the rock slide behind them. At first it looked like just loose rocks that were tumbling down the side of the mountain and spilling into the road. As he watched, some of the larger ones started to go. Then the whole of the rock slide seemed to come undone and start falling down the mountain like a flood of stone. The sound of the rock fall became a roar. A cloud of dust poured out of the mountain side as the rocks tumbled down, obscuring the road behind them. It billowed out washed over them before the winds started to swirl it about. As the obscurity of the cloud began to fade and the roar of the avalanche turned to a low rumble, Appo felt himself relax.
“Well, I guess we ain’t goin’ back now, eh Appo?” Hud asked looking back at the rock slide that now appeared to be completely blocking the road.
Appo looked closer as the dust cloud continued to thin out. From inside the cloud he thought he saw movement. Secondary slides following the first downhill? He knew he was wrong when he saw two red embers glaring back at him from within the cloud. The low rumble grew as the massive armored nightmare rolled forward up the road; its red sensor eyes glowing with a blood promise of death and a blue-white light dancing along its weaponized arms.
Diana watched long enough to see Tank, Jr. light up on the small screen of the controller on her wrist. Tank had named this one, and it brought a smile to her lips now to see it on the screen. When she heard the rumble of the landslide she knew that it had freed itself from its hiding place. She had gotten the idea when she had seen some of the natural slides in the mountains along this road. She had not been sure if the mech would be okay under there, but everything she had seen of the massive machines said that even these large rocks would not hurt it. The trick had been finding a niche in the cliffs along the road that Tank Jr. could fit into and where she could pull down a slide on top of him. Once Ferrin had been able to blast down some of the rocks and cover its brother, all Diana needed was for these Raiders to see just another rockslide and move past it. The real Ferrin had taught her that most times people would miss what is right in front of them when they are looking too far ahead. He taught her to focus on what was around her at all times, and especially when stalking prey. That way she would not miss any signs of the trail or anything that would help her to bring her prey down. For her snare to work she needed the Raiders, especially that Dathan dork, to be looking at the obvious trap of the pass. If they did that, they would ride right past Tank Jr. After half of the day of watching them crawl through the pass one by one, the last bits of their army moved past the fake slide and they were all in her snare.
Diana shifted along the ridge high above the pass. She braced Thumper on the rocks in a position where she had a sight line down on both ends of the Raider’s column. When she put her hand on the grip of the rifle the goggles scrolled through a set of symbols just in the periphery of her vision. This time it settled on a small picture of a stinging flyer. These bullets were different than the long shooting ones that could see. Tank had told her that these ones could do very bad things when they were friends with things like the mechs. She lined up her shot and the goggles did their thing and the target appeared over the fifth truck from the back in the line of raiders. It was a large barrel of a truck and one she knew that it would be filled with the fuel that the trucks used. She let the world slow down and her vision zoomed into a very tight view of the truck, then adjusted her aim and squeezed the trigger.
“Let’s Rock!” Vas called and opened up with both guns in her turret. The barrels erupted as a storm of bullets fired out. The mechanical clattering of Vas’ guns and the tinkling rain of the spent shells drowned out the rumbling sound of the mech. Hud and Appo, along with several other Brothers, all followed Vas and opened up with their guns. The barrage ripped into the dust cloud that obscured the mech and peppered its armored hide.
Appo emptied the ammo clip in his rifle at the mech. As he started to reload he saw the blue glow getting brighter from the lower left weapons pod. He was not sure what that was, but knew it could not be good.
“Cover!” he screamed as the blue beams lanced out of the clearing dust cloud. The beams needled through the armored transports at the rear of the column and burned through their armor like it was not even there. Appo watched in horror as his Brothers melted inside the armored vehicles that had protected them through so many other fights. He dove away from the armored carrier he had been near. He leapt too far and had to catch himself before he tumbled over the edge and down several hundred meters to certain death. As he started to pull himself up, he heard the sounds of his Brothers’ guns go silent. All he heard now was the pulsing stitch of the mech’s energy weapon as it lazed back and forth slagging metal, stone, and flesh in its wake.
“Cover!” Appo yelled and Hud turned and ran.
After emptying his own rifle into the mech, Hud realized how useless that was. He had heard of these things before. He’d heard that if you saw one, you ran. You ran or you died. So he ran. He headed up the road away from the death machine that was rolling up hill, laying molten waste in its path. As he passed other trucks, and more Brothers, they called out to him. He ignored them and ran. Let them try and take that thing down; he wanted no part of it. One Brother with black markings all over his face grabbed him, screaming something about fighting. Hud shot him in the gut and ran on.
The hill was pretty steep here and after passing the fuel trucks Hud stopped to breath. His lungs and his legs felt like they were on fire and he thought for a minute he might black out. Dropping his rifle he put his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath. He needed to chase back the black spots that were crowding his vision. The sounds of gunfire and the heavier cannons of the rear guard pounded away behind him. He could hear the Brothers around him yelling to one another. They wanted to go forward, but were blocked in by the other vehicles waiting to get through the pass. The road was just wide enough for two vehicles to be side by side and so they were, leaving no room for vehicles to get around one another. Even if the Brothers at the pass started going through as fast as they could, it would take too long for that movement to reach back down the line this far. That would be much longer than it would take that mech to wipe them out. It did not look good for the trucks, but Hud was on foot now. Once he caught his breath he would just keep headed up the hill away from rolling death back there.
“Brother!” A man next to the fuel truck called. “What the Frack’s going down back there?”
“Bad shit.” Hud called back and picked up his rifle. “We lost the wireless so I’m running up to the front to get everyone moving out.” He lied. “Be ready to move, we gotta get outta here!” He finished between deep breaths. That’s right; no one would give him shit if he had a reason to be getting away from that mech other than trying to stay alive.
He turned to start up the hill again when something slapped into the upper side of the fuel truck with an odd ‘Vip-Splat!’ kind of sound. Hud looked and saw a small greenish jelly blob on the metal of the large tank of fuel. As he looked closer there was a loud set of ‘Phumpt!’s that came from down the hill. Looking back and tracking that sound he saw several rockets fire up from out of the smoke that was part rock slide and part burning vehicles. The rockets cork-screwed straight up leaving intertwining smoke trails behind them. They seemed to have no direction but up; they were not arcing in a way that would drop them on the road or any targets that made sense to Hud.
“What the hells?” the Brother on the tanker called out.
As if in answer to him, Hud saw a small red light start to blink from within the green splat on the side of the tanker. It was muffled, but he thought he could also hear a pleasant chiming sound.
“Look! Look! Look!” the Brother called again and Hud looked up. The corkscrewing rockets all suddenly whipped around and turned over in midair. As the two men watched the rockets turned downward and fired off as one with new found purpose.
“Well frack me…” Hud sighed as the rockets all zipped down directly at him, the green splat, and several thousand loads of highly explosive fuel.
So there it is. A set of Colonial Marines who had no business in Dathan’s horde and for the time being reside in the world of After as an echo from an altogether different place.
R.I.P . Bill Paxton and all the memorable characters that you breathed life into over the years!
Dathan has been a challenging character to create and to write. I subscribe to the ideal that the best villains are the heroes of their own stories. (I can’t find the source of that quote, as it seems that many people from George R.R. Martin to Tom Hiddelston have quoted it and clouded it’s origin, but I can’t take credit for it.) So while Mason was Channeling his inner Han Solo, Dathan is more about channeling his Inner Steve Jobs. In a way that is kind of what Dathan is, the Steve Jobs of the Apocalypse, and the world of After. Only instead of electronics he is selling his vision of the world and instead of Apple fan boys and girls he has an army of murder/rapists. (Me, I’m not 100% sure which is really worse.)
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 5(ish) of Part 2 of Dathan giving what amounts to a Keynote address…
“Thank you Brothers! Thank you all for the gift of your strength. The gift of your fire! ” Dathan’s voice carried over the arena at the heart of the camp.
The arena was pretty impressive for a temporary structure. Several large trucks had been pulled into a broad semicircle and tiered benches had been hastily assembled in front of and on top of the vehicles. A field had been marked out in the center of the arena for Slamball, a brutal game where five man teams compete to drive a ball in between narrow sets of posts that acted as goals. Throwing or kicking the ball between the posts was worth a single point, but carrying the ball through the posts was worth five. These goal posts were in the mid-point of the four sides of the field and the one in the center of the field was worth twice as many points as the side goals. Players were allowed to use any means necessary short of weapons to score points or stop their opponents from scoring. This iteration of a slamball field was a little smaller than normal which led to much fiercer competition and more injuries. Several players had been dragged off the field already in the direction of the medical trucks as the slamball tournament had progressed through the afternoon. As he addressed the crowd, Dathan stood upon the Hover Tank that was his mobile command center. The tank was now pulled out onto the field allowing him to be seen by everyone in the arena.
Looking out at the several hundred Brothers, conscripts and other camp followers that were attending the games, Dathan gestured to the five Brothers who stood dirty and sweaty at the central goal post of the field. They were the winners of the last match and the champions of the Slamball tournament. “These men are each a pillar of what I try to be!” This brought a cheer from the crowd. “They came together!” he called when the cheer subsided. “They faced their opponents together. As a team. As brothers! They fought as one!” The crowd burst into a cheer that was much louder than the first. After a few seconds Dathan held his hand up and the crowd quieted down enough to hear him again. “These men were divided before these games, no?” Dathan asked the crowd. The five men looked at each other and there was some friendly pushing and shoving among them as if acting out Dathan’s point. The crowd laughed with the men and Dathan let that play out for a few moments. When it ran its course, Dathan spoke up, “I have a confession to make to you all.” The crowd hushed quickly and hung on his admission.
“I stacked the teams.” He admitted with a shrug.
“Then I’m not paying up on that bet Dathan!” someone from the crowd called and there was a burst of laughter.
“Hah! I knew you couldn’t cover it when I made the bet, Brother!” Dathan called back and there was more laughter from the crowd. Dathan allowed that ripple of laughter to ebb on its own, and then continued in a quiet voice that somehow carried throughout the arena. “I made sure the teams were all made up of Brothers who did not know each other, in some cases did not like one another. Did not agree with one another. I believed that men, good men, could work together despite all of that.” His voice rose as he continued to speak. “I believed that good men would put down their grudges and disagreements when it mattered. I believed that Brothers would come together as one! That they would become something better than they were by themselves!” Dathan reached a crescendo and the crowd reacted with a burst of riotous applause and screams of agreement. Again, Dathan held up his hand and the crowd grew silent, albeit more slowly than the last time. When they were quiet again, he looked down at the five men. “Brothers, you have shown me once more that my belief in you…” he looked around the arena, “…my belief in all of you, is absolutely fucking right!” The crowd exploded into cheers and Dathan joined in, clapping and pointing to the champions.
After this wave of cheers subsided, the champions headed out of the arena accepting lots of hand slaps and shakes from the crowd as they were absorbed back into it.
Dathan held up his hand to collect the crowd’s attention once again.
“I believe in our brotherhood and that belief was yet again proven today. But I believe in more than that…” he looked around at the crowd, turning around so he looked at those who may be behind him. “Our brotherhood is strong. It is mighty! We shake the world when we move! We change the world where ever we deem change is needed! We are the fire that burns away this rotten world around us!” This brought more cheers from the crowd that echoed his words. “But every fire has a spark. Every fire has its fuel. Without that it cannot be. Each and every one of you are that spark. You are that fuel. Individually you all make up our fire and that fire is only as strong as the weakest spark, the weakest tinder. I believe in you all as individuals. Each one of you feeds your strength to our fire. Each of you makes us stronger. That is why we also celebrate our individual strength with this last game.”
With this several men walked out onto the field. There were some cheers and calls from the crowd and the men responded with wave or in some cases a rude gesture back to the crowd.
“Our last bout will be an open fight to the finish. Last man standing wins.” The crowd cheered and in some cases jeered at the men in the center of the field.
“These men are the winners of the fights earlier today so each of them have earned their place here.” Dathan continued after a few moments. “But while I love a man who earns his place in the world, I also love a man who seizes opportunity by the balls and calls it his own!” The crowd roared at this. Dathan’s voice rose above the roar, “Who among you will step into the arena and take that challenge!?”
So what do you think? Would you buy what he is selling?
“It’s fun time boys… ” Diana whispered as she sighted down the long barrel. She ignored the plumes of fire and smoke that had begun billowing up into the sky and tried to pick a target among the scurrying mass of soon to be deaders. The first one was just running for cover but he came into a clearing in the chaos at the wrong time. Diana squeezed the trigger and thumper recoiled from the shot. Without even trying to confirm the results of the shot she scanned around for another target and saw the Hover Tank. “Oh, hello there.” She said and fired again at a man standing in front of the tank with his rifle up as if he was protecting the massive armored machine behind him. “Good bye.” she said and sighted in on another Raider near the tank.
“No, that was seven.”
“I can do this all day fellas.”
— Except from Chapter 6(ish) of “Connect – Part 2 of the Mason Chronicles”.
Over the last few weeks I kind of feel like Diana in the excerpt above, only with words and not kill shots. When I last gave an update in February I had just finished with Chapter 4. Since then I have completed through chapter 6 and some of Chapter 7. Chapters 5 and 6 wrote themselves but I expect 7 to be a bit of a slog as it is more set up for the big finish (of Part 2, there will be a Part 3) coming in chapters 8 and probably 9.
Part 2 now weighs in at 31,628 words and roughly 68 pages. That of course is sans chapter headings. It is now pretty clear that we are looking at 8 to 9 chapters which will probably makes this part a lot meatier than Part 1. But that’s okay as a lot more happens here that drives the overall arc of the story. Part 1 was really a lot of set up, and so much of what the story really is about begins to take hold in part 2.
Looking at my progress always makes me wish I had more time to dedicate to this, that is just not to be at this time. In any event I hoping to get this part wrapped up and go through some editting pretty soon. I also have to start writing the chapter headings and blurbs. I have some stuff identified but nothing solid.
So all in all, some progress being made.
We all have a little bit of Han Solo in us. Whether it is calmly flipping a cred to the bartender of the establishment where you just blasted a Bounty Hunter in your booth (you know, for the mess), or talking your way out of sticky situations (I’m fine, we’re all fine here…how are you?) or just being so damn cool it hurts (“I love you” – “I know”) we all can use a little more of Han in our day to day. Wait? You don’t have to deal with bounty hunters in your day to day life? Guess that’s just me then.
Seriously though here is an excerpt from Chapter 5(ish) of Part 2 where Mason channels a little of his Inner Han Solo to insert a small group into a large camp of Raiders. Writing this scene was fun, I think it plays out well with the interactive dialogue…
Bird did not see the new truck pulling in because he was under truck 17. The trucks were all numbered to keep track of them and make sure no one tried to steal any. When he got to the truck yard for this camp he had noticed that were several less than the last time he had done this. Empty spots seemed to pop up randomly within the area that had been fenced off for the vehicles. He thought there was one patrol out but the Brother who had turned the yard over to him had been loaded on something and did not make much sense. He had shrugged off Bird’s questions, said he was going to watch the games and stumbled off into the camp. Bird was sorely tempted to shoot the man, but resisted that urge. Instead he started in on inventory. He had counted the barrels of fuel and checked the gauges on the tanker trucks. After he updated the records for that he started to count actual vehicles. He compared that to the sheets his smoked out predecessor had left for him and had to make several corrections. That was when he passed the fuel tankers and came to 17. It was marked down as in good condition on the inventory sheet but the whole front bumper was hanging off. Grumbling to himself, Bird got down under the front end to see if the metal was in the way of the tires and if it could be welded back in place. That was when he felt the ground rumbling with a vehicle pulling into the truck yard. Whatever it was, it was coming in fast.
He started to scramble out from under 17 as fast he could. He quickly reversed his direction when he saw the truck coming right for him. He pulled his legs back in under 17 as he heard the large vehicle squeal as the driver jumped on the brakes hard. Then he heard the sound of the tires crunch-sliding over the loose ground and braced for the impact.
There was none.
He let out his breath. Bird started to scramble out from under 17 as his anger boiled to the surface. He was going to light into whoever in all of After and Before was driving the truck. As he started to get to the edge of 17 he realized that it was too close to 12 for him to actually get out that way. Grunting in anger he pulled himself back under 17 and started to crawl under the new truck. The underside of the new truck was hot so Bird had to press down as low as he could. He used his feet and hands to push and pull himself towards the side of the truck where he could get out. He reached the edge and stuck out his hand to get a grip only to have a well-worn boot come down on it. The boot was followed by the full weight of a man.
Bird let out a howl that was drowned out by the sound of the rumbling motor. He could not pull his hand back because the boot had him pinned. He started to shout for whoever the frack was on his hand to get the holy hells off of it when the motor shut off and blast of exhaust choked off his voice. Tears erupted from his eyes and who the frack only knew what poured out of his nose. Then a second boot came down and Bird thought he was free as the weight lifted from his hand. Then the first boot pivoted, grinding on his hand and he felt the bones of at least one finger pop and crunch. He choked out a cry of pain and when his hand slipped free he pulled it back under the truck. Cradling his hand he rolled over in agony. He realized that he was in a really bad place to roll over when his shoulder hit a searing hot pipe. Bird was convinced he actually heard himself sizzle. He would have howled again but the exhaust fumes had already stolen his voice.
“I didn’t hear anything.” Said a voice from above.
“It was just as I shut the engine down. Must have been this piece of garbage truck. Look at all this smoke.” replied a deeper more gravelly voice.
“Look.” Said the first voice. “It’s your friends from the guard post where we drove into the camp. I don’t think they’re happy that you didn’t stop.”
“Hey, I yelled ‘No brakes’ didn’t I?”
“You did,” The first voice conceded, “, but that one guy looked ready to shoot us.”
“Yeah, there’s always one like that. Is that them back there yelling?”
“It is. They must have run after us.”
“See? That’s what’s wrong with the world today. You can’t get decent sentries that stay at their posts and don’t chase the first thing that blows past them. ”
Bird grabbed the boot that had stepped on his hand.
“Oh Frack!” shouted the second voice, and the boot snapped back out of his grip.
Bird took the chance to pull himself out from under the truck. As soon as he cleared the edge of the truck he started up on to his knees. He looked up at the owner of the boot that he thought had broken two of his fingers. The man had dark hair and piercing eyes that seemed to swallow you in and spit you back out. Even in comparison to the nastier Brothers that Bird knew, this man had a real hard look to him. That was why it was surprising when he cracked a warm smile and reached out to help Bird up.
“Ho there brother! Didn’t see you there.” This man was the second voice.
“Under…The….truck.” Bird coughed out and pointed with his good hand to 17. He was cradling his other hand that was pulsing with the pain of mangled fingers.
Brushing the dirt and dust off of Bird’s jacket the man responded, “Yeah, so I see. Not a very good place to sleep one off you know.” The man laughed and clapped him on his shoulder exactly where it was freshly burned. Bird winced and groaned but the man was looking around the truck yard and seemed not to notice at all.
“Mason, I’m waving and smiling at these guys and they are just fingering their guns or making rude gestures. Anything else you think we should do here?” First Voice said.
Bird looked and the first voice belonged to a younger Brother with light hair and eyes. He was standing on the side board on the far side of the truck. Looking back into the camp, he was waving with a smile plastered on his face. Following his gaze, Bird saw several Brothers down the makeshift road that led from the perimeter of the camp. Sure enough they looked pretty pissed at these two.
“Do any of them look like they need to be shot?” Mason asked with obvious annoyance. Bird noticed the man had his hand on the grip of what looked like a very large gun that was settled in a holster on his hip.
“I don’t think we need to be shooting anyone…” First Voice said out of the side of his smile. He was still looking back into the camp and waving pleasantly.
“I don’t know,” Mason sounded disappointed by First Voice’s assessment. “That first guy looked to me like he NEEDED to be shot. I haven’t shot anyone today and it’s really starting to bother me.” He then turned to Bird with a conspiratorial grin. “Right?”
“Yeah, sure…” Bird stammered, just starting to get his voice back as he cleared the exhaust fumes out.
“Whatever. Where’s the food?” Mason asked, apparently disappointed in Bird’s lack of enthusiasm for violence.
“Wait…what patrol are you with?” Bird tried to get to back to his job and get what he needed with an inbound vehicle.
“Patrol? Frack no, you ain’t pinning this piece of crap on me.” Mason shook his head and pounded on the side of the truck he had just almost crashed into Bird.
“We found this junk sitting out there all blasted up. Did you,” he poked Bird right in his burnt shoulder again, “a huge favor and limped it back in here.” Then, ignoring Bird’s wince of pain he turned to first voice. “C’er, are those crap bags still giving you the stink eye? I’m getting out of the mood to shoot people, so I’m gonna be pissed if they make me.”
“Nah, they’re moving on. It’s amazing what a smile and wave can do.” C’er responded.
“Food?” Mason and was back to Bird now.
“So you just found this out there?” Bird asked.
“C’er, do you remember this guy? I don’t remember any guys here who can’t hear. Do you know any?”
“I don’t.” C’er answered, climbing down from the truck.
Mason was back to Bird now. “Seriously, I told you this already. Pay attention. Did those fumes get to you? I keep telling you boys to stop huffing at the fuel tanks.” Mason turned away and opened the back door of the truck. As soon as he did, two large bags dropped out of the door with a thud.
“Hey! Careful with the goods sweetie.” Mason said stepping back from the bags.
“Sweetie? No, not at all. I’d shoot myself first. Better yet, I’d shoot you.” This came from a young woman who stepped out of the back seat and dropped lightly to the ground.
Bird looked at her and for a moment wondered if there was anyone else in the truck. Then he sized her up. While they referred to themselves as Brothers, there women that had joined Dathan’s army. Most offered support in one way or another, but there were a bunch who were fighters. This one definitely fit into that group. She had on loose fitting leathers and a rifle slung over her shoulder. She looked younger than Mason and despite shorter hair had an easy attractiveness about her. It was clear that she was not intimidated by the men around her. That was about the only way a woman made due around here and stayed out of the tents. That and the rifle she kept in easy reach.
“Who’s this?” she asked gesturing to Bird.
“Didn’t ask.” Mason shrugged.
“Nice.” she replied then turned to Bird. He started to introduce himself but she cut him off. “Where’s the food? I’m starving. These two idiots forgot the rations.”
Bird pointed out into the camp towards where the food trucks had set up.
“Thank you!” the woman replied with exaggerated gratitude, turned and started to walk off. “Grab the bags, will you boys?” she called over her shoulder.
Mason put an arm around Bird’s burnt shoulder and gave it an affectionate squeeze as the two men watched the attractive woman walk away. Oblivious of the man’s wince, Mason whispered to Bird, “She likes it rough.”
“I heard that!”
Mason shrugged again and then shouldered one of the bags. C’er came around the truck and grabbed the second bag. He exchanged an odd look with Mason and then started after the woman.
Mason turned to Bird and extended his hand to shake Bird’s. When Bird held up his injured hand Mason winced in sympathetic pain. “You should get that looked at.” He said turning the intended handshake into a slap on Bird’s burnt shoulder. Ignoring the sharp intake of breath from Bird, Mason turned to follow the other two. He continued talking as he went. “That gets infected and they have to chop those fingers off, you won’t be able to scratch your balls right, yah know?”
Bird looked after the strange Brother as he walked off. Then he turned back to the new truck only to see that the numbers were no longer readable. Several large bullet holes and scorch marks on the door had completely wiped them out.
Now hopefully I did not just totally profane the name of Han Solo. Let me know if I did, or what you think of this new excerpt.
As Always Contact: The Mason Chronicles, Part 1 is available at:
Here is another excerpt from what is looking like the third chapter of Part 2. This is mostly a funny little dialogue piece, but I think it shows that even in the world of After it can be hard to get people to do what you need…
…Mason stopped and walked back to Elia. He took her wireless from where it was clipped to her armored vest. She stared incredulous malice at him which he ignored and thumbed the talk button.
“Tank?” he called into the device.
“He’s here, hold on.”
There was a commotion on the other end and then Tank, speaking very loudly, said “Mason! I almost got it!”
“Got what?” Mason winced at the volume and held the device away from his ear.
“Rolling over! Well almost. Not all the way yet. Stupid central system keeps butting in.” Then in response to some comment in the background that Mason could not make out, “That’s right, stupid! I said STEW-PID!” Then turning back to the wireless on his end Tank continued, “They get stuck on their backs with their legs in the air, but it shouldn’t be long now!”
Mason sighed and held the wireless to his head in exasperation.
“Tank. Listen to me. Rolling over is going to have to wait. Okay?”
“Why?” came the disappointed response.
“I need those hounds on the southern end of the valley. They have to guard everyone. Can you have them do that?”
“Okay Mason they can do that.”
“Great. And then I need you to get to work on those doors. We need to be able to open and close them all, okay?”
“Yes, I can do that. I think. Maybe.”
“Tank, this very important, I need you to get past that lock down so we can control the doors and open and shut and lock them when we need to.”
This time Mason could make out the voice of the central system in the background informing everyone that director level security clearance will be required.
“I understand Mason.” Tank said with a level of maturity uncommon for the large man.
“I know you do. I have to take care of some things out here so I won’t see you for a few days. When I get back, I can show you a trick with the hounds, okay?”
“Ewwwww!” Tank squealed. “Whatisit!? Whatisit!?”
“A surprise. I’ll see you in a few days.”
“What are you going to work on?”
“The lock down.”
“Okay…The hounds…They will be on guard duty in the south and not practicing rolling over.”
“Thank you Tank.”
“It better be a good trick!”
“It is, it is” Mason said with a laugh and handed the wireless back to Elia. She snatched it from his hand. He ignored that and started back towards the trucks and then paused and turned back to her again. “You need to have your people unload the pod car we came in on. And for their sake tell them to be careful. I think most of the Boomers are unarmed but you never know.”
“You brought in explosives!?”
“Yup. And a lot of other fun stuff.” Mason answered over his shoulder as he made his way out of the trees towards the trucks.
“He is fucking crazy.” she said.
“I guess he is, but it’s an effective sort of crazy.” C’er added as he headed off behind Mason.
I have to say that Tank is very easy to write and a lot of fun. He jumps into my head and kind of takes over and I think that comes out well on the page.
Also – just want to mention that I have decided on the name for Part 2 and subsequently Part 3. And Yes this first story Arc should comprise 3 parts.
As for the names themselves, that is a reveal for another day!