Saturday, February 18, 2012

Replacing Human Black Box this week...

Human Black Box will not be posted this week - I'm hoping to get around to posting it next weekend. It's not that I've gotten behind - far from it - it's just that I haven't had the time to post what I have. And tonight, I've got something else on my mind, so next week HBB will resume.

Having said that, I do have a piece of fiction prepared for you. Or, rather, part of a piece of fiction. See, I'm about this close self-publishing (where this close means I'm waiting for the proofing copy, and once I've got that and I'm happy with it, I make it public. Which means sometime before my birthday in June my novel will be for sale). I've been working on this particular novel, and this particular series, for about 6 years now. Now that I've got a starting point I'm happy with, and I've gone through and proof-read multiple times and had multiple other people proof read, I'm going to publish the book.

Tonight, I'll be posting a chapter from that novel, for your enjoyment.

Please note that the material in this post is not under the Share-and-Share-alike license that the majority of my blog falls under. This material is under copyright to me.

The name of the novel is The Blue Pimpernel. The name has an interesting history in and of itself; I couldn't be sure whether or not The Scarlet Pimpernel was copyrighted and by whom, so after drafting the first few novels under the working title The Scarlet Pimpernel, I changed the title and with it, the name of the main heroine, to The Blue Pimpernel. The blue pimpernel and the scarlet pimpernel (the flowers) belong to the same family, but are two different species - they're related in the same way that modern humans and Neanderthals were related.

The main character of The Blue Pimpernel is Renee Rhee. Renee "Rene" Rhee is a 16-year-old teenager, who's living in a dystopian future society. As her last name suggests, Renee is half-Korean, on her father's side. Her mother is White. I inverted the traditional paring simply because I was sick of the way it constantly played out in fiction: White guy marries hot Asian woman and every White boy in the audience experiences the fantasy. So I undermined it. Her father, Jin-Yung Rhee, is a very handsome fellow. He's also an immigrant from North Korea. Not South Korea - North Korea. Her mother, Jane Newbury, comes from the quintessential WASP family. Renee strongly favors her father, insomuch as the majority of Americans can't tell she's half-Korean/half-White and constantly mistake her for being Chinese. She has a few distinctive genetic traits, most of them from her mother; her hair is auburn, and her eyes are bright green. Renee shares the novel with two other girls; Ofelia Stratford and Cyan Brooklyn, her best friends. Together, these three girls form the core of a group of vigilante heroines with the stated goal of excising corruption out of office.

Ofelia has white hair and pink skin, with blue eyes. She's very pretty and narrowly built (the quintessential beanpole), and very graceful, to boot. She also had crappy vision and is the least physically inclined of the girls; she can drive, but just barely, and usually wears glasses to cover for her nystagmus and near-sightedness. As her name suggests, Ofelia has Spanish ancestry, from her mom's side.

Cyan is an otherwise unremarkable White girl with auburn hair and blue eyes, who is just as athletic as Renee is, but looks younger than she is (meaning she looks younger than 16; the fact that she wears thick glasses doesn't help.) Of the three, Renee has the best eyesight of the bunch, at 20/20. Cyan is named after the color and her name is pronounced like it - SI-an (I point this out because for about 4 years I pronounced her name "SEE-an").  Ofelia calls her "Blue."

They all have similar powers, so the only difference is how they use them. They all have molecular Velcro on their gloves and feet, so they can stick to just about any surface, like a gecko. They have stealth rubber on their shoes, which allows them to jump really good. All of the girls have something similar to dilatant body-armor, which has really good shock-absorption powers and is very good at what it does. Lastly, they have goggles that do something - that is, almost everything. They can record data and share it over an intranet that the goggles link up to form, to overlay various displays in a sort of primitive-AR, to imaging sound in a sort of experimental echolocation/acoustic vision. The only girl who has something different is Cyan, who wears a meta-materials uniform that lets her make herself invisible, and project multiple copies of herself. The girls have no clear leader, and in fact, form a sort of ad hoc chain of command, with whoever can taking the lead at that moment while the others either follow along or do their own thing.

Renee is the eponymous Blue Pimpernel; a name she gave herself because when pressed for a name, her favorite flower was the only thing she could think of. She does wear a lot of blue, but doesn't theme herself after the flower. Ofelia has an unfortunate name (she's albino) - "the Ghost" - but it's a shortened form of her full hero name: "the Ghost of Hamlet". Cyan goes by the name "Mirage".

So, let's go - this isn't their first night out, but it's their first real trial by fire:

*****************


Renee’s parents had never told her that she was experiencing the best days of her life. She never would’ve believed them anyway. However, as she pulled the gloves over hands and squeezed her fist tightly, she couldn’t help but wonder if there really was something to that statement. Her world was about to change – drastically.
                The day before, they’d gone out shopping. They’d picked up all of the different things that Renee had thought they would need – Ofelia wrote it down on a list, but Rene remembered most of it. It included marbles, jacks, zip-ties, plastic bags and several bags of chips, milk, and pop – just to throw off any suspicion.
                Renee stood in her room, waiting for Ofelia to come and get her. It was almost 9:30 – Ofelia’s mom and dad would be asleep, and Ofelia had assured Renee that she would find a way to get them out of the house without it being suspicious if her parents woke up. Renee hadn’t even seen Ofelia’s costume yet, and she didn’t have a clue what it looked like.
                She pulled the last glove on and fastened the belt. The armor felt weird against her skin; for a minute, she thought about wearing it on the outside of the shirt but opted not to. Best they not know she was wearing armor. Cyan would wear the armor over her suit, to protect the sensitive electronics. The battery was one of the things that she had worried about – she put a case over it, but she’d need to watch her back and not let them get behind her.
                “Rene?” Ofelia peeked around the door.
                “I’m ready,” Renee said, looking at her. Her heart picked up pace, and her muscles tensed. An anxious smile spread over her face. “Are you?”
                “I’ve been ready.”
                Renee shut the door behind her. “Maria and John won’t go in if I have the door shut.”
                “For good reason,” Ofelia said, looking back at her. Renee looked away, uncomfortably.
                “S-so what did you tell John?” Renee said, recovering a bit of dignity.
                “That we were out of ‘feminine hygiene products.’ And because my daddy loves us – and was half-asleep – he nodded and said it was okay.”
                “I wonder how much of that has to do with him not wanting to deal with it.”
                “Probably a lot. That’s why I asked him and not my mom.”
                They walked into the kitchen, and the slipped silently through the back door. Before they did, Ofelia turned towards the android butler.
                “Steinbeck?”
                “Yes, Madam Ofelia?”
                “We’re still here.”
                “Okay.”
                And with that, Ofelia slipped through the door and shut it behind her, making sure it was locked.

                It was about 10:24 when they arrived. Ofelia pulled the car off Rock Island Avenue, and tucked it away behind bushes. The last thing she did was unscrew the license plate, and put that safely in her pockets. Renee’s heart was beating like a cylinder in an engine. Her muscles felt like anchoring points for a large suspension bridge, and she had to wipe away the cold sweat that was accumulating on her forehead. She didn’t know how tonight would turn out, but it was a real trial by fire.
                “Okay, here’s the deal,” she heard Ofelia said. “Our hero names – they’re our call-signs. I just learned what that word meant today, and it sounds more professional than pseudonym or alias. Rene, you’re the Blue Pimpernel, like you said. Blue, you’re Mirage. You can call me Ghost. If you’re curious, it’s short for ‘the Ghost of Hamlet,’ but that’s beside the point. Anyway, I see a very large tower – I’ll set myself up there and send directions and everything from there. We’ve got a good radius on these things – I think you could be on the other side of the river and hear me. The channels are encrypted, too, so nobody’s going to be able to pick up on our conversations. If we do this right, and we time everything, we’ll catch them off guard. Here’s to hoping everything goes right tonight.”
                “That’d be a first,” the Pimpernel said. It was the first look she’d gotten at Ofelia’s costume. It was a pair of white pants, a white shirt, matching white gloves and a billowing white cape. The only things that stood out were the brown corset, with the dozen or so pockets on it, and the mask and goggles. It was fairly non-descript, but stood out strongly in the darkness. “I’ve never seen you in pants before.  You always wear dresses and the fancy corsets and stuff. Your costume is… pretty plain compared to what you normally wear.”
                The Ghost fastened the mask over her face. “I know. Wild, huh? I didn’t want to damage any of my good clothes.”
                She picked up a large duffle bag, and nodded.
                “Got everything?”
                “Cuffs, bags, and something else I found.”
                “What else?”
                “You’ll see – or, actually, you’ll hear. Don’t forget your projectiles, either.”
                The Pimpernel looked back in the car and pulled out two discs and looked back, trying to find Mirage.
                “Did you go invisible, Cyan?”
                “N-n-no,” Mirage said, stepping from the shadows near the car. “I’m just good at d-d-disappearing.”
                “Let me know before you do.”
                “Okay.”
                The Pimpernel waved her hand.
                “Let’s roll, Cyan.”
                “I’ll see you girls in person once this is all done,” the Ghost said, racing towards the train tracks with them. There was nobody else around to see them, so they took right to the empty road first; she got ahead of them, and the last that the Pimpernel saw of her was her billowing cape – which she had to get free from several trees before stepping out onto the road.
                There was a fence that surrounded the collection of docks and warehouses. The Pimpernel looked for a side gate and found one, crawling through it and helping Mirage. Once both were inside, they ducked into the shadows.
                “We’ve still got a good half-hour,” the Pimpernel said. “Let’s see if we can narrow down the warehouses.”
                The two of them went their own separate ways once they were in the docks. The Pimpernel turned right and vanished into the maze of alleyways and boxes, while Mirage ran along the waterline. It took them a few seconds to get situated, and for the Pimpernel to find a likely suspect for their warehouse.  
                “Jackpot. This is where they’re storing the stuff,” the Pimpernel said, climbing up on the large crates. It was the only warehouse with anything other than cobwebs in it – she felt pretty confident.
                “Not a moment too soon, either,” the Ghost said, a separate window opening up on the Pimpernel’s goggles. There was a U-haul and two cars that were pulling up just outside of the front gate, making her thankful that she and Mirage had taken a side entrance.
                “B-b-b-barge!”
                Through another AR display on her goggles, she could see that Mirage was racing inside of the warehouse, and the Pimpernel sat down the backpack she had one. She tucked it away safely, pulling out a bag of marbles and jacks. The Ghost had the zip-ties and bags in a separate bag that she carried with her; they wouldn’t see use until they were done. 
                The Pimpernel situated herself in a position where she thought the shadows would cover her. She watched through the goggles as the U-Haul pulled up and parked, the doors opening. Several men stepped out of both the U-Haul and the cars, with two of them loading up their firearms.
                Her already impossibly wound muscles pulled themselves even tighter. Her hands were shaking, and she felt like her heart was going to explode.
                “Showtime,” the Pimpernel said, her voice uneven and her adrenaline level skyrocketing. She took a few deep breathes, but it did nothing to stop her thoughts. They seemed to be racing a million miles a second.
                They walked towards the main gates and undid the lock, several of the more thuggish looking men walking into the parking lot. The more professional men stayed in the back, wearing clothing that didn’t consist of tight shirts and exceptionally baggy pants.
                A few seconds later, a new voice popped into the Pimpernel’s head-set.
                “We’ve got more than a few minutes. I don’t know why Godwin’s in so much of a hurry.”
                “He doesn’t want things to go wrong. The longer we’re here, the more likely things can go bad.”
                She had no idea where the voices were coming from, but they were the voices of men. It took her a second to piece together that they were the voices of the two men talking on the video feed she was getting from the Ghost.
                “Yeah, okay. I guess that makes sense.”
                “We still have to unload this stuff at Larkin Village and Pine Meadows – we can’t spend too much time here tonight. Draws unwanted attention.”
                She heard a gun clip click into place.
                “How are you doing that, Ofelia?”
                “Remember that other stuff I was talking about?”
                “Ye… no.”
                The Ghost sighed. “Never mind. Microphones, love. I found a bunch of them, and they’re wireless. I set one up outside of the front gate, and I can hear everything they’re saying. So can you, because I can send you noises just like I can video and pictures.”
                “You are rec-c-cording, right?”
                “Of course.”
                The Pimpernel waited for what seemed an eternity before the door to the side of the warehouse actually opened up. Two of the thuggish looking men stepped into the warehouse, walking right past where she was at. Mirage spoke, but the Pimpernel missed it; a few seconds later, Mirage completely vanished except for the goggles and mask.
                Not that she noticed.
                The Pimpernel kept her eyes trained on the men, watching as they walked into the opening at the front of the warehouse, where the light could shine down on them. They were passing some kind of cigarette that had a very powerful odor between them.
                “What are they smoking?” The Ghost asked.
                “Fuck if I know,” the Pimpernel said, crawling so that she could see them easier. The barge eased into view, until it came to a complete stop. An elderly man – presumably the captain – stepped out on deck. Two more of the thuggish looking fellows walked in, and then walked out through the large main door onto the wooden wharfs, then onto the deck. The captain followed them below, chatting with them all the way.
                She was so tense that she was worried she’d fall right off the wall.
                “Man, its fucking cold,” one of the thuggish looking boys under them said. He rubbed his exposed, tattoo covered arms, and turned around, facing the back of the warehouse. Both were either stoned or almost there.
                The second one took a deep breath.
                “Shut up, pussy.”
                The first one shot the second one a nasty glare. “I gotta take a piss. And I’m getting hungry.”
                “Go behind those boxes.”
                She crouched down, as the man walked around behind the boxes and started doing his business. He had his back turned to her, and that was when she closed in, wrapped her hands around his face, and yanked him back into the shadows. She slammed her fist twice into his face, mashing his nose and bashing his lip, before slamming his head into a box. He tumbled to the ground, as she quickly ducked back up the wall.
                “Hey, what the fuck was that?” The first one said, dropping the cigarette on the ground and walking towards the back. “Where’d you go?”
                He stood there in the opening, his back turned. He was looking directly at the Pimpernel, but because of the way the shadows fell, he couldn’t see her.
                “Man, you better not be fucking with me.”
                He pulled out his gun, and she dropped down and grabbed him and pulled him backwards. Several bone-crunching blows later he was laid flat, and now the Pimpernel’s heart was racing. The smell of urine was so strong that she had to move from where she was to the top of the stack of boxes, and watched as the other two brought the boxes up.
                They sat the boxes down, the first one looking around.
                “Where’d the other two go?”
                “I think we got a problem.”
                Both of them drew their guns, as two of the more professionally dressed men walked in.
                “What’s going on in here? What’s taking so long?”
                “We lost two.”
                One of the men crouched on the ground, looking at the cigarette.
                “Oh those fuckers. They’re off higher than a goddamn kite right now.”
                “Shit. What smells like piss, then?” One of the more professionally dressed men said.
                “I dunno.”
The Pimpernel watched the noses wrinkle.
                “They’re all in there that I can see, Rene.”     
                “Good.”
                The Pimpernel flipped on the night vision and quickly crawled back down, and moved towards the door. “Cyan; shut the front. We can see. They can’t.”
                She watched through Mirage’s goggles as her friend ducked between the men, racing towards the large door. Mirage grabbed the front of it and drug it shut, slamming it tightly. Everyone jumped and spun around, training their guns on the door.
                “What the fuck…”
                “Is this place haunted?”
                The Pimpernel watched as Mirage became visible. The large goggles and extended nose of her mask made her look decidedly inhuman, along with the strange nodes on the side of her otherwise night-blue suit gave her an almost robotic appearance.
                Three of her appeared and the Pimpernel slammed the side door shut.
                Guns were fired.
                The Pimpernel closed on the first professional looking man, grabbing him by his collar and pulling him backwards, jumping up and driving her elbow down into his face. She threw him to the ground as the other spun around and opened up. Their muzzle flashes weren’t painfully bright, and the noise was more bearable than the noise of the rifle they’d fired off in the bunker.
                She closed, grabbing the wrists of the second professional looking man and pushing up, jumping and slamming her knee into his chin. She heard a snap and crack, and he howled, falling back and holding his mouth. He staggered and swayed, looking up as she planted a firm blow in his face, knocking him over.
                The last of the men fell on him as the door pulled back open and two more thugs appeared on her goggles, standing outside, presumably having been missed by the Ghost’s initial headcount. They caught the Pimpernel dead in their sights and fired never got her. She watched Mirage dive out of the way and she turned , bolting into the shadows. Apparently they’d hit Mirage instead.
                “They’re all over the place now, Rene. They heard that.”
                “Good.”
                She jumped onto the wall, and climbed up the wall as the two men stood, dumbfounded and partially horrified. Things were getting heavy now.
                “What the…”
                Mirage had grabbed one. The other spun around and screamed, as the one that Mirage grabbed spun around and took a violent blow to the side of the head that dropped him. Meanwhile, the one that the Pimpernel had knocked out first was standing up, his pants down and the stench of urine all around him.
                She watched Mirage grab the second one, as then unhitched a Frisbee and threw it. The disc sailed downward and slammed into the head of the man who was just waking up, causing him to double over on the ground, holding his head.
                She hit the ground, as Mirage became visible – all three of her – and raced towards the boat. 
                Meanwhile, the Pimpernel gathered up the guns and pitched them all in the river – even if they did get conscious, there was no way that they would attack her unarmed. In fact, two of them were already trying to escape.
                She opted not to worry about the ones that were escaping. The Ghost had spotted another car that pulled up and parked. The Pimpernel bolted towards the door and jumped into the shadows behind it, picking up a large wooden stud.
                “What the hell is going on?” She heard a distinctly British accent demand.
                “We’re having problems, Godwin. You’ll want to step back.”
                “Again?”
                The Pimpernel didn’t catch it. The Ghost did.
                “Again?” The Ghost muttered. “What’s he mean ‘again?’?”
                The Pimpernel unconsciously shrugged, as two of them men – including one of them wearing a very long coat, jacket, and slacks – walked towards the warehouse. Meanwhile, the man with the British accent hovered in the back, on the other side of the fence. The first man got within eyeshot and the Pimpernel appeared in the doorway and belted him with the wooden stud. The other man stepped back and opened fire, the rounds slamming into her chest as she dove forward, grabbed the gun, and broke his wrist. He fell on his knees, as she pulled him forward and into her knee.
                She was within eyeshot of the man with the British accent. He was a Chinese looking man – short black hair, a sweater over a button down shirt, nice khakis and a belt. He began a full blown retreat, slamming the gate shut and then reaching into his car as the Pimpernel bolted forward. She ran as fast as she could, approaching the gate. He pulled out a shotgun as she closed her eyes and slammed down as hard as she could on her heels. Pain lanced through her legs, but she propelled herself clear over the eight foot tall fence, flipping and slamming on the ground, bounding over the top of the U-Haul, and then hit the soft ground on behind him.
                “Godwin, I presume,” she said, standing up. She flipped the vents open, to allow her voice be heard easier.
                “H-h-how…”
                She slowly turned around, cracking her knuckles.
                “I’m … special.”
                He stepped back and wheeled the shotgun around, as she ducked around him and jumped on the hood of the car. He spun around and planted the round in her chest; it threw her off balance and blew her off the hood of the car, causing her to roll.
                “God damn it!” she heard him shout. “And stay down!”
                She was planted on the ground for a second, the wind knocked out of her. She thought maybe she’d broken a rib, but as the dust settled, she realized she didn’t. The force had knocked the wind out of her and that was it. Dusting herself off, she calmly stood up, her sense of self-esteem soaring.
                “Is that all you’ve got? You’ll have to try harder than that.”
                He stammered, shaking his head in completed disbelief. Honestly, she couldn’t believe it much, either.
                “I shot you! In the chest! With an 10-guage!”
                “And it stung. I’ll give you that. But you know what else stings?”
                She launched herself forward. He ducked out of the way of the punch, ramming the shotgun into her chest and using it to push her off of her feet. She hit the ground and rolled as he dove into the car and started it back up again. The lights flipped on and the wheels screeched; he drove right at her while she was on the ground. The Pimpernel had no idea whether or not her armor would withstand the blow of a half-ton moving object, and had no desire to found out. She continued rolling until she’d rolled right off the road, the car racing past. She hit the bottom of a shallow ditch on the side of the road, standing up and tossing the shotgun aside.
                “Damn it. He got away.”
                “The boat got away too, but don’t worry about them. Blue did a number on the guys that came up from below deck, and we’ll run into them again. I know we will…. Hey! That guy with the long coat that you decked is back on his feet; he’s dressed like someone important…”
                “I’ll get him,” the Pimpernel said, finishing the Ghost’s thought as she raced towards the fence and slamming down. She got a good four feet up, jumped on the fence, scrambled over it, and landed on the other side. She felt superhuman. For the first time in her life, she felt like she was capable of doing something. She wasn’t a slave, she wasn’t forced to set at a desk, she wasn’t under constant threat of a ruler or dealing with endless lectures or tests she never stood a chance to pass.
                No. Here – this was her environment, gunshots to the chest and all. Here she could excel. Here she could become everything she always wanted to be and more.
                Her target was staggering onto his feet. He looked over and spotted her as she cleared the ground between her and him quickly – but he was out of her reach by the time she got to him, and she couldn’t slow down soon enough and shot past him. She had to bring herself to a slow stop, far away from the place she intended to stop, and wheeled around.
                She ducked back into the building, but he’d gotten a good head start on her.
                “Damn,” she muttered, bolting into the room. She raced past the moaning men and spotted the man she was after as he ducked into a nearby room.
                She entered it, and realized quickly it was too dark for even her night vision to work.
                “What now?”
                “P-p-press tttthe top b-b-b-button,” Mirage said, as the Pimpernel fumbled with her goggles and hit one of the buttons she’d never touched before. The screen snapped to life, and she found herself staring at an environment of complete black and white.
                “Whoa,” She said. She could hear his footsteps, but what was more, where he was making the noise at, the goggles were rendering it as light – like a torch in the darkness. She turned and bolted towards the bright light – as she ran, the environment lit up. When she closed, she could see his face – his labored breathing was lighting up his body and his face in sharp, distinctive shades of white against harsh black.
                It wasn’t like any normal vision she had seen. She was actually seeing sound.
                She raced towards him. He’d stopped, looking around – it was obvious he was lost. He turned to face her right as she grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and slammed down; launching the two of them high into the air. She landed on a stack of crates, bracing herself firmly as she held him over the edge. It was hard work, but the pumping adrenaline gave her the strength to keep him there for a few seconds, and that was all she needed.
                He was stammering, and trembling. Eventually, he stopped struggling and was pleading with her not to drop him. She didn’t know if she could maintain a promise, given how heavy he was, even holding him with two arms.
                “H-how can you see me?”
                “I can see everything.”
                “What are you?”
                “A guardian angel. You’ve had your way with this city, and these people, for too long. Your buddies in office, and your criminal friends in the underground… you’ve all run up a bit of a debt: you see, I’m karma, I’m a bitch, and I’m here to collect.”
                That was all she needed. She dropped back to the ground, and let him go. He stumbled backwards and hit the ground, looking up at her
                He sat up and leaned forward, sobbing as Mirage appeared behind him.
                The Pimpernel felt the adrenaline crash around her. The evening was over. She could barely restrain the smile of feeling that she’d accomplished something great.

                Those that were still around were bound up by the zipties, with bags over their heads and mouths slit so they could breathe. On their way out, the Ghost called 9-11 and reported a large brawl at the docks, even though she knew that the cops were supposed to be showing up anyway. It was about 11:25 when the Ghost was screwing the license plate on. The Pimpernel was in the car, as was Mirage. The Ghost dove in and started it up, pulling her mask back on. She drove back onto the road, and gunned it – leaving the docks behind.
                “We did it,” Renee said, removing the mask but leaving the goggles on. “My God, Ofelia. We did it. And it worked.”
                “That’s because we’re that good, Rene,” Ofelia said. “I told you we could – we can do anything that we set our minds to. Speaking of minds, how’s Blue doing?”
                “She’s asleep,” Renee said, pulling the goggles and gloves off. “You should’ve seen them run. They panicked and bolted; they were running like cowards. Even that Godwin guy – I think I scared him shitless.”
                They were stopped a red light, as Ofelia removed her gloves and poked her finger through the hole in Renee’s shirt. It was a big hole.
                “Does it hurt at all under there?”
                “Yeah, it does. But nothing’s broken. I’m probably gonna have a nasty bruise, though.”
                “Well, maybe that’ll be just for tonight, huh? As things get better, we probably won’t have as many problems. Maybe in the future, we’ll be able to pull this off and not even get hurt.”
                Renee nodded.
                “Maybe,” she said, sitting back. Now that the adrenaline had completely crashed, she was feeling sluggish and tired. She couldn’t wait to get home and go to sleep. She was so tired that she nodded off on the way home.

*****

Keep an eye on this spot. As soon as I make this novel public, this will one of the first places I make the announcement.

1 comment:

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