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Secret Origins

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Old 01-29-2017, 03:42 PM
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Default Secret Origins


For three weeks I’ve been tracking the Cad across the Atomic City. I’ve broken the bones of more than a few criminals along the way to zero in on his whereabouts. Now is the moment that I’ve been waiting for: the chance to catch him and his whole dirty crew in one place.

From what the Cad’s top lieutenant said—after I broke his clavicle—the Cad has a big deal going down tonight. It’s a deal big enough that he wants nearly everyone here for protection. No matter how many he has with him, it won’t be enough protection.

The car streaks towards the front door of the warehouse. This car might look like a black Bugatti, but it’s reinforced more than an armored truck. The press—most of whom have seen too many movies—call it the Spectermobile. I prefer to call it the Mean Machine for obvious reasons.

A couple of worthless guards start to open fire with their machine guns. The bullets hardly scratch the Machine’s paint. They give up in time to dive out of the way as the Machine plows through the heavy double doors as if they’re made of paper.

Right away I can see my informant wasn’t lying, which is good for him as it means I won’t pay him a hospital visit to shatter a few more of his bones. This warehouse was supposed to be abandoned, but there are enough crates piled up to fill a freighter. How many contain weapons and how many contain heroin I don’t know or care about at the moment. I’m more concerned with the three-dozen armed goons.

Like those by the doors they start to open fire. The Machine deflects the bullets, though they will eventually start to do some damage. More damage will come from the RPG-7 being loaded by a couple of the goons. The Machine could survive, but not without a hundred thousand or so in damage.

There’s an easy way to end this shootout: I tap the button for the electromagnets in the Machine’s headlights. Like Darth Vader the magnets rip the weapons right out of the goons’s hands. If they try hard enough the goons might be able to pry them away, but I’m not about to give them the opportunity.

With another button the car speakers let out a shrill note that brings the goons to their knees. In about two minutes their ears will start bleeding. A couple minutes after that they’ll have permanent hearing loss. It’ll be a good reminder for them that they should have chosen a different line of work in a different city.

The goons are out of commission, but I haven’t seen the Cad yet. I only have some vague descriptions and blurry photos of him. The tall man in the tuxedo with a yellow boutonnière looks about right. He comes through the back door just in time for my fist to shatter the kabuki mask he’s wearing. He stumbles back, spitting blood and maybe a couple of teeth.

“You can’t be here. The car—” he shouts in a high voice like a teenager.

I hold up the device I’ve been using in my other hand. “Didn’t you ever play with remote control cars?” I ask him. Before he can answer, I hit him again.

By now I’d have shattered every bone in my hand if I weren’t wearing titanium-reinforced gauntlets. The whole suit is lined with the stuff now. It’s heavier and harder to move in than my old suits, but since everyone can get an AR-15 at the corner store and I’m not as young as I used to be, the protection is necessary.

I stuff the remote in a pouch on my belt and take the cuffs from off my hip. These aren’t the sort of cuffs the average flatfoot carries; these were designed by an escape artist in the Czech Republic who is one of only two people in the world who can open the cuffs, me being the second person. Once the cops finally show up, I’ll turn over the Cad and hope their incompetence or corruption doesn’t see him back on the streets in twelve hours.

I drag him into the warehouse and then begin rounding up his goons. The speakers are still letting out their awful noise, but I have special plugs in my cowl to keep the sound out. I don’t have cuffs for all of these goons, but zip ties will be enough for them. If one or two escapes, it won’t matter all that much; I’ll probably catch them again when they hook up with some other “master” criminal.

With everyone tied up, I finally turn off the speakers and magnets. I barely hold in a groan as I bend to get into the Machine. I really ought to build a new one with an SUV frame so I won’t have to stoop to get inside; my back isn’t as strong as it used to be, especially in this armor-plated suit.

There’s a message from Wilhelmina on the display. “Sir, our satellites are indicating an object descending rapidly through orbit. It’s projected to touch down in Hamilton City.”

“How long?”

“It should hit in a half-hour, sir.”

“Scramble the jet to my location. I’ll send the Machine back to you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Any chance Goldenboy is already on this?”

“I think that’s most likely, sir.”

“Guess we’ll see who gets there first then,” I say and then end the conversation. Stopping space garbage is more suited to Golden Idol’s talents, but I’m not about to sit back and wait for some alien freak in the hope he might decide to lend a hand.

I program the autopilot for the Machine to head back to base and then climb out. It shouldn’t take the plane more than three minutes to get here at top speed and I’m sure Wilhelmina will know to put it at top speed. I give the goons and their boss a long glare. “Try not to miss me while I’m gone,” I say. I ought to put the Cad in regular cuffs, but fuck it. Let him get one of his goons to unzip his fly for him when he gets to the police station.

Since my ears aren’t permanently damaged, I can hear the jet when it’s about a mile off. It’s almost impossible to see even in the light polluted night skies of Atomic City. The plane has a teardrop shape with angular panels along it to deflect radar. There are two sets of engine, one for cruising and one for vertical landing, both designed to minimize infrared signatures. The government would kill me to get the plans, but I’ve managed to keep it a secret.

The plane stops on a dime and then starts to descend. I wait until it’s down before I run over to the cockpit to avoid getting a blast of jetwash to the face. Even with the armor on the suit it would still not be a pleasant feeling, like being in a sauna.

I let out the groan I held in earlier as I scramble up into the cockpit. The moment the canopy shuts, the jet is lifting off. Wilhelmina has already programmed in an intercept course with the object. For better tactile precision I pull off my gloves and then tap at the main computer screen to pull up everything Wilhelmina has on the object.

There’s no picture, just radar tracking from the ground and the “communications satellites” I put into orbit years ago. It was about the time Golden Idol showed up for the first time. If one alien could land on our planet, who’s to say a whole bunch might not come along one day?

This isn’t an alien invasion; it’s probably just a rogue satellite or meteor. It could be a terrorist attack; hacking a satellite to drop it on a city would do plenty of damage. Only if I let it get that far. My jet isn’t really equipped to grab falling space debris, but all I really need to do is knock it off course enough that it will land in the harbor, preferably away from any shipping traffic.
I just about have a heart attack to hear a tap on my canopy. My fists clench to see Golden Idol coasting next to me in that clownish yellow suit with the orange underwear on the outside and the matching orange cape trailing behind. Cameron King read far too many comic books when he was growing up in Nebraska.

I’m probably the only one not in his adopted family who knows his true identity. It didn’t take long to do a facial recognition on him even with that stupid domino mask he wears. He’s naïve enough to probably think that stops someone from recognizing him. Just like he thinks wearing glasses with his normal attire is a “disguise.” The sad part is most people don’t care enough to question it.

He gives me that shit-eating farmboy grin of his and a friendly wave like we’re not flying twenty thousand feet off the ground. He points towards the horizon and then taps his chest. I give him a curt nod, letting him have first crack at the object. It is a job better-suited for his talents; when he fucks it up then I’ll come in to save the day.

The jet is going over Mach 4 but Golden Idol pulls away as if I’m standing still. For “scientific purposes” he let himself be clocked at nearly ten times the speed of sound. And that was hardly breaking a sweat. Smug bastard could probably go the speed of light—or close enough to make Einstein wet his pants.

I have to wait a couple of minutes before I get close enough to see the object. At first glance it looks like a meteor from the pockmarked, stony surface that has roughly the same shape as my plane. I’m not an expert on meteors, but I don’t think they’re supposed to glow with purple light. Orange or red would make sense since it came down through the atmosphere, but purple is definitely unnatural.

Idol has positioned himself beneath the object. He’s hoping to brace himself against it to slow it down and then carry or deflect it back into space. I’m sure the scientific community would love to study something this odd, but they’ll just have to send a probe out after it later.

I climb above the object to do a slow circle around it. The object is slowing, but not by much. Not as much as it should given Idol’s raw strength. Have we finally found something that’s too powerful even for him?

I switch over to the vertical lift engines so I can drop down. It doesn’t take long to see something is definitely wrong: Idol is straining. Not only that, but also he’s sweating. The man could fly into the center of the sun and not sweat a drop. His face is contorted to look as if he’s been constipated for a month and trying to push out the mother of all logs.

I edge closer to see something else odd: Idol’s suit is starting to look a bit baggy, almost as if he’s deflating like a balloon. His hair has gotten longer, to the point it’s in his eyes as he struggles with the object. If the buffoon had a Bluetooth or some other kind of communications device I could tell him to get the hell out of there, but of course he doesn’t; he’s never needed to work with anyone else.

Maybe it’s my imagination that the cockpit is starting to get warm. My suit has better climate controls than an astronaut’s and yet I’m starting to feel as if I’m in a sauna. I pull back from the object and cool off a little. What the fuck? There must be some kind of radiation coming from that thing. The plane’s skin and cockpit glass are supposed to be radiation shielded, so whatever it is has to be pretty damned strong—or something that we’ve never studied before on Earth.
I let my sensor packages run over the thing. A lot of numbers come up, but nothing conclusive. Meanwhile, Idol is turning into a stick figure—a shaggy stick figure. The fool should get out of there, but if he can hold it steady a few more seconds, I should be able to do something desperate and crazy enough to save the good people of Hamilton City.

I hop over the object with the vertical landing jets to come out on the other side of it. I give myself a good fifty feet of space. Then I hit the cruising engines, ramping the throttle up as high as it’ll go. I rocket away from the object, but the force of the sudden afterburner and resulting sonic boom has knocked the object off course. It’s also sent Golden Idol tumbling towards the ground. I turn back around to observe the object and Golden Idol.

“Shit,” I say to myself. The computer has run the numbers on my maneuver. The object is still going to come down in a heavily populated area outside of Hamilton City. Instead of a couple hundred thousand dead there might only be twenty thousand dead, but that’s still far too much collateral damage.

Worse is that Golden Idol is in freefall. Either he’s unconscious or he doesn’t have the strength yet to recover from the spin. Without him to steady the object, it would be almost impossible to do it again. Fortunately I have something even more desperate and crazy in mind.

Just like the Mean Machine, my plane has an electromagnet on it. The idea for this came after the Sky Lion gang hijacked the Vice-President’s plane. The idea is that I could magnetize the bottom of the jet to attach myself to another plane and then use suction cups to crawl along the hijacked plane and find a way in. There’s no need for the suction cups or crawling around, but if I can attach my plane to the object, I might slow it down or adjust its course enough to steer it to a safe landing zone.

I slow as I get near the object, going back to the vertical lift jets. It’s still going to be dicey to line myself up with the object enough to get good contact with it. Idol would come in handy right now to steady the thing for me again. I probably should have tried this first, but if it doesn’t work, I could tear the underside of the plane apart.

“Here goes nothing,” I mumble. I’m not a praying man usually, but now I pray to any deity that will listen to let this work.

I lower the plane towards the object. The navigation computer feeds me course corrections to reach a proper intercept point. As I get closer, the cockpit starts to warm again. Sweat starts to soak my body again as if the temperature went up a hundred degrees in two seconds. The inner layer of my cowl is supposed to absorb any moisture, but there’s still sweat getting into my eyes. I blink it away with irritation while continuing to line up the intercept.

When the computer indicates it’s time, I turn on the magnet. I have to hope this object has enough metal in its composition for the magnet to hold. There’s a sharp thunk and a few red lights come on in the cockpit, but nothing too bad. At least not for the moment.

I reach for the engine controls, but it’s as if the cockpit has gotten bigger or my arm shorter. I have to actually shove my hands back into my gloves before I can touch the engine controls. I turn back to the cruising engines and start easing the throttle forward.

There’s a high-pitched shriek of metal as the bottom of my plane and the object rub against each other. I’m starting to lose contact with the object. As I try to adjust the throttle, the top half of my cowl sags over my eyes. “What the hell?” I shout, my voice cracking like a pubescent boy’s. I don’t know what’s happening to me, but if I don’t break contact with the object soon, I might end up a puddle inside my suit.

“How much longer?” I ask the computer.

“Voice input not recognized.”

“Goddamnit, it’s me!” I shout, but my voice sounds like it did when I was a little boy. I never programmed the computer to recognize that, just my normal voice. I slap at my cowl to push it back and then stab at the computer to run the numbers again. Ten more seconds and then I should be able to break away. I really hope I can last that long.

I count the seconds down in my head. I get to seven before there’s a rumble followed by a creak. A moment later the engines have stopped and red lights are flashing all over the cockpit while buzzers are alerting me to five crises at once.

One of those crises is that the magnet has lost power. I try to get it back online, but it’s no use. There’s not enough power left for it. I barely have enough for the flight systems and life support. I have to shove my hand forward again to get a firm grasp of the control stick. At worst now the object will hit a farm and kill a few cows—so long as the numbers hold.

There’s no more time to worry about that as the plane is falling even faster than the object. I pull back on the stick for all it’s worth, but I’m still going in too fast. If I could get the vertical lift engines online I could slow my descent, but they’re as fried as the magnet; I must have burned them out with the docking maneuver.

There’s nothing left to do then but stab at the controls until I hit the eject button. The seat doesn’t fly out like a traditional fighter jet’s ejection mechanism. Instead, the entire nose section separates. There’s a secondary engine built into this section and a pair of short wings extend from the sides to give me some attitude control.

I’m still going too fast for a safe landing. Ahead I see a marshy area that looks like the best place for a belly landing. “Here goes nothing,” I squeak.

There’s a hard thump and it’s good my cowl is loose so I have some added room to keep my head from smashing against the canopy. Muddy water sprays up in all directions as I come down in the marsh. The plane bounces along at least a half-dozen more times, skipping like a stone until it finally comes down with a bump hard enough to send me flying forward. My restraints have become loose enough that my head hits the edge of the cockpit displays. I have just a moment to sigh with relief at making it down to the ground and then my vision goes black.

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Old 01-30-2017, 01:39 PM
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Thanks for the spacing.

I've never been a pollster. My apologies.

Are you interested in other forms of consideration?
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Through the smoke and fog there comes a form ... shape shifting ... could this be the Future?
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Old 01-30-2017, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post

Are you interested in other forms of consideration?
Of course.
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by moonpunter View Post
Of course.

There is a redundancy of terms, i.e. "Cad" and "goons", that tends to dull the piece's edginess.
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:11 PM
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Is this a complete short story, a piece of a longer work, or something else?
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Old 01-30-2017, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by brianpatrick View Post
Is this a complete short story, a piece of a longer work, or something else?
It's a first chapter.
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Old 01-30-2017, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick Pierce View Post
There is a redundancy of terms, i.e. "Cad" and "goons", that tends to dull the piece's edginess.
Thanks for sharing.
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Old 01-30-2017, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by moonpunter View Post
It's a first chapter.


Okay, that makes sense.

I'm having a hard time with the first person narrative, and here's why:

This is a fantasy with lots of tech and stuff that needs to be explained. Well, you could just not explain anything and let the reader imagine things, but I don't think that would fit with the style of the piece.

So in the first person, the MC is always explaining the weapons and equipment and even his strategy. Who is he explaining it to? Like he's talking to himself. It seems like third person omniscient might fit better for this kind of tale.

I could be missing something. This thing could be going somewhere The reader can't yet see. Dunno.

Otherwise the mechanics are pretty good. A few spots I noticed some sentences with redundancies, but you'll probably find those on re-write.

I personally would like to know a little more about the characters involved, develop a little more sympathy for or understanding of them. It reads a little stark to me so far.
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Old 02-01-2017, 01:37 PM
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ok, first things first, you called him golden boy and then golden Idol - this could be intentional and it would work but I thought you might want to know.

goons's is goons' no second s

I write first person and I agree this need to be more third person omniscient if you are going to explain the workings of the weapons.

by far the thing I couldn't except is was the ship locking onto the thing and trying to pull it up. it won't work. think about it. It is pushing against the objects and simply trying to break the magnetism - if you want the thing to go up you have to be under it, pushing up.

now I don't care if you fuck everything up but I thought the use of such word were out of place in this piece.

other wise it is written well and has a nice steady flow although I thing some different choices of word that would speed up the story could be helpful.

now i'm going to rate you a four out of five, that should make you very happy because I don't care much for super hero stories. but this one is ok.

max crash
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Old 02-02-2017, 07:01 AM
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Is it acceptable to mix tenses? You have used both present and past.
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Old 02-02-2017, 10:45 AM
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Where?
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Old 02-04-2017, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Cityboy View Post
Is it acceptable to mix tenses? You have used both present and past.


When he's thinking about something that happened in the past, yeah.
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