#NaNoWriMo 2016, Week 1 Clip.

We had no idea what it was, we’d never seen anything like it. We’d found it by accident, after Hurricane Alexander. That storm had flooded the entire coastline. A wall of water had washed into the area below. It wiped the farm town that had been there from the map. It was gone. An entire colony of ant workers, hundreds of thousands of them. Gone. Over 600 butterflies had drowned in their sleep, in their homes.

It had all washed away in a wall of water sixty monarchs high. We’d come to investigate, to search for any survivors, and found nothing.

Except for a polished slab of stone. It wasn’t natural, we knew that immediately. And it was huge. Ten monarchs across by three deep. We’d examined it, studied it, and reported it. They government sent a team to dig it up, find out what it was. That had been six months ago.

We still had no idea what it was, only that it was the size of a building, and solid, polished granite. With strange symbols carved into one side. And it wasn’t alone. We’d found a half dozen of them already, and the search tunnels the ants had dug indicated the area was full of them. There might be hundreds of these building sized stones down there, buried under the dirt.

It was a complete mystery to us. What were they? Where had they come from? Who had made them? How old were they? No one knew. Hell, we didn’t have clue.

The six we’d uncovered were in a rough line. Two had been found face down, for lack of a better way of describing it, with their etchings on the bottom. Fallen buildings. Except, they were solid. Not hollow. Nothing could have lived in them.

The tunnels indicated several lines of the stones existed. They were arranged, side by side. Then, a gap the size of an entire town, and another row. Then another gap, and another row.

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Civil War : One

The GPS signal told me I was approaching what was once Jackson, Mississippi. For giggles, I asked the network, “What was Jackson, Mississippi like?”

Turned out it was the capital of the state of Mississippi. The network showed virtual images of the city, shopping areas, the city arena, the arts center. It had been a stronghold of the Southern Resistance, and God’s Army.

“So, I’m heading into a land I’m hated.” I signed, “What else is new.”

As my truck headed east toward Jackson on what was left of Interstate 20, I checked all the arms and safety systems. The two drones in the truck bed reported they were fully operational. The roof mounted missile rack reported it was fully operational. The sensors in the metal foam armor reported the armor was 99.9% intact from the damage done to it in the skirmish I’d passed through a few hours ago.

I checked the shredder rounds for my two assault guns, and my two handguns. The guns and their rounds were ready. I verified the cartridge change mechanisms on all four were functioning, and I had 16 fully loaded cartridges ready to go, attached to the ammo belts on my armor.

My armor itself reported it was 100% functional, and ready to protect me from all forms of gunfire.

The truck stopped on a hill just west of Jackson, and the transport system asked, “Are you ready?”

I was on a simple mission. Reconnaissance. Supplement the information the airborne drones had collected in the past month with human visual information.

“Open.” The door of my truck opened, and I stepped out. The truck reported no abnormal heat sources in the area, so I felt reasonably safe. Or as safe as a hated Yankee could be in the deep south. I scanned the horizon. The remains of a few buildings were visible to the east north east. A few scattered, burned out houses were visible along the sides of the interstate. What looked like a blown up Walmart shopping center was visible about a mile down the road.

I stood there, and thought about what I was doing. “Why do I do this? Why do I come here, to the South? Why do I risk my life like this?” The hills, and what few remaining trees I could see looked good enough. I suspected it would have been a pretty place at one point.

The truck flashed its lights to signal me it was time to move. The time in the top right of the visual enhancement system said, “0947 hours EDT, 08 May 2054”. It was six months, three weeks, twenty-seven days since the total defeat of the Southern Resistance and God’s Army. We’d kept the door open for peace talks for three years. We hadn’t even asked for unconditional surrender. All we’d asked for was them to abolish their slavery system, and halt their genocide of homosexuals and transgender people. That’s all we’d asked. We were tired of the war. Tired of the killing. Tired of the blood.

They refused. They insisted on fighting to the end. “We will never surrender in our fight for God’s ways!”

I got in the truck, “Launch drone one. I want it ten miles ahead of us.” The truck shuddered as the drone came to life, it’s solar powered engines lifted it from the truck bed, and it sped along the highway, 20 feet above the ground. The drone’s visuals displayed on one of the truck monitors. “Drone one reports no signs of human activity.”

“Let’s go.”

The truck resumed its eastward journey. I recognized the bomb craters on either side of the road. “Look like penetrator rounds.”

The truck confirmed, “Drone aircraft armada passed overhead for thirty days, dropped 25 pound penetrator rounds on everything.” I could imagine the terror. The horror. A thousand aircraft, filling the sky, moving at just shy of the speed of sound, less than 100 feet off the ground.

As the passed over houses, shopping centers, gas stations, or any other buildings, the penetrators would have launched. Straight down. Penetrators contained very high explosive rounds. They didn’t explode on impact. They were rocket propelled, a small solid booster slammed them into the roof of a building. They went right through. The visual sensors on them detected when they were inside the structure, then they exploded.

Imagine six, or twelve, or more, 25 pound fuel air bombs going off inside a four bedroom house. That’s what penetrators did.

We had no choice. The Southern Resistance and God’s Army soldiers hid inside people’s houses. The people sheltered them, protected them. Everyone was certain we wouldn’t inflict collateral damage, civilian damage. We were more civil than that.

But after seven years of war, and three years of peace offers, we had no choice. If we’d have let it, the war would have continued for decades. Maybe it would have never ended. So, we’d sent in the penetrators.

Millions died.

Not hundreds. Not thousands.

Millions.

The Southern part of the continent had been depopulated. All it’s population centers had been wiped out. The penetrator attacks kept going. We sent the drones again, and again, and again. For thirty days, and thirty nights.

On the thirty-first day, we’d sent recon drones. Thousands of them. We’d repositioned our satellites. We’d sent manned F-44s on flyovers. We’d analyzed the pictures, studied them, torn them apart. Then, we’d sent in the ground troops. Mostly automated, each soldier controlled a dozen ground drones. They’d gone into the countryside, and looked for pockets of resistance.

It took two years to clean things up.

No one will ever know the total body count.

We weren’t the United States of America anymore. We were just America. No states. No boundaries. One single country. The civil war was over. A big “L” shaped chunk of the country was a bombed out, burned out wasteland. Now, we were trying to clean it up. Now, we were learning what we were dealing with, and what it would take to rebuild our country.

God’s Army and the Southern Resistance had wanted to cleanse the country of its evils.

Well. I don’t think they’d ever thought of themselves at the evil parts of the country that needed to be cleansed. That’s how it had worked out, though.

I told the truck, “Keep me posted. Let me know if drone one spots anything alive.”

“Jackson. I’ve never been to Jackson.” It was going to be a long day.

A Tale Of Wrath : Taking Care Of Business

The ground was pretty tough, but I was tougher. I will admit, it wasn’t easy digging a big hole over 6 feet deep. But I had to dig it deep. Very deep. I was going to need it. I tossed another shovel full of dirt out of the hole, onto the ocean of dirt piled beside it, the wiped the sweat from my eyes, and took a big chug from my Coke. Real Coke, you know. Not that Coke Zero shit, or that Diet Coke piss. Real Coke. With real caffeine.

Then I dug some more. I’d been digging off and on for a week. In the middle of the woods. At night, so no one would see me. Not that anyone would have seen me anyway. The nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away, and my back yard butted right up to the woods. The last house on the road. I’d picked it, so I could escape the stupidity of the world.

Watching the news pissed me off. Like that marriage shit. Yeah. The government said, “anybody can get married.” And that was fucking wrong. Everybody with a lick of sense knew that. Only a man and a woman could get married. That’s what marriage was. Two people making babies. Not fucking adopting them. Jesus, the world was fucked up.

Then there was that Bernie Sanders ass hole from what, Vermont? One of them pussy states that was ruled by them feminist women, and their pretty boy men. You know, those stupid men who’d sell their soul to Satan just to get permission to fuck their wives or girlfriends. You know what I’m saying?

I concentrated on shoveling more dirt out of the hole. I really wasn’t sure if six feet deep was good enough. Maybe eight feet would be better. As I dug, I thought about the type of brick I’d need to weigh down the corpse, so it wouldn’t float to the surface in a good rain. So it’d stay in the ground, and never be found.

I knew exactly what I was going to do. I had it all planned out.

See, this… Thing… Thing’s the only word for it. Thing. Abomination. Spawn of Satan. Whatever the fuck you want to call it. This thing was ruining everything at work. Everybody talked about it, too. How they’d made this unisex bathroom, where anyone could go for a leak. They’d made it so that thing could have a place to piss. So everyone would know where it went to piss, and could avoid that place like the plague.

And that’s what everyone did. Like Julie said, “I’m never setting foot in that one again. Even after it’s gone, even if after it’s gone they pour 300 gallons of chlorine bleach on everything in there. Nope. Never setting foot in there again.”

Julie wasn’t alone in that feeling about that thing at work. I remember too well when the office bosses came around and laid down the law, “Anyone treating this person impolitely will be fired. She’s a person, just like all of us. With the same rights, and the same privileges.”

Yeah. It was an it. Used to be a girl. None of us ever knew her. She’d worked there for years, in some department or other. Then, one day, the bitch decided she was a guy. And she had this surgery shit done.

I heard its parents, brother, and sister disowned it. Can’t blame ‘em.

So, I spent a year watching people where I worked go nuts. It was hilarious, the way they acted like everything was OK when It was in the room, and how they all relaxed, and talked about how they thought it would never leave when it finally left.

Hell, I knew what to do before I ever saw a story in the papers, or on the TV. Remember the first time I saw a story, “Another Transgender person beaten to death.” Like that’s news. Like that’s a bad thing.

I kept digging. I figured another couple of nights, and I’d be ready. Then all I had to do was get it alone. With no one around. And I’d be able to rid the world of another one of them.

I’d been working on that for a couple months, being polite to it. Going to lunch with it. Hell, I even let it borrow my Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Said, “Keep it. I’ll get another. It’s fun to look at.” Yeah. Hot women wearing paint. I knew how its mind worked. It was only a matter of time until I invited it to a cookout in my backyard.

It was never going to leave my backyard while it was breathing.

So, I kept digging, knowing I was doing the world a favor, and working to remove something evil from it. Just doing my job to make the world a better place.

Pictures And Paintballs

“Have you seen Joey’s garage?”

I shook my head. “Nope.”

Shy shook her head, “I still can’t believe what’s in it.”

“OK. You’ve got me curious. Tell me what’s in it.”

“He’s set up a target practice range in his garage.”

Yeah, that would be Joey. “And this is a surprise?”

She laughed, because she knew him having a target practice range in his garage was not a surprise. “No, that’s not the surprise.”

“What? He uses real bullets? Like a shooting range?”

I liked it when she laughed, it made me feel better. And I never felt good, so her laughter was important to me. “No, silly.” She waved her hand. “Not that at all.”

“Then what’s he done that so strange?”

“You know he hates politics, right?”

“Yeah, man. Does he ever.” Joey always change channels on his TV when a political ad came on. Even if ads were on 37 consecutive channels. Hell, he’d watch a program on how to use makeup to make smokey eyes on a guy before he’d watch those damn ads. “He always says they should shoot everybody.”

Shy grinned, “He means it.”

“What? Why?”

She laughed some more. “You’re gonna love this.”

Shy swung her arm in a big arch. “Joey’s printed pictures of all the people running for President.”

“Why would he do that?”

“He hung them in a line on his garage wall.”

“Oh, shit! You’re kidding me! Tell me you’re kidding me.”

She shook her head, “The bastard spends time each night reviewing the headlines for stupid things the candidates said, and he shoots that candidate’s picture with a paint ball every time they say something stupid.”

I laughed so hard I couldn’t breath, and my ribs ached, and I had a headache.

Shy patted me on the back, “Breathe, honey. Breathe.”

“God, damn. That’s funny!”

She nodded, “He said he’s had to print several copies of Trump, Cruz, and Bush, ‘cause they keep getting covered in paint.”

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did that night.

Shy laughed plenty too. “I’m telling you, either Joey’s a crazy son-of-a-bitch, or he’s a genius.”

When I could breathe I answered her, “He’s both.”

That night, we watched the news before bed, and wondered how many times Joey had to shoot his paintball gun, which pictures he’d had to shoot at, and how he could afford that many paint balls.

Quiet

I waited, in the brush, invisible, silent. The forest was quiet, I heard nothing. Not the wolves, bears, or owls, although I knew they were around. I also knew they’d wait, and watch until I acted. They’d act when their selected leader acts.

I didn’t smile, although you might have said I did. My lips separated in a quiet snarl. The men were coming. I closed my eyes, and listened. I could hear them in the distance, getting closer.

Men. On their way to my home. My town. The town Jessica, Hannah, and Valerie started. The town we’d made from nothing. All of us were survivors. Wounded by what happened in the word. What happened when the veneer of civilization fell away. When the world went insane.

Men murdered my father. Raped my mother and sister, then murdered them. But what happened to me was nothing compared to what happened to Valerie, my love. To Kelly, and so many others.

I remembered when I found Kelly, what men had done to her. I remembered when Kelly and I rescued Jenny, Beth and the others from the stables. It was the first time I’d struck back against the chaos. I’d found more stables since then, with the wolves. We’d shut them down, freed the women trapped in them.

I learned to speak with the wolves, bears, owls, hawks, eagles, foxes. Jessica had them teach me their languages, their ways. Eventually, a bear told me, “You have found yourself.”

Now, I waited for the men. Quiet. Hidden. No guns, a bow and arrows instead. Something they wouldn’t hear coming. The wolves and foxes had taught me to move through the brush almost silently, like a predator stalking prey.

I waited for the men, noisy as they were, arrogant as they were. Them, and their guns. Not afraid of anything. Intent on sending a message to everyone, “You can’t stand against us!” My snarl said otherwise. The men were in for a surprise.

The noise they made grew louder, I knew they were nearby. We’d planned well, we’d watched them approach for days. We knew the path they followed, where they were going, how they would get there and when they would get there. They wouldn’t know we surrounded them.

I raised my bow, drew an arrow, and quietly waited for the first man to appear. I didn’t have to wait long. He stepped between the trees, breaking branches, kicking brush out of his way, acting like he ruled the forest. Right until the moment my arrow sank into the center of his chest. I quietly drew a second arrow and let it fly. Then a third. Three men down.

I had no need for noise. I quietly moved through the brush, patiently stalking the men, hunting them. I could smell the chaos and fear consuming them. I let three more arrows fly. Three more men fell.

They panicked, started shooting their guns at nothing, at shadows. The time for quiet had ended. I screamed the battle cry of the owls, causing them to take flight, followed by the wolves and the bears.

It was a short fight. Men screamed. Men shot at shadows, and anything that moved, at each other. Soon, there were no more men.

And the forest was quiet again.

Black Magic

“Show me what you tried,” Timmy asked. He knew the procedure well, he’d memorized it years ago, answered every question about it on the CompTIA A+ tests, made sure the procedures for the IT department matched the industry standard troubleshooting procedures. Start by gathering information. Asking the human to duplicate what they did.

He watched each step Callie took, each menu option selected, each keyboard item selected as she recreated the problem, step-by-step, resulting in the screen going white for a few moments, then returning to the desktop, with her document closed. “It does that every time!”

“OK. My turn.” Timmy sat at the computer. He put his USB drive in a port, and ran his custom PowerShell script. Windows flashed on the screen. “This will clear the caches and the temporary files, reset any damaged network policies in the registry, that kind of thing.”

Callie watched the screen, “Wow.”

“It’s a standard problem with clients on our network, where network security applications limit the size of the Windows Page File, which forces applications to use more memory, causing memory to run out.” He smiled at Callie. They watched the windows flash, then the machine rebooted.

Timmy let Callie sit back down, “Try again.”

Callie repeated all the steps she’d shown him. This time, the screen did not turn white, and her document didn’t close. Timmy asked, “That better?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“You understand what I did, right?”

Callie laughed, “You waved your hands at it, and chanted some mumbo-jumbo, and cast some magic spell.”

Timmy laughed too, “Yep. Black magic.” He pulled the USB drive free. “It’s what we do.”


It’s April 2nd, the second day of the 2015 A to Z Challenge. As a participant in the challenge I’ll be writing twenty six peices in April, one for each letter of the alphabet. Days off from the challenge are Sundays. As the month progresses, I’ll be posting a few clips from Heartsong, my work in progress. As for a single theme for the challenge, no. I don’t have one. I don’t like planning ahead. This is the second of the twenty six peices for the month, for the letter B. Tune in tomorrow and we’ll both find out what I’m writing for the letter C.

The Adept

Timmy sat at the desk. He looked at the computer screen. It was black, with no windows, no text. Just an arrow which was apparently the mouse cursor. He shook his head, “What the heck did you download?” He sighed.

Franklin growled, “I didn’t do anything! It just went black!”

Timmy nodded, “Of course.” He pressed the control, alt, and delete keys at the same time. The screen changed to a blue background, with a menu on it. He moved the mouse cursor over the menu option that read, “Task Manager”, and clicked the mouse on it.

The screen turned black again, and a few seconds later, the Windows Task Manager window opened.

“How’d you do that?” Franklin leaned over Timmy’s shoulder. “I couldn’t get it to do anything. I tried everything.”

Timmy didn’t say anything. He looked through the list of Windows Processes, “Yep. There it is.” He clicked on a process named “ClientSvc”, then clicked on the End Task button. A few seconds later, the screen came back, windows and all. “Yep.”

“Oh, thank God! What did you do?”

“Your computer has Conduit Search Protect on it. It’s a virus. Comes in when you download something else. It’s a piggyback.”

“What?”

“We’ll need to pull your computer off the net for a few hours, and run the removal process. You won’t lose any of your documents.”

Franklin shook his head, “But. But. How am I supposed to work?”

“That’s not my problem. We’ll get the machine back to you soon as we can.” Timmy shutdown the computer, disconnected it from the office network, the keyboard, the mouse, and the display. Then, he unlocked the steel safety cable holding it to Franklin’s desk. “Until then, make do.”

Franklin sat in his chair as he stared at his display. Timmy thought he looked completely lost, and helpless. “You’ll get it back to me today?”

“Yes. In a few hours. Conduit’s not so bad.” Timmy put on a fake smile, “Why don’t you take a few hours off, eat a lunch somewhere, take a walk over at the park?”

He headed toward the computer repair lab. As he did, he heard Franklin pick up the phone, and call his boss to explain what was going on. “The adept from IT said it’ll only take a few hours to fix. Should I go to lunch now?”

The adept. Yep. That’s what they called him, and the others on the repair team. Adepts. Full blown wizards, filled with magic. Timmy looked at the computer he carried, “What else did that idiot do to you?”

He knew, if a few minutes, the computer would tell him what happened. And like any adept wizard, he’d have to adjust the computer settings to prevent Franklin from being an idiot in that same way again.


It’s April 1st, the first day of the 2015 A to Z Challenge. As a participant in the challenge I’ll be writing twenty six peices in April, one for each letter of the alphabet. Days off from the challenge are Sundays. As the month progresses, I’ll be posting a few clips from Heartsong, my work in progress. As for a single theme for the challenge, no. I don’t have one. I don’t like planning ahead. This is the first of the twenty six peices for the month, for the letter A. Tune in tomorrow and we’ll both find out what I’m writing for the letter B.