The Gathering Storm, Part 14

Posted: June 22, 2011 in The Gathering Storm series
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“Andrea, was it?” the detective sergeant asked, and the woman he was addressing nodded. “Okay. Andrea, how long you been an assistant DA in this city? I’ve only seen you in around a couple times. First time I’ve talked to you. I’m guessing not long.”

“Sergeant, I don’t understand why I’m getting the attitude here. Speed Demon is a criminal. I’m asking your precinct to investigate and arrest him if possible. That’s your part of the job, and then I try to get him convicted.”

“How long you been with the DA’s office here, Andrea?” the sergeant persisted.

She sighed, and answered, “A couple weeks.”

“Guessing you come from a city with not very much trans white hat/black hat shit happening, right?”

“Hey, I didn’t come from some backwater Podunk, Sergeant,” Andrea protested. “Cleveland has its fair share of transhumans.”

“Yeah, yeah…okay, Andrea,” the sergeant said. “In Cleveland you got plenty of shitty sports teams and a crap economy even before the current recession. I bet you got more crappy teams than you do transhumans worth mentioning.”

“Are you suggesting I can’t handle transhuman convictions, Joe Lindemann, or are you saying you’re afraid to go after the one I, Assistant District Attorney Yates, just told you I need arrested?”

The sergeant furrowed his brow, then coughed. “What I’m suggesting, ADA Yates—sorry for trying to make nice-nice with the ‘Andrea’ stuff—is that the folks in your office who been doing this a lot longer are running you through a little initiation, making you think, ‘Oh, they like me and are going to include me on a case against a big-time villain.’ Because I won’t be sending out any uniforms to go rattling the bushes for Speed Demon, and they know it. They just didn’t tell you that.”

“And why, sergeant, won’t you be doing that?”

Sergeant Lindemann waved the file folder she had handed him in the air a few times and said, “This. You want me to arrest Speed Demon based on this.”

“Three people saw him jack the Rolls Royce and drive off with it. Another few people saw him take a Volvo, Lexus and Porsche later the same day. All in less than a 5-mile radius. Yeah, I know the cars are probably long gone—sold or chopped—but we have at least eight eyewitnesses on record right now.”

“Eight people who saw a guy in a mask and costume. You got high-res video that ain’t mentioned in this file? Fingerprints? Did anyone even see him use super-speed?”

“No, no one mentioned him using his powers, and of course there are no fingerprints. He had on gloves.”

“And a mask,” Sergeant Lindemann pointed out.

“A lot of the transhuman bad guys and heroes do that—wear gloves and masks. Are you saying you don’t arrest them? We rounded up trans folks based on ID’s when they were masked.”

“You don’t have as many black hats, and their lives of crime ain’t as lucrative.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” the assistant DA protested.

“Speed Demon’s got paid guys—maybe just a couple, maybe a half dozen, maybe 20 for all I know, who are just his height and build and walk around New Judah in costumes just like his. Some of them don’t do shit but help make it impossible to know when Speed Demon really is out and around, and some of them help him do crime by stealing cars and shit. Then you’ve probably got another 30 or 40 fanboys out there who dress up like Speed Demon several times a year, sometimes weekly.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she responded.

“No, I’m not. I hear he pays $20 an hour just to walk around in costume where he tells you to,” the sergeant replied. “That’s a nice little sideline gig for a person even if it’s only a couple hours a day on the whole. We go arresting everyone in a Speed Demon suit, we’re going to be sued to within an inch of our lives. Even if we nab the guy himself, what are we gonna do? You had some high-def video, we might have been able to match it to verified video of him for body recognition—body contours at least; kind of hard to figure out the face and head with a mask like that. We’re 90% sure we have his prints from one job where he got sloppy, so if you had fingerprints, great. If someone had even seen this guy use powers, I’d at least send someone out to ask questions. As it stands, you’ve brought me shit. Nothing personal, but it’s shit. And if you plan on lasting here, ADA Yates, you need a thicker skin and need to learn what battles to pick when a transhuman is involved.”

“So we do nothing. Is that it, Sergeant Lindemann?”

“Transhumans make law enforcement a real bitch sometimes, Andrea,” the officer said. “That’s one of the reasons we don’t crack down as hard here in New Judah on white hats who want to help clean up the streets as some other folks do.  Philly does crack the whip hard, and their crime rates are creeping up because they’re doing a better job rounding up vigilantes than crooks.”

“Fine, Joe,” she answered, taking a deep breath. Then she started again, without the acid in her tone. “What do you suggest I do?”

He handed her back the file. “Well, you promise not to come to me with weak cases on transhumans again, and I give you some advice. How’s that?”

She nodded. “Okay, Joe, what’s your advice?”

“You go have yourself a nice, long lunch, Andrea. Go out the side door down the hall to the right. Probably no one from your office has seen you here yet, and they won’t if you go out that way probably. You have a nice lunch, maybe a couple martinis so your colleagues can get just enough of a whiff to know you had a nice time, and you tell them, ‘Nice try, assholes. Thanks for giving me a reason to step out of the office for a while. Because there’s no way I was gonna bring weak shit like that to the precinct and waste the time of our men in blue.’ Can you do that, Andrea?”

She thought for a moment, and took a deep breath. “Did a little community theater in college, before I passed the bar and lost all my free time, Joe. I think I can handle that.”

He smiled, and spread his hands wide in front of him. “Who says the police aren’t any help to regular people, huh?”

* * *

Huddled behind a car, with the staccato accompaniment of gunshots as the theme song for his evening’s adventures, Cole couldn’t help but think of how far removed this was from the afternoon. When the sun had still been up, the worst he had to worry about was Desperado ridiculing him for supposed “flirting” with Sweet Talker, who had dropped into the area to help question another Guardian Corps candidate, and was using the shit apartment in which Cole stayed between his patrols.

There had been seven people total crammed in there with him as he got dressed and wrapped an Ace bandage around one sprained wrist. Cole only knew three of them, and Sweet Talker was the only one of the three he liked.

Cole hardly thought that saying “Hi” and asking how she’d been since he’d last seen her a few days before counted as flirting, but Desperado seemed to think that Cole needed as much ribbing and humiliation as possible in front of as many people at a time as possible. It had made combat training sessions sheer hell half the time.

Several folks had taken enough of a shine to Cole to give him some commiseration and support when Desperado wasn’t around, but they smiled or laughed at the man’s jibes as much as anyone else did when he was in earshot. Most everyone respected Desperado, even if several, like Cole, didn’t like him much.

Cole wasn’t sure if he could even manage respect. He admired Desperado’s convictions when it came to crime-fighting, and dedication to the Corps, but he found the guy repugnant otherwise—a loudmouthed, douche-baggy sack of shit.

But he’d kept his opinions to himself and would continue to do so. He counted himself fortunate that Desperado  had given the okay to start him on training and shadowing some patrols, given the fact the man clearly saw Cole as a failure waiting to happen—some overeducated, prissy hero-wannabe who didn’t have the balls probably to follow through.

However, that tension was pretty much old history in Cole’s mind now, even if had flared up only a few hours earlier. Now he was more concerned about whether he would live to see the morning. Cole was scared shitless but also hyped up. Adrenaline and his fight-or-flight instincts were warring and making him confused as to whether he should whoop or cower; charge the enemy or run.

Truth was, he knew the truth lay in the middle somewhere—blindly fleeing or attacking were both bad options. These were bullets, and the three of them in this Guardian Corps patrol unit were armed with mostly hand-to-hand weapons, plus a pair of tasers. This was supposed to be a quiet patrol and a relatively conflict-free evening. This neighborhood was usually manageable, and most new recruits like Cole got their patrol experience here first.

Lucky me. I get the excitement that almost never happens on my fifth patrol, Cole thought. And even if I live, I won’t be able to tell a single friend or family member about it.

“They’ll run out of bullets eventually, I suppose,” Cole muttered to the guy next to him, who went by the codename Wardawg and was in charge of this patrol. He’d emphasized three times since last night that it was an “aw” not an “o” kind of “dawg.” Cole might have found that annoying—rather than feeling a twinge of envy—if he wasn’t still irritated that his own codename for a while would be “Puppy” by decree of Desperado. Truth be told, even a guy with an annoyingly overblown sense of pride about his name was making him feel jealous. With the name Puppy clinging to him with all the intimidation factor of a pink, frilly dress on a soldier, Cole was certain that Desperado was pairing him with Wardawg just to keep his temporary codename firmly in the forefront of his mind. Dog, meet Puppy.

How about: Desperado, meet Cole’s fist? Cole daydreamed for a moment, knowing it would never happen.

“Doubt it,” Wardawg responded to Cole’s comment about their enemies’ ammunition. “I think they have some kind of hideout nearby or plan to do some deal, and they want us out of here. I figure in another minute or so they’re gonna pull out some automatic weapons and then we’re toast. They’ll take the car apart and if we can’t run, we’ll get taken apart a piece at a time.”

“God damn, you’re cheery, ‘Dawg,” Cole said, as he looked over at the prone body of Slyde just a little ways off, who had been on patrol with them. The young man was bleeding from a shoulder wound, but he was close enough for Cole to tell he was breathing regularly—possibly unconscious or perhaps playing dead to avoid getting shot again. He turned back and looked Wardawg right in the eyes. “You have the field experience; got a plan for me to follow?”

“Not the strategy type,” Wardawg answered.

Cole took a deep breath. The Guardian Corps hadn’t had much success yet figuring out how to help him focus his Ecto powers, but they’d given him some tips for using his Warpsmith powers. Still, warping space around people that far away and that spread out wouldn’t work. He might get the shooters on one end but then the ones on the other side of the street would pick him off. He had too little control to do it any other way than by line of sight; he’d have to stand. But it didn’t seem like a good idea for survival.

“Cops?” Cole asked hopefully.

“Not in this neighborhood. People keep to themselves and hunker down when shit happens,” Wardawg said. “And if anyone does call the cops, they’ll take their sweet time getting here. The reasonably honest ones know the Guardian Corps is almost always in the area and they want to stay in one piece so they wait for us to soften folks up. The crooked ones will wait until someone calls them to say all the illegal stuff is hidden away and all the folks with warrants on them have run off.”

“How about you call Desperado or someone at the headquarters on your cell phone?”

“Only one Speedster in the Guardian Corps right now, and wouldn’t drag him into a fight like this. He’d get wasted. No one’ll get to us in time to help and besides, I forgot to charge my phone,” Wardawg answered. “Don’t fucking tell that to Desperado, though; just say there was no signal. Even if I thought it was a good idea to call them, I can’t give you the number to the HQ yet without getting my ass kicked, and I’m not dragging the cops into this so if you dial 911 on your phone, I’ll hit you. Hard.”


Cole figured he could at least give Wardawg—whose Morph powers were useless in a fight like this—a chance to get clear, and maybe he’d get lucky and they wouldn’t hit him while he was giving Wardawg cover. Maybe he could get to a clear and safe zone himself if they missed and if the guys he disoriented with the warping didn’t recover too fast.

He raised himself up, and then was stopped cold. He almost shit himself as he realized there was a large hand on his shoulder. No, not on his shoulder but hovering just above it. Yet he felt a distinct pressure pushing downward on him. He looked over to see the tall and muscled man who belonged to that hand, and who looked at Cole without any malice while crouched near him.

Over the man’s chest and back were two blocks of glossy dark stone, connected by chains over his shoulders and on either side of his torso, forming a sort of rocky vest. Cole suddenly realized as he saw gold lettering that the two heavy accoutrements were two halves of a fairly large gravestone. The rest of the man’s costume was gray with off-white accents—a bland, short-sleeve head-to-toe bodysuit that emphasized the dark and sinister elegance of the tombstone vest. Even the man’s beard was a dull brown with bits of gray, and his eyes were a pale hazel. He might have been anywhere from his early-30s to mid-40s.

“Epitaph! Thank God,” Wardawg exclaimed. “I thought you had left town; glad to see you around still.”

Epitaph put a finger to his lips to calm the younger man’s exuberance and, Cole suspected, to leave their assailants unaware of his arrival. Then Epitaph removed his hand from above Cole’s shoulder, the pressure vanishing. He motioned for Cole to stay put, and gave him a wry smile with just a hint of grimness in his face.

“Better a live dog than a dead lion,” he told Cole, then stood and rushed at the gunmen himself.

Cole quickly glanced around the front of the car behind which he was hiding and saw Epitaph’s body deform in spots briefly as bullets presumably struck his costume but did not penetrate it. He rose up a bit to peer over the car’s hood and saw one of Epitaph’s mostly bared arms suddenly  develop an angry red welt from a bullet. The many gunshots that struck him made Epitaph hesitate, and made his stride falter. His face registered pain, but there was not blood, and he advanced somewhat erratically but mostly undaunted.

If that wasn’t odd enough, Cole suddenly realized that Epitaph’s feet weren’t quite making contact with the ground.

Suddenly, Cole stood up and faced the trio of assailants farthest from Epitaph. As the gravestone-garbed hero advanced more slowly on the pair he had targeted, alternately wincing and bellowing as those bullets hit home, Cole focused on the other set of gunmen and began to warp space around them. The process was difficult from this distance, but he poured everything he had into the spatial disruption.

He could scarcely pay attention to details, but he could imagine the sickly looks on the faces of the criminals. Two of the three dropped their guns, and one of those wavered, shuddered, and rolled into a fetal position. The other one squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his hands to the side of his head in the hopes that might lessen the nauseating feelings of disorientation, but all it did was keep him from falling over. The third man, against all of Cole’s expectations, was still firing at Epitaph, though his aim was wildly erratic. Finally, after several shots, he slumped back against a wall, moaning and wailing.

Cole wasn’t accustomed to keeping up a warp field for so long, much less from such a distance, and he could feel his heartbeat pick up and his blood vessels pound in his neck and head. He suddenly realized he was totally exposed if those men had friends he hadn’t seen yet. He was a sitting duck. A part of him wanted to shit or piss his pants—or at the very least take off running, but he thought about Epitaph and realized there was no reason to assume the man was invulnerable. He’d never heard of someone being totally bulletproof, and clearly the shots were causing the man agony.

He was terrified, but he was damned if he was going to let someone walk right into gunfire, transhuman resistance to harm or not, and fail to back that person up, even if he had cautioned Cole to lay low.

Epitaph showed his first hints of blood—a red smear across his upper arm and another on one cheek—though he still didn’t seem to have been penetrated by a bullet yet, and suddenly he surged forward in a full-tilt charge, screaming bloody murder as the latest set of ammunition ran out. The gunmen hesitated a moment and then grabbed up new guns. But Epitaph was on them by then, pummeling one with a meaty fist as he lifted the second up by his collar and slammed him against a brick wall three times, face-first, before dropping him in a limp heap. The man he had been hitting was likewise down.

Given Epitaph’s size and musculature, plus the burden of the cracked-in-two gravestone he wore, Cole was amazed at the speed of his assaults. He’d rarely seen a Brute with that much raw strength before who wasn’t somewhat slow as well.

Still maintaining the warp field, Cole began to swoon and almost tripped over his own feet as Epitaph headed for the other three men. As he neared them, Cole dropped the spatial disruption so that Epitaph could enter the area unfazed, and then Cole finally stumbled, fell, bounced off the hood of the car and slid to the ground. He felt some kind of breeze on his face, and assumed Wardawg must be fanning him or something. Then a few light, sharp slaps to his face, and the vague recognition of words.

“Cole, are you okay?”

Cole shook his head, his eyes closed, and ran a hand under his nose, suddenly realizing there was something warm and sticky there—blood. He mumbled something about checking on Slyde, heard Wardawg let out a soft “Oh shit” and sensed him rush off.

Grateful for a bit of time to himself, Cole decided it was as good a place as any to lay down and rest. If I’m dying from an aneurism or something, might as well be comfy doing it, he thought, finding the asphalt and dirt almost refreshing after the experience of warping space for an extended period.

Wardawg returned with a breathless “He’s okay” and lifted Cole up to prop his back against the car they had used as a barricade. “Slyde was playing possum but he’s lost a bit of blood so he’ll need help getting back to headquarters. Epitaph? You look pretty good. Can you carry him?”

Cole looked up groggily at the man who clearly had taken out all their assailants and now returned to them. Cole had to admit he looked better than he should, but he didn’t look good in the literal sense, no matter what Wardawg had just said. Epitaph was now adorned with numerous bruises and angry welts on his exposed skin, plus a couple broad scratches that were oozing blood. There were no bullet holes a far as Cole could see, though he figured the man must be sporting dozens of bruises and welts beneath the costume.

Epitaph looked down at Cole curiously. “Remembrance and reflection how allied. What thin partitions divides sense from thought,” the man said in a deep, buttery basso voice.

“Huh?” Cole said.

“I think he’s kind of saying you didn’t listen to him before and maybe didn’t think shit through before you stood up like an idiot,” Wardawg answered.

“Then why didn’t he say that?” Cole said groggily, then realized his rudeness and addressed Epitaph. “Why didn’t you say that, then?”

Epitaph simply smiled and Wardawg said, “He only speaks in quotes from books, movies and songs and shit, and only stuff that has to do with death or remembering. We don’t know if he’s mental and can’t help himself or if he does it on purpose just because he’s totally into the whole role-play of being a living epitaph.”

“Well, thanks for taking those guys out and you’re welcome for the help, Epitaph, even if you didn’t want it,” Cole said. “I don’t know of any good movie quotes or literary quotations for that.”

“A moment lasts all of a second, but the memory lives on forever,” Epitaph answered.

Cole considered for a moment, and then asked, “Are you saying this is a learning opportunity?”

Epitaph nodded.

“For you or me?”

Epitaph smiled and then shrugged, as if to say Not sure, then pointed vaguely toward Cole as if to add, But mostly you.

“Well, I’m not too keen on letting someone take all the risk for me when I can do something to help. But I may need an underwear change when I get back to my shithole of a room that Desperado gave me to hole up in. So maybe the real lesson here is ‘No good deed goes unpunished’ and ‘Doing the right thing isn’t always safe or easy’.”

Epitaph nodded noncommittally. “We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.”

“Hey, I know that one,” Cole said. “Che Guevara said that.”

“Look, I don’t want to interrupt or anything, but how about we leave before Slyde bleeds too much more or someone else decides to shoot at us.”

Epitaph nodded, and hefted Slyde over one shoulder with ease, though a slight grimace of pain flashed across his face. Cole imagined that being hit by that many bullets was hardly a pleasant experience, no matter what the means of his protection from them.

“Cole, you can find your way back to your hidey-hole, right? I’ll tell Desperado to have someone check back with you there,” Wardawg said. As the man began to walk, Epitaph put a hand in front of him, palm toward Wardawg’s chest. He came to a sudden halt more than an inch from Epitaph’s hand, as if he had hit an invisible wall. He looked at Epitaph’s slowly shaking head, and stepped back a pace. “He’s still on probation period, Ep,” Wardawg said. “I can’t take him to any of our satellites, much less the core HQ.”

Epitaph turned to look at Cole. “Once you accept your own death, all of a sudden you’re free to live. You no longer care about your reputation. You no longer care except so far as your life can be used tactically to promote a cause you believe in,” he said. Then he turned back to Wardawg. His voice became harsher, and Cole sensed that the words about to issue forth were not a continuation of the previous quote but a wholly new one. “When the game is over, the king and the pawn go into the same box.”

Frowning, Wardawg said, “I get what you’re getting at—I think. But Desperado and the others may not agree he’s earned it yet.”

Epitaph stepped a hair closer to Wardawg, and glared down at him.

“Look, I don’t want to get anyone in trouble,” Cole interjected. Epitaph pinned him with a slightly less scolding look, but one that told him to hold his tongue, and then went back to glaring at Wardawg. The smaller man looked away from Epitaph’s eyes only to stare at the upper half of the gravestone that was the larger man’s chest piece. Cole looked at it as well. Reynold Merryweather. Soldier. Father. Husband. 1942-1999. Cole wondered if the man whose grave the stone had once adorned was a friend, family member, enemy or stranger to Epitaph. Perhaps Epitaph had a collection of many different gravestone flak vests.

“Okay, fuck!” Wardawg finally responded to Epitaph and then looked over at Cole and added, “We all go together then.” As he began to walk in the direction of the Guardian Corps headquarters, he called out over his shoulder: “But this is your call, Ep, and it’s on your head if Desperado freaks out. I ain’t taking shit credit for this.”

As Cole trailed a bit behind them, and Epitaph looked back at him with a cat-ate-the-canary grin, Cole could only assume that Epitaph didn’t give a good god-damn what Desperado or anyone else might say.

He wished he could say the same.

* * *

Mad Dash sat at one of the two-person booths at the Caped Cuisiner restaurant and tapped his foot nervously at a speed sufficient to make a sound like a frantic tap dancer who performed only to the accompaniment of one-note songs. He slurped his jumbo cherry cola quickly, already having half-consumed it even though he’d only gotten it a few minutes earlier.

Pretty common for us Speedsters to do the nervous supersonic toe tap, but what’s with me? he wondered silently. Why am I nervous? I face down psychotic and violent hooty-hoos all the live long day. This is just a…a…a date? Am I on dates now? How long have these been dates? Good lumpy salty gravy, this place has even become our regular hangout.

Mad Dash caught a glimpse of someone he recognized in his peripheral vision, and turned his head sharply. “Hey! Python! Oh, Pyyyyython. You still owe me fifty singles. Or five tens. Or a thousand nickels…”

The chiseled and nearly bare-chested hero simply smiled and waved. “Si, si. Soon, soon. Don’t worry, my rapido loco amigo.”

Mad Dash frowned, and returned to his drink.

“You still haven’t gotten your money from that muscle-bound pretty boy?” said a female voice. “I could claw his six-pack abs a bit until he opens his wallet.”

Mad Dash looked up, frowned again, started to say, “Who are…” then stopped and whispered: “Ladykiller?”

The woman standing at the edge of the booth certainly had the right voice, but Mad Dash had to admit the costume was throwing him off. She wore a full-body black unitard of a velour-like material with a wide white strip of faux fur running from just above her eyes over her head and down her neck. From the reflections in some of the windows and mirrors, he could see the white streak ran all the way to her buttocks, to where a very short faux tail hung. Instead of one clawed gauntlet on her disfigured left hand, both her hands were thus attired. The new gauntlets were larger than the original one, but with shorter, broader claws, and the glove to which the left-hand gauntlet was attached made her appear to have all five fingers on that hand. Her mask was slightly totemic, and put Mad Dash in mind of some kind of animal he’d seen before. A beaver? A bear?

“Just call me Honey Badger,” Ladykiller said as she slid into the booth. “And even though you are nuttier than a fruitcake, please wipe the crazy look off your face and act like you’re used to seeing me this way.”

“Uh…why are you doing the animal kingdom thing, Lady…uh, Honey Badger?”

“Hmmm. Lady Honey Badger? Nah. Too much,” Ladykiller said with a chuckle as she flagged down a waiter. “Haven’t you ever heard of them? Damn. Guiness Book of World Records or National Geographic or someone says the honey badger is the most fearless animal around. Besides, with Query already knowing more about me than I’d like and you being all heroic and shit, I figured it would be better if you appeared to be dating someone else other than Ladykiller.”

“You don’t think the claws will be a deceased fire-sale?” Mad Dash asked.

“I’m guessing that was supposed to be ‘dead giveaway’,” Ladykiller noted. “If anyone asks why your newest lady friend has fingers as dangerous as your last one, say you have a claw fetish or something.”

“I don’t know if I have any fetish except for shift-running.”

“Yeah, the interdimensional space…the other woman in our relationship,” Ladykiller said. “But she doesn’t take too much of your time and doesn’t carry any STDs.”

“So, we are in a relationship?” Mad Dash asked.

Ladykiller arched one eyebrow, though there was no way Mad Dash could know that with a mask that covered three-quarters of her head. “Do you think I hold hands with everyone under a table or during a moonlit patrol? I’d think you’d’ve figured out by now I’m a survivor of kidnapping, serial rape, imprisonment and enslavement. Warm and fuzzies don’t come easy for me.”

The words were said without malice, but Mad Dash blushed fiercely. “I don’t know what…I don’t  know how…I’m not a veteran of being a boyo toyo.”

“Well, I haven’t exactly made a toy of you yet…hey, is that it?” Ladykiller asked, frowning now—Mad Dash couldn’t miss that facial expression, as the mask didn’t cover her mouth and chin. “Is it because we haven’t had sex? I…I…thought better of you than…”

“Stopitty stop stop. Cease. Desist. Pull over. Keep your hands on the wheel. Red alert. Slippery when wet. Don’t tread on me,” Mad Dash said in a frantic verbal stream just barely decipherable. Then he took a breath, and slowed down. “I don’t have a problem with that. I just. I’ve never. I’m not…” His words sped up again, as he blurted, “I don’t know what to do with a gal pal or ready steady or whatever they call double-X chromosome emotional companions these days.”

“They call us girlfriends,” Ladykiller said with just a trace of irritation. “Or partners. Or significant others. I like girlfriend. Dash, are you…oh, you are, aren’t you? Sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“Been running fast since 12 and fighting the forces of very dim light since 15 or 16. Never had time or exclamation.”


“Oh? Didn’t say that? Sorry,” Mad Dash responded. “Are you okay with that? My…uh…status.”

“We’ve fallen together as the oddest couple on record and even I don’t know how or why. But I’m not complaining. Being lonely sucks. If you’re cool with my extralegal hobbies of maiming rapists and abusers, I’m okay with you being disease-free and inexperienced. Whenever I get the ‘exclamation’ to have sex again I’ll be gentle with you.”

Mad Dash let out a whoosh of air, then chuckled. “But what if I decide I do have a claw fetish?”

“Gentle is a relative term,” Ladykiller replied, adding just the slightest twist to her accompanying smile.

[ – To view the next chapter, click here – ]

  1. Deacon Blue says:

    In case anyone is wondering why I didn’t make mention of the awesomely hilarious “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” video (by a guy named Randall who apparently has done a series of funny nature videos) in the third scene of this chapter, it is, quite simply, because the chapter above takes place in late spring 2010, before that video was made.

    A shame, really, because I so wanted Ladykiller to say, “Why, Mad Dash, I’m Honey Badger. I’m a crazy nastyass fearless little fucker. Honey Badger don’t give a fuck. Just ask Randall.”

    Anyway, if you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the video yet, you can view it at or or just to name a few spots.

  2. Big Man says:

    I like the series Deac. It’s interesting.

  3. Deacon Blue says:

    Thanks, Big Man…your opinion always means a lot to me with my fiction writing.

    At least in this case, unlike “Cleansed by Fire,” I probably won’t stall in the middle. I think I just got daunted by the way that story was sort of instantly epic in scope. With this stuff, I can approach it more like a series…it’s a universe I can explore a little at a time. That said, though, I will one day return to “Cleansed by Fire” and get that going again…I think.

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