Day one of NaNoWriMo is going great 2 chapters in about 4,000 words. I’ll be posting on chapter a day regardless of progress. (just so I don’t spam you guys with multiple posts as we go.)
Chapter One — Normal
Russell Belken spent most of his days resisting the urge to run. Today was no exception. Three steps out the front door, he ducked into the nearest alleyway, wrenching his tie loose and popped open his top shirt button. How the hell do people breathe in those things?
Pedestrians peppered the early afternoon streets of New Orleans. He checked his watch, steadied his breathing and counted along with the second hand.
“One. Two. Three.” He let out a relieved sigh and turned to head home.
A man stood at the end of the alleyway, pointing a knife at him. “Give me your wallet, twerp.”
Russ smiled. He had spent the whole morning keeping corporate assholes from robbing him. This was business as usual as far as he was concerned.
“Something funny?” The thug said.
Thugsy, the name Russ gave him in his head, was a big guy. Six foot and a half by his guess and nearly a foot taller than him.
“Sorry, I just realized how bad your luck is. I mean, you know who I am right?”
“Some rich little shit about to make a donation.”
“Wrong,” Russ said. “Come on man, we launched the Gearbox a week ago. Biggest thing since the iPhone, you live in a cave or something?”
Thugsy pointed the knife. “I don’t give a fuck.”
“Ah well, maybe you’ll care about this.” Russ slipped a hand into his pocket pulling free his prototype phone. Thugsy glanced down at the map on the display. “You see, because you were so uncreative, the Gearbox recognized you as a mugger. This put a nice little mark on the GPS so the authorities know what happened. Unfortunately it has one little flaw.”
“What’s that?” Thugsy broke out into cold sweat, taking a step back.
“Well, see, the cops can only arrest you if you actually mug me. Since I warned you and everything, you’d probably be a complete idiot to–”
Russ’ focus tightened. Thugsy lunged, aiming his knife at the screen. Too bad for him, it was all in slow motion. Russ had plenty of time to react and make it convincing, he’d accidentally turn the phone so it would catch the corner. Then he’d cower and plead until the cops arrive, making each narrow stab look like lucky dodges.
The worst part about it was waiting. He waited a lot.
He caught a glimpse of a steel bead moving fast towards his assailant. Fast enough he could only watch it slam into Thugsy’s shoulder. Russ hopped back on sheer instinct, keeping controlled and believable. Tendrils of light erupted from the bead, twisting forks of electricity. A stun-gun?
Russell relaxed and time flowed back to normal speed. Thugsy shook in convulsion, dropped his knife and fell face first onto the cement.
“God damn it, Mech. I had this under control.” Russ glared upwards, not surprised at all by the woman crouched on the fire escape.
She hopped down, landing next to her unconscious quarry. “Did you? You stepped into an alleyway in downtown New Orleans? Were you baiting him?”
This was Kari Lavelle, better known as Mech: Ex-con turned superhero, his best friend’s girlfriend, and a co-worker all in one. She twirled her pistol wearing a smug smile. Despite the fact she pissed Russ off, he had to admit she was a Goddess. She made that skin tight grey leotard look good.
“You should get out of here,” Russ said. “I wasn’t lying about the signal.”
“I know that. You know that. I figured I’d stick around so we can argue. You know, make it look authentic.”
“Do we have to? I mean, it’s been a rough day at the office. Not all of us can sit around eating bon-bons during their off time, lady.”
Sirens blared in the distance. “Oh, here comes the cavalry.”
Russ took a deep breath and put his game face on. “Listen here, you can’t go around like some sort of new-age cowgirl. Your days are numbered.”
Mech grinned. Her voice invaded his mind. That’s more like it. She turned away waving to him. “The boys in blue should be able to take it from here, Mister Belkin. You’re welcome.”
“I never asked for your help, freak. And don’t you ever– ever get in my head again. That’s invasion of privacy.”
Nearby pedestrians peeked into the alleyway. They caught fleeting glimpses of Mech’s retreat to the skyline. Russ grumbled incoherently, punching in additional details into his smart phone and went straight to tweetspace.
The Macro Corp. is a menace! Their glorified bullet witch electrocuted someone for a simple misdemeanor.
He pocketed his phone. Well, assault is a felony, but the ignorance makes it more convincing. The police rolled up to the alley and pushed past the gawkers.
“About time you got here. This poor man is probably dead because of your laziness. That woman… Neck, I think it is, she assaulted him without warning. A taser rifle, it may have been a bazooka even, I don’t know.”
They rushed to Thugsy’s side, flinching at a zap of lingering electricity on his skin. He groaned in his unconsciousness.
“Well,” Russ said. “He could have died. Middle of the day like this? The response time should have been much faster.”
The two police offers exchanged a look and groaned. “Are you alright Mr. Belkin? I mean, it looks to us Mech was just trying to help.”
Russ scowled, ripping his phone from his pocket; he still had the tweetspace app open. Big Easy cops in league with the Macro Corp? How low will they stoop?
He pocketed his phone and clapped a hand on the officer’s shoulder. “Look, I can see the Temptation, a bunch of young good looking folks fighting crime in their pajamas looks good on paper. It isn’t their job though, it’s a huge liability. You mark my words. Those costumed freaks are gonna slip up and slip up hard. What will you do when that happens?”
The cop politely removed Russ’ hand. “Mr. Belkin, I can file the report if you feel it necessary, but they’re here to help. Me and my kids were at the festival when that stone thing attacked. I got no beef with them”
It was hard not to smile. Instead, he forced a disgusted sigh. “I’ll send the data on my phone. I wouldn’t want you to pull a muscle filling out the paperwork.”
Russ pushed past the police officers and onto the streets. The rubber-neckers paid no mind to him and instead crowded the police officers on the scene. A van tore down the road, a channel five news van, stopping next to him.
Julie Tattle, their star reporter came out in her signature powder blue suit. Her cameraman, Barry, hustled out to set up equipment.
“Mr. Belkin? Do you have a moment to say a few words?”
“For you, Julie, anything,” Russ said. Honestly he like Julie, as far as reporters go, anyway. “Call me Russ. Makes me feel weird when anyone calls me mister.
“So what happened? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. Some desperate clout tried to take my wallet.”
“That’s horrible,” she said. There was a twinkle in her eye that didn’t help the sincerity though. Julie pulled a loose lock of her brown hair behind her ear. “I saw your broadcast and I was near your office. I figured there’d be a story.”
“Boy do I have a story for you. I set off my alarm system and was keeping him talking while the cops came and one of those costumed lunatics zapped him.”
Julie laughed. “I know that part. I’m one of your followers. Do you really think the Macro Corp. is dangerous? Crime is down at least fifteen percent.”
“Look, Julie,” Russ said, “It’s down because the criminals are afraid. How long is it until the fear bleeds into the everyday citizen? Once they scrub out the bad criminals then what? Do they start tazing jay-walkers?”
“I guess you have a point,” Julie said. “Let’s do an interview. Barry, you all set?”
Barry gave her thumbs up and the red recording light popped on.
“This is Julie Tattle, reporting in on location. I’m here with Russell Belkin, who was just the victim of a mugging. As you can see, Mr. Belkin is unharmed but he has something to say in regards to his ‘rescuer’.”
“Thanks, Julie.” Russ took the microphone from her and looked to the camera. “Stay vigilant, New Orleans. We can’t rely on these so called super heroes to solve all our problems. This sort of apathy is a path to slavery.” That much was heartfelt. He’d rather be a contingency plan for super powered criminals than a second police force. “For more information go to ‘nomoremacrocorp dot com’.”
He handed back the mic and walked away. He didn’t want to put the details about Mech on the news, that would be too far.
Russ trudged to the parking garage, normal speed, putting an act for the people around him for their normal lives. He felt every tick of his watch against his wrist, a slow drumbeat reminding him to keep the facade.
He pressed the elevator button, waiting for the ding. Stepped on, walked in only to face more waiting. Any time he had read comics of super heroes, he saw the gift of great power and speed as a boon. For him however, it was just a lot of waiting.
To the fast, the world was slow. Russ found it ironic. The world crawled along, drenched in invisible molasses. He slow himself down to match, but it was really just an illusion. For every second that passed, ten or more passed for him.
He ‘hurried’ to his car and slipped the key into the ignition. He waited for the engine to settle into gear and flipped open his glove box. A pile of energy bars threatened to fall out, but he had time to snatch one, poke the others back in place and shut it again.
Even the most mundane of actions needed to be done slowly, opening an energy bar wrapper for example, too quick and the damn thing splits in two. Speed wasn’t the only factor, it became a matter of control. Peel, peel tug.
It also didn’t help they tasted like shit.
He bit into his mid-afternoon-pre-dinner snack and tested the accelerator, another trial. It didn’t matter how fast he could press the pedals or turn the wheel if the car couldn’t keep up.
Driving in itself was irritating, considering he could get home three times as fast on his own. He slogged through the downtown area, swearing at the traffic like any red blooded American. Everything was uneventful until he came to a traffic light on the outskirts of the New Orleans city limits.
Someone in the car next to him, poked away at their smart phone. Their car lurched forward unnaturally, a sure sign they lead footed the pedal. Russ could only watch their car lumber forward, slamming into the car in front of them. Moments of tension always triggered his attention, but he couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Their airbag fired off– amusingly that caught their attention more than the impact– and the low drone of a car horn pierced the air.
Therefore, he watched and waited. The splintered pieces of fiberglass tumbled through the air, scattering to the cement. He left his car on cue, looking surprised, like any normal person would do. He got out of the car to check on the driver, like any normal person would do.
He couldn’t wait to get home and do something a little more than normal.