I didn’t do revisions for 2014’s NaNoWriMo project yet, but seeing as Camp NaNoWriMo is here, I wanted to give some quality time to it. Here’s chapter one cleaned up and revised.
Chapter one: Normal.
Russell Belken spent every day of this life resisting the urge to run. Today was no exception. Three steps out the front door of the office, he wrenched his tie loose and popped open his top shirt button. How do people breathe in these things?
He ducked into a nearby alleyway, finding respite from the methodical flow of pedestrians. They trudged along the crowded afternoon streets of New Orleans, oblivious to how easy they had it. He checked his watch, steadied his breathing and counted along with the second hand.
“One Mississippi, two Mississippi, Three Mississippi.” Back on track.
Russ turned to leave the alleyway, but a man stepped in front of him and blocked his exit.
“Not so fast, pal. We need to chat.” The man glanced down to a shiv, held threateningly at waist level.
Russ held his hands up, but didn’t fight the smile. He’d spent the whole morning keeping corporate assholes from robbing him. The irony was palpable. Thugsy, the name Russ gave him in his head, was a big guy. He stood nearly a foot taller than Russ and built enough to scare the shit out of any sane person. Russ backpedaled into the alleyway and kept his cool.
“You think this is a joke, shrimp? Cough up your money and nobody gets hurt.”
Russ reached into his breast pocket, fishing inside. “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.”
He pulled out his phone, holding it face forward. A map of the downtown area showed on the face with a blinking dot. “Come on man, we launched the Gearbox a week ago. You know, biggest thing since the j-phone, you live in a cave or something?”
Thugsy pointed the knife. “I don’t give a fuck.”
“Ah well, maybe you should.” He glanced to his phone. “Since you were so uncreative, the Gearbox recognized your threat from a matrix of common phrases used by muggers. This triggered an automatic protocol to contact the police. Unfortunately, it has one little flaw.”
“What’s that?” Thugsy took a step back.
“Well, see, the cops can only arrest you if you actually mug me. I warned you and everything, you’d probably be a complete idiot to–”
Russ’ focus tightened and time slowed to a crawl. Thugsy lunged towards him in slow motion, clearly aiming his knife at the screen. Russ sighed. They always have to do it the hard way. Russ turned the phone, setting it up to make the blade ‘accidently’ defect off the phone’s blade proof case.
The worst part about it was waiting. He waited a lot.
An inch away from contact, he caught a glimpse of steel moving fast towards his assailant. It slammed against Thuggsy’s shoulder and Russ hopped away on sheer instinct. Tendrils of light erupted from the bead, twisting and forking into a web of electricity. A stun-gun?
Russ relaxed and time flowed back to normal speed. Thugsy convulsed, dropped his knife and fell face first onto the cement.
“Damn it, Mech. I had this under control.” Russ followed the angle of the shot to a 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: an ex-con turned hero, his best friend’s girlfriend and fellow super human co-worker all in one. She twirled her pistol wearing a smug smile. Kari was a beautiful African American woman in or out of her skintight grey jumpsuit. No matter how much she pissed him, Russ couldn’t help but appreciate her other charms.
“You should get out of here,” Russ said. “I wasn’t lying about the signal.”
“I know that. You know that.” She holstered her pistol. “I could stick around and sti things up, you know, make it look authentic.”
“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. “And here comes the cavalry, right on cue.”
“So, the usual?”
Russ took a deep breath, putting his game face on and raised his voice to shout. “You can’t go around like some sort of new-age cowgirl. Your days are numbered.”
Kari grinned. Her voice invaded his mind. That’s more like it. She turned away from him, waving to him. “Then I’ll leave it to the boys in blue, to clean up the rest of the mess, Mister Belkin. You’re welcome.” She fiddled with the controls on her pistol aimed and fired a hook grapple from it, scaling up the building side.
“I never asked for your help, freak. And don’t you ever– ever get in my head again. That’s invasion of privacy.” That part was a hundred percent honest.
Their argument drew nearby pedestrians to peek into the alleyway. Mech waved down at them from the rooftop. Russ ignored their cheers and grumbled incoherently, instead opting to type up a post on tweetspace.
The Macro Corp. is a menace! Their glorified bullet witch electrocuted someone for a simple misdemeanor.
He pocketed his phone. Assault was a felony of course, but exaggeration made the point seem more potent. Two police cars rolled up to the gathering of people, officers stepped out of their vehicles 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. She used a taser rifle, maybe 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. What’s with the sloppy response time? Middle of the day like this? Was there a sale at the donut shop or something?”
The two police offers exchanged a look and groaned. “Were you harmed Mr. Belkin? I mean, from where we see it, Mech was just trying to help.”
Russ scowled, pulling his phone from his pocket. The tweetspace app was still open. Big Easy cops in league with the Macro Corp? How low will they stoop?
He spoke while typing. “Look, I can see the temptation; good looking celebrities fighting crime in their pajamas looks good on paper. It isn’t their job though, it’s a huge liability. Those costumed freaks are gonna slip up and slip up hard. What will you do when that happens?”
“Mr. Belkin,” the cop said, oozing with measured patience. “I can file the report if you want me to, but they’re clearly here to help. My kids and I were at the festival last year 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 file a digital eport. 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 Channel Five news van sped down the road, and stopped next to him.
Julie Tattle, Channel Five’s star reporter came out in her signature powder blue suit. Her camera man, Barry, hustled out to set up equipment.
“Mr. Belkin? Do you have a moment for an interview?”
“For you, Julie, anything,” Russ said. Honestly, he liked 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. Just a desperate clout trying to take my wallet.”
“That’s horrible,” she said. A twinkle in her eye refuted her sincerity. 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.” The recording light clicked on over Barry’s camera.
“And do I have a story for you. I set off my patented alarm system and tried to keep him talking, buying time for the police. That was until one of those costumed lunatics zapped him.”
Julie laughed. “I know that part. I’m one of your followers. Tell me though, 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?”
“Excellent point, Mr. Belkin,” Julie said.
Barry gave them a thumb up.
“This is Julie Tattle, reporting live in downtown New Orleans. I’m here with Russell Belkin, a victim of a rare case of daylight assault. While he’s unharmed, Mr. Belkin has choice words for his ‘rescuer’. A member of the so called ‘Macro Corp.’ known as Mech.” She pointed the mic towards him.
“Thanks, Julie.” Russ took the microphone from her and looked to the camera. “Stop sticking your nose into work that isn’t yours. Leave crime fighting to the professionals.”
“Did you have something to say to the people of New Orleans?”
“Stay vigilant. We can’t rely on so called super heroes to solve all our problems. This 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 left Julie to finish her report, interviewing other people around the incident and the police officers and made his way to the parking garage. Putting on the act was tiring at best, and it left him wanting to do some real good for the city. He felt every tick of his watch against his wrist, a slow drumbeat to help keep up the facade.
Russ pressed the elevator button, waiting for the ding. He stepped inside and waitied for the doors to close. Any time he had read comics of super heroes, they glorified powers 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 slowed himself down to match, but in his world for every second ten or more passed for him.
He ‘hurried’ to his car—a modest little American made sedan 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 shattered into a thousand pieces. Speed wasn’t the only factor, it became a matter of control.
It also didn’t help they tasted like shit—all that work to eat a bland tasting super nutrient concoction really just pissed him off. He bit into his mid-afternoon-pre-dinner snack and tested the accelerator. 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 parking lot, and downtown area, swearing at the traffic like any red blooded American.
When he got out of the New Orleans city limits, he was a traffic light away from the final stretch. Someone in the car next to him, poked away at his smart phone. Time slowed around Russ, or more specifically, returned to its normal state. The car lurched forward unnaturally, a sure sign they lead footed the pedal. Russ could only watch their car lumber forward and slammed into the car in front of them. Their airbag folded out, surprising them only when it slammed into their face. Amusingly that caught their attention more than the impact. The car horn blared in a steady drone. Car horns sounded crazy in slow motion.
He watched and waited, admiring tumbling splinters of fiberglass and the majestic patterns formed as they crashed to the pavement. He left his car on cue, feigning surprise to match the demeanor of a normal person. He got out of the car to check on the driver, like any well-meaning citizen.
He couldn’t wait to get home and do something a little more than normal.