Friday, August 2, 2013

"Take comfort in knowing you never had a choice."

Fridays are for original works.  And reflection.  First the reflection - that's much easier.  July was a very good month for my writing.  I finished a short screenplay (although it is still being edited), formally registered a copyright, and had a short story accepted for publication.

When I was 13, I started writing a novel set in a future that was somewhat similar to Mad Max - but set in the American Southwest instead of Australia with corporations, militant NGOs and even government agencies fighting for dominance.  The protagonist was Michael McCammy.  He was very cool but I didn't finish the story.  By the time I was 18, Michael had changed into Mason Vale.  Same guy, different story - series of stories actually,  I used him all over the place from the far future to the recent past. He was sort of a cross between Dirk Pitt and James Bond (the Roger Moore style).  I still keep him around, but a few years ago a different version of him showed up - far more Daniel Craig and less Dirk Pitt/more Jason Bourne.  Ludlum's Bourne, not Tony Gilroy's.  His name?  Ian McCrea.  The Magic Man.

I'm leaving literary pretensions by the wayside today.  Let's read some pulp, shall we?

Gone in a Flash
by Jonathan Stark
August, 2013; 1170 words

The walls of the building were vibrating.  Even outside in the cool night he could feel the heavy beat of techno-fusion.  The roar of the crowd came and went, gasping breathes as the bouncer opened and shut the industrial door.  Velvet ropes stretched along the road, incongruously formal alongside the decrepit warehouse.

He walked to the head of the line, a hundred couples already stoned glared at the Magic Man as he cut the line.  They didn't see the cash that exchanged hands.  The money that saved their lives.

Inside was a fevered dream - strobes and smoke, bodies writhing on the dance floor - slick with sweat and spilled drinks.  The bar was three deep and everyone, everywhere, was pressed together.  He pushed through it.  The lights changed, the tone of the beat was different - a new song but just as oppressive.  Numbing.  They had come to forget.  He hoped they would.

"Five men - one at the bar, one at the inside of the door, and three with Gustav."  No one in the club heard him but five thousand miles away, in a small office located somewhere between Washington, DC and Baltimore, a young man adjusted the video feed.

Curt Gentry stood behind the young man and pointed.  "That one."  The subject in the video was tagged and a greenish halo surrounded him.  As he moved, the halo moved too.  "Those three there are easy."  Three men stood near a private table at the far end of the club.  They too received green halos.

"Is that Gustav?" asked the young man.  Curt nodded.  A purple halo came up around the gangster, seated at the table with companions.  "I don't see the other man."  Curt couldn't either.

A second operator slipped into the club.  He looked much like the Magic Man - non-descript but for the purpose burning in his movements.

"Ready when you are." he said.  The first man acknowledged and pushed deeper into the dancing crowd.

The door opened behind Curt.  He turned to see an old man standing in the shadows by the door.  "Is it done?"  The young man flinched at the sound of the Director’s voice but he didn’t turn.  This must be huge.

"Almost.  The purple is Gustav."  Curt turned back to the monitors.  The hacked feed of the club's security system showed them the crowd, the dancing lights.  The radio feed from the agents provided the soundtrack, tiny speaker only hinting at the sensory overload.

The Magic Man forced his way through the crowd until he reached the back door, twenty feet from Gustav.  He spoofed the card reader and went through.  The corridor was dimly lit and briefly disorienting without the strobe effect.  Storage racks ran along the right side.  There was an exterior door at the end where the passage turned sharply opening into a larger storeroom.  In the secret office, three men barely breathed.

"You're up, Barracuda." said the Magic Man as he crouched, hidden among the supplies.

On the club floor, the Barracuda punched a code into his phone then dropped to one knee with his eyes tightly closed and hands over his ears.  For three seconds dancers crashed into him, people tripped, and the music pressed against them.

The security feed blasted white.  Only one of the floor cameras came back on and it showed chaos.

The Magic Man heard the flash-bangs through the door and drew his pistol.  Pretext was gone, it would be all fighting now.

Barracuda exploded from the floor, pistols in each hand, elbowing staggering people out of his way.  The music stopped but the light show still danced.  Gustav was stunned but one of his security men was pulling him from the table.  Barracuda fired a shot - the sharp crack piercing the whistling silence left by the concussion grenades and music.

Security men began to recover and the one near the bar drew a machine pistol from under his suit jacket.  The Barracuda leaped toward him over the backs of the writhing crowd.  The toughest, or most intoxicated, were starting to recover, regaining their feet and beginning to panic.  He fired just as the man started to shoot.  The burst was cut short, but there was screaming now.

Barracuda turned back to Gustav and saw that he was being evacuated.  He engaged the security detail and two of the guards flipped a table for cover and fired back with their machine pistols.  They missed him, of course, but the patrons weren't so lucky and the booze and cocaine flowed back out them as quickly as it had gone in.

While the two security men were engaging Barracuda, the third pulled Gustav along the wall to the back door.  He opened the door, dragged Gustav through, and sprayed the corridor with a burst of covering fire from his machine pistol in one graceful movement.

A stumbling Gustav started to recover but was in shock, overwhelmed by the events.  This was hardly the night out he had been expecting despite the protection detail.  When the Magic Man struck it wasn't even close to fair.

He came out of cover behind them and dropped the security man with back handed neck strike.  He shouldered Gustav forward and with his pistol to the security man's sinking head, he took the machine pistol with his free hand.

In the office, three men watched a grainy feed from the storeroom's camera.  "Come on, Ian." said Curt.  He glanced at the mission clock.

In the back room, the Magic man placed the machine pistol in Gustav's trembling hands.  He aimed it carefully and then pushed the other man's finger against the trigger.  The security man died quickly.

"Now you will come with me." said the Magic Man, forcing the weapon from Gustav's hands to clatter on the floor and guiding him to the exit.  "You've killed one of your father's men."

Gustav spluttered something unintelligible, began to struggle.  The Magic Man smashed the bottom of his pistol into the man's head.  "Shut up and do as you're told."

The fight left Gustav and he was quickly whisked outside where he was bound with duct tape and forced into the trunk of an Audi.  "We're clear."

The Barracuda holstered his pistols and popped a smoke canister.  The guards stopped shooting as the thick cloud filled the space between them.  The Barracuda darted to the rear door and reached it just as the fifth man arrived.

The fight was brief and brutal - it left the Barracuda with graze wounds on his left shoulder and thigh.  The security man's windpipe was crushed.

He moved rapidly through the hallway, avoiding the body and blood pool, and crashed through the exit door into the night.  The Magic Man had already angled the car and he dove into the passenger seat, pistol once more in his hand covering the exit door.  Nobody came through before they were away.

He reloaded as the automatic window closed.  The next step would be much harder.


  1. Now this is refreshing. After the cheesecake and the thing about the tree, I was beginning to think you only wrote chick flicks, well written ones, but still. If this scene is part of a larger work, feel free to send it to me and I'll mark it up for you. Keep up the good work!

    1. You know, that cheesecake wasn't really about cheesecake... But you did make a very good point, there aren't any female characters in this story.

  2. "...wasn't really about cheesecake." I suppose next you're going to tell me that that Julie Andrews movie wasn't really about the sound of the music, or that that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie wasn't really about the mail. Maybe that is part of the definition of a chick flick, err, part of what makes a movie appeal mainly to women.

    1. What Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie? I never saw a movie that had both of them in it.