Home > Fallen Earth, NaNoWriMo, Writing > FE NaNoWriMo 2010: Installment No. 1

FE NaNoWriMo 2010: Installment No. 1

June 13, 2156

I woke up, flat on my back as the first sliver of the morning sun crept over the ridge of Brenhauer Gorge against a bloody purple-red sky. Glittering black eyes peered down at me: A scabrous vulture, talons clutching the upper curve of an ancient marble headstone.

If I had come around much later, I might’ve awakened to find that ugly bastard’s beak poking around my entrails.

The Gully Dogs aren’t known for their originality. They’d left me for dead in a cemetery behind an old pre-Fall church in what remained of a company town called Terance.

They grabbed both my pistols. Ammo. Took my boots too. Assholes!

I’d almost made it. They’d been after the all-terrain vehicle, of course. Sure, it was battered and mostly held together by hope and rusty staples, but it worked. It had a full tank of gasoline sloshing inside, with a couple of spare gallons in reserve. The ATV also held what supplies I had left. And the package.

My stomach lurched. I could live without the ATV. I knew people. I could get another. But that package had been meant for Enzo Scarpelli, the boss in charge of Depot 66, and I’d been given the seemingly simple job of making sure that package got to him safely.

So close. So very close. Looking northwest, I could see the ramshackle rollercoaster tracks rising against that blood blister sky.

I held out the slim hope that the bandits might have ditched everything else before making off with the ATV. Got to my bare feet. I felt a little dizzy. Touched a couple of fingers to my forehead. Nice welt there, just over the right eye. Made a good companion to the throbbing ache on the back of my head. They’d pistol-whipped me, nabbed my gear, and made off with just about everything that stood between me and extinction.

I walked past the broken-down church with the time-strangled bell. Small dust clouds swirled around my feet as I approached the rocky shoulder of the old-time asphalt road. Didn’t take long to spy the spot where I pulled over when they aimed their guns at me. They didn’t leave much behind. I recognized the crumpled soup tins – I’d kept the empties. Never know when they might come in handy. I found my lucky canteen. It had a slug hole right in the middle, sealed by duct tape and tin foil. In the nearby bushes, I found my loose-leaf notebook journal. In the dirt, found my precious pen. Looked like one of the bandits picked his nose with it. Nasty fuckers.

No sign of the green metal box, though.

I don’t even know what is inside. All I know is that it was important, it was locked, and the key had been sent separately to Boss Scarpelli.

The key, I heard, made it just fine.

Now, I face the very real prospect of walking into Depot 66 to break the bad news to a man who doesn’t respond well to disappointment.

No, thank you very much. Not while I still have my wits about me. Not while I have a trail left to follow, like the trio of tire tracks leading off to the southeast.

The lowest-rate bandits around, the Gully Dogs tend to attract the washouts who can’t make the cut to join the Enforcers – and it’s not like those jackboots are super particular when it comes to the quality of their recruits. These yokels don’t know much about covering their trail.

Soon, I’ll hunt them down, kill them, recover my stuff, and then make sure the package reaches Boss Scarpelli. First, I need some shoes, a decent knife, a sack big enough for their heads, and a last known mailing address for their mothers.

If I can, I’ll deliver that sack myself.

***
Scribbled in the left margin: FIRST GUY – Short, tubby, bald with a scar running from right eye to left ear. Wearing tattered patchwork shirt, too tight on his gut. Shoulder patch. Looks like old pre-Fall police uniform. New Flagstaff PD?

Scribbled in the right margin: SECOND GUY – Tall, gaunt, with shaggy black hair and a bushy beard. Dressed all in black. Scarecrow? Ninja-wannabe?

Scribbled along the bottom margin: Maybe killing’s not the way to go. If they’ve returned to a familiar base of operations, they’ll know the terrain better than me. They’ll have numbers on their side. They’ll also have weapons. Probably mine among them.

Scribbled upside down along the top margin: Scam?

***
“A little help, please?” This wiry guy in a familiar dark blue jacket and pants went running past along the ridge of Brenhauer Gorge with a squawking monstrosity in hot pursuit. The creature scampered on two legs, waving two stumpy little arms, with two large fangs jutting from the lower jaw below a pair of bulbous eyes. The prairie chicken looked like a horrifying fleshy gasbag, about twice the size of the prey it was chasing.

Honestly, it looked comical, up to a point.

I sat on a badly chipped tomb of polished granite, watching as the fellow fled from the angry mutant chicken monster. How could I possibly help? I didn’t even have shoes, let alone a weapon. What did he expect me to do? Maybe I could stand on the tomb, wave my arms, and make loud bok-bok noises! Or I could threaten to fetch a deep fryer! Or, just maybe, I could strike up a reasonable conversation with the beast, expressing sympathy for the deep-seated frustration it must feel about having arms too short to hug with.

So, yeah, I actually smirked a little at the sight. It didn’t seem so funny, though, when the prairie chicken impaled the poor guy through the back with the left fang. He lifted right off the ground, his boots casting shadows above the swirling dust in the glow of the midday sun, and then the prairie chicken flung him over the graveyard fence before huffing indignantly and wandering away.

The dead guy landed with a blood-soaked thump in the weeds about five feet from me. He had a holstered pistol. The boots looked just slightly too big for me, but I thought they’d do. I knew I didn’t have long – that collar around his neck already got to blinking and bleeping, doing that voodoo it did, processing, preparing.

I jumped down from the tomb, yanked off the clone’s boots, and relieved him of the gun strapped at his side.

Moments later, the corpse vanished in a dissipating cocoon of blue-white light.

***
Y’know, I feel a lot like that vulture now, but the boots aren’t a bad fit. That clone took pretty good care of his gun too. All I need is some ammo. Maybe I can work a deal with one of the die-hards in Terance. They’re pretty hard up for help around here.

***
Scribbled in the left margin: Must work on plans for the grift. Old LaRue always said it’s a rare Traveler who survives by quick wits alone. It ultimately all comes down to planning, the details, and the flexibility to deal with multiple contingencies. Or, as he put it, “Shit happens, son. Keep your biggest boots close.”

***
GULLY DOG PLAN A

• Show up at their camp.
• Pretend to be a Tech looking for a green metal box.
• Don’t care about the ATV, but that box is big trouble.
• Box contains something that’s been exposed to rothium.
• It probably won’t explode – too melodramatic and they might think it’s worth keeping for themselves to use against their enemies. If they keep it too long, though, it might make their junk fall off.

GULLY DOG PLAN B

• Show up at their camp.
• Pretend to be a bandit wannabe.
• Look around for familiar faces.
• Work a deal with

***
Shit. He came back. He had friends.

***
Sketched in the top margin: Three frowny stick figures with clone collars. Two of them have boots and guns. One has angry squiggles above his head, no boots, and no gun.

***
They found me where I sat against a leaning marble headstone, scribbling notes for the grift I planned to pull on the Gully Dogs. The sun was going down behind the hills to the west.

“Uh, hi,” I said, setting aside the journal and pen. “Nothing personal, pal. Just the law of the wastes, right? Didn’t think you’d be needing that stuff anymore. No hard feelings?” My best smile.

“I’ll have those boots back,” the barefoot clone said. “Pistol too.” No smile.

His friends didn’t wait to see if I’d comply. They kicked me in the gut and smacked me upside the head. Once I was laid out proper on the ground, the grumpiest one tugged the boots off and retrieved his gun.

“Nothing personal, pal,” he said. This time, he smirked. They walked back toward town.

***

Ending the day as it started: Flat on my back in a graveyard, no shoes, no weapon, no goddamned green metal box.

***
Scribbled along the bottom margin: Really wish I owned one of those collars. If I have to go to Enzo Scarpelli empty-handed, he’s going to kill me. For real. No do-overs like these reruns.

Scribbled along the right margin: Think I chewed a little too hard on the gristle of that big rat I strangled for the cookfire. Sore tooth.

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