Home > Creative Writing Exercises, Fallen Earth, NaNoWriMo, Writing > FE NaNoWriMo 2010: Installment No. 9

FE NaNoWriMo 2010: Installment No. 9

June 24, 2156

I don’t remember all that much about those pre-dawn hours on June 22 after I escaped the giant spider and drove those last few miles to Picus Ridge.

All I really know is that shit got mighty weird as the fever took hold and the infection in my mouth dragged me to the verge of madness.

Like that conversation with Old LaRue as he rode shotgun in the cab of the truck, hands gingerly clasping the hilt of the blade that had been stabbed into his stomach. Blood spilled from the wound, staining his shirt and dripping onto his pants.

“You’re a real disappointment, son,” he said. Three black and red spiders skittered down his tongue, over his lips, and across his cheeks before they found new perches on his shoulders.

“Sorry about that,” I replied.

“I know you heard everything I ever said,” LaRue went on, pulling a scorpion from his left ear and dangling it out the passenger window by the stinger. “I just don’t know if you ever truly listened. Did you learn anything?”

I shrugged. “Maybe. Next time, man up and pull my own goddamned tooth.”

LaRue sighed. His tongue changed into a swiftly growing sandworm, whose fang-circled maw roared open and lunged toward me.

I slammed on the brakes just outside the front gate of the adobe-walled town of Picus Ridge, a stronghold of the Techs. I swung open the driver’s side door of the truck. Sagged against the steering wheel for a few minutes.

“You okay?” asked a sentry in dark leather and metal body armor. He held his rifle at the ready, approaching the truck. “Sir, you okay?”

I leaned left, fell out of the truck, and rolled onto my back on the ground at the sentry’s feet. “Doc…Ames,” I gasped. “Gotta see…Ames.” Despite the growing madness, I recall the euphoric sense of relief that I had arrived at my destination. I allowed myself just the hint of hope that I might survive this nightmare after all.

“Ames?” The sentry frowned. “Aw, shit. He left a few days back for an emergency call in Reyes Mine. Due back tomorrow.”

Reyes Mine?! The town I’d just fled as another platoon of Night Wolf bandits swarmed in from the wastes to invade? When Brock Dundy and I arrived, I bet he was inside the mine, helping the residents prepare to defend their town against the raiders. If I’d been a little less hasty, a little less selfish, then I probably would’ve run into him soon enough. Now I knew he was trapped and under siege, at best. At worst, the bandits had killed him. Either way, he wasn’t in Picus Ridge and my infected tooth couldn’t go untreated any longer. Enzo Scarpelli’s voice piped up from where he appeared impossibly to be standing on his head on the hood of the truck. “Lucky you, huh?”

“The fuck…” I muttered in disgust, and then I passed out.

***

Two days later, I awoke in the Picus Ridge clinic. Sunlight filtered through gray cheesecloth hung over the windows. Those makeshift curtains fluttered lightly in the warm breeze. I’d been hooked up to a sack of intravenous fluid that dripped slowly through a tube and into my veins. The tooth didn’t hurt at all. My tongue poked around, exploring the gap where the tooth used to be.

“Careful,” cautioned a beefy woman with dark skin and a shaved head. She stood in the doorway, wearing dark blue medical scrubs and slippers. “Got some stitches in there.” She smiled, then took a few steps closer. “Glad to see you’re coming around. It was touch and go for you the first day after you arrived. I extracted the tooth, though, and then we pounded the infection back with antibiotics. You’ll live. If you’d arrived a day later without treatment, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation right now.” She put a hand on my shoulder. “We weren’t able to get your name before you passed out.”

“Denton,” I said. “Amp Denton.”

“Well, good to meet you, Amp,” she replied. “I’m Dr. Alicia Solata. I’ve been an assistant to Doc Ames for a couple of years. Can’t say I match his skills, but I do okay in a pinch. I want him back, though. I hope he’s okay.”

I scratched the back of my head. “One of the last things I remember hearing is that he went south to Reyes Mine on an emergency call. I left there the afternoon before I got here. I left in a hurry. Night Wolves swarmed the place, just like they did to Murphy and tried to do to Pass Chris. The doc might be holed up in the old mine outside town.”

Alicia knit her brow as she tugged my mouth open with a gloved finger to get a look at the sutures in the socket where the traitorous tooth had been. “He’s a good man, but a little too selfless for his own good. I warned him these remote calls were dangerous. He knew the risks. He did it anyway.” She released my mouth and stepped back. “It’s healing nicely. We’ll keep you a couple more days to get your system back in balance, make sure the infection’s stomped good and proper, and then you should be fit enough for release.”

I risked a smile. “Glad to hear it,” I said. “I feel much better. Thanks. I appreciate the help.”

“That’s nice,” Alicia said, pulling off first one glove and then the other before dropping them in a bowl of alcohol. “I sure hope you don’t think the treatment was free.”

“What?” I asked.

“We’re getting a team ready to make a run down to Reyes Mine to rescue Doc Ames,” she explained. “You’re going along to help.”

***

I can’t say that I’m too pleased that this doctor wants to put me over a barrel for her boss.

Granted, I owe her for saving my life. But what sense does it make for her to nurse me back to health just to send me off to certain death on some suicide mission in Reyes Mine?

Then there’s the matter of Enzo Scarpelli, probably waiting in Depot 66 this very minute for me to come back so he can tell me what to do to earn back the ATV, assuming Slammer and No-Toes managed to recover that along with the green metal box that had been so precious to their boss.

June 25, 2156

I feel so much better today now that the tooth’s out and the infection seems to be gone. Colors seem more vivid. Smells don’t seem as stale and flavorless. No lunatic hallucinations! It might just be the slow drip of mild painkillers, but I’m a hundred percent improved. The mishaps and mayhem of the past few days seem like distant history.

Maybe I can just forget everything that’s gone before. Start over with a clean slate!

I’m tempted to leave this clinic, climb into Brock’s truck, and just drive all the way to Kaibab Forest.

Doc Ames isn’t my problem. He made a choice. Every choice comes with a consequence. Old LaRue taught me that.

The green metal box isn’t my problem. Enzo Scarpelli put that concern in the hands of his minions in the Lower Plateau.

The Night Wolves going on the offensive isn’t my problem. When settlers choose to dwell on the fringes of the province, well away from the centralized and better-defended towns, they must accept the consequences. Sometimes, that means falling prey to bandits and raiders who want what they have.

The Lightbearer who killed Old LaRue? Not my problem. Their animosity didn’t have anything to do with me. That was between my mentor and the tea-sipper.

It’s a tough world, yes, but those particular problems aren’t mine. They belong to other people.

My biggest problems had been a rotten tooth and a dangerous infection. No longer. I’m healthy. I’m free and clear.

So, that’s that, then. I’m not involving myself in this raid on Reyes Mine.

***

Scribbled in the left margin: Someone else’s poor planning doesn’t count as my emergency.

Scribbled in the right margin: Truck needs gas.

***

Alicia Solata scowled angrily at me when I broke the news that I wouldn’t be participating in the effort to rescue Doc Ames from the clutches of the Night Wolves in Reyes Mine.

“You owe this town a debt,” she said.

“Yes, I do,” I agreed. “I’ll happily do something that stands to profit Picus Ridge, but that doesn’t include getting myself killed on some crazy mission to get your wayward doctor out of captivity. I didn’t go through everything I did to get here just so that I could go back and martyr myself. Doc Ames is an old guy, right? He’s had a full life. Let him go.”

Alicia gave a slow nod. “Your mind is made up, I suppose.”

“Sorry,” I said. “It is. It’s nothing personal. Just business.”

“Fine,” she replied. A taut smile, forced and almost friendly. “All right, then. I’ll give you one last dose of antibiotics. You can leave after that, if you like. I wouldn’t want to keep you from moving on.” She prepared a hypodermic needle, drew some clear liquid from a brown glass vial, and then swabbed my arm before making the final injection. I thought it might have been my imagination, but she seemed to jab with a little more enthusiasm than normal. “That should do it.”

“We’re done?” I asked.

“Mostly,” she said, returning the brown vial to a cabinet and dropping the needle in a beaker full of alcohol. Alicia kept her back to me as she began cleaning off the counter in the clinic room. “Still, I’m hoping you’ll reconsider assisting us with the rescue of Doc Ames.”

I laughed, shaking my head. “Look, you really need to stop kicking that poor horse. It’s dead.”

She turned to regard me with an icy smile as she said, “So are you, if you insist on refusing to settle this debt.” Holding up her right hand, she displayed a small metal rectangle with a blinking red light above a green button. “You do know how much we Techs love our gadgets, Mr. Denton. You’ve been injected with a nanoexplosive that should be following its preprogrammed course to a strategic location somewhere in the vicinity of your brain stem in just the next couple of minutes.”

She couldn’t be serious. It had to be a bluff. “I thought you people had an oath to do no harm!” The situation terrified and intrigued me simultaneously. If it was a bluff, I had to admire the temerity.

“We modified the oath about a hundred years ago,” Alicia said. “It’s called the Cowardly Asshole Exemption.” She kept a tight grip on the trigger device as she continued, “If I push and hold the button once, your head goes off like a meat-filled firecracker. There’s a nanotransmitter on the device, sending and receiving pulse signals from the trigger. The transmission outer range is about thirty yards. Don’t wander too far from the team or boom. And try to steer clear of any microwave emissions. They can scramble signals and make the trigger think you’ve left the transmission range. Boom.”

“Huh,” I said. The beauty of the best cons can be found in the details. If she was lying, it was convincingly perpetrated. If she was telling the truth, I didn’t want to find out.

“Nothing personal,” she replied.

“Just business,” I agreed.

***

So, that’s that.

I’m in on the raid on Reyes Mine, whether I like it or not, because my life apparently depends on it.

***

Scribbled in the right margin: BOOM.

Sketched below that: A surprised face with wide eyes, open mouth, and a mushroom cloud blossoming from the skull.

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  1. wykydone
    November 8, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Yay! More : )

    I’m still up for those dares if you have any.

    Keep on keeping on.

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