Work in Progress--Ideas?

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by tikipanda, Feb 18, 2011.

  1. I have a short story that I'm working on (not finished yet), and would like some feedback on it if you could. It's about halfway finished.


    Zeke knocked on the apartment door, hard. “Zeke Hadley and company, incarceration specialists,” he called into the apartment. “We’re here for Jim Sellers. You’ve got a five second head start, beginning now.” The squad chuckled.
    Zeke heard drawers being pulled out.
    He signaled to Rick and Henry to go around back.
    A bag being zipped.
    A window shattering.
    Footsteps on the fire escape.
    Zeke tried the door handle. Locked. He stepped back in time, and kicked it in instead. Cadoc accelerated his personal timeframe and was across the room and down the fire escape in a second. He saw Sellers about 20 meters away and took off after him. Zeke and Lynn walked to the window and climbed the fire escape to the roof. Lynn ran to the edge and jumped the gap to the next building. Zeke walked to the edge of the building and took his rifle off his back. He looked down at the plaza. He could see Cadoc, but not Sellers. Sellers was only a class four; could he really have escaped Cadoc?
    Apparently. Cadoc was scanning the courtyard, but Zeke doubted Sellers would hang around. Sellers had seen what the squad could do, and his psych profile said he was smart. He would know they could catch him easily if they found him, so he would need to make sure he wasn’t found. Where would he go?
    Zeke grinned. He would have to time this perfectly, but that wasn’t exceptionally difficult for someone with his talents. He jumped off the roof. He grabbed the fire escape with his left hand, nearly dislocating his shoulder, and swung through the broken window into the apartment. He rolled as he landed. He stood, readied his rifle, and nearly got shot by Sellers, who had decided the apartment was the last place the squad would look.
    The bullet whizzed past Zeke’s ear, and he didn’t stick around for another. He stepped back in time to just before he jumped. He readied a flashbang, keeping his thumb on the button to stop it from going off, and leapt. He dropped past the broken window and lobbed the flashbang through. He grabbed onto the fire escape a couple meters lower—actually dislocating his left arm this time—and swung through a window into the apartment directly below Sellers’. His arm protested loudly at the landing, but he ignored it.
    Zeke heard the flashbang go off and dropped his rifle, drawing a handgun instead. He opened the door and took the stairs three at a time up to the third floor. He stopped in front of Sellers apartment. The door was ajar. Zeke pushed it open all the way and stood to the side. Sellers, still half blind, spun and fired wildly into the open doorway. Zeke counted five shots; three left. He dove past the doorway, prompting Sellers to shoot again. There was a sharp pain in Zeke’s hip. He fell, and his head hit the wall. He collapsed into the doorway, in full view of the apartment. He couldn’t think clearly. Sellers took aim. There was a gunshot. Zeke’s saw Sellers’ body hit the ground.
    Rick stepped in through the window and holstered his pistol. He knelt in the growing pool of blood and checked Sellers’ pulse: nothing. He called the police, then walked over to Zeke. He bent down and helped him to his feet. Pain shot through Zeke's hip, but Zeke ignored it and put his weight on his left leg. Rick half-carried him out to the van and laid him in the back. He poured disinfectant into Zeke's wound.
    Zeke screamed.

    Rick took a pair of sterilized tongs from a drawer. Zeke's scream subsided into a low moan. Rick slowly and carefully removed the bullet from Zeke's hip. Zeke didn't stop moaning until a full minute after the bullet was out. The police arrived, and Zeke grabbed a crutch and limped out to meet them. Henry, Lynn, and Cadoc were back, and they had moved Sellers' body out to the sidewalk.
    “Nice to see you, Sam,” Zeke said nonchalantly.
    “Chief Johnson to you, son of a bitch!” The Chief thought cursing enhanced his image as a man who took nonsense from no one. His subordinates thought it was hilarious that a Harvard graduate's every other word was an expletive.
    “Got another one for you. Sorry, but we had to kill him,” Zeke said.
    “Jack!” Chief shouted. “What the hell's the price on a goddamn dead class four?”
    A large bespectacled man stepped forward.
    “About twenty-five hundred, sir.”
    “Well?! Give these shits their money!”
    “Yes, sir!” Jack wrote a check and handed it to Zeke. Once Jack was out of earshot, Henry walked up to Zeke and whispered in his ear:
    “They look a bit nervous. I suspect they have a case they can't handle but don't know whether or not to give it to us after this fiasco.”
    Zeke nodded. He signaled to the squad to get ready to leave.
    “Let's pick up a case from the station and head back home.” Everyone started towards the van.
    The Chief cleared his throat. Everyone stopped.
    “If you might be interested, I have a case for you,” he said nervously. “But it's very dangerous, and if a class-four gave you that much trouble....”
    “What is it?” Zeke asked. The criminal classification system only dealt with how severe a crime had been committed, not how difficult it was to catch them. Sellers had been unusually clever for a small-time thief, and caught Zeke off guard. He wouldn't let it happen again.
    “A class-one.”
    Zeke's left hand began to quiver. He smiled. Finally! He had started the agency six years ago out of boredom, hoping to come across a challenging case. Now it looked like he had one.
    He took a deep, meditative breath. Looked the chief in the eye.
    “I'll take it,” he said.

    “Where are we going,” Lynn asked Cadoc, “and why's it taking so damn long? We've been driving for five hours already, and I can't do this any longer! Either stop and let me out here, or move over so I can drive.” The others shuddered; they knew how Lynn drove, and wanted no part of it.
    “We're going to get Zeke's wound healed,” Cadoc said.
    “I know that. Can we at least open the file first? I want to see who we have to bring in!”
    “Calm down. I told you already, we decided to wait until Zeke is healed. Besides, we're almost there.”
    “But where?” She waved her hand at the corn rows going past them. “There's nothing here!”
    “There will be.” The van pulled to a stop on the side of the road, and Lynn burst out, the others close behind. It took Zeke a few seconds longer because of his crutches.
    Lynn frowned. “Where?”
    “It's not a question of where,” Henry said, “but of when. Look.” He pointed at a house that had not been there a moment ago. “He's here.”
    Zeke hobbled into the sea of seven-foot tall stalks of corn in the direction of the building, and the others followed. Henry had called in a favor with someone he claimed could heal Zeke's hip, but part of the deal was that only he knew about it. “Just to be sure,” he had said. Zeke wondered what this person would be able to do.
    There was a rustle that sounded distinctly like footsteps. Everyone's hands strayed to their holsters. The footsteps were approaching Zeke's group, and as they got closer it became evident that there was more than one set of them and that they were coming from the direction of the house. Henry relaxed, but none of the others did.
    The two groups were around five meters apart. From the sound, Zeke estimated that there were at least four of them. If things came down to a fight, it might be dangerous, especially if the other group had any special abilities.
    The two groups were two meters apart. Zeke could see the stalks shaking. Henry's hand was back on his pistol.
    Abruptly, the other group jumped out of the corn and landed in fighting stances. There were six of them, and they wore full-body armor; not only would bullets be ineffective, but most blows would be less so. Zeke tried to step back in time and warn the rest, but found that for some reason he could not. Cadoc ran at normal speed towards one of them, but before he could take a swing the person kneed him in the stomach and punched him in the temple. Rick drew a hunting knife from his belt. Lynn and Henry traded blows with two of the attackers at once, but were slowly being pushed back. Rick started fighting Cadoc's attacker, deftly using the knife to prevent him from closing. Zeke noticed Cadoc slowly picking himself up; he must have rolled with the punch.
    The sixth one calmly strode through the melee towards Zeke. As it got closer, he noticed it was was a woman. He noticed she was beautiful, but discarded it as a piece of useless information. He noticed she was lean and strong, but discarded that as well; it didn't matter how fit she was if she didn't know how to fight. Then she was within striking distance.
    Leaning on the left crutch, Zeke swung the right one at her. She caught it easily, and pulled. He let it go. She chuckled confidently. Keeping his weight on his left foot, Zeke swung the other crutch. It caught her off guard and hit her in the forehead, knocking her down. Zeke lost his balance and fell. In his desperation to get to his feet before she did, he rolled onto his right side. The sudden pain paralyzed him.
    She was standing at his side, laughing. He took a feeble swipe at her, and she skipped out of reach—straight into Cadoc's arms. She tried to jerk away, and he let her. She spun around and threw a punch at him. He sidestepped, catching her by the wrist and using her momentum to flip her onto her back. Her head hit a rock, and she moaned, but the helmet prevented any serious damage. Cadoc knelt on her stomach. She swatted at him, but he caught both of her hands with both of his. She bucked, trying to throw him off, but he was heavier than her, and she made no progress. After a few more seconds, she passed out.
    Zeke looked over to see how the others were doing. Rick had defeated his opponent—whether it was unconscious or dead Zeke could not tell—and was fighting one of Henry's. Lynn was still holding her own, but both she and Henry were tiring. Cadoc was in no shape to fight, but of course he got up anyways. Kicking one of Zeke's crutches towards him, Cadoc ran off to help the others.
    Zeke used the crutch to drag himself up to standing. In the excruciating few seconds it took him to do this, Rick's attacker skillfully disarmed him and knocked him unconscious with a well-placed blow to the jaw. It then turned to Lynn, who was struggling to keep up with her two assailants. Cadoc took the opportunity to tackle it, knocking it to the ground. They rolled around for a few seconds as Zeke limped towards them. Cadoc managed to get his opponent's helmet off, but then the man pinned his arms and choked him out. Zeke drew his pistol and kept walking. The man snatched up his helmet and stood, but before he could put it on Zeke pressed the barrel of the pistol against the back of the man's head. He froze.
    “Move and you die,” Zeke said, entirely unnecessarily. The next moment, the three attackers had drawn pistols and three laser dots were on Zeke's chest. The moment after, the rest of Zeke's team had drawn their pistols and were each aiming at an attacker. Their attackers slowly set their weapons down.
    “Who are you and why did you attack us?” Zeke asked as Lynn collected their attackers' weapons.
    “We were sent to test you,” the woman said. Zeke turned to see her getting to her feet. “James needed to be sure you were who you said.”
    “And you had to do it by attacking us?” Rick asked. The woman rubbed her head, wincing.
    “We were tasked with determining that you were as skilled without your abilities as you were with them. We were also tasked with determining that you were injured, as you said. The first cannot be faked. The second can, but in a life or death situation one would have neither the reason nor the facility to. My name is Alex, by the way. I'm the captain of James' guard.”
    “Who's—” Rick started to ask, but Henry put up a hand to signal him to be quiet. “Take us to him,” he said. They holstered their weapons and returned the guards'. Alex took a cell phone from an inside pocket and dialed a number.
    “They're good. We're heading up.” She put the phone away and led everyone to the house.
    The house, if it could be called that, looked like the builder had decided to stack three military bunkers, one on top of the other. It was three stories made entirely of steel and granite, with two windows on the front of each story. The windows had bars on them, and the door had a combination lock, fingerprint pad, and a deadbolt with three keyholes. Standing in front of the locks to prevent anyone seeing, Alex entered the code, scanned her index finger, and used a different key in each keyhole. The door, when it finally opened, was a foot thick. The room beyond was dark. Alex signaled two of her guards to wait outside and ushered Zeke and his crew inside. Once everyone had entered, she stepped in and closed the door, eliminating whatever traces of light were coming in from the outside. It felt like Zeke was in another world entirely.
    Alex whistled a tune, and the lights turned on. Zeke saw row upon row of guns; there was no firearm he could think of that wasn't there. There were assault rifles, submachine guns, pistols, and shotguns, but there were also grenades, RPG launchers, sniper rifles, and tasers. On the far wall of the room were helmets and body armor. He started to salivate.
    Alex led them to the rack of body armor in the center of the far wall. She removed the gloves from the rack and switched their positions. There was a click, and the rack pushed outwards about three inches. Alex grabbed the side of it and pulled. It swung open on well-oiled hinges, revealing a narrow stone stairway. She signaled one of her guards to stay on that floor, then led everyone else up the stairs. Zeke heard the door close and they were once again plunged into darkness.
    The guard standing directly in front of Zeke stopped, forcing Zeke to as well. He could hear Alex fiddling with the lock. Then the door opened and everyone piled out into the room.
    The room was a hospital in miniature. Floor to ceiling cabinets with medication, bandages, splints, and the like lined one wall, and drawers with syringes, epee pens, and who knew what else lined the opposite one. The far wall was entirely covered with computer monitors. In the center of the room were three metal surgeon's tables, and lying on one was an old man.
    The man looked to be at least eighty, most likely older. He wore a plain black suit and tie, and a bowler hat rested on his hands, which were clasped over his chest. His eyes were closed. There was an IV tube in his arm, and his vitals were displayed on the center monitor in the far wall.
    Alex signaled the other two guards to go upstairs. They opened a tall cabinet and stepped through, closing it behind them. She then walked over to the man. Leaning down, she whispered something in his ear. His mouth moved, but his voice was so low Zeke couldn't tell if he was really speaking. Alex nodded and turned to Zeke's team.
    “You three”—she pointed to Rick, Cadoc, and Lynn—“go upstairs. Accommodations have been made. You two stay here. James would like to talk to you.” Rick and Cadoc made to through the cabinet, but Lynn didn't move.
    “What concerns the team leader concerns all of us,” she said. Zeke nodded. Everyone needed to hear this.
    “She's right,” he said. “They need to be here for this.”
    Alex leaned back down to converse with the man, but he waved her away and sat up slowly.
    “They may stay,” he said. “Remind me why you are here. I have many appointments, you see, and cannot remember all of them.” Zeke chuckled. He liked the old man already.
    “I'm here because I'm injured. My friend”—he indicated Henry—“thought you could help.”
    “Of course,” James said. He smiled sadly. “I can definitely be of service. The question is, do you want me to be.”
    Zeke frowned. “Why wouldn't I?”
    James chuckled. “I was born thirty-five years ago,” he said.
    Rick raised an eyebrow. Cadoc tilted his head to the side slightly. Lynn took an involuntary step back. Henry smiled sadly. Zeke's frown deepened.
    “How?” was all he managed.
    “The consequences of my quite formidable ability. Its side effects are rather extreme. It's sad, really, but what can you do? Regardless, I have around two years to live if I decide not to help you.”
    “What is your ability?” Zeke asked.
    “Take your friend's ability,” he said, pointing to Cadoc, “triple its magnitude, multiply its duration by about forty thousand, and you'll have some idea of what I can do.”
    Cadoc gasped. Both of Rick's eyebrows were raised. Lynn took another step back. Henry's smile vanished, replaced by a mask of stoicism. Zeke did some quick math in his head.
    “You can stay accelerated for five years—“
    “—and it takes ten months?”
    “Yes. But because it requires such a large expenditure of energy, I age twice as quickly while I am accelerated as while I am not. My mind and body are that of a ninety-five year old man, though I have only spent five years using my ability and thirty not.”
    Zeke was beginning to comprehend what James was suggesting. “Can you accelerate someone else with you?” he asked.
    James nodded. “It doubles again the pace at which both of us age—that is, we will age four times as quickly as we should—but it might be worth it. Everything depends on whether you actually intend to do what Henry says you do.”
    “Which is?” Zeke asked.
    “Kill Mr. Mason.”
    “Mr. Mason?”
    “The class one,” Henry said. Zeke turned to look at him.
    “You opened the file?”
    “Yes. I had a suspicion, but I wanted to be sure before I talked to James about it. How important is this case to you?”
    “Extremely,” Zeke said. “It's the whole reason I made the crew.” He turned to James. “Who exactly is Mr. Mason to you?”
    “That will have to wait until you have accepted my offer.”
    Zeke nodded. The only thing that mattered was that James would help them; Zeke could find out the story later.
    “Let me talk this over with my team,” he said.
    “Not a problem. You may converse in private upstairs. Come back down when you are ready.”
    James laid back on the surgical table and closed his eyes. Alex walked through the cabinet and up the staircase, followed closely by Zeke and his team. Henry ignored them. Zeke, last to leave, glanced back. His eyes met Henry's.
    Then the door closed, and then they were climbing the stairs to the third floor. They stepped out into a large area with several small partitioned rooms. Each of the miniature rooms had a small bed, a toilet, and a sink. There was a common space in the center, with a couch, a few chairs, a television, and two bookshelves. One wall had cupboards and kitchen appliances on it, and the opposite had showers, separated only from the common room by a thin curtain.
    Zeke turned to Alex. “Thank you,” he said. “My team and I need some time alone to discuss this before we can decide.” She nodded, turned, and waved the guards out, following them. The door closed.
    The team sat in the common space. No one wanted to start the conversation that could lead to an innocent man's death.
    After fifteen minutes of silence, the door opened and Henry stepped in. He walked over to them.
    “We have to do it,” he said fiercely. “We have to kill Mr. Mason.”
    “Hold on a second,” Zeke said. “Who said anything about killing? I just want to capture him and bring him to justice.” What had James said to him?
    Henry shook his head. “There's no prison in the world that can hold this guy. Besides, for what he did, he deserves death.”
    “What did he do?” Lynn asked. Henry sighed.
    “I can't tell you,” Henry said. “James only wants Zeke to know, and as he said earlier, he will only tell Zeke once they are safely within the confines of his ability. I can, however, tell you what he can do.”
    “If there's an ability that allows the user to break out of a maximum-security prison specifically designed to prevent ability users from escaping,” Zeke said dryly, “let's hear it.”
    “Mr. Mason's ability allows him to shift between his timeflow and other people's.”
    “What does that entail?” Cadoc asked. “Possession?”
    “Something like it, yes. It lets him occupy a target's body, gaining access to all of the skills at their disposal, up to and including their ability, provided they have one. The target's consciousness is suppressed until Mr. Mason leaves.”
    “What happens to Mason's body?” Zeke asked.
    “It would go into a catatonic stupor until he returned to it, but that entire line of speculation is useless. He killed himself fifteen years ago.”
    Zeke raised an eyebrow.
    “His consciousness is somehow independent of his body, probably because of his ability. The only way to kill him is to kill his host and prevent him from possessing anyone else.”
    “How would that work? Couldn't he possess one of us?” Lynn asked.
    “Not if we're out of range,” Zeke said. “You can take him out with your sniper rifle, assuming his ability doesn't have an insanely long range.” He turned to Henry. “Does it?”
    “James said a good sniper could make the shot while out of range. He also said it was a terrible idea, because Mason would just possess someone in the area.”
    “So we just shoot them,” Lynn said bluntly. Zeke shook his head.
    “That would amount to killing an innocent bystander. We have to avoid it at all costs. Besides, he would just find another, and another. Henry, is there another way?”
    “Yes. We inject him with this before we shoot him.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew a large syringe. “It's a neurotoxin that inhibits thought and movement.”
    “Won't that fail because of the same property that prevents us from killing him?” Zeke asked. “From what you've told us, he has a sort of separation from his host body, enabling him to act as himself instead of responding to signals from the host's brain.”
    “He is still aware of signals from the host's brain, he simply feels no compulsion to act upon them. It's like the host's brain is talking to him; he just tunes it out. That's why the toxin is designed to do something much different. It's designed to disable the recipient's mygdala. The mygdala is the part of the brain that regulates emotions. If a person's mygdala isn't functioning, they feel happiness, anger, fear, etc to extremes. They cannot control it. If we inject Mason's host, Mason will have a much more difficult time tuning the host's brain out.”
    “When we were fighting James' guards,” Cadoc said, “we could not use our abilities. Could we not just enlist their help against Mason?”
    “We're going to. The nullification is Alex's ability, and she will employ it to kill Mason. However, Mason's ability is somehow immune to it normally. James has a theory that if he is distracted, he will become susceptible. Once we inject Mason, Alex can nullify his ability, rendering him mortal. Lynn will then shoot him, and we will have our bounty.”
    “Alex has agreed to it?” Zeke asked.
    “Why doesn't one of us four shoot him? Why does he have to be sniped?”
    “If one of us shoots him, it'll be a giant mess. We'll have feds on our tail, and there will be trouble even if we are eventually exonerated. It isn't worth it.”
    There was a long pause as the team thought this over.
    “I'll do it, but on one condition,” Zeke said finally. “I get to administer the shot.” Everyone nodded in agreement. It was why he had made the team, after all.
    Henry got up and walked back down the stairs. He returned a minute later with Alex.
    “Let's do it,” she said. “Let's murder that fuck.”

    “I'm going to take you with me when I use my ability. We'll have six months for your hip to heal and you to regain full use of your leg. During that time, I will teach you all you need to know to effectively track and combat Mason. Alex will do the same in the month your team will have here. I will keep us accelerated until your hip is healed or I die. In the case of the latter, please deliver my last words.”
    Zeke swallowed.
    “Um, I have a question,” Lynn said. “Why don't you guys just kill Mason yourselves?”
    “He knows us. It would be too dangerous to get close to him. Even if I were to change my face and use my ability, he would recognize me by my timeflow. His ability lets him sense that, you know. If he possessed me before I was able to give him the shot, Alex and I would both be dead.”
    “So you're chicken is what you're saying.” Henry glared at her.
    “Yes. I have faced enough hardship at this man's hands. Let me at least know how I am going to die.”
    Zeke sighed. “Let's get it over with.”
    James beckoned, and Zeke walked over. Laying a hand on Zeke's shoulder, James breathed deeply and closed his eyes. The rest of the room blurred, then came into focus again. James smiled contentedly.
    “How I have longed to do this again. Now, what do you want to know?”