Friday, January 31, 2014 11 comments

Blink's First Adventure (3/4) (#FridayFlash)

Previous: Meet Blink | Part 1 | Part 2

In last week’s episode, Blink met up with the retired Captain Heroic, and convinced him to help save Frank Crain from the Blackuras. Blink stole that wad of cash from them, and now the street racers are revved up for vengeance! Can he rescue Frank on his own?



The Blackuras’ headquarters was a house across from an abandoned factory building. The parking lot was open, and had more than enough room for all the members to park their cars (all Integras or Civics, all black). The street was dark, the only sound coming from the house. It sounded like a mid-week party.

The Heromobile glided into the parking lot, wearing its “old sedan” skin, near-silent but for the whisper of tires on pavement. The Blackuras’ own fleet hid it from the house. Before tonight, Stevie would have been thrilled beyond words to get a ride in the Heromobile, but Blink was focusing on the work ahead. He had outlined his plan to Captain Heroic, who suggested a few refinements. But he was ready to go.

“How did you find this place?” Captain Heroic asked.

“I was hangin’ out at the Twenty-Four on Saturday, and one of them came in for gas. I heard ‘em talkin’ about how much money they took in, so I popped into the trunk and hitched a ride. Then I popped out after they cut off the motor. When they went inside, I looked in the window, and saw all this cash laying on the table. So I popped in, grabbed two handfuls, and popped out before they knew what was going on. I found a Slaver-Mart bag in the trunk on the way over, so I stuck the loot in that and got away.”

“Slaver-Mart?”

“That’s what Mom calls Saver-Mart. Where she works.”

“Gotcha. Did anyone get a good look at you?”

“Nah. I was wearing a balaclava, anyway.” Blink fished it out of his hoodie pocket. “I guess I need to put it on, huh?”

“I’ve got something better. In the glove box.”

Blink opened the box, and lifted a black eye mask. “This?”

“Why not? It goes with your hoodie. Maybe wear the two together.”

“Yeah.” Blink pulled the balaclava over his head, then added the mask. “Now you see me…”

“And let’s see if we can locate your friend.” Captain Heroic pulled something out from under the driver’s seat that looked like a futuristic pair of binoculars.

“What’s that?” Blink asked.

“Infrared scope, with image enhancement. Lets me see through walls. Sort of.” Captain Heroic pointed the scope at the house, turned a knob, and began muttering. “Bunch of people in the kitchen… living room… upstairs—uh, that’s not it. Heh. Oh… I think I found him.”

“How do you know?”

“One person, sitting still in the middle of a bedroom. It’s upstairs on the left. Can you do your thing from the ground, up to the second story?”

“No prob. Let’s get started.”


Inside the house, the happy party babble came to a halt with the hollow report of a string of firecrackers going off in their mailbox. Several Blackuras leapt to the windows in time to see an old Buick take off, burning rubber. Even through the walls, they heard someone bellow, “Whoooooo! Catch me if you can, slowpokes!”

With a chorus of “Oh hell naw!” the Blackuras poured outside to their cars, some on cellphones, alerting other members already on the street. With the yowl of highly-tuned four-cylinder engines, the street racers added their own tire smoke to the haze. They turned the corner, and blew by a big yellow pickup truck sitting at the curb.

Upstairs, Frank Crain listened to the commotion, hoping maybe the cops had come for him. But things got quiet again, except the couple in the next room kept doing it, and he shook his head.

Then there was someone in the room with him.

“Really, I ain’t him,” Frank pleaded again. “Just lemme go, okay? I don’t know nothing.”

“Sssh. You wanna get outta here?” a voice whispered.

“Yeah,” Frank whispered back. “Who are you?”

“The real Blink. Now you know why secret identities are supposed to be secret.”

“Yeah. So you ain’t mad at me about sayin’ I was you?”

“Maybe a little, but this ain’t your battle.”

“What’s the deal, anyway? They kept sayin’ something about money.”

“I pulled a fast one on them, and they didn’t like it.” The zip ties around Frank’s wrists parted, and Blink started cutting at the bonds around Frank’s ankles. “Have they figured out you were just talking crap?”

“I thought if they had, they’d let me go.”

“Okay, you’re loose. Let’s—”

“You ain’t goin’ anywhere.” Blink and Frank turned to see one of the Blackuras standing in the bedroom doorway, brandishing a lug wrench. “Siddown, both of you!”

continued…

Thursday, January 30, 2014 4 comments

Jury Duty Day 2, and more Winter #2

So everyone has heard about the debacle that was Atlanta traffic on Tuesday afternoon by now, right? Seriously, people who don’t live on Planet Georgia: it’s not the two inches of snow that throws everyone in the ditch here, it’s the quarter inch of ice underneath. I was explaining elsewhere, that we get snow in a fairly narrow temperature range—below 25°F, it’s usually “too cold to snow” here. So when we do get snow, the ground is often warm enough to melt it… then it freezes while we get more snow on top.

Then, once the snow came in, it stayed below freezing for several days. Usually, it’s here today and gone tomorrow. And we had icicles on the house. Icicles, people! Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve seen that?

Oh yeah… jury duty. I wasn’t called in on Tuesday, which is fortunate, because the mess really started in the afternoon. I just plopped the work laptop on the desk and got to it. I called the jury duty hotline in the evening and got: “report on Thursday, January 30.” I ran the message again to make sure I got that right… then realized yeah, they’ll be closed Wednesday.

So Wednesday was another work at home day, except that I took a brief break to let Mason play in the snow. The only problem (as you might expect) was convincing him that he was getting cold and we needed to go back in. But in the time we were outside, he got to make snow angels, drive his trucks around, crawl around in it, fall down and complain about losing his footing.

He pointed out the icicles on the house… and I have NO idea where “I want to eat one!” came from. And he was very insistent about it. What the heck, I used to do it all the time. I found a sufficiently long stick, got him to stand back, and knocked one down.

I was rather surprised that he started slurping that thing, and wouldn’t turn it loose. That is, until he fell… then the icicle went flying, and he started begging me for another one. But he was cold, and I was getting cold, so I took his angrily protesting self back inside.


OK, back to jury duty. When we last saw the inside of the courthouse, it was 2:15 p.m. Monday. None of us waiting in the assembly room had been given a lunch break. That didn’t jibe well with the comforting speech from one of the judges earlier in the morning, who claimed to understand the inconvenience that reporting to jury duty was (before heaping the inconvenience of no lunch on us all). With a couple days to… um, cool off, perhaps things would be better today, right?

So I trundled in, flipped open my Kindle, and waited. I popped earbuds on and cranked up some music at one point, because a pair of teabaggers were reinforcing their constructed reality. And waited some more. Read some more. Played Midnight Mahjongg on my iPhone. Waited some more. Noon came, with no sign of an impending lunch break. Here we go again

Fortunately, some judge suddenly thought about the starvelings in the assembly room, and we got a super-generous 45-minute lunch break starting at 12:45. It was enough time to grab a lunch special at the local pizza joint, anyway.

So we returned. I was hoping the all-day no-call meant that all the cases were being pled out, and we’d all soon be sent home. But… around 3p.m., the clerk called a clump of jurors, and they filed out. Shortly after, he assembled another clump, which included yours truly. Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to court we go.

As for the rest of the story, it will have to wait for (I hope) tomorrow, when we finish the trial, because I got selected. That was very surprising, and I’ll go into details when it’s over.

Jury duty. It’s like getting a “chocolate” icicle:


Wednesday, January 29, 2014 2 comments

Writing Wibbles: the ABC Award

Helen Howell has awarded me the Awesome Blog Content (ABC) award. Thanks!


These are the rules, with annotations as suggested by Helen:

1) Download the award logo and add it to your acceptance post.
2) Nominate a few fellow bloggers and share the award.
3) Since the award is ABC, take each letter of the alphabet ABC and use it to tell something about yourself.

So here’s the ABC part:

A is for: Age. The ol’ double-nickel, aka 55.

B is for: Baking. I enjoy clearing the decks in the kitchen, slinging flour everywhere, and watching family members gorge themselves on what I make. Actually, I make better biscuits than the wife does, but I don’t make a point of telling her that!

C is for: Computers. I’m pretty good with them, especially Macs, especially now that they have Unix as a sub-layer. I used to joke about being one of the few parents whose kids would come to him with computer questions.


And hmm… who do I nominate? So many worthy choices… I’ll tag a couple I haven’t ever tagged before:

  • Eric J. Krause, whose writing prompts seem to find a home in my stories more than anyone else’s prompts.
  • My partner in co-op, Angela Kulig, who writes great blog posts and needs to do it more often.

And hey, if you want the award, scoop it up and have fun!

Monday, January 27, 2014 3 comments

Winter #2, and Jury Duty day 1

Image source: openclipart.org
So I missed blogging about Winter #1, when it hit −1°F for the first time since the 1980s. The outdoor dogs got through it just fine; we put hay in and around their houses and they had no problems. In fact, Mongo (Buster T. Butthead’s progeny) never bothered going inside his house. I checked on him several times in the early hours of the night, when it was already in single digits, and he was just curled up happily in the hay. The other two dogs had enough sense to use their doghouses, and they were plenty warm. In the morning, Mongo was basking in the cold sun… no problems.

For you metric-inclined folks,
that’s 2°F. About −17°C.
Winter #2 settled in late last week, bringing another round of frigid temperatures, entire days below freezing, and so forth. Sunday poked itself up to around 50°, and it’s almost as nice today, but the next blast is coming in tonight. Snowpocalypse again! My fighting off a bad cold is not helping matters any.


As if Planet Georgia having its first real winter in three years wasn’t enough, I got a jury summons right around Christmas time. That, of course, brought to mind the Jim Carrey version of the Grinch, when he was playing in the post office: “Jury duty! Jury duty! Pink slip! Blackmail! Eviction notice!” My mother in law was also summoned, but she died in May so they weren’t going to get her in there. The wife had the “privilege” of calling the clerk to tell them about it; she held up pretty well.

This is nowhere near the first time I’ve been on jury duty, but it’s the first time in a long time. But getting back to Winter #2, there was ice on the roads going into town. Which didn’t make sense at all, given that the low at FAR Manor was 37° last night, but this is Planet Georgia. The local police were stopping cars on a side road, warning them about the roads; the tow trucks parked along the side of the road suggested someone had already slid off into the woods.

I didn’t lose traction anywhere, but did keep the speed down. I dropped Mason off at his preK, grabbed some breakfast, then went back to the courthouse.


Image source: WPclipart.com
The fun began when the judge started asking the general questions that everyone has to answer. When he got to “any felony convictions?” he lost more of the pool than all the previous questions combined.

Then, I was in on a selection for a DUI case. If you’ve never been lucky enough to get called to jury duty, they go through a process called voir dire (which is not French for “do you really belong here,” but that’s the upshot). That’s where the fun really began.

I do believe that the increasing Criminalization of Everything is starting to catch up to the “justice” system. About ⅓ of the potential jurors were getting struck (or “reserved”) for various reasons—one was going through his own DUI arrest, another had been stopped once on suspicion of DUI, others had different brushes with the law. Before we got halfway through the process, the judge sent those of us who had already been questioned downstairs. I’ve been on several trips through the jury mill, and I’ve never seen anything like this. Last time I was there, the lawyers would ask their questions, then the DA would strike or pass, and the defense attorney would do the same, until they had their jury.

While I’d raised my hand and answered several of the lawyers’ questions, I felt sure that I was going to get selected for that case… but it didn’t turn out that way. I continued to read +Brooke Johnson’s The Clockwork Giant on my Kindle, and waited for lunch. And waited… and waited… Finally, at 1p.m., I asked the clerk if we were going to get a lunch break. “The judge decides,” he said. Sure, judges are like minor deities in their courtrooms, but I’ve never had to wait until 2:15 for lunch during jury duty before. Finally, we got sent home for the day, with instructions to call in this evening to see if we have to come in tomorrow.

I hope not… Winter #2 is still in effect, and it’s supposed to sleet and/or snow in the morning, then snow all afternoon, and never get above freezing.

Stay tuned for more misadventures in jury duty! I’m live-tweeting stuff that doesn’t name any names on my Twitter account through the day. Look for the #juryduty hashtag. And if we get a real Snowpocalypse, I’ll be blogging that (if the power holds up).

Friday, January 24, 2014 8 comments

Blink's First Adventure (2/4) (#FridayFlash)

Previous: Meet Blink | Part 1

Last week, Blink’s mom opened an envelope, to find enough cash to make the house payment! Shortly after, a friend called to say an obnoxious classmate was missing! What happened to Frank? And where did that cash really come from? Read on…



“Channel Fourteen,” Lashaun urged him. “It’s running right now.”

“…Westside Middle School, did not return home from school today. His parents say they checked with his friends, and nobody has seen him since school let out at 3:35 p.m. If you know where Frank Crain might be, please call Hotline Fourteen at…”

“Geez,” said Stevie looking at the screen, “they put his football picture up there?”

“Yeah. You think someone grabbed him off the sidewalk?”

Stevie had a pretty good idea that was exactly what happened, and who had grabbed him, and why. “Maybe,” he said. “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, huh?”

“Yeah. Hey, my mom wants something. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Who was that—oh my!” Mom gasped. “Is that boy from your school?”

“Yeah. He’s a real jerk. He probably mouthed off to the wrong person. Or maybe he’s out breaking windows, and he turned off his phone so they can’t track him.”

“Stevie, what have I told you, talking about people like that?”

“I know. Sorry. But he is a jerk.”

“Being a jerk doesn’t mean he deserves something bad happening to him,” said Mom. “Anyway, I’m keeping you home tomorrow.”

“Does that mean I can stay up late?”

“Until eleven. No later.”

“Fine,” Stevie huffed. “Can I use the computer, then?”

“Sure. I’m pretty worn out. I think I’ll go to bed early. But I’ll be checking on where you go.”

“Geez, ma. The computer can’t even play Youtubes, it sure can’t play anything—dirty.” Stevie caught himself about to say fun and corrected himself at the last second.

“I know. A new computer is on the list, once we can afford it.” Mom kissed her fingertip and tapped him on top of the head. “Night, kiddo.”

Stevie waited for the bedroom door to close, then opened Twitter through the anonymizing relay site he’d found last weekend. He had created an account for Blink through it, and followed the known heroes and villains, but had left it dormant since then. Now it was time to use it.

@CapHeroic This is Blink. I need to talk to you in private.

Stevie waited anxiously, hoping for a response.

@Blinkss14 Why?

@CapHeroic I need your help.

@Blinkss14 I’m retired, you know.

@CapHeroic It’s about the missing kid. It’s because of me. Please.

CapHeroic followed you.

@Blinkss14 DMed you.

Stevie sighed with relief, and opened his direct messages.

Can you meet at Fountain of Progress Square?

I’ll have to wait for my mom to go to sleep, but yeah.

See you there.

Stevie logged out, then cleared the browser cache and history. Mom didn’t know he knew to do that, just yet. He clicked around to a few school-related and game sites, checked his email, then got up to check on Mom. She was already asleep, her TV playing some chick flick. He turned it off, then arranged his dirty laundry under the covers in case she checked on him. Finally, he put on his black hoodie and popped outside.


“Captain Heroic?”

“Yeah. Blink?”

“Yeah.”

“Show me.”

“Over here,” Blink whispered. Captain Heroic turned to see the kid, standing thirty feet to the left of where he had been.

“Okay, I’m convinced,” said Captain Heroic. “Let’s skip the small talk. Who took the kid?”

“The Blackuras.”

“Why?”

Blink sighed. “Frank was telling everyone at school he’s Blink. So they went after him.”

“The Blackuras are just a bunch of punks in souped-up Integras. They’re not going to tangle with supers.”

“They run the street races, y’know. I… I kind of popped in on them and grabbed a bunch of their cash.”

“You what?” Captain Heroic scratched his greying head. “You stole money from them, is that what you’re saying?”

“Yeah.” Blink sighed again. “They got it illegally, I figured that wouldn’t make it so bad. Mom can’t get a better job than Slaver-Mart, and Dad’s supposed to send child support so we can get by. But sometimes he doesn’t.”

“So you took the money to help your mom pay bills.”

“Yeah. Grimes Financial threatens to foreclose on us any time we’re late on the house payment. That’s why I was there, that night last week. I was thinking about grabbing some money out of their vault, I figured they’d get it right back anyway, y’know? Then DeVine showed up.”

“Right.” Captain Heroic paced in front of the fountain for a minute. “So what are you? A hero, or a villain?”

Blink fought back tears. “I… I don’t know yet. Frank’s a butthead, but that doesn’t mean I want him getting hurt. So I’m gonna get him out. But I need some help.”

The old hero thought a moment. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone your age,” he said at last. “Most Type Ones don’t manifest until they’re twenty. Sixteen’s the earliest I ever heard of until now. You’re what, thirteen?”

“Yeah. What’s a Type One?”

“That’s someone who’s superpowers come naturally. They’re genetic. Type Twos gain theirs after some external event, usually a lab accident. I’m a Type Three, just a normal guy with good reflexes and very good gadgets.”

“Oh.”

“Okay, I’ll help. But this is your show. I’m the sidekick, got it? I’ll step in if something goes wrong, but otherwise it’s all you. And no more swiping cash, even from the bad guys.”

Blink grinned. “Fair enough. But you have to drive. I’ll navigate. I got an idea how we can do this.”

continued…

Thursday, January 23, 2014 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

The last few days have been fascinating, from the standpoint of an indie writer. First, Melissa Bowersock told us about The Editing Myth, where it turns out that traditionally published works might not get that thorough editing that we’ve all assumed they do. When at least sometimes, the reality is they accepted the manuscript verbatim and had zero editorial suggestions.

Fascinating.

But we’re not done!

On the heels of that bombshell, the Passive Guy blog ran a post about how a traditionally-published author blogged her own earnings over three years, then took down the post “for contract disclosure reasons.” The Passive Guy concluded with It’s not an iron-clad rule, but some of the worst contracts from an author’s perspective include some sort of prohibition on the author’s discussion of the contract.

By coincidence, Steve Zacharius (the CEO of Kensington, a second-tier publisher in New York) was engaged in a discussion on a different blog, and one of the commenters pointed him to this post. He joined the discussion, and it’s a most fascinating one. In fact, it triggered a second post, Response to Kensington, that garnered even more comments. What was telling: several commenters asked him, repeatedly, to provide a copy of Kensington’s standard boilerplate contract. He refused by using the standard executive tactic: answering as if the question were different (for example, “we don’t disclose specific details of an author’s contract”), and deflected related questions about average advances. Some authors did weigh in with how much they had been offered, figures from $2500 to $50,000.

Other authors complained about trouble getting rights reversions, or lack of editorial feedback (shades of “The Editing Myth”), and Zacharius did respond forthrightly to those people. Someone suggested a survey, where authors could respond anonymously, and he seemed to really like that idea. I really think he has his heart in the right place, but he can’t quite wrap his mind around the idea that authors no longer really need a traditional publisher—at least, not on the traditional terms. He continuously repeats “eBooks are only 30% of the market,” when those stats don’t include indie sales (which Amazon says are 25% of their eBook sales, and that’s a pretty dang big chunk of sales to ignore).

But the you-know-what got real when he accepted a dialog with Joe Konrath, a major cheerleader for indie publishing. This long but fascinating dialog might not be over just yet, and is definitely worth the time to read.

Some people say that reading the comments section of a blog is the way to madness. Not in this case. It’s eye-opening. Go see if I’m right.

Friday, January 17, 2014 10 comments

Blink's First Adventure (1/4) (#FridayFlash)

After we met Blink last week, he wanted to let you know about his first adventure…



“Hey, Stevie! Did you watch HNN last night?”

“Yeah.” Stevie Winkler scooted over a little on his stool, giving his friend Chris some room to set his cafeteria tray.

“Man,” Chris enthused, “wouldn’t it be awesome, to have superpowers like that? Ultra Woman said he was a kid.” He swept a dramatic arm across the cafeteria. “That means it could be someone in here, even!”

Stevie put on what he hoped didn’t look like a fake grin. “Yeah. Kinda like Robin, huh?”

“Except he’s not a sidekick.” Chris looked around the cafeteria, and waved at Lashaun, carrying his tray.

“I guess you heard, huh?” Lashaun took a stool across from them. “Any ideas who it is?”

“Could be anyone,” said Stevie. “Probably goes to a private school or something.”

“Yeah, those rich kids have all the luck,” said Chris.

They ate, talking about their classes and teachers, pausing to watch as girls walked by. As they took their trays to the dropoff window, Marla Davis came up behind them. “Did you hear?”

“Hear what?” Chris asked.

“Frank Crain is Blink!”

“No way,” said Stevie. He knew exactly who Blink was, and it wasn’t Frank Crain. Frank should have been in ninth grade, but got held back last year.

“He’s telling everyone,” Marla insisted, pointing across the cafeteria to a gathering crowd.

The boys followed Marla over to where Frank was holding court. “How do you know it isn’t him?” Lashaun asked Stevie.

“A real super wouldn’t give away his secret identity,” Stevie whispered.

“Yeah, but who’s gonna call him on it?” Chris shook his head.

“…so DeVine was trying to wrap me up in his plants,” Frank was telling the growing crowd of admirers, “and I just kept popping in and out and all about.” He grinned at the unintentional rhyme. “Then I got an idea, and started going around him. He kept chasing me with his plants, and I got him wrapped up in his own tangle!”

That’s not how it went down, Stevie thought, although Frank’s story was a lot more exciting than what really happened. He and DeVine had just talked until Ultra Woman showed up, then DeVine escaped through the ceiling.

“Yeah, and Ultra Woman said I was awesome,” Frank concluded.

“If you’re really Blink,” Stevie called over the other kids’ heads, “give us a little demonstration.”

All heads turned to Stevie, and those closest to him edged away. “I don’t have to show you nothin’,” Frank sneered.

“Whatever.” Stevie snorted softly and rolled his eyes. “C’mon, guys,” he told Chris and Lashaun. “Mr. Eng don’t like us being late for Geometry.”

A rough hand grabbed his arm and jerked him back, and Stevie found himself nose to nose with a much larger Frank. “You callin’ me a liar?”

“Is that how a superhero rolls?” Stevie asked, loud enough for everyone around to hear. “Bullying kids a head shorter than him?”

Frank glanced around at the skeptical faces, then quickly let Stevie go. “I just don’t like bein’ called a liar, is all,” he grumbled. “You got class. Don’t be late.”

“That wasn’t too bright,” said Lashaun. “He coulda punched your lights out.”

“Yeah, but then everybody woulda known he’s talkin’ crap,” said Stevie. “He can’t go pushin’ everyone around, now, or he proves he’s no hero. It was worth the risk.”

“That reminds me,” said Chris, “whatever happened with that dork from high school who was gonna kick your butt?”

“Oh, that.” Stevie had his cover story ready; that was when he’d discovered his ability to teleport. “He put me up against a tree. I ducked, and he hit the tree. I think he broke his hand, but I took off while he was yelling about it.”


Stevie was doing homework a week later, surrounded by the crumbs of a freezer pizza, when Mom came in from work around nine. “Hi, hon,” she said, heading for the bathroom.

“Hey, Mom,” he said, eyeing the bulging envelope on the table. “The PTA sent a flyer home about the bake sale, and some lady came by and dropped off an envelope.”

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to help with the bake sale, hon,” said Mom, over the flushing toilet. “If your father pays the child support this month, maybe. Same with the religious thing, whatever that was.”

“Uh, I don’t think it was a religious thing,” said Stevie, as Mom came in to look over the mail. “She said something about a single mothers foundation.”

“Yeah. Maybe this is stuffed with cash, then,” Mom said sarcastically, ripping the envelope open. She gasped. “Oh my God,” she whispered. She sat down, and Stevie thought it was just luck that she landed in a chair. She fished the cash out of the envelope. “Oh my God,” she said again.

“Wow, it was cash!” Stevie tried hard to sound surprised. “How much?”

“Oh, I…” Mom started counting, but her hands were shaking too hard. “Can you count it, Stevie?”

“Sure.” Stevie counted out the twenties and fifties. “Fifteen hundred,” he said at last.

“Wow,” she breathed. “That’s the house payment, right there. Talk about a big help. If your dad gets off his ass and sends your support check, I’ll be able to put something back for your college for a change. I’m surprised they’d hand out cash, though.”

“I dunno, ma. They just dropped off the envelope. I didn’t know what was in it.”

“I know.” Mom slid a twenty to Stevie. “This will make up at least some of your missed allowance.” The phone rang. “If you’re done with the pizza, Stevie, why don’t you get that? I thought I wasn’t hungry, but now…” she shrugged.

Stevie recognized Lashaun’s number on the caller ID. “Hey.”

“Stevie!” Lashaun sounded almost frantic. “Did you hear?”

“Hear what?”

“Frank Crain disappeared!”

continued…

Friday, January 10, 2014 18 comments

Blink (#FridayFlash)

Image source: openclipart.org
While Skyscraper City has a vibrant nightlife, most of that is concentrated in the entertainment district. A few blocks away, in the financial district, solitude reigns after dark. There is the occasional light, of course: someone in the IT department working a late shift, or security guards making their rounds.

And not all lights find their way to a window.

A light came on, above the hung ceiling in the offices of Grimes Financial Services, illuminating the unsightly tangle of cables, ductwork, and support beams that are the bones and sinews of any office building. The beam sparkled and shone as it played across the dark expanse. DeVine had planned this caper for months, and tonight was the night.

Twisting his arms and ankles into the ivy he’d sown, DeVine willed it to grow. Grow it did, carrying him with its advance as it stretched across the dark, empty space, lashing itself to any protrusion it could find. It would be a dead giveaway, but DeVine would be long gone before anyone found it.

A dark object with sharp corners finally came into view: the top of the vault. This was DeVine’s target, of course. The noise of cutting through it would attract attention… but who needs to break in when you got the keys? he thought, patting his pocket. Still wrapped in the ivy that partly gave him his name, DeVine willed it to lower him to the hung ceiling. Hanging over the security camera watching the vault doors, he waited.

The red light came on, and DeVine got ready. As it winked out, he unscrewed the coax and pulled it away. That would trigger a fault, but the camera was made by Republic and they failed all the time. If the guard was napping or distracted, he might not even notice before DeVine re-attached the cable on the way out.

With the camera disabled, he lifted the adjacent ceiling tile and slid it over. The ivy lowered him to the floor, and he set his own motion detector alarm before striding to the vault door. Sliding his ID card (a copy of the Chief Security Officer’s) through the reader, he entered the passcode 4569. A green light flashed, the bolts retracted with a loud thump, and DeVine slipped inside—

“What the…” he muttered, looking at the black-clad figure already inside the vault, watching the door.

“Hey,” the figure said. The voice sounded local—not one of the Devis or Masked Warriors, then—and youthful.

“What are you doing in here?” DeVine demanded.

“I dunno. What about you?”

DeVine had planned for the possibility of company, but not when it was waiting for him in the vault. “None a’ya business,” he grated. “Who are you, anyway?”

“Uh… Blink, I guess. Hey, you’re DeVine, right? Can I get your autograph? Some of my friends have most of the heroes, but nobody’s got a supervillain’s John Hancock.” Blink fumbled a notebook and a pen out of his pocket. “You don’t have to say ‘to whatever,’ just your name. That would be awesome.”

“What? What?” DeVine sputtered. “Of all the… who are you working with, kid?”

“Who? Oh. Nobody. I’m just here.”

“Yeah, well—” The motion detector started beeping. “Aaah!” DeVine shot the kid a final glare, and dashed out the vault door.

Blink ambled over, watching the villain clamber up the ivy, pull it up behind him, and push the ceiling tile back into place.

“Whatever,” he said, walking back into the vault.

“Freeze!” a woman’s voice barked.

“Hey,” he said, turning. “Hey, Ultra Woman!” Blink was still holding his notebook. “Oh yeah, I got your autograph already.”

“You’ll be collecting autographs from prison guards,” she said, reaching to grab him.

“It was DeVine. You just missed him. He went up into the ceiling, through that tile right there.” He pointed.

“I’ll check it out, but don’t move.” Ultra Woman rose up on her boot jets, knocked the ceiling tile out of the way, then poked her head inside. “I’ll be damned,” she grumbled. “That’s DeVine, all right.” She dropped back down to face Blink. “You’re still coming with me,” she said, grabbing his arm. “You got a lot of—huh!”

The kid had got away somehow, and was now standing in the vault. “You’re not my mom,” he said sullenly. “I don’t have to take orders from you.”

“What the…” Ultra Woman found herself at a rare loss for words. “Who are you, kid?”

“Blink. Oh. You can take the credit for stopping DeVine. You don’t even have to mention me. I gotta go, now.” And he disappeared.

On the sidewalk outside, Stevie pulled his hoodie up and started walking. He’d popped into the vault to think, maybe grab a little loot. Maybe. Instead, he met a villain and a hero, one right after the other. This whole superpower thing was cool at first, but now he had to wonder. Neither side seemed too happy to have him around—which he was used to, but still.

Being Stevie Winkler sucked, but maybe it wasn’t as dangerous as being Blink. Besides, he still had to figure out which way he wanted to go. “A hero gets the girls,” he muttered, “but the bad guys are rollin’ in the green.” A cop car sped by, flashing like a Christmas tree on crack, and he made sure it kept going before resuming his homeward plod. He had all of Sunday tomorrow before facing another week of the personal Hell that some called middle school. Five more years of this crap seemed like forever, but it gave him time.

Most of all, to decide what he wanted to be when he grew up.



If you like Blink, check out his first adventure, and check out some of the other heroes and villains of Skyscraper City — here on TFM!

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