Category Archives: Seed

A story-idea seed. A short bit, often a chapter in length, meant to inspire a longer story or to be part of a longer story later.

FJJ Investigations, Inc. – Prologue

Loosely inspired by a friend’s Facebook post. Merely a prologue. 

 

It was after midnight and the music was pumping at Z-Rez when the suit approached me for the first time. We were there celebrating, never mind why. Red had poured herself into a skin-tight black Keshiro Takeda dress, and guys were lining up to buy her drinks. Vee was, unsurprisingly, over at the DJ’s station checking out the newest Zeiss Ultrabass thumpers, and I had lost track of Mutt and his ward hours ago.

Me? I was enjoying a well deserved Ichiban when the suit darkened my booth.

“Mr. Jones?” his voice held just the slightest note of uncertainty, which told me that he only knew me by verbal description. Whoever he was, he didn’t have a file on me or he’d know my face. I hadn’t been reprofiled over a year. I had been considering trying a stint as a brunette, but always decided against it. My hair was pretty much my signature.

“Mr. Johnson,” I nodded back. Someday I’m going to meet a suit whose name really is Johnson. Or maybe the bigger suits know that’s what we call them, and never assign anyone with that name to low-level grunt work like this.

He smiled, an expression as plastic as his features: handsome in a bland, non-threatening way. The perfect corporate shill. No doubt the result of extensive reprofiling. “I represent certain people,” he began, slipping into the booth opposite me. “Certain people who have heard of you and your team. We want to hire you.”

My own smile could be measured in picoseconds. “Of course you do.” My voice was heavy on the sarcasm. It’s good, in these negotiations, to establish dominance from the very beginning. And nothing does that better than feigning disinterest. If he was any good at his job, he knew I knew that, and I knew he knew, and so the dance went. “Let me guess,” I went on, “your boss did something and now someone else knows about it and you want expendables who won’t be missed come next quarter’s accounting to go sort it out. That about sum it up?”

He paused, for just a fraction of a second. Maybe he wasn’t as good at his job as I had thought. “No,” he shook his head. “That’s not it at all. Someone broke into our offices…”

I nodded as he trailed off. “And you want us to find out who and retrieve whatever it is they took.” It wasn’t a question, but it was wrong as it turned out.

“No,” he shook his head again. His composure was back, and I realized that I had guessed wrong and forfeited the advantage. Dammit. “We know who did it and we have already recovered the property,” he continued. “What we want you to do is figure out how they did it.”

“Why not just make them tell you?” I asked, and from the self-satisfied smirk, I knew the answer as soon as I asked. “Oh,” I nodded, “no one left alive to question.”

He nodded smugly. “We want you to recreate the event. Figure out where how they did it. The pay is quite good by your standards.” He produced a small holopad from his suit pocket and slid it across the table at me. The figure displayed was as handsome as his face.

I thought quickly. The fact that, even after catching the perps, they still didn’t know how it was done implied certain things. “You think you have a mole,” I said, and he nodded again. “Double that,” I said, pointing at the display. It was a gamble, but I was pretty sure he would go for it. Most people don’t come to us unless there is something so incredibly wrong with their problem that usual avenues of inquiry just wouldn’t cut it.

I was right: he nodded without hesitation. “Done.”

I should have asked for more. Damn. “Done,” I repeated and it was sealed. He collected his pad and slid a card across the table in its place. The card was for the Senior Vice President of Information Security at Grünenthal Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH. I stopped myself from whistling just in time. I pocketed the card and nodded.

“Tomorrow, 8 AM,” he said as he stood. He smoothed out his suit, flicked an imaginary speck of dust from his shoulder, and turned to go. He was swallowed up by the crowd in seconds.

I sat there for a time, thinking about the case. GBI was one of the Big Boys, an Orbital with connections and branches in almost every nation left on Earth. It was said that they flat-out owned the Greater Southern California Republic. If someone was stealing from them, and they couldn’t figure out who did it, it had to be someone very powerful. And that meant very dangerous. We would have to be on our toes the entire time.

I clicked my jaw to activate the subdermal and called Vee. “We have a job,” I said without preamble when she acknowledged me. “Find Mutt and Shag, and meet me at the Van in ten. And give Shag some DeTox. I need him coherent for this. I’ll get Red and meet you guys there.”

“Of course you will,” Velma’s voice dripped sarcasm, and I flushed. My infatuation with Daphne was a long-running source of amusement for the others in the group. I disconnected without replying. Sometimes it’s best not to respond to that kind of thing.

Still, I was in a good mood. We had a new job, so close on the heels of the last. If this kept up, we’d be able to afford those new Nokia plugs Shaggy wanted, and upgrade the Mutt’s biodermal implants. Things were looking good for a change.

I should have known better.

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In Tears and in Silence

Normally when I write fragments, they are the ‘beginnings’ of longer untold tales. This is an experiment in writing the ‘ending’ instead.

The building was confusing. Each room, it seemed, held four doors that looked like they had quartered glass panes but they did not, in fact, look into the next room. On the soft, white walls above each door were a list of names and numbers.

A Sanderson 1

C Hex 3

S Wheatley 4

K Rexford 6

Each door had a different list, although some names were repeated. They seldom had the same numbers next to them with each repetition.

Karen was the first one to figure it out. She stepped through the door mentioned above, and then poked her head back in. “It’s a code,” she said. “We’re looking for Sam, right? This door says Sam Wheatley, 4. I step through and the door on the left in THAT room says S Wheatley 2. 4 is the left door, if you start counting from straight ahead as you enter the room.”

Jill followed Karen’s trail into the other room, calling out to us, “Then if that is right, the next room behind the left door will have Sam’s name above the right hand door.” There was a pause during which time we could hear the door opening, and then Jill yelled, “And it is! Karen is right, it’s like a treasure hunt! Come on!”

We hurried to follow her, looking at the names above the door indicated in the previous room. It seemed to be working until the fourth room, when Sam’s name had a 7 next to it.

“There aren’t 7 walls,” Amanda said. She frowned as she looked at Jill and Karen for an explanation. I was the one who figured it out however.

“No, there aren’t,” I said. “But count to seven from ahead anyways: one – ahead. Two – right. Three – the door we just came in. Four – left. Five – ahead again. Six – right. Seven… the door right in front of us.” I stepped through and then turned and looked above the door behind me and sure enough, there was Sam’s name again. This time it had a 2 after it. “It’s a 2. Turn around, and look to the right.”

Armed with this, we began to notice that sometimes the same name would appear over two or more doors in the same room. We quickly determined to follow the breadcrumbs, however. We didn’t want to risk making an assumption about which door was the ‘real’ one and end up lost. Time was of the essence.

We began rushing through the rooms. Once the code was solved, it was easy. At last we came to a door that had no room beyond it. Rather, it lead outside. A walled enclosure on two sides, the building on the third and the bayou on the fourth.

“No!” cried Amanda. We were too late. There, on a dune right before the water began, were Sam and Jolene.

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Still-Life with Snowflake (FF)

This is in response to Haley Whitehall’s September Flash Fiction Challenge: Superpowers.

I walked around her again, slowly, admiring. The way the pale, mid-winter light caught her cheekbones. Or the tiny snowflake that was less than a second from landing on her hair where it would melt and join hundreds of it’s kin in her golden locks. Or the way her pose, launching forward with her fist pulled back to strike, accentuated the lines of lean muscles in her calves, her tight abdomen. That was quite visible in the skin-tight spandex supersuit she wore. Red, with a golden falcon on the chest.

With a suit like that, you would think that her name would be Phoenix, or maybe Firebird. But no, it was Yellow Falcon. Some heroes really need better PR teams. In truth, a better PR team was the least of the things she needed right now. Needed? Needs? Would need? The language is somewhat lacking in this regard.

Most people only knew her as Yellow Falcon. I knew her as Josie Wheatherly. She lived up the street from me when we were teenagers. We went to the same high school together, although I don’t think she would recognized me if we met on the street. After all, it was a few weeks after graduation that I first discovered I had the Power.

Obviously, she had powers also. Thus the costume, the heroic pose. But her power was Light. Not the same as mine. She used hers to fight crime. I used mine to…

Well, at first I used it to overcome my laziness, or at least to make others think I had. Slept in late? No problem. I’d just stop the world while I had breakfast and calmly strolled to work. No one ever noticed.

Then later, I began to realize that I could use it to study whatever I wanted. I got PhDs in three sciences in the space of as many years. After a while I began to notice that time quite literally didn’t stop for me during these interludes. I was getting older. Not too noticeable yet, but it was happening.

I would see her sometimes on TV, Josie. She was always out there, fighting crime, keeping the world safe. In the space of two years, she accounted for the capture and arrest of over twenty-five members of the Golina family. I learned to play the piano between ticks of the second hand in order to impress some girl I had just met.

This situation now is because of that Golina thing. They must have hired someone to kill Josie. The robbery at the jewelry store was a diversion, obviously.

I was walking home, passing the frozen people and cars around me when I saw it. The fight. There she was, launching herself at a masked man holding a bag full of diamond bracelets. And there it was, less than a millimeter from the back of her head: the bullet.

I have long since taken care of the sniper, but there is nothing I can do about the bullet. It’s too close, too large, travelling too fast. Trust me, I have read up on ballistics in the weeks since. All I can do is keep her here, frozen in this moment, until I finally die.

——————

I wrote a longer version of this story, because I just felt that 500 words didnt’ do it justice. You can find that longer version here.

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Rabbit Hole 2.0

This is in response to Sonia G. Medeiros‘ August Flash Fiction Challenge: Doorways.

In retrospect, we should have realized it wouldn’t be that easy. After all, we’d all read the reports. It almost felt like we’d grown up with them.

It took the NSA, working with NASA and Google Earth, all of five days to find the Doorway. It was more or less where we all thought it would be: near a big tree on the grounds of an ancient estate in England. Getting permission from the British government to allow a US SOD team access took only slightly longer. I guess Whitehall still felt it owed Washington over that thing from last year.

So there we were, my team and I, doing final gear check. It felt surreal to be doing this on a nicely trimmed lawn, beside some meticulously maintained topiary and not more than a dozen meters from a freshly-painted white gazebo. Luckily, it was well fed and didn’t attack.

One by one, we called out our ready status, and the Captain stepped up to give us his traditional pre-mission pep talk. We’d all heard it so many times most of us ignored him until he finally rambled his way to the end and then said those fateful words, “Team, you have a green light. Go to red.”

“Huah!” we all grunted in unison, and the racket of bolts being pulled back on our M-4s was as oddly out of place in the pastoral setting as the rest of this entire mission. Really, it should have been an omen. Even Fernandez, with his obsession with superstitions, missed this one. Poor Fernandez.

Halsford had point. He  approached the Doorway in classic text-book form and we stacked up on him. He looked at each of us to make sure we were ready and focused, then he flipped open the hatch and we all pointed weapons down. Nothing to see at first, just a dirt tunnel leading down. Ropes were tied around the nearby birch, and carabiners hooked to belts. We rappelled down. It was a long way to the bottom.

Halsford and the FNG took up positions in front of each of the two doors we found at the bottom, and we all shared a silent moment of amusement at how the FNG had to crouch to keep his weapon level with the imagined center-of-mass of anything that might come out of that second, 2′ tall door.

“Where are we?” I snapped as I unstrapped myself from the rope. First on, last off as the saying goes.

“We got it sir,” Adams responded smartly. I looked over to find him pointing at a table pushed up against the side of the room. And sure enough, there it was, just like the reports. The bottle, the cake, the key, the signs. Forewarned is forearmed they say, so Adams pocketed the key before reaching for the bottle. As he lifted it, he displaced the sign and it fell face-down on the table. That’s ok, we all knew what it said.

“Drink me.”

 

—–

Update: This has been expanded into the first part of  a chapter for a full-length novel. See more at the DWE page.

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