Monday, July 9, 2012

Speechless: Sound, Mind, and Body Part 5

Shattered Glass and Flopping Fish

Few things are as soothing as sitting where no one can see you with a high-powered sniper rifle in your arms.  No one knows where you are, they can't find you, and you can exert your control over a situation with impunity.    It's terribly relaxing.  The only trouble is that it all ends with the first shot.  You have to decide at what point losing control is worth gaining your goal.  All of life's dilemmas summed up in one tidy little package.  I hate tidy little packages.

I had been pleased to learn that no explosions had rocked the carnival grounds yet.  That meant that my explosions would come at the times they were meant to.  C6 truly was beautiful stuff.  To the best of my knowledge, it had no real relation to C4, just that it made an even bigger boom with a smaller quantity of explosive.  Its stability was comparable.  Most people that wanted to fight the Judges hated explosives.  I didn't.  I'm not a terribly big guy, nor am I so blindingly fast as to win in  hand-to-hand combat.  My aim on the fly isn't that great either.  I prefer to take my time and go in with a plan.  It seemed that was one thing I shared in common with my new nemesis, Magistrate Nagumo.

Tammy had claimed that Nagumo was hunting me ceaselessly and that everything about the carnival was a trap for me.  Too much of what was going on had seemed thrown together for my tastes.  Now, on the day of the execution, events were starting to make sense.  The carnival was distraction, while Nagumo's entire plan rested on me acting today.  The guards catching wind of me yesterday had been their misfortune.  From the conversation two piranha were having eight floors below me, Nagumo was furious about yesterday's antics.  He wanted me branded a terrorist, not a hero or a martyr.  It was almost enough to bring a tear to my eye.  He cared.


The scene showed just how much he cared.  The execution, rather than just being a beheading, was a full-fledged banquet.  A podium and two long banquet tables were set on a raised platform so all the humans could watch as a delegation of Judges and Repentant dined on the prisoners.  The prisoners were being kept in a tank just off to the side of the table.  It was a clear tank and just big enough for all of them to fit in and get to the air at the top of the tank.  It appeared to be some sort of red sauce they were being marinated in.  In light of this, of course, I vowed to get the lobster if I ever ate at a decent restaurant again.  Their smug moral lessons, not lost on me, just pissed me off.

Most of the delegates were at the tables already.  Miss Geri, the warden from the new prison district sat the farthest from the tank, and was the only non-Repentant guest of the Judges.  Consular Mako, a shark humanoid easily twelve foot tall, sat next to her.  Mako was a member of The Tribunal, the Judges high court.  It was rumored he had a thing for Geri.  She was a regular at these sort of things, but always seemed to avoid eating the main course.  Verdict was still out on her guilt in all of this.  Next to Mako was the Assistant Manager of the Chrysalis Falls Dockworkers Union, Nick Flyte.  His boss had been one of the first to be eaten at a public execution.  It was the same one where Nick let the Judges publicly implant his Repentant explosives, as a show that it wasn't really that bad to become a walking bomb for fish.

I wasn't impressed.

There were two empty seats, the podium, and then the second table.  The second table was reserved for four piranha and one empty chair. All of the piranha had grievous scars and one was missing an eye.  Unlike the other guests, they seemed less...  interested in the proceedings.  They were watching for something.  Of course.  They were watching for me.

Three trumpets sounded and a voice boomed across the carnival grounds.  I nearly dropped my rifle as I braced myself against the sound.

"Come one, come all.  Our carnival's keynote event is beginning.  We require all human citizens and all Judge personnel to come to the feast table to join us in giving thanks."

My ears ached as people flooded out of the midway, out of the rides, herded by harpoon-wielding guards to "the feast."  I watched the table, chewing at my lower lip.  Where the hell was Nagumo?  He certainly liked to keep people in suspense.  The floor behind the podium and the two empty chairs slid away and three figures rose up.  One was standing, two were sitting.

Damn.  Things were about to get far more complicated.

In the chairs, Tammy and her contact on the inside (Angela?) were strapped to their chairs as they rose up from beneath the floor.  A brightly colored Siamese fighting fish wannabe was the standing one.  Nagumo, I assumed.  He wore a striking red silk kimono with a black kelp patten embracing it.  Two samurai swords rested at his hip.  That was exactly why I didn't like face to face combat.  I had no desire to be disemboweled.  Death was one thing, pain an entirely different one.

"Dear guests!  We welcome you here today to give thanks.  Thanks for the great feast about to be shared amongst us all.  Thanks for the capture of these heinous criminals.  Thanks for the survival of these fine warriors after the terrorist attack nearly a week ago."

I thought I had picked up a couple heartbeats as I was running down the sewer, but I had written them off as deaths to be.  I should've known better.

"We have one more guest to ask to join us, though I doubt he will.  He is a coward and a terrorist after all.  Rascal Jack, please, come have a seat here at the table.  Right next to the four Judges you so horribly maimed.  Ladies and gentlemen, these horrifying person, this Rascal Jack is nothing more than a barbaric reminder of why the Judges have come to Chrysalis Falls.  I wouldn't be surprised if he shot me dead, right here, just for calling him out.  He's been among you ladies and gentlemen.  He's planted bombs in your midst.  Why this right here..."

Nagumo pulled out the white elephant and sat it on Tammy's lap.  No no no no no.  This was not going to plan at all.

"This is a bomb as well.  Given to a child of all people.  What is this man trying to do?  Is he trying to punish everyone for leaving him behind in his barbaric society, just as those swimming in the tank here have tried to do?  He is no rascal.  He is purely Jack Lorenz, a lost little man.  If you aren't a coward Jack, yell out to us.  Tell us where you are and come to us peacefully."

Cheap shot.  Nagumo knew too much about me and was exploiting it all.  I white-knuckled my rifle.  If they had figured out the one bomb, they may have been able to trace others.  There was no guarantee what would go off when I hit my detonators, other than that I'd be proving I was a terrorist.

I licked my lips and raised my rifle once more, thinking about the key-ring in my pocket.  I hated this working on the fly nonsense.  I hated not having a plan, not having information.  He had information about me.  Why didn't I have more about him?  Why didn't I?  Why...?

I pulled the trigger and put a bullet into Nick Flyte's chest.  Tell me I'm wrong, make me a monster, I'll leap out the window right now.  Just tell me I'm wrong.

The Repentant fell backwards, his chest mostly caved in.  Miss Geri and Consular Mako leapt from the table as the screaming ensued.  Humans fled.  Nagumo and his four piranha lunged forward  and into the main body of the crowd.  For a moment, I thought I was wrong, and I was a little relieved.  Tammy and Angela and the prisoners were still sitting there.  Then, the floor fell away and the two ladies dropped out the bottom of the dais, just before Nick Flyte's bomb erupted.  The explosion shredded the tables and podium, shoving the tank off the raised platform, cracking its glass.  The prisoners scrambled frantically, swimming in sauce in their underwear, trying not to drown.  I put a bullet in the spiderweb of cracks and ran.  I heard the tank crack and the prisoners gasp for air.  I could hear them running.

Whether they survived or not was up to them now.  I had my own business to take care of.  I vaulted down the stairwell, rifle tucked under my arm.  My hand was in my pocket, digging for my keyring.  I pulled out the ring of car alarm remotes.  Blue tape, green dot.  Press.  Boom.  The explosion sounded the right distance away, ripping apart the Judges escape tunnel.  Two heartbeats cleared it just before it collapsed.  Miss Geri and the Consular no doubt.  That was alright.  Yellow tape, red dot.  Yellow tape, black dot.  Blue tape, black dot.

Boom boom boom.  Going just fine so far.  The dais, already abandoned, erupted as the elephant exploded.  Two other bombs went off at the east and west entrances to the carnival grounds.  That'd make a mess of things and keep them guessing as to where I was going.  One button left.  Black tape, red dot.  Press.


My ears howled as the floor disintegrated beneath my feet and I began to fall.  Down through wood and plaster and wire.  Down through dust and smoke and fire.  Down into the hole that at one time could've been called a basement.  My ears kept throbbing, my head eyes wobbling in my head.  I tried to move, to push, to dig.  Drywall crumbled, wood shifted, I saw light.  I struggled to pull myself up, but a wire caught me around the ankle.

"Jack?  Are you okay?"

I looked up.  It was Tammy's voice.  Sure enough, Tammy and quiet, mousy Angela stood there smiling.

"Oh, wait, you can't answer, can you Jack?  Did you like our little plan?  You were quite good.  You almost out-thought Magistrate Nagumo.  Most of the prisoners have escaped.  Only one has been brought down so far.  I am impressed."

I was mouthing words but I didn't even know what I was saying.

"You're probably wondering about me, huh?  I never was part of that house.  You think they'd be so stupid as to let a little cut like that be all they did to the bait?  That was where they removed my bomb so you couldn't hear it.  I'll be getting a new one implanted tonight.  They figured the elephant was one of your bombs from the start.  They didn't even need me for that.  But I knew where you'd be sniping from.  You talk alot in your sleep Jack.  And you know, for being so disturbed in your sleep, you do sleep sound.  I made it all the way over to you and with one little touch, voila.  I hear you talking about this building and about the southern exit.  You were planning on using the sewers like always, so it didn't matter.  But let them think you were trying to slip out with the crowd.  That was a nice touch.  Too bad they found that bomb and put it here instead.  I'm going to leave you now Jack, Nagumo should be here in ten minutes or so."

I lowered my head and started snickering.  Looks like I'd get that death sooner than I had originally thought.

Crack.  Thump.

My ears perked.  That was close.  Really close.  I looked up again and Tammy's body was laying less than ten feet from mine.  Her eyes were unseeing and the back of her neck had a new crease.  Angela tossed down a shovel and jumped into the hole herself.

"Don't move.  I'm going to dig you out."

She winked at me.

"Nothing like double-crossing a double-crosser, eh?  Checkmate."

As she pried up the boards enough for me to shake the wire free of my foot, I grabbed her knee.

"Thank you."

She smiled and helped me to feet.  It was good to have help every now and again.

Then, with Nagumo only five minutes away, we ran.

We ran like hell.

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