zotmeister: an 8-bit yellow pig with flight goggles on his forehead and a red scarf, striking a heroic pose (butasan)
zotmeister ([personal profile] zotmeister) wrote2006-05-07 05:45 pm
Entry tags:

Twenty/Zero: There's Always One

Mike Hartford was used to staring down multiple gun barrels by now. They were usually pointed at em before e even introduced emself, and today is no exception. E doesn't blame them, really, given their line of work - it's a survival instinct, and a necessary one for thieves. Mike, on the other hand, is unarmed, not to mention that e's intentionally suppressing about a dozen other survival instincts having walked into a warehouse full of thugs without so much as a toothpick for defense... at least, not on es person. E remains perfectly calm and simply starts talking es usual spiel:

"Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Mike Hartford, and I'm Sam Colbert's partner."

There were ten pistols aimed at Mike; after about three seconds, there are only four, accompanied by two looks of apprehension, three looks of defeat, and one "Aw, SHIT.".

"I see some of you have heard of us. I'm honored. But there is no cause for-"



"Can we please keep the volume down?"

"Yes sir, Mr. Hartford. My apologies."

"Boss, what are you DOING!? Who IS this retard?"

"The reason I'd be willing to kill you if you don't shut up, that's who e is!"

"Now now, there's no need for any killing today. Sam certainly doesn't need the practice, and I certainly don't need the paperwork."

Only one gun is still pointing at Mike. There always seems to be one left. Mike isn't worried in the slightest about this; once there's only one left, that's when e knows e's perfectly safe. That's when e knows Sam only has one target.

"First of all, don't worry about your sentry - e's alive. The feds are having a chat with em. Secondly, don't worry about me - I'm unarmed. So with those out of the way, shall we get to business? I think you know why I'm here."

"Boss" knew there'd be heat. E knew somebody would care about those weird "high-energy power cells" e heisted; after all, buyers don't offer twenty-five grand each for AA's. Whatever these batteries operated had to be pretty impressive, and e had just opened a box of seventeen of them. This was es gang's ticket to the bigtime.


E knew there could be a fight. E felt it was worth it, even if e lost some men in the process - hey, fewer hirelings to pay, and with the money e could hire some useful heavies. But e never expected to be in Sam's sights. Not over this. E knows e's made. E knows that e's losing either es loot or es life any moment now. If only e had more time to think... but e knows e doesn't.

"I surrender. I suppose I should be honored - guess I made the bigtime after all, given I got your attention."

"That's... one way to think about it, I guess. Thanks."


"CAN it, Spencer."


"I said CAN IT!"

"What the fu-"

Boss grabs Spencer by the shirt collar and pulls es face right up next to es, marking the first time Mike isn't covered by a firearm. "Listen to me, you useless punk. I intend to-"

"'Useless'? Who do you think got you that box of supercells?"

"I intend to walk out of here alive, you hear me? I'll do the bloody time. I'll print license plates for a few years. You, on the other hand, are probably the first one Sam would shoot."

"E is.", Mike says colloquially.

Boss releases Spencer, who promptly looks back at Mike with a facial expression of complete lack of comprehension.

"You are.", Mike says equally colloquially.

It apparently didn't help.

Yep - there's always one. Mike adopts an instructional tone. "Sam is a sniper, and you're in es sights right now."

"A 'sniper'? That's the word you use to call the planet's deadliest mercenary?"

"I was trying to keep it simple."

Spencer takes a quick look around, but up at an angle. E doesn't find what e's looking for. Es ears come up empty as well. "Wait a minute. We're in a warehouse. The only windows are along the ceiling, and we're all in the center! I don't hear any planes or copters, so how could a sniper be on us?"

Crap, Mike thinks to emself, given e's been trying to wean emself off of "crude language". E was hoping Spencer is stupid through and through. No such luck - this guy is just smart enough to get emself in trouble. Just when it seemed like the day would be bloodless...

"Doesn't even matter, man. Ol' Rockhead was in es bloody fortress, surrounded by five dozen men, and Sam dropped em. With one shot."

"You're telling me you believe that fairy tale? That fogey was shot by one of es own men. Bastard had it coming, too. 'No one saw where the shot came from' my testicles."

Boss has to admit e thought the same thing emself from time to time, but e knows better - or at least, isn't willing to wager es life on it. "I'm telling you it's true. Sam's a damn magician or something. Shoots through walls, through other people, without leaving a scratch. No one's even SEEN Sam - no one knows what e looks like. E could be anybody, anywhere."

"I can't believe you buy into that! Any of you other assholes goin' for any of this?"

Fuck, Mike thinks to emself, having something far more compelling on es mind than weaning emself off of "crude language". The situation just went from stable to possible open war. For the first time today, Mike is scared.

"Think about it. This guy walks in here unarmed and expects us to just give em the box?"

Yes, please talk some sense into em...

"No man is that dumb, not even you."

Shit! An insult is the last thing you should say...

"E's bluffing, and you're gonna let em get away with it! You're ALL gonna let em get away with it! What kind of a boss are you, Trevor?"

If Mike Hartford and Boss Trevor had a contest to see who is more afraid right now, the judge would have a hard time deciding a winner. They both realize what's about to happen, and now there's nothing they can do about it except to try to correctly time when to duck.

"If there's really a sniper on us, then why aren't we all dead already? Why does that fool have to walk in here like e owns the place, much less with you kissing es arse like a damn dog? I'm the boss now. We're gonna split the profits of this job, guys - ALL the profits."

Three other thugs redraw, all aiming at their apparently former employer. One by one, five others follow suit.

"You've just killed us all."

Spencer laughs. "No, just two of us."

Mike lets out a small cough.

Spencer draws as e turns around to face Mike. "Em first."

The sound of a shot echoes through the warehouse.

Seconds later, Spencer's corpse collapses to the floor, quickly followed by Mike and Trevor hitting the deck. Mike knows the thugs will have seen where Sam fired from and more shots are due; Trevor knows it's killing time, and with es mutineers distracted, this is es only chance.

The other thugs shout the things thugs say, trying to communicate with each other, trying to pin down the shadow hiding in the back corner of the warehouse, but the bottom line is that one gunman with cover is more than a match for eight without, especially when that one is Sam Colbert. Within a quarter-minute, Sam fires eight more shots with eight more kills - it's all over.

The warehouse is quiet for a few moments. Mike looks up to witness the carnage. E risks lifting emself up to make a count: yes, nine bodies and ten guns. How wise of Trevor to discard es gun. E does get to live today.

Mike walks over to Trevor, who is still lying prone. "You can get up now. It's over."

Trevor takes some deep breaths after standing to try to calm emself. "E got all of them?"

"Every single one."

"Useless shits." E takes another breath. "I can't believe Sam was in the building the whole time. How'd e get IN here?"

"E snuck in during the heist. That's what happens with small-time outfits: they figure they have nothing worth defending when out on a job, so they never leave enough sentries. Sam's been there all night, waiting for me to show up. Shall we get back to business, then?"

"Wait - how'd you know about the heist? How'd you know when we'd do it?"

Mike smiles. "Because I'm the one who hired you to do it."

Trevor looks shocked at first, but it quickly gives way to admiration."Wow, you set me up damn good. I'm surprised I was worth the effort."

"What can I say, I needed a small-time outfit and yours fit the bill. Now I believe there's a box of special batteries you were planning to sell. I'm afraid I'll only be buying one."

"...Hunh? You're not working for the feds? You really did hire me?"

"It's complicated, and I get the feeling there'll be issues - for all three of us - if we don't get a move on here. I have twenty-five thousand-dollar bills here. It's legit and clean. That'll be one Lumicell, please."

"Um, okay. Sure. One 'Lumicell' it is. Say, what are these things for, anyway?"

"That's also complicated. I'm also afraid that the rest of them will need to be-"

Three knocks emanate from just outside the front door.

"Shit. Change in plans."

"Who is that?"

"That was Sam, and we've got to get out of here, now. Leave the box, and leave the outside door open." Mike starts to bolt.

"When did Sam leave? I didn't see-"

Mike stops only long enough to turn around and spit out "You value your life, so RUN!" before heading out the door at top speed.

Trevor doesn't understand what's going on, but e knows this much: when Mike Hartford tells em to RUN, e RUNS. E runs right out of es former headquarters as fast as es legs can manage, barely keeping up with Mike. There is a hill a short distance from the warehouse; Mike stops after reaching the top, then lays down, looking back at the warehouse. Trevor catches up, and not having a better idea of what to do with emself, lays down next to Mike.

"Check this out. It'll be cool. And hey, you'll be in the clear. No evidence. Least we could do, really."

"Where's Sam?"

"Elsewhere, but also staring back. Should be only another moment or so. E's probably waiting for the authorities to actually show up before firing. It'll generate less questions if they actually witness the explosion."

"What? 'Explosion'!?"

In the near distance, the sound of a siren starts to wail. Moments later there are police cars and black vans visible heading down the street to the warehouse. Just before they arrive, however, a bullet is fired from the rifle of Sam Colbert, striking the box of Lumicells. The entire warehouse suddenly detonates, a massive plume of flame shooting out of the open doorway. A seven-car fender-bender results.

"I suggest you sneak out of here, like, now. I'm certainly leaving now." Mike gets up and heads down the back of the hill; Trevor follows. Stopping just outside a wooded area not far from the bottom, Mike turns to Trevor: "I'm heading in - you head back to town. Don't try to follow me, and hey - best of luck. Pleasure doing business with you, and maybe we'll meet again some time if you keep yourself alive."

Trevor is not about to start arguing now. "I'll do my best. Hey, think maybe I could meet Sam some day?"

"Heh. There's always one." Mike vanishes into the wood without another word.

[identity profile] ralphmerridew.livejournal.com 2006-05-08 12:31 pm (UTC)(link)
When using colored text, please keep in mind that somebody reading it through his/her friends page may have a different background color.

[identity profile] jezendar.livejournal.com 2006-05-09 10:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Interesting story, overall. The first line immediately brought Shadowfist to mind, specifically the Dragons (of course). I found that the multiple colors used to differentiate the speakers made it more difficult, rather than easier, to keep track of who was speaking because I had to process both words and colors rather than just words (during the argument between Spencer and Trevor, I had to back up at one point to clarify which color belonged to which speaker), but I suspect I'd get used to it fairly quickly. The only real problem is the constant use of gender-neutral pronouns. A small-time mob boss using gender-neutral pronouns just isn't plausible, and a small-time mob idiot (Spencer) even less so. Mike Hartford, on the other hand, could plausibly make use of them. You've already established that he's trying to move away from using foul language; the use of gender-neutral pronouns would thus be another means by which he is trying to enrich his language. Other people should, however, occasionally react to his chosen pronouns in a confused manner, simply due to the fact that most people would not have heard these words before.

I do look forward to future installments of this series, as I am curious as to what a 'Lumicell' would be used for. I'm also curious about what they are made of, as normal batteries would not violently explode when shot.

[identity profile] jezendar.livejournal.com 2006-05-10 08:59 pm (UTC)(link)
I actually didn't pick up on the fact that Mike had a different font until you pointed it out. Having a different font for each character probably would have made it more obvious, and I suspect it would help with keeping track of each speaker. I wonder what Sam's font would be? I wonder if he'll even have one; I can easily see the story reaching it's finale without Sam uttering a single word.


[identity profile] shack-a-nerd.livejournal.com 2006-05-12 09:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I definitely found the gender-neutral pronouns distracting, though I understand this is a political issue for you. It was also distracting that you switched back and forth from past to present tense.

Your writing reflects much of the rest of your personality -- specifically, even your prose is a puzzle. (Or maybe I'm just dumb. I had to read it twice, anyhow.) Is this a running series, or a one-shot?


Re: Response

[identity profile] shack-a-nerd.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 11:48 am (UTC)(link)
Mostly present tense, except for some strange places like:

Three knocks emanated from just outside the front door.

I did have a hard time understanding what was happening the first time through. I think the second time through was easier because 1. I already had a vague idea what was happening, 2. I did "select all" and that blocked out the light-colors-on-white text, reducing everything to a neutral white-on-blue. (I realize now that there was missing text that was colored white that I just hadn't seen -- it's hard to understand a story if you don't read all of it.)

"E is.", Mike says colloquially.

Boss releases Spencer, who promptly looks back at Mike with a facial expression of complete lack of comprehension.

"You are.", Mike says equally colloquially.

I think "nonchalantly" or "matter-of-factly" might fit better here.


Re: Response

[identity profile] shack-a-nerd.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 09:04 pm (UTC)(link)
I think a note at the top: "this story is meant to be read in its original plumage!" would help at least alert me to what was going on. A link to the preferred form for reading would be helpful too, but my RSS reader should be able to generate such a thing if I ask nicely.

"Colloquial" just doesn't sound right to me for describing an actual tone of voice. It seems more like it would describe word choice. Perhaps "casually" would make me happier, but ultimately they're your words.


Re: Response

[identity profile] shack-a-nerd.livejournal.com 2006-05-13 11:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Also: perhaps, "cavalierly"?


Re: Response

[identity profile] shack-a-nerd.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 11:41 am (UTC)(link)
I'm having a good time too.

I never thuoght of "cavalier" as meaning "disdainful", but I see that Webster does. How about "offhandedly"?


Re: Response

[identity profile] shack-a-nerd.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 12:25 pm (UTC)(link)

"It's all over within a quarter-minute: Sam fired eight more shots with eight more kills."


Re: Response

[identity profile] jezendar.livejournal.com 2006-05-16 10:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, if we're gonna start nitpicking at specific word choices, I found Spencer's use of the phrase 'my testicles' rather odd. He seems like the type of character who would simply make use of old cliches, like 'my ass', instead of trying to alter them.

[identity profile] spkskippy.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 12:16 am (UTC)(link)
Alright, it's time for me to weigh in.

I enjoyed story, and look forward to reading more. I'm going to make the prediction that Sam is an utter bastard.

I like your use of font and font colors to differentiate the voices speaking. It's an original idea that also serves to eliminate the redundant derivatives and versions of " said" It's economical for the author in that respect. It's not economical for the reader, however. Me and my IQ of 129 had to reread the passage not once, but twice to fully understand what was going on. The colors used can be distracting, and in this work's case, seizure-inducing. During that time, I never got the impression that Trevor was British. In fact, Mike's propensity for eloquence and composure made me imagine him as British when he talked in my mind.

The point is, Adam you could very well be cutting of your nose to spite your readership here. Despite its pertinence to the plot, the gender-obscure pronoun use is a bloody nusance! Couple that with a font that fluctuates more than Oprah's BMI, and you have a recipe for confusion!

Now, with all of that said, I have a deep respect for someone that can put their literary work out here at the mercy of the internet hate-sphere, still tell us to go screw and does it his way. That's the mark of a true artist.

Give em hell, Adam.


[identity profile] barryr.livejournal.com 2006-05-14 12:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Very nicely done! To be honest, the gender-neutral pronouns didn't bug me much. I mostly just figured I'd read it mentally with an Aussie accent, and it worked quite well. :D

Other than the usual bit of grammar work I usually pick up on, I don't have much to nitpick about. It flowed well and sounded like something that'd be fun to make into a TV show. I had fun reading it, it was easy to picture and looked pretty damn cool to me. Nice characterizations, I really like how most of them just -know- who they're dealing with and put the guns down. And it was cool to keep that one guy alive.. I tend to get really annoyed with stories and shows where the one guy who didn't deserve it, dies anyway.

Lot of good plot twists too, like wondering about Sam and why they had to suddenly leave and what they really wanted. My impressions of who the characters were and what they wanted just kept changing constantly, and that was kinda neat.

By the way, what is twenty/zero? Is that what you're calling the story?

[identity profile] jezendar.livejournal.com 2006-05-16 11:44 pm (UTC)(link)
Images came easily to me while reading, as well. I imagined Mike as a Private Eye character from an old movie, complete with trenchcoat, dark tie, and fedora hat. Trevor took the form of a businessman wearing a white suit, with the color more than likely inspired by the color used for his words. The warehouse is an old rusty metal building at the edge of a dark warehouse district; my mind put the story at night, even though I don't believe the time was ever mentioned. The interior of the warehouse is full of wooden crates and poorly lit, giving Sam plenty of shadows to hide in. And finally, Sam is nothing more than a sniper rifle next to a crate with a humanoid shadow on the wall behind it.

As for the code of ethics that Mike and Sam operate by, I can see some of it already. Mike obviously will try to avoid violence unless it's absolutely necessary, and Trevor's survival proves Sam's willingness to accept an opponent's surrender.

Finally, I just wanted to point out that this journal entry contained exactly 20 comments when I first checked my Friends List tonight. Of course, that was ruined by the two comments I just posted, but it wouldn't have lasted very long anyways...

[identity profile] barryr.livejournal.com 2006-05-17 08:07 pm (UTC)(link)
I had a decent bit of that in common, though my image of Mike was much more movie-esque. I had a few images in my mind, mostly of action movies where that sort of thing happens (usually more by accident, though). Mike was more the cop-in-civilian-clothes type to me, wearing something fairly casual but common like jeans and a golf shirt, or similar. Sam was more similar in imagination, though I figured there'd be maybe a flash of camouflage shirt or something as a figure dashed out the other way when they left.

[identity profile] avenger314.livejournal.com 2006-05-19 11:35 am (UTC)(link)
Here are my two cents on the subject.

First and foremost, I'm delighted to be shown this window into other aspects of your mind and the way you think--and the sort of fiction and humor you enjoy.

I certainly see this as having potential as an honest-to-logic (I refrain from saying 'honest-to-God' out of respect for the fact that this is your lj), money-making novel.

With respect to the gender-neutral pronouns: I've been exposed to them before, and even had some conversations with you about them. As a result, I wasn't particularly thrown for a loop. One noteworthy exception: Whenever you use the word "em," I often confuse it with "'em," the slang for 'them.' I know you don't often use slang, but it's still an ingrained habit. This made for a highly amusing initial mis-reading wherein I thought that Sam killed five dozen men with one shot ('dropped em with one shot').

WRT the font types: I didn't notice them at all, regrettably. I'd recommend against this being your only differentiation of who is speaking.

WRT the colors: Hmm... On a livejournal, it's delightfully outside the box. It takes some getting used to. Once you get past the initial confusion, however, it makes for an interesting variety. A problem may occur if the number of characters present over the course of the story outnumbers the number of easily distinguishable colors. 'Green' and 'Pine green' may prove problematic. I doubt this is going to be a problem, however, as your style seems more Terry Pratchett than Tom Clancy. (That's an observation, not an insult or compliment. However, I hope it's taken as being closer to a compliment).
The problem occurs when you seek to get this published. Your publishers may find it highly cost-ineffective to include more than one or two fonts, or colors for that matter. It may be a case of thinking too outside the cost-effective box.

WRT your word 'colloquially:' Laconically? Earnestly? Sympathetically?

Now, as for how I see the characters:

Mike: I see him as intellectual, not physically possessing, but not quite nerdy either. His dialogue, perceived intonation, and outlook in particular conjured up a very specific image: Brendan Frasier in "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns."

Spencer: The 'my testicles' line for some reason made me think of Jayne from 'Firefly' and 'Serenity.' Though I tend tho think of just a generic, disposable thug.

Trevor: A less generic, less disposable thug. I see him as coming from the streets but not failing out of school. I can see him being played by Xander Berkley, famous for playing crooked characters with a very healthy (if frequently unsuccessful) survival instinct.

Sam: Okay... I'm not counting this as a spoiler, simply because I have zero knowledge of the background or ZTM's thought processes. Let's classify this as an 'outside-the-box' guess that may or may not be accurate. Anyone not wanting to see these outside-the-box guesses, feel free to skip this paragraph to the next one. I see Sam as one of two incarnations. First, I see Sam as an attractive woman with long hair. 'Sam' can imply either a male or female name, and your gender-neutral pronouns do a delightful job of not revealing this. It would make them a plot point in addition to a political statement. My second idea is that Sam does not exist: Mike is rigging up an automated rifle or laser targeting system and finds it convenient to invent a fictitious partner.

Okay, welcome back for those of you who have decided to skip the previous paragraph. To sum up, I enjoyed this piece and greatly look forward to the next one.