Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Assignment: Witches (Continued)

Part two of what has turned into another three-part story. I had really hoped to finish it tonight, but at least I am making progress, right? Sorry Sand... I promise you will have it by Saturday. Until then - enjoy!

"See Sammy? How are they gonna send us in on a two-four-niner without any intel huh? You can't tell me that's just a snafu. Someone's got it in for us!" Nathaniel could feel the apprehension rising in his gut as he pondered the ramifications of the call.

"Shut up Nathaniel! Just shut up and get your head in the game, before you get us both kilt!" Sammy yelled, gripping the wheel even harder and staring straight ahead at the road. "How do you know they don't already have a platoon heading that way right now? They ain't gonna..." his voice faded off as he lost the words to express his thoughts.

A Code 249 meant an organized uprising by one or more covens. Not the normal kick down the door and decapitate the witches kind of mission; in these calls, the witches were already on the offensive and organized. And already fighting.

"Ain't gonna what Sammy? Ain't gonna send us into a situation where odds say we ain't gonna win? How much longer can we keep on defying those odds Sammy?" Nathaniel was livid now, not understanding why Sammy refused to see his point.

Suddenly, Sammy slammed the brakes to the floor, and the old van screeched to a halt, the loose witch heads in the back rolling around like soft bowling balls. Throwing the gearshift into neutral he rounded on Nathaniel, his face white and his finger quivering as he shook it in his face.

"You listen here you paranoid retard. We ain't been having nothing but a bad run of luck. Times are tough all over, and the witches are getting pretty tired of being hunted like animals. All of the Paranormal Assault teams are complaining that the work is getting harder and support is getting lighter. I am sick of listening to their whiny, pansy rants, and I ain't gonna sit here and let my own partner start whining like a pissy girl too. Now shut your piehole, recharge your caster, and loosen the grenades in your belt, cause when the shit gets hot I want to know that you are behind me one hundred percent, not standing around pissing your pants cause someone didn't tell you what to expect."

Nathaniel sat back, amazed at the depth of emotion his longtime partner was revealing. In all their years of chasing the rebellious witches he had never expressed anything but unwavering enthusiasm for the job, and an endless litany of stories that Nathaniel knew were ninety percent lies. No matter how crappy the work got, Sammy faced it with a grin and a smart-ass comment.

"All right Sammy, alright! Calm down, don't blow a gasket or anything. I was just wonderin aloud ya know? It just seemed weird to me is all. Don't know why you have to get so worked up over it!" Nathaniel was stunned, and starting to babble incoherently. Sammy's face was inches from his, and Nathaniel could smell the garlic on his breath as he tried to push himself backwards into the passenger door. He scrabbled behind him for the door handle, suddenly wishing to be anywhere but where he was.

Then, just as suddenly as it had started, it was gone. Sammy's face cracked into the familiar grin, and he sat back into the driver's seat and threw the van back in gear. The tires spun on the gravel road as he floored the accelerator and fishtailed back up to speed. "Had you goin' for a minute there didn't I Nato?" Sammy said, looking sideways at Nathaniel as he power slid around a corner. Nathaniel didn't move, still pressed up against his door with one hand on the door handle his brain was struggling to process what had just happened.

The nav box on the dash directed them to turn left at the next intersection, and Sammy yelled back at it joyfully, "You got it Miss Direction! Left turn on Merryweather Lane in one - point - five - miles. Can I have your number Miss Direction? You got the sexiest voice I ever heard from a lump of electronics..." It was an old joke, one which Nathaniel had heard Sammy yell at the box for years. Today for some reason, it rang ominously artificial in his ears. The corner approached, and Sammy threw the old van into yet another power slide which very nearly turned into a rollover when they skidded from the gravel road back onto pavement. The tires skipped across the cracked hardtop a couple of times, the van leaning sickeningly to the right then finally righting itself and with a last quick fishtail accelerated on up the road. Nathaniel was suddenly very aware that he wasn't wearing a seat belt and the thought finally overcame the paralyzing fear. He sat back in his seat and buckled up quickly as Sammy accelerated the van down the road.

"Hey Nato-Potato... I think I have a can of Red-Bull in the glove box, can you check and see for me?" Sammy asked, his voice so matter-of-fact and normal that Nathaniel began to wonder if the tantrum he had just witnessed was simply a figment of his imagination.

"Sure Sammy... just a sec." Nathaniel said, his voice tight and apprehensive. He opened the glove box and sure enough, an energy drink can rolled out and landed on the floor. He reached down and snagged it just before it rolled under the seat, and he held it out towards Sammy.

"Thanks Dude! I could use a pick-me-up just about now." Sammy reached for the can, but at the last second Nathaniel yanked it back. "Maybe you've had enough already Sammy. What's gotten into you all of a sudden?" Nathaniel asked, sure he would see the angry Sammy again. Instead, Sammy grinned even wider, and he looked over at Nathaniel long enough to wink. "Yeah, maybe you should drink it instead. You look like someone just took a dump on your grave! Go ahead, slam it!" Just then, the nav box signalled an upcoming right turn, and Sammy forgot all about the drink and returned to propositioning the lady in the box. Nathaniel watched and listened for a minute, before returning the can to the glove box. Sammy was still driving like a maniac, and was now giving the lady in the nav box a detailed (and mostly untrue) list of his more desirable traits. Nathaniel shook his head and pulled out his caster and started checking its charge, while continuing to watch Sammy out of the corner of one eye.

They saw the battle long before they even got near. A pall of gray smoke mingled with hints of green and yellow floated away on the still evening air. An occasional bolt of magical lightning would light up the smoke cloud as someone loosed a spell at an enemy.
"WooHoo Tater! Looks like a good 'un for sure!" Sammy said as soon as he saw the cloud. Nathaniel could only nod and check his caster one more time. He was still not sure where he stood with Sammy, and was loathe to set him off again right before what looked to be a serious battle. They were now winding through what was once a rather expensive neighborhood, though it was now utterly abandoned and gone to ruin. Most places of wealth and privilege had gone this way once the UN became the global authority. According to the news it was a sign of the progress made by the global government to eliminate class warfare and world poverty. What it really meant was a lot of really big houses for squatters to occupy.
Suddenly, Nathaniel sat up straight and started paying attention to the landscape around him.
"Hey, this is the old Hawthorne Heights neighborhood isn't it?" He asked Sammy, who was in the middle of a bawdy love song to the nav box. Sammy looked at him for a minute before answering, "Yeah, I guess so. Why? You never lived in a place this tony did you? I thought you grew up in the sticks." Nathaniel nodded, and peered closely at what numbers there still were on the fancy gates at the end of each driveway. "Yeah, I did. But Ma brought me up here one time to show me where Yolanda Rorshack lived. We even saw her bring her trash out to the sidewalk... I'll never forget that day." Sammy's grin widened as he watched Nathaniel's head crane to follow every dilapidated gate post and street sign they whizzed past. "Yo-LANDA RorSHACK?" Sammy asked incredulously. "You saw YoLANDA RorSHACK taking out the GARBAGE! You are my hero! Did you get to touch any of it? Wow! Did it smell like normal people garbage? Or did it smell like she had her own personal angel piss on it and make it smell like lilies?" Nathaniel's head jerked around as he finally heard the cutting sarcasm in Sammy's voice. His eyes narrowed and he pointed a stern finger at Sammy, "NEVER talk about her like that again! She was... IS God's own servant, sent here to comfort us poor souls and..." Sammy laughed derisively. "And to make a bazillion bucks off of mindless rubes like you and then disappear as soon as the world REALLY starts to suck! Yeah... pardon me for blaspheming her holy angel pissed-on garbage dude." Nathaniel was getting ready to get really mad when the radio squawked to life again.
"Para12, this is Command." Sammy grabbed the mike with one hand while power-sliding the van through another intersection. "Command, this is Para12, go ahead." Nathaniel sat there fuming as Sammy winked at him. "Para12, this is Command. What is your ETA to the Code 249?" the raspy voice of the dispatcher asked briskly. Sammy thumbed the mike, "'Bout five minutes or less Command. Got any new intel for us on the situation on site?" Nathaniel forgot all about his anger of a moment ago as he and Sammy both listened to the hiss of static on the channel waiting for an answer. "Para12, negative. The first units on scene are no longer responding. Last report was initial report of Code 249 event."

Nathaniel wanted badly to scream at Sammy that they should turn and run, that they were walking into a trap, that Command was purposely sending them to their deaths. But the memory of Sammy's angry face made him bite his tongue, even though Sammy's face was still covered with the usual goofy grin. Winking again at Nathaniel he thumbed the mike once more, "What about backup Command? How many other units are inbound?" The answer finally wiped the grin off of Sammy's face, "Para12... you are on your own."

(To be continued...)

© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

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