I feel like I’ve been missing something lately…
Hmm…let’s think back over the list of my (relatively) recent nerdy posts and see where we stand:
Astronomy-nerd? Heck, even that one gets a check by it, if only for my effort to throw some cold water on Elon Musk’s rush for a manned flight to Mars.
Well…shit. What nerd-isms do I have left?! Booze? Uhhh…I’m still in the coffee phase of my day, so I think I’ll leave that one alone, thank you very much. How about sailing-nerd? Not even other sailors want to read random thoughts about sailing! Politics? No. Just…no.
Okay, this is getting frustrating.
Pretty soon, if this keeps up, we’re gonna end up with swearing-nerd. While that’ll be fun for me, I’m not sure anyone else wants to read about just how many ways you can tell the world to get bent if you speak several languages.*
*I especially like to mix and match my swearing — a bit of Japanese to leaven a good Czech “fuck off” is always entertaining…
Well, since I couldn’t come up with a post if you held a gun to my head this morning, I suppose it’s time to throw in the proverbial writer-towel and just go with an old standby…
The bit below is not a part of the DockRat cycle of stories (the Connor & Oz series), but it is a random scene from the background material to those stories that I have been toying with expanding into its own story:
Snippet: “First Flight”
Michael Brady was out to get drunk, and nothing was going to interfere with that. Not the girl sitting next to him — the one trying to distract him with conversation and jokes — and certainly not the bartender who had short-poured his last drink.
He tried to watch intently while she poured a new one, tried to keep track as she mixed the different types of booze. He tried, and he failed. His eyes refused to focus and his brain was barely able to keep up with even the most basic of movements. The empty drink at his elbow certainly had not been his first of the night. It hadn’t even been his fifth.
The girl touched his arm, her voice bright and cheerful, “So, Mikey, you were about to tell me what you’re doing here at the beach. No one comes to Coronado anymore. Not after the war…”
Mikey? Shit. Brady would have walked away if she weren’t so completely gorgeous. And if he could have walked, after all the drinks, without embarrassing himself. A quick glance around the half-empty bar and he the saw bouncer glowering at him, trying, evidently, to decide when enough was enough. Brady quickly looked away; he’d been thrown out of far too many bars over the last six months.
He turned back to the bartender just in time to receive his drink. A long pull, then, and he turned finally to the girl next to him. He wanted to be contemptuous, to sneer at her naivety and foolishness. But he also wanted sex. He wanted sex, in fact, considerably more than he wanted to feel superior, so…”I’m takin’ a break from workin’ for a while. I’ve been followin’ the coast road from Alaska, and this is just my latest stop.”
“Wow, that sounds like fun! How long’ll you stay? If you came for the ocean, by the way, you got a problem. The water just ain’t all that safe, not with all the radiation pouring out of the San Diego ruins. I do know a couple places, though, that aren’t so bad…”
The invitation was there, written in her hesitation and in her eyes, and Brady weighed the benefits of one more drink against his fairly urgent need for physical companionship.
The drink won.
Another long pull, then, and he rubbed a hand over his freshly shaved head. Intricate vines and leaves writhed and shifted on his arm, the ever-changing designs and colors running from wrist to chest. He’d found the artist in Florida, one of the few who could make the new high-tech inks and techniques stand out clearly against Brady’s dark sepia skin.
Between the heavy tattooing, the freshly broken nose, and the loss of his long braids, he doubted even his own mother would recognize him. He certainly hoped his ex-employer wouldn’t. God help him if they managed to track him down.
Finally, he answered her, “Oh, I got no plans. Not really. I’ll stay ’til it’s time to move on. A good swim does sound good, but not if I’m gonna grow an extra eye or somethin’. I’m actually doin’ my best to swim in every ocean in the world.”
Voices at the bar’s door, then, arguing. The deep bass rumble of the bouncer, followed by another voice too low to hear clearly. Brady didn’t bother to so much as glance back.
Fuck it, he thought, who cares? It’s time to get laid, not get in some bullshit bar brawl.
He’d had enough of those.
He leaned closer to the girl, lowered his voice, “Tracy…right? Tracy, let’s get the fuck out of here. You can show me the sights…”
And then it came, the voice he least wanted to hear. The voice he’d been avoiding for the last six months.
Hiding from, a little voice at the back of his mind corrected.
“Dr. Brady? I think you’d better come with us,” that voice said.
“What? Wait…DOCTOR?” Tracy asked, her voice inching towards a squeal.
Brady spun on his stool, rather gracefully he thought. “What the fuck do you want, Paul?” he barked as he turned. When he tried to stop…when he tried to stop, the world kept turning. And not just turn, it started to whirl and spin and hop up and down like a crazed wombat in a chorus line.
Not even the crack of his head hitting the floor was enough to stop the spinning. That fall, in fact, just made it worse. Brady decided at that point that he didn’t want to be drunk anymore. No, sir, he just wanted the acid and booze in his stomach to not try so aggressively to come up again.
Hands on his arms, impersonal and efficient, hauled him to his very unsteady feet. He looked up, then. Looked into Paul’s face and saw the briefest flair of irritation at the back of those blue eyes. Any other man would have been screaming threats and obscenities after what Brady had done six months ago. But Paul…Paul’s eyes barely hinted at the tiniest bit of irritation. Brady shuddered at that hint of irritation; Paul was one of the most dangerous men in the world.
“Kinda pullin’ out the big guns, ain’t they, buddy?” Brady slurred, finally. “You got better things to do than chase my black ass all over the world. When the fuck did I become a fish big enough for you to arrest?”
“Whoa…wait a second,” the bartender complained, her voice bordering on a whimper. One glance at Paul, and at the two goons holding Brady at something approximating the vertical, and she was terrified…but she also had a job to do. “Someone’s gotta pay his tab before anything happens.”
There was no reaction on Paul’s face, just the stoic blandness of a hardened, lifelong warrior. He leaned forward and placed a slim, matte-black card on the bar. His voice betrayed not the slightest hint of emotion when he spoke, “Use that for the bill, and add the same again as a tip. Dr. Brady will not be returning.”
Paul’s icy eyes shifted back to Brady. The barest flicker of a smile, one that no one — certainly not Brady — could ever swear was actually there, then he said, “I’m not arresting you Dr. Brady. I was sent to bring you home.”
Brady wished the booze would fade faster. Something was happening that he didn’t understand, and he did not like that. Brady was always three steps ahead of everybody else; he was always the one calling the shots. “What the fuck? I ain’t goin’ anywhere near Oxford again, that place sucks ass. Shit, why the hell wold they want me back? I pissed on the fucking Vice-Chancellor’s desk, ferchrissake!”
“The Beagle failed her flight tests, professor, and she needs her designer. You’re the only one who can fix her FTL drive at this point,” Paul explained, his voice still flat, still emotionless. Then, a final twist to the knife, “You did steal the designs, after all.”