Tag Archives: action

Into the Repository 

Here’s a #BlogBattle entry for both “hazel” (this week) and “menagerie” (last week, which I missed).

From the Adventures of Grant McSwain, Discoverer of the Fabled Repository of Castellano, and Vanquisher of the Treasure-Thieves of Vallarte’s Lost Vessel

Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant, Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway

“I’m telling you, Teag, this is the big one.” Grant squinted into the darkness and held his torch aloft. The jagged tunnel walls glowed with the dance of the flames. “Tepandorixotl—the Mayan Repository of Knowledge. Castellano’s crowning achievement, and soon to be ours. The find that will put our names in journals and reviews across Europe and the Americas.”

Teagan scoffed and brushed away the red hair matted to her sweaty face. “You mean the haul that will put us in a California mansion, if I remember correctly.”

“That was showmanship to sway Master Roquefort, a mere display of expected bravado and panache.” Grant paused and stared at the ceiling. “With the amount of money from the sales, plus an exhibition of all our collected antiquities, the mansion will be the talk of the West Coast. I’m going to make Hearst himself jealous of his little shack.”

“Should I start referring to you as Mister Gatsby?” Teagan asked with a chuckle.

“Do I know him? Do you think he’d be willing to purchase some of the future collection?”

Teagan shook her head. “He’s—Grant, you need to read more.”

“Reading?” Grant laughed. “That’s what I have you along for.”

He reached a steep slope and peered into the depths. “Speaking of, does Castellano’s log say anything about spelunking? Did he ever explain why he buried this so deep?”

“Nothing clear. He wrote at length of the frustration he felt at deciphering what little he could find about the Repository. The Mayans destroyed the Ixthacans, long before the conquistadors arrived. Castellano had experts on Mayan culture and language, but Vallarte scooped up anyone with a grasp of Ixthacan. And after their falling out–”

“What triggered that, I wonder?” Grant hammered a piton into the rock wall of the tunnel, then fastened a rope through the exposed metal loop. The clang of metal reverberated between the walls.

“The Repository, actually,” Teagan said once the echo died down. “Castellano refused to transport it to Spain, and by then Vallarte had lost his ship. He tried to organize a mutiny, but Castellano escaped with Vallarte’s notes and maps, intent on relocating everything of value contained within. Toward the end of his journal, Castellano said the Repository should remain lost in the annals of history.”

Grant tested the rope and smiled. “Time to prove him wrong.” He wrapped a length around his waist and took halting steps down the incline, torch in one hand, fingers gripping the rope with thick leather gloves. With each footfall, Grant’s knapsack jostled from a heavy weight within—an Ixthacan sun tablet Vallarte’s notes associated with the Repository.

Teagan donned her own thinner gloves, hand-made at exorbitant cost by a tailor who proclaimed women had no need or place for such gear. She pictured the dainty gloves of ivory lace he’d tried peddling her. “Fit for an extravagant gala or the finest ballroom, milady,” he’d said. “Or perhaps a proper wedding?”

She eyed Grant’s broad back, his muscular frame a silhouette in the torchlight beyond him. A proper wedding someday, perhaps. Any day now, just like Grant’s long-sought great haul of treasure that would carry them through the rest of their lives.

With each downward step, the light of Grant’s torch moved farther and farther away, as did Teagan’s expectations for the future. She sighed and followed Grant.

Several minutes later, they reached a bed of soft, moist earth at the bottom of the tunnel. A chill hung in the air, and Teagan rubbed her arms for warmth.

“What exactly are we looking for, Teag?”

“That’s part of the problem. In the excerpts I’ve got, Castellano pronounced curses upon any who opened the Repository. But he never actually described his find. His log mentions some of Vallarte’s lexicons for Ixthacan, and one entry I found describes something like storage or collection.”

“Like a repository? Great. The thing you’re looking for is the thing you’re looking for.”

“No, this was different. One of Vallarte’s translators was a Frenchman. Next to some words, he wrote French equivalents. And for this, he chose ‘menagerie.’”

His torch high and behind his head, Grant checked possible passages. “Like a traveling zoo? What do we do with that? Tepandorixotl was sealed for three centuries.”

“I don’t think that’s what he meant. Ixthacan uses word pictures. A word conveys a thought that can mean more than one thing. Knowledge might mean facts, for example. Or secrets, or trophies, or even rituals. Basically anything where one might learn from the experience.”

She ran a finger across the stone wall. “And at one point Castellano talked about some kind of unnatural clay. Kind of greenish-brown in color. Nothing like anything he’d seen in the region.”

“That’s a lot to go on,” Grant said. “I see reading is working out for you really well.”

Teagan gasped at the jab. “Go ‘cross yerself, ye dirty wastrel,” she blurted, and slapped Grant’s arm.

“You’re so cute when you cuss.” He laughed and continued his search.

“Ye think this is cute? You’re a filthy cuss yerself, ye gobsmacked ball of–”

“This way,” Grant said and dashed around a corner. The torchlight faded and something skittered in the darkness near her feet.

“I—you—Grant McSwain, you arrogant—wait for me!“ She ran and caught up to his long-legged stride. The smooth stone walls of this tunnel seemed almost polished. “How do you know this is the right passage?”

He pointed at the intermittent streaks of hazel clay on the rock floor of the winding tunnel. “Can’t be too unnatural. It’s right here.”

Teagan shook her head. “But this is basic geology. We’re well beneath the appropriate sediment level to find deposits of—“

She bumped into Grant and jumped back to protect her hair from the flames of his torch. A wide chamber opened before the pair, with a massive stone ring reaching twice Grant’s height. The flickering light played across ornate figures engraved on the walls. Monstrous representations of alien creatures covered in eyes and claws reached out their hands, opened wide toothy maws, or hovered on broad wings—all of them fashioned of the same greenish-brown clay.

Several lines of clay stretched in all directions like a spider’s web from the central ring. Underneath dust and strange earth, patterns of gold sparkled in the firelight. At the center of the chamber lay an indented circle, roughly the size of the Ixthacan tablet in Grant’s pack.

“Tepandorixotl,” Grant whispered. He doffed his knapsack and drew out the golden plate. As he knelt to fit the device into its receptacle, Teagan examined the patterns of gold.

“Grant,” she said. “Can you bring the torch over? Check out the gold-work in the stone.”

“Sure, just a moment,” Grant said. “Let me get this fitted and—“

Teagan lunged toward her partner. “No, wait!”

The Ixthacan tablet clattered into place, then the walls hummed on all sides. Symbols illuminated bright red on the stone ring, and in a circle around the chamber’s ceiling. When she looked through the ring, Teagan’s vision distorted like waves of heat on a desert road.

“The tablet closes the circuit,” Teagan said, “and activates the device.”

“But what does it do?”

Pulsing in time with the thrum of power from the artifact, a line of red light appeared over the panels of clay figures on the walls.

Then a hand near Teagan flexed and stretched its fingers. One after another, unrecognizable creatures stepped from the walls, their two-dimensional images swelling and filling out.

Grant and Teagan spun, surrounded. Then his large hand clamped down on her shoulder and yanked her into the shimmering energy of the stone ring.

The world stretched into lines of light in an instant, and a thunderous roar shattered Teagan’s thoughts. Then she fell into mushy earth under a magenta sky. Her fingers sank with a squish into clay—the same greenish-brown covered the ground as far as the eye could see.

Monsters rose from the expanse, sloughing off clumps of excess earth. Wings flapped from the backs of distorted humanoids hovering overhead. Two violet moons hung low on the horizon, one a sharp crescent where the other blocked light from—did this Tepandorixotl even have a sun?

A name came to mind, and Teagan breathed it out in a gasp. “Pandora.”

She fought the madness and fear that filled her as the creatures closed in. One of the flying things swooped toward her, its three-fingered hands grasping like a bird of prey.

Grant’s fist smashed through its face, splattering clumps into the air. The devastated creature spiraled and tumbled, cutting a trough in the clay.

He slipped into a boxing stance, defending Teagan against the oncoming horde. “And this is what you have me along for.”

Ghost Orchid

Blog battle – Pages tells me it’s exactly 1000 words. 

Genre: Action? Near-future sci-fi?



by Mick Fournier, found on Wikipedia, licensed for Creative Commons usage
   Rough hands shoved Abby Spangler from behind, and she tumbled into the dark cell. Her shoulder smashed into the cement floor and she grunted.

  “Don’t bruise her,” a man’s voice commanded in Vietnamese–they hadn’t discerned her understanding of their language yet.
   The door slammed shut. Muffled voices withdrew.
   The dank air reeked of mildew. Flies buzzed around the single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. Abby rolled onto her back and sat up with effort. She blew long blonde bangs out of her eyes and shook her head in a futile effort to manage her unruly mane.

   Her cellmate watched, head bowed. “You okay?” The voice came out as a sheepish whisper, its quivering pitch indicating recent tears.

   Tara hadn’t succumbed to the hopelessness of the other slaves Abby had seen. But she was on the verge.

   “Not too bad,” Abby answered with a forced smile. “Everybody needs some electro-shock now and then. Quiets the voices in my head.” She chuckled, hoping to lift Tara’s spirits. 

   But the teenager sniffed and kept her eyes on the floor.

   Abby groaned and slid into her corner. As planned, she whispered her callsign, briefed two months earlier before she let herself be abducted. “Ghost Orchid.” An image filled her mind–a white flower with long tendrils like frog legs hanging beneath a tree branch. Its roots blended so well into the tree that it seemed to float in mid-air, alone and unsupported.

   Like me. 

   Soft cries echoed through the thin walls of the holding cells–a former hostel near Cam Ranh Bay, judging by snippets of conversation in central Viet dialect and the few glimpses outside Abby managed thus far.

   Traffickers brought kidnapped girls from the airport, where they arrived on flights with handlers arranging passage and bribing security. The port city served the syndicate well, with vessels bound to all parts of the world.

   Here, at least, it would end today.

   “Why don’t you just shut up so they’ll leave you alone, Abby? When you mouth off, you’re just asking for it.” 

   Maybe Tara’s not doing as well as I thought.

   “No,” Abby said. “Nobody ‘asks for it.’ These are wicked men doing evil, preying on innocent victims. I don’t buy any logic that says it’s our fault we ended up here, no matter what led to this.” 

   She softened her tone. “Besides, they can’t afford to hurt us too much. They need pretty American girls–no bruises, no scars.”

   Tara sighed. “You sound so chipper. You realize you’re going to be sold as a sex slave to some dirty bastard in a third world country?”

   “Not today.”

   “Oh, yeah, take it one day at a time, right?” Tara rolled her eyes. “That’s not going to change how the story ends.”

   Abby felt a vibration in the wood at her back and looked at the ceiling. The lightbulb swayed. A distant rumble built into thunder, then dissipated in a loud rush of air.

   Tara glanced around the room in panic. “What’s happening?”

   Abby grinned. “‘Not today’ meant we’re not getting sold off. Not ever. None of these girls are. Relax, this will be over in about two minutes.”

   Or so the Colonel said.

   She fought sudden fear at the realization she had no idea what to expect. 

   Screams resounded throughout the building–shrill cries of terrified men instead of the young girls Abby had heard for the last week.

   Then the walls melted in slow motion, leaving soupy puddles covered in gray dust. Sunlight burst into the room, and both women blinked watery eyes to adjust.

   Abby stood and counted survivors. Within a minute of the initial impact, seventeen girls huddled together in the goopy remnants of the slave traders’ holding facility. No collateral damage, no civilian casualties… 

   Tara asked, “Where did the slavers go?” 

   Abby studied the wet mess and grimaced. “I think we’re standing in them. This looks like the results of weaponized nanotechnology. Uncle Sam has some new toys.” 

   The chop-chop of approaching helicopters caught Abby’s attention and quickly drowned out the sound of Tara retching behind her. 

   Abby shouted against the sound. “There’s our ride, girls! Gather up. We’re going home.”

   She helped the young ladies into open hatches where soldiers in active camoflauge scanned biometrics and guided them to seats. Finally, Abby took another look at the destruction and hopped aboard.

    Colonel Hunter Stephens shook her hand. “Got your signal, Agent. Great work.”

    Abby nodded and took her seat in a daze, struggling with confusing thoughts. 

   Stephens sat beside her and loosed a contented sigh. “Nice to do some good for a change.”

   “Colonel,” she said, “the Agency had no idea where we’d get dropped off. That’s why I got taken–finding where they operated.”

   “That’s right, Agent.”

   “So how could you plant listening devices advanced enough to pick up a whispered callsign?”

   Stephens said nothing, but his smile vanished. 

   Abby reviewed the preparation for her mission months earlier. Combat training, resistance techniques, a full medical check-up and thorough brainwave scan to set a baseline in case of traumatic brain injury…

   “Oh my God,” she whispered. “The picture of the orchid. You saw that somehow, picked up my thoughts, triangulated our position by tracking my brainwaves.” She glared at Hunter, who sat silent as a statue. “What the hell kind of system does the government have?”

    The picture of the orchid returned–a lone flower out in the open, seemingly unsupported yet held aloft and nourished by invisible roots, sustained by resources unseen at first glance.
   “Agent, Ghost Orchid was never your callsign,” Stephens said. “It’s the coverterm for a special access program you’re not cleared for. You’d do best to forget this and take comfort that we rescued these girls.”

   He flashed her a smile that any other day would seem charming. “Trust us, we’re the good guys.”

   She turned to stare out the chopper’s window, unsure what to think, but absolutely certain she didn’t want to think at all just then.

Word of the Day: Velleity

Here’s another fun word of the day exercise, this time for “velleity.”

I had no idea what that word meant, so here’s the definition:

  • velleity \ vuh-LEE-i-tee \ , noun;
    1. Volition in its weakest form.
    2. A mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it.

Now you can say you learned something today! Yay for educational blog content!

Ok, on to the story.

Velleity – 1,220 words

“What’s it gonna take to get you to rise up and be men?”

Preacher’s voice echoes in my ears, and I snap my head up, taking in my surroundings. I sit at the jungle’s edge, drifting off, cradling Erma, my “second wife.” She’s wrapped in my poncho. Rainwater runs down my back and pools beneath me. I see my breath in the chilled night air.

The compound before me is stirring. de Corsa is about to move. Seven pickups sit in the courtyard, engines running. He doesn’t fear the authorities. Probably owns half of them already. But de Corsa isn’t stupid. The US-sponsored counter-drug missions may not be effective, but he’s not going to parade a shipment of cocaine in front of them by daylight.

I pat Erma. “Time to get ready. He’ll be out soon.”

Bodyguards file out, taking positions. “Like anyone’s really going to storm his compound, right?” Erma says nothing, just watches.

They’re carrying M-4 carbines, AK-47s… a few have P90s. Everyone carries a shoulder-holster sidearm. I know from past observations each of those pickup trucks has an M-60 in the flatbed.

“He must be getting softer after all these years, you think? Not like anyone’s given him cause to be scared since Valentin.”

She’s quiet still, snug and dry in the poncho. Never likes waking up, that one. I check my gear as I chat with her.

“No one but Preacher,” I continue. “And everybody saw how that played out.”

I see him again, pacing at the front of the church a week ago, screaming at the congregation like a good Southern Baptist. “You all turned the other cheek and bowed your heads when de Corsa took over. But it wasn’t love moving you. It was fear!”

His voice rang out in the silence. Tears ran down his bright red face, across straining neck muscles. “I know!” he cried out. “I did it too. I thought if I put my head down, preached nice useless sermons, handed out some fruit now and then, it would all be fine.”

He pounded the podium and pointed at the caskets behind him. “It. Is. Not. Fine!”

Wasn’t nothing in them… there wasn’t enough to bury after the car bomb killed his wife and girl. But I saw something inside of Preacher now, and I wasn’t sure if it was the Lord or the Devil.

Preacher decided to stand up to de Corsa, and he told us we should too. I saw heads nod in the church… the same faces that closed up shutters and locked doors when de Corsa came to town the next day.

Maybe they all knew what I knew. There’s always another de Corsa. You kill this guy, someone else will come along to run the operation. Or a few someones, and they’ll fight it out. Either way, the townfolk lose. The devil we know is better than one we don’t.

That’s what I been telling myself for the last fifteen years. Back then the big name was Valentin. I put a bullet between his eyes. Erma was there for that one, too.

Don’t know if it was Valentin’s boys or their rivals, but two dozen townfolk got rounded up and butchered in the street a day later. One was my lady friend. One was our son.

When Ana died, I learned what it would take to get me to sit down, look the other way, pretend to not hear the cry for help.

I feel a twinge in my chest as I see their faces again, but I shut that crap down fast. It’s not even scar tissue now. “No distractions, Erma. Let’s do this.”

Erma still won’t say anything. Gives me that cold shoulder of hers, the one that won’t quit until I’m honest. I know what she’s thinking. Why now? You been hiding all this time, why step up now?

Valid question.

“Men like de Corsa need to know not everyone quivers when they walk by.”

Erma doesn’t respond. I don’t think she buys it.

“He’s an animal, a wild jackal tearing at the weak, picking the bones clean. You don’t coexist with a beast like him. You take him out.”

I really hope she lets up on me, but I know she won’t. She just sits there, cold, lifeless. Like Ana.

Not my lady friend, not that Ana. “It’s Preacher’s daughter,” I finally admit.

Erma’s listening now.

“You weren’t there,” I tell her. “You were downstairs.”

They dragged Preacher through the streets, let everyone see him broken and bleeding. Said he assaulted the compound, killed a few men with a shotgun he got from God knows where.

They left him lying on his back in the dirt, and de Corsa’s limo pulled up. He walked out, kicked Preacher in the ribs, laughed as he doubled up. Then de Corsa calls out for everyone else to hear, “You killed my men. So what? You think you hurt me?”

He pulled out a gun and shot his own men. Two of them, dead right there on the road. “They don’t mean anything to me,” he explained. Then he signaled to his men, and they pulled a little girl out of the limo. She was tied up and gagged, but everyone could see it was Preacher’s daughter, Ana.

Preacher broke down, crawled toward her. And de Corsa ambled alongside him. “Oh yes, it’s her. We took her after we drugged your wife and left her in the car. She’d fetch a pretty penny across the Pacific.”

Then he shot her. And while she bled out, he turned to Preacher, hard as a headstone. “Where’s God now? Is He coming to get me?”

Preacher didn’t say nothing, but we all heard him sobbing into the dirt. And then de Corsa put the barrel to Preacher’s head and fired.

And I stood in my living room and watched through the blinds. de Corsa waved his gun around a bit, threatened everyone else. Seemed disappointed when no one answered him. I watched him spit on Preacher and get in his limo and drive away.

“That’s why, Erma,” I said. I had her attention now. “I didn’t do nothing. And I could have.”

Better late than never, Erma seems to say. I reach into my cargo pocket. Three-thirty-eight Magnum rounds are a bit bigger than most, but they’re wicked accurate and pack a better punch at range. My clip has five rounds.

I only need one.

I pick up my Erma SR-100 and sight in on the mansion’s side door. It swings open and two more guards step out, weapons ready. Then I see him.

He takes two steps into the courtyard, laughing with one of his henchmen.

I squeeze. De Corsa’s head disappears. His body slumps forward, hitting the nearest truck with a thud I swear I can hear from six hundred meters. His men panic, waving guns around.

I press the remote trigger in my pocket. Seven trucks go up in roiling flames, then the eighth bomb next to the gas main takes down half the compound. Fires light up the night sky, and I hear the screams of men knocking on the doors of hell.

“What’s it gonna take for you to rise up?” I can answer your question now, Preacher.

I’m sorry; it took Ana.