From the Archives: Sentinal

I’m sure at least one person will be surprised that I still have this text. It’s a result of a rare collaborative effort, this one combining the talents of myself and a name you might be familiar with if you’re a regular visitor at the Asylum Walls.

At its most basic level, it’s the story of a refugee from another dimension.

The previous sentence is so much of an understatement that if there was a machine that could measure understatements, it would be in smoking fragments by now. The sheer SCOPE of this project was something that transcends anything you’ve seen any amateurs and MOST professionals even think about. A Game. A series of short stories. Artwork. A novel. Sequels to all of the above. Repeat until somebody notices and makes us rich. I think that was the plan, anyway. Oddly enough, the mega-project was never officially abandoned, and the fantasy world upon which it was based (which does not appear in this fragment, btw) is still under development to this day… many, many years later.

But let’s leave the big picture alone and zoom in on this tiny part of it. What follows is the first chapter-and-a-half of a serial action/adventure that I was going to write. It would have been a monster hit. I still have the complete twelve-chapter outline for what would have certainly turned into a novel-length tale. The characters (except one) and plot are my work. The concepts and backstory are collaborative efforts. I can’t remember why this particular aspect of the project was abandoned… probably one of the usual reasons.


Chapter One – Getaway


"Table for one," said Mance. Before he could say anything else, the young hostess grabbed a menu from the stand and started leading him through the maze of tables. She was new. Mance didn’t like new.


"Wait," he called after her. "I wanted a booth by the window."


"Booth?" said he girl. She checked her watch, and Mance knew what she was thinking. It just after lunch… the crowd had mostly filtered away… yes, she could afford to let this one guy have a booth. "Uhh… okay."


She changed directions and led Mance to a booth with a view of the street. Mance sat down and pretended to look at the menu. He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small piece of paper. It had been faxed to him. He read the three simple lines again for what felt like the hundredth time.


YOU WERE RIGHT

SAME PLACE

SAME TIME


Mance nodded and returned the paper to his pocket. He was trying his best not to get excited. Excitement bred mistakes, and he couldn’t afford that any more than he could afford to eat at this restaurant. Besides… been closer than this before and ended up with nothing. Or worse, ended up with one less person he could trust.


But this had to be it. This had to pan out. He was rapidly running out of contacts, and if Walker had been taken…


"Something to drink?" Said the waitress.


"Water."


The waitress sniffed and walked away. Mance directed his attention to the scene outside, specifically the outdoor cafe directly across from the restaurant. His eyes scanned the patrons seated at the white metal-framed tables. Normal suit-and-tie employees from the dozens of office buildings that surrounded the place. He knew every one of them, although one a couple had names to go with the familiar faces. They were regulars. Mance had watched this place, and many others, for weeks before using it as a rendezvous. He could tell if there were any new faces in the crowd or on the staff with just a glance. There weren’t.


The waitress returned with his water.


"Give me a few minutes," said Mance. The woman sighed and walked away.


Across the street, a man walked up to a table and sat down.. He had a military haircut that matched Mance’s, although Mance’s wasn’t quite as freshly trimmed.


<<Walker,>> thought Mance. <<Still with the young an innocent look. ‘Course that’s the easiest look in the world to fake.>>


Mance focused on Walker’s face, and watched as he ordered a lemonade. When the waitress left, Walker started talking.


"I think I’ve got something," he said. There was no one at Walker’s table, and Mance doubted that the man’s voice was above a whisper. The conversation was strictly one-way, with Mance reading lips and Walker completely unaware of his location.


"Those names you told me to watch," continued Walker. "I overheard a conversation. Security breaches at Fort Dunnis. They’re worried, but as far as I know there’s nothing going on at Dunnis to warrant concern at such a high level. I think this could be your guy.."


Mance smiled. He took a second to glance at the cafe crowd once more, and then look around inside the restaurant. Nothing. He continued ‘listening’ to Walker.


"…something else. I knew you’d want me to check shipments. No records of anything going to Dunnis, but a lot of trucks have turned up missing at other bases. Big ones… heavy haulers. No one seems to be worried about that. My guess is they’re at Dunnis… of the record. They’re using 35% more electricity, too. Something’s going on there, and it has to have something to do with-"


Mance didn’t catch the rest. Some new arrivals at the cafe drew his attention. Two men… they were Military Intelligence goons if he ever saw one. Walker was about to be spiked by his own coworkers.


Mance stood and immediately turned to the door. He had to get out of here… he had to get Walker.


The hostess was staring at him. There was a man with her, and he was looking in Mance’s direction as well.


"I’ve been made," mumbled Mance.


Everything happened at once.


Mance turned back to the window, drawing the .45 from his hip as he moved. He fired four shots to weaken the window, and then took a running leap


CRASH!!


The window exploded around him. Mance hit the ground, his shoes crunching loudly on he glass. Across the street, the two goons had Walker by the elbows and were dragging him out of his seat. One looked up at Mance…


Mance started running, but he raised his weapon… everything went into slow motion as he took aim…


CRACK!


Walker’s head exploded, spraying blood all over the few patrons that hadn’t already vacated the area.


<<Sorry Walker, but it was better than the alternative.>>


The man from the restaurant flew through the broken window, with his gun drawn. Mance threw himself to the ground before the man could fire. He rolled. A bulled hit the pavement near his left shoulder. Mance looked up and swept his own weapons across his field of view


CRACK!


The agent went down. It was a head shot, just like Walker.


<<Brain destroyed. No return trip for you…>>


Mance rolled to his feet and saw both goons from across the street running towards him.. The next corner was just a few steps away, he turned just as a rain of bullets sailed past him


<<Gotta get to the car!>>


The car was a few blocks away, but he knew he couldn’t out-run his pursuers. If they’d been turned then they could run down a Toyota without breaking a sweat. Break every bone in their legs in the process… but wouldn’t feel a damned thing.


His .45 had one shot left. His other two guns had full magazines. He hoped it was enough.


He emerged onto the next street, which was still crowded with office drones returning from lunch. Mance fired his last shot into the engine block of the first car he saw. Traffic stopped as people began to panic. He threw himself over a taxicab’s hood, rolled under an SUV, scrambled between to Hondas, and he was across.


He drew his next gun and ducked behind a delivery truck. Bullet’s whizzed past him.


There was a bookstore across from the truck. Mance ran inside.


"BACK DOOR!" he howled.


A short, balding Chinese man screamed something and pointed to a short hallway by the stairs.


<<No…>> thought Mance. Instead of taking the back door, Mance ran up the stairs. He heard the door fly open behind him and more screams from the Chinese man. They were coming up the stairs after him… they’d be sitting ducks if their reflexes weren’t three times faster than his. By the time he capped one the other would have several bullets in him.


Mance saw a window and ran for it. He slid across a table, yanked the window open, and was out on the fire escape in seconds. He released the catch on the ladder and it slid down to the street with a series of loud CLANGS.


Then he did nothing.


The first agent stuck his head out the window


BOOM!


Mance blew a large hole through it with his snub-nose .357.


The second agent stuck his arm out the window and fired blind, but Mance was already scrambling down the ladder. His feet touched the concrete, but the ladder had slowed him down. Fortunately the agent didn’t feel like breaking his own legs by jumping, and was taking the ladder as well. Mance turned and fired some shots to distract him, then ran for the vacant lot at the end of the alley. Just across the lot was another building. And on the other side of that building were his car AND a subway station. Could he make it?


Probably not. It was a straight run, and he could never outrun an implant.


The lot was filled with garbage, including some piles of boxes large enough to hide him. He threw himself behind one and loaded a fresh clip in his gun.


The goon ran into the lot and stopped. Mance could see him scanning the area, looking for any signs of the traitor… the terrorist… the Judas. Him.


Mance took aim at the man’s head, but the agent suddenly turned and fired! Mance pulled back just in time to prevent a bullet from going through his throat. He pushed the pile of boxes over and ran the other direction. He fired three shots… each hit the agent, but not in the head. Without a head or vital organ shot, Mance may as well have been throwing rice at him.


The agent swept his gun across Mance’s path. Mance knew it was coming without even bothering to look. He ducked and rolled through some foul-smelling garbage. He came up and fired.


BANG!


The agent fell.


Mance ran for the door and into the next building. He closed the door and turned the lock. Then he straightened his clothes and began walking calmly toward the front door.


BOOM!


"Wha-?"


Something had slammed into the metal door behind him.


Mance threw himself against the wall, out of the path of any gunfire. There wasn’t any, but what there WAS…


ffssssZMMMM……


The humming sound made Mance’s fillings rattle. Suddenly a bright spot appeared on the door… and the air was flooded with a stench that reminded Mance of chlorine and ozone. The spot moved, leaving a trail of melted metal in it’s path as it traced a large circle.


CLANG!!


A man-hole sized section of the door hit the floor. The edges were red hot. Something had cut through it like tin-foil. And on the other side…


The agent.


Mance’s last shot had hit him in the head. One eye was gone, and the other didn’t look like it was working too well, but the brain must have still been partially intact. The man was holding what looked like a ball point pen… with a beam of some kind of energy coming from one end. It looked like a laser, but not like any Mance had ever seen… even in the movies.


The agent started climbing through the hole, the red-hot edges searing into his flesh.


"You guys never give up do you?" said Mance as he pointed his gun.


The agent looked up and squinted with his one eye.


"Zxck. Cha Ylno REK!"


"Yeah, whatever."


BANG!


The agent collapsed. Mance walked over to the body and looked down at the ruined head. It was in there somewhere. The implant. He could dig it out and take it with him… find somebody to study-


The sound of sirens interrupted him. Police.


Mance reached down and grabbed the agent’s laser.


"This ought to come in handy," Mance stuffed into his pocket, straightened his clothes once again, and started for the door.


Part Two: The Intruder




Fort Dunnis was little more than a stopping point for military shipments… a small base that survived the latest rounds of military cutbacks only because it was on some general’s list of favors he owed. It was mostly a collection of old buildings, the majority of them huge warehouses. It had a contingent of about 200 men. At any given moment, half of them were guarding the other half. And at the end of the shift they all switched.


Dunnis was of no interest to anybody… which made it the perfect place to hide something.


Mance rode in on the bottom of a food delivery truck. The guards at the gate made a half-hearted search of the interior and, finding nothing but eggs and milk, waved the truck on through without even bothering to check the undercarriage. Mance knew they had orders to do so… he also knew that they never did it.


When the truck rolled to a stop in the receiving area, Mance quietly lowered himself to the ground and unzipped his black one-piece outfit. Underneath he was wearing an MP’s uniform. While the men gathered at the rear of the truck to unload it, Mance rolled out into the open near the front. He stood, brushed himself off, and walked calmly towards the nearest door.


<<Security is worse than the last time I was here,>> he though as he stepped out into the night air. He needed to get to the security officer’s desk while avoiding as many people as possible. His uniform would pass a casual glance, but if anyone got close to scrutinize him there was going to be trouble. Mance checked his guns. One .45 on each hip. .357 in the small of his back. .38 strapped to his left ankle.


He paused to get his bearings. The Administration building was two warehouses over. It would be guarded. Probably heavily. He’d be inside in about five minutes.



A dark figure emerged from the trees surrounding the outer perimeter. Dropping down from a high pine with the grace of a cat, it moved quickly to the fence and crouched just inside a three-foot stretch where none of the three rotating cameras could see it. The fence was seven feet high, with razor wire strung across the top like a some unnatural species of vine.


The cameras rotated away.


The figure backed up about two yards, then took a running leap. It sailed over the razor wire with about an inch to spare, then sank into a deep crouch when it landed on the other side.


Wait for the cameras to rotate back…. and then away….


Like a shadow cast a speeding falcon, the dark figure ran for the nearest building.





Any decent civilian building would have had high-tech alarms on the doors and windows. Motion detectors. or infrared heat receivers at the very least. Leave it to the military to put its trust in a few M-16 carrying goons. There was one guard on each side of the administration building. Mance watched one of them check in via radio once every ten minutes, then he affixed a silencer on one of his .45’s and fired a single shot… at the warehouse just across the courtyard.


Ka-TANK!


The slug rang out on the warehouse’s metal hide. The MP’s squawked into their radios, and two of them jogged off to investigate. There had been no sound of gunfire, so it was probably some drunken private throwing rocks. Mance circled around to one of the unguarded sides and crouched under the windows. The admin. building had a small crawlspace running underneath it, and the entrance was secured with a padlock. Mance cut through it with a pocket butane torch and slid into the darkness beyond. He took the lock with him, but the unlocked door would be a dead giveaway. If anyone bothered to look.


Mance slipped a pair of compact night-vision goggles out of his shirt and placed them on his head. All around him, the maze of pipes and hastily discarded beer cans came alive with an eerie green glow. Mance found an opening in the floor above him and pushed. It wouldn’t budge. He looked around and found another one, which opened into a dank corner of the men’s restroom. Mance crawled out and scrambled out into the hallway.


He found the security office and quickly picked the ‘security’ lock. He entered, locked the door behind him, and then started searching.


Duty rosters and the latest Steven King novel held no interest for Mance, so he left the desk alone and worked on the file cabinets. Two minutes of lock-picking had them all open. Personnel files. Building layouts. Security reports.


<<Bingo.>>


Walker had been right, some unauthorized person… besides him…had been coming in and out of Fort Dunnis like it was a shopping mall. Nothing missing, but whoever it was had an unhealthy interest in the contents of the warehouses. Boxes and crates had been found opened and then hastily sealed. And every time a major shipment of something came in, it was almost guaranteed that their visitor would be there within a few nights.


But how would they know? Were they watching?


On a whim, Mance searched the other cabinets for some kind of shipping schedule. He didn’t find one, but there WAS one hanging the wall next to the desk. A small shipment of building materials came in last night. Warehouse seven. That meant that their visitor would be here soon, maybe even tonight.


That lead to another question:


If this person or persons was coming in and out so often, why was the security still so lax? Either the MP’s were in on it, or this was some kind of…


"Shit."



Warehouse Seven was the largest building on the base. It had a good 2000 square feet on its largest brother, and was mostly home to bulky items like lumber and even the occasional shipment of jeeps for some general’s entourage.


The dark figure lay flat atop Warehouse Six and peered over the intervening space. Two guards patrolled the ground below. The intruder watched them carefully, then crawled over to the edge of the building and jumped off.


The figure sailed gracefully to the ground… like a feather. Thick boots didn’t make a single sound when they touched dirt.


One guard was just vanishing around the side of the Warehouse Seven. The second was facing the wrong direction to see the intruder come up behind him. A quick punch to the side of the head and he was down. The figure slid the unconscious guard over into the shadows, then moved to the personnel door in the side of the warehouse. It was locked. The shadowy figure stared at the brand new military-issue doorknob. Dark gray eyes flashed fiery red, and the deadbolt melted like butter in a furnace. The door swung open easily and the intruder slipped inside.



"Hello," mumbled Mance. He had been sliding alongside Warehouse Six when someone jumped off of the building.


Perhaps ‘jumped’ wasn’t the operative word…. floated would be more accurate. Mance watched as the figure took out one of the guards and entered #7.


"Must be our mystery guest."


Mance waited for the first guard to return. He never did.


"What’s going in here?"


Mance didn’t want to enter the warehouse… he REALLY didn’t. It was an obvious trap, but he had to know who was in there. Trouble was, whatever had been planned for them could just as easily snare him as well.


But then, if the intruder was one of THEM… and he most certainly was… then whoever set the trap would b on Mance’s side. Had someone else found? Was there still someone on the inside?


Mance couldn’t assume that. But he couldn’t just stand out here like a scarecrow either.


John Mance pulled both .45’s and sprinted cross the open area to Warehouse #7.



Crates. Huge crates. About half the floorspace… mostly near the receiving doors… was empty, but the rest was packed from floor to ceiling with large wooden crates the size of automobiles. Mance squeezed through a few tight areas and circled around the open space. There was no sign on the intruder… which meant he had to be somewhere in this impossible maze of… whatever.


<<What IS this stuff, anyway?>>


Mance tried to see inside one of the crates. As far as he could tell, it was empty. The next two he checked were empty as well.


<<Makes sense,>> he thought. <<Why endanger a real shipment when a fake one would bait a trap just as well.>>


Mance heard a sound. A scrape… one of the crates moving. He peered around into the front of the warehouse and saw black-clad intruder emerge from a row of ‘building materials.’


<<Gotcha.>>


Mance raised his .45 and took aim. A leg shot should slow them down…


zzzzzz– click


<<What the Hell?>>


The sound had come from behind Mance. He turned.


zzzz-click.


It as faint. The intruder probably couldn’t even hear it. And it was coming from inside one of the supposedly empty crates. Mance looked peered inside.


CLICK-CLACK!


It looked like a camera lens… but it was attached to…


<<DAMN!>>


Mance threw himself to the warehouse floor just as the wooden crate exploded from within. A… THING… burst from inside it and rose above him. It looked like a giant spider… only made of metal, and with ten legs instead of eight. The pear-shaped body had a set of lenses mounted on the small end, and what looked like a .50 caliber machine-gun mounted underneath.


The mechanical monster swept one of its forlegs in front of it, sending piles of empty crates toppling down. Then it began to walk.


zzz-CLICK

zzz-CLICK

zzz-CLICK

zzz-CLICK


The legs ended in sharp spikes that took chips out of the concrete floor when it walked. The thing’s first step missed Mance’s crotch by inches.


zzz-CLICK

zzz-CLICK

zzz-CLICK


Mance raised his gun, but didn’t fire. The thing was moving away from him…. and somehow he didn’t think his gun would do a whole hell of a lot of good.


zzz-CLICK

zzz-CLICK


The spider knocked down another stack of crates. It was heading for the intruder. Mance rolled toward the door, and then froze.


CLICK-CLACK


Behind him!


THOOM!


More boxes fell.


zzz-CLICK

zzz-CLICK

zzz-CLICK


A SECOND spider emerged from a crate a few yards away. And a THIRD began bashing its way from the rear of the warehouse.


The smashing of wood crates was so loud that he didn’t even notice the forth and fight spiders until they lumbered out into the open.


Meanwhile the intruder stood frozen in the front of the warehouse. Five…six.. seven metal monsters were bearing down on him, but he just stood there.


Mance crouched down behind the remains of one of the crates…


<<Run? Stay? Run? Stay? Run? Stay? Run?>>


The intruder reached up and unzipped his black outfit. He pulled the mask from his face and revealed a mop of long charcoal-gray hair, framing the delicate features of a woman’s face. Underneath her clothes she wore some kind of weird armor that was half metal and half some kind of blue crystal. It mostly covered her arms, legs, and sides leaving every thing else open. Her metal-clad hands clenched into fists, and bright white fire began a crackling dance around her motionless form as she waited for the machines to come.


She was beautiful.


And there was no way she was human.

[end of file]

No need to imagine.
Go Here.
Second Row.
First Picture on the Left.


2 Comments

  1. nate, July 6, 2009:

    Cool. Yet another tale I’d like to see more of. Even fragments or outlines.

  2. DarkIcon, July 6, 2009:

    From what I remember, there was a story outline, but no more actual story was written beyond this. There was tons of background material, but none of that was written by me.

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