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Pulp
August 12th, 2007, 12:02 PM
Hello, this is my first post here. This is two and a half chapters of a story I've been working on for a few weeks, its my first story longer than a couple of pages in length. Please post critques and comments after reading.


CHAPTER 1
Hillburg is a dusty town that sits atop the Redstone plains of the dustbowl. Its claim to fame- the only reason that it exists - is that it is the farthest duskward settlement with a water pump. To travelers venturing into the dustbowl it is the last chance to top off.

Few that weren't born there come to it, and none stay long. The place is indeed quite awful by all accounts.

So then the street magician performing for the amusement of grubby children and tired workers is an oddity. And not just in the sense that he can pull coins out of just about any human crevice.

The magician, who goes by the name of Walsh Axler, was not born in Hillburg or parts near. His name isn't Walsh Axler either.

Also, he is not a magician.

***

"And now loyal fans, for the final trick. Are you ready?", said Axler with practiced flurish. The gathered crowd whooped.

"I am sure you have all seen rabbits pulled from a top hat,", he tipped off his hat and pulled out a bored white rabbit.

"but,"

He tossed the rabbit back in.

"have any of you seen a hat pulled out of rabbit?"

Dumping the hat out and catching the still bored ball of fur, Axler returned the first hat to his head and reached into the rabbit's floppy ear and with several twists and pulls managed to pull free an impressively tall stovepipe hat.

The crowd cheered and Axler took a bow. He slipped the rabbit in a free pocket and absently snapped his fingers to set the hat alflame. As he straightened up his survival senses noted someone wearing a full face wrap and goggles in the back of the crowd watching with the same body language a snake uses to watch a hamster.

"I'm here all week folks! So have a good night and tell your friends. And drink safely- accidents cause people!"

General clapping and stand crowd-zombie dispersion. The snake was gone.

***

Axler ambled through the allys of Hillburg. It had been a good haul today. Some pilgrims on a journey to the duskward coast had been in town and nearly the whole damn group had watched the show. Axler liked religious folk, they were good tippers.

Some one was following him. Mimicking their steps with his and staying invisible. That was unsettling. He was sure that it wasn't muggers- they had enough sense to stick to traveler's not locals. And he knew damn near all the muggers in this town, none of them were this stealthy. They all used big caliber pistols. Kind of like the one hidden inside the sleeve of Axler's suit.

No reason to change course. It might be some ambitious traveler who though the world owned him a favor. It might be something else all together worse. Either way he would be better positioned back at his flat.

He made sure not hurry and made it into his building and up the stairs to his flat without incident. But the invisible stalker felt like he was around the corner the whole time. Axler unlocked the door and scanned the room ,the entrance seemed okay. He took a step inside to check the kitchen.

"****."

In fairly average dustbowl traveler attire sat Core, a black skinned, six foot tall assassin and lunatic. He was eating Axler's last peanutbutter bar.

"What the hell? You not only break in, but you eat my peanutbutter bar! That was special."

"Thought it tasted funny.", Said Core, putting a quarter bar down.

"What they hell do you want?"

"I need your help. You know I wouldn't bother you but this is a big deal that I got to talk about. I got a contract straight the Jump-Master."

"Fine, whatever. So why in the hell did you follow me through town for it?"

"I didn't follow you. I been sittin' here getting my snack on."

That was when rocket came through the window.

***

"Walsh...Walsh. Wake up."

Axler cracked open his eyes. He was in what looked like a cargo container, sitting in a folding chair and there was the bright unnatural light of phosorescent tubes just above him.

"That's better, now we are going to have a chat-you know, clear up any confusion on the current situation."

Axler hands were zip-tied behind him to the chair.

This was going to be one of those talks.

"So is there any chance you're going to re-imburse me for the apartment?", he asked to the voice in from of him.

A figure stepped forward and he could just make out the outline in the light.

"Oh, no. Ha, god no. I am here for something more important than matters of real-estate reimbursement,"

The figure, who Axler could see was an older man in overalls, pulled up a folding chair of his own and sat down,

"You see, I am here because my superiors deem it necessary that you be made to cooperate with us. As you may have heard from Mr. Core we are involved in a dispute with the Jumpmaster, and this dispute involves a book, particular type of book which requires your talents to settle. Now what is going to happen is we are going to wait here until transport arrives and then you we be introduced to my superiors and matters will be explained more precisely."

"What about the clothes?"

"The clothes?"

"You blew up my clothes in the apartment, any way to repay me for those?"

The old man leaned right up to Axler's face.

"Your well-being does not directly concern me. I could do to you what I did to Mr. Core- have soldiers take you to a valley, shoot you and dump you in it. My superiors will simply be told you were impossible to find. Am I clear?"

"I had a bobble-head doll too, not much monetary value but I was very attached to it. Sentimental you know."

The old man paused for a moment like he was going to respond, but instead just stood up and knocked on the far wall, which opened just long enough to allow him to leave before slamming shut again. The lights snapped off and Axler was left in pitch darkness.

***

Several hours passed and the sun became slowly blotted out by heavy thick storm clouds. As the APC drove on, it left the canyons and rolling dunes and entered an area of flat cracked sand. The storm looked to set hard on this flat land as lightning continuously snapped in the distance.

The APC rolled to a stop, rumbling, before fork in the dirt road and the soldiers hopped off and two began to re-check their map, while the rest took the opportunity to pull out cigarettes and smoke.

"What is ****in' hunk of trash.", Said one of the smokers after lighting up. He was looking just to the left of the road at a pile of random items wooden pole driven into the ground in the center. On top of the pole a crude statue or mannequin head had been nailed in place, and it was adorned with a boonie hat and with a broken pair of goggles around the neck.

"Weird, even for these dustbowlers," said another one, pausing to lob spit onto the sand, "I mean look down next to it, there is all sorts of things cigarettes, beads, money. I have never heard about anybody living in this kind of shithole just leaving money around."

"Tribute," Said a third soldier, "they leave it as tribute to Murphy, because out here they don't have Iron Mike, this is wild forgotten land, and Murphy is the only one out here."

"Shut up, Lee,", Said the first. "Talking like you know ****."

The ensuing almost-but-not-really fight was broken up as the driver banged his hand on the APC and ordered everyone back inside.

As they gaggled back through the rear door, one went to the crude monument for a moment and knelt down next to the assorted offerings and rumaged through them before joining the others.

The engine rumbled as it shifted gears and the APC continued forward into the sand.

CHAPTER 2
Core stumbled through the red dirt. He still had the steel handcuffs that the soldiers had put on when they had taken him out to execute him. Sweat pored on his forehead.

It hadn't been hard to kill them. Whatever fool had been in charge of them had only sent six out for the execution detail- not nearly enough. However in the midst of liberating himself from his captors Core felt that perhaps it had been slightly excess to incinerate the truck they had used.

In any case that incident was in the past and Core had a new objective.

He needed to get to Hillburg, and soon; night was falling and he could see a lightning storm brewing in the distance. He was far from its center, but anyone who had spent enough time in the Dustbowl could smell storms and this was going to be a big one.

For someone who was ignorant of lightning storms, they could be very dangerous. Unlike normal storms, lightning storms were made of boublous, dark clouds discharging a tainted kind of lightning that caused enormous amounts of static. And Emrs. Usually small gremlin-like creatures, they are appear and get into open electrical connections and sources. However lightning storms cause Emrs of abnormal size and ferocity, and even the electrical signal of the human body would be enough to draw them.

Core found a jagged hill in front of him that streched out to the left and right. Without stopping he lunged forward and climbed up the steep slope which crumbled under his feet. His upper thighs were burning and his boots felt like they were sticking to the ground with every step up the clay. If his hands hadn't been bound he could have made much faster time by pulling himself up, but he had to make due with finding adaquate footing laid out in enough sequence to allow progress.

After a what felt like forever, especially with nothing but the sound of wind and lightning around, he made it to the ledge and pushed himself over the top, landing on his kness onto a platau of sand with a trodden road running across it.

Getting to his feet, Core picked up the steady rythmic quick jog he used for long distance runs and ran with the road in the direction of Hillburg, which he had guessed from the setting sun and fact that his captors had likely taken him dawnward instead of duskward into the wastes. Unfortunately he had no way of knowing how far he was from Hillburg, having been unconcious on the way from it.

Lightning in the distance made the entire sky flash for a breif split second.

He kept running, because Core was not a man afraid of many things- living as a freelance assassin had made him skilled at fighting almost anything-but wild Emrs couldn't be fought. The only choice was to run from them. Hide somewhere insulated.

Something somewhere in his gut stabbed at him, taking his breath away, making it uneven.

But it didn't matter. He had to run.

CHAPTER 3
Axler sat unaware of the growing lightning storm as he half slept while he sat in the back of the APC as it rolled and tumbled. Across from him sat the soldiers- obstensively they were now his guards, but with his hands zip tied and one of his legs firmly chained to a rail under his seat, they were more like babysitters for the scrawny man.

They had passed the time, in no particular order or unity; sleeping, insulting each other, discussing the boneablity of some of the woman they had seen out in the dustbowl, weather egg flavored rations were eatable or not, and the effects of quantum particle observation via ratio signature testing on the boneablity of some of the woman they had seen in the dustbowl.

After of while of relative quiet the soldier across from Axler spoke to him.

"Hey, you."

"Yes", said Axler, irritated that he had been woken up.

"Hey, I got a question. I mean you've been livin' out here for a while, right?"

"Say huh?"

"Look I just want to settle something."

"O...kay."

"Now, my buddy says that you all worship Murphy out here. What with the statuey-things you have."

Axler was awake now. Very awake.

"Did you see a statue?", he asked, with a hint of anxiety.

"Well yeah, just a while ago."

"Are you sure it was a Murphy statue? Did it have lots of trinkets around it."

"Bunch of crap everywhere? Totally. And it was wearing a hat wi-"

"Did you touch anything?"

"I. No. Nothing."

Axler's normal sarcasm was gone and he was focusing every part of his serious, quiet stare on the soldier now.

"What did you touch?"

"Well, just one thing, in the pile there was a rock, more of a jewel really."

"What did you do?"

"The rock, I figured it was a good souvenir, so uh-", the soldier reached into his shoulder pocket, producing a small polished crystal.

"Give that stone to me."

Another member of the squad, all of whom had been listening to the exchange, cut in.

"Don't give him nothing you ****ing idiot. We're here to guard his uncultured ass."

Axler spoke, still fixated on the first soldier,

"You took something from Murphy. The god of luck. Particularly bad luck. "

"Sure. Murphy, that's plausible. And what are you going to do about it Mr. Pan Handling Magician?"

"You really don't know who I am?"

"Do. Not. Care.", said the second soldier, who turned back to the first.

"Don't give him ****."

The first soldier, at the coercion of his obviously senior squad mate returned the stone to his pocket.

"Things will be bad.", said Axler, closing his eyes.

The APC heaved and bounced, now no longer on anything that could reasonably be called a trail. The clouds overhead blocked out the entire sky, and thunder clashed and echoed across them. All around a sound- like grease sizzling on a frying pan was pervasive.

081207

Severn
August 12th, 2007, 09:35 PM
Hello and welcome, Pulp. :)

Well, I don't quite know how to respond to your story. Parts of it had me laughing hysterically - love the deadpan humour. I think these lines of dialogue really had me:

"What the hell? You not only break in, but you eat my peanutbutter bar! That was special."

"I had a bobble-head doll too, not much monetary value but I was very attached to it. Sentimental you know."

It's odd, some of it flowed really well. And other parts had me scratching my head, like:

'Dumping the hat out and catching the still bored ball of fur,'

Eh?

And some sentences are just clunky:

'As he straightened up his survival senses noted someone wearing a full face wrap and goggles in the back of the crowd watching with the same body language a snake uses to watch a hamster.'

And yet others are just info-dumping:

'For someone who was ignorant of lightning storms, they could be very dangerous. Unlike normal storms, lightning storms were made of boublous, dark clouds discharging a tainted kind of lightning that caused enormous amounts of static. And Emrs. Usually small gremlin-like creatures, they are appear and get into open electrical connections and sources. However lightning storms cause Emrs of abnormal size and ferocity, and even the electrical signal of the human body would be enough to draw them.'

Interesting, but takes us right out of Core's pov.

You have a fair few spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

Flurish is flourish for example.
Rumaged is rummaged.
Streched is stretched.
Re-imburse is reimburse.
Unconcious is unconscious.

Found those just idling scrolling down now.

This amount of spelling mistakes usually irritates the hell out of me, and I'll likely stop reading. However, because I was giggling so much, I kept going.

You need to watch your dialogue grammar, also - particularly your comma placement.

"Thought it tasted funny.", Said Core putting a quarter bar down.

Needs to be:

"Thought it tasted funny", said Core, putting a quarter bar down.

Now, I reached the end of this and thought 'damn, wish there was more', so that's a good thing eh?

Pulp
August 14th, 2007, 10:32 PM
Thanks, for the imput, I'll clear up some of those early paragraphs and try to thin out the info dumping.

A lot spelling and grammer thing is due to using an online spellchecker becuase I don't have MS word, hopefully that will soon be fixed.

Thanks, again. I'll definately look at re-writing the dialogue, some is almost embarrassingly bad in retrospect.