07:55:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 819 words  
Categories: Announcements, Old Ventures: Refuge

ANNOUNCEMENT: NaNoWriMo 2018, Old Venture: Refuge

I'm sorry. I know, no man is an island, but I've had trouble even being one drop of rain in a river. It's difficult, these days, not to feel like the very foundations of sanity are shaking loose. And I have struggled under my burdens, as I know many of you do. I only yesterday finished last year's NaNo (which I'll be uploading soon to the blog) and I'm going to try and publish one chapter a day this NaNo. It's going to be a rough election cycle this year, and I'm hoping we can get through it together. But if you retain none of the words before or after this, remember these: you are not alone. Amidst all the chaos, and pain, and dehumanizing horror, you are known, you are cared about, you are loved. And so long as we continue to have each other, and to hold one another in our hearts, we have hope. Below is an excerpt, a preview of a chapter I realized was important enough to write and publish out of order, where it might still have some impact. As always, check back daily for updates, on this as well as on older projects that I got behind in posting publicly. And in the meantime, may you and yours stay safe and close in these trying times.

* * *

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. "I'm happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage," the man said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. "I'm not comfortable being here," Jack said, "and I'm sure that shows."

The audience chuckled nervously. "That's okay. You're laughing with me," he paused, "I think."

"But I've never been comfortable using my... celebrity, I guess, like this. I've marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I've never been apolitical... but I've always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I've done, and even today, that's not my goal.

"But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was naïve of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

"I didn't decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he's not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, that he'll need to lead all of us. He'll need to represent the will of all of us. He'll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever evade him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn't like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is, angry, scared and lashing out.

"And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.


"So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can't erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I've seen it. And I pray I'll live to see it again. Thank you."

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06/02/12

  06:53:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 536 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .10: Premature

I knocked on the door. It brought me back to a few days before, when I'd first been on that doorstep. Peter opened the door, but seemed surprised to see me. ?Detective?? he asked.

?I'm closing out the case,? I told him.

He sighed. ?Thank God, for that. She told me, yesterday, everything that happened. How close she got to going through with it. And I was pissed. She hadn't even talked to me, you know? But she thought about our life together, and maybe having a baby, and... I'm just so glad to have her back.?

?She at home??

?She's at work.?

?Then why aren't you??

?I've been there longer, so they trust me to do my work from home. Unless there's a meeting, I usually telecommute- saves them on office space. That, and the boss is kind of... he's not sexist, exactly, but he's been through two wives, so he doesn't trust women as much. Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that Deborah has to go in every day but I don't, I maybe never would have noticed, but it's harder for a woman to get the okay to work from home.?

?That's stupid.?

?That's people, mostly. We all have weird hang-ups- and most of the time we aren't even aware they're there. It sucks, for us... but I don't know, truthfully, if Deborah and I could both work out of the home and still be productive. It's one thing skipping out from work for an extra twenty minutes on our lunch to moon over some Olive Garden. But it's another thing when she's taking off all her clothes and offering to sex me instead of work.?

?Eve tempting Adam away from the drawing table??

?It probably wouldn't be a problem. But if it was... I don't know how I'd solve it. She'd be so happy, having more time with me. But we could both lose our jobs- though I guess with the baby coming, we'll both be home, so that's a hurdle we'll have to jump soon enough.? Then he seemed to realize something. ?Why'd you want to know if she's here??

?I would have liked to talk to her. I'd have kept you out of it, but I could have asked her a few questions. And told her how much danger she was putting herself in. I may be a detective, but I'm a cop, too. My job isn't just to snoop and arrest- I'm also supposed to protect, and serve. But maybe I can call her, later. Just a follow-up.?

?Yeah,? Peter said. There was worry on his face. He wondered if calling me had been the right thing after all.

?Do you think me calling her would be a bad thing?? I asked.

?She's got a real... rebellious streak. I guess I just worry that if you try to put the fear of God into her, she'll go through with it, just to spite you, and God, I guess. She's a sleeping dog, right now; maybe you should just let her lie.?

?Maybe that's for the best,? I said. ?And best of luck, to the both of you.?

He gave me a half-hearted smile, nodded, and shut the door.

06/01/12

  06:51:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 598 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Gas in the Tanks

Clod was sitting in the pilot's seat. Their shuttle was already on its trajectory, and she didn't have the steering systems active. But she had her hands on the stick, anyway, because it was where she was most comfortable.

Paul had developed a fast friendship with her, initially because she'd made a beeline for the inside of his pants. But it had progressed to something like a grudging, fraternal respect. That's why he was sitting in the captain's chair, just a little back from hers, but enough to the side that they could talk.

He was staring out at the stars, but caught enough of her reflection in the window to notice when she made a face. ?Ulck,? she said, her nose twisting up. ?I swear to God, Levy, you fart one more time, and I'm going to seal you back up in your suit. I don't care if we have to waste all of our O2 tanks, I'm done smelling whatever the hell you ate that makes that smell.?

?It wasn't me that time,? he said. ?I swear.?

?After that,? Rica said timidly, ?I'm kind of scared to admit this, but, it was me. And for the record, it was a calzone.?

?I didn't know hot chicks could fart,? Levy said, ?especially not like that.? He held up his hand, and Rica slapped it. ?Props.?

?I hate to disabuse you of that notion,? Clod said, ?but I don't think it was going to last a two year voyage; I just can't hold it in that long. But we do.?

?We?? Paul teased.

?Like you weren't trying to look at my cleavage five minutes ago.? 

?I've never seen someone cleave in a spacesuit.?

?Because you've never seen me in one.?

?Cool it, you two,? Martin said. ?Because we have neither a hose to turn on you, or a room for you to get.?

?No worries,? Paul said. ?Just having a little harmless fun.?

?It's always harmless until it isn't,? Martin said. ?Just behave; I'm taking a turn on the cot.?

?But we were going to use the cot,? Paul teased.

?That's not nice,? Clod said. ?Toying with a girl's emotions like that- getting my hopes up only to dash them.? Paul smiled.

?Go fish.? Rica said from behind them.

?I hate this game,? Alisa said.

?Then I don't know why you refused to play strip poker with me.?

?Because we're not nineteen year old boys, hoping to catch our first glimpse of real boob.?

?I am- at heart,? Levy said, leaning over the back of his chair.

?And it's not like we can get out of our spacesuits without help.?

?This is burgeoning on a letter to Penthouse,? Levy said.

?And there's him, leering as if he depended upon it to live.?   

?Leering is an important part of our biology; maybe my life doesn't depend on it, but the long-term viability of our species depends on men wanting to sleep with women, despite all the potential diseases, or the cost and responsibilities of children.? 

?So you're only now coming to understand what women have known going back to ancient Greece: that society depends upon the stupidity of men.?

?I don?t know that I would have nut-shelled it like that,? Levy said.

?So, strip poker?? Rica asked.

?It would just take that one word to make me believe in God and possibly an Easter bunny,? Levy said hopefully.

?Go fish,? Alisa replied.

?I don't know how I'm going to survive two years of this,? Martin said, and turned away from the crew, and covered his face with his arm.

05/26/12

  06:51:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1472 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .09: Junk Mail

Lisa wasn?t sure what to expect when she handed over a hundred and change. The man gave her a small parcel, wrapped delicately with a decorative ribbon. She walked it out to the car, which Mae was idling. ?So what?s in the box??

?It?s not Gwyneth Paltrow?s head, if that?s what you?re getting at.?

?But it is a head?? Lisa eyed her suspiciously.

?Nuh-uh; I?m not ruining the surprise.?

?Can I at least ask what?s with all the junk mail in the back seat??

?All will be revealed, in time.?

?How mysterious.?

?Yep. My mystique is how I pick up chicks. But I can start in on the background,? she said, pulling out of her parking spot. ?Today?s the day ballots go out. Basically every state offers voting by mail, because it increases turn-out, by as much as 10%. And it increases participation in the elderly and other people for whom going to a polling place presents a hardship. Conservatives like it because it gets them more elderly votes, and liberals like it because it extends the voting franchise- and because they?re usually better at philosophy than math.?

?Women make up slightly more than half the population, because we live a little longer than men. Women make up about half of mail carriers, as well; it?s one of the rare careers with basic gender parity- so today women are delivering half the ballots. Women tend to get crappier postings- the ones that pay less and are in worse neighborhoods, which includes areas of women?s housing, so the numbers are even a little more skewed than that. But for the sake of simplicity, we?ll ballpark at 25% of the voting population who gets their ballots from a female mail carrier and are themselves female.?

Lisa swallowed. She could see where this was going. ?It?s public knowledge when ballots go out in the mail. So the weeks before, men?s righters harass female mail carriers, stalk them, threaten them. That?s a whole quarter of votes that can be tampered with- and a full half of women?s votes. And because of the nature of mail, they get a chance to tamper with it coming and going.?

?But a mail carrier is basically a harasser?s wet dream; they keep a regular schedule and a regular route. And mail carriers know that it?s not hard for men?s righters to find a sympathetic woman in her area. So even if they try to be tricky about it, there?s really good odds they?ll get found out.?

She patted the revolver in the holster at her hip. ?Normally, on a day like today, I prefer to carry the Casull .454, because for things like this, size does matter. We don?t want to shoot anyone. But if we have to, I want to leave a hole big enough for a rhino to screw. Because today is all about the message. But it?s gone missing. Nature of a shelter- sometimes the anonymity leads to sticky fingers; but I hope it?s just that someone wanted to feel safe.?

Mae pulled over to the side of the road. Lisa could see a woman mail carrier a few houses down. She noticed a few men hanging back, watching her. She caught sight of Mae, and nodded, and reached back into her bag for another envelope, brightly colored and stamped with the words ?ballot enclosed,? visible even from inside the car parked across the street.  

?I want you to know something: today took a lot of hard work, and planning. I?ve been shadowing mail carriers several days a week for months. And we?ve had Jezebel and some others tracking down names, addresses. And then there?s getting other mail carriers to work with us. You want to hand me the first stack of junk mail and my bag? Oh, and I?ll need three cards from that box you picked up at the printers. But don?t look- remember, it?s a surprise.?

Lisa handed her the supplies. ?You slide over into the driver?s seat, and stay in the car, lock the door until I say it?s okay. If anyone but me comes, you gun the fucking engine and get out of Dodge.?

Mae got out of the car, and the mail carrier delivered the ballot to a house practically covered in pink lace. The three men Lisa had seen started walking faster towards her.

Mae set her bag on the hood, and unzipped it. She pulled out an M4 carbine with an under-barrel M203 grenade launcher. ?Fucksticks!? she yelled, to get the three men?s attention. They had just enough time to turn towards her and panic at the sight of the gun before she fired a grenade.

It spouted smoke at them, and after a few short seconds they dropped onto the concrete. The mail carrier nodded at Mae, and continued on her way. Mae signaled for Lisa to follow. Lisa got out of the car, and walked with Mae across the street to the unconscious men.

?The grenades contain Kolokol-1, kind of the Russian equivalent to Buzz; it?s an aerosolized opioid. Functions like a knock-out gas, but really I just gave those men an airborne overdose. It?s pretty fucking deadly in an enclosed space, but out in the open air,? Mae took in a deep breath.

She handed Lisa her phone, the bundled junk mail, and a knife. Mae retrieved an jet injector from her bag. ?I?m going to give them naloxone, which should prevent them from dying.?

?I need you to capture their picture with the phone.? Lisa took a picture of the first man. ?We?ve got an ap on there that will compare their image with a database of jackasses who we?ve spotted following mail carriers around, and identified.? Several other images of the man, taken from farther away, popped up, followed by a name, Roger Garrety. ?The junk mail corresponds to the men in that database; it?s three weeks of it addressed to their homes. Match it to the men, and put one of the cards on top of the stack.?

Lisa used the knife to cut through the string keeping the mail bundled, and was finished with the first two men by the time Mae went back to her bag. This time she pulled out a nailgun. She positioned Roger?s mail over his crotch, along with the card, and nailed it in place. For the first time Lisa paid attention to the lovely brush script printed on the card, which read, ?Respect your mail carrier.?

Mae nailed the second man?s junk mail in place, and saw that Lisa hadn?t finished with the last man, yet. Then she saw the questioning look on Lisa?s face. ?They?ve been threatening mail carriers. We just want them to know we can find them where they live, too.?

?I don?t think they live on the streets; this is where they work. Unless you?re saying they?re all nomadic homeless people, which on a mail carrier?s salary might make sense?? Lisa finished confirming a match for the third man, and arranged the card and junk mail for Mae.

?Well pardon me for streamlining.? Mae said, and nailed the last bundle.  

Mae packed up her tools, and zipped up the bag. Lisa led her back towards the car. She could make out Mae whistling the tune to Up on the Housetop. ?You?re whistling Christmas carols- and that?s still months away.?

?I know. I feel like Santa Clause, only not fat, and my sack is full of ass-beatings and buckshot.? They got in the car, and Mae started the engine.

But one thing puzzled Lisa. ?How?d we know those three would be first?? she asked.

?They aren?t bright. If they were changing things up, you know, different men stalking different carriers, we might have had to go through those bundles in the back, but like clockwork, it?s only ever the same few men. And hey, their sloppiness helps streamline our process.?

Mae caught up with the mail carrier as she walked away from another house down the street. Lisa could read the name Sue stitched onto the silver-haired woman?s uniform. Mae rolled down her window. ?You owe me,? she said, and held two fingers on either side of her mouth and wagged her tongue.

?You are such a slut,? Sue said with a smile.

?You take care,? Mae said, and put her foot down on the accelerator.

?So, you and Sue?? Lisa said.

?God no, it?d be like banging my mom. Just friends.?

?I didn?t think those words were in your vocabulary.?

?I might be a sexual omnivore, but not all meats are created equal; I?m not saying an older woman?s bits go bad, exactly, but the meat isn?t supple anymore, it?s tough and stringy.?

?You seem fixated on meat,? Lisa said. ?You want a burger, don?t you??

She stepped on the gas. ?You read my mind.?

05/25/12

  06:48:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 865 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Chinaman's Chance

?The Chinese like their big fucking shows of force,? Ken said, ?like we used to, when we had the budget for it. Or maybe it?s their way of getting back at us for a century?s worth of little dick jokes. Either way, expect a Chinese wall- maybe even thick and throbbing enough to see from space.?

Dr. Pierce didn?t like being separated from his hive-mind; he also didn?t like representing medical. He was even less comfortable when they went through the doors into the conference room. There were thirty men and women crowded onto the opposite side of the table. Most of them had been flown over from China, just to show that they could afford the expense. There were a few seat-fillers from admin on the US side, but he was the only one Ken had specifically asked for in the meeting. Ken sat down, and he sat down in the open seat next to him. Dr. Pierce heard one of the seat-fillers whisper something about an ambassador, and nod at the middle of the Chinese side, in the chair next to Angwuo.

The Ambassador started to speak at a fast clip. Ken had specifically refused an interpreter; he spoke just enough Chinese to mess up his order at the Silver Dragon near his home. ?Listen, you can Ching Dowdy Dodo at me until the moo goo gai pan comes home. But personally, I could care less if you can buy and sell my government. My concerns exist entirely within the realm of my program, my budget, and the safety of my people. And when one of your people is one of my people, that includes them, too.?

?Ang?s condition meant he wasn?t fit for spaceflight, especially not the long-term and possibly interminable. We put someone on the ship with his condition and we artificially put the mission on a ticking clock- your boy doesn?t get back before his insulin supply runs out and he?s dead. That reduces our ability to fine-tune based on conditions to nearly zero, and puts everyone on the crew at risk.?

?I like Ang, personally. I selected him for the team in the first place because he?s competent, skilled, and not the kind of showboating dickwad who puts himself over his crewmates. That?s maybe why I take offense, on his behalf, for you parading him around to win debate team points. I still see him as one of my own.?

?We are pleased to hear this,? the Ambassador said with a smile, and Ken knew he'd stepped in something. ?Because we know there are openings for the Lunar Station. Given his aforementioned skills, and your personal liking of him, we assume you will have no difficulties in securing him a place on the Station.?

?You?re skipping over the vast expanse that was my middle point, between the inflammatory shit I said to start, and the man-hugging that made up the end. He?s got a medical condition that puts him, and those who rely upon him, at risk.?

?Ah, but as I understand it, your Lunar Station was recently made diabetic friendly, by the addition of bacterial reactors capable of synthesizing human proteins. One of them has been successfully batching human insulin with e. Coli for five months straight.?

Ken narrowed his eyes. ?Medical??

Dr. Pierce swallowed. ?Uh, they?re correct. Bacterial reactors were installed on the Lunar Station eight months ago. There were a few kinks to work out, the low fluid shear environment of space, where liquids basically roll off cells without exerting much force, affects molecular genetic regulators, but, uh, the reactors are regularly churning out hormones, including insulin.?

?Well all right, then. Assuming everything sounds like it sounds right now, we ought to be able to clear a seat at the table for him. I?m not making promises; we got to make sure we cross our Is? the other man glared at him; ?I said cross, not slant. We?ve been bouncing this ball back and forth long enough I?ve gotten used to your?

?inscrutable ways?? the other man offered with a smile.

?desire to paint me and my country in a less than favorable light. You are an oxen?s ass.?

?Oxen in my country symbolize patience, tenacity and steadiness. And much of an ox?s strength comes from its haunches.?

?Yeah, well you smell like an oxen?s ass, too.?

?There?s no culture in the world where that?s complimentary.? He swallowed. ?But I didn?t come for platitudes. I want a timeline.?

?Next resupply of the Lunar Station is 8 weeks away. Unless you?re looking to pony up the dough to expedite?

?I?ve procured a sum large enough to cover the cost of the launch and the resupply.?

?We?ll be in touch,? Ken said, standing up, and he walked out of the room. It took Dr. Pierce a moment to realize he was being abandoned, and he scrambled to his feet and out the door. Ken was waiting on the other side for him. ?What was that shit about a ?low fluid shear environment???

?Some diseases are more infectious- and aggressive- in space.?

?Like syphilis??

?I don?t know that we?ve tested syphilis.?

?Not in a lab setting,? Ken said, and smiled.

05/19/12

  09:22:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 884 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .08: False Start

It was hard to reconcile my job and the realities of it with the world I'd always known. According to my coworker, a lot of women were dirty rotten scoundrels. I couldn't tell if that was the usual, jaded cop bullshit, or if she understood something innately that I had only just heard about- one of those hard truths it takes most of a lifetime to finally swallow.

I hoped she was wrong, because hers was a much darker, much bleaker world- and the one I'd always known was crappy enough.

I scheduled my shift so I could so I could shadow Deborah Gladstone at work, which after I parked outside her ad firm, I realized was an incredibly ill-conceived idea. She spent the entire time in an office cubicle; but I couldn't get close to her, couldn't monitor her conversations or her interactions or rifle through her things. Any of that would have aroused her suspicions- or at least required a warrant.

At lunch she did go out with her fiancé. They got sandwiches at a little walk up deli. His excitability from a few days before was gone, he was smiling, laughing with her, happy. I caught myself hoping he was a moron, whatever the crime equivalent of a hypochondriac was, that Deborah wasn't eyeing an abortion. For that matter, I hoped Candi was a moron, too, that there were other, better ways to deal with her than to toss her in jail.

I fell asleep more than once, trying to spend my entire day watching Deborah through a pair of binoculars. And I was pretty sure it was going to be a complete bust of a day. I watched her get in her car, and drive off, and I followed her.

I made a deal with myself. If she drove to the apartment she usually shared with Peter, I was going to go home, and collapse. Boss would be pissy I didn't write up my daily report first, but I'd spent all fucking day in a car, and my entire body from my upper lip down was alternatively asleep or being jabbed with pins and needles.

But she didn't go to the fiancé's. She drove to an address in Old Town. Most of the buildings there were smaller, cheaper, and less maintained.

But this one I recognized. They called it the Old Maid, because it was one of the women-only housing projects- rent-controlled and strictly for single females. There were more like it all over the city. Women who couldn't afford a better place, ended up places like it. It was a step up from the slums, but not a very big step.

The reason I knew it was because during my time riding along with the arson desk, somebody tossed a Molotov through one of the first floor windows. We all but traced it back to a men's rights group, but we couldn't get any evidence to stick to them. They did it- no question- but there's a big difference between what you know and what you can prove, and only one of them matters in a court of law.

I followed her inside. A woman was getting a package out of her mailbox in the lobby and she fixed me with a knowing glare. The name on the box was E. Kowalski. ?They're very particular about male visitors,? she said.

?I'm going to be real quick, just taking my strictly platonic, lesbian coworker out for a movie,? I told her, and ran up the steps to catch up to Deborah. She stopped at the fourth floor, and went down the hall. I walked quickly behind her, pretending to be focused on a doorway down the hall as she went inside an apartment. I touched the door at the end of the hall, then walked back out much more slowly.

On the street I called Candi; her shift had just started. ?I followed Deborah to that women's housing on Grant.?

?We've suspected for weeks that they set up a clinic there. But without more to go on, even the most pro-life judge in the county isn't going to give us a blanket warrant for the entire building.?

?Well, I followed her into the building, and I got a look inside the apartment she was going to, however briefly. And they've got an ultrasound machine inside.?

?That sounds like probable cause- and the successful end of your first case. In record time. I'm nearly impressed enough to ask you to dinner.?

?Nearly??

?I wouldn't want it to seem like I'm throwing myself at you or anything.?

Deborah walked out of the building, in tears. ?How long does the procedure take??

?Well, if the fiancé can be trusted, then she's past the point of just taking a pill. So fifteen at a breakneck, reckless pace. But more likely an hour plus. Why??

?Because she just walked out, after maybe two minutes.?

?Fuck. That probably drops a deuce on our probable cause.?

?How's that??

?There's nothing inherently illegal about owning an ultrasound machine- or even necessarily suspicious. But that, with the fiancé's testimony, and her spending enough time up the for either the procedure or at least a check-up... but it gets us an apartment number. It's several steps toward the finish line.?

05/18/12

  09:20:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 745 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Lift Off

Paul had worn the suit before, even underwater. But it felt heavier today. Every step was harder, and felt longer, than any step he'd ever taken. He tried to tell himself that the steps he was taking were little ones, even though the journey they were undertaking was a leap for the species.

But it was more than that. He wasn't alone, after all. His crewmates flanked him on either side. Since he'd returned, they'd been extra protective of him. They'd looked down the Russian barrel of the trip without him, and were happy to have him back.

They paused just once on the walk from the medical labs to their rocket, in front of a gathering of press and family, with a wall of glass behind them, and through that, their transport was visible. They waved, and smiled.

Paul tried not to look for Laura in the crowd, tried not to acknowledge it was the last time he was going to see her for two years, or how much that was kicking him in his guts just then.

He'd hoped she'd take the easy way out. He could handle being single. He'd done it before for what seemed like interminable stretches. But he wasn't sure he could handle a relationship at that distance. After all, that was why his marriage fell apart.

But before the smile the space program's PR team had trained into him could fade, their handlers waved them back on their journey. It was a crisp morning, cool for Florida, though in the suit Paul was still sweating.

?Don't worry,? Ken said over the comm. channel, ?soon as the non-suited crew are clear the AC'll kick on. We don't want you drowning in your own nut juices- and cunt juices, respectively, ladies.?

?If not respectfully,? Alisa said with a smirk. 

?Good,? Paul said, ?thought it was just me.?

?I feel like a microwaving turkey, wrapped in foil,? Levy said. ?And my giblets are very uncomfortable.?   

The hatch closed and sealed. ?Personnel are exiting the launch site. Here comes the AC, and with it, some pressure.?

?Pressure's holding at 1.2 atmospheres,? Clod said.

?Excellent. Errors??

?No unexpected errors.?

?Then you are clear for launch. T minus sixty,? Ken said.

Clod and Martin started flicking switches.

?T minus nine,? Ken said.

?We have engine start,? Martin said.

?Eight, seven, six,? Ken continued.

?Ignition,? Clod said.

Paul was giddy, pressed into his seat; it reminded him of riding the Viper at Six Flags with his father. His dad used to tell him it was the fasted looping coaster in the world- though by then it hadn?t been for years. The Viper?s maximum G force was 4.1, while the launch was only around 3.

?We have mach 1,? Martin said from the captain?s seat.

His dad had died the year before of a heart attack. Paul wondered why he hadn?t caught the tell-tale signs himself, if that was because he had been too wrapped up in his own things, Laura, the space program, his residency. But he forced himself to put the thought out of his head.

?We have booster separation.? Martin said. ?Second-stage engine start?

?Ignition,? Clod said.

Paul?s father had given him his love of space-flight, and before he?d been tall enough to ride the Viper, they rode Space Mountain together at Disneyland. He could still hear the recording from the queue, reminding him to stow his hat or glasses, and ending, ?You are now ready for your intergalactic adventure, thank you and have a great flight."

The engines cut out, and a moment later they were in zero gravity.

?Holy crap,? Levy said, my first zero g boner. Krrrtk, Houston, we have an erection.?

?This is an open channel, dumbass,? Ken said. ?And you don?t have to make the squawky sound.?

?Oh,? Levy said. ?Are we there yet??

?The trip to the moon takes four days.?

?Oh. Are we there yet??

?Somebody, please, hit him,? Clod said.

?There?s no point,? Paul said. ?In the suit, he wouldn?t feel it.?

?Damnit. NASA?s built a nerd I can?t hurt.?

?Trip to the moon takes a few days,? Ken said, ?and it?ll be a few days more while they?re assembling the Phallus in lunar orbit.?

Paul exhaled. He?d been weightless before, for the handful of seconds the trainer jets allowed. But this was different. Every problem he'd ever had, ever insecurity and negative emotion, it fell back to the Earth, yanked away from him by gravity. He was free.

05/13/12

  09:23:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 3610 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .07: On The Wall

Lisa had never climbed up a fire escape before. And she?d certainly never done it following a muscular woman holding a rifle nearly as long as she was tall. ?So what?d you do before this?? Lisa asked.

The top few rungs of the escape leading to the roof had been broken off with bolt cutters, and Mae stopped. ?I was a housewife,? Mae said.

?Oh,? said Lisa.

?And a designated marksman in the Corps,? Mae grinned, and handed her the rifle. Then she jumped for the roof ledge, and caught it with her fingers.

Mae grunted as she kicked her legs, trying to do a pull up with just the first knuckle's worth of her fingers barely clawing over the ledge. Lisa leaned her shoulder into the wall, and Mae put her foot on it to get a better grip, and pulled herself up.

Mae reached down for the rifle. Lisa handed it to her, and she set it down on top of the roof. Then she reached back down for Lisa, and helped pull her up.

On the roof, Mae kneeled down by the ledge facing north. ?You should stay down,? she said. ?They call these buildings the Wall; it?s not hard to see why.? The buildings were close enough for nearly a mile that you could easily move from rooftop to rooftop. Those that weren?t close enough to simply step between had pieces of sheet metal or boards between them.

She ejected the magazine, checked that it was full and that the rounds were properly loaded, and slid it back into the rifle. She chambered a round, and slid the safety off. Then she loosened the bolt on the Weaver mount of her scope, and slid it off the Picatinny rails on top of the rifle. She held it up to her eye like a telescope.

?Sometimes those mens? rights assholes set up counter-snipers up here. Doesn?t hurt to be careful. You got those binoculars??

?Yeah?? Lisa said quietly, but she was distracted. Mae noticed.

?You okay??

?Yeah, I?m just?? she sighed. ?No. Not even remotely. Two days ago I was a secretary at an elementary school. Yesterday I failed to save my neighbor from a fire set by the cops. And today??

?Today you?re trying to help.?

?I don?t even know what that means.?

?Support, mostly. We?ve got another clinic set up, outside the city. This one we?re pretty sure they don?t know the location. But the girl, Merril, had been consulting with Dr. Gerson, so it?s possible the cops have her flagged- hell, it?s likely. That?s why we?re being extra cautious.?

?I?m sorry,? Lisa said. ?You?ve been living with this, but for me it still doesn?t feel real. Everything is just so? fucked up. I didn?t question it, when I had trouble finding co-ed housing. But it was there, all along. How did we get this fucked up??

?I?ve been calling it the ?Lezistrata.? I figure it started as a ploy by some lesbian to beef up the ranks of prospective mates by turning all men into predatory dickbags. And it worked on me. Just like men aren?t gay in prison, ladies aren?t gay in wartime- you just do what you got to do.?

?So you weren't always a lesbian??

?I was married, to a fellow Corpsman. He once broke a man?s jaw for intimating there was something he could do that I couldn?t. When I protested that I could have broke the man?s jaw myself, he said he knew I could have, and would have, but that my hands were too pretty to mangle on some jackass?s face. I loved that man even more than his fabulous dick- and that?s saying a lot, because he had a really fucking fabulous dick.?

?What happened?? Lisa asked.

?He died at the beginning of the war, helping me escape. But the fucked up thing about that is, he would have fought with me. No question. If I?d only asked him to. But instead, I thought I could be all Vietcong, harangue the Dick Army but go back to our home every night and fuck his brains out. But it's men's righters who are the VC. They're cops, firefighters, doctors, they blend back into the population, and you never know who they are until they fuck up your entire world.?

She sighed, and Lisa could sense that Mae didn?t want to talk about it anymore. ?So what are we doing up here??

?That road leaves town. The cops know we use it to get to our clinic. But they don?t know where it is. It?s about the only one road that gets you there- about the only other way is a four hour, circuitous drive. But if Gerson's patients were flagged, a meandering country jaunt is nearly as likely to get them caught in a roadblock as the straight run.?

?But if they know your route, isn't it only a matter of time before they find the clinic.?

?Yeah. And we want to move the clinic, but it?s a tactical problem, and one whose solution is complicated, since it?s hard to move that much medical equipment without drawing attention.?

?But if they know the spot, and they might be watching the girl, isn?t this too risky??

?It's less risky than her holding off. Her pregnancy is ectopic. She?s in real danger of Fallopian rupture, which is serious- go into shock and die, serious. And that's why we're being careful. And why she's meeting Clint down there.?  

?Why Clint??

?We typically use male escorts. For one, it makes it harder for them to profile- they can't just harass every group of women leaving town by that road. And most of the MRAs are old-school misogynists; two women who knew nothing about our clinic got raped on this road two weeks ago; we're pretty sure they were targeted because the men thought they were with us.?

A little of Lisa's rage from the previous night came up. It was still impossible for her to deny that Anna and Mae were at least provacateurs. ?Doesn't that bother you? Women are getting raped because of what you're- we're- doing.?

?Of course it bothers me. But it also makes it more important that we do what we do. They're willing to use fear, and violence- even sexual violence- to cow us. That's why we can't yield. If it's this bad while we still have the will to resist, imagine what they'd be like if we let them win.?

?They might just leave us alone,? Lisa said.

?They might. Until you did something that didn't particularly sit right with them- say, not cooking his dinner quite right. And then you get a pop in the mouth. And that's not so bad, right? But it gets so he's beating you two or three times a week- a misplaced slipper here, a stubborn mustard stain there- and we might as well be back in a cave waiting for a man to bring us a mastadon steak.?

?You can't think it'd get that bad.?

?I never seriously thought a woman's right to choose would be taken away, our that access to birth control would be curtailed. And I never thought women's healthcare- and I'm talking pap smears and, and fucking mastectomies- would go the way of the back-alley abortionist. Or that we'd go back to back-alley abortion. But we're past the edges of the map, here; that's why I'm less surprised now that we've found monsters.? 

?You keep talking about men's rights, but it was the police who shot up my building, and it was they who set it on fire.?

?Men's rights activists- the term's a perverse joke at this point, because its not even a kind euphemism for misogynists, anymore- are everywhere. It doesn't take a wild leap of self-centered logic for men in authority to be swayed to the idea that gender equality is a zero-sum game. And in a way, it is. Because to get to equality, that means removing privileges from men, and giving rights to women. I mean, it's good to do that, but I get why it pisses some men off. I just wish they would take it in stride- my husband was that way; they were born lucky- but that doesn't entitle them to keep that luck the rest of their lives. You synched your watch up, right??

?Yeah, this morning, with Anna.?

?What time is it??

?Fifteen after two.?

?That gives us ten more minutes- which in sniping is crunch time. I want you keeping an eye out through those binoculars. We're more concerned about trucks and vans. They usually arrive in force- like they're worried if they didn't we'd start a firefight in the streets. But keep an eye out for men in uniform, or armed; also let me know if you see a glint of light coming from cover. That could mean there's a counter-sniper out there after all- or at least that they've got someone spotting.?

?And if there is, I introduce them to my lanky friend, here.? she tapped the side of her rifle. ?It fires one of these,? Mae handed her a round longer than her hand was wide. ?This is a Raufoss. It?s a .50 caliber anti-materiel projectile. It?s classified as such because using one on a human being is against all kinds of treaties, because it produces unnecessary suffering. That?s because the Raufoss utilizes an armor-piercing tungsten core, and an explosive and an incendiary component. The bullet will penetrate about a foot before it goes kablooey, so against an unarmored human, it?s basically a normal round. Through the side of a vehicle, or somebody wearing some extreme armor- it'll blast their spine through their backs like shrapnel, and leave a burning crater behind.?

?We're using the Raufoss because as a sniper in a support capacity, you never know what you're going to need to kill in a hurry- it's versatile. It'll kill people just fine, but it's also effective against vehicles and other materiel.?

?.50 caliber is also interesting domestically, because it's the maximum allowable bore before a firearm became considered a destructive device under the National Firearms Act of 1934- of course, that was before it was repealed- ahem, sorry, something in my throat, I meant replaced- with absolutely nothing.?

?You know, they?ve talked about taking all of our guns away? I mean, Anna, Jeanine, maybe even Ofelia, by dint of having the brand, they?ve de facto already lost their right to bear arms; there?s no one who will sell to them, not even at a gun show. And women carrying guns they didn't buy legally have started getting charges they used to reserve for gangs and traffickers. But the ?Congress,? if you can hold back the retching long enough to call them that, they?ve been talking about removing the right to bear arms from all women, making it only legal for them to have a firearm owned by their husband or male benefactor, and only legal to ever use to protect their ?virtue.??

?It's un-fucking-believable; they still refuse to close the gun show loophole, years after the preeminent terrorist organization in the world publically stated gun shows was their preferred way for terrorists to get their guns. Because of a weird politcal cross-sectional thing, the people who attend gun shows are mostly men's righters, or at least sympathizers; gun shows are basically traveling men's rights rallies. It?s straight-up dangerous for a branded woman to go walking into a gun show, let alone try to walk out with a firearm.?

?It used to be, MUPOF and their splinter groups, they?d just brand a woman and set her loose. That was all they had to do. You think a woman with an ?A? burned into her eye gets a call back after a job interview? You think a woman with a ?W? scar healing over her cheek can keep her job for longer than the week it takes her boss to get up the courage up to fire her for a pretext??

?And it isn't even that all men agree with this shit. But it's a reminder to them, of how bad things have gotten, and the fact that they can't protect the women in their lives. It's emasculating. And you know how fucking catty women can be; they look down their noses at us, because it could never happen to them.?

?But those fucks decided it wasn?t enough to turn women into outcasts who can't feed themselves. We still weren?t properly fearing them, so they started raping women they caught. But it?s gotten so that we look back with fondness on the days where you?d just get raped. The militias have started abducting women. They can?t just brutalize them in one go; no, that was too humane. So they beat them, and rape them, over and over again. The goal is to utterly break the woman, so they can send her back, so that women who buck the system can see what's waiting for them. I'd rather not come back, than come back like that.?

?But that's what this whole thing is about: quality of life. If you just want to survive, hey, you can hold that aspirin between your knees until you're married, then give your husband as many children as he wants- or more likely, spread for him as often as he wants which results in more children than probably anybody wants. Your only real mortal threats there are an abusive husband or hemorrhaging. But it also isn?t living, except in the most rudimentary sense.?

She slid her scope back onto her rifle's rails, and tightened down the bolt to keep it steady. ?We just want what the Founding Fathers wanted, what slaves wanted, what the sufferagette movement took the first step towards; we want control over our lives, and sovereignty over our bodies. That?s a life of quality.?

Lisa didn't know what to say to any of that. But she didn't have to figure it out, either, because a voice came over her radio. ?Mayday??

Mae keyed her radio. ?Everything looks clear from the nosebleeds.?

?I'll send him out, then.?

Mae set her radio down. ?SOP is to let the man come out, first. Again, it's because he's the least likely to get any flak. When the girl spots him she should come- there, running out from behind a tree. She must have had a good spot, since I didn't see her before now.?

?And there's our mystery man, coming out of the? Mae stopped watching through the scope, and raised her radio. ?It?s supposed to be Clint. What the fuck??

?She didn?t trust him. Something about his face. So Mike?s taking her.?

?And nobody thought to tell me??

?I thought you knew.?

?Well, obviously not. Things are otherwise Kosher??

?As a circumcised wang.?

?God do I envy Israeli women?? Mae said; she hadn't keyed her radio for that last part. ?Though I can completely see what she means about Clint. With that little half-beard, his mouth looks like the first rug I ever munched, back in college.?

?I'll take that as a compliment,? he said from behind them. Lisa dropped her binoculars from the surprise, but they swung harmlessly along the leather strap around her neck.

?You little shit,? Mae said.  

?When Anna said last minute, she meant just a few minutes ago. I was supposed to meet her inside one of the buildings, and did, but she was spooked, and said she wouldn't go with me. Mike stepped in, which is mostly luck, since it was beyond short notice. It's also... a little more dangerous, since it's a meet out in the open.?

?You just had to jinx it,? Mae said, her finger resting on the trigger.

?What? What do you see??

?Armed men, three of them, approaching.?

?Wait,? Clint said. ?Could just be a random foot patrol or-?

?I know my job,? she told him. ?I only fire if I think they're going to attack. Crap, gun!? Lisa heard the gunshot echo along the wall of buildings. ?He shot Mike,? Mae said, ?right in the head.? She took a deep breath to calm herself down. Then she exhaled, and while the breath was still trickling out of her she pulled the trigger.

Lisa watched as the man with the pistol's throat erupted in a cloud of pink mist. A fraction of a second later, the air behind the three men exploded, and fire leapt at their backs.

?He'll bleed out, eventually, but the dinguses with him will be focused on saving his life- after they put themselves out.? The man with the pistol fell to his knees, then on his face. His back was smoldering, and a large puddle was collecting under his neck. The others with him dropped onto the ground and rolled. ?Now, run, Goddamnit,? Mae said, trying to will the girl to move. But she was frozen, staring off.

?It's an ambush,? Anna said through the radio. ?Provide cover as long as you can, but I have to get out.?

One of the two officers went to help the gunshot man, but the other stood, and drew a revolver. He braced his arms to steady the pistol; Mae recognized the way his muscles were tensing as he prepared to fire.

?Godspeed,? Mae said, as she pulled the trigger a second time, and the man's chest opened up as the Raufoss punched a hole through his heart. This time the bullet's exit trajectory put it within a foot of the other two men before it erupted into a ball of force and fire. Ironically, the man who'd been trying to keep the throat-shot cop alive took the brunt of it- probably saving the other man's life. But it killed him, and without him to keep pressure on the other man's throat wound, he would be dead in seconds.

?Run, you goddamned idiot,? Mae said. Then she saw why Merril was frozen. A column of men were marching towards her down the street. They'd hardly sped up when the gunfire started; it was only then that Lisa realized only seconds had passed since the first shot had been fired.

?I love it when assholes bunch up like a soccer team.? Mae put a round through the first man on the left. It punched a hole through his forehead, and blew brains and skull into the man behind him; but he didn't have a chance to worry about it, because the bullet caught him in the throat, right before it exploded.

She knew she wasn't going to get another opportunity like this, so she fired the other two shots in the magazine into the center of the group, not even waiting long enough to target anything more specific than the navy mass of bodies. ?Magazine,? she bellowed.

Lisa stared helplessly at the girl through the binoculars. Finally she ran, away from the buildings. ?Type?? Clint asked, realizing that Lisa probably had no idea she was supposed to help with the reload.

?Regular's good,? Mae said. ?Lots of flesh targets.?

Clint reached into the bag Mae had been carrying, and pulled out a magazine with a blue dot on it. She handed him the spent magazine, and he put it into a separate pouch in the bag while she loaded the fresh one.

The column of cops were hardly moving. At least a few of them would live, but they weren't Mae's concern, anymore, because they weren't even crawling.

?Shit, car,? Lisa said, pointing. ?Cars. They're going to cut her off.? The cars came down the road from out of town, and slid to a stop so that they entirely blocked the road.

The girl turned back towards the buildings. But a second group of cops were spreading out towards her. They were deliberately keeping their distance from one another to limit the effectiveness of the Raufoss rounds.

Mae put a bullet through the door of the first police cruiser, and into the cop hiding behind it. That chastened the others in the cars- they weren't getting out, at least not for a few more seconds. And that gave her time to put a round through the hip of one of the cops advancing. But one of the others pointed up towards the rooftop where they were.    

Clint noticed. ?Mayday, we need to bug the fuck out of here.? She fired again. ?You can't kill every man in North America. We need to go.? She fired again. ?The new meat won't be able to make it out of here without you.? She fired again. And pulled the trigger again, but this time the hammer fell on an empty chamber. Mae sighed.

?Yeah. Spineless weasel though you may be, you're right. Living to fight another day is more important than going out slathered in the geysering spray from bullet wounded dicks. But I need one more.?

?Mae,? he said, but he was already in the bag for another magazine.

?For the girl,? she said, as she exchanged the old mag for the new. She slapped it in, slid the bolt back, and sighted her in. ?I'm sorry,? she whispered, and exhaled, and while she did, she fired. ?And for good luck,? she stood up, and fired a round each through the engines of the two patrol cars. ?That ought to slow their pursuit.?

?Did you just kill two cars?? Lisa asked, a little impressed.

?Yeah,? Mae said, ?and an innocent girl. Definitely not chalking today up as a win.? She handed the rifle to Clint, walked over to the edge of the roof and jumped down onto the fire escape.

05/12/12

  09:20:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 611 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Sleepless

Paul slept God-awfully. Of course, that might have had something to do with spending the last year sharing his bed. Or the fact that Ken wouldn't leave the room.

?I swear, I don't know how to sleep without her,? Paul said.

?You'll learn,? Ken said. ?But NASA doesn't do conjugal visits. Not my idea, I'm afraid. But after one of the ISS astronauts caught a case of syphilis from a hooker that didn't show on his labs until he was on the station... well, that mistake cost us millions, because previously we didn't keep enough Penicillin G in space for the high dosage he needed. I suppose that?s moot, as we would have had to space taxi him down anyway.?

?Though we might never have known; he only got diagnosed after he gave a pretty hilarious lecture to an eighth grade science class. You ever seen a man try to explain evolution while in the grips of the advanced stages of syphilitic madness? I have. I'll upload the video to your drive on the Phallus.?

?So you're going to keep calling it that, then? You?re never going to call it the Perseus, are you?? Paul asked.

?It's not my fault our interplanetary ark looks like a dick. How could I call it anything else? And the preliminary drawings were even worse. It had balls.?

?They were storage pods, that could be ejected-?

?After ejaculation??

?After they'd been used up. It's just a bit weird to me that our ground controller isn't going to even acknowledge the official name of our ship. Isn't that some kind of bad luck??

His grin faded. ?In my years, the only thing I've noticed as consistently bad luck is mentioning luck, period.?

?I'd knock on some wood, but our little love bungalo seems to be constructed entirely out of space-age plastics.?

?And asbestos. But only because I refuse to let them gut this place. And if you need some wood...?

?Withdrawn.?

?But it's hardwood,?

Paul sighed. ?The sick thing is, I'm actually going to miss this.?

?My penis??

?Well, talking about your penis. Though saying that out loud, I'm not sure that's any better.?

?Everything's better with my penis.?

?I'm going to Mars in the morning. So why is it I can't think of anything other than the girl I'm leaving behind??

?Because she has nice tits??

?She does, at that, and I'm sure in the coming months, I'll miss them. But I really don't think it's as simple as that.?

?You know, I caught hell, when I first suggested we weed out candidates who were married. But when we looked at the stats, we saw an increase- basically, candidates with a lousy home life put more into the job, and performance showed it. Especially outside the atmosphere- people without a home don?t get homesick so easy.? 

?Then we started weeding out people who were in long-term, committed relationships. That we had to be quieter about, using private investigators to dig into people?s trash and things like that. Had you been a thing with Laura when you joined up, we would have bounced you. Hell, if I?d found out before you made the primary team, I?d have personally told you to cut her loose or lose your slot.?

Ken sighed. ?You aren't making a mistake,? he said. ?Twenty-two year olds come and go, or, if they're at my place, they come and come and go. But space, she's the dream girl.?

?You've jerked off to space, haven't you??

?You haven't? An astronaut who hasn't pleasured himself to mistress space? If anything's bad luck...? he trailed off.

?Knock on wood?? Paul asked.

Ken grinned. ?I already was.?

05/06/12

  09:40:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1074 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .06: Deborah

?Go home,? Detective Campbell said, setting her briefcase down on the desk all of us in gender crimes shared.  

?I?m only through eight of my twelve,? I told her.

?I thought you started midway through Gottfried?s shift so you could shadow him.?

?Yeah, but I needed to know about the job- not about the best chocolate-frosted chocolate-sprinkled chocolate donut in the metro area. So I asked the chief of detectives if I could work my twelve with four hours? overlap onto your shift. I made a reasonable excuse for it; shouldn?t get Bob in any trouble. But I get the impression, maybe wrongly, that you?re the engine that powers this department, or this desk, anyway. That?s why I sent over my latest file for you to go over. I wanted your thoughts on it.?

She sighed, and pulled over a chair from an empty neighboring desk. ?I?ve been telling the brass that what we need in this department is more women- no offense.?

?None taken.?

?Getting into the female psyche- it?s difficult. They?re tricky, in a way that male criminals aren?t. I mean, there are, technically speaking, male gender criminals. But they?re few and far between. This is mostly an all girl school of crime.?

?I get that- in the same way that there are more men involved with vice- since there?s a much better than one to one ratio of johns to prostitutes, without even factoring in the pimps.? My hand brushed hers on the desk. ?Sorry, not used to sharing the space,? and I realized at that moment I?d never heard her first name, ?Detective Campbell.? 

?That was awkward,? she smiled. ?But it?s Candi, with an ?I.? Apparently my parents wanted me to become a stripper. But wouldn?t you know it, most clubs won?t let you carry a gun- and that was a real deal breaker for me.? For the first time, I paid attention to the fact that she was pretty, in the mode of a starlet from the forties, maybe Veronica Lake. She had blonde hair put up in a bun, and wore a pair of thick-framed glasses.

?If I had a dime for every man who came onto me with some variation on wanting to suck on me or eat me- well, I wouldn?t have enough to retire, but I?d finally at least be able to put in for matching funds on my 401k.? She smiled, touched my arm and squeezed it, and my heart beat a little faster. 

I picked up my tablet, and opened up the file to try and give myself a second to calm down. ?Deborah Gladstone seems like a nice American girl,? I said. ?Good Christian upbringing, graduated college and is already most of the way through paying off her student debt. Excellent worker, clean habits.?

?So what makes a good girl go bad?? Candi asked, dragging her teeth over her bottom lip. But then she dropped the coy act. ?Selfishness. She went to school to benefit herself. She?s paying back her loans quickly because it saves her money. Better work gets her better pay along the way, along with other perks. You remove the trimmings, and she?s just a girl asking how to make her own life better, easier.?

?That seems like a simplistic reading of the file,? I said, and winced because my critique was likewise harsh, since I was asking for her help.

?It is simple. A pregnant woman meeting with an abortionist is conspiracy to commit gender crime; her fiancé already suspects her of that. And she knew better. First offender, maybe she gets a fine and probation. But she?ll probably do time. When you?re at home, cracking a beer, it?s okay to sympathize, and remember that these are people, and they probably want mostly the same things you or I do. But when you get here, and step behind that shield, you?ve got a job to do. This is friendly advice, and I?d give it on any other desk: don?t question the job. Narcotics is going to keep putting away more brown people than white, and our desk is going to keep locking up schoolgirls. The system doesn?t change- it changes you. The sooner you wrap your head around that, the happier you?ll be, both here and in life.? 

?I understand what you?re saying, completely,? I said, ?and if you want we can drop it. But just once, before I stop caring, you?re a woman, and this is a mostly female crime, if only because they have motive, means and opportunity that men don?t- can?t, really. So I want to know how you feel about it.? 

?Because you?re just a glutton for punishment??

?Something like that.?

?I think they?re murderous whores. Deborah Gladstone might look like a good girl on paper, but her predicament is of her own making; if she hadn?t been slutting it up, she wouldn?t be pregnant. And now she?s thinking about killing an innocent child to get away from the consequences of it. Whatever kind of good person she might have started as- she isn?t that, anymore.? She was still pretty, but her red lips put me in mind of the apple from Snow White, beautiful, moist, succulent, but not just poisoned- damning- in the same way the apple had been for Adam and Eve. But when she smiled I forgot all about self-preservation, all about that pit of fear she put in my stomach.  ?I showed you mine??

?I suppose turn-about?s fair play, but you?ll probably feel cheated. Because it?s not something I?ve really thought about. I guess I always figured? that it wasn?t my choice, or my place. I?m never going to be pregnant, so it?d be hard for me, in good conscience, to claim to know how or why or what should be done.? She raised an eyebrow. ?Or maybe I?m just reluctant, as a white male, to start telling women what to do.?

?But I?m not asking you to play dictator and pass laws; I'm not even asking how you feel about the current laws, because they weren't always the way they are now. I?m asking what you think is right.?

?I don?t know.?

?That?s not a good answer. And living with it?s not going to get any easier on this job. You need to make up your mind.? She picked up her tablet and went to the coffee pot. I didn?t like being left with that much to think about.

05/05/12

  09:51:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 786 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Laura

Paul sighed. It was his last night on Earth, at least for the next few years. And it was going to be at least that long before he?d hold Laura again. She was sitting with him on a blanket, under stars, but tonight, so close to touching them, he couldn?t pull his eyes away from her.

?I love you, and we?ve had-? he stopped, to compose himself, to put a little more firmness in his voice. ?I love the time I spent with you. But you?re 22. I?ll be gone for almost a tenth of how long you?ve been alive. And there?s so much here that you?ll be missing out on if you?re staring up at the sky and pining away for me.?

?Fuck you. You?re not leaving me to go to the Moon.?

?And Mars.?

?I?m not a fucking child, and you?re not my fucking father- and not just for how very gross that would make us screwing. So stop trying to make decisions for me, or protect me. Or are you looking for a license to fool around? I?ve seen the press conferences, the way the butch lesbian looks at you.?

?If she?s a lesbian why would she?

?Okay, maybe she?s not a lesbian, but the one with the short, milspec hair who stands like she?s trying to pass for a boy.?

?I?m not looking to screw around. God, I was celibate for a year after my wife left me, being in a pod and separated from most temptation should make that easier. But you won?t be. And what I?m saying is you should do what you want to do.?

?I want to be with you, doing you.?

?I know, babe. But you can?t. Because I have to go. This is me, doing what I want to do. And I?m saying you should have that same right, that same freedom. If you want to try and wait for me, I love a good love story, and that sounds perfect to me. But if you find yourself wanting to move on, do something else, with your time, with yourself? I want you to be happy. Whatever that means, whatever it takes for you to get there.?

?I can?t believe you?re leaving me for space.?

?In fairness, I  fell in love with her first. And she?s got more badonkadonk.?

?Badonka- wow. You are such an old man.? She snuggled into his shoulder. ?But you?re my old man.?

?You shouldn?t- I?m not holding you to that.?

?Well I am. Hurry back to me.?

?It?s two years, and we?re not exactly dawdling. We?ll be moving faster than any humans ever have- discounting the speed the Earth travels around the sun, anyway.?

?Well double-time it, old man. I?m not going to wait forever.?

?You don?t have to wait at all.?

She kissed him. ?Just shut the fuck up and go to Mars.?

It had been a tradition, for as long as Ken had been around to observe it, for astronauts to meet for a drink the night before a flight. They weren?t supposed to. But that didn?t stop them.

Ken had already made the rounds by the time Paul arrived, and was sitting on a stool at the bar with Paul?s drink waiting in front of an open seat. Paul told him about Laura, and how damn hard she made leaving.

?You?re a stronger man than I am,? Ken said. ?You?re no spring chicken. That could be the last early-twenties year old who spreads her legs for you. From here on out you could be looking down the unshorn beaver of mid thirties to mid forties spinsters, not a pretty landscape, I can assure you.?

?You don?t so much date as screw drunks and hire prostitutes cheap enough to afford on your government salary, so I?m not sure how much weight to give to your advice.?

?Not advice, so much as? nostalgia, envy. You know that old saying, youth is wasted on the young, and those young and handsome enough to bed the young. And that girl was young, nubile, perky. Now space has some beautiful tits on her, but she?s a prick tease; just when you think you?re about to reach out and touch her majesty, she pulls away. Her coyness only makes her more alluring, but you?re never going to touch them, Paul; man is never meant to cop that feel.?

?So? like Lucy with the football in Peanuts??

?Why would you ruin my beautiful tit-based metaphor with a fucking children?s cartoon? Now I feel skeevy, and it?ll be at least a day before I can enjoy schoolgirl porn again.?

?So rent something else.?

?I said I wouldn?t enjoy it, not that I wasn?t going to watch it.?

04/28/12

  05:11:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1919 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores: .05 Shelter

Lisa woke up coughing. ?You inhaled a lot of smoke.? She tensed up. The last man she'd spoken to had patently refused to help her rescue women from a burning building, so hearing a man's voice now was the opposite of comforting.

He noticed, but didn't take it personally. ?My name's Clint. I know the firefighter you talked to. When you tried to play hero, he got you out of the building.?

?My neighbor?? she asked.

?Didn't make it. She was dead when you found her. She was probably dead when you asked him to stick his entire neck out for her. But he saved you- exposing himself to no small amount of risk.?

?I never even got his name,? Lisa said sadly.

?Ironically, his last name's Freeman, though he might not stay that way were I to give you his first name. You understand I mean no offense. But you're on the fence, at best, right now. And until we have some inkling which way you'll fall, it's silly to let you know our secrets.?

?Fall? I don't under-?

A woman entered the room through a curtained doorway. She had a fierce beauty, but also a soft boyishness, that reminded Lisa of her first crush. And she was flat-chested. Lisa hated breasts. They were uncomfortable, saggy sacks of fat that reminded her how far from her ideal weight she was- and even on other women she preferred them to be practically nonexistant.

?You were supposed to let me know the moment she woke up,? the woman said, glaring at Clint.

?Just did. And we were talking. Which I think was better for her than me bolting out of the room to fetch you.?

?I'm Anna,? she said. She had a 'W' burnt into the middle of her forehead, but the real fire was in her eyes. They were hazel and green, but from where Lisa laid they looked to be on burning, and smoldered. She had messy blonde hair put up in a pony tail. ?This is the Shelter. The men who set fire to your building didn't intend for there to be any survivors. If they knew of you...? she didn't finish. ?But they don't. That was the point of bringing you here. You're safe, now.?

?The fireman had you declared dead, so officially, you're persona nonexistant. And it's crass, and I'm sorry, because you've already been through a lot, but I have to give the pitch. Because we could use your help. The work we do, there aren't a lot of women willing to risk themselves to do it. It's dangerous. And it's thankless. And it's necessary.?

?What do you do, here, exactly?? Lisa asked.

?We provide services to women in need. Shelter. Healthcare. Whatever they may need, that they aren't able to get elsewhere. That's why we were in your building.?

?Wait, you were in the building??

?Not us, obviously. But women we worked with. A doctor, her nurse, and her assistant. They were good people. And they died trying to safeguard women's rights.?

?Women's rights? You're talking about an abortion clinic. You set up an illegal clinic in my building? You brought those fucking psychopaths into my home? Do you know how many women died because of you.?

?Fifty-seven. But they didn't die because of us. They died because... because we couldn't believe they would murder so many women, just to punish us. We never wanted to put anyone in danger. But we didn't have a lot of options,? Anna said, defiantly. ?I'm not trying to sway you. You have your feelings on the subject, and you're welcome to them. But you also have a lot of propaganda, and bullshit, filtering towards you every day. Just, before you decide to storm off, meet the other women here, first, get a feel for what we do, and how we live. Then you'll at least know who it is you're walking away from.?

?Fine.? Lisa felt badly for being so aggressive, but she couldn't stop seeing her neighbor, in those seconds it took her to come crashing down the steps into the lobby. She knew that that never should have happened, and wanted desperately to have someone to hate for it.

 She followed Anna into the next room, and Clint folllowed behind. ?Can I do the honors,? he began, ?seeing as how you're still trying to augment your cool factor being stoic, and I can't shut up??

?Only if you can stay on task,? Anna said.

?Cool. This is Dr. Dowling, and her nurse, Mitchell.? The woman was wearing a pair of floral-printed scrubs, and had her dark hair just long enough to pull back. She wore a pair of thick, rectangular glasses, and seemed to like to play the light off them to hide her eyes. Her nurse was a man, in his fifties, built like a tree-trunk. If it weren't for his baby blue scrubs, he would have looked like a Marine. ?Don't let her frown fool you, she's one of the best doctors on the continent. Especially for all things gyn-ovarian. But unlike most women in her profession, she's still technically board certified- largely because she hasn't been caught, yet.?

?Wow, way to jinx it,? she said, and knocked on their faux-wood table, ?and it's Ellen, by the way.? 

He turned towards a woman nearly as wide as Mitchell, but taller and leaner. She had short hair, cut slightly too long to be a pixie cut, and seemed to stare lustily at every woman in the room, in turn. ?The beefy chica is Mae Watkins- though you'll probably call her 'Mayday' like the rest of us, do.?

?Careful, beef stick.? And the men, too.

?Ignore her subtle come-ons; she's a clinical sex-addict.?

?Says the man who can't keep his eyes off my tits for even ten seconds when you're in the same room with them.? They shared a smile, before he turned to the next woman.

?This charming young lady is Ofelia.? She held up her arm; on the inside of her left forearm, the letters spelling out the first five letters of her name, 'OFELI,' were tattooed in thick, black ink. Following these was a brand, an 'A' just like the one of the other women's cheeks, finishing out her name. Ofelia nodded, and smiled at Lisa, and her short blonde hair bounced. ?She comes to us all the way from the south.?

?I don't know that Missouri really qualifies as the south.?

?She's been with us since before she was street legal,? Clint said.

?I'm nineteen, now.?

?I'd suggested calling her jailbait, before; but when nobody joined in it was really creepy, just me doing it.?

?Your ADD is showing,? Anna told him.

?Really? But I thought I zipped up after going to the bathroom.?

A woman with dark, auburn hair down to the middle of her back had a baby wrapped in a garment that made a little hammock for it, and kept the baby snuggled against her chest. She realized she was next for an introduction, and made herself a little bigger. ?This is Mary, and I?m sure you?ve heard of her son, Hey-Zeus.?

?Matthew,? she corrected him. ?I thought about naming him after you,? she said to Clint, ?but I thought calling the boy Dickless would give him self esteem issues.?

?And this is-?

?Jeanine,? the older woman interrupted him. She had medium-length, curly silver hair. She also had a 'W' brand across her left eye; the brand had made her iris cloudy, and Lisa found she had to stare into her other eye to keep from shivering. ?My parents were big into irony, named me Virginia; my younger sister couldn?t quite pronounce it, so I became Jeanine.? She smiled, but she had a sternness to it that kept Lisa from being at ease.

?We wanted to do a little something, for the women who died,? Anna said, ripping Lisa's attention away from the older woman. Ofelia had fetched a coffee container, and she opened it up. ?It's surprising how many celebrations involve fire; obviously we wanted something else. So we're going to bury this, beneath the ashes of that building; they never rebuild when they torch women's housing. Hopefully it'll be discovered by people in a saner world, one where the burnt rubble and bones of fifty-seven are seen as the tragedy they are, and aren't preserved as a warning.?

Anna produced a small recorder. ?And I was hoping, at least, that you'd say a few words, Lisa. We didn't know them. They died, because... it's war they've declared on us. It's really as simple as that. And sometimes, in war, it's hard to know the lengths the other side will go to win. But you knew these women, some of them, anyway. And we want to remember them as more than a number, we want to know them as women- at least as best we can.?

Lisa wasn't comfortable speaking in public; really, any group of three or more made her go silent. But she swallowed. She'd so wanted to hate Anna, but she knew that the police weren't standing around trying to figure out how best to eulogize her dead neighbors. And knowing that helped her find her voice. ?I hardly knew Mrs. Kowalski. She made me tea, a couple of times, and served me stale cookies that I gather she baked for children and grandchildren who didn?t visit as often as she baked for them. I remember, I got a lung infection really bad. I think I passed out in the hall, in front of my door. I came to in her apartment, on her couch, covered in her blankets. She made me soup. I barely knew the woman, but I know that she was full of compassion. And it's completely fucking shitty that she's dead. She died in a fire set by men who were supposed to protect her; and she was allowed to die by the men who were supposed to save her. She didn't deserve that. No one does.?

Ofelia whispered to Mae, ?I get why the fuckers only would have brought male police to assault the clinic- but how come no women firefighters showed up on the truck??

?Female firefighters topped out at about 2 percent nationwide,? Mae told her. ?And that was before things went ugly. So even back in the day, statistically you weren?t likely to get a woman on a fire call.?

?Oh,? Ofelia said. 

?I didn?t know a lot of the people in my building,? Lisa continued. ?Maybe because I never thought- I didn?t expect I?d be standing here, trying to speak for them. And I,? she sighed, ?I don?t know what I can do, or how I can help, but I feel like I owe them something more than a few words. So for now, I?ll help out, best I can.?

Anna turned off the recorder. ?And when you feel like it?s time to move on,? Anna said, as she ejected the memory card from the recorder, and put it in the coffee can, ?we?ll help you with that, too.?

?Can you work a pair of binoculars?? Mae asked, grinning wide and clapping Lisa on the back.

?Yes?? Lisa answered.

?Then you?re my new spotter.?

?What happened to your old spotter??

?I like you. You?re funny. And cute.?

?Careful,? Anna said to Lisa, ?she?s a wo-maneater.?

?Whoa here she comes,? Jeanine said with a smile. Lisa swallowed; she didn?t like the sound of any of that.

04/27/12

  08:47:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 633 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: The Pride of Nations

Ken hated the Chinese. Not because he was a racist- well, okay, he was maybe also a little racist. But he hated them because he spent twice as much time on the phone with them as he did his own government.

?I don?t care what nation he?s from, the consulate can kiss the curly hairs on the underside of my balls if they think I?m sending a physically unfit person sailing through the universe on the Mars mission. There?ll be other missions. But don?t you dare bitch at me because none of your other astronauts made the A team. You don?t have anybody on the B team that can replace Anguó- that?s the sloppy fact of it. You spent too many years coasting- the Japanese were outspending you on space until a decade ago - and you?re still playing catch-up. And let me remind you that?s the same Japanese who don?t have a slot on this mission, either.?

?By my count there are three Americans on this ?international? mission.?

?Yeah, and when your country?s footing half the bill- which we both know you could damn easily afford these days- you can fill out half the seats, if you so choose. But we didn?t rig it, if that?s your beef. You want to send somebody down here I can show you all of our data on crew compositions.?

?Why don?t you send it to me??

?Send you demographics on over a thousand astronaut candidates from dozens of programs, citizens from a hundred countries? Taste my ass. I wouldn?t let your people have a photocopy of a single file, let alone all of them. But if you want someone to verify that we only had one seat reserved for an American, like we maintained from the get-go, and you care enough to buy one of your people the plane ticket, I?d be more than happy to show them through the thought process myself.?

?Perhaps your President will see things differently.?

?The President doesn?t dictate policy, and I will have a shuttle suppository before I let him politick over this. Because these astronauts? lives depend on us not putting the pride of nations before their safety. And if I have to fly to Beijing on my own dime I will show you the true meaning of a fucking shuttlecock if you try and shoehorn Anguo back onto this mission.? 

?It?s diabetes,? he complained.

?Yeah, and if this were a normal dink around the universe, that wouldn?t be an issue. And from what I understand, they?ll have insulin synthesizing facilities on the Moon, so he?s still a viable candidate for some time on the Station, but there is just no room at this inn for his recently diagnosed little fanny. I?m sorry about that- honest and truly. I like Ang, and we?ll take a hit on mission unity for losing him. But there?s no guarantee he can be ?fixed,? and any treatment is going to push us out of this window for Mars. And he ain?t worth an 18 month layaway.?

?Perhaps the Chinese government will stop funding your little space adventure.?

?Ooh, the Chinese are going to pull 3% of the funding out of our budget. I?ll have to stop springing for the extra half in the half and halfs. Until the Middle Kingdom nuts up with its wallet, you?re always going to be standing there with your dick in your hand, proud of your cornholing exploits, while the rest of us stand with spread cheeks aquiver, wondering if it?s in yet, or if it?s already time to fake it.?

The line went dead, and Ken got himself another drink. Then his phone rang, from the State Department.

?Ken??

?Yeah.?

?You been talking to the Chinese again??

?Yeah.?

?You use any racial slurs??

?Not as I recall.?

?Good enough.?

04/21/12

  05:11:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 749 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Whores: .04 The Fiance

I knocked on the door. I still couldn't fathom how one couple, with one oopsy-baby, mattered as much my new job said they did. But I figured the line from that old poem was true: it wasn't mine to reason why.

I knocked again. A thin man, with thin lips, and slightly thinning hair- though that was only evident when the light hit it a certain way- answered. ?May I help you?? he asked politely.

I flashed him my phone, with my credentials highlighted. He held up his phone, and it chirped to authenticate my badge.

He opened the door and led me inside. He gestured to a couch and two chairs sitting around a coffee table, which made me hopeful there'd be coffee at some point. I'd learned from my stint in homicide not to sit on the couch, though; people don't like cops in their homes, with basically no exceptions, but they get even more uneasy if you start to get comfortable. So I sat in one of the chairs, and he sat down in the other. ?So, officer?

?Detective,? I corrected him.  

?Oh,? he said. ?I think my fiancé is getting in with a bad crowd.?

?That sounds serious,? I said with a sardonic grin.

?You know, feminist types. Four months ago, she found out she was pregnant...? he hung his head. ?She won't even talk to me. She's considering murdering our child, and she won't even have a conversation about it. Truth be told, we're not ready for a kid. But we aren't talking about smoking a little pot at Christmas. It's infanticide. At a minimum.?

?Slow down, sir,? I said. ?Let's take a step back; I'd like a little background on your fiancé.  Where'd you two meet??

?Work. We both work at an advertising firm, downtown, in the graphic design department.?

?And how long have you been seeing each other??

?About a year.?

?And she became pregnant.?

?I found out four months ago. She came to me, in tears. She was so upset. She thought she was pregnant. I didn't think anything of it, at the time. It's not my first pregnancy scare. My first college girlfriend went through three; every time her period didn't arrive within an hour of when she felt it should she freaked. I just figured it was another close call. Only it wasn't.?

?And now she won't talk to me,? he continued. ?And the last few weeks, she won't even look at me. I love her. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. And she won't even look at me.?

?Okay,? I said. ?But what makes you think she's planning to abort the fetus??

?I didn't, at first. I just thought she was depressed, and melancholy; ours is a very competitive field. There's two interns for every one paid graphic designer. And there's no maternity leave at our work, so I figured she was bummed about having to give up her job to have the baby.?

?But about a month ago, she met some new friends, and things started getting better. I thought our lives were back on track. Until I met one of them. We bumped into her at the grocery store. And Deborah introduced me to her. She had an 'A' branded into her forehead. And I knew that meant something. So I looked it up on the computer.?

I knew the literature- certainly better than a little internet searching could get him, so I helped out: ?Started with a men's rights advocacy group, Men United Protecting Our Future. They're like the KKK, only instead of being against African and Jewish Americans, they're against abortion- and maybe women generally.? And we don't like to talk about it, but police departments tend to be lousy with MRAs- which makes a degree of sense, as both tend to be groups that force certain behavior on people. But because of that they exercised outsized power.

?The women they capture at illegal abortion clinics they brand, either with an 'A' or 'W.' It's mostly a regional difference, these days. South of the Mason-Dixon, they still prefer the traditional scarlet letter- an A. For adultery- though some assume it's for 'abortionist.' Up here, they favor a brand in the shape of 'W.'?

?For 'whore,'? he said. ?That's why I called you. Deborah's not a whore. She's just scared. And confused. She doesn't understand what she's about to do. You have to help her.?

?I'll try,? I told him.

04/20/12

  08:46:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 665 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Reunion

?It is good to have you back,? Claudette said, squeezing Paul?s ribs so tight he felt like he was being attacked all over again. ?That slimy little Russian?? Alisa shot her a look, but she wasn?t paying her any attention, ?he just skeeves me so hard. He wouldn?t stop looking at my crotch. I mean, I came through the Air Force, so I can handle an entire platoon staring at my tits, or my ass, my legs, trying to catch a glimpse of me in the shower, whatever. But crotch staring? And it?s not even like this is a particularly camel toey jumpsuit, as jumpsuits go.?

Paul started to follow her hands as she traced them down her figure, then caught himself and stopped. She noticed, and looked a little hurt that he had. ?It?s nice to be back with you, too, Clod, and I?ll try and refrain from staring at your crotch.? He smiled, and she smiled back.

?I really don?t mind looking. Just drink in the whole package. I?m more than just a crotch on legs. All of us are. Except for maybe Levy.?

?So does that mean you?re suddenly interested? or were you just embracing the opportunity to call me a cock?? Levy asked.

?With legs. Because a disembodied penis would be scary.?

Paul laughed. Then he remembered the short brunette hiding behind him, trying to blend into the background. ?I?m sure by now everybody?s heard about Ang,? he swallowed, feeling guilty, and hoping no one was going to blame him for the catch. ?We?ll all miss him, but it?s my pleasure to introduce you to his replacement, Rica. Some of us got a chance to train with her in Houston, but for some of you, this is your introduction. She?s going to be our new biosystems engineer.?

Paul pointed to the tallest of the two other women, the one with short, dark hair who?d lifted him so easily off the ground. ?This is Clod, Claudette if you?re nasty. 2nd Lieutenant from the U.S. Air Force, and our pilot. Pretty sure she can kick my ass. And wants to.?

?The blonde next to her is on loan from the Russian program, Alisa. She?s our mechanical engineer- opposite side of your coin.?

?Most of the things on our boat were designed so chimps could fix them,? Alisa said. ?If one of the other things breaks, and I?m not there to fix it, everybody dies.?

Rica grinned. ?Lucky. Worst that?ll happen if I fall out an airlock is an Apollo 13 scenario, where you all will have to drink your pee. They drank pee on 13, didn?t they??

?No idea,? Paul said, ?but I think you?ll get along swimmingly with us.? A man with shaggy, salt and pepper hair walked into the room. ?And there he is, our fearless if slightly aged leader, Martin du Blanc, formerly of the French military- which he swears to us isn?t an oxymoron- currently of the European Space Agency.? Martin leaned forward and put out his hand for her to shake.   

?I did not catch your name,? he said, fixing her with kind, light blue eyes.

?Rica,? she said nervously, taking his hand.

?And that?s John Levy,? Paul told her, ?though it?s honestly weird to hear his first name out loud, since nobody uses it. We have no idea what he does. He says it involves high level math. I think he just has dirty pictures of the AD.?

Levy was heavier than either Paul or Martin, and had a thick beard of red hair. He was also younger, though he didn?t look it. ?I?m a computer engineer, specializing in artificial intelligence and robotic engineering. But the way I see it, we traded an angry Chinese guy for a hot chick. I think that?s a win for all of us.?

What Levy didn?t notice, but Paul did, was from the look Alisa and Rica were trading, it probably wasn?t as big of a win for the men as he thought.

04/14/12

  05:10:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1094 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores: .03 The Fire

Lisa hated the night shift. She had all her windows blacked out, and wore earplugs. But the fact remained that she lived in an apartment building, and there was no keeping a building full of women quiet while she slept- not that that had anything to do with their gender.

She stirred to the sound of gunfire. The building wasn't in the nicest of neighborhoods, so that wasn't wholly unfamiliar. But this was different, because the shots were coming from inside the building. That made her skin go bumpy, and her ears prick up- not that she knew what she was listening for.

There was a steady, heavy stream of gunfire, followed by a lull, and another gunshot. Then came another loud noise, one she couldn't place, other than to say that it was louder than the gunshots.

Finally, she started drifting back to sleep. Whatever had happened was over, and she told herself that if someone had needed the cops they'd have called. She was half asleep by then, so she believed the fairy tale that if one of her neighbors had called the cops, they'd have actually shown up.

But then she heard the noise, piercing, deafening. Her body was heavy, and didn't want to move. But she woke up coughing, hacking. She opened her eyes but there was only darkness. She reached for her nightstand, and found her lamp and flicked it on. Still only darkness.

But the darkness burned. Her eyes hurt, and it was a struggle keeping them open. They were filling with tears, and just as quickly spilling them onto her cheek. She tried to take another breath, and coughed it back up, and then it finally hit her: smoke. Her room was filled with smoke. 

Lisa rolled off the bed and onto her floor. There the smoke was thinner. She could breath enough to think.

The wail continued, it was her smoke detector, but behind it, joining it, like the backup choir of a powerful singer, she could hear screams. Lisa crawled with her belly against the floor.

She'd been sleeping in a ratty pair of panties and an A neck shirt that was just see-through enough she'd learned she couldn't wear it out without men staring. She wanted to grab a pair of jeans, or a coat, or her shoes, but just trying to lift herself up off the floor a few inches to survey for any one of those items of clothing sent her hacking back onto the floor.

So she pulled herself across the carpet, through her apartment, and to her front door. She tapped the doorknob leading into the hall. Then she felt the door itself. It felt cool to the touch. So she opened it.

The smoke in the hall was worse. Even crawling along the floor she couldn't breathe properly. After two attempts at inhaling, she simply refused to try a third, and started pulling herself down the stairs. It reminded her of being a child, and sliding on her belly down her parents' steps. It hurt her nipples, and she cursed again not having found a better shirt to cover herself in.

The lobby was relatively less smoky, so Lisa stood up and took a deep breath in and held it. It was like cool mountain spring water for her lungs- even though she coughed when she exhaled it.

She fell forward through the lobby doors and onto the sidewalk.

A fire truck was parked outside her building. ?Thank God,? she thought. But then she realized that the firefighters were just standing there, watching. One of them was even smoking, pointing and laughing at the smoke billowing out of an open window.

Lisa forced herself forward. One of the firefighters caught her, and helped her sit on the lip of the fire truck. He pressed a mask of oxygen to her face, and told her to breathe in, slowly. When she didn't feel like she was in a low-rent casino, anymore, she coughed out, ?My neighbors.? 

He shook his head. ?I'm sorry,? he told her.

She peered through the smoke now rolling out of the lobby. She could see one of her neighbors, Mrs. Kowalski, stumble through the smoke. She fell past the last few steps, and landed in the shallow pool of smoke that was cascading down the steps.

?Our orders were very specific: contain the fire.?

?But my neighbor,? Lisa protested, ?she's right there. I can see her through the lobby doors. You have to help her.?

?We've been told not to. At the eastern fire district, one of the fighters disobeyed, and tried to help the women, and they shot him.? His jaw set as he watched the fire grow unchecked.  ?They're lucky,? he said, though she didn't think he believed it, ?I've been to fires that the police set, where they stay outside, and pick off the women who try to run.?

?But the police aren't here,? she told him.

He looked to the other firefighters. ?I'm not so sure,? he said.

?You're a fucking coward,? she said, feeling like she wanted to just give the whole thing up. She threw up her hands in disgust, and marched back towards the burning building.

?Wait,? he said, but she was done wasting her time with him. She shoved her way through the lobby doors. Smoke had finally filled the lobby as well, and she had to get back down on her hands and knees.

?Mrs. Kowalski,? she called. From the smoke Lisa had already inhaled, her throat was hoarse and cracked. She didn't get a response. But through the haze and ash, she could make out a large, bulbous lump at the base of the stairs, and she crawled towards it. ?Mrs. Kowalski. Are you all right??

She rolled the larger woman over, and tried to feel for a pulse. She couldn't find one, but she'd never been good at trying to, so she cupped her hands beneath her neighbor's armpits, and started to pull her towards the front doors.

The older woman was heavy, and Lisa's muscles were starting to burn as badly as her lungs. But she was close, she had to be, to the front door- not because she could see it, but because she knew she wasn't going to make it very far. So it had to be close.

But before she managed to reach the twin glass doors, she heard the supports from the floor above the lobby groan menacingly. ?Shit,? she said, as the ceiling collapsed down on top of her.

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