1) I finished Subnautica the day I offered to delete my save. It was a slightly empty gesture. Ain’t I a stinker?
2) I live just outside the area in the Northwest where they’re evacuating. It’s possible I’ll have to pause and run from fire.
3) I had serious trouble getting this done, because I fell back into my pitches from last year. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
4) Maybe partially due to smoke inhalation, or maybe just because clean living can’t indefinitely stave off a sinus infection, I’m getting sick. I’ll endeavor to fight through it, but posting lag may happen. I’ve already given the pitches all a once-over, so if I can summon the wherewithal, I’ll still post those if I can’t keep up.
Nights like tonight the star seemed to weigh extra heavy on James Tso’s chest. Between half the reservation being a Superfund site, and the fact that they had the highest concentration of Breed anywhere on the planet, they didn’t get a lot of visitors, especially not this late at night- and the few they did usually needed to be set right before going on their way. Half the town called him when the unknown truck rolled in; the other half were already waiting for him on Main Street.
There was an older man with some kids, most no older than James’ brother. The older guy was James’ age, carried himself like a man spent time in the military- but not so much time he rose to the kind of officer sits behind a desk. He smiled as James put his truck into park and got out. “The man we’ve been waiting for,” Raif said. “You got some real loyal people here, chief. Insisted we wait until you arrived before they’d hear us out.”
“These people do look up to you. But you’re also the police chief, aren’t you?”
“Tso? Hmm. You’re brother’s a good kid. Stubborn. Obstinate. More food-motivated than anyone I ever met, save for maybe my mom’s Pomeranian.”
“What about Ben?” James asked, the mention of his brother coming across as a threat.
“Whoa, there, Sheriff. No need to put the spurs to me. We’re all friends here- or at least, I’d like for us to be.”
“Then maybe you should understand that showing up in our quiet little town in the dead of night don’t come across as friendly-like.”
“That’s fair. It is early. Or late. Depending. But I’m afraid this just wouldn’t keep. Our people are at war. It’s a war we didn’t start, but there is a warmonger in the White House aching for a chance to turn the might of the Federal Government on us. I served overseas; I’ve seen that might turned on innocents, watched girls and boys turned into a steaming soup. We wait for their war machine to warm up, and we won’t stand a chance, not even with all the miraculous things our people can do.”
“Our people?” James asked. “Casper there don’t like too native to me,” he nodded in the direction of a lanky, light-skinned kid standing just behind Raif, who refused to make eye contact.
“No. Sorry. I mean Breed. You. Me. An outright majority of your good citizens here. We have… an opportunity, while the iron’s hot, to put the world back on its axis. But we can’t afford to squander it, either. It’s now, or never. Which is why I didn’t come here to take ‘No’ for an answer.”
“How about this, then? You take ‘Get the fuck off our reservation, before I whup you in front of your acolytes’ for an answer.”
“Now, Sheriff, I was told you were a reasonable man. Reasonable to a fault, even.” A young girl hid her phone as Raif walked past. He stopped, and stooped to her level, unaware of James’ hand going to his gun. “Go ahead. Film this. I’m not a shy man. Not a proud one, either; I’m not in this for me. I’m in this because I’ve seen what happens to minorities who hope for the best from good white folk. You shouldn’t need that shooter, James,” Raif turned back towards the Sheriff. “No,” he smiled, “I’m not psychic. But were I you, I’d have been itching for that iron myself. But I really don’t want us to be anything but pals.”
“Then why don’t you skip ahead to your reasonable ask, then; and if we don’t reason into joining you, then you can reasonably fuck off.”
“I can see I’ve touched a nerve; I apologize for that, truly. So I’ll level with you: we’re not here asking for you to join a mailing list, or participate in some pissant march. Drump is a monarch, in all but title; the only thing he’ll understand is heads rolling- especially his own.”
“I think you’re done here,” James said, flicking the catch on his holster.
“I think you haven’t heard me out. We need to make noise. I’d like to cut the head off the snake, show them that you don’t come at the Breed unless you’re ready for them to come at you. I think we’ve got one shot at this, before they start rounding all of us up and putting us in cages. We take the fight to Drump, to his DHS head, to Miller, and anyone else willing to pit the rest of America- indeed, the rest of humanity- against us.”
“You got a card,” James said, “you can leave it in the dirt. Anyone with any interest can pick it up. We’ll call you. But you’ve pestered these good folks more’n enough for one evening. Now I got to insist you disperse.”
“I always knew there’d be one of you,” Raif said, his smile turning sinister, “one of you that would need to be made an example of.” He turned to his pale companion. “Colby. Do it.”
It started as a low hum in James’ ears, a hum that quickly became pain, a radiating pain that seemed to emanate from his bones and roll through his tendons and muscles. He tried to draw, but the gun slipped through his fingers like they were liquid. “Som-bitch,” James managed, taking several drunken steps towards Colby. His muscles were pudding, his bones a not-quite-set gelatin. But he continued to lurch forward, each step taking twice as much concentration while covering half the distance.
He managed to get his cowboy boot into Colby’s midsection, and when he bent over, put his heel into his face. For an instant the pain and disorientation stopped, before crashing back into him even harder. The weight of it was crushing, so much so that he fell to his knees. He couldn’t get up, but managed to get his phone out of his pocket, and unlock it with his finger. “Call Ben,” he said weakly. He felt wet, and warm, and heard a woman’s scream. He could see a pool spreading out beneath him, and in the dark he thought it might be blood.
“Ben?” he was interrupted by hacking that sent red chunks into the dirt. “Ben I’m…” he couldn’t force another word out, or hold himself up a second longer, and dropped violently to the earth.