I've been thinking about writing something for a while, and I finally sat and put some words together. I'm going for something in an action/comedy in which one of the lowly guards in an evil supergenius's secret lair gets more power and responsibility than he bargained for then decides to go for that "taking over the world" thing he's been hearing so much about. I'm worried that it may come out sounding a bit too much like No One Lives Forever or the Destroyer series. I'm trying to introduce the main character's immediate collegues, but I'm afraid it ends up a dry read (and "Baron Spite" is a stupid name, but that can change). Comments and crits are welcomed.
Edit: changed the thread title. If I'm going to continue this, it's going to be labeled with the orange traffic cones.
When the alarm sounds, everybody is expected to get to their assigned positions and await further orders. Unfortunately, there's very little to do there when your assigned position is far from any point of entrance and in the middle of an almost-featureless tunnel of dull concrete. Faced with such bland surroundings, the mind tends to seek ways to entertain itself. Some guards play cards, while others produce colored chalks and create works of art on the bare gray walls. My group just likes to talk.
â€œGood 'ol Hallway Subsection 36-E,â€ Randall sighed, taking his usual spot against the wall and slouching down behind an outcropping.
â€œLooks like we've been seeing more equipment passing through since the last time we were here,â€ I pointed out, pointing to the numerous thick tire tracks that led all the way down the corridor until it curved out of sight in both directions. â€œI hope we're near completing whatever the hell's going on down there. I would really like to see the outside by the end of the month. This artificial light's driving me nuts.â€
Wilson, the leader of our three-man squad, knelt down to study the tracks a little closer. â€œMust be carrying some heavy stuff to track dirt all the way down here. Usually the little carts we've been using don't leave a mark.â€ He looked back sown the hall and frowned. â€œSpeaking of which, Steve, go back and park ours a little better. If anything does need to come through here it'd be nice not to have to walk back.â€
I turned to where he was looking, and sure enough the cart we'd ridden up on was parked askew from the wall, intersecting one of the sets of tracks. Anything sturdier than a garbage can rolling down the hallway could potentially smash our ride into bits, leaving us with no choice but to hike all the way from Hallway Subsection 36-E to General Quarters, a several-kilometer long trip. I shoved the flimsy vehicle up against the wall and headed to the others. When I came back, Wilson was already taking bets on what caused the alarm this time.
â€œWhat do you think it is now?â€ Wilson asked, pulling a battered notepad and a stub of pencil from one of his jumpsuit pockets. â€œI'm thinking. . . United Nations task force.â€
â€œNinjas,â€ said Randall. He twisted his cap around so the bill wouldn't get in his way, then sighted his assault rifle down the hallway.
â€œYou always say ninjas,â€ I muttered. â€œNinjas don't exist. Get it through your damn head.â€
â€œBesides which, the plural of 'ninja' is 'ninja,'â€ said Wilson, who enjoyed pointing out that sort of thing.
â€œHave you ever seen a ninja? In real life?â€ I asked. Wilson and Randall shook their heads. â€œThere you go.â€
â€œAbsence of evidence, bucko,â€ countered Randall, â€œIs not evidence of absence. It's not like the UN's ever been here either.â€
â€œIt's more likely than a bunch of ninjas!â€
â€œNinja. Shut up, both of you,â€ ordered Wilson. â€œSteve, you want to guess?â€
I thought for a moment. â€œIt's nothing.â€
Randall turned back to me and raised an eyebrow. â€œNothing? C'mon.â€
â€œI'm serious. It's nothing. In fact, it's always been nothing.â€
Now Wilson looked at me suspiciously. â€œReally? Every time? Last time you said it would be the Chinese.â€
The alarm, set to repeat at five-minute intervals, started up from the wall speaker: â€œAlert. Alert. Unauthorized perimeter activity. Potential foreign entry. Take standard defensive positions. . .â€
â€œ. . . This is not a drill,â€ we chorused, and the message echoed away down the hall. It, or the all-clear, would return in another five minutes. In the meantime there was nothing to do but chat, or else the mind-numbing emptiness of the Hellway (as we called it) would put you to sleep.
â€œ'Not a drill,'â€ repeated Randall.
â€œThink about it. Let's say that for once they didn't say it wasn't a drill. Everybody would then assume that it was a drill, and either we'd slack off and clown around - â€
â€œMuch like we're doing now,â€ commented Wilson.
â€œ - or everybody would be hyper-alert and attentive because they would be convinced that they're being tested, and would fall apart if something did happen. Look. If the first time there isn't a drill there's an announcement that it isn't a drill, every time after that has to be labeled 'not a drill' because otherwise you'd know it's not not a drill. Wait,â€ I shut my eyes and ran the last sentence through my mind again. â€œNot not a drill. Yeah.â€
Wilson nodded. â€œMakes sense. Want to go double and claim the last three times were nothing, too?â€
â€œSure. I mean, taking into account the number of times per month that thing goes off, we're either drilling all the time or this is the worst secret base ever built.â€
â€œInteresting.â€ Wilson made a note in his book, then put it back in his pocket.
Wilson's walkie-talkie squawked. â€œSquad 36-E, this is Dashell on standard patrol, approaching from 36-F. Copy.â€
â€œWe copy,â€ Wilson replied. â€œYou heard the man, straighten up.â€
We heard Dashell's group coming before we saw them. The little electric carts that served as the guards' means of transportation were straining their engines to support the weight of the patrol group, and the tires screeched as they rounded the corner. Randell stood up and we all saluted as the carts pulled to a stop nearby.
Dashell was a hulking brute of a man who had served in the Soviet military until the breakup. From what I'd heard, he'd bounced around in several private mercenary groups before taking a position with our current employer, with whom he'd risen to Sub-Commandant where he was apparently happy. It meant he could give orders to almost anyone in the field, but avoided being placed in a control room and dictating his commands through microphones. He liked to see his underlings sweat as he yelled at them.
â€œGood day, gentlemen!â€ Dashell boomed as he swung off his cart. His driver and gunner remained in the vehicle, but nodded to us in greeting. Nobody from the other cart said a word, even going so far as to pretend to ignore me when I waved. Uptight pricks, the lot of 'em. â€œEverything is clear here?â€
â€œNot a thing, sirâ€ Wilson answered. Since he was designated the squad leader, we let him do the talking.
â€œAs it should be.â€ Dashell paced around our little area. â€œI don't usually tour the interior guard stations. What a dreadfully dull space!â€
â€œWe make due, sir.â€
â€œIndeed! I'm sure you think great thoughts when faced with this emptiness. The mind tries to make up for the stimulation is is not receiving through the senses. It reminds me of Siberia, but nowhere near as cold.â€
â€œBleak! That is the word I'm thinking of. Very bleak.â€
â€œBleak indeed, sir.â€
â€œDo you know, most of the other guard squads along the halls do things to amuse themselves instead of paying attention to their surroundings? At 28-B there is a hopscotch path three hundred feet long. It took Simmons ten minutes to go up and back, and he was certainly surprised to see me waiting for him at the end! Would you believe he claimed he was training his men for balance and endurance?â€
â€œI don't doubt it, sir,â€ Wilson replied, in the tones on one who dreaded a one-sided conversation for the rest of the foreseeable future. I risked sneaking a grin at Randall behind Dashell's back. Wilson looked amused, but was determined not to let it show.
â€œHe will certainly have good endurance after he is done skipping up and down it for the next ten hours,â€ Dashell said. â€œAnyway, it seems that everything is in order here. Good job, troops!â€ he added as he strode back to his cart.
â€œThank you, sir.â€
Surprisingly, Randall spoke up. â€œQuestion, Sub-Commandant?â€
Dashell sat back in his seat, causing the tiny vehicle to rock on its wheels. â€œYes?â€
â€œWhat were we guarding against last time?â€
Dashell narrowed his eyes. â€œWhy do you ask such a thing? It is enough to know that you are guarding.â€
â€œJust wondering what kinds of enemies we're making, sir. It pays to know these things.â€
â€œIndeed it does. Very well. Last time was not an actual threat. The Mirage Organization's space station broke up in orbit and a large piece of debris appeared as an incoming missile on our radar. Once we realized that, I took the opportunity to hold a drill.â€
â€œAnd the time before that?â€
â€œVolcanic activity briefly caused the temperature readings in our deepest chambers to spike, causing us to believe that perhaps we were under attack.â€
â€œAnd three times ago?â€
â€œThat,â€ replied Dashell in clipped words, â€œIs not your concern. You are guards for Baron Spite, and that is all you need to remember as long as you continue to do your duties.â€
â€œIndeed.â€ Dashell glared briefly at the three of us. â€œAnd turn your hat around. We go!â€ he shouted at his driver, and the tiny cart slowly inched past as it built up speed. The gunner of the second cart waved as he passed. Maybe I was hasty in thinking him a prick.
Wilson wiped his brow when Dashell's group turned the corner on the way to 36-D. â€œWell, whatever it was, Steve, looks like you lost your bet.â€