OK. You’ve read my latest blogs about my atompunk story. While it’s a very rough draft, as I need to garner some good history books on the period 165-1970, I thought I’d post it on writing.com. So far, the first review was good (thanks Jack!).
However, since I’m new there, It’s a slow process getting anyone to stop by, read it and review. So, I ask those who follow my blog to give it a peak below, and leave honest comments. Keep in mind it’s rough, a bit bare, but I think in the right direction.If enough of you like it I will post on WdC and here!
Enter the Dead Man
August 15th, 1970
“What’s it mean, Dad?” asked the boy as he played in the sand.
Dad looked out at the perfect blue waters along this beach in Maui, a tiny oasis away from the tourists and refugees. “What does what mean?”
“My name!” the kid huffed. He kicked a plastic bucket soiled in wet sand.
“Boy! You better watch that temper! I’m for sure signing you into the military when you get old enough! They’ll knock some discipline into you, just like they did me. Now as for your name, Nahoa means ‘bold’.”
“I know that one. I learned it in school!” the boy slapped his legs and pouted. “But the kids says Baines is a dumb middle name, that it’s a last name and not a middle one. Why’d you and Mom give me two last names?”
Dad knew why, but for some strange reason, he never thought his son would ask about it. He guessed it was time to have a talk, a deep talk. “Sit down, Son.”
Nahoa sat in the sand, picking at his blue shorts and wiping sand off his dark brown skin.
“I came from the South, from Louisiana. I had a brother, an older brother, named Baines. I don’t know why my parents named him that. I never asked.”
“You never told me you had a brother. Why don’t I have one?” Nahoa pushed sand into rough hills with his feet.
“Boy we had enough trouble bringing you into this world. Hush! Anyway, Baines, he uh, was six years older than me. He worked at a small cannery. Well, he had always been outspoken, so signing up with the union boys wasn’t too big a surprise.”
“What’s union boys?”
“People who work a job and organize to make sure they get their rights.”
“Oh,” said Nahoa. “What rights?”
“Right to work certain hours, get equal pay and – – who’s telling this story? Anyway, Baines used to go to secret meetings on weekends. I followed him every now and then. But one night…” He paused to stare at the Pacific. Nahoa looked up at his father, briefly wondering why tears were forming in the corner of Dad’s eyes.
“This one night, I remember because the whole air smelled great. Momma was baking peach pies for church the next day. Odd how the air was sweet and the mood turned so bitter. Our neighbor came by, screaming and wailing about a raid. I was only twelve, and slow to catch on. But Momma knew what was up and took off running. She grabbed Daddy from the pier and they went out and… well, they found your uncle in a ditch on a dirt road.” Dad buried his face into folded arms.
Nahoa stood and touched his father’s shoulder. “It’s OK Dad. Don’t cry.”
Dad wiped his eyes, and took his son by the arms. “I told your mother about Baines right after we found out she was pregnant. I gave you that middle name. But your mother, because she wanted you to be like your uncle, and like the men in her family, insisted you be called bold. So that’s you, Nahoa Baines Greenglass. You are, and will be, a bold man.”
Dad could see his son didn’t really grasp the meaning of his own name, but one can only expect so much from a child.
“C’mon Bold One, let’s show you how to make a sand castle!”
C’mon Bold One…
He had fallen asleep. Had he done so again, or for the first time? Why was that the first thought to come to his mind, and why did it matter? Nahoa Greenglass allowed his head to wobble left and right, blurry vision gaining focus. He saw a hallway in bright white fuzzy figures. Figures condensed into women, women in nurses uniforms with little folded hats pinned on their heads. Windows were letting in the light of a beautiful day. He was in a hospital. He sat in a squeaky wheelchair.
His body burned down to the liver, and his legs felt numb. The more aware he became, the more Nahoa fought the urge to grind his teeth as a way to dull the searing pain. Why is it so hot?
He about jumped out of his skin when a large hand folded over his shoulder. Instinct and training caused him to grab the hand at the wrist and turn it. He turned until he heard the hand’s owner yelp.
“Mister Greenglass! I’m your doctor! Ahhh! Please let go of me!”
Nahoa saw the man’s face, but had no recollection of him. Tall, blond, blue eyed, wide face, white coat, lots of ballpoint pens in his pocket. Name tag read ‘Dr. Malcolm Eversby’. Nope. Not familiar at all.
“How are you my doctor?” Greenglass asked. He heard the shakiness of his voice, and didn’t like it. He was weak and on fire, and in an unknown location. The sound of car brakes screeching went off in his head. Screeching, and men and gunshots.
“Do you remember anything. What is the last thing you recall?” the doctor interrogated, nursing his wrist.
Nahoa let his head drop. Right then, thinking proved difficult. Cars were still at full scream, bullets penetrating seat leather and shattered glass made for a nice distraction from pulling up memories. Wait. Maybe those are the memories in question. Slow it down, just ride with it. Nahoa is in the back seat with POTUS. Nixon? Why is he with that jive turkey? He’s guarding him. Seems odd, Nahoa can’t stand the guy. But there are other men in the car on the superhighway, dressed in the same black suit and tie. Secret Service. Right! You’re in the Service! Heading back to D.C from the meeting with the Saudis when…what?
Searing in here!
The doctor knelt down before his patient, trying to put on a sympathetic face. “Mister Greenglass, you were in a serious accident, an accident caused by an attack from a cycle gang. Superhighway Five is down, at least the A-1 sector. They blew up the support columns five miles outside of D.C.”
Nahoa wiped cold from his eyes, eyes that kept a natural half open, restful fixation.
“Oh, he’s fine. Getting the best treatment available at a secure location. We won’t have to worry about Vice President Kennedy taking the Oath of Office anytime soon!” Doctor Eversby chuckled, but Nahoa did not reciprocate. His mind swirled like a glass of iced tea stirred by a hyperactive child. Bombs. Yells. Guns. He jumped over Nixon. Burning tire. Pickelhaube. Pickelhaube?
Doctor Eversby sighed a great deal. “You lost both kidneys, Nahoa. I’m going to give it you straight. The spleen recovered, mostly. You may experience some burning from the procedure – -”
“Procedure? What proced – -!” The heat intensified. Nahoa arced his back in a sudden fit of pain, clutching his gut and lower back at the same time. Something, some force, pushed up the length of his spinal column. The wheelchair was too confining. He raised up out of the seat, while Eversby tried to sit him back down.
“Nurse! Nurse! I need help! Call the DOP! They should have someone here to – -!”
Doctor Eversby began to boil. First the thin blond hairs on his arms sizzled to black, followed by an evacuation of water from his pores in the form of steam. The nametag folded in at the corners as the ink liquefied, rolling down in black bug dots. As Eversby sank, the wheelchair collapsed, its canvas seat smoldering. The doctor slumped to the ground, right as the hair on his head caught fire, along with the white doctor’s coat.
Nahoa Baines Greenglass saw red and orange spots. That’s all he saw. His eyes blurred out as the heat made living unbearable. He clutched his stomach, tried to close a mouth spewing white fire. Heat rose from the young dark skinned man, a distinct wall of wobbling translucent energy. But the screams he heard, death screams, made him scream as well.
The last sounds behind the screams were those of women’s feet, running his way. The women screamed as well.
Meet the Department
Minutes are days are weeks…
“Mister Greenglass, it’s a pleasure to meet you when you’re conscious, sir!” the man in the brown suit with the canary yellow dress shirt yelled from across the office. Nahoa walked in on a cane, a temporary measure since his legs, on occasion, adopted a policy of going out from under him.
“Likewise,” Nahoa answered back, trying to recall the man’s name. After glancing around the office’s wood paneled interior, the square white 1970 calendar, he came to the brown nameplate on the oval desk. “Mister Capps. I’ve been waiting for the chance to properly thank the right person in the Department of Power for saving my life. May I?” He motioned at a tan chair with a low curved back.
“Sure, son, sure! Take a load off! Drink?”
“Ah, no thank you.” Nahoa watched Robert Capps straighten the clip keeping his white-black-red paisley tie in place on the yellow shirt. The years had been hard on Robert, whose pointed chin now supported a rounder twin below, the beady blue eyes islands in a sea of crow’s feet and baggy skin. Standing to the side crotch out and shoulders hunched, his body formed an aching ‘S’ shape. The toupee on his head matched his dress jacket. He raised an eyebrow in respect, for Capps seemed to appreciate bright colors as did he. It reminded Nahoa to tug gently on his tight scarlet Tiki shirt depicting pineapples. Greenglass patted his short Afro while Capps poured two generous shots of bourbon.
“How’s your recovery coming along?”
Nahoa felt hot inside. Not as hot as in the hospital hallway three months ago, but warm enough. He had always felt cold, but not anymore. Whatever was going on in his body, these ‘mock organs’ were definitely working overtime. And yet, he never perspired. “Oh, I’m doing well. Doctor says the leg shakes are improving, should be gone in another week or two. Otherwise, I feel strong as an ox.” Nahoa’s throat clenched saying the word ‘doctor’. Guilt spewed oxygen to his heat.
Capps smiled, revealing a grand set of stained teeth. “That’s fine, fine! No side effects? You know, nightmares, dizziness? Security close to you begin vomiting or anything of that sort? Anything small could lead to bigger complications down the road.” The bright brown toupee atop Capp’s head performed a brief slide forward before resuming its position.
Nahoa looked at the Department’s head, admired his maroon loafers with the brown trim and bright red furls. Suddenly, his mouth dried out. “No, nothing of the sort.”
Robert walked over in a militant pace to hand his guest the glass, all the while taking mental notes of Nahoa Greenglass: perfect posture, shirt tucked into tight pastel blue corduroy pants, navy blue Converse sneakers on the long feet. This agent presented a nimble five-foot nine inch figure, a swimmer’s physique, well groomed, sleepy yet attentive look to the eyes, a black moustache above rectangular lips. This man had skin a bit too brown for Capps’ taste, but his record spoke volumes. Nahoa was one of the fittest men he had ever seen.
“Thank you,” said the Secret Service agent as he put the bourbon to his lips. “So, what exactly am I to do now? I understand the Service won’t have me back.” The liquor felt so good on his tongue, Nahoa had to take a minute to enjoy its smoky effervescence. “Word around this confined yard is the DOP wants me in some special projects division.” He tensed, for the DOP had a certain reputation in the White House, one for being the department that really pulled the strings since civilization came tumbling down, the King behind the President.
Robert Capps walked behind his desk and flung open a drawer. From it, he pulled a large manila file closed with a single red cord wound around a metal button, and tossed it down on the desk. Nahoa, made wary by the fervent slamming, slid forward to glance at the cover.
SPECIAL PROJECTS DIVISION
“That’s it? No codename?” Nahoa had to let slip a laugh. “I thought anything special in government got a name, something with Bureau or Agency in it.”
Capps’ facial muscles seized up. Greenglass caught the look, realized he may have overstepped his bounds, and retracted his sharp tongue.
“Whenever you’d like, son, you think of a catchy tune for this song, you can label it right on the front. I guarantee it! Now, can we move on to what the Department of Power has in mind for your bright future?”
“Yes sir. Sorry sir. I uh, have a tendency to be very upfront.”
The cheesy smile reignited Capp’ face in a yellow aura. “Of course. It’s in your file, son. Let bygones be bygones. If you’re up to walking, I’ll introduce you to the team. They’re the best! I insisted on it, and the last four presidents have made certain of it. Nothing but the best for the Department! Even old J. Edgar is jealous of us! Follow me, son!”
Nahoa guzzled down the bourbon, missing the fact he did not get to savor its elegance for long, and leaned on the cane. His legs were more agreeable now, and he walked in a brisk pace with a leaning of the shoulders back and forth, feeling more like himself. Robert Capps moved ahead to a second door off to the left of the office, one looking much like the dark brown wall panels. He slid the door back on its track, revealing a wide circular room painted eggshell with mustard crosshatching.
The two men stepped into this bright arena, wall-to-wall bulky tin gray computers beeping their beeps and winding magnetic tape into eternity. Buttons were being pushed by skinny women in tight sweaters and long skirts with big pockets, others in maxi-dresses. Lights were glaring red, green, blue, white and more. A man in a three-piece suit of blue with a gray tie and orange cream shirt ran to each woman, grabbing paperwork from them, only to leave them with even more. It was a confusing marathon of technicalities. Capps beamed with pride. Nahoa crossed his arms, waiting to be told what his role would be in this technological warzone.
“Sir!” one woman, a redhead boasting a wide pair of spectacles, yelled to Robert from across the room. “I have confirmation of Zero-One-Six on target in Belgrade!”
Capp sprang into action, forgetting his guest. He charged the woman, snatching the receiver/microphone from her hand. He placed it on his head. “Hello? Zero-One-Six? Yes, this is Power Plant! Roger, this is Power Plant! What is your pinpoint code? Alice!” Capps started snapping his fingers, right in Alice’s face. “Get a pen! Write this down! OK! Yes, I hear you! Five, One, Four, Eight, Six, Eight, Nine. Roger that! Confirmed! Will send backup, rest assured, just hold on, Six! Hold on!”
Capps tossed the receiver on the desk before Alice as she handed him the piece of paper. “Alice, contact our man in NATO. Tell them to scramble three, no four, Panthers to Six’s location. Drop aid, shoot civilians, bomb the city, whatever they have to do!”
Alice complied as Robert rejoined Nahoa near the door. “Now listen son. What we do here in the DOP is a heckuva lot more than regulate atomic generators across the country. Since some of them failed,” he paused, giving Nahoa a stern nod. Was he waiting for him to do the same? Beady and sleepy eyes locked. “Since some of them failed, resulting in problems with certain states, we’ve had to expand our reach. Defend the country. Heck, the CIA and the FBI are hamstringed fighting the protesters, the Commies and the sniffling minorities.”
“Like me, sir?” Nahoa quipped. His eyes rolled almost into the back of his skull. “I’m well aware of the refugee situation in the country. I’ve spent most of my time in the Service deflecting those same three groups, not to mention the White Army that thinks atomic power, Jews and colored folks are signs of the Rapture.”
Capps didn’t blink. His chins swelled as his gaze upped the ante to insanity. Slow and unsteady, the eyes and the face resumed their softer qualities.
“No offense, son. But I’m a confirmed Buckleyite, National Review read religiously daily, and I know we can’t shimmy or shudder in the face of adversity. America is in her greatest hour of trial. World War Two was a cakewalk! Superhighways with spiked columns built over buildings can’t save the government, only we can! And with Russia falling under their own nuclear reactor debacles, half of Europe too, they come here trying to kick down our door! What we need, what I need, is experienced men who can get out there and keep us safe until I sort out this mess. A man like you.”
Capps raised his hand, as if to pat the ex-Serviceman on the shoulder, then retracted said hand. Instead, he offered Nahoa the yellow grimace.
“I have no problem defending my country, sir. I’m a bona fide patriot, and you’re not the first white man to think my color means my weakness. Rest assured, it’s a solid strength, no doubt. But, I’d really like to know what happened to me on the operating table. I’d prefer you’d be straight with me on that, then we can proceed with whatever you have in mind.”
Capps’ grin expanded across and up to meet the crow’s feet around his crystal blue eyes. He patted his neon mocha toupee, making sure it was in place. “Oh, that’s easy enough. Organs so badly damaged had to be removed. In any other scenario, that’s a death knell. But with recent, very secretive, classified advances we were able to place our latest atomic filter and core into your body. It turned out well, considering the first nine patients burned to a crisp.” He moved past the agent and made his way into the office, and the liquor cabinet.
Nahoa felt much as he did in the fifth grade when Johnny Kessler sucker punched him in the crotch. It brought up a queasy, hurtful feeling that never quite went away.
“Wait now. You did what?!” He turned and stormed into the office. Heat rose in his abdomen.
“Now, son. You wanted it honest. You asked for it to be direct. Well, there it is.”
Nahoa Greenglass moved to confront Capps, to give him a huge chunk of his mind wrapped in a fist. But the fire roared to life again, the legs lost all feeling. Failing vision blurred the room into a murky soup. The last thing he saw was not him going over to punch Robert Capps, but the Department Head coming his way, yelling for help.