purplekitte: (i am a grown-up)
[personal profile] purplekitte
#That feeling where you're depressed and think to yourself, Even if I work as hard as I can and really try, I'll still fail because I'm basically not good enough and will never succeed at anything; then you turn out to be totally wrong. (By which I mean, I got all A's.)

Anyway, I will now post the first dozen or so pages of two long-fic WIPs I have, a.k.a. until I get to a scene I haven't written yet. If I let myself think about it too hard, I remember that I find this fic extremely embarrassing, because the basic premise is being a comedy/action series about Warhammer meets real life a planet coincidentally extremely similar to modern Earth, full of nerdy self/people-I-know-inserts. Except Games Workshop doesn't exist. Because it's not quite that meta. Barely.

Fandom: Warhammer 40k
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: mild violence
Word Count: 5337


I am a captain in the Guard not because of any military training or ability, but because I once punched a Space Marine in the face.

There I was. Back before Epistophy was an Imperial-compliant world, a civilized world there was some talk of making into an agriworld for a while, back when the Warp-storms that had raged around the system for uncounted millennia had just subsided, it was summer and I was working three part-time jobs because the one I really cared about, my research internship at the university lab, didn’t pay. I had much less time during the school year, so I had to earn as much money as I could during the summer. It was boring work and I hardly spoke to any of the colleagues beyond vague chit-chat because we had so little in common and my car’s air conditioning hadn’t worked in years which was just great with all the time I spent driving around and it was in the forties out.

I kept my professional smile on, even though I was thinking about how I wanted to never come back, possibly never get out of bed again. Why couldn’t I unwind for a while? Theoretically I would have a week vacation next month, but visiting family was even more tiring than my normal routine. Then it would be fall and there would be another generation of rats to deal with and my dissertation to write and...

Smile. There was a trick to it. Not a grin--that was too much like something specific and good had happened and I knew it and no one else did. A slight quirk at the curve of my lips into a pleasant but unfocused expression. I didn’t need to look smart, just be present. The ushers’ uniforms at the opera house were distinctive enough--red shirt with black waistcoat and trousers. I could keep my face that way for hours without my cheeks hurting and with hardly any conscious thought.

Look left. Look right. If most people were in their seats, I could sneak away from giving directions to row J and go take a cigarette break. The fact I did not smoke and never had was irrelevant to the urge.

I opened the back door and slipped out. Directing people from the parking garage to the opera house proper was not a desirable job, being un-air conditioned, but I could trade indistinct chatter for the traffic sounds and the usual taxis idling outside the door.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Not surprising since it was the dry season and a drought year at that. Not that that meant much to me, since people had been saying it was a drought year my whole life, except that one time we had the big flash floods ten years back. It was still solidly afternoon rather than evening, this being the matinee, but with how clear it was I would be able to see a few of the brightest planets or stars if I looked at exactly the right spot. I considered going for the opera glasses I had in a pocket, but I’d have to be very careful not to look directly at the sun through them.

Instead, I saw a shooting star. Maybe an aeroplane going to one of the smaller landing strips in the area? I vaguely recalled something on the news the night before about a meteor shower, but it wasn’t one of the regularly scheduled ones. While I might usually have been interested in the story, I’d drunk a litre of water and fallen asleep in a sweaty sprawl my couch about then.

Since I half-thought it was an aeroplane, I didn’t give much thought to the fact it was getting closer and started to stroll over to ask the actual parking lot attendant ‘if he needed any help’ to have an excuse for what I’d been doing.

As a result, I heard rather than saw the impact. The pavement under my feet, already half-melted from the sun, rippled in a miniature earthquake. A wave of superheated air rushed over me and outward.

I spun around. An ugly office building a block down was smoking. It was then the screaming started.

Strictly speaking, my job in the case of emergency was to direct the quick, safe, and orderly evacuation of the thousand people in the opera hall. To do otherwise would be wrong and a dereliction of duty. I would probably get fired if my boss ever saw me again, but I hated that jobs and had been thinking of quitting anyway, so I didn’t care. So I high-tailed it out of there to see the spectacle.

Had an aeroplane crashed? At least no one would be in their office on Sunday afternoon, I figured.

Fighting my way through the few other pedestrians in the street, now fleeing, I saw the drop pod for the first time and realised beyond all reasonable doubt this was no aeroplane or freak meteor strike.

Aliens! From outer space!

Of course, they might be hostile space aliens planning to kill/eat/assimilate all humans, so it was probably best to not be in the welcoming committee and find out whether or not they came in peace from the evening news from a prudent distance away. But if the random destruction was going to begin, I was already in the wrong city, so it would hardly matter if I died immediately or slightly later. I wanted to see the aliens! I’m sure that would have been so comforting to my family at my funeral. If only I had a boom box with some yodelling folk music.

I kept running towards them. I could see the figures that had emerged from their space ship by then. Giant black robots maybe two meters tall and almost as wide at the shoulders as they were tall, but basically humanoid. Their forms reminded me of giant suits of armour, particular with the wide pauldrons, and the presence of long-barrelled guns and huge swords and axes confirmed that they were probably killer-robots. They were bedecked in what, I saw as I got even closer, were ragged black and grey fur cloaks and necklaces and amulets of huge teeth.

‘Wow!’ I heard myself say, coming to a stop. If I died in the next two seconds, my life would have been worth it.

One of them turned its face plate towards me. It was strangely silent besides the ringing in my ears. Those who had been on the street had run and those who had been in buildings hadn’t come out yet.

+YOU,+ I heard. The word boomed in my head and I clutched my hands over my ears, for all I hadn’t actually heard anything. It wasn’t even a word, I instinctively knew, an idea being forced into my head so hard that by brain built words around it to process it.

‘If you want me to take you to my leader, I’m afraid that’s nowhere near here.’ The situation was so unbelievable at this point that I was too far in shock to actually feel fear.

+Who do you speak for?+

‘Uh, no one. I don’t speak for my planet or anything. You’re a psychic spaceman talking in my head, did you know that?’ I was, on the other hand, rather hysterical by that point.

+All this panic. Are your people so fearful?+

‘I’m here, aren’t I?’

+Show me what a warrior of your people is capable of, then.+

‘Okay, but just so you know, I’m not a warrior of my people. I’m an adolescent civilian with no military training.’ Perhaps I was exaggerating the ‘adolescent’ part by a few years, but my teenaged rec centre karate and judo classes certainly didn’t count against a robot that loomed over me and outweighed me by a tonne. Still, my blood was singing with excitement. The space alien was talking to me (telepathically!) and had challenged me to a duel, even if only as some sort of test, tease, or formality.

The robot had put away its weapons and made no further move towards them, indicating I was both being patronised and supposed to hit it. So I did.

Nothing so large should be able to move so fast, though I recalled from my instructing younger children in karate that it was really easy to step out of the way of someone taking wild swings at you when that was all you were doing and it looked much more impressive than it was.

What to do? Even though it was heavy enough to crack the pavement under it and looked badly balanced, it was at least as fast as I was.

I knew the area. What could I use? I wondered as I took another swing in combination with a kick. It moved its feet quickly, but they stayed very close to the ground. It probably wasn’t made to kick, not on ground that wasn’t secure for it, but it could certain stomp me if I tried to get under it. This street was old and made for pedestrians, not rated for high weights, I knew from all the signs redirecting cars around. If I could just get it off balance.

In the street there was a manhole cover that was a little too small and had fallen through on a particularly hot day a few weeks ago and the city kept meaning to shut down the street to fix it permanently. With how hot the very air was this close to the spaceship, it would have left a hole in the street again.

It didn’t always dodge the same way, but it wasn’t making any particular effort to avoid being herded when I kept attacking from the same side.

I threw myself at the ground into a roll between its legs. It would be able to get me with its feet easily, but it would probably have trouble doing that without seriously injuring or killing me and it had avoided that in favour of playing with me so far.

The impact with the hard ground hurt from my shoulder diagonally across my back and it burned, even through two layers of clothes. The important thing was that my momentum took me straight across the open sewer maintenance hole without falling in. I was already spinning and jumping to my feet.

The alien was in no real danger of falling in, but it had to actively avoid doing so in how it placed its feet. Putting it just where I’d predicted it was going to be.

My punch connected solidly and I screamed. Pain blossomed from my hand and the very thought of shaking it out to make the pain disperse made me loose another half-scream half-groan. I cradled my hand, tried not to scream continuously, and figured I had at least cracked if not broken two or three fingers.

Fight over. I stood still, panted heavily, and looked expectantly at what the psychic robot was going to do next.

+We have need of a local guide.+

‘Okay. I’ll do it. Do you really want to meet my leader then?’ The alien was speaking directly into my head, but how could it understand me anyway? Did it actually speak my language or was it just reading my mind?

+We are tracking a traitorous drop pod that landed a few hours ago. We must follow them, determine their objective, and deny them it. The auspex places their landing site that way.+

‘Errr, how far?’

+More than one hundred kilometres. Likely quite a bit more. It is out of range of exact measurement. I shall track them with my runes to determine the exact direction once we are underway.+

‘Can’t you just use your spaceship? Did you crash?’

+No more resources will be allocated to following a single vehicle with the fleet battle still raging in the system. We were knocked off-course entering the atmosphere.+

It was too much, being drilled into my head. Too many concepts I didn’t quite get, too much too specific information, being rendered haphazardously in my mind. Pictures of spaceships. Pictures of falling. Being thrown around by atmospheric disturbances. I doubled over and shut my eyes briefly. Concentrate on the content.

There was a space battle raging right now? Did the government know and were just covering it up or were astronomers still baffled about what was happening or were our telescopes not even good enough to see it? Space! So many of my more fantastical hopes and dreams were tied up in it.

Regardless. ‘We’ll need transportation.’ I looked at the huge figures and counted to twelve. My tiny car might have fit one of them, two if they tore up all the seats. ‘Okay, there aren’t any vehicles here capable of carrying all of you, but I can acquire one not too far away. Would it be possible for you to wait and hide here for me to return with it?’

+I do not smell the taint of Chaos on you. I have accepted you as our guide. So guide.+

‘Right.’ I rubbed my head with my good hand. All other pain paled compared to that coming from my left hand, but I was pretty sure I had an awful headache. I also discovered I had a nosebleed. I didn’t recall hitting anything with my face, so I was going to blame the psychic communication. I probably had brain cancer already. ‘Follow me.’

The robot I had been talking to and fighting barked an order to the others in a language I didn’t understand, confirming my suspicion that they didn’t actually understand a word I was saying and were using mindreading.

I led them away down the least-used streets I knew. I could already hear sirens from all directions and thought I saw a helicopter in a gap between buildings. Hopefully no one had seen us yet, but I needed to get them out of sight as quickly as possible. They had big guns after all and I didn’t want to see them have a shootout with the police.

Downtown was densely packed with buildings. Which one? Another corporate office building would be most likely to be empty. I avoided the glass front door and brought us around to a graffitied door around the side of one. ‘Can you break this down?’

One of them hit the door, and even I could tell it was hitting it lightly, and the steel dented inwards, the lock breaking off from the wall. ‘Thank you.’ They had to fit through the doorway sideways.

That led us to the landing of a stairwell. I chose down. As expected, the lowest level contained only storage and the offices for maintenance and cleaning crews. Even the ceilings in the hallways were naked bundles of wire.

Finding what I hoped was the most out of the way place behind a bunch of old computer monitors and cardboard boxes, I directed, ‘Stay here until I get back.’

+Hurry back, guide.+

‘Twenty minutes.’ I tensed to start running back to the stairs, but I paused for a moment for something that suddenly felt important. I tapped my chest and said clearly, ‘Dot.’

The space robots had names, right? Designations? They were all painted and attired differently enough that I had to think of them as individuals.

‘Valtyr.’

I grinned. Some things were too universal to need mind-reading. Then I ran for my car.

* * *

I had one vital detour to make on the way, so I pulled into a local pharmacy with my jerky one-handed driving. I opened and downed a handful of pills dry from a bottle of the strongest over-the-counter painkiller I knew of. That was the full daily-recommended-dose right there, but I intended to keep taking them all day anytime I felt the need. Then I picked up a box of finger splints and went over the pharmacists’ counter to make my purchases.

Of all the pharmacies on my way, this was the one where my next door neighbour worked. We weren’t that close, but she was a medical student and pharmacy assistant and knew me.

‘Ndelitunga, it’s good to see you. Hey, could you help me with something? I think I sprained my fingers in a particularly vicious tennis match and I’m not quite sure I can get these splints on myself. Would it leave you open to horrible liability charges if you helped me?’ I said as cheerfully as I could.

She examined my hand and her black brows knit. ‘They might be broken. You should go to the emergency room.’

‘I guess I will later. It doesn’t hurt that much. Could you help me for now, though?’

‘Sure, Dot. I’ll come over tonight to check on you, alright?’

‘Sure, unless the hospital says there’s really something wrong with me and wants to keep me longer.’ I’d wiped off the nosebleed as well as I could, but couldn’t do anything about my rather dirty clothes. My hair was coming out of its ponytail too and I didn’t have the dexterity to fix it one-handed. It was really extreme tennis apparently.

I gritted my teeth as hard as I could to not scream as she set and splinted my fingers. Two of them were obviously broken. They would heal pretty well, eventually, but I never had the same dexterity from them.

On my way out, I also went to the ATM and took out a hefty amount of cash, just in case I needed to go on the run and become as untraceable as possible in the near future. My long term finances no longer mattered to me. Space aliens! If I needed money I’d go on a circuit of all the talk shows, all of them, and then write a tell-all book.

I continued down the street. I’d only been where I was going once, when I first moved to Clear Fork for graduate school, and was counting on my extremely good memory for directions to remember where it was.

Was that the petrol station I was looking for? I made a sharp turn into the shopping centre, running over some of the curb, but fortunately not into any other cars.

I jogged inside the rental car office and announced. ‘I need to rent a moving van.’

‘Did you make a reservation online?’

‘No. If you have any in your lot, I’d like it now. If not, I can come back later.’ Well, no, I’d have to think of something else, but it didn’t pay to sound too desperate. I smiled a good ‘I am happy but absent-minded and out-of-touch’ smile. I was obviously a crazy person, if as long as no one looked too closely at my injuries they could pretend I was a harmless one.

‘We have five and eight meter trucks in, but you won’t get the discount for making a reservation online.’

‘That’s fine. The eight meter one. I have to move a whole flat.’

‘Where and when will you be returning it?’

‘Here. In four days.’ Heck if I knew.

‘It will be 19.95 per day plus 0.39 per mile.’

‘Money is no object.’

I tuned out the rest of the explanation of about how liable I was for any damages and how I should return it with a full petrol tank. I was glad to be just old enough that I didn’t get extra fees for my age when trying to rent something.

I abandoned my car in the parking lot. It would probably get towed before I came back for it. It had awful gas mileage and even worse air conditioning anyway.

* * *

There were barricades downtown, but I’d left the robots outside the police perimeter, so I could park nearby and was confident they hadn’t been found yet. Spectators were starting to crowd in earnest closer to the scene but no one was interested in the building I was.

I peeled the deformed door open again and ran downstairs as quickly as I could. Every step jarred my injuries, but thankfully I had epinephrine and delicious pills.

WTF? I stopped short in the doorway. They had removed what turned out to helmets, revealing fleshy human heads with long, braided hair and beards.

Not robots from space. Spacemen.

I stood staring for I don’t know how long before I was brought back to reality by a single word. ‘Dot.’ The voice was low and gruff and quite different than it had been over a speaker. Odd, I hadn’t heard anything coming down the hall, so they must either not have been talking among themselves or been doing it psychically.

‘Valtyr.’

I assumed I was right about which one was him at least. He was the biggest, with the most elaborate, engraved armour, I guess it was armour since they were men rather than robots. He was significantly older than the others, grey haired, while they hardly looked my age. Other than being two meters tall and two meters wide.

I made a ‘follow’ gesture and Valtyr repeated it to the others. He didn’t say anything into my mind, for which I was grateful because my nosebleed had started up again just looking at him.

One of them tapped on the side of my moving truck and looked disappointed when it dented. ‘Of course it’s not armoured,’ I snapped, not that they could understand me, and held my hands wide to say ‘at least it’s big enough’.

Regardless, they filed in quickly and with military efficiency. To my surprise, Valtyr went in the back and one of the others crammed himself into the passenger cab. Well, I hadn’t been expecting to get my deposit back and I certainly wasn’t going to with the look of what remained of that seat. And this was the smallest of them.

I pulled myself up into the driver’s seat. ‘Dot,’ I said.

‘Isolfr.’ Giant scale aside, if anything he was rather pretty and delicate compared to the rest of them. His flaxen beard was just long enough to be braided, but he was still clearly a young man and I was curious if his hair was as soft as it looked. Since randomly petting someone like a dog was a faux pas in most cultures I knew of, I resisted the urge.

He pointed north. I suppose he either had the directions or they had a way of communicating with each other. They were spacepeople with guns, so I shouldn’t be surprised they had radios.

I started the truck and immediately garnered a weird look when I started driving south. ‘I’m getting us to the highway, a big, straight, smooth road where we can go much faster.’

He gave me a blank look. I gave him a blank look and tried picturing the highway really clearly in my mind. Finally he pointed to his forehead, then shook his head.

So they weren’t all psychic, assuming that gesture meant the same thing I thought it did. Maybe only Valtyr was and that was why he’d been the only one talking to me. He must have really not thought it important to relay to me complicated instructions at this point, since he’d sent someone else who I couldn’t talk to.

I slowed down and pulled to the side a bit to give a pantomime explanation. I pointed at a building and moved my hand down and sideways to illustrate having to manoeuvre between them, then moved my hand up rapidly, which would hopefully get across ‘until we reach the highway, then we can speed up and take a junction north’. I realized this was going to happen a lot and was going to be really embarrassing.

On the upside, embarrassment necessitated caring and I was talking to spacemen and that was taking up much of my emotional attention. I didn’t even try to explain ‘lots of one-way streets’.

It was difficult to make turns with a much larger vehicle than I was used to and only one good hand, but I avoided hitting anything hard enough to feel or hear the impact. Once I was on the highway, everything would be better. There were definite advantages to living in a city smack-dab in the middle of nowhere once you got beyond the metropolitan area. If we were going north, we could go north for literally days without hitting anything but flat prairies of grazing land and corn fields and eventually the arctic circle in five thousand kilometres or so.

Once we reached a solid hundred ten kph, Isolfr looked much more relaxed. I smiled and nodded broadly and encouragingly, and got a slight nod of approval in return. We were on the right track. Normally I’d have been going a good ten kilometres faster, but of all times in my life, I really didn’t want to get pulled over just then.

I still had no idea how far we were going to go, but when told to stop or turn I would get off at the first exit. Hopefully wherever their enemies were was along a major road, because I would not look forward to trying to make any speed on small country roads or cross-country over bad terrain and barbed-wire fences. Their enemies would have the same problem, I could hope.

Driving is not inherently interesting, particularly on a straight, uncrowded road with scenery I was familiar with. Green grass gone yellow from lack of water, occasional clumps of trees or black cows in the distance, slight rolling hills by local standard that would be described as ‘table-top flat’ by anyone else. I thought about turning on the radio, but flipping through stations with my bad hand in a vehicle with unfamiliar settings did not sound like a good idea.

I eyed Isolfr as much as I could without looking away from the road too much. Were all spacepeople so huge or only these ones? Speculation on high-gravity planets was that they would make someone stronger, but shorter. Maybe there’d been a mutation in the population for overactive growth hormone or testosterone production during puberty and it had been advantageous enough to spread. How much genetic diversity did their population have, or more generally, how many of them were there? All twelve of them looked ethnically similar in facial structure, but they could easily be in the same military unit because they were from the same locality, as far as I knew about military affairs. They had the minimum capacity to have space battles, but as for upper limits all I knew was there’d never been here before. Did they have faster-than-light travel? Faster-than-light communication? They had psychics, so probably the latter at least.

No, too little information for useful speculation. Maybe later I could act out some more complicated questions or ask mind-reading Valtyr.

Three hours later, I was almost as bored as I was excited and I was putting updated touches on my childhood dream of how I was going to terraform my own planet. More than a hundred kilometres, they said. We’d gone more than three hundred. Their enemies had better be a moving target or I’d be very unimpressed with their ability to navigate.

Despite how still he’d sat except for eye movements for hours, Isolfr gave me an interrogative cough when I pulled into a truck stop. I made a vroom sound and mimed a vehicle moving, then the sound and the movement petering out. ‘Needs more petrol.’ I had half a tank still, but out here petrol stations were few and far between, so better to fill up when you could then get stranded somewhere.

Setting up the pump, I mimed to him eating and drinking, then pointed at the convenience store, then made a sweeping motion back towards him and the back of the truck. ‘Should I bring you anything? You probably shouldn’t stretch your legs or people might see you.’

Isolfr said something in his language and shook his head. Apparently they didn’t want food. Or we were completely misinterpreting each other. You never knew.

Leaving them in the truck, I went into the convenience store to use the w.c. and buy any maps they had and something to eat. I stocked up on jerked beef, dried fruit, trail mix, bottled water, canned coffee, and over-the-counter pain pills in case I couldn’t get anything else for awhile. Hopefully the cashier wouldn’t look out the window.

From the news playing, the government was saying it had been some sort of military satellite crashing and subsequent newest generation planes had been sent to secure the area and clean up, and all the crazies were saying it was aliens but no one was believing them just on principle.

I suppose my plans to be a celebrity might be derailed if this whole incident was never made public, but maybe I could get a government job with high security clearance, since I already knew about aliens. I imagined myself in a black suit. It didn’t really work, but maybe they’d let me grow alien fungus scraped off the wreckage or something.

I also took the time to do what I’d been itching to for two and a half hours: call my girlfriend. Having only one hand was getting annoying. It had meant I couldn’t fish my mobile out of my pocket and hold it up to my ear while driving.

‘Zoe! Did you hear about the explosion in downtown Clear Fork?’ I lived in Clear Fork at the moment and she was an hour’s drive east in northern Bryan, living with her parents over the summer, near where my parents lived too. We’d been flatmates as undergrads, but our graduate work had taken us half the country apart most of the year. If she’d been anywhere near on the way, I’d have picked her up.

‘No, but I gather you’re fine. Good.’ She read internet news feeds more consistently than I did, but she could easily have spent the last four hours asleep or watching DVDs. Having just gotten her master’s degree in philosophy after reading religious studies and psychology concurrently as an undergraduate, she had returned to her natural nocturnal state this summer and was not to be woken before two in the afternoon.

‘Stuff has happened. I can’t possible explain it without taking more time than I have and sounding crazy, though I know you’d believe me. The important thing is, I’m near Deer Creek and may want you to meet me in Kichai soon.’

‘Okay. Right now?’

I was so grateful to be dating someone who would go to her car and drive five hundred kilometres at the drop of a hat just because I asked her to. Of course, I would do the same for her any day.

‘Yeah. Please. By all means finish your coffee first. I’ll call you again if I end up changing directions before you get there.’

‘Alright.’

‘I’ll explain everything later. I could give you a two second breakdown now, but it would drive you to distraction until you could see it for yourself, it’s driving me crazy now with unanswered questions, and I just can’t do it over the phone.’

‘Dot, you’re babbling. If you’re not going to tell me now, don’t go on about it. I believe you. Call me back. If I get closer and you haven’t, I’ll track the GPS in your phone.’

She knew my password for online linkup, right. ‘Yes, do that. But I’ll call again as soon as I can. Gotta go, love you, bye.’

I jogged back out to the truck, worried that I’d taken too long and the spacemen were getting impatient. Maybe they were. My guesses based on body language only went so far. Isolfr pointed north again, a little east, but were following the highway as far as I was concerned. If we got way off, we would go to a different highway.

Date: 2013-05-12 06:38 pm (UTC)
thousanth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thousanth
Lol. Just how does one deal with the situation of driving a Space Marine around? I love the "You want anything?" comment!

Space Wolves! How did I know it would be Space Wolves? ;3

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purplekitte

March 2015

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