This was going to be an entry into the action writing challenge set up by Rhea Silverkeys in the Writer's Anonymous forum, but I took WAY too long trying to write it. Oh well. Enjoy.
Special thanks to my lovely beta, Eenak!
"Ah shit!" I jerk my head down just as the top of the crate shielding me explodes. Dusting the bits of wooden shrapnel from my hair, I turn to the deadly beauty next to me. "What the hell is going on?"
"Just keep your head down!"
I can barely hear her over the gunfire, but what really pisses me off is that she never even looked at me. She just kept on shooting, her head buried in the wood. I take a second to consider pointing out she might have better luck if her eyes were actually open. It occurs to me that if her head gets blown off, I don't get answers, but my mouth is already moving.
"You know, I don't think you're going to hit anything that way. You can't even see what you're shooting at!"
I wait for an answer, but she doesn't even flinch. Maybe she didn't hear me? I go to touch her shoulder, but a curt command freezes me inches away from her.
"Don't touch me!"
Sagging back against the crate, I try to think up a plan to get away from her and the bullets, and back to my apartment.
"Ah!" Another bullet chips shards of wood off my only protection. Inspecting the damage, I notice a glint of light in the hole. I probe it with my finger and yank it back instantly. It's hot! Hot metal under a normal-looking, wooden shipping crate. Am I missing something here?
"Are you hurt?"
I glance at Agent Silverson to see a look of real concern in her eyes.
"Um, yeah. I just…got a splinter." Something is going on here, but I'm not so sure I should let on that I'm suspicious.
Instantly forgotten, I return to running over my very short list of options, and very long list of possible circumstances. It also occurs to me that she is trying really hard to protect me, but couldn't seem to care less that I exist. I don't get it.
Agent Silverson's shots suddenly get more frequent, and the other guys only fire three or four shots in quick succession. I think I also pick out scuffling, but it's hard to tell with all the noise; I think the enemy is repositioning. That isn't good. I debate hazarding a look, but a hand on my shoulder diverts my attention.
She still hasn't deigned it necessary to look at me.
My cross reply is ignored in favor of more gunfire. So what else is new?
My eyes scan around at the section of warehouse in my purview, and I notice a shadow cast on a stack of crates. The metal shipping containers next to them block my view of the shadow's owner, but I think it's safe to say I won't like to meet him. I reach a hand over to alert my protector.
Bang! Packing material explodes from a hole in one of the metal shipping containers the shadow is hiding behind. It takes a second for me to realize I stopped breathing; I look down, and find out why.
"Oh my God." I stare at the glistening wet spot wreathing the small, red hole in my stomach. I don't know why, but I touch the growing stain with my hand and verify that it is, indeed, real blood. All I can really think about is that I will be, yet again, standing up Dana. At least I have a good excuse this time. Think she'll forgive something like this?
"…so while I'm tying these guys up, I hear a noise and when I turned around, I swear I saw something."
"Maybe it was just your imagination?" She and I both know that's unlikely. But as serious as this is, she had to ask anyway.
I wish it was. But I know what I saw. Something was there.
"No way. I know being Batman makes me a little paranoid, but this isn't the first time I saw it. Max, I think someone's been following me."
My best friend, Max, and I are sitting in her apartment, just hanging out. Idly studying her hot-pink hair, I await the brilliant solution she is sure to have. No matter what, Max always seems to have an answer, or at least be able to make me feel better. After a minute or two, she fields her suggestion.
"Well, have you tried throwing a batarang at it?" She stares at me expectantly as I stare back in disbelief.
Did she really just ask me that?
I burst out laughing.
"Is that really necessary?" The irritation in her voice is unmistakable, but it's too late, I'm already way past restraint.
I manage to briefly part my eyelids for a quick glance before giving myself over to the laughter again. Arms crossed and brow furrowed, I can just see her jaw set as my laughter worsens.
"Hey, McGinnis, I can't think of anything else. Unless Wayne's got some fancy gadget in the cave, there isn't much you can do!" My friend is pretty upset with me for laughing at her, and the joke is starting to lose its humor. Truth be told, I think most of that was just tension from weeks of looking over my shoulder all the time. Before this mystery stalker showed up, we had gotten an email directly to the Batcomputer from a 'shadowbird322' that delivered a virus Bruce couldn't even make heads or tails of. Now a small chunk of the computer's hard drive is floating around out there. Thankfully nothing really important got out, but someone that powerful has got to know something. So I've been on my toes for nearly a month, with no outlet. I feel bad for laughing at Max, but I really needed it—almost all the tension is gone.
"…unless…" My closest friend rubs her brown chin thoughtfully.
Instantly alert, I clear the tears from my eyes and focus all my attention on Max.
"Well, if you happened to be somewhere that has a camera, you can just hack the network and look for an angle that catches this 'shadow' of yours. And did you ever try using that schway camouflage ability to lose it before you went home?"
"Every night. I'm not taking chances."
Cameras. How could I miss that? No way the old man would've. That's why you go to Max, McGinnis. You may miss the obvious, but she doesn't.
My problem solved, Max and I use the rest of the time to chat and have fun. All of twenty minutes later, it's time for me to leave for my job at Wayne's.
Ostensibly, I'm just Bruce Wayne's personal assistant. And chauffeur. And maid. And whatever else he needs me to be. But after the first few hours, I become Batman and fly the patrols looking for crimes to stop and victims to save. It's not so much that I mind the other work, but being a superhero is so much more schway.
After another night of crime fighting, I curl up in my soft, warm bed and surrender to sleep. My mind drifts, like a raft floating down a calm creek. Images swirl around in my head and I think of nothing as they form incoherent storylines that progress from beginning to end, saying nothing of consequence. Being Batman, sleep is a luxury, and I am inevitably woken up way too soon several nights a week. This is one of those nights.
I awake to a hand over my mouth.
"Mhm-mpf!" I snap back to reality as fast as I can and struggle against my attacker. I open my eyes to find icy blue ones staring hard into mine.
"Shh. Don't yell."
The beautiful, night-haired woman waits a few seconds for me to calm down before pulling away and letting me up. She looks away just as I start to ask her what she wants.
"Get dressed." She completely ignores my question and continues to stare intently at my bedroom door. "There's no time to explain. Someone is after you and I am here to protect you."
Skeptical, I figure I'll at least have the suit with me if things go south, but the enigmatic woman yanks me to my window the minute my second shoe is on. I watch my backpack recede into darkness as I'm pulled out onto the moonlit fire escape.
Not even waiting for me to obey, she drags me down the ladder with her.
"Hold on! You haven't even told me your name!"
"Agent Valerie Silverson. I work for the FBI. We have reason to believe someone may try to take you soon. I'm here to preempt them."
Agent Silverson had rushed me to an apartment across town in the middle of the night. I am tired and the bed I'd seen through the doorway is calling me, but I am scared too, and the last thing I want to do is give her an opportunity to do something to me.
"Who is after me?"
The woman focuses her attention on me for the first time since I got up. She doesn't answer, so I elaborate.
"You said someone was—"
"We don't know."
I gape at her incredulously, unconvinced that the FB fraggin' I could know a guy is after me, but not even have an idea of who.
She doesn't take the hint, and instead strides over to a laptop I just noticed on the moonlit dining table. The furnishings of the apartment are sparse but functional and when I take a good look at Agent Silverson, I notice her clothes are just as boring, with that simple suit you expect all government agents to wear. Hers doesn't even have a feminine twist to it!
"So…how long have you worked for the FBI?"
I stand there behind her for a few seconds before I start to feel stupid waiting for an answer that obviously will never come. I've seen that look of intense concentration before from Bruce, and if either of them ever heard me, they never had any intention of answering.
So I sit on the couch for the next hour, not even noticing when I drift off to sleep.
I had a great dream. Dana and I were dancing in an enormous courtyard. The moonlight shone off her hair and caught her eyes, making them twinkle. She was wearing that white dress again…she is so hot in that dress. There was music playing in the background; I don't know where it was coming from, but it was soft and romantic. I spin Dana around once and lean her back. Her hair falls away from her face and she giggles, her nose crinkling in that really cute way. I gaze into her glistening, black eyes and she gazes back into mine. My heart races as I close in for a—
"Ah! What?" A firm hand on my shoulder shakes me violently and my head swirls as I zoom back to reality. Painful, disappointing reality. Someone out there must really hate me.
"Get up. I need to move you. It isn't safe to stay anywhere too long."
Agent Silverson is already—or maybe still—dressed and circling the room with a cloth, wiping everything down. Fingerprints. She's leaving nothing to chance.
"Exactly what kind of proof do you have that someone's after me?" I know that someone has been following me, but for all I know, it was her.
She stops in her tracks and her head turns slowly to scowl menacingly at me. I've only ever seen a glare that intimidating from the old man, Bruce. I decide to drop the subject and hope she does the same.
My…'guardian'…wipes down the couch I was crashing on—for some reason—as I wait by the door, debating whether or not to ask her to get my backpack—or better yet, let me get it.
Agent Silverson leads me out to the street and we get into a black hovercar. We drive onto a freeway and head towards the edge of Gotham City.
Now I'm starting to worry.
"Where, uh…where are we going?" My voice is starting to show the stress; I can hear Bruce yelling at me about how quick that could get me scragged.
"I'm taking you to another location."
A few seconds later, I realize that was the end of her response.
"Yeah, but where?"
Yeah, that's helpful.
Sulking, I resign myself to not get any answers and decide to just learn what I can by watching.
I am out of it, but Agent Silverson really seems to know what to do. The minute she saw the blood leaking out of my shirt, she had shot three holes through the same shipping container hiding my killer. Then she had pushed me onto my back, pulled up my shirt and pressed her hands into the wound. It really hurt when she did that.
"Ow! Hey, easy."
"Shh…" She closes her eyes for a few seconds while I stare, trying to come up with a train of thought. Somehow, I manage to spend the entire time thinking of nothing.
I'm about to say something sarcastic like 'how can I feel better with a bullet in my stomach', but before I can say anything, I realize that I do feel better. All the pain is gone, and when I look down, so is the wound itself. There isn't even a hole in my shirt.
She's already running off to check the other body.
I get up to follow her, but a spray of bullets changes my mind. I watch her turn the guy over, looking for something, but frustrated by not finding it. Still turned away from me, she doesn't see the arms erupt from the crate behind me and drag me kicking and silently screaming into the floor.