Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Hard Times", story development........

Looking through the spotting scope at the approaching vehicles, The Man commented quietly to his two companions “So... what do you think of this weather, huh?”

The older one... and the grumpiest man Stace had ever met, said in a barely audible whisper: “I bloody love this weather. It’s sure proof the Good Lord is looking out for us”. Not only was this the first positive thing Stace had ever heard old Grayson say, it was also the first time his words hadn’t been liberally joined with enough profanity to make a statue blush.

Stace, the youngest of the three by a few decades, had no idea what The Man and old Grayson were talking about. It had to be at least 95 degrees out, with enough humidity to make the air thick with haze. He knew the thick, shimmering air would make accurate shooting past a few hundred yards more difficult than he would like. Each slight breeze would bounce a bullet sideways in almost unpredictable ways.

“What are you geezers going on about? Making small talk about the weather, when we have two car loads of genuine Men In Black about to unload on our neighbors..... nuts!” Stace might have been slightly derisive, but he was smart enough to keep it very slight indeed, and at no more than a whisper either.

The Man glanced at what was ...to him anyways... the boy. “Stace”, he said, “You have two problems. One, you don’t understand everything you know, and two... you don’t pay enough attention to your surroundings. Now lift the bolt on your rifle, and look through your scope at those two big black suburbans coming down the road”.

Stace didn’t argue. When The Man was willing to teach, he was damn well willing to learn. He lifted the bolt on his Remington 700 as instructed, knowing it would make the rifle physically unable to fire... and therefore unquestionable safe to use the rifles optics as a spotting scope in this situation. He settled his cheek to the stock, unconsciously setting up into firing position... which was exactly why The Man had ordered him to lift the bolt handle.

Looking through the scope, he examined the approaching vehicles in silence for about thirty seconds, before saying “Okay... what am I not seeing?”

The Man spoke without moving from his spotting scope, “You want to take this one Grayson?”

Grouchy old Grayson quietly spat a small ugly stream of tabacco juice from the side of his mouth into the weeds, and in a voice almost gentle for him, said “Not unless I can hit him in the head to make the point. You fucking educate the little shit”.

“Okay.... listen up Stace, and describe what you see coming at us”.

Stace had never taken his eye from the scope, and almost instantly began quietly cataloging what he saw as important. “Two vehicles, late model 4x4 suburbans, black. No idents I can see yet. Each with at least four men in them, look to be in some sort of dark grey military style uniforms. I see patches, name badges, things like that... and gear hanging off what look to be body armour vests. They look like friggin ninja wannabees with all that crap strapped to them. I see weapon muzzles, but not enough to tell what they have. Must be short to sit like that, so probably A4’s. They are coming at us about 30 mph... good time on that road, rough as it is. Okay... what am I missing?”

The Old Man laid a hand on Stace’s shoulder.... “What are they wearing on their heads?”

Stace had never looked up, so he answered at once. “Black helmets and mirrored goggles, just like the bad ass’ed swat guys wore in the old movies”.

“Right”, said The Man. “Goggles. Now tell me about windows on those suburbans”.

“What about them?” said Stace. “They are windows... just windows. Might be armored, but what else should I be seeing?”

This time The Man did smack Stace on the top of his head, if gently, and making sure it wouldn't be seen from a distance. “The point is you can see the windows... they are rolled up. That means they have the air conditioning on in those trucks. Now think... what is going to happen when those men get out of the trucks?”

Stace’s mind raced. He knew he had just been given everything he needed to figure this out, even if it was embarrassing as hell. That would not be an issue, as experience had shown him. The Man never spoke about folks that way, and old Grayson didn’t care about enough people to talk with them.... at least, not hardly ever.

Trying to think like logically as he had been taught, Stace ran through the scenario in his mind. The men he could see, getting out of air conditioned vehicles... what was special about that? He placed himself in their shoes and ran it step by step in his head, just like he did when he thought his way through what a deer would see as it approached his stand. Being able to do that had made him one of the best hunters in the county, and that was respectable.... and why he was here in this hide with the two older and more experienced men.

In his mind, Stace traced each step the Men In Black would take in getting out of their vehicles... and suddenly he got the point. He was inexperienced.... not stupid... and had just needed to think about it for a few moments. A feral and predatory grim came to his face, although no one would have mistaken it for niceness. It was the smile of a top-of-the-food-chain predator on seeing his prey walk blindly unaware into striking range.

“Right”, said Stace. “Their goggles are going to fog over within seconds once they open those doors, and they’ll be blind till they can get them off. That means they will be totally blind and shook up for at least five seconds. We own their asses!”

“Good boy Stace”, said The Man.... as Grayson spit another stream of tobacco juice in what could only be called a mildly approving manner... “Now leave your bolt handle up till I say different. That five seconds is all we need to make this work, and we may not have to fire a shot.”


Old NFO said...

It's the 'little' things... :-)

Mark said...

VERY nice, Art! I look forward to more of this story!

Word Verification: unrests

Yabusame said...

This excerpt reminds me of "Unintended Consequences" by John Ross. It's the little pearls of wisdom mixed in with the story that I love.