A Kind of Small Crow: Part 9

Too quickly for me to see anything but a blur, Travis punched the guy in the face—if you could call a beaked helmet a face.

His punch hit the right cheek, denting it, and twisting the beak. The helmet made a crunching noise, and bent backward. It didn’t seem to bend further back than a human head could, but it didn’t seem to be capable of bending forward anymore.

Not that that mattered. Travis’ punch had knocked the guy backward.

He nearly hit me, but I moved just as he tripped. He landed on the ground between Vaughn and me.

Pointing both arms at Travis, he started firing. How he expected to hit, while unable to bend his head in Travis’ direction, I wasn’t sure.

He may have been working on the theory that if you fired off enough bullets in the right direction, you could hit anything eventually.

If so, he was wrong. Travis dodged, jumping to his right while dripping blood from his chest. I wondered how deep the holes went.

I didn’t have to think about it though, because the guy on the ground changed targets, pointing his guns toward Vaughn.

He started firing before I could do anything, and Vaughn stumbled sideways.

If I’d been in the full Rocket suit, I could have fallen on top of the guy without any real fear, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t even try it.

I opened up with the sonics.

The guy on the ground didn’t even seem to notice.

That was pretty wild, given the amount of noise they were putting out. Rook must have insulated the helmet against sonics.

I couldn’t believe he’d have insulated the suit against the sonics’ effect on electronics. That wasn’t well known.

He pointed his arms toward me.

The guns spat out bullets. A few caught me, and I stumbled backward.

I kept the sonics on him, letting the sonics try frequencies according to Grandpa’s default algorithm—more or less randomly, but noting and coming back to the frequencies that seemed to get the strongest response.

It wasn’t the quickest way to go, but it’d get there.

I made a point of stumbling in the direction of the guy’s feet. With his neck stuck, that could only make it harder on him.

That left me heading in the direction of the Verizon store at about the same time I noticed that the flunky Haley shot with a missile had gotten up. Even though it was long after closing hours, the lights in the store were still on.

So, when he stood up, it was obvious.

And I had a choice, keep on firing at the guy on the ground outside the store, or go after the guy who no one else had noticed yet.

I didn’t give it much thought. I pointed my arms at the guy in the store, giving him a double dose of sonics, hoping that whatever they’d figured out from hammering the other guy would help.

Small shattering noises came from the shelves around the store.

A puff of smoke came from the suit’s shoulder joints. It had done something.

Not enough though—the guy raised his arms, pointed them at me, and then…

They didn’t fire.

Unfortunately, the guy behind me still could.

He did, and I stumbled forward as bullets hit the back of my helmet, the rocket pack, and my pants.

I felt them only dully through the stealth suit, but they still hurt a little.

Where was everyone else?

I shouldn’t have worried.

The shots stopped with the screech of metal being torn apart.

I glanced behind me to find that Travis had somehow grabbed the guy, and was literally ripping the armor off him.

When I turned back to the flunky in the store, however, I found him leaping toward me, claws outstretched.

I jumped sideways. The claws on his feet sunk into the parking lot.

In his moment of hesitation as he pulled them out, I remembered I still held the roachbots’ controller, and that I’d set things up so that they were almost ready to be used.

I aimed the controller at the flunky (formerly, the “lying on the floor of the store” flunky) so he appeared on the screen, and pressed “swarm.”

“Rocket, move left or right,” Haley said, “I can’t fire with Travis there.”

The flunky stepped toward me, claws swinging. I stepped backward, but not quickly enough.

They caught, and ripped a chunk out of the jacket’s sleeve.

I was terrified for a second, knowing what could happen next, but then came the buzzing.

Roachbots landed on him, covering his helmet, squeezing into cracks in the armor, and then started to explode.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I added “move roachbot user-interface into the stealth suit’s helmet” to my list of projects.

23 thoughts on “A Kind of Small Crow: Part 9”

  1. Just for what it’s worth folks, the book’s probable publishing date is July 22.

    We’ll see what happens, but I know things were in on time. That’s the good news.

    The not so good news is that I was laid off from my job on Tuesday. It shouldn’t affect this serial much, but I’m letting you all know anyway. At the moment, I’m torn between finding a new full time job, or going back to doing freelance web development (which is what I was doing prior to taking the job I used to have).

    Anyway, if you happen to hear about jobs (or a project) for people who work with PHP/JQuery/Wordpress, let me know.

    I’d love to write full time, but I don’t think I’m close enough to do that just yet. We’ll see what happens when LoN book 2 comes out.

  2. But, but, but. Obama! He said the economy’s improving! He said jobs are coming back! He said, he said…a lotta other fertilizer that ain’t come true.

    Sucks about your job, Jim.
    May you not spend (nearly) as much time unemployed as I had to, and end up with an effective raise once the piles of ill-gotten gains start piling up from your super-powered criminal enterprise!

    (The book, dummy!)

  3. Still, sorry to hear about your job. I hope whichever path you choose works out for you. Who knows, maybe Oprah will endorse your book and you’ll be set for life or something? I wouldn’t count on it, it’s just always a long-shot possibility,

    So, Nick fried an entire Verizon store worth of electronics. At least he’s found a way to rack up a lot of money in property damage with easy cleanup and less inconvenience on people than tearing up a freeway or something.

    Strictly speaking, one person doesn’t make a new dip in that massive recession measured as being the largest since the Great Depression (with raw stock market numbers showing a greater drop than back then, which to us was a smaller percentage) that he inherited from the previous administration along with a couple of expensive wars and a then-cold hunt for a terrorist leader. Still, the guy should realize that there’s certain things he can work on decriminalizing that would help mellow a lot of people out in these hard times while helping to increase the price of food via increased consumption of supply.

  4. i think ppl are too hangup about what a president actually does or can do. you really need to wake up if you expect one man to fix everything. not when you have both parties in your legislative branch being stuck on the partyline and doing nothing to be constructive. the only result you will find is stagnation.

    hope you find new and better job soon jim.

  5. … Was laid off from the my job of 15 years on June 22nd. Hopefully, they gave you some notice this was coming and not as a surprise. I at least had some notice.

    I found out yesterday my application and acceptance to a state college run law enforcement officer academy was accepted.

    It’s interesting the response from friends/family. Ranging from “You can do better go find a better career/job,” “Congratulations, I’m so happy for you ” ( from my loving wife ). Everything in between as well. I’m still doing interviewing as well. In good news I have some funds in the bank and wife is still working.

  6. Hopefully, by the end of the week the Legion of Nothing Prequel episodes will be live. I will let you all know once they are live.

  7. And here I hoped it would have an effect on this serial…. more episodes per week! *laugh* Maybe I am an optimist.

    Sorry about the job loss. Have been employed less than full time since December. Hopefully this will turn into a “Congratulations… you really timed your job hunt start well.” And do enjoy the extra time off during summer. Go pick peaches or something.

  8. Oops almost forgot a possible typo. In the phrase, “hoping that whatever they’d figured out from hammering other guy would help”, I would have put a “the” before “other guy”

  9. Daniel: I had no notice. I worked for donor.com, and theoretically had access (if I’d ever chosen to figure out how) to lots of people’s credit card numbers. I never needed to do so for my job, but nonetheless PCI compliance (donor.com is legally a bank in addition to creating fundraising software) required them to instantly cut off my access privileges. On the bright side, I’ll still be paid my full time wages for a little while despite no longer officially working there.

    With regards to the possible job in law enforcement, all I can say is that I hope it goes well. I tend to figure that if you go for something you’re interested in, it’ll work out in the end.

    Psychlone Ranger: Right now, I’m optimistic about both my possible future earnings from the book, and about finding a job. Lots of my and my wife’s friends have made suggestions (there are openings in departments where they work). With any luck the “not what you know, it’s who you know” thing will do me some good.

    To be honest, I’d been really bored at my job for a while now, and probably should have started looking hard earlier this year.

    PG: Thanks for the good wishes, and yes, I can only hope that something will happen that will make the book visible to a whole lot of people. 1889 Labs does have a marketing plan, and I’m involved, so who knows? Oprah probably isn’t on their list though.

    Oddly enough, I’ve actually got a client that I did web development work for who was on Oprah’s show several times.

    DWwolf: I tend not to blame politicians for the economy either. Of course, I live in Michigan, and we never came out of the 2000-2001 recession. It’s been bad enough here that by comparison to the last ten years, things are actually looking up a bit.

    If I blame anyone for the current economy, it’s probably the people involved in making mortgage loans and dividing them up and selling them in pieces.

    A normal recession lasts about 2 years, and typically the housing market plays a huge role in bringing the US out of it. As things are, it’s not doing that. On the bright side, housing has been improving in the last few months, moving from “horrible” to “tepid.” Alas, that’s not much of an improvement. Still, it’s something.

    Notto Mention: The possibility of more fiction appearing does exist. We’ll see what happens. It probably won’t be Legion of Nothing though. I’ve got a few other things I’d like to write.

    And thanks for the typo…

    Everybody: Oh… and for what it’s worth, I just got an email from my editor saying that book one will by out as an ebook on July 23. It will be out in print “as soon as possible” after that. To put it another way, no one knows for sure.

  10. personally i blame excessive greed and the compensation structure of modern upper management. ceo salary used to be in 10x avg wage ballpark and that seems fine. current multimillion+ wages (and bonus) seem to have lost any connection to both added value for the company and actual company performance.

  11. I for one fully support Jim’s new-found capability of staying up late, dancing around in nothing but underwear while drinking lots of vodka and listening to the song “Weer All Crazee Now” by Quiet Riot. And look at that, he’s now got time for a book tour if there’s enough reason to throw one together.

    Just imagine, the Legion of Nothing book tour. Jim could go around, have little events at bookstores, and if he was anywhere near me people would start wondering who keeps interrupting with snarky and nerdy comments, like the Rocky Horror Picture Show of book tours. Fun to imagine, at least.

    Also, good tactics by Nick in the story. Even if you can normally take the hit, getting hit, stabbed, or shot unexpectedly has dangers all its own. A lot of damage can be negated by proper preparedness, like people learning how to harden the muscles in their torso to be able to take a punch to the gut. It’s a skill famously known by Spetsnaz and Harry Houdini.

  12. Sorry for your job loss. At least you have really valuable skills, right? I’m sure that you can find another job easily enough. Good luck!

  13. Jim,

    That’s a bummer to here about your job.

    Though on hearing that your book is getting published soon, where would be the best place to order a copy from? Not sure if being in Australia it harder to get a copy.

  14. DWwolf: I tend to focus on the housing market since I know mortgage brokers who were knowingly making bad loans, knowing that if they didn’t, the realtor would go to someone else next time. According to the people I know, that was commonplace in the industry.

    PG: That would be cool. That said, I *am* doing a “blog tour.” I’ll be doing interviews and guest blog posts during the month of August, so feel free to make snarky comments for real.

    I’ll let everybody know when and where.

    Um: I’ve got kind of valuable skills. Lots of people need someone who knows the web. I just have to find enough of them that I can either get my consulting up to full speed again or to simply find an employer.

    So yeah, if you hear of somebody who needs a web developer for any reason, let me know. I’m interested.

    Lanky: I’m not sure. My publisher is Canadian. My editor is in London (as in, the UK, not Ontario). The person who wrote my press kit is in Australia. So, I assume that they’ve made some provision for international orders.

    Christopher: Also, what happened to Marcus? You’ll find out in the next update.

  15. so what site are you selling from? would love to have legion of nothing on my kindle. i hope that the kind donations of your readers will help.

  16. I don’t have any links yet, but I will soon. I’m not sure that there will be much of a difference between them (in terms of what I get) as I’m doing this through a publisher, but I’ll check.

  17. I had completely forgotten about Marcus. Reading back over things I think he is mentioned only twice. Cassie is (1) being actively sought by the nine (2) under attack and asking for assistance. She hasn’t made any kind of contact in a couple of updates and that is worrisome. Marcus tends to be stealthy. Of course now that you mentioned him I am concerned about his lack of presence as well. Good job Jim.

  18. Maybe one last rookie will appear… and be Marcus, sneaking up on the badguys with subterfuge. Of course, I imagine he’d let the team know, so it’d probably kill the drama.

  19. Dude, I’m really sorry about the job loss. But my disappointment is tempered with a lot of excitement for the possibilities if this story continues to pick up steam as it has.

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