Enter the Larry: Part 11

Larry thought about it for a second, and then opened the door.

Cannon was almost, but not quite his height, and less muscular. To judge from the tightness of his face, he also wasn’t happy. Larry held the door open, “Come on in, man.”

Cannon started to open his mouth, stopped and then said, “My suit was the last, and I mean the last thing I expected to see here today.”

He stepped around Larry, and started walking toward the workshop.

Larry put his hand on Cannon’s shoulder, and stepped in front of him. “Wait a second. What are you doing?”

“It’s my property in there. My design. My ideas. I’m not leaving them with you.”

Larry stared down at him, and didn’t let go of the man’s shoulder. “I don’t want to hurt an old guy, but if you try to take the suit, I’m going to deck you.”

Cannon tried to pull away, but Larry didn’t let go of his arm.

Cannon exhaled. “Ok. OK. I won’t try to take it. Are you going to let go of my arm now?”

Larry did.

Cannon frowned and asked, “I’d like to take a look at what you did to it.”

“Sure. Come on.”

They walked into the workshop, and Cannon groaned. “Green. Why did you paint the damn thing green?”

Shrugging, Larry said, “It jumps.”

Cannon walked up to it, and ran his hand across its metal skin. “I thought I’d blown the thing up. That annoyed me. I put a lot of work into it. I saw you were using the movement calculation tech. Wasn’t that incredible? You can preprogram moves, and react at the speed of the computer. That’s going to be the next big thing in powered armor.”

Larry stepped over to the machine, standing next to the panel that opened the armor. “It’s still got some limitations.”

Nodding, Cannon walked around to the back. “I know. The chips can’t hold much, and they’re still too slow. It was fun messing with them, but they’re not really my thing. They’re more Joe’s, and he’s not going to pass any my way.”

“Not likely,” Larry said. “He’s retired for real.”

Cannon came around the Frog, and faced Larry. “I heard the announcement, but I’ve also seen him flying over the city a couple times since.”

Larry held up his hands. “You don’t expect him to give up everything at once. The man likes to fly.”

“You’re sure?” At the look on Larry’s face, he continued. “Dammit.”

He took a breath. “I’ve been working on new armor. I want another shot at him.”

“What, and I’m supposed to call him up, and set up a date? This isn’t a game. People get hurt. Things blow up. Move on, man. You’ve got your company. You’ve got years to do other things. Hell, I’ve seen you fight villains before. I’m sure you can find a few with powered armor.”

Cannon’s voice became a growl. “It’s not the same. I’ve lost to him for more than thirty years, and I’m always going to be known as the second best man in powered armor. Damn, you should be feeling it more than I do. You were his sidekick, his shadow, the kid he bailed out of trouble.”

Larry folded his hands over his chest. “Well, I never thought of it that way. I always figured Joe was better, and he’d stay better. I’m just lucky to know him, you know?”

Cannon turned his face away for a few seconds. Larry couldn’t read his expression. Then with the smallest twitch of his head, he looked at Larry.

“I should go.” He stepped into the workshop’s doorway. “Tell him I’m waiting. If he wants to go at it one last time, I’ll be there.”

“He won’t.”

“Tell him.”

Larry gave a brief smile. “Sure, but don’t get your hopes up.”

Cannon stepped out of the workshop, and started walking toward the suite’s front door.

“Hey,” Larry said, “I gotta ask. Why are you on the island anyway?”

Cannon’s lip curled. “Visiting a student.”

“Who? Rook?”

“That little psycho? No. Figure it out for yourself.” Without saying goodbye, Cannon stepped out of the suite’s front door. “Oh,” he said, turning back, “you shouldn’t have taken out the missile launchers or the artillery. That armor could have taken out a tank battalion when I owned it.”

The door closed, and Larry thought about it. This entire section of hallway had been designated for people in armor. It could be anybody. Visiting a friend here would completely explain why Cannon had dropped by—except… Except his mind came back to the worst possibility, the one that explained how Cannon found him even better. He had connections in the administration who told him where Larry’s suite was.

Armory was his student.

Larry rolled that sentence around in his mind. It felt more right, and worse the longer he thought about it. Worse, because even if Cannon wasn’t trying to ruin his chances to talk with Armory, mentioning that he was here might do it.

Not that Cannon would identify him publicly, the deal he had with Joe kept everyone’s real identity out of it, but Armory wasn’t the public.

He needed to find Armory immediately, and he needed backup. Some, anyway. He hadn’t really taken out the missiles or the artillery.

But before he could do any of that, he needed to meet Cheryl.

16 thoughts on “Enter the Larry: Part 11”

  1. In “Cannon turned his away for a few seconds.” I suspect that you meant “himself” instead of “his,” or maybe “his face” or “his head” would fit in with the context.

    I am enjoying the story, thank you for posting it.

  2. Gotta love how the people in the powered armour scene jovially talk shop when they’re not beating each other up. The nerd-bonding makes them more human.

  3. I loved Cannon’s dialogue — how he’s still fixated on Joe because he wants to be the best. Larry just being in awe of his hero was touching too — different personalities, well illustrated. Both totally understandable and relatable.

  4. Jim, this chapter was unexpectedly beautiful. I enjoy all the chapters (and will snap up volumes 2+ as soon as they’re out), but here the surprise in the story is built 100% around character, rather than plot, and it’s done masterfully. As others have noted, the characters (Larry and Cannon) are beautifully developed and contrasted, with fine details referencing events just out of sight in the recent past (for the story) and the overall direction of the encounter entirely driven by personalities — and then, at the end, it comes suddenly back to the main story progression and ramps it up, again in a natural way. Kudos!

  5. Jim, I have to make a confession. I had a special reaction to Cannon’s feelings toward the Rocket because there are times I read your stories and I feel the ‘exact’ same way.

    James Cameron talked about the fact that the more fantastic the story, the more it needs to be grounded in realism. You strike that balance.

    Every single time I catch myself saying “am I really reading about disembodied hipsters/sentient guns and starships/chairs that give powers/zombie mobs of justice/superpowered gladiator games” the answer is “Yes, I am. And I totally get it.”

    You make this people so believable that it’s not until I reach the end that I’m like “Wait a minute? Did some middle aged villain really almost beg for a rematch with a famous hero not because he foiled his greates plan for world domination, or because he locked him up, but simply because he wanted to prove he was better?”

    Well done Mr. Zoetewey. Well done.

  6. Bill has a point. Even if the circumstances aren’t the most realistic, it works out very well if the people are.

    Sci fi, alternate history, fantasy, realistic fiction, horror and so on can get by a little bit on novel premises, but a lot of stories are strengthened by having realistic people.

    So yes, someone is likely to be upset about his schemes being foiled, but what is really realistic is for a guy to be jealous and upset over being second best. And then you stick machine guns and lasers on him.

  7. Jeff/Mike: Thanks for the typos, and the compliments.

    Mazzon: Having them talk about tech felt inevitable to me. It would have felt weird if they didn’t in a way.

    DWwolf: Wouldn’t that be interesting?

    Gavin/Christopher/Bill/Psycho Gecko/Luke: Thanks. Honestly I sometimes think that I have less moments like this than I want to in this series.

    But yes, having the human aspect feel right is pretty much essential to making any story, but particularly helpful to speculative fiction because everything else is so far outside normal human experience.

    Personally I really like this Jack Kirby quote, ‎”It doesn’t matter how far out you get with this stuff as long as the characters react like real people would. If the characters react the way your audience would, than your audience will follow you anywhere.”

    Jack Kirby, for those of you who don’t know, was huge in comics.


    1. I think the rules for comedy are a little different. Exaggeration is more acceptable, and your characters still have understandable motivations.

  8. I wonder what the rules of comedy are now. I go about it pretty instinctively. There are times for black comedy, times for over the top stuff, times for gross out, sexual innuendo, slapstick, bad jokes, and puns.

    Lately what I’ve tried to keep in mind is the simple mission statement “Awesome and Funny” though I have to water things down a little to keep a story moving along.

    Just curious, are you still keeping up with my story?

    1. Yes, I am. It is officially “followed” in WordPress.

      As for comedy, to the degree that there are rules, I’m sure they allow people to be ridiculous to a degree that more serious stories don’t.

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