Posted by: dougery | March 4, 2012

[FGC #4] “The Suburbs are Not Enough”

1

Meg 2.0 sat at the table, typing on her phone’s keyboard far faster than any normal fourteen-year-old. With head bowed, the robot looked to be praying, if it can be said a thoroughly lifelike animatronic human replica can pray. Every so often, when she sent a message, or received an incoming text, her left eyelid would twitch as some kind of telecommunications interference disrupted her motherboard.

“Meghan, what has your father told you about texting at the dinner table?” A severe woman dressed entirely in form-fitting black said. A scar two shades whiter than her already chalk-pale face ran from right ear to right nostril.

“He said it was fine if the Brussels sprouts were totally overcooked,” Meg 2.0 said without bothering to look up. The plate in front of her was largely untouched. This had little to do with the fact that the robot did not need to consume organic material to function and more to do with the amazingly authentic behavioral programming.

Evilynne pursed her black-lipstick-painted lips and gave her husband Damien an exasperated look that said, ‘would you please back me up here, Darling?’

Damien continued to stare at his ‘daughter’ as he had for the last 20 minutes. He had a robust physique for a man who spent most of his time in a science lab. His flaxen hair was parted neatly on the side and his mustache, while thick, was so blond that it could only be seen in direct sunlight. His eyes, behind their thin spectacles, had glazed over, his mind far away. He’d been in this melancholy trance-like state all day.

Evilynne slashed at her pork chop hard enough to shatter the plate underneath. She clutched the knife in her leather-gloved hand which was worn to conceal the burn scars that traced their calligraphy up and down the right side of her body extending right down to her nail-less fingertips. The blade had driven so deep it was stuck fast in the table.

“Geez, Mom. You’re such a spazz!” Meg 2.0 said.

This time her voice dredged Damien up out of whatever mournful place he’d exiled himself and he blinked hard, taking in the broken china, the stranded knife, the otherwise entirely typical supper scene. He sighed. He reached under the table and freed a catch. In a frighteningly swift motion he drew out an object that resembled a pistol, though instead of bullets it fired a beam of superheated particles.

A hole materialized in Meg 2.0’s forehead as big around as a silver dollar. A hole also appeared in the cabinet behind her head, the wall behind the cabinet, the midriff of an ancient marble sculpture in the adjacent room, the wall behind the statue, two palm trees just outside the family’s island lair and a passing seabird which one has to admit was kind of super unlucky on this day.

The robot turned its head to the left repeatedly in a jerky motion, mouthing the letters OMG several times before it slumped and grew still. The nearly imperceptible humming of its mechanics ran down and was replaced by the feral growl Evilynne made as she freed her knife and dove across the table at her husband.

Damien was knocked out of his chair. He grappled with his wife, that same sad-sack distracted look back on his face, like he wasn’t even concentrating on protecting himself.

“Your daughter! Your very own daughter, you monster!” Evilynne howled as they rolled across the floor, her blade poised a half inch from Damien’s heart. A table leg snapped, a servant looked in, surveyed the scene, and decided against bringing the dessert course. They thumped into a wall and a fauvist painting slammed to the floor.

“Evilynne,” Damien mumbled, deftly blocking a knee to the groin.

“Evilynne,” he repeated, catching a fist before it boxed his windpipe.

“Evilynne!” He raised his voice ever so slightly, marshaling his strength and pinning his wife to the floor. He held her wrists together above her head. Her buxom chest rose and fell with a murderous rage.

“Evilynne, the real Meg was kidnapped yesterday by T.A.L.C.U.M. agents. I created that robot body double to keep you from worrying while I decided what to do,” he said as calmly as if remarking upon the weather.

“Was it Orion Drudge? Have you come up with a plan?” Evilynne asked.

Damien nodded, “I’m sure it was him, and no. I’ve got nothing.”

“Well then let’s go kill the bastard.”

2

Fifteen-year-old Billy Drudge yawned and entered the kitchen to find a pretty blond girl from school seated at the table with her wrists bound behind her back.

“Dad, why is Meghan Darkflotsam gagged and bound to a chair in our kitchen?” Billy asked. He opened a cabinet and rooted around for something to eat. He drew out a box of his favorite cereal—which he had drawn out, shaken, and found practically empty on each of the last four days—and shook it yet again, only to find it still empty. He put it back into the cupboard. Popped Tarts it was then.

“That is none of your concern, William,” Orion Drudge said. He ruffled his morning paper in his thick meaty hands. He grunted a few times before inexpertly folding The Chronicle and adding, “But I’ll tell you what she’s not doing. She’s not becoming hopelessly inculcated into her father’s nefarious cult of death, destruction, and lax moral standards. No, she sure as shit is not.”

Meg rolled her eyes, having caught that last barb in the lull between songs on her iPod. When her eyes snapped back down they sought out Billy who was losing a personal battle with the toaster.

“Well I don’t care if she is the daughter of the Devil himself, we should at least be offering her breakfast,” Beatrice Drudge said. She, too, sat at the table but like most mornings she did so virtually invisibly. Everyone was always forgetting about Beatrice Drudge. She reached to undo the gag when Orion said,

“Do you enjoy having all five digits on that hand, honey-dumpling?”

Billy interjected, “Dad, she’s like eighty pounds. That’s Justin Bieber coming out of her headphones. How dangerous can she possibly be?”

“How dangerous can she…how dangerous can the daughter of Dr. Damien Darkflotsam be?” Orion said, puffing out his chest. “Need I remind you that her mother, who is scarcely any larger herself, has single-handedly killed 313 T.A.L.C.U.M. agents in the last year alone? Did you ever wonder why you never recognize anyone at our Christmas party from year to year?”

“Other than the fact your boss has a penchant for hiring dark-suited cannon fodder?” Billy asked.

Orion shut his eyes and stood up. He would speak no more to his family on this morning. The sound of his sports car peeling out of their suburban drive minutes later was all the goodbye they would receive. Beatrice promptly undid the gag.

“Oh Gawd, thanks, Mrs. D,” Meg said, flexing her jaw. Her voice was loud and monotone in the manner of one wearing headphones. Beatrice deftly pulled them out of the girl’s pierced ears.

“Don’t mention it. So what can I fix you, darling?” Beatrice asked. “The waffle iron is still hot.”

“That’d be awful nice, Mrs. D.”

Beatrice went to work while Billy sat down next to Meg. She whispered, “Say, you wanna get these ropes? My wrists are killing me.”

With a strudel sticking out of his mouth like some amphibian’s frosted tongue, Billy got up and crouched behind Meg. He used his pocket-knife to cut the ropes, as knots were yet another thing he’d failed to master from his father’s extended teachings.

The second the rope frayed Meg pulled her arms free, pushed the chair back, and sprang into a forward roll to land upon her hands. She lifted the chair, which was still bound to her ankles, up behind her, kicking Billy in the torso with three its four legs. The wood splintered and fell apart, and Meg picked up one jagged piece for a shiv, ready for anything the boy could dish out. But Billy just lay crumpled against the far wall, a disappointment to adversary as well as to his father.

“You little brat! To think I trusted you!” Beatrice said, drawer open, a series of knives already in the air over the table on their way to Meg’s vital organs. Meg spun out of the way and blades strummed into the wall one after another like musical notes on a score. She fled the kitchen.

“Get up, you worthless puke!” Beatrice said, and kicked her son. She turned the corner, and her legs were taken out from under her by the broom Meg wielded as a bow. Meg brought the blunt end down right where Beatrice’s neck was seconds before, then screamed. The bite of a waffle-iron burnt into her left calf.

Undaunted, Meg grabbed a fistful of Beatrice’s graying bun and slammed the older woman’s head repeatedly against the wainscoting. Leaving her would-be captor dazed, Meg opened a closet door and found an upright vacuum, the underside of which was the last thing Beatrice would ever see on this earthly plane.

Meg delicately removed the iron from her calf and the smell of singed denim and cooking human flesh filled the air.

“That is so going to scar,” she said, and limped back into the kitchen where Billy was huddled in the corner whimpering.

“Relax, dude. Even I know a civilian non-combatant when I see one. If my parents haven’t finished off your dad yet, you know, like, orphaning you to your grandparents in Boca Raton or wherever, I’ll see you in school or something,” Meg said and left.

3

The wheel was squeaky, but it would have been more conspicuous if the janitor’s rolling mop and bucket cart didn’t squeak. The plump woman in overalls pushing the cart was rather obviously a much thinner woman wearing a fat suit and a fire hydrant red wig. She had decided to do nothing about her iconic scar, and nodded hello to staffers as they walked by on the way to meetings, briefings, debriefings, rebriefings and the meetings to schedule all future re-, de-, and regular briefings.

Using a passcard she had purloined from the man who lay eviscerated under a service stair, Evilynne Darkflotsam snuck inside a security control booth, a whistle between her lips. The startled expressions of the men manning the station turned to agony as the sound filling the room, silent to all living things save humans, turned their eardrums into tiny bombs. Chunks of gray matter painted monitors, floor, and Evilynne herself. The mess was one of the reasons she had donned the custodian’s overalls in the first place. She pulled out her protective earbuds and spoke into her pinky nail.

“The Cuckoo has gained the Warbler’s nest.”

It took her 7.2 seconds to hack into the mainframe and find what she had come for: the whereabouts of her kidnapped daughter, the home address of her husband’s nemesis, Orion Drudge. She sneered when she saw it was situated in the woefully mundane suburban community of Goldmeadow Acres.

When the security control room’s shift replacements dropped in early, Evilynne tossed her soiled uniform at the lead man, tied her discarded fatsuit around the second man’s soon to be asphyxiated face and left the third standing there stunned at the sight of her nearly supernatural amount of décolletage. Evilynne erupted from the room a black leather clad ball of knees, elbows, judo chops and blades jutting from the high heels on her boots.

The chase was on.

The alarm sounded as Evilynne took the service stair to the roof, agents pouring after her from each landing like exceedingly well-armed and moderately well-dressed ants. The proximity mine she had left behind on outer door took out five men, and stalled the rest while she launched herself across the 23 foot gap between buildings. She landed on the fire escape and shattered in through an apartment window.

“My husband will pay for everything!” she said to the elderly black woman seated on the couch with a tabby on her lap. Evilynne got up from the ruins of a coffee table and handed her a business card. The first goon hit the fire escape outside and gunfire pockmarked a wall of framed family photos. But Evilynne was already out in the hall.

The T.A.L.C.U.M. agent that entered surveyed the domicile with disgust, snapped up the business card and tore it into pieces. He picked up the woman’s cat and cracked its vertebrae.

“Next time don’t abet a known terrorist,” he said to the shocked woman, as the growing crowd of his fellow agents spilled out of the room after their prey. One paused to help himself to a glass of iced-tea from the kitchen.

Down at ground level Evilynne paid $3K to some street punk for his pimped-out trick bike and pedaled off. After a few blocks she upgraded to a motorcycle when a fleet of dark sedans choked the street behind her. They met increasingly acrobatic and fiery ends as she wove between dumpsters, taxi-cabs, pedestrians, hot-dog vendors, tourists and the exhausted vanguard of a half-marathon emptying out onto the beach where she had stowed her jetski.

The few sedans that succeeded in reaching the sand skidded to a halt, but their pursuit wasn’t through. Sunroofs cranked open to admit propellers and hybrid heli-sedans rose up into the air sending grit everywhere. In a moment they too were out in the bay. Towering columns of foam shot up from the water as missiles detonated all around Evilynne. With one hand she signaled to base her incoming location, with the other she activated a clear-plastic bubble and submerged.

A half-mile out to sea the enormous head of a mechanical otter rose up and chirped its homing signal before a hatch opened in its belly. Once Evilynne was safely interred, the otter thrashed its tale, sending a 150-foot-tall localized tsunami racing towards the heli-sedans. A few of the pilots swore, a few more whispered prayers and one whimpered like a lost cocker-spaniel before the water crushed their hulls like a drunken uncle flattening a beer can against his forehead on a summer cookout.


4

The suburbs were in flames.

Hundreds of mcmansions were razed, cars and minivans were laying on their backs like stranded tortoises with only a single residence left standing undisturbed. The home of Orion Drudge.

“I know she’s in there, Orion,” Damien’s amplified voice projected from the maw of a 300-foot-long titanium otter. His tone was calm as always. From a machine gun nest in the otter’s shoulder Evilynne targeted and brought down three stray T.A.L.C.U.M. special ops in jetpacks.

Beleaguered and embarrassed to have come home from work to find his hostage missing, his son passed out and soaked in urine, and Beatrice dead in the parlor, Orion was nonetheless hopelessly defiant.

“You’ll never see her alive, Darkflotsam!” he bluffed through a bullhorn from his pantsless perch on the toilet of his second floor bathroom. It was the room where he made all of his most important decisions. His diet consisted almost entirely of red meat and as a result he was enduring some abdominal frustration.

“Don’t make this any harder on yourself,” Damien said, having the otter ‘relax’ and sit down on a playground. The local authorities had set up a cordon around the neighborhood to keep gawkers from getting too close. This sort of thing happened with depressing regularity in their town. The inhabitants of the neighborhood itself had all fled to safety, all except Orion and his son.

“Give me back my baby, you fiend!” Evilynne’s shrill, sonically enhanced voice sounded, leveling the remaining elms.

“Why don’t you just tell them she escaped, Dad?” Billy said, just outside the locked bathroom door. “You can end this right now.”

“That’s odd, for a moment there I imagined I had a son,” Orion said. “One that wasn’t a complete and utter disappointment.”

That moment of father son anti-bonding was interrupted by the sound of a Chevy Camaro growling to a stop just outside.  The cherry red car had succeeded in slipping past the police blockade. The passenger door opened and a petite blond girl kissed a young man’s cheek and exited the car with a ‘Big Drank’ from 6-Eleven in her hand.

“Dad! Mom! I’m like, totally alright,” Meg said, waving her arms through the smoky air.

“Meghan? Is that really you?” Evilynne said with barely suppressed joy.

“Corey, thanks for the ride,” Meghan said, “You should probably take off. My parents are a bit overprotective.”

“’K, babe. Lates,” Corey said, and drove off.

The giant metal otter reached forward and gently grabbed Meg, depositing her inside where she was met by a mixture of I’m-so-glad-you’re-safe-hugs and that-boy-Corey-again-you-are-so-grounded glares. Evilynne wrapped a soothing compress around her injured leg. She knew the exact pair of tall leather boots she would buy her daughter to conceal the new scar, my goodness Meg was growing up so fast.

“Orion, your agency is in ruins, your scheme thwarted, and your life in serious need of reevaluation,” Damien said. “I will leave you to the company of your son to think things over. Oh, and best of luck successfully moving your bowels.”

With that the otter turned and made its long, city-infrastructurally disastrous march back to the sea. The sun was setting out over the bay.

Back in the suburbs, while the Drudges passive-aggressively bickered through a locked bathroom door, other families were returning to the smoking ruins of their homes. Unlike Orion and his son, these families were united, smiling, indomitable with marshmallows speared on sticks, ready to be toasted on the embers of their past lives.

~~{ word count: 2970 }~~

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Responses

  1. Wow. Wish I just finished page 4 of a 300 pager! Loved it! Wainscoting, waffle irons and big dranks! Well done Doug!

    • Thanks, Esquire! I had some fun with the fake-espionage genre stylings.

  2. This one kept me moving forward at a dizzying pace. Nicely done!

    • Yeah, I thought of these 4 parts as kind of being selected ‘need to know’ excerpts of a longer tale. But with an action story, I’ll take the dizziness as a plus.

  3. Lord, how the pulpy goodness flowed from this story! It was like an episode of Venture Brothers. Much applause!

  4. Kate, you may have just given me the single greatest compliment ever. I’m looking forward to S5 of the Ventures, whenever Jackson and Doc are through crafting their goodness.

  5. […] 7. Douglas Riggs […]

  6. proximity mines, ha!

  7. That was so much fun! I think I dribbled tea through the giant mechanical otter scene – how cool!

  8. What a ‘rollicking’ yarn! a definite candidate for a tv show for sure. I enjoyed your tongue in cheek descriptions and the playfulness you brought to the page.

    My link disappeared – but I am still participating – if not officially..

    http://annieevett.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/sapling-in-treetops.html

  9. This was so fun to read! I could definitely see this being longer. I loved your descriptions!

  10. I expected nothing less from someone who has put together such a vivid analyses of Bond over the last year! I had high expectations and you delivered.

    I loved the action sequences, the level of detail and your love of the absurd. My favorite moments:
    – Billy and the cereal
    – “He would talk no more to his family on this morning.”
    – The agent killing the cat
    – Giant mechanized otter!

    And of course, the enduring imagery of the perfect simile: “like a drunken uncle flattening a beet can against his forehead on a summer cookout.”

    Great read!

    -Barbara

  11. […] Douglas Riggs – winner of the Judges’ Choice Award for The Suburbs Are Not Enough. […]

  12. Dropped in via the Write Anything site and this is an absolute corker of a story. Brilliant. Loved the evil villain using the bathroom as his fortress of solitude.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  13. I’m very, very late, but this is very, very great. Cheers, good sir!


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