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Introduction: My name is Jim

This is the post excerpt.

Hello, my name is James Travis. I’m currently working two jobs. My passions are reading, writing, and video games.

I was born in Dallas, Texas in 1994. Currently, I reside in the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Sports-wise, I’m a bit of a fan of Washington Capitals. Football-wise, I am torn between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. So, there’s an even split. I did play soccer when I was a kid. After awhile, I got out.

College-wise, I wasn’t that good and lost interest, sadly. I am working on trying to at least get a trade if writing doesn’t work out.

This blog’s purpose will be to talk about the books I am currently writing, the books I’m currently reading (Science Fiction and Fantasy-wise)  along with some commentary on them. I will also be posting my books online chapter-by-chapter for review and criticism. I hope you all enjoy!

 

 

The Shattering Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Neo Athens
Neo Attican Province
Neo Hellas Continent
Adria
Leonidas System
Outer Colonial Frontier Zone
Earth-Colonial Alliance Space
-Systemary/Planetary Governor’s Office-

2850.10.26 (ECA Military Calendar)

The world below and before him was under his care: vibrant and full of life. City lights burned long into the night as the stars bore silent witness to the events ‘around’ them.

He leaned back in his chair, looking at the skyscrapers under construction in the distance, smiling. After thirty-five years of hard work, toiling night-and-day in political offices, proverbially kissing the asses of those that could care less about him, and others like him, he would enjoy the fruits of his labor. Of course, there was a bit more work to do along with some nasty business first. This was just the calm before the storm.

“Brother, you have been silent for the duration of this meeting. Have you anything to say?” An electronic voice interrupted his musings.  He turned his now-disapproving head to regard the ghostly outlines of people in his office. In reality, these were a few of his fellow governors and somewhat-equivalent-level colleagues in the larger movement. Most were in nearby systems. Others were farther out. The ‘brother’ sighed, rubbing his tired face. His own avatar would be standing off-world in their respective chambers or offices.

“I understand and agree with whatever this regional council decides, so help me Gods.” He tiredly said with a humorous raise of his hand in the air. There were a few chuckles at this, the translucent faceless avatars’ shoulders bouncing with laughter. The head of the council, larger than every other avatar to show that he was in charge, sighed aloud to show his disapproval.

“Do you at least know what this council has decided this session? The preparations for phase 4 are being done in other sister regions. Ours is one of the few remaining that still need to be done.” The council head reminded him, crossing his or her arms. Not everyone knew each other in the movement, much less the region.

“I’ve already received shipments as we speak,” He said, using guarded language in case there were any unforeseen bugs. They all used software that was supposed to be very well protected, unable to be tapped by Internal Investigations. There had been a case on Suleiman, or so he heard, of how one idiot broadcasted his name and location. The resulting purge was horrendous: his friends, family (save the children) had to be killed, his co-workers all rounded up, jailed, and shot, the II agents and local law enforcement officers investigating him either misdirected, bribed or murdered (depending on the tale) and the journalists investigating the story were either murdered, bribed, lied to, jailed or disappeared… likely either buried under water, ground or floating through space.  Truly a nasty business. Then again, the cause was too important to be exposed, too true to be squashed down by Sol-loving scum.

“You premium-shipped them, didn’t you, you clever bastard?” One of his colleagues laughed aloud at this, clapping his hands as others looked at ‘Rodri’ with blank expressions. The ‘shipments’ in question wouldn’t arrive for some time for a good portion of them. Others, not so much, if he had to go by the possible head tilts.

“I assume you are getting ready for Phase 5?” The head of the regional council inquired. Rodri made an ‘iffy’ gesture with a hand again. “I still need to raise up some of my own shipments, I’ve already got some ‘stuff’ in place.” The ‘brother’ answered, shrugging. He sounded tired in all aspects. He had worked so god-damn hard for something like this.

“How about you do this simultaneously along with us?” The head of the council asked with not so small a hint of annoyance. “We need the ‘transfer’ to work at exactly the same time with nothing going without a single hitch. Like clockwork.” The head said.

“Except for the vast distance of human space, mind you.” The ‘brother’ said, raising a point. There was dead silence at this. as the head’s avatar’s fists curled into balls, as if preparing to shove one fist into his face, bypassing any and all laws of physics and what have you.

“We are nearly on the eve of a great ‘transfer of materials’ that will determine the fortunes and fates of untold billions of both now and later. And you joke about this?” The head asked, ‘walking’ forward through the office to stand in front of the ‘brother’. The ‘brother’ grinned.

“Sometimes, it helps to have a few folks up ahead. Besides, I’ve taken the liberty of having some ‘materials’ transferred to you all. Nothing so lavish or trifling, mind you. Take them as my ‘extended’ part in all this. I know you are all raising your own ‘stuff’ so, I’m giving you some of, what I hope, to be the first part of my ‘tithe’.” The conspirator grinned, nodding.

Hopefully this sort-of-bribe would help smooth things over. Besides, they were working for a long-term goal and long-term goals needed long-term trust and favors. Favors he could now almost barely provide. Besides, the guys that he hired were jaded by the current government. The coming war would make it  a past government for the history books.

“It’s not even past phase four…” the head announced. “And you decide to start sending us all ‘gifts’.” The avatar for either a representative of the Chairman or a delegate for the overall Council sighed, rubbing his own face. “I trust that you were discreet?”

“As a goddamn snake,” The upstart said, nodding, putting his arms behind his head.

“Take care that you’re not eaten by mongeese,” The head warned with a pointing finger. “This meeting is adjourned,” He announced cancelling all further discussion. He then winked out of existence, followed by most of the council. Only about three, including himself, remained.

“Brother, I’d watch your back from here on.” One of his fellow conspirators warned with a middle-aged man’s voice. “I’ve met him in reality and he’s not much of a joker.” The colleague said, walking over to him. “I’m sure,” The ‘brother’ said. Another colleague said with a feminine voice.

“You do realize that if we (and as you’re faster than the rest of you: you) screw this up: we’ll be lucky to be alive.” The other colleague said.

“I have things under control,” The ‘brother’ said.

“I’ve gotta’ go, later.” The colleague said, giving a two-fingered salute.

“See you when it finally happens,” He said to perhaps one of his few actual friends.

“Just be careful in all of this,” His feminine-sounding colleague warned. The ‘brother’ rolled his eyes.  “I’ve had things under control in all my years here. I’ll be fine.” He assured her. She sighed. “And last I checked: my Mom died fourteen years ago.” He joked. The colleague grunted and disappeared from existence. He smiled as he mentally disconnected from the private server and then the Extra-Solar Network itself, disconnecting his implant from it with just a thought. Sometime soon, he’d not use it. In fact, it was going to be a very dark age soon. He looked towards the window, stepping onto the floor. While not exactly fit as he was in his 20s, he was more than happy to grow fat, living out a miserable existence on a much-worse world than this one. He walked over to the window, looking outside of his office to the burgeoning city of New Athens: the provincial, planetary and systemary capital of this planet.

From here, he could see the tomb of Kyle Adria, housing the remains that had been transferred from Mars centuries ago and then placed on a mountain overlooking the city. A massive statue, carved in his likeness, that served as both warden and memorial loomed in the distance, marking its entrance, showing the world’s military heritage. He could see it from the lights and even if there were no night, one could hardly not see it.

He sighed. Adria had been something. It almost pained him to be a part of this while also serving as the governor of a  world named after him. If the people knew the truth, he’d be either killed, or tried and then killed. Or just sent off to prison. Hopefully one where the wardens knew him. Not in a bad way, of course. Still, he’d have to watch his step. If he could. Then again, one could hardly not notice the heavy footsteps of the Governor of both Leonidas and Adria itself.

“Governor Rodri,” A flat electronic voice said in his ear. “Good morning! It is now 0500 hours in the morning, local-time.” He annoyingly sighed as the AI continued its rant of duties and meetings he had to fulfill. The sun was starting to rise, casting off the darkness, showing dawn’s rise. The dawn blue sky heralded great things… or worse, depending on one’s perspective.

 

 

 

Adria’s Birth: The Shattering Prelude

(Author’s Note: Hi! So, about Ben Valin as well as this: I need to re-edit that story. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll finish transcribing it, but I want to work on something else. I originally had this story around middle or high school. Perhaps, even before then. I did a manuscript, did a prequel for that one, posted them on the Kindle and then took them off. Lost both manuscripts, and I can’t re-edit them as I don’t have the drafts as they were on an old computer and on a notebook. Only, I lost them both. I’ve been working on revamps ever since. This is one of them.  Enjoy! However, here’s the warning: Blood, violence, swearing, military stuff, boring history, and complex story-telling. Now: let’s get this started! )

Adria’s Birth: The Shattering

 

 

Dedication:

To Titus, my ancestor, whom fought in the American Revolution along with his sons as Minutemen, along with all the members of my family that has served this country since and even before its very founding.

This is also most especially dedicated to my grandfather, a former Navy sailor.

 

 

Prelude

None now remember the days when the red, white, and blue banner of the Earth-Colonial Alliance flew on every world from one  end of human-colonized space to the other. None can say that they saw it emblazoned on still-gleaming warships of awesome might or on still clean banners when it still lived and breathed. That great banner of that great alliance between the home world and her colonies that was forged from a great-and-terrible war that took the lives of millions of both Earthborn and colonists, men and women, sons and fathers, wives and husbands, brothers in blood-and-not of it. 

All that remains of the Alliance are the men and women that are dedicated to bringing vengeance upon that tyrannical empire of inhumanity and injustice that dared to have the gall to embrace destruction and deception as its founder and sow the seeds of secession that tore our nation-and humankind- apart. Its revenants are those dedicated to bringing the Orion Empire down to its knees and have the descendants of those dastardly Councilors of death and hatred to justice. 

The following account is a compilation of digital, oral, and hand-written records that still exist. In it, the future generations of this splinter of that great Alliance (a hopeful seed that may yet have that awesome nation grow from it again) shall learn how it all began from this world’s perspective. May they be edified from it and grow a natural hatred for all things of Orion.  May this serve as a great lesson to the youths of this world of ours and so many others.

-From Divided We Fall: The Shattering From An Adrian Perspective 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VWTTF: Chapter 6

“Put these on as soon as you walk inside. Don’t take them off,” The sentry at the front entrance said with his English accent, extending two pairs of sunglasses out of his hands. “What is this? Some kind of cult?” Ishi asked as the guard gave us black sunglasses.

“Just pet them on,” The guard grunted. “Now,” He emphasized.

“Why should he? He’s ten for crissakes.” Uncle Dave asked in response, getting in front of Ishi while he spoke.

“Am I giving you the shades?” The guard asked, glaring at him.

“No but-” Uncle Dave started to say, but was then cut off.

“Then, shut the hell up, sir.” The guard flatly told him. Oh, fuck. I was starting to sweat bullets at my uncle whom glared back at the man. They both stood head-to-head- at around 5’7.

“What’s your relationship to these two, sir?” The guard ‘politely’ asked, his fists clenching and unclenching slowly as he spoke. “I’m their uncle. My sister’s their Mother.” Uncail said, jerking his head to both of us. His fists stopped clenching as he looked at both of us surprised.

“Wait, both of ye’ are Irish?” He curiously asked.

“Half-Irish, actually. Dad’s Japanese-American.” I answered, trying to defuse the situation. The guard looked at both of  us with interest.

“What’s your mother’s last name?” He curiously inquired as he crossed his arms.

“Conley. Her name was Jennifer Anne Conley. I’m her brother Dave.” Unncke David answered.

“Like the actress?” The guard teased, smiling. Uncle Dave’s face suddenly became red.

“For God’s sake! She’s not the bloody actress! How many times do I have to tell everyone?!” Uncle Dave ranted angrily. The Englishman tried to stifle a laugh as did Ishi and I.

Mom had gotten a lot of crap over having the same name as the actress. Of course, she didn’t want to change her last name for anything as that was part of the agreement she and Dad had made when they married.

“Look, I can’t let you all in unless you put these on and they stay on.” The guard said, his mood lightened a bit as did his tone. Uncle Dave sighed.

“Meh, I’ll do it if it gets me in.” I said, taking a pair.

“Shee-it, if I look gangsta’: I’ll take it.” Ishi said, grabbing a pair of shades.

“Look at the balls on you,” The guard commented in a harsh tone with a glare.

“For crying out loud, Ishi: watch your damn mouth.” I told my brother in Japanese.

“You sure he’s your nephew? I’m pretty sure he’s an American chav.” The guard said to Uncle Dave who scoffed in response before starting a conversation.

“The hell’s a chav?” Ishi whispered to me in Japanese as we put them on. I looked up at the sky wondering if my ancestors were facepalming at my brother’s actions and MY Ma’s ghost was probably asking around if she could appear and scare the crap out of Ishi’s gangsta’ life. I’d be more surprised if it was Tupac or Biggie’s ghosts that showed up. Better yet: I’d pay for the latter.

“Think British gangster, only they’re typically white. Chavs are older than the gangsters here in the States.” I told Ishi in Japanese before we went inside the building.The shades darkened our vision as we entered the checkpoint.

The corporate emblem appeared on our left and our right as we walked in. A metal detector and an x-ray machine greeted us along with their operator and another guard, whom frowned at Ishi.

“Put what you have in your pockets into this bowl, sir.” The guard said, handing the bowl to us. I guess he figured that Ishi was alright. Later, I would learn why the guards freaked out about Ishi coming along. A long while later, actually. We did so and went through the detector without a hitch and then grabbed our crap. After that, we walked inside to be greeted by the sight of a few dozen men inside. All young guys like myself, also wearing sunglasses.  There were also some guards that stood watch, also having glasses on. You’d think this was some kind of cult.

“Man, everyone’s wearing these stupid things.” Ishi commented softly as some of the guys turned to look at us. A few smirked at what my brother wore while others chuckled to themselves. We found ourselves a place to sit alone from everyone else.

For the longest time, that’s how it was for us. Our parents were gone, and we lived in a house chock full of women of various ages. We were the only real men on our side of the family that we knew of. Of course, we had various friends to confide in, but that was it.

I looked over to see the doors to the lobby slide open with Uncle Dave being escorted by the guard from outside. Like everyone else, he had the glasses on. However, he kind of had a pissed-off look. I tried to hide my fear at this. He was escorted down the hall past a guard whom simply glared at Uncle Dave whom glared back from under the glasses. After he passed the office, I realized what I needed to do first as I had clean forgot.

I walked up to the clerk behind the counter after I told Ishi what I needed to do. The guy behind the desk looked at me with icy blue eyes. His blonde hair was cropped short at the temples with the rest of it going out the back in a knot.

“I’m Ben Valin, here for my interview.” I said to him. Mentally, I sighed as the man inspected me. His collared shirt did nothing to hide the Nordic tattoos on his arms. I also found it a bit curious that they were so faded- like they had aged for centuries. This guy looked to be around his early-thirties maybe late twenties, going by the skin tone and the few wrinkles around his eyes.

Scars covered what little chest I saw as well as the outer edge of a scarred bullet hole. He was lucky enough to be alive, I admitted to myself. If I had to hazard another guess, he he was either former military or law enforcement from somewhere in Scandinavia. A lot of PMCs do that, hiring former military or cops.

The man nodded as he input the information and checked a note.

“Can you give me your birth date, social security number, et cetera?” He asked with a Swedish accent. He sounded more Midwest than Swede, actually. After giving him the information, he gave me a checklist with a black-ink pen. Before I signed my name, I scanned the list of other poor bastards that would sign their names onto the list of the damned.

I noted how diverse some of the names were. About seventeen came from Africa, then were definitely from a variety of provinces in China (I took a few semesters of Mandarin and Cantonese in High School), fifteen were from Japan, ten were Polynesian, five were Indian, five more were Native American, six were Spanish or Latin American, while the rest were all either from here in the States or in Europe as well as Canada. Overall, seventy-two names from every clime and inhabited continent on the planet. Weird. Why were these guys here in Virginia?

Bjorn had told me that his company was expanding globally. There should be a whole bunch of white, black and hispanic guys here: veterans, no less. I took a glance at everyone in the lobby. The way they acted and spoke, the lack of  certain tattoos, no particular war scars that I would know about… these guys weren’t former military or active-duty at all. What gives?

A few of those guys in the lobby looked back at me out of suspicion, recognition, or curiosity. I couldn’t exactly tell because a few of them were far away and the shaded view of the glasses didn’t always help.

I wrote my name on the list, the date, and then signed my name. Had I known then what I knew now, I wouldn’t have gone into that building, and I would’ve found another line of work, along with running as far away as possible from Ralton. Then again, I would’ve been found sooner or later.

“Just so you know, the interviews will be done simultaneously. Everyone gets their chance.” The clerk told me.

“We’ll assign you all rooms when it’s time, for now, just wait here and relax.” The man instructed me.

“Gotta’ ask, do you happen to have any books around here? Didn’t bring any with me as I didn’t want the chance of being late.” I asked with a slight grimace. He frowned at this question.

“Don’t you have books on your iPhone?” He asked.

“I prefer paper books. Screen-based books get forgotten easily for me.” I honestly answered. The clerk muttered something in Scandinavian and looked around his office. Finally, he found something after swiveling his chair to it and tossed it to me. I caught it and looked at the title. I smiled reading the familiar title of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. A true classic well-loved by the family.

“Just bring it back to me when it’s time, alright? Been meaning to finish it for awhile, but I took out the bookmark for ya’.” The clerk said to me. I nodded.

“Sure thing, man. Until then,” I said to him before turning around and walkign away.

I heard a few snickers and mutters from either near me or elsewhere as the conversations were all in various languages. Doubtless a few were thinking ‘nerd’. Whatever, man. Respect the classics. As I walked back to where Ishi sat, he looked up, taking his earbuds out.

“What you got, bruh?” Ishi asked, curious. I showed him the book. He shrugged.

“Meh, I prefer the movies.”

“And where do you think those came from?” I asked him. My little brother scoffed at this.

“Whatever, Horde for the win, bitch.” He dismissed with a wave of his hand. I glared at him.

“Alliance forever and you’re not playing any games on my Xbox when we get back.” I retorted. He looked at me in shock at this, his jaw hanging open for flies.

“Like I said,” I told him with a devilish grin. “Alliance forever.” I repeated. His sunglasses partially hid his contempt while he shook his head. I looked out the way that Uncle Dave went and wondered if he was coming back out. I sighed, worried.

‘Don’t worry, he’s a veteran of the Irish Army. He’s fought in a crap ton of hellholes in Africa and Eastern Europe. He’ll be fine.’ I mentally told myself.

Then, I opened a random page in the first volume of Lord of the Rings. I didn’t feel better. In fact, I felt much worse. The part that I had just read was the bit where the hobbits were surrounded by Ringwraiths on Weathertop. I stopped reading as soon as the Nazgul appeared, their familiar and disturbing image making me shudder. I then remembered that giant hooded figure that had been outside of my hospital room. I shivered, remembering the shadowed face underneath the hood. I hoped, in vain, that I had been dreaming or hallucinating. I never wanted to see that thing again. Now, that I think about it, it kind of looked like weird monk that would probably be on the cover of a Metallica album.

Just then, I noticed someone coming from the halls. It was’t Uncle Dave, but a guard with shades on. He walked over to a fellow sentry and whispered in the man’s ear. The sentry that just came in was one of the guys that escorted Uncle Dave in, I remembered. The guard he was speaking to was a bit bulkier than Uncle Dave… taller too. The same wasn’t true for the other guys that came in whispering. I saw the bulkier guard give him a silent ‘What?!’ then left, shaking his head down the hall. Fear gripped my heart. Something was going down.

Just then, Bjorn Bastard Valkyrsson  came in past him wearing the same suit that he met me in.

He looked around with a critical eye and frowned as if something was amiss. He smiled briefly as our eyes met and then that smile became frozen as his eyes widened in horror as they saw my brother. Okay, why the heck was everyone freaking out over a ten-year-old being here?! Ishi wasn’t a threat, for crying out loud.

The clerk came out with the clipboard and gave it to Bjorn. The guard that came in fromt he hallway stood next to Bjorn and then all three looked at the board, whispering to each other. As soon as they all came out, the guys in the lobby about to be interviewed all looked at them with interest with the conversations rising in volume. Bjorn sighed and shook his head as if something, or rather someone was missing. He nodded and then cleared his head.

The guard next to Bjorn roared in a very English accent.

“OI!” Everyone shut up at this. “SHUT UP AND LISTEN, YOU LOT!” 

Bjorn snickered and nodded at this as the clerk grinned. The Norwegian then stepped forward.

“On behalf of Aesir Defense and Security Solutions: Welcome!” He began, speaking English.

“As many, if not all of you know, I am Bjorn Valkyrsson, a member and co-founder of the company since its founding back in 1958.” He continued.  “The reason why this company began was to fulfill vital security and defense needs that several nations around the world needed at a vital time for both my generation and yours as well in the modern era.” Bjorn said, looking around.

‘Ah, chikusho.’ I thought. ‘Here we go, a long speech.’ I mused with a sigh. I leaned back and crossed my arms as Ishi listened.

“As the world grows ever darker with the threat of war, certain nations lack the capability of fielding personnel needed for the security and defense needs. Something that a few of you in Africa and Eastern Europe can attest.” Bjorn said, gesturing around. A few men nodded, though skeptical. All of them were both dark-skinned Africans and Slavic looking. Both of them seemed to have a very wary expression, to me at least, of Bjorn. No doubt, they must’ve heard from relatives or friends back when Executive Solutions and Blackwater were around under their original names. If so, why were they here? Hell, why was anyone here.  A small fraction of the guys that I saw about twenty feet or more looked eager while most looked suspicious of it all.

“Now then, the reason why you are all here is because our company, our family,” He stressed the word ‘family’. “Need you to help us fulfill those needs. In short: you are all here to both defend and protect areas that we consider of interest to us.”

“For those of you that are skeptical, you’d be happy to know that our company, unlike Blackwater, has an excellent track record in terms of ethics.” Bjorn stated, his tone trying to entice us with virtue-signalling. I swore I heard someone mutter ‘bullshit, you have literally nothing’ near me.

“Now then, I’ll spare the rest of the speech that I spent about four or five weeks preparing as it’s been a long drive and a flight from where you all are from.” Bjorn said, clapping his palms.

“Thank you, Jesus.” A few guys muttered. Other groans of relief ranged from ‘Merde, I came for an interview, not a fucking speech about why I’m doing what I’m joining.’ or something similar to ‘For heaven’s sake, I came to be a mercenary, not listen to an old bastard from Norway!’ 

“Will you lot just fucking shut up and let the man speak?!” The same guard that roared exclaimed in anger. Everyone shut up, everyone shrinking, even myself. The guy’s tone and volume would make an ox shudder in fear. It kind of reminded me of some ancestral memory where a Roman ancestor of mine got verbally abused by his step-father. Of course, the step-father would later pay for it when he got beaten to a bloody pulp when the ancestor came back as a twenty-year veteran in the Roman legions.

“Jesus, that guy’s loud!” Ishi muttered, rubbing his ears.

“Shut up!” I hissed.

“How this will go,” Bjorn said, continuing as if nothing happened. “-is that I will read from this clipboard right here. Then, you are to report to your assigned room to which is marked alongside your names after you had signed them earlier.  Once you report there, your interviews will begin.” Bjorn instructed, holding out the clipboard and pointing out the numbers assigned to each name.

A dark-skinned hand was raised.

“Yes?” Bjorn asked, answering questions.

“Will we be escorted or will we be sent there?” A West African accent asked, curious.

“And when do we take these stupid shades off?! I’m tired of looking like I’m bland!” A Frenchman asked, angrily. Other voices echoed his sentiment.

“You will take them off upon arrival to your assigned interview room without an escort. We have signs and maps for you along the way.” The Nordic man answered. “As to the matter of why you are wearing these glasses, that will become apparent to you after your interview.” Bjorn cryptically answered. I frowned at this. What did he mean by that? Everyone else looked at each other while he said this, muttering to themselves in either foreign languages or in English.

“Now then, let us begin your entrance into our family,” The Norwegian said with a smile as he looked at the clipboard. He looked at me while he spoke.

“Benjamin Valin,” My name echoed throughout the room. Eyebrows were raised, sneers of disgust and cheated glares looked round.

 

“Ben Valin?! Who the fuck is Ben Valin?!” A guy with a Boston-Irish accent asked aloud, standing up.

“Are you fucking serious?! I was the first guy here! I signed my name at the top! What the fuck?!” A guy in a plaid shirt and ball-cap roared angrily at Bjorn. He was shouted down by the English guard, whom I swore was more like a drill sergeant. I sighed as a few of the guys that sat near the clerk gave me a curious look, pointing me out to the others. Bjorn made a devilish smile, knowing what I would do. I grunted as I stood up.

“Ishi, stay right here until I get back, okay?” I told my brother, looking at him while I dipped my glasses at him. He looked at me and thought for a minute.

“Okay,” He said, simply nodding.

“Don’t cause trouble for no one, but if they’re giving you shit, run like hell.” Okay?” I told him in Japanese. “When Uncle Dave come back you go to him and you stay at his side.” I added to my instruction. He made a confused frown.

“Ben, you’re kind of scaring me here.” He told me, slightly nervous.

“Ishi, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” I confessed to  him. “But I love you and whatever happens: I’ll make sure you come out okay. Alright?” I asked in Japanese. He frowned as he gave me a scared look.

“Hai,” He told me, nodding. I smiled and gave him a hug.

“Alright, see you later, little brother.” I told him. I then pushed up my glasses and walked away. I felt the glares of my fellow interviewees watch me as I walked from where I hid to where Bjorn was.

“That fucker’s him?” I heard one of the guys say to another.

“Didn’t that guy kill some dudes robbing a fried chicken place?” Another guy asked.

“Yo, this shit’s lit! That mo’fucker killed some thugs trying to take his got-damned chicken!” A black guy said to another, laughing.

“Tch, I killed a bastard trying to beat my Ma.” A redneck said in response. “Don’t see me getting praised for it.”

I walked up to Bjorn and shook his hand, smiling.

“Glad you could make it, Mr. Valin.” He said to me with that false smile.

“Glad I could get this done Mr. Valkyrsson.” I said, also with a false smile.  “Where’s my room?” I asked, curious. He pointed it out to me: 235. Up on the second floor, I reasoned. I nodded, smiling. I then looked at the Nordic old coot.

“Ef pessi turns ut til munu trapr, er munu kil sem mans or pu bastards lit minnr rind, serd til radinsr part inn 698.” I told him in a tongue he’d be familiar with. He laughed at this as the clerk’s face paled.

Pa ver munu bad feast inn Valhalla!” He happily told me. “Not many speak that tongue these days.” He told me. “I learned it from my family,” I said, telling both truth and lie.

“Before you go: whom is that boy sitting in the corner?” He asked, quietly after he made sure the other two men with him weren’t listening.

“He’s my little brother. He tagged along for the ride to here. My uncle here’s too.” I told him. His eyes widened. “Y-Your brother?” He croaked in English while his face paled with that frozen smile. I smiled and jerked my head in Ishi’s direction.

“Yeah… so… if I die..good luck explaining that to a judge.” I said, patting his shoulder and then walked away before he could say anything. I felt Bjorn’s stares and heard him quietly hiss in the old Norse tongue to someone. I grinned as I walked to meet my fate. At least I one-upped that Nordic bastard. Of course, had he actually told me beforehand what would happen, I would’ve had Ishi and Uncle Dave stay at home.

(A/N: The language that Bjorn and Ben speak is Old Norse. Or at least, I THINK it’s Old Norse. If anyone wants to correct me, I’ll happily accept said correction and edit it. Now, have a fantastic day!) 

 

 

 

 

VWTTF: Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Three days after what happened at the hospital (and a lot of thinking about the consequences of my actions), I found myself driving out to some complex in the western part of the state of Virginia at ten pm at night in my Ford Focus.  We drove long into the night as we went west. First, using the highway, then going through the back roads of Virginia.

The place was out in the countryside: nothing but forests, farm towns, the occasional industrial center, and ridges. The aforementioned back roads are shittingly windy in some cases, in others not so much. From what I saw, it was far west of Ralton. Of course, I’d do anything to make sure the family wouldn’t go broke.  I’d go anywhere, anyplace, at anytime just to do it.

Charlie, if you’re wondering, gave me the week off as compensation. I told my family about the job offer from Bjorn, minus a few details.

“So, let me get this straight:” My little brother said from the back. “You’re being recruited after killing three guys that tried to rob the store… even though you never served in the military.” My brother’s upper body leaned forward between Uncle Dave and myself as he spoke. I glanced at him as i drove.

“Ishi: get your arse back in your seat!” Uncle Dave scolded with his aging Irish lilt. The moonlight reflected off of his face as he spoke. Thinning red hair bespoke his age as did his frowning wrinkles.

“Do you want to fly fifty meters out the bloody window?!” He continued his scolding.

“I have my seat-belt on, y’know.” Ishi retorted, crossing his arms after getting back into his seat.

“Oh, so now you’re asking for a-” Uncle Dave paused at this. Then, he turned to me and quietly asked in Irish. “Folks call it a ‘whupping’ in certain neighborhoods, aye?” He asked me for clarification.

“Aye,” I affirmed, nodding while I drove. Uncle Dave turned back to my brother.

“A whuppin’! Is that what you want, boyo?” He asked, angrily.

“Uncle Dave, I’m grown!” Ishi told him flatly. I slammed my foot on the brakes in response, the car stopping fully on the road.

“Ben, what the hell?!” Uncle Dave asked in shock, rubbing his neck. Without answering him, I turned to my brother with a glare.

“Ishigurama Brendan Valin! What have I told you about saying that?!” I roared at him. Ishi shrunk as he answered quietly.

“To not to,”

“Where were you raised?” I asked him angrily.

“Ralton,” He answered.

“Were you raised in Compton?” I asked him, sarcastically.

In the back of the car, Ishi shook his head. The darkness his face as he looked at me in shock with the exact same eye color my family had for generations.

“Yes or no?” I asked.

“No,” Ishi answered, softly. I nodded at this.

“Good,” I began. “Because, I guarantee you that if you talked like that in the ghetto, you’d be on the streets for the rest of your short, miserable life.” I harshly scolded him. Uncle Dave blinked at this while tilting his head in shock.

“I love you, Ishi.” I said, softening my look. “But, you need to quit acting like a gang-banger. You’re all I have left of Ma, understand?” I told him, reminding him of the mother that he never knew. Ishi sighed at this and nodded.

“Hai,” He confirmed my orders. I nodded at this as well and then continued driving.

Uncle Dave then started speaking Irish to me about a few minutes after my scolding.

“You’re not his father, Ben.” He told me, sagely.

“I”m the only man in the house. That, and he’s been acting up for years now.” I told my mother’s brother in Irish as well. We conversed in the old tongue a lot over the course of my life. Ma had taught it to me while Dad, Gramdma May, Great-grandma Aiko, and all of my aunts had taught me how to speak Japanese.

Ishi gave up on learning Irish after he found out that a lot of words could mean the same thing in Irish. That, and the pronunciation was different than what was written or typed. I planned on teaching him when he was older. Other than that, he’s fluent in Japanese, like the rest of the house.

One of the reasons why I brought him along was because he and I were the only dudes in the house and it drove us nuts.

“Ben,  as I said before: ‘you’re not your father’.” He told me again.

“He’s all I’ve got left of Ma and Da,” I retorted at him. Silence filled the car.

When I was ten years old, my Ma was killed in a drunk driving accident. Ishi had been a baby back then. That, and both of us had been in the car when it happened. The worst part was that I actually saw my Mom die right in frotn of me as soon as that pickup truck hit the driver’s side of Mom’s sedan.

I will never forget hearing the bone-breaking sound of Mom’s neck snapping on impact and how her eyes went lifeless as soon as her head landed on the steering wheel. Occasionally, I still get the old nightmares about it. At least the guy that did it is behind bars. That, and to this day, I seldom have alcohol.

“She’d be scared for you two if she was still with us.” Uncle Dave told me with a solemn tone in Irish.

“That, and give Granddad hell about the drinking.” I told him in the same language with a smile. My uncle chuckled at this.

“Yeah,” He said, nodding. He nudged me while I drove. “She’d be proud to see you’ve grown up.” He told me. I smiled, thinking about her warm smile.

“I’m sure she is,” I said, thinking about her. Unfortunately, neither of us kids inherited Mom’s straight red hair or her blue eyes. I remembered her lessons well about her side of the family along with Granddad’s talks. Of course, what cracked me with a chuckle were her and Granddad Seamus’s arguments. Most notably, one in which my Ma had tossed a perfectly good bottle of Guinness out of our house’s window followed by a whole case of whiskey Granddad snuck in. His look of horror had been a real treat.

After a bit of silence as we drove through rural-forested Virginia, I had to ask Uncle Dave in Irish something that Ishi shouldn’t know.

Hey, uncail? Does the name ‘Bjorn Valkyrsson’ sound familiar?” I asked him in Irish. He looked at me with a serious look. A look I’d seen many times before a fight happened.

“Where’d you learn that name?” He asked, still speaking in Irish with a serious tone.

“He’s the guy that recruited me,” I confessed.

“Describe the fucker,” He spat in English. I winced at the tone. That was a bad sign. I wanted to crawl under my steering wheel for cover at the mere sound of his tone. THe last time I heard that tone had been in a pub in Monaghan. Let’s just say the last five guys that heard said tone were either crippled for life or still in a coma. If there’s anything one should know about my uncle: It would be to never mess wit him. Period.

I described him as best as I could and explained the whole story in Irish, hoping to God that he wouldn’t blow up in front of Ishi. Not a chance.

“That bastard’s still alive,” Uncle Dave angrily muttered to himself in English, then proceeded to pound the door next to him hard. I swore that I heard the metal dent from the sheer force of the blow. I dared not to ask about how he knew that name either.

“What’d he say to you?” He angrily asked, glaring at me. I gritted my teeth before I explained in Irish what Bjorn said, still vainly hoping.

“That piece of shite!” He roared in anger, making me wince again. “He told you that?!” He asked. I nodded, scared. “He lied about that!” He yelled, his voice rising as he ranted. “Your great-great-grandmother gave that house to your great-grandmother for free! And the money came from you side of the family when it still had men! Who the fuck is he to say that kind of shite… and live?!” Uncle Dave raved in English. A feeling of dread washed into the car like a tidal wave.

Earlier, Uncle Dave had insisted that he come along. Ishi wanted to go too as this was one of the few times that he was able to be out of the female-dominated house with two other men. Usually, it was just Ishi and myself. Now, with Uncle Dave shouting, it was possible that bringing Ishi along was a bad idea.

“Uncail, you’re scaring us.” I bluntly said, a bit nervous.

“That Nordic bastard’s been harassing your family for years! He’s been saying crazy shite to them every time one of your relatives dies! Gak! He told your mother he’d come for you two next after your father passed, God bless him!” My uncle ranted. At this, I wondered how that was, if what what Uncle Dave was saying was true. He definitely wasn’t drunk. But, to me, what he said was just too insane to comprehend.

That, and the sheer venomous tone made me uncomfortable to say the least. Before, I was worried about what would happen to my family once I had the interview. Now, I was worried that my uncle was going to kill my recruiter and then got shot right in front of me.

My worries increased a thousand-fold when I heard the sound of a magazine being dropped. I don’t mean a thing containing articles, I’m talking about a clip for a gun! My head turned to see my uncle checking how many rounds he had in a standard clip for a pistol. More accurately: a Sig Sauer used by Navy SEALs as a side arm for a few decades now.

“Aw, shit.” Ishi muttered under his breath in horror.

“Ishi: shut the hell up and watch your mouth.” Uncle Dave said without looking. not wanting to start an argument, I simply drove silently through another forest. The fauna wandered and devoured each other or slept as usual. I never did like dark forests. Growing up, the old women of the family told me stories that they had heard as children about Aokigahara and similar dark forests. Grandma Nancy told me stories about the fairies, the fae, the old Celtic gods of Ireland, the druids, and everything else that was Irish and spooky. For the longest time, that was the main reason why I said my prayers at night and I kept the night-light on. When I got older, I put that crap away. I still pray, but I never did like dark forests. Besides, too much crime happens at night.

After we exited the forest and turned around a hill, I was greeted with the sight of a four-story building that was about two miles wide as it was long: completely square by my reckoning.

A large parking lot was around its front entrance with a guard post outside and a fence around the whole perimeter. At the very least, there should be an article about them in Soldiers of Fortune. Instead: nothing. Weird and shady, if you asked me. None of this felt right. But, the threat still held power over me. So, in essence: fuck it.

I turned my head to Uncle Dave before I drove up tot he guard-post at the bottom of the road leading up to the Aesir building. Where he hid his gun, I didn’t even want to know. A calm mask came over my face as I drove up to the post.

Two guards came out in serious-looking attire: kevlar vests, holstered sidearms, knee-pads, combat boots, and everything, save the helmets. Thankfully, they didn’t have shotguns or assault rifles.

Both of them walked up to either side of the sedan as the guy on my driver’s side asked for my ID. Uncle Dave showed the guard on his side his own ID and answered his questions while I spoke to the guard on mine.

As I showed him my ID, I noticed that he lacked a name-tag. That,a nd he was wearign sunglasses in the night. What the hell?

The man looked at my ID, then back to me. He only gave it a brief glance… weird. You’re supposed to inspect the ID through either sunlight or with overheads. That, or digitally scan it if memory serves.

“You here for an interview?” He asked with a Virginian accent. For some reason, he looked familiar to me, like I knew him from somewhere.

“Yeah,” I answered, nodding while taking mental notes. He was suntanned, Caucasian, clean-shaven, but also kind of slim and athletic. That, and the fact that he had no name-tag bothered the hell out of me.

“Who’s he?” The guard asked me, jerking my head to Uncle Dave.

“My uncle. He’s my Ma’s brother over from Ireland.” I answered before said uncle could reply. The guard’s eyebrows rose in surprise as he smiled with semi-yellow teeth.

“No kiddin’, I knew some micks that came over myself.” He said, jerking a thumb back. I ignored the racial slur while I spoke.

“Yeah, my Ma was from Monaghan and Dad was in the service, Army.” I explained.

“Why didn’t you join?” The guard asked, frowning.

“‘Cause every last dude is dead, bruh.” Ishi’s voice said from the back. I kid you not, the man’s face drained in color as soon as he heard Ishi’s sarcastic remark. With no emotion in his face, he asked me something.

“Sir, can you please step out of the car along with whomever’s back there?”

I stared at him for a second in shock as I tried to comprehend the reason why he woudl ask that.

“Ishi, get out.” I ordered my brother angrily.

“Aw, come on man!” He groaned.

“No arguments. Get out now.” I ordered again in Japanese.

“Want me to come out?” Uncle Dave asked.

“Sure, why not?” The other guard sighed as well.

So, as a result of my kid brother’s sly remark, we all got out of the car to get searched and interrogated.

As I stood up, I noted that the guard I was talking to was about 5’8. Not that tall, mind you. Ishi only came up tot he guy’s chest. He tilted his head as soon as Ishi exited the car and stood up in the artificial light. His jet black hair was in a Beatles’ bowl cut as it shone. A t-shirt with the four members of the now-defunct N.W.A reflected his antiquated love of gangsta’ rap. He also wore baggy jeans and Nike sneakers. He’d been begging Grandma May to get him some Air Jordans. Her response had been, and I quote: ‘And turn you into one of those sneaker fanatics? Hell no!’. The guard frowned at what he saw as I did my best not to give Ishi the stink eye while we stood under the harsh glare of the guard post’s light.

The guard that spoke to me then looked from me to Ishi and back.

“You his Dad?”
“Yo, I’m his brother, five-oh.” Ishi snapped angrily. I squinted my eyes at my brother as he said this. The guard gritted his teeth while he walked up to my brother and then knelt down to look Ishi in the eye.

“How old are you, boy?” The man asked.

“Ten,” Ishi defiantly said.

“Ten,” The guard repeated. “At ten years old, I could hunt bears and killed a man for insulting my sister’s honor.” I tilted my head as he spoke this. Ishi’s eyes widened.

“You’re Japanese, ain’t ya’?” He asked. Ishi nodded. “You believe in honor, right?” The guard asked as well.

“I-” Ishi started to say before he was cut off.

“What are you trying to prove? That you’re a man? Or you’re a low-life thug?” The man said, harrassing my brother. My veins pulsed with rage as I clenched my fists.

“Hey, jackass.” I told the man with barely controlled rage. He looked at me in response with an angry expression. “I’m here for an interview, not to have my brother get NJPed.” I lectured him.

“The hell you say?” He indignantly asked me.

“For God’s sake, Pete. Let it go.” His fellow sentry told him as he searched Uncle Dave while his arms were stretched out. I suddenly remembered the gun he had. Oh, gak. Where’d he hide it?! I tried to hide my sudden fear.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” ‘Pete’ asked me. I gave him a weird look.

“Uh, sure.” I warily answered. He gestured for me to follow him to behind the guard station and out of Ishi’s view. He crossed his arms while he looked at me.

“Why in the hell is that kid here?” He bluntly asked me.

“He’s my brother,” I explained, not sure of what the problem was. “He wanted to tag-along.” I answered.

“Why can’t your uncle watch him or at home or your Ma? Or someone else?” He asked.

“Because he’s tired of being in a house full of women, sir.” I told ‘Pete’. The man’s arms dropped.

“Pardon?” He asked for clarification.

“All of my family’s men are gone. Me and Ishi are the only ones left.” I flatly told him. He looked at me as if I were stupid.

“You were raised in a house full of women?” He asked. “Everyone else is a woman? Besides your brother.” He asked as well. I nodded as he scoffed. “Unbeleivable. Not one other boy or man in your family?” He asked.

“Not since my Dad went MIA in Afghanistan.” I answered. He frowned in confusion when I said this.

“Where in the hell is that?” He asked. I gave him a look.

“How in the hell do you not know where in the hell a foreign country we’ve been trying to stabilize for nearly two decades now is?!” I asked in disbelief.

The man sighed, turning around as he took off his sunglasses. He looked up at the starry sky muttering something under his breath. I looked at him warily. Not every former serviceman knew where we were fighting, I guessed.

The name ‘Peter’ and the way this guy looked rang some kind of bell in my head, but I just didn’t know where. It kept coming up over and over again whom this guy looked like. The man then turned back to me after putting his sunglasses back on.

I spread my legs as the man walked over to me. My hands briefly curled into balls. I didn’t know if this guy was going to hurt me or my brother or if he was going to talk. Too many things weren’t adding up. The guy didn’t yell or charge me. He simply walked up to me.

“How old are you? How old is your brother again?” He asked me, curious. His expression had softened.

“I’m twenty,  he’s ten.” I answered.

“Look, I’m going to be frank with you.” The man said to me.

“We weren’t expecting children to tag-along for this. If anything, shit like that’s never happened before by my reckoning.” The man said, shrugging. What he just said felt weird to me and my estranged look proved it.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked him.

“I’m saying that things from here on out are going to be tough.” He told me, sounding as if he were a father. “I know things were rough on ya’ before, hell-things were rough on the rest of us before we all got-” He paused. “Well, let’s just call it ‘being recruited’ and leave it at that for now, alright?” He asked, grimly grinning at this. I raised a questioning eyebrow. What the heck was going on in that building?

“I know what you’re thinking right now,” The man sighed. “Believe me, I thought much like yourself  in another time and place.” ‘Pete’ told me. He shrugged afterwards. “Then again, I got taken during a battle and not in this part of Virginia.” I shook my head while he said all this. Did Aesir recruit crazies? Were things so bad for them that they had to recruit mentally ill liars? Or were they just Equal Opportunity Employers? Pete laughed at my expression.

“You’ll understand later. My point is: things’ll be rough from this point on as well as strange.” Pete said, putting a hand on my shoulder. He looked at me in the eye while he spoke next. “The only ones that you’ll have at your back’ll be close as family to you.” He said, emphasizing ‘family’. I blinked at this. What kind of message was he sending to me? I didn’t understand, even as he gestured for me to get back to my car.

“Y’all can head on through,” He announced as I walked back to my car, frowning at what just happened. By now, Uncle Dave appeared to have evaded capture, judging by how relaxed he was. I was praying to God in my head that he wouldn’t try to kill Bjorn in the middle of a mercenary corporate branch building.

We got back into the car with ‘Peter’ telling us which section of the lot to park in.

“Hey, what did that fella’ say to you in private?” Uncle Dave curiously asked as we drove away from them.

“And why’d he freak out over me?” Ishi asked, concerned.

“Nothing,” I said, hiding my feelings while I drove into the lot. As I drove, I looked at my rear-view mirror to see the two guards watching our car with a sad look on their faces. It was as if we were going to die. In a way, I found out later, we would.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VWTTF: Ch. 4 Extortion

(A/N: Hey, everyone! Sorry for not posting in a while!  I will definitely edit earlier chapters when given the chance as I have noticed key spelling, grammatical, and historical errors.  For now, I give you, at the very least: one more chapter! Bear in mind: I will edit them later after I finish the story.

Also, if anyone’s interested, I’d definitely read Kent Wayne’s Echo series on either his website or his official blog here on WordPress.com! He’s a veteran, which I am sadly not, and he’s a great writer! Head on over to his blog to see more! Here’s the link to him: https://dirtyscifibuddha.com. I’d highly recommend his Echo books! Now. Without further ado:  I give you… Chapter 4!) 

 

Chapter 4

I sighed as I sat in a hospital bed at Mary Washington Hospital. The curtain that served as my door to the outside world was left open, revealing my assigned security guard to watch over me while I was on suicide watch. I wasn’t handcuffed to the rails, mind you. But, I technically nearly blew my own brains out after I killed those three guys. That wasn’t fun at all. Especially when you have the family gift.

I took a sip of iced water that a nurse had given me. The TV wasn’t on, thank God. If it was on, most likely it would be about my recent exploits. In all honesty, I felt tired.. and guilty as hell. Recently, a detective came in after I was brought here for psych-eval to ask me some questions. I told him everything, save a few details. That should be obvious what I left out.

The cop then asked me if I knew the names ‘Hector Jiminez’, Rodger  and Alan Mayhew. They rung like church bells in my head. Yeah, I knew those names. Hector Jiminez was the youngest son of a woman from my church. She had been kind to us after Mom died and helped out. I was somewhat friendly with his older brother Ajax and had a now-dead crush on their sister. Growing up, Hector was a genuinely sweet kid. That, of course, must’ve been before his Dad was killed while working at the lumber yard in an accident. The family money troubles must’ve sent him down a dark road. He was only fifteen when he died.

Now as for the Mayhew brothers: where do I begin? Those two idiots got kicked out of my high school for drug-dealing meth and heroin. Actually: the younger brother Alan was the one pushing it. Roger tried to cover for him but wound up getting expelled himself. He was a smart kid, just went down the wrong path. Both of them did. Roger was a senior and an AP before he got kicked out. Now? I heard he was doing robberies from an old friend from school. That, and I looked up what he did. After he got kicked out, he went to prison along with his brother. After that, they started robbing folks, usually in downtown Ralton at night. Something pushed them to robbing in broad daylight. Both of them must’ve been high while they did it. Strangely, Alan sounded like he was sober when he spoke.

It really breaks my heart to hear that I killed those three guys. Hector was just a kid in a pious family that went through a crap-ton of trouble. I killed him before he could kill me. Personally, I blame the gift for this shit. This is the exact thing I wanted to make sure would never happen to anyone! Yet, it did happen!

I figured out what happened on my own after I had some time to cool down: During the vision, Rob and Charlie spoke to me. I must’ve spooked them with what I was saying. Then, I must’ve crouch-walked through the kitchen and went to the entrance to the lobby. I broke Rodger’s head and took his gun. Then, I fired the gun twice into Alan’s skull. Hector watched with frozen fear before he brought the gun up either to kill or to warn me. Instead: I fired thrice. Each shot penetrating him with the last one taking him out forever. As soon as I had made that realization, I said a prayer for each one of their souls.

The regret and the depression hit me like a freight train. I was supposed to be a warrior per the ancient family tradition of service. Something we’ve done since the days of the Roman Republic. To answer any and all questions: yes, that’s exactly how far back we go. My family has given its men to the nations that we served: Rome, various barbarian warlords as we underwent a mercenary period, England after the conquest of William the Conquerer, and lastly: America. In that necessary order. Of course, we’ve branched out over the years. We don’t know what happened to everyone else. None of us ever did find out. If somebody did, they would know, and therefore: me. We did hear rumors about ‘grey-eyed redcoat devils’ during the American Revolution but we never encountered anyone like that along with Irish rebels. Again: no contact on my family’s end.

The family ‘gift’ or ‘The Gift’ as some of the men would call it, is something passed down from one generation to the other, all on the male side of the family. There’s a limit, of course. You can only go as far as when the next generation’s conceived in terms of memory. On the matter of history, only as far back as one of the lesser-known Roman figures that helped put an end to the tyranny of the Roman kings. Anything else before that is nigh impossible.

Back to the present moment, I noticed someone walk up to the guard outside and flash credentials: a license and a card. The guard inspected them both and looked at me. I nodded, mouthing ‘let him in’ as I wanted to see what he had to say. I was curious, initially. Had I known then what he actually was: I’d have had the guard throw him out of the hospital.  The guard nodded at this and let him in.

The man walked into my room as I sat up straight. He had his hands at his side as he walked up to my side. His silver beard was neat and almost gave him the impression of a businessman-Santa Claus, if it wasn’t for the also stormcloud-gray colored suit that he wore. His eyes, strangely, were like my own as his sun-tanned face looked at me. The beard hid his exact expression.

“Konnichiwa, Valin-kun. Ongie deska?” He asked in near-perfect Japanese while having a thick Scandinavian accent.

I bowed back. “Konnichiwa,” I greeted back, though I tried to hide my suspicion. Whom was he and why was he here?

“My name is Bjorn Valkyrsson,” The man introduced himself. “As you canobviously tell: I am from Norway. More accurately: near Oslo. My family hails from there since ancient times.” He added. “I’m a recruiter for Aesir Security, a private security company based in Greenland.” The man said, jerking a thumb as if pointing over an ocean. He shrugged. “Of course, we’re expanding offices and operations elsewhere.” He said. I hid my frown under a mask of civility and respect. You didn’t have to have a doctorate in college to know what a ‘private security company’ actually was. Mercenary-work. My family, as I said before, did that kind of thing for awhile until we moved over to England. We spent more centuries after that to get the stench of that kind of work out of us. Trust me when I say: you’re better off not knowing what we did back then.

He handed me a card. I grabbed it while bowing.

Bjorn Valkyrsson
Recruiter/Co-founder
Aesir Security and Defense Solutions 

The logo for the company on the upper right hand side of the card was that of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir crossed with a spear in front of a Nordic-looking buckler that had Odin’s face on it in stylized fashion. I looked back at him and slightly shivered as our eyes met. It still kind of weirded me out that we had the exact same eye color.

“First of all, I would like to thank you for your actions in what was doing what was necessary earlier.” The old Nordic thanked me with a smile. At this, I wanted to scoff and tell him to fuck off. Then, I remembered that this was my elder and he deserved some respect. That, and I felt that it was better to hear him out.

“I understand that your name is Benjamin Seamus Toyotomi Valin, correct? The son of Sergeant Jeremy Ieyasu Valin and Staff Sergeant Ishigurama Victor Valin?” He asked for clarification. I nodded while wondering how he he could pronounce the Japanese parts of all three generations flawlessly, much less how he knew that.

“I also understand that your family, particularly that of your father’s side, has served this country with honor and distinction since its’ very founding?” The Norwegian asked.

“Hai, Valkyrsson-san.” I affirmed, nodding. He should also know that neither of them lived long enough to see their children grow up.

“My apologies for asking these questions,” Bjorn said, bowing his head. “I myself come from a family with similar origins.” He then smiled with pride. “Albeit: we claim to be related to the Vikings of our country along with the other Scandinavian nations.” He boasted with a ‘humble’ hand on his chest. I wanted to scoff at this as well.

‘Oh, good. I’m sure your family sing songs about pillaging villages and making Europe piss itself.’ I thought to myself, though I wanted to say it. ‘Maybe I should tell you the tale of how my ancestor Albert killed some of your raiding parties and made sure that none of them returned home to tell the tale? Or better yet: how we made sure those thugs paid for their crimes.’ That last part made me smile.  Of course, a brief memory of what I did made that smile fall back into the mask.

“What a coincidence,” I started to say with my standard Virginian-Japanese accent.” My family claims to be descended from a Samurai family with my Ma’s side being from Monaghan.” I said, changing my accent intentionally to an Irish lilt.

“Actually,” He said, nodding. “I did indeed know that.” he said. Just then, I felt a change in the air. Like something had been switched. It was something that you could just… feel. I didn’t know how, but I just did. It was like the air was just frozen, but I could still breathe it. “I did know that.” Bjorn confessed like the killjoy he’d turn out to be.

“I know that, because I spoke with both of them before they met their,” He paused as if for dramatic effect. “unfortunate and untimely fates.” My hands balled into fists as the veins in my neck pulsed with growing rage. I wanted to grab my hands around his neck and break it. You don’t say shit like that with that arrogant tone.  I’d happily kill him if I didn’t keep my feelings in check. Strangely, I was also curious. How and when did he speak with Dad and Grandpa? They never mentioned that to Ma or Grandma.

“Funny, Dad never mentioned you.” I said to him. Bjorn chuckled at this in response.

“I doubt he would. His father and I were at odds with each other after we spoke the last time back in ’70.  As a matter of fact, I tried to recruit your grandfather into my company as soon as his last tour was up.” He became sad or appeared to be sad at this. “Unfortunately, he never got the chance to finally give his answer.”  He looked at me after looking down. “The same went for his brother, your grand-uncle, if I’m not mistaken.” He continued his smart-ass talk. If kept it up, there were going to be one guy handcuffed to the bed and another with a black eye and no teeth!

“Nevertheless, I offered your grandfather, your grand-uncle, and even your father a chance to join Aesir Security as contractors.” He told me. I frowned, knowing the aforementioned history. I had all of Dad’s memories from before he was born, along with Grandpa Ishi’s. None of them mentioned Bjorn, unless this was after Dad along with myself were around. That could be why this was. The family memory only goes so far.

If Dad had known him, he never mentioned Bjorn to Mom. I eavesdropped on their conversations from time to time, just to learn how they felt. As for Grandpa Ishi, he never met Bjorn before he died in’71 as for all I knew. Grandma May would probably know about this. I didn’t find out until three days later the truth of it all. The absolutely worst truth I could ever think of.

“I met your father in 2008 when he was on his third tour in Afghanistan,” Bjorn explained. That didn’t sit well with me. My discomfort showed as I fidgeted in my bed. Dad disappeared in late ’09 during some kind of operation or patrol. We didn’t know all the details. All anyone knew was that he got separated from his unit while  comms strangely went out. All they found were scattered and bent pieces of his gear along with some blood on a cave wall. Grandpa Ishi’s dogtags were found underneath a burnt pile of charred corpses in an overrun firebase. That was after he got transferred from Da Nangh to somewhere else, I knew.

“Let me be frank, Valin-san.” Bjorn said, standing up straight as he looked down at me. His voice dripped with venom.”This is about a debt that your family owes me.”

“Your family owes me at the very least one of your own men. And if I can’t have that: Five hundred thousand dollars in American tender.” He told me. I tilted my head at this as I stammered. “Wh-What?!” I asked, confused. None of this made any sense to me.

“Why do you think your father grew up in the same house as you now live. Why do you think your family isn’t on the street?” The Nordic bastard rhetorically asked. I stared at him in shock. My mouth opening and closing as I tried to think about it. I remembered thinking that there was no way in hell we owed him anything. I would be wrong on that note  I’d find out why later.

“So, either you join my company or your family goes broke with one call to a judge.” The scummy thug threatened. My stare turned into a glare as I wanted to maul him like a bear.

“Who do you think you are, you piece of shit?!” I shouted at him. Wondering what the security guard was doing in all of this, I looked at him. I blinked and stared in confusion.

The guard was halfway between sitting and standing, his sun-tanned face was a frozen mask of anger and rage. His massive bulk getting out of the chair and ready to run inside. Of course, he stood still, like was in invisible ice. A hooded figure in a monk’s habit stood next to him, easily towering over him as if the guard were a child. The figure turned its shadowed gaze towards me. I shivered as I looked at my EKG monitor to see the lines that normally sounded off with the usual noise also frozen. There was nothing but silence. It was like it crashed silently without anyone noticing. I looked back at Bjorn, my heart pounding with fear. Just what was going on?

“I would think very carefully on what your answer will be, Valin-kun.” He told me with the expectation of a father on his son’s career choice. His sun-tanned finger tapped the card that I still held. “That’s our address here in the states,” He said, referring to what was on the card’s left side. “Open interviews are at midnight in three days time. I’ll be expecting you then.” He told me before bowing.  “Farewell, for now: Valin-san.” He then left my room and went out of sight, his footsteps echoing down the strangely-silent halls.

The hooded figure stared at me, his or her shadowed face looking from underneath that long hood. I tilted my head and blinked. I remember thinking if I was imagining things.  It was still there. It then tilted its head as if it was deferring to me and then spun on its heels and walked away without any sound.

I felt something in the air… like a switch was turned off. The guard suddenly stood up straight, his voice roaring like a Drill Instructor at Parris Island. “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?! YOU SAID-“ The man stopped as soon as he realized that I was there. I shrunk at the sheer tone of his voice. That tone and volume is a reason why I didn’t join the Marines. The DIs sound like they’d kill you over so much as a single screw-up. The man blinked as he realized his mistake.

“Shit, sorry, man!” He told me, his voice now softening as did his features. He then frowned in confusion. “You see where that Norwegian guy went?” he asked, curious as well as confused. I pointed down the hall.

“What?! He was standing right there a second ago!” He said in shock. “WHAT THE FUCK?!” He roared in anger and stormed off after him. He never found him. I shook my head at all of this. I didn’t know what to think. Something weird was going on. I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to like it.

 

 

 

 

 

Valin: Welcome To The Family Chapter 3

Remember when I mentioned the ‘family gift’? There’s a reason why I don’t talk about it to anyone. A very good reason, actually. It’s not so much as ’embarrassing’ as it is weird. It’s not something to flaunt for money or power either, that much is certain and obvious. Allow me to explain what the gift is through what happened at the store.

After the conversation I had with Grandpa Seamus, I went back to the kitchen.

“Well?” Charlie asked, working. His hands were coated in egg-soaked flour, as he made raw white meat.

“My grandparents are in the building,” I announced, washing my hand after I put on my apron. Rob laughed as he clapped his hands, flour going everywhere.

“Are you serious?” Charlie asked, smiling. I gave him a look while shaking my head.

“I am dead serious: my grand-parents are here and they want your chicken.” I told him. He laughed in response.

“They can have it for free!” He exclaimed, emphasizing ‘free’. Oh, cripes.

Just then, a loud pop filled the air. We all flinched as we ducked towards the ground.

“What the fuck was that?!” Rob asked in shock as we heard godawful screaming. I held my breath. Part of me wanted to go out and see what was going on. Part of me didn’t. Self-preservation in full force. We turned around as we heard a girl screaming from the direction of the back window where we took payments for orders.

“Shut up, bitch!” A voice roared, followed by a loud ‘ugh!’.

“What in the hell is going on?!” Charlie asked, stomping towards the back. His heavy body was suddenly impeded by a pair of figures. Their earthy-brown colored hoodies hid the exact shape of their bodies, but I knew they were men. As for their faces, I saw only ski masks. Before, Charlie could bark an order he found two gun-barrels pointed at his face. He stepped back with his arms raised.

“Oh, Jesus!” He exclaimed with a high-pitched voice.

“Yell at us again and you’ll lose weight right now,” One of the two figures said with a calm voice, as if talking business.

The bandit on the right then aimed his gun at us. Immediately, both of us raised our hands in the air.

My heart started to pound against the walls of my chest. I made mental notes on the appearances of the two. The left one was five-ten with his comrade at five-eight or five-seven. One had green eyes, the other had blue. Both appeared athletic and wore jeans in addition to the hoodies. They had the exact same kind of old, faded sneaker on: Sketchers.

The handguns were Smith and Wesson M&P 500s. They weren’t military-issued like the M9s, but they did the job like any other gun. If they had AK-74s or some other assault rifle or carbine, then I’d be a lot more concerned as one of those would kill our whole store. But, still: those guys meant business.

“Where’s the manager? Who’s in charge of this joint?” The bandit on the right inquired with an aggressive tone. Before Charlie could talk, I found myself saying the dumbest and most reckless things to say.

“He’s not here,”

Charlie looked at me in horror. Standard procedure was to cooperate with the robbers and let them take all the money with no resistance. Instead, I lied and quite possibly signed our death warrants.

“What do you mean, ‘he’s not here?!'” The second robber roared in anger while the first looked more like he was annoyed.

“We’re going to open a new store in Fredericksburg,” Rob lied as well. Charlie looked at the two of us out of the corner of his eye. The look in his eyes said ‘Are you out of your damn mind?!’ Sometimes, I had to say that I was sometimes, but I couldn’t say anything about Rob.

The two robbers looked at each other and then back to us with their guns still raised.

The right robber walked up to me with his gun still raised, his eyes looking into mine with careless anger and frustration. I noted that what little skin he had seemed to be creamy while his gun-barrel went to my forehead.

My heart kept pounding harder and harder as I felt the cold steel of the gun against my skin. One round and Ishi was going to be the last man standing in the family. That’s not something I want for him.

“If I find out that you’re lying to us-I’ll blow your goddamn head off, understand?” The robber threatened, pressing it harder. I nodded in response at first.

For some odd reason, his voice sounded familiar: Southern-somewhat like mine. Except, that I had a small bit of an Irish-lilt thanks to my Mom’s upbringing. It’s barely noticeable. This guy sounded like he came from the countryside. And yet, now that i thought about it, he and the other guy sounded so familiar. Of course, the gun to my head was on the literal forefront of my mind.

“Y-Yeah, sure.” I said, nodding. I tried to hide my fear.

“Good, because we’re going to ask around.” The redneck robber said, withdrawing the gun. I mentally breathed a sigh of relief as he walked away from me. I didn’t dare do physically. I didn’t want to get shot for it.

Then, I started to have a headache. That’s how it always starts: a massive headache that makes you feel like your head’s changing. Next came the whispers. I looked up, feeling dizzy. My vision became blurred as I saw the world around me change. I felt something in my head start to take over, something ancient. The whispers started turning into sounds, growing louder with each passing second, turning into the screams of men, women and children.

My own identity became consumed in a sea of countless others,  a sea of ancient history and memories like so many times before. I kept trying to hang on to myself. I told myself in my head that my name was Benjamin Seamus Toyotomi Valin. I was born on January 7, 1999. My parents were Jennifer Anne Conley and Jeremy Ieyasu Valin. My brother’s name was Ishi Brendan Valin. I lived in Ralton, Virginia… I… I…I… I…

My breathing became shallow as my identity shifted, changed into that of another. I looked at my hands as the world turned from a fried chicken restaurant to a building of straw and a thatched roof. I blinked and breathed a sigh of relief. Shit, I fucking hate these headaches.

“Val?” A thick Midwestern accent asked.

“You okay?” A Bronx-Italian accent asked me. I turned my head to see my teammates in the darkness of a modest-sized hut.

“You drink too much sake?” Jimmy Martini asked, jokingly. His black hair was long and wild with a full-on beard growing. His brown eyes looked me behind a face painted in camouflage.

Jason Lee Jackson didn’t need no damn camouflage, in my opinion. His massive bulky form was a natural earth-color skin tone-wise. He hefted his M-60 with one arm while the ammo belt was around his neck. Martini held his M-14 as he crouched. They both looked at me expectantly. I checked my identity to make sure I was sane.

My name is Ishigurama Jack Valin. My old man was ‘Jumping Jack’ Paul Valin, a legend in the Corps back when my country fougth against the Germans and my mother’s people. I have a twin, Max, who followed Dad’s footsteps and became the most coveted title in the free world. He was stationed over at Khe Sanh last I checked. Me?

I’m with an SOG out of Da Nangh. My team’s  current mission was tracking, and possibly intercepting, the Viet Cong convoys that go up and down the Ho Chi Minh Trail outside of ‘Nam. My unit often goes to Cambodia, currently under communist-Khmer occupation.

This one Cong unit we tracked went to this village. Of course, they must’ve given us the slip or something. Not a damn trace. The same couldn’t be said the for the Khmer.

On one of my first ops, I took up an interesting habit of pretending to be Viet Cong, essentially acting like an undercover cop in a communist-run country. Of course, there came problems, but I handled them well. I came to this village under cover as a Cong soldier that got lost and was looking for his unit. The locals and Khmer soldiers were obviously suspicious. Hence, my recent interrogation. They threatened to break my neck and cut my heart out for dinner or worse if it turned out that I worked for ‘the roosters’. Assholes, the lot of them. Thank God, they can’t tell I’m part-Japanese! That, and I can be pretty convincing as a Vietnamese guy.

“Don’t you have some pasta to cook?” I retorted. Martini chuckled at the insult/joke. He loved to cook pasta for us, even using shit he found in the jungle. One time, he damn near killed us making rotini. We still gave him shit over it.

“There’s good and bad news,” I told my teammates.

“There’s only three Khmer here. The others are all out on patrol away from here. Best part: guy that tried to kill me is an officer: a lieutenant maybe. I don’t speak much Cambodian.” I said, being serious. “I also wouldn’t recommend capturing him, bastard likes to come here for shits and giggles.” I said, remembering what I saw earlier. The debauchery of this prick… mind-boggling for a human being to conceive!

“What about the Cong?” Our machine gunner asked, curious and determined to complete the mission. Too many convoys had come down the trail to attack our brothers-in-arms and then high-tail it back up.

“Cong are long gone,” I said in a Vietnamese accent and continued in my normal Japanese-American accent. “Left after that storm three days ago. They came here for a resupply and went further down south, maybe.” I shrugged as I grimaced. “Sorry guys, I tried.” I told them.

“If there wasn’t so much damn jungle, we’d catch ’em.” Martini muttered. We all agreed: the jungle sucked ass!

“Maybe, maybe not.” I said, thinking. There was a bit of wisdom in any climate on the planet.

“Let’s exfil,” Martini said, jerking his thumb towards the hole they made in the back of the hut. A hole, which could be easily repaired.

“Nah, I’ve got some unfinished business to take care of.” I said, looking towards the front. The bastard was going to start his shit again. I wanted to leave him something to remember me by. Besides, he told me that he was going to have some ‘fun’ and then ask around if I said whom I really was. He wouldn’t get the chance, I’d make sure. That, and I’d give the Khmer something to consider: a betrayal by their ‘fraternal-socialist-comrades’.

“Don’t start anything,” Martini warned.

“Sarge, I’m dressed like a Cong.” I reminded him, grinning. He thought for a moment and grinned back. The sick idea had been shared.

“Do it,” He nodded and then became serious.

“But, get the hell out of there as ast as you can.” He warned. I nodded and gave him a thumbs up before crouch-walking towards the front while Martini and Jackson went out the back hole.

The smell of hot, dry mud, shit, piss, and even burnt meat filled the air as I crept around some stacks of straw the villagers used to build some new houses or something like that after I exited the house. Cambodian words flew through the air as I stealthily crept to my targets. Something about how the lieutenant was going to  choose today’s ‘entertainment’. Something like that. Not on my watch.

The sun shone down in the center of the village as men, women, and children all sat down on the ground, numbering at least fifty. The three Khmer soldiers were busy picking out whom would be their ‘entertainment’. It pissed me off to no end.

The lieutenant was whispering to a man under his command while the third guy walked around, picking his own target. My eyes scanned their countrymen’s faces. Children clutched their mothers while the fathers looked helpless. More than one old-timer had a shiner or two that was visible.

Hot blood rushed through my veins at the sight of one old man, his silver hair unkempt and his eyes widened in fear. A jagged scar flowed across his face. Disrespectful pricks!

I stood up at my full height as the two stooges in front of me looked up. I didn’t say a damn word, not even as I started my attack.

Time slowed down as my hands grabbed the lieutenant, wrapping them around his head and then violently twisting the skull into an unnatural angle. This made a bone-breaking snap. His eyes were wide with confusion and terror as their light dimmed. He fell, seeing my face with a cold, hard determined rage.

My hands then went for his pistol, taking it out of his cold dead hands and aimed it at his buddy’s head. The gun jerked back when I pulled the trigger, giving the Khmer a new hole in the front with an even bigger hole out the back. His body fell backwards, his life now gone.

The third guy watched in horror and was about to bring his gun up to me when I readjusted my aim. I went for his center-mass and then his head when I fired thrice. The other two I knew were dead. But, when it comes to a guy about twenty-feet away? Better to shoot thrice. I was satisfied when I got the last one. He fell, seeing my face. It was all over in a matter of seconds. The villagers became confused and scared. I blinked as a massive headache greeted me.

I groaned as my identity came back with a vengeance. I heard screaming still as I rubbed my head. After something like that, I always get a headache that feels like a bad hangover.

You remember the ‘gift’ that I mentioned earlier? That’s what just happened. The best I can call it is ‘ancestral memory’ with the best description for it being ‘having your ancestors’ memories of a situation similar to the one you’re facing.’ The ‘gift’ can kick off any time and anywhere. It can range from brawling with other kids, getting lost int he woods, and what just happened right now. Of course, sometimes, you act on it unconsciously. Sometimes you don’t when you’re using it.

I didn’t know what I did in real life until I saw the gun in my hand, the smoke coming out of the barrel. You can imagine my surprise and horror as I looked down to see the bodies of the robbers from less than a minute or so ago.

The guy that was calm before now had his neck broken with his eyes wide in terror and confusion forever. The arrogant turd that threatened me earlier had been shot in the head with his brains decorating our front counter on the floor in front of it. The last guy laid down backwards, blood pooling around his corpse like his buddies.

“Oh, Jesus.” I whispered, looking around, seeing the looks of fear on the customers in the lobby. The wails of infants and kids as they clung to their mothers for comfort scared me.  It made me feel like a goddamn monster, which I hated.

Things got worse when my eyes fell on my grandparents. Oh, gak. They’d been in the room when it happened. I actually did the exact same thing as my grandfather in Cambodia! I killed those three guys the same way he killed those Khmer in that village. I don’t doubt it, I know it. Oh, cripes. What have I done?

Grandpa Seamus looked at me in shock and horror with Grandma Nancy looking on in disbelief.

A storm of emotions came over me as I wondered how I could live with this. How could I? I tried keeping it a secret for years and look where it got me. Now, everyone knew something was wrong with me. But the worst part of it was my grandparents, my mother’s parents, learning that her first-born son was a freak. I knew there was only one way to redeem myself.. one way to restore my honor.

I put the gun to my temple, ignoring the screams that followed. I mentally prayed that I would be granted a merciful sentence in the afterlife. My finger went to the trigger as I squeezed my eyes shut.

A massive meaty hand grabbed my arm, pulling it away from my temple through sheer force.

“Let it go,” Charlie’s voice ordered, softly. “Let it go,” He repeated the order. I let my control go and felt it get taken away from me. I sobbed as I fell onto the ground. Life as I knew it was over. Like I said, the gift can both help and hurt.

 

Welcome To The Family Chapter 2

The Irish couple watched as their first grandchild walked away, hiding his feelings under a steely exterior. It was the Japanese way, they knew.

“You’re too stubborn, Seamus.” His wife nagged him yet again. He scoffed as a retort.

“I’m trying to make sure he doesn’t end up like his Da and the others, Nan.” He told her in a hushed tone as they sat down at a booth with a window to the outside world. The sun shone down through the clouds as they spoke.

“We should’ve split custody between their women and us. The boys are half-Irish for heaven’s sake, and Jenny’s sons to boot.” Seamus told her in a hushed whisper. Best not to have anyone curious asking around about it. It was ridiculous due to the fact that the whole Valin family consisted of nothing but widows and female orphans. The boys deserved to have some male figures in their life, for crying out loud.

“They’re strange, sure.” Nancy began.”But, at least they’re family.” Nancy reminded him. The old man nodded at that. “And lest you forget, the boys always visit on the holidays.” She also reminded him.

“Aye,” Seamus grunted as he acknowledged. Sometimes, he wondered if he should’ve had Jenny and the boys live with him and the rest of his family back in Monaghan.  Sure, folks would give the boys shite for being partially Japanese-American, but at least they were  his grandchildren. Besides, they were all that he had left of Jenny.

He fumed as he thought about her. She had been cruelly murdered ten years ago by a drunk driver one night as she returned home with groceries and her children in the car. Ben had been ten years old back then. The event traumatized him for years afterwards, and probably still did. He had made sure to pay for the therapy himself.

“You’re thinking about her, aren’t you?” His wife asked him. He looked up at her and saw her eyes. They bore into his soul as he finally nodded at it.

“Aye,” He affirmed.

“She probably wouldn’t have wanted him to be a soldier, if anything,” His wife stated. He nodded as he couldn’t see any reason what she saw in that Valin boy. Jeremy had seemed nice enough. He could handle himself in a fight, sure. At least he was good to Jenny and was considered a good father if what she and her Mum had said while he eavesdropped. Then, he disappeared. Just like that. Just like his father, and his father, and all his uncles and male cousins. Missing or dead. The military term was ‘Killed in Action’. Of course, the Valins had too damned many. Perhaps they should find another line of work.  There was more than one way to serve your homeland that didn’t involve killing.

“‘Course his father would’ve had him be a soldier, as usual.” He muttered, thinking of him. Like most Valins of his generation and his grandfather’s, he had the dark hair and slanted(as well as unusual) steely-gray eyes. His cheekbones had been pronounced but he still looked partially Caucasian. His skin had a copper mixture to it. In fact, his sons looked just like their father, ‘spitting image’ to use the old phrase.

“We’ll talk about the boy’s future with May and the rest of the women when we get there.” He told her and then started to rise. “Right now, I want to have some of my grandson’s chicken, see what the fuss is about.” He said right as the joints in his knees ached. He groaned, recalling the insults he said to his own father before he died. The old man must be laughing in Heaven right now for his son’s comeuppance.

Seamus was helping his wife out of her seat when his gaze, for some reason known only to God,  went to the front door. The old man didn’t know why he did it, he just did. It couldn’t have been David, that was a surprise for later. David should still be in the car.

A short bloke walked into the restaurant with his head covered by a black hoodie. He was skinny, maybe athletic, Seamus wasn’t sure. But he was definitely sure as shite knew what was going to happen next as soon as he saw the man turn his head. He had a ski mask on his face. And when someone’s got a ski mask on in summer, he wasn’t doing it to keep his face warm.

“Oh, gak.” He muttered as the robber pulled a handgun from his pants and fired into the air. He had his wife get down as women and children screamed. He knew what to do. He’d never been in a robbery of course, but he heard about such things. Best not to get killed when trying to see your family, aye?

“Everyone, get down on the ground, now!” The robber roared. Seamus noted that the man sounded like he was faking his accent and tone, like he was trying to make it deeper and older than it was. Was this ‘bloke’ a kid?  Of course, he wouldn’t confront him as he had a gun. But, he could observe, of course. Besides, it was far better to obey the order than to get shot. However, supposing whoever this bloke was with..well-least he would die with a clean conscience.

His eyes studied the sole robber, or what he initially thought was the sole robber. He was tense as he walked around, looking at people with a critical eye. The way he carried his gun and the fact that he was nervous made him think this guy was an amateur. It was as if it was his first time doing a robbery. The constant breathing with his chest going in and out with deep breathes was a dead-giveaway.

The young robber walked over to everyone, giving them a once-over with only his eyes. So far, he hadn’t demanded any money. If anybody had notified the police, the sirens weren’t heard from outside. Children and infants cried to the mothers that clutched them. The men that looked willing and able, though they laid on the cold, tiled floor, looked at him with predatory eyes that were full of hot anger.. The robber, whomever he was, made a mistake: he forgot to check and relieve everyone of their weapons. If anyone had any, that is. Obviously, he was an idiot and a fool to rob a place by himself. So, that meant it was just himself or he was part of a crew.

The constant crying of the infants and children made him even more agitated. He thought he heard noises from the kitchen of the restaurant, but he wasn’t sure with all the screaming and crying. His heart went out to the children. He looked at the front door. David was out there, he knew. Most likely, he’d either call the police here or try to find the get-away driver if there was indeed a ‘crew’ robbing the place. He looked back towards the counter. The workers here were now cowering with their bodies on the floor or in a corner like the cashier in a fetal position.

“Shut those kids up or I will!” The robber threatened a family with three kids: a young boy around eight, a teenage girl and an infant held by the mother as the father looked at him with barely-containable rage. The way he said those words struck him like lightning. As soon as the robber walked away, Seamus’s eyes went towards the father’s and a mutual understanding joined them in an alliance. You don’t just threaten to kill a man’s kids and get away with it.

The old grandfather head turned to see two figures come out of the entrance way to the back of the restaurant. Oh, gak. Two men in dark brown hoodies and black  ski masks appeared with handguns as well. They were similar in height, possibly athletic. Perhaps, they were brothers?

“Everyone stay on the ground and don’t do anything heroic. It’ll all be over soon.” The robber on the left said with faux calmness. If anything, he sounded angry as his comrade also had an angry frown on his face. It sounded like something had gone awry. Said compatriot went over to the cashier and aimed his black pistol at the young woman’s face. She took shallow breaths as he grabbed her shoulder and leaned close to her face.

Seamus couldn’t hear what was said but it looked like she was trying to say something. The first robber looked away as if out of guilt and turned around, inspecting the lobby again. He walked through the lobby and  gave everyone a once-over again. The cashier, a lovely-looking blonde slightly shook her head and was about to say something else when her interrogator, the leader of the band of robbers, grabbed his friend’s shoulder and hissed under his breath. Their conversation was very low and they spoke like snakes as they hissed to each other.

The third robber’s shadow went over him. He looked up at the younger man with a curious look. Seamus noted how the man’s brown eyes glanced at him briefly and looked away as he walked past him.  The robber went back into the main lobby and froze with Seamus looked back towards the counter. What he saw stunned him to the core.

Standing in the entrance-way was his first grandson: Ben Valin. His firm gray eyes stared straight-ahead as if in a trance: determined and predatory. The first two robbers looked up. Before anyone could say anything, a flurry of events happened that were almost too quick to follow. A bone-breaking snap was heard followed by two gunshots with three more following after that in the span of ten seconds. Seamus suddenly smelled blood and gun-smoke as he saw the body of the third robber fall to the floor in a heap without so much as speaking or firing a shot. His ears rang after the guns fired. The old man noticed two bloody holes  in the back of the third bandit with the last hole looking more like the skull exploded outwards. A meter’s worth of blood spatter was in front of the counter. The other two robbers weren’t seen from his point of view, but he could tell what happened as the ringing subsided.

The infants and children all started screaming again with their mothers trying to comfort them. Seamus blinked as he struggled to comprehend just what in the hell happened. His eyes then went to where Ben had stood and blinked. Just a few seconds ago, Ben had looked determined and in a trance. Now, he looked as if he had a hangover.

The young man groaned as he rubbed his face and then looked down at the gun in his hand. Seamus watched as Ben’s eyes widened and then looked around him, seeing the death and carnage that occurred just now. The boy’s face paled as he whispered something he couldn’t hear but it looked like he was swearing. Then, his eyes went towards the body in the lobby. Finally, Ben’s eyes met Seamus’s own. In that instant, Seamus saw fear, shame and horror at what he had done. It was as if a secret sin had been revealed for all to see. Ben put the gun to his temple and put his finger on the trigger.

“NO!!” Nancy and Seamus roared in horror as a large, overweight man came out of the back and grabbed Ben’s arm, forcefully turning it away from Ben’s face. The ‘boy’ and he would always be a ‘boy’ to the old man, pulled the trigger, damaging nothing but the wall. The black man then grabbed the gun from Ben’s hand, telling him in a thick, French-sounding accent and a compassionate  accent that ‘it was alright’. The boy started to sob as he realized what he had done, collapsing to the ground. Seamus and his wife got up, ignoring their joints, to go comfort their grandson.

What he hadn’t seen, nor noticed, was an old man, in his seventies, standing up with ease from a position far behind the old Irish couple when they walked in. As the other customers stood up and either went outside or tried to comfort Ben Valin, he inspected the body of the last body. He knelt down in his stormcloud-colored business suit as if he were a detective. He nodded with his mouth smiling a small smile, impressed at the precision of the shots fired. Two rounds in the center with the last round going right between the eyes. The second one had been shot twice in the head, he knew. The first one had his neck snapped in two seconds. Not necessarily bad ways to go, but then again: they were little more than bandits. The kills were justifiable.

“A  clean kill, I’d have to say.” He commented in a husky and thick Norwegian accent. He stood up from his position and looked at the growing crowd of supporters around the young man. He sighed and shook his head. Everyone always did have the shakes on their first kills. He then walked outside of the restaurant while police sirens were heard in the distance. He barely even noticed a middle-aged red-haired Irishman holding a young man hostage in a car as he walked away from the restaurant.

 

 

Valin: Welcome To the Family Chapter 1

Valin: Welcome To The Family

by James Francis Travis

Dedication: To my friends, family, and coworkers of all the jobs that I worked at: thank you all for your support!

 

Chapter 1

For me, the family curse was only something that my Grandma and Great-Grandma talked about. Not to mention my numerous aunts and cousins. Dad, Ishi, and I were the last men in the family. Then, it was just Ishi and me. Every male Valin from my Dad, Grand-Uncles, and male cousins are either dead or missing. That’s the price we have to pay for service, I guess.

The ‘family curse’ the dying or missing part of our tradition. Every Valin from now to the farthest known ancestor of our family has joined the military to answer his nation’s call only to pay for it in blood and life, leaving the next generation fatherles, just like yours truly. However, there’s also a family gift that offers little-to-some insight into what went on in their heads. More on that later. Right now, I can say that this has both helped and hindered me. If I had to guess, it’s something also tied to our curse, I’m sure.

For the longest time, I thought I could keep it a secret, explain it away in public but privately acknowledge it. Eventually, it became clear to me that option wasn’t possible, not anymore. Let me explain: my name is Ben Valin, this is my story.

It had been about two years since I graduated high school and ten years since Dad disappeared. Ishi, my brother, was ten years old and hadn’t known his own parents by now. Yes, our Mom died while Ishi was still a baby. No, it wasn’t a disease like cancer. Let me say this: the bastard that killed her isn’t coming out of prison alive and I heard that he got shanked when word got out that he nearly killed two kids in a drunk driving incident. He’s alive now, but I doubt he’s ever going to get paroled. Not after what he did to us.

That fateful morning that started it all was pretty much the same for the most part: I did my devotions, I got dressed and ready for work, ate breakfast with my almost entirely-female family, gave my brother and female cousins a lecture on grades. After that, I gave the older women of the family kisses and hugs good-bye and went to work. Along the way, I called my Uncle Dave in Ireland and talked as I drove, while making sure I didn’t crash. He gave me some pieces of advice along with an embarassing story from Mom’s past or his own. Then, he said this gem.

“Oh, by the way: your Grandad and Grandmother are in the States right now. They didn’t want me to tell ye until ye called. Ye know how yer grandad is.” Uncle Dave chuckled. I heard the smile in his voice as I stared at the phone. I looked up to see the oncoming back-side of a pick-up truck. I slammed on the brakes, almost swearing at the sheer absurdity of it all. Outside, the sky was partially cloudy. A few gas stations and shops stood as my witness to my near-mistake and the possible explanation to my grandmother why my not-paid-in-full car looked like it ran into a tree.

“Why didn’t you call Grandma May about this?!” I barked at him angrily. If he had called preferably a day or so earlier, we would’ve gotten the house clean and ready for them!

“As I said before: ye know how yer granddad is, Ben. He likes to make surprises.” Uncle Dave answered, chuckling.

‘Oh, like how he surprised Dad with a double-barreled shotgun to the face as soon as Granddad found out that he was dating Mom?’ I wanted to say and then thought the better of it. Best not to get into an argument with family.

“Where are they now?” I asked him as I continued driving. The truck in front of me was now moving away while other drivers gave me what-for non-verbally.

“He’s coming down to see you now, but I can’t exactly say where though. Sorry.” Uncle Dave apologized with what I felt was faux sincerity. Something was up. I was a bit anxious. Mom’s side of the family should’ve given my Dad’s side  a call to say they were coming. We would’ve gotten the house clean and made tea for them upon arrival. That, or gotten Granddad’s favorite brand of whiskey or liquor. Well, technically: Grandma’s been trying to get him to go stone cold sober for years. ma had tried her hand at it, but Granddad had been stubborn even then as now.

“They do know Japanese customs, right? The familys been Japanese-American for four generations now.” I reminded him with a wary expression as I kept driving. Originally, the family had been Caucasian until about four generations ago when my great-grandfather married a Japanese woman. That woman was my Great-Grandmother Aiko whom still lived.

“They know enough. And ye have to remember that the family’s now part Irish since yer Ma’s Irish.” He reminded me. Anglo-Irish-Japanese Americans… what an odd combination. I’m sure my ancestors are having a sake or whiskey in the afterlife over this.

“I’ve got to go, Uncail.” I said as I spotted my job on the right. I went into the parking lot as I said my farewell. “I’m coming up on my job now. Talk to you later.”

“Have a good one!” Uncle Dave told me as I entered the parking lot of my job place.

Sitting next to an intersection was Bobby’s Fried Chicken in opposition to a Burger joint and a taco place on the other side of the street. Around those three restaurants were various gas stations family owned diners and an outlet mall was down the road, making this intersection prime real estate for business in Ralton, Virginia.

It was about in the morning, so business wouldn’t start until ten-thirty. But, that didn’t stop a line from starting to form. Today was Memorial Day, and not everyone was eager to cook outside. In fact, a lot of folks were eating at food joints like ours.

I had my black uniform on: a t-shirt with my name-tag, dress-slacks, non-slip shoes and my hat. I was ready for a day that should’ve been a little unusual. What would happen afterwards was going to change my life, even though it had changed twice already.

As I walked to the backdoor, I had noticed the cars that sat in the parking lot with their drivers still in them. A few people stood outside our only front door.

I knocked on the backdoor to let someone know I was here. Charlie, one of the older cooks at the restaurant, let me in. I always smile as I think about the big black Haitian man.

“Bonjour, en! Today’s going to look busy, non?” He greeted with a smile.

“Oui,” I greeted back as we shook hands with a smile. Charlie’s French-Haitian accent betrayed his origins. Back in the day, the old fart fled his home island to start over. What ended up happening was him starting a family and the current usiness.

Don’t let the uniform and the name of the store fool you: Charlie’s the owner and the founder of the restaurant. The fact that the old clean-shaven white guy is the logo but the owner’s black is a big joke to the staff here. The looks on people’s faces when we have them meet the owner is absolutely priceless.

I was greeted by the smell of canola oil, grease, raw meat, and the frying of flesh as I walked through the interior. After I greeted everyone, I went to work immediately.

For two years, I had been working as a cook here to raise money for college and to give myself some savings for when I joined the Army. That, or I could join the Marines like my Great-Grandpa Jack. Hell, Jacks’ the reason why we’re part Japanese.

Cooking fried chicken’s become a specialty of mine. You have to bread it a certain way with a combination of egg and milk along with our own special blend of spices and herbs. All of which are patented and the theft of which would be punished and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

As I breaded chicken with Charlie and another old-timer named Rob, we talked.

“So, how’s your family?” Rob asked as he input a rack of breaded dark meat into the fryer. Four racks total of two dark meat and white meat poultry were lowered into the oil, boiling it.  I shrugged in response.

“Well, my brother and my cousins all need to get their grades raised, and both of us are the only dudes in the house. ” I said, trying to sound funny.

“Holy cow, man. How do you live with that?” Rob asked me in shock.

“You get used to it when every man in your family is either dead or missing.” I retorted with anger. There was a brief period of silence between us. I had told them both about my family’s history.

“Have you ever thought about not being a soldier?” Ron asked me as he breaded chicken.

“It’s the only thing my family knows how to do: the male side, anyway.” I answered, shrugging. “I’ve thought about being a cop or maybe a bouncer.”

“Wasn’t the Pope a bouncer?” Charlie wondered aloud.

“Yeah, he was until he decided to go become a priest and a Jesuit to boot.” I answered as I breaded some white meat chicken. The Pope had his own issues. Then again: everyone on the planet had issues: loss of family, friends, life, morality, honor- that sort of thing. We all had some tragedy,  it seemed.

“Hey, is your grandmother available?” Charlie jokingly asked.

I scoffed as I looked at him. My grandma was in her seventies, but my boss was at least ten years younger than her. That, and Grandma May had expressed no interest in re-marrying after my grandpa was killed in’Nam when his units position had been overrun. They found his dogtags more than a decade later in a pile of charred corpses in what remained of a US military firebase. The body of my grandfather was never found to this day. That left a lot of questions if whether or not he still lived or not. For all I knew, he could be rotting in some secret Vietnamese prison camp.

“My granny’s too old for you, Chuck!” I told him feigning exasperation.

“So? I once dated a fifty-year old woman when I was thirty!” The Haitian restaurant owner laughed. Rob and I stared at him in response. This guy was insane! She was old enough to be his mother!

“Man, that’s messed up.” Rob commented in his Southern drawl. His stubble was a reddish-brown as was his hair and mustache. Charlie chuckled as he put the breaded white meat on a rack.

I sighed as I looked at  Rob whom shrugged. He knew the owner a lot better than I ever did. Our boss was crazy as he was friendly. One time, he went to our local mall as Santa Claus. The sheer outrage and shock online was hilarious. Our Charlie, the ‘Troll of Ralton’. Long may he live.

We got busy after we opened. It was hellish to say the least. After an hour’s worth of work, we were sweating from both the heat and the job. In food service, it’s wise to not let any human body fluid get onto the raw meat before it cooks. Actually, not just wise: legally and morally right.

From the sound of our hot boxes opening and closing along with shouts for more chicken to be made, business was good. The sales would be good and we’d be in business for awhile if it was like this all the time. In all honesty: I can admit that the days get boring and tiring with the yelling unbearable. But, for me: it’s a job. And jobs provide others with a service and yourself with employment. Take for instance: cooks. They get paid, work hard like heck to make food for everyone, but they still serve others. For me, serving others was a family thing. It’s one of those values along with religion that’s instilled into you until the day you die or break away (god forbid) . Of course, a little something for yourself never hurts… unless it’s spiritually and morally, then it’s a ‘no’. My old man, before he deployed and never came back, taught me that. Over the year, I learned similar lessons from the family gift. More on that later.

Just then, D’shawn came in. I remembered how he walked into the kitchen- that fateful moment that started it all. Then again, in hindsight, a bunch of moments were fateful. D’Shawn hadn’t an inkling, none save several knew what would happen. He was a tall lanky man with mocha-colored skin. He had dreadlocks thaqt hung from his head though partially restrained. His left hand produced a pack of ciagarettes partially out of his pocket.

“Yo, Ben: there’s an old couple asking for you, sound funny-like they’re from Sctoland or something..” D’Shawn said. He wasn’t exactly an old hand, but he wasn’t new either. Everyone knew he and Charlie smoked out the backdoor on occasion, along with many others. he was young-looking but he was starting to look old.

I gave him a funny look in response. There wasn’t a way in Heaven or Earth that they wouldn’t have known where I worked. Unless someone snitched.

“Did the man have a cap or not?” I asked with gesture.

“A cap?” He repeated, unsure.

“A hat?” I corrected myself.

“A lot of people wear hats, man.” D’Shawn told me, dead-pan.

“A Brooklyn Brood-nix cap,” I clarified.

“Huh?” He asked, tilting his head.

“The hat English folks wear,” I clarified.

“Oh!” Charlie exclaimed, realizing.

“The hat that people from New York or Boston wear, not those snap-backs. They’re flat.” he said while gesturing. I sighed as D’Shawn was still confused. Then, I thought of Mario from the games.

“Mario’s hat,” I said. “It’s like Mario’s hat, only brown.” I explained. D’Shawn frowned and then realized what I was talking about.

“Oh, yeah, that!” he realized, snapping his fingers while nodding.  He then looked to Charlie. I remember his dread-locks moving as he asked Charlie the question that would cost three lives. “By the way, Charlie: Mind if I have a smoke?” D’Shawn asked, his left hand producing a pack of Marlboros from his left pocket.

“It’s over an hour into business and you’re asking for a smoke already?!” Charlie asked, exasperated. D’Shawn grimaced in response as Charlie scoffed.

“Fine, but close that back door!” Charlie ordered, pointing a floured finger at him. D’Shawn nodded in response and walked away. After washing my hands and taking off my apron, I went to the front counter to see a bewildering and familiar sight.

Standing at 5’8 with a straightened posture in a plaid collared shirt, jeans, a broodnix cap and a leather jacket with blue eyes was my granddad Seamus and my slightly shorter grandmother Nancy in a collared shirt, black pants, and a light green jacket. Their reddish hair had grayed over the years, but they still looked wonderful.

I smiled as I greeted my grandparents by bowing before going around the counter and hugging both of them, surprising everyone involved and several on-lookers. The cashier that we had in the morning, a cute blonde named Rachel blinked as she wondered what was going on.

“What are you doing here, visiting me?” I asked them in surprise as I pulled back. I then gestured for them to follow me over to a corner in the lobby. Somewhere that we could talk privately.

“Why didn’t you call ahead?! We would’ve gotten the house ready for you!” I told my grandparents in Irish. Mom had taught me since I could walk. Dad, Great-Grandma Aiko, and Grandma May (even though she was white) taught me Japanese. Granddad scoffed.

“Lad, you know me. I like to make surprises.” Grandpa Seamus smiled as he spoke in Irish. I couldn’t help but feel that he lied. Grandma Nancy made a brief frown at this and rolled her eyes at this. Obviously, something was up, but I didn’t dare accuse them. Not here. This was a family matter. Like all families, it should be kept in-house unless you needed help.

“How’ve you been, Ben?” The old man asked me, curious.

“Fine, the usual troubles of work. Yourself?” I responded.

“We’re doing fine, Ben.” Grandpa responded flatly in English.

“So, have you finally found a girlfriend?” he teased. I wanted to glare, but decided not to do so. That wouldn’t have been respectful. He was, after all, my mother’s father. Tradition and honor demanded that I not take offense.

“No,” I honestly answered with a straight face. Grandma Nancy hid her smile at this.

“As a matter of fact, I’m wondering whether or not to finally join the military, actually.” I said to deflect any conversation on that topic while shrugging. I’m not having any of my kids suffer the same things I did, if I decide to have any. If I ever decide to have any. At the words that I spoke, Granddad sighed and shook his head in disbelief while Grandma looked away.

The old man put a firm hand on my shoulder.

“Don’t you think it’s time to start a new tradition, boyo? There’ve been enough dead Valins.” Grandpa bluntly reminded me.

Grandma glared at him in response. I looked at him in shock. In a way, he was right. There had been enough of us dead. So many, in fact, that we would fill a not-so-small portion of Arlington Cemetary. I sighed at this.

“For heaven’s sake, Seamus!” Grandma Nancy snapped at him, making a few onlookers glance our way. Grandpa looked at her with a look of defiance. I decided to save Grandpa face.

“Better yet, I’m thinking about going as a private contractor, work for-” I started to say right before the old man cut me off.

“A merc,” He stated flatly. He cut through the crap. I tried not to grimace.

“Mercs fight for money and little honor, Ben.” Seamus reminded me with crossed arms.

“Well, there’s that and being a businessman in the burgeoning space industry,” I offered. In truth, I was bull-shooting. I have no literal idea what to do instead of the military. It’s literally everything a male Valin does: being a ground-pounder. We’ve always been infantry or special forces, or something like that.

“Is your name Elon Musk?” The old Irishman asked.

“No,” I answered Grandpa’s question sadly.

“Forget about it,” He flatly ordered before adding his own two cents. “We’ll discuss this later back at your house,” He then jerked his chin over to the kitchen. “Right now, I believe you’re needed in the kitchen.I saw the stern gaze in his eyes. The look that said ‘Don’t argue with me, boy. I know you’re bull shooting!‘. I simply nodded.

“Aye, sir.” I acknowledged and left as I hid my emotions. Then, I walked back towards the kitchen with very few gazes my way. I had a lot to think about until I met him again back at the house. It was going to be a long and stressful day.

 

Announcement!

Hello, Everyone! I have recently started considering posting my works on this blog for peer review and criticism. I am sorry for not responding to any and all communications as I have been busy for quite some time with work and real life. I am working on the Valin story with Welcome To The Family as the starting point. Originally it was supposed to be called ‘Last of the Valins’ but then again: what’s the point in calling it ‘Last’ when the characters are clearly not the last?

I hope you are all having a wonderful day!

 

JFT

Great News! Kind of

So, I was looking through my outbox of documents I send to a co-author on Privateer Chronicles and I found two intact original rough drafts for Revolt of Adria’s Conception and Mech: Russian Origins, the original short story or at least, close to it. I’m going to post Adria’s Conception: Revolt online if anyone wants to look at it. I probably need to redo Immortals Potential. Also, I believe I owe you all a post on Adria, right?