It’s been a few weeks since I put a writing sample up, and since I have just released Cryoskip’s Footprints, it seemed like the obvious choice for a new sample. Enjoy!
Striding into the dingy club, Derek took in the scene at a glance. It was typical of all the backwater dives he had seen countless times in his travels, full of people drinking to forget how crappy their life was out here in the wastelands. Three large men sitting in the corner took a mild interest in his arrival, but no one else bothered to look up from their cups.
He made his way to the bar.
“What can I get you?” asked the barkeep, watching Derek warily.
“A beer,” replied Derek. “And let Butch know that a friend’s here to see him.”
“That friend got a name?” asked the barkeep, as he poured the beer from the keg behind the bar.
“Tell him it’s a friend from the Pit, one he owes a favor.”
Derek saw a brief flicker of recognition in the barkeep’s face at the mention of the Pit, but to his credit, he didn’t react. Derek picked up his drink and turned to survey the room again as the barkeep stepped through a door behind the bar. As he’d expected, the three men who’d watched him enter were walking toward him. The others were all looking away, not wanting to witness whatever was going to happen next.
Derek rolled his eyes.
“Ain’t seen your face around here before,” began the largest as they got close enough for conversation. The other two had fanned out in a laughable attempt at flanking him.
Derek took a sip of his drink, then looked the leader in the eye. “That’s probably because you’re a dumb fuck who couldn’t scratch his ass without someone helping him.”
“What’d you say!?” bellowed the thug. Before the trio could work out how they were going to respond, Derek struck.
He stepped forward and kicked upward. His steel-toed boot connected with the leader’s crotch, doubling him over. Derek threw the contents of his drink into the face of the man on his left, then stepped to his right and threw a left hook at the third. He heard a crunch as his fist connected with the thug’s nose, and was rewarded with the man’s shriek of pain.
The attacker on the left took a wild swing at Derek, but the beer in his eyes must have obscured his vision. Derek ducked under the clumsy roundhouse, and delivered an uppercut to the guy’s chin. The man’s head snapped back, and he wobbled on his feet. Before the thug could regain his senses, Derek kicked his legs out from beneath him, sending him crashing to the ground.
Derek heard the sound of a shotgun being cycled behind him. He stopped moving, raising his hands slowly.
A voice he recognized said, “Simpson, how many times have I told you and your brothers not to bother the patrons? Now get the hell out of here, before I get a cramp in my finger and accidentally shoot your sorry ass.”
The three men did their best to stagger out of the bar, the two flanking thugs helping their still-crippled leader. Several others followed them, wanting to avoid further trouble. The rest of the patrons looked on with interest. Derek lowered his hands and turned around.
“I didn’t say you could lower your hands.” Butch was still pointing the gun at him.
“No. But if you’re still the same crappy shot you used to be, I’m in no danger.”
Butch remained staring at him for several seconds before he lowered the shotgun.
“You haven’t changed one bit, Derek.” Grinning, they clasped hands. “What the hell’s brought you to this hole?”
Derek grew serious. “Got somewhere we can talk? This isn’t something for general company.” He nodded toward the rest of the customers.
“Sure, sure, come on through to my office.” Butch motioned him toward the back.
Derek followed him to the crowded rear office. The room was filled with all manner of pre-war electronics, from game consoles and radios to computer parts. Among the piles of scavenged electronics were technical manuals for a range of electrical equipment.
“Any of this stuff work?” asked Derek, surveying the piles.
“Some of it.” Butch sat in a large padded chair behind a small desk. He waved Derek to a plain wooden chair on the other side of the desk. “A lot of it was trashed by the EMP bursts, or damaged by poor conditions before being salvaged, but I save what working components I can for other uses.”
“You never did want to let go.”
“And you did?” asked Butch.
Butch slapped the desk. “Why the hell are we rehashing old arguments? A reunion like this requires a drink!” He took out a half-full bottle of Laphroaig Scotch from the bottom drawer and poured two glasses.
“You leave this lying around in an unlocked drawer?” asked Derek as he took the offered glass. “This must be worth a fortune.”
“It is. I have certain security measures in place that will discourage people from trying to steal. Certainly from trying a second time, anyway.”
“To old friends.” Derek raised his glass.
“And past times,” offered Butch. They downed their drinks in one gulp.
“You’re a hard man to find,” said Derek, after an appreciative look at the now-empty glass.
Butch shrugged. “We both have people who aren’t too happy about our continued existence. I decided that lying low would be the best bet. I see from the incident in the bar you’re not one for keeping a low profile.”
Derek snorted. “Those losers? Please. I left them alive, didn’t I? Maybe next time they’ll think twice before trying to rough up a random stranger.”
Butch chuckled. “I doubt it. They’re too thick for any kind of thought beyond finding their next drink, or next victim. But something tells me you didn’t come all this way to discuss the local thug population. What’s on your mind?”
Derek took a deep breath. “I think I’ve found Cryoskip’s headquarters.”
“Oh, come on.” Butch slammed his glass down. “Not this again. We spent years looking for it. It was in Atlanta and got obliterated with everything else when the bombs fell. Hell, we saw the rubble that used to be Atlanta, and got the radiation burns to prove it. Face facts, it’s gone. We’ll never know why they decided to sleep us, who else they slept, or even how many people there are.”
Derek shook his head. “I know what we saw, and I agree the public headquarters were destroyed when the bombs fell. But I’m talking about their main R&D headquarters, where they developed all their technology and kept the central server with all their records. I know where it is.”
Butch looked at Derek dubiously. “And how do I know that this isn’t another of your wild goose chases?”
“You don’t.” Derek smiled. “But you have to admit, even if they are goose chases, my trips are never dull.”
Butch looked at him for a few moments, then laughed. “True, I’ll give you that.”
“So what do you say? Are you in?”
Butch was silent for a few moments. “Even if you have found the R&D headquarters, we don’t know that it’s untouched. And if by some miracle it’s untouched, you know there won’t be much salvageable on the computer systems. I’ll be lucky if I can retrieve five percent of the data they stored. The info you want might not be there.”
Derek nodded. “I know; the odds are low after so long. But in our favor, the site is an old underground military base in a remote location that Cryoskip bought and converted. If there’s the smallest chance I can learn why they did this to us, I’ve got to take it. What about you?”
Butch sighed. “Fine. You knew I was going to say yes, anyway.”
Derek grinned. “I know. But you had to realize you were going to say yes as well.”
“How far are we traveling?”
“It’s about three hundred miles. We’re traveling by mules, with a wagon for support. I hope to make it in two weeks, but it depends on the terrain.”
“Figures. How many are in the group?”
“Four. The two of us, plus two hired guns. I’ve worked with them before. They’re reliable if they’re paid, and good at what they do.”
Butch nodded. “I’ll get my kit together. I’ll be ready at dawn tomorrow.”
Derek laughed. “Excellent. Now, how about we celebrate this reunion with more of that scotch of yours?”
Read the rest of the story by getting Cryoskip’s Footprints from Amazon.