Monday, August 27, 2012

Formal Introductions


Garrett’s senses were awoken by a strange aroma, not unpleasant, but definitely unfamiliar. Once he regained a bit of realization, a wave of pain throbbed in his shoulder. He looked down at the wound, neatly bandaged, but his clothes were still bloody.
Oh yeah, he thought, my mark of stupidity. He took a moment to examine his surroundings. He was in a darkened apartment building, and made the accurate assumption that he was still in the underground. He also made the conclusion that he was not in any immediate danger, despite the walls being decked with various guns, blades, and random other devices of violence.
The condition of the building showed wear, but overall it was a nicely kept flat. The windows were blocked with metal and rails, and the front door was secured with several heavy duty deadbolts. He was resting on a rather long couch, which was facing a large living area with massive metal drawer sets lining each wall. A few chairs and a table rested in the center of the room.
  His gaze was drawn into the kitchen in front of him, where he saw an individual of giant stature cooking something on the stove. He unsure about the gender, as the figure was wearing loose fitting black clothes that hid body features.  If he were forced to make a guess, he would say the figure was female, due to the long, wavy, dark purple hair that fell loosely below the being’s shoulders. 
A Comm buzzed in the distance, and the creature turned to answer it. Garrett saw the same demonic visage that visited him in his dreams. She was strikingly beautiful with strong features, and a deep crimson shade for complexion. Her ears were dripping with gold rings and tiny delicate chains, which jangled when she moved suddenly. The sight startled Garrett and he instinctively shut his eyes. He lay motionless as he listened to the conversation.
“Yeah,” The woman answered. Her voice was soothing, but firm, as if unnaturally roughened by years of hardship and conflict.
“Where the hell are you? I’ve been sitting here festering all day. You’ve answered your Comm, so I know that you’re not dead,” An annoyed masculine voice streamed through the speaker.
“I had a bit of trouble on the way.” The figure scratched her head.
“Oh really? How many this time?” The agitated voice demanded.
“Six.” She said as she idly ran her fingers through her hair.
“Hmph. That’s nothing you can’t handle. Hell, I’ve had reports of you taking down an entire platoon.  And that’s definitely not stopped you from coming to me before. You’ve finished a contract with a limp a number of times.” The Comm pointed out.
“Yeah, well this time I’ve forgotten something and I had to come back for it.”
“What?” The voice replied sternly. “Don’t tell me you forgot the artifact.”
“Nah. Just my sanity.” She responded.
“I didn’t think you had that to begin with.”  The woman made a noise of disdain at the speaker. “So….when can I expect to receive it? I already have to pull excuses out of my ass and explain to the client why it didn’t arrive already. I don’t want to have to talk to them again.”
“You can have it tonight. Let me finish some business here.” She rapped her knuckles against the counter in irritation.
“Fine. Just don’t disappoint me. This client is a bit tetchy and getting on my nerves.”
“Sure, whatever,” She said and shut off the Comm.  Garrett held his breath and hoped the creature hadn’t noticed him awaken.
“So, you’re awake,” She said as she turned around and walked back to the stove, never actually looking at him.
“Ye….yeah.” He breathed as he opened his eyes.
“Hungry?” The woman asked, her back still facing him.
“I…uh…yeah.” The notion had not crossed his mind. He was still very confused as to where exactly he was. The woman turned around and walked over to him.  He was absolutely awe-struck at her appearance. He got a better look at her shape, and was completely taken back by her massive musculature, and came to the conclusion that she could probably flatten his head with two forefingers. He found her mesmerizing, and he could see in her eyes that she had seen so much of this world, possibly others.
“Hasn’t your nanny taught you not to gape at outsiders, Upworlder?” She broke his concentration as she handed him a plate. Flustered, he timidly took the offering. She walked over to a dining table in the room and sat down, tinkering with some of the weaponry laid out.
“I, uh…sorry. That was extremely rude of me.” Garrett said as he looked down at the plate. It was a strange noodle dish with bits of oddly colored vegetables and something he assumed was meat, all surrounded in thick, dark teal colored gravy. The smell was actually quite pleasing, and the appearance wasn’t too offensive, though odd. It was something similar to what he had found served as street food in the market areas. He wondered if it was laced with anything toxic, but he knew better than to question hospitality, especially from a person who he did not know yet as friend or foe.
He cautiously picked up the utensil on the plate and took an experimental bite. The appearance and smell has done no justice to the taste. It was like nothing he had ever experienced in the underground before.  It had a savory, almost nutty flavor, and the various contents were crunchy, like fresh carrots. He hesitated before taking another bite.
“I..um…Thank you. For saving me back there. I know I was probably the least of your concerns.” Garrett smiled nervously. She simply shrugged at him and continued what she was doing. “Uh. Why did you rescue me, by the way? I mean, em, if I may ask.” She glanced at him from her work.
“I don’t know. You saved me a bit of ammo back there, so I figured I could return the favor this way.” She looked back down at her weaponry and continued polishing. Garrett laughed sheepishly.
“Surely ammo isn’t worth as much as a life.” He remarked.
“It is down here.” She rebuked, concentrating on the screw she was tightening on her gun.
“Oh.” He looked back down at his plate and continued to eat a few more bites, though it was difficult with the awkward silence in the room clawing at his ears.
“This is very delicious.” He paused to finish his mouthful. “Um…what is it?” Nara shrugged.
“It’s probably the best healing you can find in the underground, without the risk of losing an appendage from a half-crazed, twitchy street doctor.” He figured that was the best answer he was going to get.
“My name is Garrett, by the way.” He paused, and looked at her expectantly. She made no indication of responding. “What’s yours?” She looked at him, slightly amused smirk slid across her face.
“I am called Nara.” She replied, paying half attention to her guest.
“That’s pretty. Does it mean anything significant?” He asked. She raised an eyebrow at him.
“It means ‘Forsaken’ where I come from.” Her expression hardened. “You sure ask a lot of questions for an Upworlder.”
“Sorry, I…hey how did you know I’m an Upworlder?” He looked at her suspiciously.
“Because you look like one.” She stated. Garrett was slightly offended at this judgment. He thought he blended in quite well. After all, he had purchased his clothes down here, and he didn’t think he looked any different from anyone else.
“Huh. I thought I looked rather low-key, especially the clothes.” He offered, twirling food around his plate.
“Yes, well not everyone around here can get them cleaned, much less tailored and pressed.  Look at your shirt, there’s not a single sign of wear on it, as if you just bought it. However, I’m willing to bet that shirt is at least a few years old.” She pointed a tool at him accusingly.
“Now that’s not fair, I’m sure your clothes are clean.” Garrett argued.
“Yes, but I am one of the few who can afford the facilities to clean them. Only because I can live long enough to get work and complete a job more than once.” She waved a weapon around casually. “Besides, it’s not just the clothes. You have this aura of ‘walk around aimlessly in dangerous places because I am invincible’ plastered all over you.”
“I am very cautious about where I go.” He argued, brow furrowed.
             “You nearly died getting shot off of a ladder in a deserted area while eavesdropping on a private conversation between two heavily armed parties, while knowing full well that blood was likely to be shed.” Garrett opened his mouth, and then closed it again, realizing the futility of any argument he could offer. He knew he was being stupid, incredibly stupid, but he just wanted to see new places.

****Excerpt from the first chapter in my current novel. mostly polished. ****
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