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Avalon Burning- Part One

Lenny ZerO

Michael’s supervisor was being a real @$$. Three weeks into collecting second quarter assessment results, he’d decided that Michael wasn’t being a team player and was more than likely manipulating data.

“How else do you explain these gains?” he demanded.

Michael shrugged. “I don’t know. A lot of ‘knock-knock’ jokes?”

His supervisor tensed. His superiors were expecting results, but any deviation from the standard projections would call a lot of attention by the audit department.

“Listen, Wood,” he demanded.

Michael smiled. He thought it was pretty funny when his supervisor got worked up. He imagined little thunderstorms over the little man’s head, which steamed when the rain touched his pink skin.

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” Michael leaned in. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“I’ve talked to your kids! They’re idiots. There’s no way they’re scoring this high without you fucking with the data.” The words were out of his mouth, and he realized that he was screwed.

“Wow, I’m sorry you think that way. All of those kids parents are really going to be upset to hear that you think they’re a bunch of idiots. Some of these kids’ parents have done some hard time, too. I’m sure they’ve got some creative ways to let you know how unhappy they are.”

“They don’t even speak English!” he screamed. Michael stood up.

“No, but their kids do now. I’m sure they’ll be happy to translate for you.” He pulled the digital recorder from his pocket. “They might have trouble with the word ‘fucking’ though. I don’t usually teach first graders that kind of vocabulary. But hey, if this is part of your new approach to achieving academic improvement, I’m down. I can throw some Stephen King in there next to Dr. Seuss. I don’t know. I hear he’s kinda lowbrow... how about Irvine Welsh?”

Michael continued talking as he backed out of the office. He snapped off the recorder and grabbed his backpack and helmet. “Gotta go. Sorry. Hey, let’s talk about this later, OK?”

The meeting had been a hoot and a holler, but it was enough of a delay that he might not make it out before the city S.H.U.T. down. As he threw his leg over the bike, he checked the odometer. By his estimate, he had about a third of a tank left. Plenty to get back home.

The bike started on the second rev. Even with the choke all the way out, it was getting harder and harder to turn her over. If he had money left from this month’s check, he would run her by Rodrigo’s.

Once, she was moving though, all was forgiven. Michael slid between lanes, slipping through the metal and plastic barriers to either side. He imagined speed lines behind him. Pleasing.

Overhead, the stealth Predators and gun ships began their switch with the day shift. Day Angels were bright and shiny; they were meant to be seen as the guardians of the city. Dark Angels were a different breed altogether. Sleek and nebulous, they were seen only at twilight. If they revealed themselves in the night, you could be assured that some major league bad mojo was happening.

He cut in front of an armored Civic that angrily flashed its lights. He knew that he pissed off the drivers, but no one would do anything. Not this close the checkpoint. No one wanted to call attention to themselves at the checkpoint.

The bike was a huge advantage at the checkpoint, and well worth the maintenance costs. Obviously, there was no way to smuggle a person across the checkpoint on a motorcycle. That meant that he was free and clear to go after he completed explosive and narcotics sweeps.

The T.S.A.. guys who dug through his backpack were always very thorough. He was put through a series of sniffers and given the green light. He was back on his bike and the road in less than twenty minutes. A Teaching Credential provided a decent security clearance. Enough that he was able to get around without too much hassle.

Another half an hour, and he was at the edge of Los Angeles county. He noted that the retreating Day Angels always followed the freeway path toward Riverside, like aging starlets who weren’t quite ready to leave the tabloid lifestyle behind. They wanted everyone to see them on the way out.

A quick fill up at the bottom of the hill, and he made his way up the mountain. The modest 1940s bungalow had cost him most of his severance package, but had been well worth it. Peace and quiet outside the city was valuable.

Hot Santa Ana wind blew down the mountain and filled his helmet with the smell of smoke. He wasn’t worried. The private estates up the mountain would pay to have the fire put out before it reached his suburb. He had studied the borders and geography well before he had bought the house. “No need to feel like I’m on the run,” he had thought. “Make an informed decision. It’s what Michael Wood does. Start thinking you’re Michael Wood.”

And he had. For the last eight years, he had been Michael Wood.

He pulled into the driveway, waving at the kids playing basketball down at the end of the cul-de-sac. Turned the key. Climbed off. Got the mail. The routine was firmly established.

At the mailbox, he heard his name being called. He looked up to see his neighbor, Julio. “Michael. How are you?”

“Bueno. And you?”

“Good, good. Thank you. Look, we are going to be having a party tonight. The workers are finally done with the landscaping.”

“Great. You want to use my driveway for extra parking?”

“Oh that’s very nice. Yeah, that would be great. You should come over, Michael.”

Michael shook his head. “Thanks, Julio, but I’ve got a lot of work to do. Grades and all.”

Julio threw his hand in front of his face. “Ah, work. You do work all day. Come relax tonight. Nanci made the most amazing food. Come on, have a few drinks and meet some of our friends.”

Michael relented. “All right. I’ll come over for a few minutes. I’d like to see that pool.”

Julio smiled. “Good! Come on over any time.”

The key in the lock. The alarm code keyed. Safe at last.

Michael dropped his helmet and put his back against the door. He leaned back and sank back. Three deep breaths and let the day go.

A party. Great.

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Looks promising

I especially liked the detail of a cycle being the quickest option for a checkpoint. And the Day and Dark Angels are a great touch.

kelson.philo's picture

A great start (it is a

A great start (it is a start, right? or is this part of some grander segment?) with lots of tense action. I would have liked to see a tiny bit more on the possible slackjaw expression of his supervisor when the full realization of what michael just pulled on him clicked, but other than that, looking forward to more.