Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 05 - "The Flathead Experiment"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Carlos crosses the line

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Sci-fi - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2008-11-05 - Updated: 2008-11-06 - 1982 words - Complete

Some fifteen minutes later, Shades stepped outside, having parted with Amy as she went to grab her own dinner.

The half hour or so he had been inside, the clouds had gone even darker. He seriously doubted he could get to work before it started raining now. Not that he was terribly concerned about it at the moment.

Even though it looked like he was going to need boots and a raincoat for tomorrow’s expedition, he found he was more preoccupied with tomorrow night. Now that he thought about it, it dawned on him that he had spent so long trying to find the right time and place (not to mention the nerve) to talk to Amy, he had never really given much thought to what he wanted to talk about. Much like all those times he had saluted her, he was strangely certain that the answer would just come to him naturally.

As he would have to be back from their hike in time to pick up Amy in time to make it to the show in time, his mind kept circling itself about whether or not to tell John. He knew he and his friends weren’t into secrets— if he did go out with her, he would have to tell them sooner or later— yet that idea was the most daunting of all. All of his friends would be happy for him— he was sure of that— but he couldn’t help having mixed feelings about their congratulations. For some reason, positive feedback about these things always felt like razzing; even after eighteen-plus years of being one of them, it was something he never quite understood about the male tribe.

As enigmatic to him as a lot of things about the female tribe, he thought as he wondered for a moment why she called him Dexter. Aside from his mom (and occasionally that bastard Carlos), it was a name no one used anymore. Yet at least when Amy called him Dexter, it just didn’t have that mocking quality he always heard in other people’s voices. Whether it was there or not. It wasn’t until he was almost out of middle school that he had learned to take a compliment, instead of picking it apart, digging to find the unspoken insult that must surely be hidden between the lines. It was only after his talents and abilities became an asset, rather than a liability, that he had finally learned to lighten up and take encouragement at face value.

Though he had always felt slightly embarrassed by the handful of compliments he had received from her, he had never sensed any meanness in them. Not even that time, in the eighth grade, when his mom had let her dogs out for the morning, noticing only once it was too late— after they had bolted back inside— that they had had a close encounter of the third kind. With a skunk. The whole house reeked of it for a month, and so had he.

The only upside he found was that everyone let him have whatever seat he wanted, both on the bus and in class. As if they should complain: at least they didn’t have to live with him twenty-four/seven. Carlos had even written him an appropriately-themed ode (Roses are red/ violets are blue/ skunks smell like shit/ and so do you!) in a couple stalls in the boys room.

Aside from his friends, whose jokes at least were good-natured, Amy was the one person who was never rude to him through it all. And he could think of other incidents when, in the face of the crowd’s mindless mentality, she just couldn’t get with the program.

Such was Shades’ line of thought when he reached his motorcycle. So lost he was in his remembrances, he had even forgotten to put his helmet on. What finally brought him back to the here and now was noticing that the motor was ignoring his effort to start it. Wasn’t even trying. When nothing happened a second time, he instinctively knew something was very wrong.

“Going somewhere, Dexter?” an all too familiar voice intoned.

Before he even turned around, “Carlos—”

“Think ya took long enough?” Carlos demanded. After all, he and his friends had stood behind that truck for over ten minutes while Shades was talking to Amy. He had been told that Shades often ate at the mall after school, and that bit of intelligence had proven useful. Even beat him to his parking spot. “Jesus, Dexter, what were you and your new girlfriend doin—”

“Don’t call me Dexter,” Shades cut him off. He could see Carlos was trying to bait him, but the fool didn’t seem to realize that there was no need for it. Not after all these years. He was already in combat mode, and the sparkplug Carlos tossed up and down in his hand was all that he heeded. “Give it back. I’m only going to ask once.”

“No,” Carlos told him. “You’re going to listen to me. You’re not going anywhere until—”

“Go fuck yourself.”

Right before Carlos could catch the sparkplug one last time, Shades snapped his foot out and kicked his hand, causing him to fumble it. Then caught Carlos with his other foot, knocking him back so he could reach down and snatch it up before anyone else could take it from him. Shades stuffed it in his pocket before anyone else made a move.

“That does it!” Carlos thundered as he charged Shades.

Who sidestepped and tripped him, sending him stumbling against the side of a truck.

On impulse, both of Carlos’ friends got into the act, and Shades was forced to move fast. He blocked one guy’s punch with his helmet, sending him stumbling back clutching his fist, cursing. The other guy, though, scored a glancing blow to the chest, nearly making Shades trip over his own bike. At the last second, though, Shades caught himself, bracing one foot against the car behind him.

That was when Carlos jumped back into the fray. Shades blocked his other opponent’s attack, grabbing his arm while he was off-balance, and dragging him right in the way of Carlos’ vicious kick. Instead of Shades, Carlos got his friend, right in the nuts.

“You son of a bitch…” Carlos muttered as his partners staggered away, apparently having already had enough. He strode slowly toward his nemesis, determination written all over his face. As had happened several times before, the situation had spiraled out of his control once Shades made his move. This time he would make things end differently.

Shades managed to block the first kick, but Carlos connected with the second, pressing him back.

A small crowd was beginning to form around them, as often did around public brawls. To those gathered around this conflict, the cause was irrelevant: the mere fact that Carlos had tried to gang up on Shades automatically made him the “bad guy” in their eyes. And Shades knew it would not be long before someone called the cops.

Time to end this. Police aside, Shades’ couldn’t afford to get injured— he had work to do. And knowing that things would go downhill fast if Carlos got the upper hand, he refocused.

Carlos, savoring the sense of power he had gained from defying the script he raged against from the first time he fought Shades, swung again.

Instead of blocking, Shades shifted his center. Not only one of the most devastating fighting techniques Master Al had taught him, but also his arch-enemy’s seemingly incurable tactical weakness. He caught Carlos’ arm and, with a simple twist of the wrist, sent him head-over-heels, skidding across the pavement on his ass.

It took Carlos a moment to regain his feet. Seeing that his friends had already split, he staggered away, shouting, “This isn’t over, Dexter! I’ll get you later!”

“And I’ll be waiting!” Shades called after him before he turned back to his bike. “And don’t call me Dexter!”

The show was over, and those who had stopped to watch this spectacle were already beginning to disperse; if they lost interest, there might be no police to deal with after all.

“Ow…” Shades muttered, rubbing his side where Carlos had kicked him. Wanting to get the hell out of here before anyone talked to the cops, he pulled the sparkplug out of his pocket and started to work. “I don’t have time for this shit…”

Though he knew he got off easy that time; if Carlos’ friends had stayed in it, he wasn’t entirely sure he could have held out against all three of them for very long. Still, he didn’t like the way Carlos had broken through his guard so easily like that. A couple minutes later, he was out of the parking lot, albeit over twenty minutes later than he meant to be.

He had encountered two delays. One he had enjoyed, one he hadn’t. Now he would have to hurry if he was going to get to the Army Surplus Store before his shift.

Given that no police cars had shown up yet, he was fairly confident no one had called them. Though he could be wrong, he doubted anyone would press charges. Unless there was someone in the crowd who liked to mind other people’s business, he had no interest in screwing up his own record, and he was quite sure Carlos would be too embarrassed about getting his ass handed to him to make a statement.

Experience told him that he hadn’t seen the last of him. Ever since Carlos first tried to pick on him in the sixth grade, a pattern had formed. Carlos went too far, and Shades ended up asserting himself, and so it came to blows. That the first time had been in front of half the school, and thanks to training with Master Al for over a year before that, resulted in humiliating defeats for Carlos.

He wasn’t the only one Carlos had harassed— or gotten clobbered by— over the years, but somehow Shades had become the target of all his rage. Master Al had told him once that some people were just never meant to get along, but Carlos was a recurring figure. They had locked horns several times over the years, a couple years ago Carlos had even challenged him to a martial arts tournament, and even the rest of the time he was still antagonistic, but what he had noticed was that when Carlos actually fought with him was during semesters when they were stuck in some of the same classes together.

And it seemed that in the meantime Carlos had learned some new moves. Since last summer, Carlos’ “better things to do” had apparently involved some real martial arts training— if Carlos hadn’t gotten too carried away and given him that opening, things could have gotten really ugly. Since he earned his black belt about a year ago, Master Al had been having him spar against an increasingly tougher procession of his more advanced second and third dan students, so he could tell Carlos had improved his own skills noticeably. Shades tried to look on the bright side, that maybe having an arch-rival would keep him from slacking off too much in his own training, but somehow it just wasn’t funny. His thoughts kept revolving back around to the intuition that his next run-in with Carlos might be genuinely dangerous.

He figured Master Al had probably had to deal with this kind of crap somewhere along the way, and he made a mental note to talk to him about it later. Hopefully before Carlos got too far out of hand.
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