Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 06 - "Falling"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

on frustration

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2008-11-30 - Updated: 2008-11-30 - 1746 words - Complete

With everything on his mind, it was hard to focus on his escape, but that last situation had scared him enough to hold his attention.

Even so, he would soon learn that this awkward, maddening skit wasn’t quite over yet. The final scene was yet to come, and the joke was almost on him when a familiar voice burst out: Daddy! It’s the guy from under the bed! And there, in the showroom off to his left, was little Kyle, pointing right at him.

And Shades had barely managed to duck into the next room before either of the boy’s parents could turn and look.

Come on, Kyle, this isn’t funny anymore…

But it’s him! He just went around the corner!...

Enough games, Kyle. Let’s go…

The boy had lingered for a moment, forcing Shades to pass within sight one last time in his haste to get the hell out of the store before the little brat could cause a scene. Shades waved to him but refused to break his stride. Just letting the boy’s argument with his parents drift into background noise, then silence, as he fled.

The trick, of course, being to hurry without looking like he was in a hurry. At the first opportunity, he ducked into a restroom to re-equip— and relieve— himself. Keeping his whip, his only real weapon, close at hand, he concealed his backpack, wearing it under his jacket and shifting its few remaining contents to pants or jacket pockets. Never had he seen a place so hostile to people with backpacks— it wasn’t like he had a car to leave the damn thing in while he was out and about— and he didn’t like letting random strangers paw through what few possessions he had left.

As far as he was concerned, what the mall’s money-nazis and minions didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. Or him, either, for that matter.

He understood all too well that he was now stuck playing a dangerous game, with little margin for error. And already he had made too many mistakes. His first mistake had been getting John involved in this mess. Barring that, it was getting separated so easily. No matter how many times he thought about it, he just couldn’t get over how stupid that whole debacle had been. How preventable.

Tactics. Exit strategy. Escape plan. Somewhere in this vast universe, Douglas MacLean was shaking his head at how quickly his son had forgotten such basic tactics.

And then, to top it all off, he had to go and enter this place. Tired and confused as he had been… You still felt something, didn’t you, Shades? No voice spoke up to contradict this, and he again found he could only feel foolish for even setting foot in here. Still, what was done was done; the only thing he could do now was try to stay alive long enough to find a way out.

This just didn’t seem real, despite the fact that it was happening to him. Just a nightmare to be awakened from by an alarm. Though he knew such delusions would be disarming in the face of such dangerous foes, especially in the absence of any allies.

In his frustration, he wasn’t terribly surprised to find himself thinking of Carlos…

…Seventh grade, the year Shades would learn a thing or two about frustration. Most of it from one Carlos Adams, who had been a new student at the end of last year. And ever since fall quarter, this Carlos had set his sights on him, making his school life a pain in the ass whenever he turned his back.

For example, trying to trip him in the foyer after lunch break.

Though Carlos always had a way of lurking and waylaying him at unexpected moments, this particular ambush had failed. Shades stumbled, but managed to regain his footing. Carlos, on the other hand, had lost his balance in the process, burning his hand on one of the ancient steam-heating elements, which for some reason still ran long after the others in the building were shut off.

Shades didn’t wait around to see his nemesis’ reaction, busting through the inner doors and retreating to the classroom. Carlos tearing after him in a rage. Seeing his adversary burst in, eyes immediately fixing on him, Shades tried to put some distance between them by ducking around a table at the back of the room.

And Carlos scrambled over the table, taking a flying leap at him.

Though he landed on his feet, Shades’ uppercut stopped Carlos in mid lunge, sending him crashing to the floor. Carlos crawled slowly to his feet, knees and elbows numb with pain. Though shaky on his feet, he again charged Shades.

Who simply sidestepped and tripped him— a technique he had learned from Master Al, the hard way.

By now, he was flowing motion, no longer letting conscious thought slow him down or trip him up. For that one moment, as if he did this sort of thing every day. If Master Al had seen this, rather than listening to his student downplay his own actions later, he would have known that Shades as in the zone. That he had come into a state of mind in which he was using the skills Al had taught him for over a year as second nature.

Think intuitively… Flow like water…

The class, meanwhile, had stood by, too stunned to react, and now they were laughing at Carlos. It had become one of those scenes in life where everyone’s script seemed to have been written for them. Shades was in the zone, Carlos was beside himself with rage, and the whole class could only watch this spectacle with helpless amusement.

Seething with fury, Carlos picked up the chair he had leaned on to get back up.

“You son of a bitch!” he roared as he swung it at Shades.

Still lost in the moment, Shades rolled over the table to dodge the attack. And that, zone or no zone, was where his luck ran out. For it had been a wet, boggy February day, and muddy water had been tracked all over the back of the classroom, and as Shades landed, he slipped and fell on his ass.

Perhaps his luck had not run out entirely, though, as that was when Mr Bosley yanked the chair out of Carlos’ hands, nearly hauling the furious young man over backwards in the process.

“What the hell are you doing!?” Bosley demanded…

…So it could be argued that Mr Bosley had bailed him out of that one.

Though that was not how most of his classmates remembered it. Mr Bosley, in the eyes of most of these kids, was reduced to a mere footnote in their life stories, having merely “broken up” the fight just when it was getting interesting. Still, for a long time, most people didn’t look at him quite the same after his brawls with Carlos, or anyone else, for that matter.

And that was the problem. Though his close friends, then Arthur, Tom, and John (whom he had first met in gym class that year after the holidays), knew about it, Shades didn’t exactly go around advertising his martial arts training with Master Al. Real name: Albert Fairbanks, an old friend of Dad’s, and an accomplished Master of Shorin-ryu Karate, having studied in Okinawa and Japan in his younger days, who had started teaching Shades when he was in the fifth grade. Instead, Carlos had forced his hand, making him give it away in front of the whole class. In front of the entire sixth and seventh grade, at the end of the year.

And Shades still didn’t know how he did it. He had always sucked at sports— and never harbored much of an interest in it to begin with— but had always taken Master Al’s training seriously. On the spot, just busted out and went from zero to sixty, doing things he wouldn’t have thought himself capable of.

Then it was back to being just plain old Dexter MacLean.

Though Carlos had picked his share of fights among the seventh- and eighth-graders that year— and got his ass kicked by every single one of them— Shades was the only one he fought more than once. And was also the only person Shades ever had to fight more than once. Of course, most people quickly forgot about the whole thing, yet a few still told the tale at the start of his freshman year, causing a lot of problems at first.

So much for a clean start at a new school.

Just thinking about all the people who went around challenging him and picking fights because his middle-school fisticuffs had somehow gained an extra leg— not to mention an action sequence or two— in the telling, becoming an epic battle of kung-fu action, made him clench his fists even as he strolled down the hall. It was only the people who followed him around for a while, asking him to “show me a few moves” that put him in a more awkward bind than the tough guys who had made him out to be the reincarnation of Bruce Lee or some damn thing. Far too much hype for what they would have gotten to see anyway, hadn’t even earned his green belt back then.

Hell, even someone only half as good as Bruce Lee would be able to wipe the floor with me…

For whatever reason, Carlos always had it in for him, but at least here he could take some comfort from the fact that there was no one here to tell the guards any tall tales about his exploits against the bastard. All the same, he found he would gladly trade these thugs for all the muscleheads in his school right now, at least they weren’t trying to kill him. The thought of facing any of those guards again was starting to put even his most awkward school moments in perspective, much to both his bitter amusement and chagrin.

As he continued his walkabout, seeking some sign, some inspiration, for what to do next, he concluded that if he actually survived this, he would never again allow himself to be overwhelmed by the likes Carlos Adams or his stunts.
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