This is the intro to a short novel (about 50 000 words), which I am in the process of finishing off. Enjoy. I might some more up later on.
Crowley flinched as the pile of files on the desk above exploded, showering him with glowing slivers of paper. They’d found a bazooka! The open-plan office provided very little cover from such weapons. He glanced at one of the glowing embers as it drifted past. At least it had only been a business management file. Nothing important. The smell of smouldering documents filled his nostrils. It was a welcome relief from the smell of burning flesh.
He looked across to where his second-in-command, Leah, was sheltering in the photocopier room, just in time to see her duck back as bullets took chunks out of the wooden-framed wall. Jagged splinters rattled against his desk and showered the legs of whoever was lying under the wreckage of the filing compactus oozing blood. That wouldn’t have been a nice way to go.
‘Where’s Dan?’ he yelled above the rat-a-tat of gunfire.
‘No idea,’ she screamed. ‘Haven’t seen him for half-an-hour.’
He nodded. Dan, the Commander, had disappeared very quickly once it became apparent that things were going badly. Bastard!
They’d been locked in a struggle with Human Resources for the last two days as they both tried to gain control of the floor. And they’d been holding their own too, until Finance had decided to take sides and joined with HR. That had made things tough, but when Business Development and Policy jumped in as well the writing was on the wall – Mining Branch was in deep trouble. That was probably when Dan had done his disappearing act. The man had no stomach for a fight. Soon, the only way out would be the fire escape.
Just then, Martin came crashing through from the filing room, landing in a heap beside Crowley. Martin was a survivor. It didn’t matter what had been thrown at him, Martin had always come through it relatively unscathed. He was approaching retirement age and was still very healthy and active, but seemingly incapable of contributing anymore. Crowley wondered why he even carried a gun. He hadn’t fired it for ages, choosing instead to cower behind the piles of paperwork. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time Martin had done anything useful at all. Martin looked up at Crowley.
‘A bit tricky in here at the moment. A bit inspiration wouldn’t go amiss. They haven’t trained me for this sort of stuff.’
Crowley resisted the urge to punch him. He needed all the help he could get – even from Martin.
‘Didn’t I send you off to get reinforcements? How did that go? And where have you been?’
Martin looked back at him and just said:
‘I…er…I…er…must have got lost.’
Crowley sighed before closing his eyes and counting to ten. Then, with what he knew sounded like forced optimism, said:
‘Come on Martin. Let’s see if we can give them a bloody nose.’
He tried to smile and sound courageous, but the moment was ruined when he flinched as another nearby explosion left him half-deaf, all sound now coming through muffled, like there was cotton wool in his ears. Then a bazooka took out the filing cabinet behind them, showering him with stinging drops of molten aluminium and razor sharp shrapnel, some of which buried itself in his thigh. A couple of new fires sprang up in the tinder dry piles of files. Crowley felt his trousers and then looked at his hand. There was blood.
Martin gave him a look of terror. ‘I’m out of here,’ he screamed, before bolting to the fire exit.
Leah yelled after him. ‘You little shit. Show some backbone!’
There was a momentary lapse in the barrage; perhaps they were bringing up a howitzer or something equality devastating, to finish them off once and for all. As he lay there enjoying the silence Crowley surveyed the wreckage strewn all around them. ‘Where’s everybody else?’
‘We’re it. They’ve either taken the rest prisoner or got rid of them.’
Crowley and Leah ducked as another explosion rocked the room and the fire exit door dissolved in a fiery demise. The barrage started once more.
‘Yeah, took him prisoner, she said, and then added, ‘I think they’ve got a second bazooka.’
Just then, Graham crawled out from beneath the ruins of his desk, shrugging off cables and cords.
‘Shit! That sounded bad.’
‘Where have you been?’ asked Leah.
‘I dunno,’ he said as he rubbed at the back of his head, ‘I must have beenI must have been knocked out. The last thing I remember is taking aim at one of the HR Officers and then nothing. But I do have this huge lump on the back of my head.’
Crowley grinned. ‘You’ll get another chance soon, son. I think we’re all that’s left now.’
‘What do you think we should do?’ Leah asked as she huddled out of sight as best she could.
Crowley sighed. ‘Well, it looks like we’re well and truly fucked. I reckon I can hear Policy coming up the fire escape, so there’s no way out there. It’s just like them to wait until the outcome is pretty much certain before actually getting involved. Wankers!’
He sat down for a minute occasionally twitching in response to bullets zipping past and nearby bazooka blasts before he came to a decision.
‘I think we’ve got to either surrender or take them all on in one final stand,’ he said.
‘I’m not giving in to HR and Finance,’ Leah told him. ‘Fuck that.’
‘What about you, Graham?’
‘No way, especially if those policy bastards are in on it as well. I’d rather die.’
‘Fair enough. It’s one last death-or-glory charge then. Are you ready?’
They both nodded.
‘Okay then, let’s go!’
Crowley leapt to his feet and charged down the central corridor closely followed by the other two, all of them firing their machine-guns indiscriminately. They ran into the combined firepower of all of the other departments meeting a hail of bullets and bazooka shells.
Crowley screamed in defiance and then everything went dark.
‘Paul! Paul! Wake up Paul!’
Crowley opened his eyes and tried to focus. Eventually he saw Narelle, his wife, sitting over him. She was shaking him.
‘What were you dreaming about? And why were you yelling, die you motherfuckers?’
He tried to focus for a few moments while his brain reset itself.
‘Dream? You mean nightmare. I was leading a futile final charge against the combined forces of HR, Finance, Policy, and Business Development.’
She looked at him steadily for a moment and then shook her head.
‘Oh, go back to sleep, will you. And try not to have any more nightmares. You scared the shit out of me. You need a new job.’
Then she turned over and ignored him.
Crowley lay there in the dark for a while remembering his dream. Perhaps taking a gun to work wasn’t such a bad idea – well, perhaps not. Anyway, tomorrow was the first Monday back after the Christmas break, and just maybe this year wouldn’t be so bad.