National Novel Writing Month. It's that time of year again, hooray and boo! Loving fans, you'll get to read my story diarrhea. I know what you're thinking, we waited this long and all we get is story diarrhea when you come back, what's up with that? Well, now that I'm really back, you'll also be getting much more, so stay tuned!

Without further ado, straight from the writer's brain box, I give you: World of Havoc, chapter 1. 


Chapter 1: Let the Games Begin

The afternoon sun beat down on the sparse metal bleachers of the stadium. The last innings of the minor-league game were playing out lazily on the field. Sweat dripping down his face, Franklin Moss glanced up from his newspaper at the sound of the bat connecting, but grimaced at the foul ball and was about to return to a news story about a bank heist when he noticed movement near an exit to the concourse below him.

A young man with a red duffel bag entered the arena. He stood out. He wore slacks and a zip-up hoodie though it was almost ninety degrees in the shade. The black baseball cap that covered his dark crew cut and shaded his eyes was not a team color of either of the minor-league teams playing in the stadium today.

Frank checked his watch. Early.

The man with the red duffel made his way up the bleachers toward Frank who sighed and slid over to give the man room. “You weren’t supposed to bring any gear,” Frank said. “How did you get past security with that?”

“I didn’t go past security,” the man in the black ball cap said. One of the ball players hit a grounder and got on first. Scattered cheers.

Frank rolled his eyes. “Maybe we should just go home, admit defeat,” he said, looking at his companion with uncertainty and dread. “I think someone might have it in for you. This is like the worst possible job they could have given you. You aren’t even dressed right.”

“My orders said ‘casual’,” the man said.

“Yeah, casual Saturday afternoon, not casual mugging.” Frank pointed at his own shorts and t-shirt. “This,” he said, “this is casual.”

His companion looked down at Frank’s flip flops. “Where would I put my ankle knife?”

Frank shook his head and looked around. Luckily, no one seemed to be paying attention to his strangely dressed companion. With a sigh, he pulled a smart phone from his pocket and handed it to the man in the black baseball cap. “Your name is John Smith—”

“Really?”

Frank shrugged. “They didn’t expend too much creative effort on this one. You’re John Smith, transferring from, and I’m not kidding, Podunk, Arkansas.”

The man stared at the phone screen, his previously bland expression growing grim as he read through the mission files. Frank stared worriedly at the side of his face. “You don’t have to go through with this, Ben—”

“Don’t, no real names. Someone could be listening.”

“Fine, uh, John,” Frank said. “I wasn’t joking when I said I thought someone wanted you dead.”

“Yes, but they also want the target dead,” John said.

Cheers rose in the stadium. Frank turned his attention back to the game. “Speaking of which,” he said, pulling a small pair of binoculars from a pocket of his cargo shorts. He focused the lenses in on the dugout for the Marshal Tigers, the team of a neighboring town. The team was the usual mix of guys, amateur baseball players. But a young woman rose from the bench and picked up a bat and a helmet. The noise of the crowd increased when she began practice swings in the bull pen.

Frank lowered the binoculars and grinned at John. “You weren’t surprised when I asked you to come to a minor-league baseball game? Curious maybe?”

John Smith raised his gaze from the game. His dead gray eyes considered Frank without emotion. Frank winced and handed him the binoculars.

“I brought my own,” said John. He bent and unzipped the duffel bag. Frank stared at the matte black carbon metal of the objects in the duffel bag. Guns. Ammunition. Explosives. Shell armor plates and a HILT system, the silvery metal shimmering in the sun. (HILT stands for High Intensity Laser T) Padding wrapped the pieces, and Smith had packed them all meticulously.

“You certainly came prepared,” Frank said, his voice faint. He glanced around frantically to make sure no one saw.

“Since I’ve never been undercover before, I didn’t know what to expect,” John said. He moved a few of the pieces gently inside the bag.

“Subtlety, maybe,” Frank said, resisting the urge to cover his eyes with his hands. He mentally questioned the sanity and morality of his boss, sending a blunt instrument to do such a delicate job. “I hate doing surgery with a chainsaw,” he muttered.

“You worry too much,” Smith said and removed a sniper scope from the body of a HK517. He put the scope to his eye.

“What am I looking for?” he asked.

“Your target is the girl,” Frank said, resigned.

“Which girl?”

“The one stepping up to the plate.”

---

Anna Wallerman walked slowly up to the plate. Two runners on. Bottom of the ninth. Just the way she liked it. The crowd cheered her or looked confused, and
butterflies fluttered in her stomach. How does a high school girl get in on a
minor-league men’s team? She paused just outside the hitter’s box drawn in
white powder and looked up to audience.

She saw a few familiar faces. Bette and Sandra had taken their usual spots to cheer her on. The stadium seats were still mostly empty. This was her first game, and she
hoped that after today, attendance would be way up.

A glare flashed a bit to her left. Her gaze traveled to two men sitting high up in the
nosebleeds, their faces obscured. One man held some binoculars, the other a
telescope of some sort. They were looking right at her. Creeps, Anna thought. Some people couldn’t maturely handle a young woman playing a “Man’s Sport”.

Her own father had been one. “Next you’ll be wanting to play football,” he’d shouted.
“I’ll play what I want,” she’d shouted back. He hadn’t come to the game.

The anger helped her forget some of her nerves. She narrowed her eyes and pointed her bat at the two pervs, measuring the angle. The wind was light, perfect really.
Target chosen, she stepped into the hitter’s box. She brought the bat up above
her shoulder, legs apart, knees Johnt. She watched the pitcher, ready.

The pitcher for the Kent Panthers grimaced at her and spat. He was tall, clean-shaven, and obviously not happy about having to pitch to her. Anna glared at him steadily, and he finally nodded at the catcher.

The wind-up and pitch happened so fast, it left her blinking. “Ball one,” shouted the
umpire. Anna released some of her held breath. She felt the sweat trickle down
her back. Shifted her shoulders. The pitcher caught the ball thrown back to
him. He nodded to the catcher.

Anna felt a snarling smile spread across her face as he wound up again. He pitched it in, low and fast, barely inside the strike zone. Perfect. She swung the bat and
heard the best sound in the world as the ball connected.

She watched its trajectory as she jogged to first. The ball arched up, tiny white speck
against a blue sky. Almost everyone in the stadium watched it. The two men in
the nosebleeds still watched her, but she didn’t care. Her homerun plummeted
back to earth.

---

Graceful. Fierce. Beautiful. He watched, stunned, as she moved to strike. The movement transported him to that desert, alone, a lightning storm cracking in the sky above him, the heart trembling power of thunder echoing over bare hills, and
the skin-biting sand that cut away layers.

Through the sniper scope, he could see the muscles in her arms shift, like dunes in the wind. When she brought the bat down to cut the ball’s path, the corners of her
eyes tightened and her teeth flashed in a furious smile. Her body twisted with
the force of the swing, and she became a red banner snapping in the swirling
sandstorm.

He felt as he had standing on a plateau near the Atlas Mountains in Africa. Scoured blank by wind and heat, promised rain by the storm but receiving only lightning.
Terror. He remembered lifting his gaze to the sky and imagining blue flowers
and cool rivers, the tears of a million melting icicles, rushing through pale
mountain meadows. At that moment, he would have given his fingernails, his
eyelids, for a second of green or a drop of blue.

Then the despair crept in. Because he was in the desert. The desert was his reality. And there was no green; the only blue in the sky. Too far away.

---

Shading her eyes, Anna’s jaw dropped in surprise as the ball bounced off the head of the man with the telescope, knocking his baseball cap into the seat behind him.
She’d been certain he would catch it. “Shit,” she muttered to herself. She
glanced back at the dugout. Most of the team was cheering, but the coach was
glaring at her.

She rounded the bases behind two of her teammates as the sparse audience cheered the Marshal Tigers. Cheered her. She would have grinned, but when she glanced towards the nosebleeds, she saw the medics struggling to get a prone form on a stretcher. Her teammates patted her back and shook her hand as she stepped over home, but Coach Butler pulled her aside through the crowd.

“Aww, come on coach,” shouted one of the players.

“Give her a break,” shouted another.

Coach ignored them. He rounded on her. “I told you not to aim,” he growled.

“I can’t hit if I don’t aim,” Anna explained patiently. The guys were celebrating by dumping the water cooler on the assistant coach. “You just wanted to get out of that, didn’t you?” she asked Butler.

Coach grimaced. “Probably would feel good today,” he said, wiping the sweat off his
face. “You’re not getting out of apologizing.”

Anna glanced towards the medic station, a grimace on her face. The friend of the guy she beaned stood over his unmoving form. “Do I have to?”

“Yes,” said coach. “Go.”

Anna sighed. The last thing she wanted to do was talk to creepy fans, but no way was she going to point that out to the coach. He would tell her dad, and her dad would use it as more ammunition in his battle against her playing minor-league. There was no point in arguing. She jogged towards the medic station. The people were already beginning to filter out of the stadium, not enough of them to clog the
concourse. She pulled the baseball helmet off her head and fiddled with it
awkwardly. Her victim’s friend looked up as she approached.

He smiled sheepishly at her. Brown eyes. The other man, her victim, was out, unconscious on a medic stretcher. No one was paying him much attention, though. A huge knot on the top of his forehead was almost covered with an ice pack.

“Sorry about your friend,” she said.

“He’ll be fine, I’m sure,” said the man. “Accidents happen.”

“I was aiming,” Anna said. “Maybe next time you should both keep your eyes on the ball instead of the players.”

The man’s face colored slightly, and his sheepish smile faltered. “Uh, s-sorry,” he said.
“We heard about how you were going to play today, and well, he’s starting at
your school. And…Umm.”

Anna rolled her eyes and stalked away, muttering about creepy stalkers just loudly enough for him to hear. She’d done her due diligence, she’d apologized. Some people
were just creepy. She was glad she’d only had to deal with one of them, and
hoped the guy wouldn’t bother her if he was going to be new at her school. She
certainly didn’t need any more problems than she already had.

Groaning as he sat up, the ice bag slipped off John’s forehead and onto the ground. Frank picked it up and handed it back, watching the man’s gray eyes dart around the
locker room as he placed the ice on the huge welt above his right eye.

“What—?”

“We’re in an auxiliary locker room. Almost everyone is gone except the stadium janitors. You’ve been out for about an hour,” Frank explained quickly. “Taken out by a
baseball.” A grin grew on Frank’s face. “Too bad this is a secret mission. I so
want to tell, like, everyone.”

“Huh? Where’s my duffel bag?”

“Right here, right here,” Frank said. He pulled it out from under the bench and John expelled a relieved breath. “Unfortunately, the lens of your sniper scope broke when you dropped it. I’ll have Tanaka order you a new one.”

“No names,” John said, grimacing.

“Yeah, yeah,” Frank said. “Think you can make it to the safe-house?”

“I’ve had worse,” John said.

Frank pulled John to his feet. Their target was already suspicious and they had no idea what they were doing. The words unmitigated disaster came to mind. “I doubt it,” he said to John.

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