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Terminus 2 Excerpt: Now and Then by Alan Jones

Grimes, a well-known hacker in the digital streets, was just a guy in real life, a guy living well beyond his means. He joined us for breakfast largely because, living in our same building, he was indeed rent-poor. That and the fact that he liked to front when in the company of the ladies on Friday and Saturday nights, meant that at least once or twice month, he’d not so randomly show up at our brunch table on Sunday mornings.

Leaning his chair back against the building’s marble slate exterior, Grimes blew out a funnel of smoke off to the side away from MG and me. “My bad MG, but…”

“Yes, I know.” A moment later, MG acquiesced to her inner compass, removing her coffee cup from its saucer, before sliding half of her omelet onto it for the man-child.

Grimes smiled, “Thanks, MG…!”

After seeing Grimes take his first bite, MG turned to me and asked, “So, in actually feeding this fool, am I contributing to the collapse of modern civilization?”

“Most likely, yes. But the Universe knows your heart…” Then, after plopping one of the two turkey sausage patties from my own meal atop of Grimes’ newly found breakfast plate, I asked him, “So, no honey this morning for you to boo up with?”

“Naw, but I got one coming through tonight.”

“And what are you going to feed her?” MG asked.

Grimes shrugged his shoulders, giving Marketing Girl a knowing look.

Marketing Girl nearly growled at him, “I’m talking about food, fool!”

“Oh…, I told her to pick up some Five Guys for the two of us. I might be broke until the first, but my liquor cabinet is still on point. We’ll eat and drink out on the balcony. She’ll trip on the view and that, will be that.” Mind you, while he was indeed a very talented hacker, he didn’t play well with others, such as employers or paying clients. Thus, through his many self-inflicted wounds, his pockets held little more than lint, and the lint was making plans, that didn’t include him.

MG shook her head, before asking, “Do have any money whatsoever saved up?”

“On the real? Honestly, I just have just one bank account, a checking account at Spirit bank, and it’s overdrawn.” To which MG covered her face with the palms of her hand, as Grimes steadily marched towards that enviable cliff, “You know, y’all could let me post up in that room y’all keep open for Nia when she’s in town? And on the days she’s in town, I could just sleep on your couch. I’m just saying…”

My boy is so full of foolishness, that sometimes, despite his best efforts, just spills over. I looked off into the distance, not wanting to be swept away by the coming storm, but instead, Marketing Girl, simply gave him the death stare that every woman has in her arsenal. It was a look which let Grimes know that she thought him to be the most trifling man she’d ever met.

Grimes, feeling compelled to respond to my wife’s silence, carried on only as he could “MG, I’ve told you a hundred times. We’re all gonna die someday, and since we can’t take it with us, the only way to win to make sure that we’re tapped out every single day. Let tomorrow take care of tomorrow. So, no I don’t have a savings or a retirement account. Because, since all of us will die sooner than we expect, what’s the point of it?”

My wife leaned in again to ask, “But what if you live?”

Then as on cue, the Universe weighed in, as we heard a not-so-distant boom down the street. The three of us raced out onto the sidewalk to witness plumes of smoke billowing out of a high-rise three blocks down. “What the…” I uttered. But in that moment of asking the question, my gift of knowing kicked in, and I knew that this was the work of our eternal enemy, Entropy, a shadowy online collective of nihilists, bent on bringing about the end of the world. Their motive operandi to this point had been to radicalize useful idiots online, and then equip them to do their treacherous will. But my gift told me right off, that this time was different. Whatever this was, it wasn’t a bunch of radicalized fanboys, playing dress up.

Through the debris and smoke, I could see our opponent take shape. At first, it appeared to be a densely populated swarm of bees or locust moving as one. But upon closer inspection, as it passed from the darkness into the light, I could see that these weren’t mortal creatures at all, but instead, a swarm of drones moving as one giant body. Then, I saw something else descending from the rooftop. This other thing moved quickly towards the ground, but not so much so that it was free falling. Then, upon reaching the ground, it became apparent that it too was not a single being, but rather a cluster of beings ferrying a larger one to the ground. Then in doing so, I saw that this passenger was Nia, the youngest of our team, and she was engaged in a battle to the death with this electronic abomination from the sky.

“Nia…!” I cried out, even though given the distance and the roar of the ongoing destruction, I was too far away from our spiritual daughter for her to hear me. Grimes, MG and I ran towards the commotion, even as waves of human beings raced against and past us.

One man frantically pushing past us, dropped a couple of fresh slices of Blaze pizza, after bumping into Grimes. So, of course my boy picked them up and took a bite. Marketing Girl gave him a look of disgust, to which he responded, “Hey, this here is damn good pizza!”

Through her panting, MG quipped, “I try not to eat food with bite marks it. Not judging, just not my thing.”

The assortment of winged escorts, which had carefully clenched Nia with their talons to transport the princess to the ground, released her. Then the birds began to swirl around her at a furious pace, as if to protect her. Nia the powerful mute, through the magic of spooky quantum action, could communicate with many creatures and forces of the earth. I knew that with birds her pathway into their consciousness was the same one that allowed migratory birds to read the magnetic bands of the earth, to flawlessly navigate thousands of miles each year. So, when Nia spoke, the earth and her many creatures, who we often considered as lesser, heard her voice loud and clear.

As we closed in on Nia’s location, I motioned for Marketing Girl to hang back. Though Grimes wasn’t much of a shot, he never left home without his strap; thus, so long as we were close in, he could be effective (note that his weapon of choice was a shotgun, but even in Atlanta, it’s frowned upon to openly carry one around in the streets). Then just as we stepped upon Nia’s block, I saw the nature queen lift an arm towards the flowing assembly of drones, and in doing so, her servant protectors flew off towards the swarm of armed drones.

In response the flowing drone assembly lifted an arm composed of micro drones towards Nia, and fired what were extremely small caliber metal armaments at Nia. Each round fired equated to a sewing needle, which wouldn’t be very effective against hard targets, but in large quantity against flesh and blood, could cause significant damage. Thus, against Nia’s winged protectors, it was very effective.

Angered at the sight of her winged friends falling from the heavens to the unforgiving concrete below, Nia cried aloud, as she lifted her arms towards the sky. As she did so, every fire hydrant and facet within a two-block radius gave up the precious conduit of life, liquid water. In concert with the movement of Nia’s arms the waters moved like a living torrent, crashing into the high-tech abomination, to good effect.

“Blerd!” I heard off to my right as I saw Cousin Kisha stroll up. Living only two blocks north of us, she too had heard the commotion. But before I could respond to her greeting, I saw the abomination’s abdomen open up forming a hole through which Nia’s torrent passed right through. A moment later, once the waters dispersed into sky beyond, the creature returned to its original form. Seeing this, the three of us, could only respond with a collective “damn…”

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Alan's story. Visit our website today and pre-order Terminus 2: Black Fantastic Tales from the ATL today. Release date: June 19, 2022

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