Here's the lowdown.
A few years back, I was commissioned to write a story for the 'We're Alive' podcast.
Long story short, it didn't pan out.
But I spent a very long time writing it for it to languish in my computer. I spent that time not only writing it for the 'We're Alive' folks, but mostly for my readers.
So what I've decided to do is publish my initial story here, via my blog, as a work of FAN FICTION, a completely unofficial piece about a character from the series. This is completely unofficial and unauthorized, but I think my work and time spent on this project deserve to see the light of day.
I would like to encourage everyone who might enjoy this fan fiction to check out the officials 'We're Alive' website HERE. It is a fantastic and well-developed world created by a group of professional writers and expert voice actors.
In the meantime, here's the completlely unofficial, unauthorized 'We're Alive' fan fiction, originally entitled (WORKING TITLE: BURT)
BOWIE V. IBARRA
From an idea from the creators of the
“WE’RE ALIVE” podcast
Copyright 2011 PRODUCERS OF “WE’RE ALIVE” PODCAST, BOWIE V. IBARRA
7A. SHIRLEY RAE
The hardy post-apocalyptic survivors made a break for it. Led by Max in the 18-wheeler, the rolling juggernaut was decked with barbed wire defenses and offensive positions. It was made complete with a reinforced cattle guard welded to the front with parts that had been jacked from a bulldozer left inside the now-abandoned oil refinery. Max and the tanker were assisted by a blocking vehicle driven by the wounded Papagallo. It always reminded Burt of the movie ‘Smokey and the Bandit’.
The Gyro-Captain took to the skies as well. The aerial assault potential was the only advantage the survivors had over the numerous marauders led by The Humungous and his right hand man, the Mohawk-wearing, muscular, and leather-clad Wez.
As Max raced his vehicle out of the compound, The Humungous opened fire with the five remaining bullets of a .44 Magnum.
Just walk away, thought Burt.
As Humungous pulled the trigger and fired at the rig Max was driving, gunfire erupted yet again from the parking lot outside Burt’s apartment. The multiple pops of the firearms reminded Burt of war. That started to put him on edge even more. Initially, the fire he heard was not uncommon for this part of town. But the fact that he started to hear more became unsettling. Because now the shots were very different. Only minutes before, the shots signaled a mugging, murder in the mayhem and madness. The sounds that were dancing around outside signaled a legitimate gunfight.
“Goddamn animals,” he grunted. “Animals, all of them.”
There’s no way in hell I’m going out there, he thought.
Considering the escalating mayhem outside, he was not going to take the time to look out the window. He already had an idea of what was going on. Things were falling apart outside, a symptom of those damn riots.
“Just stay in here, Burt,” he whispered to himself. “It’s the lawdogs’ fight now. Not yours.”
His belly grumbled, but his heart pounded an old familiar song against his chest. It was the same music that played when he was in combat. Its lyrics pleaded for caution. The chorus demanded preparation.
Burt walked to the kitchen and opened a can of dry-roasted peanuts. He tossed a few into his mouth and walked to his own personal armory. The food wasn’t enough, but it would shut up his tummy.
After unlocking the armory door, he reached immediately for a weapon. It was a sawed-off shotgun, just like Max had. He opened the weapon and popped two shells in. He took another handful of shells and dropped them in the pocket of his shorts. It would be enough.
It was the second choice, a consolation to what he really wanted. He wanted his favorite weapon.
That weapon wasn’t here, though. It was locked up tight back at the store.
Not a problem. The Max weapon would suffice and stop any dumbass stupid enough to kick down his door. These shells were not duds. They would fire when needed.
Burt walked back to the living room, thinking, I should really get something to eat. He was feeling lazy, lethargic, too pooped to pop.
Walking into the kitchen, he opened the pantry to find some Hamburger Helper.
“Beef Stroganoff,” he mumbled, tossing the box on the counter. The box of pasta rattled across the artificial countertop, stopping and denting at the corner against the microwave.
As Burt opened the refrigerator looking for a key ingredient, he was sorely disappointed.
“Meat’s in the freezer,” he grumbled.
He opened the freezer and pulled out the ice-hard meat. He pulled a large bowl from a cabinet and filled it with hot water. He tossed the frozen meat in the hot water.
“Ah, to hell with it,” he said, filling a cup with water and drinking it all. “Movie’s almost over anyway,” he grumbled, taking four more crackers to his chair. He took the VCR off pause, using the remote held with a shaking hand.
On the television screen, the refinery exploded.
The marauders took it to the survivors. The survivors started their attack hot, destroying one of their enemy’s pursuit vehicles. But the unorthodox attack by the marauders put the survivors on the ropes quickly. Vehicles and bodies were getting torn apart at a very rapid pace and with savage efficiency on the road of the Australian outback.
After a severe fuck-up on the top of the tanker trailer by the crippled (legless diabetic?) mechanic, who accidentally set himself on fire, the Warrior Woman moved to assist him.
“Warrior Woman,” whispered Burt. “Why?”
In his mind, he thought of her. Shirley.
Armed with two crossbows, she took out one crazy man trying to board through the barbed wire defenses on the side of the tanker trailer. Warrior Woman put a bolt in his arm, crippling him.
He was your friend, thought Burt on why the Warrior Woman made the ill-fated move. It wasn’t just being his battle buddy. He was your friend.
She was my friend.
Burt knew that feeling, the bond people form when sharing such a powerful experience. Cultural anthropologists call it a ‘Rite of Intensification’. It’s a bond formed between people who all go through a life-changing experience at the same time.
Burt experienced the very thing with his fellow Marines.
Burt also experienced it with his wife.
His deceased wife.
It’s hard to still feel that bond when the one you shared it with, the one you happened to promise your eternal love to, is dead. It’s the pain of a dinner alone. Or of listening to a song and seeing their face. An old dusty picture on a wall. Watching a movie alone.
Burt looked to the couch. He could almost see his wife looking back at him. Here eyes. Her smile. Her love. Her eternal friendship.
“He was your friend,” whispered Burt, making sense of Warrior Woman’s move. “He was your friend,” he repeated.
Shirley had been his friend.
And then, as the movie would play out for all of eternity, Warrior Woman was killed. Exposed and vulnerable on top of the tanker, the wild marauders in the Ford truck shot her with a massive dart gun. Wounded, she lost her balance and tumbled into the barbed wire defenses along the sides of the tanker. She was very close to the marauder she had just shot.
All to help your friend, thought Burt. You died to help your friend.
The handicapped man put out the fire that was burning his legs and tried to pull her back up. But the wounded marauder yanked them both off and under the unforgiving back wheels of the 18-wheeler.
The Warrior Woman was dead. Shot then crushed to death.
“It’s a big investment. And considering the way the pinkos running this state go back and forth on gun legislation, a bit of a risk.”
It was only a few years after Burt retired from the service. He worked a few odd jobs before an application for Joe’s Gun’s went through. Considering his noble past in the military, he was hired pretty quickly.
Today, he was talking with his boss about starting his own gun shop. He had a lot of money to spare from his time in the military, and he didn’t want to spend it all on booze. A lot of his money went to that in the evenings.
The boss continued. “But you’ve got a real love for firearms. Great knowledge. And you can finance it. I say why not?”
Burt nodded his head, smiling. “Well, that’s good news.”
The battery-powered chime above the door sounded its ‘ding-dong’ tone like a new wave synthesizer. Two customers walked through the door.
The boss and Burt looked up. One was a Hispanic male with a well-kept moustache, flat top, and mirror sunglasses. He was in ‘civvies’, but Burt and the boss immediately tagged him for a cop. Cops came into the shop a lot, mostly for purchasing guns and such. But occasionally, they checked for proper licensing and other administrative necessities. They were easy to identify.
His companion was a tall and busty brunette. Her complexion was fair, dotted modestly with freckles Burt couldn’t see yet. Her hair fell devilishly to the middle of her back, and it was cut straight just above her eyebrows. Long strands also fell across her stylish L.A. vintage Dr. Pepper shirt that was wrapped around her waist, fitting snuggly against her breasts and revealing a soft stomach. Her collar was cut down the middle to reveal a hint of cleavage. Her hips were big, and Burt assumed she had a child or two. There was a kind of strength in her natural maternal beauty that could probably be seen even if she wasn’t dolled up. She was a walking Renoir painting, or Botticelli. Pure, real beauty.
The moment Burt’s eyes met with hers was like a gun had been discharged. The same rush he felt when he heard gunfire popped his heart with adrenaline. Nothing had ever come close to the rush of combat until now. Yin Yang.
They looked at each other for a moment longer than necessary. The connection was made.
Burt’s boss beamed. He saw the connection.
“I got you here, brother,” said his boss, approaching the couple by saying, “Can I help you, sir?”
The boss moved behind the counter to reach the visiting man’s vicinity. Burt sensed the purpose of the move and held his ground, watching. As the man gravitated toward the boss for some service, the female customer turned and looked at Burt. He smiled. She smiled. She began to casually make her way to Burt, looking in the glass displays as she walked to him.
“So what’s the biggest gun you have?” she asked.
Burt teased back. “You couldn’t handle a big gun, lady,” he said with a smile, winking.
“Really?” she replied, smiling back. “I’ve handled a few guns in my lifetime.”
“At the same time?” came the reply from Burt.
“I do have two hands now, don’t I?” she said.
“Let me offer you one of mine,” said Burt. “My name’s Burt Scott.”
“The man with two first names,” she chuckled, accepting the handshake. An electric spark nipped at their hands when they touched. “I’m Shirley Perez. But you can call me Shirley Rae.”
“Where’s Rae come from?”
“It’s my middle name. Duh,” she said. “Dad wanted a boy. Name him Rey. R-E-Y. Rey. That’s king in Spanish. It was his first name.”
“Well, I’m Burt. B-U-R-T. Mom and dad just named me Burt.”
Shirley was smiling, stifling laughter.
Burt smiled back. “What are you laughing at?”
“Yeah,” she said. “You sound like ‘Satchmo’.”
“Satchmo?” said Burt quizzically. “You mean Louie Armstrong?”
“Yeah,” she replied playfully. “You play jazz?”
“C’mon, lady. You’re killing me with the whole ‘Satchmo’ thing.”
“But you do,” she said, reaching forward and touching his hand on the counter. “Sing that one song.”
“You mean this one,” he said, clearing his throat, “And I’m thinkin’ to myself what a beautiful world.”
“That’s not how it goes,” she said, smiling. “It’s ‘wonderful world’.”
“Oh, wonderful world,” he said, going back to singing. “And I’m thinkin’ to myself what a wonderful world.”
“No, not like that.”
Burt chuckled. He knew he was getting the song wrong. But he was having fun teasing the woman. Her smile was like the kiss the sun gives the sky at sunset.
“I don’t sound like ‘Satchmo’, though,” he said, chucking. The conversation was so juvenile, yet so alive. Charged. For a moment, Burt wasn’t a man rolling up on the age of 50. Instead, he felt like a young boy again talking to a pretty girl at lunchtime back in school. It felt wonderful, Burt’s own wonderful world.
“You know, I think I sound more like Lord Humungous,” said Burt.
Shirley started laughing. She laughed so loud, the boss and the male customer turned to look. Then, the man just smiled, huffing, before getting back to business.
“Lord Humungous?” said Shirley.
“Who the hell is Lord Humungous?” Burt saw her eyes sparkle like a diamond against a ray of light.
“You’ve never seen ‘The Road Warrior’?” said Burt in disbelief.
“Oh, my God. A movie?”
Her smile had not faded since she started talking to Burt. “You boys and your movies.”
“Well, look. Apart from needing to see ‘The Road Warrior’, what else can I help you with?”
“Well, my colleague is looking for a firearm. But I’m looking for a place to promote this competition.”
Shirley passed a well-made flyer of a sharp-shooting competition to be held just outside of Monrovia near the hills of Bliss Mount.
“The seventh annual Monrovia Bull’s Eye competition,” said Burt. “April 15th. Well, that’s next week.”
“Yes, it is,” she replied. “I’m going to be in the pistol competition.”
“You’re a good pistol shot, huh?” said Burt with a smirk. “That’s funny because I’m a good pistol shot, too.”
“Entry fee’s just twenty-five bucks if you want to be the best pistol shot in LA county this year.”
“Kitten, I’m the best pistol shot every year in L.A. county,” said Burt, leaning on the counter.
“Not until you beat me,” said Shirley, leaning on the counter just to the side of Burt. “I’ve been the best four years running.”
“How many times have you competed?”
Burt stood up and pulled out his wallet and peeked inside.
“I’ve got twenty-five dollars.”
“Well, you should enter.”
“Well, I think I will,” said Burt. “But how do I know you’re not just some kind of hired gun out to get marks like me?”
Shirley pulled out her receipt book. “How ‘bout it, cowboy?” she whispered. “You gonna be there?”
Their eyes locked again. The energy between them was real, resonating in their hearts.
Burt registered, paying the twenty-five dollar entry fee in cash.
Shirley wrote out his receipt in pretty cursive, then handed the receipt to him. It was his ticket in the door. As Burt took the piece of paper, their hands touched.
“Hey, Shirley,” came a voice. It was the man. “We gotta go.”
Shirley looked at the man and stood up straight. Then she looked back at Burt. “See you next week?” she asked, smiling.
“I’ll be there,” he said.
“Great,” she said.
“Will you be using two guns at the same time?”
“Shut up,” she said, blowing him a kiss before walking to her friend. “Bye, now.”
Shirley followed the man out of the shop. She turned and gave one last look at Burt as she left.
The moment was something Burt had rarely felt. Sure, there were moments in his school days that were similar. The hookers and female officers he met while in the service were too cold or warped for him to hold any deep affection for. And he was almost 60. This was a moment, a real moment, that he had not felt in years.
The boss walked back to him.
Burt asked, “So we didn’t have what they were looking for?”
The boss chuckled and replied, “Oh, we had what they were looking for. He wasn’t interested in doing much business watching you make time with his lady friend. You two were ga-ga over each other.”
Burt blushed. “Was it that obvious?”
“Yeah,” replied the boss. “It was that obvious.”
“Oh,” said Burt, grinning.
He looked down at the flyer.
The event was held at a private vineyard just outside of Monrovia, set against beautiful Bliss Mount. A security team documented all people entering into the venue. It was a well-attended gathering with people of all cultural backgrounds from the California landscape. It looked like it would be a great test of skills. It was easy for Burt to identify the private security in the event by the hats they wore.
Certain sections of the Los Angeles County were thick with cultural identity. There was Chinatown. East Los Angeles housed a restaurant called Taqueria Jalisco #3 that served some of the best tacos Burt had ever tasted. Even a Russian community was forming. But Burt had never been to a gathering with such a true mix. Though a majority spoke English, he could hear at least three other languages.
The real question on Burt’s mind was where Shirley was.
Burt registered and saw the way the tournament would be set up. Entrants were allowed to use any pistol they wanted, and would be entered into a pool of ten. The top four from each pool would be entered into a single elimination tournament bracket for the $5,000 prize. $1000 for second. $500 for third.
As Burt was reading the rules, a familiar set of hips bumped his.
Burt was surprised at first. In fact, the bump gave his back a twinge of pain.
“Ow,” he groaned, turning to the woman. The pain all went away as he realized it was Shirley.
“For a minute there I didn’t think you were coming,” said Shirley.
“I’ll let you know something, Shirley Rae,” said Burt, smiling. “Any time I get a chance to school some rank amateur sharpshooters for dollars, I like my chances.”
“Well, you’ll have to beat me first,” said Shirley with confidence and pride.
“Don’t think of it as beating, sunshine. Think of it as being let down easy,” said Burt, smiling.
“Okay, ‘Satchmo’,” she said, chuckling. “When I let you down easy, I’ll go listen to you play your jazz at some dive bar in Lomita or something.”
“Lord Humungous doesn’t play jazz.”
The conversation and chuckling between the new friends was cut short by the man Shirley had shown up with at the shop.
“Hey, Shirley. It’s time to got to your pool,” said the man. Then he looked at Burt. “Oh. Hello,” he said, extending a hand. “I’m Greg.”
“I’m Burt,” he said, accepting the hand. “Good to meet you.”
“The guy from the shop, right? The gun shop?”
“You got it.”
“He liked the flyer I left him,” said Shirley.
“It looked like a fun opportunity,” said Burt, lacing the words with subtext Shirley was more than happy to pick up on.
“Keep me in mind when you have any sales,” said Greg, handing Burt a business card.
“Will do,” said Burt, reading it.
“See you in the finals,” said Shirley as the couple walked away.
The card read:
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
A badge was set in the upper left-hand portion of the card. An address to his office, fax number, and phone number with the extension lined the bottom right portion of the card.
Burt flapped the card up against a finger before putting it in his pocket. He looked to find where the participants in his pool were gathering.
The tournament was rigidly organized. Burt discovered it was coordinated by a group of military vets, which worked fine by him. The opening pools were completed in just under two hours. Military efficiency.
The brackets went up. Burt was surprised to see Shirley in his same bracket. If they both won their opening and second round match-ups, they would meet in the semi-finals.
And, like a ghost, she had disappeared again. He hadn’t seen her since she left before the competition started. But she was somewhere. She qualified for finals after all.
Burt made short work of his first round opponent, who was from Receda. Then he had some good competition from a Ukranian in the second round. But he put him away.
Shirley was somewhere, but Burt didn’t see her anywhere.
Soon after his second round victory, Burt was led to the location of his semi-final match. Waiting at the table like some sort of sharp-shooting angel was Shirley.
“Well, look what the cat dragged in,” she said, smiling. “How are you, ‘Satchmo’?”
Burt couldn’t help but take a few moments to admire her. Her yellow-tinted safety glasses looked great tucked under her long black hair. Her full Latin lips made him compare her to Angelina Jolie, but much older, much hotter, and full-figured.
“Well, they said I had to come to this location to eliminate some pretty lady from the competition,” he said with a wink, placing his weapon on the table.
“.45 Colt,” she said. “Marines?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Burt, beaming with pride.
“Me, too,” she said, putting down her own .45 Colt.
“Small world,” he said as they prepared their weapons.
“Eight years,” she said, commenting on her own military service. “I missed out on the good stuff. But working with the sheriff’s department here in LA county more than made up for that.”
“Sheriff’s department?” he said. “What do you do?”
“Gang task force,” she said, immodestly.
“Wow,” said Burt. This broad is one tough cookie, he thought to himself. I am in love.
Burt asked, “You guys still have to work at Eastern Bay as a prerequisite to joining?”
“That’s right,” she said. “The maximum security prison. No cakewalk, I can tell you that.”
Eastern Bay maximum security prison was modeled after prisons on the east coast. It was a hellish place designed to discourage the perps from ever wanting to come back.
Just then, Greg walked up.
“Good luck, sweetie,” he said. His eyes were sharp. He shot Burt a glance, then glared at Shirley.
“Thanks, Greg,” she replied. “Excuse me,” she said. The couple went off to talk.
It was an abrupt interruption to her preparation that struck Burt as very odd. He glanced off to see the two up against a wall a distance away. Body language made clear they were not having an enjoyable conversation. In fact, Greg yelled at her at one point, making Burt nervous. And, in all honesty, it made him a little angry. He couldn’t understand what was said, but he had shouted at her.
Neither of the initial comments the couple shared struck Burt as sincere to begin with. There was a tension between them, made even more noticeable by Shirley’s behavior when they walked away. Shirley had bowed her head like an ashamed child. Her youthful enthusiasm had all but left her, sucked out of her as if by a demonic spirit.
Shirley returned to the table. Her head was still bowed.
“Good luck,” she whispered to Burt. She reached under her safety glasses and wiped tears away from her eyes.
Burt hated tears. It was a sign of weakness to him. He enjoyed giving a very hard time to recruits who cried. They needed to harden their hearts or go home. In his youth, Burt had been soft. But pain had made him hard.
On the other hand, Shirley was a tough woman. Burt could sense she loved this man, but the flame was dying.
She needed a little boost. Burt had nothing to prove here. He only came to see Shirley’s smile again. He couldn’t do much, but there was one thing he could do for her. He was a good enough shot to make it happen.
And he did.
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