*FIRST AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THIS IS NOT CANON. THIS IS COMPLETELY UNSANCTIONED (okay, not completely. Larry said I could do this for you guys without his ripping my head off) MHI FANFIC.
Good, now that we got that out of the way, why am I doing this? Both Grant and Fado Negro (Portuguese Monster Hunters) have minuscule parts in Guardian, the MHI book I’m collaborating with Larry Correia on. However, obviously the Portugal of Monster Hunter is not the real Portugal (Really, no arcane creatures come stumbling out of the undergrowth there. If there were arcane creatures, the country would be chock-a-block in them, when you take in account the continuous human occupation since… well, forever.) And this story gives me more of an opportunity to firm the worldbuilding. (Yes, it would be MUCH easier to do this with a notebook and noting things down, but that’s not how my mind works, d*mn it.)
Okay, that’s the rational excuse. The real reason is that d*mn Grant Jefferson won’t leave me alone. (Always had a thing for men from Patrician New England families. Ask my husband.) So I’m torturing him. Also Guardian won’t come out until I do this more or less at same time (I’ll be sending first chapter of that to Larry soon.)
Will this ever be a book? Don’t know. First Guardian will get delivered. Then, this being finished, I throw it at Larry. And then it’s his SOLE DECISION. (Which means, don’t you monkeys hassle him.) It’s his world and his character. I’m just grateful he lets me play in it in Guardian and here for your amusement.*
I cast a jaundiced eye around at the place where I lay. It had all the charm of a medieval cell, with bare stone walls on which — I swear — I could discern green tendrils of some sort of lychen. The light that came in through the tiny window high up on the walls was broken by two dark “stripes” that were probably bars.
And in the cell, with me, were two men, both of whom looked eerily familiar. “Owen Pitt!”I said. “I didn’t know you had a twin.”
At least I think that’s what I said, though it might have come out somewhat distorted. There was blood in my mouth and something gritty like fragments of my own teeth, and my vision seemed to be swimming in and out like I couldn’t focus. Frankly, the last thing I needed right then was Owen, or his twin, or both of them.
They had got heads together and were speaking Portuguese too fast for me to follow from my knowledge of Spanish, Latin, and the Rosetta Stone program I’d played on my phone on the plane.
I was soaked through, from someone throwing water on me, felt miserable, hurt in places I didn’t know I could hurt, and to make things worse, my phone was binging with a string of oncoming messages. It took me a moment to realize the bings were coming from in front of me where the two Pitts were obviously holding it and reading my messages.
Like that I was up, and grabbing for my phone. “That’s mine. Give it here.”
This is when I realized the two kids in my cell — it had to be a cell — were not Owen Pitt. Couldn’t be, because they were both shorter than me. Also, because as I pulled the phone out of their grasp, they both dropped back like they’d been burned. Something Pitt would never have done. He’d have wrestled me for the phone. Probably slugged me.
One of the kids — Christ, he couldn’t be more than twenty! — looked up at me, “What is Monster Control Bureau?” he asked, in what sounded — I swear — like a Russian accent.
I looked at my phone and registered that there were a bunch of pings from Franks. Holy Fuck. It wasn’t just that they’d taken my phone without permission. It was that I was going to be held responsible for the security breach. I accessed the likelyhood of getting anywhere by telling them that they weren’t supposed to read my texts and decided that — as Earl Harbinger would put it — that dog wouldn’t hunt. It was their country, their laws, and whoever the hell they were — my only clue was two black cloaks hung on hooks on the wall — they had taken me out of the airport and brought me here when I was utterly powerless. Hell, for all I knew they were some sort of police, or perhaps — I eyed the black cloaks narrowly — some kind of super hero organization. What do you mean, super heroes don’t exist? Yeah. Neither do monsters.
Instead, I said, as I’d learned to say in the US, if someone got hold of stuff they shouldn’t, “It’s an interactive game.” I gave them my best, innocent baby blues. “You know, role playing game? Played on cell phones. We play at being monster hunters.”
They got their heads together again, and chatted too quickly for me to catch more than one or two words. One of the words was definitely “tourist” and I thought a whole phrase was “doesn’t know how close he came.”
I remembered the trolls and wondered if they were going to ask me if they were part of the game. They didn’t.
One of them handed me my wallet and passport. “Mr. Jefferson, we’re sorry you were caught in the middle of a terrorist attack on the airport. We brought you here to receive medical care, and you can change clothes and go to your hotel. We’ll have some vouchers for you to compensate for your experience.”
I raised my eyebrows at them. “Medical care?” I looked around at the cell and wondered if their idea of medical care was to throw water over my head. I wasn’t happy at their looking at my wallet and passport, and I wasn’t sure who the hell they were, so I started with the last, “Who the hell are you?”
“We’re tourist security bureau,” one of them said. I had a feeling it was an answer on the same order of “it’s an RPG you play by phone.” It had that practiced tone, but none of the officialdom. “When tourists get in trouble, we help.”
I wanted desperately to ask if the trouble included being overcharged for a meal. I didn’t. Look, there are times to be a smart ass and times not to be. They were blowing smoke, and I didn’t know why, but I had a feeling asking wouldn’t help much. I still felt beaten-up, as I should have been, by the big troll thing, and I really couldn’t get in a fist fight right now. My arm hurt and felt hot like when it’s about to get infected, and though someone had tied cloth around it, it didn’t feel right at all. And my head was swimming. “Medical care.”
“Ah, through here,” one of the guys said, opening the door.
“This is not a jail?” I asked, as I went into a room that looked much the same as the other, save for the addition of a makeshift hospital bed, a screen, and a bunch of first aid supplies strewn on a table. The young lady standing there — there was another black cloak hanging from the wall, I noted — was petite and dark, and rather pretty. From what I’d seen in the country all the men looked like banditos, all the women looked like little dolls. She smiled at me, “Mr. Jefferson,” she said. The accent was cute on her. “I’m a pharmacy student. Fourth year. I have already stitched your arm, and I’ll now take care of you.”
Take care of me she did too. Several interesting things, besides the fact that I was getting care from a pharmacist, not a doctor: The country seemed to have no body modesty when it came to doctoring. She had me peel down to my skivvies, and no one offered so much as a paper-modesty-gown to make me feel better. Also, she knew her stuff. She had stitched my arm, and she now removed the makeshift bandage and put another one on. And they had access to medicines. I was given an antibiotic shot, pain pills, and a salve to put on my bruises, all in generic bottles with no name.
She also told me my teeth were fine, they were just a little bruised.
I noticed something while she was taking care of me. There was a mark, just on the inside of my right arm that looked like someone had given me a shot. I had a strong suspicion that whatever it was, it was some sort of drug which they’d used to interrogate me. It explained the woozy feeling. And I know what we’d have done to someone who showed up at a monster attack scene with the type of texts on their phone like what Franks was for sure sending me. We’d probably have shot them.
Then I thought that Portugal was a small country and subsisted largely on touristic revenues. They couldn’t afford to shoot tourists. But pump them full of something, interrogate them, and perhaps plant a suggestion it had mostly been a dream? Surely they could. It would explain the woozy feeling and the sensation that everything that had happened was long ago and far away.
I grinned at the young lady, as she moved the screen to show me my luggage and told me I could now get dressed, “And go to your hotel. The police will be in touch with you if they need your deposition.”
“About the terrorist attack?” I asked.
She nodded. So that too was a well-practiced thing. “Yeah. They killed the luggage handlers and five passengers. So if we think you can help the police–”
“Sure,” I said. This story hung together about as well as a spiderweb in a high wind. But I didn’t want to cause trouble. I just wanted to get to my hotel room and lie down. If before or after securing the weapons I’d sent ahead, I wasn’t even sure. The thought of a real bed was the most enticing thing just then.
“They said to give you this,” she said and handed me what looked like a book of coupons. The front one said “Visit the port wine cellars.” I stuffed them in my pocket without looking.
I was passed along from too-young kid to too-young kid, all of them looking at me suspiciously, and handling me with too-big-a-grin. At the end of it, I left a large stone building, in a bustling plaza with a fountain with lions in the center of it.
Blinking in the sunlight, on the sidewalk, was the Reagan lover with the cowboy hat. He was scratching his head, under the hat. “Now,” he said, looking at me. “None of that made the slightest bit of sense. If those were terrorists, where did they come from? Tolkienonica?”
I shrugged. “Apparently,” I told him. “We’re not supposed to ask questions in Mordor.” And I hoped he didn’t ask me questions. He was an American citizen. I wondered if I should watch him in case he’d been bitten and changed. I didn’t want to shoot the guy. “And why were we in something that looked like a jail?”
He adjusted his hat. “Oh, that I did find out,” he said. “It was a jail. It’s the old medieval jail. It’s now the college of psychology.”
“Yeah, I know. I think it’s some cockamaime experiment, like Zimbardo back in the US. Well, I for one am not going to think about it anymore. I’m going to my hotel.”
Which was a brilliant idea, and I was going to my hotel too. But as he walked away, I got my phone out of my pocket and looked at the last of Frank’s texts “We can’t get all Americans out of Portugal. Not yet, though it might come to it. But they’ve requested the help of the Monster Control Bureau. This thing is off the charts. So go see how severe it is. You might as well make yourself useful.”