Breakfast Serial .04: Fourth and Inches

A day late but three times as long.

Call it a compromise.


The cart squealed, its rusty wheel aggravated by the sharp turn. The disc spun awkwardly and jammed. The girl behind it — her name-tag identifying her as “Ashlynn” — shoved harder, forcing her weight into the handlebar. Lifting the cartful of bathroom products, the shelver kicked the wheel back into place with the generic black sneaker the dress code required. She gave the basket another push. Another squeal. Another awkward spin. She shoved the handlebar again, forcing the cart down the aisle. And tripped behind it, landing on her hands on the tile floor. Getting to her knees with a huff, she moved her palms to find…a footprint. A red so deep it was nearly black. She peered down the hall and saw another. And another.

She gulped and grabbed the walkie-talkie from her belt. “Hey, Josie…?”

“What’s up?” a voice, vaguely feminine through all the static, responded.

“We’re gonna need a clean up on aisle eight.” Ashlynn got to her shaky feet and followed the footsteps. “God, this is stupid. Why am I doing this?”

“What was that?” the voice of Josie, still more static than person, inquired.

“Nothing.” The shelver turned a corner, into the next lane. “I was just…uh…” And stopped dead.

A three hundred pound Hawaiian in a tattered, blood- and paint-spattered jumpsuit, perused the shelves, examining bandage brands and sizes. The hood of his unzipped sweatshirt covered his oddly shaped head. He kept a forefinger in his mouth.

“Uh, sir?” Ashlynn approached cautiously, her eyes still following the tracks that led directly to the customer. “Sir, do you need assistance?”

“Nah.” He pulled the finger from his mouth, revealing a stump, and turned to address the girl, his forehead protrusions visible under his hood. “‘m just browsing.”

“Oh. Okay.” The shelver stepped backwards, cautiously. “Let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks.” Bo Peep picked up an ace bandage box and checked its contents, as Ashlynn exited the aisle and pulled out her pink RAZR phone.

“Hello, 911…?”

The nine students, dressed in identical black-and-white uniforms, spread across a the dozen booth-benches in the cabin. Tantric ran his hand along his name, stenciled on the back of the helmet that rested on his lap. He filliped the head protector over and stared at himself in the reflective full-face covering.

“We’re gonna look like a fucking motocross team,” the newest addition to the Academy for the Advanced stated, to himself more than anyone.

“A motocross team with their heads intact, yeah.” DeathGrip stacked her gloved fists on the back of Tantric’s seat and rested her chin on the pile.

“Meh.” The new kid shuffled in his seat to look at the Latina. “Heads are meant for butting. Gimme a domino mask any day.”

“Domino masks are past passe.” The Argentine teen’s head bobbed on top of her fists, as she spoke. “They’re not even retro-chic.”

“They’re classic,” her pudgy peer defended. “They’re superhero iconography at its finest.”

“They’re outdated relics of bygone era,” the Latina countered. “An era when you could tell the difference between good and evil by the hat a person wore. An era when every hero was a doctor or an archeologist or a wealthy industrialist. An era before DNA could be collected off a loose hair that you dropped during a battle because your domino mask didn’t cover your scalp. An era–”

“Pfft,” Tantric interrupted. “If they’re good enough for Bruce Lee, they’re good enough for me.”

“Cortex?” DeathGrip turned in her seat to address the giant brain at the back of the vehicle. “Could you school this fool?”

“Empirical evidence should suffice.” The massive mind’s emotional LCD display read: “._.”. “A study conducted seventeen months ago at Brown University found that full-face masks engender more fear response in first-time offenders than domino masks do by a factor of fifteen and more fear response than the lack of any facial covering by a factor of fifty-three. Further, the ability to discern a masked person’s identity, when presented a series of photographs of likely candidates, is reduced to virtually nil when said person’s mask includes a full-facial covering. Additionally, the ease with which air purifiers, intercoms, and night vision, among other technologies, can be installed into such a helmet is invaluable.”

“You’re not wearing one,” the new kid pointed out.

“I lack a cranium.” Cortex’s emotional display read: “-_-”. “And an identity in need of protect–”

“All units. All units,” a dispatcher squawked from the speaker embedded in the console in the front of the cabin. “Be advised: a large man missing a fingertip is tracking what may be blood through the aisles of the Kmart on East 6th. A witness described him as having horns sprouting from his forehead.”

The Ten-Second Rule, steering the vehicle, grabbed the transceiver from the dash. “This is AFTA Black. We are en route.” He pressed the red button on the side of the gear-shifter. A jet engine came to life in a burst of thrust. And, the modified short bus tore through the clouds on a set of extended wings. “ETA: five minutes.”

The man with the mutton chops flipped through a rack of plaid shirts, his eyes barely glancing at the apparel. Thick saliva escaped his thin lips and raced down his naked chin, as he spoke. “How long’s this layover gonna be, boss-man?”

A still-jumpsuited Kickstand, checking the sizes on a rack of polos, kept his back turned to the jeep driver. “Three hours, give or take, Dogshow. Let the trail get cold a touch. Then, we procure a couple of vehicles — maybe a delivery truck — and make our way north, with rush hour running interference.” He plucked a shirt marked “L” from the line. “But, first, I really need to change.”

At the edge of the parking lot, under a shade-providing tree, the man with the synthetic skin struck a match across the mutilated bumper of the bullet-riddled van and sparked up the tightly wound joint that dangled from his artificial lips. He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with smoke until they gave, releasing twin streams from his nostrils.

“‘Torch,’ he commanded.” The pot-smoker bellowed with all the gusto of a televangelist, as he pulled a fresh rocket from a box in the back of the topless jeep. “So, torch I shall.”

He loaded the rocket launcher that had become his signature weapon over the past twelve hours and hefted it over his shoulder. With another long, slow, deep drag, he marched a good ten yards from his target, locked onto it with his sights, and fired.

“Fuck the heck!” Spatter spouted, eyeing the explosion from two miles away (and closing) through the window beside her seat. “What was that!?”

“Trouble.” The Ten-Second Rule spun the steering wheel, his eyes locked on the location of the smoke. “Time to cowboy up, ladies and gentiles. Cortex, you’re on.”

The big brain’s emotional display read: “o_o”. “Slow your approach and circle the parking lot. DoubleVision, keep an eye out for anything unusual.”

“You mean like a half-naked guy with glow-y skin carrying a bazooka?” The perky blonde inquired innocently.

“Precisely.” Cortex would have nodded, had he had a head.

“‘Cause…” DoubleVision pointed out her window.

“Ah.” The enlarged encephalon followed her finger. “Wireframe, if you could disarm and subdue him.”

“I’ll, um, see what I can do.” The diminutive wallflower pulled a stuffed satchel onto her seat and began sifting through its contents, arranging her arsenal on the cushion beside her. “Mr. Ten-Second Rule, could you please halt the vehicle, so I can get a steady shot?”

“No trouble.” The Home Ec instructor switched gears, from “Flight” to “Hover,” and the bus obliged.

“Thank you.” Wireframe retrieved a tiny gun, barely the length of her petite hand, from the bottom of the bag.

Tantric, rapt, was practically on the edge of his seat, leaning across the walkway, to get a closer look at the latest device in the bizarre inventory. “What is that thing?”

“I call it a ‘portable pin-point projectile pistol’.” The inventor pulled a handful of mini-missiles from the satchel’s front pocket.

“You made a pocket rocket launcher?”

“It was supposed to be a precise nozzle attachment for a garden hose, but…I got a little carried away.” She cocked the pistol. “As, um, I usually do.”

He sat back in his seat. “I see that.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me…” Wireframe lowered her window, got up on her knees, and aimed her weapon at the man with the spurious skin, who shrugged off his bazooka. Her pea-sized projectile tore right through the hull of his much larger launcher.

“What the what?” The smoker spun, his mouth agape, his joint dropping to the ground. The hovering craft was in plain view. “Who the fuck invited the Magic School Bus?”

“Disarmed.” The 4′11″ machinesmith loaded another round and fired. The man with the faux dermis stood his ground, taking the opportunity to spark up a fresh joint. The pellet lodged into his sternum and released a concussive pulse. His hide shattered in ripples, a placid lake disrupted. A hard-boiled egg shell cracked and clinging to to the internal membrane.

“Surfin’ on a sound wave.” He took a drag, filtering smoke through his nose again. “Swingin’ through the stars.” He yanked the pellet out of his chest and flicked it away. “Take a left at your intestine.” He peeled a piece of pectoral. “Take your second right past Mars.” And flung it. The shard sliced open the right wing of the bus.

“Emergency landing protocols, kids.” The Ten-Second Rule jerked left, trying to stabilize. “This is about to get bumpy.”

“What emergency landing protocols?!” Tantric’s face displayed more than a mild case of panic.

“Put your helmet on.” DeathGrip was cool and collected. “We’re only dropping, like, twenty feet. Jesus.”

“Navigate a nostril.” Another shard pierced the hull, slicing between seats. “Spank a plankton, too.” Yet another crashed through a window, scraping paint off Wireframe’s helmet. “Raft a river of lava!” Still another took out the right front tire. “Such a fine thing to do!” The rear tire blew.

“Shit.” The pilot-slash-bus driver slowed his descent as much as possible. “There goes the landing gear.” He braced for impact. The front bumper scratched pavement. The left front tire touched down. The right wheel, sans tire, hit the ground with a thunder of sparks. The front axel twisted. The back tires landed with a thud. The chassis slid forward, grinding across asphalt. “Fuuuuck…!”

The smoker doled out substitute skin fragments like playing cards. Left to right and back again. Slicing through steel and stuffing. Piercing glass and plastic.

“So, strap your bones right to the seat.” He dislodged a chunk from his shoulder. “C’mon in and don’t be shy.” He tossed it in the air once, twice, getting the feel for the weight. “Just to make your day complete–” He twisted his torso and launched the massive shard like a shotput. “You might get baked into a pie!” The spiraling shard cleaved the roof.

“That’s it.” Spatter unzipped her left sleeve to the elbow, pulled a box cutter out of her jacket, and sliced up her forearm. Shoving the blade into her pants, she rubbed the thick blanket of blood up both hands, between digits, and down again. She clenched her drenched fingers into fists. The fluid scabbed over just in time for her to punch through the compromised side of the bus. “Today’s the day the music died.”

The smoker shrugged at the bus busting open. “No skin off my nose. Oh, wait.” With that, he shoved two fingers up his nostrils and tore, breaking free a shard that terminated at his hairline. With expert precision, he whipped the deadly dermis at the scabbed-over teen’s heart. It struck her chest…and slid right off.

“Impact resistant. Heat resistant. Cold resistant. Cut resistant. It’s the latest in microfiber technology.” Spatter charged. “Have a taste.”

The man with the synthetic skin, pulling a cellphone from his sagging pants, darted between vehicles, as he dialed. “Kickstand, this is Skinflint. I need back–” The phone got Gallagher’d, thanks to another miniature missile. “–up.” By the time he remembered to start running, Spatter was on his heels. She plowed into his knees, knocking him to the ground. He chin slapped pavement. He tried to flip onto his back. And, she let him. He gasped for air and got a mouthful of craggy fist instead.

“Where does the resin stop and the man begin?” The teen sat on his diaphragm, keeping the wind knocked out of his lungs and pinning his arms with her feet. “The eye, maybe? Let’s find out.” She cracked a jagged thumb free from a coagulated fist. And jabbed it at his eye. He kicked wildly, drawing knees into her back. She stopped just shy of his lash line. “Give up?” She flicked at his lashes playfully.

“Yes,” he wheezed. “Yes… Please… Jee…zus… Just…get off…of me…”

She stood up and moved a booted foot to his chest, holding him in place. He coughed hoarsely, while drawing in air.

Wireframe approached with deliberate caution. “Uh, hey?”

“Hey.” Spatter shook her forearm to wave. “Thanks for the cover fire.”

“You’re welcome.” The diminutive teen stopped at Skinflint’s feet. “Is…is he still breathing?”

The scabbed-over girl nodded. “Barely.”

“Good.” The inventor whipped out a set of restraints with one hand and a taser with the other. “Because we’ve got questions.”

Claptrap, still dressed in his jumpsuit, settled into a plastic seat. His tray had barely touched the table, when he flipped open the lid of the cardboard box atop it and carefully went about folding half of his large ultimate supreme, slice over slice, into a stacked sandwich. With a click, his jaw unhinged and snapped shut, taking a two inch deep bite from the heap. A delicate sip of Mountain Dew followed. Then another bite, this one larger than the first.

“Swallow.” Kickstand, decked out in a polo and khakis, passed the former competitive eater’s table and kept walking. “We’ve been compromised.”

Claptrap chugged the rest of his drink, choking down the un-chewed mass of dough, cheese, and toppings. “All right.” He pushed out his chair and stood. “But, I’m bringing the crazy bread.”

“Eight, okay? Eight!” Skinflint, seated and cuffed, puffed manically at the remainder of his second joint. “There are eight other guys. I don’t know where they are inside, all right? I’d call ‘em again, but you shot my fucking phone. You lunatics. You bi–”

Spatter, with a cocked head, shot her thumb in his direction.

“-utiful young women,” the captured con quickly corrected. “Such pretty ladies. Or girls. Girls, yes. Teenaged girls. You’ll be gorgeous when you’re of age. I wouldn’t think of thinking you in that way, that other way, that less than legal way, until you’re eighteen. I promise. I sw–”

“God, shut your broken face.” The bloodied teen pocketed her fists. “You get that, C? The pertinent bit, anyway?”

“Affirmative.” Cortex’s voice sounded all the more manufactured when heard via helmet com-link. “DoubleVision, Wavelength, scale the Big & Tall. LiveFeed, Tantric, there’s a PetSmart at the–”

“Where do you think we should put skinjob over there?” Spatter motioned her helmeted head toward Skinflint.

“Shhh.” Wireframe held up a finger to pause her peer. “I’m trying to listen to what Cortex has to say.”

“Yeah, ’cause that’s utterly riveting.” The 5′7″ teen scraped gravel off one boot with the other.

“I found his presentation on the parallels between Temujin and the archetypal modern hero fascinating in History of Icons: East & West yesterday,” the 4′11″ teen defended. “‘The Ironworker and the Iron Man’ — it was quite clever.”

“Oh, my god…!” Spatter killed her com-link and lifted her face mask, just enough to reveal her smiling face. “You–you are so smitten! You totally want to give him something to think about!”

Wireframe followed suit, although she tried to keep her smile subdued. “I…wouldn’t mind stimulating his frontal lobe.”

“You want to be on his mind!” The Chinese girl’s voice was full of joy. “You little brain teaser!”

Monkeybrain scrunched and flexed his long, hairy toes in a pair of tan flip-flops. He pulled at his vandyck beard with the thumb, index, and middle finger of his left hand. “Do I like these…? For seven-fifty?”

“Take them.” Kickstand passed, never slowing. “For free.”

“So, that’s what’s up.” The tall juggler glanced around, looking for employees, before tearing the tag off the footwear.

“And put on something reasonable.” The leader of the thieves-turned-killers was already out of sight by the time his words registered.

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” Monkeybrain looked down at his ensemble: a baby blue terrycloth bathrobe, an “Assassins Do It from Behind” t-shirt, a pair of extra-large Pac-Man pajama pants, and, of course, those flip-flops.

Claptrap shrugged. “Breadstick?”

Cortex would be huffing if he had lungs. Or had a mouth. Or didn’t regulate his oxygen intake mathematically. Or wanted to further emulate the humanoid physique. So, instead, his emotional display merely read: “>.<", as he ascended the ladder to the rooftop of the Big & Tall that towered over the Kmart to its left.

"'Vantage' is the root of 'advantage', is it not?" The oversized mind, carrying Wireframe's satchel, plodded toward the ledge where his peers awaited.

"Uh, sure." DoubleVision shrugged.

"Yeah-huh." Wavelength was equally oblivious.

"From this height, we should be able to ascertain the locations of the elusive looters." Cortex placed his palms on the ledge and peered over, his ocular nodes scanning the building. "0_0" was displayed on his LCD. "Indeed, no areas of obfuscation."

"So, pick your poison: infrared, x-ray, gamma, ultraviolet..?" the muscular teen rattled off, while peeling off his protective jacket.

"Ah, x-ray should suffice." The big brain pulled a weapon, the size of a Luger 908, out of the bag and attempted to grip its handle. "These damnable digits... I'm afraid I don't possess the dexterity to trigger this mechanism. DoubleVision, would you be so kind?"

"No prob." The helmeted blonde took the gun in both hands and steadied it, aiming squarely at Wavelength's back.

"On my mark." Cortex took a step back. "Three, two, one, mark.”

DoubleVision squeezed the trigger — and her eyes shut — and released a steady stream of laser beam. The brawny boy winced on impact, his torso shoved forward, his body acting as a prism, shifting the energy through the electromagnetic spectrum. Radiation shot from the flat of his outstretched hands, coating the rooftop of the adjacent building.

“Jesus fuck, I’m gonna go sterile,” Wavelength muttered through gritted teeth.

“I thought you were immune to the effects of your abilities.” The massive intellect took a mental note. “DoubleVision, if you could change your mask setting to PSL and take a gander at the patrons of this establishment.”

“Should I stop firing?” The girl’s eyes were still clamped tight.

“Yes!” The athletic teen shuffled on his feet, fighting against the force of the blast. “I’m good. I’ll be juiced for a while.”

DoubleVision gingerly placed the laser blaster back in the satchel and shuffled through the visual modes in her helmet until she hit “PSL”. “What am I looking for?”

“Hollow limbs, I would surmise from the intel gathered.” Cortex watched, as she got on the ledge and started pacing back and forth.

“Huh.” The blonde closed her right eye and focused with her left, attempting to telescope her vision. But, all she got…was a blur. Her footing faltered. Her arms circled. Her waist was grabbed.

“Gotcha.” Wavelength steadied her midsection, as DoubleVision found new footholds.

“Thanks.” She smoothed her jacket and crouched on the ledge, keeping a hand on the ground. “Guess I’m not used to heights.” Once again, the right eye shut, while the left one focused. This time, she got the desired results. “There’s a guy with clear swirls around his head in the southwest corner. That could be our bleeder. And, a guy with a fake leg just passed him. He’s walking briskly. A guy with a transparent jaw — maybe that chewer from the van? — is following close behind. And…oh, nasty. There’s another guy — why are they all guys? — with something coiled in his pants. I don’t want to play this game anymore.”

“Only four should remain, if their dermatologically enhanced associate is to be believed,” was the rotund brain’s way of saying “you’re halfway.”

With a sigh, the blonde went back to scanning the crowd. “There’s a different guy, a couple aisles away, walking in the same direction. He’s got something going on with his neck. Some kind of orbs implanted or something. Another one with a spring in his step — or maybe his heels? — is coming from the northwest. He’s with a guy who’s got clear hands. Looks like they’re all converging near a guy with a distended belly. In the produce section?”

“A superlative performance,” Cortex congratulated, offering the girl a hand down from the ledge.

“Thanks.” DoubleVision took the hand and hopped back down to the rooftop.

The big brain’s LCD switched to “^_^”.

“When do I get to punch something?” Wavelength pulled his jacket over the scorch mark on his back.

Cortex’s emotional display returned to “._.”. “When your hands are no longer the locus of your abilities.”

Kickstand picked a honeydew front the pyramid and sniffed the stem-end. “Shithouse, do you still have the specimen?”

The man with the distended belly tapped his gut. “Right here.”

“Good man.” The ex-soldier surveyed the surroundings, noting the arrangement of short shelves that turned the walkway into a maze. “If push comes to shove, this is where we make our stand.”

The man with the fabricated fingers raised a handful. “Shouldn’t we be focusing on finding a way out of here?”

“The more we divide, the easier we are to conquer, Lovetap. Skinflint should’ve never been left alone.” Kickstand pushed a California Raisins stand to the end of the aisle, blocking the entrance. “But, having a getaway plan is never a bad idea. Claptrap, Dogshow, head out the service entrance. See what you can hot wire. Monkeybrain, Hopscotch, secure the perimeter. Bo Peep, Lovetap, Shithouse, help me build a barricade.”

“Mr. Popular, come in. Mr. Popular, come in.” Cortex’s voice blared from the com-link inside the helmet that the teen in question should’ve been wearing. Instead, it rested on the seat across the aisle, giving the boy plenty of room to stretch out while sleeping. “Mr. Popular…?”

“Hey, Poppin’ Fresh.” The Ten-Second Rule poked the napper in the chest. “You’re at bat.”

“Muh?” The teen’s green eyes blinked rapidly, as he wiped a trail of spittle from his chin and cheek. He peered at the remnants of the bus around him and blinked again. “What’s goin’ on?”

“While you were waiting for your prince to come, the shit hit the fan.” The instructor threw the discarded helmet at its owner. “Get in the game.”

With a yawn, Mr. Popular held the bottom of his head protector to his mouth. “Cortex, what do you need?”

“Escort the innocent bystanders off the premises — without causing a scene,” the quarter-ton brain ordered. “And avoid fresh foods.”

Standing, the tired teen tossed his helmet onto the seat behind him, doffed his uniform jacket, and replaced it with the black hoodie he had been using as a blanket. He flipped up the hood, zipped the sweatshirt to his clavicle, and walked out the hole in the side of the bus. Yawning all along.

Claptrap — still in his jumpsuit, still scarfing carbs — and Dogshow — in a flannel shirt, faded jeans, and a trucker cap — pushed through the double doors, into the storage area/receiving center.

“Hey! You can’t come back here!” a scrawny guy with “Micah” on his name tag protested. “This area is for authorized personnel only!”

“Then, authorize us.” The mutton-chopped wheelman hocked a thick wad of spit at the assistant manager. It splashed on the floor, a centimeter from the thirty-two year-old’s generic black sneakers, and sizzled, eating through the concrete.

Micah smiled nervously. “May I assist you in finding anything in particular?”

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Mr. Popular began pacing the aisles. “Time to play follow the fucking leader.”

Tweens pitched pop CDs. The elderly dropped denture cream. MILFs spilled milk (but held onto their tots). Single guys stopped eyeing MILFs. Cashiers abandoned registers. All to step in line behind the tantalizing teen.

The people magnet scoffed, “lemmings.”

“Thanks for the keys, kid.” The jumpsuited driver dangled the chain, as he waved to the scrawny assistant manager, who promptly locked the entrance to the loading dock behind the two artificially enhanced men. Claptrap clicked the unlock button on the keychain, and the lights on a tan Honda Odyssey in the employee parking lot flashed. “Looks like we’re taking the mom mobile.”

“Have fun with that.” Dogshow jumped down from the dock, landing in a crouch on the blacktop. “That Lincoln Navigator is calling my name.”

“I’ll rochambeau you for it.” The man with the faux jaw hustled down the steps.

“On three.” The would-be redneck held out his fist. The painter impostor did the same. “One… Two…”

“Allez-oop!” The sun disappeared above the wheelmen, as five hundred pounds of gray matter fell from the sky.

“Jesus, monkey, and Joseph!” Claptrap leapt forward, shoving the dumbfounded Dogshow out of the way. Too little. Too late. Cortex smashed through their legs, sending a ripple through the pavement. Car alarms blared, but their shrill whines couldn’t conceal the screaming.

“So…” Tantric rested his gloved hand in the plastic-encased warren. A curious rabbit sniffed the outstretched fingers and rubbed its chin across the tips. “What’re we looking for exactly?”

LiveFeed shrugged, drawing his towering shoulders even higher, while browsing the racks of rodents. “I’ll know it when I see it.”

“Right this way, folks.” The Ten-Second Rule, swirling strobing batons, swung his arms like a seasoned crossing guard, directing the herd that exited the department store behind Mr. Popular. “Single file — that’s right. Please make your way to your vehicles. If you need a ride, please wait at the end of the parking lot. Pay no mind to the smoldering wreckage. Just keep walking.”

“My work here is done,” the pubescent shepherd told his instructor, as he walked back toward the bus, intent on catching a few more z’s before the day was done.

The Home Ec teacher put a firm hand on his student’s shoulder and held him in place. “Mr. Popular has graciously agreed to sign autographs to apologize for the inconvenience of the evacuation.”

The heavy lidded eyes of the tired teen shot daggers at the former chef. “Hate you.”

The Ten-Second Rule grinned. A portly housewife, fifty-five or older, rushed at the boy. Her chipped nails pulled down the neck of her tie-dyed t-shirt, revealing the hair-spewing moles of her braless bust. “Me first!”

The instructor passed his pupil a sharpie. “Eat it up, kid.”

Mr. Popular tore off the cap and gritted his teeth. “Hate you so much.”

“I’m gonna get it tattooed on!” the plump parent squeaked with delight.

“Hey…” Bo Peep shoved a display full of Florida oranges forward, sliding it between assortments of apples and bananas. “Where’s everybody going?”

Lovetap forced his back into a shelf of potatoes, skidding it across the floor. “Guess we scared them off.”

“No.” Kickstand saw to moving the gourds. “They’re being escorted out, to lower the risk of casualties.”

“That’s a relief for my conscience.” The man with the false hands took a moment to rest.

“We just lost a bargaining chip.” The man with the fake leg never stopped.

As the last patrons and employees trickled out of the superstore, the Ten-Second Rule gave a curt nod to the trio of uniformed girls waiting impatiently behind the busted bus.

Spatter was the first to rush in, unconcerned by whether or not the automatic doors would open upon her approach. DeathGrip followed closely, taking wide strides with her long, lean legs. Wireframe pulled up the rear, focused on fitting the handful of weapons that previously sat on her seat into her pockets and the waistband of her pants. Noticing that the other girls were already inside, she hastened her pace.

“Our guests are here!” Monkeybrain hung upside down from the rafters, thanks to the tail that protruded from his pants. “Would you ladies care for an amuse-bouche? Something to whet the appetite?”

“Had a big lunch, thanks.” Spatter surveyed the section, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And drop it did. Cantaloupes slammed into the floor from above, splattering on impact. Hopscotch bounced between girls and hurled another batch from the net sack on his back. DeathGrip dove, sliding through the mushy, freshly liberated flesh. Spatter kept her scabbed over forearms in front of her mask. Wireframe crouched, drawing a footlong raygun. She took careful aim and blasted the beam from which Monkeybrain dangled. He laughed, flipping through the air to land in a crouch.

The bloodied brawler bum-rushed the acrobat. He hopped on his tensile tail, swinging his fists like an old timey prizefighter. “Put ‘em up. Put ‘em up,” he taunted. She threw a right jab at his midsection. He bobbed out of the way and landed a kick to her side. She slid across the slick tiles. And charged again. He sat on his coiled spring for a split second, before launching into the air and over her head. His feet slammed into her back, sending her careening into the barricade. Apples clobbered her helmet, but no eureka moment came.

“Motherfucker’s doing wire-fu without the wires.” The crimson coated youth got back to her feet, just in time for a watermelon to come sailing toward her head. A blast from her diminutive peer’s weapon ensured only pulp sullied her helmet.

“Dubs, lay cover fire.” DeathGrip pulled off a glove, revealing perfect french-tips. “Spat, toss me an apple.”

“That won’t keep the doctor away.” Monkeybrain, dodging a steady stream of white hot beams, flipped past the 6′2″ adolescent.

“Heads up.” Spatter batted a red delicious with her hardened fist. The Argentinean plucked it out of the air and gently tossed it in her exposed hand. The skin blistered. Pustules peppered the flesh and popped. Juice oozed from puckered polyps.

With the twist of DeathGrip’s wrist, the diseased fruit splashed to the ground, splitting into a fine mist on impact. In front of Monkeybrain’s tail. The acrobat jumped back, wiping his feet clean. “Get it off me! Get it off me!”

The Latina flicked fetid cider from her fingers. “Gimme something bigger!”

Hopscotch was more than happy to oblige, dropping a twenty pound pumpkin from directly above her head. She took a step back and caught it. With both hands bare. It bloated between her fingers, its flesh popping and hissing as she hefted it overhead. Monkeybrain leapt prematurely. The Argentine teen curled her torso, launching the gourd with extra force. It exploded against the ground. Right where his tail landed. The prehensile protrusion gave out, and the acrobat slid on the balls of his feet, his arms outstretched for balance he couldn’t achieve. DeathGrip closed the gap between them in two swift strides. And crashed her helmet into his face. His eyes swelled. His nose spurted. His head cracked against the filthy floor.

As the tallest of the trio saw to tying the unconscious taunter’s tail in knots around his legs, the smallest switched weapons, pulling out a portable flamethrower. A pair of pitched pomegranates were the first to get torched. The rind went ashen. The flesh liquified. The arils boiled, shooting seeds. The trail of flame lapped at the feet of the spring-heeled assailant. He bounced from one wall to another, off a shelf, and across the floor. Wireframe studied the hopper’s seemingly erratic jump pattern and cut a hot swath diagonally from the ceiling. The flame nipped Hopscotch’s rubber soles, but it was his pants that caught the conflagration. He patted frantically. Slapped polyester. Flapped his legs. Twisted through the air. Falling fast. His knees collided with tile. And cracked. Shrapnel exploded from his skin. Tears sprinted from his squinted eyes.

“Next time, sir, stop, drop, and roll.” Wireframe blasted the bouncer’s legs with a pocket-sized fire extinguisher.

Spatter threw her craggy fists into the air. “Aw, ye…agck!” Six feet of imitation intestine, berthed from the belly of Shithouse, wrapped around her neck from behind the barricade. Her fists pounded furiously, but the guts didn’t give.

“Watch closely, little girl.” Lovetap stepped from behind Shithouse and slid over the barrier. “This is how it’s done.” His artificial fist pounded the juvenile’s helmet, fissuring the faceplate.

“Oh, no, you don’t!” DeathGrip rushed forward, a Gala gurgling in each hand.

“Oh, yes, he do!” Bo Peep barreled through the barricade, horns first. The Argentinean turned on her heel. The Hawaiian rammed into her abs, lifting her off her feet. She smashed rotten fruit into his ears. He dug his head in harder. She gripped his horns. And bashed her knees into his chin. Her back slammed into the narrow ledge of a shelf. Her helmet ricocheted off a spooled garden hose. Her knees kept pounding. Blood oozed down her legs. He ground his horns into her diaphragm.

Wireframe, torn, pulled the flamethrower and raygun back out and started firing. Her aim was too divided to be effective, but maybe — just maybe — she could offer one of her teammates the distraction needed to get the upper hand. Instead, she got the backhand. Of Lovetap, who slapped the flamethrower away. And smacked her across the department.

Shithouse guffawed at the sight. A belly laugh that shook through his false digestive tract. Spatter, blue in the face, forced her other thumb free from its fist and threw her arms backwards, spiking her captor’s sunken cheeks. The rest of her fingers snapped free. And dug in. Unnatural nails clawed at jaundiced flesh. Pulling free new orifices. Extending old ones. She slipped her talons between his curled cord and her neck. And pulled forward. The intestines slackened. His torso flopped into a sullied pit of pears. His mind reeled. Trying to think past the pain. Trying to close his tattered mouth. Trying to breathe something that wasn’t blood. Failing.

Spatter dipped her head out of the strangling loops. Hunched over. Unzipped her jacket. And sucked in as much air as she could. Her gaze locked on the bastard backhanding the girl on the floor. Every device the inventor tried to pull from her person he swatted away. The bloodied teen was on Lovetap’s back before she realized she was in motion. Her congealed claws stabbed at scapulae, but Wireframe didn’t need the help. She already had a plan. And a boot. That found the man’s crotch. His legs buckled. He fell forward. Onto two awaiting feet. That shoved him right back. Spatter dropped to her soles, slicing down the length of his spine. And pushed him away. He landed in a patch of pumpkin pulp.

The wheezing thud caught Bo Peep’s attention. He spun his head to catch the cause. DeathGrip, knees weak from persistent pummeling, reached blindly above her head. Feeling. Grasping. Clasping. Garden shears. She pried the handles, snapping the plastic that kept the teeth together. And jammed the blades into her attacker’s neck. Slicing down either side. Missing the major arteries. Barely. He slid right. His hands fumbling to remove the oversized scissors. She stepped left. Her hands gripping her sore abdomen.

“Do you think we’ll have time to shop after this?” DoubleVision peered over the edge of the Big & Tall, waiting for something new to happen in the parking lot below. “‘Cause I’m running low on bronzer.”

“Why not grab a towel and lay outside like a normal person?” Wavelength sat next to her, his back against the ledge.

“Are you kidding?” The blonde shot her teammate a look that…he couldn’t see. “I’m Swedish. I go from zero to crispy in sixty seconds.”

The muscular male shrugged. “Pays to be a quarter Cherokee.”

“Everybody intact?” DeathGrip, still nursing her stomach, approached the other girls.

“Everybody who matters.” Spatter helped Wireframe to her feet.

“Thank you.” The shortest girl brushed what she could off her stained uniform. “These are going to require quite a lot of blea–”

An electric forklift swerved into view behind the barricade. Its tongs scooped up the collapsed body of Shithouse. Leaning over the controls, Kickstand yanked foot after foot of plastic polymer out of the semi-organic safe that was his accomplice’s abdomen. “Where is it? Where did you put it?!”

“Not another one.” The tallest girl sighed audibly.

“Dude, you are seriously a few Fruit Loops short of a complete breakfast.” The curviest of the trio shook her head.

“I’m gonna bust your hump and hump your bust!” the ex-soldier threatened, veins popping from his neck. Intestines flew like fake snakes from a gag gift.

“Get help,” Spatter admonished. “At least call for back-up.”

The leader of the felled felons gripped the gut and shook, hoping something would come loose.

“I believe sauces are in aisle three, if that’s what you’re after,” Wireframe offered in her most helpful tone.

“A sperm joke?” The scabbed-over turned her attention to the inventor. “Didn’t think you had that in you.”

“I didn’t either.” The diminutive machinesmith smirked, her dimpled cheek visible through her broken mask.

“Nice work.” DeathGrip patted the far shorter girl on the shoulder.

“Sayin’.” Spatter returned her attention to the maniac shuffling through another guy’s body cavity. A maniac who…was no longer there. “Aw, hell.”

Kickstand, thermos in hand, threw his augmented leg into the door to the loading dock. Snapping the lock. Blowing the hinges. Shattering the wood. He sprinted to the lip of the loading area. And long-jumped into the parking lot. Right over Cortex’s frame. Paying no mind to his crippled comrades.

“Halt!” the big brain ordered, although he knew it would prove a fruitless command.

The former Army Second Lieutenant kept moving. As usual. Until something obstructed his vision. He tried to swipe it away from his face with his empty hand. But missed. It crawled down his face. On eight hairy legs. Another followed the descent. A third slid down the bridge of his nose. He swatted desperately, as more poured over his flesh. But, all he hit was himself. He bashed the thermos against his forehead. He smacked an open palm against his cheeks. “Here!” He shoved the thermos out to anyone who’d take it. “Here! Just make them stop!”

Cortex retrieved the canister from behind and knocked Kickstand to his knees with a thwack to the back.

On the roof of the PetSmart at the end of the shopping center, Tantric placed the final spinybacked orb-weaver on LiveFeed’s exposed face. Then wiped his gloved hand on his pants. “This is creepy as fuck, man.”

“Peril of the power.” The visual projector, kneeling, held a bucket under his chin, collecting the arachnids as they crawled off his thin goatee.

The Ten-Second Rule leaned against the torn hood of the grounded bus, a cellphone pressed to his ear. “Hey, Deadlift?” His voice raised to combat approaching sirens. “Could you bring the big van? We’re a little…stranded at the moment.”

Category: Breakfast Serial

128 Responses to “Breakfast Serial .04: Fourth and Inches”

  1. Serial Prizes » Blog Archive » Breakfast Serial x.04

    [...] It’s a little late, but it’s also a little long. [...]

  2. H.H. Neville

    Your teens are entirely too witty. I’m unbelievably envious. Had my high school companions been half as witty, it would have been enjoyable but alas…

    AFTA Black sounds really cool for ANY squad.

    Get a bit of a Scholastic’s Magic School Bus vibe from the description of the thing sprouting wings and thrusting off. Don’t know if that’s good or bad.

    Ah ha ha ha, touché, sir.

    I already <3 Wireframe and Cortex. OTP!

    I think I have Monkeybrain’s tee.

    Overall pretty good, though, I’d say combat with such a large ensemble got a little muddled here and there. Don’t really know how to fix that either, except, maybe, break them up in the scenes or between scenes a little more. Make it more of a one-on-one thing.

    Loving the non-conventional ensembles we have playing here.

  3. kink

    Heh, I’m pretty sure all my characters are entirely too witty (unbelievably so). Except the ones who’re too dumb. It’s probably a function of me trying to stay invested — and awake — while writing. I’m working on de-funny-ing a few of them, though.

    AFTA Black, yeah. AFTA for Academy for the Advanced. Black ’cause their suits are black. Just kinda fit. AFTA Noir sounded a little too outre.

    Heheh. God, I hope no little kid tries to find the lyrics to the Magic School Bus theme and gets scarred for life.

    Are Wireframe and Cortex meant for each other? We’ll see…

    I didn’t know the “Assassins Do It from Behind” shirt actually existed. I’ll have to get one.

    Yeah, the multi-person combat scenes were a bit confusing, even though I tried to pare the respective teams down into manageable chunks. More quick-cutting between scenes may have been the ticket there. I’ll try that next time.

    I also totally dropped the ball on metaphoring the action up. Bah.

  4. Tom Moses

    Jesus tits that was long and enjoyable as hell! Like Raz says, I think we all wish we had witty teenaged friends like this in high school, but fuck man they’re great. I’m having a ball reading Cortex’s dialogue and the addition of the little emote signs are fucking priceless!

  5. kink

    Huh, for some reason, WordPress didn’t recognize you, Tom. I thought I okayed you before. Weird.

    Anyway, thanks for the kind words, man. Cortex is, obviously, a blast to write. Those emote signs can be a bit frustrating, though. I thought there’d be more variety for the type I chose (which, I guess, are the manga-y flavor or whatever), but it seems all the variety’s reserved for the sideways emoticons. Ah well. Too late to change now.


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