No Big Boom Today, S’il Vous Plaît
In the desert?
Gaping at the kilometers-wide dark cloud ahead of them touching the ground and bisected by the road they were driving along, which ran forward to disappear into the mist, the two men in the truck cab saw the other truck parked by the side of the route. That meant it’d been there at least a half-hour, since for safety reasons they had to keep their vehicles this far apart for that length of time. Glancing at each other, the driver and his passenger fatalistically shrugged in unison, and then without a single word being exchanged between themselves, their own truck came to a cautious stop a few tens of meters behind the leader. For whatever that
was worth, considering the supremely dangerous cargo in both trucks.
Getting out of the truck cab, the men then closed their vehicle doors as gently as possible. It would have been far safer to leave these metal panels open, except there was always the chance of a stray gust of wind slamming closed the doors, with potentially devastating consequences. Walking side-by-side, the pair of men warily skirted the first truck, to then see their companions standing together in front of this means of transportation and glumly staring at the thick fog just a hundred meters ahead.
The younger of the two men approaching the other pair waited until he could speak without raising his voice (anything
could set off their load), directing his anxious question at the blond man at the left of the burly and much shorter dark-haired man, “What are we going to--”
A yelp of pure fright instantly uttered by the mechanic next to the blond driver interrupted this, as the others’ attention was caught by following this man’s horrified gaze, to at once see the wholly impossible. Despite it being totally calm around themselves, without the faintest breeze, the fog ahead was now churning and flowing towards the quartet at an immense speed, just as if it was being blown by gale-force winds right at the four men.
Instinctively, the group stepped backwards, only to be caught in the fog anyway, as it then swirled around them all, instantly changing their surroundings into murky gloom that reduced their vision to only a few meters around these men. A moment later, those individuals became absolutely terrified, as they then found themselves unable to move a single muscle, being completely paralyzed and looking straight ahead, so that they could only see their companions out of the corners of their eyes.
Then, it truly
became unbelievable, as the four men began to watch the movie that was now being shown inside their minds, at an extremely high rate of speed that was still comprehensible to each and every one of them. With good reason. After all, they were actually in
the movie, speaking and acting exactly as they’d done in the last few days in the isolated desert town of Las Piedras, a truly unpleasant place that none of them would have wanted to live there or even visited, if they’d ever had any choice in the matter. Nevertheless, the movie continued in their heads, just as if an unseen camera had been observing them during every second of their lives in that horrible town.
And then, the movie next showed what was going to fatally happen to the four men.
When their strange immobility eventually ended, at the very same instant the movie in their brains switched off, the shocked group could do nothing but stand there, hearts hammering as they recalled their future selves’ violent deaths. Until something else occurred, just as inexplicable as the other recent events.
Strolling out of the fog ahead of themselves, a shadow shifted into the figure of a man they’d never seen before in their lives. Looking at least a decade less than the youngest of their group, this stranger with a black eyepatch still managed to appear much more mature than the oldest of the four men. Coming to a halt in the middle of the road a couple of meters before themselves, this man casually nodded to them, and then he asked a single question in a very composed voice.
Mario heard this inquiry in perfect Corsican.
Bimba blinked at meeting someone else in the middle of South America who was speaking flawless Dutch.
For the first time in years, Luigi listened to the native Italian dialect of his beloved home village.
Jo thought he’d finally gone insane, to be addressed in this utterly desolate spot by another Frenchman, who from his accent could only be from Paris itself. Particularly when his fellow countryman had just asked:
“So, would you people actually be interested in some kind of alternative instead of getting messily killed while hauling two truckloads of nitroglycerine to an oil well fire?”
Sitting in his corner of the guest quarters at the oil field, Jo drew in a deep lungful from his Gauloises, and then he exhaled the smoke in a steady stream through his nose, adding to the small cloud that clung to him, as if the mature man was trying to recreate the fogbank where he and his companions had chosen a new life for themselves several hours ago. Closing one eye and using the other to squint at the lit end of his pungent cigarette, Jo gloomily mused on just how much longer he’d be able to do this, since their rescuer had been remarkably insistent that their next stop in another dimension was a totally smoke-free zone.
Oh, the barbarity of it all.
And what exactly was a ‘nicotine patch’ as mentioned by Alexander LaVelle Harris?
Another long inhalation of murderous Turkish/Syrian tobacco was performed while Jo tried to distract himself from his depressing thoughts by reflecting instead about that specific jeune homme. At least Monsieur Harris had a good French middle name, which was a clear point in his favor. Not to mention making sure that in this dimension that piece of merde film wouldn’t ever happen. Le Salaire de la peur, bah. What did Alexander call it in Anglais? Oui, the Wages of Fear. Merde, merde, merde.
Viciously breathing out a blast of smoke, Jo grumpily glanced around the room, and then he suddenly felt his mood brighten. The rest of his companions here with him were in the same positions they’d been in ever since the quartet had been escorted here from the payroll office. Mario was pacing back and forth in the middle of the room. Bimba continued to slouch in his armchair like a lazy lion, hands clasped together at the back of his head, as he sternly gazed at the ceiling. Luigi was sitting up straight in his own chair, staring ahead while wonderingly touching his chest and then taking deep breaths, as if to be sure he wasn’t in some kind of impossible dream.
Well, no wonder, Jo nodded to himself. Having your fatal lung disease instantly cured by magic would be a considerable shock to anyone, even such a down-to-earth guy as Luigi. Regarding that, Jo idly pondered just how the Italian would do in his new life around those strange people their rescuer had told them about: Slayers, Watchers, and the really disturbing demons and vampires. The Frenchman frankly doubted that Luigi would be willing to go into action against what lurked in the dark at their new home. While brave enough when forced to be, as shown by his agreeing to drive one of their nitroglycerine trucks, the burly little mechanic was more of a worker than a warrior. Nodding again to himself, Jo confidently decided that Luigi would probably become part of the support staff of the Nouveau Conseil.
*Bimba, now…. Ah, an Observateur, for sure,* Jo decisively thought. That fierce man could finally find something, or more likely, someone, to shield and fight for. *Bon, let him be one of the guardians. He will no doubt do very well in that.*
Jo glanced up as Mario strode past, to then whirl around while showing an edgy face as he continued his impatient pacing. Gazing after his young comrade, the older man thought, *Hmm, who knows about him? He has so much of his life ahead, that it’s hard to say. Especially when you add whatever happens when Alexander returns. That will be most interesting.*
Thinking of the one-eyed man who’d left them after magically transporting their trucks a day into the future and just an hour’s travel from the oil field (“Let’s not cause anyone to ever start wondering how you got here so soon, okay?”), Jo now allowed a faint grin to form on his lips, until his features abruptly soured. There was one more of their company that needed to be judged as to their fitness in joining that organization devoted to protecting their world from monsters.
Unnoticed, Jo grimaced as he recollected his distasteful conduct as shown in that damned film. The Frenchman was not pleased at all about any of his actions and behavior over the last few days, from getting stranded in the pestilential town of Las Piedras, and finishing off with his utterly puerile death under the wheels of their truck. *You are far, far better than that,* Jo mentally scolded himself. *Oui, desperation is the enemy of cleverness, but now it’s time for élan again.*
Well, the trip from their new starting point that ended up at the oil field and the hasty unloading of their truck had allowed him to think deeply about regaining his self-respect. At least Jo hadn’t been distracted by their tremendously hazardous cargo. Before his departure, Alexander had assured them all that no matter what, the nitroglycerine wouldn’t explode until it was placed in the oil well fire and detonated. That had given the Frenchman an opportunity to come up with something that, for the first time in a good while, actually made Jo feel proud of himself.
In his corner of the guest quarters, Jo patted the right pocket of his pants and smiled in satisfaction at the touch which revealed the empty contents there. Just as enjoyable had been the startled looks on his companions’ faces when Jo had told the oil field clerk at the payroll office that instead of handing the Frenchman the check he was owed for getting the explosives there, that money was to be wired to Las Piedras. The very same place where Jo had been stranded, broke and unable to leave, just like a good many others there caught in the same situation. However, every one of those expatriates now had an actual plane ticket that allowed them to fly out of there back to civilization, all paid by Jo.
Jo’s pleasure had only increased when Mario had then swaggered up to the clerk’s desk, and casually told that oil company employee to do the same with the Corsican’s check. Wire this money to his acquaintances at the town, with also a message sent along telling them to evenly split this windfall among themselves, and good luck to them all. Walking away from the startled clerk, Mario had caught Jo’s eye, and instead of the exceedingly guilty glances this younger man had been sneaking at his friend ever since both had learned how things turned out in that movie, the two men now shared a gratified look.
The pair of Frenchmen had their silent tête-à-tête interrupted by Bimba’s rasping bark of laughter, as the Dutchman then strode up to the clerk and ordered that his own money be distributed exactly as Mario had just arranged. Grinning tightly, the blond man made way for Luigi bustling up to the desk, as that little mechanic proudly confirmed that his check should be sent back to the town expatriates, just like his friends had done.
Back in the guest quarters, Jo allowed himself a warm glow of satisfaction. The four of them in this room, all who’d have died without the surprise intervention of someone from another world, now had another chance in their lives. So, the best way to celebrate that was to give others a truly unexpected opportunity. The expatriates in Las Piedras would have their own chance to restart their lives, and what more could anyone really ask for?
As Mario once again strode across Jo’s line of vision, interrupting his fine mood, the older man had the corners of his lips sardonically quirk upwards at his friend’s evident anxiety. Ah, the impatience of youth. Perhaps he should tell Mario to calm down--
A quick knock at the door of the guest quarters caused everyone inside to become still. Then, as the door suddenly opened, the heads of the four men turned to see their rescuer, Alexander Harris himself, standing in the doorway, a wide grin on his face as he beamed at his newest recruits for the New Council. Stepping inside the room, this man maintained his wide grin throughout his next announcement.
“Gentlemen, may I present someone else who’s coming along with us?”
Fearfully, a woman who just an hour ago had been resigned to a sad and lonely life working as an unskilled servant girl for a bullying cantina owner now walked into the room, carrying in her arms the small sack containing her few pitiful possessions. This sack was promptly dropped onto the floor the very second that Linda saw a frozen Mario standing in the middle of the guest quarters, just barely able to meet her eyes and not sure at all how she truly felt about him. He promptly found out, as did the rest of the amused onlookers, as Linda now dashed forward and threw her arms around him in a desperate hug, leaning her head against Mario’s chest, as she started joyously sobbing. Looking down in bewilderment at the crying woman, Mario instinctively put his own arms around Linda, and as she sighed in contentment, the Corsican instantly felt an overwhelming desire to always have her at his side to be protected and cared for by this man.
As a cheerful Bimba and Luigi both clapped their hands on Mario’s shoulders to indicate their approval of how things had turned out, Jo remained in his chair in the corner, smiling at the scene before himself, until the mature man caught the single eye of their astonishing guest across the room with his hands happily stuck in his hip pockets, rocking back and forth on his feet. As Alexander Harris grinned back, Jo cheerfully thought in the privacy of his mind: *Ah, that jeune homme there can be nothing but a Frenchman hidden inside an Américain. How else would he truly understand romance?*
Author’s Note: Here are the crossovers, if you really need them.
Vision and Bifocals: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
, 1969, directed by George Roy Hill and written by William Goldman.
For Sale, Cheap: ’66 Thunderbird: Thelma & Louise
, 1991, directed by Ridley Scott and written by Callie Khouri.
No Big Boom Today, S’il Vous Plaît: The Wages of Fear
, 1953, directed and adapted by Henri-Georges Clouzot.
These chapters are just what I’ve come up so far, which explains why I’m ending this story. I need to finish off my other stories first, but if I do manage think up other characters that Xander might successfully recruit, I’ll probably put them in another story.
Hope you enjoyed this!