Read Resistance Online

Authors: John Birmingham

Resistance

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AboutResistance

Two bright geometric shapes, metallic flashes picked out in the morning sun, moving impossibly fast and straight amidst the visual clutter and chaos of forest and rock . . .

‘Is it dragons, Dave, is that what it is? Because I’m not ready for dragons . . .'

A dragon brings down the Vice President’s plane, a monster army is camped outside Omaha, and an empath daemon springs an undercover operation in New York.

New Orleans was just the beginning. More and different daemons are breaking through all over America, and Dave Hooper has a new enemy with more guile and guts than the celebrity superhero, who is still stumbling into his role as Champion. While his agent fields offers for movies and merchandise, Dave is tasked with ending a siege in Omaha, saving his friends and deciphering the UnderRealms’ plan to take over the earth.

As an ancient and legion evil threatens to destroy mankind, Dave has to decide what kind of man he wants to be and the nature of his role in this new world. He may not be the hero humanity deserves, but he’s the only one we’ve got.

Contents

Cover

AboutResistance

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Acknowledgements

About John Birmingham

Also by John Birmingham

Copyright page

For my dad, the old lion in winter.

Prologue

On a warm evening of the second day of Autumn in the year of our Lord, 2015, Supervising Agent Donald Trinder, of the Office of Special Clearances and Records (OSCAR), went out to catch him a goddamned Russki.

Trinder’s Russki was a colonel of the GRU no less; theGlavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniyeor Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Federation. Not just an agent, but an in-field controller of deep cover agents and a femme-most-fatale. Trinder insisted on belt and braces, and safety pins all around, to ensure it was not he who ended up pants down and red-faced at the end of the night. He didn’t care that the FBI and local law enforcement assets under his control thought him a pompous ass. Neither the feebs nor local law enforcement had found this woman. OSCAR had.

He had.

And now she was his.

Right on the knocker at 1930 hours, nine governmentfleet vehicles rolled out of the underground car park at 26 Federal Plaza, bearing thirty-three special agents, including twelve heavy hitters from Manhattan’s FBI SWAT team, all of them under the temporary authority of the Office of Special Clearances and Records. Also known more simply as ‘The Office’, or even just ‘Clearance’.

The convoy moved west on Chambers for five blocks, escorted by two police cruisers. By prior arrangement with Metro Transport their progress through the thick, early evening traffic was hastened by staging a pulse of green lights between Federal Plaza and the target address on W27th Street. The two cruisers did not power up their flashers. The long train of heavy black vehicles did draw the attention of some New Yorkers as it passed, some of whom used their phones to take photographs of the convoy, doubtless posting them immediately to Instagram or Twitter, and causing Trinder to wonder for the umpteenth time how anybody in his line of work was expected to get anything done in secret these days.

The soft warmth of the summer just gone still lingered in the evening air, and in the lead vehicle, a black Chevy Tahoe, Supervising Agent Trinder was sweating. He rode up front on the passenger side – the shotgun seat as he liked to call it – with the climate control pushed all the way down to Antarctic, but his bespoke three-button blue suit was a heavy wool blend that he had had tailored at a very reasonable price in Hong Kong. It looked smart, but did not breathe well. The heavy ballistic vest he wore over it did not breathe at all. Every special agent rolling in convoy toward the small art gallery in Chelsea was similarly attired and weighed down by armour. Boss’s orders.

The twelve tactical operators riding in two anonymous commercial vans just behind Trinder’s Chevy were kitted out in armour, helmets, combat goggles and tactical black. They too looked the part but Trinder still worried about their combat load-out and readiness. They were not the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), which he had requested. Twice. They were part-timers. Amateurs, really.

The FBI’s New York office, like all regional offices, maintained a tac squad of part-time volunteers. Certainly, they received extra training, MP-5s, M4 carbines and specialised equipment. The very name of the squad – Special Weapons and Tactics – would otherwise be a misnomer. But Agent Trinder worried that his twelve borrowed operators were not quite special enough. OSCAR did not have its own strike team, in spite of Trinder’s tireless bureaucratic scheming toward that end. OSCAR was a clearing house, not a barracks, as he had been told so many times. Reassurances from higher up that many of his operators this evening had military backgrounds, some within the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) community, did not allay his concerns. They weren’t going after a bunch of broken down insurgents in some Afghan slum. This was one of the GRU’s top field operatives. This lady had game, probably been to Afghanistan, or worse, Ukraine or Chechnya. She wouldn’t just be familiar with the playbook. She’d have authored some of the best chapters.

Supervising Agent Donald Trinder had thus seen fit to remonstrate with the FBI’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge Malcolm Preston, the part-time commander of New York’s part-time SWAT team, that he was mistaken if he thought this would be some sort of cake run just because the target was a woman and her intention tonight was not to openly subvert the United States of America, but rather to launch an art exhibition. The art, after all, was part of her cover.

And anyway, were you to ask the opinion of Supervising Agent Donald Trinder, when he was off the clock and entitled to a private opinion, he would definitely tell you that as threats to the long-term survival of these United States went, artists and communists (all Russians being commies at heart) were not a thousand miles removed from each other, or Ay-rabs or gay marrieds or that damned Rachel Maddow woman.

As the police cruiser ahead of him swung off Chambers for the quick run up West Street, Trinder could only wish that his request for a full HRT squad had been approved. Or even his request for a couple of backup NYPD SWAT teams in BearCat armoured vehicles. Or a helicopter. Just one lousy helicopter.

It wasn’t that he thought they couldn’t execute the mission with the assets to hand. It was that he had been thwarted in his wishes and when the mission was done, he would be forced to plan a terrible ass-fucking on everyone who had so thwarted him.

He sighed and shook his head.

There just weren’t enough hours in the day to get to everyone he needed to ass-fuck.

*

Special Agent Rudy Comeau needed to take a piss – badly needed to take a piss. The empty Big Gulp bucket of Fanta on the bare wooden floor of the small room hadn’t helped. But maybe it could now. If Special Agent Dee Madigan didn’t object to him pulling out his Johnson and relieving himself in front of her. Or even behind, in the corner, perhaps.

Of OSCAR’s four stakeout teams on this job, Overwatch Three – Madigan and Comeau – had the prime location. They were comfortably seated on the top floor of a five-storey walk-up on W27th, with a God’s eye view of the target address, a couple of surprisingly comfortable 1950s vintage office chairs from which to conduct their surveillance and, blessed be the Great Pumpkin, a thin trickle of sweet, sweet chilled air from a rumbling unit hanging precariously from one of the room’s two sash windows. What they didn’t have was a toilet. That was down on the next floor and with Trinder rolling on them Comeau didn’t want to abandon his post just to take a leak.

Well, he did, but he wasn’t going to, because that puckered asshole seemed to have eyes everywhere.

Rudy Comeau frowned. That hadn’t come out right.

‘What’s up?’ asked Madigan. Like him, she had decided to hazard the wrath of Trinder by removing her jacket to enjoy just a little bit more of the cool air leaking out of the old, groaning ventilator. Unlike him she wasn’t full of fizzy orange soda. Special Agent Madigan kept her eyes on the prize, training a small pair of Zeiss binoculars on the entrance to the renovated warehouse across the street. Already 143 guests (she had counted them) had been ushered along the small red carpet by two dark-suited attendants.

‘Four more,’ she announced, without taking the binoculars from her eyes. ‘You get that, Rudy? You sound like you’re doing a riverdance back there.’

‘I’m gonna be pissing a river in a minute,’ he muttered.

‘Oh for fuck’s sake. I told you not to drink so much. Just go in the goddamn cup, will you. You got another ten minutes before Trinder turns up. Go on. Doesn’t bother me. I got five brothers, you know. Grew up in a goddamn sausage factory.’

‘Thanks, Dee,’ he said, with relief. It was funny how you could hang on and on and on when you had to, but as soon as you were offered the prospect of deliverance it was like the floodgates had to open right the fuck then. He grabbed the oversized soda cup and hurried into the farthest corner to relieve himself, groaning with the pleasure of release as he let go.

‘Holy shit, Rudy,’ said Madigan. ‘It sounds like you’re hosing a kettle drum with a fucking fire hose back there. Keep it down, would you?’

‘Sorry,’ he said even though he wasn’t. But he did direct the stream down the deep, steep side of the Big Gulp container. That set up a whirlpool effect that he couldn’t help but find a little bit fascinating.

‘What’s happening now?’ he asked to draw attention away from his bathroom visit. ‘Any sign of the target?’

‘Clocked her twice through the windows on the second floor, workin’ the room. She’s really good. I don’t know whether she takes her cover super serious, or whether she actually needs a second gig because the GRU pays like shit. . .Overwatch Three,’ she confirmed, reaching up to thumb the button on her headset. ‘Another four entrants, two Caucasian female, one Asian female, one African-American female. I make that 147 civilians. Over.’

*

Shosanna Nguyen was getting nervous. She had been a special agent of the Office of Special Clearances and Records for only two months and she didn’t feel very special at all. Two months and one week ago she had been a brand spanking new agent trainee at OSCAR’s small Boston campus. Truth be known, she still thought of herself as being on probation. They could put you in the field and they could call you special but nobody would believe it until you had proven yourself. Special Agent Shosanna Nguyen had been perfectly content with the idea of putting her hard-working ass to the grindstone for however many years it would take to prove to her more experienced colleagues that they could depend on her.

But all that went out the window the moment Donald Trinder laid eyes on her.

Oh, it wasn’t like that. Trinder was a legendary asshole, but not in some busy-handed creepy uncle kind of way. No, the moment he’d seen her hurrying through the New York offices, carrying two fat folders full of complaints about hate speech on Facebook that absolutely nobody wanted to deal with, he had reached down from on high and plucked her from the obscurity of noob status to raise her to the exalted realms of Special Clearances.

Why? Because she was Blasian, the daughter of an African-American father and a Vietnamese mother, blessed with just the right mix of ‘exotic’ looks that Supervising Agent Donald Trinder deemed critical to ‘infiltrate the target function’ on the Varatchevsky case. Translation? Trinder thought a little Blasian girl would slip in sideways to an art gallery opening where a big dumb white bastard, like Donald Trinder for instance, would ‘stand out like dogs’ balls’.

‘Although you might want to think about getting yourself a face tattoo,’ he suggested. ‘Just a temporary one. Your arty crowd, they go in for that sort of thing.’

And here she was, Special Agent Nguyen, way out of her depth, rocking a black leather pant suit and Maori design henna tattoo that obscured half of her face, trying not to be too obvious about not drinking the champagne she’d been nursing for twenty-five minutes, and trying even harder not to keep hitting up the waiter with the shrimp cocktails. Because they were delish, and she’d look mighty funny trying to waddle at high speed after an escaping Russian spy if this all went wrong.

She mingled with the crowd, avoided being drawn into conversation with anyone, kept her distance from the target, and tried not to be too obvious about what she was doing. She wasn’t there to take this Warat or Varatchevsky chick down. Trinder and her overwatch team leader had been red hot on that point. She was simply there as a pair of eyes to warn of any last-minute problems. She bobbed her head, pretending to listen to music which she could not hear in the Skullcandy earbuds she wore, the cord with an inline mic running down inside her jacket. Occasionally she would talk as if chatting to a friend at the other end of the call, just giving her the goss on the fabulous night she was having in the Big Apple.

‘Yeah, it’s pretty cool, there’s lots of cool people, gotta be about 150 people here now, and man, you should see the security guys, they’re as big as houses, they’re cool but. . .’

In this way, keeping up an inane line of chatter, she fed details back to the overwatch team about what was happening inside the gallery, and received occasional terse updates on what was heading toward all of these beautiful, rich, fabulous Manhattanites. And she was not worried about the security guys, such as they were, given that her Glock 27 loaded with Hydra-Shok .40 S&W party favours was snugly tucked away in her Hello Kitty purse.

‘Strike team, seven minutes out.’

To this information, she reacted in character.

‘That’s awesome, bitch.’

It was not hard to track the target. Karen Warat was a striking blonde woman. She would have drawn the eye in any room. But here, at her own event, everywhere that Karen Warat – or Colonel Ekaterina Varatchevsky – went, her presence was signalled by a discernible rise in delighted chatter and the click of phone cameras. Some people were even toting digital SLRs to capture the magic. Thankfully they were not photojournalists, as best Shosanna could tell. Not even freelancers. The reviewers had all been in for a pre-show earlier that afternoon. There were probably a dozen or more bloggers in the crowd, of course, but Trinder was not much fussed about them.

‘They can be contained,’ he’d said.

Special Agent Nguyen pretended to admire a pair of twelfth century fighting knives from what was now Vietnam. The long, curved daggers looked brutal, and not nearly as decorative as most of the other ancient weapons and armour on display. Keeping Warat on her radar, she glanced briefly at the small card explaining the provenance of the pieces. They had been captured by the forces of Kublai Khan when he invaded the northern reaches of Vietnam and were taken as booty by one of his soldiers, probably a Korean. The knives had disappeared for a few centuries after the collapse of the Mongol empire, before reappearing in a museum collection in the seventeen hundreds. Looted during the Boxer Rebellion, they had fallen into the hands of an American collector, who was showing them tonight as a personal favour to Ms Warat. She was, in addition to being a full-blood white Russian agent of the GRU, a successful dealer specialising in rare weaponry.

Recalling her briefing notes, Special Agent Nguyen could not help but wonder if Varatchevsky’s early, and officially curtailed, career as a champion fencer might have had something to do with her obvious fascination for this sort of martial ephemera.

She realised with a start that while she had been wondering about her target’s early teenage years, the Russian colonel had slipped out of sight.

And then the screaming started.

01

The Chairman’s Suite at the Bellagio was a great place for a hangover, or it would be, if Dave had one, which he didn’t. And that was just awesome. Sure as hell he’d made a champion effort to get himself a hangover, but despite his best efforts – or maybe his worst – here he was in this expensive hotel suite, on this enormous and bouncy bed, atop this small but even bouncier Saudi princess, while he chugged a super strong Belgian beer and scarfed down a really excellent breakfast burrito. The beer, his fourth, could probably fuel a ride-on lawn mower. But the princess, his first, was a much better ride and a helluva lot more fun than any goddamned lawn mower.

‘America! Fuck yeah,’ he roared for no particular reason beyond the dizzying joy of being alive, as he bucked away in time to AC/DC’s ‘Shoot to Thrill’.The music pounded from a massive TV that loomed over them like the screen of a drive-in movie theatre. The Chairman’s Suite had two bedrooms, but one had been an early casualty of some super-powered romping. Kneeling on the second bed, the unbroken one in the other bedroom, Dave did his best to take a bit more care.

‘I fucking love this show,’ he yelled, after swallowing a mouthful of burrito, ordered by the suite’s full-time, by now exhausted bartender who was herself a significant hottie and the reason the Bellagio was going to need to do some repairs to the sunken bar. Structural repairs.

‘Fuck yeah! A classic of American cinema!’

Ostensibly he was commenting on theDukes of HazzardYouTube clip they were watching – or ratherhewas watching, the princess being indisposed and somewhat facedown at that moment – but Dave Hooper could just as easily have been making a larger comment on the strange turn his life had taken this past wild week.

To be sure, he was not a guy who was entirely unfamiliar with jungle sex in hotel rooms, and beer and burritos for breakfast. He was, however, more familiar with the kind of hookers you took to Motel 7, and six-packs of 7-Eleven Game Day Ice to wash away the sour taste afterward. Maybe, if he was really flush, he sprung for a Big Mac. But there had not been much to spring at his middling stage of life. Not until a few days ago. Now, he was permanently sprung.

‘Sprung,’ he chuckled through the mouthful of meat and cheese.

The burrito was a step up in quality too. Some kind of tasty Italian ham and bacon in there, they’d told him;theybeing the accommodating management and ever friendly staff of the Bellagio, who insisted on comping him into the Chairman’s Suite lest he have to drag ass back to the budget dive the government had rented for him when he was stranded in Vegas at the last minute. Dave Hooper was a hero, a superhero even, and the Bellagio did not turn away genuine American superheroes just because Uncle Sugar was too fucking cheap to pony up for anything better than a three and a half star flop house, a couple of blocks beyond the frayed edge of downtown. No, the Bellagio did not do that – not when genuine superheroes were so damned good for business, it didn’t.

And there was no question that having Dave at your tables was good for business. Half the city had crowded in to get a little touch of him last night, once word got out he was there – and the Bellagio’s hard-working PR flacks made damn sure that word got out fast. It seemed the other half of the city had dropped by to get a look at Lucille, currently resting on a hastily built display in the main entrance to the hotel. There was no chance of anyone stealing his enchanted splitting maul. Only Dave had been able to lift her up there on to the black satin cushions, and only Dave would ever be able to take her down. In his hands she seemed to weigh far less than the factory-specified twelve pounds of American steel. To anyone else, Lucille was heavier than the super dense mass at the core of a neutron star.

It bothered him only slightly that he seemed to be able to hear her whining to him about being abandoned. Stupid enchanted hammer was as bad as his ex-wife.

Thoughts of Annie were enough to wilt him slightly, forcing Dave to refocus on the princess. A few moments of concentrated effort and she started moaning all over again, causing him to harden, and a happy, mindless grin reappeared on his face.

‘Sprung,’ he giggled again. ‘Totally sprung.’

This end of the world shit had all turned out so well. For him, at least.

Dave had rolled into Vegas, quietly, modestly, around chow time yesterday, a couple of hours after their flight to 51, or Nellis, or whatever the fuck they called it, had been forced down by the dragons. . .

Well, okay, back it up again, he conceded, while enjoying the vision of Jessica Simpson backing it up toward the camera, and while Princess – er, Mulan? – backed it up toward Dave. Only he’d said they were flying to Area 51. Captain Heath and Ashbury and that puckered ass Compton just called it ‘the base’. (Dead giveaway in Dave’s opinion. Had to be a cover for something X-Filey with a name like that.) And no dragons – or Drakon, as Urgon, the daemon in his head, reminded him – had come anywhere near their slow-moving transport plane on the uncomfortable haul up from New Orleans. It was just that every flight all over the damned country was grounded now because a bunch of big-ass fire-breathing lizards had dropped out of the sky on top of half a dozen planes, some big, some small and one of them Air Force fucking Two, no less.

That particular dragon hadn’t flame-grilled old Joe Biden. He’d been waiting to pick up his ride at the other end. But, long story short, millions of angry, frightened travellers were stuck wherever Homeland Security and their freaked-out air traffic controllers had ordered the planes to put down.

Hence the cheap hotel room. Las Vegas was full, according to Compton.

Everywhere was full.

Including, for once, Dave Hooper. He tossed the remains of the burrito aside and, as AC/DC gave way to Motörhead (‘Fuck yeah!’), Dave Hooper turned his full attention back to Princess Mulan or Pocahontas or whatever her name was.

‘Holy shit!’ another voice cried out. ‘What time is it?’

Dave ploughed on with just a bit too much enthusiasm, collapsing the bed frame. Wrapping his arms around the Saudi princess as they rolled out of bed in a hurricane of sheets and comforters, he found he could keep the beat going while getting to his feet.

‘Damn,’ he said happily, taking in yet another broken bed.

The voice was female, light, corn-fed. A blonde and breezy American voice. Midwestern charming despite the discernible edge of panic. The sort of voice Dave Hooper was familiar with from an unknowable number of titty bars. The anonymously pretty blonde girl emerging from beneath the rumpled sheets of Dave’s ginormous bed could easily have been asking him if he wanted ‘more Buffalo wings with the next jug, honey’. But instead she was cursing in a very focused and unfriendly fashion, putting up her little fists and punching him on the shoulder while the princess ignored them both, continuing to grind her ass back into him.

‘You promised me. You promised that you’d give me an exclusive this morning. A live fucking cross. And I promised New York, Dave. Ipromisedthem.’

But Dave was laughing, Mulan was moaning, and Motörhead were not much interested in any live cross. He flipped over Mulan and started walking back to the bar and the snoring barmaid, carrying the princess in front of him. She laughed and gasped something in Arabic that Dave didn’t understand, but that washawtif you asked him.Hawtenough to make him want another beer and perhaps more if the full-time bartender was willing.

‘Darlin’,’ he said, ‘I dunno why our two cultures can’t get on like this all the time.’

But Foxy – Dave had insisted on calling her ‘Foxy’ all night because she said she worked for Fox News – was not to be put off. She would be reporting, and America would be deciding, and there was no way known she was letting any reprobate fucking superhero ruin this chance for her.

‘Come on, Dave! Hurry up.’

Dave just grinned at her as he woke up the lady bartender to ask for a beer. She smiled slowly and happily when she saw him.

He got his beer, winked, and turned around to head back to the bedroom, ignoring the shattered dining room table behind him. It lay under piles of sweet, sweet swag that had started showing up from folks wanting Dave to say a few nice things about their fine products.

‘Can’t hurry the superhero, darlin’,’ he said, still ploughing into the princess, her legs locked around his back while her long black hair thrashed back and forth. ‘It wasn’t just my ass kickin’ skills got a power up in N’Orleans. They call me Captain Stamina now.’

He favoured Foxy with an exaggerated wink before making his point by ever so slightly hyper-accelerating while he held onto Mulan. Two seconds of Captain Stamina going at it like the Flash was enough to send Her Royal Hotness over the edge. Quite literally. When Dave let go on his final thrust she flew off him for a soft landing on the ruins of their bed, shrieking and laughing.

‘Great, you’re done. Think you can you get your pants on now, Captain?’ said Foxy. More of an order than a question.

‘Oh baby.’ He chugged his beer while admiring her. There was something about frustrated, angry blondes that really excited him. ‘You really aren’t a morning person are you?

‘No, damn it, I am a morning news producer. Now get your pants on, mister, you have a live cross to get to.’

‘Can’t I even have a shower?’ he asked, pointing down at himself. ‘A bit messy here. We could shower together. You could make sure I was scrubbed ’til my belly button shined.’

She marched through the ruins of the bedroom, past the shattered bed and ducked into a white tiled bathroom, also one of two in the enormous suite, this one still in usable condition. The water ran for a bit as Dave stood there pondering his situation, sipping the bottom half of his beer. When she emerged, she threw a wet towel across the room at him. He accelerated just a notch to catch it with his still erect penis, a feat he could not have managed even in his high school days.

‘Ta-da!’ he shouted until the icy cold moisture sank in. ‘Wooo! Not fair! Come on, have that shower.’

‘It’s not smell-o-vision, Dave. No one’s going to know. They just want to see your pretty face and hear about how you kicked monster butt. Especially after last night. People need a good news story. And this week, you’re it.’

Dave scrubbed and massaged himself with the wet towel in one hand while making sure every last drop of beer was drained from the bottle. He set the empty down with some care and patted the princess on the ass as he passed her by. She panted something in her native language which he took to be contented congratulations. He was inclined to just stand there in all of his naked awesome – and damn if he wasn’t all kinds of awesome these days – enjoying his beer and checking out his reflection in the full-length mirror at the end of the room. There wasn’t an ounce of fat anywhere on him. A description of a young Schwarzenegger came back to him from somewhere. Like a ton of walnuts stuffed in a brown condom. Or something.

‘Fuck yeah,’ he grinned, narrowing his eyes just a little, and totally believing that his hairline, which had been creeping backward ever since he got married, was now beginning to inch forward in the right direction, chasing the grey away with it.

‘Do you think my balls got bigger during the night?’ he asked. ‘What do you think, Princess? I think they got bigger.’

Mulan merely mumbled into the mattress, sated and falling toward sleep.

But he didn’t linger. Or not for long anyway. He had the excuse of a long walk toward the bathroom to enjoy the arresting vision of his ripped and naked body – was it possible his dick was getting bigger? – but he didn’t want to piss off Foxy too much. He was fast recovering from his last orgasm and his thoughts were turning naturally toward where he might find his next one. And, to be honest, he did recall promising to do this cross thing for her. And then he’d done all those thingstoher. . .so, turnabout was fair play, he supposed.

Plus, he was still pissed at some of those first stories that’d come out blaming the explosion and the fire on the Longreach on ‘human error’. Like it was his fault, him being the safety boss of the rig and everything.

Yeah, he could easily imagine some floor-walking asshole at Baron’s Petrochemical in Houston briefing the press against him, just to give themselves some wriggle room.

‘Well,’ he imagined them saying, ‘Hooper has always been a terrible fuck-up. We have files, detailed files. . .’

Yeah, fuck them, Dave thought.

Motörhead abruptly cut off, giving way to a rapid succession of infomercials, cartoons and talking heads until Foxy found what she was looking for – the vapid twitterings of some haircut and that chick fromSurvivor, the one where they dumped them in outback Australia.Fox and Friends,according to the scrolling news ticker. Yeah, now he remembered. He’d promised to give his first ever interview to those assholes, just because lil ol’ Foxy here was a damn sight hotter than the old scrote who’d fronted him at the craps tables last night and said he was fromThe New York Timesand most interested in recording an interview with ‘Mr Hooper. For posterity’.

Dave had never been one for watching the news, unless it was sports. His ex-wife, on the other hand, was always obsessing about some bullshit story that meant nothing to anyone, but that was why she loved MSNBC. Annie’d go apeshit if he was inThe New York Times. And a whole different kind of apeshit if he turned up on Fox.

He chose Fox, because a sexy producer plus pissed off ex-wife equalled all sorts of epic win.

He couldn’t tell what the Haircut andSurvivorhottie were talking about because Foxy was already yelling that they were late, they were late, they were very fucking late, to which Dave responded that her bosses looked cool with it. He waved one hand at the screen while climbing into the jeans he’d discarded just inside the door last night.