Dark Renaissance – Introduction

She sped through the dank alleyways towards her destination. Her body flickering like a neon light going bad as it constantly shifted location along her route. The clear skies showed her the single moon in it’s waning crescent. That silent sentinel seem to frown down on the city, giving each shadow an ominous sense of waiting. She sped towards Zaherenholt Prison. The massive ziggurat was built on a square mile of land on the edge of Brianburgh’s Industrial district. The soot from the coal-fired furnaces and electric plants showered the downwind area with black, destroying color and rendering everything a shadowy dark.

The slim woman blinked from the corner of the abandoned textile mill, across the half mile of open ground around the ‘ZP’ as it was called. The multiple fences that were intended to impede escapes didn’t stop her in the slightest. A slight popping sound and she would disappear, and reappear beyond the chain-link barrier. She accomplished this four times, then scrambled the last forty feet, snugging tight against the concrete base. Speed was of the essence. Each teleportation had tripped alarms from the seismic sensors in the ground between fences. She pulled the backpack off, and dumped the contents on the ground. She picked up six devices, and teleported again, praying that the map she’d studied was accurate.

The black-clad woman appeared inside the ‘ZP’ with a faint pop. The guards at this base level were robotic, and fell easily to her electric blasts. She placed a charge, then teleported in and up, more confident now of the map’s accuracy. She reappeared a floor up and in. Placing a charge then te;eporting up and in once more, to place the last of the first string. Horns and sirens blared. Safety walls dropped sealing each corridor to itself, containing any potential riot. She ignored them, placing another charge at the opposite end of the corridor. Teleporting down and out, placing a charge each time, she stayed just ahead of the guards until she appeared outside the ‘ZP’ once more.

Here, there was no place to avoid being seen. The guards spotted her, and charged, intending on overpowering her before she could teleport away. Yellowjakket triggered the charges. The bottom ones blew first, followed upwards by the interior charges, setting a resonance in the structure. The rumbling increased as each charge detonated, setting the walls to shaking. The guards slowed the advance, staring at the rumbling building behind the girl. The young woman smiled, then teleported as the walls cracked, then slid down with a roar of shattering stone and steel. Screams issued from inside the building as children from eight to eighteen scrambled for freedom through the breach.

The girl reappeared back at her original spot, taking a moment to watch the prisoners scramble free. There was a faint crunch behind her. She spun, ready for an attack. “You are always where you’re not wanted, girl. Time for you to die.” She tried to teleport, and failed. The man chuckled at her surprise. “Please, I’ve seen that trick before. I came prepared.” He stepped forward, his hand like a striking snake. She tried to dodge, stepping aside and closing, Her hand crackling with power. The man smirked as he mouthed a quick spell, snuffing the building power. His huge paw of a hand engulfed her arm.

She screamed as a hard yank popped the shoulder out of joint. The man smiled, twisting the arm, and tearing another scream from her throat. “You should have never come, Yellowjakket”, he growled over the blaring sirens. He looked up from the struggling woman to the flood of prisoners escaping. “Looks like I’ll be getting a bonus for recapturing this lot, don’t you think?” He jerked on her arm once more, then grabbed her throat, lifting her off the ground. The muscles on his arm bulged as he squeezed. The girl beat at his arm for a moment, then a wet snap caused her to jerk, and hang limp. The man threw the corpse to the side, and started after the escaped prisoners. He plucked at small device off his belt, and held it up.

“This is Montrose, She’s take-”, he started to speak, then a detonation blew him face down as shards of bone pierced his back, and gobs of flesh and blood rained down. He awoke moments later, confused by the blast. It too a moment to orient himself. A squawking noise resolved itself to a voice emanating from the mic on the ground near him. “Montrose! Montrose! Dammit you git, Report! Montrose!” Hamish Montrose pushed his bulk slowly off the ground. A mumbled spell thrust the chips of bone from his body, allowing healing to begin. He looked down at the blood-spattered mic, then bent to pick it up. He shook the blood off, then clicked it.

“Shut it, this is Montrose. Someone dropped a bomb here. Girl’s gone.” “Bloody hell! How she get away? Your incompetence has caused this debacle! When Control hears of this..” “They’ll what!”, he snarled at the mic. “Save your bum from the Processors? Don’t make me laugh.” She didn’t get away. She’s dead. As for the prisoners, we can catch them. They’re all chipped. Get the list and set the Finders loose. The game’s just starting.” He clicked the mic off, then shook himself, and strode towards the blasted wall to cut off any more escaping children.

Dark Renaissance – Prolog

Here it is.  The prolog for the story.  It’s short and I hope you enjoy the buildup .  Please comment and critique to your heart’s content.  I only get better when I learn where my weaknesses and strengths are.

 

Thirty years ago, humanity opened its full potential. Quantum physics had delved deep into the why and where of things, finding in truth that all things are connected in one way or another at the sub-atomic level. Spooky action at a distance indeed, as man found that fiction and science, myth and magic, all had a similar origin in the lowest levels of creation. When it was discovered that with practice, or proper manipulation of genetics, abilities and powers stepped from fantasy to reality. Future, past, all of time, became another tool to manipulate. This kind of ability and power was first jealously guarded by those in power, hoping to hoard it for themselves.

For the first years of advancement, this was true, and a shadow war of sorts developed between those who had the power, and those who discovered that power, and wanted it for themselves. This war created a new world by destroying the base of the old. History looped and twisted, changing with every experiment in time, until all realized that the loops simply fed into one another and created the amalgam that had loosed the power on the world entire. What no one had thought to realize was, that each time someone with power shifted time, they also shifted potential by exposing others in the past to the theories and abilities of the future. This exposure created that opportunity for the power, and abilities to grow outside the controls those in power had hoped to strengthen. In essence, they chased the horse out of the barn before they closed it.

This created the new world. One that constantly shifted with each trip back in time, until time itself provided the final answer by a feedback loop that stopped any rearward development. The world shifted back beyond humanity to find it’s balance, only to find man had been there already. The genie was truly out of the bottle, and what had been a world of man, became a world of powers, aspects, and man.

The heroic age had been born anew. Heroes in capes wielding mysterious and terrible powers. Puissant mages, vile demons, gods, aliens, and men who stepped beyond humanity. In this new world, evil still resided, in more grandiose, and more subtle forms. Tyrannies grew from the ashes. The world had been changed, continents shifted, countries destroyed and rebuilt anew.

North America was split by a body of water where the Great Plains previously existed. The south was drowned. Central America ceased to exist excepting numerous small islands dotting the space between North and South America. The United States was reduced to a shadow of itself. What remained of it was situated east of the Ohio-Mississippi river basin. Canada was split in thrice. The West the South, and the Northeast. Europe was split by the growth of the Mediterranean Sea, cutting Africa by drowning the Arabian peninsula. Despite every change, man still remembered what had been, and wanted to return.

The Deep End – Part 12

Carny, what the heck is that thing?”

Carny looked down at the small rectangles, then back at dean with a guiless, innocent look that Dean knew well.

He threw up his hands. “Sorry Carny, no. No speakers in here, what do you want to do, tell someone they’re being watched?”

Carny grinned, and Dean smiled to himself. Give Carny attention, fall for his lead, and he’ll tell you anything and everything.

More than that, brother. These are microwave emitters. The kind the military uses to safeguard sensitive places like, oh say, an armory.”

Dean straightened in surprise. “Microwave emitters?”

Carny nodded. “That’s right. These little beauts emit microwaves that make the skin feel like it’s burning. Works on magickal critters too. A quick zap and they’re beelining for the hills, eh.” Carny gave an evil-sounding chuckle. “Nothin’s sticking around in here when you trigger ‘em.” Carny frowned. “Well, not unless they got a reflective suit. Special ceramic fiber stuff. Hard to get.”

Please tell me these things aren’t illegal, Adair.”

Dean gazed pleadingly at Adair, who’d been listening to Carny and Dean’s talk.

I don’t know that they’re illegal, and I don’t know they’re not,” Adair replied with a vague shrug.

You’re not filling me with the warm fuzzies, Adair. If those things are illegal, I can lose my license” Dean announced worriedly.

Brother, you’re telling me you forgot how we operated? We weren’t illegal, just para-legal.”

Dean nodded reluctantly. He remembered that sometimes to catch the bail jumper, they had to resort to a few ‘gray area’ dodges, and that had left him feeling uncomfortable. It got the job done, and he could rationalize it with the guy being in jail rather than out on the streets, but some of the ‘bad guys’ weren’t bad. They’d been desperate, but not bad.

Dean looked at the cousins. “How about instead of here, we use this on their place. If we can, we do their car too.”

The cousins turned to stare at each other, and identical wolfish grins spread across their faces.

I like that idea, we should have thought of that first.”

Comes from thinking too much about defense rather than offense, Carny.”

Damn straight.”

Adair turned to Dean. “Know where these hosers live?”

Dean smiled. “I certainly do.”

* * *

The beat-up looking ivory and red pickup truck pulled into the ‘Peak Arms’ parking lot, then rolled to a stop next to an old, red Ford Marten. Three men dressed in identical work clothes exited the truck, and moved to the bed, where they gathered up a large case, a ladder, and some electrical tools.

This looks like a real rat hole, bro. These guys don’t believe in living the high life do they?”

Staying under the radar is better for them. Having it known you’re an active criminal makes things dangerous. After all, we’re here because we’re just thinking they’re involved. Just think of the crowd if they were public.”

True that.” Carny lifted out a tool belt, and settled it around his waist while Adair hauled out a large toolbox that contained the gear they expected to use in setting the bugs. The three men then walked through to the front door.

Adair sat down on the backless bench on the main floor while Dean and Carny went up the stairs to room 3A. Carny pulled out a leather case from his pocket and kneeled in front of the door. Ten seconds later the lock clicked open. Carny held his hand out in front of Dean.

Magick, bro. We gotta check for Magick alarms.”

How are you going to do that, Carney? I’m not a user, and I don’t know anyone who is available on short notice like this.”

No problem bro, Adair’ll be up in a hot minute with a cure-all for what’s holdin’ us up.”

Carney had just finished speaking when his cellphone beeped at him, if the opening chords of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s old song ‘Takin’ care of business’ could be called a beep. Carney grabbed the phone and muted it before flipping it open.

Yeah bro, what up? Unlocked and ready for a cursory sweep, soon as we get the door tested for spells or curses.” He listened intently, a frown forming on his lips and brow furrowing.

You do it! Last time I did a casting like that I had a migraine for three days.” Dean listened and remained quiet. Carney had some small Magick he could do, but it always cost him, and that was the reason he went aircraft maintenance rather than casting corps. He sighed quietly then set about making a quick circle in chalk from the small kit he carried. A quick lopsided circle with four ordinal sigils for eyes, ears, the mind, and the spirit.

The chanting he did very quietly, no telling who might poke their head out if he did it too loudly. Ten seconds after starting a pair of shimmering walls faded into visibility. The outside of the pair had a streaked rigidity to it. The near audible ‘hum’ from it which raised goosebumps on the backs of his hands made it clear to Dean this was the alarm. The hum meant power was being fed into the wall, which meant the caster was plugged in and would feel the spell come down if it was triggered.

The inner wall was even more direct. Fire. Enough fire to likely incinerate the contents of the room and the intruder that tripped the trap. Dean looked over his shoulder at Carny, who was staring at the two walls.

Why does everything with you always find a way to be ‘worst case’, bro?” He opened his mouth to say something, then shut it abruptly. “This has to be anchored to the door, right? Someone like the super comes up and knocks, she has to avoid tripping it somehow, otherwise it’d have been set off first day in place.”

Dean nodded. “I think you’re right, Carny. Something has to allow for the spell to avoid being set off by accident. Otherwise the dead bodies would bring all sorts of unhappy mounties down on their heads.”

So what is it, bro? What safety you think it is?” The burly man continued to stare at the door. “I’m guessing hinges.”

You got a reason for hinges, Carny?”

Bro! It’s obvious!” Carny started winding up his enthusiasm and his voice.

Dean hurriedly made shushing motions as Carny’s voice started to rise. Both men looked around quickly to see if they’d drawn any attention. When neither man saw any movement in the doorways, they turned back to the warded door.

It could be the lock, Carny. You have to unlock the door to get in. A spell on the key would be just as good as sounding out a dispell, better even because no one would hear it.”

Carny’s face fell in disappointment as Dean explained. “Dammit, I was sure it’d be the hinges.”

It still could be. The hinges could be the trigger if the lock is opened without the key.”

Carny nodded curtly and pulled a coil of silver wire from a pouch on his toolbelt. Dean turned his attention back to the door and returned to chanting quietly. The door faded to a semi-transparency that allowed both Dean and Carny to observe where the two spells were anchored. Both went to the lock and the alarm went to both lock and hinges. Carny’s smile grew back when he saw the second anchor.

Knew it’d be the hinges.”

Dean shook his head slowly as he kept up the whispered chant. Carny measured by eye the distance from the middle hinge to the lock, then cut a length of wire. The two ends had each a six centimeter section bent ninety degrees, with Carny carefully peeling two thin pieces of duct tape and sticking them on the back of his hand.

He pushed the left prong slowly and carefully into the lock then taped it in place making certain not to cover the cylinder of the lock. He glanced over at Dean, then nodded.

Okay, ready for the tricky part?”lol

Dean took a few deep breaths and let the transparency spell drop. He started doing a yoga exercise to focus his concentration and got a slap from Carny.

Get yore ass in gear, bro. We don’t have time to wait for you to be centered up. We got to be in, now like.”

Dean got out his pick kit and went to work on the lock. Five seconds later he was rewarded with a soft ‘clunk’ as the cylinder rotated open. The hum from the door escalated as Dean turned the knob. Carny turned the wire so the extension pointed up and slid it in the crack along the jamb as Dean opened the door a centimeter. He let the wire rotate back to horizontal and the hum dropped away to almost quiet.

I hate that part.”

You and me both, bro. Let’s get in now like.”

The two men picked up their duffles and toolkit, then enter and closed the door behind them quietly. In the next few moments Dean quickly scanned the room, and found no wards in the room and no alarms. A quick nod to Carny and the big man opened his kit and began setting up the bugs. One micro-cam up in the corner of the room closest to the door with a microphone, another microphone under the table near the small, dingy-yellow kitchen, and a third on the ceiling above the old hanging light in the small hall that held a bathroom between the two bedrooms.

It took Carny all of five minutes to finish the setup. He looked around the small living room. The main door opened into it from the middle of the north wall, and west was the bathroom through the square archway where the light hung. The kitchen archway was just north of the bedroom and was barely wide enough for one person to enter and cook.

How long we been here?”

Four minutes. Get a move on, bro.” Adair’s whisper crackled sharply in the quiet. Carny cursed and hurriedly lowered the volume.

Give us a heads up, bro, not a heart attack” Carny mumbled as he finished packing, then he and Dean exited through the door. Dean pulled it shut and then pulled Carney’s bypass. The ward shivered, then settled back to quiescence. As the two men got to the front door, a beat up looking old utility vehicle painted with grey primer pulled into the small parking lot, and settled in the empty spot next to Adair’s pickup.

The Carre brothers stepped out of the SUV then spoke quietly in French as they walked together towards Dean and Carny. Dean ducked his head and hefted the bag he was carrying. Carny just shrugged and turned his head towards Dean.

Hey Joe, how about we got get a burger? I’m hungry.”

Dean stumbled mentally, then caught on. “Sounds good to me, but after the next job, we’re running late already.”

Hurry it up, bro.”

Yeah, I’m on it.”

The Carres walked by them, still muttering quietly in French. Dean caught a few swear words that he’d heard in the RCAF. Something’s got them a little riled up. Maybe we can find out. He walked with Carny over to Adair.

Adair, can you turn on the bugs? They’re upset about something, and maybe we can get useful information if they’re talking about it.”

Adair gave Dean a wolfish smile.

You got it my man. One fly on the wall coming right up.”

Adair opened his kit and drew out a box with dials and switches. He tapped ‘A’ then ran the dial back and forth until a voice crackled over the speaker.

It’s funking Quebecois, not even real French” Adair grumbled. “I might be able to figure out what they’re saying if they didn’t speak so funking fast.”

He focused on the conversation, which was angry and rapid fire. No way I can follow it, I hope Adair can get something. The brothers argued vehemently for another few minutes, then a loud bang echoed over the comm and the brothers went silent.

Door. They’re coming out. Get in now! We gotta be gone or they’ll know we’re after them.”

Dean jumped in the pickup bed and lay flat while Carny hurriedly entered the cab. Adair backed the truck up out of the lot onto Tilton Street, then backed up behind a fence that bordered the edge of the lot. He killed the engine as Carny hopped back out of the pickup and went to the corner and took a quick peek back towards the apartments. Adair opened the small rear window, then turned to watch Carney.

I got a name, Dandelion. Sounds like a restaurant to me. Probably downtown.”

Could be a building, Adair. We got a few with named ones around. Up in Dayning especially.”

Carny interrupted them as he put a meaty hand on the door, and yanked it open.

Let’s follow them. Upset as they sounded, what you want to bet it’s about the missing girls?”

Adair didn’t hesitate. He shifted the transmission to ‘Drive’ and rolled recklessly around the corner back into the parking lot just as the brothers vehicle exited onto Grover.

Adair paused a moment to let a few vehicles past, then pulled in to traffic, three cars back of the Carre brothers.

See ‘em up there, Carny? I’m gonna watch us and you watch them.”

I got ‘em, piece o’ crap flat black junker, right?”

That’s the one, bro.”

Good, junker sticks out like a cat in a dog pound. Gonna be easy.”

Dean lay in the back and listened to the brothers. Both of them, but Adair especially, were long-time pros at this kind of surveillance. Here’s hoping they’re stupid and lead us to the girls.

* * * * * * *

Dean lay back and closed his eyes. I can sleep now, I know I’ll feel the truck slow down when we get to wherever we’re going. It seemed like mere moments that he shut his eyes, and the truck started slowing down. He didn’t sit up right, that might draw attention. He angled his head back to look up at the open window on the back of the cab. He smelled salt and dead fish. Horns and seagulls mixed together as the truck slowed further.

Halifax dock, whatta ya bet ‘Dandelion’ is a ship name, bro?”

No bet since we’re at the West Dock, bro. That’s cheatin’.”

They spot us, Adair?”

There was a soft crash of metal, then a rattling sound of chain. Motors provided a pulsing background to the sounds of the docks.

No, but this ain’t over yet. Traffic’s thinner here and if they pull off, we’ll have to follow them, there’s not another turn for about three klicks…ah hell, there they go…wanna hope they’re real stupid Carny, otherwise this gets confrontational and none of us is a combat caster.”

Bullets do for them just as well.”

I sure as hell don’t want to find out that you’re wrong, Carny” Dean added.

What bro said” Adair replied. “He could step out of that car fully juiced and then what do we do?”

Carny mumbled something under his breath, then leaned back, bumping the glass with his head.

Get ready bro. This surveil’s hosed.”

Dean’s stomach clenched in a knot. He recognized the change in Carny’s voice. Instead of a hint of amusement, he’d gone flat. A sure sign that he was ready to go. He’d seen Carny get flat a few times in the RCAF, and once when he’d worked with Adair. Both times were when their plans got hosed and it became a potential firefight.

Carny…” Dean didn’t finish what he was going to say as the pickup suddenly accelerated and lurched hard left. The tires broke free of the crumbly asphalt and squealed as they left patches on hard surface. Adair was swearing loudly as Carny cut loose with an angry roar and popped the passenger door open.

He’s juiced! Keep the truck going! I’m getting out here!”

Carny pushed out of the cab and didn’t try to land on his feet. He hit feet first, and dropped like a paratrooper, tucking arms and legs in and rolled with the impact. He did two hard flips and landed in some soft sand. Dean lost track of him as his attention was grabbed by a blast of heat that singed his hair. He yelled in surprise and pain, dropping flat in the truck bed as Adair reversed the skid and dodged another blast of heat.

Throwing fire. Combat basic. Everyone’s scared of being burned alive.

This be your stop, Dean-o! Last shot got the radiator! I’m gonna feed him the grill! Jump for it!”

Adair screamed and straightened the truck out. Dean leapt right, and tried to imitate Carny, landing feet down then letting momentum carry him onto his hip, arms against his body and roll. Fighting the momentum is how to break bones during a drop. He hit a loose patch and fell backwards as he overcompensated.

The pavement tore his clothes and gouged his skin as he tumbled. After a few seconds he rolled off the pavement onto soft sand. That was awful. Hunh, nothing broken. I got off lucky. Back sure hurts, probably road rash.

Dean glanced up just in time to see the pickup take a fire burst in front of the passenger side door, which burst and melted the front tire. The pickup slewed then rolled once, twice, thrice before coming to a twisted metal heap just off the road. It smoked momentarily then the vaporized gasoline exploded.

Oh gods, Adair!

The Deep End – part 7

He pulled up in front of his office. A yellow furniture van sat in front of his office. The back end was open, with boxes and a few large crates waiting on the ramp to be rolled into his office. Dean unlocked the door and pushed both glass doors wide. A couple rocks held the doors for the movers to bring the new furniture in.

As the movers shifted items into the proper rooms, Dean looked over the paper sheets he’d gotten. The two girls were close to the same age, and only a grade apart from Maren. Both were last seen by friends talking on a cellphone to someone, supposedly their new boyfriend.

That information fits with my case. It’s unusually close to what I’ve got as information. He read further through the first report. The girl’s car had been recovered, wiped down with bleach.

Why not just chop it and have it disappear? that’s what I’d have done. Maybe they can’t? What would stop them from just taking the car to a chop shop? Oh! If they didn’t have a contact. So this is a different group from established ones maybe? Or maybe just a single person is doing the work? That’d explain the car being abandoned. Maybe he parks another car out there to transfer to?

He placed the papers on the receptionists desk, then went to the first crate, and started pulling it open. He wanted to get everything set up and then move a cot into his office so he could sleep in it when he stayed too late.

The receptionist’s office now had it’s own set of upright 4-drawer files, a laptop and printer, an in-house hot spot, and a paid link into police open case files that were allowed to be perused. He sat down in the new swivel chair and powered up the all-in-one screen with a quick triple tap on the face. The machine lit up, with a welcoming display of it’s operating system. A few more taps set up the automatic link to the database, and a few more got links to public information such as wanted posters, lost and found, and missing pets, and missing persons.

All this still works. It’s amazing how much survived all that chaos years ago. We lost half our population in The Change, and yet stuff like the internet keeps on humming. We still have trade across the ocean, though the west is locked up until the government can figure out how to get a safe passage there and back.

He looked up the missing persons, to make certain Maren was on the list (she was) and checked on the car the officer said that had been found (it was there, with detailed information about the condition). he checked it once more against the other two vehicles, and found it similar enough to warrant him putting in a comment showing his belief of a link between the three.

He wrote up notes, then copied them off to the printer, and stuck them in a folder. Electronic records are great, but nothing in his mind makes up for something solid, like a paper copy. It was easier to carry and reference. While they were vulnerable, no one could hack paper for it’s information, like a person could hack a cellphone, or an internet-linked computer. Dean hummed to himself as he finished up, and put the first folder in the new file cabinet.

This sure beats working out of my car, or my house.

Dean went back to his house, retrieving his hunting cot, a pair of blankets, and his pump shotgun. He didn’t own a pistol, and the cost and time to get a license was not something he wanted. Shotguns were legal to own, and could be used on a person’s place of business, or their home, as defense. The Change had changed laws too. With so many dangerous things around, people often went armed. After getting the cot set up, Dean pulled the file again from the cabinet, and sat down at the receptionist desk to look through it once more.

He read through the girls information twice, doing his best to commit it to memory. He dozed off in the middle of reading. The next morning, Dean went back out to the Kwik-Way, hoping to catch Jeff in. Who he found was someone else at the counter, Vlad. The big man straightened up as he spotted Dean. “Hey, anything I can getcha?”

Dean nodded, and said pleasantly, “Good Morning, and yeah, got any vanilla flavored coffee for sale? I’d like a half-pound if you’ve got any.”

Vlad nodded, saying, “Last rack back there. Coffee’s on the bottom. If there’s any, that’s where it’ll be.” Vlad watched Dean until he disappeared behind the row, then put his ear plugs in, and began cleaning behind the counter. Dean stood up, and saw Vlad busying himself with a mop bobbing his head to whatever he was listening to.

I wonder if he’s really involved. He doesn’t seem like a kidnapper. Luka Magnotta didn’t look like a cannibal, but there you are. He strode to the counter, then rapped on the surface to get Vlad’s attention.

The young man pulled his ear buds out and glanced at Dean’s hands. “No luck, eh? Sorry, I don’t know if we’ll be getting any in. Our next delivery’s in two days. Come back then and check it out. The guy usually drops by just before seven in the a.m.”

“So, two days from now? How does that help me now?” Dean countered.

“Uh, well, we have vanilla latte available at the coffee station. You can come by here for a caffeine fix if you need one.” Vlad seemed flustered, but he did try to find an answer, which surprised Dean. Most people don’t think of answers that way, and just tell folks to wait. He’s a quick thinker. I think I’ll leave it alone and come back this evening to talk to Jeff.

Dean thanked him for the suggestion, and got himself a large coffee. Once he was back to the office, he dumped the coffee on the grass, and took the empty cup into his office to toss in the recycle can in the office. He puttered around, re-reading the file again, and when six p.m. finally rolled around, he drove back to the Kwik-Way.

He parked behind Madge’s Yarn Store, and walked to the edge of the large window. Jeff was behind the counter. Here’s hoping I can find something.

Jeff’s face soured when he saw Dean. He said gruffly, “You talked to Vlad?”

Dean shook his head. “No, I wanted to talk to you. About Vlad actually. You said he is a pretty conscientious worker. Were there any times he called in sick suddenly or didn’t show up for any reason?”

Jeff glowered at Dean. “I don’t have to answer nothing. You want to talk to Vlad.”

“I want to talk to you. Vlad may be involved. If he is, talking to him would just let him know I’m looking into things. If he puts that together, he’s gone, and so is my chance at finding the girl.” Dean took a step towards the counter. “You remember why I came here the first time? I’m looking for a girl. She’s an official missing person now. The most likely person to see her last was Vlad. Plus, two other girls in the area are missing. All the…,” Dean shut his mouth as two women entered the store.

Jeff went from irritated to friendly in the blink of an eye. “Welcome ladies, Is there anything I can help you find in your local Kwik-Way?”

The two girls whispered quickly, and one smiled shyly at Jeff. “Umm, is Vlad on later tonight? I was wondering if I could talk to him.”

“Well now. He’s not on tonight, but he’ll be in here every morning at five a.m. to work. If you’re up that early, there’s hardly a crowd until seven. You could catch him then, eh?”

The young woman nodded then walked back out of the store whispering and giggling with her friend as they walked off. Dean waited for them to walk out of the lot before turning on Jeff, who was clearly upset with Dean’s questioning. He also acted uncertain, as though that last talk with the girls had reminded him of something.

“Hey, Jeff. Earth to Jeff. I have three missing girls. Each one has nearly the same M.O. to their disappearance. Now, can you answer my question. It’ll be the last one I ask you.”

Jeff grunted, then palmed a hand down his face. “Fine. I’ll tell you just to get you out of here. He called in twice, once because he got a bug, the other because his car broke down.”

“Do you remember when those times were, off the top of your head?”

“I can do you one better, just to get you out of here.” He pulled up an archaic loose leaf notebook and dropped it on the counter. He opened to the beginning, moved to a tab labled ‘May’, and opened the book. A few pages later he said, “Here, May fourteenth. I covered for him.” It took a minute more to find the second time, which was in September, on the twenty-second.”

“Once moment.” Dean pulled out his cellphone, then linked to the missing persons site, and pulled up the first girl. Her missing date was May sixteenth. The second girl was listed as missing on the twenty-fifth.

“The girls are right in that time window. Take a look.” He handed his cell to Jeff, who took it, and as he looked at the two files, a haunted look came to his eyes. He grumbled and handed the ‘phone back to Dean.

“Doesn’t mean nothing. It could be coincidence.”

“What about four days ago? He call in not able to show for work?”

Jeff’s eyes grew more haunted, and a little fearful. He took a breath and exhaled it slowly. “Yeah, he called in saying he’d be late that day. Something important came up and he’d be in around eleven that night.”

Dean nodded. This kid seems to be an amateur. You’d think he’d use a day off to pull the kidnappings. It all fits together too cleanly. It IS the simplest answer. I’ll get copies of the log, if he’ll let me, and send everything to the police after I follow this up. No use in telling them something until I’ve something more than just circumstance, because Jeff is right, it could be just a weird coincidence.

The Deep End – part 6

Dean sighed. It was a lot more information than he’d had before coming here. Now if he could find a way to get Vlad to talk to him, he might come out with a solid lead where Maren was. It’s sure a hella lot more than I started with.

“Thank you. That helps me more than you can know.”

“I’m glad that I could help you, young man. It makes up for some of the…difficulties…we’ve had today.” Madge smiled.

“I’ll be going now, ma’am. I have a convenience store clerk to talk to.”

Madge nodded. “Take care, young man. Best of luck on your hunt.”

Dean gave Madge a polite bow, then walked out of the store, and into the parking lot of the Kwik-Way.

How can I use this information to the best effect? If I confront Vlad with it, will he break, run, or fight? Based on his ‘friends’ that want their money, running is most likely. So that screws the confrontation idea. Maybe following him home? No, That wouldn’t get anything. What I need is to see the cameras here. That may get me more information before I attempt to link Vlad to anything to do with her disappearance.

Dean shot a bit more about his options and what might be going on. One thought was a kidnapping for ransom, but to his knowledge, there were no ransom demands, or contact for that matter. A second thought occurred. What if there were more than one in the area? If so, then there would be other missing persons reports. That wouldn’t find Maren, but it would set a pattern, and maybe he could break the pattern and find the people.

His rational shoulder-self said he was wasting time he could be using to find Maren, and the intuitve shoulder-self was saying that if there were more than just Maren, there could be more evidence to back up his idea. I really hope that I’m reading this right.

Dean decided to go to the precinct and see if there were other disappearances that might help with this case. I can miss Vlad this time. The guy to talk to is Jeff.

The precinct was just getting ready for shift change when Dean entered. The desk officer saw Dean, and waved him over.

Who are you here for, sir?” The officer gave him a level stare that, to Dean, was trying to get him to confess to something.

Good afternoon to you, officer, I was wondering if I could get a look at the public records for disappearances over the last six months?”

The officer rolled his eyes, then glared at Dean. “Oh god, another private in-ves-ti-ga-tor.” He straightened up, then leaned forward, resting his forearms on the top of the watch desk as he leaned towards Dean. “So what is it you’re looking for? Cat up a tree? Someone’s missing pooch? Or maybe looking for some poor slob who’s wife wants to screw him over inna divorce? Would that be right, Mr. Dick?”

Dean held up his hands. “Whoa, friend, I am not here to be the start of anything. What’s this all about?”

The desk officer snarled, then shoved an open book at Dean. “Sign in, and state your purpose.”

Dean signed the book, which recorded his handwriting, then annotated his written purpose to the Desk officer’s computer. the officer read the entry, and his eyebrows rose slightly.

“Hmm, you’ve been hired to find this girl? Not a divorce case?”

“Yes, officer. Maren Payamy. She disappeared and her mother turned in a missing person’s report a day ago.”

The officer tapped on his screen, then looked up as a slurred bellow caught everyone’s attention. “Excuse me a second. Looks like there’s something to take care of.”

Dean nodded, then stepped aside as two officers brought in a loudly screaming drunk. The Troykin’s clothes were in tatters as officers kept trying to hold him in front of the desk to check him in. The Troykin would lunge away, wanting to sit down, and the officers would struggle to hold him long enough to record finger and ocular prints. The screams were something Dean couldn’t make out. The Troykin was slurring his own language, which sounded like cats screaming at each other in baritone. The desk officer grabbed a flailing hand and pushed it down on the desk, into a mounted restraint. He pulled up a smartphone and placed each finger on the face for a second, and moved to the next one.

he finished the thumb when the Troykin finally finished flailing, realizing his arm was well and truly held. In all this he’d never lashed out once at the officers, controlling himself carefully despite his apparent drunkeness. He stood quietly as his left eye was copied, then meekly allowed the officers to remove the restraint, and set him down on a metal chair. the officers cuffed him to the chair, and Dean moved back to the desk.

He observed the Troykin for a moment, then turned back to the officer. “What was that about?”

The officer shrugged, then tapped on his screen. “I hope you find her. She’s the third one missing in that area over the last five months.”

“Whaaat? There’s more than one?”

The officer nodded. Two more. I can’t give you the details until you ask for ’em, but I can tell you they’re still missing.”

Dean quickly pounced on the officer’s words. “I formally request information on any other missing persons in the last six months in and around a kilometer from where my person of interest disappeared from.”

He pulled out his own pad and pencil from his back pocket. “The last place I have her seen was DelHomme and Warren.”

“Really? Ah, okay. I just got a report of a found vehicle registered to your Maren Payamy this morning. I’ll print out the location along with the other missing person information you’ve asked for.”

Dean waited as the officer sent the information to a paper printer. He plucked the sheets from under the desk and held them up. “Finished that formal request in writing yet?”

Dean grabbed a sheet of paper, and wrote out in a hurried scribble his request, then signed the bottom and dated it. The officer glanced it over then handed Dean the sheets.

“Good luck.”

“Thank you officer. Good luck with the rest of your day too.”

Dean walked back out to his Jeep, and got in. His cellphone beeped at him as he sat down. The furniture company was waiting to unload the furniture for the receptionist’s desk. He returned the text, saying he was on his way back, and tossed the cellphone in the passenger seat.

The Deep End – Chapter 4

The man, Jeff, as his name tag indicated, looked at Dean like he knew it was a dodge. “Listen, you looking for him because he stiffed you or something? I know him and he wouldn’t do stuff like that. He’s a good worker. Polite and conscientious. He’s never caused any trouble.”

Dean nodded then pulled out his investigator’s license, and showed it to the man. “I’m looking for a missing girl. This guy is described as the last one who might have seen her. Is there a name and address I can get from you so I can talk to him?”

Jeff’s attitude shifted. “A missing kid? How do I know this isn’t come kind of scam?”

Dean stared at the man. He understood that Jeff set a good deal of trust in this other young man, that he liked him, which made him wary of doing anything to cause his associate trouble. In books, it’s always easy for the hero to stumble across things that pushes them towards the climax. In the real world, that line is a lot wider grayer, and much more intensely personal. A person tends to see it as a personal situation rather than as a plot in a story. So you have to address those fears and anxieties, or all that happens is the person shuts up, unwilling to put themself, or others at risk.

“I know this sounds bad, and you’re right, it is. There’s a girl missing, and from her friends. He, whatever his name is, was the last one likely to see her. All I want to do is talk to him about when he saw her last, and if he saw anything that might help in finding her.”

“Vlad. His names, Vladimir, but he tells everyone to call him Vlad.”

Jeff leaned towards Dean, his features tightening.

“You swear to me all you’re going to do is talk to him?”

Dean nodded. “All I want is to find the girl. But, I can’t swear to you that’s all I’ll do. I wont lie about something like that. You like him, that’s obvious. you don’t want to see him in trouble. I get that. I don’t want to cause trouble. I just want to find who I’ve been asked to find.”

Dean’s statement seemed to have the man vacillating back and forth between a desire to help and fear of getting Vlad in trouble that he might not be part of.

“He works from six until close tonight. Come talk to him then.”

Dean nodded. “I appreciate that. Thank you.”

He left the store, and wandered across the street to window shop while he considered if he should stay or just return to the shop in five hours when Vlad was supposed to report in.

The building had a sign, “Coster’s Outdoor Supply” over the glass double doors. The silver of the brushed metal didn’t quite blend with the red brick of the storefront. The main window was a three meter wide by two meter tall pane of glass, that had a small stage set at its base, which showed off clothing, fishing, and hunting supplies.

I could use a few things for this winter. A couple trap lines would be a bit of extra cash for emergencies.

Dean glanced further in and spotted in the back corner, a security camera pointing back towards him.

If that was active the other night, it might have caught a picture of Maren. Thin chance, but better than no chance.

He walked through the door, the small bell anchored at the top of the doorway tinkling as the door bumped it into motion. A heavyset gentleman in brown pants, white shirt, and a bright neon orange vest came out of a doorway underneath the camera. He waddled gracefully past the tight rows of fishing rods and camping gear, ambling to Dean. He proffered his hand.

“Hello, I’m David, and welcome to Coster’s. Is there anything I can help you find today?”

Dean smiled and nodded. “As a matter of fact, there is. I’d be wondering if I could talk to you and your manager about looking at some security footage from the other night?”

“Ah, what? Security? Why?” His smile had faded to a tenuous twitch of the corners of his lips.

“Take me to your manager and I’ll explain why. Oh, wait a minute.” Dean pulled his wallet out, then opened it. He grabbed the gold colored investigator’s license out and handed it to David.

“I’m working a job I was hired to do. Who I’m trying to find is a regular over at the Kwik-Way. The camera behind you points out that way. It might have recorded something that could help me find this person.”

David nodded, jowls jiggling as he did. He turned, and led Dean back to a small closet-sized office. The door slid into the wall, while the manager, who, if possible, was more rotund, than David, sat at a table that went wall to wall with an all-in-one computer screen on the desk. The manager was using an ancient keyboard and a wireless mouse to work on the computer. He looked over at David, then at Dean.

“Customer with a complaint, David?”

David shook his head no, and handed the investigator’s license to the Manager. He looked at the license, then handed it back to David, who in turn handed it back to Dean.

“So what are you here for, Mr Investigator?” His smile didn’t reach his grey-blue eyes.

“I’d like to look at your security footage on your cameras that cover the street, and the one in the back.” He pointed in the direction of the indoor camera. “They may have recorded something that could help me find someone.”

The manager had a sly smile form on his lips. “I’d be glad to help, but a request like that does tie us up, what with inventory and billing. It’s going to cost you for the inconvenience.”

Dean grimaced, and dug in his pocket for his wallet. He pulled out one hundred twelve dollars, as that was his entire wallet. The two men glanced at the money, then the manager stepped aside as he held out his hand.

“The PC’s all yours for the day. I hope you find something useful.” They wandered off into the store while Dean maneuvered into the broom-closet office and sat down at the makeshift desk. he pulled the door shut, then took a moment to look the computer over.

The manager had apparently pulled up the camera folder for him when he’d been conversing with Dean. the folder was on the computer screen and it was a simple double click to open it. he spent the next two hours going through the four cameras, and managing to find two intriguing pieces of recording.

The first showed Vlad, and someone that Dean guess could be Maren from the time stamp on the video They got out of a car that matched Maren’s missing Volkswagen, and walked into the Kwik-Way. The second was vaguely ominous, as it showed Maren walking back out, then getting in her car, and driving off.

As she left, a car that had been sitting at the curb near the driveway of the convenience store, flipped on its lights as the Volkswagen made a right and drove off screen to the left. As it turned, a dark colored car flipped it’s lights on and pulled away from the curb right behind Maren’s car.

Dean got an uneasy feeling at the coincidence of the action, and decided to check if there were any other cameras across the street that might have caught a better view of the car and it’s license plate, or if he was really lucky, maybe the interior showing faces clear enough to take to the police department and look at mug books online.

Amongst the discarded food wrappers and open notebooks, he uncovered a plugin drive. Dean fitted in the universal slot, hesitated. He opened the door, and started to walk around the counter as David approached him.

“All done?”

Dean nooded. “Can I borrow that mini-drive on the table? I found some pieces that could help me out. Is there anything on it that needs to be saved?”

David chuckled. “Not a thing. I feel kind of bad about Mark doing that, so, at least from my view, you paid for the drive too. I mean they’re only like a couple bucks.”

“Thanks, I’ll copy stuff over and be out of your hair.”

Dean went back to the computer, and plugged the mini-drive in, and soon had his own copies. He pocketed the drive, then walked outside and back across the street. The weather bit through his clothes as the wind picked up, coming from the Northeast. The promise of rain was suddenly a storm bearing down on Halifax.

This is the one time I’d rather not have to work in a blizzard. This job looks like it’s going to be a lot of footwork, and a storm is the last thing I want to contend with.

He turned his collar up and sidled over to the Yarn shop and went inside. A woman with a blue smock holding a pair of scissors was busy chatting with a younger woman, who was dressed in blue jeans, a green sweater, and wearing a front-mounted baby pack. The child, dressed in a pink jacket, was sleeping as the two women chatted.

Dean waited patiently at the front of the store until the two women finished their chat and began walking to the register, which Dean happened to be standing by. The woman in the smock was older than he first thought. Her hair had been colored brunette, but it was the heavy makeup hiding the wrinkles that told her age.

The young mother was chatting about making a comforter in some bright colors for her daughter. The proprietor, or so Dean guessed, smiled widely and looked at the mother and child as she held up the colors that the mother had chosen, proclaiming them to be ideal for the baby. She rang up the purchase, which the woman paid for by passing her wallet over a sensor, which recorded her information and debited her purchase.

The woman turned to face Dean, her smile pleasant as she said, “Welcome stranger. What can I help you find?”

Tia

This story is short and was hard to write because it is so much an attempt by me to deal through words with a currently ongoing situation.  Be forwarned it’s emotional.

 

TIA

The monitor next to the blue sheeted hospital bed beeped quietly. It measured its occupant’s heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and every fifteen minutes blood pressure. The figure in the bed was stocky and round faced. The thin bed sheets outlined an equally stocky body that seemed shriveled and shrunken. A hand, yellowed with jaundice reached out and upward as the man shook his grey-maned head slowly back and forth while drool slid from the left side of his head to pool and soak into the sheets tucked around his formerly thick neck.

Beside the bed, a slightly younger man with a small bit of black in his silver hair reached out slowly to grasp the uplifted hand. His freckled fingers wrapped the pale mottled ones, holding them still as the withered figure in the bed futilely attempted to free his hand.

“Easy dad, I’m here.” The voice seemed to calm the man. He released a soft moaning sigh as his eyes wobbled behind the closed lids. “I’m here. I’m here.” Karl Thorson raised his head, and looked are the artificial cheery bare white room, then back to his father, who was in the final stages of dementia.

He’s being taken by inches in front of me, and I can’t help him at all. He’s not been dad for a year now. Mom’s a wreck, I’m sick of this whole thing. God, please let him die. He’s hurting so much…he’s

“He’s not hurting. He’s dreaming.” the words, spoken right next to his ear had him jumping up and spinning around to face the intruder. The man…woman after another glance, peered back up at him with a faint lopsided smile. Her hair was dyed a grey purple atop her round head and short rotund body encased in green hospital scrubs. Her name, ‘Tia’ was on the white card pinned to her left shirt pocket.

She toddled past Karl to peer at the old man. She clucked her tongue as she arranged the bedding and smoothed it out while the man groaned softly. She laid her hand on his forehead, and he calmed at once. His eyes continued their restless dance behind closed lids but there was a softer movement now.

“You’re the one taking care of him? Thank you. I know it’s rough like this, and I can’t thank you enough for all the kindness you and the other staff have shown him.” She waved her hand between them as if gently pushing away the praise, and chuckled softly.

“Yeah, I’m doing my best. I’m Tia, by the way. Everyone calls me that.” She turned and peered at the old man again. “He’s in the final stage. Two, maybe three days. Then the body will shut down.”

“How can you be so certain? The doctors said it could be weeks, even months before the body turns off. With dementia there’s no way to tell” Karl said firmly, his eyes sharpening with anger. “What’s your degree in?”

“I’ve seen a lot of patients like your dad. There’s a lot of small clues, or ‘tells’, just like in poker. The body always gives itself away in situations like this” Tia went on calmly. Her confident manner slowly dampened Karl’s budding irritation. “I learned that a while ago when I first started this job.”

Karl turned back towards his father, then slowly settled back onto the small rolling stool still next to the bed. Ms Tia didn’t move away from the bed, and continued to rest her hand on the old man’s head. Once Karl was seated, she removed her hand and took a step back. Karl nodded at her and turned back to his dad.

“This damned dementia is killing him, and killing us too. We keep hoping for one last good day to say goodbye, but it doesn’t work that way. He’s just going to…” Tia interrupted him.

“You’re saying good bye all the time. You know what’s happening, and you’re getting to understand and make peace with him and his passing.”

Karl spun on the chair and angrily faced Tia. “You’re telling me this is a fucking goodbye? Just what kind of new age crap are you peddling? Get out! Get out and stay away from my father!” Karl shouted as he stood up, hands balled in angry fists as he stared at the stocky woman. How dare she tell me this is a goodbye. It’s not even close! It’s a living death and it’s robbing any chance of dignity for my dad!

He strode towards the door. I’ll get someone to take her out of here! Fraking bitch!

“He’s not in pain. He can’t remember it. If you look at it from another angle, you’ve got a chance to deal with his passing. A car wreck just takes him. No last words, no time, no chance to say something or clear the air. He’s just gone.”

Karl thrust his hand out at Tia, then swept it towards his father.

“It’s a damn sight better than this! This is a living death! Where’s the dignity in dying this way!?”

“Well,” Tia said calmly. “How is being torn in pieces dignified? How is the body’s natural function of evacuating its bowels dignified. Death is not dignified. It’s just death. The flesh quits working. Dementia allows you to come to grips with loss while they’re still alive. You get to say goodbye and they can hear it.”

Karl ground his teeth so hard the enamel chipped with a series of small pops.

“He would never remember it!” The intensity in his voice seemed to get through to Tia, and she fell silent and watched Karl like a bird watching a hungry viper. Karl stepped closer to Tia, body leaning towards her as he held his anger barely in check. Tia started to take a step back, then shifted her feet, planting herself firmly in place next to Karl’s father.

“You’re afraid. It got him, and you’re afraid it will get you too.”

Karl ducked his head as Tia hit his fear squarely. He raised it to stare angrily at her as she nodded to herself.

“Yeah, I’m afraid. I hate what it’ll do to my family when it happens.” He clenched and unclenched his hands agitatedly. “I wish I could have five minutes with it in a small room…just me, it, and a baseball bat.”

Now she did take a step back, but not from fear. This was an assessing glance, and Karl felt suddenly stripped bare. Tia held her gaze on Karl for what seemed like minutes, then said, “Deal, I’ll see you when you get diagnosed.”

Karl opened his mouth, but before he could speak, Tia seemed to shimmer and fade. A small heat shimmer floated above his father, who moaned then smiled softly at something only he could see. He gazed, open-mouthed at where Tia had been, then pulled out his cellphone, and dialed son Pearson’s number. What the hell just happened? He took a deep shaky breath, then another. Pearson answered on the second ring.

“Hey Pearson, it’s Dad. I’m gonna need my bat back…”

World’s Eye View – 26

I think we’re in trouble. The station wouldn’t ring like some bell from just a panel hit, would it? We might have lost something. Once the decision had been made, he called Roels and Salila over to man the cameras, and cycle through them to look for other possilbe damage. “I’ll help them button up”, He told the two. He took a look at Salila, then jerked his eyes away as his body had started to respond. God I gotta keep it under control. I couldn’t live with myself. He hurried away from the two and down to the airlock to help Ingers, and Kim.

The EVA inspection was thorough, and the information was bad. The main body had been clipped by something, and while there wasn’t a leak yet, the irregular dent would weaken the welds under the constant and extreme temeperature changes as the station passed from sunlight to darkness four times a day. Kim sat everyone down to discuss the options. “As it is currently, we are in no immediate danger. But as Ingers has pointed out, the uneven expansion and contraction will eventually pop the welds open, unless it is fixed immediately.”

Thompson was in his own thoughts as Kim talked. Should I or shouldn’t I tell Ingers and Kim? After all this time how do they no t know about the capsule? Vyhovsky never talked to them, o anyone about trying to get the Xian-Xi freed from the docking rings. Why is that? What made it so important to him that we didn’t know? I can’t figure that out. So, why haven’t I said anything? Because I’m paranoid that’s why. It’s a secret, and for whatever stupid reason, I’ve kept it a secret. He was pulled out of his self-examination by Kim’s next words. “Ingers looked over the Xian-Xi capsules during his EVA, as have I. It appears that comrade Vyhovsky, was trying to sabotage the capsules.” Roels and Salila stared at Kim like he’d grown a second head, Thompson felt himself go pale, and cold. “Sabotage?! What the fuck, Kim?!”, a voice yelled. Thompson looked around and then realized it was his own. What the hell? Sabotage? Where’s Kim going with this?

Yes, fiend David, I’m sorry, but ‘friend Eugeni’”, Kim almost spat the name, “has partially dismantled the docking rings. In the apparent hope of marooning us permanently. The rings have small boxes inside the exposed areas that appear to be some kind of small, disabling charge, according to Ingers’ inspection.” “Are you certain of that, Kim? Ingers, are you certain?”, Roels sputtered. “Explosive charges? Why? This is a science station, not an orbital missile battery.” Kim nodded. “In truth that is all the station is supposed to be. But who knows what Russia’s ideas for the station were with ‘worst-case’ scenarios? This place would be ideal as a missile defense item. The base’s orbit is four times around the earth in a twenty four hour period. The orbit is more pole to pole, than geosynchronous, or equatorial. One might wonder why, if one was of a paranoic disposition.”

Thompson stared at Kim, slack-jawed. You’re kidding, right? How is a station that barely has enough room for us, and in a particular orbit suddenly become part of a Russian military conspiracy? This is nuts. “H-how do you figure this? Have you gon all X-files on us Kim? That’s just, crazy”, Thompson finished. He looked at the others, and could see Roels and Salila leaning against each other, and talking in quite whispers. Ingers scowled at Roels, which Salila caught and shrank back against Benoit. Roels didn’t seem to see the look, but he hunched down as Salila clutched at his arm. He’s still terrified of Ingers. So am I. I don’t get how he can be so Ingers one minute an d so psycho the next.

He put the thoughts aside and listened as the others talked. Roels argued that there was no way Vyhovsky could have brought charges like that up with him without them being discovered. There seemed to be too many and to precisely placed for one man to get them all into the ring without his efforts being discovered. Salila said nothing and stayed close to Roels, and away from Ingers, who had begun to stare blankly at her, once more. Kim looked over at Ingers, who ducked his head and turned away. “So, what if it was put in place by the Chinese when they made this part of the station? I wouldn’t put it past them, or any country, to build in a few ‘safeguards’ in case some kind of conflict arises. Look at Russia with the Missile platforms they tried to disguise as nuclear communications. You don’t need a big bosster if the warhead’s in orbit, just a push at the right time.”

Kim glared at Thompson for a moment, then said with a sigh, “Yes, it could easily be that the devices were in place as part of the Chinese designed section.” He strightened up and projected his voice. “What it all means is we work together, and see if there’s a way to defuse the devices safely.” Thompson took a deep breath. Maybe it’s way past time to let the cat out of the bag, and fix this. “I think that was what Vyhovsky was trying to do. He’d uncovered the devices. Maybe that was why he’d kept the radio signal a secret.” Everyone turned to Thompson, listening. “How does one link to the other, friend David? Do you have a theory?”, Kim demanded. “Yeah I do”, Thompson replied. “Think about it. What if we did know about people surviving down there. The first thing we’d be doing is thinking about going home. We were in a debris orbit. IF we didn’t move the station, we’d have been perforated most likely. Look outside. It happened. We have no idea how high up we are except a computer’s best guess, since there’s no telemetry. We’re gonna burn up when the station finally drops to the edge of the atmosphere. I think he was trying to free the capsules by taking the rings apart. The bombs were a complication he hadn’t figured out.”

A way to get a handle on characters

Every character has a story that they are the star of.  It doesn’t matter if they’re just window dressing or faceless thugs, they all have a story if you think about it.  I don’t always recommend going so far as to chart out each and every one, but I’m sure there are some authors that do.  As a way of getting a handle on characters, I’m offering up a quick four question psychology test that can help give you a little depth and insight into what makes a character tick.

It’s very simple to do, just four questions.  For each question put yourself in the character and answer how they would, or think that they would.  What each question means will be at the end.

Question 1 – What is your favorite color?  Think of three words or short phrases on how this color makes you feel.  (Write them down on a card or piece of paper)

Question 2 – What is your favorite animal?  Think of three words or phrases on how this animal makes you feel?  (Write them down on a card or piece of paper)

Question 3 – You are in a white room with no doors, windows, or way to exit.  Think of three words or phrases on how this situation makes you feel. (Write them down on a card or piece of paper)

Question 4 – You are standing on an open plain and can see as far as you want in any direction.  Think of three words or phrases on how this makes you feel.  (Write them down on a card or piece of paper.

Now before I reveal what each answer means, I’ll give you my example of a character.  This is Charlie ‘Skid’ Moore from the short story ‘Skid Style’.

Question 1 – Blue – open, breezy, mellow

Question 2 – Cheetah – fast, focused, no one can outrun me!

Question 3 – white room – lonely, I hate this place!, Let me go!

Question 4 – Open plain – I can run!, so much to explore, gotta pace myself

Now you can see Charlie’s answers to each.  Now let’s look at what each question is supposed to represent

Question 1 – This is supposedly how others view you.  So in Charlie’s case people seem to see him as a laid-back easy going guy.

Question 2 – This is supposedly how you see yourself.  Charlie is proud of his speed, and is focused on his goal.

Question 3 – This supposedly is about what your attitude is towards death.  Hmm, well…, Charlie hates it.  ’nuff said.

Question 4 – This is supposedly about what your attitude towards life is. Another interesting response here.  Charlie loves to run, and sees life as a constant exploration, but he also understands the need to maintain a steady pace through life.

 

That’s the test in a nutshell, and with it we can see Skid’s motivation, a little about his personality, and how he approaches life, and reacts to death.  How does your character(s) answer these questions?  They may surprise you.

World’s Eye View – 23

The screaming started and he was out the hatch, and caroming off the wall towards it. A few quick turns and he arrived at Roels cube. The screaming had faded to wracking sobs as he grabbed the handhold at the hatchway, prepared to launch himself at Ingers. He pulled up short as he saw Roels, clutching a shivering, naked, woman against him. As Salila clutched at his shoulders, Roels looked up, and saw him. “Roels? Is she…”, he swallowed drily as his eyes followed Salila’s supple curves. He shook his head. Get it out of your head, asshole. She’s been raped! “Is she all right?”, he finished lamely. “Better than I”, Roels said. I think I have broken ribs. It hurts to take a breath.”

How are we gonna keep maintenance up? I don’t trust Kim, and Ingers is great at it, but he’s not Ingers, he’s something seriously messed up.” Thompson watched Roels haunted look harden with anger as he discussed maintenance. “After this, travesty, should we even care about maintenance? I think maybe we should just let things fall apart. This is hell, and there is no way out.” Thompson looked at Roels. Everyone’s talking about how there’s no way off the station, but Vyhovsky figured out the docking ring. I gotta take a chance. It ought to pull us together. Oh slag that, David you idiot. The wound’s too deep. Still, it might be the only way off the hamster cage. I gotta ask though, why did Vyhovsky keep it from us? It doesn’t make sense. That would have brought us all together on a common goal. We’d be out of here and home.

Roels, there is a way off”, he said quietly. Roels blinked, and stared at him. “A way off. Why do you tell me now?”, Roels asked, suspicion thick in his voice. “Vyhovsky figured it out. He told me about it just before he died”, Thompson said quietly. “The docking ring has the Xian-Xi locked in place, and a software virus locked the ring closed. Vyhovsky was taking the ring apart a little at a time. Once the ring’s disassembled, the craft will float free, and it can be powered up to go home.”

Roels looked at Salila, and closed his eyes, holding her close against him. She struggled a moment, then sobbed harder as she clutched at Roels shoulders. Roels arms went protectively around her as he gazed up at Thompson. “You’re not just saying this to trick us? Disassembling the docking ring will work? What about traps?” Thompson grimaced. “I’m guessing there aren’t any. Even the most paranoid engineer has to draw the line between function, and blowing you sky-high.” Roels gave a bitter chuckle, and wrapped his arms tighter around Salila. Salila sobbing slowed as she was held, and her head came up. “I would rather they were trapped. I could die then, and escape my shame.” The bitterness and hatred poured out in the words, making Thompson shiver. “Get healthy Roels, I have to go, vote. Kim’s wanting to set priorities.”

Set priorities? Help me get there, and we’ll all vote. I’ve had enough of this travesty. We need to work on the Xian-Xi and the docking collars. I have had enough of this place.” Thompson nodded. “We all have.”

**

Thompson floated in the galley at the far side, as Kim, and Ingers conducted the meeting. Kim frowned at Roels making it to the meeting. Thompson thought he could see Kim trying to figure out the best way to control the meeting. Ingers, staring vacant-eyed at Salila, moved to sit beside her. Roels sat close, putting a comforting arm around her shoulders. Ingers reached a hand in her direction, then lowered it back to his side.

Now, let me bring this first full complement meeting to order. We have a number of things to discuss, and prioritize. First, there is the regular maintenance, then temperature control, and finally, consumables.” Thompson mentally muted out Kim’s voice as he studied Ingers. The big Swede seemed lost in himself. Thompson couldn’t decide if this was due to being close to Salila, or guilt from previous actions. Is the real Ingers still in there? He said it was like things were flipping on and off, and he didn’t have control. Did Kim screw with his mind somehow while he took care of him? If he did , what and how did he do it? Can it be fixed? Who’s gonna fix it? Kim never would. I don’t know how, and Roels, I don’t know about Roels. Whatever this situation is, our job is to get home now that we’re on the same page.

Thompson raised his hand. Kim stopped his talk to stare directly at him. “What is it David?”, he said, sounding like a schoolteacher lecturing a troublesome student. “There’s another priority. Getting home. We need to get home and off this station. Put that in the list.” When Kim hesitated, Thompson raised his voice. “Put it on, and let’s vote on our priorities.” Ingers eyes flicked to Thompson as he spoke, and flexed his hands, clenching and unclenching them. Oh shit. Did I push my luck too much? He watched Ingers float over to the left of Kim, giving him a clear line of travel to Thompson. “I do agree that we should arrange our priorities, friend David”, Kim said quietly, his own eyes on Ingers movements. Thompson noted that Kim seemed to pale, as if he too, feared Ingers unpredictable reactions. What if Kim didn’t do anything? What if the whole thing is Ingers? Thompson tried to turn the thought over, but the vote was called for. Kim set two priority lists. Maintenance came up on ‘what needed to be done immediately’, and going home went to the top of the ‘overall priority’ list.

Roels watched Thompson with increasing agitation as Kim droned on, arguing ranks in the priorities. Finally, when Kim finished, he nodded with his head for Thompson to follow him. Ingers was staring hard at Salila, who sandwiched herself between the two men. They reached Roels’ cube, where all three spread out in the room, staring at the one entry hatch.