Sunday, July 29, 2012
Moving Pieces, Piece 1; 1981-JAN-06, 2330 hrs:
A television set, seen through a store window. The set is on, and a live news broadcast is coming over the air. We focus in on the television.
A man can be seen on the tv, dressed in a tan suit. It is dark all around him, although light shines on him. A microphone is held close to his face, up under his chin.
“Matt and Dinah, this is Jason Clark, and I’m reporting live from…well, for my own safety I will decline to say what building this is. But we are stationed here on the roof as the army has advised us that it is simply too dangerous to be out on the streets at night, even for news reporters. Nobody is safe in the city of Calgary after dark.”
The man in the suit presses his free hand to his ear, as a female’s voice can be heard asking him what the conditions are like. The reporter nods several times after the voice has finished speaking, and then removes his hand from his ear.
“Yes, thank you, Dinah. It is still a bit hard to hear, even as high up as we are stationed currently, there is still sporadic gunfire that deafens the night sky. It is truly like a war zone. I’m going to ask Hector, that is Hector Juarez my cameraman here, to move towards the edge of the roof and give the viewers a glimpse of what is going on down on the streets.”
The reporter is quiet momentarily as the camera angle moves, after a few seconds showing the street below the building where they are situated.
“As you can see, the streets of Calgary are empty, as Commissioner Tardison has worked hard at getting the police force to enforce the curfew, keeping people inside as much as possible for their own protection. We thin…”
His voice is momentarily cut off, as sirens race through the night air, and four local police cars suddenly come into view of the camera, racing up the street at high speed.
“Dinah, Matt, it looks like the police are responding, possibly to another act of vandalism, or terrorism, possibly a hostage taking…at this point, we are unsure, it could be anything, unless you have any other news about what is going on right now.”
A different man’s voice comes over the tv set now. “Jason, we have no news of anything currently happening.”
After several seconds of dead air, the rooftop reporter’s voice can be heard again.
“Yes, Matt, thank you. As I have said, it could be just about anything. The army has been working hard, they ensure us, at keeping the city as safe as possible, but for the last several weeks now, Calgary has been a haven for the Cloak Gang once the sun sets; they seem to have this city in their grips, firmly in their grips, and so far nobody has been able to do anything to stop them. As far as…well, if you are ready in the studio, why don’t we roll the clip taken earlier yesterday evening of the tragic attempt by local Albertan super hero Bunny Girl to try to take back the streets…”
As his voice fades out, an army tank can be seen slowly lumbering its way up the street below the building the cameraman is shooting from.
Moving Pieces, Piece 2; 1981-JAN-02, 1300 hrs:
A wide, white hallway. Nothing says ‘government facility’ like a wide, white, barren hallway, sterile and putrid, going nowhere, and sucking the people’s money down a fast-draining hole to oblivion. Government at its finest.
So thought Dr. Theodore ‘Teddy’ Abrahams as he walked said hallway, shaking his head and suppressing a rueful chuckle.
The man to his immediate left stopped walking and faced him. “Is there a problem, Abrahams?”
It was said more out of concern that out of annoyance, or so he sensed, so Dr. Abrahams let the tone slide. No sense ticking off the boss, after all.
“No, not at all, Dr. Schmidt. I was just lost in thought; please continue.”
Dr. Arden Schmidt looked carefully at Teddy for a moment. Although the two of them weren’t exactly opposites, they certainly weren’t built from a like mould. The white lab coats they both wore over dress shirts and slacks were the only things, besides an air of educated intelligence, that they shared. Dr. Schmidt was tall, 6’5”, a thin man with sharp yet handsome features, glasses in front of his blue eyes, in his mid-forties, his short brown hair combed forward and showing greying at the temples and over the ears. Dr. Abrahams was a heavier man, neither fat nor thin, more ‘full-bodied’ or ‘big-boned’ as they like to call it; the mid-fifties man stood 5’10” in height, had brown eyes, receding brown hair besprinkled with grey, and a nearly completely white beard.
“Yes, really, Abrahams, keep your head in the game. We’ve got a deadline to keep up with, and this needs your full attention.”
That last comment came from the man on the other side of Dr. Schmidt. Dr. Melvin Saunders was an overweight man, and if that had been his worst quality it could have been overlooked. Unfortunately, the man’s brilliance also came packaged hand-in-hand with his overwhelming arrogance.
The egotistical Dr. Chalmers was in his early forties, balding, brown squinty eyes hidden behind glasses, 5’6” in height and of a rather rotund fleshly nature. And he currently had a nasty smirk on his face that was directed towards his colleague, Dr. Abrahams.
“Very well,” said Dr. Schmidt with a slight nod, and the three continued walking. There was silence for a few seconds while Arden Schmidt gathered his thoughts.
“So,” he continued at last. “Is everybody here settled in? Things running…smoothly?”
“We need more staff,” said Dr. Abrahams quickly, before Dr. Chalmers could start speaking. “Besides that, Dr. Schmidt,” Dr. Abrahams shrugged. “We’ve been using this facility, and doing this very research, for going on five years now. We’re just more ‘hurried’ right now, that’s all; other than that, we’re used to this. We’re excited, and the staff are operating more on a rush of emotions than on actual sleep…”
“Well, he’s right about one thing,” interjected Dr. Chalmers. “We definitely need more staff. But besides that, I’ve been going over some of this paperwork from last month, and I am wondering if…”
They turned a corner and strode into the large overhead observation room. Dr. Schmidt waved a hand in mid-air as they did, cutting off Chalmers. As he angled his two colleagues towards the coffee cart, which was positioned by the water cooler on a small table well back from the huge plexi-glass wall, he let them in on a little something.
“Let me fill you two in on something,” he said. “I’m doing everything in my power to bring more people in here. If the government wants us to finish this project on time, they’re going to have to up the budget and free up some of their brightest minds from the other projects they are involved with. In fact, I plan on telling…”
The ding-ding of the elevator doors opening cut him off.
Besides the three of them, the only other person in the area was Salvador Bussemo, the day-time janitor for the center, and he was moving past them and down the hall they had just come out of, push broom in hand.
Six eyes in that observation room, and every one of them paused to momentarily take in the breath of fresh air that got off the elevator.
She more floated than walked as she exited the elevator onto the upper deck. Dressed in a tight knee-length skirt with alternating vertical stripes of white and bright yellow, matching yellow slip-on shoes, and a button-up white blouse with her usual pink lab coat overtop, it was hard to miss the entrance of Misuki Chen-Schmidt. She stood 5’2”, and as the mixed-heritage Asian woman stepped off the elevator the man beside her simply towered over her. He was 6’4” in height, stood straight and tall and stiff, had grey hair and a matching moustache, and wore the traditional military dress uniform for a Canadian Forces Colonel.
Misuki shot the three scientists a quick glance as she and the Colonel exited the elevator and started towards them, following it up with a brief smile. Dr. Abrahams found himself smiling back in a friendly manner. Dr. Saunders gave Misuki a quick look, before his attention turned toward the newcomer; Saunders had a puzzled look, with furrowed brow, as he waited for them to approach. And Dr. Schmidt himself shot his wife a hurried smile, causing her to nod at him and then lower her gaze, before he turned his whole attention to the man beside her.
Dr. Schmidt’s mouth took on a brief hint of a smile as he stepped forward a pace and extended his hand. “Colonel Turner, thank you for coming,” he said as the two shook hands.
“Of course, of course, Schmidt. I feel like this baby is partially mine as well, you know.” The man was brusque, stern-faced, and to-the-point, but not unfriendly.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Arden Schmidt said to the Colonel, turning now towards his wife. “Mizuki, are the psychiatrists on-schedule for tomorrow?”
She carried a clipboard full of papers, but did not consult it. “Yes, Arden, they will be here tomorrow morning,” she said quietly, with a brief glance into his eyes before lowering her gaze. “Where do you plan on them setting up their work area?” She continued to gaze downward, her long black hair beginning to fall forward and hiding the left half of her face.
“Sub-Level Three,” stated Dr. Schmidt. “You’ll see to getting it ready for them?”
He dictated more than asked.
He dictated more than asked.
“Of course,” she said back to him. “As well as seeing to the other things you have asked.”
He gave her a brief, puzzled look, before turning his attention back to the Colonel.
“Again, Colonel, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to come by so promptly.”
“Well, don’t make me go all Looney Tunes, here; tell me what’s up, Doc.” Even the Colonel’s own joke didn’t crack the stern countenance he emitted.
“Gentlemen, if you will excuse us…” prompted Arden, and the other two doctors murmured pleasantries and turned toward the elevator, Dr. Abrahams pulling Mizuki along with him in a friendly manner as he asked her how she was feeling.
“I need more men, Colonel, more people with skills. I don’t care if they have finished all their studies or not, just find me some more brilliant people and get them in here!” A little bit of stress and frustration showed on Arden’s face and in his voice.
“I’ll do what I can, Doc, of course. There are probably a few folk working on other projects and government sponsored programs that I can call on, get them temporarily assigned to your program…”
Arden Schmidt ran his left hand through his hair nervously, exhaling deeply. “There are just too many tests that need to be run, and re-run, never mind the recalibrations of things we hardly even understand, the deciphering of old log books and notes that we still struggle with, the…Colonel Turner, unless you WANT to see this project fail, I need to see some new bodies striding in that doorway, TOMORROW.”
“One of those psychologists you’ve just hired on, she has an accomplished cousin who may be able to help, if we can convince her; apparently, she is like some sort of, whattaya call ‘em…like an idiot savant, only not dumb.” Colonel Turner turned to Arden for help with a questioning look.
“Hmm?” mumbled the distracted Dr. Schmidt. “Oh…oh, do you mean Dr. Bendtsen’s cousin? Heldorf, I think her name is. Yes, somebody like that would do fine, if you can get her. It’s pretty hard to pry her away from her studies, I hear she has a real voracious appetite for all things scientific; she has pretty much done at least SOME study in almost every scientific field there is. Hm…yes, she might do, at that…”
“I’ll see what I can do, Doc,” said Colonel Turner. His green eyes turned sympathetic. “Just between you and me, Schmidt, I think you should have been given more time. But,” he shrugged, “the world has gone to hell, and we need a solution.” The Colonel stuck his right hand out in Arden’s direction. “And I want you to know I’ll do everything I can to pull some favours and get you your people.” As the two clasped hands, the handshake oozed mutual respect.
Moving Pieces, Piece 3; 1981-JAN-15, 1700 hrs:
The television set is small, brown wood panelling surrounding the CRT screen, the knobs on the front of the tv are grey and large and dusty. A crushed can of generic Canadian beer is sitting on top of the tv, along with a half-eaten piece of pizza, and we can just see a large white bag with a big black dollar sign sitting on the floor leaning up against the television set. The toes of a large purple pair of boots cut off some of the bottom of the television picture, the owner of said boots unseen as he sits in a recliner chair behind our viewpoint.
The television is on, and a man and woman appear on the screen, seated behind a desk. The man’s voice is familiar. “This Matt Davidson and Dinah Carey, and welcome to Channel 14 news, your Albertan news station. Our top story today, Calgary is once again safe from the Hooded Cloak Gang. Just two hours ago, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau joined Calgary Police Commissioner Terry Hardison, Calgary Mayor Herman Brooks, and Major-General Earnest Thompson of the Canadian Armed Forces, as they thanked the Supers who made this all possible, and remembered the fallen police and armed forces and civilians who lost their lives in Calgary in the last two weeks.”
Video of men in suits on a stage flashes up on the tv screen, the Prime Minister front and center stepping up to a microphone. A woman’s voice continues where Matt’s left off. “As well as promising that this sort of thing would never be allowed to happen to Canada and her people again, Prime Minister Trudeau thanked the four Supers who came and saved the city of Calgary, tracking and arresting many of the Cloak Gang, and driving off the villainous Dead Edna, Wolf Spider, and The Hooded Cloak. The four refused to be publicly acknowledged, as apparently, Matt, they were just too humble.”
Back to live shots of the two newscasters seated behind their desk. “And, Dinah, those four Supers were none other than Bunny Girl, who was previously captured by the Cloak Gang on the evening of January 5th and then subsequently found and rescued by the army the next morning, as well as Zoo Man, an unknown hero who is apparently being treated for injuries sustained in the city-wide battle, and also the sisters Image and Citron, who viewers may remember as having briefly been part of the old Sasquatch Squad before it disbanded three years ago.”
“Matt, we should also point out the ‘extreme’ heroism of Bunny Girl, who when rescued by the Canadian Forces on January 6th had just been badly beaten and repeatedly sexually assaulted by numerous members of the Cloak Gang; the fact that she could re-don her costume and go out there and kick some butt, just a week or so later, is simply amazing. Bunny Girl, and the other three Supers as well, we here at Channel 14 salute you.”
“That’s right, Dinah. Bunny Girl has been a fixture as Alberta’s champion for several years now, but Albertans, and especially Calgarians, have never been prouder of her than right now. And, right before we go to our reporter on the scene, Jason Clark, live from the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s news conference, we’d like to remind citizens of Calgary to be careful, as there still may be criminal elements hiding out in their town that have not yet been ferreted out. The Cloak Gang members that remain will be sought after, caught, and brought to swift justice, as Commissioner Hardison has stated, and while it is believed that Dead Edna, Wolf Spider, and The Hooded Cloak have all fled Calgary, nobody knows for sure. So, citizens, stay safe out there.”
A crumpled beer can comes sailing out of nowhere and collides hard with the television screen.
Moving Pieces, Piece 4; 1981-JAN-05, 0700 hrs:
What does it mean to be a hero?
How is it that some people have greatness and opportunity bestowed upon them by cosmic chance, while others can never catch a fair break?
What does it take to be the hero that captivates a whole community?
Some people have luck. Two kids fall into some quicksand; one kid dies, while the other gains sand-based super-powers. Or a child is born with webbed toes and a thick tail, and becomes a water-based hero when older, protector of the high seas; meanwhile, another kid can’t even get born because his mother is whacked out on LSD and doesn’t have time for children so she goes to the back alleys for a cheap coat-hanger abortion.
Life seems…indiscriminate, don’t it?
Then there’s me. I had everything I ever wanted, and life tried to take it all away from me. But I’ve always been a fighter, stubborn, ready to stand my ground.
Although, nowadays, the ‘standing’ part isn’t as easy as it used to be…
Beginnings, Part 1; 1981-JAN-01:
In a small darkened room, the ringing of a telephone is a blaring alarm clock. A man sits bolt upright, gasping. He can only be seen in shadow, as there is hardly any light coming in through the window. The digital alarm clock shows the number 3 followed by a colon and the numbers 4 and 9.
The phone sounds again, and the figure of a man shakes his head to clear it, glances at the clock, and reaches over and picks up the receiver. The phone is on a bedside table beside the clock.
The phone receiver is held for a moment in the man’s lap, before being brought to his ear.
There is a close-up of his shadowed lips, as he speaks. “Hello?”
An excited voice on the other end of the line can be heard, speaking loudly and firmly; a voice of command.
“Schmidt? Schmidt, is that you? Answer me, Schmidt!”
He wipes at his face with a hand, trying to clear the fog from his head and the sleep-crystals from his eyes.
“Uh-huh,” he says, and then tries for something more intelligent. “Is this…?”
“Schmidt, this is Turner; Colonel Turner. Now listen up, Schmidt. Are you listening?”
“Um…yes, Colonel.” He licks his lips, arches his back and grimaces in pain, rubbing at his lower spine through his striped pajamas. “What is this about?” He turns his head to look at the clock again. “And at this hour…” He trails off, his voice kept low, as he sits there, upright in his bed in the dark.
“Schmidt, did you see the news? You do know what day it is, don’t you? Why, you’re not in bed, are you, Doc?”
“It’s New Year’s Eve, Colonel, or at least it was. Why…what’s going on? Is it the end of the world?”
“No! But it is the answer to your prayers!”
He sat up a little straighter, still listening.
“About two hours ago, it struck midnight in Calgary. And then they struck, as well. The Cloak Gang decided to light up Calgary like a frackin’ Christmas tree.”
“Uh…the which?” He fumbled on the bedside table with one hand and located his glasses. He flicked his wrist to open them up, and put them on his face, muttering an “ow” as he first poked himself in one eye with the arm of the glasses.
“The Cloak Gang; you know! Run by the Hooded Cloak, with his minions the mini-cloaks. I guess he busted out of prison last night and two new powered freaks joined him. They call themselves Dead Edna and the something-Spider…I can’t remember. But that isn’t the important part! The important part as far as you are concerned, is that the PM is choked about this. And he has issued notice to me to tell you that your project has been green-lighted and…”
“What!?! That’s great!” He spoke a little too loud as he cut off Colonel Turner, and a form that lay prone on the bed next to him stirred.
“Yeah, congratulations, Doc. Now listen, here’s the catch; our PM wants this thing up and running ASAP. If you cannot convince him that this project is feasible, and fast, he’ll cut it and go another direction.”
“Wait…how am I supposed to do that? I’ve been working on this for 5 years, and it has been a huge task to try to translate the notes and gibberish I was left with into something that will even possibly work, nevermi…”
“Yeah, yeah; stow it, Doc. Look, I know how far you have gotten. So does the PM. Point is, the powers-that-be figure they need something, something to show the people of Canada that they won’t be pushed around by these so-called super-villains anymore. So, like it or not, you’ve got three weeks. Sorry Schmidt, that’s all I could get you.”
“Shi…” He bit back the curse, as the body beside him stirred once again. “Okay, okay. Um…dammit! I’ll have to push past the protocols and move to stage-C immediately, then. Let’s see, I’ll need to prep the lab, hire a couple of psych doctors, and then I’ll need to go over the papers with…”
“Whoa…look, I’ll let you get to it. Just remember, when the final switch gets pulled, I and the PM will both be there to see your success. So…Doc? Don’t blow it.”
And with that, the line went dead.
The hand holding the phone went into his lap, phone receiver still clenched in his fist.
A bit more stirring beside him, and then a hand came out of the covers and rested lightly on his arm. “Arden? Who was that?’ asked a feminine voice in a calm and polite tone from the darkness.
“We’ve been green-lighted,” he said back to her. His own voice sounded distant to him; part shock, part nerves, and part lost in his own thoughts. “And we’ve only got three weeks to make it work, or they pull the plug.”
With a rustle and a flourish of covers, the woman swung her legs over the opposite side of the bed and sat up, bent and grabbed a robe off the chair next to the bed, and within 5 seconds of the word ‘plug’ exciting his mouth she was standing in the dark room, tightening the robe’s belt around herself, and moving towards the closed bedroom door.
“I’ll make you some coffee,” she said.
“I’ll need you to phone the rest of the team, as well, and tell them to haul arse down to the center.”
She stopped, facing the door. “Of course,” she said. “For what time should they…”
“I want them assembled for 8:00 AM,” he said. “And tell them to pack some spare clothes, most of them will be spending long nights in the center for the next few weeks. I doubt you and I will be back home at all in that time.”
“Yes, Arden,” she said simply, still standing there facing the door. “Shall I go now, then?”
“Not yet,” he said. He reached over and turned on a light, the lamp on the bedside table. It illuminated the face of a middle-aged Caucasian male, short brown hair with mainly grey at the temples, piercing blue eyes; handsome, if a bit on the thin side.
“Seeing as how we won’t be home much, and seeing as how I have finally been green-lighted, this seems as good a time as any to celebrate.” He patted the bed beside him lightly, the quick smile that slashed across his face brief but not unkind. “Come here, my little chopstick. You can give me ten minutes of your time, and then you can hurry off to get the rest of those things completed.”
She turned away from the door and faced the man on the bed. The light from the lamp did not quite reach her. “Of course, Arden,” she said calmly. Her chin went downward towards her chest, her upper body leaned slightly forward, and she held this pose for several seconds before beginning to remove her robe as she walked slowly towards him.
Beginnings, Part 2; 1981-JAN-20, 0830 hrs:
An empty hallway of an apartment building, dimly lit; a pair of tan pants and brown shoes approach a door and stop in front of it. The small brass sign on the door says 407. A brown-gloved hand reaches out and knocks, two quick raps.
Within moments a deadbolt rattles on the inside of the door, and it begins to creak open. The gloved hand reaches out and pushes it violently inward. That same gloved hand reaches in and grabs a hold of the blonde hair of the woman inside; blue eyes with crow’s feet at the outer edges, she still looks vivacious even in her early forties. Right now, she just looks scared.
That gloved hand pulls her out into the hallway by her hair. She staggers forward, right into the second gloved hand, this one balled into a fist that catches her full in the face. She makes a “woof”ing sound as she slams into the apartment corridor wall with her back. A second balled fist catches her in the stomach, doubling her over, as she slumps to one knee and retches momentarily.
The blonde woman is wearing a black t-shirt and grey athletic shorts, and has a white towel around her shoulders still; any sweat that was glistening on her skin when she first opened the door, is now rapidly disappearing in the cool hallway air. Blood trickling out of her left nostril, her lower lip split, she looks up. “Who…are you…” she gets out. She looks up, past the brown shoes, past the tan pants, past the brown suede jacket zipped up tight, to find a balaclava ski mask where there should have been a face, only the squinting brown eyes of the male exposed.
The male’s right hand reaches into the jacket pocket, while the left hand again grabs at the woman’s shoulder-length blonde hair. He pulls her toward him even as he withdraws the switchblade knife and pops it open. Once; it plunges into her side. There is a soft gasp, and then the woman’s mouth makes an “o” shape. The blade comes out, sticky-wet and red. Twice; again, the blade plunges in, this time the hand holding it hurtling towards her at shoulder height, and the blade goes deep into her right shoulder. She hangs limp after that, only held up by the handful of hair caught up in the brown glove. Gasping for air between gritted teeth – it is all happening so quick, she has not even had time to scream yet. She does not notice when the bloody towel slips off her shoulders and tumbles to the floor. When the blade comes out of her this time, the glove of her assailant is visibly stained red. Thrice; once more the blade goes in, this time into the woman’s back, the assailant adding a bit of a twist before withdrawing it again.
The knife drops to the floor. The brown shoes begin to walk steadily away from the door of apartment 407, dragging the limply-struggling and bloody body of the woman behind them by the hair. Fifteen blood-smeared feet away, the top of a flight of stairs; she finally finds the strength within her to scream, as the man hurls her body down them, she crashing and rolling and coming to a stop on the landing with a flat thud against the wall.
The man calmly walks down the stairs, stepping over her and continuing on his way down.
In apartment 407, a boy with longish blonde hair rushes to the wide-open door from within; he leans against the door frame, his forgotten album cover to Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ record still clutched in one hand. “Mother?” he calls out, then again, “Mother!?” this time more frantically.
Beginnings, Part 3; 1981-JAN-04, 1915 hrs:
“The doctors, they tell me that I am a good man. They say that all good men are flawed, and I need to accept that.”
The room is dark, but for the light of a television set flickering, tuned in to some news broadcast but with the volume knob turned down too low to hear anything.
“The problem is, I know all that; I know that good men have flaws. See, the problem I have with my doctors, is that I don’t think they see the severity of my flaws.”
There is a scraping noise. The speaker would have recognized it for what it is, even if he had not caused it; wooden chair leg squeaking on a floor as it slid slightly. Not knowing what had made a certain sound, could get a person killed.
“The doctors want to constantly tell me that I am making good progress. They love to flatter me. Sycophants. Ha! I betcha they’d be surprised to know that I know that word. But you guys would have known. You guys knew me for who I was. I never had to hide that I was book-smart, that I was more intelligent than people gave me credit for. No matter who I was, you always had my back.”
There is silence for a few moments. Perhaps for a space of thirty seconds?
“They tell me I should give you guys up. That I should let you go. That I need to…to move on; to ‘walk away’, as it were. Ha! They don’t see the humour in that, not like you guys do…like you guys would have.”
Another creak, and then a lamp is turned on. Two thick and strong black hands hold delicately onto a picture frame; the photo is a typical one, of six men in army fatigues with their arms around each other.
The voice continues. “Now, my doctors want to send me to see some other doctors. Some ‘specialists’, they call ‘em. I see the way their eyes shift when they say that to me. I think the government wants me again, boys. And…hell, that worries me. After all that has happened…after the way I…I failed you all…”
A lone tear strikes the picture frame. One of the hands moves upwards to wipe at a face, then returns to the photo.
“They say I’m a good man. I believe it. I do. I believe I am a good man. But, those faults they talk to me about…I think they spend too much time talking about the ones that are obvious, and forget about the ones that are down deep. The ones you boys would have understood. The other ones, the surface faults, well…they’re obvious.”
The photo is moved from off the man’s lap and put onto a small table beside him. Now we see the whole picture, where once we beheld only a small amount of the truth. A large and muscular black man sits on a small wooden chair. He wears an army jacket over a black t-shirt. His blue jeans are cut off at mid-thigh, and white stretchy material is covering the stumps that are the end of his legs, truncated at around the knee level. A pair of metal crutches lay on the floor near him, beside two prosthetic legs.
“I know I am a good man. But, once, I believed that I had what it took to make a difference; now, I’m not quite so sure anymore. So, is ‘being good’ enough to compensate for everything I’ve lost, for everything I’ve done?”
The television set continues to play its unheard message, and as the man on the chair stops speaking aloud, all is silent.
Beginnings, Part 4; 1981-JAN-04, 0735 hrs:
Three people, two men and a lady, hurry down the white corridor. When they reach the door, they pause first to grab their white lab coats from the hooks on the wall and shrug into them before opening the door and hurrying in.
“…and so if we increase the levels exponentially, we could inverse the thrust modulation to a number that…”
“Saunders, you’re full of crap,” snapped the brunette woman as they continued into the room. “You’re dealing with things the like of which you have no real knowledge of. Let’s leave this technology to the true professionals, the geniuses like this Dr. Demelt obviously was, and just concentrate on our own parts, okay?”
“Yeah, but...” whined the short pudgy man in the thick glasses.
“Tom, are you still here?’ asked the tall and thin male of the group.
They were in a large room, metal walls, most of which were adorned in giant computer banks. Several tables were set up with personal computers and chemical apparatus. The ceiling was fifty feet from the floor. High up one wall was a glass window, looking out from the observation deck.
“Dr. Chalmers. I sure am, sir. I’m just finishing up in here.” The speaker was a man in a light grey uniform, matching pants and shirt, leaning on a push broom, short brown hair, clean shaven.
“Mr. Chalmers, Tom, as I keep telling you; or just Steve. I’m a ways away from being a doctor, yet.” Steven Chalmers gave Tom Landers a smile.
“Is he in here alone?” This came from Saunders.
“Dr. and Mrs. Schmidt are on the Observation Deck with a few others, and Mr. Phelps is in the computer room over there…” Tom trailed off as he pointed to a slightly open door way across the vast room.
“Well, I hope somebody is watching the janitorial staff. Our research here is of the most vital imp…”
The brunette woman cut him off. “Tom is trusted here, Saunders, and he is watched. You know that, so why don’t you just keep off his back, okay? He’s just doing his job.”
The overweight Saunders began to get more than a little red in the face. ”Look here, Daphne, don’t get your panties in a knot. You think just because you wear a skirt that you can go all pre-menstrual on everyone here, and I won’t put…”
Steven Chalmers held up both palms toward Saunders. “Melvin, that was out of line,” he said firmly.
“Oh, I’ll show him ‘out of line’,” muttered the brunette ominously. She hiked up the top of her long black skirt with both hands and then balled them into fists in front of her. “I’ll make his nose out of line with the rest of his face!”
“Lesbian bitch!” snarled Melvin Saunders.
Chalmers put one hand firmly on the front of her shoulder. “Heldorf…” he said warningly.
“Ha!” said Daphne Heldorf, right over top of Steven’s warning. “Lesbian?! I’ve had…several…boyfriends, and every one of them has been a gentleman, something YOU know nothing about! And every single one of them had more manliness in their pinky finger than you…than you’ll ever have.”
Tom Landers sighed gently, picked up his broom and began to move towards the door the three had entered through just moments before.
“Oh, go….” Saunders was red-faced and seemingly at a momentary loss for words. “Go squat in the woods somewhere!” he finally snapped, and walked away from the other two.
As Tom Landers opened the door, he took one last look back across the room, far across the vast room, to where a small raised platform over by one wall held a vaguely humanoid shape draped by a large red tarp.
“I could have taken him, you know,” said Daphne Heldorf, glaring at the back of Melvin Saunders.
“Oh, no doubt about that,” murmured Steven Chalmers.
“Go have another doughnut, Saunders!” she impulsively yelled towards the retreating form of the pudgy scientist.
“You should at least TRY to treat the Doctor better, Daphne,” said Chalmers. He suddenly realized his hand was still pressed against her shoulder, and let it drop. “He and Dr. Abrahams are relied on a lot by Dr. Schmidt; it wouldn’t do to have them view you as a liability because you cannot play nice with others.” He looked around for Tom, but the janitor had already departed. Several more of their colleagues were struggling into lab coats as they too entered the massive room.
Daphne Heldorf sighed loudly, in frustration, then shook her head gently and sighed again, softer this time. “I shouldn’t have lost my temper. I’m sorry, Steven, that was wrong of me.” She sighed again, her mouth scrunched up in the corner in a frumpy half-snarl of defeat. “Technically, I should probably apologize to him, too.”
Steven Chalmers met her eyes and then quickly looked away. “Just…just take it easy, Daphne, that’s all.” With a quick glance at his watch, “It’s almost 7:45, I’ve got to ready my data,” and Chalmers was gone.
“Yeah, I’ve got some notes to re-do…” sighed the brunette. She smoothed down the front of her skirt where she had hiked at it before. She glared darkly at where Saunders was waiting for the elevator to take him up to the Observation Level as Chalmers moved away. “One of these days you’ll get yours, Saunders; maybe I won’t be the one, but somebody will snap on you,” she murmured under her breath.
Posted by Dredd Sweet at 10:03 AM