Tag Archives: c.angelina

Operation Hide and Seek pt. 5

The alarms went off at six thirty, the way they had every day for the past three years – and probably since the day Facility had opened its doors. Ryan groaned and rolled over, already regretting his decision to stay up late the night before. Maybe he could catch just a few seconds more…

“I would like to inform you that you are doing this to yourself Gigabyte,” Jeremy Tyler’s voice made its way to Ryan’s sleep-fogged brain a half-second before the blanket was unceremoniously yanked away. Ryan’s feet hit the floor almost before his brain registered what he was doing.

“I suppose I should thank you,” Ryan said as he shoved his legs into uniform pants.

“You should, but you won’t,” Jeremy answered. The dorm room was full of the muffled sounds of a dozen adolescent males waking up and rushing to the hallways. Ryan pulled his mask over his face – he was one of only half a dozen or so who ranked high enough to wear one – and joined the throng. Jeremy stayed close beside him, the breaker’s biceps and reputation providing protection for the much smaller and scrawnier Ryan. Jeremy was the strength to Ryan’s brains, and one of his few friends in this place.

“Anything of interest on the interwebs?” Jeremy asked quietly.

“Same old same old. Your parents bought a new car – 1968 Honda.” Ryan walked almost blindly, relying on Jeremy to guide him as he mentally flipped through zillions of bits of information coming at him through the wifi.

“I bet Dad was happy about that. Here, food.” Jeremy handed Ryan a tray of breakfast – waffles and fresh fruit – then guided his friend to a corner table in the gargantuan cafeteria.

“Don’t forget the assembly in an hour,” Jeremy said.

Ryan nodded. “Have fun punching things.” He waited till Jeremy had moved away before pulling out his datapad. He had an hour to cause chaos in the outside world. Ryan smiled as he logged into the message board for Operation Hide and Seek.

There once was a boss-man named Byte

who thought he was all goodness and light

but though he pled and cajoled,

I will not be told

that I should ignore my own plight

Byte had to laugh at the limerick that greeted him in his urgent mailbox. Sparrow was a good codename for the impetuous operative – she was constantly moving and could never suffer in silence. But somehow she still made a perfect undercover agent; her natural innocence perhaps.

Byte set up his spider to scan incoming traffic while he opened the rest of Sparrow’s message. She was lengthy, as usual:

“Day 329. My cover is holding, although next time can I please not try to play somebody so brainy? It feels like my grey matter has been stretched and folded and stretched again like taffy in my effort to sound like I know anything at all about latent inferiority complexes, narcissism, or sociopathology. I languish inside these sepulchuric walls like Antigone, buried alive amongst whitewashed corpses. Give but the word and I shall open fire on these bastions of manners and culture so a to make the corpses blush with color before returning to the earth from whence they came and from whence they refuse to acknowledge they have come.

“Seriously, everything is white here, and I’d almost welcome a bit of bloodshed. Can I sneak off for a weekend and run a breaker across the border? I want to feel the dirt again, instead of this concrete tomb. This is where dreams come to die – you can almost see the shattered remains glittering in the stone. And the Dreamers. Shuffling corpses, gazing blankly ahead, lost from the world, trapped inside an imagination not their own. They do mechanical labor, anything that requires mostly muscle memory. How can someone choose to live like that? With a pasted on smile because the dream is so wonderfully shallow.

“The tigress will die in here if you don’t get her out soon. The sparrow will suffocate in here if you don’t get me out soon. Inferno est!

“Sparrow.”

Byte wrote back a three word answer: “He’s coming soon.” That dealt with, he spent the next 45 minutes putting out fires in half a dozen other locations around the country – fudging a transmission here, warning a sleeper there – in other words, a day in the life.

Operation Hide and Seek pt. 4

Drey pulled into the back lot of Kitty’s Coffee and powered down the Pursuer. Friday night, the place was packed. Not the public place, of course. That would be foolish – nothing broke up a party like the authorities. The basement though, where things were a little more hidden and a lot more relaxed, was where the action happened. Drey palmed in her biometrics and entered the Breaker underground.

A blast of smell, sound, and light greeted Drey as she entered. Drey maneuvered through the converted storeroom and the crowd, toward a table in the back where a lively card game was going on. She hooked an empty chair with her foot and swung it around to join the table.

“Deal me in Jack, double or nothing,” she said. The dealer gathered his cards quickly out of her reach.

“No deal Drey, You cheat too easy,” Jack said. Drey smirked, grabbed four cards from the top of the deck, and flipped them over to reveal four aces.

“You just make a rotten dealer.” She tossed the cards back at him and they landed as a king, two fours, and a seven.

“I didn’t think you were still in town,” Tommy, sitting across the table, said.

“I got a steady job now, bring in what I can for the cause,” Drey replied.

“Yeah, and we spend it all on booze,” Kirsten said as she drained a bottle of Coors Light. Drey shook her head, smirking.

“And to think – an outstanding citizen such as myself supporting a bunch of lowlife money grabbers.”

“Speaking of which, you owe me two hundred Tommy,” Jack said. Tommy grimaced as he dug a handful of cash from his pocket.  The card game started back up, people making bids and bluffing money nobody really had. Kirsten tossed her losing hand down on the table with finality.

“I still suck at cards. By the way Drey, Danny’s sick, and we could use a gunner on mission tomorrow if you’re missing action,” Kirsten said.

“You know me, I’m not much of a team player,” Drey answered.

“Me and the boys aren’t much of a team.” Kirsten popped the top off of another beer. Drey laughed as she reached for the neon blue electric guitar which was leaning against the wall.

“If this is another attempt to get me laid, no. Out of curiosity though, where are you headed?”

“Out towards Boulder. Byte has us running a mark down to San Antonio,” Kirsten answered.

Drey nodded absently, busy tuning her guitar. It was always a little sour on the e. She strummed a couple of cords, adjusting the volume and distortion on her amp.

“Play Freebird!” A random voice from the other side of the road called. She probably knew him, but didn’t feel like coming up with a name.

“Kirsten, are you going to play or not? I was beating you,” Tommy said.

Kirsten turned back to the game. “Deal us Jack, I need to teach the pup a lesson.”

“I’ll run interference if you need it Kirs, but I’m not leaving the state,” Drey said. She started strumming, playing with the distortion because she could. She played a couple of scales, then launched into a full-blown rendition of her own take on the cover of an old eighties song.

In a different time she might have sung, making up words to fit the notes that flowed from her fingers, but not tonight. Instead Drey played, taking requests when she knew the song, playing to someone’s voice when she had a singer. It was fun, especially when people started to feel generous and left money in her jar.

Eventually the night grew stale. People wandered off, left singly or in groups through the secret ways, people with something to hide and everything to lose if the wrong people saw them at the wrong time. Drey eventually hung up her guitar. When she turned around Blaze Hopkins was waiting.

“I thought you swore never to come back,” Drey told him.

“Byte sent me. It’s about Meg,” Blaze said. His hands were in his coat pockets as usual, his stance was keyed up, the way it always was, his voice caught when he said “Meg,” the way it had ever since everything had fallen apart.

“Meet me outside.” Drey turned back to the guitar to hide how much her hands were shaking.

Operation Hide and Seek pt. 3

Ryan fired one last shot and the mother ship exploded into pixelated wreckage. He smiled. Somehow that was still ridiculously satisfying. Meg used to get so annoyed by the old eight-bit style, but there was something about the blatant unreality of it. In a world where the lines blurred, eight-bit seemed like one of the few honest programs left. Still, they’d had some violent arguments about it – each twin dedicated to their own views. Meg, always dedicated to making things better. Himself, wondering if they’d already reached the best at some point in the past and foolishly lost it. The world was spinning out of control, a repeat of history – of a history where the only end had ever been blood. Right and wrong… maybe Meg was right, maybe it would be better just to let Management have final control. Maybe utopia was worth everything Management and Facility had done. Were doing.

Ryan sat back and attempted to rub the thought out of his head. He knew better. Maybe. Utopia always ended badly in the books, but maybe Hobbes was right and peace was better than liberty. Maybe real life was different from the books, maybe people really didn’t care about freedom, not really. Management did provide safety – freedom from war, crime, hunger, illness… did he have a right to destroy all that like some toddler knocking down a block tower?

“Dear God.” Ryan powered off the computer. The room was thrust into pitch black. Light wouldn’t come on till six thirty am. The start of another day in hell. “Dear God, why can’t things be simple?” Like the thousand times he’d prayed that line before, there was no answer.

 

It was late when Megan finally left the lab – probably close to 1 AM. And in the end she only left because she ran out of coffee and was having trouble keeping her mind focused. She half ran the two blocks to the staff apartment complex, her coat wrapped tight around her against the cold. The apartment wasn’t much better – her roommate must be half polar bear. The psych expert was sprawled across the couch, a blanket mostly sliding on the floor. Megan dumped her coat, kicked off her shoes, flipped on the light in the kitchen and searched the fridge in the vain hope that there was something edible inside. Only two half-empty bottles of beer and a week-old takeout carton filled with something unidentifiable. Megan chugged one of the beer bottles simply to keep Dr. Becky Summers PHD from it and headed for the bathroom.

“You’re late again,” Becky said. Meg glanced in the mirror to see Becky sitting up on the couch, blanket wrapped around her, staring bleary-eyed. “You keep doing this I’ll have to send in a report.”

“I’ll be useless on drugs and Management knows it.” Megan leaned toward the mirror to ensure that each tooth was brushed with the greatest care.

“Well if you’d talk to me maybe we could work out your latent inferiority complex.”

“I’m tired. I am going to bed. Good night.” Megan shoved her way out of the bathroom. Becky attempted to follow her into the bedroom, but Megan slammed the door and locked it.

“Latent inferiority complex my foot,” Megan mumbled under her breath as she dug through her hamper for something vaguely clean. She knew exactly what was wrong with her, and there was no way she’d ever tell some stuck-up half-drunk so-called expert. No, the problem was Ryan – nobody else could get under her skin like her twin brother could. Why did he have to be the special one? The one with a power she’d practically kill for? He could do this crazy cyber-space manipulation thing, and all she had was a brain that wouldn’t shut up. She couldn’t keep up with people like him. She had tried the whole “I’m practically Batman, I don’t need superpowers” thing, and it had nearly gotten her friends killed. Friends who were infinitely more powerful than she was. No, this chance to do science at a real lab, where her ideas could actually be recognized, was much better.

Megan flopped into bed and stared at the pills that lay on her bedside table. They’d put her out for at least eight hours, which put her at… 10am wake up time.

“Its the weekend.” Meg downed the sleeping pills and flopped back under her covers.

Operation Hide and Seek pt. 2

Drey ran her finger across the edge of the last crease and flipped over the tiny origami crane. Yes, the drive through was that slow today – reduced to folding up unwanted receipts to keep from losing what little sanity she had left. The kid’s meal bags were already folded, stuffed with cheap plastic toys and stacked floor to ceiling. The dishes were all washed, the floor had been mopped twice, the walls were even scrubbed. Drey blew her hair out of her face and watched the electric blue highlight hit the brim of her visor in the dark order screen. Only ten more minutes left of shift. Then… freedom. For another night.

Bing. Drey turned on her mike.

“Welcome to Burger Bell, what can I get for you tonight?” she asked, working hard to keep her voice cheerful.

“Yeah, thanks, I’ll have, uh…” Drey waited while the nameless, faceless customer placed their order, waited while they drove up to her window, took their money, and sent them on their merry way. The customer was gone when Steve, her manager, came to clean out Drey’s cash drawer.

“Got any plans for the weekend?” Steve asked. He punched in his code and the drawer slid open.

“Nah. Maybe watch a movie, nothing exciting,” Drey answered. She took off her headset and reached around Steve to punch out. “See you Monday.”

“Night Drey,” Steve answered. He gave a wave as Drey headed to the crew room. She spun in her locker combination and pulled out a padded blue motorcycle helmet. She paused a moment to wipe a squished bug off of the painted blue morpho butterfly.

They’d been three – Sparrow, Tigress, and Butterfly. Now she was the only one left – Sparrow with another team, Tigress gone. The last one, with a price on her head too big to ignore, a magnet for any bounty hunter’s bullet. What on earth was she still doing out here? She smiled. The adrenaline was still too much of a pull. She’d always been a fool.

Drey tucked the helmet under her arm and headed outside. The pursuer was in the back lot, behind the building and half hidden in the shadows. Drey swiped her hand over the console and the machine purred to life. A magnificent machine, Meg’s baby, abandoned when she’d bailed. Drey had inherited it, and it was the one thing she still kept kept from their time together. Drey straddled the thousand horsepower engine and took off into the night, whooping with the joy of being young and alive and free.

Operation Hide and Seek

Megan Cooper slid down the wall till her forehead could rest against her knees. This was one of the few unwatched corners of the lab, and thus her only privacy. Three years – God, had it only been three years? – and she had a sense for where cameras would be, she knew where to look for the tell-tale gleams, and she could map out in her mind’s eye every single blind spot. It was a skill she didn’t need anymore, except to fulfill the longing for privacy. Most of her life she’d shared everything with someone – Ryan first, later Sonia and Drey – but now that she was alone, she wanted desperately to BE alone.

Megan hugged her knees to her chest, adjusting the white lab coat to get it out of her way. Hair escaped from her ponytail, her bangs flopped forward over her face. She couldn’t remember what color her hair was now, she didn’t want to look. It didn’t matter anymore, her face didn’t show up on watch lists anymore. She knew, she’d checked. Management had been as good as their word. She leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes, images of steel at the molecular level dancing behind her lids. There had to be an answer, there always was. Something that could stand up to the stress of flight and still be light enough to efficiently scale up bird wings. The answer was there, floating deep in her subconscious, she could feel it.

Megan’s pocket buzzed gently. She barely moved. She knew who it was – only one person could have tracked down the number and disabled her firewalls. Maybe if she ignored him he’d give up. Yeah right. She’d been ignoring him for a week now, changed the number twice, and rebooted her firewall three times. She really should just get rid of the phone – all her files would transfer easy enough – but she couldn’t seem to let go of that part of her life yet. Megan fished the bulky customized iphone out of her pocket and slid her finger across the screen.

“It’s about time you answered your phone,” Megan’s twin brother Ryan said. A blue holographic computer materialized above the iphone’s screen. Megan smiled. It had been too long.

“It’s hard to stay in touch once you’ve gone dark,” Megan answered. She checked the hallway to make sure she was still alone.

“I already have control of the security systems, we’re safe,” Ryan said.

“It’s supposed to be a closed system, how’d you get in?” Megan shifted to sit on her heels and brushed her hair out of her face again.

“Closed systems don’t exist when you’re using wifi. Least not for me.” The holographic computer flexed spaghetti noodle arms that suddenly popped into existence.

“Forgive me oh mighty internet god, some of us are stuck doing things the long way round.”

“We miss you out here Tigress. Please come back.” The hologram folded its hands and made cartoon puppy-dog eyes.

“I don’t want to talk about it Byte,” Megan brushed her hair back and sighed. “Besides, I went dark for a reason. I fit here.”

“Fine Tigress, be Management’s lapdog. I thought it would take more than six months for my sister to be eating out of their hands though,” Ryan said.

“Not going to work Ryan. Anything you can say I’ve already thought of. Just leave it.”

“Fine. Can I at least send you some problems to work through from time to time? I’m swamped.”

“You realize where I am, don’t you? Too much illegal activity and I’ll be forced to run again. And I’m not sure I want to. It’s a decent life Ryan,” Megan said.

“You’re bored. You miss the adrenaline Meg Ryder,” Ryan said.

“Meg Ryder is dead. Listen Ryan, I gotta go before they start looking. Talk to you later.” Megan hung up before her twin could convince her otherwise. Much as she hated to admit it, Ryan was stronger than she was. Deep in enemy territory, his life hanging in the balance with every move he made, seeing people die daily – having to dispose of the bodies even. Herself? Megan had spent three years running circles around incompetent fools. When the game had changed, when it had started to get dangerous, she’d bailed. Meg Ryder had turned back into Megan Cooper. Management had offered her protection, on the condition that she work for them. That they be able to use and abuse her genius. That she remain dead to her family. She couldn’t go back – she’d burned that bridge the day she’d forged her own death certificate three years ago. No, there was nothing left for her out there, not when her lack of power only made her a liability to any team she was on. Meg stuffed her phone back in her pocket and started back down the hall to work.

Solstice

The darkness comes swiftly

the shadows grow cold

Snow tumbles gently

defenses won’t hold

as the night lingers on

as the stars shine down coldly

as the wolves howl more boldly

soft feet pace the borders

glowing eyes haunt the night

as vision fades

as the stars tell their story

and the darkness holds fast

and the snow spreads its silence

and the day doesn’t come

and the darkness has won

silence, silence in the night,

silent battle as the stars hold their sway

And the last log burns out

and the mind full of doubt

and we hope and we pray

for the break of the day

for the coming of Son

The night-watch grows fearful

for the battle seems won

and the snow falls down colder

and the hunter grows bolder

as the fires die

but a child’s cry

sounds in the dark as the yule log is lit

And the sparks light the night

and the star tells its story,

the coming of glory,

and a voice cries “Rejoice!”

God has shown us his choice

and the night fades away

with the break of the day

for heaven kissed earth

in the chill

of the

night.

Smilie’s Coffee

There is a place somewhere along the miles of interstate which traverse the middle of the country; a place safe from everything – alien attacks, zombie hoards, armies, and bounty hunters included. From the outside it doesn’t look like much: a ghost town like the hundreds that sprinkle the boom-and-bust west. The only thing that anyone in their right mind would stop for is a run-down coffee shop staffed by a single tired barista. The sign advertises the best coffee in the county, but seeing as it is one of the only coffee shops in the county, the claim isn’t worth arguing. Except for the occasional highway patrolman and badly lost tourist, most of the people who enter the coffee shop are the kind who cast a furtive glance over their shoulder, check the parking lot three times for hidden enemies, and only enter when they are positive that the cost is clear.

The inside looks just the way one would expect after seeing the outside. Three round metal tables pin the floor to the ground while an assortment of chairs huddle around them as if for warmth and companionship. A cracked marble counter is kept in spotless shine by the barista. The counter often looks cleaner than his faded green apron and plaid button-down. He wears a perpetual depressed look which only briefly lifts when the bell on the door rings. As soon as he realizes that it is not a man in a white coat come to take him to an asylum at the door, the depression falls back over his features. He speaks only in monosyllables, as if he has forgotten how to have a real conversation.

However, if the patron is one who knows, one who can give the correct pass phrases, he is taken to the back room. Crates are swung away from a false wall and within moments the world shifts. A building with secrets, a match for those who call it home.

C.Angelina