Chased -Edit 1- (GF#003)

Bishop exited the black town car the company sent for him. Now surrounded by a sea of twenty-foot, floor-to-ceiling glass and ornate furnishings that would make Donald Trump proud, Bishop swam through the massive foyer of Omnivox Technologies.

His mind was still racing from the firefight when he saw the confident blonde, walking straight for him. About his same height, with a slender frame, she could’ve been an athlete or a model or both.

As she looked past him he couldn’t resist the urge to speak. “Can you tell me what floor Data Command is on?”

Charlotte Matthews quickly scanned Bishop from head to toe. First catching his light-brown eyes, she thought, sensitive, intelligent, and a spark of a fire. The next thing to to catch her eye was his jump jacket. Still new it was dirty and torn with black stains on the the left shoulder screamed blood.

Bishop had done his best to clean up at the hotel but hadn’t had time to change before the car arrived.

“It’s on the second floor. But you need an escort. Where’s your jump leader.”

“Where’s your jump leader, you need a level two clearance for Data Command?”

“He’s dead.”

Bishop could sense the rising tension as concern bolted onto Charlotte’s face.

“Who’s dead?”

“Arnie Flynn”

Without a word, Charlotte pivoted on her right foot while grabbing Bishop’s jacket just above his left elbow. She pulled him slightly off balance and his back stiffened as he lunged forward.

“You need to come with me.”

Already moving, Bishop complied. Worn from the stress of the firefight and taken by Charlotte’s beauty, he didn’t have the strength or will to resist her pull.
With every stride Charlotte’s gait grew longer. And by the time they hit the first elevator bank at the far end of the foyer, she and Bishop were nearly at a sprint. Swiping her ID card she pushed the up arrow.

“Where are we going?”

“To the top. He’ll want a full report and I don’t want you to have to tell your story twice.”

“I was told to report to Data Command.”

“Don’t worry, You will.”

Inside the elevator, Charlotte swiped her ID card again and pushed the buttons for both the 12th and 14th floor at the same time, a combination that gave them express access to the 12th floor. Bishop watched the floors tick by in rapid succession, 8 … 9 … 10 ….
Within seconds the doors opened onto a secure reception area for the Office of the Chairman. Charlotte took a step forward with Bishop’s left sleeve in her fist.

Too exhausted to fight, he knew this wasn’t the best way to meet the Chairman and CEO of a billion dollar corporation. The only consolation right now was the beauty, strength, and verve of his escort. A small shred of energy pulsed through his body, as he fought to stay alert. Whatever was about to happen, he hoped its wasn’t his last day on the job or the last time he’d saw Charlotte.

“He’s on a call.” The receptionist said as she looked up at the pair.

Bishop in tow, Charlotte walked right past the chest high marble desk. Grabbing the handle of the 12 ft. mahogany double doors behind her and to the left, Charlotte pushed Bishop through the door unannounced.
Looking up from his desk more than 100 feet away, the Chairman was barricaded by a series of ornate couches and chairs, in multiple sitting areas throughout his expansive corner office.

“Hate to cut you off. I have to go.” Skip Williams quickly hung up the phone.

“Charlie, this is a pleasant surprise.” Skip walked around his desk and maneuvered through the elegant furniture, as he locked in on the strain in Charlotte’s face.”

“Dad, Arnie’s dead.”

Skip’s shoulders and head dropped immediately. For a split second he stood motionless, staring at the floor as he tried to take in the news. A veteran jumper, Arnie was one of the first to enter the program. He was more than just an asset at OmniVox, he was a friend.”

“This is Arnie’s jump partner. I wouldn’t let him tell me what happened until we were here. I didn’t want…”

Charlotte paused, as she turned toward toward Bishop, “I’m sorry, what was your name?” In the shock in hearing of Arnie’s death, Charlotte realized she’d never gotten his name.

“Paul…”

“Bishop.” Skip interjected. “Please sit down.”

Skip motioned to his left toward a pair of chairs and a couch near the center of the room.

“Just a moment,” he said holding up his index finger. Skip picked up the phone on the end table, and pressed reception as he looked at Bishop and his daughter Charlie. “Miriam, could you bring in fresh coffee, water, and …”, then looking directly at Bishop, “Would you care for anything else?”

“I’m fine sir.”

“Very good. That’s all Miriam, thank you.” Skip knew this might be a while. He sat in the chair facing the coffee table and farthest from the door. Charlotte was on his right, nearest him on the couch, with Bishop sitting next to her.
“I’ve seen your file. I review all the files of our jump teams. Paul Allen Bishop, but you go “Bishop.” Something to do with a nickname in High School. Dual major in economics and communications from Columbia. Four year letterman in Soccer. Parents passed away when you were four. You were raised by your aunt in South Florida if I recall.”

Bishop sat speechless. Having never met Skip Williams, he was surprised the Chairman knew anything about him. “Yes sir. That’s right.”

“I’m sorry we haven’t met under better circumstances. Please tell me everything you can about what happened on the jump. It’s important you leave nothing out.”

Bishop told Skip and Charlotte every detail he could remember. From landing in a firefight, lying next to Arnie’s bloody, lifeless body and then making his way through the clearing and finally into the protection of the woods where he waited for 45 minutes before the next jump window opened. Then calling Data Command the moment he hit his hotel room where he was told a car would be there in 5 minutes to bring him in.

Bishop laid the transponder and the carbon fiber backpack on the table as Skip and Charlotte sat stone faced. Skip broke the silence.

“I’m very glad you made it back Bishop. Most people need at least 20 to 30 jumps before they understand how to operate the transponder effectively. The fact your sitting here now is quite miraculous.”

Charlotte turned to Skip. “As an NGO we have a clear mandate for this technology. Our sole focus is to gather objective information for reporting and publishing purposes only. Why in the hell would there be coordinates that put Arnie and Bishop in the middle of a firefight.”

“I don’t know. But were going to find out.”

Skip reached for the phone. “Miriam. Get Mitchell on a secure line and patch him through to my office.”

“Yes Mr. Williams.”

Within seconds Skip’s office line rang. “Mitch, where are you?”

“Data Command?

“Is Ellis with you?”

“Yes”

“Have him run a coordinate report for all jumps in the last 48 hours and then send it up as soon as he has it. Also drop what you’re doing, I need you up here now.”

“I’m on my way.”

Turning to Bishop with the calm demeanor of a loving father, Skip sought to reassure him they would do whatever it took to find out what went wrong.

“Mitchell Gent is our head of security. We’ve worked together since our days back at DARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for the Department of Defense, some 20 years ago. If anyone can help us get to the bottom of this, it’s Mitch.”

Just then Mitch came through the door. Skip stood up, gesturing him toward the center of the room as he turned to Bishop for an introduction. As Mitch closed the final distance to the three, a quick thunderclap and burst of wind enveloped the far corner of Skip’s office just steps from his desk. In shock, the group turned and looked as two black clad military operatives instantly appeared in the far corner of the office.

Still standing, Skip and Mitch never had the chance to move as a three hollow point bullets from a silenced assault rifle pierced the chest and head of both men simultaneously.

Charlotte screamed as she watched her father collapse in front of her while Bishop once again felt warm blood on his neck.

Without thinking, he grabbed the back of Charlotte’s right arm, pulling her down and toward his chest. He grabbed the transponder and carbon fiber pack off the table. With a twist of the transponder, he and Charlotte were sitting in the calm of his hotel room. The last coordinates programmed into the transponder from his jump with Arnie just hours earlier.

Author’s note:  This week’s post is a revision of last week’s “Chased”. Why an edited version of last week’s piece? Three reasons: (1) the dialogue was stilted (stiff, self-conscious, and unnatural), (2) the reader new nothing “about” my main character, so why should they care about him? [both of these critiques came from Jinn and Dogwood during our last podcast], and (3) I don’t want to create an ‘Empire of Dirt.”

This line is from this week’s creative prompt. Toward the end of the song Johnny Cash says  … “And you could have it all, my empire of dirt.” It’s a statement of regret.  Regret for building something that doesn’t matter.  I couldn’t get that line out of my head.  So I used it to spur me on to fix my mistakes now.  I spent a little time reading about dialogue, and how to show and not tell.  And while I hope this is a bit better this week … one thing I did learn was that I have a whole heck of a lot to learn.  Especially if I want to avoid creating an empire of fictional dirt.

Thanks for reading.


This week’s flash fiction prompt came from me…

Hurt written by Trent Reznor, performed by Johnny Cash


These weekly garage fiction posts are an ongoing project with two other writers: Jinn Zhong and Dogwood Daniels. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.

WARNING: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).

This writer accepts no responsibility for what you may read or infer from the other two (unless its really meaningful, and powerfully impacts your life in a positive way).

Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week: http://www.jinnzhong.com/ff-003-hurt/
To read Dogwood Daniel’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week: http://templeofdogwood.com/2015/01/mercy/

Chased (GF#002)

Bishop dragged his body across the massive marble foyer at Omnivox Technologies. Surrounded by twenty-foot, floortoceiling glass, and furnishings that would make Donald Trump proud, this place was just as foreign as the airport at Donetsk, Ukraine he just left. Only here, he didn’t have people shooting at him.

The one bright spot in the middle of this opulence was the confident blonde, walking straight for him.  About his same height, with a slender frame she could’ve been an athlete or a model or both.

And as she looked past him, He couldn’t resist the urge to speak to her as she neared.

“Can you tell me where Data Command is?”

Charlotte Matthews quickly scanned Bishop from head to toe.  First catching his lightbrown eyes, she thought, sensitive,  intelligence and little fire in there.  The next thing to catch er eye was the new jump jacket, dirty, torn, and with black stains on the the left shoulder that looked like dried blood.

Bishop had done his best to clean up back at the hotel, but didn’t have time to change.

“You must be new?”

“That obvious?”

“Looks like you had a rough jump.”

“It wasn’t what we expected. And unfortunately, I was the only one who came back.”

“Who was your jump leader?”

“Arnie Flynn.”

“Is he ok?” Bishop could sense the rising tension as concern bolted onto Charlotte’s face.

“No. He’s dead.”

“What!?”

Pivoting on her right foot Charlotte grabbed Bishop’s jacket just above his left elbow, pulling his battle-weary body forward and slightly off balance.

“Come with me.”

Already moving, Bishop complied.  Worn from the stress of the firefight and taken by Charlotte’s beauty, he didn’t have the strength or will to resist her pull.

With every stride Charlotte’s gait grew longer.  And by the time they hit the first elevator bank at the far end of the foyer, she and Bishop were nearly at a sprint.  Swiping her ID card she pushed the up arrow.

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see in minute.  I need you to tell me everything that happened, but I don’t want you to have to tell your story twice.  So I’m taking you to the one person who needs to hear everything first.

“I was told to report to the Data Command center.”

You will.  I guarantee it.”

Inside the elevator, Charlotte swiped her ID card again and pushed the buttons for both the 12th and 14th floor at the same time, a combination that gave them express access to the 12th floor.  Bishop watched the floors tick by in rapid succession, 8 … 9 … 10 ….

He asked again, “Can you tell me where we’re going.”

To the top.”

“I see that.”

You need to see …” as she spoke the doors opened onto a secure reception area for the Office of the Chairman. Charlotte took a step forward with Bishop’s left sleeve in her hand as she finished her sentence “…the Boss.”

Bishop’s shoulders slumped.  He was exhausted. It was his first official day on the job, his jump leader was dead, and now he was being ushered into the office of the Chairman and CEO.  The only consolation was the beauty, strength, and verve of his escort.  A small shred of energy pulsed through his ragged body, as he fought to stay alert.  Whatever was about to happen, he didn’t want this to be the last time he saw Charlotte.

“He’s on a call.” The receptionist said as she looked up at the pair.  Bishop in tow, Charlotte walked right past her and grabbed the left handle of the 12 ft. double doors behind her, pushing Bishop through the door at the same time.

Looking up from his desk more than 100 feet away, barricaded by a series of ornate couches and chairs, in multiple sitting areas through the expansive penthouse office, the Chairman looked up and saw Charlotte and Bishop come straight through the doors unannounced.

“Hate to cut you off. But I have to go … call you back in a bit.” The Chairman hung up the phone.

“Charlie what a pleasant surprise.” Skip Matthews walked around his desk and maneuvered through the elegant furniture, as he locked on the strain in Charlotte’s face.”

Dad, Arnie’s dead.

Skip’s shoulders and head dropped.  For a split second he stood motionless, staring at the floor as he tried to take in the news.  Arnie was a veteran jumper, one of the first to enter the program. He had been with Skip and Charlie from the beginning. He was more than just an asset at OmniVox, he was a dear friend.”

“Dad, this is Arnie’s jump partner.  I wouldn’t let him tell me what happened until we were here.  I didn’t want….” 

Charlotte paused, as she turned toward toward Bishop, “I’m sorry what was your name again?” In the confusion and shock in hearing Arnie’s death, Charlotte realized she’d never gotten his name.

Bishop. Paul Bishop.

“Please both of you sit down.” Skip motioned to his left toward a pair of chairs and a couch near the center of the room

“Just a moment.” Skip picked up the phone on the end table, and pressed reception as he looked at Bishop and his daughter Charlie. “Miriam, could you bring in fresh coffee, water, and …”, looking directly at the pair, “Bishop would you like anything else?”

“I’m fine sir.”

“Very good. That’s all Miriam, thank you.”

Skip knew this might be a while.  He sat in the far left chair facing the coffee table.  Charlotte was on his right, nearest him on the couch, with Bishop sitting next to her.

Bishop told Skip and Charlotte every detail he could remember.  From landing in a firefight, lying next to Arnie’s bloody, lifeless body and then making his way through the clearing and finally into the protection of the woods where he waited for 45 minutes before the next jump window opened.  After that, he was back in the hotel room by himself.  And when he called in early, he was told to come to the Data Command Center immediately so they could download the jump file from the transponder.

Bishop laid the transponder and the carbon fiber backpack on the table as Skip and Charlotte both sat stone faced.  They could tell Bishop was green, this was his first jump.  He would need at least 20 to 30 more to be comfortable with the effects on his body.  But that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.  If ever.

Charlotte turned to Skip.

Dad. As an NGO we have a clear mandate for using this technology.  Our sole focus is to gather objective information for reporting and publishing purposes only. Why in the hell would there be coordinates that put Arnie and Bishop in the middle of a firefight.”

“I don’t know.”

Looking past Charlotte, Skip reached for the phone.

“Miriam. Get Mitchell on a secure line and patch him through to me immediately.”

“Yes Mr. Williams.”

Within seconds the Skip’s office line rang.

“Mitch, where are you?”

“Im in the Data Command Center

“Is Ellis there?”

“Yes”

“Have him initiate a coordinate report for all jumps in the last 48 hours and then send it up as soon as he has it. ”

“Ok.”

“I also need you to drop whatever you’re doing and come up to my office right now.” 

“Im on my way.”

Turning to Bishop with the calm demeanor of a loving father, Skip sought to reassure him they would do whatever they could to find out what went wrong.

“Mitchell Gent is our head of security. We’ve worked together since our days at DARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for the United States Department of Defense, more than 20 years ago. If there is anyone who can help us get to the bottom of this, it’s Mitch.”

Just then Mitch came through the door. Skip stood up, gesturing him toward the center of the room as he turned to Bishop for an introduction.  As Mitch closed the final distance to the three, a quick thunderclap and burst of wind enveloped the far corner of Skip’s office just steps from his desk.  In shock, the group turned and looked as two black clad military operatives instantly appeared in the far corner of the office.

Still standing, Skip and Mitch never had the chance to move as a three hollow point bullets from a silenced assault rifle pierced the chest and head of both men simultaneously.

Charlotte screamed as she watched her father collapse in front of her while Bishop once again felt warm blood on his neck.

Without thinking, he grabbed the back of Charlotte’s right arm, pulling her down and toward his chest.  He grabbed the transponder and carbon fiber pack off the table.  With a twist of the transponder, he and Charlotte were sitting in the calm of his hotel room.  The last coordinates programmed into the transponder from his jump with Arnie just hours earlier.


This week’s flash fiction prompt came from Dogwood Daniels…
The Battle of Chamdo by Gorguts


These weekly flash fiction stories are an ongoing project with two other writers: Jinn Zhong and Dogwood Daniels. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.

WARNING: The three writers in this project consist of a 40-something white Christian, a 30-something Asian agnostic, and a 20-something Hispanic mythologist, all with disparate worldviews but mutual respect.  Please note that depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for choice words, potentially inappropriate comments, and the possibility of indecent analogies (99% of which comes from Dogwood).

Having been duly warned, this writer accepts no responsibility for what you may read or infer from these two (unless its really meaningful, and powerfully impacts your life in a positive way).

Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.

To read Jinn Zhong’s FF-of-the-week: http://www.jinnzhong.com/ff-002-hungry-ghost/
To read Dogwood Daniel’s FF-of-the-week: http://templeofdogwood.com/2015/01/fly-on-the-wall/

The First Day (GF#001)

Paul Bishop stuffed his G-Form protected iPad in his pack and scrambled into the next room.

Arnie Flynn was already hollering, “Rule #1, never be late for a jump. Rule #2, don’t forget rule #1.”

“I got it.”

It was Bishop’s first day on the job. His first jump, and he hadn’t a clue what to expect.  “What’s the plan after we land.”

“Where we’re going there are no plans. Just keep your eyes open, follow my every move, and you’ll be fine. They don’t know were coming, so the first few seconds are always critical.”

“What do you mean crit…?”

Before bishop could finish, Arnie pressed his left palm over his right wrist and the two of them disappeared instantly. In a fraction of a second, they traded the warmth of a Midtown Manhattan hotel with the frigid air outside the airport in Donetsk, Ukraine.

“Shit! Shit! Get down.”

Arnie grabbed Bishop’s jacket and dropped. With one quick motion they were both on the deck. Bishop felt a burst of wind rush past his ear, followed by instant pain. Pressing his left hand to the side of his head, a warm ooze caused him to jerk it back. His palm was covered in blood. Just a few millimeters more and Bishop would have had more than blood in his hand.  Luckily, the searing pain was just enough to cause a reaction, but not enough to pull his head off the deck.

Bishop yelled, “Damn Arnie. You trying to get me killed? What now?”

No answer.

The firefight raged as mortar rounds concussed all around. It wasn’t just hard to hear, the white hot particles burning in the air made it hard to breath. On his stomach, face in the dirt, Bishop lay behind Arnies left hip. He grabbed Arnie’s jacket with his right hand and shook, “Arnie, this is not good man, we gotta move.”  No response.

“Arnie! Arnie!?”

Shimmying up on the frozen ground, Bishop moved just high enough to roll Arnie on his side. That’s when time stood still. Having never seen someone with half their face missing, Bishop gasped for air. His mind exploded with a thousand thoughts at once. How did I get here? Is this how I die? What do I do now? I didn’t even want this damn job! God help me.

With his next breath, he snatched his thoughts from the abyss and told his body what to do. He’s dead! Don’t think act! Snapping back to reality. Bishop hugged the ground, straining to keep his head lower than the bullets above his head.  Oh God. What now? Keep calm.

He instantly started to filter his thoughts. There were only two kinds, “useless and distracting” and “action”.  Move now!

Reaching over Arnie’s back to his right wrist, Bishop pulled the transponder off his arm and slid the sleek, carbon fiber pack off his shoulders and down his back. Two times the size of an average dive watch, the transponder was Bishop’s lifeline. It was the only way to activate Arnie’s pack for an instant ride home. The only problem now was finding a way to stay alive for the next forty-five minutes. The data center had preset the jump intervals on Arnie’s transponder. It was one way for OmniVox to keep track of the jumps while curbing any “alternative” travel plans reporters may want to take on an assignment. Most intervals were at least twenty four hours long. But Arnie was one of the first two jump reporters. So his was set for forty-five minute intervals, the equivalent of an all-access pass.

Looking away from Arnie and slightly behind his left shoulder, Bishop spotted a strand of trees. It was just enough cover to wait until the next interval. But with forty yards of wide open space from here to there, he had a better chance of swimming the Pacific to safety. The alternative was to stay where he was. But with no weapon, in the middle of a firefight, either way he would be nothing more than target practice. What he wouldn’t do for a bright colored, kevlar vest that said PRESS. The kind journalists wear in a combat zone. Then again, that would probably make things worse. This was rebel territory. And Russian separatists would do whatever it took to bring their lands back to Mother Russia. The mainstream press had already been told to stay out. This way, higher up the food chain, the western media could be fed rosy details of a successful pause in the fighting.

This place is supposed to be under a cease fire. Bishop went through the jump file in his head. They would have never sent us into the middle of a firefight . . . would they?

Bishop’s mind started to sink as his questioned his judgement. I knew I shouldn’t have taken this job.

But the offer was too good. After graduating from Columbia’s school of journalism with $226,491 in student loans, the thought of being debt free with the stroke of a pen was too hard to pass up. Snapping his mind to the present, he quickly filed his thoughts under “useless and distracting.” Grabbing the shoulder strap on Arnie’s pack Bishop sprung to his feet, lunging forward for the trees. Move!

 


This week’s flash fiction prompt was…

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
– Ecclesiastes 9:10


These weekly flash fiction stories are an ongoing project with two other writers: Jinn Zhong and Dogwood Daniels. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.

WARNING: The three writers in this project consist of a 40-something white Christian, a 30-something Asian agnostic, and a 20-something Hispanic mythologist, all with disparate worldviews but mutual respect.  Please note that depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for choice words, potentially inappropriate comments, and the possibility of indecent analogies (99% of which comes from Dogwood).

Having been duly warned, this writer accepts no responsibility for what you may read or infer from these two (unless its really meaningful, and powerfully impacts your life in a positive way).

Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.

To read Jinn Zhong’s FF-of-the-week: http://www.jinnzhong.com/ff-001-milk/
To read Dogwood Daniel’s FF-of-the-week: http://templeofdogwood.com/2015/01/dinner/