Bishop dragged his body across the massive marble foyer at Omnivox Technologies. Surrounded by twenty-foot, floor–to–ceiling 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 light–brown eyes, she thought, sensitive, intelligence and a 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?”
“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?”
“Is he ok?” Bishop could sense the rising tension as concern bolted onto Charlotte’s face.
“No. He’s dead.”
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?”
“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. ”
“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/