Onions cause tears whether you wannem or not.
|The ergonomic chair supports groaned around my lower lumbar as I kicked back and crossed my ankles atop the workspace where the keyboard ought to have been. Couldn't fathom whether the apparent strain was due to my age or my weight, and at this stage I wasn't sure I cared, but the sound made me check myself for scant moments before I became too comfortable.|
Jason. Jason rolled around the back of my mind as I watched the central screen above.
Jason was a kid. Jason was impetuous. Jason was well trained, coordinated and physically advanced beyond his years. But he was way too young.
And we got him killed.
Couldn't have another Jason.
I shuffled my posterior deeper into the seat, shifted around to the left, gingerly plucked my cup of Oolong from the counter and sipped. Nothing better than a well made cup of tea. Learned that from me Ma, and it was a good lesson. She was the best.
The little red blip traversed the gray squares with some speed. Working right to left, east to west in nearly a straight line. It moved with determination across a particularly large stretch of gray, approached an edge bordered by a black strip extending vertically, north and south.
I bit into a toast wedge with a resounding crunch. Almost giggled; stifled a cough. Raised my chin toward the screen.
"Mind the gap." I said out loud to noone in particular, knowing full well she could hear me as if we were in the same room.
The blip stopped abruptly right at the edge of the gray space. I could picture her windmilling as she came up short.
"Dude. You gotta stop doing that."
I chuckled, replaced my teacup upon the counter. I shifted the chair slightly back to the right and centered the keyboard in my lap as I reclined blissfully and stretched.
"Seriously, you think crossing these alleys is easy?"
I studied the map noting the thickness of the alley as opposed to the avenue to the south. She'd come this far without any hitches.
"... well, I mean ..." I said interlacing my fingers behind my head.
"You must be seriously bored chiming in like that. Gonna make me fall."
She sounded more than irritated. And a little out of breath. Probably could've used the break ... yeah that was my story, and I'm sticking to it ...
"Ok okaayy." I mumbled starting to feel the warmth of embarrassment bloom around my collar.
The blip retreated deeper into the gray, away from the edge a few paces.
"How's the new software working?"
I glanced to the left, lowest-most screen. Similar layout in miniature but rendered with more color. Hard edges were red. Streets were green. Rooftops were grays in various shades depending upon their heights. Access points: doorways, skylights, windows were yellows. Alleyways were still black.
I stared dully at the smaller image.
"Hold on." I said.
I replaced my cup upon the counter with the wireless keyboard, sat my crispy, dry toast nearby. I pitched forward, erect in my chair and worked my thumbs and forefingers together either side of the workspace. Furrowed my brow against the "QWERTY"
... "Uhhmm ..." I said absently facing sudden realization. "where's the ..."
"What." she said ... I could picture her smirking ... was really beginning to hate that smirk ... "Are you wearing the gloves I gave you?"
"They're tight." I responded yanking open the lap drawer, stubbornly determined to find the mouse ... that didn't appear to be anywhere in evidence.
"C'mon man. Only need one."
I slammed the drawer shut, glowering at the screen.
"What kind of ..."
"No if's, and's, or but's. We went over this."
I chuffed audibly before reaching for the back of the counter to retrieve the little pile of fabric, fretfully discarded in a wad. I separated a pair of flimsy, light, delicate gloves and drew one over each hand.
"Yeah yeah ... alright, they're on ..."
"Left hand. Point at the monitor you want. Flick it to center."
Like a demented magician, I flexed my left index finger lower left. An outline appeared around the entire picture. The screen jerked, seemed suddenly loosened, as if it was uprooting itself. I jerked my fingertip to the right, the screens reversed their positions with the colored version assuming the centermost locale, and I exhaled. No confidence. Certain I was gonna blow the whole system in the effort.
"Ok. You're standing on a blue rooftop instead of a gray one."
"Pinch the fingers of your right hand together, and rotate your wrist clockwise. Then open your hand."
The entire map swung into a 3D relief. The building upon which she was standing deepened, swung sideways, and extended down about three floors rife with digital details. Stairways, doorways, elevators, hallways ... and a bevy of odd little white dots flickering sporadically from place to place. They pulsed, brightened, faded out. Couple of seconds later, the white dots returned arranged slightly askew. Couple seconds more, they were varied yet again ... movement ... and those were people. In their apartments. Completely unaware what or who was standing sentinel upon the roof above.
"Wow." was all I could think to say.
"Yeah I'd say."
"To what depth ..."
"30 maybe 40 foot radius."
"Pulsing at ..."
"Oh - intervals of 2 to 5 seconds. Hard to say ... not bad though. Not bad at all."
"Thanks." she said sincerely. "Need to work up a new cell though. Battery's kinda heavy."
"I'm sure you'll think of something."
"Oh. Sure." she said absently, "Just thinking. And watching."
"Okay. Listen I'm kinda struggling with ..."
"Sh." she called out abruptly, followed by "You'll get used to it ..." in a whisper.
I focused on the screen. Her dot remained immobile, resolute. Right at the edge of the rooftop. White dots scurried around beneath and behind her. Lower left screen showed same gray squared layout, little red dot just ... waiting.
"Sh." she barked again.
I sat forward, staring. The relief map gave no indication anyone or anything in proximity. She was alone ... so what?
"Rooftop, this is Eye." I uttered calmly, watching the screens.
"Going dark." came her response.
"No. No you're not ..." the audio clicked. Went dead. "Young lady ... GAH!" I erupted pitching my earbud to the counter. It clattered around, bounced off the inert spectrometer at the back, rattled to a halt near my right hand.
The red dot vaulted into the space between the buildings. Thing was, she didn't run up, she just jumped ... my heart slammed my ribcage hard and I gulped a breath ... I think I might've stopped breathing for a fraction of a second. And in that fraction of time, I watched the dot plummet two, now three floors in that open space as if she were ... falling.
My eyes felt as though they were about to pop out of my skull as I watched. Around the 14th floor, the dot diverted hard left, appeared as though it were crashing into a wall for a moment. The relief map reoriented itself ... a window, she went through a window. Red dot was in a lower hallway inside the neighboring building across the alley. The window was to her right and a long hallway stretched out before her. Doorways peppered the horizontal length of the hall. She was motionless. Was she down? Or just standing there?
I stood. The chair rolled backward violently. I snapped my earbud back into my ear.
"Rooftop, this is Eye. Acknowledge."
Nothing. Only silence.
"Rooftop!" I could hear and feel my voice rising. Struggling to maintain composure.
A white dot appeared at the left edge of the relief map. Couple seconds later, it was maybe 10 feet closer to the red dot. I bit my lip.
All at once the red dot surged down the hall. The white dot back up a fraction. The red dot came on until they were basically touching. With the next pulse, the white dot was behind, and ahead of the red dot two more white dots appeared. The red dot surge again, hopped a little. It came off the ground wavered around the ceiling a moment, descended to the floor. Past the first dot. Face to face with the second. The two dots locked together. The red dot went left of the white. The white dot went diagonally to the right, went over the top of the red dot and pulsed past a couple of feet where it became inert. The red dot stood pat. Became motionless again.
I picked up a faint crackle in my ear.
"Rooftop this is Eye."
"Yeah I got you." she sounded a tad winded.
"Fine. Just doing my thing." she called quietly
Her dot moved further down the hall, a bit more pensively. Walking? Another white dot appeared. She worked her way toward it. Slowed outside a doorway.
Earpiece picked up a creaking hinge in her background.
"Jesus." she called.
"What?" I erupted.
"Call 911! Al Hambra, 49th and Huron, Room 1461."
"Wait. Uh ..." needed a pen ... where'd she put the paper.
"Need an Ambulance and paramedics. 49th and Huron, 1461. Got it?!"
A wail was building beneath her voice. It worked its way from a groan to a scream. Female ... a child?
"Y-yes." I gulped.
I listened to her unbuckling her belt. Heard the thump as the heft hit the floor. Screaming and crying and screaming and gulping and wailing overtook all else through my earpiece. Beneath the row, I heard her voice, calm and soothing.
"Pressure. Can you applying pressure. Here?" Another scream erupted. I winced. It was deafening. "Good, now hold. I ... gotta ... tie this off ..." I heard her grunt, followed by another scream. "Need a tourniquet." Heard fabric tearing. "God dammit. Where are we with the Ambulance.
In a panic. I pointed my left glove at a screen on the right upon which a list appeared. Various names and numbers revealed themselves and remained highlit with the motion of my hand. 49th and Huron nearest theeeeeee ... Mellenault Trauma Center. I tapped the listing, heard the dispatcher in my ear. Male. Possibly a smoker. "Yeah." Obviously this wasn't routine procedure.
"Need a trauma team, 49th and Huron at the Al Hambra. Room 1461. Singular female victim. Heavy trauma, possible amputation."
"Who is this?" he sounded off, all pissy and with gravel.
"Subject is bleeding out. Al Hambra. 49th and Huron. Room 1461. ASAP."
"Got it." then after a brief pause. "How did you get this ..."
I hung up.
"Rooftop this is Eye. Services en route."
She grunted. The screams had died to a whimpering. "Thanks. Gonna stabilize. Try and rig saline. Real mess."
"Not now. Gimme 5 more minutes, and I'm in the wind."
"Gonna be alright?"
"With a little luck."
"No. I meant you."
"Dunno. Can't unsee this. We'll talk later."
"Yeah - think we're done for the night. Be back momentarily."
"Watch your back."
I was about to cut out and begin archiving the mapping effort for the evening.
"... still have any more of that tea?"
I grinned, fists at each side of the keyboard. Lowered my eyes to the keys.
"Absolutely. I'll put the kettle on."