March 9, 2006
What dialect was it, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil. Not that he could speak any of them. It didn’t matter anyway. He was only half listening to her. The rest of his attention was focused on the nervous looking teenager across the street. Even though he was Maori, his skin was dark enough for him not to stick out like a sore thumb. A dirty jacket over a hooded sweatshirt, tattered jeans, and old tennis shoes, the boy obviously knew how to blend in. The kid was the type you wouldn’t notice unless you were looking for him, and right now he noticed that the kid needed a burger. In fact, he was probably shaking more out of hunger, than nerves or the cold. Still, the monitor shot into his back two days ago showed an increased heart rate.
Speaking of burgers…
The crackle in his ear startled him. Even before his heart rate leveled out, the nano-machines in his brain stem had rerouted the impulses headed toward his vocal cords through the radio relay.
“Sarge, so good to hear from you.” He lied, “Look, I…”
“Shut it, Barnes. I want a progress report.” Didn’t the man realize that you didn’t need to shout through these implants?
“Yeah, I got nothing so far, sir. Just watching the kid.” Just what he always wanted to do, baby sit.
For once the Sarge’s voice mellowed, “Look, Ethan, you’ve been chasing this kid for almost a week. If he doesn’t lead you to the rest soon, just process him and get it over with. We’ll pick up the trail again.”
“I’m not letting this trail go cold, Sarge. It took us six months to pick this one up. I’d rather tough it out here for a little while longer than to have to come back to India in the middle of summer.” Ethan let his head fall back on the bench at the thought of having to run around Delhi during the summer months. He rather liked it cold.
“Okay, Ethan, just don’t loose him.” The transmitter clicked off.
Aloud he said, “Don’t worry, I won’t.” He had.
He had only looked away for a second or two, but now the kid was nowhere in sight.
He could just imagine what the sergeant would say to him,
‘You let one of these dangerous people out of your sight for even a second. He could have killed a million people by the time you looked back.’
Sure they were dangerous. He had never seen firsthand their complete destructive capability, but he had heard stories. Though, more powerful Alters than this kid had been responsible for those massacres.
Ethan looked down at his PDA for the location of the missing Alter. He got the coordinates and gave chase.
Jacob McDonald had lived a long life, and now he was going to die. There were no two ways about it. That once small mass of flesh that he only ever saw in an x-ray was killing him. He had coughed up so much blood in the last week that he wondered if he had any more left in him. His wife was with him, his first and only love. Well, unless you counted that one golf swing in ’58. Caroline was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, well as far as he knew anyway. They had met one rainy day on a street corner, just the way all good love stories start out. It was raining something fierce, as if all the rain droplets wanted to get down to the ground all at once. She was stuck under a bus stop, having missed her bus and trying wait out the rain till she could find a better place to seek refuge. The bottom foot of her blue dress was soaked, turning it from the color of the sky on a clear day to the color of an ocean below a moonless night. That and her dark red lips were the only colors he could remember from that day. He had seen her from across the street. He thought she hadn’t seen him walk into a nearby drug store and buy a new umbrella. I wouldn’t have mattered. When he walked over to her to offer her some assistance, the price tag dangled right in front of her eyes when he popped the umbrella open. They both stared at it for a few seconds. Jacob thought his face must have lit up to match her lips. That was the first time he heard her laugh. It was also the moment he fell in love.
And now she sat by his bed reading to him, dressed in a slightly larger blue dress, but just the exact same shade of lipstick. She would be what he would miss most about this life. He doubted that he would meet someone like her in his next one. He let a tear roll down his face, but he wiped it away before she could see. Letting her words roll past him, he let his gaze drift toward the window and the outside world. That’s when he saw it, saw him.
It was a man dressed in dress pants and an un-tucked white oxford shirt. He had his black shoes in his hands and his suit jacket over his arm as he walked down the outer perpendicular wall of the hospital building. For a minute Jacob just stared in shock until he realized that his wife was asking him a question.
“What was that, dear?”
“I said, what’s wrong, Jacob?”
Jacob hesitated to answer, “Outside, outside the window.” His hand shook as he raised it to point at the man now stopped and looking in his window. “A man, a man on the wall. He’s, he’s walk…”
Caroline looked over her reading glasses at him then turned to look out the window. “I don’t see anything.”
How could she not see it, he thought? He was standing right there looking at them. Was he smiling at them, at him? Why did he look so familiar?
The man seemed to let go with his feet and hang in the air for a second. Then he fell as if the ground pulled at him with an unseen rope. It surprised Jacob so much that he leapt up from his bed, frightening his wife in the process. He pressed his old face against the glass, craning to see the ground of what was the roof for another wing of the hospital. The man was nowhere to be seen.
Jacob rummaged through his old brain looking for the man’s face. He found it and with it a name.