Prose

An Uncertain Future- Chapter 8


by: CJ Fogarty

Rich

Anyone who dares to claim that a hangover can be cured by a cold shower, coffee, or some “natural supplement”, hmph, synthetic bullshit is what they really mean, ought to be tied to a bloody giant bell for a few hours and see how well it works then.

I really shouldn’t get caught up in reading dietary magazines, they bring out the worst of my “bullocks detector”. Well, I suppose they aren’t magazines anymore, are they?

This new airport we’re in simply has a little black pad on each nightstand, named with logos like the Guardian, Esquire, and, the World Wide Press? Hmph, that’s new. Anyway, people apparently don’t pick up magazines anymore, but one quick swipe of somebody’s tablet over the little thing and the entire issue is downloaded onto the device in a manner of seconds.

Needless to say, it makes me chuckle when I see people having to angrily swiping their tablets several times over the device, the older folks simply giving up and angrily walking away.

I view such exchanges from my position waiting in line to get on the plane from London to St. Helena, round trip: departure, 11:35 AM, Greenwich-Mean-Time,  arrival, 1:05 PM.  That’s another surprise for us, well, Duke and I, anyway. An hour-and-a-half trip from London to St. Helena, which was the equivalent of over three hours fifty years ago. And only by boat, no less, St. Helena didn’t have an airport back then.

Taking our seats, I find that the plane itself is actually quite spacious, this being a shorter but wider jet.

A short time later, we’re off and into the air. I always loved flying. Soaring through the clouds, just seeing how small everything really else from way up there. It gives a man a little clarity, makes his problems back on the ground seem smaller. I always found it a good time to think. Naturally, of course, I asserted to take my place by the window, while Duke, on the other hand, obliged the seat closest to the aisle. He would always say that it was in case he needed to spot a suspicious figure on an airplane, he’d be able to act more quickly when close to the aisle. Really, however, I know that he’s deathly afraid of heights. There’s less and less chance of individuals sneaking harmful toys on board anyway, considering the holographic hand detectors used by flight security now. It was simply a quick beam scanned over one’s body, any suspicious-looking articles lighting up, not on the scanner but on you. It was futuristically shocking and a tad bit annoying to see me left pocket suddenly light up red, the flight agents telling me to remove my cigarettes. Still, there’s one improvement since we were here. You sleep for five decades and you can only hope that humanity’s made some improvements.

Bringing me head out of my reverie and my eyes out of the window, Duke taps on the shoulder with, “Hey, Rich. Miri and I were just talking about something, and we’d like your opinion.”

He says this while leaning over Miri’s lap, the lass keeping her arms folded, looking at me.

“Remember the Brown Bess being filled with all those old couples? Miri was asking if we sympathize with ‘em. You know, feel as they do. I’m thinking about it because I never gave her a clear answer last night. But, what do you think?”

I looked at Miri, who retorted with a shrug, “Just humor me, please.”

I thought for a moment, then answered, “Well, as Duke has undoubtedly told you, we do have rates of aging, albeit much slower than other people, but it does give us a definite view of what it means to get older. It means nothing, in the grand scheme of things. They say you get a little older, get a little wiser, or turn senile, but the reality is, people don’t change, even as they change ages. Some grow older and more bitter because they already had that inside them, it just didn’t quite show until they decided to let it. All that comes with age is the sense of worrying less about stupid, little things and simply live what’s left of life. So, but, to answer your question, yes, we do have a connection with them, but, only in that we understand the proximity of our own demise. Does that help?”

Miri had her brow raised at my answer, to which she replied, “well, one certainly cannot make a good deduction of you while you’re drunk.”

“Damn straight. Rich’s a downright philosopher when he gets into it. You’re a regular, Socrates, ain’t you Rich?”

Sorry to say, but this is an inside joke that only Duke and I will really ever get. Duke likes to poke fun at me considering my actions during what you’d know as the Classical Age of ancient Greece. In an age of cultural and philosophical intellectuals, I was probably the antithesis, a gritty, rage-driven Spartan mercenary.

But, to give an answer that is a little more relatable, I reply to Miri, “Duke likes to call up memories of my, hm, checkered past, shall we say? I, however, was never an outright criminal”.

My retort, of course, refers to Duke’s actions a few centuries later, as an infamous, high seas pirate.

To this, Duke gives squints menacingly, turns back to his seat, and responds defeatedly, “you just had to bring that up didn’t you?”

Meanwhile, Miri’s eyes had been moving back and forth from him to me.

She at last replies, “You boys sure have a story don’t you?”

“You have no idea”, I reply.

“I should like to hear, the truth of it, when we get to St. Helena”.

At this, Duke looks to me. I shrug back at him. He smiles at me then. And that’s when I start thinking that he’s as glad to see me as I am him. These are certain things we’ve just grown to tell about each other.

Duke lets out a large yawn and rubs his eyes.

“Goddamn, I’m tired. I didn’t sleep all that well last night. I’m gonna close my eyes for a spell, alright?”

Duke closes his eyes and, in only a few moments of silence, he’s nodded off. I always marveled at Duke’s ability to sleep just about anywhere.

I’m thinking about nodding off myself when Miri suddenly says, “Before we found you, I take it that you held down a menial, rather dirty job outside a cosmetics plant on one of London’s upper levels. And with your earnings, you were able to purchase those shoes the very same day we found you, where you trudged a long way from your place of employment, you wandered down to an elevator to the first level. There, you spent the night heavily drinking and, after a vigorous round of arm wrestling other patrons, you had been in a state of drunkenness until Duke came to wake you up, as it were.”

At this shockingly-accurate analysis, I could only glare stupefied.

At this in turn, the lass grins, “I’ll take by the look on your face that I’ve guessed your origins from last night fairly well?”

I nod. Indeed, she was correct. When I’d first arrived in London trying to clear me of all the horrible business I’d heard had transpired while we were away, as it were, I really didn’t have a good plan in mind. I was just glad to be back home. After spending a few weeks tramping, I figured out how to navigate the upper levels, sought out employment, the job of “shit-river” boy, as was the informal and probably the formal name of my position too, being practically given to me, and decided to live along as I chose, not trying to lose control of course….. Apparently, I failed in that.

“Clever lass”, I reply genuinely, “is that what they teach Guardians nowadays?”

“Not exactly”, Miri replies, keeping her arms folded and her position largely unchanged, “but I’d encountered the method of deduction looking over Guardian records, and I decided that it would improve my abilities in the field.”, then, almost confessionally, with a bright glint in her eye “and, it’s pretty funny seeing people’s reactions when telling them whom they slept with last night.”

After a light chuckle, I add, “you know, you come off more stiff and serious than you really are, don’ you lass. What’s your story exactly?”

To this, Miri’s mood changes, those cheery eyes leaving and the stormy greys returning, “Well, umm. I guess….mine’s no different than a lot of people my age, let’s put it that way.”

I’ve grown accustomed to sensing when someone’s backstory is going to involve a few sad tales, and I also know that an airplane is no place for it. Duke was right, though, the poor lass is young. I turn back to Miri and find her eyes downcast, fiddling with the gadget on her wrist. If smartphones gave people anything, it’s a legitimate means of cutting off a conversation.

I decide to ask, for her benefit “Now, how exactly do you know that I bought these shoes. How do know I didn’t steal them?”

She looks back to me, her interest apparently piqued, “that’s a good question. Hm, I didn’t think about that one.”

Miri pauses, alternating her eyes between my shoes to staring ahead.

After a bit, in a reassured tone, “Well, you’re going to tell me that you came to London not wearing any shoes at all.”

“What does that matter”, I reply.

“Simply put, if you had stolen those shoes, it would either be because you had needed a form of footwear or that the shoes you did steal were better than the ones you had on”, cocking an eyebrow, she continues, “and I doubt a pair of Allenby bargain loafers, manufactured in Afghanistan and retailing around 11.50 U.S. credits and uh, 13 U.K. royals, are exactly considered high fashion. Maybe under the rock you two have clearly been living under for five decades they are.”

I see the logic of her argument but had already thought of a way to counter it.

She, however, pounced first with a raised hand and, “also, I highly doubt you, with a rare 11 and a half-size shoe is going to find those in a pinch off some tramp or robbing a shoe store in the middle of the night. Which, in case you haven’t noticed, is hard to do nowadays.”

Bullocks. She’s got me there. I admire her abilities so far.

With an honored smile, I reply, “Well, I see why John saw you fit to lead. You’re capable, determined, and intelligent.”

Her simple smile, quiet thanks, and downcast eyes tell me that she isn’t quite used to being complimented so sincerely. At least on relatively equal terms.

“So”, I change the subject, “I take it Duke was less of a problem than I was.”

She nodded, but her face spoke almost to the contrary.

“More or less. I think he complained a bit more than you, though.”

That makes me laugh. Duke is very stubborn sometimes.

“Actually, come to think of it, his state was far more, um, passive aggressive than yours.”

“You mean”, I reply, matter-of-factly, “he wasn’t raving mad with nostalgic lunacy.”

Nostalgic lunacy. That’s a new one. I’ll have to keep it.

“Well, actually yes”, Miri replied, trying a bit to sound sensitive, “and, actually, I find Duke to be a harder read. He expresses some instances of paranoia as well as, I think, a large buildup of stress. I have observed that he may be holding things back via a confident, calm, and, sometimes cocky demeanor”.

“You’ve gathered all that from simple observation and deduction?”

With hesitation, she replies, “Y-Yes, but, I also his file. Yours two. Although, I can scarcely actually believe most of the testimonial evidence. You two have quite a legendary reputation.”

“That’s no surprise, Miri. However, Duke and I will both assure that it has been exaggerated.”

“I know right? What I hear about you guys is simply fucking crazy”, she replies, suddenly sounding more like a kid. She quickly comes back with, “I mean to say that it’s hard to pick out the real facts.”

“Such is what happens with legendary personalities. What, in particular, did some people say.”

I will admit not out loud that my reason for asking this is selfish. I want to see what my, our reputation has been over the years.

“Well”, Miri begins, relaxing her arms and her whole body now, “I hear all sorts of folk stories about the Great Guardians being protectors of humanity for thousands of years. They, that is, you two, fought monsters, demons, vampires, dictators, terrorists, and fanatics. You two are the heroes all others are based off of because you two are actually real, but work in the shadows so as to appear legendary and, therefore, untouchable. I must say, it’s a great idea if you wanna keep young Guardians entertained and motivated, but hardly the stuff of truth. And it just doesn’t conform to the way we really operate, nor the way we think nowadays, really. Vampires, gods, thousand-year-old warriors, they just aren’t natural phenomena, and, I simply cannot conclude much truth from what I’d heard, nor could I conclude that you two were even real. Guess that’s the only thing I’ve been wrong about, huh?”

I suppose I ought to have known right away what type of girl this Miri is. Either facts or fiction, that’s her way, and never the twain shall meet. I must say I am glad that Godeseye leadership has finally passed to someone like this, but, I fear she has a lot to learn.

“I take it you’re a rationalist then?”, I ask.

“Well, of course. I mean, that’s the way the world works, and anything we cannot know to be true or perceive via the senses must be questioned and, ultimately, debunked”, she replies directly.

“I take it you’re an atheist then?”, I continue, in the tone of a simple query.

“Yes”

“Oh, very good. I always considered myself a bit of an agnostic myself. I believe there’s some good that religion can serve in this world, so long as its followers are not bound to certain restrictive thought.”

“I totally agree”, she replies, warming up to me quite fondly, I take it, “but, with the role of organized churches being limited nowadays, that’s less and less of a problem. I’m glad the Catholic Church finally woke up. That archbishop, I think his name’s Victor Arnim. He’s probably the one religious leader I can respect. Heard of him?”

“Can’t say I have”, I think out loud.

“Hm”, is her reply, followed by, “so, uh, how old are you two really. I mean, at first Duke said like twenty-thousand or something, but of course he was intoxicated. He then changed his answer to twenty-nine the next morning. Now, is that the truth? Be honest.”

Ah, well, here’s the part where I draw her back just a little further from.

“Well, yes, Miri, what Duke declared was true.”

“Good, I at least am sure of-“

“But, in all actuality”, I interrupt, “we are eight-thousand and sixty nine, by this calendar.”

Here come those dagger eyes I had tried to prepared myself for.

“Come on, R.S., stop screwing around here. Until I figure out what exactly the Order needs form you two, it’ll be a lot easier if there’s no..more..lies between us. Okay?”

“I really wish I were lying to you Miri, but you said for me to be honest and-“

I am suddenly interrupted by the squawking of the stewardess’s voice from the ovular intercom above our seat.

“Attention passengers. We are sorry to interrupt your flight, and please try to remain calm for the duration of this message. It has been made known to the captain of this airline that there are three individuals on board who are convicted, international terrorists.”

At this point, people start frantically looking about them, whispering worriedly.

I start to do so as well, whilst the intercom keeps going with, “As stated earlier, please remain calm. The hostiles are not in possession of any weapons but if there is a chance of violent behavior, they will be apprehended in a manner of seconds.”

“Sit down, Rich, she means us”, I hear Miri say lowly and to my utter shock.

Great, we’re not back with the Order for three days and already we’re convicted terrorists.

“How do they know?”, I whisper loudly.

“This conversation on your ages will continue later, but I can safely assume that you are older than me and have been with the Order longer, I think. Therefore, don’t act like this is the first time this has happened.”

“Not, it isn’t, but we usually have a contingency plan to get out of these situations.”

“We already have one”, Miri replies flatly.

And, at that point, I suddenly hear the plane door open, all eyes drawn to it. I look out my window, which I ought to have done long ago, and find a large, black helicopter, only, it has wings too, with a long, enclosed bridge running from it to our plane. I guess it makes sense that the we develop better ways of intervening on an airplane in this future. I turn around and find the nose of a submachine gun pointed at my face. Holding it is a gas-masked soldier with a black flight suit.

I raise my hands behind my head, and as does Miri the same, I turn to her and mutter, “the backup usually doesn’t involve us getting captured.”

She glares to silence me, as one soldier states in a muffled voice, from which I can barely discern a British accent and a slight lisp, “alias Richard Saint, aka R.S., Michael ‘Duke’ Bishop, aka D.B., and Miri Larkin, aka Vixen. The three of you are charged with international espionage and are to be apprehended by order of the International Criminal Police Organization.”

Turning the my left, I see an operative rouse Duke out of his sleep. Upon opening his eyes to a gun in his face, he angrily issues, “What the fuck is this!?”

His outburst causes the soldiers to point directly at him.

“We are authorized to use lethal force”, another soldier states, in a once-again muffled, but French-sounding accent.

“No stop”, Miri calmly replies, “we will go quietly. Won’t we Duke”.

Duke then looks to me. I nod. Then, he looks to her, and does the same, though, still not looking at all happy. Duke despises being captured. It’s a blow to his pride he always says. And he hates dealing with law enforcers, let alone Interpol.

But, with a sour look on his face, he offers his wrists to the solder in front of him with, “You better put me in some strong handcuffs, buddy.”

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