Monday, April 15, 2013

Dvorak Classic: Chapter Fifteen

Dvorak Classic
Chapter 15 (or, "Survival Tactics")

Yesterday’s Episode: Mac and Carissa tried to escape their burning school, but succeeded in freezing reality in time.
     Sarah crossed her legs again and sipped her frapp. “Seriously? Where is he?” She leaned her head on her hand. “This is the last time he’s late. I swear.”
    There was a light snow falling outside the Saint Arbucks that morning, a chilly one that Sarah hadn’t prepared for. She huddled in the back of the cafe and drank her drink, her usual without any whip cream. The barista had curiously asked her why she was ordering a cold drink in the dead of winter, but Sarah had not responded. She had simply paid for the drink and moved on with her life. Reality was not kind to her anymore. The barista would probably forget her drink again, as they had a habit of doing, she had thought to herself. Indeed, fifteen minutes after she had placed her order, she had to show them her receipt to prove she had ordered the drink in the first place, and she received another free drink coupon good on a future order.
    I think I only pay for about half of my drinks here, Sarah thought to herself as she pulled out her tablet. If he was going to be late today, of all days, then she might as well get started without him. She unlocked the screen and scrolled through the apps until she got to one with a red apple on it labeled “QWERTY.” She tapped it, and it started, pulling up a file with the designation “Y-MH-560” at the top.
    “Sorry I’m late.”
    She looked up from her tablet to find him standing there, out of breath, as if he had just used the subway to get there. “Quit your faking, Mick. You better have a good excuse for your absence.”
    “Does it involve paying for your next drink?”
    “No. I got another blasted free drink coupon. Now sit down and show me what you’ve got. We don’t have a lot of time.”
    Mick was quiet, but he nodded as he sat across from Sarah at their booth. He pulled out a cell phone from his jacket pocket and tapped a few buttons. Sarah merely gave Mick a once-over and whistled. “Going for the three piece suit look today, I take it.”
    “Of course. I figured I would fit right in with this neighborhood.”
    “And so what, you’re just going to show up as Hispanic if we go to the Heights? Black in Bed-Stuy? Give me a break, Mick. You’re disgusting.”
    Mick grinned. “I’m sent. There’s a difference.”
    “Not on this plane of reality, there’s not. Enough beating around the bush. What do you have?”
    Mick handed the phone to Sarah. “This so far. We could always do a random selection with the population we’re given. At this cafe, even.”
    “Mick, we have two weeks to pull this off. We need someone who’s going to be clued in to the entire process. Someone who can handle the merging of the realities. And someone who’s going to figure out the clues we’ll have to send them in a roundabout way. This is the biggest decision we’ll ever have to make for this world, Mick. We can’t get this wrong.”
    “Or else, or else, I get it, yada yada yada.”
    “Mick, there’s a reason I was put in charge, and you just demonstrated it.”
    Mick took Sarah’s frapp and took a sip from it without her permission. “Just look at the files,” he said.
    Sarah nodded and started to flip through Mick’s files with her finger. Picture after picture showed smiling faces, photos taken incognito of people who didn’t even know that they were getting their picture taken. There had to be at least three hundred photos in this folder alone. “Did you narrow them down at all?”
    “Not exactly, but I did get one that you’ll have to look at. Can I?”
    “That’s the first time you’ve asked permission on something in a long time, sweetheart,” Sarah said as she gave Mick back his phone.
    Mick just grinned and tapped the emerald ring on Sarah’s left ring finger. “You can’t be that mad at me.”
    “Try me.”
    “Especially considering the circumstances. Especially since if we pick the wrong person --”
    Sarah got up from her chair and got into Mick’s face. “Do not try me right now. We made it through Project Metropolitan without anybody getting left behind, right?”
    Mick just nodded. When Sarah spoke, she was right.
    She sat back down. “So if we can take care of a huge project like that, then this is easy.”
    “Sarah, I was held hostage at the Metropolitan Opera for three months. Anything is easy after what you had to do to free me.”
    “Yeah, and if you bring it up again, I swear I’ll break out into Nessun Dorma right here in this Saint Arbucks. Now show me what you wanted to show me.”
    It took Mick a few minutes to find it, but he did. “This.”
    Sarah took the phone from him and looked it over. It was a picture snapped of a boy, a teenager, really, with bright red hair sitting on a bike. She raised her eyebrows as the meaning made sense. “That’s the Taggart boy. He’s here? What’s he doing outside of Coney Island?” She put the phone down. “I thought we told Rue to keep him in Brooklyn, or else. Certainly explains why things have gotten worse these past few months, though. As long as that Taggart boy isn’t in Brooklyn, we’re going to have problems. Unless, you know, we’re able to finally resolve his own issues. How are Harley and Kiv doing on that, anyway?”
    “Project’s been stalled for some time. They’ve been busy with other things.”
    “Well, get them back on that. If we can get it resolved by the fated day, maybe Taggart will actually still be alive at the end of this debacle.” Sarah took another sip of her frapp. All of this thinking was making her head hurt. “No other pictures of note, other than that one?”
    “None that jumped out at me. You’ll have to take a look.”
    Sarah groaned. “Fine. But get that second frapp, then. The usual.”
    “Even though it’s cold out?”
    “Just go, Michael! Now!”
    “Okay, okay.” And Mick was gone, waiting in line to get Sarah another drink…even though she had another free drink coupon. Sarah rolled her eyes and turned back to Mick’s phone. This would be so much easier if she wasn’t engaged to her partner. She wondered what Jesse was up to these days; while she was a little flighty, Sarah and Jesse had conquered their share of projects over the years, only changing when Mick had come into the picture. Of course, it hadn’t hurt that Mick and Jesse were related, and the three of them had been assigned to Project Metropolitan together.
    Mick hadn’t said anything recently about his sister, which usually meant she was still good with Milton. Dang. Not that being stuck with Mick was a chore. She just wished he listened sometimes.
    She continued to scroll until she found a picture of a girl sitting at this same Saint Arbucks. She was young, maybe about the Taggart boy’s age, Hispanic, lived up north. Her family had been in the city for generations, which meant that if Sarah gave this girl directions somewhere, she knew that they would be followed. Plus, if she went to this same Saint Arbucks often, they could start correspondence even today. It would be perfect...if she showed up.
    Mick arrived back at the table, and Sarah grabbed the frapp from him. “Any luck?”
    “What about her?” Sarah showed Mick the picture she had found. “She’s from the city, and from the looks of it, at least she frequents this area.”
    “Goes to the school on the corner, too, telling from the uniform. Do you think she knows Taggart?”
    “Her? No way. Rue’s got him at school near Borough Hall, remember? She’s got him in a lock for after schools at Kofenya. You tend to forget there are eight million people living in this city. There’s no way she knows Taggart.”
    “Oh, right. I had forgotten that.”
    What had she just thought about Mick not listening? She sighed and sipped more of her frapp. “We need to make a decision. We don’t have much time.”
    Mick’s eyes widened. “Your six.”
    Sarah turned and saw the girl from the photo step into the Saint Arbucks, a white duffel on her shoulder. “Bingo. Are you good?”
    “Of course I am. Are you?”
    She kissed him quickly. “I am now. Stick around the bathroom. I’ll make sure she leaves her bag in there, so you two can connect. I’ll be outside.” She touched him on the head and smiled, trying to hide her sadness. “See you in two weeks, sweetheart.”
    He smiled back as well, more confident than she that everything would work out and they would actually meet again. “Two weeks.”

    Carissa touched the smoke that hung in midair over the lunch table. “It...stopped.”
    “And so did your headache, I assume,” Mac said. “We don’t know how long this stop is going to last. We need to head out of here and get you to the hospital before your head starts hurting again.”
    “Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary.”
    Mac and Carissa watched as a young woman walked into the room, with long blonde hair done up in a bun and a blue sundress -- in the middle of winter. She stood next to them. “The pause can last for as long as you want it to. I’m surprised you haven’t figured that out yet.”
    “Who are you?” Mac asked. “And why are you here?”
    “Why are we here,” Carissa asked, eyes now closed, “standing in the middle of a burning building that’s been frozen in time?”
    “Because you’re the one who has frozen it. And you will have that ability up until the fated day.” The woman smiled. “I assume you have some questions about all of this?”
    “Too many,” Carissa said. “It makes my head hurt just thinking about it.”
    The woman sat down. “I can’t leave this building, or time will restart,” she said. “My name is Rue. Come along, Pond. Sit down, and I’ll tell you everything I can.”

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