Character sketches of Frances and Patrick by Nicholas Dobkin. More to come!
August 29, 2055
Yesterday, at 0900 hours, we shot down a Bell 206 helicopter, one of our own. It was hijacked by fugitives: Patrick Reiss and Frances Sampson. It landed somewhere near the border of New Mexico. I’m on my way to the site with a reconnaissance team.
The pair escaped for one reason only: my hubris. When Maria alerted us of Phillip Jordan’s presence, and that he was with the Conduit, Frances Sampson, we descended on their location. A hundred ORS took the building from the ground, manning all possible exits, and overtaking each floor. I knew they’d have no choice, but to make their way to the roof of the building. I thought it’d be so simple. I took a helicopter with two men to cut them off. She was in my grasp, the Conduit, Frances. I was so inches away from success. And that’s where I went wrong.
I didn’t see every scenario possible. I saw only one: me as the victor. Right when I was about to end that scrawny Conduit’s life, the unexpected occurred. Patrick Reiss attacked me from behind, and hit me with the butt of a rifle he stole from one of the ORS with me. I then saw that he had unarmed and knocked out the pilot, and the two men with me. It was the adrenaline, the sound of the helicopter’s propeller, and just my sheer focus on Frances, that I did not hear the scuffle going on behind me. Not until it was too late.
It took only seconds for me to recover, my vision still blurred, I ran in the direction of the helicopter. Just as it’s taking off, I leap toward it, catching hold of the landing skids. I’m swinging my body back and forth, trying to use my weight to knock the helicopter off its center. Patrick sits in the cockpit, Frances in the main cabin. She kicks at me, and I manage to grab her leg. My nails dig in to her skin. She kicks my face with her free leg, and I my grip just gets tighter. I can hear Patrick in the background, screaming. As I’m about to pull her out of the plane, both of us hurtling to our deaths, I notice her eyes. They’re completely dilated. She looks at me, but doesn’t see me. The next seconds are a blur, but I feel pain in my body that I’ve never felt before. My head feels like it’s in a spiked vice. I fight against every instinct inside me to hold onto Frances, but the pain is so great that I’m forced to let her go. And I fall. The world turns black.
That night, I wake up in a hospital with a broken leg and collar bone. The doctor put me back together, and this morning, I’m off to the crash site of the helicopter. And this time, pride will not keep me for succeeding.
You ever get that feeling that you’re living life in third person? It’s as if everything around you is just too much, so you separate yourself from the present, kind of float above yourself, and watch what’s happening to you like it’s happening to someone else. I don’t know what happened. Maybe, it’s my fault? I know I shouldn’t hope for things, hope that something in my life will turn out right. I know I should just give up on everything, but deep down, I don’t want to give up. Despite it all, despite everything I’ve lost, I still believe. I hope every single day, and it’s that hope that kills me, disappoints me. Yet, I can’t and won’t let it go.
The day started off as planned. Everything went so smoothly, in hindsight, too smoothly. Phillip got us into the city without anyone noticing us. With Caro’s help, we managed to barter our way in to see New Mexico’s Conduit, Maria. She’s beautiful, but that beauty is marred by the dead look in her eyes. Her beauty and demeanor is not warm; it’s cold. Distant. She seems happy to see us. Phillip takes her by the shoulder and they talk for a long time, yet, she can’t take her eyes off me. She doesn’t hear a word he says because she’s watching me the whole time, and for the first time since we met her, I see something in her eyes, life, hunger. I know that we shouldn’t trust her. We should leave now. But she smiles and takes me into her arms, hugging me. Maybe, it was my body letting me know we were in danger, or just my ability protecting me, but the second she touches me, I see her thoughts, and her memories.
It’s a trap, all of it. She hates Phillip. She hates me. And just as I’m about to scream, I hear her laugh. She knows it’s too late. Caro figures it out first, and runs to the windows. He sees that there are a squadron of ORS running into the building. Phillip opens the door and looks down the stairwell, finding more ORS running in our direction. We have nowhere to go.
Caro pries me out from Maria’s grip, and holds me. I remember this morning because he looks at me the same way. I feel small in his arms. Phillip yells for us to climb out the window to the roof of the building. There’s a drain pipe. Caro and I climb out the window, trying not to look below us. We can hear the ORS all around us now. We have seconds only.
Phillip and Caro insist that I go first, so I climb, very unsuccessfully, up that winding drain pipe. I look down and see them struggling with ORS who have stepped out onto the ledge with them. I climb faster, and when my hand reaches the edge of the roof, I see the face of an ORS above me, and it’s not a friendly one. He laughs, and tells me this was easier than he thought it would be. He steps on my right hand and I scream. My left hand slips, and I’m hanging just by my right hand. Just as I think I can’t stand the pain any longer, someone I can’t see knocks the ORS out cold.
The next moment is one that I will never forget. A hand pulls me up and over, securing me onto the roof. When I catch my breath, I look up and see that the person who saved me is Patrick. He’s alive. My heart gets stuck in my throat, and I feel happy and guilty at the same time. He tells me that we have to go now. I look below me and see Phillip and Caro struggling. They yell at me to run, to leave. Patrick tells me the same, so I listen. And I run.
She tells me that when this baby is born I’ll be back on my meds again. This pregnancy has taken a lot from me. I’ve had to sit with every horrific memory from the day I tried to escape. My mother was not a woman who loved anything, and as I grew up, she taught me to be the same way. By the time I was seven, I realized that I was alone in this world, and more importantly, I was okay with it. Everyone dies alone. It’s a fact of life.
Except when I turned fifteen, the impossible happened, I made a friend. Her name was Sarah. She was the daughter of the doctor who helped my mother deliver me to term. Technically, since we had the same father, she was my sister. When the Capital captured her, during her last moments, she cried out for me. She didn’t say my name. She called me her sister, and then she was gone.
Conduits here in New Mexico are not revered or feared by ORS, we are envied. They find it unfair that we are above the law, so they hate us. When they can get away with it, they openly harass us. The day of my escape wasn’t planned. I didn’t even know I could control my ability the way I did. I was walking home late at night from Sarah’s house, and a few ORS, just kids, jumped me from behind. I could hear two other ORS cheering on my assailant. My arms were covering my face, and I did my best to block his punches, but then his friends held my arms and legs down. This ORS, who was maybe a year older than me, then took my head and slammed it into the ground repeatedly. I cried, begged them to stop, but that just made them laugh. I thought they were going to kill me, or at least come close to it. And that’s when something inside me woke up. A part of me welcomed death, at least I could escape my life, but there was this other part, this feral animal inside me that refused to die, that was afraid to die. This fear turned to anger, which in then turned into power. I shouted for a final time, “No!” The ORS holding me down were pushed away by a strong gust of wind.
I keep yelling, “No! No! No!” My eyes were closed, and when I opened them, I saw that I was hovering above the ground in what looks like a mini-tornado. What was running through my body felt like more than electricity, I could life inside me, the lives of all the people around me and everything they were hiding, all the anger and fear, all these emotions that they couldn’t talk about or utter but had to hide. There was so much of it, rippling to the surface, pricking my skin. I used it that day. I walked out of New Mexico in the span of ten minutes without further injury. I wanted something to happen. I simply willed it.
In the end, I blame myself for what happened to Sarah. I should have thought about her, should have found her, brought her with me. Everything just happened so fast, I wasn’t thinking. I just reacted that day, and by the time she was on the screen of a GOB above me, it was too late. I thought that maybe I could go back for her, maybe. I didn’t know they, the Capital would go to the lengths they did to break me. I didn’t know I wouldn’t have a choice either way.
When she was gone, so was I— I just felt so numb, like I was walking around covered in cotton swab. They didn’t need to bring in a team to bring me in. One man showed up: President Phillip Jordan. He escorted me back to New Mexico without further incident. I remember thinking he looked old for his age, and wondered why. I told him that I felt like I was going to be sick, and he gave me a sedative. He called it medicine, but what it really did was numb me even further. It made my stomach feel better, though. That night, when I couldn’t sleep, I was given another sedative. I slept like a baby, no dreams, no thoughts, just uninterrupted sleep. When I woke up crying and screaming the next day, my caretakers doubled the dose. I lived like that until I became pregnant, and for the past nine months I’ve had time to think about Sarah and Phillip Jaffe. I later learned that he was the one who carried out Sarah’s capture and death. I have realized that I have room enough for one more emotion, one more idea: revenge.
She told me that all I had to do was keep my eyes and ears open and he would come and bring her with him. So I wait for two things now, the day this baby is delivered, and the day Phillip Jordan shows up looking for me.
August 9, 2055
I’m the youngest ORS to have the most arrests under my belt. Seventy-eight. I want to make it to a hundred by the end of the year. I was first in my class, the smartest, the fastest, the best period. I thought that was the reason why the President of the Capital called me in to meet with him.
He asked me if I was briefed regarding the Conduit, Frances, an ORS named Patrick, and former President of Los Angeles version four, Phillip Jaffe. Was he kidding? Of course I knew. There isn’t a day where I don’t hear about them. There also isn’t a day where we don’t waste manpower following every lead we get, no matter how far-fetched they seem. No one has seen them. We think they’re already in New Mexico, hiding out.
I’m spitting out facts about these fugitive three, and in the middle of my speech, he raises his hand to stop me. He tells me that he has a job for me, and that he has twenty-five men waiting for me to command. I’m speechless. I thank him, but he says that first I need to meet the person who hired me. He steps out from his desk and the wall behind him parts, revealing a hidden hallway. He simply motions for me to make way down. Down to what? I have no idea.
I walk down a metallic hallway, my image distorted in its dull reflection. I get to the end of the hallway and see a large female face made up of a thousand metallic parts. Her face moves like she’s speaking, but no sound comes out of her mouth. I can hear the cacophony of metal grinding on metal as all these parts move to give her an expression. She’s smiling, or what would be considered a smile were she human. I move closer to her, and a light bursts form her eyes and mouth.
The light blinds me, but I’m frozen. I can’t move my hands or legs. The light pulses, on, off, on, off. My eyes slowly close, and I can hear the movement of the large machine in front of me. And then that’s when I hear her, or do I hear her? Her voice sounds like one voice, but many. I don’t know where the noise is coming from because it’s like I hear it front of me, and inside my head. Images of a woman’s face flashes in my head. She’s average, non-threatening. She says my name.
She shows me images, flashes of faces and movement, and I realize what I have to do to make an enemy weak: I have to find their weakness, and break them.
It’s been slow going because we’ve only been traveling at night. In the day time we try to hide. It’s too dangerous. Hundreds of GOBs (Government Ordered Blimps) canvass the sky, so much that you can only see slithers of blue when you look up. They’re conditioning the citizens below to recognize and fear three faces: Frances’s, Phillip’s and mine. If Daniel weren’t with me, I’d risk getting recognized, move faster. But, it’s impossible for me to move faster with him. He barely listens to me. At night, he breaks out in tears from nightmares that he doesn’t have the words to explain yet. I don’t know what happened to his parents. When I ask, he looks away and shrugs his shoulders.
He seems to have formed an attachment to me. I always wake up to find him lying beside me, sucking his thumb. He told me that he wanted to be me when he grows up. This declaration is usually followed with some show of protecting me. He runs out in front of me to defend me from some unknown enemy. He laughs a lot, more than I ever did at that age.
Today, I caught him watching me stare at Frances’s face on a GOB. I don’t think I could ever forget what she looks like, but it’s nice to be able to see her when I’m thinking about her. I must seem sad because Daniel walks over to me and takes my hand to his cheek. I smile and tell him I’m fine. I’m just thinking. With a serious look on his face, he asks me if I love her, and points to her face on the nearest GOB. I look at him, and can’t understand how such a young child knows about the existence of that word, of that feeling, but it took me twenty some years to learn about it. I tell him yes, I do love her. Daniel nods his head and wraps his arms around my neck like he’s saying good job.
That night, as we’re making our way to another check point between Los Angeles and New Mexico, I can’t help but feel the hair rising on my arms, and eyes on me, on us. I stop several times to see if this person I feel following us will reveal himself or herself, but nothing happens. Daniel doesn’t seem to think anything is wrong. He just laughs and runs with his fists in the air, my protector. And he almost convinces me that everything is okay, but still, I can’t shake the chills I feel, something is wrong, very wrong.
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We talked all night. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but it feels like I’ve only slept a few minutes when I feel Caro shaking my arm to wake me. He’s whispering my name, like he doesn’t want Phillip to hear him. I ask him what’s wrong. For a second, I’m ready to run, but he places a firm hand on my shoulder and motions for me to be quiet. He looks at me, and his eyes hold me so I can’t look away. He looks so young for being twenty, but in this moment, he looks no older than me, a boy. He’s scared about something.
He takes my hands, and says, “Let’s go. You and me. Out of this city, out of this life. We can disappear together. We won’t be alone anymore.” I don’t know what to say. Part of me wants to go with him. Part of me is scared to go with him. I tell him I don’t know. Phillip thinks we can survive and find a way to control my ability. He says that Phillip is going to get us all killed. He takes my face in his hands, and I feel the weight of what he’s saying in my body. I know why I can’t go with him. It’ll mean that I’ll have to forget about Patrick if I do.
I can’t speak, so I shake my head in the negative. He says he’s coming with me, then. I nod. I know he’s coming tomorrow, and he says no, you don’t get it, he’s leaving New Mexico with me and Phillip. He can’t let me go. I tell him he can’t come with me, and I manage to say “Patrick.” He takes me in his arms, and I let it all go, crying. It just hits me that Patrick really is gone, and I’m standing with someone else, someone different. I feel like I’m betraying him and the person I was before all this began. When I stop crying, he lets me go and wipes off the tears from my face with his shirt sleeve. He looks at me and says that he doesn’t know what love is or what it could be, but he wants to find out with me. And before I can say anything else, he kisses me. I push him away, and ask him, “What are you doing?” He looks at me and says, “Helping you move on.”
This time, I kiss him. It’s not like kissing Patrick, sweet and lingering, my heart in it entirely. Kissing Caro, I feel it all over my body, like everything inside me wants to implode.