Nighthawks at the Mission (The Long Preview), page 1
To the producer, Junko Forbes. Always two steps ahead of me.
NIGHTHAWKS AT THE MISSION (PART ONE)
64% LOST AND 36% FOUND AT IKEBUKURO STATION EDITION
By Forbes West
Text copyright © 2013 Forbes West
All Rights Reserved
Published by Bonzai-Manny Team
Design and illustration by Chris McGuire
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Thanksgiving
Chapter Two: Network Interview
Chapter Three: Queen Mary
Chapter Four: Solomon’s Bay
Chapter Five: To Mission Friendship
Chapter Six: The Ritual
Chapter Seven: Mission Friendship
Chapter Eight: The Flashstorm (When the Levee Breaks)
Chapter Nine: First Day
Dunbar-Weiss English Dictionary
Published January, 1999, Cape Town, South Africa
Etymology: Latin (from the Greek όρος, oros, [mountain] and χαλκός, chalkos, [copper or bronze])
Definition: a strong metallic element obtained only from THE OBERON (OFF-WORLD). In spite of the etymology of its name, ORICHALCUM is always blue, with shades and imperfections that can only be discerned by certain machines and individuals with TETRACHROMACY before actual use. When the element is connected to a small electrical charge and placed next to a person’s body, he or she may exhibit extraordinary power(s) or influence from an unknown, possibly supernatural, source (e.g. summoning of fierce creatures, production of lightning, ability to heal the sick or dying, shapeshifting, control over fire, control over localized weather conditions) with the proper mental focus. Each shade of the element denotes a different extraordinary power or ability. Its usefulness for modern society was discovered by FRANK MORGAN (see NETWORK, history of) in 1995.
— See element table.
Chapter One: Thanksgiving
Sipping on your third beer of the evening, staring out at the off-world night sky just outside your bar’s little patio space, you think about how far away from home you are, how you’ve become increasingly crazy, how you’ve fallen in love with a person that you barely know who is officially in love with someone else, and how you’ve ended up millions of miles away from your adopted hometown.
You dimly realize through the alcohol and Adderall-induced haze that it all kicked off one not so fine Thanksgiving at a beach house in California.
IT is last Thanksgiving. You’re at Tyler and Jaime’s beach house (well, their parents’ beach house) and the semester for City College is done; you’ve just managed to grab an associate’s degree. Tyler and Jaime’s parents are good people. They like having any friends of the family to stay over at the beach house for Thanksgiving, and so you are there instead of being at home.
Tyler and Jaime are twins; they look alike, they sound alike, but are nothing alike whatsoever in their personalities and their moods. You like Tyler—the funny one, the out of control one—and you’ve been dating him since high school ended, but he’s an ass and perhaps you should find someone better. You see him currently being an ass out past the pool area downstairs. Tyler is wrestling his old friend from high school, Steve, and his other buddies are cheering them on. Tyler and Steve are older than you, still in a four-year college doing their degrees in “Business Communications”.
Tyler is picking Steve up and then slamming him back onto the grass area by the pool with a barbarian scream. Steve is laughing maniacally. Tyler looks to you and says, “My woman! My woman, Sarah, do you like what you see? Are you not entertained?”
You shake your head, in a mix of fake and real disgust. The two of them go back to wrestling.
You are the only girl there besides that stick creature Courtney who has a room-temperature IQ and who constantly insists that the waves are caused by flying fish and not the wind, “like, you know, everyone, like, thinks.” Courtney mentions this to you as you are watching the waves break on the beach outside instead of the on-going wrestling match.
You smile and nod, then leave her, pretending to have to go to the bathroom after rolling your eyes so hard that they make a sound. “Tell my boyfriend, after he’s done beating on poor Steve there, to come and grab me.”
You pass other partygoers who are sitting on couches and chairs sipping wine and other drinks and jabbering about whatever white, Orange County adults in their thirties to fifties jabber about. They are complaining about the Mexican illegal help they’ve hired and the President of the United States all in the same breath, hitting the highest and the lowest of society in one blast of white upper middle class bitterness. This rich house you are in is decorated in a comfortable little fall motif, and little turkey decorations dot the living room’s landscape.
You decide to wander upstairs, your bare feet bouncing up the carpeted steps, where Jaime, Tyler’s mellower and stranger clone, sits at a computer in the hallway office. Tyler jokes it is strange European pornography that he watches on the computer. In actuality, Jaime just likes to research whatever he can about off-world. You found this out when you slept over one night when Tyler and Jaime’s parents weren’t there. Jaime doesn’t go to Long Beach City College like you or the University of Southern California like Tyler—fact is, he could have gone to Harvard if he’d wanted to, but it seems he is always biding his time, waiting for something. His parents always let him be on that subject for some reason.
Jaime is deep in thought. You come up to the side of him and clap your hands hard next to his ear, making him jump nearly fifteen feet into the air. Jaime wears button-down shirts and designer jeans, unlike Tyler, who is currently dressed like a trailer park drug dealer in a ragged, black T-shirt and old, faded jeans.
Jaime holds his ear and whines in his most conspicuously not-Tyler-way, “Ow! Christmas goose! What did you do that for! I’m looking up stuff that’s really important.”
Your eyes become slits. “You looking up people doing the wild thing, huh? Naked pictures of European people being naked together, Jaime? Hmm?”
Jaime ignores you for a moment, licks his lips and says, “Some stuff like that. No, no Sarah, I’m looking, I’m looking—was looking—for off-world photographs.”
You cross your arms. “Those are illegal, Mr. Jaime.”
Jaime shrugs. “Doing illegal stuff can be amusing.”
“So you really are Tyler’s twin brother.” You look over at what Jaime is busy picking out. Authorized drawings of those Antediluvian cities and orichalcum batons and sketches of Ni-Perchta agents, or Ephors, come up on his Google search for images.
Jaime turns to you as if reminded about something and has a very serious look in his eye. You wonder what exactly has gotten into Jaime. He says, “Come on back to my room.”
“That’s a little forward, Mister,” you say with a smirk.
You walk down the hall to Jaime’s room which is covered in off-world stuff including maps and sketches of places, plus an Off-World Network recruitment poster for the first temp settlers back in Settler’s Campaign, 1995. His bed is unmade, his clothes and underwear strewn about as if he put a bomb into his laundry hamper and let it explode inside the room. Jaime closes the door behind you, giving you privacy.
The advertisement seems to be brand new and fresh, and reads in very noticeable block letters:
ADVENTURE AND A NEW LIFE AWAIT YOU.
START YOUR MOVE TO THE OBERON TODAY! CALL 1-800-OFFWORLD TO SEE IF YOU QUALIFY FOR SETTLING! (AGES 18-45 ONLY)
The stylized symbol of the Off-World Network, the blue and white circles overlapping each other, takes u
In a different, smaller type face under the symbol are the words:
BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE NETWORK: NEW WORLD, NEW FRIENDS.
The Network is a chartered and owned corporation of the Federal Government of the United States.
Jaime sits at his desk with his dark, open laptop and swallows compulsively.
You feel a sort of sinking feeling in your stomach. You know something bad is coming but you don’t want to hear about it; you don’t want this bad idea brought out into the not-so-fresh air of Jaime’s bedroom. You idly finger the crucifix necklace around your neck.
“Tyler’s made love to Courtney on the side. Is making love to Courtney on the side. Present tense,” Jaime says simply, staring at you.
Your world drops out from under you. It feels like your head is full of sugary soda, with fizzes and pops that block out your thought processes. You drop the cross, letting it swing from your neck.
“Making love? As in?” you say, weakly.
“Recreational sex,” Jaime says, biting his lip. “Here. Well, not here, in the bedroom, you know, but here, in the house. I can hear ‘em around 2:00am when they think I’m asleep but I’m not asleep. Courtney’s loud. Did you know she thinks that flying fish cause the waves here in Seal Beach? That’s really amazing.”
You sit on Jaime’s unkempt and unmade bed. You let out a big sigh, as if your whole body is full of air and you’ve just expelled it all at once. “I, actually, I’m actually a- Well I haven’t done that, yet, Jaime. I kind of thought, marri-” You let the word drop in mid-air.
“Me too. Oh, and I think Tyler made, made love with your friend Christine. She’s your best friend,” Jaime says, not picking up on the social cue you have just provided him. He looks around, as if unsure about what to do next. You don’t cry, not yet.
“Well, this is a very happy Thanksgiving.” You feel as if a part of you is hot, embarrassed, and angry all at once. You know of Tyler’s personality and his troubles but he has always seemed, deep down, beneath all the play-acting and the crap, to be a good person. That is obviously a lie. You’ve put up with Tyler for so long because you thought, well, he is about four years older than you, perhaps he will, one day, maybe, just maybe, grow little by little.
Jaime looks suddenly worried. “Don’t tell Tyler, please, but I had to tell you.”
You shrug. “Yeah, sure thing Jaime.” You look around his room at all the sketches and artwork about The Oberon; part of your mind has shut down from the information overload. There’s an artistic poster of a wintry, tundra-like scene showing blasted-out black castles, woolly Afer cattle, and pine trees scattered around craggy gray peaks under a perpetually overcast sky. “Looks like the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle,” you say, staring at the poster. In bold, black letters it says Castle of Kadath and has the symbol of the Network stamped on it. The sight of the poster sends little chills up your spine.
Jaime follows your gaze. “It’s a place I’d like to go to. Actually, I can go there, technically, but I have a problem. A big problem. It’s an issue I have that’s preventing me from getting into The Oberon. You know my family has money?”
You smile. “No, really? With this beach house in Orange County? I thought, gee, I never-”
“Well, it’s true,” Jaime deadpans, again not picking up on the now less than subtle social cue. “My father has money, and I’ve got a little bit that’s all mine. I saved some of my Best Buy pay.”
“Uh huh,” you say, half-listening, the impact of what Jaime has just told you now hitting you hard and deep right in your guts. A tear leaks out.
“My cousin Steve just got LR’d from The Oberon because he went, well, insane, and so he doesn’t have anyone to leave his little house to,” Jaime continues, even though a flash flood of tears is now coming down your cheeks.
“I’m s-sorry,” you stutter out, weeping now. You wipe your eyes with the end of one of Jaime’s blankets, and then smell it by accident. Stunned by the amazingly weird smell, you put the sheet back onto the bed in disgust.
“You don’t have to cry over him, Sarah. He just got LR’d—leave requested—since he’s completely insane. He’s had issues,” Jaime says, and you look up incredulously.
Jaime keeps speaking. “No one apparently liked him. But he likes me a lot since I always asked him questions about The Oberon and his life there. So he left me his property. There’s a Triumph motorcycle, ori-modified for infinite range. And I always—”
You are now staring at the carpet, still crying as Jaime rambles on. You look down on your well-manicured feet with purple painted toenails that are wrapped up in expensive sandals. Tyler bought that little treat for you.
“Well, I got my money, and I want to move to The Oberon to sketch and draw all that’s there—something that’s still legal to do. But the new immigration rules from the Network say all new immigrants have to be married couples between eighteen and twenty-five years old if they don’t have any sort of college degree. So I can immigrate to The Oberon now and live out my dream right now, but I have to be married since I don’t have a degree. And I got to marry someone fast because the solstice portal will be open on the 22nd of December. I’m just- Marriage is such a big deal; you want to find the right one, you know, and I have to make a decision right now… I don’t want to wait two to four years through college.”
You rub your temples, sniffling. “Sucks for you,” you say. All the memories of Tyler keep flooding into your head, making you feel worthless and embarrassed and stupid all at once, like how a child would feel if they were struck after wetting their pants. You know it isn’t your fault but a part of you—that unforgiving part—says that you probably did something to attract it, to deserve it.
You look at the Witch Castle of Kadath poster again through bleary, tear-filled eyes. The scene really does look like that black rock castle that the Wicked Witch of the West lived in. You wonder if that poster depicts a real place.
“So would you leave for The Oberon right now, if you could Ty- Jaime?” You sniffle again, curse to yourself, and wipe your nose with Jaime’s bed sheets. Jaime catches you doing that again and frowns.
“Uh, well, yes. Yes of course. It’s my dream. I mean, it’s a new world there, a real new world. No more Starbucks or McDonald’s or terrorism or global warming—it’d be like a real life fantasy adventure every day for. I want to be a dayhawk too, you know, on the side, if I get the chance—that’s their nickname for legal salvagers.”
“And we, I mean you, you could make lots of money?” that mercenary part of you enquires. “People make a lot of money off of ori and all the salvageables, don’t they?”
Jaime nods up and down rapidly. “Oh, indeed! It’s like the California Gold Rush all over again! It’ll be fun for anyone! I can’t wait to get out there and just, just wander and explore and sketch.”
Part of you is so disgusted with your surroundings and so angry and so disturbed all at once that you blurt out: “You wanna get married, Jaime? Go to The Oberon? Have a little adventure away from it all?”
Jaime looks stunned and shocked. “Well, well, I am going to ask this Chinese girl I sorta date, Pachinko. If she says yes by tomorrow, I’m in and we’re gone. I know her; she’s a math tutor over at Cerritos College, but, well, yes in answer to your question, yes I would. I would definitely. And I’m sort of with her.”
You nod, deflated. “I have—had—a sister who lived in The Oberon.”
“Raquel?” Jaime says.
You shake your head. “No, no. Rachael. Married a man, Ian Zur. She was one of the first doctorates from Solomon’s House University. Xenoarchaeology. She always said it was a good place to be…”
Jaime raises an eyebrow. “Quite the sister—but she’s dead, I mean, passed on, isn’t that right? I didn’t-”
Tyler bursts into the room at that moment, sweaty and with his arm around Steve. All of his other douchebag buddies are around him too, standing around like the
“You’ve been with Courtney. You’ve been with Courtney, that’s what’s going on. And Christine.”
The look on Tyler’s face, eyes flicking to Jaime, tells you everything in a moment.
You stand up, wiping your eyes, and slam Tyler hard right in the balls, making him double over in pain. Your right arm is pretty strong from all those softball practices. “Cheat on me with Courtney, you bastard!”
Courtney, who is standing near the back of the group, takes off as you plow through the rest of Tyler’s friends. You chase her a little down the hallway, and she squeaks in fright. You stop running and wipe your nose with the back of your hand, laughing as she almost jumps down an entire flight of stairs.
Jaime manages to pop his head out of his bedroom for a moment, looking concerned.
“Well, maybe I’ll see you off-world? Let’s make that happen, right, Jaime?” you say, as Tyler’s confused friends look in amazement.
Jaime gives you a thumbs up. “It’s a deal!”
You give him a thumbs up back and leave the house. As you exit, you see Tyler’s new pure black 2012 Maserati; California license plate TylerIs1. You pick up a loose red brick from the small garden outside the front door, feel the weight of the brick with your right hand, and then throw it through the windshield in one epic smash, sending a thousand little pieces of glass all over the place and setting off the alarm.
You walk down the street under the afternoon sun, feeling chilled but also strangely liberated at the same time. You shake out your arms, punch the air directly in front of you a few times, and keep walking.
You walk to your car, which is a beaten down Honda Civic POS from 1995 that doesn’t even have its own original paint, instead that ugly post-apocalyptic primer. You get three feet down the partially sandy beach road only to find out that the engine light you have been unfortunately ignoring is right about something; your car’s just died.