Nighthawks at the Mission: Move Off-World. Make A Killing., page 1
NIGHTHAWKS AT THE MISSION
Copyright © Forbes West 2014
Cover Illustration Copyright © 2014 by Forbes West
Published by (MYTHOS) Press
(An Imprint of GMTA Publishing)
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author's imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher and/or author.
6296 Philippi Church Rd.
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Printed in the U.S.A.
To the producer, Junko Forbes,
always two steps ahead of me.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
To Mission Friendship
The Flash Storm
The Temple of Kern
The Burial of the Dead
The Road Back to Mission Friendship
The New Normal
Showdown at Mission Friendship
Last Night at Mission Friendship
The Magician’s Highway
Death by Water
What the Thunder Said
About the Author
Dunbar-Weiss English Dictionary
Published January, 1999, Cape Town, South Africa
Etymology: Latin (from the Greek , [mountain] and , [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.
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’s 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’s and Jaime’s parents are good people. They like having any friends of the family 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. He’s wrestling Steve, his old friend from high school, 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 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 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 to the third floor, 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’s 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 beside 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 and licks his lips. “Some stuff like that. 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 Anted
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 him. 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, 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, making you wonder a bit about his intensions.
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 up the rest of the poster’s space.
In a different, smaller typeface under the symbol are the words:
BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE NETWORK: NEW WORLD, NEW FRIENDS.
The Network is a chartered corporation of the Federal Government of the United States.
Jaime sits at his desk with his dark, open laptop and swallows compulsively.
There’s a sort of sinking feeling in your stomach. 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. Idly, you finger the crucifix 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 two a.m. 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. 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,” he says, not picking up on the social cue you have just provided him. He looks around, as if unsure what to do next. You don’t cry, not yet.
“Well, this is a very happy Thanksgiving.” A part of you is hot, embarrassed, and angry all at once. You know of Tyler’s reputation and his troubles but he 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.” 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,” he says woodenly, again not picking up on the now less-than-subtle 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 he’s 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 flowing down your cheeks.
“I’m s-sorry,” you stutter. You wipe your eyes with the end of one of Jaime’s blankets, and then smell it by accident. Stunned by the amazingly weird odor, 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.” You look up incredulously as he keeps speaking. “Apparently, no one 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’re now staring at the carpet, still crying as he rambles on. You look down on your well-manicured feet, with your brightly painted purple toenails shining through. 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 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 twenty-second 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. 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 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. He 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. 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 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’d 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 on
Jaime looks stunned. “Well…well…I’m 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. “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 with him too, standing around like the absolute goons they are. “Who’s up for drugs?” he stage whispers. “Who wants drugs? Drugs? Drugs for you Jaime? Sarah? Steve here just got his Medical Marijuana card, and so everyone’s doing drugs on the roof tonight, right?” Tyler sees that you are in tears and looks concerned. “Hey. What’s going on, sugary sweet? Sweetie McSweetums, Cutie McCutes?”
“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 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.