Her face was a mirror. It held the same breathless scream Bishop had on the day he saw his parents die.
But for some reason, watching Charlotte’s pain was worse.
They’d only just met, but after seeing her father and his friend gunned down in front of them, they were connected for life. A shared experience that can never be repeated with anyone, ever.
Speechless in the center of the hotel room, Charlotte’s body shook. He pulled her in close, resting her head on his chest as her body went limp.
He wasn’t a stranger to grief. He knew the stages well. After the initial shock, it’s denial then anger, and the list goes on. But right now there wasn’t time for the process to set in. He needed her to get to the anger or at least a basic fight or flight response.
“We can’t stay here. They could be here any minute.”
He felt her body stiffen. Steadying herself, she took a deep breath and half-step back. Her pale face turned pink as the blood returned and started to mirror the resolve on Bishop’s face.
“Your right.” Bishop could see her mind calculating. And as the daughter of the inventor, she was well trained with the jump technology.
“We can’t get out of here yet. We have to recalibrate the marker. We also need to wipe its memory cache so it makes it harder for Data Command to follow the jumps. If whoever burst in the office, is in the command center, they can track us wherever we go.”
“I’ll take your word for it. Counting the jump from your dad’s office, I’ve only done this twice.”
Charlotte laid the carbon fiber pack on the bed and got to work.
“Arnie and I were the first to jump after Dad ran the beta jumps himself. Every once in a while we would take some liberty and do a jump that didn’t get logged.”
“Like a trip to the Islands, or Europe or something?”
“No, more like a jump from Mexico to Pat’s in Philly for a real cheese steak sandwich.”
“If this is going to be long, I think we should change rooms. They could come bursting in here any moment. And we don’t want to be sitting here if they do.”
After calling the front desk to report a broken A/C unit, Charlotte and Bishop were sitting in an identical room, five doors down, on the same floor.
Charlotte finished embedding Arnie’s short-code on the hard drive.
“Ok. It’s in. You know, Arnie’s little program was pretty genius.”
“It recalibrates the jump history by swapping digits in the GPS file. It makes the marker look like we jumped to completely different coordinates. It’s random, but it can end up looking like were a mile away, or a whole country. I just have to switch it off and then back on and we’re set. Where do you want to go?”
Still a bit confused, but focused, Bishop started to pace from one end of the room to the other. “Where do I want to go? Well I’d like to start with someplace where we’re not getting shot at. Someplace safe, where we can think, get our bearings, and then decide what to do.”
He looked over at Charlie and could see the dam in her eyes about to break.
Knowing they were safe for a few minutes under the cover of a new room, Bishop sat down on the bed and put his arm around her shoulder.
“He was all I had left.”
Bishop listened, and squeezed a bit tighter.
“Things were finally normal after mom died. And now, nothing.”
Her flood of tears hit his chest. And in the recesses of his soul, he felt the same pain. The pain of a little boy, strapped in his carseat without a scratch, yelling for his lifeless parents to wake up. Staying present he felt the pain but didn’t let it overwhelm him. This wasn’t the time to grieve. Even with a new room, they could have comapny at any moment.
Pulling her chin toward his face his words were firm, “Charlotte, we need to go now.”
He saw something snap inside her eyes. Hyper aware she focused on the marker, and hit the coordinate keys as soon as it rebooted.
Bishop started to get up, brushing against her knee at the end of the bed. But before he could leave her side, Charlotte engaged the marker.
Both inside the jump zone Bishop could feel his body compress, like being tightly wrapped in a thousand bed sheets. Gasping for a breath, the pressure suddenly stopped and he and Charlotte were standing a hundred yards east of the Eiffel Tower on the Champs de Mars.
“It’s the only coordinates I know by heart.”
Catching his breath, the City of Lights was more beautiful than he’d imagined.
Already dusk, the glow of an orange sun lay just behind the Eiffel Tower and a little to the left of the Palais de Chaillot.
“I’d always dreamed my first time in Paris would be to propose to my girlfriend. But under the circumstances I’ll settle for no one shooting at me.”
“You’ll have to tell your girlfriend it’ll be the next trip.”
“I don’t have one. It was just a dream.”
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn Zhong…
Dido Building Carthage painted by J.M.W. Turner
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Nicholas Brack, Dogwood Daniels and Jinn Zhong) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast. Listen to the episode here:
Listen to the podcast in the player above, or subscribe via iTunes, GooglePlay or Stitcher. What the heck is “Garage Fiction”? Since January 2015, a small group of storytellers committed to writing a piece of fiction every week… and then getting on a podcast to talk about it.