Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Chapter 2

December 21st, 11:03 AM, EST

In the life of a grown-up, a true vacation is rare and precious. Holiday breaks are far behind them, sitting next to their school days in their memories. Now they have careers, where vacations are earned rather than given, but nonetheless sweet when received. After all, it’s not everyday that someone gets to spend a full day with their family.

When said person works for the government close to the President, these vacations are even more precious and rare since someone like that needs to be on call at all times. Men in power get as little rest as the wicked, for there is no telling when something will spin out of control in their country and require their immediate attention. A vacation from this is like a great burden being lifted from their shoulders because, to be frank, that is exactly what it is. And they take these days graciously, all the time dreading when this time of peace ends and they get the burden dropped back on their shoulders. Of course, that feeling does not even compare to that of when the burden is forced back on, killing their hopes of vacation because some emergency has cropped up and shot down the chance of any happy memories that would have been made.

This was exactly how Adrian Thompson felt as he strode through the halls towards the oval office.

Thompson glanced over his shoulders at the two men flanking him. Both looked very intimidating with their bulky forms and their stoic stares hidden behind tinted glasses. Thompson himself wasn’t nearly at their level of intimidation, his form trim and tall, but nothing too muscular. His suit was decorated with pins of service rather than decked with Kevlar; unlike his men, it wasn’t his job to be in the line of fire.

Thompson was an officer in the Army, a Lieutenant to be precise. His field experience was admittedly small; he hadn’t even been through basic when Desert Storm was happening and he had toured for a bit in the Middle East at the tail end of the Bush administration and the first term of Obama’s. Adrian ground his teeth as he recalled the unpleasant months in Dubai where his late night mood music was gunfire, explosions, and the panicked shouts in Farsi. He had hoped that when he finally got back on shore leave, he would have enough time to enjoy himself and be able to relax for a while. Clearly, that was not the case.

A few more turns and he found himself opening the door to the Oval Office. Walking in, he saw a slew of faces looking back at him, all with some form of disgruntled or worried face. There were some staff in the room that he had seen around the White House and a few generals that he knew by face, but his eyes were, of course, drawn to the big names in the room:

His eyes found Hillary Clinton first, as she was tapping her foot rapidly while she stood upright. Her eyes were twitchy and looked like she had not gotten any sleep, which was funny because it was relatively late in the day when they got the call. Adrian couldn’t help but wonder if some of the lines under her eyes were leftovers from the stress of the election. At the moment, though, it looked like she had walked into a whole room of stress and odds are that everyone would know it in a few moments.

Joe Biden was a different matter; he was pacing by the window, his hand twitching nervously as he kept his eyes on the room. Not just his hand, but his eyes had a slight twitch to them as well. Maybe it was just Adrian’s imagination, but the Vice President seemed the most agitated out of anyone in the room. And when the second most powerful man in the country was agitated, that definitely boded ill.

But of course, the man that most people were looking towards was Barack Obama himself. The President of the United States was troubled, more than anything else, as if he were mulling over something that he couldn’t quite wrap his mind around. Easy to relate to, of course, since the whole situation was completely out of Adrian’s grasp at the moment. Occasionally, Obama’s eyes would scan around the room, as if looking for any inkling of comprehension from any of their faces. He would find none.

There was a long silence in the room. Then, when it was clear that no one else was coming in, Brigadier Karl Fuhrmann, his commanding officer who had also requested his presence, spoke up. “Well then, shall we get to it?”

“Yes,” Obama said, straightening up in his chair and giving a glance at his cabinet members. “I take it this all isn’t some clever ruse to throw a surprise party for our success in the election. I would hope that everyone knew enough not to use our time off like that.”

“It most certainly isn’t,” Karl replied. “I trust that you read the report?”

“Most of it.” The President took out a small file and waved it for everyone to see. “I think we should clarify for everyone, though. There were some things about it that I’m not sure I read correctly, if you catch my drift.”

Hillary’s mouth was all but a thin line at this point. “Naturally,” she stated. “I think it’s better if we show everyone. Words can only be taken so far.” Taking a remote control from the desk, she pointed it at the TV screen across the room and turned it on. For a moment, everyone stared as the news played out, the newscaster speaking in a rushed and urgent tone. After a moment, everyone realized why and their mouths dropped open.

It was utter chaos. Everyone had seen riots in their day, so they could recognize a bit of civil chaos when they saw it. But this was no riot; a riot would have been relatively tame and comprehensible by contrast. What they saw were dozens, if not hundreds, of people running through a chaos-strewn street. And one of them had fire shooting from her fingertips. And another’s body was stretching to impossible lengths like elastic.

Thompson’s ears were filled with a strange white noise as he literally felt his mind collapsing under the weight of all this, so the newscaster’s words were lost to him. She could have said, “We have no idea what’s happening, but,” or, “this is absolute pandemonium,” but he would not have been surprised if it was more along the lines of, “Shit, balls, what the fuck is going on here?” Everyone seemed to be having the same reaction, as their faces ranged from dropped jaws to bugging eyes to a strange deadpan look that showed their brains had not caught up with everything. President Obama in particular looked like someone had hit him with his own dog.

Then Clinton changed the channel. And with each passing channel, reality, for lack of a better word, sunk in a little more. Channel 14, someone had grown wings and another had turned into metal down in Miami. CNN, someone was lifting a semi-trunk over their head. Channel 27, a tornado had spontaneously appeared in Dubai while someone in the foreground looked like they were bending gravity itself. A reptile man. Someone leaping over the Chrysler Building. A man that wouldn’t stop vibrating. And to top it all off, they all looked like they were in a lot of pain.

The screen flickered as Hillary turned it off. Everyone just stood there, none of them daring to break the silence and acknowledge what they saw. Whatever elephant was in the room before they turned on the TV had left and brought the whole Savannah with it. Finally, Joe Biden cleared his throat, a sound that seemed to echo in the vast silence.

“How did this… never mind, how are we going to deal with this?”

“When we’re sure what ‘this’ is,” Clinton responded, “then we can worry about that.”

“I don’t think we’re going to be given that much time,” Biden replied. “The public’s going to want action, or at least a statement, and they’re going to want it now.”

“So what do we tell them?” Obama cut in. “That we know as much as they do?”

“You’re the master of speeches,” Clinton said, “that’s your job.”

Thompson let a second slip by before he put in his own two cents. “And what about security risks?”

Everyone turned to look at him, making his hand twitch for a moment. Taking a deep breath, he said, “Every single person out there is going to be thrown into a mass panic and once they’re thrown in, the accusations are going to start flying around.”

“At us, you mean?” Biden asked.

“At us and at the people out there. They’re going to blame this on everything from some secret government toxin to fluoride in the drinking water. Conspiracy theories fly around all the time, but people’s lives weren’t directly at risk again.”

“Which brings us to those people,” replied Biden.

“Exactly. Every single one of them will be seen as, and could be, a ticking time bomb. If you were the average person and you discovered that your neighbor could turn into a fire-breathing panther, you’d be scared to death of him and if you so much as thought he was a threat to your children, you’d do anything to stop him from coming near them. And by anything…”

He let the sentence hang as he looked around at everyone. They could already tell what they were sitting on, but it was also sinking in that this was far more potent than any normal public unrest. No one really appreciated what internal conflict meant in the real world. To most people, it was deciding whether to eat healthy on their lunch breaks. But anyone who’d had to deal with real chaos knew that there would be a time when you’d have to make the choice between saving the baby in the fire and shutting down a stolen nuke.

“And suppose they are a ticking time bomb,” Clinton interjected. “What then?”

“Hold on,” started President Obama, placing his hands on the desk and pushing himself to his feet. “One step at a time, please.”

“To hell with the steps!” Clinton shot back. “You show me where we wrote up proper protocol for-”

And then they were interrupted by a woman’s scream of agony down the hall.

Thompson and the other agents didn’t miss a beat. They tore out of the room and down the hallways. The scream kept going, broken up by gasps for air. Thompson winced as he realized whatever pain this woman was in, it was probably getting worse. On the other hand, this made finding her that much easier.

And find her they did. Skidding to a halt in front of one of the offices in the building, they came to a closed door. All very well and good, except they noticed almost immediately that the doorknob was shaking. No, not rattling, literally shaking and splintering the wood around it, desperately trying to break free. Thompson had a split-second’s hesitation to panic. Clinton was right, there was nothing in the books about how to deal with psychics or metamorphs… Good lord, we’re going to actually start using those words in official meetings.

That being said, it wasn’t a complicated matter. Bad guy’s across the room. Point gun at bad guy. Shoot gun. Wound bad guy and take him in. If bad guy was an immediate threat, bad guy’s heart or brains were the new wall decor.

Good thing my retirement’s not for another thirty years or so,
he thought as he and the other agents kicked the door in.

They saw the woman clutching her head and gripping the desk, still howling in pain. She was in her forties wearing a modest work dress, eyes clenched shut and a small stream of blood coming out of the corner of her mouth. It took another split-second, but it soon became clear that that wasn’t the only blood on her; her long, frizzy brown hair had been hiding an open, bleeding wound on each earlobe.
Adrian was already moving in to help her, but then two things happened. First, something small and hard caught him across the head and knocked him into a stumble. It was like a miniature fist, small and packing a punch. Second, he was suddenly thrown to the floor by something pushing or pulling at his side, he couldn’t tell which. What he could tell was that whatever it was was dragging him across the floor.

Quickly, he covered his head as he was slammed into walls and furniture with reckless abandon. Each hit felt like a car crash as his body was jolted and dragged against everything in the room. He tried to keep his breathing calm, but it was hard when the wind was getting knocked out of his with every third slam. That, and he was panicking. What was he supposed to do? How the fuck was he supposed to deal with something that he couldn’t see? Oh yeah, FBI are supposed to keep cool under fire, all fine and good. But tell that to the FBI agents who were under fire from something that shouldn’t even exist. Wait, scratch that, Thompson didn’t need an excuse. He wasn’t even a freaking agent. The fact that the woman was still screaming did not help his mental state, either.

“Throw your guns!” came a bellow from across the room. It took a moment for Adrian to realize that one of the secret service members, who was also being dragged across the room, had shouted it before he plunged his hand into his coat. Adrian followed suit and found his hand on the hidden holster for his pistol. Yeah, he wasn’t a soldier, but in the army, there was no excuse not to have protection. Prying the latch from the holster, he found himself skidding to a stop as the gun sailed away from him and around the room.
One second to catch his breath was all he needed, but it was almost cut short as more objects whizzed by him at breakneck speed.

Keeping low to the ground, he decided to take the opportunity to look up. Swirling around the room, apart from the wayward guns, were various pens, pins, a name placard, a few steel paperweights (one of which had some blood on it, Adrian assumed it was his), some earrings, and a metal filling from a tooth, as well as some other indiscernible objects. In short, everything that in the room that was metal.

It was at that moment that he realized that he realized that his pants were twisting uncomfortably at the front. Right, he thought. Zippers. Were this a normal combat situation, he would have allowed himself to feel embarrassed, but he did not allow himself that luxury as he stripped off his pants and watched them fly around the room.

Okay, think… how do we do this?
It was clear that this woman was the source of all this, but if she was anything like the people on the news, she had no control over it. Were they just supposed to wait until it ran out or try to sedate her? Waiting it out would mean risking getting pelted to death by the various objects flying around, not to mention the possibility of her wrecking any metal foundations in the building. But sedating her was just as much of a problem, since most syringes had metal tips. Plus, he was pretty sure that none of them had any sedatives on them.

Looking from the woman to the agents, he felt completely lost. It didn’t help that he was more focused on the metal objects that careened through the space with no logical pattern. It was, in a word, less than ideal. But ideal wasn’t part of the job description. Getting down on the ground, he slowly began sliding across the floor on his stomach, wincing as the name placard sliced into his back. “Try to get close!” he called out to the others, though he wondered how they could manage something like that. This wasn’t avoiding gunfire, this was walking into a sandstorm and trying to come out intact.

“Ma’am!” Adrian called out. “Ma’am, can you hear me?!”

Agonizing scream.

Adrian swore under his breath. This was going to be a lot more difficult than he thought. So basically, one degree below impossible. “If you can hear me, I need you to listen carefully! Take deep breaths and try to work through the pain! We’re gonna try and help you, but we need you to work with us on this!” He punctuated the whole sentence with a pained grunt as the paperweight collided with his shoulder.

He kept crawling forward as the maelstrom of metal continued to grind about the room. His heart was pounding so hard that he could feel it in his throbbing shoulder. But whatever he’d said to Ms. Standish (he’d gotten a glimpse of her name placard before narrowly avoiding it) seemed to have gotten through. Her screams became broken up by her trying to inhale and when she exhaled, her scream seemed to dull a bit, almost as though the breath was diluting it. Thompson didn’t want to risk looking up, so as soon as he got to the desk, he rolled clumsily towards it and pressed his back up against the polished wood.

From where he was crouched, he couldn’t see the secret service men. The only thing that was giving him any hints was the various grunts accompanied by sounds of impact. Then he heard the sound of a body hit the floor and just cringed. How could people in their line of work stand it? Did they look back when they heard one of their own go down or did they just press on and collect the fallen later? Well, this certainly wasn’t the time to muse about it, that was for sure.

Glancing up, he saw Ms. Standish just as tense as before, maybe even more so now that she had to focus on her breathing. But he also noticed that the objects seemed to be stumbling along their flight path. So either his method was working or whatever this was was cooling down on its own. Or something else was at work. “Ms. Standish,” he said, slowly getting to his feet. He found that he was able to speak a bit more normally since her screams had started to drop in volume. “Ms. Standish, I’m going to ask you where it hurts and if I-”

“My head!” she croaked out, still gripping the desk as if for dear life.

Thompson paused for a moment to reflect on how surprisingly simple that was. He then paid for it when he felt a letter opener scratch the back of his head. Right then, he thought. Sliding closer to her, he looked to see the one of the agents had found his way to her feet. Their eyes met and he slowly moved himself up the desk. They both moved closer to her as they both seemed to realize that, like an actual maelstrom, the eye of the storm was where they would get the least trouble.

He wasn’t sure if this was going to work, but it was worth a shot. Besides, it helped him with all of his headaches. Making his way behind her, he curled up his thumb and placed the upper knuckle to her forehead. Reflexively, she flinched, but she calmed down soon after. With that, he slowly began rubbing the knuckle side to side across her forehead. His mom had taught him that awhile back, but he didn’t know if it worked on other people.

Still, it was worth a shot. He kept at it with a slow rhythm. Side to side. Back and forth. The agent came forward as well, put his hands to her temples and started rubbing in circular motions. Thompson was no doctor, but he could certainly hope.
But as they continued, her screams slowly started to subside. The metal objects began to falter even more. Little by little, Ms. Standish was pushing through this ordeal. Adrian didn’t know if this was because of their efforts or some sort of natural subsiding and quite frankly, it didn’t matter either way. Everyone was safe, no one had to get hurt and no one was getting pelted by paperweights. All the metal dropped to the ground and Ms. Standish slowly went limp. She tried to balance herself on the desk, but just sank to the ground and passed out, no doubt worn out from all the pain.

Other agents and cabinet members had already gathered outside the door and were looking in with shock. He half expected the President to compliment them or his boss to make a wry comment, but everyone just looked at each other. They all had different degrees of horror in their eyes and Thompson could guess why.

He had read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes back in the day, but there was one storyline that had stuck with him for a while. Calvin and his family had gone on a trip and come home to find that somebody had robbed their house. The dad had said that this was the sort of thing that would always happen to somebody else. The mom had replied, “Unfortunately, to somebody else, we are somebody else.”

That was basically what was going on in everyone’s heads, he guessed. Whether it was conscious or not, they had all taken comfort in the fact that they were safe from the chaos in their own circles. It would be the sort of thing that they’d hear about, but never have to deal with head on. But now this thing, whatever it was, had happened here, right next to the Oval Office. And if even the White House wasn’t safe from this whole shebang, where was it safe?


December 21st, 8:58 AM, PST

Wow, that’s way too much light.

That was the first thing Christopher Estevez thought as he woke up. Well, okay, the second thing. The first thing was more along the lines of, Mr. Gorbechov plays a mean pinball. Regardless, he blinked his eyes open and looked around as the sun shone down on him. He made a mental note to thank the contractors for installing the sunroof overnight, but then he noticed that his sleeping bag was cold and wet.

And then he realized that he hadn’t called any contractors for his house. That was strange of them to just come in, put in a sunroof and forget to install the glass. Maybe they were actually vandals who did half-done remodelings. Still, it must have been pouring hard last night for his sleeping bag to be this soaked and… wait, sleeping bag?

Then it all came back to him. He hadn’t gone home last night. Instead, he’d curled up in his office and slept there. It just felt right, since he realized that was going to be the last time he saw that office again. So did that mean Bryce had installed the sunroof? Was that his way of saying, “Get out of here?” Except that he just realized that he was lying down on the snow-covered street, so perhaps they’d just thrown him out. So where was he?

Looking up, he saw the office building that he worked at. Except that about half of it was missing.

Slowly, he blinked up at the cragged mess that used to hold that used to hold the upper floors. Then he looked down and saw the mass of rubble on the ground. On top of that, he saw what looked like a massive scar the trailed down the side of the building and ended right where he was lying. Sweat began trickling down his forehead as he scrambled out of the sleeping bag, trying to make sense of this mess.
Then he started hearing the sirens in the distance. He barely had time to look around when assortments of different vehicles pulled up. Cop cars, fire trucks, ambulances, all of them pulled to a screeching stop no more than five feet in front of him. Everyone piled out en masse as if the whole thing was a circus with no amusement and before he could blink, more than a dozen handguns were pointed right at him.

“It’s okay,” he tried to call out over the din of people shouting commands at him and at each other. “I’ve done nothing wrong!” But even as he said it, he wondered if that was true. He had every reason to believe it, but there was still a nagging doubt in the back of his mind.

Two of the officers approached him slowly, their guns trained on him. Slowly, Christopher started stepping back, checking over his shoulder to make sure that there wasn’t someone else they were pointing at. Either way, this was making him extremely uncomfortable. If they wanted to hear a testimony of some kind, they could have just asked him, but this whole thing seemed unnecessary. He kept backing up until he felt a crunching sound under his foot. When he saw their eyes widen, he turned to look at what they were gaping at and saw that his foot had come down through a gigantic piece of rubble, crushing through it as if it had been made of sand.
Everything seemed to mute for a moment as he tried to swallow what he just saw. He vaguely heard one of the officers shout, “Another one!” but he didn’t care too much. What the hell was this? He wasn’t Superman or Colombo, so what business did his foot have breaking mounts of concrete. He’d always suspected that his employers were spiking the coffee everyday, but this was… wait, what was he thinking? He didn’t drink coffee, he drank chai.

Then he came back out of his head. The whole time, he felt like someone was tapping him on the side, but now that he looked at it, someone was actually shooting him. Naturally, he felt a little unnerved that he wasn’t feeling anything more than a pinch, but much like the kids bouncing the ball on that one program, it was starting to grate on him. Holding out his hand and turning, he opened his mouth to say, “stop,” but then what looked like a wall of stars sprung from his hand and blocked the next volley.
Stars? Bizarre, they didn’t feel very hot or gaseous. They felt more like… a river of Abuela Estevez’ soul had exploded out in front of his hand and was now blocking bullets. Oh, right, people were shooting at him. At least, they were before they stopped and gawked at him, slowly backing up. “Now, gentlemen,” he said as he walked toward them, the shield bouncing awkwardly off his leg as he moved his hands, “I think we’ve come to a slight misunderstanding. Why don’t we sit down for a crepe and talk things over? Come on, what’ll it hurt? Well, unless you get the mushroom benedict crepe from Robaton’s. After that, whoa boy! Your gastrics’ll be bubbling up like a shaken Coke.”

Still, the officers wouldn’t stop backing up. One of them grabbed frantically for the radio on his belt, keeping his eyes dead set on Christopher. Dead set… they didn’t want him dead, did they? “Just tell us what you can do,” he stammered, fumbling and dropping the radio.

“I’m the best damn janitor this side of Milwaukee,” he replied matter-of-factly. They weren’t seriously questioning his expert cleaning skills, were they? Well, he’d just have to set the record straight. “Here, let me see your car.”

Whatever they wanted to hear, that clearly wasn’t it. The cops opened fire again as they scrambled to their cars, the bullets bouncing harmlessly off Christopher’s chest and putting holes in his work clothes. “Wait!” he called out as the cars started their engines and pulled away from him. Fruitlessly, he ran after the closest police car…

…and was surprised to find that he was only falling behind just a bit. Frowning, he kept after the car to see if they knew what was going on. After all, they were cops. You couldn’t be a cop if you didn’t know the lowdown on the city you were supposed to protect, right? Suddenly, another car pulled out in front of him at a cross street. He got a split-second view of the driver’s bulging eyes as she slammed on the brakes, but at this point, the hit was unavoidable.

Well, he thought in a moment of mild panic, if I can survive a bullet, then I can survive this. As he collided with the car, he planted his hand on the hood and pushed himself off. The once pristine hood now had a dent in it in the vague shape of a handprint, but it worked; he had launched himself over the car to land safely on the other side. But he wasn’t landing.

No, he was still traveling upwards and gravity was doing nothing to bring him down. At first, he thought that perhaps someone had found a way to turn off gravity and made a mental note to find his eighth grade science teacher and make him change that grade on his science fair project (too implausible for consideration, my foot), but that line of thought broke off as he saw himself heading straight for the edge of a building.

He tried to get out of the way, but he had no idea how. He wasn’t even sure what was happening to him or if this was even his doing. All the possibilities raced through his mind, but none of them seemed to answer anything or change the fact that he was flying straight towards the edge of a building.

Oh my God, he thought, as the edge drew closer. I’m really flying.

With a crash, he plowed right through the concrete and steel and kept sailing off, though the impact had changed his direction slightly. Using all of his brainpower, he tried willing himself to go down instead of up, but so far, nothing. As he kept on sailing, he looked down at Portland for the first time since he took off. A frown creased his face as he saw complete pandemonium below. No pandas, of course, but there was smoke, fire, sirens, and… lightning?

And he just continued to sail on by, powerless to go down there and do anything.

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