A Year in Seattle – Week 31 – Working to Exhaustion

A Year In Seattle

Week Thirty-One

Thursday, January 18th, 2057 Avoiding an empty house

I spent the morning in physical therapy and was finally given the go-ahead to start doing ‘real work.’

He warned me to take things easy at first and reminded me that if I started getting stiff, it was my body’s way of warning me that I was pushing too hard. And I was to go back to just light duty.

The job doesn’t work that way, but I didn’t feel like telling him. Looking back, I must have been grinning like an idiot. If being able to ride again had given me my freedom, it was as if the go-ahead on riding at work had given me back my life.

I grinned and shook his hand, but he warned me that this wasn’t ‘good-bye.’ I’d still have to see him so he could chart my progress and make sure I was following his orders. I nodded. It’s not like I can turn him down– I don’t show up for PT, Citywide can dock me.

From there I ran the gamut, Records at Lone Star, tea with Dr. Chen and a missing person’s check at the hospitals. I’m not sure, but I think I was trying to avoid going home, finding out that Case was still gone.

At the end of the day, I was back at the condo, alone. I found myself pouring a glass of wine and ended up pouring it down the sink. I was not going to fall into that trap tonight. If I was feeling that lonely, I knew some people who could use some company.

I packed up my gear looked at the guitar case that housed expensive collection of kindling and sighed. I really need to get another one. Unfortunately, since the condo belongs to the boys, its covered under their insurance and they have to file the claim. I wonder if they make squatter’s insurance?

I was a little bit down after that, but I’m glad I followed through and went down to the shelter. They put me to work serving and it was a big boost. Nothing like helping people to get you out of a self-pitying slump.

Later on, I borrowed one of the staffer’s guitars and took a stint playing some of the old standards. It felt good to play again.

I was in a lot better frame of mind when I got back home. Just as well, its usually when I’m alone that I start feeling the ganger’s presence… and that I should be doing something. I didn’t hear him when I got home.

I guess it’s because I’d done something constructive.

Friday, January 19th, 2057 – Playing in the dirt

Still, no word from Case, not that I really expect it after the warning he gave me– still, I wish I’d heard something. I take that back. That I haven’t heard anything is probably a good thing.

Officer Smiley showed up around 11:00 with his daughter Melissa. I had a hard time keeping up with the two of them.

She is definitely following in her father’s footsteps. I could see it in her eyes. Funny thing is I sense he’s trying to guide her away from police work.

If I didn’t know better I’d say he’s steering her right towards me and the emergency medical field. Hate to tell him, but at least as a police officer, you have the right to carry a gun. Yeah, most of us in Citywide carry– but its official policy to discourage us from doing so.

We carry weapons, not as members of the rescue squad but as civilians. We won’t discuss the fact that they have a shooting range inside Headquarters– it’s for the folks running security and backup– really.

Thinking about it, I really should book some time on the range. I haven’t used the gun since– since Andrews gave it to me: it and my concealed carry permit.

As we rode, I realized that it was the first time since I can’t remember when that I didn’t carry– no vest, no gun, only a minimal ‘standard’ kit. Melissa was asking me about being a medic, and how I knew her dad. She also made very sure that I knew her mother was waiting for him.”

I think I surprised her when I told her point blank that that was not why I was there.

“Then why are you here?” she asked me pointedly.

“Because I was hurt, and I’m trying to get back in shape so that I can ride, and ride safely. Because dirt is softer than asphalt and because if I fall and hurt myself, I want somebody around I know and trust to pick up the pieces.”

Once that was settled, we got along perfectly. I wish Case had been there.

Saturday, January 20th, 2057 – Reassignment.

The orders came through today– tomorrow I report to Tacoma where my bike will be waiting for me. My first reaction was to check their call logs.

It wasn’t the 97th, but it wasn’t Fort Lewis either. The calls were hectic, but not enough to require time off in between like at the 97th. It was another 3 on 3 off assignment. Most of the calls indicated the high price of the good life: accidents, drug overdoses. Less gang activity, but a lot more Yakuza.

Thing is– it looks like the trouble on that end won’t be the Yak’s but the Maffia trying to muscle in. Seems the Yakuza are so ensconced in Tacoma that the Mob feels the only way to uproot them is a tac-nuke. Fortunately, they either don’t have any handy– or they’re just saving it for a special occasion.

Great stuff to look forward to– still I’m glad PC showed me where to get the low down. Its good stuff to know going into it.

I gave the condo a slight dusting and then with nothing better to do, I headed over to Tacoma and started getting used to the streets. I think I unnerved quite a few people driving up and down the streets and checking out the alleyways.

Let’s face it, my bike is not the most inconspicuous of vehicles. By the time I’d finished, I had at least two people tailing me. I figured the best thing to do was to report into the station and get the layout there.

That way I could get acquainted with the folks at the station, and, hopefully, allay the fears of my tails. While I was there, I got the traffic reports and plotted out my routes. I stayed until I was satisfied that I could handle my job, then I headed home to dust the cats.

Sunday, January 21st, 2057 – Boredom can be a killer

I ended up reporting in to work early. There was no real point to hanging around the condo– all I was doing there was killing time. I rode over to Tacoma and checked out the streets again. I slotted a map program and modified it based on what I found. A few of the alleyways the commercial map said were there weren’t. Then again, there were a few extra routes that weren’t on the map.

Then it was just a question of reviewing the traffic reports for the area and noting where things tend to get backed up– and when.

I was about three hours early, but the bike was there and it needed to be checked out and its carriers needed to be restocked.

By the time I was done it was time for briefing. It was a relief to have a real briefing again. After Fort Lewis anything was an improvement. I mean, I’m not an adrenaline junky– I just…

I’m here to do a job and life is much better when I can do it. Its almost like I was born to do the job and when I don’t get to do it is pretty much when things tend to fall apart.

I had pretty much vowed to keep my nose out of things that didn’t relate to me or the boys when the calls started coming in.

Rich kids bored on a Sunday night…I’m discovering that this is not a good combination. Those that weren’t out wreaking havoc on their last night of freedom before school were finding their amusements in simsense and chemicals.

Three overdoses, one case of alcohol poisoning, four drug-related accidents, with injuries. Guess they figured we were bored too.

Monday, January 22nd, 2057 – Bitter almonds

I managed to keep up on the bike last night, but was paying for it this morning. I felt about the way Ray looked the last time I saw him. I got up, took a hot shower.

I was in the middle of the shower when the first call came in. There are times I really hate this job. Nothing like rushing to an emergency when you’re soaking wet. By the time I got there, it didn’t really matter– I would have been soaked anyway.

My ‘wet weather gear’ seems to need some work.

I get to the call, a heart attack call in one of the ritzier neighborhoods. They almost didn’t let me in, I think they were afraid of me tracking water, mud and god knows what, into their lovely home.

It was house beautiful, but that wasn’t why I was there. They told me to go around the back. I almost said something, but there are times that arguing just isn’t going to get you anywhere or do any good for your patient. This was one of those times.

There was a lot that was hinky about the case, but I concentrated on the patient and ignored everything else as best as I could. The patient, Mr. Worthington-Hyde-Smythe’s heart had stopped as I bent down to check his breathing I caught a faint odor of bitter almond. This explained some of the nervousness I was feeling. Swiping his mouth to clear the airway, I found some food particles, he’d keeled over in the middle of breakfast… perhaps a poisoned meal.

I continued CPR and artificial respiration until the ambulance arrived fifteen minutes later.

Mathis and Beauford, my new teammates were sent around back as well. I continued CPR, with Mathis taking over the breathing while Beauford readied defibrillator. Four minutes later we’d managed to establish a good sinus rhythm. I bagged the food sample and placed it on the Gurney as the guys wheeled him out.

They left with a slight nod. They’d seen the sample… I think maybe Mathis caught the scent. They took Worthington-Hyde-Symthe, leaving me to clean up… and tell the Star what I found. The Star never showed up.

I tried to ignore the ‘itchy’ feeling that kept telling me that something was wrong. My eyes narrowed as the man who had answered the door started cleaning up the table. I almost told him not to– but without back up, it would only tip him off that someone was suspicious. I stayed as long as I could without arousing suspicion then left.

I got back to the station with enough time to start my report when another call came in. I wasn’t officially cleared from the last call, but a quick review of traffic indicated that I was on. Dispatch arranged a pickup from a different station since Mathis and Beauford were still on the last call.

It ran like that for most of the day. Some calls I’d ride with my team, other’s I’d be on the bike. There weren’t any of the pileups we get at the 97th so it wasn’t too bad– it just seemed to go on forever.

By dinner time, I was ready for a break. The next one didn’t come until 0230 Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2057 Cross-examination

Mr. Worthington-Hyde-Smythe died this morning. The Star finally showed up when the lab results came back. He had enough cyanide in his system to kill several Worthington-Hyde-Smythes.

I handed them my report and wished, once again, that investigators would accept my report as written and not feel the needed to cross-examine me ad nauseam. I guess they wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t but still, how many times and ways can I say, I got there, I was suspicious, and his breath smelled of almonds… bitter almonds.

I told them everything that happened, at least four times. Then they started asking me what people were wearing, and how the victim had been dressed. I took a deep breath closed my eyes and described absolutely everything. This time I realized that there was one thing I hadn’t noticed. When I pulled up there had been three cars in the driveway. When I left, there were only two.

So maybe cross-examination does pay off.

I don’t know, but the investigator seemed to have what he wanted, and I was back on the road in no time. By the end of the day, I was emotionally and physically drained. And there’s still a day or so to the shift.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2057 – Exhaustion.

I have never been so glad to sit down in my entire life! I got off shift about an hour ago… Its almost Thursday and I’m exhausted, but not exhausted enough to sleep. I hate it when things get like that.

Still I guess I have three days of peace and quiet to recover. Still no sign of Case and it almost feels like– the whole thing was just a dream. I hate that feeling. We had several weeks where there was nothing but the two of us and now… now its just work and the quest again.

I know he’s out there, I know he cares, but knowledge can’t hold you and keep you from feeling lonely. Still, there is a warm feeling that surrounds me when I think about him. I wish he were here right now.

Anyway, I think I’m going to sleep till Friday, then see about getting something to eat.

Copyright – 2000 M.T. Decker

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A Year in Seattle – Week 30 – Second Wave

A Year In Seattle

Week Thirty

Thursday, January 11th, 2057 – Plans.

The therapist is pleased with my progress and figures I can report back to more active duty in a few weeks. After my visit with him, I headed over to Ray’s.

I woke him up and at first, he was very… unreceptive to my idea, but as I explained it (and he woke up) it started sounding better and better.

Let’s face it, Ray is a doer and dispatch has been wearing thinner on him than it did on me. I don’t think he’ll ever go back to motorcycles. Now that I’ve seen him, that’s pretty clear. He loves the job, but the toll it took him was too high.

I could see it as he tried to get out of bed. He was trying to look natural, but he looked more like a geriatric case than a man in his early thirties. When he saw my expression he gave up trying.

“Some mornings are worse than others,“ he told me as I helped him up. “I should get back most of my mobility in time– but it’s going to be a while in coming.”

I nodded. None of us like to think about the time when we’re too old or too ‘damaged’ to do the job, but it’s a reality we all have to face sooner or later.

‘Course, if I keep up like I’ve been– I’m not going to have to worry about old age.

Ray grabbed his robe and told me to wait in the ‘front room.’ While he showered, I started the coffee pot – it looked like it was going to be a heavily caffeinated day before too long.

Three cups of coffee later we had the groundwork done and a good plan for selling the brass on it. If they accept it, it means the program gets a jumpstart and we’re back in the running.

Armed with this information we scheduled a meeting with Citywide’s board of directors.

At first, they were going to make us wait until next week, but when we explained that it involved getting the motor-medic program back on track, they were more than willing to meet. It seems that its one of their big selling points they want to use while negotiating their next contract with the city.

It’s like a friend of mine told me once, show the medics how it will help them, and they’re sold– show the accountants the bottom line, and how it can increase profits, and they’re sold.

They agreed to give it a go. They weren’t too crazy about letting Terry into the program– seems he has a reputation of goofing off. I think he just hasn’t found his niche.

Turns out, he’d found the CEO’s daughter– and a whole lot of trouble. It’s going to be interesting trying to get him onboard.

Friday, January 12th, 2057 – The philosophy of tea

I made my rounds at the hospitals doing the missing person’s check. I found two of Saunders’ cases– but nothing on the boys. I tried thinking about the scenarios Case and I had gone over but it didn’t help.

The boys didn’t want to be found– and with AZT on their trail, I can see why. They were playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse, and from what I’ve seen, the jaguar’s claws are sharp, and his reach is long.

And don’t even get me started on feathered snakes and blood mages.. I’ve been spending too much time on Shadowland. There’s a lot of scary stuff out there and I’ve been in the middle of it. Sometimes I wish PC hadn’t showed me how to get there. Still, I guess, I’m thankful he did.

It’s given me a lot to think about, maybe to much, but that’s the risk you take I guess. I stopped by the morgue. I’d forgotten what a trip Dr. Chen can be.

We ended up having tea up in his office. It was amusing to watch him heat the pot over a Bunsen burner.

He smiled as he poured me a cup and then took his and sat down. It was the first time we’d really talked. No joking around, no ‘quest’– just two friends conversing over tea.

As I sat there inhaling the steam from my cup, he sighed contentedly.

“You know the world would be such a wonderful place if people took time out from their day to just sit and … drink tea.”

I looked at him for a moment before I realized he was being serious. I guess he’s right though. There’s something soothing about boiling the water… steeping the tea and then holding it, watching the steam curl away from it.

“Unfortunately,” I sighed. “I think its just too Zen for most people to understand…”

“Zen or Tao?” he asked me.

“Either really,” I finally answered. “The tea is.”

He smiled for a moment and took another sip from his cup. He smiled as he looked down at his empty cup and then sighed. “Ah, it would seem that the tea is not…”

With a grin, I reached over and poured him another cup.

“Jess,” he asked. “What does tea mean to you?”

I thought for a moment and then reflected on our conversation. “Matt,” I finally answered. “He’s the one who seeks harmony. He was always there, warm, supportive… constant.”

I didn’t tell him but Matt was also the one that taught me that there was more to tea than hot water and leaves… and more to life than breathing and having a pulse.

I didn’t have to. He gave me a brief hug as I left and told me not to forget the tea.

I stopped by the church on the way home and lit two candles, one for the boys and one for the ganger who haunts me. Maybe the light will guide us all home.

Saturday, January 13th, 2057 – Stressed for success

When I woke up this morning Case was snoring on the couch. It took a while for me to wake him up. When I asked him why he hadn’t come to bed, he said he didn’t want to wake me up.

It was sweet, but I knew there was more to it– I could see it in his eyes. He’d been through something pretty bad. I could tell he didn’t want to talk about– that maybe he couldn’t, so I just started giving him a back rub.

The tension was written all over his muscles. It’s amazing what the human body can do. It can bend, flex, protect itself from damage by becoming almost like jello on impact, and it can rip itself apart when you try to keep all your tension and anger contained.

I could feel that in Case’s muscles as I worked on his shoulders and neck. He was literally tearing himself up over whatever had happened.

“If you can talk about it,” I finally told him. “I can listen…”

He looked at me and smiled. “I wish I could Jess…”

I could see in his eyes that he wasn’t kidding, but I couldn’t tell if it was something he couldn’t talk about, or didn’t want to talk about.

“If you’re trying to protect me,” I told him as I started applying some shiatsu techniques I’d learned. “Don’t.”

He winced as the pressure continued and then sighed as I let up and moved a little to the left and repeated the process. “Jess…” There was something in his voice that told me he didn’t want to tell me.

“Hon,” I told him as I again moved the pressure to the left. “I can see its bad… and you’ve got to let it out somehow… either tell me… or we can go down to the gym and you can go play with a heavy bag… but you gotta do something… “

He turned and looked at me a sheepish smile crossing his face. “Yes, mom.”

“Get your shoes on,” I told him. That was pretty much our decision.

It took him almost three hours of intense workout to get him to even crack a smile, and by then, I practically had to pour him into the sauna.

Still, the heat and excursion seemed to have worked out most of it. We went to the diner and then adjourned to his place. I think he needed some familiar surroundings and the condo doesn’t really feel like home to him. There’s too much of my brothers there.

I figure I’ll make it up to the cats in the morning.

Sunday, January 14th, 2057 – Promises

Case seemed to be doing a lot better in the morning, almost too good. Most of the stress was gone, but the haunted look was still there in his eyes. I’ve seen it before, sometimes in the mirror after a particularly bad call– once you’ve seen that look, there’s no mistaking it.

And for everybody it’s different. The only constant is the fact that you’ve got to find a way of dealing with it, or it will eat you up inside. Sometimes– some cases– Its almost like they take a piece of your soul with them… take it or mark it, it doesn’t really matter.

Some times talking about it helps, but I can tell that he either can’t or won’t talk about this one. I suggested maybe we visit the Walkers, but he shook his head, said something about ‘maybe later.’

That’s when I knew it was bad. I can see him not wanting to talk to me about it– not all that uncommon a thing, but Jonathan, he knows Case, knows the job better than anybody, and he’s still not willing to talk.

I finally stopped trying to help him work it out, sometimes that’s worse than the actual problem. But I did warn him that he had to do something with it before it really got to him.

He gave me a worried look and I could almost read the thoughts behind it. “As if this isn’t enough by itself.”

I did my best to take his mind off of it. I think it helped a little, but only a little. As I was getting ready to go to work, he warned me that he might not be around for a few weeks. I looked at him and could tell he wasn’t too happy about it, and that it was related to the whole mass of stress he’d been dealing with.

I gave him a kiss and told him I’d be waiting. I will too, he knows that. Maybe that’s part of it too– he’s afraid of losing me because of whatever it is and the hours he’ll be working on it. Sometimes it helps: knowing someone is waiting for you; someone who’ll be there for you.

Sometimes it makes all the difference in the world. I remembered how bleak everything felt when I thought I’d lost him. I’m not about to let go now and I told him as much.

Monday, January 15th, 2057- Second Wave

Last night’s briefing was short simple and very familiar: nothing to report. I did my exercises and I took Terry through the obstacle course with the bike. We’re both doing a lot better.

This morning was more of the same. We actually did get a cat in the tree call. The ladder truck crew were so happy they actually took it. I was tempted to come along and see if the cat needed CPR.

One thing I can say is that this assignment is really making me appreciate the chaos I’m used to. I honestly miss it. Around 1500 two more medics arrived.

I was surprised that they were sending them out this soon, but I guess they decided to go with it while everybody was still in agreement.

Terry was about to go back to waxing the truck when the Captain handed him his orders. The second wave of trainees were officially on assignment.

It’s amazing how much the shift changed after that. At about 1730 a flatbed arrived with two bikes. I recognized them right away, mine and Rays. I felt a brief pang of uncertainty as I noticed the bodywork on both of them.

I took my helmet and noticed that Ray’s now bore the winged bike symbol. We’d both been lucky and here I was getting right back into it. Worse I was leading three more medics to the uncertain world of extreme rescue.

I told it to them straight– it’s a dangerous job, more dangerous than normal. I mean, yeah, trucks get hit all the time by people running lights, trying to get through, or ‘not seeing’ us. It’s a whole ‘nother world on the bike: People don’t see you a lot more often, people think they can beat a bike even more than they can the truck, and worse, there’s no big metal bus surrounding you if and when they hit you.

I could tell that they had already thought of that. That they’d already read the proposal, and my reports on what the job entails. Still, in spite of my best efforts, they were here and ready to give it a go.

And I was right, Ft. Lewis was the right place to begin.

Tuesday, January 16th, 2057 – The second wave (Part 2)

Now it doesn’t matter that we don’t get calls, I’m actually appreciating it. It’s giving my trainees the time they need to get acclimated.

Terry’s no problem, he’s been wanting this since he first heard about it, and he’s already gone through several of the obstacle courses. The other two, Tristan and Smythe are a little unsure, but they’re getting the hang of it.

We’ve got simulator time scheduled for Wed night down at the arcade. That should really give them something to think about. Maybe I should wait, but PC told me that the calibrations had to be set and that we can start them off easy.

We alternated who was in the truck and who was on the bikes so that everybody had a chance. After a call, we all would go over the bike and then adjourn to the conference room for a post-game analysis.

It feels good to be back in the game. Hope Ray feels the same.

Wednesday, January 17th, 2057 – Three plus one.

This morning we got a surprise– one more trainee. His appearance all but shocked me. It was none other than Officer Smiley, the cop that had tried to arrest me for failure to yield to a police officer when I had first started the program out here.

He handed me his papers. Turns out he’d been spending his nights becoming a paramedic. I checked his jacket and his marks were perfect.

“Officer Smiley,” I greeted him with a grin.

“Miller,” he answered in kind. “See you’re teaching a new band of miscreants.”

I chuckled. “And you’re one of ‘em.”

After that, we settled down and I began covering the hazards and particulars of the job. We had three calls in the morning and then in the evening, after shift change, we went down to the arcade. PushCiti had cleared one of the rooms for us and a bank of simulators had been prepped. It took him about 15 minutes to get everyone settled in.

Then, since this was for training, not for play, he proceeded to tweak everyone’s setting until he had the perfect setup for all four of our trainees.

We spend the next few hours working out on the simulator. We started them off slowly, but Officer Smiley was definitely bored at that setting. We upped him to the highest game level to see how he did.

I guess with his police training, he’d pretty much seen and done everything I have. We kicked him into my routine and blew through it without any problems.

Smythe made the mistake of watching Officer Smiley go through his paces and nearly quit then and there.

We talked about it over drinks afterwards. Terry’s excited about the whole thing, Tristan is very calm about the whole thing, but Smythe seems to be one ball of tension bouncing from scene to scene. Smiley is a shoe in.

After we split up, I went back to the arcade and went through my paces. I’m still a little shaky on the more intense scenarios.

As I finished, I noticed that PC and Smiley were watching me. I could tell they’d seen it too. Some of the edge was missing. Its bad enough realizing it yourself, and quite another when the people around you notice.

It was Smiley who talked to me. He told me he was surprised I had gotten back on after that first accident, that if I really want it– I’ll work it out.

It was kinda funny, getting a pep talk from one of my trainees, but let’s face it, Smiley’s been through this before.

After thinking about it, after that first accident, I was right back out on the bike. Here, I’ve had to take my time– ease back into it, wait for my body to co-operate, and in the meantime, I’ve had too much time to think about it.

We made a tentative ‘date’ to go dirt biking Friday, provided my therapist clears me for it.

Copyright – 2000 M.T. Decker

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A Year in Seattle – Week 29 – Training Plans

A Year In Seattle

Week Twenty-Nine

Thursday, January 4th, 2057 – Saved by bad luck.

This story was originally told in Long Dark Night and was my first trip inside Jess’s head.

One of these days you’d think I’d learn to ignore the milk in the fridge…

I followed Fin’s directions. They ended up taking me to a bar in Puyallup– Twenten’s. The atmosphere was calm enough. Turns out the meeting was with a fixer that Fin knew, and owed a favor or three. The man needed a few people to retrieve a ‘friend’ of his.

I knew it was bad when he told us the location. I knew it was even worse when he wouldn’t tell us any more than the basics. The ‘friend’ would be waiting for us– all we had to do was pick him up and get him back to the ‘nicer’ side of Puyallup.

Everything was wrong from the start. We were dropped off in what turned out to be the middle of a gang war. We never saw hide nor hair of this ‘friend.’ Turns out he was dead even before we agreed to get him out.

Dwight Heavy, the fixer claims he didn’t know that, but at least he paid us. It pretty much covered the expenses we incurred.

We almost ended up dead before we even got close to where we were supposed to be. We got surrounded by gangers, probably the luckiest thing that happened to us all night– as near as we can gather if we’d actually made it to the rendezvous point we’d have been dead along with the fixers ‘friend.’

He died of lead poisoning. We probably would have too if one of the gangers, a kid really, hadn’t gotten messed up by enemy gunfire.

One minute I was sure we were all dead and the next minute I didn’t care about anything but a kid with a bullet in him. Ray was on duty– he helped me get the kid taken care of. Seems rescue teams aren’t too crazy about this area and since Citywide doesn’t really get paid to take care it, its more of a no man’s land.

We got the kid taken care of, and in thanks, the gang let us go. The others seemed interested in what the fixer had to say, but I didn’t really care about it. I figured I’d read about it in the holofax in the morning.

The story didn’t even make the news– go figure.

I checked the fridge and found another note on the milk. I took the milk, dumped it down the sink and incinerated the carton– note and all.

I figure it was past its expiration date anyway.

Friday, January 5th, 2057 – I don’t make trouble.

Still no word from Case, so I was on my own for the visit to my physical therapist. After that, I trooped down to the Star station and checked in with Saunders.

PT was about what I’ve come to expect. But my clean living must be paying off, I’ve been cleared for riding again. I’m still not allowed to work on the bike, but at least I can transport myself– which is a lot better than depending on cabs and imposing on Case. – I really wish I knew where he was.

That’s probably what drove Therese up the wall never knowing if he was going to disappear while working on something. Still, I know the job and I know how it gets– he’ll probably have a few sleepless nights worrying about me.

Still, I’m mobile again.

That was pretty much the good news for the day. Saunders didn’t have anything for me, but when he returned my disk I realized he’d palmed it and handed me a different one. I gave him a wistful shrug as he groused at me about ‘bustin’ his chops’.

As I headed out I was stopped by Detective Young. He didn’t seem too happy to see me ‘lurking around.’

“I’m not lurking,” I told him as I pointed to my visitor pass. “I’m visiting.”

He didn’t seem too– amused by my clarification, and warned me that he would find out what was going on. He also implied that he would figure out my involvement in my brothers’ disappearance and that I would make a mistake and he would be there to get me.

I bit back my reply and just waved him off. “You know hon,” I told him. “I didn’t choose this life– I just live it. And right now– I want to find my brothers, so if you aren’t going to help me, at least stay out of my way.”

I left as he began a great tirade on everything that irritated him about civilians, medics, and troublemakers– I guess that’s his opinion of me.

I don’t make trouble– I just seem to be really good at finding it.

Saturday, January 6th, 2057 – Visits

I spent the better part of the morning amusing myself by keeping the cats happy. No mean feat mind you, Taco wanted to play and Maxwell wanted to sleep… in my lap. It gave me way too much time to think.

I stared at the cards that were now laid out on the dining room table. I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I somehow- shuffled them together, I’d get the whole story. After an hour or so of torturing myself with the order of things I packed them up and reviewed the chip Saunders had given me.

I guess it’s going back to fighting the battles you can win. Once I’d loaded everything into memory, I copied the disk and headed out. First stop was the safety deposit box where I left the cards and the copy of the disk.

It felt good to ride again, but I was also glad it wasn’t rush hour. I was rusty enough that I was glad I had more room to maneuver around in. I’m definitely not in any shape for more ‘strenuous riding.’

I stopped by Everett General and saw Mario. They were finally releasing him after garnering his promise to take better care of himself. I offered him a ride home, but one look at the helmet under my arm and he chuckled.

“They want me to live stress-free,” he teased. “I have seen the way you ride.”

I grinned. “I’ll catch you at home then,” I told him. I still had a few hospitals to visit.

I made the rounds, no matches on the missing person’s cases, no cases that sounded even remotely like my brothers. It was indeed as if they’d vanished off the face of the earth.

My last stop was Good Samaritan in Puyallup. I slipped in between visiting hours and checked the chart on the kid we brought in after the failed ‘run’. Dar Allen.

From the looks of things, he’s going to be all right, if he can keep from catching any more stray bullets. As I started to leave I was stopped by one of his friends.

“Why you here?” he asked. It wasn’t a demand, and there wasn’t any posturing with the question, he just wanted to know.

I looked at him for a minute. “I’m a medic,” I told him. “I tend to check up on my patients…”

He nodded. I could tell he had more questions, and yet he was content to leave them unasked.

I knew what they were just the same. “Why did you help him?” “Why do you care?” “What were you doing there in the first place?”

I looked at him for a few moments and then nodded back. Some things just don’t make sense when you try and explain them.

We went our separate ways and when I got home there was a note in the fridge. I almost threw it away until I noticed the handwriting. I read the note and smiled. It was from Case.

“I”m in the bedroom, I’ll see you when you get in.”

I peeked in and he was sound asleep, so I took a long bath and settled in next to him.

Sunday, January 7th, 2057 – Back to the grind.

It was nice getting to spend at least part of the day with Case. During the night we’d managed to curl up in each other’s arms. It was nice to wake up with him smiling down at me.

It was as if we both agreed not to talk about anything other than being together. I knew whatever he was working on was sensitive and I knew I really didn’t want to tell him about the ‘Fin escapade.’

I could tell he’d heard about some of it. It was kinda hard to hide my call to Ray and the fact that we got an ambulance to go down there at all was nothing short of a miracle. I ‘cooked’ breakfast for us: cereal in soyamilk. As Case read the paper I sprawled out on the couch and phased out in front of the trid. We stayed like that for almost an hour before either one of us spoke.

I told him I was cleared for riding, he told me that he probably wouldn’t be ‘home’ until next weekend. Neither of us really wanted to think about that much so we just cuddled on the couch until it was time for me to go to work.

Since Case wouldn’t be able to pick me up, I rode into work. It felt good to be on the bike again, but I can see that I still need to take it easy. I didn’t really realize how much work riding could be.

Monday, January 8th, 2057 – Real Work.

Three coats of wax and I’m putting pylons out in the parking lot so I can start working on fine tuning my control and reflexes on the bike.

Terry and I ended up taking turns on the bike. He’s got a good touch, a tad shaky, but I could see him taking them at full tilt within a week… especially with our busy schedule.

I am beginning to look forward to ANY call, even a cat in the tree call, but there has been nothing. No calls, or if there were. they were handled by the base medics.

I’d almost prefer dispatch to this– almost.


Amazing how much things can change in 12 hours. The base medics were called out to help with a plane crash, leaving us lowly Citywide employees to hold down the fort. And hold it we did, barely.

Three accidents, one choking victim.. a full call-out fire complete with smoke inhalation, burns and real work for all involved.

We almost had everything under control when the fire reached a stash of ammo and fireworks. That meant we all had to kick into overdrive. The team that was in the room were a mess. I found myself regretting wanting ‘real work.’ Especially when the work I had to do was was on people I knew.

I shuddered slightly, but again, I was doing what I love, the thing that makes me ‘me.’ Lives were in danger and I was where I needed to be to help. I was tired by the end of it, but I thought I felt a sigh of release pass through me.

All the second-guessing and guilt– I can’t hear it when I’m doing my job. It’s funny– I only seem to find peace with I’m in the center of total chaos and I only seem to come to life in the light of flashing red and white lights.

I’m pretty sure there’s something seriously messed up there but at least I know the way.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2057 – Trainees

I woke up around 0800. My muscles were killing me and it hurt to move, but as I tried to roll out of bed, Terry showed up with a cup of coffee for me. He didn’t look much better than I felt.

“Ouch,” I commented as I tried to reach for the up and discovered just how stiff I was.

He nodded and moved closer so I could take the cup without stretching.

“Thanks,” I managed to grumble into the cup.

He chuckled. “Still bored?”

If I’d had more energy, I’d have glowered at him. As it was I just shook my head.

He nodded understandingly. “Grab a shower. It’ll make you feel better,” he urged.

“Soon as I figure out how to get up,” I told him.

He chuckled and gave me a hand up.

A shower, a chance to walk it off some and I was feeling much better.

As we washed and waxed the rigs Terry asked me about the motor-medic program. I wasn’t sure at first, but it turns out he was seriously interested.

I think Citywide has its next candidate for the program– I just have to convince them of it.

The day was relatively calm so I started going over the requirements and basics with Terry. I think he has what it takes– if you can convince him to follow procedures and protocols.

Who am I kidding, I’m no good at following protocols, especially when they’re counterproductive.

Wednesday, January 10th, 2057 – Reputations

Terry and I worked out this morning, in the weight room and then on the bike. Talking to him I found out that the biggest problem with getting him into the program is going to be his rep. He’d gotten to Fort Lewis by ticking off some pretty important people in Citywide’s chain of command.

They’d labeled him a troublemaker and it pretty much seems to have stuck. One phone call to the main offices had confirmed that. Still, Fort Lewis was an ideal place to start. With few calls and a lot less traffic, it gives a rider a chance to test his wings before having to deal with everything at once.

After about four phone calls, it looked like they all agreed that Fort Lewis would make a good training ground. The jury was still out on Terry, but I know he’s got what it takes. The only problem was convincing them of that.

I didn’t tell them, but I figure if I’m training people again, it means I’m going to be getting the workouts I need to get back out on the road.

In the afternoon we were working with the pylons again. Terry’s almost up to speed on what he’s doing– And the program is back on track.

We got a call late in the afternoon from a very bored sounding Ray. That was when I came up with a plan. I didn’t want to stay at Lewis any longer than I had to– I need to be where the real work is. Ray doesn’t belong in dispatch, but he’s still on the mend and then there’s that whole– ‘safe job’ thing he’s got going with his girlfriend.

Fort Lewis isn’t entirely ‘safe’ but its close enough… and it means that we could kick-start things. Let Ray teach medics at Fort Lewis, and let me guide them through the transition from the ‘class’ to the full-blown job.

Tomorrow, I’m going to talk to Ray, and then, hopefully, the brass.

Copyright – 2000 M.T. Decker

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A Year in Seattle – Week 28 – A New Year

A Year In Seattle

Week Twenty-Eight

Thursday, December 28st, 2056 – Revelations

Well, at least the physical therapist is happy about my progress. I wish I could be– its still going way too slow for me.

He says I’m right on schedule. I guess its good, but it made for a rather depressing morning for me. I’m still at least two weeks away from running the bike. Two more weeks of Fort Lewis and chauffeur runs. I was a bit disgruntled as I took the bus back to the condo.

I was surprised when I got home and found several messages on my answering machine. One from Mrs. Walker and three from Mario. Seems Mrs. Walker had her talk with him, and maybe made some headway. I don’t know– Guess I won’t know until I talk to the man.


I ended up taking a taxi. Everett General was everything I remembered it to be– crowded, confusing. I made my way up to Mario’s room and took a deep breath. My hands were shaking when I finally got the courage up to open the door and go inside.

Its funny, I felt a lot less nervous when I saw how bad Mario was looking. I waited in the doorway until he looked up and waved me in. Something in the gesture conveyed concern and perhaps an apology.

“Jess,” he called. His voice was strained, almost as if he’d been crying. I found out he had. It was hard on him, talking to me after having condemned me for what I’d done.

Knowingly or unknowingly I had done something unforgivable in his world– and still, I was his adopted daughter. He couldn’t stop caring and the fact that I hadn’t only seemed to make things worse.

“Please,” he said softly. “Sit… I have much to explain.”

I sat and shook my head. “No, you don’t have to,” I objected.

He gave me that knowing smile of his and nodded. “Yes I do– Just as you felt you had to tell me what had happened.”

I thought about that for a moment and then nodded.

He seemed lost in thought for a very long time and finally when he spoke– I began to understand.

Sometime before he’d met Trina’s mom, he’d been very much in love with a young woman. He thought he knew her, he knew he loved her. He would have done anything for her and in the end, he did.

She was twenty-three when they found out she had leukemia and it was too far gone to do anything about it. His own skills as a healer were just beginning to develop and even now he couldn’t have done anything to save her.

So he’d gone further and further afield as things got more and more desperate. In the end, he found several mages from AZT who were willing to help him for a price. He would become their apprentice– serve them in whatever capacity they demanded and in return, they would save his beloved Angelina.

He was a desperate man and she was dying. He agreed to their offer. They killed three men to heal her and that was only the beginning for Mario.

For Angelina– she took Diaz’s approach, embraced it even. She became everything Mario despised. She craved the blood of others, the power it brought her and he… he was apprenticed to a circle of blood mages.

He was their student– their ‘donor’– anything they needed. He would prepare their victims, clean up after them… suffer so that they did not suffer any from the power they wielded. And he continued in that capacity until they’d all but used him up and then they’d discarded him like the other ‘donors.’ They thought he was dead, and he may as well have been. It took him a long time to recover from his injuries– body and soul.

He thought it all long buried– until I’d announced that I was looking for a blood mage.

He knew all too well the price and he was afraid I would be enslaved as he was, or worse, that I would find it appealing– as his Angelina had. He feared that I would view it as a worthwhile sacrifice especially now that it was over.

I shook my head. “It’s not over,” I told him softly. “It will never be over. I see his eyes when I close mine– but sometimes… sometimes I think – I hear him sigh when I save a life.”

I met his eyes and opened my heart to him. “I… take what he was as my past– that if I am ever to find redemption– I have to make every day count and do everything I can to make amends for his life, for his death, and for my own… survival.”

He looked at me for a very long time. “I know Jess– and I’m sorry… sorry I didn’t warn you and yet… glad I didn’t for if I had, you wouldn’t have gone and you surely would have wasted away.”

He looked at the ceiling as he tried to find the words and I saw the tears streaming down his face. “So help me… I’m glad you are alive.”

We held each other and cried. We cried for our loss, for Angelina, for the nameless ganger, for the loss of our own innocence.

It wasn’t that Mario didn’t understand– he understood all too well. Now I do too.

Friday, December 29th, 2056 – Ghosts

I had Case drop me off at Lone Star this morning. I know the chances of them finding the boys, especially if they don’t want to be found are slim, but– its still a place to check.

I followed his advice and steered clear of Det. Young, the detective who’d taken over their case. Probably a good thing, I’d just gotten back to the point that I was at least semi-accepted here, last thing I needed was to get kicked out again.

Saunders was so happy to see me he forgot to be gruff. We talked about a few things before the person behind me decided that I was wasting his precious time. So we agreed to meet at the hot dog stand at lunchtime.

Not the best of meals, but Saunders was great company. He filled me in on the comings and goings at the station, and on the case. He also slipped me a case disk, like Andrews used to give me.

“You do more good and work harder than half our people,” he told me. “Don’t you ever give up, you hear?”

I smiled. It felt good to hear him say that– sometimes, you need a little encouragement. I warned him about Young’s opinion of me and he just waved it off.

“Man’s got a good enough record, but he has no imagination, more’s the shame,” he added. “Cause I think it’s going to take a lot of imagination to find your brothers.”

I studied him for a moment and nodded. “I think you’re right.”

He smiled. “You know I am,” he said seriously. “If they’d wanted to be found, we’d have found something by now– you know that too. But you don’t stop checking. Never give up and just because you’ve checked one place, doesn’t mean they aren’t there now…”

I nodded. “Unfortunately– they know this town a lot better than I do.”

“There is that,” he agreed. “But you’ve been caught in their backwash a couple of times now.”

I nodded. He was right. And I knew that they were at least alive as recently as Halloween.

“You back on duty yet?” he asked.

I chuckled. “If you can call it that. I’m at Ft. Lewis,” I added when I saw the confused look in his eyes.

“Ah, Ft Goldbrick,” he teased me. It was pretty much common knowledge between the Star and Citywide, that unless you were military, Ft. Lewis was pretty much a ‘do nothing’ assignment.

I grinned. “You take care of yourself huh?”

“I’m in records,” he reminded me. “I process people’s requests and I get to growl at ’em so they leave my people alone.”

I nodded. “Just the same…”

“Jess– biggest threat I get all day is sheer and utter boredom,” He winked at me. “Now quit bustin’ my chops and let me get back to work!”

He ‘stormed off’ with a wink.

I can’t believe how much I’d missed the man. He’s a genuine trip.

After that, I dropped by Everett General to see Mario. He’s doing a lot better now– and so am I.

He asked me for the low down on what Diaz had found– and done. There wasn’t too much to be told about what he did to undo it– he knocked me out before it really started. But before that…

“He’d said that…” I paused as I tried to remember. I remembered him checking me out astrally– but he hadn’t said much. “That they had… used me in three spells, one for each brother…” I shook my head.

“He said that they had to be undone in one shot… that they’d used me to… take the ‘drain’ off of them? As well as to do something to my brothers.

Mario nodded. “What do you remember of Raz and her friends?”

Again I shook my head. “Just… being helpless… pain… fear… “ I paused as another image filled my mind. “I… remember seeing something… leave… it was.. spectral… its face….”

I shuddered and Mario gently patted my hand. “Jess… it is over– what they have done has been undone.”

I nodded but the images still hung in my mind. When I looked at Mario I could see them in his eyes too. Guess we both still have our ghosts.

Saturday, December 30th, 2056 – New Year’s Eve – Casey Style.

For the first time since– I don’t know when I slept peacefully. When I woke up Case was just staring at me. His expression was peaceful, happy even.

“What?” I asked as I stretched.

“Its Saturday,” he told me.

I looked at him, still not understanding.

“It’s Saturday and we have nowhere to go, and nothing that has to be done.”

I sat up, intrigued.

“Well, Tomorrow Night, you’ll be at Ft. Lewis– so I thought we’d celebrate New Years tonight…”

I smiled. “Just what do you have in mind?”

“It’s a surprise,” he told me… and it was.

First stop was Council Island for breakfast and Saturday morning Trids with Mike. Case left us alone. Its funny he doesn’t understand my fascination with the– less than impressive drek that passes for entertainment on Saturday mornings, but it amuses him. Sometimes I’m as much of a kid as Mike is– sometimes a lot more.

The Walkers were all there, even Jonathan. I’m pretty sure Case ended up talking business with him while Mrs. Walker made breakfast and Mr. Walker read the papers and commented on the politics.

It was wonderful.

Next, he took me to Everett General to see Mario. It’s amazing how much better he’s doing these days– how much better we both are doing. Just like he did at the Walkers, Case let me alone to visit.

“He’s good for you,” Mario said as Case stepped out of the room.

I chuckled as he voiced what I’d already known.

“Whatever happens,” he advised me. “Always talk to each other and don’t stop until the other one understands.

I nodded. “That goes for friends too,” I added looking at Mario.

He waved it off with a chuckle. “Now go… enjoy…”

I kissed him on the cheek and headed out. It was as if someone had finally put the pieces of my life back in order. Not all of them, but most. There’s still a lot to be done– a lifetime of things to be done– but there is a lifetime to do them in.

After that Case took me out to the Space Needle for dinner. Kinda funny, I’ve been in town almost… six months and this was my first time I had been there, let alone inside. The Eye of the Needle was elegant, and I was very out of place.

Case was absolutely wonderful. He wouldn’t let me talk business and he returned the favor. Tonight we were just– young lovers out on the town. At midnight we toasted the new year. It was wonderful, although the waiter looked at Case like– he’d waited too long for New Year’s Eve reservations and was trying to cover his lack of planning with a clever ‘let’s go out early and celebrate,’ approach.

I knew better. Let’s face it by this time tomorrow I’ll be up to my elbows in carnauba wax.

Sunday, December 31st, 2056 – New Year’s Eve

Case and I lazed about his place until just about seven, when he took me to Fort Lewis for my shift. He warned me that there were a few cases pending that might involve him being away for a while.

Neither of us was too happy about it, but that’s part of the job. Lord knows, if a disaster (natural or otherwise) were to hit– we’re both going to be in the middle of it. He promised that if it happened he’d do his best to call me but–

I nodded, I knew that if there wasn’t time to call that there was nothing he could really do about it. If he didn’t pick me up from Lewis on Wednesday, then I’d know something was up and that I should go back to the Condo.

He kissed me goodbye and I headed into the station.

Terry was waiting for me just inside the door. “Why’s a cop dropping you off at the station?”

I grinned as his suspicion and concern became evident. “He’s not a cop,” I told him as I turned at watched Case pull out of the parking lot. I could feel him start to relax just a touch before I added. “He’s a fed.”

He looked at me for a minute. “Now you’re funnin’ me.”

I shook my head. “He’s also a paramedic, and I’m dating him.”

It was kind of fun to see the man’s eyes bulge as he tried to digest that. “You’re dating a… Fed?”

I grinned. “It’s a long story hon,” I told him. “And we’ve got a long boring shift for me to tell you about it.”

He chuckled and we headed into the briefing together.

I’m so used to an hour-long briefing as the number and types of cases received were discussed, but here that same discussion took ten minutes– if that. Seven calls in three days– I’m beginning to wonder if I can take that much excitement.

We were on our second coat of wax when Terry looked at me expectantly. He wanted the low down.

I started telling him about the pictures I’d received and being a protected witness when we got our first call of the night. It was an accident. I would have been surprised if we hadn’t been listening to the scanner all night. Base staff had already dealt with three accidents, one shooting, and a heart attack. Right now they were on an officer down call.

So we got the accident, only when we got there– there wasn’t anything there. Well, that’s not entirely true… there were two cars– no people. Both cars had control boxes in them– remote control.

When we got back to the station I checked on the other calls. One of the accidents the base medics had taken care of was the same sort of thing. I called it into dispatch and they passed on my warning to the MP’s.

They seemed less than thrilled that a civilian medic was giving them warnings of possible danger. On a hunch, I pulled up the call history for the area on holidays in general and New Year’s in particular. Something was definitely up.

Since the MP’s weren’t listening, I told the local Star folks. They were a little more receptive, but not much. I was obviously a bored medic imagining conspiracies to make the job more tolerable.

It took another two accidents without injuries for the MP’s to catch on that I wasn’t imagining things; four for the Star.

That’s about when the real hell broke loose.

2355 the calls start swamping dispatch. I think they logged more calls for us and the base medics than they do in a month, maybe a year.

Since there was no way to tell a real call from a false alarm, we were running everywhere. Since the target was most likely military, Star and Citywide got to check out the calls while the MP’s concentrated on where the diversions weren’t.

We were jumping from 2355 Dec. 31, 2056, until at least 0200 Jan. 1 2057. Then it was as if whoever it was had either gotten what they wanted or given up– nothing but silence.

We didn’t find out until 0300 that they’d given up and called it a night, without getting whatever it was they’d come for– at least as far as the military was willing to admit.

Terry had had enough– there had been a few ‘real’ calls in the middle of everything but for the most part all we did was run.

I didn’t mind– I felt like I was actually earning my keep.

Monday, January 1st, 2057 – New Year’s Day.

New Year’s day and no rest for the wicked. After all of last night’s activity– there were trucks to wash!

Our first call of the day was from the Base Duty Officer. We were to stay at the station until we could be interviewed about last night’s ‘activities.’

We were expecting one, maybe two people. What we got was a horde of investigators and MP’s. They quickly isolated each person at the station and began questioning us. They asked about every call, wanted as much detail as each of us could give– They also wanted to know specifically how I had known that something was up.

As my investigator, JAG-171-Marrick, began questioning, I told her everything I remembered and what I had filed with Citywide.

“You were the one that reported your suspicions after one call,” she prompted sternly.

I nodded. “One call for us, but it was the second for the night.”

She looked at me for a moment. “Excuse me?”

“The base medics handled a similar call about an hour prior to our call.” I took a deep breath and explained that equipment like that costs money and two vehicles involved in a property only crash was rather suspicious.

“Two similar in the same night, in the same district…” I shook my head. “That’s too coincidental.”

“And what did you do after you reported your suspicions?”

“I checked the log books at dispatch for holiday activity general and specific to New Years.”

She reviewed her notes and a nice file folder with my holo-pic on it. “It says here you have a private investigator’s license.”

I nodded. “Mostly missing person’s cases. I was doing some consulting work for a friend and he figured it would be best if I had one.”

She nodded and made another note in her book. As she did so, I heard the call out signal and stood.

She pointed back to my chair. “I’m sorry Miss Miller, but you are not allowed to leave this building until our investigation is completed.”

I looked at her and shook my head. “That’s a call out– medical… That means someone’s life is on the line, and I’m on the clock.”

The MP at the door moved in front of it, standing at ease, but still managing to look rather threatening as he did so.

“Am I under arrest?”

“No ma’am, but we are conducting an investigation and you are under our jurisdiction.”

“No ma’am,” I corrected. “You are military police and investigators, I am a civilian, off base – I am not under your jurisdiction and I have told you everything I know and or have seen. Now, if you do not let me go… There will be a military case– one involving you preventing me from performing my duties.”

I handed her a disk with copies of all my reports. “This has everything I remember, recorded after each event. It’s what I filed with Citywide and all my case notes in case it needs to be reviewed.”

She looked at me and I could see the wheels turning. That I had not only prepared such a disk but was willing to give her a copy was setting off all sorts of danger signals, but– if she looked at my jacket in any detail, she’d know and maybe even understand why. I may be slow, but I do learn.

She looked at me a minute and then nodded to the MP. That was all it took, he not only moved out of the way but opened the door for me.

Terry was already in the truck and ready to roll.

By the time we got back, the station was clear of all non-Citywide personnel. They never did tell us what they were looking for.

Looks like I’ll have a little more to talk to Case about this ‘weekend’.

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2057 – Trump cards, wild cards, and Jokers.

I didn’t have to wait until end of shift to talk to Case. He and a host of other Federal Agents showed up at the station around 0800.

It was classic. Terry wakes me up with a cup of coffee, tells me that the JAG people are back and they’ve got MP’s and Feds with them. I headed downstairs and was immediately herded into one of the conference rooms.

Marrick gave me a predatory smile as she carefully set my jacket out in front of her. She looked up at me and her smile broadened. “Ah, Miss Miller…”

I watched her warily as I took the seat across the table from her. “Inspector Marrick,” I greeted her with a nod.

I could see her smile grow as she played her trump card. She may not have jurisdiction off Base, but the Feds do. As she informed me of this Case walked in and smiled at me.

“Jess,” he said with a nod.

“Case,” I answered.

I wish I could have seen the look on Marrick’s face, but I was busy watching Case.

“Marrick here tells me that you’re too prepared,” he told me.

“Yeah,” I answered. “I realized she probably would, but you know how bad I am at not playing my hunches.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, you been here what, a week? Trouble should have found you by now.”

“Hey!” I objected, then turned back to Marrick and her folder.

“You– know each other?” she asked.

I nodded. “When you have my propensity for things just… happening around you– you make some interesting acquaintances. So, can we drop the cloak and dagger stuff, I’ve already told you everything I know. If you give me enough time, I can figure out the rest, but I’d really rather not have another mystery in my life.”

Marrick looked at Case who just shook his head. “She’s not kidding,” he finally told her. “Jess hates mysteries.”

Marrick studied the two of us for a few more minutes and finally nodded. I guess she figured that if I was in on the distractions that I already knew the score. She definitely hadn’t given up on me as an accomplice.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t as curious as I am. I did not need to know that they’d been working on some new versions of some old diseases. A bubonic plague derivative to be exact– and it seems our friends got away with enough to cause some serious trouble somewhere. Major uncoolness right in my backyard.

Case just shook his head when Marrick finished and my expression had turned from perplexed to mildly shaken.

“You wanted to know,” he reminded me.

I nodded and slowly let out my breath. I did ask for it. I thought back over everything that had happened that night, then looked at Marrick.

“Are you sure they got out with it?”

“We’ve checked and re-checked the inventory, we’re one tube short.” Marrick confirmed.

I nodded. “But are you sure they got it off base?”

Her eyes narrowed as Case’s nodded approvingly. “Get it out of storage but keep it on base.”

I nodded. “It’d work,” I agreed. “No risk of getting caught.”

Marrick watched us like we were in the middle of a tennis match. “What would work?”

Case pulled up a chair. “Instead of stealing the tube, you use the ‘distractions’ to call attention to the missing supplies. But…”

“But its either already gone or…” I began.

“Or you hide it and when the search is over,” Case added. “You just walk out with it.”

“With nobody being the wiser.” I nodded at that, and then another thought crossed my mind. “You should also have your people verify that what’s in the other tubes, is what should be there– I mean, if I were going to all that trouble– I don’t think I’d settle for just one tube…”

Case nodded. “Good point.”

Marrick was stunned as we finished our brainstorming, but it all made sense. Nondescript distractions, accidents, property damage, but to be honest, no sign of real break-ins. Almost as if they were drawing attention to a problem instead of actually distracting people.

They found it in the air ducts– before anything nasty happened… Case told me that they put a dummy in its place with a tracking device. Who knows, maybe they’ll find the people responsible. Should be interesting.

Case was smiling when he told me what was going on. So was I. We make a good team.

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2057 – Message in a bottle

Three coats of wax, a long workout in the weight room and nothing else. I don’t think my heart can take much more of this excitement.

I did finally get to tell Terry the whole story behind me and Case. He loved the part where Marrick figured I’d crack under the pressure of having to deal with an honest to goodness Federal agent and it turned out to be Case.

He agrees with me though that she’ll probably always figure I was somehow involved. “Better watch it,” he warned me. “Woman with your reputation could really jeopardize ‘Fort Lewis’ reputation’ as a vacation spot.”

I chuckled and shook my head. He didn’t really seem to mind the fact.

After shift, I stopped by missing persons so Saunders could grouse at me in person. Since Case didn’t pick me up I was pretty much on my own. It’s amazing how quickly you can get used to having somebody around.

Once I got home though, I didn’t have too much time to concentrate on being home, I had milk in the fridge and a note from Fin. From the looks of things he figures I owe him for Chicago, and I guess in some way I do. Looks like I have plans for tomorrow night, I’ll just have to wait until then to find out what they are.

Copyright 1999 – 2000 M.T. Decker

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A Year in Seattle – Week 27 – Miracles

A Year In Seattle

Week Twenty-Seven

Thursday, December 21st, 2056 – Point of view

Case was back at work today, so I spent most of the morning reading. Reading about ATZ, about Atzlan, about blood magic– about everything I wish I’d known six months ago.

If the boys ended up on the wrong side of Aztechnology, I can see why they’ve been hiding. It’s kind of odd realizing just how different PR images are from reality. Then again, that’s if the information on Shadowland is to be believed.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but with everything I’ve been through– I’m beginning to think that Shadowland is closer to reality than the nice pristine image the marketing types sling our way.

There’s so much more going on behind the scenes than I ever thought possible. Of course, I only see things when they go horribly wrong. Case has stopped trying to ‘protect’ me from the reality of the city, and the shadows.

Lord knows I’ve seen the dark side of things. I never saw them at home, but I know they were there– its just somehow– different here. Baltimore is home, I grew up there, knew the rules.

Seattle– Seattle’s different, somehow. Again, it’s probably me and my perceptions. I know what to ignore in Baltimore, but here– here its new and I see it all. I have a feeling if I went home today, I’d see it there too, now that I know what to look for.

I ended up taking a cab over to the hospital– Mario still didn’t want to see me. I think my helping him has only made things worse between us, but its like I told Trina– what else could I do?

He still can’t forgive me for what I did, and now– now he’s somehow tied to it too. Sometimes, you just can’t win… but…

At least from the looks of things, it’ll be a good long condemnation.

Friday, December 22nd, 2056 – Balance

I actually cooked Case dinner last night. Not only that, he ate it– and lived.

One thing I learned early on in my career with Citywide, if you know how to cook, you do a lot of it, if you don’t, or worse don’t do it well– they leave you alone.

There’s only one thing I learned how to make and that’s firehouse chili. It doesn’t matter what you put into it, just as long as it burns like a four-alarm fire. I think I outdid myself.

We spent a lot of the evening talking about what we’d do if we were trying to hide out in Seattle, the places to go, things to do– laying low for short time vs. laying low for a long time. I’m beginning to think that the boys are long gone from the Seattle scene.

I know I would be with Aztechnology after me. Yeah right– that’s why I’m still here and getting ready to go back to work. Guess I’m too stubborn to change.

Case dropped me off at the condo on his way to work and I began the task of getting my life back into some semblance of order.

I’ve realized that it doesn’t really matter what the boys were working on anymore, whatever it was is irrelevant. Case is getting me the files and we’re going to go over them this weekend. In the meantime– I have cats that need petting and a condo that needs dusting. Might as well do it while I have the time.


I managed to get some cleaning done before Trina saved me from more. She needed to talk to me. We met down at the clinic and she filled me in on what was happening with Mario.

Physically he was fine– they’d been able to undo most of the damage to his heart, but mentally… Mentally he was a mess and it was affecting his recovery.

“It’s not easy,” I told her softly. “But I know how he feels.”

“Tell me,” she asked softly. “Explain it– I don’t understand.”

I bowed my head. “When I got to Chicago– when I found out what it would take to undo what Raz and her people had done to me…” I shook my head. “I didn’t want to go through with it– I was willing to die, but the mage wasn’t willing to let me pay the price– in the end, he gave me no choice and I had to live with the fact that I was alive because– because he took over… did what was best for me…”

Trina nodded. “And you did the same with Mario.”

I nodded sadly. “He wanted nothing to do with me– to what I’d been part of in Chicago, but if I hadn’t, then I wouldn’t have been there to save him. On one hand– he’s alive but on the other…”

“On the other, it means he’s a part of something completely against his beliefs and values.”

That was the sum of it. He condemned me for what happened in Chicago and now… Now he’s caught in the same web I was. It’s not quite the same– his redemption didn’t cost anybody their life. It just goes against his sensibilities I guess– being saved by someone ‘tainted’ by blood magic.

I was lost in the thought and almost didn’t catch Trina’s next question.

“How are you … dealing with it?”

“Not too well,” I told her finally. “It’s… hard. I realized that– that I can’t undo it and that if I quit then– then it was for nothing. I keep up my fight, I fight harder. I fight the battles I can and hope that someday– in some way the balance is restored, the debt will be paid. But we both know it never can be repaid. So I keep trying.”

She thought about that for long while, and then finally sighed. “What do I tell him? What can I do?”

I thought about that and finally took a deep breath. “There’s nothing you can tell him– he has to find the answers himself. All you can do is be there for him and let him know that you love him.”

“And you?” She asked.

I shrugged. “I’m afraid, I don’t matter anymore.”

It hurt to say it, but it was true. Where I stood in Mario’s world was entirely up to him. I never stopped caring about him– I never will, but he’s the one who has to decide where and if I fit in.


I looked at her and shook my head. “No Trina, there is no but. I’m as guilty or as innocent as I feel I am and I’m the one who has to deal with that. I’ve found my answers. Your father has to find his. If you need me– either of you… I’m here.”

I could tell it wasn’t easy for her, but none of this has been easy on any of us.

It’s just life.

Saturday, December 23rd, 2056 -Case files

We got an early start today. Case brought the files over to the condo and we started going over them. The pay data on Aztechnology was vague at least at first glance, but the more I looked at them, the more trouble it seemed to spell.

There were photos and data on transactions that were less than kosher and handwritten notes mostly in Alan’s handwriting. I read through them several times, but it still didn’t make any sense.

Case waited until I’d gone through it a few times before he started telling me what they’d been able to figure out.

Several experimental weapons had been shipped to AZT in Seattle. From the looks of things the shipment the boys had found wasn’t the first, and definitely not the last. Someone had arranged for the shipments to disappear from the records and to reroute them.

The pictures in the file were of weapons that, according to all the records, did not exist. Where they’d gone after the boys had logged them was even more interesting– and confusing. From the looks of things, they weren’t going to Atzlan proper but to the rebels.

That was the– secondary official version. But it was as false a trail as the first one and we both knew it.

As he finished filling me in on what he knew, I nodded, then began shaking my head. “Maybe they weren’t really – running away. Maybe– what if they’d put something in the case, like a transceiver.”

“And follow it where it was actually going?”

I shrugged. “It’s a possibility. Something dangerous that has trouble written all over it– you turn your back on it, it will come back to haunt you.”

“It could be something else they were working on,” he reminded me.

I nodded, “but we still have no idea what that was… or what they were doing in an AZT warehouse in the first place.”

Case nodded as he once again went over the information and the notes we’d made. That’s about when the 3×5 index cards came out and I began transcribing the notes to them. Actual information was written in black, Alan’s notes in blue, Andy’s in green and Matt’s in purple. Case’s comments and mine were added in red ink.

Slowly a picture began to emerge. My hands trembled as I pinned the last note to the wall and stepped back from it. It didn’t make sense and yet it made perfect sense.

Weapons and supplies coming into Aztechnologoies and going back out, not to Tecochtitlan and Aztech’s main headquarters, but to the Yucatan and rebel-held territories– shadowrunners learning this and disappearing. An audit trail a mile wide, and only the slightest attempt to conceal the transaction.

It was as if the boys had found something they were supposed to find, only they’d found it too early– before the real transaction had occurred, they’d become more of a liability.

The million nuyen question: what is really happening?

Sunday, December 24th, 2056 – Christmas Eve

Christmas eve and I’m getting ready to go back to work. Kinda figures I’d start back to work Christmas day. Ah well– people get hurt every day of the year, no reason Christmas should be any different.

Case and I celebrated today since he’s on duty tomorrow too. Case bought catnip filled toy mice for the cats and Maxwell knocked everything off the coffee table as he sprawled across it. He looked up with his pupils practically filling his eyes, mewed and proceeded to fall asleep.

Taco, on the other hand, was doing kitty wind-sprints down the hallway chasing imaginary mice.

It felt so good to laugh again, but I still couldn’t shake the numb feeling that’s been with me since Chicago. I don’t know if I ever will…

The Walkers stopped by to see how I was doing as did Trina. She got really shy when Jonathan pointed out the mistletoe, but she didn’t seem to mind either.

Mario’s still in the hospital, still not responding to therapy. Mrs. Walker promised Trina that she’d stop by and see him. It was nice to have most of my extended family over– the big absences were Mario and Andrews. Case felt it too– I think we all did.

Case and Jonathan ended up in a corner for a while and then I noticed that Case was showing him the 3×5’s. It wasn’t really a surprise, finding out that Jonathan is in on this merry little escapade.

I wonder if anybody in Seattle has a normal life?

Monday, December 25th, 2056 – Winning through

Sometimes you wouldn’t think this is supposed to be a celebration of life– the arrival of a promised salvation… For all too many people it was business as usual. The morning was rather slow and I finally got to watch some trid and catch up on the world events I’d been missing.

You know little things like… a dragon running for President. At first, it sounded so ludicrous, but after two stabbings, one over who got to cut the turkey, it was starting to make a lot more sense.

Couldn’t be worse than what we’ve had. Besides, I don’t know anybody rich enough to buy off the likes of Dunkelzahn. I’m sure he has his own agenda, but at least it won’t be greed– power maybe, but definitely not greed. Something tells me he could be just what we need.

I had a lot of time to think about it– Citywide ended up stationing me in a ‘less active’ area. Guess they’re trying to ease me back into the job. Have me work without undoing all the work I’ve been doing in therapy. It has its trade-offs though. Instead of four twelve hour shifts a week, I’m running three days on, three days off.

Still, it feels good to be back– to be useful.


Case stopped by with dinner. It was a relief– the folks here cook worse than I do.

Got a really disturbing call– man beat his son half to death because he broke his new toy. Love that holiday spirit. On the bright side– maybe the boy and his mom can have a normal life now that his father’s gonna have a new home.

Man, I wanted to hurt him. The shape the boy was in, the look in the mother’s eyes– I nearly took him out myself. Fortunately, the boy needed me more than I needed to avenge him. In the ambulance, he looked up at me with these big angelic eyes and just whispered, “Thanks.”

I did lose it then. I was crying as I checked on him, and he just slipped his hand into mine and said. “It’s okay… its not your fault…”

Out of the mouths of babes…

I stayed with him until the police arrived with his mom. His eyes lost a little of their innocence when she hugged him. They took on a more– protective quality. No kid should have to go through that and to watch him with his mom, acting older than he was– that’s one hell of a kid.

“You take care of each other,” I told them softly. His mother didn’t hear me, but the boy did.

“We will,” he mouthed with a soft smile. “Merry Christmas,” he added.

That smile stayed with me the rest of the night. It kinda said that no matter how bad things get– love, laughter… light… they will win through in the end.

Tuesday, December 26th, 2056 – Miracles

The day started at three in the morning, or was it just the night continuing? Not that it really mattered there was work to be done and we were the ones to do it.

A baby had stopped breathing. Never an easy call to deal with. Tonight was no different. I felt tense as we wasted precious time convincing the parents that we were going to do our best for their child. Seems that the Citywide station that covered Fort Lewis had a less than stellar reputation. Seems Lewis is where you go when you aren’t cutting it in the ‘real world.’

I understood their concerns, but my first concern was their daughter… and finding out what happened. As I worked on her, I realized that it the first time since Chicago that a life depended on me doing the right thing. This time at least, I was in control and there was no way I was going to give up on this kid.

She was trying to breathe, but nothing was getting through. We went through the numbers on her but nothing seemed to work. Her throat was swollen and it was almost as if she was fighting us as we tried to establish an airway.

Time was the most important factor so we bundled her up and I worked on her as Terry, my new partner, drove.

All the way to the hospital I worked on her and I finally got an airway established. It was close, and I could see by the doc’s expression she wasn’t out of the woods yet. She seemed to be having some sort of allergic reaction, anaphylactic shock. It’s going to be touch and go for a while but my vote is on the kid.

Our fourth call of the day brought us back to McChord Hospital. I checked up on her and found our Christmas Miracle… She’d just been a little late.

As the morning calmed down I began to realize that being stationed in Fort Lewis wasn’t all that bad. The military took care of most of the ‘real work.’ We were responsible for the civilians– and any full call outs that occurred.

By lunchtime, I was getting restless and a little bored. I worked out in the weight room trying to convince my arm to heal faster. I have another appointment on Thursday to see how its healing up, but until then– it looks like I’m stuck at Ft. Lewis.

Around 3:00, when we still hadn’t gotten any calls, and the trucks were all polished, and we’d taken our third inventory of the day, Terry decided to start asking questions.

He wanted to know who I’d either ticked off or bribed for this assignment. I had to chuckle– it was a goldbricker’s dream and a true medic’s nightmare. People were in trouble and I was babysitting a dalmatian and ten-year-old equipment.

It didn’t take Terry long to figure out that I didn’t want to be there, but it still beats doing nothing… or running dispatch.

At 5:00 we got a call to a minor accident. I recognized the voice on the other end immediately. It was Ray. He didn’t sound too excited, but it was good to hear his voice just the same. We didn’t get to talk much, but he teased me about getting back to ‘real’ work soon.

By the time we got back, the dinner Case had brought me had been half picked through by my … ‘comrades,’ and I was left to fend for myself.

I’m beginning to wonder if they make locking coolers for such occasions.

Wednesday, December 27th, 2056 – sheer boredom

We gave the truck another coat of wax like it really needed it. I think if they really want to do some good, maybe they should cycle equipment from the busy stations here. At least they’d get the rest and maintenance they need.

I have never seen an ambulance as old as ours look so… pristine. I mean– there wasn’t even one bullet ding in it… not one!

Okay– Two days on the job and I’m already chomping at the bit…. We got one call last night, and the only reason we got it was because the base medics were on a ‘real call.’ They got a helicopter crash. We got a drunk.

Worse– listening to the scanner as we pulled back into the station, I heard no less than three calls that should have been motorcycle calls– should have been mine.

If it makes any sense, I had trouble sleeping because there weren’t enough calls. I kept expecting something to happen, but nothing did. Nothing worth worrying about anyway– one transport, one accident scene. By the time our relief shift showed up, I was more than ready to go home.

Its almost, but not quite, like being on administrative leave. The only real difference is the fact that I have to stay at the station for three days (more like three and a half, but who’s counting?) And every now and then, we get a call.

If I never have to polish a truck three times in a row with no calls– it will be too soon. Unfortunately… it looks like it’ll be next Sunday. Night.

Copyright 1999 – M.T. Decker

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A Year in Seattle – Week 26 – Salvation

A Year In Seattle

Week Twenty-Six

Thursday, December 14th, 2056 -Therapy

I’m still not at my best, but I’m getting there, thanks to Casey. He took me to my therapy session, made sure I talked to one of the councilors.

I didn’t go into detail with them, but I talked about the first ritual, and about the nightmares and finding out what was involved in such things. The counselor nodded knowingly and patted my shoulder.

“Blood magic can be a very disconcerting thing,” she told me.

My eyes widened. Does everybody else know what I had to learn so… graphically?

She just smiled. “I counsel a lot of people,” she told me gently. “And I’ve heard of a lot of things- what you’ve been through can be one of the most traumatic…”

“That’s putting it mildly,” I sighed.

“Honey… what happened to you, that wasn’t your doing,” She reminded me.

‘At least not the first time,’ I thought bitterly.

I nodded, and she smiled like, ‘There… all better now.’

Yeah, right.

Casey was waiting for me, I could tell by his expression he was hoping the session had helped. It hadn’t, not really. It probably would have helped before I went to Chicago- if only I’d known.

I think that’s becoming my new catchphrase. Once again- I should have asked more questions.

Only now someone’s dead because I didn’t- maybe several someones.

Casey tried to get me to talk more about it, but what can I say? Anything I do won’t be enough. Diaz freed me from one hell and delivered me to one of my own creation. And if I ever forget about it, Mario will be there to remind me.

I could tell that much by the look he gave me when we got back to the condo. Was it just a week ago that I had gotten the call, dropped everything- so full of hope and relief that I didn’t think about the consequences.

And how would I be now if I hadn’t gone? The reality is, no matter how bad things are, no matter what happened- I’m better because of it.

And that’s the hell of it, I’m alive because of the spell- and… someone’s dead. I wish I could take Diaz’s point of view, it would be so much easier if I could- but then, I wouldn’t be me anymore. So I live with the guilt.

I guess the key is that I live. If I self-destruct now, it was for nothing.

I just don’t know anymore. Life is so much easier when I’m being the lifeline- everything is clearer then. There’s no thought of the repercussions, only me, the docs and someone in need.

I just wish I could look Mario in the eyes. I don’t think I ever will. I’m going to miss him.

Friday, December 15th, 2056 -Mea Culpa

Another day of physical and mental therapy- another day of wondering if I still have what it takes. The shrink says that being gun shy isn’t unusual- but that I’ll never know unless I try.

I say I screwed up- that this whole mess is somehow my fault and I better find a way to make it right. Thing is I can’t, not for the people involved. They are beyond help- beyond caring. If I had lost them on my bus, that’d be one thing- but this…

I tried. I tried to stop it when I realized what was happening, but it was too late. It was too late when I boarded the plane. How many times can I say I’m sorry?

It doesn’t matter, the people I need forgiveness from are out of reach and … and I have to move on. Live with it, learn from it-

When Case picked me up I pretty much decided- I had to talk to Mario. I was terrified, but I was more scared about not talking to him. Even if he doesn’t understand, even if he says he never wants to talk to me again- I need to know and I need to let him know.

Making up my mind to see him was harder than getting him to agree to see me. He knew- knew I’d gone against his advice, that I’d seen someone about what was done- that he’d done something about it.

Case has been beside me all the way- ever since I got back, but this- this is something I needed to do alone. I could see the look in his eyes, the one that said he wanted to handle this for me.

I wish I could. But then- I’d be taking the easy way out again. And that’s not what’s best- not in the long run.

In the end, it took Case and Trina both to get him to agree to see me- and he insisted that Trina stay. That I confess my sins before both of them. He’s determined to make me pay for what happened- I guess that’s fine with me- I kinda feel the same way.

He yelled, he screamed- he all but cursed me when I told him what had happened. “I told you!” he growled. “I told you and you went anyway!”

“Told me…” I half sobbed. “You didn’t really tell me anything! You said no good would come of it. That’s it- no explanation, no how or why- I wanted information- anything and you walked out!”

“So now it’s my fault?” he demanded.

I shook my head. “No… I just… ” I looked at him, wanting more than anything for him to understand. “I just wish… you’d told me… or that I’d known.”

If I had known what was involved, I wouldn’t have gone, but I went- like a lamb to the slaughter. I went so full of hope and found… the cure and the curse in one breath.

“What do you want from me?” he snarled.

“I don’t know… forgiveness? Help?”

“Forgiveness is not mine to give,” he finally said. “And- you are beyond my help now… ”

His voice was cold- harsh. But the look in his eyes was the worst. They were tearing over… he knew he’d lost me… and I knew it too.

“I just… wanted you to know…” I finally told him and turned to go.

“No,” Trina objected as if she’d finally found her voice. “You know she didn’t know- you know she tried to stop it- Jess… ”

I looked at her, surprised by the tears in her eyes. “Trina… it doesn’t change the fact that… blood was shed… lives were lost… to make me whole… I can’t bring them back… I can’t- undo what was done… ”

“But…” Trina’s voice was soft yet determined.

“Let her go, Trina- ” Mario’s voice was dead. “She is not… welcomed here.”

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do- but I had to do it. I can’t undo what was done, but I can take responsibility for it.

Maybe then… I can learn to live with myself again.

Saturday, December 16th, 2056 – The Walker’s

I spent most of last night in Case’s arms- just… being held. At least now I don’t feel like I’m living a lie. He was a bit surprised when I asked him to take me to Council Island.

“I need to tell the Walkers,” I said softly.

He was worried that I’m burning my bridges- but I’ve realized that if they are to last- I have to be honest with the people I care about. They need to know. The Walkers, Mario- they opened their lives and hearts to me- they deserve nothing less than the truth.

Mike was so happy to see me, but when he looked in my eyes, he knew I wasn’t there to watch cartoons. He was the last one I ever wanted to hurt and I didn’t want him to – think less of me. I’ve gotten so used to having him as my little brother- the Walker’s as my family.

That’s why it hurts so much- and why I have to do it. Maybe- maybe I’m trying to purge myself by isolating myself- giving up all that I love and enjoy… to suffer, punish myself for what has happened.

But the Walkers wouldn’t turn their backs on me. Mike hugged me… and remembered all the guilt he felt over his sister’s death. It hadn’t been his fault, I’d told him that- now he was telling me the same thing.

Mrs. Walker, bless her took me aside and told me to come back tomorrow- that she would have something prepared for me- an act of atonement. She warned me that it would not be easy, not be pleasant- but it was just what I needed.

I could see the love in her eyes- she’s not letting me go without a fight. “None of us are perfect,” she said softly. “And we all lose our ways- the key to is to find it again, and to continue on- wise for the knowledge we have gained.”

It gave me something to think about when Casey took me home, and I saw the closed door down the hall. ‘We all lose our ways…’ I sighed to myself. ‘Someday- I will find my way back Mario… I promise.’

Sunday, December 17th, 2056 – Atonement

I woke up early and watched the sunrise from the balcony. Casey was still asleep, so I made him breakfast. It wasn’t as nice as the ones he cooked for me- but it smelled good. I brought it to him in bed.

“What’s this?” he asked teasingly. “Breakfast in bed?”

I smiled. “I guess so…”

He held out an arm for me and I snuggled next to him as he attacked the plate.

“Nothing for you?”

“Fasting,” I answered. “Mrs. Walkers’ orders.”

He nodded and proceeded to polish off the plate. “I’m glad…” he said softly. He could see the change in me- I think that’s when it hit me too- I was living again.

Life does go on- if we’re lucky.

Once he’d eaten and showered, Case took me back over to the Walkers. I didn’t know what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t what waited for me. The Walkers were dressed rather somberly- like they were for the funeral.

It’s what it was too- for me. I was lost, and they were mourning. Jonathan acted as my guide, showing me where I was to go- translating the elders’ instructions. They had taken things from many different cultures and used them to create- a road for me to follow- to purge myself of my sins, to find my way back to where I belonged, and to atone for what I had done.

I can’t really describe it- I mean, what I actually did wasn’t that physically challenging but… emotionally it was the hardest thing I have ever endured. I faced that night- Diaz, the ganger- Raz…Mario

They were all there in my mind, every step of the way. In the sweat lodge, they were my constant tormentors. Raz’s hatred, Mario’s recrimination- the ganger. His eyes pierced me to the core. But then there were others- lifting me up, bringing me home.

When I was finally aware of my surroundings again, I was laid out in the middle of the Walkers’ people. They were there with Case and Trina, but there was no sign of Mario. I bowed my head- but this wasn’t about him it was about me- about my path.. About my atonement.

Again, it is not the end, it never is- it’s the beginning and I promised myself, and the image of the ganger that I would do my best to make it worthwhile.

I like to think he understood- that perhaps my salvation is his as well.

Monday, December 18th, 2056 – Cycles

I may not be back all the way yet, but I’m getting there. The gangers were never found, or if they were, nobody thought anything of it.

Casey asked me about Diaz- but there was nothing I could tell him. He nodded. He understood for the most part, but I could see- he wanted to do something to Diaz for what I’d gone through- but Diaz’d tried to protect me from it he wasn’t the one who’d put me in the position in the first place, and he didn’t force me onto the plane. That was my own doing. Diaz had taken it from there.

He knew what I needed even though I wasn’t willing to go through with it. He did what he had to do to protect me- to save me. For him, it was simple mathematics, for me…

For me, it was a long road back and I’m still trying to get there. With my friends and determination- I will make it.

We were on our way down to the car when we found Mario- he was confrontational… it took me a minute, but I noticed the way he was holding himself… he was leaning to his left, trying to support himself.

I tried to call to him but all he could remember was that he was angry at me.

“Don’t need you!” he growled as I helped him to the ground. Case recognized his symptoms the same time I did. Together we tried to keep him calm.

“Leave me alone!” he growled as he tried to fight his way free of the both of us.

I looked at Case, but he was already calling an ambulance, that left me to work on Mario.

“Mario,” I called, but again he was pushing me aside.

“Go … away!” his speech slurred as he tried once again to get away from me.

I told him that he needed me, and he told me that he’d rather be dead.

It was like me with Diaz, he knew what I needed and I would have chosen death before that- now Mario was faced with the same thing, and I wasn’t going to let him die.

I was grateful when he passed out. He may have refused our help when he was conscious, but as soon as he wasn’t, I was allowed to do everything possible to save him. And that’s exactly what Case and I did.

I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive me for what’s happened, but at least he’ll have a long time to hate me for what I’ve done.

Tuesday, December 19th, 2056 -Symmetry

The doctors say that Mario is going to be all right, that we’d gotten him in in time. They’ve got a healer with him now- trying to undo the damage time and poor care have done to his heart. I tried to comfort Trina, but she glowered at me.

I backed away, surprised. I’d thought she’d understood, maybe she understood too well. I’d saved Mario’s life, but he wasn’t fighting because I’d been the one to do it.

“Do you know what you’ve done?” She demanded.

“Would you rather I had let him die?” I asked finally. “You know I couldn’t do that… not now, not ever!”

She shook her head, but I could see the conflict: I’d saved him, but because I had- he didn’t want to live. It was me and Diaz again.

Mario hated me for what I’d done- and now, I’d saved his life, something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I hadn’t gone to Chicago. Still, I know how he feels- and I know there’s nothing I can say or do that will help him. He’s going to have to figure that out on his own.

Life, ain’t it grand?

Case says its poetic, I think its just vindictive.

Wednesday, December 20th, 2056 – Shadowland

I’ve been cleared to start back to work on Monday, which is just as well since Casey’s just about out of personal time. Part of me feels really bad that he’s spending all his free time with me, but another part is very pleased.

Besides, once I’m working- neither of us are going to have much time to do much more than collapse.

Since Casey had to report into work, I had him drop me off that the arcade. I figure that since I’m only cleared for ‘normal’ work that I still have a few weeks before they’ll let me back out on the motorcycle. That means I need some sort of practice, and they still have the simulator setup there.

‘Motomedic!’ is still doing really well at the arcade.

I was glad to see that. PC came over to see me and asked if I had anything new for him to simulate.

“Not unless you want to do a stalker game,” I sighed.

He chuckled until he realized I was serious. “Wanna tell me ’bout it?” he asked.

“Not too much to tell,” I said softly. I gave him the news feed version and he nodded.

“So… tell me the rest of it,” he said with a wry smile.

That took me by surprise. I stared at him, but he just chuckled and handed me a datajack.

“Jess,” he told me. “If you’re going to keep on like this… at least let me show you where to go for information…”

He proceeded to introduce me to Shadowland, a great reference for information on everything I’d come up against and what I could expect. It had been there all the time if I’d know where to look.

The information was biased, sometimes contradictory, irreverent even. But, it was there. Some of it had a definite slant to it, but all told it was everything I wished I’d known before it had clobbered me. And it was sitting there in annotated black and white.

PC had to take me into the section I really needed- the one on Atzlan. What I read made my blood chill. It was all too close to home. I downloaded the information so I could read it- and learn.

First rule of combat- know your enemy.

Copyright 1999 – M.T. Decker

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A Year in Seattle – Week 25 – Rock Bottom

A Year In Seattle

Week Twenty-Five

Thursday, December 7th, 2056 – A phone call

The following entry is a collaboration between myself and Denise “Nitro” Lee.

I needed a blood mage Jess could trust, and the only one I knew of was from Nitro’s Two as One,  Instead of just letting me use Diaz, Nitro agreed to play out the scene with me.

Thanks, Nitro!

Another dreamless night thanks to Trina’s pills. I’m really hoping that Fin comes through with something, and soon- I’m not going to last long at this rate.

Mario still won’t speak to me. Case has given up trying to call.

Every time I think I’ve got a handle on things it just seems to fall apart in my hands. It’s probably better this way. Probably better that Case isn’t here to talk me out of this, that Mario isn’t here telling me what I already know.

I know how bad it is- I’m in the middle of it, and there’s no other way I can think of to free myself.

Trina didn’t come back in the morning, but she called from the clinic around 1:00. She promised me that she’d stop by after shift, but I could tell that Mario had been lecturing her about what I was getting into and the consequences I faced and that she faced if she associated with me.

When the phone rang around 7:00, I thought it was Trina. It was anything but. Looks like Fin found a blood mage he felt he could trust- but of course, at the time I didn’t know what was going on.

“Miller,” I answered.

“This Jess I assume?” the man on the other end asked. His voice was gruff, and his image wasn’t much better.

I looked at the screen warily, I did not need another cloak and dagger game right now. “Yes… this is Jess.”

He seemed to be sizing me up- I guess I was doing the same. The man’s face was half hidden in the shadow of his hat. I was contemplating hanging up when he told me that Fin had asked him to call.

Actually, he said something about “talking to a friend of mine… one who seems like he has 2 brain cells an’ they’re both wrestling.”

I had to chuckle at that. I’ve never heard anybody describe Fin like that, but sometimes- it’s appropriate. The laugh died when he finished his explanation of why he was calling.

“But, he figgered’ out to come to me about something’ nasty involving Aztech and you.”

I froze. It was all I could do to nod.

I could see him finish off his drink before he continued. It felt… like he’d dealt with them a lot more than he wanted to- I wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d told me to give up, but instead, he told me that if my problem involved what Fin was hinting at, that he might be able to help me.

I could almost feel the world closing in on me like I was drowning and he was the only one with a life preserver. I was shaking as I braced myself against the counter. “Thank …you.”

I waited tensely as he took another drag off his cigarette. Then he spoke again. “”Anyways, don’t worry ’bout it. I’ve sorta got a little burr up my ass about the Big A and another one ’bout them fucking with people like you. Can ya give me any details on what happened, or am I gonna need to meet you in the meat right off the bat?”

The man was rude and crass, and probably just what I needed to break through what had happened. I wish I could have had something to tell him, but it was so vague- I told him as much.

He seemed unsurprised, told me that they’d probably messed with my memories. Still, he was confident that he could help. Again, just what I needed. When he asked if I had any idea what they’d done I felt a little better- that I could tell him. The funny thing was, as I tried to describe it- to move through the nightmare, to the clinical side of it… it helped.

“I … don’t consciously remember,” I said softly. “Nightmares mostly… Obsidian..”

I felt another tremor in my hands as the memories came back to me. I took a deep breath and forced myself to continue… it was almost as if I was in a trance as I described what had happened.

“They handcuffed me to what looked like an altar… I remember them cutting me, small cuts, but lots of them. I couldn’t move… couldn’t see… the wounds looked more like scrapes… the sort of thing I’d get poking around in the steam tunnels…”

I could tell by his expression he was not comfortable with what I was describing. Finally, he asked, “what interest do the bastards have in you?” He explained that he had a good idea of what they were doing, but if he knew why… it would help him narrow things down.

Nervously I told him about my… experiences with AZT about the fiasco that Fin had arranged, and the pay data he’d given me- the videotapes of the boys. I didn’t think they wanted me if they had, they went to a lot of trouble to just leave me for Aaron to finish off.

It had to be the boys. The man agreed with me. I lost it then, forgot a few basic rules of physics- Rock beats fist.

I told him about Raz and her comment about vengeance. He took it almost as well as I did, throwing his shot glass somewhere. I was treated to some of the choicest Atzlaner-Spanish curses. Finally, I learned that he not only knew the curse, he’d performed the ceremony before.

It’s odd, his anger- outrage… somehow… it was calming. His next words were like… that life preserver. “I think I can fix what they fucked up- unless they’ve gotten creative.”

Next thing I know, I’m on my way to O’Hare.

Friday, December 8th, 2056 – Chicago

The collaboration continues between myself and Denise “Nitro” Lee.

Arias Diaz knew what Jess needed, but Jess learned the cost of to the cure. Again, if you haven’t, please check out Nitro’s “Two As One.”

Thanks again Nitro, it was a lof of fun playing this out.

I don’t know what I was thinking- I guess that’s the real problem. Arias Diaz, the blood mage Fin had found was gruff, but understanding. He kept my mind off of what was happening- until it was too late.

Mario was right. No good can come from that sort of thing. I don’t… I don’t even want to think about it.

What little of it I did see.

He took me to a warehouse he’d prepared. When I saw the circle I froze… it was spider-webbed with crimson lines… like veins. Suddenly I was back in the steam tunnels- the unknowing victim. I had come there, knowing blood would be shed… but I’d assumed it was to be mine.

I mean, I was the one who’s blood had been used… it should have been mine to undo it… and it was- but, there were other needs… I didn’t know… I couldn’t have known… I should have known.

I tried to get him to stop, it was just too much. I could deal with the possibility of this killing me, that was my decision to make… but…

The next thing I know he’s apologizing- not for what he tried to make me do, but for what he was about to do… Next thing I know, I’m waking up on his couch. I could feel the change.. The strength returning, but the cost- the cost was too much for me to take.

Mario’s words rang in my ears as I got my bearings. “No good can come from this… No good.”

He was right, and I will have to live with the consequences. Diaz was helping me- the guilt is mine.

I don’t know if I can live with myself over this. How can I… There’s no way I can go home, not after this.

Saturday, December 9th, 2056 – A New Improved Nightmare

I got myself a cheap hotel room. I keep staring at the walls, trying not to see the ganger begging for his live and Diaz … his eyes black… heartless. One worthless life for my brothers’, that’s what he’d said – One worthless life.

One worthless life… There is no such thing… you start thinking like that everything falls apart. Everything has fallen apart- I’m falling apart.

I tried- tried to find a way out, and now, I guess I’m still trying, but I can’t undo what’s been done. That’s what got me into this mess in the first place.

I can feel a knot forming in my stomach. There is nothing I can do- nothing I could have done, but I should have been able to do something- or do nothing, stay at home… at least then… Then I wouldn’t have that man’s eyes staring at me- pleading.

Or the dark heartless eyes Diaz showed when the time came.

Not heartless… not to me- that’s what makes it worse. He felt I was worth it, me and the boys. He even knocked me out… tried to take away the guilt maybe, I don’t know. When I finally came to, he didn’t want to talk about it and lord knows I didn’t either.

I thanked him for what he’d done- it was… the only thing I could do… but… morally, legally- I’m the one who’s responsible… I’d asked him to help, not thinking of the consequences.

The thing is- if the man had tried to hurt me… or someone I was protecting, I wouldn’t have hesitated a moment- that would have been his decision, but this… this was different

What have I become?

Sunday, December 10th, 2056 – Lost

I stayed inside again today. I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I’m fairly certain I can’t go back, not to Seattle, not to what I was.

That would be a sham- the healer, with innocent blood on her hands.

I really wish I could get Mario’s voice out of my head. Everywhere I turn I hear him. Why did he have to be so right?

I’ve tried everything I can think of to get him out of my mind, drowning his voice in Whiskey, in sorrow, guilt, pain- but it just grows more insistent.

Its as if I really did die in those tunnels, it’s just taken me this long to realize it.

Monday, December 11th, 2056 – Self Destruct

First thing I really remember was hearing was Fin pleading with me. He wasn’t about to let me go without a fight. I tried to get him to go away, leave me alone, but he refused.

I really wasn’t in any shape to argue with him. I don’t think I’d consciously tried to kill myself, but from what I can gather I had enough alcohol in my bloodstream to do the trick. I felt like hell.

Fin was so scared I was going to die- I was scared I wasn’t. Tons of coffee, doses of stimulants- all the street techniques he knew to get me over the ‘hump’. I was a mess and he didn’t seem to understand: I wanted to be alone. Maybe he understood all too well.

Next thing I know, I’m on a flight back to SeaTac, the last place I wanted to go.

Waiting for me, was the last person I wanted to see, wanted to see me.

Casey was there waiting, a very worried expression on his face. When I saw him I just wanted to run and hide.

He represented everything I was, everything I thought I wanted., everything I felt I no longer deserved. I wanted to run away, from him, from me, from everything

He didn’t let me run away, didn’t let me hide- he just held me. And I promptly lost it.

Tuesday, December 12th, 2056 – Friends

I woke up at Case’s place. He told me the only thing he could get out of me was how I couldn’t go home. So he’d taken me here instead.

I’m not sure how much Fin told him, I’m not even really sure how much Fin knows. How do you tell someone- anyone, let alone someone you care about when you’ve done something like that?

There is so much I don’t know- don’t understand, and I seem intent on learning it the hard way. I’ve traded the nightmare of what Raz did to me for one of my own creation. Only now the nameless ganger’s face keeps changing… Fin… the boys… the folks in the local gang…

I can’t undo what’s done and I don’t know how to come to terms with it.

Case brought me lunch, something light- which was what I needed with the way my head and stomach were feeling. He just took care of me, waiting until I was ready to talk.

Only thing is.. I don’t know how to talk about it. I mean, it sounds so simple… I went to see a mage about the things Raz did to me. Three spells, one for each brother… and then one spell to undo it, but the spell… it was worse because of the cost.

At least with Raz, they were doing it to me… Diaz did what he did for me. Now, now that it’s too late I understand. I wish Mario had explained more- I wish I could talk to him, but now… now I don’t think he’ll ever talk to me again.

Another beautiful mess- only this one doesn’t have a happy ending. I’m a ghost of myself and I have no idea how to redeem myself- how to get myself back.

I want to talk to Casey, but I just can’t- I can’t stand the thought of him looking at me like Mario did. I really don’t know what to say- or who to say it to.

Wednesday, December 13th, 2056 – The whole story

I woke up this morning with Casey holding me. I must have been having more nightmares. When I moved he looked down at me. His voice was still soft, gentle- almost like he was afraid I’d break… or run away.

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

He all but begged me to tell him what was wrong.

I looked at him and finally found my voice, at least a little. “I… screwed up- big time,” I told him softly.

“I kinda figured that much,” he told me.

“I guess it’s a good thing I don’t play poker,” I told him.

He laughed but we both knew I was still miserable. “Jessica,” he said softly. “No matter what it is, not matter how bad- I’m here for you.”

Looking in his eyes I winced. There was nothing but love and acceptance there- how could I have missed it?  And now, now I’m trying not to lose him.

“Chicago…” I said softly.

He nodded waiting for me to unravel the mess I’d made of my life- unravel it and finally put the guilt into words.

“Raz and her people… they… did something to me,” I told him.

His grip on me tightened, protective, loving- how could I have missed that?

“I needed information- something Mario and Mrs. Walker couldn’t give me…”

“Blood Magic…” He stated knowingly.

I looked at him a moment, surprised.

“Jess,” he said softly. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. What you remembered from the tunnels, the Jaguar- it all spells big Aztechnology trouble. And, more often than not, that means blood magic.”

I shook my head. “I wish I’d known… that I’d figured it out sooner, or that I understood more about what was involved.”

The bitterness was apparent even to me.

He watched me worriedly and finally I managed to get the rest out. I was crying again. He held me.

“Ah, Jess,” he sighed. “I wish you had told me…”

I looked up at him. “I… didn’t really know… not until after… after I had you take me home… and by then…”

“And by then you weren’t talking to me.”

I nodded. “And all Mario would tell me was that… no good would come of it.”

He nodded again. “Jess- you’re right it can’t be undone, and destroying yourself over it… that’s not going to help…”

“I know that-, but I don’t even know where to begin…”

He answered with a gentle kiss on the top of my head. “You just did…”

Copyright 1999 – M.T. Decker and Denise “Nitro” Lee

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