The Chains We Forge In Life: Part Three

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Thorpe Island, Present Day

They stand on the tarmac of a small but undeniably modern airport, squinting as their eyes adjust from the dim light in the cargo plane to the bright sun shining overhead. Off in the distance they can see a cluster of buildings bearing the logo of the Thorpe Technical Institute—formerly the R&D branch of Thorpe Industries, now a wholly independent entity in its own right. On the other side of the airport is a beach with white sparkling sand. Off in another direction—CB can't tell North from West from East out here—looks to be a small forest, and beyond that there's even a mountain.

“It doesn't look like a fake island,” CB says.

“It's not fake,” Roger says. “We are actually surrounded by water on all four sides. It's artificial. There's a difference.”

The Chains We Forge In Life: Part Two

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Little Dresden Freedom House, January 7, 1984

“First thing you have to understand: I'm not anyone's leader.”

Roland is lean almost to the point of emaciation. He has no body fat at all—just lean, pale skin and ropy, knotted muscles. He wears a dirty white tank top shirt, black jeans, and heavy work boots. His hair is cut short and dyed green. His face is angular with high, sharp cheekbones; blue eyes peer out from underneath thick dark eyebrows.

CB has seen him somewhere before. He can't place it.

“I'm serious,” Roland says. “I'm not a leader, I'm a guide. I figured out how to deal with myself a long time ago, and I managed to do it without killing anyone—which is incredibly lucky, considering what I can do. All I care about is getting you to the point where you can get a handle on what you do to the point where you don't hurt anyone, including yourself.”

“That's it?” CB doesn't bother to hide his skepticism.

“That, world peace, and the occasional cold beer,” Roland says. “Look, I won't pretend there isn't more to me than that. I have opinions and I share them. But you don't have to agree with them for me to help you. You could be a fucking Democrat or Republican for all I care, I'd still help you. That said, I have a little speech I give everyone before I start, and if you want my help you have to listen to it first.”

The Chains We Forge In Life: Part One

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Airborne

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” -Jacob Marley, A Christmas Carol

The Thorpe Industries supersonic cargo plane looks more like a space ship than an airplane. At least, it does to CB—it's an argument he'd briefly had with Robert, back in the old days, starting when he made the offhanded observation about a prototype design. Robert had taken it upon himself to disagree.

“It's all smooth and bubble-like,” CB says. “I've never seen an airplane look like that before. It's… spacey.”

Robert shakes his head. “It's aerodynamic, which would be completely irrelevant for a spaceship. Spaceships fly in space. They don't need to deal with the friction involved in tearing through a gas at 800 miles per hour.”

“Spaceship,” CB insists. Robert wisely lets the matter drop.

Now CB and his group are riding in the passenger cabin of the thing itself—the schematic he'd seen in Robert's lab—and he still thinks the same thing.

Spaceship. It even hovers.

Six men and two women sit around a table in the passenger cabin. One more man is laid out on a couch in the small recreational area at the far end of the cabin, unconscious, an IV sticking out of his arm. A seventh man—or what's left of him—has been stuffed in a black-and-yellow biohazard sack and is propped up against the cabin kitchenette. He's not dead, but his current state is non-conscious and, in a direct quote from his only conscious teammate, “visually disturbing.”

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