Turning 44, and the State Of Various Things

Submitted by Christopher Wright on

Usually when I have a birthday I do something silly like post my age in binary, or hexadecimal, or occasionally I post a link to a cause I'd like people to support. Once I asked people to review my books as a birthday present. I'm not doing any of that today, though I will note that 44 doesn't actually feel like 44. It doesn't feel like 34, either. It certainly doesn't feel like 24. I don't know specifically what it feels like, it just doesn't feel like the vague idea I had of 44 when I was every other age leading up to 44.

Triple Helix: Part Eight

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Warehouse Complex, Above

The Sorrel-Eades warehouses, a small complex just north of the Farraday City Boardwalk, have been abandoned for years. It was declared an EPA Superfund site a decade ago, when a truck dangerously overloaded with industrial chemicals exploded outside the center warehouse building. It’s well known among the locals that anyone who goes in the S-E complex dies, and some of the earliest examples of that death were graphic and frightening. But the EPA never actually sent anyone to clean it up—whether they forgot, or the lords of the city forbade it, nobody knew. The end result was the same: nobody went there unless they actually wanted to die.

The truth of the matter is that the chemicals have been gone from the complex for years. When Haruspex Analytics wanted to find a place where they could operate in anonymity, they chose the most environmentally inhospitable location they could find, cleaned it up, and made sure nobody knew it was clean. In the end, it was simply one contaminant being replaced with another, and it still killed anyone who came too close or stayed too long. In the last few days, however, locals have noticed things happening there—specifically trucks driving up to the center building, and armed guards unloading sealed containers. So far no one has worked up enough curiosity to start poking around, and the storm currently engulfing the city is a far more pressing concern.

A storm, it should be noted, that has left the Sorrel-Eades complex relatively untouched.

All eleven buildings sit comfortably within the storm’s eye. The old chain link fence that closed off the complex from the rest of the city is gone, ripped to shreds and flung across the city by the eyewall separating the complex from everything else, but the warehouses themselves are untouched, an oasis surrounded by a swirling wall of screaming clouds. The clouds themselves are terrifying, moving at such speeds, with such a small circumference, that they resemble the inside of a tornado—smooth, almost marbleized. At the higher elevations, lightning sparks so furiously that the light filters down through the clouds, so that even at ground level they glow with a faint green light.

It is into this scene that Jack Barrow emerges from the eyewall next to the southeast warehouse, soaked to the bone, carrying Red Shift and Jenny Forrest, one under each arm. He hops up onto an old loading platform as if the weight of the two were nothing, and sets them down against the warehouse cinderblock wall. Red Shift immediately staggers to his feet, using the warehouse wall to steady himself. Jenny stays where she is, fumbles with her chin strap, and removes her helmet. Her braided hair is soaked, and she wordlessly turns her helmet over, watching the water spill out.

“That… was undignified,” Red Shift says.

Triple Helix: Part Seven

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Farraday City, Midtown

“Christ Almighty. What the fuck happened to the sky?”

Agent Grant stares in amazement as rain pounds against Hu’s car. The city is a mess: cars are abandoned in the road, along the side of the road, sometimes even on sidewalks as streams of people slog through the rain, heading for any building they can find. The only people actively driving on the road are Hu—who is clearly unhappy about it—and, based on occasional glimpses of flashing red light, a few emergency response vehicles.

Most of the time all Grant can see are solid sheets of water crashing into Hu’s windshield. It looks like someone has pointed a garden hose directly at each window in the car—all he sees is water spilling over more water. When lightning flashes he can see a little more: endless black clouds roiling in the sky, wind whipping sand and garbage through the air, tiny streams coursing down streets and pooling at intersections. Then the light fades, and once again all he sees is sheets of water against the windows.

“Wasn’t it sunny ten minutes ago?” He squints, wondering if the vague shapes he thinks he sees through the rain are really there, or if it’s just the rain screwing with him. “I distinctly remember there being sunlight.”

“Sure wish somebody thought to tell us we’d be driving through a hurricane today,” Hu says, voice tight.

Triple Helix, Part Six

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Warehouse Complex

In hindsight there had been no need to ask about the weather—Plague knows the moment the storm starts. He stands in the observation room, looking into the now-crowded cell block as doctors and lab techs crowd around the Prodigy Harness, going through the steps to revive the man imprisoned within. He can see Horace Preston within, lying on something that looks like a coffin bed, and as he stirs he feels the temperature drop, ever so slightly.

Dr. Wallace looks up from a small hand-held computer, currently attached to the harness by a tether. He holds it out in offering. “He’s keyed to your voice, Mr. Richter.”

Richter takes the computer and hesitates. “How do I…?”

“Just speak,” Dr. Wallace says. “He’s keyed to your voice.”

Richter nods. “Mr. Preston.”

Horace Preston’s eyes snap open immediately. They do not focus.

“Mr. Preston. I need you to complete your mission. Now.”

Triple Helix: Part Five

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Atlantic Ocean, Day

By day the ocean is an endless blue expanse, flecked with shades of darker blue as the waves roll up, casting shadows over its own surface. There are no clouds today; the sky is as unblemished as the ocean is mottled.

There is no sign of land, nor sign of any ships. The compass has started working again, but the two-way radio is still just a constant stream of static, white noise turned so low it barely registers against the sound of the engine as it labors to keep the boat moving. Artemis turns it up higher, listening for breaks or variations in the endless wall of sound.

They’ve taken on a considerable amount of water in the past few hours, and the boat is definitely lower in the water than it should be. There’s too much water below. He’s not sure how much longer they have before the boat gives up entirely, but he’s certain it’s “hours” instead of “days.”

Artemis makes plans.