Tag Archives: 16Sunsets

16Sunsets – Cleanup

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The final mercenary unlatched his vest after ensuring Kristof’s hands and feet were bound with zip ties. He rose and turned to the tree line as Anne and the rest of Globe’s team ran out of the woods toward the burning cabin. As his combat vest fell to the ground, the mercenary withdrew a pistol and started to intercept the newcomers from the forest.

“Rescue the subjects from the burning cabin!” Globe yelled to the mercenary.

The mercenary jumped through the open cabin door, avoiding the smoking doorframe. He dragged out Peter, abandoning him at the bottom of the steps. He turned to return for the fallen mercenary.

“Stop!” shouted Globe as he ran past Kristof. “Secure the subject.”

The mercenary paused just long enough to slap a pair of metal handcuffs against Peter’s wrists. He bounded up the stairs, but the cabin was now fully engulfed. He staggered back and abandoned his teammate as Globe skidded to a stop at Peter’s prostrate body.

“Where’s Joaquin?” Anne shouted as she brought up her Smith and Wesson 460 revolver, the red chrome reflecting the flaming cabin. Globe reacted by producing a TASER and shooting Anne in the chest. Her body convulsed and she fell over dropping the .460 into Kristof’s lap.

Kristof staggered to his feet, gripping the .460 with his bound hands. Globe dropped to the ground and the mercenary froze. The heavy revolver felt light in Kristof’s hand even with the near miss he suffered at the hands of one of the mercenaries.

A red flower blossoms from the mercenary’s chest. Fragments of bone and canvas erupt as the mercenary falls face first on the ground, the look of terror permanently affixed to his face. Kristof felt the hand cannon twinge his shoulder. The seared bullet wound on his shoulder broke open spilling thick blood onto his torn sleeve. Kristof swung the revolver towards Globe.

“Stop!” Anne coughs as she regains control of her throat.

Kristof sneered. “Stop what?” he spat on the ground at Globe’s feet. “We’re better than them.”

“We’ve been their betters for centuries,” Anne pleaded.

“So they’re your pets?” Kristof loaded as much scorn into the last word as he was capable of.

“They’re…”

“Silence!” shouted Kristof. “They’re ants scurrying about their little ant farm. Sometimes,” he turned at pointed the .460 at the shocked R-C-M-P liaison. “Sometimes you have to kick over the farm.” He pulled the trigger and the liaison toppled over. He winced at the additional pain in his shoulder.

“Stop it! Stop it!” screamed Anne. “This isn’t how we do things.”

Kristof leered at her. “Maybe if you did, we wouldn’t be in this situation, lost to the system.”
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16Sunsets – Showdown

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“Joaquin, I’ll distract them, you run away.” Peter ignored a look of disbelief from Joaquin and continued. “Head south until you hit a service road and follow it to a town.”

Two mercenaries burst through the door. Joaquin staggered back and tripped over a fur cast aside from the construction of the football. He fell on his rear and a yelp of surprise escaped his lips. Peter spun and charged toward the mercenaries, ignoring shouts to freeze and to get on his knees.

The lead mercenary raised his weapon and the bark echoed off the tall ceiling. Peter fell against the table flipping it on one side, blood flowing from neat hole in the center of his forehead. The other mercenary trained his weapon on Joaquin as the one who killed Peter knelt to check for a pulse.

He reached, and before his fingers could find their way to the carotid artery, he slumped forward. Peter leapt to his feet, a wooden table leg in his hand. The wooden leg made contact with the remaining mercenary’s weapon. The weapon vibrates with the impact and the mercenary loses it. It’s tethered to his combat vest, but for the time being, it dangled at his side.

The mercenary recovered and thrust his open hand toward Peter’s solar plexus. The heel of his hand made contact and Peter staggered back, the wind escaping with an audible ooph. The mercenary leaped forward and grabbed Peter by the hair and started to bring his knee up.

Peter lunged with the tips of his fingers into the armpit of the hand gripping his hair. He felt one or more finger joints bend in ways they weren’t designed to do. The mercenary staggered backward, but not before the momentum connected his knee with Peter’s nose. Peter tried to shield himself from crashing to the floor, but the pain of his bloodied nose caused his free arm to pause, not knowing what to do. His shoulder slammed against the floor, reverberation travelling down his arm causing instant numbness. Peter rolled on his back, reaching for his shoulder.

The shoulder distracted him to the movements of the mercenary. The merc came down hard on Peter’s back, punching Peter in the kidney. He’s too good, thought Peter. He may have acquired the skills of the lead mercenary, but mercenary number two had more training and skills and knew how to use them properly.

The weight of the mercenary on Peter suddenly vanished as Joaquin lunged slowly. Peter could see Joaquin’s body parallel to the floor as he made contact. The mercenary rolled with the impact, and used Joaquin’s momentum to throw him towards the cabin door.
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16Sunsets – Conflagration

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Joaquin awoke in a cabin in the Canadian wilderness. For the first time in years he felt at home. He felt as though someone cared for his well being. He felt like he had something to offer the world. His attention was drawn to noises coming from the kitchen area. Joaquin looked at a ray of sunlight shining through a high window. It’s not quite breakfast time, he thought and sat up to see what the noise was.

Peter sat at the table with a needle and thread working two pieces of leather together. After stowing his own bedding, Joaquin wandered the short steps to the table. He glanced over his shoulder at Peter’s bed and saw it in shambles. The fire in the fireplace had been stoked, and an empty bowl with a spoon sat on the edge of the sink with a box of cereal open on the counter.

Peter was stuffing odd pieces of hide and fur into the leather construct. He sewed the end closed and held up the oblong leather up for Joaquin to see.

“A football?” queried Joaquin.

“My son was never really interested in sports before he was taken from me.”

Peter tossed the crude football in the air, catching it a few times. Joaquin walked to the counter and picked up the box of cereal, not taking his eyes from Peter.

“Eat up, son,” Peter smiled. “Let’s toss the…” he looked down at the football. “Elkskin around.”

Joaquin waved his hand encompassing the dirty bowl on the counter. “What about chores?”

Peter shrugged. “The chores will keep for a little while.”

“A man keeps his home…”

Peter pushed air through his lips. It was half sigh, half raspberry. “I know what it takes to be a man, Joaquin.” Peter smiled. “I’m glad you do too. Eat up!”

Joaquin nodded and ate his daily share of cereal. Despite Peter’s impatience, Joaquin cleaned his and the old man’s bowls before returning everything to their proper places.

* * *

Kristof studied the cabin from his vantage point to the south. The smoke drifting from the chimney seemed almost welcoming. He looked across the clearing, past the deadfall traps and into the tree line. He didn’t need the enhanced vision he had before to see a pink figure peeking out from behind a tree. He counted six figures among the trees, their forest camouflage doing little to hide them among the dreary trees.

Kristof’s thoughts were inundated with strategies, angles of attack utilizing the rising sun and methodologies to lure the figures into the deadfall traps. He started to move towards the tree line, a plan hastily forming. As he got closer and his plan solidified, the door to the cabin opened and two figures emerged.
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16Sunsets – Musings

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“What do we do?” Justin whispered. He had to fight himself – spending so much time in such a close proximity to Anne was intoxicating. The woman exudes sexuality, he thought before he chastised himself. Anne wasn’t just a beautiful woman. She wasn’t just the last ruler of the Jade Council. She wasn’t just an immortal who had not only witnessed thousands of years of history, but affected it directly. She shaped history like a lump of potters’ clay. She wielded the power to form that clay into beautiful things. He was content to bask in her circle of influence.

Anne looked at the squad of mercenaries filing through the woods. She counted six of them, followed by Major Globe, Bree and the R-C-M-P liaison. An armed escort trailed ten or so paces behind them. The rifleman wasn’t there to protect Globe; he was there to end Bree if the need arose. A shot to the back of the neck, separating the brainstem from the brain was suspected to be the only way to kill Bree. Anne knew that somewhere overhead, another helicopter hovered – it was an exact copy of the one they had stolen to break Joaquin out of jail. It may even be the very one, she thought, smiling. She wished she had been in the hangar when Globe discovered it missing, and when it was found with a single red leather evening glove lying in the pilot’s seat.

“We follow and see how this plays out,” Anne whispered back, her hot breath causing the hairs on Justin’s neck to stand at attention. Stay focused! He thought to himself. The problem with the clay Anne shaped was that she was just as flawed as the gene-neutral humans she had hated for so many centuries. Anne’s fits of rage and passion were well known. He couldn’t hold a candle to her and he knew it. The son of the son of the son of… Justin counted the iterations of his lineage all the way back to Midas. He imagined Anne and Midas sitting on thrones of gold. He knew of at least two others of his lineage that had courted Anne over the centuries. She wouldn’t confirm his suspicions, but he suspected his fate and the fate of his progeny would be forever entwined with her.

As the group passed, Bree looked over her shoulder. Anne knew Bree couldn’t see her from their hiding spot. Bree smiled anyway – Anne knew the little girl had seen her and Justin. This wasn’t the first time Bree had let Anne know her attempts as subversion weren’t successful. The fact that she hadn’t warned Globe of their presence made Anne think of the times she and Bree had talked over the short years they knew each other. Bree had an uncanny knack for seeing things unseen by those around her. Although Bree’s power had never been fully explained of researched – doing so would’ve been considered ride – Anne came to respect the unassuming little girl who constantly dressed in pink. Anne liked to think that perhaps her own signature red clothing was influenced by or influenced Bree. She remembered a prophecy Bree had let slip years ago – Several lineages will end at a cabin in the woods. It was patently obvious to Anne she was following a kill squad through the Canadian wilderness.
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16Sunsets – Chance of Reign

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Kristoff leaned against a tree and surveyed his surroundings. He was cold, since in his impetuousness, he failed to start a fire for the night. Days of eating berries, grubs, crickets and other forest-dwelling edibles had left him irritable.

He had envisioned the encounter with his father after so many years differently than it had played out. In his dreamed reality, a weeping Peter welcomed him into open arms, lamenting the time spent apart. Declarations of unending love weren’t necessarily expected, but they would’ve been nice. Continuing in the world of expectations, his father would realize he had been hiding from a force that did not pursue him and return home with Kristof.

Perhaps Krystal would want to meet the father Kristof was just beginning to know and their fractured relationship would mend as well. They would live happily ever after – so the fairy tale went.

But, thought Kristof, even if everything went smoothly… His current power of seeing all the angles wouldn’t allow him to believe the fairy tale. Two people with extra-human powers wouldn’t be welcome in a xenophobic society. His super-intelligence would only go so far to hide their existence. And, he continued the thought; my time is limited due to this thing in my head. Even as he thought the word, he could ‘hear’ the vitriol in the ever-encompassing word, thing.

The government would eventually find him and his father and the chase would inevitably progress. He had no doubts that once he lost his super-intelligence, discovery and capture were soon to follow. He suspected they might seek out others like himself, perhaps form a society outside of the purview of the lowly humans.

Lowly humans. The thought raced through his head. He was extra-human after all. Did the rules of humanity even apply to him?

His thoughts were interrupted by a giggle.

“Humanity?” a child’s voice echoed. “A humanity who chased away your father?”

“Who said that?” he demanded.

“A humanity who has persecuted us for being different?”

Kristof looked around, trying to locate the voice.

“A humanity that uses us against each other in a war against ourselves?”
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16Sunsets – Moonrise

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Joaquin awoke in the old man’s cabin. His eyes stared at the apex of the high roof. Spider webs clung to each cross beam. He rolled over and looked to the old man’s bed.

I’m up first, he thought with a smile. The old man had been up before him the last two days. Joaquin had already figured out the routine. He rolled the furs into tight bundles and piled them into an empty space beside the fireplace. He tossed in a handful of tinder and added another log.

Joaquin retrieved two bowls and spoons from the counter beside the sink. He filled each with a measured amount of cereal – one to a line on the inside of the bowl, and the other his best approximation. The bowl with the line was the old man’s and it was dented and chipped from years, perhaps decades of use. Joaquin’s bowl was shiny and new, well new enough. It had obviously never been used before. Joaquin stared at the bowls and their analog to himself and the old man.

“Good work, kid.”

Joaquin nodded and watched the old man retrieve milk from the refrigerator and pour equal amounts into each bowl. When they’d finished eating, Joaquin washed them in the sink and laid them on the counter.

“That’s good,” remarked the old man.

Joaquin turned to his new host and raised his eyebrows.

“A man keeps his home and community clean.” The old man nodded as if these were universal truths.

Joaquin leaned against the sink, and the old man continued. “A man keeps his body and mind clean and he only communes with those who believe in living by these same ideals.”

Joaquin looked toward the Jack Daniels bottles lined up on the floor.

“Don’t worry, kid, I’m already a man.”

“I’ve heard people refer to themselves as men before,” Joaquin retorted through tightened jaw. “It usually happened before I got hit with an empty beer can.”

“Oh boo hoo. You think you’re the only boy to ever felt abused by others?”

Joaquin’s ears burned, but he held his tongue. The rest of the day went per the exacting schedule the old man kept in the small cabin in the Canadian wilderness.
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16Sunsets – Day Zero

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“What’re you doing here, kid?”

Joaquin looked up the barrel of a shotgun. His eyes tried focusing on the deadly end, but as was everything in his life, he failed. His eyes crossed until he was dizzy. Joaquin’s only response was a heavy sigh as the events of the last few months weighed on him.

“I asked you a question, kid.”

Joaquin leaned back against the tree he huddled under. How can a mountain hermit understand, he thought. Let’s just get this over with.

Peter cocked the shotgun. “I’m going to count to five, then you’d better give me a reason to not pull this trigger.”

“One.” Joaquin lived most of his life by the code of the street.

“Two.” I’ve wasted my life.

“Three.” It wasn’t to say he’d never had the opportunity to turn his life around.

“Four.” I can’t even think of a reason.

“Five.” Joaquin lurched to the side, shielding his face with his arm.

When the shotgun blast didn’t come, Joaquin peeked over his arm at the strange man. The man’s eyes were no longer cold. He stared at the stitched number five on Joaquin’s sleeve. The jersey was dirty from several days of wear. Muddy here and there, but the number – the high-contrast number five seemed to mesmerize the man.

Without taking his eyes off the number five, Peter cleared his throat and spoke slowly as if he were talking to a toddler. “What’s your name, kid?”

Joaquin squinted, if his eyes were weapons, they would have ended the hermit. “Don’t call me kid,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Not the smartest kid, huh?”

Joaquin regained his composure and shrugged. “You wouldn’t’ve hurt me anyway. My skin is im-perf-you-loss.”

Peter lowered the shotgun. “Are you trying to say impervious?”

Joaquin rolled his eyes. “Yeah, man. I’m bullet proof.”

A smile tugged at the corner of Peter’s mouth. “You’re like me, then.”

“Whatever, old man. Just leave me alone.”

Peter nodded and turned to leave. Over his shoulder, he said, “If you’re hungry, come to the cabin. It’s been ages since I’ve had a proper guest.”
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16Sunsets – Confluence V

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A man skirted between two of the deadfall traps. There was something familiar about the man, but Peter couldn’t quite place it. Years of isolation broken by scheduled trips into town left Peter with a broken stranger detector.

The man looked up at the smoke wafting from the chimney, and returned his gaze to the porch. The man seemed to take in every nuance of his surroundings while moving closer and closer to Peter’s sanctuary. He shields his eyes from the sun setting directly behind the cabin.

Peter reaches quietly and turns the knob on the cabin door. He throws it open and yells, “Who are you?”

The man freezes, as if he’s contemplating running away, then he slowly advances on the cabin.

“Don’t come any closer,” Peter yelled, “Tell me who you are!”

“My name is Kristof.” Kristof steps towards the cabin again.

Peter grabs the shotgun leaning against the doorframe and points it at Kristof. “I said, don’t come any closer.” Kristof, he thinks, could it be? Peter only saw Kristof once after Nadine died. It was at a used bookstore. Kristof gripped a picture book in one hand and a woman with the other. He stayed in the area, but with law enforcement always just a step behind him, he was forced to flee.

“Dad,” Kristof spread his arms, “we need to talk.” He squinted at the shotgun. “The scatter-gun isn’t even loaded.”

“You’re not Kristof!” Peter shouted. He looked past Kristof, into the woods. “How many of you are out there?”

“Dad!” shouted Kristof, forcing the frustration from his voice. “Something strange is happening to me.”

“Stop calling me Dad! You’re too old to be my Kristof!”

“It’s been twenty years.”

“You can’t be him. I refuse to believe you’re my son. Did Anne send you?”

“I don’t know anyone named Anne.”

“I don’t believe you, who sent you?”

Kristof stepped toward the cabin.

“Don’t think I won’t kill a man pretending to be my son. I’ve killed before.”

“I know. A doctor in Oregon; a homeless guy in Seattle. Seems like pretty depraved behavior from someone who claims his innocence.”

“What do you know of innocence?”

“I know my mother died and you ran away. I’ve done the math. If I can find you, they will too.”

Peter backed away from the door. “You’re not my son,” he screamed and slammed the door closed.
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16Sunsets – Confluence IV

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Kristof opened his eyes and felt the stiffness of his joints. Squeeze, flex. His eyes focused on something out of focus dangling in his face. He inhaled and batted away the spider, a shudder running down his spine.

“Thiodina sylvana,” he said out loud and marveled at the absence of condensation from his breath. Here, in late August, the nighttime temperature never got much below sixty degrees. Kristof closed his eyes and pictured the pages and pages of temperature tables going back decades. He looked at the smoldering remains of his campfire and his water condenser – both constructed from memory. Kristof stood and arched his back and walked to the water condenser to drink from the broad leaves. They were arranged in such a way that they reminded him of some strange bird, yet to be discovered.

Kristof imagined discovering some unknown bird species. The crooked smile faded as he worked out the logistics on touring the country and having an article published in popular scientific magazines.

“Damn it!” he hissed. This super-intelligence thing is great in so many ways, he thought, but man, do I get distracted!

Kristof covered the embers of his fire with moist earth and underbrush and continued his journey east.

* * *

Joaquin watched from a distance. His teeth chattered so loud he was afraid Kristof would hear it. It amazed him that Kristof could start a fire and collect clean water with no tools whatsoever. Joaquin pulled a Zippo he stole from the duty-free shop out of his pocket. And turned it over several times. He tried the night before to start his own fire, but even with a lighter, he was unable to.

He spent the night drifting in and out of sleep, watching Kristof snooze loudly next to his fire. The other item he had stolen from the duty-free shop was an antique-looking pocket watch. Antique that was except for the ‘made in China’ stamped into the thin metal. The watch read seven thirty. Kristof seemed punctual on waking. The last three days of following him reinforced how much Joaquin was a city kid.

Kid, his thought as he looked at his reflection in the shiny cover of the pocket watch. He looked at the lines on his cheeks and forehead, accentuated by the stamp. That Justin dude really did age me, he thought as he shoved the lighter and pocket watch into his pockets. He brushed the leaves and debris from his sleeves and ambled down to Kristof’s former campsite.
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16Sunsets – Confluence – III

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Major Jacob Globe stared at a looming forest. His R-C-M-P liaison stood in deference a few feet behind him. He held up a grainy image showing Kristof at the edge of these woods. Globe took a step towards the tree line.

“Sir,” the R-C-M-P liaison started with his best amicable smile, “I respectfully remind you that people have died from exploring this wilderness area unprepared. It’s unseasonably warm, and a lack of fresh snowfall has led more than one ordinary person to misjudge the difficulty of the ‘Great White North.'”

Globe turned to the young Mountie. “I’m not being frivolous. I’m no ordinary person.” He stepped away from the woods. “And this is no ordinary situation.”

“I understand, Sir, but there are millions of square kilometers here. Parts of these protected parks haven’t seen a human in years.”

Globe looked over his shoulder at the Canadian wilderness. “I’ve got to get my man, you know.”

The Mountie placed a hand of the Major’s shoulder. “If I may, Sir.” Globe nodded, so the young man continued. “You have considerable resources at your disposal.”

“You have no idea.”

“Yes, Sir, and I’m not privy to your organization or operation, but I’ve been instructed to allow you to operate in Canada without supervision.”

Globe smiled.

“It could take a team with the latest in surveillance gear more than two weeks to locate a single individual. And that assumes the individual wants to be found.”

Globe nodded. “I have at my disposal surveillance methods written about in science fiction.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Globe opened his cellular telephone. “Arrange for subject one-five-nine to meet me at my location.”

After he heard the response, he folded his phone and shoved it back into his pocket. He turned to the young Mountie and said, “Well, we’re together for the length of this operation. Where’s a good place to warm up?”

* * *

“What about Globe?”

Anne scowled, and looked at a map of lower British Columbia. “He’ll need assistance to locate anyone.” She waved her hand over the map. “I wish Bree was still with us.”

Justin nodded. “We’ve tried recovering her several times since her capture, but each attempt fails epically.”

Anne nodded. “Bree is a special little girl, but she’s easily swayed by trinkets and baubles.” Anne looked up to Justin. “Bree probably doesn’t want to be rescued by us.”

Justin exhaled sharply. “She’s gonna help Globe find Joaquin.”

Anne nodded. “We’ve got to find him first.”

“Why’s this kid so important?”
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