The Bible Runner: Chapter 1

Chapter One

The air level must have been verging towards unhealthy I surmised waiting impatiently for the Global Protection Forces soldier to hand me back my identification card. He’d been holding onto it for yonks to long as far as I was concerned, how long would it take him to figure out I was whom the card proclaimed. Just a simple messenger taking information from here to there when most other modes of staying in contact were patchy at best. I felt a smile roll across my face as I recalled all those who shared their varyingly phrased opinions about how dumb it was to start my business those ten years ago now. Guess I read the forecast well. Cloudy with a chance of Rapture, actually, come to think of it I’d only read that half right.

“You’re cleared to procede Mr. McAnders, and I’d hurry up if I were you curfew is coming up pretty fast.”

Taking the identification card I nodded.

“Just a few more blocks, besides I’m knackered and need to get some rusks in me.”

The gateway buzzed and clicked open; the GPF soldier was giving me a long look.

“As in food mate, I’m bloody tired and feel I could eat a horse.”

Nodding the soldier stepped to the side to give me access to the open gateway beyond and I entered into the long acclimation tunnel. In case you were wondering that’s just a different name for, we’re scanning you for any kind of illegal items and we hope you have them because we’re bored and haven’t beaten anyone to death today.

Having seen the results of someone being stupid I’ve taken to stashing perfectly legal items from the do not carry list at hidden locations throughout the city. This acclimation tunnel was decorated with old movie posters, most of them were sequels, all of them made gobs of dosh though at least 80 percent of them made not a lick of sense. Kind of like whoever chose what to put in these acclimation tunnels, the only thing they acclimated us to was the fact that nothing was the same as it once was.

That’s not to say that there weren’t clubs, libraries and other such things. Just to say that such things were for the partiers, the elite, the ones who turned a blind eye to what was going on because they wanted their lives to be simple instead of complicated.

Choosing to ignore the truths that the vocal minority is trying to share doesn’t mean that the truths flat out don’t exist.

Looking ahead I saw the exit to the acclimation tunnel slowly swing open, I didn’t hurry it was so late I didn’t need to. Also, one doesn’t want to attract attention to ones self at least not during this moment of a delivery.

My reflection nodded to me as I walked past the GPF soldier at the far end, though I couldn’t read his eyes through his reflective lenses I could feel them on me. At that moment I was quite certain that suspicion was wafting off me like some overpowering aftershave, in mere moments I was going to be tackled to the road screaming. Perhaps they would simply shoot me in the back, the rights situation was so heavily skewed to their side all I needed to do was flinch for probable cause. Nothing happened though and I made the next intersection and turned right, I would pass alongside the Capitol Records Memorial.

The building designed to represent a tall stack of records, had been a long-standing icon of the entertainment industry. Even in the few years since the Rapture it stood proudly, a beacon of hope for the normal everyday things. Sure they’d been a nuclear war, terror acts and other things but until the previous year it had seemed an untouchable reminder, an anchor to what had come before. Last year however had not been kind, first there was a suspicious fire, followed closely by an irate worker coming in and shooting up the place. When the surprisingly violent “Big One” finally leveled it they searched the rubble for survivors and in the end decided to leave the whole thing right where it was.

Now it simply represented mans hubris.

Checking my watch I realized that I’d been walking too slowly, I would have to run to make the delivery time. Punctuality was something I practiced as often as possible; it was part of our Parchment of Promises. When you get the full service rundown being on time is paramount, it’s the second most important thing on the list. The most important thing on the list is Privacy.

Situating my kit I made sure it was all tight and ready for the run; I snugged on a pair of specialty gloves. Back before all the mayhem I, as a Traceur, wouldn’t even have considered them, but with all of the chances of skin breakage and infection wearing them was at the top of my personal list. Kneeling I redid my shoes left and then right, I did a couple of stretching exercises and then I was ready to go.

When you run, or to be more specific Trace, you see the world differently, the best way to explain it, or at least start explaining it is imagine you’re walking into your living room. You really don’t think too much or maybe even about anything at all unless something is out of place. It’s ordinary.

That light is the one I use to cast illumination on books when I curl up to read on the couch. The tall one that radiates light up to the ceiling is rarely used at all, and the coffee table books weigh a ton and are only out for guests to look at. Odds are in fact that you’d probably make your way right through to the Kitchen or bathroom and those would be equally ordinary to you.

Now imagine you’re Jackie Chan being chased by thugs and you break through a door into the same living room. The thugs are going to be on you in seconds, ah the lamp on the end table. You don’t even bother to unplug it you simply fling it back towards the door, and as it’s base shatters making the goons slow momentarily you grab the light in the corner. It has a long shaft in the middle and can be used as a fighting stick, you take out a few thugs with that until it breaks in the center and you make a funny face. More thugs stream in and you hurl heavy coffee table books at them, perhaps you throw over a book shelf as you back into the kitchen, where you spy a toaster.

Parkour is about free flow movement while getting from point a to point b while using your feet and hands to help you along the way. Where you see a walled dead end, I see a wall that I can mantle by grabbing the top with my fingertips and working my way to the up and over. You see a series of stairs; I see landings and railings I can use to avoid those stairs entirely. If a car were to pull up and block your way you’d probably come to a stumbling stop and start backpedaling, I’d run faster and vault over it. For every closed door there is an open window and for every dead end there is freedom.

My feet pounded across the uneven ground as I approached the stairwell from the west; going low I grabbed the railing with my hands and slid under. Dropping to the ground I rolled and got up in a full sprint launching off a middle stair right down to the bottom where I rolled again changing my direction slightly then I was back and running again. Ahead there was a clot of people moving up and down both sides of the pedestrian stairway to the surface, not slowing down I leapt into the air and landed with precision and perfect balance, enabling me to run directly up the railing. People called out in my wake but I was focused on getting up and out, I didn’t particularly like cutting things this close.

Not missing a beat as I emerged into the waning light I vaulted over the park bench and headed south through the small greened area. Ahead was the building at the end of my delivery run, judging my distance on the fly I leapt up onto a planter beside the building and planted my right foot on the buildings wall and kicking off landed in front of the metal gilded front doors. My pulse and breathing slowed as I pulled a cap out of my pack and pulled it down over my hair, it had our company name and logo on it. Artemis Messenger Service: Fleet of Foot. Punctual Privacy.

Entering the lobby I moved to the extremely expensive looking desk located against the back wall. Since there was no one there I took the liberty of tapping the top of the bell and it rang appreciatively. Within a few moments someone appeared from a side door and asked whom I was there to see.

“Donald Jacobus.”

“Fifth floor take any elevator and ask at the reception desk.”

“Ta a bunch.”

Smiling I made my way to the nearest elevator as the receptionist informed the other receptionist upstairs that I would be up their within minutes. The fact that there was a lobby receptionist was to be expected but was it possible that there was a receptionist for each floor? Money practically leaked out from the walls at the thought.

The elevator was carpeted and paneled with wood. You know, until you go inside a building you just don’t know what its heart is like. Sometimes I don’t make it home for weeks at a time, I have to make do with abandoned buildings or the good graces of The Underground. Even in those empty cold buildings though I always felt safe, as if I was being watched over. Perhaps it was my wife and kid in Heaven checking up on me, maybe God still employed a Guardian Angel to keep watch When I was younger I used to see him, I called him Danathiel.

As the elevator rose I unzipped the pack again and carefully pulled out the storage device, it was rectangular and generally was used to hold toothbrushes on long trips. This one however held something for Mr. Jacobus; it of course was still sealed and had not been opened. Looking is the last thing you want to do, it can also create some massive problems, I’d heard of people from other delivery firms of our kind being taken out for sticking their noses where they didn’t belong. That’s why we have rules and regulations at AMS, that’s why I always enforce them.

“Fifth floor,” said the elevator in a cheery female voice.

The doors slid open smooth as can be and to the right I glanced the other receptionist behind her desk. Kaching, this place was undoubtedly oozing money. Watching her as I walked over she put a finger to her ear, and said a few words I couldn’t hear yet. Before I could come to a stop I heard a door buzz and a magnetic lock disengage.

“Through the door to your left thanks.”

Nodding I peeled to the left and mimed knocking on the door, she simply shook her head and I twisted the handle.

“Ahhh. Looks like your delivery just arrived,” said Donald in a rich voice that his business partner could probably have heard without the phone. “I’ll call you back.”

Stepping forward I handed the small container to the recipient and quickly enquired if he had anything outgoing, he shook his head while at the same time he offered me thanks. Returning his thanks with a nod and a cheers I turned around and headed out the door right smart, if I got moving I could actually spend the night at home. What I wouldn’t give to spend a night in my own place, on my twin-stacked mattresses, sleeping with a bit of security would be brill also.

Stepping through the door I closed it behind me and as it clicked closed I felt through my fingertips a short vibration. For a moment I was unsure if I was just feeling queasy or not, but when the aquarium against the wall started to try and fly off its tabletop perch I knew what was happening. Calling out I motioned for the secretary to get under the desk and hang on, the whole building seemed to jerk out from under me and shift to the side. Lowering quickly I got into a three-point stance and tried to ride out the tremor with the emotion of a Terminator arriving through time. The settee being pitched through the fifth story window put pay to that; shattered glass filled the air like lethal crystalline confetti. It was noisy, like a freight train was coming up the elevator shaft, and then it was strangely silent.

The building undulated to a stop, and I slowly got to my feet a Dramamine on ice would’ve gone down perfectly right about now. With a click the door opened behind me and I turned as Donald stepped out dodging around me at the last moment.

“Everyone alright?” He asked calmly.

“Yeah. That one was a nice kick in the arse eh,” I responded with a smile.

“It was,” he responded as he walked to help the secretary up, “You alright Jen?”

She simply shook her head as Donald helped her back into the office chair. This bloke cared for his employees that much was clear, even more so as he opened a cupboard and pulled out three bottled waters. Handing one to Jen he walked over to me and pressed the spare into my gloved hand.

“I’d advise you to stay here tonight.”

“Cheers mate, but I wouldn’t want to be an imposition.”

“You wouldn’t be, in fact we’re all going to stay.”

Jen was swallowing some water, when she finished moments later she shared a question with her boss. Once he had replied she quickly got on the phone to fulfill his request.

“…your name.” Donald was looking at me quizzically.

“Oh…sorry you lost me.”

“I’m going to call in the situation to GPF Sector Security I’ll need to give them your name.”

“’course. McAnders, Damian McAnders.”

Nodding he took out his phone and had one of the shortest conversations I’ve witnessed to GPF Operatives, he probably paid their wages I mused. As he folded his phone he motioned for me to follow him and we walked down a number of halls, while we walked he pointed out the men’s room and the emergency exits and stairs. There were some cubicle partitions down, some lost panes of glass and fallen potted plants but all told the damage was minimal. Preliminary numbers on the quake would come within the hour; the USGS was quick as could be most of the time. While I chugged some of my own water he opened the door to a conference room, here he mentioned is where we would be staying the night.

***

My mouth was dry when I awoke, and Jen was right by my side it didn’t take putting two and two together to be a genius.

“I’m sorry if I woke you,” I muttered unscrewing the top of my water bottle and taking a drink.

Though she shook her head I could tell by the way her eyes flickered away that she was flustered and a little scared. Shaking her head she sat opposite she looked like she had genuine concern on her face and I appreciated it.

“It wasn’t the big one was it?”

“No. It was that sunny day two years ago.”

She put her hand to her lips letting out a small gasp.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-“

Sliding out my wallet I opened it up to show Jen the pictures inside.

“My wife Victoria and our daughter Estrella.”

She gushed over how beautiful they both were. Everything she said was true, the princess and the queen, nothing was kept from them because they deserved all I could give them.

“We were playing in the park, a church picnic, I was flying my little girl through the sky. She was flapping her arms and laughing. “We shall mount like wings on eagles Daddy.””

Jen was silent as if encouraging me to continue, I didn’t usually share this openly with someone I barely knew. However I felt a kinship, as if she were family and I could trust her implicitly so I continued.

“It was a game we played, after that I would toss her so she could fly over to her mommy. This time was no different, except I was blinded by the sun, and there was a sound-“

“Like thunder.”

“Like thunder, exactly like bleeding thunder, when I could see again they were gone. So was the driver of the pickup truck that had plowed through the guardrail, on it’s way to crashing me into unconsciousness.”

Her hand took mine and squeezed, and then the words started to spill out a few moments later.

“I had taken my parents out to eat at a fancy Italian eatery, it was their Silver wedding anniversary and we were going to celebrate in style. We were enjoying our pasta and our wine, in fact the waiter was refilling my glass when- poof- the bottle was on the floor and my parents were gone. Cutlery clattered to plates or floors, dropped glasses broke, and piles of clothing, jewelry and watches slumped into chairs. There were exclamations and some cursing from other patrons, I just cried.”

“A lot of people cried, some still do.”

Squeezing her hand in return I turned to look across the room towards the row of windows, a few of them were broken and they let in the sounds of the night. There was an owl out there close by, it kept hooting as if it was unsure it had been heard the first 50 times. Every so often, before I had fallen asleep, I had heard debris falling nearby; there were fires raging somewhere across town, thankfully nowhere near my home.

My phone vibrated, and I touched my ear bud to accept the call.

“Lindell do you have any idea what time-“.

“The silent alarm was triggered at AMS.”

“It was probably a cat.”

“I wish it were man but I am standing here looking at your building-“.

“It’s after curfew mate, are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“Be chillin’ man. No one has a clue. As I was sayin’ if there’s a cat here it’s flat as a pancake.”

“You’ve got to be joking?”

“Dude your building has one story and it’s in the sub basement and made up of rubble.”

Yawning I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and pushing up my sleeve glanced at the luminescent dial of my watch. Just to the east of two a.m., taking a deep breath I began to pull on one of my shoes.

“You want me to come in?”

“And do what?”

“Point taken, I’m pulling on my shoes anyway.”

“Good. I need to speak to you face to face.”

“The Farside?”

“Fair enough, when should I expect you?”

“Five minuets ago I’d have said regular hours, but being the git that you are there’s no way I’m going back to sleep.”

“The place is a night club-“

“Yes I bloody well know that, I’ll see you in 45 minutes.”

“Fair enough, I’ll be with a guest.”

“I could bring the lass I’m with and make it a double date.”

There was a silence as my good friend digested this unexpected information nugget.

“You’d best come alone.”

“Cheers.”

Tapping my ear bud I cut the connection, and concentrated on tying my other shoe. Feeling Jen closer than I felt comfortable, I finished quickly and then stood, hefting my pack I tossed it on and snugged it tight. Snuggling my black beanie down over my ears I then flexed my fingers and refastened my gloves. Without a look back I walked towards the nearest emergency exit.

Perhaps I should have thanked her I mused as I entered the stairwell and went down, but right now all I can think about is AMS is over, and Lindell wants to meet in person, with a friend.
***

The Farside had absolutely nothing to do with Gary Larson; the only similarity was that they did have comics every Tuesday night. One never knew just how crowded the place was going to be, tonight though I expected there to be fewer ravers than usual. People tended not to party the night of earthquakes, and the crowds were thin enough with the more stringent curfew rules. Most people couldn’t afford to be put in a protective cell for 24 to 48 hours; you could loose a long-term job the economy being the way it was just by calling in sick. Of course, loosing a job because of that just added you to a non-exclusive club of other hard on luck rejects.

The line was short, and the bouncer made it shorter once he’d talked to management over his radio. I knew what was hidden behind the black painted plasterboard; sometimes I’d go behind the scenes and hang within the massive soundproofing pyramids. The odds were good that we’d end up there before too long, Lindell, whoever he’d brought with him and myself. When you don’t want big brother to hear hide amongst the pyramids. Face to face communications like that are much more difficult to eavesdrop on though I’d be presumptuous to say it’d be impossible.

The dance floor was not empty not by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t the typical no space for more flesh whatsoever. Tonight there was room to breathe and actually dance full on and the youth were certainly taking advantage of the extra space. I didn’t dance much anymore, since I couldn’t share the dance floor with my wife there didn’t seem to be a point. Stomping feet and the insane amounts of bass created a low vibration that caused ripples in the drinks sitting on the bar.

“Can I get you anything,” asked the bartender.

“A Guinness. Ta.”

While I watched he turned, opened one of the cooler doors, pulled out a long neck and expertly popped the top below the deck. Moments later the bottle was on the deck in front of me and I nodded my thanks and stripping a fiver from my money clip I paid him.

“Keep the change.”

Nodding he continued to tend to the bar even as I tipped back the bottle and let the lager burn my throat. It tasted good, and for a moment my senses were flooded, the smell of the sweat, aftershave, myriads of body-washes and shampoos. The intensity of being there seemed to become more robust, like those times I’m leaping from rooftop to rooftop and gravity seems to be stronger. Threatening to ground me, to break my bones to dust.

“McAnders my Brother.”
Lindell was still a year older than me and that would never change, he wore colors that were as exuberant as his personality. Futures so bright I shoulda worn shades. At five four he was just a shade under a foot shorter than me, his hair however had remained dark; he could still pass for a youngster. People assumed I was about ten years older simply because I had far more white in my hair, that was not the case I was simply wiser.

“Lindell,” I pulled him in for a hug careful not to drench either of us with beer.

“Sorry about AMS man.”

“Gives me more time to beggar around, besides we’re covered-.”

“Covered yes, but we can’t just party all the time.”

Smiling I took another long swig of my lager and then put it on the countertop.

“And we won’t, but it’s not all about money-.”

“Don’t start that with me!”

“Well it’s not mate,” I chided lightly.

“There’s still plenty of places we can run some kind of delivery service out of, besides it’s about time I returned to my roots a little bit.”

Lindell shook his head but did so with a smile, I followed him as he walked across towards where the darkened private booths were. Some of the single ladies attempted to get me into the mood as we weaved across a section of the dance floor; my total lack of response thankfully convinced them I wasn’t ready to play. Loosing ones business tends to put a damper on ones day whether or not you’ve just downed a bottle of Guinness.

“Who’s this surprise guest,” I called out over the noise.

“Guess,” was his response.

“What is this twenty questions?”

“Sure if you want it to be.”

Sometimes I can’t help but laugh this was one of those times; I managed to give Lindell a shove to get him moving again. Right now twenty questions seemed to be really wasteful not just of time but energy, perhaps the lager had been a bad idea. Lindell had stopped in front of the door to the private booth; both his hands were raised, which put me on the defensive.

“Just so you know this wasn’t entirely my idea-.”
My head had started to throb, and this was really beginning to tick me off, so I started around him.

“I don’t give a shite whose idea it was-.”

Looking down I motioned to his hand in the center of my chest; the blocking maneuver had not gone unnoticed. Slowly he removed his hand and I reached out and pushed down the handle, the door clicked open. When my eyes adjusted to the light and I realized who was inside I knew that I’d need another Guinness.

To Be Continued…

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