Friday, March 13, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 2] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Rhonda Clark @ her blog, Beach Reads. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: Hi everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the first mysterious installment of Rachel Banner's increasingly insane life. lol. This week brings part 2, along with several good twists to light. I've been working since last week to keep this story in logical order, so please remember the scene changes marked by *'s. There's a bunch of backstory inside the first few halves of this and possibly some more to come next week, based on the feedback. If you've got any questions at all, please feel free to ask. Rachel's story is coming along quite nicely, but I'd hate to have covered something in my head-and completely forgotten to type it out. Do enjoy! (and let me know what you think about Mark...I was aiming for the kind of character you would love to hate) Have a great weekend!

“It’s a designer drug all right.” Pete slapped the folder down on Thom’s desk. “Kids on the street are calling it ‘Pysch’.”

“Pysch?” Thom repeated. “As in physcing themselves out, or…”

“I didn’t ask, it was a miracle to get that much outta them. How’d you do?”

Thom shrugged. “About the same, more or less. I’ve got contacts, Pete, they’re just not talking. They’re more afraid of whoever’s putting this out then they are of the law.”

Pete frowned. “That worries me.”

“I know.” Thom picked up the folder and methodically scanned the contents. “Any druglord or underground dirtbag wielding that kind of influence on our streets is a day when I remember why I’m wearin’ this badge.”

Pete bowed his head. “You and me both.” He muttered. “I sent Jason down to the lab with the bits of glass they found at that apartment fire. The results should be done by tomorrow.”

“Good.” Thom squinted at a photo in the file. “Who’s this?” He held up the photo.

Pete glanced up. “New deputy Chris with my old town talker, Victor. I think he’s hiding something, but I doubt there’s anything under the sun that’ll get it out of him.”

Thom grimaced. “True. Too bad though, all we need is enough evidence to point in the right direction and this case can wrap itself up, I’d think.”

“Those were the good days.” Pete chuckled. “When working the streets was easier, ‘cause folk believed in the law.”

Thom half-smiled. “Right now, they all think the only thing we’re good for is the crosswalk patrols.” His cellphone vibrated, jiggling a stack of papers and sending various desk items rolling. He picked it up, glanced at the name and closed his eyes as he answered. “Mona? Hello, everything all right….?” He held the phone away from his ear and his eyes opened. It took a few more minutes and then finally he snapped it shut with a pained expression.

“Something the matter?” Pete deposited a handful of paperclips and post-it notes back to the teetering paper pile.

Thom shrugged, reaching for his coat. “I can’t rightly say. It’s Mona.”

“Ah. Family.” Pete shifted to his feet. “Everything okay with her?”

“She’s fine, I’m sure.” Thom grunted, wrestling one arm through the jacket sleeve. “Sending me company for a bit.”

“Company?” Pete frowned. “Which one?”

“Niece.” Thom replied. “The brunette. You remember her, Rachel?”

“Rachel, Rachel…oh yeah, the small one? She must be pretty big by now, had quite a head for things, what’s she up to these days?”

“That, Pete, would be my only real problem.” Thom grabbed his keys and tucked the folder into his briefcase. “Mona’s worried she’s getting into trouble again, so she’s shipped her off in my direction.” He shook his head. “It’s gonna be some weekend.”

Pete shrugged. “She’s a smart kid.”

“Was.” Thom turned off the computer monitor. “Well, sort of, still.” He amended.

“She’s the one with the trouble?” Pete guessed. “That was Rachel? That little pixie?”

Thom smiled, fondly. “Yeah. That was her. I don’t know what got in her head, but something straightened her out and she’s been pretty good the past few years, but Mona can’t let that go yet. She said Rachel skipped a bunch of classes, enough that one of her college professors called, because she was part of some class project and hadn’t shown up for quite some time.”

“Ouch.” Pete held the office door open, waiting.

“Yeah. Mona was pretty worked up, said something about how she wouldn’t take the airplane ticket and it’s nonrefundable and she’s sure that something’s going to happen and-” Thom shook his head.

“Take it easy, Thom. You needed this weekend more than I did.”

“I know, Pete, I know. I’ll try to get some sleep.”

“Don’t try, Thom. Actually get some sleep and if you can’t sleep, then get some work done.” He tilted his head towards the overflowing desk. “With all those papers in there, I’m surprised you can still find the keyboard for that dinosaur on your desk.”

Thom rolled his eyes. “It’s not that old, Pete. I just don’t see the need to switch up to Vista…the thing’s a pain in the-” The cellphone burst into a cheerful tune, drawing the attention of a few nearby deputies.

Thom fished it out of his coat pocket and answered it. His expression brightened at once and he beckoned to Pete to follow him. “The results are back already.” He explained, shoving the cellphone back in one pocket. “I’ll swing by and pick them up now, you coming?”

“Right behind you.” Pete pulled the office door shut. “If that report reads positive, Freddy Durgot is going down.”

* * * * * *

Rachel felt the world around her slowing to a stop. Her neck ached and her arms were stiff and tired. The body she clung to, twisted, then gently pulled away. “Rachel? Rock…come on, girl, wake up.” Gloved hands shook her awake.

“Oww.” The whine was muffled within the helmet. Her left arm was burning, itching, hurting all at the same time. It was the perfect ingredient to add to her grumpy temper. Being shaken awake did not help much either.

“Helmet.” Robbie warned, before his gloves slid around her neck and pulled upwards.

Cold night air was a harsh, but effective wake-up call and she shivered, giving herself a shake all over. “ugh. Where are we?”

“A couple hours shy of where we need to be.” Robbie tucked the helmet carefully on the handlebar. “I thought you could use a break, you’ve been pretty quiet and I figured you fell asleep.” His frown was visible in the moonlight, accented by the amber glow of the rest area lights. “If you need to sleep, tell me and I’ll stop and get us a place to crash ‘til morning, it’s dangerous to cop out like that.”

A blush teased her cheeks and Rachel looked away. “Yeah, I know. Sorry. Won’t happen again.” She traced an ‘x’ on the itching arm.

“Bet my bike on it.” He muttered. “Go walk around a bit. Five minutes. Meet me back here when you’re through. Be careful.”

“And don’t to talk to strangers too, I know.” Rachel resisted the urge to roll her eyes at his retreating figure. A bed did sound very nice and a walk was the last thing she wanted to convince her tired body to do.

Robbie paused halfway to the rest area entrance, looking over his shoulder. “Rachel.”

She groaned inwardly, sliding off the bike to gingerly stand on her own two feet. The world spun briefly and then righted itself as she inched to the sidewalk and then towards the entrance as well.

Robbie waited a half-second longer, then disappeared in his original direction. Rachel made her way to the restroom, taking her time and then wandering around in the lobby several minutes later.

The vending machines were gaily lit and she fished in her pockets for the usual stash of quarters. Something with caffeine. She squinted at the soda selections. Dr. Pepper. She grimaced, punching the button. Not her favorite soda, but the combination of sweet and caffeine would help to keep her awake. The itching had faded some, but the burning was now beginning. She wrinkled her nose, trying to ignore it.

“Rachel?” Robbie magically appeared to her left. “You ready?” He made a face at the soda in her hand. “Yuck.”

“Thanks a lot.” She shot back, gingerly suspending the drink between two fingers. “I need the sugar. How much longer we got?”

“Not as bad as you need the caffeine.” He countered. “It’ll be at least another two hours, at most, I think.”

“Why can’t you turbo or something?” She wiped the bottle on the front of her sweatshirt, then zippered the leather jacket back up.

“That’s not an option.” He frowned.

“Yeah it is. You’re like the best rider, ever. You couldn’t hit something if you tried…besides, with all that navi stuff and everything, what’s the point of having it, if you’re never going to use it?”
He gave her a look and she sighed. “All right already, sorry!”

Something beeped inside his jacket and he tugged a cellphone out partway to see the screen. His expression darkened at once. “Let’s get moving…now.”

The tiny part of her wanting to ask questions was drowned with the first few gulps of Dr. Pepper as Rachel broke into a trot to keep up with his long strides. He’d answer her questions later, she hoped. Whenever he added ‘now’ to the end of a sentence requiring her to move quickly, it was a veiled warning to move faster than just quickly.

Things blurred by in the next few minutes and Rachel was vaguely aware several miles down the road that she couldn’t remember what she’d done with her soda. She frowned inside the helmet but waited until Robbie pulled off at the next exit.

As they waited for the stoplight, she flipped the visor up. “Robbie?”

“Keep your helmet on.” He snapped.

“It is!” She flexed her fingers, wincing at the ache. “What’s going on?”

“We changed neighborhoods, remember?” The light turned green. “Put the visor back down and hold on tight.”

“Why?” The word was wrenched from her lips as one hand tried to close the visor and Robbie pulled off with a speed she barely remembered. It took every ounce of strength she could muster to hold on tight as the back roads blurred around her.

It finally clicked in her mind what was going on. He was going to use the turbo after all. The short burst of speed might even cut the travel time in half. Her head grew heavy. The burning was faded and now her arm just plain hurt. A whimper escaped.

She felt the bike slowing to a stop and she yanked off the helmet the first chance she had.

“Rachel!” Robbie had pulled into a corner was getting off the bike, he took the helmet from her.

“What’s the matter?” She rubbed the left arm, willing her expression to remain as neutral as she could.

“I would ask, if it wasn’t for the little voice in my head.” He leaned forward, listening and for a moment, it seemed as if he clutched his arm. “We’re here. Your uncle is expecting you right?”

“Yeah…I think.” Rachel gingerly eased off the bike. “At least, I’m sure Mom would’ve called him.”

Robbie winced. “Good. Because if I followed you directions right, that should be his place across the street somewhere over there.”

Rachel gaped. “I thought you said a few hours shy of…”

“A blind estimate.” He said bluntly. “That and I had a few strings to pull.” The wince was repeated.

“Robbie, are you okay?”

He jerked away from her reaching hands. “Yeah. Fine. Go now, kid! Now!”

Rachel hesitated, then dashed across the street and towards the shadowy two-story house with the mermaid birdbath out front. She stopped a fraction of an inch away from the black, iron gate. “Rats.” She’d forgotten her uncle had dogs. Four of them, to be exact. Her arm began to itch again and she knew she couldn’t fight it. It wasn’t much use to resist any longer.

The moment the thought registered, she was blissfully suspended in nothing and then there was too much light everywhere. She closed her eyes, but it didn’t stop the headache from coming and she realized, belatedly, what exactly had just happened as the transportation portal completed itself.

The scowl that crept onto her face remained the same even as she stared up into the cheerful expression of Cherry Anderton. Her flashy red hair was pulled into the smoothest, high ponytail, Rachel had ever seen. Her eyebrows were neatly painted on and the white jumpsuit was a delicate compliment to her pale features.

“Hello!” Cherry offered a hand. “Hope the ride wasn’t too bad.”

Rachel glared at her. “What am I doing here?”

Cherry’s smile dazzled several megawatts brighter. “I really shouldn’t say…and you shouldn’t ask.” She looped one arm through Rachel’s elbow. “Really, darling, you shouldn’t have kept running.”

“I wasn’t running.”

“So you say, but that’s not what the data reads.” Cherry tugged her along. “You’ve really done it now, you know.”

“Right. Thanks.” Rachel tried to pull her arm away, but stopped when the effort hurt as much as the thought.

The silvery walls gleamed as they strolled past and she tried not to think of where she could actually be. “And here we go.” Cherry swiped a security card and a door in the circular end of the hall slid open. “In you go.”

“Wait!” Rachel stumbled forward, only to turn and see the door slid shut in her face with accompanied by a smirk from Cherry’s perfect features. “Wait.” She repeated, feeling the first inkling of helplessness trickling in. “I just wanted to ask a question.”

The room turned out to be as circular as the door had hinted. The walls were white and there was a white round table, with round white chairs. Rachel closed her eyes. All the white was making her headache worse.

She licked her lips, thinking of her missing bottle of Dr. Pepper. Sweet or no sweet, it sure sounded good right about now. She shuffled forward, wearily dropping into one of the chairs and burying her head on her arms, resting on the table. Maybe sleep would come quickly.

Her consciousness had only just begun to drift when she heard the door slid open. Her head popped up at once and she shook it to clear the fuzz from in front of her eyes. She squinted at the brightness, somewhat relieved when the lights dimmed considerably.

Something was tossed onto the left of the table beside her. She stiffened at once, the last slice of the puzzle clicking into place. “Mark.” She forced the name through her teeth. Her arm flared red-hot.

“Rachel.” He answered, politely. The folder was pushed forward until it touched her arm.

More fire exploded, racing up and down her arm and through her should. She jerked away from it, turning to scowl at him.

“This isn’t the best way to start out.” His expression was neutral, his outfit entirely black. The sky blue eyes trained on her were vaguely distant, the first hint that he wasn’t even looking at her. “and you really shouldn’t have kept running.”

“I wasn’t running!” The words came out as a near shout. Rachel winced inwardly. “I wasn’t running.” She repeated, quieter. “My mom sent me to my Uncle in Waynesburg. I wasn’t running…and get out of my mind.”

“So you keep saying.” Mark sighed. “and I’m not inside your mind. I don’t read your thoughts without your permission.”

“As if I’d be foolish enough to believe-”

“Your mind is a complete mess…but changing the subject is something you are not capable of, when the matter we are discussing is of utmost importance. Speaking of importance, tell me, when you felt the mark calling to you, why did you resist?”

The earlier blush resurfaced again, in full force. “I-I didn’t resist…it didn’t even really…register!” A sudden thought struck her. “Robbie!” She launched herself forward, fists flying. “You were calling Robbie! Don’t you dare hurt him! He was only trying to help me and I was only trying to-”

He leaned back, capturing her wrists easily with his hands, managing to stay just out of reach of her fury. “When you are finished, do let me know.” He said, pleasantly.

Rachel gave one last, hopeless twist, then her shoulders slumped in defeat.

“Well?” He asked, a hint of humor in his voice.

“I’m finished.” Rachel said dully.

He let go.

She stumbled forward, only to be caught and eased into a chair.

“The next time I summon you, I expect an immediate response, it would save a lot of trouble on both ends! And as you now know, running only makes it hurt worse. Now, where does it hurt?” He asked, but was already ripping off the sleeve on her left arm. “How bad?” Cool fingers feathered over her prized tattoo, now glowing a bright, painful blue.

“Take a guess.” She grimaced.

“This will hurt worse.” He muttered. “Bite something.”

“Wha-?” An unearthly shriek left her lips as the fire multiplied itself in a way she hadn’t thought possible and rapidly spread from her left side to envelope her entire body. The blackness couldn’t come quick enough and Rachel gladly succumbed to it.

There was a knock at the door and Mark turned. “Yes, Cherry?” He seemed bored.
“Another informant…sir.” She gave a quick bow. “They have some information on…psych.”

An immediate fire blazed through his eyes. “Did they now?” He rose to his feet from where he’d knelt on the floor. “How long ago?”

“No more than two minutes, sir.” She held the door open. “The interrogation is proceeding even as we speak.”

“In where?” Mark crossed the room to view the holopad cradled in the crook of her arm. “Chamber 1537.” He frowned for a moment, then brightened. “Ah, of course.” He paused in the doorway. “Please see that a healer’s brew is given to Miss Banner. I’m afraid the aggression healing knocked her out. She’s going to have a horrible hangover.”

Cherry scowled. “A healer’s brew?”

“Yes. Something mild though, she doesn’t drink.” His lips twisted into a smile. “Make sure it tastes terrible, or she won’t drink it.”

“You used your healing powers on her?” The outrage was plain on her ghost-white face. “Why that brat cannot even-”

“Are you questioning my authority, Miss Anderton?” The icy words seemed to freeze the atmosphere around them.

“Uh, no sir…no, not at all!” She hurriedly backtracked. “I only meant-”

“You only mean to speak your mind, because you cannot do otherwise when in my presence.” His voice was quiet in her ear. “I will excuse this personal prejudice against this once, need I remind you of the consequences otherwise?”

One hand clenched to a fist and her eyes strayed to the triangle shaped scar just below her thumb. She took a breath and slowly let it out, the inner struggle slowly squished. “No, sir.”

“No, sir?” He mocked.

“No…sire…” A painful expression overtook her face. “I am sorry!”

“Good.” He brushed past, standing in the hall. “You should be.”

* * * * * *

The interrogation was bathed in the familiar shades of grey that Mark so adored. He eased into the viewing room. A hallway all the way around the interrogation cell, with a stationary platform overhead to house the monitoring devices, Mark took the steps to the upper platform to watch the proceedings from the top rather than the side. The conversation was contained within through the two-way panels of blue krystal, but the monitor to his left, was accurately transmitting the verbal exchange.

Cowering on the stone table in the center of the room was the informant Cherry had mentioned. Mark bent to touch the blue krystal floor, the green fire leapt from his fingertips and spread over the designated area, magnifying the occupants within and providing a brief readout of their vital life signatures.

He frowned, then squinted at the mobile computer station to his right. It groaned for a moment, then noiselessly slid forward and smacked straight into his open palm. The green energy multiplied itself, and the computer began to process the enhanced information.

Mark frowned when the exchange was through. He pulled away from the computer and stretched, rolling his neck. So the informant was from the planet Gatos after all, but for them to have want of a designer drug from earth. A shiver overtook him and he winced, coughing before the physical reaction was under control.

“If there are Gatorians on earth,” He stared down at the pink-skinned specimen below. “Then this is going to be more of a headache than I thought!” He slammed a fist on the wall support next to him.

A door to his left slid open at once. “Yes, Mark?”

“Ben…” He turned. “Took you long enough, tell me you have good news.”

“Or else what?” Ben chuckled. “I’ve got a lead all right, and you won’t believe where it’s coming from.”

“Where?” The fire returned to his eyes.

“Check it.” Ben flipped a holo-clip into the air.

The green images sprang to life and Mark felt the last fizzle of energy explode inside of him. The earlier grimace morphed into a sickeningly sweet smile. "Perfect." He crushed the holo in his hand. "Just pefect."

© Sara Harricharan


Laury said...

Good story, Sara. Keep on writing cuz that's what you dooooo:) mmwwaa

Catrina Bradley said...

Of COURSE I have questions. (I've never read one of your stories where I don't. :)) Too many to list, but I'm sure I'll learn more next week. I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment. As for your question about Mark, there is too little at this point for me to get a good fix in his character, but I'm definitely intrigued.

Hoomi said...

I thought last week that this story seemed a bit mundane for your normal fare. I see you were just building us up for other-worldly elements to show themselves.

I suspect we'll see more of this... (and look forward to it)

Yvonne Blake said...

smile...I KNEW that special powers would come into play. I'm not a sci-fi person, but this is good.

I love you, and the wild way that you have all these characters in your head.

SORRY that I'm just getting to these now.