IN THE WAY

A Chilly, Fulu, and Chuckie side mission fiction:

Pamela Meiclore Cabrella did not realize that she would be late for work until she got snarled in traffic just twenty minutes away from her office. She saw that there was a procession going on with so many people walking along and the cars that accompanied them moving in a slow pace. She swore under her breath. A procession on a main road? She clicked her car radio open. “…and be careful on Matiga Avenue today! It’s President Eran’s birthday motorcade right now, and it’s one hell of a ride,” the DJ announced, his voice slightly metallic from the slight static as the dial was not as precise in the station number.

Tangina! Fuck your birthday, Eran! And fuck your motorcade!” Pamela swore again, out loud this time. After that rant, she took a deep breath and tried to look for a way out. She was about to be late, and she couldn’t afford to be any later. Seeing a McDougal’s branch by her left, she smiled. She eased her way into the parking lot of the fast food joint and looked for an empty space. After a few moments — there! A bit further back from the main road, but she made a beeline for it and parked quickly. As soon as she turned the engine off, she grabbed her satchel, her phone, and climbed out of the car.

She walked along Matiga Avenue to her office, her high-heeled steps tak-taking hurriedly along the concrete ground. She tapped the screen of her phone and spoke, “Hello, Maby? I’m almost there. Stupid traffic kasi eh. Tell the client that I’ll be late at most ten. Give them coffee. I think we still have some cupcakes left in the fridge. Any other problems there? Okay. Prep the materials, I’ll be there soon.” She did not look at the motorcade moving its way down the avenue. Other people did, with their rubbing-necking and swaying to see the cars better. Despite her hurried pace, there was an excited tension in the air. The buzz from the onlookers grazed her ears like insects hovering around her head. “Usiseros,” she muttered.

She made her way to the footbridge where in just nearly ten minutes more, she would have reached her building. As she reached the middle of the footbridge, there was a growing cry of excitement. President Eran was in the last car! The top was open, and he was waving to the crowd as bodyguards flocked his side. Other attendants in the car threw coins and candy at the crowd, who gamely scrambled to grab them from midair or on the ground. She turned to see that the President was just a few meters away – a perfect sight as she saw him clearly.

“Fine,” she said with a faint grin as she took out her phone. “At least I have something to show later. It’ll be a nice story for the clients.” She pointed the phone’s camera at President Eran, and the screen showed him continuing to wave at the crowd.

Pamela Meiclore Cabrella did not realize that she would never arrive for work as a rifle bullet pierced the back of her skull, exited through the bridge of her nose, and went through the camera phone. She tipped forward, her upper face destroyed even as the bullet went straight through President Eran’s heart and out his back. Both man and woman fell – Pamela on the road less than ten feet below, President Eran on the back of the car. There were screams and shrieks all around as pandemonium ensued. Some of the bodyguards cradled the President and tried to revive him as others radioed for help. The crowd became a stampede, further hindering the car’s attempt to drive quickly. More shrieks erupted when some saw Pamela’s body, crumpled and bloody, on the middle of the road.

On top of a building, a couple hundred meters away, a figure was quickly disassembling a peculiar-looking rifle. Peculiar as it looked to be white and waxy in color, not the black, sleek metallic sheen of the usual weapon. Breaking it into several pieces, the figure piled these together. The figure then removed the black garment worn and revealed smooth arms and slightly-developed breasts – a female. This female then proceeded to remove her pants as well. Nearly naked but for her undergarments, she placed the clothing on top of the pile. She reached over several places in the fabric and soft cracks could be heard. As soon as the cracks sounded, white smoke wafted into the air. She then stood, watching the fabric slowly burn and melt the gun underneath. In just an hour, the rifle will be turned into a waxy mush, the fabric will become dry and brittle and blow into the wind. The current breeze ruffled the woman’s hair as she idly watched the black pile burn in its endothermic heat.

Fulu?” the right stud earring she wore crackled with Chilly’s voice. “Let’s get out of here.

Though her Handler wasn’t around, she nodded. Unconscious with her near-nakedness, she walked to the back of the building, where the fire exit steps were located. She went down a couple of stories, her head turning at the sides frequently to make sure that there was no one around, then paused at an open window. Feet first, she squeezed in, her body twisting slightly to make herself fit and dropped into a restroom cubicle. She picked up a bag near the toilet seat and pulled out some clothes, donning them quickly but quietly. Now dressed in a janitress uniform, she walked out of the cubicle, opened the locked door, and removed the “Out of Order” sign.

When Fulu turned, Chilly was already there in a similar uniform, standing quietly at the door. Chilly nodded and the two of them went into another fire exit. Their steps echoed as they went down, yet their eyes darted this way and that to look for anyone else that might be in the same stairwell as they. Several times, Chilly had to stop with a hand upraised, turning her head slightly to listen further. As soon as there was no danger, they continued on.

As soon as they reached the fifth floor, Chilly opened the door to the main hallway. She peeked to see if anyone was around. Seeing no one, she and Fulu made their way to one of the rooms. Three short knocks on the door later, it opened and they filed in.

“Open that bag, Chuckie,” Chilly turned to the young man, who held a small tablet in his hands. Chuckie quickly complied, taking a brown leather satchel bag and loosening the strings to open it. As he did so, Chilly and Fulu removed their uniforms and dumped them in it. Chuckie prudently closed his eyes and turned away as they changed into more casual clothing: blouses, a pair of pants for Fulu, a short skirt for Chilly, flats for the both of them. Chuckie hitched the bag behind him like a backpack and waited till they finished, his hands still on the tablet.

“Nothing, Chuckie?” Chilly asked. Chuckie shook his head, his eyes still closed. “We were lucky. The CCTV cameras in the hallway in this floor are busted. Still, I had to make sure and redirect the feed. We’re clean.”

“Good,” Chilly said, sighing. She then glanced at the two youngsters looking at her expectantly. “Well! Now that’s done, why don’t we get some ice cream?”

Chuckie blinked. “Huh—what? Ice cream? We need to get back,” he protested. Fulu remained quiet and impassive. “Of course, we will. After we get ice cream,” Chilly insisted. “I’ve been craving for it since last night. I want ice cream. Let’s go.” She nodded to the tablet he held. “Make sure that there are no traces of us here.” Chuckie shrugged and began tapping at the tablet screen. “Sure thing,” he said.

Minutes later, they were already out of the building through the back. The people that were supposed to be downstairs were gathered at the front, looking at the crowd as it still was chaotic. Chilly smiled. “Usiseros,” she said, “always interesting organisms, aren’t they? Such people always like to look at something so interesting, yet gruesome at the same time.” She took Fulu’s hand and glanced at them. “Now, let’s have a stroll, shall we?”

The crowd ignored them, intent on either running away from the scene or towards it. The car that had the President had already long gone, but Pamela’s body was still on the ground. The police that were there were too few and tried to bring order to the chaos, shouting contradictory orders to each other and the people around them. The team merely glanced at the people, but hurried on.

A short queue to a counter in a nearby McDougal’s branch and three orders of ice cream later, the group was quietly ensconced in one corner of the fast food restaurant. Chilly sighed and smiled while eating. “Strawberry bits heaven!” she cried and took another bite. She looked at Chuckie, who was looking at his cup. “What’s wrong? I thought you liked chocolate.”

“I do,” he said. His eyes had the look of a boy waiting to be scolded. “But won’t the Director be waiting for us and demanding where we were?”

Chilly patted the young man’s cheek. “Do you have any reason to believe that we’ll be in trouble? Do you think you missed something?” 

Chuckie shook his head. “I never miss!” he said, “I checked all the satellites and telecomm waves – no one saw Fulu. I double-checked!” Chilly smiled.

“Then you have nothing to fear,” she said. “Consider this as a reward. It’s the little things in life, Chuckie. Remember that. Look at Fulu. She’s eating her ice cream with no fuss!” Fulu was quietly eating her vanilla cup.

“There’s nothing about her to fuss,” Chuckie said petulantly. However, he picked up his ice cream and began eating. As they ate, Fulu looked up. They were seated near tall glass windows, and she could see the parking lot. There, at the furthest corner of the parking area, was a lone car.

“Fulu?” Fulu turned to Chilly’s voice. “Something wrong, love?” Fulu shook her head and dipped her spoon into her dessert again. Chilly cupped her chin in her hands and regarded her assassin. She spoke softly to her. “But you know, love? That was quite a bold move. You also killed a civilian just to get to your target.”

Fulu paused, her spoon midway to her mouth. She looked at Chilly. “She was in the way,” was her simple answer, then ate again.

The Follies of Optimism, Voltaire Style

There is a legend about how Voltaire wrote his magnum opus, Candide, which was said to have been written in three days. Now, even with no form of advanced technology during that time, it’s quite something to have written a novella in such a short time. There looks to be indication that he wrote it for a longer time, though. Nonetheless, whether he wrote it in one sitting or several, it’s clear that Candide is one of the most remarkable pieces of literature. The wit and humour he managed to inject into it only serves to emphasize the seriousness of how he has viewed the world – a view that still holds true today.

Candide is a young philosopher and bastard son of the sister of Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh (a name that makes my tongue go upsy-daisy just pronouncing it) of Westphalia, Germany. He has a tutor named Pangloss, whose philosophy is that of utmost optimism. Candide is also in love with his cousin, Cunégonde. After being caught by the Baron kissing and fondling Cunégonde, Candide is then kicked out of the castle (literally). And so his journey of discovery, hardship, misery, and just utter mayhem begins.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was a satire, that there was a deliberate manipulation of tropes, images and metaphors to say a political or philosophical point, but I could not help but be drawn more into the story. Candide looks like this lost lamb, trying to survive through the many trip ups he’s faced since he got kicked out of the castle. However, he has managed to retain some level of his “innocence” despite the less-than-fairy-tale ending. It was both with a dry chuckle and almost a painful wince while I was reading how Candide meets all these people and takes all these experiences in.

But that’s Voltaire’s intention, I guess. Isn’t any story worth its salt supposed to get you reeled into the character’s shenanigans (and what shenanigans there are here!), yet slap you with something profound at the same time? I went from laughing at the beginning of the story to sighing in the realization that I can relate to him in the end. Painfully so.

This is one of world literature’s best works, and if you haven’t read this, you’ll definitely are missing something good to read. If you’re into something ironic, then this one’s for you. 

The Onran

Another fiction piece that entered my head last night (or very early this morning, as I got to bed a bit past midnight. Why I slept late? Now’s not the time. 🙂 ) Enjoy! 

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There was something to be said about the peace that can be found in the woods. One could always enjoy the relative quiet of the woods while basking in the fresh, mountainous air. And it would be relative as the woods has its own sounds: the animals going about in finding food, sleep or shelter; the flutter of leaves as these detach from the mother tree to glide and float to the ground, the soft breeze that winds its away around the tree trunks, boulders, and rocks. It was as though your spirit is slowly being cleansed.

But then again, no one could say much about the peace here when you waited for the enemy to come.

Sakush stood on top of one of the taller trees in the area, his head and shoulders above the canopy, and gazed into the distance. He saw his falcon, Lyr, gliding in the air, a black speck in the sky. Lyr was scouting from the air as he listened intently for any sound that did not belong in the woods. The breeze merely whispered its secrets to him, but he continued to look ahead, unheeding of what the breeze may have said. He raised his fist in the air, a signal that he will return to the ground. In response, the falcon paused in her gliding and hover for a moment before continuing her flight. 

Sakush dropped down to the ground, dusted his tunic off and walked to where Mran, the Onran and the saber-panther Kira rested. He saw them in a small clearing in the woods. Mran was sitting on the ground while she wrapped linen bandages around her left forearm to secure her wrist before she put on her iron gauntlet. Kira was sitting in front of the Onran, who was weaving a little flower chain in her small hands. There was already a smaller one placed on the great cat’s head – Kira’s expression was one of quiet resignation, and Sakush couldn’t help but smile. Meanwhile, Lilon was nowhere to be found yet; he was doing his own surveillance in another part of the woods. 

He looked again at the small child who was looping flower stems into each other. Her eyes had that intensity endearing to any child who was concentrating on something. And yet, it was a contrast to what the child really was. She was the Onran – the Universe’s child, the Daughter of the Stars. And they were in the woods hiding, keeping the child safe and protected from those who would try to take her and use her powers for their own nefarious purposes. They needed to reach the Ruby Castle, a place that will protect the Onran more efficiently, as the Blood Orb was there. In the meantime, though, she was too vulnerable in the outside. 

They had been travelling for days without much rest, though, and this respite was greatly appreciated. But then, they needed to be always on alert. There was no telling just how far the enemy was behind. Or in front of them, for that matter.

“Mran,” he said to his companion. Dark brown eyes raised up to meet his green ones. “Have you heard from Lilon yet?”

The woman silently shook her head. Then, she pointed behind her in the direction where Sakush surmised Lilon did his surveillance. The woman returned to her bandaging without any more comment. Sakush sighed. “You can talk, you know,” he chided her, “your voice is fine with me.” Mran looked up again and gave a brief smile, and then she shook her head. 

“Kira pretty!” 

The Onran giggled as she placed her new flower chain on Kira’s neck. The large, black cat had lowered his head to accept the flower chain. And though he had seven-inch fangs that was dangerously close to the child as she draped the flower chain over, no one in the group, especially the Onran, was perturbed. The cat’s eyes closed as he accepted the latest gift. “Your Eminence,” Sakush said with a faint smile. He walked over to her and knelt down. “It’s not nice to tease Kira.”

“But Kira pretty, look!” the child exclaimed. She leaned over to kiss the cat’s forehead. Sakush shook his head, but he still wore the smile. The child had a big heart, perhaps even bigger than her own powers. 

Suddenly, there was a wail in the air, an almost inhuman one. Mran clambered up to stand, her hands balled up into fists and her heels digging into the ground. Even Kira suddenly pushed himself up and growled in response. The flower chains slid off his head and fell to the ground. “Lilon!” Sakush yelled as he carried the Onran in his arms.

The source of the wail appeared in a blur from the direction Mran pointed just a few minutes ago. The blur stopped and showed a man panting heavily. “Drukkars!” he exclaimed. There was another cry from the air, and this time it was from Lyr, swooping down to the group. “A platoon of them!” 

The reaction was immediate. Mran donned the rest of her armour as Sakush rushed closer to Lilon. He put the child in Lilon’s arms even as he instructed, “Stay here, Your Eminence.” The child smiled at him, her face filled with absolute trust. “Here we go,” Lilon said. His body grew bigger and became transparent. It was as though he was turning to glass. Even as he changed, the Onran was slowly pushed into the man’s body. Lilon looked like a human-shaped bottle, now four times his former size. The Onran even giggled as she floated within the man’s body. Safely ensconced inside him, Lilon began to run in the opposite direction, away from the Drukkars.

Meanwhile, Sakush threw two darts from both sides. One hit a tree trunk; the other landed on the ground. The darts trembled where they fell and the area around it bulged and grew. It turned into humanoid shapes with empty eyes and gaping maws. “Play!” the one made from tree bark moaned. Sakush grinned. “You’ll have your fill soon, children,” he said. With a quick gesture, Sakush made the two creatures him and Lilon as they ran.

Last was Mran, who stood quietly facing the direction of where the enemy will come from. Her armour was in plated silver and iron, the shoulder blades looking like great dragon claws. She lifted her arms and banged her gauntlet-covered fists together. A sudden boom erupted from it, and sparks flew from her fists. The sparks grew and lengthened. With another loud boom, a huge silver hammer appeared in her hands. The stem was as long as her body, and its head was nearly similar to an ale barrel. Despite its size, she lifted it as though it weighed nothing and started to spin it above her head. A deep whooshing sound filled the air as she spun her hammer. The leaves on the trees and the grass on the ground swayed and bent from the wind generated from her action. Yet, she continued to stand still.

From the shadows in one part of the woods, several inky black shapes emerged. They were the mindless minions of those who wanted the Onran. As huge as the average man, the creatures had long, sinewy necks that ended in a snake-like head with a mouth filled with razor teeth. Four massive legs enabled the creatures to move swiftly yet quietly, like the salamanders from which they were patterned. A long, muscular tail completed the look – a tail able to lash out like a whip to either stun its enemies or knock them to the ground before leaping on them to devour. 

The first handful burst out, their maws open in a strange hiss-roar as they charged towards Mran. Without changing expression, Mran swung her hammer down and to the direction of the Drukkars.

WHOOM!

There was several snaps and thuds from the creatures’ bodies as the wind generated from Mran’s hammer slammed into them. A couple were even thrown off and smashed into the trees. The first wave dealt with, Mran began to run as well.