Here is the first chapter of Swell, the first book that I published. For those of you that would like to read it, you can find links to it here.
Saturday, June 26
“You ever wake up one day and think ‘Today is the day that everything is going to change?’ I mean like really change, the kind of change that did in the dinos, wiped out the mammoths, ate the dodos?”
“Dude, no more anime for you! Just because we’re all on the way to Japan doesn’t mean that something daunting is going to happen that requires the rise of a champion to lead the starved, beaten, and weary to victory against all odds, Jake!” Mick Renalds retorted with a snort from his window seat. Blond hair, blue eyes, 23, and pushing 6″5′ and with a physique that would make a mountain troll princess swoon, he was about as opposite as you could get from Jake. But, like the dreamer next to him, he was on his way to Japan to work as an English Assistant Teacher or EAT for short. He was also a realist. Had he watched his fair share of Anime? You bet. And he enjoyed tearing holes in the plots. Yah, sometimes things happen which stand convention on its head but all that really is, is the undeniable truth making its presence known. Try to tell that to a dreamer like Jake and you were in for a long argument with someone that could almost make the unbelievable sound believable. Imagine if he ever learned the truth.
He wasn’t quite sure how Jake could do it but on the drop of a dime, he could lead you down a most plausible sounding rabbit hole and then drag you not only through Wonderland but make you accept that you weren’t tripping and that the Caterpillar was actually a larval telepathic alien that was learning about how messed up the human psyche really was. In a lot of ways, it was a wasted talent. Had Jake ever applied himself to something like politics or business, he would have been a force to reckon with. Alas, every time I even mention such an idea to him, he gets a dead serious look on his face and says something like ‘You do not want a person like me in a position like that. I might just succeed.’ Which is probably for the best. Honest dreamers meet bad ends and things could become ticklish for his continued existence should he show up on others radar. He sighed giving his friend a sideways look. Some secrets are best left sleeping.
One of these days something is going to happen that shatters that protective dome of reality that Mick relies so heavily upon. I only hope that it isn’t to his detriment when it does. Because I’d hate for Mick to be dodo-ized. “Where’s you sense of adventure man?” Jake Jameson said with a frown, shaking his head.
Jake was the epitome of normal looking. Look in the dictionary for a picture of average white American and there he was. 5″10′, short brown hair, with an average, if slightly athletic, build. Check, yep normal. The only thing a little different was his eyes. They were a marbled hazel green that gave those that stared the feeling that a swirling galaxy was gazing into their soul. He also looked a good five years younger than he actually was at 26. He’d never could decide if that was a good or bad thing.
“What do you call what we are about to do?” Mick demanded. Considering what they were currently doing, Jake’s question made little sense. “It’s not like you, me, and the fifty or so others with our group alone, aren’t moving to another country where the culture, language, and environment are starkly different from anything most of us have experienced before! Some of us may even stay and start whole new lives here!” he said, watching as his chastisements bounced harmlessly off of Jake’s chipper mood.
“Well, yah. But that’s a little adventure. I’m waiting for the big one to come along!” Jake replied, practically bouncing up and down in his seat with anticipation. He couldn’t really explain it but somewhere deep down, maybe in his atoms themselves, there was something that screamed that there was more, much more, out there than mankind had ever imagined. “or forgotten,” the voice whispered, half heard, in his head. He did his best not to think about that. The voice had been there for as long as he could remember but he had been smart enough not to let anyone know after that one time he had freaked out his family. He didn’t want people thinking he was crazy.
“Well let’s hope that your grand adventure is kind enough to wait until we land in Japan. I don’t have any desire to wind up like those people in the TV show having a shared final delusion. Oh, and wake me when we land!” Mick asked, promptly passing out before the Jet had even taken off.
Oh the injustice of it. Down with those strange mutants who can sleep on planes. Oh well, let’s see what movies they have for us today? The screen cut out just as he reached for it.
“This is your Pilot speaking. Please give you attention to the safety video and the flight-attendant as we prepare to take off. This flight should take ten and a half hours. Unfortunately, there is a typhoon inbound on Japan that will be adding some turbulence and may cause a slight delay, but we expect to land around four on Sunday afternoon. Thank you for flying Allen Air,” the announcement cut out and the safety-video started as the fight-attendants pantomimed along.
Typhoon? That wasn’t on the weather forecast
this morning? Hum. Maybe it’s a good thing Mick was asleep for that. He may be
able to quote the statistics, but that lizard part of his brain refuses to
believe them. ‘Man was not meant to fly!’ Oh, well. Wait was that a cat on a
Roomba I just saw?
Bump, Bump, Boom
Sunday, June 27
Mick had not gotten much sleep for the last two hours of the approach into Tokyo. No one but the dead had and even theirs probably wasn’t that peaceful. To say that the turbulence was bad would have been an understatement on par with saying that they only hadn’t crashed yet because the wind was so strong that they couldn’t fall from the sky. The seatbelt light had been on full time and the two fools that had tried to get up had found themselves bouncing off the ceiling of the fuselage as the jet had hit a particularly bad spot and suddenly dropped several thousand feet in altitude. In fact, that was the only reason they were being allowed to land instead of being diverted. Compound fractures, a punctured lung, and blood loss tend to have that effect. The restless dead man didn’t help either. Well, that and the fact that with the way the headwinds kicked in, we have to be flying on less than fumes. One way or the other, we are coming down.
“Well Mick, it looks like we won’t end up like those folks in the show. According to the map we are over Japan now. Granted we still need to land. Preferably on land and on a runway. Bad things happen when jets do crunchies on buildings and with these waves a water landing would be pure suicide. In one piece would be nice but alive will do,” Jake said as the jet began to shudder, emphasizing just how dubious that proposition was quickly becoming. There was no doubt that they would be on the ground here soon, but in one piece? Well, that was another question altogether.
The jet jerked again, eliciting a moan of pain from mister ‘seatbelt signs don’t mean nothing and a bit of flopping limbs from the dead one.
“Jerk!” Mick retorted, white knuckled and holding onto his seat for dear life.
“Attention!!! We are now banking in for our landing. Remain seated! And a little prayer might be a good idea,” the Pilot gritted out. You could hear the strain in his voice from hours of fighting like a one-armed strongman trying to bench a squirming elephant in freefall to control the jet. In fact, if you listened at all, you could hear the strain going through the fuselage in shudders, creaks, groans, and what sounded distinctly like cracking and rivets popping.
If he gets much whiter, he’ll either be a ghost or a pop star. Though at this rate we might all be right there along with him. What fun. Jake smiled gleefully as he looked over at Mick.”You see, if you had a little faith, that would have given you a little reassurance. For today is either your time or it’s not!” he explained in a most matter-of-fact tone. In the end that is what it always comes down to!
“Dude, you are so not helping,” Mick growled, through clenched teeth, worried about bighting his tongue as he glared at his ‘friend.’ Why did I ever think being his friend was a good idea? Oh, because usually he is only an amusing amount crazy.
Jake just had time to grin and glance out the window behind Mick, recording everything on his phone, before a sudden gust swatted the jet almost 45̊ off of the course it had been on. Which was bad. It was only made worse by the fact that the jet had been about to go wheels down. This meant that where the jet, by some miracle, had been coming in almost straight on with the runway, it was now coming in just shy of sideways. Before the Pilot had a chance to correct, the jet touched down and things were going good. For about .003 seconds. Then the right-side landing gear collapsed in a screech of torn metal and exploding pneumatics and hydraulics. Granted, it was barely audible over the screaming of the passengers. The wing quickly followed suit, folding under in gouts of flames that would have done a cranky dragon proud as the Jet tumbled over it. It was soon joined by the other wing as the jet completed the roll and it too snapped off. Surprisingly the fuselage had been taking it pretty well so far but being treated like a seesaw over two wings was more than it could take. Just behind the rear wing joint, a third of the way back in coach, and right in-front of where Jake and Mick were sitting, the two halves of the fuselage separated. It was a bad day for the pilots and first classers as they rolled away and right into a fuel truck. Jake only got a glimpse of the ensuing fireball as they continued to roll over. The two halves had been separating in a more or less V-pattern. After several more rotations, Jake’s half began to slow and finally came to a stop with them sitting at only a slight angle with the storm baring its fangs directly into their faces. Seeing as how the rows in-front of them had torn free they were now effectively moved to the first-class and had plenty of extra legroom.
“I’ve always wanted to fly first-class. Now that I’m here, I don’t see what all of the hype is about.” Jake turned in his seat and smiled to Mick. “Well, we’re on the ground, we crashed in a storm, and on an island in the Pacific. Yep, sounds just like that show. Pinch me quick and see if this is a hallucination,” Jake joked as he stopped the recording he’d been making on his phone since just before things went sideways, horizontally so. Getting out of his seat, he pulled his Indiana Jones style leather messenger bag out of the overhead and grinned out into the fury of the storm. As the lightning flashed, Mick could see him clearly – and even the devil himself, after reaping a world, would have been scared to tread near him.
Jake sighed and basked in the fury and power of the storm for a moment longer, almost feeling like the energy of it was soaking into his very bones. It strangely felt like home. The moment passed and he returned to the here and now and what he needed to do. His other luggage was either down below or it was in the other half being consumed by the flames along with everything and everyone else. Not that he was going to go crawling through the bowels of the plane looking for it, and truth be told, he couldn’t care less about his other luggage. He had his bag, which had taken him years to find and afford, and that was enough.
Mick barely acknowledged – his remark. It was clear that he wasn’t ready to move yet but the excitement was killing Jake, and after fourteen hours in the Jet, most of it sitting, he needed to move, so he waved and made his exit.
The flashing lights of the emergency vehicles were just starting to be visible through the wall of lukewarm water falling around him as he climbed out and down the jagged tear to the ground.
Unsurprisingly, he was alone when he reached the ground. Mick and the others were just starting to come to grips with the fact that they were still alive-ish and he was the only one present as the response vehicles congregated around him. There was little to be done for those in the other half of the jet, except watch as the storm doused the flames. He took a few more pictures of the scene just for the memory of it, and as proof should the conversation ever come up again.
“Get the people off of the jet, be on the lookout for injuries or people going into shock. You! I don’t know how you got here so fast or who you bribed for a ride, but until we see to the safety and recovery of the passengers, the media is strictly prohibited,” the response crew Chief bellowed.
It took Jake a moment to realize that the comment had been directed at him. “Oh, I’ll be happy to leave, but I’m a passenger, not a reporter,” he shouted back, while trying to keep a fit of only slightly maniacal laughter under control and slipping his phone back into his pocket before it was ruined by the rain or confiscated.
Passenger? Passengers aren’t supposed to self-extract from a crash like this. He even has his bag! Lying piece of trash reporter! “You expect me to believe…” Chief started as he closed on Jake. He was just short of jabbing his finger into Jake’s chest when a ticket stub appeared in the air between them and halted his jab like some kind of talisman.
“I have my ticket. My friend is still up there in… Well, I guess first-class, seeing as how our seats are now the front row. First time I’ve ever been in the first-class seats. I don’t get what all the hype is about, it’s awfully breezy. And wet.” He scowled at his sodden clothes and the scum-pond-warm rain. “I doubt I’ll recommend it to anyone else after this experience. Anyways, I tried to get him to come with me, but I think he is still coming to grips with life, mortality, the number 42, and all of those other things that a near death experience elicits in some people. He’s a stout sort with the thews of an Ogre and face of a cherubim with a tooth-ache. I expect that he will recover shortly. In the meantime, I’d like to get out of this downpour,” he explained to the befuddled looking chief who was still glaring disbelievingly at his ticket. “I think I’ll need that back to get through customs,” he prompted.
“Yah, umm, one of those people over there is seeing to transporting the passengers,” he said, handing back the ticket.
“Thank you. Jake smiled as he plucked his ticket free and wizarded it away in as safe of a place as he could. Crash or no, he was still going to need to get through immigration and customs. At least it isn’t cold. Warm Typhoon? Who knew? Although, I never thought I would wish for cold rain. This lukewarm stuff is nasty. Thankfully, it was only a short walk to the busses.
“So, I hear this is where we wait for a lift out of this soup?” Jake asked one of the people waiting idly by the shuttle-busses. He was thoroughly soaked by that point, but there wasn’t much to be done for it. His jacket was in his checked bags which were either okay or were burned to a crisp.
“Huh? Oh! We didn’t think they would get anyone off quite that fast. If you don’t mind waiting, take a seat and we’ll shuttle you in once we have a group together,” the driver said, popping the shuttle bus doors completely open to let him on.
“Don’t mind much at all. Ya wouldn’t happen to know if immigration is still open? I’d like to get my foreigner card if at all possible and get off to a hotel. A change of clothes would be swell also,” Jake asked taking a seat behind the driver.
“I think they are. At least they should be for about another hour. Your flight was supposed to be the last one in until the storm passed, and we were going to shut down for safety right afterwards,” the driver answered, pulling off his cap and scratching his head in thought. “Forget it. The terminal’s right there and it will probably be a while before anyone else shows up. I’ll run you over there if you’d like.”
“That would be great!” Jake answered as the driver started towards the terminal.
“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way… But aren’t you a little too calm for someone who just walked away from a life or death experience?” he asked, making somewhat idle chit-chat.
Is not being an emotional train wreck after a major accident really that strange? Well, put that way, I guess it is. Then again, there was that time I went over a cliff and only lived because of a fallen tree; and that time I was in that head-on roll-over and walked away without a scratch. Yep, I am a little odd. “I guess. But the way I figure it, we really don’t have much control over things in the grand scheme of things. All you can really do is live every day in a manner that you won’t regret tomorrow,” Jake explained as best he could.
The driver turned to stare for a moment. “How old are you?”
“26” Jake stated with a slightly quizzical look. Why do people always ask that?
Too stinking young to be thinking that way! And he looks even younger than that. The driver started to ask another question but was cut short by their arrival at the terminal. “Well, I’d like to chat more, but this is your stop and I need to be getting back before the Chief throws a conniption fit. He’s a real stickler for rules and procedures, but he’s no fool or bureaucrat and has a healthy, if dry, sense of humor.” He opened the door to let Jake off and followed him out to unlock the man door which was kept locked for security. “Welcome to Japan, and I hope your stay is much more relaxing then your arrival.”
Jake gave him a velociraptor grin. “You kidding? I hope that this is just the start of my journey and it only ramps up from here. Talk about an epic start to an epic adventure.”
The door slipped from the driver’s grip and swung closed. There was something there. I could see it in his eyes. It wasn’t crazy but it was a darned close cousin. I wonder what the world looks like through his eyes. On second thought… No. No, I really don’t want to know. Some things man was just not meant to know.
Well, time to get a move on before I get interdicted in the airport overnight. Those airport chairs are a real pain in the back, butt, neck, body… Mick should have a great time. He chuckled darkly as he pictured Mick hanging over both ends of a bench, trying to get some sleep. Being normal sized definitely does have its advantages. Although, here I guess I’m above average. That thought spread his grin even wider and he started to whistle as he walked through the deserted halls of the airport, the motion lights flipping on a step ahead of him like a cheap horror movie. Yes, life is good.
The signs for immigration were big and he had no problems following them. Being the last flight in and the first one off had its perks; there was no need to wait in lines. The agents were a little startled when he wandered in alone, and if not dripping wet, then still soggy.
“Sir?” One of the agents asked, walking up to him. “Where did you come from?” All of the agents were actively staring at the strange apparition that had manifested from the dark.
Jake didn’t mind. Although, he was more than a little amused to have caught the agents completely by surprise. “The plane that just landed,” he answered, with a slightly wry smile.
The agent looked over his shoulder at the others who looked just as baffled as he felt. “We haven’t had any planes land or take off for hours.”
Jake understood their confusion, but that didn’t keep him from enjoying it and he barked a course laugh. “My bad, a little dark humor. You know the whole ‘any landing you walk away from thing,'” he explained, pulling out his ticket and documents and handing them over.
The agent took one look at them and blanched. What in the world is this guy doing here? Did he get thrown free and somehow manage to find an open door and wander in? Is he a ghost? Sir, I’m just checking, but are you sure you are absolutely all alright? You do realize that you were just in a major crash?” he asked, loud enough to cue in the other agents who were now practically staring lasers of disbelief and a few of fear.
“Yes,” Jake answered with as straight of a face as he could manage, which was tough when you were cracking up on the inside. Why does everyone seem to doubt my sanity tonight? Well, I guess I know why but I still don’t understand it. “I had a front row seat for a good chunk of it. Is this going to complicate immigration in some way?”
For the life of him, the agent felt that there was something frightfully askew with the current situation. Even more wrong than the wreckage still smoldering out in the storm as people were ushered out of the other section. But there was no rule barring, one ‘Jake Jameson’ he read the ticket, from passing through immigration. So, being a good bureaucrat, he did what came naturally to his race and stalled. “You do realize that your checked baggage will not be available for pick-up at this time?” he asked.
“Yes, I figure that there’s only a fifty-fifty chance that it hasn’t been destroyed. Be nice if it hasn’t, but I expect, given everything that has happened, that if/when its whereabouts become known, it will get to me. Any other issues? I figure that if I can get out of here soon enough, I’ll be able to buy some dry clothes before the stores close tonight,” Jake answered. And waited, letting his eyes hold those of the agent. He didn’t know why, but that seemed to unnerve the man.
“No,” the agent squeaked, breaking eye contact and fighting to keep his feet as he felt like an ant about to get belly flopped by a blue whale.
Jake gave a little cough to get his attention back. “So, I’m free to go ahead then! Which lane?” he asked shouldering his bag and straightening his sodden clothes as best he could.
“Eto?” Wanting to run with every fiber of his being, the agent cast his gaze around and waved towards Lane 2. “Lane two, if you please,” he said, before he realized it.
Lane two shot him a look that definitely said ‘are you crazy? And why are you getting me involved in this!’
Jake ignored the exchange and made his way over, set down the necessary paperwork, and waited. Again. I hate airports!
The gate agent stopped glaring at the flabbergasted agent and turned his attention to Jake, picking up the papers and passport and began processing the information out of habit. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather wait for the others and have someone give you a once over?” The agent asked, glancing up at Jake, before pressing enter.
“I’m alive, I’m wet, and a little hungry. I’m not in shock and I am showing no signs of internal or external injury. I could use a drink, a shower, real food, and some dry clothes. So yes, I’m sure that I would rather leave now than get caught up in all the red tape that is undoubtedly going to be flying all over the place here soon,” he answered, letting just a hint of sarcasm and agitation into his voice.
The agent cringed and fought down an inexplicable urge to hid under his desk. I’m so going to get chewed out over this. He pressed enter instead, wanting the apparition before him gone more. A minute later Jake’s residence card spit out and he handed it over along with the explanation and directions sheet. He pointed at a circled section. “Be sure to register your address within 14 days at your city office,” he instructed, out of habit. “Welcome to Nihon.”
This was not Jake’s first rodeo. He’d been through immigration in Japan once before and knew the drill. Although the scared animal routine was new. The storm and crash must have them really freaked out. He put the fresh, still hot, card away in his cold damp wallet and opened his bag for the first time since landing to put away his paperwork. Well, at least my computer and camera seem to have survived intact. I’ll have to check them over later to be sure.
Customs was similar to immigration except that the agent called in his boss this time.
“You do realize that you were in a major accident?” Boss asked to the emphatic nodding of the agent that had called him over.
“Yes, and I understand that the whereabouts of my remaining luggage are unknown at this time, which is why I’m asking for the customs form to have it forwarded to me or to be notified of its loss as soon as its disposition is determined. In the meantime, it’s been a long day and there are still hours to go before it will be over. Are the busses still even running?” Jake asked as the realization that, given weather that could – and had – swat a jet out of the air, they may have halted service. He had a momentary vision of cartwheeling buses mowing down the highway and smiled.
“I think they were holding one for your group’s arrival, but I’m not sure if it’s still here. And the trains down because of the wind and flooding. There might be an intrepid taxi hanging around for a desperate fare?” The boss explained. Wait, why am I telling him his options for leaving when I’m trying to convince him that that is an ill-conceived idea.
“Well, worst case is I get stuck in the terminal until service picks up again but those are the breaks. So, am I clear to exit customs?” Jake prodded.
“Uh?” Dang-it! There’s nothing I can hold him on. Letting him through just seems so wrong. “Welcome to Japan and I hope you have a pleasant stay,” he said, reluctantly waving him through.
“Heh, people keep saying that. Thanks!” Jake answered with a little smirk and shake of his head as he entered the main terminal.
He threw on his sticker badge that showed he was part of the cultural exchange group. There were a surprising number of people waiting out there. Must have been here to meet friends and family. Oh wait, that one’s a driver. Make that friends, family, and business. Don’t think his fare will be showing up. Now where’s the CE-J (Culture Exchange Japan) group flagger. Ah, there’s a sign. Yep, the shirt matches. Best make myself known.
Eyes were starting to turn in his direction as those in the waiting area began to take notice of his arrival and passenger status. They had a hungry, almost rabid look in their eyes for information. He didn’t much like it. So, he quickly slipped amongst them to be lost in the crowd.
It was a small crowd! A little hard to get lost in when he, at average height for an American, still stood a head above most of them. The first hand caught his sleeve and a cell phone screen with a picture of a young man blocked his path.
“Have you seen this person? Did they make it? Are they okay?” The person begged, starving for any ray of hope and on the verge of tears.
Crap! I knew I was forgetting something. I just became the only source of info that these people have access to. Best to be direct and broad in this circumstance. He was just about to speak up when a video camera, its crew and a reporter, showed up. The CE-J had also taken notice and was moving in. They were going to have a fight on their hands if they attempted an extraction without him saying at least something. But, if he did, that camera was going to have it airing before he even cleared the terminal.
“Excuse me,” Jake asked too little avail. “Excuse me!” He projected just short of a shout. The crowed quickly stilled as every eye turned on him. That got their attention. Why can’t people use their indoor voices? He could see the blasted red recording light flicker on. I hate attention. Wonder if that is a strange thought for someone who is supposed to be supporting culture exchange? Well, question for another time. Let’s get this over with.
“Yes, I was on the jet. I was in the coach section three rows back from the wing. I don’t know how anyone ahead of me is. As a majority, those behind me seemed okay in general! Maybe a little in shock but alive from what I could see. If you have any specific questions you will need to ask the responders or the authorities,” Jake answered as clearly as he could without hanging himself out to dry by saying something wrong. Like that I’m 99.73% sure that everyone ahead of my section on the plane is dead. Oh, no. To utter such a thing would see me crucified even if it’s true. The media would find some way to make it my fault.
While the crowd was still digesting the news, Jake gave a quick bow and made for the coordinator who was in just as much of a daze as the rest of the crowd. “Excuse me,” he said to get their attention as he neared, “I would greatly appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind telling me where I’m supposed to go. It’s been a rather long day and I’ve never been too fond of airports,” he prodded then snapped his fingers in front of their face when they didn’t respond. They flinched away but the distant look had left their eyes and they were now leerily looking at him.
“Umm?” The CE-J director started. What the hell? This wasn’t covered in the training. Lost luggage? Yep, we got you covered. Feeling sick? Got that too. They even covered arrests for contraband in customs. But freak storms, crashed jets, missing and traumatized people. Nope that was not covered. Deep breath. Stay focused. One bag? Start with the easy stuff. “Is that all of your luggage?” She asked. It sounded like a really stupid question, but it was something she knew how to handle.
Is this the only thing anyone knows how to ask? “For now, this is all I have. My other bags’ disposition is unknown,” Jake answered, shrugging.
“Well, there is a form you can fill out for lost luggage pick-up/delivery. If you’ll follow me, we can get it filled out. I hope you still have your baggage claim stubs?” she asked, looking over her shoulder to check that he was following and understood.
“Right here,” Jake said patting his pocket with his passport and other flight related documents as he followed the director out of the danger zone, smiling as the song started in his head.
Seeing as he was the only person looking to process through, the paperwork was going faster than usual. Even with the pesky sheeple questions. I’m a little surprised that no one has directly questioned my sanity. As if summoned from the depths of Tartarus itself, the exit doors were flung aside and the Chief from the crash site bore down on him.
And I almost made it. Three steps and I could have been out the door and on my merry way, but no, we can’t have that now can we! Grr, there had better not be bacon in the soap! Not now when I have come so far. Soap would be nice though. I’d kill for a shower right now. That and a dry pair of boxers. Wet wedgies are the worst.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” he demanded. The CE-J director tried to interpose but was quickly cowed, practically mooing, with a simple glare from the chief as he blew by her.
Crap! There’s bacon in the soap. I was afraid that something like this would happen. “I wasn’t aware that there was any reason why I needed to stay?” Jake said, playing coy. In actuality, there were any number of reasons he could think of as to why he wouldn’t be allowed to leave, but that didn’t mean he had to share them. Best to throw the ball back in his court and make him think up a few of his own and see what I have to work with.
“Are you crazy or something. People do not simply walk away from major crashes and go about their business like nothing happened. There’s legal paperwork, questions and information to be gathered, and last but not least, a check-up to make sure that you are truly fit to be up and moving around. And that’s just the basics!” Chief barked but quickly recovered before the growl became too prominent.
Someone finally asked if I’m crazy. That makes me a little happy for some reason. I wonder if that is a good or a bad sign? The crooked smile and twinkle in his eyes only made him look slightly maniacal as he responded. It was his natural response to stress. Mick had once told him that it made him look like a madman and all of those gathered around him now would have agreed or said that that was being polite. Psycho would have put down his axe and ran had he been there. “I see. So, let’s just see if we can clear that up. Can we count the fact that I have been up, walking around and handling a slew of different situations without problem as my check-up? As to the paperwork… I hope that you’ll understand that I will be refraining from signing anything until I have rested in a real bed, not some cot that you have set up in a temporary holding area where I’ll wake up more exhausted then I went to sleep, and have had time to thoroughly read through the documents. If you like I could just hand them over to the media folks over there and let their legal folks do all the legwork for me? Oh, and to cover the questions that you may have, I might as well hand over the recording of the crash that I made on my phone to the media people too. It should cover any of your technical questions,” Jake answered. Still smiling, but the shimmer in his eyes would have shattered diamonds.
The chief noticed both the smile and the little twinkle of something, not quite crazy but close, maybe a crazy level of sanity, in Jake’s eyes that promised he would go through with the threat that he had made. It sent a slight shiver down his spine and made him want to cover his ears. But he hadn’t gotten to his position by being timid. “I could hold you!” he threatened back.
“And I could shout as you attempt to and draw those media vultures into the fray! I would prefer, as I’m sure you also would, not to get any more involved with them than absolutely necessary. I hope that you took note that I kept my comments as vague as possible?” Jake played along. They both knew the game and the end result. The real issue wasn’t his leaving, but that he hadn’t asked for permission or waited for the okay by the Chief. He’d stepped on the big dog’s authority and that rankled him.
Dang! He has me by the scruff and he knows it. The media would just love watching me drag off an obviously distraught survivor. Especially after they already have him on film, for all the world to see, looking calm and collected. The cracked eggs from the flight that we already have are bad enough and then there are those namby-pambies who are complaining about being threatened by that brute. Now there was a dangerous fellow.
“The bus will be pulling out shortly so that it doesn’t get stuck in road closures,” the coordinator prompted at just the right/wrong moment.
“I need a copy of your passport, residence card, and hotel address. And contact info for where you will be after departing from the hotel!” Chief demanded, seeing that he had already lost.
Gotcha! Jake smile broadened just a hint as he quickly provided the requested information.
“Wait! Video of the whole crash?” Chief asked, as that little piece of info registered.
Oops! Jake pulled out his phone and the cable. “You have a computer handy?” he asked.
The chief waved at a lackey-Klingon-puppy with a computer bag and commandeered a baggage check counter in the lobby. He stepped aside after it had booted up and waved Jake to proceed.
Jake downloaded the file and hit play. It really was a short video. From when he started it, about a minute before touchdown, when it had looked like things might get interesting, to when he stopped it, as he got out of his seat, was only about three minutes long. It really didn’t show all that much and to say it was a little jittery, what with the spinning and shaking, was a bit of an understatement, but it was still surprisingly clear. Anti-jitter software sure has come a long way. “Well that’s it!”
The CE-J director poked him to confirm that he was real. The rest just stared.
“Boo,” Jake said, throwing his arms up suddenly. Most of them jumped.
“There is something seriously wrong with you!” Chief stated, he hadn’t jumped but the new puddle next to puppy was a little disconcerting.
“Maybe,” Jake agreed. “I prefer to think that it’s the other way around. You can decide for yourself, but, in the meantime, I really would like to catch that bus!”
“I should hold you for a psych-eval, but I am a little afraid of what the results would be,” Chief answered. “Against my better judgment, you are free to go. If we have any further need to talk with you, or if your luggage is retrieved, we’ll be in-touch.”
“Thank you. And I do really mean this when I say it – thank you for all the work you have done and I hope it isn’t as bad as it looked,” Jake replied as he headed for the bus with a wave.
If only it was only as bad as it looked.
Compared to everything that had happened already, the ride on the bus was rather long and uneventful. He was the only passenger and, what with the typhoon, the road kept going from almost empty to seriously packed. What should have been an hour and a half ride took almost two and a half. In spots he’d been rather worried that the bus was going to have to find an alternate route when the water was running high. Unlike on flights, he could usually sleep on buses, but what with the stop and go traffic and the rain beating an orc war drum on the roof, that had proven impossible.
Exhausted but still wet, he headed for the check-in desk. Dreading the conversation, he knew was about to come. And I’m still going to have to brave the storm again and see about finding some clothes to hold me over. So much for that spare cash I brought along. I wonder if there’s a Uniqlo around? Best ask.
“No, I am not a ghost, a bum or lost…”
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