Here is another installment of flash fiction pieces inspired by a photo. Below you’ll see a picture of a fancy orb and further down is my story. Don’t forget to check out the other ladies to see their awesome short stories:
We were at war. Many knew this but just as much denied the wars existence. It was dubbed the “Second Cold War” due to its prevalence but quiet and mysterious nature. There were no troops an any foreign soil, at least they weren’t called troops. No fatigues, no weapons strapped to backpacks carrying pounds of supplies. No one would hear gunfire in their neighborhood or the sounds of jets flying overhead. It was more likely to see computers or TV’s flicker from lost connects, cell phones losing service, and newspaper racks empty. Information to the people was being strangled but entertainment was in vast quantities all in the name of distraction. Very few seemed to notice the changes and those who did, their concerns fell on deaf ears.
“Washington state is without power right now,” Kerry greeted me as I walked in to the office. It was 5am but it was clear from her makeup free face, untidy hair, and the circles under her eyes she had been there all night. Laid out in front of her was a map of Washington. She was making notes the old-fashioned way, paper and pen.
She leaned back in her chair, threw down her pen, and began to rub her eyes, “Korea we think. We saw some activity prior to the outage. We think Russia had a hand in it but the evidence is pointing to Korea this time.”
I lean over to see her map. Kerry and her small but precise penmanship is marking each power plant location and the exact time it went down. The time stamps show a wave rippling across the state shutting down power for millions, “They did this in the middle of the night. This was a test.”
“They are also reporting heavy rains and high wind gusts.”
“Very clever. Bad weather is a perfect shield, the few that noticed the outage would assume the weather,” I place my hand briefly on her shoulder, “Finish up here and go home. Get some rest.”
She pulls her chair back to her desk and picks up her pen, “Yes, Sir.”
The office hummed quietly. Papers were being shuffled, cabinet drawers opening and closing, files being examined across tables. In the back office the overhead light was off and only a desk lamp illuminated its occupant in a low warm light. After thirty plus years together there was no longer an expectation for permission to enter. I walked right in closing the door behind me, hanging up my coat before sitting myself in my mentors guest chair.
His eyes looked up at me, blue, watery from age. He raised his eyebrow slightly, the white hairs curly, wild and free, “You’ve heard?”
I nodded, “Washington.”
“Well Marks, it wasn’t just Washington,” He lowers his eyebrow and narrows his eyes, leaning forward over his desk, “It was Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Each goddamn northern state bordering Canada except New England. They pulsed us. Each state in a row. Bam! Bam! Bam!” pounding his fist on his desk across the desk as if it were a U.S. map.
“The population is too dense in New England from the Canadian and U.S. side. They are trying to bring something in aren’t they? Testing the power grid to distract us for when they cross. How are they getting through Canada?”
“Too many Russians in Canada,” He shakes his head, his bald head reflecting the light off his greasy scalp. “They’ve been everything but reliable. As of an hour ago there still has been no reports of power outages from our neighbors. We believe the reason why is because it is unnecessary. Whatever is passing through has a path already established through the Canadian side,” the old man looks down, closing the file in front of him. “Marks?”
“We’re old men. I should be retired and you should be behind this desk.”
I looked down at my own hands. A few fingers had arthritis setting in and my skin was translucent, blue veins popping. I looked up to meet his gaze, “This is the only life I know.”
“Me too.” He sat quietly for a moment looking at the closed file folder in front of him before finally sliding it toward me. I reached up and took it as he began to explain, “This assignment is to track down what is coming through Canada. We know what it looks like but have no idea what it is. Our intel informs us it is Chinese made.”
Opening the file I see a picture of a round ball. Almost like an over-sized gem. The light passing through it reflects a prism showing all the colors of the rainbow. The file contains possible cross over points from Russia to Canada and from Canada to the U.S., pictures of informants and a list of known Russian operatives. The last item is a brochure.
“Do you like elk?”
“Not particularly, no,” I fan through the brochure, “Elk hunting? This is my cover?”
He shrugs, “Easiest way to get you moving through Canada. Security around this object is going to be tight. We’re referring to it as ‘the orb’ for now. We need you to get us as much information as you can and keep it from getting into the United States. That’s all I have for you now. Read through everything, Haydens will be getting you set up to fly out tonight.”
“This orb may be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Are we sure it’s a weapon?”
“No, it could be nothing more than a piece of art being used as payment. It could be some new piece of technology. Perhaps it’s a part of something much bigger. We really don’t know.” Reaching up, he rubs his head, his hand looking more aged than my own, “I can rely on you, Marks. You’re seasoned. I trust you.”
I close the file and rise from chair. Both the chair and I creaked slightly. On the other side of the door I could hear the office bustling. The morning was coming underway and more agents and workers were coming in to start their day. I take my coat off the hanger and fold it over my arm, feeling far too tired for another mission. I open the door and take a step out into the brightly lit office.
“Yeah?” I turn and take one last look at my old mentor.
He sits low in his chair and smiles, “Happy hunting.”
Laughing with an husky smoker laugh, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Get out of here.”
But no sooner did I close the door was Haydens standing in front of me, pushing his thick rimmed glasses up his young narrow nose, “Agent Marks, Hi. Um, change of plans. The orb is moving and we need to go now.”
A sigh escapes my lips, “Fine then. Let’s go.”