One: “Enchantment”

Source: Merc’s Personal Log:


Section – Evening:

The slender woman leans against the kitchen counter washing dishes. An overhead lamp casts light on her work in an otherwise dark room, backlighting her silhouette. Outside the window over her sink, darkness obscures everything except the reflection of her pretty face framed by her soft hair. Her vacant eyes concentrate beyond the pane.

She glances down at the tap water gliding over her slender fingers and the dinner plate she holds. Her other hand caresses the surface in slow, deliberate circles. Dark hair cascades down her bare back, ending below her waist, and covering much of her provocative nightgown. Her attention again focuses beyond the window as she scrubs the dish.

“Smile.” The room lights ignite.

The young woman tenses. Pivoting her head toward the voice sends a wave down her silky hair from her shoulders to the top of her long legs. Her lips press together as her eyes roll upward. She begins a slow shake of her head. “Merc Izzar. Must you record everything?”

“I’m starting to, Sam. Recording everything is how the project works. Problem?”

“Yes, dear. Problem. Intimate moments are fragile. Their essence dissolves when a jerk with a recorder intrudes.”

“But…” Merc hesitates. “But, you’re doing dishes. Intimate moments don’t include dishes.”

She turns to face him, allowing his image to reflect in the dark window. Her backside relaxes against the counter as her eyelids flutter. Her long fingers comb the full length of her hair to hang in front of her nightgown. Sam lowers her voice and whispers to him. “They don’t?” She drops her head somewhat to gaze through her eyelashes, her azure eyes lock into his eyes. “Oh…” She coos with a sweet, breathy voice. “You could find dishes v-e-r-y intimate.”

She lifts her arms toward Merc, her fingers dangling. Gentle strokes from the fingertips of one hand glide across the back of her other hand and up her arm. “Imagine how I feel while soft ripples of warm water flow over and along my skin. I savor the sensation of long, sensual strokes as soapsuds smooth my hand’s caresses. The splashing water from the tap masks sounds from beyond my own thoughts.

“My concentration focuses on the warmth and the soothing caress. For a moment, my feelings build to overwhelm me. I slide deep into the erotic world within my own mind. Yes… yes, oh…  yes!”

Reflecting in the dark window, Merc’s rugged stature sags a bit. He stands in silence to absorb the image she offered. After a few moments, he gulps, whimpers, and inhales a long breath. “I’m glad you reminded me. You need to cut back on wasting water. I got an over-limit alert about our water consumption.”

Sam snaps to her full height, presses her lips tight, and smacks her hands against her sides. With a flick of her head, a soft wave flows through her ebony hair to the ends. Her eyes stab Merc with her glare. “After what I described, your male reaction is to express your concern over the water I’m wasting?”

“Uh, you’re right, honey. We should finish here and get to bed. Remember, tomorrow is your big day.”

She tosses her hands in the air and turns her back on him to rinse another dish. “Tomorrow isn’t much of a day for me. The demonstration is David’s big day, his big show. He bought tomorrow’s news coverage to promote his invention. I’m the engineer for David’s Pod revelation. In the past several days, I rode the Pod across the test track innumerable times to prepare for his announcement. Tomorrow, I’ll be bored. I’m there because he tells me attractive girls sell ideas.”

“Fine. Umm, when does your part happen?”

“David scripted the whole demonstration. My commitment starts in the morning. After I cross, I perform a cute script for an interview. I get the rest of the day off when I finish. Do you want to do something later?”

“Maybe we could come home and wash dishes?”

Sam turns toward Merc, propping one bare hip against the counter edge, she tilts her head, smiles, and winks.

“You know, shut your recorder off, and we could do dishes now.”

“You mean…  now?”

Merc’s question causes her to lift one eyebrow.

“Oh, you do mean NOW.”

The image goes dark.

Source: Air Check:

Section – The News continues:

A man perches on a tall stool. One foot rests on a rung, and the other toe touches the floor. His hands cross as they rest on the lap of his impeccable suit. His clean-shaven, blemish free face presents robust, balanced features. His haircut is perfect. He smiles to expose his perfect teeth. The image is too real to be real. “Welcome back.” Confidence resonates in his voice. “You are watching Global News Network. I am Brice Orone. Up next, our social magazine, Changing the World.”

The GNN theme swells. Behind him, a spinning globe animation morphs into a spherical company logo. He turns aside and comments to someone off-set while his mic is dead.

As the intro concludes, Brice talks to the camera. “Today, ‘Changing the World’ reports a new innovation from David Banks Enterprises. We continue our coverage of Banks Enterprises on their rise from a promising startup to a global corporation. They develop and introduce Eco-friendly solutions for industrial processes causing climate damage. Their developments make them the leader in innovative, positive impact, life-enhancing products.

“New technology is the focus of today’s story. Banks Enterprises is building a service, which could shepherd the beginning of a new way of life for billions of people traveling inside and between our communities. We join him to witness the next phase of Banks Enterprises’ continuing effort to promote Eco-responsible technology. His latest offering is a system providing general access to easy transportation within cities. Citizens can leave their own vehicles home.

“The automated transportation uses a small car they call a Pod. Driverless Pods would be available to anyone wanting a ride through the city. The system operates at the 100-story level to avoid ground traffic congestion. Pods provide faster, more convenient, and less expensive, transportation than your own vehicle.”

An image appears over the anchor’s shoulder. A woman and man stand between the camera and a hole in the wall. The man faces away to peer through the opening where thin cables form a track stretching to a similar portal in an adjacent building. A Pod, parked beside a platform in the far tower, rests on the track.

The woman taps the man’s shoulder. He appears middle-aged and fit. His crisp-cut clothes, clean-cut, professional look shows a person with considerable responsibility. He turns to look at her.

She motions to the camera and his eyes follow her gesture. With a nod, he faces the camera.

“For this report from the demonstration site, our new human-interest field reporter, Marisa Ven. Marisa, what can you tell us about Mr. Bank’s revelation?”

“Thank you, Brice. I am here at the 100-level Pod Bay with David Banks to witness the Pod system in action.” Turning to David, her toothy smile glows. “Mr. Banks, would you like to add anything?”

“Yes, Marisa, I would.” David turns his gaze to the camera. His look focuses into the lens, yet he maintains a manner appearing friendly and inviting. “Today’s demonstration will show the convenience of the Pod system I’m building. Pods remove the need to return to the street or train tunnel levels to move throughout the city. Pods will circulate through the network. Load our handy app on your personal device, and you can direct our central control to make a unit available in moments.

“The unique suspension track design makes expansion simple with reasonable cost. We plan to install Pod networks through the congested core of every city over the next ten years. High speed, inter-city connectors will grow with the service.”

“Your schedule is aggressive, Mr. Banks.”

“Correct, Marisa. We work toward aggressive goals. Moving through cities on open streets without environmental protection is unhealthy. Traveling through any metropolis in personal vehicles is tedious. Autopilot is little help. Parking is difficult and expensive. People complain about crowded subways and irregular service. I believe everyone will prefer to move around with more convenience. Our goals include eliminating traditional commercial delivery solutions as well.

“The Pods provide an excellent way to contribute to dropping pollution levels while the service makes traveling through our cities simple. If we encourage parking personal vehicles outside the major communities, people will enjoy a harmonious life experience. Better yet, they will help us restore our planet’s ecological balance.”

“Sure…  umm, bizarre plug, Mr. Banks. My colleague across the way is waiting at the test Pod. He is ready to report the start of your demonstration. Let’s switch to our feed from the other building.”

The video flips from Marisa and David to the far Pod Bay and the support team on the platform. When they move away, Sam stands alone by the vehicle. She steps on the Pod’s forward loading gate and waves. She flashes a good-to-go sign before ducking into the cabin.

Marisa continues the interview while following the activity in the far bay. “Mr. Banks, can you tell us what to expect?”

“I can. Our test engineer boarded using the loading ramp from the Bay platform. The front ramp allows service to platforms on either side. Though the Pod system is automatic, my engineer is on board to track the machine’s performance while crossing.”

The Pod’s loading platform and windscreen swing together to close as a clam-shell-style door.

“Notice when the doors shut, the vehicle pauses to allow passengers time to sit before leaving the bay.”

Sam leans against the clamshell door and pokes a finger at her equipment. After a short pause, she nods to the crew on the platform, flashing a gesture to show she’s ready. The Pod begins moving along the track’s two thin rails, one below and one overhead. The video feed returns to Marissa and David.

Marisa points at the vehicle. “The Pod’s acceleration is impressive.”

“Correct, Marisa. The Pod uses electric motors. They take their power from the tracks. They can reach high speeds, and the ride inside remains smooth and quiet. Could you excuse me? The Pod will arrive in a moment. I should greet Sam on her arrival at the platform. I’ll bring her here for an interview, afterward.”

“Of course. We can follow the remainder of the run from here. Thank you, David. We’ll talk later.”

Marissa peers into the camera. The Pod, behind her, is midway across the empty space between the towers. “Let’s observe as the Pod crosses the chasm.”

Marisa turns to monitor the demonstration. The image zooms to frame the Pod’s progress across the black filaments as a backdrop for the mass of dignitaries waiting to greet Sam on arrival. David steps up to the Pod Bay platform. Merc smiles and shakes David’s hand before placing a congratulatory slap on his shoulder. He and David turn toward Sam and chat while waiting for the machine to pull in. Merc points at the approaching Pod as Sam looks up from her equipment and signals everything is nominal.

Moments before entering the building, the Pod hesitates. “Ka-chunk.”

The sound comes from the Pod stopping with an abrupt jerk. Sam stumbles forward, slamming head first into the windshield. Shaking her head, she braces herself against the door to stay upright, but wobbles and sinks to the floor.

Sam struggles to stand as the Pod lurches ahead. She balances on her feet as if she’s riding a skateboard until the Pod stops hard on the track with another sharp jolt. She flies forward and crumples with her shoulder against the windscreen. Blood from her head streaks on the glass as she settles against the door.

The loading platform section of the door yields to Sam’s weight and falls open. She tumbles through the opening, arms flailing to grab anything substantial and avoid the 100 story fall. She catches the edge of the broken gate.

Off camera, Marisa gasps.

Sam drapes over the lower rail, folding at her waist. She dangles, clinging to the lower door section and staring at the streets below.

The Pod struggles to move ahead. Drive wheels grind against the track, spewing smoke and emitting a high pitch shrieking sound. Sam lifts her head up, her eyelids wide apart, darting between the ground and the building’s Bay opening. She jerks her focus toward the Pod and reaches for the open front door. She grabs the edge.

Leveraging one elbow up on the ramp, she kicks a leg up behind her to hook on the top and misses. She swings again and misses. Her arm slips off the top surface, but she manages to hold on. She relaxes and dangles, resting over the cable. A moment later, she jerks her leg and arm up and on to the deck, grabbing the broken Pod gate.

“Brice!” Marisa’s voice rises above the screeching from the machinery.

“Marisa, what’s happening?”

“Something’s wrong. The engineer is outside the Pod.”

Sam tugs on the open door, trying to pull herself atop the loading platform. The shrill sound stops, starts, and stops again as the wheels seek traction. It jolts forward, moving the ramp against Sam and shoving her along the track. Her grip slips and she falls back across the cable.

The Pod advances. The ramp glides over her, making a hollow thump as it crashes against the side of her head. The front wheels dig into her waist, throwing pieces of her flesh to the ground. The equipment grinds to a stop. The motors churn the drive pulleys with their relentless force as they lurch and mince, entangling deeper into Sam’s side.

The bouncing causes the overhead disks to disengage from their rail. The screaming wheels go silent. A moment later, the entire unit begins a slow topple, swiveling around the lower track like a pendulum.

“The Pod’s falling.” David jumps from the platform, sprints toward the opening, stops and glances back. He barks orders to his crew. “Warn the people beneath us.”

The device pivots around the bottom rail. Sam enmeshes deeper into the drive wheels and rotates with the machine to an upright position. The Pod dangles below her.

David turns to the platform. “Wait. She jammed the Pod. You Grab a rope.”

The picture zooms in on Sam. Her face twists from pain in a silent cry for help.

Marisa moves near the camera, blocking the image. “A horrible event is unfolding. The engineer fell out of the Pod and tangled in the machinery. As you can see, the passenger car broke loose and now hangs inverted. Mr. Banks is directing his concern to the people below to assure the machine doesn’t crush them, should it fall free.”

The image pulls back to a broader view of the Transit Bay as Marisa steps to the side and turns to face the opening. Merc leaps from the platform and sprints to the edge.

Clinging to the outside frame of the portal, he leans out over the 100-story drop. He stretches his hand out along the track toward Sam. Their gazes lock. She lifts her hand. They fail to touch as their yearning fingertips remain more than an arm’s length apart. Merc thrusts his hand out again, stretching to grasp her, reaching to pull her closer using his will alone. He pulls back inside toward the crew. Tears stream down his cheeks. His wide-open eyes dart side to side searching for assistance. “Someone, please! Help me pull her in.”

David arrives at Merc’s side.

Brice sucks air through his teeth. “Is someone trying to rescue the engineer?”

Marisa moves off camera. “One man tried to reach her, Brice. Now David is there, too. I can’t hear their conversation.”

Sam glances at her waist, touches the track where the Pod drive is mangling her torso in the gears, and tips her head toward Merc.

Marisa snaps at her technical team. “Turn on David’s mic and zoom in on them.”

Sam’s voice is weak. “…  stuck. Help me, Merc.”

He screams to her. “I can’t reach you.” He turns to David. Tears soak his face. “Help me reach her.”

“I can’t, Merc. Too dangerous, but rescue equipment’s close.”

“We can’t wait. She’s dying. Do something.”

“I know, Merc. We can’t work any faster.” David yells through the opening, “Sam, help is almost here. Hang on.”

Merc leans over the edge. “Baby, focus on me. Help is coming.”

She pinches her eyes tight. Her face twists into another silent scream. Her gaze narrows into Merc’s eyes. She appears to plead for release from her pain. A moment passes. Her eyes close, and her face relaxes. The agony of her disembowelment fades behind shock’s isolating facade. Blood dribbling from her shoe tips separates into droplets while falling to the ground. She opens her eyes. The stress lines in her face fade as her eyes focus on Merc. Unconcerned, her face softens and again becomes beautiful.

“Sam, stay with me. We’re trying to help. Stay with me. David! Help her. NOW.”

Sam’s gaze relaxes. A moment passes. Her eyes roll upward, her head nods and blood flows from her mouth. She gurgles as she exhales one final time.

Merc balances at the edge, staring a moment before screaming to his mutilated wife. “Sam… Samantha… SAMANTHA!”

“Merc. Come back.” David stands with his arms held out, palms up. “Merc, I’m sorry.”

Merc pushes him away. “No, David, no way. All you care about is saving your precious Pod.”

Turbines whine outside the opening. Sam’s clothing flaps in the sudden downward blast.

“Marisa, what do you see happening?”

“I see the same as you, Brice. An apparent malfunction with Mr. Bank’s demonstration caused the onboard engineer to suffer a fatal injury.”

A cable descends from above and lassos the Pod shell.

“An Air Rescue is here. David said the Pod could fall, endangering other people. Securing the Pod takes priority over removing the engineer’s body.”

A grapple drops and snags the machine. An emergency medical technician lowers on a line to attach a harness to her body.

Marissa moves into view. “The medical team must remove the engineer from her entanglement. Mr. Banks experienced an unexpected turn with his demonstration becoming a tragic accident.”

The rescuer begins the gruesome task of freeing Sam’s body from the machinery. Moments later, the Pod swings free from the track, releasing Sam. Both dangle in a slow sway.

David crouches at the edge of the opening monitoring the grim scene’s progress. He peers up at Merc and opens his mouth to speak.

Merc shoves his palm in David’s face. “Damn you, David.” He turns away.

Marisa glances into the camera. “Kill David’s feed.” She returns her attention to the accident.

David stands and steps toward Merc. “Merc, listen to …”

The mic dies as Merc walks back to the platform. His eyes glow red from wiping his tears. Through the opening behind him, Sam’s body rises with the medical tech. Air Rescue slings the Pod away.

Marisa smoothes her blouse with one hand and positions herself in the picture. “As you can see, the Rescue Team averted a larger disaster, Brice, leaving a single fatality, the Banks Enterprise technician.”

“Do you think we can get an interview, Marisa?”

“Mr. Banks is busy, but I’ll ask him what happened when he returns to the platform.”

“I understand. Mr. Banks is experiencing a terrible setback. We can talk to him after they clean up the mess. For now, we must leave the tragic event for a word from our sponsors.”

“I agree, Brice.” She sidesteps to the center of the camera’s view and blocks the scene. “You witnessed live, a potential Public Relations disaster for David Banks Enterprises. Nobody on the ground became part of the accident, which is good news for those below. I am Marisa Ven, reporting. Remember, you saw the tragedy first on GNN. Now back to you, Brice.”


<Zero: “Attack”     Two: “Game”


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