One: “Enchantment”

Source: Merc’s Personal Log:

 

Section – Evening:

The slender woman washes dishes, leaning against the kitchen counter. Her silhouette is backlit by an overhead lamp casting light on her work in an otherwise dark room. Darkness obscures anything beyond the window except her reflection. Watching the tap water glide over a plate in her hand, she strokes its surface with her other hand, with slow, deliberate, circular motions. Dark hair cascading down her bare back ends below her waist, covering much of her provocative nightgown. Deep in thought, her attention focuses beyond the window as she scrubs the plate.

“Smile,” he says as 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 while 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. Do you have a problem?”

“Yes, Merc, I do. Intimate moments are fragile. Their essence dissolves when a recorder intrudes.”

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

Sam turns to face Merc, allowing his image to reflect in the dark window. Her backside relaxes against the counter as her eyelids flutter. Long slender fingers comb the full length of her hair in front of her nightgown. Sam lowers her voice and whispers, “They don’t?” She drops her head somewhat to gaze through her eyelashes, her azure eyes lock into his gaze. “Oh,” she coos. “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 along the back of her other hand. “Imagine how I feel while soft ripples of warm water flow over and around my skin. I savor the sensation of the long, sensual strokes as soapsuds smooth my hand’s caresses. The splashing water from the tap masks sounds from beyond my own thoughts. My feelings build to overwhelm me, and I slide deep into the erotic world within my own mind. Yes…yes, oh… yes! I find intimacy doing dishes.”

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 swallows, “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 along her ebony hair to the ends. Her eyes stab Merc with her glare. She blurts, “After what I described, your male reaction is concern over the water I’m wasting?”

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

She 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 demonstration. I’ve taken the Pod across the test track innumerable times. I’m bored. I’m there because, he tells me, attractive girls sell ideas.”

“Fine. Tell me, when does your part happen?”

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

“Um, 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 the thing off, and we could wash dishes now.”

“You mean… now?”

Merc’s question causes Sam 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. He wears an impeccable suit. His face is clean and shows no blemishes with strong, even features. His haircut is perfect. He smiles with perfect teeth, “Welcome back.” Confidence resonates in his voice. “You are watching Global News Network. I am Brice Orone. Up next is, ‘Changing the World’ magazine.”

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

As the intro concludes, Brice talks into the camera. “Today, ‘Changing the World’ reports a new innovation from David Banks Enterprises. We continue following 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 our cities. We came here 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 system 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 an opening in the wall. The man faces away from the camera to peer through the opening where thin cables form a track stretching to a similar opening in an adjacent building. A Pod, parked beside a platform in the far building, 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 a large degree of 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 the revelation?”

“Thank you, Brice. I am here at the 100-level Pod Bay with David Banks to observe 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 feeling friendly and inviting. “Today’s demonstration will show the convenience of the Pod system I am building. Nobody needs to return to the street or train tunnel levels to move throughout the city. Pods circulate through the system. Load our handy app on your personal device. You can direct our control system to make a unit available within moments.

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

“Your schedule is aggressive, Mr. Banks.”

“Correct, Marisa. We do work towards aggressive goals. Moving through cities on open streets without environmental protection is unhealthy. Traveling through cities 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 systems as well. The Pod systems provide an excellent way to help drop pollution levels while the service makes traveling through our cities easy. If we encourage parking personal vehicles outside the cities, people will enjoy a better life experience. Better yet, they will help us restore our planet’s ecological balance.”

“Sure …uh, bizarre plug, Mr. Banks. My colleague at the Pod 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 Pod. She steps on the Pod’s forward loading platform 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 the Pod 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 Pod’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 close, the Pod 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.

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 soon. I should go to the platform to greet Sam on her arrival. I’ll bring her here for an interview, afterward.”

“Thank you, David. We can talk later.”

The video switches to Marisa with the track between buildings behind her. “Let’s watch the Pod cross the track. Marisa turns to follow the demonstration. Dignitaries gather on the platform 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 to await the Pod’s arrival, chatting while they wait. 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 goes “Ka-chunk.” The sickening sound comes from the Pod stopping with an abrupt jerk. Sam stumbles forward, slamming head first into the windshield. She braces herself against the door to hold her up, but wobbles and sinks to the floor. Sam struggles to stand as the Pod lurches forward. She balances on her feet as if she’s riding a skateboard.

The Pod stops hard on the track with another sharp jolt. Sam flies forward and crumples against the door.

The loading platform section of the door gives and falls open under Sam’s weight. She tumbles through the opening, her arms flailing to grab something to avoid falling. She grabs the edge of the broken ramp.

Off camera, Marisa gasps.

Sam folds at her waist over the lower track. She dangles, clinging to the loading ramp, staring at the 100-story fall to the ground. The Pod struggles to move ahead. Drive wheels grind against the track, spewing smoke and emitting a high pitch, shrieking sound. She pulls her head up. Her eyes open wide and glance at the building’s Bay opening. She jerks her head around toward the Pod. She reaches for the Pod’s open front door and grabs the edge. Leveraging one elbow up to the ramp, she kicks a leg up to hook the edge and misses. She swings again and misses. Her elbow slips off the ramp, but she manages to hold the ramp. She relaxes and dangles, resting on the cable. A moment later, she jerks her leg and arm up and on to the deck, grabbing the broken Pod ramp.

“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 Pod door, trying to pull herself on to the broken loading platform. The shrill sound stops, starts, and stops again as the wheels seek traction. The Pod jolts forward, Sam pushes against the moving Pod ramp, 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 slice into her waist, throwing pieces of her flesh. The Pod grinds to a stop. The motors churn the wheels with relentless drive as they lurch and mince, entangling deeper into Sam’s side. The bouncing causes the overhead wheels to disengage from their track. The Pod goes silent. A light breeze rattles against the mic. A moment later, the Pod begins a slow topple and swivels around the lower track like a pendulum.

David jumps off the platform. He yells, “The Pod’s falling.” He sprints toward the opening, stops and glances back. “Warn the people below us,” he barks.

The Pod pivots around the lower track. Sam enmeshes deeper into the drive wheels and rotates with the Pod to an upright position. The Pod dangles below her.

David stops and turns to the platform, “Wait. Sam jammed the Pod. You, grab a rope.”

The camera zooms in on Sam, her face twists in pain, a silent cry for help. Marisa moves close, blocking the camera image, “A horrible event is unfolding. The engineer fell out and tangled in the machinery. As you can see, the Pod broke loose and hangs inverted. Mr. Banks is directing his concern to the people below to assure the Pod doesn’t crush them, should it fall free.”

The image pulls back to a wider view of the Pod Bay. Merc leaps from the platform to sprint to the edge of the opening. Clinging to the frame of the bay, he leans out over the 100-story drop. He holds his hand out along the track toward Sam. She sees him and lifts her hand, but their yearning fingertips remain more than an arm’s length apart. Merc stretches to grasp her, reaching as if he can pull her closer through his will alone. He pulls back inside toward the crew. His wide-open eyes dart side to side to find help. He shouts, “Someone, please help me reach her.”

David arrives at Merc’s side.

Brice sucks air through his teeth, “Is there an effort to rescue the engineer?”

Marisa, off camera, “I see one man trying to reach her, Brice. David is there too. I can’t hear their conversation.”

Sam touches the track where the Pod drive is mangling her torso in the gears and turns her head toward Merc.

Marisa snaps, “Turn on David’s mic and zoom in on them.”

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

Merc screams, “I can’t reach you.” He turns to David, “Help me reach her.”

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

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

“I know, Merc. We’re working as fast as we can.” David yells out of the opening, “Sam, help is almost here. Hang on.”

Merc yells, “Sam, focus on me. Help is coming.”

Sam pinches her eyes tight. Her face twists into another silent scream. Her gaze focuses into Merc’s eyes. She seems 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 linger on Merc, unconcerned. Her face becomes soft and beautiful.

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

Sam’s focus 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 in disbelief before screaming, “Sam …Samantha …SAMANTHA!”

“Merc,” 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 wind.

“Marisa, what do you see happening?”

“I see the same as you, Brice. Something went wrong with Mr. Bank’s demonstration. The onboard engineer suffered a fatal injury.”

A cable lowers 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 Pod. An emergency medical technician lowers on a line to attach a harness to Sam’s body.

Marissa continues, “The medical team must remove the engineer from her entanglement. Mr. Banks had 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 stands at the edge of the opening monitoring the grim scene. He looks up at Merc, opening his mouth to say something. Merc shoves his palm at David’s face, turns away, and walks back to the platform, his eyes red from tears. Sam’s body rises with the rescue person. The Air Rescue slings the Pod away.

“As you can see, the Rescue Team completed their work, Brice. The Banks Enterprise technician didn’t survive.”

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

“Mr. Banks can’t right now, 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.” Marisa steps into the center of the camera’s view, “You have seen 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.”

 

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