Laughter in the Rain

This story was written using a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  I’ll put a little warning that it deals with some touchy issues regarding character death.

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Ivan Petrov was dead.  There was no doubt about it.  He hadn’t simply disappeared, only to reappear when they all least expected it.  Neither had he contracted an illness and left government work.  If that had been the case, they could report that he’d died when he’d really just been pushed into a hospital somewhere.

There could be no doubt of his death because it had been so public.  The president had been in the middle of a speech.  News agencies were filming it, to air later.  There, in the background, stood the main government building.  It had once been the royal palace, but when they’d overthrown the royals, they’d changed it into the headquarters for the government.

Just as the president had stepped forward – before he’d even greeted the gathered crowd – a body plunged from the roof of that building.  Members of the press had gasped in shock.  Some people had even screamed.

Taurys watched the film with a mixture of shock and some other feeling he couldn’t quite identify.  Then, he looked at Arthur.  “Petrov?” he said, his voice faint.  “They’re absolutely certain that was him?  It’s not some sort of trick?”

Arthur shook his head.  “Our sources have confirmed it,” he said.  “Ivan Petrov is dead from an apparent suicide.”

Nodding, Taurys moved to his feet.  “Thank you for letting me know,” he said.  He moved to the door of the office.  He was dimly aware of Arthur speaking – asking if he was all right.  He wasn’t even sure that he answered as he headed down the corridor and out of the Agency building known as the Castle.

When he stepped out into the pouring rain, he realized what the emotion was that was mingled with shock.  A laugh bubbled up and mixed with the tears that stood in his eyes.  A sound between a sob and a laugh escaped his lips.  “He’s dead,” he breathed.

Taurys-rain

He looked up at the clouds and held out his arms.  “He’s dead,” he screamed into the rain.  Ignoring the stunned looked he was drawing from passersby, he laughed and shook the rain from his hair.  “Thank you, God.  Petrov is finally dead!”

Someone called his name and he whirled around.  Gilbert was standing on the steps of the Castle, an umbrella clutched in his hands.  He was blinking at Taurys and frowning slightly.  “You’re… happy that he killed himself?” he said.  He flushed and then shrugged.

As Gilbert came down the steps to stand beside him, Taurys shook his head.  He couldn’t keep the smile off his lips.  “Petrov didn’t kill himself,” he said.  He chuckled and shook his head again.  “He’s not the sort.  That – that was an assassination – a bold assassination.  There, in full view of the press and the president and the rest of the government.”

“Who?” Gilbert breathed, his eyes widening in shock.  He shook his head.  “Who would do something like that, Taurys?”

Taurys ruffled his hands through his wet hair.  “We called him the Lynx, because he would strike quickly and without warning,” he said.  Then, he gave Gilbert a playful wink.  “You might know him as Nicholai.”

Gilbert blinked.  “How do you know it’s him?” he asked, shaking his head.

Shrugging, Taurys said, “That’s what he’d do, Gilbert.  He’d lure the target to a convenient rooftop and then knock them off.”  He stepped closer to Gilbert, so that he was shielded by the umbrella, although it hardly mattered.  He was already soaked to the skin.  “Let the director think it was suicide, though.  It’ll be easier on Nicholai that way.”

Nodding, Gilbert moved towards the door.  Taurys followed him as they stepped inside.  “Get changed into something dry,” he said.  He flashed a smile at Taurys.  “You can’t catch a cold, but it won’t do The Singer any good to be cold and wet for too long.”

“Right,” Taurys said.  He headed towards the locker room in the basement, whistling a happy tune.  A few years ago, he would never have believed that Petrov could be killed.  Wherever Nicholai was, Taurys hoped that he was well and safe.  He knew, with Petrov gone, that things would change in Veligrad.  It was only a matter of time.

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Without a Dream

So, today, I’m stepping back to write a scene that is set before the first story.  Gilbert is not the kind of agent that normally goes into the field.

Prompt: Aim

“Let’s get started,” Madeline said, her tone gentle. When Gilbert nodded, she handed him a pair of goggles and earphones. “Put these on.”

“I already wear glasses,” he said, even as he set the goggles over his eyes.

Madeline smiled as she settled glasses in front of her own eyes. “It’s very important to protect your eyes,” she said, shaking her head. She paused to check the weapon. Then, she set the pistol in his hands. “Imagine that there’s a magnet downrange, constantly keeping the barrel pointing down there.”

“Right,” Gilbert said, his voice soft. He listened as she talked him through how to grip the handgun. He never realized how tightly he would have to hold it. How did she do this regularly?

She talked him through the next steps of using the sights. He was surprised to hear that she wanted him to look at the sight that was closest to him. “So, put your finger on the trigger,” she said, her voice soft. “Slowly exhale and then draw back the trigger with firm, even pressure.”

Gilbert nodded slightly. Then, keeping the handgun level, he breathed outward. Then, just before he needed to inhale, he drew back the trigger. He gasped when the gun jerked in his hand. He took several more shots and then handed the weapon back to Madeline.

She chuckled softly and checked it. Then, she set it aside. She brought the target back in and nodded slightly. “It’s not too bad, Gilbert,” she said, pointing at the numerous holes in the target. None of them were in the center area where he was meant to be shooting. However, they were all clustered near each other and not far off the mark.

“He’s nowhere near ready,” Director Williams grumbled.

Gilbert gave a wry laugh and looked over at him. Tugging the goggles up and off, he shrugged. “I can’t delay much longer, Boss,” he said, his voice soft.

The other man grimaced. “That’s what scares me,” he said.

Inspiration Always Comes at Night

The photo prompt from NaNoWriYe’s DreamWidth was a tough one today.  I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in with “To Wake the Dreamers”, so I wrote an unrelated story.

This was the picture:

inspiration

“If she hasn’t got any gifts at all?” Director Williams said, frowning darkly.  He shook his head.  “If she just guesses, what percentage of the time will she be correct?”

“A guess has a twenty percent chance of being correct,” Dr. Beaumont said, frowning.  She shrugged and then she was speaking to Felicja.  “Remember, Felicja: the goal of this exercise,” she said, her tone clipped and even, “is to anticipate which of the bulbs will light.”

Felicja nodded slightly.  “I’ll remember,” she said.  She was blindfolded, which bothered her greatly.  She wasn’t the most trusting person.  “What’s the point of the blindfold?”

“It is to prevent you from using a visual clue to get a any hint of which bulb might light,” Dr. Beaumont said.  “Are you ready to begin.”

“Whatever,” Felicja said, shrugging.  She wasn’t expecting to do well at all.  She’d tried to tell them that this wasn’t how her gift worked.  She saw things that happened already and she only saw them while she was sleeping.  Right now, she was wide awake and they were trying to get her to guess something before it happened.  It was backwards.

“This is stupid,” she said, even as she hit a button to indicate which light she thought might be lighting.  It was a total guess.  She had nothing to go by.  She continued hitting buttons, knowing that there was no way that she was doing anything more than guessing.

Finally, Dr. Beaumont said, “All right, Tinker.  You may remove the blindfold.”

Sighing, Felicja tugged off the fabric that had covered her eyes.  She rubbed at them and then frowned at Dr. Beaumont.  “So,” she said, “how badly did I do?”

Dr. Beaumont smiled.  “You were correct less than ten percent of the time,” she said, nodding.  “I found the entire exercise to be quite interesting.”

Felicja scowled.  “How can that be interesting in any way?” she asked, shaking her head.  Hadn’t she said that the chances of guessing each bulb correctly was twenty percent?  “I did terrible!”

“When you look at the guesses to see if they match the light that came after, yes,” Dr. Beaumont said.  Then, she chuckled softly.  “If, however, one bears in mind how you claim your gift works… well, you were able to correctly guess which light had just been on better than eighty percent of the time.”

A soft chuckle escaped Felicja’s lips.  “Well,” she said, shaking her head.  “That wasn’t what I expected.”

“You see now, why I find it so very interesting,” Dr. Beaumont said, her eyes twinkling.  Felicja could only nod silently.

Dr. Beaumont hummed softly.  “I makes me wonder the extent of your gift when your conscious mind does not interfere,” she said.  Then, she gave Felicja a playful wink and added, “That is why you see things in your dreams – while you sleep.”

“I just figured it was because inspiration always comes at night,” Felicja said, shrugging.  She gave Director Williams a faint smile.  “Isn’t that what they say?”

“Indeed,” the director said, crossing his arms over his chest.  Clearly, the results had surprised him as well – and not in a good way.

Dreamers – Part 6

So, today’s section was written using a picture prompt from NaNoWriYe’s DreamWidth.  When I first saw this image, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it.  It seemed to work pretty well for Dr. Beaumont, however.

slider 1

The next morning, Gilbert headed down to the laboratory to speak with Dr. Beaumont.  He frowned when he saw that she had two fishbowls in front of her.  One bowl had two fish swimming around in it, while the other only had water in it.  He watched as she turned a dial and, to his surprise, one of the fish leapt into the other bowl.  A moment later, the second fish jumped over.

“All right,” he said, blinking.

Dr. Beaumont turned the dial back the other direction and then glanced over her shoulder at him.  “Good morning, Dr. Schneider,” she said.  “I trust you slept well?”

“For the most part,” he said, nodding.

“And did Taurys also sleep well?” she asked.  When Gilbert’s brows furrowed, she said, “I ask because he told Marian that he sometimes has difficulties sleeping.  He said it was something you had been helping him with, no?”

“No,” Gilbert said, shaking his head.  Then, he blinked and said, “I mean… he doesn’t have much trouble sleeping anymore, although he did at first.”

“He… lied, then?”

When Gilbert nodded, she hopped to her feet and went over to a file that was resting on her desk.  “This I find to be interesting, Dr. Schneider,” she said.

“People lie every day,” Gilbert said, shrugging.  “He probably wanted an excuse to ask where I was, so that he could eavesdrop on our conversation.”

“People lie, yes,” Dr. Beaumont said, as she wrote on a page in her file.  “Computer, even ones as complex as the RX program crafted, however… These do not lie, Dr. Schneider.”

“Oh, right,” Gilbert said, blinking.  He watched as she closed the file and moved to return to her fish.  Whatever she was doing, she probably couldn’t tell him about, so he decided not to even ask.  “Anyway, I needed to contact headquarters.  We need to speak with Dr. Alexandrova and… yeah, she’s in the Mushroom, so…” he trailed off, shrugging.

Dr. Beaumont frowned and nodded.  “Do you think that Director Williams will allow such a thing?” she asked.

“I have to ask,” Gilbert said, shrugging.

Nodding again, Dr. Beaumont pointed to a computer on her desk.  “You can call him through that,” she said.

“Thanks,” Gilbert said.  He stepped over to the computer and then pressed a few keys.  After a moment, a small video window appeared on the screen.  The seal of the International Intelligence Agency, with its shining lighthouse appeared on the screen briefly before Dr. Williams appeared.  Grinning, Gilbert said, “Hey, Boss.”

“Dr. Schneider,” Arthur said, his brows furrowing.  “What can I do for you this lovely day?”

“Tinker had one of her dreams again,” Gilbert said.  He shrugged.  “We need a word with Dr. Alexandrova.  Can you okay a visit to the Mushroom for us?”

“That depends on what Dr. Beaumont has to say about Singer,” he said.  He glanced beyond Gilbert and said, “Your report, Doctor?”

Gilbert slid to one side and gave Dr. Beaumont a faint smile.  She nodded once.  “I will have the formal report sent out by the end of the day,” she said.  “However, even now I can tell you that Singer is conscious – as much as you are.  He is completely trusting toward Dr. Schneider and, very likely, loyal to him as well.  I see no reason to believe that the consciousness of Agent Liutauras Kaslauskas is not inside PL-1.  For all intents and purposes, Singer is Agent Kaslauskas.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Arthur said, nodding.  He looked over at Gilbert.  “Your papers will be there by noon, Dreamer.”

“Thanks, Boss,” Gilbert said, smiling.  As soon as the screen went dark, he nodded at Dr. Beaumont.  “Thank you very much.”

“I only spoke to what I know as truth,” she said.  Nodding, she added, “I wish you well, Dr. Schneider.  Have care with Dr. Alexandrova.  She is a completely deceitful person.  You cannot believe everything that she says.”

“I know,” he said, grimacing.  “It’s a chance we’ll have to take.”

Resting in Darkness

My lastest story using NaNoWriYe’s DreamWidth prompts.  Those can be found here, by the way.

Prompt: Underground

It was strange. When Taurys had first died, he’d expected to go to heaven. Wasn’t that what he’d been taught as a child? Of course, Ivan had always said that such things were children’s tales, told to comfort those who were frightened of death. He felt that death was the end of life and there was nothing more.

Taurys knew in his heart that Ivan was wrong. His experience now was proof of that. However, he hadn’t gone into the light either. He was trapped in the world, watching people live. None of them could see or hear him. He knew that much. He’d been trying to get Gilbert’s attention since he’d found the scientist.

Frowning, Taurys walked unnoticed behind Gilbert and the woman he called Madeline. From the way they interacted… he sighed when Gilbert caught her hand. She was his wife – or his love, at least. They stepped into an elevator and Taurys followed.

He was surprised when the car went downward, rather than upward. “Where are we going?” he said, frowning as the numbers continued to climb. The car stopped on the twentieth floor – down from the first floor, which was on the surface.

Still feeling confused, Taurys followed them. His eyes widened as they entered a room that was so like the situation room back in Veligrad that he knew it could be nothing else.

“Dr. Schneider,” a man with an Anglian accent said, beckoning to the pair. He nodded at Madeline and said, “Agent Schneider.”

“Arthur,” Madeline said, her voice soft. “What’s up?”

“We need you to bring the prototype to headquarters,” Arthur said, scowling. He looked at Gilbert. “Our experts will study it there.”

Gilbert frowned and then nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said. He gave Madeline a weak smile. “The kids are out of school for the summer holiday. A trip over to the islands might be fun for them.”

“There’s reason to believe that Veligradian intelligence is after you, Dr. Schneider,” Arthur countered.

“They’re after the children,” Taurys snapped, even though he knew they couldn’t hear him. At the same time, Madeline spoke up.

“All the more reason to keep our children close, Arthur,” she said, her voice taking on a sharp tone, even though the volume didn’t change. “They won’t be looking for a family traveling on holiday. We’ll blend right in with everyone else.”

“I won’t take that chance,” Arthur said. He looked at Gilbert. “I’ve arranged for them to attend Camp Whip-poor-will for the summer. Agent Anguo will be there and will keep an eye on them.”

“I’ve been away for seven years, Arthur,” Gilbert said, shaking his head. “I want to be with my children!”

“This is not up for debate, Sleeper,” Arthur said.

Gilbert ducked his head. “Yes, sir,” he murmured.

“Sleeper?” Taurys said, his voice soft. They’d heard of Sleeper in Veligrad, but he never imagined that Gilbert was that person. “What other secrets have you got, Dr. Schneider?” he murmured.