An Old Short

Originally posted on TCB Mon, 15 Dec 2003 01:27:59 GMT

Sandra sat at the terminal, leaning on her crossed arms in front of the keyboard. She couldn’t believe what was happening. Shock, worry, fear, and all the emotions she was told never to feel were washing over her face all at once, which resulted in her stone-cold visage squeezing out a few salty tears. These feelings, as she knew, were simple replacements, something to soothe her most prominent feeling of complete emptiness.

There was something missing in Sandra now, and she knew what it was. The connection had been severed. She was the most alone she had ever been in her life, though she was currently in a room with at least a dozen others, all in as much shock as her from the disturbing occurrences.

The air echoed with questions of Amanda’s well-being, doubts of her survival, and premature praise of the agent’s past life. The video feed was down. Audio was gone, too. Sandra, along with two others, waited at their terminals for any sign of Amanda.

But Sandra knew that there was no hope. Amanda was dead.

–.earlier.—

“We’ve been had, Sandy.” Amanda hung by one arm from the air vent in the ceiling. “They’re hiding now, but they’re there. I’ve been spotted, and if I move back in, they’ll shoot the duct.”

Sandra’s voice quivered. She was brighter than she let on, but she always wanted confirmation of her deductions being correct. Thus, the phrase most often hear by Amanda was, “What are you saying? You couldn’t mean…”

“You know exactly what I’m getting at, Sandra, and if you don’t backpedal-” Amanda’s voice had been in a crescendo, and she now lowered it. “That is a direct order. Your life won’t be wasted in this.”

“If you die, I won’t be able to handle it. I might just die anyway.”

“You’ll get over it, kid, that’s just the teen angst talking. Now move.” Before Sandra could respond, Amanda had dropped into the storage room, knowing full well it would be her demise. Sandra’s dejection pass through her mind only briefly, and was instantly replaced with a sense of great distance.

Amanda adjusted her goggles and turned to the nearest hidden troop, promptly giving him the finger.

—. elsewhere.—

Ernie shifted his thick glasses with his left hand and stared at one of the monitors showing live video feed. “Would you look at that gunfire! Nice weapons. Pity I can’t get a better lookiloo from the constant movement.”

A pair of eyes glared, followed by another, and yet another. A shoulder was tapped, an ear uncovered and whispered into, and another pair of eyes joined the stare down. The recently removed headphones spewed forth into the silent room a constant string of muffled cursing and screams.

Ernie shrugged, “What?”

The eyes, and the attached bodies, went back to their work and ignored the weapons-master assigned to this mission.

“Left arm, three inches. Patch it.” Clarice was always very curt in her speech. She was assigned to feel Amanda’s pain, and this always ruffled her a bit.

“Looking,” Dan, the medic, replied. His task was to control various parts of Amanda’s suit to patch wounds and cuts in itself.

“She’s losing it, hurry.” She was referring to the agent’s consciousness. Amanda had already been shot several times, though nothing fatal. If Amanda were to slip in the slightest . . .

“I said I’m looking!” Dan is the best at what he does, and worked with the best, but even he would have trouble when the suit doesn’t sit still long enough for him to grab the flesh.

“If you don’t patch that soon she’s going to be out.”

“She’s going to be out of it anyway! You’ve seen what she’s up against.”

“Just patch the fucking cut!”

“OKAY! I got it. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. Now she’ll last another five bleedin’ minutes.”

There was another brief silence, broken only by a short yelp from Desiree, the listener. The watcher, Arthur, looked at Desiree’s monitor and saw what she had just transcribed. It had to be the most foul insult he had ever read in his entire life, and would definitely make his mother blush.

—.elsewhere.—

“We’ve got incoming!” A chubby fellow in dark grey overalls poked at several important looking buttons on the console in front of him.

“Right, right, incoming, right.” A lanky fellow, dressed similar to the first, moved between several small pillars, adjusting them. “Read ’em off, Spoor.”

“32 Z, 45 O, 15 H and an 18 D as in Dowser.”

“That’s mah name, don’t wear it out.” Dowser adjusted lengths and angles of poles and wires coming from the pillars, connecting some panels to the sides of a glass cube.

“Wait a second,” Spoor looked worriedly at the information panel on his console, “Wait, this – there’s only one coming back.”

“Oh, do hope it’s Miss Sandy-” Dowser cut himself off. “I mean, Amanda can handle herself, right? I woul-”

Spoor cut him off. “Oh, shut it. Ready?”

“Set.”

Spoor hit the shiny red button on this, his greatest invention, and the sixteen-year-old Sandra Witigar appear in the cube with a noise that comic books have accurately dubbed, “Bamf.”

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