Your Memories

OC: Balder Holt
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He had his mark. Randa Boulos. 37 years old, deceptively muscular despite a curvy frame, and well connected. A scientist in Leader’s employ for five years, Randa dropped off the radar at the same time as certain secure files. She had a safe house in Boston, where she could conceal herself in a crowd. His studio, rented under a false name, was in the building across from hers and one level higher. He smiled, however slight. Nothing was safe from Leader. Not for long.

“Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran played on the radio and a YouTube video of vacuuming played over that. He had an alarm to remind him to change the audio to a shower in 15 minutes. Balder was to maintain the illusion of a regular resident until the mole had revealed her employers, a task he’d been familiar with for years but remained easier with T class units present. Despite their militant attributes, the T class had a childlike nature that allowed them to more easily mimic standard living. Singing along, ordering out, and talking to neighbors. Being that this was a covert operation, those practices were unacceptable and Balder was assigned on his own.

The small light mounted on his scope blinked, indicating detected motion in her apartment. He leaned forward, seeing her enter with a paper bag in one arm and a bag strap over her shoulder. She was missing the laptop bag she left with, the one he’d planted a tracker in. Sitting back, he took out his phone and messaged Leader’s aide, Ms. Temple, through an encrypted connection.

‘The bait was taken.’

Seen immediately. A few seconds reading that notice that she was typing before he got his orders.

‘Get a new supplier.’

Having seen it was all he needed. Balder ended the YouTube video, and the radio had an auto shut-off feature. This place would remain in Leader’s possession for some time before his connections could be sure it wouldn’t trace back to him. They were thorough in their fields, and so was he. Nothing would remain of her.

(Skipping the fight scene for gore reasons.)

Breathing steadily and deeply, he stood from what remained of Randa. Her clothes and sunglasses sat heaped beside the messenger bag she entered with. Balder knelt to retrieve the bag, but instead found himself searching her pockets. A rumpled ticket to the train, discarded; two pennies and a dime, discarded; her wallet… And he stopped, dropping the khakis to the floor. He opened the wallet, noticing an image inside a clear pocket immediately.

“Who carries pictures, Randa?” His voice seemed distant, foreign, and raspy from disuse. A boy and a preteen girl smiled out, trophies in hand. He wore a dress shirt, vest, and bowtie, and the test tube trophy had a plaque reading Science Fair – 2nd Place. In her uniform with a sparring weapon and a badge rather than trophy, he assumed she fell in third place at her competition. “A niece and nephew?”

Randa was unmarried and single, but that meant nothing. Leader was those as well, and he had hundreds of descendents as well as two direct clones. Both dormant, but the fact remained. He removed the picture to review it again, turning it over once he was done. The back revealed nothing. Balder didn’t know her well enough to determine anything from the image other than the two in it were siblings. They loved her, and she treasured them.

“I-” He’d seen this said in the movies they were permitted to watch in their free community time. “I am sorry. May you rest in peace.” Balder stood for a final time, the bag on his shoulder and the picture in the inner chest pocket of his jacket. He walked out to the city’s nighttime streets where an unassuming taxi waited for him. It would carry him to the first stop of many on an intricate trail home. To Leader, Ms. Temple, the other class units, Yua, and the memoir box beneath his bed. The lid closed snugly after the memento from his previous assignment – a locket with a single black and white image inside.

He would need a new box before his next mark.

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© Jam Blute, 2017

School Starts Challenge: New Beginnings

This was made for the School Starts challenge on the O.C. Amino, and I hope you enjoy it! The OC is Balder Holt.

To see more content like this regularly, please support me on Patreon.

– – –

“Welcome to the Eastern Institute of Technology, Balder,” the assistant said, her smile warming in the afternoon sun filtering through arched windows. The central hallway of his dorm building, he assumed.

Rich, redwood doorframes set in regal patterned wallpaper, a stately grandfather clock, and ample seating at regular intervals. Large French doors at either end of the hallway and four rooms leading off the hallway as well. Try as he might to form an opinion on the place, he could only think of how many exits there were, and how accessible they would be.

“I understand this must all feel very new to you, but I’m always here if you have any questions.” He turned to face her instead of the doors at the other end of the hall. Her graying amber-blonde braid hung over her shoulder as she tilted her head to meet his gaze behind the sunglasses.

“A map of the building,” he said, intending to ask for one.

“Oh, it’s…” She pointed to the folder in his arms, a deep green like the school flag hanging outside. “Left pocket, first page, I believe.”

“I see.” So he would make note of the ideal escape routes and combat tactics later. Better to be prepared than caught off guard. Balder adjusted his tie for the third time that hour but felt no less stifled by it. But it was the uniform, and those were the rules of the Lead– Headmistress. Headmistress. “Let’s continue.”

“Alright then,” she chimed, straightening her posture and walking up the stairs with familiar ease. Her hand slid over the railing, fair skin over dark wood and a modest gold band on her left ring finger. He wondered what her home life was like, imagining a calm, loving family. Having picnics. Planning movie nights.

And with a short, sharp breath, he re-centered on the present.

“This is your dorm building, all boys of course, and you’ll be off to the left here,” she chirped, turning on a heel toward the left hallway. “Room 214 A. Now I know you requested first floor, but this was all quite sudden, and I’m afraid this was the best we could do.” She took out the key, bronze with a circular handle and hanging from a thin metal ring, and opened the door.

“But see, it’s right next to the stairs! This is the next best thing, and we do appreciate you being so understanding.” If anything, this was better. Not so close to the door that he could be surprised by an intruder, but close enough that he could access most main areas of the building with ease.

He stood beside her and the doorway, looking into the small room. A single twin bed, another accommodation made for him. The bed was bare save for his luggage, pre-delivered as arranged with the school, and the desk sat empty. Dark blue curtains hung over the window, parted as the sun set on the campus. A piece of broad green expanse in the midst of a bustling city on the ocean.

“And you simply must love this view, don’t you? Quite lucky! Oh, here,” she offered, holding out the key. He took it gingerly, turning it over in his hand. So small, even for a key. He’d never had a locking room before.

“Now,” she began, tapping the key in his hand, “Campus Security does have a spare for emergencies, but they’ll never use it otherwise. And if you lose your key, they’ll make you a copy for $20. You can charge that to your school account, of course.”

“Confirmed,” he replied. Her eyes widened for a moment. She was afraid? …No, surprised. Her expression softened to compassion, the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes smoothing out as her smile fell. He put the key into his pocket, trying to avoid her eyes. Balder cleared his throat. “Understood, ma’am.”

“Oh, just Ellen, please.” She shook her head, her smile returning. “I’ll be your case manager, so you can call me if you need anything. You do have my number, don’t you?” He nodded once, sharply, and she let out a contented breath. “Ah, there is just one more thing I need from you, Balder.”

He drew himself up, taken aback. One more thing? He wore their uniform, held their documentation in hand, and it was his understanding that assignments would be distributed after the first day of train– classes. What could he have missed?

She held out her hand, the compassion returning to her large, hazel eyes. “Your sunglasses, please.”

“My–” His breath caught, brows furrowing. He took a step back and set the folder down on the desk. “Is this an order?”

“No, Balder.” Firm, but a tenderness to her words that stuck to him like barbs. Why did her concern hurt? “But those… They are from your time as a child soldier, are they not?” His heartbeat picked up in his chest, resonating through his limbs. “Do you think it wise to keep them, knowing what they represent to you?”

He was being asked his opinion. This was his choice. Sweat lined his palms already, but a cool stillness lodged in his chest. What was this feeling? Balder reached up for the arm of the glasses, leaving his eyes closed as he slipped the sunglasses off his face.

When he did open his eyes, he stared at the glasses in his hand. “I was not designed for this, Ellen.”

She rested her hands beneath his, cupping his fingers gently. Her skin was soft, more practiced with books than with brutality. Not like his. “No one was truly designed for anything, Balder. Every step in life is a choice, a new beginning. Should you be ready to take it.”

He felt his eyes turning to her, resting on her face for what seemed like the first time. The golden sunlight catching the silvery streaks in her hair, bronzing the brown flecks in her eyes, and adding a radiance to her. The chill left his body, and the stillness remained in its place. Perhaps this was comfort.

“And there is no shame in not being ready. Take your time,” she advised, closing his hand around the glasses. “And know you always have someone to turn to, Balder.” She moved towards the hallway, pausing before she closed the door. “Your first class is in the Franklin building at 9:00 am tomorrow, don’t forget!” She gave a light, graceful wave as she left, the door clicking shut behind her.

Several minutes passed after her short heels thumped down the stairs, and Balder remained as he was when she left. “A choice,” he breathed to himself. “I have a choice.”

He opened the shallow middle drawer of the desk, leaving the sunglasses inside. He was Balder Holt, freshman at the Eastern Institute of Technology. This was his new beginning.

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Thank you for reading!

To see more content like this regularly, please support me on Patreon.

– – –

© Jam Blute, 2017

They Are Children

She often wondered… What had crossed her mind, saving these children she’d helped to create. Rather, to destroy. Tenenbaum’s life had led her many places, through many trials. Never would she have believed that she might protect these children.

Collect beds and toys, defend their sanctuary from Splicers, and build them a home. Their home to share together.

“Miss Tenenbaum,” one of the girls pleaded, reaching for her from beyond the window of her secluded office. All that she’d done to them, and what little she could manage for them in this corpse of a city… She was all they had, as they were all she had. Still, Tenenbaum struggled to handle their affection.

“Yes, child?” She had developed a softer tone for them over time. Almost maternal. Long ago, or what seemed so long ago, this change might have scared or disgusted her. Just as these girls once had.

“Will you please tell us a story?” Her sisters echoed this request in a chorus of chatter, nearly indistinguishable for their number. So many to watch and care for, and yet so few.

Little Sisters.gif

Fontaine and madness held this city, and it was all she could do to protect these girls. Perhaps, someday, when Fontaine made his next move… The man was ambitious and brilliant, but proud. Too proud. The boy may not act as he anticipated. She knew his progress under Suchong, and he did not want to be the monster they were making.

…But that was not a story these girls needed to know. Tenenbaum twisted her cigarette into the ash tray on her desk, setting her papers to the side.

“Very well.” And she stood, the girls giggling and forming a half circle around the wheelchair she stole for them. “One story for you girls, but then I must work.” For her own intellectual stimulation, yes, but also for the boy.

Whether he was a man or a monster, he would be needed to truly free these girls. She helped them all become what they were, and she would save however many she could of them. But alone, she would not be enough.

She sat in the chair, rusted and creaking beneath her as the children’s eyes glowed with delight rather than genetic manipulation. Freedom would be their story next. All of these children. The dawning of their lives must come before the light dims from her own.

They Are Children.jpg

“They are children, Little Sisters, and yes, they will forget. But you and I won’t… The memories of what we have done fade only with the dimming of all lights.”

– Brigid Tenenbaum


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Thank you for reading!

Flash Friday

Time was a figment in a lab. Talia stood between an office chair and the stainless steel table, files stacked in neat piles and samples in vertical racks. The clock on the wall read 23:09, but the lights above held a steady morning glow.
She ran a hand through her cropped hair and set back to work. Dr. Folante had done thorough research in expansive studies. Years passed with subjects entering, sometimes fading, all before Talia could catch up.

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[Copyrighted © February 5, 2016, Jam Blute]

Flash Friday

It’s kind of a sad story, but there’s a pet bird in it. Silver lining.
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This stretch of city, tight and dark, was home to people like Runt. He blended in with a worn sack over one shoulder and a carrier’s “uniform”. None of them were ever truly the same, but there were enough common elements to make it close enough. Dirt stains spotted his clothing, which was padded in places for a fight-or-flight situation, and Runt never went without a hidden knife or two.

Or three.

He traversed knotted alleyways with native familiarity, winding up in the peddler’s stretch. Some good wares, some hot, and it was a task to tell the difference. Mess up, and you’d disappear with the real thief.

But he knew a guy, as Runt always did, and he wove through the crowd to a covered cluster of tables and barrels. Suo had done well for herself, scraping by to finally settle in peddler’s stretch. The fog of incense floated around her stand, and Runt crossed through it on his way in.

“Suo,” he greeted as he reached the back, and a gaunt man locked his sunken eyes on him immediately. He was tall, lankly, and his shirt hung loose from his scratched up neck. He sat where Suo normally perched on her table, chittering to her bird.

“What you on about? Shop or leave.” The man’s watery eyes fixed on Runt, waiting. To his right, Suo’s bird squawked inside a cage, pecking at the bars. People came and went in this city, here more than ever. Happened dozens of times to friends and strangers alike.

He wondered what this man framed her for, or what bribe he accepted. Might be just this shop she fought so hard for, a gathering of tables and everything Suo made herself. Not anymore, obviously.

Runt nodded to the bird. “How much?”
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[Copyrighted © January 29, 2016, Jam Blute]

Surprise Saturday

Yikes, it’s been forever.
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“Mr. Barnett,” she spoke, breaking the padded silence of the waiting room.

He continued filling in the sudoku puzzle book he got years ago and only just now started. Pace had a lot on his plate at any given moment, but some of them were sweet. And these easy puzzles reminded him that he was a genius. How could that be anything but sweet?

“Mr. Barnett,” the woman patiently repeated. “The doctor will see you now.”

“Hm,” he answered, looking up. It finally clicked – that was him. No one used his legal name, and Mr. Barnett was his father anyway. “Right, I’m coming.”

He grabbed the pen and book, standing to meet the nurse for his psychiatrist’s office. ‘His’ used loosely – he saw a new one often enough, cycling through just in case. But Dr. Gertler was a staple. She knew what he wanted, what he needed, and he trusted her.

That made him want to throw up a little, but trust was trust.
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[Copyrighted © January 16, 2016, Jam Blute]

Surprise Saturday

This weekend snuck up on me, I swear.
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He was the last to leave the shuttle. The bags bumped off every seat and clattered through the doorway to the port. Wind crossed over the bridge, cold, and clouds swirled like mist underneath. In the open patches, Ashton saw clustered cities from there even smaller than the sidewalk life from his parents’ offices. At least back home, he could go down to the sidewalk if he wanted to. Even though he never did.

Ashton hunched deeper into his expensive brown windbreaker, hauling the bags up the stairs to an almost empty hall. Two students, a girl and a boy, it seemed, stood at the far end of it. The air shifting outside prevented him from smelling anything in this hall aside from the sharp scent of high altitude and the occasional hint of birds’ feathers. Only if he paid close attention, and he tried not to because the smell of most birds was dreadful.

When he was close enough, Ashton called out to them. “Hey, do you mind helping?”  So they likely weren’t waiting for him. And he wasn’t really asking, since he held out the two lighter bags in his right hand. To pass them the shoulder bags, heavier as they were, was just too inconvenient. But he couldn’t be expected to do this alone, he was Ashton Victors. He was meant for greater things than ferrying his own luggage to the dorms.

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[Copyrighted © October 15 2015, J.M. Blute]

Stop It Sunday

I pay my internet provider too much for all this broken internet.
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This facility wasn’t that different from his homeland. The place was isolated and cold and mostly barren. People here had a tendency to regard him with a mix of respect and distance that rang of home. Korbin sat at the oak desk, finishing an initial report of the weeks leading up to opening day. He would send it tomorrow when the first day of operations was complete. Setting it aside in the top right hand drawer, he stood and gathered his black coat from a hook on the wall. He considered it entirely suitable to the weather, but the rare staff member asked if he was cold and offered a spare puffy jacket. Korbin politely declined over the first few days and eventually, they stopped asking.

The hall was softly lit and soundless except for small shuffling from the floors above. He locked the door behind him and headed for the staircase. Passing another official’s room as he went, Korbin was greeted with a closed door as he passed. That same official arrived late yesterday and still didn’t seem adjusted. His plan was to find her before dinner and offer his friendship as means to that end. As head of the project here, he took responsibility for making sure his people were reliable and objective.

She had already taken leave to a nearby town earlier that day. If she continued on this path, there wasn’t much he could do. The group had been carefully selected. Not many were eagerly awaiting a position at a mountaintop military base, so replacements would be scarce. He would have to make this work just the way it was.
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[Copyrighted © September 6 2015, J.M. Blute]

Surprise Sunday (x2)

The internet only works when I don’t need it. Such is the way.

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Arman had always been early to rise. Even if the morning’s crisp air hadn’t crept into his room, he would wake with the sun. As servants came to him, helping prepare him for the day, guards switched posts in the watchtowers and the kitchen clattered with life as the first meal came together. This had become the normal morning. The men silently went about attaching his armor, both sophisticated and durable, as Arman’s thoughts carried him to distant days.

Or not so distant, as the rebellion outside the castle walls threatened. At this stage, all anyone could think of was the day ahead. He could recall a time when disasters were conceived of as weeks or even months out. How it had been reduced to days, that was the mystery.

“Anything else, milord?” He glanced down at the servant, already certain of his answer. “That shall do for the moment.” With two courteous bows, they left to tend to their responsibilities and he left to his. He would hope that the king would be in the throne room with his advisers, but the odds of that were far less than him being in one of the libraries. For a boy of such ignorance, he certainly enjoyed his readings.
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[Copyrighted © August 29 2015, J.M. Blute]

Surprise Saturday

It’s what happens when I have no internet on Friday.
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Who in their right mind would elect to ride in such a contraption? Esmé kept a firm grip on the carriage’s frame, stepping out onto the capital’s stone pathway. She still felt the rocking in her legs, which the frigid spring air did nothing to alleviate. At least if the carriage couldn’t give a smooth ride, it was warm in comparison. However, the daylight in the castle’s plaza was an improvement from the dark insides of a carriage. All the same, Esmé was grateful she didn’t have to live in such a place.

“Princess Esmé,” her chief servant greeted her. “Your belongings will be brought to your room. Feel free to explore the castle and meet your peers.” He was fairly young, but he’d earned his position. The true head of staff could not be whisked off another nation’s capital, not even for the destined Queen of Light, but he would not send a fool. Rens was short for a male, only about half a foot taller than Esmé, but efficient and well-dressed. Rumors travelled quickly about him because of his contained demeanor. His blue-white marble eyes met hers, and he blinked. “Please be cautious.”

She smiled, gliding toward the castle. It was elegant but formidable, a towering architecture built to impress while being relatively easy to defend. Some of those particular changes struck her as afterthoughts rather than part of the intended design. “Have I ever been careless?” Rens trailed close behind, dark servants of Light carrying her embroidered luggage bags beyond them and into the castle. “You are new to me, Rens. I will forgive you.” They entered the great hall as servants directed them into the ballroom. He walked as she hovered, her layered dress barely touching the sandstone floors beneath her beaded winter cloak. “This once.”
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[Copyrighted © August 22 2015, J.M. Blute]