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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.

– – –

Thank you for reading!

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

– – –

© Jam Blute, 2017

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.

————–
[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.
————–
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?”
————–
[Copyrighted © January 29, 2016, Jam Blute]

Surprise Saturday

Yikes, it’s been forever.
————–
“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.
————–
[Copyrighted © January 16, 2016, Jam Blute]

Surprise Saturday

These are getting less surprising as we go.
————–
Her mother always said to be careful in parking garages. Alex whistled as she passed 2B, 2C, and 3A to her van wedged in section 3B. Luckily this client paid well for deliveries or she wouldn’t deal with this mess.
The van’s lights flashed when she unlocked it, and that’s when she heard him. On the opposite side of the van, he almost fell over getting up, but Alex was already there. A hospital band on his left wrist, his hood pulled over white hair, and a hunch like he could make himself smaller. Alex shook her head.
“You lost, kid?” It was a mall parking garage at 5:00 a.m., and this kid looked fresh from rehab. She’d made worse mistakes and gotten out fine.
“No,” he rasped, breathing shakily. “I’m where I need to be.”
“That right?” She stepped forward and he tensed, but not in fear. She finally his eyes, red irises looking out at her. No drug did that, or at least none she knew.
“You need a place to go, kid, I know ’em all. Name what you need and I’ll take you there.” She nodded to the van. “First ride’s free.”
————–
[Copyrighted © November 7, 2015, Jam Blute]

Slug Sunday

This week’s belated post is brought to you by my over-excitement during my first Halloween handing out candy.
————–
Commuters boarded and left as she sat there, reading and doing puzzles in last week’s paper. An earthquake across the sea kills two hundred people. Four businesspeople sit and talk into cell phones, never once seeing where they are before they’re off again. The economy is improving, studies say. A college couple makes out on the other end of the car, finally stumbling out on the stop for the orange line. The sun goes down and neon signs turn on. Another row filled in Sudoku, and twelve down is ‘era’. These were Dana’s connections to the world. By choice.
————–
[Copyrighted © November 1, 2015, Jam Blute]

Slug Sunday

You’ve seen Flash Friday, you’ve heard of Surprise Saturday. Now you have #SlugSunday. You’re welcome. ❤
————–
The world betrayed him. It had been as simple as it had been efficient. In the course of a few months, he lost everything to exile in the swamps. Even that exile was stolen, a precious gift he had to take or else die. Rahim, deposed King of Sand, sleeping in a humid swamp hut and dreaming, dreaming sweet nightmares.
————–
[Copyrighted © October 25, 2015, Jam Blute]

Surprise Saturday

This weekend snuck up on me, I swear.
————–
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.

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