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miércoles, 2 de agosto de 2017

The planetarium

   The planetarium was almost empty. The small crowds of the morning had been gone for a while and now only two couples and a sleeping guy were beneath the dome, not really witnessing the lightshow that had been made to teach people about stars, planets and all other astronomical bodies. However, there were two other people in the room. They were there only for a couple of minutes but enough for one of them to look at the massive Milky Way for quite a while.

 His name was non important. His service badge had the number 954. The number was always assigned randomly, with no real meaning. It was just a way for people to know something and, at the same time, not knowing a single truth about the person they were in front of. He would wear his badge everywhere when on duty and, on secret missions like these, he would have it somewhere on him to pull out fast or throw away in an instant, anything to live a bit longer in order to survive, step by step.

 He had arrived too early at the meeting but he had done so because it would have been too obvious if they had met on the street or even in front of the planetarium. And if they had entered at the same exact time, people would have noticed something else going on. So he just got there earlier, his hotel being pretty close to that place, and had witnessed most of the lightshow without a sound interrupting the narration, except maybe the snore of the sleeping guy on a back row.

 The agent sat down and waited. As he did that, he remembered his childhood, when he asked several times for stickers that lighted up in the dark in order to decorate his room. His mother tried to buy him some but she gave up after a couple of outings. Besides, his dad was against it the moment he knew of the kid’s request. The man declined to buy his son anything, especially not when he was doing so poorly at school. 954 had to repeat that grade the following year.

 Stars were just things that had fascinated him for a long time and they were also one of the things he had given up during childhood. When he looked back at those days, he felt that maybe he hadn’t really lived as a kid. His parents had always been so different and he was trapped often in his discussions. It was especially hurtful when they blamed him for things they hadn’t done in life, as he had been born very early in their relationship. He eventually learned that they had married only because of him. One of his grandparents told him, as if it was nothing.

 The exchange went fast. Agent XDE had come a long way for the information and she really didn’t feel like staying more than needed in that dreadful city. It was a very strange thing but she had been born in a city and hated every single urban landscape she had ever seen. This was because the only good memories she had had taken place far from those places, in nature, where animals lived and everything had a really nice feel of freedom and excitement about it. It felt true.

 She had landed her job just as she had come out of college. She was a very brilliant student, who had been fortunate enough to go to a very private and respected high school. She had done so many things to earn people’s respect that it wasn’t a surprise when the government started offering her jobs. Most of those jobs involved working on offices and she hated the idea of being in a closed environment. It was her that proposed them to work as an agent and they gladly complied.

 Her training was done faster than most recruits and she was sent to her first mission at the same age other girls are trying to fit in college and find what their passion in life is. She didn’t want their life and was successful in using everything she had in life in order to progress faster than others and always be ahead, no matter the costs. She had learned to be self-reliant and didn’t care at all about other people. Spies exist to prevent evil to destroy common people but she didn’t care at all.

 The adrenaline of her job was what kept her going; from the moment she stepped in her first mission. She never had an issue when asked if she could separate completely from her family. She even did it before they asked her.  XDE was assigned as her code and it was a series of letters she had chosen for herself and submitted them to her bosses. She didn’t care about receiving a “no” for an answer and that was because she knew people were afraid of her. She liked that.

 No one ever knew what her code name meant but that was of little importance in the long run. The most important thing she had to offer was her skills: she was fast, effective, silent and with an excellent eye to predict how a scenario would play out. She would play all the possible outcomes in her head and then try to move everything in order for her to get favored. She was a very good manipulator, which explained how she entered the museum without being seen and then out again, in a few minutes. She was one of the best spies the world had ever seen.

 The transaction was as follows: agent 954 was seating on the front row, very close to the projector. The couples were on the middle rows and the sleeping man on the back row. Agent XDE did not enter through the main door but through the one used by maintenance crew and all other people that worked in the planetarium and in the adjacent museum. She did it silently and had previous knowledge the door was always covered in darkness during one of those lightshows.

 When 954 noticed her, he immediately knew who she was. It wasn’t because she was obvious, but it was something about the way she walked or the way she looked at him from the dark, for only a second. He just knew that what he had to do was stand up and walk towards her side of the dome room. Darkness would help the deal get done faster and so it was. When he was very close to her, already covered by darkness, she grabbed his hand in a grip, almost as he wanted to crush it.

 Instead, she passed him a very small tube with whatever his bosses had told him to collect. The woman didn’t say a word. He just knew he had to pretend that he had decided to leave the show and she just disappeared through the same door she had used when entering. The woman almost flew away of the scene like a cat or some kind of incredibly silent creature. In a matter of minutes, she was already grabbing her only suitcase and hopping into a car for the airport.

 Meanwhile, he walked slowly through the planetarium’s exposition halls, watching the beautiful dioramas of how Humanity would colonize Mars and other celestial bodies in the Solar System. He just knew running away wasn’t the best way to do what he had to do. He had to play it cool. So he walked slowly towards the cafeteria and then bought some coffee there. He had in a table by a garden and then left walking as if nothing had happened, towards his hotel.

 The show ended inside the planetarium. The couples left after realizing the lights were on. They didn’t say a word, just walked to the exit in silence, as if they knew they had desecrated a place that was not meant for horny younger people.

 But the sleeping man remained there for a little more. After all, he hadn’t really been sleeping at all. He had just seen a very interesting exchange happened and he was well aware that many people would pay a lot of money for the information that was now in his power.

miércoles, 25 de enero de 2017

Afraid of them

   Each one of them had to be eliminated. There was no point in trying to argue this logic. The fact remained that all of them had been witnessed of something they shouldn’t have and they needed to be killed before they could say a word to anyone. Lucas did a very thorough list where he wrote the name of each person that had seen him move that object with his mind. Every single one of them had to be destroyed unless he considered them to be harmless with that knowledge.

 Actually, he did consider that for a while. After all, it wasn’t like he knew them all personally. All of the opposite, he couldn’t care less about who they were and he did try to convince himself that none of them had seen absolutely anything on that night. But then, someone was stupid enough to tell someone else, maybe as a funny story, and Lucas had to take care of it before it couldn’t expand beyond those two people. His watchful eye had been right then and he concluded it should be a definite answer.

 But, as he planned everything, he thought that probably every single one of those people didn’t really know what they had seen. Maybe they were confused and had decided to deny it or even rejected what their eyes had brought to them because their beliefs did not match any of what was happening with that unique moment in time. It was possible that people weren’t as bad and terrible as he thought they were. But then someone spoke about it and then someone else did and he realized what he had to do.

 A total of one hundred and fifty three people would have to be killed. That was the amount of people that had seen the large explosion he had caused very high in the atmosphere. He had caused that by pushing a bomb that was going to detonate, destroying a whole town. His reaction was to use his mind to push the object as high as he could. That way, the bomb would go off but harming no one. His effort almost caused him to faint but he bomb successfully detonated away from town.

 The problem was that, during that night, the monthly fair of the small town was taking place and, at least, a thousand people were there, eating and enjoying many rides and games. So was he and it was just after winning a plushy on a booth that he discovered the plans of a mad man and had only second to propel the bomb up into the night sky and hope his plan worked. That was why so people had seen his feat and that’s why know he needed to eliminate them all, as they couldn’t be allowed to know what he did, least of all tell anyone else about it.

 For many weeks, he decided to listen to every single person he remembered in the fair. The good thing was that he had a photographic memory and he was able to a complete list of people that had seen the explosion high up in the sky. After that, he followed every single one of them and checked on their lives to see if they had spoken about him at all. This they didn’t know, but he had very good hearing, able to hear a person speaking from many kilometers away, which he used to his advantage.

 He would spend hours hearing what a family talked about during and after dinner. Lucas did that in order to convince himself that maybe some of the people would be able to keep their mouths shut, for the good of the future and because they were afraid to say something out loud that seemed a little bit too crazy. However, that first family finally talked about it almost a week after it had happened. There was no choice in Lucas’s mind. So he entered the house at night and killed them with care.

 The idea was that he didn’t want the police or anyone else to think that someone had silenced those people. Instead, he wanted them to believe that all of these people had died of natural causes. Of course, after the first few, imagination would begin to be much more difficult to harness. But, thankfully, not much of it was needed because no one questioned the first deaths. It was all seen as a coincidence or as tragic ending stories for very happy and, sometimes, very sad stories.

 When he wasn’t doing what he was doing, he punished himself physically for what he did. He did so because it was obvious that he wasn’t killing criminals but all of the other people instead, the good ones, the ones that had families, and something they loved doing and lives that shouldn’t be disruptive of someone who wasn’t able to find another solution for an immediate answer. Lucas blamed himself for not having been able to handle things in a different way, for having to kill.

 Yet, he couldn’t change his plans now that he has started to execute. It wouldn’t make any sense to ignore them and let oust him as what he was. They couldn’t understand what was happening and what had been happening to him since when he was a teenager. Although he had received training, Lucas had never been able to master the complete arts of mind control and everything that had any connection to it. People wouldn’t understand that having those abilities was more of a curse than a blessing. And he couldn’t explain carefully to anyone, it would take much too long.

 Two weeks after his initial decision, only forty-two of the former group was still live. He had killed most of them during their sleep so they could be able to avoid pain and everything related to it. Lucas hated himself every single time he had to do it and would have loved to have a second opinion but there was no one there except him and his plan. He couldn’t be stopped and he honestly regretted that because a good person always wants to be stopped when they do something for the greater good.

 More often than not, the greater good is a way to shield oneself from criticism and understanding. He would have loved all those little children and the adults to understand that he didn’t want to hurt them but that he knew very well, after hearing all of them, that most would like to have his abilities or at least be able to see them in action once more. Once they had seen something so strange, they really wanted to see it again and again, until time came that it made no sense or they decided to be afraid.

 And fear was his number one enemy. Many of them had already planned to speak loud and clear about what they had seen and whom they had seen doing it. Although they felt a little bit of envy, fear was the key in making them move against what had fascinated them at the start. All of those he killed first were that kind of people, thinking they were doing this country a great service by pushing a fellow human into the pool of hungry sharks that was the military or even worse.

No, his powers had to die with him and that was it. He completed his mission almost a year after he had decided that was the only solution. There was no one to recognize that but at least he was in peace, or something close to that, at last. He also decided to never use his powers again, even at home where no one could actually see him. His short run as a powerful man was over. Lucas had so many other things to be worried about and he was glad everything now was on the past.

 But that never actually happened because the death of all those people was on his hands. It doesn’t matter what this intentions were back then, he had killed all of those people in order to protect himself. Every single day, he had to be convinced that what he did was the only choice. But then, months after finishing, a voice appeared in the back of his head and it told him something that he wasn’t expecting: an alternative. His own brain wanted to explain to Lucas how things could have been so different. But at the end of the day, he had to live with what he had learned.

viernes, 8 de mayo de 2015

Local politics

  As Marina walked to her polling station, she repeated in her head the names of all the candidates or, at least, the names of the ones she knew about. This time there were so many names. She liked it more when it was between three or four people. But this time there were almost ten and that just seemed too much for a race for a mayoral post.

 Nevertheless, it was the most important mayoral post in the country. Some people even called it the second most important political figure in the country after the president. And that wasn’t surprising when you realized how really useless was a job like the one of the vice-president. Marina thought that office should disappear and pass their responsibilities to other hands. Most people in the country didn’t know who their vice-president once, except maybe this time around because it was well known he was going after the presidential seat in a few years time.

 But anyway, today was about the city. Marina had been born thee in a middle class neighborhood and had grown up there. She had never moved, except after college when she decided to leave the country to learn another language but that was it. She could say she knew every street, every corner of her neighborhood and also the whole city to be honest. After all, as a  girl who had worked as a delivery person in a pizza place, she had to know addresses and a good chunk of the city.

 Her district had grown through the years. When it first appeared on maps, some seventy years ago, the neighborhood was on the edge of the city and was home of the wealthy. Their house, beautifully constructed Victorian buildings still stood on every street of the district but wealthy people had long been gone. Many of them now lived in country houses or large apartments overlooking the city from the hills, which were the tallest geographical feature. Now her district was middle class and very diverse.

 Marina had seen change before her eyes, because her neighborhood had also attracted, over the years, a very diverse group of people. From people from other regions that had come to the capital for a better life to artists and intellectuals who made the Victorian houses their homes or cultural centers for the whole city. Many of them had been converted to dancing schools, acting schools, music conservatories and other uses. And maybe because of this, it was becoming rare to see big families leaving in the neighborhood. Instead there were a lot of “new” families coming such as homosexual couples and many singles and students.

 When she got to the polling station, Marina was already sure of her choice. It wasn’t difficult after all because there was only one person that would seek to preserve the past but also embrace the present, exactly what her district was all about and what she honestly loved about her neighborhood. Marina voted for a woman, one of only two women there, because she was the one most vocal to embrace the “new” city instead of going back to the old, ragged politics.

 In another part of town, more exactly near the hills that watched over the shallow valley were the city sat, Albert was stepping out of his polling station. He didn’t really put much thought about his vote as he had decided many months ago, since the candidates had become public.

 Albert was almost fifty years old, had a lovely wife, two kids and worked in the city’s stock market. It was a difficult job but one he loved because he had always been fond of numbers and, to be honest, of money. He made a lot of money in that job, more than he could have ever imagined and with his savings he had bought a large apartment, two cars and a flat by the beach, which they visited at least once a year.

 The truth was that, different than Marina, Albert wasn’t really in loved with this city. Yes, he had been born there but from a young age he had travelled around the world because of his father’s work and had learned how much better it could be for everyone. People in other countries could be financially better and be able to live an “easier” life. In this country, the differences between the rich and the poor were abysmal but the rich were not that rich to begin with.

 Besides all this, he was tired of the mayor’s policies to forbid him to use his cars as he wanted, the taxes went up every year so he could help pay what the poor spent in water and power and he thought that the city was mixing too much for his taste. As an example, in his neighborhood many people that used to live in other parts of the city had begun arriving recently. Some were foreigners hired by multinationals but some others were just people that made his district look bad.

 At work and around his family members, he would always try to convince them to vote like he did. He told them that the mayor had to be someone that worked the same way the government worked in the good years for the economy so the city could grow to make a better life for all of its inhabitants. As a proof of sorts of what he said about the current mayor, he told everyone he could hold on to for more than five minutes that he was thinking of moving to the countryside, to another jurisdiction, because he thought smaller towns knew exactly what to offer to people like him.

 So after he voted, he took his wife voting too and after that left the city to their beach flat where they would check the results o f the voting.

 Another person that was leaving the city was Juan. Juan had arrived to the city some two years ago, when looking for a university where he could study to become a designer. He worked very hard in his classes and always tried to innovate and be the one the teachers looked at. After all, his family had gone through great challenges in order to send him to another city to live and study. At the same time that Albert, Juan was leaving the city to visit his family back in his hometown after going to vote early.

 He preferred to do it really early so the voting station would be almost empty. It was well known that in the capital very few people voted earlier than midday and besides he had to be at the airport so he didn’t have much choice either. And talking about choices, his was a really difficult one. He had arrived to the city fairly recently but was able to vote because he had registered his ID in a polling station near his knew home.

 Juan lived a few blocks away from Marina but was only learning about the diversity in the district. He had grown in another kind of town, where people were less open and much more predictable in their voting ways. His parents had always voted for exactly the same party since they could remember but he didn’t want to be like that. He wanted to be the one of the few people that voted after thoroughly reading every single one of the proposals of every candidate.

 Some of them promised better transport, others better health other more security and so on. They seemed to be agreeing on several things but the truth was, when reading between the lines, that the same things meant different ways to get there for each candidate. One of them thought better transport was just having more buses and another thought it was all about the subway. Some declared security depended on education; other announced they would increase the number of cops in every part of the city. Two offered more hospitals, others more housing for the poor and one of them, funny enough, offered to reform the whole administrative division of the city to make it more realistic.

 It was a hard decision to make for Juan as this one was the first time he voted in the city and he planned to stay there long after he finished his studies. After all, this city offered more work opportunities and a lifestyle with more options than any other towns in the country. Yeah, of course everything was globalized now and things where changing even in the most traditional towns, but he felt that this city had a potential, had the capacity to be so much more than it was and he wanted to be a participant in that new era for the city.

 So when he went to cast his vote that morning, he decided to vote for the one candidate that had convinced him in most issues. He knew the man wasn’t going to win, if the polls were right, but he felt at ease thinking he had spoken his mind and had made the right choice, staying true to what he thought the city should be all about.