Anachronism - Rated M
Content Warning: Swearing, Language, Some Content Unsuitable for Children Under 13, Drug Use, Murder, and General Mishaps and Misery.
Note: Ongoing Project.
New Chicago, Northern America
November 23, 2050
22:34 PM CST
Alicia Aarons was an actress of the highest caliber, and she knew this fact very well. The career brought her a variety of lifetimes’ worth of roles, from femme fatales to old crones to young maids in distress. But her present circumstance was distracting her, just a bit, from these usual thoughts about her daily goings-on.
Because little Alice was going to jump.
The fall wouldn’t kill her; she knew that first-hand. Falling was fun, like flying. Hair floated around your face, wind rushed between your fingers… no, the fall was the best part. Pure, unadulterated freedom…
Yes, what would kill her was not her descent to the pavement.
That would be the men with guns at the foot of the Willis Building.
She took a drag off of her last cigarette and exhaled the smoke with the filter still squeezed between her teeth, and her eyes took in the glowing city one more time. Twinkling lights, tall metallic towers, skyscraper apartments and not a single star in the sky, as far as the eye could see. In a pinch, she’d call it desolately beautiful; and she smiled down at the captive audience below. Coppers, FBI, civilians, SWAT – all mingling, gathered on the black and yellow asphalt veins of the dirty city.
Slim fingertips graced her lips as she pulled the cig away, a final cancer cloud dissipating in the thin air as it swirled in the upper atmosphere, and she grinned at the hover cops as they neared. The giant whirlybirds descended to eye level, the wind whipped by its engines tossing her coat to and fro with her long, long brown hair. The side door of the machine opened and men in black combat armor lined up their little red dots on her forehead, the laser heat making her skin tingle as her lips curled up.
Relaxed even as her end drew near, she tossed the tobacco aside, the dull red ember dying in the cold, and she put her hands in her pockets as they drew nearer. Her mind wandered to a few days before, when the entire mess had started. But…
Wait a minute. She stared at the SWAT officers in the copter and drew a finger across her throat, brow furrowing in confusion, and they dropped their weapons in a group groan. “Come on, this is going to be the third friggen time you’ve forgotten your lines! We’re on a petrol budget, here!” Audible groans of annoyance came from the audience below and Alice just sighed, pulling her PDA out of her pocket and reading the prompts on it. This company was starting to get annoying; marijuana had been legal for nearly thirty years now but they had the most stupid and elaborate commercials for it. The entirety of the last five hours had been repeatedly trying to finish this one commercial, the first in a new line for some new film that was using their product, oh my.
“The lines are… just… really stupid.” Alice looked around and over her shoulder behind the fence, at thin wires attached to the harness under her clothes. “Also, where the hell is the police chief? He’s supposed to come up here first before you guys do and I’ve already forgotten what take we’re at.” She shoved the device back in her pocket and grumbled in irritation as the director called it for the day from inside the copter, the techs on the roof coming over to undo her wires and pull her back to safety. A gofer handed her a hot cup full of coffee, half-cream with extra vanilla, and she walked over to the rooftop access door as she drank it slowly. The heat warmed her cold bones and she smiled at the man in the raincoat that began to walk alongside her. “Jak, relax. You know this is just a dumb ad for Mary Jane Cigs, for my movie.” He scowled at her over his scarf and stared straight ahead at the metal door. “Don’t give me that look, I know you didn’t sleep last night and I’m sorry you’re going on day three as it is.” She sipped more of her caffeine down gladly and turned her head as she looked over her shoulder, seeing the director berating his producer and she couldn’t help but cringe at the sight. The married couple fought like, well, a married couple; Jon couldn’t get things sorted right with the acting crew and Miriam couldn’t get his grips on the job properly.
The bodyguard next to her made another noise, this one more inquisitive, and she just shrugged and offered her coffee, a daily routine; he declined with a hand against the mug and she simply nodded, as she did every day, and finished her drink before tossing it into one of hundreds of waste bins across the large rooftop. Fences blocked off different areas of the top of the building – at least, they had, before they’d rented the top off. Each little area had its own purpose – makeup, costume, more makeup, rehearsal spot, catering, a few trailers for naps, and… For some reason, there was a dancing pole. There was a gag about a pole somewhere in the new movie – she had yet to read that far into the script yet, as she liked surprises – so random actors were posing with it for the Bonus Features easter eggs. She found it ridiculous, and so far had avoided it like the plague.
Jakyll put a narrow hand on her shoulder and she looked up at him again with a frown. “No, I’m not hungry, I just want to take a short break. It’s friggin’ cold up here, Jak,” she whined, without quite sounding whiny, just irritated. “You’d think global warming’d fixed that by now!” His bright blue eyes just threw a chuckle at her as they twinkled, a rare smile reaching his eyes, and he kept his hand on her shoulder. His hackles were up, she noticed; he was tenser than usual, quieter than normal. The man was paranoia at its best, but this was out of sorts and she was starting to worry. But she quickly cast these cares away; it wasn’t her job or place to concern herself with his business – which was protecting her from said problems to begin with.
Across the roof, shouting bounced off the ill-constructed shanties, and they only spared a short glance back. The married couple had cracked open the celebratory champagne, for reasons unknown. The two men were quite the lush ones, always drunk if they could help it and it was only proper at this point to feel embarrassed for them.
Motion caught her eye, and a grin leapt to her lips as she saw the door open. Finally, the ass-hole decided to show! “Marty, come on, you’ve taken all-“
Her eyes widened as the door slammed open under the dead weight of a corpse, the body slamming to the concrete roof and brain matter splattering across the roof from the force of the impact. A hole in the head was his cause of death, and the city’s police chief lay prone, cold, gray.
A shrill scream rent the air – not her own, but that of the production team around her.
A flurry of motion occurred and the only thing that felt solid was Jakyll tackling her to the ground to keep her safe from the mass trampling that nearly occurred. She buried her face in his coat, trembling in abject shock, and as silence fell, he grunted. “I’m fine,” she whispered, voice small. He stood and helped her to her feet, wrapping an arm around her to pull her close and safe. The masked man glanced around, pulling a handgun from inside his coat, and he ushered her over to one of the air-conditioner vents and gestured for her to sit. Jakyll didn’t speak – didn’t need to. She understood perfectly that he wanted her to hide and stay down while he looked for the killer. Hired mercs were good at the whole “talk without talking” thing.
Well, he was, anyway.
Alice hunkered down with her arms over her head, trembling minutely as she watched him check behind and under the various props and scenery around the rooftop before scanning over the other roofs. He nodded curtly and returned to her spot, bringing her back to her feet and pulling her quickly past the dead body. No words were exchanged as they descended the stairs until they found an elevator, and as they waited for it to ascend to their floor, Alice began to wretch and covered her mouth, skin turning ashen and clammy as her body shook and her stomach heaved. He kept his arm around her even as she vomited up what she’d eaten at breakfast and the coffee too, and kept calm as the elevator open and he walked her inside. She simply leaned against him, trembling and weak, and he put a hand on her forehead. No, not sick, just in shock. She’d be fine. He rolled his eyes a bit and picked her up, pulling her over his shoulder as she swooned, and pressed the lobby button.
The slow descent gave him time to think about his errands for the day, idly ticking them off. Take Miss Alice to the conference for Epic of the Ninja later; the movie had been a hit and panels were clamoring to have her on it. Then meet with his sister for lunch at the bistro. Take Miss Alice home. Guard the house. Short nap at breakfast while his temp covers his nap.
The elevator dinged at last and he strode off it, smoothly resting his ward on a chair and arranging her so she’d be comfortable, and he knelt at her side, patting one of her hands warmly and watching her unconscious face rather tiredly. Assassination attempts and threats aside, this was routine for them by now. They’d lost more police chiefs on this one commercial series than any other project she’d agreed to star in and it was starting to take its toll on her delicate sensitivities. The blond man looked up at the director as he walked over and when the barrage of questions began – Did you do it, did he set her off somehow, why do you always have to be around, et cetera – he just shrugged them off and continued gently prodding his ward back into the waking world with carefully light nudges on her face. Her eyes fluttered open and she whimpered, trembling and curling into the chair’s raised back, and he rubbed her spine through her trench coat, glaring at the director. The man backed off at last, leaving the two alone.
“Jakyll?” Another grunt of acknowledgement. “Can you please just take me straight home today? I don’t want to go to the convention. I’m too scared.” A nod. “Thank you.” She curled up again, hands over her ears as she tried to drown out the noise. He sighed through the mask covering the lower half of his face and turned blue eyes to the rest of the room. Panic everywhere, police scouring the lobby and interrogating random patrons. Security was already elevating around the city, the color red shining from every visible monitor in the room, and personnel were already heading into the security office of the building to investigate.
This was getting too tense for his liking and he fixed his scarf, the white paper mask shifting with it, before rising and pulling her to her feet, leading her over to the security desk and gesturing to where her coat was hung up on the rack. The young rookie’s hands shook as he grabbed the Kevlar-lined garment; this was his first time in the rodeo, and all Jakyll could really do was leave a generous tip of a fifty dollar bill on the table as they walked away.
Outside, Chicago was chaos as always, perhaps more so than usual as a result of Marty’s murder. Jakyll guided his ward through the crowded streets, traffic at a standstill even as rush hour peaked, and he eyed each cab as they walked past. Not a single one was void of passengers; they’d have to walk home. With a grimace, he pulled Alicia onto the sidewalk as cars began to creep along.
“Jak?” The tiny voice made him stop and he looked down at her as she lifted her face to look at him in turn; her face was still pale and her skin remained clammy. “Can we stop to eat somewhere, first?” He furrowed his brow, thinking to deny it and insist on cooking when they arrived safely at her apartments, but an added “Please?” was plaintive enough to make him concede. His watchful eyes picked out the fast-food stops as they walked, but none were tickling her fancy. Granted, her stomach simply growled because it had been so abruptly voided, and she’d eat anything at this point, but he wanted her to eat something of substance instead of the gruel-like oatmeal she’d become accustomed to since her schedule had begun to implode.
Some back-alley Chinese restaurant seemed to appeal to her belly’s grumbling. Jakyll found himself presented with a pair of odd drinks. Through the servers’ thick accents, he understood them to be “bubble tea”, and that the odd, clear orbs were tapioca balls. Alicia had removed the lid from her cup and was stabbing the pearls with her straw, eating them calmly as she sipped from the rim of the transparent cup. “M-m-mmm, mango tea. Try it, Jak, it’s good!” She smiled at him and he stared at her instead of his drink. “Look, you’re not the ugliest mug in the city, just take a sip.”
“…no. I’m fine.” He gently pushed his drink away and folded his hands on the table, the linoleum and his gloves squeaking as they rubbed together.
“… No, you are not,” she muttered, being a bit violent with her tea as she stabbed her straw through the next tapioca pearl and shoved it between her teeth with much gusto. This was the Alicia he was used to; rather bossy, but trying to be polite about it and being upset when it didn’t get her the response she wanted. He smiled a bit to himself, minutely shaking his head, and he looked up at the waiter when they returned.
“Spiciest dish you’ve got for me, and she wants wantons with chicken and that fried noodle dish I know you’ve got back there.” The waiter eyed him in annoyance and wrote it all down before walking away with an agitated twitch to his step. Ah, well; Jakyll wasn’t one to be polite to the help.
As Alicia ate, color returned to her cheeks and she didn’t look half so peaky. His own food sat in a brown paper bag, neatly contained in recyclable packaging with its own set of cheap paper-wrapped chopsticks and cellophane-enclosed fortune cookie. Alicia cracked hers open after she paid the tab and she read it aloud as they walked down the sidewalk, “‘Don’t get so cocky; it’s only just begun.’”
“Ominous.” Jakyll carried his takeout tucked under his arm, his other hand lightly wrapped around her waist to keep her close. She didn’t mind the contact, had said once it made her feel less vulnerable and exposed, and in any case, she appreciated his furnace-like body heat. How he didn’t sweat to death under all those layers was incomprehensible.
It was time to go home, and she just wanted a god-be-da.mned nap.
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© 2007 The Doll Palace