copyright 2007 by chris st thomas
Inspired by Frank Miller and Christopher Nolan. Characters are my own or used ficticiously.
Compare this one to the old one and let me know what you think, eh?
City Flight Overhaul
I'm sitting 98 floors up at a table on The Terrace. Looking out over a superb view of the bay, I'm writing a song. I can almost see infinity out there at the horizon where the sea meets the sky and the moon rises above the waters, reflecting off both the ocean and the clouds. I'm drinking a cup of the best espresso in the City, and I feel inspired. In just two hours, I've written the chorus, two verses, and part of a third verse, but I'm not sure about this bridge yet. Is it finished or does it need more, more... what? Twirling the stylus, I run the melody back through my head again as I look back over the - - A phone call pops up in the center of my notebook's screen.
Caller-ID says it's from the Herald.
Who do I know at the paper?
I don't accept the call.
I touch the stylus to the screen and the lyrics jump back to the foreground. I key the midi software to play the melody for me again. Phone call pops back up, from the same number at the paper. I let it go, and run the melody and counter melody together. Yeah, the bridge needs another line; it isn't fin - -Same call pops up a third time. I'm about to block the number when my gut tells me to accept it.
I tell the notebook to put the call through.
"Oracle Condition, Parker, I've got one for you. And why did you make me call you not once, not twice, but thrice??" There's a voice I'm not expecting to hear. Carrie Kelley.
"I'm trying to write a song here, Carrie," I say. I start to ask if it can wait, but she's already giving me the assignment.
"Hostages at--" she plows right on.
"Whoa." I cut her off. "Hold on just one moment there Miss Kelly, let me put on my ear piece, so that the whole Terrace doesn't have to hear this." I mute the call, unzip a pocket, pull out my phone ear piece and fit it to my left ear. "Okay, that's better. Where were we?"
She tells me, "There're hostages at 126th Street and Maple Ave."
"What has that to do with me?" I ask her. "I'm writing a song, Carrie. I've got the tune, the chorus, some verses and I'm working on a bridge. I'm a musician now." I insist. "I'm not on of the Bats anymore." I declare, but my heart is, well listening.
"The Mayor and the Commissioner- -"
"Good, then let the police handle it."
"Parker, Kragen's Commandos are the SWAT unit on duty." She plays a trump card. She knows I don't like Kragen's Commandos anymore than Wayne did when he was alive.
"That doesn't sound good." She's got me. She knows it. I just haven't quite realized it yet.
"Mr. Wayne used to call them 'the jack-booted Gestapo squad.'" She knows she's got me, I can hear it in her voice.
"I still don't see what this has to do with me." I'm trying to dodge, but I'm not putting up much of a fight.
"You're Special Forces. You do this stuff." She's playing the duty card now.
"I told you, Carrie. I'm a musician now. I'm trying to move one from that." I'm just running the dance out to it's natural conclusion.
"Do you have a parachute and tranquilizer darts there with you?" She knows me as well as I know myself, but how?
"Er, yes…I've hardly met you more than twice, Carrie. How do you know that?" How indeed.
"I worked for Mr. Wayne, remember. And he talked about you. He used to reminisce about Miss Kyle and the son he raised and the son he lost."
Which son was I? Did I say that out loud?
"If you're still carrying blow darts and a parachute, how far on can you have you moved?"
"The parachute is for base jumping and the darts are for personal defense, far less clumsy and random than firearms."
"If you say so, Parker."
"I'm a musician who enjoys extreme sports, and - - hold on a second." There goes that jerk at the bar again, the nerve of some people. Why can't he just take no for an answer and move on to the next one? Isn't there someone for everyone? My hand brushed against the zipper pocket where I stow my blow dart set. Ee-gads. I can think of too many ways this ends in a bad scene. Nothing to see here people, I'm just a musician writing a song. I start to close my notebook to get up and warn the girl. Then an observant bartender swaps out her drink for a fresh one, and two very large men dressed in entirely in black approach the jerk.
"What just happened over there?" Carrie demands in my ear piece. "I'm trying to talk to you."
"Over at the bar, some guy who's been chatting up a nice looking redhead just poured something in her drink while she stepped away." There were gasps in the background and a muffled thump that sounded remarkably like someone falling off of a barstool, but who can say? "The nerve of some people."
"Nothing to see here folks, the gentleman was just leaving anyway," the barman says.
"So you just knocked the jerk out from across the room?" she's goading me, toying with me. "I thought you said the darts were for personal defense, less clumsy and random than guns and all that."
"Exactly. That's why I waited a moment assessing the situation, and an observant bartender took care of the drink and called the bouncers." I think we're both starting to have fun with this conversation.
"The hostages at 126th and Maple, there's kids there Parker, some younger than nine."
I have no quick, witty, semi-sarcastic reply to that. She waits. I wait. We both know the gears are turning in my head. "Innocence," we both say together. About fifteen years apart in age, and I have more in common with this college intern than I did with my ex-wife. Saving the lyrics, I call up Mapquest on my notebook to locate that intersection and see how far away from the Terrace it is.
Carrie tells me, "You can stop this from being splattered across the eleven o'clock news and make it into a memory that these kids can just let recede into the background of their lives."
The gears are still turning in my head
"Parker, police scanner reports that the SWAT team is rolling." Now she's serious.
"Okay. I've got a fix on the location. It's not far. Let me check the prevailing winds around here and run some numbers- -"
"Numbers, hell, Parker!" there's urgency in Carrie's voice now. "You can't wait for those kids to get caught between the dancing, pirouetting, nutcases with Kalashnikovs and the ones with helmets, shields, and AR-15s."
"You're right, of course." The winds will work out for me; they have to. "Stay with me, Carrie. I need info."
I switch my notebook into phone mode and stow it. Raising a finger, I check the wind. Then I squat down to pick up the parachute that looks like a book bag. Stepping up onto the ledge, I hear gasps and turn to face the others gathered at The Terrace. I put on my goggles and helmet, and I hold up the parachute. "Ladies and gentlemen, I am the frontman, publicist and lead singer song-writer for the band Extreme Dreams and this, my friends, is a parachute." I don the parachute, cinching the straps around my legs and buckling the buckles across my chest and around my shoulders. I walk back for a running start and with a bow say, "Kids, don't try this at home." Then I dash up to the ledge and take a flying leap, right off the side of the ninety-eighth floor.
I want to scream with exhilaration, but can't because I'm busy preparing my chute to deploy. I have my back arched and my arms and legs stretched out behind me. I'm holding the mini-chute in my left hand. I'm trying to get a little velocity here, but I can't trade too much altitude, because I have just exhausted my second and a half to release this minichute which is right now pulling open my main chute … This is the clunky part. The chute jerks me back into the harness as it opens fully. I grab the steering cords and test them. I have full control.
Mapquest scrolls by in heads up display mode in my left eye. My laptop is also whispering to me as I glide down the street; it's calling off altitude and distance from the target as well as naming off the streets and land marks as I pass them. I work my guide cables, steering myself and controlling my descent. "Okay, Carrie. Fill me in here. What am I up against?" My laptop whispers that Carrie has put me on hold and do I want to here the hold music from the Herald? I tell it no. Actually she picked a good time to go on another call. I've got to set up a turn here. I work my cables and swing wide to the right like an eighteen wheeler making a left turn.
"Parker are you there?" Carrie asks, a touch of concern in her tone.
"Hold on Carrie." I'm on Maple now. Only a few more blocks to go. Streetlight coming up, hello. I let a puff of air out from both sides of my canopy, so that instead of turning, I just drop a few feet. I glide right under it.
"Okay Carrie, I can see the police cordon up ahead. What am I up against? Tell me about the perps."
"My man on the scene - -"
"Just answer my questions."
"Yes, sir. Three perps."
"Kalashnikovs. One each."
"How are the perps acting?"
"They looked drunk or stoned. They were dancing, twirling pirouettes with their weapons, like they thought it was fun or something."
"How many hostages?"
"Tell me about the building and what unit they're in."
"Four story brownstone. Fire escapes in the allies on either side. They're on the second floor, in the right hand unit as scene from the street."
"Thank you, Carrie. Please stay on the line. I'll call your name if I need you."
I check my belt to see if, by some miracle, I packed a grapple or any deceleration cable. I didn't. I guess I'll just take down the perps and get the hostages out the old fashioned way.
I hope there are no trees in the way. I'm coming up on the building. Three blocks. I swing wide to the left side of the street. Two blocks; I'm shedding altitude fast. No tree in the way. I hope they're in the front room. What were the keys Wayne used to tell me about…"theatricality and deception, misdirection and dramatic entrance; the best entrances involve shattering glass."
I can see them through the window, perps and hostages. This will make a very dramatic entrance. I grab the risers and swing both my legs up straight out in front of me and turn my head to the side putting my helmet in the lead. My boots shatter the front picture window inside as I flip the release clips on my chute. The air catches the chute away outside the window while I do my best to execute a sideways parachute landing fall, just like I learned at Fort Benning. Momentum carries me across the room while I knock over a plant and crack some sheetrock. No broken bones. Gunshots ring out and bullet holes trace across the room to the left and right of the window, as the glass I left behind shatters outside.
Now I know where the bad guys are. I duck behind a sofa while I pull out my blow gun and darts. That can't hit what they can't see, right? I pop up and down. Two darts zip across the room. Bullets strike the wall over my head. I hear two thunks as two perps pass out and fall to the floor. I listen for the nervous breathing of the last perp. What I hear is the sound of footsteps dashing across the room at me. I pop up, and zing him with a blow dart as he charges me.
He collapses to the floor in midstride.
Now, I can survey the scene properly. Police Commissioner Ellen Yendle's husband lies slumped against a wall bleeding, going into shock. He's evidently tried to be a hero. Their son has rendered first aid like a good Cub Scout. Now he is comforting his sister. I reassure the kids and heft their dad up in my arms. He needed medical attention twenty minutes ago when I was on the phone with Carrie. "Carrie, do you know where the ambulances are?" A young voice in the room says, "Huh?"
"I'm on the phone." I say
"No," Carrie replies in my ear, "But I can see on News One that police are forming up in front of the main entrance, Thompson says the cameras won't see you in the alley."
"Thanks, I'll take the fire escape. Bye."
I heft the bleeding father of two and husband of the Commissioner up into a fireman's carry over my shoulder to get his weight off my arms and better situated on my back. I cross the room while shifting him. I walk through the kitchen to the fire escape door. I carry him out onto the landing of the fire escape. I carry him stumbling down the fire escape three steps at a time without dropping him and yell for the paramedics.
EMTs rush over with a stretcher, and I lay the man I'm carrying down so they can do their job. Some uniformed police with hand guns and flashlights extended and crossed have escorted the EMTs. I stand very still.
Suddenly, the doors on the SWAT van burst open at the end of the alley, and that elite team begins to deploy out in two columns, setting shields, moving up, covering each other with overlapping fields of fire. One squad breaks off and files into the alley yelling at me, the EMTs, the uniforms. I raise my hands, palms open and facing forward. Without my gas powered magnetic grapple gun and explosive powders, I have no easy escape. I'll have to play this out.
The leader of the uniforms says something to his Captain over the radio that I can't make completely make out.
Two of the uniforms turn and level their weapons at the SWAT officers. More yelling comes from the SWAT officers as they block the EMTs. The rescue squad just wants to get the patient to the ambulance: the Commissioner's husband is in the process of dying here. They need their gear to save him
I see a plain clothes cop with years of service etched in the lines of his face enter the alley. He wears a trench coat with a captain's badge clipped into the front pocket and an American flag pen on the lapel. The Captain lifts a bullhorn up to his mouth with left hand. He calls out in a command voice, "Police Officers! Stand down here! The perps are up there," he points up toward the second floor apartment. "Let the rescue squad pass with the Commissioner's husband and for crying out loud get those press vultures back another hundred feet."
The Captain and I locked eyes. We nodded understanding and some uniforms dashed off to push the press back. Perhaps I had an ally here. "The perps?" he asks simply.
"How long to take them?"
"About 146 seconds, give or take."
"You must be Parker."
"Hell of thing you just did."
Carrie. Thank Heaven for Carrie.
"Save my parachute, would you?"
He nods. "You can sign for it down at the 19th Precinct in a couple days."
He gestures for me to give him a moment, stows the bullhorn under one arm, and grabs his radio. I turn and make my way up the alley away from the scene. "All SWAT Officers stand down and return to base." I hear it echo out of every cop car on the street. "Perps are down. This is Captain Carlisle, incident commander. I say again all SWAT Officers stand down and return to base."
Carlisle lets me go. It's not as dramatic as crashing through that window, but as an exit, it's theatrical enough for me.
My padd rings as I walk down the alley. The ring tone is the one reserved for my ex-wife. I wonder if Thompson would trade me an anonymous ride home for an exclusive on my story tonight, also anonymous. Of course.
"Oh, my gawd, Parker. I'm watching News One. Some guy just crashed thru a window in a parachute. Was that you? Then a bunch of medics and cops and SWAT guys ran down an alley. Are you in that alley? Are you risking your life? I put up with your base jumping. But if you engage in vigilante crap like this, I swear Parker, I can't let you put your son in danger with behavior like that. Join the police if you have to keep saving the world. Or get yourself one of those rings. Like that Space Cop guy."
"I'm a musician now, Brittany.
"Oh, pu-lease. Next you'll be telling me you inherited a million dollars from the Wayne family."
"Look, If you need an extra day to get the child support payment to me, you just have to ask. No need for a sob story about being a musician."
"For real, Britty. I wrote a song tonight, but it sounds like you're watching some fine television."
"My gawd Parker, the medics are loading a man into an ambulance. I guess he can't be you since I'm talking to you."
"That's right Britty. Can I speak to my son?"
"Okay, okay, just a minute, I called you, remember?"
"Hi, Dad," says my son.
"Hey, there Kyle," I say. "How was school?'
"Okay, I'm doing just like you taught me in math, Dad. My teachers give me lots of stars. I'm in my room now. I closed the door."
"Dad, that was you, you saved that man, didn't you."
"Yes, son I did, but not very many people know that."
"I love you Dad."
"Right back at you, son. See you Friday."
"Right, Dad, Friday. Can we fly in a helicopter this weekend?"
"I'll have to talk with my producer at the radio station. We'll see. Maybe a helicopter ride back to school on Monday, while John Taylor does the traffic."
"That would be soooo cool. My friends will love it and I can even tell mom about that, right?"
"Yes, you sure can."
"Okay, Daddy. I have to go. Mom's calling me for my bath."
"Goodbye son. Remember to say your Schema before bed tonight."
"I always do, Dad, just like you taught me."
"Good man, now go on. Go get clean."
"Goodbye son, I love you."