Chapter 3:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 213

#736X woke up feeling like the left half of his head had gone completely numb. He groaned, his stomach full of eels and the rest of his body the victim of a herd of angry elephants. The jobman tried to sit up, failed, tried again, failed again, then finally managed to prop one arm up beneath him so he could at least get a look at the damage.
He was laying on a simple cot, not too clean but good enough, and there were bandages covering parts of his body where his beloved suit had torn away. His tie was in shreds, hardly recognizable anymore. He felt momentary sorrow, but he concluded that he was lucky to even be alive. Suddenly, he tensed, and, very slowly, brought one hand up to the left side of his head. There was another bandage there, but he felt no sign of his ear.
Turning his attention away from himself, he observed the room he had been placed in instead. The walls were wooden, and there was no light to see by other than the open window next to him. On his right side, curtains had been set up so that you couldn't see him if you were coming from that direction, and it looked like someone had forgotten bits of medical equipment which were now scattered across the floor. To the left, the morning sun was beaming down through the window, warming him as a light breeze ruffled his black hair. He could see blue sky and hear birds chirping, but otherwise he had no idea what might be waiting only a few feet on the other side of the wall.
The room was dirty, mostly dark, damp and slightly smelly. The jobman let out a quiet sneeze as the dust danced with the zephyr. He didn't like it in that room; everything felt like it was almost certainly Wrong. But the open window made him feel better, less trapped, less helpless. He had no clue where he was, who had brought him here, and why he wasn't doing his job, but the least he could make out was that his hosts had tried to heal him.
#736X tensed again at the sound of footsteps, and tried to prepare himself, although there wasn't much he could do in his current state. As the footsteps neared and his first visitor of the day appeared, he got a few more pieces to this peculiar puzzle he'd been thrown into.
She was Erebian, and she wasn't Riley. She was wearing a white outfit, a medic's uniform perhaps, with odd work boots that didn't match at all. Her hair was tied up in a ribbon and streaked with grey, though she couldn't have been anywhere past thirty. She had a sweet, caring face, one that made him relax a little. He caught the flash of a wedding ring on her finger as she spoke in a musical voice.
"Sleeping Beauty awakens, I see. Sorry about the mess, Marvin was supposed to clean it up last night. How's your head?" After he didn't answer her, she continued. "Better, I would hope. I don't know what Riley and the others were thinking." She saw his eyes widen with recognition of the name, and felt good-old curiosity nip her on the nose. But, she was here to care for her patient, not ask him twenty questions. "You probably won't be up for awhile, and I don't know if we'll be able to get you back... back east."
He looked at her in confusion. The last thing he remembered was walking up to the monorail, feeling like nothing could possibly be more grand than right then. Why would he need to go 'back east'? He already was-
But was he? The woman saw his expression and quickly put her hand up. "Calm down! You need to rest awhile, ok? My name's Claire, I'll be taking care of you until you heal. If you need anything, just ask for me or Marvin, he's my assistant-"
"How's the zombie?" Claire groaned in exasperation as Riley barged her way through the door, followed by a shorter red head.
"I tried to stop her-!" The teen began, and Gray shushed him.
"Oh, quit it, Marvin. I have every right to be here."
"Not without my say-so you don't." Claire scoffed. "You're lucky he's my only patient. With all the noise you're making, you're going to wake the whole town."
Riley pushed past her and threw the curtain back to reveal a nervous jobman. She smiled down at him, but there was no kindness in that smile. "Glad to see you're up. Now I can stop listening to Katie jabber on about you."
#736X swallowed. She wasn't just looking at him, she was talking to him. She was wearing the same thing she had been wearing when they'd 'met', except now her bullet-proof vest and t-shirt had been replaced by a shirt and jacket. He noticed the sunlight reflecting off her face, and the eels in his stomach achieved the ability to transform into butterflies.
"I think you short-circuited him." Marvin muttered, looking at the jobman's blank expression.
"Nah, he's just a little foggy in the head still. Hey, zombie, you got a name?" Claire rolled her eyes as the other woman asked with a grin.
Being used to following orders, he felt obliged to answer, despite his squeamishness. "#736X." He managed to say without stuttering. As he did so, thanks to the curtain's absence, he could see two other people entering what he now discovered to be a long building filled with beds like his. The two men approached in the same manner as Riley, only, he wanted them to leave just as quickly.
Riley shook her head. "I knew it. A bunch of meaningless numbers and letters."
"That's a jobman for ya." One of the men laughed from behind her.
"They are not meaningless..." #736X said quietly, hoping no one would hear him anyway.
Apparently, Erebians have good hearing, because all of them heard him. "Then what the hell do they mean?" Gray asked and the three other people on her side all began to listen intently. The presence of an audience, let alone one that contained Riley Gray, made the jobman even more nervous, but a reassuring smile from Claire gave him just enough confidence to speak and pretend he'd been given an order directly from a Y. No, from Z himself.
"The numbers represent the amount of human DNA a jobman has within him. For instance, I am 73.6% human, and 27.4% Other. The letter signifies rank. The closer you are to Z, the higher your rank. I am an X, one of the six in New York, and of the twelve in Eos."
"I think you're going to have to re-count. Pretty sure a few of your X buddies bit the dust when-" The man who had laughed was cut off by Claire.
"Dexter!" She hissed.
"What?" Dexter grinned, obviously enjoying her frustration. "Is he too fragile to hear about how all those guys got splattered all over those fancy buildings the clean-freaks are so proud of? Oh wait, I guess it must be hard for him to hear me with one ear anyway, right Eddie?"
"We should name him after that one artist dude who cut his own ear off." The second man, Eddie, put in.
"Van Gogh." Claire muttered. "Now how about all three of you get your sorry little asses out of-"
"Hey, he's starein' at me and I don't like it." Eddie blinked, wondering if he should be threatened by this.
#736X quickly looked away. He'd though Eddie was just standing in the shadow of something, but no. His skin, his skin was...
Riley turned from the jobman to Eddie, and realization hit her full force. "You've never seen a black man, have you?" She asked, her voice on the verge of being gentle, for once.
#736X shook his head and Dexter burst into wild laughter. "Never seen a-!" He couldn't finish, and, pretty soon Eddie was joining him. "Man, you guys are more racist than I thought!"
"Alright, alright, that's enough!" Claire finally snapped, and this time they listened. "Get out before I throw you out!"
"Yeah!" Marvin added, but they were already gone.
Riley lingered at the doorway, as if contemplating something. She turned back, biting her dry lip a little. "Let me know if he says or does anything else. I want to know as much as I can about...'Van'."
"Can do." The medic sighed. As the newly named Van watched her, she grabbed a pair of chairs from the other side of the room and set them on each side of him. As Marvin sat across from her, she pulled a few things out of a sack he hadn't noticed. Her hands were soft undoing a bandage on his arm. "I'm sorry about that. Those guys are jackasses. Well, not Riley. Well, sometimes..." She chuckled. He remained still as he could, curiously following the unraveling of the cloth. "Ah, that's much better than yesterday." There was a purplish bruise on his arm combined with a manner of cuts, but most of it was completely gone. "Not bad for someone who's just playing around with needles, eh?"
"Oh, bullshit. You're the best medic around." Marvin praised. He held a striking resemblance to Riley, but his eyes were a dull gray.
"I'm the only medic around. Hell, I'm the only medic in California."
"You're too hard on yourself."
Van stopped paying attention at the word 'California'. He was in California of all places? The only worse place to be in the west was Texas! (The only thing worse than a westerner was a south-westerner. You can imagine what the Erebians said about north-easterners.) He let out a small sigh. He just wanted to go home. To his office.
As Claire and Marvin bickered while healing him, he thought about all the things that were happening to him. From what he'd heard, something bad had happened in New York (he remembered an odd flying sensation, but nothing else), and he'd been severely injured by whatever it was. And now, he'd been kidnapped for whatever reason by a bunch of crazy, dirty Erebians, his left ear was gone, and he'd been renamed. Van. He sort of liked it, but it did not draw him away from his despair.
So he lay there, like a rock, his wounds being re-dressed and the pain in the side of his head shrieking like a banshee. He wished he had his snow-globe, that usually seemed to calm him down. He needed something to divert his thoughts from all of this madness, and, after a while of searching, he found it.
While Van was going over the details of Riley's face in his head, Claire found yet another visitor knocking on the door. "Oh for the love of-" She got up and walked towards the knocking. "Marvin, finish him up, would you?"
The instant she opened the door she was pulled outside and into the warm embrace of a man much taller than her. He swooped down and kissed her with a swiftness that both startled her and made her laugh a little. She felt the rim of his glasses brush against her cheek as she drew back to look into her husband's sky-blue eyes.
"Benson, what are you doing here?" She asked playfully.
"Do I need excuses to see you now?" He smiled.
"I'm working, you know that."
"You have only got one patient, and Marvin can handle it. Besides, I wanted to ask you whether anything has been said about sending him back where he belongs." His expression changed a little, and a strange bitterness crept into his voice.
Claire sighed, remembering how much he detested jobmen. "I don't know about that. From the looks of things, I think Riley might actually want to keep him here."
He tensed. "What in god's name would she want to do that for?"
His wife swallowed, trying to think of the best way to reply. Benson was always touchy when it came to the clones, though he'd never explained why to anyone. All the town knew was that, if you wanted to know something about jobmen, for whatever reason, you went to Ben, and you spoke in the most respectful way you could. Not even Claire wanted to test his explosive temper.
"I'm not sure, but I think she thinks it'll help get Z off our tails." She said finally.
"Well she is quite wrong about that." He narrowed his eyes a little before returning to his previous charm. "And while I am here.." In a flash he reached behind her and pulled a small, plastic box, supposedly, out of thin air.
Claire's eyes widened when she realized what the box contained. Pineapples. Chunks and chunks of pineapples. The yellow slices of fruit were glistening in the morning light, and an intoxicating smell was invading the air. She could see the juice in puddles on the bottom of the box, and her mouth began to water. "Where did you ever..."
"I have found in my travels that people pay generously for simple information, my lady." He passed the box over to her, smiling a little at her eagerness.
"Well, you can be certain that I'll pay generously by the time I get home." She took the box, battering her eyelashes at him.
Benson chuckled. On the outside, it might have appeared that he had forgotten all about the jobman, but on the inside, he was tossing anger and fear back and forth. What did this mean, this clone's sudden arrival? Had Z sent him? Surely not... but Ben would take caution, oh yes. No matter what, he would never, ever, trust a word that came out of Van's mouth.

Submitted: August 12, 2013

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