Art: Written Word

Trace ~/~ Polyhedral Rain

Got my boots... Dusty

*click*

green light blinks four times. green light is steady.

orange light next to it comes on, also steady.

*whhiirrrrrrrrrr*

fan starts up, something inside it spins.

*flash*

screen flickers, goes steady.

IMAGE:black screen, turns blue with a swirl of green in it. small red ball bounces up from the bottom, hits the top, drops down. Stops in the middle. The word WELCOME scrolls out in either direction in the same red.

VOICE (it's a calm, comforting female voice): PLEASE LOGIN

"trace" (this voice also female, but sounds more tired than anything else)

VOICE: ACCEPTED, GOOD MORNING TRACE.

IMAGE: Word falls backwards and disappears, the screen is filled with a moving shifting image of blue, green, violet and yellow. Small white polyhedrons cascade constantly down from the top.

"email"

VOICE: THREE MESSAGES. SHALL I READ THEM.

figure leans back in the chair, way back, looking at the screen upside down now, but facing it for the first time today. "yes."

(the only light comes from the screen and flows over the figure in a glow of blue/white light, their pale face made ghostly by it)

VOICE: FIRST MESSAGE. SENT 0117 LOCAL TIME. SENDER: PORN EXPRESS..

"delete"

VOICE: SECOND MESSAGE. SENT 0346 EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME. SENDER: CRUX. HEY KID, FLIGHT WILL COST ABOUT 160, I BOOKED YOU A LATE NIGHT 'CUZ I KNOW YOU CAN'T SLEEP ON PLANES. CONFIRMATION NUMBER IS G-H-T-7-8-1-0-6-4. SEE YOU IN THREE WEEKS.

"print" (her brother did the leg work, guess he wanted to see her for real this year)

A small rectangle in the corner makes a slight whirring noise as a sheet of paper is spat out with the words on it.

VOICE: THIRD MESSAGE. SENT 0823 LOCAL TIME. SENDER: FRANKIE. YO TRACE, GET YER ASS DOWN TO BROADSIDE BY NOON, I GOT SOME NEW STUFF THAT'S UP YER ALLEY, USUAL DEAL, TRY AND MOVE IT FAST THOUGH - IT'S HOT. END OF MESSAGES.

the figures sighs. sits up and looks about. finds a pair of very worn cowboy boots and puts them on, making sure to pull the faded jeans out from inside them - only hicks tuck their pants into the boots. finds a shirt and puts it on, ancient t-shirt who's faded lettering demands "HEY, HO, LET'S GO!" in bright yellow on black. slashes across front and back reveal the red halter top underneath ever so slightly.

"let's go walking, back soonish" the door opens, bangs shut. a click as the bolt is driven home by the key.

*beep-beep-beep*-silence-*beep-beep-beep*-silence-*beep-beep-beep* answering machine picks up.("leave a message, i'll consider answering"*BING*) "Hey Tracy, pick up. c'mon. Shit. If you get this before you leave, man, shit, look - we just found Frankie dead and his place trashed. I know you move stuff for him so, you know, watch out kid." (it was a male voice, slight state of panic)

*click*

Inside the darkened room the computer sits, polyhedrons cascading down the screen like digital rain.

The painted faces on the street

Hard sun glares down on hard concrete.

*POP* *POP*

small arms fire breaks the silent heat.

A body comes running around the corner, boots hitting hard on the ground.

*BRRAAAPPPPP*

automatic weapons remove pieces of the brick building standing on the corner. The figure goes running down an alley and into the maze of side streets.

She stops, slamming against the solid wall behind her. Breath coming hard and fast, small pistol gripped in her white knuckled hand. The wet feeling of sweat at the base of her back reminded her why she hated going outside.

Footsteps? No time to find out. Running again.

Throw the pistol away. She only bought one clip and used it already anyways.

Out into the bright, hot sweltering sun. Crowds. People. Maybe they wouldn't try and actually kill her in a public place. For once she was appreciative of the throng of people.

Until that lump in the back of her throat appeared.

she checked for the disk in her back pocket. she checked for her ID/Cred Card in the other back pocket.

Moving through people. Breathe.

In.

Out.

Too many people.

In.

Out.

All those eyes.

In.

Out.

All that heat in one place.

In.

Out.

Everyone pushing in.

In.

Out.

PANIC

ducked into the first open doorway, darkened room, lots of non-people noises. Video Arcade. Hugging herself while gulping for air. Shoulders heaving as each breath is one step closer to hyperventilation.

"Lady?"

eyes closed, concentrate on breathing, slow things down.

"Hey, Miss?"

Almost there, c'mon, you can do it. Just... b-r-e-a-t-h-e.

"HEY KID!"

Eyes snap open to reveal a heavy set man glaring at her.

"Yer blocking the change machine."

"huh?" She looks behind her at the wall she's using for support, sure enough it's a token dispenser for the arcade. "right" she moves to the side.

"You okay kid?" He asks in that half concerned tone used when no one cares but feel obligated to show empathy.

"yeah, fine, whatever" she moves away, hesitates slightly at the entrance as the sun cascades down through holes in the canopy above the doors.

Trace marches out into the crowd, got it under control.

"i need a phone"

this is the story - it's a little thing

back room, low lights, closed door.

just over three and a half inches wide, blue plastic.

slotted.

*click*

spinning up. seconds go by.

it's an older machine, slow but functional.

non-verbal interface. small oblong object moves, a small arrow mimics the motions on CRT.

Single file.

Viral check.

CLEAN.

Media check.

NO PROBLEMS FOUND.

File Check.

NO PROBLEMS FOUND.

Open. Raw Code. Pure Data.

Sifting through lines upon lines of ASCII.

It's not a program.

It's an algorithm.

It's an equation for a translator program.

A very complex equation.

It decodes Cellular Encryption.

"i don't want this." Trace sits back in the chair, three hours of peace and she's never been so scared in her life.

*Whhiirr-Click*

Grabs the disk, leaves, out the side, finds a payphone.

*ring* taps foot *ring* looks about *ring* wipes sweat from brow *ring* "HI! You've rea*click*"

leaves the phone booth and heads for somewhere. anywhere. just no more people today please.

sitting on a bench in a park looking at dead grass, hugging her legs.

no more today. just give me a couple hours to figure something out. 'till evening´┐Ż. when the sun goes down. when people are around. please. just a few more hours. it's a small favour to ask. nothing big. just five hours. i'll take four. please. just a little time. let me give it back. there's no other copies. i can leave this.

There's a big black limousine in the street in front of her. A door opens.

Trace starts to cry silently. tears falling down her face like cascading polyhedrons on screen in a dark room that's comfortable and very far away.

Flesh and blood and cold concrete

Two. Three. Four men. The big kind who wear heavy black trench coats even in the middle of the summer. The kind that are always armed.

Give up. Give in. Closed eyes. Silent tears.

HEAVY metallic crunch as glass and steel shatter.

OPEN EYES.

the front of the big black limousine has caved in. Four men turn in a flash of movement and steel.

visions blurred from tears.

*BOOM*

gunfire?

*POP**POP**POP**POP*

what?*BRRAAPPPP*

shards of concrete from the sidewalk at her feet sting her shins.

m-o-v-e *POP*where*CRRAACKKK*there*POP**POP*tripped, ouch, hit something metal.*POP*a scream(mine or theirs?)*POP*hand out to stop the fall, lands in something wet on the street*POP**POP*no time, running*BRRAAAPPP**BOOM*can't see strait.*BOOM*trip again*POP*hit the concrete, ouch!*BAM*more concrete shards*BAM*move it kid!*POP**POP*half run half crawl found cover*POP**BAM**BOOM* crouch behind this.*POP*clear eyes*POP*alley, run*POP*fading sounds, run

run for a long time.

run for hours it seems.

stop.

fall to knees.

knee hurts. head throbs. hand is covered in red, blood, whose? not mine i don't think. lungs ache.

fast food joint across the street.

stand. wobble. fall. stand. steady self on wall. take a step. use the wall for help. take another step. push away from the wall. legs gone weak. adrenaline is gone. enough energy left crash.

you can't crash yet.

inside the restaurant. bathroom. wash hands. check for injuries, scraped knee - blood wasn't mine. Wash face. Throw up in a toilet. swallow some water. i'll be fine.

the clock on the wall says three forty five.

i'm not going to make it am i?

Can you hear me i've been calling all day

staring into deep blue eyes in the mirror, in a bathroom that's anywhere but where she wants to be.

they have a payphone just outside that door to your left. In that small little pseudo-room that restaurants create to hide the bathrooms behind the guise of phones, potted plants and cigarette machines. Just turn and open the door, no one is out there waiting. Nothing but phones and a small tree in an ugly little red pot.

Open door. Step out, flinch.

Nothing. No person. Just the air condition's hum and cold air, and the plant. She digs into one of the front pocket of her jeans, then into the other and comes out with a crumpled bill. Almost useless but public telephones still take cash.

Thinking strait finally. Not using the cred card to make a call this time. They're tracking her through it. A crinkled one dollar bill is all that holds her life together.

The phone doesn't take it.

Straiten the bill out with that old trick of rubbing it back and forth around a corner.

The phone doesn't take it.

Smooth it out as much as possible, hold it very very strait as she slides it into the greedy little mouth of the machine.

The phone doesn't take it.

She stares at the phone for a full minute. She swallows hard. Breathes in. Holds. Exhales. Tries again, going slowly and carefully guiding the paper money into the slot.

The phone doesn't take it.

Her shoulders sag. I Am Not Beaten. She walks out into the restaurant proper, some tex-mex taco joint. Walks up to the counter.

"have any change for the phone?"

The fat, pimpled, greasy haired middle aged man behind the counter looks at her, looks at the dollar, looks at her, looks back at the dollar, "That a real dollar bill?" He probably hasn't seen one of these in a long time.

She walks away and back into the little room with the plant and leans against the wall. She looks at the cigarette machine, it doesn't even take bills.

Push off the wall. Stand up strait. Put one foot in front of her, click of heel on tile. Put the other foot in front of the first, click of heel on tile, repeat one more time. Standing in front of the phone. Bring both feet together, stand up strait to her entire five foot five stature. Place the dollar bill at the lip of the machine. Guide it in. Feel it catch. Hold hands in place and breath in lung as the machine swallows the bill, wait, hear the click as the machine decides to save her life.

Sigh of relief. One hand grabs the receiver as the other dials, quick before the thing changes its mind.

*ring*answer*ring*Answer*ring*ANSWER*rin*

"'lo?"

"jimmy, it's tracy"

"Trace!? Oh shit, man, I been trying to get you all day kid.." He sounds worried.

"what's going on?"

"Leave it to you to sound calm cool and collected, eh kid." She wipes the sweat off her palm onto her pant leg, her voice has nothing to do with her state of mind.

"just tell me what happened this morning"

"Someone iced Frankie over a chunk of software he got off a dealer in London, you're gonna be in.."

"i'm already in it, i've got this disk i don't want anymore, find a buyer"

"Oh shit kid, I'm sorry"

"sorry?"

"I hope you've got somewhere to go." He hung up.

She listens to the receiver until the dial tone kicks in. She blinks and puts it back on the handle. He's never hung up on her before.

It suddenly hits her.

No one is going to get anywhere near this disk if they have a choice.

She puts her hands in her pocket and leaves the plant behind in it's ugly little red pot and air conditioned room with a cigarette machine and a pay phone.

Outside in the heat of the day she hears sirens not to far away. Picking a direction she starts walking, focusing on the click of her boot heel on the sidewalk.

And what you hear is the sound of impact

Her head is resting in the crook of her right arm as she watches dust fall through the beam of light into the surface of the desk. Noises form and fade in the background around her. Conversations, Accusations, Incriminations, Implied Threats.

None of it is to her, or even in her direction. She crosses her ankles and rests her feet on a foot of the chair - the ancient kind made of wood with five wheels that squeek when the chair is rolled.

The phone in front of her rings. She twists her head to look at the black squarish thing with its many little flashing lights. It stops after five rings and another one starts at a another desk, just like the one she's at, across the little aisle.

"7th Precinct, Detective Morring..." The voice drones on, she loses track of it.

There's a noise directly across from her, at the desk facing the one she's at. She focuses on the figure that sat down. It's a middle aged man with a gut and a picture next to his phone with a woman and two kinds in it.

"How's Lou's little street-urchin today? hmmm?" His voice sounds tired but full of attempts at humour. Some people are never as funny as they think.

She lets her head fall back down onto her arm and continues to stare at the dusty beam of light. He grunts and starts shuffling paper around on his desk.

Footsteps approach. The stop right next to her.

"Got a place to stay tonight?" There is actual concern in the statement.

Trace sits up strait and looks up at the person in front of her. He's tall, thin but not entirely in shape. Soft is the word he uses to describe himself. Not really fat but not exactly in shape. He's wearing a white shirt with a dark green and blue tie on and blue slacks.

Trace shakes her head negative.

"C'mon." He grabs his suit jacket off the back of the chair as she stands and walks towards the door. "Night Allen."

"Night Lou." The man across from his desk is only half paying attention as they leave.

"Hungry?" Lou asks as they get into his old car, the kind that still has squared corners giving the impression of a box on wheels. It's a light tan colour with a dent in the passenger door but otherwise in excellent shape.

"a little" She put her seat belt on and looks at the clock on the radio, Six twenty. Trace can always count on Lou to help her out. A meal, A couch to sleep on, Someone to listen even. Trace smiles.

"What's so amusing?" Lou is navigating city traffic.

"the last person most people trust is the only one who helps me" She lets the muscles in her shoulders relax and sinks down into the seat, suddenly a little embarrassed with her statement.

Lou laughs. Trace blushes. "I'm a sucker for those blue eyes and lost puppy dog look you always give me." Trace blushes an even deeper shade of red.

Sun almost set now, Lou lives in a small house in an inner city neighborhood, one of those places that used to be really nice but is just OK now. Trace sits on the old couch looking at Lou's garden in the small back yard, just beyond the patio with it's big gas grill.

"So, you gonna tell what this is all about?" Lou has thrown a blanket over the back of the couch and tossed a pillow next to her.

She pulls her boots off and suddenly feels very tired. She puts the disk and her ID/CredCard on the table next to the couch. "can't"

Lou looks at the disk. "You have a buyer for that yet?" She forgets Lou is a detective sometimes.

"no" She grabs the blanket and lies down on the couch. She feels safe right now lying on an old brown couch with a worn, faded blanket covering her, it's a little hot for the blanket but she doesn't care.

"Got any leads?" Lou won't let it drop.

"one" She lies, Lou shrugs and walks back to his room and turns on a T.V.

Trace closes her eyes.

Trace opens her eyes, sunlight is streaming through the patio door and falling on the floor in front of the couch, not quite enough daylight to heat the air up yet. She rubs the sleep from her eyes and looks around the room.

She freezes. Sitting in a chair across from her is a man in expensive clothing looking as if he had been patiently waiting for some time now.

The man isn't Lou.

On the edge but burning slow

She sat up slowly, never taking her eyes off the man in the chair.

"If you're waiting for your friend to save you he's already left for the day." His voice was soft, almost friendly.

Yesterday came back in a flash, she felt nauseous all of a sudden.

"i don't want the disk, take it"

The man stopped in the middle of lighting a cigarette, he put the lighter away and let the unlit smoke hang in his hand. He leaned forward and looked at her as she sat crossed legged on the couch.

"Now that's very interesting." She looked confused, "Say something."

She looked at him, confusion played across her face.

"Anything, it doesn't matter."

"what am i supposed to say?" She asked, she'd stopped caring at some point in the police station last night. Somewhere she broke inside and it hurt, all she wanted was to crawl back into her home and go away.

"Perfect, a question even." He leaned back in the chair, "You must have had the vocal implant for a very long time to inflect a question so perfectly."

She blinked.

"I'm guessing you were born mute?"

She nodded, feeling self concious all of a sudden.

"They have new ones now, you can put feeling into the voice."

She stared at him.

"You must want more than the near monotone you have now." He finally lit his cigarette.

"i like it this way"

"I suppose constantly sounding as if you're never emotional has its advantages in your line of work." He blew smoke into the air.

She made no movements.

"You're very resourceful to have lived through yesterday, several others in better positions didn't." More smoke into the air above himself.

"i was lucky"

"That's nine tenths of life right there. Are there any copies?" He made a crude smoke ring this time.

She shook her head negative.

"Do you know what the disk contains?" He blew the smoke out into the air above him again.

She nodded affirmative.

"Who told you?" He made another smoke ring, this one more formed.

"no one"

"You figured it out all on your own?" Another smoke ring, he was getting better with time.

She nodded.

"Now that's talent. You did this all yesterday?" A near perfect smoke ring.

She nodded.

"How would you like to come work for me?" His final smoke ring was as perfect as you can get smoke, he put the cigarette out in an ashtray on the table in front of him. Trace followed his hand down, and noticed the disk was gone already.

One in the morning i'm sitting all alone

*click*

green light blinks four times. green light is steady.

orange light next to it comes on, also steady.

*whhiirrrrrrrrrr*

fan starts up, something inside it spins.

*flash*

screen flickers, goes steady.

IMAGE:black screen, turns blue with a swirl of red in it. small green ball bounces up from the bottom, hits the top, drops down. Stops in the middle. The word ONLINE scrolls out in either direction in the same green.

VOICE (it's a calm comforting female voice): PLEASE LOGIN

"trace" (this voice also female, sounds less emotive than the first, almost tired if you weren't paying attention.)

VOICE: ACCEPTED, GOOD MORNING TRACE.

IMAGE: Word falls backwards and disappears, the screen is filled with a moving shifting image of blue, red and purple. Small white and orange polyhedrons cascade constantly down from the top.

"email"

VOICE: ONE MESSAGE. SHALL I READ IT.

Trace reaches down and opens a can of soda, "yes" she takes a sip and puts the can back on case of the external hard drive next to her chair. She sitting backwards in the chair, but facing the screen.

(the only light comes from the screen and flows over her in a dull blue/white glow, outlining her body as she stretches)

VOICE: MESSAGE. SENT 2205 LOCAL TIME, YESTERDAY. SENDER: MR BLACK. I'LL BE BY TO GET YOU AT NINE SHARP. BE READY. END OF MESSAGES.

"archive" The hard drive holding her soda can spins for a second and stops. The screen returns to it's endless Polyhedral Rain.

She reaches out and grabs the small ball-mouse, more like a wand with a sphere in the end. She guides a Bright Yellow diamons around the screen, small rectangles enclosing other icons open and close as her index finger taps a small contact underneath the ball. All the enclosing rectangles a transparent and let the cascade be seen un hindered, she makes all the intrusive black borders go away except for one, and it's small collection of immobile shapes. She opens it, one last square opens, this time filled with a solid white background and a lot of characters. She put the ball-mouse down and pulls a drawer out from the desk, it contains an old fashioned keyboard. She never did like the direct input gloves and goggles. She starts typing.

Sometime around three she stops pushes the keyboard back, closes her white window and lets the polyhedrons fall down the screen unblocked. She takes a sip from the soda that had been forgotten several hours ago.

Trace stands, goes into the bathroom and brushes her teeth. She walks back to the places only other room and flops down on the futon mattress under the window. She puts her hands behind her head and falls asleep watching headlights flash across her ceiling at irregular intervals from the street below.

8:55 AM. Awake, outside, on the street, waiting. Big black limousine pulls up, tinted windows, shiny paint - classic style. A door opens, she climbs inside.

The businessman is sitting there, as calm as he was the morning before. He frowns ever so slightly then his face snaps back to the unreadable state it was before, "We'll have to get you some new clothing."

Trace looks down at her faded jeans, worn boots and plain red t-shirt. She shrugs, it's not like she has a suit sitting in a closet just in case or anything.

Store, expensive clothing, exspensive smell. Trace has her hands in her pockets trying not to look uncomfortable, not looking out of place isn't an option. A woman approaches and looks over her first, then addresses Mr Black. A short exchange Trace doesn't quite hear, she's trying to keep her heart from beating to fast.

Trace spent an excrutiating hour trying on various outfits as Mr Black and the sales lady argue over things like cut, colour and professionalism. They finally decided on dress slacks, Trace was very obvious over how uncomfortable she felt in any kind of dress, in a dark grey colour. A dark red blouse, Trace found that one herself and seemed more relaxed in it's loose fit than anything else that was suggested. She had to lose the boots, and managed to get into a pair of half-boots with a dress heel instead of pumps. Mr Black decided not to do anything with her hair and left it in the pony tail she normally wore. She got a look in a mirror and had to smile at herself, she thought she looked good. Mr Black said she 'cleaned up nicely'.

Now she knows why she's got to look like a corporate sell out, they're going to meet Mr Blacks employer. He's returning the disk to the proper owner - or at least the one that paid the most money to him. It was a very short meeting, Mr Black handed the disk over, some words were exchanged between him and another man who was dressed much more expensively that Mr Black (who didn't wear a tie).

Some motions were made in her direction, she perked up and paid attention during that part, otherwise she spent the time feeling out of place, slightly uncomfortable and was still concentrating on keeping her breathing even.

Trace and Mr Black go back down the limousine and drive off to another destination. She's looking out the window at all the people and feeling very very secure inside the large black car. Mr Black is speaking into a phone a lot, in a language Trace doesn't quite get but might be Chinese.

Finally he puts the phone down and looks at her. It's a minute before she realizes she's being stared at, her head snaps around and she blushes ever so slightly.

"How old are you?" He asks, calm as ever, the quietness to his voice has the same friendly quality her computer does.

"twenty two" He simply nods and pulls out a laptop. Trace suddenly realizes that Mr Black has never once used the word 'kid' to her or to describe her. He simply referred to her as Trace if he used her name at all.

She relaxes and leans back in her seat.

Trace likes Mr Black.

Arc 02 - Run Time Error