Character Name: Ernest Ts'aak
Alternate Identities: Eagle, Ern (never Ernie)
Player Name: NPC
Two bald eagles circled over the bay, as the photographer adjusted the focus on his camera. Something flashed across the lens, little more than a blur and he lifted his head to scan the sky through unaided eyes. There it was. The biggest bird he'd ever seen. Lifting the camera, he caught the creature in the frame, and nearly dropped his Nikon. Regaining his target he fired off every shot he could, following his subject across the sky until it disappeared into the dark green of the distance forest. Only when he was sure it wasn't coming back did he lower the camera. It had been a fresh roll, 36 shots. Some had to come out.
Shivering in excitement he carefully packed the Nikon in the padded aluminum case and snapped it shut while flipping the tumblers on the locks. Clutching the case to his chest like the treasure it was he stumbled back to the turn out and climbed into the car. The case seat-belted into the passenger's seat and flinging gravel, he headed south.
"Goddamn cheap sons-a-bitches!" he growled three days later. He glared at the offending scrap of paper in his hand. Three hundred buck! A lousy three hundred bucks for pictures of a flying kid! What kind of shit was that? The harsh buzz of his doorbell made him crumple the check in his fist and as he yanked the door open he snarled "What da ya want?"
"Mr. Richmond?" A man in the tailored black suit held up a leather wallet with a gold shield and FBI identification.
Irritation morphed into guilt even though there was no rational reason. The man held up an 8x10 copy of one of his shots he'd taken of the flying boy.
"Where was this taken?"
The black SUV with all around tinted windows rolled up to the town's only diner and parked. The four men that climbed out sent an instant alert to the entire populace. Feds. No local police ever dressed like that, not in Alaska.
The youngest of the group stepped quickly up to the diner and held the door for his three elders. The man that entered first stopped just inside and scanned the room. Thirteen occupants, two servers, the cook and ten customers. Seven women, six men, all over the age of thirty.
"What can I do for you," one of the waitresses said in a flat tone that did nothing to hide her Haida accent.
"I am looking for Ernest Task," the man said.
"Task?" she looked puzzled. "We got no Tasks in this town."
The man pulled a note pad from the inside pocket of his coat and consulted it.
"T S A A K," he spelled.
"What chu want Ern for?" a weathered man in his sixties asked.
"Government business," the man replied.
"You got a warrant?" another man asked.
"We just need to talk to him," the agent replied. "As far as we know he has broken no laws."
"Them whalers again, I bet," the weathered man said.
"Ern hasn't been out on the boat in months," another said.
"Probably them loggers then," said a third.
"Boy sure don't like loggers," the weather man agreed.
"Where can we find him," the agent broke in.
"Probably out in the woods," the weathered man replied. The other two nodded sagely.
"How do we find him?"
"You wait," the weathered man replied and returned to his coffee.
A woman pushed into the diner and turned to confront the four FBI agents. She was quite beautiful with light brown skin, long black hair and the most startling turquoise eyes anyone had ever seen in a Native American face. She was also mad as hell.
"What do you want Ern for?" she demanded.
"And you are?" the lead agent asked.
"The one that's going to decide if you see him or not," she said, fists settling on her hips.
"Ma'am, this is a matter of national security," the lead agent replied. "We can arrest him if we need to."
The woman snorted.
"Not if he don't want you to," she said.
The lead agent glanced to his three companions, "Get some coffee."
"We might be out," the waitress remarked.
"That's okay, Alice," the woman said.
"Can we take this outside, ma'am?" the agent said, holding the door open for her.
She glared at him for a long minute then stepped out into the cool morning and briskly walk north along the town's only street. The agent had to quick step to catch up but when he did it, was obvious she wasn't in the mood for talk so he followed her to the last house along the road. Outside towered six totem poles.
She led him around the house into an open sided shed where a partially carved totem pole lay between sawhorses. Picking up a wooden mallet and chisel she stepped up to the logs and placed the edge of the chisel along a line drawn in white chalk.
"What national security?" she asked, tapping the butt of the chisel.
He laid a photograph of the flying boy on the log beside her cut.
"You are Mrs. Task?"
"Ts'aak," she replied. "Yes."
He plucked the picture up just as she returned to tapping the chisel.
"Even up here in the woods, we know about Photoshop," she said.
"Ma'am my name is Miller, Special Agent Miller and I have been assigned by the President of the United States to find, recruit and train what the media is calling metas for the purposes of National Security."
"President himself, huh?" she said flatly.
"Yes ma'am," he replied. "Your son is a meta."
"And you want to draft him into your army?"
"Not Army, ma'am," Miller said. "This is not a military unit."
She brushed wood chips away.
"So, service to his country," she said. "My father did his service to his country and didn't come back from your war over in Southeast Asia. We got a letter and a medal and a folded flag. We didn't even get his body."
"Ma'am, this is voluntary," Miller said. "And for his services he will be given a college education plus anything else he needs."
She turned to face him, the chisel held up like a knife.
"So, you think you can buy my son with a college education?"
Miller took an involuntary step back.
"Tell me of this college education," a voice came from behind the agent.
He turned to find a bare-chested youth of about 16 staring hard at him through the same eyes as his mother. Dark brown feathered wings folded tightly across his back.
"It starts with school, the President insisted that the candidate receive the best schooling we can give them in the college of their choice before they even begin service," Miller said. "That includes high school. You will be with others of your kind, train with them, go to class with them."
"Other of his kind?" the woman snapped. "We are his kind."
"There are others with wings like me," the boy asked.
"No," Miller admitted. "Not so far."
"Where is this school?"
"San Diego," Miller replied.
"And I can take any college courses I want?"
Miller nodded. "Any."
"What are my terms of service?"
"We haven't worked that out yet," Miller said. "We are just now gathering the first class."
"How many so far?"
"You will make nine."
The boy turned and spread his wings. Taking two steps he powered into the sky. Miller stepped quickly out of the shed and watched him circle then disappear into the trees.
"What now?" he said, turning back to the woman.
"Now you go get coffee," she replied, returning her attention to the wood.
"I can stay, and be a fisherman," the boy said. "I can marry a local girl and give you fat grandchildren. I can watch my children grow up to be fishermen and marry locals."
His mother laid a hand on his arm. They sat as the kitchen table, a fish stew cooling in mismatched soup bowls.
"Their world is strange to us, even in this day and age," she said. "Your grandfather . . ."
"My grandfather went to serve his country proudly," the boy replied. "I can do no less."
His mother closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"If it is what you want, my son."
It was strange sitting in a chair in a metal cylinder instead of soaring with the eagles but Ern would rather have been with the eagles. At least they had spirits, not like this beast in whose belly he flew now. Everything about the airplane screamed 'wrong' to him. It was smelly and billowed great grey clouds of poison. He shook his head. It was wrong.
San Diego sprawled out for miles as the plane dropped into Lindbergh Field, with only one small are of unrelieved green. As he stepped out of the terminal building a wave of heat washed over him and he steeled himself. One more thing, he thought, and then his eyes met aquamarine blue.
She was shorter by several inches, with long lustrous hair the color of black walnut and she looked as nervous as he. He nodded slightly; she flushed and lowered her eyes. It was then he realized that she too was being escorted by two men in black suits. They met at the curb beside the ubiquitous black SUV and one of the escorts pulled open the door.
"Miss," he said.
She stepped up and slid across the seat to press against the opposite door.
"Sir," the agent said to Ern.
He stepped up and also slid across the seat, stopping with an inch of space between their thighs. The agent slammed the door and Ern realized the man hadn't joined them in the truck. Rather than a quick retreat to 'his' side of the vehicle, he held out a hand.
"Ernest Ts'aak," he offered.
Hesitantly the girl took his hand.
"Shannon Flores," she replied.
He nodded then slid across the truck but not to the point he was leaning on the door.
"Are you a meta, too?" she whispered.
He nodded and she looked relieved.
"They said there would be others but you're the only other so far," she said then lapsed into silence, staring at her laced fingers.
"I have the wings of an eagle," he said quietly wanting to get it out before he did something to shock her with his secret.
She glanced across at him.
"Where do you hide them?" she asked.
He shrugged. "They fold pretty small."
It was then he realized he was staring. It was impossible not to. The girl was the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen and for some reason he wanted to soar through the skies with her. Tearing his eyes from her he noted through the windshield they were approaching a gated fence with two armed guards.
No effort was made to delay them and the truck swept around a curve, the blue of the ocean coming into view. This heartened him, knowing he would still have the sea in his life. He might not be running long lines but it was there if he needed it. The girl next to his made a soft sound and he turned to her.
"It's so beautiful," she said in a small voice.
"Yes," he agreed.
"I am from Minnesota, we only have lakes," she told him.
"Alaska," he replied.
The vehicle rolled to a stop and Agent Miller pulled open the door on the girl's side.
"Ms. Flores," he said as she stepped down. "Mr. Task." Ernest didn't bother to correct the man. "This way."
He lead them into the center section of a four story building that looked as if it had just been erected and as they stepped into the air conditioned and circular entry, it smelled like it too. The place was furnished in Government standard with a reception desk, ugly carpet and three couches that looked like you could bounce a rock. Five people of about his age sat awkwardly on the edge of their seat, one with his back ramrod straight. Miller indicated the couches.
"Sit," he commanded.
Ern moved to the only open seats on a couch with an angry looking black girl currently being deafened by the music blaring from the ear buds she had screwed into her ears. He paused to offer Shannon her choice of the two remaining seats. She chose to seat as far from the black girl as possible. He sat between them suddenly feeling like it was right that he should be the one between her and the unknown other girl. Once they were settled, Agent Miller turned on his heel and head down the left wing of the building.
Detached, Ern scanned each of the others trying to determine what might make them metas. With an internal sigh he resigned himself to being the only one in the group with outward signs of his 'difference'. Catching the continuing glare from the black girl he shifted his attention back to his fellow SUV passenger. She looked as if she wanted to bolt. He started to lean toward her to offer a friendly word when the doors opened.
A skinny black kid stepped in as if he owned the place. He swept the room, his eyes coming to rest on the hostile girl next to Ern. With barely a check in his step he marched over to Ern and put his fists on his hips. Ern regarded him silently until the boy started to fidget. That lasted about ten more second.
"Can I sit there?" the boy pointed to the gap beside the black girl.
Ern glanced at the three inch gap between Shannon and his thigh then silently rose and stepped over to her opposite side. Completely relaxed, he stood with his arms motionless at his sides while the pre-teen kid dropped into his just vacated spot with a smug look of satisfaction. Shannon looked up at him with a question in her eyes but when he said nothing she returned to studying their fellows. Something brushed his hip and came to rest there, her arm on the arm of the couch.
"Alright!" Miller snapped, drawing their attention. "This way to orientation." He pointed with an outstretched arm down the left hall. "Second door on the right."
|Ern is a 'tree hugger' and in some law enforcement quarters, an eco-terrorist. Not that he has actually broken any laws, but he does skirt a few now and then. He believes that humanity is killing the Earth and hopes that by representing the Native Peoples of North America as a Minuteman he can bring the slow distruction of the Earth into focus. He is a quiet-spoken young man who rarely speaks unless he has something important to say. He eschews modern transportation, prefering to walk or ride a bicycle, avoids processed food, and has even successfully advocated green power for the school and the family residences. He is so in tune with nature that the animals in the parks have no fear of him. It is that gentleness that makes it difficult to not to like him. Or, in Shannon's case, love him.|
Created: Mon, 4 Jun 2018 09:31:22
If you have questions
or comments please contact