Erica and Derek are two characters that I’ve fiddled with for about two years now. I’m not quite sure how their story began, but the setting for them satisfies my inner geek and love of logistics as a writer. I never really started writing their story because, to me, they’re really just there to keep me busy when I can’t think of anything else to write about. Not only do they have a home in one story, they are my default characters when I start something new but am too lazy to come up with new character names.
This introduction was originally written in a much rougher form in the summer of 2005. I had been thinking about nothing but the Gathering for six months, and this new setting was just emerging in my mind. After some fun in Java I programming class, I started up this story. It was meant to be a prologue, and I think I might’ve purposely challenged myself with it. Originally, it was written in first person, present tense. The second half made no sense and quickly became over-analytical. However, the whole thing set the scene for the rest of the story, which kind of took off in my mind, but never really showed the potential to get written down again.
I was getting bored last week after APs were done, plus I hit a sort of writer’s block and I had nothing interesting to write. Simple solution? Start up a story that I haven’t touched in ages and has no plot potential or point in general except to keep me entertained. In the process, I ran across this piece again and had a major spaz because of how terrible it was. (I would post the original but for the shame.) I copied the whole file, pasted it on a new document and started over.
By the time I was finished, not two days later, I was surprised. Erica’s voice has a certain tone to it that resonates with me. She’s a lot of fun to write, and I think a certain amount of her sarcastic cynicism and humor comes from my new-found lack of stress post-APs. Who knows, maybe I’ll continue this story in the future. For now, I’m satisfied.
from the Journal of Erica Larelius
April 30th, 2012
The cool mist felt good on my face as I gripped the rail of the cruise ship. I tasted the familiar tinge of salt in the air, a taste not unlike the sweat I had just washed off in the shower. The sun slipped into position for halo-inducing light, a nice glow on everything as our planet’s favorite ball of gas edged closer to the horizon, and I knew I would be called inside before long. I only hoped my isolation would last.
I stood there thinking, thinking about how I wasn’t normal. I wasn’t what you’d call a normal girl, not that anyone is really normal. I remember thinking I must be hitting that in-between stage where I’m not a girl, but not a woman either. So what are people supposed to call me? After that tangent I started thinking about the Academy, and how none of us is anywhere near normal anymore. We work for the CIA and we don’t even have high school diplomas. How exactly are we supposed to get around to being “normal” now? Not that I’m even supposed to know that we work for the CIA. Derek and I figured it out. After all, it’s not like we’re stupid.
In my mind’s eye, I could see myself just the way I was that moment, as if from a stranger’s eyes. Erica Larelius. Pretty brunette not-quite-girl with those distant brown eyes staring off into the sunset. Reasonably tall, reasonably slender. Strong enough to break someone’s arm but smart enough to know better, non-brute force ways to do it. Sixteen and two months old with exceptional IQ and world-class training in mathematics, sciences, rhetoric, composition, three foreign languages, computer programming–not to mention martial arts and a little dabbling in politics. It felt a lot like bragging, but I figured if you’re bragging about yourself to yourself, it doesn’t matter a whole lot.
It crossed my mind that this academy is something special, and not just for its clandestine affiliation with the Central Intelligence Agency. This cruise ship is not for tourists, not for the upper-middle class that once enjoyed cocktails on that same deck. This is an elite school, a place for the smartest people the recruiters could find based on middle school screening and entrance examinations. It hit me while I was standing there: I’m lucky. I’m luckier than the Irishman who finds the Central Leprechaun Bank’s premium pot of gold. I’m a head captain, ready to take on the world with my advanced training in anything and everything I ask for. With my brain and anything accessible at my fingertips, I can carry out missions for one of the best intelligence networks in the world; I command the power of eighty female minds (talk about a scary thought) led by the six people I trust most in the world. Besides Derek, that is. Now Derek, there’s a head captain you can put your faith in. If I were to make a religion, I would call it Derekinism, and we would worship Derek Tasalis.
(Don’t get me wrong, though. I would worship my co-head due to the virtue of his ability, not like most who would join Derekinism to worship his face.)
But going back to where I started. I was alone on the deck because I asked Derek to meet me. He was late, which was unusual, but not altogether unexpected. We’d both dreaded today–not the date in particular, but the day when we’d meet up here to face something we hoped would never come but knew was inevitable nonetheless. Lucky me, I was the one to request it. I didn’t hold it against him that he was late, but he of all people knew that we needed to talk.
“Hey.” I could hear the hesitation mixed with resignation in that one word. I didn’t look up. What would I see? Just Derek. Reliable Derek. Supposedly good-looking, somewhat mysterious co-head captain of mine Derek. Nothing new. Nothing special–not after almost two years of working together. Yet still mysterious. (One might note the definition of “complete sentences” has slipped from my vocabulary.)
“Hey,” I replied, staring fixedly at the deep blue water angling away beneath me. If we had been anywhere near standing water, it would have been the perfect time for us to become the mosquitoes’ Thanksgiving feast. Thank goodness we weren’t, for were it true, I would not be sitting here writing a ridiculously long journal entry–the first in months (I’d apologize but there’s really no one to apologize to). I would instead be dousing myself in aloe vera and vitamin E until someone stabbed me with a tranquilizer to put me out of my misery. Anyway, back to our conversation.
“What’s up?” he asked with his favorite and most annoying attitude of utter apathy. He knew perfectly well what was going on.
Even now, I can remember what he looked like when I glanced over at him. He was leaning against the railing, his head tilted back to gaze some indiscernible object in the sky. His hair was dark brown two years ago when we started training, but all that time in the sun streaked it with auburn and gold highlights. It’s gotten long lately, and the wind on the outside deck blew strands all over his forehead. He looked…almost majestic standing there, like a blasé model striking a pose on the cruise liner before heading down the red carpet. He had those Oakley’s on, the ones that look really good on him. I have to admit he is sort of good looking in a Derek kind of way, not that I’d ever admit that to Kerri and the rest of my captains. I swear, every female on this ship thinks he’s the hottest guy born to Earth, and thank (insert celestial being of choice) he never lets that get to his head. But not only does Derek have a fan club of eighty-six teenage girls, every last one is under the impression that I’m the only one he’s ever had his eye on. Damn him. I don’t even care.
It took me a moment to remember he’d asked me a question. “Did you read the mission reports?” I asked in reply. Casually, even though I knew I’d linked the report directory in the memo that invited him to the outer deck in the first place.
“In a glance,” he replied.
I prompted him to continue. “And?” (Is it sad I still remember this conversation almost word for word, even an hour later?)
“Something about a French diplomat terminated by Alpha Crew Gold 127. Mission captain: Erica Larelius. Mission status: successfully completed.” (Maybe it isn’t sad I remember this conversation, since Derek apparently memorized the mission report in a glance.)(Or maybe that isn’t a parallel comparison. Maybe it’s just some random, self-satisfying, adjective-laden connection I’m trying to make…Ignore my side commentary.)
“I was a fool to think this day would never come,” I told him.
Truth, but Derek gave me some sort of twisted comfort. “You always knew, in the back of your mind. It’s not something you can completely avoid.”
I agreed. Still agree. “Target practice, poison studies, history of assassination classes–of course I knew it was coming. But how was I supposed to know they wanted me to do it? Why not send an omega crew out?”
He gave me a look that clearly said, Are you effing serious.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best choice of suggestions; why would Mission Control delegate something that important to an omega crew when it really did merit an alpha or at least beta crew. At least Derek didn’t laugh–he gave me a slightly more valid reason than “because hubris requires that the highest ranking officers in the academy get the pleasure of executing the most challenging missions.” Instead, he said something along the lines of:
“Because you’re the best shot. You’re the one who managed to remember all the poisons, their origins, and their antidotes. And you scored highest on the theory test and analytical essay in HoA class. What other choice did they have?”
I answered the first thing that came to mind, “You.”
The obvious answer–the head captains are always together on everything. So far the only discipline we split on was back in first year, when I trained in the K9 unit while he worked with the bomb squad. Besides that, I can’t think of anything I did that he didn’t, or vice-versa. But then, he did know what my answer would be. In fact, he expected it. I should have expected what he said next, though.
“I was about to invite you when I got your memo.” He handed me a folded sheet of paper from his pocket.
Of course. Of course of course of course. I unfolded the sheet: a mission report, filed just after I left, with the same clipped language we use for reports and the same formatting–practically the same report. Both of us. In one day. They’d made assassins of us both.
I said it out loud, almost afraid of what it would sound like. “Both of us in one day…”
He smirked, a new expression for him, one that he might’ve picked up from Jay (it seemed like a very Jay attitude once I thought about it). “And here you were, thinking you beat me again?”
Oh Derek and his way of prodding my ego. I let the silence fall between us; I could tell we were both a little lost among our thoughts. Searching for something to say, or something to do, I reached over and pulled off his sunglasses. I looked him in the eye and asked, “Does it bother you?”
“What,” he questioned, “that we spent a year in Ethics and still have no conclusive answer to whether assassination with good intent is moral or not?” Turning to me, he gripped the wrist of my hand which still held his sunglasses. “Or were you talking about my Oakley’s?”
I eyed him steadily. “Both. Either. Neither. Take your pick,” I replied.
“I always knew you had an eye on my most chic shades.”
“These? I never really wanted them.” I put them on and threw an uncharacteristically saucy smile in his direction.
He laughed, but after a moment he turned to the ocean, his features pulled into an expression of thoughtfulness. Without looking at me, he said (and I quote), “I didn’t like them at first, but I got used to them.”
I must say, he threw me off with that remark; I have no idea what he was talking about. But I rolled with the punches. “If I keep them, you think I will, too?” I set my chin in my hand and rested my elbow on the railing. The sun was going down, falling into the water.
Derek glanced at me. “They suit you,” he said. At that moment I admit I was tempted to run away and keep his beloved sunglasses hostage until he paid me decent ransom. That is, until I realized he’s broke.
I took off the Oakley’s and handed them back. “Thanks, but they were never really my style.” A valid point; I preferred the cheap, plastic frame sunglasses I didn’t mind breaking by accident over Derek’s prized polarized, wire frame Oakley’s.
When he took them, he gave me this weird look as he put them back on. Then he reached out and brushed my cheek with his fingers, from temple to jaw line. “Things change,” he said, and walked away.
We killed people today and all we can talk about is a pair of Oakley sunglasses. How did we get to this?
Word Count: 1966
Completed: May 22, 2007