Fragment: Death of an ORD-man
I tuned my radio to the local ORD bulletin distribution station before shifting into gear and leaving the parking lot. To anyone else tuning in on their ride home, the radio station provided a mix of contemporary hits and occasional news items, along with weather and traffic reports. My vehicle was equipped with a specialized inter-world frequency receiver: in place of the normal radio broadcast I was connected to a streaming service which sent out periodic updates to field agents and other associated ORD personnel. Items designated as high priority, usually bounties for known chaos collaborators or warnings of unstable reality conditions, were the first to be announced. A series of lesser reports followed, ranging from new secure drop locations to requests for beta-testers for the newest tech.
Listening to the bulletins was an essential duty, and I treated it as such. I had not missed a daily broadcast in three years, four months, seventeen days and sixteen seconds. This was not nearly as impressive as my previous streak of eleven years, ten months, eight days and forty-four seconds, which would have remained unbroken if not for an unfortunate overnight stay in the hospital as a result of a highly-contagious flu.
Mr. Calchas had just arrived at his new doctor’s office. I watched him enter the building and soon after I saw him speaking with the Paredes woman inside.
Events were moving at an unexpected pace, certainly not in line with our baseline projections, and I needed to make contact with my superiors. They would be very keen on knowing these most recent developments, given the alarming deviations that continued to accrue in the past three weeks. If the inherent course redirecting systems tied to the world’s Calamity Prevention Monitor did not activate with enough time to compensate, instabilities would begin to multiply. As with any such case, the regional field agent of the world in question would be held accountable.
I already had more than enough problems with Management, having been flagged as a potential risk to operational success. Several members of the ORD council brought special attention to the irregular shape of my skull, which they claimed was evidence showing my lack of qualification for the job. I could not afford to allow significant degradation of the prescribed timeline which the council set for all C-class worlds. That would be grounds for a demotion, at the very least, and could even cast suspicion on me as a potential chaos collaborator. I knew enough about the ORD prisons to know that I never wanted to be put inside one.
I drove on for several miles, listening to the day’s bulletin at an acceptable volume, and taking special care to observe all the applicable driving laws.
I noticed Mr. Calchas’s truck in my rearview mirror when I stopped at a red light. He was looking in my direction, and I tried to act as though I had not noticed him. His intention could only be to follow me and attempt to discover why I had been surveilling him. The fact that he had become aware of me was yet another deviation. I had not planned for that event, since all the data I could acquire allowed for less than a 0.004 chance it would happen.
ORD field agents were rigorously trained to prepare for situations such as the one I found myself caught in—protocol demanded that I return to my safe house and prepare for relocation. My superiors would need to be contacted as soon as possible, but the removal of all chaos artifacts and relevant materials held priority. I needed to ditch Mr. Calchas first though, because I could not allow him to come into contact with any of the artifacts under my protection. Several of the artifacts located in my safe house contained staggering levels of chaotic energy.
The consequences would be unimaginable, quite literally, since no previous incarnations of Mr. Calchas had managed to find and use one of the volatile objects.
My pulse threatened to escalate above the preferred rate required by ORD standards for agents operating a motor vehicle. I forced myself to remain calm and turned my radio off to eliminate any distracting conditions. Using my knowledge of the local streets and estimating the likely traffic patterns for the time and day of the week, I chose a route which I hoped would allow me to break away from Mr. Calchas undetected. I took the closest turn that would allow me to follow my route.
In a moment of poor judgment and terrible timing, I scanned the road behind me just as my vehicle passed through an intersection. I never saw the other driver, but I heard the deafening crunch upon impact as the passenger side of my car was slammed into at a ninety-degree angle. The improbable occurred and my seatbelt failed. I tried to cover my face from the glass as I was sent flying through the front windshield at high speed. My landing caused irreparable damage to my organs, as well as a severe concussion from the force with which my head contacted the sidewalk.
I may have passed out for a short period, but then I heard footsteps coming toward me. I was able to open my eyes, but I could not see much apart from outlines and shapes. As the voices got closer, I recognized one of them. Mr. Calchas had caught up to me, and my failure was complete.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” I said. My words sounded thick and distorted. I repeated the words again and again.
I knew that I was dying, and nothing I could do would change the fact.
I would have liked to smoke a cigarette, just one last time. So what if I’d quit years before? Dead is dead, and a quick puff wouldn’t hurt.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
This wasn’t supposed to