“When…,” Dan breathed finally, after an endless, encompassing silence. “Did that happen?”
Emir watched the man effortlessly, though he appreciated the fact that most would find eye contact difficult, considering the subject matter. ‘9-11′ had been painful on multiple levels for multitudes, of people. Emir thought of Ben, who was probably still entrenched at Bombers’ Bay, glued to a bottle of 151, and throwing his career away; it was a good thing Ben was on ‘leave’…and that Emir knew ‘nothing’ about the side trip. Or trips. It didn’t matter. Emir didn’t remain silent, in the wake of Dan’s tentative question, for an extended amount of time.
“The year 2020. Islamic terrorists affilitated with an organization called the Al-Qaeda hijacked defunct airliners that hadn’t yet been disassembled as per the government’s discontinuation of commercial aircraft. They crashed them into the towers at length…claiming that American and multi-cultural relations…were carried out with blind eyes, ignoring the true issues at hand in the world. They committed these acts on September 11th. Or-“
“‘9-1-1,” Dan finished, also draining the last of his glass. He set it down hard upon Emir’s desk, but not hard enough to sound an alarm of anger. However, Emir knew Dan better than that. “When did they decide to discontinue commercial flights?,”Dan went on, without looking up.
“In the late nineties, when the bullet train systems were established across the country and several oceans. The system took two decades to complete, in full. There had been several attempts at large scale terrorist attacks from many of the core groups in the government’s scrying glass while the trains were still in development; after more than two hundred deaths resulted at a community college art building in Maryland due to a successful strike, and lacking security…talks began.”
“Those must have been some pretty substantial talks,” Dan snorted. “They wouldn’t even renovate the goddamn subway line in New York City after faulty tracks sent two cars pummeling into the tunnel walls, and Harry and I-“, Dan stopped abruptly. Emir nodded, respectfully, wishing somehow…that he could tell Dan the truth. But, it wasn’t the right time for that now. Not for either of them. Emir handed Dan the bottle, setting it before him, and though Dan said nothing, he did nod, to some degree. Then, he continued.
“I had to drive for a month.” Dan still wasn’t looking up. “I hated that car.”
The ‘car’ had been a renovated unit. Emir already knew that Dan hadn’t hated the car. That he still missed the damn car. And the fact that Harry would always find a Motown station on its radio, which always had perfect reception, and sing along to everything and whatever was on said station just to get Dan to tell him to shut up; it usually took several trips. Harry, despite all his other gifts, had been an incredible vocalist. He’d been in tune, attuned with nearly everything, a remarkable soul. And Dan hadn’t hated the car.
“I can’t imagine a world without airports, or plane sounds,” Dan retorted, daftly changing the subject.
“Small charters are still allowed. But…under the restriction that no more than fifty people may be aboard. It was simply an advance in modern technology, no different than the jump from freight train to the actual subway, in a sense. And, bullet trains are faster by legions. They even come with radar and sonar,” Emir said quietly. “Plus…the commute time is over fifty percent faster, without lay-overs.”
“Whooptie-fucking do,” Dan accomplished saying, without sounding dismissive. “Do you have rocks?”
“Ice. Do you have ice?,” Dan asked.
“Of course,” Emir offered.
“Are they going to pop out of your goddamn desk, or do people still use refrigeration?,” Dan nearly joked.
Emir chuckled, neither man supposing either was at a standard of lessened guard because of humor. Then, Dan was shaking his head.
“I guess we’re all a prime example of continued refrigeration…or is that not how this worked?”
“Not quite. But that’s a step in the right direction.”
Emir tapped an area of his desk, and a panel slid to the side; there, was a miniature freezer compartment, complete with ice, already made. Dan actually laughed out loud, at this. He shook his head again.
“Please, just shoot me again. I made it pretty easy the first time. Let’s go for seconds.”
“I don’t believe that’s what you want,” Emir responded easily, taking chilled tongs, and dropping three ice cubes into Dan’s empty glass; Dan was immediately filling the thing to a respectable level.
“Yeah. Sure.” He then changed the subject for an intermission;
“I would worry about how expensive this shit is, but I feel like a fucking sociopath right now, and I don’t care. Bill me.”
“That can be arranged,” Emir said. Then he raised a corner of his mouth in a smile, and Dan did the same.
It was bizarre. Beyond comprehension. But Dan and Emir were on the same page; they understood each other completely. It would have been unnerving, if not for the effortless quality of the exchange. Dan drank quietly, for a second. Eyed Emir darkly, and without flinching. Emir managed to keep Dan’s eyes without sparking a challenge. This wasn’t the easiest of feats, by any measure, for most. But for Emir, this was effortless.
Dan glanced again to the wall. Then to Emir.
“How many deaths?,” he asked, with a serious quality utterly lacking in blood lust.
“Thousands. Thousands upon thousands, Dan,” Emir responded. Dan nodded. Drank.
“How’s terrorism now?,” he asked solemnly.
“It’s a concern,” Emir answered. “But…the definition has changed a bit over the years.”
“I’ll bet,” Dan said. “What are you thinking, huh? How can we ever catch up? The internet was a problem for me four decades ago. You think a class is going to help me redefine that issue? Jesus. I feel like I flunked school.”
“You were a ‘B’ student.”
“I feel like I fucking flunked school. And the academy?,” Dan rustled his own hair. Drank. “Christ. Why was I even born?”
“You make a difference,” Emir said flatly. Then the silence was deafening again. Neither man spoke for another four minutes and thirty-two seconds;
Emir counted, idly.
“The only difference I make,” Dan said finally. “Is a dent in the world’s whiskey supply. I doubt that signifies any amount of historical merit.”
Dan cringed. It was the headache. It had nothing to do with the alcohol he’d consumed. Dan didn’t portray stress as most people did; his body wreaked havoc upon him as it saw fit; it nearly seemed relative to his conscience wrenching around inside of him. But then, the signs were abstract. They were benign to most, save the daftly in tune, the attuned. Emir smiled.
“You’d be surprised what signifies historical merit,” Emir retorted.
“Doubtful,” Dan said. “And hey. Now that I have a good headache on…what about the old man? I know…,” Dan furrowed his brow again, in obvious pain.
“This is only an intermission,” he finished. “And I appreciate what I get. But you should tell me now…before I feel too much freedom. Before I get it in my blood, and…I remember what it feels like. Well, maybe I never felt it. But…I might wind up thinking about it all the fucking time. In even the smallest doses. And…I don’t need compound misery. The misery I’ve gotten myself into…,” Dan stopped. Thought. “It’s enough.”
Emir seemed to surprise Dan, then. He reached out, and put his hand, with obvious respect, upon Dan’s shoulder. Dan looked, for all the world, as if he was mystified mute. But, then Emir recognized the look of physical relief upon his face. The throbbing in his temples soon calmed and muted altogether. Dan was still looking upon him, as the pain obviously faded. He furrowed his brow again, this time…thinking. Considering.
“You’re like…Abel Saviour,” Dan said. “You…repair.” Dan paused. Thought again. “You heal.”
“I do that…yes,” Emir confirmed. “It’s not a well-hidden fact among those who sign the wavers here.”
“I haven’t signed any fucking-Christ.” Dan leaned back a bit more in his office chair, and Emir felt the last of the tension drain from Dan’s sinuses.
“Do you patent yourself?,” Dan side-tracked. “Because I think you should.”
Emir smiled kindly, and released his grip upon Dan’s shoulder. Dan remained in a leaned back, relaxed position, foreign to his demeanor.
“I’m working on that,” Emir admonished.
“Good,” Dan said. “Good.”
The two were quiet for a moment more.
“I want to explain in full…everything that’s transpired here as of late, and especially the subjects that concern…your former boss.”
Dan snorted again.
“Former,” he chided. “Sure.”
“Also…,” Emir continued, undaunted, and Dan composed himself. “I would consider myself fortunate, in telling you about these things first. Personally.”
Dan remained relaxed, but his attentive quality was undiminished. Flawless.
“Alright, then,” Dan said, in response. “But you have to answer one, solitary question for me before all that.”
“What’s that, Dan?” Dan paused, smiling.
“Does your heal have a ‘buzz-kill’?”
Dan folded his arms, idly. Still smiled, amused. Silence.
” ‘Perhaps’?,” Dan smirked. “I know you can do better than Doris Day.”
“Do you really want to date yourself like that, Dan?,” Emir joked.
“Hell, yes, I do. And I have one more question.”
“Go right ahead. It’s the least I can offer you.”
“Life is the least you can offer me. An education and benefits are the follow-up.” Dan smiled again, still relaxed and reclining, as if on vacation. And, of course, to him, he was on vacation. Then, Dan continued. “If I sign your multiple confidence wavers…,” Dan’s smile brightened. “And, I get a desk…?”
“Yes.” Emir didn’t bat an eye. Any of his eyes.
“‘Yes’, what?,” Dan was still smiling, unphased.
“‘Yes‘…you can have an ice compartment. Deal?”
Then, Dan was inexplicably satisfied.
“Deal,” he said, without hesitation. “Oh,” Dan suddenly continued. “And I want my fucking gun back.”
Emir was quiet, in response; he watched Dan carefully. The smile was more faded, but still remained.
“Okay,” Dan finally admitted. “Fine. Any gun. I want a good fucking upgraded gun. Is this a possibility? Maybe?”
“That…and an unlimited credit line pretty much anywhere in the free world.”
There was another moment of silence.
“Did I say ‘deal’?,” Dan asked. “Because you’ve got one.” Emir smiled again.
“Good,” Emir said. “Then, let me tell you of the matters at hand. How’s your head?”
“Good,” Dan answered immediately, probably surprising himself. “Good,” he repeated.
“Then, I’m satisfied with our progress, so far,” Emir answered him. Dan seemed taken aback, and looked earnestly at Emir. So earnestly, it was nearly a shock.
“Shall we begin?”
“Sure,” Dan hazarded. “Sure. As soon as I have another three belts in me. Deal?”
Emir steepled his hands.
“Deal,” he said without effort.
Dan didn’t respond directly, or even with action. He simply smiled, with confidence, and…a tangible sense of excitement. That was all the confirmation Emir needed.
And all he would seek before addressing the others.