Carlos watched as his son learned the news and observed the shock and fear his son must have been feeling turn to resolve.
“What do I need to do?” Jair said, determination not to panic at this turn of events clear on his face.
Carlos felt a glow of pride seeing his only son face this challenge so unflinchingly. “For now take this medicine and go to bed, we will see what happens from there.”
Jair turned his head to look at his father and Carlos glimpsed the anger and resentment. This was something he had grown used to in the past couple of years. He knew it came from what Jair witnessed while working with him at the port. He silently cursed Vasco again for convincing him to let Jair work there, the boy was just too young to understand what was happening and he wasn’t ready to know the full extent of what was going on in front of him. This made the shame and bitter anger he always felt ten times worse when he had to suck up or deal with the abuse with his son watching.
“That’s all! Just take my meds and hope for the best! Do you think that just because of your job the stinking Ejército will leave us alone or do you just not care about what happens?!”
“Jerald!” gasped Kathleen shocked at his outburst.
“No” Carlos said cutting her off before things could get out of hand “that’s not all. That’s just what you have to do. You won't be in much shape for anything else once you start up with the meds. And while you’re out of it your mother will be staying home with you…”
“She doesn’t need to be here I can take care of my self!”
“Staying here with you” He continued over his son “So that we can tell the school that she is sick and you are staying here to take care of her, that way no one will suspect the real reason you aren’t at school or work.”
“Oh...OK I guess.”
“And remember Jair not everyone that gets morfs changes in appearance. There’s a fair shot that you can get through this with none the wiser.” said Vasco speaking up for the first time since he gave the bleak news.
“And son?” “I do care what happens to you and no matter what happens in the next few days I will see to it that everything ends up all right.” said Carlos trying to put as much conviction in his words as he could to ease some of his sons fears for a moment.
Jair’s emotions were clear on his face changing so fast there was barely time to decipher them. First was relief, the kind a scared child might feel when their parents show up and they know they will make everything right again. Then there was confusion at this resurgence of feeling he had thought long gone. Quickly following that was anger and resentment probably from thinking he was only hearing hollow words from his father. Finally his face went blank not showing any emotions keeping it all hidden away deep inside.
“All right Jair off to bed and take the medicine Vasco brought for you, soonest started soonest done.” said Kathleen chivying her son up and into his room. Carlos and Vasco could hear her telling Jair in her no nonsense mother voice to put on some loose clothing and that she was going to get some extra sheets for his bed. In the kitchen there was silence. Carlos was staring off into the distance and Vasco watched him.
“It’s going to be all right Los, we’ve done this hundreds of times. We can handle it,” said Vasco
“Ya” replied Carlos laconically
“We’re the best at this in the business. You don’t need to worry.”
“He’s my son.” was the only reply. It was the only reply needed, Vasco understood. Without saying a word Vasco got up squeezed Carlos’s shoulder and left. He had things to prepare.
The next day at work Carlos couldn’t help but worry, he hated not being in control of the situation and he hated waiting even more. He called his home every few hours to check for change in conditions. Whenever talked to Kathleen he made sure to ask “Jair” how his “mother” was doing. Given the times they lived in you could never know who might be listening in on phone calls. On his latest call he was informed that every thing was going as well as possible. Jair had woken up at around and had been sick for a while. He was also coughing up a lot of blood mixed with mucus.
That worried Carlos since coughing up matter wasn’t all that common a symptom but it wasn’t all that rare either. So far Jair hadn’t shown any physical change and that gave Carlos some hope. He knew it was too soon to tell but he couldn’t help it.
Vasco didn’t seem to be at all worried; he was as calm and in control as he always seemed to be. Not much could surprise him, and he acted quicker and more decisively in an emergency than anyone else Carlos knew.
The men that worked for Carlos were the ones that had to deal with the brunt of his worry, which had vented itself in the form of an incredible temper. He spent most of the morning yelling at the hands to hurry up with their jobs and when in their rush to conform they inevitable made a mistake he would verbally rip into them even worse. Not even the senior dockworkers and machine operators, some of his most trusted and valued employees, who had worked with and for him for years, were safe from his tirades. But unlike their younger and less experienced counterparts Carlos’s temper didn’t fluster them. It was one of them that finally got Carlos back in control of himself.
Carlos had just started telling off Ibérico Santana Montanez, a grizzled 60 plus year old crane operator who had worked at the port at least 40 years, for the sloppy way he had unloaded the containers off the last ship when Ibérico cut him off.
“Carlos I’ve worked here for longer than ya‘ve been alive. I taught ya how to use a crane when ya was wet behind the ears. I can move this baby as easy as taken a piss and I don’t need ya try’en to tell me how to do my job son. Now I know ya’s havin' a bad day but your about as useful as a one-legged man at an arse kicking contest right now, and your only getting in people's way. Why don’t ya go back to your office and sort out yer invoices and papers tell ya got a grip on yerself.”
Carlos felt heated words come to his mouth but stopped them when he saw the look on Ibérico face. He instead closed his eyes, breathed deeply through his noise and nodded his head. He knew Ibérico was right, he was more likely to instigate a accident out here than anything else, he should go back to his office where the only harm he could cause was to the filling system.
Carlos spent the rest of the day in his office struggling with the ports mountain of paper work. He flipped back and forth through records trying to make the numbers and dates, names and places all match up. It was mind numbingly boring and tedious as all hell but it kept him busy and his mind occupied. The clock kept ticking and he continued juggling the information. He focused all of his attention on them trying to think of anything besides what his mind wanted so desperately to focus on, even so he would often find himself staring at a page turned into incomprehensible scratching with only one thought in his mind, his son.
He was relieved when his time was up and he could go home. He usually stayed for a few hours making sure the change from the day shift to the lighter night shift went smoothly but today he didn’t have the energy for it. Though he had spent half of the day sitting in a chair doing nothing more strenuous than lift a pen the constant tension had kept him as taut as a one of Ibérico’s crane cable and the muscles all up his back and to his neck ached.
He exhaled noisily standing up and stretching his arms over his head, making his back pop in the process. He decided to leave the paper work scattered on his desk, he could straighten it up tomorrow. He left the office, as usual locking up behind him. Pavel, his night shift manager had a spare key if he needed to get in for some reason. Carlos had to remind himself that he had driven the car today, usually Kathleen took it since she worked further from their home and he would be damned if he would let her walk the streets by herself anyway.
He stopped by Vasco’s little building to talk as they almost always did in the evening. When he entered Vasco was typing at his computer the intricate lines of the port schematics glowing on the screen. The program was of their own design and had taken years to make with their limited resources and lack of expertise in computer programming. Through the use of a 3D model of the port, the array of cameras and the communication equipment Vasco could use the program to pinpoint down to the centimeter exactly where everything, be it man, cargo or vehicle were at all times. It might only say that he was a security guard in the port employee records but he did a hell of a lot more than that. Vasco saw him enter and shot him a quick grin over his shoulder continuing to type whatever command he was entering.
“I heard on the COM that you were on the warpath, you should have heard some of the youngsters.” his voice became a squeaky falsetto “Oh no, watch out, the boss man is headed our way! Everyone look real busy or he’s going to rip your balls off! Hell, I’m running for it! My wife would leave me if that happened.”
This got a grudging chuckle from Carlos “What stopped you? I thought you were going to turn this into the first port worked exclusively by eunuchs.” Said Vasco.
Carlos snorted in laughter “The invincible army of Carlos meet the artillery of Ibérico and retreated back to their office to lick their wounds.”
Vasco crowed with laughter “You don’t mean to tell me you tried that bullshit on old Ibérico, he’s got balls of steel!”
“Well I wasn’t thinking that clearly at the time.”
This sobered Vasco instantly “Ya I guess not how are they?”
Carlos lowered his voice but even so still chose his words carefully. “They seem to be ok. The medicine is working as well as could be expected but not much else has changed.”
Vasco nodded “You off home now?”
“Ya I don’t think I can do much good here right now anyway.”
“Right well I’m going to stay down here for a while longer but I’ll stop over at your place when I’m done.”
“All right I’ll see you in awhile then.” Said Carlos leaving the small building and fumbling in his pocket for the keys.
When he got home it was to find Kathleen asleep in a kitchen chair she had dragged into Jair’s tiny quarters. This took up most of the free space in the room but that wasn’t saying much considering the size of the area. Jair himself was still out of it with sweat gleaming on his skin and his legs tangled in the thin cotton sheet. It gave his son the appearance of wrestling with some kind of white snake.
‘He’s a real fighter’ Carlos thought
He bent over and kissed Kathleen on the forehead, shaking her shoulder. “Wake up sleepyhead.”
She stretched and her eyes opened “Hmmm” She half groaned and half yawned. “Carlos? Are you home already?”
“Yes I didn’t feel like staying late. I told you not to stay up all night worrying, look at you falling asleep in the middle of the day,” Carlos chided gently.
She gave him a scornful look “Like I could have slept last night anyway and I’m not sleeping in the middle of the day. I’m only resting.” She nodded towards her leg, which was propped up on Jair’s bed. “And I know whenever Jair gets restless.” She swung her leg off the mattress and stood up. “Besides you’re a fine one to talk, you didn’t even come to bed last night, you spent it pacing from Jair’s room to everywhere else in the house tell the sun came up.” She kissed him lovingly, used to the hypocrisies in a spouse that seem to come with a long marriage.
“I guess I should go start some dinner. Is Vasco going to come over?”
“He said he would come by later but I don’t know when.”
“Well I guess I can make enough for him and warm it up when he finally shows.” Her last words came from her as she moved into the kitchen and started opening cupboards and drawers getting out the ingredients she would need.
Carlos settled down into the chair she had just vacated with a tired sigh. It was only from this angle that he saw his fully loaded handgun on the bedside table hidden behind a stack of books. He always kept it locked in a safe by their bed only to be used in an emergency. He was half amused half impressed and more than a little concerned. She wasn’t about to let anyone take her son away that was clear.
She had changed a lot from the idealistic young humanitarian aid worker he had fallen in love with in his youth. This saddened him a little; she had been fairly innocent when she first showed up full of good if naive intentions and the passions of youth to fuel them. That wasn’t to say that she know nothing of the harsher side of mankind. She had seen it in news broadcasts and newspapers but she had never experienced it firsthand. Never seen and smelled the bloodshed, never met the truly poor or hungry. It was much to her credit that coming face to face with this cruel reality rather than embittering her, as it had done to so many when they saw the evils people could inflict on one another, had made her a stronger person. She was less trusting but more willing to forgive. His thoughts dwelled on memories of happier times as he watched his son’s chest raise and fall and slowly he to fell asleep.
He awoke to a loud crash and an instant later the clang of a pan hitting the floor coinciding with a surprised yell from Kathleen. He was out of the chair in an instant snatching up the gun. He sprinted into the kitchen slamming into walls as he took turns too quick.
In the kitchen the saucepan lid was still spinning on the floor with a wung wung wung noise. In the doorway stood a shadowed shape left indistinct due to the burned out bulb he hadn’t replaced yet. Carlos raised the gun preparing to fire; he would never let anyone so much as touch his family.
“Wow there man, hold it” Came a voice from the darkness “If I knew this is what would happen I would have knocked first. Put down that gun Carlos before you hurt yourself, you know how bad your aim is.” Said Vasco stepping into the kitchen and shaking off rainwater from the storm that had started while Carlos slept.
“Damn it Vasco, what do you think your doing? I nearly…”
“No time for that” Said Vasco cutting him off mid sentence “We got to get you out of here.”
Carlos felt himself go ashen “They’re coming for Jerald?” Said Kathleen in a shaky voice. Carlos realized he was still holding the gun up and let it fall to his side limply. “How did they find out?, we were so careful.”
“That doesn’t matter now just get Jair and some extra clothes and move it!”
“But what about the house…” Said Kathleen her voice sounding dazed from the shock of the sudden news.
“Don’t worry about that.” Said Vasco his voice impatient “I’ll get some of your neighbors to hold your things once the fuss dies down.”
Kathleen took a deep breath and seemed to take hold of herself “Right then, Carlos you go get Jair, make sure to wrap him up in a few blankets and don’t forget the medication and stim-packs. Vasco is there anything else we need to bring?”
“No every thing else is taken care of. If there is anything small that is precious to you and you can pack quickly then grab it.”
She nodded “OK, Vasco go help Carlos with Jair I’ll get the clothes.” She turned and rushed to the bedroom she and Carlos shared.
Carlos and Vasco moved towards Jair’s room. “We’re going in your truck?” asked Carlos as they entered the tiny living space.
Vasco nodded “Good, help me get this quilt around him. That’s it, lift up his legs now.” Carlos grunted as he lifted his son “Man he’s gotten heavy since the last time I picked him up.”
He began staggering through the door and down the hall.
Vasco hurriedly grabbed up Jair’s backpack from where it hung behind the door and threw the medication into it. He then grabbed a stack of clothes by the dresser and stuffed them in on top of the medication. As he rushed after Carlos to open doors for him he wondered why all the clothes were next to the dresser rather than in it.
In the kitchen he dodged passed Carlos to open the door. Carlos lurched through, hunching over Jair to shield him from the drizzle.
Vasco moved passed him again and opened the rear door to his truck but instead of moving aside for Carlos he instead grabbed hold of the seat and pulled. The bottom cushion swung upwards to reveal a large sunken area that extended from under the seat through the cab of the truck and into and under the bed. From this view it could be seen that at least half of the rusty toolbox built into the truck bed had to be hollow. Carlos didn’t seem the least bit surprised by the hidden features as he laid his son down in the padded recess and placed the backpack that Vasco handed him in the space behind his curled legs.
“There’s only going to be room for Jair and Kathleen, maybe I should find another way and follow.”
Before Vasco could start to argue Kathleen appeared and beat him to it. “Don’t even think about it mister, we are not going to separate at a time like this, now help me up into this pit.”
Carlos thought about arguing the point but the fierce look Kathleen gave decided him against it. He took the bulging gym bag from her hands and set it in the front seat of the pickup. She climbed in to the truck struggling with the height of the vehicle until Carlos gave her a helpful boost in the rump.
There was just barely enough room for her as she squeezed her self in next to her son. She looked up at her husband her eyes deeply worried.
“Carlos? Do you think everything will be all right?” she said. Carlos locked gazes with her looking deeply into her eyes.
“Yes” He lied determined not to make her worry any more than she was already “Are you ready for me to lower the seat?”
She nodded and as he lowered the seat back down into place he saw her turn and wrap her arms around their son cradling him to her the same way she did when he was young.
Vasco put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed hard, in that one gesture sharing his own worries with Carlos and silently telling him that everything would be ok.
“Lay on the floor boards between the back seat and the front seats and I’ll cover you with a blanket.” Vasco said giving Carlos one last squeeze and pushing him towards the open door.
He did as he was told and Vasco covered him with a stained and grease spotted sheet that he kept in the vehicle, he then artfully arranged some of the junk that cluttered the beat up old truck on to him, making it look less like a human covered with a sheet and more a pile of junk.
Carlos arranged himself in a comfortable position, or at least a less uncomfortable one, making sure that none of his body was showing and that nothing would shift during the ride. He couldn’t see anything but a faint trace of light through the covering. He heard the “clunk” of the passenger side rear seat door closing and a moment later the opening of the drivers side door. The truck shifted slightly as Vasco got in then there was another “clunk” as that door closed. The engine started with a hum and the truck jolted into motion.
“You ok back there man?” Vasco said as he drove down the street away from the home Carlos had known for almost 15 years.
“Ya I’m ok, just try not to hit all the pot holes I don’t have any padding down here.”
“Getting soft in your old age are we?”
“The we part is right, you’re the same age as I am so watch who you call old.” replied Carlos
There was silence for a few minutes only the sound of the windshield wipers running and the pattering of the rain making any noise. The intermittent flashes of illumination when they passed a street light the only sight.
“So what’s the game plan then?” said Carlos breaking the stillness of that moment.
“Well” Vasco said, “I called some of the guys and told them what was up. They are at the docks getting everything set up. They should have the med-pod prepared by the time we get there. Other than that everything is the same as any other run we would do, except of course that this time you’re the package.”
“A med-pod? I didn’t think we had one at the port right now, thought we sent the last one off two months ago.”
“It came in this evening, after you left.”
“Oh” was all Carlos could think to say to that. Knowing that they would be in a medical-pod did relieve a bit of his worry. It would mean that Jair would most likely be ok, if they managed to get that far. If…
Things when back to being as quiet as before only this time he could hear the sound of other vehicles around them and the brightening and darkening of the three inches of fabric he could see became more frequent. This meant that they were in a busier part of town and about half way to the docks.
Carlos strained his hearing listening for the first hint of sirens or anything else that could mean they had been discovered. Each time he heard a car whoosh by his guts would momentarily clinch in apprehension as his panicked mind thought that it might be the sound of some kind of pursuit.
He was feeling nauseous by the time the streetlights stopped flashing through the windows and onto the sheet covering him and the sounds of other cars disappeared. This didn’t ease his tension because he know it meant that they where almost to the port and that meant they were almost to the security check point and one of the most likely place that they could be stopped.
“OK we will be at the checkpoint in just a second keep quiet and don’t move tell I give you the all clear.” said Vasco in a whisper.
Carlos felt the truck slowing to a stop at the same time that the light from the window grew brighter.
He heard the sound of the window being lowered then the deep voice of irritated sounding man.
“What’s your name and what is your business at the port?” said the voice
‘Shit’ thought Carlos it’s a new guard and it sounds like he is pissed about being out in the rain. His heart began to pound fast and hard as his fear of immediate discovery grew. It was so loud it was like a drum was beating next to his ear, “thud-thud”, “thud-thud”, “thud-thud”.
‘Surely’ he thought concentrating on keeping his breathing as level and quite as possible, ‘surely he will hear my heart beating like a bass drum back here and it will be all over for us.’
But the checkpoint guard didn’t seem to hear anything as he continued to question Vasco.
“I work here.” said Vasco answering the guard. “Here,” he said handing the guard what Carlos knew would be his security clearance papers. He could hear the rustling of paper as the guard flipped through the papers and the buzz as he scanned the verification chip on each page.
“It says you work the day shift on this, what are you doing here at this time of night?” asked the guard. He was annoyed at having to work out in the rain and was trying to take it out on Vasco.
“I traded shifts with someone so he could have the night off, said he had something important to do and asked me to do him this favor” replied Vasco.
“Huh” was the only rejoinder he got to that. Then,
“What’s in that bag over there?”
Carlos felt his heart skip a beat, ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck’ he swore silently to himself. He had left the bag that Kathleen had packed in the front seat! Cold sweat broke out all over his body has he heard the guard move around to the other side of the truck and open the door.
“All that’s in there is my dirty laundry; I’m taking it to the cleaners after I finish this shift. If you want to rummage around in my dirty underwear and greasy work clothes be my guest.” Said Vasco in a bored sounding voice.
The guard gave a grunt and slammed the door shut again.
“All right hurry up and go through your wasting my time!”
Carlos felt the tension ease out of him as the truck once again started forward. That had been a close one. A few moments later once they driven out of sight of the guard Vasco said in a quit tone, “All right we’re passed them you can talk now but don’t get up just in case.”
“Right” Carlos replied voice shaky, he cleared his throat getting his voice back under control. “Right, nice job there Vasco, sorry I forget to put the bag some where else.”
The truck bumped along the old cracked concrete road tell it slowed and Vasco turned off the power
“We’re here,” he said and opened the driver side door.
Carlos pushed himself up off the floor boards and into a seated position on the back seat, the detritus that had be covering him fell like a particularly odd rain to the floor where it bounced around his feet.
He opened the door and nearly fell out; his feet had become numb after the cramped confinement and didn’t seem to want to support his weight. Despite this he clambered out hanging onto the door handle to support part of his weight and hurriedly swung the seat cover open to reveal his wife and son.
In the recess Kathleen was curled up against Jair’s immobile body. At the snap of the clasp holding down the seat she turned quickly eyes wide and fearful she stared up at him the alarm replaced with relief as she recognized him in the gloom.
“We’re here honey, its going to be ok.” said Carlos.
He reached into the seat and helped to pull her out. As he pulled her to him he could feel her trembling and he held her tight to let her know that he was there, his hands trembled to match hers.
“Shhh, the worst part is over.”
Kathleen stayed in his tight embrace for a second then pulled away.
“Lets get Jair out of here we don’t have time to waste.” said Kathleen. She turned and started reaching for Jerald.
“Let me do that hun, you couldn’t move him anyway.” Kathleen stopped struggling with Jair’s limp form.
“Ok ill get the bag then. Where did you put it?”
“Uh it’s in the front seat,” said Carlos.
“That was a stupid place to keep it. What if Vasco was pulled over and got searched? He would have had a hard time explaining why he had pink panties with him” said Kathleen opening the passenger side door and picking up the bag.
The area she was in for the drive was sound proofed so she didn’t know how close they came to discovery. Carlos hesitated on what to tell her, it seemed pointless to let her know now how close it was. She was worried enough as it was and telling her would just add to it.
“Ba, no worries anyone that might have looked would just have assumed that a hot stud like me must have picked them up on one of my many conquests,” said Vasco coming around the truck, saving Carlos from having to prevaricate.
“More likely they would have thought you were a cross-dresser.” said Kathleen trying to mask her fear with humor to match Vasco’s.
Carlos sighted, thanking Vasco silently for the save, he know that Kathleen would get the truth from him eventually; he could never keep a secret from her for long. But at least they would be somewhere safe by then.
Carlos maneuvered Jair’s limp body until he could get a grip under his arms and hauled him up. He got him to a sitting position on the edge of the recess then shifted his grip and lifted him to a firemen’s carry.
Jair gave a low moan at the awkward position and stirred slightly. Carlos hoped that Jair would stay out of it tell they were safely under way.
When he turned around he found that a small group of people had arrived with Vasco. He knew all of them; two were people that he saw every few months. The taller was the captain of the B.N.E. Southernway Jacquenett Rivard, a woman who’s strong calloused hands rested easily at her side. Next to her was Rashid a short man with the swarthy skin that bespoke Middle Eastern ancestry somewhere in the last few generations.
The other two were men he know very well, they worked for him at the port, Ibérico and a young man named Sergei Rentería Orozco who worked a laborer for the port. All the lifting and unloading of creates had given him huge slabs of muscle, not the chiseled look of a body builder but the thick solid kind that looked like it belonged on a prized bull. He swept his raggedly cut chin length almost blue-black hair out of his eyes as he stepped towards Carlos.
“Here boss, let me carry the little squirt.” said Sergei he took Jair off of Carlos’s shoulder and held him in his arms as if he weighed no more than a kitten.
Carlos rotated his shoulder, relieved to have his sons weight gone.
“Thanks for showing up so fast to help out, I know this wasn’t a planned operation.” said Carlos nodding at all of them to let them know they were all included in his gratitude.
“No thanks needed.” said Rashid “This isn’t just some job, you’re a friend, we would do whatever we could to help you out,” the others gathered around murmured their agreement with the sentiments.
“Y'all should be in disguises and have followed all the safety precautions though, I don’t want all of you to risk yourselves on my account.” said Carlos.
“We’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.” said Ibérico with a gesture reminiscent of casting something of little account away. “Lets just get you and your family stored away safely."
“Yes lets get moving. The sooner we are safe from discovery the happier I will be” said Kathleen reaching out and taking hold of Carlos’s hand.
They moved off, Vasco leading the way through the maze of stacked creates and shipping containers till they came to a large reinforced cargo container, its sides plastered with danger and warning labels in a variety of languages.
Captain Rivard moved to the near end of the container, which had a heavy-duty lock system on the doors. She took a Secure-Lock key out of her pants pocket put it in the slot and punched in a code on the input buttons. With a soft beep and the sound of components being released one of the heavy doors swung open several inches, enough for Jacquenett to get a grip on the extremely thick door and swing it open wider.
Inside was what seemed to be boxes of varying sizes and shapes stacked all the way to the ceiling and so compactly that only a few feet near the doors had any kind of open space.
She then stepped in side the cargo container and opened one of the boxes, she pressed her hand in several different places touching several hidden buttons and letting the sensors scan her for recognition. There was a then a soft “wush” and a section of one of the larger creates that you would swear was all one piece, slide aside.
“Come on Sergei, I want to get Jair settled in place.” said Kathleen as she entered the newly opened area, Sergei dutifully following her.
Carlos watched his wife and son enter the container then turned to captain Rivard and Rashid who were both standing to one side of the door.
“When will we be leaving?” he asked.
“The ship is due to depart at tomorrow morning,
we should be well out to sea and out of range by . We won't be stopping at any ports on the
way due to a malfunction that will require us to return to our home port in
“Wish we could open the container and let you out once we were in safe waters but that is too high a risk to our security. There are still some members of my crew that I don’t trust to keep their mouth shout about this and there are always other ways for people to spy on what is happening.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Carlos “We will be fine, lots of people have traveled this way in the last few years and they survived it.”
“Well then I suppose me and Rashid will be getting back to the ship, Ibérico and Sergei can finish up here, we shouldn’t be away too long.” Said Jacquenett
“See you on the other side.” said Rashid taking Carlos’s hand and shaking it.
The two of them had just turned out of sight behind a stack of pallets when Kathleen and Sergei returned minus Jair.
“Well” said Ibérico slowly I guess this is the last I’ll see of you for a while. Humph, good riddens, don’t need you around trying to tell me my job.” there was just a hint of moister in his eyes has he shook Carlos’s hand roughly “And take care of little Jair too, I never did get the chance to finish teaching him how to use a crane.”
“I guess that’s less for him to unlearn you senile old bastard.” said Carlos returning the hard handshake. “And thank you for all you have done for me over the years, take care of the port for me. Don’t let things get slack around here.”
Ibérico then turned to Kathleen and embraced her. “Good bye girly, I don’t have to tell you to take care of these Vicario boys you do that already.”
Kathleen murmured something in his ear that made him laugh and he let go. “Come on (muscle guy) lets make sure no one is around here before we shut the door.”
Sergei followed him, turning on his way to say “Bye boss,” as he passed Carlos.
Carlos and Vasco stared at each other for a moment both lost for words. They had been friends since they could walk and had shared more than most people do in a lifetime.
“Vasco…” said Carlos fighting down a lump in his throat that felt like it was going to choke him. “Why don’t you come with us!” He said in a burst. “It could be dangerous for you here, and…” Carlos’s voice chocked off again, tears began to fell his eyes.
“No, Los you know I wont do that, there are people here that need my help, and I can’t leave this place, this is my home. This is…this is where Cassandre was I won't leave it.” Vasco said his voice also choked with emotion.
Carlos looked at his childhood friend, his blood brother, and knew he could say nothing to change his mind. He could no longer hold back the tears and they ran down his cheeks.
“Besides you couldn’t force me into one of those sardine cans with the three of you.” Vasco said, trying to force his usual tone of humor into his words but failing miserably as tears also fell from his eyes.
“Right.” said Carlos in a vain attempt to match him. “You have had to many beers to fit in much of anything anymore.”
Vasco turned to Kathleen who had wet tracks down her cheeks form the unashamedly flowing tears “I'll see you around Kathleen take care of that boy of yours, he is a good lad, you did a good job in raising him.” he said then pulled her into a hug both of them shaking from their weeping. “Kathleen you’re like the sister I never had, I’m so glad you and Carlos found each other.”
“There is no like about it I am your sister no matter what any blood work would say.” replied Kathleen holding on to him. “Good bye Vasco, I love you.”
She released her grip enough to kiss him on the cheek then let him go entirely. Vasco turned back to Carlos.
Tell Jair I said bye when he wakes up, and that ill see him again some day. And…damn this is harder that I thought it would be.” He grabbed Carlos and pulled him into a fierce embrace nether able to speak for a moment because of their emotions.
Finally Vasco pulled back to arms length and stared into Carlos’s eyes. “You’re the best friend I could ever have had, you where always there for me, you helped me when Cassandre and our child died. With out you I don’t think I would have ever survived that, thank you.” He took a deep breath then said, “all right time to get in the tin can we can’t wait around here all night.”
Carlos nodded in what felt like a mechanical way started for the door inside the cargo container. Kathleen give Vasco one last hug then joined him. Vasco turned after entering Kathleen standing behind him. He raised his hand so it hovered over the controls to shut and lock the door and said his voice thick “Good bye Vasco.”
The last thing he saw as the door shut was Vasco standing looking at them sadness in his eyes and his usual grin on his face.
Carlos swayed with the gentle rocking of the ship where he was seated on the too small bed in the too small room. He had begun to think of it as the coffin. A name that had as much to do with his worries for his son as it did with the size of the high tech cargo container.
It had been almost a week since they had locked themselves into the camouflaged transport and in that time Jair’s condition had only deteriorated. He hadn’t wakened since being placed on the medical bed. There was a continual yellow warning light above his head alerting that his status wasn’t good and the computer was constantly advising more stim packs be given to him. Even as Carlos was thinking of it the computer beeped and indicated that one of the two IV’s strapped to his arm had gone empty.
He got up off the end of the bed intending to change it but Kathleen beat him to it, standing up from the only chair in the room, which she had placed beside Jair’s bed. She opened the cabinet above his bed and took out an IV stim pack placing it in the appropriate slot. Carlos stepped over to his wife and took her hand.
“Honey why don’t you get some rest you wearing yourself to the bone.”
“No I’m ok, I don’t feel tired at all.” she said. This was an obvious lie as her eyes where blood shot from lack of sleep and the bags under her eyes more closely resembled something an incompetent boxer might have had than simple lack of sleep.
“Well let me at least make you some tea then.” she mumbled a reply as she went back to sitting next to Jair clasping his hand in hers. Carlos moved the few steps over to the tiny alcove where their food was stored and prepared. As the tea finished up he slipped something he had taken from the medical supplies out of his pocket, turning his body so was to hide the action from Kathleen. He mixed the tea the way she liked it then stirred in the packet he had been hiding. He took the steaming tea over to Kathleen and placed it in her hand.
“Drink it up, you know how you hate it when it gets cold.”
She absently brought it to her lips and drank not taking her eyes off her son. Carlos watched as she finished the cup and a few minutes later her eyes started to get heavy, they blinked closed once, twice then finally stayed shut.
Carlos smiled to himself as he picked up his wife and laid her down in the bed he had previously sat on. She would sleep for a good 12 hours with the dose he had given her. She would probably be upset with him when she woke but he could deal with that. He settled himself down in the chair next to Jair’s unmoving body.
Carlos flipped on the TV, turning the volume down to its lowest setting and searched through the pre-recorded shows and movies looking for something interesting that he hadn’t seen yet. While doing this he reached out and took Jair’s hand. As he held it he noticed how hot it felt and that they skin was starting to feel rough and dry.
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