The Man in the Tan Coat

The nameless traveller, the traveller with many names, the once and furture Faltarego--who always managed to think more of himself and his ablilities than was wise--sat quietly in a hard, contoured plastic chair in the Ottawa airport.

Allowing his mind to wander for a moment, he recalled the many times he had written incredibly long one-sentence paragraphs, smiled at the memory of it, nearly chuckled aloud at the silly foolishness of it, and idly wondered if he would ever in his life have the opportunity to do anything even remotely similar to that sort of activity ever again.

He hoped so.

Focusing again on the here-and-now, he looked at his watch. The flight to Vancouver would be leaving in an hour-and-a-half. It was time to rid himself of Robert Erickson and take on a new identity. Then he could pick up the tickets and get something to eat.

He glanced around. He almost had his row of seats to himself. The only other occupant was sitting five seats down, an attractive young woman with shoulder-length copper-colored hair and tortoise-shell-frame glasses. The glasses were a bit out of place, he thought. A bit... artsy. There was a word he hadn't used in a while.

She was quite attractive, and he found himself wishing that circumstances were different, and that he could move down and start a conversation with her. But that sort of thing was for another time. Another life. He had business to attend.

Still, no harm in admiring her from a distance. He watched her for a moment. She was focused intensely on what she was doing. She had some kind of notepad in her hand, and she was scribbling furiously. That kind of activity could get one arrested these days, unless one was a government official or "news" reporter.

After a few moments she got up and began to move towards the main concourse. She looked up from time to time and scanned the environs, often shaking her head in what looked to him like amazement or disbelief. Puzzling behavior, though a welcome distraction.

But now he had the seating area to himself again. Glancing around to ensure his privacy, he picked up his laptop case and placed it on the seat beside him. He unzipped the main compartment and pulled out his external hard disk and a small metal container.

Inside the container were cigarettes and matches. He didn't smoke himself, but the cigarettes provided a good reason to carry the matches. Tobacco sales had skyrocketed since the clamp-down on creativity. Everyone seemed to be smoking these days. Drinking too. Any means to numb oneself, he supposed. The government, for its part, didn't discourage these activities at all. The taxes were so high on booze and cigarettes that the goverment made more money on the items than the tobacco and alcohol companies did.

He opened the container and pulled out a match and a cigarette. As he lifted the cigarette to his lips, he reached into his side pocked with his other hand and pulled out his passport and business cards. With the cigarette dangling from his mouth, he struck the match on the edge of his seat and moved it towards the cigarette, whilst also moving the passport and cards towards the match.

The "poof" was small and quick. The passport and business cards disintegrated into a small pile of white dust that dropped innocently to the floor. He then "changed his mind" about having a smoke, put out the match, and returned the cigarette to the container.

He smiled. Smokeless, ashless paper. It was brilliant. He'd never heard of the stuff until he'd connected with Joe. Joe had taught him things, things he'd never have learned on his own.

He'd always considered himself resourceful, and he had been, up to a point. But Joe had shown him what it really meant to be prepared, to be ready, to have things in place. It was a whole new ball game now.

He turned his attention to the external hard disk. This was another little piece of brilliance Joe had provided. It was a real, working, disk, but the data on it was not important. Just a bunch of boring business documents and some pictures of scenery along Nova Scotia's south shore. Nothing LitPol would be interested in. Nothing artistic.

No, the real genius was the fact that inside the disk's outer casing, in a narrow slot of space next to the actual drive, were his new passport and new business cards. All he needed was to remove the tiny screwdriver hidden inside one of his pens, and he would be able to open the housing and retrieve the documents.

As he reached for the disk, his attention was drawn by a sound. He turned to look towards the main concourse. At first, he couldn't see where the sound was coming from. But after a moment, he zeroed in on it. A man in a trench coat was moving along the hall, shouting something.

As the man drew closer, the traveller could see that he wore sneakers and that his ankles were bare. A flasher? he thought. No, a flasher would not want to draw attention to himself until his well-chosen moment.

Finally, he could make out what the man was saying.

"Death to the Antagonists! Long live the Anarchists!"

The traveller could feel the blood draining from his face. This was anything but good news.

Suddenly, there were LitPol agents everywhere. They came running from every possible direction, moving towards the man in the tan coat.

The traveller leaned forward and squinted. There was something very familiar about the man. He felt sure he'd seen him before.

He didn't have time to contemplate that for long. The man suddenly stopped moving and opened his trench coat.

There was something strapped to his chest. The traveller squinted again and shook his head. Why did the man have something strapped to his chest? And why had all the LitPol agents stopped dead in their tracks?

In a sudden flash of insight, the man known only to himself as Faltarego realized how truly little he knew about being prepared.

The air seemed to suddenly be sucked out of the room. He couldn't breathe for a moment. Then, just as suddenly, there seemed to be nothing in the world but pressure. Pressure on every available surface of his body.

He could see nothing. The blinding flash of light had taken care of that.

Why is there no sound? he asked himself, as his body sailed through the air towards a fairly unremarkable soda machine. Why is there no--

And then there was nothing at all.

The End

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