Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta news. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta news. Mostrar todas las entradas

lunes, 13 de febrero de 2017

Lost flight

   The only thing I could do was waiting. After having my new boarding pass printed and a coupon for lunch in the airport’s food court, I left to have a walk through the terminal. I just needed to walk around, to relax my body after so many problems and so much uncertainty. As I walked, I remembered that I didn’t have any luggage, nothing to take care of. My clothes and a couple of souvenirs I was taking home, had been destroyed just a few hour ago, in the blink of an eye.

Understandably, people were glued to all TV screens showing a news channel or any sort of new information about the disaster. As for me, I didn’t wanted to have anything to do with it. I was already in some sort of shock; I didn’t needed to get worse in any kind of way. I just looked for a place far from any crowd and there I sat down, trying to relax. That was not going to happen but having that kind of mission made me at least a little bit distracted, from the looks and the comments.

 Yes, people already knew that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I have no idea how, but it wasn’t a surprise as people have always been all about gossip and knowing thing they have no place in knowing. I ignored the few looks I got and, thankfully, I only heard part of their speeches about me. Maybe they were talking about my luck or if I was travelling alone. Something about that but I really didn’t mind. I couldn’t mind because I had better things to think about than them.

 There, sitting in a lonely row of chairs overlooking the tarmac, I remembered my favorite sweater. I hadn’t put it on because the weather report announced a very col day, which it was. But I could have put it on anyway or maybe stuff it on my backpack. It could have survived but now I was never going to put it on never again. It was something silly to think about but that’s all my mind could do to keep sanity inside. My sweater was no more and I couldn’t be more sad about it.

 Someone, a woman, touched my shoulder and made me jump from fright. She had surprised me submersed into my mind. When I looked at her, she smiled and explained the people from the airline were now looking for me. I asked if the new flight was being cancelled and she shook her head negatively. She was apparently there to take me to the airline lounge, the more exclusive one. I was very happy for that but also kind of confused. She then explained it was the safest place for people to be: “Not even photographers can come in”. That explained it all.


 I joined her, my backpack tight against me. As we walked towards the lounge, she was talking about all the things I could enjoy there for the next twelve hours, time I needed to wait until the next flight home. But I wasn’t really paying attention to her but to the people still standing in front of the screens, watching the images of twisted metal and molten plastic. It was a very morbid thing to see and yet, even children stood in from of the screens watching something they did not fully understand.

 When we got to the lounge, she explained to me they had granted me access to the most exclusive areas. She handed me a silver card, which I had to use to make certain machines work and access some rooms like the showers, the spa and special small rooms to sleep for a while. She showed me everything but the truth was my body felt very week and I just wanted to sleep for a while, have a rest before the long flight I had to face the next day. Looks and comments will also be heard there.

 When she left, I went straight for the room’s area. They weren’t really rooms, but more like a capsule hotel in the style they have in Japan. I chose one and hopped in. I put down the curtain separating me from the outside world and removed my trousers to really relax. I turned off the lights and lay there in silence, complete silence, trying to get my mind cleared in order to sleep. But I kept hearing people talking all around me and I just couldn’t do it. It took me more than an hour to fall asleep.

 When I woke up, I thought I was only a few hours away from my flight, but that wasn’t the case at all. I had just been able to sleep four hours, which wasn’t really much considering at home I managed to sleep double that time every single night. I woke up just as tired as I was when I had hopped into that space. The only thing to do was to put on the pants and go out there, maybe eat something or have a hot cup of coffee or whatever I could find. It was better to be occupied.

 I decided to have dinner first, so I grabbed a large plate and I started putting on it every single thing I could see on my plate, except the spicy food they had on one end of the room. I sat down to the table and I ate very slowly, trying not to look at the screens I had around. But that was almost impossible to do and, when I finished my plate, my head raised directly into on of those screens, showing in detail how the plane had crashed against the mountain, how no one could have survived.

 Very silly me. I tried to look for my suitcases in the images, but it was obvious that nothing was really the same anymore. The plastic it was made of had probably melted and all my clothes were probably scorched to their tiniest self or maybe the wind had carried them all over the place. It wouldn’t be strange if some person arrived next day to work with my clothes on instead of his normal attire. That thought made a chill run down and up again my spine. Not something I like to think about.

 I was supposed to be there, in that flight, having had their same last meal and hearing those same last announcements done by the crew. I have no idea what they said but I can guess it was something sinister, one of those things you would never hear in any other case. Or maybe not, people are so strange that maybe it was all going smoothly and death just caught up with them in the most awful and unexpected way. Not a great way to go, but many would love that for themselves.

 I don’t want any of it yet. When I lost my flight because of a long line in the men’s room, I was very frustrated and I had yelled at half of the staff of the airport. I had called them anything from “useless” to “moron”. I tried to control myself because I started feeling a little anxious and it was then I went full crazy. If any photographers or journalists had seen that.  I bet that would have been a first page kind of story, Many more would be staring and saying what they think about what happened.

 But all of those are empty words. After all, I had seen those people. We had all done our check-in at the same time; we had even exchanged a joke or two or some comment about the weight of the bags. I had seen children yell and laugh and play. Adults trying to fix something and an elderly couple so in love still one would love to be them in any other life. I saw them being so human, so real and filled with life. And now they were no more, all of their flames had been extinguished in a second and I was the only one still alive from that group, just because.


 I guess my blatter saved me, which doesn’t really make me very proud but I guess it’s good to be here and not there. But… Maybe it was my time to die and I’m just here because of a mistake. Or maybe someone else had to live and not me but here I am because of some kind of mistake someone made and some point. But no matter how much I try to understand it, things are what they are. I am the last person to be alive from a group of almost three hundred. At some point, I would have to tell my story in any way possible, even if it’s just a case of pure luck.

miércoles, 20 de enero de 2016

Dolls

   It was always difficult to stand and just wait. Having no power over things that have to be done. Finally, I so smoke coming out of the warehouse and then an explosion. I was close enough to feel the heat of the shockwave but not enough to hear anything else than the sound of fire expanding rapidly to others roofs. The night had been lit and now the city presented, once again, the most awful of its faces. Then, I heard rapid steps coming towards me and I pulled my gun instinctively, in case it wasn’t the person I was waiting for. But it was. And she hopped into the boat and I got it going. Soon, the fire was just one of the many parts that gave shape to the landscape of the city at night.

 The next day, I woke up with a piercing pain in my back. The most possible reason was some fall or a sudden movement I had already forgotten I had done. I took one of those pills they recommended for these cases and went on to the kitchen. There, I poured some cereal and soy milk into a bowl and turned on the TV. The morning news was on and the anchor was talking about the fire: it had engulfed other three warehouses and was still ongoing. The owners, big companies, feared millions of dollars would be lost because of the fire but I knew that wasn’t really their concern. The reason we had been there was enough for any person to take a grenade and blow up that whole district off the map. So who cared about “millions of dollars”?

 The next piece of information was the fact that a new doll was causing seizures on young children. But I wasn’t interested in that, so I changed the channel and finished my breakfast watching a show about food in Southeast Asia. That meant that by the time I had finished my bowl of food, I wasn’t satisfied and I wanted to have some of those delicious dishes of food in front of me. I had always wanted to travel far and do just that, taste the foods and also enjoy the sceneries and tan my skin and swim and walk and sleep on a hammock by the most beautiful ocean ever. The saddest part of this dream was that I could actually afford it but didn’t have the time or even the permission to do something like that. Duty came first.

 I showered, put on some casual clothes and then drove to a rundown building downtown. Beneath it were the offices of the organization I worked for. We were a response team that acted faster than any other force in the world because we didn’t asked permission and we avoided laws by strangely abiding to them as there were offices of the organization in every single corner of the world. So we saved people’s asses from being killed or worse and no one really knew anything about it. Of course, the amount of secrecy was very high and only certain kind of people could work like that, lying and withstanding the pressure. But when you got used to it, it was a fine and easy enough job, after you learned how to use your skills.

 When I got there I got to the place where we held our talks and discovered that everyone in the office, about thirty-five people, were all looking at the news on a big screen. They were standing there like petrified, horrified faces and even crying a bit. To my surprise, they were actually looking at the news of the dolls that I had ignored back home. There were mothers protesting outside a building and children in hospitals and it was all very confusing. When the video ended, the oldest person in the room stood up and asked them all to calm down before moving on. There were enough seats for everyone but I decided to stay up, leaning against the back wall.

 The old woman was our boss and the only one that responded to an even higher voice, which none of us had ever seen or heard. This kind of reunion was done every single morning, in order for the team to know what was the next assignment. As usual, she explained the video. This time, apparently, someone had manipulated dolls in order to use children for their own advantage. The seizures only came after the child had committed something strange like stealing random objects or doing awful things to their pets or even to themselves. The information was even more grim than usual. Some of the people there were crying in silence and it was a relief for them when the boss decided to let them all go to their desks and offices. Only six of us stayed behind. We took seats in the front and listened, as the crystal walls of the room became opaque.

 The briefing had begun. The boss showed us a series of videos and images, taken from archives around the globe. It was possible that a man that had escaped a prison in Armenia several years ago, was now collaborating with the company that made the dolls in order to use children as some sort of sleeper agents. The idea, apparently, was that they could be use to retrieve information on very important people without ever being noticed. The children that were now in hospitals had parents in very high ranking positions and it was possible that the process of hypnosis, or whatever the doll did, had gone terribly wrong and now the kids had to pay for the stupidity of the ones seeking to use them.

 Peter and John were assigned to one of the families that had their daughter in the hospital. They had to talk to them, pretending to be from a support group, and that way get and idea of what important information they were holding. Maria and Marcus were tasked to track down the man that had fled prison and, finally, Lisa and me ha to go to the company and check out if they were really in alliance with someone or if they had been used for someone else’s purposes. The last thing our boss said was that a doll had been recovered and they were running all kinds of tests in order to understand why al of those children had to be hospitalized.

 Lisa and I frequently worked together. She had been the one to put the bomb in the warehouse and had a certain inclination towards violence. She could restrain herself from doing any physical damage but I know she felt a certain amount of pleasure when kicking and breaking and looking at blood. Sometimes, she scared me but I know she was there for good reasons, as was I.

 We decided to go to the office building of the doll company first, at night. The idea was to get information on paper or digitally hidden, in order to relate one part of the case to the other. I told Lisa she would be watching my back, as I looked for the files. Entering the building was easy and it seemed we had all the time in the world but someone else was there and he or she didn’t work there either. I told Lisa to hold her punches, and wait for this character to do something. What he did was beyond extreme: he just pulled a little water gun and shot everywhere and we go to the elevator just in time, before he threw a lighter at it and the gasoline ignited.

 Our next move, knowing something big had been destroyed, was to visit the mansion of the president of the company. He was also its owner and had inherited it from his father. The mansion was so exaggerated in its details; it was easy to see who really pulled the strings in the relationship. The man’s second wife was a very enhanced woman, in the sense that her many medical procedures were obvious. We hid in the dark for hours before we entered the house. But there was nothing on the studio, his computer or any of the man’s belongings.

 The wife, however, was still awake when we attempted to leave. And I say that because she caught us and stopped us using a taser gun. When I woke up, I thought she was just a scared housewife that had found mysterious people in her house, but then I realized she was speaking in some foreign language and she had no signs of terror or even surprise on her modified face.

 She got closer to Lisa first, and burnt her with a cigarette she was smoking, right on her face. Then, she walked towards me but it was in that moment the man we had seen in the briefing entered the room: he may have been in an Armenian prison, but now that we saw him groomed, wearing a bathrobe, we realized he was practically a swimsuit model. The woman went to him and kissed and I decided to seize the moment.

 I stood up as fast as I could and then attempted to pull out my gun. But it wasn’t there. But my smoke spheres were, so I threw those at them. I helped Lisa and, just in time, Maria and Marcus appeared out of nowhere and gunned down the couple. It was a mess when the smoke cleared.


 The owner of the house had been killed in his sleep, probably by the women or maybe both. They planned to escape as they had a lot of baggage in a car outside. But now that they were dead, it wasn’t easy to understand the reason to using the children. It was worst when we were notified one of them had died that night, as we did nothing really useful to help them. Working at the margins was always like this, frustrating, and not rewarding in the least. But that’s my job, I guess.

sábado, 19 de diciembre de 2015

Pilot in the stars

   The rumors were true. The whole colony had been dreading it would happen again, some day, and it had finally happened. Scouts and explorers coming in and out of the Field confirmed the destruction of an entire planet. According to them, the explosion was still visible in the nearby sectors and it was impossible to pass through the area. Many freighters had to take longer routes to rich worlds nearby, as the rocks that were floating around were sampling to big for such slow ships to handle.

 For the colony, this was especially difficult news. After all, it had been established many years ago precisely because a mad man had destroyed their former planet and they had to resettle in an asteroid field. Somehow they were the only ones, or at least had that idea in mind, that understood how real war felt like and how scary fanatics could be. That’s why they knew it would happen again and it did.

 Some of the colonists cried when they heard the news of the destruction, even more when they learned it had been a planet with a very large population and that had no why of responding to an attack of that magnitude. They had just died, with no way of even knowing they were going to die. The small room that served as temple to all religions in the colony was filled with flowers, one for each inhabitant. The guy that owned the flower shop was both happy and sad.

 Younger colonists, like Gregor, were not as hurt by the destruction of the planet as their parents. They understood it was something awful but hadn’t been old enough to feel their planet been destroyed in order to have something to compare the feeling to. Besides, Gregor’s parents had been mining in a far away planet when theirs was destroyed. According to them, it was something they felt deep in their hearts and it their minds, but Gregor was too young back then and did not remember feeling anything.

 Young colonists also worked and had responsibilities like helping around in the cargo area or in the commercial zone. The idea of the colony was that everyone could give something of themselves to make it all better for all inhabitants of the colony. It was a nice sentiment but difficult to handle as many passers by came in their lives for a few days and even a few hours. Ships came and went from the colony, used as a stopping point to refuel or have a decent meal before preceding their journey.

 Pilots were normally very talkative people and the colony was rather closed to the outside world so every piece of news came from them. It was often boring to hear them talking about the same old subjects but sometimes they did have very interesting insights about the other inhabited planets in the galaxy and the power players beyond the Field.

 Gregor was always interested in hearing the pilots talk. There was something in the way they told their stories, something so intimate and also universal, that made him want to leave the Field and get to know the world for himself. Once, sitting around fixing a machine in his family’s quarters, he decided to test the waters and get a conversation going with his parents about pilots and what they thought of them.

 His mother was a bit scared of them, not only because some of them were aliens, and she wasn’t still very used to that, but because they took so many risks when going from one place to the other. In her mind, the galaxy was a very dangerous place, filled with villainous creatures. His dad was, on the other hand, very interested in them but knew that their job was very difficult and sometimes even deadly. Pilots took many risks and not everyone was built to be one of them.

 Silence followed the conversation and Gregor broke it, by announcing he would love to be a pilot someday. His parents reacted in horror, dropping what they were doing, and looking at him as if he was sick. It was the first time they told him to go to his room and stay there doing nothing. They always wanted him to be helping, to be doing stuff, but now they just wanted him to be isolated and locked behind a door so he could think about what he had said and they could think how to counter that.

 The thing is, of course, it wasn’t and idea he had elaborated on that day. Gregor had been thinking of becoming a pilot for a long time. He even discussed it with a couple of pilots that told him that new blood was always needed but that it was essential that he had the courage to do what they sometimes didn’t have a choice of doing. Some of them had killed people, defending their cargo, their crew or their passengers. They were skilled not only in flying ships but also in different kinds of combat.

 It was a difficult thing for Gregor as any type of weapon was forbidden in the planet and any fights meant jail. The colony had gone out of its way to ensure that its inhabitants could live a life better than the one in other places. They thought that by banning violence, they would avoid it altogether, forever. But that wasn’t the case. After all it was a spaceport and fights always broke out and authorities couldn’t just arrest pilots transporting important cargo.

 That night he spent in his room; Gregor used it to think about what he was going to do with his life.  He really wanted to go away, to leave the colony and get to know other places and he was sure he could be a great pilot, even if he had never even tried to pilot anything.

 Decided and realizing his parents would never let him to do what he wanted, Gregor decided to just leave one night and try his luck in the outside world. He knew he could die or something worse but he didn’t mind. He was sick of staying behind, of just waiting for things to happen in his life. He wanted to be amazed by the galaxy and to see all that every planet had to offer with his own two eyes.

 One night, he went out of his room and left home with only a small bag with clothes and other essentials. His parents had not talked to him after their failed conversation and he was still hurt by it so he didn’t left them any kind of letter telling them what he was about to do. He just left and ran through corridor and hangars in order to get to the cargo area, were ships were refueled and taken care of.

 Gregor hid behind some crates containing food and waited until the workers left. It was well known that no ships could leave for some hours in the night, so he just waited there for all the workers to leave. The flight prohibition was only good for a couple of hours but it was more than enough for him to sneak into one of the ships and hide inside it. Once they realized he was there, it would be too late and no pilot would go back just for a kid escaping his parents.

 He entered the nearest ship, a typical cargo freighter, and hid between the tanks it was transporting. As he was not very tall and skinny, he could easily hide sitting down among all those tanks. After some minutes, he realized those were fuel tanks and decided it was maybe not a very good idea to travel near any of that. After all, it could blow it in any given second and his journey would be over.

 The ship next to that one was transporting cages and something made an awful noise inside of them. The third and last ship carried the typical crates and he went for it but wanted to go back as soon as he felt the awful smell in his nostrils. It was really awful, probably some kind of food considered a delicacy in another world but certainly not in the Field. He was about to leave when the ship closed its back door and he was trapped.


 He hadn’t realized the prohibition was over and all three ships departed at the same time. He had to hide there, among the stench, and try not to be detected. But after a while he just couldn’t hold it and started coughing like a lunatic. It was too loud for the pilot to ignore it. The door to the cockpit opened and Gregor was surprised to see a very tall women look at him and say: “You’re gonna die if you stay here. Come”. And he did and that’s how his big adventure started.

sábado, 24 de octubre de 2015

Compensation

  I woke up suddenly, as if an electric charge had traveled through my body. But there was nothing electric there with me. Only he was there, breathing softly, very close to me. It was still very late at night as it was pitch black outside and the only object producing light was my cellphone, on the nightstand just behind me. I sat down on the bed, trying not to move too much. I went through my cellphone and erase every notification, in order to make the light go away. I saw some pictures of us together and then decided it was better to go back to the world of dreams. I left the cellphone facing down and just slid down the covers and hugged him softly. His body moved a bit but he didn’t do more. I fell asleep some minutes later, hugging him a little tighter.

In the morning, I realized I had maybe slept too much as the sun was rather intense on the outside. He had been kind enough not to pull up the blinds in the room. He was not there with me and I couldn’t hear him in the bathroom. A bit reluctantly, I went to the living room and the kitchen, and he wasn’t there. Apparently, he had taken everything and just left. I felt abandoned, even if we weren’t really a couple and he wasn’t living with me. We had been going out so often, I just assumed he would say something before leaving like a whirlwind. As I was already in the kitchen, I decided to make some breakfast. As I cooked, I couldn’t get him off my head. That was probably the reason why the eggs almost burned and I poured orange juice on the floor.

 Trying to leave last night in the past, I decided to work. Normally, that would make my mind so busy, I wouldn’t have time to think of anything else. It did work, as I had to grade several papers on Stanley Kubrick’s films. Some students had obviously not seen the movie they had chosen, as they repeated words and sentences often and used words, you know the kind, that make anyone sound smart but do no really mean anything. Some other works were better or at least not as offensive. I surprisingly took an hour and a half doing that and when I was done, he was there again, on my brain. Why couldn’t I just let him go?

 The rest of the day was about me trying not to think too much about it all and succeeding for a small amount of time, then my head would go back to the same thoughts all over again. I decided to watch a movie and order pizza and beer. I would not let him run my Sunday. But when they rang from downstairs some time later, it wasn’t the delivery guy nor the one that had left me alone on the bed, it was someone I hadn’t seen in a while. And I say “someone” because right then I didn’t know him very well and just recalled him from high school. I had no idea how he had gotten my address, as I didn’t speak to anyone from high school. But there he was, knocking on my door some minutes later.

 I remembered him as one of the few people that didn’t make me want to kill myself in high school. The rest were snobbish little rats, but he was all right, not a great person but not a bad one either. His cousin, a guy who had gone to the same high school with us, was a successful artist although I didn’t remember what it was he did exactly. Singing or something like that. I told him to sit down on my sofa and offered him some orange juice, as I had nothing else to drink. However, he said he wasn’t thirsty and that he had come only to deliver a message. “How mysterious!”, I thought. I mean, I didn’t really knew him but he had never struck me as the kind of guy that had any mystery in him but here he was.

 He had a backpack from where he took a envelope from. He gave it to me and I took it, as it was a bomb. The situation was not normal, at all, and I didn’t want to further spoil the only day I was really free from any commitments. He just told me to open it and read it, talking in a very hush voice, as if someone was hearing or as if he was afraid of talking too much or too loud. I opened the envelope and took out the letter inside. It was from his cousin, who apologized for stealing one of my ideas. I had no idea what it was all about and the letter didn’t really explain. He said he was sorry, very sorry, and that he just wanted to make things right for everyone involved. So he had included something else, for me to be compensated for what he had done.

 Inside the envelope, there was another paper. I had not seen in before. It was a check for several thousands of dollars and it had the signature of the deliveryman’s cousin. Then my patient just disappeared. I asked him what kind of joke this was and why they had to do it on Sunday, when I just wanted to be left alone. The poor guy, who had turned some shade of green, tried to speak and to explain himself but he couldn’t. That made me so angry, so I told him to please stand up and leave my apartment at once. I pressed the envelope, all papers inside, to his chest and told him to take all of that and go away. The doorman downstairs rang: it was my pizza, finally.

 I told him, again, to leave. He tried to speak but he just couldn’t and gave up. He left almost running and I saw him all the way to the elevator. When the door opened, he crossed paths with the man delivering my pizza, to whom I smiled and thanked deeply. I gave him a small tip and close the door, in order to enjoy my afternoon. But as I saw the movie and ate my pizza, I had that check and the letter on my brain. What the hell was that about? What did that man’s cousin wanted to give me money? Was it to bribe me? No, I didn’t even remembered his name… Maybe it was just a stupid joke, some kind of prank based on a dare they had done to one of the other idiots they knew well.

 The rest of my Sunday was pretty good. I drank several beers and watched movies I hadn’t seen in a long while. At night, I ordered another pizza, not caring at all about my body. I loved the taste of pizza and beer and if I had to pay with a belly in my future, I really didn’t care. No one had ever looked at me looking for a swimsuit model. Well, to be honest no one really looked at me… Well, except him. Again with him on my mind and with that stupid envelope. As I waited for the second pizza, I browsed through the local channels on the TV in order to check out the news. I stopped when I saw a familiar face: it was the guy’s cousin. And the news said he was dead. Apparently he wasn’t a singer but a filmmaker and he had died in a car crash in France.

 The news was shocking but it was even more shocking that his cousin, instead of being in France or at least mourning him, had decided to pay him a visit with a check. On the other hand, I realized I had never seen a picture by that man. And I should know, being a teacher to future filmmakers. Maybe one of my students had mentioned him once but I just couldn’t remember. I decided to look for him online. Must of it was about his tragic death, apparently a very shocking scene to witness, but I also found his filmography and had no idea what to look for. The buzzer interrupted my thoughts. Five minutes later, I had a slice of pizza on one hand and an open beer can in front of me.

 I stopped reading about the poor guy and decided to let it go for the day. Granted, it was something very strange but there was nothing I could do now. I started watching another movie when the doorman called again and told me I had some mail. I told him I would pick it up in the morning but he said something had just been delivered and that it was probably urgent, at least judging by the expression on the mail guy’s face. That was weird enough to go downstairs and grab my mail. Most of it was junk and a couple of bills but the letter that had just arrived was another unmarked envelope. I went back home and read it there. This wasn’t from the cousin but from the delivery guy.

 In the letter, he explained who he was, thinking I wouldn’t remember. He said we had been brief friends for a time when we were really young. I didn’t recall that. He also explained that the first movie that his cousin had made was base on a short story I wrote in English class. He actually copied it and made a movie version of it. He wrote that he had always felt bad for that and had begged his cousin to acknowledge that what they had done was wrong. Months before his death, he convinced him and the cousin wrote him a check to compensate. He was sorry for everything and apologized more. The check was, again, inside the envelope.


 I took him on my hands and, only doubting for a second, I tore it apart into little pieces and through it all to the garbage. I didn’t need the past to compensate for something I didn’t even recalled. I grabbed a slice of pizza and ate, a bit more angry than usual, and then my phone rang. It was him. He wanted to come up and chat. I couldn’t stop smiling and, hours later, I had to ask him to stay and never leave.