Episode Two: Sleep
Cory thinks he lost them between Oak and Ridgedale. He had been able to walk here and catch his breath some. His legs were still a little wobbly. He walked half hour after running, to escape his pursuers. The sky was a dark ash with streaks of light rolling across it. No doubt that army of, whoever, was still out searching for him. Cory hasn’t seen hide nor hair of them after hiding behind a dumpster in a Walmart parking lot, on Evergreen.
He didn’t stop to rest after giving the search party the slip. He was tempted to. Cory was physically and mentally drained. It took all he had to hide himself while sucking all the air he could through puckered lips to keep silent behind that dumpster. Right now he needed water. Food would be great too. A few seconds and he could get some of both.
Cory takes a nervous glance around. There are no out of place noises. No buzzing. No heavy engines. Just cars passing that momentarily light Arch Street at the end closest to him. A few crickets added their blend of music to the night. No one had shouted stop during his walk here. He kept to the shadows as much as he could. Hid from passing eyes.
Arch Street stretches into darkness in both directions. A few hundred yards to his left is Leavenworth where he could hear and see cars pass. Behind him is an old house belonging to a Mr. Christian. Nice old guy. Kind of nosey. If he only knew what was next to him the cops would be all over it. This was the Burbs. Other similar single-family homes lined Arch Street on both sides, with their manicured lawns and spruces dulled by night. Each had a planted tree no taller than eight feet. Cory didn’t know anyone else.
Cory turned to face twelve thirty nine Arch Street, a single family, pasted white against the night sky. The lights are off. The watchers have to be sleeping. They may have gone out. Keep up appearances so the neighbors don’t suspect anything. There is usually a light on. The motion sensing lights didn’t kick on when he approached either, he noticed.
Cory opens the gate and steps into the yard and closes the gate behind him. Makes it to the front door of the house and stops. At the door he bends at the knees groaning from the pain shooting through them. He makes out the welcome mat at the door. If that isn’t there it means trouble. To the right and left are small bushes. Cory ignores it all and stands. Looks at the right side of the entrance door.
Darkness settles and allows him to see the lock on the door. Cory uses his mind to mentally search the lock pieces and finds the tumbler, just like Simone showed him to do. No prints inside this place or any escape routes. Two seconds later a familiar click tells Cory the door is open. Cory takes out a set of keys so they jingle while he uses his telekinetic powers to nudge the door open. Takes a second to let his eyes adjust. To the right is the light switch that Cory lets his mind trip.
The house is a cozy little three-bedroom Cape with beige tiled floors. The walls painted off white. A tiny foyer leads straight into a dining and living area with a couch and Television in the second room, Cory can see. A small, round wooden table with four chairs is in the center of the room right after the foyer. To the right is a wooden staircase leading to the second floor. Cory had never been up there. To the left is the kitchen.
Cory turns left into the small kitchen after mentally nudging the front door shut behind him. Weary, he doesn’t see the shadows outside quickly shifting positions. Doesn’t feel the anxiety waiting quietly for him to hand over more Sixths. Cory moves around the mobile island in the center of the small kitchen and looks at a brown door to the right. It opens for him when he makes his way to it.
A narrow, rail-less staircase leads down into darkness. Cory reaches in and feels around until he finds flashlights. Hovers one to his hands. After glancing around the kitchen Cory heads down. One of the people who stay here will turn out the lights upstairs. Uses his mind to close the basement door and the deadbolt lock on the outside.
Then he heads down into the small basement shining the flashlight ahead of him. To salvation. At the landing, Cory swings the flashlight. It looks like a basement. Four concrete walls. Cobwebs in the corners. Hot water heater and heating near the far left wall. A metal cabinet used to store tools and such. Farthest part of the left wall has a washer and dryer. A tool rack on the right.
What he wants is near the washer and dryer. Cory hurries to the wall. A small red flicker near a window is drowned out by the glare of the light and Cory’s focus. When Cory gets to the wall near the washer and dryer he visually inspects it.
He inspects it top to bottom. Checks the blocks. The seams for the seam that would tell him where to focus. But it is just a freaking wall. No really. A day ago, it was a wall with a walkway built into it. If you focus hard enough you could feel the hollow. But there is something in the way tonight. It feels solid all the way through, with dirt behind it.
Focusing harder, Cory finds mounds and mounds of dirt behind the freakin’ wall. The tunnel is gone. Simone and he were going to have a serious talk about her practical jokes. This was a bad time. Another two minutes tells him it isn’t a joke. Numbness creeps into his bones.
Holding his head, Cory stares at the wall like it will change. Touches the wall again. Then he turns around and checks all the other walls to make sure he wasn’t thinking of the wrong side because of how tired he is.
Once he’s satisfied he walks back to the washer and dryer and stares at the wall again, this time, his heart beating harder than it had while he was running from the lab guys. “Come on.” Cory does a quick check of the wall by the washer again.
Half a mile away. A slender girl, Simone, stands behind a desk watching two nineteen inch screens with two men standing near her. High yellow-green walls decorated in high-dollar artwork and draperies shut out the darkness outside. The room is filled with light-colored furniture. A brown, leather office chair is pushed under the desk.
“Being here is a bad idea.” One of the guys says. Tall. Dark. Jet black hair neatly combed over. His dark leather jacket speaks of rebellion. So do the hard brown eyes pinned to the screen with Cory shining his light on the wall anxiously.
Her dark brown hair is folded neatly at the sides of her ears. Deep blue eyes focus on the screen. “If he doesn’t get captured I want to kick his ass myself, Javier.” She says.
“Hunt!?” Javier turns to the other man. A tall black man with a sweatshirt with a hoodie. “Would you say something?”
“We’re not authorizing a rescue, either way.” Hunter shoots a look at both of them. “I did say we could watch what happens and we are already here.” He hated being stuck between these two.
“Hunter, I didn’t say anything about rescuing him. I just think we should see what he does. That’s it.” Simone argues.
“Screen one,” Javier points to a screen to the left, crawling with armed men stalking through the house. Two of the armed men stop five feet from a locked door with rifles aimed. “Armed baddies have broken into the house and taken up position because he led them there.” Javier points to another screen. On this one, Cory is still checking the wall in the basement. “And screen two; he doesn’t even feel that he’s surrounded.” He turns around to argue with Hunter. “He went home after we warned him not to. Then he led them to one of our escape routes.”
“I can see that!” Hunter sounds a little annoyed. Javier is right. But if they ignored any of the people with special abilities Gencore wouldn’t. Cory showed a lot of promise. And once they get Cory under control they would be more powerful. Problem is, everyone who has assessed Cory says he is just starting to grow into his power. As strong as the kid already is, that creates a serious problem. “We need to see how he handles this. But we are not dispatching any rescue.”
“And what if they find this location now that they have him?” Javier challenges.
“Cory never knew about this place.” Simone says calmly.
“We don’t know that.” Javier argues. “He could have lifted the location from you, for all we know. You’ve been running on hormones since this guys showed up, Simone.”
“Javier!” Hunter snaps before Simone could say anything. Putting up with these two and trying to figure out what to do was not the ideal thing to do. Not something like this. “Should we talk about your screw-ups?” And calling out a doting teenager on her feelings just isn’t cool. But Hunter groans at the cheeky smile he sees Simone wearing all the same.
Javier sees it too. He’s not happy. “Come on, Hunter!” He argues. “Fine. Look. We both know this is a bad idea.”
“It’s a better idea than not being here to see this.” Hunter says coolly. “Cory doesn’t know about this place and if they do a door to door in that neighborhood, we’re still safe. We’re four streets over.”
Javier groans his frustration. Simone whinnies in excitement.
“Quiet!” Simone shushes him. She’s leaning forward staring at the screens.
On screen number two, Cory makes a melancholic start up the staircase. One longing look back at the wall is followed by a deep sigh. Three mini cams in the basement controlled by one of their associates who could wipe them out if it came to it, showed him in grainy detail, in the glow of the flashlight. New Nano-Tech allows them to make the cameras out of composite material that would turn to stone or ash in seconds. The two upstairs are well hidden, they hope.
One of the micro-cams upstairs faces the door so that anyone walking in could be identified. A second micro-cam faces the door going down into the basement. Both of them are pinhole-sized cams hidden in a nail hole on the doorjambs. Hopefully, no one spots them before they could be dealt with. But the people from Gencor are as thorough as investigators.
When Cory gets to the top he doesn’t slow down. He focuses on the deadbolt and opens the lock. He walks through the door with the flashlight leading the way.
Before Cory makes it through the door, someone grabs his left arms and pulls him forward. The flashlight clunks to the ground. Mental reflex sends someone crashing into the opposite wall. Then Cory is swarmed by bodies. Panic sends them sailing into the kitchen walls.
A puff registers in his ears, barely. Cory is just able to stop a dart aimed at his chest and has it suspended in mid air in front of him. Simone hoots. But groans when the dart falls to the ground. Cory is staggering from another dart. She sees it sink into his shoulder through the light hoodie he is wearing.
“Tranquilizer.” Hunter says needlessly. “They’re taking him alive.”
In an unremarkable ten seconds the struggle is over. Cory staggers against the doorframe of the basement. Then he sits slowly to the ground breathing heavily. His eyes find one of the people now moving toward him before his chin flops to his chest. The man checks him.
“He’s out.” The man in black camo reports through the speakers.
“Do a full sweep of the basement.” Someone else orders. “Find out if he was trying to hide from us or if there’s something else down there.” Lights flip on. Soldiers get ready to move into the basement.
Hunter presses a button on his cell phone. Says, “do it! Get rid of them now. They’re going into the basement.” Hangs up. Then he turns to look at a bewildered Simone. “Happened before and it will happen again.”
She doesn’t answer. She had gotten to know Cory for a year. He is a great guy. A great friend. But he is stubborn as hell.
Javier pats her on the shoulder. Simone tries but she doesn’t hide emotions well. And he did not mean to call her out on her feelings for, Cory. “He’ll be fine, Simone.” Javier tries to make her feel better. “They’ll brainwash him. If we run into him maybe you can turn things.”
Simone takes a deep breath. “I’m not a little girl. I know what happens next.” She gives her attention to Hunter. “How do we proceed?”
Hunter nods. Impressed. Simone had been impressive when he met her six years ago. She still is. “We stay clear of, Mr. Raymond. We can’t be sure if they know he had help escaping from them the first time. But we can be sure that they will ask him.” He turns to Javier. “They’ll have the area heavily cordoned soon. Better we don’t use the tunnel car.”
“We’ve walked longer distances.”
“Good.” Hunter says. “We’ll still need to keep shielded. No telling who they have out there. But we can be sure they know what we figured out about that kid.” Hunter takes a look back at the screens. Men are pouring into the basement. Two of them have Cory suspended between them. “They’ll know that kid is strong.”
“I think we’ll have a bigger problem than that.” Javier says.
Hunter already knows. Simone looks at him with sad eyes. “We will not be able to get to him until they finish his training. And who the hell knows how strong he’ll be by then.”
“So what do we do?”
Hunter looks at Simone. Ignores the look he sees in her eyes. “Rhino.” He swallows the pity he feels for the look in Simone’s eyes.
Javier sighs. “Would be nice to kick their asses and bust him loose.” He says with a smile offering for Simone.
Hunter folds his hands behind him. “Yeah!” He chuckles with memories of the inglorious days spent in battle. “But they have a ten to one advantage.” He looks at Simone. “The others are waiting for us. We should leave now. Less chance of being detected by their sniffers while they secure, Cory.”
Javier, with a wave of his hands darkens the screen. They fold into the desks. Then he takes a look at the windows and doors. Makes sure they’re locked. “Henry and Samantha should be getting out of work soon. I think we should douse the lights when we leave.”
“Did you get in touch with, Nick?” Hunter asks.
“He won’t be back from his business trip till Monday.” Javier says. They begin toward the basement door. Simone tumbles the lock, mentally. Swings the door open. Javier watches her walking in silence before he continues. “He’s aware that the authorities may be calling to report that someone broke into his house. He’s got his story together.”
“Good.” Hunter says.
Javier takes one last look back at everything. Nothing touched. Nothing out of place that hadn’t been when they arrived. A few dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. Henry’s baseball cap hanging off the back of the couch in the distance. Neat and tidy from their end.
Javier walks through the door. Simone shuts it behind them. Tumbles the lock. They make their way into the basement and in through an opening in the wall into a dim tunnel. Some thirty feet of wall closes behind. There are four people waiting. Down inside a sub-tunnel is a small rail system.
“I can cue up the rail.” One of them says. He takes a look at Simone. “Didn’t go well?”
“No.” Hunter says. “We’ll need to walk the next ten miles or so.”
“Dammit!” Someone shouts.
“Sorry.” Hunter says. “They have a battalion out there. We don’t want to run the risk of our noises being picked up. We’re miles from any help. The seven of us may get overwhelmed if they find us.”
“Makes sense.’ A woman says. “You ok kiddo?” She says to Simone.
“She’s a soldier.” Javier says. “Of course she is.”
Simone offers him and thankful, be it empty smile and starts walking fast.
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