I’m stopped and I feel like I’m in a relatively safe place, but I can’t rest. With all I’ve, I mean we’ve, gone through and how close we are to finally being done with it all, I simply can’t stop. I can’t.
I have to move.
I’m back on the road and headed north as fast as I can. Which, at this point, isn’t very fast.
I hurt. My body is done. It shouldn’t have gotten me this far and it definitely doesn’t want to get me any farther.
My feet are bleeding, my breath is ragged, and every single muscle in my body is ready to seize up on me, ready to stop. Ready to die.
But I can’t.
I can’t give up.
Not after all we’ve been through.
Not after all we’ve lost.
Not after he gave his life simply because I didn’t stop running. Because I couldn’t stop running…
I’m stumbling forward, running one of the slowest runs I’ve ever run, but I’m going to get there. I don’t even know where there is anymore, but I’m getting there. I’m finishing this.
I walk up the stairs slowly, noting how incredibly quiet it is. Maybe the guys haven’t woken up yet. Maybe they’ve already given up on yelling and are just waiting for one of us to come around to scream at face to face. Or maybe, it becomes immediately obvious as I step through the door and onto the main floor, they easily got out of the ropes The Geek had tied them with and were quietly awaiting one of us to escape from the locked basement in order to bash us on the head.
I narrowly avoid the swinging fist and fall backward, the only thing keeping me from falling down the stairs is my grip on the door, which shuts tight. I lock it even though I know it won’t do any good against a few hits by the mountain of a man on the other side of it and run down the stairs to The Geek.
“Um, they got free,” I say urgently.
“Crap, really? Already?” The Geek says, still not taking his eyes off the screen in front of him. “I must have done a clove hitch instead of a handcuff knot. I always get those confused.”
Somebody pounds on the door upstairs.
“Okay, so, why don’t you do that thing again?”
“What thing?” he asks me.
“The sleep thing. You know, the thing that puts everyone out for a couple of hours. That would buy you some time.”
The Geek sighs. “It’s not like it has an infinite charge, Cyrus. It’s a one hit wonder, at least until I can get it charged up again.”
“Well, why haven’t you been doing that?”
“I have, but it’s not that simple, it is an incredibly complex device which—”
“Fine, whatever. If you can’t do that then we need to get out of here!” I shout. “Now!”
It doesn’t sound like they’re trying to break it down.
At least not yet.
Maybe they’re worried The Geek will use his sleepy-time whistle again.
“Just a couple more minutes and I’ll—“
“No time,” I yell. “We need to go now!”
The Geek pauses in his action just long enough to look me directly in the eyes and say calmly, yet firmly, “If I don’t get this back up and running, Eve won’t stand a chance. I have to do this. For Eve.”
He returns to his work and more pounding sounds. This time from the door on the other side of The Corral which leads outside. That means we’re stuck down here. No way out.
Maybe they don’t have to come in here. Maybe all they have to do is wait us out. No matter what reason they have for not bursting in and shooting us both in the head, the bottom line is that we’re cornered in down here. No options left. We don’t even have any food down here. Or water, come to think of it, since I locked that guy up in the bathroom.
So, we’re stuck, while Eve’s running off on her own with that device, which means Alvin can send everything he’s got in her direction. Which means she needs our help.
She needs my help.
She’s in dire danger and we’re sitting down here in the basement being, at best, a distraction.
What about that disc thing The Geek is supposed to have? It’s obviously the only reason they’re still hanging around here at all, right? Otherwise they would all have driven off after Eve.
“Geek!” I shout. “That disc you were supposed to have. The one they wanted for some reason?”
“It’s not a disc, it’s a—Nevermind. What about it?” he asks.
“Where is it? Maybe I can use it to buy some time.”
“We can’t give them the drive, Cyrus. It’s the blueprints for Miss Nile’s system. I downloaded them right before I destroyed everything. I’m not entirely certain how they know about it, but–”
“Okay, but if I can use it to buy us some time—“
“No, you can’t. I need it.”
“I can’t tell you that, Cy.”
“Okay, well, do you have something I can use to make them think I have the real one?”
“Well, yeah, I guess. I mean, you could, in theory, use anything.”
“Okay, great. Give me two.”
“Okay, here,” he says digging through the piles of destroyed equipment at his feet. He finds a spindle of CDs, grabs two, and hands them to me, “not that I have any clue of what you think you’re going to do with these, but if it will get you out of my hair for a few minutes so I can finish getting things set up—“
“Yeah, right, stop talking, I’ve got this.”
I run to the exterior door, open it, and give the man outside a huge smile.
“Hey there. I think I have something you’re looking for.”
He pulls me outside roughly and I throw the disc high in the air and far off away from us. I make sure to do it slowly enough so he sees me do it.
“What was that?” he asks.
“Nothing, just some garbage.” I smirk.
“That was it, wasn’t it?” he says, scrambling away from me to retrieve the useless item.
As he scurries across the grass, I sprint in the opposite direction. Once I’ve put a hundred feet between us, I turn and smile at the big man who is turning the disc over in his hands as though it would show him something. Then, with an even larger smirk, I hold up the second disc The Geek gave me.
“Oh wait,” I taunt. “Maybe this is the thing you want.”
The man’s face turns a dark shade of red before he barrels toward me at high speed. I don’t hesitate in running away from him as fast as I can. He bought the bait. Now is the time for me to put some distance between the two of us.
A shot rings out in the air behind me. Guns. Why didn’t I think about them having guns? Just keep running, I tell myself. The farther away I get, the harder it is for them to hit me.
“Where do you think you’re going, Mr. Rhodes?” Alvin shouts out behind me. His voice cracks as he screams through the smoky air. “Do you honestly believe there is anywhere you can run where I can’t find you?”
I keep running. I don’t dare look back, just run.
Another shot rings out and I feel a sharp burning in my right calf muscle. I fall hard to the ground.
I’m in agony as I pull my leg up to myself. I feel the warmth of blood pouring out over my hands as I try to physically hold myself together.
I scream in pain as I attempt to return to my feet. The sensation of sharp knives stabbing me covers my entire body at even the slightest amount of weight pressed against my injury. I roll onto my stomach and attempt to pull myself forward in an army crawl; to do whatever I can to make some more distance between me and Alvin and his henchmen.
“I’m impressed, Mr. Rhodes,” Alvin says in a calm voice from somewhere very close to me. I ignore him and continue pulling myself forward. “A lesser man would have given up by now; would have realized he was in way over his head. But you, you choose to keep on. Even now, when your primary source of power has been taken from you, you continue. But for what purpose? To keep that disc from me? You know how improbable that is, don’t you?”
He steps closer to my head, his brown leather shoe immediately in front of me as I continue my slow crawl forward. I spit out a mouthful of phlegm at it.
He kicks my head in reply.
“You stupid, stupid boy. Why won’t you just give up? None of this needed to have happened. You could have simply lived out your days in Grand Island. It wouldn’t have been so bad. But now, well, now you certainly have shown me how much trouble you can cause as long as you are alive.”
I look up at him and growl through clenched teeth, “You talk too much.”
This causes Alvin to laugh for some reason. His two henchmen hesitantly join in.
“You know, when this began, I feared our entire time together would be far too simple. Too boring. However, every step of the way you have proven to be an exceptional child, one full of surprises. And even now, now that you’re here at my feet, facing your death, you have still managed to surprise me. But those surprises end now. Give me the disc.”
“No,” I groan.
A door slams in the distance, causing Alvin and his two goons to lose their focus.
“Hey, Alvin,” I hear The Geek shout. “If you want the drive, you’re going to have to come after me!”
Another door slams and I hear an engine rev to life.
“Your brother believes himself a hero, Mr. Rhodes,” Alvin says, sounding amused. “And here I thought he was nothing more than a keyboard jockey. One who would run at the first sign of danger. I’m impressed yet again. Too bad it’s too late.”
I look up at Alvin to see what he might be referring to and notice he has a pistol aimed at my head.
“Young Mr. Rhodes,” Alvin shouts over the sound of the not-so-distant engine. “You may wish to reconsider.”
I hear the engine cut out and the door open yet again.
“No,” The Geek yells. “Don’t shoot. I’ll give you anything you want. Just don’t shoot.”
“Marcus, please bring the little one here. I’m getting tired of their antics.”
Marcus storms off and returns with The Geek in tow.
“Now, the information I require, where is it?”
“It’s in the SUV,” The Geek answers. “In my bag.”
“Brilliant,” Alvin says with an evil grin.
Go to Chapter Thirty-Five