I pick up the earpiece and the music stops immediately.
“Can you hear me?” the voice of my favorite twelve year old says.
“Yeah, how did you find me?”
“The way everyone finds you. And you’re lucky too, because if I hadn’t been looking for you, there’s no way those guys in the tanks would have left you alone.”
“How did you convince them to leave?”
“Sent them a false signal. They think you’re running east. Should give you some time before they realize they’re following nothing. So, that gives us just a moment for me to ask you what in the world you think you’re doing.”
“I’m saving it. The world that is.”
“Yeah, right. And how do you think you’re going to do that?”
“I took the device. You know, that all-powerful device thingie which is apparently bad enough news that everyone wants a piece of it.”
“Yeah, I know. I saw you. We talked. Remember? But do you have a plan? Or are you just running off half-cocked like you can do something about all this?”
“Well, what else am I going to do? It’s the best idea we’ve got, isn’t it? For me to cross the border, hand off the device to some nice Canadian, and then seek asylum?”
“Other than how we’ve already talked about Alvin not caring about borders, you could have tried Mexico, it’s a lot closer.”
The walk home is quiet. The streets are clouded with thick smoke and if I were to hazard guess, this area has been evacuated because of whatever caused it. None of us think to talk. I’m guessing my companions have the same thought on their mind as I do: Is going home a mistake?
Now, to be fair, there are plenty of other things than my house which could be burning. The nation is in the midst of a coup. Riots are sure to happen. It doesn’t just have to be that someone wants to make sure I’m dead.
But let’s be honest here. It’s probably that.
As we continue, my thoughts keep returning to the same nagging question: Is this all a coincidence, or are we being targeted?
Finally, Grant breaks the silence.
“Are we really doing this?” he asks.
No one answers.
“Hey, I’m being real here. Are we doing this? Are we really going to walk to your house just to see if it is burned down or not? You said it yourselves, you don’t really have any good reason for coming here.”
“There’s Violet,” The Geek disagrees.
“Sure, some nanny or something, right?” Grant retorts. “But based on the rest of this city, she ain’t going to be there. And even if she is, what are we hoping to get from her? We might as well have a better chance in going back to that theme park and talking with all those smart people there. I’m sure—“
“He’s right,” Eve says.
“Who cares if he’s right,” The Geek replies. “That’s my house—”
“Hold that thought,” Grant says, pointing in the distance.
We look and can see a helicopter flying in our direction.
“Get cover!” I shout, running toward a nearby dumpster.
Grant grabs my arm before I can get far. “Hiding ain’t going to work this time, Cyrus,” he says, pointing more exaggeratedly at ground level. Then I see it. Seven SP vehicles are kicking up smoke around them as they barrel toward us.
“Run!” I shout.
“Stop where you are and lie down on the ground with your hands behind your head,” a voice booms. We turn a corner only to find another three vehicles with bright flashing lights heading toward us in that direction.
We all look to each other with question marks on our faces as to how to move forward and I, reluctantly, lie down on the ground and place my hands against the back of my head. I see my companions do the same.
An SUV screeches to a halt a few feet away from us. I hear a door open and slam shut, followed by the sound of a pair of booted feet crunching the dirty pavement as they make their way in our direction.
“You four have sure been busy, have you not?” the familiar voice of my least favorite Russian, Maxine, says softly from above us.
I look up and verify that the backstabbing traitor is definitely the person in possession of the voice coming from above me, and groan in mental anguish.
“What?” she asks. “Are you not happy to see old friend?”
Grant attempts to stand, but his head is pushed back down to the ground by Maxine’s boot.
“Oh, you poor little man,” Maxine says with a fake pout. “You think I don’t know what you are up to with these three?”
“Max, darling,” Grant says through the dirt his face is being shoved into, “you know me. I wouldn’t dare cross you. I’m—“
“No no,” Maxine says, putting a finger to her mouth and making a shushing noise, “no more talking from you, you pathetic speck of dust. You made your choices and Mr. Alexander will certainly be happy to know I have managed to find you along with your new pals.”
“Maxine,” Eve says from her lying position, “you used to work for Golden Dawn. How could you possibly want to work for someone like Alvin when you know what he wants to do? You know he will just throw you to the side the first chance he gets, right?”
“Not if I am the first one to do the throwing.”
“Right, so, maybe now is the time,” I join in. “Maybe right now is when you throw him to the wayside and join the good guys. We can make everything better.”
“This may be precisely why I am in interest of finding you right now. I am thinking you may be the perfect things to be getting me the device.”
“Device?” The Geek asks. “What device?”
“The one the old Miss Nile lady used to use.”
“What?” I ask, turning to look at The Geek. “Is she talking about that blue teleport thingie? The one you said you destroyed?”
“I am, indeed, talking about the device she utilized to pop up and around everywhere. It has many powers. It is most powerful device in all of existence.”
“Well,” The Geek disagrees, “I don’t know about that.”
“But you said you destroyed it!”
“I did,” The Geek responds. “Well, I thought I did. No, I’m certain I did. I totally did, Cyrus. There’s no way in the world that my plan wouldn’t have worked. Nothing outside of—Oh crap.”
“Oh crap what?” I ask.
“Well, there might have been a backup.”
“A backup?” I repeat.
“Yeah, you know, like a failsafe. Something that makes sure that little idiots like me can’t just push a few buttons and make everything go away. I might have removed the systems she used, the software or whatever, but the computers are still exactly where they used to be. If there’s a backup, well, it wouldn’t be very hard to bring everything back online.”
“So, you’re saying we could be screwed?” I ask.
“And she’s saying Alvin’s got the device,” I continue.
“Sounds like it,” The Geek says, looking at Maxine.
“Yes, he was able to retrieve device when we captured Miss Nile,” Maxine answers the unasked question.
“But if he has Miss Nile’s powers, why wouldn’t he have just teleported us back to him right off the bat. All of this is a whole lot more trouble than necessary if he could have just immediately placed us in prison when he found us in the tunnels,” Eve questions.
The Geek strokes his chin for a moment.
“Well,” The Geek begins, “it’s possible the backup wasn’t able to reinstate everything. Maybe he’s only got a small amount of the power. Or maybe he doesn’t have her password or something, or maybe–”
Maxine clears her throat, reminding us all that she is currently holding us hostage.
“Enough talking,” Maxine says firmly. “I am the one in charge here and I am the one who is doing the talking.” A fire grows in her eyes. There’s something different about her. Something…broken.
“Wait!” Grant says, standing up abruptly. He appears oblivious to the gun Maxine now has pointed at his head. “You’re saying—“
“Maybe I should have been more clear,” Maxine cuts Grant off by firing a round directly into the center of his chest. Grant falls to the ground in a heap. “We are done with the talky talky. Now is the time for the killy killy.”
Go to Chapter Twenty-Six