“We have to get out of here,” Elizabeth said. “They’re coming for us. He’s almost here.”
“You’ll go through with the teleporter and make sure she keeps the portal open long enough for us all to make it through,” Marshall explained, his eyes on the woman standing idle next to Castor. “Let’s go now.”
Athena looked at the teleporter.
“She’s going to betray us,” Athena said nonchalantly. The woman’s eyes bulged, bewilderment stricken on her face. Athena looked in the woman’s eyes with a searching, piercing expression. “She’s going to drop us in… a quarry.”
The woman cleared her throat.
“That’s a lie. I wouldn’t…”
“We can read minds, you idiot,” Elizabeth chimed in. “Lying isn’t going to get you anywhere. But if you cooperate, you’ll be fine.”
“Do you know what they’ll do to me if I help you?”
“Do you know what I’ll do?” Elizabeth replied back sharply. The woman flinched as she felt bugs crawling on her skin. She looked down and saw hundreds of spiders climbing up her arms, winding their way to her face. She screamed.
“Oh god, get it off. Get them off!” The woman shrieked.
“Elizabeth, cut it out,” Marshall ordered.
Elizabeth stopped, and the woman was fine again, save for the hyperventilating. Marshall put a hand on the woman’s shoulder, trying to console her.
“We don’t have time for this,” Elizabeth said coldly to Marshall. “He’ll be here any moment.”
“Who?” Castor asked.
“The Director,” Athena said.
The doors to the hub creaked where Castor had welded them shut. Alan looked back at Marshall, who seemed to be growing more concerned by the minute. Marshall turned to the teleportation operator.
“Open a portal. Somewhere remote.”
The woman hesitantly nodded, flicked her wrist, and opened a blue portal next to the group. Elizabeth looked at Marshall, her eyes frantic.
“I’ll be right behind you. I promise.”
Elizabeth went through the portal with the operator. Castor nodded to Athena for their turn.
“You did good, kid,” Castor said. Alan nodded, but his eyes were on Athena. Ever since that first day they met in the lobby, Alan’s eyes had been on her. Now there were silent words passing between them. A message Alan couldn’t forget. He’d never forget that moment bathed in red light in the closet. It seemed to be the only moment worth remembering now. But they didn’t say a word. They just stared at each other, as Athena walked backward into the portal, and vanished. Castor walked in after her.
“We’re running out of time, the portal’s starting to weaken,” Marshall said, as he looked at the hub door beginning to split under the pressure of the Department’s forces.
“Go. I’ll hold them back,” Alan ordered.
“You can’t,” Marshall said. “There’s an entire army through those doors.”
“You have a family that needs you, Marshall. You need to go. Now.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
The doors split enough for a guard to stick his handgun through and fire a shot. Alan held his arm out and stopped the bullet in mid-air.
Alan turned his other arm and pushed Marshall with his mind, watching him dissolve into the portal as it disappeared.
Marshall fell backward into a misty forest. The others were standing around the operator, who was passed out on the ground. Marshall looked at his friends with panic.
“No, no. No, I have to go back. Open another portal,” Marshall begged.
Elizabeth looked down at the operator lying on the floor.
“It took too much out of her, Marshall. We can’t.”
Marshall stood up, and punched the nearest tree he could see as hard as he could. The tree splintered like a twig, sending shards and chunks of wood into the air and into other trees, knocking them down as well.
A lot of bullets. Alan could feel his brain boiling as he tried to stop them all. He pushed back on the guards with all he had in his tank. They flew through the air like dolls. Then the operators came. At first, he could defend himself. The punches and other telekinetics were easier to block than a hail of bullets. But eventually his mind couldn’t handle the workload. There were too many, and their blows pierced through his defenses.
Punched to the floor, Alan coughed blood. He strained to see through his swollen eye. The operators had parted. The Director had arrived. The gray-haired man, in his navy suit, with his perfect smile, and his piercing eyes stood before the kid with the smart mouth, the failing brain, and the instigator of an insurrection.
“Mr. Mitchell, now, I’m going to get your friends eventually. Every last one of your little band of freaks. Anyone who planned this little cabal is going to get what they deserve.”
Alan could feel his knees bleeding as they scraped on the metal grate floor, his eyes peering up into the fluorescent light of the teleportation room. Luckily, the Director didn’t know their faces, so he wasn’t sure who he was dealing with; save for Alan.
“Such excruciating pain awaits the terrorists who think they can oppose us,” the Director snarled, and he nodded to the operator looming over Alan. The operator pushed his hand into Alan’s shoulder, releasing a jolt of pain inside Alan’s brain. Alan groaned in agony, and lifted his head up as best he could.
“It was me. It was all me. I roped them into it. Everyone else wanted to just keep working. It’s all my fault; all of it,” Alan said through clenched teeth, tears of pain streaking down his face. The operator standing over him pressed further into Alan’s brain, tormenting Alan with images of his friends dying. It was all fuzzy chaos, but Alan could feel the raw emotion of loss and tragedy, even though the faces were blurry.
The Director kept a straight face, his emotions under control. He looked at the operator, and then back down at Alan. Little more than twenty years, the Director guessed, but he was trouble regardless.
“Good. I don’t want to waste anymore time. We’re going to clean this up in one strike. Do you know what I’m going to do, Mr. Mitchell?”
The Director bent down, staring at Alan’s wincing visage. Alan looked at the Director’s cold, icy-blue eyes, and knew it would be truly horrific.
“No,” Alan groaned through his teeth, “But I have a feeling it’s not going to be pleasant.”
The Director let a rumbling laugh slip through his diaphragm. His eyes peered into Alan’s wavering gaze. The operator pressed his hand further into Alan’s shoulder, and Alan yelped like a kicked dog.
“I’m going to make it so you were never born, Mr. Mitchell. Not a soul will know you ever existed on this mud ball. Your parents won’t even have an inkling of your soul,” the Director’s quick-worded tirade was laced with venomous hate. He paced as he spoke, as if his hatred gave him energy to carry on.
“How is that-,” Alan winced as he started to lose feeling in his lower legs, “How is that possible?”
The Director looked down at Alan with pity. The boy had clearly gone through hell to save his friends, but he had grown from an inconvenience to a threat; and the Director could not abide threats. The Director placed a gloved hand on the top of Alan’s head.
“When time is on your side, anything is within your grasp, Mr. Mitchell. Anything,” the Director was waxing poetic, the situation truly within his control.
“I’m going to go back and keep you from being born, and we’ll be able to put this whole thing behind us. Maybe I won’t have to kill your friends, or maybe I will just for the hell of it. Who knows?” the Director enjoyed his threats. They gave him power. Even now, as he began thinking about the past, he could feel the world swelling around him. It was a great symphony of light and warmth. He put a hand on Alan’s head.
“Goodbye, Mr. Mitchell; I’m afraid, for the last time,” the Director walked backwards as a bubble – it’s contents a mirror of the world around them – grew out of thin air. Alan looked at the Director and realized – in seeing his devilish smirk – that he wouldn’t stop at just killing Alan. No, this would continue until his bloodlust was sated. Alan felt a thumping in his chest, his heart beating with a ferocity he’d never known before. He pushed the operators off of him, and watched as the Director entered the bubble, then a massive shockwave struck Alan.
The diner was empty this early in the morning. Marshall sat with his group in booths lining the outer wall of the diner, chewing on eggs and bacon.
The TV overhead was blaring the news when a breaking bulletin appeared, cutting the regular news short. It was a special announcement from Director Robert Orson of the Department for Mutated Persons, the same Director who had tortured them for years.
He stepped to his podium and began speaking.
“This morning, the Department was viciously attacked by genetic terrorists seeking to harm our way of life. Their leader, Alan Mitchell, killed and wounded hundreds of honest Americans who were working to keep our people safe. We cannot abide acts of terrorism. We cannot continue to allow genetic deviations to cause destruction and terror on our watch. We have eliminated Alan Mitchell, but we are not safe from future attacks. But this event has given our government reason for a meaningful response. I have received a mandate from our government to expedite the search for genetically abnormal people living within our borders. We will keep this country safe. We will not flinch in the face of terror. Thank you.”
“What a load of bullshit,” Castor grumbled, his fork stirring his scrambled eggs back clockwise into his plate.
“Do you think Alan is really dead?” Athena asked.
Marshall looked up at Athena, her eyes pleading for the lie she wanted to hear; the lie Marshall couldn’t dare to tell her. He looked at his sister Elizabeth, who was keeping guard over the passed out operator.
Marshall remembered the exact moment Alan changed his mind. Right before Alan jumped out of Marshall’s bathroom window to escape.
“Some people think they can escape hell by living in it right now,” Alan replied. “Your family will never be safe, no matter how much you punish yourself to protect them. Eventually we’ll all be rounded up like cattle, and your sacrifice won’t mean a damn thing to the people suffering then. I know I was cynical. I was wrong. You can make a difference. You have to at least try. Otherwise, none of this means anything. We can’t wait for them to change their minds or for things to fix themselves because they won’t. We have to fight.”
Marshall looked at Athena, the tears visibly welling up in her eyes.
“We have to free more of our friends. We have to find my family. I have four more brothers and sisters, and they’ll help us against the Department. We have to unite the six. Alan wanted us to fight.”
“Then that’s what we’ll do,” Athena replied, steeling herself against sadness. She turned it into righteous anger. The others nodded. “For Alan.”