“What did you do, little girl?” the Director’s voice punctuated every word with disdain.
Athena felt the cuffs strangling her hands behind her back, tension pulling them downward with an Operator’s hands pressing down on them with force.
“You know what I did,” Athena grunted, as the Operator pulled back on her cuffs. She could feel her wrists burning raw as the cuffs raked her with every pull.
The Director put his right hand over his temple, fighting off the migraine forming around his skull like a pulsing net.
“We don’t have time for this,” the Director groaned. “I’m sure the young man has gone to Marshall Roberts already.”
“I told him to run and hide,” Athena interjected.
The Director rolled his eyes and looked at Athena with annoyance dripping from his gaze.
“Forgive me if I don’t believe you. Take her to C block for neural data mining. Send a team to the 308. We’re going to fix this, now.”
“I don’t have time to explain,” Alan replied to Finch, who seemed to be on the verge of a panic attack. It was lights out, so no one else was in the courtyard, but it wouldn’t take long if they kept talking like they were. “They’ll be coming for me.”
“Are you kidding me? You brought them here?” Finch asked, feeling a twitch in his eye. These kids were going to give him a stroke. Finch picked Alan up by the arm and pulled him into one of the rooms, Marshall’s room.
“Kid?” Marshall was groggy and shocked. Finch pushed Alan into Marshall’s bulky chest, and shut the door behind them.
“Mr. Mitchell here is bringing the Department to the 308, so you’re going to hide him.”
“What are you going to do?” Alan asked as he peeled himself off of Marshall.
“This is your problem kid. I’m not the one who got us in this mess.”
“That’s not fair, Finch,” Marshall replied.
Finch rolled his eyes. “None of this is fair, Roberts. It’s all a shit show, but we deal with the punches as they come. And I’m going to deal with this so our whole precinct doesn’t get wiped, okay?”
Marshall had no response. Neither did Alan, save for a conflicted look on his face and a pounding heart. He was starting to second guess himself. Everything seemed to point to returning to get Marshall, but now he was afraid the rest of the people at the 308 were in jeopardy because of his actions. Finch left Marshall’s room in a violent huff. Marshall opened his dresser drawer, and pulled out some of Alan’s things.
“They usually just toss people’s stuff when they disappear. I grabbed some of your things.”
Alan looked down at his broken watch. He strapped it to his wrist carefully.
“What happened to you, kid?”
“They’re looking for your family, Marshall. Whatever deal you cut… it seems they don’t care anymore. They knew you wouldn’t give up your family, so they went after me,” Alan answered. He could feel the sweat starting to build on his body. Now that he was out, his adrenaline was just pushing him past the point of exhaustion. “They tried to get answers. They were going to even try to crack open my brain. But Athena…”
“Athena?” Marshall stopped Alan dead in his tracks. “What do you mean Athena?”
Alan hadn’t considered how to broach the subject, but now, in his panic, he was confused about how to go forward about Athena.
“She was working for them, Marshall, but she isn’t anymore. Or she is, but she helped me escape. I’m not sure. Either way, I’m scared they figured it out, and she won’t be working with them for long. We have to break her out. Her and Castor and Nick and all the others locked up at the Department.”
“She was working for the Department this whole time?” Marshall questioned. The punches just kept on coming. “No, screw her. She made her choice, we should get out of here.”
“We can’t leave them.”
“They all made their choice, Alan. Like you and Athena always said, this is the world we live in. The best we can do is run while we still can,” Marshall seemed detached from.
“Run?” Alan said, his eyes full of righteous anger. “I could’ve left you, man! I could’ve gone anywhere, and I came back to warn you. What the hell is your problem?”
“You don’t understand these people, Alan. They’ll take everything you have and then take some more!” Marshall was now yelling, “I left my whole family to save them, and now you want me to just throw that all away for your crusade? Screw that, kid. Screw that and the horse you rode in on.”
Alan could feel tears in his face, because it was the only warm thing throughout his body.
“You’re a coward.”
“And you’re a naive little boy with delusions of grandeur,” Marshall raged.
Alan clenched his jaw. He was about to start again when he heard the distinct rushing sound of a portal opening in the courtyard.
Two operators basked in the blue glow of the portal, ominously standing over the courtyard with detached judgment.
“Agent Finch,” one of the Operators shouted, “Your presence is requested.”
Finch was sweating in the lobby when the portal had opened, but found himself shaking in the doorway of the courtyard in the wake of the Operator’s words. Finch reluctantly walked onto the courtyard turf.
“Can I help you, gentlemen?”
“We have reason to believe that Alan Mitchell – who has gone AWOL – fled to this location. We ask that you turn him over now.”
“Hate to tell you guys, but he ain’t here.”
The Operator turned and addressed Finch with a condescending stare, towering a full foot over the older caretaker.
“Choose your words very carefully, Mr. Finch,” the other Operator, a lanky man with blonde hair, replied.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve, kid,” Finch replied, his teeth gritting together. “Why don’t you scurry back to your keepers, and let me run my precinct. I don’t have time for this crap.”
Finch felt his body seize up. One operator held his hand out, taking control of Finch’s body. Finch felt gravity pull his knees to the ground. He looked up at the tall operator, whose hand was now reaching out and pressing down on him.
Alan looked through a slit in Marshall’s window at the courtyard.
“I have to go help.”
Marshall grabbed Alan before he could reach the door.
“Let Finch handle this, Alan,” Marshall replied.
Several people were starting to leave their rooms, driven by curiosity at the noise in the courtyard. Some of them were standing, mouths agape in shock at their caretaker on his knees.
“Go back to your rooms,” the telekinetic Operator shouted to the gathering crowd. The crowd didn’t move.
“Where is he?” the blonde Operator hissed through a clenched jaw at Finch.
“He’s not here. And screw you,” Finch sneered, his eyes looking up in his immovable head.
The telekinetic operator made a fist, and Finch groaned in pain.
“Do it,” the telekinetic operator ordered to the blonde operator. The blonde operator held out his hand over Finch’s heart. Finch could feel his heart pulsing rapidly. His mouth filled with a rusty flavor of blood. The heart pulsed faster. Faster. Faster. Pop. Finch’s body fell limply down onto the courtyard ground.
The telekinetic operator turned to the stunned crowd.
“Where is Alan Mitchell?” the telekinetic operator shouted, his voice echoing in the courtyard.
The crowd changed from shocked to obstinate, their faces emotionless like stone.
“They’re going to kill them,” Alan growled at Marshall. “You don’t understand, Marshall. These people don’t care. They just have the mission.”
Marshall shook his head no.
The blonde operator whispered something into his ear piece, and a blue portal opened up in the courtyard. A teleportation operator walked through with a dark-skinned man in plain clothes.
“Everyone,” the man shouted. “I am your new supervisor, Mr. Torrence. We are looking for Alan Mitchell. Anyone with information to his whereabouts will be rewarded. If you do not comply with this department, your precinct will be liquidated. You have one hour to comply.”
Alan turned and gave Marshall a furious look. “See.”
Marshall looked down at the crowd beginning to disperse. Finch’s body remained limp on the ground amid the Department Operators, who were talking quietly to each other, likely about the crowd. Marshall watched the Department employees walk away into the lobby, leaving Finch’s body on the ground.
“They aren’t even going to bury him. But he’s a normal. What the hell is going on?” Marshall grumbled under his breath.
“They. don’t. care,” Alan said slowly, each word a hammer strike on Marshall’s ears. “Marshall, we can’t keep living like this. Your family wouldn’t want this for any of us.”
“Don’t pretend like you know anything about me, kid. I’ve lived long enough to know what lies at the end of this road, and it ain’t pretty.”
“But it’s the right thing to do,” Alan pleaded, “and you know it.”
Marshall pointed to his bathroom.
“My bathroom has a window unit. You can push it out and escape. I’ll make sure they never knew you were here.”
“Okay, we’re going to cut to the chase,” the blonde operator whispered to his other operator, then he shouted at the crowd, “Where is Marshall Roberts?”
A chair flew out from the balcony level of the apartment complex, smacking the blonde healer operator in the face and across the courtyard into a concrete beam holding the balcony up, cracking it in the process.
The blonde haired operator lifted his hand up, just as Marshall leaped from the balcony toward him. Marshall slowed in the air, until, finally, he was floating overhead.
“Insubordination and terrorist activities. Automatic three strikes,” the telekinetic operator said with a smile, as he subtly spun Marshall in the air. The teleportation operator opened the portal for exfiltration, and stared back at the floating Marshall.
“Where is Alan Mitchell?” the telekinetic operator asked with curiosity in his voice. “Surely, he must be here.”
“Maybe you scared him off,” Marshall grunted through spasming muscles. “You did put on … quite a … show.”
The blonde healer pulled himself up and whipped the dust and concrete pieces from his clothing. He fixed his broken arm with a warming hand, and pointed at his eyes, then at Marshall in an act of intimidation.
“Look… the kid’s… gone. Okay? He knew you were coming. You were pretty… obvious,” Marshall managed to get out. “I gave him the out… and… he took it.”
The telekinetic operator’s curiosity was gone. “We’ll deal with him later. Your amnesty is up, Roberts. You’re coming with us.”
He pulled Marshall down to the ground, and the operators walked through the portal, leaving the rest of the 308 with their new supervisor, Mr. Torrence, and the teleportation operator.
Marshall felt himself pulled apart and pushed back together again as he was teleported into the circular entrance room of the Department. The telekinetic operator came through with his partner, and saw that something was amiss.
“What the hell?” the telekinetic operator sighed under his breath, his eyes meeting Alan Mitchell’s.
“Hello,” Alan said with a smirk, and he clapped his hands together, knocking the two operator’s heads together with his telekinesis.
“Get up, Marshall. We’ve got work to do.”