The Hunted – Chapter 2

“What are you doing?” the girl asked with the conviction of a disappointed parent. Alan pulled his hand back from the bubbling air, his arm causing a wave to erupt from the temporal pool in front of him. They had been walking around the fields of the in between for what felt like weeks. Alan finally realized that the pools were points in time. He couldn’t resist trying to help his friends.

 

“I was just,” Alan pointed with the hand he pulled from the temporal pool, but the girl could see that his watch was gone. Alan followed her eye line to his missing watch. Hand in the cookie jar.

 

“What did you do?” she asked with a hushed, angry viciousness that scared Alan a little. Alan was being yelled at by a ten year old girl, and he was second guessing his decision to leave a clue for his friends.

 

“I need to help them,” Alan stammered the explanation. “They need to know I’m still here.”

Alan pulled his body back, and looked at the pool of air swirling in front of him.

 

The girl’s eyes welled up, “You promised me you’d help me find my dad.”

 

“I know, and we will, but my friends-,” Alan explained.

 

“… will be there when we get back,” the girl countered. “That’s the beauty of time travel.”

 

“Ramona,” Alan said like a condescending adult.

 

“Stop,” Ramona snapped, holding a finger up to shush Alan. “You made a promise.”

 

Alan ran a hand through his messy hair, clearly frustrated about being led along by some little girl who couldn’t find her daddy. He tongued his gritty molars and exhaled a frustrated breath. “Yes. Yes, I did. Let’s keep going.”

 

Ramona exhaled a sigh of relief and straightened her white jacket, then she let her arms flow down her periwinkle dress. She pointed past Alan to another temporal pool forming in the field of tall grass that made up most of the surface area of the in between, the strange island found lost in space and time.

 

“Are you sure?” Alan asked uneasily. He didn’t like sticking his head into dimensional wormholes. It tended to scrambled the senses.

 

“I made this place, Mr. Mitchell. I know every inch of the in between. And the nexus to all other time at my fingertips is pointing me in that direction.”

 

“You’re a creepy little girl,” Alan replied, looking back at the wormhole. This was all completely out of his element. Time travel. Babysitting. Ten year old girls talking about nexuses and temporal wakes. Nothing was normal. Everything was upside down and topsy turvy. Alan repeated, “Creepy, little girl.”

 

“Am I?”

 

Alan turned back. Ramona was now older, a full fledged teenager. Her clothes had adjusted to the age change, seemingly by some strange magic. Her long dark hair brushed back to reveal hazel eyes that portrayed a knowing intensity, aware of the age of her new appearance.

 

“Holy shit,” Alan yelped, falling back into the tall grass. He looked up at the blue sky overhead, a golden sheen floating over it and lending an ethereal, light-headed quality to the atmosphere. Teenage Ramona’s face came into view, a smirk plastered on her face. She burst into laughter.

 

“Time is irrelevant here, Mr. Mitchell,” Ramona said. “It’s outside of what we call linear time. Age. Years. Months. It’s all just a construction in these destinations, not here.”

 

“Good to know,” Alan grumbled.

 

“That is, it’s a construction for me. I’ve never pulled another person into the in between. You could die.”

 

“Gee. Thanks,” Alan jeered sarcastically.

 

Ramona held out her hands, and Alan rolled his eyes and accepted the help. He made it to his feet, and fixed his wrinkled shirt. “Good to know I’m your first guinea pig.”

 

“I don’t understand that reference,” Ramona said casually, her eyes studying the rippling air they were walking towards.

 

“It’s about scientific testing. I guess they used guinea pigs? I’m not really sure actually. It’s just something I heard,” Alan explained, a little unsure how to explain some vernacular that he never really learned the lesson for in the first place. Weren’t mice testing animals in labs? It didn’t seem to come up that way. Lab rats? Maybe. “I’m having a hard time concentrating.”

 

“We’ve spent too long in here. It tends to make the mind foggy.”

 

“Worried to follow you, knowing how long you’ve been in here,” Alan joked.

 

Ramona shot Alan an unamused sideways glance from the corner of her eye. Everything was a wisecrack with him. Alan couldn’t just let words stand unopposed by his shallow wit. Ramona cleared her throat, her eyes steadfastly peering into the temporal torrent. A few stray sparks of lightning struck within the swirling mass.

 

“My father leaves a temporal wake behind him. Breadcrumbs. We just have to keep following the trail to him.”

 

“So you know breadcrumbs, but not guinea pigs?” Alan asked in a mocking tone.

 

Ramona cleared her throat and looked at Alan, who was brandishing a sheepish grin. She grabbed his hand and flung him into the pool, sending Alan down the time tunnel and out of her sight. Ramona laughed as she heard a whiny shriek echo through the void, fading off in the distance.

 

Alan tumbled to the ground, rolling along the grass in a small park. He dusted himself off, finding his way to his knees. He coughed a few dust clouds out of his lungs and shook the cobwebs from his brain. Things were starting to get a little clearer in his mind now that he was out of the in between.

 

“I’m okay,” Alan’s voice cracked. He cleared his throat out of embarrassment.

 

Ramona stepped through the pool of swirling air, a big smile plastered on her face.

 

“You’re quite the entertainment, Alan Mitchell,” Ramona joked.

 

“Glad I’m here for your amusement,” Alan coughed, his upper body heaving over his knelt form. Alan looked around the park he had tumbled into. “This place looks familiar.”

 

Alan stood up, using a merry-go-round to pull himself up. The blue tinted slides. The red monkey bars. Alan scratched his head. This place was full of memories.

 

“It should. You played here as a youth.”

 

“What?” Alan questioned.

 

“We’ve jumped into your timeline. I’m still trying to figure out exactly when we are,” Ramona explained.

 

“Ten years ago,” Alan interjected. Ramona gave him a puzzled look. Alan motioned forward to a young boy – about ten or eleven years old – running out in front of his parents.

 

“Is that-?”

 

“Yeah,” Alan responded with a barely audible murmur. “What are we doing here?”

 

Ramona cleared her throat. She had a hunch, but she couldn’t be certain for sure what was happening. “I don’t know. We’re just following my dad.”

 

“Why is your dad here?” Alan questioned.

 

“He isn’t. At least, not anymore.”

 

Alan felt the uneasy sense that he was being followed. Hunted. For whatever reason, he was the target for some elaborate time-traveling weirdo’s hunting habits. Alan stared at his younger self. The boy’s eyes were filled with a youthful exuberance and optimism that Alan could hardly remember. It was a strange, unearthly feeling to stare at one’s self from the outside.

 

“I don’t like this.”

 

“We should get going,” Ramona said, grabbing Alan’s arm as the young boy looked up from the slide stairwell at them – pair of strangers across the park. Alan nodded, his mind uneasily detaching from the surreal memory visitation he was experiencing.

 

Ramona pulled him backward by the arm, and they opened a portal around the side of a tree to jump back to the in between.

 

“Is your dad looking for me?”

 

“It would appear that way,” Ramona replied, visibly uneasy with this new variable.

 

“Why?” Alan questioned her with an interrogating tone.

 

Ramona confessed, “This may have something to do with how I found you.”

 

“I thought I ended up here by accident,” Alan said, confused by her admission. Ramona lowered her eyes, staring intently at the flowing long grass of the field of the in between.

 

“I found you when I was looking for my father. There was a strange nexus of temporal energy around you and my father.”

 

It all made sense now.

 

“Your father is the Director?” Alan asked, his voice shrill and markedly upset. The girl stared at the ground.

 

“I never knew him by that name, but I have heard it uttered before.”

 

“Your father is a monster,” Alan shouted, “He’s been destroying our kind for decades. Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”

 

“He wasn’t always this way, and he wasn’t always this Director. In my time, he was my father and he loved my mother.”

 

“Whatever man you knew, the one you’re looking for is hunting me down through time. That’s why you found me. He was going back to destroy me before I could stop him. He would’ve killed ten year old me just now if we didn’t show up at that park.”

 

“I’m deeply sorry. I didn’t know,” Ramona apologized.

 

“Don’t be sorry. You’re going to help me catch him. And stop him.”

The Hunted – Chapter 1

One shallow breath sucked into the back of her throat.

The truck screeched as Athena drove it into the lobby of yet another government institution. Glass shattered, spraying across the ground like windchimes detonated across a metal sheet. The truck slid up to the lobby’s front desk, pressing up against it, and then lurching back as its weight redistributed. Athena exhaled as the hydraulic truck brakes sighed, smoke tracking back from the tire marks across the marble floor. Athena looked up from the steering wheel, where her hands were gripped with white knuckles enveloped in black, leather gloves. She smirked and reached out with her mind.

 

“There’s one behind the desk, and three behind the false mirror,” Athena shouted into the back of the truck.

 

The truck’s back doors swung open with a metal creak, and the big man dropped down to the floor; his boots crunching broken glass underneath. Marshall zipped up his jacket and held a fist out as he adjusted his gloves.

 

“Good looking out, Athena. Knew there’s a reason I brought you on,” Marshall joked, as he pulled the security guard over the top of the front desk, ripped the keys from his belt, and tossed the man up against the wall. The guard felt to the ground, slumped over, unconscious.

 

“Gee, I’m so happy to be useful, sir,” Athena jeered, as she slammed the truck door behind her.

 

Marshall punched the false mirror, sending shards of thick glass in all directions, and revealing three shocked guards. They raised their handguns at Marshall, shouting excitedly.

 

“Oh no, Marshall, they have guns,” Athena retorted in a dry tone. “Whatever will we do.”

 

“Put your hands up! Reinforcements are on the way,” one of the guards shouted. “Don’t make us -.”

 

The guard dropped his gun, wincing in pain. He pulled off his glove and looked down at his beet-red hand. The guard looked back up, and his other two co-workers dropped their guns as well. Another pair of boots crunched glass as they came closer and closer to Marshall and Athena.

 

“Cutting it a little closer there, Castor,” Athena chided.

 

Castor tossed a used-up cigarette butt onto the ground and pressed his boot against it, crunching more glass in the process. His other hand was outstretched, glowing orange and steaming. He adjusted the aviator sunglasses on the bridge of his nose and flipped off Athena with his free hand.

 

“Didn’t want to waste my smoke. They’re contraband, remember?” Castor said gravely, and coughed after his explanation.

 

One of the guards flicked out a police baton, catching Marshall’s eye. Marshall smiled, and pulled the nearest guard towards him and threw him into the air. The air-bound guard squealed as he slammed into the marble floor and skidded across it like an errant plaything. The guard with the baton swung at Athena. She dodged his blow, and punched his kidney, sending him to the ground in agony. As he tried to get up, Athena punched him in the face, which knocked him out cold. The final guard tried to attack Athena as it happened, but Marshall grabbed the man’s arm and wrenched him to the side wall, pressing the air out of his lungs violently. He gasped for air as Marshall released his grip, leaving the man slumped over on top of the crushed glass.

Athena winced, shaking her punching fist in the air, and hoarsely whispering obscenities as the unconscious guard at her feet.

 

“I told you we’d handle it,” Marshall reminded.

 

“Oh screw you, Marshall,” Athena rebuffed as she gripped her throbbing hand. “I deserve to have a little fun too.”

 

“It’s not going to be fun later when you won’t shut your damn mouth about the pain,” Castor sneered. “All day at the base, just chatting away with Lizzie about how much your hand hurts, and how much bigger the guy was than you. What a load of crap.”

 

“Shut up, Castor,” Athena snapped. “I hope the sprinkler system turns on. Then you’ll be a steaming pile of -.”

 

“Both of you, shut up,” Marshall said in a correcting tone. He was the defacto leader of their little band of misfits; their little renegade army of superpowered freaks.

 

They had a job to do: get in, get their friend Nick, and get the hell out before the Director brought a detachment of operatives to the fight. With Athena’s ability to read minds, it was easy to spot when people were coming, but it would get a whole lot more complicated when other supers came into the equation. They wouldn’t be able to escape… just like Alan. Marshall remembered Alan most in these situations. He knew Alan would want him to protect their friends. Well, Alan kind of hated Castor, but still… Marshall didn’t want to waste Alan’s sacrifice. They were going to bring down the government board enslaving their people.

 

Marshall motioned toward the door that was rattling behind the false mirror they just destroyed. “They’re coming.”

 

The door cracked at the handle at a gun peeked through, one gunshot cracking the air like a whip. The bullet whizzed between Marshall and Athena, ricocheting off the lobby desk, and into the ceiling. The sprinkler system activated.

 

“You just had to say it,” Castor groaned. Athena shrugged.

 

Marshall shook his head, and barreled his way toward the door, knocking over the men bunched up on the other side with a thunderous crash. The men moaned as they squirmed on the floor, broken bones and bruised egos limp against each other in a pile. A few men stood by, and they came running and saw the commotion. One guard pulled his pistol and aimed in the doorway at Marshall. The gun cracked, somersaulting in the air from Athena’s swift kick. She grabbed his arm and pushed him off balance into Marshall’s oncoming fist. His head made a thunk sound against his black helmet, and he fell backwards into the other man coming towards their team. They both fell to the floor, lying motionless in fear.

 

“I thought you were only going to give five percent power?” Castor asked, disappointed there weren’t many left for him. Marshall smiled as he pulled himself all the way to his feet. A piece of the doorway fell to the ground with a loud crash, metal and drywall scraping the marble floor.

 

“That was five percent.”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

“Care for me to show you ten?” Marshall asked. Athena stood to the side, amused at the situation.

 

“He’s thinking about it,” Athena said through a wry smirk.

 

Castor looked at her with a raised eyebrow. Another guard came running up, and Castor held his hand out, melting the tip of the gun. The gun backfired, knocking the man unconscious. He rolled his eyes, and pushed the guard’s body onto the other pile, eliciting another collective groan from the injured men.

 

“Oh, shut up. You’ll live,” Castor chided.

 

They had no time to revel in their win. Another group of guards came sprinting down the hall after them. But these men were different: they were super powered too. One of the guards grabbed Marshall by the jacket and tossed him against the side wall of the hallway, cracking the drywall and leaving a Marshall-shaped dent in it. He threw Marshall again, breaking through to the other side and into a room that appeared to be the kitchenette break room for the guards.

 

Marshall grabbed a microwave and struck the guard’s helmet, sending him to the ground momentarily. The guard punched upwards as he rose, knocking Marshall off his feet and into the kitchenette counter. The guard grabbed the refrigerator by its door, ripped the door off its hinges, and swung toward Marshall. Marshall’s eyes glowed red, sending beams flashing through the refrigerator door coming at his face. Marshall threw his arm up, splitting the door where it melted from his ‘high beams’, and ripped it away from the guard. Marshall smacked his head against the guard’s helmet, cracking through to the man’s skull and knocking him out cold.

 

Marshall bent down, picked up the melted refrigerator door, and threw it at one of the guards running at Athena. With a loud bang, the guard fell over into the pile of other guards near Castor.

 

“Hey! I had him!” Athena protested, as she kicked the next guard near her, sending him to the floor.

 

Marshall pushed his way back out of the kitchenette, rolling his eyes at his little friend. “Whatever you say, Athena.” An errant red beam sliced through Marshall’s jacket lapel, and a piece of the cloth slowly floated to the crowded floor. Marshall looked over at the guard who had shot the beam at him.

 

“You missed.”

 

Marshall’s eyes lit up orange-red and the fluorescent light panel above the attacking guard fell onto his head, and he tumbled to the floor with a loud crash of armor and broken bulbs. Marshall picked up the piece of the errant piece of his jacket lapel, and tucked it into his front pocket flap.

Athena rolled her eyes at Castor as he shoved another guard through a glass wall, which revealed a small conference room. The guard tumbled into the conference table, sending chairs rolling on each side of him.

 

“I know you’re having so much funny, Castor, but I think it’s time to get Nick.”

 

Nick. The magnet who could move metal with his mind by tapping into magnetic fields. The Nick who got locked up because of Alan’s brashness. That Nick. It was one of Alan’s last wishes: that his friends would help Nick out. Call it guilt. Call it compassion. Whatever the case, Alan wanted Nick to be free like the rest of them.

Castor grunted as he pulled an unconscious guard over to the pile of the rest of his buddies. He heaved the man onto his friends, and looked up at Athena with panting breaths.

 

“You ruin all the funny, little girl.”

 

“Shut the hell up and find me the database,” Athena said through grinding teeth. “We don’t have time for your frat boy shtick.”

 

Castor rolled his eyes, and touched his hands to the closest wall. The farther away they got from their subservient past, the more they found their abilities evolving. Castor found that in concentrating, he could feel heat coursing through objects. He became a bloodhound, sniffing out heat and energy to its source. It came in handy when looking for computers, specifically servers with their high energy and heating. He could feel the warmth of processors caching information, pulsing as they drained energy from their outlets. Castor nodded, and looked over to Marshall and Athena.

 

“The server room is down the hall to the right. Get me in there and I’ll overload the firewall controller.”

 

“Same old, same old,” Marshall grunted as he parted the bodies between him and the server room hallway.

 

The room was filled with towers of enclosed computer parts, like small skyscrapers filling a gray box. Castor put a hand on a server rack, finding its input wires. He followed the wires to the firewall control center, which was housed in another rack. Castor melted the lock off the control console, and pulled back on the small metal door. He touched a hand to the power supply, melting it down into plastic and metal pudding. The green light of the firewall indicator flashed, then turned yellow as plastic and metal dripped around it. The liquid concoction slowly overtook the bulb as it pulsed red, then died.

 

“We’re good to go,” Castor shouted.

 

Athena pulled out a small drawer in one of the racks labeled “Array 273, Detainment Records.” The metal drawer slipped out, revealing a keyboard connection and a small screen, which sprang to life, bathing Athena’s face in blue light. She slid a small drive into the input panel, and pulled up a diagnostic program from the directory.

 

“Second floor. Block A. Cell 24,” Athena said, and she then opened another window. “Copying files to our drive.”

 

“Good,” Marshall replied, and he pushed a large metal filing cabinet in front of the doorway they came through. “I think we’ve gotten some more attention.”

 

The cabinet rattled as the door behind it start banging. “Ok, I know we have.”

 

“So we go up to the second floor,” Castor cried out as he melted the door back onto the firewall control box.

 

“No, you idiot. These buildings do their floor numbers backwards. Floor 2 is beneath us,” Athena snapped, her eyes staring at the file copy process box on the computer screen.

 

Castor rolled his eyes and melted down the firewall controller cabinet from the exterior inward. The metal and plastic bubbled over on themselves, collapsing the tower into a heap. Castor grinned, and straightened his jacket.

 

“Whatever you say, little girl.”

 

“Stop calling me that,” Athena said under her breath.

 

The file copy was 98 percent complete.

 

“Guys,” Marshall said, his body pinned up against the shaking cabinet. “We don’t have time for this.”

 

“No time. Gotcha’,” Castor said, and he bent down to put his hands on the white, tiled floor. The floor began glowing red, the floor melting all around Castor’s palms.

 

“What’re you doing?” Athena called out, her eyes still on the copy process.

 

“Shortcut,” Castor grunted, as he concentrated even more on melting down the floor beneath his feet. The tile began to bubble and crack under his weight. “This may take too long.”

 

“I got this,” Marshall cried out from the spastic cabinet that he was perched on. Castor ran over and pressed himself against the cabinet, and Marshall went to the red spot forming in the tile. He leaped into the air and drove his arms down with a force that created a crack down the entire room’s floor. He punched again. A fissure tore through the tile, revealing crumbling concrete underneath. Another punch. Now Marshall could see pipes. Marshall reached down and yanked rebar that was reinforcing the concrete out of his way. The rebar flew through the air and stuck into the drywall around them like darts in a board.

 

“Hate to rush, but…,” Castor grimaced, using all of his strength to keep the cabinet pinned to the door.

 

Marshall looked up for a brief moment to see the door’s hinges snap under the pressure of a dozen shoulders and rifle butts. He lifted his fists in the air and slammed his arms down onto the floor, and his body – with a mountain of rubble – crashed down into the next floor. The pipes had been filled with water, so the room Marshall was in was already ankle deep and soaking his boots. Marshall pulled back his long hair and saw several guards looking on in disbelief.

 

“Sorry. The elevator was broken,” Marshall said stone-faced.

A guard broke up the gawking onlookers and punched Marshall across his face, sending him flying into a wall behind him. The second floor walls weren’t as flimsy, made of steel and concrete, so Marshall could feel his back pop a little bit, knocking the air out of his lungs for a moment.

 

“Not bad,” Marshall managed through a hearty cough.

 

The guard grabbed Marshall by his jacket and punched him in the face. Marshall felt his jaw rattle from the impact. He coughed as another punch smashed him up against the wall again.

 

“Guys… little help,” Marshall called up. The guard pulled out his nightstick and held it over his head.

 

“They warned us about you. Have to say: not impressed,” the guard jeered, then he shrieked, dropping the glowing hot nightstick.

 

“Likewise,” Castor said with a smirk, and he grabbed the guard by the arm, a stream of hot air spraying around the edges of Castor’s grip. The guard winced, and jerked his arm back, catapulting Castor into the wall where Marshall had been slumped up against. Marshall wasn’t on the ground though. He was running at the guard at fullforce, slamming into him with enough power to snap a normal man’s back. But this guard was strong like Marshall, so he was merely caught off balance, and he smashed against another wall next to the other dumbfounded guards. The guard’s head wobbled and fell over.

 

“Anyone else?” Marshall asked. The other guards ran away, fumbling over each other to get to one of the two exits in the room. Marshall chuckled as he picked himself up off the wet floor.

 

Athena dropped down into the hole in the ground and helped Castor to his feet.

 

“Thanks for the help, Castor,” Marshall said, his body still recovering from the shock of its damages. Castor nodded and twisted his torso back and forth.

 

“Everything seems to be alright,” Castor moaned as he felt a little pop in his torso from stretching. Athena helped Castor over the snarled remains of the concrete, rebar, and metal sheets reinforcing the floor they had come through.

 

“At least physically,” Athena shrugged and tapped her index finger on Castor’s head. Castor chuckled and nodded in agreement, and then the three of them tried to get their bearings.

 

“You didn’t happen to get a map, did you?” Marshall asked Athena.

 

Athena shook her head. “Oops.”

“Oops? Oops!” Castor replied, frustration rife in his body language as he shrugged off Athena’s help and stood on his own. “Well what do we do now?”

 

“Uh… guys?”

 

Marshall, Athena, and Castor turned to the wall lined with cells that the guards had been standing in front of moments before. Nick was standing in one of the cells, orange jumpsuit, water up to his shins.

 

“Little help here?” Nick asked.

 

Marshall smiled a huge beaming grin that set the others at ease. He ripped the thick cell door off its fused hinges and tossed it like a piece of cardboard. Nick hugged Marshall, a decidedly un-Nick move. It had been a long time. Marshall could tell from Nick’s deep set eyes that he hadn’t slept much.

 

“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes. Hey, where’s the kid? I figured he’d be here trailing your shadow. At this point I even miss his annoying voice,” Nick asked Marshall. Marshall looked down at the ground. The group was silent, a thick fog of depression overcoming the jovial spirit they enjoyed not two seconds before.

 

“Alan’s gone,” Athena said, her voice trailing off trying to mask the lump in her throat. She cleared her throat. “We need to go. They’re recovering.”

 

Marshall pulled out a handset, pressed a button and heard Song’s voice on the other end. “Song, we’re going to need a lift. We’re on the second floor of the building in the A block of cells.”

 

A blue light exploded nearby, and a small wormhole opened up. Song, their lithe teleporting friend – once an operative of the Board and enemy – stepped through the portal and held her hand out.

 

“I don’t want to go through that thing,” Nick moaned. “They make me sick!”

 

Athena shoved Nick, and he tumbled into the hole and disappearing before their eyes. Marshall gave Athena a judgmental glance.

 

“What? We don’t have time for bullshit,” Athena argued. Song hid a coy smirk, as Marshall shook his head in disapproval. “Just go,” Athena snapped.

 

Marshall walked through the portal and Athena followed after him. Song looked at Castor with an amused grin.

 

“Time for the fireworks?” Song asked. Castor nodded, pulling a detonator switch from his jacket.

 

“Man, I loved that truck.”

 

He pressed the red button on the switch, sending a shockwave through the building as the truck in the lobby detonated. The ceiling above them shook violently, concrete and dust loosening into mist across the flooding room.

 

“We’ll steal another one. Come on,” Song implored, waving Castor on toward the portal. The two jumped into the light together and disappeared, just as the ceiling above them collapsed into a pile of metal and stone.

 

~ ~ ~

 

Nick threw up on the concrete floor of the basement in the team’s headquarters. He pulled an arm back, wiping his long, orange sleeve across his mouth. Athena rolled her eyes. Some people got sick from the strange physics of the dimensional, space and time jump that Song’s type could pull off. Marshall picked Nick up off the floor. Nick stood uneasily, wobbling like a man who’d been at sea for too long; now back on the earth, the gravity and friction an uncertain, alien feeling. His sleeve pulled back in the process, and Athena saw something she didn’t quite believe.

 

“What the hell is that?” Athena asked, her voice skeptical and haunted.

 

“My tattoo? We all have one…,” Nick trailed off looking at the ink on his arm.

 

“Not that. What is that?” Athena pointed to the watch on Nick’s wrist. It was a trinket. An interesting face. Somehow familiar, yet foreign. An old memory, yet a new visage. Nick shrugged.

 

“I woke up one day, and it was just in my cell, bundled up in my mattress. Don’t know where it came from,” Nick explained, looking at the watch as if it was mysterious and majestic at the same time. “Why?”

 

“That was Alan’s watch.”

The Department for Mutated Persons – Epilogue

The girl played in the meadow, a beautiful open field with a large tree in its midst. She split the tall grass, frolicking into a perfectly manicured lawn sitting in the shadow of the tree. She tossed her dress to the left and right as she skipped to the tree, a wonderful apple tree. The girl stopped abruptly as she saw the figure of a man facedown next to the tree. She picked up a loose branch from the foot of the tree and poked the body out of curiosity.
“Hello?” she called out. “Are you okay?”
The man groggily pushed himself up, and turned his body to look at the little girl.
“I’m,” the man looked up at the girl. “I’m fine.”
“Are you, Mr. Mitchell?” the girl asked, her tone more concerned than before.
Alan gave her a curious look, raising his arm to block the light from his eyes, and saw his watch – the watch Elizabeth gave him – ticking away as if it had never broken.
“Where am I?” Alan asked, as he felt his body still in agony from the beating he had taken from the operators. The girl smiled and held her hand out to Alan.
“Welcome to the in between.”

The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 16

“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.”
“I won’t.”
“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.
“Don’t worry.”
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.
“Time?”
“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.”

The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 15

Alan stood quietly in the lab room, his eyes set ahead at the woman unconscious on the table. She looked ironically peaceful given the surroundings. The heart monitor beeped steadily in the corner, while an IV pumped fluids and sedative through the woman’s veins. They were running out of time; the guards wouldn’t be distracted forever.
Alan gently pulled the IV from the woman’s arm, and waited for her to wake up. He could hear men running down the halls and shouting loudly to one another. Then there were men at the door, slamming viciously at the metal work. Alan had destroyed the lock mechanism, so it would take at least two more minutes before they could get the door down. Or not.
The door exploded open, debris flying inside the white room, rattling off walls and shredding the medical equipment like it was tissue paper. Alan protected the woman, curving the explosion of metal all around them and onto the back wall.
“Hands on your head!” the voices shouted in near unison. Alan turned his head to the side to see flashlights and assault rifles fixed to them, shining back at him. He could probably stop most of their bullets. Most, not all; and he wasn’t feeling especially bleedy at the moment. He put his hands over his head, and the men ran forward.
“On the ground!” the voices screeched. Two men pushed Alan to his knees, while others swarmed the woman lying on the table.
“Get the IV back in!” one yelled to another, but it was too late.
The black-haired woman’s eyes opened and she screamed bloody murder. Alan looked up at the ceiling and watched as it began pressing down towards them. The back wall folded in on itself, revealing a black abyss. The floor beneath the soldiers began to shift like a moving escalator, causing the men to fall over. Alan could feel vertigo setting in, his mind overtaken with dizzying nausea. The floor slowly tilted upward, causing soldiers to roll towards the side walls. Alan reached out to keep himself centered on the floor. He watched as one soldiers slipped into the side wall, screaming as he fell, stuck inside of it like a two dimensional piece of paper. Another soldier grabbed the IV stand as it slid, trying to use it to push himself away from the wall that was swallowing his comrades. The IV stand swung wildly, snapping the soldier’s arm at the elbow like a chicken wing. Alan shut his eyes in sheer terror at the sight.
“Don’t be afraid,” the woman’s voice cut through the chaos of the situation. Alan felt a cold hand wrap around his, so he opened his eyes. The woman was knelt down beside him, a look of whimsical curiosity set on her brow. Alan looked around. The soldiers were all writhing around on the floor, panicked breaths and grunts swelling in their chests.
“What?”
“They’ll be fine,” the woman assured, and she helped Alan to his feet.
The room no longer felt like it was spinning; at least, for him the room had returned to normal. The men continued in their frenzied panic, unaware they were living in a prison of their own imaginations.
“You seem confused.”
“I thought you were…” Alan breathed fully for the first time since entering the room.
“You were expecting her,” the woman replied, filling in Alan’s gaps. “I’m sorry I’m not.”
The woman looked up, her face suddenly aware of an urgency.
“Come with me,” the woman spoke calmly, pulling Alan with her out the doorway and into the white tiled hallway. Alan saw a great deal more soldiers rolling around in the halls as they went.
“They think they’re on fire,” the woman said plainly, her voice soft and lacking any emotional fluster. “Alright, let’s go.”
“We aren’t going anywhere. Not until we find her,” Alan pleaded with the mysterious woman, his hands shaking from the adrenaline rush. The woman opened the metal double doors in front of her, and motioned for Alan to leave. Alan moved his hand back, and the doors snapped shut. The woman looked back, partly shocked and partly annoyed.
“I said no. Athena is in here, and I’m not going to leave her because you’re scared of the boogeyman.”
“Scared? You’re damn right I’m scared. Did you see what they did to me in there?” the woman questioned, her tone shrill and upset. “I’m not going back.”
“You won’t have to, but we have to find my friend – and now – before they scramble her brains,” Alan said firmly. “You have my word, I won’t let them hook you back up to that machine.”
The woman composed herself, then nodded in agreement. “She’s probably in the neural data mine. It’s over there.”
The woman pointed to the hallway heading to the detention area. Alan rolled his eyes. Of course.
“How do you know that’s where it is? You’ve been unconscious.”
“I can read minds. Just as easy to pull information as it is to put in.”
Alan shrugged. If Athena could read minds, and this woman could make people see things, he supposed that there was an overlap somewhere in there to do both.
“Good point, -,” Alan held his hand out, waiting for her to finish with her name.
“Elizabeth,” the woman held out her hand. Alan belted out a huge laugh. He really couldn’t help it. Elizabeth seemed put off by the demonstration.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s just… well, it’s too long a story for now,” Alan said. He pointed to the hall awkwardly, “To the brain scrambler.”


 

Athena looked up at the circular dish standing over her head.
“Please, try to relax, ma’am. Struggling will only make it worse,” the doctor said calmly at Athena’s bedside.
Athena tensed up, more to spite the amicable mad scientist. The doctor cleared his throats and placed electrodes around Athena’s temples. The doctor pulled some switches, and Athena could hear a feint ringing sound in her ears.
The doctor typed a few deliberate keystrokes into his computer, and the machine over Athena’s head began to light up and beep. Athena closed her eyes, as the machine spun, emitting a sound like a loud vacuum cleaner. Then shattering, metal crashing, and the doctor screaming. Athena could feel her restraints lifting. She opened her eyes.
“Hey,” Alan said, his voice soft.
“I’m drowning! I’m drowning!” the doctor shrieked. “Save me! Help!”
“How?” Athena looked around. Elizabeth walked into her line of sight. “Who?”
“Elizabeth,” she replied to Athena.
“Elizabeth?” Athena looked at Alan, who smirked.
“Not that Elizabeth,” Alan joked.
“Oh,” Athena grumbled, as her shackles came off. Alan pulled her up, embracing her tightly.
“I hate to rain on the parade, but it’s time to get out of here,” Elizabeth said in a dry tone. “Let’s go.”


 

Marshall barreled his way through the crowd of guards standing in the circular hallway near the hub, pushing them off as he ran. Castor ran behind him, punching with fire-laced fists and melting fire arms in his burning grip. Alan slammed his way through the exit door, startling a teleportation operator on the inside. The asian woman’s eyes were terrified when she realized what was happening. But it was too late.
Marshall grabbed her, holding his hand around her mouth, while Castor welded the maintenance door shut. The guards would have to circle around the to get back to them.
“Listen, don’t scream, ok. We’re not going to hurt you,” Marshall said in a calming tone. The woman nodded. Marshall let her go, and she tried to punch him. Marshall grabbed her arm like she was a child. “I told you we wouldn’t hurt you. I forgot to mention: don’t hurt us.”
The woman struggled for a minute, writhing around, trying to get a holding that would give her leverage. Marshall looked up at Castor, who was trying to fight laughter. Marshall rolled his eyes and lifted the woman over his head. She took the hint and gave up.
“What do you want?”
“We want out of here, lady,” Castor replied sharply.
“But not before our friends get here,” Marshall said, and he put the woman down gently next to him.
The doorway to the hub creaked open, and Marshall nearly passed out at the sight of Elizabeth.
“Elizabeth!” Marshall shouted with joy.
Athena and Alan glanced at each other with confused looks. Marshall gave Elizabeth a huge bear hug, while Castor held the teleporter at bay.
“What’s going on here?” Athena asked.
Marshall looked at Alan and Athena. “This is Elizabeth. She’s my sister.”

The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 14

Alan bent over the two operators’ unconscious bodies, pulling their walkie talkies off their utility belts. He tossed one to Marshall, who caught it.
“I almost thought you weren’t going to come,” Marshall admitted.
Alan chuckled, unbuttoning the shirt of the lanky blonde-haired man, and tossing it to Marshall.
“I hope this fits,” Alan joked.
“It’s… snug,” Marshall groaned, as the buttons felt like they might pop off. The pants were the same story; the same length, but the width was a little constrictive. Marshall looked down at the walkie talkie in his hand.
“What channel are we on?”
“Eleven,” Alan replied, finishing up with his clothes. “I think their security is always on seven.”
“You know, you didn’t mention you could move things with your mind. I thought you were a magnet?”
Alan looked up, “I didn’t know I could either. That was part of my sentence. They thought I was lying.”
Marshall shrugged, “What’s next?”
“I noticed teleportation messes with the magnetic fields. That’s why the never put cameras in here. Would’ve just shorted them out every time. But the rest of the place has eyes and ears. We’ll sneak around better in these uniforms. You’re going to A block to break Castor and Nick out. It’ll be a left fork in the road once we get out of here. I’ll go to B block to find Athena. We’ll try to meet up at the exit and get a teleporter to get us out of here.”
“Okay,” Marshall nodded.
“Give me a hand here,” Alan said, and they pulled the two operators to the side of the central room, away from the doorway. Marshall clapped his hands together, as if dust had collected from the work. Alan chuckled a little, and pointed at the almost seamless wall off to their right.
“The door’s right there. Are you ready?”
Marshall nodded, adjusting his new, tight uniform.
“I feel dirty in this thing, but, yeah, I’m ready.”
Alan walked up to the wall and the doorway split open with a soft whooshing noise. The metallic hallway seemed so much longer now that Alan wasn’t being dragged through it by the guards. Alan swallowed the lump in his throat, and led Marshall on their first steps down the hall. Alan could hear every boot step clang on the metal-grated floors, the sound rattling hollow in his ears. Alan cleared his throat as they reached the A block fork.
“Well, this is you,” Alan said. Marshall nodded.
“Good luck, kid.”
Alan watched Marshall turn the corner and begin the long walk down the A block corridor. Alan was finally aware he might be looking at his friend for the last time, a sinking weight in his gut. He shook off the feeling, exhaled a deep breath, and continued on his long trek to the B block.
The hallway felt a lot longer without Marshall standing next to Alan. The hallway was lonely, and Alan was left with his thoughts. Athena. Castor. Nick. They were all casualties of a war that Alan couldn’t quite understand yet. Alan didn’t really know how things had gotten so bad for people like him. The events of the past few years had been a blur, with announcements from the federal news flashing warning signs here and there. But really, Alan had been absent-minded and content in his relationship with Elizabeth. Like a satellite, Alan had orbited Elizabeth. Now, he was in retrograde, burning up in the atmosphere. And it felt exhilarating.
During his time in B block, Alan knew that most of the guards took the maintenance hall, which ran a full circle around the central hub where the Department met. It was a way for guards and other workers to get around without having to interrupt meetings or get locked out of their blocks during Department meetings. Alan was going to use it to find a shortcut from the hub to B block, and, hopefully, find Athena.
Alan swiped his badge across the maintenance hatch, and the doorway slid open. The hall was an endless curve. It was a little disorienting at first, but Alan found his footing staring at the floor. It didn’t take long to reach the hatch leading into the B block hallway.
Alan’s boots, which were a tad loose for his taste, clanged onto the B block metal floor and echoed down the hall. The cells were filled with different people. But no Athena. Alan walked back down the hall, and found one of the first inmates.
“Where’s the girl?”
“The traitor?” the man asked smugly, with a deep chuckle in his throat.
“Yeah. The traitor,” Alan said, his voice clearly annoyed.
“Man, I don’t know where she went, but I know where she ain’t,” the inmate waved his hands around. He stood up from his cot, and looked Alan in the eye. “Wait, a minute.”
“Tell me where she went, and I’ll bust you out of here,” Alan said, his voice stern with purpose. The lights strobed and finally died, bathing the hall in a red hue. It reminded Alan of Athena and his previous escape. Marshall must’ve started commotion in A block.
The inmate gave a skeptical glance at the lighting, then at Alan. He cleared his throat and pressed his face to the thick, bullet-proof glass. The inmate shook his head, finally making his decision.
“They took her to C block, man. I don’t think you got a chance; but if you make it, I’ll be right here.”
Alan nodded, and ran off to find Athena in C block.


 

Marshall grimaced as he sent an A block guard into the metal wall across from the cells, knocking him out cold. Another guard pulled his assault rifle and watched the bullets rip through Marshall’s uniform, then glance off Marshall’s impervious skin. Marshall’s strength ran all the way down to the marrow, a miraculous feat shared by most strength-based mutations. Marshall grabbed the rifle out of the guard’s hands and smashed the metal down like it was clay, letting the pieces rattle as they fell on the metal floor.
Marshall grabbed the guard and gently knocked him on the helmet, causing the guard to pass out instantly. It took a lot of practice to be careful with his abilities, but now it was second nature.
“Marshall? Damn, it’s good to see you,” Castor shouted from his cell. “I told Nick you guys would come back for us.”
“Where is Nick?” Marshall looked around.
“They re-assigned him to a foundry, smelting or some nonsense. Where’s the kid?”
“He’s looking for Athena,” Marshall said.
“Athena’s here too. What a reunion we got going. The control panel’s over there, boss.”
Marshall walked over to the guard post, which had a large electrical panel, a metal desk with a computer and a stack of paperwork sitting on it.
“Just flip the switch, and I can get us out of here,” Castor assured Marshall. Marshall nodded, and grabbed the switch on the electrical panel, just as another guard came in.
Unfortunately, the guard was strong like Marshall. He grabbed Marshall by the arm, and wrenched him into the A block doorway. Marshall could feel his body aching as he peeled himself off the metal wall, leaving a Marshall-sized dent in it. But as soon as he pulled himself off, the guard shoved Marshall right back into the wall.
“Stand down!” the guard shouted as he slammed Marshall’s head into the wall again. And again. Marshall could feel his head was starting to get warm, blood definitely trickling down the side of his face. “Stand down – gah!”
Castor’s red-hot hand grabbed the guard’s right shoulder and pulled him off of Marshall, who then slid onto the floor. The guard turned into the momentum and shoved Castor to the ground.
“Get back in your cell, now!”
“Screw you,” Castor groaned, as he tried picking himself up. The guard shoved Castor again, this time sending him into the back wall near the guard post. Castor winced as his left arm – still aflame – melted through the wall near the electrical panel. Castor tried to bring his arm back out of the wall, but could feel it catch on the metal, so he gave up.
“That’s what I thought,” the guard taunted, as he stood over Castor’s body.
“Yeah, yeah. Big tough guy,” Castor joked.
“Ahem,” Marshall cleared his throat, and the guard turned around to haymaker to the face. Total Knock Out. Marshall picked the guard up and – using his eye beams – welded the guard’s outline to the wall.
“I’d clap, but – ya know,” Castor nodded to his arm tangled in the metal, “You seem to have found your calling, boss.”
“Shut up,” Marshall joked, and ripped the metal away around Castor’s arm. “That better, you big baby?”
Castor rolled his eyes, and pulled his bleeding arm out of the giant hole in the wall. Castor looked at the electrical panel then the hole.
“I have an idea.”
“I’m listening,” Marshall replied.
Castor’s hands glowed white-hot. He followed the electrical panel wiring back into the hole. Castor concentrated, the heat traveling down the wires through the wall, and out of the room. Marshall could see the line of heat glowing as it traveled around the room where the electrical wire was placed.
“What’re you doing?”
“Sending a shock to the electrical grid,” Castor replied through clenched teeth. He pushed even further and the wire started melting around his hand. The metal wall started to warp, bowing under the extreme heat. Lights began to strobe, then died, bathing the pair in a red light. “That should buy us a little more time.”


 

Guards in tactical gear passed Alan as they ran toward the source of all the commotion. The light was still dimly red, and Alan used the panic to sneak his way into C block’s usually secure gateway. Alan could tell its construction was a large circular room like the hub, but it was made up of small labs stitched together with a honeycomb of hallways. And like the hub, C block had a circular hall running along the outside of the block.
Unlike the rest of the wings, C block was bathed in sickly fluorescent light still.

Alan looked back through the doorway and saw that B block was still blood-red. He wondered if C block ran on its own power source for a reason. Alan shrugged, and made his way down the central hall that bisected the circular complex. He stood at the intersection and saw that the detention area was down to the right. But Alan’s gut told him the large ‘Special Projects’ sign on his left would be where Athena was being held for the neural data mine.

The Department for Mutated Persons – Chapter 13

“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.”