Kevin Allen – Writer ◊ Melissa Bird – Editor ◊ Tia Myricks – Production ◊ Krystal Clear Logics – Promotion and Digital Marketing
Episode 4: Fear has a name
“There’s been an explosion near the Mojave,” an older man hustles into a small conference room where Hunter, Simone, Javier, Rory, Michael, and one of the commanders of the rebellion group, Defender Wing, are sitting at a plain brown table having refreshments and talking. The older man waits by the door.
Her name is Mrs. Norman. Sixties. Long white-gray hair with next to nothing wrinkles. A warrior who has weathered several wars and just as many attempts on her life. Despite her kind, sweet façade, Mrs. Norman has seen the worst atrocities people are capable of, first hand.
They have been in the room discussing the day’s events since the team was debriefed. It is well into midnight. They are tired. They couldn’t sleep. There is too much going on outside the safety of this place. One act of desperation had created a lot of unknowns on top of that.
Hunter rubs at his eyes and then the back of his neck. His stress is showing. Sleep is at him clawing for a win. He’s been awake nearly forty hours.
“When was this?” Mrs. Norman asks. Her eyes are gray pins.
“About an hour ago,” the man says. “Thought it would be all over the news already, but we haven’t heard anything. It was near the old four-four.”
“Do we know what exploded?” Hunter asks.
The man shakes his head. “Hearing that news crews are being turned away though, it has to be something big. One of our sources was asked to leave the area by federal agents.”
That is completely unexpected. Sure, the feds would have investigated the explosion. But Gencor had enough power to leverage a military accident, if it were necessary, but who in the world is capable of keeping an explosion off the airwaves?
“Could your source be mistaken?” Hunter sounds a bit cautious. There is a possibility he knows the answer to who had enough power to keep it off the airwaves.
“No,” the man says. “But, get this,” as he walks into the room and stands near the table all animated, “we picked up some serious psychic energy in that area about the time of the explosion. Bradson picked it up. Says she’s only ever felt power like that once.”
Mrs. Norman eases back in her chair and gives an uneasy glance at Hunter. She seems fairly uncomfortable. She nods absently. There are very few people of whom, when spoken of, power is mentioned. One of them died nine years ago, according to what she recalls. She tried to save him. The man who controls Gencor and its subsidiaries, along with a trove of businesses – private, public, and invisible made sure she and her comrades failed. The only hope the Defender Wing had to defeat Gencor died that day, they believed, then they found Simone in the arms of her dying mother.
Hunter knows who he is, though he says he’s never met the man. Hunter had escaped Gencor bringing Rory with him a few years ago. The Defenders found him and gave him a home. It turned out to be a good risk taking Hunter and Rory in. Rory is a rare intellectual gem and Hunter is an effective leader.
“Do you know why he was out there?” Rory asks, shifting queasily in her chair. She does not hide the fact that she believes she knows whose psychic energy, Branson think she detected. Rory knows his power. She knows him. Ruthless, powerful, and with allies that scared her to death. “A-and is she sure about what she felt?”
The poor kid. Pitying glances turn away quickly. Rory had been abused several ways by Gencor, and him. The worst was the mental anguish she keeps describing in her sessions with the counselors to this day. No one should escape punishment for that.
“He’s the only one we know doesn’t mask himself when he goes on the attack or hide from anything,” the man speaks cautiously. He takes a gander round the room at Mrs. Norman before he continues, “we have no idea what he was doing or if it is him. The area is on lockdown, so we can’t confirm anything.”
Hunter grunts. It sucked that they didn’t have more information. Maybe he could lead a team out there. A nighttime op would be welcomed after a night’s sleep, but he knows any team he takes would have to go tonight and be out before they get spotted.
“Would we even want to have anyone near that place?” Javier preempts. He slumps in his chair when the three older people in the room look at him sharply.
“I doubt anyone here would be able to hide from him if they tried to spy,” Mrs. Norman concedes without mentioning his name, it sure would be good to try. She looks at Hunter. “We do need to know if it’s connected to Cory.”
“I think he would attack whatever convoy Cory was in,” Hunter says.
“Oh yeah, he would!” Rory says. She seems skittish. “If he thinks they screwed up or if he even senses any attempt to interfere in his plans, they’re dead meat.”
When Simone takes her hand to comfort her, Rory nearly snaps her neck looking at Simone, flinches and almost pulls her hand away until she recognizes her. Rory smiles, thankful. She had been taken from that place more than eight years ago. The things that happened there hadn’t let her go yet. Rory offers Simone an uncomfortable smile.
Mrs. Norman sighs. Looks at Hunter. “A pity you weren’t closer to him. We need a profile on this elusive, Mr. X.” She waits for a reaction.
Hunter doesn’t show any emotion when he says, “I wasn’t ranked high enough to be in the same room with him.” His eyes travel to Rory. “He used these kids like they were equipment to be used how he wanted. Gencor dehumanized them.”
Mrs. Norman considers. She has heard the stories. No one really knows Gencor hierarchy or how the organization works, but Defender leadership knew Jason. Few know how strong he is. Mrs. Norman is one of the very few who had seen and felt his power, personally, and, he had let her live to speak of it.
There is nothing else they would know at the moment. “We want to be kept updated, of course.” Mrs. Norman says to the man who is waiting by the edge of the table.
The man nods. “Ma’am!” Then he leaves the room shutting the door behind him.
“Doubt they’d be looking for me.” Hunter offers with his eyes on Mrs. Norman.
“I’ll speak to the others, but I doubt we’ll risk it,” Mrs. Norman counters. “You have no power. No way to protect yourself against one of us. Imagine if it really is him and he is waiting for someone to show up?”
That would mean he is looking for her. Mrs. Norman cringes visibly. Her hands ball into fists. She relaxes and lets her hands flatten on the table, thankful no one is really paying attention to her. Could it be that he is coming after the group that survived, after all these years?
“That would mean Gencor knows about us,” Hunter says sensing something isn’t right. His eyes are on Mrs. Norman, palms against the table.
Rory looks at Simone. No one sees her. No one sees the silent argument between the teens until Mrs. Norman spots them while she tries to fight her own nervous feelings. She takes a deep breath while watching them argue.
Hunter continues, “It could also mean that explosion may have involved, Cory.”
Mrs. Norman believes him. But her attention is on the silent argument between the girls. Catching on, the girls sit quietly with their eyes on the table. They don’t want to look at her. Not at any of the adults. They can feel her eyes and try to shrink into the seats.
They shouldn’t know about Cory’s secret anyway. It was Simone who first realized his problem. That’s how she became aware of him in the first place. It became apparent that it was a problem the second week she helped him escape. She told him about it. A month later she helped him figure it out, after he admitted it was indeed a problem.
Cory is like an almost, always-on transceiver. Almost, because there are times when he is normal. When he gets nervous, he bleeds psychic energy almost anyone could pick up, normal people included.
On the flip side, there were times Cory couldn’t control what he picked up either. He had to focus harder than most people when he was nervous. Simone had been helping him learn how to control his psychic abilities since they met. That is how Cory and Simone got close. She spent so much time in his head that it became inevitable, so she helped him hide.
The more time Simone spent with Cory, the more time she wanted to spend with him. It was easy to want to spend time with him. Being able to read his thoughts, Simone found out Cory had a good heart, one that she wouldn’t mind being a part of.
“Something we should be made aware of, ladies?” Mrs. Norman is thankful for the distraction from her thoughts.
The girls shake their heads emphatically. “Not really,” Simone answers. She is not about to give up any of Cory’s secrets. If no one else knew, they didn’t need to know, she is not about to tell them that Cory had been especially nervous about an hour and twenty minutes ago. He was communicating with someone strong. From the feel of the impression Simone got, a man who could easily be the power Nina Bradson felt. She is praying that Cory is safe.
“Are you sure, Simone?” Javier presses watching her.
Her head goes up and down slowly. So does Rory’s when he looks at her.
Hunter thinks he sees some hesitation. He can’t be sure. With no children of his own, it is hard to be sure of anything with kids. These two, it’s even harder because they are friends who are trained to deceive when necessary, but he gets the distinct feeling the two girls are hiding something. He would have to make it a point to dig into it the first chance he got.
“Can I be excused?” Rory abruptly asks. She is hoping they don’t need her anymore. She could do with some alone time now. Her and Simone gave their take on things already. Now it is starting get fairly uncomfortable. If she stays she may say something she shouldn’t about Cory’s condition. It would betray the trust between her and Simone
Everything could be in danger because of Cory’s flaw. Then again, if Cory got turned and his memory remained intact, everything would be in danger anyway. Rory did not want to betray her friendship with Simone over maybes.
After scrutinizing her, Mrs. Norman nods. Hunter doesn’t object. Rory speeds out of the room. She needs to be alone to think. Everything that happened needs a second look. Simone wants to get up and leave too, but she knows it will look suspicious.
“Ro,” Hunter calls her as she gets to the door. When the teen turns around, she meets hard brown eyes. Simone is staring at him. “If you remember anything important about this mission or anything, we should know about it,” he says coolly, ignoring Simone so it doesn’t seem like he’s asking Rory to betray a friend, “I know your habit is to reflect on these things and if we can do things better…”
Rory nods. Then she runs from the room. Simone shifts in her seat.
Sensing her discomfort, Hunter says, “Do you want to go relax too?” He is staring at Simone when she glances at him. “It’s been a long day, and I know the logistics of our mission isn’t the most exciting thing in the world.”
“Not to mention we know this is been especially hard on you,” Mrs. Norman adds.
Trying to get a feel for what Hunter is thinking would be picked up by Mrs. Norman. She is a keen old woman, Simone considers. If she left the room they could talk about anything without her knowing. If she weren’t in the room they couldn’t ask her any more questions about Cory. She is being offered an impossible choice, then again, Simone had never been one to shy away from the discussion about missions.
She shakes her head. “I’ve been in too many of these meetings not to be here,” Simone says. The adults nod, Simone is surprised to see Javier smiling about that, a genuine smile.
“What about the house Gencor found?” Mrs. Norman continues as if nothing happened.
Hunter follows up. “Sealed tight.” Though he seems uneasy. “Though we are hoping they don’t check every nook. They’re likely covering all bases. If they caught on to what Cory was doing, we will have a problem.”
Mrs. Norman nods. “Do we know for sure they were only sweeping the place?”
Hunter considers. “We observed Cory entering the house. We should assume they did too. Cory did what he was supposed to do. He picked the lock with his telekinetic ability. Made it look like he was using a key. Even if they were watching him with scopes that’s what they’d have seen. He broke into the house.” He reflects on what they saw on the video. “Someone could see it as him panicking and going down into the basement to try and hide or check to see if anyone was home.” He adds, after some thought. “Doubt anyone would try to get into his head while he’s unconscious. He’s a powerful kid.”
“I will agree with that last bit,” Mrs. Norman says. “But we need to know what happens with those houses. We should get a report from our contacts just as soon as possible.”
“We’ll work on appliance service calls,” Javier says. “Although, it would be suspicious if we were to call on both houses, even with different company vans.”
“We should only check on the house Cory was in,” Simone says dryly. They look at her. “We only need to do a ride by of the other houses.”
“Good thinking!” Mrs. Norman smiles at her.
Simone is grateful for the approving smile she sees. She straightens in her chair.
“We’ll work on it,” Javier says. “Once Cam gets back, we’ll take the call and I’ll be taking one person with me. Dryer’s not working, I heard.”
Simone doesn’t say anything. She just giggles. She can’t help it as many times as she’s heard it. They know exactly what will be called before it is. Imagine if a Gencor spy was in the room with them. They would think they’re able to tell the future.
“There is one more thing,” Hunter says. Mrs. Norman gives him her undivided. So do Javier and Simone. “If we can, we need to know why Cory went home. Chances are, we’ll never know that for sure, unless by some miracle he escapes Gencor. I doubt they’ll be as careless as they were with him before,” he says. “But we also need to be proactive and evacuate number seven as soon as possible. I think it may be a good idea to evacuate any other facility he’s been to.”
Mrs. Norman smiles at Hunter. He really is an efficient soldier. It is a wonder he wasn’t recognized and promoted within Gencor ranks. A wonder indeed. “The order was given once you got back and we got word of the young man’s capture,” she says. “Nevertheless, I will be stating that you also recommended it. It shows great initiative on your part. I’m glad Gencor didn’t see your value before we did.”
In a perfect world, those words, Hunter knew, could be taken as a compliment. With the smile the elder is wearing it would be completely believable. Hunter didn’t need the ability to read minds to know what the upper crust of the defender wing thinks of him.
Michael, on the other hand has been sitting at the extreme left side of the table quietly. His eyes have not moved from Mrs. Norman. Call it a gut feeling. Something isn’t right about this meeting. Something is not right and he intends to find out what it is. That the conversation is flowing so naturally, he wonders if he is the only one who feels anxious about being in the room with her.
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