No Matter the Cost: Part 3
No Matter the Cost
By Camospam, Wendy K and Gabi.
A Non-Canon Whateley Academy tale.
Arkham Research Centre (ARC)
“Ulrich Oberon! I need you to find Cameron Burke, there is no time to waste,” insisted Lynn.
“My Lady, You are in danger, my place is here - protecting you.”
“You mistake my intentions, I’m not dismissing you, your skill and dedication as an Oberon are needed. I must send all the help I can to assist the Golden Eyed Man,” pronounced Lynn. “He is, or soon shall be in great peril.”
“But isn’t your wellbeing my foremost concern?”
“You forget too easily an Oberon’s role as sword and shield to the Golden Eyed Man, you must ensure his safety, such is your duty. The Pantheress can take care of herself.”
“I swore to serve the Were.”
“Then the best way to serve the Were, is to carry out your oath and protect Cameron.”
“But he is not one of the people.”
“How many times does he need to put his life in danger to help our people? We had no way to effectively resist the dark forces until Cameron came to us, he gave Were the means to restore our family, our people, and break the dark warlords back. You may not have felt it, but it was Cameron’s own hand that freed you from captivity. This is how you see fit to repay him?”
“Humans cannot be trusted, they lie as easily as breathing. I do not yield, man has no share in our future.”
“Then by your own admission you are of no use to me,” proclaimed Lynn with shrunken shoulders, disheartened from the betrayal.
The Pantheress’ words and those of her father shocked Ella, who gasped at the directness and implications of what was said, it tugged at her heart strings, her very being shaken by revelations so foreign. It resulted in tears welling up in Ulrich’s daughter’s eyes, her attention alternating between the Pantheress and her father, her world unraveling with each passing heartbeat.
“But…” Ulrich attempted to justify or contradict, just not given the opportunity.
“You have a long history of only serving that which suits your preconceptions. Bigotry can now be added to your failings,” berated Lynn without waiting for a reply. “I fear that hate and pride have made you incapable of seeing the prophecy’s true intent,” continued Lynn, again allowing for no response. ”For the Were to rise again, prophecy said intervention from a weak - pitiful human was needed to finally break the yoke around our necks.”
“I have given the entirety of my life to upholding the Oberon pledge, so prophecy might bear fruit. I’ve honoured my family and sought to protect the Were at every turn,” defended Ulrich.
“Yet, where were you? During the recent battle, had I mistook your presence amidst the battle lines of the Were?” Requested Lynn of the now visibly agitated warrior.
“I had been overcome by darkness.” Bitterly spat Ulrich at the insult.
“Then I beseech you, seeing as you had once been corrupted physically but set free, can you not now - as before, break free mentally from possessing a wrong attitude? One that prevents you from fulfilling your pledge as Oberon.”
“I remain resolute, an Oberon’s loyalty is only to Were. Humans are not a concern of mine - or my daughter.”
“Without doubt, you have raised an amazing daughter. Ella is a dear friend, and has been of immense value, to both Cameron and I, to all the Were. I had hoped, that you also could adapt, realized that misconceptions and misinterpretations are hindering your beliefs.”
“You are no Were! You twist words, making that which is bad sound good. Banishment was too lenient for your mother, now she has raised an abomination for a child.”
“I do wish you hadn’t brought my mother into this, she never said a negative thing about the Were my whole life. She wept when it became apparent what role I would play. No, my mother is not the problem here! That falls upon you.
“I denounce you as Pantheress, I shall not heed your voice.”
“It’s a pity that you ignore all of what has been accomplished. Acknowledge what Cameron has done for the Were. But being blind has a greater meaning than just not being able to see.”
“Ella, come! We are done here,” ordered the elder Oberon as he headed for the open window.
“No father, I am staying.” Her pain obvious in her quivering voice, but her resolve apparent as she walked without hesitation to stand beside Lynn, placing an arm over her shoulder and giving a gentle squeeze.
Ulrich gave a scowl followed by his stepping outside the room. A moment later a small flash of red fur dashed over the courtyards perimeter wall to say he had left.
Ella shed a tear as she sputtered in anguish, Lynn gave the girl a comforting hug as she too fought with tears.
“I’m sorry it turned out this way,” confided Lynn. “The high council’s concern was only for the Were, just like your dad. They wouldn’t lift a finger to assist mutant or human, and they tried to prevent me from helping too, I’m sorry about your dad.”
“I don’t understand,” groaned Ella. “Wasn’t the battle meant to save both the Were and Mutant?”
“Two battles were fought, two distinct skirmish lines on the same war. The Were won freedom, the mutants repelled slavery for a time at least. We shared a common cause with very different outcomes. We share much with our younger cousins, these mutated humans.”
“But…” moaned Ella trying to grasp at a fading wish, a perfect life.
“Always a but isn’t there?” mused Lynn at the open ended question, knowing personally how powerful hope is, no matter how unlikely, hope always persisted, as it should.
“No one likes a situation to end on a bad note,” interjected Rachelle, to show compassion for an injured companion.
“Is that why people call a rear-end a butt?” wondered Charlotte, reflecting on how Ella’s dad had left.
“There are times when the best you can hope for is to see people’s back side as they walk away, and sometimes the best view a person has to offer is their backside,” explained Timothy to his little sister.
“I’d say that’s almost profound, if only it hadn’t come from you,” jested Rachelle to her sibling twin giving him a nudge in the ribs.
“Ella?“ begged Lynn as she pulled the girl down into a chair beside her. “ I’m sorry to have to ask this, can you locate my brother? Cameron is going to need your help.”
“All right, I’ll go,” assured Ella. “We watched from around the corner as you all got hauled away. You eight got loaded into ARC vehicles. Cameron was put into an unmarked van and headed a different direction, the soldiers taking him elsewhere. Alan volunteered to follow Cameron saying he would mark his trail.”
“Good.” Smiled Lynn at the new found confidence of a friend. “Now; In the parking lot you’ll find an older green pick-up truck. It’s unlocked and the keys are in the ashtray. At the gate tell the guard ‘Mr. Lockland needs some catfish’. Three miles down the road is a pull off, wait there for ten minutes. Head to Dunwich and ditch the truck, you’ll pick up Alan’s trail on the route.
“You’re not coming with me?”
“No, Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. Just remember to wait ten minutes at the pull off.”
Ella shifted to fox form. Before stepping out the broken window she looked back at her friends, she raised her snout in salute and gave a toothy smile when all inside waved farewell. The fox slipped away without making a sound and disappeared quickly from sight.
“Mrs. Carson! You cannot expect us to simply stand aside and let these juvenile delinquents run ragged over us,” refuted the ARC’s security lieutenant, a stout little man who’s collar must be too tight since his face was beet red. That or he was flushed with anger from the affront of it all. “They have seized control of my institute, injured my people, and now you tell me they have the gaul to be making farcical demands.”
“They have hardly taken over Arkham,” refuted Mrs. Carson. “All they’ve done is barricaded themselves into your cafeteria area. As demands go, they just want to go home. If you attempt to inflame the situation, it’s going to ignite into something far worse than a handful of unhappy kids.” Warned Mrs. Carson trying to get the little stuffed shirt dictator to see reason and not respond rashly.
“What’s your game here lady? You’re the one who issued an alert about this group in the first place,” the Security guard now trying to intimidate the heroine by forcing her into backing down. “Now you're saying we should just cut em loose an let them run willy-nilly all over the place. Why should I believe you?”
“I made a mistake, I misread a situation, mistook their intentions,” admitted Lady Astarte. “Sadly it started a chain reaction, which needs to be stopped now before it becomes a disaster.”
“How do I know you haven’t been compromised too? Like them cops and that other fella they brought in, so’s the doc’s can root around inside their noggins, ta figure out how come they’s acting all highfaluting an such. Hope the Doc’s are finally gonna be able to stop another mutant overlord before he gets ta takin over the world, like them nutcases in Karedonia and Wallachia.”
“It was a mistake! Gods, how many times is this going to jump up and bite me? I let my emotions cloud my judgement, I over-reacted. Okay?” Explained an emotionally charged Mrs. Carson. “My school was in danger! Hell, for all I knew the sky was falling. I ended up blaming a bunch of kids - who it turns out, had only sought to be helpful.”
“I’m not the one to make that call,” sloughed off the Security donkey. “You better talk to Doc Michaels, Dr. Otto gave the assessment of this bunch over for him to handle. My boys are getting into position, an itching to go, so we’re not going to wait long. If’n you’re hoping to find a hearing ear, best speak to Michaels soon.”
“Where might I find Doctor Michaels?”
“Ask at reception, I ain’t no tour guide. He’ll be one of the doctors given your little group of renegades a working over.”
“Out of curiosity may I ask, How many of your people are unaccounted for?” Requested Mrs. Carson.
“Nobody’s missing at last count.” Informed the uniform, unconcerned about the meaning of what he just said.
Cameron stood transfixed watching the constant turmoil which defined the black ooze’s existence, it rolled and boiled like hot water in a stovetop pot. The goop looked alive, yet it destroyed anything it came into contact with. It was a puzzle: it looked like negative energy, while positive energy supported life, death fed negative energy, but this stuff wasn’t dead.
Everyone talks about renewable energy, if they could only see the world like Cameron, how life brings energy in and uses it to grow - only for it to eventually come to an end at death, then that energy returned, enriched matter restoring and replenishing, just a great big cycle.
However, all matter, and hence all energy, all that exists - must be kept in balance, the black goop skewed the scales. It was negative energy but it didn’t return to its rightful place so restoration couldn’t happen. It held negative energy captive - hoarded it, abused it, it was a perversion, it was against the universes rules. Cameron kept watching the dark enshrouded Were within the cell before him, he shuddered at how repulsive it looked, it demanded by its very existence that you not look upon it. It was vile, evil, the enemy of all who live - at least it should, why would someone do this to another?
How simple it would be to eradicate this beast, snuff it out of existence. If only there wasn’t a life wrapped up inside the filth, something - someone worthwhile. Life choices are never easy.
Cameron consoled himself that his role was not to choose who lives or dies, only to uncover that which is hidden. He’d checked Warehouse twice now for the materials needed to make an energy absorbing ball, some way to reclaim the woeful sight before him. His store of needed materials was completely expended, all used up, he had nothing left with which to make even one black ball.
Of the options available left to him, that is to say, ways which he could use to free the Were held prisoner within the ooze, Cameron kept coming up blank. That is to say, any options which didn’t expose him and the others down here to great danger. It’s just that the last thing Cameron wanted to do was to leave the poor creature as is, it grieved him, but that was all he could do at the moment.
The voodoo wolf continued its endless pacing, completing yet another circuit within its small confinement. Snarling and growling at being confined, something which the two agreed upon.
Cameron returned to his cell, he had little doubt that his captors would react soon. Whatever happened next would reveal much about everybody's intentions, and what was held in store for him. Cameron once more checked upon the injured men who he had inhibited so as to remain unconscious. Cameron staged a mock disaster in front of his cell to keep his involvement hidden.
To further confound his captors, Cameron put a reflective layer over his cells windows which prevented anyone spying upon him. If it was his tormentors wish to see him suffer, he wasn’t willing to oblige.
It didn’t take all that much time before Cameron detected activity within the elevator shaft, as a small group of men clad in military garb rappelled down into view. The small vertical tunnel didn’t afford room for more than two men at a time to descend, as it was, they came down one after the other. So the four men looked like a chain of monkeys as they lowered themselves down.
Once the first of the series of men arrived at the shaft’s bottom, a single bright light was flashed up the shaft, once given, the signal resulted in all power getting cut-off to the subterranean prison. Darkness always seems to be the first step for any incursion into a dangerous situation, giving an advantage to wearers of night vision goggles, which the four men had donned.
Light or dark made no difference to Cameron, since his ability to see changed little between them. Cameron had noticed that the lights used down in these tunnels were low voltage, and had been a poor source of energy to draw upon.
A couple grenade type explosives got tossed into the hallway, Ken Tallman called them ‘Flash-bangs’, used to disorient anyone in the immediate vicinity with an intense bright light followed by a loud concussive noise. They went off as intended, but what wasn’t expected was the remaining hint of knockout gas mixed with acetylene. It resulted in a fireball igniting which rolled along the roof of the cavern. A bit bigger an entrance than the commandos had planned, one that depleted the oxygen available.
The commandos stumbled into the hallway in pairs, getting past the lift basket which had been wedged sideways into the shaft, the single entry point presented them a challenge with limited space to maneuver within. If it had been intended to be an orchestrated advance, it ended up looking like they were tripping over their own shoelaces. But to be fair, any explosion tends to disorient, even if they were the ones who set it off.
The commandos eventually got themselves co-ordinated, they would secure a position until reinforced, then the next who arrived aided by the night vision goggles, moved further into the midnight black which the prison tunnel had become.
Cameron observed his visitors, each of the commandos wore protective armament as part of their assault gear, bullet proof vests with attached straps that machine guns hung off. In their hands they held pistols, additional ones strapped into holsters along with sheaved knives and other bits of nastiness. Most of them carried explosives as well as other assorted nicknacks.
What stood out most to Cameron was that nobody had names anywhere visible, except for those names which had been sewn inside, strange how people are offended over sharing underwear. The other odd thing was that no identifier was present, it looked like flags had been worn at one time but must have been removed. So this was likely repurposed gear, surplus maybe, it wasn’t all the same either, like they each got to pick and chose what to use.
However, from how they acted, they were used to getting and giving orders, by the way they moved it screamed that these guys had probably been trained by the military, but now working as hired guns, missionaries … or is that mercenaries. You say tom-at-oe, I say to-ma-toe.
After the commandos gave the whole place a quick once over, one of the group moved off and began a more determined sweep, checking door locks to ensure all captives remained secure, while another of the commando’s stepped into the elevator shaft and shone up a light to give an all-clear signal. The lights came back on and after a brief wait, thankfully, Cameron could smell fresh air again.
The unconscious men sprawled out on the tunnels floor received more medical attention, a commando wrapped first aid bandages and applied burn ointment to the worst of the injuries. Meanwhile two of the other commandos began to aright the elevator basket, freeing it from being wedged against the walls after the first explosion upset it, they then checked it over to inspect if it could be used again.
Once the basket was safe to use again, the two worst injured men got loaded up and secured into the basket, again a light was flashed to initiate raising the elevator topside. Before the basket rose two commandos climbed up above the full basket, attaching harnesses and clipping carabiners to the cable to get a ride up.
The two remaining commandos stayed near the elevator shaft, with the last injured man laying motionless on the floor. The men stayed alert but remained extraordinarily tense. Cameron did nothing to provoke them, and they kept distant, a fair exchange.
The long process of raising up and then lowering the elevator back down, looked to increase the frustration of these commando’s. Having to wait is an exercise in patience, patience being a trait not many bothered to cultivate. When the basket finally returned it was empty.
The basket was again loaded-up, this time with the last unconscious man propped up like a strung up turkey so a commando could also climb into the basket. The remaining commando straddled the basket, like those before. He sought to balance his weight to prevent the elevator from going askew, then, after a light was shone upward, the basket ascended. It reached a distance up, but then halted, allowing the men to affix explosive charges to the narrow shafts rock walls.
Not long afterwards the basket was lifted out of sight, soon enough however, the prisons lights were turned off. Cameron, and his fellow prisoners again became forcibly engulfed into an ink black darkness, left to succumb to death, one that would deprive a person of the essentials of life.
Cameron noticed that the air in his cells vent had already stopped flowing, he took a deep breath in response, his last intake of fresh air from above. His captors having made their move, doubtlessly a heavy handed play, but it showed the severity of the stakes in the game they played.
Highway near ARC
Ella was uncomfortable to be parked on the roadside sitting in a stolen truck, having to wait ten minutes, for what? A police car to cruise by?
Suddenly the passenger door opened, followed by her dad quickly sitting down on the passenger seat. He didn’t say anything just motioned with his hand that she should get a move on.
They two sat in silence for what felt like an eternity as Ella drove. She would give her father a glance on occasion, not certain if hope or dread occupied the seat beside her.
“Do you know where we’re going?” asked her dad, as conversation openers go it wasn’t indicative of his intent.
“It depends on why you climbed in,” responded Ella not wanting to play games, beating around the bush rarely got you more than a handful of thistles.
“That girl back there got my hackles up,” emoted Ulrich as he looked out the side window avoiding his daughters eyes.
“Oh! Believe me, she’s good at that,” admitted Ella to a fact she had already discovered.
“I’d never considered that a human was part of the equation,” muttered Ulrich, still chewing through a deviation to his life course.
“It surprised me too,” consoled his daughter, who had the benefit of already getting her world turned upside down.
“Is he …?” fielded the senior Oberon, the brevity of his words belied the scope of what he asked.
“He is. Despite being an awkward, goofy, annoying, scrawny, and weak human, the boy is everything the Were have needed to defeat our enemies.”
“Do you trust him?” Ulrich went right to the crux of the matter.
Ella’s voice failed her, for here was her father: an honoured Oberon, a man she revered, asking her, as another Oberon - as an equal, what was the only really important question that mattered. Ella felt hope and the renewal of love grow in her heart. ‘Wait ten minutes!’ She’d been told. ‘Had I know I’d have waited a lifetime, that panther is the most aggravating, frustrating … endearing friend I’ve ever had,’ reasoned out Ella who smiled due to it.
“How can I not?” started to explain Ella. “Sure he’s an enigma, I don’t understand him fully, but he undoubtedly cares deeply about the Were.” She paused hoping her father could understand, then added: “He doesn’t want power, Cameron avoids attention and stays out of the limelight.”
“And what of the Panther?” sought Ulrich, ever the practical man, his question no doubt a result of his dispute with the girl.
“Lynn hasn’t sought a position, she has gone out of her way to stay away from tribal council, so far she has shunned being drawn into leadership,” informed Ella, it was a situation she had noticed and pondered over.
“Why would she deny a place at the table?” as Oberon, he had assumed the couple would assume leadership of the Were, usher in the new age.
“My guess is she’s looking at a much bigger picture,” postulated Ella at the conundrum
“What could be more important that helping the Were?” countered her father.
“I dunno: her boyfriend, saving the world, finishing high school maybe. Take your pick,” sounded out Ella, not having come to an adequate solution herself.
“As long as it’s something worthwhile, something an Oberon can sink their teeth into.” Ulrich Oberon smiled, showing some extended canines.
Ella smiled too, she had her father back.“Glad for the company.”
“So, do you know where we’re going or not?” asked Ulrich, ready for an adventure.
“Nope, but it’s going to be a heck of a ride,” assured Ella.
Elizabeth Carson followed the nurse escort provided by the much more reasonable people at Arkham’s reception counter, although tailed by two security guards. It was a better prospect than her earlier encounter with those running the show. The headmistress was curious as to why Dr. Otto and her usual contacts at Arkham weren’t involved directly. A mystery to be sure.
Mrs. Carson followed as she was lead down a series of corridors until reaching an examination room in a far wing of the large complex. Her guide halted in front of a door simply labeled Exam Room 6, and the nurse used her pass card to unlock the extra security measure enacted. The nurse motioned for her to enter while the nurse remained outside, meanwhile the two security guards took position on either side of the doorway.
Entering the examination room the heroine took stock of the situation inside the room, seated in a horseshoe arrangement of couches was five people, three dressed in patient grab the other two wearing doctor whites. Behind the couches stood two more white cloaked doctors who spoke while sipping coffees.
A tall drink of a man wearing patient clothes approached from off the couch, he had a familiarity to him.
“Mrs. Carson,” enthused the man. “It has been a long time since I was a student in your English class. You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Marcus Johnson!” her earlier briefing and memory coalesced. “I see you’ve filled out some at last, you were such a bean pole as a lad we feared a stiff breeze would upend you. Still causing trouble I see.”
Marcus Johnson tutted at the rebuke, “Come now Mrs. Carson, When was I ever the cause of trouble?”
Mrs. Carson caught the glint of amusement in the man’s eye, “If I’m not mistaken, there are still flecks of fluorescent pink paint on old Noah Whateley’s statue.”
Marcus reeled at the insinuation, “Shocking bit of vandalism that, did they ever catch the perpetrators?”
Mrs. Carson from all her years as headmistress knew a guilty party when she saw one, but what could she do. “As yet, still another unsolved mystery conspicuously arising from the time Percy Lund and yourself spent at Whateley.”
A warm smile broke across Marcus’ face, “Purely a coincidence I assure you.”
Finally the situation dawned upon Mrs. Carson, these truly weren’t troublemakers, they were in trouble, in need of an ally. “Of course, silly of me. And now that you’ve become a fine upstanding member of society, what is your involvement with the present fiasco?”
Marcus sensed the underlying tone, “Ma’am, I am at a loss to explain this institute’s fascination in my companions and I. So far we have been subjected to rather invasive mental probings. From the results of which, it appears these folks have a great deal of interest focused upon our common association with Cameron Burke.”
The comment heightened the attention of the doctors, initiating one of them to approach, a shorter bald man with wire rim glasses cleared his throat with an ‘Ahem’, his manner and posture implied some annoyance at not being duly included, slighted by Elizabeth’s choice to not address him first. “I don’t wish to intrude, but I must ask; why are you here Mrs. Carson?”
Mrs. Carson quickly attempted to disband a perceived affront, “My apologies, it is always a treat for a teacher to catch up with former students.” Graciously spoke the headmistress. “Would you be Dr. Michaels?”
“I am.” The way the Doctor inflated showed how much he cared about appearances, and how large an ego he carried.
“Doctor, I am here acting as a liaison for the youth who have cordoned themselves off in Arkham’s kitchens,” informed Mrs. Carson revealing her purpose.
Dr. Michaels: “You’ve spoken with them?” seeking clarification, trying to get a feel for her allegiance.
Mrs. Carson: “Yes, they wish to be allowed to return home.” Condensed the headmistress to simplify the situation.
Dr. Michaels: “Indeed,” scoffed the man. “And I suppose this is to happen without benefit of a psychological assessment from this facility?”
Mrs. Carson: “They are not willing subjects.” Which highlighted a point of contention, the doctor winced at hearing an objection.
Dr. Michales: “That’s not an issue to be concerned with, they are victims of an insidious mental coercion, to let them leave would be a gross endangerment of society, not to mention the risk it presents for themselves.”
Mrs. Carson: “They’re Canadian, and just wish to return home. Couldn’t you let them go, or maybe hand them over to Canadian authorities, let it become their problem?” It was a reasonable solution as ARC has offices in Canada. As intermediary, Elizabeth was looking to find middle ground.
Dr. Michaels: “No, No! That just won’t do.” From his reaction, he was appalled at the very idea. “The problem goes beyond borders, we are facing an unclassified mutation, one that must be carefully studied and documented. So far the number exposed is small, but the depth of mental affliction is unlike any telepathy we’ve ever encountered.” It was obvious to Elizabeth that the man was hiding something, still he was playing his cards close to his chest, with this guy it felt like two and two equaled seven.
Dr. Richmond: “All evidence is pointing to a type of psychic mutant who can twist the fabric of reality itself. These three men have each related accounts while under observation that simply cannot be construed as possible. The fallacy they purport to have witnessed is now so ingrained into their psyche, it could take months, perhaps up to a year of therapy to dislodge. I agree with Michaels, we need access to the source if we hope to help these people.” A coconspirator if Elizabeth had ever heard one.
Mrs. Carson: “You’re saying they need psychiatric help. That they are all part of some mass - what? Conspiracy? Illusion? And Cameron Burke is to blame?”
Dr. Richmond: “It is fortuitous that you discovered this malignancy, and thankfully brought it to our attention. Until we can examine how this compulsive behaviour was instigated, we can’t undo the damage. It is imperative we have immediate access to Mr. Burke. Will you tell us where he is?”
Mrs. Carson: “I don’t know his whereabouts. I had assumed he would have been brought here with his friends.”
Dr. Michaels: “Too bad, I’m afraid without patient zero at our disposal, we must keep his known associates contained.”
Mrs. Carson: “Because of this mental conditioning? How does it manifest?”
Dr. Richmond: “It appears in each subject has a belief that some incredible event occurred, some miracle performed to or in front of them. A notion has been mentally implanted fully convincing them that this actually happened, despite it being scientifically impossible.”
Mrs. Carson: “Couldn’t that be attributable to faith?”
Dr. Michaels: “Mrs. Carson,” tsked the man in disdain. “We are men of science, we do not believe in fairy tales like some primitive ape. If something is unknown to us, it is only because we have not examined it thoroughly enough to quantify it. Mr. Burke might have a few tricks up his sleeve, but we will expose him, it is our solemn duty.”
Dr. Richmond: “Tell me Mrs. Carson, have you had direct interaction with Cameron Burke?”
Mrs, Carson: “On two occasions, neither had been very productive.”
Dr. Richmond: “How so?”
Mrs. Carson: “I spoke with him in my office once, it resulted in a misunderstanding. Recently we had an argument at my school’s gate, again another misunderstanding.”
Dr. Michaels: “At any time, had his eyes been uncovered?”
Mrs. Carson: “I’ve never seen his eyes. I understand they glow.”
Dr. Michaels: “I recommend you undergo an evaluation just to be safe. Dr. Richmond, would you do the honours?”
It was only ten minutes later that Mrs Carson was released from being interviewed - interrogated, it wasn’t what she had expected. As she came out of the interview room, she was directed over to the couches where the three men had remained sitting. All the doctors then formed a huddle, holding a private conversation between themselves.
Elizabeth found the three men relaxing, spread out over the couches waiting for a verdict to be made. It surprised Elizabeth to see them act so calmly, to be cooped up, treated like guinea pigs. It showed a level of restraint unexpected from a group of extremists, her first impression of the group back at Whateley.
Roche the barrel chested French Canadian Brick, had laid back on the couch and fallen asleep, his feet propped up on the coffee table. Ken Tallman; a handsome first nation man was, for his part, engrossed in a worn and tattered magazine. Elizabeth doubted he was truly engaged in something so obviously boring, it was no doubt an act to deflect attention. Curiously, Elizabeth’s focus fell upon Marcus Johnson, who was amusing himself by humming music and tapping in time on the armrest he leaned against, but it was his eyes, those constantly scanned the room and all those within.
Sitting down, Mrs. Carson chose the open spot at the end of Roche’s couch, across from Marcus. Once comfortable she leaned forward and spoke in conspiratorial tones, not wanting to draw the doctor’s dubious attention.
“There’s something seriously wrong here,” confided Mrs. Carson. “It’s nothing more than a witch hunt.”
“You’re a magic user, is that why they set their sights on you?” responded Marcus.
Mrs. Carson looked appalled from the suggestion, then smirked, “I can see that I’m going to have to be careful with that expression around the mystic arts staff in the future.”
“Terminology from a bygone age, to be sure,” smiled back Marcus. “That didn’t take very long, did they find any crazy thoughts when they rummaged around inside your head?”
Mrs. Carson: “I didn’t seem to trigger any alarms, granted I haven’t been in Outlook’s company very much.”
Ken Tallman leaned in closer, making it look like he was getting another magazine, but asking, “You’ve spoken to the kids? How are they?”
Mrs. Carson: “They managed to break out of whatever confinement they had been placed into, then they sealed themselves off in the cafeteria.”
“I can only imagine the mayhem they’ve created.” Sighed the stepparent of three mischief loving children.
Mrs. Carson: “I must admit, for a group of untrained powered youth, they have shown great restraint. I only noticed a single broken window.”
Ken: “What are they thinking? Provoking these people.”
Mrs. Carson: “They have a rather clever plan honestly, by preventing this facility from accessing food preparation. It forces Arkham into a corner, there are plenty of hungry mouths to feed.”
Ken: “I don’t get it. Why did they chose you to speak on their behalf?”
“I volunteered my services, mind you - I first underwent a lie detector test, double teamed by a Psychic and PreCog to demonstrate my sincerity.”
Marcus: “They trust you?”
Mrs. Carson: “I am not your enemy, even though I’ve made mistakes. The fact is, I came to help get you all released.”
Marcus: “That is beginning to feel less and less likely to happen.” It was an admission, gleaned from the snippets he’d overheard.
Mrs. Carson: “Something just doesn’t add up here. Why are they doing this?”
Roche: “Small fish - big pond,” responded the man who remained reclined and still appeared asleep.
Ken: “What do you mean?”
“For a scientist to establish the importance of their work, they need to make themselves irreplaceable. It’s like when a politician gets his name in the news to remain relevant. Or an actor needing more impressive and bigger roles so as to stay popular. Scientists have to make big discoveries in order to get noticed and secure funding.”
Mrs. Carson: “So what is it that they hope to achieve?”
Roche: “To use us as incentive. We are their only connection to an as yet undiscovered ability. They want to get hold of Cameron. These clowns must figure he’ll make them famous, and they’re small enough fish that they aren’t above breaking a few laws to see their name in print.”
Mrs. Carson: “You’re serious?”
Roche: “How many times did each of you get asked where Cameron was? They asked me eight times, think about it - a psychic asking the same question eight times.”
“I was asked four times if I knew where Cameron was.” She mumbled in disbelief at the revelation. “I hadn’t suspected it meant anything important.”
Ken: “So we’re to be held … bait on a hook left to dangle, until they get ahold of Cameron.”
Roche: “I’m tired of waiting around, we gotta bust outta here.”
Marcus: “Al, I feel the same way. But let’s say we broke out, what would these people do to the kids? We need to escape all together, otherwise …”
Roche: “Yeah, I get it. Defusing a hostage situation 101; don’t escalate a confrontation. I just never figured I’d be the one held hostage.”
‘So that’s their solution,' mused Cameron: ‘cut me off entirely: no air, water, food, or energy, supposing I’ll eventually succumb to at least one of those. Overall a pretty sound plan, could even work given enough time, problem is - I’m not ready to die, not here, not like this. Not to mention that I doubt the others they’ve got down here are ready to give up either,’ reasoned Cameron.
‘And here I was hoping they’d at least play a game with me for a while, so I could at least get a feel for who it is up there. Instead they just up and pulled the plug; walked away like a bunch of crybabies, not very sporting of them.’ At that, Cameron opened his cell door and walked down the hallway to investigate those in the next cells.
He watched the first prisoner who was one of the possessed mutants, it was curled up sulking in one of the cell’s dark corners. Its head was near to its knees, with his hands held together over his head, it was making a rocking motion as it cowered from its plight.
Next down the tunnel in the next closest cell was the other avatar, this guy had a large body which was laying upon that cells cot, overall this one was so big he overflowed the bed, arms spilled out and touched the floor. His proportions gave him an inhuman look, more animal in appearance. Not the first time Cameron had seen such distortions, but even so, it grieved the boy.
Cameron was torn, he wasn’t all that keen to letting those two out of their prison cells, even if he didn’t know what they might have done. Just the same the reputations these possessed individuals earned warranted imprisonment. However, Cameron wasn’t judge, jury, nor executioner. Nor was he fool enough to trust them, they could wait.
The third occupied cell down in this dungeon held the psychic, Cameron observed a middle aged man who paced his cell, walking briskly from one end to other - in the dark, he would walk without fear right up to a wall, stop just shy of it, turn, then march to the other side. This man had been incarcerated long enough to become familiar with every inch of his cell. He finished his walking to then drop to the floor to begin a routine of push-ups.
Cameron opened the prison cells door. “Hello,” he called out to the man disrupting his exercises.
“Who are you?” asked the man within the dark cell, halting his push-up in puzzlement.
“I go by Outlook,” responded Cameron.
“Call me John, it’s as good a name as any, I take it you can see in the dark?” The man repositioned himself into sitting cross legged on the floor, facing the direction of Cameron’s voice.
“Yes,” confirmed Cameron. “Why do they have you locked up?”
“I’m psychic, I can read abilities. I was being used to rate mutants before auction. They discovered that I was intentionally underrating mutants, which undervalued them,” informed John.
“They’re selling mutants?” reacted Cameron in horror to the unfolding story into which he’d gotten dumped.
John: “The higher rated an ability, the more they’re worth.”
“Who sells them?”
“I don’t know, I wasn’t told, at least not that I remember. I was only ever part of the auctioning team, until what I was doing was discovered which got me put down here.”
“Describe this auction?”
“New mutants would get brought in and held until an auction was scheduled. I would be used to sort them into appropriate confinement. Then at the auction I would provide a classification and level rating, before the bidding would commence.”
Cameron: “Who would buy a mutant?”
“The bidders came from everywhere; countries, organizations, any agency out there you can name. Many of them are regular customers who would get programs listing which types of mutants would be available to buy. How else do you imagine mad scientists get test subjects, or where evil geniuses find minions. It's how governments source soulless agents to do their dirty deeds.”
Cameron: “But - That’s slavery!”
“All part of the service, once bought a mutant gets a courtesy mind wipe. The auction keeps a stock of psychics on hand, the buyer receives a nice pliable mindless slave to manipulate as needed,” explained John about the procedure used. “Just so you know, The brainwash is extremely effective, I have no recollection about who I am. I could walk past my own family and not know who they are.” He paused for a moment of reflection before adding: “I think it’s the reason why everybody wears masks, so nobody gets recognized.”
“Why did you underrate mutant abilities?”
“I hoped those kids could find a way to escape. Break those bonds and get free.”
“All right John, how do you feel about escaping?”
“I’d like that, very much. But the problem is - there’s only one way out of Hell, in a body bag. Nobody has ever come back from Hell: alive. We’re at the bottom of an old abandoned mine shaft, you just can’t leave.”
“Do you know what’s above us?”
“Some of it, there’s two levels of tunnels lined with cages to hold new mutants, then a third level where the auction is held, I was housed with a bunch of other psychics there. I always imagined a fourth level above that for all the security guards, I just never saw it. But Hell’s only accessed by a singe shaft which is on the bottom level.”
“Good to know. John, would you mind staying put for a short while? There are other prisoners down here with us that I should check on before we start making plans.”
“I can help.”
“Best not, one of them is enshrouded in a black goop that overwhelms people on sight. I should handle that alone.”
“You’re right, I’ve heard of them. One of the bidders who bought plenty of mutants bragged about having some of those as pets. So I’ll stay right here! Would you mind locking the door again?”
Cameron sealed John’s door once he’d closed it, he then stepped over to the last of the occupied cells. The Voodoo Wolf was still circling within the cell, it appeared that it too was unaffected by the absence of light. Cameron formed a sturdy metal wall he could use as a protective shield, he set up a protective shelter behind the cells door. The door could still swing open, yet the newly made wall provided a barrier behind which Cameron could stay out of reach.
Once the security code was entered to unlock the door, Cameron pulled the cell’s door open just a slight amount, then he ducked behind cover. The corrupted Were moved forward cautiously, investigating the change but staying within the cell at first, testing before pushing the door open further. Then the black goop covered Were was gone in a blink, rushing down the corridor to the elevator shaft. It must have sensed how to escape because it quickly began to scramble upward, it formed additional legs with spiked tips, the corrupted beast moved assuredly like a spider as it climbed upward.
It moved so fast that in no time it had reached the explosives, it stepped around the packages without effort avoiding the trap, soon enough it was out of sight. Cameron moved cautiously over to the shaft’s entrance and looked up, the black enshrouded Were had already scaled half the distance and was still making rapid progress.
One problem solved, it might not be ideal, setting a dangerous foe loose, but sometimes you have limited choices with which to work. Whatever might be above, dealing with a Voodoo Wolf on a rampage would certainly be challenging.
Cameron decided to continue keeping his eyes hidden, no point driving those avatars into a frenzy. He opened the door to the first of the possessed avatars, that prisoner was still rolled up in a corner. “Do you want out?” Cameron asked.
“As opposed to?” it whined.
“Staying here,” posed Cameron, shaking his head in disbelief since it should be obvious.
“It’s dark,” it further objected.
“I noticed,” affirmed Cameron.
“Turn on the lights,” more whining coming from the figure who remained in the corner, not helping!
“Not my doing,” explained an increasingly annoyed Cameron.
“Then what good are you?” moped the seriously moody inmate.
“I opened the door,” asserted Cameron, quite ready to close said door again at this point.
“Fat lot of good that does,” it exuded such pleasantry, a real charming individual!
“By all means then, stay here,” stated Cameron, not having found any redeeming qualities to work with.
“Where’s Bobo?” it asked.
“What’s a bobo?” questioned Cameron, not really expecting he'd enjoy the answer.
“My partner, big guy, we got caught and locked up together,” it informed.
“He’s next door,” offered Cameron, sighing at the news the two were in cahoots.
“Why didn’t you say so,” it snapped, arrogance or ignorance wondered Cameron at the Avatar’s comment.
The prisoner unfurled himself, his face was distorted with snout type features like a weasel or ferret, he straightened to show an elongated narrow body and a thin rat like tail. Another unfortunate deviation wrent upon a human body from a spirit inhabiting it. The Avatar moved towards the open door but walked into the wall face first before reaching out to feel for the opening.
“This way,” directed Cameron in the darkness, providing his voice to bring them both to the next cell.
Cameron coded the door to unlock it and swung it open.
“Bobo?” called out the weasel.
After having watched him, Cameron saw for a certainty now from how he acted; definitely a weasel.
“Pascal?” said the large guy inside the cell, sitting upon his cot. “Took you long enough, why’d you turn out the lights?” he demanded. As he stood, it became all the more apparent that he was disproportionately large, sadly misshapen, yet another mutant who got altered from hosting a spirit.
From the overall shape of him he looked like a great bulky grey gorilla, with long arms, patches of bristly hair, wide chest, and a pronounced forehead. He wore the ragged remains of a shirt that was missing sleeves which looked to have been ripped off.
The weasel skulked behind Cameron to avoid the menacing overbearance, but still managed to whine, “Don’t blame me! There was no way to pick the lock. It’s this kid who busted us out.” The weasel even pushed Cameron forward to be the recipient of any angry outburst Bobo might erupt into.
“It’s still dark!” insisted Bobo with a growl.
“Doesn’t bother me,” inserted Cameron.
“Well it drives me crazy!” shouted Bobo. “I can’t see anything.”
“Not much to see,” assured Cameron.
“That’s not the point,” grumbled the large gorilla.
“I’m gonna go let the last guy out of his cell,” informed Cameron as he maneuvered past Pascal to start walking down the tunnel, this situation was unfolding in a manner not to his liking.
Opening John’s cell door again, Cameron called out, “How you doing John?” interrupting the man’s sit-ups.
“A lot better. What’s the plan?”
“I released all the prisoners, there are two others down here with us.”
“What happened to the one in black goop?”
“He took off and climbed up the mine shaft. We’re going to have to do the same, air’s already getting thin.”
“I’ll do my part.”
“Good! Come on, we’ll get organized over at the shaft door.”
Cameron lead the prisoners single file down the tunnel to the open area, stopping in front of the mine shaft entrance. It still wouldn’t be productive to show them his glowing eyes, having to contend with two raging avatars in a confined space was not a problem Cameron needed to deal with at present. One problem at a time, best way to keep moving forward, he kept his visor on.
After checking the scant contents of the drawers in the small kitchen, and finding nothing useful, Cameron brought out from his own cupboard a small bundle of emergency wax candles along with a packet of matches. He handed these to John, who with difficulty managed to strike a match and light one of the candles, abating the darkness to some small measure with the single flame.
As soon as there was light Bobo roared, scattering those in proximity. He stalked John, pushing him back against a rock wall then forcefully grabbing the lit candle, demanding that the remaining bundle also be handed over to him. Bobo then began to order Pascal around, having him collect the acetylene torch’s air lines up, as he assessed the shaft and pushed away anyone who interfered. Cameron and John being disregarded as offal, not to be included in his escape plan.
The gorilla and the weasel began to prepare themselves for an ascent, using the hose from the cutting torch, they tied it around themselves. They started by standing back to back, wrapping the hose around their chests so arms and legs could be used to climb with.
They moved at a snails pace, attempting to coordinate movement. By pressing both pairs of legs against the shafts wall, then using arms to shift themselves up a few inches at a time, it was ungainly and awkward, but they did make progress, however not without slipping now and again thereby losing ground.
It was painful to watch, and listen to, the further up they went the more angry the gorilla became. Bobo shouted loudly at his partner Pascal, who made whimpering sounds. Cameron shouted up to them: “Watch out for boobytraps!” His caution was ignored, aside from a steady stream of curses, there was no indication his warning had been heeded.
It took a long time for the two to have gotten some distance, John sat quietly on the floor, listening as the sound faded, with it went his best hope for escape, going without him. Cameron took off his visor letting the cast light illuminate the tunnel, much to John’s surprise. The reveal pushed back the darkness to show just how dire the situation was.
“You didn’t want those two to know?” questioned John.
“No point in antagonizing them, I suspected they would only be interested in saving themselves,” supplied Cameron. “We should move away from the shaft.”
“Why?” John asked in puzzlement.
Cameron detailed the situation. “Some explosives got placed in the shaft, Those two are so clumsy, I’m certain they’ll set them off.”
“Shouldn’t we stop them?” enthused John.
“I tried to warn them, sometimes that’s all that can be done. I can’t prevent people from exercising their free will, even when possessed,” explained Cameron.
Cameron brought John into his modified cell, offering him what food he could from his meagre stores. It wasn’t long before a bang shook the hard rock prison, followed by a huge amount of black rock collapsing into the shaft, spilling out onto the prison’s floor. It was as Cameron feared, Bobo and Pascal had gotten up to the explosives and triggered them.
Cameron and John stepped out into the debris field that had spread out over the tunnel’s floor and completely choked up the narrow entrance. The explosion resulted in blocking up the mine shaft, huge sections of rock dislodged and now sealing up the only exit.
To make matters worse, a large hand stuck out from underneath tons of black rock, it quivered briefly. Cameron sighed at the futility of attempting a rescue. Instead he brought out his sword, the bright golden light acting like a brilliant beacon, the blade thrust deep into the pile of rock. When Cameron lifted it out, speared onto the blade was a wraith.
The wraith screeched and writhed, it was very much alive, the host not so. Cameron formed an oblong egg shaped vessel from the black rock. It stood about three feet high and was supported by the rock laying around. Within the egg Cameron materialized a thin gold lining no thicker than tinfoil, but it made the innards bright as it reflected the light from the boys eyes.
Then, Cameron swiftly stuffed the wraith into the vessel, withdrawing his sword as he sealed up the egg. When Bobo’s exposed hand went still, Cameron repeated the process.
Cameron joined John, sitting at an uncluttered space against a tunnel wall, they looked across at the two eggs, visible in the glow from Cameron’s eyes. John looked at the two odd shaped containers, silent in contemplation until stating:
“It looks like Bobo had a booboo.”
“I tried to warn them,” admitted Cameron feeling sorrow and sorry at life’s cruelty, this is why bad choices are bad.
“I never saw one of those outside a body,” mused John at what had transpired.
“They aren’t supposed to inhabit a person,” confided Cameron. Then added, “It violates free will.”
John mulled the notion around, then asked, “Are they dead?”
“The mutants they inhabited couldn’t be saved, I put those spirits into holding cells to face judgement later.”
“We’re not getting out of here, are we?” asked John as he sized up the situation.
Rachelle: “So what’s our move?”
Lynn: “I’m guessing you’ve sensed that Mrs. Carsons efforts are proving futile?”
“She hasn’t gotten any traction, nobody’s listening to her, they aren’t taking her - us seriously. Security has just received orders to move in. How are we going to stop an incursion?”
Lynn: “We don’t. Mrs. Carson was a long shot at best; I calculated she had only a twenty percent chance of success. But you have to admit: she did try.”
Timothy: “So you had us put our hopes in a dead end?”
Lynn: “Where there’s hope there’s always a chance, so don’t ever give up hope.”
Charlotte: “What are we supposed to do in now?”
Lynn: “The avenues left open to us have narrowed down considerably, but we’ve still got options.”
R.E.D.: “How do you mean?”
Lynn: “As it so happens, we have three viable possibilities: Stand and fight, run and hide, or bluff our way out.”
Rachelle: “Which has the …”
Lynn: “Greatest potential for success - you would ask that.”
Rachelle: “So I like knowing the odds.”
“Okay, it breaks down this way: Fighting them off is a fifty/fifty proposition at best, it could work but three of us will suffer injuries necessitating medical attention - that outcome will require turning ourselves in so we can get help. As for running and hiding, that would result in us needing to separate, since we don’t know which direction to head, we will eventually lose contact with each other and wander aimlessly until most of us are re-captured.”
Timothy: “But some of us would get away?”
“Yes: Although R.E.D. would end up starting a forest fire, which leads to being subjected to a federal manhunt across three states before getting captured and imprisoned. However, Timothy, you would make it back to Canada at the expense of your sisters capture.”
Rachelle: “What about you?”
Charlotte: “Yeah, you haven’t said nothing about yourself?”
“I succeed to escape in each scenario, that is the nature of precognition. But you are my friends, I’m not willing to leave you in the lurch.”
Rachelle: “I’m sorry I doubted you.”
R.E.D.: “Me too.”
Timothy: “All of us.”
Rachelle: “What about the guys? We can’t leave without Marcus.”
R.E.D.: “And Roche and Ken, they are … family.”
Lynn: “That is where bluffing our way out is perhaps our best option. If we do it right, there is a window for us all to escape.”
R.E.D.: “So - how do we do it?”
Charlotte: “Bluff our way out.”
Lynn: “I’m open to ideas.”
Timothy: “Wait, What? You tell us we can bluff our way out, and not know how?”
“Precognition is like standing in a room of mirrors, each mirror is a reflection of yourself after having made a single choice, once taken then all the mirrors shift to the next now. The problem is figuring out which choice gives you the best outcome.”
Rachelle: “No wonder I can’t get a read on your mind, it’s always in flux.”
R.E.D.: “Hence the word flummoxed?”
Lynn: “It can be so confusing and frustrating having to look at hundreds of thousands of possibilities, it’s so much easier to give directions to someone else if they make the choice.”
R.E.D.: “Someone like Cameron?”
Lynn: “Sure, he has such a defined sense of morals. With him, I just get to be a compass and point him in the right direction.”
Charlotte: “Are you really going to marry him?”
“I’d like to, in time, if he’ll have me.”
Rachelle: “That sounds like a whole lot of maybe, for someone who see’s the future that is.”
“Every decision has the potential to go entirely wrong, I can only try and nudge things along. What I do know is, that there are many paths where Cameron and I share a future, but there are some that don’t end up so well. So I am paddling the currents of time trying to arrive at a good outcome.”
R.E.D.: “How do you know what a good outcome is?”
Lynn: “People don’t die, or, at least, as few as possible. I’ve found that’s the best I can hope for, I can’t save everyone.”
Charlotte: “So, when we escape, will anyone die?”
Lynn: “Do you want somebody to die?”
Charlotte: “No, I mean I’m not happy that we’ve been locked up, but I don’t want to kill anybody.”
Lynn: “Good, I hope that’s an agreeable outcome with everyone.”
Timothy: “I think I speak for everyone, we don’t want to stay, and we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
“That gives me something to aim for. Now then, who’s got a brilliant idea on how we blow this popsicle stand.”
Charlotte: “I didn’t get a popsicle,” said with puppy dog eyes and pouty face.
Rachelle: “It’s just an expression.”
Timothy: “I’d like a popsicle too,” met with rolled eyes from his twin sister.
R.E.D.: “Cherry! I like cherry.”
Lynn: “Not helping people! Once we get out of here, we’ll all find some nice popsicles to celebrate with.”
Charlotte: “I saw an episode of Scooby-Doo where he and the gang dressed up like ghosts to catch the guys who also dressed up like ghosts so they couldn’t tell who was who.”
“Let me be perfectly clear, at no time, is anyone - ever - going to compare me to a dog. I am a cat, a beautiful midnight black panther, a creature of cunning and mystery and nobility. Nobody’s ever to confuse an obviously brilliant, stealthy, ferocious panther with some idiot dog that idolizes food.”
Timothy: “You seemed mighty taken with tapioca pudding earlier,” which earned him a glare from the Werecat.
R.E.D.: “And what? Does that make me Shaggy then?” harrumphed the tall exemplar girl at the unwelcome insinuation.
Charlotte raised her hand and requested, “Can I be Daphne?”
Rachelle: “Focus people. Let’s not put the horse before the cart.”
R.E.D.: “Umm, I thought that’s where you’re supposed to put the horse.”
Lynn: “Does anybody have a better idea than some harebrained scheme stolen from a Saturday morning cartoon?”
Rachelle: “Actually, Charlotte might be onto something,” even if it was admitted with chagrin.
Charlotte: “Oh goody, I get to be Daphne.”
Rachelle: “No, I mean disguising ourselves. Besides, if anyone looks like Daphne, it’s me.”
Charlotte: “You don’t look good in Purple.”
Rachelle stuck out her tongue at her younger sister, to which she received the same in reply.
Timothy: “Do you honestly want me to be the voice of reason?”
Lynn: “We have ten minutes, tops, before they bust down doors and come for us. We need a plan!”
Rachelle: “If we stick close together, I might be able to deflect attention away from us.”
R.E.D.: “You suggest we hide in plain sight?”
Rachelle: “Sorta, have you ever seen how they do special effects in movies, when the actors stand in front of green screens?”
The girl received mixed affirmation about what she meant.
Rachelle: “Right, well, I can confuse people’s perceptions so they don’t see me.”
Charlotte: “So that’s how come you always win playing hide and seek. You cheated!”
Rachelle: “I can try to make it so nobody notices us.”
R.E.D.: “Are you sure it will work?”
“Well, I’ve only ever done it with myself before, but with a boost from Charlotte, and as long as nobody wanders off, I think it’s possible.”
Timothy: “There’s a cupboard full of tablecloths, would it help if we were covered?”
Rachelle: “Yeah, that would be good, there would be less to mask - but … how do we convince them that we’re not here in the first place.”
Lynn: “Decoy’s! We need to give them something to capture that’ll hold their attention, so they don’t suspect anything.”
R.E.D.: “Everybody head into the kitchen, select an object to act as a decoy.”
Charlotte: “Why?” Asked the confused girl.
R.E.D.: “Those objects are going to be our proxies, when they storm us, Rachelle will convince them that they have captured us, take our proxies, leaving us alone.” Summarized the tall girl, her flame strobed hair increasing in frequency at the prospect of action.
Charlotte: “I’d rather open up a big ol’ can o’ whup a…”
Rachelle: “Excelle, we talked about that. There’s too great a probability that someone would get injured, not everyone is super-strong like you, so they can get hurt, badly. Besides, it’s your idea.”
Charlotte: “Oh! That wouldn’t be good, So does this mean I get to be Daphne after all?”
Rachelle: “Fine, you’re Daphne, I’m Velma, and Tim is Shaggy.”
Timothy: “Hey, If anything I’m a Fred.”
Charlotte: “I was thinking R.E.D. since it sorta rhymes with Fred.”
R.E.D.: “I am unsure if that is acceptable or not, I always cheered for the dog.”
Charlotte: “It’s settled then.”
Lynn: “If Rachelle can hold up the illusion long enough, we can walk right out the door without anyone realizing.”
R.E.D.: “What do we have to do?”
Rachelle: “Once everyone has found something that has some weight to it, bring it here, that will help convince them it’s us.”
A search was made in the kitchen, sacks of flour, rice and potatoes got selected as good replacements for Charlotte, Rachelle and Lynn, R.E.D chose three large watermelons which she skewered onto a broom handle.
Timothy found a large burlap bag and filled it with pots and pans, using towels to lessen the noise. All the mock teenager dummies got placed in the lunch room to draw security’s attention. Charlotte used a marker pen to draw faces on the decoys to contribute to the deceit’s effectiveness.
Lastly, once ready, they had Charlotte float up at head height so they could drape tablecloths over her, then R.E.D. would move Charlotte around slowly allowing the others to stay huddled underneath while Rachelle blocked them from view.
As they waited for the room to be breached, Charlotte began to giggle, causing the tablecloths to wiggle, resulting in her siblings shushing her.
“I can’t help it,” complained Charlotte.
Timothy: “What’s gotten into you?”
Charlotte: “I was just thinking: it’s curtains for us.”
Her comment won a few groans and chuckles, however the mood changed quickly when the attack happened. Riot gear clad people stormed the room, breaking down doors, smashing through windows, they showed no mercy.
Tranquilizers got fired at the decoys, When R.E.D. peaked through a small opening in the linens, she was furious to see that someone had shot her proxy between the eyes. A tranquilizer dart was sticking into the face Charlotte had drawn on the watermelon.
Rachelle retained her deep concentration, aided by Charlotte touched her sister providing both an emotional and power boost. Rachelle focused upon all who had entered the room in order to implant a mental illusion. As far as any of the assault team members knew, they had bagged the errant teens without fuss. When the medics showed up, Rachelle went to work on them before they restrained and secured the decoys onto gurneys.
The room slowly emptied as the different staff members finished their tasks, it was however left a horrible mess, tables and chairs strewn every which way. Giving oversight, Security flashed badges and gave exuberant high-fives to each other, pride at a job well done. As porters finally arrived to clear the scene, the time had come for stage two of the teens’ plan.
The gurneys got wheeled out of the room, the cue for the gang to leave. Even from the heightened anxiety of the moment no one had paid any attention to that one section of the room. Now huddled behind the wall of material, the teens anticipation of being discovered grew, and they fought to keep silent.
But the teens remained unseen, Rachelle with her expanded abilities, fooled everyone; it was as if there was a blank void that didn’t bear investigating. As a result, if someone did look towards them their eyes got drawn elsewhere. After the first rush of activity in the room, and once the cluster at the doorway too had abated, the gang shuffled further along down hallways. Long corridors indicating how massive this facility was unfolded as the gang followed the decoy laden gurneys.
It had taken some teamwork to finally get everyone into step and move as one, but once accomplished, Rachelle could sustain the mental mirage. The gurneys ahead of them finally arrived at a small open area, the orderlies standing at the ready while three more of the movable tables joined the procession. These held the sedated Ken and Marcus, and a disgruntled Al who though conscious, had allowed himself to be taken.
Two doctors wearing white coats approached the collection of subjects, with the orderlies snapping to attention. Rachelle redoubled her effort, implanting her compulsion of illusion upon the physicians. The doctors gave the restrained and sedated gurney’s occupants a cursory inspection before providing direction, “Take them to Red Section”.
R.E.D.: “Do we follow?”
Lynn checked the prospects, then whispered, “No. I don’t see us succeeding if we do. They are being taken to a high security zone.”
Rachelle: “I’m not going to be able to keep this up, too many minds are getting added.”
Lynn: “We won’t be able to escape if we go there. Our best hope is to come back for them later. We’ve lost our window.”
The group stayed hidden, unmoving, taking shallow breaths to minimize revealing their position. Waiting with heavy hearts they hated to consider how, despite their best efforts with doppelgängers, their friends were slipping away.
Roche looked right at them from his gurney, and motioned for them to get lost with a free hand, he smiled at them under their disguise, and gave them a thumbs up before he got pushed into an elevator. As the doors closed Roche and the rest of the teens’ friends disappeared from view, ending the hope of reuniting with family, for now.
It was Charlotte who spoke first, the girl who was being used as the drapery’s support beam over who the tablecloths had been draped, asking, “Which way?”
Tim peeked through a crack in the linen cover and he spotted an exit sign posted on a door at the end of a corridor, opposite to the direction the decoys had been taken. “This way” he motioned, and helped move the bundle of cloth at a steady pace down the hall.
The door was closed, but had a panic bar for an easy departure. However, alarm contacts would alert security if the door opened. It took R.E.D. a minute to bypass the wires by melting the security alarm devices off the door. She couldn’t be one hundred percent certain it would work, so asked, “Ready?” to get assent from everyone.
A nod from each was granted, then the door was pushed open. There was no immediate indicator, no loud klaxon sounding, to say it had been unsuccessful. Nonetheless, the youth all sprinted away from the building. In the process most of the tablecloths covering them got shucked, only two being retained to act as outerwear wrapped around Rachelle and Tim’s shoulders.
It was dusk, the sun had set and night was upon them. Charlotte took to the air and did a quick scan of the area from her vantage point, whistling softly to get her teammates attention. She pointed them to a wooded area to give them cover. Tim zipped off doing reconnaissance. He returned to say the whole facility was fenced and they would still need to scale a ten foot high barrier.
Part of the group’s new dilemma centred upon where they would go? Being free was only part of the problem. With no transportation or identification, or even decent clothes, getting home wasn’t going to be easy.
“Might I be of assistance?” called out a hushed yet authoritative voice from above. Through the trees Mrs. Carson came down into view. She landed a few feet from the huddled group that had ducked down when the voice spoke out.
“Is there a town nearby?” asked Timothy
“Do you have shoes? Coats? Money? It’s going to get cold tonight,” admonished Mrs. Carson at the lack of preparation.
The teens looked at each other, realizing they only wore paper slippers and thin cotton pyjamas which ARC had put them into. Even the linens were not helping much to prevent the cold’s creep.
“What do you suggest?” asked R.E.D.
“I can give you a ride, my car is in the parking lot,” offered Mrs. Carson.
“Does it have a heater?” questioned a now shivering Charlotte.
R.E.D. moved in close hugging the cold girl, Flambes’s hands glowing an orange hue to help warm her up.
Rachelle: “Where would you take us?”
Mrs. Carson: “I can offer you protection at Whateley Academy.”
“Rachelle?” asked Lynn, seeking an assurance from the telepath.
“She’s sincere in her desire to help us,” reassured Rachelle.
“It’s not a trap,” foresaw Lynn. “But I won’t make the decision for everyone.”
The impromptu vote taken by the group, had them follow Mrs. Carson to her car. She had parked it in a lonely part of the lot, away from prying eyes and security cameras. The car was a smaller size four door model, it could seat three across the back seat - but they needed to be friendly. The trifecta of trouble, being siblings, climbed into the back, begrudgingly, because Tim had called shotgun.
The front seat had just enough leg room for R.E.D. to squeeze in, but there was no space left for Lynn. All eyes turned to Lynn, who gave a huff then shifted to her house cat sized self, making a display of dissatisfaction as she climbing up onto R.E.D.’s lap.
“Oomph,” exclaimed the level three exemplar. “You’re heavy!”
Lynn gave the fiery haired girl a fierce look with her penetrating green eyes, vocalizing a low long growl. R.E.D made a contrite expression and mouthed, ‘sorry’.
Lynn shifted again, this time into her kitten form. R.E.D. sighed in relief while Mrs. Carson looked on in disbelief, she had never personally witnessed a Were transformation before. Nor had the headmistress ever known that a Were could have multiple forms. What one learns during trying times.
Rachel again masked their presence when the car full of escapees passed thorough the security checkpoint unhindered. Then, into the fading light of day, Mrs. Carson drove. At first conversation was minimal; only after an assurance that no-one had been hurt back at Arkham, did Mrs. Carson stop asking them questions.
However a request for popsicles was made, Mrs. Carson knew better than to ask why. The logic of teenagers would always confound the most scholastically trained minds, she’d tried - goodness knows how she’d tried.
It surprised the headmistress when the tall energizer girl later asked: “I am confused; ‘Scooby’ what does this mean?”
Mrs. Carson: “It’s a jazz reference, it came to mean a smooth musical movement.”
R.E.D.: “I see, interesting. So the dog; Scooby-Doo, he eats many of the Scooby snacks, are these made from prunes?”
Charlotte: “Aren’t they a type of dog biscuit?”
R.E.D.: “Again, pardon the confusion, but I believe the English expression Doo refers to relieving oneself.”
Charlotte: “Oh man, does that ever add a whole new dimension to the character Scrappy-Doo.”
R.E.D.: “Perhaps he needs eating more of the Scooby snacks?”
Mrs. Carson shook her head, she really didn’t want to know the who, what, or whys. But still, she couldn’t help breaking into a smile.
As the car rumbled down the dark roadway into the evening hours, a look in the rearview mirror confirmed to the headmistress that all her passengers had fallen asleep. She took it to be a sign of trust - maybe one of hope too. All it had taken was a handful of popsicles, acquired from a roadside convenience store, excitedly eaten, and now long since forgotten by the weary teenagers in favour of sleep.
Such a small price to pay, who knew olive branches were so cheap.
End, Part 3