VII – Calm Before the Storm
Winnie Nikoli lay on her back for how long, she was not sure, she had lost track of the time. The straps on her ankles and wrist had long ago begun to chaff and turn her skin raw and red. The catheter was more of an irritant than anything else. She longed to get up and walk around. She could feel her muscles beginning to atrophy and turn to slush, unsure what type of cocktail mixture was leaking from the IV and being pumped into her veins. Clacking high heeled shoes marched down the hall and turned inside of Winnie’s room. She did not need to open her eyes in order to know who had come calling.
“Are you ready for your execution, Ms. Nikoli?” asked agent Connor with arms folded. She tried to conceal the grin on her face.
“Won’t make any difference,” replied Winnie.
“On the contrary, Ms. Nikoli. We need this to look as authentic as possible. You will not be moving of course. We have already learned how dangerous that can be. But your body double will be seen as getting shot but she obviously won’t die. She is actually a good friend of mine, Wanda, from accounting. She was surprised when agents approached her to be a body double. Ha, ha, too funny. Anyway, when your son shows up and tries to rescue you, that’s when we will nab him.”
“Good luck,” said Winnie with a grimace.
“I don’t need your luck, Ms. Nikoli. I make my own. We captured you, didn’t we. Sit tight will you,” said Connor with a wry smile and a giggle. “I need to be early in order to grab a good view of your death.”
VIII – The Get Away
Marvel Nikoli watched the attractive young agent walk out of the room, brown curls bouncing as they fell around her shoulders. He dropped silently to the floor. “That lady seems really annoying,” he whispered into this mother’s ear causing her to jump. She likely would have leapt from the bed had she not been strapped down.
“What are you doing here?” replied Winnie in a hushed tone. She tried not to move her lips, unsure if her room was monitored or bugged although it was a high probability.
“I went to visit Foy,” said Marvel.
“Holy hell Marv,” sighed Winnie. “Why in the world would you do that honey?”
Sirens and alarms burst to life as if to answer her question. The short brunette agent came running back into the room nimbly despite the high heels and Marvel saw her eyes widen in shock at seeing him standing in the corner enveloped by shadows. Before agent Connor could speak she received a shot to the chest with a dart which immediately took her into unconsciousness. Marvel unstrapped his mother from the bed. With Winnie now able to move about freely Marvel gave her a boost towards the opening in the ceiling that he had descended from. Once inside the ventilation shaft she pulled Marvel inside. Trying to move as quietly as they could while crawling on all fours, Marvel led the way.
“Let me guess,” said Winnie in a quiet whisper, sweat made tracks through the dust covering her face. “Foy wanted to launch an attack as a diversion and then let you sneak in during the commotion?”
“It sounded like a good idea at the time,” replied Marvel. “Why?”
“That’s the only plan he can ever come up with,” said Winnie with a groan. “Where is the rendezvous?”
“Just up ahead. Get ready to slide.”
Marvel put his hands out in front of him and took a nose dive down a shaft.
Winnie followed after waiting several seconds, giving Marvel time to move and unsure what she would find at the bottom of the ride.
Landing onto the fresh linen of new laundry in the basement of the complex was a pleasant surprise to Winnie. Marvel had moved the cart into position earlier while sneaking through the building. Thanks to the blueprints downloaded to his PDA that was programmed by Kira, he was able to plot a course that would offer the least resistance. Not to mention the fact that the device allowed him to monitor all of the agents in the building and their current location in real time. He watched as they ran and scrambled to and fro.
“Where to?” asked Winnie.
On the PDA Marvel brought up a 3-D, virtual image of the building reminding him of those pop-up picture books he played with as a child. He was able to manipulate the tall, spired building with his fingers. He zoomed into the basement area by pinching the interactive layout with index finger and thumb then slowly pulling the digits apart. The thirty foot wide basement expanse swooped down like a hawk catching prey. The screen showed the empty rectangular cube shaped area with just two green balls of light positioned closely together.
“The two green dots are us,” said Marvel. “According to Foy there should be a package in the north west corner.”
Winnie stalked over to the corner of the room and searched behind the pipes that protruded from the grey stone walls. Searching the area, her hands traversed the wall and pushed in one of the large rectangular bricks. She was rewarded with an audible click. One of the stone blocks slid out like a dresser drawer. Winnie grabbed the back pack from the waist high compartment and unzipped it. She pulled out two, black, waterproof body suits and tossed one to Marv. They each turned around and slipped into the suits. Once they donned the gear it hung lose in several areas.
Winnie was happy to get out of the thin and poorly constructed hospital gown. She pushed the white circular button on the belt of the suit. The suit shrunk around her chocolate colored skin and fit snug like a diving suit. Still inside the hidden compartment were two helmets and two power packs. They each equipped the helmets which sprung to life instantly. The shaded visor could switch between different viewing modes, night vision and infrared. There was a compass and a GPS guided mini-map in the bottom corners of the Heads-Up-Display.
They heard the sound of metal scraping against stone. Marvel and Winnie stared at each other with startled eyes like deer caught in the headlights. They quickly scrambled behind the bins used to transport clothes. Marvel jumped into one of the carts while Winnie stooped behind another, hand concealing the small caliber twenty two pistol in her palm that was also in the hidden compartment.
A sewer cover opened in the middle of the room. Winnie ventured a peek around the corner, curiosity getting the better of her and relief flooded through her at the sight of Foy’s head swiveling above the opening.
“About time,” said Winnie. She sprung from around the cart and shook Marvel as she passed by him.
“Foy, thank the Gods you found us,” said Marvel. He leapt from the bin, leaving a trail of linen sheets in his wake.
“Hurry up,” said Foy. His head disappeared down the hole. “Hop in.”
They practically ran to the opening. Winnie made sure that Marvel went down the ladder first so she could watch to make sure he entered the submersible successfully. As she extended her foot over the edge, double doors on the opposite side of the basement burst open with agent Cheryl Connor at the lead.
“Freeze Nikoli!” shouted agent Conner. Other agents in camouflage body armor raised their guns, taking aim as they dropped to one knee.
Winnie’s eyes widened as she saw what they were about to do. “Okay, okay, I surrender,” said Winnie.
“Take your hands from behind your back,” said agent Connor, approaching cautiously. She pulled a gas mask down over her face as she stepped closer; the other agents did the same. “Where is your son?”
Winnie heard the shouts of protest coming from the hole behind her. She knew what needed to be done. In order to keep her son, Marvel Nikoli safe and away from the government agents forever, there was only one thing left for her to do.
“I said raise your hands!” agent Connor crept forward with the pace of a snail. “Do not try anything stupid. We will drop you before you can even form the thought.”
Winnie slowly raised one hand from behind her back, fingers spread as her hand hovered above her head.
“Now the other one,” demanded agent Connor.
Before the agents could respond, Winnie quickly pulled the small twenty two caliber pistol seemingly from thin air. The last thing she remembered was pulling the trigger as the cold steel aimed at her head.
IX – Victory in Defeat
Beep… beep… beep… Winnie Nikoli knew the sound of the machines must be her funeral anthem. She had awoken to that sound so many times; maybe they played it in hell as part of her punishment to torment her. Opening her eyes preparing to see the familiar tiles of the hospital and to her surprise it was the night sky with stars sparkling. Winnie did not know what to make of her surroundings, never before had the agents brought her outside after capturing her; maybe they were just going to execute her for real this time. She tried to sit up.
“Easy there,” said a familiar voice in her ears. Winnie tried to sit up but something heavy was pressing against her chest. She looked down to see the sleeping head of her son Marvel and the tears burst forth uncontrollably.
“He did not leave your side for one moment,” said Foy. He sat in a chair next to her on the roof.
“What… Where…” the words did not come easy for Winnie.
“Don’t worry about that right now,” said Foy. He handed her a glass of water which she down in a few large, satisfying gulps, water slipping down the sides of her mouth.
“How did I…” Winnie tried to ask but was interrupted with a finger over her mouth.
“You have been asleep for over a week Win,” said Foy, dark brown eyes full of compassion. “It might be easier for me to just show you.” He leaned to the side and picked up a mirror which he handed to Winnie and grasped her hand before allowing her to turn it over and see her reflection. “Brace yourself Win…”
She slowly turned the mirror over, hands shaking and brought it in front of her face. A startling shriek of fear erupted from her lips.
Marvel jumped awake.
Winnie could not believe what she was seeing; the right side of her brain was missing, replaced with metal. She touched the cold steel plate tentatively, tears rolled down her face.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” said Marvel, hugging his mother tightly.
She softly tapped at the plate and was rewarded with a metallic clink in response.
“How…” Winnie finally managed to ask after getting over her initial shock.
“They think you’re dead,” said Marvel. “We pulled you into the submersible before they could grab you. Don’t worry mom, we’re safe now.”
Winnie lay back down on her cot and stared into the night sky with distant twinkling lights. Somehow she allowed herself to smile through the pain and the deformity that was now her face. Tears continued to flow but these were tears of joy as she stroked her son’s curly Mohawk. She thought to herself that he could keep it as long as he liked, as long as they were together.