IV – READ BETWEEN THE LINES
Marvel Nikoli jumped off the rail train well before its next scheduled stop. His shoulder still ached but he shrugged it off with the help of a pain killing nano-capsule. He walked through empty and quiet streets of Stamford. Stopping in a dimly lit alleyway by a hover-bot street lamp suspended ten feet in the air; Marvel pulled the map from his mesh backpack. He knew that he had to get to Gotham in order to find safety. With fifty miles between Stamford and the metropolis that was Gotham he folded the map back into a square and replaced it inside the backpack. On the move again down the deserted streets with square cement blocks and floating robotic lamps that lit up overhead when he neared the motion sensor radius, the smart-bot-lamps flicked on, casting a long and lonely shadow before turning back off to conserve energy. He walked swiftly, expecting to arrive in Gotham by midday tomorrow. The sun made patterns of deep orange and red across the greyish blue sky. Marvel would have to find a place to sleep. His stomach loudly protested the lack of food. He sipped at the water bottle that was in the back pack. It would tough sledding since he had to rely on rations for the next day and a half. With no money and his reluctance to commit theft, the trip would be arduous.
The downtown district of Stamford was like any other city with tall buildings and countless plexi-glass windows. Virtual reality and 3-D billboards hovered in the air. A television with its screen facing the street so passerby’s could catch glimpses of the major news networks. The image on the screen had Marvel’s mouth gaping in shock. The images projected on the paper thin, ninety nine inch screen made him clench his fist at his sides in anger as he fought back tears.
Major news anchor and international celebrity, Roger Luck’s large head and greying hair was on the news. The bobbing head was next to a square image in the top right corner of the screen and contained a mug shot of his mother, Winnie Nikoli. Thanks to the captions scrolling along at the bottom of the screen, Marvel read what Roger Luck was reporting.
“Most wanted fugitive, Winnie Nikoli, has just been captured by secret service intelligence agents and has been convicted in a military court of law. The sentence will be carried out tomorrow at sunset, death by firing squad.”
V – I SEE YOU
Marvel Nikoli easily scaled the roof of the one story building and found an opening on the gravel roof top that would allow entrance to the convenience store; his previously held qualms regarding theft long ago abandoned. After prying open a lock on the triangular roof-window with his butterfly knife he slid down the rope that was tied to a pipe sticking out of the gravel rooftop. Marvel slid down with a practiced ease, touching down on the shining floor tiles silently. He was sure there was no alarm system. He had watched the owner shut down the store and drive home. His conscious made him vow to somehow find a way to pay them back however. Marvel loaded up the black mesh back pack, water and food; roasted cashews were his favorite. He also secured extra batteries and first aid supplies. Finished packing the essential goods, he crawled up the rope with the ease of a centipede.
“Stop,” said agent Conner. “Rewind.”
The surveillance tape being played on a fifty inch flat panel in the convenience stores tiny back room quickly skipped backwards. Marvel Nikoli was now moving quickly in reverse, sliding back down the rope and walking briskly backwards as he took out items from his backpack and returned items to the shelf.
“Stop,” interrupted agent Simpson. “We have seen enough. Thank you for your time mister Wardruff. We will make sure we catch him.” Ali quickly turned on his heels and exited the small store.
Agent Connor said thanks and goodbye and handed over a business card for the owner. She exited the convenience store and informed the local officers that they would no longer be needed on this investigation. They were not happy about being overruled in their own jurisdiction but her badge spoke volumes. She strolled toward the tactical, armor plated hover- SUV suspended several inches above the pavement, floating on blue streams of ion propulsion jets.
Simpson gazed out the window, reclining in the tan brown, plush leather seats with a furrowed brow and his chin resting on his fist, seemingly in deep concentration; the thinking man pose.
The car barely moved as agent Connor entered the vehicle and sat down on the butter soft leather. “So what are you thinking,” asked Cheryl.
“He has to be coming,” replied agent Simpson. “He will likely have seen the news report of his mother’s scheduled execution and he will not allow that to happen. We did a psyche profile on the boy while we had him in our custody. He will come to us.”
“How can you be certain that he will not see through the ruse and decide to stay away,” asked agent Connor. “He might figure that it is a trap. He must know that we need his blood in order to engineer more of the anti-virus.”
“Even if he does suspect a trap, he will still want to get his mother away from us and the doctors and the hospitals. It is one of the things that he confessed that he and his mother hate with a passion about their blood condition, the endless stream of doctors and hospitals. He was probably already planning to come pay us a visit and rescue his mother but now with this, we know the timeline has been sped up.”
“Well then… we will need to prepare,” said agent Connor.
“Exactly,” said agent Simpson. His dark eyes finally looking at Cheryl and her deep green pupils dilated as she diverted her gaze after catching a glimpse of the destruction that Ali Simpson was willing to unleash in order to recapture Marvel.
VI – Enemy of My Enemy
Four knocks, followed by three quick, light taps in rapid succession would alert the people behind the dark grey metal basement door that Marvel was an ally, as long as the password had not changed.
A small rectangular viewing port slid open in the middle of the door and hard, dark brown eyes stared out into the hallway at Marvel. When the brown orbs finished surveying the character in front of him he nearly cursed in shock and realization, eyes widening.
“I don’t believe it,” said Foy Charleston with a gasp. He quickly slid the viewing window shut.
Thick, heavy locks un-turned and un-latched on the inside of the thick metal door with several dents and a dull finish. The door opened and a wide smiling, six feet three bald head man grabbed Marvel and yanked him inside of the room. Foy stuck his head out into the abandon streets of the sunny afternoon and looked around to make sure no one was watching or following and then slammed the door shut and locked it. Foy turned around and wrapped Marvel in a fierce hug.
“It’s good to see you again lad,” said Foy. He held Marvel at arm’s length, hands tightly gripping the young teen’s shoulders. “Look at you. You’re almost as big as me. Last time I saw you, you were a little thing still pulling on mum’s apron strings. Where is Win anyway?”
“That’s why I’m here,” replied Marvel in a grave tone. “They got her. She sacrificed herself to get me out. I need your help.”
“Come quickly,” said Foy. “Follow me to the basement.”
Marvel visibly released the knots in his muscles ever so slightly at the excitement of being around trusted friends after a slow yet constant jog fifty miles through the night in order to reach Gotham. He stumbled as he ducked into a hidden corridor located near a fire place in the den. Foy was there to catch him.
“We gotta get some food in you,” said Foy.
“No time,” replied Marvel. He straightened with a cracking in his young bones that made him feel older than just fifteen. “We will need to move soon. Her execution is scheduled for 6:00PM today.”
“What the hell!” exclaimed Foy. “That’s only five hours from now.”
Descending a flight of tightly curving stairs lined with concrete walls they emerged onto a balcony. Just over the edge of the railing was a deep twenty foot expanse with a concrete floor, computers lining the east and west walls while rows of cubicles were set up in the middle of the room.
Foy walked over to a small shaft elevator. Marvel followed and closed the chain link fence acting as a door and they descended to the bottom. When the elevator came to a stop, Foy cupped his hands in front of his mouth and made cawing bird sounds that carried around the room. Heads appeared from closed doors and popped over the makeshift cubicle walls. Marvel was unsure how large this place could have been but then again he was surprised to find this under a seemingly normal two story family home, the size of the place was deceiving.
“Kira, I need you to scan the local and international news channels for anything on a high priority target, Winnie Nikoli,” said Foy to a young woman in glasses at the cubicle closest to the elevator. She nodded a quick and wordless reply then the crème colored skin woman with a shadow of pink fuzzy hair on her shaved head ducked below the office dividers. A clacking away at the keys was the only other sound in the basement expanse besides the low hum of electronic equipment.
“What’s going on?” asked a lanky caramel skinned man, who was six foot five wearing a well fitted grey suit; Marvel thought it resembled a Halloween costume.
“Here,” said Foy. He placed a hand on Marvel’s shoulder, “is a longtime friend of mine and he is in need of some serious help.”
“Sir,” shouted Kira. Her closely shaved head popped up from behind the cubicle wall. “You are going to want to see this.”
A stream of people flooded the cubicle, tightly packed together trying to view the thirty inch computer monitor that sat on a wooden desk. An article was displayed with the headline, Wanted Chemical and Biological International Terrorist Captured. A photo of Winnie Nikoli was displayed. She held a blade in her hand while standing at the center of a ring of security officers in the rail-train station in Stamford. This picture was of course going to be taken out of context but as the old adage went, a thousand letters can’t account for one portrait, or something along those lines thought Marvel.
“Ok people listen up,” said Foy, voice echoing around the room. “We need to find out where she is being held and launch a hostage rescue.”
“I have already located her,” said Kira. “She is at the Short Island Hellcatz detention facility.”
A collective gasp spread throughout the gathered listeners; followed by a low murmur of voices and fearful conversations.
“That place is a fortress.”
“It’s guarded by a battalion of Marines, Rangers and SEELs.”
“It’s an impenetrable island,” said another person. “I even hear they have sharks with lasers beams mounted on their heads to patrol the water.”
The last statement was met with small bits of forced laughter but still served to convey the veritable destructive prowess of the base that they planned to assault.
“Let’s get to work people,” said Foy over the commotion in a tone that abruptly halted the idle banter with authority. “I will need a battle plan in sixty minutes.”
Everyone scrambled to comply and flew back to their respective stations. The place was transformed into a beehive of activity.
Foy clamped a hand onto Marvel’s shoulder and smiled down at the young man. “While that’s being done let us get an IV in you so we can get you some food and fluids the quickest possible way,” said Foy. “You will need to get as much rest as possible before we head out.”
Marvel nodded and followed Foy into one of the side rooms that resembled a clinic.