An Oakmont Story
An Oakmont Story
By Oscar Hinklevitch
Copyright © 2017 John Brooks
Eagle River, AK
All Rights Reserved.
First Printing, January, 2017
Dedicated to my son, Joshua Lee Brooks (2005 – 2016).
You will forever be in my heart and memory.
I began writing this story shortly after the completion of Fourth Birth, around early August 2016. In September, my world was shattered as my middle son, Joshua Lee Brooks died due to a giant brain aneurysm. It is something that statistically shouldn’t happen to an 11 year old kid, but it did.
For almost a month, I didn’t touch any writing, nothing. My mind simply could not do it. However, I did begin writing again, and a lot of my inner struggles came out in the story. It became therapy for me. I’ll never get over the loss of my son, but I have been forced to move on, to continue living. Living isn’t quite as colorful, or as energetic as it once was. A piece of me has been ripped out. But I am moving forward.
This book was completed in January 2017, less than six months after starting. It is amazing to me that I have written a novel in that short a time, but I have. God blessed me and gave me the inspiration, and I think he gave me this knowing I’d need it during those dark weeks and months. This story is a work of my heart, and I hope more than anything that you enjoy it. God bless you all.
Joyce, my beautiful wife, always my foundation. You are the inspiration for me. Without your support, none of this would be possible.
Elizabeth N. Thanks for all of the feedback and ideas, as well as being a beta reader for me. You gave me a number of ideas that I incorporated into the story. Thanks also for your encouragement and enthusiasm, along with your friendship.
The Barnhills for their friendship and support during the worst trial of my life. Without you guys, I’d have been worse than I was. Thank you!
I know there are others, but please don’t think I’ve deliberately omitted you. Since September 2016, my mind has not been what it was, and I’m forgetting lots. Know that it is not a deliberate omission, but rather a result of my addled mind. My memory has been severely impacted by the events of September 2016.
With all of those mentioned above, they pale in comparison to The Father. It is He who gave me the dream that this story evolved from. He gave me the constant inspiration that created this story and opened my mind to it. Without His guidance, inspiration and strength, this could not have been done. To Him goes the glory!
I was sitting on the beach, the clear, pale, blue water lapping on the shore. My feet were extended into the refreshing water, my body resting on the warm sand. There was a small pile of recently picked fruit, from the interior of the small island that I called home. My best friend, sister and cousin was playing in the water, laughing and having a good time.
It was warm, since it was a tropical climate, and the water felt absolutely wonderful on my legs and feet. I considered jumping in and splashing around, like a little kid, but was too comfortable and lazy to get up.
Me and Aliyah were finally carefree, safe…free from all the people that wanted to use us and enslave us. No more experiments were done to us, no more forced training and brainwashing. We were free!
That was what life should have always been. Unfortunately, reality always intruded on my dream…
Many years ago, scientists working for the government performed an experiment on my father without his knowledge. Today, I am the result of that sick, twisted work.. What they were after was to create a generation of telepaths that they could turn into tools, weapons. They gave me powers that no person should have. Because I am a product of their plan, they want to control me, saying I’m a danger to others and could hurt the country if our enemies got me.
But it’s not about them protecting me…not really. They want to use me. They need to understand, though, what they created is no longer theirs to control, if I ever was. They have unleashed a force that is far beyond what they ever dreamed was possible and I will not…cannot be controlled. Two years ago, I escaped the hell that they put me in. It took over a year for me to recover from the physical ordeal I’d been through, as much as I probably ever would
I still had the addiction to the drugs, as well as some major emotional breakdowns. Since I woke up, they had gotten further apart and less severe. At least, I thought they had.
Over the past few months, I had started coming apart again. I’d spent a lot of time crying in the shower, wishing I could feel safe, have that trust that Dad could fix anything. Of course, sometimes, I just cried.
Although I wouldn’t read his mind, I knew he was hiding things from me. I could sense it. But he was the adult and I was the kid, and that was the normal way of things. The problem was, I wasn’t a normal kid. I knew way more than I should about things no one should even dream existed. What was worse was that I had seen and experienced things no kid ever should.
The Oakmont program was the biggest of those things, and I suppose the fact that there were kids with telepathic ability would be one of those things as well. Of course, I was one of those kids, but I was different, I was more.
I was stronger than most of them and had powers I wasn’t even sure about, and yet I worried. I worried that when something happened I wouldn’t know what to do. I doubted Dad could help me. Aside from being a kid, why wouldn’t Dad tell me more? The worry was getting worse. A little over two years ago, doubting Dad wouldn’t have been possible. I was getting paranoid…was I going nuts…what was wrong with me?
When I first woke up from that long sleep after my escape, the coma, things seemed a lot better. It was like the horrible things that had happened were just a vague, bad dream. As time passed, the memories became more and more real to me, the visions I thought I had beaten began returning.
I’d been hiding it from Mom and Dad as much as I could, with Aliyah’s help, but I was pretty sure they knew. How could they not know? I was having nightmares. Although I was trying to keep them hidden, I was sure Mom and Dad could hear me sometimes.
Most nights, the nightmares were of the doctors putting probes down my throat and those shocking metal disks all over me. Those were the easy ones, the ones that I usually woke up from soaked in sweat but able to keep quiet.
There were others though, that were much worse. Those usually involved James with the doctors, using tools to cut into my body and do all kinds of horrible things to me. I always woke up screaming from those, my throat raw.
The worst of them involved them cutting into my skull, with me still awake and feeling it all. Those were pure terror for me, and I always woke up from them shaking violently, sweating profusely and whimpering. I never went back to sleep after those until the next night, and even then it was difficult.
However, what worried me was that the nightmares were getting more frequent, and the bad ones were becoming more common. I wondered how long it would be before they had to send me to another loony bin. There was only so long they could keep me, since I was going crazy and I knew it.
As I sat there, debating what my Dad’s intentions were, along with his honesty, tears started leaking out of my eyes. I was heading into that dark place again, the place I’d been many times.
Without remembering how I got there, I found myself curled up in a ball in the back corner of my closet. I had a blanket pulled over my head and I was crying. I couldn’t stop it.
Crawling into the closet like that was something I used to do when I was a very little girl, but had stopped as I grew up. When I went into that long sleep, things changed inside me. I started hiding in the closet again, as if I was still partially that little girl I thought I was when I first woke up.
Crying was something else that changed about me, thanks to my time at Oakmont. After 1st grade, I had completely quit crying. Of course, I still didn’t cry too much, but there I was, unable to stop the tears that were pouring from my eyes. I was weak…
Sitting there, crying like a baby, I wanted my island, badly. The dream was getting more and more desperate for me. My life was so much less than that dream. I needed it.
Without warning, I felt my sudden plunge into the depths of my mind, the pit. Aliyah was normally there to help bring me out of the darkness, but she was shopping with Mom. They had asked me to go, but I didn’t feel like going. As the darkness began to take hold, I knew why. I should have known earlier, but I hadn’t realized.
The darkness of my thoughts started deepening, the memories becoming more and more intense, more and more real to me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make them go away once they started. Aliyah was the one that always brought me back, but she wasn’t there this time and her absence started making me panic, which just made my situation worse.
The therapist I’d been seeing a while back tried to teach me something to stop them, but at that moment, I couldn’t think enough to remember what it was. My mind was totally in panic and I had no control.
James was coming to me, licking his lips and smiling his evil smile. I tried to crawl further into the corner of my closet as the images intensified, shaking very badly, sweat breaking out all over me. I was unable to see anything but what he was beginning to do to me.
“Melanie,” I heard someone call as the images were truly and completely taking hold, but I couldn’t answer. My mind was disconnecting from the real world. Even though I knew all of this, I couldn’t do anything about it.
As the images of James coming closer and closer got worse, images of him doing things to me again, overlapping images of his approach, I felt someone shaking me. James was now touching me, trying to rip my clothes off again. I tried to strike out at him, but my hand was useless. He was simply too strong for me. I was helpless, just like during the attacks at the school. Him on top of me, about to…
My mind started getting a strange feeling then, the feeling I associate with Aliyah tickling it. As that started taking over, the images of James and the school began to fade. That feeling only Aliyah had ever made me feel lifting me out of my pit.
Daddy was kneeling beside me as I came out of it, worry plastered on his face. “Sweetheart, talk to me,” he pleaded. Rather than saying anything, I grabbed him, wrapping my arms around his neck, burying my face into his shoulder and letting the tears flow freely. Two years before, maybe less, I would never have cried, but that period of my life opened my emotions up a bit.
He held me tight, comforting me as only my Daddy could. That was the first of those I’d had during the day, since waking up, that Aliyah hadn’t been there for. As a matter of fact, how had I come out of it without her? I knew that feeling only came from Aliyah and she wasn’t there.
“What happened, angel,” Dad asked, once I settled down.
“I had a bad dream,” I told him, not wanting to lie but not wanting him to know how messed up I was, not wanting him to worry about something he couldn’t fix.
“Can you tell me about it,” he asked. Just thinking about it started to bring it back. I barely managed to hold the darkness away, my mind ready to take me into that darkness again, and shook my head no. There was no way I could have talked about it, especially right then. As it was, I was shaking, and sweat was breaking out on me again.
“Okay, I won’t ask then,” he said, holding me against him again. Even though I had improved a lot, I was still messed up really bad. Aliyah and I had been doing a really good job of hiding it from everyone, but she wasn’t there to help me that time.
What worried me was that the attacks had been happening more often. I began to wonder if I was beginning to return to the bad state I was in before my long sleep. I hoped not, but I was getting worried that I might be.
How long would it be before Mom and Dad, or Mrs. Strager figured it out? At the rate things were going, they would eventually…and I didn’t want that to happen.
“Mel, are you alright,” Aliyah said, as she burst into the room. Dad looked oddly at her, but didn’t say anything. I nodded my head, but didn’t say a word, even to her mind.
“Girls, I think it’s time for bed anyway. Why don’t the two of you sleep together tonight,” Mom suggested, not sure of what happened, but knowing something was wrong…with me.
Aliyah and I got in bed very quickly. I knew she wanted to find out what happened, but she knew I wouldn’t talk about it, even to her.
I faked going to sleep very quickly, sure Aliyah knew better, but she didn’t say anything. She never did when I was like that. She was the best sister I could have hoped for.
“Becky, Mel is trying to hide it, but I know she is still having nightmares from her time at Oakmont and it’s getting worse. She’s having them during the day,” Randy said, as the two of them settled in for the night.
“Is that what happened today? Aliyah screamed at me that we had to leave, just before we were going to check out. She made me leave the groceries in the cart, right there in the store. Then I got home to see Mel curled up against you like she used to when she had a nightmare as a little girl,” she said.
“That means she knew Melanie was having that attack, or whatever it was,” he mused.
“Could they be communicating with their minds,” she asked.
“Aliyah could simply be monitoring Melanie. It might not be two way,” he replied, but looked somewhat suspicious.
“You don’t believe that, do you,” she asked.
“No, not really,” he replied, and paused, in thought. “I think she is trying to hide things from us. Think about how easily those two do things together. It’s almost as if they are reading each other’s minds, or maybe talking to each other. Aliyah reading Melanie’s I would understand, but the more I think about it, the more it looks to be both ways. If my suspicion is right, she might also be hiding the struggle she is going through, regardless of what she is telling us or what we’re seeing,” he suggested.
“Why would she hide that from us? We’re her parents. We’re here to help her. We love her,” she said, tears forming in her eyes.
“I honestly don’t know, but she has always been that way, and you know it. Maybe she thinks she’s protecting us,” he said.
“What did happen today,” Becky asked.
“She said she had a bad dream, but that would mean she was asleep and I know she was not asleep when that began. I had just checked on her only moments before and she was awake. Whatever that was, it came on her rather quickly and she was completely awake when it did,” he said.
“Right after checking on her, I went to the kitchen and heard her scream. When I went to her room, she was in the corner of the closet, shaking like a leaf. She started trying to fight me when I went to her, as if I was trying to hurt her,” he said.
“Alright, let’s say you are right. Could she remember more from her time there than what we think, or thought? And if so, how much does she remember,” she asked.
“I have no idea, but we should assume everything, at this point. The other possibility is she doesn’t really remember anything, but has these episodes from time to time. If that is the case, then Aliyah can sense them and seems to be able to control them, somehow,” he said.
“Do we need to get more counselling for her,” Becky asked.
“I don’t know. It didn’t seem to help her before,” he replied, then added, “Why don’t we talk to Rebecca and see what she thinks.”
“Okay,” she replied, and nestled into him for comfort.
“There is something else I need to let you know about,” he said, making her pull away and look at him with a knowing expression.
“Am I going to like this,” she asked.
“That depends on whether you are ready for another child or not,” he replied.
“Isn’t that what the woman would say to the man? This seems reversed somehow,” she told him, a playful smile on her face. “Are you thinking of adopting another kid,” she then asked, more seriously.
“We had to adopt Aliyah, to protect her,” he said.
“I know. Are you considering a normal adoption,” she asked.
“Not exactly,” he replied, bringing a curious look from her.
“What is going on, then,” she asked.
“Aliyah’s sister is beginning to show signs and your brother wants Mel and Aliyah to be able to help her. He asked if Eliana could come up here to work with the girls, so she could learn to control it,” he informed her, but she could tell he was evading somehow.
She looked at him for a long time, not saying a word. “He is going to send his last child away from home when she is only seven,” she asked, incredulous at what her brother was willing to do, but knowing there was more to this.
“Although I would argue that he doesn’t have much choice, he is not sending her away. They are talking about moving here,” he said, finally giving her the surprise.
She bolted upright, shock plain on her face. “What,” she exclaimed. “And you didn’t tell me,” she added immediately.
“Shh, or you’ll wake the kids,” he said, but there was obviously play in his voice. “And I am telling you,” he added.
“When are they coming,” she asked.
“I think they will be here tomorrow,” he replied. She punched him in the arm then, and not very softly.
“Ow,” he exclaimed.
“That didn’t hurt you,” she replied.
“You and Michael planned this, didn’t you,” she said.
“Actually, he wanted to surprise you when he invited you over, but I talked him out of it,” he said
“So, they already have a house too,” she asked, getting a nod from him.
“He knows that Mel can’t seem to use her telepathy anymore, doesn’t he,” she then asked, the look of worry returning.
“He knows, but he also knows that he still has Aliyah to lean on for that. And by moving here, he gets his second daughter back,” he replied.
“That would mean we have four telepaths between us,” she mused.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that. What would you think of starting a small school, one that specializes in certain special mental abilities,” he asked.
“How would you do that? It would be expensive,” she replied.
“Actually, the division is interested in starting it for us. It provides them some measure of observation on the kids, without being like the program,” he replied, referring to the Oakmont program, which brought about the telepathic skills in the first place.
“So the government is still going to control them,” she stated.
“Not exactly, but they do want to monitor them. That is reasonable and to be expected. We knew it was coming. At least this way, we will control it,” he explained.
“It isn’t much different than Oakmont,” she pushed.
“The Congressional committee has been wrestling with this since the escape. The compromise they have come up with is to allow both programs, but with the understanding that the kids will be monitored and controlled. They feel that the kids pose a threat to national security if they should get kidnapped by a foreign power,” he said.
“That’s bull crap and you know it,” she replied.
“Is it,” he asked. “These kids can read minds without anyone knowing it. Some of the more powerful ones can make people see things that aren’t there. As much as it bothers me, I understand their concern,” he argued.
“Those people did this to them. It isn’t the kids fault they have these abilities,” she countered.
“I know, which is why they have agreed to let us build our own program. They are not willing to let these kids roam freely, however. Not one of them would agree to that, no matter how much I argued for it,” he said.
“When the girls find out, they won’t like it,” she told him.
“I know,” he replied, looking very somber.
“Are you going to tell her, or let her find out on her own,” she asked.
“I need to tell her, but I’m not sure how,” he said.
It was as if I had blacked out, as I returned to some semblance of reality. I wasn’t even sure how long it had been since my last attack. I knew it was right before Aliyah’s parents moved to Alaska. Just then, my mind had been going from the tropical island dream again, to replaying my past, over and over. I was having a very short lived moment of lucid thought, but it wouldn’t last.
I was shaking and sweating, the desire for the orange drug so powerful right then I couldn’t think of anything else, once it came back. Goose bumps had broken out all over me. I knew beyond any doubt, only the orange stuff would make this overwhelming need go away. That was another of the lingering effects from my time at Oakmont, the continued addiction to the drugs.
Unable to stop myself, and not sure what I was really doing, I climbed out of the closet and headed for the mudroom. Once there, I slipped my boots on, grabbed a coat and walked out, not even noticing if I closed the door or not. At that moment, I didn’t really care. Oddly, Mom and Dad weren’t around, although I didn’t really care about that either. Aliyah was out with her parents, since they had just moved to Alaska and wanted to spend some time together as a family. I wasn’t sure, but this might have been the first time I’d ever been left alone.
It took me about 15 minutes to walk to the grocery store, one of those huge supersized stores that Dad called Wally World. I never went to the grocery store anymore, since everyone was trying to keep me from seeing any orange liquid. That was exactly what I was hunting for, though.
In the logical part of my mind, I knew that just any orange liquid wouldn’t work. It had to be the right orange liquid, and I couldn’t get that at a grocery store, no matter how big or well stocked it was. The problem was, my logical mind was almost completely shut off.
The walk there was really bad, as I kept seeing movement out of the corners of my eyes. I’d jump and look over to find nothing there, or maybe just some kid playing in their yard. I almost attacked one kid, barely stopping myself in time.
I thought I felt a probe touch my mind once, but in the state I was in I just flicked it away like a small bug. Finally I made it to the store, and almost ran inside. It took every bit of my will not to run through the store, tearing stuff off the shelves in my search.
Without knowing where it was, I started aimlessly wandering through the place. It was huge and had all kinds of junk, none of which interested me. Unfortunately, all I was seeing was the junk. Pet supplies, household items, tools, all kinds of stuff that meant nothing to me. The effort to maintain some semblance of control was getting harder. Finally, I saw the groceries and knew the object of my desire was in that area. It had to be!
“Mel,” I heard, just before I began running. My shields instantly slammed in place. I spun around and saw Aliyah coming up behind me, breathing heavily for some reason. Her parents were far back, still trying to catch up, her little sister trailing after them.
“What,” I asked in reply, with a bit of venom in my voice, knowing she was there to stop me. My face was angled down, but my eyes were peering into her. I was certain I looked insane.
“Let’s go home,” she said, stopping in front of me, as she finally caught up.
“No,” I simply said, turned around and resumed my search, my eyes probing everywhere.
“Please, Mel,” she begged.
“Leave me alone,” I replied, raising my voice a little. A few people in the area noticed and looked over at us, but I really didn’t care.
Suddenly, it was as if my mind went blank, or rather, my ability simply disappeared. I couldn’t access my telepathy or any of my other powers. I knew it was Aliyah doing it and my shields seemed to have no effect on her. I had always wondered about that.
“Let me go,” I ordered her, with a quiet, menacing voice, hatred welling up in me. I slammed every bit of my will into trying to regain my power, but it simply wasn’t there.
The anger and hate erupted inside me. It was a monster unleashed at the unjust restraint placed on me by my supposed best friend. She was betraying me!
With that short effort, my energy dropped to nothing and I fell to my knees. I looked up at her, every ounce of anger I had in me pouring through the heat in my cheeks and eyes.
“Let me go,” I yelled at her, tears pouring down my cheeks. There were tears pouring from her eyes as well, as I looked up at her, but there was something different about her tears.
As I looked at her, I saw her tears were leaving red streaks down her cheeks. She was bleeding from her nose and eyes. There was a lot of pain on her face too. That’s when it hit me. This was my friend, my sister. She was trying to help me, not hurt me.
“God, please forgive me,” I whispered, as I saw her face. I wasn’t sure if I was asking Him or her for forgiveness, but it may have been both.
With my whispered plea, she knelt down, wrapping her arms around me. “Let’s go home,” she whispered, her voice shaky. I rose up with her, letting her help support me, even though I should have been supporting her.
There were several people around watching us, obviously not sure what had happened, but curious. There was an odd feeling in my mind though, something I’d felt before. I couldn’t place it right then, and at that moment, didn’t really care.
Aliyah’s parents finally walked up as we got to our feet. The entire episode took only a few seconds to play out, but it had taken a lot out of both of us. I wasn’t sure how we’d hide the fact that I had caused Aliyah’s bleeding and Mrs. Strager would have no doubt what caused it, not to mention my parents and anyone from the program that happened to be watching.
As we got home, Aliyah’s dad picked her up and carried her into the house, while her mom helped me.
“I’m sorry,” I said, tears in my eyes.
Aunt Sarah didn’t reply, just looked at me with an unreadable expression. Eliana, however, looked at me with her big beautiful eyes, “It’s okay. You don’t have anything to be sorry about.”
“I’m a monster,” I replied, as I walked away from her and into the house. I probably shouldn’t have said that to her, but I was such a mess, I couldn’t stop myself. I really was a monster. She deserved better from me.
Her sister was still a marvel to me. She was like a little clone of Aliyah, same hair, eyes, everything. She was also as outgoing and energetic. The only real difference was that she was a lot more girly, and neat. Of course, the neatness might have been because of her Mom. Eliana was a wonderful kid, though.
Mom and Dad were with Uncle Mike and Aliyah, so they didn’t notice me stealthily move past them and down the hall. I went directly to my room, closed the door and returned to the back of my closet. Curling in the corner, I pulled the blanket up to my chin and sat there, rocking and crying. I was shaking pretty bad too.
Aliyah had stopped me at the store, but she hadn’t helped my emotional state. I guess she couldn’t, considering how badly I had hurt her.
Although they had convinced me that I wasn’t a danger to them, back when I woke up from that coma, I was beginning to see just how wrong they were. This latest incident had made it very apparent that I was definitely a danger. There had been a few incidents over the last two years, but nothing like this. These things were beginning to happen more often, along with the nightmares, and they were getting worse.
The counselling that I had been going through hadn’t done anything to help either. They kept promising me that it took time, but I’d been doing it for most of the two years since I woke up, with no improvement. Although I had been much worse before I went into the coma, I was beginning to get back to that point and I knew it. And I had actually attacked my best friend…and hurt her.
“Mel,” I heard, a good while later. Although I didn’t respond, Dad came into the closet, as good as he was able. He was a bit too big for it.
“Sweetheart, what happened today,” he asked, once he was sitting in front of me, looking like some kind of contortionist.
“Nothing,” I automatically replied, feeling guilty, because anyone with half a brain knew that it wasn’t nothing. He only looked at me. The look on his face wasn’t like he was mad for my reply, but more like he was disappointed. I suppose he should have been. I cringed further into the corner, trying to melt into the wall.
“I’m a monster, Dad,” I finally said, unable to stop the tears that were coming out even worse.
“No, you are not,” he tried to assure me.
“Yes, I am,” I yelled at him, putting my head down in shame.
He opened his mouth to try and argue with me but I cut him off.
“You don’t trust me, and I know it. But you can’t trust me because I lie to you. I’ve gotten so good at lying I even convinced myself that I was better, but I’m not,” I said, almost yelling the last and pausing to let myself calm down a little. Dad didn’t seem to know what to say.
“I hurt Aliyah to try and get the orange stuff. I’m dangerous and I’m going crazy,” I said, barely whispering the last part. I didn’t know what he was going to say before I cut him off, but he didn’t say anything for a long time after I was done.
“Melanie, you have had a very hard life. You’ve suffered more than any child should ever suffer. We thought you had forgotten the worst of it,” he said with a long pause. “But I wondered sometimes how much you actually remembered,” he said, and held his hand up to stop me before I replied.
“No, don’t tell me. I know you remember more than we thought. I wish you didn’t, if for no other reason than to give you some peace. I wish I could tell you that it will all just go away one day, but I honestly don’t know. Sweetheart, I wish more than anything that I could take it all away,” he said, and I looked up to see tears in his eyes.
“I’ll never be normal. I need to be locked up,” I told him.
“Melanie, I wish I had all the answers baby, but I don’t. I don’t know how to help you and I don’t know what the future holds for you. I will fight for you with my last breath, though,” he said.
Unable to stop myself, I scurried over to him, crawling into his lap and wrapping my arms around his neck. “I’m sorry, Daddy,” I pleaded, a decision having sprung in my mind. The idea had been in the back of my mind for some time, but I kept pushing it away.
“You have nothing to be sorry for, angel,” he told me.
“Yes I do. You just don’t know it yet,” I replied, making him pull away a little and look at me very intently. But I just clung to him even tighter, not letting him look into my eyes. I was afraid of what he’d see there.
“Will you tell me,” he asked.
“I’ll tell you some, since you’ll find out soon anyway,” I said, and paused for a moment. “I attacked Aliyah today and I’m pretty sure someone saw it,” I informed him, once I was ready to spill it.
“When you say ‘someone’, I assume you’re not just talking a random person,” he replied. I just shook my head, confirming his assumption, which was a little weird since my head was resting on his shoulder.
“That means that your telepathy is working,” he then said, taking the next logical step. I nodded.
“How long have you been hiding it from me,” he asked in an almost accusatory tone, as he began connecting the dots.
“Since I woke up,” I replied.
“That long,” he said, and I could hear the shock in his voice.
“I wish you had trusted me…I have to assume you knew your secret would eventually get out,” he started, which I again nodded agreement to. “And I would further assume, if you have put that much thought into it, you must have had some ideas for when it did,” he continued. Again, I nodded, never having lifted my head from his shoulder.
“You always did plan ahead, just like your Momma. Will you tell me what you’re thinking, or planning,” he asked. I shook my head. There was no way I could tell him and I was pretty sure he knew my response before he asked. Instead, I turned it on him.
“Would you tell me the stuff you’ve been keeping secret from me,” I asked, in response, knowing he couldn’t, or wouldn’t.
“You know I can’t,” he said, and I was pretty sure he wanted to say something else. I could feel his muscles clench as he fought within himself.
That would have been a golden opportunity to get some good information with little effort, but I couldn’t do that to my father. I wasn’t that far gone…yet.
“See, you don’t trust me, but I understand why,” I told him. His arms squeezed me tighter as I said that.
“Sweetheart,” he began, but I interrupted him, tightening my grip on him.
“I love you Daddy,” I whispered.
“I love you too, angel,” he replied.
“I’m not an angel,” I said, so low I didn’t think he heard me.
I knew then what I had to do, although I was worried and hurting inside. But it had to be done. I had to leave.
It wasn’t long before I crawled off my father’s lap, not wanting that feeling to go away, but knowing it had to. Dad pried himself out of my closet, and it was clear he had to unbend slowly. He was rather oddly positioned in there, but he did it for me.
Fresh tears bloomed in my eyes, knowing how far he’d go for me. I didn’t deserve that, but he would do it anyway, never hesitating or complaining.
I went to sleep a while later, visions of that white sand, and blue water, playing in my mind. For a short time, I found a semblance of peace on my tropical island, but it never lasted.
“Sir, we have a report on the Brager girl,” John reported to the Headmaster.
“More of the same,” Headmaster Raughlin said with a sneer.
“On the contrary, sir,” John replied, bringing an interested look from his superior.
“Apparently, she entered a local department store looking very disoriented. The report suggests that she looked strung out. What is clear is that the Draper girl came in shortly after and confronted Brager. The contact said that there was a mental fight between the two,” he said.
“You’re sure,” the Headmaster asked.
“The contact watched and saw the connectors from both girls. He is certain,” John replied. “Sir, it appears that the Draper girl actually controlled the Brager girl,” he added, as if it was of greater importance.
It was, but the fact that Brager was functional was just as big to him. He had suspected that she was hiding the truth and now his belief was confirmed. She had made her fatal mistake, the one he had been waiting for. There was now a public incident to give him leverage.
Raughlin leaned back in his chair, with an expression that looked like a cat about to get its mouse.
I woke up to the doorbell ringing. Looking over, I saw that it was 5:00 in the morning, unless I had slept way longer than I thought possible. Getting up, I snuck down the hall, knowing Mom and Dad would be answering it, and also that they wouldn’t be happy with me being up still wearing a nightgown with someone at the door.
“Mr. Randall Brager, Mrs. Rebecca Brager,” the cop at the door asked, as I stole a glance in the foyer.
“Yes, officer,” Dad responded.
“We have a warrant to bring you in for questioning. You are not being arrested yet, but you are required to comply. If you would please come along peacefully, sir, ma’am,” the cop instructed.
So, my plans weren’t going to happen. They had launched the first strike. I was pretty sure something was going to happen when I had that feeling inside the Wal-Mart, but I hadn’t expected it quite that fast.
“Can we at least get dressed,” Dad asked the cop.
“Yes, sir,” the cop agreed, with a friendly smile.
“We were instructed to turn the children over to Children’s Services, who have personnel here to take possession of them,” he said, stepping slightly to the side to show four adults in business suits behind him.
Without any hesitation, I sent a probe to Mom and Dad, along with Aliyah. “Mom, Dad, I’ll get Ben and Aliyah and we’ll hide in the room. Once you’re gone, we’ll go to the Draper’s. Don’t try and reply. It’ll take longer than we have,” I told them. I got an impression from Dad of some kind of hidden place in our secret room. He clearly wanted me to get what was in it. Oddly, I could tell he was hoping I’d pick it up from his mind.
“Okay,” Dad said out loud, and I knew that was directed at me, rather than the cops or the OCS people. “The children spent the night off last night, but you should be able to pick them up at the Strager’s house,” Dad said.
I headed back down the hall to Aliyah’s room, where she was already dressed. We both went and grabbed Ben, having to put a hand over his mouth to keep him quiet. Thanks to Dad’s training, he quickly understood and remained silent as we all went into the crawl space, where a special room had been built for something like this.
Once we were there, I went to the small place Dad had tried to show me in his mind. Behind a shelf was a large box, and behind that was what looked like an electrical panel. I knew it wasn’t though, now that I’d seen it in his mind.
I moved the box out of the way and then pried the door of the panel open. Remembering the positions of the breaker switches in Dad’s mind, I flipped the right ones into the off position. Then I pulled the panel from the wall. It took a lot of strength, but it finally swung out on hinges that were not visible until it was opened.
Inside was a compartment that contained several thick file folders. Dad’s thoughts didn’t clearly tell me what he wanted me to get, so I grabbed everything and began stuffing it into my pack. There were several file folders, a couple of them being very thick. There was also a large baggie with a lot of money in it. This was getting eerily familiar.
There was also a small wooden box and a small notebook. I recognized the notebook. It was the notebook I found at Oakmont, outlining the research that was done there. Without looking, I knew the box contained the serum that I’d found. There were also a couple of cell phones, that I knew were untraceable.
“They have a telepath,” Aliyah informed me as I was stuffing Dad’s secrets in my pack.
“Keep track of him,” I replied, not really knowing if it was a him or a her.
“I’ll try,” she said.
At that moment, I was glad my Dad was a spy, or whatever it was that he did. Because of that, along with the constant threat hanging over Aliyah and me, we always had packed bags in here, along with separate changes of clothes. He had run drills with all of us to get in here quickly and quietly.
When I finally got Dad’s stuff, I grabbed the spare clothes that were there for me. Aliyah and Ben were already changed and ready to go.
“The telepath is a girl,” Aliyah informed me, as I was changing.
“Be careful, or she’ll know we’re here,” I replied.
“She already does, but I knocked her out,” Aliyah said, as if it was no big deal. I sensed there was something she wasn’t telling me, but I was too distracted to worry about it.
Suddenly, Ben started throwing up beside me. Just what I needed during this, a sick little brother. I gently rubbed his back, as he settled back down. Once he had stopped heaving, he began holding his head and both Aliyah and I were shocked as ‘tentacles’ began flailing crazily all around him.
What timing! He couldn’t have awakened at a later time, when we weren’t trying to run from another telepath who was hunting for us? This was also proof that he was going to be strong, since he’d awakened very early. He was about the same age as I was when my telepathy woke up.
“Ben, I am going to show you something, but it is going to be different than anything you’ve ever experienced. Don’t freak out, okay,” I told him. He nodded his head, but looked very skeptical and very scared. He was also in a good deal of pain.
Without any idea of what else to do, I sent a probe into his mind giving him instructions on how to control his telepathy, or rather, they were general impressions of how I controlled my telepathy. Aliyah would probably be able to show him something completely different since she’d had more training.
Although it seemed like forever, he sat back and the tentacles seemed to slow down in their mad flailing. Finally, they settled into a peaceful kind of rest, after quite a while and a lot of concentrating by Ben. They were still relatively uncontrolled, but they weren’t going wild now. This was starting out much better than I thought possible, considering how it began.
Then I began thinking of how fast the problem might start showing up in him, the problem with the energy spike, or whatever it was. That thing that almost killed me back at Oakmont.
“He needs the stuff,” Aliyah said, seeming to read my mind, although I knew she hadn’t. She was right, but now was not the time.
“Okay, but not now,” I replied, getting a nod of agreement from her. “Can we leave,” I asked.
“I think so. I can’t sense anyone near the back of the house. They’re all worried about their telepath,” she said, almost spitting out that reference to ‘their telepath’. Again, I knew there was something she wasn’t telling me, but again, I had too much on my mind to worry about it at that moment.
We climbed out of the secret room, making sure to close the hidden entrance, and headed to the back of the house through the crawl space, where there was an exit in the backyard. We paused a moment, to let Aliyah double check things, then we continued on out. Thankfully this winter was proving to be snowless so far, or they’d definitely have heard us leaving and seen our tracks.
We climbed up the hill behind the house and into the woods, where we quickly got on a small trail that we played on all the time. Following it, we came out a few streets over, near the elementary school that I once went to.
“Aliyah, can you reach out to Uncle Mike or Aunt Sarah,” I asked.
“I can’t go that far,” she said. I was afraid of that, but wanted to ask. That was something that I always had been better at than her, although our strength wasn’t that different.
We went to the back side of the school, where Aliyah quickly picked the lock and we went in. We headed to the gym and then into the P.E. supply room, where Aliyah again picked the lock to let us in. Our hope was that it wouldn’t be messed with today, but we had no idea.
Once we were settled into a nice corner at the back of the room, I closed my eyes and sent a probe questing out for her parents, who everyone knew as our aunt and uncle. They really were my aunt and uncle.
I had no idea where to go, and this was really hard. I hadn’t done anything like this in quite a while. By the time I came out of my trance, my head was killing me, and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Aliyah gently laid me down, knowing I was spent. At least there wasn’t any bleeding.
Not even noticing it, I went to sleep and slept deeply. I only woke up when Aliyah started shaking me. “Mel, we need to get ready to go. There are a bunch of kids in the gym,” she informed me, as I sat up. What she told me meant that there was a good chance someone would come in here, probably Coach Sullivan, if he was still teaching here.
I had to find Uncle Mike, or Aunt Sarah. Without waiting to tell Aliyah, I sent my probe out again, but this time I sent several, all going in different directions. I’d never done anything like this before, not this many probes this far. As my probes started getting farther and farther out, I could feel that pain that told me I was pushing myself, possibly too hard. The pain was growing the further out I went, but I had to keep going.
I had no idea how I was able to keep track of all of the probes at once, but I was doing it. Finally, I found Aunt Sarah. I was at the limits of my ability, but I found her. She was close the whole time, and I had missed her. At times like this, Aliyah’s ability to sense people would have been very handy.
Trying to be gentle, but barely able to stay conscious, I entered her mind and started talking. “Aunt Sarah, please don’t panic. This is Melanie. We need help. Mom and Dad were arrested and we ran. We’re at Beach Lake Elementary in the gym. Would you please come get us,” I asked, and my connection winked out, pain flooding through me like a tsunami.
“Mel,” Aliyah exclaimed, as I collapsed back to the floor, my head bouncing as I did.
“Who’s in there,” I heard, but was unable to think or even understand the danger it posed. Ben and Aliyah were absolutely quiet, barely even breathing. Funny that I noticed that in my condition.
“Melanie, Ben,” I heard a man’s voice say. Aliyah was frozen stiff, clearly not sure what to do. I could feel her mind engaging to defend.
“Don’t,” I whispered to her. I remembered her stopping me once, long ago. Or was it more than once? I couldn’t remember.
“Melanie, dear God, what’s wrong,” I heard, and then felt hands gently touching my face.
“What’s your name,” the voice asked.
“Aliyah, sir,” she replied.
“Pretty name. What happened,” he asked. There was a long pause.
“We had to run away from some bad people and we hid in here until our aunt and uncle could come get us,” she replied. Even in my pathetic state, I knew that wasn’t a good answer. He’d have to call the police.
“Coach Sullivan,” I mumbled.
“Yes, Melanie,” he said, and I felt his hand on my head.
“Aunt Sarah is on her way. Please don’t tell anyone we’re here,” I told him.
“If someone is after you, I have to call the police. They can keep you safe,” he replied.
“The bad people were with the police,” I informed him. I was sure he wouldn’t believe that, and even if he did, he’d still have to call them. There was a long pause, way too long in fact.
“I will let your aunt come and get you. I won’t call anyone,” he finally said.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
“Now, what happened and why are you bleeding so much,” he asked.
“They took Mom and Dad so they could get us, but we ran before they could. You don’t want to know why I’m bleeding and I can’t tell you,” I told him, unable to come up with an explanation that would have been believable but not tell him the truth. My mind wasn’t working well enough for that.
“Melanie, you were always a wonderful kid to have in class. Although I might be making a mistake, I won’t ask anything else and I won’t tell anyone. But you need to get cleaned up,” he said, his hand rubbing my head in a friendly way.
“Aliyah, I will bring some water and paper towels, if you will take care of her,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” she replied.
A few minutes later, I felt a warm cloth wiping my face. Strangely, the action helped with the pain in my head as well.
When Aliyah was finally done, I sat up, beginning to feel a little better and gaining a little more energy. Coach Sullivan was nowhere to be seen.
“He left to teach his class. I think he wanted everything to look normal. He told me to sneak out once he took his class outside and he also told me to go out the back entrance,” she said, indicating the entrance we used to come in.
I stood up slowly, grabbing my pack as I did. Even going slow, I suffered what amounted to a headrush on steroids. I stood there for a little while, fighting down the nausea that came with the pain.
Ben stood up quickly, his pack already in place, and Aliyah stood with me, making sure I was alright. She swung her pack onto her shoulders once she was sure I was steady and led the way out. Thankfully, no teachers came into the hall as we were making our escape.
I looked back toward the playground, where the field was, as we left and saw Coach Sullivan wave at me. I waved back and we went into the woods to wait on a hill overlooking the school. We probably should have waited there from the start, but it was cold.
We didn’t wait long before we saw Aunt Sarah’s SUV pull into the school parking lot. I was about to send a probe to stop her from going into the school, but as soon as I touched my ability, the pain exploded in my head as bad as it ever had. I screamed very loudly when it happened and collapsed. I could feel the wetness on my chin as blood poured from my nose and eyes. I was sure it was blood.
I had no idea how long it was, but I felt hands lift me up and start carrying me. Yet again, I passed out. I had gotten weak over the past couple of years, not using my ability hardly at all.
When I finally opened my eyes, pain stabbing them as I did, I saw Coach Sullivan kneeling over me and Aunt Sarah beside him. Both looked very worried. “She needs an ambulance,” someone else was saying.
“No ambulance,” I mumbled, and could tell my voice sounded funny.
“Aliyah, don’t let them take me,” I begged, unable to figure out why I sounded so weird.
“I won’t,” she assured me. Drawing every ounce of strength I had, I forced myself to sit up. Slowly, I could feel my energy returning, but it was very little and I knew it wouldn’t last long.
“The ambulance is on the way,” a female voice said.
“I need to leave,” I exclaimed, almost panicked at that revelation. My voice was back to normal, even if I still felt horrible. Aliyah helped me up and we started walking away, before the adults realized what we were doing.
“Melanie, you cannot go. We won’t let you,” Mrs. Ivers stated, as if she could control me. Actually, right then, she probably could. She stopped in front of us, clearly prepared to stop two misbehaving girls and a little boy. She was completely shocked as we walked around her, and she was unable to approach us. There was a small purple flash and she couldn’t move. Aliyah had blocked her from getting close to us.
It was as if a purple bubble opened up around Mrs. Ivers as we passed her and left her when we were completely passed.
“What…,” she exclaimed, her mind unable to comprehend what just happened. I stopped, turning to face her.
“Mrs. Ivers, you don’t want the government to know you’ve seen this. If they find out you know, they’ll never let you go free again,” I informed her, struggling to stay on my feet. She stared at me, her mouth hanging open but no sound coming out.
Coach Sullivan was also staring at me, at us, but his mouth definitely wasn’t hanging open. The expression he had was more as if he finally understood something that had been a mystery. He was there when I first started hearing the voices, so he had probably made the connection.
“I can read your mind,” I told him, confirming what I was pretty sure he was thinking.
“But we don’t unless it’s very important. There are others that will without any hesitation, though,” I informed him.
“Is that why you were bleeding,” he asked.
“Kind of. I tried to contact Aunt Sarah, but it was too much. I overdid it and that was the price I paid for it,” I told him, thinking about all the times I’ve felt that pain.
“You look like you’ve done that a few times,” he kind of stated and asked at the same time. I only nodded, not caring to think about how often I’d experienced that feeling.
“Get out of here before they get here,” he told us.
“Thank you,” I replied, as we walked to Aunt Sarah’s car. She knew what Dad had told her about us, but she had never heard us say it, and definitely had never seen evidence of it. Not until then, anyway.
Aunt Sarah drove, remaining absolutely silent, to her house. Once we got there, we all grabbed our packs and went inside. I was a bit slower than everyone else.
“Keep your packs close,” I instructed Aliyah and Ben. Aliyah looked at me oddly, but didn’t say anything.
“What’s going on,” Uncle Mike asked as we walked in.
“And why is there blood on Mel,” he added when he looked at me.
“Mom and Dad were arrested last night. We escaped,” I told him, my legs feeling very rubbery.
“Sit down, kids. You’re looking a little peaked, Mel,” he observed.
“Mike, she did something to stop the woman at the school. It was like some kind of wall or something,” Aunt Sarah said. He then looked back at us.
“So all of it’s true,” he replied, his face thoughtful. Aliyah and I both nodded, but didn’t say a word. Aunt Sarah was the one I was worried about. She looked extremely unhappy, almost scared. Her demeanor had changed completely at the school.
“That means that your ability either returned or was never gone,” he then said, making the same logical conclusions that Dad did yesterday.
“It never went away,” I admitted.
“That means you lied to everyone,” he continued. This time I nodded, but lowered my eyes, ashamed of the lies I had been living for so long.
“At least you know it’s not good to lie,” he said, and I looked up at him and nodded.
“However, you were right to do so,” he then said, after a pause to look me in the eye for a moment. Aunt Sarah jerked her eyes to him. She didn’t say a word, but I could see the anger there.
“Get that abomination out of my house,” Aunt Sarah suddenly burst out, apparently unable to hold back any longer. As much as I had been teased and insulted in my life, I’d grown immune to most tormenting. Aunt Sarah’s accusation wasn’t simply for tormenting, though, and it hurt really deeply. I couldn’t help tears springing from my eyes. Lowering my head to look at the floor, I tried to wipe them away without them seeing.
“Sarah, she is not an abomination,” he told her, very firmly.
“What she did, could only come from Satan,” she roared, voicing a thought I’d wrestled with in the past.
“You are saying that God could not do that, or allow one of His children to do it,” he countered. She was speechless at his rebuttal, but I could tell it wasn’t over, and she had no clue that Aliyah was the one that actually did it.
I could see the look on Aliyah’s face though. She was devastated as well, and Uncle Mike seemed to sense it. “You kids need to get away from here, before they come,” he said, sadly.
“She needs to go, but Ben and Aliyah can stay. She’s the demon,” Aunt Sarah exclaimed, pointing at me.
“Sarah, they all have that ability, whatever it is. If one must go, then all must go,” he rebutted, his voice calm and sure. That was a tone I recognized from Dad. When he got really angry, he got like that.
“Not only that, if they arrested Randy and Becky, they’ll come here before long. The kids aren’t safe here, and that includes Eliana,” he explained.
“My babies can stay. They won’t take them,” she insisted.
Grabbing her shoulders, he gently shook her, and drew out each word, “Yes…they…will.”
Before anything else could be said, there was a knock at the door. “This is the police. Open up,” a loud voice commanded.
“We don’t have a panic room like your Dad does, Mel. In the shed behind the house is a pack for Eliana and a couple of baggies with money and untraceable phones. Take it all and get out of here. Aliyah, go to Aunt Emma’s in Meldrim. She’ll help,” he ordered us.
“They aren’t going anywhere,” Aunt Sarah screamed.
“Sarah, if those people get them, any of them, they will be tortured and experimented on,” he told her. She clearly didn’t believe him, so he grabbed her and forcefully led her to the front of the house. When she realized what he was doing, she began fighting him. We took the opportunity to head to the back door and outside. Aliyah was visibly shaken by what had happened. Without realizing it, her Mom had torn her down and she didn’t know how to deal with it.
“They have two telepaths this time,” Aliyah informed me, coming back to herself very fast, the situation demanding it.
“Great,” I exclaimed. Since I couldn’t find them on my own, I wasn’t much help for Aliyah. But they posed a very big problem for us.
As I was thinking and trying to come up with an idea, my mind was attacked with a lot of force. The problem for them though, was that even with that force, they weren’t strong enough. My shields went up instinctively, stopping anything they could hope to do, in spite of them getting the jump on us.
One really good thing for us, and bad for them, was that their attack, or probe, let me know exactly where they were. I immediately launched a counterattack, my probe following theirs back into their minds. My intention was only to knock them out, but I wasn’t able to gauge my strength. I’d never been able to, so I had no idea what I actually did to them, and considering our safety was on the line, I didn’t really care right then. What I did know though, was that they weren’t going to bother us again anytime soon.
With that little skirmish, that I wouldn’t even call a battle, my head exploded with pain, I fell hard to my knees and I was really tired. I shouldn’t have been affected that much by that tiny use of my power. I was completely wiped out.
Aliyah helped me back up and looked at me intently until I nodded. That didn’t answer her concern though as she looked more intently, as if questioning my response.
“I shouldn’t be this tired,” I replied, thinking about that small use of my power.
“You haven’t really exercised it in two years,” she told me, which made sense. I should have been exercising to make sure I was ready, if the time came.
No one attempted to stop us or even find us. Once we were in the woods, we heard voices in the back yard, but it was already too late for them. I guess they could have tried to chase us into the woods, but they didn’t even know we had gone there. At least, I didn’t think they did.
We didn’t stop to find out, though. We hiked through the small bit of woods, scrambling down the side of a hill through a new condo development and then into the Carl’s Jr. parking lot. By this time, we were all hungry and went inside, hoping we’d have enough time to get some food.
As we got up to the counter, we all noticed the cop cars patrolling around, and there were a lot of them. One pulled into the restaurant parking lot, driving really slow. He was clearly looking inside. As he got even with us, he stopped and got out of the car, leaving it running as he walked to the door. We all mad our way to the door on the other side and walked out.
“Aliyah, can you do something to him,” I asked, praying she could. I knew I wasn’t in any shape to stop him. She didn’t answer, but she did stop and I could tell she was focusing her mind. I couldn’t even sense her probes, which was an indication of how overused my ability was. Finally, her eyes opened and she smiled at me. She looked tired, though.
“He’s buying some food,” she said.
“What’d you do,” I asked, curious how she convinced him to get food, rather than chase us.
“I kind of placed an idea that he was hungry. I saw you do it once, and thought I might be able to. I’m not sure exactly how I made it work, but it did,” she said.
“Nice,” I replied, with a weak smile.
“We need some help and a place to rest,” she suggested, as we crossed the highway and moved behind some buildings. Considering how many cops we’d seen, I was amazed that we’d managed to get a break large enough to make it over there, but we had and I wasn’t going to question it.
“Where can we go,” she asked, once we were somewhat hidden.
“I don’t know,” I replied, beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed.
“What about that teacher that helped us,” she asked.
“Coach Sullivan,” I asked in reply. She nodded.
“I don’t know. We’d put him in danger,” I told her.
“But we need to rest and we need help,” she argued. I couldn’t argue back, because she was right. I reluctantly nodded agreement, and we started walking.
I actually knew where he lived, since Dad had been friends with him. They weren’t close friends, but they’d gone fishing and hunting a few times. It was a long walk, made longer because we were trying to stay hidden. Thankfully Ben and Eliana were being very good. They weren’t complaining or anything. As a matter of fact, they were being absolutely quiet.
We got to the cul-de-sac that Coach Sullivan lived on a few hours later. His house stuck out, since it was the only house that wasn’t huge and fancy. It was a nice house, but definitely not a rich house like all the others around it. He told me once that they built the neighborhood around his house and they tried to get him to sell it, but he wouldn’t.
We walked onto the porch and I pressed the doorbell button. It was only a moment before the door opened slightly, Coach Sullivan looking at us.
“Melanie, Aliyah, what are you doing here? Are you alright,” he asked, opening the door completely and ushering us inside.
“We need help and a place to rest,” Aliyah told him. “Rest I can do. What kind of help do you kids need,” he asked.
A plan suddenly bloomed in my mind. I wasn’t sure how well it’d work, but it was better than trying to trek across the country by ourselves. And it was all I could come up with at that moment.
Aliyah and I were now Pioneers in our AHG troop, which meant we were able to attend High Adventure Camp. This past summer, the camp was held at the fort on Caines Head, south of Seward. That old fort would be perfect for us to hide out and if necessary, defend ourselves.
“Could you drive us to Seward,” I asked. Coach Sullivan and his wife were absolutely silent, as if they didn’t know what to say, or what they could say.
“We can pay for gas,” I added.
“Gas isn’t a problem,” he replied, finally getting over whatever shock he had been in.
“That’s a long way and why would you want to go to Seward,” he asked.
“I think we could hide out at the old fort on Caines Head,” I told him.
“What will you do about food and water,” he asked.
Food I had thought about. Although we’d definitely be hungry in a short amount of time, we could get by on trail mix, like Aliyah and I had done once before. Water was a different matter, and I hadn’t thought about that.
“There is another place that might work, though. It has water year round and typically has food stocked. You’d have to kind of break in, but if you are desperate, it would work. Heat is kept on during the winter, so the pipes don’t freeze, but it isn’t used during the winter, so you’d be safe there,” he said, definitely getting my interest.
“But, before I tell you where it is, I want to know why you are running and from who. Breaking into a place is a crime, and I’ll be complicit in it, so I want to know why I’m going to help you,” he continued, after a pause to look at me intently.
I never understood why adults did that look to kids. Did they think we weren’t aware of how serious whatever they were talking to us about was?
However, Aliyah and I needed to decide if we were willing to tell him. Anything he knew about us would put him in danger, and the more he knew, the more danger he’d be in. That was my answer, I realized.
“Coach Sullivan, everything I tell you about us will put you in more danger. The less you know, the safer you are, “ I said.
“Then I guess I can’t help you,” he replied, standing up, as if he was going to go somewhere.
“Please don’t make us tell you,” I begged, tears forming in my eyes. I didn’t want to be the reason for him getting locked away for the rest of his life and I knew it’d happen if I told him.
“I am not willing to put my career and reputation on the line without knowing why I’m doing it,” he stated, adamant about his need to know. I was unable to say anything. Tears, which had already formed in my eyes, were now pouring out in a river. I was sobbing, unable to control myself.
I could feel him watching me, but he wasn’t doing anything. That was how I remembered him from my time at the school. He never interfered with kids that were having emotional moments, allowing them to work it out for themselves. He only interfered when they became a disruption to the class, or a danger to themselves or others. However, he always kept a watch on them, ready to be there if he was needed.
What bothered me though, was that I was now that kid. I’d never been that kid before, the one he watched slyly, but didn’t interfere with. I had always been better controlled than that, but I wasn’t anymore. I was weak.
Wanting to hide my weakness, I got up and walked into the kitchen, not caring that I hadn’t been invited. I put my back against a wall and slid down, my emotions too much for me to control.
“We can read your mind,” Aliyah said, making the decision for me and carrying on in my absence.
“I already gathered that,” he told her.
“Please don’t mess with her, Mrs. Sullivan. She needs to be alone for a little while. She’ll be okay, I promise,” Aliyah said. I guessed that Mrs. Sullivan was worried about me and was coming to try and help me, but Aliyah was right. I needed to be alone for a little while.
“Our Dads were given something before we were born that gave this to us, but our Dads got something different than all of the others in the experiment. We can do more and they know it, but they don’t know what we can do,” she explained.
“And,” he pushed.
“Mel, can I tell him,” she asked me, raising her voice to make sure I could hear. I wasn’t sure what she was referring to at first, but suddenly I knew. Goosebumps sprouted all over me, I began sweating really bad and I started shaking like a leaf, but I nodded, through my sobs.
“When she left your school, she went to a school called Oakmont. It was a secret government program to train telepathic kids to be spies or something. She wasn’t treated very good there. Just before we were ready to escape, the research doctors took her and started experimenting on her. They did really bad things to her and made her even stronger. They want her back,” Aliyah explained, having continued without really getting an answer from me.
“What kind of bad things did they do,” his wife asked.
“Stop,” I screamed, the memories becoming too much. I hadn’t had anything like this happen since I woke up from the coma. My legs were now curled up to my chin and I was rocking back and forth. Tears were pouring from my eyes, if possible, even faster than they already had been.
“Dear God, what did they do to you,” she asked, realizing she’d pushed me too far with her curiosity. From the corners of my eyes, I could see her standing nearby, looking down on me.
“You don’t want to know,” Aliyah told them.
“What kind of abilities do you have, that they want that badly,” Coach Sullivan asked. He hadn’t come to see me.
“Even if it means you won’t help us, we won’t tell,” Aliyah replied.
“I assume her Dad has been hiding and protecting you girls since you escaped,” he then asked, but Aliyah was done answering questions and I was in no condition to reply.
“Alright. I won’t push anymore. I’ll take you there,” he said.
Coach Sullivan’s wife sat beside me, probably to try and comfort me, but I had fully reverted to my old self. I scurried as fast as I could into a different corner, curling up and shaking, with no concern for how it looked anymore. I didn’t want anyone near me. I had thought I was past all of that, but I was wrong…very wrong.
“You know, there might be only one way for you to be somewhat safe,” Coach Sullivan went on to say, after thinking for a little while.
“What’s that,” Aliyah asked.
“Tell the world what they did and live as openly as possible, right in front of them. Dare them to take you, because then everyone would see it happen,” he suggested. I had never thought about something so brazen, and I knew Dad hadn’t either. Considering Dad’s background, that kind of idea was probably foreign to him. Thinking about it, actually started bringing me out of my stupor.
It took a couple more minutes, but I calmed myself down and finally wiped my face off. It actually felt like there was something helping me calm down, but my mind was too messed up to think about it.
“I’m sorry,” I said, once I looked up at Mrs. Sullivan, who was still sitting on the floor across from me. She looked worried, and maybe sympathetic, but not angry or anything like that.
“Melanie, I’m sorry I brought bad memories back to you,” Coach Sullivan said, very apologetically, when I finally walked back in the living room.
“Now, let’s go and get you kids someplace safe,” he said, once he was sure I was alright.
Once we had loaded up in his large SUV, his wife came up to his window and he rolled it down. “There are roadblocks set up on the Glenn, just before the Knik River, and also just before Muldoon. They are searching every vehicle. They’re talking about it over the police scanner,” she informed him, and us as well.
“It’s a good thing we’re not going that far,” he said, with a broad grin.
“Be careful,” she said, and kissed him.
“I will,” he replied, once they separated.
“I can’t believe we’re going to let four kids go off by themselves,” she exclaimed.
“I don’t know what else to do,” he said.
“We could let them stay here, with us,” she suggested.
“No,” Aliyah and I both said together, and with force.
“Why not,” she asked.
“Because, if they find out you helped us, they’ll lock you up forever,” Aliyah replied.
“Taking us to wherever it is we’re going, you can still claim you never saw us. They won’t know any different and,” I added, but she cut me off before I could finish with, “we stay safe,” to which we both nodded.
“But, I don’t care about staying safe. I care about helping four kids, who need help,” she countered.
“We’ll just run away,” I said, somewhat quietly, knowing it was true but not liking that it sounded ungrateful.
“You would too, wouldn’t you,” she prodded, to which we both nodded.
“At least leave the younger kids,” she suggested.
“We can’t. They’ll come after them too and you can’t keep them hidden forever,” Aliyah replied.
“I don’t like this,” she said, seeming to have given up the argument.
“Dana, at least we’ll know where they are and we can check up on them once in awhile,” he told her, to which she nodded acceptance.
“What if someone notices you coming to check on us,” Aliyah asked.
“We’ll take our chances,” he replied, as if that was the end of the discussion.
It was, I guess, but it meant we needed to figure out another way out of the area. And if they had the roads blocked, then they probably had all transportation out of the area watched as well. What could we do?
I mulled over our nonexistent options the entire trip to the place Coach Sullivan took us. It was amazingly close to where he lived, taking less than ten minutes to get there. It was off South Birchwood, well into the woods, and off the musher trails. It looked like a church camp.
“There is a key hidden under the mat behind the kitchen you can use to open up the main lodge, the bathhouse and a cabin. Put it back when they are all opened,” he told us, and Aliyah took the key that he offered.
“We aren’t actually breaking in,” I kind of asked.
“No, not exactly, but if anyone found out you were here, we’d all be in trouble,” he replied, as Aliyah went to open up the buildings he instructed her to open.
“What is this place,” I asked.
“It used to be a church camp, but they sold it to a non-profit youth organization, which I’m a member of,” he answered.
“Please clean up after yourselves, and please don’t break anything,” he said, to which I nodded.
“There is a phone in the main lodge, if you need anything. My number is on a piece of paper beside it,” he continued. “I think that’s all,” he finished.
“Thank you, Coach Sullivan,” I said, as I climbed out, Ben and Eliana following me.
We all took our packs and headed to the cabin that Aliyah had opened. By the time we came back out, Coach Sullivan was gone.
Since it was getting rather late, and none of us had eaten, we went to the lodge to see what we could do about dinner. There was plenty of food, but all of it required us to cook, and it also required a lot of preparation. There was no meat, however. Coach Sullivan’s assessment of the food at the camp was a bit inaccurate.
Finally, we found something that would work, even if it wasn’t ideal. We had crackers, as well as peanut butter. Looking in the fridge, there was jelly, so we had peanut butter and jelly crackers for supper.
Once we were done, we went to the cabin, locking the door behind us, and prepared for bed. Before we finished getting ready, I remembered something Uncle Mike had told me.
I pulled out one of the cell phones and went into the contacts list. There weren’t many, so finding the one I wanted was easy. I pressed the call button and put it to my ear.
“Hello,” I heard. Simply hearing his voice almost made me start crying, but I just managed to hold myself together.
“Mr. Ciansa,” I asked, using his alias from Oakmont. There was a short pause before he replied. I had seen him quite a few times since we escaped Oakmont, and I knew his name, so using that name should tell him something’s up.
“What’s wrong, Mel,” he asked.
“I don’t know how much I can say,” I replied.
“If you have one of your Dad’s or Mike’s phones, that were in the baggies, then you’re safe,” he told me, confirming what Uncle Mike had said.
“They arrested Mom and Dad and I think Uncle Mike and Aunt Sarah too,” I replied, to which there was another pause, this time a little bit longer.
“Alright, I’ll be there within a few hours. Are you safe until I get there,” he asked.
“I think so,” I said.
“But they’ve blocked all of the roads and stuff,” I informed him, to which he actually laughed.
“Although I know those phones are safe, don’t tell me where you are right now. I’ll call back once I’m in the area and get your location then,” he said.
“Thank you, Uncle Collie,” I said, still struggling to stop the tears, the past two days beginning to crash down on me.
“I’ll be there soon, I promise,” he tried to assure me, which actually did help. I hung up and lowered my hand, not letting go. I only realized I was still holding it when Aliyah gently pried it out of my grasp.
“Aliyah, back at our house, there was something you weren’t telling me,” I said, as the memory suddenly returned to my mind.
“The girl was my sister,” she said, and looked very unhappy.
“I’m sorry,” I told her, knowing it was pathetic comfort.
“Does anyone need to go to the bathroom, before bed,” Aliyah then asked, clearly changing the subject. Everyone raised their hand, even me.
“We should also brush our teeth. Ben, you’ll use a stall in the girl’s bathroom, so we can all stay together, okay,” she told him.
“Okay,” he replied. Why was he being so agreeable with her, considering how he usually was with me?
We all paraded to the bathroom, took care of our natural needs, then brushed our teeth. Once everyone was done, we paraded back to the cabin and locked the door behind us again.
“We should be safe here, but keep your flashlight close, just in case,” Aliyah instructed all of us.
“Mel, should we go ahead and give Ben the stuff,” she asked me.
“Not yet. We don’t know how he’ll react and we might have to leave fast. It’s too risky right now,” I replied, my brain actually beginning to function again.
“What about starting to train him,” she then asked, after thinking about my reply and finally agreeing to my logic.
“That’d probably be a good idea, but where do we start,” I agreed with her. She only smiled at me and we began.
Aliyah and I both worked with Ben, sending impressions to him, the way we had for a long time with each other. Aliyah seemed to know where to start, and did a great job of getting us going. We started showing him how to control his probes, sending only one at a time and targeting them. Although I was his sister, Aliyah seemed to work better with him and I finally dropped out of the link.
By the time she was done, he had begun to understand how to send a probe into only one person, although it was very shaky. I couldn’t describe it any better than that, and although he was incredibly strong, his probes were weak and tentative. That sounded really weird, but this ability is really difficult to describe sometimes.
What was amazing was that he learned that on his first day of awakening, and it normally took months, if not years, to get that down. His raw strength was incredible, but his ability to pick this up so fast was downright frightening.
Once done with that, she got me to help him learn how to turn it all off. That simple skill would give him some ability to remain hidden…and safe.
We all slept soundly, although I had some nightmares. Thankfully, they weren’t like what I had been having lately. Maybe the activity had my mind distracted enough to keep them mostly away.
When we woke up, I was tired, but functional. We all got a change of clothes, our toothbrushes and toothpaste and went to the bathhouse. Once we were all done, we repacked everything and went to the lodge, hoping we could find something better for breakfast than we’d had for supper.
Unfortunately, breakfast wasn’t a lot better since there was no meat, eggs or milk. There was a lot of food, including pancake mix. Everything was either canned, or bagged. There wasn’t much that required refrigeration. In other words, there wasn’t anything that’d go bad. So, we made pancakes, and found a small amount of syrup.
Along with the pancakes, we ate more peanut butter and jelly crackers, and washed it all down with water. I had no idea how long it should have taken Uncle Collie to make it to Anchorage, but by the time we were done with our small breakfast, I was beginning to get a little worried. He’d said it’d only be a few hours, but it had been almost 12 by the time we were done with breakfast, not that breakfast took that long.
We sat around, playing foosball, for another three hours. Thankfully they had a couple of foosball tables in the main lodge, or I’d have gone completely crazy. As it was, I almost jumped to the ceiling when the phone finally rang.
When I managed to get control of the phone, in my fumbling hands, I answered very shakily, “Hello?” There was a pause before I heard anything, and that was only breathing for a little while.
“Hey Mel, this is Mr. Ciansa,” he began, his voice sounding funny. Why’d he use that name? Something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t tell what.
“Where are you,” I asked.
“I’m heading to our meeting point, like we discussed,” he replied. Now I knew something wasn’t right, thanks to his reply. We had never established a meeting point, since he was going to come here, but didn’t know where ‘here’ was. He was trying to tell me something, without someone else knowing, which meant that they must have captured him.
“I can’t wait. We’ll be at the yurt, like you said,” I replied, and hung up.
“What yurt,” Aliyah asked.
“They have him,” I told her. “I don’t know how, but we’ve got to get out of here,” I then stated, trying to come up with a plan. A few years ago, I was able to come up with a plan, and I was completely crazy. This time, I couldn’t seem to come up with anything, and I was scared and crazy.
“I don’t know what to do, Aliyah,” I admitted, sitting on the bunk and putting my head in my hands.
“You’ll come up with something. You always do,” she said, with a smile. Then an idea started taking shape in my mind and I lifted my head to look at her. I couldn’t believe her words had inspired me that strongly, but it seemed that they had.
“Ben, Eliana, listen close. Aliyah and I have done this before. It’s very hard and we’ll be hungry a lot, since we’ll have a hard time getting food. We will also try and train you how to survive on your own, as much as any of us kids can. I promise, we’ll take care of you, but you have to do what we say, without question and without pause. Understand,” I asked them. They both shook their heads. Ben actually shook his enthusiastically.
Being that they had Uncle Collie, I had to assume they knew about the cell phone I had been using, which meant that they probably traced the call somehow. Knowing that, I left it sitting on the bunk and pulled out the other one. If I was going to use this one, I couldn’t make anymore calls. I wasn’t positive they had traced the phone, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.
“Let’s go,” I said, confidence in my voice again. Aliyah smiled at me as we all got our packs on. We locked all of the doors as we left.
As we started walking, I pulled up the map program and started finding a route out of here that might keep us a little off the highways. Unfortunately, there were no roads except the one we came in on. Then I noticed something that might be better. The road to the camp had railroad tracks crossing it, and I knew those tracks went straight through the base. That was where I wanted to go, so that would work perfectly. We just had to avoid the road until we got to the tracks.
Considering none of us had camouflage, and some of us even had bright colors, staying hidden was going to be difficult, but we’d have to manage. We walked in the woods, trying to remain as hidden as possible from the road, but staying close to it.
We came over the top of a hill, and I saw the tracks toward the bottom on the far side. I also saw a line of four black SUVs coming our way. We all saw them and darted back over the top of the hill and went deeper into the woods, hoping to stay out of sight.
As I heard them approaching, I started praying, “God, please don’t let them find us, please keep us hidden.”
Aliyah lightly touched my shoulder and whispered, “They have at least one telepath, but he’s not trying to probe yet.” How did she know that? I couldn’t tell that there were even people in the cars, other than with my eyes.
“It’s a he,” I asked.
“I don’t know. I just called it him because him was easier,” she admitted, getting that confused look, which I still thought was adorable and funny.
“They took Mr. and Mrs. Strager too,” she told me. I didn’t bother asking her how she found out. These were our enemies and she got information from them to help us.
Once they had gone a little further down the road, we started moving again, with a little more urgency than before. I had no idea how long it would be before they came back, but we made it to the tracks before they did. I was even more thankful that the tracks curved shortly after we got to them, hiding us from view very quickly.
We hiked for the rest of the day, the entire time hidden in the woods. Several trains came through while we were hiking, but we always knew they were coming well before they got to us.
The only time we got a little worried was when we were crossing Eagle River on the trestle. It was long and open. As we got most of the way across, we heard a train. Hearing that sound, we all started running, but we didn’t have anything to worry about, even when I tripped on one of the large wooden beams. We were long past the trestle before we finally saw the train.
That night, we set up the one tent we had in a little opening in the trees. The tent was big enough for us kids, but it was still tight considering there were four of us. However, our close proximity kept us all a bit warmer, and it was definitely getting colder outside.
“What is the status,” Raughlin asked John Wu, the chief of security for the Oakmont program, when he answered the phone.
“We had them three separate times and lost them. It is my fault for not being more prepared,” the younger man said.
“Give me details,” Raughlin commanded.
“Agents, along with local police, went to the Brager house at 05:00 Friday morning. The adults were taken into custody. The children were nowhere to be seen, but they must have been there. Our telepath was rendered unconscious before she entered the house. A couple hours later, we went to the Draper house, and the situation was repeated, but this time we had two telepaths and both were rendered unconscious. The next night we intercepted Collier Anderson at the airport. With a little convincing, he helped us find where the children were. Somehow, they figured out that we were onto them and left before we arrived. They also left the phone that had been used. It is an NSA device,” Wu informed the Headmaster.
“Good job, John. Very good job,” the Headmaster said, smiling broadly as he hung up.
Everything was going exactly according to his plan. If only he could make it stay that way. It had all fallen apart the last time, thanks to the idiot he had recruited to put the Brager girl in her place. The boy had fallen victim to her, although no one knew what had really happened to James. No one but Headmaster Raughlin, that is.
John Wu sat with a perplexed look on his face for quite a while after the Headmaster hung up with him. How had he done a good job, considering he had lost the kids three times? They were just kids, even if they were telepaths, and he had been unable to capture them.
Getting up from the chair he had been in, he looked at his assistant for a while before finally speaking. “Greg, put agents at every conceivable exit point in the region. I want the trains, the ferries and the airport watched. Continue the roadblocks on each side of Eagle River as well,” he ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Greg replied, with a salute.
The security team had become a lot more formal since he had taken command. As much as he admired and respected his predecessor, he never liked the more casual manner in which he had run things. There was one thing he couldn’t deny though. Chief Strager undeniably had the loyalty of his men, in a way that John didn’t.
That had been extremely evident by the fact that so many had resigned when Strager announced his resignation. John had tried to keep them, but they were absolutely loyal to Strager, so they left. Of the ones that stayed, a good number of them died at that shack in Alaska when they tried to apprehend the girls. Brager had managed to put a bullet into a propane tank, causing an incredible explosion, killing all of the agents and scientists that were there.
Oddly, none of the telepaths sent on that mission had been injured, other than the one that had his mind messed up. They still didn’t understand that and the other telepaths hadn’t revealed anything useful about it..
The entire Strager situation remained a thorn in his side, but who was the top dog now? He had the Bragers, the Drapers and yes, the Stragers too, in custody. Anyone that had any confirmed, non-casual contact with the children was under his authority. He was the boss.
Considering we were all twisted together like a pretzel, and had no space to move around, I was amazed at how well I slept. I would have been amazed that we weren’t freezing, but we were all sleeping so tightly together that we were keeping each other warm with our own body heat. It was very cold outside our group sleeping bag, though.
We ate the last of the trail mix, which there wasn’t much of to begin with, and packed up. We hiked for a long time before we saw anything else, other than the train tracks and lots of trees. What ‘that anything else’ turned out to be was not what I wanted to see.
Since we were in the woods, we probably weren’t as careful as we should have been. As we crested a hill, the trees parted and we came into a very large open area, where there were military vehicles everywhere. We all stopped dead, staring at what was in front of us. We were out in the open, and brightly colored.
There were military tents set up, with antennas and all kinds of other stuff that I couldn’t identify. Men were moving all over the place, doing whatever it was they did. I didn’t really care. What I cared about was getting out of sight, and fast.
Aliyah and I quickly moved back into the trees, Eliana and Ben following without question. They knew that this was bad, without being told.
Once we were back in the trees, we all looked out, trying to stay hidden. I knew immediately that we had been seen. One of those army car, truck things was coming our way, and very fast. It skidded to a stop not far from where we had been when we first came over the top of the hill and out of the woods.
“Come on out kids. We won’t hurt you,” the army man yelled. There was no way we were going to get out of this, at least no way I could think of.
“Let me talk,” I whispered. Aliyah nodded agreement.
We all stood up and came out of hiding. “You kids hid well, especially considering your bright colors,” he said, with an admiring grin. “What are you doing here,” he asked, turning very serious.
“We were with our church group, but they left us and we started hiking and got lost. We had no idea where we were. We still don’t, but we thought that if we stayed on the tracks we’d eventually find civilization again,” I told him. He looked at us for a while, not saying anything. Then, he reached up to his shoulder and pulled a mic down, pressing the button on the side of it.
“Sargeant, we have four kids along the tracks. Say they got lost from a church group,” he said into the mic. He had an earpiece, so I had no idea what the sergeant said to him. I didn’t think we were in any danger right then, so I didn’t try and read his mind.
“What did you kids eat for breakfast,” he asked.
“Trail mix, sir,” I replied.
“Would you like something to eat,” he asked. I didn’t need to reply, as he almost laughed when he saw the hungry look on all of our faces, especially Eliana and Ben.
“Climb in,” he told us. A few minutes later, we were in a large tent that had a lot of tables and wonderful smells.
“Sit here and I’ll get you breakfast,” he instructed us. We all sat our packs on the ground by our feet and waited.
“Keep your pack close at all times,” I quickly whispered to everyone, getting nods from them all.
When the soldier put the food down in front of us, we all dug into it like we hadn’t eaten in days, which we hadn’t really. He pulled up a folding chair and sat at the end of the table while we ate, watching us. Once we were all done, including seconds, he took the tray with our dishes and had us follow him. I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one that would have liked more.
He led us to a tent with a large fold up table and a lot of chairs. It was like a meeting room, but in a tent.
“Ribinski, get in here,” he yelled, as we walked in.
“Yes, sergeant,” the newly arrived soldier said. I knew he said sergeant, but the ‘g’ was almost silent. I’d heard the sergeant say it the same way when he spoke on the radio earlier Apparently, it was the army way of saying sergeant.
“Now kids, what is your story. The truth,” he demanded, with a look that said he expected to be obeyed without question.
“We told you,” I said.
“No, you told me a lie. You kept your packs at your feet like you were ready to run. There are no reports of missing kids, and I can promise you there would be. The truth, this time,” he replied.
“Tell him the truth,” Aliyah said to my mind.
“But it’ll get him in trouble. He wouldn’t believe it anyway,” I replied, speaking out loud.
“Then show him. He won’t have a choice,” she said, still only talking in our minds.
“Sergeant, if we tell you the truth, it could get you in a lot of trouble. They’ll lock you up for the rest of your life if they find out you know,” I explained.
“Know what,” he demanded. I looked over at Aliyah, not sure if this was the right decision, but she nodded for me to continue.
“We are telepaths. We are the result of a government experiment and they’re after us and they’ve arrested our parents to try and get us,” I told him. He sat staring at us for a while. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. Unlike a lot of people I had seen in the past in this situation, this soldier would have made a great poker player.
I was certain he didn’t believe me, though. Who would?
Reaching into that pool of energy, I let a little of it flow into me. It was such a wonderful feeling, and I was still afraid of it because of that. With that energy, I lifted the table into the air. The sergeant almost fell out of the chair he was sitting in. The other soldier looked as if he was struggling not to run away and both of them looked a bit pale.
“Sergeant, she’s right. If anyone knows we know, they’ll put us away forever,” the younger soldier exclaimed, at least a little sense still present.
“She tried to warn you,” Aliyah said, with an ‘I told you so’ tone.
The sergeant finally did come to his senses, and his calm demeanor returned. “That is messed up,” he exclaimed, shaking his head, like he was trying to shake something loose.
“Where are you kids going,” he asked.
“We don’t know. We just need to get out of Alaska, but they’ve blocked the highways and they’re probably watching any other place we could go to get away,” I replied.
“Sergeant, there’s a plane scheduled for a TDY to Eglin,” the younger soldier suggested.
“We can’t get them on a military plane,” the sergeant said, looking at the younger soldier like he was crazy. The younger soldier motioned him over and began whispering to him. Of course, he wasn’t very quiet and we could hear everything he said. We didn’t even need to read their minds.
“Sergeant, if we can get them on that plane, it gets them out of Alaska and away from us. No one will ever know we found them,” he explained.
“How can we get them on a military transport, without them being found,” he asked.
“Get them in a crate and send them away,” he replied.
“They check every crate, to insure it is what the transfer docs say it is,” the sergeant said.
“That won’t be our problem,” the soldier said. The sergeant was silent for a long time, just looking at his partner. After a while, he turned around and stared at us, looking like he wasn’t sure about what he wanted to say.
“I think we can sneak you kids onto a military plane going to Eglin Air Force Base. That’s in Florida and a long way from here,” he said. My face had to have gotten excited at that, because I felt like I was vibrating. Our luck was incredible. That wasn’t far from where we wanted to be, and I was pretty sure we could take care of them checking the crate.
“I take it that you’d be happy with that,” he asked, at my reaction. I could only nod my head.
“Okay, we will get a crate ready for the trip. It’s a large thing, big enough for all four of you. It’ll still be a little tight, though. We’ll make sure you have food in there for the trip, but you’ll get there tomorrow afternoon, if they stay on course. Make sure you go to the bathroom before you get in, cause there won’t be one inside. We can put a few empty water bottles in there for you, which you can pee in, but you’ll need to be careful how much you use them. When you get to Eglin, it’ll be up to you to figure out how to get out of the box and off the base,” he said, pausing as he looked at me.
“Will that work for you,” he finally asked. Aliyah and I both nodded.
He left for a while, leaving the younger soldier to watch over us. When he returned, we loaded back into his truck, or whatever it was, and he took us onto the main part of the base. He led us into an area that was empty of any people and then to a small cafeteria, where he got us more food. From there, we all went to the bathroom and he drove us to a hangar, very close to the runway.
Everything took about three hours, in which time we had some snacks, he gave us a lot of water bottles, about half of them empty, and loaded us in a crate in the hangar. Thankfully, we heard them outside the crate when they were about to check it. Both of us concentrated, and entered the minds of the soldiers examining the crate. It didn’t take much, and they went on their way, thinking that our crate had been checked.
A little while later, we felt the crate get lifted and shortly after that we felt the plane taking off. He had made sure our crate was labelled as fragile, so it might not get banged around too much. All of us tried to sleep on the trip, since there wasn’t anything else to do, but it was way too hot.
We all held it as long as we could, but eventually every one of us had to go to the bathroom. When any of us went, Ben would turn around so he couldn’t see, and we all did the same for him. It wasn’t the best situation, considering we were in a crate in the back of a plane, but it worked.
During the flight, I had visions of my little island, and even considered having Ben and Eliana there, but I quickly dispelled those. I didn’t want to have to police them all the time, and I definitely would. So, my peaceful sanctuary remained mine…and Aliyah’s.
I had no idea what time it was when we landed, but I felt it when the plane began descending and then the slight lurch when the plane’s wheels touched the pavement. It wasn’t long after that when a forklift took our crate out of the plane. Even marked fragile, they weren’t very careful with us. At least, that’s how it felt to me.
Carefully pulling the cell phone out of my pack, I pressed the little button on its face and saw that it was 2:13 in the afternoon. I assumed the phone automatically adjusted to the local time, but I wasn’t certain of that. It would probably be a good idea to wait until much later in the afternoon to try and sneak out, if we could figure out how to open the crate.
The box we were in wasn’t a simple cardboard box. It had thick wooden sides with metal holding them all together. I really hoped Aliyah or I could feel it with our minds and figure out how to open it.
We sat quietly for what seemed like forever. Eliana and Ben were amazingly patient during all of this. Finally, it got to 5:00 and I nodded to Aliyah. She concentrated for a little while.
“There’s no one around. I’ll see if I can open it,” she told me, to which I nodded. She then closed her eyes and concentrated again.
I joined her, sending a probe out to sense the box and how it was sealed. I was very happy that it wasn’t airtight, or we’d have possibly been in a lot of trouble. My probe ran over the outside of the crate and found a couple of clasps on opposite corners, with hinges in the others. This crate was designed with doors.
Using my mind, I pried the clasps open, using a lot of energy with each one. There were only two and it felt like I had been working for hours, but the door opened slightly as the last was unfastened. Ben pushed it open completely, without waiting for us. Although I understood his desire to escape, we didn’t know that there weren’t cameras. Of course, I wasn’t sure if there was anything we could’ve done if there were.
We all piled out of the box, making sure we removed every trace of our time there. Aliyah and I resealed the box. Whenever someone finally opened it, they’d probably wonder why an empty crate had been sent all the way from Alaska, but that wasn’t my problem or concern.
We then went through the closest door, hoping to find a real bathroom, which we did very quickly. We all went to the bathroom, and then emptied the water bottles that had served as pee bottles, and cleaned them out. We left the empty water bottles on the floor and refilled our real water bottles.
Once done, we made our way to the exit, checking with our eyes and mind to see if anyone was around. Finding no one, we slowly opened the door a little and squeezed out. We left the building on the opposite of it from runway.
Hugging the wall of the building we worked our way toward the nearby road, hoping to see something that would give us a clue of where to go. Although it was only about 6:00, the overcast sky made it quite dark. That made it difficult to see what was around us, but it clearly showed life in the distance, with bright light on both sides of the runway from where we were. I wished I had a compass, so I’d know which direction everything was and maybe an idea of which way to go.
The side of the building we were on had a parking lot and a road coming off of it. With no idea where we were going, I began walking toward the brightest area of light, which was kind of to our left.
We went right when we got to the road, which I soon found was Fisher Street. In three or four blocks, we came to Larcher Boulevard, which came to a tee in front of the base hospital. I knew the hospital wasn’t where we wanted to go, and it looked kind of dark further down Fisher Street, so I led us onto Larcher. A huge base exchange was in front of us, only three blocks from the hospital. Unfortunately, it looked closed, as there weren’t many cars in the parking lot.
Looking at the area, there was a kind of busy road that intersected Larcher, and ran in front of the exchange. Although I wasn’t positive, it looked like it might lead off the base. We turned onto Meadows Drive and very shortly saw the gate.
“Let’s just walk through and see if they stop us,” Aliyah said, probably guessing that I was worried about it. Rather than replying, I continued walking, right through the gate. The guards didn’t even look over at us.
“Mel, weren’t we supposed to go to Eglin,” she asked, once we were through the gate. Her question sent a jolt of panic through me, because I knew we weren’t at Eglin, if she asked that.
“Yeah,” I replied, knowing something of what she was about to say.
“We’re at Keesler Air Force Base,” she informed me.
I sat down, right where I was. My mind was going into panic mode, having no idea where in the world we were. I’d never heard of Keesler Air Force Base, not that I knew many Air Force bases.
I felt her arms pull me close, comforting me, as I sat with my face in my hands, tears of frustration and fear leaking out. Not only was I responsible for Aliyah, but I was also responsible for Ben and Eliana. I had no idea where we were or what we were going to do.
“Mel, let’s go, before someone starts asking questions,” she said, helping to lift me up. She was right, of course, but I wasn’t totally in control of myself anymore.
The base exit came to a tee on Forrest Avenue, in whatever city we were in. Right across from the base entrance was a church, which I considered going to, but at the last minute decided not to. We did cross the road, though. Following the proper rules of pedestrians, we started walking against the flow of traffic, not that there was much traffic.
There weren’t any people out and I was hoping as hard as I could that it’d stay that way. I was scared that there’d be bad people out, considering we were four kids in an unknown part of some unknown city. We were very vulnerable. God, I prayed no one came near us.
Walking along Forrest Avenue, we crossed a canal before we finally came to a tee, forcing me to choose a direction again. As long as we had been on Forrest, I didn’t have to make any choices, but now I did and I had no idea which way to go. So far, my prayer to remain unseen had been granted.
Looking both ways, I decided to go left, since I saw a Shell station that way and I was hungry, which meant we were all hungry. There’d be food there, even if it was only snack food. There would be no way to avoid people there, but it was worth it to get some food.
When we got to the Shell station, I walked in without asking the others if they wanted anything. I was sure they did. We all got a soda, each getting a different one, and a couple large bags of potato chips to share. One was ranch and the other was barbecue, which was my favorite. Eliana helped me with the barbecue, while Ben and Aliyah ate the ranch.
Once we were done, having eaten the chips outside the store, I went back in and walked up to the counter. “Is there a grocery store nearby, ma’am,” I asked the woman behind the counter.
She had the darkest skin I’d ever seen, almost being truly black. Her mostly white hair was braided really tightly in many different little braids. Although her hair made her look old, her skin was wrinkle free, so I wasn’t sure how old she was.
“There’s a Food Giant a couple blocks down on the right,” she said, with a very deep and odd southern accent. Along with her reply, she pointed in the direction of the store.
“Thank you,” I said, turning to walk out.
“You’re welcome,” she replied, smiling at me.
Aliyah and the younger kids fell in behind me as I walked out and in the direction the woman indicated. We crossed a set of railroad tracks and then I saw something that almost made me freeze in terror. Right across from the Food Giant was the police station.
“They aren’t looking for us here,” Aliyah told me, calming me down instantly. She was right and my mind began engaging again.
Stopping at the beginning of the parking lot, I turned toward the others, knowing we needed a place to stay for the night and also some real food to eat. “We need to get something we can eat that will fill us up. We can’t get candy or cookies or anything, okay,” I told Eliana and Ben, mainly Ben. They both nodded very quickly.
With that, we all walked into the store, which was thankfully still open. Once inside, I went to the peanut butter aisle and grabbed a jar of peanut butter and a jar of strawberry preserves. I always liked preserves better than jelly. It was easier to spread.
We then wandered through the store and got a small bottle of apple juice and a loaf of bread. “We need some knives,” Ben said, as we were headed to the checkout.
“You’re right. Thank you,” I replied. Once we had the knives, we went to the checkout and paid for the stuff.
Heading back in the direction we were headed when we got to the store, since I didn’t know where else to go, we walked out of sight of the police station. Even though they weren’t looking for me here, I still had some anxiety at being so close to it.
It was really beginning to get dark now, but I could tell that ahead of us was a lot of darkness. Just as I was noticing that, I saw something that was more interesting. Above us was a school zone sign. We could possibly hide there.
There was a small road to our left, and only houses and businesses anywhere else, so I figured the school had to be down that road. Hoping my logic was good, I crossed the road, making sure we could all go together, and started down Youngham Drive.
We didn’t walk very far before we came into a large opening with what could only be a school to our right, across a decent size play field. Without pausing, I walked to the school and straight to one of the doors. Knowing I could do this, I slipped my mind into the lock and opened the door. As I did, I felt like I was about to collapse. My energy was almost completely gone.
Aliyah put a hand on my back to steady me, which I was thankful for. Why was I so tired, though?
“You’ve used too much power,” she replied, to my unspoken thought.
“How? I only picked the lock,” I replied.
“You’ve been using energy since we left the base. It was really weird, kind of like a bubble all around us, but I couldn’t tell what it was for, or why you were doing it,” she told me.
“I didn’t know I was,” I informed her, which brought a raised eyebrow from her.
“We need to eat,” I said, getting back to business. Eliana and Ben both nodded agreement. Aliyah was hungry, but she was looking at me like she was trying to figure something out. I knew she had a probe in my mind, but that wasn’t that uncommon for us.
“Would you lock the door back,” I asked her, to which she nodded and froze in concentration for less than a second. She was back in only a moment, the job of picking and apparently locking locks being nothing for her.
We wandered around the school for a little while before we finally found the cafeteria, and with it the kitchen. All of us almost charged the kitchen door, since we were all very hungry. The potato chips really hadn’t done much for any of us.
We used only the stuff we had bought for our meal, not wanting to steal from the school. Although it was only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with apple juice to wash it down, it filled all of us up pretty good. Finally done eating, and cleaning up our mess, we walked out of the kitchen into the student portion of the cafeteria, intending to find a place to sleep.
Yet again, we wandered around the school, using one of our lanterns to light the way. We definitely didn’t want to turn the lights on. I was afraid the lantern would give us away, but the lights would without a doubt.
Finally, we found a room that looked like a storage room, and a seldom used one at that. We all went in and closed the door.
“We can’t lock it,” she informed me once we were inside.
“Why not,” I asked.
“I think it’s broken. All I know is, it won’t lock,” she said.
“We’ll have to take our chances, I guess,” I said, resigned to whatever fate we ended up with. We needed a relatively safe place to sleep, and this was the best I could come up with right then, not knowing where we were or what was nearby.
“Sir, we lost them,” John reported to his boss.
“I am not surprised,” Raughlin replied. John wasn’t sure how to take that, and wasn’t about to say anything to his boss about it.
“Where was the last known location,” Raughlin asked.
“The camp, in Chugiak, Alaska,” John said.
“So, they up and disappeared,” Raughlin mused.
“It seems so, sir,” the security chief replied.
“And they left the phone you traced, correct,” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” John replied, curious how he knew that.
“I am looking at a map on the internet and noticed a set of railroad tracks nearby. It seems the girls knew you were coming, somehow, so it is a reasonable assumption that they would have taken a path out that you would have had a lot of trouble following. Those tracks seem like a very good solution for them, wouldn’t they,” he asked, somewhat sarcastically.
“Yes, sir,” John replied, getting more nervous with each step the Headmaster took down his logical path.
That girl was making him look bad, and he had no doubt that the Brager girl was the leader. She always had been.
“Something else to consider…those tracks lead on to the military base, and they are military kids. Keep that in mind, as you search for them,” Raughlin said, and hung up.
Although John Wu may have been a good soldier, he was not the best leader, and Raughlin sorely missed Strager being in charge. Yes, he was unable to capture the girls, but he was constantly on their heels, anticipating their moves. John had been far behind them the entire time, never really getting that close.
Regardless of all of that, his plans were still going well and he had no doubt that the girls would show up again at some point, along with the two younger children. The only questions was when and where. He strongly suspected that they had managed to slip out of Alaska at this point, considering how resourceful those girls were, but he didn’t know with certainty.
Unlike John Wu, Raughlin suspected that Melanie Brager might not be as much of a leader as it seemed. Aliyah Draper might actually be the stronger leader, but he wasn’t certain. Regardless, he’d make use of them once they finally came home…to him.
John was keeping them busy, which was exactly what he wanted, although it’d have been really nice if he had managed to actually catch them. That was too much to ask, though, and he knew it.
John sat for a long time, trying to figure out how his former boss had managed to stay on the girls heels so effectively. Although he never actually caught them, John believed that Strager would have if he’d stayed on the job and not abandoned his men like he did.
Enough of his ‘what ifs’. He had a job to do, and he was determined to do it, to the best of his ability. Standing up, he stretched a moment and walked out of the room.
“Easely, there is a set of railroad tracks that intersects the road to that campground. Have a team scout it. The girls likely used it to elude us,” he instructed.
“Yes, sir,” Easely replied, with a smart salute.
“And take a telepath with you,” he commanded.
“Yes, sir,” the man replied, again with a salute.
I woke up to someone lightly shaking me, as if they were nervous to touch me. Opening my eyes, I saw a little girl standing over me, her incredibly long red hair hanging in front of her tied in a pair of nice braids. She had a private school uniform on, mostly consisting of dark reds in the plaid. She also had the cutest splay of freckles across her nose and cheeks. There weren’t an enormous number of them, like some people, but the perfect amount to make it incredibly cute. She couldn’t have been more than maybe eight years old, looking at her.
“You aren’t supposed to be here,” she said, with a deep southern accent. Although I was used to the accent from Aliyah, this girl’s was deeper and somehow different.
“Where am I,” I asked.
“In the supply closet,” she replied, as if I should have known that.
“I mean, what city,” I asked.
“Buh-luck-see, Missippi,” she replied, not saying the second set of esses in the state name.
Before I could ask her anything else, she bolted out the door closing it behind her. Certain we were about to have visitors, I woke everyone up quickly and quietly. “Get your packs on quickly,” I commanded.
We were up and ready to leave within minutes, but it wasn’t fast enough. As I opened the door, there were six women standing there, obviously about to open it. The look of shock on their faces indicated that they were surprised by our sudden attempt to depart, and maybe even our presence there.
All of the women were nuns, or at least they were wearing the clothing that I thought nuns wore. They were all varying ages, the youngest looking probably in her twenties and the oldest of the younger five maybe in her thirties or forties. Then there was the oldest of them. She looked like she could have been seventy or eighty, although she stood perfectly straight, as if she was holding a book on her head and trying to keep it there. She looked very stern, and mean.
There was no way we could run, not with Ben and Eliana as well. I didn’t feel right doing anything to these people’s minds, since I still didn’t know what effect I was really having on people when I attacked them. These people hadn’t done anything to us, and I couldn’t do anything to them…at least not yet.
“I’m sorry for coming in here uninvited, but we needed a safe place to sleep last night. We’ll just leave now, so you can continue with your day,” I said, cringing at my own words, knowing how stupid I sounded.
“Stop right there, young lady,” the oldest of the women said. “You are obviously runaways, but from where,” she asked. There was no accent with her.
I looked over at Aliyah, wondering what her thoughts were. We hadn’t connected today. She gave a slight nod, I hoped indicating that I should be honest, because that was exactly what I was going to do.
“Anchorage, Alaska,” I replied. The shock on all of their faces was immediate, even the old woman.
“You must be lying,” she then said, quickly recovering her wit.
“I don’t care if you believe me, but we’re from Alaska and we’re trying to get to family in Georgia,” I said, trying to be respectful, but getting a little impatient.
“You will not speak to me in that tone, young lady,” she said, her nose rising a little into the air, a clearly superior look about her.
“Aliyah, we need to go,” I said out loud.
“Okay,” she replied.
“You are going nowhere,” the old woman replied. “The police should be here momentarily,” she added, after looking at me with a smile on her face.
That last statement settled it. We had to leave. “Mel, let me do it,” Aliyah said, before I could do anything. I simply nodded, and I saw her probes go out to all of the women. A second later, all but one fell to the floor, unconscious. The one that still stood was the youngest of them, and she was shocked speechless.
I looked over at Aliyah, curious why she didn’t knock her out, and she shrugged her shoulders. “She resisted,” Aliyah said, to my unasked question.
“Ma’am, we didn’t mean to cause trouble, but we’re running from the government. I don’t like telling someone to lie, but if they find out you’ve seen us, you’ll be locked up for the rest of your life. We can do things they want to control, and they consider it top secret or something,” I informed her. She nodded, very nervously, but remained silent.
“Could you give us directions to the bus station,” I asked, a little nervously.
“The road just in front of the school is Youngham. Go right on that and then left on Benachi. At the end of that go right on West Howard and follow it for a long way until you get to Reynoir. The station is about a block to the left on Reynoir. Before you leave, go to the cafeteria and get some breakfast. The staff will feed you and won’t ask questions. May God guide you kids,” she said.
I was about to agree, but then remembered the police. “We’ll be caught by the police, but thank you,” I replied.
“We haven’t called the police yet,” she said, with a wink and a smile. I was a little surprised that a nun had lied to us.
“Thank you, ma’am,” I replied, truly grateful for her guidance and prayer, along with the information. “Let’s go,” I said, and Aliyah and the kids followed me out.
We went to the cafeteria and got a nice hot breakfast. Just as she told us, no one asked us any questions and didn’t ask us for any money to pay for it. None of the kids in the cafeteria asked us any hard to answer questions either, although some kids came and sat with us.
“What’s your name,” a girl asked me, as she sat beside me. Looking at her, I recognized the girl from earlier.
“Melanie,” I replied, not asking hers in return.
“Mine’s Sadie,” she offered anyway.
Neither of us said anything for a few minutes as we ate our food, which was pretty good. “How’d you not know where you were,” she asked, once her plate was cleaned, and it was truly cleaned.
“It’s a long story,” I told her, earning a very curious expression from her.
A bell rang, which brought a disappointed frown from my new friend. “Well, I gotta go. I do hope to see you at lunch so we can talk more,” she said, smiling broadly at me. Before I knew what was happening, she hugged me tightly.
“You’re nice. I like you, even if you don’t like me,” she said. I had no idea what to say and she left before I could have replied anyway.
“Did you enjoy your breakfast,” I heard, all of us jumping and spinning around at the same time.
“Yes, ma’am,” Aliyah replied first. It was the youngest of the nuns.
“Very good. Now, where are you kids planning to go,” she asked.
“We can’t tell you,” Aliyah said, having taken the lead, which I was perfectly fine with.
“I didn’t think you would, but I wanted to ask. I am willing to help you,” she told us, looking at me, even though Aliyah was the leader now.
“You don’t want to be seen with us,” I told her, since she was looking at me.
“You’ll get in a lot of trouble,” Aliyah added when she didn’t immediately reply, to which she simply smiled. Something wasn’t right here, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Not sure why, I reached out to her mind and found a wall. She was shielded…which meant, she was a telepath…which meant she was part of the program.
My shields slammed in place immediately, and her smile widened. “You should have done that when I wasn’t knocked out by your attack,” she said. I had no idea what to say or do, but I was about to launch everything I had at her.
“Please don’t attack me. I’m certain you could take me down in a heartbeat, if you tried,” she said.
“Who are you,” I asked.
“I am Sister Eleanor, of the Sisters of Mercy,” she replied, inclining her head slightly.
“So, you really are a nun,” I asked.
“Yes, I really am a nun,” she said.
“I’m sure you have a lot of questions, but I cannot answer them all. I was in the program, but managed to escape. I’m dead to them,” she told us.
“You aren’t going to turn us in,” I asked, afraid that she was going to do exactly that. She only shook her head.
Then, “What they are doing borders on evil. I swore that if I ever saw anyone from the program I would run as far and fast as I could. I didn’t expect to see four young kids, though. God truly works in mysterious ways. He obviously has other plans for me.”
“What I don’t understand is how I didn’t sense you,” she said, looking very curious. Of course, Aliyah and I were also curious, both at her question and why she asked the question. “I am guessing that you are also curious, looking at your expressions. First, let’s go someplace that we are less likely to be interrupted,” she said.
We followed her to a classroom, where she indicated that we should all sit down. As we all sat in desks, she also sat in a desk. I knew about little psychological tricks that adults played on kids, and I suspected that this was one, but I thought she might actually be sincere.
“I don’t know how much they told you or how much you learned about ‘us’, but different telepaths sometimes have strengths in only certain skills. Not all do, but some do. Some are specialized,” she began.
“Like Megan back at Oakmont,” Aliyah blurted out.
“She could read people very easily without using much energy,” I said, and Aliyah nodded.
“That is a useful talent,” the nun said.
“She was very weak though,” Aliyah added.
“She was given a talent but with a cost, which seems to be how it usually works,” she explained.
“When a telepath has a very strong talent, such as Megan, there seems to always be a cost. My talent is the ability to sense other telepaths, but I can’t read thoughts at all and my shields are very weak,” she told us. As she said that, Aliyah looked over at me with a look that was like she had figured something out.
“Remember I said it seemed like you were holding some kind of shield around us, and you were using a lot of energy,” she asked me. I nodded that I did. “You’ve somehow masked us from being seen. I think you did it to hide us from regular people but it has also masked us from telepaths,” she suggested.
“I didn’t do anything,” I exclaimed.
“Not intentionally, but I think you did. It’s kind of like when you first came to Oakmont and almost no one could read you. I couldn’t even sense you. But this is a little different. You can actually shield us from being seen,” she said, getting excited at her theory, which I thought had some serious flaws in it.
“I can’t sense any of you, but I know you’re telepaths, at least you two,” she said.
“They aren’t,” I said, indicating Eliana and Ben. “But we are,” I finished.
“Are they related,” she asked, although it was obvious that Eliana was related to Aliyah, and I suspected that Ben and I looked a lot alike as well. I simply nodded, knowing Ben already was. We had even been training him, as much as we were able to, while running across the country. “Then they will be,” she replied.
“I’ve never heard of a talent like that, and I thought that I knew them all. I had graduated from the program, after all. Very interesting,” she mused. “What else can you do that they obviously want,” she asked.
“Nothing special,” I replied.
“By the way, I have another talent. Although it is probably related to reading minds, I can’t get actual thoughts. What I can do is tell, without a doubt, when someone is not being honest,” she informed us.
“What is interesting is that even though you have some kind of shield blocking me from sensing you, I can still tell you aren’t being completely honest with me. I do understand, considering who you are running from, so I won’t push for answers. Not only that, if they do get me, I can’t tell what I don’t know,” she said, with a smile.
“Now that we all know who we are, I truly want to help you. You want to take the bus to somewhere. I am willing to purchase the tickets, since I’m sure they’re monitoring for you. They aren’t watching for me any longer. I can take you to the bus station and purchase the tickets for you so you aren’t seen. At least it’ll reduce the chances of you being seen,” she offered.
“That is very nice of you, but why are you willing to help us? You’ll be risking everything to do this,” Aliyah asked.
“Because it’s the right thing to do,” she simply said. “Not only that, I owe them,” she added, almost under her breath.
Aliyah nodded very slightly to me, indicating that she was willing to accept her help. At least, that’s how I took her nod. Neither of us were willing to link, with her being a telepath. Although she said she couldn’t read, we weren’t sure and an established connection was vulnerable. I had benefited from that too many times.
“Okay, we’ll accept your help,” we both agreed.
“Good,” she exclaimed, clapping her hands together. “Where is it you intend on going,” she asked. I still didn’t trust her for some reason, so I wasn’t going to let her know our true destination, but I did need to get in the general vicinity.
“I was thinking you would buy the tickets to Atlanta,” I replied.
“Big city,” she said.
“Okay, we’ll go to the station and I’ll purchase the tickets for you,” she said.
“Since I’m paranoid, I’d like to have Eliana and Ben also purchase tickets to other places. It might throw them off our trail, if they find out about this,” I told her.
She thought about it for a moment and then nodded. “Where will they buy tickets to,” she asked. “It doesn’t matter. Most of the tickets will be false trails, which is what matters,” I replied.
“That’s smart,” she conceded, and I almost thought I saw a hint of irritation when I didn’t tell her the extra destinations. I really was getting paranoid.
Well, even if there was no reason to be concerned, it was better to be safe than sorry. What she didn’t know was that her tickets were one of the false trails, which would keep us safe, if she wasn’t being honest with us. I was trying to word my responses so she couldn’t tell I was lying. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I really didn’t trust her.
What was really going to happen was that Eliana and Ben were going to buy two separate groups of tickets, one to the real destination and one to a false location. I had been thinking about that situation for a while, and had worked it out. Aliyah and I would have to tamper with the ticket people, or they wouldn’t sell the tickets to two kids, but we’d done that before.
We all left the classroom and followed the nun to a van at the back of the school. She drove the short distance to the bus station and we did exactly as we had discussed.
Now I had to gamble. I sent a probe to Aliyah, Ben and Eliana. “Eliana, don’t panic, but this is Melanie and I’m talking in your mind. Don’t speak out loud. If you want to reply, just imagine yourself saying what you want to say, and we’ll all hear it. Okay,” I asked.
“Okay,” she replied, very tentatively.
“Very good. You did excellent. I’m not sure if she really can’t sense us or not, or read minds, but for some reason I don’t trust her. This is what we’re going to do. Eliana, you will buy two different sets of tickets. One will be five tickets to Birmingham Alabama. The second will be four tickets to Savannah Georgia. Got that,” I asked.
“Yeah,” she replied, much more confidently.
I wasn’t sure how Eliana would react to having someone in her mind the first time, but she did wonderfully. Now for Ben, even though he’d had us in his mind several times, so this was nothing new to him.
“Ben, you will buy four tickets to Miami Florida and five tickets to Charleston South Carolina. Got it,” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Alright, Eliana, repeat your instructions,” I told her.
“I’m going to buy five tickets to Birmingham Alabama and four tickets to Savannah Georgia,” she rattled off, quickly and confidently. I was so proud of her, I was sure it was transferring through the link.
“Now you Ben,” I said.
“Four tickets to Miami and five tickets to Charleston,” he said quickly.
“Very good, both of you. Now remember that when you get there. If you forget anything, just come up with a different destination quickly. The only one that really matters is Savannah Georgia. That’s where we’re really going. Okay,” I asked. I could sense a mental nod from both of them. I gently closed the connection and we got out of the van as she stopped.
As we were getting out, I handed each of them five hundred dollars, hoping that was enough. “Aliyah and I will make it so the ticket people will let you buy the tickets, because I’ll bet they won’t. Also, Aliyah and I will maintain a link to you, so if you have any trouble, just let us know,” I told them. They both nodded and headed off. I started to hand the nun some money, but she just shrugged it off and went inside.
Very quickly, I knew we had a small problem. The tickets cost more than I thought they would, and I had to take money to both of the kids. Eliana needed a little over $100 more and Ben needed $350. We were spending almost $1500, mostly on false trails. What no one knew was that Savannah wasn’t our destination either, at least not yet. I wanted to add in another false trail, just in case, and didn’t want the kids knowing so they couldn’t give it away. I really was becoming paranoid.
I went inside, money in my pocket and motioned for them to come to me. Once I handed them the money, they went back to the ticket counter and finished paying for them. When they returned, I handed Ben another $400, getting a curious frown from him and Aliyah. Oddly, the nun hadn’t returned yet, making it easier for me to do what I was about to do.
“Buy five tickets to Jacksonville Florida,” I instructed him. He was obviously curious, but didn’t question me. When he returned, I filed all of the tickets in the pocket of the jacket that was way too hot, considering we were in the deep south. Of course, everyone else had thicker jackets on, but they weren’t used to Alaska weather. I was.
“Eliana, buy four tickets to New Orleans,” I told her, handing her $200. I didn’t think it could be very expensive, considering how close we were to New Orleans. Once they were both back, I added those tickets to my stash and put all of the remaining money in my other pocket. I’d put it in the baggie later.
All of the buses left at different times, and I wasn’t sure if I could pull this off, if the nun stuck around until we left. I had an idea for that that might work, but I wasn’t sure.
She finally returned and handed me the tickets, which I added to my collection. “Thank you,” I told her, truly thankful for her help, which I hoped was genuine.
“You are welcome,” she said.
“We have to wait around until our bus leaves, but you probably have classes to teach. Even if you don’t, if you stay here, it’ll be obvious you’re with us when they check the video. Right now, it would be hard to tell,” I explained, hoping that lame argument would work.
She seemed to think it over for a little while and then nodded. “You are probably right,” she said.
“Let me bless you, before I leave,” she offered.
“We’re not Catholic, though,” I said.
“But you believe in the Lord, don’t you,” she asked, which we all nodded to.
“Almighty and merciful God, who hast commissioned Thy angels to guide and protect us. Command them to be assiduous companions for these your children setting out, until their return; clothe them with the invisible protection of your angels; to keep them from all danger of collision, of fire, of explosion, of falls and bruises; and finally, having preserved them from all evil, and especially from sin, guide them to our heavenly home. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen,” she recited.
“Amen,” we all replied.
“Thank you,” I said.
“You are welcome, and I truly pray that you are safe and secure, wherever you end up. May God bless you children,” she said, then turned around and walked out.
“What’s up, Mel,” Aliyah asked, once Sister Eleanor left.
“I don’t know why, but I don’t trust her,” I replied.
“So, where are we going then,” she asked.
“I’m not really sure,” I admitted.
“So, any one of those could be a false trail,” she asked.
“Or, all of them,” I said, a small smile on my face. She gently bumped me, and I bumped her back, both of us giggling as we walked to the benches.
Looking at the different tickets, the bus to New Orleans was leaving the soonest, but did I want to go west, when I was really wanting to go east? It would probably throw them off when they finally figured out where we really went. That settled it. Our bus was leaving in 30 minutes.
“Sir, we have found no trace of them. They have simply vanished,” John told Raughlin, when he answered the call.
“They are in Biloxi, Mississippi. Leave a cleanup team there to finish up, and find out how they got out. Take the rest of your team and get to Biloxi as fast as possible. They are leaving very soon,” Raughlin informed him.
John had no idea how Raughlin got that information, but he wasn’t about to question it. “Yes, sir,” he replied.
“You should start at the Greyhound station in Biloxi, although they will be gone by the time you arrive. I have contacted the FBI in Gulfport, but I doubt they will make it in time, either,” the Headmaster continued.
“Do you know their destination, sir,” John asked.
“I understand it to be Atlanta, but check the sales and see what you can find. They are good at subterfuge,” he said.
“I understand, sir,” John said.
“Oh, one last thing. Only use tranq darts on the children,” he commanded and hung up.
Yet again, John was left baffled by the odd conversation with the Headmaster. If he had that kind of information available, probably from a source on the ground, why wasn’t he letting his chief of security have access to it? Although that question worried him, and irritated him, there was nothing he could do about it.
“Easely, get a cleanup team assembled. They are to stay and determine how the children made it out. Everyone else is going to Mississippi. They have been spotted there,” he informed his second. Easely looked curious, and quite impressed.
“I take it you think these children have done well,” John asked.
“Yes, sir,” Easely replied, honest as he always was.
“Remember what your purpose is,” John told him.
“I do, sir,” he said.
John was about to dismiss him, but had a sudden curiosity that he had to satisfy. “Why are you so impressed,” he asked.
“These children have managed to elude professional soldiers and hunters three times on this attempt, not to mention the original escape, sir. That is incredibly impressive, and shows a level of planning and resiliency that is not common in children, even children coming through the program, sir,” he finished. John had to admit, Easely was right.
“Sir, might I make an observation, if you will,” Easely asked.
“Go ahead,” John said, curious at what he was thinking.
“I would be surprised if we find their exit from Biloxi very easily. I suspect they will have placed at least a couple of false trails,” he said.
“Thank you, Easely,” John said, effectively dismissing him.
“Yes, sir,” the man said, with a proper salute, and then left.
John had to admit, he was probably right. That girl was very good. Way better than a child her age should have been. His predecessor had failed to bring her in, but he was determined to succeed.
As the bus pulled out, we saw two black SUVs race into the bus parking area. Men in suits quickly jumped out, some heading into the station and others going straight onto different buses. We’d been discovered, somehow. Although I had no proof, I suspected the good sister. I hoped I was wrong, though.
They didn’t try and stop our bus, thankfully. This was eerily like our escape from Seattle, so long ago. I hoped our arrival in New Orleans wasn’t the same as what happened in Bellingham. I doubted that they’d fall for the same ruse again.
The one thing that might be going for us was that they didn’t have any images of Eliana and Ben, that I was aware of. However, if Sister Eleanor had turned us in, they might have a description of them. With that, they could figure out all of our destinations and send people to each one.
So, the only thing really going for us was that New Orleans was so close. Maybe we could get there before they caught on to us. That was now my only hope.
“When we get to New Orleans, we need to figure out how to get out of there quickly, without any of us being seen on a camera. I think they’ll be looking for Eliana and Ben now,” I told Aliyah.
“Do you think we could make someone buy tickets for us,” she asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve never tried anything like that,” I told her.
“We can’t take the chance,” she said, thinking it through. “What about trying to find a tractor trailer going where we want to go,” she asked, after a lengthy pause.
“I wouldn’t know where to begin looking for one that would be going where we need to go,” I replied.
With no more ideas, we sat quietly for the slightly more than two hours it took to get to New Orleans. When the bus was pulling into the station, both of us were looking closely for any signs of police or soldiers. There were none to be seen, though. Maybe we had actually managed to beat them there.
We got off the bus and walked into the station, both of us instinctively looking for the cameras we knew would be looking for us. The only cameras we saw were monitoring the ticket counter. We walked through the station and through the exit, avoiding those few cameras that were there.
It was about lunch time and I was hungry, but I had no idea where any food was. Knowing we all needed to eat, I stopped outside on the curb and looked around. Seeing what I was searching for, I walked to a taxi and got in. The other three followed me in, curious but silent.
“Would you take us to the nearest fast food place,” I asked.
“You got money to pay,” the man asked with the weirdest accent I’d ever heard.
“How much will it be,” I asked.
“It’ll be about $15,” he replied. I showed him the cash.
“Alright then. You got Church’s chicken, Krystal, McDonalds, Rally’s and Taco Bell close enough,” he said, some of his words a little difficult to understand. “A little further you got Wendy’s and Popeyes,” he said.
“What would y’all like,” I asked the others.
“Chicken,” Ben said before anyone else could answer. Eliana and Aliyah both nodded agreement.
“Popeyes or Church’s,” the driver asked.
“Whichever one is better,” I replied.
“Do you like spicy food,” he asked with a grin. All of us nodded.
“Popeyes is what you want then,” he said, and took off. Within maybe ten minutes, he stopped outside a mustard yellow restaurant with red awnings over the windows.
“That’ll be thirdeen-fort-four,” he said, all of the words tumbling over each other. I handed him twenty dollars and we got out.
“Thank you, sir,” I said to him.
“You are welcome, lil miss,” he replied, grinning.
“Oh, what road is that,” I asked, indicating the road we had come off of.
“Highway 90,” he said, and sped away as I closed the door.
We went inside and had a very good meal of greasy fried chicken, that was very hot, along with several different side items. We were very happy, when we were finally done.
As we were sitting there, I almost missed several cars stop in a few different places along the road. They were the typical police looking cars, but without all of the words and stuff that usually were painted on them. Two men got out of every one of the cars.
“We’re in trouble,” I said.
“What’s up,” Aliyah asked.
“There are men getting out of cars all over the place. I could be wrong, but I imagine they’re here for us,” I said.
“How’d they find us,” she asked.
“I have no idea,” was my simple reply.
“Hey kids, I might be able to help you,” a boy said to Aliyah, but slipping into the booth beside me. He was a little thin, but not horribly so. He had dark brown hair that was a little longer than normal, but it looked clean and brushed. His clothes had some definite wear on them, the jeans having a few holes in the legs and his tee shirt being a little ratty under his slightly dirty looking puffy jacket. Although I wasn’t absolutely sure, I thought he was probably about fourteen and he was kind of cute. I had no idea why that thought came to me, but it did.
“Who are you and why would we want your help,” I asked, automatically defensive, shaking off that little moment.
“Alright, if you don’t want my help, that’s okay,” he said, beginning to slide back out.
“Wait,” Aliyah said, looking at me oddly.
“Listen, I heard what you told your friend,” he said, looking at me, then out at the group of men that was still growing. Oddly, they had not made a move toward the restaurant yet.
“I might be able to get you out of here, but you’ll have to trust me, okay,” he said.
“But we don’t know you,” I replied.
“Yeah, and you don’t know them either, but you seem sure they’re here for you. I’m a kid that wants to help some kids who are in trouble,” he said, and waited a moment. “Listen, do you want help, or not,” he asked when we didn’t immediately reply, looking back at Aliyah. She nodded.
“Good. I hate to see goons like that mess with kids. Why do they think they can control us,” he said, echoing my general feelings about the Oakmont program.
“Let’s go and just follow my lead,” he instructed us.
“Hey, Anne, can we catch a ride in the supply truck,” he asked.
“You know that’s not allowed,” a very large woman behind the counter said. He cocked his head a little and she smiled.
“Go ahead. If Jay has any problems with it, you’re on your own though,” she told him.
“Got it,” he replied.
“Jay won’t mind. He’s good,” the boy assured us.
“You guys act like you’re going to the bathroom, and I’ll let you in the employee door,” he said. Following his instructions, he opened the door for us. Once we were through the door, he led us to the back of the restaurant, where the back door was opened and had boxes stacked all around it.
“Climb in the back of the truck and I’ll explain things to Jay,” he instructed us. We did as we were told, while he walked to the truck. A few minutes later, the boy returned and the truck was closed up. He pulled out a small flashlight, giving us some small amount of light. It was enough that I was able to easily find my lantern, giving a lot more light.
“Someone really wants you kids,” he said, once we were settled in.
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“You always let this kid speak for you,” he asked Aliyah.
“What do you mean,” she asked in response.
“You’re the oldest, so shouldn’t you be the leader,” he said.
“Actually, she’s the oldest,” Aliyah informed him. He looked at me with a cocked head, obviously reappraising the situation.
“Okay, so you’re the leader then,” he acknowledged, once he’d finished his mental reassessment.
“Not really. We kind of share those duties,” I corrected him.
“You kids need a clear leader. It’ll make things much easier for you,” he told us. “Whatever,” he said, when neither of us said anything else. “Listen, we’re going to my place. Several of us share it, so be cool,” he said, to which we all nodded.
“Back to what I said…someone really wants you kids. They have a helicopter. If they’re really searching for you, then they really want you bad,” he said. I looked over at Aliyah, more worried than I’d been since leaving Oakmont.
“By the way, I’m Gabe. Actually, it’s Gabriel, but everyone calls me Gabe,” he said.
“Gabriel sounds better,” I said before I could stop myself. I could feel my cheeks heat up as I said it. What was wrong with me? He looked over at me for a second, but didn’t acknowledge my comment, which I was immensely grateful for. Thankfully, the lighting wasn’t good enough for him to see my glowing red cheeks. At least, I hoped it wasn’t.
“In case you’re wondering, I’m fourteen,” he said, still looking at me.
“I’m Aliyah, my friend is Melanie, but we call her Mel, and this is Eliana and Ben,” she said, pointing to each of us in turn.
“Me and Mel are almost thirteen. Ben and Eliana are seven,” she told him. Why did she give him that much information about us?
“I think this is our stop,” he said as the truck stopped and we heard a bang on the wall of the truck. A moment later, the back door slid up and Gabriel headed for the opening door.
“Thanks Jay,” he said to the driver.
“No problem, Gabe. See ya,” the driver replied.
“Come on,” he said to us.
“Follow my lead. This might seem odd, but don’t mess it up, or you’ll have to find your own place tonight,” he said. We all nodded and started walking to the house.
The house looked a little run down, but otherwise looked like a decent house. It was painted an odd shade of green, with dark green shutters. The front door was open, with a screen door closed over the entrance. The screen door was very rickety and had holes in the screen.
As we walked in, Gabe took my hand, intertwining his fingers in mine and led us all in. As much as my instinct was to pull away, I had to resist. I had to follow his instructions. Besides, although it was weird, it felt good, and there was a tingle throughout my body when it happened.
“Hey guys,” he said, as he entered what looked like the living room. There were several really grungy looking couches, with several kids on them, in various positions. Some were laying, some sitting, some girls with their head in a boy’s lap and some boys with their head in a girl’s lap. There was rock music playing somewhere, but it wasn’t very loud.
“Who’s yer friends, Gabe? Got a new girlfriend,” a girl asked, as we all walked in what I had decided was the living room.
“Yeah. This is Melanie and her friends are Aliyah, Ben and Eliana,” he told them, since everyone was looking at him.
“At least she’s not a goth chick, this time,” someone called out, to which everyone laughed, including Gabe.
“She looks morose like one though,” an older sounding voice said.
“What does that mean, Grandpa,” a boy on the couch in front of us asked.
“It means she looks sad, or sullen, but I’m sure you don’t know what that means either,” he replied, from somewhere out of sight.
“Nope,” the boy on the couch yelled out, to which everyone laughed.
As this little exchange ended, a slightly older guy came through the archway that separated the living room from the next room back. He was dressed very colorfully and carried himself very effeminately, but was obviously the owner of the older voice. “Oh look what we have here. You four are just darling,” he said, his voice taking on the quality of a woman.
As he walked up to us, he gently touched each of us, admiring this or that about us. “It is cold, and you kids look hot. Where are you from,” he asked. None of us answered.
“No matter. I can tell you are from someplace north, or you wouldn’t look so hot,” he said, stressing ‘hot’ in a very weird way.
“Are they staying with you, Gabe,” the man asked.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Come with me,” Grandpa said, and turned around, walking away. He obviously expected us to follow, as he never looked back. Gabe, still holding my hand, started forward, dragging me along.
Grandpa led us up the stairs and into a large bedroom at the back of the house. Inside was another couch, with a coffee table in front of it and a couple of armchairs across from it. There was a bed in the back corner. He sat in one of the armchairs, and indicated for us to sit down, which we did.
“Spill it Gabe,” Grandpa said, sounding more normal than he had outside, although there was still an effeminate nature to his voice.
“They were being chased by a lot of guys in suits, and a helicopter. I helped them escape,” Gabe told him.
He then looked at us, slowly moving his gaze across each of us. “Who are you running from,” he asked, the effeminate quality completely gone from his voice.
“The government,” Aliyah replied.
“So you’re the leader of these kids,” he asked.
“No, sir,” she replied.
“You seem a little young, but I think you aren’t as young as you look. Are you the leader,” he asked me, to which I shook my head.
“As cute as these two are, I’m sure they’re not the leaders. You need to determine who is the leader of your little club, or there’ll be trouble at some point,” he told us.
“Regardless, the government is a big creature with a lot of little pieces that act independently. Which part of the government is after you, and what do you need from us,” he asked.
“Before you try and use Gabe’s story, I’ve known Gabe a long time and I know you aren’t his girlfriend, although I suspect you could be, given a little time,” he said, with an odd smile. I could feel my cheeks heating up at his comment and I looked down. That was when I realized that we were still holding hands. What was weird was that I didn’t feel the urge to change that.
“Don’t be so shy about it, dear. He’s a handsome boy, and you’re a beautiful girl. It’s only natural, even if you are a little younger than him. Well, possibly a lot younger than him. I can’t really tell,” Grandpa said, seeming to understand my inner turmoil.
“She’s almost thirteen, Grandpa,” Gabe told him, to which his left eyebrow rose a little.
“Enjoy that youthful appearance, as long as it lasts, honey,” he told me, the effeminate tone back. “Now, back to my questions,” he said, returning his gaze to all of us, and his voice serious again. “You aren’t from here, and I don’t think you want or need to stay here,” he said.
“No sir. We want to get to Savannah Georgia, without them seeing us,” I replied.
“Whether you realize it or not, you are the leader. You’re one of those subtle leaders, though, which is usually the best type. So, Savannah, it is. I think we can help you, but understand, nothing in life is free,” he said, and looked at me intently, letting his statement sink in.
“Gabe get them settled in, and then come see me,” Grandpa said, and although it was not said in a commanding tone, it was clearly a command. It was also clear that he let me avoid answering the other question.
“You got it, Grandpa,” Gabe replied.
“Come on,” Gabe said to us, and dragged me up from the couch, still holding my hand.
He led us to a much smaller room, toward the front of the house. Inside there were a couple of mattresses on the floor, with a few blankets on them, a small dresser kind of thing in the far corner and some dirty clothes scattered on the floor. There was almost nothing else in the room.
“This is my room. It’s not much, but it’s home,” Gabe said, seeming proud of his room. Put your stuff in the corner over there and I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he told us, indicating the opposite corner, the one not occupied by the dresser thing. He then left, allowing us to make ourselves at home, such as it was.
“Gabe, your new friends are interesting, especially your girlfriend,” Grandpa began, when Gabe returned to him.
“Don’t,” Grandpa said, before Gabe could reply.
“She’s got baggage. I don’t know what she’s been through, but you can see it in her eyes. That morose expression isn’t just a fashion thing for her. It’s real. I have the feeling that if you hurt her, or make her mad, you are going to pay dearly for it, so be careful. Also, those kids come from money. Maybe not incredible wealth, but they lived comfortably. That begs the question, why are they running, and from whom? She avoided answering that earlier, and I let her get away with it, but it is important, I think,” Grandpa said.
“I heard them talking at Popeyes and knew they needed help, so I introduced myself. I know their names and ages, but nothing else,” Gabe told him.
“Hmm, and you said there was a helicopter in the search,” Grandpa asked, to which Gabe nodded.
“Is there a chance the cops were after someone else,” he then asked.
“I don’t know, but they seemed pretty sure the cops were after them,” Gabe replied.
“Either they’re incredibly paranoid and the cops just happened to reinforce that, or the police are using some serious money to find them. Either way, these kids look like trouble,” Grandpa said, more thinking out loud than talking to Gabe.
After a few moments, he swung his gaze back to Gabe, more serious than Gabe had ever seen him. “We’ll get them a ride to Savannah. I have a contact there, and we could arrange a trade. Let these kids carry for us. That’ll pay the debt for our favor, I think. Sorry Gabe, but you won’t be able to spend any time with the little blonde girl, other than tonight,” he said, looking apologetically at Gabe. Gabe looked disappointed, but seemed to understand.
“What really worries me is that none of that activity made the police chatter,” Grandpa mused.
“Maybe they wanted to maintain radio silence,” Gabe suggested, as if it was some kind of great spy thing.
Grandpa was worried that the police might not have been local, though. “Describe the license plates of the vehicles,” he demanded, rather suddenly.
“I think they were all white, with a blue border. There might have been some kind of image behind the ID, but I’m not sure,” Gabe said, trying to recall what he saw.
“That sounds like federal plates, which backs her tale of being chased by the government, but why,” Grandpa said, thinking.
“Go ahead and get back to your new girlfriend,” Grandpa said. “And make sure they eat dinner,” he called out, as Gabe was walking down the hall.
“Sir, we almost had them in New Orleans. We are still trying to figure out how they slipped away, but we have a pretty good hunch,” John told Raughlin, as they began their nightly update call.
“Very good, John. You almost got the jump on them. It’s an improvement. There is a glaring question that needs answering, above discovering how they eluded you again. Why did they go to New Orleans? They should have gone east,” Raughlin said.
“I will see what I can discover sir,” John replied, pleased with how the conversation had gone, for a change.
“Keep on them,” Raughlin commanded.
“Yes, sir,” John replied, then heard the click that signaled the call ending.
“Why would they go west, Easely,” John asked.
“There is only one possibility I can think of, although that doesn’t mean it is the only possibility, sir,” Easely replied.
“Go ahead,” John urged him.
“Well, sir, remember I said they would likely throw several false trails,” he asked, receiving a nod from John.
“Well, sir, this could be another. They come west to make us think they intend on going west, then double back at some point. They really didn’t go that far west, so the distance is made up very easily,” Easely explained.
John sat there, staring at the wall for a little while, thinking about what Easely had suggested. Although it was an odd way to do things, it would kind of fit the Brager girl’s way of thinking. That had to be it, which meant that they’d eventually head east again.
“And why would they go east, in the first place,” John asked, although he already knew the answer to this question, as well as where they’d likely go.
“Because they have family there, and feel that they might be able to find a safe hiding place,” he replied, to which John nodded agreement.
“Let’s leave a cleanup team to finish investigating how they eluded us and a small team to track them. Everyone else goes to Savannah. That’s where they’ll be headed,” John stated.
“Yes, sir,” Easely said, with a little more gusto than he typically had.
For once, it looked like they might finally get the jump on the girls. It was obvious that Easely thought so, and was excited, which actually rubbed off a little on John.
After dinner that night, which was very chaotic, we went to a second living room, where a large TV was mounted on the wall. Everyone was watching one of those talent shows, and they were really into it. When one of the acts ended, they cheered loudly, along with the television audience.
What I noticed very quickly was that everyone in the house was young, the oldest being maybe seventeen. The exception of course was Grandpa, who couldn’t have been older than thirty, if he was that old, which I seriously doubted. This was the weirdest experience I’d ever had, and I’d experienced some weird things in my life.
Something else was glaringly obvious. There was alcohol out among the kids, and what I was pretty sure was different drugs. Amazingly, none of them touched my addiction response, so I was safe for the moment.
We all sat down, people moving to let all of us in. I’d taken my jacket off long ago, and was wearing a blue plaid skirt with dark blue tights, similar to the outfit that Mr. Ciansa had given me so long ago. I had liked that outfit so much, I’d maintained some version of it ever since. Of course, the tights were obviously a bad choice, considering how hot it was.
There were a lot of kids trying to sit on this couch, not to mention the other one, so we were packed in pretty tight. I ended up on Gabriel’s lap, with Eliana on mine. Ben sat on Aliyah’s lap, and she managed to sit directly on the couch.
As everyone watched the program, my energy usage of the past couple of days caught up with me and I was asleep very quickly. Unfortunately, I would have been happier staying awake.
As I returned to awareness, I saw several people in a conference room, one of them being Headmaster Raughlin. “We have the subjects on the run,” he was saying.
“Do you know where they are,” another man asked.
“Yes, they are in a drug house in New Orleans,” he replied.
“With the addiction noted in subject 32145, should she be allowed to remain there,” a woman asked.
“I think she is safe for the moment. She is being closely monitored and we will have our targets soon,” the Headmaster replied.
“So your plan is on track,” the female voice asked.
“Yes, it is. It is going exactly as I want it to,” he said.
“Very good,” the first male voice then said.
“Give us a full update,” the second male voice commanded.
“Subject 32145 had been presumed dormant, or possibly inoperable, after the incident in Alaska. However, she is fully functional, and likely has been from the beginning, or very shortly thereafter. Subject 32023 is unchanged,” he replied.
“What of Subjects 33743 and 33744,” the male voice asked.
“They are young and not awakened yet, or so we presume at this point,” the Headmaster replied. I knew who they were talking about, regardless of whether they referred to them as numbers or not.
“We will have them when they get to Savannah, and will begin training and research once we transfer them back here,” the Headmaster continued.
“Very good,” the first male voice responded.
I woke up, shaking and sweating. Someone was shaking me, in addition to my shaking. Somewhat coming to my senses, I jumped up, dislodging Eliana from my lap, and ran to the room we were staying in, curling up in the corner, shivering and in a cold sweat.
“Mel, what’s wrong,” Aliyah asked, as Gabe and several others came running in behind me.
“Nothing. I had a bad dream again,” I replied.
“About the doctors,” she asked. Knowing I couldn’t say anything out loud, I sent a probe to her, less gently than I meant to, and showed her what I saw.
“Is it real,” she asked, using her mouth, a flash of pain on her face from my somewhat rough intrusion. Several of the kids looked curiously at her question, but no one said anything.
“It’s like the dreams I had back at the school,” I replied.
“Then they know where we are,” she kind of asked, a look of worry on her face. I nodded to her.
Using my mind, I looked at Aliyah and spoke. “We need to do something they can’t anticipate. We need to keep them from finding us. I think we can’t go where your Dad told us to go,” I told her. She nodded agreement, without saying a word.
“Gabe, can you get us out of the city right now,” I asked, looking up at him. I was still curled up and shivering in the corner, but my voice was strong and determined now.
“Yeah, I guess so, but Grandpa has a ride for you to Savannah. It’s all arranged,” he replied.
“We need to get going now,” I told him, deliberately leaving out our change of destination. There was someone in the group of kids that was watching us, and I didn’t want to give them any easy information.
“Let’s go,” he said, without any further thought.
“We need to be unseen. The people that are after us know where we are,” I told him.
“They can’t. No one knows about this place,” he argued.
“Yes, they do,” I said, my tone firm.
He stared at me for a little while before sticking his hand out to me. I grabbed it and he pulled me up, and using more strength than he intended, into him. We stood like that a moment before I broke the spell, reaching down and picking up my pack. We walked back downstairs, leaving all of the spectators curious what was happening.
“Brandon, can you give us a ride,” Gabe asked a much larger boy that was sitting on the couch, watching TV.
“I’m busy,” the boy replied.
“C’mon,” Gabe pleaded.
“You’ll bother me all night if I don’t, won’t you,” Brandon replied, to which Gabe vigorously nodded his head. “Alright, let’s go. This is boring, anyway,”he said, standing up slowly and stretching as he did.
We all went outside, and Brandon got in a large, old car. It was in decent shape, though. We all piled in the back seat, and even though there were five of us back there, it was plenty big enough.
“Why are these people after you,” Gabe asked me quietly, as we pulled out of the driveway. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell him, and there were a couple of reasons for my reluctance. First, I didn’t want to put him in danger by knowing about us, but also, I was afraid he wouldn’t like me anymore if he knew how much of a freak I was. Why did I care, though? Although I didn’t know the answer to that, I knew that I did.
“You don’t have to answer,” he said, when I didn’t answer fast enough.
“No, it’s not that,” I replied. “I’m scared,” I admitted, a moment later.
“Of what,” he asked.
“If I tell you, it’ll put you in danger. But I’m also scared you’ll be afraid of me and want to run away from me,” I told him, looking down at my hands kneading in my lap.
“Well, nothing good ever comes without risk,” he replied. “I hope you think I’m good,” he added, sounding rather unsure and maybe a little shy. Why was he shy, since everyone at the house talked about his past girlfriends as if there’d been a lot of them.
“You are, but,” I began, but he cut me off.
“I know you think I’ve had a lot of girlfriends and all, but the truth is, I’ve never had one. They just think I have, because I find girls in trouble and try and help them,” he told me.
“I can read minds and do other things. I’m a government experiment,” I blurted out, although I kept it to a whisper. He simply stared at me for a long time, and I was getting scared. I knew it was too much to believe and if he did believe it, it’d be enough to terrify him. It’d terrify any normal person.
“That is so cool,” he finally said, surprising me.
“Really,” I asked.
“Yeah. How cool would it be to be able to read someone’s mind,” he replied.
“It’s not as cool as you think. It’s an invasion of their mind, and it’s wrong. It’s like looking in on them when they’re in the bathroom, or something like that,” I tried to explain.
“I hadn’t thought about it like that,” he admitted.
“The people that are after us run a training program to turn us into weapons. They teach us that we are supposed to always read people’s minds, and that it is our duty,” I said, tears beginning to form in my eyes, thinking about the program again. He gently wiped them away, which felt like an electric shock to me.
“Why do you like me? You haven’t known me for a day yet,” I asked.
“Because you’re pretty and nice and seem smart. What’s not to like,” he asked. Although I never thought of myself as any of those things, it was odd to hear him say it. I’d had adults, like Mrs. Strager and Mrs. Renault tell me that, but I never believed them, not really. But Gabe saying it to me meant something more than they could ever do.
I layed my head on his shoulder and enjoyed the ride. “Where are we going,” Brandon finally asked, after we’d been driving for a while and the city was getting a lot thinner.
“How far can you take us,” Aliyah asked.
“As far as this tank of gas will go. Farther if you can get me more gas,” he replied.
“Can you take us to St. Louis,” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess. Never been there,” he said and pressed the gas pedal a little farther down. The car surged forward as he added power.
Several hours later, all of us asleep, the car came to a stop. I woke up as it did and looked outside. My island had a new guest, and I kind of liked having him there.
Putting the dream aside, I saw that we were in a gas station, beside the gas pumps. I sat up, thankfully not waking Gabe up, and reached into my pocket for some money. I had never moved the change into the baggie, so I had quite a bit in my pocket.
Giving most of it to Brandon before he even asked, I sat back for a moment. Then I realized I needed to go to the bathroom. I climbed out, trying to be as quiet as possible, hoping I didn’t wake anyone up.
“Are you alright,” I asked Brandon, before I headed to the store.
“Yeah. I’m good,” he said. I went in and did my business quickly, grabbing some chips and drinks for everyone as well.
“You’re good for him,” Brandon said, as I walked back.
“Huh,” I asked.
“He talks big, and puts on a good act but he’s actually very shy. I’ve known him his whole life, and I’ve never seen him like this,” he said.
“Like what,” I asked, still not sure what he meant.
“Happy,” was the one word reply.
That single word hit me hard. Tears started pouring from my eyes, and I dropped my bag of snacks. “What,” Brandon asked, worried.
“I’m going to have to leave him when we get to St. Louis and I don’t want to hurt him,” I told Brandon.
“Why will you have to leave him,” he asked.
“Because,” was all I could say.
“That’s not a reason,” Brandon replied. “God, I never thought I’d say that,” he mumbled, with an almost disgusted expression. I kind of smiled at his comment, but the smile only lasted a moment.
“You have a pretty smile,” he said.
“Thank you,” I replied, shocked by his complement.
“Why are you going to leave us,” Brandon asked again.
“Because, where we’re going is dangerous,” I told him.
“We’re drug runners. Everything we do is dangerous,” he told me.
“Are you addicted to them,” I asked.
“Never touch the stuff. Grandpa won’t let any of his kids touch it, and if we do, he kicks us out. Most of the kids at the house aren’t his kids,” Brandon said and I was shocked by that.
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Melanie has been hiding her abilities for two years, even from her parents. She knows that hiding is her only chance to keep the government from coming for her. The lingering addiction to the drugs they gave her keeps haunting her, though. As she relapses into the depths of her withdrawal, the people from the program are there to see her, witnessing the moment she uses her power. Now, they have come for her, and she is running...again. Can Melanie escape them, and find a way to live in peace? Torn between addiction, the ever present self loathing she has and the Oakmont program, is peace even possible for her?