WARNING: This series contains violence and graphic language. It may not be suitable for readers under the age of 16.
"You're about seven rooms down from the stairwell that will take you to the roof, Noah. How's your ankle holding out?" Z
Noah loped on, his gate still unbalanced despite the fact that the pain from his severely over stressed ankle was now gone. He tried to ignore the chilling feel of it. The way he knew he couldn't feel it, and yet still knew it was fat and swollen. If he was being honest with himself, he'd address the wiggling sensation of fear in his gut. Despite the fact that he hadn't used all of the sedative within the dart, the numbness in his ankle was still spreading faster than he'd like.
He couldn't feel most of his adjoining shin already.
"It'll hold," Noah said.
"Well, it better. Another wave of guards are heading your way and I don't think they're armed with dart guns anymore, by the look of it."
"How far away are they?"
"Far enough away for you to escape but close enough to light a fire under your ass," Z said.
"You always know just what to say."
"I try‒‒Uh, wait. That's strange."
Noah was trained well enough to know not to pause, even though ever fiber of his curiosity wanted him to stop and put his whole attention on Z. He limped on instead.
"Talk to me, Z."
"It's probably just a server glitch, but one of the security cameras up ahead just went out."
"Is it near my exit?" Noah asked.
"Near‒‒ish? It's parallel to your location now, but you're about to hang a left and move away from it."
"Okay, so what's the big deal about this security camera going out?" he asked between huffs.
"It overlooks another stairwell. Not the one the other guards took, but another one on the other side of the hall. I won't be able to tell you if anyone decides to take it."
"Which probably means that someone's trying to take it. Great."
Noah tried to quicken his step. As far as limping jogs go, he wasn't doing too bad, but sometimes a few lost seconds are all that stand between a successful getaway and a dead one.
"Are there any other security cameras between here and that staircase? Any way to get some sort of a heads up if they decide to storm the floor?" He asked.
"Sorry, no. The last security camera I'll have at my disposal is the one just before the roof. You'll see whatever's ahead the same time I do."
Noah ignored the rising sea of numbness in his leg and tried to ignore the gibbering part of his brain that was starting to think his fingertips were cold or that his other leg wasn't being as cooperative as just a moment ago. He pushed forward, one foot in front of another less coordinated foot, until he could see the turn up ahead that would lead to the roof. To his escape, where the commander was waiting for him, and Sloan Eddleson. And the answers to all of his questions. His closure about Sandy and Chase's death.
It was all just around the corner and to the left.
Just feet away from the turn that led to the roof, a man entered the hallway on the other end, causing Noah to come to a less than seemly halt. He stayed close to the wall‒‒just in case he needed balance‒‒but made sure to stand tall. To at least appear formidable.
A little bit of that confidence left, oddly enough, when the agent realized that the man was not in fact armed. With his hands laying leisurely within his pockets, the man before him just stood there. He couldn't see much of the man's face, due to the brim of the hat he wore, shadowing his features, but Noah could see the smile that curled his lips.
No, not a smile, Noah decided. The man wasn't smiling. Grinning was more like it‒‒all out smirking at him‒‒and when Noah noticed this, he could feel the pallor of his skin drain away without reason. Then man had no
gun. He had no back up. He didn't know that Noah wasn't on top of his game. He didn't even have a knife. They were on equal ground.
So why, Noah wondered, did it feel like the ground was changing from something solid to ebbing sand beneath his feet? The narrow hallway suddenly felt like it was the length and width of miles, and he, very small.
Small, and cornered, and although he had nothing behind him, he suddenly remembered the feel of the bathroom door at his back. He thought he felt something pull at his pant leg, but when he looked down with a sudden jerk, there was nothing there. Noah looked back up, feeling foolish for getting distracted, but the man before him had not moved.
The air got heavier, the lights brighter. That hat, those clothes. That grin. They all belonged to the man from the video of Sloan's abduction. The man who had shot Vienna. This was the phantom man, the single entity that was suddenly at the root of every one of the Agency's problems.
And Noah felt very naked without a gun or knife. His hands itched to hold anything‒‒even the nameplate from the warden's office. Anything.
So he did the next best thing. He ran.
The corner arrived much faster than he thought it would, and he turned without glancing over his shoulder to see if he was being pursued.
"Aw, don't be like that!" a voice called after him, chuckling surreally.
The feel of bloodlessness that came with his sudden panic lifted his numb limbs faster, harder, better than before, and Noah was obscenely grateful for it. His ears were pounding, everything was so loud‒‒louder than the large heaves of his breathing‒‒and a part of him knew it was the tinny sound of his panic. A thousand, gibbering voices.
Mere minutes ago, he faced down odds that outnumbered him greatly and faced those odds methodically. Seconds ago, he faced down odds that put him on nearly even ground, and‒‒
Noah shook his head, trying to get the floating bits of words and thoughts to fly out his ears like one might try to shake water from their head after swimming. When he reached the fire escape, he shoved it open with a numb shoulder. Behind him, he could hear men running from the other hall. He ran faster.
Ahead, he could see the hover car waiting, already floating a few feet from the ground and forcing air out beneath it in choppy waves from the various vents and fans aligned along its bottom. The wind from it greeted his legs like an overly excited Labrador, slowing him slightly as he raced for the car.
The side door opened and the commander leaned out, one hand holding onto a safety handle while the other extended out to him.
"They're behind you," the commander yelled, but Noah could not hear him above the chanting of the voices screaming between his eardrums.
He heard the loud crack of a gunshot, followed by the screeching sound of a ricochet. One of the guards had fired whilst still inside the hall and had struck the metal fire door as it slowly eased itself shut. The next sound he heard was his own footstep, loud only for the way it jostled his whole body. The hover car made a constant woof-woof-woof noise as the fire escape door was slammed open and men spilled out of the hall like ink being spilled from a jar, oozing out in all directions.
His next footstep was strong and left him mere feet from the craft. The step that followed it was sturdy too, preparing for his next and final step that would launch him into the bed of the car.
Another gun shot. It hit the edge of the car's roof, carving a furrow off the sleek black paint job.
He took his last step and sprung forward, only to feel his ankle finally cave‒‒fully sedated and probably wrecked with overexertion. It caused him to lurch forward, getting only his torso into the car and leaving his ribs to meet with the edge of the vehicle painfully and feet scrabbling along the ground. The blow knocked the wind from him and he gasped like a beached fish as hands grabbed and pulled at him. He was dragged in as a familiar someone commented on Noah's evident lack of ability to simply enter a vehicle like a normal person and more gunshots whistled through the choppy air. When his feet were no longer dangling uselessly outside, Valentine grabbed for the door to slide it shut.
"Take us the hell out of here, Kurt!" Valentine said over the howl of the vehicle.
And then they were rising up before the door had even closed. Hands held him securely‒‒thin, pale and feminine. Those hands stopped him from rolling limply towards the open door Valentine was struggling to close as the driver flew them away.
Looking outside, he could see the men on the roof still aiming, still shooting, as they shrank to the size of ants below them. He chuckled in a rising foggy haze even as a small, sane voice told him that the sudden spike in blood pressure caused the sedative to kick in too hard and early. His body was warm and not warm. Fuzzy and not there as he lay listlessly, watching the guards turn into ants and the man, his hat now lost to the wind, smile after him.
"Noah?" Valentine asked. The door clicked shut and belatedly, he realized that the roof was no longer in view. But even as he stared at the door with wide, sightless eyes, he could not forget the man on the roof, smiling.
He felt someone shake his shoulders. Noah looked up to see his commander kneeling beside him. His lips were moving, but someone had stolen his sound. A hand was placed on his forehead‒‒cool and steadying‒‒before the floor rocked and the walls changed.
Noah was still on the floor, he knew, because he could see the thin blur of carpet beneath his cheek and how it stretched out to meet his hand and a strewn cup a few feet away from his face. He twitched his fingers, but not by much. Whoever had been holding him was gone now, or was it he who had gone somewhere else? He chuckled listlessly when he couldn't figure an answer.
Hands grabbed at his ankles and he felt a wave of silly relief when the pressure didn't hurt his abused joint in the least. Those hands then pulled and he realized that he was being dragged across the plush white carpet of his home. Or was it someone else's home? He knew the carpet though, somehow. The texture of it as it passed through his fingers was familiar.
His shirt bunched uncomfortably around his upper back as he was pulled towards a door. To his right, he could see a bed, but not his bed. He would never own a bed with floral sheets, he thought, before the notion died away in the fog, along with the bed. The carpet faded away and suddenly his back was cold.
Tile, he was laying on tile, now. The bathroom door closed behind him.
Those hands that had pulled him now grabbed large handfuls of his shirt, pulling him up into a limp, seated position. His head lolled lazily and a thin, wispy thought whispered that something wasn't right before the fog claimed that idea, too.
Somewhere, in another world, he could hear a fierce beeping noise.
The hands grabbed at his upper arms now, then under them and around his back, lifting him. He was turned, then seated down upon a porcelain edge‒‒thin, cold and biting. The hands then moved to grab beneath his knees, lifting his numb feet over and around the edge of the tub.
The water that filled the tub he was being lowered into, he knew, should have felt like something. Hot, cold, warm, tepid…wet. Anything.
He felt nothing.
He was eased in, fully clothed. The beeping sounded louder now, more immediate, as his heart rate began to match pace with it. The more water that rose to meet him, the harder it became to breathe. He could not move his head, could not open his eyes any wider. Could not protest as those hands moved to cradle his neck and lean him up against the tub's wall, leaving only his head above water. With the new position came a new view.
The view of a man with a brimmed hat, a shadowed face, and a fake smile. It stole more breath from his lungs to see that man than it would have if the man had simply drowned him instead.
He could hear frantic whispers as the man leaned back on his haunches, watching and smiling all the while.
"He won't wake up and I can't‒‒"
"‒‒If you can't strap him in then hold onto him, for God's sake. Kurt, land this thing before we‒‒"
"‒‒Everyone hang on!‒‒"
"‒‒oh God, please wake up!"
That smiling face was suddenly much closer than before, startling him away from the phantom voices of another lifetime. Despite the other man's closeness, Noah still couldn't decipher the eyes beneath the shadow of that hat. Just a dark, concealing bar of black, a nose, and the smile that hung just below it.
"And now you'll rot here, alone," said the man, "Just like you left me to do, partner."
Then, he was sinking, wet fingers screaming a soggy plea as they scrabbled limply against the sides of the tub. He sank, and sank, but did not hit the bottom. It was like the bottom was cut out and a large rock was tied to his now agonizing ankle as he plummeted down, down, down‒‒
Down into a body that was being clenched by slender, terrified hands. He could feel a face burrowed in his hair, screaming, crying large, wet tears into his scalp and neck as wind howled a banshee's howl all around them. He lifted his head a fraction to see his commander, hands gripping the seats in front of them and head ducked as he yelled soundless words into the air. In the front seat, Kurt was frantically trying to ease the rapidly descending vehicle into something resembling a safe landing as another agent screamed in the passenger's seat.
Noah then followed the sight of the hands holding him back to their owner, Sloan, who was tied in with safety belts.
"Commander," he croaked. When Valentine didn't look, Noah grabbed the man's coat tails and pulled as hard as his numb hands could muster. "Commander! Seat belts!"
Valentine looked at him with wide eyes, before lunging back to twist his way into the other belts. With the man no longer blocking the view of the front window, Noah could see that they were currently careening towards the ground, and nearly there.
"Brace yourselves!" Kurt yelled above the chaos, and then his voice was swallowed up by the most horrific scream Noah had ever heard in his life.
The last, wailing cries of metal's death throes.
Want to be Notified of ARC Updates?
Follow the story on Facebook!
Just Click Here & press "LIKE"!
Follow the story on Facebook!
Just Click Here & press "LIKE"!
[ ] [ ] First Chapter [ ] [ ] Previous Chapter [ ] [ ] Next Chapter (04/11/12) [ ] [ ]
"ARC" © Kaitlyn Whitehead, 2011
"ARC" © Kaitlyn Whitehead, 2011