They headed to Robbie’s parent’s beach house to get away, regroup and figure things out. But, they arrived second. If no one knew where they were going, how did they get there first?
I am in a beach house, in a kitchen. Staring at people who look just like the people we just escaped.
Suits. Windbreakers. Feds? Arcana? No time to find out!
I turned to my friends, I whispered, “Joanna, Robbie, Jan – I’ll distract them, get to the front door, get out, get help!”
I stepped forward. The suits – two women, and two men – stepped back. Robbie, Joanna and Jan slid sideways, through a back hallway, trying to flank these four, to get to the front door.
But, they didn’t engage with me, two of them took the other way around, and cut off Jan, Joanna and Robbie.
One of the suits said, “Hold on — this isn’t what you think it is.” This one appeared to be the spokesman. So far, he’s the only one who has spoken.
Out of my peripheral vision, I saw Robbie wave to me. I heard him say, “In here!” I looked back, and watched the three of them divert into a room off the hallway. None of the four suits made a motion to follow. But one went out the front door. I heard the door open, I felt a rush of cold air, I heard the door close.
My mind races – what do I do? What do I do? My brain sees too many options, and none of them make sense. There is an overload. What do I do?
Robbie poked his head out the door to the room where he just went, he said, “Sean, in here!”
I backed slowly into the room. None of these suits make a move. Robbie shut the door. I looked at him and he’s smiling. I said, “What?”
Robbie said, “my dad has a gun safe in here. I have the code.” Robbie opened a closet door, and taking up the entire closet is this big, six-foot tall gun safe. Robbie keyed in the code. I hear the safe door unlatch.
And, I see through the window, a dark outline of the woman who left through the front door. Apparently she’s there to prevent us from leaving through the window. We’re trapped. Except, they don’t know about the guns.
Through the door, the spokesman said, “Do what you need to feel safe. We’re not here to threaten you. We have been infiltrating the Arcana. We’re on your side.” He paused for a moment, then said, “Perhaps a better way to state it is: you are on our side.”
Robbie whispered, “How did they find us? They shouldn’t have known about my parent’s summer home!”
My brain was on overload. The only options I saw, personally, were for us to grab these guns and fight our way out. But then what? We thought we would be safe here. How did they know we’d be here? We told no one. We paid cash for our tickets. We don’t have our phones. Oh… Wait. I said, “Jan, do you still have Ivan’s phone?” Jan said, “Oh shit!”
And, my brain computes. And it does not compute what I expect. The best available option I feel I should take is… to talk?
So far, the options have all been action, no talk. Act, move, fun, fight. Now, discuss? I’m not touching the rock. I don’t have the rock. Clearly, I’m on my own.
I whispered to Robbie, “Get those guns, we have to get out of here.” Robbie opened the door to the safe.
It was empty.
Robbie swore. “How the fuck?”
Through the door, the spokesman said, “We secured the guns. You don’t need them. You are safe.”
My intuition says again, “Talk.” I looked at Robbie, Joanna and Jan. To say they were “freaked out” belies even how wide-open their eyes, the deep lines of fear clear in their wrinkled foreheads.
To the Spokesman, I said, “What do you want?” To myself, I think: okay, they took the guns. How they knew the code… How they knew of the beach house… Why they didn’t just shoot us already… My intuition says, “Listen.”
Through the door, the man answered. He said, “We want your help.”
“What kind of help?”
“Come out here, and I’ll tell you. I’m friendly. Let me prove that to you.”
I looked at Joanna. She’s my boss. She’s my leader. I’m used to looking to her for cues. Joanna gave me a little smile and nodded. Her shoulders dropped. Was she relaxed… or resigned?
I said, “Okay ‘Spokesman.’ You have us trapped. That doesn’t seem too friendly.”
The man said, “My name is SeventyNine. You are not trapped. TwoZeroEight is outside the window so you wouldn’t go running off, and into the hands of the Arcana. I have been informed that the Undersecretary has the Computronium back, Sean. They found it in the conference room and returned it. Anna accidentally shot one of their men, but they’re blaming you. The two women you know as Stacy have recovered, thanks to the fulgurite. It’s only a matter of time they trace you here. No more than two hours, maybe less. Come out, let me talk to you. Let me tell you how you can help put a stop to all of this.”
Two weeks ago, life was normal. Not great, really. I worked, I watched a shitload of youtube videos. I played games all weekend. I hacked. Mostly script-kiddie stuff. Running some metasploit scripts, just to mess with people.
One week ago I thought I hit the lottery. Some sort of magical rock or something. If I touched it I was… transported… it was amazing. I loved it. And, it loved me back. Work worked out, I partied like I hadn’t since college, I won several fistfights against badasses.
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To “SeventyNine”, I said, “Okay, uh, ‘SeventyNine,’ I’ll come out. But, you have to let my friends go.”
SeventyNine said, “I can’t let them go until you hear me out. They are in danger. And, you are as well. Your driver, I believe his name was Lucas? He’s dead. It won’t be long before they trace you here. We had a head start.”
Behind me, Joanna said, “Fucking fuck!” And I thought, “Why on earth did Train Platform Man choose me?”
The guy who called himself SeventyNine said, “Once you hear me out, then you are free to make whatever decision you want. But, be clear: the Arcana will kill you before morning. The sunrises here are beautiful. Hear me out, and you’ll live to see one.”
I turned to look at Robbie, Jan and Joanna. Robbie was bent over the gun safe, feeling around at the bottom, disbelieving it was truly empty. Jan was holding her head and swaying, eyes closed. Joanna nodded again.
I turned the door handle. I opened the door.
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson