BELOW THE SECRECY
In the middle of a struggle, Rufus does something even the Computronium can’t help Sean predict. Then, a thrown plant, a chaotic lobby, a car chase and a big, black-eye. Sean and his friends are on the run now, can they find somewhere to go?
So, I was in a fight. God it felt good. Rufus and I. Arm to arm combat. Usually I’d stand no chance in this kind of dance. Ahh, but this time, hehehe. This time!
Behind me, my coworkers streamed out of the office, headed toward safety. I kept Rufus and the Windbreaker Men busy. It was so easy. I was in the zone. I had the Computronium vibe… alive inside me.
But, there must be a limit on what I can predict, because Rufus did something unpredictable. He suddenly flung himself to the floor, dropped like he was shot. He yelled, “Shoot him, Anna!”
And time slowed. I was in one of those slow motion movie scenes. Oh… Fuck… . Everything moves at half speed, and the one thing you need is never going to happen. I needed Anna to not pull the trigger. But, she’s going to. 100%. Anna is going to shoot me, and only a six-pack of Felix Felicis would stop it.
And, what do you know? Right as Anna squeezed the trigger, one of the Windbreaker Men threw himself at me, handcuffs at the ready. He lunged and said, “You are under arrest –” but just as he said, “arrest”, Anna fired (pop, pop!) her gun. Windbreaker Man grunted as he fell into me, pushing me out the door.
My coworkers were stampeding back through security, toward safety. An alarm sounded. I looked right, spotted Robbie, Cynthia, Penelope, and Joanna in an elevator. They had Jan. The doors were closing. Another Windbreaker Man, a different one, he turned and levelled a gun toward them. The doors were halfway closed, time was slow, and I needed to figure out something. Fast.
My brain made a computation, I saw a dozen options, decided on the best one and immediately grabbed a big potted tree from the corner of the hallway, right next to me, and in one fluid motion I flung it up and out. The plant flew between the man and the elevator just as he fired. The plant’s pot popped, bursting into pieces, blocking the bullets. The elevator doors shut.
I turned and ran. To the stairs, down the stairs, down, down. (repeat a few times in different ways and use them all)
The lobby was chaos. An alarm blared and an automated voice announced “Please remain where you are. This is a lockdown.”
I danced across the lobby, lost in chaos, looking for Jan. I wanted to return for the Computronium, but I had to find Jan first.
I spotted her. Jan was with Robbie and Joanna on the street. I ran up to them just as a dark SUV pulled up. Joanna opened a door and said, “Get in.” I took one glance and said, “No fucking way!” It looked like the exact car the Arcana would drive.
Joanna said, “Get… in!”
Robbie helped Jan in, and got in himself. Joanna pushed me, got in behind me and looked at the driver. She said, “Lucas, thank God. Go. Now. I’ll give you an address in a minute.”
As Lucas pulled away, I said, “No, I need to go back and get something.”
Joanna looked at me incredulously and shook her head. We drove, turning, then going straight, then turning. Speeding away from the building.
Joanna’s phone rang. She looked at it and said, “Ah, fuck.” She slid her finger from left to right, put it to her ear and said, “Mr Undersecretary.” While she listened, she covered the microphone and said, sotto voce, “It’s my boss’s boss.”
Joanna said into the phone, “Sir, there were shots fired.” She listened for a moment then said, “No, I will do no such thing. If you must. Good, bye!” Joanna punched the electronic window button on the door next to her. The window whirred open. Cold air rushed in. She reached her hand out the window, and dropped her phone.
She said, “Boring conversation anyway. Lucas, we’re going to have company.”
I turned to Jan, who was not only alive, but awake, with a fast-bruising black eye. I said, “Jan, I am so sorry.” She didn’t answer.
Then Joanna reached out her hand and said, “Hand me your phones. All of you. They are tracking us.” Joanna took our phones and dropped them out the window. We went a few more blocks and she told Lucas-the-driver to pull over.
We stopped, piled out onto the street, Jan said to Lucas. “Drive. Go, anywhere, don’t stop for at least an hour. And be careful.“
Joanna slammed the door, wrapped Jan’s head in her scarf and said, “Let’s get off the street. Over there.”
We went into a Chinese restaurant, found a dark booth in the back. It was barely lunch time and the place was sparsely populated.
We ordered drinks and egg rolls, though no one was hungry. I turned to Jan and asked, “How’s your head?”
She said, “Sore. Something popped when he hit me. How’s my face look?”
Joanna said, “Like a poster child for domestic abuse.” Jan tried to use a spoon as a mirror. Half her face was a bruise. I said, “This is my fault. I’m so sorry.”
Jan looked at me and said, “Yeah, turns out, you aren’t the only crazy one. Those motherfuckers, too.”
In twenty minutes, we hatched a plan. Robbie’s parents had a beach house in Crescent City. I objected. I said, “Robbie, these Arcana people have no reason to think you’re involved with this. Get out now, before you can’t.”
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Robbie paused, looked at Joanna, who kind of shrugged noncommittally and looked down at her plate. Robbie said, “No, I’m with you. I want to help.”
We found an ATM, got as much cash as we could, caught a cab to a bus station, paid cash for tickets and rode to Crescent City. We arrived at Robbie’s parent’s beach house at dusk. Robbie located a hidden key by the back garage. As we approached from the beach side, I noticed my brain computing something, a consensus from all of my senses, a scent of something that didn’t make sense.
I said, “Uh, I have a bad feeling about this.”
Robbie said, “It’s creepy, I know. I hated coming here as a kid. But, come, on, I’m freezing.”
None of us had jackets, I didn’t even have socks. So, I nodded.
We noticed no cars outside. No tracks in the snow. No lights in the house. But when we made it to the kitchen, there were two men and two women waiting in the dark, suits covered by windbreakers with big yellow letters. They stood tall, arms crossed, like a small army.
The shorter man said, “I’m glad you finally made it.”
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson