I opened my eyes expecting white walls and a hospital and instead found Nick hovering over me with a concerned look on his face.
“What happened?” I asked. My mouth felt like cotton. I was dehydrated, but my headache was gone.
“One of the blood vessels in your head burst,” Nick said. The beautiful black woman was standing beside him.
“The human brain is only supposed to support less than ten percent of cognitive function. Your brain is working at thirty-five percent, three times the normal level. The problem with you is that what you do, you do naturally. You have no way of turning it off and on.”
This was too much information. All I wanted to do was sleep. I felt like I hadn’t gotten a lot of rest lately. And those odd flashes of my brother’s voice, the broken windshield and the blood were concerning me.
“I just want to go home. Sleep is my own bed. I’m tired of this strange waking nightmare.”
Mala took Nick aside. “You know what you have to do,” she told him. “The girl is too important to let her go now.”
“I know but she didn’t sign up for this,” Nick said.
“What she wants is irrelevant at this point,” Mala said her voice was ultra-calm. “If we want to succeed against our adversaries, we need her, no matter what we have to say to get her to believe us.
“Interdimentional war? Where did you come up with that?”
“Just testing the waters, Nickey boy. I want to see how easily she’ll detect a lie,” Mala said glancing over Nick’s shoulder.
“She’s right. You’re doing your damn psy-ops thing.” Nick stood as a baracade between the bed and Mala. “We need her. You said it yourself. Don’t scare her off before we can get the information we need.
Mala turned and faced the window looking out into the garden. “Don’t act so self-righteous. She doesn’t even know who you really are. You’ve changed since she first wrote about you.”
Nick’s mouth set in a hard line. “I can’t change the past. I can only move forward.”
“And hope little girlie here doesn’t discover the truth.”
I had no idea what Mala and Nick were whispering about across the room. The only thing I did know was that their expressions were freaking me out. A few times Nick’s face looked downright evil.
I couldn’t get out of bed and attempt an escape. My head pounded just thinking about an escape route.
When Mala and Nick finished their pow-wow, orderlies came in and wheeled me into a very cozy-looking room. If we were still in the hospital, it was in the awfully fancy wing.
“Where’s your new best friend?” I asked Nick. He had been acting oddly since his conversation with Mala.
“She had things to attend to,” he said stiffly.
“Is it all right if I give the patient her meds?” The nurse looked expectantly at Nick who nodded.
“You need to rest. I’ll talk to you later.” When he left I felt a clutching sense of panic in my chest. And it wasn’t because Nick had left the room. Something was definitely fishy here.
“He’s not actually a bad guy,” the nurse said. Her accent was touched with an inflection of British.
“I don’t know what to think All I do know is that my bad vibes are pounding so strongly I can feel it pulsing inside my head.”
“We have to get you out of here,” the nurse said hoisting me up by the shoulder. She was stronger than she looked.
“What do you mean?” I asked my voice hitched with a tint of fear. “Where are you taking me?”
I could already feel the drug taking effect. Even if I resisted her eventually I’d pass out. What would happen then would be up to her.
“I don’t think this is a good idea. You shouldn’t move an injured woman so soon after surgery.”
“You don’t know what’s good for you, Walker,” the nurse said. She carried me to the window and signaled for someone beyond the garden.
“You know,” the nurse said. “The only reason you stopped writing about me is that I blocked my thoughts. I got pretty good at it, actually.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, slurring my words.
“I’m one of those characters you wrote about in the beginning. I’m Angela Hastings. Ta-Da. Aren’t you excited to see one of your characters in the flesh?”
“Been there, done that,” I said weakly. The woman loosened my restraints and one of them I swear she broke in half. “Why are you helping me?”
“The Foundation wanted you here for a reason. I have to figure out what that reason is.”
Suddenly, I was face to face but I couldn’t move. The drugs Mala and Nick had given me slowed down my motor function. I’d be lucky if I could keep breathing at this point.
“I can’t move,” I said in as much panic as my weak and exhausted voice could manage.
She looked at me with concerned hazel eyes, then touched a device hidden in her ear. “Hank, we have a problem. She’s having trouble breathing.”
“My dossier says she has asthma. She’s probably reacting to the drug. Get her back here fast,” Hank said in his quick tone. I could hear him talking to himself and cursing the people of the Foundation. “Angela, if you don’t make it back here in five minutes, she won’t make it either.”
Somehow the woman must have had superhuman strength. She picked me up like I weighed nothing and tossed me over her shoulder. She’d made it all the way to the window when a voice shouted from the other side of the room.
“Angela, stop!” It was Nick.
She did a half turn to look at him, her face frozen in a scowl.
“You really are alive,” he said.
“Yeah, Nickey, I am. No time to chat, though.”
Nick would see my face. I was trying to concentrate on taking slow deep breats but every second that ticked away make it harder and harder to breathe.
“What’s wrong with her?” he asked.
“Whatever drug they gave her, I think she’s allergic. If you want her to live, I’ve gotta go.”
Nick nodded. He didn’t say the words, he just nodded.
Angela reached for the window when Mala and a group of military men burst into the room. The black woman barked orders and one of the men dressed in black fatigues grabbed Nick. The rest came forward toward us and fanned out across the room. Angela stood on the window ledge and looked down. WE had to be on the second or third floor.
“What are you doing,” I whispered.
“Even you can’t make that jump,” Mala mocked. “Give the girl back to us. She’s no concern to you.”
Angela didn’t answer. She swiveled, stepped onto the ledge and jumped. As the concrete rushed toward us, I passed out.
I woke up with a start, jerking my head back. It impacted with a cushioned surface that I later realized was the head rest of my car. My eyes darted around frantic. What in the hell had just happened?
My breathing was just as strained as before and I felt a wetness coming through my shirt. It was blood. I looked at my bloody hand and my breath hitched coming faster
“What’s happening to me?” I muttered through shaky breaths. A minute ago I was falling to my death and now I was here. I could hear a faint voice calling to me. It took me a minute to realize it was my phone, my old clunky gray model from 1996 that should in no way still work. I put it to my ear almost afraid of what I’d hear.
“Hello?” I said. My voice was shaky and uneven.
“Oh, thank God,” sighed a relived voice on the other end.
“Aaron?” It sounded like my brother, but I couldn’t be sure. Nothing about today was making sense.
“Yes. Yes, it’s me. Where are you?”
I looked around, high weeds surrounded me. The nose of my car was in water, maybe a ravine or a deep ditch. I couldn’t see anything else and the only thing I could hear was the silence of the country, birds, crickets and the wind. Nothing stood out as relevant.
“I don’t know. My car is face down in water. The only thing keeping this one on is the car battery. An old charger is connected to a cigarette lighter. If I wanted to get out and look around, I’d have to leave the phone here.”
“The cops are trying to triangulate your signal, but it’s more difficult since it’s analog.”
“I don’t know what happened to me. I don’t even remember how I got here.”
“You were coming to visit me like you always do.”
I held my breath when he made that comment. That wasn’t true. I hardly ever visited my brother due to the fact that he lived so far away. Who was this person? Or maybe it was Aaron and people were making him say these things. Maybe he’d been compromised.
I paused. Compromised? Who said things like that? My spy writing was definitely coming into the foreground coloring my wording.
“Right,” I said stalling. “I remember now. I was coming to visit you.”
“Did you remember to bring that gift for grandma?” he asked.
Grandma? My grandmother was dead. Maybe he meant his wife’s grandma.
“I don’t know if I brought it or not. If I did, it’s probably broken now. Everything here is smashed.”
“Okay,” he said. “Keep on the line and…” his voice faded into nothingness and the phone blinked off. I hadn’t realized sometime during our conversation the interior light of my car had gone dark, even the radio ceased to play.
The car battery must be dead.
It was probably for the best. If some contingent of bad guys was after me, the less Aaron knew the better.
I reached into the back seat and opened the door to the rear compartment. The backseat doubled as a secret passage to the trunk. I grabbed the aluminum ball bat and tested its weight. If any bad guys approached me, at least I’d have something t protect myself with.
My head filled with possible dialogue for a scene. But I really didn’t want to write an episode right now. I wanted to go home, lie down and sleep for a week. Suddenly, I realized I’d been hearing the same phrase over and over in my head.
“You have to get out of the car.” It was distinct, spoken as if the person were right next to me. “Get out of the car,” the voice insisted. “Get out of the car NOW!”
I held the bat to my chest and ran from the vehicle. I stopped and leaned against a big oak tree not far from my abandoned car.
“What in the hell was that,” I screamed. “I just want to go home.” I slapped the tre and stared at my car. Even from this distance I could see the blinking light from inside the driver’s door. I had a sudden feeling that blinking light wasn’t a good sign and sprinted in the opposite direction.
I could feel the force of the explosion even from a distance. The resulting energy wave knocked me to my hands and knees in the mud. If this was how the spy game was played, I really didn’t like it very much.
“I’m a good person,” I said. “Why are people trying to kill me?”
“What in the hell is wrong with you?” The voice in my head was now standing next to me. “Do you have a death wish or something?” Angela Hastings appeared to my right.”
“I don’t know what is wrong with me. I think I’m having blackouts.”
“Wonderful,” Angela muttered. “Hank, can you fix her?”
“Oh, right. Ask the impossible of me. I’m a scientist not a physician.”
“Just look at her.”
Hank looked nothing like I’d imagined. I was expecting an ultra thin geek, but instead this man was relatively good-looking. Smart and good-looking, what were the odds?
The scientist had a chiseled face and a European wine country look about him. His voice was a mixture of French and English accents. I could listen to him talk all day and never be bored.
He reached into my ear canal and removed a small device. It must have been some sort of communication device, because suddenly the chattering in my head came to an end. That alone made me feel a bit more relaxed.
“We call it a ComLink. It’s one of the newer models. Not ours, however.” He grabbed his Swiss Army knife and used one of the blades to deactivate it. “That’s better.” He smiled at me. “You’re one popular girl.”
“Why is the sixty four thousand dollar question.” Hank put his hands on my stomach and I nearly jumped out of my skin.
“No broken ribs. That’s a plus, but I’m going to have to bandage that wound. Take off your shirt.”
My face reddened. “Pardon me?”
“Your shirt. Take it off. I must be able to clean the wound thoroughly.” Hank rifled through his bag of tricks and came back with antiseptic and bandages. He really was too good to be true.
Angela and Hank didn’t know what to make of me. I think the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that the Foundation wanted me more than Angela and Hank did. Anything the Foundation wanted, they knew they had to keep a hold of.
I wasn’t sure where we were. I wasn’t even sure I was thinking clearly. My mind felt like mush, like it was constantly changing channels. One moment I was in a car ditched in a ravine and the next I was being rescued from the clutches of the Foundation by Angela and Hank. Who knew which scenario was the true one.
Night had fallen and the area where Angela had decided to use as a hideout looked vaguely familiar.
“Where are we?” I asked. Hank set a large metal suitcase on one of the tables. Vending machines lined one wall, but it was the cappuccino machine that brought a light bulb into my mind. We were at the rest area not far from my brother’s house. Somehow the two realities had finally converged.
“I don’t think Mala and the Foundation will be looking for you here,” Hank reassured me.
“We’ve slipped under their radar,” Angela said. “We should be safe for tonight.”
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel reassured. This all had suddenly become all too real. I wish I knew why any of these people wanted to pay tug-of-war with my life.