Part 11: Inner Cues
I was still shocked. How had I fallen back into the Alt-World? This whole jumping back and forth thing was getting quite confusing.
I stared at Nick Boyd with large, round eyes. He could tell I was a bit freaked out.
“I.. . I thought someone had captured you,” I said to him.
I glanced around the room where I had awakened. It was a cell. Apparently, someone had been expecting us.
“Someone did capture me. Although I’m not really certain how they got the jump on me,” he said, the same confusion I possessed mirrored in his eyes. “I’m usually pretty good at anticipating other people’s moves. But this guy -- he took me totally by surprise.”
Nick pointed his thumb to the men shuffling around on the other side of the bars. The two men were wearing black fatigues and flack jackets. In the middle of the night they would easily blend into the darkness. I didn’t recognize either man, but there was something familiar about them.
“What’s going on?” I whispered to Nick. “A minute ago I was back at home trying to get back to sleep and now I’m here with you in a cage.”
“Good question. I’d like the answer to that myself.”
“When I was awake, I saw you on tv.”
“What do you mean,” Nick asked, confused.
“You were responding to a call with your partner. Bank security footage showed you approaching. Then you just disappeared as if someone had plucked you out of reality. Your partner was pretty surprised by your sudden exit.
“Not surprising. He doesn’t believe in magic. He believes in evidence.”
“That sounds a lot like you,” I observed.
“Yeah, well, the evidence is showing me a whole new world. If I hadn’t seen you materialize out of thin air next to me, I never would have believed it,” Nick said, his eyes never left our 2 captors. “If we want to get out of here, we need more information.”
“My first question would be, why us?” I said.
“I do have a bit of an inkling, but nothing solid,” he said. “You told me earlier that you wrote about a character named Nick Boyd and later discovered he was real. You may not realize this, but I’ve dreamed about you too.” This was a bit too odd. I thought I was the weird one in this story.
“What do you mean,” I said.
“When I dream, you’re always there, sort of sitting on the sidelines. Always watching. Always observing. You don’t engage in the dream, though. You’ve only spoken a couple of times, and in those moments, only sending warnings. Those dreams have saved my ass more times than I care to admit.”
“Technically, I’ve never dreamed about you. I thought I was making up stories.”
“I dream about you observing and you write about me. Sounds like we’re both on the same wavelength. Maybe latently psychic.”
“I still don’t understand why you, though. I wrote about you before I created The Legacy. No one’s ever seen the few chapters but me. It was the one story I could never completely grab a hold of.”
“Tell me about it,” Nick said. It was a little strange relating a story I only half knew to the man who had actually lived it in the flesh. Maybe I should have been the one picking his brain. Then maybe I could understand why I never finished the manuscript. “You were a police officer. There was another man, John Holland, who was a sketch artist, and a woman named Tessa Wainright. She was quite hostile. She chased my main character and John onto a commuter train. Before the train went into the tunnel, they both jumped to safety. Tessa seemed pretty pissed. I think she worked for a secret organization. It was called the Foundation or the Trust. I could never make up my mind about it.”
Nick seemed to be greatly interested in the characters from my unwritten story. “Tell me more,” he said eagerly.
“I can’t. That’s all there is. The characters never went farther than that. I do know a man named Davis was connected with this organization and his wife, Hollie knew my main character through email and chat rooms. Hollie got my character to leave her house in one version before it exploded.”
A horrifically tense look filled Nick’s eyes.
“What was your main character’s name?” he asked.
“Angela Hastings. She was just a normal person this group seemed to target for no reason. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the plot, so I stopped writing on it. But the characters were always there in the back of my mind.” “Angela?” he said with a slight croak in his voice. His mouth set in a grim line as if he’d just realized something important. “It was Davis and Tessa?” he asked sharply.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said.
“They killed her. That’s why you lost your connection to the story. I was never certain but I always suspected they were responsible.” Nick’s voice had taken on a hard edge.
“In my story she never died. The house explosion happened in the beginning. She was with John when Tessa was following them. They both escaped. I never had the feeling she died.”
Nick seemed to know more of the story now that he had centered his mind on what he thought were the facts.
“She disappeared ten years ago. Later, we found bones identified as Angela’s.”
“Classic red herring,” I muttered. “I would bet money she was alive, and I’m not a betting person.”
Nick didn’t seem quite as convinced. “She would have shown up by now if she was alive.”
“I know it’s easier to believe she’s gone, especially after all this time, but I’m not convinced. The headquarters of that secret group I mentioned was not far from the place where John and Angela escaped from Tessa.”
Nick was listening but his jaw was locked. Losing Angela must have nearly killed him.
“I have two scenarios that have been wiggling around in my mind. Scenario number one: The Foundation captured Angela for an as of yet unknown reason. Scenario number two: John knew why the Foundation was after her and faked her death.”
“John would never leave me out of the loop. He knew how much I cared about Angela.”
I lowered my head. He was still in pain. It was so obvious how deep the wounds were.
“Because you cared about her so much, that was probably the reason he kept her escape a secret. Your grief played well to whomever wanted to kill Angela. Your performance convinced the Foundation that Angela truly was dead. Plus, if I know Angela at all, she wanted to keep you safe. She didn’t want unscrupulous men touching your life.”
“You think my best friend would put me through something like that? You’re crazy.”
“Better ten years of grief than a lifetime of dead,” I said.
“That night changed me,” Nick admitted. “The night she died something inside of me died along with her. I went from good cop to the renegade officer. I took every dangerous assignment I could get my hands on.”
“You were grieving. Everyone grieves in their own way,” I said. Even the idea that she might be alive weighed heavily on him.
“They don’t have a death wish so they can join the woman they love.”
Our captors were loading things into an awaiting SUV. I could see it through the front door. It was black just like Ethan’s. Then an idea blossomed in my mind.
“Oh, God,” I whispered. “This isn’t about the Legacy at all. It’s psi-ops. Psychic operatives. They are purposely confusing me. They probed my mind until they found you. They needed a link to her.”
I ran my hands through my hair. “Because of me they’re going to find her.”
“What are you talking about,” Nick whispered.
“The part of the story I never understood was cloning. I knew it had something to do with the plot but I never knew why.” I paused and glanced to my captors making sure they were busy. “I think the reason they want Angela is because she’s a clone. Their first successful self-thinking clone.”
Nick was not quite on the same wavelength with me. It was hard to remember that he didn’t know the same things about my characters as I did.
“But why me?” Nick asked, again. I could tell he was completely confused.
“What if the Foundation created a clone. Then before they truly realized what she was, she escaped. In the beginning her memory must have been nearly empty. She had no experiences. She gained those first experiences by befriending you and John. But she never knew what she truly was.
“So, you’re trying to tell me that Angela is.. . or was a clone?”
“She’s alive,” I said. “You can be sure of that. But she’s not merely a clone. She’s an advanced human being and she’s evolved. The Foundation wants that advanced technology. They want to make more people like her.”
“And I’m bait?” Nick said. “I get it.”
“My theory is that the medical researchers employed by the Foundation can’t replicate her evolution. They’ll need her DNA to do that.”
The men guarding us came closer. They were now watching us, and my bad feeling came back in spades.
“Something’s wrong,” I whispered to Nick.
“You really do listen to your inner cues and follow your intuition,” said one guard. His voice was quickly recognized. It sounded like Ethan. I couldn’t tell by his facial features, though. “Not many realize they even have such an ability.”
“I’m not most people,” I snarked. When he came into my view, I realized it was Ethan. “Why are you doing this to me? You couldn’t just use your psi-ops division and hack your way into my head like normal operatives?”
Ethan said nothing. He glanced back to his partner then again to me. As his head turned, something about his face flickered. I blinked and focused harder trying to see what was really there. The face flickered again. Between flashes of Ethan’s face came another, a man I didn’t recognize.
“He’s not Ethan,” I said to Nick. “I doubt any of this is my Legacy universe. It’s like a very powerful mental simulation area. That explains why I was able to manipulate the characters. They were only mental simulations created by someone else.”
“Who’s behind this,” Nick said to the guard. He reached through the bars for him and with a powerful pull thrust the man into them. The mental image of Ethan’s face dissolved and revealed the man’s true identity. He was one I recognized. Fear raced through my veins. What in the hell was going on?
“We’ve got to get out of here,” I told Nick.
“Ya think?” he replied sarcastically.
I mentally opened the cage door and Nick pounded on Kevin’s face until it too flickered and revealed yet another hoodlum pretending to be someone he was not.
“This is crazy,” Nick said. “How do you fight someone who can mentally create a universe this realistic and maintain it for this long?”
“I wasn’t supposed to be here,” I said softly, finally getting it. “I was the unknown variable.” I paused. “They have to be using my mind to create this.”
“What?” Nick said, pulling me toward the front door. “You’re sounding crazier by the minute.”
“I’m already captured. The way they found you is that they tapped into my mind.” I pushed away from Nick. “Stay away from me,” I yelled running out the front door. Before I could warn him of the dangers of staying in my presence, everything went black.