Chapter 11 & 12

Chapter 11: Down Time

 

Dayio and Odom are listening to the conversation. I look around, then notice my father, Welktin, and Paul walking over to us. I guess the conversation between Odom and I is going to have to wait. There will be plenty of time to figure this out later. My father seems at ease around him knowing what he is, so that’s kind of a relief.

My father clears his throat, getting all of our attention. He asks, “Are you all settling in well?”

I look at them for confirmation. Dayio answers, “Yeah, this collapsed station is a great set up.”

I ask my father, “What’s up, Simon?”

He answers, “I just wanted to get you all accommodated for the remainder of the night. Paul here will escort you all to your quarters, or, if you’re hungry, we can have a meal brought out to you here.”

Everyone except Odom smiles at my father. I say to him, “I guess hungry works for everyone. Will you be joining us, Simon?”

“Certainly. We’ll all stay here and dine together. Welktin, would you send word to get meals ready?”

Welktin answers, “Of course, sir.”

Welktin heads through the lobby towards the double doors in the back where I haven’t been yet.

Dayio gets off the table and heads to a seat on my side. My father asks Jacks, “Do you mind if I have the seat here?”

Jacks answers as he gets up, “No, not at all.”

Jacks heads over by Jerry and sits next to her. Paul follows, sitting next to him. What is Paul’s position here? He doesn’t seem to be a very talkative person, but neither does anyone else around here. I wonder if he’s mad at me at all.

I ask, “Are you feeling okay from earlier, Paul?”

He answers, “Oh, yes. I’m fine. How about you? We were worried you hadn’t made it before we realized you were just passed out.”

“Still have a slight headache, but I think that’s from being hit on the head so many times this week.”

“That doesn’t sound pleasant.”

“So, what do you do here?”

“I’m in charge of strategic research. I have connections that can get me data schematics and information that we can use. With the prison for example, once we find out where Geilium is being held, I’d be able to figure out our entry and weak points that’d be easy for us to breach. Stuff like that. Other than that, I assist with research.”

“Are your resources reliable?”

“Absolutely. With your background search, I was able to calculate the route in which you would exit. Simon sent the message at the perfect time I told him to which flawlessly guided your escape out of the building.”

“I thought I’d escaped on my own and your guys were just there to pick me up, conveniently.”

“Indirectly, you did. Once we were into their server, we only had a handful of seconds to send the message that you weren’t in reality. In the moment you had woken up, the guard’s patrol for that floor was already halfway around the square. This led them to attempt to cut you off in the wrong direction which led you to the stairs, and so on. I’d carefully calculated each response time, and you followed it perfectly through to where our people met with you outside of the building.”

“That’s very impressive.”

“Thank you. I plan to do the same for the prison break as well.”

I change the subject. “When did you start working with Simon?”

“He recruited me about four months ago. I’d lost my brother to Menta-Life’s scheme of stealing memories and am here to help bring them to justice.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

His story sounds like something I’d heard before; like déjà vu. His skills of timing are pretty impressive, too. It seems like we’ve got a good bunch going here. His help could really come in handy when we get inside of Menta-Life. Jerry’s schematic can help, too. Odom’s strength can assist by a landslide, and Dayio’s infiltration skills can come in handy, also. I’m proud of my last minute squad.

Paul replies, “I don’t think he’s dead, but Menta-Life has to know where he is.”

Welktin approaches us all with the cook, helping him push all of the food on a tray. They start sitting the plates in front of us and it smells delicious. Everyone starts digging in, as soon as the plates and forks are sat down in front of them. I begin eating slowly. Welktin joins us at the table next to Dayio and the cook goes back towards the end of the lobby. We all eat in silence.

I’ve grown a little bit of confidence in our plan’s success margin with the prison break. Once we have Geilium on our side, Odom and Jerry would have done their parts in this. I don’t want Jerry too attached into all of this because she’d become a wanted criminal like me. I need her and Odom almost desperately, but not enough to ruin their lives further like I’ve done with mine. Breaking Geilium out of prison would be a less revolutionary task. Going up against a world-changing, government-funded, Regulator-protected corporation is something worth being sent to death for.

After we all finish eating, Welktin offers to escort us to our rooms. We accept and follow him across the lobby passing the few remaining scientists that are still working. We enter double doors at the back wall that lead to a small waiting room. Is this place actually a hotel? I could have sworn it was more of an old police station. At an intersection, we follow Welktin right then head through another immediate door into a long hallway with rooms.

The hallway’s decor seems different from the rest of the place. There isn’t any paint on the walls, just nasty lined concrete and worn wooden doors. People must have tried to organize this expansion to the station as a fallout shelter, but must not have expected it to be buried underneath the sand. At least they were able to get out through the garage. Welktin points out the bathroom, then starts pointing out available rooms and we disperse one by one.

We reach the room for me. Welktin says, “This last one is yours.”

I approve, “Thanks. When do you think we’ll know anything about Geilium?”

Welktin answers, “Probably soon, but we’ll keep an ear out just in case. Maybe we’ll get lucky and just end up having to steal a prison transport.”

“My luck is never ever that good.”

I walk into the room and shut the door. The room is small, and by small I mean a prison cell, but it’s better than nothing. I step immediately to the twin-sized bed and sit down. Why can I never get a comfortable bed to call my own? The night is probably over, but I didn’t get much sleep to begin with, so I might be asleep much longer than everyone else. It’ll be a good idea to go talk to Jerry alone while I can. Regardless of how I feel about the situation, she’s still a kid. I leave the room and unexpectedly bump into someone. Jacks falls down dropping the clothes in his hand.

I smile as I put my hand out to help him up and apologize, “Sorry about that. Are you okay?”

He timidly grabs my hand and I swiftly pull him up onto his feet. I bend down and pick up his clothes to see that there’s more than one pair. Is one for me?

I rise up with the clothes in my hand and Jacks says, “We had a rough day, so I figured you could use these.”

I look down at the jogger pants and t-shirt then acknowledge, “Thanks.”

As I hand him the other pair of clothes, he asks, “What’s up?”

“Just going to check on Jerry. I wanna see how she’s holding up.”

“Did she say something? We haven’t done anything yet, so she should be fine.”

“I’m gonna try and talk her out of this. She doesn’t belong here with us.”

“Well, hopefully she’s not as stubborn as you. I’m off to my room. See you tomorrow, or later, or something.”

He walks away and I reply, “See ya.”

I go back into the room and change into my loose-fit, light gray clothes. I’m all toasty now, not realizing I was cold before. I leave the room and stroll the hallway to Jerry’s room for a chat.

I knock on the door and hear her sweet voice on the other side, “Come in.”

I enter the room to see her folding the clothes she was wearing earlier into a neat square on the bed. She has clothes on just like mine and her hair is in a single ponytail now.

I ask, “Jacks brought you clothes, too?”

She answers as she slowly continues concentrating on folding, “Yeah.”

I smile and make a joke to raise her spirits, “I wonder if they had clothes big enough to fit Odom.”

She plainly responds, “I don’t see why they would.”

She seems to not be in the best mood right now so I ask, “Are you settling in okay?”

“Yeah, as good as can be expected for such a small room. It was settled when I walked in.” She sits down on the bed next to her folded clothes and asks, “So, what’s goin’ on with you?”

“I just wanted to check in on you, that’s all. See how you’re getting along with everyone.”

Her voice eases into disappointment, “A lot of people here keep looking at me like I don’t belong. I know what they’re thinking. I feel like I can be a better part of the team than anyone else.”

I sit down next to her and share my opinion, “Well, you are young. Honestly, I don’t belong here either. All of these smart people around me just make me uncomfortable.”

“Then why are you here?”

“For my father and to save my life.”

“What about Menta-Life?”

“If they hadn’t bothered me, I wouldn’t have to bother them. I’m not interested in saving the world and you shouldn’t be either.”

“I’m not. I just wanna fit in somewhere. Being an orphan, people just take you in for status to say that they have children; to be able to look better as a family on an office desk photograph. Any family I got accepted into I was neglected most of the time by the parents with kids for not being a real member of the family. I was bullied by the kids for not being a real member of the family. I don’t have a place anymore and I don’t know of anywhere else to go. If I can’t fit in here, where else is there?”

I understand exactly what she means. Those were my reasons for getting sent back to foster homes and constantly arrested. It’s like our shoes match, but she doesn’t seem to have that violent itch to want to hurt everyone who talks to me the wrong way that I have.

I reply, “Yeah, but here isn’t much better than that. Everyone else will feel like you’re in their way.”

She states, “But you guys don’t. I showed you what I can do by controlling the mechs. I don’t even have to be in the same city to control them.”

“I know you’re useful, but everyone else has a reason for being here. Dayio’s people were wiped out by Menta-Life, Odom owes me, and I’m going to die if I don’t stop them. Jacks works for my father, but what do you want here?”

“I’ve been teased and bullied my whole life alone and now I’ll be teased and bullied with you. I just don’t wanna be alone anymore. Is that not good enough?”

We we’re both orphans and here I am trying to get rid of her like families used to get rid of me. It can’t hurt too much to have her here at the base being an eye through the mechs. I don’t want to abandon her or she’d just grow up and turn into me; whether I have some moral background or not, I’m still a bad person.

I agree, “It’s enough for me, but you have to prove to everyone else that you deserve to be here.”

She smiles as she puts her head down. “Thanks, Van.”

I place my right hand on her shoulder, “Don’t thank me until this is over.” I remove my hand then get up and continue, “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Okay.”

The smile on her face gives my heart a little glow, like I’d done something good for once in my life, despite the fact that I may have just set this girl’s fate on a doomed path with adult permission.

She adds, “I really do appreciate you letting me stay. You, me, and Odom are all alike, ya know. We need to stick together.”

I ask, “What do you mean?”

“I spoke to him when you were passed out upstairs. He doesn’t have any family, either.”

“He told you that?”

“Yeah… well, not exactly like that. He might have family somewhere, but he doesn’t remember. He lost his memory somehow, so he’s alone… with us. I mean, you’ve got your father now, so I guess you’re excluded.”

There’s a good reason why he would lie to her, but he’s not dispensing his story onto everyone like he doesn’t want anyone to know. Most people who want their fairytale known would make sure to tell it every chance they get in order to develop a sort of sympathy; everyone will know how they lost everything, then eventually pull the lie off of our heads to reveal the evil truth. Being genetically engineered just proved that he has something to do with Menta-Life, but so does his memory loss. I have to find out more.

I ask, “If he has no memory, how does he know his name?”

She answers, “He thinks it’s Odom. He said it was written on a shirt that he had on when he washed up out of a lake.”

“His IDN doesn’t work to tell him who he is?”

“No. It doesn’t even exist. I checked it out myself. The Regulators are authorized to attack him every time he tries to get into a city. His IDN says that he is wanted for arrest in every city without reason to specify. You didn’t know?”

Truth is, I’m not sure. I did find him first, and with him living in Teykrys, the Regs wouldn’t dare attempt to search for him. One thing that doesn’t make sense is how he couldn’t know who he is. If they acknowledge him like he’s a criminal, he has to exist somewhere, and with breaking into a city, I’m sure he could have found out if he wanted to. To be a Menta-Life subject, Odom had to have had an IDN prior to being taken. He could be working too deep undercover for Menta-Life to a point of being expendable.

I answer, “I’m not sure. I haven’t spoken to him about that yet.”

She enthusiastically asks, “You want me to dig up more info for you? Then we can find out if he’s telling the truth.”
“No need for that.” She doesn’t need to get involved in this, so I change the subject. “So how does that thing on your wrist work?”

She puts her wrist up at me and asks, “Oh this? I invented it. I call it DataBand. It’s what I use to control the mechs.”

“How did you come to control them?”

“You want the boring algorithms and equations, or the interesting, short version?”

I get comfortable on the bed. “Interesting and short will be fine.”

“Well, this feeds directly from my home base and has preset information for control of each mech, so I’m able to connect to them wirelessly and more than one at a time.”

“How did you learn to do that? What made you decide to control mechs?”

“There wasn’t much else for me to do at home, being alone and all, so I worked on things. I thought controlling mechs would be cool. That way I wouldn’t have to be alone.”

I notice our only true difference is our sympathetic attitudes. She hates being alone and seems like she cares for others. I, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about being alone or anyone’s feelings. I fought to get where I am, quite literally, and she just got here by blackmail. Granted, if I’d not been a criminal, or treated with any decency in the orphanage, my heart would be cushiony soft like hers.

I ask, “Were you always alone?”

“For the most part. I spent most of my time working on controlling the mechs for company.”

“What happened to your parents?”

“They both died in the war.”

“It seems like that war took from a lot of people.”

“Yeah, but my dad was actually drafted to be a part of it. My mom gave birth to me after the missile hit, but we were stranded and alone. She died months after from starvation when she was feeding me. I was found and put into foster care.”

Babies can’t live too long on their own without nourishment; just a little bit longer and they would have found them. That’s a terrible burden to live with on anyone’s shoulders, especially for being so young.

I investigate deeper, “What about your other family?”

“Not sure if they even exist. I had no record. The world rebuilt and I had learned to take care of myself by then, so I just wandered.”

“You’re a brave girl, Jerry. That’s not your real name, is it?”

“No. Cyber J, CJ, Jerry, those are just aliases that people gave me. My birth name is–”

I interrupt, “Jerry. Your name is Jerry. Protect that name, okay? Having another name protects you from people who would want to hurt you, so you have to protect that over everything else.”

I don’t want to know her name because it would just be one more thing for me to hide from somebody. Being too trusting in this kind of battleground is something that she needs to learn to stay away from. I had a nap already, so I’m not too tired, but I should get off to bed. If we hear anything about Geilium we’ll have a long day tomorrow, and she’ll need rest, too.

I stand up and add, “I’m gonna go to bed. I’ll see you in the morning or whatever.”

I’m still not sure what time it is, but I’m sure the sun is close to coming up if it’s not up already. Getting to that conversation with Odom will just have to wait until I’m more energized.

She replies, “Okay. Me, too. Sleep tight.”

I leave the room. After I close the door, I stop with a feeling like someone is standing next to me. I look over on both sides of me, but the hallway is empty. I shake the feeling off then head back to my room and go straight to bed. I’ve never been the kind of person to invade anyone’s privacy like that, but with Jerry being alone for a majority of her life, she’ll need someone to give her direction and teach her that life isn’t all about the battle.

I definitely am not qualified for that, but I can do my best at trying for her sake. She needs someone to be there for her, and since I’m the only girl on the team, it kind of works in her favor unanimously. Odom telling Jerry about himself still puzzles me. He neglected to tell me anything, but I guess me threatening him into it might have had something to do with why he didn’t. He saved me back at Berkham, even though he didn’t have to, but I still have to keep my eye on him just in case deceit is abound. I doze off and dream of the same visions from earlier in my light slumber.

I walk around the black and white lobby surrounded by bloody walls. The dead bodies of the scientists are all over the place, then I notice my team is down, too. I know this is a dream, but what does it mean? It can’t be a vision. Everyone is dying around me, so is that my sign to turn back before this gets bad? Am I dead too? I walk past all of the bodies in search of my father, but he’s not around.

As I continue towards the double doors at the end of the lobby, I hear a hard knock on it. I stop abruptly expecting another knock, but there just remains silence. The knock happens again twice, then stops and I start walking over towards it. The knocks continue faster as I approach closer and reach out for the door. The knocks stop, striking curiosity from me, so I slowly start to back away. Whatever is going on, it seems responsive to me leaving my decision to wait. The doors quickly burst open and I wake up to a knock on my door.

Jacks’ voice loudly says from the other side, “Van, we need you out here in the hall.”

I sit up and loudly reply in my groggy tone, “Give me a minute.”

He doesn’t reply. I sit up and wipe the crust out of my eyes. That dream is going to haunt me. I had it again without the headache. What does Jacks want? It might be important, so I get up and stretch. I head for the door to the hallway. Entering the empty hallway after a nightmare feels unsettling.

I walk the hallway to the main hall where everyone is working as usual. The people here are much too focused and don’t seem to ever stop working. I notice my team is scattered around, observing and assisting. Jacks is working with the scientists in the center while Jerry watches. Dayio is talking to Welktin in a far corner. Odom is by himself against a wall with his arms folded and eyes closed. Jacks notices me, then flags me down.

I walk over to them then greet Jerry at the head of the pack, “Good morning.”

She smiles and corrects, “Afternoon, Van. Enjoy hibernation?”

“It could have been longer, but yeah.”

Jacks says, “Simon wants to speak with us in the meeting room right away.”

“Lead on.”

Jerry asks, “Can I come too?”

I’m not really sure how urgent this is to have anyone else around so I answer, “Not right now, because I have a task for you. I need you to make sure Odom is alright. Can you do that for me? Then meet us in the meeting room after.”

She agrees, “Right. I’ll see you soon.”

I nod my head then turn around and follow Jacks as he makes an observation, “I see that talk last night didn’t go too well.”

“Not at all. I’ll make sure to watch over her.”

We reach the office past the Deserted woman. When we enter, I see my father, Hines Aldwich, and Paul Quentin standing around the table in the center.

Their attention turns to us as my father greets, “Vanessa. Jacks. Please come in. Shut the door.”

Jacks steps back and closes the door. We then join them at the table.

My father says, “We just found out where Geilium is being held.”

I ask, “What was the announcement?”

“There was no announcement and there’s not going to be.”

Paul chimes in, “He’s being held in Sydney Two.”

Ah, great. The worst prison left in the old world; a prison that I doubt even Odom could break us into or we could escape from. I maintain my enthusiasm.

I ask, “So, what’s our move?”

Paul asks, “You do know that prison is impenetrable, right?”

“Yeah, but I also know that without Geilium’s Equility, we’re not going to last against Menta-Life for very long.”

Hines asks, “Well, if the guards can get in and out, why can’t we?”

I reply, “Now here’s a team player with some ideas, but the guards actually live on the island.”

Hines replies, “With our new society, I’m surprised the Regulators would even be allowed to do that.”

“I don’t think the guards there will be pushovers like the ones in our society.”

Sydney Two is home to some of the best security ever assembled. It’s also at an advantage to us since the prison is also home to the worst criminals this world has ever seen. The carnage they can cause to the people they hate most, being mainly towards the guards, could work in our favor. The bad point is we’re not trying to destroy the prison or let the guards die. Although our cause is bigger than the prison, they don’t deserve that.

I continue, “…though the prisoners can be of some help.”

Paul states, “The last thing they’ll do is help us. They’re criminals.”

My father adds, “Plus, they might kill the guards and escape themselves.”

I reply, “You’ll be surprised at what someone would do for freedom. Isn’t it on an island?”

My father answers, “It is an island, but the drought took most of the water making it now possible to swim. Of course, the inmates aren’t aware of that, but they won’t hesitate to try if given the opportunity.”

I reply, “I don’t see any other plan.”

Paul suggests, “Maybe something less of a full force approach.”

I respond, “It’s an island. That’s pretty unavoidable.”

Jacks chimes in, “I have an idea. Well, if the inmates won’t hesitate to swim out, why don’t we just swim in?”

Considering that there’s only one way in, his plan doesn’t seem that bad. It would have to be underwater, but that’s better than getting shot out of the sky; just potentially get eaten by whatever inhabits the waters these days. Everyone looks at me for approval, so it seems they think it’s a good idea, too. My inner leader comes out.

I ask Jacks, “Can you get Paul and me a layout of the prison?”

Jacks answers, “I can, but it’ll likely be outdated, as in prewar before they updated their mechanical defenses. I don’t see why the schematic wouldn’t be the same, though.”

“Good.” I turn to my father. “Is Welktin any good?”

My father asks, “As far as what?”

“Combat.”

“He gets the job done and protects us all. I’ve never seen him in combat, but he gets what I need in a stealthy manner.”

“Fair enough. I’ll brief my team and we’ll decide what to do from there. Jacks, you’re with me. We’ll be back with the schematic.”

Jacks opens the door for me and we both exit the room heading back to the main hall as he comments, “You handled that pretty well.”

I reply, “I’m just tired of all this sitting around.”

“It hasn’t even been a full day, yet. Plus, you could use a little vacation.”

“Until I get my memory back, there won’t be any vacation for me.”

We reach the hall and everyone is still where they were, aside from Jerry who is approaching me rapidly. I ask, “What’s up?”

She answers, “Odom’s okay overall; his usual lost-in-thought self.”

“He’s a big guy. He’ll be fine. We all need to talk. Something came up.”

I walk around her towards the table. Dayio and Welktin look over at me. I signal them to come over and turn back to see that Odom is coming also. He acknowledges with a head nod, like he read my mind. We all reach the table while I stand at its end to make my speech. Odom stands behind Jerry and Jacks who are seated on my right side. Welktin and Dayio are seated on my left.

I get Jacks’ attention, “Hey.” He turns to me and I continue, “Grab a laptop and search for the schematic, so we can begin planning the operation.”

He gets up and leaves the table walking over to a few scientists with more laptops than they need. The moment we’ve been waiting for is here and it’s time to bring in our last recruit – Equility.

 

Chapter 12: Have Plan, Will Travel

 

I lean my body down, resting my palms on the table. Everyone gets comfortable and in position to hear what I have to say. Hopefully everyone’s onboard with this, or it’ll be a short trip. Going in by swimming would only require the strongest in strength or most determined in willpower; willpower being me. I just hope we can introduce another alternative because we’ll be in no condition to break anyone out of anything when we arrive.

I begin, “Okay, we’ve come across some information and know where Geilium is being held. They flew him in to Sydney Two.”

Dayio says to himself, “Oh, this just gets better and better.”

Odom and Welktin don’t respond. Jerry slowly raises her hand like she’s in school, so I acknowledge her. “Go ahead.”

Jacks rejoins us at the table as Jerry cheerily asks, “It wouldn’t happen to be the same Sydney Two in the middle of the lake, would it?”

The prison existed before all of our times and was triple max security protected. It’s so remote that when the war was destroying everything around us, the prison survived. The toxin spewed during the war caused a drought over those waters, shortening it, but it was never confirmed to have contaminants. The island holding Sydney, with its new world modifications, brought in the birth of Sydney Two.

I answer, “The one and only.”

She shares her insight with disgust, “Ugh, that place is a maze to get through.”

We all quickly turn our heads and look at her. It’s not possible that she could have been to Sydney; she’s much too young. Only the worst criminals on Earth get sent there for the vilest things ever done. Geilium McKoy has to have been their first new arrival in years and there aren’t many people here who would be deserving of such a fate.

She responds to us all staring at her, “What?”

I ask, “What do you mean that place is a maze to get through?”

“I’ve been to Sydney before. I’m not familiar with every corner, but I’m aware of their surveillance and tech. They have a very small mech presence there and I hacked the security systems once.”

We all let out a huff of relief from her explanation. They had to have thought the same thing I did. This girl seems to be able to bring a lot more to the table each time I talk to her. This could make her, likely, more useful than me. Her smarts may come in handy during our missions as long as she’s not physically there.

I ask, “How familiar are you with their defenses?”

She answers, “I know their defenses, but that won’t be your biggest problem. The guards in that prison; there’s something wrong with them. They’ve been on that island for years and they’re a little on the unstable side.”

Dayio asks, “What do you mean, unstable?”

“Through the war, all they did was live there amongst criminals. A lot of them lost families and had no way to take out their frustrations… so they used the prisoners.”

Dayio comments in disgust, “That’s sick. How could they do something like that?”

Welktin comments, “I’m sure those prisoners deserve it anyway.”

“Well, once we’re all incarcerated there for trying to break Geilium out, we’ll see how you like it.”

I ask, “Hey, are you guys done? You can debate this on your own time. We have work to do.” They both remain silent and I ask Jacks, “How are we lookin’ on that schematic?”

Jacks is typing fast as he answers, “It’s a little harder to find than I thought. GCR network’s tough to crack, but it’ll only be another second or so.”

“What’s ‘or so’?”

“About a minute.”

I address everyone on the plan. “We’re going to be set up into three teams. The prison is on an island, so, since we’ll certainly be shot out of the air, we’re going underwater. We’ll need dive suits and scuba tanks to make the swim from the shore to the island. Welktin, Dayio, and I will be in the water–” They nod their heads in acknowledgement, “–then once we reach land, we’ll scale the side to reach the prison. We also need to steal a boat where Odom will be docked nearby to aid in our escape. Jacks and Jerry will stay here with Simon and the others. Jacks will aid Simon’s guy Paul in guiding us to where we need to go to release Geilium, meanwhile, Jerry will use the mech defenses against them to help us avoid detection. This is a simple in and out operation. We sneak in, find Geilium, and leave without detection. We all understand?”

Dayio raises his hand, “That all sounds good, but how are we supposed to get off the island? Do we expect Geilium will be able to scale down?”

I hadn’t thought of that. Geilium was the figurehead in front of Equility as a leader, but his climbing capabilities may not fit his corporate veneer. Regardless, it’s still an issue that needs to be accounted for.

I ask, “Do you have any suggestions?”

Dayio answers, “Aside from climbing back down and taking turns passing Geilium on our backs, I have no idea.”

Welktin jokingly adds, “We could just toss him over onto the boat.”

Jacks suggests, “Well, actually, according to the schematic layout, there is a sewage filtration system.” Jacks pushes the top portion of his laptop down towards the center of the table then it projects a 3D schematic, “This is the layout of the prison.”

The schematic is of the entire prison from the lake floor to the helipad on the roof. It shows all blue lines on the outside with the interior walls green and what looks like cell blocks are red. Jerry was right about the place being a maze. From the way it looks, there are a series of square hallways on the four square quadrants that dive into the island itself.

I ask, “How would we get through the sewage tunnel without us being chopped in half by those blade things in there?”

Jacks answers, “I can shut them off.”

Welktin asks, as he points halfway up the mountain schematic, “What’s this here?”

Jacks notices the series of blue lines through the mountain that appear to lead up to a basement. “Well, let’s see…” He creates a second screen, then starts typing away and the schematic zooms into the image. “It seems like an escape passage for the guards, but not really a safe one. From the passage ending, it’s a little over a fifty-foot drop into the water.”

I ask, “Can we get in that way?”

“No. It seems to only be accessible manually from the inside.”

This just can’t be easy. If we were to scale our way up to the prison then pencil dive from the passage to the water, we can possibly make it without any broken legs.

I reply, “Then we’re a go. As long as Odom is there on time with the boat, we won’t drown.” I look at him and add, “No pressure.”

Odom plainly replies as if he truly doesn’t care, “None taken.”

I address everyone. “Does anybody else have any questions?” They all look around at each other in silence then I conclude, “We start at first light. I’ll go update Simon. Meeting adjourned.”

I turn around and leave them all to chat about my horrible plan amongst themselves. Even I have the feeling that the plan will not go as simple as I made it seem, but we’ve got no other options. That place seems like it was created to even make it hard for the guards to escape, in the event that they needed to. With so few of us there, though, it will slim down our chances of detection and, with the right precautions, we’ll have our prize.

I reach Simon’s office and walk straight in to him chatting with Hines and Paul, “–crucial to the system’s malfunction.” He turns to me then continues, “Vanessa, please come in. Have you come up with a plan?”

I answer, “Yeah. We need scuba gear for three and a boat.”

“I can definitely have that arranged. Is your team up to the challenge?”

“Everyone will do just fine. Three of us will be going in at dawn. Odom will lead our escape. Jacks and Jerry will be here operating our entry. With Paul’s help, if that’s okay.”

My father looks back at Paul who agrees. “I’ll be happy to.”

I reply, “Great. Then I think we’re all set.”

My father says to Hines and Paul, “Would you both mind getting those taken care of while I speak to Vanessa, please.”

They both leave the room to my father and me. What does he want to talk about in private? I hope nothing is wrong.

My father asks, “Would you like to sit down?”

This must be really bad, but I accept anyway, “Yeah, sure.”

We both take a seat at the table and he asks, “How are you feeling, Emily?”

“I’m doing okay.”

“No headaches? Any fatigue?”

“I’m fine, Dad. Don’t worry.”

“I’m your father, Emily. I will always worry about you. It hurts me so much to put you through all of this.”

“You’re not putting me through anything. I chose to do this. Don’t blame yourself.”

“How can I not? I finally have you with me after fifteen years and I’ve only seen you twice in a week? I didn’t think things would become like this when I found you.”

I can hear how torn up he is about this. I really missed him too and wish things could have happened at an easier time. Saving my own life is still more important, or else I won’t live to have that peaceful future with him.

I reply, “If I don’t do this, you won’t see me again after a week.”

He states, “I know, but I was at least hoping you could stay with me while the others did the fighting against Menta-Life.”

I smile and clarify, “Dad, without me, you wouldn’t have a fight against Menta-Life. I don’t trust your people to come through for me. I’m dying.”

“You don’t trust me, then?”

“I didn’t say that. I just like to be in control of my own life, and if I fail, then I’m the one to blame.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just afraid of losing you again.”

“You won’t and I won’t lose you again, either.”

He changes the subject, “Remember when you were a little girl? You used to come and help me with all of my experiments at your workstation.”

He’s becoming nostalgic on me. I’ve never been confronted by my own memories before. I accepted my father’s death and there wasn’t enough room in my struggling youth to revel.

I answer, “Yes, I do remember the little workbench you built for me.”

“No project was ever bigger than you, Em. No matter what the cost, if you needed me, I was right there over your shoulder.”

“Are you going to be here for me now? I can’t succeed in getting my memory back if we don’t destroy the Menta-Life memory facility.”

“You know I will, Emily. I will do whatever it takes to see you safe. You’re strong, just like your mother was.”

My father was all I had since the day I was born. My mother passed away on the table after giving birth to me. It came down to a choice and my mother chose my life over hers. I always loved her for that and wished that I could have known her as a person. Even through death, I see she still has the strongest hold on his heart.

He continues, “She would have been proud of you, Emily.”

I quickly disagree, “No, Dad, she wouldn’t. I am what anybody pays me to be. I’m a criminal. A thief. A smuggler. The last thing that mother would be is proud of someone like me.”

He explains, “But look at what you’re doing now. You’re fighting a war to save humanity. That has to count for something.

“I’m fighting this war to save my life and to make sure you survive it.” I start feeling emotional about the disappointment he must feel as I continue. “I don’t care what happens to humanity; you’re all I care about. I will do whatever it takes to win this war for you, but win or lose, we’re both gonna walk away from it. I missed the chance to be your little girl, but I will not lose the chance to be your daughter.”

I feel a tear run down my face, as he stares at me like he wants to cry, too. I’ve never cared about what people thought of me in the past, but he matters. I won’t give him the satisfaction of judging my mistakes. I get up, quickly walk out of the room, and close the door behind me. I walk over to the window where the Deserted woman hangs out and watch her in her decorative prison.

She is still circling her fake city peacefully with her fingers. What’s on her mind? She has to know it’s not real. What happens to them after they get their memories back? What would happen to me when I get my memories back? Everything just feels screwed up now.

My father hasn’t chased me out of the room and no one has come back in. I step to the window, then sit down underneath it and stare at the wall in front of me. I feel bad for talking to my father that way, but what else was I supposed to say? I’d do anything to protect him, and if fighting his war can do that, then that should be enough. I feel like a little girl trying to convince myself that I’m doing the right thing. I don’t owe anyone anything; not even an explanation of why I need to do what I’m doing.

My mind is racing so fast that I’m starting to lose it. I feel like the woman is on the opposite side, sitting with her back to mine; relating to my emotions. After about two minutes of stewing in my own juices, I dry my already drying tears before they leave that residue on my face. I get up and walk back into the main hall where everyone is hanging around and preparing things.

I see Jacks and Paul working from the laptop at the table we met at earlier, probably planning our route on the schematic. I look around for Hines, but he’s nowhere in sight. He’s probably out finding the items I requested. Jerry is talking with Welktin and Dayio, then I notice Odom is back to holding up the wall.

He always seems to be deep in thought, but having no memory, there must be a lot to think about. I’ll go keep him company for a while and see what’s going on. Not socializing with anyone could raise suspicion amongst the people here. Being familiar with his attitude and personality, though, I don’t think he cares.

I approach him and, before I can speak, he quickly asks, “What do you want, Vanessa?”

I sarcastically comment, “That’s a friendly greeting.” He remains silent as he stares at me, so I respond to his rudeness, “I came to ask how you were doing, but now I don’t think I care.”

“Then why bother in the first place?”

“Because if there’s a problem or concern that needs to be said, I can deal with it. You always seem so lost in your own head and it’s making everybody nervous.”

It’s not true for certain, but I don’t feel comfortable prying without a valid reason. At that point, I’ll just feel nosy.

He replies, “You brought me here. I’m not here to be friends with anyone. I’m here to help you with this prison break and that’s all.”

I ask, “Why?”

“To repay my debt.”

“For a bottle of old alcohol that you drank in five minutes, you’re willing to help me break someone out of prison?”

“My reason is none of your business.”

“If you’re anything like Tylyn I’d assume you don’t have your memories, right?”

He quickly enquires, “So?”

“So, I can help you get them back.”

He pauses then states, “You’re a liar.”

I know he’s just saying that and doesn’t believe it from the pause of interest. His guard is up constantly, but I need him to relax around the others for their benefit.

I reply, “I’m not. The man we’re going after tomorrow, Geilium McKoy, has the reach to get us a resistance against Menta-Life. Our first target is their memory storage facility. I can get you your memory back.”

“How?”

“Menta-Life has been stealing people’s memories and they’re all housed inside. Once we destroy the facility, everyone’s memories will be returned to them, then you’ll remember where you’re from and how you got your mutagens. You could have a family out there waiting for you to come home.”

He basks in the silence. I can see that he is deep in thought. He’s been alone for a long time. I don’t know what goes on up in his head, but there has to be a part of him that wants to remember himself. I need to take things another step further to drive the point home.

I continue, “Simon wants to save the new world and return what Menta-Life has taken from them. He’s after redemption for helping them build the corporation and I’m going to help him bring it down.”

“And all I have to do us help you with the breakout?”

“It would be nice if you could stop looking at people like you want to kill them, too, but, yeah. That’s it.”

“Fine.”

He moves off the wall and starts walking away. I stop him. “Hey, wait.” He stops and turns around. I ask, “You do know how to drive a boat don’t you?”

He shrugs his shoulders as he answers, “No.”

He turns back around and continues walking back towards the rooms. I smirk and put my head down. He wasn’t going to socialize with everyone, but at least I prevented what could have been a potential problem. A new generation of peace just made people more fearful of any problems they had and have. Since that’s out of the way, I can go about my own business and prepare for the mission ahead. I would like to check in with everyone to get their opinion on the plan though. I head over to the table where Jacks and Paul are working on the schematic.

I ask, “Hey, Jacks. You got a moment?”

He answers, “Yeah, of course.” He says to Paul, “I’ll be right back.”

Jacks and I step out of ear’s reach of Paul as I ask, “How’s everything going?”

“Not bad. Is something wrong?”

“No, not at all. I was just curious about what you thought of the plan.”

“Well, if you don’t mind me saying, the others are brutes and don’t look at every aspect, but I feel as if the outer perimeter will be a bit problematic.”

“The lake?”

“Yes. No one has swum those waters in years. We have no idea what kinds of creatures possibly inhabit those waters now. There can be more than just carnivorous creatures underneath the water. The chemical spills may have irradiated the life underneath.”

“That’s true, but do you know of any other way in?”

He hesitantly answers, “Well,… no.”

“Preventive measures at least?”

“Against amphibious life? Not that I’ve ever considered, but there’s a fifty percent chance they may not have a human appetite.”

“And the other fifty?” He slightly tilts his head at me so I add, “Well, let’s just hope for the best.”

“You seem to never run out of breath and you and Dayio seem to be rivals. Welktin always gets the job done, so maybe you picked the perfect trio.”

“I hope so.”

“Are you sure about doing this? I mean the prison thing is fine, but are you positive that Geilium can deliver?”

“I didn’t trust Geilium to begin with, but Welktin did have a point. What happened was only a Life, so I can’t be sure.”

“Was there a thing between you two?”

I cross my arms and answer, “Yeah, a betrayal. We succeeded at taking over the Gharis City branch, but he didn’t want to destroy it; he wanted to use it.”

“Well, it was a Life. There is a valid reason to discount that possibility. Since he hasn’t begun his revolution yet, maybe you can sway him otherwise.”

“We both know I’m not good at swaying people. So far my team recruitment has ended up in disaster.”

“I don’t think you did too badly.”

“Simon disagrees.”

“How come?”

“Odom has alterations which gives him an automatic history with the corporation that we’re trying so hard to destroy. Jerry, even I don’t approve of, but she blackmailed her way onto the team, so we can’t abandon her or she could ruin us all.”

“Yeah, but it’s not all bad. Odom hasn’t made any bad moves so far and Jerry is a useful addition. Both of them are.”

I smile and reply at his support, “Thanks, Jacks.”

He smiles back, “Anytime, Van. I’m gonna get back to work on the schematic. We’ll talk later.”

“Alright.”

Jacks walks back over to the table, rejoining Paul. Jacks is sweet. He seems to have the quality to see the good in people, even if the good is not there. In our current situation, that isn’t a good quality to have because people aren’t always who they appear to be. I make my way over to Jerry, Welktin, and Dayio to figure out their opinions on the mission.

None of them notice my approach as I greet, “What’s up, guys?”

They all turn to me and Dayio greets, “Oh, hey, Van.”

They stare at me in an awkward silence, so I ask, “Am I interrupting something?”

Everyone continues to stare, then Dayio looks down at Jerry. I ask her, “What’s up, Jerry?”

She hesitantly asks, “Well, I, uh… I kind of, um–”

I interrupt with reassurance, “It’s okay, Jerry. You can talk to me. What is it?”

She continues less nervously, “I don’t think it’s fair that I have to stay here. I want to go to the prison because I’d be able to help out inside with you guys.”

“You will be. Without you, we won’t even be able to succeed at pulling this off.”

“I know, but I want to be there.”

“I understand how you feel, but the problem is getting you there. Do you know how to swim?”

“Yeah.”

“Well this isn’t a pool where you can just stand up when you get tired of swimming in four feet of water. We’re going to be in an actual lake without knowing what happened to the things underneath. We’ll go on a mission together one day for training, but now is too soon. Alright?”

She disappointedly agrees, “Alright.”

I reassure her, “Hey. When I say something I mean it. When we get down time, it’s going to be me and you.”

She smiles, “I’m lookin’ forward to it.”

“Cool.” I address everyone, “Does anyone else have any issues with the plan? I spoke to Jacks. He’s only concerned about what the contaminants could’ve done to the fish.”

Welktin replies, “I think it’s suicide either way, but if it works, we’ll know I was wrong.”

I sarcastically remind him, “You must have conveniently forgotten that the only reason we’re doing this is because of you. You’re the one that told Simon that Geilium might be willing to help us.” He sulks in the silence and I add, “If anybody has concerns, come talk to me. I’ll be in my room.”

Dayio acknowledges me, “Sure thing, Van.”

I head back towards my room to end the day on a short note. Going all that time with barely any rest took a toll on me, but my dedication kept me fueled. I didn’t realize how worn out I was until we got back here last night. The swim is a great distance from the shore, and with a scuba tank attached to my back, I’ll need as much rest as I can get. I stroll back toward my room and see Odom hanging around my door. Is he waiting for me? I approach him as he watches me without a word.

I stop next to him. He turns to me and I ask, “What’s goin’ on?”

He asks, “Is what you said about me having a connection to Menta-Life true? Can you really help me get my life back?”

“No, I can’t, but I can help you find out who you are so you can. You were basically the product of an experiment, according to Simon. There are others like you that work for Menta-Life as mercenaries or assassins. Not sure which.”

“What did they do to me?”

“Simon only gave me a brief run-down of his theory, but he thinks they used you as an experiment along with many others to create an elite group. Simon bailed when he found out.”

He puts his head down and ponders away for a second. “I have dreams of a life that I can’t remember living… of people that I don’t know. There’s always a woman and a park filled with children… and an explosion that destroys it all along with everything else. I need to know what it means. It could just be nothing, but I need to know.”

I add, “Or it could be everything. I understand how you feel, and as long as we can get an able resistance against Menta-Life, we’ll end this.”

“Anything I can do to help.”

Odom walks away and enters his room down the hall. Poor guy. His tone of voice was normal, but his unknowing makes me believe his story. Before, I jumped to conclusions and assumed his role was to find my father and kill him. Now I feel much different than before, only because he seems to be telling the truth through his curiosity and ignorance. He doesn’t know who he is.

Even out here in the real world, Menta-Life is still at the heart of everything bad. Their secrets are so undiscovered that people couldn’t see it even if we told and showed them. A corporation that rebuilt the world and pretty much controls it is destroying it, but why? To have so much control over everything and want more must mean they have something else going on. The people don’t deserve to have their memories stolen just because they wanted to make something of themselves.

What did I have that they wanted to steal before I woke? I feel as if I remember everything, but I don’t know if it’s my past that they stole from or the present in my Life. My two years and week of freedom in the Life was long, but to them it only had to have been a few minutes. If it was something in my Life, they had to have been moving fast to steal it before I woke up. If it was something from my past, would they have even let me back into the system?

Someone with an impaired memory like Behn Quentin would have their memory of Menta-Life stolen. Afterwards, they’d no longer think of going back to Menta-Life. Who told me that? Who is Behn Quentin? I can’t put a face to the name because I know it’s someone I only heard of. Quentin must be a popular last name since Paul has it too. Oh well.

I lie down in my bed then doze off for a fresh start tomorrow morning. I have the same dream again with everyone dead and still can’t figure out what it means. I’m not a believer in premonition, but with my current condition, who knows what could happen. I get up and head for the door to see my team gathered down the hallway. What are they up to? I approach them and they all turn to me.

Jerry greets, “Good morning, Van.”

I greet back, “Good morning. What’s up?”

Dayio answers, “Excitement. None of us can sleep, so we’re just hangin’. But I see you slept through the night just fine.”

“Yeah. Anybody heard from Hines?”

“He came back a little while ago and has everything we need to get going. We were just waiting on you.”

We’re all set to go. I feel well-rested and prepped for take-off. My plan to break Geilium McKoy out of prison seems like a logical one, but there’s still my worry about the guards. Between the three of us, sticking together, we can all sneak in and out without a problem. I can’t help being relieved about their emergency tunnel too. Carrying Geilium down, between the three of us, would not be an easy task. Bringing extra equipment would be worse on one of us. I have to go make sure Simon is all set.

I say to everyone, “Let’s go to the lobby.”

They all follow me out to our destination and it seems that my father’s people have finally taken what’s known as a break. Every time I’ve set foot in this room, they were working around the clock on experiments. It feels relieving to see that these people can relax and socialize. Maybe they’re only taking off to prepare as our audience for the not so top-secret mission. Simon, Hines, and Paul are viewing the prison schematic as we approach.

I ask, “Is everything set?”

Hines answers, “The boat is on the northern coast of the prison and the scuba equipment is in a cruiser parked in the garage. The scuba gear I’ve picked out is one-size fits all in unisex fashion.”

Simon adds, “We also have a surveillance station set up to keep an eye on you all in there.” I look over at the right wall to see the huddle of digital monitors on a long table, “Paul hacked the prison’s security systems and we have access to every camera on site. Also, we have a separate monitoring station next to ours for your friend to work her magic with the BAMech presence.”

I correct him, “Her name is Jerry, Simon.”

“Apologies. Jerry will be able to use her station as a bigger screen while controlling the mechs. Sort of like a classic video game.”

Jerry slyly comments, “Now we’re speaking my language.”

She walks toward the monitors as my father continues. “Jacks will be with Paul and the others over at the surveillance station as well.”

I reply, “Then we’re all set to go.”

Everyone disperses and continues doing things while I go talk to Jerry, “You know how to work this junk?”

She answers as she works, “It’s not rocket science, Van, but part of me wishes it was. I mean, I don’t know how to conduct rocket science, but playing with it can be a learning experience, ya know?”

I bluntly answer, “Not really, no.”

She speculates, “I feel like Simon doesn’t want me here.”

I fill her in, “Truthfully, he doesn’t, but you have to prove that you deserve to be here, remember? And don’t be a show-off with my life in your hands.”

I start walking away as she replies, “I won’t.”

I get back to Dayio, Welktin, and Odom. “Are we all clear on the plan?”

Dayio answers, “Yeah. Follow you through the prison until we leave.”

“Be serious, Dayio. I don’t wanna lose any of you guys in there.”

Welktin confirms, “We’re all clear on the plan.”

“Okay. All Econs in. Odom?”

Odom answers, “Hines brought an extra.”

I continue, “If, for any reason, there is a loss in signal, you double back and keep us notified. You’re our only way out of that water. Let’s do this.”

We head out of the garage door and see the average looking cruiser. I get the key from the driver seat, then pop open the trunk to see our gear piled up inside. The black wetsuits, swim shoes, masks with Econ protectors that connect from mouth to ear, and oxygen tanks. The wetsuits have a thickened area around the hands, probably better grip for climbing. I close the trunk.