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Part 12

I consider running. It’s the first thing I consider as the command to kill me rings through the air. However, my body has other ideas and already my powers are working without my brain knowing. I run straight up to the tank, my movement making the soldiers delay in confusion, and as my hand lands on the green hull, I let out the burst I had been saving for the Commander and all the grief for Diane in one blow. In turn, the tank explodes.

I guess I make an electrostatic blanket around myself since, in that close of proximity, I should have been a veritable porcupine with the shrapnel. I do have some in my forearm that I threw in front of my face, but otherwise the pain is mostly due to landing back in the living room. I come to in a few minutes, just as the men furthest from the tank—thrown into neighboring houses—begin to drag themselves out of the wreckage to their fallen comrades. I don’t see the Commander, and for a moment I consider finding him and making sure he’s dead, but a lot of the gunmen are moving: it’d be suicide to head out there, even if life without Diane seems like a worse fate.

But adrenaline keeps me going, keeps my head clear, and I quickly throw on some clothes before running out the back door. I know, for a fact, that the Camry is totaled. I’m also sure the Commander IDed every car in the neighborhood so he could track it within seconds. But that doesn’t matter when speed is of the essence; distance is more important than anonymity right now. I also had identified the fastest sports car in the development—or made Diane do it because the first few weeks I had been insanely paranoid, which, now I see, was justified—and make a beeline for it. I slide in the driver’s seat of the Camaro, thankful Mr. Jones hadn’t taken it out for a Sunday drive.

I take to the safe house, or Diane’s dad’s old cabin in the woods, that is on no known records since it had been in Diane’s family since they came here with some of the first settlers. It had taken some interesting maneuvering to lose the few chasers that I had, but I knew the area perfectly—it’s patterns, it’s blind spots, and it’s little quirks. I pull up to the one story log cabin in a silver Honda Civic, relaxing as I see the familiar sight.

I look towards the seat next to me, expecting to see Diane there, but she’s not. Her death hits me like a freight train and I grip the wheel hard so that I don’t just shake apart.

“She died because of me.” Is all I can think about, and I do, for the next few days. I sit in the cabin with its stockpiled food and beer that Diane had dropped off in case we did need to make a getaway, and I wallow in the misery of her death.

She died because of me, but the Commander, oh, he’ll die because of me, too.

~*~*~

Fall is beginning to chill the air inside the cabin, September is approaching faster than I had anticipated. I put down my third Stephen King novel, insomnia, and go to the linen closet. I walk past the kitchen, that’s littered with open cans and the glasses I have drank from and refused to clean just yet. Sometimes I itch to cook, but there’s nothing to cook except baked beans. I’m unsure, as of yet, how to go about getting more food when the time comes.

Hiding, it seems, will never be the perfect solution.

The closet door creaks as I pull it open, the aged wood rough under my hand. I grab the blanket on the top shelf and half of the items up there—al knitted throws—fall down on me. I curse softly and begin picking up the mess. My movement is arrested, though, when I see a phone laying on the floor.

For a moment, I think it might be bugged or some spy device disguised as a common cell phone. However, as I toe the surrounding blankets away, a note in Diane’s handwriting becomes evident and it also explains the phone away.

“John,

If you’re reading this, I didn’t come with you. Whoever is after you probably caught up and I, like the amazing woman I am, sent you to safety. This is a disposable phone and I will call you as soon as I can, let you know when the coast is clear. We’ll be together again before you know it!

Stay safe,

Diane”

I gingerly pick up the scrap of paper, treasuring it like an ancient family heirloom. The wound that had been slowly healing with scar tissue of revenge and fear opens again. My vision blurs through the tears and my face heats up as anger boils like magma just under my skin.

Diane’s dead and I might as well have been the one who killed her.

However, is this how Diane would have wanted me to act? To wallow like this? To act like a bloody child?

I pick up the disposable phone in chilled fingers and dial the only phone number I can remember other than my own and one of my family member’s mobile phones. I call Nick, one of my close friends from college, who is computer whiz and, more than likely, be able to pull me off the grid. He picks up on the third ring.

“Hello?” Nick grunts, obviously pulling out of a stupor from either programming for too long or playing a MMORPG all night. Either way, he sounds just as I remember him sounding: tired.

“Nick?” I ask. “Hey, it’s me, John, from college.”

I can hear Nick chuckle. “The one who left me for the air force? That hurt, you didn’t even send me any postcards.”

My lips quirk. The idiot and I had chatted through facebook whenever our times overlapped. The past six months has been our longest time of not talking.

“Yep, that one.” I affirm.

I can hear crinkling on Nick’s end, he’s probably eating those crunchy cheetos he loves so much. Kid will probably turn into them one day. “So why aren’t you dead?” he asks nonchalantly. “I went to your funeral and everything. I want some explanation because I ironed my suit for your dead ass.”

Yep, he’s just as I remember.

“It’s hard to explain,” I say slowly.

“Try me.”

“I think—no, I was experimented on. I escaped the lab they had me in and now they’re after me. And they killed Diane. And I need your help.” I say in a rush. I can practically feel the crazy in my voice.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Nick says quickly, his chair clicking as he leans forward. I can hear the gears in his head turning from miles away. “You got experimented on?”

“Yep,” I agree, feeling like I’ve officially lost my mind saying this stuff out loud. “I got something called Extremis in me. “

“DUDE!” Nick shouts and I can hear the fanboy who idolizes Captain America leak into his tone. “Iron Man just took down a bunch of Extremis near DC. So you like, glow and heal and explode if you get too hot?”

It takes a minute to sink in—my mind looping on that Extremis is a serious, grave thing. Obviously Extremis is a threat to America if Iron Man took it out. But the army is the one who did this to me or, more correctly, Weapon X. “Well I don’t know about healing or exploding, but I glow and can electrify things.”

“Oh,” Nick whispers, sounding disappointed.

Quickly, I interject, “Do you know anything about Weapon X?”

“No,” he says. “The other Extremis were from AIM, advanced idea mechanics.”

“Well I’m from Weapon X, a thing the army runs.”

“Holy…” Nick trails off and I can hear him typing furiously on his keyboard. In moments, there’s a string of curses followed by: “Whatever Weapon X is, it doesn’t exist for the rest of the world.”

“They’re real!” I assert hurriedly, terrified that I might lose Nick and he might just hang up. Then who do I call? Who do I seriously have left?

Nick shushes me. “I believe you, just, what do you need? I don’t think I can be much help out here in LA. Unless you’re on the west coast?”

“No. East. I just need papers, new identity, and a way to figure out who the fuck is after me.”

Nick’s silent for an agonizing minute and I begin going through the list of people to call. It’s abysmally short. “I think I know someone,” Nick says finally and then rattles off an address in Baltimore. “I’ll call her so she’ll be expecting you.”

“Who is she?” I ask, staring at the address I scribbled on the back of Diane’s note. Everything looks like gibberish.

“Her name’s Rosario. And she’s a damned good hacker: she’ll be able to get you what you need.”

“You date her?” I ask, a little edgy about going to one of Nick’s exes. He never had the best taste.

“Nah, just a friend from school. She’s a little too crazy to date.”

“Oh, joyous rapture, I can hardly wait.” I groan sarcastically. Nicks laughs and suddenly I’m terribly, irrevocably homesick.

A/N: this is based loosely in the Marvel Universe. Extremis was originally in the comic about melding tech and human tissue, then IM3 came out and blew that all to shreds. This is me doing some sad reconciliation

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