The blaring of the klaxons made my heart stop in my chest. I swore under my breath and grabbed the little black box from the safe.
Behind me, Ben was freaking out.
"They know we're here," I told him and shoved the black box into my tiny black backpack.
"You used a rocket launcher to open a safe!" He cried. "What did you think was going to happen?"
I looked at him in disbelief. "One: neither of us knows how to crack open a safe, which we probably should have thought of before. And two: when would I ever get another chance to shoot a rocket launcher?" The paleness and general pinched look on his face told me he didn't find my brand of humor funny or calming, so I shook my head and took off running down the nearest hallway.
"Do you know where you're going?" Ben called out behind me, following at a significantly slower pace.
Though this whole thing was new to me, I was still outrunning my partner, whose specialties lied in a different field. I wanted to run faster- and knew I could- but I couldn't leave Ben. We had gone through a lot together, and I wasn't quitting now.
"Nope!" I called back and turned a corner. Though I really had no idea where we were headed, I could tell that we were getting toward the edge of the building. The way we had come in probably was swarmed with soldiers by now, and truthfully, I was surprised we had even made it this far. To my luck, the hallway ended and opened up to a mechanic's garage.
The crackle of gunfire echoed throughout the building and I wondered for a second what they would be shooting at. A look behind me confirmed my suspicions. Ben was just rounding the corner, a group of soldiers on his heels.
I shook my head at him and looked around. Note to self: For future reference, when breaking into high security government facilities, bring weapons.
A bunch of compressed air tanks- or at least I hoped they were full of air- were huddled in the corner of the room. I ran over and picked one up. I had overestimated the weight of the thing and ended up tossing it up in the air slightly before catching it.
"Incoming!" I warned and hurled the tank toward the crowded hallway just as Ben made it out. "We're almost there!"
I kicked open the door to the building and waited for Ben to get through. As I waited, I tossed another gas tank toward the soldiers. It didn't really do much, but stopped their shooting for a few seconds until the tank dropped, which meant there must have been some sort of flammable gas inside. Luckily, that was enough of a distraction for us to get out.
We ran through the van pool, the high gates of the edge of the base in sight. Ben was almost there.
"Stop, or we will shoot," a very official voice instructed over a bullhorn. I turned to look behind me and saw that while I had lost the little group of soldiers from the building, outside waited a lot more, and we ran right into the middle of them.
Ben froze where he stood and looked at me. He was a sort of "do as he's told" person, and if we were all out of options, he wouldn't give a second thought to surrendering.
But we were so close to freedom! I looked longingly toward the gate.
"Slowly get on your knees, then lay down with your face to the ground," the soldier instructed over the bullhorn.
Ben was already slowly kneeling.
I growled in frustration. All we needed was a little distraction, or a little bomb, or grenade, or something.
All of a sudden, I felt a weird suctioning feeling in my right hand, as if something was pulling the blood from the rest of my body. I watched in amazement as a small ball of faintly yellow light emerged from my hand and fell lazily to the ground, rolling toward the soldiers. They all stared at in with equal amazement, coupled with fear. I saw a few soldiers cross themselves.
Crap. "Ben," I cooed in a voice that hopefully didn't sound too worried, "you should probably duck."
"Why?" He questioned, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw him inch behind a vehicle.
"Because the last thing I thought before that thing popped out of me was how convenient it would be to have a grenade," I said in a voice that was becoming more and more uneasy. As I finished, the ball of light exploded and I was blinded by the flash of light. I couldn't feel anything, but I could hear screaming and metal grinding.
My newly found instincts kicked in and I took off running toward the gates. I grabbed Ben from where he crouched and dragged him behind me. I braced myself because I knew what would come next might or might not work, but either way, would not at all be graceful. I focused on my target and vaulted the two of us over the tall metal gates.
"My god," I muttered as I fell and rolled on the other side, "we did it."
Date: missing, continued
Both the cause of and solution to all of my problems was sitting behind an old, heavy mahogany desk, his attention focused acutely on a pile of papers spread out before him. Everything about him warranted a second look, from his appearance to his personality, though he acted oblivious to it. Everything he did or said was intense and heavy with meaning. He sat, stood, and spoke with an air of absolute power. And his odd looks only helped solidify that persona. He was tall, somewhere over six-feet, though I haven't stood close enough to him yet to really gauge how much. He was cut like a warrior, thick and stocky, with nothing but sharp angles. His high cheek bones and sharp jaw would have made models jealous. His flawless skin was an unnaturally golden shade of tan; his eyes, an unnaturally clear grass green; and his cropped hair, an inky black. He had no clear racial background that I could make out and seemed to be a beautiful mix of, well, everything. I hated the man, but you had to appreciate beauty.
This man, my captor, was Aleksander Cohen.TheAleksander Cohen. The man responsible for the viral outbreak that decimated our country… over sixty years ago.
Ben closed the door behind us a little more loudly than was necessary, but it brought up the man's attention. Those bright green eyes immediately fixed on me, holding my gaze for just a second too long before looking to Ben and smiling. I knew what the look had meant. It held sorrow and disappointment- sorrow because he knew my anger at him held good reason and disappointment that I wasn't being the good companion he wanted.
"You made it," he sounded pleased. His voice was rich and deep like chocolate. I hated how it resonated in my chest and made my heart race.
I walked up and tossed the black box on his desk. "There." It might have been a bit childish, but I smirked when the box slid and knocked over a small stack of papers.
He nodded curtly and reached out for the box, then stopped and took his hand back. He turned his gaze back at me and smiled- even and polite. I knew this polite façade was just for me, an attempt to make me forgive him.
"Don't," I snapped, knowing what he wanted to say. "I'm doing this for me."
He didn't answer, but watched me in silence as I marched out of the room.
Ben was hot on my heels, almost chasing me down as I headed up to my bedroom.
"What?" I hissed, turning on him.
He seemed startled for a moment, his pasty round face reddening for just a second. "You need to be nicer," he told me, his voice sounding braver than he looked.
Ben couldn't be much older than I was, maybe early thirties, but had a childish air about him, like he had never really matured. He had been nothing but nice to me so far, but it was interesting to see a different side to him. So far as I'd known him, he hadn't been the kind for courage.
"No, I don't," I told him flat out. "He ruined our lives."
Ben laughed uneasily, looking down at the floor for a second before facing me again. "Not really."
"He infected us with a physically disfiguring virus that makes it impossible for us to live among regular people and basically forces us to live with him in this house," I summed up, ladling on the sardonicism. "You don't think that qualifies as ruining our lives?"
Ben shook his head and gave a jittery half-shrug. "I'm not saying what he did was right, I'm just saying I kind of get where he's coming from. I mean, he's pretty much the only one left like him. All the others are insane or out on murdering rampages. He never leaves the house. He has no one. And… I know what it's like to be lonely." He made a vague motion to himself as if to insinuate his looks were the cause of his loneliness.
I wanted to roll my eyes. While people might not be lining up for Ben, he wasn't by any definition ugly. He was more than a few inches under six feet and a little pudgy around the waist, but he wouldn't have had as many issues as some other men I've met.
"You can't be serious," I said caustically, responding both to his sympathy for our tormentor and to his low self-image.
"You wouldn't understand," he said dismissively. "You're pretty."
I grimaced at the compliment- for some reason, I always found them hard to swallow- and shook my head. "Yeah, sure, that solvedallof my problems."
A smiled snuck onto Ben's face and he looked up to meet my gaze. "True, your attitude problems probably outweighed those," he said, pointing to my chest.
I gave him a narrowed eyed, but playful look. "Deep emotional scars aside, I don't care how lonely Alex is, that's no excuse for ruining our lives. I mean, I had friends and a job. I was going to get a promotion by the end of the year! Now, I'm under house arrest, with no job, no friends or family, and nothing to do except become just as lonely as the guy that kidnapped us."
Ben shrugged self-consciously, ducking his head like he was afraid to speak against me. "He actually prefers Aleksander and…that's your story. He didn't really ruin my life. To be honest, I didn't think my future would include living in a humongous and breathtaking mansion with never-ending gardens and a man so beautiful I'm actually considering switching teams, but… this is a lot better than what I had. Remember my life? I worked part time for the DorkSquad and shared an apartment in the shady side of town with a guy that smoked so much weed you could smell him from the next state over. He might have forced my life onto a completely different path, but I wouldn't say he ruined it."
I wanted to be angry at Ben for taking the enemy's side, but I could see how he could think that way. So instead, I gave him a tight-lipped smile and wished him good night.
"Wait, Kat," Ben pleaded and I just couldn't deny him. Ben had this terrible way of looking the right amount of pitiful. "There's another reason why you should be nicer. The polite, apologetic man you always see, he doesn't really exist. That's for us. I mean, you wouldn't know because you spend all of your time in your room, but…don't push too far."
I thanked him for the advice, though I doubted I would take it, and shut myself into my room for the night.
In my room, my reflection caught my eye. I barely looked like the woman I had been two weeks ago. My hair was still long and dark blonde, but fell more smoothly and flat than it had ever did before. My body had changed, too. I was still a decent 5'6" but my body held a balance of curve and muscle that before was much more just curve. My face, pale and heart-shaped, with a rich, plush mouth, and deep ocean blue eyes, was mostly the same. Only my eyes had changed, for now they always glowed with anger.
Swallowing bile, I threw the small mirror across the room and crawled into bed.