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David was arguing with the young man—trying to show him my driver’s license and prove they had the wrong person. Dave’s voice was frantic and sounded further and further away as they methodically moved him to the back of the room. The air changed, vibrated, shimmered just a bit off-center. It was just like the moment before everything went to hell at the restaurant. Time was marked by this odd movement in the air, and I let the feeling of defeat pour over me.

Hands continued dressing me. I was in the middle of a beehive, each drone with his own purpose, each man with his part of the task to complete. I felt a tank top go over my head and slide down my arms. I felt the warmth of the hooded coat. Long soft pants slid over my bruised legs. Socks and a pair of lace-up shoes came next. The hood covered my head and tugged at the dried blotches of blood on the back of my neck.

“I killed those men after the tall one stabbed my husband and beat the hell out of me. I didn’t do anything wrong! The skinny bastard was going to cut off my fucking finger! Get your hands off me, damn it! Should I have let them kill me, Richard?” The collective gasp in the room echoed my own. “You touched me. Why do I know your name?” I growled the question at my would-be kidnapper. “Is your name Richard?” I was sure I heard the words Colonel and Sir thrown around, but no first names were used. “What the hell have you people done to me?” The man in charge stood motionless and stared at me. He wasn’t laughing now.

My short, pathetic protest left me completely spent. They were walking me out of the room, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I was captive in the middle of a clean-shaven, cologne cloud, and the single-minded force was heading for the exit.

“What did you do for these people, Calynn?” Dave yelled from the hallway.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but the nature of Miss Calynn’s service to our government is classified.” Nick moved in between David and the hive.

“Her name is Mrs. Mcnair. She’s my wife. I demand an explanation. You can’t take her.” Dave’s thick work shirt smashed against the wall as he fought to follow me. The sound of bodies thudding against one another, restraining and stopping, the scuffing of shoes on the hard-polished floor.

The Colonels determined steps were in perfect unison with the men around him, creating a rhythmic lullaby as they moved me closer to the waiting car. The canopy of heads blocked most of the light coming from the ceiling. As we moved through the hallways, we walked past several of the hospital staff. Not one person tried to help me. They watched as I was removed out the back door like a dirty secret.

We reached a set of butterscotch colored double doors. The doors flew open with a loud metal clank. The hard sound startled me wide awake, and I let out a muffled scream. “I can’t get in the car. You’re as good as dead once you get in their car!”

“Damn it, woman! You’re not being kidnapped. You’re coming with me, Cal. You can’t stay here. We need to leave now.”

“No! There’s my son and my husband. I need to go back to work. The mortgage is due Friday. School starts again in three weeks. There’s a load of towels to put in the dryer and box of peaches on the counter that will rot if I don’t... I have shit to do, God damn it!” My fingers were cold and weak, but I grabbed the double doorway’s center support and held on with all the willpower I could muster.

The deep cut on my hand began dripping blood. I watched the droplets hit the dusty floor and pool in the screw holes of the metal threshold below me. I tried to look down the hallway to find David, but I couldn’t see past the group of men who stood between us. The pain from my hand was the only thing I trusted to be completely real. I was awake, alive, and people were taking me away against my will. This was not a hallucination. This was not one of my dreams.

“Cal you have to come with me. You are dangerous like this. Your son and your husband, you might hurt them without even knowing. We are leaving a man behind to take care of your affairs. I give you my word. Everything will be taken care of.” The smug man’s word meant nothing to me, but I let my fingers go limp. He pulled me away from the door and steered me towards the SUV parked in the alleyway.

“Why am I dangerous?” David was arguing with the men who were keeping him from reaching me. “You can’t hurt my husband.” I grabbed the man’s jacket collar in both hands and shook him with all I had left. “Promise me you won’t hurt him.” I pointed to David as I looked up at my captor. “Answer me, Goddamn it!”

“Hot damn there she is. I knew you were hiding in there somewhere. I promise you I won’t hurt your husband. I can’t promise you won’t if we don’t leave now. Calm down, Cal, it will be easier for him.” The Colonel stared at my face as if he was looking for some hidden message. There wasn’t a hint of deception in his face. He believed every word he was telling me.

“Get the footage from this camera here. See if the camera at the south end of the alley is operational.” The Colonel was barking orders all the way to the car. The sound of men running on the gravel alleyway woke me again. I was passing out, and Richard was the only one left holding me up. The canopy of heads disbursed, and I was able to look back at David.

“Don’t fight them think of Matt. I will figure this out. I love you. Tell Matt, I love him.” It was all I could do to yell. My side felt ripped, and my throat was falling apart, but I yelled anyway.

“What am I supposed to do? I don’t even know where they are taking you.” Two uniformed men corralled Dave at the back of the building as the Colonel moved me closer to the car.

“I will figure this out. It will all be okay.” I was lying and terrified. I didn’t know the man with the death grip on my arm or what he was planning to do with me.

Nick was left holding Dave back. “Mr. Mcnair, your wife will get much better care with us. It’s too dangerous to allow her to remain here. I’ve seen the surveillance footage from the steakhouse. You witnessed it firsthand. Can you honestly tell me that was normal behavior for your wife? The woman screaming by the car. Do you even recognize her?”

“No, but she was pushed. She was pushed to her limit. Everyone has a point where they will do anything to protect...”

“I’ve seen protection, David. May I call you David?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“That was training, muscle memory, and bloodlust. Your wife can’t be here. Better we take her than the police. Better we take her while we still can.” Nick explained while David listened and nodded hesitantly in agreement.

Strong hands lifted me into the back seat of the waiting car and nudged to the middle seat. After Richard got in, I leaned past him to look out the window. Dave slid down the door. He was sitting on the concrete ramp leading to the dumpsters holding his head in his hands. Nick standing by his side. As we drove off, I saw Dave take Nick’s hand and pull him to his feet.

“Okay let’s make time. We are behind schedule,” Richard ordered.

“You’re going to dump me in a hole someplace, aren’t you?”

“No, Cal. If I were here to kill you. You would never see me coming. It would be quick and painless. At the very least, I would make sure you didn’t suffer.”

“Why are you doing this to me. I didn’t do anything wrong. It was self-defense.” Richards’s face was hard and cold. The wrinkles he earned with age told me more than the colored bars on his chest. He was broken. The man seated behind me was too quiet and purposeful in his movements. I wanted to turn around and look at him, but all I could see was Richard.

“The truth isn’t important. The facts of the evening aren’t important. There are greater concerns here.” Richard’s half cloaked riddle upset me more. I covered my face with my bandaged hands and tried to disappear. The man seated behind me shifted his weight. A heavy-duty zipper opened.

“What are you doing?” Richards grip on me tightened, and I felt the hard pinch of a needle poke my left butt cheek. I looked up into the face of the man who held me tightly and managed to one last word as the stinging liquid spread, silencing my mind completely. “Bastard”

“Yeah, today I agree with you, Sunshine.”

“Sir we need to keep her upright, and we should immobilize her neck and get a fresh wrap on her hand.”

“She will be fine, Corporal. She’s not nearly as fragile as she looks. Notify medical we are en route. Scan the medical file we retrieved and send it as soon as you have a secure connection. Has Doctor Gerald made it to the compound yet?”

“Not yet, Sir. The Admiral was in Boston when the retrieval contingency began. I’m told he’s on his way to the base. His ETA puts him on location before us.”

“Wonderful,” Richard groaned sarcastically as he leaned back against the seat. He cradled Calynn’s limp body against his before tightening the seatbelt around her.

“Sir, may I begin her initial assessment?”

“Knock yourself out. I think we are safe for the moment. I don’t think she’s siphoning us.” Richard announced to the car.

Calynn’s body was scanned for a tracking device. The one she was equipped with decades prior was located. A ceramic screw placed in the hip bone and the appropriate medical notation in her medical file attributing it to her car accident still worked perfectly.

“Sir, one question, the file indicates she manipulates energy. Is this ability negated when the subject is unconscious?”

“Negative. Cal is most dangerous when not in full control of her ability,” Richard corrected, straightening his shirt.

“Sir, how do you know we are safe from the effects?”

“Since we aren’t all dead or dying. I think we’re fine. She’s not active.”

It would be a half-hour drive to the airstrip where a helicopter was waiting, and another hour to the base outside of Michigan. The locals know the Lake Huron hilltop compound as simply The Colony. It once housed recluse artists in perfect bohemian seclusion. Now it’s the site of a multi-divisional facility. The small town below is home to the people who work there.

This town isn’t on any map. The residents get mail at post office boxes in a nearby township. There is diligent care taken to hide the occupants from outsiders. The Colony is safe, secluded, and practically invisible due to the height of the mountain top it’s located on and the long tradition of absolute privacy for the artists who are rumored to call it home.

Richard pictured how each part of the journey would execute. The entire plan complete in his mind. He checked the time on the vehicle’s front console, nodded to the driver in the rear-view mirror, leaned back against the seat, and closed his eyes. There were twenty-eight minutes left to rest, and everything was going according to plan for the moment.

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