Chapter Twenty Nine
March had arranged for us to meet with a contact of his called Bryony Jones, who worked for Kind Creatures, a charity that looked after injured and sick animals. Bryony had spoken to local animal shelters and zoo’s and had arranged for the animals we saved to be transported off in small numbers to each sanctuary. There they would live with the owners until they were adopted and these shelters never put an animal down so we knew they would be safe.
Before handing the animals over, March checked each of them for trackers and removed anything that would allow Tobias to find them. “He’s unlikely to want them back,” said March. “Animal trials ended long ago but that doesn’t mean that we are safe.”
He was right. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Tobias knew everything we were doing and was simply waiting for the right moment to strike. We were after all driving around in a big lorry with the words ‘TethTech’ on the side. I doubted we would be that hard to track.
So we kept our guard up as we handed over the animals. The last one to be saved was Pixie. I stroked her one last time and handed her to Bryony. “Oh, the poor thing,” she saw the injections all over Pixie and how she had bitten herself so badly.
“Here you go little one,” she placed a cone over Pixie’s head to stop her biting herself and she rubbed some ointment onto her injection burns. “She’s looks like she’s been through hell but we’ll do the best for her we can. I hope you catch the bastard who did this.”
“We will,” said Gabe. We had all felt the wrath of Tobias Zen now. I’d lost a brother and Gabe and Grace had almost lost each other. As for March, whatever his motivations, he was one of us now. There was no way he could go back to TethTech. The guard had seen him drive a lorry out of there and once they discovered we were gone it was only a matter of time before he got the blame.
Bryony had brought a doctor along with her who turned up in an ambulance. She tried to help Grace and gave her drugs to cope with the pain. While Grace was looked after, Gabe, March and I sat in the back of the lorry and drank tea.
“Why did you do it?” I asked March.
“What? Save you? Boss’s orders,” he looked at Gabe and they shook hands.
“You did great in there March. Sorry you couldn’t keep your cover for a little longer,” replied Gabe.
“That’s ok. I discovered a lot about TethTech and I was able to save the animals plus the three of you all in the same day. Not bad for a day’s work,” he replied.
“Wait,” I interrupted. “You work for TethTech and for Gabe? I want answers and I want them now.”
Gabe shut the back of the lorry door trapping us inside. He turned the torch on his phone on and placed it in front of us. “I am going to say two words now Emmie and I do not want you to be alarmed,” My brain was filled with curiosity.
“The Deck,” said Gabe as I gasped in shock.
“You’re terrorists?” I shouted. Everyone knew about The Deck. In the last year their terrorist group had been responsible for the bombing of medical facilities across the UK, leading to the loss of countless lives and putting back some scientific research by decades. “Let me out. Now!” I stood up and headed for the door.
“Emmie, sit down,” said Gabe. “Yes, to some we are known as terrorists and not everything you have seen on TV is a lie. As you have probably seen we did try to kidnap Tobias Zen yesterday and you no doubt now know some of the reasons why.”
“What about the people you killed at all those factories?”
“Everything we have ever done has been to stop Tobias. This year we did destroy several of his factories, yes but we ensured there were no people in a single building when we did so. The technology that Tobias is building is far too powerful and we are trying to stop him. You’re in the middle of something far bigger than any one person.”
By one person I was sure he meant Will. “So what did you do March? Tell them the places to bomb and when?”
March answered. “I’ve been working for TethTech for five years and have been a part of some amazing projects. As a team we each build a part of a project and we only really see the end results when it all comes together. Recently I was working on a project that allows messages to be transported from mobile phones directly into people’s brains. It is designed to allow soldiers to be given orders without having to reach for a headset. Nothing malicious about the project in any way.”
He continued. “However. One day I received a coded message from an anonymous contact that sent me files showing what other employees were building. By themselves no project was dangerous but I analysed the files over many weeks and spotted a pattern. When all of the projects were combined it looked like Tobias would be unstoppable and that’s when my mystery contact invited me to a meeting. Shortly after that I agreed to work as a double agent for The Deck and report to them on any developments from TethTech.”
“But how can you trust The Deck?” I asked. “How do you know they aren’t just using you to leak the technology to them so they can take control?”
“They couldn’t. Every piece of technology I have given to The Deck has to be activated by me. If anyone else tried to activate it then it simply wouldn’t work. I’ll admit I had trust issues like you Emmie but over time I kept the need for my authorisation in place as an insurance policy.”
It seemed even March didn’t have complete trust in The Deck and nor did I. It was hard to shake what I had heard on the news the last few years. Propaganda or not, I could still see every news report vividly. The shots of burned bodies, destroyed buildings and ruined lives were hard to ignore.
Yet, what choice did I have? Tobias wanted to capture me and these people were prepared to protect me. They seemed like the lesser of two evils so an uneasy alliance was my best option.
“I need some time,” I said, as I opened the lorry door.
“Emmie?” said Grace, her voice crackly. I ran over to her.
“Grace, how are you feeling?”
“Amazing,” she lied. I could see in her face the story was different. The pain she was in was still etched all over her. I hoped the pain killers would kick in soon. “I assume they have told you the truth? Don’t be scared, I am part of The Deck too.”
“No!” I gasped. “But why? Please tell me the news reports weren’t true? Please tell me you didn’t kill all those people.”
“How long have you known me Emmie?”
“You mean eighteen amazing years,” she clarified. “In all that time, do you honestly believe I would do that?” she asked. I was unsure. There certainly was a lot I didn’t know about Grace. Like mysterious boxes that changed people’s faces or anonymous contacts who would create fake documents and alliances with known terrorists.
“I don’t believe it but I do trust you,” It was all I could offer right now.
March, Gabe and Grace. Each three of them had saved my life in some way. They had earned my trust for now. Not that I didn’t feel suspicious of all of them.
“She’ll need rest,” said the Doctor.
“So we can’t take her out of the city?” asked March.
“I would advise against moving her for at least twenty four hours. Grace is very badly injured and it’ll take months for her spine to heal. She may never be able to walk again.”
“But you can help her? You will help her?” said Gabe.
“Yes. I will do my best.”
“I’ll help too,” said March. “I originally trained as a Doctor so should be able to lend a hand.”
“Ok, it’s agreed,” said Gabe. “In twenty four hours we will leave the city. Until then we need to lie low.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t do that,” I replied. “There’s one place I have to go before we leave. One more person I have to see.”
I knew they wouldn’t want to let me go but I had to speak to her. I had to find Faye. I had to know why she betrayed my brother.
Rex T Jules
“Tick tock,” said Vlad, as he carved the fifth line into Rex’s leg, crossing through the other four lines he had drawn. “Forty minutes gone. You had better start hoping my brother finds Emmie soon.”
He never would. Rex had told Vlad a fake location so that Emmie could get away. In three hours and twenty minutes time it would all be over. Vlad’s brother would report that he couldn’t find her and then that would be the end of it.
At least I’ll be free of this torture, thought Rex. His only regret being that he’d never told Emmie how he really felt about her. His chest continued to burn as one of his lungs slowly collapsed in on itself. Through loss of blood and loss of air, he was dying in more than one way.
“You see this?” said Vlad, holding his knife in the air and letting the blood drip down. “This knife is the greatest weapon ever created. I could use a gun but where would be the fun? It’s too quick. Too messy. Too easy. But with a knife I am in control. Every slice I make into you is engineered by me. There’s nothing more satisfying than complete control of a life.”
Rex let out a deep breath, his damaged lung getting smaller every minute.
“You see that?” said Vlad. “I made you gasp for air. I control your life now. People talk about Tethers and the power of experiencing shared events but there is nothing better than doing something for yourself. Being free to control the world as you see fit. That’s something you will never understand. While you work in your hell hole of a town you’ll never have control. You’re the victim of this society but not me. With this knife I control my own destiny and yours.”
Rex wanted to hold his leg. He wanted to do something to stop the bleeding but he was bound so tightly he couldn’t move. Vlad was right, he was completely helpless. He couldn’t help himself or Emmie.
“For the last part of your life I’m going to give you a gift,” continued Vlad. “When people are low on Oxygen they experience visions and delusions on a wonderful scale. It’s magnificent. So I’m going to take you to that place.”
He picked up the small knife again. “Once your other lung is punctured your body will no longer be able to take in new air. You’ll experience the barrier between life and death and float there until I let you die. That’s my gift to you, proof of my control over you.”
A frying pan hit Vlad around the head, causing him to drop the knife. He looked around for his attacker but another hit sent him heading face down towards the floor. The third hit knocked him out for the second time that day.
The mystery attacker set Rex free and together they tied Vlad to the bed.
“You took your time,” said Rex.
“Always ungrateful aren’t you brother?” said Rufus. “At least tell me you are happy to see me.”
“When I saw you get tied to the bed I thought it was some kinky sex game, and then the cutting started. I started to wonder what sick things you were into and then I didn’t see anything after that. Why?”
“I grabbed an Innocent Blocking Device from my room when I went to get the wrench. I’d set it to a timer and that’s why it kicked in when it did. That’s what blocked the signal.”
“God bless that device. There’s so many things you’ve done I’m thankful I’ve never seen,” said Rufus.
“You too brother. You too,” joked Rex.
“So what do we do about him?”
When he awoke Vlad found himself being walked through the Smyth West police station where he was thrown into a holding cell. His belt of knives was gone but he had a surprise they wouldn’t be expecting. He would be free within the hour; he just had to wait for the signal.