Chapter Thirty Seven
As the helicopter started to descend I wondered where we could be. Newcastle perhaps? That had been the destination Jill had given us. Although it seemed unlikely she would have said our real destination, in case Tobias found out about our flight later.
The wheels hit solid ground and I felt relieved. I’d definitely developed a fear of heights recently. One near death fall and a helicopter escape had put me off heights for life.
Gabe wheeled me out of the helicopter and I looked around. The first thing I saw was the food stand I had helped give power to earlier. The owner looked stunned that a helicopter had arrived in such a remote place and I was too. I tried to guess why we were back here, there surely couldn’t be anything of use in such a damaged place.
I wondered if we were just making a quick stop off to meet Grace’s contact for more fake documents but Gabe’s statement of “Home sweet home,” put an end to that theory.
As March pushed Grace out of the helicopter, Gabe spoke to me. “Emmie. This location is secret, ok? If you tell anyone about this place you are risking the lives of a lot of people.”
I nodded, unsure exactly who I would tell. My best friend already worked for The Deck so there weren’t many people I could run around screaming this too. Yet I still wasn’t exactly sure what I’d be telling them about. A dodgy burger stand and a burnt out shopping centre? None of it seemed particularly worth protecting.
Saloma was handed another airspace code so she could get back into the city and we all thanked her for getting us here safely. “Wow. I wish my other passengers were so grateful,” she said, as if saving the lives of fugitives was something she did every day. She flew off into the distance, probably hoping for her sake that she would never see us again.
Gabe pushed my chair towards the shopping centre and we had a good conversation. I put his earlier outbursts down to the extremity of the situation. He hadn’t shot anyone, nor had he injured me so I was willing to write off his violence as that of a man affected by a war I had yet to see.
However when Grace and I were alone I would speak to her about it. If he was violent to her in any way then I would not be so forgiving.
We headed towards the shopping centre and the smell hit me. A damp smell, coupled with the sight of ash and debris made me feel sick again. “Are we going in there?” I asked, looking up at the triangular windows that hung perilously to the outside wall.
Gabe didn’t reply; he simply pushed me inside, probably as that was the easiest way to answer my question. The centre itself was the most destroyed building I had ever been inside, and that was quite a challenge considering some of the locations in Smyth West. Every step Gabe took I felt like something could kill me.
Metal shutters hung down from the store fronts, their rusted metal spiralling outwards and waiting to cut visitors who strayed close to them. Shards of glass were loosely clinging to the ceiling and grains of metal flaked down on to our heads from their fixtures, taunting us that they could fall at any moment.
In amongst the decay was a glistening pillar of shiny metal unaffected by the fire of the elements that had destroyed this centre. Gabe entered a code on a keypad next to the large metal panel and the doors opened revealing an elevator that was every bit as pristine as the door that housed it.
“It can only fit two. You first Emmie,” said Gabe. March took my chair from Gabe and pushed me into the elevator. I looked at Grace. Her smile said it was safe and I didn’t resist.
As the door closed I realised I was probably about to enter the den of a terrorist group. Did this officially make me a terrorist now? Was I already one? The word ‘terrorist’ had taken on so many different meanings today that I didn’t know what to believe any more. Maybe it was worth being seen as a ‘terrorist’ if it meant I could help stop something horrible from happening.
“It’s ok Emmie. I trust these people with my life. They are good people,” said March and I realised I trusted him too. He’d done so much for me today it was hard not to.
The door opened and I was greeted by an extremely tall man. “Hi I’m Chris and you must be Emmie.”
He was wearing a grey army uniform with a Jack of Clubs playing card around his neck that was held in place by a metal chain. He reached out his palm and opened it to reveal a playing card with the back facing me. The back of the card was a green colour, with diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs interlocking to form a ‘D’ symbol.
I turned the card over, to find it was a ‘King of Clubs’ card. “That’s your profile in the group,” said Chris. “If we need to communicate with you in private then we will contact you as the King of Clubs. It means we can operate in secret so all emails are safe.”
“Does that mean I’m your boss?” I joked, knowing that a King was far more important than a Jack.
“Kind of,” he replied. “Cards indicate how important someone is to the group and who we need to protect. A King card is the most important of all and anyone of a lower rank should do everything they can to protect you.”
It all seemed overwhelming but strangely comforting to know I would be protected.
Behind Chris I could see The Deck’s base. It was a concrete structure with white panels inside it that had been spray painted with the different suits of a deck of cards. Aside from the spray paint, decorations were sparse and interior design was clearly not a concern of theirs.
What was clear was that the base itself was huge, easily the size of the centre I had walked through and I could see the room went far back and then spiralled off into other rooms that were divided by white temporary walls and red or black doors.
Before I could assess the room any further I felt an intense pain in my stomach and screamed out in agony.
“I need the medical room now!” shouted March.
“Ok I’ll get a support team ready,” replied Chris.
“No. I have no idea what they did to Emmie and I don’t want to risk anyone else. I’ll operate on her alone.”
His courage was impressive. I couldn’t tell if he cared for me or simply for the rest of The Deck but the sentiment was nice all the same.
The medical room looked like something out of a murder scene. It was a completely concrete room on all sides apart from a single temporary wall. The floor was covered in plastic sheeting, presumably for easier cleaning and the bed was nothing more than a slab of metal with four legs and three thick green towels placed on top of each other.
The medical equipment looked no better than the machines we had in Smyth West and they were mostly hand me downs that we’d found abandoned from other towns. There was a heart rate monitor that was upside down apart from the digital display which appeared to be the right way up. March moved a glass light over my head, which had a large crack in it and which made a horrible creaking sound as he moved it around. The Deck was not a state of the art operation.
Despite these problems this was the safest I had felt all day. As March administered the anaesthetic and I fell to sleep I knew he’d take good care of me. The last image I saw was March’s smiling face.