Power & Duty

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Three: Peyton

\“Do you have something you want to tell me, girls?”

Peyton glanced up at her mom who lay in the hospital bed and had a frown on her slightly sickly face. They were in her mom’s recovery room in the cybernetic wing, the small department in the medical center. The room wasn’t too bad though. It was small, private, and surprisingly colorfully thankful for the get-well flowers their family and friends brought for her mom.

Peyton shook her head. “No, everything’s fine.”

It was a lie, sort of. The last couple of days had been pretty rough. Between helping the family and being questioned by the police, Peyton barely had any time to breathe. But she couldn’t tell her mom. She still needed to focus on getting better, and things already started to go back to normal. Her mom would be released soon. The police had moved, leaving only one last thing on her plate.

“So you two haven’t been bothering the medical staff?” Her mom asked glaring at them with a long, probing stare.

Her cousin mumbled. “Uh-oh!”

Peyton nudged Ashley who was sitting beside her., but knew her cousin was right. They were in trouble and there was no point in lying. She wondered who snitched but realized that didn’t matter. “Yes, it was us. I wanted to find the boy we saved. You know to see if he’s okay.” And to get some answers.

“Listen, girls, I know I want to check up on him,” her mom said, displaying both warmth and firmness. “But you got to stop bothering the staff and let them do their job. I’m sure he’s doing fine.”

Peyton snorted. She heard this before from every doctor and nurse she talked to. He’s fine. He’s doing better. It was always followed by. No, you cannot see him. He’s not allowed to have visitors at this time. It was like they were all reading from the same scripts and now they had her mom reading it too. Were they hiding something? Was something going on with the boy? It had to be something.

Her mom asked. “Peyton, are you listening?”

“Yes, I’ll leave the doctors alone,” Peyton said, getting up from her seat. She avoids her mom’s deepening frown and probing look. “We better go. Don’t want to use up all the visitor’s hours before Dad gets a chance to see you.”

She leaned over and kissed her mom’s forehead. Then she waited for Ashley to say her goodbyes before leaving the room together. The girls walked down a long lightly trafficked hallway. They zigzagged around the doctors, nurses, and other visitors. They passed all the parked medical equipment and turned the corner. They entered another longer but emptied hallway leading to the front office and the exit.

“You haven’t given up, have you?” Ashley whispered.

Peyton replied. “Of course not, I’m just thinking of our next move.”

She didn’t have any more moves. They still didn’t know his name or even if he was still in the hospital. The medical staff weren’t any help just like their other contacts. Peyton spends most of her free time, trying to find any scrap of information about the mysterious boy she had saved. She searched all the social media platforms and talked to everyone she knew. Peyton had hoped the boy was an old classmate or a friend of a friend. But she found nothing. No one knew him. It baffled her.

“Maybe Aunt Julia is right. We should just let the doctors and police handle it.”

Peyton nodded but her mind was still restless. Something was going on here. She could feel like an itch in the back of her head. It demanded to be scratched but she couldn’t quite reach it.

Ashley groaned. “You got that look again.”

“What look?”

She replied. “It’s the same look Aunt Julia gets when she’s thinking about a case.”

“Oh, that look.” Peyton grinned. She knew that look all too well. Her mom always said she inherited that look from her side of the family. Her mom was a cop. Her grandparents were cops. And even her great-grandparents were cops in Hong Kong. Cops ran in her family. “There has to be something we can do.”

Ashley sighed. “Anyway, your commlink blinking.”

Peyton held the device up to her face. A new message appeared on the slim screen. It was from Cassie Taylor, one of her best friends and the mayor’s daughter. She was also a member of the wealthiest family in the county but had connections. Peyton had hoped that Cassie had some info on the kid, but Cassie knew nothing as well. Maybe she found something or maybe not. I’ll read it later.

The girls walked through the main doors and entered the waiting room. It was a small space with two short rows of chairs, some potted plants, and a glass screen on the wall playing the latest news. Peyton scanned the space, looking for her dad. She spotted him sitting alone in the corner of the room. His eyes were glued to his tablet. Peyton figured he was doing some last-minute work or a good boy. Whatever it was, he was captivated. He didn’t even notice them approaching him.

Peyton stood over him. “Dad!”

“Oh,” her dad said, looking up at her. “Girls, you’re back. You finished already.”

Peyton nodded. “Yes, she’s all yours.”

“Alright,” he said, placing his tablet back into its bag. Then he rose from his seat, looking her dead in the eye. “I’ll be right back. Stay out of trouble.”

Peyton made a little imaginary halo over her head. Then she took his seat as her dad shook his head and disappeared into the hallway. Peyton watched him and turned to her commlink. Let’s see what Cassie wanted. She activated her commlink and then accessed the message. It appeared onto the screen in thin black letters. <Hey, I have some info on that kid you were talking about.> Her eyes widened as a small grin appeared on her face. Peyton showed Ashley the message.

“Impossible!” Ashley whispered. “How could she get that?”

Peyton snorted. “Her family has connections. They practically own the hospital.”

“Her family doesn’t own the hospital. They just make considerable donations to it.”

“Same thing,” Peyton retorted while texting on her commlink. <What do you have for me?>

Within a few minutes, a new message popped on the screen. <I don’t have much but your boy’s name is Marcus. He’s supposedly in Room 4B at the psychiatric ward. He caused some property damage and got moved there. That’s all I know. Hope it helps.>

Psychiatric ward? Property? Peyton wasn’t expecting this kind of information. She bit her lip, wondering what to do next. What the boy—-Marcus—-was unstable. That would have explained why the doctors didn’t want him to have any visitors. She pictured him strapped to the bed, fighting. Peyton pushed the image out of her mind. That was the boy she saw that day. He didn’t look crazy, just confused.

“Peyton?” His voice echoed in her mind as clear as to when he said it that day.

Peyton sighed, getting up out of her seat.

“Where are you going? Please tell me you’re not still going to go see him. Did you not read what Cassie texted? He’s in a psychiatric ward. He could be unstable.”

Peyton retorted. “I know, but I still need to see him. If he’s unstable, then we leave and bury this thing.” She looked around, making sure no one else could hear them.

“We? I do I have to come”

She nodded. “Yes, because if my dad asked, you would talk. Let’s go.”

The girls took the stairs, figuring it would be a lot less guarded than the elevator. Along the way, Peyton explained the plan. It was a simple one. They find the room Marcus was in, sneak in, talk to him for a bit, and sneak back out before anyone notices. And if anyone asks anything, they would use the old getting lost trick. Ashley didn’t look too impressed but went along with it anyway.

The girls entered the ward and walked through the maze like they owned the place. Luckily, the halls were surprisingly emptied. It was almost too easy. Peyton counted down the rooms as they turned corners and avoided dead ends. Until they finally reached Room 4B. This was it. Her heart raced as she reached for the doorknob.

“Wait!” Ashley said, shaking her head. “This is a bad idea.”

Peyton insisted. “I have to do this. It’s the only way I can get answers.”

“You need to hurry up and make your choice,” a familiar voice echoed from the other side of the door. “A doctor is about to spot you.”

Peyton blinked, wondering what they were talking about. But then she heard the clicking sounds of footsteps. It was growing louder by the second. Peyton quickly opened the door, pulled her cousin into the room, and then closed the door quickly and quietly. She turned around, finding herself in a small dim-lit room. There were numerous holo-screens spread out before her. Each display displayed a different historical event, scientific study, mathematical equations, and some were running search engines. The holographic projector sat in the center of the room like a four-legged insect. Peyton noticed a recording of a familiar-looking sedan crashing into a box-shaped box was playing on repeat.

“Looks familiar,” the voice said from across the room.

Peyton followed it. Her eyes fell upon the boy—Marcis—sitting on the bed. He looked strangely normal in his grey t-shirt and sweatpants. His brown eyes studied her with such a focus that is hard to ignore. Her hair stood up as her instinct told her that this boy was dangerous. She swallowed hard. “Yes, this is an accident. You must be Marcus.”

“And you two are Peyton and Ashley Chu.”

Ashely stepped forward. “How do you know that?”

Peyton knew what she meant. How do you know me? She told her cousin about Marcus saying her name. Like her cousin, Peyton assumed he only knew her name. It appeared that they were both wrong. She studied the boy. He met her gaze with a blank stare, no emotion whatsoever.

“I know almost everything about you two like you’re sisters.”

Peyton corrected him. “No, we’re cousins.”

“No, you’re sisters,” he insisted, “Your fathers are identical twins and share the exact same DNA which they passed along to you. Genetically speaking, you’re half-sisters.”

Peyton looked at Ashley. People always said they looked so much alike. Peyton usually brushed it off, but looking at her now. She could see it. Ashley had slightly fairer skin and lighter hair, but they shared the same nose, eyebrows, and even the same brown eyes. Although Ashley had to wear glasses.

Ashley snapped. “Stop staring at me like that.” Then she turned to Marcus. “And you! How do you know all this stuff about us.”

Marcus calmly pointed to the object. “It’s a sleep pod or a hibernation chamber, but it was heavily modified with a neurological helmet inserting information into my head.”

“Why?” Peyton asked.

He replied. “I don’t know. There are a lot of things I don’t know.”

“Including things about yourself,” Peyton said, peering at some screens. The search engine ones were running facial recognition scans using his face. Although his profile was still very bare. “Is that why you are searching for missing people’s files?”

He nodded. “My memories are still hazy at best. Dr. Young said they might come back in time but haven’t. I have no choice but to search for my past.”

Fat chance, you find something there. Peyton thought as she searched through them. She assumed the police also did which meant they didn’t find anything either. Although he was looking through missing person records in every country across the world.

“Were those questions you wanted to ask me?” Marcus asked nonchalantly. “I mean that is the reason you two were looking for me, right?”

Peyton gasped. “How do you know that? Did someone tell him? Why would they tell him?

“I can hear you?” Marcus said, pointing at his ears. “I can hear everything in this building and across the street.”

He’s augmented? Her jaw dropped. It made sense, but why put him here. Why didn’t the doctor take him to the cybernetic ward like her mom? Unless with his memory loss, he can’t control his abilities which explained the property damage. It all made sense now. Peyton remembered when her mom first got her implants. The house was chaotic as electric devices would turn on and off, the doors would open and close, and the entire family would get mind-calls from her. It took her mom almost a month to learn how to control her newfound abilities. Her dad hated it, but Peyton thought it was cool.

“If that is all,” Marcus said, bringing her back to reality, “You guys should leave before Miranda comes back online.”

The girls looked at each other.

“Your plan would have failed. You practically walked through every camera just getting here so I shut off Miranda access to this floor. But she’ll be online in about ten minutes. That will be enough time to get back to the stairway.”

Peyton couldn’t believe it. He knew everything. Who the hell is this kid? She felt Ashley grab her hand and pull her toward the door. “Wait! I can only guess what it’s like abilities that you don’t understand, but you need to learn them. You can’t stay in this room forever. You don’t leave one box to live in another.”

For a split second, Marcus’s nonchalant attitude melted away. He glanced down and rubbed his chin. Peyton realized he had never thought of that himself. He is probably going to stay in that room forever, trying to figure himself out. Peyton snorted. For such a smart guy, he was pretty dumb. She turned around and followed Ashley. For some reason, her mind didn’t feel restless anymore although she didn’t get all the answers she wanted. She did understand him a little bit more. He was a big mystery anymore, but still a mystery.
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