Her commlink buzzed. Peyton ignored the wristband device as she had already done on five previous occasions. She already knew who was trying to contact her and didn’t want to talk to them. As she had other things to do. Peyton grabbed her mom’s favorite pair of slippers off the bed and shoved them into the gym bag along with her mom’s tablet. Then she scanned the room for any missing items.
The once colorful room was now bland and sterile. All the flowers and cards were gone. The hospital bed that her mom laid for the past week was perfectly made and already for the next patient. Most importantly, all her mom’s things were gone.
Satisfied, Peyton zipped up the bag and swung over her shoulder. She walked over to the bathroom and knocked on the door. Knock! Knock! Knock! “Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah, give me a second,” her mom replied from another side of the door. Within two seconds, the door swung open and her mom emerged from the bathroom. She had changed out of the hospital clothing and wore a simple pair of jean shorts with her police t-shirt. Her mom sighed with relief. “It feels so good to wear actual clothes again.”
Peyton couldn’t help but smile. “So are you ready to get out here?”
“Hell, yes!” Her mom wrapped her arm around Peyton.
They exited the room and walked down the hallway. They made it halfway to the exit when her father suddenly appeared, pushing a wheelchair. A nurse stood beside him, holding onto a computer tablet.
Her mom snorted. “Honey, I don’t need that.”
“Actually, you do. Its hospital policy. If you want to discharge, you have to push out with the wheelchair.” A nurse explained.
Her mom sighed. “I thought that policy had died. Fine!” She sat down in the wheelchair.
Peyton gave her the gym and followed the adults down the hallway. When her commlink buzzed again, Peyton groaned. This was quickly getting annoying. Damn it, Cassie. Can you not take a hint? Cassie had been calling her nonstop ever since Kyle told everyone about the mysterious boy who saved him supposedly. Peyton knew it was Marcus, but refused to confirm. She always had gossip and refused to play he said, she said.
Truth be told, Peyton knew it was only a matter of time before the rest of town found out about the mysterious boy living in the hospital. She was surprised that the secret lasted this long. Then again, Cassie did find out followed by Kyle. Peyton thought about Kyle’s story. How Marcus had somehow leaped into the air, caught a flying truck tire, and disappeared in a blink of an eye. It seemed Marcus didn’t only have an audio implant but also artificial limbs. What else have they done to him? Was he still even human anymore? He definitely wasn’t a baseline. She didn’t know if he was lucky or not.
She turned around and found Marcus running toward her. His run was weird, lacking any grace or good posture. It was almost like he was trying not to run too fast. Other than that, Marcus looked like a normal teenage boy. He wore a pair of jeans and a grey shirt.
“Hey!” Peyton said. It was the only thing she could think of.
Marcus stopped. “I’m glad I caught you guys before you left. I still have something I need to tell all of you.” Then he moved around her and approached.
Peyton wondered if it had something to do with the case. Her mom didn’t tell her anything even though Peyton knew Sheriff Bishop had been keeping her updated on everything. Maybe he just wanted to ask them a question. Peyton turned around only to find Marcus standing before her parents. Then he gave them a small bow.
“Thank you for saving my life”, Marcus said in Mandarin
Her parents were more than a little shocked. Peyton had forgotten to tell her parents that he spoke Mandarin. Her dad knew only a few phrases. His family had been living in the states for decades and wasn’t fluent anymore. Her mom on other hand was only a second-generation American and had still followed the customs and knew the language. She was also the one who taught Peyton Mandarin with her dad encouraging her.
Dad said, “I didn’t know you speak Mandarin.”
“I speak all languages,” Marcus explained. Then he started speaking different languages.
Peyton recognized a few; French, Spanish, Japanese maybe, one sounded a little like German, but the rest was lost to her. Admittedly, she was impressed. Her dad looked impressed too. He gave Marcus a pleasant yet slight nod.
Her mom chuckled. “I told Marcus you didn’t have to thank us.”
“Wait a minute,” Peyton said, looking at them both. “You two know each other.”
Peyton always assumed the two were kept separate. They were floors apart from each other. Yet they looked quite friendly.
Mom explained. “Yes, I made some queries about his condition through the net, of course.”
“I happily answered and we started playing games together. Your mom is pretty good at Scrabble,” Marcus said turning to her mom, “But your chess still needs work.”
Mom nodded. “I’ll beat you one day.” Then she looked at Peyton and her husband. “What! It gets boring without you guys around.” She snorted. “We really must be going. Be careful, Marcus.”
“Actually, I think I’ll stay and hang out with Marcus for a while,” Peyton suggested. See what other kinds of secrets I can uncover. She turned to Marcus. “If that’s okay with you?”
Marcus shrugged. “Well, It’s not like I’m going anyway and I don’t have any more tests today.”
They both turned to the adults, waiting for their approval. Her parents had no problem with it, but most importantly the nurse didn’t either.
“Alright then,” Her dad said with a nod. “You two have fun.” Then he frowned and pointed at Marcus with his long index finger. “But not too fun.”
Peyton shook her head. She led Marcus away from her parents. From the corner of her eyes, she watched her mom slap her dad’s arm. Her dad chuckled and pushed her toward the elevator.
Once her parents were out of earshot, Marcus asked. “What was that about?”
“Just my dad being stupid,”
Marcus nodded, taking the lead. Truthfully, Peyton didn’t know the hospital too well. She didn’t really explore the hall too much. Marcus on the other hand appears to know the hospital very well. He seamlessly leads her through the maze. She wondered where exactly he was taking her; his room, cafeteria, or just some playroom.
Her train of thought stopped when she noticed everyone staring at them. No, they weren’t staring at her. They were staring at Marcus. They must have heard all the strange stories about him. Some looked frightened and even gave him a wide girth as he walked by. Like he was contagious. Burning anger-filled Peyton. She had hoped that people would be a little more open-minded about augmentation especially in this day and age. Is that how they’re going to look at me if I become augmented like a freak? This is wrong. Peyton opened her mouth about giving them all a piece of her mind when she felt a tap on her shoulder.
Peyton turned to see Marcus giving her a stern look. It was almost like he knew what she was about to do. Peyton sighed, still feeling angry. She continued to follow him as they entered a balcony. The summer sun beamed down on them as summer air engulfed them. It cooled Peyton’s temper a little.
“I’m sorry about that.” She said, “They’re just a little—I don’t know what they are.”
Marcus sat down on a bench. “It’s alright. It feels strangely familiar.”
“You don’t deserve to have anyone treat you like that because you’re different.”
He nodded. “Yeah, but I did kind of terrorize that building for the past week so I kind of deserve it. But I have been working on it with Sheriff Bishop. I can touch it now.” He touched the bench handle. “And even run.” He got up and jogged around the balcony.
Peyton laughed, causing Marcus to stop. “I’m sorry. You have a weird run. I’m sure of it and then it won’t be long before you’re outside with the rest of us.”
“I don’t know about that,” Marcus frowned, “Dr. Young still thinks it might be too dangerous for me to go outside. So I’m stuck here.”
“So what do you do for fun?”
He replied. “I do puzzles, play games, and try to figure out who I am.”
Peyton didn’t want to admit it but that sounded very sad. With her mom not around, Marcus was probably going to become more lonely. Unless…an idea formed in her head. Peyton smiled, looking up at him. “Well, you can’t go outside. Why don’t we bring the outside to you?”
Marcus gave her a confused look. Peyton continued to grin as she activated her commlink. She knew exactly who to call.
It didn’t take long for Ashley to get to the hospital with two boxes of pizza and some bottles of soda. Peyton stood in the main lobby, waiting for her. What Peyton didn’t expect was that her cousin would bring some unwelcome guests. Peyton found Cassie walking beside Ashley. Her long blonde hair swayed side to side. Her greenish-blue eyes shined with excitement. She wore a tie-dyed top with a pair of shorts. What was more surprising was that Kyle was here.
Kyle Martin was the golden boy of the town. Everyone loved him. He was the most handsome of all the handsome boys in her class. At least most girls and some guys said. Peyton didn’t see it though. Yeah, he was tall, well-built with curly brown hair and blue eyes. But that was nothing special.
Peyton frowned, crossing her arms. “What are you guys doing here?”
“I came here to introduce myself to…um, Marcus. You know since you won’t pick up your commlink.” Ashley replied, looking around her. “So where is he?”
Peyton snapped. “He’s not a zoo animal.”
“And you’re not a gatekeeper.”
Peyton growled, turning to Kyle. “And what are you doing here?”
“I just want to thank him for saving my life.” Kyle ran his fingers through his brown locks, “I didn’t do the last time we met.”
It was a likely story but she really wasn’t Marcus’s gatekeeper. She sighed and led to Marcus’s room. There they found him looking over the large gallery of movies on the hologram projector. He appeared to have a difficult time picking on. He bit his lip, scrolling the screen with his finger.
“Have you picked out a movie yet?” Peyton chuckled.
Marcus replied. “No, I have not seen any of these movies so I don’t know which one we would all enjoy. I don’t know if you all would like to watch Big Momma’s house or The Weekends.”
Ashley and Kyle placed the food down on the table. Ashley said. “I’m good with whatever you pick. By the way, this is…”
“Kyle Martin and no, you don’t owe me any thanks. I am the one who nearly killed you with the tire.” Marcus interrupted her without a glance. “And Cassidy Taylor, the daughter of Mayor Olivia Taylor and heir of The Taylor Industries. And no, Peyton is not my gatekeeper but I do trust her judgment in character. I assume since you two are friends that you’re a good person or am I wrong?” He looked directly at her.
Peyton turned to her too, noticing her friend’s paler face. All the excitement melted off Cassie’s face and was replaced by a little fear but more curiosity. Peyton looked back at Marcus and nodded. Things appeared to calm down a bit but there was still awkwardness in the air. But that quickly faded away as they watched two movies and ate all the pizza. Then they listened to some music. It appeared Marcus’s knowledge of music matched his knowledge of movies. The girls picked the songs and played with some of his puzzles. The boys played catch with the hospital football.
“So how fast are you?” Kyle asked.
Peyton glanced up from the puzzle, wanting the answer herself. Kyle threw the football at Marcus who caught it nonchalantly. Then Marcus threw the ball so fast that Peyton barely saw his arm. In the blink of an eye, Marcus disappeared. Then she heard Kyle gasping. She turned to him and found Marcus standing in front of him with the ball in his hand.
“Holy crap!” Cassidy said.
Peyton silently agreed. She realized Marcus must have thrown the ball and then caught it before Kyle. That was pretty damn fast.
Kyle was shaking. “Holy crap, man. You should definitely join our football team. We got a spot open.”
“You shouldn’t,” Marcus said confusingly.
The door suddenly opened and a nurse entered the room. She told them all that the visitor time was over and it was time to go. Peyton stood behind a little while the others said their goodbyes and left the room. Once alone, Peyton approached him.
“I guess it must be pretty cool being augmented.”
Marcus gave her a confused look. “Augmented″ means hacking cybernetic implants installed into a human’s body. Peyton, I’m not augmented!”