Awakened: Book One of the Mind Agents Series

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Chapter 32

Time seems to slow as the car suspends itself in midair. Sabine is airborne. Chris is flat across the ceiling. Jack can’t see Maya except for a pool of her hair spread across the rear window.

When they land, the G-forces are almost too much for him. The car bounces violently on its tires. He doesn’t know who, if any of them, is wearing a seatbelt. He instinctively grabs the wheel to stabilize himself.

Maya moves hair out of her face. “Is everyone okay?” She asks.

Sabine starts crying.

“What’s the matter, Sabine? Are you hurt? Where?” Jack asks.

“It is him,” she says, pointing out the front windshield.

Jack watches as the man walks boldly toward them, his stare fixed on Jack.

“That’s the terrorist?” Maya says. “Oh no. Get us out of here, Jack!”

Jack tries the ignition. The car won’t start.

Maya pulls on her door, but it doesn’t open. “My door’s jammed!”

“Sabine, can you hide us?” Jack says.

With Sabine in tears, Jack doubts they can rely on her in the next few critical seconds.

“We don’t have a chance against this guy,” Chris says.

Kasym comes to a stop directly in front of the car. Jack takes in his desperate appearance. His weathered face, full of a lifetime of pain, peers out from behind strands of black hair.

Jack tries to see inside his mind. He gets an inkling of his intentions. It’s a more difficult mind to navigate. Thoughts seem hidden around corners and in dark shadows.

He gets a piece of something and acts on it. “Put your seat belts on, everybody, now!”

Maya and Chris scramble for their belts. Sabine reaches for hers.

Before Jack hears more than one or two clicks, their car lifts into the air at least thirty feet, and then flips back, end over end. Screams fill the car. Detached items like floor mats, papers, and loose glove-compartment items seem suspended in the air.

Jack feels the car free-fall upside down. The inescapable truth strikes him: his rash decision to escape the compound and race to complete this impossible task was a mistake. They’ve been lucky so far, but now they’ve met their match. He’s let his friends down. They might all be killed.

He steels himself. He can’t let that happen. He has to do everything to protect them, to get them to the Pentagon, to do what they must do.

He resettles into the terrorist’s mind, and finds an image. For a moment, he sees what the terrorist sees. He sees their car about to fall on top of one of the agency’s SUVs, which has just pulled up to the scene.

“Brace yourselves!” Jack yells, not at all braced for what is likely to be a punishing crash.

From the backseat, Chris yells. It’s not a scream of pain or panic. It’s like his martial-arts yell from the garage. The car lands. Jack hears the wrenching metal and breaking glass of the impact, but it happens in slow motion, like the car is being gently set down on top of the SUV. It crushes the roof below them, bending it in slightly, and then the whole car slowly falls over on its side like a felled tree.

The driver-side window is flat against the ground. The passenger-side windows show nothing but sky. Out the windshield, Jack can only see a sliver of the Pentagon far off to the side.

Jack realizes Chris must have given them a soft landing. He likely saved their lives. The thought occurs to him that he isn’t the only one who will do whatever it takes to see their purpose through. His friends are fired by the same passion, and they can’t let him down anymore than he can let them down. Jack feels, for perhaps the first time, that he’s part of a kindred group, a family that’s deeply bonded, through life and death.

“You’re welcome,” Chris says wryly.

Jack ventures outward for another look inside the terrorist’s mind, darting through the dark and sinewy chasm looking for any detail he can find to turn to their advantage.

Jack feels Kasym back away. There are too many police, agents, and guns. He can’t control them all. However, he’s found Maya’s mind. Jack jolts up with a start, losing the connection.

“Maya!” he says, grabbing for her hand.

She locks eyes with him and clutches his hand.

Muffled shouts fill the air outside. “Freeze!” “Stand down!” and other commands issue from all around them.

“We have to get moving,” Jack says. “I wish I knew what was going on out there.”

He reaches out in the direction of the voices. He finds one mind in particular. He’s an officer. He wants to do his duty, wants to pursue the terrorist, but can’t move. Jack snaps out of the officer’s mind.

“He’s frozen them.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like you do, Maya.”

“He can do that?”

Jack tries his window controls. They’re bent, and covered in broken glass. “Sabine, can you try your window?”

“I can’t,” Sabine says, still crying.

“Stay back,” Chris says.

A loud pop comes from above. At first, Jack thinks it’s gunfire, but then notices both passenger-side windows are gone, shot out by Chris.

“You’re getting scary good at that,” Jack says to him.

Through his unmistakable nervousness, Chris manages to flash a dimpled grin as he climbs through the window. Jack climbs up to join Sabine.

The kids climb onto the top of the upturned car. Jack pulls Sabine up while surveying the situation. Dozens of official vehicles surround them. The terrorist is rounding a corner into a small alley. Several police in full control of their movement advance around their parked cars and approach the frozen men in front.

Jack takes stock of the terrorist’s weaknesses. Not only is he limited by too many targets, he also has a limited range. This knowledge gives Jack small comfort, however, since this adversary apparently has more abilities than all of them put together. The doctor’s team was wrong about him. He can move a car, freeze people, and do who knows what else.

Jack jumps down from the car, mostly blocked from the police. He reaches up for Sabine and helps her climb down. “We have to hurry. Maya, can you take Sabine?” He looks off to the alley. “Follow me!”

Jack runs. The others follow him. Police and agents scramble and yell for them to stop.

“Wait,” Chris asks. “Can’t we let the police take care of the terrorist? We have to get to the Pentagon.”

“The Pentagon is this way,” Jack says.

Chris shakes his head, but runs alongside him all the same. “I hope you know what you’re doing. I do not want to fight this guy.”

Jack cuts into the alley. The buildings on either side cast a hard shadow. He doesn’t see the terrorist. He reaches out with his mind to see if he can detect him. He feels nothing. He runs forward.

He gets nearly halfway through the alley when he turns around and sees that no one has followed him. His heart stops. Where are the others? Is this some kind of trap?

He faces forward to find Kasym, standing directly in his path and just a few feet in front of him. He meets Jack’s eyes with a beastly intensity.

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