Cyrus’ voice curled around my surname and I opened my eyes. Chay still stood resolute, though Cyrus was no longer interested in that exchange. His focus was on my motionless stance. “Move!”
Cyrus didn’t notice Henbane’s eyes widen as they became unfocused, staring into the distance. He raised his gun reflexively, firing toward an upper window.
“Bitch!” he yelled. He fired again toward the ceiling. Several windows broke, but not a single bullet struck Aislynn as she ran down the stairs, the metal clattering under her quick steps.
Chay kicked Henbane in the chest. He fell to the ground with a grunt, raising his gun at Chay.
Chay advanced quickly, kicking the gun to the side, and throwing Henbane across the room. His face was serious as he turned back to Cyrus.
“Drop it!” he screamed. I was surprised by how loud his voice was.
But Cyrus was staring beyond Chay.
“It’s a shame that such a formidable opponent has been so weakened, Chay. I would have thought you were capable of fighting your own battles.”
I didn’t move. The gun’s position hadn’t changed, and I was afraid to do so much as even breath. Aislynn was now beside Chay. She handed him another gun (a larger one) and held her own defiantly toward Cyrus.
I heard her whisper something toward Chay, then cover her mouth. Chay didn’t move, but spoke quickly:
“The odds are against you, Cyrus. You’ve lost this one.”
“Oh, I would disagree. Henbane!”
I thought it was impossible that Henbane was still fighting. No matter what Chay had done to him, he had retained consciousness. I wondered if it was an extreme physical advantage, or just a growing sense of hatred that motivated Henbane to push himself from the floor time and time again.
“It’s a fair fight, Chay. Two against two.” Henbane spoke softly, his voice lacking the ferocity it had once contained: logic had entered the fight, taking away the fun.
I noticed that Henbane had his mouth covered. He wasn’t breathing more than he had to–nor were Chay or Aislynn.
I felt like I was missing something.
I realized what it was at the same moment Cyrus did. His eyes widened as he stared at the green mist that was filtering through the factory.
Chay smirked. “Problem, Cyrus?” He covered his mouth.
“Idiot,” Cyrus mumbled. “You have no idea what you’ve done.” He grabbed my around the elbow, pulling me forward.
I shouted; I was again trying not to breath. I’d spotted the small, spheric object that Aislynn had thrown. I’d seen it only once before, hurtling out of a car window toward Henbane’s motorcycle.
Chay ran forward, leaving Aislynn with Henbane. Neither fired immediately at each other. Aislynn retreated toward the warehouse door, while Henbane leapt for the control panels. Holding his breath, he began pressing buttons, Aislynn firing wildly at him.
“Chay!” I shouted, but Cyrus placed a hand roughly over my mouth. “Don’t breathe, prophet!” he muttered.
Chay was beside him in an instant. The green gas seemed to be expanding, seeping through the air slowly. Cyrus tossed his gun to the side. He leapt at Cyrus, tackling him to the ground.
I fell, underneath both of them.
“Todd,” Chay muttered, reaching behind him for the dropped gun. His voice was strained from lack of air, but his message was clear.
I squirmed from beneath them, running toward Aislynn.
Henbane had deserted his post beside the control panel. He was hurrying toward the doors, firing random shots behind him.
He disappeared first. Chay threw Cyrus to the side, running from the room. From the corner of my vision, I was able to see Cyrus lift himself from the ground, reaching for his cell-phone. He ran as he shouted, “Accident on section B–evacuate premises!”
He fled from the room, coughing.
Chay was suddenly behind me, lifting me off my feet. “Don’t breathe, Todd,” he whispered, ducking my head and pushing me forward.
We ran toward the door, past a massive tank. Bullet holes poked through the metal, a clear liquid shooting through them. It smelled like bleach and gasoline. I nearly slipped in a puddle and Chay pulled me upward, throwing me out the door.
The air was sweet in my lungs and I fell to against the pavement. The sky was a rich blue–the final shade of night before sunrise.
Aislynn lifted me to my feet, muttering, “We have to keep moving, Todd.”
I glanced over my shoulder long enough to see Chay running from the building, coughing into his shoulder.
I also saw the first flame.
The gas hit the liquid, and it combusted almost immediately, sending a blue-tipped flame leaping into the air. Others quickly followed, and I began to run faster, tripping over myself in the process.
Chay put an arm around my waist, guiding me as Aislynn ran ahead of us, muttering things to Derek. “We’re on our way. Yes, I lost it.”
There was an opening in the surrounding fence, and Chay hurled me through it, motioning for me to keep running. I did as I was told, stopping only when Aislynn did.
We were about a mile away from the factory, though I had barely noticed the distance. I no understood why my lungs were searing and why I was so hot. I fell to the ground, breathing heavily and coughing. Chay did the same.
Aislynn stood above us, watching as the fire gradually grew. “It’s gonna catch onto something,” she muttered.
Chay nodded, gasping.
“You okay?” I asked.
He nodded, his eyes shut tightly. He stood, clearing his throat. “We should move.”
I jumped, whirling around. The factory was completely engulfed in flames as the gases and countless other chemicals exploded. The flames were red and orange. Black smoke filled the air, ballooning toward the early morning sky.
It wasn’t simply a boom that erupted with the explosions. There were so many others sounds: breaking glass, crackling flames, falling debris.
The smell was horrid–too many scents at one time, all of which reminded me of a chemistry lab.
Chay stood beside me, breathing dejectedly. “Let’s go, Todd.”
“That’s it?” I mumbled, staring at the flames. Cyrus and Henbane–I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt–were safe. “What does the Department do now?”
Chay tugged at my arm.
Chay narrowed his eyes, pulling me closer to him. He turned my arm over; his eyes widened when he found the cut that Henbane had left. Chay touched it lightly, his face suddenly furious.
“Who did this?” he growled, but I could tell from his voice he didn’t need an answer.
“Isn’t the Department going to come get them?” I demanded. “We’ve got proof, right there.” I pointed toward Aislynn, but she shook her head. She held out her empty hands as though to emphasize her next statement, “Lost it. Sorry, kid.”
I groaned. “But you guys know what’s there. Isn’t that enough proof? Can’t the Department–”
“Doesn’t make arrests. We’re here to find things out, then we turn it over.” Chay’s tone was dry.
I was breathing heavily again. My heart was pounding against my chest. This couldn’t be true. After everything that Cyrus had done–everything he was going to do–we were just going to stand here?
No. No, I wouldn’t let that happen.
“Chay, you work for the government! Go get them! They can’t just–”
“This isn’t one of your stories, Todd.” Chay’s voice had returned to the same gruff tone I knew so well. “The hero isn’t going to be raised upon the shoulders of his supporters and then ride triumphantly into the sunset.” He sighed. “This is as close to a victory as you can hope.”
“That’s not right!”
“That’s the way it is.” He turned away. I noticed that Aislynn was no longer with us. I deftly realized that she must have already left, but that didn’t matter.
I only understood that Chay was walking away from me, after everything I’d done.
“Don’t turn your back on me!” I shouted. I could feel my face growing red. My voice was so loud that I rivaled the burning factory behind me. “Not after what I went through! I deserve for them to be locked up!”
I’d been tortured and kidnaped and everything else so that Chay could fulfill his little “project.” I’d suffered for him, for the stupid Department that I knew so little about. If he didn’t want to give me answers, I’d take them–I was willing to do anything.
“Don’t walk away!”
“I need to–”
“Do you even know what IMPOS is, Todd?”
I swallowed. My throat burned. “No.”
“IMPOS is the largest supplier of artillery to the US government.”
“So?” I managed whisper.
“So,” Chay’s voice was strained. It was evident he was forcing himself not to yell–it was a difficult fight. “So, do you honestly think the US government wants to lose the influence of IMPOS?”
He lost the fight. When he spoke, it was a harsh shout that echoed across the entire area. “Do you honestly think they’re going to lose that, Todd? Cyrus is smart! I told you he was under the radar! He made himself untouchable! Why else do you think the DPR’s the one handling this mess!”
“I thought you said the DPR knew more than anyone else.” My voice was soft in response to his shout. I could tell by the way he had turned so quickly that he wasn’t angry–he was frustrated. Frustrated by the situation, by things he desperately wanted to control but couldn’t.
“I didn’t say they always listen.”
I took a step forward. “I don’t–”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Chay shook his head. “I don’t understand it either.” Chay was level with me. “The DPR deals with prophets, astrology, and psychics. The CIA deals with….” He laughed. “Well, they sure don’t deal with the stuff we do. Who do you think they’re going to believe, Todd–
“The CIA who has no physical evidence that suggests the government should persecute it’s largest weaponry ally? Or the DPR when all we’ve got is ‘this teenager’s a prophet and he wrote that they’re the bad guys.’ Use some common sense.”
“Chay, you saw it–”
“Yeah, and we’ve got no evidence. The plans Aislynn was getting, we lost. After Derek hacked into the system, his computer crashed–there goes that link. He had the disc I stole in the hard drive when it happened–completely destroyed.
“We have nothing?” My voice was much higher than usual. I felt like I was going to fall over–whether from shock or exhaustion, I wasn’t sure.
“Yep. And Cyrus will cover up the explosion–say it was an accident. He complains to the government about us and suddenly the suspicion’s on him. If he keeps quiet, then there’s no reason for the CIA to investigate.”
“And you can’t do anything because–”
“Because in an age of pinpoint technology and science, no one believes anything without evidence.” Chay nodded. “And that includes you, prophet.”
He said the final word sadly, his eyes suddenly heavy.
“That’s not right.”
Chay gave a hollow laugh. “Who said that working for the good guys automatically meant it was right?”
And it suddenly clicked: the last piece of the puzzle, the final clue in the riddle.
Prophets could see things on a world-wide scale. That’s why I could see Cyrus. He was already on the global scope–he had power.
He just wanted more.
And he was a man of theatrics–a man who enjoyed the idea of immortality through impossibility.
I allowed my brain to put two and two together. It wasn’t–and I doubted that it ever had been–that fact was stranger than fiction; it was that the two collided so often that the whole world seemed like a strange place to live sometimes.
Especially in this moment.
“Come on, Todd, you’re tired.” Chay approached me carefully, holding out his hand. He seemed worried that I was going to start shouting again. “Let’s go.”
I didn’t shout, just nodded, and allowed Chay to lead me away. I was tired. I’d had enough excitement to last a lifetime.
But–I had an intense feeling– this was only the beginning.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Copyright Sarah Davidson 2021