Two Brothers 2
For Ally Caller, nothing gave him more joy than working with kids. In fact, it was something he'd always been good at. Back when he was in grade school, he used to play all the time with any neighbor kids that happened be around, especially the little ones. It surprised absolutely no one that he wound up spending his days after school volunteering at a day camp that was close to his school. The money was nice, but he was paid enough in those children's smiles.
As he walked in to start his shift, he wondered about one kid in particular: a little girl named Alex. As the story went, she had just appeared on the doorstep of the day camp, sleeping in a basket just like in one of those old cartoons. No note or anything, she was just there. They only found out her name because she knew it. Searches for her parents, both on the Internet and off of it yielded no fruit. Ever since, the camp took her as their own. The handful that she was, she was loved. Loved by everybody involved, and Ally was no exception.
He was on his way to the lobby were kids were already playing when he was stopped by a tap on the shoulder. Turning around, he recognized his fellow counselor, Tate.
"Mr. Carter…" He sounded worried.
"It's Caller. Ally Caller," he corrected. He hated when his name was screwed up, but that was beside the point.
"Yeah, sure," His tone made Ally doubt he even cared about his last name. "You need to meet up with a few of the other counselors. Mandatory meeting in the Main Office."
Ally motioned towards the kids. "What about them?"
"We've already got a movie set up. They'll be good for 30 minutes, at least."
He voiced his next concern. "Still, they need to be watched over…"
"Taken care of." Tate seemed to have an answer for everything. "We hold these meetings in shifts. They'll be supervised."
He made another motion towards the office, which Ally reluctantly acquiesced in following.
He walked in to see about five nervous-looking faces staring back at him. The head counselor, Alan, was curt with his greeting.
"Hello Ally. Sit down." He offered him a seat on one of the couches that lined the office. Three of the counselors were standing while a lone teenager, Donna, he remembered, was sitting on the couch. For reasons unbeknownst to him, Ally found himself electing to stand.
"Don't want to sit?"
Ally shook his head. He didn't feel like sitting. In fact, he felt this strange nervous wave flow through him. In no time, he found himself shaking…
"Suit yourself. Anyway, I believe that most of you have been keeping up with the news."
Ally hadn't. Watching the news was Raz's thing, not his. Much of the important stuff got to him via local hearsay, Raz, Grandma, or Grandpa.
"In case you somehow haven't heard, multiple companies have been pressured to create anti-Special counter procedures in the wake of what's known as 'Episode Zero' publicly."
"Episode Zero?" What were they talking about? Sure, he'd heard about an explosion after a suicide attempt… Wait. Was that what they were talking about?
Alan looked at Ally curiously for a moment, as if this info should've been common knowledge.
He continued his discourse regardless. "6:00 am, November 10, 2019. An explosion happened after an attempted suicide intervention. How? We're not sure. The man in question was Patrick Zimmerman."
Patrick Zimmerman? He'd heard that name before…
"Even the media is still guessing as to why he did it. By all accounts, he was a loving family man. He was wealthy, but kept to himself. Dealt in that kind of 'alternative fuel' stuff that they've been slowly putting on the market. Now that cars are starting to hover, I guess that kind of power is a bit more useful. Investors seem to think so."
Everybody's eyes started to glaze over. They clearly wanted him to get to the point.
"Moving on…" Alan continued, adding extra emphasis in order to get back the people he knew he was losing. "Zimmerman wound up on a balcony on the top floor of his offices, apparently ready to jump. Naturally, cops were on the scene before anybody could blink an eye. There were crowds gathered almost as fast. He would listen to anybody trying to talk him down, and the only words he said were 'I don't have to be in the dark anymore' in response to the pleas of the officers, and 'This is for our freedom' about a second before he jumped."
I don't have to be in the dark anymore? This is for our freedom? This just sounded crazy to Ally. Or maybe he was just piggybacking off of what Raz would think… What was this?
"Everybody gasped when he jumped, as you'd expect, but nobody was prepared for the explosion that seem to come out of nowhere the second he landed. The officers close to the last reported severe burns and are currently being treated for them, or at least that's what were told. To tell the truth, I don't think the news media can make heads or tails of this. It would've stayed like this if it hadn't been for a press conference that was called a few hours later.
"At first, the top brass at DC basically said the usual things they would say in a tragedy, the whole 'this is terrible' song and dance. Then it gets interesting."
Interesting? Even Ally knew that this was way past that point. He was surprised that Raz hadn't said anything about it for two whole days. Was he hiding something?
Alan paused for a moment, possibly allowing for everyone to take and what they'd heard, before heading to a nearby TV. Instead of heading to a news channel, he headed to a list of recorded shows. When he got to the press conference in question, he selected it. He fast forwarded to a certain part.
"It is important not to panic in the face of this tragedy," the official-looking man at the podium said. "This incident is isolated. We've got these Specials under control."
He stopped the video there. Murmurs filled the room, and the nervous stomachache that Ally had intensified to a fever pitch. He knew what Specials were, or at least were said to be in rumor. They were effectively superhuman, they had special powers. Many believed that they were just make-believe. He might have believed it too, if only he wasn't living proof of the opposite being the case. His heart rate along with everything else was spiking because he knew that he and Raz were very much lumped into that category. What was worse, he had to wonder: just what were these so-called "counter procedures" that they were being pressured to follow?
He decided to voice one of his questions. He tried with everything he had to take the nervousness, no, the downright panic out of his voice as he asked, "So, what are these 'counter procedures'?"
"Don't worry, they're really very simple. The instructions I got from upper management were just this: if you see someone doing something that no normal human being could do, report it immediately. If you don't, should something happen, investigators would descend on this place like hawks, and it would not be pretty. If you do however, you'll be rewarded with up to $75,000, depending on the case."
Ally couldn't respond to that. In fact, he couldn't speak. He literally had $75,000 on his head. If he screwed up once, he would be turned in and snatched up in seconds. What would become of him then? And even more frightening possibility came to mind. Judging by this thing, there was way more to this than just him and his brother. There were others like him. They could end up a victim of this. What if… What if it was one of the kids that were in that lobby? What if it was Alex? His mind reeled with the nightmarish scenarios buzzing around in his mind.
Donna picked up on this change. "You okay, Ally? That's your name right?"
He barely responded with a "Uh-huh" moan. Truthfully, he hardly even heard her.
"You sure, kid? You look like you're about to be sick."
Even he knew telling her everything would be suicidal. So he settled on only one of his questions. "Yeah. I'm fine. It's just… What if these kids are 'specials' themselves? What happens to them?"
Alan took over with that answer. "We're not entirely sure. I'm sure it would be the same with kids as well as adults."
"What happens to them!?" Ally felt his voice leap up several octaves as he fought back tears.
"We don't know that either." He sounded legitimately sympathetic here. He, of all people, knew Ally scared rather easily. "I'm sure they wouldn't hurt kids, and I'm sure they really wouldn't hurt adults."
"How can you be so sure?" Questioned another counselor, a Latina woman in her late 20s.
Alan didn't answer the question. He just gave all of them a look that seemed indiscernible before sending them on their way.
"Yes?" the man in question finally responded. He'd been distracted by the questions pounding his skull in all day. He looked at the boy who he was playing with, a blonde haired, blue eyed kid named Tristan.
"Your move, Mr. Ally?"
They were playing a game of catch in a playground a stone's throw away from the campus. Tristian had missed by a mile, the ball landing a few feet away from him. Luckily, the kid lacked the arm strength to come close to hitting anyone.
"Er, uh… Nice toss." He ignored the kid's questioning look as he picked up the ball and tossed it back to him. When he heard next caught him off guard.
"Are you feeling okay, Mr. Ally?"
Ally knew that he truly wasn't. The last thing he wanted to do, though, was alarm the child in front of him by telling him why. He took a deep breath as he tried to make his next words seem as calm as possible.
"You know what? You're right. I'm feeling a bit under the weather, now that you mention it. I think I'm gonna go sit down for a while. Don't worry, we'll see if Miss Donna or Miss Lexi can play with you."
After leaving Tristan with Donna, Ally collapsed on the first chair he could find in the main lobby. All he could think about was that meeting. He may have always been the calmer, more collected of the Caller brothers, but here, he couldn't shake this gigantic cloud of unease hovering over him. He felt as if something big was about to happen… Something just felt off. Normally, he would be talking Raz down from this sort of paranoia, but here he was, the victim of it. What if whoever these guys were actually did come for him, or the kids, or anybody else he knew?
His mind was racing so fast that he barely noticed when a very familiar voice called out to him.
"Oh, Mr. Ally!"
Ally finally snapped back into reality to take in the small seven-year-old girl in front of him. Her medium skin tone was offset or possibly complemented by her accent and look that came straight out of New York. He unsuccessfully fought off a smile. She was one of those kids that was particularly special (not that they weren't all special anyway). She was the type that could make you smile whether you really wanted to or not.
"Alex, what's up?"
She seemed brimming with anticipation as she said, "Got something to show you!"
In response, Ally sighed. Whatever she said that, it often meant that she had "picked up something" from "around" the camp. They had done this dance more times than he could count by now.
"Whatever it is, Alex, give it back."
To his surprise, she chuckled, not appearing annoyed or irritated in the slightest. "No, silly! I came up with a new magic trick. Just learned it this morning."
The smile he formed now was more out of amusement. Maybe she'd try the "disappearing finger" trick again. At any rate, God knows he could use a good laugh.
He was totally unprepared for what happened next.
She did an unnaturally high backflip with what looked to be some kind of sparkles radiating off of her. It took Ally almost 5 seconds to process what just happened. His hand flew to his mouth, as that terrifying sick feeling returned with a vengeance. Alex, on the other hand, looked like she was enjoying every minute of his reaction.
"You should see your face! You look so surprised!"
"Uh-huh…" The room suddenly started spinning, heralding his descent into darkness.