I run my thumb over the deformation in my skin. It hasn't changed since this morning. Mason watches me and rolls his eyes. "It's not that big of a deal."
I raise my eyebrows. "These things don't just show up!"
"Relax," he says. "It's not like your deceased or anything."
I pull my finger away and sigh. "Yeah, I guess." Dad shrugged it off as well. I must be overreacting. Or are they under-reacting? I don't know. Exhaustion makes it hard to think. My whole head has been clouded by the thought of sleep all week.
I jerk up to face him, suddenly aware of the words I didn't hear. "What?"
He sets his hand against my forehead. "You sure you're alright?"
I playfully push him away. "I'm fine."
Ms. Jackson walks downstairs and lets herself into the storage room. She walks out seconds later with a suitcase. "Hey, kids." She walks back upstairs.
"Where's she going?" I ask, more curious than I thought I'd be.
"She's visiting her sister's for a week."
"I have school."
I roll my eyes. "So you're going to have the house to yourself?"
"Monday to Saturday."
I smile mischievously. He glares back. "We aren't throwing a party."
I easily give up. "Worth a try."
"You hungry?" Mason stands to walk around the couch. I follow him with my eyes, the rest of me too comfortable to move.
He stands in place. "You coming?"
I moan and stand on my horribly sore muscles. Mason waits for me to walk up the stairs before he follows, as if I'm going to tumble down them.
We make mac-n-cheese from a box. It's amazingly warm and reminds me just how cold I am. Mason watches me inhale the food. "When's the last time you ate?"
"Breakfast." And a fairly large one at that, yet somehow, my stomach begs for more food.
Mason notices my confusion. "You go on a run or something?"
I shake my head. I have been eating a lot lately. I don't think I'm gaining weight… I lift up my shirt to look at my gut.
Mason laughs from across the counter. I turn up to see what was left in his bowl in front of me. I shake my head and push it back. "I'm alright."
He shoves it back in front of me. "So am I."
I don't argue further. It's quickly gone.
"You can do the dishes," he says plainly.
After nose goes, "not it" and eenie-meanie-miny-moe—all of which Mason loses—we resort to rock-paper-scissors. Somehow, I end up at the sink.
"You could have finished it in the time it took us to do that," he teases.
"You suck at hosting," I bark back, barely annoyed.
It's done in under a minute.
My phone rings in my back pocket. I jump, so unused to the sound. Mason laughs and watches me answer. It's Dad. "Hello?"
"Hey, Sage." His voice is rushed. "I'm going to need you to come home."
I crease my eyebrows. "It's not even six." Mason raises his eyebrows at my words.
"Just come home, please." He hands up.
I slowly pull the device from my ear and turn to Mason. "I need to go."
I shrug and look back to the phone, expecting an explanation text. Nothing's there. "No idea."
Mason drags his keys off the counter. "Alright." He leads me to the garage. Our time ends abruptly and he opens the window to extend our time even when I leave the car. "Want me to come with?"
I throw my hand across the air. "It's alright. I could use the break."
He offers a sympathy smile for the insult. "Call me if you need anything."
I nod and start for the house.
Hands pull me through the front door. I open my mouth to scream for Mason but a palm falls over my mouth. Dad slams the door behind it all. A needle falls into my arm.
I struggle against their grips. "It's not even dark out."
"Desperate times, Sage," he sighs. The earpiece is shoved into place and I tense as it roots into me.
"Can't you just send your other little agent," I bark.
"We did," he snaps back. He hands me a picture with none other than the painfully familiar blue eyes to stare back at me. "He's your target."
I study the picture with actual purpose. His blonde hair hangs just above his dark eyebrows. Freckles run over his nose and cheeks. His strong jawline catches my eyes but I quickly turn away once I've seen enough.
I shake my head. "You want me to kill him?"
"I want you to get him back."
Back from who? I want to ask, though I know which questions will come back without answers. "Don't you have other men to do this?"
"Not really, no." He pulls the picture away.
"And how do you plan to cover this up?"
He smiles evilly. "It's four o'clock, Sage." Fear leaks into his voice despite his confidence. "The car is in the garage."
I glance at my phone and compare the much earlier time to the clock in the kitchen before the device is ripped from me. "Go."
I walk to the car and it speeds away as I dress, weapons comfortably in place. "What's his name." I don't ask, desperate to know more about the colleague I didn't know existed until recent events.
He doesn't answer. I fixate my lips into a strict line. My nerves flutter with excitement where they usually harden with dread. For the first time since that night, I'm going to interact with him. I'm not going to kill, or at least don't have a target. The guns at my side remind me of usual events. Somebody's going to die. Weather they deserve it or not, I never know.
The car rolls onto a highway. It speeds far over the limit and I avoid looking out the window to dodge the sickness that prods at my stomach.
A car slams into ours. I long for Mason's safety precautions when my head slams against the roof. My arms soften the blow but barely. Both cars spin to the side of the road. I wait to regain myself on the car floor. The voice in my ear fails to find traction on my thoughts.
"Sage," James barks. "Sage, get up."
I barely register where the ground is before I'm on all fours against it. "Get to the van.
Slowly, I crawl toward the van that threw us off. "Sage, get onto it now." It starts away.
I throw myself at the door and jump out of the crashed car. Noises flood my ears and I close my eyes briefly to shut it all out. The car drives out of my reach and I chase it down. It's out of my reach in seconds.
The sound of a motorcycle behind me catches my ear. Without thinking, I jump into it's path. The driver yanks on the breaks though our paths collide despite his efforts. I throw him off and grab the moving bike before it can escape my grasp. The machine is quickly under me. I feed it gas and speed away from the protesting driver behind me.
"He's in the second van."
I assume he means the one in the middle of the one that slammed into me and the leader. I speed toward the black convoy. My small vehicle easily passes the first van. I grow even with the second and move to be behind it. The former car nears the rear of my bike.
I fiddle with the handle for a second before pulling out my gun to shoot at it. It takes six bullets to damage the lock. The vans speed up and I follow, inches between the one at my front and the one on my back.
The short distances quickly close and I stand on the seat of my bike as all three vehicles squish together. The collision throws me forward and death crosses my thoughts long enough to make freeze. The handle passes my grip and I miss it. A screech slips through my lips and I hug the motorcycle handles below me. My small vehicle bends with the pressure on either side. Nothing slows and the street rushes under me at a constantly deadly rate.
"Get inside," the voice barks in my ear.
Adrenaline allows me to gain myself again. My hand secures on the door handle and it swings open. I jump in as the motorcycle is thrown out of the death grip. It flips over itself and skids to a stop at the side of the road, completely destroyed.
I'm thrown against the floor of the van. Several bodies land on top of me. None of them move to close the door no matter how much I will them to.
I tear a hand free and rip a gun from my waist. Five shots kill two men and their limp bodies roll out of the open door, headed for additional massacre on the street. The last man on me is soon beneath my grip and I rest the gun against his chest.
"Kill him," James has to remind me.
I close my eyes but the shot still rattles my head through my ears.
I stand to face the five other soldiers in the van. Behind them is the blue eyed boy, all four limbs restrained by metal brackets nailed in place. He simply watches me, likely unable to do anything else.
The car jerks to the side and all of us are throws against the wall. My gun flies from my hand and I watch it bounce out the door. Three men attack me before I can reach for another.
I block and swing through instinct, thoughts controlled by my curiosity. One of the men has knives and I catch a few scratches before he's thrown out with the others. Eventually, I'm able to get the two of us alone in the car. I run to close the doors and the pressure against my ears seems to leave all at once.
"Don't talk to him," James instructs.
Silence covers everything along with darkness. I take a moment for my eyes to adjust before starting for him. His mouth stays closed. I don't doubt we share orders at this point.
Bullets slam into the outside of the van though none penetrate to hit us. Each makes my heart jump barely faster than it already does.
My hands run over his restraints and I realize how painfully clueless I am about how to get him out. He watches me patiently, as if we have nowhere better to be. I quickly realize he doesn't. He was sent on the day mission as if it was normal, likely because it is. If that's true, they can't erase his memory without raising questions.
He doesn't get to forget.
I stop working to stare at him. My lips don't part and I can't make a sound despite all the words that long to spill out. He gestures to the restraints with his eyes and I nod.
The car jerks again. I fly away from him and into the other side of the car. The wind is knocked out of me and I gasp to regain it from the floor.
"Get him out," he barks.
"I'm working on it," I choke out, voice weak. It echoes, awkwardly loud in the once silent space.
More bullets threaten to kill us from outside. I run back to the boy and look over his wrist, bound tightly by a thick metal bar. He yanks against it with no prevail.
"Break his hands," James instructs.
I can't hesitate despite how much I want to. I pull his hand farther through the restraint to give myself space and his thumb snaps beneath my own. He cries out and the sound is painful enough to make me hurt. All I want to do in this moment is utter my apologies.
"Do the other one."
I yank his deformed hand free and move to mimic the same thing on the other. He bites his lip though nothing he does can weaken the yell that fills the car.
Of course, there's still the problem of his feet, and despite recent events, only two of the four hands in here are still useful. The boy hits his head against the wall of the van and waits for whatever plan we have for this part.
Something slams into the side of the van. I'm thrown from him once again. Three of the four van walls take turns hitting me around before I finally land. I moan from the floor and barely stand before we're hit again. The boy is thrown onto all fours, ankles still attached. I take heavy breaths from the floor. Everything hurts.
"Get him out," the voice says again.
"How?" I yell back, frustrated past what I thought possible. My feet gain ground beneath me and I run for the boy.
He slowly stands again. His free hands grab me once we're even and his tripled fingers dig into my waste. He pulls out my gun and forces his hand to hold it right before shooting at the restraint. One of the four nails loosens and he yanks to pull the others out.
I pull my weapon back and the van spins. He grabs my arm before I'm thrown away from him again. The remaining restraint barely holds us in place. I shoot at it the second the van seems to be moving straight again. He pulls himself free.
It feels as though no progress was made. Restraints or not, bullets still hammer the sides of the car. The boy drags me to the doors but I pull him back.
He pulls me again and I let him, unable to protest anymore. I wait against the wall and he unlatches the handle. Bullets fly into the van the second the door opens. All the air is sucked out and my ears ring. The boy jumps to where I stand to join me. We both watch as if the threats will just stop.
"They won't kill you," the voice yells at me.
"They really seem to want to," I argue back.
Those two words almost make me laugh but I refrain. I look out to see the third van still just behind us. Guns aim out of the broken glass. I step away from the wall and back up, horrified by what my body subconsciously prepares to do. Me feet move below me before I can stop them and the van floor disappears from below me.
The fire stops as I soar. The jump is made much narrower by the van speeding toward me. I fold myself and catch broken glass on my way in. Four eyes look at me, wide with terror. I yank away one of their guns and shoot both of them dead. It takes more effort to force the driver out of his seat.
The boy is beside me before I can register him jumping. He steadies the wheel while I slam on the breaks. The two leading vans do the same.
We jump out and pause for a moment. I only assume he's as overwhelmed by recent events as I am. Our eyes lock. He steps closer and his broken fingers graze mine. I grip the small paper that he puts in my hand. His teeth part slightly for him to clamp them down again.
I smile back, glad somebody else is fighting the same fight. He turns away sharply, likely ordered to. His smile disappears and he runs away.
So... I might drop this story (sorry to all those following it) but that doesn't mean I'll never come back to it. It's more on hold I guess you could say. I'm sorry and thank you so much for sticking with it this far! If it somehow drags more attention I might reconsider (even though that's not the deciding factor).