Hannah woke me from my dreamless sleep in the morning, bringing breakfast with her. "I heard you got a look around the building last night." She waited until I'd sat up, then handed me the food. "Are you feeling any better today?"
I glanced at her and responded. "I think so, at least my nightmares stopped. And I'm not tired anymore. Why did you wake me so early?" Taking the food, I started eating.
Walking to the door, she turned back and said, "Will wants to talk to you. I'm going to go tell him that you're up. I'll be back to show you the way soon." Smiling, she took off through the door, leaving me alone.
"Oh, right, ok." I finished eating, then went and got dressed. New freshly washed clothes were in the dresser, slightly too big for me, but they were dress clothes, which I thought would probably be a good thing to wear when meeting the leader of the organization which was hosting me for the time being. Wondering how much time I had before Hannah got back, I ran to the bathroom.
By the time I got back from freshening up, Hannah was waiting on me. Standing up from the edge of my bed, she asked, "So are you ready?" I nodded and went back into the hall. She followed me into the hall, and then took off leading the way to Will's office. I stayed quiet, listening to Hannah talk with one ear, but not paying much attention.
A few minutes later, we were in front of the office room, and I went in alone, Hannah heading off to go do some other task. Instead of just Will, there was someone else in the room too. Smiling a bit, I introduced myself, looking curiously at the two of them. Standing up, the guy, whom I assumed must be Will, motioned for me to sit in a third chair in a rough circle with the two they were sitting in.
"Autumn, thank you for meeting with us today. I know you were severely sick lately. This with me is Julie, she's our resident researcher. She found some interesting things about you." Sitting back down, he gestured for Julie to speak.
As will spoke, I prepared to escape if needed, staying seated only because they had yet to display anything besides curiosity towards me. "Our information says that you're the one the searchers in the forest are looking for. Apparently you stumbled upon their secret development before they were ready to release it." As Julie spoke, I tried to think of what development I could possibly have stumbled upon without even realizing it. "Your most recent report scared them. They thought it was going to expose them."
"My most recent report," I stopped for a second before I realized what they meant. "They caused the bus full of students to crash?" Thinking back to the story which seemed so long ago now, I tried to figure out how that could've happened.
Looking slightly amused, Will responded. "No, they didn't. That was unrelated. They thought you were writing on the assassination of the weightless C.E.O. It was a mistake on their part, but it still resulted in you being targeted."
"Oh…" Suddenly I remembered the murder which could only have been a suicide; the weightless who had fallen from his office window and died. "But that can't be right; you can't murder a weightless by making them fall."
"That's exactly what they want to cover up. They've found a way to inhibit weightless from flying. To ground them." He swallowed, looked down, and continued, "They've kidnapped several weightless to test on, and apparently they thought he was a security risk. And now you are too."
I stared dumbstruck at him, not comprehending anything beyond inhibiting flying. That was worse than anything. Suddenly, I was brought back to the conversation at hand when Will brought up my choices.
Leaning towards me from his seat, will gave me some options. "You're safe here with us. Only a few of the people here know who you are, and none at all would turn you in. You can stay and help us out if you like, help uncover what they're doing, help stop them. Or we can just let you stay here and hide out until you're safe, although there's no way to know how long that would be." Will clearly thought the first was the best option, and with some hesitation, he went onto the third option. "If you don't want to stay here at all, we can get you supplies and help you restart in a new city where they can't find you. Or we can even just have you go off and do your own thing with only what help you want."
The choices presented, he made sure I know whichever choice I made, I was welcome to change my mind and come back or leave at any time. He sounded quite sincere, but I thought the best thing to do would still be to not trust him fully.
"That's quite some decision." I stated, leaning back and thinking. "If you don't mind, I'd like a chance to think things through." Standing up, I went and shook Will and Julie's hands. Will stood up with me, and told me that of course I had plenty of time. I walked out of the meeting room and headed out one of the nearby exits, flying up to one of the sentry mountaintops to think in peace.
Knowing what I did about the group, I wasn't quite sure about how safe it really was. I knew some really secluded caves south of here, places nobody would be able to find me. It would be nice to have fresh supplies though, and a way to buy more without being traced. Before long, I made my decision, to accept supplies from the group, but to go off on my own. Having also spent the time calming down, the idea of something that could prevent weightless from flying sounded more and more ridiculous. So I headed back to the hideout and let them know my decision.
Will agreed readily enough, and by mid afternoon I had everything I had requested. Eating a quick meal, I headed outside to take off, pausing to analyze the map on the wall in case I ever needed anything. As soon as I was outside, I flew away, not caring who had seen me, not slowing down for a couple of hours. I didn't pay any attention to where I was headed; I simply went deeper into the forest, away from the base and away from the city.
Suddenly breaking out of the forest over a big lake, I stopped and landed on the cliff at the edge of the lake. I went and sat down in front of a nearby tree, leaning back against the trunk. Before I knew it, I'd fallen into a light doze.
Struggling to get through the constricting undergrowth, I wondered why I felt so heavy, why I was so slow. I needed to go faster, they were catching up, I could hear them behind me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't go faster, couldn't fly. Coming to a cliff, knowing that I still couldn't fly, but not wanting to get caught, I jumped, screaming, and fell…
I woke up with a start, covered in sweat. The sun was starting to set, and the temperature was beginning to drop. Deep in thought about the disturbing dream, I went and gathered firewood, starting a small campfire and setting up camp at the top of the cliff. Tonight would be cold, but at least there would be plenty of stars out. After eating a fire roasted fish from the lake below, I leaned back against the tree again, covering myself with a blanket to keep warm.
Watching the stars wheeling above me, I heard voices echoing up the cliff from the lake below me. Letting my fire burn down for the night, I ignored the people, and continued watching the sky, watching for stray falling stars. With a giant splash, the noise from below got much louder, stirring me from the light doze I had fallen in to. Curious to see what was going on, I laid on the edge of the cliff, and looked down at the people on the other side of the lake.
A dark SUV was parked near the shore, with headlights shining on the four people on the shore, and one floundering in the water. As I watched, the guy in the water tried to get out, and was pushed back in again with a splash. "Come on, fly away!" The one in front taunted the swimmer, his voice echoing across the lake and up to me. "Aww, having trouble?" Harsh laughter followed, echoing back and forth across the lake.
Wading out to the swimmer, one of the men reached out to help him to his feet. "We're not here to drown him, we still need him." He stated to the others, "We're still figuring out just how well the NF works." Dragging the swimmer onto land, he glared at the most aggressive man. The swimmer, whom I could now see was young, broke free and ran down the shore, closely chased by three of the other men.
The man who had dragged the swimmer out of the water called the three back, letting the swimmer get away down the lake shore towards me. About 150 yards away from the truck, the swimmer took off into the sky. With a malicious grin, the man who hadn't chased after the swimmer took out a remote, pointed it at the man in the air, and pushed a button. With only that one movement for warning, the swimmer fell from the sky.
Groaning, the man tried to take off again, but by then three of the men from the SUV had surrounded him, and were dragging him back towards the SUV, where the man with the remote was waiting. Reaching down to the now unconscious swimmer, the man took something off of him and tossed it into the truck. Taking the unconscious man with them, the four men climbed into the SUV and drove off into the forest, leaving the silent lakeshore behind them.
Shocked by what I had just seen, I lay motionless at the top of the cliff and watched the shore return to normal, the animals which had hidden coming out again. The peaceful night suddenly seemed much more dangerous. Quickly, I put out the smoldering remains of my fire and attempted to remove any trace that I had been here. As soon as I was satisfied, I took off, flying low through the trees back in the direction that I had flown from earlier.
Unfortunately, I hadn't paid close enough attention to where I had flown from, so before long, I was forced to fly above the treetops to get a better idea of which direction to fly. I flew high in the air, so that hopefully anyone on the ground wouldn't see me in the dark. It was far colder up here, but the air was clearer and I could see where I was headed, and stay out of developed areas. After a couple hours of flying, I could see the landscape of the area near the hideout. I realized that I hadn't flown as far as I thought I had earlier, or I must have flown much faster on the way back. Spotting the hideout, I flew down to it at a very sharp angle, landing in front and running to the people who had noticed me coming and come out to see what was going on.
Chewing his lip, the nighttime cook opened the door for me, "Welcome back, shooting star." Looking at him curiously about the nickname but making no comment about it, I headed inside.