A policeman shuddered as a cool, September wind rolled off of his body. He looked around, his flashlight waving frantically in an attempt to penetrate the dark. "Sir, sir did you just feel that?" He moaned, flashing his light at his superior.
The superior yelled in surprise, "Matt, you dolt! Point that somewhere else! 'Sides, it's the wind. Only you could freak out over wind!"
"But sir—" Matt started piteously, "I got that feeling again!"
His superior cut him off, "Matt, that 'feeling' is the wind! It's always been the wind. It will always be the wind, now I don't want to hear another word about it!"
Matt turned his flashlight away, muttering half-heartedly under his breath, "This isn't some stupid wind." He huffed, pulling his light up to his chest, "I know the difference between the breeze and a gut feelin, sir."
"You're still green." His superior scoffed, "You don't know what a gut feelin' is until somethin's happened on the night shift." Shaking his head, he watched the boy mutter to himself for a moment or so, before turning back to the path ahead of him. Why his chief insisted on babysitting the newbies was beyond him. Even with his slight gimp, he believed his usefulness far exceeded what the chief believed. He sighed, pulling out a pair of light binoculars as he peered to see if all was still calm. He was surprised to find a tall silhouette running towards the police station, with no intention of slowing down. "Matt!" He snapped, "Get to the station, now!"
Matt was shocked into doing as he was order, darting into the building a little ways off. The superior lifted his binoculars again, watching the figure barreling their way. Once he believed they were too close for the use of binoculars, he slipped them around his neck and pulled out his own flashlight and hand pistol, propping the gun's barrel towards the mysterious shade as the flashlight slid overtop. "Freeze!" He flicked the light on as the figure drew close, "Don't move-I'd really rather not use this." A small lie, but one worth telling to gain the person's trust.
"No, don't! Please, put the gun down, I have a child with me!" The figure, now more obviously a woman, called. Her voice was strained, and she was indeed carrying a young child, who was unidentifiable at first glance, face hidden in the woman's shoulder and body covered by a man's jacket.
The gun was pointed away, pointed up to the sky as the flashlight spotlighted her, "Ma'am, are you in trouble?" The commanding officer asked, eyeing the woman's flannelled pants curiously.
The woman came closer, nodding and squinting at the flashlight, "Y-yes. It's my husband, his Alternate took over..." She started, when the child in her arms woke up, murmuring drowsily and straightening up, revealing the face of a little girl blinking at the offensive light.
"Could you tell me how long ago this occurred?" A standard case. The officer resisted a heavy sigh, putting a reassuring smile on his face as he asked his questions.
"Around six hours ago, we had to leave. He's following us and James can't retake control." The woman said, her fear seeming almost disproportionate to such a routine problem.
"James is his name?" The officer nodded, glancing back at the police station. It must be the first time this has happened to her. "Alright, don't worry ma'am. We'll send a patrol out to apprehend him. Has he been taking any prescribed medication?"
The woman shook her head, "Beyond the normal suppressants for an Alternate, no." The little girl looked up, staring openly at the gun in the officer's hand.
"And, I'm sorry to ask," He looked between the mother and daughter, "How long since your last doses? Standard procedure, I assure you."
"It was about three this afternoon." She said, "I don't know if sending anyone after him is a good idea..." The woman finally said, her expression half-nervous and half-exhausted.
"Don't worry, ma'am." The man holstered his gun, keeping his flashlight out as he led the frazzled woman towards the police station, "We deal with cases like these all the time. In the meantime, you can settle down at our station. We've got a few spare bottles of pills you're welcome to."
"Not like him, I don't think you do. Not him. His alternate is so strong..." The young girl laid her head back down on her mother's shoulder, prompting the woman to start rubbing her back soothingly with her free hand.
"Just leave it to us." He reassured. "Can I get your name, for record's sake?"
"Olive McCoy, and my daughter is Adelaide McCoy." The girl shot up at the sound of her full name, as if she thought she were in trouble.
"It's alright, you're safe now." The officer reassured. "May I lead the way, Ma'am?"
Olive nodded, coaxing Addie's head back onto her shoulder, the drowsy girl complied, staring sleepily at nothing as they walked.
Matt nearly bashed his knees on the office table as he stood to salute his office, "O-Officer Durward—I mean sir!" He straightened out as Olive appeared behind him, "D-did you intercept the intruders?"
"They weren't intruders." Durward answered gruffly, but didn't offer any further explanation, "Make sure they're comfortable. I'm offta get a group together to get her husband."
"U-Uh, of couse!" Matt stood rigid as his commanding officer slipped out the door, allowing himself to relax slightly as he heard the door slam shut. He turned back around, giving the woman and child a woman smile, "W-welcome. If y-you need anything, don't hesitate to ask."
"Somewhere for my daughter and I to rest, maybe?" Olive asked tiredly, "We've been running all night, and it's all I can do not to collapse."
Matt nodded furiously, wondering their motives, but not wanting to be rude. "O-Of course! There's a futon in the back." He maneuvered past the two towards the back, gesturing them to follow, "Do you, uh, need anything else?"
"I don't think so, not right this moment." Olive said, sitting down heavily once the futon was set up. She laid Addie down on the mattress next to her, and leaned against the wall, giving her daughter more room.
"Uh, alright," Matt started out the doorway, "Just uh, don't be afraid to call!" Closing the door lightly behind him, he made his way back to his desk, wondering what the chief knew that he didn't. His first thoughts were an Alternate takeover, but he was unsure why anyone would have to run so long. It could be a standard case of abuse, but it looked like they simply suffered from fatigue. He'd never met an Alternate who couldn't be fought down, or engendered so much fear from someone else. So what was different about this man?
He put it down to thinking it hadn't happened to this particular woman before and sighed, rooting through his desk. There had to be paperwork for this. There was paperwork for everything. It was better than getting wound up. Once he was wound, his teeth would start chattering again. The last thing these folks needed to see was a broken down man of the law.
Addie blinked awake again around ten minutes after Matt left the room, "Mama..." She mumbled drowsily, "We home?"
"Not quite, Bee." Olive smiled, stroking her daughter's hair away from her face as she pulled her up to her lap, "Maybe soon."
"Oh." Addie leaned back, onto her mother, "Where are we, then? And where's Daddy?"
"We're at a police station." Olive continued, tucking a strand of her own hair behind her ear.
"Is Daddy still chasing us?" Addie asked, more wakeful now and looking up at Olive.
Olive bit her lip, "A nice man went to go help Daddy out. He'll be alright soon."
"He won't be a nice man very long, will he, Mama?"
Olive's eyes widened, instinctively pulling Addie closer to her chest, "Just go back to sleep, ok?
Policemen are trained for this." She almost sounded as if she was trying to reassure herself.
"They aren't going to catch Daddy." Addie said solemnly.
Trying to hide her distress, Olive asked, "You don't think so?"
Addie shook her head, "He's gonna catch them."
The sky had faded from its rosy hue, giving way to the night sky. Flat, rib-like clouds drifted lazily across, occasionally covering up what few stars could be seen.
"Looks like storms are in the future." Durward noted, turning back to the spotlighted road as the patrol car bumbled along the country road.
"More rain?" An obnoxious groan came from the backseat, "Haven't we had enough?"
"Keeps drying up too quick." A woman, similar to Durward's own age, commented lightly as her gaze stayed fixated on the road as well. "Do us some good."
"Rain and storms mean trouble for the power." The younger voice insisted, "Especially if they're as big as the last few."
"Roderick," The woman turned slightly in her seat, strands of salt and pepper hair tumbling past her shoulders as dulled, lavender eyes glared in the dark, "I told you that you could come along if you wouldn't be noisy."
"I'm not being noisy!" Roderick protested, "Durward's the one that brought up the storms."
"He's alright, Marina," Durward insisted, "He's got a sharp mind. That's good for a budding investigator. Kept us alive in our own time."
"You just like him 'cause he sounds like you did when we were his age." Marina said, crossing her arms.
"Oh man, I'm gonna end up like him?" Roderick stuck his head out from the back, bearing a striking resemblance to Maria, from the dark, coppery skin to the thick, black ponytail pulled high upon his head. He smiled, mustard-colored eyes twinkling as he continued, "Geez, talk about a career killer."
Marina shoved him back into his place, "There is a difference. Durward could mind his manners and shut his trap." She said, glaring at him.
"Hey hey, I'm just kidding!" Roderick chuckled, "Who wouldn't wanna grow up to be the legend whispered in every station around?"
"Now you're sucking up." Durward laughed, "C'mon, keep a lookout for this Alternate that's running around. Poor woman at our station's scared out of her mind, we might as well put him right."
"I thought Alternate's were just crazy and annoying?" Roderick continued.
"Normally, yeah. I don't she's had to deal with her husband's before. At least with the way she was acting." Durward said, "Also, they tend to get touchy if you call 'em names, Roderick."
"Maybe we should just keep him in the car." Marina sighed heavily.
"Nah, he's gotta learn," Durward insisted, "And I don't think shovin' him behind us'll teach him anything."
Marina leaned back in her seat, rubbing her arms absentmindedly as she looked out the window, "I know, I know, we all start somewhere."
"Can I taze him?" Roderick sounded incredibly enthusiastic from the back.
"No." The older officers snapped in unison, as a distant figure becoming just visible in the headlights.
"Alright, kill the lights." Marina ordered as the car came to a slow stop. With a nod, Durward clicked the lights off, shrouding the figure in the dark once more. The door clicked and swung open as the two officers slipped out of the car. "Come on, Roderick," She called, banging on the top of the hood, "Let's go."
Roderick jumped out of the car, "So what are we doing? How do we know it's him?"
"We check his eyecolor," Marina explained as she pulled out her flashlight, "Then we'll cuff him, hold him down, and medicate. It's standard procedure, though it can get a little rough sometimes."
"What color are his eyes s'posed to be?" Roderick asked, "And what are the Alt's?
"Green and red, respectively." Durward responded, shining his own light toward the ground. "Got the pills, Marina?"
Marina shook the bottle by way of answer, "So little faith." She laughed, "C'mon boys, stallin' never made a man braver."
"Go ahead and take junior on over," Durward chuckled as he slipped a walkie-talkie out from his pocket, "Just gonna let the wife know we found him safe and sound."
Marina nodded, and led Roderick toward the figure in the distance, while Durward took up his walkie-talkie, "All right, we've found him."
After a moment, Mat responded, sounding vaguely frustrated at something, "Oh, good! Good, do you want me to go get his wife and tell her or no?"
"Go ahead." Dorward looked up, watching Marina lead Roderick towards the Alternate with her flashlight trailing on the ground, more than likely explaining the procedure to the young cop. "We should this wrapped up in a bit. Maybe it'll put her mind at ease."
"Right, I'll get right on it. Over." As quietly as he could, Matt knocked on the door to the break room, "Ma'am? Are you asleep?"
"No, but my daughter is." Olive said softly through the door, cracking it open slightly to reveal a sliver of her face. "What is it?"
'She looks so tired.' Matt thought to himself as he continued, "Uh, we—Durward—Officer Durward—found your husband."
In the dim light of the break room, Olive seemed to pale, "Is he all right?"
"Yes, of course!" Matt exclaimed, "He's being taken care of as we speak." He winced slightly as Addie let out a soft moan. "Uh, w-would you like to come with me? O-Officer Durward will keep me posted as the procedure takes place."
Olive stopped herself before saying that it wasn't her husband she was worried about, and nodded, "O-of course."
The two went out to the main desk, where he'd left the walkie-talkie to crackle. Sitting down on the chair, Matt picked it back up and held the talk button down, "Hey, Durward?"
"Come on, officer, you know the proper way to do this! Over." Durward's voice came over the set after a moment.
"S-sorry sir!" Matt stammered, fumbling with the walkie talkie, "I-ah-got the wife, like you asked. Over."
"Did you fill her in on the current situation?" Durward asked, pausing as he added, "Over."
"Yeah, I did. She seemed real worried about it, though. Over." Matt said. Olive didn't seem to be paying attention to him, however.
"Ma'am, the situation's under control." Durward started, "I've got two of my best apprehending him now. We'll bring him back just as soon as we turn him."
Olive nodded mutely, so Matt had to relay, "She understands, sir. Over."
"Good. Looks like we've got this just about wrapped—" The radio suddenly erupted in a burst of static, turning what was once a sentence into an incoherent garble.
"S-sir?" Matt called, and suddenly Olive looked very focused, staring unwaveringly at the walkie-talkie. Matt tried again, "Sir, there's interference, you're going to need to repeat yourself. Over." A high-pitched scream was his only response, followed by a period of complete silence.
"Sir?" Matt called, panicking as Olive moaned softly to herself.
The walkie-talkie stayed silent for a good minute or two, before it clicked back on, something mumbling on the other end.
"Sir?" Mat sounded relieved, "Sir, what happened? Who screamed? Are you all alright?"
Another brief pause, and the device clicked once more, "Why, but of coourse, my buzzling, bumbling guard drone! What ever-dee-dever made you think something was amiss?"
Olive paled, her hands flying to her mouth. she heard Addie start to stir and quickly closed the door, staying as quiet as she could.
"Wh-who are you?" Matt asked, trying to stay calm despite the off-balance new voice.
A whimsical giggle assaulted the walkie-talkie, "Ooooh, but wouldn't you like to know?"
"Yeah, I would, as a matter of fact." Matt said, his voice stronger. Olive slipped away, into the room where Addie was, quietly shaking her awake and looking apprehensively out the window, knowing the man Matt was speaking to had to be drawing closer.
"But that's just like a bee," The voice continued, "Always a-buzzing around and bother kind souls. Though, don't you knoow?" Another snicker, "A bee can't be for long-ity long without its sting-ity sting!"
"What does that mean?" Matt demanded, standing up. In the other room, Olive started to ease the window open, listening hard to the conversation Matt was having.
"But my jar is so sad-ity-sad," He continued, "Emptier than yourself, my bumbly bee! It's certainly not full enough, oh no! It needs more creepily crawlies to fill it up!"
After determining that the area was clear, Olive slipped Addie out the window, lowering her gently and quietly to the ground before starting out herself. Matt shook his head, "You're not making sense! Who are you?"
"A man of little cents." The voice said, "Not a penny to my name-diddy-dame!" It dropped to a venomous tone as it added, "I hope that changes so very very soon, unless that Wildfire keeps burning."
"...Wildfire?" Matt asked, his curiosity suddenly distracting him, "What do you mean wildfire?"
"The one you let burn burn burn all through the day." The voice sang, "And burn –a-dee-durn right from under your nosity nose, bumbly bee?"
He thought for a moment before running to the break room, only to find it empty and the window wide open.
"Try again." The voice sang.
Matt's eyes shot wide, he thought he'd left the walkie-talkie in the main office, he turned to see if he'd put it on the desk, suddenly confronted with the largest, cloaked figure he'd ever dreamed to see. A pair of wide, scarlet eyes were visible through the hood as the voice from the walkie-talkie spoke,
"Do you know what comes after the rain, bumbling bee?"
A crack of lightning lit up the entire office, blinding Matt as boom shook the office. He rubbed his eyes furiously, scrambling away from the figure as quickly as he could. He let out a yelp as his head hit the cabinet hard, causing him to sway as he sank to the ground, clutching his skull within his hands. He felt someone jerk him up onto his feet, nearly dislocating his shoulder in the process. Opening his now watering eyes, he looked beside him, surprised to see two familiar faces holding him still.
"Roderick?" He choked out, turning to the older woman, "M-Marina?"
Both looked at him with different shades of piercing blue.
"Do you know what comes after the rain, bumbling bee?" The cloaked figure asked again, taking a step into the room as a crooked smile spread across his face. "A shower of twittery, jittery insects."