AN: This chapter is very informational so if you don't understand something or if the wording isn't clear, please let me know!
It takes me the remaining five minutes to get what happened out of Patrick and two hours on the bus to process everything that I learned.
"Just like with you and the rest, it happened late in the night, probably around one or two. The guys and I were up, watching something on the crappy TV in our hotel. He was disguised as room service to bring us the food Matt ordered and attacked as soon as Ben opened the door. We ganged up on the poor bastard; he fled as soon as he realized it was a lost cause. Ben fell in some broken glass during the fight and cut up his arm pretty bad. He needed some stitches. Right now, we're just waiting for him to be discharged."
I nod my head; glad no one is around as I sit on the picnic table, feeling the rough wood nudging my exposed thighs. "You're not hurt though, right?"
"Ah no," He says, hushed but with his facetious tone he reminds me, "super solider, remember? On top of being awesome, I'm also a super healer."
I want to smile at his joke but my mind is too full with everything wrong. I bite my lip instead. "All right, Captain America wannabe." My tone is sharper than I intended so I quickly say, "can we be serious about this? What's going on?"
He heaves a huge sigh, like he had been holding his breath for a while. I imagine him in a stark white hospital, sitting on one of those benches that line the wall with no backs and the illusion of padding. One of his legs is stretched out while the other one is bouncing on its toes. He does that when he's stressing over something and this is definitely something I would label 'stressful.' "I knew something was wrong that day you arrived in Italy." He tells me slowly and my heart sinks. "It was like your arrival was last domino to fall into place for their attack. That day was the first time I felt like there was someone watching me."
That day at the airport is when I met Airport Attacker (I really need to find out his name). He was waiting for me there. He probably reported back to his group the moment I stepped off the airplane and out of US protection.
I know he's not blaming me but I'm blaming myself. If I hadn't come on this trip, all of the Agency Kids wouldn't be outside the protection of the states, alone and vulnerable for whatever may come. And, as fate would have it, something was definitely coming. "I'm so sorry…" I whisper, my fingers touching my lips in worry and guilt and every other emotion that is fighting for attention at the moment.
He shushes me like I'm being absurd, "It's not your fault. We should have known this would happen. The government starts using genetically modified teens to help with missions and assignments- of course the other countries would hear about it and know about us. As luck would have it, everything just fell into place for all of us to be out in the open at the same time. The secret weapons the United States government has been hiding is finally revealed."
"It seems too perfect, doesn't it?" I mumble to him, looking skyward at perfectly calm clouds drifting slowly across the clearest of blue skies. Behind me, someone yells at us to hit the bathroom if we need it. We're running out of time. "What do you think they know about us? They obviously know what we look like. But do they know what we can do?"
Neither of us could answer that question. To be honest, we didn't even know what our files said, let alone if some leak at the agency had seen them and sold the information. Did our parents know if there was a leak? Probably not. They wouldn't let us out of the country if they thought it was dangerous. If it's not a leak, could it be one of our faults? Did someone see Patrick during one of his missions? Did one of my prisoners remember something they shouldn't? Maybe Izzy healed the wrong person? Or Sean fixed the wrong equipment and blew his cover? Sonny might have changed in front of the wrong people or did she overexert herself and do inhumanly things?
I'll drive myself crazy with all of this. I just know I will.
There are two options I've come up with as to how to continue. The first involves crying to daddy dearest and probably the president and maybe starting an international affair. Of course, that also means leaving Italy and probably never being allowed out of the states until I die- unless I have a full time bodyguard. Which, means no fun. Ever. Hell, dad might give me a bodyguard on US soil too. Awesome.
The second involves finding out what the hell they want with us and who the hell they are. What country or group are they acting for? What do they know? Where did they get the information on us? As far as I knew, codename: Charlie's Children was of the highest classification. Not even the president knew what was happening until the CIA already had the human tests running. Plausible deniability, should the tests turn sour or something dreadful.
My dad filled me in a few years back when I started getting suspicious as to why I always had to go to the doctor's office at his work and why that time I was nine at a friend's house and needed stitches after falling out of a tree, he freaked out because I went to the normal hospital. My blood is special he told me at the time. It needed to be taken and seen by the right people or something bad could happen. Then, around puberty, my affliction kicked in. Everything made sense.
It was a hard pill to swallow but I accepted what I couldn't change and continued with my life. Shortly after, the government asked for me to assist in their operations when word got to the higher ups about what my capabilities were. My main job was interrogation. With my touch ability, learning if someone is lying is as easy as tying my shoes. Need information out of someone? A brief touch while they're thinking about the subject matter and I'll get everything they know.
They aren't thinking about it? Well, I'll just hold on longer. The longer the touch, the stronger the connection and the more access I have to what's going on in his or her mind.
"We're relying on a kid for this. What the hell is the world turning to?" I could hear someone mutter to their companion, who just nodded in return. My dad glared at them but I just smiled. It felt so cool and grown up to be helping out my dad's office with stuff and being the only one to do it was just the icing on the cupcake! Who cares what those old farts say?
My dad led me into one of those rooms I see on cop shows all the time. It had the one-way mirror and through it, I could see a scared looking woman biting the nails of her wrist bound hands. There was a man in the room with her who I had seen a few times before on my trips here but I didn't know his name. My dad knocked on the glass and the man took that as a sign to leave the room and come into ours.
The man steps in, taller than my dad with a scar on his cheek and gray speckled hair. He looks at me in my cotton shorts and t-shirt and scuffs. "This is our secret weapon?" When it became clear this wasn't a joke, he held the door open for me and said, "Surprise me." Even I could tell he had little hope for this to be successful.
Within three minutes, Gary had changed his tune when I walked back in and told him simply, "The heel of her shoe is hollow and plated with aluminum to deter the scanners. That's how she's been sneaking in a pen drive to sell information."
I didn't realize Sonny, Sean, Patrick and Izzy were also a part of the tests until I ran into Sean in the cafeteria, discussing something highly scientific with some of the engineers. It clicked when we saw each other. All those times our parents put the five of us together; all the times we were shuffled in and out of the White Coat's offices. We were never alone in this adult world we found ourselves in the middle of- we always had each other.
Before we could talk and marvel at our stupidity Bradley, my keeper of the day, had nudged me along, telling me we only had a few minutes to grab food before we were due back. Sean and I shared a mutual look of 'we need to talk' as we were pulled away by our respective babysitters.
It made me think about how I saw Izzy in the White Coat's office during one of my usual checkups just days before running into Sean and I remembered the first time I met Patrick, in the same office and all the times I have seen Sonny walking in after me.
The world shifted that day. I was fourteen, having done work at the agency for nearly two years at that point. My dad and I had already been living in our new house, just outside the city so he was closer to the other buildings he was doing work for (he still works for the agency, but his skill set was requested by multiple agencies and therefore he hops between the different buildings during the week. The place we moved into was within an hour or less of all the places he was officially helping). Because of the distance, I wasn't as connected with the others as I used to be.
I was in a different school district than my friends were. For the three years I had been gone at that point, I had only really seen the group during Take Your Child to Work Day or Family Day- which is still the most ridiculous of holidays I have ever heard a government building (let alone the Central Intelligence Agency) allowing.
Before the move, the Agency Kids had been inseparable. From what Sonny told me, once I was gone, the group basically drifted apart. She had joined cheerleading, Izzy had become a dancer. Sean was on the science and technology club and Patrick was that guy in school everyone wanted to join the team.
But now we had a new reason to stay together. Secrets can bide people in stronger ties than anything else, I think. That's what brought us back together, at least.
When Patrick got his driver's license, we'd flip weekends. One weekend, they'd all come up to visit me (I was only an hour drive from the city) and the other, he'd pick me up and drive me to Sonny's house and we'd all spend the weekend doing anything and everything. Then, this year, when I got my shiny license, I was free to drive myself.
Our friendship had never been stronger.
During our weekends, we'd gossip about everything we weren't supposed. I'd tell them about what person I interrogated while Sean would modestly inform us about the newest spy gear he helped create. Patrick would usually be able to agree or disagree with how amazing the said device was and the guys would go off into a corner and discuss how to make improvements or what the new 'toy' should be. Izzy usually rolled her eyes and say something dramatic about how she saved a life with her healing traits. Sonny always brought the conversation back to herself and would remind the room about how amazing her shifting abilities are or she'd stretch a limb unusually far just to boast without the task of speaking.
These are the memories I'd always remember and the moments I'll always cherish. We were free to be ourselves- mutated, genetically altered and all!
This won't break us, I remind myself. This won't be the reason we drift again. We'll stick together. We'll stay strong. We'll learn what's happening and we'll fight back.
"Hey Tru," I jump as the voice comes from next to my ear. Whipping my head around, I notice that Bindi is leaning over the empty seat next to me, trying to catch my attention. I had been too lost in my thoughts, in the past and the present, to realize what is going on around me.
She frowned at the flinch I gave and I smile wearily at her, "Hi Bindi, what can I do for ya?"
After a pause of her scrutinizing me, she slides into the aisle seat. "Monica-" Shirley, it takes me a second to make the connection, "told me you were talking to your dad at the rest stop." I hope they didn't do the math and realize it would have been nearly five in the morning back home, had I actually called him. "I just wanted to make sure everything went okay… You've been a little dazed over here."
"Oh yeah!" I smile wider, "My dad was just super concerned and guilt tripped me hardcore telling me I was a bad luck magnet and if I actually called him more often, I probably wouldn't get almost robbed in the middle of the night." I made a face at her which got her to crack a smile, "I'm not really sure how those two go together but I just let him win…"
Callie takes the seat as soon as Bindi moves back to her seat after she's satisfied I'm not in shock or something and everything is okay with my dad. I had turned to the window, letting the calming scenery wash over me as I fiddled with my phone, waiting for replies to the mass text I sent out to everyone. I feel helpless and stir-crazy, being trapped in this bus surrounded by people who don't understand.
When I saw movement of someone sliding into the seat beside me, my first reaction is to roll my eyes and 'I'm fine' is at the tip of my tongue. But when I turned, I'm surprised to see my tiny blond haired friend looking at me with solemn eyes.
My voice fails me and we just stare at each other in silence. Her fingers are twisting together, showing her nerves.
"Are you okay?" And the dreaded question.
I smile at her, "I'm totally fine." She looks unsure and I continue, "My dad has had me in self-defense classes since I could walk. A one-on-one fight is a cake walk for me."
It makes her smile but her eyes are still on my neck, "Does it hurt?" She asks, gesturing to the scarf with her chin.
Yes. "Not really." I shrug, "This thing is the only probably." I tug at the tails of the fabric.
"Can I see it?" Her voice is quiet as she asks, like it some kind of secret between us. I'm hesitant to show her, knowing that it looks worse than it actually is.
"Maybe later?" I suggest, leaning closer to whisper to her, I say, "the teachers have been freaking out all day so I don't want to remind them of last night."
She nods understandingly, "oh, okay. I understand!" She sounds dejected but I honestly don't want to start something right now. Looking for split ends at the end of her ponytail, she changes the subject, "so, how have Maggie and Terry been taking it?"
When she mentions my roommates, I look across the aisle at them. They're curled towards each other, sleeping with coats over their bodies for warmth. I'm half surprised that Terry isn't sitting with her mom, but her mother is sitting in the seat in front of her so maybe that's enough.
"I think they're still in shock. I doubt they ever expected this would happen to them and they certainly don't know how to handle themselves in a fight." I try to joke; it fails.
Callie glances at them, "I'd probably freak out if it happened in my room…" She turns back to me, "I heard them yelling for help and knocking on all the doors. When I didn't see you, I was terrified you were hurt. And then, you walked out of your room, bleeding and red I think I started crying." Her eyes turn red and I think she's going to start crying again.
"It's okay. Everything is okay. I'm okay and nothing like this will probably ever happen again, especially not while we're here. Even if it does," I flex my arm muscles to get her to laugh, "I'll be here to kick some ass." I'm impressed with how easily I'm lying to her. My gut is telling me I won't finish the trip with this group and the bag at my feet remind me that what happened last night is not the last of it.
I spend the remainder of the bus ride texting the others and pretending to sleep. I wanted to call but I couldn't on the bus with everyone awake. They could easily overhear and misunderstand- or worse, they could overhear and not misunderstand.
Sonny is doing okay. Her ankle is twice its normal size and throbbing like a mothertrucker but she's managing it. Her only fear is not being able to move fast enough if another attack happens. I try not to think about what would happen is someone comes after me again tonight. My hands fiddle with the scarf around my red neck. I'm sure the chaperons would have a heart attack if someone 'broke into' my room.
Izzy says that, while she loves her family dearly, she doesn't know how much longer she can stay with them. Thankfully, her mom's side of the family doesn't actually know what her dad does, so they just think it's a freak accident and sees no reason to make a big deal about it.
'They bought new locks for the windows and doors today. It's a family project to get them installed.'
I can just feel her enthusiasm and respond with, 'at least they haven't mentioned it to your dad!'
'-_- bright side, I guess…'
Sean, on the other hand, it greatly annoyed at the interruption of his studies.
'I have had to speak with the police and get them my statement several times today. Hours of my life I will never get back!'
Part of me isn't surprised that his biggest concern is his work. Sean's a genius with an affinity to technology that allows him to somehow communicate with it and understand how it works just by looking at it. He tried to explain it to me once and said that when he looks at equipment his mind automatically takes it apart much like a bored student would a pen. On top of that, he's also got an eidetic memory. Though, I'm not one hundred percent sure that's because of the tests we were put through.
I continue my conversations with all of them, occasionally texting Patrick to see how his friend is doing. They're distracted, I notice but I'm not surprised. Their heads are probably just as full as mine with what we should do next.
AN: WHOOOOT, done with another chapter!