Perseus and Vlidia glided through the alleyway in an attempt to lose their pursuer. They made their way into a corner deli and took refuge there.
"Did we lose him?" Perseus asked in a breathy voice.
Vlidia chanced a few glances at the window from behind an aisle of potato chips and nodded to her sister.
"Best not to take any chances though, let's stay here for a while," Vlidia whispered.
The store manager was bewildered by these two women who just ran to the back of his store. After about 30 minutes, he decided to go and investigate.
"May I ask you ladies what you are doing back here?" he asked politely.
"Umm...we're just here to buy some groceries," Perseus murmured.
"But you haven't picked out one thing yet and you've been back here for over 30 minutes," the owner stated.
"Uhh...sorry...we'll leave now," Perseus responded.
He isn't the type of person to stay in one place for too long after all, Perseus thought to herself.
The two women made their way out of the cramped store and looked both directions before walking into the subway station.
"Where will we stay now?" Vlidia asked while they both shuffled into the Manhattan-bound L train.
"I have a friend that owns an apartment in the meat-packing district," Perseus responded. "She agreed to let us both stay there as long as we pay a small portion of the rent."
"That's a huge relief, I didn't know that you had a friend in New York," Vlidia said.
"She recently moved here from San Francisco," Perseus explained.
They remained quiet for the rest of the train ride. Perseus and Vlidia have been on the run for the past two weeks. A man from an organization called Alermenia was sent to recruit the two of them. Alermenia was owned by their uncle and was located in San Francisco, the city that they grew up in and was forced to flee from. The sole purpose of Alermenia was to find and recruit people that were descendants of the man named David Alermen.
David Alermen was born in 1974 during the end of the Vietnam War as Ang Dung Mac in the city of Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City). His biological mother was a prostitute named Bao Minh Mac and his biological father was a US soldier stationed in Saigon named Nathaniel Chobot. As was often the case during the Vietnam War, US soldiers would conceive a child with one of the natives and return to the U.S. without being any the wiser. Ang Dung's prospects of life after birth were extremely grim. He was born from a mother that could barely support herself and his father in the U.S. did not even know that he existed. To make matters worse, he contracted polio at two years of age taking away his ability to walk. Bao Minh, unwilling and unable to support him anymore managed to get him on an airlift that would bring him to the U.S. where there was hope of a better life. Little did Bao Minh know, Ang Dung would be acquainted with his biological father in 11 years.
Ang Dung's adoptive parents in San Francisco, Lyle and Martha Alermen absolutely adored him. They re-Christened him David and did everything to accommodate him in order to make his disability more bearable. David however, did not let his being bound to a wheelchair stop him from enjoying all that life had to offer. His upper body gained tremendous strength as he aged and by the age of 10, he was able to best his father in sports that only required his arms like basketball and badminton. He even beat his father in arm wrestling on multiple occasions. At school, he was always surrounded by a group of children who admired the incredible strength and precision that he demonstrated in the gymnasium.
Shortly after celebrating his 13th birthday, his parents noticed another peculiarity: he was talking in his sleep for prolonged periods of time. They passed it off as puberty at first but became increasingly concerned when he started to do it more frequently. Eventually, it became a routine occurrence every night when he was fast asleep. Lyle and Martha decided to take turns to listen in on what he was saying in his sleep. At first, it sounded like a bunch of disjointed sentences or ramdom words about what he had done during the day. They decided to keep a log of what he was saying every night so that maybe they could find some hint of what was causing this. Despite pages upon pages of logs from countless nights, they could not pinpoint what was the problem. Finally, one night Lyle was in the middle of jotting down what his son was mumbling in his sleep and heard the words "visitors" and "daughter." He stopped writing and looked up. Those were two words he was pretty sure that he never heard his son say in his sleep before. The Alermen family had never gotten visitors before. Both Lyle and Martha's parents passed away a long time ago and Martha was the only one with siblings but she lost them both in the war in Vietnam. Could he be referring to visitors that they were getting in class tomorrow? And why would he say "daughter" for he pondered.
"You're over-thinking this, people can say anything in their sleep," he chuckled to himself.
He jotted down the two words anyways as he had always done. Deciding to call it quits for the night, he retreated back to his room and climbed back on to his bed next to Martha in the room next door. Those two words lingered in his mind until he fell asleep.
The next morning, Martha was shopping for groceries at the local supermarket. She stopped first at the fish section wondering if they should have bass or flounder that night. A baseball rolled up to her feet and a little girl about three or four years-old ran over to retrieve it.
"Leslie, where are you!?" a man screamed frantically.
He ran out of the aisle for dairy products, spotted Leslie standing next to Martha and ran over to her.
"I was worried sick about you!" he exclaimed. "Don't wander off on your own again!"
He looked up apologetically at Martha and said, "I'm sorry if my daughter bothered you, m'am."
"Oh, she wasn't a bother at all, you came out of the aisle as soon as she walked up to me," Martha reassured him.
The man smiled at her and just as he was about to turn away with his daughter, he turned back to Martha's face with a confused look.
"M'am, I know this may seem like a random question but may I ask what your name is," he inquired of her.
Martha looking confused answered his question, "My name is Martha Alermen...why do you ask?"
"Is Alermen your maiden or marital name," the man asked once again in a more frantic tone.
"It's my marital name," Martha answered again, still confused.
"May I ask what your maiden name is," he asked, a dawning realization creeping on his face.
"It's Chobot," Martha answered.
The man looking like he was on the verge of tears exclaimed, "Martha, it's your brother, Nathan!"
Martha was stunned into silence. She closely studied his face to see if she recognized her dead brother. What she saw was a ravaged face that had several tiny scars on the forehead and a more prominent one running down his right cheek. She arrived at his eyes. Those hazel, protuberant eyes glistening with tears.
She put a hand over her mouth and dropped her basket.
"They told me that you died in service!" she exclaimed.
"I was shot multiple times at close range and it looked like I wouldn't make it but somebody managed to get the bullets out of me and treated my wounds," he quickly explained, tears now rolling down his face. "It happened in a remote village from where I was stationed so they declared me as dead. Oh, Martha I have so much to tell you!"
"Let's go back to my home first for now," Martha said in a shaky voice. Tears were now running down her face as well. Leslie looked at the two adults with a confused expression, oblivious to what had just transpired in front of her.
Lyle pulled up into the driveway and quickly made his way into the house as he was starving and excited to see what Martha had conjured up for dinner this time.
"Honey! David! I'm home!" he yelled.
He walked into the dining room and saw his wife and a man staring at him with elated expressions. David was giving a little girl rides on his wheelchair in the living room right next to them. Those two words from last night flashed into his mind.
Perseus and Vlidia came out of the station and walked toward their new apartment.
"Do you think that we are putting your friend in danger by living in her apartment," Vlidia asked.
"I told you already, Jason is not the violent type at all and he hates confrontation," Perseus explained. "The only reason that he's doing this is because he's scared of our uncle."
"Would Jason be scared enough to do whatever our uncle asks him to do?" Vlidia asked.
"Jason knew that we were hiding in the deli and yet he didn't go inside to look," Perseus answered. "He's doing everything in his power to avoid us."
"It didn't seem like he wanted to avoid us when he started chasing after us after he spotted us in the crowd," Vlidia pressed.
"Of course, he feels compelled to fulfill his duty if we're in plain sight but if he loses track of us then he won't try as hard," Perseus explained halfheartedly.
"If our uncle knows that Jason isn't the violent type nor somebody who likes confrontation, then why did he send him of all people after us?" Vlidia inquired.
Perseus had no answer for this. Their uncle was an extremely calculating person who had a plan for everything.
Vlidia did not ask anymore questions because she knew that Perseus was just as lost and frightened as she was. They arrived at the apartment complex and there waiting for them was Perseus's friend.
"Percy! I've missed you so much!" said her friend before embracing her in a hug.
"This must be your sister, Vlidia," she said shaking Vlidia's hand. "I've heard so much about you, my name is Victoria!"
"Nice to meet you Victoria...and thank you so much for letting us live in your place for the time-being," Vlidia said.
"It's no problem at all. Lets talk more inside, it's freezing out here," Victoria said running up the stairs.
The three women filed into the foyer and proceeded to the elevators.
"I've been wanting new roommates for a while," Victoria exclaimed as they got into an elevator. "My last ones were so hard to live with. Never cleaned the dishes and ran up the water and electricity bills."
The elevator doors opened and Victoria led them to her apartment door. She unlocked it and welcomed them inside. When Victoria closed the door, Jason was standing there looking disheveled and positively deadly. Both Vlidia and Perseus gasped. Jason walked in front of the door to prevent them from escaping.
"Hey, what the hell are you doing in my apartment!?" Victoria yelled. She reached into her purse to dial 911 but Jason snatched the phone away from her in a flash of movement and crushed the slate of glass and aluminum in his hand. Victoria stared horrified at him as he carried out the deed.
"Perseus, Vlidia I'm sorry that I had to resort to this but Zander is not leaving me with much a choice," Jason said silkily.
Perseus stared at him dumbfounded. Jason was not the type of person to go into somebody's home uninvited. What kind of threat did their uncle use to make Jason act like this?
"Are you going to come with me quietly or do I need to do this by force?" Jason asked calmly.
"What did our uncle threaten you with Jason," Vlidia spurted out. She wanted to stall for as much time as possible to hatch an escape plan.
Jason took notice of this and said, "You won't be able to escape from the windows, I've bolted them shut. I really abhor this kind of behavior but as I stated before: I have no choice."
Perseus and Vlidia looked at each other with resigned looks on their face. Perseus did not think Jason would harm Victoria but he had already proven that he was put in a difficult situation by their uncle. They could not endanger Victoria's safety, she had nothing to do with this.
Perseus transmitted a thought to her sister: Jason would be able to overpower the both of us. If we go with him without a struggle, maybe he will let his guard down a little and give us opportunities to escape. He looks like he hasn't slept for days.
Vlidia registered this and responded with: Alright.
"We'll come with you," Perseus said.
Lyle could not believe his eyes. What David had mumbled in his sleep the night before had come to fruition. There were visitors in his home and the little girl seemed to be the daughter of the man staring at him right now. It could not have been a coincidence.
"Lyle, I can't believe it! My brother Nathan is alive! He didn't die in Vietnam after all!" Martha said happily.
Nathan got up and reached for a handshake from Lyle. "Nice to meet you, I know that this must be a shock for you but I promise to explain everything," he said warmly.
"It's no problem at all, please take your time," Lyle said still dazed.
"As Martha just said, I'm the brother who didn't make it back from Vietnam," Lyle began. "Let me start from the very beginning. In a village I was visiting, I overpowered by a angry villager who took my gun and shot me three times in the chest. Boy, was I a bloody mess and there wasn't a medic in sight as I was miles away from my base. I thought I was a goner at that point. Luckily, one of the natives was kind enough to tend to my wounds. I wasn't going to bite the dust just yet." He paused for a couple of seconds as if reminiscing. "But what d'ya know, my body goes into shock soon after all of the bullets were taken out. I thought that I had contracted polio or some other kind of disease. After a few days, my body stabilized and I was able to walk again. I found an airlift that would bring me back to the U.S. and made my way to San Francisco. My first order of business was to find Martha but I wasn't even sure what she looked like anymore nor did I have any idea of how to start looking for her." He looked at Martha with a sad expression and then continued, "So I decided that I had to find a way to survive in society first and got a job doing construction work." "Shortly after, found a lady friend named Amelie who let me stay at her place. We had a little girl together."
Nathan looked at Martha and Lyle to see how they were digesting all of this. It elicited a more emotional response from Martha of course. Lyle seemed to be in his own little world, deep in thought about something.
"Enough about me, what about you Martha!" Nathan said trying to change the mood.
"Oh, my life hasn't been as interesting as yours I'm afraid," Martha said. "Just taking care of the house and making sure that the family is fed."
"Tell me about your son," Nathan asked with genuine interest. "Was he born like that or did something happen to him?"
"We adopted him from an orphanage," Martha explained to him. "They told us that he was born in Saigon during the end of the end of the Vietnam War. He contracted polio when he was two and lost feeling in his legs as a result."
"What a coincidence, I was stationed in Saigon," Nathan said looking at the boy.
"Actually, that was one of the reasons why we adopted him," Martha explained. "After I was told that you were dead, I was inconsolable." "I thought that it would help me come to terms with your death if I adopted someone who suffered in that country during the war as well."
"Well, I'm glad you did it," Nathan said brightly. "Kid seems happy with you guys and Leslie has a cousin to play with now." He glanced at his wristwatch with a worried look.
"Looks like I've got to get going, Amelie will be wondering what's taking me so long and I want to tell her the good news as well. I promise to come back tomorrow so we catch up even more."
Nathan had to pry Leslie away from David's wheelchair. Leslie seemed to have established a strong connection with David while the adults were talking.
Martha and Lyle showed him and Leslie out of the door. As soon as Nathan left, Lyle immediately turned to Martha and told her about the two words that he heard David say in his sleep last night. He could tell that Martha had a hard time believing him. Lyle went into their bedroom to grab the book and flipped to the page from last night as if Martha would be convinced if she saw it on paper instead. Martha looked at the two words, still skeptical.
"Are you trying to say that David is some kind of fortune-teller?" Martha asked.
"Well, he predicted that you would bump into your brother and his daughter today," Lyle said disappointed that Martha still seemed unsure.
"Visitors could mean anything, David said a lot of nonsensical things in his sleep," Martha said.
"I've looked through your past logs and mine as well, not once has he ever said that word before," Lyle said, exasperated. "He said daughter immediately after saying
visitors. Doesn't that seem like too much of a coincidence to you?"
"I don't think that we should jump to conclusions just because of this," Martha said slowly. "Lets continue to keep the logs as we always have and see if something like this comes up again."
Lyle was disappointed that Martha did not believe him. He always had more interest in the supernatural than Martha but this was something that he had concrete evidence to substantiate. Martha was right though; they should wait and see if this was a recurring event or just an isolated incident.
Later that night, it was Martha's turn to keep a log of David's sleep-talking. Her skepticism with her husband's claims earlier in the day turned into curiosity. Could her husband have been hearing things or did David really say those words? Her reunification with her brother after more than a decade was the happiest moment of her life, happier than when she adopted David, but she could not deny that the way it unfolded was extremely peculiar.
David started mumbling and Martha began writing. She kept at it for three hours until she she felt her eyelids drooping down.
"Doesn't look like David is going to demonstrate his amazing ability of clairvoyance tonight," she murmured.
As she finished jotting down the last sentence and turned away, she heard David utter two words: "Leslie" and "sister."
It did not really strike her as anything too strange. Leslie and him had bonded a lot earlier in the day after all and David must have been lonely all of these years being an only child.
But then David uttered three more words: "Nathan" and "my father."
Jason made Perseus and Vlidia walk in front of him at all times so that there were no chance for them to escape. Perseus and Vlidia's plan of making a run for it when Jason fell asleep from severe exhaustion was impossible to carry out if the guy never slept. Jason watched over them day and night without so much as blinking a eye.
When they arrived at JFK International Airport, Perseus got extremely agitated. She sent out a stream of thoughts to her sister about how they could try to escape from him. None of them were plausible though. Jason was quite literally inches away from them at every moment of the day.
Perseus and Vlidia did not want to see their uncle again. He was a man that knew your worst fears just by being in your presence. They wondered what Jason was so afraid of that he would sneak into a woman's apartment in order to confront Perseus and Vlidia. Like their uncle, they could never see any type of emotion on Jason's face. He wore the same austere expression all year around. However, Jason was different from their uncle in that he knew compassion and empathy. The two ladies knew that Jason genuinely felt sorry about what he was doing.
Jason finished purchasing the three one-way tickets to San Francisco and the three of them proceeded to the terminal.
This was really happening, Perseus thought to herself. Once we're on the plane, there really is no escape. Their uncle never makes the same mistake twice. His most trusted followers would be waiting for them at San Francisco International Airport.
It was time to board the plane. Vlidia looked as if she was on the verge of tears as Jason gave the three tickets for the woman to inspect and watched as both of them went inside first.
The six-hour flight was unbearable for the two ladies. In a couple of hours, they would see their uncle again. But they were exhausted and did not have the same endurance as Jason. They slowly let the darkness overtake them and fell into deep slumbers. In their dreams they saw an elderly lady talking to their uncle. It transitioned into a little girl crying and asking for her father. After that, it was just a series of jumbled images and finally, darkness again.
When they woke up, they found Jason fast asleep to their great surprise. He must have reached his limit. There was no need for him to supervise them any longer in any case. Zander's men were strewn all over the airport to greet the two sisters.
End of Chapter 1.