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Category Archives: An Enemy Within

This consists of my novel, “An Enemy Within,” which follows a young woman named Shannon as she deals with the New World Power and the consequences of going up against it.

An Enemy Within — Chapter Fifty One

Chapter 51

The news coverage that follows the capture of Crow is tremendous. It receives national attention and is covered by a host of news outlets which include the Associated Press, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, along with others. Even the BBC has sent reporters to cover the event, as well as the situation surrounding it.

In Crow’s attempt to establish his own political state, he managed to step on a lot of people’s toes. The criminal activities which he engaged in, or was responsible for orchestrating, stretch all the way from the local to the national level. If the authorities realized the full extent of his activities, it would be possible that international organizations such as Interpol would also get involved. When all the legal and political dust has settled, Crow would most likely be handed over to the United States Army to be tried in front of a military court. This is because he is still considered military property due to his connection with the Army ROTC program, a program that he stayed apart of all the way to graduation.

When he is eventually handed over to the United States Army, the initial charges that he will be tried under are articles 85 and 104, desertion and aiding the enemy respectively, of the uniform code of military justice. And with the information which Shannon will give to authorities, it will most likely lead to more charges being filed against him during his day in court. But all of this will take some time, so Crow will have some time to think and plan. He’ll use this time wisely.

But until the dust is settled and everything is squared away, Crow needs to be stored somewhere. And the place they decide to store him, because of who was responsible for capturing him, is at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Twin Towers Correctional, also known as the Twin Towers Jail, is the world’s largest jail facility and is operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department. It’s situated in Downtown L.A. and is about a half-mile from the Criminal Courts building. It’s constructed as a panoptical structure, allowing the Sheriffs Department to view as many inmates as they can with as little staff as possible from a single, centralized location.

With the initial idea behind the Panopticon, it was to create a mental prison inside the inmates in addition to the physical one that they find themselves in.  With how the Panopticon is constructed, all of the prison cells are centered around a single observation deck in the middle with each cell backlit so that the person or persons kept in the cell could be seen at all times by the guards.  In contrast, however, the prisoners are prevented from seeing inside the central observation deck, depriving the inmates of essential information.  This was meant to create uncertainty in the inmates because they didn’t know if they were being watched or not, thus encouraging them to be on their best behavior.  This in turn would allow the prison to cut down on cost my minimizing the number of prison guards that were needed to work at the prison.

But in practice, however, this idea is flawed. This is because it gives to much credit to the prisoners. It implies that people are inherently good, but may need a good slap on the wrist once in awhile. But if people are inherently good, then there is no need for a prison system in the first place, which undermines the whole premise of the Panopticon. And in addition to this, there are individuals who just want to cause trouble, regardless if they are being watched or not. There are also those who just don’t care. But regardless of the original premise or intention, it’s still a smart idea to use a centralized observation deck because it makes it easier to respond to situations from a centralized location because of the easy flow of information compared to scattered locations where communication could be difficult.

And in addition to the Panopticon construction of the jail, the Twin Towers is segregated, with each area housing a different group of people. One area is used to house the general population while another is used for housing gang members. There’s even a housing area for the homosexual population. This is meant for their own protection because otherwise, they would be attacked by the other inmates. And despite the fact that jails are meant for temporary housing, roughly a year, and prisons used for longer stints, there are those who have stayed in the Twin Towers for over a year because of the legal process. After being booked and put into the system, Crow is taken to the high-profile wing of the jail.

Not long after his arrival, Crow has managed to get his hands on some change and one of the payphones that are available in the prison without having to wait. This is due in part to the fact that there are New World Power members already inside the jail and because of sympathetic prison gangs. The prison gang that will most likely help out Crow will be the Aryan Brotherhood.

Prison gangs, such as the Aryan Brotherhood, as well as groups who believe in their ethnic or religious group being superior to every other group, are a mixed bag when it comes to mutants. There are groups who think that mutants are a scourge upon the face of the Earth and should be wiped out on site whereas others view them as examples of why their particular group is superior to all others and should be embraced with open arms, though when it occurs in their hated “other,” it is a corruption of their pure line and should be eradicated without prejudice. And there are others who just see mutants as tools to be taken advantage of to further the goals of their organization and discarded when their goals have been achieved. That is what the Aryan Brotherhood tends to see mutants as, tools to further their goals, which tend not to be racial or ideological, but financial.

It’s because of situations like this that some anti-mutant organizations and their advocates take advantage of to bolster their claims that all mutants should be controlled or exterminated. And to further support their claim, these groups will site the Nazis and the Third Reich. Despite the fact that Nazi scientists conducted horrible experiments on mutants, they also chose the crème of the crop as examples of why Aryans are superior to every other group. But of course, these supposed “ubermenschs” did nothing to help the Nazis win the war or further their claims of Aryan superiority. But those who make the argument connecting mutants with Nazis are just making a false connection and are trying to imply guilt by association.

When Crow is at the payphone, he picks up the receiver and inserts the money into the interface. From there, he goes ahead and makes his call. After a few rings, he hears a man’s voice answer, “Hello?”

“Hey Bobby, its Ken.”

“Hey, boss,” Bobby replies. “How’re you holding up?”

The reason why Crow calls Bobby is because Bobby’s number is the only number Crow can remember off hand at the moment and Crow knows that he can trust Bobby to get things rolling once their conversation has ended.

“As well as one can expect given the circumstances,” Crow says. “How’s everything holding up?”

“Well, things have been in a bit of an uproar since hearing the news of your arrest.”

“Then get things back under control. That’s why there’s a command structure in place; to prevent things from falling apart if something goes wrong.”

“Understood. I’ll get right on top of that. Is there anything in particular you want taken care of?”

“Yes. The first thing we’ll need to take care of is our training program because our current one may have been compromised.”

Crow can kick himself for not thinking of this earlier. Their training facility in the Angeles National Forest is under threat of being exposed. With Shannon turning state evidence, it’s very likely that she’ll talk about the training that she received. Though she was blind folded when she was taken there, it’s very likely that the information she gives will result in the authorities conducting a search of places in the Forest that could most likely be used for training activities. They’ll need to switch locations if the New World Power wishes to continue to train its recruits and protect its trainers located at the camp in the Angeles National Forest. The location in the Mojave Desert will have to do double duty for now until they are able to find an adequate replacement. Luckily, Shannon didn’t say much of anything about the training facility when she first talked to the police and the Marshals. They pretty much just talked about the plot against Congressman De Soto. But there’s the possibility that the training camp will come up and put it into immediate danger.

“Yes, sir,” Bobby replies. “We’ll get right on that.”

“Good. And talk to Thomas. He should know how to proceed, and not only in regards to the training camp.”

This implies that T-Bone is essentially in charge of the New World Power for the time being. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most of the higher-ups within the New World Power because they suspect that T-Bone is Crow’s chosen successor. And Crow feels like T-Bone has the potential of being a great leader and could be capable of leading his organization, but isn’t quite ready to fill those shoes. That’s why Crow’s been essentially preparing T-Bone for the position. And now, with the situation as it is, it would be a good time to test and see if T-Bone will be able to handle this type of responsibility. If he does well, than Crow will be satisfied in his choice and make T-Bone his official successor. And this is about all that Crow would like to talk about while on the phone, just in case the Sheriffs have these payphones bugged.

“What about Shannon?” Bobby asks. “Should we go after her?”

“No. We don’t have the time or resources to do it. Whatever damage she could do is most likely already done. Let her go. If anything, this is just a temporary setback, nothing more.” If they went after Shannon now, Crow would feel like it would be nothing more than a pyrrhic victory.

“Understood. Is there anything else?”

“No. Besides dealing with what we just talked about, stay the course. If anything arises, you know who to talk to.”

“Understood.”

With that, Crow hangs up the phone and the conversation comes to an end.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Fifty

Chapter 50

Shannon almost didn’t go up.  She was so intent on getting away from the New World Power members who were in the alley that she didn’t think that there might be more members on the other side of the building.  But by the time that she realizes this, she has already begun to step out of the building.  Upon exiting the building, she spots Crow.  Once seeing him, Shannon goes back into the building in a hurry.  However, Crow also spots Shannon as she heads back into the building and gives chase.

Back inside, Shannon notices the stairs and decides to run up them.  But as she starts to ascend, however, Crow has made it to the front door of the building.  As she ascends the stairs, Shannon’s foot actually slips.  This is because she didn’t adequately plant her foot on the step as she was climbing the stairs.  This causes her to fall, hard.  This agitates her already injured arm and shoulder, drawing blood in the process.

After hitting the stairs, Shannon turns to the door and fires her weapon at Crow, getting off a few shots in the process.  These shots weren’t aimed, so they go wild, missing Crow.  However, this action causes Crow to duck and fall back.  As he does this, Shannon manages to get back to her feet and continues to run up the stairs.  Seeing that Shannon is on the move again, Crow continues after her, though he’s weary as he makes his ascent.  He doesn’t want to rush forward and get shot in the head.  He would find that to be an unspectacular end to his life and could have serious consequences for the New World Power.  Even though the New World Power has committed lieutenants, the organization as a whole might not survive his death.  There is the potential that the New World Power would fracture into smaller factions and become less effective, not unlike what happened to Alexander the Great’s empire after his death.  But if the New World Power was able to survive his demise, Crow is concerned that there might be intense internal conflict that could severely weaken the organization, despite his attempt to give it a formal leadership structure.  It would be similar to what happened to Ancient Rome.

After making it upstairs, Shannon needs to find a place to hide.  This is because there is no way for her to make her escape.  The only way for her to get out of here is the way which she just came.  When she does find a place to hide and crawls into it, Crow appears, just missing Shannon.  As Crow makes his way down the corridor, it will take him right past where Shannon is hiding.  Hearing him coming, Shannon places her hand over her mouth in an attempt to remain silent and prevent a sound from escaping at an inappropriate time.

As Crow is making his way down the corridor, he sends out a telepathic message, saying, “Shannon.”  As he passes by her hiding spot, Shannon is able to pick up this message clearly.  This is because the barrier between Crow and Shannon is incomplete, allowing for Crow’s bioelectrical signal to reach her.  The message she receives is non-descriptive.  There’s no gender overtone or personal identification.  This is the essential nature of telepathy; it bypasses the bones of the ear and directly stimulates the auditory region of the brain, nothing more.  This is why the telepathic voice that someone receives “sounds” non-descriptive.  The only way to distinguish the difference between telepathic transmissions from two or more people is essentially by the way the message is sent, nothing else.  After hearing this message, Shannon establishes a mental block to help prevent Crow from detecting her telepathically.  It also prevents her from continually hearing Crow’s message.  As this is going on, Shannon’s heart is pounding away in her chest.  It’s pounding so hard that she can both hear and feel it.  A part of her is also scared that Crow would be able to physically hear her heart beat, it’s pounding so hard.

If Crow had the ability of Heightened Sense of Hearing, he might have.  And despite her attempt to prevent Crow from detecting her mentally, he can still detect her through an ability inherent in all psionics; that of detecting electrical currents.  Though with some psionics, this ability can only be used by conscious choice, it is a passive trait in others.  This trait in its passive form can be compared to the simple act of breathing.  Crow is one of those individuals who use’s this ability passively, as with all true psionics.  But fortunately for Shannon, Crow passes by her location without stopping or slowing down.  This is because Crow is distracted and is in a bit of a hurry.  This prevents him from doing a thorough search of the areas that he passes by.  Because of this, Shannon would be able to take advantage of the situation and could manage to escape.  But before she does, she wants to wait in her hideout for just a little bit longer, just in case Crow is still in her vicinity and would be able to spot her.  As she waits, Shannon hears something in the distance.  Sirens.  The police are on their way, and it appears that they are coming in force.  This comes as a bit of a relief for Shannon.  Safety is on its way and she can reach it if she can just get out of the building.  All that she needs to do is get away from Crow.

Refocusing her attention, Shannon listens to her immediate surroundings to determine if Crow is still in the area.  She doesn’t hear anything, but this is meaningless in-and-of itself.  Her immediate thought is that Crow has moved on, but this could be misleading.  He could have just stopped, being distracted by the sirens outside.  Either way, Shannon decides that now would be a good time for her to make her escape.  However, she runs the risk of being spotted by Crow, which would mean that she wouldn’t have a choice but to run in that situation. Shannon ventures a peak from her hiding place.  From what she can tell, the coast is clear.  At this, she decides to make a break for it, leaving the gun behind in the process.  However, once Shannon reaches the stairs, Crow spots her and quickly gives chase.

As Shannon descends the stairs, Crow does what he can to catch up with her.  This includes taking two steps at a time as he descends the stairs to help close the distance.  Once Shannon is within his psionic range, Crow uses bio-manipulation: stun on her.  Though not as exact or direct as bio-manipulation: paralysis, bio-manipulation: stun is still an effective tool, particularly in the given situation.  This is because Crow doesn’t have to think about a particular attack.  This is due to the nature of bio-manipulation: stun.  It’s a broad neurological strike meant to jar the target more than anything else.  And at the moment, that’s all he needs to do; stop Shannon from making any further progress.  If bio-manipulation: stun causes her to collapse and fall down the stairs, that’ll be fine as well because even though she’ll still continue to descend the stairs, it won’t be because of free will, but simple gravity.  Fortunately for Shannon, despite feeling the effects of Crow’s attack, she’s able to keep enough of herself to continue down the stairs on her own and head out the front door.  Caught up in the moment, Crow follows Shannon outside, right into the waiting arms of law enforcement.

Once outside, Crow stops in his tracks, with Shannon just outside of his reach.  Though there is a chance that he could escape if he turns heel and ran back through the building, the chances of him succeeding are very slim.  He knows that the police aren’t allowed to shoot at him unless he is armed and presents an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or to bystanders, but the situation is still lost.  And there are too many of them present for him to be able to fend them off.  So he decides that the best course of action is to surrender.  How he sees it, any other action would be futile as well as cowardly.  It’s important to know when one has been defeated.  He is surrounded by police as they shepherd Shannon away to safety.  So he surrenders to police without incident.  Sometimes, it’s best to surrender than to continue fighting and going out in a blaze of glory, despite what the cultural standards might say.  You can do more good living for a cause than dying for it.  And taking this path can take greater courage to fulfill than one might think and only fools and the weak minded will think otherwise.  With that, the police move in and arrest the leader of the New World Power.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty Nine

Chapter 49

With the front door now closed, Shannon makes her way down the front pathway to the street. Once she reaches the curb, she looks in both directions to see which way she should go. Seeing what is available, Shannon turns in the direction that she believes will lead her to a major intersection. As she makes her way down the street, holding her injured arm against her as she does, she feels nervous and uncomfortable. This it due to the fact that she’s concerned about being spotted by the New World Power as well as the fact that she is in an unfamiliar neighborhood. This actually makes her a target for local thugs and bullies because her discomfort is expressed through her body language and through her lack of confidence. Her behavior can also draw the attention of more nefarious individuals.

As Shannon makes her way down the street, she eventually comes across some commercial buildings at what appears to be a busy intersection. As she approaches the intersection, she notices that one of the buildings has a payphone on it. At this, she wonders how many payphones are still in existence around L.A. nowadays due to the high volume of cell phones in use. But regardless of how many cell phones come into use, there will, or at least there should, be a need for public payphones because of situations like this; an emergency situation where a person doesn’t have a cell phone handy and other types of phones aren’t available.

But regardless of how many payphones are left in existence, there’s one here now and that’s all that Shannon cares about. She goes up to it and calls the police. It’s a good thing that the emergency contact number is free. Otherwise, Shannon would be screwed because she doesn’t have any change on her. She doesn’t even have any form of ID. Everything was left at the hospital in her mad dash to leave. If she knew that the situation was going to develop as it has, she would have tried to prepare for it. Too bad clairvoyance doesn’t actually exist. What a shame.

Making it through to 911 dispatch, Shannon hears the operator say, “911 emergency. How can I be of assistance?”

“Hi. My name is Shannon Brown and I’ve been kidnapped,” she says in a bit of a panic.

“Okay. Where are you now?”

Shannon looks around and tells the operator the intersecting streets.

“Okay Ms. Brown. I’ve notified the police and they’ll be sending someone to your location immediately. What’s your current situation?”

“I’m at a payphone. I managed to escape just a few minutes ago. But there are people who are still after me.”

“I know you’re scared, but just stay where you are and the police will be there shortly.”

But unfortunately for Shannon, so will the New World Power. They have members who listen to the emergency band frequencies through devices like police scanners for situations just like this one. When they hear Shannon’s name and her current location, the person listening to the scanner contacts those in the field and send them to that location. Not long after initially making the call, a squad car comes pulling up to Shannon’s location with sirens blaring. It must have been in the area in order for it to arrive so quickly. With the squad car here, Shannon lets the operator know that a squad car has arrived and then hangs up.

“Are you Shannon Brown?” one of the officers asks as he gets out of the car.

“Yes,” Shannon replies with some pep in her voice.

“Ok. I’m Officer John Henry and this is Officer Calloway. Can you tell me what happened?”

As Shannon is talking to the officers, a van comes rolling up to the location. As it passes by, it slows down to see if the woman the police are talking to is Shannon. Confident that it is, it comes to a stop and the side door opens up with armed individuals coming out. Seeing this unfold, Shannon realizes what’s going to happen, so she turns on her heals and begins to run. Before the officers have a chance to process what is going on, the members from the New World Power open fire, taking down both officers. One officer will die on the scene while the other has a chance of survival if medical assistance arrives on time.

As she runs, Shannon makes her way down an alleyway with one of the New World Power members chasing her. At the mouth of the alley, the New World Power member raises his weapon and takes a shot. But in his haste, he doesn’t properly aim, causing him to strike a homeless person instead of his intended target. When Shannon hears the gunfire, she instinctively ducks behind some material located in the alley. After ducking, Shannon looks around and happens to see a rear entrance to one of the buildings close to her and she makes a quick dash for it. As she makes her move, the New World Power member takes another shot, but misses.

Once through the door, Shannon rushes through the building and exits out of its front door. Once on the street, she makes a hard turn and begins to run along the sidewalk. As she runs, Shannon does so away from where she met the police and where the New World Power began shooting at her. If the sidewalk was really crowded, it would be a good idea for her to stop running and blend in with the crowd. However, this isn’t the case, so stopping would be a really bad idea. And at the moment, Shannon is too pumped and caught up in the situation for her to do anything other than just run.

Following just behind Shannon are two of the New World Power members, each one of them armed. The third member of this trio stayed with the van so that he could follow her in the vehicle. And in his attempt to plan ahead, he actually got ahead of Shannon in an attempt to cut her off. This is due in part to relatively light traffic on the street and his thought that Shannon would continue to run down the alley, not through the buildings.

After running down the sidewalk for several yards, ignoring the pain that exists in her arm and shoulder, Shannon decides to cut across the street. It’s not until she begins to cross the street that the New World Power members who are on foot come out of the building, and it takes them a moment to spot her. And with the member in the van, he doesn’t spot her until she begins to head behind the van. When he spots her, it is in his side view mirror. He doesn’t recognize her at first, but when she comes across on the other side of the van, something clicks in the driver’s head, causing him to stop the van. Recognizing her, the driver curses himself for not being more attentive.

It’s when the van comes to an abrupt stop that Shannon makes the connection that this is the van that the New World Power is using to come after her. It’s also at this point that the other New World Power members begin to cross the street. But as they do, Shannon heads into the buildings on the other side in an attempt to make it to another alleyway. The driver of the van follows Shannon’s progress and notifies his fellow New World Power members on where to go. With this information, the two of them make their way after her, eventually making it into another alleyway. Upon reaching it, they find it deserted with no sign of their target.

The two New World Power members look at each other and give some quick hand-jesters, indicating that they should head in opposite directions so that they can better search for their target. Hiding behind a dumpster, Shannon is trying to make herself as small as possible. She also wishes that there is something handy like a pipe or loose table leg for her to use as a protective instrument. But no such luck. She is entirely self-reliant. And even if there was something available for her to use, she’s not too sure how effective she would be because of her injured arm.

She would also like to know where her pursuers are. She wishes that she would be able to use one of her psionic abilities to detect them, but she isn’t powerful enough to do so. They are too far away. Not even Crow would be able to detect them psionically. It’s just how psionic abilities work. Entertainment venues such as movies, television, and comics have glorified psionics, making them out to be more powerful than they really are. Reality is a different story, even though Shannon wishes otherwise right about now.

Because of this, Shannon has to peer out from behind the dumpster in order to see where they are. As she sneaks a peak from her location, she manages to see one of her pursuers. Seeing him, Shannon quickly ducks back to her hidey-hole. From what she can tell, only one of them is coming her way. This means that she has to only worry about one person at the moment. This makes it easier for Shannon because she only needs to fend off one person when she makes her move. She can worry about the other person later.

As the New World Power member makes his way down the alley, he approaches the dumpster wearily. He has to be on his guard in situations like this because people might get the drop on him if he wasn’t. But despite one’s best efforts, people can still get the drop on you. As the New World Power member approaches Shannon’s location, she uses telepathic transmission on him to essentially yell within his head. This disorients him enough for Shannon to punch the man in the face. The double surprise of being mentally yelled at and being punched in the face causes him to loosen his grip on his gun, allowing Shannon to take it from him. The man, however, manages to regain enough of himself to go after Shannon after she takes his gun. But before he is able to do anything, he gets shot by Shannon. But since Shannon is inexperienced with handling guns, even after receiving her New World Power training, she drops it after shooting him.

Hearing the commotion, the second New World Power member turns around in time to see his compatriot go down. In addition to this, he sees the gun drop from Shannon’s hands. Seeing this, the second New World Power member raises his weapon and takes aim. Before Shannon is able to re-obtain the gun, the second New World Power member is able to get a shot off. Fortunately for Shannon, she sees the second member raise his weapon and is able to duck back behind the dumpster before he is able to fire. After hearing the weapon discharge, and not hearing another shot being fired, Shannon quickly moves forward in order to reacquire the dropped gun.

After firing, the second New World Power member rushes forward. But as he makes it around the dumpster, Shannon is waiting for him, shooting him in the shoulder and causing him to drop. With him down, Shannon quickly moves to take the gun away from him. As she does this, the van turns the corner and makes its way into the alley. Seeing this, Shannon runs back into one of the buildings.

In addition to these three individuals going after Shannon, there are other New World Power members roaming the streets looking for her. One of them is Crow. Since he wasn’t able to finish the job at the hospital, maybe now will be the opportunity for him to finish it. Crow can be compared to a field commander; a high ranking officer who commands, not from a distance, but from the frontlines. He’s not afraid to get out into the fray of things with his subordinates. And since the New World Power is a relatively young and developing organization, it needs its members to be as effective as possible, and that means taking on multiple roles. However, there are situations where exceptions are made because of the job or task that has been assigned.

When word comes out on Shannon’s location, Crow isn’t too far away. Once hearing of her location, Crow makes his way there as quickly as possible. He’s also in communication with the driver of the van, so he’s been informed of what is going on. When Crow arrives at the location, it’s at the same time that Shannon has left the alley and has entered one of the buildings. What Crow needs to do now is to just wait for Shannon to come bursting from one of the buildings and into the street.

When Shannon went into the building, it was possibly the best thing she could have done. It takes her out of the alley and eliminates the van as a possible threat. If she stayed in the alleyway, there wasn’t too much for her to do and allowed the van to easily overtake her. With being in the building, it gives Shannon some options. She can run through the building and exit out on the other side, or she could do something inside the building, such as hide. Since there is an internal stairwell, that is another option available to her. All she needs to do is figure out what to do.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty Eight

Chapter 48

Even though a new day has dawned, Shannon still faces the same problems as she did yesterday. She is being falsely imprisoned in a private residence with the New World Power still looking to kill her. If anything, the situation has become worse over the past twenty-four hours or so because she is no longer under the protection of the authorities. She remembers talking to a friend of hers who was in the Marine Corps who said that “problem” is one of four words that should be removed from ones vocabulary. The other three are “worry,” “try,” and “hate.” What he was getting at is the principle which they represent, as well as the mindset they create. Otherwise, they are just a hindrance to forward progress.

But she’s having trouble applying this philosophy at the moment. There’s so much going on right now that she feels overwhelmed. She also doesn’t see too many options available to her at the moment, and none of them seem pleasant. She is trapped and no matter what she decides, Shannon would feel like she would receive the short end of the stick. She wonders how she got herself into this mess. A part of her mind thinks that now would be the time for her to be noble, that she should stand up and say “enough is enough.” But this is due to cultural training, and who’s to say what is noble or not? And being noble is a thing that is fine in principle but can be hard to put into practice. It’s more of an abstract idea than anything else. In this context, Shannon has to do what is best for her instead of living up to some cultural ideal. And only in reflection can her actions be determined if they are noble or not.

With modern society, nobility is seen as doing the right thing that is greater than oneself. But this is an artificial benchmark that developed over time with no pre-set list of principles or guiding rules. Historically, nobility pertained to a social class that was romanticized over time by people who were looking back upon it with fondness. It was part of a bygone era that people feel connected to. When people think of nobility, they think of knights and their code of conduct. But what they fail to realize is that knights were already apart of the Second Estate and the code that governed their actions pertained only to tournaments and social life among themselves, nothing more. In addition to this, culture pertained only to the upper class and could only be experienced by a refined person who was well off. Essentially, it was something only found with the aristocracy and had nothing to do with how a group of people interpreted the world around them. How noble is that?

But whatever the implications of future social judgments may be, Shannon needs to do something to take control of the situation. If she doesn’t, then everyone else will be making the decisions for her, and this is something that she doesn’t want to happen. She wants to be the one who is in control of her life. Arriving at this decision, Shannon just needs to figure out how to go about doing it. This starts with her getting out of her current predicament. Coming to this conclusion, Shannon makes her way to the bedroom door so that she can peer out into the hallway. Once she is able to look into the hallway, she sees that Alex is making his way up the stairs. Seeing this, Shannon quickly closes the door behind her, trying not to slam it as she does.

What next? What options are available to her? Should she grab something to try and knock Alex out? But what if that fails? Then what? And what about her injured arm and shoulder? She doesn’t think that they could handle the stress of an attack if she tried one. And besides, she still has feelings of friendship toward Alex, despite what he is currently doing to her. In addition to this, he is helping out the healing process. Though it won’t be pretty, the injuries will be healed that much faster. The only downside to the whole thing is the buildup of scar tissue in the injured areas, which will impair her overall range of movement. This could only be taken care of by physical therapy, something that she won’t be able to receive in her current situation. So Shannon decides that the best course of action for her to take is to go back to bed. Once she does, Alex knocks on the door and then comes walking in. From there, they exchange a few words followed by Alex using his ability. As he is using Laying of Hands, the woman comes back into the room with a hearty meal in hand.

When Alex finishes treating Shannon for the moment, it allows Shannon to start eating her meal to satisfy her increased appetite. Laying of Hands is a unique ability. Generally speaking, having an extraordinary ability will only cause the user to enter an energy intensive activity, which requires only the user to need to consume more calories. But with Laying of Hands, it also causes the recipient of the ability to enter an energy intensive activity as well due to the accelerated healing process it causes the patient to enter into. During the natural healing process, the body needs more fuel in order to fix itself and repair or rebuild damaged areas. Laying of Hands just causes this natural process to step it up a notch, which in turn causes the patient to need more calories and have a greater appetite.

On the tray in front of her, there is a mound of pancakes, a generous helping of scrambled eggs, and a good amount of bacon, some still greasy from the frying pan. In addition to this, there’s Log Cabin Lite syrup and a container of ketchup. Shannon coats the pancakes with syrup and essentially drowns the eggs in ketchup, making short work of her breakfast. Besides receiving Laying of Hands, a part of Shannon’s hunger could be a leftover from yesterday. Her adrenaline level was elevated because of what was going on around her. But now that the threat has past and she is fully rested, her body has returned to homeostasis and reminds Shannon of the importance of eating.

But despite this, Shannon probably consumed more food than was absolutely necessary. This is due to the fact that there is a signal delay between the stomach and the brain. This delay in communication could be due to human evolution. For most of human history, humanity didn’t have a ready supply of food available to them. It wasn’t until recently, about the past two hundred years or so, that food a plenty became easily available, at least to most of those in the developed world. This caused humanity to face periods of regular starvation in their daily lives. As a result, when humanity came across food surpluses, they would gorge themselves in order to develop fat reserves in preparation for future periods of starvation. And if there was a delay between the stomach and the brain for when the stomach became full, it would allow for more food to be consumed, similar to the feast and famine technique used by sharks. For those who possessed this trait, natural selection tended to favor those individuals over those who lacked it, giving them a greater chance of producing offspring.

But even though she ate more food than was necessary, because of the generous helpings the woman provided, Shannon wasn’t able to finish her meal. As Shannon was eating her breakfast, Alex and the woman took their leave, allowing Shannon to be alone with her thoughts. This allowed her to contemplate on how to get out of here; out of the house, out of the situation, and back to those who would be able to adequately protect her. Eventually, the woman returns to check in on Shannon. As she does, she takes the unfinished food away. When she looks at the unfinished food, the woman remembers the phrase, “There are people starving in China.” Whenever she hears this phrase, she thinks that it’s one of the silliest things she ever heard. She suspects that this phrase developed during the Great Depression in an attempt to prevent children from wasting their food, but she can’t be sure about the time period. But however, forcing children to eat something when they are already full is just as wasteful. If there are people starving in China, there’s nothing anyone can do about it after a meal was prepared for the family. It’s just stupid. And haven’t they heard of leftovers?

With the woman gone, Shannon quickly gets out of bed and makes her way to the door. Opening it up just a crack, she sees the woman heading down the stairs. From there, Shannon closes the door as quickly and quietly as possible and makes her way over to the window. Once there, she pulls back the shades and looks down at the street. From the window, she sees Alex making his way down the walkway followed by him getting into his car. He can’t stay behind for multiple reasons. First, he still has to earn a paycheck. Second, there’s the possibility that Alex has to talk to the police in order to get his story straight around what happened at the hospital. Finally, there wouldn’t be anything for him to do if he just stayed behind. He tends to get antsy if he doesn’t have anything to do. That’s one reason why Alex went into nursing; so that he’ll always be kept busy. Even if there is a lull in activity, he can always just do rounds.

This is her chance. Shannon figures that if she doesn’t seize the moment, it will slip through her fingers and it will be lost. So she decides to take it. From the window, Shannon makes her way to the door and cautiously opens it. Not seeing anyone, she starts making her way down the upstairs hallway, leaving the bedroom door open just in case she needs to hurry back. As she makes her way down the hallway, Shannon is concerned that there might be other people in the house besides the woman. She even passes by a table that has pictures on it. The pictures consist of children as well as the woman in the arms of a man, presumably her husband. The pictures of the children vary in age, but from what Shannon can tell, they all have grown up and have moved on with their lives. She’s hoping that none of them are still living in the house or have stopped by to visit for awhile. Fortunately, she hasn’t come across anyone by the time that she reached the top of the stairs. But that doesn’t mean that someone won’t come out of nowhere at an inopportune time and stop her.

Before Shannon heads down the stairs, she leans over the banister in an attempt to determine where the woman is. She hears what sounds like conversation coming from the front room next to the front door, accompanied by what sounds like canned laughter and applause. Shannon determines that the TV is on, but can’t tell if there’s anyone in the front room at the moment. She also hears what sounds like some activity going on in the kitchen. It’s most likely the woman cleaning up after Shannon’s breakfast.

As Shannon begins to move down the hallway toward the staircase, the woman comes walking down the entry hall from the kitchen toward the front room. Seeing her, Shannon quickly moves back behind the wall and prepares to reenter the bedroom if the case calls for it. But fortunately for Shannon, the woman doesn’t come up the stairs. Instead, she enters the front room. But before Shannon makes her move toward the staircase, she peers around the corner to make sure that the coast is clear. Seeing that it is, Shannon starts making her way down.

Not wanting to make any unnecessary noise and draw attention to herself, Shannon cautiously makes her way down the stairs, listening for any changes in noise from the front room. She also looks around to make sure that no one else comes out of an unforeseen area and surprises her. In addition to this, she’s checking out possible hiding spots for herself if the situation calls for her to move quickly and hide. Once Shannon makes it to the bottom of the stairs, she starts making her way to the front door. But before she does, Shannon peers into the front room to see if it’s safe for her to cross to the front door.

As she peers in, Shannon sees the woman sitting in a chair, watching TV, with her back to the entry hall. Shannon also sees that the woman is the only person in the front room. Determining that it is safe for her to cross, Shannon makes her way to the front door. As she does, one of the floorboards creaks under her weight. Hearing the sound, Shannon pulls back, removing her weight from the floorboard and hesitates. Not seeing any indication that the woman heard, Shannon cautiously continues forward, making sure that she doesn’t cause the floor to creak again. Safely making it to the door, Shannon unlocks it and exits, effectively succeeding in her bid to escape.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty Seven

Chapter 47

Crow is not happy. He is far from being happy. He is outright pissed. Things haven’t been going the way he wants them to in regards to Shannon. For the second time, she managed to survive an attack on her life. And she has been unaccounted for after the hospital was evacuated. Shannon is proving to be a bit of a problem. Crow is not looking forward to the fallout of having one of his followers break rank and turn state evidence because it will cause nothing but problems.

Having an un-indoctrinated member drop out or otherwise leave isn’t a concern because they know and represent nothing. They are just dust in the wind. But having an indoctrinated member do roughly the same thing is different. They have inside information that could harm the New World Power, and Crow doesn’t want that. And having a member just want to leave is something that is frowned upon. It’s something that’s generally not allowed.

But if a member is allowed to leave, it’s better if they are a low ranking member, such as Shannon. But there is a process that they have to go through before they are allowed to leave, and a vow of silence is a part of that process. If the member is a higher rank, however, that is more of a problem because they pose a greater risk upon leaving. But turning state evidence is crossing a line that isn’t easily forgotten or forgiven and needs to be dealt with immediately and with great prejudice.

And with how the situation developed with Shannon, Crow felt like he had to deal with it personally because he perceived it as something that happened on his watch. He’s of the opinion that you have to cleanup your own mess. And since he feels like it happened right under his nose, Crow wanted to gain control of the situation personally before it got any worse. So he had to get his hands dirty before he was able to wipe them clean. It’s like fixing a busted sewer pipe; you have to get into the mess before you are able to wipe it clean. But instead of containing the situation, it actually became worse. It won’t be until later that he learns that Shannon is no longer in police custody, probably the only good news he got out of the situation.

Besides losing a member of the New World Power at the hospital, his cause is facing the possibility of being undermined by one of its own. The only solace that Crow can take from this situation is that the New World Power member who was captured at the hospital has some training in being a prisoner of war. With being a prisoner of war, your captors will do what they can in order to obtain information from you. And it’s not a question of if you are going to break, but when, so you have to know what to say when you break. Crow hopes that the New World Power member will be able to use the training that he has obtained to help protect the organization. And on top of this, there’s still no word about the missing New World Power member who was a part of the raid on the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research facility. Apparently, he knows how to disappear because no one is able to locate him, either friend or foe.

As far as the United States government is concerned, the best case scenario is for the infected individual to turn himself in to the proper authorities and have come into minimal contact, if at all, with other people. But as long as he stays on the loose, however, he has the potential of doing a great deal of harm. Even from Crow and the New World Power’s perspective, it would be best if the member was under collar; preferably theirs. Crow would have preferred if the biological agent was contained within a vial because it would allow for the greatest level of control. But he would take the infected member if the situation presented itself because it would allow him to have a great propaganda tool because it would show that the New World Power actually had an infectious biological agent in their possession. Actually seeing the biological agent in action would have a greater psychological impact upon the masses than just seeing a vial in someone’s hand because it can just be a bluff.

But either way, Crow wants to see the infected New World Power member contained because of the great potential threat that he possesses. He represents the potential of infecting a good number of people in a given geological area as well as spreading the infection globally because of the ease of travel that exists. And since Crow is responsible for orchestrating the attacks on the Biosafety facilities, he’ll most likely be held responsible for any negative fallout that would occur from the infected member’s activities. With the threat that the infected New World Power member represents, even weak and corrupt governments would do what they can to capture and punish those responsible for the situation, if only because the attack on the Biosafety facilities represent a black mark upon the government’s reputation.

All of this has put Crow into a pretty foul mood. And when things go bad, you tend to just focus upon the negative and overlook the positive, like what happened in New Mexico with De Soto. When he enters the apartment which he is currently staying at, there are a few people playing a fucked up version of canasta with T-Bone sitting off to one side reading a back issue of Scientific American. The back issue that he is reading is one of the magazine’s special issues dedicated to a single topic. This particular issue deals with multiple dimensions. When he sees Crow enter the apartment in a foul mood, T-Bone puts the magazine aside and indicates to the people playing canasta that they should stop playing for the time being and step out of the room.

As they leave the room, T-Bone approaches Crow and says, “I’m taking it that you are having a bad day.”

“Yes, I’m having a bad day,” Crow replies angrily. “Things are beginning to blow up in my face. One of the members who attacked the Biosafety facilities has gone missing and is possibly infected as another member has turned state evidence and my attempt to stop her was prevented from being fulfilled. Things are going downhill fast.”

“So, what are we going to do about it? Take a moment and think before you answer.”

Crow takes a moment and thinks. “Ok. The attacks on the Biosafety facilities led to the capture of all of the people we sent in except for one. That attack was a flop and there’s nothing that we can do about it. And there’s no word from the person who managed to escape, so we have to accept him as a lost cause.”

After a little more thinking, a look of revelation appears on his face. Continuing, Crow says, “We can deny it. We can deny any official connection between us and the attackers. We can claim that these individuals acted on their own accord and any connection that might exist between them and the New World Power is purely circumstantial. We could say that these individuals are nothing more than rogue citizens who followed us and believed themselves to be a part of something that they aren’t. But with the member who is going state evidence, there is still something that we can do about it.”

Thinking through the situation, Crow eventually comes up with an idea. “Ok. I want as much information as possible about what happened at the hospital after the attack occurred. The quicker it’s done, the quicker we can finish the job. We can still get her.”

“I’ll get right on it,” T-Bone replies.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty Six

Chapter 46

When Shannon wakes up, she finds herself in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room. She doesn’t remember how she got here. Her memory is a little fuzzy after leaving the hospital. The last thing she remembers clearly is when Alex was accompanying her down the stairwell to exit the hospital. From there, what she remembers is being led out of the hospital and away from the rest of the crowd. She also remembers struggling against Alex, then being placed into his car and them driving off. Her short term memory is not up to code. This may be due to the drugs Alex gave her right before leaving her room. However, after being well rested, the grogginess that she felt has left. Looking upon the situation, Shannon assumes that the effects of the drugs she was given have worn off. As she tries to sit up in bed, the door to the room opens up and a woman in her late middle-age comes walking in with a tray in hand. On it is a bowl of soup and something to drink.

“Well, hi there,” the woman says. “It’s about time that you’ve woken up.”

“Where am I?” Shannon asks.

“Don’t worry. You’re safe.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“I know. But that’s the answer you’re going to get. Now eat your soup.” The woman puts the tray over Shannon’s legs, close enough for her to eat.

“What’s in it?”

“Chicken soup. Don’t worry, it’s not drugged.”

For a little while, there is an uneasy silence between them where neither one does anything.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” the woman says. “Eat up.”

At this, Shannon uneasily picks up the spoon and starts eating. As she eats the soup, she does so slowly, not trusting the woman who gave it to her. But once she has started eating, Shannon realizes that she is very hungry and no longer consumes the soup hesitantly. Once finishing the soup, she lets the spoon slide into the bowl. But even though she feels fine afterwards, Shannon is still suspicious of the entire situation. She is still in a strange house with a strange woman. And on top of this, she has just been kidnapped, so there is no reason for Shannon to trust the situation or the players who partake in it.

In regards to Alex, even though she knows him, and suspects that what he is doing is what he believes is best for her, he still spent all of the capital and trust they developed when he crossed the line into kidnapping. And even though he trusts this woman, Shannon has no reason to. She is just as guilty as him in this whole situation because she hasn’t done anything to contact the authorities to let them know what is going on. The next time that she sees Alex, Shannon plans on chewing him out for putting her into this situation. Something might have gone wrong as she was brought here, and the New World Power, or some other nefarious group, may have gotten their hands on her. Even though Shannon is in what appears to be a “safe” environment, she’ll do what she can to stay on guard.

When Shannon finishes her soup, the woman says, “Good. Very good. It will help you regain your strength. In your current condition, you need to get as much strength as you can.”

With that said, the woman takes the empty bowl and heads out of the room. With the woman gone, Shannon reaches for her injured arm. It still hurts, but not as badly. She wonders if Alex helped the healing process along while she was out. As she thinks of it, Shannon wonders what it takes out of him for him to use his ability. In order for him to use it, what does he have to give up in return? He doesn’t absorb the injury. That’s just stupid. This leads her to actually look down at her arm. Looking at it, she notices fresh bandages. It must have been Alex’s work. She can’t think of anyone else who can do such a good job in the given situation. Not sure of what to do, Shannon decides to just lay back in bed.

As she lays there, Shannon wonders how long she was out. She looks around to see if a clock is available. It takes her a moment, but eventually she finds one. It has an old fashioned look to it with Roman numerals circling the face. But as Shannon looks at it, she notices a mistake. The Roman numeral for four is wrong. Instead of IV, it’s written as IIII. Apparently, someone doesn’t know how to write Roman numerals correctly. She will eventually wonder if this mistake was made during the design process or the manufacturing process. If it was made during the manufacturing process, then just a simple mistake would be easily overlooked. But if it was made during the design process, then such an excuse can’t be made. Both the designer and the executives who supervised the process made a mistake and the blame falls on both of them; on the designer for making the mistake and the executives for not noticing the mistake and allowing it to go into production. But even with the time she gets from the clock, she doesn’t know how long she was out because she doesn’t know what time she was taken from the hospital.

For awhile, Shannon just lays there, letting her mind wonder a bit since she doesn’t have anything else to do. Eventually, the door to the room opens and Alex comes walking in. When she hears the door open, Shannon begins to sit up in bed, favoring her injured arm as she does so.

“Hey,” Alex says in a bit of a friendly tone. “You’re up.”

“What? Is that all you’ve got to say. What am I doing here, Alex?” Shannon says, almost yelling.

Putting his hands up, trying to calm Shannon down, Alex says “Hey. You’re safe now. That’s all that matters.”

“Bullshit, Alex!” Shannon proclaims as she throws a pillow at him.

Alex quickly dodges as the pillow goes flying by and hits the door behind him. Luckily, is didn’t hit anything else.

“What the fuck were you thinking? I don’t belong here. What makes you think that I’m safer here then anywhere else?” Shannon continues.

“‘What was I thinking?’ It was obvious that the police weren’t able to protect you.”

“Crow wants to kill me!  I’d rather have people with guns, training, and state sanction protecting me then private citizens.  And besides, it’s the Marshals and the police who have resources to protect me that you are unable to match.  And they know what it takes to protect people.  After what happened today, I’m sure they’d try to transport me to a safer location, probably by helicopter, so what happened today won’t replay itself.  And if I wasn’t at a hospital, I’d be at some place like a police station or federal building, which is meant to protect people.  I wouldn’t be at a private residence which isn’t secure and can’t adequately protect me.”

Shannon has a point. Even though police stations and federal buildings are open to the public, with attorneys, members of the press, people who’ve been arrested, family and friends of detainees, and the public in general, there are plenty of members of law enforcement and officers of the peace present to ensure that order is maintained. The situation also favors law enforcement because the public is only allowed to go into certain designated areas. And the areas which they are allowed to go, they have to complete certain steps before they are allowed to enter.

“If you weren’t paying attention,” Alex replies, “law enforcement hasn’t really been doing their job recently. You were attacked twice in as many days. That doesn’t speak well for their track record.”

“And how is this place any better?”

“Anonymity. There’s no way anyone can trace you to this particular location. You have essentially vanished.”

“Just because I can’t be traced directly doesn’t mean that I can’t be found through indirect means. What if someone followed you here? That’ll mean that they traced me here.”

“But that won’t happen.”

“You can’t be sure of that. My life is in danger here. Don’t you understand that? I almost got killed yesterday and I got pretty close to it again today. I want to avoid it occurring again. Do you know how disconcerting all of this is?”

“Listen. I know you’re scared. So am I. But the fact that the police weren’t able to protect you scares me even more. It’s painfully clear that they don’t know what they’re dealing with.” A thought that crosses Alex’s mind that reinforces this idea is his ability to get Shannon out of the hospital in the first place, but Alex decides to remain silent on this aspect. “Crow has abilities that the police don’t know how to counter, let alone deal with. And he knows who to pick to accompany him on missions. He’s one scary guy. Even under armed escort, Crow and his goons were able to get close to you, twice, and I don’t want to see it happen a third time. How I see it, if you go back to the authorities, they’ll get that third chance. And I don’t want to see that happen.”

“If you are my friend, you would let me go to the police.”

“Don’t you get it? It’s too dangerous for you to be associating with them. Crow will know where to look.”

“What’s so dangerous is for me to stay here without armed guards protecting me. And if I’m with the police, I would have the ability to testify against Crow, as well as the New World Power, and put an end to all of this.”

“But you don’t know that for sure.”

“I have to try.”

Alex is becoming frustrated with how the conversation is developing. As a sign of this frustration, he puts both of his hands over his face and pulls them down. Once his fingertips reach his lips, they stop, Alex thinking of what the say next. Then, taking his hands away from his face, Alex says “Ok. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ve both had a long day. And I think that if we just rested for a little while, let the dust settle, we can look at the situation with fresh eyes and proceed with clear heads. I’ll be back in a little bit. Don’t go anywhere.” With that, Alex steps out and closes the door behind him.

“It’s not like I’m going anywhere,” Shannon says to herself with a tone of defeat in her voice.

Eventually, because she’s been confined in a bed for an extended period of time, Shannon needs to stretch her legs and move about. Even if she was in a hospital, she would be allowed to get out of bed. She wouldn’t be able to go very far because she wouldn’t be allowed to roam the halls due to the security risk, but she would still be able to walk around a little. She would be accompanied by a nurse or two, but still, she’d be allowed to move about. So she pulls the covers aside and gets out of bed.

She walks around the room and looks at the decorations that are located throughout her makeshift prison. As Shannon moves about, she keeps her injured arm close to her body, using her good arm as a stabilizer. As she looks around, she comes across a TV located behind a cabinet door. Once she opens the doors, she tries to find a remote for it. Finding it, she turns on the TV. She then goes through the available channels to see what is on. She wants to find a news program and see what is happening in the world during her absence.

Going through the evening news programs, she wants to see what the program is reporting on. If the station she is watching is reporting upon a news item that doesn’t grab her attention, is on a commercial break, or is showing a non-news program, Shannon will change the channel and go to the next one. As she goes through the news broadcasts, there is a particular topic that Shannon is looking for, i.e., her. She wants to see if she can find anything that comments upon her disappearance or upon the New World Power. Any information they share is fine, as long as it is something. Eventually, after several minutes of searching, she finds what she is looking for.

What she sees is a representative for either the LAPD or the Marshals Service standing in front of a bank of microphones and addressing the crowd. The representative states that a young woman by the name of Shannon Brown has gone missing and is suspected to be kidnapped. She is an important person in an ongoing investigation and if anyone has any information relating to her whereabouts, they should contact the authorities immediately. The representative also states the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. Looking around, Shannon tries to see if she can find a phone. She can kick herself for not thinking of it earlier. She is unaware of the address of her current location, but if she finds a landline, hopefully, the police would be able to trace the call. She goes around, trying to find a phone, but unfortunately, she doesn’t see one. She figures that this might be the guest room, so there is no reason for a phone to be there. Maybe the owner doesn’t even use a phone; that the owner is ideologically against them.

Not being able to find a phone, Shannon returns to the foot of the bed to finish watching the news. When the representative finishes addressing the crowd, the news anchor comes back on camera and moves on to the next news story. As Shannon is watching the news, the woman returns with another tray of food. When the door first begins to open, it causes Shannon to give a little start. But when she sees that it is the woman, Shannon relaxes a bit.

Noticing that Shannon tensed when she entered the room, the woman says, “Don’t worry. You have nothing to fear from little old me. I see that you found the TV. I had a feeling that you would.”

“Why are you keeping me here?” Shannon asks.

“Oh, I’m not keeping you here darling. Oh, lord no.”

“Well, Alex brought me here against my will and he’s essentially keeping me prisoner here, and you’re allowing this to continue, so you are just as guilty as he is.”

“It sounds like you’re saying that I’m guilty by association.”

“I’m saying more than that. I’m saying that you are an accessory to a crime.”

The woman gives a little smile at this. “There’s more going on then you think.”

“Really? Everything seems pretty straightforward to me.”

“Word of advice, don’t criticize those who are helping you.”

“But that’s just it. You’re not helping me. And it’s not your responsibility to protect me. All you are doing is causing more harm than anything else. In fact, what you are doing is illegal.”

“Sometimes, what is done in the short-term may appear to be ill advised, but in the grander picture, is the best course of action.”

“And how is kidnapping and falsely imprisoning someone the best course of action in the long-term?”

“Though it may appear murky now, it will eventually make itself clear to those who are patient.”

“And how is getting metaphysical answering my question? If you truly want to protect me, take me to the authorities. They have the training and resources necessary to deal with situations like this. Even though I don’t trust the police, I realize that they have a better chance of protecting me than you do because they have the full force of the state behind them. And the law is on their side, not yours. What you are doing is criminal and irresponsible.”

“You’ve had a long day. Eat your meal and crawl back into bed. You need to regain your strength.” With that, the woman leaves.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Forty Five

Chapter 45

As Alex is checking on Shannon, the two of them talk in hushed tones.

“How’d you know I was here?” Shannon asks.

“I was following the news.”

“But…”

“That’s all you need to know at the moment. Now just relax and try to recover.”

Alex was able to figure out where Shannon was through an initial suspicion followed up by some legwork. In the time preceding the attack, Alex noticed that Shannon was acting differently. This caused him to become worried about her. And when the three of them were going to have dinner together two nights ago, Marc told him that Shannon left to take care of some “urgent business.” Following the news, Alex heard about the New World Power attack upon the Marshals Service, grabbing his attention. When one of the reporters commented that the Marshals Service was possibly caring a federal witness, Alex believed that it was Shannon. Following up on this suspicion, Alex started to check the local hospitals surrounding the attack for any possible reports relating to it. This led Alex to the Sherman Oaks Hospital and to Shannon. And since Alex is a temp nurse, he was able to get himself placed on the hospital staff at Sherman Oaks Hospital since one of the regular nurses called in sick.

And this isn’t the only thing that Alex is keeping from her. Like Shannon, Alex too is deemed a mutant by society and he also decided to keep this information a secret. He feels like he can do more good if he keeps it to himself than if he shared the information. The ability that Alex possesses is known as Laying of Hands. The name comes from the faith healer community, but the difference between the two is that the mutant ability has a measurable physical effect upon the body of the patient instead of just playing off of the person’s hopes. This ability stimulates the natural healing process of the ailing patient which aids in fighting off a sickness or healing a particular injury. However, in situations of aiding physical injuries, though the body will heal quicker, the process will tend to leave more scar tissue behind.

With the natural healing process, the body will create more scar tissue then is necessary to help close the wound. In wounds that are large enough, or are not properly treated, a visible scar will be left behind. With Laying of Hands, this process of scar tissue generation is exacerbated because the healing process is essentially put into overdrive. However, in the process of helping fight off an infection or other such illness, the only thing left behind are antibodies tailor made to fight off that particular illness. But regardless of the beneficial aspects of this ability, there are situations where it can have a negative effect on the patient, causing the illness to worsen instead of improve.

One such example is cancer. This is because with cancer, the cells of a particular part of the body start reproducing out of control. And when Laying of Hands is used, all it does is encourage the cancerous cells to reproduce that much faster. Alex also remembers a former patient of his early in his career who was infected with the AIDS virus. Alex thought that his ability would help fight the illness. But instead, the disease actually worsened, hastening the patient’s death. The reason why the disease worsened was because the AIDS virus bonds itself to the victims DNA, essentially becoming a part of the patient. That’s why it’s so hard to fight the disease in the first place, because the disease tailors itself to each patient, preventing a single vaccine from being created as would be done with the seasonal flu.

When Alex learned that his ability actually helped kill his patient instead of help, he was shocked and felt tremendous guilt because of it. It was because of this guilt, and the fear that he would be fired because of it, that he didn’t tell anyone what he did. But his coworkers didn’t expect anything. They just thought that he was taking the death hard. His patient’s death didn’t go in vain, however. Alex learned that there are limits to his ability. His ability is not like those depicted on TV, in the movies, or in comic books where the person with this ability can simply touch a patient and the patient would be miraculously healed of all injuries or sickness. His ability is not a cure-all. All the ability does is help the healing process along. And the effects aren’t instantaneous. It takes time for the ability to have an effect. It essentially just reduces the overall healing time. Regardless, it was because of this ability that Alex decided to become a nurse in the first place and he still holds to the idea that he can do great good with it.

But Alex feels like the time has come for him to share his secret. As he is changing the bandages on Shannon’s neck and shoulder, he leans over Shannon and asks in whispered tones, “You interested in seeing a little trick?”

A look of slight puzzlement comes over Shannon’s face, but she says, “Ok.”

At that, Alex starts using his ability. Fortunately for him, Alex has positioned himself between Shannon and the deputy, preventing the deputy from seeing Alex use his ability. As he does this, Alex closes his eyes, which allows him to better concentrate. As he uses his ability, Shannon begins to feel a tingling sensation, first at where Alex is touching her followed by the surrounding areas. This tingling sensation dissipates as her endorphins begin to kick in and Alex’s ability begins to really work.

After feeling the initial effects of Alex’s Laying of Hands, Shannon takes a look at her injuries. As she does, she sees the healing process in action, which she finds quite strange. She sees scar tissue form and the injuries tighten up a bit. If she had to describe it, she would say that it was the healing process in fast forward. And because of her raised endorphin levels, she doesn’t feel any pain or discomfort. This is because endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. Eventually, Alex stops using his ability, which is only a few seconds after he begins, and dresses the wounds with fresh bandages.

When Alex has finished, Shannon feels a bit euphoric and says, “I can understand why you got into medicine. And I think I see why you went into nursing.”

Though doctors possess the knowledge and skill to perform the necessary tasks to help treat and fix their patients, it is the nursing staff that actually helps the patient through the recovery process. Even though doctors will check-in on their patients intermittently, the nurses are there on a regular basis and will tend to develop a face-to-face relationship and will help perform the regular treatment. They are there to see the good days and there to deal with the bad. Even though the doctor will get the lion’s share of the credit, the recovery process wouldn’t be possible without the help of the nurses. With Alex, he felt that his ability would be better utilized as a nurse than a doctor for just that reason; he’ll be there during the recovery process and he’ll be able to use his ability often, depending upon the condition and need of the patient.

Once bandaged, Shannon uses her good hand to take one of Alex’s. With that, she says telepathically, “thank you.” She hopes that she sends more than just the words. The reason why she touches Alex to send this message is because it tends to be more effective at sending it than just trying to send it from mind to mind. Back at school, when she was getting help from Terrance on her exam, the two of them practiced together so that he would know how to interpret her psionic messages when he received them. With touch telepathy, the psionic uses the person’s own nervous system, which should better aid in transmitting the message. After receiving this, Alex replies with what he hopes Shannon will pick up as gratitude.

During the time that Alex was using Laying of Hands, the deputy’s radio began to chatter. The deputy is informed that Crow maybe within the hospital. After acknowledging this, he makes his way over to Alex. Luckily, Alex finished bandaging Shannon, and she sent her message to Alex. After approaching Alex, the deputy says, “Excuse me. A situation has arisen. How much longer do you think you’ll be?”

“I just finished,” Alex replies. “What’s going on?”

“I’m not at liberty to say at the moment. But you have to leave, now.”

Reading the situation, Shannon concludes that the New World Power has found her and is in the hospital. She would try to read the deputy’s mind in order to obtain some more information, but he’s not close enough for her to be able to do this. She’s just not powerful enough. But it’s situations like this, where a person is able to read the situation, that adds to the mystique of psionics, making people think that they are more powerful than they really are. Shannon tries to sit up in bed after coming to this conclusion, but Alex turns back to her and says, “It’s probably nothing. Just try and relax.”

Looking at the deputy, Shannon asks, “Is it him? Is he here?”

“Don’t concern yourself with that now,” the deputy says. “We’ve got it under control.” Turning his attention back to Alex, he says, “It’s time for you to leave.”

At this, the deputy leads Alex out of the room as Shannon looks on with concern. Once out of the room, the deputy closes the door behind him and Alex begins to leave. As he does, Alex sees the deputy and one other armed guard standing outside of Shannon’s room. Unbeknownst to Alex, as he is leaving, he is heading towards the location where Crow and the other two New World Power members are currently standing. As he watches Alex leave, the deputy manages to see someone acting suspiciously. Seeing this, the deputy concludes that this is one of the New World Power members. The New World Power member that he sees is the member who was sitting in the back seat of the car. The deputy managed to see him because the New World Power member was looking around the corner. Seeing that the deputy has spotted him, the back seat member quickly ducks back around the corner.

To Crow and the driver, the back seat member says, “I think he saw me.”

To reinforce this, they hear the deputy calling out in an assertive voice saying “Hey!”

Hearing this, Alex thinks that the deputy is talking to him, so he stops and looks back. But looking at the deputy, Alex notices that the deputy is looking past him toward where the New World Power members are located and starts heading in that direction in a hurried pace, pulling out his weapon as he does so. Seeing this, Alex flattens himself up against the wall.

Knowing that their cover has been blown, Crow determines that the time to act is now. Moving quickly, Crow pulls out his gun and turns the corner. Seeing how close the deputy is, Crow manages to raise his weapon before the deputy does and gets a shot off. Crow hits the deputy in the shoulder, causing the deputy to fall to the ground. Seeing the other armed guard, Crow quickly re-aims and starts firing at him.

Reacting to the situation, Alex instinctively ducks as the armed guard raises his weapon to return fire. But because Crow has the drop on him, he isn’t able to react as quickly as he could. This is punctuated by the fact that one of Crow’s bullets strikes him. Fortunately for the guard, the bullet strikes him in his vest. After ducking, Alex runs as fast as he can in the opposite direction so that he can make it to safety. Not waiting for instructions, the New World Power member who drove the car prepares himself to go on the offensive. But he doesn’t pull out a gun, but builds up what can be best described as an “energy” charge. The driver’s ability allows him to secrete an enzyme through his skin that, when oxidized, ignites.

The driver builds up the enzyme around his hands because they act as a point of concentration. To the average person, this ability is perceived as Energy Expulsion, failing to realize exactly what energy is, seeing energy as just a force onto itself. In actuality, the type of energy the driver is building up is a chemical energy, so it would be better to classify this ability as Electromagnetic Expulsion. Once enough of the oxidizing enzyme builds up around his fists, he is able to propel it in the direction which he wants them to go. But he has to wait a second or two before firing so that he can accrue enough of the enzyme.

As the driver prepares his ability and Crow ducks back behind the wall, the deputy and the armed guard manage to recover the best they can. The two of them scurry to the wall located opposite that of Shannon’s room so that they won’t be in the direct line of sight for the New World Power. The armed guard moves into a doorframe as the deputy slides across the floor. Once the deputy reaches the armed guard in the doorframe, he’ll retake his feet.

Once enough of the oxidizing enzyme has been accrued, the driver is ready to lean into the hallway so that he can fire. But as he steps out, the guard fires his weapon in the driver’s direction. Though the bullet misses, being shot at causes the driver to duck back behind the wall as an automatic reflex, but if the bullet was going to hit him, it wouldn’t matter what the driver did. The driver then quickly steps out from behind cover and fires a chemical bolt of energy at the guard. The guard was preparing himself to fire at the driver again, but the driver managed to discharge first, causing the guard to react and dodge instead.

During this volley, the deputy manages to radio-in from the cover of the doorframe that they are under attack and are taking fire. As he does this, the driver manages to fire off two more bolts of chemical energy before the guard and deputy are able to return fire. As the guard prepares to take aim, the driver ducks back behind cover before the guard is able to fire his weapon. The walls in the hospital are essentially constructed of wood and drywall, and thus, don’t provide much in the way of protection. The bullets would most likely just pass through the wall and continue traveling along its trajectory. Fortunately for the driver, the guard doesn’t fire and he moves several inches back from the corner when he takes cover.

Analyzing the situation, the deputy determines that if the situation continues to go as it is, it will turn out very bad for him, his associate, and the person that they are trying to protect. After radioing in their situation, the deputy gets to his feet and rushes forward. Upon reaching the corner, Crow reacts instantly to the situation. He gives the deputy a quick mental stun as he closes the distance between them, followed by putting his hand over the deputy’s gun. In the United States, law enforcement personnel have been trained to keep their weapons lowered until they are ready to use it. This fact reduced the threat that Crow faced when he made his move against the deputy. And the injury the deputy suffered further aided Crow and his attack.

Once Crow deflects the gun, he puts his free hand over the deputy’s face and eyes so that he can over stimulate the neurons in the deputy’s brain and cause a seizure. And with the hand that is over the gun, Crow also manages to partially paralyze the deputy’s hands so that he won’t accidentally pull the trigger and discharge the gun. As the deputy begins to collapse, Crow tries to use Read Thoughts to see if he can gain any information about the person the deputy is protecting, but this can be a bit of a challenge due to the induced seizures he has caused. Right before the deputy hits the ground, Crow manages to get the information he is looking for. Shannon is the person the deputy is protecting.

As all of this is going on, Shannon is freaking out. She hears the commotion and gunfire going on outside of her room and she is incapable of doing anything, including protecting herself. She can’t escape through any doors because there’s only one way in or out of her room, and that is where all the commotion is. She can’t escape through the window because she isn’t on the first floor. Besides, she is in no condition to do anything proactive due to the extent of her injuries. And trying to detach herself from the medical equipment will pose a problem. Though she is scared, there isn’t really anything she can do. She is dependent upon others for her protection, and that isn’t playing out to well at the moment.

As Crow is taking care of the deputy, the guard tries to make a move to prevent this from occurring. However, the driver prevents him from doing so. Taking aim, the driver fires two shots at the guard, but both of them miss. However, the driver’s third shot manages to hit his target, even though indirectly. The shot hits the doorframe in front of the guard, causing part of the enzyme ball to splatter and hit its intended target. The driver would have gone for another attack, but is prevented from doing so by the arrival of the cavalry. Uniformed guards arrive on the scene, causing the environment to change and forcing Crow and the others to react accordingly.

It is at this point that Alex is able to capitalize on the situation and manages to slip into Shannon’s room. The guard is dealing with his injury as Crow and his associates are preoccupied with the arrival of the reinforcements. If Alex didn’t make his move at this point in time, he would have missed his opportunity because uniformed guards and law enforcement agents would have arrived in that corridor and would have prevented him from making his move. But he manages to make it to Shannon’s room without being noticed, and he is carrying a backpack and a container of medical supplies with him. Closing the door, Alex makes his way over to Shannon. Seeing Alex, Shannon is able to relax a bit.

“What’s going on out there?” Shannon asks.

“Well, it seems like your friends from the New World Power want to pay you a visit,” Alex replies. “But from the look of things, it doesn’t appear to be one of those friendly, ‘I hope you get well soon’ type of visits.”

“What are we going to do?”

“I’m going to see if I can get you out of here. I feel that it’s too dangerous for you to stay.”

“How are you going to get me out of here?”

“We’ll see won’t we?” Not exactly the most comforting words one can hear in this situation, but it’s the best he can give. “I brought you some clothes for you to change into. But before you get dressed, let me see what I can do about your wounds.”

At this, Alex takes out a bottle and then injects its contents into Shannon’s arm. He then lays his hands over her injuries and stimulates her body’s natural healing process. After a few seconds of this, he lets Shannon get dressed. Even with Alex’s help, Shannon finds this to be a bit difficult. Once dressed, Alex put’s Shannon’s injured arm into a sling to prevent it from moving about and causing further injury or pain.

With this task completed, the two of them make their way cautiously to the door. Upon reaching it, Alex slowly opens it and peers out, hesitantly. Looking out, it appears that the coast is clear. The New World Power is too busy dealing with security to make a move against Shannon and the security force is too busy dealing with the New World Power to think about protecting Shannon. Apparently, no one thought to come down this corridor. At this, Alex takes Shannon by the hand and the two of them make their way to an emergency exit as fast as they can. Eventually, the Marshals Service will check in on Shannon, just to find that she is gone.

In order to find an emergency exit that is nearby, the two of them have to go down the hallway and round a corner. But as they do, they come across a problem. The New World Power member who was riding in the back seat of the car was instructed to try and find a way to gain entrance to Shannon’s room from another direction. In doing so, he managed to avoid police, the Marshals, and security, and was able to get around to the other side of the hallway that leads to Shannon’s room. This causes him to come across Alex and Shannon as they head down the hallway.

Noticing his target, the passenger doesn’t waste any time and sprints toward them. Seeing him, Alex and Shannon move quickly into a nearby stairwell and start going down. Upon entering the staircase, they come across unexpected traffic. The stairwell is filled with people trying to evacuate the building. The commotion which Crow and the others are currently engaged in cause panic to spread across the hospital. In an attempt to control this panic, and to get people to safety in an orderly manner, hospital staff try and help escort people out to a safe location as quickly as possible. Though this slows Alex and Shannon down, it gives them a valuable advantage. As long as they don’t do anything that would draw attention to themselves, like looking back or trying to push through the crowd, they should be able to blend in with the other people, allowing them to go undetected by the New World Power member.

After Alex and Shannon merge into the crowd, the New World Power member comes bursting into the stairwell. Like Alex and Shannon, he’s surprised by the traffic he encounters in the stairwell. This causes him to take a step back. It also causes him to become a bit disoriented. In addition to all of this, he wasn’t paying close attention to what Alex and Shannon are wearing, so he won’t be able to pick them out from the crowd.

After regaining his bearings, the New World Power member pushes his way through the crowd in order to reach the railing. Upon reaching it, he starts scanning the crowd. His actions displease some of the people but he pays them no heed. As he scans the crowd, there are some people who catch his eye, but they are not the people he’s looking for. Though Alex and Shannon are close by, the New World Power member has lost his target. Upon realizing this, he steps back out of the stairwell and breaks out a cell phone in order to call Crow to inform him of the situation.

With Crow and the driver, they have managed to make it into one of the rooms, which provides them with some cover so that they can try and fend off the advancing authorities. As Crow fires some shots at the authorities, his cell begins to ring. Seeing who it is, he answers it by saying, “I hope you have good news.”

“Sorry,” the passenger says. “I lost them in a stairwell. I came across an unexpected crowd.”

“Damn,” Crow proclaims as he hangs up the phone. Turning to the driver, he says, “It’s time to go.”

And it’s a good time to do so, for Crow and the driver are becoming overwhelmed. With the arrival of reinforcements, and the existence of multiple fronts, the situation is becoming a bit tenuous. They have been lucky to make it this far and they can’t hold out much longer. As he surveys the surrounding corridor, Crow sees a stairwell nearby.

“This way,” Crow says to the driver.

As the driver provides cover, Crow makes a break for the stairwell. Upon making it across, it’s now the driver’s turn to run for it as Crow provides cover. But unlike Crow, the driver isn’t so lucky. While he’s still in the room, the driver finds a bedpan and grabs it. He thinks that it would be able to act as some type of shield when he is shot at. His reasoning is that the metal of the pan would be able to deflect any oncoming bullets. Wrong. As the driver runs for the stairwell, a police officer fires at him. The bullet just so happens to strike the bedpan and easily penetrates it, striking the driver in the arm. This is because the bedpan is not constructed to stop or deflect bullets. It’s built to be shit and pissed in. For any substance to be able to deflect or stop a bullet, it needs to be either thick enough to absorb the kinetic energy of the bullet, or constructed in such a way that the kinetic energy is transferred across a wide area.

Once such item that is able to absorb the kinetic energy of a bullet is a bullet resistant vest, though it is regularly misidentified as a bullet proof vest. The average person generally believes that a person wearing such a vest will be protected from firearms. This is true, to a point. If the bullet comes from a low enough caliber gun, the vest will be able to stop the bullet. But if it comes from a high enough caliber gun, it will be able to penetrate the vest and strike the person wearing it. And depending upon the brand, a bullet resistant vest can be compromised by knife attacks, due to the physics involved in a knife thrust.

After being struck in the arm, the driver is shot again in the leg, preventing him from making any further progress. Seeing that his follower is down, Crow quickly deduces that it is best if he leaves the driver behind. It won’t do him, Crow, or the New World Power any good if he gets caught. With the stairwell that Crow finds himself in, it just so happens to be empty. It’s likely that because of the commotion he and his followers caused while dealing with security, the people in charge of evacuating the floors decided that it would be best not to send people down this particular stairwell. Once inside, Crow decides to go up instead of down. He feels that he would have a greater chance of being caught if he went down. After ascending a flight of stairs, Crow cautiously opens the door and enters the floor corridor. Fortunately, law enforcement is yet to enter the stairwell to notice where Crow has gone. As Crow leaves the stairwell, he comes across a nurse who is hurriedly moving down the corridor.

Seeing Crow, the nurse says, “You shouldn’t be here.”

But this is about all that he can do because Crow moves quickly and is able to incapacitate the nurse. Using both a physical and psionic strike, Crow causes the nurse to collapse to the floor with a minor nose bleed. And since the nurse was close enough for Crow to grab, this aided Crow in his attack. With the nurse now knocked out, Crow drags his limp body into one of the nearby rooms so that the nurse won’t draw any unnecessary attention as Crow makes his escape. It just so happens that the room Crow enters is an occupied patient room. Seeing Crow, the visitor gets up from his chair and turns around to face the intruder.

“What’s going on?” the visitor asks as the patient looks on from behind him.

Crow straitens up and faces the visitor. The visitor is about to yell at Crow to get the hell out, but before he does, Crow rushes forward and punches him in the stomach. This is followed by a punch to the visitor’s jaw. The power that Crow delivers, accompanied by the fact that the visitors jaw wasn’t clenched and his head rotates due to the blow, causes the visitor to become knocked out. Seeing this, the patient sits up in bed. But as she does, Crow quickly turns to her and says, “Don’t even think about doing anything,” pointing a finger at her as he does.

Looking back at the visitor, Crow determines that the two of them are roughly the same size, though the visitor is a little bigger around the middle. Crow then begins to take the visitor’s jacket and hat, putting both of them on. Before leaving the room, Crow turns to the patient one more time.

“Don’t think about anything stupid,” Crow says. “If you do anything that would draw attention to yourself after I leave, I’ll know. Then I’ll come back here and make sure that it’s the last thing you do. Understand?”

The patient nods her head. Crow then leaves the room and heads toward the elevators. Taking one to the lobby, Crow steps out into a horde of patients and hospital staff. Once in the horde of people, Crow blends in with them as they are led out of the hospital.

Eventually, when Alex and Shannon reach the ground floor, they find themselves among the same horde of confused patients and visitors which Crow uses to facilitate his escape. When they leave the stairwell, Alex has his arm around Shannon to help keep her on her feet. And in all of this mangled confusion, security isn’t able to keep an eye on everyone, allowing Alex and Shannon to be able to slip out of the hospital through a back exit. As they were descending the stairs, Shannon began to feel a little nauseated and disoriented, which only worsens as time goes by. Eventually, Shannon notices that they have just left the crowd and are outside the hospital, away from any possible help. Looking around, she begins to wonder what is going on.

“What’s going on?” Shannon asks. “Why are we outside?”

“Don’t worry about that,” Alex replies. “I’m going to take you somewhere safe.”

“Don’t you think the police would be able to do that?” Shannon asks groggily.

“Looking at their track record, I don’t think they can. And besides, we don’t know if there are any more New World Power members inside the hospital waiting for their opportunity to strike.”

Shannon doesn’t like the idea of not going to the police.  They are trained and equipped for situations like this.  And since they have the law on their side, they have greater resources at their disposal than the average citizen.  Even though they will mess-up on occasion, staying with the police is better then nothing.  Not liking the idea of going away from the police, Shannon tries to struggle against Alex.  However, she’s beginning to really feel the effects of the drug that Alex gave her and doing anything other than rest might not be the best idea.  So Shannon allows Alex to take her to wherever they are going.  They eventually make it to Alex’s car, though Shannon’s legs become a little wobbly, making it difficult for them to reach it.  Once there, Alex helps Shannon into the passenger seat, followed by him getting behind the wheel.  From there, the two of them drive off.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in An Enemy Within

 

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