Walter banged on my door while I was on my laptop, and I sprang onto my feet to open it for him. How could I tell it was Walter? No-one else who wanted to see me would hit it that hard. I rubbed my eyes as I opened the door, because though I’d been awake for hours, I really wasn’t awake. Walter was standing with May and Riley, and Riley had very red cheeks. Walter was stroking his beard, and looking around behind me to try and get a look in my room. I felt pretty grouchy, the effects of the fight were finally getting to me, and I probably looked it.
“What are you working on Ed?” Walter asked. I had half the mind to snap at him for calling me Ed, but I really couldn’t be bothered.
“Nothing really. What’s up?” I asked, and he grinned at me. Maybe I was being a little too casual for his liking.
“You are coming with me and Riley, and we’re going to pick something up,” He said. Great. Secretive as usual. Well, I guess I didn’t have much of a choice.
“What are we grabbing?” I asked, and May sighed from behind him.
“That’s a surprise. Now, uh, put a shirt on, and we’ll get going,” Walter said, and as May’s cheeks turned bright red, my door slid shut. I walked over to my desk and shutdown my laptop, and headed over to my wardrobe. I guess I need to get dressed.
When I made it to the pod bay, where Walter and Riley were waiting for me, he told me to go away and put my suit on underneath my clothes. I argued against it, and told him that the LED’s would make it a little obvious that I was wearing it, and we finally agreed that I’d be taking my helmet with me. I didn’t mind that, but it was still really odd that he wanted me in my suit. I really doubted anything bad would happen when we were picking up a package, but then again, Walter was a known member of the rebellion now. It wouldn’t take too long for anyone to pin down Riley and May, and I would bet that there were already people heading off to find their mother. The rest of Walter’s family wouldn’t even be able to be contacted. From what I knew, they all lived in America. Wait, was I meant to be security? I didn’t get much time to ponder that, as I was thrust into the back of Walter’s car. Riley climbed in next to me, and the three of us took off down the road. I must admit, Walter definitely had a specific taste in cars. He had us in the back of a high-power sports car, which although it wasn’t discreet, did a good job of keeping the military’s attention off of us. There were several layers of attempting to out think one another at play there, and I suppose Walter thought they’d be looking out for what I typically drove, or what the military typically drove. A million dollar sports car was probably the opposite of covert, so it fit Walter’s personality perfectly.
“Do you know where we’re going?” Riley whispered. The fact that she was asking me was a little worrying.
“Do you?” I asked her back, and she shuffled slightly closer to me in her seat.
“A factory on the outskirts of the city. One that he bought back when, you know,” she whispered. I don’t know why she was being so quiet, there wasn’t any reason to. But she was right, I did know. Walter hadn’t always been a soldier, to my knowledge, that was a recent development. When I’d know him, he’d been an engineer and a businessman, responsible for several of the acquisitions Park had made. Unfortunately, the fact that it was on the outskirts of town probably meant it was going to be quite the drive. Riley squirmed around next to me, trying to get comfortable, and for some reason, I started to just notice what she looked like. I mean, I barely bothered to get to know anyone aboard the Sandman when I had first arrived, and I really only knew faces through their obvious features or through repetition. Yep, I’m definitely an asshole. But now, Riley, well, she was grabbing my attention. I don’t know if it was the pleated skirt, or the blouse or the way her hair was tied in two low pigtails, but she seemed to be demanding my attention now.
“You’re wearing glasses,” I said, and Riley blushed.
“Yeah. I guess they don’t hurt as much as contacts,” She was still as soft-spoken as ever.
“God, I don’t even want to think about what that would feel like,” I joked, and she laughed.
“It’s not very pleasant, that’s for sure,” She laughed, and Walter rounded a corner a little sharply. Riley fell over onto my shoulder, and Walter very briefly looked back at the two of us with a grin on his face.
“Sorry about that,” He said, and turned his attention back to the road. Riley hurried to pull herself off of me, and adjusted her glasses. She tugged her hair out of her face, and glared at the back of her father’s seat. She was not happy with that, I guess. Our conversation stopped there, with Riley far too embarrassed to keep talking to me. We spent the rest of the long drive sat in silence, with only the sounds of the radio and the low hum of the engine.
So, it’s no surprise that I was incredibly thankful when we parked. I crawled out of the car and stretched my legs, and Riley followed my lead. She looked tired after being in the car so long, but in the dim light of an underground parking lot, I couldn’t make her out too well. Walter slammed his door shut, and walked up to the two of us. He grinned, and started walking off. Riley was quick to follow him, but I kind of just stood there for a moment. I was still very curious about why I had to come and do this, and why he couldn’t take May. She was not happy about him taking me, and that really wasn’t a surprise.
I started walking, and caught up to the two of them pretty quickly, but I was paying more attention to the world around me than to the conversation they were having. I could hear the low hum of machinery above us, no surprise there, but every so often, there was a sharp metallic note that cut through the noise of the factory. It sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. This place, in all likelihood, would be owned by Park and run by Walsh. It was how a lot of factories in and around Meridiam worked, and it tended to produce some interesting items. For instance, you could have a Walsh run factory producing tablet computers next to a Walsh run factory producing rifle parts, or even microcircuitry. Perhaps that was the metallic noise I heard, but it didn’t sound like it. From what Riley had said, I would guess that this would be one producing more experimental technologies, especially since the exterior was completely unmarked. That brought an interesting thought to mind, but the likelihood of it being right would be slim to none. Walter led us into an elevator, and we started to climb. The elevator took us far above the factory floor, probably to the executive level, where all of the factory’s management would work. It made sense that we wouldn’t be picking a package up from the factory floor, but the management level was also pretty weird.
The elevator dinged, and we stepped out into a mess of men and women in white lab coats. People were hurrying around, carrying large wads of papers or boxes full of scrap tech, and then there were the men and women hunched over at computers, hurriedly tapping away at whatever new project they were working on.
“Edward Walsh!” I heard the cry come over all of the noise around us, and suddenly the entire building froze. So that’s why Walter had wanted me to come.
“Oh good lord,” I said, and we were immediately swarmed by the workers, who were eager to get a look at me. I instantly knew what they were manufacturing here, and I wasn’t happy about it. The fact that Walter thought we could possibly need more of that wasn’t a happy one.
“Edward. Nice to see you,” A voice in the crowd I actually recognised said, and I turned to face him.
“Professor Beeves. Nice to see you to,” I stuck out my hand to him, and he pulled me into a bear hug. What had gotten into him?
“Are you okay kid? You know, after going back there?” He asked, and I grinned. Riley still had no clue what was going on, and was backing away from the growing crowd.
“Hey!” I shouted, and the movement of the crowd stopped.
“Get back to work,” I said, and they rushed off to do so. Isaac just stood there with a grin on his face, and Walter planted his hand on my shoulder.
“Yeah, I reckon he’s good, Isaac,” Walter chuckled, and pulled Isaac into a hug. Isaac gave me a thumbs up, before engaging in the same ridiculously masculine hug. I looked over at Riley, who looked like she wanted to laugh at the two of them. Although she may not know Isaac, she definitely knew her father, and he was, well, he was a hugger.
“Alright then,” Isaac said as Walter put him down, “You’re here for the package I assume?” He asked. Walter nodded, and a massive grin spread across Isaac’s face. So he was proud of whatever we were picking up. These guys really liked keeping me in the dark didn’t they? From the way Isaac was grinning, I would guess that there was more in stock than just our package. He looked like he was about to blow our minds. Admittedly, that’d be pretty damn hard.
Isaac led us through the winding halls of the factory, stopping every once in a while to point out one of the large glass windows at the machinery below us, and explain it. He was probably doing it more for Riley than Walter and I, considering we’d probably helped design some of it. She seemed interested though, so I wasn’t going to tell Isaac to stop. One machine in particular was something I recognised. It was an omnidirectional arm, built for quickly moving things between conveyor belts. It looked incredibly futuristic, with glowing blue wires flowing up into its claw-like fingers, and around the small spheres that created its joints. I had no idea how my father had come up with that one, and nobody I had spoken to knew either. One of the many more closely guarded secrets of Harold Lucas, I suppose. Isaac suddenly stopped in front of us, and walked into an unmarked office at the end of the hall. It sounded like he was talking with whoever was inside, and for a brief moment, it sounded like they were going to throw him out. Isaac managed to walk out from the room unscathed, but he looked wary.
“Follow me inside,” He said, and swung the door open. When the door had opened all the way, Riley ran inside to hug her mom. Walter grinned when he saw her, and I ambled in behind them with Isaac, witnessing this odd sort of family reunion. But, this did mean she knew about what was going on in the sky. I had expected her to, but the fact she hadn’t said a word when Skyfire was in her office fighting a brute had changed that idea. She had a decently set up office, and on her desk there was this large steel box. It had two handles on it that made it look like it was meant to be carried by two men, and it was incredibly deep. That’d be the package then. I quickly checked my watch, to make sure I gave the right greeting when I eventually spoke to Samantha, and it was just around two in the afternoon. Samantha looked at me while she hugged her daughter, and whispered something to Walter, that no-one other than the two of them heard.
“So Edward. I’ll admit that I’m still a little upset that you broke my window, but then again, you did save a lot of lives,” She said. God. Dammit.
Riley pulled away from her mother’s embrace slightly, and looked back and forth between the two of us, and putting together what had happened. She looked like she wanted to laugh, and also like she felt a lot safer. She was with both of her parents and a superhero, so I guess that helped. I heard a helicopter whir overhead, and Walter looked out the window to see if he could spot it. I didn’t see it, and he didn’t say anything, so it was either nothing, or he just hadn’t seen it either.
“Well, it was that or dying of smoke inhalation,” I joked, and she smiled at me.
“It’s good to see you too, Ed,” I walked up to her desk, and leaned against it. Since everyone was in such a good mood, I thought I’d ask the burning question.
“What’s in the box?” I asked, and Samantha glared at Walter and Isaac. So, that wasn’t good. Walter turned away and scratched his head, and Isaac walked over to one of the paintings on the wall. So she didn’t know, and nobody was willing to say. That was great.
“Fine. Walter, just tell me what we need to do,” I said, and I heard another helicopter whir overhead. That couldn’t be good.
“Just grab the box, and we’ll be on our way,” He said. I knew this was going to be quick, but with Samantha here, that just seemed a little cold.
“Hang on, aren’t you going to let me spend a little more time with my daughter?” Samantha asked, and Riley clung to her. I knew that spending so long away would make her miss her mother, but that was a little surprising. I could see where Walter was coming from though. He was a known rebel element, and that meant people would be starting to connect her to the rebellion. That meant there would be some bad stuff coming.
“I would agree, but that helicopter is just sitting there. So why hasn’t it moved?” I asked, and Walter spun around to face me. As he did so, my helmet, which I had left in the car, appeared over my head, and another similar one appeared over Riley’s. It didn’t matter if Walter or Isaac or Samantha were seen, they would probably already be screwed. But Riley and I weren’t technically in this country, and we didn’t have a good excuse as to why we were here. Even if they didn’t pin us down as rebels, they’d send us through a nightmare with customs. Arguably a much smaller worry, yes, but it was still a worry. Riley was starting to get scared though, and the sound of rope unfurling outside the window probably didn’t help.
I turned around, and saw a group of four men hanging from ropes, and aiming their weapons inside of the room. I ran towards Samantha and Riley, and pushed them to the ground just before the soldiers fired. The fucking military was after us. Good lord. I pushed myself off of them once the hail of bullets had stopped, and saw Walter in a similar position to me, just with Isaac on the ground below him. I sprung up, and whipped a pistol out of my coat, in sync with Walter. We both fired into the shoulders of two of the soldiers, and they dropped their weapons, before tugging on the ropes to be pulled back up. They drifted out of our view, and the sound of the helicopter moved away. But that wasn’t the only one we’d heard, and there could very easily be more on the way.
“Run?” I asked, and my voice came out modulated.
“Run,” Walter agreed, and I grabbed the metal box off of Samantha’s desk with my left hand. The desk creaked as the weight was lifted off of it, and the box pulled on my arm as gravity’s hold on it dragged it towards the floor. I could lift it like this though, so long as it didn’t take too long to get out of here. Samantha put her arm around Riley’s shoulder, and we ran out of her office and into the corridor. The lights turned red as the alarm went off, signalling the malicious intruders that had just entered the factory. Isaac walked very carefully and quietly behind us, and Walter took point. I only had the one magazine for my pistol with me, so I doubted I’d be able to go too long without using my powers, but then again, I was pretty damn good with my fists when I needed to be. I just had to avoid getting shot so I could get in close enough to punch a soldier in the face. This was going to go well.
Walter led us around a corner, and I could see the workers running for their lives. I heard a gunshot, and we ducked back around the corner. I put the package back onto the ground, and peeked around the corner with Walter. The workers were on the ground, and there were soldiers moving around them. One of them grabbed a particularly old looking man, and thrust him towards the computers. They wanted to know what was going on in here. I looked back at Isaac, and he just shrugged at me. Samantha was trying to keep Riley calm, so she wouldn’t be helping us any time soon. I guess that left this to Walter and I.
“How many do you see?” I asked Walter.
“Six of them. Automatic rifles,” He said. Oh joy. I fired a shot up into the ceiling, and ducked back around the corner. Walter followed me around, and the soldiers turned their attention to us. I flipped the safety back on to my pistol, and passed it to Samantha.
“Aren’t you going to need that?” she asked, and I grinned.
“You’ll probably need it more,” I said, and Riley very softly whispered something about being scared.
“What if you get shot?” Samantha asked.
“Not going to happen,” Walter and I said at the same time. That was just a little weird, but he seemed proud of himself.
My idea, which I hoped Walter had figured out, was that I was going to run out and knock out the soldiers while he covered me. He would have far more ammunition than I did, which made it the best course of action. So that’s exactly what I did. With a nod of confirmation from Walter, I sprinted out into the group of soldiers and workers, and found my first target, the man closest to us. I came up behind him, and slammed my fist into his shoulder, knocking him off balance and weakening his grip on his weapon. I pulled it out of his hands, and used the butt of the gun to hit him over the back of the head. The soldiers turned to me, and upon seeing my helmet, proceed to aim at me. Walter fired from down the hall, and hit one of the men with a bullet to the shoulder. He dropped his gun, and grasped onto his arm for a second, before drawing his sidearm. I ran up to him, and clocked him in the jaw. Two down.
I was hit from behind by the butt of a gun, and pain exploded from the base of my neck. He’d managed to hit me where I’d been struck. I swung around with my elbow, and I hit the bridge of my attacker’s nose. I pulled my arm away and I had a bloody smear along my arm.
“You broke my fucking nose!” They screamed, and slammed their fist into my jaw. Well then. I turned around, and slammed my fist into their stomach. They stood strong though, and retaliated by slamming down both of their fists onto my head. I grabbed onto their shoulders, and rammed my knee into their stomach. That took them out, but the rest of the soldiers had surrounded me now, and I had a gun pressed to my back. I turned around and grabbed the gun, forcing the barrel up towards the roof, and slamming my fist into its owner’s throat, and wrestling it out of their grip to slam into one of the other soldiers. I swept my legs beneath the next guy, and rammed the butt of the gun into his forehead. That made six.
Walter, Isaac and the girls ran out from around the corner to me, with Walter dragging the package behind him. He tossed it over to me when he decided he was close enough, and I gladly took it. The five of us continued further and further through the upper levels of the factory, and from then on we barely ever saw any soldiers. The entire factory was going crazy. The work floor had all but stopped moving, and every single employee was making their way out. No-one seemed to care if they were going to be accused of working with Shade because they ran, but then again, they could just say we were thieves. I slowed down behind Walter a little as we ran, to walk next to Samantha and Riley. Riley was clutching onto her mother, and from the sound of it, struggling to hold back tears.
“Are you alright?” I asked her, and Samantha looked over at me. I switched my grip on the package to hold it with both hands, and Riley turned to face me as well.
“No,” she admitted, and Walter spun around to look at us.
“Get down!” He yelled, and an explosion erupted behind him. Riley weakly screamed as she fell onto the ground, and her mother tried to cover her body as she did so.
“Well, that’s not going to help us,” I said, and smoke flooded into the room. Isaac coughed, and Walter disappeared in the smoke. Bullets flew through above us, and Riley screamed again. This was going downhill incredibly quickly. I crawled over to the window peering out onto the factory floor. We were about two stories up, which meant that we could probably make it down there if we had to. I tried to stand up, to see if I could see over the smoke, but I was stopped by the oncoming bullets. I doubted we’d be going out through the corridor any time soon, so I took my bad idea, and turned it into a plan.
“We need to get out of here,” I said, and I saw Samantha and Isaac nod through the smoke.
“How do you plan on doing that?” Isaac asked, and a bullet narrowly whizzed past his head. I dragged the package over to myself, and got up onto my knees.
“Like this,” I said, I stood up, and threw the package into the window. It shattered, showering glass down onto the work floor below. Samantha and Riley looked up at me, and stood up. Riley grabbed onto my shoulders, and the three of us dove out of the window. I hit the ground awkwardly, and tripped. I slid on my back, and hit something hard and metal. I scrambled off of the ground, and ran over to where Riley and Samantha were, and found that they had now been joined by Isaac and Walter. Riley was lying on the ground, and Samantha was shaking her as she lay there. Shit. I pulled her helmet up slightly and pressed my fingers to her neck. She was alive, just unconscious. She was going to be okay, to my knowledge.
“Right. We need to split up. Isaac, Sam, you two need to head off. If you don’t stay with us, you’ll be less likely to get hurt,” He said, and Samantha frowned at him. Walter grabbed the package off of the ground, holding it in one hand and his pistol in the other, and he half smiled at her.
“What about her?” Samantha asked, and pointed to Riley. That was going to be a bit of a problem.
“Ed will carry her,” He said. Wait I’ll what? Samantha smiled at me, and she and Isaac started to run. They were heading in the opposite direction that we needed to go to, so I guess I really didn’t have a choice. I scooped Riley up off of the ground, and we ran as well, heading back to Walter’s car.
Things were quiet until we made our way back underground, when Riley started to shift in my arms. I adjusted my grip to make sure that she wasn’t going to fall onto the concrete, and checked over my shoulder to make sure no-one was following us.
“Over here!” Walter shouted, and I ran over to him. He was standing next to his car, and he had the doors open for me. I slid Riley into her seat, and strapped her in just in case. Walter probably wasn’t going to be very safe. I jumped in next to her, and as soon as Walter was in his seat, we were speeding away. Riley wriggled in her seat like she was asleep, and drooped her head onto my shoulder.
“I’m okay. I’m just tired,” she said, and I lifted her helmet off of her head, and promptly did the same with my own. I didn’t know if she was conscious or not, but I wasn’t going to stop her from doing anything. That had been a stressful situation, and I was kind of upset with myself for letting things get that bad for her.
“Can you hear me?” I whispered to her. I doubted that Walter would’ve heard me even if I hadn’t.
“Yeah. Thanks for carrying me,” She whispered. When did she wake up?
“Well, I couldn’t just leave you there. What would May have said?” I joked, and she laughed against my arm.
“Still. Thank you,” She said. Neither of us said another word as we drove, and I think for a few hours, Riley just rested there on my arm.