Episode 4: Can You Hear Me?
by Toni Walker
The rooms in the Facility were white and medicinal. Marcus fingered the lump on the back of his hand.
There was something wrong with how controlling Echelon had become. He couldn’t remember his past, who he used to be. But there was one thing for certain -- he didn’t like who they made him become when a mission was in the works.
He pulled a knife from his pocket and glanced toward the security camera mounted on the ceiling.
He poised the knife but stopped.
They were watching. They were always watching. But he had to do this. He had to do this in a place they weren’t monitoring. The only place he could think of was the shower.
As he made the first cut under the pounding spray of water his nervous system seized up and he fell forward bashing his skull on the side of the tub.
“Help me,” he whispered.
“I don’t know your sister,” Jenna said to the nearly naked man.
His attention shifted and suddenly he seemed as if he was listening to a voice that wasn’t there.
“Did you hear that?” he said glancing around his surroundings.
“Hear what?” Jenna asked.
“Someone is calling out for help.”
“I didn’t hear anything,” she said.
“It’s two rooms down on the left.”
“The person in trouble.”
Jenna thought the man was crazy, but she was beginning to think weird things were normal here.
He got up from the table and studied the lock on the door.
“It’s electrical,” he said to himself.
“Why does that matter,” Jenna asked.
He pulled a cord from the wall and ripped it from the base of a lamp. He plugged it back in and gave the lock a shock of voltage that could cripple a man. The electricity fried the lock.
He heard a satisfying click. The door was open.
“The lock doesn’t know if the electrical pulse is coming from this side or that side.”
He didn’t touch the knob of the door and used a plastic matt. The door opened easily.
“Who are you?” she whispered.
“Come on,” he said. “We have to help him.
“Help who?” Jenna asked bounding through the door after him.
Marcus thrashed in the shallow water of the tub. He was face down, but he couldn’t get his head out of the water. It was almost as if his mind and body was working against him.
He banged the back of his hand against the side of the tub hoping to dislodge the device under his skin, but he couldn’t find the energy to complete the task. His head had been under water for a few minutes and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold his breath.
“What are you doing?” Jenna asked following the strange man down the hallway. It had to be her reporter’s instinct keeping her on his trail. Any other reason was pure insanity.
“In here,” he said, opening the door. They could hear splashing and suddenly, the sounds completely stopped.
The man rushed to the bathroom pulling the unmoving body of Marcus out of the tub. He laid him awkwardly on the hard tile floor.
Jenna came in and stopped abruptly. Not only was Marcus not breathing -- he was completely naked. Her eyes grew wide and the turned around to give him privacy.
“There’s no time for shyness,” the man said. “You have to help me.”
Jenna spied a towel and moved it across the lower portion of Marcus’s body.
“That’s better,” she said.
In between CPR and rescue breaths, the man ordered Jenna to look at Marcus’s hand.
She knew this wound. She’d had a similar one recently.
“If I pull this out, he may get a bit of memory loss. It happened to me.”
“It’s a chance we’re going to have to take,” he said. “I need him alive. He’s the only one who can get us out of here.”
Jenna wasn’t sure how the man knew that. But he seemed full of useful information. She found a pair of tweezers and focused on removing the transmitter. It slipped out easily, more easily than hers had. He many not have the same symptoms at all.
“That’s odd,” she said.
“What’s odd?” he asked.
“When Hank pulled mine out, it was connected to a cluster of nerve endings. His wasn’t. It slipped out clean.”
“That is odd.”
As soon as the device was flushed down the toilet, Marcus began to stir. He groaned and put a clammy hand to his forehead.
“What happened?” Marcus asked.
“I think when you cut into your hand, you triggered a dangerous Facility protocol to subdue you,” he said. “They really don’t want you to leave, do they?”
“You’re both too new to know what goes on around here,” Marcus said. “These people kidnapped you for a reason.”
“I know why I’m here,” the man said. It could be any number of reasons: The Legacy, Ethan Fairchild, my father, the Foundation. It’s a toss up.”
“Got a lot of enemies, do you?” Jenna asked. “I write for the calendar section of the Herald. What could these people possibly want with me?”
“Who you know. What you know. It could be anything,” Marcus said.
“Help me get him into the living room,” the man said grabbing Marcus’s shoulders.
Jenna eyed Marcus’s near naked form. “Can’t you put something on? Boxers, something?”
The man grabbed a pair of underwear from atop the sink and tossed it towards Marcus. Jenna stepped into the other room.
“They don’t make them like her anymore,” Marcus said.
“Actually, there ware plenty of her out there,” the man said. “I don’t think she realizes how long she’s been here.”
“You’re a relative newcomer,” Marcus said to the man. “You’re supposed to be in a near zombie state.”
“I’m not one for following the rules,” he said, but the process the Facility put him through didn’t leave him completely unaffected. Focusing was a challenge.
“You’re Esta Cooper’s pet project. The rules don’t apply to you,” Marcus said slipping on his boxers. “What’s your name?”
“Phoenix Gray,” he said abruptly. “And I’m no one’s pet project.” He shook his head trying to clear his mind. “I’m leaving. You two can come or you can stay behind. It makes no difference to me.”
Phoenix walked into the room past Jenna. His fingers gripped his belt loop for dear life. It didn’t make the shaking in his arm any less. It merely disguised his weakness.
He leaned against a chair as a dizzy spell nearly took him to his knees. Jenna turned and saw him struggle with standing.
Marcus stood on his own and shrugged into a dark navy shirt and pants. He passed clothes to Phoenix who gratefully accepted them.
Marcus placed a steadying hand on Jenna’s shoulder.
“I don’t understand anything that’s going on,” Jenna said.
“All you need to know is that we need to stick together,” Marcus said. “Between the three of us, we’ll figure this thing out.”
The Jenna look-alike checked the time on her cell for the third time in two minutes. Her foot tapped uncontrollably. She was on a time table and was at the mercy of the train schedule. Her foot tapped uncontrollably. If she was late, she’d never get the explosive necklace off her neck.
The train pulled into the station and she ran up the stairs toward the passenger drop off area. Her contact was supposed t be in the park beyond the parking lot. She raced to the location, frantically looking for her contact.
“Where is he?” she muttered.
A television in a nearby shop window turned on. Darkness had fallen making the screen more noticeable.
“Excuse me,” the man on the screen said. She recognized the personality. It was Miles Hayworth, the head scientist at Echelon. His accent was thick as he beckoned her forward.
“I’m unhappy to inform you that you’ve missed your contact,” he said.
The Jenna look-alike was out of breath and leaned down resting her hands on her knees. She was too exhausted to gasp.
“NO!” she said through labored breaths. She looked around frantically hoping to see someone who could help her. But once the sun set the train lot quickly emptied and was deserted.
“Why are you doing this?” she begged the screen. “I did everything you asked.”
Miles smiled and nodded. “Yes, you were one of our best operatives. Unfortunately, we have an image to maintain. We can’t let our competition know our clones are defective.”
“I’m not defective,” she shouted.
“No, you’re not,” Miles admitted.
“What does that mean exactly?”
“It means you’re not a clone. Just an unfortunate girl who stumbled across our path and lost her life. Goodbye, Cynthia.”
The image on the television flickered out and the Jenna look-alike’s heart began racing.
Was this the end?
Suddenly, the necklace Echelon had given her began pricking her neck. Tiny needles extended from inside the hollow area and latched onto her skin. The effect was so quick she didn’t realize what had happened before her legs collapsed beneath her and she fell to the ground.
A man with shiny leather shoes stepped forward whistling a tune. He reached down, hit a button and released the latch on the necklace. But that wasn’t all that happened. Suddenly, she no longer looked like Jenna West.
She hadn’t been a clone at all.
The man pocketed the necklace and walked away down the sidewalk.