Virus, Episode Twenty One

We’re getting close to the end here. Catch up now!

Episode One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty


Saturday, AC April 15

Bailey was barking at the living room window. He stood on the back of the armchair, barking over and over.

“Isn’t there a way to shut him up?” Godfrey asked dully.

“Not that I know of,” Mason said, “Wish he at least had a volume control.”

They sat on the couch in the living room, waiting. The lights outside grew brighter, as the day began. They were afraid to turn on the news feeds, afraid of what they might see.

Mason’s wristpad lit up. He glanced down at the screen, then sat up. “It’s Sennett,” he said.

He tapped the phone while Godfrey crowded in next to him. “Hey, guys,” she said, smiling in a tired way. “How’s it going?”

“Sennett, what the hell’s been going on?” Mason asked.

“We left Station 19 about four days ago,” Sennett said, “But we had to go the long way around to avoid certain legal complications. I’m not asking about it so I don’t have to arrest any of the people who just saved my life. Sorry, I didn’t call before now; we weren’t close enough to get through.”

“Sennett,” Mason said, “I- I missed you.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Sennett said, “I’m going to be home tomorrow. Where’s April?”

Mason looked quickly at Godfrey. His bottom lip shook.

“Sennett,” Godfrey said, “April’s missing.”

Sennett’s smile fell off her face. “Missing?” she whispered, “The hell do you mean, she’s missing?

“Since last night,” Mason said, “Sennett, I’m sorry. Someone’s been stalking her, and we had a police detail following her to school, and then someone took her from the school and they killed at least one of the officers. Maybe both, we don’t know.”

Sennett looked up, towards someone they couldn’t see on screen. She repeated what they’d told her, then looked back down. “We’ll be there soon,” she said, “Call me if you hear anything. Let Schultz know I’m in communications distance.”

“Sennett, I’m so sorry,” Mason said.

“It’s not your fault, Mason,” Sennett said, “I’m glad you’re okay, at least. And Godfrey?”

“Yeah?” Godfrey asked, his voice catching.

“Keep my brother safe, please,” she said.

“I will,” Godfrey said, “We’ll find her, Sennett.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” Sennett said sharply, “Protect Mason. Let the police do their job. Trust me, you don’t fuck with a cop’s kid. They’ll want to make an example of whoever did this.”

The screen went dark. The room was quiet again, save for Bailey’s barking.

Sometime later there was a knock on the door. Godfrey opened it, finding Joyce on the doorstep.

“I can’t stay long,” she said, stepping inside. “Damn that dog is loud.”

“Is there any news?” Mason asked.

“None that you’re gonna like, Kiddo,” Joyce said, “You were right about Oswald. Her place has been cleared out. No way that’s a coincidence. We’ve flagged her credentials on every allied station.”

She sat down on one of the armchairs wearily. “At the time we believe April was on Level One, twenty-seven shuttles left and arrived at the station. The officers who were watching her were spotted there with a little Earthian boy. We’ve got shuttles out, Stoat and Wheatly have been reaching out to all of the nearby stations.”

“What’s Mai doing?” Godfrey snorted.

“Sitting in his office and acting like none of this is happening,” Joyce snorted.

“Figures,” Mason muttered. His wrist pad lit up again. He looked down at it and grimaced. “Fuck, it’s Ny.”

He tapped the screen. “Hey, Ny,” he said.

“Hello, I’m here,” Ny said, “Where are you and April? My shuttle home’s leaving in half an hour.”

“Yeah, you might not be making that shuttle,” Mason said, “We ran into a snag.”

“What kind of snag?” Ny asked, “I traveled a long way to get here, what the hell is going on?”

“April was kidnapped,” Mason said.

“What?” Ny screamed, “What in the hell did you do?”

“Nothing!” Mason snapped, “Some asshole took her from school.”

“You let my niece get kidnapped-,”

“She’s my niece too!” Mason said, “And you’re not even here enough to know anything about her. But since you’d rather judge from afar rather than actually contribute anything, get bent, Ny.”

He disconnected the call.

“I’ve got to get back out there,” Joyce said, standing. “I’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything.”

She left, leaving Godfrey and Mason alone again with the barking. Godfrey walked over to the dog and patted his head. Bailey looked up at him and whimpered. “I would bring her to you if I could, buddy,” he said, stroking the dog across his back.

He considered going into the kitchen and cooking something. But he couldn’t think of anything that he wanted to eat.

Godfrey turned back to Bailey. The dog looked up at him, then back toward the window, then at him.

“Is it weird that he hasn’t barked in any other direction?” Godfrey asked.

“What are you talking about?” Mason asked, plopping down on the couch again.

“Bailey hasn’t done anything but bark at this same window ever since I got here. Normally a dog would sniff around, looking for the person they were missing.”

“He’s an AI dog, though,” Mason said, “You can’t expect him to act like a normal one.”

“I had a good coon hound growing up,” Godfrey said, “Her name was Betsy. If we had her here, we could track April.”

At the word track, Bailey stopped barking. He looked at Godfrey and sat.

“Do you, know that word? Track, do you know track?” Godfrey asked.

Bailey barked once.

“Bailey, leash,” Mason said scrambling from the couch toward the front door. The dog trotted over and sat while Mason attached the leash around his neck.

“Hold on, we can’t just go running after her,” Godfrey said.

“What other choice do we have?” Mason asked, “By the time the cops get back Oswald can sneak April away. We’ve got to go now.”

“Okay, yeah,” Godfrey said, thinking back to what Sennett said. “Maybe you should wait here. I’ll go get her.”

“Don’t be stupid, you can’t go by yourself,” Mason said. He opened the door and said, “Track April, Bailey.”

The dog trotted out of the door. Mason followed.

“Wait!” Godfrey called. Thinking fast, he ran into Liam’s room.

Godfrey slipped under the bed, finding what he was looking for almost at once. An electric pistol with an extra clip. He tucked the weapon into the back of his belt and ran outside to join Mason and Bailey.

They headed for the transit station. Bailey sat patiently until a transit arrived, then trotted right onto it.

“Should we call Schultz?” Mason asked, taking a seat as the transit took off.

“No,” Godfrey said, “She’ll just try to stop us.”

They rode to Level Nine, where Bailey hopped off of his seat and trotted off the transit. “Shit,” Mason said, “I haven’t been on this Level since I was eight.”

“Why were you here then?” Godfrey asked.

“My birth mom and I lived here until she died,” Mason replied, “It’s not like my birth dad was going to play for a nice place for his mistress and bastard son.”

Bailey led them through a street lined with dingy looking apartment buildings. Godfrey looked around warily. “I stayed here when I first got to the station. I guess everyone does. It seemed nice compared to my hometown.”

“Doesn’t seem so nice now,” Mason said.

People passed them, giving Bailey a wide berth. Some people eyed him carefully. Godfrey was worried that they were afraid of him until one woman tried to scoop him up and run away with him.

“Hey!” Mason yelled, holding onto the leash. The woman cut the leash with a knife that she seemed to pull out of nowhere.

Bailey sunk his teeth into her arm, growling deeply in his mechanical throat. She screamed and dropped him. He ran down the street, while she ran the other way.

“Damn dog, slow down!” Godfrey cried, running after him.

Bailey didn’t slow until he reached the door to one of the apartment buildings. He scratched on the door, looking up at Godfrey and whining.

Godfrey was trying to catch his breath, which was coming in fits. “Do you think this is it?” Mason asked, catching up.

“I think so,” Godfrey said, “You wait out here, I’ll take him in.”

“What am I supposed to do if you don’t come back out?” Mason asked.

“Call Schultz and tell her what’s going on,” Godfrey said, “In fact, since she can’t stop us at this point, call her now.”

Mason nodded and turned to his wrist com. Godfrey opened the door, and Bailey bounded inside at once.

He headed to the elevator. “How am I supposed to know what floor we need to go to?” Godfrey asked as the doors slid open.

Bailey trotted inside the elevator, then tapped his paw on the floor seven times.

“Alright,” Godfrey said, and pressed the floor seven button. “I guess that’s something a normal dog can’t do.”

They rode to the seventh floor. Baily was off as soon as the doors opened, Godfrey doing his best to keep up. He darted down the hall and stopped at the door marked fourteen. There he sat and looked up at Godfrey.

Godfrey knocked on the door tentatively, feeling like a jackass. What the hell was he doing? There was no reason anyone should let him in this apartment, he wasn’t a cop. And he was pretty sure his hero title only afforded him so much tolerance.

No one answered, so he knocked again. Bailey seemed frustrated with the delay. He barked twice.

From inside the apartment, Godfrey heard April yell, “Bailey! Bailey, I’m here!”

That was all Godfrey needed to hear. He stepped back and kicked the door at the handle. The door shook but didn’t move. He kicked again, and the lock splintered the cheap wood of the door frame.

The door led into a small apartment hallway. To the left was a tiny living room with some folding chairs. To the right was a dark kitchen, with mud on the floor and stains on the counter.

Dr. Oswald was at the end of the hallway with April, trying to pull her out of the window and onto the fire escape. April was struggling, trying to pull away from her. “Mr. Godfrey!” she screamed.

Godfrey and Bailey ran for her. Bailey bit Dr. Oswald’s ankle. She kicked him away and lifted April to throw her out of the window. She followed just before Godfrey reached them.

Godfrey jumped out of the window, tackling the doctor and knocking her down the stairs. Mason was at the foot and started running up them.

Dr. Oswald pulled a pistol from her belt. Godfrey recognized it as an illegal acid gun.

Godfrey pulled his electric pistol, pointing it at her. “I am done letting your torment this little girl,” he said.

The doctor turned and ran down the stairs. Mason grabbed her by the arm. She tried to aim her gun at him, but he managed to knock it out of her hands. She pushed him, sending him toppling over the railing. He landed below, his leg twisted under him, and started screaming.

“Uncle Mason!” April screamed.

“Stay here,” Godfrey said, running down the stairs.

Mason was trying to pull himself into a kneeling position. “Go get her!” Mason screamed.

“I’m not leaving you, you need help!” Godfrey cried, “Lay back down, I’ll call an ambulance.”

Before he could touch his wrist pad April screamed. They looked up. A woman dressed in black was coming out of the apartment, reaching for her. A man was climbing out just after her.

Godfrey ran up the steps. “April, jump to me!” he yelled. She leaped into his arms just as the two people above pulled weapons. Godfrey held April in one arm and fired twice. Both dropped to the ground. He didn’t bother to see if he’d killed them or not.

He turned back down the steps, trying not to run with April in his arms. “Are you okay, Honey?” he asked.

“I want to go home, I want my mom!” April cried.

“I know,” Godfrey said, “We’ll get you home, don’t worry.”

April and Bailey were on the couch asleep when Mason got back from the hospital. Godfrey pulled his headphones out. “How do you feel?” he whispered.

“Better,” Mason said, walking carefully. “They’ve got a splint around it until it heals up. I can walk, but it hurts like hell. How’s April?”

“Tired, but alright,” Godfrey said, “There’s some supper in the kitchen if you’re hungry.”

“Maybe in a little,” Mason said, sitting carefully in an armchair. “I had something at the hospital. Did they catch Oswald?”

“Yep,” Godfrey said, “Saul, too.”

“Saul?” Mason asked, “What’s he got to do with this?”

Godfrey chuckled. “He’s behind all of it, actually. He’s been working with Oswald since she came to the station. She was paying off people to help him get elected, he was helping her get closer to April. Got her a job at the school, helped her track Mason. He even helped her access Mason’s work to make it look like he’d plagiarized other students. Obviously, with him arrested, Joy’s got her spot back.”

“Politics suck,” Mason muttered.

“They always have,” Godfrey sighed, scratching Bailey’s head.

Copyright © 2018 by Nicole C. Luttrell

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.




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