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What Hasn't Been - Chapter 4
Marshall and Athena!
This is the fourth chapter from my upcoming FINAL installment of the Department for Mutated Persons trilogy - “What Hasn’t Been”
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The metal door bent like a plastic toy. Bolts popped off the hinges, and the door slowly curled downward, revealing Marshall’s bearded face.
“That was subtle,” Athena drily mused, peering from around his broad shoulders.
“No time for subtlety,” Marshall smirked, motioning for Athena to step through the bent doorway.
Athena asked as she flipped on her flashlight and traversed the concrete room. “Yeah... about that. What were we doing here again?”
“We’re going to look for Mary. The Director said he knew where she was.”
“You mean your brother.”
“Yes...” Marshall paused for a moment. “Paul was looking for her, and if he had any leads, they would be buried on the network.”
“I still can’t believe he’s alive.”
“Well, he wasn’t exactly a symbol of brotherly love,” Athena pulled back a vinyl curtain, like the ones she remembered from her time working around the Department’s labs. She grumbled as she pushed a metal surgical cart out of her way. “I’m still not entirely sure how your younger brother can be older than you are.”
“To answer that question, I think I’d have to ask a lot more questions. Questions we don’t have time for right now.”
Athena looked back at Marshall and shrugged with a curled frown, then looked back with the beam of her flashlight illuminating a computer console at the far end of the room. “These old buildings are still hooked up to the grid, and the Department doesn’t think anyone will come to scavenge,” she explained, “At least, not after the crackdowns.”
“Still don’t see it on the news,” Marshall groaned as he pushed clutter out of his way. “Feels like the normals are getting a completely different set of realities from us.”
Athena placed her flashlight down on the keyboard tray. “You think they’d tell the public they were rounding up all the freaks in their name under some law, and then show them? I’m surprised we know anything at this point.”
Athena motioned to a gray metallic box to the side of the computer. Marshall peeled off the door, which was guarding a set of switches. He flipped one switch and the lights at the entrance came on, while they still remained in the half-dark.
“All we hear is people talking in rumors. Wouldn’t call that news.”
Athena pointed to a yellow primer switch above Marshall’s hands, which he flipped. “Unfortunately, that may be the only honest news left.”
The computer screen lit up a soft gray, the pixels powered, but no graphics. Suddenly, a single line of pixelated text rattled off across the top quarter of the screen: booting OS...
Athena popped her knuckles and waited for the machine to load in. A warm hum emanated from behind the monitor and small crackles of data being read off a hard drive rattled off at their ankles.
“Jeez, how old is this thing?” Marshall asked.
Athena hit a few keystrokes and the login screen appeared. “Decommissioned near the beginning of the Department. Probably one of the first labs experimenting on us,” she replied as she continued to type. She pulled out a small memory module about the size of a stick of chewing gum. She plugged it into the thick monitor and a black screen glazed over the computer. Code started trickling down the screen faster than Marshall could read it.
“We won’t have a lot of time on their network before they figure out what’s going on,” Athena explained. Marshall nodded, and Athena pulled up a command prompt window. “Shit.”
“We don’t have network access. These old bases worked off satellite internet,” Athena groaned.
“Yeah?” Marshall put his arms over his chest. He knew where this was going.
Athena smiled weakly, “Could you go up on the roof?”
Marshall sighed and pulled out his walkie-talkie. He pointed it at Athena, “Remember this the next time you say I never help.”
Athena saluted Marshall irreverently and switched the walkie-talkie clipped to her belt buckle. The room was filled with a soft white noise from the walkie-talkie. Marshall pressed the talk button and the noise cut out.
“Roger. Roger,” Marshall droned in a monotone grumble. Athena snickered to herself, then returned to searching the internal files of the computer.
Marshall punched through the roof hatch from his precarious position on the top floor ladder, sending the sheet of metal flying into the air at least twenty feet. He pulled himself up onto the roof and was immediately hit like a whip from the powerful wind. He looked across the roof and saw a large satellite dish installation bolted firmly to the center of the concrete space.
“Found the dish!” Marshall barked into the walkie. He paused for a minute, waiting for a reply. “Athena, you can’t nod, you have to say ‘copy.’”
“Copy!” Athena snapped back. “I found some files on the internal hard drives. Not sure how much use they’ll be, but I’m copying them over.”
“Did you just nod?” Athena’s voice blared through the walkie.
Marshall walked over to the satellite dish, observing the security fence that encircled it. He found his way around to the gate, broke the menial padlock, and swung open the door. The satellite had a small console with a blinking green box.
“Athena, it looks like we have power, but the dish’s console is just sitting idle.”
“Just type in ‘calibrate,’ and I think the dish should do most of the work,” Athena replied.
Marshall leaned over the console and typed into the keyboard built into the unit. The console hung for a moment, and then lines of text streamed down the small screen. Marshall had a hard time discerning what they said, making out only the words ROTATION PKG INITIATED. The dish lurched with a loud creaking noise, then it rotated to find its new satellite coordinates.
“It’s working!” Athena barked through the walkie. “We won’t have much time.”
“I think it’s already up!” Marshall yelled as he saw a pair of flashing red dots in the distance, then a floodlight shuttering open as it skipped across the illuminated landscape in front of him. “We’re gonna have company! Did you get the coordinates yet?”
“No, just shut up and give me a second!” Athena shouted into the walkie.
PKG OPENED... LOCATION NOT FOUND
PKG OPENED... LOCATION NOT FOUND
Athena slammed her hand on the console.
“Come on, you piece of--”
“Athena...” the walkie crackled.
“What?” Athena shouted into the walkie.
“We’re out of time.”
“No!” Athena shouted as a portal opened behind her, and a hand pulled her through into their base of operations in Utah, an unregistered territory with no city designation. The portal closed and opened again, and Marshall came walking through.
Athena shoved Marshall. “You lost my drive!”
Castor immediately sat up from his green cot, his bulky bandages eliciting a groan as he tried to stay up. He puckered his lips. “Oooh, fight.”
Athena rolled her eyes at Castor.
“Better the drive than you,” Marshall replied, his hands up.
“You’re both welcome,” the woman said, her arms crossed – waiting.
"Thank you... Shawna," Athena's words stilted in between words as she reminded herself that Song was gone, taken by Marshall's brother, Adam. She missed their old team dynamic, but Shawna was excellent at getting them out of sticky situations all the same. Her eyes turned back to Marshall. “At least I can thank someone.”
Shawna smiled, her chestnut eyes lighting up.
Castor took a swig of his flat beer. “New girl’s got some skills.”
Marshall sighed and slid his walkie-talkie onto a battery pack sitting on a small wooden desk. Their base was an old park ranger’s checkpoint. It was more of a shack than an actual base, but it served its purpose. Athena shoved her walkie onto the next battery pack, glaring at Marshall.
“Those aren’t easy to program, you know,” Athena explained.
“We’ll be faster next time,” Marshall replied. He looked up at the water dripping through the cracks in the wooden roof. “We have to be.”
“No Mary?” Shawna asked, her hands on her hips.
Athena shook her head.
“That lab will be locked down now,” Shawna groaned, her voice barely above a whisper. Her hands poured over a large map, rolled out across a table in the middle of the hut. “We’re running out of soft targets from your list, Marshall.”
“I know,” Marshall said. “But we’re no good to this resistance if we’re behind bars.”
“What resistance are we fighting for, exactly?” Athena questioned. “The resistance that unleashed your psychotic brother - you know - the onw who decided to start killing everyone? Or the resistance that can’t seem to stop our people from getting rounded up like cattle?”
Marshall sighed and pressed his hands into the desk holding the walkie-talkies, pinching the wood so hard that the desk started to fracture and split. Shawna and Athena looked at each other.
Say something, Shawna silently urged Athena.
Athena nodded and cleared her throat. “We just need to find Mary.”
“Yes,” Marshall replied. “She always had a way of bringing us together – putting things in perspective. We need that right now.”