Written by Andy Mascola
“Everyone in the chopper,” Charles commanded.
Cyrus obediently marched toward the helicopter. John and Jennifer looked at each other skeptically.
“Now!” Charles yelled.
Jennifer shrugged. John sighed heavily. The two turned and walked toward the helicopter. Charles’ three armed guards shifted their weapons behind their backs and proceeded to clean up the mess of the dead bodies lying in the snow.
From inside the helicopter, John saw Charles walk into the cabin. Moments later, he walked out with an arm around Kimberly. She was looking around frantically, assumedly for Nick. The bodies outside the cabin had been removed by the armed guards, but John couldn’t see where they’d been taken.
Charles escorted Kimberly into the rear of the helicopter with the other three, and then took a seat next to the pilot.
“Where’s Nick?” Kimberly asked John.
John looked at Jennifer who was sitting directly across from him. Jennifer turned and looked out the window. John looked down, not saying anything.
“Where’s Nick?” Kimberly said again, this time to Cyrus.
The helicopter’s blades were spinning faster and the sound of the engine was getting louder. Tears were rolling down Kimberly’s face. She mouthed the words again, but the three comrades couldn’t hear her anymore.
As the copter flew up and away from the cabin, John looked out the window to see if he could figure out what Charles’ guards had done with the bodies. The three armed men were gone, as was any evidence of the fight that had taken place hours previously; a fight that had left Nick as well as Jennifer’s winged counterpart dead and bleeding in the snow.
It was night when the helicopter reached its destination. John woke when the machine landed roughly, shaking him. He looked at his friends. Cyrus and Kimberly were still asleep. Kimberly’s head was resting on the Cyclops’ shoulder. Jennifer was awake and staring out the window.
Outside, orange and red lights blinked. The helicopter’s engine shut down and the blades slowed. The door on the side was opened by the pilot who was wearing a helmet and leather gloves. Charles exited the helicopter and waited for the group to join him.
“Jennifer,” John said. She looked at him. He motioned for her to wake up Kimberly and Cyrus. Jennifer shook the two awake.
John stood and exited the helicopter. As he stepped out, he looked around. They’d landed on a helipad on the roof of a skyscraper in the middle of a city. It was a cold and windy night. Charles stood with his hands in the pockets of a long black wool coat. He still wore the floppy fishing hat he’d had in the facility. The other three friends stepped off the helicopter and looked around, rubbing their eyes and yawning.
“Let’s go,” Charles said. He turned and walked over to a door being held open by the pilot at the corner of the helipad.
The four comrades followed Charles through the door and down a flight of cement stairs. The pilot closed and locked the door behind them. Nobody said anything to each other as they descended into the skyscraper.
After walking down four flights of stairs, Charles stopped and waited while the pilot used a keycard to electronically unlock a door leading into a long carpeted hall. Again, the four followed Charles.
The old man stopped at a door at the end of the hall. He took his right hand out of his pocket and placed it on a glass rectangle next to the doorknob. The glass rectangle glowed green and beeped. Charles opened the door and walked into a large conference room.
John, Jennifer, Cyrus, Kimberly and the helicopter pilot followed Charles into the room. The walls of the room were made out of a glossy wood paneling. The rug was black. Charles took a seat at the head of a long dark table shaped like a coffin. He motioned for the four friends to sit down.
“This is headquarters,” Charles started. “Those who seek to destroy what we’ve built in order to use your special attributes for their own selfish reasons now know you exist.” The old man sighed. “If Merlin hadn’t radioed for assistance, we may have had a shot of getting at least one of you into their base without them finding out you’re working for Mrs. Margot and I.” Charles looked at John.
“You’re blaming me for this?” John said incredulously.
“Jennifer and Cyrus had no problems dispensing with their counterparts,” Charles said calmly as he slowly blinked.
“What? The only thing Cyrus had no problem dispensing of was the alcohol!” John said angrily. “I shot Cyrus’ counterpart in the knee before I ran after Merlin. Cyrus was passed out in the cabin!”
Cyrus looked down, ashamed.
“What happened to Marcus?” Charles asked.
“Who?” John asked.
“Marcus,” Jennifer said. “The other Cyclops. The one you shot in the knee,” she rubbed her forehead and eyes with both hands. “What happened to Marcus?”
“You tell me, sister?” John said standing up. “You seemed to have your winged counterpart pretty much choked to death by the time I took off after the monkey man. I clipped that giant monster in the knee with a bullet so he wouldn’t hurt anyone while I was chasing down Merlin. So, Jennifer, ou
tell me what happened to Marcus!”
All eyes were on Jennifer.
“Well?” Charles asked impatiently.
Jennifer sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said finally, looking down.
“So, Merlin got away, and is now reporting everything that happened at the cabin to our enemy, and there’s a wounded Cyclops presumably wandering the woods. Do I understand this correctly?” Charles asked.
“Yes,” Jennifer and John said simultaneously.
“What happened to Nick?” Kimberly asked in a shaky voice. Every eye in the room turned to look at her.
“Nick’s dead,” Cyrus said bluntly.
Kimberly broke down in tears. Everyone was silent. Charles made a motion to the pilot who had been standing at the ready by the door, his helmet under one arm. The pilot gently took Kimberly by the elbow and walked her quickly out of the conference room.
“We’ll go over the rest of this in the morning,” Charles said sighing. He reached into the inside pocket of his long coat and pulled out three keycards. “Here are your room assignments,” he said sliding the cards to Jennifer, John, and Cyrus. “The numbers on these cards correspond to the numbers on the doors of the rooms in the hall outside. Get some sleep. There’s an elevator at the opposite end of the hall. I want the three of you to meet me in the lobby tomorrow morning at eight o’clock. You’ll find a change of clothes on your beds. Make sure you’re wearing them the next time we see each other.”