Pivots of Time
Author: Mike Barlow

Chapter 5
Flight or Flight

Lauren stepped over the threshold, the heavy-set door slamming shut behind her. She heard the lock click as she was sealed inside.

Sighing, she looked around the small cell, annoyed at its familiarity. It had been two days since the escape from the underground compound, and she could still not recall how she had ended up here. Filling in the blanks was easy enough however; examining the time line in her head had told her everything. After falling unconscious, Alex had continued his attempt to escape, eventually forced to concede to superior numbers as more and more police vehicles joined the pursuit. As he was handcuffed and lead away, he had shouted instructions to Lauren's unconscious form; clearly he had assumed she would examine this memory using her ability. He had told her to tell them anything she wanted, and that he would think of something soon.

The first instruction puzzled Lauren at first - surely the police would never believe the truth, and any story she concocted would be disproved as soon as they questioned Alex about it. She came to the conclusion however, that it did not matter whether or not the police believed her tale; if any of their enemies had infiltrated this station, they would know Alex and Lauren regardless of any convincing cover story either of them could invent. She found she was also remarkably calm regarding her fate; she knew Alex would find a way to get free, and her trust in him was absolute.

Sitting down on the uncomfortable bed, Lauren closed her eyes and relaxed her body. Slipping into the state of mind required for her ability, her Foresight as she had come to call it, was second nature to her by now; with no effort at all, the time line burst into brilliance before her vision. Casting her mind around the station, she quickly located Alex; he was in one of the interrogation rooms just down the hall. Casually slouched on a chair, with a cup of coffee and a doughnut on the table in front of him, he seemed nonchalant as the two officers in the room tried hard to keep their exasperation hidden. Lauren felt herself smiling at the scene; she had no idea how Alex did it, as she had never managed to secure anything more than a polystyrene cup of water during one of her own interrogations, and she was certain she never appeared quite as laid back. Concentrating, she tried to decipher exactly what was being said, with no luck. That ability came and went, she had found, and straining to achieve it accomplished nothing except an outrageous headache. Giving up, she returned to her cell and opened her eyes.

Her eyes wandered around the room, still deep in thought. Using her foresight she had managed to determine that Alex's cell was directly alongside her own, and while she had no method of contacting him, that fact gave her comfort nonetheless. Looking ahead, she could not see an escape approaching anytime soon; the future in her head showed several weeks of interrogation and questioning; Lauren had come to suspect they were being held as terrorists. Beyond those few weeks she could see nothing; she had come to realise, as Flinn had tried to explain to her, that the future she saw was extrapolated from the current intentions of the people involved. Beyond those few weeks, the police did not know what would be done with them; and therefore, Lauren could not see it. Similarly, it did not worry her that she saw no evidence of any daring escape plan concocted by Alex; it was clear to her that he had not yet decided on a course of action, and as soon as he did, Lauren knew she would see the results of it. She had seen no sign of any attack mounted by the Agency or by the Destroyers either, and this gave her comfort, though she was aware that could change as quickly as Alex's own plans. Until a move was made, Lauren knew she was effectively in limbo.

With a clatter, the flap in her cell door was pushed open as her evening meal was presented to her. Collecting the tray from the door, she sat to eat, in her mind chastising her captors for her meal's late arrival; she had found that since developing her foresight, she was constantly aware of the exact time of day. As she ate, her mind began to wander, inevitably focusing on Alex.

She knew she had begun to feel very strongly for Alex, though exactly how strongly sometimes surprised her. She didn't know whether it was simply their current situation causing her feelings, or whether she would have fallen for him were they both just ordinary college students. All she knew was that back in that bunker, when she had blurted out her love for him... that she meant it. Having not had a chance to speak to him since the events of that morning, she still wondered what he had thought of it; that was one thing, she thought ruefully, that her foresight could not tell her. She recalled vividly his reaction, without any need to witness the scene again; he had paused, despite everything that was happening around them, he had been given pause. Lauren had never seen anything achieve that; she wished she knew what that had meant. She longed to know that he felt the same way; time and again her mind drifted back to their peaceful night in Burghead, when he had held her tightly as they slept. She recalled how safe and secure she had felt, how at peace. If only she had told him then how she had felt, if only she hadn't left it as late as she did! But perhaps it was for the best, Lauren thought sadly; no matter how much she wished it were true, she could not bring herself to believe that he loved her back; and if that was the case, at least she could disguise her outburst as the heat of the moment...

Suddenly, she sat bolt upright. Something was wrong. The room was dark, no light now entering through the small window; she must have fallen asleep. Her tray was lying beside the bed where she had left it after finishing her meal. The room was quiet; she could nothing except her own ragged breathing.

But what had caused her shock? Had it just been a dream, a nightmare she was still recovering from?

The silence was heavy, oppressive. It unnerved her in a way she couldn't explain. There was not a sound; no wind whistling past the window, no sounds of life from within the station.

Realising what had worried her, Lauren's breath quickened. Where were the nightly footsteps? An officer always patrolled the station at night, his footsteps a strange source of comfort to Lauren, telling her she was not alone. Why could she hear nothing of him?

A sound. Metal on metal. A key clinking into a lock.

Panic seizing her body, Lauren looked around hurriedly for a hiding place. There were none, the barren cell providing no cover she could use. As the door began to swing, she slipped into the one place she could think of; behind the door.

A torch flicked on, illuminating her small cell. Lauren watched it move over the opposite wall as she trembled and tried to quell her raging heart; surely the man would hear it?

"There's nobody in here." The man whispered. Lauren almost cried out in relief, managing to catch herself before she did so. She realised there were tears running down her face and gritted her teeth; what would Alex think?

A voice replied. "She's got to be in there, look again!"

And then a chill pierced her body as Lauren heard, "Oh hang on, she's here."

Before she could react, a hand grabbed her arm, pulling her from behind the door. A second hand quickly clamped over her mouth, preventing her scream. She was dragged out into the dark corridor.

She found herself facing two men, the third holding her tightly. Looking around, she saw the body of the patrolman slumped against the door to Alex's cell. If only he could help me now, Lauren thought desperately. If only Alex was with her... If she had to die, she wanted it to be by her side.

One of the men before her drew a pistol. He cocked it deliberately, before placing the barrell against her forehead. Lauren's knees trembled; she thought she would fall if she was not being held.

The man spoke, in an odd guttural accent she did not recognise. "My friend here is going to remove his hand from your mouth. You will not scream. There is nobody to help you here. You scream, you die. Understand?"

Lauren, expecting to be dead by now, nodded. The man removed his hand, allowing her to breath properly; she gulped at the air, trying her hardest to suppress a sob.

The man in front of her spoke again. "Where is your companion?"

Lauren started. Why haven't they killed her? "My... what?" She asked, impressed at how steady her voice was. She didn't understand, why did they want Alex?

The man clicked his tongue impatiently. "The ex-agent, 4d4a42! Where is he?"

Suddenly Lauren realised. These men were Agents, not Destroyers! They wanted the pair of them dead, not just her! She considered her options; she could tell them he was in the cell next door, and hope that letting him out would give him a chance to deal with them, or she could say she didn't know... But then, she thought, they may just kill her, and search for Alex, and so she would have helped no-one. As she quickly ran through her options, a though occurred to her.

"How did you know where I was? Did he tell you?" She asked, gesturing at the body of the patrolman with her head, "Why couldn't he tell you where 4d.. where my companion was?"

The man shook his head. "Not our work. We find him like this." Lauren frowned; what was going on? The man pressed the gun harder to her forehead. "Where is the Agent?" he demanded.

A man stepped out of the shadows behind them, pressing a familiar pistol against Lauren's assailants earlobe. "I'm right here." Alex hissed. Lauren slumped in her captors hold, relief surging through her.

The man before her grinned slightly. "You kill me, my friends kill the girl."

A vision of the future burst into Lauren's mind; she braced her legs for her weight in preparation.

Alex shook his head. "No they won't."

He moved like lightning, pivoting on his foot and moving behind the man in one motion. Wrapping his arm around the man's neck, elbow pointing forwards at Lauren and her captor, Alex snapped his pistol around, firing a single shot. Lauren flinched in fear, aware as she was that she would not be hit; the bullet found its mark in her assailant's throat. As he fell, she slipped out of his weakening grasp and dived for cover.

Alex twisted his elbow, snapping the first man's neck as he did so, stepping over his body as it slumped. The last traitor, not as quick in his movements as Alex had been, finally reacted, raising his rifle and firing wildly around the hallway; Lauren cried out in fear, he arms covering her head as she cowered on the floor. Alex, a picture of calmness, ducked behind a metal locker while his enemy filled the walls of the corridor with his ammunition. Lauren, having now scrambled behind the cover of her cell door, caught Alex's eye; he winked at her, and despite herself, she felt her stomach flutter.

Suddenly Alex was moving again and the moment was gone. As their attacker paused his barrage, blinking his eyes in an attempt to see in the darkened and wrecked corridor, Alex stepped out, firing from the hip. The man fell backward, and silence fell over the scene.

Alex offered his hand to help Lauren onto her feet. "We've got to move," he said, eyes roaming around the corridor; Lauren noticed he was not even out of breath, "They'll be all over us any minute."

Sure enough, as they ran along the corridor toward the exit, an alarm rang out throughout the station. Alex paused as they passed an open doorway; Lauren turned to beckon him on.

"The exit is this way!" She cried as he ducked inside the room. "Where are you going?"

"Just wait there!" He shouted back. Lauren looked around nervously; despite the sound of the alarm ringing through the building she had yet to see any sign of activity besides their own. Standing there alone in the cold and harshly clinical corridor, a sudden sense of vulnerability surged through her.

"Alex?" She called uncertainly. He reappeared a moment later, carrying with him a small arsenal; a lightweight rifle strapped to his back, a huge weapon Lauren didn't recognise with a large circular barrell near the handle, and what seemed to be a police riot shield. He handed her the shield.

"They will have set up a perimeter outside. You use this, keep yourself under cover." He smiled, "I'll get us out of here."

She smiled back, but he was already moving, heading for the exit now at full tilt. Lauren ran after him, rounding the corner into the lobby, noting the splintered security door Alex had apparently battered through on his way out. She followed him, catching him up as she emerged into the cool night air.

Dazzling light blinded her. Shielding her eyes, squinting through her eye lids, she struggled to see what was happening.

She stood by Alex at the top of a set of steps leading down from the entrance to the station to a large open courtyard, at the far side of which a road was visible. Covering the road and the courtyard were a number of police cars, parked sidewise on to Alex and Lauren, lights flashing. Behind each car crouched several officers, weapons aimed directly at the two fugetives. To each side of the courtyard was a spot light, each trained directly on the entrance; Lauren's eyes still struggling to adjust, she attempted to block the light with her hands. A voice rang out over the scene; Lauren noticed an officer with a loud speaker behind the foremost car.

"We have you surrounded! Drop your weapons and place your hands on your head! Comply immediately or we will open fire. Drop your weapons!"

Alex looked at Lauren. "Make sure you stay covered." She immediately crouched, shielding herself from both the light and the danger.

Alex raised the enormous weapon, firing upon the closest vehicle. Lauren instantly understood the weapon's purpose; the projectile exploded, filling the courtyard with smoke and quickly obscuring the police ranks. Alex fired several more shots, distributing the smoke evenly over the scene; Lauren could hear the officers coughing and spluttering as their lungs failed to adapt to the assualt. Alex grabbed her hand.

"Come on!" he hissed, pulling her up. Clutching the shield tightly, she followed as he lead her to the left of the courtyard, moving as silently as they could. Alex pressed his body flat against the wall; Lauren imitated him.

"Ok." He breathed; Lauren had to lean in closer to hear him over the shouts and confusion caused by the smoke. "We're going to try and sneak around the edge of the courtyard, steal a car, and get out of here before they realise. But we have to be quick, it won't take them long to get organised." Lauren realised he was right, as she could already hear the officers formulating their plan; they would split into teams and comb the smoke. Alex was already moving, silently and swiftly following the wall toward freedom. Lauren hurried to keep up.

Sidling along the wall, hardly daring to breathe, she stuck as close to Alex as she could. She tried to ignore the sounds of shouted orders, footsteps, organisation; surely it could not be long before they were discovered? Trying to perceive the future was useless, she discovered: deciding her nerves must be affecting her, she pulled her concentration back to herself. Realising Alex was deathly still against the wall, she drew up beside him. Placing his index finger over his lips to indicate silence, he gestured nearby; Lauren could just make out a shape moving slowly through the fog, towards them. She flattened herself against the wall as best she could, tried to quell her furiously beating heart, and prayed they were not found.

Alex had had a better plan, she observed; carefully removing a a loose stone from the pepple-dashed wall, he flicked it into the fog with his fingers. There was a metallic clang as it struck what Lauren imagined to be a police car. Sudden movement indicated the distraction had worked; tapping her arm to get her attention, Alex was moving, quietly running to the edge of the courtyard, vaulting the bonnet of a car as he did so. Lauren followed, traversing the same car bonnet with what seemed to her to be much less grace. Fumbling in the smoke, her hand found Alex's: he pulled her forward, as they emerged onto the road. Before she could breathe a sigh of relief, Alex directed her to an unattended police cruiser, once again vaulting the bonnet to jump in the driver's side; Lauren dropped into the passenger seat, closing the door as quietly as she could. Alex gunned the engine, sending them swerving onto the road and away from the scene.

She slumped in the seat, tension flooding out of her; they were away, and she could see no signs of pursuit. Alex flicked on the sirens before grabbing the police radio from the centre console, beginning to speak.

"All officers in the vicinity of St James Park, be advised: two fugitives escaped from custody, one male, one female, both early twenties, thought to be armed and extremely dangerous, last seen heading west in a black late model Ford Focus, use extreme caution, over."

Switching off the radio, he grinned at Lauren. "That should keep them confused long enough for us to get away."

Lauren looked around; still no pursuit, or sirens beside their own. "Surely it won't take them long to figure out that was you?"

Alex grinned again. "Do you know how many black Ford Focus' they're going to find? Don't worry, I described us accurately enough that they won't question the message until they have reason to suspect it was false, and we should be long gone by then. Plus we're heading north not west." He turned to look at her. "I told you I'd get us out of there."




 

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