Pivots of Time
Author: Mike Barlow

Chapter 2
Safe at last (cont)

Shaking it off, Alex set off at a fast pace toward the nearest hotel. He paused at the door, and turned to Lauren. He looked unusually anxious.

“Look,” he began, “If we’re going to stay here tonight, I need to keep you safe. We’re going to have to share a room.” He looked at her apologetically. “I know you may not be comfortable with it, but…”

Lauren interrupted him. “It’s fine. Let’s go in.”

Alex nodded, holding the door open for her, and following her in.

The landlady, a plump, middle-aged woman with the most hideous dress Lauren had ever seen, was more than happy to give them a room for the night. She quickly checked them in and handed them the keys, before calling her son to show them to their room. Lauren found herself avoiding his gaze as they headed up the stairs, somehow suspicious of this bell-boy from Burghead. She berated herself for letting this situation affect her so much – though she was sure Alex would tell her to trust nobody, except himself.

Their room was small – a double bed took up most of the rear wall, with a television unit squeezed in on the left hand side of the room, and a bedside table wedged between the bed and the door leading to the adjacent bathroom. Alex took out the rifle, quickly inspected it, and set it down on the rooms only chair.

“I’ll sleep on the floor.” He said before Lauren could speak. With that, he gathered a pillow and a cushion, and lined them up on the floor at the foot of the bed.

“What time is it?” Lauren asked, if only to break the silence.

Alex checked. “Still early – we should get some supplies.” He hid the rifle under the mattress, and took the two pistols from his pockets. He looked at them both, sighed, and held one out to Lauren.

Lauren did a double-take. “I…wouldn’t know how to…” she stuttered.

Alex nodded. “When we have a chance, I will teach you. But for now, if you’re threatened, just point it at them. It will at least give them pause.”

Slowly, and with trembling hands, Lauren took it from him.

Alex shoved the other behind his belt, pulling his top down to cover it. He motioned for her to do the same. “It’s ok.” He added, seeing her hesitate, “The safety’s on.”

Lauren tucked it gingerly behind her belt, half-expecting it to go off as she did so – luckily, it did not.

That done, Alex led her out of the hotel, and out into the street.

As they walked, Lauren found herself concentrating on the cold, metallic shape that pressed into her abdomen with each step she took. Her anxiety grew as they moved further from the hotel – she began to feel vulnerable as she never had while unarmed. It seemed to her that everyone must see the weapon she had barely concealed – it was obvious, surely…? However, nobody who passed them in the streets remarked on it, or even noticed. Still, Lauren couldn’t shake the paradoxical feeling of vulnerability.

Before long, they arrived at a bank. Alex walked over to one of the cash points mounted into the outer wall. He drew a strange card from his pocket, the same size as a credit card, but with no markings – it was simply plain white.

“Let’s hope this still works.” Alex muttered. He inserted the card into the cash point.

The screen flashed. The bank’s logo faded, to be replaced with the Agency logo, which in turn faded to be replaced with a written message.

Welcome Agent 4d4a42.

Please enter the desired funding below.

Alex grinned. “Looks like they haven’t revoked my Agency clearance yet. Let’s see …”

He typed in a figure. The machine whirred for a second, before ejecting his card, along with the largest wad of cash Lauren had ever seen. The screen faded back to the bank logo.

Alex tucked the cash into his pocket. “How much did you take?” Lauren asked.

“Ten thousand.” Alex casually replied. He saw her gob-smacked expression, and elaborated. “They will cancel my clearance eventually. This will need to last us a while.”

An hour later, having purchased many changes of clothes, and enough non-perishable food to keep a small army alive for a week or two, they were back at the hotel. Upon entering the room, Lauren gladly removed the pistol from her belt, and just as gladly changed her clothes. Having both changed, the two sat down on the end of the bed.

“Any thoughts on what we do next?” Lauren asked, after a few moments of sitting in silence.

Alex shifted imperceptibly. “I have.” He paused. “We obviously need to contact Agents, true Agents, those who would stand up against what the Overseer is doing. But we can’t know who is in league with him, and who isn’t. And, as I said, many true Agents may not believe us.” He sighed. “So, first, we have to….we have to bring the Overseer down. We have to stop him killing Pivots, stop him helping the Destroyers, and get evidence to convince the other Agents to act against him. We have to find the Overseer.”

Lauren looked confused. “He’s at the Agency Compound. Isn’t he?” She asked, as Alex shook his head.

“I saw him leave in his private helicopter as I was coming after you. I tried to stop him, but…..you needed me more.” Lauren averted her eyes – he had refrained from killing the most dangerous man in the world, because of her?

“So where will he be now?” she asked.

“He’ll be at the Agency Tower. The worldwide head quarters of the Agency, in New York City. So, that’s where we’ve got to go.”

“How are we going to get to America?” Lauren asked – surely he couldn’t seriously think this was a feasible plan?

“We have to fly there.” Alex continued – apparently he did think so, Lauren thought ruefully. “We’ll make our way down the country, and fly from one of the major London airports – the security will be so tight the Destroyers will find it hard to hinder us much.”

“You really think we can do all that?” Lauren asked faintly.

“I’m sure we can.” He smiled, and despite herself, Lauren felt assured. “Now, I don’t know about you,” He continued, “but I am very tired indeed. Ready to get some sleep?” Lauren nodded. Alex removed the rifle from under the mattress, slotting it under the bed, in easy reach from where he would be sleeping. As Lauren cleaned her teeth and washed, Alex secured the room, checking window and door latches and blocking the door with the chair. He was already lying on his makeshift bed when Lauren left the bathroom.

She slipped under the covers, and doused the room’s only remaining light.

Alex lay there in the darkness, half sleeping, half keeping watch. Even with his eyes closed, he knew everything that happened in the room – a sense of hearing developed by intensive training in total darkness gave him a mental picture of the room. He heard Lauren’s soft breathing, the slight rustle of the bedclothes as her chest rose and fell, the slight stir of the curtain material as the result of a tiny crack in the window frame.

He noticed Lauren’s breathing was neither soft nor regular. It was harsh, quick, and irregular. It almost sounded as if…He sat up.

Lauren was sitting up in bed – in the moonlight that shone through the thin curtains, Alex could see the tears running down her face.

She saw him sit up, and stretched out a hand to him. He took it.

“Hold me.” She murmured through her tears.

Alex climbed up onto the bed beside her, wrapping her up in his arms.


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