Chapter 14: Fools Rush In – part 4
Deja vu wrapped around Addison like a blanket. Like her last stay in the psych ward, drugs kept Addison’s psionics out of reach. That time had been bad, but this was worse. The coup had failed, and she had so much more to lose now. Had Shane, Teague, and her children escaped? What would Triptych do with her? She knew all too well the options at Daniel’s disposal.
Addison forced herself to lay still in the hospital bed and wait. With two armed guards posted at the only exit, she couldn’t do much else. Concentrating on her breathing kept panic and some of her worries at bay. Gooseflesh raised by the overzealous air conditioning provided another welcome distraction. Neither the cotton sheet nor her hospital gown provided much warmth.
Movement on the far side of the room drew Addison’s attention. One of the guards opened the door. Addison’s heart leapt when Shane strode through. A new guard, short and barrel-chested, trailed behind him.
Addison bolted upright, grinning from ear to ear despite the circumstances. “Shane!”
He didn’t reply. He didn’t even glance at her as he walked between the rows of empty beds toward Addison. Shane’s unresponsiveness made her stomach twist into a knot.
Her anxiety mounted when she realized that something else was… off. Although he looked well, Shane’s strides were too short. He stared straight ahead as if lost in thought, with his arms barely moving as he walked. Normally Shane held his head high, chin up. Now he moved like a marionette with some of its strings cut. Had they drugged him, too?
Shane and the guard stopped ten feet from Addison’s bed. “Shane?” she tried again.
He glanced at his wristwatch–one Addison hadn’t seen before–and frowned at the door.
“Shane? Can you hear me?”
The corners of his mouth quirked up for an instant. Keeping his eyes on the door, he said, “He hears you.”
Between his words, lack of eye contact, and odd accent, dread gripped Addison. They had done something to him, and it was her fault. Her fault for being captured. Had they done the same to Ashlynn and Jake? Panic swelled. Addison bunched the bedsheet in her hands to not give in.
The door swung open again. Jake stalked through with Ashlynn beside him in full-fledged Ice Queen mode. Daniel and Teague followed behind them. The sight of them prompted a whirlwind of emotion. Her children and Teague didn’t seem to be prisoners. What was Daniel playing at?
The kids spotted her and Shane simultaneously and bolted ahead. “Mum! Dad!” Ashlynn sprinted up to Addison while Jake went to Shane. Even as she hugged her daughter, Addison kept one eye on Jake and Shane.
Other than turning his head to watch Jake approach, Shane didn’t react at all. The boy slowed to a halt an arm’s length from his father. “Dad, what’s wrong?”
Teague and Daniel caught up with them. Daniel smirked, and Teague gave Addison a businesslike nod.
“I’m not your father,” Shane told Jake.
“What?!” Jake and Ashlynn yelped. Addison was too stunned for words, but Jake rounded on Daniel. “What did you do to him?”
Daniel met the boy’s furious gaze. “Not a thing.”
“That’s not quite true,” Shane said, “but I’m responsible for his current condition. This is unfortunate, but necessary.”
Addison stared at the man who looked like her husband. Except for his Spanish or Portuguese accent, he sounded like Shane as well. “W-who are you?” Addison whispered.
Shane’s head swiveled to face her. The rest of his body remained still. “Chairman Almeida.”
Jake backed away from not-Shane as a hysterical giggle escaped Addison’s lips. Her daughter pulled her closer, babbling comforting words that Addison barely heard. Either the Chairman had cloned Shane, or… “You said that Shane can hear me. Hear us?”
Not-Shane’s eyes seemed to look through her. “Yes. He is happy to see you, as well as frightened and angry with me. The usual mess of human emotion. It’s quite tiring.”
Jake rushed for Sh– Almeida, but Daniel caught the boy’s arm and hauled him back. “Let him go!” Jake twisted and kicked, but couldn’t break free from both Daniel’s and Teague’s grips.
Almeida calmly watched the brief wrestling match. “No,” he told Jake. “But if you both behave, I’ll allow him to visit you on occasion.”
Despair overwhelmed Addison. She was powerless, and her husband a prisoner in his own body. Who would protect their children?
Ashlynn straightened, keeping an arm around Addison’s shoulders. Although the color had drained from her face, she turned to Almeida. “Are you a spirit?”
Almeida tilted his head thoughtfully. “Do you mean a ghost?” Ashlynn nodded, and Almeida chuckled. “No, little witch, although I am not human.” He faced Jake and studyed the boy briefly. “I suppose you could say I am your grandfather.”
The room went silent as everyone stared.
Shane couldn’t believe his ears. Jake’s grandfather? The implications added outrage to his cacophony of emotions. You’re my fucking FATHER? he mentally shrieked at his captor. You’ve been here– “–ALL THIS TIME–” he screamed, his face flushing with anger, “–and you never said ONE GODDAMNED WORD?!”
Jake tackled him. Addison and Ashlynn joined the bear hug a moment later. In the maelstrom of emotion Shane could hardly tell which way was up, although he felt his epic failure of a father as an icy ball of impatience in the back of his mind.
Gibson applauded while MacKenzie, the traitorous bastard, stood agog beside him. “Well isn’t this a lovely Hallmark moment,” Gibson drawled. “Bravo. Not that it’ll do you–”
“What is a rebel?” MacKenzie said, his Scots brogue seeming to fill the room. “A man who says no.”*
Shane blinked. Apparently MacKenzie wasn’t a traitorous bastard.
Gibson rounded on the Scot. “What the hell–”
“Quiet. Don’t move,” MacKenzie said, an empathic command underscoring his words. Although Gibson’s expression was murder, he obeyed.
The guards ignored Gibson, dividing their gazes between MacKenzie, Shane, and his family. “Orders?” asked the stout man on Almeida bodyguard duty.
His immediate answer was a collective sigh of relief. Their earlier trials with passphrase-triggered psychic suggestions carried by the virus had a 30% failure rate. Considering that all three guards were looking to MacKenzie, Addison, Shane, and the kids for direction, they’d been lucky.
Addison and Shane exchanged a look. He could feel the drugs in her system, and Shane’s head was still reeling from Almeida’s revelation, so they turned to MacKenzie. “Suggestions?”
“Hurry,” Ashlynn said. “I don’t sense any magic, but I’m sure they’re watching.”
Jake peered up at Shane. “Almeida is still, uh, in there?”
Shane grimaced. “Yes.” Almeida wasn’t talking, but Shane felt him prodding his mental confines.
“Can you hold on?” MacKenzie asked.
Shane nodded. “I will.” Somehow, he told himself.
MacKenzie nodded, satisfied. “Right. We have Gibson and one of the Chairmen. I’ll tell the others to spread the passphrase through the facility. Now is the time to strike.”
Ashlynn’s brow furrowed with worry. “But Mum’s all drugged up!”
“And half naked,” Jake supplied.
Addison frowned at their son. “Thank you for your observation, Jacob.” Then, squaring her shoulders, she told them all, “Teague’s right. We attack now. I’ll take one of the guards’ sidearms and do what I can.”
They scrambled to find clothes for Addison while MacKenzie marched Gibson to one of the private rooms. Ashlynn found a set of scrubs, which she tossed to her mother. She ducked behind a privacy curtain to change.
Jake wrapped his arms around Shane again. The boy’s love, worry, and determination poured into him. I missed you, buddy, Shane said. He rubbed his son’s back, trying to will away guilt. He was putting his kids’ lives on the line!
Thank god you’re okay, Jake said. Then unease rippled through him. Mostly. We’ll get him out, Dad. Don’t worry.
Shane wasn’t so sure. Thankfully Addison’s and MacKenzie’s return saved him from a reply.
MacKenzie grinned at Addison’s barefoot-in-scrubs ensemble, then got down to business. “I ordered Gibson to sleep. Thompson’s guarding the room. If anyone asks, he’ll them them Ri’s inside.”
Mention of the batshit crazy woman’s name made Shane’s jaw clench.
Addison asked, “Where is Ri?”
“In one of the high-security cell blocks. I’ve no idea what Gibson planned for her.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Shane snapped. “Let’s get to work.” Before I lose my nerve, he thought.
Before you lose control, Almeida said. Snarling, Shane shoved him back. He wasn’t sure how he did it, but it worked.
“Love?” Addison peered up at him, and he felt the others’ eyes on him. “Are you all right?”
“Fine,” Shane lied, kissing her forehead. He doubted anyone believed him.
Jake asked, “Who first? Butler or Carlyle?”
“Butler,” MacKenzie replied. “We’ve enough psionics and firepower, and we’ll gain more on the way.”
Shane frowned. “We’re not teleporting?”
“Since we’re taking the guards–” Ashlynn nodded at the pair still flanking the door “–there’s too many of us for Teague and I to take in one trip.”
MacKenzie added, “And a containment field surrounds the executive floor. We have to go on foot. Come on.” He headed for the exit with Shane and his family in tow. As they approached the guards MacKenzie ordered, “I’ll take point. You two are rear guard. Let’s move.”
The door slid open, and the group stepped into chaos.
* “What is a rebel? A man who says no.” is an quote by Albert Camus.