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    zanoGreen
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WARNING: This story contains graphic content such as sex, violence, death, and derogatory slang.  

Imprisoned - 14. The Spy Hiding In Plain Sight

"Ow! Son of a bitch!" Ryan exclaimed.
"Oh, did that hurt? Good." I pressed on the wound while I dug around in my bag with my other hand.
I was sitting across from him on one of the teak chairs on the back patio, fuming slightly at the injury he had sustained. He had a pretty gnarly gash on his forehead, nothing too serious, though it didn't stop me from being a little overprotective.
"Do one of you want to explain to me how this happened?"
"We were sparring-oww!" Ryan explained as I began cleaning the gash with alcohol solution.
I rolled my eyes and looked at Riley. "Sparring… Really?"
"What?" Riley had an incredulous expression. "We need to be prepared in case of hand to hand combat besides, it's not my fault he lost his footing."
"What are the chances of that?" I pulled a package of butterfly sutures out of my bag. "Besides, you guys are pretty good in that area already. I don't think you need practice."
"It's my fault," Ryan winced as I placed the first suture. "I was showing him new techniques."
"Like what? How to use your head?" I asked sarcastically.
Riley snickered and I gave him a stern look, which made him drop his gaze to the cobblestones under his feet.
"Please don't be mad." Ryan looked at me with those doey brown eyes, his defense mechanism. In any other circumstance that would probably work on me, but not today.
I let out a huff of air and placed the last suture. "I'm not mad, irritated yes. We already have one man down and we can't afford to have another."
Ryan gave me an understanding nod.
“We’ll be more careful, scouts honor.” Riley mimicked the scout salute which made me roll my eyes at him again.
“You better,” I stood up and slung my bag over my shoulder. “Because if I have to place more sutures in my boyf-” I stopped myself before I said the word, and Ryan looked up at me with a glint in his eye, knowing full well what I was about to say.
Was I ready to use that word? Once I used that word there was no turning back. I mean, it was how I really felt except, was that how Ryan felt too?
Ryan,” I corrected. “Then your ass is grass.” I pointed at Riley before turning around and heading back into the house, my cheeks flushed from embarrassment.
I set my bag down on the living room floor and stalked in the direction of the office.
How embarrassing! I almost used the boyfriend title on Ryan. What if it was too soon? What if I wasn’t ready? Did I just totally blow it? I made a frustrated noise as I pushed the office doors open and closed them behind me.
“You fucking idiot!” I cursed at myself.
“Well,” I whipped around to see Alex standing behind the desk, tablet in hand and a pencil between her lips, something she often did when concentrating. “Tell me how you really feel.”
I stood there, frozen, a look of pure embarrassment on my face. When I opened the door I didn’t even see her in here, she must have come in from the kitchen which was connected to the office by a set of french doors.
“No, not you.” I sighed.
“Oh, thank goodness. For a second I thought we were gonna have a problem.” She gave me a mischievous grin. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s stupid.” I shook my head and looked at the screens on the wall.
The warehouse where the bomb was being kept was displayed. There were at least six heat signatures displayed in the warehouse itself. On the outside there were four more, forming a perimeter around it’s outer edges.
“Is that the warehouse?” I pointed to the screen and stepped around the desk to get a closer look.
“Yeah, but hold up a sec.” She placed a hand on my bicep and turned me to face her. “Don’t change the subject, spill.” She demanded, hugging the tablet to her chest.
I could tell there was no getting away from this with her, she had a way of pulling information out of me that I didn’t quite enjoy.
“I… I almost gave Ryan the boyfriend title." I admitted.
Alex’s expression lit up and she smiled at me. “That’s great Elliott!”
I knew she would say that. Alex was tough as nails, but deep down there was a romantic side to her.
“I’m not so sure.” I grumbled.
Her excited expression turned to confusion. “Why? You don’t feel the same way?”
“No, that’s not it at all.” I replied with a frustrated tone.
“Then what is it? Because I don’t see a problem with this.”
“I’m more worried about him… I haven’t been the same since we got back from San Francisco. I second guess my decisions, I’ve been having panic attacks-"
“You went through a lot Ell.” She interjected with a calm voice.
“I know that. But Ryan shouldn’t have to go through it as well.”
Alex’s expression softened as she set the tablet down on the desk and grabbed me by the shoulders.
“Elliott, listen to me. Yes you went through a lot in San Francisco, but that mission brought you and Ryan even closer together.”
What did she mean by that? I hadn’t noticed a change in our dynamic since we had gotten back, but maybe the rest of the team did.
"What do you mean?" I probed.
“I see the way he looks at you,” She began. “The man is crazy for you, I mean hell, he even stayed with you all night when we got back and held you through the night terrors. If that doesn’t scream that he’s in it for the long haul, I don’t know what does.”
I hadn’t thought of it in that way. I thought that Ryan was just doing those things because he felt some sort of obligation, but maybe she was right and he was in fact, in it for the long haul.
The idea of giving Ryan the title of “boyfriend” didn’t seem that bad at all, in fact, I would love nothing more than to call him that. With the way we had been interacting with one another, it was pretty much like we were already in that form of relationship. It was just a title, nothing more, and any sense of obligation that title seemed to carry didn’t exactly scare me away.
I nodded my head. “Yeah, maybe you're right.”
“I know I’m right.” She smiled, which got me to smile back. “You deserve all the happiness in the world Elliott. Grab it before it’s too late.” She gave me a questioning look, and I nodded my head in confirmation.
There was a beeping sound emitting from one of the monitors that had us both jerking our heads in that direction.
“What is that?” I asked.
Alex began swiping away on the tablet with an excited look in her eyes.
“You remember that manifest that you got from Jon?”
I nodded my head in confirmation.
“Well, I examined some of the components and then I threw them in an algorithm which will give us the best possible match for a bomb.”
“How accurate is it?” I questioned in disbelief.
Alex smirked and cocked an eyebrow at me. “I designed it, so what do you think?”
“Fair enough.” I conceded.
A blueprint popped up on one of the screens, it was a tall cylindrical device, probably about the size of a standard SUV. There were two containers on either side, connected by tubes and hoses. It was a big bomb, definitely enough to level a few square blocks.
“Well that explains why there’s no heat signature for the bomb.” Alex spoke up.
“Why?”
“You see these two tanks on either side,” She gestured at the blueprint and I nodded my head in confirmation. “Their water collection tanks that cycle cool water through the bomb's reactor to keep it from overheating and melting down. Once they're ready to detonate they shut off these tanks which causes the core to overheat and the bomb to detonate. It’s actually a pretty impressive system."
“Why do I get the impression you're having a nerdgasm right now.” I snickered.
Alex gave me a cheeky grin. “Maybe because I am.”
She stepped towards the screen and observed the blueprint more closely, her eyebrows furrowing.
"What is it?" I inquired.
She bit her bottom lip before she spoke. "Well, it's just… For professional terrorists they picked a pretty easy bomb to keep from detonating…"
I could see where she was going with this, and I didn't like the realization we were coming to.
"There's a failsafe." I concluded with a defeated tone.
"Frack!" Alex fumed, turning around and slamming the tablet on the desk with a hard thud.
She hung her head and leaned against the glassy surface of the desk, clearly defeated.
I stepped over and placed a hand on her shoulder, she flinched at the contact and lifted her head.
"You need a break."
"No, no I don't." She shrugged off my hand and picked up the tablet, turning around to face the screens.
"You've been at this for hours. Take a break, spend some time with Cody and recharge your batteries. This will still be here when you come back." I demanded in a calm tone.
"Is that a request or a command?" She questioned.
I cocked an eyebrow at her which made her smirk slightly. "I guess that answers that question."
She handed me the tablet and turned around, walking towards the doors that led to the front entryway. When she reached the doors she paused and looked at me over her shoulder.
"Thank you Elliott."
I gave her a warm smile and nodded as she opened the doors and closed them behind her. I could only imagine the amount of stress she was going through right now. Cody being shot, spilling herself over these computers and trying to get us intel. Not to mention she probably feels like she’s in it alone, I wish there was some way I could make her see that wasn’t the case.
There were a few raps on the door and I looked over to see Jon enter the room. If that wasn’t perfect timing I don’t know what was.
“Hope I’m not disturbing you.” He had a worried expression.
“No not at all, perfect timing actually.” I admitted.
He gave me a confused look as he approached me, he turned his gaze towards the computer monitors and his eyes went wide slightly.
“Oh, is that our bomb?” He inquired.
“Yep.” I grumbled, staring at the blueprints.
“So why do you look like someone pissed in your cheerios?” He joked with a smirk.
I ran through the specs of the bomb with him, most of which he seemed to grasp pretty quickly. This entire time I always thought Jon wasn’t the brightest tool in the shed, but over the hours he’s actually surprised me. He knew things that I didn’t even think Alex knew, which was crazy.
“What?” He inquired with a lopsided grin. This entire time I wasn’t aware that I was staring at him with a shocked expression.
“Jon… You’re really smart.” I stated with a surprised tone.
Jon blushed and scratched the back of his head. “Uhhh, thanks?”
“No-no! I didn’t mean it like that.” I panicked which made Jon smirk. “I mean, why do you put on this front that you're a total…”
“Meathead?” Jon finished my sentence.
“Yeah.” I agreed.
Jon sighed and folded his arms across his chest. “Being a Stavros comes with… Expectations, especially being the only child. I guess acting the way I do kind of gives me a scapegoat.”
I could see where he was coming from. I wasn’t the only child but it was hard being under pressure from your parents to be or act a certain way.
“You don’t have to pretend, at least not with us.” I stated, giving him a reassuring smile.
“Hmph… You wanna know what’s funny though? I never pretended with you.”
“Jon.” I warned, shaking my head. I couldn’t, no, wouldn’t go down this road. I was with Ryan now and anything that Jon and I had in the past was just that, in the past.
“I know-I know, you’re with Ryan now and I respect that.” He argued. “I’m just letting you know that the way I was with you wasn’t an act. Even though I was secretly working with The Order, who I was when I was around you was genuine… I just hope that we can be friends is all.” He explained.
That’s not at all what I was expecting, I for a second thought he was going to try and drive a wedge between Ryan and I. But he actually seemed happy for me, and the fact that he wanted to be friends and nothing more was a welcoming invitation.
“I would like that.” I admitted with a smile.
I looked back at the monitors and gestured at the blueprints. “Well then Einstein. Think you can figure out what the failsafe is with this.”
Jon shrugged his shoulders and took the tablet from me. “I’m no Mechanical Engineer like Alex, but I can take a whack at it.”
I nodded my head and began heading in the direction of the kitchen. “Let me know if you find anything.”
“Will do… Hey Elliott?”
I looked over my shoulder at Jon who had a sparkle in his eye.
“You really love him don’t you?”
That question took me off guard. Did I love Ryan? I know I cared for him on a deep level, and you would think that being in love once before I might be able to tell if I was. It had been so long I forgot what it felt like.
I gave him a coy smile. “Just let me know what you find.”
“Mm-hmm, you totally love him.” I could hear Jon teasing as I exited the room and walked into the kitchen.
Maybe I did love Ryan, but if I did, I wasn’t ready to admit that to his face. I froze up at calling him my boyfriend, I think the “I love you” can wait a little bit.
“Baby steps Elliott.”
I sighed and plopped down on the couch in the living room. Someone had left the news on and there was a male and female anchor sitting behind a large glossy desk.
“Police and government officials are still on the lookout for what locals are calling The Bakersfield Five-”
I snorted out loud and shook my head.
“The Bakersfield Five? Really? What were we, some cheesy seventies mo-town group?”
“That’s right Allen,” The female anchor spoke up. Her voice was nasally, making me wonder how she even got an anchor job in the first place. “-as you may remember this group of vigilantes escaped from Fort Bakersfield just two nights ago. The home in El Sereno, where they had been staying, was involved in some sort of shootout early last night. Police have no leads as to where they may have gone, but their requesting citizens help in locating these dangerous criminals.”
“The Bakersfield Five?” Ryan laughed, coming around the corner of the couch and settling in next to me. He was sweaty, muscles glistening and flexing underneath a black tank top, which I was surprised he was wearing because his scars were on full display. But he didn’t seem to mind as he took a swig from a water bottle and leaned back into the couch.
“Yeah.” I snickered. “Maybe they’ll give us a record deal and we can take this show on the road.” I joked.
“Mmm, one can only hope.” He replied.
There was a short silence as Ryan placed one of his hands on my knee, giving it a small squeeze. I looked over at him and he gave me one of his crooked grins which never ceased to make me smile.
"I think we should probably talk about earlier."
I knew what he was referring to, the almost boyfriend slip. The fact that he wanted to talk about it didn’t surprise me necessarily, though it did make me nervous.
"You know," He scratched his head with his hat before continuing. "What we have… We don't need to put a title on it right away. We both know how we feel about each other."
I placed my hand over his, and laced our fingers together. I began tracing the runes on his fingers, thinking about what I wanted to say next.
"You remember yesterday morning when we were in the kitchen, and you had asked me if what the neighbors had was the kind of life I wanted?"
"Yeah, when you were spying on the neighbors." He gave me a facetious grin.
"I seem to remember it differently-but that's besides the point."
I shuffled around in my seat, not really sure if I wanted to go down this road. But Ryan had said he wanted to move forward, so that would mean me having to confess my wants.
"That is the kind of life I want. I want the house in the suburbs with the two dogs and the farewell kisses in the driveway...”
“I know.”
I gave him a confused look. He knew? Did that mean that he also knew that I wanted that with him. A fear began to trickle it’s way into my gut at the realization that Ryan might not want that as well. But if I didn’t tell him how I felt, then wouldn’t that be unfair to him?
I sighed and dropped my gaze thinking that if he rejected the notion, then maybe it would hurt a little less. My grip strengthened on his hand slightly thinking maybe if I held on hard enough he wouldn’t let go.
“I… I want that with you.”
I felt his thumb and forefinger cup my chin, bringing my gaze up to meet his. His eyes were soft with an adoring gaze, and the corner of his mouth turned upward in a crooked smile.
“I want that too.”
Those words were like a weight lifted off my shoulders. That fear that I was feeling, that dread, seemed to dissipate and was instead replaced with a warm feeling. It reminded me of those times I would go up camping with my friends, and we would gather around the campfire and drink, laugh, and tell old stories. It was love.
“You do?” I asked in a surprised tone.
“Well don’t act so surprised.”
“I’m not-I just… I didn’t think you wanted that.”
He chuckled softly. “Well maybe not by myself-but with you," He placed the palm of his hand on my cheek. "I want it all. We can have the house in the suburbs, we can have a condo in the city-hell we could even live in San Francisco and help rebuild-"
"I don't know about that." I chuckled, my eyes stinging with joy.
"You know what I mean. It doesn't matter where we are, all I want is you."
Ryan's confession went straight to my heart, a warm and piercing wave of joy and happiness that I wanted to keep locked away forever.
He pulled me closer and gave me a soft kiss before looking deep in my eyes. Those brown eyes swimming with the same joy that I felt, or at least that's what it looked like.
"All I want is you too." I admitted.
It was the truth, Ryan was everything I wanted, from his crooked smiles all the way to his impatience. I wanted the good and the bad from him, there was no one way or the other.
"He is my boyfriend." My thoughts rang out.
"What?" Ryan asked with an endearing smile.
My thoughts must have been displayed, because the way he was smiling and staring at me signified that he was along the same wavelength, like we were speaking some Ryan and Elliott language that only we knew.
I smiled and shook my head. "Nothing, just good things."
"You gonna leave me in suspense?"
"Hmm, maybe." I gave him a facetious grin.
"Your evil." He smirked.
"So then, would that make you the good one in this relationship?"
Ryan paused for a second, a far away expression crossing his face.
"So we're in a relationship huh?"
"Unless you've changed your mind?" I gave him a wink.
Ryan gave me another grin and squeezed my hand.
"You know I haven't."
I gave him a nod and a warm smile. "Good."
Proclaiming a relationship with Ryan was surprisingly easy. It wasn't awkward at all and had me feeling well, warm, like a kid who comes bounding down the stairs at six in the morning to find Christmas presents under the tree. It was an excited feeling but also one that felt familiar and welcoming.
"Elliott." Jon came bounding into the living room, then stopped short when he saw Ryan and I holding hands on the couch, clearly feeling like he interrupted something.
"Oh… Uhh… I can come back." He began backing away.
"What is it?" I asked, a hopeful tone to my voice.
I was hoping that he found the failsafe to the bomb, then we could end this thing once and for all. If he did, it hadn't taken him very long.
"I found it." A cocky grin spread across his face.
"It? What's it?" Ryan's face was screwed up in confusion.
"Really?" I all but bounded off the couch, leaving Ryan with the same confused look.
"Seriously! What's it?" He asked, following Jon and I into the office.
"So we know the bomb is ran off a nuclear reactor." Jon began, ignoring Ryan who made a frustrated noise.
"Right." I confirmed.
"And it needs to remain cooled with water to prevent meltdown and ultimately an explosion."
"You're just saying things we already know." I replied impatiently.
"Do you wanna hear this or not?" Jon cocked an eyebrow at me.
I gave an impatient sigh and made a hand gesture for him to get on with it.
"Most of this bomb is made with computer components, they did this so they could remote detonate it." Jon explained.
"Sooo?" Ryan asked in an unsure tone.
"So," Jon gave a grin. "If there's computer components in it, then all we need to do is build a virus that will corrupt the system and shut it down."
I gave him a dumbfounded look, not quiet believing what I was hearing. I knew that technology had advanced to an extreme extant. I mean when I was born people used cell phones that were affectionately known as 'bricks', because they were big, bulky and probably could be classified as a deadly weapon.
Now, there were drones, cell phones with enough technology to launch a rocket, they just created the first successful Android, and you could now get from Seattle to San Diego in just over an hour with the new MagLev train they completed last year.
It wasn't that I didn't believe Jon, I did, but whenever someone started talking about technology I had to remind myself what decade we were in, because it sounded like it came out of an Isaac Asimov novel.
"I'm assuming there's a catch?" Ryan's voice knocked me out of my thoughts and brought me back to the current discussion.
A crease formed in between Jon's brows and he let out a sigh.
"There is. In order for us to upload the virus we have to be at the bomb. We can't do it from here."
"Well that doesn't sound too bad." I admitted with a shrug of my shoulders.
"That's not all." Jon bit his bottom lip nervously.
"Of course it isn't." Ryan groaned.
"What is it?" I asked, ignoring Ryan.
Jon fiddled with the tablet in his hands before continuing.
"If we don't upload the virus into the system before they arm it, then it's useless."
And there it was, the mother of all catches.

"Who the fuck designed this thing?" I asked in a frustrated tone.

"I have no idea, but they must have one hell of a computers expert on their team, which kind of worries me." Jon replied.
"Well then," I sighed and folded my arms across my chest. "Lucky for us we have two."
I walked over to the comm system on the wall and pressed the button to broadcast myself across the house.
"Alex, we need you in the office." I ordered.
"I could probably do this without Alex’s help." Jon offered, shifting nervously on his feet.
I gave him a bemused expression. Jon didn’t hate Alex, he just found her intimidating, an effect she had on most people who didn't know her well.
"It'll go faster with the both of you." I explained.
Jon nodded his head and crossed around the desk to sit in front of the two monitors. He began typing away on the keyboard, pure concentration on his face.
"What's going on?" Alex ran into the office, breathing heavily. She eyed Jon suspiciously sitting at the computer, probably wondering what he was doing there.
"Jon will catch you up." I explained.
"Jon?" She chuckled in disbelief.
"Oh trust me, you've got some competition with this one." I gave her a coy smile, which she returned with a confused expression.
I turned around and walked out of the office, heading into the main entryway. I looked up at the space of the wall where Cody was and decided I should probably go check on him.
I climbed the steps and rounded the corner to where Cody was being kept. The door was cracked open and the lights were on, which I found odd considering that he was laid up with gunshot wounds.
I slowly pushed the door open and found nothing. No Cody at all. I closed my eyes and opened them again and still there was no Cody. The bed was disheveled, so I knew he was there.
Next to the bed, the lamp was tipped over, the shade cocked at an odd angle and the state of the room suggested there had been a minor struggle.
I walked over to the closet and peeked inside, no Cody to be seen. I peeked into the bathroom, nothing.
My muscles went tense as panic began to set in. Where the hell was he?
"Cody?" I called out.
What I heard next was the sound of breaking glass and someone crying out from downstairs. I ran towards the hallway and just as I crossed the threshold my face was met with the butt of a rifle, knocking me unconscious.
The sound of muffled voices began to bring me out of my unconscious state. My face was throbbing in pain and I could feel something warm and what tasted metallic crossing over my lips.
Blood.
I would know that smell and taste anywhere. I tried to move my hands but they were tied behind my back. I soon realized that I was strapped to a chair, but I wasn't the only one.
"Elliott?" Ryan asked, concern washing over his face as he peered at me through a bruised eye.
He was strapped to a chair directly across from me, his muscles rippling as they fought against the ropes.
"What happened?" I looked around and noticed we were on the back patio, the garden lights were on, twinkling above us like stars or maybe that was just because I had a concussion.
"They caught us off guard." Ryan replied with a sorry tone.
I looked around but couldn't see Jon, Cody, Alex, or Riley anywhere. A panic slightly rose in my chest at the thought of what might have happened to them.
"Where are the others?" I asked, the panic creeping into my voice.
"They took them, loaded them up in a van and left." Ryan growled.
I was totally lost. How could this have happened? Was Jon lying to us the whole time? My panic was slowly replaced with anger at the thought of being fooled by someone I thought I could trust.
"I'm sorry Ryan."
"Why are you sorry?"
"You were right about Jon." I explained with a pained expression.
There was a long silence as Ryan's expression went grim and he dropped his head slightly.
"Not Jon."
"What? Then how the hell did they find us?"
"Alex." Ryan gritted through his teeth.
"What?" I asked with a dumbfounded expression.
At that moment the patio doors opened and out stepped Alex, flanked on either side by two men I didn't recognize. My mind was at a loss as she locked eyes with me and a grin spread across her face.
"See right about now, you're probably wondering 'what the hell is going on?'." She strode over and placed her hands on her hips, cocking them to the side slightly.
She wasn't wrong, I had no idea what was going on. I was at a complete loss for words as she stared at me with that malevolent twinkle in her eye.
"Alex… What are you doing?" There was a shocked tone to my voice as I spoke.
"Isn't it obvious? I mean, you're the ringleader, a Doctor. Surely you can figure it out with that big brain of yours." Her grin never faltered as she spoke.
Regardless of the dull ache spreading through my face, I was slowly starting to put the pieces together. The alarm in the General's office, the way we were able to escape the base despite it being locked down, how they found us at Cody's house.
"Alex, no." There was pain in my tone from the realization that I had come to.
"Ohh yess" She mocked, with a pouting expression.
She crossed over to me and placed her hands on the arms of my chair, leaning down to my eye level. Her brilliant green eyes dazzling in the patio lights.
It was hard for me to believe, even as I was strapped to a chair, that this person that I thought of as a sister was in fact part of the same organization that we were trying to stop. She had been working against us the whole time, from the inside and the more I thought about it the more it made sense.
"So that's how The Order has been one step ahead of us."
"Ding-ding-ding, see, I knew you would figure it out."
"Why?" I growled, giving her an icy stare.
She laughed and pushed herself off from my chair.
"Isn't it always the same ending questions? 'Why?', 'Why are you doing this?', it's all so boring really."
"We're your family Alex!" I shouted, my voice carrying off across the backyard.
"No Elliott," She shook her head. "We were just some diluted version of the real family that wanted nothing to do with you."
Her words cut like razors, though she wasn't wrong. The team were the only people I had, well, and now Ryan. They were the closest thing I had to a real family. Even though her words should have upset me, I couldn't help but start to laugh.
Alex gave me a quizzical look, frustration boiling to the surface. "What's so funny?" Her tone was stern.
"There's always a psycho in the bunch, ain't there?" I responded through chuckles.
Alex's face turned red from anger and she strode up, landing a fist right into my chest, right where she knew my healing wounds were.
The force was so strong that it somehow knocked the wind out of me, and the pain that radiated across my chest brought back to that all too familiar image of Diaz, which was only exasperated by the fact that I was also strapped to a chair in this instance.
I could hear Ryan struggling through my closed eyes, a growl escaping deep from his chest. A panic began to rise up in me, my body beginning to shake as I felt a wave of an attack washing over me.
"Leave him alone!" I heard Ryan bellow, his chair clattering around from him struggling.
"Shut him up!" Alex ordered one of her cronies. I heard a smack of a fist meeting bare skin followed by a grunt from Ryan.
"God," I could hear the smile in Alex's voice as she spoke. "You should see yourself right now… So pathetic. You're supposed to be the leader of your team yet, you can't even keep your shit together."
I drew in a few sharp, shaky breaths, trying to calm myself down.
"Fuck… You." I growled.
Alex backhanded me with such force that it knocked me over. I grunted as my body met the hard cobblestone, not able to break my fall.
"Sit him up." Alex hissed.
The two men came over and grabbed my chair, tipping me back upright. The force of Alex's hit actually dazed me slightly, my head swimming and my vision not quiet being able to focus.
"Elliott?" I could hear a pained Ryan trying to get my attention. I looked up to where he should be sitting, but instead I was seeing double.
I felt a hand grab my jaw tightly and thrust my head straight, which quickly made my vision focus and realize that it was Alex who had me by the jaw.
"You wanna know why Elliott? Why did I join The Order? I'll tell you why." She gritted through her teeth.
3 Years Ago
The sound of an explosion awoke Alex from her sleep, she jerked upright in her bed and looked around immediately recognizing the familiar space of her bedroom. She sighed and swung her legs out of bed, crossing over towards the window and pulling the curtain back slightly.
The explosion that had startled her out of a good sleep came from somewhere near Downtown. The smoke billowed over the lights of the city, casting a dark cloud overhead. She let the curtain fall back to place and stepped out of her room. The sound of the tv and some hurried voices were drawing her towards the living room, making her pulse speed up slightly.
“It’s okay honey, I’m sure it was nothing.” Her mother’s tone was calm and reassuring.
“No Mom, there was an explosion in the city. I saw it.” Amanda argued.
“It was probably just the rioters. You know how they’ve been ever since the US moved in.”
“Then I need to be down there.” Amanda urged.
Alex stepped into the kitchen just in time to see Amanda rip a pair of keys off the counter and head for the door.
“Amanda June Wilson, you stop right there!” Her mother yelled, her stern voice coming out.
“Mom you don’t understand, we need to fight! If we don’t, then who will?”
“Amanda you are eighteen years old-”
“Which makes me an adult.”
“Which also makes you naive."
"Guys stop!" Alex made her presence known, stepping further in the kitchen.
Amanda shot her a glare. "Oh look who it is, the golden child."
"Amanda." Her mother warned.
"What? Just admit it! I'm the disappointment that dropped out of school to follow something I'm passionate about."
“Joining a bunch of deviants who hate the government is not something to be passionate about.” Her mother responded in a disapproving tone.
“Oh and what,” Amanda scoffed, folding her arms across her chest. “Being a Geneticist like you or an FBI Agent like Dad is?”
“It’s better than throwing your life away for a lost cause.”
Amanda gave their mother a bewildered expression before slowly shaking her head.
“I’m out of here.”
She turned around and began heading for the door.
“Dammit Amanda, I will not lose another child!” Their mother cried.
Alex’s eyes moved towards the shelf in the living room which contained a picture of their older brother Allen, a neatly folded flag, and a Purple Heart medal. Allen was killed two years ago overseas while trying to protect his unit from insurgents. The wound was still fresh on their family, a deep gaping bloody wound that always seemed to open back up at the most random of times.
Amanda paused, the door partially open. Alex crossed over to her mom and pulled her into a hug as she began to cry. There was a thud as the door closed and then Amanda’s citrus shampoo could be smelt wafting into Alex’s nostrils as she came in to hold their mother as well.
“Mama, I’m sorry.” Her tone was remorseful as she spoke.
“You two can’t leave me. You hear?” She croaked.
“Were not going anywhere Mama.” Alex reassured her, cocking an eyebrow at Amanda, daring her to say otherwise.
The front door flew open, causing all of them to jump and separate from each other. Spinning around wildly to face the door, Alex saw her father rushing into the house not bothering to look as he swung the door closed behind him. He had a look of urgency on his face as he approached all three of them, a look Alex had never seen on him before.
"Jason, what's wrong?" Their mother met him halfway, a concerned look crossing her face.
He placed his hands gently on her shoulders, then gave Amanda and Alex a pointed look.
"Girls get your emergency bags."
"Dad what's going on?" Amanda urged in a scared tone.
"Girls listen to your father." Their mother responded calmly, still keeping her gaze on their father.
Alex grabbed her sister's arm and pulled her down the hallway, stopping short of her bedroom so she could listen in on their conversation.
“Jason?” Her mother asked.
“We lost the city.” Her father stated in a panicked tone.
“What?”
“The US… They're attacking.”
Alex felt the air being sucked out of the room at that statement. Salt Lake City was the de facto neutral zone in the civil war against the US. It was the perfect place being at the base of the Rocky Mountains and just West of the new boundary line that was formed as a result of the ongoing war. It was supposed to be a place where each side could come together for peace agreements, kind of like the UN, though it seemed that was no longer the case.
Air raid sirens began going off in the distance followed by booms, which Alex guessed was the sound of bombs. They sounded far away, probably more towards the center of the city, which was a relief in a twisted way.
“Amanda! Alex! Let’s go!” Their father bellowed.
Alex darted for her room and thrust her closet door open, grabbing the all black, and heavy backpack stuffed in the corner of her closet. She quickly pulled some jeans on and a light jacket and then bolted for the entryway where her mother and father were already waiting, both had their respective bags.
“Where’s your sister?” Her father gave her a quizzical look.
“I’m here.” She jogged up behind Alex.
Their father ushered them towards the door and thrust it open, the warm August night air greeting them as they bounded for the black SUV that was still running in the driveway.
"Wait! Rosco!" Amanda shrieked.
"Dammit." Their Dad cursed under his breath running back towards the house to get the dog.
He reappeared a few seconds later, a black lab in tow, and jumped in the SUV. Rosco jumped in the back seat with Alex and Amanda, resting his big head on Amanda's lap.
The SUV sped out of the driveway with squealing tires and they were off, going at a breakneck speed down their once quiet suburban road.
Alex watched as they sped through their neighborhood, families were clambering into their cars throwing bags and other belongings into them.
The only way out of their neighborhood, which was just north of Downtown, was to follow the back roads skirting along the outer fringes of the now war torn city.
"Where are we going to go?" Their mother asked.
"My brother’s house in Denver, they're expecting us." Their father explained, swerving around a slow moving car.
There was a crack and a loud whoosh overhead as fighter jets raced towards the city center, then there was a loud bang as two bombs went off, completely shrouding the skyline in dust and smoke.
"Oh my god." Their mother gaped out the windshield, a look of complete horror on her face.
Their father placed a reassuring hand on her knee and gave a light squeeze.
"It'll be okay Anna."
He took his eyes off the road for one second to give her a wry smile, though one second was all it took. A van, which seemed to come out of nowhere, came barrelling down one of the side roads to their left with no intention of stopping.
“Dad watch out!” Alex shrieked.
He tried to avoid it, jerking the steering wheel to the right, but to no avail as the van sideswiped their SUV causing them to lose control and then flip. With the impact of the van and how fast they were going, they must have rolled at least a block and a half.
The last thing Alex remembered was the strangled sounds of her family screaming as they rolled down the road, glass and debris flying around them as the SUV tore apart.
Present Day
As I listened to her tell the story, it made sense to me why she was so pissed, why she blamed the US, why she joined an organization hell bent on it's destruction.
“When I came to, my family was dead. I was the only survivor of the crash.” Alex explained. There was a hurt behind her eyes as she finished her story, clearly still haunted by the demons of the past.
“Alex… I’m so sorry.” I stared into her eyes, letting her know that I on some level knew her pain. True I didn’t lose my whole family in one event, but I did lose James, the only real family I had at the time.
“Everyone says they’re sorry,” She scoffed. “But sorry doesn’t bring back the fact that the US attacked our city, which caused my parents death in the first place.” She steamed, a hate forming behind her eyes.
"The Order started that war. Or have you not been paying attention?" I retorted.
"They may have started the war. But it was soldiers from the US that killed my parents and my little sister when they decided to drop bombs on our city, and they're gonna pay for that." She spat releasing my jaw from her iron grip and straightening up.
"It was an accident Alex." I replied calmly.
"You know, that's what I thought before. It wasn't until I came to Bakersfield and I met the General that I learned the truth, and where my loyalties lied. The General knew about my parents, knew about my hatred for the United States, which was when he came to me with a proposition. A proposition that I couldn't refuse."
"So he brainwashed you?" I demanded, anger filtering into my voice.
"He didn't brainwash me, he made me realize my true potential." Alex argued, giving me a death glare.
"Alex…" I responded painfully.
I couldn't exactly blame her for the rage she felt. She was hurting from the loss of her family, and that would drive anyone to do drastic things. However I couldn't believe this entire time she was betraying us.
"What about Cody? How could you do this to him?" I pleaded, trying to find anything that might sway her back to our side.
"Cody?" She chuckled softly. "Cody was just another pawn, a way to further hide my intentions, and it worked beautifully."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Cody loved her, and come to find out that she never even loved him back. It was all just a play to her.
"He almost died Alex!" I shouted in disbelief, my anger coming out in full display.
She gave an insidious smirk which made my spine tingle.
"Then that would have been a victory for The Order."
I gaped at her, the words that came from her mouth were pure insanity. There was no saving her, she was completely lost and warped by The Order.
My sinuses started to burn at the awareness that I had just lost someone else, another person that I cared for deeply. In some twisted way I blamed myself. I blamed myself for not being able to get through to her, and I blamed myself for not knowing the truth.
"Aww, don't cry Elliott," Alex pouted in a mocking tone. "Besides." She pulled out her sidearm and pointed it directly at my head.
"Alex no!" Ryan shouted, straining against his ropes.
"You'll be able to see James again. No more fighting, no more pain-"
"Alex!" Ryan shouted in a guttural, almost painful tone. He grunted and groaned in an almost primal manner as he struggled against the ropes, which did nothing but cut into his skin.
"It's everything you've always wanted." She smirked.
Was that true though? Was that everything I ever wanted. Maybe if I would have been asked two months ago, then yeah, that would be correct. No though I didn't want to die, I wanted to live, to be with Ryan and see that future that I imagined so vividly.
The sound of Alex's gun cocking brought me back to reality and forced me to look at her, to look directly into those beautiful green eyes. The eyes of a woman who had dealt with so much pain and so much suffering, that this seemed like the only solution to her.
"Do what you have to do. If you never cared about us, then what are you waiting for? Pull the fucking trigger." I growled.
"Elliott, no!" Ryan called out, face screwed up in bitter emotion, body going red from fighting against his ropes.
I gave him a reassuring look, trying to tell him everything would be okay. He looked back at me with an agonizing expression and tears running down his cheeks. I knew there was no way out of this situation. I had cheated death too many times, and now, my time was up.
Alex rolled her eyes and turned her gaze towards Ryan.
"Take a page from your boyfriend's book. It'll be easier if you don't fight it." She explained in an eerily calm tone.
"Fuck you, you psycho bitch!" Ryan roared.
That was enough to have Alex whip the gun around and smack him across the face with it, which sent him toppling over. There was a loud crack as the force, combined with Ryan's weight broke the chair enabling him to start scrambling from his ropes.
Alex pointed the gun at him as the two men advanced on him, I seized the opportunity to tip myself forward and lunge at her with the little amount of leg use I could muster. We both fell to the ground and the gun Alex was holding clattered to the cobblestone patio and out of reach. As a result of the fall one of the legs of the chair broke, letting my right leg free which I used to kick Alex square in the jaw.
I quickly began shimmying around, trying to loosen the ropes hold on me. Little by little they slowly loosened their grip and I was able to get free. Alex shot her eyes at me and then to the gun, which was about five feet away. We both scrambled towards it, trying to get there first. I didn’t want to shoot her, but I figured if I had the gun, then maybe I could talk some sense into her.
We both reached the gun at the same time, both of us struggling with it. Alex brought her knee up into my gut, knocking the wind out of me, but I wouldn't let the gun go.
We rolled around on the cobblestone patio until Alex was on top of me, her eyes laser focused, and a look on her face that I had never seen before. It was the look of pure hatred behind her eyes, and it froze my heart and scared the ever living shit out of me.
I could hear Ryan fighting with her two men and then two loud pops of gunfire ripped across the night air, sending shivers down my spine. I dreaded the worse as I didn't hear anything after that, I feared that Ryan was probably dead and I would be next.
The gun shook in both of our hands as Alex tried to force the barrel my direction, but I fought against her trying to get the barrel of the gun pointed away from us and off to the side. At that moment there was another pop of gunfire followed by a warm sensation pooling across my stomach.
My eyes went wide in horror as I realized the warm sensation I was feeling was in fact blood, but it was Alex's blood. She toppled off of me and laid on her back, coughing and gasping for air.
"Alex?!" I scrambled to my knees and assessed her wounds. The bullet had hit her in the chest and she was losing blood at an alarming rate. Her color was slowly changing from the normal creamy white to an ashy shade of gray that I only saw in corpses. She was going to die, and there was nothing I could do about it.
"No-no-no." I scooped her up off the hard patio and held her in my arms as she coughed up scarlett red blood and took another gasp of air.
"Alex-Alex, look at me." I turned her head to meet my eyes.
"I-i-i'm s-s-orry." She moaned as a tear began gliding down her cheek.
"I know-I know." My voice broke and my bottom lip trembled, I was on the verge of crying, but I was trying to keep it together. Mainly for her, but if I thought about it probably mainly for myself.
"Listen to me Alex… Where are the others? Where did they take them?" I urged.
As much as I wanted to just hold my dying friend and let her take her last breaths, I wanted information too. Information only Alex knew.
"Ware-warehouse… Ha-ha-harper 'nd Lo-locust." She struggled through the words, her body gasping and struggling for air.
"Stay with me, stay with me." I pleaded as she took her last breath and went limp in my arms. "Alex?!" I shook her slightly, her head lulling around aimlessly. She was gone.
Her eyes were frozen open, the light behind their green depths extinguished forever. I closed them with a shaky hand, which made her look surprisingly peaceful. Something that I'm sure she was probably grateful for.
"Dammit!" I let out a frustrated growl and brought Alex closer to me, holding her in my arms.
My shoulders started to shake and tears began pouring out of my eyes as I cried, holding her now lifeless body in my arms. A dull ache arose in my chest, getting stronger and stronger as I felt my heart slowly begin to break.
Alex may have betrayed us, and may have had bad intentions, but that didn't change the fact that she was like a sister to me, and deep down I knew there was some good in there. I didn't blame her, I blamed The Order. They took a fragile girl, who had her life completely torn to shreds, and used it to brainwash her to do their bidding.
"I'm sorry." I cried, rocking back and forth.
I don't know why I was apologizing. Maybe for the fact that she felt like her only option was a terrorist organization, or maybe because I couldn't help her.
I felt a pair of strong, warm arms wrap around me, and a heavy but familiar weight pressing against my back. Ryan pressed his lips to the top of my head, trying to comfort me. Though in that moment I didn't think even that could help me right now.
I wrapped my hand around Ryan's forearm like my life depended on it. I was probably hurting him, though if I was he didn't seem to care because he just held me, keeping me from completely falling apart.
"We gotta get these bastards Ryan." I pleaded through tears.
"We will." Ryan growled in a sure tone.
His tone was so sure that I believed him, and I had to. Because if I ever saw General Dreyfus again, I was going to kill him for this.

So... Most of you are probably shocked at what happened. I wanted there to be an inside man on the team it seemed like such a good twist I couldn't resist, see what I did there ;). Alex fit the profile perfectly, she was intelligent and cunning which made her the perfect saboteur and her knowledge with mechanics and computers fit with the bomb. This also paves way for the next chapter, and the drive our heroes need to hopefully succeed? Also side note, school has started back up for me again so it may take me a little bit to get the book finished. BUT what I'm going to do is release the next few chapters back to back so I don't have to leave y'all in suspense :)

Copyright © 2020 zanoGreen; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you for reading! Please comment below and let me know where you would like to see the story go or what your favorite parts are so far. Please note that this story does not revolve around a killer virus, that's just what sets up the events that lead to the story.

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Chapter Comments

Good chapter! Didn't see Alex as 'inside man' but explanation makes sense. Great to know you're going to release next few chapters back-to-back.

So you're back to school. Hope it's virtual vs real, as #s for C-19  retransmission /casual spread are growing exponentially in the 18-30 cohort for all the usual reasons.

With background (and still contacts) in med/ID, don't believe there will be 'proven viable' Vac until early spring at best. As for taking 'early' version before Halloween or Thanksgiving ? Not a good bet. Might if big guy does, LIVE on reality TV. (but wait another 6 weeks and see what develops). 

Stay Safe, Distant and #WearTheDamnMask.

T

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This format made it really hard to read this chapter.  The pacing felt all off as well, but that might have been the formatting as well.  I actually thought that there was someone inside but never thought of Alex.  

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