A/N: Hi guys! Am currently having a unexpected short break from work and studies. Not feeling well today; so, author’s note is short…won’t be having one at the end of the chapter.
Like, comment and/or share please. 😉
Behind the curtain of one window, the doctor spied the man in the dark suit. Louis’ personal bodyguard stood out in front of James’ brightly painted house. Allan’s back was ramrod straight as he waited for Louis’ friends to settle personal matter prior to their departure.
Fred could hear hushed voices in the adjacent room. The couple had been closeted in there for a while. He decided to join Allan outside. Upon closer inspection, the bodyguard was tense…and unhappy. “I thought Louis would be with you.”
“He convinced me to leave him at the mansion,” Allan said at length. “Louis can be very persuasive – a family trait most Roucans share, I believe.”
“Wouldn’t you be in trouble?”
The stoic bodyguard cracked a smile. “I’m hoping that he can help me keep my job.”
Fred noticed Allan’s informal use of Louis’ name. Curious, he asked: “If you don’t mind my asking, how long have you known him?”
“Since childhood, sir. My father was Chief of Security and Louis’ private defense instructor. Louis and I were sparring partners.”
“That’s why you were assigned to him,” Fred realized. It all clicked together. Louis could overpower six of Mr. Roucan’s men. The son’s personal bodyguard would need to at least be a competent fighter.
“Louis is one of the most difficult VIPs to guard. Notorious for pulling pranks and using stealth tactics against security staff. It made sense to assign me since I know him better than most – himself, even.”
“Let me guess, you’re the best student in class?”
Allan gave a close-mouthed smile and turned toward the door.
James emerged from the house looking worried. He saw the bodyguard and appraised him. “You’re Allan?” the novelist asked.
“Did Louis tell you what I need?”
“In vague terms, sir.”
The novelist sighed. “I suppose that’s to be expected.”
“Mr. Louis did say to bring whatever you require.”
James cocked his head to the side. “Would requesting the use of one of their state-of-the-art computers in your IT department be a bit too much?”
“Consider it done. Is there anything else, sir?”
Anonymity, discretion, and protection were things James requested for him and his family.
“I’ll have my most trusted men on watch,” Allan said, after he relayed instructions through his mouthpiece.
“If anything happens to them…” James’ eyes flashed with promise.
“I’ll make sure it doesn’t,” Allan said, unfazed. “If you’ll follow me, please.” He gestured toward the black hover car.
The novelist followed, a backpack slung over his shoulder. Fred lagged behind. He was surprised to discover his best friend’s other side. For someone who avoided fights, that threat didn’t seem empty.
“Doctor,” Allan called.
Fred paused beside the car door.
“Mr. Louis has requested your presence at the mansion. The hover car behind us will take you back.”
The doctor looked to the novelist. James nodded and said, “It’s fine. You won’t be much use to me with what I’ll be doing. If there’s anything important you forgot to tell me about, you can contact me through a secure line. I’m sure our friends here can provide them.” He glanced meaningfully at the poker-faced bodyguard.
“See you later.” The novelist waved. “Don’t get into more trouble.”
“Right.” Fred gave him a mock salute and walked to the vehicle Allan had indicated.
James’ car lifted from the ground and pulled out of the parking first. As it made a U-turn, Fred’s driver started the engine and moved to the opposite direction; toward the mansion. Then the vehicle began to climb toward the sky. At first, Fred thought they were just avoiding traffic. It was common practice for people with a special license to travel at a higher altitude, as high as a twentieth-story building. After it reached the maximum height for hover cars, Fred’s forehead creased. The vehicle was still making its climb.
“Excuse me.” He tapped the glass partition.
The driver glanced at him in the rear-view mirror and flicked on a switch in the dashboard.
“I think we’re past —” brown skin, curved nose, sharp eyes stared back at Fred “— the limit.” He peered at the stains around the driver’s eyes. Tattoos – covered in makeup. “You.”
“The choice has been made,” the Messenger said.
Fred frowned. “What—”
“The call has been answered. You are ready.”
“I’m sorry. Ready for what?”
The Messenger mumbled a string of words in a language Fred didn’t recognize. His ears started to ring and everything became glaringly bright. He put his arms up to shield his eyes. Yet the light penetrated through his eyelids. The buzzing came to a piercing shriek. Eyes shut, he covered his ears in vain.
“Stop!” Fred yelled. He pounded at the partition. The Messenger ignored him. His fist hit the glass.
Sound and light became unbearable. His senses overwhelmed, he blacked out.
Fred came to on a narrow bed. The muted beep in the background reminded him of hospitals. No tubes were connected to him. Sensors were the standard, but these were normally installed discreetly near a patient’s bed. Another way to detect its location was to follow the source of the sound. He turned his head toward beep.
At his right, a screen displayed medical charts and his vitals. Fred skimmed over the charts. His personal data and medical history was all there: the therapy he had for claustrophobia; the Med scans after his freak accident; and the psychology tests in Moscow – everything. His blood ran cold. His pulse picked up speed. The sound from the machine kept in time with his heart made it all the more obvious.
‘You’re finally awake,” a familiar voice broke through the shock.
The doctor’s eyes snapped toward its owner. At the foot of the bed, Mr. Alfred Roucan sat with his head bowed.
“Mr. Roucan,” Fred rasped. His throat was raw but he couldn’t remember shouting. The doctor felt disoriented at the unfamiliar environment. He couldn’t tell how much time had passed while he was out cold. “Where are we? How did I get here?” Then he recalled being at James’ and the Messenger driving the hover car.
“To tell you the truth, I’m not comfortable being addressed that way by my friends.” Mr. Roucan’s head lifted, displaying a glazed pair of amber eyes.
“Who are you?”
“I am the Oracle. In the past, I was better known as Robert Louis Roucan, born in 2110 to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Roucan. I come from the future.”
The doctor stared at the man in front of him and laughed.
The Oracle quietly waited for the laughter to subside.
“I’m either dreaming or this is a hallucination.” Fred propped himself up on his elbow. “Gods. What did that Messenger do to my head?” he said under his breath.
“Excuse me?” Fred frowned. He found he didn’t like people in his dreams interrupting him.
“I’m not a hallucination and you’re not dreaming.”
“If that’s true, you’re working with the Messenger who attacked me using—” he struggled to find the right word “— some kind of incantation.”
“Like you said we work together. We help each other.” The Oracle shrugged. “But I don’t actually know how he approaches each situation we run into. I just ask him to deliver messages for me.
“If it’s any consolation, I did scold him for mistreating you. He’s not big on explaining things; that’s why he put you to sleep.”
“He nearly blinded me and broke my eardrums,” Fred protested. He spied a door three beds down in front of him. It was too far out. His eyes roved for a more accessible escape route.
“You don’t trust me,” the Oracle observed.
“What you’ve been telling me is hard to believe.”
“Fine. Ask me whatever you want.” He crossed his arms.
“Anything?” Fred raised an eyebrow.
Vents, zero. No windows to give him an idea where they were.
The blind man nodded.
“Alright.” The doctor considered for a moment. “Where are we?”
“In space. Two light years away from Earth. So, we’re still in our galaxy.”
“Right,” he drawled.
“Reeves, deactivate shield in porthole S-29.”
On Fred’s left, part of the wall lifted. His jaw dropped. Through the glass, hundreds of spaceships surrounded them. Pods and space shuttles flew by their larger counterparts.
“You forgot to tell me we’re not alone,” Fred said, after finding his voice.
The window was not an option. The door would be his best shot. Next, would be to find a pod to take him back to Earth. Hopefully, it had enough power to get him home.
“I tend to forget they’re there since I can’t see them. Besides, I’ve accepted a long time ago that we’re not alone in the universe. Earth is just a tiny part of it.”
The doctor scowled. He didn’t want to hear about the stranger’s worldviews. But he had to keep his captor distracted for the time being. Fred latched on the detail which nullified the Oracle’s claim. “Louis isn’t blind.”
“I wasn’t,” the man said in a clipped tone.
Fred ignored his companion’s discomfort. “What happened?”
The Oracle’s jaw clenched.
“The Louis I know can defend himself. If he got into an accident and went blind, his family has the resources to have his eyesight returned.” Fred leaned forward to get a better view of the door. He searched for a button or sensor that would open it. “You wanted me to believe you, right?”
“I don’t really talk about it.” The hands on the Oracle’s lap were balled into fists, his knuckles white.
The sight tugged at Fred’s conscience. “You said we’re friends. Humor me,” he said, not unkindly.
“I didn’t realize you could be this persistent.” The blind man offered him a tight smile. In a low voice, he confessed, “I did it.”
All thoughts of escape screeched to a halt. The doctor whipped his head toward his companion.
“Insane, right?” the Oracle continued in a forced light note. “People thought I was. The long and short of it – the whole world was a mess and so was I, for a time,” he added as an afterthought. “Being surrounded by bodyguards, employees, the press was suffocating. Not a day goes by that I found it harder to breathe. I was alone, Fred.” He uncurled his fists and flattened his palms on his lap. “Everyone I cared about had left me.
“I planned my demise. Snuck into an old building I had ordered to be demolished the following day. Everybody thought I was halfway across the world – on a business trip. Made sure to keep out of sight while the site was double-checked before they blew it up. It was the perfect crime until I woke up in the hospital a month later. I had multiple fractures, internal bleeding, and lost my sight due to brain damage.
“A petition to have my sanity checked arrived the day after I awoke.” The Oracle grinned cynically. “I knew the Directors wanted me to step down. Naturally, I agreed to have a professional assess my mental health. But, of course, I had accurately predicted every question in those tests and,” his grin widened, almost manic, “the schemes those men concocted later. They lost before they even started. You know why?” He leaned toward the doctor. Solemnly, he said: “My Vision had never been clearer when I could see, Fred. That’s when I decided to stay blind.”
Fred felt a wrongness within the blind man – the way his face twisted at the recollection of a bad memory. He’s crazy. I have to get out of here, fast.
The Oracle sighed. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing, Fred. Please don’t try to escape. It’s impossible without my help.”
“What if I make you?”
Fred lunged at him.
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