Center Of Attention 26-17 (Summus Proelium)

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The entire time the adult Banners had been missing, we’d asked ourselves where they could be and whether they were even alive. Apparently the answer had been they were, but not anymore. No wonder this had happened. I hadn’t been able to understand how Pitman could have gotten one of his Biolems past the security measures and right up to where my parents, Irelyn, and the others were. It turned out he hadn’t. Instead, he had sent the Banners in there to do it. 

Did they know they had been turned into biological weapons? Something made me doubt that. But it was the perfect trap. Of course they had been allowed in to see their daughter. Even if they had apparently disowned her or whatever, she had been missing on Breakwater for all this time. No one in their right mind would’ve told them they couldn’t see her. 

How long had that piece of shit been planning this? He had to have known that, at some point or another, Irelyn would be back in Detroit. And he undoubtedly knew that my parents would want to talk to her, or at least that they would be in the same area at some important point. 

He planned it. He had the Banners turned into biological weapons just so he could send them into that same area and… and detonate them. He killed them to hurt, maybe even kill, my family and Irelyn. Not to mention all the others who had died or been hurt. And we still didn’t know if they’d be able to find a cure. This whole situation could get even worse than it already was. I could lose my–

No, I wasn’t going to think about that. Not right now. Instead, after talking for another minute with Paige, I disconnected and fell back on my bed. Fresh tears were streaming down my face while Izzy lay next to me and put an arm around my shoulders. We laid there like that together while I explained what I had just heard. She, naturally, didn’t take the news any better. She said a few choice words about Pittman’s that probably should’ve sounded shocking coming from someone her age. But I didn’t care right then. Or at all, really. He deserved all of them. 

Finally, after a few minutes of just laying there, I put an arm around the other girl and held her tighter while speaking up. “We can’t let him get away with this.”

“Are you going to tell the Ministry everything?” Izzy asked that quietly while shifting around on the bed to stare at me. She wasn’t judging one way or the other. She just wanted to know what I was going to do.

My mouth opened and then shut as several wild thoughts ran through my head. In the end, I simply gave a heavy sigh. “Not everything. I’m not even sure what that would accomplish. We can’t just tell them who I am and all that. It wouldn’t help anything except to maybe convince them that I really do want to help my parents. But I’m pretty sure they’re all plenty motivated to do that already. We could maybe point them in the right direction, tell them where this attack came from. Maybe they could drag Pitman off that island and get answers out of him. Or maybe that’s exactly what he wants. Think about it, he called to taunt us. Obviously he wanted us to know he was the one responsible for what happened. I think he wants us to tell the Ministry so they can pull strings. He’s probably got some other plan to escape that he’ll put into effect the second that happens.”

Izzy sat up on the bed and then stood, walking back-and-forth around the room agitatedly. “He did all this just to escape?”

My head bobbed in a quick nod. “I think so,” I managed even as my voice cracked from emotion. “Well, that and because he’s a hateful, arrogant piece of shit and we made him mad. Paige dared turn against him and he wanted to punish her. He knew she wanted Irelyn back, so he did this. Plus, it let him hurt the Ministry, and we know he hates them. I don’t know if he knew both our parents would be there, but he obviously assumed at least Dad would. The point is, I think he wants the Ministry to find out he was the one responsible so they’ll do something to get him off that island and get answers out of him. There has to be a reason he called to make absolutely sure we knew he was the one behind the attack. He wants us to be mad and overreact without thinking.”

Izzy hesitated before speaking uncertainly. “But even if that’s what he wants, what if it’s the only way to cure these people? What if it’s the only way to help your… our parents? What if they–”

Stopping her before she could finish that sentence, I quickly spoke up. “We won’t let it get that far. We’ll get answers out of him ourselves. I don’t know how, or– I mean I don’t…” I covered my mouth with one hand and shuddered hard as the terror of what could happen washed over me yet again. The fear was like waves that kept lapping up over the beach of my mind. They would withdraw a bit and give me a moment of peace to think, then inevitably come rushing back, washing away the small sandcastle of coherent thought I had managed to put together in those moments. The tears returned, as did my shaking. If my parents died, if I lost either of them, or both of them, I had no idea what I would do. But I did know that playing right into this monster’s hands wouldn’t help us at all. My parents had the absolute best care they possibly could, from both sides of the law. I had to hope that those people could keep them safe long enough for us to actually think this through and come up with a better solution than to give Pittman exactly what he wanted. 

Besides, something told me that even if I exposed absolutely everything I knew and everything I was to the Ministry, it wouldn’t help that much. Pittman had to have planned for anything they could do to him, and would probably have people in place, maybe even his own Biolems, to take advantage of anything they tried. Our biggest advantage really was that he didn’t know anything about us. He didn’t know who I was, not really. He just thought I was some guy Paige was working with. Maybe there was a way we could use that, along with the fact that he didn’t know about Sierra. 

We did have some advantages still, I had to remind myself past the utter terror and helplessness I felt about what was happening to my parents. No matter how hard it was, I couldn’t let myself react completely emotionally. I had to stop and think about everything we did next. Because I was absolutely certain that if he had anything to say about it, Pitman wouldn’t just not cure the people he had infected, he would gladly watch them die. And if I just blundered my way emotionally through this, I would be playing right into his hands.

But dear God did even thinking those things make me feel revulsion. How could I even say that I couldn’t react emotionally? They were my parents! If something happened to them just because I didn’t want to play into Pittman’s hands… 

Yeah, needless to say, I had a lot of conflicting emotions and thoughts about the whole thing. Which Izzy helped me with, while I helped the other girl with her own. We were a mess, reconsidering everything we thought and said. At times, I had almost convinced myself I was wrong about every reaction I’d had and that the very best thing to do would be walking right up to my brother and telling him everything. 

No, I couldn’t do that. The Ministry would do their thing and we would do ours. Maybe we could point them in the right direction. But not until I had talked to the others, not until we had a better idea of exactly what was going on and how the victims had been affected. I couldn’t go rushing into a decision right now. That was what Pittman wanted us to do. He wanted Paige to be angry, he wanted all of us to be angry. He wanted the Ministry to find out and do something to get him off that island, if they were even capable of that. The point was, he wanted to make everyone react without thinking it through. And we absolutely couldn’t afford to do that. We had to be careful, no matter how hard it was.

Finally, after an hour or so like that, the intercom buzzed as Simon let us know it was time to go down to the Conservators building and see our parents. The doctors were ready to allow visitors. Which, of course, sent another wave of terror over me. What if they simply wanted to let us talk to them because they were afraid there wouldn’t be another chance? Maybe it was ridiculous to assume that, but I couldn’t stop the thought once it occurred to me.

Together, Izzy and I took one another’s hands and left my room. Whatever came next, however this went and whatever we saw when we went into that place, I would be forever grateful to have her with me. The thought of how broken I would’ve been without her made bile rise in my throat. I absolutely could not have gotten through this without Izzy. She had been important to me before, of course. But having her here now, having her with me when all this happened, was absolutely indispensable.

Simon was waiting for us downstairs in front of the front door. When he saw us, he shook his head and gestured the other way, toward the hallway leading to the garage. “We’ll take one of the cars ourselves. Jefferson’s… running some other errands. Stuff Mom asked him to do before.”

Obviously, it wasn’t the best excuse, but I really didn’t think he cared much at that point. I sure didn’t. I didn’t have the emotional energy to play that game right now. It was clear that whatever Jefferson was actually doing undoubtedly had to do with this whole situation, and all I could do was silently wish him luck.

So, we went to the garage and took one of the BMWs. Once Izzy and I were both in the back and had our belts on, Simon tore off out of there and down the driveway at a speed that probably would have made Mom yell at him if she was there. It was a thought that I could tell he had at the same time from the way his hands tightened on the wheel. But he didn’t say anything. He just saluted the guard at the gate, who stood with it open and waiting, as we blew right through there and out into the street. 

For a couple minutes as we practically flew down the street away from our neighborhood full of mansions, I didn’t trust my voice. It sort of felt like I should say something, anything, but I was afraid that if I opened my mouth, the wrong thing would come out. Izzy seemed to have the same problem, simply squeezing my hand while we sat there in silence. 

Finally, Simon had apparently had enough of that, because he hit the button to make the radio start blaring deafening rock music. He was probably trying to drown out his own thoughts. And honestly, I couldn’t blame him. My situation was complicated, yes, but it wasn’t like his was much better. If something happened to Mom and Dad–No! Fuck, Cassidy, stop thinking anything like that, for God’s sake! 

It was almost impossible to push those thoughts out of my mind, but I finally closed my eyes and let my head slip back as the pounding music washed over me. Yeah, it worked for me too. I just lost myself to the noise and stopped thinking about anything at all. 

Before I knew it, the car was pulling through a heavy police barricade around the street leading to the Conservators’ headquarters. The cop who stepped up to the car took one look at Simon and just nodded before waving for him to go ahead. So, we weaved our way through another few such barricades and down into the parking garage. There were a bunch of emergency vehicles taking up most of the spaces on the top couple levels, but we went down until there was an open slot for Simon to park in. Once the car was shut down and the music completely died out, my big brother exhaled audibly. “Okay, first thing’s first, they’re not going to let us in the same room with them. They don’t know how this shit is transferred or whatever. Not yet. The doctor I talked to on the phone said we’ll have to stay in the other room and see them through a window. And they’re not exactly…” He trailed off, going silent for a moment before punching the steering wheel with his fist. Then he apologized. “Sorry, sorry. What I mean is, they’re not going to be coherent or anything. The doctor said Mom is completely out. She says some stuff once in a while, but nothing coherent. And Dad just… he’s conscious for now, but he isn’t coherent either. He’s just saying random stuff. Nothing that actually makes sense.”

A part of me wondered just how dangerous it was for my parents in particular to be saying random shit. What if they said something that compromised their secrets? But on the other hand, the Ministry probably already would’ve taken care of that. I had no doubt that the people taking care of them were in on the secret. If nothing else, I was certain that Mom would have prepared for something that could have incapacitated them. Maybe not this specifically, but something.

Simon finished up his explanation by telling us that if we didn’t want to actually see our parents like that, he’d go by himself until we were ready. And to be honest, seeing my brother act like this, trying to be so understanding and mature, kind of freaked me out even more. I wanted him to act the same as usual so I could believe that he thought things would be just fine. But the fact that he was being such a… mature guy about the whole thing… yeah, maybe it was weird to want him to be an immature jerk, but there we were. 

Obviously, we both said we were going in there. I did feel a pang of worry about just how bad this was going to be and how we were going to react to seeing them like that. My parents had always been completely in control of everything. Even more than I had known for most of my life, as it turned out. But even before I knew about the whole Ministry thing, they had been my emotional anchors. They always knew what to do or say, and the thought that they could possibly be as out of it as these people kept saying… it almost made me want to take Simon’s offer to not walk in there. But no, I had to go to them. I had to see it for myself. 

As we got out of the car and headed for the elevator, I idly wondered how Simon was going to explain the whole Silversmith thing. Then I realized that he probably wouldn’t need to. The people who knew that he was my father undoubtedly simply put him in the medical room as himself. I figured there was probably an empty room somewhere that was supposedly ‘for Silversmith’ that only people with clearance were able to go into. In other words, the people who would know why the room was actually empty. Or at least had enough clearance to not publicly question it. That’s what I would’ve done in their situation, anyway. 

We were met at the elevator by a dark-haired black man in a suit who introduced himself as Gus. He took us up to the third floor, a medical wing, and then through a maze of corridors. I could see doctors and nurses running back-and-forth in pairs and threes, talking on the phones, consulting clipboards and computer pads, and so on. The place was busy, to say the least. I hoped that meant they would find a cure for this whole thing just like that, but something told me it wouldn’t be that easy. Pittman wouldn’t have launched his attack like this if it was something that was that simple to cure. Not if he wanted to use it to escape Breakwater. 

We passed guards too, people who were obviously making sure the confidentiality and secrecy parts of the whole situation stayed intact. Only certain people were allowed in certain rooms. Several of them watched us closely as we passed various doors, each of which had a paper sign with the name of the Touched being treated within written in marker. They were clearly doing everything they could to maintain secret identities while continuing to give treatment. I wasn’t sure how well that was going to end up going, but at least they were trying. 

Finally, we passed through the doors with our parents’ names written on the paper, and ended up in an observation area. There was, as promised, a window looking into the main room itself. That place just looked like any ordinary hospital room, with two beds. My mother was laying on one, eyes closed as she squirmed and twitched fitfully, occasionally muttering under her breath or even shouting single words. Simon was right, none of it made sense. She was saying things like toaster and backgammon, just random words that didn’t go together. Maybe she really was dreaming or something, I wasn’t sure. 

My dad, on the other hand, was sitting up in bed, babbling about some adventure he had apparently gone on to fight Nazis with a whip. It took me a minute to realize he was recounting Raiders of the Lost Ark as though he was Indiana Jones. He was talking with exaggerated, almost wild motions, as though talking to a reporter. 

Seeing them like that, I put my hand against the glass and cringed a bit. “Are they going to be okay?” I asked in a small, vulnerable voice. It made me wince at the sound. I hadn’t intended to speak out loud. 

Simon, standing on one side of me while Izzy stood on the other, gave a short nod before putting his hand on my head. “Don’t worry, girls. They’ll be alright, I swear. Mom and Dad have the best people in the world looking after them, you know. Besides, they’re gonna find whoever was responsible for this. And when they do, they’ll get the cure out of him, one way or another.

“We’ll make damn sure of it.” 

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  1. Well hey that’s how the arc ends! I guess we’ll have to see how this whole thing continues in the next one! But in the meantime, if you liked this, maybe think about boosting this story on Top Web Fiction by clicking here! Thanks so much, and your tags are: Cassidy Evans, Elena Evans, I Mean At Least Sterling Is Imagining Himself As The Hero In The Fight Between Indiana Jones And The Nazis, Izzy Evans, Sadly Someone Imagining That They’re The Hero In That Fight Doesn’t Automatically Mean Casting Themselves As Indiana Jones These Days, Simon Evans, Sterling Evans, Whatever‚ Let’s Just Imagine Pittman Melting Like Those Guys At The End Of The Movie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was wondering if precautions were taken against the Sterlings’ ramblings in delirium so it sounds like he’s talking about Indiana Jones when he’s really telling the story of how he became Silversmith

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The chapter intro really hit home how I’m not satusfied with the Banners gambit.

    They were held hostage or in a coma for how long?? But when they were released my Pittman’s goons, they immediately knew Irelyn had been in danger, and rushed to her without warning anyone that something happened to them as well? This makes me firmly belueve that the Banners were Biolem copies of themselves, and the real Banners must still be around somewhere. Think about it: Sierra and Paige are also biolems, and they passed every single security check so far that would have revealed they’re not human.

    And the Superhero teams were not suspicious at all about the missing-for-weeks second-richest couple of the city?

    And how long ago had Pittmann planned in advance to do this? He must have prepared it since long before chapter 12: He had always planned to do this terror attack at some point.


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