Atalanta's Story Continued: Reaching Home Chapter 21

As a reminder in chapter 20 Atalanta Manny, and Sam left for Washington DC stopping in Baltimore for Sam to visit an old friend. Action picks up in this chapter. This is a long chapter but I didn't want to cut it up into smaller ones as I can't seem to post on a regular schedule. I want to thank Ashleigh again for her editing skills. I really hope you enjoy this chapter.


Chapter 21

The haunting melody of the good, the bad, and the ugly floated to their ears. Margaret joined her father and his friends on the carport their eyes on the lone figure occupying the center of the street. Her long legs and lithe figure casually eat up the distance separating them.

Reaching the fence she in one motion placing her hands on the post swung effortlessly out, up, and over the barrier landing feather light on the gravel. Not a pebble moved under her feet.

“Where have you been?” Sam demanded.

“Enjoying the scenery.”

Manny more circumspect asked, “What have you been up to?”

“Holding school,” I replied evenly handing Clancy a pair of brass knucks fresh flecks of drying blood smeared on the raised portion, “Some had to learn the hard way.”

“Ready to go,” I asked turning to Manny.

“We better,” he replied dryly nodding to Clancy and his daughter. Sam shook hands with Clancy then opened the passenger door.

Opening the rear door, I reached inside gathered my duster, and shrugging into it, climbed into the rear of the cab. Manny started the engine and backed out into the street.

“What kind of shit did you get into back there?” Manny called over his right shoulder after we had accessed the interstate.

“Not me boss. I was just minding my business and out for a stroll with not a care in the world.”

“Horse-hockey what happened: The bottom line.”

“Well,” I shrugged, “maybe a couple of guys with cracked ribs.”

“That’s not too bad you’re slipping,” Sam quipped.

“There might be one with a broken finger.”

“Might be,” Manny questioned.

“Now that you mention it, yeah it’s broken and a couple of black eyes.”


“—above a broken nose: I assume it was broken it was kind of laying funny like.”

“Okay,why?” Sam asked turning in her seat to look me in the eye.

“A couple of reasons,” I answered returning her stare. “Not everyone in my generation is soft. And can you imagine the flack two cousins named Butt and Cheeks get at school? I can.”

“They’re still school children though.”

“No these are adults—if you want to call them that—with the pit bulls down the street. Crackhouse I think but I didn’t hurt the dogs; can’t say the same about the owners.”

“Well hell, what’s done is done,” Manny snorted.

“Speaking of which how did it go with Mr. Ralph?”

Sam turned back around holding her hand out palm down shaking it back and forth, “so-so. He didn’t call me a liar though.”

Nodding, I settled back into the seat to watch the traffic, scenery, and to reflect; retreating into the inner core of my being. A tiny spark in a dark cavern that grew until the whole of the cavern was lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. While I was in that space I searched out and collected any baggage collected by our stop-over in Baltimore stuffing them into red, blue, pink, green, and mauve colored balloons and releasing them—some to the atmosphere—others to the individuals.

I could have just stuffed them into one large oversized balloon but where was the adventure in that? Red was emotion, blue was tranquility, pink represented health, green healing, and mauve—mauve was just because I could. I also used the balloons in reverse to collect pieces of myself left in Baltimore or other such interactions.

It was a practice that I started after the combat sims to release the anger that I felt towards the school and Mrs. Carson. By refusing to share in another’s baggage or by reclaiming bits of myself at the end of each day that were strewn about each day I could begin the next day with a clearer focus.

“Atalanta, wake up. We’re here,” Manny called out.

“I’m awake,” I replied from under my hat a small smile tugging at the corners of my mouth adding, “Where is here?”

“Fairfax Virginia, our operational headquarters for the next 10 days.”

“Damn,” I exclaimed pushing my hat back and sitting up, “I thought a moving target was harder to hit!”

“We’re not a target unless you plan on making us one,” Manny replied turning off Main Street and stopping in front of a four-story brick structure.

Located along the nation’s interstate system and at airports around the country a class of motels sprung up catering to the American Traveler from those on a budget to the spendthrift vacationer. The Comfort Inn was nearer to the latter accommodations.

Slinging my purse over my shoulder I followed Manny as he unlocked the tonneau cover to retrieve our luggage. I felt a pang of jealously pulling two wheeled luggage pieces, a carryon strapped to one as he carried only one duffel bag; even Samantha had just an extra luggage piece.

But Manny had said to “dress appropriately”which I took to mean an expanded wardrobe to include more functions. What girl wouldn’t welcome buying new clothes? Just because I wasn’t a typical girl didn’t mean that I hadn’t come to appreciate the styles and fabrics—options that women could choose from.

Manny held the door open to admit me and Sam, following us inside the lobby where we made a beeline for the front desk.

“Mr. Black we have two adjoining rooms, twin beds in each and with a connecting door.” She handed me and Sam each a key and Manny his key, “When you check-out leave the keys here or in your room. Should you lose your key, you let us know and we’ll recode a new card and lock combination.”

We walked down the hall turning a corner to the elevator taking it to the second floor where Manny had reserved the rooms on an outer narrow wall and facing the rear.

“Atalanta remember we have a dinner appointment,” at my nod, Manny continued, “Sam sure you won’t change your mind?”

“No I have my own plans, “Sam replied swiping her card in our door. Tossing my luggage pieces on the bed and unzippering the wheeled pieces I set about hanging up the new wardrobe that I had bought on the hangers. After laying out my lingerie in the drawers I turned to go into the bathroom.

“You sure you won’t change your mind,” I asked Sam at the bathroom door.

She waited so long to answer that I thought she wasn’t going to, “Think about it Atalanta; I can’t report what I don’t know about.”

I nodded mulling it over as I closed the door and drew water for a hot bubble bath. Stripping off my clothing and pinning up my hair I looked at the girl in the mirror and at odd times like this one marveled that it was me in that mirror. Intellectually I knew the conscious me was still intact from that boy who had gotten lost in the desert three years ago - the reflection said otherwise.

My hair pinned up revealed a graceful neck and my naked shoulders flowed smoothly to rising breasts, and by pirouetting,the mirror revealed a slender and curvaceous backside.

At times my internal image disagreed with the package presented but I also smiled coldly at the thought of those willing to bully the delicate boyish/girlish figure on display. For as much as my outer appearance hid the physical power and strength in this body not only as compared to girls with similar builds but also to my old male body the most dramatic change was spiritual:a mental and spiritual metamorphosis of déjà vu especially concerning war and combat.

Slipping into the steamy water, immersed to my shoulders under the great big bubbles, I continued my self-awareness tour while rubbing the loofah across my body and caressing each leg using the spongy material. Feeling squeaky clean I reached for a razor to remove the fine silky hair on my legs and pits. Standing I opened the drain and reaching again for the razor trimmed around my lady parts; mostly for hygiene. Well,maybe it was for the styles and formations I had read about especially the “landing strip” one.

Drying off my feet and legs, then stepping from the tub, I giggled at the image that landing strip evoked of a plane landing near the hanger.

“Down girl,” I muttered blushing while wrapping a towel around my upper body and then pulling on a pair of panties.Highlighting my eyes and brow line I leaned in closer to the mirror to apply color to my eyelids and lastly a little mascara to my lashes for a longer more fuller look.

As I did the thought struck me once again at the oddity of it, my color was hearty, my skin soft and full; applying makeup wasn’t a skill I should be aspiring to unless it was for the theater. At least that’s what one part of my mind said. Another enlightened part coordinated what I planned to wear with what accessories to pair for the event to complete the statement I wanted to be made.

Tonight I wanted to knock their socks off!

General Anthony Nelson idly tapped his water glass dividing his attention between his wife and the foot traffic near their table. Jeannie was a natural blonde that still looked as she had when he met her in the 60’s. Their table was near the wall where he could observe the entrance and the exits.

Tony was here tonight to meet a non-com that he had commanded in the special operations after washing out of the space program. Manny Black was an excellent soldier and black ops operator, one who Tony assumed was a lifer. That he hadn’t re-upped had come as a shock.

He was here partially to offer him a deal ‘that he couldn’t refuse’ about reenlisting but also to satisfy his curiosity. Manny wanted his help with his young protégé and goddaughter Atalanta Reid. He didn’t normally include his wife on business meetings but Jeannie was a good judge of people and especially female people. Besides, it evened the table seating arrangement.

The door opened to admit two people—the man Manny—held the door for his companion to enter. Manny was as he remembered him; a compact solid man just under 6 foot who carried a commanding presence. But it was the lady beside him that drew his attention.

Whereas Manny’s form emphasized his masculine strength Atalanta’s strength was her grace. From her upswept coffered braided hair revealing her long neck to eyes that sparkled and jumped with green and gold above bright full lips. Her sleeveless, green dress dropped low in front flowing over her breasts, pinching in at the waist to pour languidly over her hips before then racing down her thighs ending with a flared hemline at her knees. The highheels that she wore affirmed her toned calves and legs which glistened or seemed to under the lights as she moved.

Over her left shoulder, suspended by gold links hung a gray clutch matching the color of her shoes.

Manny moved in controlled increments, his muscles flexing against the suit material with each step. Atalanta glided across the floor reminding him of a lioness stalking her prey.

He rose as they neared, noticing her dream catcher earrings, the elongated cross pendant on her neck, the single bangle woven bracelet she wore on her right wrist to her not wearing a watch. Her eyes shifted between gray and green depending on lighting and the amount of gold that flared in them. Cat’s eyes were the term that came to his mind. He was again reminded of a stalking feline but not in the sensuousness often ascribed to the feminine—though that was displayed too—but the feral ferocity that lay just underneath a deceptive surface.

He turned his attention to Manny, “Manny it’s good to see you, here have a seat.”

It took me a moment to register that he had pulled out a chair and was holding it for me. It took me a further second to realize the dress did hinder seating gracefully unassisted. I chaffed, both at the vulnerability while welcoming the extra attention.

After introductions and greetings were exchanged I chatted with Mrs. Nelson while the guys got caught up. Not sure of the proper social etiquette I decided honesty was the best policy, “Mrs. Nelson I’m—“

“Jeannie, call me Jeannie dear.”

“Jeannie I’m out of my comfort zone tonight and I feel a little bit like a fish out of water. Most of my choices are made for me,” then adding at her raised eyebrow, “my mom, school uniforms, the gi, and my work clothes don’t offer a lot of variety and are pretty much what I wear 90% of the time. So this is my first attempt at…at being…another me.”

“I think you’ve done just fine and I especially love your accessories and what you’ve done to your hair. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen pins like those. Where did you buy them?”

“I didn’t they’re bone,” I replied gently touching the doubled pronged clasp holding the twist in my ponytail secure, “I made them from a deer carcass that I happened on.”

“They look like they could be dangerous.”

Manny laughed interjecting, “I have no doubt they are; Atalanta’s not your typical girl. She’s a fish and wildlife agent and this past winter she received a special US Marshall commission as well.”

“I’m an outdoors girl so cataloging wildlife seems like a natural fit.”

“Atalanta’s a natural in many things,” Manny admonished. Our waitress interrupted to take our order.

“Coffee and plenty of it,” I answered to what I wanted to drink which was echoed around the table. I did need to confirm my order of a 16oz steak, baked potato, and three vegetables to the waitress. The conversation was light while we waited for our orders and non-existent through the meal.

“Atalanta let’s go to the powder room.” Shrugging I followed her to where the bathrooms were located. Rose pattern paper adorned the walls, lavender colored stalls and matching lavatories added color and contrast to the alabaster floors. There were several ladies milling around the mirrors, a couple chatting on one divan, and one lady checking her profile in the full-length mirror. The buzz of conversation rose and flowed from all corners of the room.

Jeannie led me to an empty bench, “Sit down let’s get acquainted while the men talk.”

Shrugging I carefully sat my knees together placing my purse between us.

“Do you blink?” I asked blandly.

“Oh, you mean the 60s’ sitcom.”

I nodded, “Sorry I couldn’t resist.”

“That’s alright but it’s a sore spot with Anthony but I’m glad he got out of the space program.”

“You are? Why?”

“First a question for you; you’re a changeling aren’t you?”

“A what?” I retorted shocked.

“See all these ladies,” she pointed at the room, “we’re all wives of the inner circles of DC. If you keep your ears open you can pick up lots of information here and other places. We women like to socialize and talk—gossip if you like and be imaginative. Imagine my surprise at hearing about something called MMID classification. It piqued my interest and a little investigation revealed a program for mutant military dependents.”

But Changelings weren’t a separate classification.

“A friend of my mine let slip her nephew was in the program but that he is now a she,” she continued as if reading my thoughts.

But, how did she…?

“I’ve been a woman all my life,” she began gently, “and we learn early to pay attention to small details; the way a man moves and what he says and whether it reaches his eyes. The accessories a woman chooses, her choice of words and tone she uses says a lot about who she is.”

So what gave me away?

Again, as if reading my mind, “Except for the context, I never would’ve guessed, but my husband is military.He is in charge of secret projects, and since your godfather served under my husband, I put two and two together.”

Should I deny her conclusion? Doing so would probably alienate her and since I’ll probably never see her again, to what result? But why make adversaries and burn potential bridges unnecessarily?

“I don’t suppose it’s a state secret and not too many people know but yes I’m a changeling.”

“Your secret is safe with me so tell me about yourself,” she answered lowering her voice and leaning in closer.

For some reason, I told her about growing up all over the country and never staying in one place long. How mom decided a change was needed after daddy was killed in a helicopter crash in the Middle East and we packed up and moved to New Mexico for her to work for a college roommate at her ranch and spa.

“That’s where you changed,” she queried.

“First day,” I sighed continuing, “Land of Enchantment and all that. It took three days for all the changes to take effect. I guess you could say I was resurrected,” I dryly added.

“So how did you and Mr. Black meet?”

“Synchronicity I guess” and I explained that mom and Judy had driven me to the city and set up an ICU in an extended stay motel.

“But why not check you into a hospital as a doctor she could oversee your care.”

“Mom said I looked more female than male by then and that they would misdiagnosis my internal restructuring as cancerous and by the time…”

“—it would be too late.”

“Something like that. So anyway Judy saw what mom could do in a makeshift unit and she decided that she needed more than a nosebleed clinic. With the county’s help, she got a grant for a regional care center and Manny was the construction foreman for the project.”

“As you say it was synchronicity and quite the adventure…but why aren’t you in school in New Mexico where your mother is?”

“That’s a long story,” I smiled adding,” Sure you have the time?”

“I don’t ask Anthony about his missions; he doesn’t ask me about the ladies room.”

I smirked as she leaned in even closer reminding me of tales told around a campfire and for just a moment the sterile modern environment was replaced with the smell of wood smoke, tongues of flame, and leathery faces. Just as quick it faded.

So I told her about mom’s kidnapping by convicts to treat a gunshot wound and that I helped to capture them and rescue my mom.

“You get up in the middle of the night in a blizzard to track a group of convicts guided by a bird.”

“Not just a bird,” I corrected her, “an owl and not just any old owl either.”

“Of course not,” She laughed, “but what made him special.”

“I figured he had to be a smart bird to hunt me up like that when I needed him so he deserved a special name and Harvard seems to have stuck.”

“So I take it you’ve had more than that one interaction with…Harvard.”

“Several,” I admitted smiling, “but enough about me tell me about yourself.”

“Not much to tell really unlike you I’m a boring housewife from the mid-west originally. I came from a large family with three brothers and sisters and too many cousins to count. Anthony is an only child so it took him a while to get used to our family reunions I met Anthony after graduation when I went to work for the air base in Florida. We dated for three years and been married for 32 years now.”

“Any children,” I asked and I immediately felt a sadness emanating from her.

“I had a miscarriage at six months,” she replied in a whisper not fully trusting her voice.

I felt an immediate kick to my belly, “I’m sorry,” feeling my eyes mist hugging her and wondered at the intense connection.

“I’m mostly over it but at odd times my stomach will kick over and I’ll remember,” pausing to reflect and regain her composure. I have plenty of nieces and nephews but it is not the same.”

“It wouldn’t be,” I stated emphatically; the knowing rushing in. “Ever been stationed overseas,” I asked changing the subject.

“A couple of times, but never in any hotspots; plausible deniability don’t you know.” A long comfortable silence ensued. Jeannie finally broke the silence, “I guess we better take care of business before the guys think we’ve been kidnapped.”

Major Nelson waved their server over to pay their bill, “No it’s on me,” he responded to Manny’s attempt to pay, “besides, I’ll put it on my expense account,” he added handing his card to be swiped.

“Thank you, sir,” our server beamed at the generous tip.

“You and your team earned it.” Turning to Manny he asked,” Would you like an after-dinner cigar in the bar.”

Manny was not a smoker, but he did enjoy a fine cigar after dinner, nodded in agreement and followed him into the bar area where they found an isolated table. Manny bit off the end of his cigar and observed his former CO through the flames and smoke that curled from the premium tobacco leaf.

“How are you enjoying life as a civilian?”

Holding up a hand palm down Manny responded by rocking it side-to-side, “So-so; to be honest, a little boring.”

“Not all of it from what I gather.”

“Atalanta has added an element of intrigue,” Manny admitted.

“That she has but before we go farther I have an offer for you.” Anthony paused sipping his drink before he added, “The Service wants you back, and in an expanded role.”

Expanded Role has two connotations the sinister one being the fall guy for past blunders.

“Yeah,” Manny replied dryly.

“No it’s nothing like that,” he laughed scratching at his chin and neck before adding, “You’d be heading up a new unit.”

“What kind of unit, though I can guess the neighborhood.”

“You’d be right…about the neighborhood,” the Major replied studying the buildup of ash at the end of his cigar, “but not about the unit’s mission. In fact,” he quickly added, “you’d help write that mission statement.”

“Well, I admit you’ve piqued my curiosity and I’ll think about it but that’s not really why I called you.”

“—you called me about Atalanta didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I did. The kid received a US Marshall’s commission by some joker.”


“—yeah that’s his name…Wilcox. Anyway,they called her in this week for a debriefing, qualifying, training that I believe this Wilcox joker set up to embarrass Nick O’Reilly and to a lesser degree Atalanta.”

“You’re right he had a hand in it or at least he thinks he did but appearances can be deceiving as he’s about to find out.”

Manny straightened his shoulders and turning his head shot his former CO a sideways glare, “What the hell gives skipper?”

“I’m coming to that, but first you like this kid, don’t you?’

“Hell yeah, I like her,” Manny returned heatedly, “I think of her as my daughter but what has that got to do with it?”

“—I’m coming to that.But you want what’s best for her?”

Manny didn’t reply but he looked at him like he had three heads.

“Dumb question,” Anthony chuckled. “What do you think about the school she’s going to?”

“It’s a good school with a good curriculum and it’s a godsend for some of the kids.”

“But not Atalanta,” the Major probed.

“I didn’t say that,” Manny quickly answered.

“No you didn’t but I do. Relax,” Anthony said placing both hands flat on the tabletop, “It’s just you and me here talking over good times.”

Manny knew it was anything but, “Mrs. Carson is a fine administrator who operates in the school’s best interests.”

Anthony leaned forward his elbows on the table, “I’ll lay out some of my cards; Atalanta has attracted some attention: Sheriffs’ offices in New Mexico and Utah, the MCO, H1, human traffickers, and some federal agencies,DARPA, the Marshall’s office, Fish and Game, and some government elite units are just a few of the people who know of her. That’s all happened in about a year. They don’t have much information on her yet but more events like the SIMS will speed that process up.”

“What do you know about that,” Manny queried.

“Admittedly not that much; just that it happened.”

Frowning Manny answered his words slow and measured, “I told her, actually we both did but Mrs. Carson just had to push it. She had to know how far Atalanta would go. What her breaking point was and what she would do at that point. Well, she found out what I knew all along. But how did you find out? Mrs. Carson was supposed to place those files under lock and key and not part of her official record.”

“I know you know this,” Anthony replied somber, “but like what’s placed on the internet can’t be recalled - somebody saw or heard and they talked.”

“So what did happen?”

“Why should I tell you?” Manny demanded. “Like you said there are no secrets so I assume telling you tells more people.”

“There’s no denying that,” he replied his mouth curling in a tight-lipped grimace, “but I’m not asking for idle speculation; it’s for a damn good reason which will become apparent. But for now, you need to trust me.”

Manny studied the older man recalling prior events, “Okay. The SIMS program generates NPCs’ for the scenarios but these weren’t computer animations but real live creatures. Huge 10 feet tall winged creatures with fangs and claws like you see in the comic books—”

“—mythological creatures.”

“Yeah, mythological creatures but these were real live breathing monsters.”

“The military’s mission is to stop threats by killing people or other living things and breaking things, running a close second is gearing up for future threats by technology and intelligence many made possible or feasible through DARPA. This new division or unit that I want you to head will be a joint venture with DARPA and you already have a relationship with Director Reilly.”

“Yeah I knew of him when I was in the service but he stepped up to the plate supporting Atalanta and her mother out in Utah, later with MCO, and lastly with Fish and Game, and the Marshall’s office. I’ve come to count him as a friend.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

Their discussions were interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Nelson and Atalanta.

“We’ll talk later,” Nelson said standing up.

“Later,” Manny agreed following suit.

“Are you ladies ready to go?”

We nodded leaving the bar from a side entrance that skirted the dining area. Manny and Anthony walked in front with me and Jeannie following.

“I really enjoyed your company tonight,” I remarked as the guys held the doors for us.

“I did as well,” Jeannie replied as we waited beside the door for our escorts, “Here,” she said opening her purse handing me a card, “My number’s on it. Call me.”

She watched amused as I slipped it inside the bodice of my dress, “Somebody might snatch my purse they’ll play hell getting it from there,” I explained.

Laughing she gripped my arm cocking her head; “I like your attitude, Atalanta.”

“That’s my Atalanta,” Manny agreed.

“You girls wait here while we bring your chariots around,“ Nelson spoke.

“Ahh how sweet,” Jeannie stood on tiptoe to give her husband a peck on the cheek.

“You have to give them a treat for good behavior,” she whispered as we watched them cross the drive and reaching the parking area. My quiet musings were interrupted by a sinking feeling in my gut quickly followed by the tingling of my birthmark.

“Come on,” I cried to Jeannie grabbing her arm pulling us across the street. Immediately seven things occurred almost simultaneous; a car headlight flashed, an engine roared, brakes screeched, the sound of running feet, Jeannie was jerked from my grip, I screamed, and Manny turning around in our direction. I saw Jeannie with a gun to her head being forced into the backseat of a dark sedan as a hand covered my mouth cutting off my scream.

I instantly deduced that Mrs. Nelson was the target of the abduction quickly affirmed by his loosening his grip over my mouth and a hand on my back. I countered feigning panic bringing both my arms up trapping his hand while kicking out with my feet propelling us backward falling into the open car door which sped away, the door slamming shut by the sudden acceleration.

“What the hell did you bring her for?”

“I had to; the ditzy bitch panicked or I would have been caught.” The sweet smell of chloroform reached my senses. I quickly gulped fresh air and then shut my respiration to a crawl as a wet cloth closed over my nose and mouth. Long after Jeannie had quit struggling the cloth remained in place until the second man jerked it away, “You trying to kill her.”

“The damn bitch deserves it; she like broke my leg. Besides we don’t need her.”

“Well,” the other man replied thoughtfully, “she may be a relative or something that we can use as leverage or get the old broad to cooperate.”

This other man picked me up and sliding over deposited me beside Jeannie. I was seeing, but my eyes were closed. My consciousness seemed to exist outside my body. A sudden black void loomed large beckoning me. I fought the urge to relax instead I whispered breathe, breathe, breathe. One-two-three I counted; inhaling then one-two-three exhale. Over and over until gradually one by one my senses came online. First was the dress fabric against my skin, then the acrid smell of cigarette smoke, then outside sounds of cars passing, their lights flashing by, and finally, I sensed we were traveling north.

I then practiced using the timing method Manny and I had developed over the course of my training to estimate elapsed time. Focusing on the finer details of breathing, counting, and my senses the void had receded into the nothingness it came from. At 25 minutes light and sound died as we pulled into a building of some type—brick or stone—to kill outside distractions. We stopped and moments later the whirl of machinery and my sinking into the backseat indicated an elevator being lifted.

Moments later I heard the sedan doors unlatch,with Jeannie and then me lifted and thrown over a shoulder as the driver killed the engine. Its headlights remained on giving light for the front passenger opened to open his door and activate a rear panel on the elevator.

The light quick click of heels was followed by a full rich clipped speech, “Neanderthals keep your hands still and on the business at hand. Until we get what we want they’ll be treated with kid gloves. Afterward you can do as you will.”

A shiver ran up my spine and I was tempted to end this now but I wasn’t sure of how much of my fine motor skills had returned. I wasn’t sure either how much longer Jeannie would be out.

Hanging over my captor’s shoulder I carefully cracked an eyelid open taking note of our surroundings. The distinctive nose and emblem of a Mercedes-Benz stared back as did the front license plate that I memorized. The floor was easiest (I was staring directly at it) to categorize it was square pattern pale linoleum. The first door we passed led to what looked like a communal living space; kitchen, living room, and bathroom. The next room judging by what furnishings that I could see was the electronic brains of the complex. The following two rooms were bedrooms as was the one where we were carried being dumped unceremoniously onto a bed.

“Place her at the foot,” the woman commanded, her I assumed referred to Jeannie since I remained in place.

“Raise her up to a sitting position,” and I immediately felt hands pulling on my shoulders into an upright angle. “Blindfold and gag her. I felt an elasticized blindfold placed over my eyes and surgical tape over my mouth. It was all I could do to not resist.

My options were quickly running out; the gag and blindfold indicated we were to be bound in some manner. I knew there were three people in the room and their approximate location; one man was at the head of the bed on my right, the other man likely was at the foot on the other side with the woman in the middle on my side. The fourth man was unaccounted for. I wasn’t sure I even had full motion and strength back yet.

“Raise her hands,” the woman barked as I felt her hands grip the hem of my dress and pulling it up and off my body.

“All right,” I heard one exclaim.

“Get your mind out of the gutter and on business. I want these two to wake up cold, blindfolded, gagged, and half dressed frightened out of their minds. They’ll be a lot easier to deal with,” she continued in a conversational tone from the other end of the bed. I assumed from the material rustling that she was helping Jeannie out of her dress. “Got it,” She snarled.

They propped me up against the headboard in a sitting position my hands being tied to the iron columns on the headboard. “Tie a foot to each other’s foot I want them to feel as helpless as possible when they wake up.”

Oh shit.

My body took that moment to jerk and I inadvertently groaned.

“Shit, hurry it up, you guys. I don’t want us in here when they wake up,” she cried.

“She’s the one that I gave the extra dosage to, too.

“Shut up and hurry,” she demanded as my body convulsed sending jolts of electricity sporadically through my muscles and tendons.

“Shit…shit,” he cried as he frantically tied the knot into place.

“Come on,” the woman urged as I heard footfalls, the door closing and metallic sound of tumblers clicking into position.

I cursed the woman while admiring her ruthlessness and hoping in their haste they had been careless if not the future looked bleak for us.

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