Shalimar woke up with a huge start. Realised it was Adam paging her on her comlink and immediately activated a communication.
“Adam what is it?”
“The new safehouse. Its under siege.”
Shalimar got out of bed and went to dress as Adam filled her in on the details.
“Later. Get here fast as possible. I’m paging the others.”
And the link was closed.
Within a minute, Mutant X was air bound towards the safehouse to counter the attack. It was fifteen minutes past four in the morning. Two of the team hadn’t been sleeping when they were paged.
“Odd hour for an attack don’t you think?”
That was Emma as she got her gun ready. Yes, they were going in with weapons this time.
“On the contrary,”
Adam explained, “this is a brilliant time to attack. When the guards are worn out and sleepy.. someone must have tipped GSA off we were quite short on resources there. I guess the spy did manage to get across to the GSA...”
It was a huge setback that had now returned as a bigger catastrophe.
“So what's the plan?”
“Plan is simple. Brennan and Shalimar.. you pose the offensive.. attack them from the front door. And get them to back off with minimal damage. Emma and Jesse.. you take the defense.. enter from the back gate which apparently is still undiscovered. Get as many mutants out as you can. There are about fifty of them, including nine children. Right now, they’ve all obstinately decided to stay put and fight.”
Adam tried to roll his eyes but couldn’t… that’s because he also respected the courage the mutants were showing in trying to protect not just themselves but the place that contained enough evidence to lead the GSA straight to the entire mutant underground. He continued..
“Once you’ve evacuated everyone, destroy all the evidence and then join Shalimar and Brennan to fight out the agents. Any questions?”
Everyone shook their heads.
“Good. Be ready. We’re about to land in 10 seconds.”
Shalimar was puzzled and asked Brennan.
“How come he’s always so accurate to the last second?”
“Beats me” Brennan shrugged. And then he remembered something that made him look straight at Jesse, fear gripping his heart.
// The subjugator serum! //
It was only 4.15 am. And the serum would not stop working till at least 5.30!!
Brennan hadn’t meant to say that aloud. Jesse looked at him. He was quite aware of his lack of mutant abilities for almost the next one and half hour. That was the first thing he’d thought of the moment Adam paged him to get ready. He just sat there, his face a mask of rigid determination. He was ready.
He was also scared. And so was Brennan.
Brennan got up from his seat and was about to say something to Adam when Jesse got up too and looked straight at him. Very slightly so that no one else could see it, but very firmly, he shook his head to signal a negative of whatever it was Brennan was planning to do.
// No! Brennan we have to do this //
// How will you do it? You have no powers. Right now you’re just an average guy! //
// Thanks to you butthead //
// Let me tell Adam, you’re not going on this mission. //
// Yes I am. Brennan don’t tell Adam. Please. //
Brennan was conflicted. He knew this could be a dangerous mission, they’d been told there were over seventy agents all over there. And they weren’t going in with guns for nothing. Guilt and desperation was eating away at his heart and mind and he couldn’t handle it. He just couldn’t. This was all his fucking fault but Jesse was going to pay for it possibly with his life!
No. Brennan swallowed his panic down, not unless he stopped Jesse. He had to. Just then he felt Jesse’s hand on his slightly shaking one. He turned around to look into the ravishing green eyes. Eyes filled with fear and anxiety.. and pain that he now understood..
And love. Eyes that pleaded with him not to give him away, give them away. He couldn’t bear it. Brennan could never refuse Jesse anything. But this was too high a price and he was not willing to pay it. He wont do it!
Jesse saw the warring emotions flit across the older man's eyes and slowly drew closer. Adam was busy talking to someone inside the safehouse while Shalimar and Emma were pouring over the blueprints of the building one last time. None of them noticed the troubled exchange.
"Bren... please... I beg you. Now that we're over, I cant have them know. I just cant."
Brennan sighed and shook his head desperately as he muttered in the same low whispers Jesse did.
"That's the least of my concerns right now Jess. You'll be completely defenceless out there!"
Jesse lost it, the look of sheer rage in his eyes worried Brennan.
"I can fucking do it! After everything you've done to me tonight Mulwray, you're not going to doubt my competence as a member of this team! I wont let you."
Brennan frowned. "That's not it and you know it Kilmartin!"
And he almost reached out to take the boy into his arms, but Jesse stepped back.. reminding him they were not alone. Brennan looked around surreptitiously, desperately.
"Bren please... please I beg you.."
Jesse reached out again, tugged on the tips of his fingers discretely.
Brennan sighed, closed his eyes to force the tears back. After what seemed like eternity, he nodded and reached out with his own fingers clutching Jesse's hand. His brown eyes silently apologized to Jesse… eyes that reassured him that he would support Jesse in his decision.. and that he would be there to cover him.
Touchdown. The safehouse was underground with only two ways in and out. The first one was covered by GSA agents and this is where Shalimar and Brennan had to get off. Before jumping out, Brennan looked at Jesse once more.
// Be safe.. be safe Jesse. //
And they were gone. The Double Helix in stealth mode rose again to go for the back entry a mile away. Reaching there, Adam wished them luck as Emma and Jesse jumped out to enter the tunnel which opened into the safe house.
4.19 am, Level 4
Jesse and Emma entered through the trap door that opened the deep tunnel which in turn led to the new safehouse. It was a real long journey since they were going down to the deepest level of the establishment. Finally they reached the place which looked like a bunker in a war, shelling and fighting could be heard from the levels above while people panicked here. The little ones were hiding behind furniture, which wouldn’t be much defence if the agents did get down to this level. Jesse amd Emma started rounding up the people and getting them to leave the safehouse and into the aircraft stationed outside. Adam would fly them to another safe location. It was difficult convincing the wives to leave their husbands who were up on Level one fighting off the GSA. Emma had to use her convincing abilities on some, while on the mothers, it was enough to remind them they had kids to take care of. Soon they started filing into the aircraft and Adam flew off with them. He would deposit them at the stipulated location and return for others.
Jesse scavenged the level for any possible kind of links to the underground and destroyed all systematically.
4.21 am, Level 1
Meanwhile, Shalimar and Brennan had attacked the agents guarding the Genomex trucks who’d been lined up to transport the captive mutants in. They planned to capture only a few special ones and eliminate the rest, and keep the safehouse and all its contents for further leads.
Brennan let out huge bolts of electricity and exploded the trucks. A few agents were holding two mutants captive after having put the sub-dermal governors on them. Shalimar beat the shit out of them and Brennan short-circuited the governors so they could rejoin the fight.
He yelled as the last truck went up in gigantic flames and ran toward the tunnel entrance. Shal was busy kicking some GSA ass there. She called out to Brennan who’d joined her.
“So the combat training did come in handy after all yeah?”
“Oh yeah.” he shot back, but his heart wasn't in it.
// God don’t let anything happen to Jesse.. please.. //
4.28 am, Level 3
“Its locked from the other side. Jesse you need to open this door.”
“Uhh no problem I’ll just kick it down.”
Emma was puzzled. Jesse had to break down two doors that would allow the mutants to escape quickly down to the fourth level. Emma used her convincing powers here as well to get the people out. This level was where Adam has set an emergency medical center which contained typical MutantX apparatus and few critical documents. Emma hated to see expensive lab instruments go waste.
“What's the instruction? Don’t we salvage anything at all?”
“No. We have to destroy everything.”
And Jesse shot at a compressed oxygen cylinder causing a huge fire to erupt and take everything in the lab with it. He rushed out and closed the big doors to the lab.
“This should stall it for some time.”
“We have no time. Lets hurry.”
And the two moved to Level 2.
4.30 am, Level 1
The agents just kept on coming. Shalimar hated guns. She refused to use them until absolutely necessary. Brennan didn’t need one. He was faster at zapping electricity out of his hands. There were a few other mutants fighting the battle. Most were injured and two were dead. Of the ones still standing, one was an electromagnetic, one a chemical and a pyrokinetic. A telekinetic lady was doing a lot of damage by hurling heavy objects at the swarm of agents storming the place. But it was literally a five to one battle. GSA had a large amount of backup ready and agents kept pouring in. The mutant warriors were wearing down.
“Brennan, gotta destroy the evidence!”
“Am on it!”
And Brennan ignited the place. The fireworks could be seen from the sky where Adam was as he headed for the backdoor to pick the rest of the mutants. A Genomex dart almost embedded itself in his thigh. Almost. He was pissed so he turned up the voltage. Two agents were fried together. Brennan never killed. He only knocked them unconscious or seriously impaired. Couldn’t say the same about the agents though.
// Watch out for the bullets Jesse… be safe. For me //
4.40 am, Level 2
The agents had reached out to this level.
They had taken three mutants captive and put the governors on them, rendering them powerless. The moment they saw Jesse and Emma approaching, they opened fire. Emma ducked, so did Jesse. Emma for a moment wondered why he had to do so but she didn’t have time to ponder over it too long. They had to crawl their way from behind cover in order to reach a strikeable distance. And then Jesse pounced. Emma used her telepathic powers to convince two of the agents that they were being strangled. They dropped their guns and went for their own throats. Emma rushed out and got the mutants away. She led them out and showed them the way to Level 4 from where they were to make their escape. Jesse had grappled away the weapon from an agent and they now fought for dominance. The agent was strong and meanly built. Without Jesse’s powers, he wasn’t able to duck all of the agent’s skilled blows. A split lip only made him angrier. Then when a punch landed right in his ribs, he was hugely inclined to double over. But he knew that would just open him for more attack. He sucked in the pain and kicked out. The kick landed straight between the agents legs and he howled. Jesse rained more blows until the agent was flat on his back. Jesse could hardly take a breather when he heard a click. He turned and ducked just in time to escape a bullet.
// Damn guns! //
And he pulled out his own. He was going to need it after all. And he fired back.
Emma noticed the exchange from a corner of her eye.
// He ducked again. What's wrong with Jesse? //
4.44 am, Level 1
The agents were backing out.
“Yeahh! Run you cowards!” The pyrokinetic got carried away a bit.
But there were still some who continued to fight. And there were mutants who were dying. No one was being captured. The focus was on survival and elimination now.
The battle seemed to go on and on. And then a bullet whizzed right past Shalimar and wedged itself into the GSA agent she was fighting. It had come from the opposite direction.. which meant there were agents further inside the building.
“Damnit! They’ve already infiltrated Level 2. We need to get in there!” Brennan was terribly agitated for his usual self.
“Brennan we gotta cut them off here first.”
“Damn! Damn! Damn!”
Shalimar was concerned. But she didn’t have time to be concerned. Then Brennan had an idea. He called out to the mutants fighting at the entrance to somehow make it inside the tunnel entrance. When everyone including Shalimar was in with him, he asked the telekinetic lady to move up a Genomex vehicle right in front of the entrance. The lady did as she was told. Agents jumped out of the way as a GSA sedan flew twenty yards to reach the tunnel’s mouth and wedged itself in there. An agent too slow to move in time got crushed under it too and created a gory mess.
“Oh God! Oh God!”
“No No Tasha don’t lose it! We need this! We need you!”
Tasha got over her horror and kept the car moving until it was wedged properly. Then Brennan used his powers to create a circuitry of electricity between the tunnel walls and the car itself. Now, whoever tried to touch the car would get fatally zapped. Leaving the electromagnetic to maintain the current and the others to back up, Shalimar and Brennan headed towards Level 2.
// I’m coming Jesse. I’m coming! //
5.02 am, Level 2
Jesse was drenched with his own sweat as he strained for the slightest of sounds. Killing had not come easy to the members of MutantX but they had gradually come to accept it. Jesse could still hear Adam’s impassioned voice ringing in his ears.
// Its either them or you Jesse. Which would you’d rather have? //
And today, he’d scored two already. Of course, this had been expected. That’s why Adam had sent them in with guns, something MutantX had never done before. Emma was using her powers of persuasion to get the agents to back off, but trouble is her mirage existed only so long as she willed it to. The moment she got distracted by an attack from a new direction the illusion would be lost and the agents got back in the saddle. They had no choice, they had to keep them down one way or another.
Jesse was bang at the middle of a T-section in Level 2, behind a half broken gate… his only cover.. and with only one gun. One tunnel led out to Level 3, the other two went upto Level 2. And at both the ends stood GSA agents, with much more ammunition than he had, and comfortably shielded by walls. Jesse did not know how many agents there were on each end. Jesse did not know where Emma was and this bothered him even more. He switched on the comlink and whispered.
“Emma, where are you? “
“I’m right here Jesse, at the exit door to L3… agents trying to get through. I’d better guard this place. “
“Okay. Just keep in touch okay?“
And the bullets rained anew. Jesse could do nothing but lie flat on his stomach until the shooting stopped. The agents were clever.. they were timing the shootings to be together so that if one didn’t get him, the other would if he tried to move from his place.
“Damn I hate guns!”
When the shooting stopped, he pondered what to do. If he ran towards the third tunnel, he would lead the agents right upto Emma. Ruled out. If he stayed, he’d surely get hit by one of their bullets and that wasn’t acceptable either. Adam always said Jesse was his best defence. Hah. Right now he was totally incapable of defending himself, let alone anyone else.
//Thanks to Brennan Mulwray that bastard! //
//Oh yeah, the bastard you are in love with //
Jesse decided the only way was to wait until Emma had gotten rid of the agents at L3’s door and make a run for it. Perhaps she could distract them using her abilities.
“Emma what's your status?”
“Clear. Jesse do you want me to come to you?”
“No! No! stay put. I’m gonna make a run for you okay?”
“Okay. Jess be careful.”
He heard shifting noise. The agents were communicating too and were closing in now. Oh shit. Oh shit. Where was the noise coming from? He craned towards the left tunnel trying to discern what was going on.
Suddenly a hand snaked out from his right and caught his neck in a stranglehold. In the other, the agent held a subdermal governor gun.
“Ugh no you don’t!”
Jesse gripped the hand that held the weapon with one while he braced and drove the other elbow into the agent behind him. The man hollered and fell back. Jesse turned around to face his assailant and delivered a few sucker punches. The agent fought back trying to gun him with the governor but Jesse snatched it out of his hand and smashed it into a wall. Just when he was about to kick him in his shins, he heard a pop and a whizzing sound. Instinct told him he was being shot at, which direction he didn’t know. He ducked and the bullet hit the agent right in his forehead and he dropped dead.
“Damnit! God fucking damnit!”
Apparently, the agents had wanted to make a guinea pig out of him. In case that didn’t work, which it of course hadn’t, they fell back to the original plan to kill him.
// Make up your minds you dickheads! //
And Jesse heard more noises which indicated major movements at both ends. They were coming for him! He had no choice.
It was now or never.