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We Are Free

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The captor grabbed Waylon, and shoved him into the trunk. He person paused long enough to frisk Waylon’s pockets, relieving him of his phone and wallet.

A robbery? Murkoff? FBI? Mafia?

Run. Hide. Survive.

Waylon’s brain reverted to the most basic commands. When that didn’t work, he resorted to panic.

“Help Me! Help Me! Miles!”

The car’s engine reverberated through the trunk, making it difficult to be heard. Then there was the distinct feeling of being moved against his will.

I've been a little...vulgar. I know, and I want to say I'm sorry. I just...you know how a man gets when he wants to know a woman.

“No,” whined Waylon, curling up into the fetal position. A sudden acceleration around a curve sent him knocking into the walls. He was in a trunk; not a locker.

But after the ceremony, when I've made an honest woman of you...I promise, I'll be a different man.

Waylon let out a stuttering sob. The last time he had been trapped, and moved against his will, it hadn’t ended well. He felt as helpless in the trunk as he had years ago when Gluskin had trapped him.

Waylon pulled his legs to his chest, and kicked as hard as possible. Immediate pain bloomed through his entire body. The trunk was rather sturdy. Miles would have been able to rip his way out. Another sharp turn, and the back of Waylon’s head clocked hard against the wheel well.

A hand through his hair came away wet. Sweat or blood? Waylon’s head throbbed. Breaths came faster and faster. Too shallow. Not enough oxygen. Waylon tried to gulp down the hot, stuffy air. Lightheaded. Oh shit.

Error.

Here, darling. This will help you relax.

——

A loud clank. A blinding light in his eyes. Even the muggy, hot Florida air felt like an arctic breeze after that trunk. Waylon half expected to hear the sound of the saw table, but instead a rag was shoved into his mouth, and a black hood pulled over his head. More blackness.

Waylon attempted to thrash, and shout through the gag. He earned a sharp elbow in the gut. Someone grabbed him under the arms, and carried him. Barely conscious—Waylon was little more than dead weight.

Returning consciousness caused Waylon to groan, and attempt to grab his head. His hands were bound behind him, and he was secured to something. A makeshift surgery table in the Vocational Ward? And somewhere tinny music played…

Scanning Area…

Waylon was upright. He was most definitely handcuffed to a chair. And the music? It was eighties synth, not golden oldies. It originated from a speaker. Probably a computer nearby, or a phone.

There was a knock on the door, and Waylon held his breath. He waited until he heard someone in the room, walking toward the door. The sound of the door opening, stopped by a chain.

“Hey, there you are,” said an unfamiliar voice. There was a brief pause before the door closed again. Waylon strained, but couldn’t hear anything until the door opened again.

“Help! Help! Help Me! Please!”

The cries were hindered by the gag, and muffled by the hood.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that,” said a voice, jerking the hood off of Waylon’s head. “Long time no see. How’s it going?”

Waylon’s mouth would have hung open, if it had not been gagged. He immediately tried to talk.

“Eh, hold on, I can’t hear you with that shit in your mouth…” The cloth was roughly pulled out.

“Perry! You dumb fuck, are you joking me right now?! You better be kidnapping me for some kinda bachelor party prank, or FBI Witness Protection hazing…”

“Ah, c’mon Park, gimme more credit than that,” said Perry, holding his hand to his chest. “You wound me.”

“You’re gonna sustain a lot worse wounds if you don’t let me out of here,” said Waylon, growling. Perry looked much the same as he had in Washington, thinning blond hair giving way to a bald spot on the top. He was still taller than Waylon, and in obvious good shape. He wore a thin, black jacket over black pants like a homemade cat-burglar costume.

Perry snorted and shook his head. “How did you ever manage to survive this long? You lack any survival instincts, and you’re dumb as a sack of turds. Damn.”

“What do you want?!”

“You’re a difficult man to track down,” said Perry, leaning against a cheap plywood desk. A quick survey of the area marked this room as a one room motel, probably something frequented by truckers and johns. “It was so hard to find you, I’d wager…no one knows where you are right now? Am I right?”

Waylon continued to frown, assuming the question to be rhetorical.

“You deaf? Am I right?!” Perry kicked the chair beneath Waylon to punctuate the question, jarring Waylon’s teeth.

“Ugh, fuck you, I thought the Government was done with me,” said Waylon.

“Oh, yeah, they are,” said Perry. He started to crack his knuckles, one by one, as though already bored of the conversation. “They ordered me not to track you down. Something about, being against your civil liberties, blah blah blah, but that’s because they don’t know how full of shit you are.”

“I’m not full of shit,” said Waylon.

“Save it, assclown, I know you’re shacked up with Casiano,” said Perry.

“I have, literally, no idea who that is,” said Waylon.

“Really? That’s interesting, I guess his penname is a little sexier. I’d change my name, too, damn, poor guy, what was his mom thinking, naming him after a Simpsons character? Though any name is pretty pointless now, right? Should probably just go by…Walrider?”

Waylon shrugged the best he could with his hands restrained. “Whatever you think you know…”

“What I know that I know, you mean,” said Perry, giving a wicked grin. “Son of Abdiel Casiano and Susan Casiano, nee Brooks, graduated…well, ‘On Time’ is, I guess, the best that can be said of his transcripts. A few internships, nothing spectacular, until he makes a sexy name change, brands himself as a badass, and strikes out to Afghanistan!”

Were any of those articles on the walls about Afghanistan? Was that really Miles?

“You look confused, this is the first you’re hearing? Your monster boyfriend hasn’t been really upfront with you, maybe?” Perry clicked his tongue, giving a fake frown. “That’s a shame.”

Waylon rolled his eyes.

“He had a lot to say about the U.S. war policies over there—enough that his employers told him to fuck off, and he went to Guana, instead, and ends up the Royal Thorn in Murkoff’s nutsack. Hmm. This guy, always sticking his nose places where it doesn’t belong…And it seems the last place he stuck it was…Mount Massive Asylum, September 17, 2013?”

“You have no proof of any of this,” said Waylon, keeping his face bored. Unimpressed. Perry was toying with him.

“We have your own footage, showing a figure leaving the gates, assumed to be the Walrider, assumed to have perished in the fires. Except, here’s the thing, Casiano has a sister, one Margery Casiano? Damn, maybe it really was a Simpsons thing…”

Search: Simpsons Characters. Results: Lisa Simpson. Waylon Smithers.

“The Simpsons have been around forever, there’s probably a character of every name by now,” said Waylon.

“Meh, you’re probably right,” said Perry, stretching out his back. “Anyways, there’s some pieces to the puzzle we didn’t have before your hearing. Seems Casiano’s sister turned up dead, no one could explain it, blood everywhere, deemed a murder, unsolved. The crime scene would have appeared hauntingly familiar to someone like you, they resembled one of the Murkoff mercs that turned up in Kyoto, the day before you brought your new boyfriend to the embassy.”

“Circumstantial, at best,” said Waylon, shrugging the best he could in his binds. “And you’re ignoring the fact that Miles died in Italy.”

“Oh please,” said Perry, reaching across the desk. He held up a glossy black and white photograph. Miles on the beach. In the seafood restaurant. Walking outside their home.

“You asshole, you can’t take pictures of someone at their house! You’re using government resources after you were told to drop a case? How are you not fired?!”

“Not using government resources,” said Perry, tapping his temple. “I’m not an idiot, like you, Park. No, I decided to invest a smidgen of my savings to the cause. Everyone wants to be a private investigator, these days, a few bucks, they do some simple monitoring. I just told them you were cheating on me with some guy, and I needed proof, for the divorce.”

“You’re disgusting,” said Waylon, scoffing.

“It was worth it, though,” said Perry, standing up. He grinned as he paced. “I’d have spent ten times the amount! Man, the Walrider. I was right. Everyone at the Bureau is going to have to apologize to me. Shutting down my perfectly reasonable suspicions, in favor of letting a weapon of mass destruction slip through our hands. And it’s in Florida, of all places, that’s not good, do you know anything about this State? Hillbillies and gators…”

“This far south it’s more like Little Havana with a bunch of snowbirds hanging out…”

“You are a huge pain in the ass, you know that?” asked Perry, chuckling. “Babysitting you for three years…destroyed my career. You took so much time and effort, and you never helped anything against Murkoff, you were a constant leak of resources, always moving, traveling, complaining, needing security, private flights, you fucking baby. Every promotion I applied for was deterred, because I was the unlucky bastard in charge of Waylon Park’s case. And no one else in their right mind would touch the case. My choice was quit, or deal with you.”

“I thought we were having fun together,” said Waylon, faking a pout.

“It was all worth it, in the long run,” said Perry, walking until he was looming over Waylon. “You’re going to bring the Walrider here for me.”

Waylon’s forehead creased. He’d misheard. Surely, he had misheard. Waylon caught the first laugh, but it caused his chest to seize. The second laugh burst from his mouth before he could stop it. Waylon felt tears prick the corners of his eyes.

“T-that’s your plan?” asked Waylon, in between uncontrollable chuckles. “You want me to bring the Walrider here?”

“Yeah,” said Perry, his eyes bright and wide, and a huge crocodile grin on his face.

“Um, in your research that you did,” Waylon had to pause to swallow laughter. “You know that the uh, Walrider is dangerous right?”

“You betcha,” said Perry, grin still plastered in place. He looked stupid…no…crazy. Waylon could almost imagine Jeremy Blaire’s slimy smile in place of Perry’s. A designer suit instead of Perry’s embarrassing black on black ensemble.

“Fine,” said Waylon, grinning. “Gimme the phone. I’ll call up Miles, and he’ll come here, straight away.”

“Oh, I’m counting on it,” said Perry.

“Perfect,” said Waylon, chuckling to himself.

Perry pulled out Waylon’s phone, and went behind Waylon to force his finger onto the sensor. He hummed to himself as he flipped through the contacts. “Wow you are unpopular,” said Perry, snorting. “Pizza? Perry? Evie? Miles…”

“His number is 9-1-1, if you could just call that, and tell him where I am…”

“Hah. Hah,” said Perry, holding Waylon’s phone. He only had to wait a moment, as Miles likely answered on the first ring. “Heyo! Miles! What’s up, it’s Agent Perry. You remember me, I trust? I’m calling about our mutual acquaintance…”

Perry paused, grinning at nothing in particular as he listened on the phone. “You’re misunderstanding some things, Mr. Casiano. I have Waylon here, personally--not the FBI. He’s a little tied up at the moment—he seems to enjoy it, might want to explore that in the future, assuming he makes it out of this alive.”

Waylon twisted in his chair, desperately wishing he could hear Miles’ side of the conversation. No luck.

“He’s just waiting for you, right now, but I’m gonna run out of uses for him pretty soon if you don't’ show up, and that’s when…”

Perry reached inside of his thin black jacket, pulling a weapon out of a concealed holder. He held the pistol up near the phone, and cocked it loudly.

“Did it translate?” asked Perry. “Could you tell what it was? I was pulling back the hammer on my handgun…because I’m going to murder his annoying bitch ass, do the world a damn favor.” Perry chuckled. “Or you could come here, and turn yourself over, instead. Your cooperation, in exchange for his useless life. How’s that sound?”

Waylon no longer wondered what Miles was saying—he could clearly hear the laughter from where he was sitting. It caused him to break out in new chuckles.

“Oh, sure, hang on,” said Perry, stepping closer to Waylon. “It’s for you, darling.”

Waylon grimaced at the nickname, shooting Perry a death glare that only made him grin wider. Perry held the phone up to Waylon’s ear. It was a bit awkward, but Waylon could hear Miles, clearly.

“Waylon? Waylon, are you okay?” asked Miles.

“So far, yeah,” said Waylon, sighing. “Perry has completely fucking lost it, he’s off the grid, he’s been following us, has some pictures, seems to think you will show up, and surrender yourself…”

They both had to pause, biting back laughter. “He’s got guns, Miles. Guns. Be careful!”

New uncontrollable laughter flowed through both sides of the conversation.

“Fucking idiot,” said Miles.

“I know,” said Waylon.

“He got backup?”

“No way, he’s all alone, any help isn’t government, I bet no one from the FBI even knows he’s here,” said Waylon. “It’s literally just him.”

Perry stood over Waylon, his maniacal grin never wavering. He listened to the entire conversation, nodding along, and smirking.

“Okay, damn, shit, don’t worry, Park. Look, try to stay calm,” said Miles.

“I’m so calm,” said Waylon. “I trust you. I’m sorry I got mad, that was stupid.”

“It’s alright,” said Miles. “I’m sorry, too. Now, put Agent Dipshit back on.”

Perry pulled the phone away from Waylon, and switched it to a speaker call.

“Listen, Perry,” said Miles. “What’s stopping me from calling the FBI? The Police?”

“And explain how your sister died? How you were in Kyoto before the death of two men, then in Como before the death of two dozen hired soldiers? And that’s before we even bring up Mount Massive…”

“No one will believe you,” said Miles.

“Call the authorities, and Waylon Park dies, after attacking me,” said Perry. “Self defense. I’ll get, probation with pay, maybe a demotion if the brass is in a really piss mood. And you’ll be back on the run. Kiss your house goodbye, your car, your trust fund, it’s all Property of the U. S. Of A.”

“Then, what do you want?” asked Miles.

“I want you to come here, and turn yourself over to me,” said Perry, bed springs creaking as he sat down on the edge of the bed. “I’ll take you into custody, and deliver you to the Bureau. We can help you. We can study that dark passenger of yours. You seen the show Monsters Inside Me? Cool show, it reminds me of you, you should check it out…”

“You want me to come there, and willingly surrender myself to FBI custody?”

“As long as you surrender, you get to live, Waylon lives, hell, I’m such a nice guy, I’ll throw in a ticket to Tucson, that’s where his kids are, Tucson. I had to pay them a little visit as part of this nation wide search. Gosh, they’re doing so good in school. They miss their dad, though. No idea why they’d miss such a damn loser, but they do…So, get over here. Turn yourself over to me, peacefully. And Waylon goes home.”

“Give me the address,” said Miles, without hesitation.

“Is that the machine part of your brain? Calculating the best move? Because that is definitely the best move, Mr. Casiano. We’ll be here, waiting. Marathon Motel, up here on Marathon Key, right off A1A, can’t miss it. About…fifty minutes from you? Maybe forty five with no traffic…”

“See you in thirty,” said Miles, before the call ended.

“Damn!” said Perry, his grin splitting his face in two. “That was cool, damn, he’s got that timing down. Shame this guy is done…”

Waylon shook his head, staring at the stained motel carpet with its green and gray speckled design. “No, please, spare my boyfriend…” Waylon snickered.

Perry’s smile faded as he pulled the hammer back, again, and pressed the barrel between Waylon’s eyes.

“You think you have any kind of hope here, Park?” asked Perry.

He pulled the trigger.

Click.

Waylon’s body jumped uncontrollably, and all earlier mirth vanished. “Stop it you fucking monster! You are seriously unhinged. How did the FBI screening let you through?”

Perry chuckled, opening the top drawer in the motel desk. Waylon heard things rolling around inside, and watched as Perry retrieved six large bullets. He slowly loaded the gun, humming softly to himself. He checked, and double checked the gun, finally satisfied that it was properly loaded.

The gun slowly pointed back at Waylon, as Perry smirked. Waylon shook his head, trembling in his bindings. “If I’m dead, Miles won’t go with you…”

“I know,” said Perry, giving a cheeky shrug. “Still, never know where the night’s headed, I think it would be very cathartic to put a couple slugs in you.”

Perry whistled as he picked up a black duffel bag, and dropped it on the bed. He unpacked several other tools, including prescription bottles, more handcuffs, and another gun with a silencer attached. It belonged in a video game; not real life.

The situation no longer made Waylon want to laugh. There was something seriously wrong with Perry. How could a competent agent who studied Project Walrider have miscalculated that two guns would bring down the swarm?

Invite the Walrider.

Perry belonged in an asylum.

A strange device caught Waylon’s eye. It resembled some kind of hand-held metal detector. When Perry pressed a button, the device made a noise reminiscent of the Ghostbusters charging up their proton packs.

Perry was aware that the Walrider wasn’t a ghost, right?

Perry pulled out Waylon’s cell phone, and grinned at the lock screen. “This is old, you know? You should have upgraded already. This’ll give you a good excuse.”

The phone arced through the air, and landed on the cheap carpet with a thud. No visible damage. Waylon raised an eyebrow at Perry.

“Should probably just, get a new model once you get to Tucson, and if I were you…well, if I were you, I’d probably put myself out of my misery, but you seem to want to continue on with this pitiful life of yours, so you should forget about Miles Upshur.”

Perry held up the strange instrument, and aimed it at the phone on the ground. He then walked, slowly, until he was standing on the opposite side of Waylon. He aimed through Waylon, at the phone beyond him.

When Perry pulled a red trigger, a noise like a transformer surging rang in the room. Waylon flinched from the noise, but felt nothing. He looked around, glancing up and down at any of his body. He was unharmed? But something smelled like burning…

On the floor, Waylon’s phone smoked, and sparked. Perry chuckled, as he nudged the phone with his shoe, causing it to spark again.

“Useless,” said Perry.

“What the hell is that?” asked Waylon, a new feeling of dread settling into his gut.

“Cool, right?” asked Perry, grinning. “Blaire Senior’s giving over all remaining secrets in exchange for leniency. We confiscated all of the prototypes back when we razed Mount Massive, but no one really knew how to operate them without Murkoff’s intel. A few people thought they were metal detectors, since it operates similarly, I guess? Don’t worry, it’s not dangerous.”

Waylon tilted his head.

“You’re fine, right?” asked Perry. Waylon remained staring, not answering. “Of course you are. It’s just an electromagnet! Pretty damn strong one, at that. It’s only dangerous to, ya know, electronics. So, you’ll be fine.”