|Primary Characters:||Cade, Eddie|
|Description:||Cade and Eddie are investigating possible Gua activity. Cade is captured by the aliens. Joshua comes to his rescue.|
“Take a look at this. Sounds like our friends in action again.”
Cade reluctantly glanced in Eddie’s direction. Since becoming The Twice Blessed Man, he had had to learn to study the tabloids, but what he hadn’t learned was to enjoy it. Even from where he was sitting he could see the usual lurid headlines declaring that a woman in Cincinnati had given birth to a nest of snakes, that a child born as a boy, had quite suddenly overnight turned into a girl, and that eating oysters could make you grow antennae. What could Eddie be referring to that made any more sense?
“What is it now?”
Eddie’s hand gestured towards an insignificant article spanning maybe two columns on page 9. Forcing himself to pay attention, when his mind really was on Angelica and the weekend they were going to spend in Mexico, he scanned the lines. He was hoping that it would be the usual case of Eddie’s overactive imagination. The article seemed to be about a sperm bank in Florida. It had been in existence for about seven years and in that time there had been an unusual number of defective births.
There was nothing in the article to explain why people had kept coming to the facility for help all that time despite the unpromising results. Cade winced as he remembered that by now he and Hannah would surely have had a child or two themselves. Even if he and Angelica could one day settle down, it would be years, until they could even contemplate something like that.
“Ok, what it is that makes you think this is the work of the Gua?”
“Didn’t you see the slogan they’re using? About getting beautiful and gifted children?”
“Yeah, but I assumed those places always tried to sell their services that way.”
“Maybe. I’ve also uncovered this.”
Eddie rummaged through his desk drawers before finding a slightly crumpled up printout. It seemed to be from a web site even less credible than the Paranoid Times used to be. Sighing, Cade acknowledged defeat. He should have known that this time wouldn’t be any different from the others. Knowing it would be useless to stall any longer, he gave the matter his full attention, pushing the thought of Angelica to the back of his mind.
“Ok, what do you we do?”
Eddie’s face was beaming back at him happily. Something about this case obviously appealed to him. And it wasn’t long before the reason became apparent.
“When was the last time you were in Florida?”
“I’ve never been there. Hannah and I didn’t really like that kind of vacation. Besides, we didn’t go anywhere when we had time off.”
“You should. That place is absolutely amazing. You and I are going to be the only straight men under the age of 60 for miles around. The babes are unbelievable.”
“I’m sure they are. How do you think Trish will feel about that though?”
When he saw how his friend’s face fell, Cade immediately regretted spoiling Eddie’s fun. But it was too late now to take back his words.
“A guy can look, right? No harm in that. Besides, I’m sure she’s checking out those surfer dudes right now.”
“Right now? At 4 a m?”
Eddie blushed at his mistake. Normally his brilliant mind wouldn’t have slipped up like that.
“Ok, you’ve made your point. But Florida is great. If we’re lucky we’ll have time to hit the beach.”
“I don’t know how to swim.”
“Really. But go on. I guess we’re going to have to go down there.”
“Did you bring your Speedos?”
“I don’t have any.”
“Figures. Alright, give me half an hour and I’ll be on my way. If I remember correctly, it’s going to be something like ten hours if we take turns driving and don’t take too many breaks.”
“Ok. I’ll do my part. I guess I don’t have much choice.”
The last part of the statement was barely more than a whisper and Eddie, who was totally absorbed in the task of finding his swimming trunks didn’t seem to have heard him. Belatedly he looked inquiringly in Cade’s direction.
“Sorry. What was that, man?”
“Nothing. Never mind.”
“Ok. I’m ready to go.”
They drove all night and only rested briefly towards dawn. It was late in the evening of the next day that they finally arrived at their destination. As usual, Eddie managed to find a good camp site.
It was in a stretch of woods that looked somewhat different from the northern forests Cade had come to regard as the typical woodland area. There was a small lake nearby, and the ground near it was a bit swampy. But it was isolated, and the climate was warm, despite the season. So he couldn’t complain.
Stretching and yawning, he got ready to go to bed. After driving all that time, and drinking almost unbelievable quantities of coffee, he still felt as if he hadn’t slept in days. But Eddie wasn’t quite finished outlining the game plan. How could he be so excited about a fertility clinic?
“So, Cade, have you thought about how we’ll approach this site?”
“No. Not really. It’s not as if we could ask them to help us with our infertility problems.”
“Not if we don’t want them to think we’re a gay couple.”
“Look, Eddie, I really don’t want to deal with this right now. If you have a plan, that’s fine. We’ll go with that.”
“As a matter of fact I do.”
Judging from Eddie’s smile it was one that he really liked, unlike that gay couple idea, Cade knew he had only mentioned that to tease him. Whatever it was, Cade had a shrewd suspicion he wouldn’t like it much better.
“Ok. Let’s hear it then. But after that I’m definitely getting some sleep.”
“We could go in as potential donors.”
Maybe it was because he was so tired, but Cade had no idea what Eddie was referring to.
“Wake up, Cade. Sperm donors. Great job, when you think about it. Where else do you get paid to -“
Too late Eddie remembered where else, and he trailed off uncertainly.
“There I go again. I’m really sorry, man.”
“Don’t worry about it. But I’m not going to do that. You go on, if you think it’s all that much fun. Stake out the place, get directions and so on. I’ll pay them a visit later. Check it out behind the scenes. How does that sound?”
“Ok. Suit yourself. But you don’t know what you’re missing. They have all these great -“
“Yeah, well, I think I’ll pass.”
“It’s your loss. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
The next morning, Eddie was up early, and he dressed in a suit that was intended to look respectable. It reminded Cade slightly of the kind of outfits he used to wear when he had worked for the security firm. But Eddie’s looked as if he had bought it in college. It was a bit too small, and slightly washed out.
“How do I look?”
Tactfully, Cade avoided commenting directly, and focused on the thought that had occurred to him right away.
“Do you really think you need to be all dressed up? If you think about it, who do you think try to make a little extra cash this way? I would have thought it was students and other people who need the money.”
“Oh. Yes, you’re right, I think. But there’s no harm in looking one’s best, right?”
“No. I guess not.”
In Eddie’s absence, Cade looked over his tool kit. As he had known, everything was in order. He had mixed feelings about using his old tools of trade. All that reminded him of a time better forgotten. But under the circumstances, he knew he had no choice. When he was done going over the tools, he sat back and relaxed, preparing himself for a long wait.
He had been right. Eddie didn’t return until late in the afternoon, looking a bit deflated. By then, Cade had managed to have a satisfyingly long and pleasant phone conversation with Angelica. At first he waited for Eddie to launch into an animated tale of the amazing pornographic entertainment he had been treated to during the day, but after a while the silence began to astound him.
“Well? Aren’t you going to tell me anything? I need to know a little about the setup of the place if I’m going to break in tonight.”
“Right. Let’s see. Behind the public area, there’s a locked door that says staff only. I managed to take a look outside, and it seems there’s almost half of the facility back there. Maybe there’s something in the basement too, but I couldn’t see any of that.”
“They didn’t suspect anything, I hope?”
“I’m sure they didn’t.”
“Good. Did you notice what time they close?”
“Isn’t that a bit late?”
“I guess so. Now I’m starving. Is there any pizza left?”
“All of it. I had a sandwich. Maybe we should get something fresh? That pizza is from yesterday lunch.”
“Whatever. I’ll just have a piece now, and I’ll drive into town later, ok?”
“I’ll go with you. That will help pass the time until tonight.”
“Ok. Give me half an hour.”
On the way into town, Eddie explained in a few words about the disappointing experience he had had. All that first day, the potential donor was submitted to all kinds of tests, the nature of which Eddie was very vague about. There had been no opportunity at all to sample the entertainment on offer.
Cade tried to offer his sympathy but couldn’t understand the fascination. Especially now that Eddie had met Trish. To his knowledge those two managed to get together a bit more often than he and Angelica could. And Trish too, had been drafted into the fight against the Gua. Her hacking skills made an invaluable addition to the cause.
This time they settled on a more lavish meal than the usual pizza. But Eddie dropped Cade off outside the clinic around 10.30. He would be waiting for him out of sight some distance off.
The main entrance seemed a bit too conspicuous, so Cade circled around the back, to find the staff entrance. It seemed almost too easy to pick the lock, but there were no apparent alarm systems. He moved cautiously into the corridor. Through another door, he found a long corridor with several doors opening onto both sides.
A quick scan of the signs showed most of them to be offices, but one at the end turned out to be the lab. This time there was a sort of device on the side of the door, which was voice operated, but Cade was able to bypass it, by disconnecting the cables. Inside he stopped, listening intently, but when no suspicious sounds could be heard, he walked up to the counter at the north end of the room.
A quick scan revealed nothing suspicious, and as Cade was about to retreat to investigate the offices first, so he would know what to look for, the lights came on. He froze to the spot, desperately trying to find a way out, but he found himself surrounded by about half a dozen people it didn’t take a genius to identify as Gua. They were all armed, except for a woman who appeared to be some sort of leader.
She was tall, blonde and bore an uncanny resemblance to Angelica. But the eyes gave her away. Cade couldn’t believe people, usually men, would ever mistake the Gua for real human beings. There was a chill there, a sort of cool detachment that he imagined could be seen in the eyes of psychopaths. With a sinking feeling he realized that it had all been a setup. And there seemed to be no way out. So they had caught him at last.
“Surrender and we won’t hurt you, Foster.”
Of course. Naturally they knew his name. For a second he silently cursed Eddie and his puerile mind. But he knew that he was being unfair. He had agreed that the clinic needed to be checked out, and whatever hopes Eddie had had, the underlying motivation still was the struggle against the alien invasion.
Cade slumped down, and let the nearest two Gua males grab him and lead him away. They cuffed his hands behind his back and took him outside into a black van with no windows on the side. The woman who appeared to be their leader, approached him. She grabbed his chin and tilted his face up for her inspection. Her smile chilled him.
“They weren’t lying. He’s pretty for a human, wouldn’t you say, Jake?”
“If you like that sort of thing, Regina.”
“You know I do. But back to work.”
Cade didn’t see the needle, but he had time to feel a pinprick of pain in his upper arm. After that everything went black. He had no idea how long he was unconscious, but eventually the blackness gave way to a sort of grey haze, that finally cleared to reveal a bare room, with a sharp, cold light that hurt his eyes. His arms and legs were still bound, and he could barely move.
After what seemed like a long time, the door opened and three Gua came into the room. One of them was the female, Regina. Cade could feel her eyes wandering across his body, overly intimately and he cringed at what was implied. Especially with the two muscular males in the room.
In fact, all his fears seemed to be about to be realized. Regina walked up the bed, but fortunately the males stayed back.
“You really can’t blame Joshua, can you?”
“He’s really got it bad, if he defies the entire council just to have his fun with this human. What’s so special about him? There are billions of them. If the council wants to give him the third degree, I say let them.”
“It’s not for you to say, Tim.”
“But what if Joshua doesn’t like sharing his toys? Do you really think it’s safe to do this?”
“Don’t be such a coward, Jake. Besides, how would he know? I’ll try not to leave any obvious marks.”
While that ominous conversation went on, it was as if Cade’s mind wouldn’t function. He could hear the words, but he refused to take in the implication. Eyes firmly shut, Cade fervently wished himself anywhere but in that room.
“What is it these humans say? Two’s company, four’s a crowd, or however the saying goes. Keep watch outside. I’ll try not to damage Joshua’s little plaything.”
The sound of the two males laughing kept ringing in Cade’s ears long after the door slammed shut behind them. Then he felt the female’s hands on his skin. His clothes were torn, and though he tried to resist as well as he could, he was stripped naked. Next, Regina removed the bonds tying his wrists and ankles, but it was a long time before he got back mobility in his arms and legs.
In any case he wasn’t given any time to recover. Regina was already on the bed with him, pressing close against his skin. By now she had shed her own clothes. Cade had time to remark to himself that Eddie might have enjoyed this kind of thing. That was the last coherent thought in his mind for some time.
It seemed to go on forever, but in reality, looking back, he didn’t think it could have been much more than 15 minutes. Suddenly the door was flung open, and he could feel Regina pull back rapidly. A tall shadow fell across the bed.
“Joshua? Forgive me, I just -“
“I can see that, Regina. If you leave the room now I might not report this transgression to the council.”
“Unless – Perhaps we could work this out somehow? If you’d like to join in.”
While she was speaking, Regina had sensuously slid out of bed and approached Joshua. She ran her fingers through her long, perfect hair and Cade could see her pushing her breasts forward for Joshua’s inspection and approval. But he didn’t think it provoked any reaction in the Gua assassin, other than anger at her presumption.
So she broke eye contact, and defeated, she gathered up her clothes that were strew across the floor. In the doorway, she stopped and shot Cade a look, heavy with innuendo. He should have been relieved to see the last of her, but all he could think about was the way the other Gua had referred to him and Joshua. There was every reason to fear worse before this ordeal was over.
So far, however, Joshua did nothing to alarm him. In fact, he seemed to try to avert his eyes, rather than staring directly at Cade’s naked form on the bed. And there was something like shame in his voice when he addressed his captive.
“I will try to find you some suitable clothes. And I must apologize for what happened. This Regina – I will get those clothes for you now.”
It was still too soon for Cade to even try to get his voice back. And even more than getting dressed again, he wished he could have some time alone in a bathroom, but the clothes would have to do.
Joshua returned moments later, carrying an assortment of garments for Cade to choose between. Rather than remaining nude, he hurriedly picked some at random. He ended up with a sleeveless top and a pair of tight denims, but at this point he really didn’t care what he was wearing.
“Are you ok? Can I get you anything else?”
Still, there was that apologetic, embarrassed tone in the Gua’s voice.
“I don’t think so.”
“We have to go now. Do you think you can walk?”
Cade had been wondering the same thing for a while now, and the conclusion he had come to was that if this was his only chance to leave this place, then yes, he certainly could. No matter how much his arms and legs were hurting from being tied up for so long. Joshua seemed reluctant to touch him and hovered anxiously just out of reach.
And to prove his statement, Cade gingerly tried his legs. It worked better than he had expected. Joshua let him precede him out into the corridor. For a second, Cade contemplating making one last desperate rush in the hopes of outrunning the assassin, but gave up the idea before his tired legs could make any move to follow through. There would be guards everywhere, and he knew from past experience just how quick the Gua’s reflexes were. He wouldn’t get far, and right now, he felt it imperative not to antagonize the person who had just rescued him from Regina.
Joshua took him outside the facility to an elegant black car, that was parked in front of the clinic’s main entrance. Cars weren’t Cade’s forte, but he seemed to recall seeing the same type of car at the firms whose security systems he had managed. But when he sat down in the front seat next to Joshua he experienced a moment of panic. Remembering the conversation he had overheard earlier, he lost whatever remnants of composure he had left. He couldn’t keep the pleading out of his voice, though he hated himself for the weakness.
2Where are you taking me? What are you going to do to me?”
“Just a moment, mr Foster. Let me put some distance between me and this complex. If one of my superiors should get here in time, I might not be able to secure your release as easily.”
Ten minutes later, minutes that felt like hours, Joshua slowed the car down to a more reasonable speed, and appeared to relax slightly.
“To answer your question: I am not taking you anywhere in particular. You can decide on a suitable location. I take it your friend Eddie is somewhere nearby?”
“Yes. He should be. But why -?”
“As for your other question, I’m not going to do anything. I believe we discussed this matter the last time we met. For various reasons, I respect your struggle for your people.”
“You mean I’m free to go?”
“That is correct. Where would you like me to drop you off?”
For the first time in this interminable night, Cade dared to face his rescuer. For a second Joshua looked back at him, fixing him with an intense gaze that suddenly told Cade everything. Now he knew why Joshua had risked the wrath of his superiors to free the Gua’s fiercest opponent. Cade had only seen that look in the faces of two people before.
For a fraction of a second he forced himself not to look away, then he gave up the struggle. In that moment, he knew that Joshua knew that he knew, but neither one of them would ever comment on the realization. One of the Gua loved one of the humans he had been sent to defeat. Cade didn’t even know what to think, so he saved that information for later. Right now, he had to test the Gua’s willingness to set him free.
“I think Eddie will still be waiting at our campsite. You’d better drop me off at the road outside. Will you let us leave in peace?”
“Of course. I gave you my word. And what’s more, I will keep any pursuers off your trail for as long as I can.”
How could this be possible? He should be dead. Instead, this enemy was going to let him leave unmolested. Cade almost laughed out loud at the thought but managed to force himself to keep quiet. He knew that once started he couldn’t keep the hysteria at bay. Taking a few deep breaths to steady himself, he finally decided to trust his voice.
Painfully inadequate as those two words were, as an expression of gratitude, they would have to do.
But something of the emotion behind the simple statement must have filtered through to Joshua. He didn’t reply directly to Cade’s words. When he had followed Cade’s instructions about where to let him off, Joshua pressed the doorlock mechanism to let his captive out.
As Cade was about to shut the door behind him, Joshua faced him again.
“I wish you luck.”
Cade struggled for a moment to find a suitable reply, but his face must have given something of his emotions away. In any case, Joshua didn’t wait for a reply. He put the car into gear and disappeared into the night. Cade remained standing by the side of the road for what seemed like hours.
The night’s encounter felt unreal, like a nightmare. Once awake, the memory faded fast. But he knew this had been no dream. He could still feel the Regina’s touch on his skin, even if she might well have been telling the truth about not leaving any mark. And he knew he would feel it for the rest of his life.
Finally, he forced himself to break free of the spell he was under and start walking. He had deliberatly kept the trailer’s exact location secret. It would be close to an hour until he could get some rest. But what he really wanted was the shower.
It took him more than an hour to get to the trailer. Either he had underestimated the distance, or more likely, he was too tired to walk as fast as he normally did. When he finally saw the familiar outline of the trailer, dawn was coloring the sky brilliantly crimson over the treetops. His friend Eddie was nervously pacing around outside.
Not until now had it occurred to Cade that Eddie might have been captured too, or still waiting in the same spot he had dropped him off all those hours before. Eddie ran to meet him and pulled him into a hard embrace that spoke eloquently of how much Eddie had worried about him. Cade wished he could have accepted the hug in the spirit it was intended, but right after enduring Regina’s attentions, he just couldn’t. Tensing up, he pulled away.
“I’m sorry, man. I was just so worried. What happened? Did they -?”
“Yes. It was a trap.”
“But how did you manage to get away?”
“I’ll explain later. Right now, I just need to -“
“Of course. I understand.”
But it was plain that Eddie didn’t understand. Cade couldn’t bring himself to care. Not right now. All he could think about was getting out of these clothes and into a shower. Eddie’s questions could wait for later. Maybe then he would know what to tell him.
It was close to an hour before Cade felt ready to face his friend again. Eddie had thoughtfully poured him his friend a stiff drink. Normally, Cade didn’t touch alcohol. Not since he had left the street. But this time he hardly noticed what he was doing.
“Are you ok, man?”
“No, Eddie, I’m not ok, but I can’t talk about it. Not now. I’ll just tell you this: Joshua let me go.”
“Why would he do that?”
“For some reason he seems to sympathise with us. I told you about that the last time, didn’t I?”
“Yes. But I found it hard to believe and I still do. Oh, well. For whatever reason, I’m really glad. Cade, I have to tell you something.”
“What? I don’t think I can handle anything else right now.”
“When you didn’t come back as we’d agreed, I kind of panicked. I called Angelica and Trish.”
“Why? Why would you call Trish?”
Eddie looked embarrassed. Cade thought he could understand. In this short time, Eddie had become as dependent on Trish’s support as Cade had come to rely on Hannah, and now Angelica. Despite that, he didn’t know if he could face his girlfriend so soon after Regina. But he couldn’t blame Eddie for reacting the way he did.
All this was too much for one man to take. If Cade had still been on his own, he didn’t know if he could have survived this long. And he knew that by now it would be too late to call Angelica and ask her not to come. She would wonder and worry, and it wouldn’t be fair to her. Cade knew that if anything remotely like this had happened to her, he wouldn’t have let anything stop him from being with her. So he resigned himself to the inevitable.
While waiting for the women to arrive, Eddie insisted that Cade get some sleep. He didn’t think he would be able to, but it seemed only minutes later, that he woke up to find Angelica sitting by his bunk, looking down on him. When she noticed him coming awake, her tense face relaxed into a smile.
“I came as soon as I heard. Are you ok?”
“You shouldn’t have come. As you can see, there’s nothing wrong with me.”
But he had to force himself not to look away. Angelica’s eyes saw too much. They always had, ever since that first night they had spent together, when he was locked up, and she was his jailer. Since then they had come a long way.
Despite that, Cade felt something close to panic when he even contemplated telling her what had happened to him in the Gua facility. No matter how deep his feelings for her, he still hadn’t been able to confide in her about his past. He wouldn’t have told Eddie either unless circumstances had forced the confession out of him.
“Eddie told me that Joshua got you out. What happened?”
“Nothing happened. He came to the place they had taken me, and he took me away with him. Then he let me go. That’s all.”
“Then why do you look like that?”
“Don’t, Cade. Please, don’t. Didn’t we promise each other we’d never keep anything secret?”
In reality, Angelica had promised and Cade had done his best not to give her reason to suspect he hadn’t really told her anything. It hurt him to treat her this way. But he didn’t know how to tell her about the years he had spent on the street. And this new trauma, how could he even put it into words for himself?
To another man, what he had gone through might have sounded like a joke. Why would any man refuse to accept what that perfectly beautiful female was offering? It was still too soon to touch upon those memories. The experience was still too recent, the pain too raw. But there was no getting away from the look in Angelica’s eyes. It held him, every bit as surely as those handcuffs had.
“Ok. You’re right. Something happened. But I can’t talk about it now. Please try to understand.”
“Did Joshua do this to you?”
“No. He didn’t do anything to me. I told you, he let me go.”
“Was he too late to stop the interrogation? Is that what you’re trying to hide? Did they use torture? Cade, you have to answer me. How can I help you if you won’t talk to me?”
“No. There was no torture. No more questions, please.”
Cade didn’t have an answer for her. Not one that would make sense to her. And she was right. They loved each other, so they should be able to tell each other everything. Like he and Hannah had. And didn’t he love Angelica just as much as he had loved Hannah?
He knew that Angelica never kept anything back from him. It was hard for her to show weakness, but she had opened up to him anyway.
What was wrong with him? But he knew how the words would come out. It would sound as if he had cheated on her. Cade swallowed hard and prepared to disillusion her once and for all. Once again he had been unable to outrun his past. The taste of defeat was bitter in his mouth.
“Their leader, Regina -“
“Yes, what about her?”
“No. It’s no use. I don’t think I can tell you about it now.”
“It’s like that other thing, then?”
“What other thing?”
“Something from before we met. Did you really think you could hide it from me, Cade?”
The truth was that he hadn’t even reflected on it. He had just been grateful that she had never made any references to his past until now. And he knew that she could read his face as easily as Hannah had. So why couldn’t he just tell her and be done with it? The silence was beginning to oppress him, but he couldn’t think of anything to say. His eyes pleaded with her to let it go, to leave it alone. Now he could hear her sighing, and he cringed at the thought of how he was letting her down.
“I see. You don’t have to say anything. I just hope that one day you’ll trust me enough to confide in me. Don’t you know that there’s nothing you can’t tell me?”
“Yes, I know that. Angelica, I love you so much. It’s just so -“
“Alright. It’s alright, Cade. I love you too.”
She reached for his hand and finding it, she held on to it. Somehow that made him feel better. She sat with him until he fell asleep again.
When Cade woke up, he could hear the women talking quietly nearby. It was such a relief to safe, to be back at last, in the closest thing to a home he had these days. He really hoped that one day he would find the courage to share everything with Angelica, not just stolen moments of love and closeness. But that was all he had to give for the time being. It was good to know he had these friends he could count on for anything. In more ways than one he was luckier than he knew how to appreciate most of the time.
In fact, even though the confusing encounter with Joshua had proven to him that he had friends where he least expected it. To his surprise he found that he wasn’t as shocked as he had expected to be when he learned that the Gua loved him. Most of all he pitied the Gua who was so far from home, and without friends who shared his opinions. Joshua must be very lonely too. That thought had never occurred to him before. Now that the meeting had come and gone, Cade experienced a moment of intense gratitude towards his rescuer.
At least one of the enemy had shown unexpected traits. That gave Cade hope for the future of mankind. He fervently wished he was right about that. For now he would just enjoy Angelica’s company. He needed some time off from being the Twice Blessed Man. For these few days he just wanted to be Cade, Angelica’s boyfriend.