The body lying on the low steel table did not have a single mark upon it. Matt Freeson merely looked asleep. But Fred and Kara both knew differently.
“We have no idea what’s happened to him. Maybe he’s comatose. His breathing’s regular, pulse rate and vitals are all good. He’s just not conscious. Nothing we do is able to get him up.”
“What? How? How did this happen?” Kara managed to blurt out.
“We don’t know. Some of the eyewitnesses say the last thing the attacker did is head for his office. After that, the attacker disappeared. We later found him like this.”
“Is this what’s happened to the others too?”
“Most of them. A few of them were injured and the paramedics took them away. The rest are the only people who managed to survive.”
“I want to meet them all.”
Kara knew that if Fred’s intuitions were right, whoever had planned this would need to be caught and fast. And with her father out of action, Kara had to take charge, make sure things happened quickly.
“Most importantly, we’re the only agents from HQ still left unscathed. Everyone else is either dead or unconscious.”
Kara looked around the small group of people she was addressing, standing around her outside the ruined HQ building. There were 8 of them in all. Fred Wright stood at Kara’s side, looking uncertain. A petite blonde spoke up.
“What…what happened to everyone?” Lisa Morstan, a field agent trainee, looked like she still hadn’t come out of shock.
Fred answered for Kara, “We don’t really know yet. We’ve got people working on it.”
“People? What people? Everyone I know is out for the count, Fred.” Gary Routh, another field agent trainee, snapped back. Fred looked like he had been slapped. Kara cut in to answer Gary.
“Our scientists from the research labs, they’ve been called in. We have our Director of Research, Dr. Yigai Shimoto, still with us.” Kara gestured towards the wizened old man, who nodded in agreement.
Another thin and gaunt man was gently huddling with an almost equally tall woman. The woman was trembling, almost unable to speak. The man, Richard Caine, a Spirit Soldier controller, was trying to comfort the woman, Elaine Marcell, a fellow Spirit Soldier controller.
Kara thought to herself, “That’s strange. Elaine is never so scared of anything extraoardinary.”
Richard asked the question that was on everyone’s mind.
“What do we do now?”
His words were echoed by a mousy gray-haired woman to his left, a systems analyst named Jane Levine.
Kara sighed before answering, “We’re the only ones left out of the team which worked at HQ. WE have to find out what caused this attack. We’re asking for backup from our other offices but for now we have to work this on our own.”
What Kara chose to expediently not mention was that these 8 men and women were the only people who were regulars at HQ and had survived the attack. Whoever had engineered the attack was also among them.
“So where do we start?” Fred ventured.
“Huh…oh yes…can you give me a minute, Fred?”
Kara walked away, thinking to herself. Maybe she had gone about this the wrong way. She couldn’t help but think that it was her fault the attack on HQ had happened. Her father had been right after all. Something larger was going on here.
Kara tried to ignore the momentary image of her father unconscious on steel, tried to wall it away in her mind. She couldn’t afford to let her thoughts be troubled.
“Think clearly.” She told herself.
She wasn’t sure if it was helping.
She needed to finish this soon, and now with her father unconscious, there was only one thing left to do. She took out her phone from her pocket. Flipping it open, she dialed 888. She was greeted almost immediately by an electronic voice, “Your call is important to us. We will be with you shortly. Your call…” Kara slapped the phone shut. Within minutes, she got a call from an unidentifiable number. The voice on the other end merely said, “The Hotel Palermont. Room 314. One hour.” A click as the line went dead.
Kara steeled her face and walked back to Fred.
“Hey, Fred. I’ve got to follow up on an important lead. I need to go somewhere. Alone.”
“Wait, wait…you got a lead? From where?”
Kara had started walking briskly towards her car; she wasn’t waiting for Fred’s questions.
“I’ll tell you soon enough. Just get things under control by the time I’m back.”
“Sure, I guess. But at least tell me where are you going?”
“The Hotel Palermont.”
“The Hotel Palermont??! What kind of lead do you expect to find there?”
“I have no idea.”
As Kara pulled out into the street, she made another call. A worried voice answered this time.
“Are you okay, Kara? I just heard about the attack.”
Kara wasn’t entirely sure why she had called Ryan, but she was hoping it was for the right reasons.
“I’m fine, Ryan, thanks for asking. About what you told me earlier…”
“I’m really sorry, I’ve only been able to run a few tests, nothing conclusive so far.”
“That’s okay. Actually, I’m checking out a vital lead. It could be related to the same case and I think you might be able to help me out. Can you come with me?”
“Sure, sure I will.”
“Great, I’ll pick you up in a while.”
“We’re going somewhere? Where are we headed?”
“Yes. We’re going to meet V.”