The >BOOM< jarred her physically, rocking the bed. She woke to complete darkness which was wrong, she always had enough of a light to find her way to the bathroom. Even outside the window was pitch dark, wrong again on so many levels.
>CRACK< >CRACK< >CRACK< disturbed the brief silence, from inside the house.
>BOOM< sounded again, but followed by a long shredding sound and a horrible scream. President Wiggen threw the covers back and went to the closet. She had to get some real clothes on for whatever was happening. She wasn’t about to face it in her flannel nightgown. She was angry at herself for not having a flashlight and knowing where it was. The closet was closer than she gauged, and she bumped into the door hard.
Light flared behind her, and her empty bed was illuminated. “Oh my God, where are you Wiggen?” her security chief cried. He panned the room and caught her in the beam. “You scared me,” he told her, “I thought they beat me to you.”
“I’ve got to get dressed,” she informed him, ” shine that light in my closet will you?”
“Yes, yes, and dress for outdoors, some good shoes, running shoes or cross trainers, not some silly dress shoes!”
“Are we running then?” she asked.
“Unless you want to stay here and die,” Mel answered bluntly.
“Not especially,” she agreed, already fastening jeans. She sat and pulled shoes on, sturdy ones he’d approve of, not taking time for socks, but she jammed a pair in her pocket. A pull over top and a sweater, it was cool out. She reached for a white one, and then threw it on the floor, it would just make her a target in the dark. Instead she pulled on a chocolate brown one.
“Gloves if you have them too.”
She pulled a drawer open and grabbed fine leather dress gloves.”Lead on,” she commanded, as she was pulling them on.
“First you need this,” he stuck a spray injector to her neck and triggered it before she could object. It burned and felt cold all at the same time.
“You’re knocking me out?” she asked angrily.
“Not at all! That’s a stimulant. It will help you run, not slow you down.” Come on.”
He went not to the door but the window, pulling a strange weapon. “No visible beam. Polycarbonate target. Sixty percent power.” He wasn’t addressing her, oddly he seemed to be talking to the weapon. He used it to cut away the bottom half of the thick window, tilting it to cut a taper wider on the outside. The smell of burning plastic was choking, and the plug melted back together on the bottom. A hefty kick fixed that, and sent it tumbling into the dark. The rush of cool clean air cut the chemical smell quickly.
Mel was dragging a case from beneath the bed. One of many equipment boxes tucked here and there she was encouraged to ignore. When he flipped the lid open it was a stout bar and a rope ladder folded back and forth accordion style. Mel scooped this up in an awkward bundle with both arms barely going around it, the bar against his chest He waddled to the window and stuffed it in the opening, the bar coming up against the window frame noisily.
“Out you go, I’m right behind,” he assured her, offering a hand to back out the window.
“Look down, don’t look back up here,” he commanded as she felt him join her on the ladder. That seemed odd advice until there was a dull concussion and flaming fragments of something sprayed past them from above.
There was a funny rushing sound in her ears, and when she couldn’t find the next rung with her feet she just lowered herself with hands suddenly stronger than normal. She took a breath that seemed deeper than any she’d ever taken before. When she reached the end of the ladder there was no ground under her feet, and she let go without being told. It was only a meter or so to some bushes, and they cushioned her fall. If she was scratched up by them she never noticed. The drug had her heart pounding and she was insensitive to mere pain.
Mel rolled off the bushes and up against her. “Run with me,” he said, taking her hand and pulling her up. She ran like she never had in her life. There was just enough light from distant lamps and sky glow to see the fence. Mel jumped for the top and swung over with drug induced strength. She was crouching to jump even before he reached the top.
She let out an exultant cry of joy at the sheer physical power the drug gave her. She hooked her foot on the top bar and levered herself up and over the points with a push of her foot and both hands levered around one of the uprights. Grabbing the bars below the top rail she slide down, the metal shredding the palms out of her thin dress gloves.
When she looked back at the White House her bedroom window was shooting a flame out like a torch. Mel had made sure nobody would follow them out that way. There was a sudden burble of bullets past them from a silenced weapon, clattering on the pavement, and Mel urged her, “Come on!” pulling on her hand. He didn’t try to return fire.
Across the street there was a police barricade along the edge of the park. They cleared that with about as much trouble as a frightened deer. “Two more blocks,” Mel told her. To what exactly he didn’t say.
The first block went by and Mel turned right at the corner, and cut across the short side of the block to a new street. They turned left, and that quickly they were back in an area that had power, and it would have looked better in the dark.
Mel slowed to a walk, although it was hard to do in their state, and there were a couple large black men, bouncers in satin jackets guarding the roped off entry to a club, but nobody waiting to go in at this late hour. The guards looked hard at this odd couple passing, he in a suit, and she in casual clothes, as out of place in this neighborhood as a horse in church. She took the tattered gloves off and put them in a rear pocket.
A store down at the next corner showed lights and appeared to be open, it’s façade a mass of hand written signs listing it’s goods and services, sprinkled with logos ads for beer and wine. A framed red on white sign assured everyone they took negative income tax cards. There were three thin, scruffy young men standing close to each other, their breath frosting the air. One had a paper bag and took a drink from it as they watched.
When they got near the store Mel walked off the curb into the street, telegraphing they wanted nothing to do with them. The trio sauntered, with an exaggerated slowness that fooled no one, into their path. Mel drew a black pistol, unlike the previous strange weapon, and held it pointing up by his shoulder, finger along the trigger guard with perfect discipline.
The three men split without needing a consultation, one walking fast around the corner out of their sight and the other two suddenly remembering a purchase they needed to make in the store.
Mel holstered the weapon, but stayed in the street, ignoring a sanitation truck that had to swing wide around them. He cut right into the side street the one young man had fled to. He was nowhere in sight. Cutting across, he went to an ally that ran up the center of the block between commercial buildings. He pointed a small device down the alley, and there was rattle of a steel shuttered door being lifted by a motor, but it was so dark she couldn’t see it, and the echoing sound in the dark alley was no help.
Mel took her hand again, confident, and guided her. “Easy,” he warned her, slowing. “Feel ahead of you, low.” Her hand came up against something cold and hard. It was grimy too, and she wiped her hand on top of her pants leg.
The noisy door came down behind them, making her jump. It was much louder now. Once it was down Mel turned on the same torch he’d used in her room. They were standing in front of a boxy delivery truck. Paul Romano and Sons Produce it said across the front in green letters with yellow shadowing. He beckoned, and walked her to the passenger door. It unlocked with an old fashioned milled key, and he slid it open.
Once Wiggen climbed in, a high step, both in and up, he went around and climbed in the driver’s side. The seats were much nicer than you’d expect in a utilitarian vehicle. He didn’t pause, sliding across the seat and going in the back. There was a rattle of keys again, and metallic sounds. He returned and laid a heavy long gun on the floor within reach. A large white box with a red cross he propped against her seat and opened up.
She was surprised again when he stood back up, undoing his trousers let them fall in a pile around his ankles. Bright blood streaked his leg down the sides. There was a neat hole, still trickling blood. “You didn’t say you were hit!” she objected.
“And what good would that have done?” he asked. He had a point. He took a little tube with a flange on the end and pressed it to the outside hole and pushed, injecting something in the wound. After a shudder and a pause he did the same to the inside.
“Surely you need more attention than that. We need to get you to a hospital.”
“With the Patriots watching the hospitals? No thanks. My blood is on the sidewalk, and even though I twisted my pants leg tight below the wound, I don’t doubt I left a drop here and there. If they don’t find it tonight they surely will in the morning. This will stop the bleeding, inhibit infection, and if I never get further treatment it will slowly dissolve as it heals.”
“What if it’s damaged inside?” Wiggen insisted.
“I can still feel my toes and move them, so no major nerve damage.” He was fitting a flexible cuff on his right hand while he talked. “If it had hit the artery or bone I wouldn’t have ran here two blocks with you, drugs or no drugs. As soon as this cuff finds a vein in my hand, I’ll put a slow drip on it to replace some of the fluids I’ve lost, and we’ll get out of here before they track us down. Ah, good,” he said, when the cuff around his hand showed a green light.
He hung the soft IV bag on a coat hook behind his seat, and eased the pants back up past his knees but didn’t fasten them, turning carefully to face forward. “Would you go in the back,” he asked, handing her his flashlight. “There is a bin labeled ‘rations’ and I’d like you to get us several energy bars and bottles of water. Also there as a big plastic bucket. Dump the stuff in it out on the floor, and bring it and the rations back up front please.”
She did as he asked, carrying the stuff up front in the bucket. He dumped the food out and left the empty bucket between the seats. “What is the bucket for?” she asked.
“It will likely be obvious in a bit,” he said cryptically.
The truck started with a low rumble, which meant it was a Diesel, not an electric or fuel cell drive train, he ran the door up and when it was all the way up turned on his headlights and pulled out. She heard the door start back down as soon as they pulled out. They went a few blocks and pulled into a open market, busy with activity even though there was no sign of the sun yet. Mel parked by some other trucks and plugged his hand comp in the dash and did something.
“We are going to make a few deliveries, working our way to the west, and somewhere out near the edge of the Metro area we’ll stop, and when we start again we’ll be a different truck,” he promised.
“I don’t feel so good,” Wiggen complained. “My hands are shaking, and, uh…”
Mel handed her the bucket quickly. She shoved her face in it and was horribly sick.
“Unfortunately that is the price for the boost my spray gave you.”
Wiggen rinsed her mouth out with one of the bottles of water.
“Why aren’t you sick then?” she demanded.
“I had three of those injectors,” he explained. “They are calibrated for me, and I weigh about ninety-five kilo. I never thought to have one made up for you,” he admitted.
“For all you know it could have killed me!” Wiggen said horrified.
“Well staying there was going to kill you for sure,” he said, shrugging.