Some distant clock rang, ten strikes. Harsh footsteps tramped down the hall.
Darren’s voice: “Who’ll go?”
Another: “I’ll go.”
Halo’s soon-to-be-murderer entered, and immediately loosed Halo from her bonds. So, they free me right before I die. Great. The man pushed back a hat, and revealed a floppy mop of hair. Halo gasped when she saw his face. The figure, although dressed in a white lab coat, could only be one person. That tousled hair…
Halo’s weak eyes glimmered. Her cracked lips moved. She tried to form words.
“Mart…” Halo said.
“Yes, Halo. It’s been a while. Shh…I’ve come to take you home.”
Mart pulled something out of the coat pocket. A vial. “Here, swallow this.”
It was a thin liquid, both sweet and salty at the same time. Halo’s cheeks flushed once again. She felt her heart pulsing louder. Halo seemed to be waking up from a dream. “Marty! I – I thought you were trapped in the control room at headquarters.”
“Shh, Hae. Mr. Marinkovic – Marin – is clever. We’ve got to get you back.”
Halo, exhausted from trying to stand on her own, fell back against Mart. He slid off the coat, and draped it over the bench. Mart pulled his SU gun from his holster and shot it in the air. His tall frame, dressed in a spysuit, then quickly pulled the light Halo through a different door. Halo hadn’t been able to see it from where she was fastened. Some sort of closet – Mart draped her over his shoulders. “Hold on.” he said.
The closet shot down. An elevator! Hidden. Mart leaped off the elevator where it stopped. A dark night sky surrounding a remote factory revealed itself to Halo. Mart, six two and an easy target when carrying a dying agent, would be an easy target, even in a black spysuit. He made a dash for the woods as an alarm echoed through the factory.
“They’ve discovered you’re missing.” Mart said.
Halo made no reply. She was silent, but still breathing.
Mart continued running for possibly half a mile before halted suddenly. Leaves crackled underfoot. A dark car, the SU’s primary model, was parked in the bushes. Mart quickly laid Halo in the backseat, then sped off towards civilization.
Halo had been in Spies Universal Recovery Center, at headquarters, for about a week. Her extreme malnutrition, plus the effects of the sleeping drug, had wreaked havoc upon her normally healthy body. Under the care of some of the best doctors the SU could offer, however, Halo was regaining her health. Gradually, Halo, with food and water, was able to sit, stand, and walk. Mart checked on her every day with news of the mission.
“Hey Hae! How’s it going.”
“Taking it courageously.” Halo smiled weakly and sat up in bed.
“Well, you’d better take the Hero Award Cap Byron and Edgar Wholk are presenting you with courage.” Mart leaned forward in excitement.
“Really! No way! But all I did was tell them about my suspicions that PartTech was really a PactKV organization. That was when I called them after the night I did those interviews – when I met my – my – father’s killer. Mr. Marinkovic. Although I didn’t know that then.”
“Mm-hmm. And after you were really beat up your first day at that “job,” learned a bunch of company secrets from that loudmouthed Darren, and completed your mission – discovering that PartTech was a cover for the headquarters of the largest terrorist group in the world!’
Halo blushed fondly. “Okay, Mart. But tell me of your involvement in the case, Mr. Plainclothesman – and my HERO!”
“If you insist…Well, I got your SOS text, but was unable to reply. You told me a few days ago that you tried to send a group text to the whole SU. Well, evidently the PactKV representatives at PartTech hacked your phone messaging before you were able to send it. Upon seeing your text and not being able to reply – I think your phone had died by then, and I had left my phone at headquarters – I notified Edgar and Cap Byron. That day, I had also noticed that Darren was absent. Sadly, both Edgar and Cap Byron told me to wait a before searching, as we were in New York and you were somewhere in Pennsylvania. They said that if Halo Gillingham had been captured, than it would be too dangerous for a lone man, or even a small crew of spies to venture out alone.”
Halo pushed back the blankets and sat up on the edge of the bed. “And then?” she questioned.
“Then, I told them that if they wanted to lose one of their best agents, that I was would get involved if they didn’t. I told those “high-up” people that I would go find you, Halo, myself! Cap told me I could bring whatever supplies necessary if I wanted to go get myself killed, and he gave me the SU stealth car to use. I zoomed over to PartTech, although the drive took several hours. The lobby there was mostly deserted. No one was at the front desk. Oh, before I continue, I have to jump back in time a little. Being a plainclothes spy, I had access to the entire SU wardrobe.”
“That’s how you got the lab coat before you left New York?”
“Yep. I got Yvonna to hack the PartTech cameras and some of their computers. After twenty-four hours of searching every room on every floor of that skyscraper of their factory, Yvonna found the room you were held in. She saw a lab-coat wearing figure leave you, and you were unconscious. She didn’t know it was Darren then, but informed me to find a lab coat in the SU wardrobe. So, back to where I was originally. I drove to PartTech with a forged identity card and the lab uniform. This was three days after you went missing. It took Yvonna and Shailene a day of researching and designing to create a pass to PartTech’s most restricted areas.”
Halo smiled, and said, “Yvonna always did double check every line of code before calling it done.”
“Well, to finish a long and boring tale, I parked the car in brush sometime after six, when most of the “employees” (slash terrorists) had just left work. Yvonna, when she hacked the plans for PartTech, had found an access elevator around back. The lock could be electronically picked quite easily. Yvonna virtually had my back, watching me via small cameras installed in my glasses the whole time I was rescuing you on the fifth floor locked room. I had a face mask, along with the coat, so I appeared like another PartTech/PactKV worker, some newby named Hiram Rogers. Darren seemed a little sheepish, so I gladly volunteered for him.”
“And from there I’ve seen the rest.” Halo smiled in thanks.
“Yup, that’s pretty much all.” Mart replied.
Halo stood, wobbling a little. “I can’t thank you enough. Soon I’ll be back on the job in no time! Doctor Q said tomorrow I’ll be free to go. She said that a recovery as quick as mine was uncommon. So I can do as I please tomorrow!”
“Hey Hae – would you mind meeting me at the cafe tomorrow evening? If you’re not too busy with work, of course.”
Halo walked over to the window and stared through it intently at the skyscrapers of New York City. Mart looked down at his shoes, embarrassed and feeling stupid. Of course Halo wouldn’t want to go out with me! Mart thought, hurt. I thought she had changed after her scrape with death, but I guess she’s still as all-business as usual. Suddenly, Halo whirled around with a grin as gleaming as any snowdrift. “I’d love to Mart!” she cried, excited, “I’m not starting work for a week, so any time is fine.”
Mart was as happy as a kid in a candy store. Or a nerd at Microsoft. Or a terrorist in a gun vault. So she had changed – for the better. before, Halo was all business but now… New possibilities were open on both young spies frontiers. Well, he’d better tell Halo what he thought.
“How about seven?” Mart said.
“Seven. Done.” Halo smiled fondly at him.
Halo met Mart at the cafe, and discovered that she was happier with Mart more than she had ever been happy before.
From the near death experience, Halo had learned something. Something that would forever change her life. The people who truly care about you will always come back.