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Authors: Patrick Wong

Taker

BOOK: Taker
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Taker

The Final Deity

Book 2

 

 

By

Patrick Wong

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © Pa
t
ri
ck Wong 2015

All rights reserved

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a database and retrieval system or transmitted in any form or any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise)without the prior written permission of the owner of the copyright.

Please do not participate in or encourage the piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Cover design by Damonza.com

 

 

 

 

 

To my beautiful wife Karen - who eventually forgave me for a particular event in Taker.

To Victoria and Samantha - the best daughters a dad could ever ask for.

Table of Contents

 

Sorry I Was Out Late; Somebody Shot Me

Want Rice with That?

Game Over

Cold Sores as Weapons

Like StarCraft, But for Real

Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gun Flight

Becoming a Lone Wolf

In-Flight Gifts

Frustration-AggressionTheory

Bang!

Just Go with the Knife

Are You Freaking Kidding Me?

One of the Good Guys

Which Is It? Sick or Dying?

Listen to Me If You Want to Live

Take Hope Away

Rock-Climbing Accident

That Guy’s a Jerk

Arrrrrgh, Mateys!

So… Tonight?

Cast the Years Aside

I Thought You Were a Health Nut?

Is That the Secret Knock?

So This Is What a Zombie Apocalypse Looks Like

You Sound Like My Mother

Nix, Come Back to Us

Story Time

Thanks, 15th-CenturySpaniards

Money and Power

You Get Away From Her

She’s the Best Weapon We Had

Time of Death

My Sincerest Condolences

My Friends Are Alive

Ever Heard of Tazhbekistan?

It’s Pronounced Like a French J

What Are We Looking For?

Did You Understand My Message?

Meanwhile, Back at PRESS

What’s Max Up To?

Nice Afternoon

I Want the Whole Truth

Something. Anything.

What on Earth?

Be My Guest

He’s Like Nicole

More to This Myth

It’s Too Quiet

You Jump, I Jump

Burton Was the Hacking Expert

Damage Control

Shall We?

Let’s Do This Thing

Handshakes and Hugs

Did He Just Say the Presidential Suite?

I Thought I Heard Something

He’s Crazy!

A Choice

Nicole’s Doing That

That’s What Guys Like You Do, Right?

It’s a Street Fight

Class Is Over!

It’s Like New York City After 9/11

Can’t She Heal?

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

Sorry I Was Out Late; Somebody Shot Me

N
icole heard her
mom’s familiar footsteps pounding the wooden dining room floor, and she prepared herself for a grilling. She had been lying on the long couch in the sunroom and hiding with her friends in her own house for the better part of 20 minutes, praying that neither the FBI agent nor Officer Gillespie would want to search the place. There was a tense moment when they’d first arrived in the sunroom and her friend Ben had backed into a vase. The wobbling vase made some noise that she was sure her mom would’ve heard.

Fortunately, her mom wouldn’t search for the source of the racket until the visitors had left, but the wait for her to arrive had been almost unbearable. Now Nicole was counting down the seconds before her mom completely freaked out at her.

Amy knew Nicole’s mom very well, but Drake and Ben hadn’t met her before, and Amy half-thought about warning them what the next few minutes would look like. Her mom could get pretty scary when upset. Still, they both had signed up for the drama.

When Nicole’s mom appeared at the door and saw her daughter lying pale and injured on the couch, however, everything about her anger seemed to melt away.

“Oh, Nicole!” she cried out, and in a second, she was on her knees by Nicole’s side.

Nicole felt a wash of sadness for keeping so many things secret from her mom.

“What on earth happened? Just look at your leg! Were you shot? And who are these boys?” Dr. Aaronson paused to catch a breath, and Nicole could see her mother’s face freeze up and attempt to recalibrate her reaction given that Nicole had friends with her. But unable to find a way to minimize the situation, Dr. Aaronson’s usually calm-and-cool-mother persona fell apart, and she proceeded to grab her own hair and freak out a little. “Just exactly what the hell is going on?”

“I got shot in the leg last night,” Nicole responded matter-of-factly.

“Oh my God.” Her mom sucked in some breath. “And who were the people shooting at you?”

“The FBI. One of their agents tracked me down and shot me. I …” Nicole hesitated and glanced at her friends. “Yeah, and …” Nervously, she still struggled to say exactly what had happened. “And now they’re after me because I had to … stop him … from hurting me.”

“Stop him? What do you mean?”

Nicole couldn’t hold it together any longer, and the tears started to rain down her cheeks. “I had to, mom. I couldn’t get away from him. And he just kept hurting me! So I had to hurt him.”

“Oh, Nicole.” Dr. Aaronson pulled her close, and Nicole and her mom clung to each other for a tight embrace, which said more than words could have between mother and daughter.

“Ow. Pain.” Nicole felt the sharp stab burn her leg again.

Immediately after releasing Nicole from their hug, Dr. Aaronson’s professional composure as an emergency room doctor returned. “Let me take a look at it. Did you bind it right away?”

Nicole nodded.

Her mother pulled out scissors from her first-aid kit and began cutting Nicole’s jeans up to her knee. “Did you clean it? And you can walk on it, right? Can you move your toes? Any tingling or numbness?”

“Didn’t clean it. Yes to walking. Yes about the toes. And no, nothing’s numb.”

Her mom pressed delicately on the wound area, and Nicole winced.

“Mom! Geez, that hurts.”

“Well, exactly what do you expect? We need to take you to the hospital now!”

Nicole grabbed her mom’s arm and pulled her back.

“No, mom. Trust me. I can’t go there,” Nicole pleaded.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Amy, please, can you get her some overnight things?”

“Dr. Aaronson … Nicole’s right. I don’t think it’s a good idea …” Amy’s protest trailed off in the face of the formidable doctor’s glare. Even Amy had trouble standing up to her.

“Mom, please. I won’t go. Even if I have to run from here, I will,” Nicole said.

“Sweetheart, the authorities will just want to get your side of the story. You said it was self-defense. They’ll understand. You’ll be OK. Is the other agent OK?”

“No, mom. He’s dead. I killed him.”

Nicole watched the shock hit her mom. Her words muted her for several seconds.

“What?”

Nicole sighed. “I killed him. It’s a long story, but — it’s what I can do. It’s what all this weirdness over the last month has been about. I have this power they’re scared of, and I used it against him. I drained the life from him until he was dead.”

Finally, Nicole had said it. She had admitted her abilities to her mom. Dr. Aaronson paused and took a deep breath. Her daughter had admitted to killing another human being. An uncomfortable silence lingered in the room for a few moments.

“I just … did what I had to,” Nicole continued. “You have to believe me. All the things that have happened around here — Amy’s recovery, Mr. Geller giving his life for his son — yeah, well, that was me.”

“It’s true, Mrs. … Dr. Aaronson,” Ben piped up. “It’s like spontaneous remission.”

“And who are you?” Nicole’s mom’s stare focused on Ben. Her intensity took him aback for a moment, but he continued, undeterred.

“I’m Ben Owens.” Ben offered his hand to shake, but then quickly withdrew it, realizing the doctor was wearing a latex glove covered in her daughter’s blood.

“He’s my friend from school. They both are. And this is Drake, Senator Jennings’ son,” Nicole added.

Nicole’s mom nodded at them and then went back to treating Nicole’s wound.

“Ben’s been researching into the historical evidence of the … things I can do. But there’s one thing I can’t do. Which is heal myself.”

Ben’s excitement emerged at Nicole’s comments, and he just had to ask to be sure he’d heard what he thought he’d heard. “You tried to heal yourself and it didn’t work?”

Nicole nodded. “I tried to just like I had the other times, but it didn’t work on me when I needed it. The guy — Agent Carter. He knew it, too. He already knew it wasn’t going to work on me.”

Ben became remorseful. “Sorry. I guess that was my bad. There’s nothing about that on the Internet.”

“And Agent Carter was working with someone else who was giving him guidance on how to catch me. Somebody who seemed to know everything. Even knew the word ‘Balancer.’”

“Balancer?” Nicole’s mom couldn’t contain her curiosity. “What’s this nonsense about a Balancer?”

“That’s what I’m called — a Balancer. I give life. I can take it away. Like a balance. I’m a Balancer of life. People, animals, trees, plants, fish. All life. It’s something I can just do.”

Ben, meanwhile, was beginning to feel more and more nauseated at the sight of the blood from Nicole’s leg, but he pressed on with his soapbox speech.

“The FBI is working with Professor DuBois. They’re all conspiring to kidnap Nicole because she’s the Balancer.” Ben turned to Nicole’s mom and continued explaining, gravely. “They want Nicole for her powers. I’m positive they’ve been searching for a Balancer for years, and now that they’ve found one, they’re not going to stop until she’s theirs.” Ben paused for dramatic effect. “But they do have a big problem. The FBI can’t draw too much attention to her, because they don’t want anybody else to have her. Nicole has the power to heal the world. Or to harm those against her.” Ben pointed toward Nicole like a courtroom litigator making his closing remarks.

“It’s true,” Drake added. “The FBI knew they had no jurisdiction coming here to talk to you. They were just fishing for information and hoping you’d fall for their false authority.”

“That policeman figured it out,” Nicole said.

“Officer G.?” Amy chipped in.

“Officer Gillespie, you mean?” Nicole’s mom qualified.

“That’s him.” Amy looked across at Nicole. “I think he’s a good guy. Maybe he’s on our side?”

“Well, maybe. If there are sides being taken for or against me,” Nicole reasoned. “But we can’t be sure of anything right now.”

“Well, then I have some good news for you. I gave you an alibi,” Dr. Aaronson explained.

“Huh?”

“Well, your mom’s not an idiot. I could tell they were sniffing around after something, so I thought I’d buy you some time, whatever it was they thought you’d done. Now, hold still — I’m giving you a tetanus shot.”

Before Nicole had even noticed, her mom had brought out a syringe, administered the shot and was on to the next step. Nicole searched her mom’s face; there was a mix of confusion, anger and even some hurt there. But at least now she knew.

Finally, when she’d finished tending to Nicole, Dr. Aaronson sat back on her knees and stared off into space for a moment before locking her gaze on Nicole.

“So, the wildfire? The river?”

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I healed the little girl, Elise, and her dog Charlie before we got out. I took life from the animals and fish along the way to do it.”

“What about Tim Geller, the dying boy’s father? Did you kill him, too?”

“Yes, but he asked me to do it! It was to save his son. He asked me to take his life in exchange for his son’s.”

“The concert at the Patriot Center?”

Amy jumped forward. “She saved my life! She took a teeny-tiny little piece of life from all those people up front and healed me, which is why they all got a little sick. But they’ll get better. You know it’s true — you got the results!”

“Hang on. You were dying?” Drake whispered. He stared at Amy. Drake knew this probably wasn’t the time or place, but he couldn’t help it.

Amy hesitated, and then replied a little softer. “I was. But I’m OK now, thanks to Nicole.”

Amy met Drake’s gaze and watched as everything began to make sense to him.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

Amy gave a sad smile. “It was kind of on a need-to-know basis.”

Nicole’s mom cleared her throat, allowing Drake to break eye contact with Amy. The teens watched the only adult in the room come to terms with things that had taken them weeks to comprehend.

“So my hunch was right,” Dr. Aaronson said quietly.

This was an unexpected reaction for Nicole and her friends.

“Say what?” Nicole asked.

“Ever since you were born, there have been a lot of strange things that medical science couldn’t explain,” Nicole’s mom continued. “My grandmother suffered from debilitating arthritis. My mother suffered from it. And when I was pregnant with you, I started to develop symptoms, too. It was so awful. I had to stop performing surgery at the hospital. I just used the pregnancy as an excuse to stop procedures earlier than expected.”

Nicole put her arm around her mom. “I never knew you were in such pain. You never told me.”

“But I did tell you. When you were about 5 years old, I was tucking you into bed, and I told you mommy’s hands were hurting. You felt so sorry for me. The next morning when I woke up, they didn’t hurt anymore. In fact, they never hurt again. I was … healed. It was like a miracle.”

Her mom’s voice started to break as she spoke. Nicole smiled. She had had no idea.

“But that wasn’t the only thing. My migraines. Your dad’s bad back. None of it was life-threatening, but your dad and I noticed that, for some strange reason, after we told you about our problems, the next morning they’d be gone.”

There was a moment of silence as the gravity of the story sank in.

“The houseplants and shrubs were always dying, and we never knew why they would just wilt overnight like that. But looking back, the plants always died the night a small miracle occurred in the house.” Mother and daughter held each other in a tight hug once more. “It was always you. You were always saving me.”

So, Nicole had been Balancing all her life, and had only recently realized her powers. Perhaps if she had spoken up earlier, her mom could have helped. Still, it was too late now. She had to focus on the future.

Finally, Nicole’s mom regained her composure and started to concentrate on the problem at hand. “I still think there must be someone higher up in the FBI we can turn to about this.”

“Maybe before, ” Amy piped up. “But now the FBI wants her for the murder of one of their agents. Plus, how will we ever know who to trust?”

“Your dad has some ex-military contacts at several different government agencies. We might be able to find something out through them,” the doctor offered. “We’ll find a way to get a message to your dad and figure out who to trust.”

“But — with respect, Dr. Aaronson,” Drake began, his father’s influence as a senator clearly having rubbed off, “they know she’s here. People will watch everything she does here. She needs to get away from this town.”

Dr. Aaronson sighed. She knew Drake was right. She got to her feet, walked across the room, and collapsed down into the wicker chair.

“OK,” she said bluntly.

Nicole stared at her, horrified. What did she mean? “OK” what?

Her mom reached across for her tablet and unlocked the screen. The front-page headline on her news app was stark: “Mechanical problems force airliner to make emergency landing in Florida.”

“Because your dad is on call for the National Transportation and Safety Board, he’s heading to Florida now. I’ve fixed you up the best I can, and you’re going to heal just fine. Of course, I wish you could go to the hospital to be sure, but you’ve definitely drawn the attention of some rogue agency or something. I want you to get to the airport and buy tickets for the first plane out of Virginia. I’ll contact your dad discreetly, and we’ll take it from there.” She locked the tablet with a flourish. “So, getting you to your dad and away from here is the smartest thing we can do right now. He’ll know what to do before you land.”

Drake approached Dr. Aaronson. “It’s a long weekend because of the holiday. We — Amy, Ben and I — thought we could travel with Nicole, just to make sure she gets there safely.”

Amy raised her hand. “I’m in! Packed and everything.”

“Amy, I can’t let you fly out of here without letting your mom know,” Dr. Aaronson said.

“But I wouldn’t even be alive without your daughter,” Amy protested. “Besides, she needs me more than ever. Just tell my mom
after
we’ve left town. Nicole and I have been to the beach, the amusement park, and camping together. My mom knows I’m safe as long as Nicole is around to tell me the right thing to do.”

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