“The colonel needs to rest now, so I suggest you find something else to do for a few hours.” Wyatt’s doctor said. He checked the IV line and charted something on his clipboard before giving the two ladies a stern look.
“How long does he have to rest before we can come and check on him?” Nanny smiled as sweetly as she could at him.
“You have to remember, he didn’t really get sleep last night, even though he was knocked-out.”
“Oh, I guess that’s true.” Lily wrinkled her brow.
“Give him at least six hours.”
“I don’t need to be told how long I have to sleep, doctor.” Wyatt arched his body upward tensely to show his disapproval.
“Unfortunately for you, I’m in charge of that.” Doctor Wilkes walked over, pulled the IV bag toward him and brought a syringe out of his pocket. In one deft movement he emptied the contents into the hollow tubing.
“What did you just give me? I’ll…” Wyatt’s head dropped to the pillow.
“Wow, what did you give him?” Lily smiled.
“I gave him some night-night drops.” The doctor smiled, threw the syringe into the garbage and left with another warning; “Find something to do ladies.”
The women walked slowly back to their tent, discussing what they were going to do. “Should we go find Percy and ask him where we should go since I’m being detained?”
“Nah, I’d take this opportunity to prove to the colonel that you can be trusted, sugar. As long as you stay away from the eyes and ears of the media, you should be good.”
“I still don’t believe…”
“Girl, I can’t get my mind around how naïve you are. If you can’t believe it, at least take my advice. Let’s go back to the tent, take a nap, and then find some kind of news.”
“We’ve been in this camp for over twenty-four hours. If they were going to let us hear some news, don’t you think we would’ve heard it by now?” Lily arched one blonde brow to emphasize her skepticism.
“You have a point, sugar. I didn’t see any kind of TV or radio in the colonel’s tent. Come to think of it, I didn’t see a laptop, either. That’s a little odd.”
“I’m terrified it’s a lot worse out there than they’re telling us. We have to find out.”
“Let’s go take that nap, and then we’ll play nice with Percy and find out what’s really going on.”
“Is something wrong, Nanny?” She’d asked to take a nap repeatedly and Lily had never known her to nap.
“I’m not sure. I’ve been so tired. Maybe it’s the stress.” She wrinkled her nose, obviously worried.
Lily was worried now, too. She twisted a lock of long blonde hair around her finger as they walked. “We’ll go take a nap.”
Wyatt tossed and turned, trying to get away from the wispy arms grabbing at him from both sides of the bed. “Leave me alone.”
“Dad, are you okay?” Percy was sitting at the field table, looking at the laptop he’d taken to his own tent earlier. He knew it was against direct orders, but he had a right to know, and so did everyone else. The big cities had been infected with some kind of nerve agent and millions of people were already affected. Had they used the agent here? Wouldn’t it have presented itself by now if they had? He had all kinds of questions, but no one to answer them. He was tempted to confide in Lily and Nanny. They were both really nice, and just as concerned as he was.
“Lily, where are you?”
Percy went over to the side of his father’s bed, but he was still out. He was having some kind of nightmare. He wondered what it was like to be his dad. He had so much responsibility on his shoulders right now. “I love you, dad.” He returned to his chair, and the laptop. The internet was very glitchy. He was surprised he was getting anything out here at all. They were out in the middle of nowhere.
A box popped-up on the screen. Percy read the message. “Agent contained.”
“Now what does that mean? Is it contained everywhere? Should I respond to the message?” He’d always heard people were crazy if they talked to themselves, so he guessed he must be halfway there. He poised with one finger on the keyboard. He tapped it thoughtfully, and then began to type. “To whom am I speaking?”
“This is General Tackett. To whom am I speaking?”
“I’m Private first class Percy Adams.”
“Are you related to Colonel Adams, by chance?”
Percy resumed tapping his finger on the lit keyboard. Should he tell the general? Did his dad what to keep his existence a secret? He sighed deeply and typed, “Yes I am.”
“I didn’t know he had a son.”
“He didn’t know until a few months ago, either.” He figured the least he could do was be honest. He nervously shook his leg under the table. He was compounding his disobedience by not only talking to the general, but by divulging information his father might want kept a secret. He visibly cringed at the anger he envisioned his dad would direct at him the minute he was able.
“Where is the colonel?”
“He’s recovering from surgery, sir.”
“Why did he have surgery?” The reply was almost instantaneous. The general hadn’t known.
“My father was shot last night while out on patrol.”
“Why wasn’t I informed?”
“I don’t know, maybe because nobody but my dad has access to the internet, or a phone, or anything more powerful than a walkie-talkie.”
“You sound just like your dad. I admire that.”
“Thank you, sir. Is there a message you want to relay to my father?” A rush of pride ripped through him at the general’s compliment, but he would put it away and savor it for later.
“Tell him to contact me as soon as he’s able.”
Percy was more tempted than he’d ever been to ask the general about the nerve agent, but he was afraid. He’d been lucky in the Marine’s so far, but he didn’t know all the protocols, and maybe going against his dad’s direct orders would get him a court martial. He tamped down the temptation and replied, “Yes, sir.” He waited to see if the general would respond, but the box stayed empty. He clicked the box away and pulled the news page up. There were horrific scenes of people being carried through the streets while buildings smoldered or burned. Tears pricked his eyes. He had to share this with someone, wrong, or not. He closed the lid, unplugged it and stuffed it under his arm. When he got to the entrance of the tent he peeked out to see if anyone was about. There were a couple men playing cards at a portable table, but not really paying attention to him. He sidled quietly out the door and hurried in the direction of the ladies’ tent.
“Lily, are you in there?” He didn’t knock, but leaned into the canvas and talked low.
“Is that you Percy?” Lily walked over and stuck her head out the flap.
“Can I come in?”
“Yes, is something wrong? We figured we’d see you at the colonel’s tent earlier, but you were nowhere around.” She stood aside and let him enter.
“I’ve got something to tell you.” He walked over to the field table and sat the computer down gingerly. He was already in enough trouble; he couldn’t add breaking his father’s computer to the list of his crimes. “Promise you won’t think less of me.”
“I won’t Percy, spit it out.” She was impatient to hear what he was talking about.
“I took my dad’s laptop.” He stopped, waiting for her reaction.
“He wouldn’t tell us anything and I thought we needed to know.”
She couldn’t really argue with that, she believed the same thing. “And?” There was obviously more, or he wouldn’t have come to her tent acting like double-o-seven.
He looked at her earnestly, “There was a nerve agent released in all the big cities…”
“What? Are you sure? How many are dead? Oh Percy, that’s awful.” Tears sprang to her eyes and she dropped to the chair behind her. Her body trembled and she hugged her arms around her body for comfort. She glanced over at Nanny, who was still sleeping soundly.
He opened the lid on the laptop and swung it around so she could see the main page of a popular news site. She gasped in horror as she read the headline: Mayhem in the U.S. today. Tears streamed down her face. She swiped at them as she continued to read about what was happening in their wonderful country. “But what are they doing about it?”
“I don’t think we’re doing anything about it yet. We’re too worried about the casualties.”
“Why would they do this?” Her mind felt like it was in a daze.
“No one knows yet. They haven’t made any demands, except…” he trailed off, his eyes sliding away from hers.
“What demands?” She was trying to remain calm but her voice raised an octave, anyway.
“I can’t tell you that, Lily. I’ve already broken too many rules.”
Percy Adams, you will tell me right now.” Her demand was given in no uncertain terms.
“I can’t, I…”
“It isn’t that you can’t, it’s that you won’t.” She crossed her arms angrily and huffed in obvious agitation.
“They want you.” He hated that he’d told her, but he couldn’t stand her anger.
“What?” Nanny hopped from the cot like a scalded dog.
Percy and Lily both jumped at her voice. They thought she was asleep.
“They must think she knows something else. They demanded she be delivered to them by eight a.m. Friday or they’ll start on secondary cities.” He pulled another website up that had the demand on their main page.
Lily gasped and pulled her hand up to her mouth. She thought she would be sick. “I don’t know anything. I came here to take pictures.” Fresh drops cascaded over the dry tear-tracks running down her face.
“I’m so sorry, Lily.” Fear for her friend rushed through her. Would they turn her over?” They needed to tell Wyatt, but he was still out. “We need to wake Wyatt up somehow.”
“What can he do? He’s just had surgery and he’s not even in his right mind.” Percy’s tone was doubtful and grumpy because they hadn’t thought to consider he might be able to do something. Of course, he couldn’t, but that wasn’t the point.
“I don’t think you’re giving your father enough credit. He’s the one that saved all those people during that fire.” Nanny looked at the young man, the admiration in her eyes for his father like salt in a fresh wound.
“Okay, okay, I get it. I can’t do anything. How would we wake him up, though?”
“There has to be some way to counteract whatever medication the doctor gave him.” Lily shrugged one delicate shoulder. It sounded logical.
“The doctor is probably the only one that knows what he gave the colonel, and I doubt he’s going to be forthcoming to us about what it was.” Nanny’s voice conveyed the voice of reason, and truth.
Lily slumped against the back of the chair and sighed. “We have to figure it out. Maybe we can find his clipboard and get a glimpse of what he wrote on it.”
“That won’t do any good if he didn’t write it down.” Percy mentally patted himself on the back for that point.
“Don’t be such a sour-puss Percy. We have to try something. What if they want to give her up? Are you willing to be a part of that?” Nanny gave him the eagle-eye; something he hadn’t received from her up until then.
“Of course I don’t want to give her up, but chances are the government will. She’s only one person. Millions of lives are at stake.”
Lily looked at him in disbelief. “Thanks for the loyalty, Percy.”
“I didn’t say I agreed with them.” He looked at her pleadingly. There was something about her that reminded him of his mom. “If she and his dad got together, she could be his new mom.
“He’s right, sugar. That’s my fear, too. We need to get the colonel awake as soon as humanly possible. Let’s go find that doctor.
As quick as that, Nanny was up and ready to go. She didn’t mention her tiredness again, but Lily was pretty sure she was still exhausted. There were deep lines etched around her eyes.
They all filed out of the tent, Mushi hot on their heels. Lily reached down and ruffled his ears. He was a very loyal companion, and she was lucky he didn’t bark at everything that moved like some small dogs did. “Mommy loves you, Mushi.”
Percy tried to cover a sound of disgust but the women heard it. “Don’t you like dogs, sugar?”
“I guess they’re okay, I’m just not really a fan. They bark and shed and go to the bathroom all over the house. I prefer hamsters or rats.”
Lily shuddered. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Who, in their right mind, would like rodents over dogs?”
“I would.” He smiled at her look of disgust.
“I wouldn’t have thought that about you, kid.” Nanny looked at him strangely, as if for the first time.
“That doesn’t make me an ax-murderer.”
“So you say.” She waggled her bushy, black brows at him and smiled eerily.
“You’re playing, right?”
“If that’s what you think.” She strode ahead, leaving him to come to his own conclusion. She was just teasing, trying to put him more at ease.
“Well I think you’re crazy and my like-a-meter just went down a couple pegs.” Lily wrinkled her nose to emphasize the point.
He laughed companionably and said, “I appreciate you guys making me feel like part of the family.”
Nanny turned to smile at him from ahead and Lily from behind. “You’re welcome.” They said at the same time.
Dr. Wiles rushed back to his tent, trying to remain unseen by the trio headed his way. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but he’d been on his way to check the older lady because she’d been holding herself stiffly while they’d talked.
The three announced their presence at his tent flap and he said, “Come in.”
“We need you to wake the colonel up.” Nanny demanded. She didn’t make any bones about it.
“Why, what’s wrong?”
“We need the colonel to command us. We have a private matter we need to discuss with him as soon as possible.”
“I can’t just wake a patient up with that kind of weak excuse. I’ll need something more solid.” He had to cover all his bases so he didn’t end up in trouble over this. He needed them to do it without his specific go-ahead.
“The terrorists want Lily. If you don’t wake the colonel up, our government might give her up.”
The devastation on the young man’s face tore at the doctor’s heart. “I can’t wake him up.” Three faces fell, and he added, “But you can.”
They jerked their faces to his questioningly.
He walked over to his drug cabinet, unlocked it, filled a syringe and handed it to Percy. “Put this in his IV, and you never saw me.”