Nobody Bleeds in Vain
True to her word, Yaz spent the day with Elise. The briefing was simple, lasted all of five minutes. Yaz roughed out a map of the cabin and nearby woods on a white-board, and scribbled up a set of acronyms and times for scheduled patrols. A series of arrows lined the cabin’s perimeter in two different colors. Each pair took a route. Bryce and Ken were due up first. Miller’d been on rotation the night before too, was now sucking down coffee like water. Despite Elise’s skepticism, he looked as sharp as ever.
Patrols rotated every eight-hours. For sixteen of those hours, a second patrol of Seer and security unit roamed the city. Given Rachel’s injury however, Jenna Perez had been forced to run a double, roaming patrol. Elise knew these patrols were meant to feel out new Seers or leads on Hunters. She couldn’t say how. Until now, Rachel and Jenna had been splitting the patrol, Valerie otherwise occupied with Tyler.
Despite a fixed role, Valerie was always present for Yaz’s briefings. She watched from the side-lines, evaluating. Elise found today to be no exception save that Valerie also appeared unhappy with pushing Jenna so hard. All present knew there was little to be done, Jenna included.
That was, until Hailey suddenly appeared, late. Valerie’s eyes followed her skeptically.
Hailey approached Yaz, “I’m here to help.” She avoided Elise’s eyes, “Wherever you need me.”
Yaz glanced to Valerie for approval, but she and Hailey were engaged in a silent exchange of words. The latter’s choice showed on her face. The former’s sought certainty. What no one else in the room knew, though Jenna suspected, was the actual conversation taking place via the Link, succinct as it was.
“You are certain?”
That was all either of them needed. Valerie gave a slight nod. Hailey turned to Yasmine. There was distinct and deliberate lack of protest to the air. It was enough.
“Alright,” Yaz said without ceremony. “You’re on first shift with Jenna and Lindsey. Jenna, get her up to speed. Ken, you’ll run second shift with Hailey. Got it?” Yaz eyed the group, reassured. “Everyone has their assignments.”
The group dispersed as Hailey followed Lindsey and Jenna from the room. The Seer was relieved not to be pulling another double shift. It showed in her round features and the sparkle of green eyes dulled by fatigue. She climbed into the rear of the pick-up top-side, helped Hailey in. They began rolling from the cabin toward Bacatta-proper.
Hailey was uncertain where to begin. She’d made her decision, and however quickly, far from lightly. The path forward had always been rather obscured, but now that she was on it, committed to it, guidance seemed at hand.
“Lost?” Jenna asked simply.
Hailey was suddenly aware she’d been staring into space. “That obvious?”
Jenna laughed, “Kind of. Don’t understand, then just ask.”
“Okay.” Hailey said, hesitating. “So, what am I supposed to do?”
“Basically, just meditate.” She crossed her legs, closed her eyes, and activated the Link. She spoke aloud rather than via the Link. “We make rounds about the city, use our empathic awareness to sense if other Seers are nearby.”
“How can you tell the difference?”
“It’s mostly opportunity. Normal seers are like psychic white-noise; they’re just there, blended with reality. Untrained and newly activated Seers give off an aura. A chaotic energy. Staggered and stress-filled waves. They can’t control their E-P yet– Empathic Projection, rather, because it’s a lot like being born, being activated, but you’re fully aware, conscious, and completely terrified in ways beyond that of a normal human.
“Feel the difference between my energy and Lindsey’s in the front seat?”
Hailey did. She felt a definite shift from the bunker’s usual atmospheric energy. The city was colder, emotionally, as if thousands of conflicting psyches had mixed into an overpoweringly bland stew. Part of that stew flowed from Lindsey in the front seat. His energy was cooler, less active, but focused– human energy. Conversely, Jenna’s energy was radiant; warm, spring sunlight inside as opposed to out.
She sensed Hailey’s understanding. “You feel it. Continuous. Persistent. A dose of warmth.” She prepped a series of E-P waves, “This is roughly what an untrained Seer feels like.”
The warmth was suddenly lava-hot. Then, space-cold. Hot again. Cold again. It sank, rocketed back up, bouncing and rebounding ceaselessly. With the bounding came extremes of emotion. Euphoria. Utter terror. Joy. Depthless grief. Back and forth until Hailey’s spine shuddered and she audibly shivered.
“You understand now. That’s how we found you. An untrained Seer’s like a beacon. One in danger, is like an atom bomb. If Rachel hadn’t had her vision, we wouldn’t have known your approximate location. Yaz we might not have found you in time.”
“So, there’s a point where the chaos becomes too much to distinguish the source?”
She nodded, “Generally speaking, extreme stress is the trigger to it. Usually female Seers have learned to control their emotions to some degree, even untrained, and are easier to find.”
“So there are other male Seers? Besides Tyler, I mean?”
Jenna sighed mournfully at the mention of Tyler. “Theoretically, yes, but I don’t know any personally.” Hailey’s confused squint begged an explanation. Jenna provided as best she could, “So far’s we can tell, there’s no specific circumstances for a Seer’s development. More than likely, it’s a combination of genetic factors. However, there’re very few instances of multiple Seers in the same family, even identical twins might differ– one is, the other isn’t. There’s still so much we don’t know about ourselves.”
“Our people,” Hailey muttered, feeling a resonance with the phrase. She re-focused, “So why’re male Seers so rare?”
Jenna’s eyes flitted behind their closed lids. “The working theory– and it is just a theory– is that male Seers beyond puberty are rarer due to societal norms. Women are placed in the role of emotional reliance. Men tend more toward emotional avoidance. We believe Tyler was activated because prepubescent humans are inherently more reliant on their emotions. Street living and his parents’ death emotionally traumatized him, that trauma activated him as your meditation did you. Unfortunately, we cannot locate inactive Seers.”
Hailey followed. “And since males tend to avoid their emotions, they aren’t activated as easily.”
Hailey shook her head, sighed, “So an unknown number of male Seers are completely oblivious to their power?”
“As best we can tell.”
Hailey was silent, wondering what it might be like to be an oblivious, inactive Seer. That she’d been one most of her life didn’t feel true anymore. To know, but remain inactive, she supposed, would be a double-edged sword. As much as one could keep themselves from being a target, so too would they be cut off from their greatness. She wasn’t sure whether she pitied or envied inactive Seers.
The next hours passed in bouts of silence. Hailey attempted to feel out the city. All around, outside the blacked-out pickup, energy swirled and thronged. The white-outline of truck and ever-shifting buildings sandwiched or encapsulated blue humans. Not a single wave of energy felt out of place the whole morning and afternoon.
When it was finally time to return to the cabin, Hailey was prepared to take over. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as she expected, and short of being attacked, she doubted it would be anything more than sitting around for eight hours while Ken drove. She hopped from the truck long enough to stretch her legs, grab some lunch, and use the bathroom then hopped back in and stuffed a comm in her ear.
Ken started for the city, radioing in, “Just hollar if you get a hit.”
“Got it,” Hailey said, scarfing down lunch as fast as possible.
The next few hours passed similarly to the first few. That was, until a sudden dread boiled up from her stomach. They’d only just passed the halfway mark of their shift. Ken had pulled into a gas station to refuel, Hailey’d waited until the coast was clear to deter suspicion, then slipped from the truck. Moments later, she was standing, stretching, when a knife stabbed her gut. She doubled over.
Ken lunged beside her, “You okay?”
She panted in pain, “Just this… feeling.”
Ken’s heart raced, his eyes wide, “What kind of feeling? Where’s it coming from?”
She spoke through her teeth, “Dread. I don’t know.”
“Feel it out, Hailey. This is important.”
She did her best to focus through the pain, shut off her senses. The Link activated. Waves emanated outward from somewhere nearby. She pointed aimlessly, teeth grit, “There.”
Ken spied a four-way stop-light, empty of all but one car. “Right there?” She grunted, clutched her head. “C’mon!” He yanked the fuel nozzle out. “In front. Now.”
Hailey groped her way to the passenger door. The light changed. A red, four-door sedan made a gentle right-turn. Truck tires spun on asphalt, peeled away. Smoke trailed behind them. The truck hopped the curb toward the intersection, caught air, crashed down.
“Is it moving? Is it them!?”
Hailey bit her lip, grabbed hold of the pain mentally, and forced it part-way out. “Yes. Ahead.”
“It’s them,” Ken fumbled with a radio. “Patrol two to base. Come in base.”
Valerie replied. “Go ahead, Patrol two.”
“We’ve got eyes on a target.”
Valerie audibly stiffened, “Take them out. Recover anything possible.”
“Copy.” He tossed the radio aside.
Hailey’s stomach bubbled acid at her throat. “What’re … you going to do.”
He answered with action. The truck’s engine groaned. They lurched forward. The transmission whined, bucked between gears. The road-gap to the Hunters closed. A mere second passed. They were on the Hunters’ bumper. The car lurched forward this time, gained speed.
“You’re not getting off that easy you bastards!”
The car swerved around stopped traffic to pull away. The truck followed, lost speed. Gained again. Slammed bumpers. The car fishtailed. The driver rode a screaming turn across pavement and sidewalk. The angle was too wide. The car side-swiped another sedan, rebounded toward a line of buildings. Bodies dove this way and that along the sidewalk to avoid being hit. The truck surged forward, on its tail.
Hailey lolled in her seat, jarred by the truck’s movements. She was near to fainting. Agony scorched her guts. It spread in waves to her extremities. The car careened right, into an alley, galloped forward. The truck slowed for the turn, raged back toward top-speed. Hailey winced, looked out; the Hunters were too far ahead. If they reached the Alley’s end, they’d be into traffic and gone.
Her mind worked reflexively. The Link activated. Needles stabbed her fingers. Fire cooked her gut. Phantom compression pulsed at her temples. She smack a mental hand clasped at something in the distance. It was vaguely heavy, ahead of the Hunters. A two-ton dumpster flew into their path. The car struck at full-speed. The front end crumpled, a tin can to a foot. The truck skidded to a screeching stop, and the molten knife slipped from Hailey’s gut.
“C’mon!” Ken jumped out, pistol in-hand.
Hailey fell out, to her feet, gasping for breath. She stumbled toward the car, raising her P-90. Ken directed her to its trunk. He inched forward. From the angle, even Hailey could see both driver and passenger were dead. One was splayed over the dash. The other had taken some part of the car and the steering wheel to the torso, but their body and her visual angle obscured it. If she had to guess, the guy’s ribcage was pulverized, his heart pierced by bone and vehicle.
She winced at the thought, at the pain, but kept her gun up, trained through the back window. Still-smoking engine-oil and antifreeze wafted back on a breeze with hints of gasoline. It smacked Hailey, full-force, in the face. She focused on Ken’s careful approach. He hesitated with a second glance, then busted the cracked driver’s window with the butt of his pistol. Its barrel smacked away large shards of glass, and he reached a hand in to feel around.
Hailey felt sick: Ken’s hand emerged, covered in blood and gripping a cell phone. He thumbed it, ensured it still worked. Sirens screamed nearby. He hustled back, gestured Hailey along to the truck. Moments later, they were sailing toward the bunker, Hailey’s mind still in the alley.
“We may’ve just gotten the biggest break we could ever hope for,” Ken said, toweling his bloody hand.
The thought of anything verging on happiness made Hailey sick. “What!? How can you be pleased?”
Ken’s eyes darted over and back, “It’s a smartphone, Hailey. Smartphone’s have GPS trackers. Long-term contracts. Serial numbers. Ip addresses. At least one of those things will be traceable.”
She finally managed to still her rising bile. “You think we can track the Hunters?”
He nodded, “It’ll lead us straight to them.”