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OPERATION SUNRISE by GRIMLY WHETFOX

Chapter 1 - LAST STOP HOTEL

PROLOGUE

"This is the beginning, if you could ever cite a true beginning. If you could, then this would be it. Right here, right now. Today."

The boy had his eyes, but they were another colour. His jaw line, but he looked unusual, different somehow: he spoke with his voice, but it wasn't him, it couldn't be him. He was much older than this boy. How could it not be him? His little brother, maybe? But he didn't have a brother. It was incredible, the similarity. The boy held her gaze and spoke again, repeating himself, his voice low, almost monotone, hypnotic.

"This is the beginning, Do you understand?"

She nodded, her mind reeling, gauging, guessing. Was she safe? If it was starting (again), how could she be safe? This boy had all his mannerisms, his posture, it was him in every way, but it wasn't. It couldn't be. His eyes were massive, pupils dilated, and they buzzed discernibly, the edges of each iris vibrating with an intensity she had only seen once before. Who is this boy who is so much like him? WHO IS HE?

"It's okay, don't panic. I'm here now. I will look after you."

She heard the words, coming from within that gaze, and they moved into her, unquestionably. She smiled, knowing his sincerity, knowing it was HIM, feeling empathy flowing between them, surrounding them like a warm ocean, swirling in an all encompassing tide through her bones, though their lives, through their being. The realisation dawned in her mind. Where they were, what was happening RIGHT NOW. Her thoughts grew exponentially, the lucidity clicking perfectly into place and a complete understanding of how natural this was multiplying through her fabric, her soul. All too soon it was over.

"Wake up. They are coming."

* * *


"Take what you have gathered from coincidence"
~ Bob Dylan

"'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked."
~ Lewis Carroll - Through the Looking-Glass

"Saepe ne utile quidem est scire quid futurum sit" (Often it is not even advantageous to know what will be.)
~ Cicero

* * *


She awoke suddenly, as if wrenched from her dream by an unseen hand, and immediately knew something was wrong. He was bolt upright in the centre of the hotel room floor, the hairs on the back of his neck and arms standing straight. His eyes were huge, the pupils so dilated that no iris was visible, shining clearly in the half light of early morning that dimly permeated the room. He clenched, the muscles in his back and shoulders straining. His spine twitched slightly, and then his head snapped towards her, his eyes in her direction but unfocused, as if he were looking straight through her. He spoke, quietly but firmly.

"Get up. They are coming."

Frenzy was a calm day on the ocean compared to the next few moments. The problem was that he was very, very rarely wrong. Not totally infallible, but damn close. If they were coming, if his mindstate she had just witnessed was anything to go by, then they were in real trouble. He didn't get like that for no reason. There was always a reason. She grabbed furiously at clothes and boots, the sensation of her dream slowly fading, whilst the mental checklist they had rehearsed under the stars so many times clicked off in her mind like clockwork, even under the current circumstances. That was another thing he could do. Make you remember things. This was proving useful in ways they had not imagined. The bags were packed (they were always packed) but she thrust her hands in anyway, feeling round to know for sure that everything was there. Tent, sleeping bag, water purification tablets, first aid kit, spare inner tubes... the gun. Check, check, check.

It had been a long and beautiful summer, the best she could ever remember. They had talked so much that it came to seem like her own voice when he spoke, and as the months had passed and each barrier had been crossed, there became nothing left to fear... They had achieved true insight, just as they had before, but deeper, more permanent, a sense of empathy and personal understanding that eclipsed all others. In the desert or in the hills or on a beach, always under the blazing stars, the huge dark sky so vast above them… Even just thinking of those times put her in a warm trance that she could palpably taste. Each night they would travel by pushbike, gently rolling along dusty paths and coastal roads to spots they picked, sometimes at random, sometimes to investigate, and sometimes because the names of the places were too coincidental not to go there. Something about the fabric that liked to repeat. He found it neat, sophisticated, elegant. She found it freaky as hell. But that's why he can do those things, and she can't. Although, she knows, of course, that she can. But that's another story.

They had been in a tiny cove on a beach that was totally covered by the sea when the tide was fully in, so they had lay down on the dune that rose to the grass from the edge of the wet sand and made love, so familiar now that his touch was like nourishment, moving slowly together, their muscles already warm from the cycle. When they had finished she lay back with her head in the crook of his shoulder. He was quiet for a long time, much longer than usual. So long that she began to suspect a new level was to be announced – one he had held back, kept secret somehow, although she knew that was impossible. No, wait a minute. She knew it was UNLIKELY. She didn't know impossible, didn't relate to that word any more. Too much had happened. And if he had held anything back then... no, no he couldn't have. That would invalidate everything. So, what was it then?

In a way she was right, it was a new level. In a way.

"What you would you take if you had to leave your home in ten minutes and never return?"

This was NOT normal. His voice was different somehow, tighter, and it hit her like a jolt, startling her from the afterglow and catching her breath. The cold feeling shooting up her spine was unmistakable... This was going to happen. And not in a good way. She sat up, pulling her clothes around her.

"Oh god, when?"

"Not for a long time sweetheart. Not for a long time. It's ok, don't worry. But we have to be ready."

He turned his eyes to hers, and there it was, the connection so strong it pulled at the base of her, like an electric current.

"Not for months," he said slowly, a tiny smile glinting, warming. "Don't panic."

She relaxed slightly, her shoulders hunching, but she did not lay back down. She put her hand on his chest and again his eyes met hers. Zap.

"When did you know?"

"I've been trying to ignore it for a while now. But its there, no doubt about it. I think it was about a week ago that I accepted it. It is a furthering of the plan, and a natural result of what we have achieved. It won't happen for ages, but I guess now it is unavoidable."

Unavoidable had proved to be the case before. He was convinced that there must be a way to change things, to get on a different path, but for a guy who knew a whole lot about everything, including many things he had no idea how he knew, he didn't have much to say about HOW to change things. Only that it CAN'T be fixed, predetermined, static, there MUST be free will, otherwise the whole thing, the whole universe, is just pointless. However, the tone of his last sentence suggested that he had resigned them both to fate over this one... Was that having influence? Was his mindstate the trigger? Was he causing this to happen?

When it had first started, after their first encounter, after the phone call, she had begun to watch every single thought in her head, convinced of their immense impact on the world around her. It had taken him months to convince her that no thought was off limits. This process had started for her years before she had met him, she understood that now. Met him properly she should say... She had always known who he was, she could not remember a time when she had not known of him, known about him. But after that night, the first night, on the phone, when he gate crashed her brain and connected his mind to hers, she had begun to fear that her thoughts were a catalyst, and they had started to run out of control - whatever she didn't want to think of, was all she could think of. It had not helped that she had refused to speak to him again for years. If she hadn't feared what was unknown things would have been different. But, once they had reunited, it became obvious to her that the time of mental reckoning, her long dark night of the soul, was all that could have prepared her for what was to come. Nothing else would have given her the strength to begin to understand what was going on. How this worked, why she could see it. How he saw it.

So when he grinned at her and said, "I worry about that too sometimes. But I don't think so," she knew exactly what he was talking about.

That night they had planned, made notes, talked it over, deciding what they would need, how much they could carry, how to travel undetected. Soon they moved on to happier and more familiar subjects, each subsequent night repeating their checklist like a mantra. As the summer progressed he brought it up only rarely, usually a suggestion to add something to the list, and what her thoughts on that would be. Never again did she hear that tight tone to his voice, and he never expanded the subject, dodging the logical progression she was hinting towards and cleverly steering the conversations and streams of consciousness away from the more dangerous, daunting possibilities. They had continued to travel, moving steadily down coastal roads and through quiet towns, each day becoming fitter, smarter, closer together. She realised her greatest strength was also her biggest weakness, but it was so strong it didn't matter, if they took him from her it would be the same as her own abduction. So what was the difference? There was just more of her to lose. She would not trade anything for what she felt and what she had seen, what had brought about this understanding. No wonder they would come for them. They couldn't let that happen, they couldn't let this be. And the knowing feeling that he had ignored for weeks about what must happen and why crept over her too, as it always did, and it made sense. A natural progression. It was foolish to fear that which they could not avoid, although it was impossible not to fear it sometimes, like a jangling current, at the edges of her thoughts...

"Are you ready?" His voice sounded muffled in the small hotel room, but his eyes were still shining, a product of the adrenaline of fight or flight as he always called it, and that made her feel slightly safer, although she tasted puke at the back of her throat and her hands were shaking. As long as he was in that mindstate though, nothing could surprise them. That was something at least. She nodded and slung one set of panniers over her shoulder, lifting the other with her left hand, leaving one hand free to close the door and call the lift. He adopted a similar stance with the heavier bags, but then put one down and rummaged through it. She knew what he was going for. He lifted out the semi-automatic, and as he did every night since they had trained with it, cocked it and checked the safety. Then he tucked it into the back of his belt, pulling his waterproof down over the bulge to conceal it. His gaze met hers and his pupils flashed like cats eyes in the darkness, reflecting the small amount of light in the room back at her. "Okay," he said. “Let's go." His voice did not give away any fear, although she knew he must feel it. She knew his mindstate terrified him, although he had explained that it was also thrilling, undeniably. Her thoughts turned to what she had felt when she had begun to.... No, not now. Now was the time to move, nothing else.

She waited in the hall for a moment as he did a quick scan of the room, then he closed the door quietly and they made for the elevators. He was not running, just hurrying slightly, so she knew they had time, some time at least. In the mirrored lift she caught a glance of her own reflection, looking pale and wide eyed in the faux lighting, the collar of her waterproof tucked at a funny angle underneath the pannier bag. She didn't look again. Too real. The elevator pinged gently as it arrived at the ground floor, and as the doors opened she realised that the reception was empty, the night receptionist in the back office probably watching TV. There was little activity at 4am around these parts. That was good, although there was always the cameras of course. He walked silently over to the main desk, motioning for her to move towards the front door, and dropped the key card onto the register ledger that the hotel manager kept on the front desk purely for show, as all customers must be scanned and logged in the system electronically. She waited inside by the exit, not wanting to know what was outside. As he came towards her the automatic door was triggered, and in the back office the night receptionist stirred from his doze at the sound of it, looking bleary eyed at the monitor that displayed a grainy image of the front foyer. Seeing it was empty, he muttered something about cats and quickly dropped back into dreamless unconsciousness.

Outside the rain was like mist, tiny droplets that fell without a sound, coating everything in moisture. They hurried over to where the bikes were secured, his hands working quickly on the locks as she hoisted her panniers over the racks. Within seconds they were moving. The only sound was the gentle running of their wheels on the road, chains through cogs, the click of a gear. They travelled without lights as they had practiced so often, their eyes adjusting slowly to the half light, their ears attuned to any sound of traffic behind or ahead which would cause them to leave the road until the vehicles passed. It was laborious to stop and find somewhere out of the view of the road every time a vehicle approached, but as they cycled into the night she realised all the practice was for this time, tonight, right now, and she was glad they had done it. From behind her she heard a slight chuckle. As he was shining he was far more receptive than usual, right down to almost the very wording.

"Aye," he said quietly, just above a whisper. "I'm glad we prepared."

She swallowed. It never failed to shock her slightly, even after a lifetime together she knew it would still spin her. Even when she did it too. In fact, especially when she did it too. What was the difference? Surely such connections are two-way? Then she felt him push calmness gently over her, a reminder to keep her mind on the job at hand. "Plenty of time to go over that again later, sweetheart." Did he say that, or just push it? It didn't matter she realized, and with that she clicked up one more gear and began to push a little harder with her legs, her hips quickly warming to the familiar exercise. The misty rain gathered on her face and ran in tiny rivulets down her cheeks like crocodile tears. In her heart she knew then that things were about to change. It was there, in the centre of her chest, like a ball. Push, push, push.

To Be Continued...

Original illustration by Jamie Simpson. All rights reserved.

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