Sunday, June 4, 2017 | By: Drotuno

Six - Chapter 27

Chapter 27
Bella
New York City
It had been a few weeks since the big fight with Aro in Seattle. Things had quickly settled back into routine, like we’d had before Jane turned up on the Cullens’ doorstep, only this time, there was a lightness to it, a carefree feeling that seemed to have wrapped itself around each of us like a warm hug. With Aro gone and Caius in prison, Marcus was working on getting VI back up and running – the good parts of it, anyway. The legal parts. They were still doing genetic research, still working on some things for the military, but all of it, he’d assured us, was on the up and up. The things they started the company for in the first place, before Aro turned it into his personal playground for research into sixxers.
Benjamin hadn’t been kidding when he said it was time to think about a government-type group for sixxers. Between him, Carlisle, and Eleazar, they’d accomplished it in just a couple of weeks. The three of them, plus Rae, Marcus, and Randall – who’d evidently been a marine when he was younger – were now the unofficial sixxer government. The rest of us had agreed to help when we were needed, but the six of them were “in charge,” although none of us truly knew yet exactly what that would entail…except Benjamin had already texted to let us know we might have our first assignment, which was why Edward and I were sitting on the living room sofa with Carlisle, the rest of the family gathered behind us, as we waited for Benjamin’s call.

“You really don’t know what he wants?” Jasper asked.
Edward groaned and reached back to smack at his brother, who jumped back to avoid the hit. “No, man. And that hasn’t changed since you asked the last time.”
“Boys,” Esme chided, although indulgence was clear in her voice. “He’s just curious, Edward. We all are.”
“Yeah, well, he can be patient,” Edward mumbled under his breath, making me grin.
I poked him with my elbow and pushed a thought at him. Aren’t you just a little bit excited to hear what he wants?
When he side-eyed me, I could see the glint of amusement in his eyes, and he nodded once. Of course. But that’s the third time he’s asked since Benjamin called. Impatient bastard.
I grinned again and shook my head. Before I could say more, the phone rang.
Carlisle snagged it from the coffee table, glanced at the screen, and hit a button. “Hello, Benjamin. You’re here with everyone.”
“Hello, everyone,” Benjamin said after a short laugh. “Irina’s on with us.”
We all echoed our helloes to Irina, who laughed and said hi in return.
“I think I’ll let Irina explain,” Benjamin said once it was quiet again. “She’s the one who originally brought this to my attention.”
“As you know,” Irina said confidently, “I started looking for sixxers before, when we were still hiding from Aro. I’ve continued… Well, I’ll get into that in a minute. Before that, take a look at the e-mail I sent you, Carlisle. I want your opinions on something.”
With a rush of air, Jasper grabbed Carlisle’s laptop from the kitchen table and deposited it in front of him.
Carlisle opened it, put in a password to unlock it, and pulled up his e-mail, finding the one from Rios, Irina, with a subject of “Video.” He clicked on the included link, which took him to a shared file in the cloud. It was a large video and took a couple of minutes to download, but then he double-clicked it, and it was like we held our collective breaths waiting to see what appeared.
The first thing that caught my eye was a giant warehouse in the background, huge flames shooting out of it, silhouetted against the graying sky of early evening. I could see firemen in their turnout gear, some carrying hoses, some running from one side of the screen to the other. Police were keeping a small crowd back, including a good number of news crews, such as ABC7 Chicago, with Kara Wolpert reporting, according to the ticker under her name.
“Yes, John, I’m here in University Village, where a fire in this large, abandoned warehouse has been blazing for over an hour. Firefighters are having a hard time getting it under control. So far there are no reports of injuries, but they’re working to keep it from sp—”
She was interrupted by a huge clap of thunder in the background, and then rain came pouring down behind her. Within minutes, after a combination of the torrential downpour and water from the firemen’s hoses, the fire was out, leaving a black, soggy mess of a crumbling building.
“What just happened, Kara?” a silver-haired man at the news desk asked the on-scene reporter. He sounded shocked, which matched the reporter’s expression perfectly.
“That was a…freak storm, John,” she answered. “I… It looks like it rained just in the right spot, just the right amount, to put the fire out.”
“Kara, I’m getting reports that the rain was concentrated on the building with the fire. Is that correct?”
“Y-Yes, that is correct,” Kara said. “As you can see,” she continued as the camera panned the crowd and the area behind them, “no one here is wet. The ground is dry. The only ones affected were the firefighters closest to the building.”
The scene changed back to the news room, showing both anchors. “Well, that was lucky,” John said, smiling at his co-anchor.
The pretty young woman with almost too-white teeth smiled and said, “God works in mysterious ways, John.” After a pause, she continued, “Now on to sports, with Ted Smathers.”
I blinked, trying to understand what I’d seen. But then the video continued with a different story, and I focused back on the screen.
This time, it was of a newscast in Des Moines, Iowa. The meteorologist was pointing at the screen behind him, which showed what looked like dried and dying corn fields. “As you know, Terry and Michelle, corn is a huge source of revenue for farmers in Iowa. Lack of rain has the farmers worried about whether or not their fields will be able to bounce back when we finally do get some much-needed moisture.”
“When will that be, Lucas?” the female anchor, Michelle, asked.
Lucas shook his head slowly. “I’m not sure, unfortunately. We don’t see any sign of rain for the next two weeks. If that doesn’t change, our local farmers will be hurting.”
“We’ll certainly keep our fingers crossed for some good news,” Terry chimed in. “Now for a story to make everyone smile. A young boy was walking past a storm grate and heard a sound. What he found inside was a shock.”
The video cut out and jumped right back in to the same studio with the same news anchors.
“It’s been just three days since we spoke about the dry weather and how it will affect our farmers, but since that broadcast, a miracle has happened. More on that with Meteorologist Lucas Jent. Lucas?”
The same weatherman we’d seen before was out in the field this time – literally. He was standing on the edge of a corn field, dressed in a dark-green poncho. Beside him was an older, heavier man in denim overalls, a plaid shirt, and covered in his own clear poncho.
“I’m here with corn farmer Elmer Caughey,” Lucas began. “Just three days ago, Mr. Caughey was sure this year’s crop of corn was as good as dust, but not twelve hours after our broadcast on Thursday, a miracle happened. Out of nowhere, it started to rain. This was a random and completely unexpected weather pattern, Terry and Michelle. It didn’t even show up on our radar until it began – and now it’s been a slow, steady rain going on for three days, giving farmers like Mr. Caughey here much-needed relief. How does it feel, seeing this rain, Mr. Caughey?”
“I tol’ my wife, Cindy, that I figured God done sent a angel down from heaven with a bucket a water. It’s a mir’cle, if ya ask me. Saved my crops and my family’s life, fer sure.”
The camera cut to Michelle back in the station. “Lucas, all that water… It’s not causing flooding?”
When it was focused back on Lucas, he answered, “No, it’s quite a controlled rain, Michelle. Steady but slow, giving the dry crops and dry ground time to soak it all in. Farmers in the area are raising their glasses in thanks for, like Mr. Caughey said, this apparent miracle of Mother Nature.”
The video cut off, only to start again immediately with a third news station, this time ABC 7 in Los Angeles, according to the logo. The handsome, dark-haired reporter, Wyatt Vasbinder, was standing outside Hillsdale Medical Clinic, a solemn, concerned expression on his face – eyebrows drawn tight, lips thinned, cheeks taut.
“Firefighters have been working for days to contain the wildfire spreading through Southern California. But it’s taken an odd turn and is now heading here, toward Hillsdale Medical Center just behind me. On the other side of the hospital? Hillsdale Nursing Home. Just beyond that? One of the largest housing subdivisions in the area. A source within the fire department has said they’re working to contain it before it gets here.”
He held a hand up to his ear, obviously listening to something over his earpiece. “There,” he said, turning and pointing in the direction of the hospital, where multiple ambulances could be seen pulling up in both the front and around the side near the Emergency Room. The camera panned a small crowd roaming outside the hospital, gazes trained to the fire in the distance. Then it returned to Wyatt, who continued. “Those in charge at Hillsdale have begun emergency evacuation protocols in case the fire can’t be stopped. I’m told the nursing home has begun the same. Authorities have also begun visiting residents in the area and asking them to leave their homes until it’s safe to return.”
It didn’t surprise me when the video jumped and the reporter was back, wide-eyed and excited compared to the previous video. “Just two hours later, the fire that was headed directly toward Hillsdale Medical Center has been contained. A freak wind and rainstorm descended only minutes after my previous update. The wind pushed the fire back toward the barrier the firefighters had made while rain drenched the area around the hospital, nursing home, and subdivision, which kept them safe until the flames were put out. The wind and rain affected only this area, which Fire Chief Nathaniel Lawson called odd, but he said he was grateful for the miracle nonetheless.”
The video faded to black, and everyone started talking at once. I could hear them, but my attention was focused on the screen.
“Bella?” Edward called gently. “What did you see?”
“I don’t…” I shook my head. “I don’t know. Start it again. Go back to the first one and stop where they show the crowd.”
Edward did as I requested, slowing it to half-speed when the camera moved away from the reporter.
“Stop,” I said quickly. “There!” I reached out and touched the screen over the shadowy form of what looked like a young man with dark hair, wearing jeans, a dark hoodie with the hood up and his hands in his pockets.
“Do you know him, Bella?” Carlisle asked gently.
I shook my head. “No… I’ve never seen him before the video.” I chewed my lip for a moment and then said, “Skip ahead to the first of the wildfire videos.”
When Edward had it cued to the right spot, I nodded for him to play and then I reached out and hit the space bar to stop it when I saw him again.
“There! See?” I turned to Edward and then Carlisle, my eyebrows raised. “I think that’s the same guy. He’s wearing different clothes, but the height’s the same, the hair color’s the same, the way he’s hunched over, as if he’s trying to be invisible…”
“Very good, Bella,” Benjamin praised from the phone, and I nearly jumped. I’d forgotten he and Irina were on the phone.
“That’s what I noticed, too, Bella,” Irina said. “And if you continue playing it, he turns and the camera gets a good shot of his face. I sent it to Benjamin to run through the FBI’s facial-recognition software…”
There was a long pause, and I waited, tense, to see if he’d found anything.
“And I got a hit,” Benjamin finally said. “Kobe Chittam applied for a passport four years ago when he was going overseas with a high school music group. He’s twenty now and lives in…Chicago.”
Several of us gasped, and I could hear whispers behind me. I raised an eyebrow and looked at Edward. “Makes sense,” I murmured, “since that’s where the first one was from.”
“But that’s not all,” Benjamin said once we’d all quieted. Ignoring everyone’s immediate questions, he explained, “Marcus and I have been going through all the files from VI, and that includes all the names of the sixxers Aro and Caius took and kept in Seattle and then in Washington. Kobe Chittam was also one of the sixxers you guys freed in Seattle.”
~oOo~
Edward and I followed Benjamin up the stairs to Kobe’s third-floor apartment in Chicago. The complex was old and in need of a lot of repairs, but I didn’t see any obvious signs of illegal activities – no drug deals or prostitutes in the stairwell or out front. So it could’ve been worse. The second floor smelled like someone had been cooking Indian food all day, and both it and the first floor housed a crying baby. The third floor was quiet, and listening through Edward’s mind, I didn’t hear anything out of the norm. An older couple watching Wheel of Fortune. A young woman getting ready for her shift at the diner down the block. And Kobe, who seemed to be playing a video game killing zombies.
Benjamin got a nod from Edward and then knocked lightly at the door. The sound from inside shut off abruptly, and I could hear footsteps as Kobe made his way to the door. His mind curious but not worried.
He opened the door just enough for the chain to catch. “Can I help you?”
Giving him a friendly smile, Benjamin said, “Kobe Chittam? My name’s Benjamin Amici. This is Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. We’re…” He looked over at us and shrugged. “We have some things in common with you and would like to chat.”
I saw Kobe’s fear flash across his face – his eyes widened, his breath quickened – at the same time his thoughts hit.
Shit! Can’t let them get me! I’m not going back to that place!
“No, Kobe,” I soothed quickly. “We aren’t with Aro. He’s gone, I promise. We’re the good guys. We were the ones who took him down.”
He still looked frightened, but he hadn’t shut the door yet, so I continued quietly, not wanting the others on the floor to hear.
“He took me too – Aro, I mean. I escaped and was on my own till Edward and his family found me. Then we met Benjamin, and he helped us rescue everyone else. You were one of the ones who escaped the first time.”
“He’s really gone?”
I nodded. “I promise. He’s dead, and his brother is in prison.”
“You aren’t going to make me go with you?”
Before I could shake my head, Edward jumped in. “Not like you mean, Kobe. But we do need to talk—” he looked around “privately, if you don’t mind.”
Kobe thought about it for a long minute but then nodded. The door shut, we heard the sound of the chain being taken off, and then it opened again. “Come on in, then.”
After we all sat down in the living room, Benjamin explained more about the three of us – including our talents and how alike his and Benjamin’s were – and how we’d found him.
“I…I didn’t realize,” Kobe said thinly, looking chagrined. “I just want to do something to help. I have this…this weird ability, and I want to use it to do good. I didn’t think about how it looked to others.”
“We get it,” I promised. “And you did do a lot of good. You saved a lot of lives. But you’ve got to find a better way to go about it. We’re not saying you need to stop, just be a little more circumspect about it.”
“What we’d like to do,” Edward said, taking over from me, “is bring you to Florida and introduce you to Randall and Seth. Randall is a great older gentleman who can control plants and ‘green stuff,’ as he likes to tell it. Seth is fifteen and can stop time.” He smirked at Kobe’s big eyes. “Yeah, it’s pretty cool, but he learned a long time ago just how far he can push it before it throws off reality.”
“So you want me to move to Florida? What about my job here? What would I do for money?” He looked skeptical.
Edward nodded. “I’m sure we could help you find something down there, and while you’re there, you won’t have to pay for rent or anything. We’d help you out with that. And once you’ve figured out with Randall how to help without drawing attention your way, then you could move back here if you want, or we could help you move to wherever you’d like to live. It would up to you completely.”
Through Edward, I heard Kobe wondering what would happen if he said no, but he quickly doused that thought since he didn’t actually want to attract attention, so listening to us seemed to be a good idea.
“Okay,” he agreed aloud. “I’d…like to give my boss a couple weeks’ notice, though. Would that be okay?”
Benjamin nodded. “Of course. I’m sure it would be appreciated. If you know you’d like to come back here and want to work that job again, you can tell him you’ll be back, and then I can speak with him officially later if I need to and explain you were helping the FBI, if that would get your job back for you.”
Kobe snorted and shook his head. “Nah. I like it there at the movie theater, but they won’t exactly have a problem finding someone else to run the projectors. I can find something else later. Thanks, though.”
After giving him one of Benjamin’s cards with our names and numbers also scrawled on the back, the three of us said our good-byes.
“Thanks,” Kobe said, reaching up to run a hand through his hair. He looked down at the ground and stubbed at the carpet with the toe of his sneaker for a minute before looking back up at us. “For getting me out of there, I mean. It was…well, you know,” he finished, glancing my way and frowning. “And thanks for being cool about this. You could have totally taken me and locked me up for possibly exposing us all.”
“You didn’t know,” Edward said with a shrug. “Now you do. I’m sure you’ll be more careful, yeah?”
Kobe smiled sheepishly. “Yeah.”
“I will. I promise,” he vowed.
I stepped back and opened a window to Benjamin’s office. He gave us a quick nod before he stepped in and then disappeared when the window closed.
Shaking his head, Kobe smiled. “Crazy awesome…”
I laughed and then waved as I opened a window to the apartment in New York and stepped through after Edward, letting the window close behind me.
~oOo~
We were hit with a wave of noise when we opened my bedroom door, and I could see Edward visibly flinch as the silent noise slammed into his mind at the same time.
Carlisle and Esme were in the kitchen – from the spicy, rich scents wafting through the apartment, it seemed like Esme’s enchiladas were on the menu for dinner – and Carlisle was being his normal self while cooking, which meant he was banging around pots and pans and singing “Les Poissons.” He loved being in the kitchen with Esme and singing or humming Disney songs about cooking – his current favorites were from Ratatouille, but apparently it was Little Mermaid today.
Jasper and Emmett were in the living room playing some shoot-’em-up video game on the big screen. Sometimes they wore headphones; today they weren’t, since I could hear the guns firing, commands shouted, and words exchanged about covering this or hitting that.
Ordinarily, Rose and Alice’s conversation while doing their weekly manicures would be a quiet thing, between just the two of them, but between Carlisle belting out French and the boys doing their thing, they felt the need to speak louder than normal just to be heard. Their latest TV obsession was Gilmore Girls, and this necessitated an argument about who Rory belonged with: Dean, Jess, or Logan. From what I could hear, Rose was all about bad-boy-with-a-good-heart Jess, while Alice preferred the more “mature” Logan.
I giggled when Edward pulled me back into the bedroom and quickly shut the door. Wrapping his arms around me, he dropped his forehead to mine with a sigh.
I ran my hands up and down his back, lightly scratching his skin through the T-shirt. I knew after all the time at school, the fights with Aro and his minions, not to mention just being out and about in New York in general, he needed a break from all the noise – both literal and mental. We’d been teasing back and forth for a while about heading to a deserted island, but up till now, there wasn’t a great time to take a vacation. There was always something stopping us – fights with bad guys, finishing school, family… But now…
“Edward,” I said softly, not wanting to break the peace of the moment. “Maybe it’s time to look into that deserted island, hmm?”
“Yeah?” he mumbled against my lips before kissing me gently.
I nodded, smiling. “Yeah.”
“I’m in,” he sighed. “All in, Bella.”

2 comments:

trbuie said...

It seems like their lives can go back to some type of normal now. That is good. :)

Moltz said...

Since they formed something like the Justice League, will there be sixxers that get punished or destroyed like Aro? (Even though Aro was not a natural sixxer) or rehabilitation?
Is there a registry for sixxers to ascribe?
What is the life expectancy of a sixxer?
Edward and Bella deserve a peaceful moment to themselves.

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