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“There! Get him!”
Ryder ducked just as an officer leaped at him, the man's burly arms wrapping around his torso.
“Ryder Dagotto. It's been a long time coming. Been hunting you for three years.” The officer hissed, landing a punch on Ryder's temple.
Ryder fought under the man's grip, just about away from him when another officer shoved him back down.
“There's no escaping this time. You're under arrest for three accounts of treason and resisting arrest.” The other officer spat.
“So that's what they're calling thinking freely nowadays? I didn't know that the US had become so strict.” Ryder scowled.
The officer rolled his eyes, and turned to the other officer, “They'll be happy with this one.”
Ryder winced as they forced his arms behind his back with much vigor. The officer in front of him sneered, delight in his eyes as pain erupted through Ryder's neck, and opened his palm. A cylindrical device, similar to the making of a pen. Only the tip was gone.
Ryder gulped. The chip. The officer had branded him, administrated the nano-sized mosquito into the back of his neck. A sharp pain erupted through his chest now, the bug burrowing itself deep. A technique used to make sure that the victim of this illegal act, would never be able to dig it out himself.
Hatred burned deep within Ryder, his eyes locking on the man in front of him. He was a product of the corrupt, and he would never care. Not like Ryder had. Not when he had risked his life to leak out all the nasty things he caught the NSA doing. And now it seemed he would just be another victim.
“Get moving. We have a lot to talk about.” The officer said, shoving him into the back of the car.
The other officer had already made his way into the car, but the officer that had locked him in was gazing around, his face filling with suspicion.
He glared back at Ryder, about to say something, and then three shots went off, plummeting into the officer's chest simultaneously. Now coming from three different directions, searching for the other officer.
Ryder dove to the floorboards as much as he could, his heart pounding hard into his chest. But he couldn't wait inside the car. He would never had survived this long by doing that.
Slowly, he opened the car door, listening to the commotion around him. No more firing. That meant whoever was coming had already taken out the other officer. He didn't know if that was good or bad.
His fingers just barely grazed the edge of the officer's body, as he stretched his body out as far as it would go. But he would get nowhere else without the key in the officer's pocket. Not with his wrist cuffed to the seat in front of him. Ryder let a grunt out as he twisted his arm around, the crack as his shoulder popped partially out of place. But even that wasn't enough. He needed to pop it completely out of place. And that would hurt like hell.
Taking a deep breath, he twisted his arm again, this time feeling as his shoulder burst through, hanging loose. He let out a yelp, feeling as though his whole shoulder were on fire. Finally, he was able to pull the body closer to him, the smell of death filling his nostrils. An old adversary of his.
He reached around inside the officer's pockets, fear billowing inside his stomach for the first time in three years. The key wasn't there. After all he had done, the key wasn't there.
“Need some help?”
Ryder swallowed hard before turning to a pear-shaped man. His hickory-colored hair swaying in the wind. Ryder cursed under his breath.
“I told you not to come, Bernie. It's too dangerous to lose you too.” Ryder snipped as the man handed him the small silver key.
“You also said that you would be able to infiltrate the base without any problems. That didn't work out too well for you, now did it?” The man retorted.
Ryder huffed, but the man did have a point. He had been foolish to think that he wouldn't have been captured as soon as he walked onto American soil.
Ryder stood up and faced the man head on, “But at least I got the intel we needed.”
Bernie raised a brow, “How did you manage that?”
Ryder snorted, thinking back on it, “Let's just say that no one was expecting it.”
Bernie whistled, a sharp tune echoing inside Ryder's ears. Something he hadn't heard in months.
And then his heart sank.
“Here.” He said, tossing the small flash drive to the man.
Bernie look startled, “No! Hold onto it. You're the one that found it!”
Ryder shook his head, sadly, “I can't, Bernie. They didn't try to kill me like we'd thought. They got me.”
Tears filled his emerald eyes and he shook his head. Raising a hand to the incoming men.
“You can still come with us, Ryder. You don't have to hide. We can get it out!” He argued.
Ryder wiped an incoming tear, “We both know that'll never work. We must've tried it a thousand times already. No one survives the extraction.”
Bernie clutched onto Ryder's shoulders, trying to shake the despair out of him.
“We can still try! You can't give up now! Just come with us!” He exclaimed.
Ryder snickered, “I can't go with you now, Bern. We can't risk them finding our base.”
“Incoming officers, Bernie! We need to get outta here!” A man hollered behind them.
Bernie clenched his jaw glancing between the men and Ryder. Ryder backed away, babying his right shoulder.
“Get outta here, Bernie, cause I'm not coming with you and we both know that you don't have the time to force me to.” Ryder said.
Bernie looked defeated as Ryder's words hit him. He was right of course. There would be no way thirteen men would escape if they didn't leave right now.
“I'm coming back for you, Ryder. This isn't the end of it. Just...hang in there!” Bernie hollered, bidding him the final farewell.
Ryder smirked despite his disposition, “I know, my friend.”
Then he turned on his heels and scrambled away before the officers caught them all.
Ryder held his arms up into the air, there was no use to run away now. They would be able to trace his every move. He wouldn't have survived the night.
Ryder let out a grunt as his knees hit the ground, the man standing over him with a sneer.
“It's been a long time coming, buddy. And guess what? You're seventeen now.” The man said, pinning Ryder's arms behind his back.
“And it looks like our fellow officers got you before they died. How very nice.” The man continued.
Ryder glared up at the man while keeping his attention on the helicopter above them. It was clear they weren't planning on turning him over to the authorities. The NSA had a better plan for him. What, he had no idea.
“What are you planning?” He snarled.
The man maneuvered around to face him again and snickered, “Did you really think that we would just kill you? No, that would be too easy. We're going to make you wish that you'd never released all those secrets.”
“We know that there are others, so tell us where they are!” The man spat, knocking the wind out of him.
Ryder smirked, “I don't know what you're talking about. There was never any other person that I talked to.”
The man let out a shout of frustration, landing a blow to Ryder's ribs. Ryder grunted, releasing a breath slowly, his ribs burning by now.
“Tell us what we want to know and we'll make this as painless as it need to be, Dagotto.” The man huffed.
Ryder shrugged, “I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about. You'll have to go ask some other lout.”
The man dropped into the seat beside him, clearly done with him. Ryder wouldn't say anything. Even if his life depended on it.
The door opened, the sound of clacking ringing through Ryder's ears. A woman. By now, his eyes were swollen shut, at least one of them, and his ears never failed him.
“He's had enough, Devin. He's just a boy.” The woman spat.
Ryder felt as cool hands brushed against his cheeks and fought with his eyes to gaze at his rescuer. Brown eyes. Black stringy hair.
She shouldn't have been there.
“What're you doing here, Kari?” He questioned.
The woman forced a smile, before ruffling his hair, “A lot has changed from three years ago, little brother.”
Devin gazed between the two, “Wait, he's your brother?”
Kari spun around on Devin with a glare, “Try to hide the disgust in your voice, Devin. It's rude. And yes, the famous Ryder is my little brother, though, he wasn't always such a trouble maker.”
Ryder pulled himself two feet off the floor before collapsing again. Devin had been at it for quite some time.
“But how? How did they accept you in after that?” He questioned.
Ryder was wondering the same thing. Though, he hadn't thought about what his actions had done for his family's lives, he did now. And he regretted it big time. Many people hated him for the Great Revelation. The U.S. had changed because of it.
“Lose the attitude, Devin. I am your superior, and I had already begun my training for the NSA. They knew I had nothing to do with my brother's hacking. Right, Ryder?” Kari said.
Ryder smiled, though it hurt to. His sister hadn't changed a bit.
“I wouldn't have needed your help for that. I had taken pictures, remember? That's all the proof I needed.” He replied.
Devin shook his head in disbelief, “And now I suppose you're going to take him away from me? My capture.”
Kari rolled her eyes, “It's nothing against you, Devin. It's just...the NSA wants results, and obviously you aren't doing it.”
Kari snapped her fingers and the door opened again. This time, a man stormed into the room, making his way toward Ryder.
“Be careful with him, Gregory. He's in no condition to try and run for it. I know his limits.” Kari said.
Ryder gasped as Gregory yanked him onto his feet, his rib caving in on him. At least, that's what it felt like.
Kari returned her attention to Devin, “Don't look so upset. When we get the answers out of him, you'll get some credit. After all, you did bring him in. Kind of.”
Devin's nostrils flared with anger, “He's my capture, Dagotto, and I will take it up with them!”
Kari shrugged, “Go ahead, but I doubt they'll grant you the access. You did lose him in the first place.”
And with that, she followed Gregory and Ryder out the door. Leaving Devin alone in his own demise.
Ryder opened his eyes, pain flaring up his side. He kicked out, but nothing was there. Nothing but glass. His heart leapt. Glass all around him. Where was he? And why was couldn't he move?
His arms remained at his sides, held down my metal manacles. Where did his sister go? And his clothes?
His eyes became heavy again, almost like all the energy in his body was sapped out of him. He shook himself awake before he fell back under. He didn't know what else they were going to do to him. And he didn't want to find out.
But it didn't matter. Just as before, his eyes snapped shut with no apparent reason.
Muffled voices. Angry muffled voices. Ryder opened his eyes and found that he was no longer inside that strange glass box. He could also see straight. Come to think of it, he could also walk without pain. In fact, there was no pain at all. But how was that possible?
He stood up, stumbling to a mirror in the next room. His face. It was completely healed. Even the scars that he'd received a few months ago. But how? How had they done it?
“It's amazing, isn't it?”
Ryder jumped, letting out a small squeak as Kari made her way to him.
“How is this possible?” He asked.
She shrugged, “I'm not quite sure. My only job was to find you.”
Ryder pursed his lips. So that was their angle. They hadn't gone after Kari like they had for his grandparents because she was their weapon. She was the key to finding him.
“You know that they're using you, right? You can't trust them.” He replied. She shook her head.
“Ryder, I am them, now. We're not like you painted us in the news. We do care. All we've done is because we care.” She argued.
Anger flared deep inside Ryder's chest and he wasn't able to hold it back.
“You think beating citizens mercilessly is caring? You think that arresting and executing citizens because they protest is caring? Or murdering thousands of people?” He spat.
She rolled her eyes, “They did those things for a good reason, Ryder.”
His brows arched, “Oh, yeah? I'd like to hear the reason that's good enough to murder innocent citizens!”
Her shoulders raised in tension, “They were trying to protect us all from another terrorist attack! It was thousands or millions!”
“When the U.S. starts bombing their own citizens they're just as bad as the terrorists!” He shouted.
Her eyes flared with fury, “It was thousands or millions!”
Something snapped inside him, the last straw. The last sense of love that he'd had for his sister.
“Mom and Dad were in there, Kari! And I can't believe you're taking their side! You should be fighting along side me! You should be standing for what is right like Mom and Dad did! You should be fighting to release innocents!” He shrieked, tears streaming down his face.
She raised a hand, to quiet him down, “Mom and Dad were wrong, and I wish you would've seen that before you had become wrong as well.”
Ryder clenched his fists, his anger dangerously high. He was afraid that if anything more set him off, his chest would explode.
“Then you don't know what's wrong, Kari. And I'm sorry I didn't save you from that. We could've been a great team, saving all the citizens before it came to this. Before officers ran around injecting people with chips so they could keep their surveillance. Before they started torturing people for answers.” He said.
The door opened behind them, Gregory trailing in, probably trying to keep Ryder under control.
“So that's your excuse for all that you've done? All the lives that have been destroyed? They tortured a few people and bombed a few thousands? Unbelievable.” She replied.
Ryder scowled. He couldn't stand his sister anymore. The NSA thought that they could control him through his sister, but that would never happen. His sister had become heartless.
“I won't give you the answers you want, Kari. Unlike you, they treat me like family. When everyone else abandoned me, they took me in. Hid me from all you.” He said.
“Then you leave me no choice, Ryder. I had hoped that you would've just told me, but it looks like I'm going to have to torture my own brother.” She sighed.
Ryder stood firm, his heart pounding with fear, but he wouldn't show them fear. Especially not his sister. Not for all that she would do. Could do.
“Then do what you will.” He swallowed.
It turned out that torturing him meant locking him inside a cold room for eight hours. And he didn't mind it too much. It wasn't like he hadn't been in Russia for two years. He gazed up at the thermostat. 12 degrees. Not enough to do any real damage. After all, they wanted their prisoner to survive. Even if frostbitten.
Too bad for them that Kari knew him as much as he knew Devin. Not that well.
While Ryder grew up with his grandparents during his teenage years, his sister lived out on her own, working many part-time jobs before she was apparently accepted into the NSA program.
He released a breath through his nostrils and gulped another one in through his mouth. His grandpa had taught him that. A breathing exercise to calm the nerves. He wondered if his grandfather had used that when the U.S. had arrested him for fake evidence. Somehow, he imagined that his sister had something to do with that.
There was something timeless about looking at the door handle frost over. Maybe it was the reality that that was probably happening to his insides. Or maybe it was the thought that it could bring death. An end to all this torture. All the anguish he'd gone through since he'd been outside that horrid day.
Only after another hour passed, the door opened. Only this time, it wasn't his sister. Or Gregory. Or Devin. But a familiar one.
“Lionel? What're you doing here?” Ryder questioned, his teeth chattering.
The tall scraggly man peered around before motioning for Ryder to follow, a gun at the ready.
“Bernie sent me to free you, and by the looks of it, if I had come a moment later, you would've been in deep cryogenic sleep.” Lionel whispered.
Ryder stopped walking, “You can't take me with you, Lionel. That's what they're planning on. They want you all to come for me so that they can find the base.”
Lionel snickered, “That what Bernie said you'd say. That's why we're not going to the base. We're going to a hospital, where we'll take that chip right outta you.”
Ryder shook his head. They were all going to get caught because of him! They had to leave him there!
“I'm not coming, Lionel. I can't risk any of you being caught.” He hissed.
Lionel frowned, “Then I'm sorry about this, sir. C'mon out boys! And hurry before anyone comes on out!”
Ryder squinted gazing around. Three other men came out from the shadows, grabbing onto his arms and yanking him forward.
“Lionel, call them off! You're going to get all yourselves killed!” Ryder hissed.
Lionel shrugged, “Then I guess it was all for a good cause. We're not leaving you, Ryder.”
Ryder struggled against their grips, doing all but dragging his feet, but that was because they were holding him up too high. Panic was gripping him. He didn't want anything to happen to these people. And they wouldn't listen to his pleads.
“I'm sorry, Ryder, this is going to hurt, but we can't have any struggling.” Lionel said.
Before Ryder could react, he felt a sharp pain in his right arm. He could already feel his body relaxing.
“How're you feeling?”
“You're a prick, Bernie.” He replied, sitting up in the bed.
Bernie smirked and stood up, his double chin spreading as he did so.
“I told you that I was coming back for you, and I always keep my promises.” He grinned.
Ryder gazed around the room, his foggy vision finally clearing. The stench of peroxide and soap filled his nostrils. And the heart monitor and white walls confirmed his thoughts. He was in the hospital. Just like Lionel had said.
“This procedure isn't going to work. You know that, right?” He finally said. Bernie frowned at the thought.
“Of course it's going to work. I've got the best doctor in America working on it. We're going to get that damn chip out of your chest.” He said.
Ryder rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. Bernie was always like that. Always arguing. Always acting on emotion. That's why Ryder was the figure head. Not him.
“Don't look at me like that! You knew good and well that we were all going to agree on the procedure! You're the leader for goodness sake!” Bernie exclaimed.
Ryder crossed his arms, “That doesn't mean that you should have. Now because of me, you may all be executed. Or worse.”
Bernie opened his mouth, but there was a knock on the door, interrupting both their thoughts.
A stocky man with a long white jacket. The doctor. Holding a clipboard. He grinned at Ryder as soon as he entered the room, and held out his hand.
“It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Dagotto. And an honor to be working on the extraction of the chip.” He said.
Ryder scowled. The doctor looked taken aback.
“Don't worry about him, Doctor. He's just upset because he's afraid that risking our necks for him will get us caught.” Bernie told him.
The doctor sighed, “Well, thank goodness. I was afraid that I'd done something wrong.”
Ryder sat up straight, “But you will Doctor. I'm not worth the risk, all you need to go home and leave me for the NSA to find.”
The doctor shook his head, “I would never leave you, young man. It's an honor to even be in your presence. You've saved millions of lives.”
Ryder shrugged. And so it goes.
“Don't think too highly of me. If I had known the repercussions then I probably wouldn't have done it. Not if it meant the murders of my grandparents.” He replied.
Bernie rolled his eyes, “Both you and I know good and well that you would still choose to expose them. But there's no use in talking about the past. Are you ready for the procedure?”
The doctor nodded, “The staff is prepped for our...special guest and they're all ecstatic to be working for such a fantastic young man.”
The doctor turned to face Ryder now, “But I need to knock you out before I can start. We're not going to want to have struggling when we're digging around in your chest.”
Ryder's heart stopped. So they were actually going to do it. And he was going to be out for it. What if something happened? He wouldn't be able to protect anyone. He would be worthless.
He gazed up into Bernie's eyes, “I hope you're right about this. I would really hate to find your body in an alley somewhere.”
Bernie rested a hand on his shoulder, a sign of comfort. The two stared back at each other for a minute, understanding passing between the two. They knew what could happen.
“You're going to feel a slight pinch, then very tired. After that, it's all up to us.” The doctor said.
Ryder nodded as the doctor made his way to the side of the bed, pushing the needle into the wires stuck in his veins.
The doctor gave him a reassuring nod, Ryder's eyes feeling heavy. He craned his neck, about to call out to Bernie, but it was too late. Something wasn't right. The doctor seemed too eager. The building too quiet. He could feel it. But he also couldn't do something about it.
His eyes closed.
Ryder groaned, his head feeling as though it had exploded and pieced itself back together.
“Ryder, we've got to get out of here!”
Ryder sat up, suddenly wide awake.
“Bernie? What's going on?” He asked.
Bernie peered out the door, pulling out a pistol from his right ankle.
“One of the doctors ratted on us. The NSA is here. They would've gotten you too, if I hadn't been there a few seconds later.” He said, shooting.
Ryder's stomach churned. He didn't want to go back there. He couldn't. He wouldn't. He'd kill himself before then.
Ryder stumbled across the room to Bernie, catching himself with the wall.
Four NSA agents. How would they get out of this?
“Here. I'm going to need backup when we make our move.” Bernie said, tossing him another pistol.
Ryder raised a brow, “Bernie, where do you get all these guns?”
Bernie smirked slightly before shooting again, “How 'bout I tell you when we get outta here?”
Ryder peered out the door again, watching as another man fell to the ground. But they just kept coming. Like there was a never ending supply.
And then the unexpected happened. A man, a NSA agent walked in and made the others lower their guns. In fact, he dropped his gun.
Bernie gazed at Ryder with a look of confusion, then back at the man.
“We're not here to fight, Mr. Bernard. This was only a retrieval mission, we just want Ryder Dagotto. In fact, we're willing to let you go, if you just let him go.” The man hollered.
Ryder's eyes widened. They couldn't be serious! They couldn't make an exchange!
Ryder grabbed ahold of Bernie's arm, his eyes pleading, “You can't turn me over. Please don't turn me over!”
Bernie turned back to the man, his eyes calculating.
“So what will it be? Turn the boy over or run?” The man asked, taking a step forward.
Ryder snarled with disgust. The arrogance! He just knew that Bernie was going to turn him over!
Bernie raised his gun, a smirk spreading across his face, and shot, “Hell no!”
The man collapsed to the ground, rage spreading across his face as he clutched onto his shoulder, “Get them!”
Bernie turned to Ryder, “Run!”
And then they were out. Running past all the men, Ryder taking the front as Bernie shot from the sides. But there were so many of them. And the door was at least thirty feet away. Not to mention all the agents scouring the floor, searching for him.
“Just like old times, huh, Ryder?” Bernie hollered, as he c***ed his gun.
Ryder ducked behind the wall as a man shot at them from the side.
“Yeah, I guess it is.” He said, breathing heavily.
Bernie rolled out of the way and pulled ammunition out from his pocket as an agent took aim. Pointed directly at Ryder.
Ryder stood there a moment, stunned. They were really going to shoot him? Kill him in cold blood? For what reason?