A Different Matter Altogether, Part 3
By Camospam, Wendy K. and Gabi.
A Non-Canon Whateley Universe Adventure
The searing light had such intensity it burned retinas in a single glance, it even forced Cameron to look away and cover his eyes. Even with his enhanced vision Cameron couldn’t endure keeping his eyes open, he needed to blink several times in order to clear the penetrating glare.
Cameron had been convinced beyond a doubt that this travesty couldn’t be allowed to continue, he’d been preparing to generate an electrical shock wave that would impede mental activity, hopefully incapacitating the crowd. How far he could have reached would’ve been guess work. The solution at hand was far superior to anything Cameron could muster.
Checking on Ahmed, the man was trembling as he pressed his face hard against Cameron’s shoulder, ensuring he didn’t look at the blinding light. Cameron quickly glanced to the side, seeing people begin dropping to the ground, fainting from fear.
The incredible display of raw power had welded everyone present to the exact spot they occupied, rendering them unable to move, unable to escape the impending judgement. Cameron lifted his foot to see if he too was grounded, both he and Ahmed could move so he guided Ahmed outside the amphitheatre. Getting removed from proximity to the intense brilliance lessened the feeling of static electricity in the air, although it wasn’t until they’d stepped outside the church that Cameron allowed Ahmed to open his eyes.
Once Ahmed calmed down enough to stop shaking, Cameron asked Ahmed to go get the bus with all haste, giving him the old motorcycle to quicken him on his way. Removing his disguise and tucking it away in his Cupboard, Cameron pulled out his silver visor and donned the clothes he’d started the mission with.
Cameron attempted to return into the grand arena, but his access was barred, a glowing presence prevented his entrance. An outstretched hand stopped Cameron in his tracks, at which he was told: “Your work here is done.”
The youth was taken aback, being told ‘no’ is hard to contend with when you’ve tried so hard. It was not so much a matter of being disappointed. It was more an issue that he’d not completed his assignment and he didn’t want to let those kids down. He felt like he’d been going a hundred miles an hour, and now, suddenly, he was supposed to come to a complete stop. It was tough to wrap his head around, he now appreciated how Swift must feel every time he put on the brakes.
But still, Cameron needed to know. He was torn up inside, so asked: “What’s going to happen?”
“It is not your concern, your services are no longer required.”
Was he really expected to just walk away? To forget about it? It didn’t sit well, too many loose ends left over, besides - it had become personal. He’d suffered because of this. The willpower it was taking to not press forward and stay involved, it was like trying to put a plug on a volcano. Yet, he took a deep breath, cooled his heals as it were. Letting his emotions settle caused his demeanour to slacken, reflecting a submission to authority.
“Your desire to help speaks well of you. But know this, had you interfered, it would have tainted the evidence you gathered and corrupted the rendering of judgement, making everything that’s happened this day invalid.”
It was a reprimand. It was true - he’d nearly taken matters into his own hands. Seeing what they did to that poor little girl had pushed Cameron into hysteria. The cruelty and hatred had almost consumed him. He’d been ready to step beyond his role, despite all the warning provided against letting such happen.
“I apologize for letting myself get too involved,” confessed Cameron, admitting he was in the wrong. “I won’t get attached again.”
“It is not a crime to care. Take heart, these will be judged, the evidence you uncovered leaves no doubt regarding guilt. Remember that no man who values hatred and violence greater than compassion shall go unpunished. If they act like wild beasts then they shall be treated as beasts.”
“It’s the Shard’s doing, it corrupts the heart,” recounted Cameron. He wondered aloud: “Could the Shard be the Artificer’s Amulet?”
“No, the Amulet was destroyed at the Cleansing, besides, it affected the mind - not the heart. We shall investigate this Shard further, your contribution is appreciated.”
Cameron nodded at the compliment, but he needed to ask: “What of the innocent, the children held against their will?”
“They are given into your hand, take them far away from here.”
“The little girl,” he mentioned remorsefully, “her throat was slit.” The memory hurt to even mention it. Cameron hadn’t been near enough to be able to do anything to help her and she had undoubtedly died.
“She too is given to you.”
Cameron gasped in amazement, it was a kindness rarely granted, but since they served the God of life, death wasn’t much of a hurdle. Cameron was directed to stand aside so that a line of people could approach. Walking in single file were all the hostages, not only the children - including the little blonde girl, but also the three captured soldiers. Additionally, there were an assortment of other captured people, some youths along with a few adults. Cameron noted that three mutants walked in their midst.
The entire ensemble were being herded out, in a daze of sorts, but nobody was hooded or bound in any way. As they neared Cameron, he determined that they weren’t fully cognizant of the events transpiring around them. Their eyes were open but didn’t focus on anything or anyone. Cameron guessed it was a protection so as not to be overwhelmed.
“Thank you,” said Cameron with a slight bow to express his gratitude. He approached the freed captives and took charge of directing them. He led them through the church’s vast halls to bring them out through the main gates.
Much like how little Ahmed had led him by the hand, the hostages walked with one arm touching the person ahead. No-one stopped them and nobody noticed their departure. The Brotherhood of the Shard had more pressing matters to contend with at the moment.
Once outside Cameron gently touched each person’s face with both hands, it allowed them to open their eyes fully, it also ensured they saw his smiling face as assurance that they really were okay. Cameron greeted each of them in turn, saying with a calm and delicate tone: “My name is Outlook, I’m here to take you to safety.” When asking their names, the completely baffled looks upon some of the youth’s faces gave Cameron pause, so he asked: “How many of you speak English?”
Of the newly freed children a dozen held up their hands, three from the group containing the mutants, plus each of the soldiers. A pregnant lady who’d been with the mutants spoke up saying: “I’m a translator, perhaps I can help.” At that, the third soldier rushed up to her, embracing her, and they engaged in a long passionate kiss. They must know each other gathered Cameron, either that or local customs were perhaps a touch too affectionate for his comfort.
Upon closer inspection the woman wore garb akin to the ladies in Ahmed’s family, and she was - six months pregnant according to Cameron’s detailed sight, however, she was not a mutant. She and the soldier wore matching rings, so their reunion was warranted and heartfelt, both a relief and heart warming.
Once his lips weren’t under assault the soldier addressed Cameron: “My name is John, I was posted at the British consulate, this is my wife Cassandra. We were captured at the airport trying to get a flight out. What happened back there?”
A worthwhile question, one that Cameron was uncertain about how much to tell, how much they already knew, how much they would believe. So he needed to deflect the topic for the time being.
“Can we return to that later, once we get further away from here?” Cameron asked, hoping it wouldn’t become confrontational. Thankfully he received a nod of acceptance from John.
Having the group walk a couple blocks away from the religious edifice, which sang out with sounds of anguish, Cameron set up a table with food and drink upon it. Why it is that captors always felt justified denying life’s necessities was beyond the boy, but these people would need some nourishment if they were to travel.
“There is food and drink available. Please help yourselves,” invited Outlook, motioning them to partake of what was on the table. The lady translated for the benefit of those who didn’t understand. A few simply followed what the others did without further prompts, sometimes the language of an empty stomach overrides the spoken word.
Cameron took Boot and Git aside, asking how they felt, determining if they could act as guards for the rescued group to which they agreed. In particular, they introduced themselves to the four Canadian children to let them know to stay close and that they’d be reunited with their parents soon.
The group heard the bus before seeing it. Cameron hadn’t fixed the muffler, another reminder that he needed mechanical training. The bus rolled around the corner and halted beside them. When the door opened Ahmed greeted them warmly. The bus was already almost full, his ‘family’ had grown closer to fifty from Ahmed’s initial estimate of thirty three. To be fair, Cameron’s twenty was now thirty one - thirty two including Outlook. It was going to be standing room only on the bus.
Cameron couldn’t help but notice that slung across the bus’s rear was the battered old motorbike, it had more lives than … him. Interestingly, one of the bus’s rear bench seats had been removed to make space for the donkey - Cameron was delighted to see it, and it was happy to see Cameron, giving out a loud bray when he stepped aboard.
With a roar, Ahmed got the bus underway. It was deafening inside so Cameron quickly repaired the noisy muffler, much to the passengers relief which included some quizzical looks at the sudden change. People adjusted their seating to make room. Fortunately, with so many children passengers, each bench seat could accommodate several without too much discomfort.
Cameron was offered an entire bench, it might have been a display of honour, perhaps fear. However, little Ahmed had kept the seat vacant. Once Cameron came close the boy latched onto Cameron’s hand once again, Cameron patted the seat beside him which brought a huge smile to the silent boys face. Seeing a dilemma brewing Cameron offered for Cassandra to join them.
Boot and Git positioned themselves close to the Canadian children as protectors, but stayed alert to guard the entire ensemble within the bus. John for his part stayed close to Cassandra and kept an eye on the two children from the English embassy. Cameron’s seat was in-between those two groups.
Looking down the aisle Cameron couldn’t help but notice the little blond girl, she stood in confusion, looking around still in shock - unsure about what to do. She had a bright smile on her little face, but it was a fake. She was afraid and it made Cameron shift gears mentally.
She was a pretty little thing, blue eyes with tussled long blond curls and cute as can be. In fact, the image reminded him of photos kept in his family album. It was almost exactly how he looked at that age. The pull on his heartstrings almost made him cry. Cameron motioned for her to come closer and tentatively she approached so Cameron could ask: “Are you okay?”
“I think I died. Is this heaven?”
“No sweetie, not heaven.”
“Oh. Good! Too much sand without any beach,” she admitted. “Momma said heaven would be nice.”
“What do you remember?”
“Do I hav-ta?”
“Only if you want to,” comforted Cameron.
The little girls bottom lip must have grown threefold, stuck outward in concentration as she contemplated. “I was made to look up at big scary man and he dragged something across my neck. Then … you walked us outside. It’s kinda fuzzy.”
“That’s alright, fuzzy is good. What’s your name?”
“Lucy, I’m seven.”
“It’s nice to meet you Lucy Seven.”
“That’s not my name! It’s Lucy Scott.”
“My mistake,” he teased, placing his unencumbered hand over his mouth in mock surprise. “My name is Cameron Burke.”
“You called yourself Outlook before, you spoofing me?”
“No, I use the name Outlook when I need to keep my identity secret, but you seem like the trustworthy sort. You won’t tell anyone - will you?”
The little darling made the motion of closing a zipper over her mouth.
“Would you like to sit down?”
She hesitated before saying: “I’m scared.”
“Of sitting down beside me?”
“Of dying,” she said with a shudder that made its way to her extremities.
“How about I hold onto you, would that be okay?”
“Uh-huh,” she nodded meekly.
The little girl climbed up onto Cameron’s lap and snuggled into his arms, within minutes her head slumped onto his shoulder as she fell asleep, a condition Cameron nudged her into. Boot caught Cameron’s eye, nodding at the girl and boy, then giving him a smile, Boot had remained standing - keeping on watch as the bus manoeuvred down the war ravaged streets.
Ahmed had been negotiating a difficult route through the city. Few people ventured out to expose themselves to the turmoil that embroiled the community. That said, the streets weren’t exactly empty, although no traffic hindered their departure, and rarely was anyone brave enough to even look at the bus. Bomb craters and abandoned vehicles littered the roads.
They drove past much devastation, whole city blocks burnt to the ground with rubble still smouldering. There was no water available to extinguish the flames, or firefighters left either. The abandoned cars in the streets made it difficult for the bus to worm its way past, torched husks was all that remained of some cars. Nobody said much at the scenery, some sobs could be heard from the people whose lives had been shattered by the conflict, but words fail to convey a hearts tears.
Ahmed had been eking out the best route through the city he could, avoiding some of the worst sections of the city. Even so, the deserted buildings told a gruesome tale. Shortly after turning a corner Ahmed stopped the bus, this street was different. The vehicles had been purposely set to create a funnel, which now made reversing difficult, especially for something as large as this bus.
They were caught in the throat of a choke point.
As if in unison, from the nearby buildings, out poured masked ne’er-do-wells, Boot and Git warned everyone to shut the windows and stay away from the glass. These assailants looked to be youths as they rushed up to the bus and began banging on the sides, shouting and cursing, throwing rocks and bricks, smashing many of the windows.
The soldiers and other adults tried using whatever they could find to beat back those who attempted to climb in. Ahmed and Akbar kept the buses door closed and pushed away any who tried prying it open. Unfortunately, a locked door and closed windows only provides so much deterrence against those motivated by mischief.
Vermin always answer when opportunity knocks, and war provides an ideal time for lawlessness to flourish. Riots and looting occur whenever society falters, how true it is that even the most law abiding citizen will speed when a policeman isn’t watching. How many times has the news reported on the madness that overcomes normally behaved people when restraint is loosened, like during a power outage. Man’s savage nature comes to the fore at the very time when the qualities of love and compassion are most needed and the underlying beast becomes evident.
The soldiers present cursed the peaceful nature of Ahmed’s family, they carried no guns - choosing instead to flee hostilities. It left the bus without defences to fend off these attackers. When no retaliatory action was encountered it emboldened the advancing swarm to overwhelm the bus.
The younger of the children aboard began to cry as the adults tried to calm them. Ahmed called out loudly: “They’re after the fuel!” Cameron looked out the window as three people approached the bus carrying jerry cans and syphon hoses. Cameron wasn’t impressed. Had they asked for help he’d have gladly given them gas, or food, or water, but resorting to theft and intimidation, that was low.
The three thieves set to work stealing fuel as others climbed on top of the bus and began rifling through the items tied down on the roof, seeking to rob the passengers of the few possessions they had with them.
Cameron was deeply offended so he put a halt to it. He collapsed the syphon hoses and filled the jerry cans with sawdust. Cameron counted some twenty miscreants in the vicinity, and deadened the nerves in all their arms. Each one of them immediately lost use of both their arms. The result was that arms hung uselessly at their sides.
If having no right hand was deemed suitable punishment in this community, having no working arms would be shocking, and a humiliation - at least until the numbing effect wore off, in a couple days … maybe.
The troublemakers ran off unable to continue, or carry away the old motorcycle which they’d stripped off from the bus’s back. Cameron put the dilapidated old thing into his Warehouse. It was damaged even worse now, but he couldn’t in fair conscience leave it behind.
Ahmed inched the bus forward until it bumped up against a car that had been used to block the road. It was put sideways to prevent passage and the bus pushed upon it roughly, nudging it down the street until there was room to drive around it.
When they finally left the city, a collective sigh of relief could be heard. The landscape turned to wide open desert, without any vegetation to speak of. Sand swept across the road in whorls, drifts accumulated on the asphalt making bumps that shook the entire bus as it drove over them. A cloud of dust kicked up behind them in a plume to be carried off by the wind.
After one particular harsh bump little Lucy stirred. She snuggled in closer but didn’t go back to sleep. Instead, she stared up curiously at Cameron’s glasses, Cameron smiled at her.
“Are you magic?” she asked, not taking her eyes off him.
“That would be the easiest answer I suppose, but isn’t true,” softly replied Cameron. “I’m what you’d call gifted. God has granted me special abilities to help people.”
“Like rescue me?” Lucy surmised.
“Yes, just like that. To help return little girls to their parents.” Cameron said giving her a squeeze.
“What does God look like?”
Lucy’s question took Cameron aback: “I don’t know, I’ve never met him.”
“How do you know he’s a he?”
“I don’t, it’s just how everyone refers to him as.”
“I think I must have seen an angel then.”
"There was somebody standing in a bright light, I thought it might have been God.”
“Were you scared?” worried Cameron, it could be a terrifying experience.
“No. It was kinda peaceful, like when I look at your eyes.”
“That’s good, God doesn’t want people to be afraid of him.”
“What do I do now?” asked Lucy.
“How do you mean?” replied a puzzled Cameron.
“I died, but I’m not dead. What am I supposed to do?”
“What is it that you want to do?”
“Go home,” admitted Lucy.
“Then that’s what you should do.”
“God’s greatest gift is free will, he doesn’t expect more of you - than for you to be the best you you can be.”
“What’s free will?”
“It’s getting to decide for yourself who you’re going to be and what you’ll do. The worst kind of evil is somebody taking that freedom from you.”
“Like Mom saying it’s bedtime?” sounded out Lucy, trying to understand.
“No, she’s got your best interests at heart. It’s like with those bad men who captured you back there, putting you in prison.”
“They were mean.”
“They wanted to force their will onto you, make you do what they wanted.”
“Like eating porridge. I hate porridge, it’s gross and slimy.”
“But it’s good for you, at least that’s what my Mom always said.”
“You can have it. Bleah!”
“Are you feeling hungry?”
“I’m sure we’ll stop soon, think you can wait?”
“Nu-uh. I gotta pee.”
From those nearby came voices in agreement, full bladders and near empty stomachs, a bad combination. It was obvious from the soldier’s looks of concern that they didn’t think it safe to stop, but children have different priorities. Cameron asked for the bus to stop and Ahmed complied.
Git took point, the first to exit the bus, followed by Cameron who had his hands full. Little Ahmed held onto one hand and Lucy attached to the other. Git quickly set about climbing the nearest sand dune to scout for danger, while Cameron asked if Lucy and Ahmed could hold each others hands for a moment. They looked warily at each other, but, did eventually take up the offer.
Cameron found some level ground and set out a row of porte-potties. Having worked construction with Buck over the summer he’d become familiar with the worksite lavatories. As the passengers disembarked for a break Cameron ensured there was bottled water and snacks for everyone.
On top of the sand dune Git whistled to get attention, John and Boot raced to join him and Cameron and Ahmed climbed up a little slower. In the distance could be seen clouds of dust. Cameron used his telescopic sight to glean details. A convoy of speeding military vehicles carrying the Brotherhood’s flag were attempting to overtake the escapees.
The convoy consisted of a column of fast moving light trucks following the exact Southerly route the bus had taken. Taking a look around Cameron noticed that to the East was another dust cloud kicked up by a larger contingent of army vehicles. Armoured trucks bounced violently over the sand - trying to block them off from their escape route. To the West was a third advance, more army trucks and two tanks plowing through the deep sand, but they had a greater distance to cover than the other two. Apparently, they wanted to prevent them crossing the border into another country.
Something caught Cameron’s attention. Looking further to the West, far beyond and into neutral territory, Cameron spotted Canada’s encampment, Camp Nimpkish was under fire. The Brotherhood was living up to its declaration of war and bombarding the Canadians stationed there, cutting off any hopes of escaping in that direction. Again it held true, the plans of men always fall apart at the seams, especially when you begin to believe that things are going your way.
Scanning for another possibility, Cameron looked towards the UN refugee camp which was roughly ten miles away, South-East across the border. It was the destination Ahmed would take his family after dropping off Cameron’s group. From appearances, the border was still letting people cross, still held by the forces loyal to the old regime. A hasty explanation from Cameron to the men resulted in an agreement, they ran back to the bus. They needed to get moving - fast.
Ahmed did the best he could, pushing his bus to travel as fast as possible, but it was a bus after-all, loaded down and full to capacity. The army was quickly closing the distance between them and they would soon be overtaken.
Cassandra was conversing with a young girl, she’d introduced herself earlier as Gale. Gale could make wind, hence her name - she was an air manipulator. Gale explained that she could kick up a dust storm. Cameron concurred to her plan and he focused upon the surrounding terrain, beginning to throw sand up into the air, since there was ever so much sand laying all around them and not much else. Working together the two created an impromptu sand storm.
The swept up sand obscured the bus from view as it rumbled along down the road. The wind made a wall that the army couldn’t penetrate and they needed to slow down so as not to be swallowed up into the storm. The storm kept pace with the bus holding the army at bay.
The impenetrable wall of windswept sand was as tall as it was wide. Nobody was willing to risk entering the swirling maelstrom. The sand storm barrier was a scant hundred feet thick, yet it was enough to confound the brotherhood’s forces.
The military’s other front, the Eastern push, was still ten minutes away from overtaking them when the bus arrived at the border. As a grand finale, Gale pushed her wall of sand full blast into the army, halting them in their tracks. One and all of the military men ducked for cover to avoid being blasted by sand.
The men manning the border stood agog watching as the sandstorm approached. It was too localized to be an actual storm as it chased a bus across the desert. Now, it suddenly reversed and dissipated. It was a secondary realization that a heavily laden bus was waiting at the gate. The guards quickly waved the bus through the border stop without delaying it. In fact, many of the outpost’s guards climbed aboard the bus when the delayed army began to dig themselves out - only seconds away from the border.
Crossing the short distance to the other side to the border, the neighbouring guards welcomed them, waving them through. Once the last refugees had passed this nation’s guards lowered the barricades into place, as two tanks rolled in to block the roadway. It was a visible discouragement to the opposing army which had overtaken the recently evacuated border station.
Even if the brotherhood had still wanted to capture them, Cameron had ensured sand had crippled the vehicles and jammed up their guns. Weaponless and immobile the Brotherhood’s army didn’t pursue them any further. A cheer rose up from everyone aboard the bus as it rumbled away.
The UN refugee camp was a vast collection of tents and some quickly erected structures, supported by a temporary landing strip. The UN’s blue helmeted personal and flags were on display and the mixture of languages being used showed the multinational effort underway.
The bus was directed to a check-in point where everyone needed to disembark and get sorted. Cameron asked for his group to hold back and let Ahmed’s family leave first. It also allowed Cameron to do a quick change of clothes so he looked to be nothing more than one of the rescued children.
Cameron wasn’t seeking recognition, he didn’t want anyone to know who he was. So he allowed Boot, Git, and John to take the lead and the credit for the rescue. It also meant they would face the brunt of any questions over the rescue and escape. Had Cameron showed his diplomatic passport and told them he was with Foreign Affairs, it would create unwanted attention. That was not what he’d come here to deal with.
When the UN determined that they were children of foreign nationals, the group was taken for medical assessment. Then, notifying the various countries and the concerned parents was a task the camp authorities had to contend with. After everyone was sorted, all the Canadians were set aside in a Doctor’s Without Borders tent for some rest.
Cameron checked his phone, the poor thing was dead, again. He’d needed to make some repairs earlier after the bad landing. Now, it must have been totally fried in the aftermath of the amphitheatre. It would take time to make repairs to the burned out circuitry and resurrect the battery. Cameron dug into Smith’s devise, it required an almost complete rebuild.
Checking the phone over, Cameron rewound the playback to find it had definitely died with the power surge back at the Brotherhood’s compound. To test its operation Cameron called for a Teleporter. His lift would arrive later that evening so Cameron had time to say goodbye to those he’d rescued, and offer thanks to Ahmed for his help.
Ahmed’s family was in the process of being admitted into the refugee camp and Cameron took him aside. Clearing up Uncle Akbar’s cataracts was simple enough, but a missing hand was something else completely. Cameron couldn’t make something from nothing, he could only build upon existing materials. If it was a matter of repairing a hand - okay, replacing one? Not so okay.
Cameron had Ahmed sit down and he placed a covering overtop them so he could focus. Cameron robbed bone from elsewhere in Ahmed’s anatomy so it wouldn’t be rejected, He used it to form the skeletal basis, adding calcium to increase the mass. He then needed to take muscle tissue to layer up over the bone, not taking too much from one place to minimize damage. He scraped up layers of skin from across parts of the man’s body.
Once blood could circulate, Cameron watched its flow, ensuring there was no blockages. Attaching nerve endings took so much attention due to the complexity involved, Cameron was getting dizzy from the minute details. But he didn’t stop. Ahmed had stayed still, as requested. When Cameron squeezed a finger the man startled and yelped, he’d felt that. He held up the new hand near his face and Ahmed turned it slowly, bending the fingers one digit at a time, the man was speechless.
Cameron hugged him as Ahmed cried. Cameron put a single finger to his lips, the universal indicator to not say anything. Ahmed nodded and gave the youth a hug kissing his cheeks. After telling the man to slowly build up strength in his hand, Cameron left after hugging Little Ahmed, telling him to grow up and be just like his father.
Stopping by the tent given to the group from England, John and Cassandra asked what they should say. Cameron advised them to tell the truth. Lucy cried and wouldn’t let Cameron go, he kissed her forehead, saying he was needed elsewhere now. There were other people who needed rescuing. She relented, but her sniffles didn’t.
When the Teleporter arrived at dusk Boot and Git gave him a farewell salute, then Cameron was whisked away.
Arriving at the offices of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa just before noon Cameron asked to speak with whomever was Veronique’s supervisor since she was still on her honeymoon. The suited man whose office he was ushered into was beyond surprised by the unexpected visitor. The man stood to greet Cameron attired in his work-day RCMP uniform, asking what this was about.
“Sorry to intrude unannounced. My name is Outlook, I’m an Inspector with the RCMP on assignment to your office and posted to the American Embassy. I was recently asked by Veronique Tallman to assist with rescuing several captured children. I’ve just returned and felt someone should be made aware.”
“Oh my! There hasn’t been any recent updates. What happened?” the man said, nearly falling into his chair at the news.
“The children are fine. They’re in good hands at a UN refugee camp waiting to be reunited with their families.”
“Are they with Commander DeVouge?”
“No, I believe he’s still at the Canadian Forces base which was under attack when I left, so it wasn’t an option to return there. The children are under the care of two members of the extraction team, along with some asylum seekers wishing to immigrate to Canada.”
“That’s incredible! Congratulations on a successful mission. I’ll let our people on this end know. Is there something else I can do for you?”
“Yes, if you wouldn’t mind. If I’m not mistaken, It’s likely that I'm required to undergo a mission debrief. The problem is, I don’t know who I’m to report to. I wasn’t given alternate contact information.”
“I can ask my counterparts in National Defence. Would you like anything in the meantime?”
“It was terribly dry and dusty over there. I’ve been craving a root beer for days, with ice - lots of ice please. And, if I can make use of a desk to compile my report?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Cameron was shown to a conference room and provided a tall mug loaded with ice and a couple bottles of chilled root beer. He’d downed two drinks in short order before he could truly focus on writing anything. After an hour he’d finished his account of events and sent a completely detailed copy over to Ray Martin at RCMP Special Investigations headquarters.
His other, abbreviated report, minus details about using his abilities, were made out in triplicate, which seemed to be a government prerequisite. It was worse than being in school if Cameron was being honest. However, a set was provided to Foreign Affairs which he left with the lady he’d met at reception. Cameron held onto another set, the one he’d prepared for the military. He was certain he’d get the most grief from that group.
Having received directions of where he needed to go to make his report to the military, Cameron walked the distance over to the offices of National Defence. His wanderings had him go past a food stand at which he bought lunch. His internal clock was so messed up - if it hadn’t been for the sun up at the peak of day it could have been midnight. But, he was hungry so that counted for something.
Stepping into the military’s Ottawa offices, he provided his codename and was asked to take a seat in the reception area. He sat for a long time, waiting. Long enough to eat his sandwich, after which the teleporter-lag started to make him drowsy, his head dropping onto his chest when it became too heavy to hold up any longer.
A uniformed lady interrupted his sleep. She stood beside him, then coughed loudly to get his attention and directed him into a meeting room, closing the door after they both entered. Three officers in crisp looking uniforms sat behind a table speaking with each other and ignored the boy as he entered. The lady sat in a chair off to the side. She had some kind of typewriter and a recorder at her desk.
Cameron was pointed to a spot front and center in front of the three officers, the disdain upon the officers’ faces at his RCMP clothes spoke volumes.
“State your name and rank for the record,” barked the officer seated in the middle.
“My name is Outlook, I’m an Inspector with RCMP Special Investigations.”
The officers bristled at that, it mustn’t have been the answer they sought.
“Continue,” was sourly directed.
Cameron took off his backpack and pulled out his mission report. He quickly added a fourth copy, one for himself, just in case. He held the documents out, asking: “To whom do I give my mission report?”
The uniformed lady asked for them, she in turn stamped each of them as being received before distributing them to the three officers at the table and gave one back to Cameron. Cameron had only supplied the top most paper copy with a data storage device affixed. It contained the audio and video recordings he’d pieced together from his rebuilt phone.
Cameron had expected a debrief like what Ray always did after any field activity, a discussion of what happened and what could be done better next time. It was apparent that the military had a different management style which left Cameron feeling uncomfortable - likely what was intended. So far, Cameron had no inkling as to what kind of information they’d like, how much detail they wanted - within reason that is.
Cameron spoke: “I can report that the four Canadian embassy staff’s children have been successfully retrieved, as per my mission parameters.”
“Why isn’t the Officer in charge submitting this report?”
“I don’t know his whereabouts or current situation. My last direct contact with Lieutenant Tarnowski and Sergeant Meikle had them throwing me out of an aircraft, without a functioning parachute I might add. You’ll find that account on the second page of my report.”
A derisive scoff was heard, followed by the question: “What about the other members of the extraction team?”
“I am only aware of two members: Harlan Walker, aka Boot, and Randy Galbraith, aka Git. I left them with the rescued children almost four hours ago at a United Nations refugee camp, as per page eleven.”
“Why did you abandon them?”
“My services were no longer required.”
“Who relieved you?”
“I left of my own accord. The men - who I already mentioned - had the situation well in hand, the children were safe.”
“You admit to leaving without permission.”
“Yes, in consideration that I had fulfilled my obligation. My only outstanding responsibility was to provide a mission debrief, which for obvious reasons couldn’t be done in the field.”
“And why is that?”
“Commander DeVouge, my liaison with Foreign Affairs, and Captain Patel were under fire from the Brotherhood’s hostile bid to overtake Camp Nimpkish. Page ten of the report describes the decision made to go to the UN camp, rather than jeopardize the children’s safety any further.”
“Are you aware that war was declared against Canada by these religious fanatics, the Brotherhood as you call them?”
“Yes, I heard about that, an unfortunate development to be certain. Please refer to page eight where that is mentioned.”
“What did you do to provoke this escalation?”
“Again, page eight addresses that issue,” deflected Cameron at the accusation. “The question that should be asked is why attack embassies in the first place? Canada’s wasn’t the only one targeted. What was the Brotherhood’s motive? Had they sought a ransom?”
“So, why was Canada’s embassy attacked? Why were we at war?”
“I am but a simple policeman, I’m only accustomed to dealing with shoplifters and jaywalkers. I must defer to experts such as yourselves to explain these events. But it sounds like the war has ended.”
“That is not your concern.”
“May I ask what my concern is?”
“You may not. We’re going to need time to review this report in full.”
“I’ll leave you to it then,” commented Cameron as he turned to go. Halting after taking a couple steps he turned to add: “If you have any questions, I can be reached through the RCMP.”
“You haven’t been dismissed.”
“Haven’t I?” quizzically asked Cameron. “My obligations have been fulfilled once I submitted my report.”
“You’re in the army, you don’t leave until we tell you to leave.”
“I don’t understand your assessment of the situation.”
“You signed recruitment papers, we own you.”
“You are very much mistaken, you cannot own me - because I already belong to God. So, I suggest you take another look at those papers of yours.”
“Until we receive inbound mail from Nimpkish, you’ll be held in the brig under charges of dereliction of duty, insubordination, and being absent without leave.”
“Oh! Can I get put into solitary confinement? I’ve been looking forward to getting some sleep, it’s been a tough couple days,” mentioned Cameron as he held out his arms in full expectation of handcuffs. Instead he had zip-ties put around his wrists and secured behind his back.
He was taken into custody by a couple of military police. The stern looking men placed him into a truck with solid panelled walls without windows. Cameron was chained to the wall and floor before the door was bolted and locked on the outside. As the vehicle began to move, Cameron had second thoughts saying to himself: “Nuts to this.”
He was done playing peoples’ games. All anybody ever seemed to do was to send him to his room, or whatever room they had available. No more, he had places to be and things to do. Besides, he had no interest in being cooped up in prison again, the food was terrible and the decor was lousy.
Getting rid of his bonds in a blue flash, he then make a quick change of clothes into a pair of faded jeans and a grey hoodie. Cameron waited until the truck stopped at a traffic light. He made an opening in the vehicle’s side and stepped out onto the street, restoring the hole he’d made - let them figure that one out.
He patiently stood on the sidewalk until the truck drove off, then he casually walked into the business hub of Ottawa. Finding a post office he sent a priority letter to Ray Martin at the RCMP. It contained an explanation that he was skipping town, but not his destination.
Cameron detailed how he was at odds with the military and could the RCMP investigate the Department of National Defence for attempting to entrap him. He included a copy of his modified employment contract. He also promised he wouldn’t dishonour the RCMP by acting as an officer of the law until the dispute was settled.
Thinking about it a little more, Cameron also sent a parcel to Emit Paulson his lawyer, again providing a copy of the contract. And finally, he posted a letter to Veronique at Foreign Affairs, making her aware of the situation once she returned to work. He had no intention of getting wrangled into further government entanglements for the foreseeable future.
At that point Cameron placed his satellite phone and laptop into Storage, if anybody could find his location by tracking items in another dimension - one without time, then kudos’ to them.
He was about to enter a hotel to get a room when he saw a transport truck across the street unloading its cargo at a retail store.
Cameron listened in to the delivery men’s conversation as they moved boxes, they would be heading back to the States today. When the men took a load inside leaving the truck unattended, Cameron snuck into the back, forming a false wall behind which he could hide. The men didn’t notice anything amiss and finished their job. By the time the truck began to move Cameron had fashioned a nice comfortable hideout replete with a bed.
The trucks motion lulled Cameron to sleep, like rocking a baby, so when the truck stopped at the border crossing into the United States, Cameron woke up to watch the goings on. A border guard had the driver open the rear, which was empty to all appearances. That the inside was smaller than the outside wasn’t observed, and for some reason the x-ray unit didn’t work for a second when the truck passed over it - Cameron might be to blame for that.
The trip to Schenectady took several hours, which suited Cameron fine, he managed to get more than forty winks, more like sixty. Arriving at the trucks depot, the men parked the vehicle in a compound and left. Ensuring the coast was clear, Cameron exited the truck, erasing any evidence of his presence. The depot had security cameras, which had a small glitch on their recordings as Cameron left.
It was night, and the industrial park was dimly lit, towards the highway was a 24 hour truck stop with a restaurant. Cameron entered the establishment to find the patrons consisted entirely of truckers - which kinda made sense since the business catered to the long haul transport workers. Cameron grabbed a booth and scanned the menu, selecting the Salisbury steak special.
Cameron was halfway through his dinner when a woman entered, he’d watched as she pulled up in a big pink semi truck. The men in the restaurant eyed her up with predatory looks, the curse of being an attractive woman. She made a disgusted face as she scanned the place for an empty seat. Being a single woman amidst a rough crowd meant she needed to be leery of where to sit. Cameron assessed the situation calling to her: “Aunt Peggy! I was worried you’d got lost,” and waved her to come over.
She hesitated a minute, but the testosterone fuelled interest in her had faded quickly with Cameron’s comment, so she joined the youth at the table.
“What’s your story kid?” she asked as she sat.
“Why do I have to have a story?”
“Nobody sticks their neck out unless they want something.”
“Turtles are some of the longest lived animals, because they’re good at avoiding danger.”
“Thick shells help too,” she added. “So which are you, too thick or too young to know any better?”
Cameron choked on his food and coughed, she was smart and funny, a dangerous combination. “Let’s go with a little of both. I’m Cameron.”
“Peggy, but you knew that already, I’d like to know how?”
“It’s written on the door of your truck.”
“It’s parked, like - two hundred feet away, how did you see that far?” She dropped close to the table and whispered, “are you a mutant?”
“And if I was?”
“It would explain a lot.”
Reaching into a pocket, Cameron withdrew his wallet - from out of his Cupboard, and pulled out his MCO card identifying him as not being a mutant, handing it over for Peggy to read.
“Well, don’t that just beat all!” Peggy exclaimed, taking another look at him. “But you ain’t normal, are you?”
“Normal is highly over rated. Besides, what is normal nowadays anyway? Everybody strives to stand out from the crowd, unless they’re purposely hiding something.”
“Now, that just proves you’re in trouble - right there. What is it? You a runaway or something?”
“I’m hiding from the army, they’re being less than forthcoming with their intentions. I’m not certain if they want to experiment on me or just kill me and be done with it.”
“That’s some serious s**t!”
“Ain’t it just,” remarked Cameron. “Story of my life … I guess you’re right, I do have a story,” he mused over another bite of food.
“We all do hon, trust me,” said Peggy as she perused the menu.
“I’d like to, but you haven’t told me your story yet.”
“Me? What’s to tell? Down on my luck, piling up the miles, working to pay the bills.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Could be worse, I’d prefer otherwise, but hey, what can you do. How’s the steak by the way?”
“Pretty good, I like the gravy, and it’s real potato too.”
“Good to hear, I’m hungry enough to eat a horse.” Peggy placed her order with the waitress.
“I hope that’s just a figure of speech,” mused Cameron as he pushed the meat around his plate.
Peggy laughed out loud, she even had a tear run down her face. “Oh golly, I didn’t mean to …”
“Not a worry, it’s beef, I checked the DNA.”
“You can do that?”
“Sure, although it takes the mystery out of mystery meat.”
“I gotta ask, what’s in spam?”
“Some secrets are better left unanswered. G. I. Joe lied: ‘knowing isn’t half the battle,’ there are things that should just be left alone.”
“Right… So, you heading North? Leaving the country to get away from the army? I hear Canada’s taking in mutant refugees now.”
“Nope, other way around, I just left Canada.”
“No fooling? I had a friend run folks up to the border.”
“More proof that I don’t fit the mold of normal.”
“So, where are you going?”
“I shouldn’t tell you, in case - you know.”
“Gotcha. I’m going East. I’ve got a load of tires I’m taking to Bangor.”
“If you’re willing to take a passenger part of the way, I can pay.”
“I wouldn’t charge a kid for giving them a lift.”
“That’s very kind, but really, I have enough money and I want to help out.”
“You really aren’t normal, are you!”
“Nope, it’s one of my best qualities too.”
She laughed easily, she drank three cups of coffee over dinner as they ate, Peggy even convinced Cameron to try a piece of cherry pie for desert. It was worthwhile enough to buy the two entire pies on display and tuck them into Storage.
Peggy asked for a huge thermos full of coffee to go when getting ready to leave, Cameron paid the bill and left a big tip.
Peggy’s truck was pink, the cab anyway, the trailer was your typical white. She did a circle check around her rig with Cameron tagging along, she said they’d need to gas up before hitting the road, Cameron told her to check her fuel gauge, he’d filled the tank from his dimensional stash. She wouldn’t budge until he spilled the beans on how he did that. He didn’t mention how he’d built up the rubber treads and brake pads on her truck.
Life on the highway can be a solitary existence, so Peggy was happy to have company. They talked long into the evening, with Cameron providing some more details about his abilities. Finding out Cameron was gifted by God subsided any worry she might have had, in fact she was in awe.
It was long past dark when Peggy pulled off the road into a rest stop. There was a couple other trucks and campers already parked, but she selected a quiet place and shut her rig down. Her sleeper cab had bunk beds, and Cameron was offered the upper berth.
Cameron was stirred awake, Peggy had heard something outside. Cameron looked around and determined that some drunken nerfherders were vandalizing the rest stops amenities. Cameron disabled their get away vehicle, and put so much alcohol into their blood stream that they passed out in mere seconds. Peggy called for the police on her CB radio and they showed up to arrest the vandals without incident. Peggy gave her statement, without mentioning Cameron’s involvement.
Peggy and Cameron made use of the newly refreshed rest area’s showers in the morning, and grabbed some breakfast sandwiches to eat on the road, along with another big thermos full of coffee. At some point Peggy asked what music Cameron liked, he handed her one of the CD’s he’d made. They both sang along to the mix, she even enjoyed the Canadian artists like April Wine and Prism whom she’d never heard before.
Peggy knew by heart the best roads to take, the best places to stop and eat, and she pointed out the most interesting sights along the way, Cameron was having a great time. To avoid heavy traffic, Peggy chose to take a secondary route through New Hampshire, which suited Cameron perfectly.
An alert on the CB radio warned of an accident ahead, a truck driver had witnesses the whole thing. A car had struck something crossing the road and was badly damaged. Police and ambulance had been called and were on the way. Peggy rounded a corner and slowed when passing the accident scene, glass and car parts were strewn everywhere.
Three people sat roadside, no apparent injuries thanks to automobile safety devices, with other motorists having stopped to render aid. Cameron took in the details, but considered the risks and held his inclination to help at bay. However, something didn’t add up. His first impression of his recent dream was that it was only another nightmare about the accident that had killed her family.
It wasn’t until actually seeing this car wreck that he was irked by the huge differences in the details. For a car to be that badly messed up - it must have hit something really big, but what? That was the problem, whatever had been hit didn’t stick around, he couldn’t ignore this.
Cameron asked Peggy to pull over and she obliged. Cameron thanked her for the ride, handing her a stack of hundred dollar bills.
Trying to return the cash, Peggy said: “I was serious about not taking your money.”
“I know,” responded Cameron, “I’m sorry that the only kindness I can repay you with is money, Please take it. Put it to good use.”
Peggy was torn, she had debts and overdue payments mounting up so she tucked away the bills. “You sure you’re okay? There’s nothing around for miles?”
“Not a worry, this is perfect,” promised Cameron, yelling: “Thanks so much!” as he let Peggy pull away, after he’d topped up her gas tanks and giving her a farewell wave.
The remote area was forested with some farmlands scattered about. A stream ran North of the road which Cameron hiked towards, then followed the embankment back in the direction of the accident scene. Not too far along, Cameron’s suspicions proved true, standing in the water was one of the biggest people Cameron had ever met, on par with Buck for height at just over seven foot tall, but weighted four times as much.
The guy was washing himself in the stream, without a stitch of clothes on. As GSD went, he had it bad. His skin was rough, like a wart - but sadly it covered his entire body. Cameron remained quiet but moved closer, finding some clothes laying in the dirt, they were shredded and completely trashed, not to mention soiled. Come to think of it, if Cameron had been run down by a car, he’d likely poop his drawers too.
Cameron cleaned and repaired the clothes, setting them over a low hanging branch. Cameron proceeded to light a fire nearby and set some water on to boil and a large pot beside it, then sat facing away from the big guy to afford him some privacy. He heard him walking, the ground even shook with his footfalls, the big guy exclaimed: “Wah?”
Moments later the walking mountain approached.
“You hungry?” asked Cameron turning to face him.
“Yeth,” came a reply that sounded like gravel when you rake it.
“Coffee, Tea, or hot chocolate?” was offered, as Cameron gave him a deep scan, trying to be discrete. Buck mentioned how he hated people staring at him all the time, no doubt a common issue for someone so extraordinary.
The guy stood there in expectation of the revulsion the sight of him typically elicited. It didn’t come. After a second he said with difficulty: “Co-co.”
Cameron poured hot water into two mugs, one being much larger, he stirred them both and handed the large one over. “I have marshmallows if you’d like?”
“No,” was rumbled, as he emptied the drink in a single gulp.
“Another?” asked Cameron, reaching for the empty mug.
A quick pour of hot water later, another drink was in his massive hand, this one he sipped. “Who?”
“Who am I?” questioned Cameron, his scan had shown a badly deformed tongue and mouth, speech was hard for the guy.
The land mass sitting across the fire nodded his head.
“I take it your condition has made speaking difficult for you, I’ll do my best to keep my conversation to the point. My name is Outlook,” at which he raised his reflective silver visor to show the golden hue given off by his eyes. “In certain circles anyway.”
“How?” was asked, as the giant pinched his reconditioned flannel shirt between two fingers.
“Ah yes, that. I hope you don’t mind, but I figured you might prefer some modesty.”
Again a nodded head.
“I am able to alter molecules, I repaired your clothes by renewing the molecular bonds.”
“Your welcome. I hope the stew’s ready, I’m famished.”
Cameron scooped out a bowl for himself, then handed the whole pot over to the big guy, including a large spoon. Cameron hadn’t even finished half his bowl when the big guy set down the pot and began licking the spoon; his tongue was just as rough as the rest of his body, there was no way he could form words with so twisted a mouth.
“Would you like more?”
It was an emphatic head nod.
Cameron returned the pot to the fire, refilled it from his supplies in Storage, and sat back down. “What may I call you?”
The big guy stared at Cameron, his eyes reflecting how desperately he wanted to talk as he tried to force his mouth around what he wanted to say. But eventually he shook his head in frustration, grabbing a stick and wrote into the dirt ‘MAX’.
“Alright, Max. Is that your real name or codename?” Cameron regretted asking the question immediately when Max slumped his shoulders and just began to tap his stick against the ground. “Sorry Max, It doesn’t matter.”
The smile given was hard to distinguish from a grimace. Nevertheless, Cameron brought him the warmed up stew and let him enjoy it in peace.
Eventually, after the meal was finished, Max stood pointing at himself, then pointed off into the trees. The direction confirmed Cameron’s estimation as to the mutant’s destination.
“Am I wrong in guessing you’re going to Whateley Academy?”
The affirmative head shake said he’d hit the mark.
“If we goes East a ways, we’ll come across train tracks that go up to Dunwich. It may be easier to take that route, instead of bushwhacking through the forest.”
Max thought about it, he looked at Cameron, then looked over to where he was going. He used his massive hand to point at himself, then pointed at Cameron, then made a sweeping motion to the East that turned Northward.
“Why yes, I would be glad to join you,” agreed Cameron.
The first obstacle was crossing the creek, which Max just stomped through, Cameron jumped from rock to rock without getting wet. Max didn’t wear shoes, finding something to fit those feet would be near on impossible, as it was, his clothes consisted of a pair of canvas bib overalls and a blue flannel shirt. A mens clothing store would be hard pressed to carry anything in this guy’s size.
They avoided the highway, Cameron didn’t question Max’s aversion to being seen, he could imagine the grief - his own eyes gave him enough trouble, there was no hiding for Max. Walking along they came upon an infrequently used backroad, so travelling became quicker. The lack of shoes didn’t seem to bother Max in the slightest. Cameron estimated that Max’s skin was tough as nails, the wart like appearance was akin to layer upon layer of calluses.
Before nightfall they found the railroad, turned North, and began following the tracks. Approaching twilight the pair stopped when Cameron suggested they set up camp for the night. Max shrugged his shoulders agreeably, Cameron guessed he’d slept on the ground wherever in the past, since he had no sleeping bag or tent.
Cameron had been right, Max had the strength of an ox, lifting huge fallen trees out of the way and snapping tree trunks over a foot in diameter into chunks like matchsticks; it took him no effort at all. The wood was used to start a fire as daylight faded.
Cameron put his biggest pot onto the fire and began to prepare spaghetti. As it simmered, Cameron and Max strung up a tarp for shelter, since up above the building clouds looked like rain. The fire gave off some light, which Max stayed close to, Cameron manifested one of his flashlights and gave it to him, the big guy used it to step into the woods for a few minutes of privacy. When nature calls you gotta answer it.
Max ate enough to feed an army, Cameron had seen bottomless pits for stomachs before. In fact, Billie Watson had nothing on this guy, or he’d just not had much food to eat recently. Cameron cleaned up camp and doused the fire. Taking off his visor, he eyed up Max to take his measure - then linked up some foam mattresses from his Warehouse to match his size, setting it on a ground sheet. Another regular size bed was brought out for himself, along with blankets and pillows for them both.
Max became emotional, almost crying, he looked away and turned off his flashlight so Cameron wouldn’t see his tears. He’d had it rough, Cameron had gleaned as much. The rains started a slow drizzle, but it picked up into a steady downpour; the sound was easy to fall asleep to.
With morning came overcast sky’s, it was cool and damp. Max sat beside the fire Cameron had started as Cameron made pancakes - lots of them, big ones too, each the size of dinner plates. Cameron set over a dozen huge pancakes onto a platter for Max, then handed Max a knife and fork three times the usual size. It didn’t take long to empty the jug of maple syrup, good thing Cameron kept more in Storage.
In the night a couple trains had rumbled past, so the tracks were in use, but not part of a main line. They would need to be cautious in case a train came along while they walked the tracks. They walked in companionable silence, Max wanted to talk but couldn’t, so Cameron would sing just so there was something happening between them. Max for his part would hum, especially on songs he knew, and would eventually pick up the tune on those he didn’t recognize.
Taking a break they sat beside a river, soaking their feet in the cool water. Cameron came up with an idea, saying: “I could make a wheeled cart to put on the tracks.”
Max shook his head, pointed at himself, then using both hands pushed together giving them a twist to show how it would break.
“Not if I made it strong enough it could carry you, I’m sure of it. My problem is I don’t know how to power it, I’ve seen how transmissions and gears work, I just don’t know the dynamics involved to set something like that up.”
Max nodded, giving the problem some thought. He made a grin and began to hum “mm, mm, Mm mm mm mmm, Mm mm mmmmmm mm mm mm.”
The melody resonated with Cameron, but he couldn’t quite place it.
Max tried again, with Cameron taking the cue to join along, then it clicked.
“Flintstones, meet the Flintstones!”
Max was very pleased with that, he then held his hands like he was holding a steering wheel.
Cameron reasoned: “The Flintstones … had a car, they used their feet to propel it. I get it, we can use our feet to move the cart.”
Max shook his head, pointing at himself and paddled his feet in the water. He pointed at Cameron while holding his other hand above his eyes, turning his head looking about.
Cameron conceded: “Yeah, we need to keep an eye out for trains. Okay, I’ll keep watch if you’re okay with keeping us moving.”
He thumped his chest once and nodded in agreement, it was a deal.
Cameron brought some train wheel sets out from Warehouse, he had several left over from the wreck clean up. He fastened some heavy duty metal beams between them with cross members. He had Max stand on the tracks to get an idea of height and width needed, then Max tried different positions so he could push with his feet while sitting, or run hanging onto handles to then jump up onto the cart.
Max could alternate from facing forwards or backwards, while Cameron sat looking ahead. As a precaution, Cameron made an awning overhead, it was going to rain again so some shelter would be nice. Looking at the cart from the side, it really did look like the Flintstone mobile.
The beauty of railroads are the mild grades, no big hills. Max needed to push harder going up hills, but going down grade was a blast as they picked up speed. Only once during the day did they need to clear the tracks for an oncoming train, which Cameron spotted long before it became a problem, otherwise they made really good time.
The tracks brought them into a community, Max had no interest in showing himself, and Cameron wasn’t all that keen either. But, if there was a bank it would be smart to refresh his supply of American money. Max stayed hidden under a bridge while Cameron walked the distance into town.
Cameron wore a hoodie and his visor to hide his features; the bank was easy enough to find. Taking a large sum of Canadian money out from Cupboard to exchange into American funds, the teller was concerned about handing over that much cash, but since he had an account in good standing she couldn’t say no. A nearby Grocery store permitted Cameron to restock his shelves.
Afterward, Cameron headed back to join up with Max, but stopped at a fast food joint purchasing a dozen hamburgers to go, a mere light snack for Max. As Cameron walked down a lonely street, a rusty old muscle car in less than pristine running condition screeched to a halt beside him. Two delinquents jumped out demanding Cameron hand over all his money, he’d seen them before - loitering at the bank. Cameron reached into his pocket and took out a leather wallet, which he flipped open revealing his police badge.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Cameron asked.
The two looked at each other, uncertain about how much trouble they were getting into.
“Walk away now, and I’ll forget all about this,” added Cameron to sweeten the deal. “If not, you’re not gonna be happy.”
The would-be thieves didn’t walk away, in fact, one pulled out a gun. Even if it was plastic, it looked realistic - not to Cameron, but to anyone else, sure.
Cameron sighed, people can’t help but be their own worst enemies. Cameron stunned them both, they toppled over like dominoes. He could have left them laying there, but it wouldn’t change anything, they would undoubtedly do the same again. So, to give them something else to occupy themselves with, he disassembled their car, setting each part out orderly on the roadside right down to the nuts and bolts.
He’d warned them, they wouldn’t be happy.
Cameron however learned a great deal about the internal workings of cars from the experience.
Cameron and Max covered a lot of miles before stopping for the night, they would easily make it to Dunwich tomorrow. They again set up a small campsite, this time beside a creek. Cameron fashioned a shower so they could get cleaned up before arriving at Whateley. While Max was washing himself Cameron spotted a rabbit watching them in the undergrowth. Removing his visor so the golden glow was visible, he said: “Please let the Medawihla know I’m returning to Whateley.”
For dinner Cameron made chicken and dumplings, a stew type dish his/her mother made often and was a family favourite. It was starting to hurt less thinking about losing his family, it may never go away completely, but his emotions weren’t as raw. Max noticed how quiet Cameron had become and in his own - gentle, yet wordless manner asked if Cameron was okay.
“I’m alright my friend, just thinking about what I’ve lost, when I should be focusing on what I’ve gained. Plus, I’m worried about being back at Whateley. Is this your first year?”
Max nodded, Cameron marvelled at this guy’s courage, he’d shy’d away from people to an extreme, but was determined to get to Whateley. He had a goal and nothing was going to stop him. For that resolve Cameron admired Max. There was a lot going on behind those brown eyes, even if he couldn’t say much.
Rolling into Dunwich the next day was almost a let down. For all the pushing and running Max did he never seemed to tire out, or get winded beyond wheezing at times. The little train station was deserted. Since no trains were slated to arrive for hours nobody was around. It was a difficult sell to convince Max that this was one town that welcomed the abnormal. They walked the short distance into the main part of town and Cameron brought them to Cecilia Rodger’s clothing boutique, motioning for Max to come in too.
Cecilia was an absolute pro, she didn’t even flinch at Max’s startling appearance. Rather, she began to address him like a valued customer, laying swaths of different fabric over him. He picked out some colours he favoured, after which Cecilia took his measurements since her scanner devise couldn’t manage such a large frame.
While there, Cecilia also collected Cameron’s measurements, he easily fit into her scanner with room to spare. While getting his order together, Cameron asked about getting team uniforms made, Max made a gesture to see if he could be part of Cameron’s team too. It wasn’t that Cameron knew all that much about Max, but nothing about him yelled danger, so told him if the others agreed, he was welcome.
Cecilia allowed them to call Whateley on her phone, letting them know they would arrive shortly. It would take hours to walk the remaining distance, and Max was adamant about not getting into a car. There was a story there, but Cameron had to let the reasons slide for now. But an idea hit, they walked over to Dunwich’s Public Works yard and Albert was in the office.
Cameron was greeted like an old time friend, which made Max so curious he even showed himself. Albert whistled saying that Max was easily the biggest guy he’d ever seen, which touched a raw nerve with Max. Cameron asked for a favour; could they be given a lift to Whateley, in a dump truck, the only vehicle around that could carry Max’s weight.
Albert said he’d be glad to do it, and grabbed the vehicle’s keys, Cameron was offered a ride in the cab, but he rode with Max in the back. Fortunately it was sunny and warm enough for riding in the open truck box, although windy. Cameron had strung some rope to act as safety belts to alleviate Albert’s concerns.
Passing through the school’s gates had Cameron worried, so he stripped down his shielding to almost nothing, hoping there wouldn’t be a nasty interaction. The truck bucked and lurched crossing the schools barriers, with Cameron groaning in pain, but the dump trucks shear size pushed them through.
Albert drove them up to the parking area near Shuster Hall. Whateley Academy hadn’t changed, appearance wise anyways, Cameron had hopes that this wasn't a mistake. A few students had already arrived and walked about the grounds. Classes wouldn’t start for a couple days yet so the majority of students would trickle in over weekend.
Cameron’s friends should be arriving tomorrow or the day after, if everybody's plans held together. He could hardly wait to see Lynn again. Max stood trying to take the place in, if anything, this school could easily overwhelm from first impressions. Cameron thanked Albert profusely and promised he’d come by the shop to visit.
Max was drawing a crowd, even among other freaks he turned heads. A lady exited from the office building with clipboards in hand.
“Misters Burke, and … let’s see, hmmm, Merrell, is it?” She guessed after checking a list.
Max nodded his head to acknowledge she had the right name.
“Very well. I am Mrs. Shugendo, the school’s Dean of Students. You arrived at an opportune time, so I can personally show you around our fine school. Afterwards you will be provided a tour by fellow students,” she informed them. “Here are your student cards, you’ll need these on-campus, so don’t lose them. Now, do you need assistance with your luggage?” she cocked an eyebrow upon not seeing any bags.
“No Ma’am, no need. Max here believes in traveling light and I have mine under control.”
Not certain what the implications no luggage meant gave the Dean pause. Would Outlook really be staying? She proceeded to walk them down a path leading towards the dormitories. Mrs. Shugendo began her oft repeated spiel.
“For Mr. Merrell’s benefit, Whateley Academy’s buildings are all named after famous authors, except for our dining area, which you’ll notice on our right behind Shuster Hall. It’s called the Crystal Hall. Even though the dome is not made from crystal, the translucent composite material shares many characteristics, hence its name.”
“Over to our left is the Beck Library, which is the school’s main Library. We have subsidiary libraries as well, in each dormitory for example. Behind us is Kane Hall, the building with the tower, it contains some classrooms, but also houses this school’s Security department. Ahead on your right is the Doyle Medical Complex, it is our world class hospital facility.“
“Whateley Academy was founded in 1878 by Noah Whateley, it ran as a boarding school until it fell upon hard times and was closed down for a brief period. In the mid 1960s, a group of empowered individuals purchased the school to become a place for gifted children to explore their abilities. Whateley Academy is now the preeminent destination for children of superheroes and villains alike.”
“To our left is Melville Cottage, just ahead of us is Poe, and beyond that is Hawthorne Cottage. Hawthorne is intended for special needs students, such as yourself Mr. Merrell. It has a doctor in residence, and nearly each room is a single. Each Cottage has at least one house parent and each floor has exemplarily students designated as Resident Advisors.”
“Pardon me ma’am, does that mean I won’t be put into Hawthorne then?” cut in Cameron at the hinted destination.
“No Mr. Burke, we have chosen other accommodations for you. But attending to Mr. Merrell first seems logical.”
“Yes Ma’am, sorry to interrupt.”
“As I was saying, each Cottage has diverse populations, however, typically every floor is set aside for students of the same year, Freshmen on the first floor, up to Seniors on the topmost, although some exceptions apply. Also, the boys Cottages are Twain and Emerson. Girls dormitories are Dickinson and Whitman, whereas Hawthorne, Poe and Melville Cottages are co-ed.”
They stopped on the steps to Hawthorne, Max had that special look of scared silly and excited beyond belief, all at the same time. Cameron empathized with him.
“Mr. Merrell, your house parent, Mrs. Cantrel, will take it from here.”
Cameron removed from his dimensional holdings a suitcase, into which he’d put some extra clothes he’d made for Max, along with personal items like toiletries, and some towels. Handing the suitcase to him, Cameron said: “I hope to see you soon, look for me at Crystal Hall, we can have dinner together.”
Max walked into the unknown, he looked back nervously to wave thanks, took a deep breath to settle his anxiety to then step into the next chapter of his life, head held high.
Mrs. Shugendo leaned over near to Cameron’s ear, “Mr. Merrell doesn’t say much.”
“He can’t. His mutation has made speaking very difficult.”
“How did you two meet?”
“He walked away from being hit by a car traveling fifty-five miles per hour, without a scratch I should add. I figured that was somebody worth knowing.”
“We’ve never had anyone arrive in a dump truck before.”
“He weights over two thousand pounds so not many vehicles can handle that kind of weight.”
“I better ensure he’s put into a reinforced room. I’ll be with you in a moment.” Mrs. Shugendo hurried inside to inform Mrs. Cantrel in case his room assignment needed adjusting.
Mere seconds later Mrs. Shugendo reappeared. “It’s good you mentioned it, his application didn’t disclose his size.”
“I suspect his mutation is ongoing, his first manifestations might not have been so severe. I noticed his size increased over the last couple days. It would be wise for Doyle to run a full examination, and he should get tested, I didn’t see an MID.”
“His application hadn’t mentioned that.”
“Also, Cecilia Rodgers is making some clothes and school uniforms for him. I’d like that bill to be put onto my account, if that’s allowed?”
“It can be arranged. Anything else?”
“Is Max here on a scholarship?”
“His affairs are private, but I will say that his tuition is paid, and that he’s a legacy student.”
“I need to ask what a legacy student is?”
“Someone in his family attended Whateley previously.”
“Allow me to speak frankly Mrs. Shugendo. Max’s health is questionable at best, I suspect his body will begin to collapse under the strain his mutation is creating. I recommend alerting his family.”
“When he sleeps, he stops breathing. The weight of his chest compresses his lungs and his heart has not kept pace with his body’s growth.”
“I’ll let the doctors know. He’s at the best place on earth to deal with the effects of mutations.”
“I see, okay then,” assessed Cameron. “So, where do I pitch my tent this year?”
End Part 3
To be continued.