Sound

This is dedicated to one of my best friends, Song, for his birthday yesterday. At least I think it’s yesterday. I’m about 70% sure. Could be May 9th. Now he refuses to tell me because I forgot and so failed the friend test. Dammit Song. Happy (maybe belated, maybe early) birthday.

Note: This is the first part of a two part story. Click for part one.

“Greg, c’mon, don’t do this, man,” Terry urged him. Gregory had the cloak around him, but it wasn’t active yet, so it was nothing more than a tacky black cape. What had Terry feeling nervous was the small gun in Gregory’s hand, which was pointed right at Terry.

“Get out of the way, Terry,” Gregory pleaded. “I don’t want to hurt you but I really have to get out of here.”

“Where are you going with my cloak?” Terry asked without budging. He loved that cloak, even though technically it wasn’t his. And nobody was supposed to remove the cloak from the room except for specific Kyle-approved missions.

“I made it, so it’s mine and I can do whatever I want with it,” Gregory said as he waved the gun at Terry. “Move,” he spat. Terry moved aside, keeping his eyes locked onto Gregory’s. Something wasn’t right; Gregory wasn’t violent, so he must have a good reason for stealing the cloak. Wherever he was going, it seemed that he didn’t want to be found.

Gregory carefully manoeuvered his way around the tables and shelves of gadgets, all the while keeping the gun and one eye on Terry.

“You do know it’ll only last half an hour, right?” Terry asked.

“That’s why I built a bigger battery and I have spares in my pack,” Gregory replied. That explained the bulky backpack. Terry nodded.

“Where will you go?” Terry asked again.

“I can’t tell you,” Gregory’s replied was more pained and desperate this time. He’d reached the door and paused, lowering his gun. “Tell the others I’m sorry,” he whispered and shut off the lights. The room was plunged into darkness and Terry felt more than heard the vibration of the cloak. It was so gentle, so subtle, that if he didn’t know what it was, he wouldn’t have noticed it at all. Terry heard the door shut, slightly muffled by the cloak and sighed. With the cloak on, there was no way to track Gregory or contact him. Even physically following him was a near impossibility, as he’d be a little more than a mirage in the day time and practically invisible at night.

* * * * * *

“What happened?” Anthony Briggs demanded, the last of the group to arrive. Terry had called them all shortly after Gregory had left. It’d had taken him a while to pick the door in near complete darkness that Gregory had locked, before managing to make his way up from the subterranean levels of the compound to the surface where there was a cell signal.

“Gregory stole the cloak,” Terry replied and told them everything that had transpired only an hour ago. Anthony sat down and the room was silent while he processed what he’d heard. After a moment, he turned to Kyle and said, “Thoughts?”

“The doesn’t sound like something Gregory would do. We think he might be in some kind of trouble,” Kyle said evenly. “Even if he’s not, we’ve got to find him and figure out what’s going on.”

Anthony nodded in agreement. “What do you think we should do?” he asked.

“Rachel’s already trying to hack into Gregory’s workstation to look for clues,” Terry said. “We don’t want to take it to the police because they’ll just slow us down with questions and besides, they won’t find him. Like Kyle said, it’s not like him. We should give him the benefit of doubt.”

“Okay, but how are we going to find him?” Anthony asked. Kyle and Terry grinned.

“It’s ironic: the best person to track the cloak would’ve been Gregory himself. But Terry managed to come up with an ingenious plan. We want to find Gregory by sonar,” Kyle said smugly. Anthony looked at them incredulously and Terry continued, “The cloak adapts to absorb and cancel out any wave of sound that hits it. What if we use sonar to cover an area, then look for the spot where the sonar doesn’t bounce back?”

Anthony blinked. “That’s brilliant,” he said, and Terry beamed proudly.

“Rachel’s hacking into a sonar satellite as we speak and she set up my computer to alert us if Gregory’s mobile phone pings a cell tower. We figure he has to take it out of the cloak sometime,” Kyle said. “In the meantime, Terry and I are working out how far he could have gone, based on mode of transportation.”

“It’s gonna take a while,” Rachel piped up. “The satellite’s not in range yet. And once that comes in, we only have a fifteen minute window before it passes over and I have to hack the next one.”

“Why such a short time?” Anthony asked. “And why can’t you hack into the next once before it arrives?”

“The satellites with sonar capabilities stay in range for about an hour at most, usually less. It takes me a while to find such a satellite, then attack it. Depending on the security protocols, it can take anywhere between five to twenty minutes to crack. And, awesome as I am, I can’t hack a satellite that’s not within range.”

“Oh.”

The three guys sat while they watched Rachel type furiously at her machine. Minutes ticked by and Rachel kept tapping at her keyboard, until finally, she commanded, “Boys, map.”

Kyle spread the map and showed her the locations to send sonic pulses. First was his address, which got them nothing.

“Try tracking the route back towards HQ,” Terry said. “If he’s on foot then he’s probably not home yet. I’ll bet he’s probably on foot anyway: his phone signal hasn’t appeared, which means it’s still under the cloak, and I should think it would be hard to drive or flag a cab with the cloak active.” Rachel obliged him, slowly working her way back from Gregory’s residence. They all waited with baited breath and suddenly, a blip of silence appeared on the screen.

“Huh. That was easier than I expected,” Rachel commented. She stopped and scanned the same area several more times, each return signal showing the small black blip moving closer and closer to Gregory’s home.

“Looks like he’s going home,” Anthony said. “Let’s go pick him up. Good work, Rachel. Would you stay here and monitor his progress? Let us know if there’s any changes.”

Rachel nodded they left.

* * * * * *

Twenty minutes later, Anthony, Kyle and Terry sat in Anthony’s car outside Gregory’s address, all of them staring open-mouthed at the mansion that was supposedly where Gregory lived.

“I had no idea he was loaded,” Terry whispered.

“I knew, but I didn’t expect this,” Anthony whispered back.

“So are we going in or what?” Kyle prompted, shaking them out of their reverie.

“There aren’t any lights on inside. Call Rachel first,” Anthony said and Kyle did so.

“Hey, it’s me… Yeah, Kyle, who else?… Yeah we’re outside his place now… uh huh… okay, hang on,” Kyle said. “Rachel says he’s in there and hasn’t moved since he arrived about five minutes ago.

“Okay,” Anthony said. “Let’s go, and tell Rachel to stay on the line.”

They got out of the car and proceeded to Gregory’s front door. Terry knocked on the door, but they got no answer. “Guys,” Rachel said and Kyle relayed her words. “He’s not moving. I zoomed in to focus on his house, but he’s just staying in one spot.”

“Gregory!” Terry called out as he pounded the door again. Still no answer. Terry glanced at Kyle, who hesitated, then nodded. Terry took out his gold plated lockpick set, a reminder of a different life which felt like a long time ago, and knelt to examine the lock. In a minute, he’d picked it.

“You’re slowing down, old man,” Kyle joked.

“I’m nervous, ‘kay?” Terry muttered and slipped his set back into his pocket.

“Stop playing around,” Anthony chided, taking a torch out of his own pocket. “Ready?” he asked. Kyle and Terry nodded and Anthony pushed open the door. As they stepped in, Terry noted how quiet the house was and felt a slight murmur in his chest.

“The cloak is definitely here. I can feel it,” Terry said under his breath. They crept further in cautiously into the dark house, with Terry leading the way. Without warning, he stepped on something soft and tripped over it.

“What the hell?” he exclaimed. Anthony shone his torch over where Terry had tripped, but they saw nothing but a slight visual distortion.

“Greg!” Terry shouted, reaching his hands towards the distortion. He got a grip on the cloak and pulled it off, revealing an unconscious Gregory. Terry tossed the cloak to Kyle, who cut the power and the cloak shimmered back into view. Anthony knelt down and checked Gregory’s pulse, but upon feeling nothing, immediately started CPR.

“Rachel, call an ambulance. Tell them Greg is unconscious, possible heart attack,” Anthony calmly raised his voice in Kyle’s direction. Anthony checked Gregory’s pockets and found the gun he was carrying. “Terry, take the cloak, backpack and gun and run back to the car and stow them there. Then get the first aid kit and defibrillator from the boot. Kyle, hold my torch.”

Terry hesitated, then burst into action, grabbing Gregory’s possessions sprinting to the car. He found the medical supplies easily and hurried back as fast as he could.

“Open the defibrillator and take out the pads,” Anthony instructed as he removed Gregory’s shirt.

“C’mon Greg,” Terry muttered as Anthony placed the pads onto Gregory’s chest. They all stepped back and the defibrillator charged and shocked Gregory. Anthony checked his pulse again and sighed with relief.

“He’s back,” he told Kyle and Terry. “Gregory’s back.”

* * * * * *

15 hours later

Gregory stirred, opening one groggy eye. The first thing he noticed was the steady beeping coming from his right. He glanced over and saw a heart rate monitor. Where was he? What happened? He closed his eyes in confusion and tried to remember. Okay, yes. He’d gotten home, locked the door behind him and he was moving to his living room. There was a sudden sharp pain in his chest and the world went black. He vaguely remembered pressure on his chest and a tingle, but not much else.

Gregory’s eyes snapped open. Where was the cloak? The beeping increased. He tried to sit up, but was too weak to do so. He tried to bring his right hand to wipe the sleep from his face and found that it was cuffed to the railing of his bed. White sheets, white blanket, beeping monitor: he was in a hospital. Gregory became aware of a soft whirring or purring noise and looked around. Kyle was was gently snoring in a chair beside the bed, covered by a jacket.

“Kyle,” Gregory said. Or tried to. All that came out was a soft grunt. Gregory worked his mouth a bit and cleared his throat. “Kyle,” he repeated in a clearer voice this time. Kyle popped awake.

“Gregory,” Kyle said, a little coldly. “Glad you’re awake. We know why you stole the cloak. For a nerd, you’re not very bright.”

Gregory looked confused.

“Don’t play dumb. Rachel went through your phone and found everything. Your sister – Grace, is it? – was kidnapped and the cloak was demanded as ransom, wasn’t it?”

Gregory held Kyle’s gaze for a moment, then nodded, tears pricking his eyes.

“What I don’t understand,” Kyle continued. “Is why you didn’t tell us. We could have helped you.”

“The kidnappers know about you. They said they’d kill her if I went to the police or you guys for help. At first I thought they wanted my money – I have a huge inheritance,” Gregory added and Kyle nodded. “But they specifically demanded the cloak.”

“Well, Rachel’s already trying to track the number that sent you the demands. We started looking for her while you were out cold.”

“Yeah, about that, what happened? And how did you find me?”

“We think the cloak’s vibrations countered your heartbeat and your heart stopped. You wore the cloak a lot longer than Terry used to use it, so it seems like it takes some time to neutralize your heartbeat.” Kyle explained how they found him with sonar and Gregory snorted.

“Ironic. The main thing the cloak was designed to hide me from was used to find me. Perfect.”

“Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a good design and the first of it’s kind. You couldn’t have predicted all the side effects. Oh, by the way, a package came for you earlier,” Kyle said and tossed a small box wrapped in brown paper with Gregory’s name and address neatly printed on top.

Gregory unwrapped the box and opened it. A slip of white paper with red splotches flew out and drifted onto the floor, which Kyle automatically bent down to pick up. When he straightened up to return the note, he saw that the blood had drained Gregory’s face and he was staring at the contents of the box. Kyle took one look inside and threw up into the dustbin.

It was a single human toe, the nail painted a light shade of pink.

Gregory picked up the bloodstained note with trembling hands and unfolded it. It had an address and a time for tomorrow afternoon printed on it, with three more words at the bottom.

Don’t faint again.

* * * * * *

“Okay, here’s what we do,” Anthony commanded. “Kyle, since Gregory is out, you’ll take over communications. Terry,” Anthony turned to face him. “Just go in, get her and get out, okay? Avoid all conflict.”

“Yes sir,” Terry said.

They were several hundred meters outside a seemingly abandoned warehouse, in their ops van, preparing to get Terry in and rescue Grace Thomas. They’d found out it was one of their past clients and, thanks to Rachel, they’d tracked the signals to this warehouse.

“Rachel, eyes up yet?” Anthony asked. They were waiting on Rachel to hack into the cameras around the building.

“Last one and… okay!” Rachel said triumphantly as the last screen popped into life. “This one is the closest to the building,” she said and pointed to one of the screens. “There aren’t any cams inside. Not any I could find anyway.”

Terry wrapped the cloak around himself and stuck an earpiece into his ear. “Check, one two,” he whispered and heard his voice echo in the van. Kyle nodded and gave the thumbs up. Terry pulled the hood up and activated the cloak. Terry’s world reverberated and then went silent. Kyle waited a moment then said into his mic, “Terry, can you hear me?”

Terry heard him, very faintly even though the volume was turned all the way up. The cloak muffled all noise inside itself, so they had to send the sound directly into Terry’s ear for him to hear them. Of course, when the cloak was active, he couldn’t reply, but he could take action. He deactivated the cloak and the sounds of the night floated back.

“Okay, I’m going in.”

One last check of his gadgets and Terry was out of the van, heading towards the warehouse. He crept around the corner and paused.

“Clear,” Kyle whispered. Since the receiver was at maximum volume, they had to speak softly when the cloak was inactive. Terry hurried to the door and poked a small wire under it. At the end of the wire was a camera that relayed it’s feed back to the van.

“I can’t see anything inside,” Rachel said. “It’s too dark. Try going around to the window.” Terry moved on to the nearest window and peeked in. Not this one: there were men inside. He padded to the next window and cautiously looked inside. Empty. Good. He pulled out his picks and said, “Cloak on,” before activating the cloak. The world was silenced once again and Terry took his time to pick the lock on the window. After a minute, the lock opened with a satisfying click, which got silenced by the cloak. Terry cracked the window open and climbed in as quickly as he could, not worrying about noise. Once he was in, he shut the window and paused for a beat, then deactivated the cloak, telling the others “Cloak off.”

“I’m in,” Terry said. “Okay where is she?”

“Basement level. Two levels below you. Staircase to your right after you exit the room,” Kyle said, tracking Terry’s progress on the blueprints that Anthony had managed to obtain. Since this was a past client, Briggs Security Consulting had blueprints so that they knew where best to install their security system. Anthony had covertly made a copy.

Terry poked the wire camera out the door to check that it was clear before moving out of the room. He tiptoed quietly, one finger on the cloak’s activation button, ready to fade quietly into the shadows at any moment. He made it to the stairwell without incident. Peeking down through the railings, he checked that no one was there before descending.

“Okay guys, I’m at the bottom. Where is she?” Terry whispered. He paused for Kyle’s reply, but heard nothing. Crap, he thought. He was too far underground and the signal was lost. It looked like he was going on alone, so he stowed his wire camera and proceeded the old fashioned way: take a peek and hope no one caught him.

The corridor was empty. There were several windowless doors on either side. He carefully turned the closest doorknob and found that it was locked. Terry sighed. Picking all the locks would take some time, so he got to work.

The first door opened to some sort of storage room. Everything was in brown crates, and it was obvious that Grace wasn’t in here. The second room was unlocked, but completely empty. Terry moved on. As he was picking the third door, he heard a low moan from inside the room. He froze and listened, but nothing happened. Terry unlocked the door and opened it, revealing a petite girl gagged and chained to the far wall.

“Grace?” Terry whispered. She shrank back and whimpered. Terry glanced at her badly bandaged foot and felt a flare of anger for her captors. He also noticed her pink toenails. “Grace,” Terry repeated, this time more confidently. “Shh, it’s okay, I won’t hurt you. My name is Terry and I’m gonna get you out of here.” Terry knelt beside her. “I’m a friend of Greg’s. Can you look at me to show me you understand?” Grace weakly lifted her head and gazed into his eyes. Something stirred in Terry’s chest and for a moment, he was lost for words.

“Um… I’m going to remove the gag okay? Don’t scream,” Terry said. Grace nodded and closed her eyes. Terry carefully undid the gag and she coughed, but made no other sound. Terry started working on the shackles that bound her to the wall. Precious minutes ticked by, and finally Terry picked them all. Terry tried to lift her up in his arms, but he wasn’t strong enough to carry both her and the heavy cape. Now he regretted not taking physical training more seriously.

“C’mon, I’m going to piggy back you,” he said as he undid his cloak. He managed to hoist her onto his back, then draped the cloak around them both. It barely covered them both and Grace grunted as she felt the dense cloak’s weight. He gave her the button to activate the cloak so that he could support her with both hands, and said, “When I tell you to press that button, press it quickly and don’t move. Okay?” She nodded and they both left the room. Terry was very conscious of her arms hugged tightly around his neck and chest.

As Terry started climbing the stairs, he marveled at how easy the rescue mission was. As if on cue, the door of the floor above them opened. Terry hissed “Press it!” and quickly shrank into the corner, crouching down so that the cloak completely covered them both. The world went into silence again and Grace squeaked in surprise. The man that came out the door went past them, down the stairs and back through the door they’d just escaped from.

Terry nudged her to deactivate the cloak. “Crap,” he murmured. “He might be going to check on you. We gotta move fast.” He climbed the stairs as quickly as he dared.

“What happened just now?” Grace whispered softly as they ascended. “How come he just walked right past?” Terry’s heart fluttered again at the sound of her voice.

“Invisibility cloak,” he muttered. “Well, not totally. The stairwell was dimly lit, so as long as we stayed still, he wouldn’t see us. The cloak adapts to any waves of energy that hits it and cancels it out. We probably looked like a dark corner to him. Another brilliant Greg invention.”

“My brother made this? Amazing,” Grace wondered at it. “How does it work? What’s it made of? When did he make it?”

“Later,” Terry panted. Finally, they reached the top of the stairs and Terry’s earpiece crackled to life again.

“… Terry… come in Terry. C’mon Terry…” Kyle was whispering repeatedly.

“I’m back,” Terry panted, out of breath from the climb. “No signal underground.”

“Ah Terry! You were out for nearly ten minutes. We thought we might have to come in after you,” Anthony called, relieved. “Did you find her?”

“Yes, I’ve got Grace, but we might have a problem. Some guy might be going to check on Grace’s cell. What’s the quickest way out? Grace can’t climb out the window I came through.”

Kyle quickly gave him instructions. “Come out the back. We’ll be waiting to pick you up. Hurry!” Shouts started coming from below them. Terry weighed his options. They needed speed more than caution now. Terry said, “Cloak on,” and Grace pressed the button. He followed Kyle’s instructions to the back door, ignoring all the open doors he passed. He knew he and Grace were no more than a silent shadow.

Luckily, nobody else passed close enough to notice them and reached the back door without incident. Terry opened the door and stepped into the night. He saw the van approaching and started moving towards it. He nudged Grace with his cheek again and she deactivated the cloak. Grace breathed in the cool night air and revived a bit more. She gave him a small kiss on his cheek and he blushed.

“Thank you for rescuing me, Terry.”

-Jace

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