Ray sat on the couch later while Sam and Alex did the dishes. He was idly channel surfing, procrastinating working on Herman 2.0. His brain was mush after today, the running through the streets, moving into a new place, and working all afternoon on the project. He wanted to not have to use his brain anymore. But Leo was going to need Herman if she wanted to do anymore cyber espionage.
Good lord there had to be about a million and a half soccer games going on at one time. It was impress…
He'd flipped to an American News channel, subtitled in Russian. There was Piwitti, her name and title displayed proudly on the screen. And she was talking about them.
“The five of them are highly intelligent.” She was smiling at the spray tanned interviewer. “There is a reason they pulled this off so quickly and without us picking up much chatter.”
“But they don't feel like the types to be killers.” The interviewer frowned. “They're college and high school students. Kids with perfect grades. One even has a service record with your agency.”
“Alex was trained to be a killer as soon as she was old enough to be in the field. She, unfortunately, got into a situation beyond her control and her partner was killed in front of her. Needless to say, it did bad things to her brain. Though we tried our best to mitigate the damage, she seems to have relapsed and drug the other four down with her. Not that they had to fall far.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I have photo evidence of the Gosling girls trading in weapons with Sergeant Philip, along with video that I'm not at liberty to release. I also have Ray Harwell’s internet purchase history, which tells a disturbing tale of bomb production. None of them are innocent. And I have every reason to believe that they would plot to destroy the good work done by the UN.” Several pictures of Leo, Maya, and Sam came up on screen, along with Alex's pictures with David, and Rays high school photo.
“You've asked us to show those to our viewers,” the reporter said. “But we can't until it's reviewed in their court case. All we can show is public photos. You're saying you have evidence that could be motive for them killing the governor?”
“But all you have is some illegal activity and not actual footage of the five of them killing the governor or other evidence linking them to the scene?”
“What you have is circumstantial.”
“Oh snap.” Leo was giggling. “I like this reporter!”
“Circumstantial evidence will ever stand up in court.” The reporter was talking over Piwiiti’s protestations. “And it certainly isn't enough for the public.”
“That may be so,” Piwitti finally got a word in edgewise, “But I have someone who could make their incarceration and their recovery possible.”
“Ah yes.” The reporter steepled his fingers. “Ms. Harwell’s partner.”
“David’s recovery after his hospitalization was…”
“Recovery?” Ray hissed. “He was dead. There was no recovery. He got shot in the head.”
“Shshshsh!” Alex shushed her brother and leant forward in her seat.
“We’ve been working closely with him for months, and we have every reason to believe that the same treatment we gave him for his injuries and PTSD could do some serious good for Ms. Harwell’s delinquency.” A picture of David came on the screen, smiling with his buddies from basic.
“These young people are veterans.” The reporter frowned. “And yet you do not refer to them with their former ranks?”
“The program was disbanded.” Piwitti shrugged. “The ranks of other agencies are stripped when a program like this is cancelled…”
“But this wasn’t just an agency.” The reporter cut in. He liked to interrupt. “These kids were told they were soldiers. They were soldiers. Shouldn’t they be offered the same honors as their adult peers?”
“While what these children did was very honorable,” Piwitti admitted. “They were minors and those sorts of privileges wouldn’t be passed to them until they reached adulthood, and they all knew it. It was in their contracts. Pensions were dolled out, of course; but veteran status would never be rewarded until they hit the age of eighteen.”
“Was that really in our contracts?” Alex looked over at Sam and Leo. Sam shrugged.
“I didn’t really read it very well.” He said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised. Giving kids the same ranks as wrinkled old men wouldn’t go over well at the Am-Vets.”
“I did read the contract.” Leo said. “And, yeah. That was a clause.”
“So you tricked helpless children to not only sign their lives away,” the reporter was gaining steam, again. “But you denied them the rights and privileges that come along with that sacrifice and you allowed them to come to harm?”
“I never…” They cut off Piwitti’s feed and the reporter addressed the audience.
“What we do know is that the Faux Five are looking more innocent by the minute. If only their legal counsel would come forward to help prove their innocence.”
“Yeah.” Ray looked at Leo. “Where is our legal counsel?” Leo grinned.
“I know a guy,” Leo nodded. “But I haven't contacted him because running for our lives and stuff.”
Ray looked at his sister, again, who was sitting, staring at the TV.
“Alex?” he touched her knee. She didn’t move.
“He’s alive.” She said. He noticed the tears in her eyes, the electric hatred. “They told me he died, I watched his brains fly all over the walls, and they told me he died. But he’s alive? He recovered?”
“Sometimes you can survive a wound like that to the head.” Ray nodded. “It’s rare, but…”
“But nothing!” Alex was sobbing. “They told me he died. I watched him die!”
“You watched…?” Ray stopped and stared at her. There wasn’t blank distance in her eyes, not anymore. She knew who she’d seen. “You remember?”
“Just David.” She smiled. “Everything with David.” Ray was puzzled by that smile. She was so happy about some memory that…
“You two did the dance with no pants.” Maya nodded and smiled, bobbing her head to some invisible beat. “You totally had the hots for each other.”
“Did not.” Alex blushed. Ray’s gut twisted. She’d slept with her partner.
“You did so!” Maya said, throwing a pillow at her. “You so had the hots for him and you so slept with him! You dawg!”
“Can you call a girl a ‘dawg’?“ Leo was also grinning. “Because I’m pretty sure that’s what you are!” Leo was laughing.
“Guys.” Ray shook his head at the girls, tossing the pillow back at Leo for his sister. “Big picture here? David is alive?”
“Big picture,” Leo chucked the pillow back at Ray. “Alex’s boyfriend is alive and in the clutches of that bitch. Which means, we gotta bust him out!”
“Ah,” Sam put his head in his hands. “Is it bad enough that you guys want to go break into another top-secret facility in a country that hates us, but you also have to go break out a dude who’s probably a damaged psychopath?”
“You think that he is?” Alex was tearing up again.
“Recovering from PTSD doesn’t sound good.” Leo shook her head. “But there’s always a chance.”
“Can we maybe focus on trying to prove that we are innocent, first?” Ray was pleading for sanity. “That sounds like the best way to get him out of the wicked witches tower.”
“You’re not wrong.” Alex nodded. “And it’s less risky for all of us.”
“But he’s in the heart of evil with that woman!” Maya was getting emotional. “We can’t just leave him alone!”
“I think I’m the one who’s supposed to be saying that.” Alex smiled.
“So you are his girlfriend.” Leo smiled.
“If he remembers me.” Alex shrugged.
“You remembered.” Ray smiled at his sister. She gave him a hug.