Chapter 13

Joyce woke up to see four walls of white. The overhead lights were shining in her eyes. Though it was low light, she still felt like her eyes were scorched from it. She closed her eyes and brought her hands up to her face to protect herself. On her second attempt to study her new habitat–or possibly prison, other details came back to her.

“Nic!” She yelled out in alarm.

It was also then that someone opened the door and stepped in. From her uniform, Joyce guessed she was a nurse. “Miss, please calm down, you’re still very weak.”

“Where’s Nic?” Joyce asked, still attempting to get out of bed.

“I’m sorry, Miss,” The nurse said. “I was only given instructions to take care of you. You have to calm down and rest.”

Calm down was the last thing Joyce was able to do. She shook her head. “Did Wallace and Tony kill him?”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know any of that,” The nurse responded in her programmed tone again.

“I have to get out of here,” Joyce protested, still fighting with the nurse.

Soon, two men entered the place and closed the door behind them. One of the two was Calvin. But of course, Joyce didn’t recognize him since they’d never met before. She was still struggling with the nurse. It wasn’t until the other guy told the nurse to leave that the commotion stopped. Calvin waited for the two parties to exit before approaching Joyce’s bed.

“You’re Joyce, right?” Calvin asked, just trying to make conversation. He retrieved a piece of paper from the folder in his hand and placed the portrait right side up for Joyce to see.

Joyce was hesitant at first but upon seeing a drawing of herself on the paper, she gasped and looked up at Calvin again for an explanation.

“Nic had never stopped yelling out your name the whole time since his arrest several hours back,” Calvin said. “This drawing is part of the evidence we retrieved from Xerphora. It was one of Cyndi’s drawings before she was killed.”

Joyce returned her attention to the drawing in Calvin’s hand. The portrait looked so much like her, especially given her current fragile state. She was no longer the carefree, full of life Joyce Claudia once met by the seaside. She was now another version of Claudia after barely escaping death. Her wish of coming to Earth one day to see all the beautiful views for herself had come true. Yet to what expense?

“I know it’s not a good time,” Calvin spoke up again. “But time is precious. We need to know some things immediately.”

Joyce looked up at Calvin again, her face reflecting the haunting look in the portrait–and not the confused and shell-shocked one he saw when he and his colleague stepped in previously.

“If you’re not dead, does that mean Cyndi…”

Joyce shook her head. “I don’t know. Nic never mentioned it. After he revived me, he just made plans to return to Earth.”

“Joyce, I know you and him used to…” Calvin gestured his hand slightly. “But this is important, you have to cooperate with us before it’s too late.”

Joyce shook her head again, tears threatening to pour out but she was trying hard to fight it. “I seriously don’t know. Do you think I would pass up a chance to reduce Nic’s sentence?”

It was then that Calvin understood. And Joyce was right. If Cyndi was still alive–or if Joyce knew about it, she would be glad to cooperate, allowing some sense of hope into Nic’s future. Now? She could only torture herself with constant turmoil. Feeling for all the innocent victims Nic and the others had slain to conceal their secret. And reliving those moments she and Nic shared when she still thought he was just some guy who had some common interests with her, such as wanting to go on adventures and capture the worlds with their own artistic abilities.

“I want to see Nic,” Joyce said after a moment of silence.

“You can’t see him yet,” Calvin rejected her plea. “You’re still so weak and we still need to interrogate them.”

“Wallace and Tony wanted to pin all of it on Nic.”

Calvin didn’t realize he was getting any source of information, considering Joyce’s current state. But as soon as he heard Nic’s name, he knew what she was trying to do.

“What are you saying?” Calvin prompted, playing dumb so she would elaborate–and prove his theory.

“They said it when we were still in the woods,” Joyce continued. “Tony wanted to kill Nic, but Wallace told him not to. They wanted to let Nic live so they could pin all of these on him so they could reduce their sentences.”

“If you’re trying to distract us with that information and delay the investigation…” Calvin warned.

Joyce shook her head. “I know you think I’m trying to protect Nic, but it’s the truth.”

“But they were all in it together, how could they turn against each other just like that?”

“It was because of me. Nic brought Wallace and Tony back to the mansion. They found me and confronted Nic.” And Joyce started from the beginning with the details of that night where she had managed to deceive death. Or more like Nic had deceived the others that she was already a corpse. She had emphasized that the other two did not know of Nic’s intent. Even if she wasn’t too sure at first, but she finally understood during the confrontation in the woods earlier.

Calvin did not interrupt Joyce’s recap. He knew it was a chance of a lifetime so he kept quiet the whole while Joyce was recounting her stories. He only nodded from time to time to urge her on. Afterward, he excused himself and said that he would put in a word for her so she could visit Nic. But he never promised on time. Before leaving, he reminded her to rest and restore her strength so she could continue to wait for Nic.

*****

Calvin walked down the long hallway with his footsteps echoing eerily in the night. The light was kept a dim state. It had always been that way–regardless of night or day. Because there was no source of light from outer areas shining in. It was one of the purposes of the maximum-security prison when it was built in the first place.

“Agent Chen,” One of the guards called out to him as Calvin approached them and handed over a slip of paper.

The paper was a permission slip to enter the place. After the routine of checking his badge, one of the guards led him down another dark hallway and toward the area where Wallace, Nic, and Tony were locked up. Unlike last time–to which their upper management had been so careless, the three guys were separated loosely between cells this time around. Though it was not necessary this time because they weren’t so vocal like before. All three were silent. Even Nic, who had made quite a fuss at the beginning, had simmered down.

“Came to gloat?” Wallace taunted as soon as the guard locked the door up again behind Calvin.

The guard was still standing nearby, waiting for Calvin’s signal. So he had yelled out for Wallace to shut up. Yet Calvin raised a hand up to stop the guard from proceeding any further down on his list of swear words to get back at Wallace. After that, Calvin gave the three prisoners a quick scan over, Joyce’s words coming back to him. He wasn’t totally sure of Joyce’s statements yet. But he decided to use part of it to his advantage. Especially the part about them turning against one another. And the first step that he took was approaching Nic, ignoring the other two in totality. The guard was still watching outside and spoke up to warn Calvin about standing too close to the cell. Calvin reassured the guard before returning his attention to Nic.

“Joyce woke up already,” Calvin informed Nic, studying Nic’s expression hard and trying to corroborate with Joyce’s story at the same time.

Nic’s face indeed tensed up with worry. “Is she all right? She should be, right?”

Calvin had done another routine scan in Wallace and Tony’s directions before answering Nic. “She’s fine. She’s getting the necessary care at the facility.”

Despite the sticky spot he had landed in, Nic mustered up a smile. “Good.”

Calvin had caught the eye-roll from Wallace already–and Tony’s annoyance reflecting on his face. He still chose to ignore it.

“You can see Joyce when she’s well enough again,” Calvin said, continuing to sound like they were best buddies and he was just in to visit an old friend–instead of acting like some highly, responsible agent interrogating a suspect.

Nic’s smile widened and his eyes full of hope. But that was what caused Tony’s snap.

“He’s just lying to you, you idiot,” Tony yelled out. “She’s probably already dead. He’s just trying to lure you to his side and turn you against us.”

“Joyce’s still alive,” Calvin insisted, his eyes on Tony at this point. “She just told me she wanted to see Nic right away, but I convinced her to rest first.” After saying those words, Calvin took several steps back and was standing at the center area of all the cells surrounding him. “Now, who wants to talk first? Since you’re so chatty, why don’t you start, Tony?”

Tony scoffed. “Nice try, but I’m not falling for it.”

“Wallace?” Calvin prompted, his composure still intact, knowing he had to play his cards carefully.

“What I want to know is how you could find us so fast,” Wallace finally broke his silence.

Calvin let out a wry smile then. “GPS.”

Wallace wrinkled his face. “What?”

But Tony had already turned to Nic with a livid expression. “You turned on your cell phone? You idiot!”

Nic wasn’t threatened by Tony’s attempt to sear past his barriers though. The metallic bars were too secured for Tony’s strength. Nic just smiled. “How do you like it when I outwitted you?”

“You idiot, you’re bringing us down with you. If you want to confess for your chick, at least let us escape first.”

It was Nic’s turn to scoff this time. “And let you have a chance to kill us? It was you who left me with no choice. I might as well let them know where we were.”

“What the hell are you all talking about?” Wallace jumped in, at last, feeling so lost with all their secret codes.

“Don’t you watch TV?” Tony snapped at Wallace, losing all senses of control–and forgetting that they were supposed to be on the same side. “He turned on his cell phone so the cops could track our location via GPS.”

“Why would you do that?” Wallace asked, faking dumb this time around–and still pretending that they were supposed to be on the same team all along, no conflicts existed whatsoever.

“You think I would let you kill Joyce?” Nic asked back, the same anguish expression displaying that they’d seen in the past whenever the others had threatened Joyce’s safety.

“Enough with the arguments, gentlemen,” Calvin interfered, having heard enough. “We’ll continue this later. I was only here to inform Nic of Joyce’s well-being.”

With that, Calvin knocked on the front door where the guard was standing to indicate he was done. He knew they would never stop with the already enraged Tony going full blast and Wallace not far behind with trying to resume his composure. The cameras were still in place, so he only needed to check it when he returned to his office. No need to add any more oil to the burning fire. At least not any more than he needed to for now.

*****

Two days later, Calvin had gathered all teams involved in the recent arrest in the large auditorium for another round of interrogation. He needed all the information from them as necessary to plan his next step. It was then that he confirmed both Joyce and Nic’s statements regarding how they’d seen both Wallace and Tony trying to attack Nic and Joyce when they were in the process of moving in to arrest all parties. Indeed, Nic’s cell phone turning on was their only hope in locating the three, leading to their arrest.

“That means, we have to convince Nic to confess,” Calvin concluded.

“This won’t be easy,” One of the other agents pointed out. “Even if Nic’d risked his freedom for Joyce, but it doesn’t mean he would cooperate with us. He could try to stall for time and drag this whole thing out as long as he could.”

“But we have Joyce,” Calvin reminded them all. “We could convince her to convince him to confess.”

“But Joyce’s on his side.”

Calvin shook his head. “Joyce told me if there was a way to help Nic, she would do it.”

“You don’t know if she’s lying or not.”

“She’s not that type of person. Claudia told me what Joyce went through to protect her all those times, hiding her from those three when they were still on Xerphora.”

“It has been two years now. Times change, people change.”

Calvin had to turn on his amused expression despite the current situation. And the other party knew very well where he failed to convince.

“All right, all right, even aliens change, okay? Look at Wallace, he’s so good at his game and is willing to sacrifice everything just for all those gold that Nic and Tony offered to him at first to buy those pieces of equipment.”

“I want to take my chances,” Calvin said, his voice determined. “Let me talk to Joyce first.”

The other agents knew Calvin’s personality too well, so they left him to it. There was no point in arguing unless he had tried and failed. The fact that he rarely failed contributed to the factor of them not stopping his plans even more.

© Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Posted: Thursday, June 11th, 2015

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