Naomi cried with furious anger. The few tears that ran down her cheek weren’t ones from sadness, but as if she had been pushed past the edge. Like a child that had been prodded again and again, but had had enough now.
She was silent while she helped unload the crops that the group managed to get from the factory. The group was silent as well, as if the floor were made of eggshells.
“We need to get them onto the beds and hooked up.” Naomi regained her composure.
The Mole, Martha, and Jonas brought the male and female crops inside the clinic and placed them on a couple of adjacent beds.
“Isaac.” Naomi said sternly. “Can I talk to you outside?”
Isaac followed her out to the van as she shut the cargo doors.
“I want you to know that I don’t blame you.” She said with her back to Isaac. “No one can feel what you felt…seeing that place again.” She turned around and stared at Isaac. “But, we are going back. If Noah could still be there, experimented on like you were, then we’re going back.”
That’s all Isaac could really say. No other answer would have done at that point. A simple agreement was his best and only option.
They both walked back inside to see the crops being prepped for medical evaluation. Both machines beeping with the pumps of their hearts. Still, both crops remained in a comatose state. They had not lost a wink of sleep in all of the commotion.
“Martha, I’m going to need you and Jonas to stay here at the clinic and monitor their vitals.” Naomi said. “Mole, you can go home and get some rest if you’d like. I’m sure we’re all gonna need it.”
“Where are you two going?” Martha said, concerned.
“We’re going back to the factory.” Naomi said while packing a backpack. “I’m not going to leave my brother there.”
“You’re going to go back? Are you sure that’s a good idea right after what happened?” Martha was concerned, but also knew that there was no use in questioning the decision.
“They could be doing the same thing they did to Isaac, to Noah.”
“We’re going back tonight.” Isaac said, seemingly out of nowhere. “We’re going back tonight, and we’re going to get Noah back. This is my fault.”
“We’ll prep a bed. Just in case.” Jonas said.
Naomi nodded in response to Jonas, but she looked at Isaac. She looked at him with understanding eyes and admiration. He knew that he had messed up and was willing to make it right at any cost. She respected that.
“I’ll come back in the morning to help out with whatever I can. Tell Noah to have some coffee ready for me.” The Mole slipped out into the rainy afternoon.
Naomi checked over the crops vitals. Checking their heartbeats and temperatures.
“No reaction to light.” She said as she checked for eye dilation. “Heart sounds good. Breathing is good.” She checked them both over thoroughly before she decided to get some rest before heading back to the factory.
Isaac laid down and tried to get a little sleep as well, but every time he closed his eyes he saw Noah being beat down by the Sentinels. That image repeating over and over in his head. The backs of his eyelids like projector screens for a snuff film that he had witnessed in real time just hours earlier. The beeping of the vital monitors hooked to the crops sent him into a trance. Whether he ever actually got some sleep or not, Isaac wasn’t even sure.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Her brown, shoulder length hair flowed in the wind with the windows down on that white van. For a moment, Naomi and Isaac both forgot about their troubles. This might have been the first actual moment of peace that Isaac had experienced.
Naomi, on the other hand, relished in the moment. She had felt peace before. As Isaac drove down that eroded road, she closed her eyes and felt the wind on her face. It reminded her of the days before her parents were taken away. Before she and Noah lived in these very woods for days before someone in The Byways found them.
Her wavy hair flowed with the breeze and, for a moment, Isaac looked over at Naomi and thought that she was beautiful. A woman so content with where she was in that exact moment. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her, but Noah flashed in his thoughts again and he knew that Naomi was not content.
As the two approached the factory, it was apparent that the place was on high alert. There was a significant amount of scanners patrolling the area now and guards posted up at the bay doors.
By the time they arrived at the factory, the rain was a light drizzle and the moon was a crescent shape. They easily moved up to the outside perimeter of the factory in the darkness.
The two Sentinels situated at the bay door were armed with pistols at their hips and CIIM module’s fixated on their backs.
“They are outfitted with the biotech that The Cultivator tested on me.” Isaac peered around the corner.
“What does that mean for us?”
“I’m not sure, but whenever it was attached to me I swore I could hear my own blood moving in my veins.” He whispered. “They may have heightened senses now.”
“Well, they didn’t hear us drive up.”
“Maybe the rain is enough to drown out the sound.” Isaac didn’t have any other answers.
A scanner was patrolling near the treeline in the vision of the guards. It’s humming vibrated the roots within the ground and shook the leaves on their stems.
Naomi picked up a rock just big enough to where she could hold it with one hand. She threw it at the scanner, causing it to go into a frenzy. It’s headlight frantically panned the area while the scanner turned in circles before smashing into a tree. Sparks went flying, catching some fuel on fire.
The Sentinels posted at the bay door hurried over to investigate.
“A fire that small won’t last long in this rain.” Naomi said. “Lead the way.”
Just like the night before, they made their way into the bay doors and took cover behind the concrete slabs. The two Sentinels were patrolling the aisles of slabs. They seemed to make the same routes, splitting off before converging again in the middle.
“That’s The Cultivator’s office.” Isaac pointed at the office on the other side of the factory. “We need to make our way up there.”
“That’s where Noah will be?”
The Sentinels had now converged in the middle aisle and were making their way down to the other end.
The Sentinels outside had set up a perimeter around the crashed scanner and were searching that area now.
Isaac gave the signal to start moving closer and closer to The Cultivator’s office, one slab at a time. It was like a game of chess or checkers the way they weaved through the rows of slabs. As the Sentinels got closer they stopped for a moment.
Isaac held up his hand as a signal. Their bodies pressed up against the monitors and tubes so tight that it almost restricted the blood flow to the crops. The pumping and swooshing filled their eardrums, drowning out the marching of the coming guards.
Eventually, the guards passed them without suspicion. Naomi and Isaac continued the strategic game of chess. Bishop to C3. Knight to D2. They continued this trajectory, pausing every couple of moves to see what the enemy would do.
They were about halfway to The Cultivator’s office when Naomi pulled a tube out of the crop next to her while shifting her position. The monitoring device immediately started beeping. After fumbling with the tube, she stuck it back into the crop. The beeping of the machine stopped, but The Sentinels were already alerted to the sound and began to move in to investigate.
The guards seemed unsure of which slab had set off the alarm and checked every crop in the vicinity. It was only a matter of time before they were caught and face down on the ground just like Noah was. Isaac knew that he had to make a move.
As one of the Sentinels approached the slab where Isaac knelt, Isaac quickly grabbed the pistol from his holster and used the guard as a shield. His forearm dug into the neck of the man and he could hear his breathing being forced.
“Isaac!” Naomi whispered.
He had already fired the gun, killing the other Sentinel that was approaching. The body fell to the floor, his armor crashing with the concrete. Isaac knew that the two guards from outside would have heard the gunshot. He placed the muzzle to the man’s temple and pulled the trigger. The body fell from his grasp like a bag of sand.
They ran to the foot of the stairs. At the top stood the catwalk and the door to The Cultivator’s office.
“Good shit back there.” Naomi said, partially out of breath.
“The two from outside will be coming soon. Go inside and check on Noah.”
They ran up the stairs, but gunshots came flying in from the bay door.
“Go!” Isaac yelled. Taking cover behind a steel beam, he returned fire. He peered over the beam and shot twice, hitting one of the guards in the chest. The other guard returned fire from behind a slab and hit Isaac in the left arm.
The Sentinel, thinking it was a worse wound than what it was, started running towards the staircase.
Isaac, one-handed, squinted his eyes and aimed down the iron sights of the pistol. Placing the tip of the site at the head of the moving target, and fired. The man went down.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Naomi opened the door to the office. The Cultivator had watched what had happened below and took cover underneath the control panel of the factory. He was visibly frightened when the woman walked in.
“Where’s Noah, where’s my brother!?” She walked forward.
The man smiled and came out from his hole as if he were no longer scared.
“That’s who you’re here for? I’m afraid you’re too late.”
“What? What did you do to him.” Naomi said, almost breaking.
“You took some of ours, we took one of yours.”
Naomi started walking forward again, fierce as ever. She approached the man face to face. His white lab coat dirty from the dust on the floor from which he came.
“Where is Noah?” She didn’t yell. She said it with such an inflection in her voice that conveyed a type of anger that could only be produced from losing everything you have.
The Cultivator didn’t budge. He was either the most confident man or he didn’t hear the same inflection in her voice. “We took him away. He may prove useful in my next exp…”
Right at that moment a sound so smooth happened. Like the sound of air being broken in two pieces. A move so fast that it was over before the sound would reach your ears.
The Cultivator’s throat opened and expelled blood from his arteries. A cut as thin as paper stretched open revealing his esophagus.
Naomi took a step back in amazement, makeshift knife in hand. The man grasped at his throat as if he were trying to shove his body back inside himself. His neck hissed like a punctured water hose. Redness coated the floor and Naomi. She was now covered in war paint.
The man fell to his knees, his own blood padding his fall. Naomi almost found it hard to watch as he continued covering the slit throat. He alternated hands as he tried to cup air back into his lungs, but he was gone. He fell dead to the floor in a pool of blood that probably wasn’t even his. It was one of theirs down there. A babies, maybe. Residual air formed bubbles in The Cultivator’s blood before popping and fizzing on his dead face.
Knight to B7.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Isaac was bleeding profusely from his arm. He kept pressure on it, hoping that it would slow. He got up from behind the steel beam and continued up the stairwell. As he reached The Cultivator’s office door, it swung open.
Naomi barged out of the door. “Let’s go.”
“Not here!” Her voice echoed through the factory as she was already halfway down the stairs.
Isaac turned to look inside of the office to see The Cultivator dead in a puddle of blood and a message that Naomi had left anyone who investigates the factory:
YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW
Blood trickled from the letters on the wall. A message. Isaac mumbled the words to himself as the office door swayed shut.