Babysitting the Taran-Saurus
A Vyrian Incursion Story
by Lance Schonberg
I signaled to the three members of my team just as a second tremor passed through my soles. Waiting for the low rumble to subside, I let them take up preselected positions covering elevator, windows, and stairwell before pushing through the doorway.
The wild-eyed nanny already had every light in the apartment on. She spun around when the door smacked into the closet, pulling in a deep breath, and only didn’t scream because I shot a hand up. Two steps took me to her side and I leaned in close to whisper. “You know me and you know why I’m here. They don’t care about you. After we leave, stay down and you’ll be ignored.”
Her mouth snapped shut and she nodded, shoulders shaking as her eyes darted around looking for the best hiding place. I slipped into the larger of the two bedrooms to find the assistant had Taran dressed and in the carrier. That made me feel a little better, like we might get a few seconds’ lead.
She helped slip Taran onto my back and make sure all of the straps were tight before squeezing into the corner farthest from the window, a heavy dresser mostly hiding her. With a last look around at the nursery, I opened the closet door and felt under the light switch for the wall release pad.
I found the catch and the back wall of the closet slid away just as Taran yawned in my ear. “Go zoom?”
“You betcha, buddy. Go zoom.” Smiling, I stepped into the airshaft.
For a kid who’d been asleep two minutes before, he woke up fast, squealing as the grav field dropped us down through the building at about one floor per second. By the time we slowed for my feet to touch ground, level below the basement, he’d dropped back to a giggle but started to shift around in the carrier. Wide awake, but I didn’t think the adrenaline would last long.
I slapped the wall panel just outside of the shaft. Lights flared on in the tiny garage, the air car started, and somewhere I couldn’t see a timer began counting down from two minutes. At zero, a small charge would collapse the bottom of the shaft and disable the grav field. Two minutes was as long as I’d ever taken to get Taran into the harness and he’d been having a tantrum at the time. With him happy and engaged, we’d pick up a lot of those one hundred and twenty seconds, and every one of them made the sliver of hope just a little bigger.
Slipping off the harness, I scooped Taran up and slid him into the booster seat all in one motion. Three snaps anchored him in and one more did the same for me in the front seat. When the driver’s door closed, the vehicle locked automatically and a hidden door slid up to leave about five centimetres of clearance on each side, letting me pull out into the bottom level of the parking garage next door. All exits on the building I’d come from, plus the roof and sewers, would certainly be under observation, but my adversaries might not consider converted storage lockers letting me out into another building. At least, that was the idea. The ‘best laid plans’ came to mind.
Flipping down the rear view, I smiled at Taran. We still had about a minute before the charges went off, and I hoped it would take them longer to find the shaft. Much longer, if my people were as good as I thought they were. “Try to go back to sleep, buddy. We’ll be driving for a while.”
“Headphones? Purple Eater?” Still smiling, I reached back with a pair of headphones. He had them on before I could touch the play button.
A rushed, but I hoped not obviously hurried, drive to the street level exit pushed me into the late evening traffic. The excitement of the air shaft safely in the past, Taran sang along to his favourite song twice and promptly fell asleep less than five minutes out of the garage.
I wasn’t so lucky, spending the next hour criss-crossing my own trail and trying to be sure I didn’t have any tailgaters. I’d swept the car myself less than two hours before, and the onboard systems reported no abnormalities with the car, the traffic, or the buildings and air above us. We looked clear for the moment.
We’d gotten away, and it had been far too easy. Several extra senses itched in the back of my skull but none of them with any helpful extra information to add. Eventually, I had to decide you can only drive around with a kid in the back seat at night for so long. Time to try for a safe house.
There were five available, but if someone knew where to try for Taran, then our information network could easily be compromised, and I had to regard none of them as safe. Two months ago, I’d had a series of successful arguments and won the funding to set up three of my own.
The best choice was a small apartment in a small building well out of the downtown core, far from any government buildings or assets of corporate significance. Handy shopping, steps to two large parks and a thin tendril of subway, urban without being too urban. A renter’s dream to read the listing, but if I actually lived there, the commute to anywhere else would be murder, even on the subway.
This late, traffic had thinned enough that it was hard to take an hour to get to the safe house and harder still to wait for the every-fifteen-minute pulse from my security system. Decoding went quick and easy after I provided the key. No alarms, no signs of tampering. According to the logs, no one had entered the apartment since I’d last been there, two weeks ago. Everything looked fine except that a light plate registered as switching on and off just about the time I’d been loading Taran into the car, and not one of the plates on a random timer.
I drove away.
My other two options were similar setups, one a little closer to downtown and the other just outside a small industrial park. Both were good for a temporary escape and elude, but I didn’t want to spend long in either if I could avoid it. Ambushes and traps could blanket any real residential neighbourhood, and if escape became an issue, I’d be heavily outnumbered and short on time.
Which got me thinking.
I’d spent a long time getting good at my chosen profession, and planning could turn any problem into an edge. When not actually on duty, I spent most of my time planning, but big gaps existed in my knowledge about potential adversaries, identity and motivation chief among them. My initial brief had contained very detailed information on capabilities—surprisingly high tech and organized—but nothing resembling real background information. That missing information made me suspicious, and the lack of disclosure on who wanted Taran or why made me uncomfortable. If I’d had the option of refusing the assignment, only the fact that he was such a sweet little kid would have kept me from walking out.
But he was a sweet little kid. Size and intelligence for his age made him an obvious mod, but wasn’t something that could change my mind. I glanced in the mirror, smiled at the peaceful look on his face, and thumbed the volume down further on his headphones. Turning them off would be a mistake. He’d wake up and I’d have to find his favourite song again to get him to settle.
I had to make a decision, though. I didn’t really want him to spend all night in the car, and figured a few hours of sleep for me would be nice before he got up. Finally, because it was half an hour closer, I picked the apartment next to the industrial park, and the system there didn’t give so much as a flicker of doubt. An easy call to spend the night. Maybe we’d move tomorrow if I didn’t get clearance to come in.
Taran mumbled something when I pulled him out of the car seat, but I left the headphones on him and he didn’t wake up. The skin between my shoulder blades crawled the entire trip from the car into the apartment. So many things could go wrong during those couple of minutes, but I had to move him sometime.
With my charge safely on the couch under several blankets, I reset all of the sensors. The feeling went away and I started to relax. Not much, but just enough to slip into the easy chair and close my eyes. I wouldn’t have a lot warning if we were compromised, probably less than we’d had the first time, but if we were lucky it would be enough.
I just hated trusting to luck.