Carter’s eyes snapped open, his entire body stiffening, his arms tightening protectively around Joy as he listened. There had been no noise, not really, it was a feeling, a change in the air of the house. Someone was in his home, the home he shared with beautiful Joy. He moved slowly, sliding out of bed and taking only a moment to pull the covers up to Joy’s chin before reaching under the bed and wrapping his fingers around his gun. He cocked his head, hearing breathing and he moved on bare feet to stand next to the door. It opened and he reacted, his hand grabbing the intruder and slamming them against the wall his gun pressing under their chin. The sound woke Joy and she shot up, her hands fumbling with the lamp next to her. Carter’s raged filled eyes were suddenly tinted with confusion.
“Jude?” He said, not pulling the gun away. “What are you doing here?”
“I didn’t come to hurt you, I need your help.”
“Don’t lie to me, Jude. You broke into my home.”
“I’m not, I really came for help. This is me asking, please.”
Please, it had never been a word she had spoken, but there was something different about her, something familiar in her eyes. “Carter?” Joy’s voice warmed him, softened him and he searched Jude’s eyes for a moment more before moving back.
“What do you want?”
“Perhaps you should get dressed first, your woman is embarrassed.”
Carter looked down and then back at Joy. Nudity still wasn’t something he always gave thought. “You did break in.” He retrieved a pair of sweats for himself and a long shirt and shorts for Joy. They dressed, Joy much faster than him then he turned a questioning look to Jude. “Well?”
“It’s Rhodes.” She said, a frown pulling at her face.
“Who’s Rhodes?” Joy asked as she moved to stand next to Carter.
“Another one of us, a man with built in night vision and a photographic memory. Highly intelligent, favors knives.” He looked back at Jude. “What about him?”
“I…he was kidnapped. Some people took him, I couldn’t stop them.” Her gaze slid away and she swallowed. “I want you to help me get him back, they’ll experiment on him.”
“Why would you…”
Joy rested a hand on his arm. “Carter, she’s in love with him.”
That he could believe since he had fallen in love with his precious Joy. He could see it in her face now, the pain he knew he’d feel if someone took off with Joy. “I’ll help but if you ever need me again you better use the door.” she looked relieved “thank you, I know you told me never to come back but I had to…only you’re good enough to help me” Carter turned to Joy “will you stay here?”
“I’ll be stressed worrying about you. I promise to listen if you let me come” he sighed “this will be incredibly dangerous baby”
“I’ve experienced quite a bit of dangerous…please”
Carter made sure his guns were clean while Joy packed a small bag. He had instructed her to keep it light since they would be on the move and not to pack anything important in case they had to run. “You’re not usually so compliant.” Jude said as she waited for them.
“People change, even people like us. Joy has brought much to my life, turning a bleak, lonely existence into something beautiful.”
“After the compound was shut down, I followed Rhodes. I didn’t have anywhere to go and I thought we should stick together. I started to notice things the longer we were away from their influence. It’s so overwhelming, how did you deal with it?”
“I followed my heart, even though I didn’t realize I had one. It’s the only advice I can give you.” He slipped his gun into their holsters and then checked the bag. “This is good. How long have they had Rhodes?”
“How did they catch him?”
“They used a flash bang grenade, blinding both of us. I tried to follow, but I was disoriented.”
“Any details? Voices? Appearance? Uniforms?”
“Don’t overwhelm her, Carter.” Joy said gently.
“No, it’s okay, he’s right to ask.”
“This has to be so hard though. I couldn’t imagine myself and the hurricane of emotions I’d be feeling if Carter was kidnapped”
“I’m sure you’d be strong like I have to be now. He needs information to help me so I’ll work through it. It’s sweet of you to care though Joy” Jude looked back at Carter “I think two of the men had deep voices but my vision took awhile to come back so that’s really all I have. I’ll keep trying to think though”
“alright, in the meantime take us to where he was initially taken. If we’re lucky they left something behind that will give us more information” She nodded, Jude was the picture of disquiet right now, making Joy wish there was anything she could really do. Jude was basically Carters sister being they were born in the same lab and it made Joy worry about her more than she would anybody else.
Jude gave Joy directions as she drove, taking them out into the countryside which had Carter on high alert. He didn’t think Jude would be setting a trap, but the men who had abducted Rhodes might have returned and could be watching. He rolled down his window, listening closely. When Joy pulled into the dirt driveway, he ordered her to wait as he and Jude slipped out. He heard only the sounds of rustling leaves and the occasional footsteps of some nighttime creature. “Alright, come on Joy, but stay between us.” Joy got out and Jude took up the rear. “Tell me what happened.”
“We were sitting out here on the porch, he was reading and then it just came sailing out of the woods. I remember him screaming as the light blinded him, you know how sensitive his eyes are. I ran inside to get my rifle and then tried following them, but I couldn’t see well enough and my ears wouldn’t stop ringing.” Jude explained. “They headed out that way.” She pointed to the west. “There’s a river over there.”
“They probably used a boat.” Carter moved around the outside of the house, his eyes searching the ground. “They had you two surrounded.”
“If it had been you, you wouldn’t have been caught.”
“Don’t blame yourself.” Joy said in a gentle tone.
“I’m trained, we both are, but I…”
“Joy is right, this isn’t your fault. It’s no secret what we are, Joy’s father made us public to help us, but it seems to have drawn unwanted attention. They seem well organized, military or ex military perhaps, they would have no problem getting their hands on our files.”
“How did they find us?”
“Rhodes loves to read, it wouldn’t be hard to track him. They probably thought he had the biggest disadvantage. His night vision makes his eyes incredibly sensitive to bright light. They used that and the fact you live in the middle of nowhere to their advantage.”
“Do you remember anything else?” Joy asked her. “Any smells or maybe a brief glimpse of something, a name?”
Jude though hard, trying to sort through the panic she had let set in when everything was happening, desperately trying to find another clue. She hoped it wasn’t just her trying to conjure something too hard but a name did come to her “I could have sworn someone said Hanes. That sounds like a last name to me, sadly its a semi common one but…I really think I heard that”
“Hanes, at least it’s something else to go on” Carter said, still looking around to see if they dropped anything. Not finding anything only cemented the idea to them these were professionals. A novice would have left something. There would have been a minor thing or two they wouldn’t have deemed important to worry over but trained people knew you couldn’t leave a single scrap behind that you were ever there.
“We should check the river then, perhaps get a general direction.” Carter said as he followed the footprints leading off into the woods. Joy stayed close beside him, stopping herself from taking his hand. She didn’t want to hinder his ability to defend them. He seemed to read her thoughts and laced their fingers together, giving her a warm smile.
“Once we find Rhodes, I promise not to come back.” Jude said as they picked their way through the woods. “I know you don’t like us, so we won’t bother you.”
“I don’t hate you, Jude, I just do not appreciate my home being broken into. You are lucky Joy was there or I would have shot you the moment you stepped into our room.”
“She’s made you soft.”
“More than soft, she’s made me human.” He let out a sigh. “You and Rhodes are welcome to visit anytime you wish, next time just knock. Besides, Joy is shy and we often sleep with nothing on.”
“Carter.” Joy blushed.
“Next time, I promise to knock.”
While embarrassment might have kept her for much longer any other time they were soon all just looking for clues again. Joy guessed it was because she knew someone had gotten kidnapped here but she became increasingly glad Carter had taken her hand. She felt uneasy and knew she’d feel even more so if she didn’t have that contact with him. Carter huffed out a laugh “what?” Jude was the first to ask then Carter held upa small bit of gum “someone didn’t clean up all of their bubble gum. I’m sure we can test this for DNA”
“what kind of idiot, they must have at least one newbie in their group”
“well its alucky break for us. He or she obviously tried to get it up but in their haste missed this small bit”
“Where would we test it?” Joy asked.
“The men your father had shut down the compound, they didn’t take everything. I know because I saw them hauling things out. They didn’t bother with the equipment.” Jude said.
“The compound? You mean the compound, the compound you were born in?” Joy asked.
Joy didn’t know much about the place. Carter had divulged little, not seeing it as important and she had heard a bit about it while it was being shut down, but other than that it was a mystery. “Are you okay with me going there, Carter?” She asked.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“It’s just, you don’t really talk about it much.”
He shrugged. “It’s in my past, I don’t see a reason to think about it when I have you.”
Joy blushed, as he often made her do unintentionally. He smiled “kissing her cheek” Jude’s heart twisted seeing them, it just made her need Rhodes back more. They left with the gum, going back to where he and a bunch of other experimental people began. Joy was nervous but mostly for Carter. She hoped being there didn’t stir up any painful memories. He didn’t seem to struggle with anything like that but being in that place again could be harder. Joy hoped for the best but she couldn’t help but worry over the worst. It was a long drive but Carter never seemed to exhaust. His eyes were steady on the road, determined to get this all figured out.
The compound was bigger than Joy had expected and it gave off a sense of cold detachment. Carter pulled to a stop in front of the locked gate and got out long enough to pull the chain and padlock free and push it open. Once he had the car pulled up to the front, they got out and headed inside. It was chilly and Joy felt goosebumps crawl up her arms as she took in the white walls and floors. It was so clean, so sterile. “This was your home?” She asked as they walked down a hallway. “Was it always this cold?”
“Usually, there was a lot of sensitive material.” Jude answered.
“There were times they would send ice cold air into our rooms. After awhile you don’t feel it anymore.” Carter added.
He chuckled. “There’s no need for concern, Joy. This place means nothing to me anymore. Here we are.”
Joy looked at the name plate next to the door and read the words Lab One. “How many are there?”
“Five total. We were tested and experimented on in increments of five. While five recovered, five more were brought in.” He pushed the door open and Joy took in the room. The metal table in the center with restraints dangling from it, the medical equipment resting on a small roll around table. There were scalpels and syringes and even a little tape recorder. She couldn’t begin to imagine what Carter and Jude had gone through, what any of them had gone through.
“What did they do in here?”
“Gene manipulation, pain experiments, chemical testing. There are other rooms, some for mental conditioning, others for physical. They pushed us until we couldn’t move, until we couldn’t think. We were…”
“Robots.” Carter finished. “Killing machines, we still are, we just have purpose now.”
Joy knew Rhodes was in trouble and they needed to get to him as fast as possible but she hugged Carter anyway. It was only a moment of their time and she just had to hug him. She would hug Jude too if she thought she’d be okay with it. Jude could see the emotional pain in her eyes and said “Joy, we really aren’t tortured by any of this. Back then, sure but now I’m sure Carter is just as fine as Rhodes and I are”
“I am baby” Joy nodded and let Carter do what he came here to do. They got the back up generators going that nobody took then Carter started testing the sample while Jude found a computer. Joy just watched anxiously until they had come up with a nam “ah so you did hear right”
“yeah, Hanes, Geoff Lucas Hanes”
Carter’s fingers moved over the keyboard at an incredibly fast pace until a file was brought up on the screen. “Ex military, discharged due to injury. He’s young, still green.”
“Green can be dangerous.” Jude said.
“Or easily manipulated. Looks like he’s making quite a bit of money, maybe he’s doubling as security and retrieval.”
He brought up more information. “Rosenwood Pharmaceuticals.”
“What would they be doing to him?” Joy asked.
“Probably research and development. We’re super human, to people like that we probably look like scientific wonders. The secret to our power is in gene manipulation. Perhaps they wish to capitalize on that.” Carter explained. “If they have the means to make more like us, they can sell it to anyone who is willing to pay enough.”
‘Now that we have a person we can save Rhodes before they make more people to torture right?” Joy asked and Carter nodded “Of course baby, we’ll get your fathers help again too”
“I’ll call him now” Joy said, pulling out her cellphone. Carter kept reading as Joy filled her father in. He gave her an earful for going there, even with Carter but he was happy she called and told her he’d get them whatever information he could and help with whatever they asked. “Okay, dad is filled in”
“he shouldn’t have yelled at you. You not only have me but Jude here, nothing could touch you”
“dads are funny like that”
“We wouldn’t know, the only father we had was the man who owned this place and I wouldn’t exactly call him a dad.” Jude said. “So, should we take you home?”
“It may be for the best, Joy. Jude and I can infiltrate that place and find Rhodes, you shouldn’t put yourself in anymore danger.” Carter explained.
“I can’t just leave you two, what if they catch you and someone needs to call for help? What if you get hurt?”
“Joy, this is what we do, this is what we were made for. Nothing is going to happen to me.”
“I bet Rhodes thought the same thing, but they caught him off guard. I know it’s dangerous, but don’t make me go home. I’ll even stay in the car if I have too, but I don’t want to be left a home to wonder what’s going on. Please?”
Carter sighed. He had no defenses against her, especially when she looked at him like she was ready to cry. “Jude, see if they left any of our headsets. As soon as her father calls back, we’ll be going in.” He pulled Joy into his arms. “You have to promise not to leave the car no matter what. You’ll be able to keep in touch with us so you won’t have to worry.”
“Please, I can’t stress enough how much I need you to stay safe in the car”
“I wouldn’t distract you by getting out. You might get hurt” Carter gave her a long kiss, holding her tightly to him. He knew if he lost her he would learn what true pain was. Just the thought of her dieing or being injured conjured sadness in his soul. Jude came back awhile later, having found a head set “good” Carter said then talked to Joy about how they would use it so she’d know if they were alright. It was simple enough and Joy was confident she’d be able to talk to him with ease.
Joy wanted to see more of the compound while they waited for her father to call back so Carter and Jude took her around the large building that had once been their life. Joy thought if she could glimpse this part of their life, she would be even closer to Carter. It saddened her the life he and the others had spent here, how they had been treated like nothing but possessions. “It’s amazing how put together you both are.” Joy said as they made their way through what had been a dormitory.
“We lived here during a time where emotions were foreign to us. I remember being scared as a child when they first started all of this, but after being mentally conditioned to block out anything unrelated to work, it was no longer frightening. Those emotions seemed to last but moments.” Carter said then stopped in front of one of the doors. “This was my room.” He pushed the door open. There wasn’t much, a bed, a desk with a book sitting on top of it, a closet and another door leading to a bathroom. It seemed to project loneliness to Joy, but Carter just smiled. “I’m really happy I found you, Joy.”
“Me too.” Her phone rang, startling her and she quickly pulled it out and answered it when she saw it was her father. He gave them as much information as he could and she relayed their plan. He went into protective mode, telling her she better listen to Carter and not do anything dangerous. She smiled and promised him that she wouldn’t set a toe outside the car.
They went back to the car, ready for the long trip to where they were guessing the kidnappers were with Rhodes. Carter had struggle not to speed, mostly due to the fact he wanted Joy out of danger as fast as possible. He felt every second they chased these people he was putting her at risk. If they were anticipating being followed another car could come out and do god knows what. His mind played over every situation he had been trained for when it came to that and it caused stressed within him due to his need for her. They obviously knew what they were dealing with so Carter would be surprised if they hadn’t been ready for them to find a scrap of evidence and give chase.
Jude noticed how white Carters hand was on the wheel, surprised to see such intense emotion but she already knew thats what love caused. Love was the undoing of almost all their training when it came to not feeling. She guessed easily the things that were on his mind because the very same scenarios had played through hers, they were trained to think of everything. She looked away and out the window, picturing his face, seeing it happy as she tried not to think of anything else in this moment. Getting upset wouldn’t help so she just had to try to focus on positive things.
They did a drive by of the building when they came to it, both Carter and Jude taking it in. It was tall with a lot of windows and a large roof more than likely used for a helicopter. “Jude, I want you to head to the tallest building across the street and tell me what you see through your scope.” Carter said as he pulled to a stop a couple of blocks away.
“But I should go in with you.”
“I need you covering my back and it’s better if it’s just me going in. My gifts give me the biggest advantage. I’ll give you some time to get up there.”
“Where do you think they’re holding him?”
“I don’t know, but I bet one of those guards can tell me.” He winked. “Nothing a bit of bodily harm won’t get me.”
“Alright, I understand, but please tell him I’m here and I have his back.”
“Will do.” She got out then he turned to Joy. “Keep that headset on the car doors locked.” He took one of his guns and handed it to her. “I know you don’t like hurting others, but take this just in case. Jude is watching from the roof so she’ll check in on you.”
“Just stay safe, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
He left her, hurrying off and making himself start concentrating fully on his task. He trusted that Joy truly would stay in the car and that Jude would tell him or protect her if Joy was in any danger. The only thing he didn’t trust is that she’d actually use the gun but he hoped she would if her life was in danger and neither of them could save her fast enough. By the time Carter needed to fight he was concentrated, emotion having evacuated his body. He was once again the machine, a finely tuned instrument for kicking ass and getting what he came for. He killed the guards he game across, leaving only one alive to question. This one would breath his final breath this evening too once Carter knew where Rhodes was being held captive.
It didn’t take much to get an answer and just as Carter had planned he blew the mans brains out, not caring about the noise. If people were coming they were already on their way from the others and he’d handle them aswell. He hadn’t lost his edge in the slightest being with Joy. He could feel now but he could also easily go right back to this if he needed to. Carter walked down the hall, still feeling nothing but desire to get Joy back home.
Joy sat in the car, fighting the urge to ask of Carter was okay. She didn’t want to speak at the wrong moment and cause him to get injured or worse, cause him to lose his life tonight. She looked down at the black, cold gun that lay in her lap. She wasn’t sure she could take a life if she had to but she found it quickly in her hand when she heard a loud thud on the roof of the car. Her heart instantly went from normal to what felt like a thousand beats per second until she saw a little cat jump from the roof to the hood.
“Go away kitty, it’s dangerous around here.” She said as she knocked on the windshield. The cat looked at her for a moment then hopped down. She would hate for it to be collateral if Jude had to take a shot at someone approaching the car.
“You doing alright?” Carter’s voice in her ear startled her. “Joy?”
“I’m fine, sorry, you scared me. How about you?”
“Perfect baby, are you still in the car?”
“Yes, but there was a cat.”
“Leave it, if it’s still there when we come running, I’ll grab it.”
“Just focus on what you’re doing, Carter.” She heard what sounded like shattering glass on his end and tensed. “Carter?”
“Just Jude taking someone out, don’t worry. I’ll contact you when we’re on out way.” Carter muted his headset, not wanting to cause Joy any more distress. The men who had gathered to guard Rhodes’s room were surprised by his speed and the sniper bullets coming at them from outside. They hit the ground before they could scream and he rifled through their pockets, finding the key card. He touched it to the panel next to the door and the lock popped loose. Rhodes was strapped to a bed, his eyes covered by a black blindfold. His heart beat said he was awake even if his shallow breathing indicated he was sleeping. He was faking, biding his time. “Rhodes.”
“Carter?” Rhodes questioned as the blindfold was pulled away, revealing bright silver eyes full of confusion. “What are you doing here?”
“Jude came to me, she’s across the street.” He released Rhodes who got up, nearly falling over. Carter helped steady him. “You alright?”
“They gave me drugs when I stole one of their bodyguards knives and killed three of them. Assholes. Is Jude okay?”
“Just anxious to see you.”
Carter got him out and soon Jude was wrapping Rhodes in a hug, both looking happy to be in eachothers arms again. Carter looked around for the cat since he told Joy he would. When he slid into the front seat he said “sorry, I don’t see him. Do you want me to look more?”
“No, thank you though” Carter was now holding Joy “I’d do anything for you” He let her go after a few moments then checked to be sure Jude and Rhodes were in the car “am I taking you two back to my place or yours?”
“Just take us to ours”
“you sure?” Joy asked and Rhodes nodded. Jude was blushing as they looked back since Rhodes was holding her even in the car. Carter took them back to their place, making sure they were really fine there before leaving with Joy. Carter was glad to finally be on his way back home with her . He felt like she was safe now though he knew he probably still had to deal with the pest police force. He knew he’d probably have to talk to them at some point about what happened. He was hoping her father already did.
“They didn’t hurt him did they?” Joy asked once they made it home. She had been thinking more about the compound and everything she had seen, about how terrifying it must have been.
“Not really, they drugged him when he fought back, but other than that, nothing happened to him.”
“That’s good, you’ve all been through so much, you don’t need more trauma added on.”
He smiled as he unbuckled and leaned over, kissing her. “You really are the most compassionate woman in the world. You don’t have to worry about what happened. Rhodes was more irritated than anything.” He pressed their foreheads together. “Thank you for worrying, for accepting me and this darkness I was raised with. You brought me into the light and it has rippled out and touched others.”
“I didn’t really do much.”
“You loved me, Joy, you loved me unconditionally and that changed me, it saved me and saved Rhodes and Jude. Thank you.”
His words touched her heart so she kissed him to express those feelings. His mouth moved with hers, their tongues soon mingling so he was tempted to take her right there in the car. He however broke the kiss before it went that far, getting out to open her door and carry Joy inside. She relaxed in his arms, enjoying the security she always felt when they were this close. Inside they took their shoes off then Carter found them a light snack since neither could remember the last time they ate anything. They washed the food down with some even more needed water then decided to retire to their room, both just wanting to rest and be together.
The next morning they received a call from Joy’s father. Carter spoke to him and was told the police wouldn’t be needing to speak to him since other government agencies had take over jurisdiction and arrested Mr. Rosenwood and the scientists who had thought to develop and sell a dangerous weapon. They wanted to keep Carter as well as Jude and Rhodes out of it as much as possible, especially after they had watched the surveillance footage and had seen what Carter had done to the small group of paid mercenaries. “They’re afraid of me?”
“Wouldn’t you be, you walked into that place and didn’t get a scratch on you.”
“As long as they don’t bother us or Rhodes and Jude, I won’t have an issue with them. My family is important to me and I will do what I must to ensure they’re happiness. If they need anymore information about the experiments, I will gladly speak to them.”
“I’ll let my friends know then, tell Joy I love her and we want to have dinner with you two this weekend.”
“Well?” Joy asked after he hung up.
“Everything’s fine, Rosenwood has been arrested.”
“Thank goodness.” She hugged him. “I’m really glad that’s over.”
“Sorry you got pulled into it again, but thank you for sticking by me.”
“That’s what I’m supposed to do, Carter, I love you.”
He pressed their foreheads together, smiling and letting out a contented sigh. “You are my miracle, Joy, don’t forget it.”