Doug’s many years of paranoia had prepared him for just this kind of scenario. Having logged out of Conquest, he hurried around his apartment and grabbed his antiquated laptop, his 72-hour kit, his sawed-off shotgun, his sash filled with military grade 12-gauge shells, and his hidden wad of hundred-dollar bills, and scurried out the back door. He wasn’t exactly sure where Brittany’s body was, but he was determined to find her. He ran down the fire escape and out the alleyway, making certain that he wasn’t being followed.
He ran northward down the lane, crossing each street cautiously and following along alleyways. He finally stopped under the Chicago Skyway, at the corner of Ewing Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard.
A decommissioned armored tank marked the entrance to the small triangular East Side Memorial Park. He darted to the opposite side of the tank and crouched down, ignoring the putrid odor of urine. This spot was a favorite place for passerby homeless people to sleep. And, apparently, to do their business as well.
All right, Brittany, where are you?
He pulled out his laptop and booted it up. It would be risky to connect to the city’s free Wi-Fi, but he had little choice. He was certain that by now his MAC address was being monitored.
He established the connection and activated a proxy anonymizer service to cover his tracks. The internet speed was sluggish, but sufficient for his needs. In a separate window, he activated the ‘back door’ to the NSA’s server and hacked into one of the running consoles in their database.
He quickly located the GFID Nano-chip tracking software. After a bit of digging, he found Brittany Parker’s profile. Clicking on the location tab, a virtual map loaded with multiple GFID Nano-chips betraying her whereabouts.
Great. Just great.
It would take him nearly an hour to reach the Chicago South Precinct by cab. He stewed over his options. Whatever it was that they were doing to her in there, Brittany was dying. He had to save her.
But risk exposing myself?
He had been in hiding for years.
Doug gritted his teeth and made his decision.
It was nearing midnight when Doug threw the brick through the grocery store window. Under normal circumstances, the police would have been alerted to the break-in, but the surrounding chaos was sufficient to keep the few remaining police on their toes.
The screams and cries echoing from the streets were loud enough to drown out the screeching alarm. Doug grabbed a shopping cart and ran toward the paper goods isle. He nearly toppled the display with the swoop of an arm as he cleaned the shelf of all its boxes of aluminum foil. Wasting no time, he ripped open one of the boxes and began frantically wrapping the top of his head with an entire roll. When that box was depleted, he grabbed another and quickly repeated the process.
In his wildest dreams, he couldn’t fathom the events that had brought him to this moment. Trying to break into the Chicago South Precinct hours ago was a fool’s errand. He had tried to hack into the building’s security pad at one of the back entrances, but he triggered their alarm by mistake and was quickly apprehended. It was while they were attempting to drag him toward a jail cell when the lightning attacked. Bulletproof windows shattered and concrete walls crumbled as the blue bolts of lightning incinerated random victims upon contact. Somehow Doug had survived, and barely made it out of the building. Survival mode had kicked in, and finding Brittany was no longer a priority.
With a grunt, he heaved the full shopping cart out the broken display window. Eerie lightning bolts lit up the night sky as he raced across the parking lot. Without any warning, the wheels of the cart locked when he reached the perimeter, causing the cart to topple over. Landing awkwardly on the pavement, he made a quick decision to pull the upside-down cart on top of himself. Now crouching in a fetal position in the cramped space, he watched as several drunkards staggered out of the tavern across the street.
“Go back inside!” he yelled at them, but it was no use.
The five men staggered along with nearly-empty bottles of beer, pointing up at the light show with enthusiasm. In that moment, a bolt of lightning erupted from the sky and struck one of the five. In the blink of an eye, the drunkard disappeared, leaving behind a large patch of charred pavement. Instead of running and screaming like everyone else, the four remaining were so drunk that they busted up laughing.
“Get down!” Doug called out again.
The men glanced his way just in time to get enveloped by sheets of lightning. Clamping his eyes shut to force out the images of charred pavement, Doug began humming the music-box-like hymn of Conquest to himself, rocking his body back and forth.