Operation Lighthouse: Nexus
“It was about what you wanted all along!” Elise shouted at her father. They had been arguing for over fifteen minutes now. Elise was already crying, but despite that her anger just continued to burn within her. Not just anger about the topic at hand, but all the pent up emotions from her entire life were now adding to it. She had never before argued with her father, much less like this.
Marshall had insisted that Elise get the operation despite her worries. And even when she flat out refused him, he still told her that she was going to go through with it because it was for her own good. That was when Elise lost her calm.
“You don’t care about what’s best for me, all you care about is yourself!” Elise continued. Being a professional negotiator, Marshall Laraway was a patient man. But his daughter’s tone, which was something he had never heard from her before, was beginning to grate on his nerves.
“Elise, you’re getting the operation, and that’s final,” Marshall said in as composed a tone as he could currently muster.
“No! I’m not going through with it and you can’t make me!”
“Why are you resisting, this is what you’ve wanted all your life,” Marshall said. Elise clenched her fists, then after a moment of silence, she exploded at him.
“All I wanted was for you to love me!” she screamed. Her face felt hot, tears were coming like rain, and she was beginning to feel light headed. Still, her anger just continued to intensify, knowing no bounds.
“I do care about you. You are my daughter,” Marshall said. From the tone of his voice, Elise could tell that he only meant it out of obligation, not genuine care.
“If you really loved me you wouldn’t be embarrassed of me! You wouldn’t care what other people thought about me!”
“My position is very important and I can’t afford to have my daughter’s condition affecting my career. It’s my job that is able to afford all of this for you. This house, your clothes, the tuition to that overly expensive boarding school. But just like that women, you aren’t the least bit grateful!” Marshall’s volume had gradually escalated into yelling. When he referred to “that women” he meant his ex wife, Elise’s mother. She had left him because he put his career before her. Despite that, she had left Elise under his care because she wanted her daughter to be provided for. Elise would’ve preferred that her mother take her along, even if it meant giving up all the luxuries she was used to.
“I don’t care about your job,” Elise said through her sobs, “I just wanted you to love me…”
“I’ve given you everything you could possibly want! And this is the thanks I get? You’re lucky I’m responsible enough to take care of you, because who else would even bother with a defective little girl like you, huh?” Marshall yelled angrily. Elise was silent a moment.
“Aile would…” she said softly.
“Aileron… he loves me. He takes care of me…”
“Who? You mean that bodyguard from Aegis?” Marshall laughed openly, “he’s being paid a large sum of money to look after you! He doesn’t actually care!”
“You’re wrong!” Elise screamed. “He doesn’t even work for them anymore! He left his job just so he could be with me!”
“What?” Marshall was incredulous.
“He loves me,” Elise said resolutely. She wiped away her tears as best she could and looked her father dead in the eye. “And you… you aren’t even one quarter the man that Aile is! I hate you!”
“Get out,” Marshall said, his voice low. Elise just stared at him, unsure of whether or not he was serious. In that moment, Marshall lost his temper.
“I said GET OUT!” he bellowed, grabbing a hold of a lamp stand and throwing it clear across the living room, where it hit the wall and shattered into many pieces. Elise started, being spurred into action by her father’s fit of rage, and began backing toward the door.
“Father…” she said, regretting her previous words.
“Don’t call me that! I don’t have a daughter!” Marshall yelled. Elise’s eyes went wide and she felt a great emotional pain, almost as if she had been hit in the head. Tears once again found their way to her eyes and she sobbed uncontrollably. Her father, in his rage, took a step toward her. Elise felt herself in danger and quickly left out the front door, running as fast as she could away from the place that had been her home for so many years.
Chapter 7: To the Rescue
It was just a quiet Friday night at Lighthouse Academy.
In his room, Aileron was sitting in bed against the headboard and reading the latest issue of Code One magazine. Arnold was also there, sitting at the small table on the other side of the room and writing in a notebook. They were just quietly minding their own business when suddenly a rapid beeping sound punctured the silence. It was coming from the nightstand next to Aileron’s bed.
“Hmm?” Aileron looked away from his magazine. He had already talked to Lang earlier in the week and wasn’t planning to work this weekend. It was extremely odd for Lang to contact him through the communications device aside from regularly scheduled updates. Aileron set the magazine down and pulled open the drawer, retrieving the device.
“Is that… a cell phone?” Arnold asked in disbelief. Students were forbidden to have cellular phones. Aileron just held up a finger to Arnold and looked at the device’s display. It wasn’t a phone number he was familiar with, but the area code suggested it was from Elise’s hometown. Aileron opened the clamshell device and raised it to his ear. Immediately, he was greeted by a recorded voice.
“Will you accept the charges for a collect call from…” the voice said, then paused.
“Elise,” said her voice, as was recorded by the phone service a moment ago.
“Yes,” Aileron replied, feeling a pang of concern in his stomach. Why was Elise calling him at this number? And a collect call, no less.
“Elise?” he asked a moment later.
“Aile…” Elise voice greeted him. Immediately, Aileron could tell something was very, very wrong. His heart skipped a beat.
“Elise, what’s wrong?” he asked in a serious tone. Arnold, despite his surprise at the phone, also took on a look of concern.
“My father… he… he kicked me out,” Elise said, struggling to maintain her composure.
“Are you kidding me?” Aileron asked incredulously, suddenly feeling anger at the man coming to the surface. He knew that Marshall Laraway was a poor father, but to kick Elise out at eight thirty at night in the middle of January wasn’t something he thought the man capable of. “Where are you now?” Aileron asked worriedly.
“At a p…pay phone,” Elise said. Aileron detected the shiver in her voice.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m cold… and I’m scared,” Elise replied, her voice breaking.
“Elise, I’m coming for you. It’ll take me a while to get there, though, so you need to find somewhere warm and well lit, okay?”
“Aile, I’m so scared…” Elise began crying. Aileron felt his heart racing with an urgency that he had never before felt in his life. He had to get to her as soon as humanly possible, maybe even faster than that. For Elise’s sake, though, he spoke with the calm and composure befitting an aviator.
“Elise, listen to me babe,” Aileron said, his voice even and soothing, “you need to be strong for me for just a little while, okay?”
“You can do it. You’re a tough girl, so you’ll be okay. Just get yourself somewhere with a lot of people and bright lights and everything will be fine, okay?”
“O…okay,” Elise said, calming down.
“I love you, and I’ll be there as soon as I can. Where can I meet you?”
A few hundred miles from him, Elise was standing outside a grocery store at a pay phone. She looked around at her surroundings.
Dressed only in a pleated skirt, stockings, and a long sleeved tee shirt, Elise was very cold. The weather wasn’t going to be forgiving tonight, predictions putting it just above freezing. Shivering, she searched for a place to wait for Aileron to arrive. A few blocks down she spotted the familiar sign of an all-night diner. That would probable be the best place to wait for a few hours.
“On Cove street… there’s an all night restaurant. It’s the only safe place that will be open,” Elise said. “I’ll wait there.”
“Okay babe,” Aileron replied. “I’ll be as fast as possible.”
“Okay,” Elise said, trying to suppress her shivers.
“I love you Elise,” Aileron said comfortingly.
“I love you too,” Elise replied, nearly breaking down in tears again.
“See you soon,” Aileron said. With that they hung up. Elise, steeling herself against the chilling winds, began walking toward the diner.
“Arnold, I’m leaving,” Aileron said, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He found his boots and began putting them on.
“Leaving… where to?” Arnold asked.
“Elise is in trouble,” Aileron replied, “and I have to go to her.”
“Wait, isn’t she supposed to be with her dad?”
“Yeah, and the bastard kicked her out of his house. She’s alone and scared somewhere in the city.”
“But… that’s like six hundred miles away,” Arnold pointed out.
“I know,” Aileron replied. “I can’t explain it right now, but I’m going. If Mr. Pierce asks where I am don’t try to cover for me, just tell him I never came back from dinner.”
“O… okay, Aile,” Arnold hesitantly agreed.
“Sorry bro. I promise I’ll explain everything someday.”
“Be careful, Aile,” Arnold said.
“Careful takes time, which is something I don’t have right now,” he said as he finished tying his shoes. Wordlessly, Aileron grabbed a backpack from the closet. It was always packed with everything he would need should he ever have to leave in a hurry. This was one of those times. With that, Aileron rushed out the door.
Good thing I sort of planned for this, Aileron thought to himself as he ran through the night. Reaching the school’s perimeter, he scrambled up a conveniently placed tree and over the cobblestone wall. Landing on the grass on the other side of the fence, Aileron broke into a fast run through the forest.
Thought I wouldn’t have ever guessed that Elise’s father would be such a jerk. I can’t believe this! He thought angrily, clenching his teeth as he ran even faster. In two minutes, he reached a small and unkempt storage shed. Long forgotten, the dilapidated shed was the perfect hiding place. Inside, he pulled a heavy cover off of a Suzuki motorcycle, which Aileron immediately mounted. He donned the waiting helmet and started the engine. Without giving the cold vehicle time to warm up, Aileron sped off into the night.
He didn’t plan to use the motorcycle to get to Elise. That would take hours. Instead, he was just using it to get to part two of his emergency evacuation plan. Having a lot of money at his disposal, Aileron was able to rent a spot at a local airfield. He also had purchased a civilian legal jet, an Aero Vodochy L-139 Albatross. It would take him nearly twenty minutes to get the aircraft safely in the air, but versus a car, it would be a much faster mode of transit. Once he was in the air, he could expect to cover the six hundred miles to Elise’s hometown in a little over an hour. Factoring in the time it would take him to take off and land, then get to Elise’s position, it would realistically take him close to three hours before he could be at her side.
Aileron cursed the laws the FAA had restricted him to. The L-139 only had a max speed of about four hundred seventy miles per hour. If he had Wraith waiting for him he could be over Elise’s hometown in about 25 minutes after takeoff.
Still, he was thankful for his Albatross. It would carry him to Elise faster than any car or motorcycle.
There’s gotta be something else I can do, Aileron futilely thought as he sped down the road, carefully watching for police.
Wait, Elise’s hometown isn’t far from where Lina is on assignment, Aileron realized. Lina Vihkrov, easily the strangest girl Aileron had ever met. Though unconventional, she was highly skilled, fiercely loyal, and completely reliable in times of need. If Aileron asked Lina to meet up with Elise, she probably would be able to much faster than he could.
The airfield was a small, community operated airstrip. It was about 2000 feet long, which had been barely enough to safely land the Albatross to begin with. Thankfully, take-offs took less distance than landings. Since the airfield didn’t have a tower or any security to speak of, Aileron had free reign on what he did. He drove the motorcycle right up to the hanger he had rented, shut off the engine, set the kick stand, and got off. Immediately, he found his communicator and made a call to Lina.
Elise wasn’t sure what time it was as she didn’t wear a watch or have a cell phone. Looking around the crowded diner, she soon spotted a wall mounted clock. It was across the room, but big enough to where she could make out the numbers. 9:32 PM. It had only been about an hour since she was kicked out of her father’s place.
When she arrived at the diner she was seated in the dining room by the hostess and was asked if she would like something to drink. Having no money, Elise opted for complimentary water. However, when it arrived she thought better of actually drinking it. She was kicked out with nothing. No extra clothes, no money, and no supplies. The diaper she was wearing was already a little wet. If she drank it, the water would soon pass through her system. Having no extra diapers to change into, she had to make the one she was wearing last as long as possible.
“Are you ready to order something?” a gruff sounding, but clearly female, voice asked for the ninth time. Elise looked up at the waitress, who had adopted an irritated expression.
“No, thank you,” Elise said again. The women seemed to take offense at this.
“Look, it’s a busy night and I have customers waiting to be seated. Unless you’re going to order something you can’t stay here. Now, what can I get you?”
Elise felt her throat tighten. She was about to be kicked out into the cold again. Fighting to maintain her composure, she replied, “I can’t order anything. I don’t have any money.”
“Then I’m sorry, but you’ll have to leave,” the women said rather insensitively. Elise hesitated a moment, then got up from the seat. The waitress had her hands on her hips and was just waiting for her to leave. Elise looked up once at the waitress, but seeing nothing even resembling compassion in her eyes, looked down at the floor and walked toward the exit.
It had gotten even colder since Elise had taken refuge in the diner. Or maybe it was because she had been in a warm place for the last forty-five minutes that made it seem so much colder now that she was out virtually unprotected in the winter night.
The warmth that had been stored up in Elise’s body was quickly running out, and the cold bite of the air was starting to hurt. Hugging herself, she headed in no particular direction. Right now, she just had to walk. If she was moving toward a destination, even if she wasn’t sure where it was, she could keep from crying. Aside from that, all she could do was hope that Aile would soon be at her side.
She suddenly stopped walking. Aileron was supposed to meet her at that diner; she couldn’t stray too far from it. But it was very cold, and Elise knew she had to get somewhere warmer and soon. The nearest, brightly lit place that was open was the local bus depot. She knew that it wasn’t the safest of places, especially for a teenage girl like her, but given her circumstances she really couldn’t think of anywhere else to go. Even if it was dangerous, she had to somehow get warmed up and keep herself from harm long enough for Aile to come and rescue her.
As she walked toward the bus depot, Elise saw a shadow move in the corner of her eye. Absently, she looked over at the movement, and was startled when a rather large man stepped out from an alley. He was a good foot taller than she was, and probably more then a hundred fifty pounds heavier. He was wearing jeans and a black jacket, and something about his face made Elise very uncomfortable. He looked like the stereotypical ‘bad guy’ from any given number of movies and public service announcements she had seen. On top of that, the look he had on his face was like someone who was standing in line for a buffet while eying all the tasty food that was about to be on their plate. Merely making eye contact with him caused Elise to shudder.
“Hey, baby, what brings you out so late at night?” the man asked. His speech was a bit slurred, as if he was slightly drunk or just didn’t really care to talk right. Also, to Elise, every word that came out of his mouth seemed to drip with poisonous venom. Not acknowledging him at all, Elise just kept her eyes on the sidewalk before her and kept walking, hoping that he would just leave her alone.
“Hey, I’m talking to you!” the man suddenly shouted, making a grab for Elise’s arm. Reacting immediately, Elise ducked under the man’s grasp, then immediately started running.
“Come back here!” the man shouted, giving chase. Elise felt a major dose of adrenalin hit her bloodstream. Her legs became numb, and she ran faster than she thought she could. She didn’t know where she was going, but every instinct in her body just told her to get as far away from that man as possible. Unfortunately, even despite all her effort, he was gaining on her, and she was beginning to succumb to panic. Then, without warning, another man, similar in size, but darker in skin tone, stepped out from behind a wall, blocking her path. At that point, her only means of escape was into an alley that spanned between buildings. The man reached out for her, but she narrowly avoided his grasp, then darted into the alley. Both men gave chase, but Elise had a good enough lead that she was starting to calm down. Until she ran into the dead end. Turning around, she saw that the men had cut off her only way out. They slowed to a walk and came closer and closer, both grinning and chuckling darkly. Elise looked around in a panic, and seeing a brick laying on the ground, she quickly picked it up and held it as if ready to strike.
“D…don’t come any closer,” she squeaked, almost in tears. The men just laughed at her and didn’t stop. Elise backed up until she met the brick wall that was blocking her only exit. Utterly helpless and terrified, she only faintly registered the feeling of her diaper becoming warm and heavy as she wet herself in fear.
“Now, come here,” the first man said, reaching for Elise’s arm. Her flight was cut off; the only option left was to fight. Elise threw the brick at the man’s face with all the strength she could muster. Fueled by adrenalin, she threw it with enough force that it not only hit, but broke the man’s nose. He reeled back, clutching his face in pain and cried out loud. Taking the opportunity, Elise dashed toward the man, running right passed him. It was short lived victory, because the second man reacted immediately, kicking her right foot as she tried to make her escape. Elise immediately fell forward with a startled cry. She hit the concrete ground with her shoulder, rolling into a rather deep and cold puddle. She tried to get back on her feet, but it was already too late. She felt a pair of immensely powerful hands on her arms, then was yanked back up by one of the men.
“You little…” the first man said. His nose was bleeding profusely, but he had already given up trying to wipe it away. He pulled Elise to the side, then roughly pushed her up against the wall of one of the buildings. Whimpering in terror, Elise used the last of her strength to struggle against the man as he grabbed the hem of her skirt.
“No…” Elise whimpered as the man pulled her skirt up. He was momentarily speechless.
“What the hell?” he asked. His partner came closer and got a look at what had confused his friend.
“What the? A diaper?” the other man asked. He looked at his friend, then back at Elise, who was now crying. “Maybe we should let her go.”
“Not a chance,” the first man said.
“C’mon man, she’s just a kid. With problems, too,” the darker man contested.
“I don’t care. I’m making her pay for this,” the first man replied angrily, pointing at his broken nose. The second man just shrugged and walked away while shaking his head, leaving the first man and Elise alone in the dark corner of the ally. He grinned, then began to grab a hold of Elise’s diaper.
“Stop… please…” Elise said, her voice broken by uncontrollable sobs.
“Shut up!” the man said forcefully, causing Elise to shudder. Just as he was about to tear the diaper away, the sound of his friend crying out from the end of the ally caught his attention.
“What now?” the man asked, looking over. His friend fell to his knees, convulsing wildly, then onto his back, where he spasmed a few more times before he became motionless. Before him, a figure cloaked in the shadows stood holding what looked like a compact pistol. Two very thin lines traced a curved path between the man’s now still form and the barrel of the weapon. The silhouette of the person wielding it stepped over the motionless body, then came closer.
“That was just an X26 Taser,” a surprisingly feminine voice said. It was soft sounding, yet firm in inflection. “It can incapacitate a target in only one shot, but unfortunately that’s all it carries.”
“What?” the man asked. Then, the girl brought a much larger weapon to bear.
“This, however, is an FN P90. It carries fifty rounds of armor piercing ammunition which can easily kill in one shot. I suggest you leave the girl alone.”
“Don’t play around, little girl, I’m…” was all the man managed to say. Without hesitation, the girl pulled the trigger once, firing a single shot. The suppressed P90 only uttered a quiet tap, but the shot was nonetheless effective. The 5.7 millimeter bullet ripped right through the man’s knee, exploding out the back of his leg in a bloody pop. His leg failed him, and he fell to the ground. Then the pain hit, and he screamed out loud.
“I warned you,” the girl said. She came closer while keeping the the P90 pointed down at the struggling and crying man. “Are you okay, Elise?” she asked as she stopped beside her.
“Lina?” Elise was stunned.
“Yes,” Lina Vihkrov said, not taking her eyes from the man on the ground.
“You bit…” the man tried to say, but Lina cut him off in a strong voice.
“Try anything else and the next shot will be through your head,” she said threateningly.
“Lina,” Elise said, her voice breaking as her emotions overcame her. Her legs faltered, and she fell against Lina, who deftly switched the P90 to her left arm and caught Elise with her right. “But… but how?” Elise asked, bewildered.
“Aile contacted me and told me you required assistance,” Lina replied. For a moment, Elise just clung to Lina and cried. “We should leave,” Lina said. Elise dabbed away some of her tears.
“Are we… are we just gonna leave him here?” Elise asked.
“Do you wish me to kill him?” Lina asked. Elise started at her cold voice, but what really frightened her was how she herself felt. The man had probably intended to rape her. Maybe he would’ve even killed her when he was done. But, Elise was against killing… or at least that’s how she thought she felt. Looking at the pathetically struggling man who had tried to deeply hurt her, Elise was genuinely tempted to say “yes.”
“N… no,” Elise said after a moment of hesitation.
“In that case,” Lina said, taking another object from her coat pocket. She casually walked up to the man, crouched down, and stuck a hand held electric shock prod into the man’s side, pressing the switch. He cried out loud, convulsing uncontrollably as 120,000 volts of electricity coursed through his body. Even despite his broken pleas for her to stop, Lina continually shocked the man until he fell unconscious. “Let’s go,” Lina said, putting the device back into her pocket.