Chapter III

Against Medical Advise

The next morning, Max woke to the nurse entering his room. She glanced at his chart, checked the machines, then pulled back the curtains letting the light in. He closed his eyes instinctively and remembered Santiago’s white flash earlier. How did he do that?
“Good morning. How is your chest feeling?”
“Not bad, I guess.”
“Does the wrap feel too tight?”
“No, It’s fine thanks. Any word on my sister?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I just started my shift a few hours ago. No one mentioned anything to me. Would you like me to contact her for you?”

Max paused. Maybe Mia had made it back home somehow. Maybe she was trying to find him.

“Yea, call my home number please.”
“Of course. I’m surprised no one offered earlier. I can’t believe you’ve been here all alone since last night.”

He checked the side of his bed for the device Santiago had left him. The small black orb was there, confirming the mysterious episode. It was identical to a ping pong ball except it weighed about half a pound. He let his finger drift across the indented button. Did he really know the truth about Mia?

The nurse went about her routine. She helped him out of bed so he could use the restroom, shocking his inert muscles. He didn’t realize how weak he was until trying to stand still in front of the toilet. Good thing he didn’t attempt to leave last night because he wouldn’t have gotten far. When he returned to his bed, the nurse informed him that he would be getting his breakfast in a few minutes followed by a meeting with the counselor.

It took all of his effort to remain in the bed and finish his food. It tasted like cooked cardboard but that didn’t slow him down. Max shoveled it all into his mouth. He wanted nothing more than to be free to find his sister. Free to find answers. He waited anxiously for the nurse to return.

“Ummm. . . Mr. Masterson?” the nurse said, poking her head into the room.
“Was she there at home?!” Max blurted.
“No, she wasn’t. But your friend, Jacob Geist, answered the phone. He is really worried about you and said he’d be visiting as soon as possible.”

Max had never heard of a Jacob Geist, was this who Santiago warned him about?

“What else did he say?”
“He asked if you needed fresh clothes and what room you were in.”

Max felt exposed. Santiago had called them the Tekagi. Max had never heard of that either. Why were these strangers pretending to know him? Whatever the reason, they now knew exactly where to find him, and that made Max feel uneasy.

The nurse was saying something about the counselor, he wasn’t really listening, when an urgent announcement played over the intercom in the hallway. The nurse stopped mid-sentence and quickly exited the room. Max could see other nurses running past the window through the glass door, all were heading the same direction. Someone was probably coming in off an ambulance, Max reasoned. He looked down at his chest and wondered how long it would take to heal. The pain only made itself known when he extended his left arm too far, stretching the skin around the cut, besides that he felt fit to do any other activity. He let out a long sigh and noticed how quiet it was all of a sudden.

Just then, the door to Max’s room opened and three large men entered. Right away, Max knew they didn’t belong in the hospital. They wore stark white masks that completely covered their faces and black suits. The masks were of a plain, almost featureless face like a marble statue. Their dark eyes showed through the holes and focused on him. They moved with clear purpose and without any acknowledgement. Max remained frozen as the one nearest reached up and, with a gloved hand, slowly removed his mask. 
He was pale, covered in tattoos, and had no hair whatsoever. Slowly, his lips curled into a smile.
"Hi, Max. I'm Jacob Geist and these two are my associates. We are here to transfer you to a safe place." Max didn't dare reply, even if he thought he could move his jaw he wouldn't know what to say. The man's hawk-like eyes were bright red. They seemed strangely hypnotic. 
"Unfortunately, your questions will have to wait until later. We have a schedule to keep. Now, I need you to take these pills," he said, reaching into his coat pocket.
Likewise, the two men in the back began withdrawing some sort of metallic tube from their pockets. Max didn't wait to see what it was.

He pushed the button on the device Santiago had given him.

Like before, there was brilliant white flash except this time, instead of a low hum, there was a high-pitched ringing in the air. The noise was so shrill that it briefly overwhelmed all other sounds. The device in Max’s hand grew hot, too hot to hold; he dropped it to the floor.

Max smelled him before he saw him -- Santiago was standing at his side, just in front of the three intruders. Smoke curled off his trechcoat.

“Howdy.” Santiago said just as he kicked Geist square in the chest, launching him off the ground.

Max watched dumbstruck as the man sailed through the air and crashed into the door fifteen feet away; Santiago’s strength was incredible. The other two men reacted. There was a snap sound then the metallic tubes in their hands extended into baton-like swords.

“Max, put this on!” Santiago ordered as he threw what looked like a wrist-watch to him. Max didn’t hesitate.

The masked men charged, raising their swords for an attack. Santiago picked up a nearby machine and hurled it at them with a grunt. The machine must've weighed over 200 pounds but he threw it like it was a basketball. Despite the speed, the men deftly maneuvered around the missile and continued forward unphased. Santiago checked Max's wrist, seeing the device secured he pressed a button on his neck below his right ear. The suit made a whirring noise, and with his enormous strength he pulled Max close to his chest in an awkward hug.

“Sayonara.” Santiago said while making a gesture with his middle finger. There was the familiar low mechanical hum. The two men lunged with their swords, stabbing the empty space where Max and Santiago had just been.g the empty space where Max had just been.

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