Two - To the Ends of the Earth

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Cullen

My heart is pounding against my rib cage as I rip every single door open, searching for Phoenix. How could she have just disappeared? She was just with me. I fell asleep with her in my arms. I don't understand. She was right, I was naïve to think we were finally safe here. "Anything?" I shout out to Ike who is across the hall searching.

He walks out of one of the rooms, his expression solemn. "They're gone, Cullen."

"How could they have taken her from my room without me noticing?" I ask, more to myself than anything else. The guilt is eating me alive.

Ike shrugs. "I don't know. I have no idea what is going on."

"How did you find out that they are missing?" I ask, wanting to know more details.

"I went to the Oval Office to speak with the President, and it was eerily empty, I checked the dining hall, his personal quarters, and even the weapons room. When I couldn't find him, something told me to go look for Phoenix. I figured she was with you, but after looking in her room and down in the labs, something didn't feel right to me. No one was at their posts, no doctors, no guards. No secret service anywhere in the building."

"What about everyone else?" I ask, concerned about our group of thirteen people we moved into the White House.

"They're all accounted for. Our only people missing are Phoenix and Jean-Luc." For some reason his answer makes me more anxious. I know whatever happened to Phoenix cannot be good.

"Have you checked the Oval Office?" I know the question sounds silly, knowing Ike he's already scrubbed every surface, but I can't give up. I promised her I'd protect her. I promised her we were safe. I have to find her.

He nods. "It's empty. It just looks like they left in a hurry."

"I'd like to see it." I'm not asking permission, rather telling him what I'm about to do. I march all the way across the mansion to the Oval Office, and barge in. My eyes take in the familiar room, slowly scanning every detail. Ike enters the room and walks over to the President's desk. He begins opening drawers and sifting through the contents.

When I've searched nearly every crevice of the room, I punch an adjacent wall, out of frustration. How could they have kidnapped her right under my nose? What really happened?

And then it clicks.

"Did you check the security footage?" The light bulb in my brain goes off. This should have been one of the first questions I asked, but hindsight is 20/20.

Ike's eyes light up. "I hadn't even thought to."

Nothing more needs to be said, we are running at full speed to the security office on the third floor. By the time we reach the small room, I am gasping for air. No one is manning the security cameras, so my suspicions about what might have happened continue to run wild.

Ike begins messing with the controls and within minutes he has the old footage up on the screen. He brings up the camera outside my bedroom door, the one inside the lab, and the one inside the Oval. On the video of our hallway, we see a guard slip into my room unnoticed. The door shuts behind him, and a few moments later he is carrying Phoenix out. I want Ike to pull up the camera from inside our room, but I know better. I covered it up last night.

We watch as Phoenix is carried down to one of the rooms they use for medical and tied up to a chair. I grit my teeth, and grind my jaw, not enjoying the show one bit. Jose is also tied up in the room, and they carry him to a hospital bed and begin hooking him up to IV's. Phoenix wakes up and begins fighting against her restraints. I look away for a brief second, and when I look back she is on the ground, the chair tipped over.

She manages to free herself a little later and makes a run for it out the door and down the hall. We watch as the President stops her and then has his guards take her away. That's the last of the video. They either destroyed the evidence or compromised the taping. Either way, we know President Jackson is not who we thought he was, and he has Phoenix. They took her from right under my nose. If she dies, I will blame myself forever.

"Ike!" A young teenage boy comes barreling into the room. "I need you to come with me." The boy looks frightened, and his eyes are wide.

"What is it?" Ike asks, bolting upright.

"It's Jean-Luc." As soon as the words are out of his mouth we are rushing after him to the same lab we had camera footage pulled up on. The ginger-haired boy opens the door and leads us to the very back of the room, behind one of the hospital beds. Sprawled out across the floor, in his own blood, is Jean-Luc.

"What happened here?" I ask frantically, rushing to his side. The pile of blood is massive, and I'm unsure that he will survive this.

His eyes meet mine, and I see the pain behind them. "They took Phoenix," he says sputtering.

"Where?"

His eyes begin rolling back into his head. "Jean-Luc! Jean-Luc!" I slap his face softly. "Where did they take her?"

His eyes open barely and he mouths the word "Costa Rica" before his head falls backwards and he's passed. I rise back up to my feet locking eyes with Ike.

"We don't know what that means," Ike warns, already able to see the wheels turning in my head.

"It means they took her there, and I am going to get her back." Ike grabs my arm, his grip tight.

"Cullen, we need you here. No one is equipped for this world better than you and me. I need you." For as long as Ike and I have known each other, he's never asked for help unless it was warranted.

"And I'll come back, but Ike, it's Phoenix. She needs me."

Ike sighs. "We finally have walls, and running water, and electricity...this is the first time we have had somewhere to call home since the Treehouse. We could build something from this. There is room for so many more within these walls."

"And that's what you should be doing, staying behind and leading the survivors. I will come back, Ike, I can promise you that, but Phoenix needs me." Ike doesn't bother trying to change my mind again. He knows my mind is made up.

We end up on the roof of the White House, and it is obvious Air Force One is missing. There is a helicopter though. When I was a young lad, I took flying lessons from a buddy of mine in the military. I've never had proper training, but he let me fly with him so many times, I feel confident I can figure it out. Ike hands me the weapons we picked up from the weapons room. A few pistols, an Ak-47, and a missile launcher. Although he's helped me load all of this in, the uneasiness in his facial expression still shows.

"Every time we split up, it gets harder and harder to find each other," Ike says uneasily. "There's no way to communicate across the world."

"Don't worry, my brother." I pull him in for a hug. "Just leave the clues, I'll find you."

Ike takes a labored breath in and then pulls away. "May we meet again, my friend."

I nod and then hop into the helicopter.

I'm coming for you, Phoenix.

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