Criminal Intent: Episode 26

The walk was mostly uncomfortable silence. The four that had been captured, Mia excluded, were barely able to walk on their own, as most of their muscles had seized up. Mia on the other hand was bright and cheerful, talking about everything and anything…except what she’d been put through. She excluded that with an easy air about her.

Cal led the group back, taking the sidestreets to avoid the talk that such a large group of Alenkans would grab. Abigail and Emily had to help each other walk, as apparently the rhino had made good on his brag about crushing Emily. He had crushed her leg, shattering it into pieces, and it was only by her willpower that she hadn’t been knocked out and logged out.

Kevin and Alex, and several of the others that had been in the second force were still quite cheerful even then, and all of them were glad to have Mia back, even though the other three were generally silent. “So I can tell it was a success, but how much did the second group have to do?” Cal asked when they were two blocks from the Tree.

“Considerable. Basically there were a good thirty or so that tried to get in after the first group went in. Well…they didn’t last long,” Lyla grinned.

Emma threw her fist into the air, “Yeah, they didn’t really stand a chance. They saw who it was, sent a few of them in only to get their asses kicked by everyone, and the others just turned and ran!”

“Sounds like a fun adventure for the back guys. About the front squad?” Cal asked politely.

“We went in, we kicked their ass, they logged out, we found who we needed to. Simple, sweet,” Alex responded quietly. Cal took a moment to see the various nicks and scratches underneath the grey fox’s fur. The orange cat could see that the others had also similar injuries, mostly minor, except for Emily with her shattered leg.

And it truly was a shattered leg. Cal could tell, probably not nearly as well as some of the others could -he knew Kevin had honestly asked if she wanted to ride him, and not like that for probably the first time in his life, all the way back. She declined- but he could tell too.

“Alright, so I probably should wait for Simon to tell you three this…” Cal started. George looked at him in surprise, before slightly shaking his head. “What, you don’t want me to?” the cat asked. It wasn’t a heated tone, but it was simply a surprised one.

“I remember how you told us. We don’t need that for these girls now. What we need is hope, and positives. Not the simple truths that reflect our urge to simply ‘get it out’,” George said wisely.

“Hey, that sounds like something I would say. Good job!” Mia said, bouncing on top of George’s back. He grinned back at her, and the two shared in a simple cheer that would have gone over most of their heads. Cal knew it though, and he knew that others, like Lucas and Aiden, would’ve gotten to it too.

No wonder George was in such a frenzy.

Cal shrugged. Riven, the arctic fox vixen that they had rescued, piped up quietly. “I’d prefer the brutal truth. Can’t be worse than what we’ve already put up with.” Abigail shrugged, forcing Emily to hop a little bit before she could get her balance back.

The Tree slowly came into their vision. Lucas and Aiden were outside, talking quietly to each other. Even the ones with the most sensitive of ears couldn’t hear them, but as they came closer it was obvious what they’d been hearing. Cal rolled his eyes as he realized they were merely arguing about who got to the Tree first.

Cal walked in without hesitation, followed by everyone else quickly afterwards. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt to wait much longer,” Cal said quietly. Simon and Sam were at the table with Haley, the black kitten wearing some of Sam’s clothes that she almost never wore anymore, due to preferring the looser stuff.

Simon smiled as he saw them all come in. “Finally. I was starting to get worried for all of you,” he started.

“Where were you? We were almost waiting for you, but George decided to charge in and say fuck it. Was a good idea too, considering Emily’s antics-” Emma started, before she saw the small kitten. “Who are you, and why are you so small? You a midget?”

Simon chuckled, and those who all knew Haley couldn’t help but give the wolfess a small amazed look. “What!? No I’m not a midget, I’m just a kid!” Haley yelled back.

“What!? Why the hell would a kid be here! Come on kid, that’s kinda disturbing!” Emma started.

“Disturbing!? Disturbing is walking around nude when you have the choice not to!”

“That’s called having a choice kid, and using it because you can! You’ll learn in time! Why the hell you here, this is supposed to be an adult-only thing! Just log out now dammit!”

“I can’t log out!-“

“She can’t log out,” Sam interrupted. Silence reigned upon the group. “And that was what we wanted to tell all of you,” she took a moment to breath deeply, sighing lightly. “We have a few more Alenkans. Those of us that can’t log out, I’m sure that three of you have already figured that out,” she said quietly. Abigail nodded her head lightly.

“Us three. And her now, I guess,” the calico cat said quietly. Sam looked at her nodding sadly. “We know. Mia told us what not logging out generally meant. We were gagged for so long that our bodies must’ve passed in the real world,” she explained. Riven and Surana nodded.

“Yeah, I told them already because I just had that suspicion. We needed our wits about us because you guys could have come at any time. What took you guys so long, anyways?” Mia asked, smirking lightly.

“We had to find the damn place. If it wasn’t for Emily and William’s thinking, although where William is I have no idea, probably back in the outside world, we wouldn’t have found it for a much longer time,” Simon explained.

Emily nodded as Abigail shot her a sad smile. Surana and Riven both thanked her quietly. “Haley here was the one that pointed out that it was a possibility, due to a house fire in the outside world. She had only two choices; become one of us or die. Not much of a choice, really,” Simon explained.

“Ooh…” Emma said quietly, shirking away as she realized what she pretty much had just said. “Oops. Sorry there kitty. I’m Emma,” she apologized quietly. Haley merely grinned and nodded, accepting it gratefully and gracefully.

“So what happens now?” Riven piped up. “We can’t do much in the real world anymore. Everything we have was taken from us. What do we do now?” she asked.

“That…” Simon said, pointing to a map on the table. There were a variety of places that had red circles on it, and a few blue crosses. “Is up to you,” he continued. “We marked down a lot of places that you can choose to go to let yourself settle in. A few of us are willing to let you stay with them, I’d assume, although you’d have to ask them. The Tree here can support six of us total, and there’s already four here when you include Haley, so two more. Other than that…that’s up to you.”

“I’ll stay here,” Abigail announced. Her voice carried easily in the silence of the once-library, echoing off the books effortlessly. Simon nodded, before turning to Surana and Riven. The horse wasn’t sure, and the Tree honestly didn’t look big enough for someone like her.

“If you want, you can stay with us. Kevin’s the guy that helped you earlier, and he used to be on a ranch so he understands all this animal crap that none of the rest of us with actual lives do,” Emma said quietly. She pointed him out, and Surana shuddered at first, before steeling herself and nodding.

“You know…I don’t know. I’ll figure it out. I got plenty of time,” Riven said as she looked outside at the two canines still arguing. “Yeah, I gots plenty of that.”

The inside of George’s apartment looked the same to Mia. It was the same stove, the same kitchen, the same couch…that same as it always was. As if she hadn’t just been picked up out of the blue by a goddamn hippo. And to think, that had actually only been a few weeks ago. “Geez, it still seems so…normal,” Mia said quietly.

“I wanted it to be. To remind you of our times, to hopefully put the nightmare that was behind us. Now we can change it, look behind at the once was, and rather look forward to the what will be,” George’s baritone said.

The white rabbit chuckled under her breath. “I wish I could. It just seemed like each day was so long…as if all it was, was the same nightmare over and over. Each time I’d wake up, only to realize that it wasn’t a nightmare, but was actually happening,” Mia questioned herself.

“Now we have time for better dreams.”

“But in the end, dreams are only figments, doomed to die by our waking mind. How can we know what are dreams, but of the dream’s end?”

“Then we make the day we live worthy of ending those dreams,” George said, impassioned. Mia measured him up quietly.

She hopped up to him quietly, kissing his cheek with a simple caress of her lips. “They told me you were crazy, you know. That no one in the world would find them, and we were going to stay in Alenkas forever, being the fucktoys of whoever paid the most money. It didn’t matter what we wanted, we were only there to be used for business propositions. For simple ‘release’,” she whispered.

“We released them alright. Simon told me in private that they had a plan, but it required someone’s intervention outside of Alenkas. He met someone he knew before, did you know that? Kara Tyson,” George said quietly.

“Tyson? Really? I think I actually know her, or at least I did, back in NuVO. She was a good girl. What would she be doing in Alenkas?”

George shrugged. “I don’t know. But he had a plan, to find the IP’s of everyone who logged out of Alenkas using the IDM. He recorded them, tracking them back to the MAC address of the helmet. He then gave those codes to Kara, who took them to police. We should be knowing soon what kind of action takes place.”

“There’s no proof for that. For anything they did. It’ll be our word versus theirs.”

George shook his head, a smirk lighting upon his face. “Haha, no it won’t. Because he had a theory that they were actually part of a gang, so by putting them in a list like that, it’ll allow detectives and such to go through their accounts. They’ll nail them there. Not to mention he has theories that these were directly linked to other sex traffickers. He doubts that’ll go anywhere, but if there’s a chance…”

“They’ll nab ’em,” Mia finished. She mirrored George’s smirk as she thought about it. She pulled him lightly towards the couch, grabbing the non-scratched parts of his fur. “Come on. You may feel that it’s wrong, but I don’t. I need you right now, and even if you just want to cuddle…come here big guy,” she said, toppling him onto the couch.

He went without a word of complaint.