Location: Guardian HQ
Items: Guardian radio, cell phone
Skitters receded from view as Piers inferred from Karn’s fall to the ground that his services would no longer be needed. Gray had vanished, and Seda was recovering inside the room. He was kneeling, the force from the charge carrying him to the floor when Karn rolled out of the room. Looking back to Seda who was more distant now, still in the archives, he said, “You okay?” Turning back to Karn, his concern quickly rose. What was going on with him? When he said he was going mad, perhaps he was being more literal…and serious…than Piers had wanted to imagine.
His concern was interrupted by a sudden realization. “Hey!” Piers called out to the nearest tech. “Don’t we have two armored cars here at HQ?” he asked quickly, a plan forming in his mind. “Yes, a twenty-foot one and a thirty-foot one. Why?” the tech responded. “Prep the twenty-foot one ASAP. Park it at the front door.” Piers responded while lifting Karn gingerly so as not to further injure his legs. Piers carried him over his shoulders, just as he had been taught in the military. Even smaller men could carry larger ones this way, using the skeleton for support at the shoulders and reducing muscle use. Also, it allowed Karn’s legs to dangle freely, being spared from potentially-damaging contact from being carried. “Seda, Duo,” Piers said quickly while picking Karn up, “If this happens again, the damage done to HQ could be catastrophic. I know Karn’s skill, and we’ve got to get him away from here. However…”
Piers suddenly stopped, his face becoming a bit tenser. “…however, I’m not going to abandon my friend. Something’s happened to him, and I’m going to try to figure it out. I deliberately chose the twenty-foot armored vehicle to deter Karn from bringing Gray out in such a confined space, so I should be fine. If he pulls a surprise, I’ll have to think of something else. My top priority is Karn right now, and I have to find out what’s happened to him.”
Piers turned before heading to the door, facing Seda. “Seda, I’m sorry. Just understand that this, right now, is not our comrade that we all know as Karn. Hopefully, I’ll return with our true companion. I need you and Duo to watch over HQ and see if the other Guardians show. My radio and cell phone will be on, so you can contact me. I’m taking the vehicle to the countryside, about ten kilometers away. Again, I’m sorry…and thanks.” With that, Piers exited the main door and walked down into the awaiting armored vehicle. Placing Karn in the back, he went to the driver’s side. “I’ll be driving alone,” Piers said to the driver who quickly exited without an argument. With that Piers drove quickly away from HQ with nothing but a sigh and a prayer on his lips. In all the commotion, he did not realize that Melinda had sent a message to him about leaving his house.
Location: Countryside 10km from HQ and 15km from town
Bringing the vehicle to a halt, a hastily moving Piers opened the rear doors of the armored car and jumped inside, shutting the door but not letting it latch into place and not locking it. Only a small push would swing the door open, though it appeared to be closed. Skitters sat up front, the keys still in the ignition. His amorphous form seemed to blend with the seat itself, moving to and fro a little as he waited on a command. Those final touches were the last elements of Piers’s “contingency” plan that he hoped he would not have to use. Karn was sprawled out on the floor, his wheelchair still in HQ.
Piers walked over to him and knelt beside him. “Karn…what’s happened to you?” Either way, Piers intended to find out and save his friend, somehow, from the madness that plagued him, and doing so was clearly worth the risk he was taking.