Timothy Bentley was a man who got things done. When he'd got the call that Slinker had been found, he had been the closest to his reported location (some medium-sized town called Basurham) so naturally he had travelled there overnight., eager to finally tie up this one loose end from the escape.
Ah yes, the escape. He remembered it even this many years later. He had been the first on the scene, having arrived with Jon only half an hour after the explosion. Jon had been madder than he had ever seen him; so mad that he had left rage and gone into a state of furious calm. The facility had been his brain child, his life's work, his obsession. And then one boy, a boy no less, had destroyed it all, completely and utterly.
Jon hadn't cared about the men he'd lost in the escape, he'd never cared for men who couldn't do their jobs. As far as he was concerned the men had been collateral damage from his greatest loss; the files. All the information he had carefully gathered and stored, erased for ever.
Now, Jon had an opportunity of capturing probably the last surviving experiment that had progressed to the final stages of the regimen, and from that they could truly begin afresh. From the information gathered from his contact, this experiment could fade completely into the background, much like a chameleon. So, Timothy had come prepared.
He infra-red binoculars scanned the environment from his position inside a building near the location Slinker was tipped to be, and eventually came across an oddly shaped hot spot on the roof across the street from him. It could only be Slinker, it was too well-defined to be anything else. Removing the binoculars, he could not help but marvel at the quality of the chameleon effect that his team had managed to achieve. There wasn't even a shadow.
He pulled a small but powerful handgun out of his pocket, and took careful aim. He didn't want to kill him – merely disable...
Slinker waited patiently, looking through the glass windows at Charleigh. Ideally, he ought to be in there, but he couldn't. Because that would mean being visible, and he had a feeling after the staff there see the same boy walk in twice, never walk out again, and both time food has disappeared... well, they may want a few words with him.
He sighed. He'd been in the same place for too long, and now he was getting jumpy. He was used to moving pretty much all the time. He got up and...
The bullet passed straight through the space where his knee has been just a fraction of a second earlier, and slammed into the roof tile behind him with a smashing crack that blended into the echoes of the original gunshot seamlessly.
Slinker jerked aside, and scrambled down the face of the building, shrapnel stinging the back of his leg. The people in the street were shouting, looking around for where shot had come from. Some were pointing up at where the roof tiles had seemingly exploded.
None noticed, in all the confusion, a scruffy seventeen year old boy seemingly appear from nowhere, and walk quickly and purposefully into the burger bar. And if they had, they probably wouldn't have noticed his pale yellow eyes.
Charleigh was sitting down, facing the window, with a breakfast roll and a drink on the table in front of her. She saw Slinker walk in, and rapidly disguised her surprise into a coughing fit.
“I thought you'd be outside. And what was the gun - ?”
Slinker cut her off. “They're back, like you said. We need to get out. Now”
Charleigh's eyes widen. “Now?”
She got up, muttering to herself something Slinker didn't quite hear. She picked up her roll, drained her drink there, and followed Slinker out of the door. The police were already beginning to arrive and ask questions, but a couple pieces of cunning crowd navigation from the pair of them manage to see them safely through to a quieter street nearby.
Charleigh had to walk fast to keep up with Slinker's long-legged strides. “Slinker, what was that gunshot?”
“Aimed at me, that's what.”
“What?! Are you hurt?”
“No, but it was a near miss.”
Charleigh stopped momentarily. Slinker turned around.
“Come on, we have to keep going, it's not safe for us around here.”
“Yeah but... how can you act so calm? You nearly got shot!”
“And it doesn't change the fact; we need to get out of the area.”
Charleigh, after a pause, carried on walking. Her eyes were slightly wider, and the brown colour seemed deeper and more vibrant. She hurried forward to keep pace with him.
“But... don't you worry what would have...?”
“My way of not worrying about it, is not thinking about it.”
Charleigh seemed to be satisfied by that. She was silent for a while, then looked back down the reasonably deserted street, and said “Slinker, there's a stray dog following us.”
Slinker doesn't even look back. “It's probably Dave.”
“Yeah, Dave. Stray dog I met last night. Don't get me wrong, I meet a lot of stray dogs, but Dave's different somehow.”
Charleigh shudders. “I bet he doesn't smell any different...”
Slinker bit his tongue at this. He had to remember that while he was used to it, Charleigh most certainly wasn't.
After a while, Charleigh spoke again. “So, where are we going?”
“Somewhere reasonably safe. The scientists aren't following us, so we have enough time to get out of the way before they start looking for us.”
“Oh. Anywhere in particular you had in mind?”
“Yes, actually, right...”
They turn a corner, and emerge into an empty space outside a large red brickwork building that may once have been an old school.
Charleigh stared for a moment. Her eyes took in the dilapidated brickwork, the steel shutters on the windows and doors, the litter scattered over the faded and chipped paint on the floor of the playground.
“But, how do we get in?” She points to the door, the large rusted padlock evident even from this distance.
“We climb, of course.” Slinker points, and Charleigh's gaze is drawn up to the skylight, smashed and splintered in its rotting wooden frame.
“..Really?” Charleigh's voice was the epitome of disbelieving ridicule. “And how do you propose to get us both up the sheer brick wall and up to that particular entrance?”
Slinker grinned, his eyes a sparkling green. “Climb up, of course!”
Charleigh looked at Slinker like he was mad. “And how will I get up there? I can't climb, I'm afraid of heights!”
“Climb onto my back.”
“Climb onto my back, trust me!”
“...You're telling me to trust a boy I met just last night?”
“Well, that's not quite true, is it? I have saved your life before!”
Charleigh paused. “Yeah, but...”
“And that mugger last night, remember.”
“Well, yeah, but...”
“Look, trust me. If wanted to hurt you, I'd have done so by now, right?”
Charleigh had to concede. They walked up to the wall, Neither concealing their respective looks of thrill and anxiety.
Slinker walked up to the wall, and tests it for a moment. The gaps between the bricks were large and deep, but he had to worry about loose bricks then. He had to be extra careful about them considering he had Charleigh to carry as well.
“OK, hop on. Try to hold on tight, I need all my limbs to climb.”
Charleigh hesitated, and then put her arms around Slinker's neck, clasping her hands tight. She jumped up, and locket her feet around his waist. Slinker, staggering slightly, grasped the first couple of bricks, and began to climb in a steady rhythm.
Left hand, right foot, right hand, left foot... Remove handhold, grasp for another one, transfer weight and centre of gravity... He'd done this countless times, but never with a passenger. Especially one who appeared to be, judging from the restriction around his neck, more afraid of heights than she had cared to admit.
Charleigh looked down, suddenly whimpered in fright and buried her face into Slinker's shoulder. The sudden movement put slightly more weight onto his right hand clasped firmly around a brick and now supporting most of his weight. The extra force was too much for the old degraded mortar around it to bear, and the brick neatly slid out of the wall.
Slinker's body twisted away from the wall, and his feet slipped out from under him. He winced as the fingers of his left hand suddenly supported the weight of two people. Charleigh screamed, almost deafening his right ear, and nearly suffocated him as he struggled to find a new handhold before the other brick gave way and they both fell.
In a moment of sheer desperation, Slinker tensed up his left arm, and pulled. The brick was wrenched from its place, but the slight hold he had managed to get pulled him upwards by a few feet before the handhold failed completely and they were momentarily in mid-air. In the instant he had before falling past them, he jammed one arm into each of the holes from where the bricks had been. He gasped in pain as gravity took effect again and his wrists were driven painfully against the unforgiving lips of the bricks inside. Charleigh was engulfed in terror, practically strangling him with the arms around his neck. He felt her hands grab for something to hold on to, anything... they landed on a fine chain around Slinker's neck.
Slinker waited for his heart rate to go down before continuing up, and finally making it to the roof. Charleigh doesn't move from his back, her eyes shut tightly and her face in the back of his shoulder, every now and then letting out a quiet, high-pitched whimper. Slinker opens the skylight carefully, holds on to Charleigh's wrists around his neck, and drops down to the floor below. Charleigh yelped slightly and clung even harder to Slinker.
Slinker nudges Charleigh gently, trying to suppress a slight smile. “Hey, you can look now, we're in.”