My Place Is With You -
Mike & Carrie Saga: Volume 2
Part 12

"The Price"

There was an assurance about him, his stride the stride of a confident man sure of his expertise. Mike couldn't believe it was him, same ash blond hair and light blue eyes. His own blue eyes grew wider. My God, it was him, he thought, but it couldn't be. He was dead. He repeated it over and over to himself but the specter wouldn't vanish. He had gone to the funeral, shook his father's hand, and paid his last respects staring at a lifeless body in a casket. The pallor of death so distinct it was etched in his mind forever. How could that body so empty and so void be suddenly alive and breathing? How could they have fooled him so well?

He remembered it almost as if it were yesterday. A speeding car careened down the street. He and Ethan had paid no mind to it. They were more interested in their dates and deciding which movie to watch. Before they went up to purchase the tickets, Ethan patted his pockets.

"Damn," he searched through his jeans for his wallet.

"What's wrong?" asked Mike momentarily tearing his eyes from his date Aurora Wakefield, the most popular girl in the senior class.

"I left my wallet in the car, be right back." Ethan winked at his date, a cute red head, and dashed across the street. Mike could hear the car squeal its tires accelerating as Ethan approached the middle of the crosswalk. He tried to cry out but the red Camero with its blackened windshield whipped him off his feet. Ethan flew into the air like a fragile rag doll his body smashing against the Camero's windshield. The car hadn't slowed, and his body shot over the top in a bizarre sort of swan dive. Screeching around the corner, the car disappeared from sight.

Mike dashed out to his friend lying in front of the theater. A red blotch marked the spot where he hit the pavement. A group of movie goers gathered around the scene staring and gaping at his bloodied body. Mike ignored them and went to his friend. Ethan's leg was cocked at an awkward angle, surely broken. Mike quickly felt for a pulse at his neck. There wasn't one. He felt again at his wrist and then leaned down listening to his chest. Nothing. No, he can't be dead, he thought. One of the girls ran off to call an ambulance while Mike administered CPR. By the time the paramedics arrived, it was too late. Ethan was gone.

That had been a defining moment for him. The moment he decided to become a doctor.

"Mike?" Ethan repeated. His friend stared blankly at him not knowing what to say.

"Why?" he croaked the pain as fresh as it had been on that day so long ago."It was for Dad. They targeted him and came after me to make a point. I actually did technically die that night, but they revived me at the hospital. The ISA thought it was in my family's best interest for me to remain dead. Having two kids was a liability. So we were taken out of the equation."

"But you didn't have to die," he reiterated.

"I did, Mike. And as much for your safety as mine. I was a cocky kid, took too many unnecessary risks. Since we spent so much time together, it put you in danger as well. Ultimately, it was my decision. Stay and risk getting you killed or pretend to be dead. To me, your life was more important, so I chose the latter. I felt it was a fair exchange."

Mike never knew Ethan's father was an ISA agent. The subject never came up and he never asked. How close had he come to death, he wondered. What if it had been him crossing the street that day? What kind of man sacrificed his own life for another? A friend, a true friend. Ethan was that kind of man, even at eighteen he had more ingenuity and intelligence than any one he ever knew. Having to make a decision like that at such a young age set Ethan apart from the rest.

A sound no louder than a fly hummed a brief series of electronic beeps. Ethan reached into his pocket and extracted a black rectangle no thinner than a dime. Once opened it appeared to be a cleverly disguised phone. "Fairchild." he answered promptly. He listened while the caller explained his situation. Ethan nodded and walked over toward the window. "I'll be right there." he said. "Yeah, I will. Gia's on her way also."

Gia followed him with her eyes. He was there for a reason. And it wasn't to shock Mike with the fact that he was alive. It was something else. He had discovered something while at the mansion, that was obvious. She watched him snap the phone closed and he motioned to her. She excused herself from Mike and Carrie's company and made her way to him.

"Kevin found something. Something I think you might find interesting." Gia's eyes sparkled. "Yeah, I thought that might get your attention." Ethan whispered the rest so the others in the room wouldn't hear. "He discovered an underground dwelling. Templar crest on the wall, paintings and a sentence engraved in a stone tablet."

That was all she needed to hear. Gia was ready to go. She wanted to know what was going on with this new discovery. And she wanted to do it tonight.

"Well, kids, sorry to make my visit so short but we have work to do." Mike eyed Ethan curiously. "We have to get back to the mansion."

"Sure, we understand." said Mike but before they walked out the door he pulled Gia aside. "If you're interested in finding out if you're Gina or not, just ask Shane." Mike's cryptic message startled her. Who was this Gina and what did Shane know about her?

Ethan stood at the door waiting. Craig approached him.

"I guess I'll be going too. It doesn't look like my services are needed here any more," said Craig sorry to be leaving so soon. Carrie gave him a small wave and leaned her head against Mike's shoulder.

"That's impossible. The last ferry left hours ago. You'll have to stay the night and catch the next one in the morning."

"Great. Just great." Craig's growing disease was obvious. "I get the pleasure of spending the night with Barbie and Ken over there. Not my idea of a swell night. If you know what I mean. So, what do you suggest guys," he said to Mike and Carrie after Ethan and Gia left. "Singing camp songs around the fire or a good ghost story?"

Neither Mike nor Carrie answered his taunting. They only threw him a pillow and a blanket. He slept on the couch while they took the bed.

"Yes, it's just a beautiful day in the neighborhood," he smirked. "A beautiful day." It would be hours before he finally found the rest he was searching for.

Mike laid there holding Carrie and watching the rise and fall of her chest. She had fallen asleep only minutes after coming to bed with him. He had hoped she would remain awake for just a little while so they could talk about what had happened. But he guessed it didn't matter, she was there with him, sleeping beside him and that was what he had asked for. There would be many days after this one to share with her.

It was hard to believe how many obstacles they had overcome to be together; his being shot, being trapped in the secret room, getting shot at on Green Mountain and then Carrie almost kidnapped. So many things had happened, but he knew more certainly than ever that they would share the rest of their lives together. Tomorrow would be the beginning.

He reached out to brush a stray strand from Carrie's forehead. The light must have been fooling his eyes because he missed the strand, and it remained in place. He tried brushing it away again. It still wouldn't move. His heart pounded. Was he having a hallucination? He reached out again but Carrie's image began to slowly fade as did the bed and the entire room around him. Before she completely disappeared from view, his hand passed through her image as if she were a holographic projection. Suddenly the room around him was completely black. Even the moon cast no reflection on the floor. Faint glowing lines divided the room vertically and horizontally every foot or so. What was going on here, he thought? Had he been drugged? Was he having a nervous breakdown during one of the greatest moments of his life? It was then he heard the voices.

"I told you this wouldn't work." Mike could tell it was Ethan's voice. At least he wasn't going completely crazy. Ethan was really alive. "The technology is too new. It fosters only a dream state randomly making up events as it goes along."

"We had to try something, damn it! Mike has the only clue to finding Gina. And finding Gina means bringing down Stefano DiMera." Shane Donovan's crisp English accent was unmistakable.

"I know how much this means to you, Shane. I was monitoring Mike's virtual world when we had a sudden electrical surge. Various information from the Legacy's database was downloaded into his brain."

"What are you saying?" This V.R. technology was over his head and he depended on Ethan and Matt Carson, the ISA medical physician to explain the subtle nuances to him.

"I'm saying I know Gina's you're sister." Shane turned to face Ethan with a shocked expression on his face. "In V.R. Mike kept referring to her as Gia and we might want to cross reference that with the name Gretchen. A few of Gina's personal files were also downloaded during the surge. He somehow connected Stefano with the Knights Templar, one of Gina's favorite subjects."

Shane was overwhelmed at the amount of information they had uncovered. "He looks exhausted. That's enough for one day. Hard to believe he experienced an entire month during a twelve hour period," said Shane.

"The mind *is* is a strange thing." Ethan tore the virtual reality goggles from Mike's head and began removing the wires adhered to his temples with round bandages.

The sudden brightness blinded him. He squinted at the fluorescent lights and held his hand up to block out the glaring. "Wha... What's going on?" An image across the room became clearer. It was Shane. "Shane? What's going on? What am I doing here?"

Shane ignored his question and walked toward a large metal door. In big dark letters were the words: VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGIES DIVISION.

"Where's Carrie?" he asked suddenly worried about her. Had the ISA kidnapped her as well? "Sweet Carrie," muttered Ethan. "Your sweet Carrie is all in your mind and she'll stay that way until you tell us what we want to know." His voice was cold and cruel. Nothing like what he'd experienced earlier. But earlier Ethan had only been a figment of his imagination. It all had been a figment of his imagination.

Ethan and Shane walked out of the room and slammed the large metal door behind them. Mike fought with the restraints at his wrists. He had to get out. He had to get out of there and find Carrie. A man in a white lab coat came around side the chair he was sitting in. Mike's hands were handcuffed behind his back and he noticed his shoulders were aching from being in such an uncomfortable position. While Mike's head was turned, the man injected him with some sort of medication. As his world fell into blackness, he screamed in a horse whisper, "Carrie.... I love you..."

The End

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