When Zack came to his senses several hours later, it was to the sensation of being gently slapped back to consciousness by Dakota. “C’mon Zack,” he said. Zack felt one of Dakota’s big hands slapping his cheek. “Wake up.” Zack was stiff and cold from lying on the frozen ground. He tried to sit up and everything swam. He felt nauseous and his head rang like a gong with a splitting headache. The closest comparison he could come up was being hit with an illegal tackle in a really rough football game, and he thought that seemed tame by comparison. He slowly raised himself into a sitting position and took a deep breath. Zack could see data scrolling down the inside of Dakota’s sunglasses. “You OK, Zack?” he asked.
Zack nodded. “Yeah, I think so.” He looked around as though searching for something. He dimly recalled having had a very heavy weight on his back. He saw a large, dark green backpack lying on its side. Everything suddenly came back to him. Milo’s backpack, he thought. He clambered stiffly to his feet. He wobbled slightly and took another deep breath. He walked over to where Milo’s backpack was lying in the frozen dirt, picked it up and put his arms through the straps. He turned the former time agent. “Dakota-,” he began.
“-where’s Milo?” finished Dakota for him. “Don’t know. Not here. Looks like he’s been taken again. Do you remember what happened?”
Zack nodded. “Yeah,” he said and then paused. It had all happened very quickly. “At least I think so. Milo practically collapsed in my arms.” He paused again, try to remember. “He was shot with some kind of dart, and then I tried to carry him, and everything got hazy after that.” He fell silent thinking hard, trying to remember anything else. “I think I saw people coming out of the bushes.”
“Do you remember what they looked like?” asked Dakota.
Zack thought again and shook his head. “Sorry, Dakota,” he said. “I tried to carry Milo, but I got shot with one of those darts almost immediately after he did. I don’t really remember much after that.”
“It’s OK Zack,” replied Dakota. “Don’t beat yourself up. This is starting to sound like somebody set us up.” He started walking. Zack shrugged Milo’s backpack higher onto his shoulders and fell into step next to the former time agent.
“Is everyone else OK?” asked Zack.
Dakota nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “They all woke up just before you did. Physically, everyone’s fine, they’re just a little shaken up.”
Zack noticed that they were walking toward the edge of the field. “So what do we do now?” asked Zack.
Dakota shrugged. “We’re not sure yet,” he said. “Cavendish took Melissa, Amanda, Phineas and Ferb to look for any signs of Milo.” He continued walking toward the tree line. Zack followed him.
As they approached, the tall, thin figure of Cavendish appeared striding toward them on his long legs. The three of them met just outside the tree line. Cavendish gave Zack a quick once over. “Its good to see you your feet,” he said, “are you feeling alright, Zack?”
Zack nodded. “Yeah, Cavendish, I’m fine,” he said. “I just want to find Milo.”
Cavendish nodded in understanding. “Milo is as much my friend as he is yours,” he said. “We will do everything thing in our power to find him.” He started to turn and walk back into the trees. As he did, Cavendish turned and called over his shoulder, “Phineas has found something.”
Zack and Dakota started walking again, following Cavendish deeper into the trees. He abruptly turned to the right and continued walking parallel to the trees. Zack and Dakota looked at each other. The teenager and the time agent both appeared to be thinking the same thing.
“Cavendish-,” began Zack. They needed to be looking for Milo and he was starting to feel as thought they were wasting time.
“-where are we going?” finished Dakota.
Cavendish turned to look over his shoulder again and only narrowly avoided walking into a tree. “It’s not far,” he said, “we’re almost there.”
In the distance, beyond Cavendish, Zack spied Amanda, Melissa, Phineas and Ferb all clustered around something. The four of them had their heads together and they appeared to be talking in low voices. He sped up and thought he saw Phineas point to something and say, “look at this, Ferb.”
Melissa must have heard them coming because she looked up and detached herself from the other three. She walked over to Zack who had stopped just short of Phineas, Ferb and Amanda. They appeared to examining a charred pile of electronics.
Zack looked back and forth from Melissa to the charred pile of equipment to Cavendish and Dakota. “So, what is this stuff?”
“Phineas thinks that this stuff was design to detect probability fields,” said Melissa. “He says that whoever built it knew exactly what they were doing.”
Zack absorbed this information. “So how does that help us find out who took Milo?” he asked. As he spoke, Milo’s backpack suddenly seemed very heavy, as if it were suddenly twenty pounds heavier. He gestured to the pile of equipment that was still being pored over by Phineas and Ferb. “Have they found anything yet?”
Melissa put a comforting hand on Zack’s shoulder. “Zack, it’s going to be OK,” she said. “Milo’s tough,” her voice took on a determined note, “and we are going to get him back.”
Zack took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “Yeah,” he said, “you’re right. Milo’s disappeared before and he usually turns up just fine with a good story to tell.” Even as he said it, Zack wondered if he was speaking as much for himself as for everyone else.
While Zack, Melissa, Cavendish and Dakota had been talking, Phineas and Ferb finished their examination and stood up, followed by Amanda. They walked over to join the others.
“So what have you found?” asked Cavendish.
The two stepbrothers traded a look and Phineas shrugged apologetically. “Not much unfortunately,” said the young genius. He gestured at the pile of fried gear behind him. “Whoever built this knew what they were doing,” he said. “There are no serial number as any of this stuff.”
“OK,” said Zack slowly, “what does that mean?”
“Whoever it was that took Milo was a pro-,” replied Dakota.
“Yeah,” continued Phineas, “and whoever did it had money too.” The young savant gestured again over his shoulder. “Most of this is custom built to detect probability fields.”
Melissa took a deep steadying breath, processing this information. A person or persons unknown expended significant time and resources to kidnap her closest friend. “Phineas,” she asked quietly, “how many people would know how to do this?”
“Not very many,” he said. “This would require really specific skill sets and-,”
“None of this is getting us anywhere,” interjected Zack, “Phineas, did you learn anything definite about the people who took Milo from this stuff.”
“We think so,” he said, “well, Ferb does, at any rate.”
“Well, what is it?” asked Melissa.
“We think all of this came from Kreitech Industries,”
“How do you know that?” asked Amanda.
“Well, we don’t,” replied Phineas, “at least not for sure, but the fingerprints are pretty unmistakable, and if that’s the case, then Ferb and I have a friend who might be able to help us.”
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and quickly tapped through his contacts until he found the one that he wanted. “Hi, Isabella,” he said, “I need you to refuel the jet. We’re going to San Fransokyo.”
When Milo initially came back to his senses he wasn’t entire sure that he was actually awake at first. Everything was mostly in darkness and Milo blinked a couple of times, just to be sure that his eyes were working. They were. He tried to sit up and realized that he was strapped to the table on which he was lying. Well that’s not good, he thought. He tried to move his arms and legs and found that he couldn’t. There were restraints across his chest and abdomen as well upper arms, elbows and wrists. Milo’s legs were pinned at the upper thigh, knees and ankles.The only part of his body that he could move was his head. Milo raised himself up to the extent that his restraint allowed him to and tried to look around. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, Milo began to pick out a few details. The room was large and very dimly lit by faint green light coming from large tanks lining the edges of the room. From the few he could see out of the corner of his eye, Milo could make out indistinct figures in a few of them and a sudden sense of disquiet shivered through him. That’s not good either, he thought. There were several work carts scattered around the room with laptops and other equipment on them.
Milo wracked his brain, trying to remember what had happened to him. He remembered pick up alien trash with Cavendish and Dakota for most of the morning. He had been working with Zack and they spent had most of the morning laughing, talking and trading inside jokes. Milo recalled being shot in the right arm with some kind of dart. Everything had become hazy after that. He dimly recalled that had nearly collapsed and that somebody had tried to carry him, Zack he assumed. He had blacked out after that and remembered almost nothing until he had woken up a few minutes ago. Milo had no idea how long he had been out for, but he guessed several hours at minimum. He wondered where he was. The opposite wall was dominated by a large computer screen with a screen saver in muted colours, an abstract logo and the words, “Sycorax Bionics,” underneath it. Milo had no idea what that was supposed to mean and tried his bonds again. He was secured with soft Velcro straps. He doubted that Murphy’s Law would have much of an effect on them, but then Murphy’s Law was inherently unpredictable, so Milo figured that that didn’t mean much. His thoughts were interrupted as an array of surgical lights flashed on overhead. Milo screwed up his eyes painfully as the room’s light level suddenly changed.
The sound of footsteps echoed off of the concrete floor. A pair of gloved fingers gently pried open Milo’s eyelids and shone a pen light in his eyes. With all the light flooding his retinas, it was hard for Milo to resolve the two figures bending over him, but he could tell that they were a man and a woman and they were both blond and good looking.
Presently, the woman spoke. “Hello, Milo,” she said, “my name is Liv Amara.”