Alex, Annie, and Ray waved goodbye to Louis, Robyn, and Nicole as they drove away in Louis' Mustang. Just ten minutes ago, after Alex warned Annie telepathically of having a vision of someone watching them back on the trail, Annie quickly took matters into her own hands and improvised a plan. She was convinced after finding the small scrap of paper Alex saw in her psychic vision, that her little sister's power of premonition was a reliable one, so she believed her younger sister's warning.
Annie communicated back to a ‘listening' Alex that she thought they should keep their anonymous watcher between them for now because they might alarm the others. All they needed now was Robyn freaking out, and she didn't want to do anything that would alarm the hidden onlooker. Keeping him nearby was the best way to find out who he was, and what his agenda was.
Annie suggested their group break up into two teams. She sent Louis' group off to his father's warehouse to pull up the sales records on his computers and find out which hardware stores sold the ‘Smoke-Fighter' brand smoke detector.
Her group, with Alex and Ray, would head back to the Mack house and run tests on the mysterious receipt they found and do some research, but not without a little subterfuge first.
Ray leaned both his and Alex's bikes on the side of her jeep. Alex always carried her's on a rack on the rear of her jeep on weekends because she occasionally haunted Mr. Polaski's Bike-O-Rama Bike Trail on the edge of town on weekends. Ray took their bikes off as per Annie's instructions.
It struck a nerve with Alex when she saw the bikes. It was a double-rack on the back of her jeep, and there used to be someone else's bike along with her's on that rack during the past few weeks; Hunter's. But, at Alex's request, her dad returned it to him earlier in the week, and just before they left the house today, Ray loaded his onto the jeep. Annie, always prepared, asked Ray to bring his along just in case they had to cover a lot of area where the vehicles couldn't get to.
Alex quickly rid the thought of Hunter from her mind, and reminisced satisfactorily how good it was to have Ray's bike back on her jeep. They used to hit the Bike-O-Rama a lot together before she met Hunter. Things were back to normal she supposed, that is, as normal as it gets for a teenage kid with super powers.
Then, strangely enough, she thought of the handsome Brad Patterson, the biking enthusiast.
"O.k. Annie. Here's our bikes, but I gotta know one thing" Ray indicated, interrupting Alex‘s thoughts. "What's that?" Annie asked sincerely.
"Well, I've been watching you and Alex the last couple of hours and I've noticed you've been acting really strange; looking at each other a lot and never saying anything, at least not out loud .....stuff like that. What's going on?"
Ray noticed Alex look at him and slightly squint her eyes. To his surprise, her voice suddenly appeared in his head. "We've been talking with each other like this Ray, telepathically". Ray was visibly stunned.
"Whoa! When did you start doing that?" he said out loud. Alex turned off her power, shrugged, and then explained verbally. "It's just another power that appeared a couple of hours ago, when I sensed you were hungry and were thinking of tacos .....and by the way, you still are".
"Geez Alex. Morphing, zapping, telekinesis, premonitions and sensing emotions, and now you can read peoples' minds?! What else can you do, fly?" he asked in an amazed tone.
"Shoot, that‘s the easy part Ray...." she replied with a sly grin. Ray shrugged and shook his head in disbelief. "Now's not the time Ray" interrupted Annie, holding out her hand to Alex. "I have a little ‘experiment' I want to conduct". Alex knew exactly what Annie was thinking, as she already got the entire plan from her sister's mind.
She reached into her jeans pocket, retrieved her jeep's keys, and offered them to Annie. Annie gave Alex a stern gaze. ".....And when we've gotten back to the house, you and I are going to have a serious talk about the way you use your telepathic ability, ...Alexandra". When Annie's fingers touched the palm of her hand as she took the jeep keys, Alex winced guiltily. She instantly sensed Annie's annoyance at her using her new-found telepathy so casually.
"So what's the plan super-brain?" Ray asked. Annie re-focused on what she wanted to do.
"Alex just had a premonition that someone was watching us out here, so that's why I sent the others with Louis" she explained patiently. "We just shouldn't get them involved into anything that may be too dangerous. It's my guess that whoever was watching us, still is, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it's us in particular they're watching. So here's what we're going to do .....".
Grace Lasky had painstakingly made her way through the dense thicket back to where her car was parked. From a safe distance, she spied the two girls Robyn Russo and Nicole Wilson ride off with Louis Driscoll in his car several minutes ago, but the Mack sisters and Raymond Alvarado remained behind discussing something by Alex's jeep. After seeing Alex look in her direction back on the trail, Grace took note that not once did any of the remaining teens look around them again.
Hopefully, it was just coincidence that Alex looked up at all, but it surprised her when the Alvarado kid took the pair of dirt bikes off the rack on the back of the jeep.
"What are you three up to?" she said quietly, spying them through her mini-binoculars. She watched Annie Mack get into the jeep, crank it up, and drive off in the opposite direction, disappearing over the rise of King Street, and leaving Alex and Ray alone with their bikes. Grace was intrigued.
Then, after waiting about two minutes, Alex and Ray mounted their bikes and sped off in different directions. Alex biked back down King Street in Grace's direction and Ray took off the same way Annie left.
"What the hell....?" yelped a surprised Grace, instinctively bolting to her car, getting in, and cranking it up. Her assignment was to monitor and assure the safety of the Macks, but specifically Alex Mack. Alex passed by on the far side of the street by Grace's hidden position, pedaling furiously down the hill. Grace waited for her to obtain a safe distance and then placed her car in ‘drive' to follow.
Annie discreetly pulled Alex's jeep off the trail which they were previously searching and drove across the clearing to back to King Street's roadside. She had cleverly used another entrance at the other end of trail to circle around after Alex and Ray gave her time to do so. The moment Grace's black Taurus sedan pulled out of it's hidden location, Annie spotted it, as well as noticing it's dark blue government plates, but she couldn't see who was driving because of it's darkly tinted windows. She lifted her walkie-talkie to her mouth to speak. Both Ray and Alex had walkie-talkies that Louis left behind.
"Alex, are you there?" she said into the radio.
"I'm here ..." Alex responded in a crackly voice. "You were right, we were being watched. I just spotted a black Ford Taurus pull out down the road from the clearing and start following you, and it looked like it had government plates" Annie reported.
"Government plates?!" exclaimed Alex worriedly. "Yes" answered Annie. "Just go along with the plan and let them follow you. I'll let you know when to do your thing".
"Gotcha" came Alex's voice back. "Ray? Are you there?" Annie asked into her radio. "I'm here" he replied.
"It looks like it's Alex they're interested in Ray, so swing around and head for the house and wait for us in the garage". Annie waited for several seconds, but was surprised at Ray's response. "No way Annie! If somebody's following Alex, I'm going to stick close to her, no matter who it is. I've already circled back on Clark Street and saw the black Taurus pass on King. I‘m going to follow it".
Annie rolled her eyes in exasperation, but understood Ray's concern for his best friend. "Alright, alright! Just stay at a safe distance and don't let yourself be spotted. Alex isn't going too fast on her bike so whoever is following her isn't going to be driving very fast either. I'm coming down the hill now and I'll catch up with you".
Annie didn't know what they were really doing except verifying somebody was watching them and hopefully identifying who it was. It never occurred to her that it was someone with the government. That was something they had to meet about later, but right now, Annie was beginning to think maybe this was a very rash plan she developed. The fact that their mysterious watcher was someone working for the government sent a cold chill up her spine.
"Did they somehow find out Alex has super powers again? Are they after my little sister to make her guinea pig like Danielle Atron wanted to?" she thought fearfully.
Annie raced down King Street to catch up.
Alex pedaled at a quick pace along King, and then turned left at the corner onto Calhoun, heading past a long line of gas stations, parking lots, and small shops.
"Turning left on Calhoun..." Alex said into her radio, hoping that Annie and Ray heard her.
After turning, Alex wanted to know if her follower was still behind her, but turning to look would give her away. An idea flashed into her mind. She looked at her left hand gripping the handle bar, and concentrated on it. She tipped it upwards with the heel of the inner hand resting on the grip, and liquified only the back of her hand. Concentrating even harder, she willed the morphed back-half of her hand to smoothen, becoming a reflective rear-view mirror!
She looked at her hand and saw the car slowly following her from a cautious distance. She returned her hand to normal and continued to pedal.
"Alright then whoever you are, let's play a little ‘cat and mouse'" she said with a slight giggle.
Alex knew Annie would not want her to get into a face to face confrontation with whoever was following her, but since her powers had returned with such intensity, Alex felt infinitely confident in being able to handle herself against anyone, even a G-man. Anyway, Alex's curiosity was one of her biggest weaknesses. When she had her vision moments ago of someone watching them back at the trail, she sensed a sort of familiarity, and she just had to know who was following her!
She spoke into her radio again. "Hey guys, go ahead to the house and I'll meet you there later. I'm going to find out who this is ...."
"Alex ...!" shouted Annie's voice over the walkie-talkie. "Don't you dare! Just lose him!". Alex knew Annie meant she wanted her to duck into the first available side street, morph down a sewage drain somewhere, and leave the stranger guessing.
"Damnit" muttered Alex, angry with her sister's over-protectiveness. She decided to surrender to Annie‘s demand, but figured she could find out who this was and still keep Annie happy.
"O.k.! O.k.! Meet me behind old man Conners' grocery on Wallace Drive in five minutes, o.k.?" Alex said, defeated.
"Alex Mack, you better not ....." warned Annie's voice before Alex turned the volume down on the radio and stick it back into her windbreaker pocket. She cut hard to her right onto Tharpe Street and gave herself a mild telekinetic boost to take some of the strain off of her leg muscles which were beginning to tire from the pace. She half-morphed the top of her right hand this time and mirrored it's surface to see behind her again. The black Taurus turned onto Tharpe, still following.
Another hard right had Alex traveling on Cleveland Street, and once again the car followed at a distance. A sneaky smile crossed her lips as Alex spotted Conners Grocery Store about a block ahead. It was a small store located between a two-story office building and an old, closed down theatre. On the far of the grocery was an alley between it and the old theatre, and it stretched the length of the two buildings. Just ten feet down the alley was an eight foot high security fence which kept vagrants out. Beyond the fence at the other end of the alley was yet another fence and a parking lot for a fast-food restaurant which Alex and Ray visited from time to time.
Alex concentrated on her own body, and prepared for what was going to have to be a very fast transformation. She could literally feel the cells within her body beginning to instantly produce their own miraculous hybrid version of GC-161, and she felt her very bones begin to partially liquify at the speed of thought. It was a powerful sensation.
Alex passed in front of the store and cut sharply into the alley. She knew she only had a few seconds to complete her plan. She looked to her right and telekinetically ‘bumped' a side loading door on the grocery store slightly ajar.
Alex then tried to will herself to liquify as the front tire of her bike hit the chain-link fence at full speed, but she didn't think she had done so in time. Alex still possessed her human appearance as she was thrown over the handle bars at the fence, but unbelievably, she effortlessly flowed head-first through the metal fence's diamond-shaped links like water through a sieve! When she hit the ground on the other side, Alex's body had finally dissolved into a silvery puddle, and smacked the cold concrete surface with a gooey splash.
"Now THAT was totally freaky!" she said aloud in a gurgling voice. With her morphed-state's watery, panoramic vision, Alex watched her bike sail up into the air and fall on it's side as the black Taurus pulled into a parking place along the curb at the front of the alley. Alex quickly sloshed herself against the bottom edge of the alley wall and slithered upwards, positioning herself eight feet above. Concentrating on becoming as transparent as she could, Alex melted into invisibility on the wall and waited.
When she had her powers before, Alex wasn't able to stay morphed for no longer than ten minutes unless cold temperatures helped her stay liquid longer, but she guessed the far more powerful abilities she had now could probably keep her morphed as long as she wished.
Alex watched the car idle at the curb for almost a full minute, until the driver door swung open, and out got ....... Grace Lasky?! Alex couldn't believe her, well, her morph-senses! Grace Lasky was working for the government and was following her!
Grace approached the alley fence and looked at Alex's felled bike. She inspected the slightly opened side door of the store and deduced Alex dumped the bike and darted inside, but Grace wasn't about to go inside and risk being seen by Alex; at least not now.
She realized Alex and her friends knew they were being watched back on the trail, and for some reason, Alex played this ‘cat and mouse' game with her. Grace didn't think they knew it was her, and wasn't sure what the teens were up to, but she didn't like it. She felt exposed, and decided to make a hasty retreat for now. She nervously looked around her a final time and then got back into her car and drove off.
Annie and Ray waited anxiously in Alex's jeep in the fast-food restaurant parking lot behind the grocery. Annie picked up Ray several blocks back after he tossed his bike onto the back rack. Now, both of them were waiting for Alex to show up.
"Well, where is she?" asked Ray, looking all around them. "I'm not sure, but this is where she said to meet her" replied Annie, also scanning around them. It was right then when she spotted a silvery puddle emerge from the alley between the grocery store and the old theatre.
"There she is!" Annie nudged Ray. The puddle retreated back into the alley, and then transformed back into Alex, now riding her bike again. When she came down off the building wall after Grace had left, Alex went back to her bike and retrieved it by morphing it into her gelatinous form. Alex rode up alongside of the jeep and Annie saw the troubled expression on her face.
"Alex? What's going on?" she asked her younger sister.
"I'm not sure you really want to know Annie".