I woke up early in the morning, already hyperventilating like nobody’s business. I untangled myself from my ever-so comfy blanket on the cold, concrete floor of the empty warehouse where my group and I were currently living. It was about four o’clock in the morning, judging by the amount of sunlight, but I wasn‘t about to go back to sleep.
Today was the day our youngest member, Candy, joined the group for her first mission. I quickly got dressed while trying not to awaken the rest of the girls. It wasn’t hard to keep quiet; the run-down sneaker factory was very spacious. Everything around the area where we were living was abandoned, which was why it was the perfect place to call home sweet home. There were very few people around the area, and the ones lucky enough to be here were buried so deep in their own baggage they didn’t care about ours.
I could feel a gentle breeze come in through the broken window. It was going to be warm and sunny today, the kind of weather that made everyone feel safe. They didn’t know what they were in for.
I could feel my whole entire body shake. I wasn’t nervous about going on the mission, it was simple enough. The problem was Candy, being the youngest, was always babied by everyone, and she thought she was a lot more of a bad ass then she really was. I was scared she was in for a rude awakening.
She didn’t know The Front the way the rest of us knew them; no one did. Then again, The Union Front, affectionately called The Front, wasn’t exactly the most open of government agencies. They made the laws, their agents enforced the laws, and we were hired to do the dirty work when thing got messy.
You would think hiring a bunch of adolescent girls to work directly for the government would be considered “taboo.” Well, that’s exactly why we were recruited, because no one expects little, giggling girls to be secretly working behind the scenes for the government. Well, I have a news flash for you. If you consider something even the slightest bit immoral, there’s a good chance The Front has done it, will do it, or is currently doing it.
The Front does what it wants. You want to intervene, go ahead, but you’ll be dead by the morning, and I’ll be the one helping you into that shallow, unmarked grave.
The Little Sisters. Yup, that was our incredibly stupid name. I have no clue who came up with it. It could have been The Front itself for all I know. I’ve tried on multiple occasions to change it to something like “Hero” or “Ghost,” but my ingenious names never seemed to stick. But hey, I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or for that matter, teach it to respond to a less idiotic name.
Just as my thoughts began to take a morbid turn, I was interrupted by a voice behind me.
“Don’t worry Maya,” said Candy, “I’ll be fine.”
I smiled at her. Candy was the average, sweet -faced ten years old with rosy cheeks and blond curly hair, but let me tell you she was a lot less innocent than she looked.
She came and plopped down beside me.
“I know,” I said. “I just think you’re still too young,” I admitted.
“Please.” Candy protested with a valley-girl drawl, “I’ve been here for a long time and have had plenty of training, probably more that you did for your first mission.”
It was true, and she had the scars to prove it. However, I was fourteen now and she was still so young. I was prepared to continue my useless argument when the rest of our team began to awake. I watched as they began to move around and quickly throw on their clothes. The room we slept in was freezing. For a factory with so many windows, you’d think we’d be able to find rooms with one’s that weren’t broken. Wrong. It didn’t matter. After this mission, The Front would assign us our next task and we’d be long gone. We’d be on our way to the next cold, grey, and damp dump we could find.
“So, you guys ready?” asked the always perky Dakota, as she shoved on her boots. It was amazing how happy my younger sister could be, even before a mission.
The six girls going on today’s mission with Candy were my identical twin sister, Faye, my thirteen year old sister, Dakota, Charlee, our best friend, Jess, who was our team leader, and me. Theresa, Kitty and Flo were going to stay here at the factory and do God knows what.
When all of us finished getting ready for the day the group circled around Jess. She was about to re-visit the plan, as we patiently awaited her omniscient words.
“Okay,” said Jess, “This is the job we have to do. There’s a Niagara Bank on the west side of town. A shipment of 500,000 dollars should be arriving at 8:30 am. We go to the bank, we get the cash, and we’re gone.”
And just like that, we were off.
Jess wasn’t exactly what you would call “fluffy” or even “emotional,” sure her harden characteristics were normally found in 70 year old war veterans with a balding head and an eye patch, but that’s why she was our leader. She could probably even pull of the eye patch. There wasn’t really any long back story on why Jess was in charge. It was pretty much that, at 17, Jess was the oldest. I guess we all figured that meant she knew best.
It only took about half an hour to get to the west side of town, it should have taken longer, but Jess made us sprint in order to build our strength. The Front didn’t supply us with a car or equipment that would make our jobs any easier. They must have thought we were too good for extra help.
As I ran, I cursed The Front for not giving us any means of transportation. Sometimes, they did provide us with bus tickets for our long-distance jobs, but once we arrived in the general area, we were literally on our own two feet.
The bank parking lot was relatively empty, which meant less people to get in our way. Jess suddenly gave us the signal to get going. She never wasted any time.
As she walked ahead of us her white-blond hair swayed perfectly back and forth across her slender back. I was pretty sure she bleached it, but she would have killed me if I asked her that.
“Nothing beats robbing a bank in the early morning hours,” said Charlee. After that statement, she promptly started singing about cows. I’m not going to lie, Charlee could be a bit weird.
“Charlee and Faye are in charge of getting the money into my grasp. Dakota you’re on the getaway. Candy and Maya, you two work on the distraction. It should be easy since not many people are here,” said Jess
We all started walking towards the entrance as Jess headed towards the back of the bank.
“The instructions Jess gave the group were pretty vague,” Candy’s voice quivered a little. Her hands were balled in fists to keep herself from fidgeting.
“We’ve been doing this for years,” I said, “After a few missions you’ll just know what to do.”
We walked through the door.
“And the show begins.”
I pulled Candy this way and that, avoiding the security cameras. As Faye and Charlee started walking towards their station, I saw Charlee steal a pen from an unoccupied desk and slip it in to her coat pocket.
“Charlee, put it back,” I whispered aggressively. She glared at me, but put it back anyway.
“I thought you said you had control of this,” I said.
“I do, sort of.”
“Well maybe I wanted it for a birthday present,” she said.
“Nice try. Your sixteenth birthday isn’t for three weeks.”
“C’mon Charlee,” said Faye in a sympathetic tone, “We better get going.”
For being my twin, Faye was the exact opposite of me. It was why we got along so well. She was quiet and sympathetic in a way that I often tried to be, but rarely did I succeed. I’ll admit sympathy and I don’t get along well. Most the time I want to gag it with a spoon. However, our good sibling relationship had a lot to do with the fact that we could read each other’s mind. I believe the technical word for it is “telepathy.” I can’t imagine our lives without our ability, mostly because it made missions a heck of a lot easier when you could talk to someone via magical satellite. I think it made poor Dakota feel jealous, but she always kept it to herself, God bless her.
I rolled my eyes as Candy and I headed in the opposite direction of Faye and Charlee, toward one of the clerks. I didn’t like that Charlee stole, but I had to give her a little bit of slack. To have burglary be the job of an obsessive compulsive thief was like an alcoholic working in a wine store and expecting him not to drink.
I quickly thought of my expected distraction as we approached the young teller, with perfectly slicked back, dark hair and beady eyes.
“Excuse me,” I said, pointing to Candy, “my little sister isn’t feeling well. May I use your phone to call our father and ask him to pick us up?”
“Oh yes,” the man said. “Is there anything I can do?”
“No, no,” I said as I elbowed Candy in the gut, hoping she’d start acting like someone in pain. She apparently got my message, because she was on the floor, moaning, in seconds.
“Can she amp it up a little? We need a bigger distraction or these people will see us,” Faye’s question had drifted through my head telepathically.
I knelt down by Candy and pretended to soothe her.
“Turn it up a notch. We need a bigger distraction. Not enough people are noticing and looking our way.”
“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH.” She let out a blood curdling scream before I even pulled my ear away from her big mouth.
“My spleen, I think it just exploded!”
Ba-bam, one to ten, just like that.
“Thanks,” said Faye.
Everybody in the bank rushed to Candy in a mass panic.
With my job done, I stood back and watched the rest of our team get to work.
You could barely see Faye and Charlee as they got the money; it was amazing how much money could fit in so few bags. I wasn’t exactly sure how they retrieved the money and handed it off to Jess, but this time it wasn’t my business.
I knew we had the cash when Jess suddenly appeared at the back door of the bank and twirled her finger in circles, giving me the sign that Faye and Charlee were out of the bank and it was time to wrap up the performance. Candy must have saw it too because miraculously, she jumped up and was healed.
“Bless ye Father in Heaven, my sister is healed,” I shouted toward the ceiling, and before anyone could ask questions, we ran out of the bank.
“You rocked that,” I said to Candy as we headed towards Dakota’s position.
“I know,” she replied.
That was my girl, always humble.
“Come on!” mouthed Dakota as she appeared in my line of vision. When we reached her, we hid alongside her behind a dumpster.
“Where is everyone else?” I asked.
“In there,” she pointed to a white van on the opposite side of the filthy street. The vehicle looked very similar to one a drug lord might drive.
“How’d you manage to get that thing?” I said, cocking an eyebrow.
“Do you really want to know?” she asked with a sly little smile. Her button nose turned up high like she was royalty.
She laughed as we ran and climbed in to the back of the van. Jess turned the key and the sound of the engine roaring to life almost scared me. I couldn’t remember the last time I was in a car.
It felt like heaven as we began to roll forward. I imagined astronauts must have felt like this as they took off in their spaceships.
We had never really needed a van of our own. Sure, stealing was against the law, but we stole for The Front all the time. I rationalized my thoughts on the theft. Technically, this would only serve to benefit them, the same way it always did. I was surprised none of us, especially Charlee, had thought of this before. Truth was, there was no way we had a prayer of buying a car. In case it wasn’t obvious, this wasn’t the America it was fifty years ago. Back then, people owned all types of luxury items and had all kinds of freedom. No one lived like that now.
It was The Front who made things the way it is now, and, as by the golden rule, they made the decisions, and it was a bad idea to question them.
“Why do you get to drive,” whined Charlee to Jess. She was gripping the wheel with such force that, if it were a living thing, it would have been choked to death. She didn’t take her eyes off the road as she answered through her teeth:
“Because, I’m the only one who can drive,” (I doubted the truth of that statement).
“Being able to do something and being able to do something legally are two different things.”
“Charlee, you’ll get us all killed.”
And so the argument went on. One of Charlee’s favorite past times was arguing with Jess, and she was very good at it, and it was usually over a stupid things.
We pulled into the broken down café about twenty minutes later. Apparently, the Rocket Ball Café was “all that” back in the day, with a quaint little 50’s themed atmosphere, but now it was just a dusty room full of tables and chairs and broken cappuccino machines. This was the place we used to meet with The Front agents.
Sure enough, a member of The Front was there waiting.
“You have it?” the man said. Odd as it seems, this was friendly for someone in the government. Normally the agents wouldn‘t say anything at all.
Jess pointed to Faye and Dakota as they struggled to bring in the last bag of the bank’s money and place it with the other three, near the table where the man was sitting.
“Sit,” he commanded, pointing to the other uncomfortable chairs at the table. Jess sat. You could see she hated taking orders from this guy. She gritted her teeth. Jess was tough enough to disobey him, but smart enough to know better.
“All of you sit,” he said to the rest of us.
“This is strange,” I thought to Faye.
“I know, I wonder what he wants.”
“Something tells me it won’t be good.”
“Is it ever?”
If The Front agents want to speak to us, it’s never good.
We all sat around the table. Before I even saw the man’s face I knew he was new to The Front. He took off his sun glasses, the agents never take off their sunglasses, you’d think even a rooky agent would know that.
This guy is hot, was the first thought that popped into my mind. I couldn’t help it, with dark brown hair, a chiseled jaw, and deep set brown eyes, it was hard to think otherwise.
He wasted no time getting to the point.
“We’ve decided to replace your team. There is another group with more potential than yours. We think they would be more effective.”
“How can you say that? We just got over $500,000 dollars for you,” Jess erupted. Her chair clattered behind her as she forcefully stood up.
The man (if you could even call him that, he looked eighteen at most) simply looked at her. After a few seconds Jess recomposed herself and sat down.
“Will you at least tell us what we did to result in this decision?” she said, looking like a dog that had just been forced to wear a muzzle.
“You did nothing,” he said with a smile.
“Then why can’t we continue doing our job. As far as I am concerned we have been more than good to The Union Front, which is, may I remind you, doing the dirty work your agency is too cowardly to do.”
Jess had a smug little smile on her face after her speech. But, when the young man looked at her like he was going to rip her into a billion tiny Jess pieces, her smile quivered.
“Since I’m almost positive you have no idea who I am, I‘ll pretend I didn‘t hear that, but for future references, I’m William Breachgate. My father is the leader of The Union Front.”
Wow, the Daddy card, I’m so scared.
Faye let out an unflattering snort which earned her a confused and, ever-so-slightly, disgusted look from Mr. Breachgate.
“So what I‘m hearing is that you’re a rookie,” said Jess.
William simply took a deep breath and smiled.
“Here is your final payment,” he said, handing Jess a small wad of hundred dollar bills. “Starting now we will have no contact with your team. For that matter, we never did.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do now,” she said.
For the first time in my life I thought I was going to see Jess cry.
“That’s not for me to figure out,” answered Breachgate. With that, the handsome, terrible stranger got up and began to walk away.
“Wait,” cried out Faye.
I was honestly surprised. Faye was one of the shyest members of our group, plus, one of our rules was when the leader was around, you let her do the talking, a rule Faye generally obeyed.
Faye continued speaking, “What if we can prove we are better than this other gang? Can we keep our jobs?”
This got his attention.
“What do you mean?” he asked, turning around with a nasty smile on his face. Geez, why did evil have to be so cute?
“I-I,” Faye stammered. The man cut her off with his words.
“I’m always up for a little friendly competition. So let’s say I’ll give both groups the same task. If you complete it first, you can keep your job. If you don’t, the Big Brothers replace you.”
“The Big Brothers,” Charlee whispered to me in a loud voice.
I couldn’t help but smile. If William Breachgate heard Charlee, he showed no sign he did.
“Meet me here tomorrow at six thirty in the morning, I will give you your new assignment.”
With that, he walked through the door and left us all in the café, wondering what just happened.
I lay wide awake in my blankets. I was far too anxious to sleep.
Somehow, in my random thoughts, I found myself repeating a rhyme my sisters and I made up about our mother:
“There once was a little old lady who lived in a shoe,
She had many children, and she knew exactly what to do.
She swore, and she drank, and she beat her kids blue.
That pretty much summed up our life before we joined the Little Sisters. One day, three years ago when Maya and I were eleven and Dakota was ten, we finally decided to run away for good. Unfortunately, we brought with us very little food and even less money. We had to rely on other means to get what we needed.
It made me feel horrible to steal from people, but what truly sickened me was how easy it was. We were good at it. Jess apparently thought we were good too because when she caught us, she said we could join the Little Sisters or she would turn us in. We found out later, Jess actually wasn’t going to rat us out, but she needed to be persuasive.
Huh, I thought to myself, I just went through my whole entire life story in about half a minute.
“Can’t sleep?” My sister’s voice popped into my head.
“No, I’m too worried,” I answered her back.
“Well, cool it with the memories, they keep on ramming their way into my head. Plus, yours truly is trying to repress them.”
“Sorry. My bad.”
I had a tendency to send thoughts to Maya when I didn’t necessarily mean too. I assumed Maya had gone back to sleep when she started talking again.
“Do you think we can honestly win this competition with the Big Brothers?”
I gave her the best answer I could, “I hope so.”
I must have fallen asleep sometime during our talk, because the next thing I knew it was early in the morning, and someone was waking me with a harsh nudge.
“Wake up Sleeping Beauty, we’z got us our jobs to save,” said Charlee.
“What time is it?” I asked groggily.
“About six. By the way, Jess said to get dressed in your good clothes and to pack up all your things.”
“All right,” I said. Charlee turned and quickly left.
When Jess spoke of “good clothes” she meant the extra garments we wore for when the others became to rancid to wear. I guess the day’s work was a special occasion.
I quickly got dressed and packed my blanket and other clothes into a plastic bag. I figured we weren’t going to come back here once we were given our mission. Knowing The Front, whatever task given to us would be long, hard, and far away, so we couldn’t waste time coming back to gather our belongings, not that we had a lot to gather.
On my way to join the rest of the team for the meeting, who had gathered on the other side of the drafty hallway, I saw a glimpse of my reflection in a broken window. My long, curly, light brown hair (which I hated) was a tangled mess, my blue eyes (which I liked) looked sunken and tired, and my pale skin (which I also hated) was greasy and dirty. So, sadly, I was looking better than usual.
Maya looked the same as me, except she liked to chop her hair short; she said it fit her personality.
Dakota was a mess too, but she could hide it better due to the fact she had more freckles than stars in the sky. Unlike most people, Dakota thought her freckles to be her best feature. She always loved the night sky, and you couldn’t see the stars anymore, not with all the factory smoke polluting the air.
We three sisters also happened to be tall and pathetically skinny, a trait that ran in the family.
I sighed and raked my fingers through my hair in an attempt to try to look a more presentable.
It didn‘t work.
“Hi,” said Dakota as she ran down the hall towards me.
“Hey,” I said “What’s up?”
“Jess wants talk to us.”
“I know. I’ll be right down.”
By the time I arrived, everyone had already gathered around Jess.
Charlee was sprawled on the floor in an extremely unladylike manor, with her wild, black, curly hair looking like an extremely bushy halo.
Although Charlee hated her hair even more than I hated mine, she had skin I would have killed for. It was coco and flawless; the only gift she had received from her Caucasian mother and African-American father.
Theresa and Kitty were sitting dutifully near Jess, and Flo was off sulking near a window, as usual. I took a seat in between Maya and Dakota and waited for Jess to speak.
“All right,” Jess began. “We can do it, so let’s beat those “big bastards” to the curve.”
That was Jess, always keeping it short and sweet.
“Well, we can check encouragement off the list of things Jess still needs to master,” joked Maya. I tried, and failed, not to laugh, which got us a disapproving stare from Jess.
Our meeting did not last long, mostly because no one had any ideas on how to win this crazy competition. We would just have to wait until after our morning meeting.
We arrived at the café several minutes before 6:30. Members of The Front were already there, and so was a van which I assumed belonged to the Big Brothers. I was glad we had a van too, despite the fact it was ugly and Dakota stole it off the streets. Both of our groups having vans put us on equal ground.
“Okay,” said Jess “I want Charlee, Faye and Maya to come into the café with me. The rest of you stay in the Drug Truck (yes, we had affectionately named our van the Drug Truck). I could see Dakota was disappointed she failed to convince Jess to choose her too. Surprisingly, none of the other girls seemed to mind they couldn’t tag along.
We walked inside to see William Breachgate and three unfamiliar faces which I assumed where members of the Big Brothers. I presumed the guy standing slightly in front of the other two was their leader.
Boy was he a sight for sore eyes.
He looked to be about seventeen. He was at least 3 inches above 6’ foot tall, with a mop of golden blond curls, green colored eyes, and a crooked smile. A small, thin scar ran across his left cheek. I could have sworn I was standing in the presence of a Greek god. The two kids standing behind him looked like they could be brothers. Both were tall and broad and muscular. Their skin was very dark. The younger of the brothers was about a year or so older than me. He had his long, black hair in dread locks. The older one, who I guessed was about the same age as the leader, wore his black hair in long braids.
I quickly dropped my gaze, embarrassed I had been staring. I looked to my side to see Jess, Maya, and Charlee were staring too. What could I say, it wasn’t very often we got to converse with members of the opposite sex.
“Shall we get started?” asked Breachgate
We all took seats around the table.
“Here is your assignment,” he began his speech. “I assume you have all heard about the rebel group forming against us, correct?” he asked.
The only thing I knew about this rebel group was its name, the Freedom Writers, and that it was short on members and weapons.
“Well,” Breachgate continued, “the Freedom Writers have stolen something from us of great value, The Enhancer. You must get it back. Whoever retrieves The Enhancer first will continue to work for The Union Front.”
Breachgate stood up, and handed folders to Jess and to the leader of the Big Brothers.
“All necessary information is in those packets.”
With that we left the café and climbed back into the Drug Truck. Instead of driving away, we all gathered in the back of the van and discussed the information in the folders. “Wow!” said Maya, while reading the paper. “According to this, The Enhancer is some kind of machine that makes people into, like, super humans.
“Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet!” said Dakota. “I vote after we steal this thing, we use it on ourselves.”
“What if the Freedom Writers already used it on themselves?” I asked
“I don’t think they have,” said Maya “According to this, the Freedom Writers don’t have the nuclear atomic battery needed to power up this baby. Apparently it’s missing in action.”
Maya passed off the folder to Kitty right as Flo grabbed it out of her hands. Kitty didn’t bother to fight back, but instead simply read it over Flo’s shoulder, he long hair drooping across the page. Theresa and Candy soon looked on too and the rest of us continued our conversation.
“So I’m guessing we have to find the battery too?” I asked.
“You guessed right,” answered Jess
“We should have known The Front would leave that detail out of the job description,” said Charlee.
“Well,” said Jess, “I guess we know why they need The Enhancer back so bad. If the Freedom Writers find the battery and use it on themselves, their threat to The Front would amplify about 100 times.”
I was slightly confused, “If the Freedom Writers don’t have the battery and The Front doesn’t have the battery, who has the battery?”
Jess sighed, “We could, for all I know. I guess I should have expected getting the Enhancer back to be a huge pain in the you-know-what.”
“So how do we plan to do this job?” I asked.
“It would probably be best if a couple of us got on the inside of the Freedom Writers,” said Maya. I figured this was her thinly veiled attempt of suggesting to Jess she be put on the inside, but I didn’t say anything.
“That’s what I was planning on doing,” said Jess, “but first it would be best if we found out more about this group.”
“And how are we on weaponry?” Dakota randomly asked.
“Why?” asked Jess.
“Because I just found this dagger with what I think is a gold blade; I’m no expert, but it looks like it could be worth something,” said Dakota. She held up the item she found in the van.
“Holy Shmoly!” said Charlee, and she definitely was not wrong.
“Oh thank you great person who previously owned the Drug Truck,” I said.
“Amen to that,” said Charlee. Jess took the knife from Dakota and inspected it.
“How’d you manage to find that?” asked Maya.
Kitty responded, “While you guys were in the cafe yappity, yappity yappity-ing in your little meeting, Dakota and Candy were fishing around the car and noticed that one of the compartments was locked. Flo tried to break into it, but she couldn’t. Theresa finally picked the lock and low and behold, a lovely blade.”
Maya smirked at Flo’s defeat.
“Why didn’t you show us this when we got in the van?” Jess asked
Dakota shrugged, “I wanted to wait for a dramatic moment.”
“We could get three or four guns with this beauty,” Jess said, scanning over the dagger.
I’ll admit it did occur to me that it wasn’t exactly common for people around here to own insanely valuable knives and hide them in dirty vans. I figured I could worry about that later. I wasn’t going to let my pessimistic way of thinking ruin this very unusual lucky moment.
“Only one problem,” said Maya. “Not too many people want to trade weapons with a whole bunch of little girls.”
“Ok, I have a plan,” said Jess, sticking the knife into her belt loop. “Dakota, Faye and Candy, you guys come with me. The rest of you stay here, and when I come back I want some more info on the Freedom Writers.”
“What do you want us to do,” said Charlee, “pull new information out of our butts.”
“I have undying faith in you,” said Jess. With that declaration in mind, Dakota, Candy, Jess and I got out of the van and set off to work on the details of our assignment.
Since Charlee and I didn’t know where to…, ‘find out everything about the Freedom Writers,’ with no recourses but the wooden park bench were we were sitting, we decided to let the other girls get some ideas while we attended to other business. Okay, by other business I meant talking about boys.
Don’t judge us.
Charlee dramatically threw her legs over the park bench where we were sitting.
“Man,” said Charlee “were those two Jamaican brothers a sight or what?”
“Totally, the leader wasn’t hard to look at either.”
“Definitely, but the brothers, now, they’re two boys after my own heart.”
“You’re not Jamaican, are you?” I asked
“Well no, but my ancestors were. Man.” she said, somehow developing a Jamaican accent. I knew very well Charlee didn’t have a clue about her ancestry, but I didn’t press the subject.
“I still don’t think they were as good looking as the guy from The Front,” I said.
“You thought he was cute?”
“Of course I did, didn’t you?” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess, but Breachgate is part of The Front. It would be weird to like him.”
“Well don’t blame me for believing in love.”
“When you two are finished,” said Flo as she snuck up behind us, “there is work we’re supposed to be doing.” Flo wasn’t exactly my favorite person. Actually, I hated her. She was fourteen going on forty. There weren’t many times when we actually spoke. She was arrogant until she needed help, then, Flo made it feel like it was your fault she had a problem.
“And why have we been graced by your presence?” I asked. She rolled her eyes and held the packet the agent had given us under my nose. “It’s not hand written,” she said.
“Congrats. It only took you a half an hour to figure that out.” I realized I was being mean, but I couldn’t help it. I was on a role.
Flo up-graded from an eye role to a sneer with her answer.
“I mean if this is a printed document then it might be from a company computer file. If I can find some leads online I might be able to trace the URL, and with that info I can get more data needed to try to hack into The Front’s database. Maybe….”
Sure she was a total pain in the butt, but at least she wasn’t stupid.
“Only one problem,” said Charlee, “where are we going to get access to a computer.
Suddenly, I had an idea.
“We could give our favorite pawn shop a visit.”
Slautzman’s Pawn Shop was a small store on the far side of town that sold crappy, over-priced trinkets disguised as genuine antiques. The owner, Ricki Slautzman, was the greediest, dirtiest, fattest, smelliest, and hairiest man on the earth. He also happened to hate us Little Sisters, not that I was going to let that get in the way of Flo and a computer.
Since Jess had taken the Drug Truck, we were stuck walking to the pawn shop. I kept my hand at my waste where my rusty, yet trusty, pocket knife was securely fastened in my belt loop. I kept an eye out for anyone who was shifty looking, but everyone we passed seemed far too interested in whatever they were smoking to give us a second look.
“Everybody ready?” I asked as we approached the shop. I figured it was my job to be prepared considering I was the “self- appointed” second in command.
“Ready Freddy,” responded Kitty.
Kitty was a year younger than we were, around Dakota’s age. She was small and of Asian descent with long, glossy black hair I envied. Kitty was also Dakota’s greatest rival, as they battled desperately to be the group’s perkiest member. Naturally, I took my sister’s side, but I had to admit, Kitty had sizzle. She was the kind of girl who could pull off goofy glasses and not look nerdy, if you know what I mean.
As soon as I opened the door I saw Ricki typing away at his computer. “Jackpot” I thought. The store was dimly lit and incredibly dusty. I fought the need to sneeze. Sadly, I failed to stifle the great wind building up inside my nose. “Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhh chooooooooooooooo.”
That sure got dear old Rick’s attention.
“Oh no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You all get the hell out of here!” he yelled.
He dragged himself out of his chair and attempted to usher us out the door.
“Relax Rickster,” I said “We’re just here to shop.”
Ricki, who was never one to turn down money, grudgingly let us into the store.
“Ok,” he said, “just keep your greasy little fingers off my merchandise.”
Always the flatterer, that man.
Before he could return to his desk Charlee went to work.
“Hey, how do I know this is real?” She asked and pointed at a yellowed piece of paper. It was supposed to be a letter written by John F. Kennedy to his wife.
Ricki whirled around, “What did you just ask me?”
“You heard me, how do I know this is real. You got proof?”
“How dare you criticize this priceless piece of historical documentation?”
As Charlee and Ricki began a heated argument, Flo, Kitty, and I slipped over to his computer. Theresa stood by Charlee and watched.
In all the excitement I had completely forgotten about poor Theresa. In my defense, it’s easy to forget Theresa, due to the fact she literally hasn’t spoken a word since she and Charlee joined the Little Sisters about a month after my sisters and I. She was also the tiniest twelve years old I have ever seen. No one knew why Theresa did not speak. I had tried a couple of times to ask Charlee about it, but every time I did, her answers would be different and it would rarely make sense. Now, the Little Sisters had an “ask me no more questions, I’ll tell you no more lies” type of understanding on this subject. Theresa usually stuck with either Faye or Charlee. I could understand why Theresa hung out with Charlee, after all they were cousins. They looked exactly alike minus the fact that Theresa was a good twenty shades darker and hadn’t quite lost all her baby fat. But I didn’t know why she was so attached to Faye. I always assumed it was because they were both so quiet.
I sat down in an ugly leather swivel chair and jiggled the mouse, waking the computer. I smiled at the document that popped up.
“Whoa,” I said. “Look at this guy’s inventory.” All three of us bent over the page Ricki had left open. I pointed out the section that caught my attention.
1840’s bell $ 20.00 $75.00
Traditional Celtic cross $ 150.00 $600.00
Synthetic diamond ring $ 57.00 $320.00
“Wow, what a crook,” I said.
“Interesting, but do you have any clue what you are doing?” asked Flo
“Nope,” I answered truthfully.
“Well then, Kitty, you keep look out in case Ricki comes back. Maya, get out of that chair and let a master do this work.” Flo obnoxiously flipped her stringy red hair towards my face, obviously pleased with herself.
Flo sat in front of the computer and began pushing buttons. Her olive colored eyes were squinted and her face was so close to the screen, her long nose was almost touching it. I couldn’t tell whether she was really focused or whether she just really needed glasses.
Her fingers moved so quickly on the key board it confirmed my theory that she was actually a witch.
“I can’t believe it. I’m in their database,” She said after about three minutes. “Wow, that was easier than I thought, weird.”
“Don’t complain, or you’ll jinx it,” I said while trying to take control over the computer again. Flo was not about to let that happen.
“Do you see anything about the Freedom Writers?” I asked
“Nothing we don’t already know. The group formed three years ago. They operate throughout the US in the basements of a shoe store chain. The last estimate is 375 members to date. They have a minor amount of weapons, but evidence suggests they’re getting shipments of supplies from somewhere near the Canadian border. Blah, blah, blah. Other stuff I already know and don’t care about.”
“Click on that. Hurry,” I told her, pointing to the screen.
“Recently paroled prisoners? How is that going to help us?”
“Think about it. Some of the people The Front arrested might be people in the Freedom Writers. If we can find them, I’m sure they’ll help us.
“All right,” said Flo, but she rolled her eyes in doubt.
She clicked on the icon and scrolled quickly down a long list of names until we found one that caught our attention.
“He could work,” I said as Flo clicked on the name I was pointing to and pulled up more information. I read the document out loud for Kitty to hear.
“His name is Tony Peek. He’s an ex-agent of The Front, he was arrested for selling information to Anti-Front organizations, and is currently on parole in Connecticut.”
I looked at his picture. He was a giant of a man with no neck. His very thick eyebrows covered squinty, dull eyes. He didn’t look like someone who took mercy on little girls.
“Looks like we’re headed to Connecticut,” said Flo.
“Yeah,” I replied, “but I doubt his services will come cheap.”
“They’re coming back,” whispered Kitty, interrupting our discussion.
Flo quickly deleted The Front’s database from the history of the computer, re-opened Ricki’s finances and we quickly moved to different spots around the store.
“Well thank you for proving the authenticity of that letter,” Charlee said to Ricki as they walked into the room. Theresa followed the two, trying not to smile. “Sorry you had to go all the way to the basement for the original receipt. Sadly, I don’t have the cash to buy anything today,” Ricki’s face turned deep red with anger. We all pushed each other out of the shop before he could react.
“You find anything?” Charlee asked as we walked down the street. I filled her and Theresa in on the details of our research on our way to meet up with the others. I had to whisper so the people passing wouldn’t hear anything, but lucky for me, there weren’t many people out for a leisurely stroll.
“So how are we going to get the money? We have to spend most of it on food.”
“Can we please not talk about the money right now?” I asked nervously.
I had a feeling I didn’t want to know the answer.
I sat in the passenger seat of the van, as we headed for the team’s meeting place, admiring my new toy.
“Pretty, new knife,” I said to myself, not at all freaked out that I was cooing to my prize.
After Jess argued with a very shifty dealer, we had managed to get a nice knife for all of us, along with four small, twenty caliber pistols in trade for the gold dagger. It didn’t seem like a fair trade, but we had no clue about the value of the dagger so I figured it was better to just get rid of the thing.
I was happy with the trade. Jess, however, was not. She sat in the front seat mumbling about how people are jack-wagons and thieves. I knew from experience it was easier to let Jess pout her way out of her moods. She was completely oblivious to our attempts to comfort her when she was angry. It only took me one try to learn that lesson. The last time she was angry she turned my sympathetic words around so that it sounded like I had insulted her. She wouldn’t talk to me for a week.
I was beginning to doze off when my sister’s voice popped into my head.
“Where are you guys. We’ve been waiting here forever.”
“We’re about twenty minutes away. Why?”
I tried to cool the snappiness in my voice. It wasn’t Maya’s fault quality sleep hadn’t been my friend lately.
“You’ll have to wait and find out. It’s a surprise.”
“C’mon, don’t be like that. Tell me.”
No matter how much I pleaded, my sister remained silent. Our telepathy had its glitches. We could close our minds when we wanted too. I wasn’t opposed to this limitation. The idea of mind reading is tough to handle sometimes. We all had a right to our secrets, and a right to keep them secret. Maya and I didn’t use our gift all that often, not if we were discussing serious issues anyway. If we had something important to say we would tell the whole group. Plus, I knew it made Dakota feel left out knowing she wasn’t included in our strange, mutant, ability. However, being her ever-happy self, she would never dream of saying anything.
I fell back to sleep, getting a blissful fifteen minutes of shut eye.
When we arrived, Maya and Flo told us everything they had learned about Tony Peek. They each tried to tell the story at the same time, getting louder as they spoke over each other. By the time they finished talking I was pretty sure the whole eastern side of the state had heard.
Candy handed each of them their new knifes. I couldn’t help laugh at Maya. She looked so conflicted. Her new knife was so sharp and shiny, but she couldn’t just dump her old, faithful blade.
After we were all situated, Jess decided Maya’s plan was worthy of her approval and we should head to Connecticut. We could work on getting money on our way there. It did not take long to pack the Drug Truck, and we were on our way.
We had only gotten four hours into our trip before the fog got so thick we had to pull to the side of the road and stay put until we had some clue of our whereabouts. Trust me, nine squished girls, plus one Drug Truck equals a bad time.
While we waited, everyone tried to think of ideas to come up with some money. As time went by the ideas got progressively worse. Charlee was in the middle of a long-winded, impossible idea that involved us going to a lab and having them turn us into bird kids with wings.
“…. And I want my name to be Maximum Run.” She said as she finally drew to the conclusion.
“If you are going to act like an idiot Charlee, do it when I’m not around to hear you.” said Jess
“No idea is a bad idea.” Charlee said mockingly, obviously glad she had ticked off Jess.
“As long as we’re just waiting here we should probably get some sleep.” I said, not wanting this to turn into a huge fight (not to mention I was painfully bored). It was almost midnight anyway.
Jess turned off the car light and I took a seat on the other side of Dakota. She always liked to be in the middle of Maya and me. I could hear Flo and Charlee whispering to each other. I knew Maya did not like Flo. And most the time I agreed. She was rude, self-absorbed, and just plain old mean, but Charlee liked her. Strangely, I did not oppose their friendship. They balanced each other out.
I felt a warm blanket of sleep cover me as I began to dream:
I’m running through the woods. I’m running faster than humanly possible.
I take in the scenery around me as if I‘ve had hours to study it; even though I am going so fast.
This is fun.
I feel more…more…more…something. I cannot think of a word to describe the way I feel. Suddenly I hear footsteps behind me. There almost running as fast as I am.
…… right behind me!
I woke up gasping. “Well, that was awkward.” I mumble to myself.
My back was sticky with sweat. However, I wasn’t sure if it was because of the dream or because half of Dakota’s body is sprawled across mine. When Dakota slept, she radiated heat like a sidewalk on a scorching summer day.
Outside, the fog had completely cleared and the sun was shining through the windows. A few yards away I saw a fancy looking green and white sign that read,
WELCOME TO MIDDLEBURG
It was at least eight o’clock in the morning, so I figured it was time to wake up the team.
“Ok,” said Dakota once I had nudged everyone awake, “Let’s see what Middleburg can do for us.”
The town had a quaint, old time feel to it. All the buildings were made of brick or stone and all the houses looked like mansions. It was the type of town where you could picture the men being CEO’s of their own corporations and the women being socialites, sitting at home all day in fancy dresses, gossiping to each other about anyone who popped into their shallow heads. Meanwhile, their spoiled honor students were, in reality, snot nose brats. Of course, my idea wasn’t realistic. Towns like that didn’t exist, not any more.
Which was why I immediately knew something was wrong with this place. I just didn’t know what.
The only building that didn’t fit in was the small Quick Stop towards the end of the street. We all decided it was a good place to stop.
“Potty break!” yelled Charlee as she got out of the van and ran towards the store. Dakota and Theresa followed her.
“Maya or Faye, one of you go with them. Those three aren’t my favorite combination,” ordered Jess.
“You go Faye. I’m too tired,” mumbled Maya. With her, she either got up really early or had trouble waking up at all. Jess handed me five bucks as I got out. I walked in to the store to see Theresa and Dakota waiting at the bathroom door.
“Hurry up Charlee. I have to go too,” whined Dakota.
I gave a little wave in their direction and Dakota gave me a nod of acknowledgement. I walked around the store and looked for anything interesting. It was pretty much your basic gas station.
I went up to the front desk to read the magazine covers. There was always something about celebrity’s personal lives that was fascinating to read. Sure the economy was in ruins and we were governed by a radical extremist group, but star gossip was the important stuff. It never failed to amaze me how people could be rich and famous and yet live such horrible lives.
“Trade my life for yours,” I thought to myself as I stared at the picture of a perfect blond.
I saw on the counter next to the coffee machine a map of Middleburg and decided to buy it instead of steal it. The person at the counter was a middle aged Indian man who looked like he hated his job. I guess I felt sorry for him.
“I’d like this please,” I said while putting the map and five dollars on the counter.
“Where you from?” he asked as he rang me up.
“Just a few hours away,” I answered vaguely.
“So, what brings you to this place?”
“My friend got a car. We’re on a little road trip.”
I was afraid he would ask something about our age, but if he was skeptical, he didn’t say anything.
“Here’s your change.”
When everyone was back in the Drug Truck, we sat trying to think of a good strategy to get more cash for a good twenty minutes before Jess said it was time we took a break. Considering we hadn’t done any work, I figured this was Jess’s way of saying, “Well, there’s nothing progressing here so let’s go look around,” I wasn’t opposed to the idea.
As we walked around the town, all of us split up into smaller groups. Jess and Theresa wanted to stay by the little pond were a duck was swimming around. (It astonished us to see how many squirrels and birds were around this area. There weren’t many animals, other than flies, around the places we usually stayed.)
Charlee, Flo, and Kitty went scavenging in the local shops and Candy, Maya and Dakota split off to get something to eat. I wandered the streets alone with nothing but my map.
If there was one thing I learned in my short life, it was that privacy is over-rated. Maybe it was only because I share very tight spaces with nine other girls, but I found I enjoyed being with a group more than I liked being alone.
I walked aimlessly down the road, completely zoned out, when I saw a man on a bike was headed right toward me. He came to a screeching halt two inches in front of me, just nearly plowing me over.
“What do you think you’re doing, kid,” said the rather large man on a rather small bike.
“I’m really sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Damn right you weren’t. Why don’t you watch where you’re going next time?”
As he rode away I complained to myself about his much needed attitude check. Then it hit me, something I should had realized right away.
Besides the people working in the stores, there were no people wandering around. The bike rider was the first person I saw outside or on the streets all day.
Creeped out by my realization, I took out the map of Middleburg and examined it more carefully. There were a lot of stores: Miss Kay’s Kitchen, Herbie’s Pizza, The Open Door Book Store, but there were no sub division, or even an apartment complex. No homes, no people, just merchandise, and me. For such an up-scale town you would think people would actually live here.
The thing that weirded me out most was, as I studied the map, I saw The Middleburg Penitentiary. It was tucked in the very far right corner of the map; it had no roads leading in or out of it. In fact, it sat directly behind the used bookstore I planned to visit. I knew checking out a prison wasn’t the smartest idea, but something about this town definitely did not add up. I couldn’t just let it go. I figured around the jail was a good place to start my investigation. I mean, unless it is a floating building, there had to be a way to get there. So, why put the prison on the map in the first place if you didn’t want people going there. No, something definitely was weird about this.
As I set on my way, Maya’s thoughts found their way into my brain.
“We’re on our way to meet up with the rest of the gang. You coming?”
“I’ll be there in a little bit. I kind of wanted to check something out.”
I walked to The Open Door Bookstore. I glanced into stores along the way and realized most of them were completely empty of customers. Just as I thought.
It was a pretty, yet ordinary looking place with blue painted walls. Most people wouldn’t even think of giving it a passing glance. I walked around the back of the store. There was only an empty yard with a chain link fence separating it from a thick line of pine trees. It wasn’t hard to figure out there was something behind those pine trees. I assumed the town was trying to conceal the prison from visitors. After all, it was easier to pretend something wasn’t there when you couldn’t see it
Returning to the front of the store, I ran up the stone stairs to see if anyone was working. Peeping out from behind the tainted yellow window of the door was a sign that read:
“Lunch break. Back at 1:30.”
Good. No one was around to catch me snooping. I walked up to the pine trees and sized up the height of the fence. It was about ten feet high. I wasn’t worried, I’d climbed higher.
I got a running start and catapulted myself about three feet onto the fence, climbed the rest of the way up, swung myself over the bar, and landed lightly on my feet. I smiled at myself with satisfaction. I didn’t have the same crazy long legs as Charlee, but I could still climb like a monkey. It was a pathetic talent to be proud of, but hey, you take what you can get. I worked my way through the rows of large pine trees. I tried my best to cover my face as I slid past the sharp needles, but that only blocked my vision, so I suffered with scratches from the pine needles and bruises from bumping into branches.
Once I recovered from the stings of my injuries I looked around to see what secrets the trees were concealing and was shocked at what I found. Not only was there a prison, but it looked like another whole town.
This town was nothing like Middleburg, in fact, it was a bigger dump than the towns we had previously visited. The roads were made of dirt. There were run-down buildings, covered in graffiti that looked like they had been vacant for years. Strangely, several shifty looking people traveled in and out of these buildings. People littered the streets as well.
“Well, now I know where all the people are hidin,.” I thought to myself.
I felt as if the pine trees had led me into a parallel universe. Like some seriously messed up version of Narnia. I casually walked down the streets making sure not to make eye contact with anyone. Nobody paid attention to me. I looked like I fit in anyway.
I took the map out of my back pocket. Middleburg was there, as well as the long line of pine trees and the jail, but other than that, nothing of the place I was standing, just blank space.
I looked around the street attempting to pick out the least scary looking person I saw. Maybe I could ask them where I was and what was going on.
The first person I saw was a shirtless man with a large tattoo on his chest that read, “Born to Kill”.
There was a girl who looked harmless enough, except for the fact she had an extremely large crow bar slung over her shoulder.
There was also a large woman (maybe) smoking a cigarette who had a beard long enough to hide a small legion of children.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar face. I realized it was the friendly guy from the Quick Stop. Well, except now he was now wearing saggy jeans, an oversized red jacket, and a tattered red and gold cap that was on backwards.
“Excuse me,” I said running towards him. Before I even reached him he turned around and yelled at me.
“I told ya people, it ain’t my fault if Sharir didn’t show up for his shift. I’m his brotha not his freakin’ keepa.”
He said this in a thick accent he didn’t have before.
“What?” I whispered.
“Oh, sorry kid. I thought you were the fuzz. They’re always on me when my idiot of a brotha doesn’t show up for his shift.”
“That’s alright. Actually, I was wondering if you could tell me where I am.”
“Wait a sec, you the girl from this mornin’ isn’t ya. How’d ya find this place?”
“Well, ah,” I wasn’t really sure of a proper way to respond to his question.
“Well kudos to you for the findin’ the place. Most tourists don’t ever figure out about Back Middleburg.”
Now I was very confused.
“Do you mind explaining this to me?” I asked.
“Ya see, the place you’ve been hangin’ around is what we call Front Middleburg. That’s just basically a fake town we created to get money off of rich, bozo tourists. As ya can see, this is not our most successful time of the year. Anyway, now ya in Back Middleburg, the place all the cash we make in Front Middleburg goes.”
“So you guys built a fake town just to make money?”
“In a nutshell”
It wasn’t a bad idea, a bit unconventional, but not bad. As we walked, we passed a cop car with at least six officers around it drinking coffee and laughing. Quick Stop Guy must have sensed that the cops made me uncomfortable because he tried calming me.
“Hey, don’t worry about ‘em kid. The Front only arrest ya if ya do somethin’ wrong right in front of their faces. They mostly just make sure people show up for their shifts at the stores in Front Middleburg.”
“Why do you guys have a prison here if the cops don’t put people in it?” I asked
He let out a little chuckle. “I said they don’t put people in the slamma unless they do something right in front of ‘em. You’d be surprised to see how many people do somethin’ near them. Although I don‘t know much about the jail, criminals get sent up here from all ova‘. Besides, the prisons run by The Front. Not any one in Middleburg.”
“I thought The Front only went for the big time criminals? I could be wrong, but I‘m pretty sure those guys aren’t sent here,” I said, slightly embarrassed I was asking him so many questions. He didn’t seem to mind answering though. He just shrugged his shoulders.
“I’ve heard, supposedly, The Front stores all their cash in prisons. It’s probably a safe place to hide it with so many cops around. But ‘ey, wha‘da I know”
Suddenly Quick Stop Guy’s face looked as if he had just had woken up from a dream.
“Ah crap, I shouldn’t of told you all that, kid,” He said quickly.
“Listen, ya got to get outta here. People in this place aren’t fond of newcomers.”
He took me buy the arm and guided me back to the pine trees.
“I don’t know why I spilled all that stuff to ya, but I wasn’t supposed to, so if you get caught spreadin’ around what I told ya, you didn’t learn it from me.”
“Okay,” I said, feeling like I should say something more, but not knowing what.
I watched as he hastily walked away and disappeared into the masses.
I sprinted back to the Drug Truck as an idea formed in my head. I was sorry I had not gotten Quick Stop Guy’s name, but then again, that was probably a good thing. If I got caught knowing any forbidden information, I technically wouldn’t know who gave it to me. Dakota opened up the van’s door as I came into view.
“It took you long enough,” she shouted to me.
“Sorry,” I yelled back. “I have good info though.”
“You are forgiven.”
“Where were you?” everyone asked once I got into the Drug Truck. I quickly explained my discoveries. I told them about everything only leaving Quick Stop Guy out of it; I figured he wouldn’t want to be mentioned.
“Nice job Faye,” said Maya as she slapped me on back. “Now, what’s your plan?”
I didn’t know how she knew I had a plan, but then realized I was shaking with anticipation and excited little giggles kept escaping from my lips, so it didn’t take a genius to see I had something on my mind. I wasn’t really sure how to present my idea so I decided to just blurt it out.
“I think we need to get arrested.”
Everyone looked at me in dumbstruck silence. Finally Charlee broke the silence.
“Ah, don’t get me wrong, I’m into the whole “no idea is a bad idea” philosophy, but that’s a horrible idea.”
“Yeah,” continued Candy, “I know I’m kind of new at this, but I thought we were focusing on staying out of jail, not getting into one.”
“Well,” I said.“One thing…um… I overheard…. was The Front supposedly keeps money in the penitentiary. It makes sense if you think about it. Anyone who wanted money would steal from a bank, but the last place a criminal would want to go is to a prison.”
“Looks like we got the fixins’ of a plan,” said Maya, always a supporter, well, of me anyway.
“Once we get the money from the prison we can find Tony Peek.”
Jess sighed, “So you’re whole plan to get money will not only get us imprisoned, but it was completely conceived by a conversation you overheard on the streets.”
I glared at her, “We’ve worked on less. And I don’t see anyone else with a better plan, or any plan for that matter. For all we know the Big Brothers are ten steps ahead of us; you’re wasting valuable time.”
Jess stiffened and kept my gaze, like she was the alpha wolf establishing dominance. However, she soon let out a sigh and simply nodded. And just like that, my plan was in action.
The next afternoon we finished making preparations for what, in my opinion, was our biggest mission ever. Normally, I didn’t get excited over missions, in fact, they made me nervous, but this time I was oddly thrilled. I couldn’t wait to get started.
“Okay,” said Jess, “let’s go over the plan one more time. First, Faye and I go to Back Middleburg and we get into a fake fight in front of the cops. Then, we’ll get taken to jail for what I’m assuming will be a night, considering that’s the penalty for getting into a fight with physical contact without weaponry. Faye and I will figure out where the money is, probably on the highest floor or in the basement, and then we wait until the rest of the prisoners go to bed and we get the money. In the meantime Maya, Theresa, and Candy will be waiting outside the gate. Faye will give Maya some type of weird mind-connected sign and you two will meet each other at the border of the gate. Faye will pass Maya the money and then she, Theresa and Candy will go to the Drug Truck which will be driven by Charlee. You guys will drive a safe distance from the jail and me and Faye will stay the night. The next morning we go visit Tony Peek.
“Wait a sec,” said Charlee. “You mean that I get to drive the Drug Truck.”
“Yes,” said Jess looking as if allowing Charlee to drive the truck physically pained her.
With all the plans discussed we were ready to move.
“Bye!” screamed Dakota as me and Jess got out of the van.
“Bye,” I yelled back.
“Good luck,” thought Maya
We walked through the dusty streets of Back Middleburg looking for a good place to start our fake fight. I looked to see if I could find Quick Stop Guy anywhere, but my efforts were fruitless. He was nowhere to be seen. I hoped he was alright. Jess and I finally arrived to the place where the cops were hanging out and settled on a spot about twenty feet away from them. We didn’t want to seem too obvious.
“Are you ready?” asked Jess
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
We took a few steps away from each other and I tried to put an angry look on my face. Then Jess started screaming at me.
“Who do you think you are, hanging around my man?!”
“Your man practically came running to me trying to get away from the sorry likes of you.”
“You stay away from Jerry or else I’ll rip out your heart and make you eat it.”
“You really scare me. I’d like to see you even try to touch me!”
I looked around to see if we had gotten the policemen’s attention. Nothing, not even the people passing by were giving us the time of day. It was time to step it up a notch.
I suddenly did something I knew I’d be very, very sorry for later. I lifted my foot and kicked Jess directly in the gut.
She landed on the ground with a thud. I was about to quit our charade and go over to ask her if she was okay when she leapt to her feet and let out an inhuman growl. I knew our fake argument had just become a very real fight.
Jess lunged herself at me and took a swing towards my face. I ducked from her blow, which missed me by only inches. Suddenly, adrenaline surged through my veins and all I could see was red. I turned around to get a punch at her, but she anticipated my move and, while my hand was aimed low, she managed to hit me square in the nose. I wiped my face and felt something warm and sticky run between my fingers. Blood. Now my temper was really working. I faked toward Jess’s right and made a fist as if I were about to copy the same move she just made. She started to block me. I ducked down and kicked her in the shin. While she was recovering from the blow I hopped onto her back. With one hand I grabbed a chunk of her hair and with the other I gauged my nails into her face and tore them through her skin. I knew I had used an illegal move, but I couldn’t help myself. What was the point of having long finger nails if you weren’t going to use them? She let out a shriek of pain that finally got the cops attention.
“Hey, hey, hey,” One of them yelled as three policemen ran towards us. “Break it up you two are going to kill each other.”
“Thanks for noticing,” I thought
The other two officers pried Jess and I apart and put zip ties around our hands to restrain us.
“All that work and we didn’t even get real hand cuffs,”I thought to myself, sarcastically. They led us to the back of the squad car and forcefully shoved both of us in.
“No talking!” One of them barked.
Jess and I sat in the patrol car with awkward silence for a few minutes. I decided to speak to her. I didn’t think the police would be able to hear our conversation considering there was a thick, bullet proof sheet of plastic separating us, but still I whispered.
“Sorry I knocked the wind out of you; I should have given you some type of warning.”
“I’m over it,” She shifted her gaze to glance at me.
“Your nose doesn’t look too hot.”
I lightly touched my nose and grimaced. I hadn’t realized how much it hurt. I quickly looked at Jess; her face wasn’t exactly pretty either.
“Sorry that I scratched you,” I went on.
She just shrugged. “You got to do what you got to do.”
I considered that an apology.
She gave a little chuckle and went on. “You know, I always thought of Maya as the bad ass twin, but after today I’m not so sure that’s true.”
I was pleased, but slightly uncomfortable by her compliment. I wasn’t used to being compared to Maya. After all, she was always Maya: the tough and resilient, take-charge kind of girl. And I was Faye: her handy- dandy twin. I didn’t mind that Maya was always the one in the spotlight, really, I didn’t. The thing that bothered me was when she was in the sun, I had a tendency to take up permanent residence in her shadow.
The rest of the ride was quiet and uneventful. Within minutes we approach a large sign saying:
Beyond the sign was a tall, chain fence with coils of barbed wire on top. The police officer got out and went to the key pad attached to fence. I couldn’t see the numbers he was entering, but judging by his hand positions the code mostly consisted of 7’s, 8’s, and 9’s.
“If they ask you any questions, lie about everything,” Jess mumbled underneath her breath.
It couldn’t be that easy, could it? Surely, the police could do background checks on us if they wanted.
“What if we get caught?” I asked
For the first time since our fight she looked me in the eyes and smiled.
“We’re Little Sisters. Of course we won’t get caught.”
The cops led us through the main entrance into a waiting area that made me feel like I was inside a rancid lemon. The walls were covered in bile- yellow padding that matched the yellow tiled floor. To the left were a few broken chairs where rather grotesque looking people were waiting. To the right was a desk where a receptionist sat. She looked like she was desperately in need of a vacation. There were huge, dark bags under her eyes and her brown hair was sticking out of her bun; not to mention the fact that she was so pregnant you could have sworn she was about to go into labor in about eight minutes. The two cops shoved us toward the desk.
“Got two more for you, Vicky,” One of them called as they stalk off down the hall.
She didn’t look up as she handed Jess and me each a small chalkboard slate with numbers on it. Mine read; 1017596. Jess’s had one number above mine.
“These are your I.D numbers,” said Vicky. “When your number’s called you will be taken into the room to the left for questioning and mug shots. Until then, please wait in the waiting area.”
I stood as close as possible to Jess and looked at the floor so I wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. Every time I looked up I saw the same dark haired lady staring at me. I tensed as she finally got up and walked towards me. I nudged Jess.
“We don’t get newbies around here very often. Is this your first time in here?” asked the strange women. Her words were slow and slurred due to the fact she had eight piercing on her lips and one large stud in her tongue.
“Yeah,” said Jess. She bumped her arm into mine, which was the sign for “let me do the talking.”
“My name is Silla. You got names?”
“We don’t tell people our real names.”
“Smart answer,” said Silla. “You guys will last longer here than most do. People here will try to give you crap, but don’t let them. They’re all bark and no bite.”
“Thanks,” said Jess. “Just out of curiosity, why are you telling us this.”
Silla shrugged her shoulders. “You guys remind me of myself the first time I got picked up.”
“How many times have you been arrested?” I asked.
I couldn’t help myself, I was curious. She smiled at me.
“This will be my seventh.”
“1017596. Come in.” I looked back at Silla and Jess. Jess gave me a thumbs-up while Silla pumped her fist in the air as if being arrested was something that made her proud. I smiled. I felt as if they were cheering me on at my first dance recital. I followed a middle age, balding man into a small, plain white room. A camera stood in the center and a back drop with height measurements printed on it hung against the wall. There was also a table with two chairs.
“Sit,” he ordered. I sat down opposite of him.
“Name?” he asked.
“Date of birth?”
He finished scribbling in his little notebook and directed me towards the camera. After he took my mug shots another police officer came in and led me to an empty cell. I sat awkwardly for about ten minutes before the same man lead Jess into my cell.
“That wasn’t so difficult,” said Jess. I nodded my head. Maybe getting in the cell wasn’t so difficult, but we still had a long night to go. I was disappointed when I saw Silla being led past our cell. I was hoping she would be staying with us.
“I was right, as usual,” said Jess, examining her nails. “We’re being released at ten tomorrow. I saw the guard write it down on his little form.”
“I’m gonna try to get some sleep,” I said. I wasn’t tired, but I figured it was the best way to kill time.
“Good idea. I’ll wake you up when it’s time to go.”
What seemed to be just minutes later, Jess woke me up with a harsh nudge.
“Come on. It‘s time, sleepy head,” she whispered. I knew I was in charge of getting us out of the prison cell. Luckily, breaking in and out of stuff was my forte. I pulled two bobby pins out of my hair and fiddled around with the lock until I got the pins into the right positions and could turn them effortlessly. I carefully opened up the door making sure not to let it squeak.
Jess took over. She started silently leading me towards the staircase.
“How do you know the money’s on the top floor?” I asked.
“I overheard the guards talking while I was in the waiting room. They said they kept the long-term prisoners in the basement, so the top floor is our only other option.”
“See if your sister is here,” she told me. “I want to make this fast.”
I reached out to my sister with my mind.
“Are you here yet?” I asked Maya.
“Yeah. Where are you guys?”
“We’re on our way right now. I’ll give you a signal when we get the money. Then you get inside the gate and I’ll meet up with you.”
We opened all the rooms on the top floor. Most of them were just closets filled with janitorial supplies. Finally, towards the end of the hallway there was a room filled with safes. Bingo. We carefully entered the room. Jess went to one of the safes.
“Let me handle this.”
She placed her ear very close to the safe and began to spin the dial.
Click click, click thump.
Click click, thump.
Click click, click, click thump.
The safe opened to reveal stacks of sweet, sweet Benjamin’s. I saw there was a neat stack of duffle bags conveniently placed in the corner of the room. I went over to get one and brought it to Jess.
“Don’t you think it’s ironic that one of our easiest acts of felony is taking place inside a prison?” I said.
Jess smiled. “Don’t jinx it.”
“Here,” she said as she gave a stack of money to me., “this should be more than enough.”
I went over to the safe and put another stack inside the duffle bag.
“Just in case we need it some rainy day,” I said when I saw Jess looking at me with curiosity.
Normally, I would feel guilty about stealing more than I needed, especially if my soul intent was to use it for myself, but I figured since we were stealing it from The Front it wasn’t completely wrong.
I looked out the window to see Maya, Candy, and Teresa outside the gate. I waved franticly to get their attention. I gave them a thumbs-up.
I put the duffle bag strap around my shoulders and climbed out the window. My feet landed lightly on the ledge. I looked down to see I was very high above the ground. With a deep breath and shaky hands I began to work on my descent.
I saw Faye give me a thumbs-up and knew it was our cue to get inside the gate. “Finally,” I said to Theresa and Candy.
It took them long enough. It may have been spring, but it still got cold at night and I was freezing my derriere off waiting for them.
I watched nervously as Faye scaled the building. I couldn’t help but think she was going to fall. The jail itself was a huge concrete building made of many different sections with different level roof heights. It wouldn’t be hard work to just jump roof to roof, but it was still incredibly dangerous.
“Faye, don’t look down.”
“I wasn’t planning on it, but thanks for the warning,” said Faye.
“Geez; no need to be snippy.”
“Well you’re not exactly being encouraging. Man, I hate heights.”
“That’s the spirit.”
“Oops, I looked down.”
Now Faye had gone into panic mode and nothing I said was helping her remain calm. She still had her footing, so I figured she was alright. Finally she approached the fence.
“Hurry, toss it over.” I whispered. She heaved and managed to get the bag over the tall fence. Suddenly, a blinding beam of light shone into my eyes. A cop who had been patrolling the perimeter had spotted us.
This was not good. Faye quickly ran back to the wall before the guard noticed her.
“Guys,” I said to Candy and Theresa, “stay behind me.”
“You aren’t allowed to be here. You ladies are going to have to come with me.” said the cop. He stepped around me and grabbed Candy by the wrist.
“Hey,” I yelled angrily to him. “You don’t touch her.”
I took his free arm and twisted it behind his back. He let out a yelp of pain and let go of Candy. Unfortunately, he tried to grab me with his free hand. I easily leapt out of his way and firmly lodged my teeth into his hand.
“You little bit-”
He didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence because a fist shot out of nowhere and struck him in the mouth hard enough for it to bleed. I was surprised to see the fist belonged to Theresa.
“Mister, don’t you know that what you were about to call Maya was a bad word,” Candy said in a sticky sweet voice. Then she proceeded to kick the poor guy in his “off limit” zone. He crumpled to his feet with a moan.
“Oh yeah. We’re awesome.” My gloating was very short lived.
The officer recovered all too quickly and was reaching towards his pistol in seconds. Theresa took him off guard and body slammed him. I was honestly surprised that such a tiny little thing had enough force to knock down a grown man. Luckily, he had not braced himself for her attack. While he was on the ground, I took the opportunity to smash his head into the pavement hard enough to knock him out.
I looked around to see if anyone else was coming. There was nobody.
“Good job,” I told the girls.
It had been a long time since the Little Sisters went on a mission that involved fighting, and I had forgotten how good we were at it. I had forgotten how good I was at it.
“Well,” I said, “we better get going before anyone else sees us.”
I picked up the duffel bag and Candy, Theresa, and I headed back towards the Drug Truck. I was confidant Faye made it back to the penitentiary safely.
Charlee picked us up about a mile or so away from the prison and drove us all to an empty parking lot she had found where we could stay while we waited for Jess and Faye to be released. Surprisingly, Charlee was a good driver despite the fact she drove about four hundred miles over the speed limit.
I found out, while we were getting the money, Dakota, Charlee and Kitty decided it would be a fantastic idea to go to the store and buy a box of 200 Smarties. Candy and Theresa thought it was a miracle to have so much junk food and they gorged themselves with the sour candy. Okay, so maybe I ate some too. What could I say, I was weak.
For the first time in my life I realized how disorganized everybody was without Jess. After eating the candy everyone was running around the parking lot, out of control, except for me and Charlee. I had absolutely no clue where Flo had snuck off. But, I shrugged it off. I figured as long as no one was getting themselves killed it was all good.
“Aawwww” grunted Charlee as we sat in the Drug Truck.
I was trying to braid corn rows into her hair and she did not like it. It wasn’t coming out very well, but in my defense, I wasn’t usually the one to do this kind of girly stuff. Dakota was the one who always did our hair.
I was seriously considering just asking Dakota to finish Charlee’s hair tomorrow, no matter how much of a sugar hangover she was suffering from.
“Hold your horses,” I said. “I’m almost done.’
“I hope you know that I’m just going to take them out if they look stupid.”
“Fine with me. You’re the one who has to sit through this again when you have it redone, not me.”
“Did you just growl at me?”
“Don’t worry. It looks fine.”
It didn’t, but I wasn’t about to tell Charlee. Both she and Theresa had to have their hair corn-rowed every month or else their hair would become a huge disaster. However, they both fought having it done with their lives. Dakota had once corn-rowed her own hair just for kicks. Let’s just say she really couldn’t pull it off.
I got to the last section of Charlee’s hair before she refused to let me continue, so now one puffy tuft of hair was sticking directly out of her head.
“C’mon Charlee, I only have, like, two more braids to do.”
“I don’t care. You’re not doing anymore.”
“Fine, but if everyone thinks you look stupid, don’t blame me.”
Charlee inspected herself at the rearview mirror.
“I like it,” she said. “It’s unique.”
“It’s something alright,” I muttered to myself.
We got out of the van and joined Kitty, Dakota, Candy, and Theresa outside. They were all running around playing a game that somewhat resembled tag on steroids.
“Hey, can we join?” I screamed
“Sure,” Dakota yelled back. “Whoa Charlee, what did you do with your hair?”
“It’s cool, isn’t it?” asked Charlee.
“It’s certainly…a one of a kind style,” said Kitty. Dakota shot her an evil glare. She must have stolen her line or something.
Just as I was about to ask the rules of the game when Candy body-slammed me and said I was it. I started to run and everyone darted away from me as they shrieked and giggled. Who needed rules? Besides, we were the Little Sisters; we didn’t follow the rules.
As we played I began to wonder where Flo had wandered off too. I had no doubt in my mind that she was out in Back Middleburg flirting with boys, but still, I was slightly worried about her. ..Slightly. She may not have been my friend, but she was still my team mate, right?
We played ultra-tag for two hours in the dark parking lot, with only the dim street lamps for light. I felt as if I were about to die from lung failure before we decided to call it quits.
“If I die,” I said to Dakota as I slung my arm around her shoulder, “I want you and Faye to have my belongings, as meager as they are.”
“If I die,” responded Dakota “I want you and Faye to build a solid gold idol of me and give it to the sexiest Native American werewolf you can find, and in honor of my death, he will turn my spirit into the tribal goddess of beauty and awesomeness.”
“Yeah…” Sometimes I was truly amazed by the stupid things that came out of my dear sister’s mouth.
We decided to hit the sac and I still couldn’t fall asleep. Every time I started to nod off; I would hear or feel something that freaked me out and I would wake up again. I was pretty sure it was just my imagination, but I couldn’t help opening my eyes to take a look around.
My eyelids were just starting to grow heavy when I heard a rap on the truck window. I looked outside my window to see that it was Flo.
“Let me in, will you,” she said. Her voice was loud and muffled through the car door. I unlocked the van and Flo came inside. She looked quite disheveled.
“Where were you?” asked Charlee, waking up from the noise
“If I wanted you to know, I would have told you where I was going before I left.” she snapped.
That was Flo for you, nasty to even the person she considered to be her best friend. Now that she was back, I wished she would disappear again. I couldn’t remember why I cared where she had been in the first place.
I got up and jumped into the unoccupied driver’s seat and I turned the key backwards so that everything turned on, but the ignition did not start. I then flipped through the radio stations until I found the one I liked. Classical. I leaned my head back against the seat and closed my eyes. I let the melody of Beethoven’s third symphony float around in my head.
“Really, classical?” I heard Flo ask from behind my seat.
I shrugged my shoulders.
“What?” I said. “It helps me relax.”
She let it go and within seconds everyone in the Drug Truck had fallen into a soundless sleep, including me.
I awoke the next morning to a pushing feeling in my brain. It was Faye.
“What do you want?” I asked. “It better be good because you woke me up out of a very peaceful sleep.”
“Sorry, I thought you would be up by now. Anyway, Jess and I are scheduled to be released at 10 o’clock this morning.”
I looked at the clock. It was 9:30.
“Would it have killed you to tell me this a little bit earlier,” I said
“Hey, go easy on me. I‘m not sure if you know this, but last night I was kind of busy.”
“All right, all right. How did it go getting back in the building before our little mishap with the guard yesterday night?”
“I got back in time and luckily the guard was still a little groggy from being knocked unconscious and didn’t remember much. When you come to pick us up, it would probably be a good idea to park a few blocks away, though. Just in case.”
“Ok. See ya soon.”
“Bye,” said Faye
I quickly woke up the Little Sisters and we got ready to go.
Just as Charlee started up the Drug Truck I heard a huge crack of thunder.
Great, just what we needed, rain. It turned out Charlee wasn’t that good at driving in thunderstorms. Every time she heard thunder or saw lightning she would shriek and step on the breaks.
Suddenly, I saw a large lightning bolt illuminate the morning sky. Charlee screamed and slammed her foot on the brake. My head came jolting forward and I smashed my forehead against the dashboard.
“Sorry,” muttered Charlee.
I grunted in response.
I was officially getting pissed off. First, Faye woke me up, and now I’m going to get a huge black and blue on my face.
Kitty was behind me ranting on about how much all of us needed cell phones. Let’s just say, if she didn’t shut up about it soon, she would be dealing with the “oh so great” wrath of Maya. I tried to remain silent as Kitty rambled on.
“ I mean, seriously, wouldn’t it be so much easier if we all had cell phones to call each other. That way we could talk to one another any time we wanted. We wouldn’t have to buy one for everyone of course, three or four would suffice.”
Even with the extra moola we took from the prison, we still wouldn’t have enough money to buy a cell phone. Even the cheap, old cell phones sold around four hundred dollars each.
“Yeah,” I said sarcastically “We should spend our money on something we actually need, like cell phones, not, say, food or shelter.
“That’s all I’m saying.”
A few minutes later I saw Faye and Jess running towards the Drug Truck. Charlee tumbled into the back seat as Jess took her place in the driver’s seat. Faye got in and shook her drenched curls so that water droplets flew all over the place.
“Man,” she said. “It’s raining cats and dogs out there.”
“Really?” I muttered. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh, come on Maya. Don’t be such a grumpy-sorous. Our beloved sister and fearless leader have just been released from jail. It is a time to celebrate,” proclaimed Dakota enthusiastically.
“Yes,” cut in Jess, “and to celebrate, we get to spend another day on the road.”
It was a lose -lose situation. I didn’t want to spend my day driving to Connecticut in a van, but I didn’t want the Big Brothers to win the race to get the Enhancer. I decided to pick the lesser of two evils and go for the road trip.
The day dragged by slowly. Other than Kitty’s failed attempts to start a game of “I Spy,” everyone remained relatively quiet. We tried to play “Guess what I’m thinking”, but after about fifteen minutes, everybody got mad that Faye and I kept winning. We gave up and I tried to go to sleep, considering there was nothing better to do.
I was grateful for the sleep, I really was, but it seemed like I had went from getting absolutely no sleep to sleeping all the time.
Suddenly, out of nowhere Candy asked a very off-limit question.
“Do you guys ever miss your parents?”
My body went rigid. I saw Jess’s knuckles turn white as she clenched the steering wheel and I heard someone gasp in the back. Candy seemed totally unaware that we were opposed to her question. She must have lost her marbles. No one answered for a long time.
“No,” said Jess
“I didn’t know my parents,” whispered Flo
“We definitely don’t miss our family,” said Charlee, speaking for both herself and Theresa.
“My parents died in a car accident when I was little,” said Kitty. “I lived with my Grandmother for a little while, but then she got too old to take care of me. I ran away the night before I was to go to a foster home.”
Now that everyone had answered Candy’s personal question, I felt compelled to answer as well. However, I desperately hoped Faye would do it for me. Surprisingly, the one to speak up was Dakota.
“We didn’t know our dad, and our mom was mean, when she was around, anyway. The only person I miss is…”
She stopped abruptly, and I was grateful for it. I knew what she was about to say. She missed our brother, Jack, we all did. Even though I was only four when he left, I remembered him clearly. We worshiped him and he left us. The only person who even attempted to care for us had abandoned us. I felt my throat clutch. I wrenched my mind away from thoughts about my brother as I felt an unwanted memory evade my mind.
Still too soon.
From the rearview mirror I saw Faye sling her arms around Dakota in an attempt to comfort her. They both looked on the verge of tears too.
Still too soon. I repeated to myself. Still too soon. I took a deep breath and recomposed myself. After all, c’est la vie, right?
I felt myself drift off as my fingers tapped out the beats of an old country song on the radio. I was just about to close my eyes when I saw a dark gray jeep behind us through my rearview mirror. I couldn’t help but get a little creeped out. It was the same car that I saw when I looked out the window twenty minutes ago. We weren’t traveling a very busy road and I highly doubted he was going to the same place we were, so I figured whoever was in the jeep was probably following us.
“Jess”, I whispered, “speed up.” She gave me a confused look, but did as I suggested. The jeep sped up as well
“Slow down,” The jeep slowed down.
Now Jess had caught on to my concern, so when I told her to take a quick turn, she immediately did so. The jeep turned too.
“Congrats team. We are experiencing being followed for the first time,” I said out loud.
“This should be interesting,” I heard Faye say as everyone turned around in their seats to look behind them.
The people who were following us made no attempt to hide. Whatever we did, they simply mirrored. At first, I thought it was the Big Brothers. However, it occurred to me that it was very unlikely for them to be on the exact same path as us. On a more obvious note, I had seen the Big Brothers car before, and it was different from the one in the rearview mirror.
Whoever was driving the jeep must have been petty cocky, though, thinking they could mess with the Little Sisters and get away with it. Then, I realized there was someone who was cocky enough to think they could mess with the Little Sisters and get away with it.
The Union Front.
I felt anger boil inside me. How dare they purposely sabotage us so we would lose. It was The Front’s idea to make this a game. Maybe it was time to make a game for them too.
“Time to play,” I thought
“Should I even ask what you mean by that?” Faye asked telepathically.
“No time for questions. Do you still have that pistol underneath your seat?”
“That depends. Are you going to use it to kill someone?”
“Relax. I’m just going to give them a flat tire.”
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
What? Do you really don’t trust your own sister?”
“Do you really want me to answer that?”
I rolled my eyes. “Just hand me a gun.”
Ever so stealthily, Faye slipped her hand underneath her seat, retrieved the pistol, and handed it to me through the crack between my seat and the door.
I unrolled my window and hoisted myself up so that I was sitting on the window‘s edge. I aimed the gun towards the front tire of the jeep and fired one, two, three times.
Bad news, I didn’t hit the tire. However, I did hit the hood several times.
Double bad news, the people in the jeep had a gun too, and were now pointing it at us.
“Everyone get down.” I screamed as I ducked under my seat. Some of the girls started to scream.
“Shut up,” ordered Jess. Everyone stopped screaming, although you could still sense the fear in the air. I heard the sound of bullets being fired, but so far, none had hit the Drug Truck.
I had to give Jess kudos. I was incredibly impressed that she could drive a van while barely being able to see and scream many very colorful profanities.
“What the hell is wrong with you Maya,” yelled Jess. “That was completely insane. You’re such an idiot, you know that?”
“Not that I don’t appreciate your constructive criticism or anything,” I said “ But, you should probably focus more on driving and less on ranting at this moment.”
She didn’t say anything else, but I knew sooner or later I’d be dealing with the raving tornado that was Jess.
“Guys,” I heard Candy yell out from the back. “They’re getting closer.”
Jess floored the gas and we went flying down the road. I peeked over the dash board to see if there were any turns we could make, but as far as I could see it was all straight road.
Just as I saw a turn we could make, the Drug Truck began to swerve out of control, I hit my head extremely hard against the dashboard for the second time today.
“Shit,” said Flo. “They just missed our tire.”
I saw the turn quickly approaching.
“Quickly Jess, turn,” I said. Unfortunately, Jess registered what I said a little too quickly, because she turned too early and we were now tearing through a corn field. The good news was our unexpected turn threw our followers off course and they flew right past us. The bad news was that we were now stuck in the middle of a corn field.
“Today is just a bad day for me,” I thought to myself.
Thick black smoke was coming out of the car and the smell of burning rubber was so overwhelming it made my eyes water. In retrospect, I probably should have seen this coming. After all, we had had the Drug Truck for almost a whole entire week, it was about time we crashed it.
“This stuff only happens to us, doesn’t it?” Jess mumbled to herself.
“All right,” she said to the rest of us as she got out of the van. “Maya, you come with me to check under the hood. Everyone else… look around and find something useful to do.
We all watched as Jess and Maya got out of the car. It wasn’t hard to tell Maya was getting reamed out, not only because you could totally hear their conversation, but because my sister tended to use a lot of body language when she was mad. I felt bad for her, but at the same time, she kind of deserved it.
“I’m confused at what we’re actually supposed to do,” said Dakota
“I’m not sure,” I replied
We all started to look under our seats and in cup holders, as if magic
“Fix Me” car dust would appear. From what I knew about cars, we would need a bit of magic.
I opened up the small compartment in between the radio and the glove compartment. I didn’t think there was anything in there, but then again, I never really looked. I stuck my arm down the drawer and fished around. My hand found a small wire and in a brilliant moment, I decided to give it a tug. The wire came out just a little too easily and I realized I completely unattached it from the van. My first thought was: “Oh my gosh, I broke the Drug Truck… more,” but then I realized, being the car expert that I was, this didn’t look like a normal car part.
It was a long wire attached to a blinking red thing that resembled an ear bud. I had a feeling it was some type of tracker, but I wasn’t sure.
I hopped in the back and showed it to Charlee as the rest of the girls who began to huddle around us.
“I found this up front; I think it’s some type of tracking device”
“Yeah,” said Flo. “That’s definitely what it is.”
“Nice job, Dakota,” said Kitty. “You hijacked a bugged car.
Flo grabbed the tracker out of Charlee’s hand and studied it for a little while longer.
“It’s not an actual bug,” she concluded. “I’ve seen these things before. If this was a bug, whoever is controlling this would be able to hear our conversations. This is more of a GPS tracking device. They are commonly used to monitor the locations of vehicles.”
“Where did you get the Drug Truck?” I couldn’t help but question Dakota .
“It was parked a few blocks away from the bank near some shoe store. It really didn’t look that important,” she explained, defensively.
“Well, it must have been important to someone,” I whispered to myself
Flo handed me the tracking device.
“Show this to Jess,” she told me. “Ask her what she wants you to do with it.”
I always hated it when Flo acted like she was the leader, but I learned a long time ago that you had to pick and choose your battles. This wasn’t the best time to start a fight with Flo. So, I just nodded and got out of the van.
“I’ll come with you,” said Candy as she hopped out after me.
Jess and Maya stood behind the open hood. I could tell Jess was almost done with her lecture because instead of her angry face, she was now wearing her disappointed face. Also, Maya looked extremely and utterly bored.
Maya’s smirked when she saw us. “So you decided to rescue me after all.”
“Well, you are my sister. I figured it was the right thing to do.”
“I was actually talking to Candy, but, you know, thanks to you too.”
I just rolled my eyes and turned to Jess.
“What’s the matter?” she asked pointedly
I handed her the tracker thingy. “We found this. Flo said it was a tracking device.”
I could see she was confused, but she didn’t ask any questions. She probably knew I didn’t have any answers. Instead, she just handed it back to me and told me to break it and throw it far away.
Candy and I trudged far into the corn field until we decided it was a suitable distance away from the Drug Truck.
“Who do you think owns the Drug Truck?” Candy asked me.
I shrugged my shoulders.
“I don’t really know. I’m assuming it was the guys who were following us. With the tracker they would know where to find us.”
“Do you think they want to hurt us?”
I smiled down at her. “Don’t worry. Even if they do want to hurt us, I would protect you. I would protect all of you.”
“I know.” I couldn’t help but laugh. Candy could create the strangest conversations.
“You want to know what else I’m wondering?’ Candy asked “Why would the Freedom Writers bother to steal the Enhancer if the battery that runs it is MIA. And if the Freedom Writers don’t have the battery and The Front doesn’t have the battery, who has the battery?”
I shrugged my shoulders yet again. I had thought of similar questions, but could never come up with an answer. After all, that was the whole reason we were on this mission, because no one knew the answers to those questions.
I sighed. “I have no idea.”
She seemed content with my answer.
“Ew,” she suddenly squealed. “There are bugs all over the place.”
I bent down on my knees. “I’ll give you a piggy back ride if you want.”
She hopped on my back and I started walking again.
It felt a little strange to be alone with Candy. Out of all the Little Sisters, she was the one I knew the least.
Candy was a little too brash for me. She was often a ticking time bomb that would explode when you least expected it. She once had a tantrum so bad even Jess couldn’t get her under control.
She was known to ask strange, personal questions that I never seemed to be able to answer. I felt uneasy around her, like the world was tipping over and I was on a ledge ready to fall.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Candy, I just loved her from afar. It never seemed like the right time to approach her.
Maya on the other hand couldn’t get enough of being around Candy. She found her to be the most interesting person in the world.
It made me feel unexplainably horrible inside to know that sometimes I intentionally avoided Candy, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t be interested in something I couldn’t understand.
We trudged along for a little while before Candy pulled on the back of my shirt collar, slightly choking me.
“Here’s a good place to break the thing,” said Candy as she hopped off my back.
I dropped the tracker on the ground and stomped on it. I could hear a crunching sound from underneath my combat boot. I lifted up my shoe just in time to see the flashing red light get dimmer and then die.
“And thus is the end of a fine piece of technology,” Candy said.
“May it rest in peace,” I said with a sigh in my voice.
The walk back to the Drug Truck was fairly quiet. Neither of us had a lot to say. I scratched the large welts on my arms and legs mercilessly. We had only been in this field for about 15 minutes and I already had more bug bites than I could count.
I found myself thinking about the Big Brothers as we forged our way back through the corn stalks. I wondered how well they were doing on their mission. I wondered, and slightly hoped, they were forced into a corn field like us. I highly doubted it, but hey, it wasn’t technically wrong to wish bad luck on your rival. Well, maybe it was.
I also wondered simple things, like how many boys were in their group and if they thought any of us were pretty when they first saw us. None of us had discussed the Big Brothers, but I knew we were all thinking about them.
When Candy and I returned to the van we saw all the girls, with the exception of Jess, who was sitting in the front seat, gathered around and trying to push the Drug Truck out of the field.
“It took you long enough,” said Maya. “Now, help us push”
I got on the other side of Charlee and pushed; the van just barely started to budge.
“How long have you guys been at this?” I asked her.
“Not long, Jess just finished adding oil to the cylinders. Apparently we blew a head gasket, so the compression was low, all we needed to do was get the oil from out of the trunk and put it on the booboo and bam, car fixed. Jess was also giving us a very thorough talk on gun safety.
“Fun,” I said dryly.
“Oh, just bunches.”
It took us about half an hour to push the car out of the mud. It was a tough job and the result was extremely numb arms, very dirty clothes, and a bunch of complaining girls. Jess put the van in four wheel drive and reversed the car out of the remaining portion of the corn field. We all walked up to meet her as she got the Drug truck back on the road.
“That wasn’t too bad,” said Jess as we climbed into the van. No one responded. That was easier for her to say, she didn’t do the dirty work.
After changing out dirty clothes into slight less dirty clothes, we were ready to hit the road.
I prayed we wouldn’t run into any more unforeseen events.
Charlee, Maya, and I sat slouched in our seats and passed the time by playing a game of Would You Rather. It was Charlee’s turn.
“Okay, Faye. Would you rather drink a whole bottle of ketchup or… eat a cockroach.”
“Cockroach,” I said without hesitance. I hated ketchup.
I heard Jess let out a snort from the front seat. Before we started our game I had asked her if she wanted to join, but she said no and then muttered something under her breath that sounded an awful lot like “grow up already.” I didn’t take it offensively though; I knew she only said it because she was in a grumpy mood.
“Your turn, Faye.”
“Mmmm, Charlee,” I said, trying to make my question goofy. “Would you rather, date a member of The Front or… drown yourself.”
“Drown myself. Duh.”
We all laughed, even Jess. I saw a flicker of emotion pass through Maya’s eyes as she giggled, but it was gone before I could tell what it was about.
We kept on traveling until the bad wheel was too hot to continue. Jess parked the car in a Wal-Mart parking lot and demanded we go to sleep.
As I lay curled on the seat, a warm blanket of drowsiness fell over me and I found myself falling into a heavy slumber.
When I woke up the next morning, we had already started driving again and I was the last one up.
“You okay?” asked Dakota as she lightly tugged on my hair.
“Fine, thanks,” I said with a smile.
The traveling dragged on slowly and nothing exciting happened. The GPS tracker must have been what enabled those guys to find us, because we weren’t being followed any more. Not yet anyway.
We began playing a riveting game of truth or dare once we all decided we could no longer tolerate just sitting there. The only problem was, you could really only pick truth because there wasn’t much you could dare a person to do when you were in a car with nine girls. I tried to mix things up a bit one time and picked dare, but Maya dared me to slap the person on my right and I told her I wouldn’t do it. So that ended that. Of course, the only reason she asked me to slap someone in the first place was because Flo was the person on my right. Like always, Flo got extremely angry, which in turn, made Maya thrilled.
“You guys want to stop playing this now?” asked Jess, who decided to participate in the game.
I didn’t blame her for wanting to stop. Kitty had just asked for the fifth time who we had a crush on, and it was getting a little old considering the answer was always an astounding, “ nobody.”
We stopped playing and Dakota turned on the radio. The only channel that came in somewhat well was a country channel that only played 40’s music. We listened to it any way. I found myself humming along half way through one of the song. I kinda liked it. It was relaxing.
I soon fell asleep to ‘Honky Tonkin’ by Hank Williams.
I was enjoying a nice little dream when Flo nudged me in the shoulder and I woke up with a start.
“Wake up. It’s time to eat”
I looked out the window expecting to see a McDonalds or perhaps a dumpster. Instead, I saw a small diner called, ‘The Chicken House.’ It slightly resembled a trailer home with a huge sign nailed above the door, but it was still the nicest restaurant I had ever been in. Actually, it was the only restaurant I had ever entered.
“Why are we eating here?” I asked Charlee as we got out of the car.
Charlee shrugged. “Jess said we had some extra money and that we might as well spend it on decent food. I’m definitely not opposed to it.”
I smiled, “Neither am I.”
Inside the diner was small but nice. There were three tables against one side of the building and a long bar counter against the other. The seats were red nylon and there was an old juke box in the corner. It reminded me of a cozy little food joint that you would see in the movie, “Grease”. We all stood huddled awkwardly by the door.
“Wow. We have a big group here, now don’t we,” said a perky waitress as she walked up to us.
She was wearing a pink dress with a white apron. The pin on her apron read,
HI. I’M AMY. She looked to be in her early fifties. Both her hair and lips were the color of red cool-aid, which looked shocking against her white skin.
“Ya’ll can take a seat where ever you’d like and I’ll come in take your orders when you’re ready.”
Maya, Charlee, Flo, Jess and I sat at one table while the rest of the girls sat at another.
Jess got up and walked toward a guy at the counter. She asked him if there were any places around here that could get a car inspected. He told her there was an auto shop a little ways down the road that could do it for little money. She thanked him and headed towards us while twirling the keys to the Drug Truck around her pointer finger.
“I’m going to go make sure everything’s alright with the Drug Truck. I should be back in a just a bit if all goes well.”
“Okay,” I said. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“Nah. Stay here and eat.” With that she turned around and walked to the door.
We all sat in silence as we studied the menu. Everything looked so good and I was contemplating what to get.
“What are you going to get?” I asked my sister.
“I don’t know. I was planning on piggy backing off your order.”
I sighed and went back to reading the menu. Why was it so hard for me to make up my mind on this?
I had finally settled for the mushroom hamburger and French fries with a root beer, when Kitty came rushing up to us.
“I have a joke for you guys,” she said excitedly. “Alright, here it goes. What did the plant do when its heart stopped working?’
“I don’t know,” we all said
“He got a heart trans-plant. Get it?”
We all faked a laugh.
“That wasn’t half bad Kitty,” said Maya.
It was true. Kitty loved to make up jokes, but very rarely were they, well… good. At least this one made since, kind of.
Kitty skipped back to her table and the waitress, Amy, came to take our orders.
“What will it be?” she asked as she took out her note pad and pen.
“I’ll just have a glass of water,” said Flo.
“I’ll have the fried chicken dinner and Sprite, please,” said Charlee.
“I’ll have the mushroom hamburger with fries and a root beer, please,” I said as Charlee collected the menus and handed them to Amy.
“I’ll have what she’s having,” said Maya.
“Do you think we should order something for Jess?” I asked
“You’re right,” said Maya as she turned towards the waitress “Just make whatever is easiest.”
With that the waitress disappeared through the swinging doors into the kitchen.
“So…” I said, not really sure how to start a conversation (I didn’t do it very often),
“aren’t you guys glad we’re almost in Connecticut. I don’t know about you but I’m getting tired of all the car rides.”
“Yeah, me too,” said Maya “Just out of curiosity, how are we going to find Tony Peek once we get there?”
Flo straitened up in her seat. “Well, first I need to hack into The Front’s database again and look in the tracking devise that’s in Tony peek’s ankle bracelet, then we should be able to find him pretty easily.”
“Wait a second,” I said “doesn’t hacking into The Front’s files involve a computer… which we don’t have.”
Flo simply shrugged her shoulders. “It’s my job to do the work on the computer, it’s you job to find the computer.”
“Lovely,” said Charlee. For the first time, I heard her use a dry type of sarcasm. I wondered if Charlee was okay, she seemed to be in a sober mood, which was very unlike her.
“Are you alright, Charlee?” I asked
“Yeah,” she said with a huff, “I just had a bad dream in the van is all.”
I patted her on the back and gave her a sympathetic smile.
She smiled back at me.
We all sat in a comfortable silence as we waited for our food. I was starting to get antsy, and our food sill hadn’t arrived, so I decided to go and freshen up.
“I’m going to go to the bathroom,” I said as I got up.
My idea of ‘freshening up’ was different from most people. Well, now a days it might have been the same, but it didn’t used to be.
Every week or so we would stop at a convenient store and use the bathroom sink to wash our hair and body. For the most part, the workers didn’t seem to care, or maybe they didn‘t notice.
I went into the bathroom and shut the door. It was so frilly; you could barely tell it was a bathroom at all. The window was covered with a large, puffy white drape and the toilet had a huge doily on it.
I went to the sink and held my head underneath the cold stream of water as I squirted hand soup into my hair. I fiercely scrubbed my scalp as I thought to myself.
“Why are we even doing this? Even if we did win this race, what would it be for?So we can go back to working a job none of us like; where we take advantage of innocent people and, in return, The Front takes advantage of us? That hardly seems right.”
I began to wash the soap residue out of my hair. Maybe we, or at least I, wasn’t doing this so that I could get my job back, but because it could provide me with an adventure. Because, years from now, I could tell my children I actually did something good, something that would make up for all the bad I had caused. Maybe, I was doing this because I didn’t want to lose The Front. Don’t get me wrong, I hated them and I hated what they stood for, but the group was the closest thing I had to a guiding hand in my life. They told us what to do, when to do it, and how it was to get done. Without The Front I’d be sort of… lost.
I took a deep breath and began to dry my hair with the hand dryer. I didn’t want to think about The Front. I only succeeded in making myself feel guilty and stupid when I thought about The Front. Instead, I thought about the delicious food that was waiting for me.
Foooooooooooood. Now that was a happy thought.
With my spirit feeling remarkably lifted, I threw my hair up in a sloppy bun, so it was harder to tell I had just washed it, and exited the bathroom.
When I returned to my seat, my food was waiting for me and Jess had arrived back at the restaurant.
“You sure did take a long time.” she said “Your foods getting cold.”
“How did fixing the tire go?’ I asked
“Good. Great actually, the mechanic was super cute and he must have thought I was cute too because I managed to get a discount.”
We all gaped at Jess, and I smiled like an idiot. Jess was always so distant and professional; no one guessed she thought of anything other than the Little Sisters, much less thought about boys. It was the first time I heard her sound her own age.
“What?’ she said, “Am I not allowed to find boys attractive or something.”
“No,” said Charlee. “It’s just the first time I’ve ever heard you say something like, well, something like I would say.”
“Ditto,” said Flo. “I’ve never heard you say that once and I’ve been here the longest out of everybody.”
I didn’t know much about the Little Sisters before the time I arrived. The only things I knew about it was what Flo told Charlee, and what Charlee then shared with Maya and me.
I knew that originally Jess and her three sisters were the only members of the Little Sisters, and they were the ones who set up the whole shkabeele with The Front. Then Flo joined, and soon after that, one by one, Jess’s sisters left the group. When it was only the two of them, Jess went out and searched for homeless girls with shifty eyes and sneaky movement and…… bam, the present day Little Sisters came to be. I didn’t know a lot of the details, but that was it in a nutshell.
We sat at the restaurant for about an hour, talking and eating, before Jess said it was time to get moving.
The two more hours we spent in the Drug Truck passed by quickly. Half of the time I was asleep and the other half of the time I spent staring aimlessly out the window. The towns we passed by were far different than the ones in New York. Most were small, rundown farm villages consisting of a few houses and a quickie-mart. They were nice. If for some reason Dakota, Maya and I ended up parting ways with the Little Sisters, I’d want to live in the country. Sure it wasn’t Heaven on earth, but it sure looked better than city life, in my opinion, anyway. I’m not sure Dakota would like a small town; she had always liked the city. She said it was exciting.
“Congratulations Little Sisters,” said Jess, breaking a deep silence, “we are finally in Connecticut.”
We all whooped and hollered.
Finally, it seemed like it took ages to get here. It felt good to know that we had gotten through this much of our mission safely. Truthfully, we had barely gotten through it safely, but we made it this far. Now all we had to do was figure out where the heck Tony Peek was hiding in Connecticut. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too far away, I was seriously done with the long car rides, and if we had to go on another one, I was pretty sure I’d croak.
We drove around for a little while looking for a suitable place to stay. We finally found an old, rather rough looking motel that was in our price range.
Jess, Kitty, and I went in to book a room. The lobby was small and it looked like it hadn’t been redecorated, or cleaned, since the sixties. The two couches were made out of rough material with a plaid red and yellow pattern. The drapery consisted of many different arrays of floral.
“Man, this place is a dump,” whispered Kitty.
We walked up to the front deskman.
“Hello,” he said in a monotone voice. “Welcome to CeMire Motel. How may I help you today?”
“Hi.” Said Jess, “I’d like two rooms for the next three nights please.”
She handed him some money and we waited patiently as he counted.
“I’m sorry. This is only enough money for two nights.”
“Alright,” sighed Jess. “Make that one room for the next three nights.”
“Very good,” he said. “And how many keys will you be needing?”
‘Nine,” said Kitty. The clerk glared at her for a second.
“Let me go to the back room and get those for you.”
“Damn,” cussed Jess as soon as the man disappeared, “I was hoping this pile of a junk motel would have a computer.
“ Guess this place runs the old fashioned way,” I said
“That or they don’t make enough money to afford one,” added Jess
A few minutes later the man returned. “Here are the four keys you requested.”
We took the hint not to correct him. He handed the keys over to Jess.
“Thanks,” she mumbled. And with that we went to the Drug Truck to get the rest of the girls.
With in a half an hour we were all settled in our room. The room looked very similar to the lobby, except for there were two twin beds instead of two couches. I sat on one of the beds and the mattress springs sank a good three feet.
“Well,” I thought to Maya, “I’ll be sleeping on the floor tonight.”
“Well,” She thought back, “I’d rather be sleeping outside tonight.”
I laughed as I put a blanket on the floor. I was just about to lie down when Charlee came out of the bathroom laughing.
“I don’t think any of us will be bathing in this place.”
We all headed towards the bathroom to see what she was talking about. She had left the tub faucet running so all of us could see the murky brown water flowing down from the spout.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Dakota. “I was really looking forward to a shower.”
“Oh well,” She said as she left the bathroom. And just like that, she was over it.
I looked around. When my gaze set upon the toilet and was confronted with a very unflattering sight.
“Gross,” I said in a rather squeal-ish tone.
“Oh yeah. The toilet doesn’t flush either,” Charlee yelled from the other room
Needless to say, from then on, none of us entered the bathroom the rest of the evening.
After awaking from a very uncomfortable night, I got ready to go on a wild goose chase to find a computer. Since it would arise suspicions in locals if nine strange girls were to go wondering around their town, Jess said only Flo and I should go find what we needed. I knew this wouldn’t be a good day. Not only did I have to spend my time with Flo, who, I had no doubt in my mind, would take every opportunity she could to bad mouth my sister, but I also had no clue where I was supposed to find a computer. I had once heard that people awhile back owned home computers. But they weren’t that easy to come by nowadays.
Flo and I went downstairs to the lobby.
As Flo headed towards the door I headed towards the man at the desk.
“What are you doing?” she snapped at me.
“I was going to ask the guy at the desk if he knew where we could find a computer.”
She stared at me for a few seconds, “Oh, all right.”
I could see where Flo was a little confused at my plan. The Little Sisters had a habit of seriously over complicating things. No matter what we did, we always had an elaborate and in-depth way of getting it done. That wasn’t really my style.
“Hello,” I said. The man slowly pried his eyes off whatever he was reading and looked at us.
“What can I do for you?” he asked, obviously not caring at all what he could do for us.
“I was wondering where we might find a computer,” I said.
“Ummmm…” he replied. He clearly didn’t get that question very often. “I think there’s one at the library that’s open to the public.”
“Thank you,” I said
We were just about to go out the door when Flo turned around and screamed across the room a little louder than necessary, “By the way, you should really get your plumbing checked.”
And with that, we set off in our search.
“Well, that was easy,” said Flo as we headed for the library.
I smiled at myself, thinking how that was almost a compliment, for Flo anyway.
She must have known I drew some sort of satisfaction from what she had said because she immediately retorted, “Of course it would have helped if you asked for directions.”
I let her words roll off my shoulders. I would have been offended if we were lost or confused, but we weren’t. Actually, the town was really easy to navigate; it was pretty much just a straight line.
We walked for another two minutes or so until we reached a sign that read
‘Welcome to Quentin’s Public Library. Knowledge is the building block to life.’
I snorted at how ironic the statement was. Knowledge may have been a building block at some point in time, but now it was more like a bully who kept stealing your food.
Flo and I walked inside the small library. There were piles of unsorted books everywhere and all of them were water stained or moldy. In the corner of the tiny room I saw a computer sitting on a cardboard box with a bright purple bean bag chair in front of it. Much to my dismay the chair was occupied by an acne covered teenage boy playing a violent video which he appeared to be completely infatuated with.
“Well, that’s attractive.”
Flo nodded in agreement.
“I haven’t even met the kid and I already hate him,” she growled
So began our endless waiting. We sat… and read… and sat…and sat.
“Okay. I’m done with this,” said Flo, just as I was starting to think I would explode out of boredom.
I got up and followed Flo over to the boy who was still staring at the computer screen.
“Sorry,” Flo said to him, “your allotted time on the community computer is up.”
“What are you talking about?” the boy asked. “There’s no allotted time for the computer.”
“Well now there is, and yours is up. So, bye- bye.”
The boy got up and left, looking very confused. I would’ve liked to have been sorry for him, but I wasn’t.
Flo took her seat in the bean bag and I took my place looking over her shoulder. She looked at me like I was a three year old in need of scolding.
“Do you mind?” she said. “I need space.”
With that I was banished to the corner. Where I sat there waiting… again. I wondered what she could possibly be doing that made it so I couldn’t watch.
“Come here for a second,” Flo finally yelled to me.
I walked over to her and saw on the screen a small square that read Password. It was blank.
“I can’t figure out the password. Someone must have changed it. It’s weird though, they haven’t changed their password in over a year,” she said
“How many times have you been in their database?” I asked
“Let’s just say I’ve been monitoring The Front’s activities since before you even joined the Little Sisters.”
“How did you get a computer?’
“Could we please focus on the task at hand?” She barked.
“Oh yeah,” I said “What was the password before? Numbers, names, symbols.”
“Before it was a name. William. Just so you know, we better make a good guess on what the password is because you’re only allowed three guesses before a sensor goes off and notifies them about a possible security breech. ”
“William,” I said out loud. I was almost positive I had heard that name before. Where was it? The more I thought about it, the more the sharp my memory became. Suddenly, I remembered. William was the guy who gave us the mission. His words sounded in my ear:
“Since I’m almost positive you have no idea who I am, I‘ll pretend I didn‘t hear that, but for future references, I’m William Breachgate, my father is the leader of The Front.”
“Try Breachgate” I said
“Are you sure? This is our last guess and if it is wrong I’m blaming you.”
“Just do it,” I snapped at her.
“Fine. How do you spell it?”
I wasn’t actually sure if that was correct, but I dearly hoped it was. Much to my relief, as Flo pressed submit, the computer screen blinked “Password Accepted.”
After a few minutes of waiting, Flo had the exact location of Tony Peek
“Got it,” she said excitedly as she printed it out.
“Thank God for tracking bracelets,” I said to myself as we left to go meet up with the others.
439…438…437… I wasn’t really sure what my life amounted to that made me feel it was acceptable to pass time by counting backwards from a thousand, and yet, here I was, counting backwards from a thousand.
I hadn’t gone out of the hotel room all day and I was officially the most bored I had ever been in my life. Granted, I’d only been lying around for two hours and it was 10 o’clock in the morning, but what could I say, my attention span is short.
“What is there to do?” moaned Dakota, who was bored too.
“Relax,” said Jess. “Flo and Faye should be back soon.”
“Not soon enough,” I muttered.
“Maya?” asked Dakota. “Will you play a hand-jive game with me?”
I glared at her.
She knew very well I hated hand-jive games. I totally had no patience for them. Plus, when we were younger and still living with our mother, whenever we got bored she told us to play a hand-jive game. As a result, we would play the same three hand-jive games for hours on end. Dakota must have been extremely desperate for entertainment to be considering resorting to such an old habit.
“No,” I sneered. “I will not play one of those with you.”
“Hey, I’ll play a game with you,” said Charlee to Dakota as she gave me a slightly disgusted look.
For someone who’s an obsessive-compulsive thief, you sure do judge people pretty easily.
For a split second, I thought about telling Charlee this to her face, but decide against it. I had enough problems; I didn’t need a fight with my best friend to be one of them.
I sighed and went to counting backwards.
436… 435… 434…433…432.
I wondered when Faye and Flo were going to come back. I hoped it would be soon. I also wondered how far away Faye traveled. If she was too far away, are telepathy would grow disoriented, and then fade away. I wasn’t exactly sure how far apart we had to be before we couldn’t communicate with our minds, but I knew it was somewhere between 4 and 5 miles. We had never considered testing it out; mostly because we were pretty much always together so it really didn’t matter. Also, the distance varied depending on how well we felt physically and emotionally.
Yeah, it’s confusing.
“Hello,” I said trying to contact Faye. “Anyone home in there. Heelllloooooooo”
She had heard me. I rolled my eyes. “No. It’s Paul, the Unicorn from Narnia. Who do you think it is?”
“I know-ow it’s you. I’m just not sure…well-ell-ll, why we’re talking-alking.”
“Is it so wrong to have a leisurely mind conversation with my favorite twin sister and want to know if she’s alright?”
“You’re bored, aren’t you?”
“Terribly,” I admitted.
“Don’t worry. You won’t be waiting much longer-onger. We’re on our way-ay back right now-ow. We found out were Tony Peek lives-ives.”
“Really?” I asked excitedly. “I’ll tell Jess right now. How far away are you?”
“About 10 minutes.”
“Okay. See ya soon.
“They got it,” I screamed to everyone (in the world). “They’re coming back; we get to leave this God forsaken room.”
“How far are they away?” asked Kitty, who obviously didn’t share my excitement.
“10 minutes,” I sang.
“Yay,” yelled Charlee “No more hand games. I call driving.”
“No, you don‘t. And slow down, we still have to get the money together,” said Jess
I went over to the duffle bag and opened it. “How much money do we need?”
“All of it.”
I looked at Jess, “Are you sure we need to use all the money?”
She raised her eyebrow at me, “Yes.”
As I closed the bag I took out a twenty dollar bill and shoved it in my pocket. After all, my motto was, always be prepared, and what was a better way to be prepared then to have a little spare pocket change.
After meeting up with Flo and Faye, we were in the car and on our way to Tony Peek’s. Apparently he was living and operating in the back of a crappy bar called The Smoked Pig. We had twenty minutes until we arrived. I was so excited; I was surprised I hadn’t peed myself. Sure, the car ride here had its thrilling moments (not to mention its annoying, boring, and agonizing moments), but it wasn’t what I would call adventurous. I was ready for adventure.
I bounced in my seat as we cruised down the highway. We had already agreed that once we got there, the five older girls would go inside and the four younger ones would wait in the Drug Truck. The Smoked Pig may have been “laid back”, but I still highly doubted they would let in little children. I worried that they would even let in us.
For some reason I was chanting “20 minutes” over and over again in my head. Was I going insane? Probably. Was I insane to begin with? Most definitely.
Theresa suddenly leaned over and tapped Jess on the shoulder.
“What is it, sweetie?” Jess asked
“She has to go to the banyo,” responded Charlee
Jess sighed, “I’ll stop at the next gas station. We need more gas anyway.”
I wondered when Theresa would start talking again, according to Charlee she used to talk, so it’s not like she was born mute. I guessed it was probably an effect from a traumatic childhood; I felt for her. I really did. Was it normal for a kid to still not be talking if she was removed from the so called traumatic situation almost three years ago? No, well, maybe, I actually had no clue. Maybe the reason she didn’t talk was because she had it made in the shade. Everyone, even Flo (I know, Shocker) felt bad for the kid, so they gave her everything she wanted on a silver platter. I didn’t hold it against her though; I would probably do the same thing.
As we drove along the scenery quickly became more slum-like. The shops were covered with graffiti, the stores were crappy, and the dumpsters looked sorted through and lived in. So in other words, it resembled home sweet home.
“There’s a sign for Hess,” said Dakota as she pointed out the window.
Jess took a right and pulled into the gas station. All of us got out. If there was one thing I learned from our road trip, it was use the bathroom every chance you got, even if you didn’t need to go.
We went inside the store. The place was totally un-manned. There wasn’t an employee in sight. I found this strange, but decided to take advantage of the situation. As I walked by the candy isle I nonchalantly slipped a pack of gum into my pants pocket.
“Really! You’re just as bad as Charlee,” Faye’s angry thought popped into my head. Apparently, I wasn’t as stealthy as I thought. I wasn’t going to put it back though. It seemed like ages since I last had gum and I wasn’t going to let this God given opportunity pass me by.
Suddenly a young guy in a red T-shirt came rushing towards the cash register.
“Sorry about that,” he said “I was out back fixing up a car.”
“That’s alright. We just came here to use your bathroom”
He nodded his head, “Would like to get anything?”
I looked over at Faye to see if she was going to rat me out. Of course, she didn’t. That was Faye, loyal to the end. Or at least that was probably what she was saying to herself to help her feel less guilty. I knew the truth was she wanted the stolen gum just as much as I did. Even though Faye didn’t use it nearly as freely as I did, my sister had a naughty bone; mine was just bigger and better. I let this thought drift into her head. She smirked at me.
“You may have the bigger naughty bone, but I have the bigger brain.”
“That was cold,” I thought as I tried not to laugh. “Good, but cold.”
She responded by giving me a cheeky smile. Dakota looked between us with a scowl on her face, and then went over to Faye to ask what she was missing. When Faye told her, she laughed. I went over to go join them in the bathroom line. We were the last three left.
After we had all used the bathroom and Jess finished getting gas we hit the road, feeling refreshed as ever. As we got closer to the Smoked Pig I began to feel nervous. Even with all the money, what on earth were we supposed to say to this guy to convince him to help us? And what if it turns out that Tony Peek really didn’t have anything to do with the Freedom Writers? What if Tony Peek had turned over a new leaf, repented from his criminal ways, and was only living in the back of a bar because he was saving up to buy a small Catholic church. I realized my scenarios were a little farfetched, but the threat was still very real. I guess I just had to have faith that people other than me knew what they were doing.
After a few more minutes of worrying we arrived at the Smoked Pig. Jess turned into the gravel parking lot and parked in the far left corner. Faye, Charlee, Flo, Jess and I got out of the Drug Truck.
“Stay here,” Jess said to the younger ones.
“Where else would we go?” Kitty snarled. She wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of being left behind.
I looked at the building. It kind of reminded me of a barn. The place had a big rectangular shape and it was painted red with a white border. There was a huge porch near the entrance with table on it where many people were sitting.
We walked up to the door and I did my best to hold my head high and look tough without making eye contact with any one.
One of the men inside actually had the guts to whistle at us. Whoever did it was lucky I couldn’t tell exactly who whistled or else my foot would have been thoroughly acquainted with their a-s-s.
“Sick bastards,” I thought to myself as we walked in.
Inside the bar was a blur of different color nylon seats and neon lights. There had to have been at least forty tables. Most of which were filled. As we walked up to the counter someone tapped Jess on the shoulder and asked if he could buy her a drink. I could tell she was about to say something like “ Back off Bucko, I’m only seventeen,” but then realized that would probably get us kicked out so she just said no thanks.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone who looked painfully familiar. He was dressed in casual clothes and was my kind of handsome. He had dark brown hair, dark brown eyes and strikingly good posture. The weird part was he didn’t seem to be doing anything. He wasn’t talking to anyone, he wasn’t drinking, and there weren’t any empty glasses in front of him. I was sure if he just looked in my direction I’d be able to recognize him, but it seemed as if his eyes were wandering over everything but us. I decided we had bigger fish to fry than placing a name to a face so I did my best to ignore the feeling of dé-jà vu.
There was one man behind the bar counter and it wasn’t Tony Peek. It was some old, fat guy that looked like he was in need of a bath. Behind him there was a door to a room that I wanted to visit. Well, to be more specific, a room that Jess wanted us to visit.
Jess, Faye and Flo walked up to the bar tender as Charlee and I walked towards the door and waited for Jess to distract the guy so we could go where we needed to.
“Excuse me,” said Jess “I was wondering how much it would cost if I wanted the jell-o shots to be in different colors.”
“The jell-o shots come in three different colors, but for two more bucks I’ll add in another color.”
“Okay, And is it possible to make them rainbow colored.”
As Jess talked about jell-o shots, Charlee and I worked on getting into the back room, which wasn’t hard considering it was unlocked. Inside the room was a hoj-poj of old paper work and garbage from fast food stores. It was totally disgusting.
Charlee sifted through a pile of oil stained paper. “Is there a reason that we’re in here?” she asked
I shrugged, “Jess likes to torture us?”
We spent about three minutes looking through papers and garbage before we decided that this was ridiculous and left.
As we exited the room I moved my hand across my throat to show Jess and the others that we’d came up with zippo. We walked over and re-joined our group.
Jess sighed. Apparently she was bored of the jell-o talk because she was completely frank with the man.
“Listen, we’re looking for a guy named Tony Peek and we think he might be crashing here. Do you know him?”
His shoulders tensed. As far as body language goes, shoulder tensing was a sure fire sign for yes.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about, young lady,” he lied.
I reached into my pocket and waved my twenty dollar bill beneath his nose.
“Maybe this will refresh your memory.”
He snatched my money and shoved it into his pocket.
“I don’t know I’m still a little rusty on the subject,” he said with a devious smile.
I sneered at him, “Well, then.”
Jess practically growled at him. “Suit yourself, but I have a huge duffle bag of money waiting for Tony Peek in my van. And if he’s such a good buddy of yours that you’re letting him chill in your crib, I would think maybe he might cut you in on the dough. But if you don’t know him, you don’t know him. I guess we’ll just have to check somewhere else.”
Despite Jess’s best attempt to stay sly, cool and collected I knew she was done with this guy. Besides, we knew Jess was angry when she used word like “chill” and
“crib” in the same sentence, or at all for that matter.
The man eyed her curiously. “Tony is a very busy man. How do I know you’re legit?”
“Go get the money,” Jess said to me without even looking in my direction, which I felt was kind of rude. I mean, if she was going to give me an order like I was a Golden Retriever, she could attempt to make eye contact with me. I’z got a bone to pick with her after this. I thought to myself as I headed towards the Drug Truck.
“How is it going?” Kitty asked as I opened up the car door.
“Pretty good, so far. I need the money.”
Dakota handed me the duffle bag, “So you’re in.”
“Not quite. But if bar counter dude likes what he sees we will be.”
“So I guess money really does solve everything.”
“Too true,” I said as I shut the door. “Too true.”
I walked back into the bar and plopped the bag on the counter in front of the man, who was now smoking a cigar. He unzipped the bag and quickly examined the money. I was almost positive he had done this before, if not multiple times.
“Looks good,” he finally said. “I’ll show you upstairs.”
We walked up the steep staircase and the man opened a door that lead to a small apartment that looked familiar to the back room.
“Hey, Cuz,” the man shouted. “We got business.”
A man who I assumed to be Tony Peek came stumbling into sight. He looked like a much less worn version of Bar Counter Dude.
He looked at us and then shook his head, “They get younger and younger every time.” He waved his hand. “Well, come on in.” The other man went back downstairs. Tony Peek lit a cigarette. By the color of his nails and teeth, I could tell he was a chain smoker, probably like his cousin. He led us over a table in the dining room. There were only two seats, so we let Jess sit down and the rest of us stood around them.
“Tell me what you want,” Tony said, “and be honest. One of the perks about being an ex-agent is that you can tell when some one’s lying. Don’t beat around the bush either, that’s just annoying.”
Jess cleared her throat. “We understand that you have connections with some Anti-Front groups.”
Tony simply nodded his head.
“Yeah, well,” Jess continued awkwardly. “We need to get into an Anti-Front organization called the Freedom Writers. We’re willing to pay you five grand if you can get nine people in touch with them in at least two days.’
Tony Peeked laughed unexpectedly. “I have to admit, I’m surprised you guys actually know what you’re doing. Anyway, you’re in luck, I’m the recruitment manager for the Freedom Writers, among other things.”
I could literally see the hope deflate out of every one. Great I thought to myself not only is he in with them, he’s loyal to them.
As if he knew what I was thinking, he disproved my doubts.
“No need to look so disappointed. I’m just working for them to make some easy money. I once worked for The Front, which I’m sure you know about, and the Freedom Writers were more than happy to recruit someone with experience with the enemy.”
He let out something in between a chuckle and a gag and lit another cigarette.
“The freaks think I turned from my old ways. But trust me, my loyalty lies with whoever has the cash. And right now, the money lies with you.”
I smiled, “So you’ll do it.”
He smiled back, “As long as you’re still willing to pay me for it.”
“Stay here,” Jess said to us.
To Tony Peek she said, “I’m going to go get the rest of the girls. They’re a little young and I don’t want to take them through the bar, so is it alright if I use the back staircase?”
He nodded and walked over to the window as Jess walked downstairs. He nodded his chin in the direction of the Drug truck. “Is that your van?” he asked.
“Yeah, why?” I responded.
He stared out the window for a few seconds before shrugging his shoulders. “No reason.”
It was obvious to me there was a reason, but I figured it was best not to interrogate the guy who at the moment has your future lying directly in the palm of his hand. So I shrugged my shoulders too and we all stood there in awkward silence and waited for the girls to come back.
Once Jess, Candy, Dakota, Kitty and Theresa came back to the room, we got to work. Surprisingly, entering an Anti-Front group is really easy. He just took our picture and laminated it onto a card along with our name and a statement that said we were officially part of the Freedom Writers, and just like that, we were in. We gave Tony Peek our money and our word that we wouldn’t spill our guts about him, and with that, we left.
Soon we were all in the Drug Truck on our way back to the motel, and I was admiring my picture. As far as I knew, this was the first picture I had ever had taken of me. It wasn’t very good, I’ll admit it. My hair was sticking up everywhere, my eyes were far too squinted, and I was showing way too much teeth, but after three photo retakes, I decided this one was good enough. Kitty, of course, loved having her picture taken the most. She had Tony Peek take her picture five times before she decided she looked good enough, and by that time he was pretty pissed off. I’m sure Dakota would have done the same thing if it weren’t for the fact the girl physically couldn’t take a bad photo.
Charlee laughed as she looked at herself. “I have monkey ears.”
For Charlee, that was the highest form of flattery.
Faye sighed as she looked at her photo.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I look like Mom.”
“No,” I said firmly. “You look nothing like our mother, the only person you look like is me, and to a lesser extent, Dakota.”
She smiled at me, “Thanks.”
It was a lie and she knew it. But apparently it was a lie that made her feel better. We all may have looked like our mother, but none of us were anything like her. That was the truth. The only person Faye reminds me of is Faye.
Once we got to our hotel. Jess ordered all of us to go to our room for a group meeting.
“Since when do we have group meetings like this?” I asked Faye
“Since never. This must be pretty important. I hope it‘s not about anything bad.”
“Geez, Sis. Thanks for making me nervous.”
“Sorry. You know I’m a pessimistic thinker.”
“Yeah,” I said “Join the club.”
We all gathered around Jess. By the look on her face, Faye was right. She didn’t look to happy with what she was about to say, in fact, she looked a little nervous. It’s never good when the leader looks nervous, especially when she was nervous to talk to her own people.
“I have some news,” Jess said, “and you guys aren’t going to like it.”
“I told you.” Faye and I both said at the same time.
There was an awkward silence and then Jess started talking again. “I have decided that only three of us will be going into the Freedom Writers, the rest of us will stay here and look for the battery to the Enhancer.”
This made me a little uneasy. We never split up. But, she was the leader and it wasn’t a horrible idea. I only wished she told us about this before we waited forever for everyone’s pictures, I guessed her nerves caused her to procrastinate. I assumed we would have to put it up to a vote or something to see who was going on the inside.
I was sure I would be one of the ones to go in.
“Are we going to put it to vote?” I asked
“Actually, I have already decided. The people going in will be Faye, Dakota, and Theresa.”
Then, I broke the silence, rather loudly.
“WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN SMOKING? YOU’RE SERIUOSLY GOING TO SEND OUR WEAKEST MEMBERS TO DO A JOB THAT HAS ALL OUR FUTURES AT RISK?”
I regretted saying it the second it came out. I could see the hurt in my sisters’ eyes. They knew it was true, but it had never been spoken, not even by Flo, and certainly not by me. Jess seemed unusually calm as she spoke to me.
“I trust them not to spill our secret.”
“Really,” I thought to myself. “Have you met Dakota?”
Everybody seemed un-easy, but nobody said anything.
Jess took a deep breath. “I’ve decided what I decided. Now, Faye, Dakota Theresa, pack up. Your leaving at nine tomorrow.”
Now neither Faye nor Dakota were talking to me. It was our first time being separated from each other and I doubted they would even say goodbye. It seemed as if there was nothing left to do except for sulk in a swivel chair.
Charlee walked towards me. I was sure I was about to get it for insulting Theresa.
“Are you insane?” she fiercely whispered
I took a deep breath, “Look, I’m sorry about what I said about Theresa, I wasn’t thinking.”
Her gaze softened. “It’s not about that. Did you honestly want to go into the Freedom Writers? I mean, come on, it’s like you dodged a bullet and you’re jumping right back into the line of fire.”
I gave her a confused look. I had no clue where she was going with this.
She sighed. “I know you’re looking for some type of thrill, Maya, but all I’m trying to say is an adventure never feels like an adventure while you’re in it.” With that she left me to my miserable silence. I knew I’d acted like a real idiot when Charlee took up the role as Wise One.
After watching the third rerun of Seinfeld, it had seemed like everything had settled back down. Suddenly, Jess tapped me on the shoulder and nodded towards the door. I got up and followed her somewhat grudgingly into the hall way.
“Jess, this is no time to go all Hallmark on me.”
She eyed me wearily.
“Maya, I know you’re mad,” She said, sounding exhausted
“Geez, and I was trying so hard to hide it,” I said.
“God, could you just listen for five seconds without some sort of smart-ass remark.”
I was tempted to answer, but decided it was probably a good idea to shut up.
“You know I can’t send you in,” She went on. “You’re too unpredictable. One little outburst and you’ll blow the whole entire thing. Besides, I know you, one minute you’re totally devoted to the Little Sisters and the next you’ve decided to elope with a hot vampire and go on a world tour for a honeymoon.”
I couldn’t help but snort. “Don’t you think that’s a little farfetched? Besides, you know I’m more of a werewolf type of girl. Vampires are too dramatic.”
Jess smiled, “You know what I mean.”
“Why’d you pick Faye, Dakota and Theresa?” I was honestly curious.
“Their weaknesses are their strengths in this situation,” she said. “They won’t be expected of having any alternate purposes. Faye’s so gentle, sweet and quiet they won’t think anything of her. Dakota can barely keep her own secrets, so they won’t expect her to be hiding anything from them, and Theresa, well, she’s pretty self explanatory.”
I nodded my head. This was starting to make a little more since.
“Besides,” said Jess, “I need the rest of you if we have any hope of finding the Enhancer. I need Flo to do the computer work, I need Charlee to get Flo to do the computer work, Candy and Kitty are my minions, and you…” she sighed “I have a feeling whoever was out to get us isn’t completely off our trail. If we have any hope of stopping them, I need you.”
Now I felt like an idiot for acting like an idiot. “So there is a method to your madness?”
“I’m sorry for my little temper tantrum,” I mumble
She patted my knee and got up. “I’m not the one you need to apologize too.”
I stared blankly at the TV. I couldn’t think about anything. I was so scared. To think, tomorrow I would be a totally different person; I’d have a totally different life. I couldn’t believe I’d be separated from Maya. Never before had I been separated from my sister, and I didn’t want tomorrow to be the day that it happened. But I didn’t want to think about missing her. I was still mad at her.
I didn’t know what hurt me more, the fact that she had called me one of the weakest members in the Little Sisters, or the fact that it was true. I sighed. Sometimes I envied Maya, but at least I could keep my mouth shut.
Jess and Maya came walking quickly through the door. I did my best to pretend I didn’t want to know what they had been discussing. I kept my eyes glued on the TV as Maya came and sat down next to me.
“Faye?” she whispered. I prided myself by not answering.
“Faaa-yeee?” She thought to me. I let out another sigh. I knew if I didn’t respond she would keep this up all night. I would have to answer her, but I was going to use my mouth, not my mind.
“What do you want?” I said as sharply and quickly as possible.
Maya looked at me sincerely. “I’m sorry about what I said. It wasn’t true. I was just angry that you and Dakota would be going into the Freedom Writers and not me.”
I looked at her. It was clear she truly meant her apology. Besides, I needed to tell somebody about my anticipation before I exploded.
“I’m so nervous,” I thought to her.
“You’ll get over it.”
That was Maya, always knew what to say to make me feel better.
“So, can you tell me how this thing is going to play out?” she asked. “I know you probably didn’t know this, because I’m so good at hiding it, but I was kind of angry and wasn’t really listening to Jess very well.”
I laughed, “You know how the Freedom Writers operate in a string of shoe factories that one of the members own?”
“Yeah, I recall that part.”
“Well, Tony Peek told Jess there is one that’s about fifteen miles away from here. We’re all going to go there. We’ll enter the Freedom Writers and you all will be staying in the Drug Truck a block or so away. You’re supposed to get crack-a-lackin’ on finding the Battery. You and I will be the communication device, so we can contact each other.”
“As always, we’re just the intercom system,” Maya said.
“Well, at least I’m useful for something,” I said, knowing this would hit a sore spot. Maya shifted uncomfortably, but didn’t respond.
“So,” she recapped, “You guys get the Enhancer, we get the battery.”
“Can we change it?” moaned Candy as she reached for the remote. “This is boring. I don’t even understand half of it.”
Charlee lunged for the remote. “Change it, and I will set out a pack of wild dogs to attack your hair.”
Candy stuck out her tongue. “At least I don’t look like a pack of wild dogs already attacked my hair.”
Charlee proceeded to do the mature thing and gave Candy a raspberry.
We watched TV for about an hour or so before deciding to hit the hay. I took my spot on the right side of the very uncomfortable bed next to Dakota. We lay there, knowing both of us were awake, until Dakota broke the silence.
“Are you scared?”
“That’s not what you’re supposed to say.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“You’re supposed to say that you are not afraid and I shouldn’t be either.”
I sighed, “Only an idiot wouldn’t be afraid.”
“But we have to be brave,” she said, more to herself than to me.
“You think it’s too late to cop out?”
I guess she was satisfied with our talk because after that she didn’t say anything more and neither did I. After a little while, I heard snoring coming from her side of the bed. How the girl could sleep at a time like this, I did not know, but I envied her for it.
The night passed by slowly as I switched between nightmare -filled dreams and lying in bed wide awake. I was actually happy to see the morning sun.
Around eight o’clock we left the hotel room and started towards Solomon’s Shoe Store. After a twenty minute car ride, (not including our stop at the convenience store for a granola bar breakfast) we arrived. The store was bigger than I expected it would be. After seeing so many abandoned and rundown buildings, it was weird to see something successful. There were at least twelve cars in the parking lot, the store had a decent paint job, and only two letters from the sign were missing.
“I bet only rich snobs shop here,” said Kitty, her voice wavering between disgust and jealousy. We all nodded our heads in agreement.
“All right,” said Jess. “You guys know the deal. Go in there, get the Enhancer, and get out.”
Something told me this wouldn’t be as simple as Jess thought it would be, but I nodded my head anyway.
“Good luck,” said Maya as Dakota, Theresa and I got out of the Drug Truck. I smiled and tried to hide my anxiety as we all said our goodbyes.
As our group pulled away, the three of us faced the shoe store.
I sighed. “It’s now or never. You guys ready?”
“Yup,” said Dakota. Theresa smiled at me and I smiled back.
“Then let’s do this thing.”
As we walked into the store, I had a feeling Kitty was right. Everyone inside was well dressed, well groomed, and were looking at us the way people look at Charlee when she randomly breaks into Disney theme songs. We ignored them as we headed towards the counter. At the front desk was a teenaged guy who looked around 16. He also looked a little bit like a pathetic wannabe gangster.
I say “gangster” because of the baggy clothes and chunky, fake gold earring.
I say “wannabe” because he was kind of a pimply mess and even paler than I was.
And I say “pathetic” because that’s what it was.
Judging by the looks Dakota and Theresa gave me, they were thinking the same thing. I shrugged my shoulders. Hey, at least he’s unique.
He smiled as we approached him. “Hello. Welcome to Solomon’s Shoe Store. I’m Adrian. How may I be of service?”
I couldn’t help but smile. I must take a good humored person to say that with a smile on his face.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to do so I just laid our Freedom Writers ID cards out on the table.
His smiled dropped as he picked up our cards one at a time and examined them. Once he was finished he smirked and handed them back to me.
We went behind the counter where Adrian opened up a door and led us downstairs. I had to admit, the place had one huge, tricked out basement. People were walking around everywhere. Dozens of desks lined the walls and technological equipment I had never seen before was placed atop them. I couldn’t help but feel like I was in an evil laboratory.
“Whoa,” Dakota whispered.
“Stole the words right out of my mouth,” I whispered back as I fought the urge to touch everything.
“Welcome to the Freedom Writers,” said Adrian as he waved his arms around like a conductor of a symphony. I noticed that he seemed to move his arms quite a bit when he talked.
“I have to get back to work. So I’m going to find Heidi and Solomon and turn you over to them for your grand induction.”
He scanned the room for a few seconds before waving frantically at a woman that looked to be in her mid forties. She had short blond hair and wore dark rimmed glasses. She looked very professional. Behind her was a very tall man with light brown skin and a touch of grey in his closely cropped, curly black hair. In my mind, I could already imagine the future. I find out this man is actually Charlee’s long lost father, and he is so thrilled to have found her at last, he takes all of us in and we have a normal, happy life. Sure it was farfetched, but hey, can you blame a girl from dreaming.
“Heidi, Solomon, over here,” screamed Adrian. “We have new recruits.”
The two quickly walked over to us.
“Thank you, Adrian. You can get back to work,” said the woman who I assumed was Heidi. Her voice was calm, but somewhat cold.
Adrian winked at us and gave the two adults a quick salute before heading back to the stairs.
“Hello,” said the woman as she focused her attention on us. “I’m Heidi and this is Solomon, as you could probably figure out. I guess you could call us the leaders of the Freedom Writers.”
Solomon gravely nodded at us.
“I’m guessing Tony didn’t tell you much about us when he sent you here, did he.”
“Not really,” I said, grateful that Dakota was letting me do the talking. Then again, she was a little distracted at the moment.
“So… many… buttons,” she whispered to me in a breathy voice. I gently shoved her.
Heidi sighed. “I’m sorry you girls had to meet him. I wouldn’t trust that man with my coffee, let alone half the things we hire him to do for us. But hey, we need him. Anyway, before I tell you anything more, will you tell us your names?”
“I’m Faye, this is my sister Dakota, and that’s Theresa… she doesn’t talk,” I said rather awkwardly.
“That’s alright. Solomon here doesn’t talk much either.”
“No,” said Dakota. “She doesn’t talk, like, ever”
“Oh, well, whatever makes her comfortable.”
Theresa rolled her eyes. Whenever we told people Theresa didn’t speak they seemed to think she was also incapable of understanding. I let it go for now, but once we settled down, I would tell Heidi that Theresa was just as able-minded as any other girl her age.
“So,” continued Heidi, “this is what we call Game Central. It’s where we do most of our work. I’ll give you a tour of the rest of the building as we talk.”
It turned out that Solomon was the one who owned the shoe stores, each one housing a strand of what, overall, made up the Freedom Writers. The basement was huge, besides Game Central, there was also a weapons room, dormitories, and a set of training rooms where agents could practice. I was sure Maya would love it. I’d tell her about it tonight.
I listened to Heidi’s extremely long -winded explanation of the Freedom Writers.
“… of course, the main purpose of the Freedom Writers is to take down The Front. Everyone knew the whole idea of The Front was bound to fail, but it’s not like anyone had a choice. In fact, that’s why they were invented, to take away people’s ability to choose. The government thought by setting up a group of people to make choices for Americans, it would eliminate opposition to the government among the Americans, and farther eliminate the world’s opposition to America, making the USA the main world power. However, when you give a small group of people too much power, they quickly begin to overuse it. For years, The Front has been making unfair laws and has been forcing people to do illegal or immoral things. Did you know The Front even has groups of children doing there dirty work for them? It’s blasphemy, that’s what it is. Did you know that before they took over, people could actually choose what they wanted to do with their lives, people actually made money…”
I was beginning to zone out again. I already knew the history of The Front, but it was weird meeting people who actually wanted to stop them. Jess always made it sound like working for The Front was just another job, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t like we could ever quit. They wouldn’t let us go until we were useless. Like everyone else in America, they had us trapped. I wondered how many other people, how many other children, were just like us. It almost made me sick. I knew what The Front did was wrong, but what could I do about it? Deep down I was glad there were people like the Freedom Writers, people who weren’t afraid to make tough choices.
If there was one thing they had gotten wrong about the Freedom Writers, it was the group’s size. In the report, it stated that the Freedom Writers was a relatively unequipped group.
The Freedom Writers were located all over the United States, and they had tons of weapons and the highest form of technology available. I was guessing Tony Peek had a lot of help. They even had people on cargo ships that smuggled food and entertainment to them. In fact, the only thing they were missing was people. Maybe that’s why Heidi didn’t ask herself why an experienced man like Tony Peek would pick vulnerable girls to join the group. There were plenty of others more qualified people out there.
It was hard to tell much about Solomon, he hardly said anything and he kept his face totally expressionless. You’d think this would make him a mysterious guy, but it was actually the opposite. He seemed like a simple and strait forward person. I decided I liked him.
As our tour came to end, I saw Adrian and some other boy around his age goofing off in the hallway. I guessed his shift was over.
“Adrian, Cable, knock that off,” Solomon said sternly. It was one of the first things he said since we first met him.
The boys immediately stopped.
Heidi rubbed her forehead, and then sighed. “Will you two please show these young ladies to the girl’s dormitory. And Cable, be good.”
Her last sentence put me off a little bit, but before I even had time to turn around, both she and Solomon had gone.
“Oh well,” I thought to myself nervously. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
I looked at the boy who I assumed was Cable. He was one of those people who wasn’t exactly handsome, but looked cocky enough to pull it off. He was obviously Latino. He was tall, and a little lanky, but well muscled. He had light brown eyes and dark, spiky hair. His skin tone was one I’d kill for, the perfect mixture of bronze and copper. His mouth settled into an awkward smile that screamed big ego and something told me he lived up to that.
He caught me staring before I could turn away.
I quickly lowered my gaze. I felt my cheeks burning. I didn’t know what Hermosa meant, but I was pretty sure it was embarrassing.
Adrian lightly smacked him on the arm. “Leave the poor kid alone, will ya?”
Cable didn’t even seem to register the fact Adrian had said anything.
“How did you like Heidi’s speech? I know, she can be a little bit of an airbag, but trust me, she grows on you. Anyway, welcome to the fun part of your tour. It will be fun not only because you now have two handsome and exciting new tour guides, but also because we will be coming up upon the best part of it, the end.”
We walked quietly as Adrian and Cable led us back to the dormitories. Adrian stuck his hands in his pockets and cleared his throat.
“I don’t think I ever caught your names.”
I couldn’t tell whether that was a question or a statement, but I figured I should probably answer anyway.
“I’m Faye. This is my sister Dakota. And that’s Theresa.”
I didn’t realize until I looked over how tense Theresa had become. I also noticed Dakota was unusually quiet. I followed her gaze and saw she was looking at Adrian and Cable. Then it clicked. Being around boys was making them very uncomfortable. Suddenly it felt as if we had been walking forever. You never notice how long a hallway is until you have to make awkward conversation.
“How’d you guys like Solomon?” Cable asked.
“I liked him a lot,” said Dakota, who had lost her initial fright, which had been replaced with curiosity.
“That’s good. You don’t want to get on his bad side. If you’re on his bad side he locks you in the basement with all the explosives, and they’re not very reliable, if you know what I mean.” At that point he made an outward sweeping motion with his hands and made a sound that sounded something like phwoosht.
A look of shear horror appeared on Theresa’s face.
“He’s just joking,” I soothingly whispered. I least I dearly hoped so. Adrian punched Cable in the arm, who then proceeded to laugh at his own wittiness.
“Yes. He’s just joking,” said Adrian, and then he turned to Cable. “The only person Solomon would think about locking in the basement is you, Cable.”
“Too true.” Apparently, Cable took great pride in this. I’d have to tell Maya about him. She’d like him. I wasn’t too sure if I liked him, but she would.
Cable slowed his pace so that it matched Theresa’s, who was now attached to my side. His amused expression became softer as he turned to her. “Sorry if I scared you, Chiquita, I was just messing around with you.”
Theresa continued to stare at him.
“She can’t talk,” said Dakota blandly. I couldn’t tell if her lack of expression was because we had already been over this, or because she was too busy gawking at Adrian, who was uncomfortably pretending not to notice. (Discreet was not in my sister vocabulary, but in her defense, Adrian whose kind of gawk-able.)
Cable smiled at Theresa. “She is not able to talk, or she just doesn’t want to speak?”
The question struck me as odd. I had known Theresa so long I simply accepted her lack of speech as part of who she was. We had all wondered the same thing, yet we didn’t ask, so nobody really knew if she couldn’t or wouldn’t speak. Well, maybe Charlee knew, but she wasn’t exactly a fountain of knowledge on the matter.
Theresa held up two of her fingers. Option #2 was her answer.
I walked along in comfortable silence as I listened to Dakota ask Adrian and Cable very personal and slightly strange questions. I couldn’t help but laugh at the boys answers.
“So,” said Dakota, “I heard you guys are doing some pretty impressive stuff around here.”
That topic peaked my interest.
“Yeah,” I said, “Heidi was talking about something called an Enhancer. She didn’t really get into it. I was wondering if you could tell us about it. It sounds pretty interesting.”
Of course Heidi didn’t mention anything about the Enhancer, but they didn’t know that.
Cable turned around and raised his eyebrow in a mocking look. He was just about to say something when a loud, obnoxious siren tore through the building.
“What’s that?” I yelled over the sound.
“The emergency bell,” cried Adrian. “It means we’re under attack. C’mon.”
He reached out and quickly, yet forcibly tugged me into a run alongside him.
“Where are we going?” asked Dakota. I could tell by her voice that she was trying really hard not to panic.
“The weapon room,” yelled Cable. Unlike the rest of us, he looked utterly thrilled. I didn’t know if it was because he liked a fight or because he liked the rush the emergency gave him.
“You hide out in your weapon room?” asked Dakota, clinging onto Adrian’s hand. Cable sprinted ahead of us.
“No,” he said. “We’re going to the weapon room to get weapons…so we can fight.”
I was thoroughly freaked out, but everything was moving far too fast for me to stop and get us out of this mess.
As we ran down several flights of stairs, Adrian started to explain the situation between short, ragged gasps of air.
“Some group has been breaking into the Freedom Writers’ premises lately. This isn’t the first time it has happened. We can’t figure out who’s behind the attacks.”
“Do you think it’s The Front?” I asked
“Can’t be, they don’t look or act anything like the agents. They don’t know where we‘re located. Besides, these people are a small group and they’re pretty ill equipped. The weird part is nothing is ever stolen. I think they’re looking for something, probably the Enhancer.”
I wondered if it was the Big Brothers, but I didn’t dare say anything, not in front of Adrian anyway.
We ran down another flight of stairs, which had now turned to concrete, signaling me we were in the lowest level of the building. This wasn’t the weapon room Heidi had showed us. We came to a heavy metal door that had been left slightly ajar by Cable. The inside of the room held everything from your average knife to weapons I had never even seen before. The whole place made me feel like I was in a science fiction wonderland. In the middle of the room was a strange object on a podium, as if it were on display. It was metallic with intricate pipe work weaving in and around it. There were many blue and red wires connected to it and they dangled off the sides. I knew immediately what the object had to be.
I guessed hiding a valuable object in a room full of weapons was a good idea, in an ironic kind of way, kind of like hiding millions of dollars in a jail.
Cable took down a huge AK 47 and threw it in my general direction. Surprisingly I caught it, and let me tell you, it was freaking heavy.
Cable laughed, obviously enjoying himself. “If they’re after the Enhancer, the jokes on them, the Battery that starts the thing is MIA. We had it in one of the Freedom Writer’s vans, when all of a sudden the damn thing got stolen. We had a tracking device in place. We were following it for a while, almost found the van too, but we lost the signal. Dakota, Theresa and me stopped dead in our tracks. I inched towards Dakota as Adrian and Cable ran frantically around the room.
“You stole our van, right,” I whispered
“The Drug Truck had a tracking device in it, right.”
“Didn’t you steal the Drug Truck in front of a shoe store?”
“The Freedom Writers work out of a shoe store.”
Again, she nodded.
Suddenly, the pieces were starting to fit together. The people following us wasn’t The Front agents, or even the Big Bothers, it was the Freedom Writers.
“Oh my Gosh,” I whispered. “We’ve had the battery all along.”
Before I had time to process anything else the door swung open. Three men dressed in black came running into the room.
One of the men jumped on top of me before I even had time to register it. I used the butt of the gun to smash him in the stomach, he loosened his grip just enough for me to get away. Unfortunately, I dropped the gun as I moved towards the other side of the room. The man was reached down to pick up the weapon. I grabbed onto a rolling cart and pushed it hard in his direction. It hit him with just enough force to cause him to stumble. As he fell his head hit the wall with a sickening thud. He lay unconscious on the floor.
I tuned around to see my sister and Cable fighting another guy. I ran towards the wall of weapons and grabbed a knife. I jumped onto the man’s back, giving Cable enough time to escape from a headlock. I quickly threw the knife to Dakota, whose position gave her more opportunities to inflict damage then I had. She caught the knife in one fluid motion, dropped to her knees, and stabbed the guy in in his remarkably chubby thigh. He let out a short but intense cry of pain and backed away from the three of us.
“Nikko,” he cried, “I’m hurt. Let’s get the hell out of here while we still can. These kids are gonna freaking kill us.”
The man who I assumed was Nikko disengaged his hands from Adrian’s leg and the two men ran out the door, leaving the unconscious man behind without a second glance.
Poor bastards, out matched by a couple of kids.
I ran to Theresa, “Are you alright?” I asked as I frantically checked for wounds. She nodded.
Cable slammed his fists against the table and shouted what I assumed was a profanity in Spanish.
I casually walked over to the unconscious man on the floor. I lifted up his ski mask and was terribly surprised at what I saw.
“Is it one of the Big Brothers?” whispered Dakota as she walked over to me.
I shook my head and spoke quietly enough so that Adrian and Cable couldn’t hear.
“It’s the guy from the bar.”
“You mean Tony Peek’s guy?”
“So Tony Peek is after the Enhancer too. You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
We got up and walked over to everybody else. I definitely had a lot of things to tell Maya. I was almost (and by almost I mean completely) glad I wouldn’t be around when she relayed my messages to Jess. She was going to have a bird, although you’d think by now she would be used to our plans going terribly awry.
Adrian sighed. “I’ll go get Solomon and Heidi. Cable, show the newbies to their rooms.
Cable went to the door and opened it.
I was going to kill her. I’d probably end up jail for life, but I didn’t care. I’d either kill Flo or kill myself. I liked option one better.
We’d been stuck in the Drug Truck for less than a day, and I didn’t even want to think about being here longer if I was already thinking such violent thoughts.
The only reason Flo had recently shut up was because Charlee and I went to the convenient store and bought her a pocket mirror and some makeup. Now, she was staring at herself and smiling. (For a girl with such a high IQ, you’d think it would be harder to keep her entertained. It wasn’t).
Charlee and I were in the middle of a riveting game of truth and dare.
As for our work finding the Enhancer’s battery, our mission went from barely functioning to absolutely hopeless. Jess had given up a while ago on getting help from the rest of the Little Sisters, and was now doing all the work by herself, not to say she had actually gotten anywhere.
“Can we play?” asked Candy as she and Kitty leaned over the back seat to peer at us.
As easy as it was to entertain Flo, it was hard to entertain the younger ones. They had already played, and deemed unworthy, twenty-eight games, including Hide-and-Seek and Tag. And it was pretty impressive how they managed to even play those game because, need I remind you, we were stuck in a van. Jess wouldn’t let us get out because she knew she’d have no hope of getting help if we were running all over the place.
“Sure, you can play,” I said.
“Let’s play a different game,” said Charlee “I know. We can play Guess That Song.” She took a breath. I interrupted her before she could begin.
“Paint with all the Colors of the Wind.”
“How’d you know?”
“It’s your favorite song. You sing it constantly. In fact, you were humming it to yourself right before we started this game.”
Charlee wasn’t the only one upset. Jess’s determination was quickly turning into anger.
“Urgh,” she growled to all of us. “Why would the Freedom Writers even separate the battery and the Enhancer, anyway? I mean, I know the whole, ‘it’ll make it safer in case the Enhancer falls into the wrong hands’ type of thing, but still, sometimes I think I was born to have a hard time.”
She ran her fingers through her hair.
“I need a break from all this crap. How ‘bout we go on a walk? We can go to McDonalds and get something to eat.”
“Yeah-a,” screamed Kitty as she bolted out of the van. Everyone followed in a similar fashion behind her.
“I think I’m going to stay here. I’m not all that hungry.”
Jess shrugged her shoulders, “All right.”
I watched them as they faded out of sight. The truth was I hadn’t been feeling that great ever since my sisters left, as pathetic as it seems, this was the longest I had ever been away from them. I didn’t like it one bit. Not that I was at all feeling sorry for myself, but still, they were off exploring and I was stuck in a van, alone. Fair, right? NOT. It made me feel awesome to know that Faye was so busy that she couldn’t even find time to send a telepathic hello. I sighed and leaned back in the seat, wallowing in my own self pity.
Suddenly, I heard voices coming from the far end of the parking lot. No one was around, and the voices sounded too deep to belong any of the Little Sisters.
I heard them again and slowly pulled my small pocket knife off my belt loop. My knife had always made me feel protected, but now that I might use it, I felt extremely under equipped. I ducked down and shimmied my way towards the front seat. I knew those guys were coming closer and I didn’t want them to know I was in the van.
I stretched out my hand until my finger tips brushed against the cup holder. I reached a little more until I could get a good grip on it and then pulled it open. Bingo. I took out the two cup holders and grabbed the pistol Jess had stashed behind them. Now I felt more protected.
The men outside were coming toward the Drug Truck, I didn’t really know why, but either which way, they might open the door. I had to take them by surprise while I still could.
I waited for a second and pressed my ear against the door. I could hear them now. By the sounds of it, there were three guys outside. Yeah, the odds were definitely not in my favor.
“Let’s get it over with,” said one of the guys. “This shouldn‘t be too hard.”
They were about to see just how easy it would be. I flung the door open and jumped onto the pavement in front of them, screaming.
“Oh shit,” said a heavy man as he headed towards me.
He immediately stopped when I pointed my gun directly at his head.
“Oh shit,” He said again.
Apparently, those were the only words he was capable of saying.
Before I even knew what was happening. The other man had grabbed my elbow and was trying to pry the gun out of my fingers. I turned around so I was facing him and twisted my head so that I could bite his arm. Hard. (Yes, Biting was a frequently used talent of mine.)
He loosened his grip just enough for me to wiggle free, with the gun still in my hand. I then proceeded to knee him in a certain area I’d rather not name. I backed up as I wildly swung the gun in between the three men.
“No one move,” I said, trying to keep my voice stable as I panted for breath.
They obeyed me. It was clear they obviously had no experience in the art of stealing, or else they probably wouldn’t have backed down so easily.
“Now,” I said, “tell me who you are and why you’re here and maybe, just maybe, I won’t shoot one of you.” I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to follow through with my threat.
“Tony Peek sent us here. He said you guys had the battery to the Enhancer in your truck. He wants it.
I looked at them, confused. “Why would we have the Enhancer’s battery in the Drug Truck?”
“Apparently, it belongs to the Freedom Writers. It had their GPS device in it and everything. The pitiful little group hired him to look for the van when they lost their connection with it, so when he figured out you guys had it, he told us to go get the thing.”
“He wants to use the Enhancer on himself, doesn’t he?” I said it more towards myself then to them, but they still nodded vigorously.
“Alright,” I said. “Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to go back to Tony and tell him you looked all over the van and didn’t find jack-squat nothing, and you’re not going to tell him anything else. If I hear that you guys spilled about our little confrontation, well, I know where your boss man lives and let’s just say I don’t carry a gun with me for show. Now scram.”
They were running away before I could even say abracadabra. I sat in the Drug Truck and tried to sort out my very tangled thoughts. We had the Enhancer’s battery somewhere in the truck. Tony Peek wanted the battery and the Enhancer so he could use it on himself. He knew we had the battery because he recognized the truck. I guess it made since.
Suddenly my twin signal went off.
“Finally,” I said rather rudely.
“Sorry I kept you waiting, but so much has happened. We got attacked by these guys who turned out to be part of Tony Peek’s crew, can you believe it? And they’re after the Enhancer too.”
[“I believe it, in fact, a similar incident just happened to me, b. t. w., it turns out we’ve had the freakin’ battery all along.”
__]“I know. What happened? How were you attacked?”
“I was just minding my own business and they attacked me.”
“You were alone?”
“Yeah, I beat them off by myself. I know. I’m pretty amazing.”
“Kudos. Anyway, I know where the Enhancer is, so now we just have to find where the battery is hidden in the van and we’ll be set. I can’t believe we’re going to win this thing.”
“Yeah, well first we actually have to find the battery.”
“I’ll leave you to it then.”
I felt kind of guilty that our conversation had been so short, considering I had spent most of my afternoon complaining that I hadn’t heard from her. I didn’t even ask how things were going.
Oh well, I didn’t have time to think about it now. I had a job to do. I wished that Jess and the rest of the girls would hurry up with their bonding and join me. They had missed a lot in the brief time that had passed.
I got out of the front seat and began to think of places I could search.
If I were a battery to a priceless, engineering miracle of machine, where would I be hiding?
Ironically enough, I couldn’t get my imagination to go quite that far. It was still on shut down from my recent attack. So I looked around. I looked in the glove compartment. I knew it wouldn’t be there, but hey, it hadn’t failed me so far. Once I was done looking around in there I gently put the gun back where I had found it. I moved on to the back of the Drug Truck.
I searched everywhere.
After what seemed like hours of fruitless labor, something caught my eye. In the middle of the van, under the second seat, there appeared to be a lever that had no purpose. All the other do-dads had labels on them telling what they did, but this was one just a plain lever that had nothing on it. I knew immediately this was the spot.
I had my hand curled around the lever and I was just about to pull down when I felt a sudden chill come over me. It was different from anything I had ever felt before, it made me want to curl into the fetal position and hide. I had never had that feeling. I slowly slid out from underneath the seat and peered out the tinted window.
I couldn’t shake the feeling. It was like an itch that wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard you scratched. I opened up the door and stepped outside, maybe all I needed was some fresh air. I took a deep breath. It didn’t help. I looked around thoroughly from my spot. Nothing in the trees. Nothing on the pavement. I tried to convince myself my mind was just playing tricks on me, that I only felt this way because I was alone. I knew that wasn’t the case, but I turned around any way and tried to focus on the task at hand.
As I bent down to focus my attention on the mysterious lever I felt two strong hands grab my waist. I didn’t bother to see who it was, I just fought. I kicked and screamed and bit, but nothing seemed to faze the man. I seriously regretted putting the gun away.
I can’t believe this is happening again.
I tried reaching towards my belt loop, trying to find my knife, but it was to no avail. I remembered I had left it in the Drug Truck, so I continued to kick and scream, and was satisfied to here a quick groan escape his mouth. I tried to scream again, but before anything could come out, he had shoved a piece of cloth into my mouth and gagged me. I made a final attempt to head butt him, but as I did he gadded my wrists and tied them together.
At that point my strength from my adrenaline rush had left me and I could barely stand, let alone fight him off. He slung me over his shoulder as if I were a sack of feathers.
He walked until we reached a van that I was shocked I hadn’t seen before.
Then it sank in, I was being kidnapped.
And I cried.
The van looked a lot like the Drug Truck, except it had fewer windows. Shifting my weight so he could free his hand, the man opened up the passenger door and placed me onto the seat. I still hadn’t gotten a good look at him, but when I did I was shocked.
He opened up the driver side door and sat inside. If my mouth wasn’t gagged, I would have been gapping. He wasn’t wearing a black suit or those God awful sunglasses, but I immediately knew who he was.
The guy who gave us our mission.
The son of the director of The Front.
The sexy boy who I wasn’t supposed to think was sexy at all.
He started up the car and began to drive; he didn’t even bother to look at me. I glanced down at the badge dangling from his belt loop. It read:
“William Breachgate, 6’2, Branch 7.
Branch 7? What the hell was he doing around here? Florida was in Branch 5 and Connecticut was all the way in Branch 10. Branch 7 was the main branch of The Front, but it was all the way in Ohio. The only reason he would be out here was if he had been following us all along.
I was pretty sure I had just had some sort of epiphany, but I couldn’t think about it. Right now I had to contact Faye and tell her what had happened before we got too far away from each other. I closed my eyes and focused.
“Faye? Come on Faye, it’s important.”
She responded within a few seconds.
“What is it? Did you already find the battery?”
“Yeah, but that’s not it. I’ve kind of been kidnapped.”
[_ “What???? By who?” _]
“William Breachgate, the guy from The Front. I’m pretty sure he’s taking me to the main branch in Ohio. You have to get the Little Sisters and tell them where I am, oh, and come and save me, if it’s not too much to ask.”
“Don’t worry Maya. We’ll come and get you.”
[_ “Listen, there is a lever under the middle seat of the Drug Truck that opens up the compartment where the Enhancer’s battery is, at least I‘m 99% positive it does. Get it and use the Enhancer on yourself.” _]
“No time for that, Faye. If you want to breach the head honcho’s palace and get me out, you’ll need help. The Enhancer will be the perfect…boost.”
“Alright, stay safe.”
“Se ya soo…on…on”
Just as I ended my conversation William turned and looked at me. Man, he had nice eyes. I tried to stay focused on my utter disgust for him. He looked away, as if uncomfortable, and then turned back to me again.
“If you promise not to scream, I’ll untie the rag.
He reached towards the back of my head and then quickly pulled his hand away.
“… or bite.”
I nodded again.
He reached out and untied the knot with one hand. His hand was trembling and the one that was still on the wheel was clutched it so tight that his knuckles were white. I realized he was nervous. For some reason, this made me considerably less scared. When he wasn’t in uniform or wearing a cool smile, he almost looked, dare I say, boyish.
I may have been more relaxed, but I was still pissed and wanted to know what was going on. Unfortunately, all those feeling combined meant I was more than willing to speak my mind, which I proceeded to do.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
I considered telling him that I knew where we were going and I already had people coming to find me, but I knew he wouldn’t believe me anyway.
“I’m sorry. It’s just. You see, it was my assignment to follow you guys and make sure that everything was… on course. But I knew that you would win the mission, and I couldn’t have that happen.”
He muttered to himself then continued to speak.
“Actually, let me go back a little. The reason we were going to fire the Little Sisters was because the Enhancer was designed to work more efficiently on young males, but the Freedom Writers stole it before we had a chance to test it out.”
“We hired the Big Brothers to find the Enhancer so we could later test it on them, you know, kill two birds with one stone. Anyway, that day when I was firing you, I was wearing an ear bud that allowed my father to communicate with me. When your sister, the girl Faye, said that it should be a race, well… my dad likes to be entertained. He decided to let you both compete, and once one of you won, regardless of which team it was, well… he was going to kill you and experiment on the Big Brothers.”
My voice came out as a squeak. “What?”
He sighed. “It was a game, Maya. It was all a game. Once you came back with the Enhancer, you wouldn’t be of any use anymore, considering it can’t be tested on you. They would have to kill you for knowing too much and the Big Brothers would have taken over your spot. I know this is a lot to handle, but I‘m actually saving your ass right now.”
I tried to let this sink in.
“Wait, that day you were about to …fire us.”
“I was supposed to kill you. It was code Omega; make sure your target doesn’t know what hit them.”
This was way, way too much to take in.
“What? You were completely fine with murdering us then, but now all of a sudden you think you need to be my Prince Charming. Did the Tin Man lend you his heart?”
“I didn’t know you then,” he whispered. “I’ve been watching you. You’re different.”
We both were quiet for a long time, then something hit me.
“Wait, did you say the Enhancer hasn’t been tested?”
He looked confused at my question. “Yeah”
I tried not to let my anxiety show.
It occurred to me that I had just told my sister to use a potentially dangerous machine on herself and the rest of my gang, and it could very likely do them harm. The Enhancer was meant for people with masculine characteristics. And it was too late to tell her to abort the mission.
I shifted in my seat and asked another question, avoiding profanities this time.
“And how does a kidnapping play into you master plan?”
William let out a half laugh. “You know, for someone whose just been kidnapped, you’re pretty sassy.”
I decided to ignore that, mostly because I had never been called sassy and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I waited patiently until he answered my question.
For a while I thought he wouldn’t answer, but soon he let out a sigh and began to talk.
“I never really wanted this, being a part of The Front. I just never really had a choice. When I was watching you guys; there was something about you. I didn’t want to see you get hurt, and you were so close to getting the Enhancer. So, I knew that if I kidnapped you, you’d be safe.”
Are you sure about that?
“What about the rest of the Little Sisters, huh, were you just going to leave them to die?”
He looked at me as if he couldn’t believe I was so stupid I needed to ask that question. He went on to explain it to me anyway.
“Your group will know that The Front kidnapped you and they’ll come after you, they’ll totally abandon the mission to rescue you and turn against them.”
I nodded. He had a point.
“How can you be so sure the Little Sisters will know it was The Front who kidnapped me?”
He didn’t bother to take his eyes off the road. “They’ll know.”
Yes, they would know, perhaps a little more than he realized.
“What about the Big Brothers?” I asked more softly this time.
He shrugged. He didn’t care what happened to them; he only cared what happened to my group.
Despite the fact that I was pretty sure William Breachgate had formed some sort of stalker-ish attachment to me, I couldn’t help but feel far more comfortable with him than I should have.
I waited anxiously until it was dark out and I was sure everyone was a sleep. When I heard snoring and heavy breathing, I took it as I sign to leave. I woke up Dakota and Theresa, who had nodded off over the hour.
Half awake, we began to navigate the dark hallways.
I could only imagine what the Little Sisters were going through. I kind of expected them to be in such an uproar, they’d come here and get us, but as far as I could tell, there was nothing happening in the parking lot. They must have been terrified when they figured out Maya was missing. I could only hope they hadn’t already left to go find my sister without coming for us first.
I was holding Theresa with one hand and feeling my way with the other. Dakota was clenching the back of my shirt for all it was worth. I knew she was crying, but I didn’t try to silence her. Sometimes the best type of comfort is pretending you don’t know. Plus, I knew if I opened my mouth, I’d start to cry too.
It got a little easier to see once we entered Game Central. The little lights on the machines lit the room just enough so we wouldn’t bump in to anything.
Unfortunately, Grace was not my middle name.
As I side-stepped, a little red light told me there was something in my way and I slammed into it.
“Shit,” I whispered.
My thought quickly turned from ‘I ran into something,’ to ‘I ran in to someone.’
I looked up to the shock of my life.
Right in front of me, shining a flashlight directly in my face, was the boy from the Big Brothers. His golden eyes looked at me with shock.
“What are you doing here?” he asked in a whisper, as if he had a reason to be angry at me.
I was pretty sure that was the least appropriate thing he could have said to me, but ironically, it was the only thing I could think of to ask him right back.
I looked behind him to see the two Jamaican looking brothers and, to my surprise, Adrian and Cable.
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen this coming.
Adrian and Cable were part of the Big Brothers and I didn’t even realize it. The leader wasn’t shocked I was here with the Freedom Writers, he was shocked I was here, walking in a dark hallway in the middle of the night, disturbing whatever they were up to.
Adrian turned to his leader. “I swear Jack, I didn’t know. I didn’t think they were part of the Little Sisters.”
His name was Jack. Instantly I thought of my brother who left us alone……the jerk. This instantly struck me like a blow to the heart. It hurt more than it should have.
“My brother’s name was Jack.”
I didn’t mean to say it out loud, but it kind of slipped. It had been awhile since I had thought about my brother, but I had bigger things on my mind than tragic family memories.
I took a deep breath and avoided looking any of them in the eyes. “Listen, I’m just as shocked as you about us infiltrating the Freedom Writers at the same time, and under normal circumstances this would be discussed, but I’m pretty busy right now. So, we’re going to leave and you’re going to pretend this never happened.”
I began to walk away as Jack grabbed me lightly by the elbow.
“Do I look like the type to take orders?” He said with a mischievous smile.
“We have to tell them what’s happened,” Dakota whispered into my ear.
I sighed. She was right.
My only choices were to explain my sister’s kidnapping and hope they wouldn’t want to fight, or just skip the talk and go straight to the fighting part. I figured I might as well try to talk, considering five boys against three girls didn’t exactly put the odds in our favor.
“The Front agents have kidnapped my sister. I’m going to get her back. As far as I’m concerned the Big Brothers have already won. From this moment on I’m Anti-Front. I know where the battery is; I’ll give it to you and let you have the Enhancer as long as you let us leave now.”
Apparently this was a lot to take in, because for a long time the guys all just stared at us.
Finally Cable broke the silence.
I sighed. This was not what I had planned, and I was trying really hard not to lose it. Luckily, Dakota took over for me. Thank God for that kid. I didn’t know how she could be so calm in this situation. I mean we’re talking about the girl who once had a three day emotional break down after watching an idiotic dog movie through someone’s window, but I figured it was best not to question it.
“Follow me,” she said sternly. She led us all into the room parallel to us, flicked on the light switch, and shut the door.
Theresa and I sat on one side, the Big Brothers sat on the other side, and Dakota stood in the middle, ready for action.
“What are your names?” she asked
All the boys just stared at her. I’ll admit I was slightly curious where she was going with this.
“What?” she said. “I can’t explain things properly unless I know who I’m explaining things too.”
When anybody asked us for our names, we usually lied. I guess the Big Brothers weren’t accustomed to this rule because they were more than forthcoming. Jack was the first to say his name. I guess he knew to hear the valuable information we had, he’d have to play by our rules.
Well, my sister’s rules, no matter how unconventional they were.
Cable lounged back in his swivel chair and propped his feet on a counter.
“You already know my name.”
Dakota’s gaze skipped right over Adrian and landed on the Jamaican brothers. The first time I saw them, they looked exactly alike to me, even more alike than Maya and I. But, as I looked closer at them I found there were a few differences. One was obviously older, and he had much longer dread locks. However they both had an identical piercing in their left nostril which made me think they probably belonged to some sort of gang before joining the Big Brothers.
“I’m Ace,” said the older one.
“I’m Nari,” said his younger brother.
I immediately decided I liked Nari better. While Ace looked at us like we were a snack for him, Nari was focusing on biting his nails.
Dakota smiled, satisfied with their introductions, and proceeded to give them our real names. Now she was free to move on to the real business.
“So here’s what’s happening. A while ago we found a tracker thingy in the van I high-jacked, it turns out the van belonged to the Freedom Writers. So when you told us about the lost van with the stolen battery, we knew that we had the Enhancer battery all along. However, Tony Peek also must have figured it out when we met with him a few days ago. Peek got us into the Freedom Writers.”
“Anyway, Maya looked all over the van and thought she found the battery. She was then attacked by Tony Peek’s guys who were out to get the battery too, but she fought them off ‘cause she’s just a badass.”
“F.Y.I, it’s Tony Peek’s people who keep on breaking in to this joint, they want the Enhancer for themselves.”
“Back to the story, right after she fought off those idiots, she was kidnapped by The Front, who we think have been following us all along. She contacted Faye and told her where the battery was and how to get it. She told her to use the Enhancer on ourselves, and go save her butt.”
For the second time they all stared at us blankly.
“What if we turn you in?” said Jack. His sneaky little smile was gone. He was dead serious.
“You can’t turn us in,” I said. “You’ll ruin the whole mission. Even if you don’t tell them who you are, in order to turn us in, you’ll have to tell the Freedom Writers that The Front is after the Enhancer. Then they’ll just hide it in a different place. Besides, if The Front did this to us, what’s stopping them from doing the same to you?”
Jack slowly nodded.
“All right, whatever humongous pile of shit you’re getting yourself into is safe with us, for now.”
I didn’t know whether this was supposed to be funny or not, but luckily I turned towards the door before anyone could see me smile.
As Dakota, Theresa, and I walked into the hallway, Jack called out from behind us. Even though he was whispering, I felt like his voice reached every corner of the building.
“Hey, this doesn’t mean we’re on your side.”
I nodded, though I knew he couldn’t see me.
I didn’t think for one second you were.
We walked quickly along the sidewalk I knew would lead us to the Drug Truck. Judging by the position of the moon, it was approximately one O’clock, leaving us four hours to get the battery and get back before anyone started to wake up.
I couldn’t help thinking of Jack. I couldn’t decide whether I liked him or not, or whether I was just plain old afraid of him. I knew it was completely irrational to hate some one based on what they did to you in your dreams, but I couldn’t help it. Despite my intense urge to sock Jack in the nose, I couldn’t ignore a faint feeling that was stirring in my stomach as I thought of him. It was the feeling I felt in my dream about him. I still couldn’t place it, but I now knew I liked it. It was kind of like excitement, but more…
I smiled as the Drug Truck came into view. Jess, Charlee, Kitty and Candy were all pacing in front of the van. Flo was casually sitting in it with her feet dangling out the open door. I knew we were only gone for about a day, but I still missed them.
Theresa took Dakota and me by the hand and we all started running towards them.
They turned and looked at us as we approached. Jess almost looked as if she were surprised to see us, she had to have known we were coming, right?
“Do you have the Enhancer?” she asked
My face faltered. “Don’t you want to know where Maya is?”
She looked at me as if I were speaking to her a foreign language. It took her much longer than it should have to answer.”
“She was kidnapped by The Front. She found the battery and then all of a sudden one of them took her. Here’s what I think we should do, you see if we use the Enhancer on ourselves, we can go to the Main Branch and get her back and we could fight The Front and…”
“Wait,” said Jess. “She found the battery?”
Flo moved out of the way as I leaned under the seat and pulled the lever Maya had told me about. The door to the secret compartment came swinging open and smashed me in the face. My nose got whacked so hard, for a second my vision went black. After a couple seconds I saw it. Strapped snuggly into place by two black leather belts was a translucent, cylinder like object. Inside were millions of round discs that looked like those pieces in clocks that make them tick. I unlatched it and slid myself out from under the seat.
Everyone stared at it in my hands.
“Give it to me,” commanded Jess.
I took a step back. Her eyes looked a little bit too hungry for my liking.
“So are you on board with the plan?”
She sighed, “Come on Faye, let’s be rational. We’ll get the Enhancer and be out of here in an hour. Then we can meet with The Front, give it to them, and get our money. I bet they just give us back Maya.”
“Are you crazy? The government will never have enough from us. Once we give them the Enhancer they’ll just want something else. The only way to save my sister is to fight for her. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of The Front always doing things for themselves. They don’t care about who or what they’re hurting. It’s time we kick them off their throne. It’s time we go Anti-Front.”
I was pretty satisfied if my speech, considering I had just made it up on a whim. I was expecting Jess to look at me with pity. To look at me as if I were a child denying the fact that I couldn’t fly. The way Charlee and Flo, even Kitty and Candy were looking at me.
Instead she looked at me with anger.
“Give me the battery, Faye.”
It was then I realized something I should have realized two years ago. The first time Jess had ever told us about what the Little Sisters did. Back then, I thought it was just a job, a way to make money. But I saw now it wasn’t about the cash, not for Jess. She was loyal to The Front. She was not against them.
“Dammit, Faye, do you know how big this is?” Jess took a deep breath to calm herself. “When I first agreed to work for The Front, it was promised, if we did what was asked, than we would become agents. This might be the mission Faye. If we complete this mission, They might decide we’re ready.”
I didn’t budge. How could she? How could she be so blinded by The Front’s lies that she couldn’t see the wrong? Jess was always our logical, grounded leader, but now she was the one being irrational.
“No,” I said
She just stared at me. It was the first time I had ever defied her orders. It felt good to hold my own for once.
“You want it? Come and get it.”
My body went stiff, ready for her to come at me. Dakota looked the most determined I had ever seen her, she wasn’t just fighting to save my sister, she was fighting to save her’s too. Theresa, bless her heart, stayed right beside me.
Nobody else moved. I couldn’t tell what they were thinking. I felt like we were being watched on TV.
For a second, Jess was ready to charge. Then, all of a sudden her body sagged and she rubbed her face in her hands.
“I can’t fight you. I can’t fight you,” She repeated over and over again.
She took her hands away from her face and looked me in the eyes.
“I might not be able to fight you for that battery, but I can tell you this. If you insist on this plan, I’ll go to The Front and I’ll turn you in. What’s your choice?”
“I’m going to save my sister.”
“Fine,” With that, she got into the Drug Truck.
I automatically knew Flo would side with Jess, so didn’t even bother to look her way. It wouldn’t have done me much good anyway considering she had already slammed her door shut.
I knew Kitty and Candy wouldn’t join me either, but I understood why. Jess was practically their mother. For as long as I can remember we’ve been telling them to do what Jess said. I couldn’t just expect them to defy her now.
I turned to Charlee. The second I saw her I knew her decision.
She was going to go with Jess.
My heart sank. I was honestly expecting her to come with me without a second thought.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. I couldn’t tell whether she was talking to me or to Theresa. I turned away before she had time to explain.
Dakota, Theresa, and I walked back to the shoe store in silence. I was still trying to process what just happened, but I was pretty sure we had just left the Little Sisters. What the hell was I going to do now? My plan was still plausible, but it was going to be a lot harder to accomplish with only the three of us.
We walked in silence until Dakota awkwardly cleared her throat, interrupting my thoughts.
“Umm… Faye, not that I’m trying to dis you or anything, I mean, you know I’ll stick with you, but… I’m just sayin’ … wouldn’t it be easier to go with Jess’s plan. I mean, it sounded… easier.
I sighed. There was no simple way to answer her. The only thing I could think to say as a response was:
“Sometimes the right thing to do isn’t the easy option.”
She didn’t say anything else. I was grateful for that.
We walked into Solomon’s shoe store and I scanned my I.D card against the pad lock. The door swung open and we went downstairs. It had been at least an hour and a half since we left, but to my surprise, all the Big Brothers were sitting in game central, almost as if they were waiting for our return.
Adrian was on one of the computers, Nari was looking at whatever Adrian was doing, and Cable and Ace were playing a violent game of Mercy. By the looks of it, Ace was winning, by a lot.
They all stopped what they were and gathered around us. Jack quit spinning himself in the swivel chair, got up, and leaned against the wall, looking casually aloof.
“So, how’d it go?”
I shrugged my shoulders, “Not exactly as planned. Let’s just say the Little Sisters have gone their separate ways.”
“It went that bad, huh,” said Nari. It was the first time he had said anything to me. I was surprised how high his voice was considering he was such a big guy. However, he sounded genuinely sincere in his question, reconfirming the fact that I liked him.
I snorted. “It went worse. Turns out our leader is planning on turning us into The Front instead of helping get my sister back.”
Jack smiled at me. “Well, good news for you, your luck’s about to change. How strongly are you opposed to sleeping with the enemy?”
I blinked. “Excuse me.”
Jack laughed at my obvious discomfort.
“I mean we’ve decided to join you.”
“Why?” I asked suspiciously
He shrugged his shoulders. “We signed a contract with The Front a little while back stating that if we preformed to a certain caliber over a respectable period of time, they would make us members. The contract, however, also said that we weren’t allowed to stop working for them unless we were fired.”
His face suddenly became somber. “You were right Faye, if they’re doing this to you, what will stop them from doing it to us, too. The only way to leave The Front is to revolt against them. I figured the easiest way to do that would be to join you.”
I snorted. “It’s nice to know you’ll use my sister’s kidnapping as the loop hole in your contract.”
He shrugged again. “Do we have a deal or not?”
I sighed before extending my hand. “We have a deal.”
He shook my hand and smiled.
We walked down the flights of stairs that lead us to the weapons room where the Enhancer was stored. The battery was snug in my over-sized jean pocket. It was almost 5:30 am and I was afraid people would start to wake up, but I guessed the prospect of us getting caught was unlikely.
I knew I would have to confide in Heidi and Solomon at some point.
It seemed to be a good idea to tell them what we were up to, considering we were sort of on the same side now. But I figured it would be easier to explain everything after we enhanced our selves. I couldn’t risk them not allowing us to use the machine.
Jack was the first to go inside. It hadn’t changed from the last time, but just being in there again made me anxious. After the incident with Tony Peek’s guys, I was pretty sure this room was made for things to go wrong.
Everybody stood around the Enhancer as I put the battery in the bottom slot where it belonged.
We all stood there in awkward confusion. It took me far longer than I’d like to admit to figure out what I did wrong.
I let out a tentative laugh.
“Sorry, I put it in backwards.”
Dakota laughed. “Nice one.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “I wouldn’t judge.”
We all got serious again as I took out the battery and correctly placed it in position. The moment it clicked into place, a burst of multi-colored light was emitted from the Enhancer. For some reason, it reminded me of an eruption from a dormant volcano.
My veins started to surge with adrenaline.
Cable walked towards the Enhancer with the same old cocky grin on his face. It appeared a lot of people could use the Enhancer at one time. He opened one of the little compartments that were strategically placed in the Enhancer. In each compartment, there were three wires. A pad that was meant to be placed on to your forehead was attached to two of them, and a long needle was connecting to the other. There were enough spaces for us to all use the Enhancer on ourselves at one time.
“Don‘t worry, I got this, they don’t call me Cable for nothing. Some people say I’m the best tech-y in the Big Brothers, others argue, the world.”
I smirked at this. I was about to say how I bet Flo was better than him, but then bit my tongue. I couldn’t think of them now. I swallowed down the lump that had suddenly formed in my throat.
I cringed as Cable took the needle and slowly pushed it into the vein of his own wrist. A single drop of blood escaped from the new wound he had inflicted and trickled down his arm. He quickly wiped it away and placed the two pads on either side of his temple.
“Anyone want to volunteer to go next.”
Ace took out the wires and stuck the needle in his arm. He had done it so quickly I didn’t even have time to flinch for him.
Nari was next. He placed the pad on his forehead and then took the needle. His hands were trembling worse than mine. He squeezed his eyes shut, which in my opinion, isn’t a smart thing to do when inserting a pointy object into you vein, and jabbed the needle into his skin.
I smiled when he looked up and caught my gaze, he nervously smiled back. I could tell he was doing his best not to start hyperventilating. Poor guy, it wasn’t hard to tell he was afraid of needles.
Adrian went next, followed by Jack. I resisted the urge to take over for Dakota. But she was a big girl and didn’t need my help. I was surprised at how calm she was, or at least how calm she appeared. Maybe she was trying to act brave in front of the guys. I knew I was.
It was my turn next. With shaky fingers I placed the pads on my temples. I could feel something hard inside of them. I took the needle and placed it directly above where I wanted it to be. Ever so gently I began to push it down. I held my breath as it penetrated the skin. It didn’t hurt so badly. However, as it went through my vein it became a different story. At first the pain was sharp and intense, but it only lasted for a second. Then it was just a dull, aching throb.
The only one left was Theresa. She just stared at the compartment in front of her. She reached towards it, and then dropped her hand to her side. It was times like these that I remembered she was only twelve. This must have been murder for her to follow our lead; I could barely handle it myself.
I reached for her wires, but Cable beat me to it.
“Don’t worry, Chiquita, it doesn’t hurt that bad.”
She smiled at him and gave him her arm.
There were two more compartments left by the time we were all ready to go. It was obvious the Enhancer was meant for a lot of people, because if you were going to make a group of hypo-engineered soldiers, you might as well do it in mass production.
For one second we all stood there.
For one eternal second.
Jack cleared his throat and pressed the small red button in the middle of the Enhancer, The only button on the whole thing. I had to admit, for such a complicated machine, the layout was easy enough to understand.
It began softly buzz as it came to life.
“God save us,” he whispered.
I felt a strange tingling sensation spreading slowly from my head to my toes. The only thing I could think to compare it to was the feeling you get when your hand goes numb, except this felt more distant.
Slowly, ever so slowly, my body became hotter, and the tingling became stronger.
Hotter, hotter, hotter. Too hot. My eyes began to fuzz and I was completely drenched in sweat.
I felt like I was burning from the inside out, like I was melting away.
I heart was beating so hard it was cutting off my breath. It hurt to breath.
“I’m on fire. I am going to die and I’m on fire.”
Those were the only thoughts I could manage. They circulated through my mind like a broken record stuck on repeat.
A sharp, horrible scream almost brought me out of my pain induced haze. Even lying on the floor, half unconscious, I could recognize it.
For the first time since I could remember, Theresa was screaming.
I wanted to say something soothing, to reach out and hold her, but my body was completely immobile. I didn’t have any control at all.
Black spots suddenly erupted over my eyes, blocking any vision I had left.
Then I was swimming.
Swimming in a sea of darkness.
That last thing I thought before I completely blacked out was:
“Please let me be doing the right thing.”
Jess looked frantically from side to side as she drove painstakingly slow down a street in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. She was in search of an old hunting shanty, or at least what seemed to be an old hunting shanty. The truth was, it was one of The Front’s “multi propose” building, one of many that were scattered all across the U.S.
“Dammit Jesslyn, you cannot be late for this.”
By some miracle she had managed to schedule a meeting with The Front. That didn’t happen very often considering The Front didn’t like to be told what to do, and if she couldn’t find the place she was suppose to be at five minutes ago, she was in for a world of hurt.
The Drug Truck was quiet. It should have helped her, but it didn’t.
All those years praying for quiet, and now she wanted the exact opposite. She knew her girls were unhappy, not only had half of their team abandoned them, but now the plan was to turn them in.
Oh well, thought Jess. It was time for a taste of reality, anyway. Besides, they were the ones who decided to leave.
Despite all of her self- motivation, there was still a part of Jess that felt irrationally guilty for what she was about to do. After all, Faye brought this on herself; Jess was simply following the rules.
A small part of her wondered about Maya. She tried to convince herself that Maya wasn’t her problem anymore, but so far it wasn’t working. Sure, she was gone, but that didn’t mean she was kidnapped.
In fact, Faye probably only told Jess and the others Maya had been taken so the girls would join her plans to use the Enhancer. Then, once they did, Faye would tell them that Maya was actually safe and sound and it was just a little persuasive lie.
Satisfied with her mental venting, she went back to prowling the empty country streets.
Finally it came in to view. She smiled as she pulled into the nonexistent driveway of the small, broken down shanty. A black truck was already parked outside.
“You want us to stay in the car?” asked Charlee. It was the first word she said the whole six hour trip.
“No,” said Jess. “Come in with me.”
With that she, Charlee, Kitty, Flo, and Candy walked into the shanty.
Five girls who should have a group of nine.
As they walked through the door, they saw three men standing in the small room. None of them were Union Front agents Jess knew. All of them were older, the youngest one pushing at least fifty, and seemed to rank pretty high up on The Front’s totem pole.
Jess tried not to worry as it occurred to her that usually only lower class members dealed with the Little Sisters, but she didn’t think too deeply into it considering last time she meet up with The Front, the head honcho’s son was involved.
“So, I hear you have major news to tell us,” said one of the men. “This better be good, you interrupted a very busy schedule, and I had to break a few promises to meet you here.”
Jess cleared her throat. “Ahh, yes sir. I’m afraid some of my girls have… have gone rogue.”
“And how did this happen?’
“Well, you see. We were making progress with the mission. I had sent some of my girls into the Freedom Writers and they were working on getting the Enhancer. The rest of us stayed behind to find the battery. The girls I sent into the Freedom Writers; Faye, Theresa, and Dakota came back late last night and said they knew where the battery was. Faye got the battery, but she wouldn’t give it to me. She said she was going Anti-Front so I told her I was going to turn her in.”
The man just stared at her, his eyes wide. “This girl, Faye, she still has the battery?”
“Did you try to get it from her?”
“Did you try to kill her, when you couldn’t get the battery from her?”
Suddenly, his face lit up in an evil smile.
“So let me get this straight. Instead of killing the rogues, and eliminating the problem, you decided to tattle tale. And now, anti-Front members have the Enhancer; your girl has the battery, and they are, no doubt, working together by now. What do you expect me to do with this information?”
“I don’t know. I figured we could…we might be able to catch them.”
“We? Oh no, I think we have done quite enough.”
With the snap of his finger and the two agents snapped from their unnaturally motionless positions. One of them grabbed Kitty and Charlee and the other grabbed Flo and Candy. The man who had done all the talking firmly took Jess by the arm and started leading her outside.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she asked, trying not to let her panic leak in to her voice.
“Well you see,” he said as he tried to keep Jess from breaking free, “you’ve proven yourself to be incredibly weak in this situation, and now we have to clean up the mess you made.”
“Since we clearly have no use for you anymore, and you clearly know far too much about us, we clearly have to eliminate you. Something you should have done with those little rogue friends of yours.”
Suddenly everything inside Jess deflated as she heard the screaming and yelling of the Little Sisters.
She was going to die, and it was going to be by the people who she thought she could trust to do right by her.
The only thing she could think as she was forced into their van was:
“She was right. Oh God, what have I done?”
It was mid morning by the time we had reached our destination. I woke up to a gentle nudge on my shoulder.
Yes, I fell asleep. Don’t judge me; I had had a rough day.
I was surprised to see we were in the driveway of a huge mansion. Not that I had ever been to any of The Front’s main buildings, but still, I was pretty sure this wasn’t one of them.
“Where are we?” I asked William as he got out of the car to enter the pass code to open the massive rod iron gate.
“My house,” he answered when he got back in the car.
“I thought you were taking me to Branch 7.”
He raised his eyebrow. “I thought I already told you I’m a good guy. Branch 7 is the last place I would take you.”
“Oh. Don‘t you think, you know, your dad will catch me if we‘re in his house?”
“No. Trust me.”
We drove up to the garage and I got out of the car. As we walked in to the house, I felt as if I might have gone to Heaven. There was a TV and clean furniture and a kitchen that didn’t look like it was infested by an army of insects.
“C’mon,” he said as he led me up stairs.
He opened the door to a room that made me want to puke. The walls were littered with posters of boy bands and other things that resembled the fascination of a girl like Candy.
William sighed. “My father seems to think I’m an eleven year old girl.”
He just gave me a look of confusion. Alas, he did not understand my witty and sarcastic banter.
“Never mind,” I said
“So,” I continued, “this was your master plan. To keep me in your bedroom while my group starts World War III.”
“Yeah, pretty much. I told you, this was kind of planned on a whim. I have to go. Now, you stay here and, please, for the love of God, don‘t do anything irrational.”
With that he was out the door.
For the rest of the day I sat on his bed and tried to sort out my thoughts.
As far as I knew the Little Sisters had gone rogue, got the battery to the Enhancer, used the Enhancer on themselves (which may turn out to be a problem), and were now off to rescue me. Of course, in reality I had no clue what was going on with them or how to contact them.
But I knew this was going to turn into a gigantic mess, if it wasn’t already.
I then got bored of sorting out my very cunfuzzled brain and decided to explore the extremely girly room of William Breachgate.
Let me tell you, beneath the feminine exterior of that room there was…absolutely nothing. It was as if he didn’t even live here. No diaries, no paper work, nothing personal whatsoever. I assumed he was hiding it from his dad; I would too if I were him.
Suddenly something popped into my head. What about the Big Brothers? What was going on with them? I knew they wouldn’t be getting the battery anytime soon, but if they were still on the mission, or at the very least still loyal to The Front, they could wreak havoc all over our very loosely formed plan. I thought about this until it literally ate away at my brain cells. I couldn’t wait for Will to get here so we could figure out what to do next.
It was dark outside by the time he came home. He gently shut the door behind him.
“I have to admit,” he said, “I was expecting the house to be burnt down.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said. “I have a problem. What about the Big Brothers? What are we going to do about them? They’re still on this mission and they’re still on The Front’s side. What are we……’
I was interrupted by his laughter.
“What’s so funny? This is serious.”
“I know. It just you’re a little late. I already took care of that. While you were sleeping I contacted the Big Brothers and left a message telling them to abort mission and The Front didn’t have any use for them anymore.”
I was so relieved I almost decided not to ruin it by asking questions.
“Wait, how did you get in touch with the Big Brothers?”
“We have equipment that allows us to communicate with them, it’s hooked up to van we gave them.”
“Hold up, you gave them all sorts of fancy equipment and a van. Why don’t the Little Sisters have any of this.”
“The Front is planning on killing you, remember. There really wasn‘t much of a point supplying you with luxuries. Besides, you’re better at taking care of yourselves, you didn’t need it. ”
I guess that answered that then.
“How did you get in touch with the Little Sisters? You know, to give us our missions?”
“There was some sort of system between one of the agents in New York and Jess. It wasn’t that complicated. He told her when to come get information about the mission, and she came.”
There was a brief, very awkward silence.
“What do we do now?” I asked
I raised my eyebrow.
“Don’t worry. I’ll sleep on the floor,” he said
I laughed. “Well it is the least you can do considering you kidnapped me.”
He went to his closet and pulled out his pajamas. Along with them, a pile of clothes that came plummeting to the ground. He picked them up hastily, but not before I caught glimpse of a very glittery women’s petite shirt.
“Will, are you in the closet?” I asked, thoroughly delighted with my pun
“Ha ha. Very funny, it’s my girlfriend’s.”
I smiled, not at all ready to put this to rest. “Uh huh, and how would this said girlfriend feel if she knew you had another women sleeping in your bed tonight.”
He glared at me. “I don’t think it counts unless I’m sleeping in there with you.”
With that he took his pajamas and headed towards the bathroom door. He then turned around and looked at me with a devious grin.
“Did you just call me Will?”
The cocky smile dropped from my face, “I-I”
“I know it’s common for someone to develop feelings for their captor in the case of Stockholm syndrome, but shortening my name? Already? So soon? I expected a little more out of you, Maya.”
For once I couldn’t think of anything to say.
And the point goes to… Will…iam
The next three days seemed to pass by both quickly yet painstakingly slow. I had no clue how to get in contact with the Little Sisters.
Jess had never told us how The Front had gotten in contact with us, and from what Will said, it wouldn‘t be any use to me if I knew. As far as I was concerned, the spirit of Elvis Presley could come down on his magical unicorn and whisper it in a song to Jess as she slept and it still wouldn‘t help.
I was dying to figure out what was happening with them. In the mean time I amused myself by making a mental list of everything I knew about Will.
1. He had a girlfriend. Her name was Miranda.
2. I hated Miranda (ok, so that one wasn’t technically about Will, but still).
3. He absolutely hated his father, and believed what The Front was doing was wrong.
4. He was not a respected member of The Front. In fact, it seemed like he was practically a joke to everyone in The Front. Sending him on a kill mission was his father’s way of “toughening him up.”
5. He liked seafood.
6. He apparently had a lot of pop tarts lying around, because that was my main food source. Luckily, I found pop tarts quite delicious.
I had just finished one of the books I found in his bedroom when Will came in and shut the door behind him.
“How was work?” I asked. Geez, I sounded like I was married to the guy.
“Fine,” he said, throwing a packet of pop tarts on the bed.
However, it didn’t seem like things had gone fine at all. He was pale and his eyes were wide. He looked nervous about something.
“What’s wrong?” I asked
He sighed and sat down next to me on the bed.
He rubbed his hands on his black slacks and cleared his voice.
“Listen, Maya. I heard something at work today and I think you should know about it.”
I raised my eyebrow.
He briefly made eye contact with me before looking back down to the floor.
“Well, these two guys were talking about a mission they had just returned from. They said that a member of the Little Sisters, I’m assuming Jess, called in a couple days ago, and said she had some urgent information to share. My father set up a meeting with her. They met at an old hunting shanty and Jess said some members of her group had gone Anti-Front and had taken the battery. My dad decided the Little Sisters, or at least the ones left, weren’t of any use to The Front anymore, and they couldn’t just let them go on their merry way. The mission turned into a capture and kill. They captured the Little Sisters and are holding them at Branch 7. In two weeks The Front is going to kill them in public, and use them as live propaganda to show what happens when The Front doesn’t get the results from their employees.
“What? That’s horrible. How can this happen?”
I couldn’t believe it. I knew immediately it was Faye and Dakota that Jess had turned in. I didn’t think it would happen this way. I thought once Faye explained what was going on all the Little Sisters would join her, go Anti-Front, and then save me. My plan just got more and more messed up by the minute.
“The Front can do whatever they want,” said Will. “I swear to God, I looked everywhere; I couldn’t find where they’re keeping them.”
“Are you sure they are keeping them in Branch 7?”
“Well,” I said. “We’ll just have to go look again.”
“Whoa. What are you talking about we? Tomorrow I’ll go and look for them again.”
I nearly laughed in his face. “Do you seriously think I’m just gonna sit here while the people I care about are in deep, deep shit. Now you listen to me, bucko, we’re going to go and find them, right now.”
“Maya, we have to be rational.”
“Oh yeah, like you were being rational when you decided to kidnap me. None of this would even be happening if it weren’t for you.”
“Hey, I know things are a mess, but let’s not forget I saved you. They were going to kill you guys, remember.”
And now they’re still trying to kill us.
“Well, I’m going to go get my girls whether you come with me or not.”
I walked over to his widow and pried it open. It wasn’t that far away from the ground. I had definitely done worse.
“Wait,” said Will. “I’m coming with you. Besides, you don’t even know where the building is located.”
I shrugged my shoulders and smiled. “If you can’t beat me, join me.”
He snorted and walked towards me.
It took about 15 minutes to get to The Front’s building. Not until then did I think that Will’s dad might have heard us when we drove away.
“Hey, Will,” I asked, “wouldn’t your dad be able to hear us pulling out of the driveway?”
“Nah,” he said. “He’s not even home. He’s at a lady friend’s house.”
I growled at him. “If he’s not home, then why did we climb out the window when we could have just walked out the door?”
He smirked evilly at me. “I wasn‘t about to poke the bear.”
I sighed as we pulled into a huge parking lot and Will parked his car into the far corner. My mouth dropped in amazement. I knew The Front’s branch buildings were impressive, but this surpassed even my highest expectation. Even in the dark, I could see in front of me a huge building that seg-wayed off into at least thirty other building. Each had a foundation of brick, but then turned into shiny metal. Large piping covered the roof. White smoke came rolling out of the pipes like lava out of a volcano. Enormous flood lights covered the building making it look like city night life. And bordering the whole massive compound was a huge metal fence.
I was pretty sure this was some sort of high-tech Hell.
We got out of the car and walked towards the fence. Will entered in the password into the keypad and a beeping sound filled the air. Slowly the metal door began open.
“Hurry,” said Will. “Hopefully the surveillance guys are all asleep, but just in case, we should probably do our best to stay out of the way of any video cameras.”
We entered the main building, and, let me tell you, the interior was just as impressive as the exterior. However, I didn’t have time to look around. I had people to find.
“Where was the last place you looked?” I asked Will as we went down a wide hallway. My shoe squeaked uncomfortably loud against the waxy floor.
“I’ve already checked all the main levels, and all the holding cells. I supposed it would make the most sense to keep them in one of those places. Now, I don’t know where they could be hiding them.”
My mind flashed back to when I was waiting outside Middleburg State Penitentiary waiting for Jess and Faye to get the money. It was on the top floor, wasn’t it?
For some reason I had the feeling my gang was on the top floor here too.
“Did you check the top floor?” I asked Will
“No, but there’s no reason too. The only things up there are old files and out dated equipment.”
I grabbed his hand and pulled him along with me. “Off to the top floor we go. Show me the way to the stairs.”
Instead of the staircase, he led me to an elevator. Will pressed the button at the top and it lit up. I had ridden in an elevator before, but this one was different. This one went up and down smoothly, and fast. I could barely feel the difference between when we were moving and when we were still. We were at the top level before I knew it.
The sliding doors opened to reveal a hallway much different than the one downstairs. It was small, dull and dirty.
As we stepped out, I had no clue where to start looking. When Will said there was nothing but old documents and equipment, he wasn’t kidding. And there were a lot of them.
“So,” I said. “Where should we start?”
“I have no clue,” he said. “I haven’t been up here for as long as I can remember. Your guess is as good as mine.”
Since there was so much ground to cover, and neither one of us really had any clue where to begin, we decided to split up.
“Here,” Will said before we went our own ways. “You can call me on this if you find anything. It’s my work phone, so don’t think you’re going to have any fun looking through it. I have my personal phone.”
I took the phone out of his hand. It was just a big black screen.
I looked at him confused. “Where are the buttons?”
He looked at me with equal confusion, as if he couldn’t believe I didn’t know how to use a smartphone.
He took the phone from me and pressed a button on the side. Suddenly, the black screen became bright blue with little squares strategically placed on it. He pressed one of the little squares and out of nowhere the numbers to call someone appeared inside the screen.
“Here,” he said, handing it back to me. “When you want to call me just dial #229, until then, don’t touch it.”
I shrugged my shoulders and placed it into my pocket.
“Works for me.”
With that he headed towards the left and I headed towards the right.
I checked just about every room and was getting seriously discouraged. There was absolutory nothing but old dusty boxes stacked on old dusty book shelves. Now I could see why Will never wanted to come up here. It was boring. I turned into one of the last room, labeled 1090. I didn’t look any different from the others. Loose papers were scattered all over the place and dust bunnies lurked in every corner.
Suddenly a cold chill blew my hair away from my face. I looked at the window on the wall in front of me and realized it was left partially open; the cool night air blew through. I went over and was about to shut it before I thought better of it. If someone left the window open on propose, they’d know someone had been snooping around up here.
It was obvious by the open window someone had been up here recently, nobody leaves a window open in a place they never expect to go into again, or at least that was the reason I came up with as motive to call Will.
I pressed the button inside the screen and held the so -called cell phone to my ear, the dial tone blasted in my ear drum. Will quickly picked up the phone.
“You find something?” he asked. I briefly wondered how he knew it was me, but decided it didn’t matter.
“Yeah, I’m in room 1090, towards the very end of the hallway. The window’s open, I think that’s a little strange considering you said no one ever comes up here.”
I heard Will sigh from the other end of the phone. I could tell he thought this was an incredibly stupid suspicion, but he said he’d come anyway.
“I’ll be right there.”
I hung up the phone and stuck it in my pocket. I stood there awkwardly for a second, wondering whether I should wait for Will or continue to scope the room out.
I decided to scope the room out, obviously.
I went through the cardboard box nearest to me and found nothing but old reports and out dated personnel records. The second box was hardly differed from the first. I walked over to the bookshelf that covered most of the wall on the right side of the window. I ran my fingers over the book’s harsh leather bindings. When I was a little girl there was a book our older brother Jack used to read to us all the time. It was a picture book about a train or something; I couldn’t even remember the title. I smiled sadly at the memory. That was my favorite time in our childhood, before the Little Sisters, things were a little happier back then, before Jack left us alone with her. Looking back, I didn’t blame him, we eventually left her too.
I picked up one of the books and skimmed through it. There was nothing of interest, but it didn’t stop me from skimming the next book on the shelf. It was when I picked up the third book things got strange.
Inside the blue book labeled The Attorney of Law was a large hollowed out portion that held a key pad almost identical to the one at the gates.
I prayed Will would hurry.
I set the book down and peeked out the hallway. I saw Will quickly walking towards me and waved for him to hurry up. He picked up his pace as he came closer.
“Hurry up,” I harshly whispered. “I found something.”
“Yeah, I know: the window.”
“Forget the window. I found something bigger.”
He ran into the room as I went back to the shelf and picked up the book.
“Look at this.” I opened the book and showed him the key pad.
“Did you know about this?” I asked
He shook his head and took the book from me.
“Let me try something.” He took the key pad out of the book and typed in the same pass code he used at the front gate. Nothing changed except a few beeps that signaled he was incorrect.
He sighed. “If we try to many times it will automatically default and send a signal to the surveillance team of a possible security breech.
“Hold on,” said Will, after we stood there in painful silence for a good five minutes “Let me try my father’s personal passcode, he uses it for everything.”
He typed in the numbers , and sure enough, a light on top of the key pad flickered green and the book shelf began to slide open, revealing a long hallway with a rusty red carpet and blindingly white walls. It was obvious someone had been here recently. The place was stark clean compared to the rest of the attic.
Judging by the look on Will’s face, he was not aware of the secret passages inside of his work place.
I shrugged and dramatically sighed, “I guess you were right, there was no reason to search in the attic.”
He growled at me. Apparently he didn’t find my sarcasm nearly as humorous as I did.
I couldn’t help it. It was my way of dealing with the hysterical panic building up inside of me.
I took a deep breath, “Well, come on then.”
We walked down the hallway very slowly, as if we were entering in to another world. Suddenly the hallway opened up into a huge room full of foreign equipment that looked like it belonged to another dimension. All of it was placed strategically on a huge control panel.
In the middle of the room was something that resembled a huge fish tank with fist sized holes in the middle.
Inside the glass prison was Jess, Flo, Charlee, Kitty, and Candy.
“Maya!” screamed Candy as she beat against the glass.
I ran over to them and curled my fingers in one of the holes.
“It’s going to be alright. We’re going to get you out of here, and everything will be okay.”
They all started to cry, their cheeks were already stained with tears, but this time they were happy tears. Mine were too.
They started saying things at the same time. Candy’s hand enclosed around mine.
Jess’s voice rose above the others. “Oh God, Maya, I’m so sorry. I should have listened to Faye, but I didn’t.”
“Where are my sisters?” I asked. Although, for the most part, I knew they wouldn’t be here, there was still a part of me that had doubted.
“I don’t know,” said Jess. “She came to me with the battery, said something about going Anti-Front. I told her to give me the battery but she wouldn’t. And then… and then I said I was going to turn her in.”
She began to hysterically sob.
“It’s alright,” I said, even though it wasn’t alright.
I turned to Will, who was standing at the huge control panel.
“Can you get them out?’ I asked
“I don’t know. This stuff isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen before.”
All of a sudden an ear piercing noise blasted through the air. It sounded like a police siren, except magnified by tenfold.
“What’s happening?” screamed Kitty.
I turned to Will as he ran up to me and grabbed my wrist.
“They know we’re here. It’s the security alarm. We have to go before they catch us.”
I turned to my group. They all looked very panicked.
“I have to go, but don’t worry, I’m going to get you out of here.”
“We know you will,” said Charlee. “Now go. We don’t want our rescuers being thrown into jail too, now do we?”
I smiled and turned away from them. We ran out of the room and quickly shut the bookshelf.
We sprinted down the attic hallway and took the emergency stairs down, instead of the elevator.
It was amazing how much bigger a building seemed when you were trying to escape from it. We got to the main floor when I heard footsteps behind us.
“There they are! C’mon,” someone shouted from behind us
We ran even faster. As we got to the door Will aggressively waved his badge in front of it and it painstakingly began to slowly open. We didn’t wait for it to open all the way before we both slipped through it and ran into the yard. The two security guards were right on our heels.
“Over here,” I beckoned Will to follow me into the shadows where the light from the street lamps weren’t shining so brightly and we’d be harder to see.
Will ran towards me and I ran to the fence that separated the building from the parking lot.
I climbed up the fence, swung my legs over the top, and climbed about half way down before I let go and landed effortlessly on my feet. I rubbed my hands together to get the metallic residue off my fingers.
“Your turn,” I shouted to Will
He looked nervous, but when he heard the distant shouts of the people chasing us,
He began to climb. He was pretty good, not as good as I was, but still pretty good. That is, until he got over the top. Then, he fell the whole fifteen feet down and landed on his back with a sickening thud.
He groaned, in my opinion, way over dramatically as he stood up.
I smiled at him. “What, you can climb out a window, but the fence was too much for you?”
He growled at me as we hurried to the car
….And the point goes to Maya
Neither of us spoke until we were far away from the building.
“We have to contact Faye, Dakota, and Theresa,” I said
“How are we going to do that? They don’t have anything with them to make that even possible.”
I decided I should probably tell him about the whole story including being able to talk to my sister telepathically and the possibility that she used the Enhancer on herself.
So I told Will everything, every detail blurted out.
At first he was angry because he thought I was making it up, and then, with some convincing, he believed I was telling the truth.
Then he was infuriated.
We pulled into the driveway and all was quiet. Luckily, his father wasn’t home.
When we got into his room, we started arguing again.
“ Even if everything is going as planned on their side of this situation, and since two out of three girls are related to you, I highly doubt things are going well, it would take at least two or three days for them to heal from the effects of the Enhancer. In fact, Theresa is still probably out cold from it. The possibility of them getting here in time to save your friends is slim to zero,” said Will.
He let out an angry breath of air.
“Wait,” I said. “If that’s true, then maybe they’re still with the Freedom Writers, we could just contact them there.”
“We can’t do that. If the Freedom Writers found out they enhanced themselves, Faye, Dakota, and Theresa are probably in deep crap.”
Suddenly all the anger drained from his eyes, and he just looked tired.
He rubbed his hands over his face. “What the hell are we going to do now, Maya?”
I couldn’t think of anything to say.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the door downstairs was slammed shut with a deafening bang.
“William, come here,” came his father’s harsh voice through the floor boards.
“Crap. He found out,” he said as he headed downstairs.
Once he was out of sight, I crept out of his room and pressed my ear to the heating vent in the hallway so I could hear what they were discussing.
From what I overheard, we got away lucky. There were no cameras in the attic, so surveillance didn’t catch where we were in the building, and apparently what it did catch was pretty blurry so Will was able to lie and say that he took Miranda there to show her around.
I sighed, Will was still in a boat load of trouble, but it could have gone far, far worse.
I leaned against the wall and tried to sort out the muddled heap of confusion that was my brain.
“What are we going to do now, Maya?”
Thump, thump, thump.
I wasn’t asleep, and yet I couldn’t wake up.
Thump, thump, thump.
A loud drumming filled my entire body. It was a familiar noise, but I couldn’t quite tell what it was.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to regain control of my body. Until finally I was able to open my eyes.
Thump, thump, thump.
I tried to push the noise aside as a brilliant intake of light flooded towards me. Everything was so clear. It was as if I had been living my whole life with my eyes closed. Above the thumping noise, I heard a high pitch buzz. I looked at one of the lights on the ceiling and tried to pinpoint where the buzz was coming from.
Suddenly, like some type of camera, my eyes zoomed in on the culprit.
Although the fly was a good fifteen feet away from me, I saw it as if I were looking through a magnifying glass. I could see each hair on its legs and hear its wings as they rubbed together.
It was amazing.
It wasn’t until then all my memories came rushing back to me.
I had been enhanced, which would explain why I could see that fly so vividly. I wondered how long I had been passed out. Or for that matter, where I was.
I pushed myself up in the bed I was in. I could feel each individual fiber on the blanket, that otherwise would have been soft, push into my skin.
I looked around, willing my eyes not to zoom in on every little thing I focused on for more than a second.
It seemed as if I were in some type of infirmary. The room was huge, painted beige and blue, and spaced evenly apart were at least twenty hospital beds lined up against the wall. I realized this was the “sick room” Cable and Adrian had showed us on the tour, which meant I was still inside the Freedom Writers. They must not have been that ticked off at us, if they had enough common decency to put us in the infirmary. I wondered how all the others were doing.
As I looked to my bed to my right, I saw Nari sitting up in bed, focusing on nothing in particular. Next to him was Dakota, and then Theresa, who both seemed to be out cold.
Thump, thump, thump.
That noise still thundered in my ears. I turned to Nari, thinking about what question to ask first.
“How long have we been out?”
I put my hand to my heart, suddenly realizing where the sound was coming from. It was my own heart. How could something so small make such a loud noise?
He turned to me and smiled. “About three days. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”
His heart must have been drumming obnoxiously in his ears too.
“Jack should be in here soon. Ace, Cable, Adrian, and he all woke up a while ago.”
“How long have you been up?” I asked
“About a half an hour. Adrian left to go get the others.”
We sat there in silence as we waited for the boys to return.
I felt so strange. Even though I was simply sitting in bed, I still felt a buzz of adrenaline, a consistent tremor of excitement was rushing through my body. Now I knew why The Front had named it the Enhancer. I truly did feel enhanced.
I could hear Theresa softly breathing from across the room, and could feel the particles brush against my skin that were being carried by the air, coming in from the open window in front of my bed. I could see things all the way on the other side of the long room with astonishing detail.
I heard the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs, something I was sure I wouldn’t have been able to hear yesterday. About two minutes later Jack, Adrian, Cable, and Ace walked through the door.
Jack looked startled when he saw I was awake, but then he smiled at me.
I felt my face turn about twenty different shades of red.
“Hey, Hermosa, you’re up,” said Cable as he handed me a glass of water that I assumed was originally met for Nari.
I saw Nari role his eyes good naturedly as I reached out to accept the drink.
Apparently I gripped the glass with a little too much force, because as I took it out of Cable’s hand, it shattered into a million pieces.
Cable just laughed, “What do you know, Jack, she did the same thing you did.”
This caused my face to turn even redder.
I decided to get right down to business.
“How much trouble are we in?”
Jack’s smile turned into a small smirk, “Well, while you took a three day nap, you left me to deal with the fireworks. They were pissed at first, especially Heidi, but we managed to talk out a compromise. You can, and I quote “Do what you gotta do” if we promise to officially join the Freedom Writers and let them have the Battery.”
“What, you want it to be more complicated?”
I was grateful. It would make sense that was all they wanted from us, after all, if they had us on their team, not to mention the tool to make more people like us, the Freedom Writers would have a big one-up on The Front. Plus, since I was anti-Front and they were anti-Front, why wouldn’t I join them?
“Why are they letting us save Maya? I mean, their just gonna let us, the most sought out people in America, go off on a private mission?”
Jack looked me directly in the eye, “They trust you.”
This hit me like a truck. People trusted me. Why did people trust me?
I thought back to our stay in Middleburg, when the guy who ran the drugstore told me all of his town’s secrets without even realizing it.
I mentally shook my head free of these thoughts. There was a time for philosophical thinking, but right now wasn’t it.
I looked as Jack pulled a small screen out of his pocket. It kind of looked like a very small, flat TV.
“What is that?” I asked
“It’s a cell phone,” answered Adrian. “The Front gave it to us when they were equipping us for the mission. Didn’t you guys have all this stuff?”
I shook my head.
Jack held the cell phone in front of me and Nari scooted leaned over so he could see it as well.
“I got this message from a member of The Front. It says we’re no longer on the mission, or part of The Front for that matter.”
Instead of explaining it any farther, he pressed the play icon and let me watch it for myself.
Suddenly the face of William Breachgate appeared on the screen. He began to talk.
“This is William Breachgate, an agent of The Union Front. I am calling to inform you your assistance is no longer required in the search for the Enhancer. We will not be calling you in for any future assignments. You may keep the equipment and the van. However, these items will no longer be linked to The Union Front and you will not be able to contact us. The Union Front thanks you for the help you have been to us. Good Day.”
The screen went blank as the message ended.
“It doesn’t make any sense. At first I thought maybe The Front kidnapped your sister in order to make it easier for the Big Brothers to complete the mission, but if that were true, why would they fire us?”
I didn’t listen to his question.
“He’s the one who kidnapped Maya.”
“How do you know?”
“It’s complicated, but I do. Is there any way we could find him or get in contact with him or something?”
Adrian got up from the bed he was sitting on and started pacing.
“I could try to trace the call. There’s some stuff inside our van we could use, but considering all connections to The Front have been severed, it could take a while.”
“You have to try,” I said
With that Adrian, along with Cable and Ace went out the door and headed to the van.
I was about to follow when Jack put his very strong hand on my arm to stop me.
He pointed to Nari
“You stay too.”
“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked, sounding very frustrated.
“I know you guys are going to think it’s idiotic. But I’m going to take you to the woods outside and have you run around.”
“We’re not dogs,’ said Nari.
“I know. But it’s the only way you’re going to be able to handle yourself is by burning up some energy. Solomon made us do it when he realized what was going on, and then Cable just did it for fun. Trust me, if you don’t run it off, it will get a lot worse than this.”
He pointed towards the shards of glass that still littered the floor
I sighed as I got up.
“Don’t worry,” said Jack. “We’ll be back before we miss anything good.”
Although it felt like a highly inappropriate time to go and run around, I had to admit, I was feeling a bit pent up.
As I got out of bed and started walking down stairs to the main entrance it felt like there was a monster truck inside of me that desperately wanted to go full speed.
I looked over to see if Nari was feeling what I was. His face was completely emotionless as we walked down the stairs.
I realized it must have put a huge dent in Nari’s macho ego that he had awakened a good two days after all the rest of the Little Brothers. To make matters worse, he had only woken up a half hour before a girl; so now he was trying to act all tough in front of Jack.
Guys are such idiots when it comes to their manliness.
I felt every eye on us as we walked into Game Central. I guessed the news had spread like wild fire. Some people were glaring at us menacingly as others looked in complete awe. Not that I could blame them. We were kind of medical miracles. However, that didn’t stop me from hiding my face as we headed to the back door.
The door practically led right to the woods. Since there was only parking in front of the main entrance, and obviously the Freedom Writers didn’t want unsuspecting customers using the door that lead directly into game central, the only thing in back of the store was a big garbage can and a thin strip of concrete that separated man from nature.
“You guys ready to run?” asked Jack. Obviously a rhetorical question.
“So we just …go?” I asked, feeling as if there should be some sort of process to it.
“Well, I suppose we could add some sort of pre-ritual of the running, but it seems a bit unnecessary, don’t you think?”
I simply rolled my eyes at him. The boy had a snide remark for everything.
I turned towards Nari. One minute he was smiling and the next he was a blur, running off in into the horizon at an incredibly fast pace.
“Your turn,” said Jack. “See if you can catch up to him.”
“Are you coming?” I asked.
“I’ll be right behind you.”
I smiled and started to run.
No, it couldn’t even be compared to running.
This was like flying.
Even though I was running at an incredibly fast speed, I took in everything around me. To my left I could see water droplets dripping off the under belly of a leaf in a steady pattern.
I looked ahead of me to see a glimpse of something red moving just as fast as I was.
I smiled as I ran after him. Since he was out of my view I had to use the footprints he had left behind in order to tell where he was going.
I sped up as I saw him moving through the trees. Deeper into the forest that seemed like it would never end.
He must have been able to sense me coming towards me, because the closer I got, the faster he ran.
I laughed to myself. That boy didn’t know what he was in for.
A head of us was a large creek which fit perfectly into my plan. I finally got close enough to Nari to attack. When he was just in front of the creek I pounced on top of him and we both fell into the water.
For a split second the water was painfully cold, but I adjusted to it unnaturally quickly. I opened my eyes under water and was shocked at what I saw. It’s one thing to be able to see so clear on land, but under water? Now that’s just cool.
In the creek I could see the bright green algae clinging to the sticks and the rocks as it swayed gently with the current. I shrunk back as a school of minnows swam right in front of my face. As I watched them swim away I could see each individual scale glittering from the sun.
When I turned around I saw Nari was under water as well, marveling at all these sights like I was. It wasn’t until then that a faint band of pain wrapped around my chest and I realized I was running out of breath. Nari caught my eye and we both swam up to the surface.
We were laughing at each other like morons when I heard a rustle. It couldn’t have been the wind. This sound was constant, a thump, thump, thump. It reminded me of the beating of my heart.
“Do you hear that?” I asked Nari.
“Jack’s gonna be here soon.” He smiled at me mischievously. “How about we give him a little surprise attack?”
“I couldn’t agree more.”
We got out of the lake and I did my best to wipe some of the clingy water from my face.
I started to run towards the sound of Jack’s footsteps.
This is fun.
I felt different somehow. More…more… alive. Yes, that’s the word, I felt completely and totally alive.
The footsteps came closer.
Suddenly I realized the footsteps were coming from behind us instead of from in front.
Jack was on to us. He must have known we were coming and took an alternate path so that he was now chasing us.
I squealed as I tried to run faster and escape the grasp of Jack, but alas, it was too late.
Jack grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back into a super strength bear hug as he lifted me off the ground. His other hand stuck out and he managed to grab Nari as well, who had been right behind me.
“Got you!” he exclaimed out of breath. “And you guys thought you could fool me. Eww, why are you all wet?”
He let us go and we all just stood there for a second as we tried to regain our breaths.
“We accidently fell into a creek,” I said bluntly
“Yeah,” said Nari under his breath, “complete accident.”
“You guys think you can control yourselves now?” asked Jack
I nodded. My legs suddenly felt like jelly and I doubted if I could even walk back to the Big Brother’s van, let alone hyper-run. But we managed to run all the way to the border to the woods within a minute. Apparently the forest wasn’t so never- ending when you were taking a straight path out of it.
We walked to the front of the shoe store and to the far end of the parking lot where the van was parked. I wondered where the Freedom Writers had all of their vehicles parked. I didn’t see any parked in the parking lot, and as far as I knew, they didn’t have any other place to put them. Maybe we would find out when all this was over and we came back to join the Freedom Writers for good.
Nari opened the van doors to reveal what looked to be a mini science lap inside a car.
How was it fair that the Big Brothers were given all this and we didn’t even get a van? We had to steal one.
The driver and passenger seats was normal, but the middle and back seats had been replaced with seats lining the van’s wall, and in the middle was a platform so raised it was more like a table. On top of it was a whole bunch of equipment. All I could identify was a computer.
I hopped in and sat next to Adrian, who was watching Cable at the computer.
“Look at you guys,” said Adrian as he shook his head at us, “you’re going to get this beautiful, beautiful van all dirty.”
“You guy feel all Normaled Out?” asked Cable.
I nodded, only slightly confused at his strange terminology.
Cable started talking without glancing away from the computer.
“Can you tell me what you know? I’m in to The Front’s database, but it won’t get me anywhere unless I can narrow this down a bit.”
I tried to think of what Maya told me.
“Umm…. It was the guy from the tape, William Breachgate. He’s… he’s… oh yeah, he’s the son of the leader of The Front. He took her after she fought off Tony Peek’s guys. She told me that he was taking her to one of their branches. I think it was in Utah. No, it was Ohio. What branch is in Ohio?
Surprisingly, Ace was the one to speak up. “I know that. It’s Branch 7. We’ve been there before.”
He nodded. But it was obvious he wasn’t going to go into a long back story about their visit.
“That helps a bit. Hold on. I think I have an idea,” said Cable, looking more serious then I had ever seen him.
I looked on as he started clicking the keyboard like crazy.
Despite the fact I had no idea what he was doing, I fought the urge to tell them Flo could do it better.
Suddenly the screen split in to ten tiny parts. A scamatic plan to each of the branches. He clicked on the seventh one and an enlarged, 3-D image of the lay out of the building popped up.
“Whoa,” I whispered. “That place is freaking huge. Are all of them like that?”
“You’ve never been to one? Didn’t you work for the branch in New York?” asked Jack
“Yeah, but we always had a meeting place. We never actually went to their building.”
“Hold on,” interrupted Cable. “What did you say the guy’s name was who took your sister? I can track his calling record and maybe trace his call back to the device he called us from.”
He typed in the name and a list of numbers and places appeared in narrow slots. It was all foreign to me.
Cable expression became more perplexed as he looked at the screen.
“Well, it seems as if none of good ol’ William’s calls were for us.”
“How is that possible?” I asked, kind of panicked
“Oh it’s possible. This only traces back the calls he made using The Fronts’s equipment. He didn’t call us from a land line at the Branch so he was either using a personal or mobile device.”
“Oh. And that makes it harder?”
I leaned back against the seat and let out a slightly over exaggerated sigh. I knew things would start becoming complicated again.
“What do we do now?” asked Nari
“We don’t do anything,” said Adrian. “You guys just sit back and let the master get to work.”
He got up and kicked Cable out of the chair
“What is he doing?” I asked Cable as he sat next to me.
He gave me a sly smile. “All though most would consider me God of all things technical, I have to admit, Adrian knows his fair share. Back in the day he used to steal credit card information by tracing people’s telephone conversations.”
“Oh,” I was impressed. Adrian didn’t really hit me as the bad boy type.
We all sat there in a tense silence. I know it’s kind of a cliché, but the atmosphere was so thick you really could have cut it with a knife.
Suddenly, Adrian said the most joyous words I’d ever heard in my life.
“I got it.”
I practically leapt into the air to hug him. He laughed as I kneeled besides him and looked at the computer. All the boys gathered around us.
“He called us from his home laptop,” said Adrian, “which I find a little strange. I mean, if it was an official message, don’t you think he would have contacted us from one of the Front’s building?”
“Yeah,” I answered, though I really didn‘t care.
“Can we call him or something?” I asked
“We can do even better. There’s a program on this computer that allows us to talk to people face to face, kinda like we’re on TV. William Breachgate has it on his laptop as well, so if he answers we should be able to talk to him directly.”
Adrian clicked a few more buttons and then the screen went black and the only thing that came from it was a faint ringing sound.
“Now we just wait for him to answer,” Cable whispered from behind me.
To my surprise, the person whose face appeared on the screen was not William Breachgate, but in fact, Maya, who seemed to be very busy shoving a pop tart in her mouth.
“Oh my God,” said Nari as he looked between me and Maya.
Jack nodded his head, “You know, normally I’m not a fan of the ‘surprise twist’, but I honestly didn’t see that coming.”
I didn’t pay attention to them.
“What the hell are you doing inside William Breachgate’s computer?” I exclaimed.
“What are you doing with the Big Brothers… inside their computer?” she retorted.
“Well I thought I was trying to save your ass, but apparently your pretty comfortable.”
“I know how it looks Faye, but trust me, Will is the good guy. But before we go into anything, you have to tell me, are you Enhanced?”
“How are you?’
“Fine. We’re all fine.”
“What do you mean we’re all fine.”
I let out a deep breath. “Long story short, we’re all kind of part of the Freedom Writers and the Big Brothers are with us now.”
She looked at me for a little while and then shrugged. “I guess that works. And they’re cool with all this?’
“The Freedom Writers? Yeah. Apparently it does some good to have superhuman teens on your side.”
“Wait, where are Dakota and Theresa?”
I looked at her skeptically. “They’re still unconscious. How’d you know it’s just the three of us and not the rest of the Little Sisters?
The look on her face changed to a heart broken expression.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, feeling even more panicked and confused then I already was. If William Breachgate was the good guy, like Maya said he was, then why was she still there? What did he want from her?
“That’s the thing,” she responded. “Flo, Jess, Candy, Kitty and Charlee have been kidnapped by The Front. When Jess went to turn you guys in…well, I don’t really know about that part, but I do know The Front has them locked inside a fish tank and they’re going to kill them in two weeks. A sick publicity stunt to try to eliminate opposition to The Union Front. I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it. It’s all over the place.”
Jack tapped me on the shoulder. “I heard Solomon and Heidi talking about that. Said they heard something on the radio about The Front publicly executing highly dangerous criminals. The Freedom Writers are disgusted about the whole thing.”
I looked back to the screen.
“What are we going to do?” I willed myself not to cry.
She leaned in close to the screen. “Will and I talked it over a little bit. He thinks the only time we can save them is literally as they’re about to be killed. It’s the only time The Front will be somewhat vulnerable. Is there any way you can come here, to help us?”
“Of course I’m coming. Geez, you think I’m just gonna sit here as you go off and risk your life?”
Maya smiled at me. “That’s my girl. The address is 1017 Parish Street, New Haven, Ohio. See you soon. COME QUICK.”
With that, the screen suddenly went blank, and I sat there stunned at my own conversation.
“You guys got all that, right?” I asked the boys.
“Yup,” said Adrian. “I already have the coordinates set in the GPS.
“Then let’s get this show on the road,” I said.
We walked back to the back entrance of the shoe store. We had made plans to get Dakota and Theresa and hit the road. If we had to fill them in on what they missed later, so be it.
I smiled at the thought of Dakota being asleep in the back of the van, all quiet and peaceful. I couldn’t wait until she woke up and the boys figured out what she was really like on a car ride.
Jack pulled me back a little as we walked.
“Before we leave you have to tell Heidi and Solomon of our change in plans. They’re going to need to know about this.”
My shoulders sagged. There was something dreading in the idea of telling Heidi and Solomon about all this. Maybe it was the fact I barely knew what was happening myself. I was still waiting for it to sink in. After all, my brain didn’t have quite the same “Fast-Paced Adventure Mode” as Maya’s did.
I shot a sugary sweet smile to Jack. “You could do it for me.”
He laughed in my face. “Yeah right. I could also be the prince of a small country, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I took the last blow for you. It’s your turn now.”
The strange looks we got as we re-entered Game Control were even worse than before. Not to mention, this time people came up to all of us to ask questions we didn’t have time to answer. I tried my best to answer quickly or simply pretend I didn’t hear them.
I scanned the room for Heidi and Solomon as the boys went upstairs to get Theresa and Dakota.
I saw Heidi sitting in front of a computer at the far end of the room. It was weird seeing her without Solomon somewhere near, considering those two were practically joined at the hip. She seemed completely immersed in her work as I walked over and wasn’t even aware of the fact I was there until I lightly cleared my throat to get her attention.
She smiled at me as she turned around.
“Well, it’s nice to see you doing well. I have to admit, it was quite an elaborate stunt you pulled. I had no idea who you really were or what you were up too. Jack just recently came to talk to me. He made it seem as if he was negotiating for the whole of you. I would have thought you all would be off by now. Are you not satisfied with the agreement we came too?”
“Oh no,” I said. “It’s nothing like that. To be honest I considered myself a part of the Freedom Writers before any of this happened. I have something important I need to talk to you about. I’d like to talk in private if that’s alright.”
Heidi looked around at all the people who were very indiscreetly spying on us and nodded her head.
She led me into the hallway and unlocked one of the unused rooms. The room was relativity empty. Only a few table and chairs.
Heidi sat down and motioned for me to join her in the seat next to her.
“Nobody should bother us here. Talk away.”
I began somewhat awkwardly, telling her about everything that happened from the second I woke up, including running in the woods. To my surprise, she didn’t interrupt with any questions about what it was like to be enhanced. Although her demeanor looked unchanged, I could hear her heart quicken and breath shorten after every word I spoke.
Just as I was about it to get to the important part, I heard footsteps coming in our general direction and the radio static of the voices of the people in the neighboring rooms softened ever so slightly.
“There’s someone coming,” I blurted to Heidi. She stared at me blankly, but sure enough, with in a minute, Solomon came strolling in through the door.
“Amazing,” Heidi whispered to herself. I didn’t bother to hide a smile.
Solomon simply sat down and told me to continue.
“Well, I’m assuming Jack told you about our plan to save my sister right?”
“In the van Cable and Adrian figured out how to contact the person who kidnapped my sister. I talked to her and found out the Little Sisters got captured and are about to be killed by The Front in less than two weeks. So now we’re meeting up with her and the agent who’s supposedly on our side, and we’re saving them. They’re my family. I know they betrayed us, but I have to save them.”
“Oh my God,” whispered Heidi. “Those people. They’re your group. That’s horrible. I’m so sorry. Thank you for telling me about the change in your scenario.”
Solomon was a little less empathetic. “As long as it doesn’t change our previous agreements, you may do whatever you see fit.”
I nodded again.
Suddenly Heidi slid her necklace off from around her neck and handed it to me.
It was a silver chain with a silver cross on it.
“You’re giving this to me?” I asked.
She smiled. “I’m afraid there is not much we can do to help you in this situation, but I can give you this. It will protect you. Now go before your entourage leaves without you.”
I was half way to the door when Solomon called out my name.
I quickly turned around. I was half expecting him to give me a gift too, as if I were going on some sort of great pilgrimage. Instead he simply looked me straight in the eyes and said,
“It’s time we start a war.”
I smiled and silently made my way towards the door, feeling chilled to the bone.
I avoided the gaze of gawking people by looking straight ahead. As I slipped Heidi’s necklace around my neck, strangely, I did feel more protected.
I ran out into the parking lot and headed towards the van. As I approached, I opened the door a little too hard and nearly took it off its hinges.
“Hey!” said Jack from the driver’s seat. “We kinda need that door.”
I got in the van to find everyone ready to go. Dakota’s and Theresa’s unconscious bodies were slouched sloppily in the seats.
“That was quick,” I said as I sat next to Ace. (I would have sat next to anyone but Ace, but there was only the seat next to him left.)
“Yeah, well, super strength and speed helps speed up the process,” said Nari.
I smirked. It was the first time I heard him speak sarcastically. By the guilty look on his face, I could tell he didn’t use it very often.
Jack stared the car and we were off.
Ready or not, here we come, I thought to myself.
According to Adrian’s interpretation of the GPS, it would take about a day and a half to get to Ohio. It seemed to long and not long enough.
In order to preoccupy ourselves, we experimented with our new found abilities.
We couldn’t really test out our speed and strength, because, well we were in a car, but we tried everything else.
After many hours we discovered that I had the best hearing, because I could hear the radio of passing cars for the longest.
Cable had the best sight, because he could see license plated from the farthest away.
And Jack had what I called the “Super Smeller.” He was able to smell the waste from a sewer plant that was over six miles away from us. (Cable looked it up on one of The Front’s handy dandy navigation devices.)
We also discovered that we could “normal out” and “gear up” (the names were courtesy of Cable). This meant we could lower our new found ability to the level of what it was when we were unenhanced, but we could also enhance our new abilities to a high caliber.
About four hours into the car ride everyone was driving each other crazy. Seriously, if I thought riding in a van with all the Little Sisters was bad, this trip was catastrophic. It was as if all the boys were intentionally trying to piss off one another. Maybe this was something boys did normally.
Unfortunately, once they were satisfied with the damage they inflicted on each other, all of them turned on me.
Their obnoxious questions and irritating antics only got worse as the ride continued. As much as they were annoying me, I had to admit, deep, deep, down I kind of enjoyed being with the guys.
Right before we were about to grab some take out, I saw Dakota’s body slightly stir.
“She’s waking up!” I shouted. I quickly took the seat next to her and Jack pulled over the car.
“Dakota,” I whispered. I was about to shake her shoulders when Jack reached out and yanked my hand back.
“Don’t touch her. If you wake her up too quickly you’ll catch her off guard. She won’t know her own strength and she might hurt someone.”
“How do you know?” I asked. I didn’t like him talking as if he knew how to take better care of my sister than I did.
From the corner of my eye I saw Nari’s dark cheeks become very red as he dropped his head.
“Oh,” I whispered, and quickly dropped the subject.
I stared at her intently as she shifted and let out a muffled groan. She opened her eyes and stared at me.
“Holy crap, Faye. You’re so bright.”
I smiled and helped her into a sitting position.
I was about to ask her how she felt, when Jack interrupted me asking the same question. I glared at him.
“I feel…” I could see Dakota looking for the right word.
“Alive?” I whispered to her.
“Very alive,” she said enthusiastically. In fact, she screamed it.
She quickly covered her mouth. “Sorry.”
Cable clapped his hands together and let out a sharp laugh. “See. I knew I wouldn’t be the only one to do that. And you guys said I was just being dramatic.”
I laughed. If anyone would have the symptom of word screaming, it would definitely be Cable and Dakota.
“Ugh,” said Dakota as she stretched out her arms and legs. “I feel like I’m a spring about to let loose.”
“You probably need to run, in order to get some of all that pent up energy out of you. After all, you’ve been out cold for close to four days.” I inwardly smiled to myself, glad I had beat Jack to the chase.
Jack took a slight detour and we all ran laps in an empty parking lot. It turns out all of us had a bit of pent up energy to burn.
After an hour or so we stopped for McDonalds and hit the road. I felt as if I was ready for anything. I only hoped that feeling would prove valid.
Deep down, Solomon’s words still lingered.
Faye, it’s time we start a war.
By the time William arrived home, at 7 O’clock p.m. sharp, I was practically about to burst. At that point I was so excited to tell someone about my cyber talk with my sister, I would have blabbed to the walls. However, Will didn’t receive my news with the enthusiasm I had hoped. He had spent the past half hour pacing back in forth, in deep thought, forcing me to relay the story to him over and over again in-between brief phases of scolding me for answering, touching, and generally breathing around his computer.
“Listen,” I said. “I know it was stupid, but if I hadn’t answered it, none of this wonderful stuff would be happening. I mean, my superhuman sisters with their superhuman friends are coming to save my betraying, backstabbing, not-so- superhuman gang members whom I love dearly.”
He glared at me.
I swiveled in his computer chair as he paced back and forth.
He let out a sigh and then collapsed on his bed.
“So let’s run through this again: you were here, eating a pop tart, when my computer rang.
“And so you decided, in all your brilliance, to answer my computer, despite the fact it could have been incredibly dangerous, ruined everything, and possibly even lead to everyone’s death.”
I sighed, “I already told you, Will, it was like I had to answer the computer. My twin sense was tingling or something.”
“Anyway, you answer the computer and Faye was there. Where was she?”
“With the Big Brothers.”
“In a van, I think, although I have to admit, I was far more focused on the extremely attractive men surrounding her than on their location.”
Will completely blocked out the last part of my last sentence.
“That would make since. When I sent the Big Brothers the message of their dismissal, I severed their connections to The Front, but I didn’t take into account that they could back track the call to my personal devices.”
“Now who’s the stupid one?” I mumbled to myself
“What?” he asked
“So then what happened next?”
“I asked if they were enhanced and Faye said yes. It turns out the Big Brothers teamed up with them, so they’re enhanced too. Now, they’re all part of the Freedom Writers, which I guess would make sense considering if you’re going to go Anti-Front, you might as well join an anti-Front group, right? All though I have to admit, I don’t really know much about that part. Does that mean that I’m, respectively, part of the Freedom Writers too?”
“Don’t know, go on.”
“I told Faye about the Little Sisters and she said they were coming to help. So I gave them your address and they’re on their way.”
He stared at me. “You gave them my home address, are you crazy? What am I suppose to tell my father when he sees them pull in to the drive way, ‘oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, the rest of the Little Sisters and Big Brothers have all turned against you and they’ve come to set free the people you plan on executing, and by the way, I’m secretly harboring one of them in my room because I’m anti-Front too. Surprise.’”
As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. Not only that, but where were we all supposed to hide once my rescuers’ arrived, surely Will couldn’t keep all of us in his room for the next two weeks.
Suddenly it hit me, and I felt stupid for not thinking of it before.
“Why don’t we just call them back and give them a place where we can meet? We can go to meet them, and you can just tell your father you’re going to Miranda’s house.”
He got up and kicked me out of my chair.
Will got on his computer and looked up his information history. Sure enough, the first thing on the long list was 12:31 PM #10275.
“That’s it,” I said as I pointed to it. “I remember the time.”
He clicked on the button and somehow got it to call them back.
The computer rang for what seemed like eternity
Pick up, pick up, pick up, I thought to myself.
Suddenly the computer screen lit up with the face of my sisters and a hodge-podge of boys.
“Hi Maya,” screamed Dakota. “Hi dude who’s with my sister.”
She suddenly got pushed out of the way.
“Hi. What’s up?” asked Faye.
“You know that address I gave you? Well, there’s an ever so slight change of plans regarding that. You can’t come directly to the house, because then William’s dad might figure out you’re here, and we obviously don’t want that to happen. So we need to come up with alternate place to meet.”
Will took my place in front of the camera. “There’s a motel about twenty minutes before you reach my house, it’s on the same highway, so just use the directions you already have. But when you get to a place called The Light Palace, pull in. How long do you have until you get there?
A voice came from the front of the car, out of the camera’s view, saying they’d be there early in the morning, 6:30 at the latest.
“So,” said a Latino boy with blinding white teeth, “you’re The Front agent who took Faye and Dakota’s sister. You’d better be treating my home girls’ home girl with respect, you be hearing me.”
“I already told you,” I said with heart, “Will’s a good guy, the reason he kidnapped me was to save me from Tony Peek’s goons, and also because The Front was going to kill us.”
I paused for dramatic suspense. Once I was satisfied with the amount of tense silence that had passed, I continued.
“You see, the Enhancer was designed to work more effectively on young guys, so The Front hired the Big Brothers to go find the Enhancer and the battery, so later the boys could be used to test it. That day Will came to fire us, they were supposed to kill the Little Sisters. But when Faye mentioned the whole ‘let’s make it a race’ idea, Will’s Dad liked that, so instead of killing us, he let us go off and find the Enhancer.”
“Will guessed if he kidnapped me, as rash as the decision was, you guys would turn against The Front and come and save me. But then Jess, Charlee, Candy, Kitty, and Flo went to turn you guys into The Front and got captured. Since they aren’t of any use to The Front, the girls will be publicly slaughter in front of the whole U.S., to show that you can’t defy them.”
I finally took a breath. “Everybody caught up?”
Everybody just looked at me for a second.
“Yup,” said the Latino boy, as if he were totally unaffected by my rather impressive (if I do say so myself) speech.
There was an awkward gap of silence that I decided to fill with small talk.
“By the way, my name’s Maya, in case Faye didn’t tell you.”
“I’m pretty sure she did,” said another boy just barely in the camera’s focus. “I’m Adrian, the idiot you were just talking to is Cable, this is Nari, and Jack and Ace are up front.”
There was shower of hellos. For a little while Dakota, Faye and I just smiled at each other, it was nice to be back together. Hypothetically speaking of course.
“Where’s Theresa,” I asked
“She’s still out cold,” said Faye; her voice was brimmed with worry.
Will nudged me out of the way and took my camera space again.
“About that, how are all of you feeling? How long were you each unconscious? What symptoms are you experiencing?”
“Whoa, easy there bucko,” said Cable
Faye took the questions seriously. “We’re all doing pretty well. There really aren’t too many side effects, although we can’t really control our enhancements too well. Um, let’s see. Jack, Cable, Adrian and Ace woke up a day after we were Enhanced, Nari woke and I up on the third day, in the late morning, and Dakota just woke up a little while ago, so that would mean she woke up on the third day in the late evening. Theresa still hasn’t woken up.
Faye looked around at the others, “Did I get all that?”
“Yes,” said Nari, the first words he had spoken.
The others nodded.
“Oh,” yelled Dakota “Cable and I sometimes scream our words when we talk.” She turned around and gave Cable a high five.
I smiled at her. “Yeah, well, you did that before, so I don’t think that counts.”
Will got out a piece of paper from the desk drawer and began to scribble everything down.
“And Theresa still hasn’t woken up?”
Faye nodded. “Is that a bad thing?”
“No. Not yet, but if she doesn’t wake up in a few days, it could be. The Enhancer obviously works better on adolescent boys, and I’m afraid being enhanced might prove to be too much for her.”
“Don’t worry,” said Cable. “She’ll be fine.”
His voice was solemn.
Instead of hearing the emotion in Cable’s voice, Will took this as a simple factual statement that could be rebuddled.
“Yes, well, actually we can’t be sure she’ll be alright, I’m afraid if she takes too long to wake up, her body will go into some sort of drug induced coma. It might already be too late if you compare her body size to the amount of chemicals coursing through her.”
I saw Faye’s eyes turn into saucers. I quickly smacked Will in the arm.
“What?” he whispered harshly, looking up from his paper.
He saw the worry in every one’s eyes.
“Oh,” he said hastily, “but, I’m sure that outcome is very unlikely.”
I saw Dakota open her mouth, when suddenly we heard the front door swing open and then slam shut.
“Remember,” I said quickly, “Light Palace Hotel. See you there.”
With that I quickly turned off the computer and Will went down stairs to meet his father.
Within seconds he was back upstairs. He went into his closet, got out a blue duffle bag, and started filling it with clothes.
“What are you doing?” I asked
“Getting ready to leave.”
“We’re leaving right now?” I asked.
“Well, it makes a lot more sense to be going to Miranda’s house for a sleepover at seven thirty pm than five in the morning, don’t you think?”
“Pack your clothes,” demanded Will.
I blinked at him, “And what clothes would that be, pray tell. I don’t really own any besides the ones I’ve been wearing this whole time.”
He went back to his closet and threw some of Miranda’s clothes into the bag.
“You can borrow these.”
I picked up a red blouse and put in back in the bag. “Yeah, you’re never getting these back, hope your girly-friend doesn’t mind. In a way this almost counts as charity, you know, giving to the poor and stuff.”
Will looked up from the item he was packing and smirked at me
“You did it again.”
“What are you talking about?”
He let out his breath in a superior sigh. “Every time I mention Miranda or even say the word girlfriend, you have some snarky remark.”
I decided to quickly change the subject before he won this argument.
“Why are you packing so much stuff? You have to come back here at some point anyway to make sure your father doesn’t catch on to us.”
“It’s not for me, it’s for you guys.”
I sulked a little bit. Sometimes I wished the guy would stop being so selfless.
He zipped up the duffle bag and headed for his door.
“Climb out the window and wait for me in the car.”
I did what I was told and snuck out the window. Luckily there were no outdoor lights, so I didn’t need to hide as I made my way to the very big garage (complete with four Mercedes and two boats). I stood awkwardly between cars, not sure which one to get into.
I waited there for a few minutes before the garage door opened. Even though I knew it was only Will, a jolt of adrenaline still sent a shiver down my back.
“What are you waiting for,” he said as he shut the door behind him. “Get in the car.”
“Which one?” I asked
“Which ever one you want.”
Awe, the perks of being loaded.
I got into the nearest car. It was blue.
We drove out of the garage and literally got three feet out of the drive way when Will’s dad appeared; Mr. Breachgate: the head of The Front.
Oh shit, I’m dead.
The color drained from Will’s face and I imagined I looked like a vampire as well. I prayed to the Lord Almighty as Mr. Breachgate strolled up to the window with an unholy smirk on his face. I wasn’t sure if I should hide underneath the seat, but I figured it was too late anyway. Instead I sat up straight and tall, hoping I looked confident and innocent.
I had never seen Mr. Breachgate before. Every time we dealt with The Front it was indirect. The friend of a friend of a friend, and from what I knew, he hadn’t seen me in a while either. The only thing he had of me was a shady profile and a blurry picture taken three years ago.
Let’s just say he looked more evil then I originally imagined. His steal colored hair and pail lips were emphasized by his very black suit. Will was very lucky he looked like his mother.
“What is this?” said the Devil’s reincarnation. “I thought I saw someone in the car with you.”
“This is Susanna,” said Will with a suppressed tremor in his voice.
I had no idea where he was going with this, but I hoped it was good.
“Ah I see. Getting a little action, huh. Don’t worry, Miranda won’t find out about this. Frankly, I’m glad. You have been with the same girl since the ninth grade and I haven’t seen you so much as hug her. I thought you might be gay”
He chuckled to himself and dismissed us, wishing us a good night. He walked casually back into the house, as if he were a normal dad wishing his normal son good bye.
“You’re father is sexist and a perv,” I said very disgusted. “Not to mention the evil, tyrannical leader of America.”
Will had turned about twenty seven shades of red. “I know. Why do you think my parents are divorced?”
“I mean, he does realize I’m only fourteen”
“Let’s just be grateful you’re not eleven, like you are in your profile picture or else we‘d both be dead.”
With that crisis diverted the only thing left to say was, “Let’s get this show on the road.”
The ride to the Light Palace felt as if it took forever. Will hadn’t said a word to me ever since his father almost caught us and I didn’t want to be the one to start an awkward conversation. Every time a car passed I got both excited and scared. Excited in case it was Faye and Dakota; scared in case it was a member of The Front.
It took twenty five minutes for us to get to the hotel. Let me tell you, this was nothing like the hotel we stayed in when we were visiting Tony Peek. The place really did live up to its name.
The huge building’s entrance was lit by a string of dozens of huge paper lamps that illuminated soft yellow light into the night sky. The edge of the building had narrow strips of garden that were filled with red flowers. I imagined they were quite bright in the daylight, although in the dark they had more of a deep maroon color.
We parked in the parking lot and I took the duffle bag from out of the trunk and walked into the hotel.
The hotel had the whole Chinese fung-shei theme going on that made the paper lanterns outside make a lot more sense. A pretty young Chinese lady had her head buried in a notebook at the front desk. She was so immersed in whatever she was writing she didn’t even acknowledge us until Will rang the bell right in front of her.
She looked up with a startle and smiled at us. “I may help you?” she said in thickly accented, broken English.
“Yes,” responded Will as I looked around the lobby and sat down in the oversized brown leather sofa. I was pretty sure this was heaven. Maybe Mr. Breachgate actually did catch us and we were now dead. If so, I was beginning to think we got the better end the bargain. I had never been inside a building so wonderful.
Will went on, “I’d like two rooms, preferably on the lower floor.”
The receptionist turned around and handed Will two “keys” that didn’t look like keys at all.
He thanked her politely and walked over to me. He handed me one of the plastic cards and shoved the other one in his pocket,
“You’re in room 106 and I’m in room 109.”
I nodded and followed him down the very florally patterned hallway.
When I arrived at the door to my room I took a good two minutes staring between the card and the door handle. I felt like I should’ve been smart enough to figure this out, but wasn’t.
I put down the duffle bag and walked across the hall to Will’s room, who had already let himself in without even seeing if I had any freaking clue what I was doing.
I knocked rather obnoxiously.
He opened his door and looked at me. “Yeah?”
I waved the plastic card in front of his face. “I don’t know what world you live in, but where I come from this is not a key. This is used to pick a lock, but not to unlock one and I’d very much appreciate it if you showed me how this works.”
He smiled at me and took the card out of my hand.
We walked over to my door and he showed me how the key that didn’t look like a key worked.
“You see that slot above the door handle? You slide the key into that and when the little light right there turns green it means the door is unlocked.”
He proceeded to open my door for me.
“Witchcraft,” I said as I took my key back and entered the room.
Will held the door open. “You’ve been inside Branch Seven and this is what you consider witchcraft.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “I was being sarcastic, Will. Now leave, I want to see if the bathroom works.”
He rolled his eyes at me and then shut the door. Leaving me to my business.
I looked around the room. The walls were painted red and the plush carpet was gold with red floral patterns. The king sized bed was placed against one of the wall. I smiled to myself and threw myself on to the bed and buried my face in the black comforter.
“Oh Sweet Lord, a TV,” I muttered to myself. Sure there had been a TV at our other hotel too, but it was nothing like this. This one was flat.
I promised myself I would go on a TV binge later as I got up and went into the bathroom.
It was the most beautiful thing I had ever set my eyes on.
I flushed the toilet, went potty, and the flushed the toilet again. I looked myself in the spotless mirror for much longer than I care to admit and decided that it was time for a haircut.
Sure enough, when I opened the drawer underneath the sink I found a tiny pair of scissors, a face towel, a bar of soap and tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner all neatly placed and just begging to be used.
I took the scissors and neatly began to trim my bangs and hair. Normally I tied my hair back to its desired length and hacked off all of it at once, but this time I took my time and tried to make it look somewhat appealing.
Once I was finished I admired myself in the mirror some more, gathered the hair that had fallen into the sink in my hands, placed the hair in the toilet, and proceeded to flush it once again.
I turned around and looked at the glistening shower. I got undressed and experimented with the knobs until the waterfall was nice and warm. If I thought a working toilet was glorious, than this was fan-freakin’- tastic. Not only did I feel the cleanest I had ever been in my whole entire life, but there was something about a shower that made you sound like a super star when you sang.
I got out feeling refreshed and quite confident in my vocal chords.
In the bedroom, I opened the duffle bag and found a comfortable, over-sized t-shirt to dress into that I assumed was probably meant for one of the Big Brother instead of my nightwear.
I settled into the bed and turned on the TV.
Let the TV binge begin.
By 11 O’clock I decided to hit the hay. I turned off the television and leaned over and clicked off the lamp. The pillows were soft and squishy and seemed to welcome me as I sank down in to them.
At first I thought it was going to be the best sleep I had ever had in my life. However I was mistaken. I tossed and turned, realizing I sank a little too far into the bed. I felt like I was completely incarcerated in linen.
Once I finally got comfortable I realized just how quiet it was. Nothing made noise. This was the first time in, well, my life, that I had slept in a room all by myself. I was used to shifting and snoring and sleep talking. It was ironic, I had always dreamed of silence and now that I had it, I didn’t like it at all.
Then the paranoia set in. Every little made-up sound became a pack of mass murderers who were about to massacre everyone in the hotel. The irrational part of my brain, I seemed to be using quite a lot lately, told me to go and see if Will was still up. It wouldn’t be that weird considering we’d shared a room for the past week. But still, another part of me knew I’d be killed for waking him up this late at night because I was scared.
“Don’t think about that stuff, Maya,” I snapped at myself. “You get to see your sisters tomorrow. Not to mention, you still have to think of a way to rescue you friends. Think about that.”
Needless to say I finally fell asleep in the middle of the night with many, many thoughts in my confuzzled brain.
I woke up to a loud knock at the door. The clock on the night stand next to me blinked four O’clock.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I groaned as I dragged myself out of bed and opened the door.
Sure enough, it was Will, looking refreshed and rejuvenated as ever, like he’d been up for hours.
This ticked me off.
“Go to Hell,” I growled. And was about to shut the door in his face, but he shoved past me.
“Come on,” he said. “Your sisters and the Big Brothers will be here soon and I want to be ready for when they arrive.”
He went over to the window and opened the curtains. This had no dramatic effect, however, because it was still dark out and the sun wouldn’t rise for another hour. He looked at the night sky for a second and then reached over and turned on the lamp.
“You do realize they’re not gonna be here until 6, right?”
“No, they said they’d be here at 6 at the latest, which means there’s a good chance they could be here any second. So hurry up and get ready.”
“Go to Hell,” I said again. I was aware of the fact I had just dissed him in the exact same way less than five minutes ago, but hey, it was four in the morning, I had to give myself a break.
I grabbed the sparkly shirt I liked and my pants from off the floor and headed into the bathroom. That place, I knew, would lighten my spirits.
“Do I have permission to take a shower, your Majesty?” I screamed
“Only if you make it quick, Good Peasant.”
I couldn’t have a battle of sarcasm with him this early in the morning.
I turned the water on cold in hopes that it would wake me up, and I did not go unsatisfied. I made my shower as quick as possible as I shivered. It wasn’t my fault I was far less of a morning person than Will.
I got out of the shower, dressed in my shiny new clothes, and ran the blow dryer through my hair. When I got out of the bathroom, I saw Will had his nose pressed against the window, holding a remarkable resemblance to a child at a candy store.
I crashed back on my bed.
“Wake me up when they get here,” I mumbled.
I looked up at him skeptically.
“What? Take a look for yourself if you don’t believe. But it’s not every day you see a highly technologically equipped van formally belonging to The Front pull into a hotel.”
“Okay, okay. I believe you. Now let’s go down to the lobby.”
Will and I quickly ran down the hallway to the elevator, which took us down to the main entrance. We arrived at the lobby before my sisters did, so we just paced by the door and waited for them.
The lady from last night stared at us from behind the desk for a little while before I finally made eye contact with her.
“You like?” she asked from across the room.
Considering I had no clue what she wanted to know what I liked, I just nodded and gave her a big cheeky smile.
I looked out the sliding glass doors to see Faye, Dakota and five boys, lit up by the street lamps. walking towards the hotel. One of them was carrying a very unconscious Theresa over his shoulders.
I ran out into the parking lot and plowed into my sisters before they even knew what hit them.
Our group hug lasted all of three seconds before their squeezing started breaking all of my rib bones.
“Oh, oh ,oh,” I gasped. “Ouch. Let go.”
They both quickly let go of me.
“Sorry,” said Faye. “We’re still not used to the whole being Enhanced thing.”
“You’re forgiven,” I replied. I couldn’t stop smiling at them.
I tried to block out the guy who was laughing behind us. I was pretty sure his name was Cable.
“Wow that was priceless. Faye, your twin’s my new favorite.”
I ignored him. I had to give him some slack considering he was the one carrying Theresa. Plus, he called me his favorite, so, who was I to judge.
“C’mon,” I said to everybody. “Will’s waiting for us in the lobby. We have a lot of business to discuss.
By the time we were all settled in my hotel room, it was already 5:30. Cable laid Theresa on the bed and we all made ourselves cozy in various areas of the room. Faye, Dakota and I all sat huddled on the bed around Theresa. We went through awkward introductions even though we all knew each other’s names from previous conversations, and then we went on to more urgent matters.
We decided to start with how to wake up Theresa.
My sisters and I moved out of the way as Will stepped closer to examine Theresa. He opened her eyelids and looked at her pupils.
“Her eyes are still dilating, so that’s good, but her reflexes seem to be regressing.”
“How long has she been out?” he asked.
“Four days,” Almost everyone answered at the same time.
“When did you wake up?’ Will asked Dakota
“Last night. Faye and Nari woke up that morning and all the older boys woke up three days ago.”
Will nodded. “It wouldn’t cause her any harm if she remained unconscious for a couple more days, considering you didn’t wake up all that long ago and your fine. However, it would be easier if we just tried to wake her up now. After all, we can’t be carrying around dead weight as we try to save your friends.”
The leader, Jack, raised his hand as if he were at school.
“Excuse me, sir, not that I don’t regard every one of the words that spill from your mouth as droplets of pure wisdom, but from what I remember, you are kinda low on The Front’s social ladder. And since the Enhancer is the biggest breakthrough since nuclear warfare I’m interested in how you’re the expert.”
Will turned about twenty shades of red.
I raised my eyebrows. I couldn’t tell whether I was impressed or pissed at what he just said. Either which way, I had to applaud his wonderful use of sarcasm. I could tell we were going to make really good friends or worst enemies. Although I had to admit, I was kinda hoping we’d be friends ‘cause this dude was seriously hot.
I turned back to Will
“I’d like to remind you of my kindness when I let you go. I could have easily told someone I had reasonable suspicion of your loyalty and ordered your deaths. However, I could easily tell somebody now, and don’t think I won’t stoop so low as to use that threat.”
The smug smile never left Jack’s lips.
Will smiled back and just like that it was as if they were best of friends. I’d never understand men.
Will turned his attention back to Theresa. “Now the question is how do we wake her up?”
“Smelling salts?” suggested Adrian as he swung back and forth in the swivel chair.
Will shook his head. “Those hardly work on normal people, let alone super ones.”
Nari got up from the other bed and walked into the bathroom.
“What are ya doin’?” screamed Ace. It was the first thing he had said since he had arrived.
Nari didn’t answer at first. He simply went in to the bathroom, got a wash cloth, and went out into the hallway. When he returned he was pushing a cleaning cart in front of him.
“Should we even ask why you have that?” asked Cable.
Nari rummaged through the cart as he answered. “We use to hang out with this boy named Ziggy when we were little and he had a brother who had diabetes, so he used to faint a lot. His family used to put ammonia on a rag and hold it towards his nose to wake him up. It was kinda their form of smelling salts, I guess.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Ace with an airy sort of laugh. “We used to draw mustaches on the poor kid.”
“You did. I didn’t,” mumbled Nari not quite loud enough for his brother to hear.
“Plug your nose,” he said to all of us as he himself did that weird thing where he sucked his nostrils in.
“Are you sure about this?” asked Will
Nari shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s the only plan we got,” said Adrian. “We might as well try it.”
“I second that motion,” said Dakota
“And I,” said Faye and I at the same time.
Will looked a little doubtful, but didn’t stop Nari as he proceeded to poor the strong cleaning fluid all over the cloth.
We all watched anxiously with our hands over our noses as he walked to Theresa and held the rag close to her nose.
For a painstaking second, nothing happened. She stayed just as motionless as she had since first she was placed upon the bed.
And then, ever so slightly, her head began to move, just a little jerk, but still. And then her eyelids began to flutter, and then, as she inhaled more deeply, she began to choke.
I giggled with joy and everyone burst out in to smiles. Cable even started to cheer obnoxiously.
Faye grabbed Theresa’s hand and gently pulled her towards herself.
“Are you all right sweetie?”
Theresa’s moaned a little, looked around to gather her bearings, and nodded groggily.
Faye laughed as she pressed Theresa in for a hug.
“Nari, you’re a genius!” she exclaimed.
He blushed and looked down to hide a smile. “It was nothing.”
Dakota squealed and jumped up and through her arms around him. “Oh my gosh, that was such a super hero thing to do. You’re like a super hero. You could be Batman or something.”
“Thanks,” he grunted as he tried to subtly push her off as to not appear rude.
She took the hint and flopped back down on the bed. Not offended at all, then again, Dakota never was.
“Where were you born?” Will asked Theresa for what I assume was to see if her memory was intact.
She stared at him silently.
“How old are you?’
We all just sat there awkwardly. Why was he even bothering to ask her questions, anyway?
“She doesn’t talk,” Cable finally informed Will.
It took me a little while to remember Will didn’t already know this. After all, we tell so many people it’s hard to remember who knows.
Will hesitated and then nodded.
We spent another hour or so doting on Theresa. She didn’t seem to have any pent up energy, which Jack said wasn’t common, but she seemed to exhibit all the heightened abilities everyone else possessed.
After that, we went down stairs to the full buffet breakfast (which was heavenly), and ate. Will and I marveled at Faye, Dakota, Theresa, and the Big Brothers. They all ate so much food I thought at any moment they would all explode. It ranged from Theresa, who only ate about twice as much as me, to Ace, who being the biggest, ate about as much as a pregnant elephant.
Once we were done we headed back to my room and talked for a good half of the day just to catch each other up so we were all on the same page.
“Shit,” said Will as the clock struck one in the afternoon. “I’ve got to get going before my dad finds out I’m not at my girlfriend’s. I’ll be back tomorrow if all goes well.”
I waved as he left the room and watched from the window as his van pulled away. I felt a little pang in my chest.
I didn’t like it.
I turned back to everyone else. It wasn’t just me and Will anymore, it was all of us, and so, it wasn’t like he was leaving me all alone.
I learned a lot about what it was like to be Enhanced (with as many demonstrations that could possibly be preformed inside a hotel room), as well as the Freedom Writers and the boys in general.
It turns out Nari hated spiders, Jack used to be a thief and live on the streets, Ace has more tattoos than worth counting, Adrian loved Mexican food, and Cable was a jackass, which kinda made me happy.
It also turned out that they were all a gang before they were recruited by The Front. Which I thought was pretty interesting because from what I knew, Jess had recruited all the Little Sisters.
I enjoyed myself; however, we got very little done regarding actually thinking of a plan to save Charlee, Kitty, Candy, Flo and Jess.
Once it turned ten O’clock at night we all decided to call it quits. The boys took the keys to Will’s room which he had left on the table. Before they left, I took out Miranda’s close and gave them the duffle bag which Will packed for them.
They thanked me and wished us goodnight.
“Good night, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” Faye said from behind me as I shut the door.
I yawned and took my t-shit out from underneath my pillow and changed into it.
“Now the real talk can begin,” said Dakota as her Theresa and Faye searched through the articles of clothing to see if there was anything they wanted to wear to bed.
“What do you mean?” I asked casually
“You know what I mean; it’s totally obvious you have a crush on him.”
She sighed, “Oh, don’t play coy. You know I mean Will.”
“I do not like Will. He is way too old for me”! I shouted.
“You so do,” said Dakota
“No offense, Sis,” said Faye, “but you hide the fact you like him worse than a telephone pole hides a fat kid.”
Both Theresa and Dakota nodded.
I was about to ask Faye where that analogy came from, but I didn’t want to change the subject. I had a retort that would make her eat those words.
“Oh yeah, well you can’t hide your feelings for Jack either.”
She blushed and tried to think of something clever to say but it was too late. Dakota had already butted in.
“Oh come on, we all have a crush on one of them. It’s impossible not to. For instance, I have a crush on Adrian.”
“Adrian?” Faye and I said together. Even Theresa giggled.
“Don’t take it personally, but why?” I asked, my eyebrow raised.
She shrugged her shoulders and got under the sheets of the bed.
“He’s spunky. He’s not afraid to be different. I like that.”
Well, I couldn’t judge her after that explanation. That was deep for Dakota and I admired her for her reasons.
We all got into bed. Theresa and I climbed in one; Faye and Dakota in the other.
I smiled as I closed my eyes. When they were shut I could almost, almost pretend things were back to the way they used to be. Looking back, I realized ‘used to be’ wasn’t so great, but I still missed it.
The first half the night was pleasant. But in the middle of my delightful slumber Faye woke me up and asked if we could switch beds.
“Why?” I asked, trying to fight off the need to kill her for waking me.
“Dakota’s a bed hog, and I can’t sleep with an inch and a half of room.”
“Oh, so you can’t, but you think I can.”
“C’mon, I’m so freakin’ tired.”
I dragged myself out of my bed and plopped down on hers. I instantly learned what Faye had meant. Dakota was literally sprawled to all four corners of the bed.
I sighed as I tried in vain to make myself comfortable.
My brain started to whirl wind into thoughts of the following days. I wondered how the hell we were going to pull this rescue mission off.
“Don’t worry,” came the sound of Faye’s voice.
“Huh,” I whispered back
“I could hear what you were thinking.”
“Oh,” I snorted as I commented on her first remark. “I don’t believe you.”
“Why?” she asked, raising her volume slightly. “I’ve been told I’m a very trustworthy person.”
I nodded even though I knew she couldn’t see me. “You are. I think it’s something about your eyes. They make people want to talk you, and trust you. They know you’ll listen. Jack was the same way.”
“Yeah right, Jack couldn’t listen to someone if his whole life depended on it.”
I realized we were on to totally different pages.
“Not the guy in the other room, idiot. Our brother, do you remember him?”
“Oh,” she whispered. I could tell I hurt her feelings and embarrassed her. I thought about apologizing, but it seemed so tacky, this wasn’t Hallmark. So, I just went on with the conversation.
“I’m the exact opposite. I can’t shut my big, fat mouth.”
“Yeah, but that’s what makes you a good leader. It makes you brave.”
“Thanks,” There was an awkward pause before I started speaking again.
“Last week we probably would have had that conversation in our minds.”
“I didn’t even think of that. We could start?”
“Okay, but let’s stop with all the gushy crap. It’s making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”
“Most people describe that as a good feeling.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t like it. It’s feels like I’ve eating something that’s too sweet and it makes my teeth itchy.”
She laughed, “You’re weird.”
We went on talking about random, stupid things until it was too early in the morning to go back to sleep.
I got up out of bed feeling miserable, but it was a pretty darn good night.
I smiled as I lay in the soft, fluffy bed.
I felt good.
Almost good enough to pretend everything was okay.
Almost good enough to pretend I was still part of the Little Sisters.
Almost good enough to pretend I didn’t have to save my friends from execution.
The time began to speed by in a blur. A daily routine was soon established and we all fell into are news roles as group members with ease.
In the mornings, Cable would come into our room to watch Spanish soup operas. (My Spanish had improved drastically. I went from knowing zippo to fifteen foreign words.) Every other day Will would come by and we would discuss our plans to save Jess, Flo, Charlee, Candy and Kitty. Around lunch times we would take turns finding something to eat. After that, we would drive a little way into the country to this huge field and blow off some steam. When we ran I felt bad for Will and Maya because the only thing they could really do was watch, but they didn’t seem to mind.
As our plan to save the Little Sisters became more detailed and solid, the more the advertisements increased regarding their deaths. Every radio station and TV had commercials for the execution of the ‘dangerous Anti-Front criminals;’ they blared over the speakers of every store we entered.
The girls’ deaths were to take place in Ohio. In Central Park at four O’clock on July 17th. An estimated 132,000 people were expected to attend. Well, 132,010 if you counted us. We soon realized there was something special about the date. It was Charlee’s sweet sixteen. My heart sank when I remembered that small detail. I vowed to myself I would do anything to save them no matter what had happened. I knew they betrayed us, but they didn’t deserve to die, especially not Candy and Kitty.
The date approached faster than I wanted it to, and I was near a full blown nervous breakdown when the day arrived.
But at last we were ready (or not). We were all piled in the van and on our way to Central Park. The ride was only supposed to take forty five minutes but due to my flaming high anxiety level, it felt like forever and a half. I tried to preoccupy myself with small talk. I poked around in Maya’s head for a little while, but she made it clear she was not in a talking mood, so I turned to Cable, who was sitting next to me.
He looked good in his black suit, identical to Will’s, and sun glasses we had all bought at a convenient store (all part of the plan). I could almost believe he was actually the agent he was going to pretend to be. Cable wasn’t one of those guys who was handsome because of his intense masculinity, but he could pull off sexy because of his boyish charm.
“Cable,” I asked randomly. “What’s your real name?”
He turned to me a little startled. I knew I had pulled him out of his deep thoughts. He smiled a little when he realized the question I had asked.
“There’s a reason no one calls me by my real name, Hermosa.”
“Tell me anyway,” I said with a pout on my face. I hoped he’d feel sorry for me.
“Promise not to laugh?”
“By the pinky.”
He looked at me with a long pause. “All right…. It’s Juan.”
I immediately broke my promise, along with Maya, Dakota, and Theresa, who were listening to our discussion. The boys all smirked, however I could tell this news was not new to them.
“You said you wouldn’t laugh, brat.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, repressing giggles. “I think Juan’s a beautiful name.”
“Yeah, whatever. Just promise never to call me it, okay?’
“Oh, trust me, I promise.”
“What’s Ace’s real name?” I asked just for the heck of it.
He let out a little chuckle. “You wouldn’t be able to pronounce it if I told you.”
The conversation quickly subsided, and with the brief moment of comic relief over, we all retreated back into our own thought bubbles.
When we arrived at the park I was surprised it was called a park. There were very few items of nature to be seen.
Cars were tightly parked next to each other for mile and miles, and by the looks of things, people had camped out the night before. Just in my line of sight, I could see a huge, white dome set up in the middle of the park. They really went all out for this event. The dome reminded me of one of those places where people played football games. It made my blood boil just thinking about it. That was what an execution was for these people…
A source of entertainment.
Well, we were about to prove them wrong.
Jack parked the van into the nearest available spot. We all put on our sunglasses, hoodies and other devices that would allow us to blend into the crowd.
I watched Adrian boot up the computer; he would be staying in the van and monitoring everything from a birds eye view while the rest of us concentrated on our part of the plan.
I looked on as he hacked into all 12 of the surveillance cameras placed all around the park. Luckily, none of them were places as far away from the dome as our van.
The screen split into twelve different parts, each square portraying a different camera angle.
“Geez, I feel like God,” Adrian whispered as he looked at the computer. I laughed.
He reached into a compartment in the table and pulled out a hand full of little ear buds.
He handed one to each of us and told us to put it in our right ear.
I did what I was told. I had the urge to take it out when the spongy fabric tickled my o -so- sensitive ears. But I tried my best to ignore the sensation.
Adrian began to lecture the group.
“All of your ear buds are in sync with mine, which is in sync with this computer. This means I’ll be able to talk to all of you, but you won’t be able to talk back, and you won’t be able to communicate with each other. But I’ll tell you everything that’s going on and make sure everything runs smoothly.”
“Ey-Ey Cap’um,” said Cable with a salute.
“Get out of the car so I can make sure this works,” he said as if he was a little nervous it wouldn’t.
All nine of us filtered out of the car and I slammed the door shut.
“Hello, hello?” came Adrian’s somewhat fuzzy, but still distinguishable voice.
I gave him the thumbs-up sign through the shaded window, which he returned with a big smile.
“All clear,” said Adrian.
“You heard the man,” said Jack as we all turned to him. “All missions are a go. Is everyone clear on where they stand?”
I nodded eagerly.
A smiled spread across his face. Not his normal smirk, but a toothy, cheeky, evil grin.
“All right then team, let’s make this quick and messy. It‘s time to raise some hell!”
As he said that Solomon’s words floated in the back of my head.
“It’s time we start a war.”
I smiled, not feeling at all happy. We were about to keep our promise.
We all exchanged good byes and good lucks and stay safes as we got ready to split up.
Maya, Dakota, Theresa and I then all got together for a group hug (it was a little corny, but don’t judge.)
Once we broke apart, I even gave Cable and Nari a hug. I briefly thought about giving Jack and Ace a hug, but the thought of hugging Jack made me turn beat red and Ace had an expression on his face that said ‘touch me and I break you.’ I definitely wasn’t going to give Will a hug. I hadn’t forgiven him quite enough for that. Jack came up to me and ruffled my hair affectionately, but not at all romantically. I was pathetic.
We all departed, going our separate ways to complete our common goal. Not until I found myself walking towards the dome all alone did reality finally hit me. We were just a bunch of kids. We could die. It seemed like no matter what we did, death was always a possibility.
I told myself to be brave. If I didn’t risk my life my friends would lose theirs, I had to be willing to be strong for them. For everyone.
I arrived at the wide entrance of the dome. People were practically throwing themselves through the doors as two security guards tried to block them and tried to collect everyone money.
Twenty dollars a pop.
I shimmied through the people, shoved my money into one of the guard’s hands, and forced my way inside the dome. If I thought the outside of the dome was impressive, it was nothing compared to the inside. Row upon row of seating circumference the whole place. Where the seating stopped several giant screens projected what was happening on stage. In comparison to the huge picture shown on the screens, the stage seemed small and unimpressive.
I was surprised at the number of spectators gathered around the stage trying to get a closer look at the criminals before the show began. My heart leapt when I saw the five of them. My eyes zoomed in and I got a better look.
It seemed as if they were each strapped to an electric chair. Brightly colored cords littered their body. Their mouths were gagged with cloths and they were wearing white jumpers to make them stand out. A physical barrier of cloths meant to separate the good from the punished. I knew why The Front dressed them in plain white. They were afraid if the visitors saw Jess, Flo, Charlee, Candy and Kitty and regular cloths they might become sympathetic towards them. This way, people could look on stage and instead of seeing five girls that might resemble an aunt or a sister or a wife, they saw things.
But if you looked closely; as closely as I was looking, you could see my friends faces were stained with tears. They were afraid.
I tore my eyes away before I started to cry. I slightly lost balance as my vision returned to normal.
I focused on the task at hand and looked up to find my assigned position.
Close to the stage I saw a fifty foot pole wide enough to contain an elevator. The elevator led to a small room with glass windows on all four sides. It was meant to be the private viewing room for the more important attendees.
According to Will, his father would be in the room. The leader of The Front hadn’t come to conduct the execution; he came to be amused by it. It sickened me.
My mission was to take out everyone in that room.
I walked down stairs that separated the rows of seats and made my way to the ground. As I walked past the stage I could see Will and Cable up there with the rest of The Front agents. There looked to be about twelve of them in all.
As I got to the elevator I was surprised to see there were no security guards securing the entrance.
My guess was there were more people in attendance than The Front expected and the guards were needed to control the mob.
Not that it really mattered. In fact, it just made my job easier.
I quickly looked around to make sure no one was watching. As if Adrian had somehow read my mind, his voice came in through my ear bud.
“No one is watching you, Faye. You’re good to go.”
I was about to respond, but stopped when I realized he wouldn’t be able to hear me.
Man, was I an idiot.
I pushed the up button on the pad and the glass doors parted with a ding.
I got inside the elevator and began to feel jittery as the door closed and I began to ascend. I had to turn away from the view, finding it upsetting to look down as the stadium became smaller below me. I had never been afraid of heights, but then again, I had never been this high up before.
The doors opened with another ding and I prepared to attack. All eyes turned on me, and then a very strange thing happened.
Will’s father smiled at me.
My shoulders tensed.
“Oh, hello. It’s nice to see you, Susanna. You are even prettier in daylight. Did Will invite you?” he asked.
I had absolutely no clue what was going on, but on a whim, I decided to go with it.
Forcing my body to relax, I plastered a big smile on my face and sat down on the plush, red seat, one chair away from Will’s Dad.
He laughed at me. “You can sit next to me. I don’t bite.”
I laughed, but didn’t move. I fingered the cross on my necklace nervously and looked around. There were only three other people in the room besides me and the leader of The Front.
There was a couple dressed in fancy suits that appeared to be their late forties. It was safe to assume they were large benefactors of contributors to the government and had bought their way into this seating. The other was a girl who only looked a year or two older than me. She had long blond hair and a nose that was ever so slightly crooked. The way she was dressed was completely contrast to everyone else. She didn’t look much better than I did.
That’s when it kicked in.
Miranda. The girlfriend Maya had told me about.
I turned my body slightly to the side, away from her, hoping she wouldn’t realizing I was wearing her clothes.
I didn’t have to worry about it though, aside from the one deadly glare she gave me when I walked in, she was effectively ignoring me.
She seemed to have more insight on the Susanna chick then I did.
I looked down out of the window towards the stage as the voices from outside died down to utter silence. I watched as Will took center stage and began to speak into the microphone. I found myself getting almost excited for his speech and what would soon interrupt him.
His voice was cold and monotone as he spoke.
“In a court of law, the criminals Jesslyn Chezelowski, Carlotta Sanaa, Florence Landon, Katherine Jones, and Catherine St. Louis have been sentenced to death for their violation of the following laws:
Conspiring against the Government
Executing acts of extremism against the government
Forming conspiracy theories against the government
and harboring knowledge of future attacks against The Union Front by Anti- Front organizations.
You all stand witness hear today to….”
And that’s when the plan kicked in, and all went wild.
Cable had moved to the edge of the stage to be in position to help Maya and Jack. Now they hopped onto the stage and joined Cable. Jack violently knocked Will away from the microphone as Maya took it into her hand. I watched as screens all around the dome lit up with my sister’s face.
Maya managed to say a few words before The Front agents tore her and Jack away from the microphones. Unfortunately, the only thing I heard was my sister saying:
“We are the Freedom Writers!”
“What the Hell?” said Will’s dad as he leaned forward to get a closer look.
That’s was when I took action. I geared up and wrapped my arms around his head and pushed him to the ground effortlessly. It almost felt too easy.
He took his hand and grabbed the material of my shirt at my back and used it to flip me over. I was on my feet quickly and knocked him across the head before he even saw what was coming. I winced as I heard the slightest crackle come from his head. I knocked him out within seconds. I turned to the other man and took a bit of an unfair blow. As he tried to back away from me, he hit the wall, and I kicked him forcefully in his very private place. As he fell to his knees defenseless, I kicked him in the face. It made me a little sick to see the dark blood gush from his nose, but I moved quickly to the next person. The girls were even easier to take down. All I had to do was push each of them into the walls and they were out like lights.
I was about to leave when I suddenly tuned back to face the crumbled bodies of the people left on the floor. I had to go back and make sure they were all alive. I couldn’t kill them. If I killed them then I was no better than The Front, and then what would be the point of fighting them?
Lucky for me all of them were still breathing and I had only knocked them out, although they’d probably be unconscious for a while.
I walked towards the window and looked down on everybody.
Maya and Jack had certainly accomplished their job, which was to cause a distraction big enough to set the whole place in panic. I doubted Maya’s speech would have done it alone, but when you combined it with them getting aggressively hand cuffed on stage, people knew something was wrong.
The people were pushing their way to the exist of the dome. There was yelling and screaming, and I could even see fights breaking out in various spots amongst the crowd. People apparently didn’t do well with unexpected deviations from the schedule.
On stage, Dakota, Nari, Ace, and Theresa had managed to get up there to complete their jobs.
Theresa and Dakota were working on freeing the Little Sisters, while the boys fought off The Front agents, who frankly looked just as confused and panicked as the crowd.
We had cut off the head, and now the body didn’t know what to do.
My next job was to meet Will so we could find Jack and Maya, who had been taken away to some remote place, just as we predicted.
There was some debate early in the week, as we were finalizing our plan, as to whether Will should come with me, or stay with the boys and fight. Naturally, he wanted to fight, but he grudgingly agreed to the fact that now even Theresa was stronger than he was and it would be safest if he came with me.
I knew that if I took the elevator back down, I’d never be able to reach the stage, or even be able to find it, with all the people.
So, I decided to do something extremely risky and stupid.
Maya would be proud.
I summoned all my energy and with a fierce swing and punched through the doubled paned glass window. I watched as the shards of glass fell to the ground.
Then I jumped.
Following the falling glass.
It was amazing, because before I felt like I was falling, just for a second, I felt like I was flying.
I couldn’t hear anything but the rushing of the wind and my eyes were forced shut form the speed.
All too quickly though, I landed, and I could feel every bone in the lower half of my body simultaneously combusted into flames.
I silently screamed and stumbled as I regained my balance and the pain slowly died away. I half ran, half limped to the stage.
Will saw me coming and as he jumped off the stage to meet me. Ace effortlessly took over where Will had left off with one of The Front agent.
“How’d it go?” he asked as he leaned over to catch his breath.
“Let’s just say one of those guys won’t be making any contributions to the gene pool any time soon.”
He smiled, and then took my hand and led me back to the stage, the last place I wanted to be near.
“C’mon. There’s an emergency door hidden on the side of the stage platform. We’ll have to climb underneath it, and when we get to the other side there’s another door that leads directly outside. It’s the only way we’ll ever get out of here with thousands of people at every exit.”
I nodded as he led the way.
Sure enough, at the side of the stage, there was a small door. Will opened it and we crawled through. I had to hold on to his ankle because it was pitch black, I couldn’t even see when I zoomed in with my eyes, not to mention it was very muddy considering the stage was set right on top of the bare ground. It wasn’t meant to be a permanent stage; I guess it really didn’t need a stable foundation.
“Are you sure you know where you’re going, ‘cause, no offense, but I’m starting to get real nervous.”
“Yes, I know where I’m going,” he said testily. “Geez, you’re just like your sister.”
I smirked. “Is that a good thing?”
“I’ll let you know when I decide.”
“Oh, here it is,” he said as he pushed against the opposite side of the stage.
Sure enough I was welcomed by a stream of almost blinding light.
We got out from under the stage and I stretched my back. Will did the same thing next to me. From what I could tell by glancing at his watch, we had been crawling around down there for a good five minutes. Normally it wouldn’t seemed like much, but it was forever when you were on an extremely time sensitive mission.
I looked around to see three rows of twenty cars that all looked identical to the one that now belonged to the Big Brothers.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“This is where The Front’s are vehicles parked. I’m guessing they locked Maya and Jack in one of the vans and were planning on bringing them back to the building once the executions were over, you know, back when they thought the execution was actually going to happen. I told Cable to meet us here with the others once they got out of there. I told him about the door too.
I nodded. “You think we should split up and look for them?’
He nodded and started walking away in the direction I assumed I was supposed to be walking opposite of.
I looked into the first van.
And that’s how it continued as I went down the row.
Soon as I approached close to the end of the line I heard pounding and screaming coming from one of the vans.
“Maya, is that you?”
“No, it’s Ted from Nevada. Duh, it’s me. Hurry up, I can literally see you. We’re three cars away. Jack broke our hand cuffs with his super strength but he can’t get through the door, there’s a key pad near the handle bar and you need some sort of code to open it. I think I know what it is, but you need to open it.”
I ran to the van they were trapped in. Sure enough, I saw Maya and Jack in the window. Jack waved at me like a jerk and Maya pointed down toward to the key pad.
It probably would have been a good thing for Will to tell me you need codes to open the doors before we left each other.
“Try: 4, 2, 1, 3,*”
I typed it in and just like that the door unhitched.
“How’d you know that?’ I asked as Maya hopped out of the van.
She shrugged. “I saw Will do it once when we found Jess and Candy and the others. He said his father uses it for almost everything. I figured I’d give it a shot.”
“Good job, Kid, both of you,” said Jack as he slammed the door behind him.
“You did pretty well yourself,” I said
Maya observed her nails, “Angh, I personally have seen better work.”
I lightly pinched her in the shoulder, but Jack just laughed.
“See,” she said, “he understands my sense of humor. Now let’s go find Will.”
Without warning, Jack pulled Maya on to his back and zipped off like a cheetah. I shrugged my shoulders and did likewise. We were by Will’s side with in seconds.
He turned around looking startled. “Oh, hi. You guys are here. Wow. That was -wow. Ok.”
He turned and gazed at Maya. “Are you alright?”
Jack intentionally answered Will’s question before Maya could.
“Yeah, I’m good. Although to be honest with you, being trapped in a small, confined place with a female did not take the same steamy turn I was hoping for. So I’m a little bummed about that. But I appreciate your concern, Bro.”
Will didn’t find Jack’s humor quite as funny as the three of us did.
This was the part of the plan I didn’t like. Maya, Jack, Will and I were just suppose to sit and wait here while everyone else was inside fighting and possibly getting hurt.
I could hear the faint sounds of yelling and screaming coming from inside the dome and my stomach twisted with worry. None of us said a word. We just left each other alone to fester in our own anxiety. Let’s just say it was the longest seven minutes and twenty seconds of my whole entire life (I kept time with Will’s watch), before the gang showed up, running towards us at a painstakingly normal speed.
I counted each of us as present in my head.
And me. Check.
They didn’t say anything as they came towards us. This was the part we were good at, considering we had been practicing it in the fields for the past two week, as we let off energy.
Will got on Jack’s back. Maya got on my back. Candy got on Dakota’s back. Jess got onto Ace. Nari carried Charlee. Kitty got on Theresa, and finally Cable carried Flo.
And if you don’t think doing that took practice, you’re wrong.
“C’mon,” grunted Cable as he lifted up Flo. “I don’t know how much time we have before The Front’s agents find us.”
And just like that we were off. At the rate we were going it would probably only take a minute or two to reach Adrian and the van.
I thought everything was going well when I heard Adrian’s voice through the ear bud.
“WATCH OUT! BEHIND YOU.”
But it was already too late. I knew the agents had no prayer of catching up with us.
However, their bullets did. I heard a bang, bang, bang, and the whistling sound of bullets flying past my head. I thanked God I hadn’t been hit.
Dakota wasn’t so lucky. I saw her crumple to the ground in front of me and Candy tumbled off her back.
Since me and Jack were the only ones behind her, we were the only ones who saw her fall, everyone else was still running for their lives.
We ran over to her and Maya jumped off my back.
I leaned in near Dakota, who was clutching her leg and crying hysterically.
“Dakota, are you ok?” I asked. I knew it was a stupid thing to ask considering she obviously wasn’t okay.
Maya pulled Candy close to her, who was also crying hysterically.
“She’s gonna be ok, honey,” Maya whispered.
Jack caught up with us and lifted Dakota into his arms like an infant with Will still on his back.
“I can’t walk,” grunted Dakota
“I know,” said Jack. “That’s why I’ve got you.”
He then turned to me and said, “C’mon, get Candy and follow me. Move quickly!” I took Candy into my arms. I wasn’t as strong as Jack was but we were pretty close to the van and Candy was small. “Go,” I screamed to Jack as Maya got back on me. I started running.
I looked back and sure enough at least twelve people all dressed in suits were running towards us. Luckily we had made it to the huge parking lot where it was harder to chase us through the cars.
Within a minute we had reached the waiting van. The doors were already open and everyone was cheering us on.
Adrian already had the car started and drove off the second we were safely in the car. We didn’t even close the door before his foot on the gas.
I roughly dropped Maya and Candy, and sat down heavily. I couldn’t help it, I was tired.
Jack placed Dakota more gingerly in one of the seats and he and Will both squatted on the floor because there wasn’t enough seats for everyone.
“What happened,” screamed Adrian as he turned his head to get a better look at us.
Ace, who was sitting next to him, harshly grabbed his head and turned it back toward the road.
“Keep your eyes on the road, man; ya wanna get all of us killed?”
“Dakota was shot in the leg,” yelled Maya.
Everyone was huddled around Dakota. This served to make the crowded vehicle even worse. I wasn’t paying attention to that though. All my attention was on my wounded sister.
“You’ll be fine. It’s all fine,” I kept on cooing to her. My sister, who was not much for pain, was still crying hysterically.
Jess pushed Charlee and Theresa out of the way and took their spot. She gently took Dakota’s leg in her hand and examined the bullet wound.
“Holy shit. Your skin is has already grown over the bullet. There’s no way we’ll be able to remove it here. Not unless there’s a team of doctors hiding underneath the seats. I’m sorry Dakota, you’re going to have to wait until you get to the Freedom Writers and hope they can get it out.”
Dakota let out a grown of half frustration, half pain. “Is there anything you can give me to stop the pain, at least.”
“Don’t worry,” said Cable. “Maybe we can stop at a store somewhere and get you some vodka.”
I couldn’t tell whether he was being serious or not. Although, knowing him, he probably meant it.
I looked out the window, and realized I didn’t recognize the area we were driving. Feeling confused, I looked in front and saw that the GPS was blinking in red letters, Error, Error.
“Uhh, Adrian,” I said, “I’m no expert when it comes to directions or technology, but aren’t we going the wrong way?”
“Yup,” he said. Everyone turned away from Dakota to look at him.
“Idiot,” hissed Flo.
“Well, dear red head, although I do not deny that I’m an idiot, I do have a just cause for going the wrong way. May I explain?”
Adrain made eye contact with Flo through the rear view window and raised an eyebrow. For the first time since I had known her, Flo was speechless.
I could tell Maya was doing everything in her power to not lose it.
Adrian must have taken Flo’s silence as a yes, because he went on to tell us just what the heck he was doing.
“While I was sitting here watching you guys. I started to think about our escape plan and realized it would be pretty easy for someone to spot us in an unauthorized Union Front vehicle just cruising down the highway. So I looked up a map of the area and saw, much to our convenience, that there’s a quarry right on the edge of a lake about twenty five minutes away from here.”
Maya blinked. “And how is that convenient, pray tell?”
“Well, sassy pants, if you need farther explaining, my plan was to take one of the cement blocks and put it on the gas pedal of this baby and sink it into the water, then we can hi-jack one of the trucks at the quarry.”
Maya shrugged her shoulders.
“Wow, Adrian, you are like, sooooo smart,” cooed Kitty.
We rode to the quarry in a severe anxiety. I honestly thought once we were all back together, everything would return to the way it was before the group split. I realized the elephant in the room, well, car, was that everything had changed and none of us wanted to admit it.
In order to break the silence, I decided to do a very random thing that had to be done at some point today.
I started conducting with my fingers as I sang Happy Birthday, and soon everybody joined in, even the boys, who had no idea why we were singing it.
“Aaagghhh,” said Charlee once we were done. “You remembered. To be honest, I forgot my birthday was today. You guys gave me the best birthday gift of all: life. Well, technically my mom also gave me that gift, but in a totally different way than you did.”
We all looked at her, a little confused.
“You’re welcome,” I finally said
We pulled into the quarry a few minutes later and Adrian drove the truck up to the edge of the lake. All of us got out (Maya and I held Dakota between us, she was still complaining) and watched as Ace took a cement brick from one of the mounds of rock and walked it towards the car.
Lucky for us, the quarry was closed today because of the execution. So there was no one there to see what we were doing.
For some reason we all clapped and hollered when the van crashed into the lake. I’ll admit, it was pretty awesome.
We cleared all the gravel out of the bed of a standard truck we planned to borrow. Jack popped the hood and started the car.
Jack, Will and Jess got to sit up in front, considering it only fit three people, and the rest of us sat in the bed of the truck.
I looked through the window at the three of them as we pulled out of the quarry.
It was weird.
Like watching three leaders of three completely opposite continents come together and try to act as one. I couldn’t tell whether it was heartwarming or plain old phony.
The ride back to Solomon’s Shoe Store was peaceful. It was nice to just sit back and relax and feel the wind through my hair. We didn’t really talk considering the wind was too loud, but every once in a while one of us would scream out the name of an interesting license plate.
I hadn’t had a chance to admire the scenery on our way to Ohio. Most of what we passed was complete waist land, but once in a while we passed a farming community or a little town with small, cute looking stores. We stopped in one of these towns, called Hectorway, as the evening approached, to get some food and take a much needed bathroom break. I couldn’t tell what state we were in. My American geography extended only as far as what I learned in kindergarten, which wasn’t much. But I knew we only had a few more hours to go and we planned on driving through the night.
Much to our surprise, after stopping at a fast food joint (the family that owned it seemed delighted and slightly horrified to see their restaurant go from being absolutely deserted to having all their tables filled with 14 rowdy teenagers), instead of going back on to the main road, Jess, who was now driving, pulled into a small motel that was a sad reality check compared to the Light Palace. Will, Jack and Jess all got out of the truck and they seemed to be arguing about something softly yet harshly as they came our way.
Maya stood up and threw her hands in the air. “Why the hell are we stopping at a motel. I thought you said we were driving all night,” she said, cutting them off.
Jess held her chin in the air.
“Sorry guys, but I’m afraid this is where we part ways.”
One by one, everyone hopped out of the truck and surrounded Jess, ready for an argument. I was about to leave when Dakota tugged on my pant leg. The pain from her wound had subsided but she was still sore. It was obvious it would be more trouble that it was worth to get her out of the truck too.
“Stay here with me?” she asked with puppy dog eyes.
I smiled and nodded, but remained standing up, so I had a clear view of everyone. Dakota dragged herself to the edge of the truck in order to be more involved in the conversation.
“What do you mean?” asked Kitty, “You can’t just leave.”
I felt a lump grow in my throat. This was our chance to start new. To do the right thing. So what was she thinking?
Jack and Will just stood there as Jess was bombarded with questions by the Little Sisters, in a smug sort of silence. It was clear they had been arguing about this for a while.
Jess waited patiently for the riot to calm down. Once it had, she went to explain with a sigh.
“Listen. You know I love you guys, but I just can’t do this anymore. I was working for The Front before any of you, back when it was just me and my sisters. When my sister left, I had no clue why, but now I do. For years I’ve been hopelessly and blindly devoted to an organization that didn’t care about me at all. I was their puppet, and the sad part was, I was okay with that. I even let my vision get so clouded I betrayed the people who really loved me. I can’t go through that again. I know you guys think joining the Freedom Writers is the right thing, and maybe it is, but I just can’t do it. I just can’t let myself become devoted again. I don’t want to do this anymore. I just can’t.”
For once in her life, Jess actually looked like she wanted our reassurance, and for once, I couldn’t give it to her. I felt like she was betraying me again and it made my heart break.
“You’ll be running for the rest of your life,” I said rather coldly
As she turned to me, her eyes matched my voice “And you’ll be fighting for the rest of yours. I might as well pick the lesser of two evils.”
I practically laughed, “Oh really, ‘cause I’d rather fight any day. At least fighting gives you a purpose. It gives you something worth living for. And as long as I live I don’t think I’ll ever stop fighting. And the sad part is, along with everything else, I’ll have to be fighting for people like you.”
The words felt wrong as soon as they left my mouth, but I didn’t regret what I had said.
I saw Maya smile at me and I felt proud of myself.
Jess looked at me with a mixture of anger, pity and admiration. “I guess we just see things differently.”
My anger was short lived and I already felt it dying down. “I guess we do.”
Jess turned to look at the motel. “Well, I guess this is goodbye.”
Flo stepped up to stand by her. “Not for me. I’m coming with you.”
We all stared at her.
“You’re leaving too?” asked Charlee, sounding heartbroken as well.
Flo smiled sadly. “You know I never wanted this. Now’s my chance to go. You think I don’t know how much of a pain in the ass I’ve been, because I do. The truth is, when I came into the little Sisters, I just wanted food and a place to stay. I didn’t know I’d never get a chance to leave. But now’s my chance. I have to take it.”
Well, so much for my inspiring speech making an impact on every one.
“If anybody ever needs me,” she said, “look in Chicago.”
She quickly hugged Charlee and, much to my surprise, hugged Maya.
“Thanks for dealing with me.”
Without looking back she walked into the motel, Jess followed her.
The rest of us just stood there, not really sure what to do.
I must have accidentally looked suspiciously at Charlee because she raised her palms in the air and said, “Don’t look at me, I’m not going anywhere. I learned my lesson.”
“Impressive speech,” Jack said to me. “I have to admit, I didn’t know you had that in you, Kid.”
And then he smiled at me in a way that made me blush.
I noticed Kitty was crying. I didn’t blame her. She wasn’t really close to any of us, not like Maya was to Candy or Theresa was to Charlee and me, all she had was Jess, and now she was gone. All along we had taught her that Jess knew best; to trust Jess. But the truth was you couldn’t lean on anyone too heavily except yourself. We all had to learn that the hard way.
I was thinking about going over to comfort her, but she didn’t look like she wanted that, I decided it was one of those situations when it was better to pretend you didn’t notice.
“Are you guys ready to go?” asked Will, not sure what else to do.
“Take us away, Brother,” said Maya.
She was ready to get out of this place.
Ace took Jess’s place up front and we hit the road once more.
I sat next to Cable, who nudged me and pointed to Nari.
I watched as Nari somewhat sheepishly took something out of his pocket. It looked like a key tied to a brown shoelace.
He cleared his throat and held it in front of Charlee.
“Uhh, I heard it was your birthday and, I don’t know, I guess I felt kinda sorry, so I decided to make this for you. I know it’s crappy but…”
Charlee looked at him in astonishment as she took the make shift necklace and slipped it around her neck.
“That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.”
He blushed and looked down. “Well, it wasn’t just me. Theresa found the key.”
Charlee turned to her and gave her a hug. “Thanks little Cuz.”
And then the most amazing thing happened.
Theresa said, “You’re welcome.”
None of us could believe it, she had actually talked, not much, but still, she spoke. All of us started cheering like mad men and I (might have) started to cry. We were so happy we even stopped to get dinner twice that night, because nothing says congratulations like food.
For the first time in a long time, I felt like things could only get better from here. And as I reflected on the things to come, I wasn’t afraid.
Not of anything.
….. 3 weeks later…..
We all fell easily into our place at the Freedom Writers.
When we first arrived there, we were greeted with a huge party. Apparently, “The Dome Riot,” as people were calling the rescue mission, had been broadcasted on every radio, TV, and newspaper over the whole country, and the Freedom Writers already heard of our success long before we returned.
I was happy with the Freedom Writers. There was food, shelter (I even got my childhood dreamed fulfilled of having a bunk bed), and for the most part, I liked everybody I had met over the past few weeks.
The only thing I could really complain about was the fact that I was not allowed to be enhanced, due to the further tests still being performed on the Enhancer in order to ensure its safety and adequacies. However, despite all this, there was still something that was nagging at me.
And after three weeks, I finally had to do something about it.
I woke up early in the morning and quietly got dressed to make sure I didn’t wake up all the others. I crept out of the dorm room and headed down stairs to try to find Solomon. It wouldn’t be hard considering he and Heidi woke up at the brink of dawn.
Sure enough, I walked into Game Central to see both Heidi and Solomon in there, preparing for the day’s events.
I walked up to Solomon and cleared my throat rather obnoxiously to get his attention.
“Can I talk to you for a second?” I asked.
I eyed Heidi to give her the message that I wanted to talk to him alone. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust her or anything; this just didn’t pertain to her.
He got my hint. “Of course, Maya. Let’s find a place where we can discuss what’s concerning you without any interruptions.”
With that he led me into one of the small empty rooms that branched off from the main hallway.
I took a seat in one of the chairs and drummed my fingers against the table nervously. Solomon just looked at me with that calm, emotionless expression of his.
Man, did he bug me sometimes.
I decided just to dive right in. “Yeah. So, ummm. Faye and I have been talking, ya know, catching up and stuff, and she told me about, before she left here, how you told her it’s time we start a war.”
I paused to give him a chance to speak. Or at least confirm what I had just said.
“So, anyway, I’ve been thinking about it, and, what have we really done to start a war against The Front? Everything’s died down. The Dome Riot’s not shown on any social media anymore; nobody’s talking about it. It’s like it never even happened for God’s sake! What have we really accomplished?”
Solomon laughed at me. This happened to be the most shocking things to ever fall upon my ears. Granted, it was more of an exasperated grunt than a laugh, but it still counted for something.
He finally moved to take a seat next to me. Like we were two people having a conversation, rather than a teacher about to lecture a naïve student.
“Listen, Maya. I’m sorry what you did out there did not live up to your romanticized notion of battle, but let me inform you, you accomplished something. You children are the pebbles in the ocean. By yourself, it’s true, you’re quite insignificant, but you caused a ripple that goes on for miles. A couple of days ago, you added a drop of water to a very, very dry bucket. The attention may have died down dramatically, but a war never begins and ends in a day; because of you, people will start thinking. The most dangerous weapon one can be armed with is his own thoughts. Far more dangerous than the Enhancer. And soon, more damage will be done to The Front. Again and again and again. And then we will have a war. Trust me child, you have not failed. Far from it.”
For some reason, his words almost made me cry. But I pushed the tears back and just nodded my head. Solomon, being the great conversationalist he is, took this as a sign that we were finished and he could leave.
I sighed and followed him out the door.
We must have been in there a little longer than I had thought, because everyone was already up and at it.
I ran into Will in the hall. He looked like a chicken with its head chopped off. Ever since we got here, none of us had been seeing much of Will. Apparently, being a former Front agent meant you had a lot to do.
“Hey,” I said to him “Have you seen Faye anywhere?”
“UUHHH,” he said, as if taking the three seconds out of his time to answer me was far too much. “She might be in the shoe store, I think it’s her shift today, but don’t take my word for it.”
With that he ran off to do whatever he was going to do.
Unlike him, I had too much time on my hands now. After going so fast over the last few weeks, it seemed weird to have things at a normal pace. Even the things I did for the Freedom Writers felt more like chores, if anything. It was kind of boring.
I went upstairs and into the shoe store. Under normal circumstances, I would be sent to the guillotine if I went into the store without it being my shift, but since it wouldn’t open for another hour, I figured it was okay.
I didn’t see her in the store, but when I looked out the window, I saw Faye sitting against the front of the building, picking at the parking lot’s loose gravel, and throwing it aimlessly.
I went outside to join her.
“What are you doing?” I asked
She shrugged her shoulders. “Nothing much. Just waiting for the store to open.”
I smiled. “Me too. I’m bored.”
Faye laughed and smiled to me, “You might as well enjoy it. I have a feeling it won’t last long.”
“What are we going to do while we wait for things to pick back up again?” I asked, just for the heck of it.
She actually took time to think about my question seriously.
“We could write a book”
I raised my eyebrow. “What should we call this said book?”
“We should name it after what we cause best: Damage”
“The good kind of damage.”
The Little Sisters know their lives are at stake. When the mysterious organization known simply as “They” threatens to replace them with a rival group, the Little Sisters will do anything to get their position back. To do that, they must compete against the bigger, faster, Big Brothers to locate and steal the newest technological advancement, The Enhancer. It’s a race against time in a game designed for them to fail. Filled with adventure and fun, Damage will keep you entertained from beginning to end.