“MMMMMMMMM!” Jace groans in pain as she pulls the object from his side.
“Almost got it there!” Paige says as she finally gets ahold of the object between her fingers.
Jace tries his hardest not to shout in pain while Erick sits and holds Jace’s hand, trying to keep Jace calm.
“I got it!” Paige says as she starts to pull out the object wedged in Jace’s side.
As it is being pulled out, Jace groans more as the object feels like it's just shredding through his side.
Paige yanks out the object causing the pain to skyrocket but also calming it at the same time.
“What is this?” Paige says, “It’s some kinda barbed, dart-looking thing.”
Erick takes the object from Paige's hand. Upon closer inspection, Erick recognizes this as a special type of tracking bullet. “Those cheaters! They’ve been tracking us this whole time! That's probably why we saw them earlier! They traced you to that location but gave up when they couldn't find you!”
“That’s why they barbed it! So no matter how much he moved it wouldn't come out!” Paige says. “But why didn’t your mom notice it the first time when she stitched you up?” Paige asks Jace.
“It’s probably because she wasn't looking for it since we only thought it grazed me. We didn't know that it actually hit me!” Jace replies.
“Well, now what do we do with it?” Erick asks the group.
“I say we destroy it so they can’t track us anymore!” Paige says as picks up a rock to crush the device.
“No! Stop! I have an idea! One that, if planned properly, will give us the upper hand on the men!” Jace, struggling through his words in pain.
“What are you thinking?” Erick looks down at Jace, wondering what he could have come up with so quickly.
“But do you really wanna risk them finding us before the plan is ready?” Paige questions Jace’s decision.
“Yes! I have this!” Jace leans over, reaching into Erick’s bag as he drags it over to him and starts to search through it. He pulls out another jammer. “Erick, as long as this is on, can it cancel out the receiver in this tracker?” Jace questions Erick.
“I mean, not as it is right now but if you give me a second to work on its programming, I can make it to where it does,” Erick replies as he pulls out his computer and plugs the device into it.
“While he’s working on the programming, Paige, can you please stitch me up?” Jace looks up at Paige with pain clearly in his face.
“How can I say no to you?” Paige says as she searches their first-aid kit. She pulls out a needle and thread, “But, first, we need to clean up that wound before we do anything.” Paige pulls out a wipe as she pours alcohol on the inside and outside of the wound. She uses the towel to wipe off the blood that was lingering on the outside of the wound.
Jace bites down on the belt that is in his mouth. “You can do this, Jace. You've faked your strength for more painful things than this. What's a lil longer?” Jace tries to motivate himself.
Erick is clearly able to read the pain on Jace’s face. “Hang in there, Jace. You got this,” Erick whispers under his breath.
“Ok! All clean!” Paige says as she throws the alcohol to the side. She reaches for the needle and thread that she prepared beforehand. “Ok, guys, I haven’t done this in a while, so I don't know how good this is gonna turn out, but please-” she says before she's cut off by Erick.
“Just stitch him up already! Can’t you see he’s in pain! Let's get this over with for him”! Erick says as he starts to clinch Jace’s hand in his and leans over to Jace, “It’s okay, buddy. It’ll all be over soon.”
Jace, hearing these words, finds the strength to hold on a little longer and not show his pain. “I know,” Jace says as he squeezes Erick's hand tighter.
“I’ve got your six, Jace! Through thick and thin, we promised to lean on each other. We will never stand alone,” Erick says meaningfully to Jace.
Paige looks over at Erick, jealous after seeing the bond thatErick has that she wants with Jace. “Hey, Jace, it's all gonna be okay. I know you're strong enough to overcome this!” Paige tells Jace to get his attention.
“Thank you, Paige… Are you finished yet?” Jace asks her.
“Hold on,” Paige says as she ties the last knot of the stitch. “There we go! You're all set!” Paige says with a gentle smile on her face, trying to hold back the sadness she feels for not getting the thanks she hoped for.
Jace sits up. He looks Paige in the eyes as she tries to hold the smile. Jace looks down at his stitches then looks back up at Paige. “Ya did good, girl!” Jace says as he pats her head.
Paige sinks her head into her shoulders when she starts to smile and blush, feeling the appreciation from Jace.
“I don't know what I woulda done without you here to help me out in this situation,” Jace tries to comfort and encourage her.
All of a sudden, they hear Erick shout, “Finally, it’s done! The coding is complete!”
“Turn it on now!” Jace says.
“And it’s active!” Erick says, “So, Jace, what exactly is it that you are planning?” Erick questions him.
“Okay, this is what I have planned,” Jace says as he stands up slowly with the aid of Paige. “First... Actually, it's getting pretty dark. Let's get this fire going, then I’ll explain everything.”
“Sounds good to me!” Paige says, extremely happy to be in Jace’s arms and to have had that moment with him a little while ago.
A few minutes pass. They finally get the fire going. “So what do you have in mind that you needed to save this tracker for?”
“Okay so this is my plan…” Jace explains the plan to them. As he speaks, they start to understand where he is going with this idea.
“That's actually a really amazing idea, Jace!” Erick says.
“Yeah, I agree! But, one thing confuses me…” Paige also replies.
“What might that be?” Jace asks Paige.
“How the heck did you come up with this genius plan on the spot while you had so much going on around you at the time? It’s just amazing how you can do things like that!” Paige says with excitement and admiration in her eyes.
“I just did what you or Erick woulda done in the same situation. I thought of all the best ways to get out of this predicament and use the situation to our advantage,” Jace says to her while remaining humble.
“Umm, Jace, one problem with that,” Erick comments on what Jace just said.
“What? It’s the truth!” Jace replies.
“I think I can speak for both me and Paige. Correct me if I’m wrong, Paige, but I think me and her would have been too busy being, well, ya know, in PAIN to think of anything else but wanting to die,” Erick says while busting out into a laugh after finishing his very dramatic sentence.
“No, no, he’s definitely got a point!” Paige says in response to Erick.
“Well, I definitely wasn’t expecting that!” Jace says while trying to hold back the pain from his laughs. “Well, either way, thank you guys for helping me out cause, if it wasn't for y'all, none of this would be happening in the first place. Without you, Paige, we never woulda found the tracker inside me, and without you, Erick, we never woulda been able to turn that jammer into an anti-locating device. We make the team. None of us would be here without the other.”
“Guys, this plan is going to work! I know it will! We just have to work together to play our cards right and it will go perfectly as planned,” Jace says to the group.
They sit around the campfire awaiting the next morning to start preparing and setting their plan into motion.
“I’m actually kinda hungry,” Erick says as his stomach growls.
“So am I!” Jace says as his stomach also begins to growl.
“Well, I guess there’s no better way to eat besides sitting by a fire with all your friends, now is there?” Paige says as she grabs her bag and starts to pull out the MRE’s she packed from the second base. “Here you go, Jace,” she says as she stands up and walks over to Jace, handing him the MRE he specifically requested without green beans.
“Annnd this one is for you, Erick!” she says as she tosses Erick his. Paige then pulls out one that she packed for herself.
“Well, guys, we made some progress today! We got about 15 miles closer to our destination,” Erick says as he rips open his meal.
“Yep! Now we begin our attack at daylight!” Jace replies. “But, until then, let's just enjoy this time we get with each other.”
Paige looks down past the end of Jace’s finger and sees a bunch of military men walking below them.
“Do… Do you think those are the men who ransacked our hideout?” Paige asks Jace while trying to keep a silent voice.
“I mean, what else could they be out here for? It’s not like there is anybody else living out here and they’re definitely not out having a picnic,” Jace says sarcastically to Paige.
“How many do you think there are?” Paige asks Jace as she scoots closer to him, trying to keep from being noticed by the men below them.
“There has to be at least 15, probably more. But all I know is that these guys are nothing to mess around with!” Jace replies.
“Why do you say that? You’ve beaten plenty of them on your own and came face-to-face with more than just one. Why can’t you take them?” Paige asks, concerned.
“Do you see those green patches with birds in them on the tops of the sleeves of their uniforms? That means they’re at the highest rank. They’re specialists so they definitely know what they are doing,” Jace explains to Paige.
“But then what about all those men you fought? You’re telling me you’ve never fought specialists before?” Paige asks him.
“No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying I’ve never fought this many at once. Plus, I’m injured and it’s getting really dark, so we don’t need all the attention drawn on us right now,” Jace replies to Paige, trying to keep up his own confidence while also trying to keep her calm and let her feel secure.
“Ohh ok, that makes more sense. See, I knew you could take them. I just wasn’t sure what you meant,” Paige says, putting her hand on his chest as she scoots closer.
At that moment, they hear rustling in the bush next to them. They hold their breath, scared what might come out but soon hear Erick’s voice complaining about all the branches in the way. “God dang it! What is up with all these freaking branches?! Someone needs to take better care of these woods!” Erick says as he gets near the others without even noticing.
“Ohh shoot! I forgot about Erick!” Jace says as he reaches out to grab Erick by the arm and drags him into the bushes along with him and Paige.
“What the…” Erick says as he’s pulled into the bushes, “Hey, what’s the!” he’s cut off by Jace who’s covering his mouth to try and silence him. Erick sees Paige's face and realizes that it’s Jace holding him down. Erick taps on Jaces arm to let him know he understands the situation. Jace releases him and gets back down as they all watch the men finally pass them. “So… Uhh who was that?” Erick asks the group as he’s still a little confused about what’s going on.
“We believe those people are the ones who raided our base,” Paige replies.
“But that place looked like it hadn’t been touched in a while. How could that have been them?” Erick says, confused.
Jace interrupts, “I don’t know what’s going on here but it definitely isn’t good. Something big is probably about to go down.”
“Now, the real question is how are we going to warn the rest of our group about this if we don’t even know where the heck they are? Jace, what are we supposed to do now that we have no way of communicating with them?” Paige asks Jace, looking for some answers.
“Well, first, we should probably try to find somewhere to sleep for the night…” Erick starts to answer when Paige interrupts him, saying, “I was asking Jace, but I guess we should find a place to hunker down for the night.”
“Umm yea. I think that’s a good idea, Erick! Let’s set up camp. But, if we make a fire, we have to keep it low so the light doesn’t attract any unwanted company,” Jace says to the group. “Erick, you and Paige set up the tents while I try to gather some dry wood for a fire,” Jace continues.
“I can help yo…” Paige says as she’s quickly stopped by Jace, “Nah, it shouldn’t be that hard. Plus, I don’t want to run the risk of someone sneaking up behind us and taking you captive.”
“Good point, I guess… But I know how to fight!” Paige replies.
“I’m not saying you don’t, ya big dummy,” Jace says as he flicks her nose, “I’d just feel a lot more comfortable knowing you were somewhere safe instead of wandering around out here alone.”
“Fiiiiine!” Paige says as she leans back and droops her arms, looking up at the sky. “I guess I’ll go with Erick,” she says with a long sigh and then starts laughing.
As Paige takes off, she turns and says, “Erick!! Catch me if you can! Ahaha” She jumps in the air with her arms above her.
“Man, how is she 23 but still, at random moments, acts like a 10 year old?” Erick says to Jace.
“I don’t know, man, but one thing I can say for sure is she’s lucky to still have that fire and joy in her. Let’s hope she never loses it,” Jace says with a little laugh as he puts one hand behind his head and waves at Paige with his other.
“Erick! C’mon! Let’s get going before it gets too dark out!” Paige shouts.
“Hurry up and go before she gets any louder and gains the attention of the troops,” Jace says as he pushes Erick forward.
“Fine, fine, I’m going!” Erick says as he stumbles forward and begins to walk towards Paige. “Hey, don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone!” Erick shouts at Jace.
Jace turns around to look at Erick and says, “Soooo don’t do anything I would normally do?” He lets out a laugh.
“Oof. Umm, yeah, pretty much!” Erick says as he laughs at Jace’s comment.
Jace and Erick turn away from each other, headed to go fulfill their specific jobs.
About 15 minutes pass. Jace is in the woods looking for wood to make a fire with. As he is searching, he leans up against a tree and puts his hand in his shirt because he feels a sharp pain in his side. Jace pulls out his hand from his to see that it’s covered in blood
“Crap, the stitches must have torn without me even knowing. Maybe Paige can help me later, but what do I do right now to stop all this bleeding?” Jace says as he checks his backpack to see if he has anything useful. He pulls out a shirt. “Here we go! This should help with it temporarily,” he says as he starts to rip the shirt and wrap it around his wound to help absorb most of the blood.
Jace picks up the wood that he collected as he leans off the tree. “God this hurts so bad but I have to stand up for them,” Jace says as he pictures Paige and Erick in his head. “Those two are a handful but, without them, I’m sure I wouldn't even be here… It’s starting to get dark,” Jace says while looking up at the sky.
Jace heads towards the site that they had decided upon earlier, struggling to hold the wood any longer because of the pain he has endured. “Hey!” Erick says as he rushes over to Jace, “What happened? Were you attacked?”
“No, no, nothing like that. It's just... After fighting those men when rescuing Paige, I tore open the stitches on my side and I'm finally starting to feel the pain of it,” Jace says as he limps over to a clear spot on the ground to lay down. “Paige, didn’t you work with my mother for a while?” Jace asks.
“Yeah! I did, but not for very long. It was only for a couple of months, so I don't know how good I’ll be,” Paige replies.
“It’s fine! Dont worry about it. It doesn't have to be perfect. I just need this thing cleaned and stitched up,” Jace says as he slams his fist on the ground in pain.
“Paige, hurry! Help him! I've never seen him in this much pain!” Erick panics, grabbing a hold of Jace’s hand.
Paige, scared because she hasn't done any medical stuff in months, starts to peel away Jace’s shirt and unties the other shirt that Jace wrapped around himself to stop the bleeding.
“I’ve never seen him in this much pain! What could be causing him so much pain?” Paige wonders. She observes his wound, trying to find the root of the pain and notices something. She apologizes while digging her finger into his wound, “Jace, I'm so sorry! I’m so sorry!” she repeats over and over.
Erick takes off his belt and puts it in Jace’s mouth to prevent him from yelling. With the belt in his mouth, Jace buries his face into the ground as he endures all the pain.
“What the…” Paige says as she feels a little object inside his wound. “Jace, this is gonna hurt. Brace yourself in 3… 2…”
“MMMMMMMMM!” Jace groans in pain as she pulls the object from his side.
“Hey, Jace, what's the problem?” Erick asks as he takes a look inside the door.
“Ohh... my… God!” Jace says in complete shock as he stands at the open door looking in.
Erick runs up behind him and puts his hand on his shoulder, “Hey, Jace, what's the problem?” Erick also looks through the door, he sees that the whole place has been rampaged through and through.
“What happened here?” Erick asks Jace.
“It looks like they knew about this base too,” Jace replies. “The only question is, if we made it here before or after the rest of our crew has? And if they beat us here, were they here when it got raided also?” Jace asks himself.
“Let’s go inside and see if we can figure out what’s happened with the rest of our crew,” Jace mumbles to Erick as he starts to walk inside. He flips on the switch that powers on the rest of the building.
“What happened here?” Erick asks Jace as he walks around the main room, trying to clean up the mess left behind by the invaders.
“It looks like we were raided, but it’s hard to tell how long ago it was,” Paige answers Erick’s question for Jace. As she answers, she picks up a book that had fallen when the men ransacked their building.
“It actually looks like this place hasn’t been touched in a while. See,” Paige says as she runs her pointer finger across the top of the book she picked, collecting dust off the top of the book.
“She’s right. How long have they known about our bases? Wait. Maybe this is how they found out our main headquarters!” Erick says as he walks up behind Jace, “At least, we know our people weren’t here when this place was invaded. I’m sure this is prolly how they found out where our main base is.”
“But how did they find this location? This is one of our most secret facilities.” Paige asks the group.
“I don’t know if, maybe, there was a leak or they followed one of our people here. All we know is that this base has been compromised and we can’t stay here anymore.” Jace says, heading back to the door as he grabs his bag off the ground.
“Well, at least, we have a copy of all the bases they know about. We can avoid those and warn the others if we ever catch back up with them,” Paige says as she follows Erick and Jace out the door.
Erick looks back at Paige and just smiles, “What? We got a problem?” Paige asks sarcastically.
“Nothing. Just, you did it again,” Erick says while cracking a laugh.
“Did what?” Paige asks Erick while putting her hand to her chin, curious about what he is talking about.
“You have a really bad habit of stating obvious things,” Erick says as he walks over to Paige, pats her shoulder, and walks back over to Jace, laughing.
“I do not!” Paige says as she stomps her foot on the ground and folds her arms together, “I’m just saying what we are all thinking and making sure everyone is on the same page! Ohh no…”
Before she knows it, the boys start to burst out laughing. “Why do you guys find the stupidest of things so funny?!” Paige asks them, “And Erick! You have been pointing out obvious things all our life, so I don’t want to hear it!”
“Hey, hey, hey, no need to get hostile now,” Jace says jokingly as he walks over to Paige with his hands up in a surrendering pose. “Now, calm down, chief. We were just making a lil joke and you just go right in for the kill at Erick,” Jace says as he lets out a laugh, grabbing Paige's shoulder, leaning on her in agreement.
Paige looks over at Jace and can’t help but smile as he’s using her to help hold himself up from his injuries that are starting to catch up with him again.
“Hey, um, Jace, can I speak with you for a sec?” Erick asks Jace as he sees Paige smiling at him.
“Yeah, sure!” Jace says as he stands back up by himself, “So what’s up?”
“So when do we plan on heading back out to find the rest of the group? I mean, it’s getting kinda late. We prolly only have about an hour left of sunlight. Don’t you think we should try and get a little ground between us and them just in case they decide to come back to this location?” asks Erick.
“I mean, yeah, I guess you’re right” replies Jace, “but I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. My injuries are starting to really catch up to me and my legs are killing me on top of that.”
“Well, I can help you out if you need me to,” Paige says to Jace with a caring and cheerful tone.
“Nah, if anyone should, I should,” Erick says “Jace is pretty heavy, so I should help.”
“Guys, I really don’t want to be a burden on y’all. Are you guys sure?” Jace asks the group.
“Yeah, for sure! We can take a break and set up camp once the sun goes down,” Erick says. Paige nods her head in agreement.
“Alright then…” Jace says as he shrugs his shoulders, “Let’s grab some MREs from the kitchen and head out I guess.”
Paige asks Jace what type he would prefer and he replies, “Any is fine with me except ones with green beans. I can’t stand green beans.” He shivers a little to the disgusting thought of them.
A few moments pass. Paige returns with the food. Erick packs them into the bag and they all start to head off on their journey to find the others.
“Where do we even start?” Paige asks the group, “It’s not like we really had a back-up for if this plan got ruined. I mean, this was supposed to be our most secure and hidden base, yet, somehow, was still found by the government.”
Jace looks around then up at the sky as he replies to Paige, “Sometimes the bird flies from the nest a little too… Nah, I’m just messing with you. I honestly don’t know. I’m kinda just hoping we run into them by chance if I’m being honest.”
Paige's eyes widen as she looks back down at the ground, “Well, I guess if you're being honest…” she lets out a laugh. Paige, all of a sudden, gets excited and runs in front of the group, turns around, and starts walking backwards while saying, “Hey, guys! I have an idea!”
“What might that be?” Erick asks as they follow her.
“We should play a game to make the trip seem like it’s not taking as long!” Paige mentions the group while looking at Jace mainly.
“Ohh sweet, what game do you wanna play?!” Jace says, excited to finally get his mind off of what has happened in the past few days, “Yeah, that actually sounds really fun. What game do you have in mind?”
“I was thinking we could play a game of hide and seek! Like we can only hide up ahead of us so that way we keep moving forward while we play!” Paige says cheerfully.
“I mean, it’s not a bad idea,” Erick says as he looks over at Jace and shrugs his shoulders.
“Alright, then it's set!” Jace claps his hands together to show he’s in agreement, “Soooo, who’s going to be the seeker?”
“Well, it was Paige's idea, so she should be it!” Erick says, trying to pick at her jokingly.
“I mean, Erick’s got a point! You can’t argue with that.” Jace says as he holds up his arms in a shrug.
“Fiiiiine. I guess I’ll be the seeker,” Paige glares at Erick while she turns around and counts.
The boys take off in separate directions when Paige starts to count down from thirty.
Jace climbs into some bushes on the side of a hill ahead of them in their path. Erick just climbs up a tree.
A few moments pass. Erick starts to get uncomfortable up in the tree and moves around, giving away his spot.
Paige runs around, hoping to find Jace first so they can look for Erick together when, all of a sudden, Erick “accidentally” falls out of the tree.
“Well, I guess I found one…” Paige says as she puts her hand against her face.
“Hey, am I not good enough?!” Erick says while letting out a little laugh to hide his pain from falling.
“I mean, I would have rather found Jace first because he’d be the hardest but, at least, I got one out of the way,” Paige says, kinda let down.
“Ouch, that hurt,” Erick says “Aight, so how do you wanna try to find Jace now? You wanna split up or stick together?” Erick leans over to and stands close to her.
“Umm, I think we should split up to cover more ground,” she says as she swerves around Erick. “We are running out of daylight anyway. We need to find him before it gets too dark!”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Erick says as he throws his head back and walks in a different direction from where Paige came from.
While Paige is wandering around, she notices some footprints on the ground. “Are these Jace’s tracks?” she asks herself, “No, it can’t be. There are more over here also! Could these be our group’s footprints?”
As she’s wandering, she hears a noise over to the side of the hill. She walks towards the hill to inspect what’s going on down below when, all of a sudden, she’s pulled into the bushes.
“Jace?!” Paige says in surprise.
“Shhh…” Jace says as he raises his finger to her lips, trying to keep her as quiet as possible.
“What? Why?” Paige asks. She scoots closer to Jace to try and hide better.
Jace pulls his hand away from her lips as he looks down the hill and points somewhere.
Paige looks down past the end of Jace’s finger and sees a bunch of military men walking below them.
“No, even I know that would have never happened, so I guess I do owe you guys a thank you,” Paige says, “But, don't you dare go and tell everyone about this. I know where y’all sleep! Especially you!” She says while pointing at Jace.
“Can't make any promises,” Jace says, messing with Paige.
A few hours pass. They have been walking all through the night. Day begins to break over the horizon.
“Finally, we made it!” Jace shouts at the others. He picks up his pace, not even fazed by the long night of walking.
“How is he always so energetic?” Erick asks Paige and looks over at her.
“I have no idea,” Paige responds.
Both Paige and Erick, exhausted from the long night and barely even able to hold themselves up anymore.
“C’mon, guys, let’s go see how everyone else is doing!” Jace says as he takes off running to the hideout.
A few moments pass. As Erick and Paige almost make it to the door, they see Jace just standing in the entryway.
“Hey, Jace, what's the problem?” Erick asks as he takes a look inside the door.
“Yeah, I guess. Well, let’s go!” Jace walks with Erick, trailing his every move to look like he’s holding him captive.
“Ugh, where are they? We should have caught up with them or, at least, seen them by now!” Jace says since it feels like they have been walking forever.
“Jace, it’s literally only been, like, 7 minutes,” Erick says to Jace in a smart tone. “Can you, at least, try to seem like you're scared or in danger in case we, by chance, randomly run into them?”
They turn the corner. Pow!
“God dang it!!” Jace shouts and falls backwards after hitting his head on a metal pole that was hanging from the ceiling. “Who put this freaking pole here?!” Jace rubs his head and stands up.
Erick looks up at the pole that’s hanging. “Huh, I don’t think anyone put that there. See, look,” Erick says as he points up to the ceiling, “You see how that pole looks like it was connected to the rest of the ceiling?”
“Uhh, yeah… And what’s it doing down here?” Jace asks, playing dumb.
“Jace, I don’t think that’s just any pole. I think it might be a beam that keeps the bunker from collapsing,” Erick says, horrified. “If the shaking of the building caused just this one to fall, I don’t think we would be in much trouble, but there’s no telling how many fell in the process,” Erick continues.
“So, what are you trying to say?” Jace asks, “We are pretty much walking around in a death trap just waiting to happen?”
“To put it in simple terms, yes, Jace. We are basically in a death trap that could fall at any minute,” Erick says, “So, we need to get the heck out of here before we all get crushed to death.”
“Then why are we just standing around, talking, and not rushing to find Paige?” Jace says, “We don’t have any more time to waste. Let's go find her and get out of this hell hole.” Jace’s muscles start to bulge from his sleeve as he breaks the zip tie around his wrists that was being used for handcuffs and takes off running.
Erick is surprised at the amount of strength Jace displays by simply breaking those zip ties like they are nothing but strings. “Dang,” Erick says under his breath.
“What are you waiting for? C’mon!” Jace shouts at Erick who’s still standing in the same spot, “We have to find Paige before this building collapses on all of us!” He takes off running again.
“Does he not remember that his side is all messed up right now? And that he just slammed his head on a metal beam?” Erick asks himself. “Jace is a different type of human being… If that’s what he even is!” Erick lets out a laugh and runs to catch up to Jace.
“So, where do we even start looking for Paige?” Erick asks Jace as they’re running through each hallway to make sure no one is still there when the bunker collapses.
“Honestly, I have no idea, but, if I had to guess, these guys know what they did and are probably trying to escape before the bunker collapses also. So let’s head to the main door!” Jace says. They make a sharp turn around the corner, heading towards the main entrance.
“Did you grab that guard's gun before we left?” Jace asks.
“Crap! I didn’t! Jace, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know I was supposed to!” Erick replies, frustrated at himself.
“Nah, it’s fine. I’ll just have to figure out a new plan.” Jace says as they near the exit.
They see the light from the blown open door where the men had entered, stopping as they near the exit. Right outside, Jace hears a familiar voice.
“Who the hell is this?” the voice says.
“She seems to be someone important, Sir. We cut her off as everyone was escaping after we blew the doors off the place,” the guard replies.
“Where have I… Oh no, it’s him! The voice we heard on the radio earlier- that’s the man! And I know because he’s the one who had me trapped on the bridge earlier,” Jace says hesitantly.
“If we are going to get her back, then we have to do it fast because these people are nothing to joke around with, Erick!” Jace says while keeping his voice down.
“Well, how do you expect we do that when we have nothing to fight against them with?” Erick questions Jace as they eavesdrop on the men.
“Just wait for it…” Jace says quietly to Erick.
“What are we…” Erick starts to say when suddenly Paige starts to fight against the officers, stepping on their toes.
“Now!” Jace says as the guards are distracted, trying to gain control of Paige. Erick and Jace come up behind two of them and put them both in a chokehold, rendering them unconscious. Before the guards, who are trying to gain control of Paige notice, the boys grab the other guards' guns.
"Ehhmm," Jace clears his throat, getting the guards' attention. The head of the operation turns and sees Jace holding a gun aimed right at him.
“Hey, kid! I knew we’d meet again!” says the head to Jace. “Ya know, for a sec, I thought this whole plan was gonna go to waste when you stole those plans but turns out y’all still didn’t even know. Who woulda thunk it?” The man says smartly.
“Now's not really the time for you to be getting smart with me!” Jace says as he shakes the gun, reminding the guard of the situation he’s in. “Ya see, you have someone we kinda need back! And, so help me God, if y’all hurt her in any way, y’all'll pay for it with your lives later on!”
“You see, boy…” the head takes a step towards Jace.
Without hesitation, Jace fires his weapon. Jace shoots at the ground by the man's foot. “I’m not screwing around! Give us back our comrade!” Jace says as he aims his gun back up at the guards.
“Alright, you’ve made your point clear. But, give us that drive you got right there in your bag and we’ll call it even,” The head guard says to Jace.
“F...Fine. Deal. But, you got to give us her first so we can make sure y’all didn’t harm her, or the deals off!” Jace shouts at the guard.
“How do I know you won’t take her and run?” The guard replies.
“If there’s one thing I don’t do, that’s go back on my word! If I make a promise, I keep it or I die trying!” Jace says to the head.
“Fine.” The guard looks behind him at the guards who are holding Paige, “Let her go.”
“But, Sir, she’s our onl…” one guard starts to reply.
“I said, let her go! And that’s an order!” the head yells at the guard.
They let Paige go. She runs towards the boys and Erick starts looking over her to see if she’s hurt at all but sees nothing.
“So? We kept our end of the deal. Now, keep yours!” The head says to Jace.
Jace reaches in his backpack, pulls out the drive, and throws it over to the guard. “Now! Don’t you dare think about following us or we’ll shoot you on sight! Got it?!” Jace yells at the guards, making sure they all hear and understand.
“Fine. We’ll head off at the same time and leave separate directions. Is that fine?” The head guard asks Jace.
“Sure, why not?” Jace says as he zips up his backpack again, puts the straps on, lowers the gun by his side, and starts to walk off.
“Jace! You’re just gonna let them walk off with the plans?! What if they call back up and have them cut us off?!” Erick says.
“Erick, I don’t think they’re that stupid. Plus, we had a deal, right?” Jace says in a threatening tone as he turns around, looking the head in the eye.
“Yes, we did and what kind of man would I be if I didn’t keep my word?” The head replies back.
“C’mon, Erick. And, Paige, you stay between us. I don't want anyone getting separated!” Jace says as he starts walking off with the gun now laying over his shoulder in a relaxed manner.
A few moments pass as they have been walking back to the rendezvous point set up with Jace's parents.
“Ok, what the heck, Jace! Why did you just give them the drive with all the info on it! And why did you trust them when they said they wouldn’t come after us!? Are you crazy?” Erick says.
“Erick, do you really think I’m that stupid? Do you really think I wouldn’t have a back-up plan if the original didn’t work?” Jace replies.
“What do you mean?” Erick answers.
“That drive… Yes, it was the drive that had all the info on it, but earlier when I hooked it up to my computer, I copied all the files to my laptop, so I still have all the info on there,” Jace says to Erick.
“Ok, that explains why you gave them the drive so easily, but how would you know they wouldn’t follow us back to our meet up?” Erick asks.
“Well, ya see, I didn’t!” Jace says as he lets out a laugh while putting one hand behind his head, “But, to prevent that from happening, when we knocked out those two guards, I slipped in that jammer you gave me earlier before we changed the plan after realizing the bunker was gonna come down.”
“You’re telling me you had this all planned out already and didn’t care enough to let me know!?” Erick gets mad at Jace.
“Well, in my defense, I did have to make your reactions seem genuine, so I thought the best way to get the most genuine reaction from you was to have you actually think it was real. And it worked!” Jace says while letting out a shout.
“You!!! I oughta!” Erick says as he lunges at Jace.
“Can y’all not act like children for 5 minutes? God, it’s like I’m babysitting y’all.” Paige finally says in response to the boys' playful behavior.
“Hey! Wasn’t it us who just had to save your butt from those guys?” Jace says. “A little respect or a simple thank you would be great!” Erick adds.
“Well, I could have gotten out of it myself,” Paige says. “Y’all just didn’t give me enough time to get any work done!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure, you coulda done this and ya coulda done that but do you really think that woulda worked?” Jace asks her.
Erick pipes in, carrying on with, “You probably could have handled them on your own but do you think they would have just let you go like they did with us?” (Next part. To many characters)
Suddenly, the lights go out as the building begins to shake…
A siren blares. Red lights begin to flash into the rooms from the hallways. “They must have followed your blood trail and figured out this is our main base!” Erick tells Jace.
“Crap, we led them right to us! Help me pack up the drive and laptop! And pack anything else you might need!” Jace quickly says as he attempts to stand up without getting faint.
“We need to get to the rendezvous point that your dad put in place in case something like this ever happened!” Erick replies.
“I know that, Erick!” Jace says hysterically to him, “But how are we going to do that in the dark?! And with people, we can’t see, hunting us?!” Jace gives Erick a weird facial expression.
“Can you just be serious for one second, Jace? This is actually a very dangerous situation we have here, not just for us but for everyone down here also!” Erick exclaims.
“I’m sorry!! I just don’t take bad things seriously. You should know this about me by now!” Jace tells him, “But we do need to help out the rest of the people down here with us while we try to get out ourselves!”
“Finally, I got the Jace I needed! Now, Captain, what’s your plan?” Erick continues, “First, we need to find out how we are going to get out of this room!”
Jace looks around as he puts his laptop and hard drive in his backpack. “Shoot! I need to get to my room, Erick!” Jace says when he notices he needs his phone.
Erick looks over at Jace. “Ok, give me a second!” Erick says as he quickly packs up his computer and grabs a couple of hard drives he had been working on in his spare time. “I just need to grab some of my work so that they don’t know what we are planning,” continues Erick.
“Ok!” Jace starts to feel for the door in the darkness. When his hands run across the wall, he finds the knob. The red lights barely illuminate the hall. As he shuffles to his room the next door down, he trips.
“Crap! I hope nobody heard that,” Jace thinks to himself as he crawls to his room with his bag in hand. He leans against the wall to get some grip while he stands up to reach for his door. However, he hears men talking down the hall.
“Follow me! I think I heard something down this direction!” he hears the man say.
“Ok, Jace, think of what's the best way to solve this problem. If I go in to lock the door, that will raise more suspicion, but if I don’t do something quick, I’ll be found either way.” Then Jace notices something.
The men come running around the corner and see the door to the room is shut. They open it and charge in. Quickly, Jace comes out from behind a service entrance to their lab and slams the door behind the men as he breaks the lock, trapping the men inside.
“Erick! Now!” Erick powers on one of his battery hard drives. It causes all radio waves from the mens' vests to be jammed.
“There. Now, there’s no way they’ll be getting out of there anytime soon!” Erick says, “Umm, not to alarm you, Jace, but… What about your phone?”
“Ohh, you mean this?” Jace reaches into his bag and pulls out his phone, “Yeah, I kinda grabbed it before they were able to make it around the corner.” Jace lets out a deep breath, “They almost caught me, though. Not gonna lie!”
“Ok, let’s meet up with the rest of the group now!” Erick says to Jace.
“Hold up, there’s still one more stop I need to make beforehand! It’s the most important of them all!” Jace tells Erick as he starts to head down the hall.
“But, what is left that could be of use?” Erick asks, confused, “Shouldn’t we try to get to the group as fast as we can to make sure everyone is okay and no one is missing?”
“Erick, just trust me. This is for the best!” Jace says as he heads to the common area. When they get closer, they hear voices speaking down the hall.
“Come in! Come in! Martial 6, do you read me? There’s no reply, Sir. What do we do?” One of the voices says.
“We keep searching ‘til we either find that kid or find something that will be of use for finding him!” another voice says.
“Wait a second. That voice... It can’t be, but it is! That’s the man from the bridge earlier! So, you’re telling me he’s the one heading the mission on this raid? No wonder he seemed so ticked off when I got a hold of his plans! Erick,” Jace says quietly, “I have bad news, man! This the head honcho! He's the one who stopped me at the bridge where I jumped to get away.”
“So, what you’re telling me is that you stole the plans to raid our facility from their main facility?” Erick asks, puzzled.
“I guess so!” Jace replies, “I thought it was just gonna be another pop-up facility of theirs. But, it was a little sus how many people were there and how much security I had to get through just to get to the front door.”
“Sir, we found a girl trying to escape as we were clearing the halls! What should we do with her?” asks one of the voices.
Suddenly, they hear another voice, “Get your grimy hands off of me, you Commies!”
“Oh no! They have Paige!” Jace says, “We have to help her. We can’t just leave her here, but how can we get her out without drawing too much attention to ourselves?” Jace looks at Erick and notices a strange shadow approaching behind him.
“Hey! You there, don’t you move a muscle!” A deep voice says to the boys. The soldier puts his gun against Erick’s shoulder to aim at both him and Jace.
“Well, crap, there’s no getting out of this without drawing more attention, so let’s go all out.” Jace looks at Erick and nods his head. He pulls his knife and charges both the man and Erick.
The guard quickly avoids the blade that Jace is charging with.
Erick grabs the barrel of the man's weapon, pulling it away from the man to himself. “Jace, now!” Erick lets Jace know he has an open shot.
Erick grabs the man by his legs. Jace throws his knife to the ground as he full-on tackles the guard and kicks the gun away from his hands as it falls to the ground. Before Jace tackled him, he put the guard into a triangle chokehold, causing him to pass out.
“Did they really not hear that?” Jace asks while he peeks around the corner but realizes they have left. “Crap! Now, how are we going to get Paige out of here without getting caught?”
Erick inspects the man's body while he comes up with a plan. “How about this?” Erick says to Jace, “How about I put on this uniform, pretend to be one of the guards, and act as if I caught you! Once they see I have you, they will want me to bring you to the rest of the prisoners!”
“That’s a great idea! But, how do we know they won’t want me to be in a special place due to, ya know, me being the reason they are here?” Jace says sarcastically.
“That’s why, if all else fails, you’ll be carrying this,” Erick says as he holds up a hard drive, “This is one of the drives I used to block the signal of the guards in your room earlier. Just press this little button right here.” Erick points to a little red button on the side of the drive, “And this will pretty much fry every single one of their radios, giving you time to escape. While that’s happening, I’ll be with Paige, hopefully, outta here. And if you don’t meet us at the rendezvous point in 15 minutes, I will come to find you!”
“Ya know, a lot of things can happen. This plan can go South real fast, but one of our own is in trouble, so why not?” Jace says as he takes the drive and slips it in his back pocket to where he can reach it with the cuffs that Erick puts on him.
“Alright, are ya set to go?” Erick asks Jace while he slides on the guard’s helmet.
“Yeah, I guess. Well, let’s go!” Jace walks with Erick, trailing his every move to look like he’s holding him captive.
“Ahh, so y’all've finally made it back," they hear a grown man's voice say from the back of the room, "Jace, you had to be carried inside? Are you weak or something?”
As their eyes slowly adjust to the lights in the room, the voice continues to speak, “I see you boys decided to take your time coming back to base.”
The boys are finally able to make out whose voice it is to reply to. “Well, it’s kind of hard when you’re bleeding out while trying to avoid being found by the military police!” Jace replies in a smart tone.
“Don’t catch an attitude with me, boy!” the voice says to Jace, “And you, Erick, you need to keep a better eye on my son right here.”
“Yes, sir! I was trying my best, but you know Jace. He doesn’t like to take orders from other people very much,” Erick says to Daniel, Jace's father, “Jace really needs to get to the medical bay, though, sir. He’s actually really hurt and losing quite a bit of blood.”
Daniel, noticing the wound is worse than he expected, rushes over to help Erick carry Jace. “What happened?!” Daniel asks Erick out of curiosity and concern.
“He was shot on his way back to base, but, luckily, the bullet barely grazed him,” answers Erick.
“This doesn’t look like just a graze to me… how did he end up getting in worse condition?” asks Jace‘s father.
“I punched a tree…” replies Jace under his breath.
“A tree… You’re telling me a tree messed you up this bad?” Daniel asks in a demeaning voice. “At least, tell me you won the fight,” Daniel says with a chuckle while looking down, shaking his head, as they carry Jace to the infirmary.
“Sadly, it was Jace who took the most damage,” Erick laughs. “As he was punching the tree, his wound stretched and tore open,” Erick explains to Daniel, “I’m just afraid his wound might get infected if we don’t treat him soon.”
As they enter the medical bay, Daniel calls out, “Jillian, we need your assistance!”
Jillian enters the room. “What’s all this racket going on in here?” Jillian says while she takes off a pair of latex gloves.
“Our son needs your help… He lost a fight to a tree,” Daniel says jokingly, making fun of their son.
“Set him on the table right there and let me see this…” Jillian says.
Then Erick lifts up Jace’s shirt to reveal the injury next to his toned, muscular abs. “Ok, so good news is it’s not infected, but it does have some mild damage to his oblique muscle. There’s nothing to be worried about, though. He’ll just need a few days for it to heal after I stitch him up,” Jillian says as she begins to wipe around his wound with alcohol pads and pour some in it to prep his wound for stitches.
About thirty minutes passed. Erick and Daniel have both gone to their rooms. “Ohh, ‘kay, that should do it!” says Jillian as she pulls the needle after tying the last knot of Jace's stitches, “Just be sure to get some rest now. And no strenuous exercise if you want this wound to heal up fast.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Jace says as he tries to stand up.
“Woah, calm down there, champ!” Jillian says as she helps Jace stand up. “You still lost quite a bit of blood, but you’ll be fine...just, probably a little faint for the rest of the night.” His mother starts to walk him to his room.
As they walk, Jillian asks, “So, what was the point of getting into a fight with the tree?”
“Erick and I just had a little talk on the way back here, and I got a little intense and emotional,” Jace replies, “I didn’t mean to make matters worse for me.” He lets out a pained laugh.
“What was it about?” Jillian asks.
“It was about what happened all those years ago… I don’t really want to go into it again,” Jace says as he leans toward the entrance of his room. Jace opens the door to his room and says, “I should be fine, for now, Mom.”
“Well, if you ever need to talk, just know, I’m here for you,” his mother says as she turns to walk away.
“Uhh, hey, mom, thank you… for, you know, stitching me up. Thanks…” Jace says quietly to his mother as he shuts the door to his room.
Jace’s mother smiles as she turns away when he shuts his door and mutters to herself, “Just like his father used to be… A big softie, trying to be a tough guy.”
Jace, leaning against his door, looks around his room to see if Erick had brought his bag to his room, but doesn’t find it. After Jace opens his door and leans against the wall for support, he walks to Erick’s room, next door, and knocks on it.
Erick answers his door, “Hey, do you still have my bag from when we came in?” Jace asks Erick.
“Your bag? Oh, yeah, I have it right over here! I didn’t want anyone going into your room to take something from it, so I kept it in my room… I hope that’s ok?” Erick replies to Jace.
“No, no, no, it’s all good!” Jace assures Erick, “Actually, that was probably a good idea. Thanks.” Jace shuts the door and walks over to sit on Erick’s bed.
Erick walks over, opens his closet doors, and reaches up, grabbing Jace’s backpack from the top of his shelf. “Hey, Jace! Think fast!” Erick says as he pretends to throw Jace’s bag at him.
“Woah! Ahhh crap!” Jace shouts as he attempts to catch it but hurts himself while trying. “Why would you do that?!” Jace says while trying not to yell.
“Why not?” Erick lets out a laugh. “You’re still as gullible as always! Do you really think I’d throw your bag at you after you just got stitches done?” Erick says while walking over to Jace and setting the bag by his side.
“Well, it’s you, so I never know… you’re dumb enough to do anything!” Jace says as he reaches over, grabs his bag, and begins unzipping it.
“Ahh, there we go!” Jace says as he pulls out his laptop. Then Jace feels around in his bag, reaches into the side pocket, and pulls out a black thumb drive.
“Is that the drive I made you?” asks Erick.
“Yep, it sure is, and, hopefully, it still works!” Jace says in hopes he didn’t mess it up with all the trauma his bag went through. Jace pulls out a cord and connects the drive to his laptop. “Here goes nothing!” Jace says as he boots up the files he downloaded from the secret, military base he broke into.
“Ohh… my… Chuck!” Jace exclaims
“What? What is it?” Erick asks Jace with a concerned tone.
“Come check this out!” Jace says as he scrolls through the files. “Do you see this?! They have-” Jace coughs in the middle of his sentence, “...have the locations to three of our bases!”
“Do you know which ones?” Erick asks, concerned.
“Ok, so they know about the one in Nashville along with the one in New York,” Jace tells Erick. “Ohh no…” Jace says, horrified.
“Maybe, if you weren't loud, you wouldn’t have gotten caught,” Jace says as he turns around to see who is speaking to him.
The man behind the voice comes out from hiding in the bushes. “Ya know, Erick, you should work on your stealth more than that big brain of yours,” Jace says seriously.
“Well, maybe, you should work on that big mouth of yours instead of all that training!” Erick says when they lock eyes. It’s silent for a bit before they both erupt in laughter and hug.
“Ouch, watch the side!” Jace says as he points out his injury to Erick.
“I’m so sorry! I just really missed you,” Erick says as he starts to let go of Jace, “What happened? Is that injury what took you so long? I thought it was only a two-day mission.”
“Woah! Hold on. So many questions,” Jace let’s out a laugh as he continues, “Well, you see, it’s a long story,” they sit while Jace fills him in on what happened during his time on the mission.
“Ah, okay, so that explains it, but what happened to your side?” asked Erick.
“Oh, I got in a little more trouble than what I bargained for. Those men I was telling you about shot me. The bullet barely grazed my side, though.”
“Soooo, what you are telling me, is that you are not as good at escaping as you claim?” Erick points out with a chuckle. “C’mon, man, you can’t let a bullet get the best of you.”
“Hey, shut up! You know I can’t outrun bullets!” Jace answers as he hits Erick on the back of the head. “Besides, I’m surprised I made it out of there in one piece. If I had waited later, I would prolly be dead,” Jace says as he looks around, “Speaking of, those men are probably close by. I’m sure they are looking for me.”
“Why would they be after you?” Erick asks.
“Ohh, you thought they were just gonna let me run off free with the plans of the raid on one of our bases?” Jace says in a sarcastic tone.
“Yeah, I doubt that. Well, good thing you made it back in one piece, or else your dad would burn this whole country into the ground…Oh wait, he already plans on doing that whether you are alive or dead,” Erick says with a smirk on his face as he shakes his head.
“I know,” says Jace, “that’s the scary thing. You never know what that man is thinking.” Jace leans his head back on the tree they are sitting up against.
After Jace speaks, Erick looks up at the sky and says, “It is pretty late, isn’t it?”
Jace inspects his watch that reads 7:39 PM. “We need to start heading back before it gets too late, or we will get into more trouble than we probably already are,” Jace says as he jumps up from his sitting position and reaches out his hand to help Erick up.
Erick then notices that all the natural sounds become drowned out by the cries of people, along with the lack of wildlife, scared away from the military trucks driving down the roads and sirens ringing twenty-four/seven.
“How did it come to this?” asks Erick.
“Come to what?” replies Jace.
“This… the world we live in now…This place, that used to be so beautiful and peaceful, is now just a wasteland full of pain and suffering…” Erick says as Jace can hear the pain in his voice.
“I have no clue...corruption, maybe? This is the “Perfect America” that was promised to us,” Jace says as he kicks a rock into the bushes.
“There was a time when there would be clouds in the sky, not just smoke and ash. You would hear kids playing in the background instead of cries for help and police sirens,” Erick says while looking at Jace.
Jace balls up his fists as he veers off the path. “Where are you going?” asks Erick. All of a sudden Erick sees Jace punch a tree. Blood starts to trickle down Jace’s fists and also from his previous side injury.
“What…happened?” Jace asks himself, as he lets out a deep breath, trying to contain himself. “If it wasn’t for them...If people had just listened to the warnings and spotted the red flags, none of this-” Jace is interrupted by an Erick trying to calm Jace's anger to keep them from being heard by others on the main road.
“Jace, it’s okay. You can’t blame this on yourself, or anyone. This was bound to happen eventually!”
“No!” Jace says abruptly, “This is my fault. This is all our fault! We did this! We divided as a country?! We are the United States, not the Separation states. We are supposed to be United! One! But look at us. We have destroyed this country and turned our backs against our brothers and sisters! Why, because we all want to be different.” A tear flows down the side of his face, “How long has it been?"
"How long has what been?" Erick asks.
"How long has it been since we were genuinely happy? How long has it been since we didn’t have to run for our lives? How long has it been since we’ve had fresh food on the table? HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE WE WERE FREE!?” Jace lets out a cry.
“Jace! Please calm down…It’ll have been 19 years today,” Erick replies in a soft undertone.
“We were just kids… Kids! When they stole our lives, our childhood, from us!” Jace says with a hostile but gentle voice, “We were both only six when they stormed the White House, killing everyone inside. Six years old! Do you not remember what they did to your family, to our families!?” Jace punches the tree again. This time his wound grows as more blood pours off his knuckles.
“Please, don’t bring this up,” Erick pleads, already holding back tears in his eyes.
“We have to use that! Use that to feed that drive inside you. Stand with me against these Commies, because at this point it’s all we have… beside each other!” says Jace while grabbing ahold of Erick’s shoulder.
“I am! That’s why I have your back! These people need to pay for what they have done. They need to be taught a lesson!” replies Erick, “And we are going to remind them that you don’t mess with the American people and not get what’s coming to you! We are going to remind the people what it means to be free! We will rise like a phoenix from the ashes.”
As Erick gives his speech, Jace falls to his knees, “I just can’t do this anymore.” Jace says in a hurt voice “I’m tired of all the running and fighting,” Jace stands up but falls back down 'cause of the pain from his side.
“Hey, stop,” Erick says softly, “you’ve lost a lot of blood. Here, let me help you.” Erick kneels to wrap Jace's arm around his shoulder and slowly picks him up off the ground. “There. See? Now, isn’t it easier to ask for help instead of doing everything on your own?” Erick asks with a chuckle to lighten the heavy mood.
“Yeah, but it also makes me look weak… and I can’t have people thinking I’m weak, I have to remain strong for everyone. Especially my father...” Jace replies.
“Jace, everyone knows you are anything but weak. You are the reason we are here. You’re the reason we have gotten as far as we have! Nobody here will ever think you’re weak, especially not me! Now, let’s take care of that injury on your hand,” Erick says as he pours some water over Jace’s knuckles and wraps his bandana over them. “There ya go. Now, can you not be stupid? And stop getting into fights with trees, ya moron!” Erick lets out a laugh as he and Jace start walking towards the main base.
“Ahh, finally!” Jace lets out a deep breath. “We made it!” Jace says as he and Erick stand outside looking at the entrance.
“You see this, Jace?” Erick mentions while looking up at the sky admiring the few stars they can see through the smoke-filled sky. “This is all because of you. You’re the reason we’re still able to see this. Don’t forget I still remember what you did that day.”
“But I-” before Jace can finish, Erick cuts him off by saying, “Let’s go inside now. I’m sure everyone is ready to see you, plus we need to get you doctored up before those wounds of yours get infected.”
Jace looking at his wounds nods his head in agreement and they head inside.
“Why’s it so dark in here?” Erick asks. Jace flips on the light switch. The light hits their eyes like bullets, and they are temporarily blinded.
“Ahh, so y’all've finally made it back," they hear a grown man's voice say from the back of the room, "Jace, you had to be carried inside? Are you weak or something?”
America has fallen under a dictatorship where all freedoms and rights were taken away. One man, who goes by the name Jace, aka Zero, will raise an army to bring back peace and freedom to the country he once called “Home” before America met its “Fall.”
Suddenly, an explosion erupts among a crowd as Jace is trailing through while being chased by five men in military uniforms. While getting held up by some protesters, he quickly has to find a way to escape the uniformed men.
“Where can I...ah, there it is!” Jace says as he spots a small alley and starts to head towards it. He loosens the straps of his backpack, takes it off, and throws it over the fence covering the entrance. As he jumps, he realizes that his bag seems a little lighter than it should.
“Crap! It must have fallen out somewhere around here!” exclaims Jace, as he searches for the laptop that fell out of his bag. He’s suddenly grabbed and thrown to his back by two of the men who caught him. They aim their guns at him.
“Sir, we caught the intruder. What should we do with him?” One of the men asks into the radio on his vest.
“Just hold him until we get there,” the voice from the other side of the radio says.
“You heard him! Don’t move a muscle, or we will shoot!” the other man says.
As Jace is sitting there, looking around, he spots his laptop under the dumpster. “Listen, guys. I don’t want any trouble. Everything is just one big misunderstanding. Yeah, a misunderstanding.” Jace says to the men.
“Oh, so it’s just a misunderstanding that you broke into a top-secret facility and stole plans for a raid that is securely under wraps? You mean that misunderstanding?” the man who spoke into the radio asks.
“Uhh...yeah, no, you got me there,” Jace says as he lets out a chuckle while inspecting his watch.
“What’s so funny, you piece of rebel crap?” the man questions.
“Oh, it’s nothing. Just waiting...” Jace answers.
“Waiting? No one’s coming to save you. You’re all alone now!” Says one of the men.
“Wouldn’t be so sure about that!” Jace says, and suddenly another explosion goes off. Caught off guard, the men look around as Jace gets up and grabs onto the barrel of one of the men’s guns. As he aims the barrel at the man who spoke into the radio, the other pulls the trigger out of fear, not knowing it’s aimed at his partner, shooting his colleague.
“Man down! Man do...” The other man calls out as Jace takes the gun from the man then aims it at him.
“Don’t say another word, or he eats his own bullets!”
To Jace’s surprise, the man standing shoots and kills the injured man and yells, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists!”
“Well crap, there goes that plan,” Jace says while diving for cover as the man starts to open fire at him. Jace lands behind the dumpster his laptop is under, but soon realizes his backpack is still out in the alley. He quickly searches around for something within reach that would help him grab his bag but finds nothing. He peeks his head out from behind the dumpster, nearly getting shot by the man, then quickly retreats as he searches for something to distract the man for just a split second.
“If I can distract him, just for a few seconds, and draw his attention, I can get the upper hand!” While searching, he notices a rock. Jace grabs the rock and throws it over some metal trash cans. It hits a trash can, and the man quickly looks around, thinking there are more people nearby. Suddenly, Jace makes a run for his bag. The man catches the eye of Jace and opens fire, but barely misses, shooting behind his feet.
Jace then throws the backpack behind the dumpster where he was hiding and jumps towards it. Reaching cover, Jace puts the laptop back in his bag, devising a plan to escape this man. Needing to act fast before more arrive (as previously mentioned by the man on the radio), Jace checks the magazine to see how many rounds are left, “Eight. I have to make this work somehow.” Jace reinserts the magazine, checks the chamber, and sees another, “Okay, eight, plus one. That should be enough to work with!” Jace thinks of a better plan, knowing how the man won’t fall for the same trick twice. As he looks around, he notices that the man is standing next to a waterline. “I have to make this shot count because, if it doesn’t, we are all screwed!” With that said, he quickly comes out of cover and fires two shots at the waterline. The first shot misses, but the second one barely grazes the line. Nothing happens. “Well, sh...”
The man starts to open fire. Simultaneously, the line bursts from the pressure built up, tearing the part grazed by Jace’s bullet. The man gets thrown to the side by the amount of water pressure shooting towards him.
“That went better than expected!” Jace says as he straps up the backpack. He starts to take off, running down the alley, and, at that moment, the other three men who were chasing him arrive. They follow and open fire at Jace, but all miss, or so Jace thought. Jace climbs up to a roof and starts jumping from building to building, trying to escape the men chasing him, then jumps down onto the main road on an overpass. More men surround him. There is no way out.
“You’re out of options!” one of the men yell at Jace. “There’s nowhere for you to run! Just turn yourself in!”
Jace jumps up onto the side of the overpass, signaling all the men to aim their weapons at him, and yells back, “No! I will never give myself up, not to you and not to your leaders! I will never obey you or your laws! There is only one law I obey, and that, my friends, is the law of gravity.” Then he leaps backward, off the overpass.
They are all shocked after witnessing what he just did. “Look!” one of the men shouts. They all see Jace on top of an eighteen-wheeler.
“Where do they get these crazy sons of guns!?” the head of the team shouts as he throws his hat to the ground, “That was our only chance, foiled by some stupid kid! Let’s regroup. And I need a search party out looking for this kid!”
An hour passes. Jace bangs on the roof of the truck. The driver slams on his breaks, shocked at the sudden sound, not knowing Jace was up there. When he slams on his breaks, Jace goes flying off the top of the truck. “Well, dang, don’t let me down too easily!” Jace says with a chuckle. The driver gets out and asks Jace if he’s okay and about why he was up there. The driver also notices Jace is bleeding from his side and starts to panic, “I’m so sorry! I swear I didn’t mean it! I didn’t!” Before the driver can finish his sentence, Jace tells him it’s okay and that he wasn’t the reason he was bleeding.
After he reassures the driver, he lets him go with no hassle. Jace then starts to head into Hawlings River Regional Park, where they have their main base set up but hears a sound. “Who’s there!?” Jace yells, holding his side to try not to bleed too much.
“You’re too loud!” he hears a male voice say behind him.
“Maybe if you weren’t loud, you wouldn’t have gotten caught,” Jace says as he turns around to see who is speaking to him.
[The Story Royce is Reading] “I said I’ll come with you, alright, so just put the sword down!”
“Ha!” without warning, he slashes his hostage’s stomach open, “You say that but how can I trust you?”
I focus on the pain of my nails digging into my skin to keep calm, “You should know me well enough to know I always keep my word. Need I say more?”
“That’s a good point actually,” he strokes his beard and says with his grating voice, “Alright, let’s go then. My boys will send the kid back to town safely. I swear it.” He stabs the sword between the rocks and the salty breeze.
“So we’ve got a deal then? You release my brother and I take you where you wanna go?”
“Yeah, that’s the deal. Why? You have something to add?” His face only gets more menacing when his brow raises and a mischievous grin appears.
“Not really. You?”
His face droops in what I think might be disappointment before he hesitates to say, “Nope. Let’s go then, shall we? Boys! Take him.” The lackeys on standby rush up on either side of my brother’s weak and bleeding body. I wince as I hear a pained groan when they lift him up by his underarms and start to drag him along the shore. The lackeys then share what I assume to be a subservient glance with their captain.
“After I’m done, I’ll come to find you right away, you hear? You’re gonna be alright,” I try to assure him but, honestly, between the two of us, I don’t know who’s more afraid. Then I pivot around, naively trusting the words of a marauder’s promise. The few steps I take fill my ears with gravel, but, a second later, what I hear is a sound I don’t even want to describe. My body freezes for only a moment, yet a moment is enough time for flashbacks, of what one could have done better, to engrave themselves within a guilty heart. I turn, again, to see the face of my brother looking down at the fist buried wrist-deep into the fresh wound on his stomach. The next instant, his guts are yanked out and raised skyward towards the circling gulls screeching above.
My heart begins to beat erratically, its rhythm overwhelming my senses. The pounding of it echoing off the walls of my skull syncs with the image I have of my brother’s last breath. All I can do is stand shocked- motionless. Why did this happen? What did I do wrong? What could I have done? What do I do now? Who am I without my brother?
[Royce pauses reading] Royce pats his hand over his rapidly beating heart, “Well, that escalated quickly.”
[Royce reads again] I fall to my knees. Sand and sharp stones dig into the bloody marks I dug into my hands earlier, but it barely stings compared to the gut-wrenching realization I come across: It’s all my fault…
I see a sword sticking out of the bloody rocks from the corner of my eye. Just the glare reflecting off the blade is enough to make my skin feel as if it’s being sliced through.
...No! It’s his fault! It’s all his fault! My brother would still be alive if it weren’t for him!
I charge. Grabbing the sword, I rush at my enemy with his own weapon. Against better judgment, I attempt to skewer him with pure rage. Innards come flying at my face. I dodge, just barely, while continuing forward. Putting all my weight behind the blade, I aim for the same place where he brutally impaled my brother. He lunges for me at the same time, bare-handed. Suddenly, I’m tackled to the ground from the left side and land hard enough to dislocate my shoulder. The sword flew from my grip. My mind clears up a bit to process what just happened. I take a deep breath as the lackey that tackled me backs off in response to the swipe of his captain’s hand motioning to not interfere. Slowly, I stand up. He and I survey each other, waiting to see who moves first.
[Royce pauses] “Oh, c’mon!” Royce shouts as he rolls his right shoulder back to unwind the sudden ache, perhaps from slouching too long, “Why the heck would you just charge at him like a raging bull?! He’s a pirate, not a matador!”
[Royce continues] A seagull settles itself between us- apparently our signal to attack. It squawks then flies off when we dash towards each other once again. A feather or two falls between our punches. The wind picks up as we clash. Eventually, he wrestles me to the ground. One side of my face gets dragged across the gravel. No doubt my face is scarred. I try to kick him off of me, but he’s built like a whale, so I, instead, grab, break, and poke a seashell into the backside of the hand pressing down on my cheek. Surprisingly, his face just flinches before he pulls it out then firmly grips my chin with his bleeding hand, forcing me to see the crazed grin he’s giving. I can’t move out of the way in time. A scream escapes my throat. A bright light quickly flashes before everything goes black. He keeps shoving the jagged half of the seashell deeper inside my eye. Excruciating pain floods my senses like the waves crashing down behind us. I put all my strength into pushing his arms away. We come to a stalemate where he can’t use the shell to get to my brain and I can’t force the shell out of my eye. We lie there, one on top of the other, still struggling. The one good eye I have left turns everything I see red from all the blood gushing out of its twin.
“Hey, Kyser! Don’t you wanna go meet your kid brother?” he cackles.
[IRL] “Huh? Gosh! Am I crying?” Royce, without glancing away from the page, uses a sleeve of his maroon shirt to wipe away tears he doesn’t realize consist of blood.
[Story being read] “Not before I avenge him!” I spit in his face- close enough to the phrase, ‘An eye for an eye,’ I think. His hold on me finally loosens. I take the opportunity to knee his groin, then roll out from underneath him. With one hand covering my oozing eye socket, I quickly crawl and reach out towards the sword lying a few feet away on the ground. Though a little late, I hear him chase after me. Right as I’m about to touch the hilt of the sword, I get pulled down by my ankle. I rotate onto my back, getting into prime position for some kicks to be sent his way. Within my fist, I gather some gravel and throw it as hard as I can in hopes of buying more time. But my plan is for naught. I didn’t consider how a pirate would, of course, already know every dirty trick in the book, let alone my amateur moves. Expecting it, he uses his rum flask to shield his face while he plows his way through with pebbles flying everywhere. He lifts my torso up by the collar of my tattered shirt.
“Wait! Wait! Wait!” I shout. And he listens. “Didn’t you want me to take you there? You need me alive!”
He looks as if he gives it some thought, smiles, and then says, “But do I really?” He flicks his chin up a bit to the right. Shing! The sword is tossed over my head. The captain catches it perfectly and sets the sharp edge on my neck. I almost don’t notice how a drop of my blood is drawn.
I gulp, “Yes?”
[IRL] Royce gasps for air. Gurgling sounds fill the room as blood spills from his mouth. His hands press onto the deep gash that appeared on his throat. The book has fallen to the floor. And, soon, Royce falls from his chair. He looks at the ceiling with blood pouring from one of his eyes. Confusion runs rampant in his mind before blankness arrives. Silence. ... A transparent figure awaits the appearance of Royce’s soul above their fresh corpse before saying, “I told you you needed me.”
We noticed how a snowflake of ours landed upon a tear streaming down your cheek one night. It was then we worried if maybe we made it too cold for your already weakened heart to bear. But we didn’t want to leave just yet. Why? We weren’t sure. We’ve never gravitated towards a single land floater like that before, but, for whatever fate’s reason, whether to freeze your tears, numb the pain, or other, we stayed and let it snow 'til sunrise. ~ Sending more snow kisses soon in case you need them.
Sincerely, Snow Clouds
Dear Snow Clouds,
The other night, I kneeled outside and looked to the seemingly dark and empty sky. I saw no difference between it and the heart thumping inside my chest.
Everything was numb except my nose, burning red from the freezing temperatures, yet I know I felt it. It was barely a whisper that touched my cheek- cold but comforting, a snowflake. It melted too fast for me to believe there was more than just a cloudless sky above. Yet, at that moment, when my hope started to fade, another fell, then another, and another. All around me snowflakes swayed, twirling about in all their bright, white grace.
I couldn’t thank you all enough for showing me what could be hidden within a supposed void when I was just about to drown in mine to end it all.
With all the gratitude a human can give, A stranger on the ground
Muse 1.0 ------------------ How can I ever run out of words when words themselves are my muse?
To You, From Me:
When I don’t know what to write, I think of you and begin to type. There’s no such thing as writer’s block if you take ‘em all and build a tower to live in like a child with legos and an endless imagination.
“What to write? What to write?” people ask.
My advice will always be you. “Write about writing and you’ll never be lost, for it’ll always be everyone’s default muse.”
One may have customized every topic they’ve chosen for aesthetics, to express emotions, or just to empty one’s mind, but when all else fails and one feels as if they can’t pen a single thing, you’re forever there to assist- offer a metaphorical shoulder as a lift (not a pillow to cry on). You’re there to remind them where everything started before everyone kept pressing the update button.
And me? I’m someone who never dares to press update. I stay where I know I’m comfortable, where everything is just right- not too this and not too that (call me Goldilocks for all I care). To me, you’re no longer just a default. You’re what I chose myself- not what I was forced to comply with. You’re a solid foundation that supports even a tumbling tower of building blocks like myself (lol apparently we’re both good at playing Jenga). Above all, you’re my muse. All I ever want to write about is you and until I was challenged to write this letter, I never knew. Sorry for realizing so late but aren’t infatuated people usually the last ones to recognize what they’re feeling? I think that fact says it all.
For when you yourself are my muse, how can the page ever remain blank? How could the tower ever truly stop climbing? How could the sky ever end?
I didn’t know what to do lol ♀️ Btw if u see any big, odd spaces randomly placed around, there's probs just an emoji not visible to u there, k? #bluepup#bayentry#Ltseasonc ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 4 Seasons Group Chat ------------------------------- Spring: Dear Fellow Seasons,
It is with utmost joy that I announce the coming of a new time. Winter has ended the year perfectly and is doing her best to forge a suitable path for rebirth in the grand scheme of things. I shall do my best in not allowing her hard work to melt away without reward blooming beneath the snow.
Warm Regards, Spring
❄ Winter: Uhh… Ur welcome? Thx?
Summer: What're you even doing Summer: What's with the formal message, Spring?
Spring: I just figured we should start out the year with clear minds and a will to do better… ya know… we kind of made 2020 a mess… we should try to make up for it, no? :)
Fall: We did nothing wrong Fall: We weren’t the ones that screwed up last year, remember?
Spring: Not exactly, but we definitely didn't help much either
Fall: So? We just did our jobs as was scheduled Fall: The humans r the ones who made it worse. They're always causing us trouble smh
Summer: Ikr they're such a pain but at the same time it makes everything more entertaining lmao I can't wait 'til it's my turn to mess with em lol
❄ Winter: Uhh… I actually think they're quite nice
Summer: Why? Lol Summer: They complain about you the most Summer: How could you possibly think of them as nice?
❄ Winter: I dunno… just do ig… reasons…
Summer: Sigh ♀️ You never make any sense
❄ Winter: I am what I am. It is what it is.
Summer: … Summer: Anyways Summer: Did you have anything special in mind to do, Spring? Summer: We'll hear ya out All s
Spring: Um not really Spring: I was hoping we could come up with something together :)
Summer: Alright alright Summer: Then I've got an idea already. Hear me out, yeah? Summer: So my idea is… Summer: Drum roll please
Hey! Your face is too big/too small, your waist wide, length too tall, the bumps on your chest, that you call breasts are sagging, the growth of your hair is lagging, but ugh, you got a moustache, ain't that supposed to be a filter on snapchat?!
Oh my! Your knees are black, so are your elbows and neck, tell me girl, how come, you aren't already an emotional wreck?!
Shame, shame! You are so lame, who ever wears a halo over a devil's mane! How do you see your eyes, they aren't an ocean but a handful of lies! Your face is flat and so is your butt, can you spell sexy, if not, then keep your mouth shut. Before you wear a crop top, crop some weight, hey girl have you ever been asked to a date? Did your mother not feed you today, no wait, I know, it was stolen off of your tray.
A beauty bone, is all you need, you think but, honey, you look like a ragged coat, on a hanger, that stinks!
Why don't you treat your face, so that it won't look obese? Shave your legs, wax your beard and through your eyebrows, run a thread, stare at your reflection and grieve before you go to bed. Is that a pimple on your cheek, why of medicine do you reek? Gross, there's acne on your back, why aren't you clad in a sarong of a sack?!
Dream and scream, rub more cream, you won't have to be a walking-talking meme, damn! you are talking to the mirror it seems, now I see why do you have such low self-esteem, You've dissected your eyes and built a shame team, come with me and rinse them of all screens.
Can you see clear, or are there more tears? Without any walls, you stand before your fears. smile and let your dimples deepen, eyes glisten, tell them behind the lies of tears, there's a single truth hidden, it is all dust that we see, you and me, even a blind man beholds beauty in his eyes, when staring at the mirror, beautiful he cries.