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Chapter 4 (v.1) - Chapter 4

Submitted: March 23, 2018

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A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 23, 2018

A A A

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The heat is scorching, my shoulders are aching from the supply duffels and I'm hungry.

I look over at Tess, who appears fine and wonder is she is even tired.

it’s been at least four hours.

She groans and looks at her watch. “A little over two hours.”

“What? Are you tired?” she asks almost mockingly.

“No, of course not. I could do this all day.” I lie.

It only gets worse. The sun gets hotter, my skin stickier, and Tess’s mood worse.

Sand creeps up my bare legs, reminding me that I am still wearing nothing but a doctor’s coat. My legs are cut up from wading through the dry trees that this desert is filled with.

“Do we have any other clothes?” I don’t want to get dust all over my bare skin.

“No.” she looks at my legs little sympathetically.

“When did you become a guard?” No need to walk in silence.

“Once I turned twelve.”

“That young?” I thought they don't accept you until eighteen.

“I was in the Orphan Care Center, they start training you to earn your keep at twelve.”

“Oh.” I kick a stray rock with the toe of the boot Tess gave me.

She is not much of a talker so we walk the next few hours in silence.

My head spins with a million questions.

Why is she really helping me? Why was I picked to be the Error?

Nothing makes sense. Also, why is Aquapolis so great?

My stomach rumbles loudly, interrupting my thoughts.

“Should we stop and eat?” I squint in the sunlight.

Tess looks at me sideways, “Really? After five hours?” she sighs but stops and pulls survival packets from her bag.

She hands me one and sits down.

The ground burns my bare legs, and sand gets all over my thighs when I sit. But, after walking for six hours, any place to sit is a relief.

Tasteless and chewy, the rations remind me of over-cooked meat. “What’s in these?”

“Dehydrated meat and vegetables.” she tears off a chunk. “Rations are made for emergencies, they are not supposed to be good.”

By the time we finish eating and pack up our bags, the sun is just a sliver of light. The sky is pink and the weather is turning cool, making the sand no longer burn from the sun.

According to Tess’ watch, we have escaped the complex fourteen hours ago.

“When will we stop for the night?”

Tess looks at the sky before answering. “I guess we can’t stop now. I will watch tonight, you tomorrow night.”

“Thanks.” I lay my head down on the duffel and close my eyes.

Something rustles next to my head. My eyes fly open and dart around.

It's just a dry leaf. Again.

It is hard to sleep when you are being chased and your guide is terrible at hiding.

Tess didn't even set up some sort of coverage to hide us.

Maybe she’s decided that they have given up on chasing us.

“Tess?” I whisper.

“Alison, tomorrow night we are switching places, so rest all you can.”

To be fair, it’s not like there is any place to hide us anyway.

“What is it?” she asks after a minute or two.

“Just wanted to tell you that you look terrible.” I hide my smile and close my eyes.

“At least my brain didn’t completely black out like yours did after two hours.” I can hear the smile in her words.

“Goodnight.”

 

By the time I wake up the sun has already risen and Tess is sitting cross-legged, facing the sunrise, braiding her wavy brown hair.

“Good morning. Eat and then we’ll continue walking.” she passes me a ration packet.

This one tastes like charred fish instead of over cooked meat.

“let’s move.” Tess stands up as I finish.

Don’t you ever get tired?

I yawn. She’s the one who hasn't slept in a day.

We spend the next few hours walking. This time, I don't complain about the heat. Sleeping has made me feel more motivated and a lot more positive.

“What’s your problem?” Tess snaps when I smile at her.

“Nothing.”

“Then wipe that doofy grin off your face.”

“Smiling never hurt anyone.”

“Wanna bet?”

Before I can reply, Tess claps a hand over my mouth. “Shh.” she hisses, surveying the area.

“What?” I yank her hand away from my mouth.

“I heard something move.”

“That?” I point at some dry leaves at her feet.

“No, footsteps, running.”

I sigh and start to walk off, “It was probably just your imagination.”  
“No. it wasn't.” she draws her eyebrows together and examines.”

“Looking for bugs?” I stifle my laughter with a cough. Maybe she is going nuts.

“No.” she stands up and wipes her hands on her pants.

“K, let’s move.” for once I am the one pressuring her to move.

“Just keep your eyes open.” she presses her lips together nervously.

“Always do.” i start walking.

“Especially at night time.” she adds.

“Great. Let’s move.”

The sun gets hotter, Tess gets more edgy, making me slightly tense. She is usually so composed, seeing her like this is very disturbing.

Today is just a more tense repeat of yesterday. Hot, tiring, and overall boring.

“Alison, be really careful. Wake me up if hear any noise. Even if it's a leaf.” She says as the last bit of sunlight fades, leaving us in the dark.

“Ok.”

The borderlands seem to be full of stray, parched leaves. Where they’re coming from, I have no idea.

Since there are no trees here and very few dry bushes, they probably blew over somehow.

Tess doesn't look so stoic when she sleeps. Her lips curve into a non-grimace, and her eyebrows drift upwards slightly.

If I’m going to trust her, I need to know more about her.

I pull the duffel she had been carrying onto my lap and open it up.

Hers weighs significantly less than mine and has more lumps.

The first thing I see is a notebook. Small and black, it is filled with neat, even handwriting.

Probably a diary.

I contemplate reading it for a second before moving on.

Underneath it is a metal object. Or pieces of a metal object. Even with my better-than-average vision, It is too dark to see details. Apparently it only works in the light.

There are four pieces, smooth and metallic. They are curved, it was a circular object.

I shove the pieces back where I found them and zip her bag up.

“So, what now?” I ask.

Tess stirs a bit, silencing me. Her watch says she has been asleep for only an hour.

A gust of wind blows, spraying me with dust. “Phew.” I spit sand from my mouth.

What did Tess do for eight hours?

The gusts pick up, washing me in sand. I pull my ratty doctor’s coat around my body. The dry trees shake in the wind.

It is no longer white, full of holes, and is missing a button. The hem falls about seven inches above the tops of the boots Tess gave me, so my legs are quite filthy and scratched from the sand rubbing against them.

I do not like the dark and I do not like being alone. Plus, Tess was worried that we are being followed and the best time to attack is at night.

Relax, lean back.

I lean against the duffels and try to look at the glittering sky. When I'm not being chased, I love the night sky. Tertium, the largest orb in the sky comes out like the sun, except it is less bright and glows white instead of orange.

Do other realms have the same orbs?

The orbs are little glowing spots in the sky that come out late at night, there are thousands of them. They hold messages of the past and some people believe they can tell the future too.

My eyelids droop as the night gets quieter and the wind picks up into a soothing rhythm.  

 

I must have fallen asleep because suddenly the sky is a deep orangey pink.

This is the third time I have been up watching. We have been on the road for six days.

Tess is still sleeping. Maybe staying up to watch is just unnecessary and we can both start sleeping form now on.

“Tess.” Her eyes fly open before I can even reach her.

“Is it morning?” she rubs her eyes.

“Yeah.”

She gets up and brushes the ever-present sand from her body. “Let’s eat.”

The ration packets look even more unappetizing than usual.

Six days of dehydrated meat for dinner, and dehydrated fish for breakfast.

“Alison!” Tess screams. Dust kicks up as I run towards her. She is standing there in nothing but her long shirt staring at the ground in shock. “I thought you were peeing?” I ask, breathless from running.

“Look.” she points at large imprints in the dust. Waverly lines, five of them.

“What am I looking at?” I rub my exhausted eyes, trying to make sense of these lines.

“Someone smeared the sand with their hand.” Tess crouches and studies the prints closer.

Drawing in the sand is a nice way to pass time, and I didn't really want her to see my drawing so I smeared them.

“They taught us how to read prints in training.”

Great, but there is nothing to read.

Tess stands. “Come out!” she shouts.

“I’m ‘out’” I say, biting my cheeks to stop a smile.

“Can you be serious?!” she shouts.

“What? Jokes always lighten the situation.”

“I don't need you to ‘lighten the situation’.” she mutters.

“Tess, I drew in the sand and smeared it.” I blurt out before laughing.

“What?” her face relaxes.

“Yeah, so stop extrapolating.”

“Do you even know what that means?” 

“Nope.”

 

The whole prints business has left Tess on edge. Again.

Not that she ever stopped being on edge, since we left she has been paranoid.

We have walked so far that looking back, I can't see the city. Looking forward, all I see is endless sand.

As the days pass, I start to feel like I am being watched. I am starting to believe that Tess was right, someone is following us.

I check the area quickly before squatting behind a parched bush to relieve myself.

It seems to be clear but I feel like someone is there.

A hissing sound meets my ears, making me jump. Someone is peeing.

Ew.

“Tess?” I say cautiously. No response.

Though it is not cold, I shiver. Crunching noises follow, someone walking.

I really hope that was Tess.

“Tess?” I ask, my heart pounding. “Alison!” Tess screams, her voice faint and hoarse.

“Tess?! Where are you?” I look around for her.

Don't panic. Don't panic. Don't panic.

“Tess?” I dash behind a bush, not there.

“TESS!!” I yell.

No, no, no.

My feet kick up a cloud of dust as I circle the area, searching for her. All I find is tracks, large ones. Probably a man’s.

What now? Continue to Aquapolis and forget the person who saved my life? Or, find the person who took her.

I don't even know where to start. How will I track someone with no tool whatsoever, and nothing to work with. Except for footprints.

The tracks head north. Or I think it's north.

I guess that’s where i’ll start. Even though we finished on duffel on the way, carrying the remaining five duffels is simply not happening.

I manage to combine two duffels so that I am only carrying four.

My shoulders scream with burning pain as I sling two on each shoulder and starting walking in the direction the footsteps lead to.

The pistol Tess brought feels smooth and sleek in my hand; I may not be the best shot out there, but if I really try I could probably hit within three inches of where I am aiming.

Adrenaline courses through my veins as I run as fast as the duffels allow me.

A hand claps over my mouth. “Move and I'll shoot you.” a deep voice whispers.

The cool metal of a gun barrel presses against the exposed skin on the back of my neck.

I inhale deeply, trying to stay calm. What would Tess do?

She’d fight. Strategically. She’d find a weak point.

He pins my arms behind my head and tries to drag me backwards. I brace my feet and bring my elbows into his chin. He cries out and pins me to the ground. Blood drips from his mouth to the ground next to my head.

“You should get a brace on that.” I gasp out when I have caught my breath.

“Shut up--” before he can finish his sentence, I slam my knee into his stomach. His grip loosens a bit and I roll out from underneath him and sit on his stomach so he is pinned to the ground.

My knees are pressing his thighs to the ground, my hands holding his down.

“Where is Tess?” I demand.

He grunts and throws me to the ground. “You’re coming with me.” leather straps close around my wrists.

My head slams into his back as he throws me over his shoulder.

“Put me down!” I yell, banging my tied fists into his lower back.

He bends a bit from the pain.

“Ouch. stop that or i’ll sedate you.” he threatens.

The thought of having any sort of drug injected in me makes stop. “Brat.” I mutter.

He walks to a large pod and dumps me on the floor. Tess looks at me from the pole she is tied to.

“Sorry.” I mouth as he ties me to the pole across from her.

She shakes her head. “Not your fault.” she mouths back.

“Now,” the gun clicks as the guy points it at my head. “Who sent you?”

“What?”

Why does Bennet think someone sent me?

“Who...sent...you.” he says slowly.

“Nobody. We ran away from you t save our lives.” Tess answers for me.

“Away from me?” he raises his thick eyebrows. “Not possible, I don’t know you.”

"Not you, Bennett."

“Then why did you say me?” he pulls the hem of his filthy t-shirt down.

“I meant; you plural.”

“You think I work for Aria?”

“Um, yeah.”

Why else would he be chasing us?

“Why would you think that?” he asks simply.

“How about because you’re chasing us and have now captured us.” I yell.

“I wasn’t chasing you.” annoyingly, he remains calm.

"Then please explain why you were following us?"

“Well,” he starts and crouches in front of me. “You see, me and my friend were travelling when we realized someone was coming towards us, so we investigated to figure out if they were hostile or not.”

“When one of the ragged looking girls attacked me, I concluded they were hostile and brought them back.”

Tess attacked him?

“You mean kidnapped them, right?” I snap. “What do you intend to do with us now?”

“Interrogate you and then take it from there.”

“So interrogate me.” better to get it over with.

He settles himself down.

“You are coming from Aria?”

“Yes. you?”

“Hey, this is not a two-way conversation." he waves finger. "This is me interrogating you.”

“If I had a gun right now I’d shoot you.” i spit.

“Alison, just shut up and cooperate already.” Tess blurts out.

“Exactly why are you rooting for the guy who has kidnapped us?”

“Once he realizes we are not a threat, he will set us free.”

“Where are you headed and why?” he continues.

“We were heading to Aquapolis until you kidnapped us.”

He rolls his eyes. “I didn't kidnap you. Why are going to Aquapolis?”

“None of your damn business.”

“Maybe, but I am not releasing you until I have reason to believe you are not a threat.”

“And how will knowing why I am going to Aquapolis insure you that I am not a threat?”

“Your motives mean a lot. We need to be insured that you are not working with the Arian or Aquapolin government.”

“Huh,” I look up at him in amusement, “Anybody ever tell you how adorable it is when you talk about things you clearly don't understand?”

He sets his jaw and glares at me, “Why are you headed to Aquapolis?”

“Why? You’re sick of Aria?”

Do you honestly think that?
“Something like that.” better that he thinks we are brats than fugitives. Besides, i’m sure there’s some sort of an inter-realm ransom on our names.

“I was kidding.”

“I’m not.” i say innocently. “I want to see more of the world.”

Please buy it.

"Most Arians don't know about the other realms."

“Tess works with the government, she found out and we decided to go on a road trip together.” i smile sweetly. His expression snaps me back into reality, I just mentioned she’s part of the government.

“Oh, your friend works with the Arian Government? That’s interesting.” He leans forward.

“She was just a janitor.” I add, and look over at Tess, who just shakes her head at my stupidity.

“Janitors don't know that. Only extremely high-ranking officers do.”

And guards with good ears.

“She’s an excellent spy.” I cringe as soon as the words leave my mouth.

“So she’s a government spy?” He says before Tess thumps her head against the wall.

"that's interesting."

"Of course not.” I fake-laugh at the situation. “She was a janitor who overheard a lot of things.”

“I’m no expert, but she sure carries herself like someone important.”

“Not that you’d know, but it's called self-respect.”

“I was a guard.” Tess says. “That’s the truth.”

“What about your road trip?”

“We left because Aria is a land of dictatorship and inequality.” that’s not a lie, it's just not the only reason why we left.

He looks at her for a moment before accepting her answer.

“So, you are headed to Aquapolis to find a better government?”

“More or less.” Also not a lie.

“Well you won't find it.” he sits down in front of Tess. “As someone who lived there for eighteen years, i can tell you it sucks.”

“You’re eighteen?!” i pretend to be surprised. “I thought you were twelve.”

“Ha ha. That’s funny.” he glares at me.

“It was actually pretty funny.” A voice says.

A man walks in. His dark skin is covered in black oil, his short black hair smeared with grease and his beige shirt looks like it was once white. He looks to be about seventeen.

He looks at us and smiles, flashing his teeth.

“Who are you?” he asks us before walk to a cabinet to pull out some food rations.

“They are some travellers i picked up.” the guy who took us in explains. “That one’s Tess.” he points at Tess.

“I'm Alex, who are you?” The guy who interrogated us asks me.

“Someone who doesn't give a damn who you are.” I snap.

“I like her.” the guy in the beige shirt says.

“I’m Adam, and i don't give a damn about him either.” he extends a grimy hand before remembering that i am tied up.

Alex glares at him.

“Um, Alex, can we untie them?” he mutters, an attempt at politeness.

“Only if you are volunteering to monitor them constantly.”

“Ok.” Adam responds.

He unties my wrists and helps me up. “Do you want to wash your face?”

Adam asks.

I nod, he leads me over to a sink.

After i wash my hands and face, Alex sits us down at a table.

“I have a proposal to make--” Alex announces.

“Spit it out, brude.” Adam interrupts. Brude?

Alex shoots Adam an eye-roll before continuing. “I think we should join forces.”

“Oh, that's nice.” i say. “Capture us, interrogate us and then decide we should be friends.” i yell. “If i shoot you can we be friends if I let you wash your face?!”

Alex sits there quietly while Adam giggles.

“Yeah, Alex, that was kinda dumb.” he says between giggles.

Tess tries to look angry but instead bites her cheeks to avoid smiling.

“I’m sorry that we had to, um,” he stutter awkwardly, “um, contain you.”

“What Alex meant to say is: He is very sorry that instead of confronting you and trying to work things out like normal people,” Adam starts, “he decided to capture you.”

“Yes.” Alex agrees.

“A moment, Alison?” Tess says before i can say anything.

“That’s your name!” Adam calls after us.

“Well?” I press my shoulders to the back of the pod and look at her expectantly.

“Should we join them?”
“Why on earth would we do that?” i shade my eyes from the scorching sun, “They kidnapped us.”
“Because they have a pod and better supplies, we will get there much faster.”

“Assuming they’re going to Aquapolis.”

“We’ll ask. If they are, do you want to?”

I press my lips together. It would definitely be easier. But, they kidnapped us and could very well be government agents sent to find us.

“I don't like the idea, but after some interviewing we could travel with them.” i say.

“Where are you going?” the rickety chair creaks as i sit.

“Kind of nowhere.” Adam answers before Alex can say anything.

“What he means is we are camping here for now.” Alex explains.

“Why? You like deserts?”

“No.”

“Why did you guys leave Aquapolis anyway? Sick of it?”

“You tell me the real reason why you left Aria and I will tell you why Aquapolis.” maybe he’s a criminal, taking risks is not something we can afford.

Like me.

“I told you, we don’t agree with Arian politics.”

“Alison, your story doesn't add up.”

“What about you? How do i know you aren’t an Arian officer sent to bring us back?”

“You don’t. But how do i know you aren't an Aquapolin agent sent to kill us?”

“Because no government agent is as stupid as her.” Tess says.

“True.”

“Um, did you just completely ignore the fact that he admitted he’s running from someone?” I ask Tess.

Tess sets her jaw. “Are you fugitives?” she presses her lips together.

“Yes, we are.” he says simply.

“What did you do?”

“Stole to feed my family.” His head drops slightly.

“Now, your turn.”

“Tried to raise a rebellion and miserably failed.” Tess lies.

“Noble.” Adam says before stuffing dried fruit in his mouth.

“So, where are you headed?” i ask.

“Aquapolis.”

“For what? I thought in all your eighteen years experience you think it sucks.”

“To raise an army.”

“You’re going to rebel against the Aquapolin government?”

‘Noble.’

“Nah, we’re just going to chat.” Adam answers. “What do you think?”

I roll my eyes. “Okay, you bring us to Aquapolis and then we will leave you alone to start your rebellion.”

“Then you we start a life in the ruins of a country. Good idea, you’re smart.” Tess says.

“She has a point.” Adam nods at Tess.

“Besides, do you really want to go from one corrupt government to another?” Alex adds.

“Our plan is flawed.” Tess says. “Do you need help? We can go with you and help you raise the army.”

“Are you kidding?” I blurt. “Go help these people we just met go on a suicide mission? Come on Tess, you’re supposed to be the smart one.”

Adam snickers. “Any better ideas? If they really are so dangerous then we are better off keeping our eyes on them. We might as well travel with them. They have a pod.”

“I thought you fell in love with our charming personalities--” Adam starts before Alex interrupts. “Shut up. We could certainly use your help.”

“Woah, slow down.” I raise my hand. “Tess, we need to talk.” i stand up.

“Why leave? They already know we don't believe their crappy sob-story.”

“Fine.” i sit back down. “We can’t trust these people. They refuse to tell us the truth, they are crazy enough to start a rebellion against an invincible government. And to top all that off, they kidnapped us.”

“We would have done exactly the same if it had been the other way around.”

Why is she defending them?

I open my mouth but no words come out, i don't know what to say.

“And it’s bravery not stupidity to stand up against what’s wrong, even when that seems impossible.”

“Still not a reason to trust them.” I look over at Alex who is looking at Tess expectantly.

“Do we have another option? If they are really such a threat, then letting them out of our sight is a really dumb idea.”

I sigh, defeated, she kind of has a point.

“Well, we should just be careful.” I try one last time.

“Absolutely.”

“You know, it's not a very brilliant idea to talk about what a threat we are when we are sitting right here, and can hear every word of what you are saying.” Adam says.

“Adam.” Alex raises his hand.

“Just saying.”

“You are going to join us?” Adam asks me.

“I really don't think joining a rebellion is a good idea.”

“Noted and ignored.” Adam says.

“I wasn't talking to you.” I snap and turn to Tess.

“Even if we do go to Aquapolis and start a new life, within a few months the rebels with stir everything up and it’ll be even worse than Aria.” Tess shakes her head. “If you stand by while something wrong happens and don't do anything about it then you are just as guilty as them.”

“And how are we so sure that whatever Alex is rebelling against is so wrong? We haven't even been to Aquapolis.”

“Why do you think Bennet hasn't tried to acquire it yet?”

“Because she doesn't feel like dealing with them?” I ask hopefully.

“More like because Chancellor Leour is extremely violent and resorts to execution over everything.” Alex answers.

“Alison, you don't need to join the rebellion. We can both go to aquapolis; I will join the rebellion and you will try to live a normal life.”

“Without you?”

“Oh come on,” she rolls her eyes. “You lived eighteen years without me, you can survive a few more.”

“Seventeen.” i correct her.

“Whatever.”

“This isn't even a real rebellion. It is two men who think they can take down an entire government.”

“It is a lot more than ‘two men’.” Adam’s face becomes serious. “Alex and I have about thirty soldiers who have been waiting for us to return from Aria.”

“Why were you even in Aria?” i narrow my eyes at him.

“We can’t share that information with you just yet.” Alex says, his voice cold.

Maybe i could go with them, see their army and then decide if i want to join the rebellion.

“I have an idea,” I say slowly, still unsure. “I will go with you and then decide if i am helping you guys when we get there. Ok?”

“That works.” Alex nods.

“But,” Adam raises a finger. “We won't be able to share any information with you. So, you won't know our plan until you make a decision.”

“But what if you plan is dumb?”

How am i supposed to make a decision based on that?

“That’s a risk you’re going to have to take.” Alex says simply.

“Give me some time.” i lick my lips nervously. “We can start travelling and i’ll make a decision before we arrive there.” by pod it’ll be a week at least.

“Okay.” he nods and leaves the room.

“Think about it.” Tess says and follows the two of them out the door.

What have we gotten ourselves into.

 


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