“Hey there, champ,” my dad says excitedly.
I continue to stare in silence.
“Cy?” Eve asks.
Bruno stands next to the screen with the same stupid grin he’s been flashing at me since I first met him. I want to punch it off his face.
“Cyrus, honey,” my mom begins, “is everything alright?”
“What is this?” I ask through clenched teeth.
“Is this any way to greet your parents?” my dad asks in reply.
“Darling,” my mom rebukes him, “it’s perfectly reasonable for him to be upset, perhaps we—“
“Upset? Upset!” I scream. “I haven’t seen the two of you in over a year while you leave me and my brother alone with that crazed Jamaican nanny. I’m here trying to keep myself alive and not get caught by, well, by pretty much everyone. And suddenly now, out of all times, you want to check in?”
“Now, honey,” Mom returns in soft tones, “you know your father and I have our jobs to do. It’s not like we could ignore the sanctioned schedules we’ve been given in order to stay home with you, it’s not possible in this econo—“
“I don’t want to hear it.” I turn away from them and again reach to open the door.
“What if we promised you Billy’s not in any trouble?”
Again I turn slowly and look at the image of my parents being projected on the wall. “What?” I spit out.
“He’s perfectly safe, son.”
“What?” I repeat.
“I know this is all somewhat strange, isn’t it?” my father continues. “Here we’ve both been working toward the same ends for all this time. I assure you, if Billy had told us what you were up to sooner, we would have approached you before now.”
“What are you talking about?” I’m seething with rage.
“Your run, to Boston. You know. The thing everyone’s been talking about?”
“No, get back to The Geek. How do you know he’s safe?”
“Because we put him there. Everything’s going exactly as planned, sweetheart. We talked with little Billy earlier today and he couldn’t be more comfortable.”
“The Geek’s being held ransom, Mom.”
Mom and Dad both laugh as though I said something adorable. My fists clench at my sides.
“What?” I ask again.
“Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry. I know we shouldn’t laugh. It’s just that the idea Billy is in any sort of danger right now is quite ridiculous. I promise you he’s perfectly fine.”
I glare at Bruno. “I had no idea you would be willing to go this far in order to get me to finish the run the way you want me to.”
“What? I had nothing to do with this.” He puts his hands up in the air.
“Son,” my dad says, using his calm reassuring voice, “Billy is safe. He wanted to be the one to infiltrate The Agora.”
“I’d rather hear The Geek tell me himself.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible at the moment, son. We couldn’t let him blow his cover.”
“You said you talked to him earlier today!”
“We’re two upstanding individuals within the United States government. Talking with our own flesh and blood is something we’re allowed. If you, however, were to all of a sudden start communicating with the boy, well, I’m afraid that could ruin something we’ve been working on for years now.”
“Plans,” I mutter. “Everyone’s got plans.”
“I’m sorry,” Eve interjects. “I’m confused. Billy’s working for the government now?”
“Oh, no, Evie,” my mom says quickly. “You see, although we’ve been given jobs within the inner sanctum of the US government, we work toward a much different goal.”
“Yeah?” I ask, still angry. “What?”
“Ask the man in charge,” Mom says with a light smile.
“Fine, who’s that?”
Bruno smiles again.
“You don’t mean—“ I begin.
“But his daughter’s been captured by—“ Eve adds.
“And he was put in prison for—“ I finish.
“I’m sure you have plenty of questions,” Bruno beams. “But for now, the easy answer is I’m the brains behind this operation, or, I suppose brains might not be the right term. I’m the guy who’s running things around here.”
“But—“ I stammer.
“I know, it’s a lot to take in. You see, this whole complex, as well as several other complexes located throughout the country, is run by an intelligence agency built by the remnants of the United Nations. We began decades ago, when we realized our country was headed down a dangerous slope, with the idea of trying to keep things in order.”
“Seems like you’ve failed,” Eve growls.
“You should have seen where it was headed before us,” Bruno quips quickly. He appears angry at her sentiment. “Our group, known by the code name Golden Dawn, has been responsible for keeping this country safe since the end of World War II. We keep operatives active within each of the larger organizations in the States to ensure we are aware of what’s going on in each of them.”
“Jeez,” I scoff. “Who are we going to run into next, the Illuminati?”
“You don’t want to screw with those guys.”
“The Illuminati are real?” Eve asks.
“You better believe it. You remember how I said The Agora didn’t have access to Grand Island. That’s because it’s an Illuminati-run prison, left for only the most drastic of cases. But I’m getting off point. Right now, all you need to understand is this country is in grave danger, and you two may very well be the only ones who could save it from ultimate destruction.”
“I’ve heard this before,” I laugh. “Of course, it all makes sense now. The only possible people who could save the world would be a couple of kids. Yep, not stupid at all.”
“You should listen to him, Cyrus.” My dad scowls. “This is a serious issue.”
“Whatever.” I cross my arms and sit down in the chair. “Let’s pretend you’re right. How are Eve and I going to save the world?”
“The situation you were, sorry, are, intended to act as a diversion from, the thing the rebels intend to do when you finally arrive in Boston again, is a very real threat, a very real situation, and one we, as protectors of this land, must ensure never happens.”
“Perfect.” I lean back in my chair unhappily. “So, we’ve got another group against the rebellion. Seems like your team is losing pretty fast here.” I look at Eve.
“On the contrary, Mr. Rhodes,” Bruno says, taking on a questionably formal air. “In many ways, we would prefer for a group such as the rebellion to take over the country. Our issue is in the manner they wish to do so.”
“What do you mean?” Eve asks.
“We know what they have planned.”
“Of course you do,” I groan. “And although you have all of these great technical gizmos, you need the two of us to fix this problem for you, right?”
“As a matter of–”
“Okay,” Eve says, biting her lip as she thinks through what she’s about to say, “so, if you know what the rebels are up to, what is it?”
“I can understand your frustration at the moment, Miss Gardner—“
“Certainly, Eve. The rebels are a warm bunch when you’re in the midst of them. It used to be they would have never even come close to considering such an act as this.”
“An act like what?” Eve pushes.
“Like destroying the country,” Bruno says simply.
“What?” Eve scoffs. “No way. The rebels love this country, that’s why they’re doing what they’ve been doing forever. There’s absolutely no chance they would want to—“
“Believe me, Eve,” Bruno continues. “This isn’t the first time they’ve tried something like this, although not quite this drastic.”
“What are you trying to say?” Eve asks timidly.
“I’m saying I don’t think you’re fully aware of what happened when I did my version of Cyrus’s run six years ago.”
“Of course I am,” Eve argues. “You ran to Philadelphia, which just so happened to be right at the same time an enormous explosion went off at Independence Hall, and—“ Eve stops talking and mouth falls open.
“And what?” I ask. “Obviously I know what happened with the explosion. A bunch of people died, things started getting tense everywhere, and security around the country was increased heavily. That was when things like unsanctioned travel were completely shut down too, wasn’t it?”
“Don’t you see, Cyrus?” Eve asks me. I look at her blankly.
“Just like you, Cyrus,” Bruno explains, “I was used by the rebels.”
“I still don’t get it.” I frown.
“The rebels are responsible for the attack on Independence Hall. The attack set in motion some of the most stringent regulations on personal freedom we’ve ever seen. Sure, things weren’t great before then, but at least there weren’t sanctions on everything. People could still pick their jobs, their entertainment, their vacations, whatever else. If what Bruno is saying here is true, the rebels basically caused everything to get even worse than it had already been.”
“To be fair,” Bruno begins, “it wasn’t entirely the rebels’ fault things became the way they are today. However, if they had fully succeeded in their plans, things would have gotten far far worse.”
“How do you mean?” Eve asks. “What was their plan?”
“Their plan was to knock out the entirety of the country’s financial structure. Independence Hall was just a message. They had planned on knocking out targets all across the country which would have caused the entire economy to collapse.”
“I can’t believe it,” Eve gasps. “Maybe my parents were right. Maybe this is why they retired. They’ve always kept quiet about it all.”
“Oh yes,” Bruno answers. “Your parents were definitely aware of this decision and were some of the most outspoken against it. Ultimately, the rest of the rebellion leaders won out in their decision to take things into their own hands. “
“I don’t believe it!” Eve jumps to her feet, eyes blazing with rage. “There’s no way that attack could have been done by the rebels! It was an evil attack against our country, like the September 11th attacks and others after them. They weren’t done by the rebellion, they were– “
“Terrorists,” Bruno says calmly. “Isn’t that what they now call you and Cyrus?”
“Yeah, but—“ Eve trails off.
“Look, I’m not trying to vilify anyone here. I’m trying to get you to understand there are things which have gone on before. And there is something going on now. Something you two are the key to correcting.”
“And what exactly is going on right now?” Eve paces.
“Eve,” my mom says softly. “Perhaps now’s not the best time to—“
“I’ve spent my whole life supporting the rebels, so you had better have some damning evidence to prove to me they’re really planning on doing something like you’re claiming they are.”
“She’s right,” my dad agrees.
“Yeah,” Eve huffs.
“Fine,” Bruno sighs. “But I want you to know this information is based on some highly reliable intelligence we’ve gotten from folks high up the food chain of the rebellion itself.”
“Sure, whatever.” She sits and crosses her arms.
“Charlotte,” Bruno says to my mom. “Maybe it would be best if you said it. You’ve got a much better way with words than I do.”
“As you wish, Bruno,” my mom says, forcing a smile. “Eve, sweetheart, I know this is going to be difficult to understand, but—“
“Spit it out already!”
“From everything we’ve been able to receive on the manner, it would appear the rebels are currently planning on detonating a series of nuclear blasts at strategic points all across the nation.”
“What?” Eve screams. “You’ve got to be kidding me! Nukes?”
“That’s right, Eve,” my mom says.
“Why would the rebels want to destroy the very country they claim to want to save, Mom?”
“Yeah,” Eve sputters. “Why?”
“That’s a very good question,” my dad replies. “You see, after their previous failures, we believe the rebels came to the conclusion there would only be one way to truly get rid of the country they hated so much. To decimate it. In their minds, from the documentation we’ve been able to retrieve, there are too many people who blindly support what our country is doing, due, in part, to the fear the rebels themselves have helped create. They resolved the only true answer involved something far more drastic than their original idea.”
“To nuke the country?” Eve screams. “But that’s completely nuts! How would they even go about getting nuclear weapons in the first place?”
“This isn’t the first time the rebels have used nukes, Eve,” Bruno states simply.
“What are you talking about? Now you’re going to tell me the rebels are responsible for the bombs being dropped in Japan?”
There is a palpable pause in the room.
“No.” Eve’s mouth drops open again. “There’s no way.”
“Haven’t you ever questioned how such a small little farm community could have required the government to need to use nuclear weaponry?”
“But Lyman? That’s ridiculous. It was an integral part to what the rebellion was trying to do. A paragon of–”
“Was it?” Bruno continues. “Think about it. The rebellion was dealing with a dwindling number of supporters. The group in Lyman was becoming quite self-sufficient and, well, boring, to be honest. What better way to build support for the cause than to create a group of martyrs.”
“No.” Eve covers her mouth once the realization sets in. “But we took care of them, we supported them forever. We—“
“You forgot about them after a while, didn’t you? Is it not true the rebels cut the city of Lyman off from any further support?”
“Yeah, but that was because they were–” Eve pauses briefly. “They were becoming a drain on the cause.”
“Precisely,” Bruno says sadly. “The rebellion waited until enough time had passed for people to forget Lyman ever existed and then cut the city out entirely.”
“That’s evil,” I gasp.
“Yeah,” Bruno agrees.
“But then, what you’re saying is the rebels are possibly worse than the United States government itself?”
“There’s a whole lot of gray area here, but there’s one thing I can tell you for certain. We can’t allow the rebels to succeed in their plans to nuke the country.”
“No,” Eve speaks silently.
“So, what do we need to do?” I ask, looking at my parents on the screen. “And what do you two have to do with all of this?”
“You parents have been a very important piece of the Golden Dawn initiative over the last twenty years or so. Their role in the upper management of the government allowed us to gain insight into things we never even knew existed, including a wealth of intelligence regarding all sorts of groups around the country.”
“I didn’t–” I say quickly before realizing I don’t even know how to finish my thought, or what my thought even is.
“There are legions of groups out there trying to do what the rebels are doing, or what the government is doing, or even what we are doing. Namely, they all want a piece of the action on how this country will be run in the future.”
“I still don’t see what this has to do with us.”
“Your parents are some pretty useful folks. They can get people in pretty much anywhere, considering their clearance level with the government. We’re hoping they might be able to get you two in on the upper levels of what’s going on with the rebels.”
“But aren’t they planning on doing the whole nuke thing in the next five days?” I ask.
“Four days, Cy,” my dad says.
“Sorry, the days and nights have been melting together for me, yeah, four days.”
“That’s right, sweetheart,” my mom answers. “We’ll have to work fast.”
“Work fast at what?” Eve asks.
“At getting you two to find out where all the nukes are so we can get the SPs to stop them.”
“If you’re so good at getting people in places, why would you need us to do it? If you know they’re going to nuke the country, don’t you know where?”
“The rebellion has become incredibly tight-lipped about everything surrounding this version of their plan, after the failures of their past attempt at taking out the country. We need someone they trust. At this point, you two seem to be the only options we have left.”
“Except,” I reply, “they were fully willing to let us get executed.”
“Really?” my dad says in surprise. “Perhaps it won’t be quite as easy as we had hoped, but—“
“I don’t need to hear anymore,” I budge in. “The way I see it, I’ve got no reason to believe you’re not up to something even worse.”
“We’re your parents, Cyrus. You can trust us.”
“Can I?” I ask. “You put Billy in the center of The Agora headquarters as some sort of patsy. You want to put me into the middle of your war between the rebels and the SPs. It definitely doesn’t seem like you’ve got my best interests at heart. Besides, if you’re so concerned about my well-being, why don’t you explain why you haven’t been around to provide even the smallest amount of parental guidance for most of my life? You’ve spent so much time supposedly trying to save the world, but not a second trying to save me.”
“Because there is much more important stuff going on than you, Cyrus.”
“Right.” I stand. “And the last I was aware, you two were very heavily involved in the exact government who wants me to stop doing what I’m doing, the precise government which tossed me into a hole in the ground. All I know about you two is you should have every reason to want me locked up, like everyone else does. Bringing me here, showing me all this crap, feeding me all this information, all it says to me is you’re willing to do whatever’s necessary to bring me to justice, you’re willing to—“
“Cyrus.” Eve places a hand on my shoulder. I bat it away before continuing.
“No, I want some proof. Some undeniable proof what you want to do with us won’t put us back into the exact same place we just came out of. I’m not going back into that hole, no matter what’s about to happen to the rest of the world. I’m sick of being lied to!”
I storm out of the room and back down the hall toward the hidden doorway.
“Cyrus!” Eve shouts after me. I continue on without looking back. I finally make it to the wall we had entered through and find it closed. Hastily I feel around for some sort of lever or something to open it.
Eve appears at my side. “You can’t leave like this. What if they’re telling the truth?”
“Who cares?” I answer. “What are we going to be able to do about it anyways?”
The wall moves loudly and finally opens. I look up and see Bruno pointing a device in our direction. “I can’t make you stay,” he says. “But I’d definitely suggest you seek your soul for the answers. You’ll know what needs to be done.”
“Pal,” I answer. “The only thing which needs to be done is to get my brother away from those Agora freaks and back with me before we head off to Canada.”
“I’m fairly certain I can have your brother here quite easily, if it’s what you wish.”
I look at him in shock. “And how in the world am I supposed to believe you? Or is the whole thing about your daughter being kidnapped a lie too?” I glare at him briefly before turning and stepping through the doorway.
Go to Chapter Fourteen