“Let me go!” I scream for all the world to hear.
My captors ignore my plea, taking me deeper into the woods as they attempt to keep me from continuing my pleas for help.
They stop once we reach a cave.
A young woman slaps me across the face.
“Chill out,” she says. Her words come out kindly, even though she just caused a painful welt to begin to rise across my cheeck. “We’re here to help you.”
“And why in the world should I believe you?”
They all raise their right hands and point their pinky fingers to the sky.
“Oh,” is all I can manage in response.
We exit the train into an underground marketplace. The cavern is huge, but well-lit and filled with tents which have exuberant vendors hawking their wares. The colorful awnings stretch on for as far as I can see. People are milling about everywhere, which makes me immensely nervous.
“Umm, should we be out here in the open like this?” I ask. “Seems like we might be setting ourselves up for a great deal of trouble.”
“Cyrus is right,” Eve agrees. “Everyone in the country should be able to recognize our faces by now. Maybe we head back to the train.”
“Nothing doing,” Dad disagrees. “Anyone here who wants to cause you trouble wouldn’t dare bring that trouble here. The stakes are just too high.”
“I don’t understand,” Eve starts in. “Where are we?”
My dad opens his mouth to answer, but The Geek jumps in before he has the chance.
“Is this the Shadow Market?” he says excitedly.
“The Shadow Market?” Eve asks.
“Yeah,” The Geek continues. “You know, a black market, but, you know, set up like a marketplace where people can buy all their goods in one place directly from the sellers.”
“So, you mean, like a store?” I ask.
“Sort of,” The Geek answers. “But for things you can’t buy in a store.”
“So, like The Agora,” I reply.
“Well, yeah, but for things you want to buy in person.”
“Why would you want to buy things in person when you can have someone deliver it right to your front door, or, you know, back door, depending on the situation?”
“This place predates The Agora Marketplace,” Dad finally joins in. “Before anyone ever considered being so bold as to use kids as mules for black market goods. It might not be as active as it used to be, but a lot of people still prefer to get their hands on things they are going to buy before buying them.”
“Sounds unnecessary.” I frown. “I mean, with The Agora’s return policy, it just doesn’t make sense. Not to mention how much trouble it can be for someone to transport their own black market goods. If you ask me, these people are just asking to get hauled in by the SPs.”
“Nevertheless,” Mom says, “this just so happens to be the perfect place to get information on anything and anyone.”
“Okay,” Eve says, “so, what kind of information do we need?”
“Well, in particular, we’re in need of finding out exactly where your parents have gotten off to. They disappeared a while back and no one seems to know where they went.”
“That’s easy,” I say before thinking. “They’re in Utah.”
Eve shoots me a disapproving look.
“Oh, we know all about the rebellion’s retirement village. We also know that because of you, the SPs managed to locate their hideout and the rebellion was forced to destroy the entire village. What we don’t know is where the rebels have all the retirees hanging out while they set up an alternative location for them.”
“And you think someone here might know?” The Geek asks.
“We know someone here knows. The only question is how much it’s going to cost us to get that information.”
“Wait,” Eve cuts in. “Are you saying my parents are really in full-fledged hiding?”
“As far as we know,” Mom answers.
“Oh,” Eve says with a frown.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“Well, if they are in hiding, I can’t help but wonder why they haven’t tried to contact me to let me know they are okay.”
“We have been busy,” The Geek answers.
“That’s true, but still, they would have left a message with the Flos or something.”
“The Flos?” I ask. “You mean the ladies who run the splits?”
“Yeah, who else would I mean?”
“You do realize we haven’t been anywhere near a split since we left your parents’ house, right?”
“If that’s the case,” Dad says, “we’re in luck. Because there just so happens to be a Flo training camp right here in the Shadow Market. If any messages have been sent through the Flo Network, you should be able to get them here.”
“There’s a Flo Network?” I ask.
“Of course there is,” Eve answers. “How else do you get messages while out on a run?”
“I always just use my ear piece.” I smile.
“So, we’ve got a few options available for finding the Gardners,” Dad concludes. “Why don’t the three of you head up to Flo’s and me and Charlotte will see what the Informants might have on the subject.”
Go to Chapter Fourteen