All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Sweat droplets grew on my face and shoulders as I stood outside the store. Sun beat down on my back and reflected off of the sandy Stucco buildings all around me. Five more minutes, I thought, if he doesn’t show in five minutes I’m gone. Suddenly, I felt something cold splash on my back.
“Gotchya!” Charlie appeared from behind me, looking cool and refreshed with side swept blond hair and a thick sweater despite the unbearable weather. He was holding the water bottle he splashed me with.
“Charlie! What are you doing?” I scolded. I looked around at all the solemn faces of the malnourished locals. Wasting water was not okay. Nowadays, water is money; it’s the lifeline of our world.
“Come on Harlow, you looked hot!” he exclaimed with a smirk, obviously more amused with my frazzled looking state than my anger toward him.
Charlie doesn’t take the rules seriously. We live near The Pipeline, which is a factory at the pinch between the continents Borea and Suta, that sends supplies back and forth to ‘create an equal world free of poverty and hunger.’ That’s what they say, but it’s not true. ‘They’ are the Northern Coalition, the international government that formed over 80 years ago to provide equality in the world. The story goes, that Borea was called North America and held all the wealth, while the other continent, Suta, which was called South America, was in poverty. To stop North America from taking over, the Coalition was formed, under the one request that the government capitol was located in Borea. Each continent would report to the Borean capitol where rations of food and water were traded over The Pipeline every year.
Charlie and I are Borean. In fact, both of our fathers work for the Coalition, and our families were transferred to the Pipe land to regulate the trade. Once I moved out of Borea, I was able to see the truth. We weren’t all equal. The people around here get rations of water and food far below the Coalition worker’s families. That’s why Charlie could carelessly toss his water. I sent an apologetic look at the hordes of locals who clearly needed the water more than me.
We walked into the store and presented our ID badges. They were scanned with every purchase to make sure one person could not afford to buy more than any others. The store clerk hastily worked on the computer, with sweat dripping down his brow.
“There has been a power shortage in West Suta,” he explained “No air conditioning for anyone.” In The Coalition, equality rules; if one person goes without, we all do.
“They didn’t cut the power in my house.” Charlie mused.
The clerk scoffed at him, “Borean, I presume.” as he handed us our food rations.
We hurried outside the store to open our ration boxes and see what we had received. Inside was the usual; beans, corn, crackers, powdered milk. The box also contained a government newsletter that all Coalition citizens received. The top headline read, ‘DROUGHT IN WEST SUTA CONTINUES.’ I grabbed the paper immediately and began to read:
“….Workers of the Borean Coalition are working relentlessly to help the people of Suta in their time of need. Resources are generously sent over the Pipeline by the hour, including water clothes and fresh food. “We have even deployed extra workers to the Pipeline from their native Borean headquarters. We cannot stress enough the support we hope on the citizens of Suta.” Said Coalition Chairman Artin Meager at Sunday’s Coalition board meeting..”
“Hey Charlie, your dad made the paper!” I yelled over to him. He grabbed it from me and read, but a frown soon burrowed across his face.
“Harlow, this isn’t true.” He looked up at me with a wary look of confusion. “I talked to my dad this morning, the Pipeline is being closed.” Charlie insisted.
“Yeah, right” I rolled my eyes. “The Pipeline hasn’t been closed in 80 years, they would tell us if they were shutting it down. Besides, the Suations are in a major drought. Isn’t the purpose of the Pipeline to prevent hunger in times like this?” I argued.
“No I’m serious!” he jolted back. “If you don’t believe me, come see for yourself.”
“Ha, very funny. Like I’m gonna go trumping into the Pipeline. You know it’s a high security clearance only.” I threw back in annoyance.
“Look, all I’m saying is that I overheard my dad on the phone, and they are closing the plant down today. He distinctly lied to the newspaper about this. Something is up.” He stressed, with an ernest look in his eyes. By now it was midafternoon and the sun was growing stronger by the minute. We got up and began the long trek home through the the sandy, gravel streets of the Pipe land.
After about twenty minutes, something dark appeared in the distance. As it came closer, it was clear: A flock of Coalition Trucks were speeding down the deserted road, headed for the Pipeline.
“See, I told you!” I exclaimed. “Your dad was telling the truth, they are bringing in more workers from Borea to work the Pipeline more. It’s nothing to worry about.” But the trucks approached and something became clear; These were not workers, this was the Coalition Guard. Why was the military showing up at the Pipeline?
We trudged on, and soon reached the breezy coastline, where miles of sand finally meet the water. But something was not right. Docked on the coast were over 15 military ships, fully lined with soldiers. The boat missiles were facing the direction of the Suation coast, as if they were going to shoot. Something was not right. The Coalition Guard hadn’t been called to the Pipeline in years. I began to panic as the hot sun beat down on my face. My pace slowed and the ground around me seemed to spin. I tried to call for Charlie, but no words came. My knees hit the ground and my eyes closed, shutting out the blinding sun and sand around me. I fought the urge to fall asleep but it was no use; I passed out aside the desert road.
Bright florescent lights burned my eyes as a hood was ripped off of my head. It was too bright to look, but I heard unfamiliar voices. “sir, we found them passed out by the gates.” And, “I scanned her for a background check, it came back clear.” People appeared to be gathered around me, observing me like some sort of zoo animal. My eyes had begun to adjust and I looked around. I was in a stark white room, that appeared to be a laboratory and The people were wearing white coats and goggles.
“Where am I?” I managed to croak out. Nobody answered, they just continued to observe; pinching and prodding me, scanning me with machines, and staring with puzzled looks. Finally, I heard a voice I did recognize. My dad came hurriedly around the corner, in his black suit.
“Harlow!” he exclaimed as he saw me. “What are you doing here?” he asked with a puzzled expression.
“Where am I?” I asked him desperately, “Where’s Charlie? Why is the Coalition Guard at the Pipeline?” I began to cry with frustration. But before he could answer, he was interrupted by one of the workers, who whispered something in his ear. He nodded assertively, and grabbed something from a white drawer in the wall. Slowly, he paced towards me, with the small item in his hand.
“Harlow honey, I’m sorry to have to do this, but you know too much.” I was confused as to what this meant, but it all became clear as he opened the box and revealed a small needle.
“No! please dad, No! I didn’t see anything, I swear!” I tried to back away, but it was too late.
“I’m sorry Harlow, but this is for the best.” He calmly replied as he slid the needle into my arm and my eyes became heavy. As he walked away, he asked a worker, “Did you take care of the boy and get the item? We need it if we are to go through with this.” and the worker nodded and presented him with a strange looking metal box. My dad took the box and smiled with approval and walked away. I tried to yell but my eyes gave way to gravity, slipping into a deep sleep.
The first thing I felt was pain. Searing through my brain like needles on chalkboard, the pain grew and spread as my achy muscles began to waken and I became more aware. Where am I? I looked around for clues, but as I opened my eyes, blinding light burned my irises, and my eyes were forced closed. Memories began to flood back: the pipeline guards, my dad, and of course, the box. What was in that box he was holding? My eyes began to adjust and I sat up. As if on cue, I heard the voice I needed to hear.
“Harlow!” Charlie yelled. I could vaguely make out his figure through the bright, white, lights, in what appeared to be a cell.
“Oh, Charlie!” I replied, relieved to finally see something familiar. “Where are we?” I asked, but as the words slipped off my lips, I noticed a small insignia on the cell door that read, ‘CSCPF’, and the reality sunk in.
“We are going to die.” We both spoke in unison. The CSCPF, or the Coalition Special Circumstance Punishment Facility, is a notorious prison around the coalition people. Mention the name and you will hear horror stories of torture and punishment, yet nobody knows why it exists or who goes there. To be honest, before today I believed it was an old wives tale, spread by children.
I looked around the cell, which was empty aside from the smooth metal bench I was laying on and the blinding lamps extended from the ceiling. I looked down and was relieved to find that I was still wearing my same clothes: Khaki pants, a tanktop, vest, and as always, the necklace my grandmother had given me. I paused to admire the amber stone with a silver wrapping of foreign symbols around it before snapping back to the reality.
“Well, what now?” I asked, but with little hope in my voice. If anyone could come up with a plan, however elaborate and far-fetched, it would be Charlie. And right now, any plan is better than none. I need answers, and I wouldn’t allow myself to die without finding out the truth.
“I don’t know.” Charlie answered with a meek and scared voice. I had never seen this side to him before. Suddenly, the large cell door let out a loud ‘click’ and the door opened slowly. Two Coalition Guards and a small woman in a lab coat appeared in the doorway.
“Follow me.” She stated flatly, and without explanation, began briskly walking away. The guards handcuffed us and began to lead us down a series of metal hallways, following the woman. We finally embarked down a hallway that was different than the rest. At the end lay a large bolted door that read EMERGENCY EXIT. Charlie and I threw puzzled glances at each other. Could they possibly be letting us go?
The guard leaned over, uncuffed us, and whispered urgently, “When this door is opened, we will have approximately 25 seconds to run as fast as we can to the black van parked on the left side of the building. Whatever you do, just run.” Seconds later, the woman thrust open the door, and screeching alarms began to sound, while the loudspeaker announced ‘CODE RED CODE RED’ over and over. So I did the only thing I knew to do; I ran.
My eyes darted in frenzy and time appeared to slow. The blinding sunlight hit my eyes, and gravel burned my eyes as I darted as fast as I could to the black van. Grabbing the door handle, I opened the door and slid in. The car immediately gained speed before I finally shut the door and let out a sigh of relief. Charlie was sitting next to me, looking equally overwhelmed. The woman in the lab coat sat across from us, with the guards in the front seat.
“Welcome,” she said casually as she unbuttoned the lab coat and threw it aimlessly to the seat next to her. Underneath she had on khakis and a tank top. I looked to the guards who had taken off their masks and vests, also wearing regular clothing.
“Who are you guys?!” I asked as the adrenalin rush of the jail break began to slow down, but my brain began thinking at a furious speed.
One guard turned around and explained with a smile, “We are your friends. We were sent to get you out of there before the Coalition killed you.”
“Sent by who?” Charlie asked “And why would they kill us?”
One guard looked to the woman in bemusement and the other said, “Wow, you weren’t joking when you said they didn’t know about the ACM. I bet they’ve never even heard of The Box.” He scoffed.
The woman rolled her eyes and scolded, “Trent, Jason: be nice. Anyways, my name is Nima and we are from the Anti-Coalition Movement.”
“Wait,” I said, still focused on what the man had just said,. “I’ve seen the box. What is in it?” He turned around in disbelief and the other guard stared at me in shock through the rear view mirror.
“No, no, it’s impossible,” He dismissed the thought. ‘The box has been hidden under the Pipeline labs for almost a century. They wouldn’t use it now.”
Charlie, who looked quite confused at this point, sat up and looked back and forth between the guard and me.
“Whoa, pause for a minute,” he said, “What exactly is ‘The Box’?” he asked.
Nima took a deep breath and sighed before beginning, “The Box was created by the Coalition founders from Borea who were angered by the fact that their continent would have to share power. It controls a set of underground radioactive wavelengths throughout Suta. Everyone south of the Pipeline would die within a matter of minutes, but the box is untraceable, so the releaser would go unpunished.” She explained.
“So what stopped the creators from just using it?” Charlie asked
“It’s not that easy,” Trent replied “They wanted to make sure it never got in the wrong hands, so they hired a genius code writer named Carlyle Amberstead to encrypt a code outside the box. Carlyle thought this whole thing was a bad idea, so he created a code so hard that only he knew what it was. By the time they figured out the code was impossible, Carlyle had disappeared off the face of the earth.”
I sat in silence for a moment, trying to remember anything I could about the box, but my vision had been blurry, so all I knew was that it was small and silver, with strange lines and symbols around it.
“Why is it dangerous then?” I asked, “I mean, if nobody can open it, then it isn’t a problem.” Nima, Trent, and Jason looked back and forth at eachother, with a strange look on their face.
“Well Harlow,” Nima began, “That’s where you come in. You see, Carlyle did tell someone the code. He was in love with a woman named Adeena Evans.” I was speechless in disbelief, Adeena Evans was my grandmother.
“So you mean to tell me that my Grandma Deedee was the last person to know the code to the box?” I asked
“Yes,” Nima replied, “And it is believed that she passed it on in clues somehow. That’s why the Coalition prison held you, and that’s why we need your help.” All of this news overwhelmed me, and I began to nervously fidget with Grandma Deedee’s amber necklace. Thoughts flashed through my head as I tried to process the information; Carlyle Amberstead, Grandma Adeena, the box, and the code. Suddenly, it all fit: the necklace was the clue.