Raven in the Shadows

July 10, 2012
By Teah Whitewing, New York City, New York
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Teah Whitewing, New York City, New York
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Author's note: I really like Action, Spy, Thrillers and horror stories, so I wrote several of my own, this one being my favorite.

The night is when everything dark, evil and cunning stirs. The night is when the foxes creep out of their holes, golden eyes glinting malevolently in the trees. The night is when owls awaken and spread their wings, soaring above the treetops, hooting disdainfully while moon-like eyes scan the forest floor for prey. The night is when thefts take place.
The moon was glowing brightly in the sky, bathing the small town in a radiant silver glow, bringing with it cold wind that rustled leaves and swept newspapers across pavements. All was silent except for the soft hooting of the owl, and the faint whistling of the icy breeze.
There was a meeting taking place at 2:43 a.m. in the forest bordering the town of Echowood. 19 thieves dressed in the color of death would meet there at exactly that time, not before, not after. Silent as a stalking cat those people would have to tiptoe through the tall trees until they came to a cave in the darkest corner of the woodland. The meeting would take place there, where the people of the Shadow Knights group of thieves met every Sunday night.
Raven Van Pelt was one of those people.
The house was silent. Vacant snores from her foster father sounded up the stairs and occasional murmurs from her foster mother would disturb the quiet air. On the very top floor of the three story brick house lay a seventeen year old girl with pale, ghostly skin to rival Snow White’s. Dark brown hair flowed past her shoulders in soft, gentle waves and cobalt blue eyes stared blankly at the white ceiling. She was the only one in the house not sleeping. Cautiously she got up and winced at the sound of the creaky bedsprings. In movement as fluid as oil on water, she crossed the room and glanced out the wood framed window onto the gloomy town beyond. It was 2:00 a.m. but the girl was wide awake. She was a mysterious, doleful and lonely girl. She was dressed in pure black from head to toe in a black hoodie, black jeans and dark soft soled leather boots. She was Raven Van Pelt.
Perched on the now open window, she crouched and then leaped onto the fire escape platform beneath her. The metal creaked ominously but she showed no sign of stopping. Like a shadow she swiftly descended the fire escape stairs, down the three floors. At last Raven reached the pavement and, pulling her hood over her head, she strolled through the dark town. Streetlamps flickered as she passed a loud and noisy bar, with music blaring through speakers and men and young woman dancing to a mix of latest pop tunes. It was ignored by the girl as if it were just a poor beggar in the park. Head down and lips tight shut she strode on.
It was quiet now. The boisterous bar music had long since faded away leaving Raven alone. A nearby clock shop showed her the time was 2:30. She picked up her pace as she continued walking along the cobbled pavement. The towering trees of Echowood forest were looming in front of her now. Along the way she reached another boy who was dressed in death, and they exchanged silent acknowledgement. Neither of them said a word till they reached the edge of the woods. The boy took a deep breath.
“It’s time.”
And together they headed into the trees.

Crisp leaves crackled under their boot clad feet as they ducked and swerved to avoid stray branches or logs. Raven knew who the boy was. They had worked together before. It seemed long ago that the pair had snuck into the museum and stolen its prized possession – the jeweled necklace of the first mayor’s wife. It had been then that Raven had acquired the long, white, ugly scar running down the side of her face. It was the result of a statue crumbling and crashing down on her, a statue of Zeus holding his long pointy spear. Raven would have lost her eye then if it had not been for the boy. Jack Evans. Together they proceeded further into the trees, mist now clinging to the upper branches. Memories drifted in and out of their minds like haunting ghosts swooping in between people on Halloween night. Finally, the mist cleared to reveal a large rusted sign bearing the faded red letters ‘DANGER. POISON IVY. KEEP OUT’
Raven grimaced. Hardly anybody but the Shadow Knights thieves ventured so deep into the heart of the woodlands, and even if someone did, they would have been scared out of their wits a long time ago. This sign was actually to point the members of the SKT (Shadow Knights thieves) to their meeting cave. Nimbly hopping over the tiny stream of water than ran through the forest floor, she and Jack took a deep breath then, one behind the other, stooped and crawled into a hole under a large pile of mossy rocks.
It took the pair a few minutes to fumble in the darkness of the tunnel. They could show no signs of weakness now. Bright light dazed Raven’s eyes as she and Jack emerged into a large circular cave, with walls of soft, smooth mossy mud and a hard stone floor. The faint trickle of water sounded for there was a stream above. In the room were twenty chairs, in a round circle lining the spherical room, each chair in a shadow. Lining the earthy walls were a series of television screens, computer screens and city maps alike. All the TVs showed different channels – news, history, CCTV view of Echowood’s famous sites and tape of different areas in town. Computer screens were opened to WANTED files, secret documents, special artifacts that had just been transferred to the museum and so on.
This was the secret base and meeting place of the Shadow Knights. Their logo was on the wall above the leader’s chair. A shield bearing a scorpion and a money bag in front of two crossed swords. Symbolizing knights, death, sabotage, and money. Lots of it.
Pulling her jet black velvet hood off and brushing her long hair back Raven observed the scene before her. 16 people were sat on the straight-backed metal chairs. 10 of them were teenagers about Raven’s age. 5 of them were wanted by the local police. 1 of those people was a young girl. She was the youngest there by far, at the age of only 11. Heads bent as if hoping not to be noticed, Raven and Jack hurried to their seats at the right of the cave and sat down, not speaking nor acknowledging anyone around them. It seemed as though there was no one in the room. Everyone had blended into the shadows, and all was silent but the whirring of the security camera and the even breathing of the thieves.
Someone was late. It was unlike anyone to be late to a meeting. Azure eyes scanning the room, Raven Van Pelt realized with a jolt that Kirsten McLain was missing. Kirsten was her best friend if she ever had one, the soft and secretive girls at school. If anything had happened to her, Raven would know immediately.
Just a few seconds later Kirsten tumbled into the room, red hair in a messy ponytail, wearing black tights and a matching shirt. Nervously scrambling to her feet, she scurried over to her chair and camouflaged with the shadow.
“Now that we are all here, we may begin,” a barely audible voice sounded from the largest chair in the circle. That voice was silky and smooth, commanding yet calming. That voice was the voice that ordered out thieves to rob and steal every month. That voice belonged to Viper Blunt. He was the head of the Shadow Knights thieves organization that took in turned or unloved people to become robbers and criminals, even assassins.
“You understand that the two members of our team carried out but nearly failed a mission last month, yes?” Blunt questioned. Everyone nodded solemnly. “The town police know who we are now. Our boss, Mr. Ivanov, in Russia knows every one of you now, your names and your successes and failures. Beware of the police particularly though. It’s only barely, but they have caught on using their incredibly dim minds who we are. We must take extra precautions from now on. We must not be seen, or followed, or heard or tracked in any way. Now is the time, my friends, that we must melt into nothingness. Those of you in proper homes,” he paused, gesturing with his skeleton like hand to the band of teenagers on the right. “You will have to lose those luxuries. In other words, I would like you to run away. Not be seen in public, only by order or by night. The Shadow Knights can offer you a home in return for each of you succeeding in carrying out and not failing a mission. You will have to prove yourself to truly be one of us. You will be given a dangerous mission. Maybe two, maybe three. You will not be alone on those missions. You will have backup but the leader of the mission will decide the fate of those with him or her. Am I understood?”
Everyone nodded. Most of the teenagers had no problem with running away, going into hiding, vanishing off the face of the earth. They were not loved, nor properly cared for. They could all fend for themselves; they had proven that through previous missions. Raven was fine with this new rule. It didn’t affect her in any way. She was used to life in the woods and on the street, finding or stealing food, the only reason she was with foster parents was because they were paid for keeping her.
“I conclude this meeting.”

It was 7:00 p.m. in Echowood and Raven Van Pelt was getting ready to leave.
A single dusty bulb which hung from the ceiling gave the dim light in Raven’s half empty room. She was stuffing all of her possessions into a large blue sports bag. This was all normal to her. She had run away from foster parents more than seven times, and it triggered no regret or sorrow. Raven had never been loved, it didn’t matter to her. Into the bag went: a couple of dark trousers and jeans, several dull vintage shirts, two pairs of dirty trainers, a hairbrush and a mirror, and a black baseball cap. Pausing and looking up from her messy bed, she stepped back and held her head in her hands, ruffling her sleek hair in frustration.
Was this really the right choice? The Shadow Knights missions and orders were cruel and endless, mission after mission, theft after theft, near death incidents around every corner. Was this really the right life for a seventeen year old? How many times would luck save her?
All of this was running through her mind and deep down in her heart Raven knew that this wasn’t the right thing to do. But she had decided. Zipping up her sports bag and heaving it up her shoulder with a loud grunt, she silently turned off the light and slipped out the bedroom door. Raven stood on the landing, bag on one shoulder, a phone in her hand. Downstairs her ‘father’ was stretched out on the couch gleefully watching a football match while her ‘mother’ busily prepared dinner, a meal Raven would never fully enjoy again.
None of them seemed to notice Raven standing motionless on the tiny landing. She doubted they would even notice if she stomped straight out the front door. Holding her breath she nimbly tiptoed down the creaky old stairway. The fire escape was no longer an option for her. Her annoying foster mother had sneakily seen Raven clamber through the window on the night of the last meeting, and then had bolted the window and barricaded the fire escape.
Grimacing, Raven passed the third floor stairs, then the second floor stairs, melting into the dark grey painted walls. Tiny parcels of surprise were opening inside her. Why didn’t they stop her? Did they see she was going? Do they even care? Tossing her long hair determinedly over her shoulder Raven reached out and hurriedly but cautiously twisted the doorknob and walked out without looking back.

Flipping open the purple lid of her phone, she quickly dialed Kirsten’s number and patiently waited for her friend to pick up.
“Hey Kirsten,” said Raven, glancing around with large sapphire eyes, searching for any signs of someone following her.
“Raven, hi. I bet you are looking for the… place?” replied soft voiced Kirsten.
“Yeah. I just walked out. It’s like I was invisible, they didn’t even notice me… anyway where is the place?”
“I know what you mean, same here. Take the same route you do to get to the meeting-place cave but turn right at the last fork. Keep going past the old oak and the stream until you find this clearing. Matilda told me earlier. She said the guards there would know who you are. And don’t let anybody follow you Raven. I’ll be there soon.”
Nodding as she mentally visualized the route, Raven replied, “Thanks Kirsten.” She sighed. “See you there.”
There was a click as Kirsten hung up and, shoving the phone back into her pocket, Raven hastily scurried on. She could hear the faint but steady flop of sneakers behind her. It followed behind her everywhere she went, trailing after her like a begging stray mutt. Raven guardedly picked up her pace; as did her follower.
She broke into a run through the dark streets and her pursuer did the same. Her feet flew across the hard grey tarmac beneath her, and her jacket flew behind her like a bizarre parachute. Heart thudding and forehead sweating Raven felt like a gazelle being chased relentlessly by a voracious cheetah. The footsteps behind her were getting louder and closer, and she sped on straight into the woods.
Daring to turn around for a second, Raven twisted her body in midair to see an irate and exhausted police man racing after her. Screaming in fear Raven dodged a bullet that whistled alarmingly close to her ear. The trees around her were just a blur of grey brown and green as loud feet crackled and crunched on branches underneath her feet. Her arms and legs were flying through the logs and bushes, leaping over streams and large rocks. Breath was clouding in the cold forest air and mist clung yet again to the branches. A spray of bullets zoomed beside her face, and Raven shrieked in pain as one of the bullets cannoned straight into her right arm. Scarlet blood sprayed from the wound, painting the nearby leaves with spots of bright red. The pain was killing her but still Raven ran, the police officer pursuing her deeper into the forest. A large spider sat unmoving on a large silvery thick web straight in Raven’s path. Rolling to the side at the last second, she tumbled into a large dip. Opening her eyes she watched in silence as the unaware policeman ran headfirst into the sticky web, howling in pain as the spider pierced his neck. Tangled in the silky net blanket, the man fell to his knees, crumbling to the forest floor.
However, Raven had not stopped to witness all of this. After she was sure the man was caught she jogged through the trees, passing the old oak and the stream, and arriving at a clearing, just as Kirsten had said. She winced as blood dripped down her arm and she arrived at the large wooden and bronze gate. Standing guard outside were two surly looking men wearing dark brown. Yanking her arm, one of the men roughly rolled up Raven’s sleeve and a large black tattoo of the ST glared back at him. He shoved her through the gate and she stumbled ungracefully into the cave.
The moment she was inside loud yells of anger and despair echoed in the cramped room. Then out of nowhere a wiry hand grasped her injured arm and Raven had to bite her cheek to stop herself from screeching in pain. The pale white face of Viper Blunt loomed in front of her, and she braced herself for the worst.
“You idiotic child!” he boomed, and the room fell silent, awestruck and pitying eyes on Raven. “You were told not to have any followers, you could have got us all arrested! Do you understand the stupidity of your actions? You’re lucky the police didn’t catch you otherwise your flimsy little mind would have in no time betrayed us all! Do you hear me you pesky little lady?” Raven’s eyes were shut tight closed, but she nodded stiffly as much as she could with Mr. Blunt’s hand curling around her throat. In one swift movement Mr. Blunt had slapped Raven across the face with a vicious backhand blow. She clenched her teeth and stood her ground. Her ocean blue eyes were staring at the rows of people assembled, all watching her every move.
Raven thought about it. Thought about the Shadow Knights. Thought about her life.
Was this really worth it? She had no love for any of these people, except maybe only Kirsten. Raven had had enough. She had had enough sneaking around, stealing what was not hers, risking her life; all just for some old man who controlled her, made her rob and then took the money for himself.
She thought about everything she had lost for being one of the SKT. Raven gathered up all her courage, stepped away from Mr. Blunt and openly and boldly addressed the gathering.
“Guys and girls, I’m pretty sure you know what happened out there and for that I am sorry. It could have got you arrested or worse. But sorry, that isn’t my point.” Mr. Blunt was giving her dark looks from the corner, but did not interrupt.
“Is this really the life you want? Living everyday knowing the next will only be worse? Hiding, creeping, stealing, doesn’t it make you feel anything? You live under the protection of this,” Raven gestured with her uninjured arm to an infuriated Mr. Blunt. “He makes you risk your life just to get what he wants. Money. And the boss, Mr. D. Ivanov! Why do you work under his orders? You have never met him, why should you respect him? You don’t know what you are anymore. You are now just a bunch of homeless people who have no home. Are you sure this is the life you want to live forever?”
Silence.
Deadly Silence.
Then the silence was shattered. A large gun fired inside the room, ricocheted off the wall and buried itself in a boy’s shoe, who fell and howled in pain as he was trampled on in panic of the shot. There was chaos in the room, and in the midst of that chaos, no one, not even Mr. Blunt, had noticed that the girl with the bright blue eyes had turned and left.

She had not gone to the police. She had not gone to her foster parents. She had not gone to anyone. But someone had come to her.
“Raven Van Pelt.”
The voice belonged to a lady who had somehow seemed to recognize Raven. The lady was dark skinned and wore a deep purple jacket with matching pants, black flats and a headset with long black gloves on her hands. She was thirty four, with short dark brown hair and almond shaped eyes. Raven looked up from her iPod that she was playing on sitting on a park bench. She didn’t know who this lady was. How did she know her name?
“Yes, that’s me. Who are you?” was the short reply from Raven.
“We have come to help you… we knew your parents.” Those last words caused Raven to jump to her feet and want to hurl many questions at this unknown lady. But then, the desire to do so stopped and caution took over. Suspiciously backing away slowly, the girl took in the lady’s position. She was angled as if to prevent her from running away… and her hand was slowly inching towards her jacket pocket. Then the woman lurched forward.
Before she could struggle, yell or fight the dark and pungent damp cloth clamped over her nose, and Raven could feel herself drooping… her eyes closing…body falling…
Unconsciousness lapped at the shore of her brain, a large black wave, engulfing her, suffocating her, and beckoning her into the depths of its darkness.
* * *
The girl was being monitored. There were two hidden bugs in the room that captured her every move. From the moment her eyes had flickered open to when she went to the closet, she was being monitored. Every second.
Raven paced restlessly in her room, eyes blurry but brain alert. The woman had come and visited her before, leaving her with a few gifts that were meant to make her feel better and more alive. And that was what she was going to do – feel alive… by getting out. On her bedside table lay the ‘gifts’. A tube of mascara, a perfume, few magazines and a Nintendo DSI. The mascara was to be her first weapon.
There was one camera directly over the entrance door. That was the camera that gave a wide view of the room. And that was the camera that Raven was targeting first. She pretended to pace the room, and eventually, the guard on watch watching the monitors got bored and resumed reading the Sports Page of the Daily News.
After she was sure no one was watching her, she walked up to underneath the camera, mascara tube in hand. Climbing up on the chair next to the door, Raven unscrewed the mascara and got to work. Expertly flicking her hand, she coated the camera lens in the black paint. Now she really got to work. Clambering down from the chair, Raven had more tricks up her sleeve. She had been in the cell for a long time, and many people came and went, including the janitor. When the man had come in to clean the bathroom, he had left his trolley outside. She had stolen (using her previously mastered skills) the janitors ALL ACCESS pass and the key to her room. Blacking out the other camera over the bathroom door, Raven shoved the key in the room door and twisted, peeking out into the wide corridor. She melted into the walls, wearing a black prisoner’s jumpsuit. She ran and ran, dodging and ducking away from passing people and trolleys. She rammed into a grey door at the end of the corridor at flopped down in a chair.
A woman came in.
The woman in the purple suit and heels. “Raven Van Pelt, do you know who I am?” She spoke.
“Some lady in purple,” Raven replied, panting.
“Ms. Jones, deputy head of the Stars and Snipers Special Operations, or the S.S.S.O . We are trying to recruit YOU. We want you to work for us. Your parents did, they WERE our best agents. We think you could be very valuable to us. No one would suspect a fourteen year old girl. We see you have skills, power and brains. We need something to be done immediately for the safety of the U.S President and Washington D.C. Will you help us? We will not let you go alone. You will have gadgets. Designed especially for you. But the main question is: will you work for us?” Ms. Jones ended with a half pleading half business like voice.
There was a silence as Raven took it all in. Agent? Work? Mission? Washington D.C? It was better than the Shadow Knights Thieves. And maybe it could reveal the truth about her past and parents.
Then Raven spoke the one word that would change her life forever.
“Yes.”

Raven stood in front of an old man. Apparently he was very important, according to Ms. Jones. He was the head of the S.S.S.O. His name was Antonius Shore and he was the most important person in the whole agency.
“So you have agreed to work for us,” Shore stated, nodding when Raven replied. “Let Ms. Jones brief you on your mission.”
She was walked over to a chair by the woman and Ms. Jones sat down across from her, opened a mint and spoke.
“Your mission is taking place in Russia, Moscow. We will fly you out there to do our job. Dragomir Ivanov is the person we are tracking. We want YOU to find him, his base, his plans and stop him. What’s his plan, you may ask? He has some ongoing revenge plot with his now famous politician brother, and his plan is to bomb the White House the day that the President and him are meeting, thus killing them both, everyone in the room and destroying Washington D.C. Your job is to track him, find out his plans and ruin them.” Ms. Jones used her hands a lot as she talked, getting more stressed and heated by the minute.
Ivanov…Ivanov…Dragomir Ivanov…. the name stirred and triggered something in Raven’s brain, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Several minutes passed as the three (including Shore) discussed the mission, Raven’s already pale face getting gradually paler as the danger of this task sunk in. But she needed more thrill in her life than stealing things she had no right to take. At last she agreed, and she was whisked away to a fat lady who was going to change her appearance and looks completely. The process included skin color changing, a new haircut and color, clothes, new talk, and new eye contacts.
Two hours later, a new girl came stumbling out of the room. No one who knew her would think that she was Raven Van Pelt. But she was. But now she had short and wavy red hair up to her shoulders, golden questioning eyes, a somehow stretched and taller body, cream-colored skin and purple fingernails. Her teeth had been made bright and whiter. Her cheeks had gone in a bit, giving her face a slightly skinny look. Overall she looked quite pretty but that wasn’t the point of the disguise. It was to make sure NO ONE would recognize her and acknowledge her presence in Moscow.
She was guided by a strict vulture like woman to a large office room… or at least it was for the front. Behind a glass wall was a whole science lab where things sparked, bombed and fizzled. That was where Raven was handed her gadgets, and she had to admit, they were pretty smart.
A makeup box which was a photo transmitter and recorder and which was a tracking device, a dollar coin that was a powerful bomb, a cell phone which detected hidden cameras, traps, bugs and people and a skateboard (which was more to Raven’s taste) which when pressed transformed into a pair of skis complete with ski rods. The skis were obviously for the snowy mountains wherever her mission took her.
One more day until she was on her way. That would be when the danger really began.

The plane landed in Moscow, and half an hour later Raven was packed into a tiny hotel in her own room, and was wandering through the bustling streets and alleys behind it. She was dressed in purple tights, knee length black boots and a leather but metallic looking short black jacket. Raven was curiously observing a small stall that sold wallets when a flash of blood red caught her eye. There was a bald man standing a few stalls down, and he seemed to be arguing with the shopkeeper. His voice seemed to be yelling, though it was hardly heard over the noise and commotion of the alley. Then the bald man in the red coat abruptly stopped his conversation and strode away from the shops. Hurrying over to the shop Red Coat was interested in, Raven gave a gasp and backed away, nearly colliding with an old lady. On the table lay skis, helmets, key chains, gloves, socks… and a gun. Just one gun. Who would sell a gun here? What was it doing there? The surprise of seeing the weapon was what had sent the girl tumbling backwards. The gun was also probably what Red Coat had wanted.
Pointing to the gun she turned her golden eyes onto the middle aged woman running the stand. The woman frantically waved her hands indicating NO WAY, and Raven caught a few words of Russian that she could understand in the torrent of frightened sentences: Kid, young, man, mean and go. Raven got the message and backed off, in pursuit of Red Coat. He was jogging down an abandoned street, signs and window shades flapping sadly in the cool wind. There was a slight tugging in Raven’s gut and she followed him, hiding behind a shop poster plate or a café menu sign every time the man showed signs of turning around.
She had been following him for over thirty minutes and her feet were getting tired of running, crouching and pausing. But a voice in the back of her mind told her to keep moving. They were at the end of the road now, and beyond lay soft sheets of ice, rock and snow, and in the background, large pointy snowcapped mountains. Red Coat hopped into a long van with an open back and started driving through a faint path in the snow. Wary, Raven ducked down and followed hunched over, not wanting to be caught seen in the truck’s rear view mirrors. When the man leaned down to fix something underneath his seat, Raven seized her chance. Running and tumbling swiftly into the open backed can, Raven lay flat and rode along with the man all the way to the mountains.
* * *
The van stopped with a sudden jerk, and the shake nearly made Raven sit right up, something that would have revealed her right away. The van drove through a dark tunnel and she blinked her eyes, staying low. But what if someone saw the van with her in the back, maybe a guard? A security camera? What would happen? Surely she would get arrested or maybe just shoved back into the hotel room. Crouching, the girl with the golden eyes waited until total darkness wrapped around the car. The truck was getting closer to a gate which she was sure was guarded, and Raven did not want to be caught sitting in a truck. Better to get out and take cover, wait, then make a run through the door. She then nimbly jumped out, landing on some kind of rail. The man with the red coat was getting away!
Squinting through the darkness Raven could just make out the red lights on the car turning a corner and disappearing through a slide gate. Any longer and she would lose him. Sticking close to her friends- the shadows and the wall- Raven ran after the truck. But it was too late.
The man with the red coat was gone.

After passing the slide gate, Raven found herself in a large room. The boiler room of whatever lair she was in. Staying out of sight was something she was good at, and that was exactly what she did right now. No one saw her. Cautiously the girl with the golden eyes tiptoed up the stairs onto the next level. She gasped and flew to the floor when she realized that in front of her was a room FULL of people, and she was on the other side of the sliding glass door. The windows in that room gave a spectacular view of the mountains and blankets of snow beyond.
In the room sat about fifty men and a few women along a large long shiny glass table. A man with spiky punk-style black hair sat at the head of the table.
He was around thirty-five, forty and his eyes were frightening. One eye was dark brown, the other an electrifying blue. Along his face ran an ugly red scar that marred an otherwise handsome face. The man was dressed in pure black, with gruesome and dragon-like tattoos all around his arm. He was quite tall and had a slightly Russian touch to his American accent. On the white wall behind him was a gigantic logo, a shield bearing a scorpion and a money bag in front of two crossed swords.
The symbol looked familiar to Raven as she searched her mind to recollect where she had seen the logo before but she pushed that away and filed the information away in the back of her brain. Her target right now was to hear the discussion. Risking a bold move, Raven sprinted, still staying low, across the corridor to behind a large square pillar. The sliding door was slightly open and the voices of the numerous people inside floated out to the passage where Raven held her breath and shivered in the cold blast of the air-conditioning.
“Ladies and gentlemen, fellow colleagues, I have not released any specific information or details, but I do have something to tell you.” The man at the head of the table spoke. Raven’s spine tingled at the sound of the voice, like silk, but yet deadly. Her mind was whirring so fast Raven was afraid that the people inside could hear the gears in her brain going spin spin spin.
Then all the bits, cogs, bolts and gears suddenly seemed to fall into place.
That symbol on the wall… The man with the tattoos… In Russia…
The man was Dragomir Ivanov, the high and mighty boss of Shadow Knights Thieves-the group that met at a cave in the woods every Sunday night, the group that always stole and wore the color of death…the group that Raven Van Pelt used to be part of. The understanding crashed heavily down on her shoulders, and she felt like screaming and crumbling to the ground. This was all a test. The whole mission was a test, a set-up by the Stars and Snipers to push her. All along they had known who she was, where she came from, where she belonged even though Raven hadn’t. The S.S.S.O had sent her here decide and confirm which side she was on. Stop Ivanov’s plans, and she was on their side. Go along with his evil plans or even go up to him and side with him would mean she was on HIS side. Speaking in the room in front of her was her boss. No matter how hard she tried, Raven knew that there was one part of her heart that would never stop being one of them. Angry and afraid, the girl with the golden eyes once again tuned into the meeting’s conversation, but the life behind those glowing yellow orbs had dimmed and had begun to fade.
Dragomir Ivanov opened his mouth once again, revealing pointy white vampire-like teeth.
“I have been working on a plan for over six months now, and have decided to let you know.” The light in the room lowered, and a screen shone out of nowhere. Picking up a vicious looking black rod, Ivanov stood up and made his way over to the large monitor. Up popped a picture of a man who looked somewhat like himself, only shorter, posher and in a suit.
“My brother, Ludovic Ivanov. Now some big politician or something in the United States of America,” he spat the word ‘brother’ as if it were some nasty chunk of dirt stuck in his mouth. “He has been working on a plan to get Russia to surrender, back down and calm the war and conflict between our two countries. That makes us look weak. I want our country to be strong and prove to the world that we are not just relentless enemies of America. We will prove that WE have the power to do anything we want, and we will not falter to the measly commands and propositions given by my brother. I want to silence him and the rest of the U.S government once and for all.”
During the speech Dragomir Ivanov had been pacing the room agitatedly, but excitement was bubbling and frothing inside him. “My plan is a simple yet fairly destructive one. I have been developing – here in my factory – bombs. Very powerful ones. On the day that my dear brother and the President of America meet in the White House, the bombs will fall on them, as a result killing them, everyone in the building, and destroying half of Washington D.C with the surprise and force of the impact.” He paused and looked around to the faces of the men and women sitting along the table. Half were Russian, some were Japanese, three French, two Italians, and many other people from various countries-excluding America.
A petrified Raven stood frozen, immobile against the pillar. The temperature in the room seemed to have dropped. That was his plan? He was crazy! Just to prove Russia was powerful he would murder innocent people, his brother, the President himself?! It was insane madness! Reaching into her back pocket, the girl fumbled and yanked out a compact makeup box. This was a gadget given to her by the S.S.S.O. The photo transmitter. Daring to twist around silently, she discreetly snapped a photo of the room, zooming in on Ivanov, the photo of his brother, Ludovic, and a little of the table inside. Immediately turning around, Raven waited a few seconds to make sure no one had seen her and come charging to get her.
Tapping on the hidden keyboard in the makeup box, Raven sent the photo along with a caption: IVANOV. IN A FACTORY IN MOSCOW MOUNTAINS. RESEARCH THE MAN IN PHOTO. HEARD PLAN. HOW CAN I CONTACT YOU AGAIN? And pressed send.

There was a gush of wind as the sliding glass doors opened, causing Raven to jump in fear. Very soon more than fifty people would walk out that door, turn left, and head straight in her direction. Snapping into action, the girl dressed in dark clothes sprinted forward and hurled herself over the bars of the stairs, suspended in midair for a few seconds and then slammed into the landing below. Shaking her flaming red hair out of her eyes Raven stood up and ran to the safety of a large pile of crates. Breathing heavily she stayed there until loud voices clambered down the stairs in front of her hiding place. Raven waited until she knew they were gone, then crouching and staying low to the ground, crept forward. Once again tiptoeing up the stairs, the girl with the golden eyes ran along the corridor into an empty office. Eyes searching the room she walked forward, opened a drawer and rifled through its contents.
Numerous files and documents, all labeled in big red print, most in Russian. Then Raven came across a file that made her stop dead.
SHADOW KNIGHTS
Hands shaking slightly, Raven opened the folder delicately as though it were a ticking time bomb about to go off. The first page was all the missions Dragomir Ivanov had commissioned so far. Flipping through the papers, Raven found the chapter that held a private file on each member of the group. She flipped open to her page and found a picture of what she used to look like staring right back at her, with a big cross over the photo. Raven gulped and scanned the file.
Name: Ravenella Van Pelt

Age: 14

Member Status: High Level Agent
Previous Missions: Museum, Library, Mayor House, Mansion, Police Station, Office
Current Status: Ex Agent. Movement tracking unavailable. Employer: Viper Blunt

And a lot of other information that she was surprised to read. A bang and a creak caused Raven’s head to jerk up, the folder flying from her hand. A man stood in the doorway, wearing a two-piece jumpsuit. He seemed astonished to find a teenage girl in his office, and opening his mouth, the man yelled out a warning. Instantly red lights flashed and footsteps echoed down the grey corridor, and Raven knew she was in big trouble.
Yells, shouts and barks surrounded the girl from all sides. The only way Raven could get out was the window. Smashing the shutters open with her fist, the girl perched on a windowsill like a bird about to take flight. Three bullets slammed into the wall beside her, and with a shriek Raven leapt out the window, plummeting down into the snow below.
Hitting the cold ice with a thump she tumbled down a slope, red hair flying in the sharp and powerful icy breeze, Raven rolled down and landed in a heap at the foot of the hill. White snow surrounded her in all directions, and looking up she could see the great big mansion looming high over her. But it was not over. Orders were bellowed out by the guards and soon they were stomping through the white carpet, looking for that girl with the fiery red hair and glowing golden eyes. Squatting and sticking close to the floor, Raven jogged forwards, anxious not to be seen, shivering in her leather jacket and purple tights. It was too late.
Her blazing red hair had given her away. A young guard spotted her, pointed and howled, and soon all the men in grey uniforms were chasing after her. Heart thudding in alarm she whipped around and sprinted through the snow, battling the sheets of snow that was falling to the ground. Somewhere to her right a bullet buried itself in the ground and the girl picked up speed. Whirling around in midair she took a look over her shoulder. More than ten men were riding snowmobiles and were pursuing her, eyes squinted and sly grins on their faces. Raven ran as though a pack of famished wolves were chasing her, snapping their jaws and baring their knife-like teeth. Leaping over logs and rocks, arms slashing against the gust the girl ran into what seemed to be a car park. Luck seemed to be on her side this time.
Bundling into a snow motorbike, Raven Van Pelt kicked the engine into life and was soon zipping through the snow faster than a Formula One race car. Snow was falling heavily now, and fog had taken hold of the mountains and soon, a blizzard was upon her. Swerving to avoid sounds of gunshots the girl zipped through the snow, heart beating painfully against her chest, Raven controlled the snow bike and dodged tree stumps. Using one hand to control the racing bike, she fumbled inside her pocket and fished out a shining one dollar coin. Flicking onto the ground, she raced ahead and few seconds later the coin exploded, tongues of flame reached out and pulled in three guards, who flipped off their bikes and vanished. Six guards darted away from the blast, but the seventh wasn’t as lucky. He didn’t pull put in time and collided with the remaining bikes, but Raven didn’t see. The only thought on her mind was get away, get away, get away. There was a large snow-ramp in front of her, and at the last second Raven yanked up the handlebars and sailed into the air, golden eyes tight shut.
Then she crashed once again down onto the hard ice and rode away into the blizzard.

She was riding into pure white, a blank page, snowy scenery. She kept on driving until she reached what she was sure belonged to Dragomir Ivanov. She wasn’t sure, but this feeling in her brain told her this was the right place. It was a pearl white palace, hidden between two large mountains, blending in with the surroundings. The only thing that gave the palace away was the seven foot tall barbed wire fence that sparked with electricity, a faint hum indicating the power of the wire. There was a large white gate and outside stood a tall post with a camera attached to it, to observe and monitor who came and went. Parking the bike and leaning it against the fence, Raven sneaked up to behind the post, and lashing out a clenched fist, cracked and broke the camera attached.
Though she felt ragged, exhausted worn out and scared, the girl was still on high alert. There could be many more cameras hidden anywhere. Raven was glad that her gadgets had survived the blizzard chase and she pulled out the cell phone and switched it on. Immediately the black phone buzzed and lit up. It showed a map of the building, and there was a trap directly a few meters in front of her. A landmine. One more step and Raven would have been blown to pieces. Rolling up a snowball she flung it with all her might at the indicated trap point, and shielded her face as heat covered her from the deafening explosion. That should have been a distraction and feeling confident, the girl with the scarlet red hair trudged up to the front gate, easily slipped through and found herself before a large, long, rickety spiral staircase. The cellphone didn’t light up or beep, and Raven proceeded up the stairs.
This seemed very easy. Almost too easy.
Her senses immediately clicked into alert mode, eyes wide open scanning the room, ears straining to catch the tiniest noises and hands feeling along the freezing cold walls for any traps. Raven stopped every few stairs and looked around, cautious, wary. When nothing happened she clambered up the stairs once more.
She reached a large landing, with doors on all three sides. She tried the first door-locked. So was the second one. But not the third. Pressing her ear tightly against the cold door, Raven waited for sounds. But none came. Opening the door ever so slightly, she popped her head inside, and found the room empty. But it was a bizarre looking room. Like an observatory. A large telescope stood gazing out a large open window into the evening sky outside. Few stars twinkled in the darkness and the moon shone brighter than a diamond, emitting a silvery glow and casting light on every mountain, turning the snow and ice beneath to a silver pearl. Raven entered the room and closed the door softly behind her, mouth open in awe. Millions of strange metal objects and instruments hung from the ceiling in fascinating rows, each one shining in the white light of the room. They were so beautiful, so mesmerizing and stunning, so carefully decorated and crafted with glittering jewels and beads, glitter and every pretty material in the world. Glass cabinets lined the smooth white walls, each holding a precious artifact. Raven moved closer to one of the displays, a fabulous sapphire and emerald necklace… it looked vaguely familiar. Bending down to read the tag, her heart gave a jolt. On the gold plaque were the words: ECHOWOOD MAYOR’S DAUGHTER’S NECKLACE. STOLEN BY RAVENELLA VAN PELT, SHADOW KNIGHTS THIEVES, DECEMBER 25
It hit her like a high voltage lightning strike. SHE was the one who had robbed that necklace on the order of Viper Blunt, those many years ago. The events of that night came back to her, and Raven froze in a flashback.
The house had been silent on Christmas Night those many years back, for the Mayor had been throwing a party at his mansion. The fourth floor had been empty and abandoned, and Raven had crouched on the windowsill, taking in the room. It had sat on a purple velvet cushion, protected by a red laser. The girl on the windowsill had eyed it with ocean-blue eyes. Silent as a stalking cat she had sneaked into the room, jumped over the lasers and grabbed the necklace. The cold jewels pressed against her ghostly pale skin, eyes taking in every detail of the gorgeous necklace. Sneaky as a sly fox the girl had slipped out the window, plummeted down to the pavement below, met an accomplice and together the girl and the boy had disappeared into the night.
Raven was the girl who had taken it.
And now it was sitting here, right in front of her eyes.
All the money, stolen artifacts, jewels and treasures had come here to the lair of Dragomir Ivanov. While she had been lost in her daydream, Raven Van Pelt had forgotten temporarily where she was. There was a soft cough from directly behind her. Nearly jumping out of her skin, she spun around, arms raised and eyes stretched open.
A figure had melted out from the shadows of the room, and now the figure stood before her. Dressed in dark clothes, dark jeans and black boots, gruesome tattoos inked over both his arms, black punk style hair slightly windswept, and glinting black eyes, deep pools of evil and hatred. Raven had to bite down on her lip to stop herself from screaming.
The man in front of her was Dragomir Ivanov.

She was stunned. He had literally just appeared from the shadows, like a ghost that could pass through walls. Raven was also surprised at how young he looked up close. His evil smile and vampire teeth marred his young features.
“Who are you? Ah, of course, I already know,” When he spoke his lips barely moved, and his voice sounded like a loud hiss. “Ravenella.”
“It’s Raven, you evil creep.” Snapped back Raven, eyes blazing.
“Control your temper Van Pelt. And I understand it was you outside the meeting room?”
She was shocked to hear this. “How do you know? And how did you get here so fast!?”
“I have ways, Ravenella. I knew what you looked like from the minute you arrived in Moscow. As for the second question, I used a helicopter. But that isn’t important. The REAL question is: Why are you here?”
“If you are as smart as you think you are, you would know Ivanov. I presume Mr. Blunt told you everything?” Raven questioned, trying to get something out of Dragomir.
“Yes in fact, he did. As a result of your foolish actions, seven more people have left the Shadow Knights. I know who you are, Ravenella, and you were very useful to me,” Ivanov paused, gesturing at the glass cases filled with items. “I was very irate when I heard you had quit. You were, actually, the most useful of them all. Bravest, smartest, quickest and fittest. My, I haven’t issued any thefts recently, for they surely will fail without you.”
The warped praise caught Raven slightly off guard. She backed away, but Ivanov just took a step closer. A skeleton-like hand twirled around her flaming red hair, and Raven stiffened in disgust, slapping away Ivanov’s hand.
“Shame to kill such a pretty girl. But I’m afraid I must, after what you have heard and seen,” He murmured, but he stepped away from her. “Before you die, I want you to see this!” He walked over to a table Raven had never noticed, but it was the biggest table she had ever seen, and she had missed it! There was something gigantic on it, but was covered by a soft grey cloth. Striding over, Ivanov proudly pulled of the cover with a flourish. Raven gasped and clamped her hand over her mouth.
On the table sat the biggest and most powerful looking bomb Raven had ever seen in her life. It was pure black, deadly yet hypnotizing. And then Ivanov spoke. “This is my precious weapon that will wipe out my pesky brother and the President. It was supposed to be only them, but it will also destroy the White House and Washington D.C, which I have no problem with.” A smirk crosses his face.
“You beast! You cold-hearted beast! How could you?! Destroy homes of innocent people, children, adults! The President of the US himself! Why? WHY?” shrieked Raven, stiff with terror. “You have no heart at all! Don’t you care about anyone but yourself? You foul evil beast!” she cried.
The cruel man just stood there and laughed- a laugh that seemed to voice the Devil himself. “You have spirit, young one. But I am not a cruel beast, no. I am a very powerful beast. I call my bomb the Black Beauty. At exactly 8:45 p.m., when my dear brother and the President shake hands, my Black Beauty will come hurling out of nowhere and dropping onto the White House. And then BOOM happily ever after, and no one will EVER challenge Russia’s strength again.”
Raven spat on the gleaming marble floor. “Why are you doing this?” she asked, chest pounding. “Why so much just to make Russia seem powerful? Surely that isn’t the only reason!?”
Ivanov eyed her with jet black pupils. “Very insistent you are. Well then, since you are going to die, there is no point keeping secrets,” he declared, his mouth curving into a twisted sneer. “It all began in school. Me and my brother, Ludovic, were both the new boys at school. Always picked on, always teased, always tortured. But then things changed. My brother became one of them.” He flicked the word off his tongue as though it were a foul tasting sweet. “He became Little Mr. Popular! Then of course, he turned on me-made my life a living hell. Every day I got picked on. The bullying increased and went out of control. I ran away from school, from home, from everything I ever knew. I flew back home, Russia, and started a new life. I became powerful, slowly rising to the top, buying groups and companies, my most popular the Shadow Knights. I finally had enough money to take revenge on Ludovic. Tomorrow at 8:45 my revenge will come. Tomorrow at 8:45 the world will shake. Tomorrow at 8:45, the world will bow down to Russia. And tomorrow at 8:45, you will be dead” his eyes glinted malevolently at those last words, and he talked as though he already held the world in his hands.
“No. None of that will happen. Tomorrow at 8:45 the world will be the same,” shouted Raven. “But there will be one difference in the world.” She paused, golden eyes staring proudly and defiantly into the dead black ones. “You won’t be in it.”
Then without any warning and without knowing how, Raven toppled backwards and plunged into the deep dark well of unconsciousness.

Raven woke up in a grey room, with dim lights and modern white furniture. With blurry golden eyes she stretched to see out the window, the mountains still in view. The snow white tips’ reaching for the sky, and the moon was still up, glowing in the sky. For a second the girl lay dazed on the bed, mind randomly wandering, then focused on the task ahead. Turning her stiff neck to the side the girl saw that it was 10:00 p.m. She didn’t have much time to save the world! Jolting into a sitting position Raven Van Pelt saw that someone had laid out clothes for her on the table. A black , white and purple full-length jumpsuit, along with black knee high boots and dark purple snow glasses. Not exactly what she was hoping for, but when she snuggled into the shiny fabric Raven realized the suit was heated. Perfect.
Now for the ultimately daring escape plan that would result in saving the United States from eternal damnation.
A nearly impossible task.
But she had to try. Lightly treading over to the door in her new boots, she found the door had been kept unlocked. Strange…very strange. Slipping inconspicuously out into the passage, Raven looked both ways before going with her gut feeling and turning right. Without anyone in sight, she picked up her pace until she was speeding down the empty corridor. With a gasp, Raven skidded to a halt but collided with a trolley pusher.
She didn’t trust her gut feeling anymore.
Flipping and turning the other way, Raven raced down glass stairs and slipped through a large gap in the fence gate. Bursting out into the cold night air, she tumbled into the freezing cold snow. The night was black. Everything was black. The snow, the mountains, the mansion and the trees were all black. The only light was the silver illumination of the full moon. Snapping on her phone, Raven used the glow from the screen to light up the snowy arena around her, the blue light giving the night an eerie ghost-story feel. Narrowing her hypnotizing golden eyes, Raven could just make out a faint silhouette of a large jet several meters away. Looking around frantically in the dark, she saw the snow bike that she had parked there herself still resting against the wired fence. Trudging over as fast as she could through the slush, Raven grabbed the handlebars of the bike and jerked the engine to life, which immediately lurched and sped forward. Clumsily zigzagging through the ice the girl on the motorbike zipped forward, hair flying in the crisp mountain air.
Without any warning or indication, the jet steadily rose up into the pitch black and starless night. Urgency pounded through Ravens head as she jammed the handlebars into a halt, flinging ice into the air. With the help of the phone the girl found out that she had stopped at the edge of the wired fence, next to a toolshed. There should be something useful in there that she could use. She knew for sure who was on that plane, where the plane was going, and what was going to happen if the plane reached its destination. Barging into the tool shed and flicking on the rusty single light bulb, an anxious Raven scanned the walls, closets and shelves for anything she could use. Then she came across something that lifted her spirits. It was a magnetic grip grappling hook that was attached to a clip which connected to a belt. There was a harpoon gun, and sturdy wire was attached to it. It would be dangerous if something went wrong while using it. But it was Raven’s only hope. Tightening the belt around her waist and the strong thick wire in her hands, she tumbled outside, and heard the whirring of the jet, still hovering in midair. Then it started slowly rising and headed north.
Gulping, Raven blindly took aim in the night, and fired a shot in the dark. The harpoon whistled high into the air, and Raven heard a satisfying CLANG as the shot hit its target and wedged itself in the bottom of the jet. But she forgot that she was attached to it. Her body wasn’t ready for the sharp jerk that tugged at her, hauling her into the air, nearly chopping her in half. Screaming in pain Raven flew upwards, the wire coiling fast, and braced herself for the impact. With a flash as white and sudden as lightning the half-limp girl slammed against the freezing jet, dangling, a lifeless rag doll.
Soon the spider-like girl and the jet were swallowed up into the darkness.
The power of the night had been unleashed.

The girl was stunned and dazed by the hard collision between her and the plane. Opening her eyes made no difference. The night was as dark as the inside of her eyelids, as dark as a cunning fox’s heart. Groping blindly in the black, Raven’s hands brushed against something cold and short… a handle! Stretching her long fingers she wildly grabbed the metal handle and heaved herself upwards, not daring to breathe. As she struggled to pull herself up, the belt attached to the cord around her waist slipped off. She was unprotected now. If she fell, she would certainly die. The jet was too high to fall without killing herself. All she could do now was hold on as tight as she could. Raven’s hands got sweaty with the pressure of falling, but she could not let go. Suddenly, the plane jerked, and one of Raven’s hands lost grip on the handle. She let out a scream as she hung there, holding on for dear life with one hand, legs flailing and dangling beneath her, darkness engulfing her. Raven’s other hand was getting clammier, slowly slipping… and for a moment she was sure she would drop out of the sky and fall, smashing against the rocky mountains. The mere thought pumped little energy into her arms, and the terrified girl pulled with all her might. Grunting with effort Raven once again heaved herself upwards, two arms now wrapped securely around the handle, heart banging in terror.
Then the handle started to dip, going lower…
And lower…
And lower…
Until the girl was sure it would pop right off. But then a faint light shone in front of her, and with a start Raven realized that the handle was attached to a door, a door on the bottom of the plane, a door that would surely be one that be attached to the lower cargo and luggage compartment of the jet. Breathing out a heavy sigh, she blinked as her eyes focused on it. Swinging her back and forth to gather momentum, Raven poised herself to jump, eyes narrowed on the floor, waiting for the right moment to jump… then she leapt, suspended in darkness for a millisecond, a flying bat through the forest…
A shrill noise started beeping in the cockpit. Surprised, the pilot averted his eyes from the blackness in front of him and looked down at the screen on his right. Small black letters told him that the lower cargo compartment door was slightly open. Puzzled, the young pilot pushed down his finger on the red button that read L. CARGO DOOR, and closed it. Turning his eyes back into the night ahead, the man controlling the jet resumed his calmness and flew the plane further into the sky.
Raven landed with a thud on the cold surface of the door, and dragged herself into the cargo room before her. With a shock she realized a large weight crushing down on her foot. Twisting around, the girl found that her boot clad foot was jammed in between the cargo door, which had somehow started to close. The door was slowly rising, trapping her left foot in the gap. Wriggling and fidgeting, pulling and yanking Raven’s foot stubbornly stayed stuck. Golden glowing eyes hastily scanned the room for something she could use to get her foot out, and her gaze fell on an old but strong looking umbrella. Stretching to reach it Raven’s hands curled around the stiff handle, and she brought it over. Sliding it between the gap, she pushed down hard on the umbrella, and the door lowered just enough for her foot to come free –along with a dreadful pain. Massaging her foot as she watched the door close, Raven’s mind lost track of where she was. She had to clonk herself several times on the head to wake up, though her head was drooping in exhaustion, eyes fighting to stay open. Her arm muscles were screaming but Raven knew she had to stay awake. It was her only chance of finding and stopping Ivanov’s plan before it was too late.
Scrambling to her feet, Raven brushed her wild red hair off her face and made her way through boxes and bags, containers and crates. Curiosity coming over her, she reached down, and with her delicate and nimble purple-nailed fingers, carefully opened a crate next to her right leg. Her eyes questioning Raven rifled through the box, the materials inside hard and cool against her fingers. All the pieces inside were grey, silver or black. She opened another crate, which held the same thing. Brain working overtime, Raven tried to piece together this puzzle. She was on Dragomir Ivanov’s jet, in the cargo, on the way to somewhere, looking at pieces of black metal and iron, nuts and bolts. Slowly, the pieces came together.
One by one each piece started to form into one piece.
That piece showed a picture.
And that picture showed the Black Beauty.
All the bits and pieces in the boxes were all pieces from the dismantled Black Beauty Bomb that Ivanov had created. Raven was standing in the middle of everything that would come together to create the most powerful and destructive weapon of the century. The thought of the result was unimaginable. She shoved that angrily to the back of her brain and slipped through the stacks and rows, the Boxes of Death. There was a ladder on the far side of the cargo and Raven made her way to it, her only thought being I have to stop Ivanov before it’s too late. I must save Washington D.C. I have to stop Ivanov before it’s too late.
And with that Raven swooped up the ladder, quiet as a stalking cat, and ascended to the next level of this dangerous game.

A blast of cold air greeted Raven as she cautiously poked her head up. The room in front of her was empty of people, but definitely not empty of things. All along the room were bottles and boxes, jars and pitchers, all firmly screwed down tight. But in those bottles, boxes, jars and pitchers were various bubbling liquids, powders and strange concoctions. Ears and eyes alert, moving lightly over the grey floor of the upper cargo, Raven curiously inspected the contents of the bottles. Few were red, some were yellow, blue, green and white. She didn’t know WHAT they were, but they smelled dreadful and pungent, giving the whole upper cargo a stinky odor. Narrowed golden eyes scanned the labels on the bottles, nose wrinkled in disgust. Each label said: CHEMICAL and then a number beside it. Screwing up her forehead in concentration Raven thought about what she had just seen. Raven tried to clear her mind by staring at the floor, but that didn’t stop the persisting train of thought that chugged through her brain. If the dismantled bomb was downstairs in the lower cargo… that meant…
The chemicals in the bottles were the chemicals for the bomb. Everything in here was undoubtedly what would blow up the White House with the Black Beauty. And Raven was standing right there, looking at it, staring at everything that, when put together, would destroy the capital of the United States. Raven tried to jump into action, but her brain was to petrified at the thought. Shaking her red head in frustration, the girl raised her fist and was ready to slam it down to break a jar when a bullet whistled out of nowhere and slammed into an empty cardboard box beside her foot, and Raven bit down on a startled scream, staying extremely still.
“Well, well, well. Look what we have here.” Spoke the sly, evil, cunning and silky voice of Dragomir Ivanov. Raven turned around, hands in the air, eyes wild. “Ravenella, I didn’t think I would find you here. I would go as far as to say that I underestimated your abilities.” Raven made a violet gesture and spat. Instantly two hulky men wearing white suits were at her side, pressing her hands together, tying them up crudely with wire that cut into Raven’s skin, and Raven desperately tried to tug free.
“As you have already guesses what is in the boxes and the bottles, I won’t keep anything from you. Yes they are chemicals going in the bomb, and I would request that you keep them intact, thank you very much,” his lifeless beady eyes searching the room. “How did you manage to get on here? My men did an inspection of the plane before it took off...” He did not get an answer. Raven shut her eyes and didn’t respond. “Ah, silent treatment, I see. Bring her up.” He snapped his fingers at the men in white, turned his back, and climbed up the ladder with ease, the burly men following with Raven bound in front of them. After climbing the ladder Raven was on the top of the plane; it didn’t look like one. Black leather seats, a blood red plush carpet running along the entire floor, silver cabinets and tables and ornaments and lights everywhere. When she came up she found Ivanov relaxing on a black chair, feet up, tattoos glaring. She also noticed a compact yet deadly gun, lying inches away from his fingers. Suspicious, Raven was made to sit down, and the white suited men took their places on either side of the plane room. A little way off was a flying office, with a long silver table, black chair, a screwed down laptop, pencil pots, papers and file cabinets. There was also a large white tab, and sticking out of that tab was a big, red button. Averting her glowing eyes from the table, she looked into the deep ones of Dragomir Ivanov.
“Welcome to the Shadow Fox, my beloved private jet and current bomb carrier,” he finished, with a devilish smile. “Right now we are soaring above the mountains, on the way to my base, and I will not tell you where it is located. You work for the S.S.S.O, am I correct? Previously one of my little puppets, you gave quite a speech when you left! Left old Viper quite horrified, one of his agents now has no foot thanks to his aimless shooting. Well, that is not the point. Why are you going to stop me?” Raven opened her mouth but no sound came out. She tried again.
“I have no choice. I… I have no choice! They... they made me!” she stuttered, finding that she could not truthfully answer the question.
“Oh really. Everyone has a choice. The S.S.S.O employed you yes, but do you want to work for them? They killed your parents Ravenella. Do you want to work for those people? You could change your life… and come on my side.” Raven got up with a furious movement, and without conscious thought upturned to table, sending to gun spinning away, and causing Ivanov to eye her coldly but with a new interest. The guards made sudden movements but retreated to the shadows of the jet. Raven breathed heavily, anger boiling up only because what Ivanov had said was true, and had triggered something deep within her.
“I will always be with the S.S.S.O. I would rather die than join you.” She shouted. The plane shook and landed suddenly with a thud. Ivanov muttered something about finally reaching, and turned back to Raven, who stood with arms crossed. “Out. We have landed. Out.” Dragomir Ivanov ordered, and something inside Raven stirred, the something that was used to following orders, and she walked out of the plane with red hair shielding her shocked face. For the first time in her life, Raven Van Pelt had nothing to say.
* * *
The bomb had once again been assembled, and was sitting on a black fighter jet, waiting in the early morning dawn. The Black Beauty was in the fighter jet, and unknown to Raven, it was waiting on the runway, due to take off in half an hour. Raven, Ivanov and countless guards were staying at the Mordeana Shadow Mansion, a palace that belonged to Dragomir Ivanov. Raven was in new clothes, a white jacket, grey sweater, black tights, and scarlet blood red boots. Her flaming hair was held back by a black hairband, and her eyes glowed with determination. But one question still hammered in her head- Why hadn’t Ivanov killed her yet? Maybe he thought that she still had some use. Raven shuddered to think what use that would be. She was locked up in a white room, with no furniture at all, no bed or bathroom, just an empty snow white room. She had been given a glass of water and a burger, which she had wolfed down in two bites. Now the forlorn girl sat on the windowsill, looking out the window, and head in her hands. She had tried several times to break out. She had banged on the wall, kicked at the door, smashed at the floor. The walls weren’t that strong- all her smashing had left several dents in the pearly white walls, and her boots had made light footprints on the soft cold floor. Raven suddenly heard a whirring and a whistling. There was a small hole in the wall. Very small, but definitely a hole. Raven jolted out of her melancholy brooding and ran over to the white wall. Squinting she looked through the hole, and saw the faint outline of a door a long way ahead. She took a few paces back. Then she strongly swung her leg around and it crashed against the wall, breaking a large hole in it, and Raven nimbly and swiftly went through, and ran down the corridor her crimson boots tapping against the cold stone floor. She reached the door and pressed her ear against it. An awful snarling and growling sounded from the other side. She tiptoed backwards, breathing fast.

Gathering up all her courage, Raven barged straight at the door and tumbled into the room, her eyes tight shut, not daring to open them to the sight before her. She could hear snarling, snapping of jaws, swishing of tails. Raven couldn’t help it. Her eyes flitted open, and before her was a pack of six famished wolves. The one nearest to her growled, baring pointy pearly knife-like teeth. Raven couldn’t help it. She yelled.
It was the wrong thing to do. A wolf with a bright blue collar pounced on her chest, claws digging painfully into Raven’s chest and stomach; the wolves face barely inches from hers. Raven was forced under the weight of the mutt to lie down flat, and her whole body shook with fear. One false move and this starving creature would tear her throat out. Raven shifted slightly and another wolf laid its heavy paws on her legs. She was trapped now, and if Raven was terrified before, she was petrified now, but she tried to calm herself down. The wolf on her chest howled and the door behind her opened. Raven tried to twist to see who it was but the voracious wolves held her down. Smooth as a snake slithering over sand, Dragomir Ivanov walked into the room. He wore his usual black clothes but now wore a red chain around his neck, a scorpion pendant hanging from it.
“Hmm. No place I keep you seems to work. I told my workers the walls were too soft.” He muttered. Raven struggled under the grey wolves but Ivanov seemed to take no notice. Raven lashed out with her hand in a desperate attempt to dislodge a wolf, but it’s jaws snapped shut on her arm, teeth piercing her skin, and Raven yelled in pain as blood flowed from the tooth wound. Pain pulsed through her and all she could do was to stop her eyes from tearing. All the eyes of the wolves glinted maliciously, grey fur spiked up in excitement. Ivanov whistled and at once the pack moved away into a shadowy corner, a pile of rocks shaped like a large den for their comfort. Raven struggled to her feet, tightly clutching her arm, and walked up to Ivanov.
“Why. Why are you doing this? Locking me up for no apparent reason? Destroying America? And on top of that, it’s all to please yourself and settle some old family battle! Have you lost your MIND?!!” she demanded in his face. Ivanov walked backwards to a large office desk. A Mac computer, keyboard, mouse, pencil pots, files, photos, books, papers, boxes and more sat on the cluttered silver desk. A black tab, with a large blue button. And a large white tab, just like the one on the plane, with a large red button just waiting to be pressed.
“Oh I see what you are looking at. The bomb’s control buttons. Blue for blow up, red for self-destruct. You won’t be going near any of those buttons anytime soon. The plane carrying the Black Beauty is already on its way. Yes it is!” he remarked, responding to the shocked look on Raven’s pale face.
Raven felt something inside her… something was stirring; something inside her had been triggered by Ivanov’s words. A feeling Raven was traumatized to discover- a feeling of satisfaction. Raven was shocked at herself. She pointed at the blue button.
“That button activates the bomb? Wouldn’t that mean it would blow the plane up as well, if it is in it?” she queried.
“No. The bomb doesn’t blow up the airplane. The pilot has the bomb on automatic drop. I command this computer to make the bomb drop, it drops. Then I hit the blue button. Of course, I will not be going near the red button. And neither will you. ” Ivanov finished with a sly grin. He pulled out a white remote from his back pocket, looked straight at Raven, and pressed a black button. The floor beneath her feet gave away and Raven plummeted downwards, and soon was followed by the six hungry wolves. She fell in a heap on ice and scurried out of the way for the tumbling wolves to fall. Looking up she saw five purple snow mobiles driving across the snow, and Raven recognized the logo. S.S.S.O had come to save her from here!

Ms. Jones drove up on the first snow mobile, wearing a white coat and snow boots.
“Raven! You are alive, thank goodness! We came in time I hope… what happened to your arm?” she asked, noticing the bleeding wolf wound. Ms. Jones fished out a bandage from her kit and securely wrapped Raven’s wound. “We will try to distract Dragomir Ivanov. You go in and press the red button as soon as you possibly can! The S.S.S.O has already alerted the President but there is little we can do, the meeting is still taking place. Go on hurry Ravenella! We will take care of the wolves. Go. GO!” Ms. Jones urgently barked, and while they were speaking, the other men from the S.S.S.O had shot the wolves with tranquilizer darts, and they ley in a grey heap of fur and claws. Raven nodded; puzzled at the disappointment she felt when she heard that the bomb was not going to destroy the White House. Had Raven gone mad? The girl with the golden eyes furiously tugged at her hair, trying to right her thoughts that were going astray, like an out of control train on the loose. She was on the side of the Americans! Not some demented Russian man out for revenge! Raven irately stomped her foot, spraying a baffled Ms. Jones with snow. With a fleeting last look at the pile of unconscious wolves, Raven once again ran into Mordeana Shadow Mansion.
She burst into the same room once again, to find Ivanov sitting at the computer. Ivanov jumped and then started laughing, a cruel, heartless sound.
“I have got to say Ravenella, you are very good.” He laughed. Raven felt pleased with the praise, but the feeling made her want to stab herself.
“Get away from that computer. Your plan is going to fail. It will fail! The S.S.S.O is out there right now, taking care of things, and you will be dead before the bomb ever falls!” she yelled out the last words, and as she did so, Raven heard yells and sounds of shooting outside the window. Running over she pressed her face against it, and saw the S.S.S.O team under attack from Ivanov’s army of men. Bullets flew, punches and kicks were aimed, and several men of the S.S.S.O collapsed, leaving only Ms. Jones and four other men standing. Spinning around, Raven looked at Dragomir, who had a smug smile on his face. At once Raven grabbed a paperweight off the table and hurled it at his face, but he nimbly dodged to the side.
“You were saying?” he sneered. Raven barreled into his stomach, winding him, but Ivanov was stronger than he looked. With a rapid movement of his arm he knocked Raven to the ground, but she jumped back on her feet again. Raven brought her leg around in a vicious kick that she had mastered during karate lessons as a tween. Faster than light Ivanov jumped to the side and pulled out a knife that had been stuck in his back pocket, and flung that Raven’s head, which just wasn’t fast enough to duck out of the way. The blade caught her above the eyebrow and blood dripped into her eyes, blinding pain, but she kept going. Kicking and punching, rolling and ducking, throwing and tossing, Raven used every move she knew in self-defense and attack. Then suddenly, while Raven’s hand was in mid-swing, the door to the room burst open and 5 people came in carrying weapons- Ms. Jones and her team. For some reason, Raven didn’t feel as relieved as she thought she would feel.
Oh no.
She was going over to The Dark Side.
The girl with the golden eyes stared at Ms. Jones, who raised her weapon and spoke to Dragomir Ivanov.
“Mr. Ivanov. I can’t say that it is a pleasure to meet you.”
Ivanov raised his eyebrows. “You are too late Ms. Jones. The bomb is on its way. There is nothing you can do to stop it.” The tension in the room was at boiling point. Everyone was silent, and Dragomir’s words echoed in the large room. The sky was still dark outside, and the stars still shone, but the moon now gave an eerie glow. Everyone was still, taking in each other, eyes darting left and right. Raven’s palms were sweating, and her forehead was dripping.
A bullet was shot, and it cannoned into Ivanov’s chest. He fell to the floor, eyes glazed, gun in hand, a vicious sneer still on his face. Raven was stunned. Dragomir Ivanov, one of the most powerful and evil men in the world, gone, just like that. Without thought Raven sprung forward and raced over to the desk, hovering over the two buttons, red and blue. She could feel Ms. Jones’s eyes trained on her. Raven reached forward and pressed down…
On the ACTIVATE button.
With a shocked yet pleased smirk on her face, she brushed her red hair off her face and gazed at the horrified face of Ms. Jones.
Somewhere in the sky, the Black Beauty had dropped from the sky, and hit the White House and exploded. With the touch of a button Ravenella Van Pelt had killed Ludovic Ivanov, The President of the U.S.A, and half of Washington D.C. Right now panic, terror and shock was spreading all over the world at the death of the President.
Raven knew that there was always a part of her that would remain faithful to the Shadow Knights Thieves, and to Dragomir Ivanov himself. With a last look at the face of Ms. Jones, Ravenella Van Pelt poised on the windowsill and jumped into the night.

* * *

The night is when everything dark, evil and cunning stirs. The night is when the foxes creep out of their holes, golden eyes glinting malevolently in the trees. The night is when owls awaken and spread their wings, soaring above the treetops, hooting disdainfully while moon-like eyes scan the forest floor for prey. The night is when betrayals take place.



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