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Author's note: I was inspired to do this piece after having an odd dream which will be mentioned in chapter 3. After-wards the characters seemed to jump into my mind and beg for a story. And here it is.
The buzzing of a powerful motor bike roared through the silent plains of sand.
“Stop! Thief!” yelled out a mechanically created voice.
Robotic security bots were in hot pursuit towards the biker.
“Faster Tor faster!” Vanessa hissed.
She was on top of her mechanical-dog in the form of a motorbike. The girl was young, barely in her mid-teens. The guards continued their advance. She knew it was risky to steal the ancient 21st century computer hardware from the most highly guarded scrap shop in all of the sectors. Rumor had it that the Duke himself used metal from there.
The border to Sector 33 was clearly visible in the scalding landscape. This was no problem to Vanessa. After all, she was born here.
“Cut em’ off!” one of the guards cried.
The gate guards were beginning to lower the wall’s entrance. The door was a single slab of concrete, lifted from the ground from a single strong wire. Vanessa stamped on Tor’s drive mode furiously. She had never been sent to jail before, and from the descriptions Chase gave her, she did not like it.
“Oh come on!” she snarled.
She looked on ahead and gasped. Suddenly the guards were surrounded by a mound of sand and landed smack-dab against the stone door. But the girl was gone.
Vanessa landed into Sector 34 with a thud and Oomph!
“Ow…” she moaned
Groaning in pain, she rose up and dusted sand from her hair and face.
“Tor?” she asked hoarsely.
She found the dog a few feet away. Unfortunately, he had no legs and therefore, had no wheels.
“Oh great!” she moaned with a sigh.
A jutting rock was right in front of Sector 34’s entrance to Sector 33.
“I’m happy you’re in bike mode.” She mumbled.
Tor was like any dog to Vanessa, a loyal but very talkative mutt, who couldn’t shut up.
“I think Tec designed Tor to be annoying on purpose. And Sand-Wheels! Who replaced my hover pads?!” She growled.
Vanessa swore silently and pressed a button on her wrist watch.
“Who do you want to talk to?” the watch asked.
A small blue-green screen appeared from the watch face. A woman’s face was on the screen.
“Hey Maudie. Listen, I need to talk to Tec.” Vanessa answered her cell phone.
Who needed a touch screen phone when you had a computer who talks to you? (Not allowed in school during tests. Does calculations.)
“Of course Miss Retaxes.” Maudie nodded.
“Hey, call me Vanessa. Oh and thanks.” Vanessa answered.
Maudie nodded. The screen suddenly turned off and then reappeared again. A young girl in color image appeared on the screen.
“Hey Van.” Tec said casually.
She was Vanessa’s best friend ever since they met in the orphanage. It had been very long time ago since the two lived in the now abandoned and penniless orphanage. They had grown up together as child-hood friends.
“Hi Tec.” Vanessa grinned.
Tec’s shoulders stiffened.
“What happened? You never call me when you’re out.” Tec asked worriedly.
Vanessa frowned. Tec was always a worry-wart, constantly checking on her best friend.
“She’s always worried…Maybe its cuz we’re so close. Like sisters…”
“You know me so well. I’m stuck in Sector 34. Someone switched my hover pads for Sand-Wheels, and I drove em’ broke.” Vanessa informed.
Tec sighed. As if she had enough stress taking care of her own health, she had to take care of Vanessa’s education as well.
“I’ll get Chase to pick you up. He’s over in Sector 36 now and he is closer to you. Oh yeah, when you get home, I am going to make you hit the books. Your grammar is atrocious!” Tec continued.
“Why?” Vanessa asked.
“Its ‘I drove them till they broke’. Not the way you said it.” Tec answered.
“I drove over a rock. Sorry Tec.” Vanessa mumbled.
Tec looked at her best friend sympathetically.
“It’s ok. I really want to bust something mechanical up anyways. I’ll fix Tor up.” Tec said gently.
“You sound like a mom.” Vanessa smiled.
Tec’s eyes were sad. They all had such a hard life as a bunch of homeless kids in the streets. It was only Vanessa who stuck by Tec’s side and was the closest to family Tec had. Tec looked at Vanessa’s hard blue eyes, so unusual during this time in both color and strength. They all grew up fast, even a little too fast.
“Ok, I’ll see you soon, Van.” said Tec.
The watch’s screen turned off. Vanessa bent her skinny knees and sat down in the sand. She was bored and began whistling a random tune.
An hour later, the sun was still high in the sky. Vanessa had set up a small tent she recovered from Tor’s pack. She was still bored, lying down and staring up at the tent’s roof. A roar of an engine sounded from outside of the tent. Vanessa stood up and walked outside sighing in relief. A black motorcycle was waiting outside. The black leather clad figure removed his dark shades.
“Hey Van.” Chase said casually getting off his bike.
“Hi Chase.” Vanessa answered.
Chase ran a gloved finger through his wild greased stuck-up hair.
“You need a shower.” Vanessa noted.
“I was working with Clark today.” Chase slouched.
Vanessa turned slightly pink.
“I thought Clark was in Sector 24?” Vanessa asked.
Vanessa pressed a button on her watch. The tent automatically folded up to the size of a dime. She pocketed it and mounted onto the motorcycle. Chase pressed a button and a large claw like hand appeared from the back of the motorbike and picked up Tor’s remains. Chase smiled suddenly; almost sheepishly.
“No!” Vanessa growled.
Chase began to look nervous.
“Have you been…drinking?!” Vanessa exploded.
Chase looked absolutely shocked.
“No!” Chase snorted.
The bike revved into life and drove onto the border.
“I’m way over that. I’m not gonna be a drunken fool lying dead in a stinking alley. I’m actually cutting down on my cigs.” Chase said casually.
“But why were you in Sector 36?” Vanessa asked.
Chase smiled slyly.
“Tec’s got’ a lead, so she made me go.” Chase explained.
Vanessa sighed. But Chase smiled.
“You really don’t like these missions huh.” Chase laughed.
Vanessa shook her head.
“I haven’t been caught, but I’m scared of jail.” Vanessa shuddered.
“You’re lucky ya never got caught.” Chase continued.
Vanessa knew that Chase was in deep trouble when they found him. He was lying wounded and drunk in front of Tec’s workshop. After Tec healed and let Chase in, he began to show his dark side. Apparently Chase had been abandoned at birth and was a lone nomad and drug addict. Chase was very violent and had a terrible alcoholic habit. But Tec kept him. It was mostly the fact that Tec flawlessly repaired Chase’s motorbike, but she did seem rather “air-headed” around him. Chase though had a very colorful jail time history. But Tec took the time to re-teach him. Now he was a respected member of the “family”.
“I need to go pick up Tristian over at Clark’s place. He shared a ride with me this morning. Where’s your RV?” Chase asked.
“Over in the north-east corner of Sector 35.” Vanessa answered.
Vanessa was also homeless, just like her friends. However she lived in an RV. Chase and Tristian lived with Tec in her house upstairs of her mechanic’s shop; in Sector 66. Clark was another friend who was a car mechanic living in a body shop in Sector 24. Vanessa, however, lived in any Sector she wanted. She still occasionally stayed in Clark or Tec’s house, but she was mostly a loner. The RV was very significant in Vanessa’s life. She received it after the orphanage closed down. Apparently, her unknown mother left the RV at the orphanage for her daughter. Why Vanessa, Tec, Tristian, Chase, or Clark was abandoned was unknown. They had theories, both personal and general. Vanessa frowned gently at these thoughts. She missed the family she never knew, but she had her friends; for now.
Chase’s motorcycle stopped in front of the off-white RV.
“I’m sending Tor to Tec’s place. See ya later Van.” Chase bid.
“Ok, see you later, Chase.” Vanessa waved.
Chase gestured with the rim of his helmet and revved away. Vanessa turned around and entered her home. She merely pressed a button on her watch and the door swung open. The RV was amazingly roomy, despite its small appearance. Vanessa slumped into her couch and gave a sigh of relief. The day was long and the only thing she could prove to her efforts was an ancient 21st century hunk of computer junk.
“I hope I can get a good price for this chunk of metal.” Vanessa thought.
She never cared much about mechanics that was Tec and Clark’s jobs. Vanessa slowly closed her eyes. Being a “scrounger” was hard work and one must be persistent. She had to look for pieces of metal to sell to dealers for her lively hood. She mostly lived on that money. Tec had her shop and Clark had his, so they had money. Vanessa, Tristian, and Chase mostly also took odd jobs to earn money. Vanessa was lucky she had the RV from her unknown mother as a home and roof over her head.
Soon enough, she was fast asleep and drifting into the world of dreams.
She lay on a wide bed of clouds. An endless, infinite, perennial sea of clouds. Nothing stopped her endless sleep and eternal rest. She snuggled close to a pillow of cloud. She did not want the moment to stop… But that music… She heard something familiar in her past, her lost childhood past. A woman’s voice was singing. A beautiful, amazing song that seemed familiar and comforting. But she did not recognize the words. A gentle caressing hand passed through Vanessa’s tired and worn forehead. The hand was gentle but rough and weather-worn. Yet, Vanessa felt safe and felt a sense of love and compassion in the hand. Then, it disappeared. Vanessa furrowed her brow. This was wrong; she wanted the comfort and the vanished song. But a new sound replaced the other, a buzzing noise close to her ear. She tried to brush the sound away, but it continued to grow, grow, and grow….
Vanessa woke up with a start. The dream was so vivid, but the buzz was still here! She looked around wildly.
“Miss… I mean Vanessa, the phone is ringing. It’s your friend: Tec.” said Maudie.
She was not only in Vanessa’s watch, but the main computer in her home. Vanessa groggily sat up.
“Urg… I feel half sober.” Vanessa moaned.
Maudie quickly turned on the kitchen and made Vanessa a cup of hot chocolate milk. She sent it to Vanessa’s side.
“Thanks Maudie. *yawn*. You can show Tec now.” Vanessa said sleepily.
Maudie turned off and Tec’s wide awake face appeared. Vanessa sipped her milk.
“What’s up Tec?” Vanessa asked.
Tec rolled her eyes.
“Oh I don’t know… the roof?” Tec asked sarcastically.
Vanessa laughed softly.
“I’ve already *yawn* heard that one.” Vanessa yawned.
She rubbed her nose and sipped her milk.
“You look dead.” Tec noted.
“And you look furious. What’s going on? Have you been having *yawn* ice cream before bed again. That always makes you *yawn* cranky.
Vanessa’s shoulders slumped.
“Nope. It’s Tristain. He replaced your hover pads. Its kina of a bit of revenge for last year’s April fool’s. But mostly its fact that we have a situation. We’re gonna have an Underground meeting right now!” Tec yelled.
“But it’s…” Vanessa began.
Maudie helpfully appeared and showed a holographic clock.
“Four in the morning!” Vanessa yelled.
Tec rolled her eyes.
“Fine, knock yourself out. We’ll meet at nine. I’ll serve lunch too. Besides, I still need some time to fix Tor.” Tec said casually.
“If I can fall asleep. You know me, once I’m awake, I’m awake. When did you wake up? The crack of dawn?” Vanessa asked.
Tec laughed humorlessly.
“Ha ha. Good night Van. Or should I say good morning?” Tec asked.
“Don’t care. Good morning, and all that what not.” Vanessa grunted.
Tec sighed and turned off the screen. Vanessa slumped onto her couch. Maudie helpfully pulled a blanket onto her master and put away the cup; clean and everything. As suddenly as Maudie put the cup away, Vanessa jerked awake.
“Shoot! I forgot to eat dinner! No wonder I’m so sleepy, and Tec and even Clark told me to gain some weight.” Vanessa moaned.
Maudie held up a mirror and began to measure Vanessa’s weight with a scale under the couch.
“Aw I look like I’ve just been at a fight. And I just lost a pound!” Vanessa growled.
Her eyes were dark around the edges and sunken into her skull. Now her cheeks were thinner than before and had little fat. In-fact, all of the friends was skinny and desperately needed extra weight. Maudie helpfully served Vanessa a very balanced meal of pasta, mixed veggies, a whole mango, some cheese, and a glass of water and milk.
“Thanks Maudie. I can’t believe on how much you know.” Vanessa smiled.
Maudie beamed as Vanessa enjoyed the food.
“Thank you Miss. I was going to be a dietician’s aid, but when I malfunctioned I was scraped. So I still have the dietician’s wanted memory. But when Tec fixed me my hope changed. Well I am much happier to be your computer.” Maudie smiled.
Maudie knew the strenuous activities Vanessa encountered every day and how much food she needed. Now 2,000 calories wasn’t enough for the growing teen. Food was hard to come by, but Vanessa always managed, bills and all. Vanessa completely devoured her meal. There was not a single crumb on the plate.
“Thanks again, Maudie. I really owe you one.” Vanessa smiled.
“Do not worry. You can’t really owe me anything, I’m a computer.” Maudie noted.
Vanessa laughed freely.
“Oh I'm still tired. Maybe I can drift to sleep.” Vanessa sighed.
She rubbed her eyes.
“Do you want some sleeping pills?” Maudie asked.
Vanessa shook her head slowly.
“Naw, I can fall asleep. Wake me up at eight thirty.” Vanessa yawned.
“Ok. I’ll set the alarm.” Maudie reassured.
But Vanessa did not hear her. She was already asleep.
The clouds were a deep comfort for her. She knew that the woman’s voice and caressing hand will come back. The hand did come back and the music came. Vanessa smiled and began to move closer and closer to the hand’s owner. She felt herself be lifted into warm arms. The hand’s owner cradled Vanessa and comforted her. Vanessa snuggled closer to the woman.
“Oh my child.” the woman said.
Vanessa was silent and began to come closer to the woman.
“My burden goes to you.”
Vanessa just smiled. She did not care about anything, just being together with her mother.
“I’m so sorry.” her mother sighed
Suddenly the warm hands were gone. Vanessa frowned and began to grawp around for her comfort. The clouds dissipated and she fell. Vanessa instinctively tried to curl up and defend herself. But she was immobilized. A warm stifling blanket was pressed against her chest. She fell and landed in darkness. Vanessa managed to open her eyes and looked up. Three dark cloaked figures came close to her. One was tall and large, another was short and skinny. But the middle one had an average height. The center figure removed its hood. Under was a pale faced girl with blood red eyes. She snarled and showed her bared teeth.
“Die…” the girl growled.
“Die quickly fools. You will not hurt her.”
Shadows came and the buzz began. A single word rang out:
Vanessa jerked herself awake. She was drenched in cold sweat and looked around wildly. She found the warm blanket Maudie gave her was all over her body. Pushing the blanket up, Vanessa glanced around. She looked at the clock. It showed the time: 8:00. Vanessa sighed and scratched her head.
“Man, I feel dizzy.” Vanessa mumbled to herself.
She did not feel sleepy, but disoriented.
“But it was so clear. And my mother…” Vanessa thought
She shook her head and stood up.
“Maudie?” Vanessa asked.
Maudie’s face suddenly appeared.
“Yes?” Maudie asked worriedly.
“Can you call Tec?” Vanessa asked.
Maudie nodded. She disappeared and Tec’s body was seen behind Tor’s body.
“Sup Van? I thought that you would have been asleep until after nine.” Tec asked.
She peaked up from Tor, showing her smug face and spiky head. Vanessa frowned and looked clearly worried.
“Tec, listen. This is serious.” Vanessa said in a low tone.
Tec frowned but looked impassive.
“So, how important was that?” asked Tec.
She looked down again and began to adjust Tor’s mechanisms. Vanessa had just told Tec about the dream.
“Tec. I don’t know, but that was my mother; and that girl. Well, I want to find her.” Vanessa said softly.
Tec suddenly choked and burst into laughter.
“Oh my gosh. It’s like you’re going all Symbolic or something!” Tec laughed.
Vanessa just frowned.
“Oh Tec. I thought you would understand. Oh well. I’ll drive over now.” Vanessa murmured.
Tec frowned as she looked at the blank screen.
“Oh Van.” Tec mumbled.
Vanessa was quiet as she drove through the many Sectors to Tec’s home. She was quiet and her mind was well, some what blank.
“Maybe I am crazy. But the girl in my dream looks so familiar. Oh, just forget it! Tec’s got something up. Just focus on that.” Vanessa thought.
She drove on and on through the sea of endless sand. She had always thought of the days before the land was destroyed. Although the only images she ever saw were in books, she dreamed of swimming pools.
Sector 66 was much fancier than the lower Sectors. Though none can compare to the Sectors in the 90’s, Sector 60 was really the beginning of “real” civilization. And that meant pavement and real houses. Vanessa occasionally drove down pavement, and it was a good change of pace to sand drifts and dunes. Sector 66 was divided into twenty, long log-like paved rows (what we would call streets). Along the rows were houses, and a rare commodity: the occasional plant or two. Vanessa drove along one of the rows to the almost second-hand robotics shop at the end of the third row from Sector 65.
The shop was a two story heavy metal layered store. Across the top of the door was a sign: Tec’s Repairs: Quality Technician. Vanessa remembered when she and Tristian carved the words while Tec herself was inside. When they began to write Tec’s whole name, she stopped them and told them to use her first three letters. After all Technician is a very long name.
“But we still put your name in Tec.” Vanessa said in her head.
She sighed and parked in front of the house, taking her sketch pad along the way. She felt strangely old and weary as she rang the doorbell.
“Yes?” asked a light voice.
“Clark?!” Vanessa almost squealed.
Clark stuck out his head. He was a skinny, boney, almost nerdy kind of guy. He wore very round glasses, but wore a loose T-shirt and shorts. However, his muscular build was very noticeable. His hair was loosely swept in a spiked wave.
“Hi Vanessa.” Clark said coolly.
Vanessa’s ears turned bright red.
“Hey Clark.” She mumbled.
He ran a hand through his wispy hair. Vanessa remembered when they met Clark, several years ago. He was the latest member of Underground but ironically older than Tec and Vanessa. Clark was and still is a mechanic in Sector 24. He had a reputation of being reliable and cheap. Vanessa met him because Tec can not repair cars. She could repair anything electronic, but cars. So Vanessa found Clark and had him repair her RV. When he found out about Underground, he joined along.
“Well? Aren’t you coming in?” Clark asked gently.
“Um… Coming!” Vanessa called.
The two entered Tec’s metal home.
“Hey Van!” barked a familiar voice.
Tor suddenly leapt from Tec’s repairs and jumped onto his owner.
“Tor! That hurt!” Vanessa yelled.
“So? So? So? So? So? Did you miss me? Did you manage at home? Are you sick? Do you have a fever? Are you drinking? Are you on drugs? Because you look drunk and sleepy and waaaaaaaay beyond sober? So? Are ya?” Tor panted.
Vanessa blinked while Clark and Tec looked confused.
“Um. No for the first. Yes for the second. No for the rest.” Vanessa answered.
Tor leapt to his feet and jumped a foot into the air.
“That’s good!” He barked.
Vanessa chuckled and patted Tor’s metal head.
“Sup Tec?” Vanessa called casually.
Tec looked grim and almost haunted.
“I’m fine.” she said shortly.
“Hey! Van’s here!” a voice called from upstairs.
Tec’s two-story home was a simple building. The entrance room was Tec’s repair shop, and the second room was the storage behind a counter and next to the stairs. Upstairs was Tec’s house, including her kitchen, bathroom, and three bedrooms.
“Sup Van!” Tristian called.
Tristian and his best friend Chase came from downstairs. Tristian was a tall young man, and the oldest of the group. He was and orphan, living in the orphanage with Vanessa and Tec. He once picked on the two girls. But when the orphanage closed down, he followed and became a trusted member of the group. Tristian now lived with Tec as her sub assistant, next to Chase.
“What took you so long?” Tristian asked.
He ran a finger through his dark brown hair.
“I was sleeping.” Vanessa answered.
Tristian shoved Chase who sighed and pulled out a bill.
“You two betted?!” Vanessa moaned.
“Yup, and I won. I bet that sleeping would’ve made you late. Chase betted on drawing as an excuse for making you late.” Tristian laughed.
Vanessa rolled her eyes. But it was true. Drawing, and in particular, sketching was a hobby of hers. Vanessa had a natural flair for drawing, and she enjoyed it. She even had a part time job on drawing blue prints for Tec and construction workers.
“So, what do you want Tec?” Vanessa asked.
Tec sighed and shifted her weight.
“Van, look. I feel really guilty.” Tec said softly.
Vanessa looked confused.
“What for?” she asked.
Tec merely shaded her eyes.
“I’ll tell you later. But now I’ll tell you what I found out.” Tec interjected.
She paced around the room in a straight line.
“You know the dictator right? Well, he’s planning a new rule for us to suffer in again.” said Tec.
Everyone groaned. The dictator had many rules, and most was unfair.
“But this plan is particularly strange. He claims that he is searching for a particular ‘criminal’ by using sound waves.” Tec explained.
She scratched her head.
“But this is where it gets strange. I mean, how can you catch someone with sound? So he continued by saying that if anyone heard strange pinging noises, they will report to Sector 99 immediately.” Tec continued.
“So now what do you want? And if you don’t mind, hurry so I can hopefully fall back to sleep.” Vanessa moaned.
Tec laughed sarcastically.
“Oh I know you Van, and that excuse isn’t going to get you anywhere. You stay put; because, you are going to do the most important job of the mission.” Tec smiled.
Vanessa knew that this meant trouble. After all, Tec was the one who dragged all of the friends to this “Underground” business of spying on the dictator and trying to go against his plans. Not like any of their plans worked. But they did prevent the dictator from creating weapons of mass destruction after they showed the plan to public.
“You are going to be my main spy.” Tec continued.
“That’s right. I’m posting you in Sector 99.”
Vanessa’s jaw hung loosely.
“OMG Tec. You are going to be the death of me, I’m serious.” she sighed.
“Please, I’m not in the mood for dead jokes Van.” Tec mumbled.
“What’s so funny?” Chase asked.
“Tec’s face.” Tristian sniggered.
Chase looked disgruntled and patted Tec on the back, awkwardly.
“Come on Tristian, don’t taunt Tec. And don’t even think about talking like that to Vanessa.” Clark growled.
Tristian fell silent.
“Do you want me to take you home Vanessa? You don’t look so good.” Clark noted.
Vanessa looked surprised.
“I am?” she asked.
Clark laughed, and she laughed along.
“You can go tomorrow if you want, Van. But you don’t have to.” Tec mumbled.
“Kay Tec. I’ll call you.” she answered.
Tec smiled. Suddenly, they herd a snapping sound. Tec turned around to find Chase with a match and a cigarette in his hand.
“Chase!!!” Tec moaned.
Chase turned red and put away the cigarette and matches.
“Sorry.” He said softly.
Tec rolled her eyes.
“I forgot. Van, Chase will get to S99 first. You will be escorted by him half the way. I’ll debrief you tomorrow. Until then, you can go home.” Tec explained.
The friends nodded.
“Van, before you go, I need to talk to you.” Tec continued softly.
“What do you want to talk about?” Vanessa asked. “I have time now.”
Tec shook her head.
“Not here.” Tec mouthed.
Clark quickly figured out the situation. The girls wanted to be alone.
“Hey, Tristian. I thought you said you rigged up one of those virtual videogames I found. Can I see it? Chase will have to come along of course, he’s better in games than I am.” Clark asked.
Tristian shrugged and nodded.
“Sure.” he said lazily.
He ran upstairs. Chase paused and looked at Tec momentarily, and then followed upstairs. Clark smiled at the two girls and followed Tristian and Tec. Tec sighed and turned to her best friend.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” Vanessa asked casually.
“Oh, Van. I’m so sorry.” Tec mumbled.
Vanessa looked confused.
“What for?” she asked.
“What I said before. About your dream.” Tec muttered.
Vanessa widened her eyes.
“I mean. You… I… I’m jealous of you Ok!” Tec cried.
She sank to her knees.
“I mean, you know what your mother looked like and and you actually met her and… and… Oh! I… never….met mine….” Tec sobbed.
Vanessa paled and looked grim.
“Oh Tec…” Vanessa whispered.
She knelt down and patted Tec on her back, while Tec sobbed and cried. Hugging Tec, she managed to put her in a better position.
“Tec.” said Vanessa softly.
Tec’s face was livid and puffy.
“I miss my parents too. I don’t know why they left us, but it must be for our own good. I’m sorry for this privilege. If there’s anything I can do to apologize….” Vanessa mumbled.
“No, Van. I’m sorry.” said Tec.
She straightened herself up and wiped away her tears.
“I was being jealous ok. I’m sorry for being like that. I just wanted to know… what a mother felt like.” said Tec softly.
Vanessa looked shocked. Then she remembered that when the orphanage was still open, she was told that her mother was very reluctant to leave her. Tec was left in a basket in front of the door while Trisitan was found lost in the streets.
“But my mother was worried about me. Tec and Tristian have no one like that.” Vanessa thought.
Vanessa felt a light shove on her shoulder.
“Come on Van.” said Tec gently.
Vanessa looked up at her best friend.
“I don’t even know why I’m thinking like that. Come on, we can’t forget the past, but the present is where we live. That’s why it’s a gift.” Tec muttered, chuckling to herself.
Vanessa suddenly shoved Tec.
“Aw come on Tec. Where did you get that? A fortune cookie?” Vanessa laughed.
“Come on. You should go home. After all, you’re busy tomorrow.” Tec reminded.
Vanessa scratched her head and adjusted her light blue fedora. She was waiting in front of an out-door train station. Many other pedestrians waited for the silver bullet train to take them to Sector 99. To protect the passengers against the sand and sun, high-tech air conditioners lined the pathways with white cool smoke.
“Excuse me.” said a soft voice.
Vanessa shifted her arm and turned her head to face the speaker. The speaker was a tall mid-teenage girl, older than Vanessa. She had long dark gold hair and soft blue eyes. Her face was almond-like, already on the verge of adult-hood, and she wore a dark blue business suit. On her chest was a pin that said: Sector 99.
“Is that a sketch book?” the young woman asked.
Vanessa glanced down at the sketch book she brought with her.
“Yes. It’s mine.” Vanessa said lightly.
The young woman nodded.
“Ah.” she sighed.
The silver train slid into the station. Vanessa walked in. The train was long, just like its shape, but very wide. The seats lined the sides of the aisle, and they were all silver, just like the train’s exterior. Vanessa delicately sat down on a nearby seat. She waited as all of the passengers filed into the train.
Everyone in the Sectors knew this train. The train was the only way to Sector 99 without crossing through the dessert. But there were many stories where no one who went towards Sector 99 without the train never came back.
“Excuse me again.” said a voice.
Vanessa looked up to find the young woman from before.
“Can I sit here? All of the seats are taken.” She asked gently.
Vanessa noticed an empty seat next to her.
“Sure.” she said carefully.
The young woman sat down next to her.
“I wonder if this woman is following me. If she is, the whole mission is in jeopardy!” Vanessa thought bracingly.
She tried to ignore the woman and started a sketch of the train’s interior. The train was fast and speedy as many of the passengers worked at Sector 99. Sector 99 was special in that only Duke Von Rimer lived there. All of his workers lived in Sector 98 and therefore the train had to be fast. Before she knew it, the train had stopped.
“Ok, I’m just going to wait until my neighbor leaves and then ditch her.” Vanessa thought.
But just as the train opened its doors, the young woman got up and quickly ran out the door, before anyone else. Vanessa blinked and walked out the door along with the other passengers. She paused and glanced through the crowd.
“Where’s Chase?” Vanessa mumbled.
According to Tec’s hasty morning voice mail, Chase was supposed to be waiting for Vanessa at the train station inside Sector 99.
“Yo.” whispered into her ear.
Vanessa jumped and turned around. All she found was a lone security guard making sure that the platform was clear. She managed to catch his eye and he nodded and gestured to a nearby bench. His hair stuck out of his official cap and he did seem kind of short. Vanessa blinked and sat down at the bench. The officer waited until the area was clear and the train was gone until he went to Vanessa.
“Hey Van.” said Chase.
He had disguised his voice to be deeper and stronger. He still stood up on his feet and mumbled his words to her. He really looked like he was ignoring her.
“Tec wants you to walk around Sector 99. Pretend you’re not doing anything in particular. Just say you are having a little visit. Take this camera and put it on your chest, like a brooch. It will record the layout and security cameras here. I can’t stay, too many people know me. Call when you’re done.” Chase whispered.
He managed to slip a tiny box into her hands. Vanessa nodded and Chase stepped away. Vanessa opened the box and found a crystal flower pin. She knew there was a camera, but without Chase telling her, she would not have known it.
“Ok.” said Vanessa softly.
She attached the pin to her chest and started to walk into the depths of Sector 99.
“So how’d it go?” Tec asked.
Chase had just gone back to Sector 99 and picked up Vanessa. He took her to Tec’s house.
“Boring, very boring.” Vanessa moaned.
She removed her shoes.
“Do you know how big Sector 99 is? It’s huge! And I think I dislocated my toes, and my feet!” Vanessa groaned
She winced and rubbed the soles of her feet. Tec looked pained.
“You ok?” Tec asked.
Vanessa gave a half wincing smile.
“Don’t tell me to do that again Tec or I’ll strangle you.” Vanessa growled playfully.
Tec grinned and shoved Vanessa’s head.
“It’s not over yet. You’re doing it tomorrow you know. And I still have to sell that computer hard ware for you. Plus, file the images you go on the spy camera.” Tec reminded.
Vanessa moaned and gave Tec the tiny camera.
“Ok, just don’t remind me, but remind me to go get better innersoles.” Vanessa warned.
Tec and Chase laughed.
“Your RV’s outside in the front.” Chase added.
Vanessa thanked them and put on her shoes. She got up and walked out the door.
“See ya tomorrow Tec, Chase.” Vanessa bade.
“See you Van!” Tec answered.
Vanessa climbed into her RV and began driving away. Tor sat asleep in the passenger’s seat. He only needed to sleep when his batteries were low. She drove around and past many Sectors. She only stopped at Sector 35. Somehow the Sector called to her deep in her soul.
“Good night Maude.” Vanessa called.
Maudie appeared and Vanessa began to climb into the back of the RV
“Good night miss.” Maudie answered.
Maudie’s screen flickered off and Vanessa climbed into a bunk bed at the very end of the RV.
Vanessa waited patiently in the train station to Sector 99. Amazingly, no one was there. Unfortunately, Tec had woken up late and therefore woke Vanessa up late. Vanessa had to rush to Sector 99 to get there in time. As the train paused to a stop, Vanessa could not help notice that there was only one other person about to board the train. It was very same young woman from yesterday.
“Hello.” said the woman in that same soft tone.
Vanessa felt nervous and tried not to notice the young woman as they entered the train. While the train closed its doors, Vanessa slipped out her sketch book and tried to finish her sketch of the train’s interior. She glanced up once and realized with a jolt that the young woman was sitting right in front of her. The young woman’s blue eyes looked at Vanessa directly. Nothing happened, for long.
“Hey!” a voice cried.
Vanessa looked up and found a short man with a neat mustache.
“What are you doing with that sketch book?” he asked roughly.
He placed a hairy knobby hand onto her sketch book.
“Err….” Vanessa said nervously.
“After all, aren’t you too old for drawing?” the man sneered.
He jerked the sketch book away from her and stuck his arm all the way to its length.
“Give it back!” Vanessa growled.
She jumped at standing height, but amazingly, she could not reach it.
“Hey!” Vanessa cried.
The man merely laughed and chucked the sketch book up onto the top of the train in the area where luggage normally went.
“Try to get it now.” He laughed.
Vanessa tried to jump up to get the book, but she just could not reach. She felt her upper lip turning hotter as her frustration grew. Somehow, her eyes began to feel damp.
“Stop.” A voice commanded.
The man and Vanessa turned to the speaker. It was the young woman. She had risen from her seat and now had a very serious expression on her face.
“Give it to her now, Zane.” The young woman growled.
Zane looked confused and Vanessa nervously looked in-between the two.
“I gotta get out of here!” Vanessa thought.
The young woman snarled and the man Zane looked at her with a surprised expression on his face.
“What are you doing Otter?” he asked.
The young woman named Otter just looked at Zane seriously.
“Give the book back to her.” Otter growled mashing her teeth together tightly.
Her jaw twitched suddenly. Zane muttered a string of curses on his breath.
“I knew it was a bad idea to get you and your rebel blood. Branson! Get her!” Zane cursed.
Vanessa tensed as a massive man came from the back of the train. This new man, Branson, was as brawny as he was wide. With bulging muscles and body mass, it was a wonder how he managed to get into the train.
“Grab her.” Zane snarled.
Vanessa yelped in horror as the massive man lifted her up at least ten feet into the air.
“Put her down!” Otter screeched.
“You calm down this instant! I am your master!” Zane roared.
Otter’s eyes blazed in sudden fury.
“NO ONE COMMANDS ME!” Otter thundered.
She backed up suddenly and pushed down on a bar like lever that said Fire Escape. The train doors opened with a massive BAM!!! Wind blew around furiously from the speed of the bullet train. Vanessa felt the wind whoosh through her hair relentlessly. She felt like she was losing her own skin to the very force nature had created.
“Let her go!” Otter roared over the furious wind.
“Tell me why you want her!” Zane roared back.
Otter looked furious and immediately went into a fighting stance.
“So this is how it ends.” Zane muttered.
He too put up his fists. Zane zoomed forward and proceeded to jab Otter. But she was ready and blocked him easily. The wind whooshed passed them greatly. It was amazing that Otter looked so steady, but Zane looked uncoordinated.
“Snap!” Zane howled.
He made his jab, and despite Otter blocking it, everyone heard a ringing metallic ring erupt from Otter’s arm.
“Your replaced limbs.” Zane cursed.
“Was it not once that an older man told me to never underestimate your prey?” Otter asked coolly.
She then made her move. Otter zoomed forward and did a massive uppercut with her arm and jabbed with her right arm. There was a sickening crack and a sudden as it happened, Zane flew off his feet. And because of the terrible wind… he fell. Vanessa gasped as the side of the train was splattered with blood. The young woman, Otter, put a white hand onto her pale lips and looked horrified.
“I…” Otter began.
She turned to the massive Branson. Her eyes looked stricken and horror struck. But Branson looked furious.
“You kill master!” Branson roared.
Otter looked silent and pale.
“I shall kill you!” Branson thundered over the wind.
The massive man chucked Vanessa up onto the upper shelves and proceeded to attack Otter who stared blankly outside.
“Look out!” Vanessa warned loudly.
“Enemy or not, it doesn’t matter. She’s trying to save me!” Vanessa thought quickly.
Otter whirled around and felt the impact of a jab to her guts.
“Oooofh!” Otter grunted as she fell.
Branson raised his head and howled. Otter managed to get up, her body making gentle clanking sounds as certian areas of her arms and chest touched the metal floor.
“Come on…” Vanessa mumbled.
She grabbed her sketch book and hugged her chest as wind whipped the skin of all three in the train. Otter suddenly shuddered, beginning to feel the effects of her rash behavior.
“Just... the last… stand….” Otter mumbled to herself, panting.
Branson moved forward and attempted to punch Otter in the chest. But she was ready. Otter immediately grabbed Branson’s massive fist and used her leg to hook around Branson’s ankle. Branson widened his eyes as he felt his waist line go past solid ground and into the burning sands of the earth. Otter widened her eyes again and managed to walk to the side of the train. Blankly, she pushed a red button on the side of a seat and the train stopped. Otter suddenly sank to her knees, hands in her face.
“Hey…” Vanessa managed.
She felt weak and raw around the face and neck. But Vanessa managed to climb down from the shelf and stumble towards Otter.
“E…Excuse me.” Vanessa said softly.
Otter did not raise her head.
“Um… Thanks for helping me?” Vanessa asked cautiously.
Otter raised her face to reveal red eyes.
“You. You are not going to Sector 99 for a good purpose are you?” Otter asked.
“How…?” Vanessa asked.
Otter put a hand over Vanessa’s lips.
“Do not speak. As of right now, authorities know that someone stopped the train. They know that only a Sector 99 worker knows the button to stop the train. Zane, Branson, you, and I are the only ones on this train. After all it’s un-manned. They will eventually find Zane and Branson so therefore I’m the only one who could have stopped the train. If their skeptical, they have DNA on their side. Besides, I’m the one they will question, because of my body. It is… shall I say… heavy.” Otter explained.
She reached out her arm to Vanessa. Looking skeptical, Vanessa weighed Otter’s arm.
“Whoa! You’re heavy!” Vanessa exclaimed.
The arm weighed like a stack of text books to Vanessa’s hands.
“It was an accident. Some of my body parts are replaced with metal replacements.” Otter continued.
She looked worriedly outside.
“I…I was skeptical about you though…You looked so much like someone I am looking for.” Otter mumbled.
Her words did not seem to be directed at Vanessa though.
“Please, listen to me.” Otter begged.
She suddenly had her hands clapped together and kneeled to a begging position at Vanessa’s feet.
“Take me with you! Or at least give me your genes!” Otter moaned.
She looked helpless and unsure.
“Okayyyyyyy.” Vanessa blinked.
Her voice sounded worried and sarcastic.
“Please! I…I can give you info about Sector 99 and I just have to know! Please! I will do anything!” Otter sobbed.
She buried her face in her hands. Vanessa awkwardly patted Otter’s back while Otter sobbed.
“I guess you can come. Besides you aren’t going to rat out on us are you?” Vanessa asked.
Otter suddenly jumped into the air.
“You mean it!? I… I will not tell on you.” Otter asked excitedly.
She suddenly looked bright and very happy despite her puffy eyes.
“I guess. But I can’t trust you.” Vanessa reminded.
Otter nodded suddenly looking serious.
“Fine. I don’t trust you either. But you can call me by my real name if you want.” Otter added.
“What? Is Otter even your real name?” Vanessa asked.
Otter shook her head.
“Nope. It is Gwendolynn but you can call me Gwen. Otter’s just my code name.” Otter informed.
She nodded and looked suddenly proud.
“Well I guess you can come. But my leader will have to examine you.” Vanessa warned.
“No problem.” Otter smiled.
Vanessa turned on her phone mode on her watch. But Otter suddenly smiled.
“Do you want to tell me your name?” Otter asked.
Vanessa raised an eyebrow.
“I already know your name: it is Vanessa.” Otter smiled lightly.
“How?” Vanessa asked.
“I looked at the cover of your sketch book. You should cover it up.” Otter noted.
Vanessa blinked but heard the phone being answered.
“Hello?” Chase asked.
“Hey it’s me.” Vanessa answered.
“Where are you?”
“Um, the train got delayed.”
“I know! The siren’s been going off like mad and I’m soaking wet!”
“The alarms were being repaired today and the alarm was connected to the fire alarm.”
“Oh. But still, I’m on the train.”
“Quick! Get over here and get Tec to drive us home!”
“Wait. Its Tec. I’ll put her on.
“What happened!?” Tec yelled into the phone.
“I was attacked and someone named Otter saved me. But we’re stuck on the train.”
Tec and Chase were silent for an awfully long time.
“Oh! I’ll explain at base! Just get over here Tec!” Vanessa yelled.
She finally shut the phone.
“Friends?” Otter asked gently.
She was sitting in a nearby seat examining the broken windows.
“The fire escape does not do any good does it? After all, it doesn’t even stop the train. The security rules make this happen. ‘Only Sector 99 workers may stop the train’”
Otter quoted humorously.
Vanessa just blinked.
“So you brought a Sector 99 worker home?!” Tristian yelled.
Everyone was in Tec’s house. They were all sitting down in random areas in Tec’s living room. Otter was delicately sitting down next to Vanessa. Everyone but Vanessa glared at Otter.
“Hey… I told you. Otter saved my life.” Vanessa reminded.
Tristian grumbled and Tec looked away.
“I can leave if you want to…” Otter mumbled.
She brushed her hand gently against Vanessa’s. Vanessa jumped slightly.
“Can’t we at least examine her? Besides, she has info.” Vanessa begged.
She really wanted Otter to stay. Tec raised an eyebrow. Clark next to Vanessa looked worried. Chase sat next to Tec and he looked at Otter suspiciously.
“Well, she’ll have to strip.” Tec noted.
Vanessa and everyone else blinked. But Otter suddenly stood and began to remove her shirt.
“ARGH!” Tristian roared
Everyone but Otter suddenly covered their eyes.
“Not now!” Tec yelled.
Otter shrugged and replaced her shirt.
“You asked.” Otter noted.
“Well, at least she’s interested…” Vanessa laughed sheepishly.
Tec and the others rolled their eyes.
“Alright, alright. I’ll give her a chance. But I have to admit, why do you want to get involved with us?” Tec asked.
Otter suddenly ran a hand across her pained face.
“Do I look tainted to any of you?” she asked.
No one replied. In fact, all of them had different thoughts about her, but no one thought of that.
“No huh.” Otter noticed on the other’s blank faces.
“It’s just my… my… past… Why I want to join you I shall not lie about. I want to know something about you.” Otter continued.
And at “you” she pointed directly at Vanessa.
“I just want to know, because on my file, I found out that I have a lost sister. Please, I think, if you will excuse me, that she is your friend.” said Otter sadly.
She hung her head mournfully.
“But, if you do not want me here, then hear this at least. If you are my sister, Vanessa, then I wish you to have the greatest time while you stay in life. And if you are unhappy that I am here, well, you will find my corpse lying dead in a place far away from anything who can discover me. I have nothing to live for anymore, so kill me now or admit it and fulfill my dream or cause my downfall.” Otter recited.
Tears filled her eyes and she had to turn away.
“Please, for my last wish, let me prove or disprove my word and let me die in peace.”
Otter’s voice had cracked and began to turn soft and unstable. Blinking away tears, Vanessa stood up and ran to Otter with her arms wrapped around Otter’s waist.
“No! Please Tec… she saved my life and now is my excuse to save her’s in return!” Vanessa insisted.
Tec blanched and looked nervous.
“Well… I didn’t say she had to be kicked out, but I will have to test your body. Your metal structure is what’s hindering ya.” Tec noted.
Vanessa and Otter’s eyes suddenly brightened.
“You mean it?” Vanessa asked softly.
Her eyes were full of deep longing. Tec nodded. Vanessa turned to Otter hopefully.
“Do you hear that?!” Vanessa smiled.
Otter nodded slowly.
“Ok, when do you want to do the tests?” Otter asked.
She had turned her head sharply, but everyone noticed her tears.
“Why not now?” Tec asked.
Otter just stiffly nodded. The two left the living room and into another room at the back of Tec’s metallic house. Inside Otter found a room just like one out of a mad scientist’s lab. The room was a small one, only enough for Tec’s purposes. In the center of the room was a long white bed like ones that hospitals used to transport patients. Along the walls of the room, complex computers with flickering green tinted screens lined them like wallpaper. As for the parts of noticeable wall, they were painted jade green. The only thing that was not a computer was a long but tall table at the far end of the room, in front of the bed’s head. To make the room even stranger, there was only a single light bulb hanging from the roof as light.
“I know.” said Tec looking at Otter’s worried eyes.
“I don’t like being here either. I don’t go in here often, but the computers are faster.” Tec continued softly.
Otter just widened her eyes, glancing at the ominous test tubes on the long table. One tube in particular made Otter shudder. It was a tiny vile of silvery liquid.
“Just sit down on the bed, ok.” Tec commanded.
Otter very delicately sat down on the white sheeted bed.
“Now, change into these.” Tec continued.
She threw Otter a pair of loose jeans and a rather floppy and used T-shirt.
“They might be too small, their mine.” Tec noted.
In the end, the clothes were in fact very loose on Otter’s slim body. Her former clothes lay in a pile nearby.
“I’ll take those.” Tec grinned.
She took the Sector 99 uniform and began to look through the pockets. Otter sat nearby and looked on mildly and began to adjust the jeans to a more proper position.
“Huh, nothing. What do you do with those pockets any ways? They are so small you can barely slip a folded piece of paper in them.” Tec asked.
“Huh? They had pockets?” Otter asked blankly.
Tec nearly fell over in shock.
“Well of course they had pockets! You’ve had them for I don’t know how long, but you could’ve known they actually had pockets!” Tec exclaimed.
“Oh well, less examination time. But now, I’ll have to burn them. Do you mind?” Tec asked.
Otter eyed them carefully.
“No, I do not mind.” Otter answered.
Tec scooped up the clothes and dumped them into a trashcan with a particularly strange lid with flashing buttons. Otter watched as Tec pressed a red button. A ring of red light surrounded the lid’s overlaps and the clothes were incinerated.
“Now I need to examine your body for cameras or tracking devices. That’s why I wanted to be here. I have a scanner I use to identify mangled pieces of metal. Now I just want you to lie down on the bed. On your back that is.” Tec explained.
Otter obeyed and lay down on the white bed. Tec began to press several buttons on a nearby computer keyboard. A long thick metal bar with a single black slit running parallel across it appeared from the roof.
“Ok, I’m going to scan your body now.” Tec began.
A green laser appeared from the black slit and ran itself across Otter’s body. Although rays are dangerous in our period, the future has no such limitation. Once the scan was complete, Tec allowed Otter to sit up while Tec began to examine the scanned data. But Tec’s expression was that of surprise.
“I guess there’s nothing wrong.” Tec blinked.
Otter gave an odd look in her eyes.
“Your parts, even their data have nothing to do with recording. They are just simple prosthetics. Even I can’t do a better job on these if I tried.” Tec noted.
“But I want to do one more thing.” said Tec.
“What?” Otter asked.
Otter paused. She had heard of the DNA data base. In fact it was where she discovered the fact that she had a sister.
“Y…you can do that?” Otter asked, blinking.
“I just installed the program into my computer. You can be my first test.” Tec continued.
Otter nodded and allowed Tec to take a strand of her hair and dissolved it into an acid. Due to the advancements of that time, it took Tec almost no time at all to find Otter’s file on the data base.
“Your name is Gwendolynn Retaxes?” Tec asked.
“Yes.” replied Otter
“Weird, your last name is Vanessa’s. And I thought Vanessa’s was queer.” Tec muttered.
Naturally as Tec began looking at Otter’s family tree, Vanessa was listed as Otter’s sister. All other spots were empty except the fact that Vanessa’s and Otter’s mother was named Vanessa Retaxes I. Vanessa herself was listed as Vanessa Retaxes II.
“So Vanessa’s mother… I mean your mother had the same name as your sister?” Tec asked.
“I do not know why. I only saw the information on the data base. That’s why I was not sure Vanessa is my sister because I have no proof.” Otter sighed.
Tec rubbed her chin and stared at the roof.
“We need Vanessa in here.” Tec finally announced.
She quickly ran out and dragged in a rather bedraggled Vanessa.
“Um… Tec… I can walk.” Vanessa mumbled.
Tec planted Vanessa in front of the computer screen.
“I just need a strand of your hair, Van.” said Tec, pulling a strand of her best friend’s hair.
“You could have just asked, instead of dragging me here.” Vanessa growled.
Tec took a single strand of Vanessa’s brown hair and dissolved it in acid, just like Otter’s dark gold hair from before. She quickly filed Vanessa’s DNA in seconds. The result gave them a jump. Vanessa’s and Otter’s DNA were matched up, sister to sister. Vanessa blinked while Otter looked shocked. Tec gasped and just stared at Vanessa and Otter.
Tec stood on her spot, jaw hanging loose. But Vanessa came through first and touched Gwen’s hand gently. Gwen blinked and looked down at her sister. Gwen’s heart jumped in wrenching thuds. This was her sister. Her sister not anyone else’s just hers. An aching cold weight pushed her to hug her sister, perhaps even more. Vanessa’s blue eyes turned soft and damp as she stared at Gwen. A sensation of wetness fogged Gwen’s eyes. The two reached forward and embraced long and hard relaying lost love. Vanessa buried her face into Gwen’s shoulder. Somehow she felt like a child again, helpless but the time when she had little love. But now, it returned. Gwen stroked her in slow soft caresses across her back. Vanessa squeezed tighter, not wanting to let go.
“Vanessa.” Otter whispered.
“Ott… I mean Gwendolynn.” Vanessa whispered back.
But the energy build up from Gwen was great. She felt such a thrill that the burning passion for her sister was unbearable. She shot up with a jump and cried a joyous cry. Vanessa jumped, but smiled, tears of joy falling from her cheeks. But, Gwen suddenly fell back and crashed into the long table.
“Ack!” Otter cried.
“Gwendolynn!” Vanessa cried.
At that, Tec snapped into attention and quickly went to Vanessa’s side at the table. Otter lay on her side, twitching here and there. The vile of silver was cracked and lay pooled over her arms.
“It’s quicksilver.” Tec whispered.
But Otter’s eyes turned to the two and her lips twitched.
“I… can not… move. I am… affected…by…mercur…” Otter gasped.
Though she did not finish, it was evident on what she meant. Otter’s eyes closed and her body lay still.
“Gwen…? Gwendolynn!?” Vanessa cried.
She sank and covered her face in her hands. Tec placed her hand onto her friend’s back.
“Look, Van. Otter’s breathing.” Tec noted, helplessly.
Vanessa looked up to notice Gwendolynn’s chest rising. She grasped Gwen’s right hand and found that Gwen’s hand was stiff and her fingers did not move. Vanessa jumped and dragged Tec with her.
“Tec, come on!” Vanessa choked.
Though it took the help of the boys to lift Gwendolynn’s mechanically advanced body, Tec’s scanner gave them a glimpse of what was going on.
“The mercury, it’s frozen her replaced body parts. Besides that, her regular body parts look fine. I think she put herself to sleep.” said Tec.
“What can we do?” Vanessa asked.
She was forced to sit down due to her shakiness. Clark stood near her, patting her back.
“Um… I could oil her…”Tec inferred.
“Oil?” Chase asked.
All he could think of was the massive barrel of oil Clark always had in his backyard.
“What Tec, does Otter look like a rain drenched car to you?” Tristian asked.
No one was amused. Though Tristian was a good friend, he was down right annoying sometimes.
“Well, if rust hinders metal, maybe oil will fix Otter’s hindrance.” Tec shrugged.
Vanessa shuddered but could not think of another way. No one else had a solution, so they tested Tec’s idea by dripping oil onto Otter’s arm. On the scanner, there was a change. The hindrance was over and they could now move Otter’s fingers. Thus they ran out and drenched Otter in oil. Vanessa was in the middle of it all. Though she did not touch the oil, she was watching every movement. Eventually, Otter was cleaned of oil and was transferred back to Tec. Despite treatment, Otter was still asleep.
“Maybe, the scanner is wrong.” Tec mumbled.
As they all racked their brains for answers, Tec re-scanned Otter. But as they thought Vanessa left the room for pain killers. Her headache from thinking was terribly painful. She went as far as considering making a time machine to protect Gwendolynn from falling. Once Vanessa came back, Tec made a discovery.
“Her parts aren’t on.” said Tec simply and in amazement.
Everyone blinked until Tec told them that a light that was originally on when Otter was awake was off. Tec began to push buttons on one of the computers and showed on it an image of Otter’s metallic arm from the inside. Not only was the light indicated by Tec off, but an odd signature was inscribed on it. Something to Vanessa that looked oddly familiar.
“How to we turn the parts on?” Vanessa asked Tec.
“Since there is no on/off button, I am assuming that reboot button will do.” she said.
Tec pointed to the button in question which had a bold sign quote: “reboot”. Since no one argued, she pressed the button using a clean acupuncture needle. Where the needle came from, no one but Tec really knew; but Otter’s eyes opened. The light on her arm flashed through her skin in green and then dimmed. Otter stretched and made her body fall limply. She looked tired, but humble and kind at the same time.
“What happened?” Otter asked.
She looked confused and blinked as she looked at the people around her.
“Gwen?” Vanessa asked.
“I could have sworn that I just fell onto that table. So why am I here?” Otter asked blankly.
But Vanessa laughed and hugged her sister.
“But you’re ok! You’re ok!” Vanessa smiled.
And up to this day, Otter never really remembered what happened despite relations of the story. Tec assumed it was due to re-booting, but then again, Otter never really remembered what happened after being affected by mercury. But now was the truth: Vanessa and Gwen had as sister, and their adventures had just begun.
Now that Otter was proven to be a relation of Vanessa and the fact that she held no threat to the Underground, Otter was allowed in. Because of her relation, Vanessa allowed (or rather begged) Otter to stay with her in the RV. The RV had enough room and gave Otter her own bed plus room for her belongings. But Otter did not have any of her original belongings because of her quick and illegal get-away. Otter however was confined to the RV until news about her escape quieted down. Though Vanessa did not mind, she too was confined due to the wanted signs and news reports about the attack. Though Vanessa was not mentioned, the security cameras and guards on the train platform took note on who was on the train. But seclusion made for a good opportunity for the two to bond.
“Did you ever meet mother?” Vanessa asked.
Otter smiled gently and leaned against a padded chair. They were in Vanessa’s home, idling talking about anything that popped into Vanessa’s mind.
“Of course I did. We both did; you just do not remember.” Otter laughed.
Vanessa blushed and felt rather warm, even uncomfortable. But shame filled her. Why was she so nervous? Otter was her sister, why am I so… scared?
“Oh, you mean if I remember her, right?” Otter asked softly.
Vanessa nodded shyly. Why was it that when Otter was new and distant did I feel so close? But now she felt very… distant and far away.
“Well… mother was always a bit odd. She loved us both dearly. Though my memories are vague, she was always gone. But whenever she could meet us, she would always devote time for us. She only cared for us and… well she … well …herm…” Otter mumbled.
“Why was she odd?” Vanessa asked.
Otter looked up at the roof thoughtfully.
“The way she spoke, the way she sang, the way she acted. It was queer. She was always tense, and always wary. But whenever she talked to one of us, she only focused on us, and nothing else.” Otter nodded knowingly.
“What about father?” Vanessa asked.
“Never met him.” said Otter simply.
“How did mother sing?”
Otter glanced at her fingers.
“Yes, she did. But she always sang to you as a lullaby. You always had trouble sleeping. But she always told me to sleep while she sang to you. She always tucked me in last. Now what was that tune again? Da… dum… da??? Um… I feel stupid.” Otter frowned.
Vanessa too frowned and moved closer to Otter.
“Was it like this?”
She whispered the tune she heard not so long ago in her dreams. Otter closed her eyes and hummed to the song. They were entranced like the hidden trumpeting manticore who looked like a man but was a beast; hiding his identity. But the entity would not be a beast, but a gentle woman in the beast’s mane ringed face. The face of a mother they both loved. When they completed the song, Otter’s face was covered in tears. She glanced down at her humbled sister who lay crumpled upon her lap. Otter stroked her sister’s calm face and closed her eyes.
It was several months later when they could finally leave confinement. The two lived together in their mother’s RV, and their bond became stronger. On that day, Otter was making breakfast for the two, while Vanessa watched the news.
“So now if anyone for the next week encounters odd problems like unexpected headaches or any other side effects, please call the Sector 99 authorities right away. And now for the weather…” the news reporter concluded.
Vanessa stood up and turned off the TV.
“Stupid news channel. The weather in this place is the same all the time.” Vanessa snorted.
Otter slowly walked over to her sister and placed her sister’s share onto the living room’s coffee table. She herself sat on the plush couch and ate her breakfast there.
“I think I am getting fat.” Otter mumbled, looking at her waist.
Vanessa looked and gave a blank stare.
“You’re not fat.” She blinked.
Otter rubbed her forehead.
“Oh, I need to go out. I feel so…confined in here. I just have to get out!”
Otter stood up and stretched.
“But we can’t Otter.” Vanessa whispered.
Otter glanced at her sister’s pale face. They had been confined for nearly three weeks and the both needed some fresh air.
“We need to get out. You are as pale as a sheet!” Otter exclaimed.
Vanessa sighed and ate slowly. Otter turned on Vanessa’s TV and went from TV mode to holographic telephone mode. She browsed down to Tec’s phone number. While Otter called Tec, Vanessa began to daydream, her mind drifting to blank thoughts. She was dreadfully weary that morning, like a stifling pillow of exhaustion and dizziness buffeted her skull. She shook her head as an annoying high pitched noise tickled her ear drums. Rubbing her ears like she had water in them, she got up and put her plate in the sink. As Otter began complaining to the state of affairs to Tec, Vanessa suddenly felt like a huge hatchet just smacked into the top of her head.
“See Tec, look how pa… Vanessa what in the world, are you doing?!” Otter blinked.
Vanessa was hitting her head rapidly with a firm couch-pillow.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow…” Vanessa groaned as she whacked her head like a whack-a-mole.
“Stop…just oh, just stop!” said Otter, grabbing the pillow.
Vanessa groaned and began punching her skull.
“I have this horrid headache.” She moaned.
Sinking to the ground, she began clutching her head painfully.
“And that stupid sound!!!” Vanessa cried.
Otter panicked and began looking around franticly for a solution. Vanessa gasped and began thrashing on the floor. Constantly, constantly a repetitive beeping sound echoed in her eardrums, vibrating upon the drum’s taught surfaces. The beep was as annoying as an alarm-clock’s but much more louder and far more erupting. Her body felt like ripping off her ears and relieving herself of the pain.
“Close the door!” Vanessa cried instinctively.
Otter quickly ran over to the door and slammed it shut. And there was silence. Vanessa slowly stood up from the floor. Otter just stared at Vanessa, her face turning paler with every second. Tec, who was still on the phone, tried to get their attention, by calling out to them:
“Hey! Vanessa, Otter! What’s going on?” Tec asked.
Otter just put her fingers to her lips.
“Oh, my.” She whispered.
She carefully opened the door to just a crack, and Vanessa grasped at her ears. The sound was erupting out of the crack in a relentless sound wave.
“Agh! Otter!” Vanessa cried.
She writhed on the floor in agony. Otter stared on with wide eyes and amazement.
“Otter shut the door!” Tec cried, franticly trying to find a way through to Otter.
Suddenly Otter smiled, like she enjoyed Vanessa’s suffering. She knew what this meant if the authority knew.
“Otter…” Vanessa moaned as she held at her skull.
The veins of her head bulged and pulsed as she thrashed on the ground. Her face turned into a burning shade of red and she saw everything in round odd blurs.
Otter snapped up her head like someone just slapped her face hard. She finally noticed her sister on the ground and most importantly, who she was now. Otter quickly closed the door and locked it. She knelt down next to Vanessa who was lying unconscious in front of the sofa.
“Vanessa…” Otter whispered.
She ran her fingers through Vanessa’s oddly coarse hair.
“Oh… I am so sorry…” Otter gasped weakly.
Tec could not see what they were doing due to the sofa in the way. Otter was heard sniffling and she slowly stood up.
“She… she is… unconscious.” Otter mumbled in a trance like state.
Otter slowly picked Vanessa up and took her into her room. Now, Tec knew that Vanessa’s home had only one room with two bedrooms and any other guests would have to sleep on the sofas. Otter came back to the living room after placing Vanessa onto her bed. She sank onto the old sofa and buried her head into her hands.
“Why the heck did you do that Otter?!” Tec cried.
Otter did not move.
“It was like you were enjoying your sister’s pain. What in the world is wrong with you?!”
Otter still did not move.
“Otter, are you really Vanessa’s sister?”
Otter did not move.
“You know don’t you. Why the lord issued a new law. You know don’t you!” Tec accused.
Suddenly, Otter gave an agonized cry:”ARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME!?”
She slumped and sobbed with her face on a sofa pillow. Tec was surprised and tried to comfort Otter.
“It’s ok Otter. It’s ok.” Tec assured.
Instead Otter turned her head and sobbed louder.
“No…it’s…. my fault…Tec… it’s my fault…” Otter whispered.
She finally sat up; her eyes were a blood-shot red.
“Tec?” Otter asked.
She sniffed and rubbed her eyes.
“Have you ever disobeyed anyone?” Otter asked.
Tec was silent and confused. Why was Otter asking this?
“No, I never had anyone to disobey. Why do you ask?” Tec asked simply.
Otter made small snuffle noises and looked down at her hands.
“Well… what would you do if you had to disobey the orders your own guardian trained you to do all of your current life? The orders he pushed into your very being and every second of your life? Would you Tec for the last member of your family?! For the one you have searched for all of your life and the one who you swore to protect?! Who is the one you were trained to capture and enslave?!” Otter cried.
She slumped over the screen where Tec was talking to her. Otter was crying and looked hopelessly lost and confused. Tec fumbled a little on screen.
“Tell me Otter. Does this have to do with the new law the lord passed a few months ago?” Tec asked.
Otter suddenly looked scared and helpless. She knew that she was a soldier in the lord’s army before she ran away. Now that this issue was hurting her sister, should she tell Tec and the others?
She put her face in her hands and gave small sniffling noises.
“What does he want with her?” Tec asked. Her teeth began to grind against each other.
“He…He wants…”Otter stuttered.
“What Otter; wants what?” Tec growled.
“He wants her to lead him to his goal. Only the “chosen one” can hear the noise vibrations.”Otter whispered.
She shook her head rapidly in her hands.
“Something about “the second born” and a… prophesy of some sort and a cave. But I am not sure.”
Tec widened her eyes.
“Are you sure Otter? This sounds like something from a cryptic novel or something. This can’t be possible.” Tec whispered.
“It must be true! The lord; you do not know how long he tortured me to forget about my family and focus on finding the “chosen one”. How long he forced me to focus on finding the “chosen one” and how much he wanted her. Also, how much money he would pay as an award for finding her.” Otter gasped weakly.
“How much money did he offer, Otter?” Tec asked.
Otter just looked up at Tec’s eyes.
“One trillion dollars and more if you forced him.” Otter whispered.
Tec gasped and stared on in silence.
“You see Tec. What can I do?” Otter cried.
Tec still stared on and blinked blindly. With all of that money any of them could be free from work and poverty for life.
“What if he finds her? What if someone finds out and turns her in? What if she…what if she… dies!? Oh Tec you have to help me!” Otter sobbed.
Tec continued to stare into space and her eyes bulged. Otter glanced at her with drunken and blood-shot eyes.
“Tec?” Otter asked hoarsely.
Tec continued to stare into space.
“Tec? Tec!” Otter roared.
Tec suddenly snapped into realization. And looked at Otter
“Please Tec. Do not do what I did. Remember that Vanessa is your best friend. Not your cheap way into wealth, fame, and fortune. Please remember Tec. Do not sink down to my level. If you do, you will regret it forever.”
“I have done many horrible things in life. Please do not prompt me to tell you.” Otter mumbled.
Tec kept staring and swallowed painfully.
“I…I can’t believe it.” Tec whispered.
“Greed can make you do horrible things Tec. Ripping apart a family is the least one can do in the quest for riches and fame.” Otter whispered back.
The two were silent for a time, each struggling through guilt. The removal of the burden of adult-hood was almost lifted, but was so painful to lift.
“What is my sister like?” Otter finally asked.
Tec struggled to answer. Vanessa’s familiarity with Tec made it hard to describe Vanessa’s character.
“Um…She… always took care of herself… and she likes company…but she would always have friends as her first priority…but she always had her conscience stopping me from doing stupid things. And you know she likes drawing, right?”
Otter nodded and smiled.
“Yes… I saw her on the train.”
“I am horrible at drawing. Maybe she got it from mother. She liked to draw too.”Otter smiled.
She closed her eyes and softened her face.
“Do you have a mother Tec?” she asked.
“No.” said Tec with gritted teeth.
“From what I learned from the orphanage, I was found abandoned in a small cardboard box without a name or a family. It’s only because of my skill in mechanics that I got my name.” Tec scoffed.
She did not like her past. She felt anger that her parents could bring her to the world, only to abandon her without a name or an identity.
“Vanessa and I were separated soon after we entered the orphanage.” Otter smiled sadly.
Tec looked up in surprise.
“You were in the orphanage too?” Tec asked.
“I probably left before you came to the orphanage. The Lord wanted someone and adopted me. Why he wanted me, I do not know. I only know this from reading some of the Sector 99 records. That was also where I found out that I had a sister.” Otter continued.
She looked down at her quivering fingers.
“I just wonder if I should stay with her. Or just leave and die.” Otter whispered.
Just then, the door to the bedroom opened and Vanessa slipped through the doorway with a tired expression on her face. She looked at Otter and smiled warmly.
“Hi, Gwen. Hi, Tec” Vanessa grinned.
She tiredly walked to the couch and plopped herself down. Otter moved closer to Vanessa and began checking her sister’s forehead.
“A…are you…ok?” Otter asked worriedly.
Vanessa nodded and reclined back.
“I’m fine Gwen. I didn’t sleep much though.” Vanessa noted.
She smiled and looked at her sister’s agonized face.
“It’s ok Gwen. I heard everything.” Vanessa answered optimistically.
Otter and Tec gasped in surprise. They did not expect Vanessa to be up, least of all so optimistic. Vanessa rubbed her face and sniffled slightly.
“I only want to say this: you’re the only one I have. You, Tec, Tristian, Clark, and Chase; you guys are my family. Don’t leave Gwen.” Vanessa begged.
Otter looked down at her sister’s blue eyes; which was so similar to her own, only much brighter.
“I don’t know why the Lord wants me. I really don’t know. Just don’t leave Gwen. Just don’t leave me.”
Otter looked at Vanessa oddly, but then suddenly smiled painfully.
“I will not leave, if you do not want me to.” Otter nodded slowly.
Vanessa hugged Otter tightly.
“Oh, thank you Gwen, thank you!” Vanessa cried.
They stayed silent for a long time. Tec decided to turn off her screen and gave the sisters some peace and quiet.
Several Hours Later…
“I sometimes wonder if you really love me, Vanessa.” Otter mumbled.
Vanessa recoiled in surprise.
“I am a bad person. I just do not want you being around a person like me.”
Vanessa looked directly into Otter’s eyes.
“I was trained to kill people Vanessa. If only I can get it into your head that I was trained to capture you and kill anyone else in the Lord’s way.”
Vanessa continued staring.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you have the right to know the truth about me.” Otter whispered.
Vanessa laid her head onto Otter’s chest.
“If you didn’t love me, you would not be telling me this. If you didn’t love me, you would have captured me right on the day you realized who I was. Gwen, you are not a bad person. You are just you, and nothing can change that.”
Otter gasped as Vanessa leaned closer to her cheek.
“I love you.” Vanessa whispered. She gave Otter a small kiss.
“I…I do too.” Otter replied back.
Hesitantly, she too kissed Vanessa back on the cheek.
“It hurts, doesn’t it Gwen?” Vanessa asked.
Otter recoiled in surprise.
“What do you mean?” Otter asked.
“In there.” said Vanessa. She pointed at Otter’s heart.
“I know your pain Gwen. I don’t want to be alone either. But you have me.”
Otter stared in surprise.
“But I am not alone. Not that way.” said Otter, indignantly, “I only want you to be safe, and that is all.”
Vanessa smiled weakly, something that made Otter falter.
“All this time, you have been working as a soldier. A Human Weapon. Can’t you become Human and remove the Weapon?”
Otter raised her right eyebrow.
“What do you mean?”
“You have been alone all this time. I think you’re just afraid of yourself.”
Otter looked at her hands: the hands of a killer.
“Just open up Otter.” Vanessa smiled.
Otter continued staring.
Vanessa laughed and stood up in front of Otter.
“We should go crazy tonight; forget any of this ever happened. It will just be you and me: two sisters who just can’t get to sleep cuz we are way too hyper to do so. Let’s have fun.”
Otter looked up in surprise.
“Yeah that’s it. Then we can get to know each other. Come on loosen up Gwen!”
Vanessa roughly punched Otter who winced.
“I don’t know…”
Fun was practically unknown in Otter’s original world.
“Come on now, why can’t we?” Vanessa asked.
A few hours later the two were giggling and lying hopelessly on the now messy couch.
“And then they said that they could not keep up with the adult tomato. So do you know what the adult tomato said? Ketchup! Get it?” Otter laughed.
Vanessa just smiled as she saw her sister laughing hopelessly.
“I get it.” She said.
That made Otter laugh even more. While her sister laughed, Vanessa stood up and began to tidy up around the messy living room area. They had been watching movies and eating snacks along with them. Eventually as hours past, Otter began to appear droopy and she fell asleep on the couch. Vanessa just smiled and draped a blanket over Otter’s sleeping form. She herself walked into her small room. The RV itself, though big, was much smaller than Tec’s auto shop. Vanessa’s room was no different. Her room was at the back of the RV and next to the restroom. All the room had is a soft and lumpy bed squashed into the wall and a small table to the left of the bed side against the wall. The room was neat but was only used by Vanessa for sleeping. A small chest below the bed held her clothes and the small table held a small flower pot that did not have any flowers. She slipped into bed and sighed as she pulled her blanket over herself. Despite the hot weather the earth continuously endured, the nights were cold and frigid. But she was used to the extreme temperature and like many of earth’s humans had a darker skin tone than that of the past as well as a shorter form but long skinny legs that were not often properly nourished. She stared up at the roof of her small home and looked around until she fell asleep.