Authors: Lee Strauss,Elle Strauss
The humanoid’s eyebrows lifted in an animated manner. “Of
course. It will be ready in four point seven nine minutes.”
I hung back with Zoe as we waited and watched the news. Zoe
gasped when pictures of our faces flashed from the screen. A nation-wide alert
had been issued for the Senator of California’s granddaughter, and for me as
her possible captor. My eyes darted outside to where Taylor and Rebecca waited
in the carriage. Good thing they’d left the station before the news broke.
The humanoid seemed oblivious to the broadcast. Even though our
images were in full view as it did its task, it didn’t register the
significance. Identifying fugitives wasn’t part of its programming.
Four point seven nine minutes later Zoe and I walked out with a
fully charged battery. I sent her a look that said
that was close
It was dark and snowing hard when we returned to the commune.
The carriage got stuck in the driveway, and I was glad the street crews had
cleared the highway enough that we could get back at all. As it was, angry
motorists honked their disapproval at us for slowing them down and I was happy
we hadn’t been run off the road.
I went with Taylor to put the horses into the barn leaving Zoe
to help Rebecca bring the supplies into the kitchen.
When Taylor and I returned to the house we heard angry voices
coming from the living room.
“Pacifism ain’t the only way, Finn! They’re everywhere. If we
don’t do nothing, we ain’t got a chance.”
“Pacifism is God’s way. His will be done.”
“Is it God’s will to let his creation be overtaken by machines?
They’re the workings of the Antichrist, idols made by men who think they’re
smarter than God himself.”
“But God is the one to judge. Vengeance belongs to him.”
“Yeah,” Ike blustered, “well, wait until they’re storming down
our drive, wantin’ to kill your family.”
Simon, who apparently was the voice of reason in this place,
said, “Don’t blow it out of proportion, Ike. No one’s going to die.”
I tossed Taylor a questioning look, then headed straight to
bed. Their “family” beefs didn’t concern me.
I was determined to grab Zoe at the break of dawn and I doubted
that I’d sleep at all that night. Though I’d committed to not touching her, to
not manipulating her emotions so she’d be who I wanted her to be, I still
thought of her and the time we’d spent together
. A lot. Too much.
I tossed and turned, suppressing a grumble over the lumps in
the cot that felt bigger than they had the night before. I was so concerned
about my own discomfort, I didn’t notice when someone entered the blackness of
the boys’ bedroom. I jumped when I felt a nudge on my shoulder.
“Wake up, Noah.” It was Finn Ranger’s voice dialed down to a
low whisper. “I have something to show you.”
Against my better judgment I followed him out of the house,
grabbing a jacket and wrapping my arms around my body against the cold. Wind
blew at my hair and snowflakes landed on my eyelashes. I wondered as he dragged
me through the forest in the middle of the night if I’d somehow end up fighting
for my life, and I wished I’d been able to snag my gun before I was whisked
Turned out I didn’t need to worry for my life yet. We reached
the back side of the shed and good ol’ Finn removed a mat covered in wet
leaves, and opened a hatch. I followed him down steep cement steps into a dimly
lit musky room—an underground bunker. I could hardly contain my surprise.
A place like this would be handy in case of catastrophic events,
such as a nuclear war fall out. Or a hideout from a humanoid invasion. I
expected to see rows of narrow bunk beds and shelves of canned food and bottled
I didn’t expect
A table along the front wall had an old-style, plastic encased
laptop sitting on it. It was booted up, so Finn was obviously online. Beside it
sat a high-tech printer and other electronic gadgets. A glass cabinet on the
wall housed ammunition. A crap load of guns.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said.
Finn’s ginger eyebrows jumped. “Surprised?”
came to mind.
“I don’t get it.” I shoved my hands into my pockets. “What’s
with all the pacifist talk? Isn’t gadgetry of the devil?”
Finn grinned sheepishly. “It’s time for me to make my
confession. It started with Rebecca. She’s got a condition, you see, and she
was going to die. I just couldn’t let that happen. So I, uh, found a science
kid—the kids are the smartest with these things—to help me.
He pointed to the elaborate printer system. “I pour in the
ingredients, turn it on, and it
the medication. I put it in her
breakfast juice. She doesn’t even know.”
My father would’ve done anything for me when he was alive, so I
could understand how Finn would bend his own rules to save his daughter. Still,
it felt a little extreme.
“What about all this other stuff?” I asked.
“It kind of grew over time,” Finn said. “Rebecca’s needs
changed as she grew and the science kid needed to email for the updates on the
Finn grabbed his suspenders. “Then I got hooked on reading the
I stared at him suspiciously. “Why are you showing me this?”
“Because, I know who you are, Noah Brody. I read your blog.”
He read my blog?
“There’s more than one Noah Brody in the world,” I said. It was
true. Like most people, I’d web searched my own name.
Finn rolled on his heels. “Maybe so, but this Noah Brody hasn’t
posted since you got here.”
“I don’t think so.”
I shifted my weight and eyed him cautiously. “So, let’s say,
hypothetically, I’m Noah Brody and that’s my blog. What of it?”
“I want you to keep posting. Hypothetically.”
I shook my head. “Why?”
“Technology is taking over the world in an evil way. GAPs are
the devil’s spawn. Humanoids are tools of the Antichrist and are becoming
I pointed to the rack of guns. They weren’t all ordinary guns
you used bullets with. There were at least four military laser-rifles. “What
about these? I heard you arguing with Ike. This doesn’t look like you’re a
“I’m a family man, Noah. I’ll do what I have to protect mine if
it comes down to it. I pray it doesn’t come down to it.”
“Why don’t you let Ike in on your secret? He’d be a lot happier
if he knew.”
“Ike’s a loose cannon. If he knew about this—” he waved to the
guns, “—he’d be storming every store and household in Marley that had a
humanoid working for them. Trust me, it’s better if he believes what I tell
I ran a hand through my hair, still unable to digest what I was
seeing and hearing. “We’re leaving first thing in the morning, y’know.”
“I know that. Which is why I had to wake you up and bring you
here tonight. You need to get at least one more blog in. Encourage the people to
keep up the fight.”
“At least one more?”
“Who knows how things will go for you where you’re headed.”
It wasn’t very comforting that Brother Finn didn’t have high
hopes for my future. But I really did itch to get online.
“You probably guessed this, but we’re running from people. I
can’t chance being tracked here.”
Finn tapped the table with a dirty fingernail. “It’s secure. Science
kid guaranteed it.”
I wasn’t eager to blog again, but I did want to check in on my
brothers. “Okay.” I sat on the chair in front of the screen and shot Finn a
look over my shoulder. I didn’t want him standing there, watching.
“I’m going to wait here,” he said pointing to a more
comfortable-looking chair. He sunk into the worn fabric and closed his eyes and
started snoring softly in two seconds flat.
It felt weird to log in again. I let my fingers hover over the
archaic, plastic keyboard. Not surprisingly, my last post on the senator
garnered a boat-load of comments that I didn’t have time or energy to respond
to. Finn wanted a new post, and I’d better give him one if I hoped to eat
breakfast in the morning.
Hey, fellow GAP dissenters. I’m alive, but due to circumstances
beyond my control I had to go into hiding. It may or may not have been due to
the last post (ha). Stay true to the cause. Email your officials, organize your
own peaceful protests. Start your own blogs. Let your voices be heard.
Two minutes later, the comments column started filling up.
Freedom Fighter 689:Seriously, you’ve had death threats, man?
GAPhater88: The time for peaceful protest is over. Let’s storm
the GAP City gates!
Peaceatanycost: Brody, you’re our leader. Just tell us what to
My blood surged. This was exactly what I didn’t want.
I typed: It’s not time to respond with violence. Patience my
GAPhater88: You’re getting soft, Brody
Peaceatanycost: Shut up GAPhater. Violence isn’t the answer.
I closed the blog. My heart stammered. I’d leave them to sort
it out for themselves. I wasn’t responsible for the actions of every radical
who read my blog.
I quickly wrote an e-mail home to Skye, letting her know we
were okay, but deleted it before I sent it. Too dangerous. I still couldn’t
believe how fast they’d tracked us last-time. I’d have to find a way to contact
her in the future, but I couldn’t deal with that now.
Instead I clicked on a news site and entered Zoe Vanderveen
into the search.
A groan rose up from my gut. Three full pages. Lots of
speculation on what could’ve happened to her. She’d drowned. She’d been kidnapped.
No surprise, Noah Brody was still the prime subject of interest. My picture
came up at least a dozen times.
Each story recapped with the unfortunate and suspicious death
of Zoe’s brother Liam just three weeks earlier, and wondered if the two events were
Bad luck for the Senator’s only two grandchildren.
Knowing that we were still big news out there made me even
itchier to get back on the road. I was afraid we’d stayed here too long
I logged off and turned to Finn to report my efforts, but he
was still sawing logs. I slipped by him and back up the cement steps and
breathed in deeply of the cold, fresh air. The night sky was beginning to
lighten and I hadn’t had any sleep yet. I followed the path from the woods to
the house and entered quietly.
Mercifully, sleep came immediately after my head touched my
pillow. I awoke in what felt like mere minutes later to the rising of the guys
Because there wasn’t any electricity and therefore no
artificial lighting, everyone went to bed early and woke up early—like, at the
crack of dawn—which meant no slipping out for me and Zoe. I hated awkward
I pushed back at the fatigue, counting on adrenaline to get me
through the day. A jittery restlessness buzzed through me as I dressed.
The other guys were shuffling into their pants—homemade
trousers with button up flies. No belts. Suspenders were the fashion accessory
Taylor put his hand on my arm. “I heard Finn come for you last
night. I hope he wasn’t too hard on you.” My gaze landed on his hand as I shifted
away. I spotted a small white scar along the fleshy part between his thumb and
Taylor caught me staring and swiftly shoved his hands into his
The weight of what I’d just seen hit hard. Once upon a time
Taylor Blake had had a chip. That meant he hadn’t been born and raised within
this religious group. Finn had told us up front that Taylor and his sister
Hannah were adopted by the Galloways, but from where and why? I was suddenly
very curious about the Blake siblings’ past.
“Is it true you’re leaving today?” Taylor asked.
“That’s the plan,” I said.
Which didn’t happen. The fact that I could see my breath in the
freezing coldness of the room should’ve been my first clue. I shivered and begrudgingly
put the long sleeve shirt on that they’d made me wear. I heard the windows
whistling but it wasn’t just a windstorm this time. The white stuff was falling
hard and thick.
“It’s September,” I said.
“Yeah,” Taylor acknowledged. “It’s what they call a freak
“Is that what they call it?” I couldn’t be more annoyed. At
loverboy or at the weather. My car was built to run in California’s climate. It
wasn’t winterized, and that meant we were stuck here until the storm blew over.
The women were already busy in the kitchen, and I wondered if
Zoe would survive another day being forced to develop her domestic skills. I
hated that we couldn’t spend more time together. The last thing our fraying
relationship needed right now was a further breakdown in communication.
I tagged along to the barn, putting on the winter jacket Simon
threw at me and pressed head first into the wind. I wasn’t much help and
admitted I didn’t know anything about milking cows. I stood back warily, not
wanting to get kicked or thrashed by a tail.
“Why don’t you gather the eggs then,” Taylor said. “Or do birds
frighten you as well?”
I gave him a dirty look and headed for the chicken coop. Truth
be told, birds did frighten me. Especially ones with pointy-sharp beaks and weren’t
afraid to use them. Was I supposed to actually stick my hand under their
feathery butts and steal their babies without them drawing my blood?
Instead I waved my hands and shooed them all off their perches.
Loud cackling, and manic wing-flapping ensued, filling the small coop with
feathers and dried chicken crap dust.
I plucked the eggs out of the nests and placed them in the
basket I’d found up by the door as gently as I could in the chaotic