2015; Stargazer (The Freelance Army)

Two years after a powerful Earthquake, strange things are beginning to happen; Disappearances, attacks and other things beyond explanation. For Sarah and her best friend Megan, contending with these newfound 'abilities' is difficult, but when they end up running for their lives with people they barely know, things can only get more complicated.
Who are the Hornet Agents that seem to follow their every move?
And is there something darker lurking beneath the shiny town face?

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1. Part One (It Begins)- Chapter One

(Sarah)

"You ready?" I murmur, turning to look at my best friend; Megan Rayne.

Megan smiles in reply; her messy-on-purpose, deep auburn hair staying perfectly in place as she shuts the door to my room silently and spins round to stand infront of me.

"Who first?" She mutters. I've known her long enough to be able to read her tone of voice.

It's going to be me first. No matter what.

I sigh deeply and close my eyes. Preparing myself.

"Wait".

I open my eyes. Megan is watching me carefully.

"What?"

"I want to go first". She says bluntly. I gesture in agreement and step back until I hit my bed, then sit down patiently. Megan flexs her hands and sighs.

"Think of something". She commands. Only...she didn't move her mouth.

"Sorry? Did you say something?"

"Think of something".

Nope. She definitely didn't speak.

This is so cool.

"It so is!" Megan laughs, clapping her hands together rapidly while doing her victory dance "Your turn!".

My turn? Really?

"Yes. Really".

I shoot Megan a glare.

"Stop it".

"Stop what?" She says innocently, before giggling again.

I breathe in through my nose and slowly out again, pushing myself away from my bed and swapping places with Megan.

"Now you see me?"

Megan nods suspiciously.

Now you don't.

I can see her looking around, confused. I can see me, well, not me. A sort of, see-through me. My outline.

"Where'd you go? Sarah?"

As quietly as I can, I creep up to her, until I'm right infront of her, practically pressing noses.

"Boo!" I yell in her face, letting my disguise fade.

The scream that escapes from her is priceless. She rolls on to the floor, clutching her stomach from laughter and fear.

"What the hell, Sarah?! You gave me a heart attack!"

"Oopsies", I laugh, giving her a friendly nudge "Is Daddy dearest ok with you being here with us common folk?"

"Common folk? Sarah, your Dad is a company man too! You can't talk!"

I shrug begrudgingly and grab my school bag.

"C'mon, we're going to be late at the rate we're going".

"Oh who cares! It's only school after all!" Megan grins, wrapping her arm around my shoulder and scooping her own bag up with the other.

*

Megan's been my best friend for the best part of twelve years now; ever since I asked to borrow her Play-dough in the first year of Primary school. We do everything together; she's in my form room, most of my lessons, lives only twenty minutes away. She used to go to the same first aid group as me, but her mother forced her to leave, saying that it was "too common for a Rayne to do". Oh well. We go to eachothers houses nearly everyday, or to Alexandra park; the one piece of green left in Ipswich ever since Primeminister Thorne decided that the destruction caused by the 2013 Earthquakes was a sign to rebuild from the wreckage. Rebuild sparkly new walled cities and shut out all of the damage that was too difficult to fix.

That's when this all started. December 31st 2013. When the Earthquakes hit. Ripping across the entire Globe, tearing up houses, buisnesses, lives. Destroying everything mankind had built. I'd been fifteen for two weeks. My brother, Jasper, had died while trying to rescue a small girl from a collapsed nursery. He just got her out when the last of the roof fell on top of him. I'd watched it happen. He'd passed the girl to me. After that, in the dawn of a new year, I felt myself change. People wanted to talk to me about Jasper. Wanted to "ease my pain". I found myself able to hide from them if I wanted. When I wanted. I found out about Megan two weeks later, when she came to me and told me about what she'd heard her Dad say. I'd never like that man. I liked him even less after that.

She walks next to me, arm linked through mine; satchel beating against her hip as she half-walks, half-skips along the pathway, pulling me with her. She's never liked school, for as long as I can remember. She thinks it's a waste of time. I agree, but I'd never tell her that. I wouldn't give her the satisfaction; though to be honest, she probably knows anyway.

*

Callington Academy towers above us, casting a dark shadow across the sun-speckled ground. Red brick walls, tall windows and neat, regimented gardens. The sun behind it gives it an unnatural glow. If a building could look evil, that is what it would look.

"Ready?" Megan asks, squeezing my shoulders soothingly.

Nope. I haven't done any of my homework and my teachers hate me.

"I haven't either, and they don't hate you as much as me. The only reason I'm still even at this school, the only reason I'm still allowed on the grounds for that matter, is because of my Dad".

Can't argue with that.

"Exactly. So, after you, Dearest Sarah".

Once more unto the Breach, Dear friends. Once more.

(Christian)

 

If I have to listen to Ali for one more second, I might just kill.

I love my half-brother dearly, there's no doubt about that. Him and Dad welcomed me into their home after Mum died in the Earthquakes. We rebuilt it together, started over as a family. He's been there for me, and I've been there for him. And I must love him because, despite the fact he's been going on about how unfair Dad is to us, I haven't yet bludgeoned him to death. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a violent person. I never have been. But with Ali, you need to set him a limit or he'll never shut up. Ever.

"It just sucks, y'know. I mean, we never get to go out. We never get to see anyone. It's ridiculous!"

"Who would we see, Ali?"

He hesitates for a second.

"I dunno. Maybe if we were allowed to go out we'd have some friends to see..."

I look at my brother for a second and smile pitifully.

"You know that's not how this works. Especially not at this school".

Ali shrugs, shoving both hands into his pockets.

"Yeah, I know. Besides, why would I want to be friends with a bunch of stuck-up rich kids anyway, I've got you...a stuck-up poor kid".

"Gee thanks, Bro". I sigh, turning down the maths corridor.

Ali is only just in my year. I'm at the very start; one of the oldest, and he's at the very end, the absolute youngest. Fortunately I'm not in his form; if I had to spend another half an hour with him everyday then this school would be an even less safe place to be, though to be perfectly honest I'll probably still be able to hear him through the wall.

Don't get me wrong, Callington is an excellent school; if your parents drive gold cars and wear platinum clothes. I'm only here because I'm smart and "lucky as hell". Ali's here because our Dad and his Mum both work at least three jobs to make sure he gets a good education. That's why we're never allowed out. Because of our social standing. Poor kids don't stay at Callington; the rich ones make sure of that.

Even now, there is a large group of students in a circle chanting "Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight..." at two boys in the centre. One is someone from my yeargroup, I'm not proud to say. A hulk of a boy called Bradley Chambers. The other is someone I don't recognise, all I know is that they're stick thin and look as if they're in their first or second year. That's hardly fair; a seventeen year old monstrosity versus a defenceless little kid. But the worst part is the chanting. The hungry chanting, that reminds me of accounts of the Gladiator ring. Bloodthirsty. They're just kids.

Ali pats me on the shoulder comfortingly and disappears into his form room. I would do the same but for one thing, the fight is blocking the way to my door; which begs the question, why isn't anything being done by a teacher? and secondly, I can't just leave that poor boy to get clobbered, can I?!

I take a few steps towards the gathering, trying to look as authorative as I can; I find that helps me get what I want in times like this. Focusing myself, I push into the ring, being careful not to hurt anyone I push out of my way. I stand infront of the two boys, managing to look down at both of them. I'd never realised that I was taller than Bradley before, because I don't make it a habit of mine to get close to him, but now that I'm close enough, I can see that there is at least three inches difference between our heights.

That's satisfying.

"Stop it now. You are being stupid. You aren't really angry at eachother, you just want to look tough, which isn't working". I say calmly, making eye contact first at the smaller boy, then at Bradley. A wave of calmness washes over me, ebbing towards my targets. Their fists relax and drop to their sides.

Bradley shakes his head and walks off, stomping down the corridor like some hideous mountain troll. He's closely followed by a number of his goons, who watch me carefully before running off to follow at their masters' heels. The other boy vanishes in the opposite direction, not stopping to look back at me or to say thankyou. But that's ok. I'd prefer it if he didn't.

The crowd begins to disperse in various directions and I begin to walk towards my form room door.

"How did you do it?" A girl's voice appears out of nowhere. I stop and look around. She's standing in the corner of the hallway, some of her blonde hair slipping out of a loose plait which curves over her shoulder. I've seen her before. She's in my form maybe. Yeah, that's it. Sarah...something or other. She's Megan's friend.

"I'm sorry?" I ask, making sure I'd heard her right. Did she see what I did?

"How did you do it? Stop the fight I mean. I'd been trying but Bradley told me to piss off on more than one occasion, and I thought it'd be a good idea to stay quiet after that". She smiles, though her curiosity is undeniable.

You wouldn't believe me if I told you.

I shrug half-heartedly and give her a quick, polite smile, before pushing down on the door handle and gesturing for her to go inside first.

(Megan)

 

The door opens and Sarah appears, closesly followed by...

Is that Christian Miller?

Why is she with Christian Miller? Is she insane?

She pulls up the chair next to me and collapses into it, dumping her bag underneath the table.

"Why did you walk in with Christian?"

She looks at me for a second, confused, before shrugging.

"There was a fight. He stopped the fight. We talked. We were by the door". She replies plainly.

I find myself frowning unintentionally.

"What is it, Megan? What's up with you today? You're not normally concerned with who I walk into form with".

"I dunno, Sarah. It's just, he's really weird. He freaks me out". I murmur, leaning closer to her to make sure no-one else overhears. Sarah pulls away from me and laughs slightly, covering her mouth with her hand to stop herself from exploding into a full-blown laughing fit.

"What's so funny?" I demand. She waves me away so she can stop herself from laughing, breathes deeply a few times and composes herself.

"Sorry, it's just funny that you think he's weird. Given that you can read minds and I can turn invisible".

(Alistair)

I stare out of the window, trying to distract myself from the rest of my form. I know Chris gets annoyed at me for complaining so much, but in truth he's the only one I feel as if I can complain too! I have no friends, my parents are very rarely at home, and Chris is my family. My brother. My best friend. I don't mean to make him annoyed at me, I really don't. It's just sometimes I need to get stuff off of my chest and he's the only person around that I can tell.

I chose this seat in form on my very first day. Well, ok. That's not entirely true. I ended up with it. I started off trying to make friends, asking if I could sit next to anyone I thought I might be able to get along with. They were all "occupied". In the end there was only one seat left; the broken, graffitied one on the back table by the window. It's not a bad place to sit, to be quite honest. Near the window so I can distract myself from whatever choice word they've picked for me that day. Sure, it's a little cold in Winter because the radiator is on the other side of the classroom, but that's nothing very new for me and there's no point in complaining about the layout of a room unless you're the architect.

I can still hear them though. Oh yes. I can hear what they're saying about me, they make no effort to whisper. Some even purposefully raise their voices so I'll definitely hear their point of view. It's not what they say that makes me angry really, it's the fact that they have no idea what any of my family has been through. Very few of them lost family in the Earthquakes. I did. I lost both of my grandparents and three cousins. Chris lost his Mum.

What did they lose?

A few pool tiles, maybe?

A car?

One of their precious diamond rings?

Nothing of real value.

That's what gets me. Chris wants me to be civil to them. Mask how I feel. Why should I? What good will it do? I'm still the same. So are they. Pretending wouldn't change anything.

I flick open my logbook and try to distract myself from my thoughts and the World around me.

Thunk.

Something hits me on the side of my head and drops on to the table. A piece of screwed-up paper by the looks of it. I look around for the assailant and catch some of the "Popular" people watching me; namely Jessica Bradbrook, Adam Bentley, Jessica Sanderson and Lucas Kingbridge.

Lucas motions for me to unscrew-up the paper and I find myself doing so, ironing out the creases with my fist.

In big, bold letters, the message reads:

I didn't know poor people could read.

They burst out laughing in a mismatched chorus of ignorance. I screw the paper back up and lob it towards them, smiling satisfactorally as it hits Lucas square in the forehead.

I'll pay for that one. But it was totally worth it.

I grab my bag and head for the door, ignoring Mrs Winterbury as she asks me to return to my seat. I slam the door shut, hoping with all my heart that it tears off of it's hinges and squashes Lucas like a bug. It doesn't, but imagining it is almost as satisfying.

I shove open the double doors which lead on to the field and lean against the cool, brick wall.

I hate this school so much. I only go because I know hard my parents are working for me to be here. Rejecting the oppotunity would be like spitting their years of hard work back at them, and that is something I would never do to my parents.

I envy Chris sometimes. He's so intelligent and generally just brilliant at everything. Anything I can do he can do a million times better. It's tough to live in his shadow. If he wasn't my family, or if I didn't know what he's been through over the past few years, I might loathe him.

But I know that all that he knows, all that he can do doesn't just happen like magic. He works for it. Any chance he gets he's finding out about ways to improve himself. Ways to learn more. Be more. Do more.

That's when I envy him the most. The fact that he's finding ways to improve on perfection, whereas I can't even find a way to improve on what little skill I have.

 

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