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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3. Part One (It Begins)- Chapter Three

(Sarah)

 

The swing chains rattle and squeak as I rock back and forth, switching from my heels to my toes. The air is cool and crisp, just cold enough to be uncomfortable, but not too cold for me to be shivering. The breeze blows delicately through the leaves of the trees,making them rustle comfortingly. Everything seems so peaceful...

So why do I feel so on edge?

"I don't know if this is such a good idea, Megan". I breathe finally, twisting the swing chains so I can look at her directly.

She doesn't look back though. Her eyes are fixed, staring out towards the tall metal gates which mark the park entrance.

"What do you mean?" She asks in reply.

I look at my converse which are worn and muddy. Mum had bought me a brand new pair for my birthday, but I haven't worn them. No. Jasper got me these ones and so I'm going to wear them until they turn to dust.

Birds twitter above my head. Their conversation sounds pleasant enough, and frankly I'd much rather listen to them instead of having to explain why I'm so worried all of a sudden.

"I dunno, Megan. It's just...with all the stuff that's been going on lately..."

For the first time since we arrived, Megan takes her eyes away from the gate to look at me.

"Like what?"

I hesitate for a second.

If I can't tell her...is there anyone I can tell?

What if she laughs at me though?

Pull yourself together, Sarah.

"I think...I think people are disappearing..."

Megan regards me for a moment, and I can see in her eyes that she's trying to figure out whether I'm joking or not.

She isn't reading my mind though. I'd know if she was. We've worked out little tricks so that I know when she's doing it. Sort of like putting a lock on a diary.

"Disappearing?"

"Yeah. Dad said that the Dove shut down about two weeks ago for refurbishment and then never re-opened".

Megan tilts her head to one side sympathetically and shrugs, before turning her attention back to the gate.

"That happens, Sarah. Maybe they went bankrupt? Maybe the owner sold it. I dunno. But it's really unlikely that he disappeared".

I scuff the bumpers of my shoes against the bark-covered ground.

"Are you sure about this? About talking to him..." I start to say.

"Ofcourse I am", She gasps, cutting me off mid-sentence "Sarah, think about it. He's like us. He's different. If there's him, there could be more. There could be hundreds, maybe even thousands of people like us!"

"But..."

"But nothing, Sarah. I want to do this. If you don't, then you can just go back to school and pretend that you're not a freak like me".

That catches me off guard. I feel like I have a shard of glass lodged in my chest, only worse. I've never felt anything so painful before.

"You...you didn't tell him anything about us, did you?" She asks, quite suddenly.

"Ofcourse I didn't". I reply bluntly, not even bothering to look at her as I say it.

How could she ask me that?

After everything we've been through...

"Sorry...I had to ask". She sighs, eyes flickering to the ground for the briefest of seconds.

"You were right about something though..."

"Oh yeah? What?"

I smile and let out a small laugh.

"He is weird after all..."

"Who's weird?" A voice appears behind us, making me jump.

Chris walks around the swingset so he's standing infront of us, and leans against the metal fencing. Another boy, Ali I think his name is, stands beside him, regarding both myself and Megan with nothing short of disdain.

"What's he doing here?" Megan asks plainly, focusing her gaze on Ali.

Chris looks at Ali briefly, before looking back at us, eyeline cutting between me and Megan.

"He followed me when I ducked out of the fence. Wouldn't go back".

"Christian...does he know?" I find myself asking without really meaning to.

But it isn't Christian that answers.

"Know what?" Ali says, looking at Christian with the most confused expression I've ever seen.

(Alistair)

 

"Know what?" I repeat, tugging on Chris' school jumper so he looks me in the eye. He shakes his head and turns back to the two girls.

"Can I tell him?" He asks the one with auburn hair; Megan, I think her name is. She pauses for a minute, seeming to not even breathe. She just sits there, entirely motionless, before looking at me with an entirely blank expression.

"Fine. He can know. But we make a deal. Anything that is seen or heard today does not leave this park. Ok?"

Chris nods and I follow his lead. Finally the girl next to Megan nods.

"Ok. Who's first then?" Chris starts to say.

"I'll go first..." Megan murmurs.

What does she mean 'Go first'?

"I mean this". She replies.

She didn't speak though.

She didn't speak.

What the hell?! How's she doing that?

"It's called telepathy, Darling". She replies, again without moving her lips.

"Holy shit..." I breathe, making Megan laugh joyfully.

"Who's next?" Megan asks, speaking out loud this time.

Where'd the other girl go?

Something lands on my shoulders, pushing me to the ground. I look up and see the blonde girl staring down at me with a huge grin spreading from ear to ear. I scramble away from her and comv my hands through my hair, before getting to my feet.

"Nice one, Sarah". Megan laughs, giving her friend a highfive as she collapses back into the embrace of the swing.

Nice one?!

That scared the hell out of me!

If this is some kind of twisted joke...

Suddenly my body feels awash with a warm, fuzzy feeling which works it's way across my muscles, relaxing me. I feel happy, content. The warmth is soon replaced by a boiling anger, that bubbles up from my stomach and explodes into my veins. I feel hatred. Envy. Loathing. Malice.

My fists clench and I feel a yearning to scream with anger at the world.

Then it's gone. It's gone and I'm left with this emptiness. This all-consuming emptiness which drains me of everything I've ever cared about or thought of caring about. It's as if the World could fall down around me and I wouldn't care because I have nothing left that I could possibly live for.

"What's happening to me..." I whimper as the emptiness overpowers me and I sink to my knees out of desperation. I gaze up at my brother, trying to find some explanation, but all I can see is him staring back down at me, eyes glued to me with an intense concentration that I've never seen on him before. A concentration which seems to imbed itself in my brain, in my heart. In my soul.

"Make it stop, please..." I breathe. Christian nods and retracts his gaze, and instantly I feel like myself again. I feel the strength return to my body and I pull myself to my feet, using the fencing for support.

"How did you do that? What was that?" Megan asks, staring at Chris, awestruck.

"I...I control people's emotions". He replies quietly, smiling sheepishly.

"I felt something though, when you were doing that. I felt weaker, so weak that I couldn't hear what was going on in Ali's head..."

She was in my head all this time? Great.

Chris shrugs.

"I've never met anyone else like me...with abilities I mean. I guess I might be able to mess with them? But I don't know".

"What about you, Alistair? Can you do anything?" Sarah asks.

The question catches me off-guard. Me? Do something like that?

I wouldn't have a hope in hell of being able to do what Chris can do. To screw with people like that?

No-one should be capable of that.

No-one.

And yet they are. He is.

My half-brother.

My flesh and blood.

I guess it's just another thing that he's better at.

Being extraordinary. Being someone.

"No...I...I can't do anything". I answer, my voice coming out as barely even a whisper. Sarah shoots me a reassuring half smile, which I pretend I don't see; my self-worth has been damaged enough for one day without accepting pity from one of the Upper classes.

"Ummm...guys..." Chris murmurs, tilting his head in the direction of an old oak tree, who's leaves are fast turning brown and dropping to the grass below. Behind the thick treetrunk, there is an outline. Face obscured by shadow, but unmistakably a man. His dark trenchcoat falls down to his knees, collar turned up to further hide his face; although the stetson which is pulled down low over his face does a good enough job by itself.

He's watching us...

"I think we better get going. Go to the old cinema. We'll be able to see if he's following us..."

"What if he saw?" Megan whispers, fear dancing on every single syllable.

"Let's just hope that he didn't".

(Megan)

 

I stay as closely to Sarah, linking my arm through hers so she can't walk away.

Can we trust them?

I thought we could. But then Chris showed us what he can do...

He used his brother to demonstrate.

His brother.

I can feel Sarah's eyes watching me and I turn to look at her, smiling and shrugging as sweetly as I can without feeling nauseous. She rolls her eyes in response.

"Read my mind, Megan". She whispers, leaning close to me so her breath tickles the inside of my ear.

I look at her for a second, then focus.

"Everything will be ok, trust me".

But you're the one that was worried, Sarah. You were the one wondering if it was a good idea.

"I know. But I've changed my mind, ok?"

But what about what Dad told me? How do we know we can trust them?

"Forget about what your Dad told you! Just relax".

My Dad is the C.E.O of one of the major national corporations. Like many of his associates, Dad saw an oppotunity to rebuild after the Earthquakes. He formed a computer company with his friend from his high school; Charles Winterbury. When they were approached by a big potential invester, Dad turned him down and said that he wanted to make the company go global. Charles went behind his back and signed a contract which took away Dad's control over the company. Sure, he rebuilt and has become one of the richest men in the new world. But he changed. I felt it. He doesn't trust anymore. Neither does Mum. Not since Tiff died. Tiffany was my big sister. She died when she was eighteen after a robber went too far. They caught him about a week later, trying to break into the Judge's house. But Dad isn't Dad anymore. Whenever I've asked him why he doesn't trust anyone, he just tells me that no-one is truly trustworthy.

I only trust Sarah because we've been friends for so long, and I trust her judgement.

Would it really be so bad to at least try and trust these people? These people who I barely know? Who grew up in an area I'm not allowed to go to?

Would it be so bad?

I guess I'll never know unless I try...

I take a moment to look at my surroundings. Most of the buildings are tired and worn, though there are some newer office blocks knitted into the landscape. Smoke rises into the grey skyline from the chimneys of the tightly packed housing, forming a cloudlike mass in the centre of town. Some rubble still lays scattered along the pavement; not all areas have been fully repaired yet because the damage was too severe and there wasn't enough funding. But Dad says we're getting there. The cinema stands in the middle of the grey; slightly tired but no less impressive than it was two years ago.

I turn to look back at the fading outline of the park and the academy as we head closer to the cinema. Off to one side, skulking by the side of a ford fiesta, is him.

The man in the trenchcoat.

Shit...

Sarah. It's him. We're being followed.

Sarah shoots me a look and then follows my gaze to the man by the car.

"Tell them". She murmurs, turning back to face the road ahead of us.

Guys, we're being followed. We need to get inside and figure out what we're going to do.

Without so much as a word, Christian and Alistair begin to walk faster in the direction of the cinema, almost jogging. Sarah pulls me along using our linked arms as a lead to move me faster.

Chris pulls open the double doors and we file inside as fast as we can.

The cinema lobby hasn't changed much since the last time I was here in October of 2013. Thin red carpet spattered with fading yellow circles; so old they look more cream than yellow. Screens showing film times still carry on, though the one on the very far left has a crack running along the majority of it. It's not an unclean place, it's just drained of all the joy it used to have. There's no-one here, aside from a frankly ancient-looking ticket attendant, who seems more focused on her ornathology booklet than us.

"Right, so how's this going to work exactly?" Alistair asks, cutting his gaze between the three of us.

"Sarah, do you reckon you can hide us all? We can meet at screen six when the coast is clear". Christian murmurs. Sarah regards him for a second with an unsure expression, before putting her hands in the middle of the space between us.

"Let's find out. Hold on". She smiles. I grab on to her forearm as Alistair and Christian take her hands. She closes her eyes and breathes deeply. I watch my arm and find myself gasping as the skin seems to fade away, leaving only an outline. I go to look at the others but find that I can't see them, even though I can feel Sarah's arm beneath my hand.

"Once we get into the main area, split up. I don't know how long this is going to last once you're away from me, so it's better to hide and make sure you're safe just incase".

Slowly, we begin to move towards the barrier, narrowly avoiding knocking into a dented bin. We clear the fabric separator, bypassing the attendant without so much as a close call. Only when we're standing in the glow of the food counter does Sarah switch it off again.

"Ok. So we're all clear on what we're doing? Meet by screen six when we're sure the coast is clear".

I hear the click of a door shutting, and turn round.

He's here.

"Go. Now". I breathe, before slipping away into the embrace of the winding cinema corridors.

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