"Dang, this computer is ancient, man! And I thought PC was bad..." Rickie muttered, inspecting the old Toshiba. This computer had no doubt existed around the Nineteenth or Twentieth Century, where Mokan and Dialup were the fastest computers ever...
'Like the Caveman years,' Rickie mused to himself. 'No doubt my ancestors used these back when they rode dinosaurs to school... that would definitely explain my barbaric table manners...'
"Yeah, I know. It's not the best thing there is, but it was the only one I could find that was actually in running shape. It's definitely no Mac or iPad, sorry bud." Jax explained. They were each sitting in a chair, working on the ancient desktop computer that Jax had placed on a work table in the middle of the room.
The Tech Room was the place where both of them liked to hang out. There were two rooms adjacent to each other. One of them was the security room, also known as the control room, where Jax had security computers set up. One of them was connected to motion-detecting sensors that were stationed on the outside perimeter of the mall, including the entrances and back entrances. There would be an audible pinging sound every time someone would walk past one of the sensors, notifying whoever was manning the security footage station. Another computer showed footage of hidden cameras placed at every entrance to the mall as well. Jax controlled all of it.
Other tech equipment whirred behind them, which Rickie always found comforting; it was definitely a lot better than the usual eerie silence that always lingered outside.
Jax and Rickie began picking apart the old computer, examining every part and discarding the ones that were damaged beyond repair, replacing them with newer and more high-tech parts. They were personally handmade by Jax himself, which Rickie found was impressive. He and Jax were pretty close; Jax had similar humorous traits as Rickie, was an excellent mechanic a bit like Rickie, and a bit more devilishly handsome - Rickie was seen more of as a nerd, whereas Jax was more of a Bad Boy. Plus, Jax was the only guy Rickie really knew and he could have a good, relaxing conversation with, about anything. No Jane or Jackie nagging him or hurling insults; he could just be himself. It was quite refreshing. It was relaxing for Rickie to just have a regular guy conversation just as guys.
"Almost got it... There." Jax announced as he placed the back cover back onto the back of the computer monitor, screwing it shut. With the flip of a switch, Jax turned on the computer's console drive, which sat beside the computer terminal. Rickie crossed his fingers while Jax held his breath, hoping it would work and the computer would turn on.
Miraculously, the computer magically worked, turning on. 'Thank the Greek gods this worked!' Rickie thought in relief. Zeus seemed to be in his favor today.
Rickie twiddled his thumbs as he waited for the computer to boot up, wondering how long this would take.
"I sure don't miss Dialup." Rickie muttered, debating on whether or not committing suicide would be faster than waiting for the stupid Dialup computer to load. "Is there any way to make it power up faster?" Rickie wondered, impatience clear in his voice.
"Yeah, once it's up and running I'll have to download my ultra high-tech software to make it run faster. This think is so old, I don't think I'll be able to really use it for hacking into other security systems. Though, I am working on a special high-tech computer system to do just that. It will be able to hack into almost anything and leave absolutely no trace." he said proudly.
Jax jabbed a finger over his shoulder, indicating one lab table behind him. On one side of the room was a half-finished project that accommodated most of the desk lining the whole section of the wall on that side of the room. There were spare computer parts and other gadgets of Jax's that cluttered the whole desk, along with other computer consoles as well.
"Why is everything always so 'high-tech' with you?" Rickie wondered a bit sarcastically, shaking his head in amazement at all the cool equipment around him.
"High-tech is the next best thing, my friend. Some day, once this war is over and the NGO is gone, I want to run my own big technology industry. Just like Tony Stark from Iron Man." Jax grinned.
"If we even live to see that day," Rickie walked over and examined Jax's handiwork, uttering a low whistle. "I'm impressed, though. Not bad, man! So you're constructing that from scratch? That's crazy!"
Jax nodded, smug. "Yep. I may not be an expert at this as you are, but I'm not doing too bad a job. Making this from scratch takes forever, though."
Rickie tried not to show how embarrassed he was at the compliment. "Oh, stop it. You flatter me too much!"
Jax gave him a wicked grin. "It's gonna be a masterpiece when I'm done with it. If you could help me with it, that would be great."
Rickie readily agreed. He was secretly glad Jax was asking for his help, but he couldn't help feel a little wary. For all he knew, Jax could be playing him or something. "So what are you going to call it, brand-wise?"
Jax beamed proudly, his chest puffing up. "How does this sound: 'The Jacksonian 3000...' or J3 for short? And, yes, I'm using the spelling of my old name." He added before Rickie could point it out.
Rickie nodded, flipping Jax's idea over and over in his mind. He liked the sound of the name. "It has a nice ring to it." He said.
Jackson was indeed Jax's original name, the name he'd been born with. When the war against the NGO started up, and he was on his own, Jax decided to change his name to "something cooler," he had said. He preferred the name 'Jax' over 'Jack' any day.. "Too original," Jax had claimed.
"Besides," Jax went on, "It looked better than 'Jaxon' spelled out. Reminded me too much of 'Saxon.'" said Jax with a shudder. What kind of problem he had with 'Saxon,' Rickie had no clue, but he didn't push it.
"Or saxophone." Rickie added absent-mindedly. The word just popped into his mind and he had no idea why he'd said it aloud - he never did.
Jax scoffed. "Yeah, sure." He smirked, shaking his head at his friend's lack of filter of a mouth.
Rickie shrugged. "Better than 'Jack,' which is too close to my sister's name... And speaking of Jackie..." Rickie went on. "You know she has a crush on you, right? I mean, it's so obvious, what with the way she drools over you when you're not looking."
Jax, totally alarmed by the sudden change of direction the conversation had taken, looked at him with a lost expression. "What? Where did that come from?"
Rickie shrugged again. "Well, she does!" he pointed out.
"Uh-huh..." Jax's attention went back to the ancient computer with the roll of his eyes. He went ahead and created a new login and started a new program. Once again, it began loading at its usual snail-like pace, perhaps going even more slowly.
"No, I'm being dead serious!" Rickie insisted. "She practically swoons every time you're around or even mentioned. I just thought I'd give you a heads up, dude. Personally, it makes me sick, and I just want to slap her in the head to knock her back to her senses - but, alas, she's a blonde, so there's no help for her." He sighed.
Jax just laughed at his delusional friend, shaking his head. "Sure, whatever dude. Thanks for the warning, Rick."
He definitely didn't sound very thankful to Rickie, but he decided to just drop the subject. It wasn't that important anyways.
After a few long, very painful minutes, the screen finally loaded. Jax started updating and upgrading the system to move a little faster, adding internet access and storage. Jax was moving through the upgrading process a little too fast for Rickie to catch up, so he just stopped watching before his headache increased.
Then, a notice window popped up onto the middle of the screen, causing Jax to pause in his rapid typing.
A complete database storage component is needed in order for this program to continue updating further.
Jax cursed under his breath, looking stumped. "I don't have any spare data-enabling disks or computer chips for the database. Repairing this mangy old piece of Ancient Junk was for nothing!" He grumbled, leaning back in his chair in defeat.
Rickie's first thought after Jax's little announcement was that he liked the new name of the computer program. His second thought, however, was of that Dell computer-processing chip in his pocket that he'd salvaged from the giant super computer console back at the bomb factory, before Bailee had burned it down.
"Wait, will this work?" he wondered, holding up the computer chip for his genius friend to see.
Jax's piercing yellow-green eyes widened as he saw the little chip. "Where'd you get that?"
Rickie explained everything while Jax took the chip out of Rickie's hand and examined it inch by inch, as if it were some sort of prized gem. When Rickie finished, he stared at Jax and waited. For what? He didn't know. 'Maybe some diagnosis?' Rickie was randomly grasping at straws here.
When Jax finally spoke, it was brooding. "Hmmm... Well, let's find out what this puppy can do for ourselves."
Popping off the back of the computer, Jax dug around inside, trying to find a place to insert the chip. Rickie thought it was a miracle the computer didn't shut down in the process. 'Maybe this piece of junk is more durable than it looks...' Rickie mused to himself; he noticed he did that a lot...
Finally, Jax successfully placed the Dell chip in with the database, closed up the back again, and got started going through it's files.
What they discovered blew them away.
Bailee, Jackie, and I helped Jane clean the small, puny excuse Jane and Ella called a room the two girls shared together, while Ella - being the lazy bum she was - snoozed on her cot in the corner of the room on her side. Jackie and I shared the room next door. Bailee lived further down the hall with someone else. Jane and Ella's room hadn't been looking too good, so I ordered everyone to help clean it up. Jane had automatically blamed Bailee for making most of the mess. Why? I had no clue, since Bailee didn't even sleep in the room. Jane just liked to blame everyone else for her messes.
"Hey now, you contributed to this ness, too, ya know? Don't go pointing fingers at me!" Bailee warned.
"Nag, nag," Jane rattled in her little kid 'sing-song' voice.
"Watch it, girl." Bailee growled menacingly.
"Alright, enough! Both of you. Quit arguing and get cleaning." I barked out the order, trying to get things moving along.
We all slept on scavenged mattresses and cots with holey bed sheets as makeshift covers to keep warm with when it got cold at night. You may think it was bad, but it was definitely better than nothing. At least we had shelter and safety away from the evil NGO... We made do with what we had. No complaining here!
After much sweeping, dusting, and more sweeping, the room looked way better than it had before. We swept out all the dust, dirt, and trash off the floor and into trash bags. Jackie helped Jane fold hers and Ella's clothes and place them back in neat piles on their own respective sides of the room.
It was too bad we didn't have any Lysol or an air-freshening can to spray the room with. The NGO had burned those, too, along with any books that had to do with anything the NGO didn't approve of, including perfume, certain cars, cell phones, and electronics alike. Just thinking about all the things the NGO had banned was making my blood boil. I wanted so bad to get back at them, but I wasn't stupid. I knew we'd have to be faster and stronger than them, and not fall into the evil pit of revenge. We were better than that -- then them... We had to be in order to win.
"So what's the next step? What are we gonna do about the NGO?" Bailee wondered, breaking me out of my thoughts. "I want some action!"
"I don't have the slightest clue. Whatever Sal plans next, I guess." I replied.
"Hey Jackie, I heard you kicked some butt back in the factory against a burly security guy," Jane piped up. "Way to go!"
She high-fived Jackie, who blushed and grinned at the compliment. "Thanks. I was pretty good, wasn't I?"
I rolled my eyes and chuckled. "Don't press your luck." I told her.
"Yeah, leave the cockiness to me!" Bailee smirked.
"You have too much cockiness." I pointed out.
"Quite debating who's the cockiest and shut up so I can sleep!" said a groggy Ella, sleeping in the small corner of the room.
Jackie, Jane, Bailee and I exchanged glances. We'd sort of forgotten she was even in the room.
"Yes, ma'am," mocked Bailee, a smug smile crossing her lips.
Suddenly, Rickie busted into the room, breathless and looking haggard. "Guys -- you have to see this!"
We all practically jumped out of our skins in surprise. "Do you ever knock?" Bailee growled at him. She sure liked to growl a lot, especially at Jane and Rickie.
I frowned at him. "What's up, Rick?"
He waved at us frantically. "Just follow me, I'll show you!" He urged.
Ella got up from her cot, grumbling. "Can't anyone get some sleep around here?" She looked pissed.
We ran after Rickie as he led us down below to the Tech Room. There, Jax was engrossed in the screen of some old computer I had never seen before. It looked like something that had existed back in the 1990's.
"What did you guys find?" I asked. My friends and I gathered around Jax and Rickie at the old digital computer. We were all eager to find out what the boys had found.
Rickie nodded at Jax. "Show them the files."
With one click of the mouse, millions of documents opened all at once, filling up the screen. There were stretches of plans, blueprints, documents, files and other things that I couldn't fully see as they blinked onto the screen really fast.
With another click, another document marked Confidential appeared on the screen. Along side it was a graphical picture of some huge weapon.
"What the heck is that?" Bailee asked in total awe. "What in the world did you guys get into?"
It was Jax who spoke up first, explaining everything; from where Rickie got the computer chip to how, when they loaded it into the computer's database, they discovered the NGO's plans.
Jane broke up the tense atmosphere with a low whistle. "So what's with the big gun?" She said, asking the question that was on everyone's mind.
"Technically, this is some sort of rocket launcher. But yes, something like that." Jax corrected.
"Kinda like a glorified glitter gun." Rickie added.
Jane gave him a weirded-out expression. "Whatever." She rolled her eyes.
"Okay, but what does it do? Does it describe its function, or what the NGO wants to use it for anywhere in the attached document?" I asked, pushing on forward to more important matters.
Another click witht the mouse, and a document popped up onto the screen. "Yes, but all it says is what it's supposed to do and lists all the parts. Nowhere does it say what the NGO particularly wants to use it for." Jax replied.
"No doubt we could find out." Jackie suggested, which was a great idea.. She may be a blonde, but my best friend could be a freaking genius when she wanted to be.
Suddenly, Jax cursed aloud about something, averting our attention on him. We all leaned in to see what his cursing was all about.
"I can't see the rest of the document. There's a safety firewall in my way." Jax answered, typing furiously away on the keyboard.
After a couple attempts to try to get around it, Jax banged his fists on the table in frustration. "Dang it! Stupid firewall. This thing is harder to crack than I thought..."
Rickie sighed, grabbing the keyboard from Jax's hands. "Here, give me the dang keyboard. Let me show you how the pros do it." he grumbled, typing rapidly on the keys. In seconds, Rickie was through the firewall and the screen was opened back to the document, as if that little incident never happened. I could see that Jax was purely jealous of Rickie's little magic trick.
Rickie went on, as if Jax wasn't shooting daggers at him. "It says it's able to destroy a specific target or area with amazing power and accuracy. But it uses some foreign substance of "ammo" unknown to human kind. Weird..." He leaned closer to the screen, squinting at the words written in the document.
"What kind of ammo?" I wondered. No matter how foreign it was, I had to know. We all had to know what we were up against.
Rickie squinted even harder. "Some sort of weird crystal or gem... like some weird mystical stuff." he described with a shrug.
"Well, that's kinda scary." Jackie huffed. "This mystical weapon sounds pretty dangerous."
I nodded, totally agreeing with her. "We need to stop them from making it, if not any. Does it say where this crystal 'ammo' stuff is located?"
Rickie scanned through the whole document. "Nope. All it has is a blackened-out stripe over its location."
"Search the whole database to try and find some clue -- anything that tells us where it's located. Let me know immediately when you do." I ordered.
Rickie and Jax nodded. "On it!" they said in unison.
I sighed, tugging at the ends of my long hair. Now that I thought about it, I desperately needed a haircut. Whenever it got this long, I'd normally chop it off with some pair of random scissors I could find. I wasn't a hair styler expert, that's for sure. I never cared about what I looked like much, and I never wore makeup. That too the NGO had taken.
My red hair was down at the moment. It normally hung straight down, a little past my shoulders, wavy in some places. My bangs were so long that they hung over my eyes, and I was constantly brushing them back. They were starting to part off to the right when I did that, so I needed to cut them again soon.
Jackie turned to me with a haunting look in her blue-green eyes. "What are we gonna do? Who knows, we might be bombed next!" She fretted.
I was sorta with her on that. "I know, Jackie, I know. I don't know what's going to happen. I wish I did."
"We'll find out a way," Blake spoke up for the first time. I turned around to see him standing in the doorway, looking at me. I hadn't even heard him come in. Who knew how long he had been standing there? "I believe we will." He continued in that calm demeanor of his.
I just bit my lip. I wasn't so sure about that...
I began to pace back and forth for a while, think hard about our predicament. I could see all the worry and fear clearly in their eyes. This was a life or death matter.. any one of us could die some time in the near future. I thought back to what happened to Kyle, my parents, and all the innocent people brutally murdered by the NGO and their cruel forces. If it wasn't for them, my friends and I wouldn't be here, in this horrible predicament, and my parents would still be alive.
I took a deep breath. "Guys, meeting. Up where we practiced our fighting moves a week ago. Now."
Once everyone had gathered around the room we'd practiced fighting, I began my pep-talk. I wasn't much of a peppy leader, nor was I very good at keeping peoples hopes up and being optimistic all the time, but I had to do this. We needed to be strong.
"Guys, I know this thing with the NGO is starting to get out of hand, but we need to stay focused. The road ahead is going to be a long and hard one, filled with horror, hardship, and loss, but we've gotta stick together and be strong. I mean, come on... all kidding aside, get yourselves together! Quite being babies and man up." I glanced at Rickie for a second, then shifted my gaze to all of them in turn.
Rickie, noticing the look I had given him, looked at me in astonishment. I wasn't sure if there was humor there or not. "What?! Why did you look at me when you said that?"
Jane giggled with glee. "'Cause you're just not manly enough, Rickster!"
"Anyways, let's keep our heads in the game. It would be a shame if I lost any of you guys, even though you all annoy the hell outta me."
"Aw, thanks sis!" Jackie cooed sarcastically.
"What, us?! You must be mistaken; we're little angels!" Rickie grinned.
I raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah, I'm quite convinced of that..."
"Yep, she loves us!" Jackie confirmed with a girly laugh.
"Okay guys, just don't be scared. If the NGO ends up taking us down, we go down fighting." I added, trying to get back ontrack with my little pep talk.
"Yes, Boss." Rickie saluted.
Before I could scold him and tell him off, Blake spoke up, raising his hand halfway up in the air. "Can I say something?" He asked, looking at me. I nodded, taking a step back. Might as well see what he had to say.
"I know what the NGO are capable of. I've seen it. Those guards we faced before aren't even close to the kind of people I've seen.. I was one of them. We need to get better at fighting so we don't get our butts kicked. I know I'm new here, but I haven't seen any group of people as close as you guys are. Ever. There's so much unity in this group, it's really amazing, and I see the instincts that drive you. It makes me proud to be a member of the Rebelz." Blake stepped up, taking my place in the front of the group, looking around at all of us.
Rickie coughed at the word "unity."
"Uh, unity?" Bailee laughed. "Yeah right! Have you seen us?"
A small smile appeared on Blake's face at that. "Yeah, well... when you guys aren't at each other's throats, you guys are a force to be reckoned with. You guys are so close.. I've never seen anything like it. You're so lucky to have one another."
I nodded, trying hard not to roll my eyes. "Yes, we see that. What are you trying to get at?" I pressed.
Blake cleared his throat, composing himself. "Anyways, as Roxy said, we need to stick together, have good teamwork, and we might just be able to pull this off. All I can say is, you can trust me to get you there. I promise that I will never betray you guys, no matter what." He said with absolute sincerity and conviction. I believed him, and felt that I could trust him with my life, which was weird; I've never felt like that for any newcomer before. This was crazy.
"Wow. I couldn't have said it better myself," I was totally surprised by this guy's utter devotion to the cause. This was nice to have.
I stepped forward back to myself while Blake respectfully stepped back to the side. I turned to face Rickie and Jax. "Alright you two, get back to work and find me that location."
And then, to my absolute horror and everyone else's amusement, both of the pests saluted in a stiff, military fashion, AND in unison, to me. "Yes, ma'am!" they drilled in unison, turning around at exactly the same time and marched off with high knees.
I bowed my head in embarrassment, slapping my palm to my forehead as everyone else burst out laughing hysterically. I was going to murder them!
After that, everyone split. Jackie was one of the last ones to leave, first apologizing to me about her twin's behavior - 'Boys will always be boys, no matter what...' - until it was just Blake and I left.
He smiled at me in encouragement. "You made a good speech back there."
"Uh, thanks... but yours was way better. They need to be assured every one in a while. But I'm no good at that. I suck at pep talks, to be honest." I said rather bluntly.
Blake chuckled at that, and it sent a spike of warmth down my stomach. "It's okay. Leave the 'pep-talking' to me then."
I nodded, my lips twitching into some form of a small smile. "Awesome. Then you just worry about that while I'll do my job of keeping them in line. Thanks again for helping me out. It's sort of a relief to finally have someone to work with for a change... to me, it's always seemed that everything is always resting on my shoulders all the time, which sucks majorly. Makes me glad that you decided to join us." I admitted, my face burning.
Thankfully, Blake didn't seem to notice anything. "No problem. Glad I could help."
A few hours later, the boys had found the location of the crystal stuff.
"A cave mining facility," Rickie answered, pointing to a spot on the monitor screen; he'd Googled it. It was amazing how Google still worked!
"Great. Where is that at?" I asked, very glad we were making some progress.
"Hiding inside a mountain in Wyoming." Jax answered.
I turned to Blake who was bent over the computer next to me, realization lighting up his face. "I remember you telling me that you'd grown up in Wyoming. And it looks like I'm right from the look on your face. So you know where it is?" I asked him.
Blake's Adam's apple bobbed as he gulped, gazing at the screen with a haunting look in his midnight blue eyes. "Yes, I have. It used to be a major mining place back in the 1840's, but it's been vacant for forever since then." he replied.
I stared back at the computer screen, deep in thought. "Well, obviously it's still being used. The NGO probably have been keeping it quiet for many years. We need to go tell Sal about our findings."
We had already informed Sal of our little accidental discovery of all the classified NGO documents earlier, so he already knew of this destructive weapon. Rickie, Jax, Bailee, Blake and I were going to go to him now with our findings and - hopefully - a plan.
Sal paced back and forth as he contemplated what we'd just told him, wearing down the carpet at his feet as he passed incessantly across it. We were in the empty conference room so we could discuss this privately. Trina stood with us as well. She'd listened with Sal as we told our story and had looked equally troubled as her boyfriend was at the end of it.
"This isn't good." Trina said, her soft brown eyes filled with worry at the horrible news.
"This definitely isn't good, no matter how much we look at it." Sal agreed, still pacing. His face was filled with worried lines, burdened with this new-found discovery. "We have to act immediately, before it's too late." He finally decided. His pacing came to an abrupt halt as he went back to Trina's side and faced us.
"Tell us when, Sir." Blake said.
Sal took a deep breath. "Blake, I want you and Roxy to start gathering your forces." He said, looking at both of us without even blinking. "I think I have a plan."