Julius woke to an empty room. He almost leaped up and to shake the bed as he usually did when he was up before Loitus. But the remembrance of the yesterday’s events came flooding back to him and he felt hot tears of anger trickle onto the pillow.
“This is all HBI’s fault,” he said to himself. He made a fist as if to punch some invisible foe. He rolled out of bed reluctantly, his feet cold on the floor despite the fluff around his ankles. If only they’d gotten some kind of rug.
He flipped on the light and threw on his work bottoms. They had always been a bit too small for him, but that was the required uniform. Sometimes he thought they looked a bit too much like underpants, but it wasn’t as if no one else had to suffer. Everyone else wore the same thing, so it was no sense worrying about how he looked. At least the top was a bit warmer.
An alarm jerked him out of his musings. He heard the annoyed voices of those not yet awake peering out of their doorways. A collection of police and armed guards raced by as Julius watched.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Perim asked, peeking out from her doorway. Julius could see Kelonus’ nose just behind her.
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “Let me get dressed and we can go look. It’s still a few hours before shifts begin.”
Perim nodded and closed the door. A few moments later, Julius heard a knock on his door.
They get ready fast, he mused, brushing his mane a bit. He checked the mirror to make sure his jowls were clean. He normally shaved them - work required a clean-shaven look - but today they weren’t bad, so he deigned to leave them alone.
“Come on slowpoke!” he heard Perim’s voice outside the door.
“Relax, Perr, he’s probably still half naked,” he heard Kelonus protest.
“Wait, you think so?”
“Don’t open the door!”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Julius chuckled. He slung his bag over one shoulder, making sure his keys, wallet, and medication. The two siblings stood just a few feet from the door when he opened it. “Just because you’re fifteen now doesn’t mean you can daydream about me, Perim.”
Kelonus gave her a two-fingered thwack on the head. Despite the fact that he was younger, he was always keeping her in line.
“Ouch!” she protested, melodramatically rubbing her head.
“Let’s get going,” Julius said. He peered down the hall and it seemed more Apis were making their way toward the lower-west ward’s hall.
“Did you bring your inhaler?” Perim asked as he closed and locked the door.
“Yes, I have it this time,” Julius assured her. “I don’t want aracine mites to eat my insides,” he joked.
“I didn’t even get brekkers yet,” Perim whined, spotting one Apis eating a piece of toast as they walked.
“I’ll get you something on the way home,” Kelonus sighed.
“Hey, let me do it this time,” Julius suggested. “I know the best place for honey buns.”
The hall was filled once again to the maximum. It seemed, despite how early it was, everyone in Lower-West was able to make it. The alarm was quieted, but the crowd was not. A policeman stood on the stage trying to quiet everyone down. After many failed attempts, he finally resorted to putting the microphone right in front of a speaker to cause the loudest feedback Julius had ever experienced.
“I said quiet!” he demanded.
After a few complaints, the room went silent.
“The culprit of the crime has escaped,” the policeman stated. “Anyone that has any information on the whereabouts of Loitus Revenian Parsnip, please contact the police immediately.”
A collective gasp rose up from everyone except Julius. He glared at the policeman on stage.
“Withholding any information can be considered aiding a fugitive,” the policeman added, almost as if he was speaking directly at Julius.
Perim and Kelonus blinked, looking at Julius, who was simp-ly glaring at the policeman.
“Do you think he’s talking to Jules?” Perim asked quietly.
“Don’t be stupid,” Kelonus replied. “How could he know anything?”
“Let’s get out of here,” Julius said, trying to keep his temper under control.
As the trio made their way out of the hall, they were stopped by a pair of guards brandishing spears.
“Where do you think you’re going?” one asked, pointing her weapon right at Julius. “The presentation’s not over.”
“We have to get ready for work,” Julius stated with a frown.
“Fine,” the guard said, stepping back. Though she didn’t seem to convinced. Julius grabbed Perim’s wrist and jerked her away. She’d been standing, staring at the guards. If she’d not been moved, she would have stood there all day.
“What’s wrong?” she aksed.
“I can’t stand to listen to that drivel,” Julius growled, releasing Perim’s arm.
“What do you mean?”
“They are obviously framing her,” Julius spat.
The trio passed one of the many television screens built into the waxen walls of Hive City. Julius was about to walk right past when Perim grabbed one of his arms.
“Jules, look,” she said, pointing to the lady news anchor on the screen.
“…escaped today, and any information leading to her whereabouts will be rewarded. Loitus Parsnip is believed the be armed and dangerous and have a deep connection to the terrorist group known as the Wings.”
“That’s why,” Kelonus said with a frown. “I can’t believe they would do this.”
“I can,” Julius growled. “It’s another Purge. They’re going to hunt down everyone with even the slightest connection to Wings. Loi’s dad was the only one in her family. Chances are, her mom has gone into hiding. Otherwise, she would be all over the news as well.”
“But wehy would they pin her with a crime like stealing the Queen’s Jewel?” Perim asked.
“That I don’t know,” Julius said with a frown, “unless she’s part of something bigger.”
“Bigger? What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure, but I sure as Melifera is the great Goddess, I am going to find out.”
“Where are we going?” Perim asked.
Realizing they were still following him, Julius turned and looked at the pair of them, their eyes concerned, but curious. He realized he probably shouldn’t get them involved in what he was about to do.
“Both of you go back to your dorm. Don’t worry about what happened.”
“But we want to help Loi,” Kelonus insisted.
“Just go back to the dorm,” Julius said. “I’ll update you on what happens. The last thing you guys need is to get involved in this.”
Reluctantly, the siblings turned to make their way back home, but Perim paused.
“Please make sure Loi is going to be pardoned,” she said.
“I’ll make sure,” Julius replied.
The closest Wings base was not easy to find, and that was for a good reason. Though it wasn’t necessarily a secret organization, per se, it was a very wary organization. The last thing they needed was to be found by the local authorities and ousted, causing either a total surrender, or an escape and a need to find a new place to work from. It took Julius at least fourty-five minutes to locate someone that may know where it was, and he couldn’t just go around and ask if anyone knew.
Supporters of the Wings would have cleverly disguised symbols of a silhouetted Apis head with two of their wings on either side on display. Those that were actually looking for the symbols would be able to see them right away, but to anyone not in-the-know would not even notice them, so think it a cute accident.
One such symbol was on display at a local bakery – the one that Julius had promised to take Perim And Kelonus to. He felt silly having not noticing it before, but now that he was looking, it was easy to see.
The bell rang softly against the door as he pushed it open. The baker looked up and greeted him, asking Julius if he’d like to try one of the new honey buns. The young Apis shook his head.
“No, I’m here for a different reason. Do you know where I can find the Wings?”
The baker’s eyes widened in fear. “What are you talking about?” he said, trying to sound innocent.
“I know there’s a base around here. I need to speak with them,” Julius insisted.
“You must be new around here or something, because I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t play innocent,” Julius said with an annoyed frown. “I saw the symbol on your window.”
“How do I know you aren’t with the HBI?”
Julius frowned. “I hardly think someone trying to prove the innocence of an escaped convict would be associated with that group.”
The baker’s eyes widened, but only slightly. Looking around to check if anyone was within earshot, the baker leaned forward.
“You don’t just go around asking for the Wings,” his hissed angrily. “If you were smart, you’d learn the Greeting.”
“Well, I don’t know it, and I need to see them.”
“Alright, quiet down,” the baker hissed. “The last thing I need is some unwanted attention. I just opened this place.” He motioned for Julius to follow him to the back room where they could talk more privately. He unrolled a map that seemed to be hand drawn and a bit messy, but useable.
“The base is right about here,” he said, pointing to storefront a few block over. “You have to find the doorbell and ring it four times, three short and one long. If you don’t do it right, no one will even answer.” The baker looked at Julius up and down as if sizing him up. “Your friend…”
“Yes, Loitus Parsnip,” Julius said with a nod.
“So why would you risk your own life to find an illegal organization?”
“Because they helped her escape, and I have a feeling they’re working to prove her innocence as well. “She’s only in trouble because of her father. She had nothing to do with anything that happened.”
“Next time you need to talk to me about this, ask about the tulip honey you ordered,” the baker said, rolling up the map.
“But I didn’t order any-“
“Don’t make me slap you,” the baker growled.