Point of View:
Seated in the living room of Drake's "safehouse", I bob my leg uncomfortably. I give Asheik a warning glare for probably the 8th time, which she ignores. It's hard pretending I trust him, but I've got to do it if I'm to know if he's even worthy of it.
I glance tentatively at Drake, and am still surprised to see his nervousness. Well, maybe I shouldn't be. If I were being chased by feds for the 4th time, I'd probably be a little worried too.
Drake gets up from his seat and begins pacing the room.
Asheik clears her throat. "So, what now? So much has happened in the past 2 hours...what do we do now?" For the first time she actually meets my gaze, and I see that she is having trouble trusting Drake as well. Good.
Drake stops. "You're right. I'm sorry. I zoned out. It's just...I'm surprised he's not here. This is, like, his second home."
"What do you mean?" I finally burst out with probably not even 3% of the questions accumulated over the past hour. "Who have you been talking about all this time? You expect us to just follow around like stupid sheep, let you take us to whatever little slum you want to take us to, without a care or thought? We don't have anything to go off of right now. What the HECK is going on?"
At first Drake looks angry. "I could have just let you die, without a clue what was going on. Well, now you know, and you're stuck here, just like me. Nowhere is safe, and it never will be. Technically it never was." He sighs, and takes a deep breath. "So, we have to figure out what to do. I can't just find somewhere else to live like I did before, so we need other options. We need somewhere safe to stay."
"What about here?" Asheik asks.
"Here? This is only a pit stop. Get refreshed, restocked, gather our wits, then move on. Besides...I'm not the only one who knows about this place."
"Definitely not the only one."
Drake whirls around, already reaching for his "illegal weapons" bag. He turns right into the barrel of a gun.
A look of recognition spreads across his face, followed by an immediate relaxing of his shoulders and a strange personality shift.
He chuckles. "Well, hello, Jace. Been working out lately?"
"No, dumbo." The newcomer rolls his eyes sarcastically, and lowers his gun. "After your little stunt, I've gotten a bit...paranoid, if you will."
"I told you, it wasn't my fault."
"You were asking for it."
Drake reaches out to Jace for a handshake, but is ignored.
Jace flops down into one of the overstuffed chairs, uncocking his gun and toying with it absentmindedly.
"Why'd you bring others here? And girls, at that? You're a cruel, cruel man."
"I accidentally...ran into them. They kinda stumbled over the notice on my profile."
"Oooh. Bad. Girls, you ain't ever goin' back there."
Asheik opens her mouth to speak, but I'm faster. Is this him?"
"Yes. HIM, meet Asheik and Phaiara. Ash and Ray, meet Jace."
I give Jace the "I'm sizing you up" glare. He's a fairly tall, Asian guy with roughly cut, blackish-red hair that falls to about his ears. He has a light tan and a medium build, but his well-toned muscles make up for any chance of him being mistaken as the weak one. He wears a sleeveless, black t-shirt with an unbuttoned button-down over it. Jace meets my gaze for a couple seconds, returning my analytical and slightly judgemental stare. He shakes his head, and looks back over at Drake.
"I really don't even want to know what happened. But I am interested in what your next course of action is going to be."
"Uh, yeah, about that..." Drake shoves his hands into his pockets, awkwardly leaning against the wall. "I can't just put the girls back. They can't go home. By now, every communications monitor imaginable is aimed on House2. We've gotta find a place to stay."
"Uh, excuse me?" Asheik butts in. I turn to look at her, almost having forgotten she was here. The look on her face spells out one of her "stubborn" themed mood-swings.
"I'm still looking for a molecule of proof, here. I've got your word for it, and I've known you for less than two hours."
Drake and Jace exchange a look, and Drake speaks first.
"Honestly, we probably don't have any proof. Not physical proof, anyways. The only way we could prove it to you is to take you to Jace's computer. He--"
"Uh uh." Jace shakes his head violently. "Nope. Not happening. You ain't goin' anywhere near my place. I'm not checking every piece of tech you three own for bugs, and I'm not taking the chance of your junk leading the feds to my place. Why can't you just stay here?"
Asheik looks at Jace strangely, then clears her throat as if to speak, but is cut off.
"Well, if you think bugs are such a big deal, then I bet you the feds already know we're here. Meaning we need to go--now. If only I knew someone who was kind enough to let us stay the night at their place while we figure out how to live another day..." Drake strokes his chin and surveys the room, as if searching for some imaginary person to fit his description.
"Dask, Drake, don't pull that. I already told you, if you want to get mixed up in the feds business, then I'm not going to be a part of it."
"Well then be a coward!" Drake growls. "I've risked my life countless times, while all you've done is sit on your butt surrounded by your glorified equipment acting tough."
"Well, you're risking your life for something unworthy of it. We're only 16, 17 years old! Leave this for the Feds to figure out."
"The Feds are the ones causing all the problems and you know it! How can you even say that, you idiot?!"
"Well what do you want me to say? I can't just let you get killed."
"What do you mean, LET me? You--"
"QUIT IT!!!" Asheik screams. All of us turn to her in a stunned silence. She has her fists balled, anger seeming to spark from eye to eye.
"Both of you! This is frekking stupid. If this is your idea of safe, of solving problems, then I might as well transverse right into Ullun headquarters and turn myself in! This is too much. Get a grip people! If we can't get out soon, we're all dead!"
"What are you saying?" Drake asks, his voice softer.
"What Jace said. Bugs. It didn't even cross my mind until he said it. I got my Sky Rider as a prototype. It sends it's stat info to the factory it was made in. It's GOT to be bugged."
Drake gapes at her. Jace closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose frustratedly. I naturally move closer to Asheik, ready to protect my friend from whatever insult or put down may come next.
After an uncomfortably long pause, Jace gives in.
"Fine. My place. But I gotta debug everything first." He stands, and turns to me and Asheik. "You two, pick your best bag and leave the rest. I'm not debugging everything you own. Drake, start the Sky-Quad. We better get going. We have probably an hour tops."
Point of View:
A familiar tingle crawls up my fingers, complementing the pleasant tapping of the keyscreen. Arranging the multiple on-screen programs to meet my needs, I continue working studiously. It seems I have been debugging material chips (MC) for decades on end, even though it's only been half an hour. Asheik and Phaiara have way too many MCs.
The droning lull of my repetitive task pulls me into a slightly sedated state, before the gravity of our situation hits me full throttle, thrusting me back into reality. I sigh. This is exactly what I had been trying to avoid when I had refused to help Drake. And now trouble has found me; while dragging along two other unsuspecting victims.
Asheik is pacing nervously around the tattered floor rug, playing her hands nervously over everything in sight, crossing and uncrossing her arms, experimenting with every negative facial expression imaginable: being completely useless. Phaiara, on the other hand, is running around in every senseless direction, trying desperately to find ways to help, yet still having nothing to contribute to our getaway. Such a sad bunch. Quite typical, actually. You can't really expect the random girls Drake drags off the streets to be logical prodigies.
Drake. That dasked idiot. Some days, he acts like a 3-year-old. The next thing you know, he's twice his age. Sometimes, it seems he's the one looking out for me. We're too young for this. We shouldn't be forced into a refugee lifestyle when we've hardly had the chance to experience a normal one.
"Jace!!" Drake shouts.
My head snaps around, and Drake dashes into the room, a frightening look in his eyes.
"Fed Quads approaching! Probably 15. They just tried to hack the Residence's firewall and put us into Lockdown. We gotta go now!"
I turn back to my computer. It's only 75% done debugging.
"Girls, sorry, but you'll be losing some stuff. I'm not done, and we can't take anything that's bugged." I grab one of the travel bags and dump the debugged chips into it, with no regard as to whose is whose.
I put the computer into passcode shutdown. I've always been appreciative of my computer. Independent computers are the only ones that are not bugged and monitored, and those are only available to government officials and military scientists. This one was bought off of a black market tradesman who raided a personal transport caravan and nearly lost his life for it. Cost me quite a pretty penny. I'm sad to have to be leaving it, seeing as it will likely be trashed or stolen by feds before it is safe to return.
I dump the remaining bugged MCs into the trash compactor and set it to High. Hope there wasn't anything too important in there.
"Two miles!" Drake shouts from the next room over. I grab my own travel bag and sling it over my shoulder. I beckon for Asheik to follow me out of the computer room, and rush to the door for my Sky-Riding shoes, just in case.
We charge out the door, the sky already churning in a mix of pink, red, and violet. I spot several lights flickering in the distance, and know we don't have long.
Drake leads us to the garage, where our Sky-Quad is waiting. It's pretty brand new, seeing as we weren't even allowed to drive until 3 years ago. There are two types of Quads: the classic Quad and the Sky-Quad. The former rides on the ground, and still runs on solar panels. The latter--Sky-Quad--are quantum core powered, and run the skyways. Much more expensive, but very durable. Ours has been modified (by me) to have a quantum core and solar panels. Twice the speed, plus metal plating and almost everything-proof windows. Good thing, too, seeing as we're about to be pummeled. By lasers. I also find that the mix between yesterday's and tomorrow's tech that is our Quad is tacky yet amusing. Tomorrow's lets me do unheard of things, while yesterday's guarantees that we are bug free. It's so funny that the Feds don't even remember how to use technology that was common 50 years ago.
I open the door to the driver's seat, but Drake stops me.
"Don't kill her." I agree reluctantly, and allow him the wheel.
Point of View:
My heart is pounding so hard it hurts, and it seems the scream I'm holding back will strangle me at any second. Oh, God, this is worse than any nightmare I've ever had in my life. Phaiara's grip on my hand is painful, but still relieving. We climb into the Sky-Quad, and I'm surprised at how modern and advanced the interior seems. But no matter how many times I try to occupy my mind with details and reassurances, anxiety will always beat its way to the top, demanding spotlight.
The engine whirrs quietly to life, and we back out of the garage. We hover close to the ground while Drake checks the rearview mirror. The lights loom on the horizon, nearly twice as big as before. Drake activates the telepathic link with the Sky-Quad, and we rocket upwards into the skyway. We leap back and forth through the different lanes, attempting to shake our followers. I double over, my stomach leaping fearfully into my mouth. I taste acid, but bite my tongue and force myself to swallow. Phaiara places a hand on my back and brings her mouth to my ear. "We'll be fine! You need to get a hold on yourself or you'll have a breakdown." I nod weakly, and force myself into a sitting position.'Get a grip! Don't freak out. We'll be fine.' To help, I focus my attention on Drake's driving, and the passing scenery. We've ducked out of the main skyway and are weaving through a network of narrow roads. We near the heart of the city, and the quality of road and residence alike escalates dramatically. Each residence is nearly identical to the others, and many of the more expensive stores appear. What before would have excited me to death is now only a reminder of how those things are supposedly threats. If I don't get off this train of thought I really WILL puke.
"Where to now?" Phaiara asks, a slight tremor in her voice the only thing betraying her nervousness.
Drake opens his mouth to respond, but a clap of thunder absorbs his words and throws them out the window. He tries again: "Jace's house."
"Wait a minute Jace's house?" I ask incredulously.
"Don't you mean his parents' house?"
Drake glances inquisitively at Jace, who nods curtly.
"Jace's parents made him apply for Stage 3 independence about a year ago. Let's just say that they...got tired of the responsibility."
Jace turns his head lazily to look at us. "They kicked me out."
"Oh..." Phaiara trails off awkwardly.
"So it's your house?" I ask, finally having calmed down enough to speak properly.
"Yup," Jace nods, laying back in his seat. He kicks off his shoes and crosses his legs on the Sky Quad dashboard.
"All my own." Despite the fact that his comment seems an attempt at sounding tough and independent, I still catch a trace of...sadness? Regret?
Another crack of thunder spreads through the air. Black clouds roll in and the hair on the back of my neck stands on end. The one thing Xavier Aerthas III refused to get rid of was weather. All buildings are made flood, wind, and earthquake proof, so in the extreme weather, he just sends everyone inside. But being caught outside in a storm is dangerous. Sure, we have the medical tech to manage lightning strike wounds (that is, if the victim survives the actual strike), but that doesn't really make getting hit any more appealing.
Drake makes a sharp turn, and we take a well-trodden side-road About a mile or two down the road, we come up to a large house, which was probably a beautiful mansion at some point. Now it's run down, peeling paint (it still has paint?) and the yard is unkempt. Pretty well reflecting Jace and his personality.
Suddenly, Drake floors the brakes, and I'm flung into the seat in front of me.
"Oww..." I groan.
"SHHH!!!" Drake hisses. Phaiara frowns and we both lean forwards to see what Drake is gesturing towards.
'Oh.' I think, my heart falling through the floor. 'It must be the umpteen Fed Quads on the front lawn.'