Lucid

~The Sequel to 'Little British Girl~
- Decide which side your on -
Three and a half month after Luci kidnapped her birth father, Xander Moore, Elia and her friends are on the run. Both north and south are engulfed in complete and utter chaos, and the resistance and the rebellium are gaining power through an alliance. Both sides want them out of the way, and they have nowhere to be, nowhere where they belong. The four friends must choose a side, the alliance, or the government, a decision that will forever haunt them all.
Nothing is certain, nothing is safe, nothing is lucid.

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17. Chapter 17

As luck would have it, the first place I look for Max is where he is.

The Nevada City Trust Bridge.

Every city in the north and the south has a ‘trust bridge’, to commemorate the triggering of the zoning system. They often link one city or state to its neighbour. They’re supposed to symbolise faith in the new system, and to bring across a sense of unity among the newly divided planet. Most of them have all turned to rubble by now, uncared for by local councils. This one is slightly damaged, it’s been closed down so no cars can drive along it anymore, but it’s still standing...and Max is sat on the edge.

I sigh in relief at the sight of him, and walk over. He doesn’t even notice me until I’m sat down beside him, then he jolts, and sighs, burying his head in his hands.

“I got your note,” I state the obvious, trying to seem friendly and casual, “Thought I might find you here.”

“You’re not going to change my mind.” He tells me. His words are stubborn but his tone is unsure, I don’t believe that that’s the truth, he can be persuaded.

“I realised you were right,” I try to change the topic, “That’s how I found your note actually I was going to find you and tell you that you were right, about Luci, about the alliance, about everything.”

“You might have to be a little more specific.” He mutters, avoiding my gaze.

“I was speaking to my dad, and he told me something, he reminded me that we’re good people, and that Luci is our friend, and that good people don’t put their friends in harm's way...and...and-well, I realised that you’ve been right all along. We should never have even considered joining the alliance.” I explain, but Max doesn’t reply, in fact, he doesn’t react at all, he just stares out into the distance. “I know you’re still in love with Luci,” I try a different approach, this time getting a flicker of emotion across his face in response, “And although I don’t fully approve of your taste in women, I also know that you can’t help it, once you love someone, there’s no going back. It was wrong of the others and I to judge you for it earlier on, to argue with you over it...these past few months must have been even harder for you than they were for the rest of us.”

“Even if you guys understand just half of what it feels like, I’m still going to be a problem. If Luci came after us, I wouldn’t be able to fight her. Then there’s my mum, she hates me but I’d still do whatever it takes to get her back on my side. My emotional attachments put us all at risk, this is what’s best for all of us.” He argues, speaking at last.

“And what about our emotional attachments?” I remind him, almost breaking out into a laugh, “We all have people like that too. None of us would really ever want to hurt Luci, I’d put everything I have on hold for Daniel, Annabeth’s constantly trying to prove herself worthy because she joined the resistance instead of becoming a cop like Daniel...and we all care about you Max, if you die, it will destroy us.” Max looks up at me, something unreadable in his face. For the first time he seems to be wavering.

“What do you think happens next Elia?” He asks me, staring down over the edge.

“Well I’m hoping that you’ll come back home with me…”

“No, I mean, after we get home- if we get home, what then?” He cuts me off.

“Um, I suppose we’ll just continue to lie low at my dad’s house until we’re no longer top of the most wanted list.” I shrug, not entirely sure what he wants me to say. Max sighs, and my heart begins to race. I try to ignore my shaking hands and keep calm, if I play this right, both of us will make it home tonight.

“What good will that do?” He rolls his eyes, extending out his arms frustratedly, punching the air. “We go back, we keep quiet, meanwhile Luci continues to contemplate killing Xander right up to the moment when the alliance find her and kill them both, launching the entire planet into complete chaos.”

“At least at home we’re safe, at least at home we’re alive.” I comfort him as he begins to break out into tears, shaking.

“Does it look like I give a damn about living and dying right now?” He snaps, slamming his left leg against the bridge. I lean back, keeping my distance, and he calms down, returning to his tearful state.

“Even if we did go and look for Luci, would it change anything? Luci pretty much signed her death warrant when she took Xander, we both know that.” I try to talk some sense into him, beginning to get really nervous...I just want to get off this stupid bridge.

“A minute ago you were babbling about us having to defend Luci, why the change of heart?” Max sits up, his eyes staring right into my soul. I shrink back, ashamed. He’s right of course. I’m forgetting about my earlier revelation, Luci is our friend, and we can’t just hide away whilst she’s in danger.

“You’re right, we can’t just go back home and hide away, we need to do something-but what?”

“We need to approach the alliance, we need to try and get them to care about Luci’s life the way we do. After all, she’s a freaking genius, killing her would be a bit of a waste, wouldn’t it? If we use that angle they might see reason and when they go after Xander they might-”

“Max, we both know that’s not possible.” I interrupt him before he can get too carried away, “I honestly wish it was, but it just isn’t. Remember the last time you tried to negotiate with the alliance? Beverly wouldn’t listen, and she never will.” Max nods in acceptance, placing his head down between his knees and exhaling deeply. When he looks up, his expression is different, it’s more firm, more angry...more determined.

“I think I have a way to make her listen.” He says. I can tell from his tone that this is a big thing for him, that whatever this way is, it’s going to change everything.

“Good. That’s...good.” I smile, taking his hand, “But you can’t make her listen if you’re dead. Please Max, come back with me.” Max bites his lip, contemplating all his options.

“Fine.” He gives in, causing my entire body to feel weightless all of a sudden, “I’ll stay with you, for now.”

“That’s good enough for me.” I grin, my eyes brimming with tears. We swing our legs back over and stand up tall, brushing the rubble off our trousers. “So,” I look up at him, still smiling, “What’s this life-changing way of getting Beverly to listen?” Max grimaces, shying away from me.

“I don’t really know if I should tell you yet…” he trails off, avoiding my gaze.

“Oh come on Max!” I exclaim, “We’re on a trust bridge...trust me.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you as we walk home.” He decides, letting me win once again. We turn and begin to head back in the direction of my dad’s house. The sun’s beginning to set as is slowly sinks through the layers of pink-tinted clouds, making way for the black sky to rise. “You know that mission I went on all those years ago? The one that got me sent down to Arizona?”

“Of course.”

“Yeah, well...there’s a few tiny details about it that nobody knows. For instance, I didn’t lead the mission, Timmy did, in fact, I didn’t even want to go on the damn thing, Timmy made me.” He pauses so I can register the information. My mind flashes back to a few weeks ago, when Timmy came to deliver us a message from Grace, and the way Max had looked at him. I’d never seen Max angry before...it had been such a weird day for us all. “He came bursting in one day, telling me he had this amazing plan to go and storm this meeting, he said if we pulled it off we’d be heroes, remembered for all of eternity. I told him we should ask permission first, but he reminded me that he was my boss, and I should follow his orders. And so, I agreed. He took me and the rest of the troop out that night for a briefing, he even made me his second in command...it all seemed so easy, so simple, he made it seem as if we’d be crossing a road. Anyway the next day we all left for our routine jog, and we made a little diversion at the town hall. Next thing I knew I was being interrogated by the police.” He stops again, but this time to catch his own breath, his words catching up with him as he remembers the event, “No matter how hard they pushed me I didn’t cave in. They didn’t realise we were resistance members of course, they just thought we were some ammature thugs. Mum bailed us all out, and when we got back to the base she-well, she exploded at us. Timmy broke. He told her it had all been my idea, that I was reckless, stupid, foolish...and the worst part was she believed him. Timmy ranked above me you see, he was a trusted member of the force, I was just the son trying to make his mother proud. So I was demoted and sent to Arizona, Timmy was free to climb up the ranks even more, and my mother barely ever spoke to me again.”

“Max...I-I had no idea.” I stammer, feeling dizzy with all the information.

“Yeah, anyway, nowadays Timmy’s very close to Grace, and Grace and my mum don’t always see eye to eye. Grace thinks we need war to defeat the system, my mum thinks all we need is propaganda and patience. If I can prove that Timmy was the person who started the conundrum all those years ago he’ll lose all his legitimacy, and my mum might start to see me the way she used to, she might listen and agree to help us, meanwhile Grace would face massive embarrassment and the alliance between the resistance and the rebellium would weaken, as the hard-on approach would seem stupid. If the alliance breaks down and Beverly agrees to help us then we can stop them from hurting Luci when they go after Xander.” Max lays out his plan to me, moving out of his memories and returning to the real world.

“Are you sure that would work?” I check, it does sound a bit complicated.

“Trust me, if we take down Timmy, Beverly will turn on Grace, and her supporters will turn against Charles and the rebellium.”

“Okay.” I put my faith in him, too tired to argue. We round the corner to Haskell road and make our way over to the house. I have my hand on the doorknob when Max speaks again.

“Elia, when we tell the others about the plan, d-don’t tell them about the bridge...please.” Max begs, wincing.

“Of course I won’t.” I assure him, turning swiftly to embrace him in a hug. “But please Max, never consider doing anything like that ever again.”

“Of course I won’t.” He copies me. I let it go, but I know deep down that if he really meant it, his reply would have felt a little different. For now at least, I just hold him close, letting him know that he is loved.

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