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*Final instalment in the 'Little British Girl' Trilogy *
One year after Elia’s death, and the entire planet is rebelling. With the news of Xander’s assassination attempt against his own daughter alarming the world, Elda and Luci are leading a powerful resistance, competing with the Southern rebellium, with no powerful government to stop either of them.
And yet, nothing seems to have changed.
Annabeth, alongside Beverly, Zacharia, and Steve Ryans, hide out amidst the chaos , unable to prevent what’s happening right in front of them. Disheartened and helpless.
Then one day, a girl turns up, a girl with heterochromia, with some interesting letters, and some even more interesting information. Could it be that Xander Moore had another daughter? And that Luci has a half-sister?

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5. Chapter 5 - one year earlier

“The village is called Willowbrick, it’s celebrating its annual fete this weekend. It’s only a  forty minute drive away from New London, and the security budget for the weekend is tiny, but the population is so small that it would barely be worth attacking. Essentially, this mission is mainly for peace of mind. There’s about a ten percent chance of trouble. Think of us as volunteer undercover police.” I brief my small team, “We’ll probably be back home by five o’clock on Sunday.” I look around the table, trying to judge the various facial expressions. From what I can tell I’ve convinced them, perhaps even better than I’ve convinced myself. I’ve done about a hundred of these sort of missions before, the ‘ten percent missions’, when a small team goes out just to help everyone else sleep at night. I’ve only ever been on a few when there’s actually been something to fight against, but I know not to assume anything, this could go completely the other way to what we’re all expecting. The only thing that’s certain is that I won’t be taking any chances. “We leave within the hour, so go and finish your preparations.” I discharge them, waiting until they’re all gone before I finally fall back into the desk chair, already exhausted.

I waste five minutes just sitting there, staring up at the ceiling, my heart the only moving part of my body. I feel Daniel’s note in my back pocket, and I can’t help but think about him. Where is he? What is he doing, right here, right now, in this exact moment? How is he coping? Is he coping? Does he think about her more or less than I do? Does he think about me the same way I think about him? Is he surviving? Is he safe?

“When do you leave?” I jump at the sound of Robin’s voice a few feet away from me, I hadn’t even noticed he come into the main office. I dart my eyes off of the ceiling and onto her, sitting up in the chair.

“Within the hour.” I tell her, “I’m all sorted though, all I need to do now is wait.”

“That’s always the hardest part.” She grimaces, still managing a small chuckle. I laugh as well, too tired to force back my smile. She walks over to me, leaning against the edge of the desk. “Are you sure you’re up to this? No one will judge you if you want to sit this one out-”

“You’re beginning to sound like Zacharia.” I interrupt her, shaking my head, “I’ll be fine. I have to do this. I can’t just sit back and watch as everyone else heads out to fight Luci and Elda, they’re responsible for the deaths of my two closest friends...I have to be a part of their ending.”

“You’re angry.” Robin notices, sighing.

“Is that a bad thing?”

“Not necessarily.” She shrugs, “As long as you use that anger, letting it fuel you and motivate you, using it to keep you strong- to keep you fighting, then well...anger is great. Just don’t let it use you. Stay in control of it and you’ll be fine.” I half-listen to her advice, there’s nothing she can say that I haven’t already said to myself one hundred times over. “You know, if you need an extra pair of hands, I am available. I’m allowed to tag along on pretty much any mission I like.” She offers, smiling.

“Did Zacharia put you up to this? I’ve already told him I don’t have time for-”

“No, no, this is all me.” She promises, cutting me off, “It’s been awhile since I’ve left this office, and I sort of miss field work. So, what do you say?”

“The more the merrier.” I cave in, lacking any good reason to not let her come with us. Robin smiles, pleased. She begins to shove a few things into a ragged shoulder bag, chucking in a handful of loose clothing, almost empty travel-size toiletries, and a walkie talkie that I’m ninety-percent sure doesn’t work anymore.

“I think that will all be enough, don’t you? What are you taking?” She checks with me, talking whilst simultaneously continuing to look around her desk for anything else she might either want or need over the next couple of days.

“Nothing really, I’ve borrowed a few spare tops from people but I don’t exactly own anything.” I remind her, feeling a small pit in my stomach form as I speak, an unstoppable feeling of empty loneliness taking over. I ball my hand into a fist behind my back, digging my fingernails into my palm until the pain in my gut numbs.

“Right…” Robin trails off, clearly unsure of how to respond to my statement. “Well I’ll just sort things out with Zacharia, I need to let him know that I’m leaving. I’ll wait for you at the exit, along with everyone else, okay?” I nod, actually glad to be alone for a while.

With Robin gone, and the main office all to myself, I let out a long sigh of relief that I hadn’t even realised I was holding in, already pretty exhausted. If I’m like this now then what will I be like when we reach Willowbrick? I wander mindlessly over to the window, pulling the shutters so that the blinds close, and turning the key in the door, giving me complete and utter privacy. The second I do so gravity seems to become ten times stronger, and I slowly sink towards the ground, my back against the door, my head buried in my hands. I manage to get to my feet, wandering to the other side of the room, only to fall to my knees again in front of the stone slab.

I run my fingers along each little carving, my fingernails bending into the tiny cracks. I expect it to hurt. I expect to feel lifeless, exhausted, depressed- but it’s sort of satisfying. It feels...right. It almost feels like they’re still here with me. It gives me strength, a reason to carry on fighting. It provides me with the fire I need to ignore the voices in my head telling me to give up. It gives me hope.

“Luci? Luci? Am I right?”

“...yeah...yeah you’re right.” Luci sighs, finally speaking. “Goodbye, Annabeth.”

I can’t help but think back to the phone call. There was something in her tone of voice, a sombre, gentle touch...pity? I’m still not sure. I just have this feeling, like there’s something I don’t know, like something happened in that clearing that everyone else is too reluctant to tell me. Something that even Luci would refrain from saying…

“Oh, I’m sorry- I didn’t realise you were still in here.” I jump at the sound of Zacharia’s voice behind me, quickly getting to my feet and wiping my cheeks dry. He seems just as caught off guard and embarrassed as I am, standing with his head towards the floor and his hands behind his back. “I can you if you like,” he offers, “I only came in to grab my reading glasses and-”

“No, no I’ll go.” I cut him off, making towards the door, “This is your office, and I need to get to the main exit anyway, I can’t be late.” He doesn’t object. He just nods subtly and parts from the doorway to let me through, neither one of us saying a single word about our previous conversation. But as I go, as I walk past him through and out of the door, I see him smile at me, and there’s a glint in his eye that wasn’t there before...and I can’t help but wonder if it was his way of saying ‘good luck’.

I make my way back to my room, picking up my overnight bag and slinging a backpack over my right shoulder, ready to go. By the time I reach the exit half of my team are already there, including Robin.

“Is the car here?” I ask her, looking around at the deserted road.

“It’s two minutes away.” She assures me, “After that all we have is a brief trip along the motorway and we’ll be there.” For a few moments we just stand awkwardly besides one another, neither one of us knowing how best to pass the time whilst we wait for the car. I feel a pit grow in my stomach as I begin to realise that I am missing them, Max, Daniel, and Elia...it feels strange to be going out on a mission without them. In fact, this doesn’t feel real to me anymore.

I am rescued from my thoughts by the sound of a car whizzing around the corner and pulling up besides us. I quickly get on, sitting next to the driver in the front whilst everyone else loads into the back. I spend the journey sitting there in silence, half-listening to the radio as we drive along. Robin was right, the journey isn’t very long at all, we arrive at Willowbrick all too soon. Before everyone can scatter out of the car, I lean over into the back to brief them all one last time.

“Don’t get distracted by the celebrations, we’re here because we have a job to do. Use your radios to communicate, and if you see anything suspicious- anything at all, radio me. If you see Luci or Elda anywhere in the crowds then radio in and tail them, even if you only think it could be them. This is a low risk mission, but we still need to be on high alert. Understand?” There are murmurs in agreement from the rest of my team, who all seem to have got the message loud and clear. I’m a little annoyed by their general lack of energy, but I take what I can get and let them go, allowing them to get to their assigned areas.

“Is it okay if I tag along with you?” Robin asks, following after me as I make my way to the centre.

“Yeah, sure.” I nod, actually glad of the company.

It’s not long before we reach the centre, the main area for all the celebrations. The entire village is ecstatic, houses coated in streamers, with loud music booming out from all directions, and people moving merrily through the streets. There are deflated balloons decorating the sidewalk, and inflated ones tied with colourful ribbon to stands, lampposts, and small children's wrists. You wouldn’t know there was a civil war going on. This whole scene seems...peaceful.

The only crack in all this perfection lies within the small glitches. People’s eyes darting, people’s hands shaking, people’s nails ripped from biting...that sort of thing. The inescapable worries and anxieties that shake the surface of this happy facade, reminding everyone of what they’ll wake up to tomorrow when all of this is over, reminding them that this peace is fake. I’m not sure whether to call it ignorance, denial, or hope.

“I’m going to grab us both some lunch.” Robin tells me, before walking off in the direction of the nearest food stand. Alone, and bored, I glance around at my surroundings once more, and notice something. A purse on the ground. I bend over and pick it up, looking around for a worried face, trying to figure out who the owner might be. Just as a gust of wind blows my way my finger slips, popping it open, spreading notes and coins out all over the place. I quickly get to work picking them all up, managing to get all the coins back in easily, but the wind keeps on blowing the notes further and further away from me. Sighing, I follow them as they blow forwards, chasing them all the way down an alleyway, when my ears pick up hushed voices coming from around the corner, and I freeze.

“...the mayor will give in speech in half an hour. You’ll be positioned up on the roof of the apartment building, ready to strike him down. After that I’ll play the video message on the projector, distracting people whilst we both make our getaways. Got it?”

“Of course I’ve got it, I’m not stupid.” I nearly hit my head falling back into the wall behind me, weak in the knees at the sound of those voices, the two voices I’d recognise anywhere.

Luci and Elda.

They’re here after all, and they’re planning on shooting the mayor of Willowbrick.

“Yeah yeah, just get up there, we don’t have a lot of time.” I hear Luci’s voice again. I quickly drop the purse and get back out of the alleyway, trying to move as silently as possible. Once I’m a good few feet away, I open up my rucksack and dig around for my radio, whilst also trying to seem calm and casual, not wanting to draw any special attention to myself.

“Ovehear something you shouldn’t have?” I stop my searching at the sound of Luci’s voice beside me, standing perfectly still as I feel the tip of her gun dig in to my back. “Walk normally.” She instructs me, shoving me forwards, back in the direction I came, “Do exactly as I say and you might just survive this.”

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