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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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8. Chapter 8

I’ve almost forgotten how odd it feels to go undercover, to spend hours in one spot pretending to be someone you’re not. Most of my field work is normally spent in the shadows, I rarely hide in plain sight. I’ve never been much of an actor. I think the main problem is that I just get so bored. I can’t stand the hours and hours of waiting to strike, I need action, I need to get out there and get started. I’m just not patient enough. Still, there’s only three of us, and we can’t afford to be picky with our roles. So, here I am, dressed as a tramp, leaning against the wall of the corner shop opposite the printing factory, unmoving like a statue.

I’m not alone, there’s a collection of homeless, helpless people scattered around. The entire planet is in chaos, people have lost their homes in attacks and tragic bombings, and with no clear or strong government to turn to, they’ve lost everything. Nurses, lawyers, and teachers now sleep on the streets. Children have lost their parents and not found them again. It’s sheer, undoubtable anarchy. Still, people still go into the corner store pretending not to notice us, focusing only on their need for an extra tin of beans.

From across the street I notice Zacharia pulling up in a (probably stolen) car and crossing the road. We don’t make any eye contact, but we both know that the other is there, like there’s some sort of sixth sense connecting us. I don’t acknowledge him as he passes me and walks into the store, staying perfectly still and keeping my head down. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this past year it’s that you can never be too careful. For all we know Luci could be waiting for us when we break in tonight, any effort we can take to me more secure we must take, even if it involves stealing clothes from bins and dressing up as a homeless person for six hours. We can’t be recognised.

I wait patiently for a few minutes, when eventually Zacharia re-appears with a bag of groceries. I try not to react as he walks by, keeping my head down and sticking to the plan. I wait for another minute before moving, shuffling in my position to pick up his ‘dropped’ receipt and reading what he’s scribbled on the back. Five minutes. This isn’t just a time prompt, it's a direction. I look slightly to my right, like a clock hand moving to the first base, and notice Beverley settling a cafe bill across the road. She’ll be done within one minute, over here in another, and ready for us to both join her in three. There’s an odd feeling rising up inside me as I wait, a sense of dreaded anticipation and reluctance, a sense of fear too...I’ve done stuff like this dozens of times before, and yet, this time feels so much different, it feels wrong somehow. I try to take my mind off my swirling stomach by thinking about something else, Quinn. She’ll be sat on the couch at Steve’s house right now twiddling her thumbs, biting her lip, simultaneously dreading and hoping for our return. Every time I see her I have to remind myself that she’s not Luci, that she’s just a naive girl trying to do some good. I hope that these letters do what she’s hoping they’ll do, I hope that some good will come out of all of this, not for my sake, and not for the world’s, but for hers. I know what it feels like to spend a year searching for something but never know what it is you’re actually looking for. I want her to be able to find out once and for all what that is.

I see Zacharia walk past me once more, heading at last for the printing factory. I wait a final thirty seconds before slowly getting up myself and wandering over. It’s getting dark now, and it’s easy to stay in the shadows as I move, making my way towards the side entrance, taking careful notice of everyone around me to ensure that I’m not being followed. I check my watch- ten to seven, we’re right on time. I find Beverley and Zacharia stood outside the entrance, already fiddling with the lock.

“Finally,” Beverly sighs, “One minute more and I would have started to worry.”

“You know you can’t rush these things.” I remind her. A few seconds later she’s finished picking the lock, and gradually, she opens the door. We all shuffle inside, moving swiftly so as not to be seen.

As the door slams behind us all light exits the factory, leaving us in complete darkness. I can feel Zacharia’s shoulder against mine, but I still can’t help but feel suddenly uneasy in the pitch black room. Thankfully, a moment or so later he finds his flashlight.

“Remember to keep your flashlight down and on a low setting, we can’t risk anyone seeing flashes of light through the windows.” Beverly reminds him, getting her own one out too. “I’ll meet you both back here in twenty minutes.”

And just like that, she’s gone, disappearing into the black horizon.

I keep close to Zacharia as we walk, wanting to be as close to the dim light as possible. Our footsteps echo and clang as we walk hurriedly across the factory floor. Clang (clang) Cl-clang (cl-clang) Clang (clang)... I can’t help but hear thousands of people following us as we move, but I know it’s all in my head. No-one else is here, everything is going to be alright.

“This is tomorrow’s paper.” Zacharia realises, stopping outside the main printing press and shining his flashlight up all over it, examining it. “I’ll upload our photocopies of the letters and set this to print fresh copies, you take the one’s it’s already printed and throw them away.” I nod, retrieving a pair of plastic gloves from my pockets and pulling them on, needing to disguise my fingerprints. “The bin is exactly ten steps behind you, you won’t need a flashlight to find it.” He tells me, passing me over a large pile of papers. I wasn’t expecting so many, the machine’s only been on for about thirty minutes, and they’re heavier than I thought they’d be too.

Slowly, I turn around and start to walk away from the flashlight, each step submerging me more and more into the darkness of the empty factory. I don’t like this. Give me an assassination attempt or a gunfight or a stakeout any day, but this, wandering around in the dark, only being able to see blackness when I check and look over my shoulders...this is my worst nightmare. My toe collides with something hard that I can only assume to be the bin, throbbing in time with my heartbeat as I take another step back, leaning over and emptying my pile into the bin. It’s just a stubbed toe, but it feels like I’ve been stabbed. A tiny, irrelevant event is all it takes to send my heart-rate escalating off the scale, throwing me over the edge. Before I can do anything about it I find that there are tears in my eyes, streaming out and down my cheeks. Suddenly, I am thankful for the darkness. What is wrong with me? This isn’t a big deal. This is an easy win. Why do I feel so empty inside? Why does it feel wrong to be taking orders from Beverly and Zacharia? Nothing feels right here tonight. There’s a feeling of wrongness that’s so strong that it lingers in the air and thickens it, suffocating me as I walk.

Come on Annabeth! Deep breaths

“What’s taking you so long?” I flinch at the sound of Zacharia’s loud-whisper a few feet away from me.

“Nothing.” I spit the word out, whispering back. I force myself to turn back around and count my steps as I walk back in the direction I came. After the first two steps I see the glimmer of his flashlight again, which gradually strengthens, becoming brighter and brighter as I walk forwards. Within seconds I’m stood beside him again, and he’s clueless as to my brief breakdown.

“I’m all done here, the new edition of the paper will include the letters on the second page in, that way when the papers are delivered tomorrow nobody will suspect they’re not exactly how they’re supposed to be.” He says, shutting down the control panel as he speaks, “We should head back to the exit.”

“Yeah.” I murmur, keen to get out of this stupid building and be done with this mission once and for all.

I’m glad when I see Beverley’s silhouette next to the door, waiting for us, just as ready to leave as I am.

“The footage is wiped, did you do your part?”

“They’re on page two.” Zacharia assures her, opening the door and letting us all out.

I’ve never been more thankful to see the evening sky, or to breathe the semi-fresh urban air, or to feel the broken sidewalk underneath my feet. It’s so magical it almost makes me hysterical with happiness. I have to fall back into the wall, weak in the knees.

“Annabeth, are you coming?” Beverly checks, confused about my behaviour.

“I’ll catch you up.” I decide. It’s odd. I’m not sure to what extent I’m happy, glad that we’ve gone about this with no trouble or interference at all, or to what extent I’m miserable, feeling empty and uncertain inside, spooked by the dark and paranoid about being caught. I slowly fall down to the ground, sitting with my back to the wall, looking up to the sky. I think I’ll just be relieved, because we did it. Finally, I’ve managed to do something that might halt Luci and Elda in their tracks, and that feels incredible. I did it.

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