Ashlyn is different. She is the only member of Zone 3 who still dreams, which means she must hide her secret so the Government don't find out. On her 16th birthday her mum sends her to FREAM, a rebellion against the Government, here she must learn how to fight and decide whether she will stand up for what she believes in or just continue dreaming about it.


17. Planning a Suicide Mission

~~I sit up in bed with my hair surrounding me like a haystack. I must be the girl she was talking about I realise and suddenly the jigsaw in my head makes sense. The government must have known that my mother wouldn’t have wanted me to go to the injection so they got Julie to find her and persuade her to send me here where she could keep an eye on me. That scout, no wonder she wanted me to keep the decoding a secret because I obviously wasn’t doing what I thought I was. I’ve been playing right into her hands, sitting in the field like a dumb lamb waiting to be slaughtered. I jump up from my bed then start to pack my stuff, I need to leave. I grab my sketch book and gun but stop. She’s sending the whole team in; I can’t leave them to walk into the trap. Just thinking about Ethan being tortured by the government leaves a pain in my chest.
Still holding my sketch book I march out of my room grabbing my keys as I go then hammer on Ethan’s door. It takes a few minutes for him to answer it and when he does it’s obvious I woke him. I don’t have room in my head to feel sorry though, too many thoughts are rushing around in there. “Ash?!” He says, surprised as he wipes the sleep out of his eyes.
“Can I come in?” I ask quietly and he holds the door open and I walk in. He softly closes the door behind me then turns around to face me, a million questions on his confused face. “Julies a traitor” I blurt out surprising myself, I was going to build up to it but I don’t have time. Ethan raises his eyebrows at me. “Really?” he asks and he doesn’t sound like he believes me.
I sigh “Well, you know I have dreams?” I say and wait for him to nod “Sometimes they’re messages or visions, like on the day we had that riddles test. The night before I dreamt about a man asking me what time it was and it was mid day then h told me to remember that” I try to explain and Ethan just frowns trying to make sense of what I’m saying. “You’re sounding crazy, people can’t predict the future” He says and I shake my head willing him to believe me
 “I don’t know what they mean half the time” I admit then remember that I’m holding my sketch book. “Look at these then, I draw them after my dreams” I say and hold it out to him and open it up to the pages where I’ve drawn dreams. “Some times they’ve been about something simple like a test a school and sometimes they’ve warned me about things” I describe to him flicking through the pages. I reach the page where I drew his face in the ball of light and he holds it to look at it closer. I look away, embarrassed. “When did you do this?” he asks softly.
“The night before I came here” I reply and feel myself blushing, which is stupid under the circumstances.  He looks up at me “What does that say?” He asks pointing to the speech bubble.
 “It’s time” I tell him, surly my hand writing isn’t that bad. He nods then turns the page and see’s the one I was telling him about and he squints at the speech bubble trying to read it “Is that remember” He asks and I nod frowning at him. He runs his hand over the page “You never stop surprising me” he mumbles “These are really good” Then he suddenly remembers why I’m here and snaps the book shut. “So if what you’re saying is true then this whole mission is a trap he says and runs a hand through his dishevelled hair. I stand quietly as he tries to process it “We need to warn the others” he says and shoves some trainers on “We don’t have time” I say looking at the clock, its 6 already. We only have half an hour before we leave, everyone will be eating breakfast and preparing themselves, we’d never be able to find them all in time. “We can tell them toning at the school” I say and Ethan nods. “We need to act normal until then” He says more to himself than to me. He starts stuffing his things into a rucksack and I watch him as he tries to compose himself. I suddenly realise I haven’t told him the full story and missed out the part where I come him. He reaches a hand for the sketch book “I’ll look after it, I don’t want you to go back to your apartment, I know it sounds silly but I don’t want to risk Julie seeing you and suddenly finding out about you.” He says “Do you have everything you need?” I nod making sure my gun is safely in its belt.
“Do you think I could take this?”I ask quietly and show him the gun. Surprise flashed across his face for a moment then it disappears and he holds a hand out to look at it. “I’ve never see a model like this, I doubt the government’s security is designed to pick up guns like this anymore so I don’t see any problem with taking it.” He explains and I nod then slide it back in its belt.
Looking at the worry in his eyes I realise I can’t tell him the other half of the story, he wouldn’t let me come, then I’d be stuck waiting here being no help at all. Ethan slides the sketch book into the rucksack then zips it up and swings it on his back. He’s about to open the door but he quickly turns around and marches over to me. I watch him in surprise and am about to ask him what he’s doing when he puts his hands on my cheeks and leans down and kisses me. I’m shocked at first but quickly get over it and kiss him back savouring his soft, tender lips and running my hands through his sandy hair. My heart starts hammering wieldy and the tug in my chest is like nothing I’ve ever felt like with another boy. His lips taste sweet and I’m gasping for air yet I keep pulling him in for more. We eventually stop and stand staring at each other, panting a little. I can feel my my whole body is tingling, all the problems in the world forgotten for the moment. I smile at him and bring a finger up to stroke my swollen lips “What was that for?” I whisper and he leans his forehead against mine so that I’m centimetres away from his chocolaty brown eyes. “Because you’re brilliant” he says then gives me quick peck before holding the door open.
 We walk down to the canteen and even though I know what we’re about to embark on I can feel my insides humming with life as we enter the canteen. I spot Marcus first and we make our way over to him after grabbing the cooked breakfast that’s been left out for us. The canteen is practically empty and the only people in it are the serving staff and the people on the elite teams. I sit down next to Marcus and Ethan sits opposite me next to Finn. “Where’s Cody?” I ask.
“Saying goodbye to his little brother and sister” Finn answers and I nod then look down at my food whishing I hadn’t asked. Me and Ethan don’t have any relatives to say good bye too, I’d said my goodbyes to my friends last night and that was it for me. The boys start talking and I listen quietly as I shovel food in my mouth. I only stop eating when Julie enters the canteen and grabs a plate of food, I feel myself stiffen at the sight of her and my fist clenches my fork tightly. I feel a nudge under the table and look over at Ethan who shakes his head. I bite my lip then quickly finish my food successfully avoiding looking back at her. “Shall we go?” Marcus says when we’ve all finished our food. We get up and the atmosphere between us suddenly becomes tense as we walk out of the canteen and over to the main entrance. Orave and Felix stand there deep in convocation with each other along with most of the group. We spot Cody and walk over to him, Finn pats him reassuringly on the back “They’ll be fine, Grace‘ll look after them” He comforts and Cody just nods looking numbly at the ground. Orave and Felix stop talking when the last person walks in and start handing out rucksacks “This is the uniform for the school you’re pretending to go too, get changed into the when you arrive at the school” Orave says as he hands them out. I take mine from him and look inside to see the normal kind of plain clothes zone 2 children wear to school: black skirt, striped tie, white blouse and a cotton black jumper.
 “Well, Ash, are you ready?” Ethan bends over to whisper in my ear and I mimic a thinking face “Yes Ethan, I think I am” I reply then we laugh quietly to ourselves as we walk over to the group that’s now gathering at the lifts entrance. “We need you to split into small groups so that we can get the inconspicuously, we have the tickets here but you all need to go in at staggered times. To the public you’ll just look like kids who’ve been to zone 3 for the day and are making your way him today in time for school tomorrow, they won’t suspect you so don’t give them a reason too” Orave barks at us “Find a group then make your way over here.”
I feel Ethan breath over my shoulder and know without asking that he’s coming with me. “Hey, mind if I join you?” Marcus asks lightly.
“Of course” I say grinning at him and nod as Finn and Cody make their way over to us as well.
“Well check us out, we’re the fab five” Finn says, beaming at us and ruffling Cody’s hair. Cody pushes him away but I see him smile as he tries to smooth his brown locks back down again.
“Ethan’s group, come here, you can go first” Orave calls over at us and we walk towards him. He hands the tickets to Ethan “Get off at the Jengo platform in Zone 2 and find the shop called ‘bitz and bobz’ Tell the woman behind the counter that you’re on the trip and she’ll show you where to go.” I hope one of the others will remember that because to me it sounded like a flurry of words. Ethan nods then we step into the elevator. Just as the doors slide shut I hear Orave mumble “Good luck”
Outside it’s wet and I can smell the rain in the air that’s threatening to fall we hurry towards the train station but make sure that we’re blending in with crowd, walking no faster than they are. We reach the ticket office and Ethan flashes the tickets at the man there, he waves us through quickly more interested in whatever is flashing on his POD’s screen. Ethan stops us outside the shop Ethan stops then looks at me narrowing his eyes. “Stay here” He orders then slips inside.
“Dude we don’t have time for a souvenir” Cody calls after him shaking his head when Ethan ignores him. They look at me and I shrug, “Nothing to do with me” I say and we stand impatiently outside waiting for him.
After what seems like forever he finally comes out holding a dark blue cap. “Umm why...” I start to say but then he hands it to me “People have already started looking at you” how whispers and I open my mouth in shock as I remember how when I last came up here people had recognised me and the government had found me. I nod and pull it down as low as it will go over my face and look at the floor. “What’s going on?” Marcus asks as we start to walk towards the right platform.
“Ashlyn is wanted” Ethan explains simply.
“They don’t normally try to find other zone 3 runaways” Marcus mumbles but no one gives him a reply. We reach the platform and only have to wait a few minutes for the train to arrive.
It glides into the station jolting slightly as it comes to a silent stop. This train is much fancier than the ones that travel round zone 3. People give us space to sit down, not wanting to sit next to the rowdy group of teenagers; they’ll think we came down here for the on Saturday and are going ready to go to school tomorrow. Marcus sits round a table with Finn and Cody, me and Ethan slide into a couple of seats behind them. The journey is about 3 hours long but I don’t mind, I could spend forever here sat comfortably next to Ethan. I notice people from our group casually walk onto the carriage and onto other ones as well. I catch Harry’s eye at one point and I see him smile a little at me then turn away and walk past us to the back.
The train doors slide shut and the announcer says we’ll be leaving shortly. I feel myself tremble a little as I remember that we’re venturing into a trap but Ethan covers my hands with his and I look up at his composed face. A wave of calm ripples over me and I wrap my fingers round his and he smiles. This sends small butterfly’s fluttering in my stomach, no boyfriend has made me feel this warm inside before and Ethan does it by simply smiling. “We can do this” he says confidently and squeezes by hand.
I didn’t even notice when the train set off but we’re in the sky and even though the future looks bleak the present is full of light. The train journey seems to drag on for the other boys though because I can hear them getting agitated in front of us and they start irritating each other out of boredom and people start shooting them dirty looks when they start to get to loud. I kick the back of Finns chair. “Shut up” I hiss at them and they sigh and stop elbowing each other. We reach eventually enter Zone 2 and I watch Ethan sit, more alert now and listening out for our stop. It doesn’t take long for them to announce that we’ve arrived in Jengo and I watch every one from our group rise as the doors glide open. I stand up and follow Ethan to the doors then step out onto the station. I’m pushed forward a little by the crowd but I step out of their way and look around. I’ve never left Zone 3 before so this is new to me. The station is made of sleek silver metal and some of the woman’s heels around me clink along it. Huge signs advertise various products I’ve never seem.  I stare at one poster that moves, showing me a video of some swanky model strutting around in golden stilettos. “Come on” Ethan says and tugs at my jumper’s sleeve. I look down at my black hoodie and grey trackies then round at everyone else’s suits and posh skirts and feel very under dressed. I let Ethan pull me out of the station and we quickly find the shop Orave told us about then make our way over.
We look around to check that we’re not being watched then duck inside. Inside it looks like hardware store, the kind that sells nails and paint. Ethan steps forward and mumbles something to a girl with long blonde hair and a lip piercing stood behind the counter while I run my hand round the rim of a pot of wood varnish nervously. She looks at us and narrows her eyes for a second then motions for us to follow her round the back. She dumps a black bag in Ethan’s arms then motions to the door, “Turn left then follow the street up the hill, it’s easy to spot” She says then scurries back over to the counter. Marcus opens the brown door she pointed at and we step out to be swallowed up by a busy crowd who start to split up. I grab Marcus’s shoulder and he holds my arm tightly but I lose sight of the others. “Keep moving” Marcus yells at me so I let him drag me round the corner over to the edge of the street where it’s not so busy. “Where are they” I say as my eyes try to find Ethan’s blonde hair in the crowed. “They’ll have to meet us their” Marcus decides then starts to elbow his way through the crowd “Marcus!” I shout at him and run after him when he doesn’t stop ignoring the dirty looks I get from the people I shove out the way.  I catch up with him and we walk up the hill, my eyes constantly looking round for the others. “Don’t worry, they can take care of themselves” Marcus mutters when we reach the top and he spots me squinting down the hill. I turn around, giving up for now.
We’ve reached a huge black building protected my sturdy iron gates that don’t show a single sign of age or weathering. “How do we get in?” I ask and Marcus shrugs. “Great,” I humph.  Marcus tries to open the gate but, unsurprisingly, it’s locked. “Hey” I hear a familiar voice yell and I spot, in relief, the three boys making their way through the crowd towards us. I sigh in relief as they reach us “Thought we’d lost you there”
“You don’t think you could get rid of me that easily do you?” Ethan asks and I laugh a little.
“Alright you, two leave the flirting for when we’re inside” Marcus scorns then takes the bag from Ethan. He rummages around the pulls out a white key card and smiles, and slips it through the slot next to the lock. The gate slides open and we all step inside then it instantly shuts behind us with a small clinking noise. Marcus shoves the key card back in the bag then zips it up again and we make our way over to the entrance. A large woman dressed in a green suit with her dark hair pinned tightly back in a bun greets us with a nod. “Follow me” She commands in an equally tight voice. She leads us into the building and over a shiny marble floor then up a set of spiral stone steps. At the top she opens a glossy wooden door then holds it open for us “I will send the others up here when they arrive, don’t leave this room until I say you can” She says sternly and I’m suddenly glad that my headmaster was more interested in his bottle of wine than his job, I wouldn’t like to have been sent to her office.
We shuffle inside and she slams the door just as I step over the thresh hold. We all let out our breath “She seemed nice” Finn says and we all burst out into laughter as we let our guard down from the tense journey. I look around the room when my laughter fades away.
It’s very basic with a set of mattresses on the floor covered by blue duvets, a tall white fridge sits in the corner and another oak door stands at the end of the room that must lead to a bathroom. “Food!” Cody exclaims and runs over to the fridge. Yanking the door open his face drops and he scowls “Aww man, sandwiches suck”
“Dude, what were you expecting? They ain’t gonna supply us with a 5 course meal are they?” Finn says then grabs one from the top shelf. He raises his eyebrows when he examines the contents “Yum, cheese and.... well whatever that is” He drops it back into the fridge and pulls out a different one. He seems to be more satisfied with it then starts to wolf it down but stops and spits it out. “Yuck, these things are rank” He says scrunching up his face in disgust. He closes the fridge and pouts, “Guess I’ll have to go hungry.” He says then walks over to the nearest mattress dumping his bag on the floor and collapses on it. We all laugh at him as the door opens and I watch Tyler walk in with James Harry and Kestra. They smile “We made it” Tyler booms at us when the door is, again, slammed shut by the stern lady. I sit down on a mattress in the corner of the room and start fiddling with the corner of the pillow thinking when the best time will be to break the news of Julies real alliance to the others.
People slowly trickle in and the room gets louder and louder as we fill it up. Cody brought some cards with him so a group of them sit in the middle of the room staring at each other suspiciously as they play. Marcus and Finn are playing cards and Ethan’s talking to Tyler and James so I sit on my mattress on my own. I rummage through the rucksack and my forehead creases as I see the frumpy clothes but I find a note book and pen as well. We must need then to ‘make notes’ on the tour, I pull it out the take the lid off the pen. I start tapping the page with it while I think of something to put on it then start to absentmindedly doodle when I can’t think of anything.
“What you doing?” I hear Ethan ask after I don’t know how long and I look up to watch him sit down on the mattress next to mine. He leans over to see what I’ve been drawing then tugs his lips into an impressed smile. I look down at my scribbles confused to what he could be impressed by then I gasp. What I thought were just random lines have formed a fist smashing through glass. “Strange thing to draw” He continues not noticing my surprised face.
“I didn’t do it intentionally” I mumble and he frowns at me then purses his lips deciding not to go into the subject. Instead he leans back against the wall and stares at me. “So Ash, about this morning we should probably talk about it” He says and the words seem to slam into me like a brick wall.”I don’t know when the best time to tell the others is” I admit to him but he shakes his head
“Not that, the other thing” He whispers my eyes widen as I realise what he’s talking about. The kiss. Has he decided that he didn’t mean it and it was just a onetime thing? I gulp ready to put on a brave face but he notices my face and sits up quickly “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that, I meant we should probably talk about what it means for us, I mean would you let me do it again?” The words fall out of his mouth quickly and I can’t stop myself smiling a little. I’ve never seen Ethan struggle to speak but then I raise my eyebrows trying to be more serious. He runs a hand through his dishevelled hair “I’d wanted to do it for a long time” he admits “It’s alright if you don’t feel the same, I just had to do it once, that’s all.”I shake my then push my finger over his lips to stop him from talking “Shut up you idiot, of course I liked it. I kissed you back didn’t I?” I say smiling at him and I feel him relax.
“So I’m your boy friend then?” he asks giving me a devilish smile.
“I thought you didn’t date?” I whisper, leaning closer to him. We’re both breathing hard and I can feel his breath on my face. “I do now” He replies softly. Nobody notices our lips lock onto each other for a few sweet moments before lean back slightly and crawl over to his mattress and sit cross legged opposite him. “How long have you wanted to do that?” I ask fiddling with his duvet now. He smiles and leans his head back against the wall closing his eyes “I couldn’t get you out my head since the day we did the riddles. I couldn’t decide if it was just because I thought you were clever or something else. I realised when I found you at the river that it was something else. I’ve never wanted something as much as I wanted to kiss you then” He speaks the words quietly but I hear them and I feel something deep within me stir. “Then why didn’t you?” I ask when he doesn’t continue. He opens his eyes “You were hysterical for one reason, we were in the middle of a mission and... and I was scared” He confesses, this makes me tip my head back and laugh gently at him.
“I can’t imagine that you’re scared of anything” I say and he shrugs.
“Well that’s just many of the odd things about you” Ethan says and I frown at him.
“Hey, you know, back at home I was pretty normal... aside from the whole dream thing of course” I say and he narrows his eyes at me. “Somehow I don’t see you and normal being under the same category” He states.
“Well there is so much you don’t know about me” I tease him but he sits up and looks interested.
“Then tell me” He says seriously and I give him a baffled look.
“What do you mean?”
“I want to know everything, we have hours to sit and do nothing here, so why not” I stare at him, a little surprised. Ethan Fisher, the most hansom boy I’ve met wants to call me his girl friend and now he wants to know things about me. “Why do you look so surprised?” He asks.
“Well, all the boys I’ve been out with before have never been interested in me, just my body really” I say, still in a daze. Ethan frowns “Well not me” He says brightly then leans forward “How many boyfriends have you had?” He asks and I laugh.
“Is that jealousy I hear in your voice?”
“No just curiosity” He replies innocently but looking at him I know that I should tell him so I sigh and look down at the duvet. “More than I’d like to admit, I’d never stay with a guy for very long, I’m not really a romantic person. Does it sound heartless when I say that I don’t believe in love?” I ask and dare a look into his eyes. He looks a little surprised but he also looks understanding “Well it doesn’t sound heartless but it does sound strange” He tells me.
“Well I guess I believe in love because I do love some people but I don’t believe in falling in love, you just end up getting hurt” I say and Ethan nods but decides not to reply. The words hang over us in silence for a while until I, sort of, change the subject. “So how about you, how many girlfriends have you had?” I don’t know why I asked really, I don’t really want to know how many girls Ethan’s liked before me. He takes a moment before he replies to think about it “Well I’ve had various girl friends but I had one quite serious one, it didn’t work out though cause we both wanted different things for each other” He says then stops and I see he doesn’t want to go into it. After a moment though there’s a smile back on his face “Anyway, back to you, what was school like?” He asks. I scoff at him “School, really?” I ask and he nods his head. “Well, truthfully, I didn’t spend much time there I was either excluded or isolated.” I admit but he doesn’t look surprised.
“You’re so clever, you must have been bored out of your mind” He says and I frown at him and I’m about to tell him he’s wrong, I was disruptive because the lessons sucked but I swallow my words. Ethan does have a point, I think to myself, the lessons were boring, I’d always put that down to the fact that school was boring in general. Come to think of it though, the lessons I’ve been having at FREAM have been interesting because they’ve been making me think.
After he fires a few more questions at me we fall into silence as we both realise what we have to do now “They’re not going to believe me” I say finally and Ethan lets out a breath
“We’ll just have to make them” He replies and I nod but I still feel sick with nerves.
We walk over to the game of cards and Ethan clears his throat “Guys, we have something to tell you” He says and some of them stop the game to look at him but most of the people around us ignore him and continue their convocations. I look at him and he shrugs so I sigh and take a deep breath “HEY!” I shout over everyone and all the eyes in the room fall on me. “Thank you” I say a little quieter. “What do you want?” Jilly sneers at me from the other side of the room and I narrow my eyes at her for a second then look at everyone else’s confused faces. “You’re probably going to think I sound crazy but Julie’s a traitor” My announcement causes any whispers to fade away and everyone stares at me with a mixture of suspicion and confusion. “What makes you say that?” Cody asks and I bite my lip. How can I tell them without expose the fact I have dreams. “I saw her... last night she went upstairs and was talking to a man from the government about our plans tomorrow. She told him that they’d be able to catch the elite team” I let the words sink on and people start muttering to each other firing questioning looks at me. “Why should we believe her, why would Julie betray us?” Jilly scorns at me which causes some people to nod.
“Why would she make it up?” Marcus says and I smile a little, at least he believes me.
“I don’t know, attention maybe” Jilly says flatly and I my jaw drops in shock, how could she say that?
“You don’t have to believe me you just have to trust me” I say to the others who nod a little.
“Well what are we going to do then, if what your saying is true then we can’t go tomorrow” Harry points out and everyone starts looking at each other worriedly.
“I think we should still go tomorrow but we’ll go prepared for an attack because Julies plan still makes sense. It’s important that we blow up the Dream Dust.”
“What, so we’re just going to walk into the trap?” Kestra asks and nobody looks like they approve of the idea.
“It wouldn’t be a trap though; we’d go in knowing that if they try to separate us or lead us somewhere dodgy not to do it.” Ethan explains and I nod in thanks to him.
“Right so we go in, blow the supplies up then somehow just get out of there without getting caught, sounds impossible” Cody says
“I like it” Finn adds giving me wink.
“We’ve been trained enough for this, we don’t need to follow the adults plan just pretend it’s another training exercise” Ethan suggests and people start to nod in agreement.
“Well if there is a small chance we can do I’m in” Marcus announces and one by one people start to say that they’ll do. I watch them in surprise; I thought it would be much harder than that to persuade them.
“So we’ll just stick to the original plan?” Marcus asks when everyone has agreed to carry on.
“Yes and no, we’re sort of going to have to improvise tomorrow because I don’t know when they’ll try to attack us. All you need to do is blow the supplies up then get back to FREAM.” I say feeling stupid that I can’t come up with some crafty plan. Sometimes it’s better to go in without a plan anyway, it means there’s less chance I’ll muck it up.

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