Little British Girl...

- Decide where you belong -

In a world split into two zones, north and south live separately. The sole-superpower, America in the north, and every other country lives in the south. Trespassing is punishable by death.
When Elia, a British citizen, wakes up in the northern zone she is forced to trust local cop Daniel to keep her safe. With no memory of how Elia came to the north, and no recollection of why, she and Daniel decide to try and figure it all out. But along the way secrets are uncovered, allies are made, and Elia begins to play dangerous games, with tragic costs.

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23. Chapter 23

“I never thought I’d say this but...why are we in a car park and not at some super remote location outside the main city?” I ask Zacharia. I’d expected him to take me outside of New London, to some hidden base at a secret location, but instead we’d walked for just five minutes, over to the six storey car park at the centre of the city. Now we’re stood outside the entrance, him perfectly calm, me starting to get a little freaked out. After all, a large car park would be a good place to dispose of a body…

“The best bases are hidden in plain site.” Zacharia shrugs, settling my nerves. I shouldn’t be so anxious, after all he wants to do me a favour, he too has survived the stone cell, though I’m still not sure how… “Just follow me.” I do as he says, letting him lead me down to the base floor of the building. There he turns to a door with a big ‘no entry’ sign on it, and raises his hand up, placing his thumb in the centre of the ‘o’ in ‘no’. I realise with faint excitement that there is a hidden fingerprint scanner on the sign. The door opens automatically soon after, revealing a long, brightly lit corridor. Zacharia parts from the doorway to let me through first, and I smile faintly as I accept his polite gesture.

Once inside, Zacharia shuts the door with a firm ‘thud’ behind us. I look around, and realise that the long corridor is full of doors leading off to different rooms. Zacharia begins to walk forwards, speaking out to me as he does so.

“This base was once of the first ever created, it’s much more important than the one you stayed at in the south, it’s the main centre for all southern resistance. The rooms are mostly used for hacking, creating and printing propaganda, holding important meetings...but a few of them have deadly boobytraps inside them, so don’t go wandering off. Furthermore none of them are labelled, so if anyone were to break in, they wouldn’t know which rooms contained fatal mechanics. Ah, here we are.” He stops outside a door identical to all the rest. Light, white, and bright, decorated only with a shiny metal doorknob and keyhole. I reach out to grab ahold of the doorknob, but Zacharia stops me, grasping my wrist tightly.

“Don’t touch that!” He warns me, his eyes alert and, dare I say it, slightly concerned. He drops my wrist, taking a few deep breathes before shifting in his coat and stepping away to explain. “The doorknobs are a trap, they emit a powerful electric shock if you touch them, strong enough to land the average person in a coma.” I mutter an apology, though I don’t really know why, and watch from a safe distance as Zacharia moves the cover from the keyhole to reveal yet another finger-print scanner, pressing his thumb against it to unlock the door.

Inside the room is buzzing. It’s full of people rushing around with clipboards attached to their stomachs, chatting quickly to each other, desperately trying to complete one task so they can move on to the next. The sharp sound of mouse clicking and keyboards working creates a smooth continuous rhythm throughout the room that everyone somehow seems to move to. Lanyards fly around as the owner’s of the necks they are attached to dash from one place to another. Aside from the workers, the room is jam-packed with loud and impressive equipment. Some of it isn’t even plugged in, it’s just piled up in the corner waiting to be put to use. Like in the south, there are three screens up at the front of the room, but these are much bigger, and equipped with professional speakers. Luci would have a field-day in here, I can’t help but think, and image of the fiery red-head flashing through my mind as I do so. I have tried in vain to avoid thinking about my southern friends, but at times like this, it is utterly impossible.

Zacharia rises his hand upwards, signalling for me to stay where I stand, before moving forwards through the room. As he walks people scatter, making a pathway for him, and I notice that very few make eye-contact with him as they do so. The respect for him is undoubtable, but there are also undertones of fear. I suppose that is what makes him such a successful politician. He finds his way to the very front of the room, and turns around to address the main fraction of his staff.

“Where is Robin?” He asks the room.

“Right where you left her.” A girl stands up from the back of the room, she appears to be the only person who isn’t intimidated by Zacharia. Her face is bored and tired, and her posture is lazier than her tone of voice. It is as though status has no meaning to her. She reminds me faintly of Annabeth.

“Set up an urgent video call with the Arizona base.” He instructs her.

“What’s the emergency?” Robin inquires, folding her arms across her chest, “Last I heard you and Annabeth were on worse terms than Beverly and Max.” My brow creases as I try to pick up on what she is saying, around the room murmurs are escalating, but I have no idea what Robin is going on about. Yes, after voiding the rescue mission, it makes sense that Zacharia might not be in Annabeth’s good books? But why compare that with Beverly and Max? They barely know each other…

“It’s not for me.” Zacharia shakes his head, “It’s for her.” He points to me, and all at once I am the centre of attention. People inch towards me, recognising my face. I’m the girl who went on the forbidden mission, I’m the british girl who woke up in the south...I’m the biggest problem this century will ever face. As people crowd around me, throwing out questions like bullets, I notice Zacharia and Robin in the corner of my eye, their conversation is clearly serious judging by the veins throbbing on their foreheads. I come to the slightly upsetting realisation that Zacharia used me as a distraction so he could...chat to her? Tell her off? Confide in her? I shove my way through the sea of people, making my way over to them. When Robin sees me she turns back to her computer, typing away.

“It will be ready in a few minutes.” She nods. I can tell something is wrong, but I can also tell that I’m not allowed to know what that is.

“Let me talk first,” Zacharia instructs me, and I obey, taking a seat to the left of the room.

“Zacharia?” I ask, deciding to use this time wisely, or at least to try to.

“Hm?” He sits down beside me.

“What’s up with Beverly and Max? I thought they were just acquaintances, but Robin made it sound like…”

“Beverly and Max? They’re not acquaintances!” Zacharia chuckles, “Didn’t he tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“About his mother.” ‘I snuck out one night with a couple of mates, we tried to storm a local meeting, but we weren’t at all prepared. We all got arrested, and I had to be bailed out by my parents.’ I recall Max’s words to me from back in the north.

“He said his parents had to bail him out…” I trail off, everything suddenly piercing together, “Wait. Is Beverly his mum?” Suddenly I can see the resemblance between the two, not just in their looks but also in their determined and opinionated personalities.

“Yes, not that she’d ever admit it now, not after what he did.” Zacharia sighs, shaking his head.

“I thought all he did was storm a meeting-”

“Sir, the chat is open.” Robin calls from the other side of the room, cutting me off.

“Excellent.” Zacharia smiles, standing up to face the camera, and the screen. I can’t see it from here, but luckily, I can still hear what is going on. “Hello Annabeth, Luci, Max...Daniel.” He greets them all, being the perfect(ly fake) gentlemen I know him well to be.

“What’s this about Zacharia? We’ve got enough on our plate right now without you yabbering on at us.” I recognise Annabeth’s resilient voice, and I can’t stop my lips from curving up into a smile.

“It’s nice to see you too Annabeth,” Zacharia bowed his head, “How are things down there?”

“Awful,” Luci answers on Annabeth’s behalf, speaking before she has a chance to, “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”

“You only have yourselves to blame after going on the mission. Besides, you’re not buried deep in work. We just gave you enough fixing to do to make you fully understand the depth of the situation you put us in.” Zacharia defends himself.

“We know what we did was wrong in your eyes, but we don’t regret it, and we’re handling all the work you sent us to clear the resistance’s name.” Annabeth regains control of the discussion. “Now, what’s the real reason why you called us? Clearly this isn’t just a casual chat.”

“I’m doing a favour for a very special person.” Zacharia confesses, gesturing for me to walk over, as I do he continues to speak, “Someone who is clearly a lot stronger than she lets on.” As I come into the light of the camera, and into the view of everyone, I can’t help but freeze to the spot. Just the sight of them all again makes me want to cry. Max, as tall and proud as ever, Luci, reclined back in her chair, treating the conversation like a game, Annabeth, frustratedly glaring into the camera...and best of all there’s Daniel. He stands at the back of the room, not inputting into the conversation, but listening carefully to pick up on everything being said, his face dark and gloomy, his posture as deflated as his spirit. As they see me they all look up, reacting in similar ways to the way I did, all of them inching closer and closer to the camera. Daniel almost runs up to the front of the room.

“Elia? Elia, is that really you?” He sighs relieved sighs, touching the screen as if it’s my cheek.

“Yes, yes Daniel it’s me.” I giggle, smiling wildly. I can’t believe we’re actually talking again, and not with any special time limit or dangerous situation to hold us back. He looks more like his old self, his blue eyes are much more alive than they were back at the courthouse, and he’s back to wearing stiffly-ironed clothes. He looks like the Daniel who rescued me the night I woke up in the north, all proper and correct, but also unorthodox and wild.

“You’re alive?” He flopped down onto the chair behind him, completely taken aback.

“You didn’t think they’d just kill me, did you? I’m the daughter of a powerful politician!” I joked, trying to lighten the mood now the shock of the moment was dying down.

“I thought it was odd when the court case seemed to disappear from the news…” Annabeth trailed off, her lips curving into a smile, “What did happen?” I look down, suddenly shy. Do I tell them about the stone cell?

“They brought me back home.” I keep it brief, hiding the true ordeal I went through behind a false grin. I feel Zacharia's hand on my shoulder behind me.

“Elia’s gotten back into normal life down here in the south.” He announces, trying to change the topic to make this easier for me, “From what I can tell she’s happy.” We both know he’s lying, but they all seem to buy it.

“I’m glad, but we all miss you.” Max flashes me a quick friendly wink, being his usual cheerful self.

“Yeah, I didn’t realise how much you touched this place until you left it…” Luci trails off, looking away from the camera for a moment.

“I agree.” Annabeth nods, “You messed things up, but you made everything interesting.” I can feel my thought swelling and my eyes welling up, but I try to hide it. I miss them too, so so much. I can’t believe I’m thinking this, but I’d rather be in the south right now. I have, however, made a deal. I stay away, and they keep safe. My father is many things, but among them all, he is most certainly a man of his word. This cannot be an opportunity for me to turn around and go back, this has to be a goodbye, they have to think I’m happy, they cannot see me cry.

“I miss you all too of course,” I liven up the tone of my voice, gesturing my hands around casually, “But it’s been good to see all my friends over here again, and this life is certainly a lot easier than the one I lived in the north.” They all try to hide it through words of encouragement and smiles, but I can see in there eyes that what I have just said is killing them, they too want me to return, they want my northern life to be preferable to my southern ones, and I have no choice but to pretend that it isn’t.

“Well then...if you’re happy, and well, alive and all t-then, well, I guess this is-”

“Goodbye.” Luci finishes Annabeth’s sentence in full Luci-style.

“Yeah...yeah I guess it is.” I look away briefly, I can feel my heart heavying already. “Thank you, for everything, you were all so incredibly good to me. You did so much…” and now it’s my turn to return the favour. I finish my sentence mentally in my head, they kept me safe whilst I was there, and now I need to keep them safe from here in the south.

“It was our pleasure.” Even Max seems upset, I can’t really tell through a camera lens, but I think there might even be tears in his eyes.

“Thank you for saving me Daniel.” I have to say it, it’s the perfect way to end this conversation. It’s the perfect goodbye.

“Thank you for saving me too Elia.” Daniel sobs, his face as red and damp as my own. We both exchange a look, a look of both gratitude and longing, of calmness and sadness, a bittersweet goodbye that strikes both of our hearts down.

 
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