She smiles. “Hello Kadence. And who are these two?”
“Bria, this is Brylee and Nora, my friends. They want to know more about the rebellion.”
“We’ve met,” Nora says, cold hatred seeping into her voice. Her hands are clenched at her sides, and she is having a hard time controlling her temper.
Bria cocks her head. “I think I would have remembered a redhead like yourself.”
“Does the name Tenebris ring a bell?”
Her eyes widen. She is speechless for a moment, and then she lets out a laugh. “Oh my God, you’re that Nora! And looky here, falling right into my arms in the end. You know, I only wanted to recruit you, not kill you.”
“Um, sorry to intrude, but what the hell is going on here?” Brylee asks.
Nora points a shaky finger at Bria. “This woman killed my parents. She burned down my house years ago! And for what?!”
“Your parents were government officials,” Bria says calmly. “It was my duty to… take care of them.”
“You speak of them like they are disposable bags of trash! They were real human beings, and they were my parents! And you burned down our house! Do you know how many times I’ve imagined meeting you, and what I would do to you?”
She suddenly lunges at her. Kadence grabs her in time and pulls her back. “Nora, calm down.”
Nora lets out a string of cuss words, and Bria just stands there, taking it. When she’s finished, she asks, “You want to learn or not?”
“Yes, we do,” Brylee says. “Nora, I get that you want to rip her to shreds, but please, can we just listen to her? Then you can do whatever you want.”
Nora plops down on a stool and crosses her arms. “I’m listening,” she growls.
“Thank you. Now, about the rebellion. For starters, you may not repeat anything that I am about to tell you. You’ll eventually get to the point where you can recruit other people, but you’re obviously not at that point.
“Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. The rebellion, formally known as the Boundless, is a group of people who don’t like how the world is run. They know that the US is corrupted, and a lot of them know what really happened during World War four. They also know that everyone who doesn’t live in America are enslaved. The people you see here, they were selected specifically to be staged here. In other words, they’re actors. It’s like that in some of the other major cities around the world. We’re planning on eventually overthrowing the government and installing our own.”
“What other things are wrong with the government?” Nora asks bitterly.
“Not only do they have most of the world enslaved, but they twist history to make it seem like they were the good guys. They mention that they bombed every city, but did they tell you about the camps? Every single prisoner of war was sent to one. They were either tortured, experimented on, or other horrible things too terrible to discuss. Kind of like the Holocaust back in WW2, but far worse. Even before the war, they were bossing everyone around. Did they ever tell you specifically how WW3 ended? No, they didn’t. Because it is too horrid to mention.”
She takes a step closer to them and lowers her voice. “They sugarcoat everything and feed their people lies while everyone else suffers. We, the Boundless, will overthrow the government and restore order and peace to the world. And I ask if you want to join the cause.”
“Count me in,” Brylee says immediately. “I’ve been noticing that a few things have been off.”
Bria nods. Then she turns to Nora. “And what about you?”
“Why should I trust you?” she spits out.
She sighs. “Nora, look, that was ten years ago! Your parents were cruel people that were helping to create something horrid.”
“My parents were amazing people,” Nora argues.
“But all you have are young memories of them. You never actually knew them for who they truly were. And you didn’t know what they were creating.”
“If what they were creating was so terrible, then why don’t you tell me?” she spits.
Bria rubs her forehead, frustrated. “It’s too horrible to explain.”
Nora abruptly gets to her feet. “I’m going for a walk. I’ll be back with my answer.” Before anyone can stop her, she storms out of the room and out of the cafe.
She walks, staring at her feet. She’s having a hard time wrapping her head around everything. Not paying attention to where she is going, she turns down an alley between two little shops.
Someone grabs her around the waist and puts a hand over her mouth. She screams into the hand, panic overtaking her. A million bad scenarios and old movie clips run through her head, and she knows she’s either going to be killed or raped. The person pulls her through a door, his grip surprisingly firm. She thrashes, but the person doesn’t let her go.
The person pins her to the wall, a hand still covering her mouth. “Calm down, God dammit,” the person murmurs. It’s a male, his voice low and husky. Nora opens her eyes and stops screaming. They’re in a small room, and a light hangs overhead. The man staring back at her has black hair and bright blue eyes. There is a scar running from the corner of his left eye down to his jaw. He appears to be about 29 years old, and he looks familiar. He wears black, meaning he must be from America. Otherwise, he’d be wearing grey.
“Look, I just want to talk to you. Now, I’m going to pull my hand away, and you’re not going to scream. If you do, things will be a lot worse for you.” He carefully pulls his hand away.
Nora is breathing hard, but she doesn’t make a sound. “Who the hell are you?” she commands.
“The name’s Lukas,” he says, pulling up a chair. “And I work for the government.”
Nora blinks a few times. Why, out of nowhere, are all these important people talking to her?
“Look, I know who you are. Nora Tenebris, daughter of Kelton and Arielle Tenebris. I also happen to know you recently got into contact with someone named Bria.” Nora begins to inch towards the door. “Now don’t leave yet! Look, the only reason I know is because I used to be part of the Boundless, too. Well, sort of. I was a spy for the government, and I pretended to be a loyal member of the Boundless. But then they figured out I was a spy, and… well, let’s just say that’s how I got this.” He points to the scar on his face.
“No wonder they found out you were a spy. Seeing as you just go around telling random people,” Nora comments.
“The only reason I’m telling you is because I want to recruit you.”
Nora lets out a laugh. “You want to recruit me? A teenager? Oh please. You’re probably just a scammer.”
“You talked to Bria. You have a chance to join the Boundless, and I know you don’t want to. So this poses a perfect opportunity for you to help America. What do you say?”
Nora turns the idea over in her mind. It would be cool if she was a spy for the government. But if Brylee ever found out, their friendship would be ruined. But this way, she will get to experience both worlds, and decide which side she truly belongs on.
“I guess I’ll give it a shot.”
Lukas smiles. “Excellent. Once you get back to America, I will come to your house to talk to your foster parents. But for now, go tell Bria you want to join.”
Something is off. “Wait, how do you know I have foster parents.”
Lukas smiles and pulls out a pair of purple sunglasses. He slips them on, and Nora can’t see through them. “I know a lot more about you than you think.” He then leaves.
Nora stands there for a moment, thinking. He had purple sunglasses. Just like the people from Kadence’s nightmare. Why… Oh. Her father lied about being American. Serves him right. But, he was Kadence’s father… and she knows what it is like to lose someone you love.
She shakes the thought out of her mind and heads back to the cafe. She forces a smile as she walks in. Kadence stops mid sentence, and they all turn to stare at her.
She turns to Bria. “I’m going to join. Sorry about how I acted earlier, I just got hung up over what you did to my parents.”
Bria beams. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
“But I still don’t and will never forgive you for what you did.”
She bows her head and nods. “That I can understand.”
Brylee throws her arms around Nora. “Oh, for a minute I was worried! I’m so glad you decided to join.”
Bria pulls something out of he pocket. It’s a bag filled with tiny little metal squares.
“The square is for inside your ear. It will allow you to communicate with us, and for us to communicate with you. It also allows us to hear what you hear. All I’m going to do is insert it into your ear. When you don’t need to speak to us, just tap it once, and we won’t be able to hear what you say or what you hear. Like when you’re just going about your everyday life, because we don’t want to hear that. And if for whatever reason you need to turn it off-off, double tap it.”
“But, won’t someone be able to see it?” Brylee asks.
This time, Kadence answers. “No, they won’t because as soon as you place it where it needs to be, it adapts to your skin tone. See, if you look in my ear, you won’t see a thing.” Nora and Brylee look, and sure enough, they don’t see a single thing. “It’s water resistant, too.”
Bria pulls two out. “Alright, here you are.” First she puts it in Brylee’s ear, and then in Nora’s. She feels a small prick, and then the feeling is gone. “Double tap it to turn it on.” They obey. Then, Bria barely moves her lips, but they can hear her clearly. “Pretty cool, right?”
“Woah,” Brylee replies, her lips barely moving.
“Weird,” Nora says.
Kadence checks her watch. “Oh, we better be heading back soon. We can grab something to go on our way out.”
They leave Bria behind, equipped with their new gear. They each order a sandwich before heading back out to the buses. “Now would be a good time to silence them,” Kadence says. They all reach up to their ear and tap once.
They continue their field trip, exploring other various things around Greece. The whole time, Nora is kind of lost in her own thoughts, thinking about both of the deals offered to her. She keeps thinking about the government specifically. If she works for them, how will she find time to balance school and family? And if she is also working for the Boundless, then she probably won’t have any time. And if things work out with Alvaro, then how is she supposed to be a spy for the government and a member of the Boundless and go to school and have time to date him?
She takes a deep breath and shakes her head. No use thinking of all that. It’s not like all of them are going to need her at once. And if they do, she’ll just have to worry about it later.
Finally, dinner rolls around. They all go to this nice little restaurant that has flower beds in front of the doors. Nora spots Alvaro and makes her way over to him. “Hey, Alvaro!”
He turns to look at her. “Oh, Nora, hi.”
Nora smiles falters. Next to him is a girl with light brown hair and a bright smile. She gives him a questioning look.
“I thought you were going to bail on me,” he tells her. “So I asked Jasmine instead.” A grin spreads across his face, and a wicked glint catches his eye. “Besides, who’d want to hang out with an ugly redhead like you?”
To say the least, Nora is hurt. She feels like someone stabbed a knife into her stomach and twisted. This guy that she’s admired from afar for so long just called her ugly. Maybe she should have gotten to know him before she decided she had a crush on him.
“Oh. Okay.” She pretends to not be hurt as she walks to the back of the crowd. She finds Brylee and tries to hold back the tears.
Brylee can immediately tell something is wrong. “What happened?” she asks gently.
Nora hugs her. They stay like that for a moment, Nora trying to hold back her tears. Finally, she pulls back and says, “He was with another girl. And he called me ugly.”
Brylee wipes away one of her tears. “Hey, hey, it’s alright. Now you listen to me. He’s just some stuck up jerk, and he doesn’t deserve your tears. Okay? He’s not worth it. I know it hurts, but I need you to breath. Take a step back. Ignore him. Alright?”
Nora nods and wipes away a stray tear. “Thanks Brylee. You always know what to say.”
They walk into the restaurant together and sit with Annabella and Kadence. Nora pushes Alvaro out of her mind and instead focuses on her friends.
Hours later, they arrive back at the hotel. It’s late at night, and they’re all exhausted. Kadence gets into the shower, and Nora lays in bed, scrolling through her phone. She’s just looking through some old photos, because she has nothing better to do with her time. Then she comes across a picture of her and Aaron, laughing at some boys in their class who were doing stupid things. It was back in freshman year. Aaron looks so… happy.
Nora can’t help but remember Aaron’s screams. But then, something occurs to her. She said, “Tell Bria.” Does that mean… no, it can’t. Was Aaron… was she part of the Boundless? She must have been, if she knew about her. But then… does Bria know she turned Aaron in? She probably does. And when she was screaming… maybe she wasn’t talking to the students. Maybe she was talking to someone through her earpiece.
She suddenly stands up and walks over to Brylee. “We need to talk,” she whispers. They make sure Annabella is actually asleep before Nora starts talking. She tells Brylee everything she just realized.
Brylee stands in silence for a moment. Then she says, “Wow. That… wow. Everything makes so much more sense now.”
“I know, right?”
Kadence comes out of the bathroom. They stop talking and get ready to go to bed.
Nora is having a hard time falling asleep. Her mind just won’t shut off, and she keeps thinking about the two offers she got. By becoming a double agent for the government, she’s going to betray her best friend. And that scares her. Brylee has stuck by her side through a lot of hard times, and to think that she’s going to willingly ruin their friendship scares her. And there’s also Kadence, who Nora is beginning to befriend. Maybe she could hang out with them at lunch one day.
Nora shifts, trying to shut her mind off. The seconds tick by, and she wills herself to fall asleep. But sleep never comes. So she just lays there, forcing her breath to be even and pretending to be asleep.
Eventually, though, she drifts off into a half sleep. Somewhere in the room, a clock ticks, and that keeps her from fully falling asleep.
In her dream state, she can feel Kadence shift. Then the bed creaks, and she gets up. Nora is awake again, and she peeks her eye open slightly to see what she’s doing. As quietly as possible, she slips on a jacket and pulls on her shoes. Then she quietly sneaks out the door and into the night.
Nora quietly gets up, slips on her jacket and shoes, and follows her. She prays that she doesn’t get caught, and that Brylee and Annabella stay asleep.
She slips out the door, and a wave of cold washes over her. She looks around, trying to find Kadence. She spots her not too far away, talking to someone. She can’t make out the features, but she thinks she can catch a glimpse of long blonde hair under a hood. It’s got to be a girl, based on the curves. And she’s from America, because she doesn’t wear grey. Nora sneaks closer, trying to hear what they’re saying.
“…hard to get,” the blonde girl is saying in a hushed voice. “Do you know how tight security is? God. Anyway, what do you need it for, anyway?”
“An assignment from Bria. I’m supposed to find a way to take out Annabella before she can return to America with the information she has.”
Nora’s heart clenches. Take out Annabella? Does that mean… kill her? No, that can’t be right. Why would she do that? Is Annabella a government spy? No, no. Not everyone is on one side or the other. Right?
“I knew it,” the blonde murmurs. “There was always something suspicious about her. So she is a spy, then?”
“Indeed. Now, are you going to give it to me or not?”
The blonde girl reaches down and pulls something out of her boot. It’s a knife, with a long, shiny blade and a red handle. She hands it over to Kadence, who slides it into her jacket.
Nora covers her mouth. Kadence has just become a criminal. Are all members of the Boundless like this? They must be. No wonder the government is fighting against them. They’re just a bunch of criminals who think they can change the world for the better.
“You know how to use the other thing, right?”
“Yes Hazel, I’ve used it multiple times.”
“Just making sure. I don’t want you to use it incorrectly and get caught,” she says.
“I better get going before someone notices,” Kadence says. “See you around Hazel.”
As she turns to leave, Hazel grabs her hand. “Wait,” she says in a soft voice. Kadence turns around, a soft look on her face. Hazel pulls her closer and wraps her hands around her waist.
Nora takes this as her cue to leave. She leaves them with their little make out session, and she heads back to the room. She enters quietly, trying her best to place her jacket and shoes in the exact same spots they were before. Then she climbs into bed and tries to adjust herself to the exact position she was in.
Kadence comes in not seconds after Nora has stopped moving. She quietly gets undressed, but from what Nora can see through the tiniest crack in her eye, she doesn’t take off her jacket. She then climbs into bed, facing Nora.
Breath normal, Nora tells herself, trying to take even breathes. Her heart is racing, and she fears that Kadence will hear it and know that she was out there. Maybe Nora can just say she was having a nightmare, and that’s why she’s awake.
But Kadence doesn’t say anything. She just closes her eyes and falls asleep. Or pretends to fall asleep, it’s hard to tell.
An hour later, Nora is still awake. She can’t help but think of the weapon hidden in Kadence’s jacket. Should she tell the teacher, like she did with Aaron? Or should she ignore it, and risk Annabella being killed? Maybe she could just warn Annabella. No, no, because then she will ask why, and how she knows, and then it will spiral into this big old thing.
She can’t stand it any longer and gets up to go to the bathroom. Once inside, she splashes cold water on her face and tries to calm herself down. She closes her eyes, but the blinding light of the bathroom seems to pound into her skull, not giving her a moment to rest. Honestly, hotel bathrooms should have a button where you can control the brightness of the lights. Honestly.
Still unable to calm herself down, she begins to brush her hair to give herself something to do. And even when it is perfectly untangled, she keeps brushing.
She eventually stops, telling herself she can figure it out in the morning. She leaves the bathroom and crawls into bed.
“Are you alright?” Kadence’s voice startles her.
“Hm?” Nora replies. She’s not bothering to keep her eyes closed, and instead she looks Kadence right in the eye.
“You were in there for a while. Are you okay? Did you have a nightmare?”
“Oh, um…” Nora hesitates. Should she say yes? Should she say no? What should she do?
Kadence takes her hesitation for uncertainty. “It’s okay, you can tell me.”
Nora’s mind races, trying to think up a good lie. Good thing Kadence can’t see her too well, otherwise she might see the lie written all over her face. “Well, it wasn’t as bad as it could be, but in this one Bria followed me to my house and told me she would burn it down in the near future.” It’s a full blown lie, but it’s better than nothing.
Under the covers, Kadences finds her hand and squeezes it. “Hey, it’ll be alright. It was just a dream. Okay? Nothing like that will ever happen. Bria’s actually a really nice person, when you get to know her.”
Nora jerks her hand away and turns to look away from her. How could she say something like that? Bria murdered her parents, and she expects her to just forgive and forget? Oh hell no. That’s not happening. Ever. No matter what happens, Nora will never, ever, forgive Bria for what she did.
“Hey, I didn’t mean it like that,” Kadence says soothingly, touching her shoulder.
“Good night,” Nora says bitterly.
“I said good night.”
They fall into silence. And, miracle of all miracles, Nora actually falls asleep.
This time, her dreams are plagued by both Bria and Kadence. In her dream, Bria is the one who meets Kadence outside. But instead of a knife, she hands her a match. Kadence strikes it and watches the flame burn. When it blows out, she strikes it again, and turns to Nora. “Look at the pretty fire,” she says. Then, in slow motion, she drops it. It falls, falls, falls. Nora runs, but it’s a dream run, where she can’t move. Then suddenly everything around her is on fire, and she is choking on smoke.
Nora wakes up just as the sun is rising, unable to go back to sleep.