Someone knocks on the front door. “I’ll get it!” Nora calls. She sets down her spoon and makes her way toward the front door. Without even looking through the peephole, she opens the door.
Three people stand there. The one in front is a woman with shoulder length brown hair. The other two are muscular men with short black hair. All of them are wearing black suits and slacks. They all have purple sunglasses, and a silver and purple watch glistens from their left wrists.
They’re members of the government.
“Hello Nora,” the woman says. “Are your foster parents here?”
Nora tilts her head back slightly and calls, “Jenna!” without taking her eyes off the woman. “Where’s Lukas?” she asks. “I thought he was supposed to be here.”
“He was, but some issues came up that he had to deal with. So, I came in his place. I am Agent Theresa, and these are Agents Konnor and Malaki.”
Jenna comes up behind Nora. “Hello. How may I help you?” she asks politely. But Nora can detect a hint of an edge in her voice.
Agent Theresa pulls out an identification card. “Agent Theresa of the ISA, also known as the International Spy Agency. We are here to talk to you about your daughter.” She forces a tight smile. “But don’t worry, she is not in trouble.”
Jenna opens the door wider and beckons them inside. They walk in and sit down in the front room. They sit up straight, however, and don’t slouch or get comfortable. Nora wonders if she will have to sit like that. Her and Jenna sit on the couch opposite them.
Jenna looks between Nora and the three agents. “So, what exactly is going on here?”
“Well, you see, when she was in Greece, Nora came into contact with one of our agents. After some talk, she agreed to work for the government. Now, since you are her guardian, we have to consult you first about all of this. And before you ask anything, let me tell you some more. She will be working as a double agent. She will pretend to be a member of a rebellion that calls themselves the Boundless, but really she will be spying on them for us.
“It’s going to take a few weeks of training. What we’ll do is have her go to school, and then right after we will pick her up and bring her to the training area. Now, I understand that she has homework to do. That is why we will return her by 7:30 every day so that she can work on her schoolwork. She will eat her dinner at the training area. On Saturdays, she will be with us from 8:00 am until 7:30 pm. Then she will get all of Sunday to rest.
“Yes, she will get paid. $100 an hour for training, $500 an hour when she works with us, and extra bonuses every time she completes a mission. The numbers are high to compensate for the likelihood of Nora losing her life.” Nora doesn’t like the sound of that.
“Once her training is finished, we will meet with you again to discuss what will happen when she works for us.” She then turns to me. “Now, Nora, you’ve probably already met with the Boundless, I am sure. During your training, you will still have to pretend to be a part of the rebels, and do what they tell you to do. Report back any useful information you have.”
She pulls something out of her pocket. It’s a pair of purple sunglasses, a watch, and a pill. “You will need these. They will allow you to communicate with us. The sunglasses with display various pieces of information for you, along with messages from us. The watch will not only act as a clock, but it is also what allows you to control what you see in your sunglasses. The pill is what will connect your brain to the sunglasses. I know it sounds weird, but hear me out. The way we communicate is not through talking. What this pill does is allow you to send us messages through the sunglasses. You just think of what you want to say, and you will see your words pop up on your sunglasses. You can make edits and all that just like you would with a text message. And then all you have to do is send it. Now, do either of you have any questions?”
Nora is the first to ask something. “What should I tell my friends?”
She shrugs. “Normally what works is saying you got a job. If they ask where, just say you are too embarrassed to say.”
Jenna asks, “What, so there is a rebellion going on?”
Agent Theresa nods. “Yes, there is. They want to try to overthrow the government and create their own system.” She shakes her head. “It is very disorganized. Nora will help us shut them down.”
“How do I communicate with you guys while I’m with the rebels? It’s not like I can go around wearing the sunglasses.”
She taps the side of her sunglasses, and suddenly they disappear, revealing her kind but cold light blue eyes. “Invisibility. Also, they can only be taken off by you, so you don’t have to worry about them getting knocked off at any point. And before you ask, the watch has the same feature.” She turns the sunglasses visible again and turns to one of her fellow agents. “Get the contract out.” He gets it out and hands it to Jenna.
He says, “Take as much time as you need to read through it.” His voice is deep and booming, and he is probably someone who can talk to a big crowd with no problem.
Finally, after looking them over, Jenna signs the papers and hands them to Nora. She reads it over, signs, and hands them back.
Agent Theresa smiles. “Now, why don’t we get the sunglasses set up?” She hands them over to Nora.
Nora swallows the pill dry, and feels a little prick inside her brain, like a small headache. She then puts on the watch and then the sunglasses. The watch has a silver chain that fits perfectly around her wrist, and the clockface is a deep purple with silver hands and numbers. She slips the sunglasses on. Surprisingly, despite the purple color on the outside, they’re just like glasses. She can see through them clearly, as if they were just a pair of glasses.
“So how does it work?”
Theresa points to various buttons on the watch. “This opens up the chat where you can talk to us, this turns your watch invisible, this brings up a GPS of where you are located, this lets you change the time on the watch to correspond with anywhere on Earth, and this opens up the menu bar at the training area.”
“A menu bar?”
“Yes. You need to eat somehow. But that’s only if you want something other than what is already out. Now, to test it out, I will send you a message.” After a moment, a notification pops up inside the sunglasses.
“Woah,” Nora murmurs. She hits the button on her watch, and it opens up to fill up her left eye. Try to send something back. She thinks of what she wants to say, and suddenly words appear on the bottom, like a text message. She smiles and sends Like this?
“Perfect. Now, your training will begin tomorrow after school. When you get home from school, an escort will be waiting here for you.” She turns back to Jenna. “You will be able to explain this to your husband, correct?”
“Do you have any other questions?”
Nora and Jenna both shake their heads.
“Very well then. Thank you for joining us, Nora. You made the right choice.” She motions to the other two men, and they leave.
Jenna turns to Nora and crosses her arms. “And when were you planning on telling me all this?”
“I’m sorry! I just knew that they would be coming, and thought it would be easier for you to understand.” She presses a button on her new watch to make the sunglasses invisible. “But yeah, so I’m a spy for the government now. But I also do stuff for the resistance.” She proceeds to tell her about becoming a Scout, and how she has a communication device in her ear to talk to them.
Out of nowhere, Jenna wraps her arms around her. “You’re growing up so fast! I still remember when you were walking into first grade. And the day you came home crying in fourth grade, because your old friends ditched you. And then the next day when you told me about Brylee. And your first day of middle school, how you were so nervous you pretended to be sick.” Nora smiles at the memory. “And your first day of high school, how you felt that you could conquer the world. And now, look at you, having such an honored place in society.”
“Even a few days ago, life was so simple,” she says quietly.
Jenna gives her a squeeze. “I love you Nora.”
“I love you too.” She almost calls her mom, because she’s the one who raised her for most of her life. Her parents never got that opportunity.
They pull away, and Nora heads upstairs. She lays there, staring at her ceiling, thinking about all the things that are going on right now. And tomorrow, she will return to school, and nothing will change. Well, almost nothing. News of Annabella has spread like wildfire across social media, so probably everyone knows about it by now. Monday is going to be interesting, to say the least.
She climbs aboard the bus like she would any other day. But it’s not any other day. After school today, she starts her spy training. She is still wearing the sunglasses, but she is careful to make sure they are invisible. The same goes for her watch.
“Hey Nora,” Brylee says. She sounds tired, and Nora wonders if she got any sleep after everything that happened.
“Hey. How’ve you been?”
She shrugs. “Eh. I’m mostly worried about school today.” They climb onto the bus. “I mean, so much has changed, but for most people, it was just a normal weekend. And I’m scared of what people will be saying about Annabella, you know?”
“I was feeling the same way.”
They’re silent the rest of the way to school. Once they get there, it is obvious that there’s been a change. Instead of roaming about and talking in loud, booming voice, everyone is huddled in little groups, conversing or looking at someone’s phone. The sound of conversation is filled with hushed murmurs and quiet confessions. No one is playing basketball.
“This is freaky,” Nora whispers. She feels the need to whisper because of the silence surrounding them.
Then the sound of an engine. A hum at first, then a deafening roar. A plane flies overhead, and everyone looks up. Black planes like that are never a good sign.
Suddenly, someone grabs Nora’s wrist. She turns to see Kadence staring at her with hatred. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she hisses.
“Wha… what do you mean?” Nora looks back at Brylee, a confused expression on her face.
“Why were you there that night?” she asks. When Nora doesn’t reply, she goes on, “Why did you sneak out to see me? And why do you keep telling people I killed Annabella? That was a top secret mission, and you could blow my cover.”
“I-I-I’m sorry, I just… I uh… I was frightened. You killed an innocent child!”
“Oh, you think she was innocent?” Kadence asks, madness in her eyes. “Oh no, oh no no no no no! You’ve got it all wrong! She was the devil. She’s responsible for more deaths than you could imagine! And you’re getting mad at me for taking care of her?!”
“Knock it off,” Brylee says, shoving her. Kadence loses her grip on Nora and stumbles back, caught off guard.
People start to stare.
“What are you gonna do about it, huh?” Kadence asks. “You and Nora are both pathetic. Why were you even allowed to join?!”
“Kadence, calm down,” Nora says, trying to keep the peace.
“You’re talking about Annabella as if she is an old dog you had to put down! Like she’s nothing!” Brylee shouts.
“Well she was nothing! Billions and trillions of people have died in the past, what’s one more!?”
The people are starting to form a circle around them, curious.
“Brylee, Kadence, just stop, alright!” Nora shouts. “Just go your separate ways!”
“Be quiet Nora,” Kadence snaps.
“Hey! Don’t talk to my best friend like that!” Brylee shouts.
“I can talk to her however I want to talk to her!”
From the back of the crowd, someone begins to chant. “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” Soon the sound is an uproar that surrounds them like a cage.
“What’s the matter Brylee? Too scared to hit me?”
Nora grabs Brylee’s hand. “Come on, she’s not worth it.” And Brylee follows her. They walk away from the crowd, both seething with anger.
She is relieved when the day ends. Jitters run up and down her spine, and she tries her best to suppress a smile. She’s going to be starting her first day of training soon.
When she gets home, a sleek black car is waiting outside. She walks up to the door and heads inside. A man is talking with Herald and Jenna. He has the same black suit and purple sunglasses as the other agents. His blonde hair is gelled to perfection, and his face remains emotionless. He turns when she walks in.
“Hello Nora. I am Agent Cody, and I will be your escort during the time you are training. Are you ready to go?”
Nora set her backpack down in its usual spot. “Yep.” She waves goodbye to her foster parents before heading out the door.
Once she climbs into the car, Agent Cody says, “Every day, I will be waiting for you out here. You will drop off your backpack inside and then come right to the car.” He starts the car and begins to drive.
“How far away is it?” Nora asks out of curiosity.
“Oh, ‘bout fifteen minutes or so? You know that old warehouse that you’ve probably passes multiple times? Yeah, that’s actually the training base for this area. Super high security.”
“So, what exactly are, like, the rules of this place?” she asks.
“Don’t worry, all of that will be explained to you. We get new recruits every Monday, so we have people that introduce them to the place.”
“Hmm.” They drive the rest of the way in silence. Nora gazes out the window, looking at the world she has known for so long. Now, it all seems different to her. How many secrets does the world hold? How many people stay locked up behind doors not only to keep the world out but to lock themselves in? And every single person out there has a life, as complex and crazy as Nora’s (but not necessarily including government spies and all).
They pull up to the warehouse. Agent Cody opens the door for her, and she murmurs a thanks. He leads her an old, rickety door that looks like it could fall apart at any moment. He pushes it open to reveal what looks like an old shed.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” she asks.
He cracks a small smile and moves a wrench to the right. A small scanner appears. A small green laser light pops out, scanning his face. Then a little light turns green. All of a sudden, the walls split in two to reveal a moderate sized room with a security checkpoint. Beyond it is a network of hallways. The walls are covered in metal, and artificial lights give the area a shiny white glow. Guards are stationed at the checkpoint, and a few patrol the halls.
“Good evening Michael,” Agent Cody says to one of the officers.
“Cody. I see we have a new recruit.” His voice is low and gravely. He’s a bit on the heavier side, with graying hair and a small beard. He turns to Nora and flashes a smile. “And who might you be?”
“Nora Tenebris,” she says, her voice a little weak.
He nods his head. “Well, go on through the checkpoint. Then you’ll go to your left, and you’ll see a group of people there. Wait there, and they’ll give you instructions.”
Nora goes through the scanner, worried it will buzz and they’ll all aim guns at her. But the moment passes, and she’s through. She says goodbye to Agent Cody before making her way down the hall. Sure enough, there is a group of people not too far ahead. The youngest appears to be thirteen or fourteen years old, while the oldest is a woman around sixty.
She joins them silently, not wanting to draw attention to herself. Of course, like in any group of people, when someone arrives, they all at glance in their direction. But most of these people do a double take. It’s one of the problems of having red hair in this world; it’s a rarity, and people are naturally drawn to the strange and unusual.
“Alrighty everyone!” a voice calls at the front of the group. Everyone turns to look at him. He has sleek black hair and pearly white teeth. His sunglasses are on, and he’s wearing a smooth black jumpsuit with long sleeves. There are five thin gold bands engraved on his upper left arm.
“Hello! My name is Rhett, and I will be your guide for today. If you will follow me please.” All together, the group moves down the hallways. Nora glances around her and notices that most people’s sunglasses are visible. She taps the correct buttons to make hers visible, too.
“Before we begin, you will need to get into your jumpsuit. They are bulletproof, water proof, fireproof, and have a hood that will allow you to breathe underwater for five minutes. In this room please.” He opens a door to the right, and they all file in. “Men on the left, women on the right. The sizes are labeled. Grab your size, and then I will take you to the locker rooms so you can change. Shoes are on the bottom.”
Nora makes her way over to the jumpsuits. All of them have a single, thin gold band on the left arm. They almost look like they’re made of black scales. She grabs a medium and holds it against herself to make sure it will fit well. Looks pretty good. Then she grabs a pair of sleek, black running shoes that are her size. These people really like black.
A man asks, “What do the gold bands represent?”
“The bands represent your rank. One gold band means a beginning trainee, like yourselves. Two is for an intermediate trainee. Three for an expert trainee. Four for the beginning ISA members, and five for the more experienced members. Also known as the elite. Purple bands are reserved for high up officials. Now, if everyone has their size, follow me.” They exit the room and head to the one right across from it.
“Every day, you will come into this room. Find an empty locker and enter your name into the keypad. That will be your locker for you and you only the rest of the time you are here. Men on the left, women on the right. When you are finished changing, go through the other door. I’ll meet you there.”
Nora follows the other women into the room. She finds an empty locker close to the back. She types in her name, and then inserts her fingerprint and eye scan. Then she strips down, shoves her clothes in the locker, and puts on the jumpsuit. At first it hangs a little loosely in some areas, but then it shifts to fit her curves and edges. She’s so used to her nice little knitted sweaters that she forgot what tight clothes felt like. She slides the shoes on, and they are surprisingly comfortable.
She is among the first to exit. Rhett is waiting there patiently, his gaze seeming to be focused on the wall. It’s hard to tell with the sunglasses, though.
Once everyone is out, he says, “Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are for your physical training. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for learning codes, military strategies, history, etc. When you return to your lockers later today you will find a schedule that tells you what classes you will be attending.” He begins to walk, and everyone follows. “Down the two hallways on your left and right are your classes. All of them are numbered. And then up ahead is the physical training area.”
He dramatically opens a set of white double doors. It reveals a room that has various equipment in it. The walls are made of metal like the rest of the area, but there are windows in the ceiling that let the evening light filter in. Nora can’t help but admire the beauty of it. There are lots of people in here, all of them with the same jumpsuits and sunglasses.
“Welcome to the training area! I’m going to hand you off to my friends Braxton and Marianna.” Rhett leaves them to join a group of people with three gold bands.
The woman, presumably Marianna, says, “Hello everyone! I am so glad you were able to join us. We don’t have a whole lot of time before dinner, so we’ll start by giving you a tour of the place.”
“Every day, you will rotate between different areas,” Braxton explains. “You can honestly choose to go in any order you want, but if you want to be more efficient, just use the list that I just sent you all.” Sure enough, a list pops up in Nora’s sunglasses. So opens it up and briefly examines it.
They start to show them around, telling them what everything is. There are various types of weights and workout equipment. There’s also knife throwing (Nora wonders if she will be allowed to use that since she is a minor), shooting practice (scary), and something called ‘archery’, which involves shooting arrows at a target. In the far corner is a rock wall. “There are also various high-tech weapons,” Braxton explains, “but you have to wait until you’re at least in intermediate to use them.”
Nora is looking at one of these devices when someone catches her eye. She looks up. A boy, about seventeen or eighteen years old. He has skin as dark as chocolate, and his black hair is cut close to his head. His jumpsuit has five gold bands around it. The muscles on his arms stand out, and Nora can’t help but stare. People with dark skin are a rarity, since most of them were kicked out of the country in World War four.
He glances in her direction and looks her right in the eye. At least, he seems to. Stupid sunglasses make it hard to tell. She looks away, heat creeping onto her face from being caught.
“And that’s it! Look, we’re right on time for dinner,” Marianna says.
Sure enough, a bell rings, and everyone starts moving out of the room. Nora follows them silently. The dining hall is through a side door, and there are multiple tables around the room. All of them have tons of food, like meats, fruit, vegetables, etc. The only thing that can’t be seen anywhere is dessert. Maybe she’ll use the menu bar to order some later. People go to various tables, and soon there is an uproar of talking and clattering metal.
Nora looks around and finally spots an empty table. It’s shoved in a corner, away from all the attention. While other beginners find people they know, she goes over to that table and sits down. From here, she can watch the whole cafeteria. Which means she’s only looking at one person in particular: the boy with dark skin. He’s sitting with a group of other boys, talking and laughing.
“Nora, right?” a voice says. Nora turns her head to see a slightly familiar face. Hazel brown eyes, straight brown hair down to the center of her back, and cupid bow lips. There is a single gold band around her arm. Her sunglasses are be invisible.
“Yep, that’s me. Piper, right?” Piper is a girl that goes to her school. They’ve talked here and there, but not a whole lot.
“Yeah. Um, well I saw you sitting alone over here, and I was wondering if maybe you wanted to sit with me and my friends.”
Nora gets up and smiles at her. “Thanks.” Piper leads her over to a table with three guys and one other girl. “Nora, this is Xavier, Esteban, Ricardo, and Lezanna. Everyone, this is Nora. She goes to my school.”
Xavier is a tall boy with sandy blonde hair and a muscular build. There are two golden bands around his arm. He appears to be about seventeen, and his light blue eyes are warm yet intimidating. Esteban is a scrawny kid with a thin, pointed nose and an oval face. He has dark brown hair and never-seen-the-sun white skin. He only has one band. Ricardo is kind of a happy medium between Xavier and Esteban, with a strong build but thin arms. He has black hair and slanted eyes, and there are two bands around his arm. Lezanna has bleached blonde hair that is cut short at her chin. She has bright green eyes and a knowing smirk. She’s a beginner.
Seeing that they all have their sunglasses invisible, Nora does the same with hers. “Um, hi,” she says, sitting down.
“Hi,” Xavier says. “So, as I was saying, Bronson keeps pushing me harder than anyone else. I mean, just because I have bigger muscles doesn’t mean I need to be forced to do harder work!”
“I think he just sees your potential,” Lezanna suggests. “I mean, we all know what you’re capable of. He’s just able to see that strength and push you to your limits.”
“Besides, there’s nothing wrong with training harder,” Esteban says. His voice is high pitched, and kind of annoying. “It means you’ll move up in rank faster than the rest of us. I know I could use some extra training.”
Nora finishes her bite of apple before asking, “Who’s Bronson?”
“The dark guy who teaches the intermediates,” Piper explains.
Nora pretends like she doesn’t know who that is. “I don’t think I know who that is.”
“Oh, don’t act like you didn’t see him,” Ricardo says. “The guy stands out like a green apple in a bunch of red apples. Besides, most of the girls gawk at him when they first see him.”
“We do not gawk,” Lezanna argues. “We admire from afar.”
Nora doesn’t engage in conversation after that, and instead observes them. She begins to learn the eb and flow of their conversations and where their personalities click together. But she doesn’t feel like she’ll be able to click with them very well. They’re called cliques for a reason.
Another bell rings. Everyone heads back into the training room. There is still another two hours before she has to leave. She examines the recommended schedule. It looks like archery is first. She heads over there where a woman is waiting. “Archery is an old practise, but it is still useful. Not only will it give you a new skill, but it will help you learn about stance and aim.” She begins to show them how to do it.
“Your sunglasses will immediately calculate the correct angle at which to shoot, so all you have to do is follow the directions. You may begin.”
Nora grabs a bow and stands in front of her target. She takes stance and aims the bow. Immediately, numbers and lines and circles pop up in front of her eyes. They cross over each other and confuse her, so she decides to use to best judgement and fires.
She hits the edge of the target.
She grunts and puts another arrow in. She aims and fires. She gets closer this time, but still not a bullseye. She glances at everyone else, and they too seem to be struggling. At least she’s not the only one who is failing miserably.
She pulls it back one more time. She’s about to fire when she sees a figure moving her way. She focuses on the target and tells herself to focus. She fires, and misses.
Nora places another arrow in the bow. She draws back. The figure, who turns out to be Bronson, passes right behind her. “You’re doing it wrong,” he murmurs. His breath is warm against her neck. This startles her, and her fingers slip. She watches in slow motion as the arrow fires. It moves through the air and hits the target next to hers.
Right in the bullseye.
“Hey, watch it!” the man next to her exclaims.
“Sorry!” she squeaks, watching Bronson as he passes by. There is a smirk on his face.
“Stupid teenagers,” the man grumbles before returning to his target.
No matter how many times she tries, Nora can’t hit the bullseye. By the time she moves on to weights, she feels defeated.
The clock strikes seven. She trudges back to the locker rooms, mad at herself.
“You think too much,” a voice behind her says. She jumps and spins around. It’s Bronson. There is a smile on his face.
“Excuse me?” Nora says, defensive.
“You overthink it. When you weren’t thinking, you hit the target.”
“I hit someone’s else’s target.”
“You still hit it.”
“Why are you talking to me?” she asks. “Don’t you have a bunch of other more interesting people to talk to?”
He shrugs. “You and I are alike in our differences.”
“What does that-” she begins. But he’s gone. She huffs and heads into the locker rooms. As she changes, she thinks about what he said. You and I are alike in our differences. What is that supposed to mean? And that doesn’t even make any sense!
She finishes changing, and then notices a piece of paper in her locker. She pulls it out to see it is the schedule for her classes. This week, Tuesday is for American History (mainly the last two world wars) and Thursday will be for codes. Sounds fun. She puts the paper in her pocket and heads out. She gives the guard a small smile as she walks outside. It’s dark out, and a chilly wind blows. Nora hugs herself as she walks to the car. Agent Cody is waiting for her.
“So, how was it?” he asks as she climbs in.
“It was okay, I guess. I’m horrible at archery, despite the pointers given to me by the sunglasses. And I don’t get it! Why doesn’t it work?”
“You can have all the guidance in the world, but you have to actually be able to do it,” he explains. “I remember it took me a while to learn, too.”
“How’d you get better?”
“Practise. Extra help. All that good stuff.” They fall into silence for a moment. Then he says, “So, did you meet anyone?”
“Yeah, a girl from school named Piper was there. She introduced me to her friends. They’re nice, I guess.”
Nora thinks for a moment. “No,” she lies.
He finally pulls up to her house. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Nora. Good luck on your school work and get good sleep, alright?”
“Alright.” Nora walks inside. Jenna and Herald are both in the living room watching a movie.
Jenna glances over at her. “Hey honey. How was it?”
“Pretty good,” she replies. She grabs her backpack and says, “I’m gonna go do some homework.” As she goes up the stairs, she pulls out her phone.
Ten text messages from Brylee.
She hastily opens her phone and examines them.
Nora, you there?
We have to talk
I need to tell you something
Nora, answer me!
Are you ignoring me?
Please just answer
Fine, I’ll wait until school
Call me if you can though
Nora hastily calls her. She picks up after a few rings. “So now you answer,” she asks sarcastically.
“Sorry, I was busy!”
“I’ll explain tomorrow, I have to work on homework soon. But what did you want to talk about?”
“Never mind.” Then she hangs up the phone.