Okay, Listen up. I’m gonna tell you what you absolutely need to hear. It’s not pretty, but you need to know anyway. I’m gonna make it quick, so just buckle down and pay attention.
First of all, I’m Roxanne Monroe and I need your help. The whole world needs your help, so hear me out.
The Order is here. It’s happening right under your nose; they’re rising, planning, and scheming a massive plan that will rock our little world to pieces. Are you with me? Let me explain…
So basically, the Order is a group of evil madmen (and even women) wanting to take over the world, throwing away everything we believe in and starting over, creating their own law. Told you it ain’t pretty.
Years ago, there was “A War to End Our World,” where a trillion of people died—and our countries, cities, and towns were destroyed to oblivion. It’s known as the Great World War. Nothing is considered normal anymore. The world is led with lies and deceit. Nothing will ever be the same again.
This is where I come in. My story is pretty sad and pretty messed up, but you have to know about what’s really going on in this world, what the bad guys are really capable of. My story will make you ready—I hope. So, here goes nothing!
Growing up was never easy, let me tell you… especially when you’re living on your own, with no parents—not even a house. I live on the streets now, fending for myself. And that’s where my little tail begins.
Back before the big war, I used to live in what used to be Manhattan. Now, it’s just an empty shell of its former self. The country we now live in has been renamed “New America” by the evil government group, the NGO, took over, and they separated it into a number of Sectors. There is no such thing as ‘states’ any more. That part of the old nation’s past is long gone. The lower part of the city of Manhattan Island is the only place the NGO doesn’t occupy. Instead, they occupy everything else around it. The part I reside in with my fellow Rebelz is located in the Manhattan Island wasteland. Thankfully, the NGO doesn’t know we’re here; all they know is that this place is totally deserted and devoid of life, and we’d like to keep it that way. It’s already harder to live even without the NGO snooping around.
Sector 14 had crumbling buildings that housed most of the families who lived hidden away. Local gangs had formed and normally terrorized the neighborhood (which are less like neighborhoods, more like slums), so people usually just stayed shut inside all day, rarely venturing out. The lone wolves have to fend for themselves, some kids get into gangs, and very few decent kids with some good still left in them, banded together against The New Government Order and their ‘New World.’ I know this because I’m one of them. We are known as the Rebels.
We are housed in this old gigantic Macy’s store, that is now only half the size it used to be, decayed and falling apart. Every room and level holds a certain age group; the younger kids are on the higher levels, for safety reasons and in case of invasion, and the older kids are on the lower levels. The older kids gathered food for the Rebels so the younger ones don’t starve; so, basically, our main job is to watch over and take care of them. One of the Rebel Rules, put together by our law committee, is to put them first before ourselves, and that leaves us hungry most nights. But we were tough. If any of us kids had to starve, it would be us. It’s not much—but there really was no other option in sight.
We have a head person in charge: Sal, a very influential twenty-two year old. Everyone listens to him, especially the little ones. We all have the utmost respect for him.
Since I am 17, us 17–18 year olds stayed in the old Macy’s department store in what used to be known as New York City—“the biggest store in the world,” despite its current decayed state. I had a close-knit group of friends, and we were inseparable—even when we got on each other’s nerves a lot. Despite that downside, we hang out a lot. We were a crazy bunch, but we looked out for each other; we were close but we could totally get crazily hyper when we wanted. We had a blast, though.
That’s what we were doing at the moment, laughing off all our worries and just having a good time while we still could…
“Oh.Em.Gee!” my best friend, Jacquelyn Bentley, exclaimed, on the verge of telling me something. Jackie was an incredibly pretty blonde; her hair hung in messy ringlets passed her shoulders, a twinkle of amusement now shone in her usually sorrowful blue eyes.
I was surrounded by my best friends in the whole world while eating stale loaves of bread to satisfy our ever-grumbling stomachs. It was all that we could scavenge in the local markets.
Food these days were scarce due to the wars, and since the NGO controlled all the food supplies, along with just about everything else nowadays. Normally we would get our food by sneaking into the markets near the border between the deserted wasteland and the occupied part of Manhattan—now Sector 14—disguised as poor kids wandering aimlessly around the marketplace. Some kids that were still loyal to the Rebel cause working at the market stalls would smuggle some food supplies to us right under the snot-ridden noses of the NGO soldiers. One of the New Laws was that kids weren’t allowed to buy food at any of the NGO controlled Community Markets unless accompanied by an adult…
“I just can’t stop laughing, thinking about what Rickie did yesterday. You should have been there!” Jackie told me, giggling excessively.
Oh great… “What foolish thing did your twin do this time?” I asked, afraid to even hear the answer to that one.
Rickie and Jackie may be twins and equally annoying at times, they were definitely two very different people, personality-wise—as I’m sure you’ll figure out soon enough.
Rickie, who happened to be right there with us, was trying his hardest not to show how embarrassed he was, though the dark flush of his usually tan cheeks gave him away.
“Rick actually tripped! Usually I’m the one who does that.”
I nodded in absolute agreement. “Yes, this is true.” I turned to Richard Bentley, the klutzy Twin in question. “What’s your excuse this time, Rick?” I raised an eyebrow.
Rick shrugged, his face downcast in embarrassment. “Invisible rock.” He mumbled, biting into his share of bread.
“Nice going, Rickster!” This time, it was my other “short” friend, Janette Taylor, who went by Jane. She was the shortest one in our group, with thin, light brown hair that framed her face and brown eyes. She was a twig, and Rickie found it his absolute number one hobby to pick on her. A lot… Okay, maybe that was a major understatement.
“Rickie was just living up to his blonde roots!” Ella, my bookworm friend, pointed out.
This completed my crazy group of friends, who I confided in with everything—well, almost everything. They could get on my nerves a lot, but they were the closest thing I had to a family now, and that was better than not having any at all.
“As usual,” Jane added, throwing a tiny rock at him. Surprisingly, it actually managed to hit him squarely on the side of the head; Jane wasn’t the most coordinated person ever.
We all burst into giggles, besides Rickie of course. He continued eating his bread piece, turning a bit red. “You’re all gonna pay for this.” Rickie threatened, but it didn’t do much good.
“Hey, you four giggle-bots! Sal has called a meeting.” A guy with short, spiky black hair and a sly grin poked his head into the dressing room we were camping in. He had the most strangest eyes I’d ever seen… They creeped me out just looking at them, so I tried to avoid them at all cost.
“Really? It’s almost ten!” I complained, getting to my feet. My friends followed suit.
“Well, it’s a serious matter. There’s been a thousand of recent deaths from a bomb explosion in New Ferry.” The boy said. This was Jax, and he specialized mainly in bombs, so he definitely would know all about this.
Oh, shoot… “Alright, we’ll be right there.” I said grimly. Jax nodded and left.
I couldn’t help thinking about the NGO and how their ruthless reign had caused so much panic, pain, and destruction everywhere.
“Gosh dang it!” Jackie exclaimed, crossing her arms. “Why does the NGO have to always kill innocent people?” Always the Quaker…
“We need to show those NGO bozos what for!” Jane hooted, angrily determined. Despite her size, Jane attempted at acting tough—normally when she tried this hard, it was pretty hilarious. We couldn’t help giggling despite the recently tainted atmosphere.
“Come on guys, it’s meeting time.” I said as I led them to the ground floor of Macy’s.
Everyone that lived in the Rebels compound was already gathered in the lobby of the mall below the balcony platform when we arrived.
Now, let me explain how these Rebel “Conference” Meetings work so you don’t get lost…
Each age group of kids had representatives that spoke for them during these conferences up in the conference room, which was where the Rebel Committee gathered to discussed actions, laws, and other stuff, depending on what was happening. We normally would discuss rules and that sort of boring stuff, but today, I had a feeling this would be different.
I was a Junior Representative for Kyle; a decent guy with messed up glasses, blonde hair and kind, brown eyes. He was quite smart, so basically, I accompany him and listened in. Many times during these meetings, I was always tempted to bring something to color on. Hey, at least it gave me something to do!
Immediately once we arrived, Kyle found me, weaving himself through the crowd.
“There you are. Come on, we’re going to be late!” said Kyle when he spotted me, grabbing my arm and pulling me away from my friends. With a quick wave goodbye to them, I let Kyle pull me through the knot of people crowded in the main lobby of Macy’s. I swear—if Kyle pulled any harder on my arm, it was going to fall off!
The bad thing was, Kyle wasn’t that strong; he was only a nerd with the specialty for politics, mostly, just not the NGO’s.
We hurried up the staircase to the balcony above us where the conference room was located, and we walked right on in. About twelve teens and young adults were standing or sitting around a long, chipped table. Kyle and I immediately took our places near the head of the table, edging around people to get there. Usually, I’d just barge on through and not bother to go about it nicely. I was just that kind of brash person.
Sal, our 22 year-old leader, stood at the head of the table, looking all regal and authoritative. He was well-respected, and everyone liked him because of his natural charisma, his strength, bravery, and courage. Noticing our arrival, Sal cleared his throat to begin the meeting, his deep hazel eyes sweeping around the room.
The effort was useless, of course, so he looked to the reliable Bailee Barrett, who had the most notoriously loud voice ever in all of Sector 14—and probably the whole world, or whatever was left of it. She was also another friend of mine; she and Rickie were always bickering as well.
Rickie sure had a way with the ladies…
Bailee smiled, a glint of mischief flickering in her eyes. “My pleasure…” She cupped her hands to her mouth, ready to yell. I quickly covered my ears, as did everyone else who was in hearing distance, who had been paying attention.
“SHUT UP!” She yelled. Everything was quiet at once.
Now that was some talent. I was totally jealous.
“Okay, everyone find a seat and listen please. This is important.” Sal said, all serious and commanding.
Sal had handsome light brown hair and deep hazel eyes. It’s not like I have a humongous crush on him, because I don’t! Yes, he may be totally handsome, but he also has a steady girlfriend named Trina, who’s equally good-looking and super sweet; everybody loved her, me included.
Sal began talking about the bombing in New Ferry later that night, and how many innocent people had lost their lives. I hadn’t actually heard the whole story yet, so all of this information was actually new to me.
I continued to listen as Sal went on with the recent events, saying how we needed to dispatch a team down there to help the remaining survivors, which I was all for.
However, one kid stood up in protest; Alec, of all people. “Dude! We can’t sacrifice out own kids to help! Let’s not bother with them.”
A small few people murmured in agreement. What? I was about ready to throw something at him; preferably something hard.
Sal, as always, kept his cool and addressed the impulsive kid who said, ‘dude’ in almost every sentence. I could tell he was rather annoyed by Alec. Who could blame him?
“They need help. Wouldn’t you want help from others, too, if we were bombed? We are going to help. We would need the help too, if it were us.” Sal pointed out.
“Yeah, but it’s everyone for themselves! It’s not like Sector 15 would help us either!” Alec argued.
I searched around for something relatively heavy to throw, just to stop his stupid arguments. Sadly, there wasn’t anything loose in the room at all that I could throw—which might have been just as well; Sal probably made sure of that, knowing people would have thrown things out of anger at one another. Smart, but I was dying to get out of my chair and through it instead.
“That’s a completely separate Sector,” Kyle pointed out. He leaned forward as he spoke, hands braced on the table top to hold himself up. “New Ferry is a part of out Sector, so we need to help each other; we need to band together to overcome the New Government Order. It would help us immensely.”
“Yeah, Alec, I side with them on this one!” Bailee spoke up, fists on the table.
“Me too,” I agreed. Kyle nodded as well, and a few other reps murmured agreement also.
Alec looked disgruntled. “Fine. Whatever, dudes. If anyone dies over this, I did warn you.” He would always argue with these kind of things, and Sal always fought him over it. It got on my nerves! I really didn’t know how Sal did it half the time. Goodness knows how he puts up with his job as leader of this sorry bunch of kids, and putting up with Alec on top of everything else. What also amazes me is how Smart-Alec was made into a rep. He must have rigged it or something; there was no way he could have gotten in otherwise.
“So, as I was saying, we are to dispatch a group over there to help them, provide them with food and water, shelter, clothing, and heal the wounded. Kyle, you and Rox can lead this one. Oversee everything that goes on. You’ll need guards too.” Sal added at the end.
We didn’t have a main person to oversee the guards and we weren’t too worried if we didn’t have enough, but it would help us a lot though.
“Why them? Roxanne has the shortest temper of all of us!” Alec complained.
I game him a death glare. “Oh, shut your annoying trap! At least I don’t argue with everything that’s said.” I said angrily.
“Yeah, you’re just jealous!” Bailee retorted in my defense.
Alec turned to bark something else harsh but got cut off by Sal, breaking it up before things got physical. Bailee could give Alec a black eye, which would be awesome to see, only to humiliate Alec even more. That would make my day.
“Enough, you two. Chill.” Sal ordered, and Alec’s rep grabbed him by the color of his green shirt, forcing him to sit back down.
Bailee stuck her tongue out at him.
Sal turned to Alec. “Roxy is able to do this job.”
I held my head high, happy Sal was putting him down to his level. I may have a temper, but I also had a sweet side to me, especially to kids in need.
After a few more discussions, we were all set. Kyle and I rounded up every kid able to help with the restoration group. I met Rickie, Jackie and Jane outside after the meeting was over.
“Hey, have you guys seen Ella?” I asked, searching around for her recognizable dark brown hair.
“She went to help get the supplies for the kids in New Ferry, I believe.” Jackie said. “Oh, here she comes now!”
My other best friend came walking up to us, grinning when she say me. “Hey Roxy. How did the meeting go?” She asked, always the caring one.
“Alec argued about having to help the homeless kids in New Ferry.” I said relaying to them what had happened. After I was finished, my friends shared looks of annoyance.
“Wow, how jerkish can he be?” Jackie wondered, shaking her head in disbelief.
“Yeah, I know.” I grumbled.
“Hey, at least Sal put him in his rightful place.” Jane said, pumping her fists. “One point for us, zero for Jerk-face!” she cheered, being the absolute dork she was.
We all followed Kyle through the bustling crowd of kids, towards the front doors, where we met Sal holding a mega phone. To get the crowd quiet, and to be able to be heard over the chatting crowd, Sal spoke into it, his voice echoing across the expanse of the main floor.
“I would like every kid strong and able to meet over here by me.” Sal said, gesturing to where he was standing.
I could see Trina, Sal’s girlfriend, and her helpers tagging along behind her. She was one of the sweetest people you would ever meet; everyone loved her because she was amazing!
Once everyone was present, Sal led us out the doors and into the foggy morning light. The sun was hidden behind a mess of clouds so we had to carefully pick our way though the rubble and debris that littered the streets. We were a fairly large group of thirty kids or more. Some had flashlights, while others had provisions for the New Ferry guys.
Sal stopped us once we had walked a couple yards from the mall. It seemed like he was waiting for something—or someone.
Not too long after, a small group of older teenagers came up to us from behind one of the surrounding buildings. As usual, the streets of Manhattan were desolate and eerily silent. Occasionally, a piece of trash or debris floated around, carried by a light wind from the Northwest. The buildings around us were just as silent and dark, giving the atmosphere an eerie, creepy feeling. It was so odd. There wasn’t even a single sound, not even a birds chirping—like a ghost town.
The guy at the head—who I assumed was the leader here—looked about a year older than me. He had dark hair, equally dark blue eyes, and handsome features. He looked quite tough, and the way he held himself told me that he’d seen a lot—both the good and the bad. He looked about an inch or so taller than I was, and definitely more athletically built than I was, especially in the arms, shoulders, and legs. Looking into his eyes now, I felt that I could trust him with my life, for reasons unknown to me. I felt completely safe. How weird...
I shook off the feeling and focused on these new arrivals. The other guys had on guarded expressions, which immediately told me that they were the handsome guy’s bodyguards. He must have been our contact, relaying information from New Ferry to Sal in order to keep us in the loop. That was just my guess, anyway. And it looked like I was right.
The lead boy bowed his head in acknowledgement to Sal as he came up to meet him.
“Hello, Blake. How are things holding up in New Ferry?” Sal greeted him, outstretching his hand to shake Blake’s hand in a formal gesture. Sal was also an absolute gentleman all the time.
I was standing behind them with Kyle and our restoration party, while Sal stood away from the group talking with our new visitors.
Blake sent Sal a somber look, shaking his head. “It’s not good. There’s been many deaths, mostly from starvation or from building collapses...” He trailed off, is tenor voice soft as he spoke.
Sal nodded. “I’m so sorry for your loss. We do not want to see anymore innocents suffer, so we’re here to help.”
Blake’s mouth curled into a tired but grateful smile that barely reached his eyes. “All of New Ferry is grateful for your help.” He said. Those dark blues shifted past Sal. It was then that our eyes met.
I quickly looked away, silently praying I wasn’t blushing. If so, someone probably should’ve slapped me right then.
“Shall we head out?” I heard Blake ask. I was looking down at my feet, but I dared a glance up.
Sal nodded. “Yes, we should.” We began walking, with Blake’s group leading the way. Jackie, walking next to me, nudged me, shooting me a knowing glance as she grinned.
“What?” I asked. She was starting to make me uncomfortable.
“That Blake boy is gorgeous; did you see him staring at you?” She asked quietly under her breath.
My face burned. “Jackie!” I whispered hoarsely at her, embarrassed to be talking about this right now.
“Well, he did!” She insisted, sill grinning. I wish she would stop that!
“So what? Yeah, sure he’s cute—but that doesn’t mean I like him!” I told her, glancing ahead at Sal and Blake. Thankfully they were too busy talking to each other to notice us.
“So, you DO think he’s cute!” Jackie said, her grin growing bigger, tantalizing me.
I mocked punched her in the arm. “Just shut up.”
She let out a little laugh, continuing to lightly bounce as she walked beside me. “Love you, too, sis!” I swear, she was a little ball of ANNOYING!
Technically, she wasn’t actually my sister, but we were so close that we might as well be. So we called each other ‘sis,’ just like she and Rickie would call each other ‘Twin.’
Our group walked on in silence as we continued to follow Blake’s team. Then, Sal did the most embarrassing thing that he could ever do to me; he waved me and Kyle up to the front with him, including Tina and her group of helpers.
Jackie grinned, nudging me in the arm with her elbow, her eyes practically saying, “Go get ‘em!” She was so not helping. I made a mental note to remind myself to personally murder her afterwards, if I didn’t die of embarrassment first.
Reluctantly, I walked up to the front with Kyle, who took his place on Blake’s other side. Blake was on Sal’s right side and Trina took her place to Sal’s left.
“This is Kyle and Roxy. They’re leading this restoration group, overseeing everything.” Sal said, gesturing to Kyle and I.
Blake acknowledged us with a polite nod of his head. Every being in my body was going haywire at being the center of attention. He was such a gentleman! Seeing my ‘dear-in-the-headlights’ expression, Kyle furrowed his eyebrows at me, which made his glasses slide down his nose as he nudged my side to get me to wake up. I tried acting as if I hadn’t just frozen on the spot like a freak.
The gentleman in question looked at Kyle, than at me, where they lingered for a moment longer as he smiled kindly at me. I smiled as politely as could, trying not to show how freaked out I was.
“This is Trina, our healer. She’ll take care of the wounded.” Sal said, a hint of warmth in his voice as he said it. There was no doubt that there was a sort of connection between the two of them; it was obvious.
“It’s nice to meet you guys. I’m glad you all are here to help.”
“So our we; anything to help people in need.” Trina replied sweetly. Her voice was like honey dripping from the jar—it was seriously that wonderful. The exaggeration is necessary, believe me.
I sincerely hoped things wouldn’t be getting even more uncomfortable between this Blake character and me. I didn’t want to think about anything but helping this town in this recent tragedy.
It took us around an hour to reach the outskirts of New Ferry, and the sorry sight before my eyes was devastating. I covered my mouth in horror, staring at all that was left of the once beautiful town of New Ferry.
My parents used to show me pictures of how New Ferry used to look before the Great War started. It used to have a magnificent towering waterfall and a beautiful countryside in the distance. Looking at it now, it didn’t look anything like the pictures.
A whimper escaped from Jane’s lips behind me. Other than that, it was deathly silent in our group as we gazed at the demolished landscape that lay in ruins before us. It only made me hate the NGO even more, with a fiery, burning passion.
“The NGO won’t get away with this.” I vowed, half to myself. Beside me, Jackie and Kyle murmured their agreement.
Breaking the somber silence, Sal turned to Blake. “Now that we have seen the destruction The New Government Order has wreaked havoc upon your wonderful town, we are more than determined to help.”
Blake nodded. “Thank you so much. This means a lot to us.”
Ella, who had brought an old camera from the twentieth century, started snapping pictures of the destroyed city. She was in charge of taking evidence back to our band of misfits. They would flip when they saw the pictures. Hopefully, it would wipe the smug smile off Alec’s face and make him eat his words.
Blake led us through the demolished remains of a subdivision, with the million crumbling buildings, rotting fences, and upturned lawns. Ella snapped a few more pictures of the mess as we walked.
It took us fifteen minutes or more to reach the place where the survivors of the bombing were staying. It was a small neighborhood with maybe twenty houses max. We say kids of all ages resting in the yards, out on the street, cooking over a puny campfire, or going in and out of their houses. As our group walked through, everyone came to meet us, stopping whatever they were doing to stare with their sad-ridden eyes that were filled with despair and sadness; I could practically taste it. All of them were caked in dirt with their clothes tattered, and some all bandaged up. It was a sad sight; like what happened in Haiti and after Katrina so long ago, or the tsunami that ripped through Japan and causing their a nuclear meltdown at their power plants. But it was all nothing compared with what had happened here.
I spotted a little dark-haired girl with her thumb in her mouth, who looking at me with her little doe-eyes. She looked to be about six or seven years old. What caught my eye was, despite the destruction all around her, she wore a yellow-canary dress that was tattered at the hem, ripped and caked with dirt. She even had a pink bow pinned in her hair, like someone had tried to make her look nice even after all that had just happened.
Her hazel-eyed gaze slipped from mine and went to Blake’s. Her face lit up like the sun at the sight of him, and she ran to him. Seeing her advance, Blake kneeled down to meet her, arms out to embrace her. His face broke out into a smile as the little girl jumped into his outstretched arms. There was still a hint of sadness mixed with exhaustion in his face and in his dark eyes.
“BAKE!” The little girl cried in her cute, little-kid voice, wrapping her little arms around his neck. Blake hugged her, patting her back affectionately. “Hey, squirt. Are you staying safe?” he asked her, as if he was a parent and he was making sure she was using good manners. It was adorable.
“Yes, just like you told me!” she told him dutifully, grinning from ear to ear in a carefree manner; she had no idea how much her life was on the line, didn’t know what was at stake. She was absolutely lucky.
“Good, now go on and play with your friends. I’ve got some things to take of.” He said, giving the girl a pat on the top of her head. Giggling, the little girl ran to do just that.
When she left, Blake got to his feet. He glanced at me, noticing me watching him. He smiled, his sad, somber look back on his face, and I didn’t really know how to respond to that. Should I smile back? Would I look stupid?
Instead, I turned away, my face burning at being caught as Sal thankfully began giving out orders.
Kyle walked up to me. “Come on, Rox. We need to search for more survivors. There are still a bunch of people missing.” He told me, waving me on.
I nodded, collecting myself. “Let’s go.” I said.
However, much to my surprise, Blake walked over. Oh crap, I thought.
“May I help with the search?” he asked politely.
“Yeah, sure, follow us.” Kyle said, glad that we had another party to add to our search. The twins, Jane and Ella joined us as well, along with Blake’s other bodyguard friends.
Jackie eyes me, wiggling her eyebrows at me. “And he’s good with kids, too. That definitely brings up his adorable cuteness factor.” She winked at me.
I glared at her with affection, pushing her lightly as I rolled my eyes. “You know I’m going to seriously hurt you when we get back.” I told her.
She grinned at me. “I know,” she replied matter-of-factly. I rolled my eyes again.
“Let’s not waste time, guys.” Kyle reminded us, trying to get us moving.
Jackie and I got down to business, dropping the teasing for now. We followed Kyle and Blake as he led us to the heart of New Ferry, where the destruction was the worst.
“So where did the explosions happen?” Kyle asked. Blake was walking on his right side so I took my place on Kyle’s left to listen in on what Blake had to say.
Blake answered Kyle’s question, while motioning up ahead at an empty shell of what I recognized that used to be the tallest, most magnificent building in all of New Ferry. It had been one of the towns’ trademark buildings and attractions, with the addition of New Ferry’s gigantic waterfall and river ways.
I remembered seeing the building in the pictures my parents had shown me long ago. It used to tower about 50 feet tall, if I remembered correctly. However, it was now completely gone, with only a huge mound of debris left where it once stood. As we got closer, Ella took a snap shot of the mound.
“We haven’t been able to remove the debris to look for more survivors, but with more people, we actually might be able to.” Blake said, sounding relieved at that last part.
“What is your job here?” Kyle wondered as he pushed the bridge of his glasses upright on his nose, rather interested in this Blake character. I kind of was too, to be honest; he was so mysterious that it made me want to know more about him. But hey, I wasn’t no stalker, mind you.
“I was in charge of all the guards, but now we have so many, plus there’s a new guy who wants to take over, thinking me too—I don’t know… They just want someone new.” Blake said, with an exasperated sigh at the end. He looked annoyed, too, poor guy.
“Huh, that stinks. If it helps, you look new enough to me… For us, we have just the opposite; we don’t have enough guards to go around.” Kyle said conversationally, his mind elsewhere. Blake nodded silently, deep in thought.
We finally reached the mound of rubble of the demolished skyscraper a while later. It was a mess; soot and ash was everywhere, covering everything. Some of us began hacking so bad from the sooty dust that still permeated the air around us. The smell of burnt rubber and metal was all that I could smell; it was so horrible that even I almost hacked.
“Ew! It smells gross!” Jane complained, plugging her nose at the putrid smell.
“Ditto,” Jackie agreed, covering her mouth with the collar of her shirt.
“I’ve got some masks, if that’ll help.” Said one of Trina’s interns, who had tagged along with our group. Ella, the twins, and Jane took that opportunity to grab some, but I decided to brave it and go without.
Afterwards, we got to work moving rubble, like broken cement slabs, from the pile of the burned skyscraper. Each time we moved something, dust went flying everywhere and the kids started coughing like no tomorrow. Eventually, Trina came around and handed out bottles of water to all of us, which helped wash down the grit and dirt that had gotten stuck in our throats. Yuck…
• • • • • •
After a couple hours of hard work moving aside debris, we found our first survivor—a man who appeared to be somewhere in his thirties. His hair was caked heavily in dirt and soot, resembling a ghastly ghost. He was bruised pretty badly. He was laid off to the side, coughing up dirt, while two guys put him on a stretcher. He was handed some water to drink and taken away. Sadly, the others weren’t so lucky.
A couple of young guys around their twenties were found under a particularly large slab of cement and metal scaffolding, which had probably killed them on impact. I had the unfortunate honor of finding the dead body of a little girl, who had been crushed by the falling skyscraper after it had been blown up. I choked up, placing my dirty hands over my mouth in absolute shock and horror. She looked almost like me; pale ginger hair, ringlets hung matted and splayed around her head, with pale skin and dark green eyes that stared into nothingness. She was all bloody and bruised but had soft features of a young girl, innocent. She was so young...
I barely noticed movement out of the corner of my eyes as someone kneeled down next to me, lightly touching my shoulder, which snapped me out of my thoughts. I turned to see Blake, looking solemnly at me, like he understood my pain.
He looked away to reach out and close the little girl’s eyes to make it look as if she was sleeping. Fully awake now, I carefully rubbed my eyes, barely registering the fact that I was crying, and that surprised me; I rarely ever cried much anymore.
“Are you going to be okay?” Blake asked in a soft and gentle voice. It almost didn’t sound like a question.
I just nodded, not trusting my voice enough to speak aloud. I somehow felt more comfortable now—I have no idea how or why, but I did. Blake just being there made it somewhat better, which wasn’t what I was used to. This was seriously getting weird.
Taking me by surprise, Blake got to his feet in one fluid motion. He bent down and picked the girl up gently, cradling her like a baby in his arms. He carried her over to a barren field where the dead were to be buried.
I got to my feet, composing myself once again. That girl had scarily resembled me in almost every characteristic way, except my eyes were lighter, whereas hers had been practically hazel.
Blake walked back over to me, making sure I was really okay. After I persisted that I was definitely fine, Blake nodded and went back to work—not before he gazed one last time into my eyes. Once he found whatever he’d been looking for, he flashed me a friendly, but sad smile and went back to work. Once I had composed myself again, I, too, got back to work, but my mind was still on Blake.
The guy made me nervous, no doubt about that; I freakin’ blush every time we made eye contact! What was wrong with me?
I snuck a peek at him as I worked, moving rubble with my friends. Blake was helping Kyle lift a particularly massive cement slab off a guy’s trapped leg; sadly, he’d probably end up losing that leg.
I couldn’t help but notice how strong Blake looked, lifting up that huge slab. He wore a T-shirt that showed off his nicely toned arms, so I could see the strained muscles that clearly showed in his arms as he lifted the thing. I was sorta awestruck at this.
“You’re drooling…” Jackie said under her breath, grinning like an idiot. I flushed angrily, glaring at her. Apparently, I had stopped working and she had noticed, as did Jane and Ella; they snickered gleefully.
“Just get back to work,” I grumbled, my face still pink. My friends snickered some more, but quickly got back to work. There was something definitely wrong with me if I was constantly staring at a guy, ‘drooling’—as Jackie would most definitely put it. What was with me? I never shared an interest in guys before now. I guess it was a girl thing… I must be going through that stage.
Once we had officially cleared out the blast zone, we headed back to camp. All of us were covered with dust and soot, and we were all sweaty and tired from the relentless hours of clearing up the blast zone.
“Ew, I’m all dirty and gross!” Jane whined.
“Aw, poor Janie” Rickie empathized sarcastically, which earned him a dirty look from Jane. She hated being called Janie, and so Rickie constantly called her that just to annoy the hell out of her.
“Shut up, Jerk-Face!” She retorted. Before the argument got heated and ended badly, I decided it would be an excellent time to I cut in.
“Okay, you two! Enough! Can’t you just act like you like each other?”
“NO!” They said in perfect unison. I sighed, giving up. They were a lost cause. I don’t know why I even bothered…
• • • • • •
The day rolled on, not getting any cheerier. A dozen more bodies were buried out in a nearby field and given a respectful burial—even the bodies that no one claimed.
It was truly a sad ordeal. I hated so much sadness; it always put a damper on everything good and happy. But that was life for ya.
My friends and I helped distribute the clean clothes, food, and water to the people of New Ferry, or what was left of them. We were immersed in our work for the rest of the day. When the sun began to set and everything became dark, a cold breeze picked up, making it a bit chilly. Everyone gathered around their own campfires for warmth, chowing down on their much-deserved dinner.
Our group had our own campfire to keep us warm. Since we didn’t have anything to really keep us warm with besides the campfire, my friends and I huddled close together on a log for body warmth, sitting close to the fire as we could without getting burnt. Blake came to our rescue with a bundle of blankets in his arms and gave them to us.
“Ohmygosh, thanks!” Jackie exclaimed, taking the blanket he handed her.
“No problem,” He handed one to me and flashed me a small smile. “Thank you for helping out and agreeing to come down here. Sal told me about you backing him up back at the Rebel Headquarters, and everyone followed suit. I hear you’re a pretty good leader.”
I flushed at his praise. “Thanks. It was nothing, really...” I mumbled, turning even pinker. Ugh, what was wrong with me!
“We’re glad we came!” Jackie said, saving my butt.
After Blake left, Jane took a bit of roasted rabbit, “Jackie’s right, you do like him!” she said, her eyes alight.
I gave Jackie a piercing glare. “Traitor,”
She just grinned.
“And clearly he likes you back, so it’s perfect!” Ella jumped in.
I smacked a hand to my forehead. Great, now I was getting ganged up on! They were all traitors!
Just then, we heard a massive explosion near our encampment. Screams erupted in the little camp, with people running around frantic. I immediately was on high alert. My friends and I got to our feet, gazing around to find out where the sound had come from. All heads did the same.
“What just freakin happened?” Jackie wondered, freaked out, and she wasn’t the only one.
“Is the NGO attacking again?” Jane fretted, on the verge of tears.
I scanned the terrain. Once I spotted Sal, I raced over to him, closely followed by my friends.
“Sal, what the hell is happening?” I asked. I looked to my right and say a billow of smoke coming from a suburb not far away. It had been only a mini-explosion, nothing like the first.
Sal didn’t answer me at first. Instead, he looked out at the smoke billowing from the mini-explosion, a look of guilt on his face.
“Sal, what’s wrong?” I repeated, waiting to hear the worst. Blake leaned in, his expression braced as well.
Sal pried his gaze from the blast. “Rox, I sent Kyle over there to search for more survivors...” Sal didn’t finish his sentence. He didn’t have to.
I turned and looked towards the rising column of smoke, noticing how it began to wane and blow away by the chilling winds. “We need to get over there!”
Sal sent Blake, Trina, Jane, Ella, the Twins, and I over to investigate. We headed out right away, not wasting any time.