2 YEARS LATER
Life felt like a dream every day.
Elle was petrified that the moment they got off the train on their passage to Burbank, Spectrum would capture her and Milo and kill Mara. Then again, Elle never meant Uncle Ben to learn what a tactical genius he was!
Mara took the children to a safe house near the coast of California, where Uncle Ben was already waiting. He sort of looked like the old America’s portrait of Uncle Sam: Tall, with a square jaw and pure white hair like Santa Claus. He even sported a full beard, which was dark gray, below a set of white mutton chops and a stache.
The man wasted no time. He took them all to a tech guy he knew in an underground hacking den to get Milo’s chip removed from his body. It was probably the sketchiest, most unsanitary, and least safe surgery in the world, but Milo, being the average little boy he was, made it through like a champ.
After leaving the den of dark-webbers, they boarded a speedboat at the marina and rode that out to a small yacht (yet still a big boat), equipped with a helicopter pad. They rode the yacht out to Malaysia for what seemed like forever. Then, a helicopter came, and they flew back out to uncharted waters. They then dove into open water, where they were met by a surfacing submarine. People came out, pulled the four of them up onto the boarding deck, and brought them inside.
The Hawaiian Navy was in charge of the submarine. Elle didn’t know, but way back when America included all 50 States, Hawaii was one of them. During the most recent civil war, Hawaii seized the opportunity to become its own nation, a democratic republic modeled after the old America. As the Republic of America formed, they tried to invade Hawaii and take over. Still, ex-military Americans, who defected from the Democratic Coalition of America and the RA, fled to Hawaii and fought for their cause to be free. The RA was never successful in any plot to retake control of the volcanic island.
Uncle Ben wanted Mara, Paxton, Cory, and the grandkids to join him on the island, but they were determined to stay on the inside in hopes of working from within to reunite America.
Once they arrived on Kona’s main island, they boarded a small plane to land on water. Uncle Ben took them to an island literally surrounded by submerged, jagged rocks. He bought the island from the Hawaiian Government and built his own village, where he grows his own crops. The military makes supply drops to the island when essentials run out, or the generators and equipment need repair. He harvests rainwater and has his own water filtration system. He and everyone who lives on the island are able to live completely off-the-grid.
Yes, others lived there too, like friends he made over years of working for the NSA of old America. They’re all ex-military, former politicians, or ex-branch-of-government-law-enforcement-something.
The biggest surprise that wasn’t a surprise at all, really, was that Theus headquartered his rogue missions from the island, and that’s why the DCA didn’t always know what he was up to.
Six months after being on the island that Uncle Ben called Crown Vic, Elle and Milo were made experienced ranchers and island jungle survivalists. They had to hide their special abilities from everyone; they were stuck in school with average kids playing dumb, but they got to live a normal life.
Normalcy was something Elle dreamed of since she could remember, and it was a relief not having to constantly look over her shoulder, wondering when Spectrum would finally catch up to her.
Nearly being there a year, Paxton, Cory, and all their children but one made it to the island to live. The twins, Sky and Walker, were grown in their twenties, but Rex was Elle’s age. And their sister, Quorra, who stayed behind in the DCA just recently turned 18.
Love. Elle loved Milo, of course. Elle grew to love her mother, Mara. Elle even loved Uncle Ben, Paxton, Cory, and the twins. But the love she had for Rex was different. The instant she saw him, she crushed hard and couldn’t stop thinking about him in that scary, lovesick, obsessive way.
She thought her feelings were one-sided for a couple of months, but he revealed that he had a crush on her too.
But once they knew they liked each other, they didn’t date, or sneak around in secret, not because they didn’t want to, but because of Rex’s heartfelt religious beliefs.
Rex was a Christian. Yes, and not just a Christian in name, but in deed too. He believed the Bible, the whole thing, which meant a Christian didn’t date a non-believer.
As a highly trained spy with a photogenic memory, she totally could have faked the Christianity thing, especially with the research Milo dug up on Rex and his theology. However, Elle was lied to for most of her life, and she didn’t want to stoop that low to get what she wanted.
Even to Mara’s surprise, Colonel Ben Tucker found religion; yep, he believed in Jesus Christ and became the only pastor on the island. Twice a week, he held service under a tent. His daughter Cory and the twins played instruments and led the congregants in worship. Nearly everyone on the island attended church service except Mara and the others who didn’t believe in anything or had a different faith.
Elle and Milo attended services to blend in and not draw attention to themselves arriving on the island. Though the messages were interesting to Elle, she didn’t understand why a holy, perfect, all-powerful God would have to become a human being, while still being God, to die a brutal death, taking on the punishment of death for all of humanity. We deserved it for stabbing God in the back and not listening to Him in the Garden. She wanted to believe what Uncle Ben was preaching genuinely.
Elle was, genetically, the best of humanity trained to do the worst for humanity as an assassin. The nature of humanity was by default wicked as she learned God’s standard for life, week after week. And she believed, if she were to die without making Jesus the Lord of her life, she would go to hell, which was basically God’s version of a flaming landfill. Two months, three weeks, and four days after Rex arrived on the island, Elle gave her life to Christ by repenting of her sins and believing that Jesus died on the cross to forgive her of them.
Everything changed. Elle felt different, in a way she couldn’t fully describe as if the change was internally intangible – dare she say – spiritual. Granted, it was, but still. Elle was analytic, scientific, and practical, but spirituality had little place in science in the modern world.
She had this fire to know God more. Uncle Ben gave her a Bible, and she read it in one sitting. Though she’s read the whole thing, she excitedly rereads it, again and again, and each time learning something new that she hadn’t realized before. Scripture talks about it being alive, and she was convinced the scripture in the Bible was alive.
At some point, the explosive, obsessive affection she had for Rex waned in comparison to the devotion and the love she had for Christ.
After four months, two weeks, and five days of knowing Rex Jakes, he asked Elle if she’d like to court. Before asking her that big question, he waited for Theus/Zave to show up on Crown Vic. Rex, with his parents, met with Zave and Mara to ask permission for him to go out with Elle. Mara was confused about why her permission would need to be given because Elle was free to do what she wanted. As Paxton’s best friend, Zave knew how serious the whole family was about Christ and actually practicing their religion, so he went along with it and gave his blessing.
Now, after a year and half of courting and two years of being on the Crown Vic, Elle and Rex graduated with their class. The graduation ceremony was meshed with a luau-style reception because there were only three senior graduates: Elle, Rex, and his best friend, Tayler.
Rex was onstage playing the percussion for most of the night, as Elle sat at the table eating roasted boar and drinking fruity punch with Milo, Mara, Zave, and many of their friends. The night was going as expected.
Unexpectedly, Mara took Elle aside and asked her to go have a chat along the moonlit beach. Elle never hesitated to oblige her mother.
“I can’t believe you’re all grown up,” Mara said, looking down at her bare feet, slushing through the wet sand as bubbles of sea foam rushed over her feet.
“I’m just glad I don’t have to sit in a classroom all day, going over remedial education, being taught by a teacher I’m pretty sure couldn’t earn a Ph.D.,” Elle said, sighing with relief.
Both of the ladies laughed.
Mara went on to say, “What kind of life do you want, Arielle?”
Elle knew the answer to that easily. “A life that honors Christ.”
Mara rolled her eyes at Elle’s religious response, “Of course, but do you want to stay here, hidden from the world, or do you want to leave and join the fight with your father and me?”
“What do you mean? You’re leaving? Milo’s only seven. He hasn’t finished school yet.” Elle was confused. She thought everyone was happy here; why was there talk of leaving Crown Vic?
“I guess I should rephrase my question… Do you want to build your life here and see where it goes, or do you want to take down Spectrum from within?” Mara clarified.
“I don’t understand why I have to choose between one or the other. I’m sure Uncle Ben can come up with an excuse for me to periodically leave the island and go on missions with you and dad. If you’re asking me to give up Rex, I won’t. I love him,” Elle answered.
Mara veered away from the shoreline, heading inland toward the designated outdoor recreation area. Uncle Ben and the men laid down a field of grass for soccer. There was a covered jungle gym off to the side and a half-sized basketball court. On Elle’s first date with Rex, they played a match of one-on-one soccer.
Rex also knew Elle and Milos’ secret about their abilities. Elle told Rex everything after courting officially for about a week. She worried he would end the courtship, but he didn’t. He concluded that all the events in Elle’s life brought her to the island and allotted the opportunity for them to meet and be together.
Halfway to the rec area, Mara paused and took Elle by the hands, staring into her daughter’s eyes. “I’m sorry for being unsupportive of your religion. I’ve spent most of my career fighting religious radicals and bigots who hide behind God. And with all the things I’ve done, I don’t see how God would want anything to do with me if He were real.”
“Mom-,” Elle tried to take the chance to again tell her about the Gospel, but Mara cut her off.
“But seeing you give your all to this Jesus and believe in scripture… I’m gonna go to service, and I’m gonna start doing some reading, give this whole Bible thing a chance. I can’t promise my mind will change, but I’m going to explore what you believe, okay?” Mara explained.
Elle leaped to embrace her mom, elated to hear her prayers for Mara seemed to be working.
“You can ask me anything, and you can definitely talk to Uncle Ben, I’m sure,” Elle said. She would have carried on, but Mara talked over her again.
“When I was in the CIA, I never planned on getting married. Or having a child. I wanted to be the best spy I could be, but when I got separated from your father and then you, all I’ve ever wanted more was to have you both back, and now that I do, I don’t ever want to lose either of you again,” Mara shared with tears swelled in her eyes.
Elle took her mom by the shoulders and promised her, “You won’t lose me again, not ever. I promise.”
Mara wiped her tears with her own fingers. She resumed walking to the rec area. Elle followed.
“I was married to your dad for only two years before my memory got wiped, and he was just a stranger to me… But when I didn’t know who he was, he kept saying our love could survive my memory loss. I was six months pregnant with you when I finally remembered something about your dad. Love is the only thing worth dying for – risking your life to save those you love.”
Elle took her chance, “I know you’re going to do your own research, but that’s what Christ did. He came, He died, and He rose again all because the Father loved us and wanted to save us from sin, eternal separation from God. And you don’t have to be perfect to come to Christ. Paul persecuted the church and was forgiven by the grace of God. It doesn’t matter that you’re a spy. You fought for your country… you were fighting for freedom. Jesus–,” Elle would have gone on to evangelize her mother, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw a tiki torch in the middle of the soccer field.
Standing by the lit torch was Rex. Surrounding him in a horseshoe was his family: his father Paxton, his mother Cory, and the twins– his brother Walker and sister Sky. Next to Paxton was Zave, Elle’s father, and Milo beside him. Uncle Ben was standing beside Sky.
“What is this?” Elle said, standing before Rex with her mother by her side.
“I objected at first, but everyone here convinced me this was not only best but what you both wanted,” Mara said, vaguely hinting at what was about to happen.
Rex’s heartbeat was elevated. She could tell by his shallow breathing and the beads of sweat on his forehead. He was incredibly nervous.
Now Elle was nervous, knowing what was going on here.
Rex pulled a black ring box out of the pocket of his shorts and got down on one knee. Smiling, he bravely asked, “Will you marry me, Arielle Sarah Charlotte Wace?” as he revealed his mother Cory’s diamond engagement ring, the one she once wore with her wedding band.
Elle was crying with sheer joy in her heart. She whispered, “Yes,” hardly able to speak with barely any breath to carry her words.
Rex slid the band on her left ring finger and then stood up to wrap her securely in his arms. She wanted to kiss him, but they both agreed to save their first kiss ever, and each other, for their wedding day.
“Now for the bigger question,” Uncle Ben added.
Elle and Rex stood side by side, each holding each other by an arm hooked around the other’s torso.
“Your mother and I have to leave tonight. We don’t know how long we’ll be gone or even if we’ll make it back. We’ve got a huge lead on the Director of Spectrum, and we can’t lose it. We don’t think it’s fair to make two lovebirds like you wait for who knows how long to tie the knot,” Zave said.
“Actually, I suggested what’s about to happen, because I’m confident it will. Let’s face it, it’s a crime you haven’t kissed yet, and you’re so in love,” Paxton adds.
“For them to date, as teens and not copulate is a miracle. They must both take this Jesus-deity-figure seriously,” Milo interjected.
The small crowd laughed.
Rex looked over at Elle and asked the bigger question, “Will you marry me right now?”
*Edited by Aly Fry