Two Months Later, New D.C., DCA 2039

Never in a million years did I think I would spend any time in a safe room. Yes, a SAFE ROOM. It’s really self explanatory. It’s a hidden room built into the walls of one’s home to keep people safe in case of hostile emergency. It makes sense Colonel Tucker has one being an active agent for the NDS, the DCA’s version of the NSA.

We’ve spent the full 24 hours of Xmas Eve in here… and we have another 24 hours of Xmas to go. I never heard of Xmas. In the RA, we don’t have such a holiday. Tucker told me over 200 years ago in early USA, the entire country observed December 25th as the B-day of the Christian Savior Jesus. To celebrate the season, people would decorate, sing songs about his earthly arrival, and hand out gifts to each other. They also let kids believe in a mythical figure, Santa Claus. A fat, jolly old man who lived in the North Pole, owned a bunch of tiny people called Elves who built toys and other gifts, and then on the evening of the 24th, this Santa delivered gifts by himself on a sleigh led by flying reindeer to all the good children of their world, naughty kids got coal.

It was the perfect holiday to use against children to manipulate them to be good, and when the USA become a huge consumerism society, Big Business made a fortune off people buying presents for the whole family, even people they don’t like or talk to very often.

In the RA, there’s only one religion- The Way. We celebrate the birth of Yeshua (who is the same Savior a s Jesus in Christianity) in the Spring, before we observe Passover & Resurrection. We call it First Advent. We do exchange one hand made gift the day of and sings songs about His birth, but beyond that, we don’t do anything special. Then in the Fall, we celebrate Anticipation Second Advent during the Feast of Tabernacles. That is our celebration, rejoicing a head of time for our Savior’s return. The Bible says we don’t know when He will return to make His home on the Earth forever, but we celebrate during that time, because it could have also been the season for His First Advent… no one really knows for certain except not trusting He was born on the 25th of December.

I’m not really that religious, but it’s mandatory to attend Assembly on Holy Days, and the school I went to had weekly chapel services, therefore, I know a lot about THE WAY.

The DCA is different. They changed Christmas to Xmas, because the word CHRIST was too offense to people. Any mention publicly of the Christian Savior became a 200 merit fine. People became too coldhearted to spread good cheer and when people discovered the old ways of celebrating pagan festivities on the 25th, it returned to that. People drink, partake in sexuality immorality, and mobs wander the streets forcing anyone left at home to come out into the streets and party. The DCA allows the recklessness and the borderline anarchy to purge “enraging and degrading behavior” before the New Year arrives.

We must stay in here so no one will think we are home.

Tucker observes the monitors where security cameras capture footage of the perimeter, every outer wall of the house, and every place in the house but the bathrooms. All my sense of privacy is gone now that I know I don’t have it.

Milo sits up in his portable crib chewing on his teddy bear’s ear. He’s only supposed to be three months. And though he is average size for a three month old, he’ got the development of a 6 month old. He can sit up if you assist him. He plays with his toes if he doesn’t have anything to stick in his mouth. And he can hold his old bottle during feeding… I try not to go out in public with him to avoid awkward situations when they discover he’s only three months.

I take classes online and offer tech support for Plum Tree online for employment. The most socialization I get is with Milo, Tucker, and every once in a blue moon Cory, Paxton, and Rex when they invite us over for dinner.

I haven’t met Zave yet. He’s away on business and no one knows when he’ll be back. I’m glad he isn’t around though. I don’t think I’m ready to lie to my father’s face yet. It’s hard enough lying to everyone else.

Rex tries to come over a lot to keep me company, but his granddad, Tucker shoes him away. He claims he doesn’t want me to take advantage of Rex and beguile him with my beauty and charm. Is Rex cute? Sort of, but he’s barely taller than, skinny like a twin, he kind of looks like an owl with his big head, wide brown eyes, point nose, and ting lip… And he’s so nerdy and all about video games and sci-fi franchise films. Not my type. I like brawny boys, who like to be on the edge… I wouldn’t say “Bad Boys”, just relevant.

For a girl like me to be with a boy like him is fulfilling some rich nerd’s fantasy. I mean, he could be rich like his dad, Paxton, one day. His dad owns and runs PlumTree Technology. They make cellphone, tablets, computers, headphones, TVs, drones, you-think-you-name-it they have in electronics. They also have a contract with the DCA and build and design all their office technology needs.

I think that’s what weirds me out the most. Rex is mini Paxton, and Paxton is my dad’s best friend.

I forget there really isn’t money in the DCA, there are merits. Every citizen has a right to free healthcare, a free home, a free education, free food weekly, free public transportation, free hygiene products, etc. Depending on what type of job you have and how important it is, determines what level of free things you get. If you work retail, hospitality, or janitorially, you are level basic. If you work in art, influencing, sporting, and entertaining, you are level omega. If you work in technology, science, or education, you are level alma. If you work for the government, law enforcement, medical field or emergency services, you are level beta. If you own a business, serve as a boss in some capacity, serve in the highest level of government, and if your job is high risk and important, you are level alpha. Based on your work completion and efficiency, and performance you are grant warrants that electronically deposited onto person merit account. Merit can a lot you to buy things a retail stores, go restaurants and events, buy other wants and luxuries not basic necessities.

All students, even if they have a job, are one of two levels: dependent or emergent. Dependents are students that live at home, have no job, and obtain merits through school work and community service and/or from guardians. Emergents are students who have jobs and may still live at home or in dormitories on a college campus. They receive merits from work, school, and guardians. What sucks about being a student is that all merits cancel out on the first of the year and have to start earning at the beginning of the year. All other levels are allowed to have merits roll over.

Now, the rest of the world operates on real currency. The government treasury still uses money with the rest of the world for business. And business owners work with real world money to do global business. When a DCA citizen transfers outside of the country, they must apply for a travel visa and a travel spend card, if their drip is approved they can pick up their visa and travel spend card at the airport.

This has eliminated nearly all theft-related crime.

Disgruntled, Tucker slurs at the monitor in upper right corner of his screen wall made up of many boxes on one giant PlumTree Genius TV. A group of six stumble onto the snowy front lawn, will bottle of alcohol in one hand and some sort of battering object in the other- like a couple has a baseball bat, another a monkey wrench, the rest pipes.

In the back, Tucker goes over to his armory way, which has automatic rotating walls that switch out with more weapons. Knives, guns, shotguns, rifles, grenades of all sorts, and some weapons I didn’t recognize. He pulls a pistol of the first wall, and readies the weapon to first. He holds the gun with two hand, barrel facing down, and trigger off the trigger resting on the side of the nose.

“I’m gonna shoot a few blanks at their feet. Scare them off. I don’t need a repeat of what happened last year.”

“What happened last year?”

“Let’s just say I don’t really have a dead pet buried in the backyard.” He says as he opens the safe room door. “Whatever happens, don’t leave this room until the 26th.” He states ominously as the door closes on his back.

I find myself glued to the monitors. There’s no sound but when I see flecks of snow bolt up around the feet of the intruders I jump a bit. The drunken little gang gets spooked and dart of the lawn way faster than they stumbled on.

Tucker didn’t even leave the house, he fired at them from an upstairs window. Closely, with fear subtly resting in the back of my mind, I watch Tucker skip from screen box to screen box. Zipping through upstairs hallways, down the stairway, through the downstairs… until he disappears completely and moments later reappears outside the safe room door. He looks up at the camera and singles to let him in.

I go over to the door and press the open button. For some reason, I can’t shake thing feeling something isn’t right. As if keeping my eyes on the screen box with a view of the outer safe room door is helpful, I do that, and unfortunately witness Tucker getting knocked out by a figure in all black and a mask.

I face the door and quickly duck to avoid getting socked in the nose. Immediately, I find myself grateful mama taught me how to fight. However, doing it in real life is way different. All the adrenaline coursing through my veins is exhilarating, yet, I’m way too scared to enjoy the high. Muscle memory of combat movies does a lot of the work for me defensively, I hardly have to think it and I do it, but getting kicked and hit at full force by a man taller than me hurts way more than mommy dearest prepared me for, but this desire not to die keeps me going.

And Milo, I’m beyond ballistic afraid Milo will get hurt or end up dead or worse, get taken… has this man come from him. Has our cover been blown. Did mom get burned and the RA is here to collect what they feel is theirs?

No, if they wanted Milo and mom was burned, this intruder would have killed Tucker not knock him out. The RA doesn’t play nice. If mom was burned by Guyon, same scenario fate for Tucker too.

The man locks my head in his elbow… Trying to… analyze… the… situation… interfered with my… body’s… autopilot… I dip low as fast as I can, then I back kick his knee as I elbow him in the gut from my force of going down… I think I did that move wrong, but he loosed his arm around my neck enough for me to snatch his hand and roll way twisting his arm into position where I can break it if I band it against a hard surface. Lucky for him, we’re in the middle of the room.

“Who are you, little she devil?” The masked man asks with his voice cloaked by auto-tune.

“Why are you here? What do you want?” I ask back.

The man raises his free arm, I twist the arm I have in hand harder. He winces in pain.

Milo starts crying. Poor little guy can feel everything I feel emotionally. He knows I’m so scared I nearly peed my pants. At least we are afraid together.

“There’s a latch, on the left side of my neck brace… it will demask me… I’m the man in that picture behind you.”

Not looking at the portrait behind me and releasing the latch myself. The gas-like mask splits in half, folds up in cm by cm squares, and slips into the top brim of the man’s neck brace collar.

Accept instead of having my father’s brown eyes, he has the gray-crystalized irises of an alert and an active Theus. He also sports a gray speckled beard and his wavy locks are chopped off into a light fade. He about 20 years older than the photo of him behind with my mom and with Tucker on this houses porch.

There’s a few problems with this picture. I’m not supposed to know how to fight. I’m not supposed to really know who he is. Tucker’s just told me about Zave, because Cory, Paxton, and Rex bring him up… but they all work really hard not to say anything about Theus.

“If I let you take what you came for, will you do me a solid and not mention to Tucker I know how to fight?”

“I’ll make no such promise.” And in a blink of an eye, he gets free from my grasp, and in a breath, he snatches me by the wrist, twirls me toward him while I exhale in panic, and forces me to face the picture on the wall as he holds me with my hands behind my back.

“You’re only conscious because I am amused and curious. It’s as if someone trained you to fight against me, you used your body weight a lot, and you used objects around you to defend yourself. You’re not experienced though, you were too afraid to grab a weapon… from the armory wall.” Theus says.

“You’re not going to kill me. You know Tucker would never take in someone he doesn’t know everything about. He was protecting me in this room. If you hurt me, he’ll never forgive you.” I plead with the truth.

“Clearly, he doesn’t know you can fight… or so you think, why would you keep this from him if he knows so much about you?”

“Because I’m not who thinks I am, but that’s for my protection, not for any other reason.”

“Who are you then?” Theus asks twists my wrists.

I scream from the sudden sharp pain. Milo cries louder, his face lobster red as his tears flood his cheek.

“You’re scaring my kid, can you let me go please?”

Theus lets me go as he steps around me and takes the picture frame off the gray wall. He sets the large portrait down gently on the floor against the wall. I thought a vault door to a safe would be hiding behind the picture, in the wall, but it is just a blank wall.

“On second thought, I don’t care who you are. I don’t have much time before he wakes up to get what I came for…” Looking over his shoulder, he commands, “Get you son and step outside please.” Then he punches a whole in the wall with a kick, close range jab. Inside the wall there’s a safe built into the reinforced steal of the walls that make up the safe room.

I just do what he says. As I pick Milo up with his teddy bear, he holds out his arm and points to the blue bear with pink belly fur.

“Where did you get that?” Theus asks?

I don’t know what to say since my mom packed it in a bag of things for Milo. I definitely can’t let it slip Mara is my mom.

“Ah… it’s just a teddy… babies love them you know?”

“They stopped making those bears in 2013, the company went of business, most likely wherever more were stored got destroyed in the war… WHO GAVE YOU THE BEAR?”

Theus likes being in control. If he knew the truth, he would keep away, and I wouldn’t have to worry about telling my father the truth.

“My mom gave it to my son… her name is Mara… Mara Taylor…”

Wait?! My mom said to never tell Theus the truth either!!! Why don’t I listen to her? Ever?!?!

Cautiously, he takes the bear from me. Like he’s thinking back on the past, he stares at the blue, slobbery bear.

“You know, I gave this bear to Zave… I left him a note with it, promising him I’d never come back because I knew he and Mara wanted to start a family…”

“Why would she give this to you?” He interrogates holding the bear beside his head, but all can I do is freak out by the sight of his flaring nostrils.

Wait, I didn’t tell the full truth… I didn’t say Mara was my mom…

“She saved my life and she owed my mother a favor. When she put me on a plane in London to come here, she had packed in Milo’s bag… I just saw it when we settled in here.”

“She never told you about this bear? I mean, I made Zave swear he got it for her- for their future first child…  I knew she would be upset if I wanted them to have a family more than he wanted to have one- but his lack luster was my fault anyways… Even when I leave, I never leave him alone…” He says and then hands the bear back. He adds, “She taught you how to fight, didn’t she?”

“My mother wanted me to know how to protect myself… She had Mara train me.”

I watch Theus takes out a little domino size of clay explosive I forgot the name off. It’s not quite C4, but it is a lot like it. I hurry to leave the room.

A small explosion occurs. A bright green light flashes. A few weird blaring pitches go off. Then masked Theus barges out the room. He drags Tucker’s body back inside and I walk back in assuming that would be his instruction.

In the threshold of the safe room door, he says, “I won’t tell Tucker your secret, but it won’t take him long to figure it out. I took the footage from the safe room feed, so that will buy you a little time. And if Mara comes to visit, tell her Zave goes to their spot every year, waiting for her to come back. Happy Xmas.”

He leaves. I close the door behind him. I look at knocked out Tucker on the ground and the rubble on the floor. I can’t wait until this Crazy Christmas is over. At least Santa brought me half of my dad… and he is way cooler than my mom’s journal made him out to be. Now I have to think of a cover story of what happened to me… Oh, easy, I got knocked out too! Where should I lay down? First, I have to put Milo back in his portable crib.

Elle After Civil War 2

I thought we were heading for the border, but I was wrong… after a stop to Wally World to buy things for Milo, and a stop to mom’s safehouse, we went to the airport in Tulsa. The DCA Border Wall puts the Mexican Border Wall to shame. It’s like Great Wall of China of the West World.

Mom pulls up to the drop off curb at Air Canada Ticketing Terminal. She hands me a blue folder. Inside is a ticket a one way Quebec City and fake documents for Milo. His birth certificate says he was born in London, England and now my last name is Bardem? According to my new documents I was born in Madrid, Spain. I went to boarding school in England, just outside of London. Neither Milo or I have dad’s listed on our birth certificates. I have a different mom on mine… What is going on here?

“The safest place for you to be is in the DCA, but unfortunately, you can’t go there as my daughter.”

“And why not?”

“Tucker is smart, I could never pass you off as mine with a different dad than Zave. He knows me too well. The only child I would belong to your father.”

“I still don’t get-,” she cuts me off.

“You don’t need to have a thick Spaniard accent, it can be subtle. When you get compliments your English is really good, sell the boarding school in London, but throw in as a kid your mom took you to the RA a lot. And um, read the background profile I put in there for you, that will help you build your cover…”

“You put a lot of thought into this…”

“Well, you always have to be prepared for things to change. Now, there’s nothing in there about Milo’s father, you’ll have to come up with that, but keep it simple and model him after someone you would go for, you know… and if you give him a name, never come up with last name… just keep it at a first name, but don’t really talk about Milo’s father… Tucker or even Zave is the type to go track him down.”

I try to interject but she just keeps talking.

“The only person you can trust will be Tucker. He won’t be very trusting of you, which is fine… And you’ll want to break down and tell Zave you’re his daughter, but you have to promise me you won’t.”

I nod silently promising to keep the truth from the man I’ve dreamt of meeting my whole life. The way mom talks about him, she wouldn’t be a human being without ever falling in love with him.

“And avoid talking about London at all costs because you haven’t been there in a while. If you meet someone who knows the area well, unless you bring up the place and location, don’t agree with what they say.”

“Clearly, wait, I’ve been to London?”

“You were two, not a big deal… and um… if you ever have to leave the DCA, I left an email address you can contact me once. Don’t directly tell me where you’re going. Use that cipher we created when you were nine.”

“The Grimm Brothers’ Fairytale one?” I double check not understand typing childish gibberish could be useful and still translatable. I don’t even know if I remember how to use it…

“In case you forgot the cipher, I put a cheat code in the folder, for your eyes only.”

Moms think of everything.

She grabs be by the head, digging her hands into my wavy black hair, and she kisses me on the forehead, “I love you so much, you know that…”

“I love you too,” I say, trying not to sound panicked.

She let’s me go, “You don’t have to bring Milo…”

“No,” I say feeling attached to him already. Mom explained that since he imprinted on me, for the first few months of his life, if he’s away from me for than a week he’ll die.

“As soon as take down Guyon and terminate Project Hercules II, I’ll come for the two of you.” Mom promises. We both probably have that eerie feeling, she may never come for us.

We get out of the SUV and she helps me bring in my bags and the stroller while I carry Milo in his carrier. A courtesy escort takes over for mom inside by the ticketing. I set Milo down on the ground and reel mom in for one last hug. My eyes let loose the tear as I cry, preparing to forego life without my mom. Now, I’m supposed to tackle motherhood without her. It’s insane!

On my travels, everyone is super nice. Freakishly kind… even when I drop that I’m a teen mom, still overly polite to me.

I thought for sure on the flight, Milo would wail during takeoff and during landing, but he remained asleep in my arms. The Flight Attendants checked on me like every twenty minutes and worried about Milo’s uncanny ability to sleep all the way through a plane ride. It’s a good thing I can brush his peculiarity off and blame it on him being genetically engineered, otherwise their concern would have me panicked.

According to the lovely backstory mom came up with for me, I was born to disowned Spanish heiress. Her father owned a vineyard and had several business ventures in Spain, France, and England. She went to Madrid to pursue a career as a model but got stuck waiting table, after she got pregnant with me. That’s when her father took her back in, because of me, and I was spoiled to death.

My mother started working for my grandfather. When he started vineyard in the RA, he sent me and my mom out there to look after it. In middle school, I fell in with the wrong crowd and grandpa said boarding school was the answer to fix me. However, they were wrong… I stuck with the bad and go myself pregnant. I was shipped back to my grandfather.

A few weeks ago, I witnessed my grandfather’s death by Guyon’s men. For years, granddaddy was cutting deals with Guyon and his men. My mother’s been an informant for the RA, but becoming close friends with Mara, my real mom, she begged Agent Taylor to take me away and keep somewhere safe. This also includes baby Milo now too.

Tucker will tell his neighbors and friends that I’m the child of an old Interpol buddy who just died in the field. To ensure my safety, I’m to stay with Tucker until his Interpol buddy’s killer is caught and it is safe to say no one is after me. I really don’t know why I just could be the dead Interpol buddy’s kid, but then again, I’m not an official spy… I don’t know how weaving a web of lies convincingly works.

In the waiting area, a gray-haired man dressed in a navy blue suit, white button up, and a red tie held up a sign with me new name one “Elle Bardem”. Me and my courtesy escort walk up to the man I presume to be Colonel Benjamin Tucker.

“Elle and Milo Bardem?” The man asks in a raspy, monotone voice.

“Do I have to call you Colonel or can I just call you Tucker?” I wonder.

He takes the stroller from the escort, while he follows me to baggage claim. He’s definitely the quiet type. This will be interesting…