"Have you seen him?" Jack burst into the room; his training gloves still on his hands. Sweat dripped down his forehead. Then, seeing that we were still in bed, he smirked.
"Slow start this morning?" His dark eyes blazed with delight. I would never hear the end of this.
Theo kicked back the covers and stood up, revealing his bare chest. "Anything but." He smiled lazily and raked his hand through his dark hair.
I took a deep breath of the morning air, smelling the beginnings of spring in the air. It was going to be a great day, I could feel it already. "Good morning to you too Jack.
Would you like some coffee?" I asked him, walking past him toward the kitchen to set a pot on.
"Did you hear what I said?" Jack followed me insistently as if life itself was hanging on this moment.
"Not really. I was in the middle of something rather important when you barged in." Theo remarked dryly.
"Oh, hush. Three weeks off and suddenly you two go all domestic."
"Like you and Luce haven't been joined at the hip all this time," I called back, pouring some powder into the coffee machine. "How is she anyway? I feel like I haven't seen her in days."
"Luce is...she's spent the last few days in solitude with nothing but cup o noodles and her computers to keep her company."
"I'm sorry Jack, I didn't know." Luce only did that when something big was happening or when she was onto something.
But she went off her meds to keep her mind clear, and sometimes she wouldn't talk to Jack or any of us for weeks.
He shrugged and sat at the table, watching a squirrel scamper up a nearby tree. "Makes sense now since he's here."
"He who?" Theo asked, grabbing an apple as he walked in, fully dressed.
"Campion. They got him, apparently, he's been here over a week. The whole thing has been pretty hush-hush."
"Ellamona got to him? How?"
"I don't know, and I don't really care. But it means that the endgame is nearing, and we've got to be prepared."
How could we be sure that this was all going to work out, how could we be sure, that this was the real deal?
He was a fifteen-year-old kid, ripped from his life of privacy and content and plopped here, where life was sure to be nothing less than a living hell for him.
The professor would stick and poke him, while Ellamona would torture him in other ways, worse ways. "Isn't there another way? We all know what this means.
There's only a matter of time before the endgame starts. And none of us is leaving this fight without consequences."
"Taya-" Theo reached out to console me, but I pulled away.
"No Theo. We don't remember our lives back on that other world, all we have is this. What we've got now. I don't want to lose it, I don't want to lose you.
" Earth was not where I was from, sure, but it's where I grew up, where I met Theo. I don't remember anything else, and it was supposed to be that way.
Whatever life I was living before becoming here, I can't remember.
What if I lost everything when I went back? My team, they were my family, and who was to say if we were separated when we went home?
"This is all part of the plan, you know that babe, it's gonna be alright."
"Have you ever wondered what the prophecy really says? I mean, all of it? At every turn, we have faced things that nobody could expect, not even Luce and she knows more than all of us.
What we're prepared to do, we're going to ruin this kid's life. And it's not going to go back to the way it was for him, ever." I protested.
It was one thing to be like us, aware of what was to happen, and why it was to happen.
But this kid was in the dark, he had no idea of the forces at work in his life, what he was about to go through.
"We need to tell the others," Theo said, pouring himself a cup of coffee. His brow furrowed as he looked at me with concern.
"Charlie, Sam, and Navi are gone. Luce is out of commission. Who knows what Lou is getting up to." Jack replied.
"And do we really need to tell Charlie? He's only team leader on the things CIVINST is involved with. No matter what he seems to think."
Theo chuckled. Charlie versus Theo was a match that was everlasting, until the end of times.
"I want to see him," I remarked suddenly, surprising everyone, including myself.
"Doesn't matter why." I took a sip of my coffee. "At least not to you. And I need to talk to Luce."
"You know that's not possible Taya when she goes in-" Jack protested.
"I know. Theo, please?"
Theo looked at Jack uncomfortably. "I don't know."
"Jack, you're worried about her as much as I am. Please."
"Fine. But leave me out of it."
"I need to see Campion first. She may have that look on her face, but I have a feeling not even Ellamona knows if he's really the one we've been looking for all these years.
" I said, walking into the other room to put on some presentable clothes.
"Jack was right. Isn't it curious that Luce holes herself up now?"
I changed, grabbed a notebook and pencil, and headed out. Theo opened a portal for me, and suddenly I was outside cell 21A. Making sure no guards were around, I typed in the code and walked in.
The room was dimly lit, a fluorescent light flickered above my head added to the intrigue. There was a small bathroom to the left with nothing more than a toilet, sink, and shower. No mirror.
To the right was a table with a single chair, as well as a panel covering a slit in the wall for the guards to slide in a tray of food. The cell had no clocks, no sunlight.
A soft hum signaled the presence of energy inhibitors.
I walked forward into the cell cautiously. If Campion was as powerful as we believed him to be, he could know I was coming.
I pulled a granola bar and a tangerine from my pocket, hoping that fresh food would ward off an attack. "Hello?" I walked through a larger room with a cot and a worn rug on the floor.
"My name is Taya. I live here too. I come in peace." I heard movement from somewhere around me so I cautiously put the food on the floor in front of me. "I'm not here to hurt you. I promise."
"Nothing you can do can hurt me, not in here." his voice came from all around me like he was the cell itself. He sounded weak, and in pain.
With the inhibitors at this level, even being in the cell too long enough would cause him to falter tremendously.
"You're hurt. I can help."
"I don't want your help" he spat back weakly. He was trying to put on a brave face, but it wasn't working.
"Here. Food that hasn't been tampered with. It'll help."
"Why should I trust you?"
"I've been here before. I used to be the ward of cell 18B. I lived there for over a year, having no contact with the outside world. I remember my time there, and how awful it was."
"But you got out?"
I sighed. "Not really. Just traded this prison for another. But I've got people now, friends, they're my family in here and it helps. I promise you it does."
"What?" I was more surprised than I should've been considering recent events.
"She's looking for someone."
Oh, Luce. What are you doing in there? "Do you know who?"
"I don't know, I'm only able to see her in bits an pieces. When they turn down the inhibitors. When they send in the food."
"Please. Come out, this food. It'll help. The stuff they give you, it's got drugs in it to keep you sedated." I called. The air crackled around me and I turned towards the bed.
Sitting on top of it was a Campion. He looking very, very sick.
His eyes were sunken in, his skin was clammy and pale, his body was covered in bruises and dry blood, and his hair was slick with sweat. He breathed uneasily.
I took a step toward him and he got blurry, like a camera going in and out of focus. I reached out to touch his hand, but it wasn't there. Ellamona was killing him.
Campion's eyes rolled back into his head, and he slumped down. "Hey, hey. Stay with me."
His body became tangible again, and his hand clasped mine. For the first time, he looked at me with big blue eyes filled with a swirling pool of emotions.
Outside the cell door, a guard banged on the wall. "Mealtime kid. "
I let go of his hand and grabbed the food I'd left on the floor. I shoved them inside his pillowcase. "Hide these, best you can. I'll be back soon with some more things.
Please don't tell anyone that I've been here, or about Luce, okay?" I said tapping on my watch. Hopefully, Theo would still be able to get me out of here.
"Okay. Oh, and Taya?"
My heart broke for him, he had no idea what was to come. And that I played a bigger part in his story. More than the good Samaritan. In fact, I was anything but.