I’m in Deep–Interlude 25.2

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Mona lingered in the venue as the rest of the crowd trickled out. Only a few people were left now; a teenage boy in skinny jeans with messy, dark blond hair was following the annoyed yet patient bass player around, and a few people were lined up at a folding table in the back buying CDs and T-shirts. Mona thought about buying a CD for Emily–the band had been surprisingly good–but decided against it. She didn’t want to risk getting in trouble if Mr. Clyde saw the CD, and it could be hard to predict what kinds of things he’d get mad about sometimes.

The space had felt small when it had been packed with a crowd, but it felt larger now that only a few people were there. There was no seating or even a bar area; just a small stage and an open area for people to stand. Mona had chaperoned Emily at a few concerts, and there had almost always been some kind of seating, even if no one really used it.

The singer/guitarist walked past Mona, heading for the back of the venue, then stopped, giving her a second look.

“Are you here alone?” said the woman. Melanie Graham.

She was blonde, with messy hair, a lot of bad tattoos, and shiny garish pink lipstick that had smudged while she was performing. On the stage, she’d seemed brash and confident, but now, she seemed almost shy despite her garish clothing, hair, and makeup–her speaking voice was far softer than her singing voice, and her shoulders were drawn inward as though she was trying to hide.

“Yes,” said Mona. “You have lipstick on your face.”

“Oh, yeah?” said Melanie.

She stuck her tongue out, licking under her lower lip and smudging the lipstick further.

Mona frowned. What an odd woman. She was clearly a hardworking, disciplined person–otherwise, how could she become so talented at her instrument? But hardworking, disciplined people weren’t supposed to lick lipstick off their own faces.

Melanie seemed to notice the frown and drew her shoulders further inward. At least she had the good sense to be embarrassed about licking lipstick off her own face.

“How are you getting home?” said Melanie. “Are you headed to the train station?”

“No, I’m… not exactly sure. Someone’s supposed to be picking me up, but I don’t know where or when he’s going to be here. He might be picking me up at the park.”

“Hm.” Melanie’s face knit with concern. “That’s nearly ten minutes from here. It’s really late. I’ll walk with you if you want.”

“That’s… really very kind of you, but you don’t have to.”

“I want to. If I let you go by yourself, and then I heard on the news tomorrow something awful happened, I’d feel like shit.” She turned to call to the bassist. “Dom! You’re coming too!”

The bassist excused himself from the kid who was pestering him and headed toward them.

“Thank fuck. I thought that Lachlan kid would never leave,” he said. “Where am I coming? What’s going on?”

“We’re walking–” Melanie stopped and looked at Mona. “Sorry, what’s your name?”

Mona paused for a minute, not sure if she should give her real name or not.

“Sarah,” she lied.

“Sarah. Cool. I’m Mel and this is Dom,” said Melanie. “Dom, we’re walking Sarah here back to the park.”

“Alright,” said Dominic. “Hi, Sarah.”

“Hi,” said Mona. “Are you sure you have time to walk with me? Aren’t you busy doing… well, I don’t exactly know what bands do after they perform. But I assume you have to do something.”

“We can spare twenty minutes,” said Melanie. “We’ll just tell Jess and Falcon where we’re going.”

Mona followed Melanie’s gaze to the merch table at the back of the room. The drummer and the Stanley fabrication sat together conversing in sign language while a young woman with dyed black hair sold T-shirts and CDs to the last few stragglers.

So Falcon was what the fabrication was calling himself?

She almost hadn’t recognized him. He’d bleached his hair blond and wore a hideous, brightly-colored floral shirt. His expression was animated as he spoke with the drummer, far from the blank-faced Stanley fabs she’d encountered before.

She noticed Melanie and Dominic giving her a strange look and realized she was staring.

“Sorry,” said Mona. “Your friend kind of reminds me of someone.”

They both looked at her as though expecting her to elaborate.

“She spent a lot of time in a bad situation. Where she was treated like she was less than human. When I first met her, she seemed so blank and robotic. Then, when I showed her the smallest kindness, it was like a wall crumbled and all these hidden depths came pouring out. For some reason, I feel like your friend is the same way.”

Dominic gave Mona a long look.

“And what makes you think Falcon’s like that?”

Oh no. Had she said too much?

“Just a hunch,” she lied. “Something in his eyes, I guess.”

Something in his eyes? Ugh, it was such a cheesy thing to say.

It seemed to appease Dominic though.

“You’re pretty perceptive,” he said.

Mona nodded.

“My friend has better taste in shirts, though,” she said.

“I like his shirts,” said Melanie.

Mona almost said something like ‘you would like them’, but decided against it. Melanie might have been tacky, but she was kind enough to care about a stranger’s safety, and that was worth something.

“Let’s go,” said Dominic. “I want to get back before the pizza gets here.”

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You’re Not the Only One – Interlude 7

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Everything was hot and blinding white. It was overwhelming, so dazzling 59 hardly noticed the hot, gritty ground as it scraped his skin.

Was it always like this out here? How did people see?

For a frightening moment, 59 wondered if his eyes weren’t designed for the outside world. Then, his vision began to adjust, faint outlines fading into view.

He’d lost track of how long he’d been in the back of that truck, in near complete darkness. His eyes just needed time to adapt.

He could make out his surroundings now, though his vision was cluttered with black splotches that danced each time he moved his eyes. The ground was pale yellow with patches of rusty red, unevenly covered in something fine and granular. He remembered the things sticking out of the ground from one of 98’s books; they were plants–scratchy looking ones dotted with tiny, yellow blossoms.

Perched on one of the branches was a small, gray bird.

59 stepped toward it. It fluttered away, disappearing into the branches of another, larger plant.

Until now, his world had been made of sharp angles and straight lines, everything locked into boxes and cages. But the outside world–the real world–was so vast and complex, so bright and open. Plants branched from the ground with wild abandon, continuing as far as he could see. The sky was bright blue, filled with wisps of gray and white, and it went on and on forever so impossibly high above him.

He took a step, then another. There were no walls here. No cages or chambers. Nothing but endless space.

For the first time in his life, he ran.


A pulsating sensation thumped inside his head as he lay on the strange, gritty ground. His skin was red, his throat burned, and most perplexingly of all, water dripped down his face and arms even though the landscape around him was so dry.

He tried to push himself to his feet, but a wave of dizziness racked his body, and his arms slid out from beneath him.

Something was very wrong.

The ground under him vibrated, and something large moved in front of the impossibly bright light in the sky, casting a shadow over him and showering him with grains of debris. He couldn’t quite lift himself enough to see what was in front of him.

Two strange looking people–a man and a woman–leaned over him, concern etched into their faces. They were young–much younger than Mr. Gibson, and maybe even younger than the guard who’d helped him escape.

The man was strikingly attractive–possibly the most attractive person 59 had ever seen, though he hadn’t seen many people. The man had the darkest hair 59 had ever seen, so black it was nearly blue and long enough to nearly obscure his blue-gray eyes. He wore a metal bar through his lower lip, and his skin was decorated, covered in intricate pictures of flowers, fish, dragons.

The woman was tan and blonde, with fluffy, voluminous hair, a metal ring in her septum, and thick, dark paint smeared around her eyes. Her skin was decorated too, but her images weren’t as artful or intricate as the man’s. They looked more like an afterthought, like things she’d scrawled onto herself on a whim.

They were speaking to him–probably asking if he was okay, if he was reading their lips correctly.

The man slid an arm around 59, helping him to his feet. He could see the shadow’s source now–a large vehicle. It looked like a van, but it was unlike any of the few vans he’d seen at the data center. It was far more worn out, with chips of rust and paint flaking off the sides, and it was plastered with dozens of stickers.

A petite woman emerged from the van. Like the man, her hair was so black it tinted blue where the sun hit it, but while his skin was pale, hers was a tawny brown.

She extended a hand to 59. He took her hand, and she tugged him a bit abruptly into the van with one arm.

Icy air blasted from vents on the van’s ceiling, sending a wave of relief cascading over his body. The black-haired woman grabbed 59 by his upper arms, steering him toward the back of the van and into a bench seat with a cover that was so cracked, pieces of padding were spilling out in several places.

The woman turned to her two companions, moving her hands rapidly. The man moved his hands in response, then crouched down, opening a blue and white plastic box with the name ‘Coleman’ embossed on the side.

Their hand signals were far more complex and fluid than anything 59 had developed with his brothers, but what they were doing was unmistakable.

They were talking with their hands!

They moved their lips as they conversed, but 59 was too tired to try to read their lips. The blonde woman leaned over to fish through an over-sized handbag patterned with some kind of logo, retrieved a notepad and pen, and wrote something on the paper. She handed it to 59.

What’s your name?

His name?

He wasn’t sure what to write in response. 59 was his designation, but it wasn’t exactly a name. Still, he felt he had to write something.

He looked around at the inside of the van, as though he’d find an answer in the wild assortment of posters tacked to the upholstery. They were like nothing he’d seen before, emblazoned with words and graphics that didn’t make much sense to him.

A familiar word caught his eye in the sea of loud red and black, on a poster featuring a white and gold object with a wide body and long, thin neck, with six strings running from its top to its bottom.

White Falcon 1957, said the poster.

Falcon wrote down his name, and passed the notepad to the woman.

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Naomi and Jen sat cross-legged on couch cushions on the living room floor, sipping coffee from mugs. Naomi’s laptop was open in front of them, with Dominic on a video call.

Behind them, Sarah swept broken glass into a dustpan.

Naomi shifted, self-conscious about how she looked on the screen. She knew it was shallow to focus on her appearance at a time like this, but she didn’t like her appearance to begin with, and the camera angle made her face look even weirder than usual. She hoped Dominic didn’t notice. Even with his hair and clothes unkempt, he was still handsome.

“Mel or Jess would probably tell you not to go back in there,” said Dominic.

“I’m still not sure who all these people are,” said Jen, “but what about you, cute-accent-guy? What would you tell us?”

Cute-accent-guy? Naomi felt her face flush with secondhand embarrassment. Jen was almost as bad as Angelina.

“Cute accent guy?” Dominic raised an eyebrow. “I can’t say I’ve heard that one before.”

Naomi’s face grew hotter.

“So, yeah, what would you suggest, Dominic?” Naomi said before Jen could say anything that would embarrass her even more.

Dominic let out a heavy sigh.

“I’d rather not suggest anything, if that’s alright with you,” he said.

“Oh, right, of… of course,” said Naomi. “Of course, yeah. that’s fine.”

She could hear her voice rise nervously in pitch as she spoke. Ugh, stupid. She was acting like like some idiot teeniebopper, getting giddy about talking to Dominic Davies while two of her friends were in danger. Apparently, Jen wasn’t the only one channeling Angelina today. Naomi hoped if Dominic noticed, he would chalk it up to her being stressed about the current situation.

“The last bright fuckin’ idea I came up with, well… you know how that went.”

Dominic laughed without a trace of humor.

“Yeah, no, of course,” said Naomi. “I understand completely.”

“I don’t,” said Jen. “I’m totally confused.”

“Oh, he sent his fake boyfriend to another continent to protect him from CPSI, and basically ended up sending him right to the company headquarters,” said Sarah. “It was hilarious.”

Dominic’s jaw clenched.

“There’s nothing funny about any of this.”

Sarah paused her sweeping to smile in Naomi and Jen’s direction.

“Maybe not to y’all.”

“You said you wanted to prove you were on our side,” said Naomi. “This? Right now? Is not endearing you to us at all.”

Sarah shrugged and continued sweeping.

“I’m so sorry about her,” said Naomi. “I didn’t want to work with her, but I don’t feel like I have a lot of choice.”

“Hey,” said Sarah. “Excuse you. I’m standing right here.”

“You’ve got nothing to apologize for. Falcon always made it sound like getting sent to the Pit was a one-way trip,” said Dominic. “I reckon there’s no way out of there without a device like the one she has.”

“So you think we should work with her?” said Naomi.

“I’m not saying you should do anything,” said Dominic. “I’m telling you what I know so you can decide for yourselves.”

“Right now, I feel like working with her is our only chance of getting Chelsea and Lachlan out of there.”

“And maybe my–” Jen started.

“And maybe her boyfriend,” Naomi finished.

“It seems that way,” said Dominic. “Fuck, I wish you didn’t have to do this. This is my mess, and it’s not fair you have to put yourselves at risk like this.”

“It’s not your fault,” said Naomi. “You were protecting Falcon. You couldn’t have known this would happened.”

Dominic shook his head.

“I still fucked up. I fucked up, and I put people in danger. I put both of you in danger. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m still not sure what’s going on,” said Jen, “but… apology accepted?”

“Part of me wants to talk you out of going back into the Pit, but something tells me you’d go no matter what I said,” said Dominic.

“My friends are trapped in there,” said Naomi. “I can’t just leave them.”

“Do me a favor, then? Be safe. I couldn’t live with myself if anyone else got hurt because of me.”

“Don’t worry!” said Sarah. “They’ll be right here under my loving care and protection.”

Somehow, Naomi was pretty sure no one found that reassuring.



Angelina felt a surge of triumph as she reached the top of the first stone staircase. The stairs, which had been uneven and treacherous even in the trail’s prime, marked the end of the Sentiero Angelica’s first leg and had been the turning around point for less-serious hikers unwilling to hike up the cliffs to the town. The hike would only get more arduous from here on, and the weather was already starting to warm up.

She sat down on the top step. She still had three quarters of the hike left, but she had earned a rest. Besides, she wasn’t quite ready to face the view behind her yet.

The trails had once led hikers through vineyards and olive groves, but since the accident, all of them lay abandoned, leaving overgrown grapevines free to snake through the wilderness. One of the vines wound up the stairs’ rusted railing, dangling bunches of small, green grapes beside her. She picked one and popped it into her mouth. It tasted terrible, all thick skin and bitter seed.

“Blegh,” she said.

She removed the snack cake from her bag, unwrapped it, and took a bite. Much better.

She took a few more bites of her sponge cake, then folded the wrapper around it and stuffed it back into her bag. She licked the chocolate from her hands, then wiped them on her jeans.

Alright, she’d had her break.

Now it was time to stand up and turn around.

She reached for her locket, then stopped. She needed to hold onto it for moral support, but she didn’t want to touch something so precious with sticky snack cake hands. She compromised, bending her wrist at an awkward angle so the back of her hand touched the locket pendant. With her other hand, she grasped the railing and pulled herself to her feet. Rust and chips of paint clung to her hand, and she brushed them off onto her jeans.

She’d probably need to wash these jeans when she got home.

She squeezed her eyes shut, holding the back of her hand close to her locket.

“I’ll turn around in three, two, one…”

Years ago, the view from the top of the first staircase had been one of the most picturesque in the world. Angelina had seen photos of the view on postcards–cliffs rising from the brilliant blue sea like the walls of some great fairy-tale castle, the town a festive splash of pastel confetti between them.

She turned around, opening one eye first, then the other.

The sea and mountains were as beautiful as ever, but now, a massive gaping scar disfigured their majesty. Where the town had once stood, a vast, jagged crater yawned between the cliffs, swallowing the sea beneath it.

Seeing the crater on the news hadn’t prepared her for seeing it in real life, such a vast, immense, darkness in a place that had been full of so much life and color.

Something shadowy shifted in the dark crater. She dug through her bag for the binoculars and squinted through them. She moved the binoculars around until she found the shape again.

She couldn’t see anything clearly–the binoculars were a cheap, flimsy toy left over from her childhood–but she could see the dark, blurry shape as it writhed toward the crater’s edge.

“What are you?” she whispered to it.

For a moment, she considered turning around and going home. What if that thing was dangerous? What if she ended up like those poor, thrill-seeking kids?

No. Turning around wasn’t an option. Going home would mean sitting around, doing nothing while Chelsea was in danger. Oh, and Lachlan too, she guessed.

For some reason, people never seemed to take her seriously. Whether it was Naomi and Lachlan, her classmates, or even people she’d just met, no one ever seemed to listen to or believe her. She wasn’t sure why people brushed her off–because she looked young, maybe?–but she’d learned how to work around it. The only way to get people to listen to her was to find hard evidence and present them with it before they had a chance to dismiss her.

She wasn’t sure what kind of evidence she was hoping to find out here, but there had to be something. For years, no one had been able to figure out what had happened to Borgo San Severino, but after Falcon had filled her in on the details about what happened with Naomi and Sarah, she’d come up with a theory.

The back of her hand still resting against her locket pendant, she spun purposefully on her heels and started down the path.

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“Your friends,” said Sarah, “are in a pit.”

Naomi felt a rush of anger and frustration.

“You already said that. Saying it a second time doesn’t make it make sense.”

Sarah let out a heavy sigh.

“I’m going to explain if you let me.”

“Then explain.”

Sarah paused, staring up at Naomi and Jen.

“I’m trying to.”

“Try harder.”

“It’s difficult to explain,” said Sarah. “There’s a lot of science involved that I don’t understand.”

“Science? What the hell are you talking about? How is there science involved? Just tell me where they are.”

“Here’s the thing,” said Sarah. “They’re not in this reality. Not exactly.”

Not in this reality? Naomi felt her frustration grow. Nothing Sarah was saying made any sense.

Jen had already started rambling before Naomi could formulate a response.

“They’re not in this reality? Sam and I just started watching this show like that where this guy wakes up in another reality with elves and he has to–“

Naomi shot her a look, and she stopped talking.

“I can guarantee it’s not like the show you’re watching,” said Sarah. “You definitely won’t find any elves there. I’ve only been there a few times, and I don’t go back if I can help it. It’s an awful place.”

What is an awful place?”

“That’s not a simple question to answer,” said Sarah. “The way I understand it is it’s a space between realities.”

A space between realities? What was she talking about?

“I wanted a real answer, not a fucking science fiction story,” said Naomi. “Tell me where they are, and give me the real answer, or the annoying blonde girl kicks you again.”

“Hey,” said Jen.

Naomi felt a little bad for insulting Jen–she hadn’t meant to say it, it had just slipped out in her frustration–but she shrugged off her guilt. She had more important matters to deal with now.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” said Sarah. “They’re in a space between realities. I don’t know anything other than that.”

“You called it a pit,” said Jen. “What did you mean by that?”

Naomi shot her a look. Why was she asking questions? Was she actually taking Sarah’s incomprehensible bullshit seriously?

“Let me see if I can figure out how to explain it,” said Sarah. “So there are these other realities above and below this one, right? Or something like that. I’m just a dumb clone, so I don’t really get it, but that’s the gist of it. Hell, y’all might understand it better than I do.”

Jen nodded.

“Clyde Packaging Solutions, Inc. has these portals. They’re like… holes punched in the floor of our reality or dimension or whatever.”

“I think I see where you’re going here,” said Jen.

“Are you seriously entertaining this idea?” said Naomi.

“The thing is,” said Sarah, “stuff from this reality wasn’t meant to fall into that one, so when it falls through the hole, it doesn’t fall all the way.”

“What happens to it?” said Jen.

“Nothing,” said Naomi. “Because none of what she’s saying makes sense, and if she doesn’t tell me where my friends actually are soon I’m about to kick her in the head.”

“I am telling you!” said Sarah. “You won’t listen! I threw Chelsea into a hole in reality, and I arranged for Lachlan’s kidnappers to do the same to him!”

A flicker of the lost, desperate look from before had returned to her eyes, making her look almost sincere. Of course, after everything she’d done, that meant next to nothing.

“Look, if you don’t believe me, that’s fine. I can prove it. If you cut my legs loose, I can lead you to the portal. It’s right here on the Charlotte campus.”

“Oh,” said Naomi. “Cut your legs loose. That sounds like a great idea. Why don’t we just cut your arms loose too? Why don’t we just tie ourselves up and hop into the trunk of your car? Do you think we’re idiots? You were trying to kill us five minutes ago.”

“You can keep the tape on my arms.” Sarah adopted the same false-gentle tone as before. “Naomi. Honey. You want to get your friends back, don’t you?”

“Don’t call me honey. And don’t use that creepy voice.”

“I know you don’t believe me,” said Sarah. “Hell, I wouldn’t either if I were you. But right now I’m the only lead you have.”

She was right, as much as Naomi hated to admit it. There was no reason to trust her and everything she was saying was ridiculous, but right now she seemed to be the only hope of finding Chelsea and Lachlan.

Besides, the more she thought about it, the less impossible it seemed. According to Chelsea, Sarah had destroyed most of Naomi’s living room without touching anything. Was the idea of a ‘pit’ between realities really that far-fetched?

“Fine,” said Naomi. “But if I even think you’re about to try anything, I’m telling Buffy the Biotechnology Slayer here to kick you ten times as hard as she did in the elevator.”



Police are searching for a young man believed to have been kidnapped from his place of employment last night. Family and police say they are concerned for the welfare of 18-year-old Lachlan Newton, and urge anyone with information to contact the Queensland Police Service. He was described as being of Caucasian appearance, about 175 centimetres tall, with dark blond hair, and of medium build…”

Jessica watched the closed captions appear under a picture taken from Lachlan’s MySpace or Facebook page of him holding a guitar and scowling at the camera. The picture switched to a blonde woman in a fast food uniform being interviewed.

‘He went out for a break, and the next thing I knew, the van was speeding off and he was gone. My God, it could have just as easily been me if I’d stepped outside instead of him. It could have been me!

Dominic sat on the other end of the sofa, not taking his eyes from the screen. Some of his mop of unwashed black hair fell into his eyes, and he didn’t push it out of the way. There were dark bags under his eyes, and an unkempt blond scruff had begun to cover his chin.

He looked harrowed and worn, and while she wasn’t exactly sympathetic, she could hardly blame him.

The picture switched again, this time to a middle-aged woman with unruly, dark blonde hair, her eyes wet from tears.

‘It’s every mum’s worst nightmare…’

Dominic reached for the remote, switched off the television and buried his head in his hands.

Out of the corner of her eye, Jessica saw something light up on the end table beside her. She turned to see Melanie’s phone vibrating with an incoming call and picked it up. The number was American.

She reached out her leg and nudged Dominic with her foot. When he turned to her, she flipped the phone open and handed it to him.

‘Naomi,’ she fingerspelled.

He sat up straighter, putting the phone to his ear so quickly he nearly slammed it into the side of his face.

Jessica got up, walked to Melanie’s bedroom door, and knocked. A moment later, she felt the vibration of something heavy thrown against the door.

Dominic turned and shouted something, and Melanie opened the door.

Melanie looked almost as worn as Dominic, her blonde hair a wild tangle, her eyes red, and her face streaked with tears and days-old mascara.

‘Sorry,’ she signed. ‘I thought you were Dom.’

‘He’s on the phone with Naomi now,’ signed Jessica.

Melanie’s eyes opened wider. She brushed past Jessica, rushing across the room to the couch, grabbing her phone from Dominic, and pressing the ‘speaker’ button.



Jessica made her way to the couch and sat down beside him, not quite looking at him.

He didn’t blame her for not looking at him, just like he hadn’t blamed Melanie for screaming at him earlier.

Two people. Because of him at least two people were missing, and two more were in immediate danger. Because of him Lachlan’s mother was crying on the news. All because he’d sent Falcon to America without thinking it through.

“Call her back,” said Melanie without meeting his eyes.

He’d hung up the phone so Naomi wouldn’t end up paying a huge amount of money for an international call, so he called her back and pressed the speaker button again. The phone rang a few times with the strange North American ringing cadence, then Naomi picked up.

Melanie, who had sat down on the coffee table, began translating the conversation for Jessica.

“Hi again, Dominic.”

Naomi’s voice was soft and scared. He felt another pang of guilt.

“Hi, Naomi,” he said. “I’m so, so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” she said.

He didn’t respond. He knew that wasn’t true.

“I wanted to let you guys know what’s going on.”

“I want to make sure I heard you properly on the phone just now, before I hung up. You said this Sarah woman who attacked you suddenly agreed to help you?”

“Yeah,” said Naomi. “I… I know it’s suspicious, but–“

“Suspicious? Me?” said a woman’s voice in the background. Sarah.

She had a Southern American accent, which surprised him.

“Shut up,” said Naomi. “Sorry. I know it’s suspicious, but I’m worried about Chelsea and Lachlan, and if she’s the one who took them, she’ll know where they are.”

“What did she tell you?” said Dominic.

“A lot of weird things that didn’t really make sense. She talked about a place between realities?”

“A place between realities,” Dominic repeated.

It sounded strange, like something out of a movie, but after everything Falcon had told him Dominic didn’t find it as unbelievable as he once would have.

After all, his boyfriend was a piece of biotechnology developed by a company that made bubble wrapping. Who was he to call anything far-fetched?

“Sorry, I… I know it sounds crazy,” said Naomi. “I mean… I don’t think it’s true, but after everything that’s happened these past few days, I don’t feel like I can rule anything out.”

“I know the feeling,” he said.

“She says Chelsea and Lachlan were thrown into these portals or something. I didn’t believe her, so she said she’d take us to the portal in the Charlotte headquarters.”

Concern etched into Jessica’s face as Melanie finished translating.

‘She’s taking them to the portal Chelsea disappeared into?’ she signed. ‘That’s a horrible idea.’

“Jess says letting her lead you straight to the portal Chelsea disappeared into is a horrible idea,” said Melanie.

“I… I know,” said Naomi, “but we have her arms completely duct taped together. I don’t think she can use her power. If she could, I think she would have by now.”

‘I still don’t like it,’ signed Jessica, and Melanie translated.

“I know. I’m sorry. I don’t like it either. She’s obviously up to something–“

“Me? Up to something?” interrupted Sarah. “What would give you that idea?”

“Would you shut up?” said Naomi. “With the way she went from trying to kill us to claiming she wanted to help in less than five minutes, she’s obviously up to something. I just don’t know what else to do. Chelsea’s missing, and apparently Lachlan is too.”

“So is my boyfriend,” said a third voice on the phone, faster and higher-pitched than Naomi or Sarah’s. “But we don’t know if that’s related or not–“

“Jen, I’m sorry,” said Naomi. “But can you please just not right now?”

“Sorry! Shutting up.”

“We’re in the engineering building now,” said Naomi. “She says it’s nearby. We’re walking down a hall and–“

“What is it?” said Dominic. “What’s wrong?”

“That’s Chelsea’s purse on the floor. There’s a lunchbox too.”

“Didn’t I tell you?” said Sarah. “It’s just through this door with all the danger signs. You won’t have access, so you’ll need my key card. It’s clipped to my pants.”

There was a faint beep on the other line as someone swiped the card.

“You’ll need to swipe it again at the end of this hallway.

“That’s a lot of danger signs on the walls,” said Jen.

“That’s ’cause there’s a lot of danger,” said Sarah.

‘I don’t like this,’ Jessica signed again.

“Jess still doesn’t like this,” said Melanie. “I don’t know that I do either.”

“Me neither,” said Naomi, “but I feel like I don’t have another choice.”

There was another beep of a key card lock opening.

“Holy crap,” said Jen. “Is that the portal?”

“Close, but not exactly,” said Sarah. “It’s the machine that opens the hole in our reality’s floor.”

“Okay,” said Naomi. “Now what?”

“Naomi, you hand my key card to the blonde girl and step through that see-through door with me. Blonde girl, you stay out here by those controls and do exactly what I tell you.”

“Okay,” said Jen.

“You might as well hand her your phone too,” said Sarah. “It’s not gonna work in the Pit.”

“Okay,” said Naomi. “Here you go.”

“Hi!” said Jen, her voice louder now that she was speaking into the phone. “I’m Jen, and I’m super confused about everything that’s happening right now.”

“Uh, hi,” said Dominic. “I’m Dom.”

‘Tell her to tell us everything that’s happening,’ signed Jessica.

“Jess wants you to tell us everything that’s happening,” translated Melanie.

“Okay,” said Jen. “Who’s Jess?”

“She’s our friend. She’s deaf and uses sign language, so Melanie is translating everything for her.”

“Oh, okay! Tell her I said ‘hi!”

Melanie did so, and Jessica signed ‘hi’ back.

“She says ‘hi’ back,” said Dominic.

“Aw, yay!” said Jen. “So Naomi and Sarah are stepping into the chamber thingy now. And you probably can’t hear her anymore, but Sarah’s giving some instructions. Hold on.”

There was a pause, followed by soft beeps.

“I just pushed a bunch of buttons and stuff in a certain order and–“

A tearing sound came through the phone distorted, too loud for the speakers to handle. Then there was silence.

“What was that?” said Dominic. “Hello? What was that sound? What’s going on?”

“They… they disappeared,” said Jen.

“What do you mean ‘disappeared’?” said Dominic. “What happened?”

“They just disappeared. There was that noise, and the chamber filled up with this fog stuff,” said Jen. “When it cleared, they were gone.”

Previous | Next


Previous | Next


“That’s kinda the idea,” said the dark-haired woman. “You really shouldn’t’ve gotten in my way.”

Chelsea tried to inhale, but her lungs refused to expand. It felt as though an invisible force was wrapped around her neck and torso, squeezing tighter each time she attempted to breathe in. The dark-haired woman squeezed her thumb and forefinger together, and the weight on Chelsea’s chest and stomach seemed to grow heavier. Her loud and frantic gasping faded to a feeble squeak.

Chelsea shut her eyes and stopped struggling, trying to remain as still as possible. The weight on her chest eased a little.

“Oi! She heard Lachlan’s shout over the computer speakers. “Oi, you, with the telekinesis!”

“Damn it! Are you serious?” said the woman. “Another witness I have to deal with.”

“I think you’ll want to listen to me,” he said.

Whatever Lachlan was trying to do, he was distracting the woman enough that her grip on Chelsea was loosening just slightly.

“Oh, really? Why?” The woman sounded almost amused. “You’re not stalling me to save your friend, are you? Don’t bother. It’s too late for either of you.”

“Uh, no, I’m not stalling you,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I have an extremely compelling and legitimate reason for not choking her to death.”

Lachlan, Chelsea thought, Thank you for whatever this is you’re trying to do, but please, please sound more believable.

“Somehow, I’m not convinced you do,” said the woman.

“No, no, really, I do,” he said. “She’s, uh, more valuable to you alive.”

“Oh?” said the woman. “Then please, by all means, tell me why that is.”

“Well, it’s because…” began Lachlan.

“Talk fast; it only takes about three minutes without oxygen before the brain starts to die.”

“It’s because Falcon has an accomplice,” he said. “Falcon has an accomplice, and Chelsea is the only person who knows his whereabouts. If you kill her, you’ll never be able to find him.”

Chelsea heard the woman walk across the room, and the force compressing her body lessened. For a moment, she thought Lachlan’s bluff had actually worked. Then she heard the woman speak.

“Nice try.”

There was a loud crash. Chelsea half-opened one eye for a moment to see Naomi’s computer monitor lying on the floor, the screen shattered. She saw the woman begin to turn in her direction and quickly shut her eye.

“Time to dispose of the problems,” said the woman. “Ladies first, I guess.”

Chelsea tried to stay still as she heard the woman approach her. She squinted her eyes open just enough to see the blurry outline moving toward her.

She waited until the woman was just in front of her, then kicked as hard as she could.

The woman stumbled backward, and Chelsea felt the weight on her chest lift. She dropped to the ground, trying to land on her feet, but one of her ankles turned, and she fell sideways onto the carpet.

Why did I decide to wear heels today? she thought.

Still gasping for breath, she used the wall to steady herself as she climbed to her feet. Holding onto the wall for balance, she kicked off her shoes.

A few feet away, the woman was also trying to right herself.

“You–” She gasped. “You… bitch… winded… me.”

“Serves–serves… you… right…” Chelsea wheezed.

“You know–” The woman stood up straighter. “You can inconvenience me all you want, but it’s not gonna do any good.”

“Why… are you doing this?” Chelsea felt a rush of vertigo and gripped the wall tighter.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

The woman extended her hand. The broken coffee table’s metal frame flew across the room, and Chelsea covered her face with her arms. She heard a crash, and her first thought was that the woman had missed her.

When she opened her eyes, she saw the table frame’s legs were embedded in the wall, and the woman was pinned behind it.

Chelsea turned to see Falcon, still slumped over but with his eyes open, extending a hand.

The woman tried to push the table frame off her, but to no avail. The legs were stuck firmly in the wall, and the table’s X-shaped base was positioned to trap her arms in place.

“Oh, c’mon!” said the woman, sounding surprisingly unhurt for someone who’d just had a table flung at her. “Seriously?!”

Chelsea took a deep breath and let go of the wall. She walked over to Falcon and knelt beside him.

‘Are you okay?’ she signed.

He nodded, and extended a hand. She looked around, expecting a piece of furniture to hurtle across the room, then realized he was asking her to help him up.

She stumbled a little as she helped him to his feet, but managed to keep her footing. She stepped toward the door to the foyer and motioned for Falcon to follow.

“Hey!” said the woman. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“To call the police,” said Chelsea. “You’d better hope you find a way out from behind that table before they get here.”

“Oh no! I’m real scared!” The woman laughed. “You’re gonna have to do better than that. I can throw a cop across the room with my mind!”

Chelsea ignored her and continued walking toward the door.

“I’ll get you soon,” said the woman, “and the police won’t help you any where you’re going!”


Instant Messenger
11:34 PM 1 July, 2009

My Status:
Dominic (Online)
No new e-mail messages

Falcon <59falcon> — Conversation

Dominic: you’re online!!!
Falcon: Hi, Dom.
Dominic: are you alright??
Falcon: The good news is I found Naomi, and I’m still in one piece and relatively unhurt.
Dominic: relatively?
Dominic: i don’t like the sound of that
Dominic: what’s the bad news
Dominic: falcon???
Falcon: They know where I am.
Dominic: fuck
Dominic: oh no
Dominic: how do you know
Falcon: Someone came after me at Naomi’s flat.
Dominic: holy fuck are you both alright
Falcon: Naomi’s fine, she wasn’t there. Chelsea was there, though, and she got caught up in it.
Dominic: oh no
Falcon: The girl they sent tried to kill both of us, but I was able to trap her.
Falcon: Chelsea wanted to leave to call the police, for all the good that would do, so we left her in the house.
Falcon: The cops said she was gone when they got there.
Dominic: is there somewhere else you can go? you can’t stay there now
Falcon: I know. Naomi and I are staying with Chelsea.
Dominic: i feel like a complete fuckhead
Dominic: i send you to the other side of the world and it doesnt even make a difference
Dominic: and now naomi and chelsea are caught up in things
Falcon: No. It’s not your fault. I wouldn’t have gone if I’d thought it was a bad idea.
Dominic: falcon i’m so sorry
Falcon: There was something else too.
Dominic: what is it
Falcon: The girl who attacked me wasn’t real.
Falcon: She was like me.



Chelsea and Naomi lay on Chelsea’s bedroom floor, each of them wrapped in a blanket from Chelsea’s closet.

Chelsea had insisted Naomi take the bed because she was the guest, but Naomi had been equally insistent Chelsea take the bed because it was hers. After arguing for almost 20 minutes Chelsea had considered suggesting they share the bed, but she’d decided against it. Naomi knew she liked girls, so she didn’t want to make things awkward or give the wrong impression.

Instead of anyone getting the bed, they’d ended up side by side on the floor, half sitting half lying on pillows they’d propped up against the bed.

Chelsea had brought in potato chips and cookies from the kitchen before closing and locking the door, then opened her laptop on the floor in front of them and started playing a movie. She’d chosen some superhero movie from ten years ago; it wasn’t her thing, but she knew Naomi liked it.

“We don’t have to watch this, you know,” said Naomi. “We can watch something you like.”

“No thanks,” said Chelsea. “I want to watch this.”

“You don’t have to watch one of my dumb movies just to be nice,” said Naomi. “Why don’t we watch one of your old horror movies?”

“Really, it’s fine. I like this,” said Chelsea. “Besides, after today I’m not really in the mood for something scary.”

“That’s a good point,” said Naomi, “but are you sure you wouldn’t rather watch something else? I’d be okay with watching anything you want.”

“Come on.” Chelsea smiled and nudged her friend. “Let’s not have a repeat of the bed debate. We’re watching this. I’m insisting on it.”

“Well, if you’re forcing me, I guess I can watch one of my favorite movies.” Naomi crossed her arms and pretended to look serious.

The laptop dinged, and an incoming video call from Angelina popped up, automatically pausing the movie.

“Really?” said Naomi. “Isn’t it the middle of the night for her? What does she want?”

“Oops! We usually talk right when I get home from work. She’s probably wondering where I am, especially given what just happened.”

Chelsea started to reach for the laptop, but Naomi put her hand on her arm.

“You’re not about to answer that, are you?”

“I was,” said Chelsea. “Why?”

She felt a small pang of disappointment. She wouldn’t have talked to Angelina for long with Naomi there, but she did look forward to their nightly talks.

“I don’t want to be rude. I really don’t but…” Naomi paused, looking a bit embarrassed. “But I was hoping tonight could be just us hanging out. My parents never let me have sleepovers, and I wanted tonight to be… I don’t know. Sorry. I know that’s stupid, given everything that’s just happened.”

“I don’t think it’s stupid.” Chelsea reached for her laptop again and typed a message. “I’ll tell Angelina I’m fine and that I’ll talk to her tomorrow.”

“Thanks, C. Sorry. I know this is dumb.”

“It’s not dumb.” Chelsea un-paused the movie, then leaned back onto her pillow. “But it is all the more reason to watch one of your favorite movies. Not to mention, all the more reason you should get to have the bed instead of the floor.”

Naomi groaned. “Please, do not bring up the bed thing again. If you get us started on that again, we’ll be arguing about it all night.”

“Alright, alright.” Chelsea pushed off her blanket and stood up. “I’ll let it go.”

“Where are you going?” said Naomi.

Chelsea walked to her nightstand and opened a drawer.

“To get some nail polish.”


“You said you’d never had a sleepover before.” Chelsea began pulling out the darkest colors–the ones she knew Naomi would favor. “I figured we should have a real sleepover. Do normal sleepover things to get our minds off everything that happened today. You know, paint each others’ nails, play 20 questions, talk about boys.”

“Talking about boys? I wouldn’t think that would really appeal to you,” said Naomi.

“No, but you can talk about boys and I can listen.” Chelsea walked back to Naomi and set the nail polish bottles down on her blanket. “Here, pick a color. I’ll paint yours first, then you can do mine.”



The hotel room was even more depressing at night than it had been during the day. There was no overhead light, so the only light came from the cylindrical floor lamp beside the desk, which was emitting a faint but irritating buzz. The walls were painted bright orange and green, but in the dim light and with the thin grimy layer coating them, they just made the room feel even sadder.

The desk where Sarah sat wasn’t so much a desk as it was a large legless slab affixed to the wall. Its surface was a hard, shiny, white plastic dotted with some mysterious substance that stuck to her papers whenever she tried to move them.

The dismal room was appropriate, she thought. Today had been a complete failure. Not only had the resource escaped, there were two witnesses she needed to deal with.

The pretty redhead–Chelsea Brown, Sarah had learned from her online research–wouldn’t be difficult to eliminate, but the boy on the webcam proved more troublesome; he lived in Brisbane, Australia according to his Facebook profile.

Sarah wasn’t prepared to tell the Clydes she had failed, but the portal was the only way she could get to Australia without their help, and it would still leave her almost a full day’s drive from Brisbane without a car or a driver. With that much inconvenience, it wouldn’t be worth the danger.

She knew what the Clydes would tell her if she asked them.

‘You’re a valuable resource, kiddo,’ said Mr. Clyde’s voice in her mind, ‘but the fact is, you’re expendable, as much as we’d hate to lose you.’

The Clydes didn’t have to know about any of this.

Ruling out the portal left her only one option. She plugged her headset into her laptop and made a call.

Previous | Next


Previous | Next


Naomi leaned forward in her office chair. “Are you sure she was talking about the same Dominic?”

Yeah. Can we be sure it’s our Dominic?” Angelina yawned. “Sorry. It’s time for bed here.

Naomi wasn’t sure, but she thought it was past midnight in Italy. Angelina sounded much less peppy than usual and her sleepiness seemed to be making her accent more pronounced. Her webcam image was dark and grainy, and the light from her screen cast an odd glow over her face.

“No, I’m not sure.” Chelsea crossed her legs and rested an elbow on the arm of the chair she’d pulled up to the computer. “But it is weird. She said he was in Australia.”

Lachlan turned around from where he stood shirtless, brushing his teeth a few feet away from his webcam.

“Issa big countryesscuse me, he said with his mouth full of toothpaste. He leaned into a doorway, presumably one leading to a bathroom, and spit. “It’s not like there’s only one guy called Dominic here.”

“If it was just the name Dominic I’d chalk it up to coincidence but there was more,” said Chelsea. “She said his last name was Davis, which seems like it could be a mishearing of Davies.”

“Still, they’re both common names,” said Lachlan.

Angelina yawned again. “I think we need more informations.

“Information,” said Lachlan. “Not ‘informations’.”

“Sorry,” said Angelina. “I knew that. English is harder when I’m sleepy. I do more mistakes.”

Lachlan leaned forward, using his webcam image as a mirror as he ran a comb through his dirty blonde hair, which was sticking up in all directions. “So run along to bed and leave the grown-ups to talk.

Angelina made a face with her tongue stuck out. “I’m older than you.”

Lachlan rolled his eyes. “And clearly, you have the maturity to prove it.

“Be nice, Lachlan,” said Chelsea.

“Nah.” Lachlan turned away from the camera to rifle through one of his dresser drawers. “So assuming this guy was actually talking about the Dominic Davies, bassist extraordinaire and general legend, do you think this could have anything to do with our falconine friend?”

“Falconine?” Angelina rubbed her eyes. “I don’t know that word.”

“I’m not telling you what it means.” Lachlan selected a black band t-shirt and pulled it over his head.

“It just means falcon-like,” said Chelsea. “He’s talking about Falcon.”

“Thanks, C,” said Angelina. “Where is he, anyway?”

Naomi turned the webcam over to the couch where Falcon was fast asleep, tortilla chip bag still in his lap.

“He’s all jet-lagged out, it looks like,” she said.

“It might have something to do with Falcon, actually,” said Chelsea. “Mr. Clyde said someone in Brisbane, possibly Dominic, stole something from the company and brought it to the airport.”

“And Dominic’s friend just flew in from here to Naomi’s sleepy little neck of the woods,” Lachlan said. “I think I see where you’re going with this.”

“I wouldn’t call it sleepy,” said Chelsea. “Smaller than Brisbane or Toronto, maybe but it’s a big enough city.”

“Naomi’s lively and bustling neck of the woods, then,” said Lachlan. “I was under the impression that the point of this conversation was whether Naomi’s harboring a criminal, not the size of Naomi’s city of residence.”

Naomi glanced at Falcon again. He shifted in his sleep, sending a few chips falling onto the floor. Seeing him lying there snoring softly, it was hard to imagine him stealing from a multi-billion dollar business.

“You think Falcon’s a thief?” Naomi said. “And you think Dominic could be complicit?”

“I don’t know,” said Chelsea. “For all I know, this is all just one big coincidence. But this whole situation is just weird.”

“Falcon can’t be a thief,” said Angelina. “He’s super nice.”

“One can be nice and still be a thief.” Lachlan picked up a piece of toast that was lying on his desk and took a bite. “But I agree he doesn’t seem like the thieving kind. Nor does Dominic for that matter.”

“Yeah, Dominic’s too cute to be a thief,” said Angelina.

Naomi tried to suppress her eye-roll, and Lachlan didn’t bother suppressing his.

“Even putting Angelina’s impeccable logic aside, I’ve hung out with Dominic many times. He’s a great guy. I can’t see him being involved in embezzlement, or whatever this is.”

“Not embezzlement,” Naomi said. “They don’t work for the company and it doesn’t sound like it was money they stole.”

“Whatever,” Lachlan rolled his eyes again. “Close enough.”

“It’s worth mentioning the barista had some pretty damning stuff to say about the Clydes,” said Chelsea.

Lachlan took another bite of toast. “Damning stuff such as…?”

“They mistreat their employees,” said Chelsea, “and she even said she suspected they were involved in a murder. They may not be the victims here.”

“Falcon did say he was scared for his life,” Naomi said.

“Dominic and Falcon could be trying to stop these people from doing something corrupt or illegal,” said Lachlan.

“Exactly,” said Chelsea.

“It still doesn’t make sense, though,” Naomi said. “Why would Dominic and Falcon be involved at all?”

“I have a lot of questions too,” said Chelsea. “I can’t imagine we’ll get any answers unless we talk to Dominic or Falcon.”

“It’s only about 8 in the morning here, so Dominic is probably not awake yet but you could go ahead and send him a message now if you felt like it,” said Lachlan. “Speaking of which, this has been fascinating but I have to make like a falcon and fly away. It’s almost time for work in Lachlan-land.”

Lachlan disconnected from the video call.

“I should probably leave too,” said Angelina. “I’m so sleepy. Let me know what you find out?”

“Of course,” said Chelsea. “Good night, Angelina.”

“Good night, C. Good night, Naomi.” Angelina disconnected from the call.

Chelsea and Naomi looked over at Falcon sleeping on the couch, then looked at each other.

“Want to get started on that message to Dominic?” Chelsea said.



Dominic wasn’t sure how long he’d been awake. He had tried pacing around the room a few times throughout the night in an effort to calm his nerves but it had only made him feel worse. Now, he sat on the stained couch with his laptop on the coffee table in front of him, watching and waiting for a message.

He tapped the touch pad to make sure the monitor didn’t go to sleep, then got up and made his way to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and reached for a beer, then stopped as he noticed the light streaming in from behind the curtains. He glanced at the clock on the oven–7:55 AM. He shut the fridge and began brewing a pot of coffee.

“Mate, you look like utter shit.”

Dominic jumped, splashing a bit of water onto the floor. He turned to see Melanie standing in the kitchen doorway. Her blonde hair stuck up from her head at different angles and she had dark smudges beneath her eyes from yesterday’s mascara.

“Yeah.” Dominic poured the water into the coffee maker and pressed the button. It made a loud whining sound, then began to burble noisily as coffee dripped into the pot.

“You’re up early.” Melanie pulled a chair back from the kitchen table and took a seat, resting her feet on the table.

“I’m up late.” Dominic sat down beside her and rested his head in his hands. “Couldn’t sleep.”

“Yeah, I didn’t sleep much either.” Melanie leaned her head back and closed her eyes. “Then I heard you crashing around in the kitchen and figured I might as well get up.”

“Crashing? I was just making coffee.”

“Making coffee real loudly.” Melanie stretched her arms over her head and yawned.

“Sorry.” Dominic tried to stifle his own yawn. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Any word from him?” said Melanie.

“Not yet,” said Dominic. “I’ve been watching the computer all night. He should be there by now.”

“I don’t know what you thought was gonna happen, Dom. You send him off to the other side of the fucking world, give him the name of some rando, and expect him to contact you right away?”

“You’re still mad at me.”

“Of course I’m still mad at you.” She opened her eyes and frowned at him. “What in fuck’s name were you thinking?”

“I didn’t have a choice, Mel. You know that.”

“No, I don’t know that. You didn’t bother discussing it with us. You just went ahead and made your rash decision without even talking to me or Jessica.”

“I didn’t have time to talk it out. They would’ve killed him, Mel. I had to protect him.”

Dominic felt someone flick the back of his head hard. “Ow! Fuck.”

He hadn’t even noticed Jessica coming in behind them. She had dark circles under her eyes and her shaggy, chin-length black hair was even shaggier than usual. She poured herself coffee, then sat across from them at the table. Melanie took her legs off the table and moved over a seat so they could all see each other.

“You’re still mad too, then,” Dominic signed.

“Yes. Obviously,” signed Jessica.

“Like I was telling Mel,” he signed, “I didn’t have a choice. I had to do something fast. I couldn’t let anything happen to him.”

“You didn’t have a fucking choice? Why was it your choice to make?” signed Melanie. “What about us? We should have all talked about this together and decided what to do.”

“What about him?” signed Jessica. “You–both of you–keep talking about him like he can’t make his own decisions. He’s not a child.

“You’re right,” signed Melanie. “I’m sorry. But my point still stands. Dom, you had no right to make that choice for him.”

“I didn’t make the choice for him. He wanted to go.”

“Did he? Did you actually ask him if he wanted to go?” signed Jessica.“Or did you just shove him in a car, take him to the airport, and tell him which plane to get on?”

“I was protecting him,” signed Dominic. “He never said he didn’t want to go.”

“It wasn’t your job to protect him,” signed Jessica. “Of course he didn’t say he didn’t want to go. He was scared and confused, he adores you, and he’s used to obeying orders without question. Did you even consider that?”

From the other room, the computer dinged. Dominic and Melanie jumped out of their chairs.

“What?” signed Jessica.

“Dominic just got a message,” signed Melanie.

Jessica jumped up and followed them into the living room. They sat on the sofa with Jessica in the middle, and Dominic and Melanie leaning in to see the screen.

Mail Center
Unread Messages (2)

From: Naomi Wada (Block User | Add to Friends)
To: Dominic Davies
Date: Tue 30/6/2009
Subject: Your friend

Hi Dominic,

I hope you are doing well. This is Naomi Wada. I assume you can guess why I’m writing you. I am really sorry to bother you so early in the morning but I didn’t know what else to do and I was hoping you could clear up a few things.

Falcon told me you said I could help him but I’m not entirely sure what he needs help with or why he’s here. We have a bit of a communication barrier, but based on what he’s told me I’m a bit concerned he may be in danger. I’d like to help your friend if I can, but I’m kind of at a loss here, so I’d appreciate it if you could provide some clarity.

Thank you,



From: fBXcbS4lp9@temp.io
To: Dominic Davies
CC: Melanie Graham; Jessica Thompson
Date: Tue 30/6/2009
Subject: I’m okay

It’s me. Just letting you know I’ve landed safely. Thanks for everything. Write back soon.



It was early enough in the night that there was still a faint purple glow on the horizon but the town of Palmer was already dark. Other than the airstrip, the only light came from a few scattered windows and porch lamps.

The darkness did nothing to ease the oppressive June heat. The air weighed down on Billy and Lily Clyde as they left the hangar and made their way home. A fish-scented sea breeze ruffled their clothes but provided little relief from the temperature.

“It’s good to be home.” Billy sighed and threw his shoulders back.

“It smells like shit and dead shrimp,” said Lily.

They walked the rest of the way to the mansion in silence. Lily climbed the steps to the porch and stopped to wait for Billy near the front door.

“Are you coming in?”

“I’m going to stop by the office and check on Sarah.”

Lily looked at the row of houses beyond the airstrip. Most of them were dark but a small yellow house had one illuminated window. “Looks like the light in her office is still on. Do you think she found anything?”

“I certainly hope so,” Billy turned toward the yellow house. “You go on in. I’ll let you know what I find.”


When Billy opened the door to Sarah’s office, she was so focused on her computer she didn’t notice him coming in. He knocked on the inside of the open door and she looked up.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t even see you, sir.”

“That’s quite alright, dear.” Billy took a seat across from her at her desk. “I’ve told you you don’t have to work this late. Not anymore.”

“Yes, sir.” She turned away from her computer screens to look at him. “And I appreciate the thought. I really do. I’ve tried to relax, like you said I was allowed to do but it feels wrong. I wasn’t made for that.”

“I know, kiddo.” Billy nodded. “It’s part of what makes you so valuable to us.”

“About my being valuable–” Sarah began.

Billy sighed. He knew where this conversation was going.

“Sarah, I know what you’re going to say and I’m afraid it’s just not possible.”

Her face fell. “Sir, with all due respect, I can probably do the work of ten of your normal employees. I’m not asking for much, not even minimum wage. But don’t I deserve some compensation for everything I do?”

“It’s not about what you deserve. It’s more complicated than that.” Billy sighed again. “Listen, kiddo, running a business is complicated. There’s a lot of red tape involved. Lily and I are still working on figuring a way to compensate you for all your work, but it’s still out of the picture for the time being.”

“Someday, though?”

Billy nodded. “Someday.”


They were silent for a moment and Billy took pause as an opportunity to switch to a less difficult subject.

“So have you found anything?”

“Maybe,” said Sarah, turning one of her monitors in his direction. “I’ve looked at the flights leaving Brisbane Airport that correspond with the time Mr. Gibson saw the resource.”


“There were two flights to Melbourne, which I think we can safely rule out, given the resource originally came from there. There were also two to Sydney, one to Hobart, one to Perth, and one to Hervey Bay.”

“What about international flights?” said Billy.

“You think he could have left Australia?”

“I wouldn’t rule it out. This Dominic fellow could have given the resource his passport or something. It could be anywhere.”

“Let’s see.” Sarah scrolled down on one of her monitors. “There was one to Denpasar, one to Port Moresby, one to Vancouver, one to Charlotte, and two to LA.”

Billy frowned. “So it could be any of nine different places.”

“Yes, but I was able to narrow it down.”

“Really? How so? And more importantly, what was it narrowed down to?”

“I created a temporary email and messaged Dominic Davies impersonating the resource.” She smirked. “He wrote back almost right away. Too easy.”

“Well, don’t keep an old man in suspense. What did he say?”

“For one thing, the resource is calling himself Falcon now for some reason,” she said, “but more importantly, Dominic mentioned the resource was with someone named ‘Naomi Wada’.”

“Who?” said Billy.

“I’m getting to that,” said Sarah. “An online search for just the name ‘Naomi Wada’ turned up way too many people to be useful, but an online search for ‘Naomi Wada’ and ‘The Goldfish Technique’ only turned up one.”

“The Goldfish Technique, huh? I assume this is the rock band and not the sales technique.”

“You assume correctly,” said Sarah. “I found a Naomi Wada who talks about the band on her MySpace page. And guess where she lives?”

“Where?” said Billy.

“Charlotte, North Carolina.”

Billy nodded. “One of our nine possibilities. Good work, kiddo.”

“Thank you, sir.” Sarah smiled.

“So,” said Billy, “how would you feel about a little business trip?”

“I’d love that.”

“I’ll have Lily fly you to Charlotte tomorrow,” said Billy. “It’s a shame we didn’t figure this out sooner; I just flew in from there, you know.”

“I’m sorry, sir.” Sarah’s smile faltered a little.

“Oh, don’t be sorry, dear. You’ve done great work on this,” said Billy. “Hey, tell you what. You take care of this unpleasant little situation for us, and I’ll see about paying you a real wage.”

Sarah’s smile grew wider. “You really mean that?”

“Of course I do. It wouldn’t be much, of course–“

“That’s fine. I don’t need much. Oh, thank you, sir!”

Billy chuckled. “Don’t thank me yet, now. You still need to destroy the resource first.”

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