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No, no, no, no, no.

How could she have been so stupid? How could she have not seen this coming?

Of course Sarah had tricked them. Of course she had stranded them in the Pit with no way back.

She should have just taken the device while Sarah’s hands had been tied. Now there was no way back home, and no way to rescue Chelsea.

Tears stung her eyes as she slammed her fist into the wall, the pain splintering through her knuckles.

Jen approached, placing a gentle hand on Naomi’s arm.

“Hey,” said Jen. “It’ll be okay.”

Naomi shrugged off Jen’s hand.

“No, it won’t. Don’t you get it? Without that stupid device, there’s no way out of here. We’re stranded in this place.”

“Aw, don’t be a Negative Neville. There’s always a way out. We’ll find it.” Jen produced her cell phone from her pocket. “Maybe we can call someone for help.”

“You really don’t understand what’s going on, do you?” said Naomi.

“Oh, right. Other dimension. No service. Doy!” Jen slapped her forehead. “Still, we’ll find some way out. I know we can do it.”

“No,” said Naomi. “We can’t.”

“Well,” said Jen, “maybe we should focus on finding Chelsea first. Then we can figure out the whole ‘getting home’ thing.”

Naomi shrugged. Jen did have a point. Finding Chelsea was still a priority.

“Fine,” said Naomi. “Let’s go.”

She turned to Falcon, who was watching them with a confused expression. Oops. She had gotten so wrapped up in her emotions, she’d forgotten to communicate to him.

‘Find C,’ she finger-spelled.

Then, she gestured for him and Jen to follow and headed for the nearest door.



After the day he’d had, it would have been an understatement to say that the break he was taking was well-deserved.

Lachlan and Sam sat side-by-side on the plane wing, their legs dangling off the side. Sam wore a brown leather aviator-style jacket Lachlan had found in the plane. Lachlan had considered keeping it for himself, but he’d decided Sam needed to stay warm more than he did. Besides, this way he’d be able to give Sam a hard time about it later.

The jacket probably wouldn’t have fit Lachlan anyway. It was a bit snug on Sam, but it suited him well.

“You sure?” Sam had said when Lachlan had given him the jacket. “You’re probably cold too.”

“Nah,” Lachlan had said. “You keep it. It almost makes you look cool, and you need all the help you can get in that department.”

Sam had told him to shut up, but he’d accepted the jacket anyway.

Lachlan gnawed on a strip of strange jerky they’d found in the plane, while Sam fidgeted with a bunch of small, spherical magnets, clumsily arranging them into pentagons with one hand and sticking the finished shapes to the wing. Nikola lay draped over Lachlan’s lap, staring at the jerky he was eating with large, pleading eyes.

Nikola hadn’t had much success leaping up onto the wing next to them, so he had instead levitated into Lachlan’s lap and settled there. The fact that Lachlan had hardly noticed this was a testament to how many unbelievable things he’d seen that day.

“Okay, your turn,” said Lachlan. “Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” said Sam.

“Oh, come on, Samurai. You’ve picked ‘truth’ every time. Live a little.”

Lachlan took a bite of the jerky, then gave another piece to Nikola. The jerky had an odd taste and smell, bad enough that Sam had refused to touch it, but Lachlan was almost too hungry to care. He sipped the mystery liquor to get rid of the taste.

“You’re going to make me do something stupid, like lick the plane or put my underpants on my head.”

“You betcha.”

“Then I stand by my choice,” said Sam. “Truth.”

“Oh, come on,” said Lachlan. “You’re no fun.”

“Fine,” said Sam. “I’ll pick ‘dare’ this time. But I reserve the right to refuse anything too idiotic.”

“I dare you to put your underpants on your head and lick the plane,” said Lachlan.

“Ha ha.” Sam set aside a magnet pentagon and started on a new one. “I’m not doing that.”

“At least I didn’t dare you to lick your underpants and put the plane on your head.”

“You’re an imbecile,” said Sam.

“Few lesser men can comprehend my brilliant mind.” Lachlan shook his head with mock-disappointment. “Fine. I’ll go easy on you in my infinite benevolence. I dare you to eat some of this weird jerky.”

Sam frowned at the jerky and scrunched up his nose.

“That stuff smells nasty. I’d rather put the plane on my head.”

“Well, unfortunately for you, seeing as I highly doubt you’re capable of lifting roughly two tons of metal onto your head, it’s either the jerky or the underpants on the head thing.”

“I pick truth,” said Sam.

“That’s not how the game works.”

“I pick truth.”

“Alright, but this place isn’t exactly chock full of food options. If I were you, I’d consider readjusting my standards for what I consider edible.”

“I physically cannot ingest something that smells like that,” said Sam. “Or something that’s that violent a shade of pink.”

“I’m not sure how you can smell anything over the blood smell.”

“The fact that we’re surrounded by the smell of congealing blood and I’m still finding this jerky more unpleasant is just a testament to its nastiness.”

“Fair enough, but don’t come crying to me if you die of starvation.”

“I’d be dead.” Sam squinted. “It would be physically impossible for me to ‘come crying’ to you or anyone else.”

“Come on,” said Lachlan. “Mmmm. Delicious jerky.”

Lachlan waved a strip of the jerky near Sam’s face. Sam recoiled, scrunching up his face into such a funny expression, Lachlan couldn’t resist waving the jerky even closer.

With a movement so forceful it startled Lachlan, Sam shoved his magnets into his pocket, stuck out his tongue, and practically fell face first onto the wing. He lost his balance, exclaiming in surprise as he slid off the wing, falling to the ground.

Nikola looked down at Sam, his ears perked in concentration. Sam stopped in mid-air, hovering about a meter above the ground.

Lachlan stared at him.

“What… in the name of fuck was that?”

Sam frowned.

“I was licking the plane. I was licking the plane and then I fell. Shut up.”

Sam tightened his lips as though he was trying to fix Lachlan with a serious expression, but a laugh escaped him.

Whatever Sam had just done had been one of the stupidest, most nonsensical things Lachlan had ever seen a sober person do, but he couldn’t suppress a laugh either.

“You… why?”

“You–you told me to!” Sam laughed. “I–the jerky was in my face, and I–you–“

Lachlan dissolved into a laughing fit.

“You licked a plane! You–you licked a fucking plane!”

Sam bobbed up and down in the air as laughter racked his body.

“I did! I licked a plane! I licked a plane and now a dog is making me levitate!”

Nikola looked between them, his large brown eyes full of confusion and concern. He broke concentration to reach up and lick Lachlan’s chin, and Sam toppled to the ground. He fell far enough that it must have hurt, but he continued laughing as he pulled himself into a sitting position.

“I licked a plane!”

“You did! You’re a plane-licker!”

Lachlan braced his hand on the plane’s wing to steady himself as he shook with laughter. It was the kind of laughter that was so intense it didn’t make a sound, the kind that usually came from consuming far more alcohol than had been in the little metal flask.

It made him think of Naomi, the first time they’d met in person. She’d had her first ever drink with him because it had been legal for her in Australia, and she’d gotten drunker after the one drink than he would have after five. She’d seen a paper napkin that she’d thought was a weird shape and doubled over the bar, tears streaming down her face, laughing with such intensity it was almost scary. She’d been so embarrassed about it the next day. She still got mad when he brought it up, which he often did.

A tear ran down his cheek and he wondered if he looked as crazed as she had.

Thinking about Naomi reminded him that he might never see any of his friends again, but somehow, that thought only made his laughter more intense.

Sam stood up and leaned forward against the edge of the wing. His laughter had begun to die down, but as Lachlan’s laughter increased, Sam’s came back in full force. He grabbed the wing with his good hand to steady himself.

All the insanity of the day, all the hopelessness, the terror, the blood, the sheer unbelievably of everything came pouring out of them at once.

They were in another reality! Three women had tried to devour them alive! They’d seen a guy step out of a talking squid covered in skulls! They were covered in blood, sitting on an airplane with a super-powered dog on top of an infinite building, and they might never see their homes again, and to top it all off, Sam was a plane-licker!

There was nothing they could do except laugh.

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Something Got Away – Interlude 5

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Content Warning: Kidnapping


Mahender perked up as the door slid open with a shrill beep. He covered his ears as the thundering of the fans and machinery outside shook the room. After sitting alone at his desk watching security camera feeds for almost four hours, he welcomed any distraction.

Mr. Gibson burst into the room, looking even more red-faced than usual. He hauled two fabs into the room behind him, holding them by their wrists.

The door slid shut, silencing the white-noise roar. Mr. Gibson pulled off his yellow protective headphones, threw them onto Mahender’s desk, and turned to the fabs with a scowl.

“Hello, Gibbo,” said Mahender. “It’s lovely to see you too. How can I help you?”

Some of the other guards had nicknamed Mr. Gibson ‘Gibbo’. Mahender had taken to calling him Gibbo too, mostly because it irritated him. Irritating Mr. Gibson was one of the few entertaining parts of his job.

Mr. Gibson ignored him. He was facing away, but Mahender could tell from Mr. Gibson’s stance he was glowering at the two fabs he’d dragged in.

“What the hell was that?” he said.

The fab he’d addressed–st98 according to his jumpsuit–avoided eye contact, his hands twitching as his fingers tapped against his leg.

Mahender was surprised to see a fab looking so nervous. He’d never interacted with one before, but Mr. Gibson had told him they were mindless automatons. He hadn’t even known they could get nervous.

“What… what was what, sir?” said 98.

98 jumped a little as he spoke, as though the sound of his own voice startled him.

Maybe it did. After all, he did spend all his time bombarded by the ear-splitting roar of the fans and air handling systems.

“Those hand signs you were doing,” said Mr. Gibson. “What the hell was that?”

98 grew paler, his fingers tapping a faster, more irregular rhythm against his leg.

“We developed hand signals as a way to communicate in our loud work environment–“

Mr. Gibson scoffed.

“Communicate? What the hell do you have to communicate about? Just do your bloody jobs.”

“Sir,” said 98. “We usually work alone, it’s true, but sometimes we have to… to convey things to one another, and the hand signals can be a good way to–“

“If you were meant to convey things, you would’ve been designed to convey things. You lot are basically monkeys; you don’t need to communicate anything with hand signs!”

“Monkeys can learn sign language,” interjected Mahender.

Mr. Gibson whipped around, turning his scowl on Mahender.

“If I wanted input from the peanut gallery, Henry, I would’ve asked for it.”

Henry? Seriously? Mahender was used to people butchering his name, but Mr. Gibson didn’t even try.

“My name’s not Henry.”

“You work for me. You’re called Henry if I bloody well say you are.”

Ugh. Mr. Gibson was really something else.

“I don’t believe that’s how names work.” Mahender leaned back in his chair. “Also, I don’t even work for you, I work for a third-party company.”

Mr. Gibson’s face reddened.

“Be that as it may, I have the authority to terminate your employment if I deem it necessary.”

“No, you don’t.”

“I may not have direct authority to terminate you, but I will be speaking to your supervisor at Melbourne Majestic Security about your insubordinate behavior.”

Mahender had only heard that threat about a thousand times.

“Good luck telling him who I am,” he said. “You can’t even get my name right.”

Mr. Gibson gave him a final scowl, then whipped back around to face 98 and 59.

“I’m getting distracted from the matter at hand. You two were using hand signals. Why?”

Mahender wasn’t sure what the problem was. So what if the fabs were using hand signals? It was impossible to hear anything out there. Hand signals seemed like a good idea.

Not that it was surprising Mr. Gibson was making a big deal over it. He was always on some kind of power trip with the fabs, pulling them into the soundproofed rooms to yell at them, or making them do pointless things like line up in numerical order.

“Sir,” said 98. “As I said, it helps to be able to communicate when we’re working together on certain–“

“That’s enough out of you,” said Mr. Gibson. “But I noticed it’s been awfully quiet.”

Mr. Gibson turned his glower on the second fab–59, according to his jumpsuit.

98’s eyes met Mr. Gibson’s for the first time in a wide-eyed stare. If he’d looked nervous before, he was terrified now.

“Well, 59? Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

Some of 98’s fear crept into 59’s expression. He didn’t respond.

“Sir,” said 98. “I think–“

Mr. Gibson slammed his hand onto the desk behind him, startling Mahender. 98 flinched at the sound, but 59 didn’t.

“I don’t give a good goddamn what you think, fab. I wasn’t talking to you.” He fixed his glare on 59. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

59 was silent.

“Well? Answer me!”

59 still didn’t respond. Mr. Gibson stepped forward, his round face a shade of purple-red. He slapped his hands together centimeters from 59’s face, and the sound was loud enough to make both Mahender and 98 jump.

“Answer me!” Mr. Gibson bellowed in 59’s ear.

59 shrunk back, but didn’t flinch at the noise. It was as though he hadn’t even heard it.

“I don’t think he can hear you, Gibbo,” said Mahender.

Mr. Gibson wheeled around to face him.

“What the hell do you mean you don’t think it can hear me? Of course it can hear me!”

“Well, it’s very loud out there, and the fabs are always out there without any ear protection, so maybe–“

“Their eardrums are designed to withstand sustained sound pressure levels of up to 190 decibels, you idiot–“

“There’s no need for name calling,” said Mahender.

“The only way a fab would have any sort of hearing loss would be if there was a defect in its genetic…”

Mr. Gibson trailed off before he finished his sentence. All color had drained from 98’s face.

“A defect in its genetic code,” finished Mr. Gibson.

“Mr. Gibson. Sir, please,” said 98.

Mr. Gibson sighed.

“A defective fab,” he grumbled. “This is just what I need right now.”

“Mr. Gibson, he’s an excellent worker. There have never been any issues with him. In such a loud environment, there’s not even any reason to–“

98’s voice was pleading and frightened, breaking a little as he spoke. He sounded so human, so unlike the mindless, emotionless drone he was supposed to be.

He was afraid for his brother.

Well, that had some unpleasant ethical implications about Mahender’s job.

“Oh, shut up,” said Mr. Gibson. “Another word out of you and I’m disposing of both of you. We have two mature Stanley fabs in Section 0 ready for activation, and I’d just as soon–“

Without warning, 98 lunged at Mr. Gibson with the speed and desperation of a cornered animal with nothing to lose. He collided with Mr. Gibson, sending him tumbling backward into the desk with a surprised grunt. 98 lashed out again and again with an almost frantic energy, hitting and kicking blindly as Mr. Gibson flailed, trying in vain to escape. Mahender stood up, moving out of 98’s range.

“Do–ow, ow!–do something, Henry!” shouted Mr. Gibson. “Get–ow!–get this bloody thing off me!”

Oh, right. Mahender was a security guard. He’d better do his job, he guessed.

“Hey,” he said. “Don’t do that.”

98 didn’t ease his assault on Mr. Gibson.

Henry!” Mr. Gibson’s shout was louder and more frantic. “Ow! God damn it, Henry! Shoot it! Shoot it!”

Mahender shrugged.

“I don’t have a gun, sir.”

Mr. Gibson raised his hand to his face, protecting it from 98’s onslaught.

“Well, do something! Do your bloody job!”

Mahender raised his nightstick in a halfhearted threatening gesture.

“Excuse me,” he said flatly. “Don’t do that. I have this stick and I’m not afraid to use it.”

The second fab–59–had been still until this point. His head snapped around when he saw Mahender produce the nightstick. 59 thrust out his hand, and Mr. Gibson was torn from 98’s grasp. He flew off the desk, slamming against the wall with a crash, then crumpling to the floor.

What the hell? Since when could the fabs do that?

For a moment, 59 stared at his outstretched hand, looking nearly as shocked as Mahender felt. Then, 59 turned to Mahender, his hand still raised. His eyes were fierce, daring Mahender to move.

Mahender glanced at Mr. Gibson. He was motionless, but breathing.

Mahender dropped his nightstick and raised his hands in a placating gesture as he sat back in his chair.

59 walked over to 98 and placed a hand on his shoulder. 59 lowered his hand to his side.

“Please don’t blast me into a wall for asking,” said Mahender, “but what just happened?”

The fabs ignored his question.

“I need to get him out of here,” said 98. “How?”

Mahender thought for a second.

“Freight entry is in Section 1. There’s a loading dock. You’d need to get him into the back of a truck without being seen. The doors are locked, but…”

Mahender removed his key card and placed it on the desk.

“If you were somehow able to steal a guard’s key card, you’d be able to get in.”

“You’re helping us,” said 98. “Not because we’re making you, but because you want to. Why?”

Mahender shrugged.

“Gibbo–sorry, I mean Mr. Gibson–treated you like you weren’t human. Like you were less than.”

“We’re not human,” said 98. “Not really.”

“It’s the same way he treats me,” said Mahender. “I was listening to him talking about disposing of you like you were nothing, and I realized he’d do the same to me if he could.”

98 nodded and took the key card.

“Besides,” said Mahender. “I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he finds out a fab escaped.”

“Will you lose your job?” said 98.

“Maybe,” said Mahender. “Probably. I’ve been looking for new work anyway.”

As much as he needed this job, it would be hard to justify working here to himself after seeing how human the fabs seemed.

He turned to the computer monitors by the desk and found the one displaying the freight entry security feed. He disabled the cameras.

“Oh no,” he said. “I seem to have accidentally disarmed the cameras in Section 1. I hope there won’t be any security breeches there.”

The fabs stared at him.

“Go!” he said. “Before another guard notices that the camera is off.”

The fabs headed for the door, and 98 pressed the exit button. 59 paused as the door slid open and made a gesture with his hands.

“He says thank you!” shouted 98 over the roaring fans.

Mahender knew neither of the fabs would hear his reply, so he smiled and gave them a salute.


Mahender struggled against his own handcuffs as two other guards hauled him into a lab in Section 10. About a dozen Stanley fabs filed in behind him. Their hands were bound too, but they didn’t resist.

“You can’t do this!” he said. “You won’t get away with it!”

“Won’t we?” said Mr. Gibson.

“My aunt works directly under Billy Clyde himself. If she finds out you’ve done this–“

Mr. Gibson gave him a skeptical look.

“Your aunt?”

“Mona Sharma. Overseer and specialist of operations in–“

“Oh, that’s right. I’ve met Mona. Pretty girl, but so unpleasant. She’s mentioned her nephew, but I never made the connection until now. Small world.”

“Yes, well, she’s Billy Clyde’s direct report, so if you–“

Mr. Gibson snorted.

“Mona’s hardly a high-ranking member of this company. And if my memory serves, she doesn’t exactly think highly of you. If she gets word of this, she’ll probably send me a bouquet.”

Mr. Gibson wasn’t wrong. Mahender’s aunt would have sold his soul for a piece of cheese. And she was lactose intolerant.

Still, his bluff had been worth a try.

“I think you’ll find we can get away with whatever we want,” said Mr. Gibson. “You have no meaningful connections, no wife or girlfriend, no close friends. As far as we’re aware, you won’t be missed.”

Mr. Gibson’s words sent a cold chill through him, even if they weren’t entirely true. Mahender’s job had been the main reason he hadn’t had a social life. Was that why the guards here had to work such long late hours in such an isolated environment? So they wouldn’t make any meaningful connections? So they wouldn’t be missed if they had a sudden conflict of morality and had to be ‘disposed of’?

“My mum will try to find me. She’ll–“

“Your mum. Reena Stephens, correct? I’m not too worried about her snooping around.” Mr. Gibson sneered. “I’m sure immigration services will be happy to take care of her for us if she decides to stick her nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Mahender felt another cold chill.

“We do our research,” said Mr. Gibson. “We have to be thorough in case one of our guards steps out of line. We know all about how your parents split up. How Mrs. Stephens obtained permanent residence under false pretenses.”

“It wasn’t like that!”

“Unfortunately for her, the law doesn’t care what it was or wasn’t like.”

“Leave my mum alone. I’m warning you.”

“Maybe we will. Maybe we won’t,” said Mr. Gibson. “Either way, you won’t be in much of a position to do anything about it where you’re going.”

Mahender looked at the guards holding him. He’d seen them in passing before, though they’d always been unfriendly.

“Don’t do this,” he said. “If they do this to me, they’ll just as soon throw you away too if you become inconvenient.”

One of the guards, a burly blond man who Mahender thought was named Barry, grunted, shoving him forward toward the chamber.

“It’s Barry, right?” said Mahender. “Don’t you see what they’re doing? They’re keeping us isolated. They’re making us easy to get rid of.”

Barry ignored him, giving him another rough shove.

A man in a lab coat unlocked the chamber with his key card, and the glass door slid open. Barry and the other guard threw Mahender in, and the door slid closed.

The technician pressed a series of buttons on a panel.

“You can’t do this to me! Let me out!”

Mahender lifted his cuffed hands and pounded them against the glass, his fists stinging as though he was slamming them into solid rock.

The last thing he saw before a sickly green and black fog consumed his vision was Mr. Gibson’s smug, sneering, red face.

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WELCOME 2 the ~*fishbowl*~!! :DDDD
welcome 2 the uno-FISH-al goldfish technique message board the one and only forum all about the greastest band on earth….THE GOLDFISH TECHNIQUE!!! ^_____^

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Sei stato registrato come xXangelina_luvs_tgt_4evaXx (amministratore) | Argomenti Attivi 

Indicerandom stuffs!! >> has anyone talked 2 lachlan naomi or chelsea?______________________________________________________________________________
2 luglio 2009 02:11
xXangelina_luvs_tgt_4evaXx (amministratore)

hi every1! so i’m posting bc im rly confused about what’s happening right now and im kinda worried. i havent heard from lachlan/guitargod, naomi/SuperGirl, or chelsea/c/rocknrollsweetheart in over a day. they haven’t come online and their not answering their messages so i’m starting to get a little worried. something weird happened a few days ago, and i want to make sure they r safe.

SweetDan i know u go to university with naomi have u seen her?
░ t ░ h ░ e ░ g ░ o ░ l ░ d ░ f ░ i ░ s ░ h ░ t ░ e ░ c ░ h ░ n ░ i ░ q ░ u ░ e ░
~~baby i’ve loved u since we were FRIES~
~ur the only FISH 4 me xP~

♡ { TGT #1 FAN } ♡

:p i love jessica thompson :p
^^ TGT FoReVeR ^^

“if i did have an evil twin she wouldnt like pancakes thats for sure!”~chelsea xD

☆ angelina ☆
last.fm | myspace

2 luglio 2009 02:50
SweetDan (barracuda)

Hi, Angelina! Unfortunately, I haven’t heard from Lachlan, Naomi, or Chelsea in the past few days. I do go to the same university as Naomi, but I’m afraid I don’t typically see her on campus, and I’ve not seen her at all since school let out.

Hope everything’s alright! 🙂
If anyone needs me, I’ll be playing guitar for my cats!
Sweet Dan and the Leaf Man band profile — Give us a listen 🙂

2 luglio 2009 03:12
JessicaThompson (BAND MEMBERZ)

hi, angelina. please delete this topic and refrain from making anymore public posts about this. thanks.



Angelina felt her face grow hot as she read Jessica’s message. She considered her English to be pretty good, but the message not being in her native language made it hard to figure out Jessica’s tone. What made it worse was there was no way to ask whether Jessica was angry, not when she had explicitly told her not to make any more public posts about the subject.

She could message Jessica on MySpace–she’d done it before asking for drumming tips–but the last thing she wanted was to come off as weird or needy to the person she looked up to more than anything.

I didn’t even mention Falcon! she thought. I was subtle! I just want to know if my friends are okay!

She had a feeling Naomi, Lachlan, and Chelsea were meeting up in group chat rooms, messaging with Jessica, Melanie, and Dominic and getting to the bottom of the mystery without her.

She was used to being out of the loop. She loved The Goldfish Technique more than anything on earth, but Lachlan never sent her the videos he took when the band played new songs live, and he and Naomi sometimes even lied to her, telling her that the band wasn’t recording a new album when they were or that a rare demo track didn’t exist when it did.

Once, after she’d begged him and spammed his instant messages for hours, Lachlan had sent her a horrible quality snippet of an unreleased song, claiming it was the only version that existed. Days later, she’d mentioned it to Chelsea, who sent over the full high-quality version right away–the version Lachlan had sent Chelsea and Naomi.

‘Fuck. I should’ve known she’d send it to you,’ was all he’d said when she’d asked him about it.

It figured they’d leave her out of this too.

She glanced at the time on her laptop. Almost 3:30 in the morning. That explained why she was so tired. She’d gotten used to staying up late, waiting for Chelsea to get home from work so they could video chat, but she usually started having trouble keeping her eyes open around two or so. They’d gotten into a routine; she’d call Chelsea around midnight, and they’d talk until she got so tired Chelsea started insisting she get some sleep and apologizing for keeping her up, even though she’d be happy to talk all night if she could.

Now, Chelsea had missed two nights in a row. Unlike Lachlan and Naomi, Chelsea had never left her out before. At least not until now.

Her computer dinged, and her heart leaped when she saw the box pop up indicating one of her contacts had signed into instant messenger.

Falcon. He’d added her to his contacts after he’d talked to her on Naomi’s account.

She liked him; he hadn’t seemed annoyed with her, and he’d been nice to her without humoring her or being condescending.

Maybe he would tell her what was going on.

Messaggeria Istantanea
03:29 2 luglio 2009

Il mio stato:
Angelina (Online)
Nessun nuovo messaggio di posta elettronica

Falcon <59falcon> — Conversazione

Angelina: hiiiiiiii!
Falcon: Hi.
Angelina: what’s uppp
Falcon: Not much. I’m laying low in Chelsea’s flat. How are you?
Angelina: ur in chelsea flat??? lucky i bet she has the coolest house
Angelina: shes awesome ^__^
Angelina: i’m fine i guess
Angelina: can i ask u somethings?
Falcon: Of course.
Angelina: one do u know if jessica is angry at me
Falcon: Why would she be?
Angelina: i kinda made a post on the fishbowl forum asking about naomi and chelsea and lachlan and if anyone had talked to them
Angelina: do NOT worry bc i did not mention u or anything at all but she was like no angelina delete that
Falcon: I can’t imagine Jess would be angry about that. She was just being cautious.
Angelina: ok can u ask her tho????
Falcon: I’ll ask, but I’m sure she’s not.
Angelina: also that brings me to the second thing i wanted to ask u
Falcon: What is it?
Angelina: do YOU know where are naomi lachlan and c??
Falcon: Chelsea didn’t come home from work. Naomi went to go look for her about an hour ago. I haven’t seen them since.
Angelina: oh
Angelina: so they might not be ok
Angelina: falconnnnn????
Angelina: r u there????????
Angelina: hellooooo?
Falcon: Sorry. Melanie’s messaging me.
Angelina: omg what did she say??
Falcon: This is bad.
Angelina: what is bad???
Angelina: falcon what is it???????
Falcon: Melanie thinks the woman who took Chelsea is with Naomi now.
Angelina: took chelsea?????
Angelina: took chelsea to where
Angelina: falcon what do you mean took chelsea
Angelina: and shes now with naomi?????
Angelina: falcon pls answer me whats going on??????



Naomi struggled and thrashed, but the pressure on her chest only grew with every desperate kick. She tried to gasp in a breath, but only a tiny trickle of air found its way into her lungs. She squeaked as she exhaled, a sound like the last bit of air escaping a balloon.

There was movement somewhere in her field of vision, followed by a crash, and the weight lifted from her body. For a moment, she thought she’d somehow broken herself free from Sarah’s power.

Then, she saw Sarah slumped in the corner of the elevator and Jen standing over her, looking wide-eyed and startled.

“What happened?” said Naomi.

“I…” said Jen. “I think I kicked her.”

“You think?”

“I… I don’t know. I don’t even know what’s going on.” Jen began speaking so quickly Naomi almost couldn’t understand her. “She was doing something to you, and it didn’t make sense and, I don’t know, I’ve been taking taekwando since I was six and I guess it finally paid off because I–Sorry. Sorry. I’m rambling. Not the time, Jen. Not the time.”

“It’s… it’s okay.”

Naomi looked down at Sarah. She wasn’t moving, but she didn’t look as though she’d been kicked in the head. There was no blood, no nascent bruises. No outward signs of injury whatsoever.

What has she said? That she was a ‘piece of biotechnology’? Maybe she didn’t get bruises, or even have blood.

Jen took a deep breath and spoke again, sounding as though speaking at a normal speed took Herculean effort. “She’ll… she’ll probably wake up soon. We need to leave.”

Naomi stared down at Sarah’s prone body. Her first instinct was to slam her fist on the ‘door open’ button, run out of the elevator, and never set foot in a Clyde Packaging Solutions building again.

She remained where she was.

“We should, um,” said Jen. “We should probably go.”

“No,” said Naomi.

Jen turned her startled expression in Naomi’s direction.


“No. No, you’re welcome to leave,” said Naomi. “I would if I were in your position. But this woman did something to my best friend. If Chelsea’s still…”

Naomi trailed off. She didn’t want to say ‘alive’, because that would mean considering the alternative.

“Still… okay?”

Naomi nodded. ‘Okay’ worked.

“Still okay. If she’s still okay, this woman might be the only person who knows where she is.”

Jen stared at Naomi for a second, then spoke.

“There’s a storage closet by the copier and I think it has duct tape and stuff. We can use it to tape up her hands so she can’t use her… I don’t know what to call it. Powers? I don’t want to call it ‘powers’. That sounds like we’re in a video game or–.”

“We?” interrupted Naomi.

“Yeah.” Jen reached over and pressed the ‘door open’ button. “I don’t know if this lady’s got anything to do with what happened to Sam, but if she does, that can’t be good. Besides, there’s safety in numbers. I’ll stay with you in case I need to kick her again!”

Naomi had been assuming Jen’s boyfriend’s disappearance had been mundane and unrelated, but maybe that wasn’t the case. Jen had said her boyfriend knew Chelsea, and Sarah had said she’d ‘disposed of’ two people.

Disposed of.

Thinking of the words left a cold, sick feeling in the pit of Naomi’s stomach. She didn’t want to dwell too much on what Sarah had meant.

Jen lifted under Sarah’s arms, dragging her out of the elevator and toward a large set of doors in the frosted glass. Naomi picked up her phone and followed. The battery had been knocked from the phone when Sarah had dropped it, so Naomi snapped it back into place.

Poor Melanie, thought Naomi. She probably assumed the worst when the phone cut out.

Jen let go of Sarah with one arm to swipe her key card. The card reader beeped and lit up with a green light. Naomi held the door open as Jen hauled Sarah through. Fluorescent lights buzzed automatically to life as the door opened.

Naomi could see the copier and supply closet ahead of them as they rounded the corner, past rows of long gray tables with a pair of computer monitors and a swivel desk chair placed every couple feet.

The back of the closet was lined with metal shelves of office supplies, leaving just enough space for the three of them. Jen gave Sarah a final shove into the closet and Naomi shut and locked the door.

Jen rifled through a plastic box for a moment before producing a roll of duct tape. She handed it to Naomi, and Naomi began taping Sarah’s hands together. She used the rest of the roll, coating all of Sarah’s hands and wrapping the tape around her arms up to her elbows.

“Is that good?” said Jen. “Or do you need more tape?”

“I’d like to tape her legs too,” said Naomi. “Just to be safe.”

“Good thinking.” Jen tossed her a roll of yellow vinyl tape. “I don’t see any more duct tape, but I did find this.”

Naomi set to work winding the tape around Sarah’s legs. She didn’t use as much as she had of the duct tape–just enough to make sure Sarah wouldn’t try to go anywhere.

Sarah’s eyes opened just as Naomi tore the last of the tape from the roll. Her confused expression hardened into anger as she realized she couldn’t move her hands. Even with Sarah’s arms and legs immobilized, Naomi felt a jolt of anxiety as the other woman looked up at her.

“What the hell?” said Sarah.

Naomi tried to swallow her nerves.

“What the hell?” Naomi repeated. “You attacked us. You attacked my best friend and… and took her away somewhere. You were probably planning on killing us just a second ago.”

“Damn it. This wasn’t supposed to happen. You could have told me where he is. He’s not even a goddamn person. I mean, neither am I.” Sarah’s voice broke a little. “Damn it! This is so stupid!”

Sarah seemed more unhinged now than she had in the elevator. Not that she’d seemed particularly stable then, but she had been confident, in control. Now there was a desperation behind her anger, a flicker of something lost and frightened in her eyes that would have made Naomi feel sympathetic toward her in virtually any other situation.

In this situation, however, she didn’t feel a shred of pity.

“Where is she?” Naomi glared down at Sarah, trying to keep her voice firm and even. “Where is Chelsea?”

Sarah made a sound that was either a laugh or a sob.

“It doesn’t even matter! Damn it, it doesn’t matter! She’s gone and she’s not coming back! Who cares? I failed!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I don’t give a shit about whatever personal crisis you’re apparently having. Where the fuck is my best friend?”

“And my boyfriend!” said Jen.

“Your boyfriend,” said Sarah. “I’m guessing this was a long distance relationship?”

“No?” said Jen.

“No?” Sarah tilted her head. “Your boyfriend’s not a smug-looking Australian guy? Alternative-looking type? Black fingernails and stupid tight pants?”

“No. He’s a… smug-looking American guy? Definitely no nail polish or tight pants, but that’s a hot mental image–Sorry. Be quiet, Jen.”

Naomi’s nausea grew larger as she processed what Sarah had said. Smug-looking Australian guy with black nail polish and tight pants.

“Lachlan,” Naomi said. “You have Lachlan too.”

“Lachlan, that was him. Yeah. Although I wouldn’t say I have him. It’s more like I got him, you know? Well, I got him got. I got someone else to get him.”

“I’m confused,” said Jen.

“What are you talking about?” said Naomi. “What does that mean?”

“It means he’s no one’s problem anymore. Neither is your little friend Chelsea. We put them somewhere, and they’re not coming back.” Sarah let out another laugh-sob. “Doesn’t matter. Hell, I’ll probably be joining them soon. Can’t even do my damn job right.”

“Where did you put them?”

Sarah giggled, a humorless laugh that made Naomi’s skin crawl.

“In a pit.”

“What does that mean?” Naomi felt herself losing her composure and realized she was shouting. “What the fuck are you talking about? Where are they?”

Sarah stared up at her, silent.

“Answer me! Fucking make sense!”

“Okay.” Sarah’s voice was suddenly calm again.

“Okay? Just like that?” said Jen.

“Just like that,” said Sarah. “I don’t know where your boyfriend is. But I’ll tell poor Naomi here how to find her friends.”

Naomi looked down at Sarah, who smiled back up at her. Her was expression now pleasant and benign, which made her seem even creepier after her breakdown just a moment ago.

Obviously, it would be stupid to trust her. But what else was there to go on?

Besides, she was completely restrained. Letting her talk couldn’t possibly hurt.

“Go ahead,” said Naomi. “I’m listening.”

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


Sarah tapped her fingers on the scratched leather couch arm. After spending a couple hours idle in Mrs. Clyde’s airplane, she’d been looking forward to being on the ground and having something to do. Now, she sat in the air park’s dingy waiting area, growing more restless every second.

There was no air conditioning in the building, just a single pedestal fan that let out an ear-splitting whine every few minutes as it rotated back and forth, rustling the pages of the aviation magazines on the coffee table in front of her.

Two boxy televisions stood in different corners of the room, playing two different channels. She’d been excited about them at first, but their charm had faded after a few minutes. It would have been better if she’d been able to change the channels, but the buttons on the TVs were taped over and there wasn’t a remote control in sight, which left her the choice between a black and white movie about cowboys and a weather report. Neither option was particularly interesting.

Her eyes fell on a trio of air pots sitting on a small folding table with a paper sign reading ‘Coffee is FREE! – Help yourself’ taped to the edge. She’d never been allowed to try coffee before.

She stood up, made her way halfway to the coffee pots, then stopped. She didn’t know for sure what coffee would do to her physiology, and it would be best not to risk it with her big task ahead of her. She headed back to her seat on the couch.

She glanced at the TVs again; one had switched to a commercial for a caulking kit, the other was showing a news report about wolf attacks in Northern Italy. Still nothing interesting there.

She focused on the TV showing the news report, reaching out with her mind, feeling for the buttons. She concentrated, pressing the first one she found, and the volume on the TV went up. She smiled and began to feel for more buttons.

A sharp twinge shot through her head, and she felt the buttons fade from her focus. She sighed and leaned back in her seat. Her abilities were almost useless when it came to delicate tasks like pushing a small button.

She rubbed her head. The sharp pain had faded, but a dull ache still lingered just behind her eyes.

Giving up on the TVs, she opened the backpack she’d brought with her and pulled out a notebook. She’d looked at it countless times on the plane, but it couldn’t hurt to look over it one more time.

She thumbed through the papers wedged in the notebook–pictures she’d printed from Naomi Wada’s MySpace page with notes written in the margins. It had been too easy to figure out where Naomi’s apartment was. One picture of Naomi next to her front door contained the apartment number in one corner. To figure out Naomi’s exact address, all Sarah had needed to do was compare the photographs Naomi had taken inside her apartment to photographs from apartment complex websites until she found a match.

She opened her notebook to a page she’d labeled with a pink sticky note. It contained notes on Naomi’s work schedule, deduced from her online posts. If Sarah’s research was accurate, Naomi would leave for work at four in the afternoon and return home at nine, leaving the resource unattended for five hours.

With her abilities, subduing the resource would be easy. Transporting it would be the hard part.



Lachlan was only a half hour into his shift watching Falcon via webcam, and he was already bored. So far, Falcon had made for an incredibly dull viewing experience; he had eaten a bag of chips while staring mesmerized at the TV as though he’d never seen one in his life, then fallen asleep on the couch.

Lachlan sighed and picked up his guitar.

If I’m stuck in my room watching a man take a nap for the next half hour, I may as well pass the time constructively, he thought.

He began practicing The Goldfish Technique’s newest song. It was one they didn’t plan on releasing but had played at their latest show. It hadn’t been easy figuring out the song from the low-quality video he’d taken, but he’d taken the time to get it just right. He wanted to make sure his rendition of the song was perfect so he could rub it in Angelina, Naomi, and Chelsea’s faces that he’d gotten to hear the song and they hadn’t.

He’d send Naomi the video eventually. Maybe Chelsea too, if she promised not to let Angelina see it. But right now, he wanted to savor the feeling of the song being just his.

He was halfway through the song when the sound of a door opening came from his computer speakers.

Was Falcon awake? No, Falcon still lay in the same position, snoring on the couch.

“Naomi? Thank fuck,” said Lachlan. “You’re home early.”

There was no response from the girl on the screen. Her back was turned to the camera as she approached the sleeping Falcon.

“Naomi?” he said. “Hello? Can I go now?”

She walked closer to Falcon and away from the camera, giving Lachlan a better view of her. The girl wasn’t Naomi, he realized. She was thin like Naomi with similar long dark hair, but this girl’s hair was dark brown instead of black.

“Oh, not Naomi. You look a bit like her from behind, though. Are you a friend of hers? Are you here to relieve me of the mind-numbingly boring duty that is Falcon-sitting?”

The girl didn’t respond.

“Uh, hello? Random girl? Yoo-hoo. I’m over here, in the computer.”

Falcon stirred, blinking his eyes open.

The girl raised her hand, pointing it toward Falcon, and the couch shot backward, slamming into the wall and sending two picture frames crashing to the floor.

“Holy motherfuck,” said Lachlan.

Falcon stood up and pointed his hand toward the girl, and an invisible force knocked her off her feet, propelling her somewhere outside the webcam’s range.

“What? You’ve gotta be kidding me!” The girl groaned from off camera. You have the abilities? How is that even possible?”

Naomi’s coffee table tilted upward and hurtled toward Falcon. He jumped out of its path, and its glass top shattered against the wall.

“Aw, man,” said the girl. “That wasn’t supposed to shatter like that. Good thing you jumped out of the way or I’d have to deal with you bleeding out everywhere.”

Lachlan reached for his phone, then stopped. His first instinct was to call emergency services, but Triple Zero wouldn’t be able to help with an overseas emergency. He could make a long-distance call to the police in Charlotte, but what would he tell them?

Hello, officer, he thought. Come quickly, there’s a crazy bitch in my friend’s living room throwing tables with her brain!

The girl walked into the camera’s view, giving Lachlan a better look at her face. She was little older than he’d originally thought–in her twenties at least. If he’d seen her in another context, one where she wasn’t trashing his friend’s apartment by flinging objects around with her mind, he might have found her attractive.

The woman raised her hand again, but Falcon lifted his hand and flung an end table in her direction. She dodged it and it splintered onto the ground.

She raised her hand again, hurling the largest piece of the end table–a mostly intact drawer–at Falcon. Lachlan flinched as the drawer crashed into Falcon’s face with a sickening thud.

Falcon fell backward and slumped against the wall. The woman smirked, walked up to him, and crouched beside him.

“That was way too easy,” she said. “To think, I was actually nervous about this.

Lachlan heard a door open. The girl’s smirk vanished, and she stood up suddenly, whipping her head around.

“Naomi? Are you home yet?” said a girl’s voice from somewhere off camera.

“No,” Lachlan whispered. “No, don’t come in.”

“I thought you didn’t get off work ’til nine. Did they let you go early?”

Lachlan’s heart sped up as the second girl walked into view. Her back was facing the camera, but Chelsea’s vivid red hair was easy to recognize.

Chelsea spotted the other woman and came to an abrupt stop.

“What–what happened here?” Chelsea stared down at the shattered table. “Who are you?”

“You know, it’s not too late for you to walk away from this. I’d suggest going right back out the door you came in while you still have the chance.” The dark-haired girl gestured to Falcon. “It’d be a win-win. You don’t wanna end up like this poor guy here, and I don’t wanna have to drag two bodies out to the car without being noticed.”

Chelsea’s head turned in Falcon’s direction. Lachlan heard her let out a soft gasp.

“Oh, my god. What did you do to him?”

“Honey, if I were you, I’d be less concerned about what I already did to him and more concerned about what I’m gonna do to you if you don’t leave now.”

Chelsea reached for a phone mounted on Naomi’s wall and dialed.

“Hello, a woman broke into my friend’s home and attacked someone,” she said into the receiver. “Yes, she’s still here … No, I’m not hurt, but someone else is hurt pretty badly … No, I think he’s unconsciousOkay, thank you. The address is 1600–“

The dark-haired woman extended a hand toward Chelsea and made a fist. The phone tore out of the wall and fell to the floor, taking a sizable chunk of drywall with it.

“That was stupid, red.” She shook her head. “That was real stupid.”

Chelsea stared at the hole in the wall where the phone had been, her eyes wide.

The dark-haired woman stepped forward and thrust her hand toward Chelsea. She slammed into the wall and remained suspended there, her legs hanging a couple feet off the floor.

“How–?” Chelsea gasped for breath, clawing at her neck as though an invisible hand was choking her. “Please… can’t… breathe…”

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

The dark-haired woman squeezed her thumb and pointer finger together, silencing Chelsea’s gasps.

Lachlan stared helplessly at the screen as Chelsea stopped struggling and hung limp against the wall.

“Oi!” he shouted as loudly as he could. “Oi, you, with the telekinesis!”

“Damn it! Are you serious?” The woman turned to face the computer, keeping her hand extended toward Chelsea. “Another witness I have to deal with?”

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

“Oh, really? Why?” She quirked an eyebrow. “You’re not stalling me to save your friend, are you? Don’t bother. It’s too late for either of you.”

Lachlan felt a chill run through him at the words ‘either of you’. Was she going to come after him too?

“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.”

“Somehow, I’m not convinced you do.”

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

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

“Well, it’s because…” he began.

“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.”

The woman approached the computer, still holding up the hand that was pinning Chelsea to the wall. She leaned down and looked into the webcam.

“Nice try.”

The webcam shut off.

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When Falcon began typing, his hands moved so rapidly they seemed to blur.

‘I’m not sure where to begin or how to explain it, really. It all started when I got away from some people who wanted to kill me.’

Angelina’s eyes grew wide.

‘Dominic, Jessica, and Melanie helped me when I needed it most and everything was perfect for a while.’

Well, almost perfect. I’d had to leave my brothers behind when I ran away and I missed them badly.’

‘Someone saw me, one of the bad people who wanted me dead. He followed me for a few weeks but never tried anything. Finally Dominic approached him and we didn’t see him again for a while.’

‘After that, I got scared. I told my friends what was going on and Dominic decided we would go help my brothers. I was worried about the timing, about going so soon after they’d sent someone to follow me but I was more worried someone would hurt my brothers as a way of getting information and tracking me down.’

‘Everything went wrong. They discovered us before we could even get to my brothers and we ran. We decided it would be better if I went somewhere far away, where it would be harder to track me down. Dominic said this would be the best place for me.’

Naomi held up a hand, and Falcon stopped typing. She typed ‘My apartment?’

Falcon shook his head no, and then continued typing.

‘Your city. I told Dominic I wasn’t used to being alone and he wanted me to have someone. He remembered meeting you and he remembered you said you went to university in Charlotte.

He said someone else from the Fishbowl forums was nearby too. A girl who’s here for an internship. He thought the two of you could help me the way Dominic, Melanie, and Jessica did.’

The computer dinged with a message from Angelina. ‘so u want people to help u by being ur friends! awwwww! i’ll be your friend falcon!!’

Naomi began to wish Dominic had sent Falcon to Angelina instead of her. Angelina probably would have welcomed a total stranger into her house without a second thought and would have even been excited to have him there. Naomi, on the other hand, had about a hundred questions and concerns.

She decided to put one of these concerns into words and typed ‘You said people were trying to kill you. Are we in any danger by helping you?’

No,’ he signed.

‘Sorry, but just ‘no’ isn’t good enough for me. Can you elaborate?’ she typed.

‘No,’ he typed, ‘but I promise you it’s only me they’re after. Me and my brothers. I can guarantee they won’t hurt any of you and Dominic will tell you the same.’

‘All you did was restate ‘no’ and use more words. You say these people are willing to kill you. What’s to stop them from killing me or anyone else?’ Naomi typed.

‘They won’t. That’s all I can say.’ he typed.

Angelina smiled as she sent another message. ‘this is confirming my werewolf theory. they r werewolf hunters and they won’t hurt us bc we r human!’

Naomi directed a stern look into the webcam as she typed her reply. ‘Angelina, please be serious. If what he’s saying is true, it’s nothing to joke about.’

Angelina furrowed her brow and cast her large brown eyes downward. ‘im so sorry falcon. i know u r scared and i will try to be more serious.’

Falcon smiled. ‘It’s alright. I like your werewolf theory.’

‘so r u confirming then?’

‘No, not confirming anything.’ he typed.

The mischievous smile returned to Angelina’s face. ‘but not denying either’

‘I wish I was a werewolf,he typed. ‘It’s far better than what I actually am.’

‘And what is that, exactly?’ Naomi typed.

Angelina held her arm in front of her, mimicking a vampire wrapping a cloak around its body. ‘so what r u? r u VAMPIRE??’

Falcon laughed and shook his head. Then he glanced from Naomi to Angelina’s image in the video chat and his face fell serious. He paused for several seconds with his hands resting on the keyboard, then he begin typing.

‘I’m not a werewolf, a vampire, or a mysterious spy. I’m just a scared, confused guy who misses his friends and doesn’t know where to turn.’



Chelsea shifted in her uncomfortable chair, trying her best to look interested as Mr. Clyde droned on about something pointless.

An overly eager marketing intern beside Chelsea raised her hand and Mr. Clyde pointed at her and said, “Yes, dear?”

The girl glanced at the notepad in her lap, then read off a question she’d written. “Where do you see the future of the packaging industry headed?”

“The future of the packaging industry?” Mr. Clyde frowned and the girl’s face fell. “No, no, no, no, dear. It might be called ‘Clyde Packaging Solutions’, but don’t be fooled. This isn’t a packaging company. We may sell packaging solutions but first and foremost this is a company about people…”

Chelsea let herself gaze out the window as Mr. Clyde continued his meaningless patter. He spoke painfully slowly, often pausing at random in the middle of sentences, and his Southern drawl made his speech feel even slower.

Chelsea shifted her wrist, trying to subtly catch a glimpse of her watch. 4:04 PM. She and the other interns had been listening to this guy prattle on for just over two hours, and her chair was starting to hurt her lower back and thighs every time she changed position.

‘I guess the more rich and powerful you are, the longer you can get people to sit still and listen to complete nonsense,’ she thought.

She felt her phone buzz in her pocket, but she left it alone. As boring as this guy was she didn’t want to be rude, and she certainly didn’t want to get in trouble after she’d traveled over 700 miles for this internship. Instead, she gazed past Mr. Clyde out the floor-to-ceiling window at the pond and fountain outside.

She’d applied for the Clyde Packaging Solutions internship in the Brampton office, much closer to her home in Toronto, but they’d told her there was no IT presence there and she’d be much happier in their Charlotte office. They’d offered decent pay and a living stipend, along with promises of ‘valuable experience’ and ‘state-of-the-art training’, so she’d packed up for the summer and moved to a whole different country. Well, it was only the States, but still.

So far, the ‘state-of-the-art training’ had consisted of dull speeches like the one she was enduring now, and the most IT-related work she’d done was editing a slideshow presentation for her boss about “the three building blocks of technology”, whatever those were. She and the other out-of-state interns had yet to receive their promised living stipends, and while the city itself was nice, North Carolina in June was unbearably hot. The only good thing about coming here was that she was able to hang out with Naomi.

Mr. Clyde clapped his hands, interrupting Chelsea from her thoughts. He sat down in a chair that looked much cushier than the ones the interns were sitting in, and a woman wearing a pencil skirt and heels that looked too high for the office took his place at the podium.

“Thank you, Mr. Clyde, for coming all the way from Georgia to speak with us today,” she said, sounding as bored as Chelsea felt. “Everyone, please give a round of applause to our president and CEO, William J. Clyde.”

“Thank you kindly,” he said as the interns applauded politely.

Chelsea waited a moment after the woman dismissed the interns, then stood up. Once she was out of the training room, she ducked into an empty hallway, pulled her phone out of her pocket, and flipped it open. She had two new instant messages from Naomi.

“Hey, C. Can you come over as soon as you can?”

“No rush, I know you’re at work but something kind of weird is going on and I don’t know what to do.”

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Previous | Next

Instant Messenger
3:39 PM June 29, 2009

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

Angelina <xX_i_x3_tgt_4ever_Xx> — Conversation

Angelina: omg omg omggggg
Angelina: are u actually friends with the goldfish technique??????
Naomi: Yes, I am.
Angelina: *screams*
Angelina: can u introduce meeee?
Angelina: lachlan won’t cuz he’s mean T_T
Naomi: Sorry, but I’m not sure when I’ll ever see them again.
Angelina: aw 😦 i’m sorry. why not?
Naomi: I can’t go back to them now. It’s too dangerous.
Naomi: Someone who wasn’t meant to see me saw me, and I had to get out.
Angelina: omg scary! :O
Angelina: are you like a spy or something? o_O
Naomi: No, not a spy.
Angelina: that’s exactly what a spy would say 😛
Naomi: Good point. I’m definitely not a spy, though.
Naomi: Hang on.
You have changed your name to Falcon (Naomi).
Falcon (Naomi): That’s better.
Falcon (Naomi): I’d sign into my old account, but I don’t want to disconnect from the camera and have you call the police on me.
Falcon (Naomi): Not that I think you would, but I have enough happening as it is.
Angelina: i won’t tell if u wont!
Angelina: you don’t seem like ur gonna do anything nefarious.
Angelina: did i spell that right?
Angelina: nefarious?
Falcon (Naomi): You spelt it right.
Angelina: ok thankies
Falcon (Naomi): You’re welcome.
Falcon (Naomi): And it’s okay. Naomi was nice enough to let me stay here, and I don’t want to break any of her rules.
Falcon (Naomi): I hope she doesn’t mind me talking to you.
Angelina: dont worry i’ll take the blame if she finds out!
Angelina: i was the one who started talking to u, and plus i don’t think naomi likes me all that much anyway
Falcon (Naomi): I appreciate you talking to me. I’m a bit bored and restless.
Falcon (Naomi): If I’m alone with my thoughts for too long, I start thinking about what happened, and I get sad.
Falcon (Naomi): I had an actual life with Dominic, Melanie, and Jessica. I was happy for the first time ever. Now it’s all gone, just like that.
Angelina: *hugs* 😦
Falcon (Naomi): It’s not even only that, either.
Falcon (Naomi): There was something I needed to do, to help people I really care about, and I kept putting it off. Now I’ll probably never get the chance.
Falcon (Naomi): I feel like I’ve lost everything in just a few days.
Angelina: i’m sorry ❤ ❤
Falcon (Naomi): I’ll be fine. I’ve been through worse.
Angelina: oh no!! that just makes it even sadder!!!
Angelina: i don’t know much about you, but you seem super nice and u deserve happiness and good things
Angelina: *virtual happiness rays*
Angelina: i hope things get better for u and u get to do whatever it was you needed to.
Falcon (Naomi): Thanks. Me too.
Angelina: ummmmm
Angelina: don’t look now but naomi’s behind you and she doesn’t look happy
Angelina: well it was nice talking to u falcon! *waves*

Last message received at 4:03 PM on 9/29/2009.


Falcon swiveled around in the computer chair to face Naomi, not quite looking her in the eyes. She crossed her arms and frowned at him for a moment, then picked up a pen and added another ground rule to the notepad on the desk beside him.

6. Don’t use my IM account without permission.

“Don’t be angry at him, Naomi! Please?” said Angelina over the video chat. “It’s my fault! I started talking to him, and he was just being nice!”

“Why?” She turned her frown towards the webcam. “I asked you to keep an eye on him, not strike up a conversation.”

“But you didn’t say not to strike up a conversation! Angelina already looked younger than her 19 years, but her pout made her look even younger.

“I’m saying it now. Don’t strike up a conversation.”

“Why not?” Angelina drew out her words like a pleading child as she spoke.

“Because this is my apartment and it’s my IM account and I said so.”

“You sound like my mother! How are you a year younger than me?” Angelina pursed her lips together, making her expression even poutier. “Falcon looks confused. We should really be typing this conversation so he knows what we’re saying.”

A second later, the computer dinged with a message from Angelina that read ‘she’s angry we were talking and i’m saying pls don’t be angry’.

As irritated as Naomi was with both of them, Angelina had a point. It wasn’t fair to exclude Falcon from the conversation.

Naomi typed a reply. ‘Look. I know you didn’t mean any harm, Falcon, but I don’t like you using my IM account without my permission. It feels like a violation of privacy.’

He signed ‘sorry’.

‘It’s okay. Just ask next time you want to use my computer,Naomi typed.

She could hear the clicking of Angelina typing, then Naomi’s computer dinged with a message. ‘falcon u r veryyyy mysterious. you seem like a man with a dark troubled secret. if not a spy r u a vampire maybe? :O’

Falcon smiled a little and did the sign for no. When Angelina didn’t understand, he shook his head.

There was more typing interspersed with a series of dings as Angelina fired off more messages.

‘sorry idk sign language but i will remember that one 4 later!’

‘ooh i should learn so i can talk to u better!!’

hey if ur not a vampire… are u a WEREWOLF? awooooo’

Angelina held up her hands, mimicking claws. Naomi rolled her eyes, and Falcon laughed a bit and shook his head no again.

The computer dinged again as Angelina sent two more messages.

‘okay if ur not a spy, not a werewolf, and not a vampire… what IS ur super mysterious story?’

‘naomi said you needed help so lets start with that! what do u need help with??’

Falcon looked at Naomi, and she nodded and slid the keyboard to him.

‘It’s a long story,’ he began typing.

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Instant Messenger
2:29 PM June 29, 2009

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

Lachlan <guitargod91> — Conversation

Naomi: Hey. You awake?
Lachlan: no
Lachlan: it’s 4:29 am here, woman!
Naomi: It said you were online.
Lachlan: i fell asleep with my laptop open
Lachlan: the ding from your message woke me from my beauty rest 😦
Naomi: Sorry.Maybe turn your computer off before bed next time.
Naomi: I hate to bother you in the middle of the night like this, but I didn’t know who else to talk to.
Lachlan: talk to about….?
Naomi: He showed up at my door.
Lachlan: who did…?? stop being cryptic and ominous. i can’t handle crypticism and ominous-ness at half 4 in the morning
Naomi: Crypticism isn’t a real word.
Lachlan: it is too.you americans are so illiterate.
Naomi: Whatever.It’s not, but I don’t have time to argue the point.
Naomi: Do you remember New Year’s Eve?
Lachlan: 😉 😉
Naomi: Ugh. Gross, no, not that part.
Lachlan: 😦
Naomi: Do you remember that other guy who was there when we hung out with The Goldfish Technique at that pirate themed place?
Naomi: The one with the weird name, like Eagle or something?
Lachlan: falcon? yeh i’ve met him a few times. he’s a good friend of the band.
Lachlan: i hang out with them a lot and he’s usually there. you wouldn’t know ‘cos you only hung out with them one time.
Lachlan: what about him?
Naomi: He’s at my apartment right now.
Lachlan: wait what?
Naomi: He knocked on my door about an hour ago and now he’s sitting on my couch eating my chips.
Lachlan: why?
Lachlan: why is he there, not why is he eating chips
Naomi: I have no idea. We can’t communicate very well.
Naomi: He tried to talk to me in sign language at first and I didn’t understand most of it.
Naomi: We have to write a lot down and he’s being sort of weird and confusing.
Naomi: He basically said Dominic told him to come find me and said I would help???
Naomi: I don’t know what to do!
Lachlan: and you think I do?
Naomi: I just didn’t know who else to talk to.
Naomi: C’s at her internship and you’re the only other person I could think to contact.
Naomi: I thought maybe you could get in touch with TGT and ask them to clear this up.
Lachlan: well, i can’t NOW.it’s the middle of the night.
Lachlan: plus i don’t really have their mobile numbers or anything.
Naomi: But I thought you guys were SUCH close friends, hanging out ALL the time.
Lachlan: we run into each other and hang out. i never claimed we were best friends or anything.
Lachlan: tsk tsk if you want my help, you should really be nicer to me.
Naomi: Do you have any way of getting into contact with them?
Lachlan: i could try messaging them on their band page.
Naomi: They don’t usually reply to messages on there, though.
Naomi: I’ll try messaging Dominic’s personal account, but he’s probably not awake right now.
Lachlan: lucky him.
Lachlan: well, messaging them is the only idea i have. guess i can’t help you.
Lachlan: i’d offer you some sage advice but my brain’s not capable of sageness this early.
Lachlan: i’ll sleep on it and maybe i’ll be more sage in the morning. i might even offer you advice if i’m feeling particularly charitable.
Naomi: It’s fine. Sorry to wake you.
Lachlan: apology NOT accepted>:(
Lachlan: let me know how this all unfolds though, ‘cos I am curious.
Naomi: Could you do me a favor if you do run into them and ask them what all this is about?
Lachlan: yeh i will.
Lachlan: not as a favour to you though. Just ‘cos I want to know what’s going on.
Naomi: Whatever. As long as you let me know what they say.
Naomi: Good night, Lachlan.
Lachlan <guitargod91> is offline.


Naomi sighed and turned away from her computer, swiveling around in her chair to face the man in her living room–Falcon apparently. He was lounging on her couch with his feet resting on the large rolling suitcase he’d brought, holding a party-size tortilla chip bag from her pantry in his lap. He gave her an awkward smile, then reached into the chip bag and shoved a handful into his mouth, sending crumbs showering onto the front of his loud-patterned shirt.

She decided to wait on messaging Dominic until she could be reasonably certain he was awake. She got up from her computer chair and took a seat on the opposite side of the couch from Falcon. She pointed to the notepad resting beside him and he pushed it in her direction.

She wrote ‘What are you doing here?’ and slid it back to him.

His hands moved abnormally quickly as he wrote his reply. ‘Dominic said you could help.’

He looked like the sort of guy who would have messy handwriting but his handwriting was just the opposite–neat to the point it was nearly spooky, especially considering how quickly he wrote. It looked almost like a typed font, with every letter identical and perfectly formed. Naomi felt suddenly self-conscious; She’d always prided herself on her handwriting but seeing her writing next to his made it look like chicken scratch.

‘I know,’ she wrote, trying a little harder to keep her handwriting neat. ‘You told me that already. How did he say I could help?’

Falcon frowned at the notepad, twirling the pen in his hand. Then he wrote his message.

‘I don’t know.’

She sighed again and buried her head in her hands. This was going nowhere. Writing on the notepad to communicate was slow and cumbersome, and she wasn’t any closer to figuring out why a near stranger had showed up at her house or how she was supposed to help him.

‘I can’t help you if I don’t know how.’ She paused, then added ‘Did Dominic tell you anything else?’

He did a sign with his fist, one of the few Auslan signs she actually remembered–no.

She exhaled heavily, glancing at the suitcase under his legs.

‘Do you have somewhere to stay?’ she wrote.

He signed ‘no’ again, then grabbed another handful of chips.

She closed her eyes and tilted her head against the back of the couch. Dominic had put her in a difficult position. On one hand, Falcon seemed harmless enough, if a bit strange, and she wouldn’t have felt right turning him away if he didn’t have anywhere to go. On the other hand, her roommates had gone home for the summer and left her alone, and letting a man she barely knew stay in her apartment didn’t seem like the safest idea.

She studied Falcon for a minute, trying to gauge how much of a threat he’d pose if he did turn out to have malicious intentions. He was on the tall side, but he was skinny, and while he didn’t look horribly out of shape, he definitely didn’t look strong either.

She took the notepad from him again, taking a few seconds to think before she wrote him a response.

‘You can stay here for now.’

He smiled, putting his fingers to his chin and pushing his hand slightly forward and down in her direction. This was another one of the signs she remembered; he was thanking her.

‘But we need to lay down a few ground rules.’

She showed him the notepad, then flipped to a blank page and begin writing.

Ground Rules
1. You’ll be watched as much as possible via video chat by one of my friends.
2. If you’re not being watched, you can’t be alone in the apartment. If I leave and no one’s able to watch you, you have to leave when I do. I don’t care where you go, but there’s a library and a park nearby where you can hang out as long as you like.
3. If you try to harm me in any way, whoever is watching will call the police.
4. If you try to turn off or disconnect the camera, whoever is watching will call the police.
5. Please ask before eating any of my food.