Raylorian Dawn
Author: Othello Gooden Jr.

Chapter 7
Ms. Sadina

There were two boxes of pizza and an assortment of snacks on a large ovular glass table before Kayla and her band. Liz was scratching at the locked door leading downstairs while the band continued practicing. Earl scooted the dog aside with his foot before reaching the door. He had a plate of chicken, macaroni, and string beans in his left hand. In his right hand was a cup of ice tea.

 

“Marion!” Earl said as Liz pressed against the door with him, almost making the man spill his drink on the ground.

 

Some of the ice tea dropped on the dog's snout. Liz looked up at Earl after licking the tea off her nose. He looked down at her in annoyance as the dog kept getting in his way, preventing him from taking another step toward the stairs.

 

"Marion!" Earl repeated as Liz prancing around him further annoyed the man.

“Sir?” Marion answered on her way downstairs from her room.

 

“Can you put Liz in her cage?” Earl asked Marion, prodding Liz out the way with his foot and grunted, “She's starting to get in the way!”

 

“Yessir.” Marion said with a nod. She immediately took Liz into the dining room. Liz’s cage was underneath the table.

 

As Marion opened the cage with her free hand, Liz squirmed, trying to get away. Marion just laughed at the dog’s futile attempt to free itself. A moment later, the teenager triumphantly shoved Liz into the cage and locked it. Liz barked while trying to scratch the lock open but to no avail. Marion headed back toward the stairs, grinning. Liz barked again as she saw Earl meet Marion at the steps. Both of them ignored the dog as they trailed down the stairs. Marion closed the door behind them while still grinning at Liz’s constant barking. She could hear Liz’s bark turn to a whimper just as she closed the door.

 

“Next Saturday is the gig. Be prepared to look your best. I heard Marinacci's attract the best around the colonies.” Kenji said informatively.

 

“I also heard Lady Terrance was going to be there!” Dante said enthusiastic, while placing his drumsticks back into a zipper case full of other music sticks.

 

“You mean THE Lady Terrance?” Kayla cocked her head sideways at him after sitting her flute on its stand. Dante’s words also merited similar responses from the other band members.

 

“Yeah.” Dante replied with a nod while rubbing the back of his head.

 

“She's Lunar-2's most famous music critic.” Kenji added. He paused, trying to remember something else about the lady, “From the Lunarian Beat Magazine—Y'know?”

 

“Whatever happened to that one critic—“

“Must you bring up the past again, Anedra?” Kenji stopped Kayla apathetically.

 

“If it decides whether or not Kayla will continue to have a band or not, why shouldn't she?” Marion butted in, slightly concerned.

 

“Kayla, Dante, and Julian were of the original Latin Travelers.” Dante explained. “But—”

 

“What's in the past—stays in the past!” Kenji interrupted loudly, “If you play your best, you won't have to worry about getting a bad review!”

 

“You're right!” Kayla agreed, half smiling.

 

“So let's run through the list one more time.” Kenji pressed. “More importantly—the last two for the night—they need some work!”

 

“Samba Blues and Anedra's Jam?” Clara asked while looking at her print out of the set up on her music stand.

 

“Yeah, yall need to tighten up on the timing.” Kenji said in observation of the band’s past performance at their practice sessions.

 

“I don't hear anything wrong.” Dante shrugged.

 

“That's because you're too busy playing.” Kenji countered. “You're not listening to your musician's lag. Tay, you're always a beat and a half too slow!”

 

“Oh.” Dante said and then shortly laughed.

 

“Keep in time, okay?” Kenji looked at him with a straight face. “How about yall play Anedra's Jam again just to be certain?”

 

“Okay.” Kayla nodded as she picked up her flute again.

The rest of her band followed, playing Anedra's Jam again.

 

“Much better!” Kenji clapped after the Latin Travelers finished playing the song. “Okay, that's a wrap—Travelers, yall did good!”

 

Kayla nodded to him as she packed up her flute. Kenji began helping Dante pack up his drum set.

 

“Hey, Kayla!” Clara called as she finished packing up her keyboard.

“Yeah, wassup?” Kayla smiled her way.

“Brandon and I are going out to eat this evening, you wanna come?” Clara asked.

 

“I'd love t—” Kayla stopped at hearing Earl clearing his throat. She looked back to him and Marion sitting on the couch watching her. Marion was finishing the last slice of pizza.

 

“Didn't you promise Ms. Sadina you'd come see her today after practice?” Earl interrupted in a tone of concern.

 

“Oh, yeah, I did!” Kayla laughed upon remembering.

 

“Next time then.” Clara said, shrugging. Brandon helped Clara lift her keyboard back in its case, put it on a dolly and rolled it out to the trunk of their car.

 

“Yeah, sure!” Kayla nodded to Clara before she left, waving goodbye to her band members filing out with their instruments.

 

When Kayla’s band left, she and Marion cleaned up the downstairs area that had paper plates and cups scattered throughout the place. After she was done, Kayla walked up stairs and headed out with her keys in hand.

 

 

The way to Ms. Sadina’s house was a long drive, passing by Mariana’s Place then MCLT-2. Beyond the school were many blocks filled with rundown business, abandoned apartment complexes, and houses. To the average person, nothing about this area was interesting because many knew it as Rliur’s “Ghost” sector. Kayla remembered this wasn’t so a few years ago.  Back then this place boomed with industry.

 

Kayla remembered the vast majority of Lunar-2’s inhabitants gathered around Mariana’s Place waiting to be seated. Others sat at under a table, with an umbrella over it, eating food. Kayla laughed at how she used to speed up their service. She bounced from table to table on hover skates, pulling a tray imbued with a thin plate of anti-grav material.

 

Sometimes, things didn’t go as planned—the plate moved faster than Kayla.  This one time she remembered stopping too fast on her anti-grav skates, darting around the restaurant. A bowl of chili she had on a tray ended up on a man's lap, ruining his brand spanking new green pen striped suit. As a consequence, Kayla not only had to mail a letter of an apology to the customer but also pay for the suit she ruined.  It took her several weeks to do so. After that painful experience, Kayla learned to slow down with her skates and eventually did so. Kayla believed being faster meant more business—that’s why she invented them. Yet to Mariana, quality was better. Eventually, Kayla learned the business and new how to balance both.

 

That was one memory Kayla had of this area. It was one of the most memorable because she learned a valuable lesson about the business, mainly customer service.  Had Kayla not done what she did, that customer wouldn't have come back. Also, he wouldn't be among the first to buy from Kayla's small electronic shop she opened up a few months later.

 

Kayla came out of that memory with a smile as she now turned her attention to the present. Most of Mariana’s business came from the people who lived in this area.  All that was left now were the homeless.  Many were roving the streets, digging in the trash for something to eat. Others huddled around a trashcan set a blaze by combustible material found in the abandoned buildings around them. Many were hanging out in large boxes setup like homes if not living in the boarded up buildings. Some of them watched Kayla pass by in her car.  Kayla recognized some of the people in the crowd of homeless. They were those who regularly ate at Mariana's Place.

 

Kayla remembered the sole reason why this sector turned ghost—job outsourcing. Many of them lost their jobs after businesses in this area moved elsewhere. Some moved between Earth, Lunar Prime, and Zyra while others went under. Yet there was another factor that resulted in the death of many businesses in Lunar-2—crime. The latter was blamed on the presence of Giordano’s Mafia and Mariana’s death.

 

Kayla shook her head at thought of how many in the city looked to Mariana as a “good luck charm”, contributing Lunar-2’s wellbeing to Mariana’s protective power. She now knew why Earl didn’t want to be bothered by them—they worshipped Mariana like a goddess but when she died they blamed the city's rising crime rate on her death. Interestingly, when they ran into a member of the Dartan family, they always were persistent in shoving Mariana’s greatness in their face.

 

Earl’s reason for moving into the condo on the other side of town was something much more than just moving on with their lives—it was to get away from the “hypocrites” that surrounded them. Most of the Dartan’s neighbors consisted of “Marianites”, a term Kayla remembered Marion often joked about when their mother was alive. The Marianites were a cult that worshipped her like some celebrity. Mariana knew how to deal with them kindly. Earl on the other hand, didn’t. Marion enjoyed the limelight but was often scolded by Earl for doing so. Then there was Kayla and Taizosu. The people didn’t mess with Kayla because they knew most of her story of how Mariana found her. Unfortunately, there were those who didn’t care and were after the family for a story like the paparazzi-like organizations that exist today. Those people got the boot (literally) by Taizosu.

 

A few blocks from the heavy mass of homeless people was the Dartan’s old house, still vacant. Kayla, however, concentrated on the memory of that mall a few blocks down—also vacant.

 

The old electric sign that read “CraterTown Mall” hanging above the two-story half of a football field size building. The sign had enough neon lighting in it to light up the area at night.  Kayla just glanced at the sign as she passed by—it was still dark as had been for years since the mall's closure almost 2 years ago.

 

This in fact was the place Mariana and Earl shopped to buy clothes for Kayla and Marion before each school year. Kayla remembered how she walked through each electronic store in search of the best deal on the latest gadget. Marion did quite the same but in every jewelry store for something to buy. She always had a foot wide jaw in awe at seeing their selection every season. Kayla often joked that the jeweler’s large selection was bigger than Mariana and Earl’s credit card limit and Marion always had a habit of pouting when their parents wouldn’t let her buy what she wanted because of the price.

 

The pouting stopped years later after Marion started working for Mariana’s Place when she was of age—a portion of her paycheck was withheld to pay off that piece of jewelry she bought. Kayla laughed at knowing that Marion paycheck at Mariana’s Place was regularly spent on one of two things: Buying expensive jewelry or paying off her debt from buying the latter on their mom’s credit card.

 

Kayla didn’t spend hardly as much as her sister but Earl still complained every now and then about what she bought. Every other week Kayla had a new package FedEx’d to their doorstep. So, to keep Earl from complaining, Kayla got decided to set up a P.O. Box at their local post office.  That kept him quiet.

 

As the years went by, business slowed down. The Dartans stopped shopping at this mall after what they use to buy there was rarely in stock. Then five-year old three story Rliur Gardens (renamed Mariana Gardens in honor of her) was finished about a few months later. The building was under construction for several years. Many in the area anticipated that it would bring business back to the area. The mall was located in the adjacent area next to Mariana and Grandma D's memorial site.

 

The mall's innovative Holographic Electronic Merchants or HEMs drew in more customers. Yet, like all computers, HEMs were prone to electronic failures and glitches. In most cases, incidents of those were rare. When such unfortunate occurrences did happen, the HEMs were shutdown. Kayla often stomped away in defeat after seeing an “Out of Order” message floating around on the terminal's screen.

 

All HEMs were controlled from the corporate office HQ's satellites in orbit. Some stores stuck to the old school style of "flesh and blood" salesmen. Time and time again, these men and woman disfavored the potentially job jeopardizing HEMs and AIs. When the mall thought about buying more HEMs and AIs, some business owners within the mall revolted, voicing their opinion to Rliur Garden's Business Committee and to Town Hall. They were ignored and the majority was determined to save money, laying off more people and replacing those ones with robots when the workload was great.

 

On the consumer side, some didn’t quite trust an AI for business transactions because of the threat of identity theft still existed with HEMs. Often times a hacker broke into a HEM just to steal IDs. Kayla preferred shopping on-line because of this vulnerability. She didn't mind an AI merchant however, in Taizosu's first days, he always amused himself by insulting them because of their one-track minds. For that reason and because Taizosu followed her where ever she went, Kayla didn't go to the mall much until that "rudeness" trait was ironed out of him—which took several weeks because of his defiance.

 

Nowadays, and because of her tight budget, online became the superior option because deals were often easier to find! Kayla laughed at knowing this fact—no HEM or AI could out do the price of an Internet marketplace. The now abandoned mall couldn’t compete with all the innovative technologic systems within Rliur Gardens.

 

Kayla continued in her daydreaming but careful in not taking her eyes off the road. She glanced around to the homeless crowds on both sides, trying to keep alert. They had children in among them.

 

That’s when something came to her in a flashback after catching a glimpse of a child in rags staring back at her. As Kayla swerved, she could see the child’s sad filled eyes. She then saw herself when she was a little girl. Kayla flinched at the hallucination, remembering that she too had been homeless.

 

Quickly turning her eyes back on the road, Kayla evaded a basketball that bounced in her way from the sidewalk. Another kid on the other side caught the ball. He rolled it back over to the other side after Kayla drove passed. Kayla sighed in relief, dodging the ball that almost caused her to veer off course and into a streetlight. Beyond this abandoned sector looked more alive. It was a gated retirement community known to many as Pyun Manor.

 

Ms. Sadina’s home was located on top of a hill. Beyond community’s front gate was a giant mansion sitting alone in a garden of roses. The arrangement set Sadina’s home apart from the other two story apartment complexes around her. Each home had two or three more cars parked out front. The garages were built in the front of each home. Kayla imagined many more cars were in them. Sadina's mansion was superior in comparison to the town houses with small walkways between them. Dr. Alexander had more put into her home, beating her fellow retirees in square footage.

 

“State who you’re visiting!” A deep masculine computerized voice said bluntly through a speaker box as Kayla stopped her car before the large gate leading into Pyun Manor. The medium-sized box was mounted on a wall next to the gate. Next to it was a large vending machine size mechanism that controlled the gate's opening and closing functions.

 

“I’m here to see Dr. Alexander!” Kayla spoke loudly at the speaker after popping her head out her window. The gears inside the gate opener started to turn several seconds later. The silver painted gate screeched open.

 

“Have a good day.” The computerized voice said as the gate retracted far enough for Kayla to pull through with her car.

 

Kayla nodded in reply before driving into the community. As she stopped at the stoplight, Kayla watched as an elderly couple passed by in orange corvette with the top popped back. Kayla followed their car with her eyes. The two turned a corner leading into their garage a few streets down. The stoplight before her suddenly turned green. Kayla drove through; flying passed the elderly couple's house toward Sadina's mansion. At the foot of the hill leading up to the place was a flat, black and sandy road.  Kayla followed this road that lead to the back of Sadina's home.

 

In the back were three cars scattered amongst the area smoothed out in gravel. One was a Pontiac Solstice with a silver colored midsection. The sides of this car were all black. The vehicle was parked near the leftmost marble column supporting Sadina's home. The rightmost car, which was centered in the corner underneath a canopy, was a silver Mercedes Benz. There were imprints in the sandy road around that car leading up to the back door. Kayla parked her car near Sadina’s red and black striped Jaguar with green tinted windows. Sadina's Jaguar was next to the rightmost marble column. Kayla got out and came up to Sadina's back door. Sadina's mansion was two stories high. Her bedroom was near the back close to the steps leading into the basement. She remembered that Sadina always had this door unlocked when expecting visitors.

 

When Kayla went to open the door, something on the other side stopped her opening it all the way. Kayla forcefully pushed the door, trying to squeeze herself through the small entryway. The door moved about an inch before swinging backwards, pushing Kayla out.

 

“What?” Kayla thought aloud, puzzled after staggering to stay upright from the door's shoving. She tried squeezing her way through the door again. The same thing happened. Whatever was on the other side was strong enough to prevent her from entering the place.

 

“Sadina!” Kayla called for help as she looked up at a window on the floor above her.

 

There was no answer.

 

“Sadina!” Kayla repeated louder.

 

Kayla listened for a response but sighed at hearing nothing. That's when Kayla pulled out her phone and called Sadina. As the ringing tone on Kayla's phone sounded, she could hear a phone ringing on its base near the basement's door.

 

Sadina was upstairs sitting at a table before a checkerboard. She was outnumbered three to two against an opponent that was nothing more than a robotic arm connected to a box with an LCD screen. On the left side of the screen was a timer displaying how much time had elapsed. Separated by a black line on the right half of the screen was the number of turns taken since the game's start. Above that was another screen reading “Dutch Style” in big bold electronically printed letters.

 

The arm had two kings and 1 man on the board. The arm flexed its fingers over its man close to Sadina's edge. It was two squares away from the king's row. On Sadina's side of the field were two kings. The robot’s king was threatening her leftmost king with one square between them. Her topmost king was threatening his piece about to be kinged. All pieces were in the same vicinity.

 

The robotic arm captured Sadina's king with his and jumped over it. It was now adjacent to Sadina's other king.

 

“You're move.” The arm said in a male's electronic chess master's tone—emphatic but slightly condescending.

 

Sadina smirked as she made her move, capturing the robotic arm’s non-king piece, and moved her king into her king's row. Sadina's phone rang a third time. Deep in thought, she didn't pay attention to it. Then her doorbell rang from the front door.

 

“It's open!” Sadina yelled, looking towards her the door leading into the main hallway. She still had two fingers on her king piece, undecided on where to move it.

 

“Ms. Sadina, didn't you hear me ring the—oh, I see.” Kayla laughed at seeing Sadina playing Bobby, the robotic “Grandmaster” arm. She shut the door behind her and came closer and added, “I see he's been keeping you company!”

 

“Yep!” Sadina turned Kayla and nodded with a smile but took her finger off the piece after moving it one square down.

 

Bobby captured Alexander's last piece as she moved it one square diagonally. Sadina lost her concentration after Kayla came in through the front door. She was in the middle of a move and took her hand off the piece, thus ending her turn.

 

“You lose.” Bobby said triumphantly, using a voice recording of President Coolidge saying the latter. He quickly pointed at her and thumbed downward as the recording played.

 

“Dratted—Bobby!” Alexander slammed her fist on the table out of frustration after turning back to the table.

 

Kayla laughed at the situation, but more at Bobby's sense of humor.

“How many times has he beaten you?” Kayla asked frivolously and with snickering.

 

“Uh...” Sadina thought for a moment and suddenly laughed upon remembering, “Oh my word! That hasn't happened in a long time!”

 

“I see.” Kayla said with a grin.

 

“Power down, Bobby—Good game!” Sadina commanded. She rolled her eyes at the thought of losing to Bobby this one time.

 

Bobby made a few mechanical jerks with his hand before it slumped over the checkerboard. His LCD screens faded to black.

 

“Glad you came, Kayla!” Sadina said, turning back to Kayla. The elderly lady slowly rose from the table and headed toward the basement door.

 

“Daddy told me you were having a problem.” Kayla recalled but added rhetorically with her grin widening, “If it’s Bobby, perhaps Marion could help?”

 

“Actually,” Sadina stopped after a short burst of laughter at Kayla’s teasing. She cleared her throat and continued in a serious tone, “That forcefield security system has got some kind of glitch in it!”

 

“What kind?” Kayla asked as she walked along side Sadina.

 

“Well the basement...” Sadina trailed off, stopping a few feet away from the basement door.

 

Kayla opened the door and took a step downward. She declined two steps before an invisible field repelled her foot. Kayla staggered backward; losing her balance from the force that knocked her backward.

 

“Uh-oh!” Sadina grabbed hold of Kayla with enough strength to keep the girl from falling to the ground. “You okay?”

 

“Yes Ma'am.” Kayla regained her composure. She cocked her head back at the field and said, “That field was supposed to let me through!”

 

“The basement is inaccessible because of that thing!” Sadina pointed at the field, disgusted at the situation.

 

“Hmm—” Kayla thought aloud.

 

“Can you fix it?” Sadina anxiously stood there, looking at Kayla with that 'please save me' look on her face.

 

“Not alone.” Kayla shook her head as she went to Sadina's kitchen counter to pick up a phone sitting on its base. She began dialing a number as she said, “MCLT might be able to help!”

 

“How can you be for sure?” Sadina asked, skeptic of Kayla’s choice.

 

“They were the ones who created the system!” Kayla answered. “I'm guessing that glitch you were talking about earlier could be an outdated driver or corrupted mainframe.”

 

“Corrupted mainframe?” Sadina repeated, “I doubt... Wait! We've had a few power surges over the past few months!”

 

“Yes Ma'am and unfortunately, some newbie engineers don't know how to fix stuff right.” Kayla said respectfully as she punched three numbers on the keypad. She waited for someone to pick up on the other in while listening to the ringing tone.

 

“Thank you for calling the MCLT Advanced Systems Department, this is Fred, how can I help you?” the technician introduced himself.

 

“Yes,” Kayla answered. “We have a problem here with one of your forcefield security systems under the customer—Sadina Alexander.”

 

“Just a moment—I’m pulling up the information now!” Fred said after a sound of acknowledgement. “...And for security purposes, what are the last four digits of the householder's social?”

 

“399—5? Hold on.” Kayla quickly turned to Sadina. The elderly lady waved back at her with a nod. “Yeah, 3995.”

 

“One second.” Fred said after entering the number in the computer's database. There was a few seconds of silence before Fred spoke. This time, his voice dropped as he said, “Uh, Ma'am?”

 

“Yes?” Kayla held her ear close to the phone.

 

“The forcefield system you’re using is out of date according to the Lunar Colony standard.” Fred informed.

 

“Out of date?” Kayla asked. “But wireless was how MCLT use to do things!”

 

“True, until Duke Energy Interplanetary bought out the Lunar Energy Company several months ago.”

 

Fred said with slight disappointment. “D.E.I. produces a special type of routers for this type of security system. They added an IP address keypad dialer in this new module!”

 

“We don't have anyone of those.” Kayla's tone was low. She shook her head in defeat while running one hand through her hair.

 

“Not a problem!” Fred said cheerfully, breaking Kayla from her sad state, assuring her. “We can send you one for free if you are an MCLT student.”

 

“Do alumnis count?” Kayla asked, curious.

 

“On the Wireless-N Forcefield Emulator? Lemme see...” Fred typed something into the database. “$100 off but the WNFE is on sale for $299.”

 

“Hold on.” Kayla muted the phone and turned to Sadina, sitting there listening to their conversation. “The upgrade is $200.”

 

“I don't need an upgrade, hun!” Sadina shook her head. “Can't we just have this one fixed?”

 

“This guy, Fred, says that the forcefield we have downstairs is obsolete—we may not have a choice!” Kayla explained.

 

“Oh alright!” Sadina nodded.

“Hello—Fred?” Kayla called after un-muting the phone.

“Still here!” Fred answered.

“We'll take the upgrade!” Kayla said with a smile.

 

“Okay!” Fred sighed in relief. “Now before we continue, I need to let you know that only one WNFE can be purchased per Alumni user.”

 

“Okay!” Kayla nodded.

 

“Great!” Fred said as he pulled up her account info. “According to the records, a Kayla A. Dartan bought one on May 4th of 2036.”

 

“What?” Kayla answered in surprise. “I don't remember buying one!”

 

“The receipt said that it was shipped to 600 Pyun Manor.” Fred explained. He looked at the page displaying the unit Kayla bought.

 

“What's the matter?” Sadina asked, interrupting Kayla and Fred's conversation after seeing a sad look develop on Kayla's face.

 

“He said that we already bought a WNFE last year.” Kayla looked up at her.

 

“Oh you mean...” Sadina then went over to a huge mess of papers and cardboard boxes sitting on top of her coffee table. She dug her hand through the middle of the pile, searching through it.

 

“Where is it—ah, here it is!” Sadina thought aloud and then smiled at pulling out a box with the WNFE's picture on the front. She flipped the box over, looking over its specifications on the back.

 

“Where did you—”

“I forgot this thing was here all this time.” Sadina interrupted. “I just now remembered!”

 

“Hello—Kayla?” Fred called; seemingly louder that he did the first time. Kayla didn't hear him over her talking to Sadina.

 

“Sorry!” Kayla apologized after hearing him. “We found it.”

 

“Okay... The WNFE should be hooked up to the same generator as your other one was. I believe the model you had was—the Forcefield Barrier by Zyra Electronics?” Fred stopped to search for the product registered under Sadina's name. “Yeah—that's an old model! You need to disconnect the old one before installing the WNFE.”

 

“That's gonna be a problem.” Kayla shortly laughed.

 

“What do you mean?” Fred asked hesitantly, slightly confused at Kayla's hysterical response.

 

“Well,” Kayla cleared her throat. “The outdated forcefield shut out both Sadina and I's heat signatures, making part of the house uninhabitable.”

 

“Oooh—” Fred flinched. “That doesn't sound like something that would come from a disconnected forcefield—but it's been known that such a thing could happen.”

 

“Yeah.” Kayla laughed again but added jokingly while looking at Sadina with a grin, “Especially when the person who really needs it is computer ill—”

 

Sadina shoved Kayla playfully, interrupting the girl at knowing what she was about to say. Kayla cleared her throat again. Her smile widening as Sadina gave into her joke with laughing.

 

“Not a problem!” Fred nodded, shortly laughing at Kayla’s joke too. “We'll just need to cut the power from the house and then back on again.”

 

“Why would you need to do that? Wait,” Kayla stopped after remembering something. “That would reset the security system, right?”

 

“Not exactly.” Fred corrected. “When the power goes off, you have ten minutes to disconnect the system before things turn on again. If you don't—”

 

“I know—I know!” Kayla interrupted. “Back to square one—Thanks for your help!”

 

“No problem!” Fred answered. “Also, just to let you know, I just sent a serviced request for a house electrical reset to D.I. HQ. Thank you and have a nice day!”

 

“You're welcome.” Kayla nodded as she hung up the phone.

 

“You're going to need this.” Sadina said as she handed Kayla a flashlight and two-way receiver off the coffee table, “it’s pitched black downstairs in the dark!”

 

“Thanks!” Kayla said, thanking her after taking the equipment from the lady.

 

Kayla finished stuffing the WNFE package in the front pocket of her hooded sweatshirt when the lights went out. She kept the two-way in her hand. The lights on the street didn't reach far enough into Sadina's mansion. They only illuminated the areas around the basement door and kitchen windows. Kayla quickly trotted down the stairs, shutting the door behind her. She turned the flashlight on and shined its light over her path. She stopped for a moment at hearing the echo of water dripping on the floor.

 

“Ms. Sadina?” Kayla called into her two-way.

“Yes, Kayla?” Sadina answered on her end. She was sitting at the coffee table.

 

“Sounds like you got a leaky pipe somewhere.” Kayla said as she reached the bottom of the stairs. Then her left foot went one inch deep into something mushy. Kayla stopped to illuminate her foot with the light.

 

She grimaced at seeing something like poop on the bottom of her shoe.

 

“Ew!” Kayla said in disgust after seeing goo drip from her left shoe. “Did you use to have any pets down here?”

 

“No, why?” Sadina asked.

 

“I just stepped in something nasty!” Kayla said while quickly scanning the floor around her with the flashlight for anything else.

 

Two small glowing eyes stared at Kayla from the inside of a pipe. The rodent squeaked before retreating into the pitched blackness of the pipe after Kayla passed over it with her flashlight. She edged closer to the pipe, keeping her flashlight on the spot. That’s when Kayla saw a few more small figures pass by while she looked through a rusted hole in a pipe.

 

“Rats!” Kayla screeched, jerking away from the pipe but stepped into a massive pile of more rat droppings behind her—this time with her right foot.

 

“Don't worry about the rats, darling,” Sadina assured with impatience. “Keep moving!”

 

Kayla sidestepped around the corner, following the rats into a dark room. She yelped at seeing a baby rat come out of nowhere and scurried pass her. Fright began to overwhelm Kayla, making her hesitantly shine the flashlight into the center of the room. In the far right corner of the room covering Sadina's backup generator was a family of rats. When the light hit the rodents, all of them unanimously turned their heads at Kayla, staring back at her in the dark with their eerie white glowing eyes. Kayla stepped backward, counting their number as she shined the light over what seemed to be a few dozen rats.

 

“Uh, Sadina—you got a rat infestation!” Kayla yelled into her end while moving the light around the room, illuminating a path of rats running around. The light suddenly revealed more rats covering something a few feet way from the generator. Something was blinking underneath them on a desk. One rat ran from the light Kayla shined on it, revealing a tattered wire behind the module. Kayla followed it into a crowd of baby rats gathered around something charred.

 

“Pfft!” Kayla scoffed into her two-way. “I found the problem!”

 

“More rats, I presume?” Sadina asked with much sarcasm. “Looks like I need to call the exterminator!”

 

Kayla laughed at Sadina’s mentioning of an exterminator. She didn't like rats and hated being around them. Yet this was Sadina's house and these rats had come uninvited. With that thought in mind, Kayla started kicking away the rats around the module and unplugged the tattered cable from the wall. As she pulled the charred rat from the wire, the rodent crumbled to ashes.

 

“The lights are about to come on Kayla, are you done?” Sadina asked with impatience.

 

“I uh—” Kayla stopped as more rodent eyes began to stare at her. All those eyes staring at her made the girl become fearful again.

 

Kayla clenched her fists. This fear of rats prevented her from finishing the job. She stomped at one segment of rats staring at her. The rats scattered, rushing at Kayla on their way out the door. They jumped and scurried around her, making their escape through a large opening in a corroded pipe outside the room. The pipe was connected to a larger water pipe network hooked up to Sadina's two in one washer and drier. Kayla screamed as the rodents ran passed her until all of them had cleared the room.

 

“Kayla, you okay?” Sadina repeatedly yelled in the few moments following Kayla's panicked screams.

 

“I'm okay!” Kayla shuttered. “Looks like we're gonna need to purchase another cable for the setup.”

 

“Why?” Sadina questioned.

 

“A rat got charred biting into it!” Kayla said with half of a smile while looking at the chewed up wire in one hand, speaking into her two-way in the other. She chuckled lightly and shook her head in disbelief.

 

“Didn't you buy a back up just in case one went bad?” Sadina neared the stairs. “You know wiring tends to go bad after a while!”

 

“I did—just let me find it.” Kayla said as she quickly strolled over to a tall metallic brown colored cabinet. She stopped at the door and took a deep breath, anticipating more rats. She quickly opened one of the doors, quickly concealing herself behind it.

 

Kayla swung the other door open with her free hand. The girl exhaled in relief. No rats jumped out at her. Still, she was on edge as she looked into the closet at an angle. She flashed her light into the closet and came across a box labeled, "Cables", sitting on the top shelf. As Kayla pulled one from the box, dust particles and rat droppings fell on her.

 

“Ack!” Kayla yelled, shaking the dust and dung out of her head. Then box fell on her, covering the girl with more dust and dung. Kayla immediately threw the box on the ground with the other wires and rushed over to the desk.

 

Kayla quickly opened up the WNFE box and started setting it up. The WNFE module had an adjustable antenna that extended upward. Kayla extended the antenna and plugged one end of the cable into the back of the machine. On the back were to outlets: one input and one for controlling the module from a computer. Sadina didn't want the latter because she wasn't computer savy. Kayla remembered that this feature on the WNFE allowed the field to be customized. It was once rumored that the WNFE could be tweaked into acting as a home cloaking device in addition to a protective forcefield. Kayla had seen video presentations of the module being used like this on YouTube yet the vast majority of them were a hoax.

 

Coming out of her daydream, Kayla was forced to remember she had little time before the lights cut back on. So, she quickly plugged the other end of the cable into the wall and immediately pressed a red button located on the back of the machine. Lights began to flicker on the shielded light bulb arrangement above the LCD screen. Each bulb collectively represented the connection's strength. Only two lights were lit up. Kayla felt a tingling sensation in her hair and ran her hand through it. More dust and dung flew out.

 

“Can I wash my hair in your sink before I leave?” Kayla asked Sadina through her two-way.

 

“Sure, hun!” Sadina said happily. “Just come on up after your done! I'll have the shampoo and conditioner ready.”

 

“Kay, thanks!” Kayla stood there for a few moments, reading the spiral bound manual taken from the module’s box with her light illuminating the book.

 

She read the “configuration settings” with her light over the first paragraph. Kayla stopped at the information talking about the five dotted decimal registration address.

 

So they're using masks too, I see!” Kayla laughed to herself while looking two similar numbers in an IP address typed in bold in a blank box.

 

The first number began with 189. Kayla popped open the top and saw a 10 digit keypad underneath an LCD screen. On the screen was an input mask. Between each segment were dots. Each segment was completely identical to the last with the exact same number of underscores—all except for the second to last segment. It had two underscores, breaking from the previous four blank standard spaces of the five segments behind it. The last segment had only one underscore.

 

“You done, Kayla?” Sadina's voice buzzed through Kayla's two-way.

 

“Almost!” Kayla answered with her two-way in one hand and then sat it down on the table. She began typing in the IP address with her free hand. She held the flashlight in her mouth, reading the IP address printed in the book.

 

After pressing the enter button next to the LCD screen, the entered numbers flashed red, followed by a buzzing sound resonating from an internal speaker behind the WNFE.

 

“Registration complete!” A choppy but monotone computerized voice stated from the speakers. “You will get a call from your primary manufacturer in 30 minutes to an hour.”

 

“I'm coming now!” Kayla spoke one last time from her end and headed upstairs.

 

 

“So tell me, what you have been doing lately?” Sadina began as Kayla sat down beside her on a large burgundy futon couch. Kayla’s hair was wrapped in a green towel. She wore a red lapel robe over an all blue pull over shirt.

 

“I haven’t talked you in a long time!” Sadina added concerned while placing her hand over Kayla’s. “Not since Mariana died.”

 

“Yeah,” Kayla looked down. “Things haven’t been quite the same since then.”

 

“Honey, grief hits us all—you're not alone!” Sadina said softly. “Did I ever tell you how Mariana and I first ran into each other?”

 

“No, tell me!” Kayla looked at Sadina with a smile, intrigued.

“In the military!” Sadina smiled. “Mariana and I were in the same unit!”

“You were a soldier, too?” Kayla’s eyes lit up.

 

“No!” Sadina shook her head. “I wanted to remain sane!  LIA’s medical staff was good enough for the time being.”

 

“Oh!” Kayla smiled.

“What about you?” Sadina asked.

All of the sudden Kayla's smile dropped.

“It wasn’t really in a happy setting.” Kayla said as she looked away. “Just forget it.”

“Kayla...” Sadina edged closer, wrapping her arms around Kayla, comforting the girl.

“I can tell you anything, right?” Kayla looked up at her, her voice filled with grief.

“Sure, why would I tell—”

“Thanks, Sadina!” Kayla interrupted and with a sniffle.

“You’re welcome.” Sadina answered warmly.

“Mariana—saved me.” Kayla finally said after a moment of continuous sobbing.

 

“Here...” Sadina stopped to offer Kayla a box of tissues sitting next to her on a small coffee table. Kayla took one and wiped her teary face with it. “She saved you—how?”

 

“My first parents—the Murphy’s, were murdered.” Kayla answered. “I was an orphan for months before Mariana found me!”

 

Kayla stopped as the scenario played through her mind. She bit her lip, closing her eyes while trying to stop the horrific drama from playing in her mind.

 

“Everything’s going to be fine now—you’ll be resting with them soon.” Those words of the assassin rang like a ghastly voice in her mind. Kayla gripped herself tightly—those words sent chills down her spine.

 

“If it’s too hard for you—”

 

“No—no, it’s okay!” Kayla blew her nose on a tissue. “If it hadn’t been for Mariana, I wouldn't be alive now!”

 

“It’s a miracle that you are!” Sadina gasped in relief.

 

“But I shouldn’t be!” Kayla cried. “I remember being resuscitated by the Murphy's after almost drowning in the San Diego River. Months later, my family is taken away from me! Why didn’t I just die with them?”

 

“Don’t think like that!” Sadina scolded. “You’re living now—that’s all that matters, doesn’t it?”

 

“I wish it were so.” Kayla answered in a low tone. “If I could only understand the flashbacks and strange dreams I—”

 

“Tell me about them.” Sadina said, interrupted.

 

“Sometimes I wake up from a dream of me drowning in a river.” Kayla paused trying to remember each detail before continuing, “And in another, I’m running for my life from people shooting at me and others.”

 

“That sound like an average nightmare.” Sadina leaned forward toward Kayla and smiled. “You're mind's probably not liking all the—”

 

“Not true!” Kayla grunted in interruption. “I had these dreams way before I even knew what Anime was—since I was seven!”

 

“Are they the same one each time?” Sadina asked.

 

“No!” Kayla shook her head and sighed, rubbing the scar on her index finger with her other hand. “It’s... Complicated—like this scar on my index finger.”

 

“Let me see.” Sadina said as Kayla then showed her the scar. The older lady sat there for a moment, lightly running her finger over the rough discolored area of Kayla’s finger.

 

“Does it hurt?” Sadina asked, poking the scar.

“No Ma’am.” Kayla answered.

 

Sadina shook her head, pondering over what she thought of the scar in her own mind. A burn? A scrape?

 

“Did Mariana know anything about it?” Sadina asked after thinking about the possibility.

 

“She doesn’t. The only people who knew were probably the Murphys. Since their dead now, I guess I’ll never—”

 

“Don’t say that!” Sadina intruded. “One day you'll find out.”

 

“You think so?” Kayla asked as she unwrapped the towel around her head. Her hair was a little wet.

 

“I’m sure!” Sadina nodded as she gave Kayla a brush to comb her damp hair.

 

Kayla finished fixing her hair in silence and started by folding her hair behind her head.  After which she secured with a clamp. Two large strands of hair hung out over Kayla’s face like bunny ears. Sadina sat there at Kayla’s side, silently watching the girl fix her hair. She got up to hang up Sadina’s robe in a closet.

 

“Hey Kayla!” Sadina asked, breaking the silence.

 

“Ma’am?” Kayla answered from inside the closet.

 

“Whatever happened to that one minister,” Sadina continued and stopped with hesitation. “Oh, what’s his face that’s in jail now?”

 

“You mean Reverend Yule?” Kayla asked. “After Mariana busted him for dealing with the mafia a while back, Yule dared to show up to preach on the day of her funeral!”

 

“Did Earl have to punch him out in front of everybody like that?” Sadina asked, remembering the incident at Mariana's memorial service.

 

“Yule swore and oath in front of daddy, Marion, and I that he wouldn’t eulogize at her memorial!” Kayla explained. “He broke that promise and paid the price!”

 

“Well I’ll be!” Sadina gasped with her hand on her chest, looking in Kayla’s direction in shock.

 

Kayla came back into the room and sat beside Sadina after putting on some fresh new clothes. Interestingly enough, Sadina and Kayla wear the same sizes.

 

“That’s right!” Kayla nodded.

 

“That rotten little turkey!” Sadina growled. “I kinda figured that he was uh—oh... what’s the word?”

 

“A hypocrite?” Kayla finished.

“Yeah, that’s it!” Sadina nodded, pointing at Kayla at her remembering.

 

“Because of him,” Kayla continued, “Earl jumped from religion to religion. He just stopped attending them, concluding that religion in general is hypocritical.”

“What about the one his father attended when he was alive?” Sadina asked.

 

“He doesn’t say much about it.” Kayla shook her head. “And when he does, it’s only praising their morals.”

 

“I think,” Sadina laughed. “Earl is just old and set in his ways!”

“How do you know?” Kayla asked.

 

“As long as I’ve known him,” Sadina chuckled. “More or less, it’s an elderly person thing—but anxieties of life cloud a person’s judgment, sometimes preventing them from making the right choices.”

 

“But Mariana encouraged him to find the Truth.” Kayla said, remembering her mother's ways.

 

“Really?” Sadina said, blinking at Kayla with a smile.

 

“Yes Ma’am.” Kayla nodded. “Family came first to Mariana, as everyone knew, and whatever contributed to the wellbeing of the family, she went with it, Even if Earl didn't like the idea. When she died, Earl felt lost. I see that he's given up.”

 

“Honey, you tell him that he can’t!” Sadina admonished.

“I will!” Kayla answered.

“So what about Marion?” Sadina asked.

 

“She had her period of crying.” Kayla shrugged. “Sometimes I hear her scream 'mama' in the middle of the night.”

 

“Earl told me that Marion's screams were often for her biological mother, too.” Sadina said.

 

“Yeah, well—”

“And what about you?” Sadina looked deeply into Kayla’s eyes.

“What about me?” Kayla sounded confused.

 

“Did you not tell me earlier that you had thoughts of dying?” Sadina looked at Kayla from the side.

 

“I did.” Kayla looked away with a hopeless sigh.

“You didn’t try and—”

“No!” Kayla waved her hands at Sadina while shaking her head nervously.

“I,” Kayla started. “Just sold everything in my frustration before we moved!”

“Wasn’t that a bit rash?” Sadina asked. “You had a business going!”

 

“It was Mariana helped me keep that business afloat.” Kayla countered. “After she died, I—felt lost too, like Earl. Somehow I believed her death was preventable. It was me that failed to prevent it from happening.”

 

“Stop blaming yourself, Kayla.” Sadina gripped Kayla’s hands firmly.

 

“How could I not?” Kayla looked at her with sad filled eyes. “Taizosu was my best! He guarded my family with his life!”

 

“But the terrorists had some of their own, didn’t they?” Sadina asked.

“He handled all of them!” Kayla cried. “I don’t understand why—”

“Kayla,” Sadina shook her tightly. “Calm down!”

Kayla looked aimlessly in the other direction.

 

“Look at me.” Sadina adjusted Kayla's chin, forcing the girl to look toward her. The two met each other eye to eye. “You can’t blame yourself from something unexpected. All you can do is move on.”

“Move on?” Kayla hissed in despair. “I—”

 

“Seriously,” Sadina interrupted with a firm hand on Kayla's shoulder. “I remember at your graduation party, you told me you wanted to attend University of Zyra. I’m I right?”

 

“Yes ma’am!” Kayla answered affirmatively but then looked away, slightly in shame.

 

“That's a good goal, hun.” Sadina assured. “You'd be the first in your family to get accepted in an Ivy League school. I was in mine!”

 

“Yeah.” Kayla sounded hopeful. She thought about Sadina's statement earlier about being the first. “Wait—you were the first to become a doctor in the family?”

 

“Ha!” Sadina's raised her head slightly at Kayla's question. “My younger sister, Amaris—was a mile behind me!”

 

“Nice!” Kayla laughed. “How far behind was she?”

 

“I had just started my doctorate,” Sadina said, empowered by her accomplishment. “When Amaris was in the last year of her Masters.”

 

“Looking at the way things are now,” Kayla grinned, applying what Sadina said about Amaris, to her and Marion. “I might be able to do the same—Marion—eh—well, her grades aren’t good enough!”

 

“That's what I said years ago when Amaris was struggling in high school!” Sadina explained. “You had to at least have a 3.8 to get in!”

 

“What did she have, a 1.9?” Kayla smiled evilly.

 

“Don't be so naïve!” Sadina playfully pushed Kayla in the shoulder. “A 2.9 to be exact. I knew she wasn't going to follow me on Zyra from Lunar Prime. Then one day—she came to my dorm room with her class schedule up in my face!”

 

“No—she didn't!” Kayla laughed.

 

“She most certainly did! Anyway, then Amaris told me... By the time she started her Doctoriate, she had a 3.9 and from there, she transferred to Zyra University.” Sadina chuckled at the thought. “So the moral of all this is—don't always think once a poor student, always a poor student—especially from your relatives. Ya might just eat those words one day!”

 

“Oh my God!” Kayla laughed harder. “I guess I should be more optimistic, huh?”

 

“Always!” Sadina affirmed and then added with a grin, “And when you do get accepted into Zyra—tell sis I said hi!”

 

“Will do, but—”

 

The phone ringing behind them on a coffee table, next to a lamp, interrupted Kayla and Sadina’s conversation.

 

“Hello?” Kayla answered the phone, picking it up from its base.

“Ms. Sadina?” A man speaking in a semi-Hindi accent asked on the other end.

“Who’s calling?” Kayla asked.

 

“This is Daniel Zoran of Duke Energy Interplanetary, how are you today?” Daniel introduced himself.

 

“Fine!” Kayla smiled as she sat back down in her spot next to Sadina. “What’s up?”

 

“I’m here on regards to a new WNFE registering—a request from the MCLT Tech line, I presume?” Daniel asked in conformation.

 

“Yes!” Kayla nodded with a smile.

“Who is this that I’m talking to?” Daniel asked curiously.

“Is this is the purchaser of the—”

 

“How may I help?” Sadina snatched the phone from Kayla’s hands. Kayla laughed shortly after realizing what just happened.

 

“Ms. Sadina?” Daniel asked.

 

“Yes?” Sadina moved in the other direction, dodging Kayla grabbing at the phone.

 

“This is Daniel Zoran of Duke Energy Interplanetary, how are you doing today?” Daniel introduced himself to Sadina.

 

“Good!” Sadina answered. “Is this call regarding the forcefield thingy that was installed 30 minutes ago?”

 

“It is!” Daniel answered. “Now who was that other person I had spoken to a couple seconds ago?”

 

“That’s my good friend Kayla! She’s the one who installed the WNFE. This is Sadina Alexander, the owner of the house, speaking now.” Sadina smiled back at Kayla. The elderly woman continued to push away Kayla who was frantically grabbing at the phone. After a while, Kayla gave up with a short laugh.

 

“Okay.” Daniel said. “Well this call is in regards to the registering of your product. Now to have it activated, those in the household will be registered as those having immediate access into the protected area. Are you familiar with selective transport?”

 

“Isn’t that a science term?” Sadina asked.

 

“Kinda, sort of.” Daniel hesitated. “In the field of Advanced Cybernetics, it’s applied to the Evanstonian forcefield defense systems. In layman’s terms, it’s much like a security protocol to keep intruders out by use of an energy field. This advanced system allows registered bio signs, starting with those currently within the WNFE’s array, safe passage into the protected area.”

 

“You’re going way over my head!” Sadina laughed.

 

“Okay, Okay.” Daniel said, embarrassed by his overwhelming her. “I won’t waste your time with the details. I’m going to start by confirming the number of bio signatures in the WNFE’s array. Let me remind you that a step up from the old forcefield system is that critters are shut out of the array as a signature. If you need to register additional signatures, like pets and other humans for example, you'll have to call us first. Am I clear on that?”

 

“I believe so!” Sadina shrugged.

 

“Okay, let’s get started.” Daniel said as he typed away at the keyboard. He stopped at hearing a small beep from his computer. “In the array, you’re WNFE detects three bio signatures. Is this correct?”

 

“Three?” Sadina paused for a moment and looked to Kayla. “He says there are three here.”

 

“Maybe the third is Bobby?” Kayla shrugged. “Ask him first.”

“Mr. Zoran?” Sadina called.

“Yes ma’am?” Daniel answered.

“Does that forcefield thingy detect AI too?” Sadina asked.

 

“Only class four robots—small robots will show up yellow in the array and will have limited functionality until they are registered properly in the system! Wait, the other bio sign disappeared just now. Strange...”

 

“Hmm,” Sadina thought aloud. “Must've been the mail man.”

“Perhaps—perhaps.” Daniel assumed. “So are we're ready for the activation?”

 

“Ready!” Sadina said after looking to Kayla. Kayla gave her two thumbs up before Sadina turned to the phone again.

 

“Okay, here we go.” Daniel finally said before striking a key on his keyboard.

Outside, Kayla and Sadina heard a low hum creeping up to a short dinging sound.

 

Around the corner, Zana Elaine was eavesdropping on their conversation from her place by a tree on Sadina’s front lawn. She stood there leaned up against the tree in stealth mode.

 

All of the sudden, a high-pitched sound from the receiving in screeched in her ear. Zana quickly took the earpiece out and collapsed to her knees. She gripped her left ear in agony with one hand, grimacing in pain. Zana heard Kayla and Sadina talking once again through the receiver on the ground. She put the receiver in the same ear after the pain subsided.

 

Zana clenched her fist after she heard nothing. She switched to her right ear and could hear Kayla and Sadina talking again. When she finally knew what just happened, Zana grunted angrily and punched forward at the side of an oak tree, leaving a dent in it. She dashed off before Kayla came out on the front lawn, carrying a bag of her dirty clothes to her car. The woman darted her eyes at Kayla, looking vengefully at the girl from the side. Kayla walked around back. She came back out, driving off in her car. Zana retreated away from Sadina’s house into a back alley and was met by two men in slimmer looking armored suits.

 

“So, what did you get?” One of them asked while standing on Zana’s left side.

“Huh?” Zana looked at him sideways. “I can’t hear out that ear!”

 

“Maybe a little LOUDER then?” The man smiled as he repeated his question loudly in the same ear. Zana didn’t flinch. She just looked at him coldly, and not moving an inch.

 

He tried repeating himself a third time, under the impression of her unflinching meant that she didn’t hear him.

 

Zana force smiled and elbowed him hard in the stomach.

 

“Ow, Zana!” the man coughed, holding his paining stomach. “I thought you were joking! You gotta watch it Z, especially in these suits we’re—”

 

“Does the order ‘get me a hearing aid’ mean anything to you?” Zana interrupted with a growl.

 

The two of them look at her, dumbfounded and with shrugs.

 

“That little punk busted my eardrum when she activated that stupid forcefield defense system!” Zana clenched her fist, shaking it furiously.

 

“How is that possible?” the other man asked as he walked over to his comrade that finally recovered from Zana’s attack.

 

“I dunno, okay?” Zana yelled and then added with a grudge.

 

“Hey Ricky, are they all this grumpy?” the other man joked, whispering in the other’s ear.

 

“It runs in her family, Virg. Jeff had a temper, but not like Zana’s.” Ricky whispered back.

 

Ricky and Virgil continued whispering amongst themselves as the three started walking toward their car around the corner. Zana was ahead of them.

 

“Yep! He was the one that—”

“Would the two of you just shut up already?” Zana turned around and screamed at them.

 

The two men stopped walking and looked at Zana in silence. Virgil tried his best to avoid eye contact with her but Ricky had a grin on his face. That smile quickly faded as Zana angrily turned her lip up at him. She jerked around, continuing her path with her arms folded.

 

“Just in case you’re wondering, I can still hear you outta my other ear!” Zana said after Ricky got in the front on the passenger side. Zana was at the wheel. Virgil sat behind Ricky, still looking elsewhere after shutting the door on his side. This time Ricky looked at her apathetically after closing his door.

 

Zana rolled her eyes at him and started the car.  Their drove their car through a broken gate behind Pyun Manor leading onto the streets of Lunar-2, around another corner, and into an abandoned building’s parking garage. Zana drove up three floors and parked their car in front of a wall.

 

As they got out, Ricky and Virgil followed her through a wall appearing to be a hologram.  It was hiding a declining staircase. At the bottom of the stairs was a bolted door. Zana looked into the peephole through the door's center. A red laser scanned her eye.

 

“Access granted!” A masculine computerized voice said as the bolted door unlocked itself, slowly swinging open. Zana and her men walked into a hallway containing a few dozen empty rooms. They entered through the last door on the left.

 

In the room in front of a large plasma TV were six or seven small computer terminals each displaying a UNIX command line prompt. Zana sat at one of them and grabbed the head headset with a microphone sitting on the keyboard. The headset had a mic that stretched over her right ear.

 

Zana typed the world “Comlink” into the command prompt and pressed enter. Suddenly, a logo flashed on screen with the acronym GUB on it. The logo was ovular in shape, taking up the entire middle screen. The word “GUB” was in black lettering with a blue glow around each letter. The ovular shape containing the acronym gave the emblem a black hole effect. Behind GUB was a black glow surrounded by gray. The faded colored ring around the outer edges, on the right side, was white halfway with the other half black near the center.

 

The picture hung there for a few seconds before going to a blue screen. Zana now heard radio interference in her headset. As she began speaking, that interference dropped to silence.

 

“This is ZE-1, come in Lord Falkeun.” Zana adjusted her seat. Her men pulled up in chairs around her.

 

“This is Falkeun. Status report?” An older man’s voice answered from the receiving end.

 

“We have an update on the Dartan girl.” Zana nodded. She shortly grimaced at the short pain throbbing in her busted eardrum.

 

“Go ahead.” Falkeun waited for her response.

 

“This Kayla Dartan knows a Sadina Alexander.” Zana paused, gritting her teeth, trying to ignore the pain. “Seems she knows a little history about Kayla.”

 

Falkeun remained silent on his end for a few moments.

“Sir?” Zana called, as she didn’t hear anything from him for a while.

 

“I’m still here. This Kayla Dartan, whether you knew it or not, is adopted.” Falkeun answered.

 

“I’m aware of that, sir but—”

 

“Then it’s time I tell you the reason why.” Falkeun explained in a softer but still firm voice.

 

“Come again, sir?” Zana asked, confused.

“The reason why I’m having you follow this Dartan girl.” Falkeun explained.

 

“Does it have anything to do with why these two dudes keep trying to compare me to my father?” Zana sounded annoyed, shortly looking back to Ricky and Virgil standing on opposite sides of her.

 

“You have a lot to live up to.” Falkeun said, almost emotionless.

 

Zana said nothing for a while. She didn’t wanna hear it. Yet this was her superior. She had to hear it—no matter how much she didn’t. For several months she’d been watching Kayla and her family like a hawk. Falkeun stuck her with two men who previously worked with her father. Their endless comparisons of Jeff to his daughter they made tortured the young lady.

 

Personally, Zana never liked her father because he abandoned his family for his job.  She remembered as a child her mom and jeff argued about him staying away from for weeks on his “business trips”. A year before his disappearance a few years ago, Jeff packed up his belongings and never came back—she was 11 then.  His absence in her life wasn’t something Zana neither forgot easily nor was something she forgave. At that thought, a stream of tears rolled down her cheeks. Thinking about Jeff’s desertion always threw Zana’s mind in turmoil. Her tears were once hopeless, wishing that he’d come back.  Over the years those thoughts of her father changed to wishing he were dead. Zana believed he was a deadbeat dad.  Even if his job paid well, jobs weren’t more important than family.

 

The piece of the puzzle Zana never knew about him was whom her father worked for. Her mom didn’t know—no, she didn’t want Zana to know, always lying about Jeff’s job at some big time executive job in Lunar Prime.  While he was away, Zana spent most of her life in and out of Lunar-3’s juvenile detention centers. Theft by hacking into bank accounts was her forte.  One time she tried hacking a bank in Lunar Prime. The next day, she was hauled off to the city penitentiary at the age of 18.

 

Zana blamed her misfortune all on her father.  Had he not left them, it wouldn’t have been so hard for Zana and her mom to stay afloat.  The two were poor and lived on the streets of Lunar-3.  Jeff’s job, whatever it was, kept them in the nice apartment they had in uptown Lunar-3. The day he left, Zana and her mom became homeless after they were evicted. This and more was what Zana thought about constantly, even while she was in Prison.  Then one day, someone paid the bail for her release.

 

“ZE-1, do you copy?” Falkeun asked, as he heard nothing from Zana’s end.

“Affirmative! So you sent me to take his place? Why?” Zana cleared her throat.

 

“The Elaine family has served Giordano and GUB for years as soldiers—all of you are honorable!” Falkeun explained.

 

“But why me? My uncle—”

 

“You’re uncle,” Falkeun raised his voice politely in interruption. “Went missing after having a run in with LIA operatives a few years before your father disappeared.  We have yet to find him.”

 

“And my other family members? Couldn’t they—”

 

“That’s a negative.” Falkeun butted in. “Your other relatives—sad to say, are in LIA custody if not MIA like your uncle.”

 

“Which makes me the only able bodied person left in my family.” Zana smirked, thrilled at hearing Falkeun’s reason to believe that she was the one.

 

“I remember when you didn’t want the job!” Falkeun laughed.

 

“And I should’ve known when the feds told me that some anonymous person bailed me out, it had to be my father’s superiors.” Zana said and then laughed.

 

“Hacking is considered a felony on the Moon and on Zyra. Although the attempt wasn’t entirely successful on MCLT-3’s servers, your deeds still sparked Giordano's interest.” Falkeun reminded.

 

“Doesn’t Giordano have other hackers working for him?” Zana asked, curious. Her father’s secret job all those years started making sense—how he got all that money. It wasn’t much of a secret to Zana anymore. Yet Zana believed she could never live up to that expectation. Also, the constant father-daughter comparisons by her comrades didn’t help.

 

“You and your father have done far more than them! Anyway,” Falkeun stopped to clear his throat and changed the subject, “Keep an eye on the Dartan girl!”

 

At that moment, the connection was cut.  The computer screen returned to the UNIX command prompt. Zana slowly removed her headset, placed it on the keyboard, and rose from her chair in silence.

 

“So what did he say?” Virgil asked as Zana. He placed his hands softly on her right shoulder.

 

"Yeah, and what were you crying about anyway?” Ricky asked, almost instigative.

 

“I’m fine!” Zana shrugged Virgil’s hands off her shoulder as she neared the doorway. She folded her arms and leaned against it, looking back toward the two.

 

“Falkeun probably told her about—”

“Ricky, shut up!” Zana yelled after slamming her fist sideways into the wall, denting it.

 

Ricky flinched, retreating to Virgil side at seeing Zana’s outbreak and her angrily glaring at him.

 

Seconds later, an electronic gadget in a case clipped to her belt buckle began to vibrate. Zana pulled out the medium sized PDA from the case and looked at the screen. Someone sent text Zana a text message. She immediately took out the stylus located in a compartment above the PDA and tapped the screen, opening the message.

 

“You’re shipment is ready.” The message read from someone named Blaze.

“Let’s go guys!” Zana commanded, turning to Virgil and Ricky.

 

“What?” Ricky asked, looking at the PDA Zana flashed at him. She sat the PDA back in its case.

 

“Lainhardt-Alpha is at the docks.” Zana answered while moving out the door.

Virgil followed her out. Ricky was the last one to leave the room.

 

The three backtracked up to the stairs and into the garage where their car was parked. After the three got back in the car, Zana drove out of the garage and onto the streets. 

 

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