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Chapter 9

I slid through the door to enter the room after having wandered the building for a good half-hour. The uniformity was maddening, but I suppose, if one were to try to break in, they’d be running in circles without an idea of where to go.

As I walked down the stairs a second time, I realized that it was much easier walking down without someone holding you close to them. Then again, I didn’t have anyone to cling to, so if I fell in the dark, who knows where I’d be.

I scuffled my shoe on the step, peering into the darkness. I kept waiting for my eyes to adjust before realizing that it was simply too dark. I growled softly, shrinking down as I sensed something. I couldn’t even tell you what it was.

I slid to the side as I felt a slight breeze and jumped off the steps, going entirely from memory.

The light clicked on and slow clapping ensued. I blinked at the bright light as I looked around. Mitch was by the stairs looking livid and the girls were pulling odd goggles off.

“Nice job,” Cole said approvingly.

I narrowed my eyes at him suspiciously. “What did I do?” I looked around, seeing Zach standing by the wall. One eyebrow was raised in pleasant surprise.

“You dodged Mitch,” Cole smirked.

I glanced back at Mitch, wondering if it had just been instincts kicking in or if I’d just known that someone was going to try to attack me as I descended the stairs. As I looked back at Cole, I shrugged. “I got the info, but I have a feeling you just wanted me to know it without telling me.”

Cole studied me appraisingly. “That would be correct.”

I sighed. “Well, can you just cut to the chase? I’ve got somewhere to be by midnight.”

Zach let out a surprised laugh. “She’s already got something scheduled? What’ve you gotten us into, Cole.”

Cole shot Zach a look. “Shut up.”

“No, he’s right.” Mitch looked frustrated still. “I get that we elected you as the leader of this thing but recruiting her is just stupid.”

I bristled. “She’s got a name, you know.”

Autumn paled a bit back in the corner. “Hey, guys. Stop. Can we just—”

“What can you do for us, Calypso?” Mitch continued, practically spitting in my face. “You got the information after half a day. Even I could’ve gotten that and no one talks to me.”

“Well, that’s why we aren’t listening to you now, Mitch.” Justice hissed, stepping forward. “Why don’t you tone it down a bit because you’re freaking Autumn out.”

Mitch looked over at Autumn and immediately stopped, looking ashamed and concerned. He opened his mouth, almost moving towards her but stopping himself. His shoulders fell. “Sorry.”

Cole sighed. “Now that that’s over,” He shot a frustrated look at Mitch before looking at me. “We need to talk.”

I rolled my eyes as I crossed my arms, unimpressed. “Haven’t you been doing that? Oh wait, that fight was all in my head, wasn’t it?”

Cole closed his eyes, looking pained. “Can everyone just trust me, please? I don’t have time or the patience for all this crap.”

I smirked. “You recruited trouble, mister.”

He shot me a glare. “Believe me, I know.”

Zach grunted. “Go ahead, Cole.”

“Okay, so we still need the food supplies for the people in the outskirts of town, but everyone on the borders of the island seems to be fine, right?” He looked over at Justice.

Justice nodded. “They’ll be good for a while because of the weather. The fishing’s surprisingly good right now. I’d focus on the people around the mountain range, for now.”

Cole looked at Mitch. “How’s the weather?”

Mitch shrugged, trying to cover up the concern on his face. “White’s getting a lot of rain.”

Everyone looked sympathetic.

Finally, I growled. “Can you guys tell me what the heck you’re talking about?”

Cole pulled out a map as though he’d been waiting for me to ask. He pointed to the middle of the island on the map. “This is the white kingdom. Almost no one lives there anymore because without the white royals to govern them, they either starve or someone goes and steals from them. Down here at the bottom,” He moved his finger. “Is the red kingdom. They’re the big farming kingdom. On the left is the green kingdom, they have all the fish. But here,” He tapped to the right of the territory marked as red. “Is the yellow kingdom. When it rains, they get stuck in the rain shadow. As a result, all their farm area is down here by the river. Unfortunately, that’s not large enough to sustain all the people in yellow. Most of them have to mine away at the mountain just to make a living, but that also means casualties and of course, bad working conditions.”

I narrowed my eyes at the map, reading the terrain key and glancing at the resources one. “Do you guys do any sort of trade?” I didn’t wait for a reply. “I know you said that the white kingdom is basically no-man’s-land right now, but it’s accessible to everyone.”

Zach leaned in to glance over my shoulder. “We do trade, but we haven’t been able to enforce an easier way to do it because we’re only crown princes and princesses. Our parents don’t listen to us about stuff like ruling the kingdom.”

“Currently, trading is all done in Black,” Cole said, looking seriously guilty even though I doubted it was his fault.

I nodded slowly. “Okay, so we need to fix that somehow.” I looked back at the map. “So, Green has fishing. Red has farming. Yellow struggles to get enough food, but they have Stone. It looks like Black has mostly trees, so they’ve got something. What does Blue have?” I looked up at Zach.

Instead of replying, his eyes darkened and his jaw clenched. I glanced at Cole in confusion. He shook his head at me in an obvious gesture to stop questioning it.

I rolled my eyes. “Never mind.” I kept studying the map. “So, basically all your parents are power-hungry jerks and you’re stuck trying to make sure you have people to rule over when you finally get the throne.”

Justice snickered.

“Well, I suppose that’s the most, uh... brusque way to put it.” Cole rubbed his neck, looking a bit uncomfortable.

I cut my eyes up to him, unable to resist raising an eyebrow at him. “But it’s true?”

“He’s not going to admit to it, Calypso.” Justice piped in, grinning at me. “We all claim to be in it for the people, but let’s be honest, there’s selfish ambition in it for all of us.” Autumn let out a squeak of protest and Justice rolled her eyes as she nodded. “Except for Autumn, but that’s because she’s too nice to be royal.”

“Am not!” Autumn protested before blushing and shrinking back into the corner.

I snickered, shaking my head. “I landed in an odd lump of royals, didn’t I?” I looked down at the map. “I don’t know what this place is about, but has anyone looked for oil?”

Cole looked back down at the map. “I thought we...” He trailed off, obviously not finding whatever he was looking for. “I guess not.”

I smiled triumphantly. “Add that to the list.” I glanced at Mitch. “So, am I still useless.”

“Potentially.” He replied, unmoving. He glanced over at Autumn. “I guess we’ll see.”

I tilted my head, seeing right through his attempt at carelessness. “Well, then.” I looked around. “I suppose you have yet to prove some use, too.” As everyone froze and turned to me, I saluted at them a grin stretching across my face. “See y’all tomorrow!”

I bounded back up the stairs before they could chase me and ducked out the door. As I crept back out of the building, I let loose a full grin. This was a lot more fun than I’d ever had in my life. I only barely softened a cackle as I ran down the street to the warehouse of sorts Lynon and the group was in.

So much fun.

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