Atlas spent nearly an hour explaining the ins and outs of the required tests that Duncan would need to pass before being allowed to become a Topsider. He placed extra emphasis on the dangers that lay in waiting outside on the surface. He may have been trying to save his own ass, but he wasn’t completely cold-hearted. The Topsiders needed men, however, Atlas knew with Ronin underhandedly running things, they weren’t likely to survive for very long. When he had finished explaining what Duncan would have to endure in order to pass the physical tests, he asked, “Are you certain that you still want to be a Topsider, son?”
The concern in his eyes caused Duncan to take pause. He’d always been the curious sort, sneaking into places that were off limits and asking questions he was told he shouldn’t ask. It was the personality trait that was driving his decision now. This time, though, Atlas had made it clear that his curiosity could indeed kill him. “I’m absolutely sure, Sir.”
Duncan’s reply stunned them both momentarily. The room fell silent.
“Very well then, Duncan. Your tests will commence at 0700 hours. I expect that you will be prompt.”
“Yes, Sir. I’ll be there on time.” Duncan stood and saluted the Chief.
“I’m not sure there is a need to salute me at the moment, Duncan. Be on your way. I’ll see you in the morning.” Atlas sounded exasperated.
Duncan walked out the door, giving a glance back behind him. Atlas stood with both hands on his desk, face toward the ground. That man has some demons, Duncan thought. I’ll have to get closer to him to find out what they may be. Now I had better try to catch Indaya while she’s still at the library.
So much has happened in the past several weeks. I don’t know quite how to process everything. I am hoping that in writing this out, my mind will become clear and I will be able to see what is unfolding before me.
Kai left. His mission was incredibly dangerous, and he knew it would be so he did everything except say goodbye before he walked out the door. But he came back to me. Only now, he’s different. He’s so different and I don’t know what to do. I sometimes do feel as if he’s trying to keep me safe, but he’s doing so in a way that makes me feel like I’m suffocating. When I try to speak to him about it, I’m just filled with so much anger that it comes out in the form of an argument. I am trying to be understanding. I am. But I haven’t even been able to walk around freely for a month. I’m not a criminal and I don’t know why I’m being treated like one.
Ronin, Kai’s brother, he’s a special kind of evil. I just know he’s probably got people following Kai, planning to kill him because Kai had the gall to barge in and take me away. I’m sure they had words. Ronin must have hinted that this isn’t the first time he’s done something to me because Kai tried pressing the issue. I just can’t tell him what his brother did to me all those years ago. I thought I’d forgotten about it, journal, but now I relive it in my sleep. I feel his hands on me and his breath against my flesh. It’s all I can do not to scream and jump out of my own skin.
I have to go, for now, journal. I have so much to do. I still have so much to figure out.
Ellie closed the journal and stuffed it under her mattress. Writing things out had always helped her to process her emotions and think more clearly. Her mind was so jumbled at the moment that she wasn’t sure it was helping at all. As far as she could tell, she was just wasting paper.
She began to think perhaps Kai was acting so strangely now because of something Ronin had said to him. Did he tell Kai what he’d done to her all those years ago? Did Kai see her differently now? Did he think perhaps she couldn’t be trusted to take care of herself after all? Her mind raced and she sank at the thought of Kai viewing her as a defiled, helpless girl. She’d never wanted anyone to view her in that light. That was part of the reason she’d been silent for so long. That and who was going to believe her, the poor orphan girl, over the rich and charming Ronin anyway?
Ellie brushed the thoughts clouding her mind aside. She had work to do and she needed to get to Indaya before Kai came back to do a welfare check. She walked with purpose as she closed the door behind her.
Indaya had been searching the library for hours, trying to find any piece of information on the communication device that she could. So far, all of her research had only turned up a few mentions in an old technical journal and a picture of a man holding one in his hand. There was nothing useful in any of this. She was beginning to become frustrated. For someone who typically had all the answers and knew exactly what to do to solve any problem, this task was proving to be a difficult challenge. She decided to double down her efforts and widen her search parameters. She was so absorbed in her work that she didn’t hear Duncan come in.
“Hey Indaya, about earlier, can we talk?” Duncan was a bit hurried in his tone.
“What is there to talk about, Duncan? You know I’m going to tell Ellie. I have to. You can’t just deceive people like that, especially not her.” There was no fear in her voice. Indaya had always been extraordinarily confident and she didn’t particularly care what anyone thought of her actions.
“Please don’t do that. At least not right now. Indaya, something strange is going on here and I don’t think it bodes well for any of us. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with Ronin and the Prime Minister and the Topsiders, but I don’t know what it is. And if you tell Ellie and ruin Ronin’s plans, whatever they are, we’re all going to be in a lot of hot water sooner rather than later.” Duncan was pleading. He knew what Ronin was capable of and he was afraid, even if Indaya was not. “I’m begging you, please don’t say anything. Not yet.”
Indaya thought for a moment. Duncan did seem sincere in his worry and he did not seem to be plotting some unknown treachery. She decided it was best to tread lightly. “She’s going to figure it out on her own. Ellie isn’t stupid, you know?”
“Of course, I’m not stupid. What am I going to figure out?” Ellie had walked in on Indaya’s last few words. She couldn’t wait to hear what she and Duncan had been discussing.