Chapter 11 - Aaron
The bag over his head was lifted to reveal an empty room, the smooth, white, perfect, utilitarian walls in vivid contrast to the Sunshine Inn. They’d only been driving for ten or fifteen minutes, and though he’d had a hood over his head and had been shoved in the back of a moving vehicle, he was certain he hadn’t felt the car turn around. That meant that they’d been driving in the direction of Justix, so he must have passed this building on the way to the Inn. Probably.
Thinking logicly wasn’t helping the knot of anxiety in his stomach. What had he gotten himself into? This was very, very bad. His mother didn’t know where he was, and the only people who knew his approximate location hadn’t even known he was going out on a walk.
Even if they did know he’d been kidnapped, would they come after him? He didn’t know these people. They were barely acquaintances, let alone friends.
This had been a very, very bad idea.
What had he been thinking?
He was going to die.
Good job, Aaron.
Good bye, Mom.
Good bye, Ce-ce.
The men from the car came back into the room, the ones who’d taken the bag off his head and left him here, alone. Aaron wasn’t sure how long it had been since they’d left, but certainly enough for them to go back up the elevator they’d taken him in. He’d felt the downward motion in his gut. He was underground. Aaron hated being underground. He wasn’t tied up or chained, but he sat where they’d left him, fingers tapping on the cold, smooth floor.
They entered where there hadn’t been a door before. He made a mental note to try to find the door in the smooth wall if they left him alone again.
Thoughts of escape flew from his mind as he took in the men before him. There were three of them. Aaron balled his hands into fists, cracking his knuckles one by one. When the man on the right narrowed his eyes, he cursed the nervous tick.
If a fight broke out, he would definitely lose.
The outer two were Council Officers, flaunting their pressed uniforms over bulging muscles. They flanked a shorter man, probably around Aaron’s own height, who still towered over him where he sat against the wall.
The man in the middle looked familiar, with hair blonder than Aaron’s and streaked with gray. Unlike Aaron, he wore no glasses, preferring contacts. Aaron hated contacts. They made his eyes water.
“You.” From another person’s lips, the words might have been a snarl, or even a growl. When Aaron spoke them, they fell from the air with anticlimactic defeat.
His father looked taken aback, turning confidentially to the officer on his right.
“Isn’t he supposed to think I’m dead?” He staged-whispered. The man didn’t reply, obviously used to this.
Aaron gritted his teeth. “You don’t drink.”
His father raised an eyebrow. “So?”
“So, that’s how my grandparents died. A drunk-driving accident. You would never-”
“Who ever said I was the one who was drunk?”
Aaron shook his head. “It was obviously staged. Our car wasn’t wrecked, the Council never gave us the body-”
“You were twelve,” he said, exasperated. “They don’t really do dead father show and tell. Look, Aaron, stop trying to be smart and pay attention for once. Don’t pretend you saw this coming. This was an excellently executed plot twist, so leave the genius thing to me and shut up.”
Aaron shut up. His father had gotten worse. Growing up, he’d been nicer. A little somber at times, but occasionally he’d show Aaron things in his lab. Or maybe time made his memories look better.
Regardless, he wanted to know what his father was doing. It made sense that he had been nominated to the Council. Of course, Aaron was a little in the dark on how Council members dealt with the secrecy in their private lives, but he was pretty sure a faked death wasn’t always included in the package. What did he know? Maybe everyone in the Council had left their family and lives behind and were officially dead.
“We don’t have much time, and we have a lot to talk about. Are you ready to listen?”
Aaron didn’t reply, but he sat straighter. It felt odd to stand up now, but sitting on the floor in front of his father and two armed guards was odd too. He resigned himself to the oddness as his father began to pace before him, ushering the other men away.
The hidden door slammed shut behind them, and Aaron strained to no avail for a glimpse of what lay outside.
“What is this place, anyways?”
“Please hold your questions until the end. We’re on a very tight schedule. Your odd vehicle full of lunatics will be arriving soon.”
Aaron’s stomach sank with apprehension. What would happen to them? As usual, his father paid absolutely no attention to him whatsoever and launched into his speech.
“One of those lunatics is very important to the Council, and we need to apprehend her as carefully as possible. She is the key part in an instrumental experiment we are running, but she needs to come willingly.” He hesitated, as if deep in thought. “No, that’s not the right word. Not willingly, but we can’t take her with force. Still, willingly would be preferable. You see, she has a bit of a rebellious streak. Thus, I figured it was best if we retrieved her with someone she could trust, who wasn’t obviously affiliated with the Council in any way, who didn’t know they were a pawn and therefore couldn’t blow their cover.”
“The phone,” Aaron muttered under his breath, feeling moronic. Of course his father sent the phone and the menacing message. Of course his father made Molly leave.
“Precisely. We hoped you’d form a bond, and you could persuade her that coming to the Council for some experimentation would be in everyone’s best interest.”
Aaron didn’t like the way his father was smiling at him, like a snake before it ate a mouse whole.
“Well, it didn’t work. I don’t think she likes me very much.”
His father looked at him distastefully. “Yes, I wonder why. No matter. All you need to do is try.” Aaron started to shake his head, but his father cut him off. “Don’t discard my offer so hastily, Aaron Bryce.”
“I go with Mom’s last name now.”
“Oh.” His father blinked, and the barely visible flicker of surprise slipped behind a mask of careful disdain. “I see. Well, Aaron Kent, there’s more in it for you than a pat on the back. If you can bring me Sitara Lynn-Parks, you’ll never have to see me again, but you’ll have the Council’s favor. Money, whenever you need it. Whatever position you want, you’ll have it. No need to take the FCE. We’ll give you an automatic 100, across the board. Anything you want, and it’s yours.”
Aaron heard her voice in his head. What’s so bad? What’s so bad about the blazing Council?
“Does that appeal to you? Gorgeous carrot, isn’t it? Locally grown. Now let me introduce you to the stick.”
They are tyrants, Aaron. Tyrants.
“If you fail to bring me the girl, you will be an outcast. A failure. Under a disciplinary charge from the Council, you will be barred from taking the FCE. Automatic zero. Expelled from school, banished from the Council side of Justix. Enjoy living on the streets, and slowly starving to death. How does that sound, Aaron?”
His father had that cold calm around him, like the eye of a storm destroying Aaron’s life. He felt manipulated. Out of control.
It’s all a sham. The Council needs to go.
[tell him about ara disappearing]