Under a cloudless sky on the morning of 25 September 14 NG, Greg Jacobson, dressed in a white polo, drove the Maith children to Everton.
“I appreciate you giving us a ride, Mr. Jacobson,” Jesse said as he immersed himself into the leather-cushioned front passenger seat of Greg’s new red Harris Hover Utility vehicle, complete with holographic dashboard technology, full window tint, and self-sustaining power cell engine. “I hate to sound ungrateful,” he continued, “but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my aunt and uncle never mentioned why they couldn’t drive us to school today.”
“They both said they had important meetings to attend,” Greg replied.
“So that’s why they rushed out after making breakfast,” Mary remarked from the backseat.
“Well, the pancakes sucked,” Matt jibbed in the seat behind Greg’s. “I guess it makes sense why they left food on their plates unattended.”
As Greg glided the Harris through the Everton parking lot, a convergence of glowing white lights in front of the South Tower entrance were seen. Approaching closer, Jesse’s worst fears were confirmed.
Approximately one hundred reporters were awaiting Jesse’s arrival. Noticing this, Greg discreetly attempted to glide past the media. However, when a reporter noticed Jesse in the front seat, the entire horde immediately ran towards the HUV.
Greg floored the accelerator and drove away as a mortified Jesse looked behind to study the lights.
“How did I know this would happen?!” Jesse cried. “I told you last night, didn’t I?”
“No time for playing the what-if game,” Greg responded with urgency. “Pete Harrison knows me. I’ll call him now.”
Moments later, the pixilated image of Harrison in a dark blue suit appeared in front of the windshield.
“Peter,” Greg shouted, “Greg Jacobson. Did you not catch the gazillions of reporters at the South entrance preparing to interrogate my neighbors’ children?!”
“Gregory!” Pete replied, “I’m so sorry! Seems every reporter from here to the Marva zone is here violating our press protocol. Turn right on Bergen, then take a quick right on Montgomery Drive. Three hundred feet ahead, make a right on a narrow gravel road named Skull Drive. There’s an obscure entrance to a basement below the gymnasium. I’ll meet you there.”
After gliding downhill along the ivy-draped brick walls of the Everton campus, the Harris turned onto a dirt road that navigates beneath a maze of vines ready to invade the innocent soil below. It settled to a halt near a decrepit concrete building with a cracked foundation.
Harrison then emerged from a detached screen door flanked by dumpsters, approached Greg, apologized to him again, and slipped him a hundred-dollar bill for his troubles. Then he escorted the Maith children into the building.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Harrison,” Jesse proclaimed as he, Harrison, and his cousins navigated through a boiler room, toward a metal staircase in the back.
“Well, happy Monday, everyone!” Matt shouted to an almost deafening echo. “Will this be a daily occurrence until we win again?”
“That won’t happen again,” Harrison frantically replied. “But Jesse, the reality is, you must confront the media sooner rather than later otherwise they will continue to harass you and your family. Come to my office after classes conclude today and we’ll discuss a plan to handle them. I’ll ask Lowe to excuse you from practice.”
“Whatever you say,” Jesse replied, “anything to get those bloodsuckers away.”
Eventually, the four arrived in a sea of students and faculty navigating to and from in the vestibule outside the gymnasium. After Mary and Harrison split off, Jesse noticed Sarah, near the gym entrance, flagging him down. After greeting each other with a hug and kiss, they both scampered, hand in hand, away from the crowds and sat down on a windowsill overlooking the cliffs.
They looked into each other’s eyes with gratification and relief.
“I don’t know how much longer I can take this, Sarah,” Jesse moped. “Did you see those vultures outside? Between that and what happened last Tuesday… I’m having trouble sleeping.”
“No matter what happens, I’m here to support you,” Sarah confidently replied, “but I need to know you’re here for me. This can’t be all about you.”
Jesse sighed, then clasped his hand around Sarah’s. “You’re right,” he said. “I understand. When we were watching movies Saturday night at my house, I could tell there was too much still bothering you, but all I could think about was the game, you-know-who, and Tuesday, but… I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, I understand,” Sarah replied as she glowingly studied Jesse’s eyes. Jesse could feel her sincerity in her tone. “It was definitely nice to be together away from the public eye, though.”
Jesse smiled and chuckled. “Definitely a relief, huh?”
“It was also great to read the Project together, too. What an insane story about Project Zero. I’m surprised the admin didn’t post about this long ago.”
“It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? That stuff about the extension of the 11th indentation? Searching innocent citizens’ homes without a warrant? Not surprised at all!”
“Too many coincidences in recent days and months to not at least think you-know-who is up to something!”
Jesse then bit his lower lip. He felt the same euphoric feeling he felt when Sarah revealed she was a projectdriht.link reader. The combination of this plus relief from her forgiveness for his naivete fluttered his heart in waves of excitement. “Can I ask you something else?” he asked.
“Sure,” Sarah replied with a glow in her expression.
“Do you think we are meant to be together?” Jesse asked with a hint of caution.
“Well,” Sarah replied with a slight twist of her head, “having a hobby in common is one thing, but I will say this: you’re the first boy in a long time to treat me like a human being and not an object. So, I’d say there’s an excellent chance.”
Jesse nodded. “Okay, I’ll accept that.” They then smiled at each other and wrapped in a gentle embrace, then Jesse’s dry lips locked with Sarah’s glossed ones.
After a quick pause, Sarah quipped: “I will say you need you need to sound a little more confident when you deliver your pickup lines!”
“Challenge accepted,” Jesse smoothly replied, then gently pecked Sarah’s lips. “I also think I’m ready to accept the challenge of a relationship. How about you?”
Sarah giggled, then replied with a scintillating smile: “I accept!”
Then, as they resumed making out, they were interrupted once again. This time, however, it was not by a nosy contingent of reporters, or even students.
This time, it was a blinding instant flash out the window, immediately followed by a loud rumble and shock-wave that knocked Jesse and Sarah off the windowsill and onto the checkered floor below.
And it was not from the media.