Matt and Mary opened the front door to their home, then frantically searched each room on the first floor, screaming at the top of their lungs in a desperate yet fruitless try to locate their parents or hear any audible human voice.
A minute later, amid their exhaustion, they didn’t realize the haughty expression on Jesse’s face when they met in the vestibule.
“You recognize their hovervehicles are not in the driveway, correct?” Jesse inquired while attempting to hide his sarcasm.
Matt slapped his arms on his hips and huffed. “SON OF A LADYDOG!”
“What happened?!” a sweat-saturated Mary asked.
“Well, Mary,” Sarah spoke with a similar derision as Jesse’s, “umm, I’ll put it this way–did you know your parents’ hovercars aren’t in the driveway?!”
Mary and Matt scoffed at Sarah’s sarcasm, then looked at each other in an accusatory fashion
“Did you notice?!” she implored Matt.
Matt threw his hands up, offended by his sister’s insinuation. “What? No! Did you?!”
“NO!” a delirious Mary snapped. “We probably missed them! And if our genius cousin, the real life J. Jameson from Spiderman, hadn’t stopped to talk to lecture his pryvie friends as he’s lectured us about not taking you-know-who’s threats seriously, then perhaps we’d have reached them?!”
Jesse froze in shock. “Mary,” he begged.
“I mean, he hates dad anyway, so…” Matt interjected.
“HEY!” Jesse interrupted. The volatility between him and his cousins came to a fever pitch. Irrationality prevailed, and they forgot the tenets of the Maith Youth Comradeship. “YOU THINK I’M NOT NERVOUS ABOUT BOB AND STACY?!” he shouted as he pointed his finger at his relatives. “ARE YOU QUESTIONING MY EMPATHY?”
“Matt has a point,” Mary opined.
“SHUT UP!” Jesse shrieked.
Indecipherable bickering and commotion followed until Sarah intervened.
“PLEASE, GUYS!” she pled as she stood between a red-eyed Jesse and Matt. “THIS ISN’T HELPING RIGHT NOW!”
“Easy for you to say,” Mary directed toward Sarah. “AT LEAST YOUR PARENTS ARE SAFE!”
“Mary, that’s enough!” Sarah appealed. Yet, it didn’t prevent her and Mary from participating in a one-on-one gibberish shouting match of their own.
“Stop it, you two!” Jesse shouted. “Sarah’s correct. This is not a time for squabbling. I’m sorry we got sidetracked at Faithville. We can debate my leadership techniques later, but we need to make sure Bob and Stacy are safe!”
“Twenty missed calls thereafter?” Matt said. “The odds aren’t any good, cuz. Now I sound like a cynic.”
Jesse let Matt’s backhanded comment slide. Instead, he decided to use his initiative skills. “Let’s go next door. Maybe the Jacobsons have had luck!”
Reluctantly, Matt and Mary accompanied Jesse and Sarah. As they emerged outside, the wailing song of police, fire, and EMT sirens filled the air.
Also, much to Jesse’s keen awareness, he recognized a sight conspicuously absent from Faithville and select nine-percenter districts: police vehicles slowly gliding up and down Clarkson West.
Coming to his attention next were two uniformed officers commiserating with Greg and Betsy Jacobson in front of their blue Harris two-door hovertruck.
He became alarmed when he heard the officers’ last statement to the Jacobsons before returning to their vehicle: “if you need protection, don’t hesitate to ask. We have at least five vehicles ready to escort groups to Manhattan. Have a good day, Mr. and Mrs. Jacobson.”
“Greg. Betsy,” Jesse sternly beseeched as he approached them. “Have either of you heard from Bob or Stacy?”
“No, we haven’t,” Betsy, dressed in a white t-shirt embroidered DRF flag from chest to hip, replied with an angry undertone.
She then walked to the back of the Harris and popped open the backdoor, revealing two laser-rifles perched on the foamy floor surface behind the backseat. Jesse’s eyes virtually popped out of his skull when he saw the thin, three-foot-long shiny TR-551 with an oversized optic mount, a three-pronged portable recharger in front of the trigger, and a carbon fiber barrel.
“Um, why do you guys have those rifles in your trunk?” Jesse timidly inquired.
“Greg and I are heading to the New Alaskan embassy in Manhattan for a mass demonstration,” Betsy growled. “Those rassies will pay for what they’ve done to our country!”
“Wait,” a frightened Matt asked, “you’re going to kill the New Alaskan ambassador?!”
“No, Matthew,” Greg, in a matching white DRF flag T-shirt, replied smugly, “we’re protesting. Peacefully.”
The Maiths and Sarah perplexedly looked at each other.
“Um, okay?!” Matt gingerly replied.
“It’s in the first and fourth indentations, children,” Betsy arrogantly added. “And they destroyed our most valuable symbol! THEY WILL PAY!”
“But isn’t Manhattan on total lockdown?” Mary asked.
“Greg and Betsy,” Jesse pled, “with all due respect. Your best friends are missing! You know they both work in proximity to the bomb site. We haven’t been able to reach them!”
“I’m sure they’re fine,” Greg dismissively replied. “Are all the rounds loaded, Bets?”
“I get you two are angry and rightfully so,” Jesse pled, “but how does this make you any better than the New Alaskan government right now?”
“IT’S OUR GOD-GIVEN RIGHT!” Betsy barked. “JOSHUA DIED FOR US SO WE CAN ENJOY OUR FREEDOMS! THOSE KNATS WILL NEVER THAT!”
Matt turned toward Jesse, feeling dumbfounded by Betsy’s statement. “Isn’t that an ethnic slur for New Alaskans?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Jesse whispered back before turning his attention back to the Jacobsons. “So this is more important than the well-being of your friends and family?!”
“Come on, Greg!” Betsy shouted, then embarked into the front passenger seat of the Harris.
“Look, guys, I’m sure they’re safe,” Greg said in a disturbingly flippant tone. “I’ll keep contacting them while we drive to Manhattan, and if we hear from them, we’ll let you know.”
Greg shut the trunk door, then walked toward the driver’s side door. Jesse followed behind with his arms desperately thrusted forward. “Greg, come on,” he pled, “They’re scared. I’m scared, too!”
“They’ll be fine!” Greg snapped as he entered the Harris and slammed the door. Jesse could only stand in front of the driver’s side window, powerless to stop the Jacobsons from allowing rationality to prevail in their minds.
Before they pulled away, Greg rolled down the window and tilted his head toward Jesse, condescendingly squinting his eyes. “For the record,” he sneered, “Bob and Stacy would probably do the same thing we’re doing. Who knows, maybe they’re at the embassy now!”
The Harris hovertruck sped away, and Jesse could only look on with despondency and incredulity.