Authors Note and Warning: Don't hate me for writing this. Kidnapping, child abuse, rape, and other disturbing topics will be addressed. Not for the feint of heart or casual reader. When 16 year old Katherine Prince stands up against those who hold her school hostage she saves 1,452 lives, but what will happen to her own.

Chapter One- Introductions

Katherine Prince sprinted toward seventh period sophomore English trying to get the smell of photography chemicals of her hands with a paper towel praying she wouldn't be late-again. Of course all appeals toward the heavens were in vain as the final bell had rung when she was still in the dark room in the middle of developing her final project, a study of light and shadow. She'd been too entranced with how well the central picture of sunshine breaking through storm leaden clouds had come out to hear the warning bells. Ten minutes late and still reeking of chemicals she crashed into her seat at the back corner of the room. Mr. Hall glared at her from behind his copy of The Great Gatsby before shaking his head, resigned to speak with her after class, and continuing the discussion.

"Katherine, would you stay after for a moment." Mr. Hall called as the rest of the class packed away their books chatting loudly as they left for home. Katherine knew what was coming, knew that there was no use in delaying it, but still packed her bag as slowly as she could before approaching his desk. "That is the sixth time this month, Katherine you've been substantially late for my class. And that's not counting all the times you slide in before I call your name on the roll." Mr. Hall sighed, removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes in frustration. "What am I going to do with you?"

"You could always calmly overlook it in favor of my otherwise excellent grades and winning personality." Katherine pasted on a wide smile. The combination of humor and wit was frequently a weakness among teachers she'd found, so long as it was never mistaken for arrogance. "I am truly sorry for disturbing your lesson Mr. Hall." She added when her teacher had only shaken his head. "Just lost track of time in the photo lab you see, well, smell." She sniffed her shirt and sheepishly shrugged. "The project is almost done and next semester I have photography before lunch so I won't be late so much." Her voice had resorted to pleading. This silence was getting unnerving. Usually a teacher would have smiled and sent her on her way by now with a warning, but he hadn't cracked a smile yet.

"How is your family doing?" Mr. Hall asked abruptly, startling her. It wasn't so much an unpleasant topic, depending on the part of the family in question. Most people who knew about it, like Mr. Hall, specified, but this general question was unsettling to say the least.

"F-fine sir, and yours?" Mr. Hall brushed away her question with a flick of his hand and looked imploringly into her eyes.

"Really? How's your father?" Katherine pushed away from the desk in an attempt to get away from the question. Rarely did anyone ask her directly about Frank Prince anymore. He had once been a respected member of the community as the owner of several banks around town. When his wife, Alice, filed for divorce it had shaken many people's faith in the institution of marriage. Even more so when rumor said it was because he'd been having a torrid affair with Mrs. Yates, the Sheriff's wife. Few believed it and even started blaming Alice of not being a fit mother as the cause until Mrs. Yates also filed for divorce and the two moved into an apartment on Riverdale Drive. The ripple effect of this still sent PTA meetings, women's groups and book clubs into rumor whispering frenzies whenever the topic came up.

Katherine felt a shiver down her spine and turned her head away, looking through the door that led to the audio/visual department adjoining the classroom, unable to answer Mr. Hall's question. After all, she hadn't seen the man for a month or so and good riddance. But she would be seeing her so called father soon. A scowl turned down her features at the thought. He was marrying that bimbo over the Christmas holidays in less than a week and she had to go, despite threatening to boycott the event. Biting back the more rude comments that she was sure Mr. Hall wouldn't appreciate, not to mention she refused to swear on principle, Katherine forced a small smile and turned toward the door.

"Well, if that is all sir. I've got to get home."

"Katherine, wait. I didn't mean to offend you." Mr. Hall was back peddling fast as he rose to intercept his fleeing student. "All of your teachers are worried about you. It just seems you've been throwing yourself too hard into your studies at some times and at others you're too distracted to do anything up to your usual standard. You've not been speaking much to your friends anymore, I've noticed. No one's been able to work out where you spend your lunch period and frankly we're worried about you."

Ah, that was the heart of this conversation, Katherine realized. This wasn't Mr. Hall English teacher talking; it was Mr. Hall student councilor. That required a different tactic completely. This time when she smiled she worked extra hard to wrinkle the skin around her eyes, a little moisture there couldn't hurt either.

"Thank you Mr. Hall. It is nice to know that so many people are concerned about my well being enough to discuss it." 'Behind my back', she added in her mind bitterly, without changing her carefully crafted appearance. "Alas, my friends and I do seem to have drifted apart during the turbulent time that typifies teenagers." Working alliteration into the speech seemed to warm up the teacher in him. "But, I've learned that I have true friends in those that care about me and have found a best friend in whom I can always confide. Amazingly enough she is also fully qualified to assist me in my current problems as she is wonderfully brave, practically a hero to me."

Katherine paused for dramatic effect as the Shakespearian quote, 'Bait the hook well, this fish will bite' ran unbidden through her mind. "You see, my true confidante at this time is my mother.whom I have kept waiting in the car for a few minutes as she is scheduled to pick me up today. So you see there is no reason to waste your valuable time, or the other teacher's time, concerned about me. We'll make it through this just fine." With a final smile she stepped around Mr. Hall and left him to dwell on what she'd said.

It came off so well she almost let out a victory yell once she was outside the school. Restraint was in order knowing that Mr. Halls classroom was the closest to the front of the school and was therefore still in view. It had actually been the principles office before the renovations last year. Her means of escape came in the form of a grey Toyota 4runner with her mother waiting patiently inside. Truly she hadn't needed to lie about her closeness with the woman.

Alice Prince was, in all respects, the coolest mother around, more interested in teaching life lessons than strict rules and often instigating the mischief Katherine found herself in. After all, it's a lot easier to ditch school with a parent signed permission slip and a willing driver. Yes, she was cool. The 11 year old twins, James and Seamus, in the back seat on the other hand she could do without. Their black hair and big noses were carbon copies of each other, and their father, a constant reminder of the man who'd left their family for something he deemed better.

Katherine hopped into the SUV next to her mother trying to ignore the amazingly annoying sounds that could come out of such small bodies behind her while realizing once again how beautiful her mother was. Curly strawberry blonde hair, the same color as her own straight locks, framed her kind and graceful face. She was tall, nearly six feet, and slender, and Katherine just hoped she would age so well. At sixteen Katherine still found herself a bit gangly at the best of times, downright clumsy at others. She'd been taller than most of the boys until they finally hit their growth spurts, but she was just recently filling into her stature and was told frequently how much she looked like her mother.

"How was your day Katherine? Why were you late?" Alice asked as they pulled into traffic.

"It was a great day. I'm almost done with my projects. I probably aced my math quiz. Science was a breeze as usual, and I almost talked to Brian Hartfort in History. He is so cute. I was late because Mr. Hall thought he could play physiologist to get behind whatever inner turmoil he thinks I must be going through."

"And I'm sure he was pleasantly surprised to find your psyche in tact." Alice laughed.

"Oh, but mother. Didn't you know how much pain and affliction your own dear daughter goes though?" Sarcasm dripped from her words and she added a few fake sniffles for effect. "I hurt so much inside and only because he asked so abruptly about the sperm donor that is my father did he find the true root of all that distresses me and so started me on the road to balance and blessed mental stability. I can now be a productive member of society." Finished, the two shared a glance before bursting out in laughter.

"Tell me again why you're not taking drama." Alice asked between giggles.

"Mother, do you suspect me of being anything other than fully truthful and sincere in my last statement?"

"I'm sure Mr. Hall found your performance believable" she smirked before being a little more serious, difficult to do with the twins arguing over Yu- Gi-Oh cards in the back. "Is there anything else you need to talk about?"

"Not really." Katherine answered honestly. "I'm doing fine. True, my friends flaked out on me, and I have avoided making new ones for now. Nothing we haven't talked about before, and like you said, 'It's just a moment of time in the grand scheme of life. Keep a long term perspective and you don't get so muddled up in the everyday muck of it all.' While it will never be like it once was everything will get back to a new norm soon enough." Katherine shrugged and looked out the window at the clouds.

"It's scary you know. Not only do you look like me, now you sound like me. Just make sure I'm never misquoted."

"I would never deign to misquote you. It would be like defacing Shakespeare's grave or tearing pages out of the Scriptures, just isn't done you see." Playfulness having returned the two of them had a lively conversation all the way home about homework and the twins karate classes and other plans for the evening. At one point even taking a hint from James and turning up the radio to sing along with LeAnn Rimes' new song 'Life Goes On'.

How appropriate.

Katherine made a concerted effort to be on time, but not early, to English everyday for the rest of the week so she wouldn't be held after class again. When Friday came around, the last day before winter break, excitement spilled out everywhere creating an environment more closely resembling a circus than a school. But as it was the last period for the teachers too, few seemed to mind. Rather than finish the Great Gatsby, Mr. Hall opted to play a round of Hollywood Squares that he had written questions for to serve as a review session while passing out copious amounts of candy as prizes. Not feeling like playing Katherine was playing on one of the computers in the audio/visual room. It was a rare treat only allowed to students with excellent grades on the condition that the mini- blinds over the windows were pulled up. After all, this booth was where planned announcements were broadcast from every morning and the Film club stored their cameras and closed circuit broadcasting equipment.

The loud laughter and yelling that always accompanied the game was probably why none of the students heard the machine gun fire the first time. The second burst however was unmistakable.