Written: 26.o5.o9


Clutched On: Chapter Nineteen

by stringless-kite

- X -

They continued to burn. Blazes ate up what was left of Joan and Arnold's homes, annihilating them in waves of scorching heat. The strong burning stench filled my nostrils, and I was coughing through the chocking air. Embers of red, orange and yellow swept in the wind, glowing into the night like bright fireflies in the dark.

If it hadn't been for Clutch, I would have died. I would have been in that fire, burning to death.

He was no longer holding onto me. Instead, Clutch settled for my jacket's sleeve, giving it a yank so that I would follow his lead. I couldn't leave...not like this. My feet felt heavy like bricks weighing down onto the sand I was standing on. I didn't want to move. I ripped his hand from my wrist, shaking my head stubbornly. I didn't want to go. I couldn't. I had once belonged here and now everything was gone. I hated how every time we would settle down somewhere, everything would be taken away from us - everything would be destroyed.

"Come on, Riley," he urged in a strained voice. "We need to get out of here."

My head bowed down, facing the grains of sand that sunk around my shoes. "What happened back there?" I said lowly. My tone seemed calm and collected, but my heart was pumping vigorously. The sounds of the explosion still echoed in my ears, and my heart hadn't had a chance to relax yet. Watching the houses being burnt to ash was painful. If we had stayed back at Bensfold, I knew the sight would have been worse.

"Not now," Clutch said through gritted teeth. Lights from the flames, showed his exhausted face in a flickering motion. "Somebody could be here. We need to find the others."

Clutch was lucky that I wasn't in the mood to argue. I sucked in a deep breath and then let it out, replying a discreet, "Fine."

"Thanks."

It was ironic because it should have been me saying that word. If it hadn't been for Clutch, I would most likely have been dead. Clutch had saved my life.

The atmosphere was thick with tension. With the fire burning up, it would attract attention. Clutch unlatched his gun from his holster and tapped me on the shoulder. I shot him a questioning look and he simply pointed his finger at my thigh. I bent down to unstrap a knife, holding it in my hand as we both searched around us for any sign of life.

We strode further down the shore, sand grains pouring into the vacant spaces in my shoes.

"You want to know, don't you?" I had almost missed what Clutch had said from the crashing waves. I cast him a sideway glance. I would have thought he'd keep silent, but since we were next to each other and the ocean was rather loud he probably thought it would be okay for us to talk.

"Yes." From what I could recall, I could only remembered Seph's scream and in the midst of terror, Clutch rushing to my rescue. Clutch had come to my aide so quickly. He had immediately jumped over the fence and pulled me out from danger. Yet, I still didn't know how the eruption had been activated. I was curious. "What happened back there?"

"When we uncovered the dirt, we found out that someone had attached sense detectors to a body that was connected to a bomb. The timer showed us that we had about ten seconds to get out of there."

How wrong I had been! I really shouldn't have jumped too far ahead of the game. After all, Clutch and the others were used to this. They were professionals while I wasn't. "And here I had thought that that lump of dirt had been nothing..."

"You can say that," a new voice spoke up.

"SHIT!" I shrieked at the same time as another wave curled to the shore. I grasped my knife as I spun around to face an outline of another body. It took me a couple of seconds to comprehend that it was Jade who had crept up behind us.

She lifted a hand in greeting before dropping it down. Jade was smiling, but it didn't mirror in her eyes. "Hey. I know that your aim is good, Riley, so do me a favour and direct that knife somewhere else besides my body."

I lowered my weapon, but Clutch didn't. He held onto his gun, pointing it at around as if he expected the enemy to attack us at any moment. "Seph and Dekker. Where are they?"

"Dekker called," Jade informed. "They're further down scouting the sight for who was behind it."

That's right, the people who had been behind the attack. Frowning, I gazed back.

A fog of smoke circled above the two homes. Arnold had taken care of both houses so preciously. With each flower, Arnold had tended to them individually with such care and delicacy. Now all his hard work had gone down the drain.

Tears welled up in my eyes and my throat began to tighten. It was lucky that we had all made it out alive. If we had hesitated, we wouldn't be living.

That was when I realised something - what if someone had still been in the flames? What if Arnold had still been lurking around and we hadn't known?

As I was about to run back to the wreckage, an arm spread out in front of me. Jade was blocking me from going back. She shook her head. "No Riley. You can't go back."

"You don't understand!" I fought back, trying to push her aside. "Arnold could have been in there!"

I angrily huffed, trying to get around her, but Clutch stood in front of me. The two siblings were barricading me now. "Arnold might be in there!" I stressed out. I used both of my palms to push Clutch's body away, but he wouldn't budge. "Why won't you let me see? Arnold could be injured. He needs our help-"

"Riley," Jade said in a low voice. "Stop."

I cried, "Didn't you hear what I said?"

"Riley," Jade repeated my name.

Why wouldn't they listen to me? I was ready to go ballistic! Didn't they care about Arnold?

"Clutch!" I yelled, looking up at him. "He was like your second father! Why aren't you listening to me? Arnold. We need to see if Arnold is okay!"

Clutch stared blankly at me, but kept quiet. Jade put a hand on my shoulder, restraining me from pouncing onto him. On her part, it was a good thing she did because I was just about ready to knock some sense into him. How could they be so-

"Oh, we heard you," Jade replied, dully. "It's just that we can't check on Arnold anymore."

"What do you mean by that?" I said. "We need to see if he's there in case-"

"Riley, we already know about Arnold," Clutch said, finally.

"Know what, exactly?" I staggered back, uncertain by his tone of voice. It lacked a certain gruff edge that he normally had and I didn't like it. It sounded raw and empty - something that was so unlike him.

"Arnold was there."

I felt sick. "W-what? How? But-you didn't see him! How could you know-how-"

"He was there," Clutch replied, darkly.

"No-no...no, " I stammered. "That can't be right."

Clutch's broad shoulders fell forward, posture breaking down and confidence gone. He cleared his throat and said something that I didn't want to hear, something that would always cause shivers up my spin. The sentence would always stay with me forever because Arnold was Arnold and he wasn't meant to-

"...die," Clutch said, staring up at the starless sky. "It was Arnold's body that we found under the dirt, Riley."

What?

I stared at Jade, trying to see if what Clutch had said was true. Jade's jaw was taut with her eyes narrowed as she tried to stop the tears from going down her cheeks. Her hands were on her hips as she looked at the houses in the distance, avoiding my eye contact.

That confirmation caused something in me to break...

Arms flailing in the air, I put up a fight against their bodies. I was so certain that they had gotten it all wrong. I clenched my teeth. It wasn't Arnold's fault. He had harmed no one!

Arnold couldn't be dead - he was a survivor!

All Arnold did for a living was reside near the ocean, take care of both Joan and his own house. He was a cheery fellow with a serene smile and the thought of not seeing his head bopping behind Joan's fence ever again made me feel distraught and lost. Arnold had thought I was Clutch's wife and treated me like his own daughter like how I had thought of him as another father to me. Arnold had taught me how to take care for plants and he to never eat his cooking. And now...I wouldn't be able to eat another disgusting meal ever again! Arnold had loved Clutch as his own son and had told me things about Clutch that I had never known. And, above all, Arnold had a kind heart. That's what always mattered in the end. Just like Besnik and all the other gypsy folk who had been killed in the Bensfold massacre, Arnold was no longer in the world of the living.

...and I didn't want to accept that it.

"You're lying!" I accused, trying to jam my fists back against Clutch's chest.

Clutch looked away. "It's true."

My knees dropped to the sandy ground. I had stopped resisting them. I was weak, but I knew that I had the right to be mourning about Arnold's death. Someone had died, yet Jade and Clutch had their guard up. It was like them be like that during a time of grief. Arnold wasn't with us anymore, yet everybody seemed to be concentrated on other things and it really frustrated me of how stoic and uncaring they could be.

"I'll find the others," Clutch said, tersely. He shared a looked with his sister. Clutch didn't need to say anything out loud to know that he wanted Jade to look after me.

When he had left, Jade shrunk down to the same level as I was, sitting on the mounds of dry sand to keep me company.

"How can you be so strong about this?" I choked out, "Arnold...he was like your father."

"I didn't say he wasn't. To me, he will always be my father," Jade said. "Clutch's goal was to always find out how our parents were linked to everything and to find out who killed them, but my goal was to always to return back to Koramara. I wanted to live with Arnold and maybe have my own family one day. But now...I don't even think that will happen because this place is only going to bring back bad memories."

"Because Arnold's gone?"

"No. I believe that he still is here in spirit. Clutch doesn't believe in religion, but sometimes it feels like I know that our parents are watching us, you know?" Jade sighed. "Our parents and Arnold...they would've wanted us both to live in Koramara."

"When this is all over, you can!"

She sighed deeply, pulling on one of her pigtails. "If only it were that easy."

A new noise resonated over the waves. As I was about to figure out where it was coming from, I watched Jade take something from her pocket and place it against the left side of her face. "Dekker?" she answered the call. After a few nods on her behalf and the repetition of words for clarification details, she hung up. "We gotta go."

"How about Clutch?"

"He's already with them," Jade replied. She stood up, wiping the grains of sand from her legs. "Do you have any idea where the dock is? I've forgotten."

When Clutch and I had been living at Koramara, we had walked past the dock numerous of times. The dock was one of the many Hargrove terminals for cargoes ships that transported water to different areas of the country and to other nearby islands.

"Yeah," I said. "Why?"

"They found the people who did it," Jade smirked. It wasn't a good smirk; it was a smirk that sought for revenge and blood.

- X –

There were no Hargrove guards at the dock.

The dock was large and made out of cement, steel and wood. Parts of it looked weak and brittle because every time the ocean would stir, the dock would rock and shake violently. At every jolt, I'd get queasier and my stomach felt more likely to cave in. I wasn't sure if the dock was sturdy, but Jade assured me that that was how the dock was. She said that it hadn't changed since the last time she had been to Koramara and that it was perfectly normal.

Perfectly normal, my ass.

Strands of loose hair, which had fallen from my bun, thrashed against the wind. I licked my lips, flashing the torch ahead of us and fixing it onto the next slate of wood that lined next to the one that we were standing on. Not hesitating, Jade strode in front of me without the slightest bit of worry. I swallowed. For me, it was different. I didn't want to slip in between the cracks and get swallowed by the gaping sea. From on trip, I could be sent flying into the water.

"There," Jade said, nudging her head forwards, pigtails dancing in her sudden movement. I directed the torch towards the end of the dock. Though it was hard to see, the light picked out the dim shape of a massive cargo ship that was anchored to a post.

Jade beckoned me to board the ship first. When I did, I gasped. Hell, not gasped...I almost yelled at the sight. My hand instinctively clamped over my mouth as I stared at the lifeless body that laid stiffly touching my toes.

A dead body.

My chest rose up and down as I stared at its state. Without a doubt, it belonged to a Hargrove soldier. The body was wearing the familiar black uniform that I had gotten used to seeing. It wasn't just a Hargrove soldier's body, but the body of a person – a person who had once lived. He had laughed, talk, smiled and done everything that any other human would have done in his lifetime. The guard's eyes were rolled back and bruises splotched his pale face. Blood pooled around his still body. He hadn't been shot once, but three times – twice on the head and once on the heart. After having been exposed to Arnold's fate prior, facing a dead body was too much for me to deal with. My emotions were scattered everywhere, going haywire and I was sensitive to everything around me.

Two firm hands flattened on my shoulders in a comforting manner. "Let's go, Riley. We can't help the dead," Jade whispered. "We need to meet the others."

I gave a brave nod. Unstrapping the knife that I had held earlier, I grasped onto it and I could feel it shaking in my hand. I was shivering; and it wasn't from the cold.

Who had killed the guard? Had it been Clutch? Dekker? Or even Seph? Even for them, the thought of the guard being shot three times was too brutal. Was that how they killed people? I didn't want to know.

Jade took the torch from me, switching it off. Our eyes had adjusted to the darkness. As soon as Jade had turned the diminished the light source, we had noticed light parts of the ship that glowed with possibly human activity. We advanced towards the direction where the closest light source was. The closer we got, we then picked up on voices that I was already familiarised with. The voices belonged to Clutch and Dekker. Seph was probably there too.

As for the other voices, I didn't know who their owners were, but I was sure that Jade knew. She had stopped walking. "Zayne and..." Jade blinked, uncertain, "Salma?" We flattened our backs against one of the containers. Jade spied around the corner first, then I peeked to see what was going on.

There were two other people that I didn't know; one was male and the other was female. They were tied up together in ropes that squashed their backs against each other. I then saw Clutch, Dekker and Seph. Clutch was pacing up and down, Dekker was glaring at one of the captives in the eye and Seph was lying on the ground, staring at the sky. I repositioned myself back against the container.

"Who ordered you?" Clutch demanded.

"Don't you think that you're being a bit rude? How about 'long time no see'?" the man offered. "Or how about a 'how are you'? I think that would be a more civilized way to greet a friend."

Dekker warned, "Zayne."

"That's easy. Who do you think our unit leader is, Clutch?" Zayne said.

"So it's Fernley?" Seph pieced together. His voice was a bit softer compared to the others.

"No. What Zayne means is," the female captive said in a rather sultry voice, "that Fernley was ordered from the higher ups about this mission."

I had never heard about Zayne, Fernley or Salma, so I whispered to Jade, "Who are they?"

"Another TGU unit. Fernley, like Skealer, is their leader," Jade replied back under her breath. She didn't make a move to join Clutch yet, so I stayed with her. I think she wanted to get an general idea about what was going on before making an appearance.

Dekker flexed his knuckles, squatting down between the duo so that they could see him equally through the corner of their eyes. "Explain."

"Do we have to?" the lady captive said, tediously. She unfolded her long legs, struggling as she stretched them outwards.

"Salma, is it me or do you think they're serious?" Zayne said, rhetorically. "It's been a long time and the best they could do is tie us up. Kinda kinky, ey?"

"That's right! I never really thought Dekker was the type," Salma played along.

I heard someone cough. I was pretty sure that it had been Dekker who had made the sound. The cough was then accompanied with a soft chuckle that didn't come from the two captives, but from Clutch.

Clutch must have seen the disgruntled expression on Dekker's face. Right then, I wanted to get a look at Dekker's face too, but Jade remained behind the container next to me so I kept my position.

"We'll kill you if you don't tell us what's fucking going on," Dekker spat.

"Oh, I like a man who threatens me," Salma retaliated back. I felt like hunching onto my knees and laughing my head off. This girl had guts.

Zayne also openly guffawed harder and in that second I could make out a sound that made me wince. Dekker had silenced Zayne by kicking him.

"Fine, fine, we'll talk!" Salma said. "Because if you hurt my Zayney too much, we won't be able to make out. Isn't that true, honey?"

There was a grunt in reply.

"See? We're practically going to do whatever you say now."

Now, I wanted to laugh. This was ridiculous! Since my shoulder was touching Jade's, I could feel her body mildly quivering. Jade was trying not to laugh too, she was inwardly giggling.

"Go on, ask us."

"About the higher ups, what did they want you to do? What was your exact mission?" Clutch questioned, taking over Dekker's interrogation since he was turning into an easy target for Zayne and Salma to mock.

Salma easily answered without any hesitation, "We were told to kill everybody at the given address, but we'd get a pay rise if we captured them. When we arrived at Koramara four days ago, there was only on person there. He put up a good fight. Actually, he was restisting so much so I had to head-lock him, while Zayne had to shoot the man-"

Had? There was an option they could have chosen. Arnold didn't have to die. They could have let him live. My blood boiled at how easily they spoke about murdering Arnold. To them, Arnold was just a person in the way.

"So you attacked an innocent man to get to us?" Clutch said. I couldn't see him, but I knew that at that moment, Clutch's eyes would be flaring in anger. How he spoke, I knew that he trying his best to control his temper from rising.

"You know how it goes, Clutch," Seph uttered. "We've done it too."

"Yeah, but that man, he was-"

Arnold.

"You're letting that man get to you. You shouldn't let emotions get attached to him when he's nothing. It's a TGU rule," Salma interfered.

"No. You're wrong," Clutch said. "I knew him before TGU. And TGU? Who cares about TGU…we're no longer a part of the organisation."

Zayne bristled, "That's too bad. Our units made one heck of a team. Where is Jade anyway?"

"Don't change the topic," Dekker growled.

"Then I'll continue where Zayne left off," Salma said. "Fernley notified the higher ups that we had only killed one body, they were angry. The higher ups said that there should have been more bodies at the scene. They told us to wait here until anybody returned to check up on the man. Salma and I camped here for days and attached a bomb to that man's body as bait-"

They had used Arnold as bait?

"-so when the bomb would be activated, we'd know that someone was at the sight. After the bomb was set off, our plan was to capture the people there. Boy, were we surprised when we found out it was you."

"Yeah, you ran for your lives. Seph and I caught you right on this ship because you were about to use it as a getaway," Dekker sneered.

"Hey, we're not that thoughtless. We actually didn't want to involve you guys," Zayne spoke. "After all, you are our friends."

"You speak as if we should still trust you," Seph remarked.

"But we do."

There was a pause and then Clutch said, "So TGU's after us now, huh?"

"You could say that," Salma replied. For once, it wasn't Hargrove who had been after us. "I mean if you think about it-"

Shuffling.

It was barely audible, but I certainly had heard it. I was about to tell Jade, but when I stared besides me she wasn't visible anymore. She wasn't there. I began to panic, closing my eyes tightly before opening them again.

Taking a deep breath, I peeked around the corner for the second time.

I could still make out Clutch and Dekker. They were still standing further away from me. If they had glimpsed at my direction, they would have seen me. Seph was still fascinated at the starless sky, while the captive duo from Fernley's unit sat stuck in the same position I had seen earlier.

Zayne and Salma weren't sitting straight from where I stood. Sure, their backs were facing each other, but from where I was they were on a diagonal angle. I couldn't make out Zayne's face at all, only the fact that he had blond hair like I did. As for Salma, I could only see half of her face under the dim lighting.

She was smirking as she spoke to the others. I didn't know how long she had been smirking, but it was anything but comforting. It was like she knew something that we didn't. I then caught her head twitch slightly behind Clutch, as if she saw something…

I followed where her gaze had been and almost yelped when I saw a silhouette emerge two paces behind Clutch. Dekker and Clutch couldn't see the man because their focus was all on Salma and because they were standing at the wrong direction. And Seph? Seph remained lying down!

"Hands up, Clutch!"

Seph sat up, alarmed and Dekker turned around to glare at the person who had materialised into the light. Clutch didn't look the least bit scared when he put his hands casually in the air.

The man was no longer a silhouette. I could see his whole figure now, fingers wrapped around the trigger of the gun that he was holding at Clutch's back. The intruder was quite young. He definitely wasn't any older than me or Clutch, but he wasn't Seph's age either. If I took a stab, I think he was about Jade's age.

I gulped. Whatever it was, I needed to do something. I couldn't let Clutch's unit be brought down after all that we had gone through. Hell, we hadn't even solved the puzzle yet and where Besnik's dark key fit!

I stepped out from my hiding spot with the knife held firmly between my fingers. I prayed for Besnik's guidance as I was about to swirl the knife in the air.

The intruder saw me, aiming the gun towards me instead. As he did that, the gun suddenly collapsed onto the ground.

Jade had come up behind him!

Her left arm hooked around his neck. The man gave her a blow on the shin, causing Jade to stagger back. Just as he was about to throw another punch, Dekker, Seph and Clutch had already leapt into the brawl and tackled him to the floor.

Let's just say the man was no match against the four ex-TGU members. Within a minute, the man was tied besides Zayne and Salma with an aggressive expression prominent on his facial features. His head was bowed down, clearly defeated.

I made my way towards where everybody else was, squatting down next to Seph who had returned back to his lying down position.

"Great work, Rhode," Salma half-mocked. "You did a great job saving us."

"Shut up."

"This is exactly why I hate hackers," Zayne added, snidely. "They're only good with computers. When put in the combat field, they fail miserably. No offense, Jade."

"None taken." Jade sniggered, bending down and massaging her shin. "I could whoop Rhode's ass any time, he just took a cheap shot."

"Don't talk to me like that. I don't trust you anymore, Jade. Even you, Clutch," Rhode scolded. "Zayne, Salma…you should have kept quiet! You're not meant to be telling them about information on our mission."

Zayne prodded on, "You're just sore because Jade got you."

"They're traitors." Rhode looked up, staring directly at Jade. He was hurt. It showed in his eyes. "It's true. You've betrayed TGU just like Leon. I knew it."

"Leon? Ha! Associate us one more time to him and I'll slice that hand off," Dekker scowled. "If you want to talk about betrayal, Leon's practically the king at that."

"We thought…we thought you had all left TGU for the same cause," Salma said, confused. "What happened with Leon?"

"Laurence," Jade mumbled their friend's name. "Leon took part in Laurence's death."

"No way!" Zayne spoke. From where I was, I could see the man's face brimming in shock. He actually looked taken back by the news. Clutch, Dekker, Jade, Seph and I had circled around the trio to be safe. We had learned our mistake from last time.

Rhode cried out, "Laurence…Laurence is dead? I thought no one could kill that man machine!"

"I guess TGU doesn't tell you everything," Seph quipped back.

Rhode snapped, "And you expect us to trust you?"

"Yes. It's simple. I trust you, Rhode," Clutch said, daring the younger man to answer back.

Was it me, or had Clutch forgotten that they had killed Arnold?

Again, Salma interfered, "We're sorry, guys. We didn't know that TGU ordered us to fight against you. We thought we were on another Hargrove mission."

"Whose side are you on anyway?" Rhode bristled.

"Rhode. Please," Jade insisted, "shut up and listen to us. We have nothing against you. We…we just have to do something that doesn't concern TGU. We're not fighting against-"

"You left. Isn't that enough?"

"Argh! Quit acting like a kid," Jade glowered, stomping her left foot in front of him. "Pull yourself together, Owl."

"When you tell me what's going on, Lion."

"Please. No talking to each other through your gibberish hacking language. One hacker per unit is enough. I don't want to deal with another Rhode," Zayne groaned.

I didn't get it at first, but by Zayne's comment I knew that Jade and Rhode could have possibly trained in the same sector together because both specialised in hacking. Rhode must have felt betrayed by Jade. That's what I could make out why he seemed hurt by her the most.

Zayne caught me staring and gave a friendly wink. He didn't know who exactly I was, but he didn't seem to mind.

"There were spies everywhere. We couldn't stay with TGU anymore."

"Don't you think that you're being biased simply because Leon was the one that betrayed you? It doesn't necessarily mean that everyone around you are spies," Rhode muttered.

"Once someone in your unit is considered a spy, they go after the whole unit. And I thought that would be cemented in your head by now, Rhode? Anyway, TGU knew that Leon was my best friend – it's kinda guaranteed that they got you to come after me," Clutch said.

"Us," Dekker corrected. "It's a good thing that we're no longer with Hargrove because news is going around that phase two has failed."

Now I was completely lost. What were they talking about. I glanced at Seph, but he didn't bother to respond. I folded my arms together. Fine.

"TGU's nowhere close to beating Hargrove. I heard on the radio that Blyth made a deal with Morgan electricity. When Hargrove owns both the water and electricity company, in time it's possible that they'll surpass the government's ruling. Hargrove is taking over rapidly and, I'm afraid that that TGU will lose."

"You can't predict that," Rhode disagreed.

"Rhode's got a point. Have you forgotten there are many TGU members?" Salma said. "If you were still with us, we'd make a great team bringing Hargrove down."

"Hmm, but most TGU members are picked out involuntarily from the streets from crimes they've done. These people had a choice to either serve as undercover government agents or live in a cell for the rest of their lives. I volunteered to join TGU, but most of you didn't," Clutch said.

Jade explained, "With the government forcing TGU members to fight against Hargrove, many of them will take this opportunity to disband from the organisation because it's easier to escape when things get chaotic," Dekker muttered. "Not to mention, Hargrove's employment is more voluntary. Workers have increased with that water organisation because they're supplied enough water to support their family. By now, TGU is likely outnumbered by Hargrove's employment boost."

"But we have the government's public soldiers too," Zayne stated.

"Yes, but compared to us TGU members, the public soldiers aren't really good. They've gotten lazy because they rely on us most of the time," Salma caught on.

"And you're buying into this bullshit?" Rhode burst out. "They could be lying, guys!"

"No, they're telling the truth. I agree with them," Zayne responded.

"You're not meant to, Zayne!"

"But I've sorta sided with them ever since our capture," Zayne insisted, causing Rhode to scowl. "Think about it, if they had wanted to harm us they would have killed us a long time ago. "They're still our friends, Rhode."

I could see that Zayne was telling the truth. Throughout the whole time that Zayne and Salma had been tied up, they hadn't really put up a fight. For the most, they acted as if their capture had been a comedic experience. Rhode had been the only one who had taken seriously and Clutch's unit had their share of being serious, but that was mainly because they had been interrogating them.

"Yeah, they are still our friends."

"Not you too, Salma-"

"Our friendships what has made us get through TGU's training. And, to tell you the truth, TGU may be our organisation, but it's our friends that are always more important. Right now, I want to offer them a helping hand. Don't you agree, Salma?"

"Absolutely, even if our friends do have a sick fantasy for enjoying tying us up in ropes," Zayne hinted.

Clutch smirked. "I'm glad that's settled."

"Your command?" Dekker grunted, kneeling down. He was the closest to the trio and he now had a pair of scissors in his hands. I didn't even know where Dekker had pulled them out from so quickly. Dekker looked reluctant about unbinding the restraints, but I knew that he secretly wanted to since he was already there. As soon as Clutch had said a 'yes', Dekker undid the ropes.

- X -


(a/n)

Phew. This chapter took longer than I expected. I rewrote it about four times because I was unhappy with it. I can't say that I'm completely satified with it, but it'll have to do for now. Three new characters were introduced in this chapter and I touched slightly on TGU vs. Hargrove, even if it was very slightly. Length-wise, it turned longer than I wanted, so I'll have to add the left over scenes in chapter twenty. Nevertheless, once chapter twenty is done there will be a significant turning point to the story – sorta like a new road to discovery. Haha.

The next chapter will have more Seph screen time (because he was lacking it in this chapter), and FINALLY a one-on-one with Dekker. I know how much his character is dislikeable, but I personally have fun writing him and he's just a guy that's generally misunderstood. ;)

I'm not so sure when I'll be updating next because I have my exams in a fortnight and straight after that, I have four weeks of work experience at a hospital. Thanks for hanging with me so far!

P.S. Didn't really get to edit this chp properly. I did a quick skim and already spotted mistakes. Please let me know if you see anything as well for I'll be editing it in a couple of days with a fresh set of eyes. Ew. That sounded gross.