I left the courtyard and followed the group into the building. I cut down a nearby hallway and into a room. It was sparsely decorated, only having a small table with two chairs, a bookshelf, and a bed. I waited for a while until it was quiet nearby. I slowly slid the door open and peered into the hallway. It was empty, so I stepped out. I continued down a few more hallways, until I found an exit. I carefully opened the door and peered out around the outside perimeter. There were a few men guarding the exit, so I decided to halt my escape until I had a better plan.
I went back inside and wandered around. After a while of walking, I came upon Perry walking alone through the halls.
"Hello," I said. "Aren't you supposed to be in class?" He gave me a nonchalant look.
"I could ask you the same thing," he retorted. "No, in the afternoons we have a break to walk around and learn the layout of the fort. I know most of it, but they don't usually let us near the front."
"Why not?" I asked. He looked confused. "They must not want us hatching any escape plans." I answered.
"I guess not, but I hadn't really thought about escaping. They would stop us anyways. It's not like we have any way t' defend ourselves." He answered. I shrugged my shoulders at him. He began to walk past me, so I patted him on the shoulder.
"We'll get out of here soon. I promise." I said. He glanced back with a grin playing on his face. I followed the simple rug back through the compound. I came upon two men talking. I decided to ask them how to get back to my classroom.
"Excuse me, do you know how to get back to Sol's class?" I asked. They turned around, and I realized that it was Lupert and Joliel; the men that kidnapped me in the first place.
"Hey, look who it is. Water-boy, how've ya' been?" He laughed to Lu. He looked as dirty and sarcastic as he had the first time I'd seen him. His short, greasy brown hair clung to his forehead and his skin and clothes had a layer of dirt crusted on him that, coupled with his large nose and small lips, made him the perfect example of a petty thief.
"Oh, it's you two," I said. "Do you know how to get back to Sol or not?" I shot him a dirty look and he still had the same mischievous look on his face.
"If you go down to the third hall from here and take a left, you'll find Sol." Lu said. He looked much more put together than his partner. His clothes could've used a cleaning, but his skin and hair looked clean and healthy. His polite demeanor and overall attitude led me to think he had been stolen away into this life, rather than volunteering.
"Thanks Lu, I appreciate the assistance." I said. Jo snorted as I walked away. The hallway seemed to go on forever, until I finally found my turn. I glanced at a nearby painting on the wall, but quickly disregarded it. I turned to the left and saw Sol walking back into the room, so I decided to follow him in. Jess was hunched over the table, reading a new book. So I figured I might try to get to know the other two students in my class.
"Hey Jess, what are you reading." I asked. I walked over and took the seat next to her. Her eyes slowly slid from the pages to my face. They were shockingly green, and they surprised me a little. She held the spine up to me. It read "Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll". "Oh, I love that book. My sister read them to me when I was a child. Were you reading the first of the series yesterday?" I asked.
She looked at me curiously and nodded her head. She returned to her book as Sol walked over.
"Hey, where's Perry? I'm ready to start the lesson." He said. Sol looked stressed and tired.
"I saw him in the hallway earlier, but I've not an idea of where he went." I replied. He sighed before grabbing the shackles off the table.
"We might as well begin the lesson then. He's bound to show up eventually. Now we're going to learn how to free your hands from shackles. This is easier than untying ropes, but only when the shackles are locked with a pin. Sometimes people lock them with a padlock that makes it almost impossible to escape. The pins are simple, though." He locked my wrists into the shackles. "Now, do you see the pin on the edge? If you can move your hands over to it, it's possible to move the pin up and out of the slot."
I wriggled my hand around in the shackle, but I couldn't reach the pin. My fingers were long enough, but I couldn't move them in that direction. "I can't do it," I admitted. "My fingers refuse to bend in that way."
"It's alright, most beginners can't do it. You just have to practice bending your hands, after long enough, your fingers will be flexible enough to undo any pinned shackles." He said. He removed them from my wrists and placed them on Jess. She pushed her hands over as far as she could, but her hands weren't able to reach. Her fingers were too short and slim to reach the pin; it was an unsolvable problem. She struggled for moment before sighing deeply and surrendering.
Sol removed the shackles and returned them to the table.
"You'll both get it, you just need more practice. Why don't you head back to your room, I'll fetch you if anything is needed." Jess grabbed her book off the table and walked out the door. I began to follow, but stopped when I noticed Sol had laid his head down table.
"Is everything alright?" I asked. He didn't lean his head up.
"Yes, I'm just tired. I've been questioning all of this. I mean, training the new recruits, stealing, even the lady." He said.
"You should do whatever you think is the right thing, even if it goes against your 'lady'." I said. He looked up at me with interest in his eyes. He reached over to the glass of water across the table. He pretended to take a sip of it, but then he suddenly threw the water onto me. Instinctively, I directed the water onto the floor. I stopped suddenly and stared at him with a look of horror.
"That's what I thought. Water is your power." He said. I couldn't manage the horror I felt, I was never to let anyone know of my power. In the last few days I had revealed my secret to four people, maybe more if they told. I put my head down in my hands.
"How… who told you?" I asked.
"The lady told me about you, but I didn't really believe her at first. I waited for you to show one of the tell-tale signs of it." He explained.
"There are signs?" I asked. He looked at me oddly.
"Yes, there are. Usually the most common indicator is sociability. Most often the parents will keep them locked away, meaning the kid is usually very withdrawn. The few that will talk are distant. That's why I didn't suspect you. You're very extroverted and socially acceptable. Most don't even speak to anyone their first few weeks here." He explained. I wondered if Jess and Perry could have powers too. Perry had talked to me, but he could be cryptic, and Jess was very sharp, but she didn't talk much, in fact, not at all. "That's enough for today. Go back to your room. We'll be learning more knots tomorrow."
I scanned his lazy eyes for any other information, but he was hard to read. He had his emotions carefully sealed away from me. I cautiously turned away from him and exited the room. I followed the path I had taken earlier and ended up back in the bedroom. I opened the door to find Jess sitting up in her bed, reading. I waved at her slightly, and she slightly smirked at me. I looked down a more bunks to see Perry lying in his bed.
"Oh, there you are, Perry," I said. He turned his head to look at me. His pale gray eyes looked a little tired. He turned his head back over and waved his hand at me. I decided to talk to Jess for a while, so I walked over to the table and pulled a chair over to the outside of her bed. She set her book down and looked at me quizzically. "Hey, I just thought we could talk." She marked the page of the book, and closed it. She gestured her hands for me to talk. "Are you doing well?" I asked.
She motioned a yes. "You don't talk much, do you?" I asked. Jess's eyes widened a bit, and she tilted her head down. "It's alright, I'm sure you're a good listener." I smiled at her and she shyly lifted her face back towards me.
"Is there anything you want to know?" I asked. She thought for a moment before lifting the book off the bed. She scanned it for a moment, flipping through the pages before turning it around and pointing at one word, sister.
"You want to know about Augusta. She's about your height with long, curly black hair. She's a typical aristocratic woman. She's married to an awful man, Isaac. His attitude is many more times stuck-up than hers, though. I still love her and my mother. Then, there's Emma." I said. Jess held the book back up and pointed at the word again.
"No, Emma isn't another sister; she's my best friend. We've known each other since early childhood. We got separated though; haven't seen her in days." She flipped through the book again and found the word 'how'.
"It's kind of complicated. We found out something about each other, something important. Then when we tried to run away, but her brother came after us. She got away. I haven't seen her since. When I left to look for her, I got captured, and now I'm here. I swear as soon as I can get away from here, I'll find her." I explained. I had stood up during my rant, and Jess's look had softened.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to unload all of that on you. I'll let you get back to your book." I said. She smiled gently and grabbed my hand. She looked at me sympathetically. I squeezed her hand a bit, then released. I walked over to my bed, and lay down for the night.
I dreamt of the fort, analyzing the structure. I saw Sol talking to me about my secret. Then my thoughts moved to Jess. She sat on her bed reading her book. I opened my eyes to nothing. All the candles in the room had been extinguished, and without a window, it was impossible to tell what time it was. I stood up and carefully navigated my way to the door. I cracked the door open and barely any light crept in.
I looked around the room in the dim light. Perry and Jess slept soundly in their beds, so I decided to slip out. The window in the hallway let the scant amount of moonlight pass through it; that was the only source of light in the hall. I snuck down around the corner until I came upon Sol talking to someone.
"I'm sorry I told him about the other two, but I'm not sure that he really knows anything about them." He said. His voice wavered as he spoke, giving away all the fear he felt.
"How could he not know? That boy is no fool; he could escape whenever he wanted to. I'm not sure even I could stop him." She yelled. Her voice had steadily risen in volume, but it was still just a loud whisper.
"You don't have to worry about the other kids; one has been traumatized into a mute and the other into complacency. The only one you have to worry about telling him is the boy, he has a few flashes of clarity, but they're few and far between." Sol pleaded.
"That other boy is a fool, but the girl could be a problem also. She might have been shocked into silence, but anything could bring her out of it. You and she might be of the same feather, but you aren't even in the same league as her. I'll give you one more chance to take care of them. That's all." She walked down the hall the opposite way, but Sol came towards me. I decided to slip into a nearby room so he wouldn't see me. I heard his shoes click as he walked down the hall.
"Hello." A voice said. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I slowly turned around to see Lupert sitting in a chair in front of the fireplace.
"You nearly scared the pants off of me!" I exclaimed. He smiled slightly. He seemed a little more laid-back alone. Jo probably brings out the worst in everyone. I thought.
"What are you doing awake this early? He asked me. His tone was teasing and serious.
"I just woke up, but I ran into Sol talking to some woman. I overheard a lot of their conversation, but I didn't want them to know. You won't tell… right?" I chuckled nervously. He set down something onto the table next to him. "Why are you awake?" I was hoping he would answer me too.
"I'm working on something. I know that a lot of the people in our organization have been having problems escaping from shackles, so I'm working on a wristband that can melt through the metal shackles without burning the wrist. I've gone through a few models, but I can't find material strong enough to insulate the skin. As you can see, I've failed once or twice." He pulled back his sleeves to reveal the burn scars on his wrists.
"Ouch, what have you been using to make them?"
"I'm using a sort of steel alloy, but it heats up too quickly to melt through the shackles. The only thing I could think would work is a kind of crystal." He explained.
"What kind if stone could handle that kind of heat?" I asked. No stone I could think of could handle that amount of heat with transferring it to the skin.
"It's a special, very rare stone. It's called Aqualine; it's made out of water. It's only formed when water is put under intense pressures in the earth. I've asked to try to acquire some of it, but no one knows where to get any, it's only a myth." He looked a little disappointed as he told the story.
"It needs intense pressure? You would have to find an underground spring and dig into it. Unless it really is a myth like you said." I said. I tried to console him about the stone. I wondered if I could make this stone myself, when I decided to ask Lu how it worked.
"There is a special, secret mixture in the steel. When it comes into contact with another metal the steel heats up to the point that it, and the other metal, melts." He explained. "Maybe you should head back to your room before Jo comes back. I'll let you know if I had any breakthroughs."
"Alright, you should probably get some sleep though, and let me know how the wristband's going, good night, Lu." I walked out of the room and snuck down the hall back into the bedroom. When I opened the door, Jess was lying on the bed with her candle lit, reading. She gave me a quizzical look as I walked across the room. I shrugged my shoulders at her and hopped into my bed. She shook her head at me sarcastically.
"Hey, what is there to say about an insomniac?" I asked her. She chuckled silently. I laid in my bed for a long while, listening to the sound of pages slowly turning. I rolled over to look at Jess. Her brown hair shone in the light, and her eyes gently glided along the words she was reading. She had changed into a little tighter clothing that made her feminine shape more obvious. Her supple lips held fast and, other than when she was eating, I hadn't seen them open. I took her face in for a moment longer, and then her eyes shot over to meet mine. I held her gaze before I looked away. I glanced back up for a moment to see her looking at her book, blushing.
I hadn't meant anything by it, I was just curious. I told myself. I rose from my bed and walked over to her bed.
"Hello Jess, did you sleep well?" I asked her. Her face was still a little red from the moment before, but she still made eye contact. She nodded yes. "That's good. I slept pretty soundly. I just decided to get up because it was completely dark in here when I awoke." She stared at her book for a moment more before setting it down. She climbed off her bed and walked across the room. She opened the door and motioned for me to follow her.
She led me out the door and around through a seemingly endless amount of hallways. We finally passed through a door and outside into a clearing. She walked over and sat down next to a small flower bush. She put her around the plant to wipe the leaves off. The flowers were a purple-blue color. She looked at me with a large smile on her face. I walked over and sat across the plant from her. The plant exuded the same aura of happiness that Jess did.
She turned her head to look up at the sky. The sun had begun to make red stripes in the east, signaling the sun would be fully up soon. She grabbed a stick and wrote in the flower's loose dirt.
"Isn't it beautiful?" It said.
"Yes, I always loved watching the sun rise. It makes me miss my home, though." I explained. She withdrew her smile and scratched out her message in the dirt.
"I don't have a home. I don't have a family." She wrote. I took a sharp breath in. This must've been what shocked her into silence. She scratched out what she had written, and she smoothed out the dirt. She removed herself from the ground and brushed off her pants. She pulled me off the ground. Her eyes had a cold look in them. I overstepped my boundaries. I shouldn't have said anything about family. I thought to myself.
We walked back around through the hallways until we passed through another courtyard and into the mess hall. We grabbed some breakfast and went to a table. I sat on the end seat, but Jess sat all the way on the other end of the table. She stared drearily into her food, not even glancing at me. I ate what was on my plate, but I took the water outside to a secluded place. I set it on the ground in front of me, and pulled the water through the air into my hands.
"He said Aqualine needed intense pressure, so let's see what I've got." I said to myself. I pushed the water together as hard as I could. The water spilled out from between my fingers. I and my powers weren't strong enough to crush the water down. I pulled my hands apart and heard a sharp clink as the water fell to the ground. I picked the cup up off the ground, and inside laid a small, clear blue stone. I turned the cup upside down, and the stone fell into my hand. Despite the stone's miniscule size, it was cool to the touch, but hard as any other metals I could think of.
Jess walked out of the mess hall, and over to me. I held the stone out to her.
"I found it on the ground; I thought you might like it, isn't it pretty?" I said. She took it in her hands and rolled it in her fingers. Her eyes widened a bit, and she clutched it to her chest. She smiled and I walked back into the main fort. I turned to look out the door's window. Jess stood alone, still clutching the stone to her. I walked around until I found an open door. I grasped the handle that had a lock on it, and gently pulled the door open. There wasn't anyone in the large room, but a large contraption took up most of it. The machine had two seats on either side of it. There were a few flashing buttons on the outside of it, but I didn't touch any of them. I carefully backed out of the room, and returned to door to its former position.
The hallways began to blur together after a while, and I finally found a familiar painting of a woman hanging on the wall. I walked to the left and ended up in the classroom.
"Hello Cole, aren't you a little late for class. Perry beat you both here; where's Jess?" He asked. I shrugged my shoulders. If I'd had to guess, Jess was probably still standing in the courtyard. "Oh well, Jess already knows this knot. I'm talking about an emergency harness. In tense situations, you might need to lower yourself into a room. With a harness, you, and a partner of course, can go almost anywhere." He handed us a length of rope. He then showed us the complicated knotting procedure. By the time we had finished, my head was spinning. It had been roughly fifty other knots.
"Now, put it on. As long as you tied it correctly, it should fit." He explained. I slid my arms into the slots in the ropes. I tried to push my feet through the leg-holes, but my legs were much too long to get up to them. Sol began to laugh. "I think your legs are a bit too long for those." He walked over to me and pulled a cord in the back of the harness. "There try now." I pulled my leg up and slid it into the hole. It was the perfect length for my height.
Perry had perfectly tied every knot, but was struggling to put it on. This must be one of his moments. He managed to assemble the whole harness, but now he can't even put the thing on. I thought. Sol walked over to him and helped him put it on.
"Now then, the guide rope fits into the hole in the back. Then your partner will lower you into the hole you're traveling into." He explained. "We don't have any pits to use, but I think it's rather self-explanatory." Jess walked into the class finally, but her hands hung empty at her sides. I guessed she probably put the stone somewhere for safe-keeping.
"Jess, you finally showed up. Have you been in that garden again? Don't make me tear up your precious bush; the lady gave me permission to do so if needed." He said. She looked down in defeat, she wouldn't even defend herself.
"No," I said. "She was in the mess hall. The servers ran out of food so she had to wait. I managed to get the last of it before they ran out." Sol looked at Jess's look of shock, then at me.
"Is that true?" He questioned. Jess quickly shook her head up and down. "I'll let it slide this time then. Don't make it a habit though. I won't be so lenient next time." He turned away from us to help Perry out of the harness. Jess looked at me.
Thank you. She mouthed.