Monday

1:35 a.m. – Beece's House

The girl's eyes snapped open. Beads of sweat covered her face, roughening the normally smooth skin. Sharp, intense eyes scanned the room for any sort of trouble, only to see the familiar wooden desk with the usual paraphernalia. She looked to her left; the reflection from the sun on the moon illuminated the area with white light. Everything was quiet, like the calm before a raging storm. The girl saw no signs of danger and collapsed back into bed. She looked to her right; her electronic clock reading 1:38 in glowing, red numbers

"Whew," she mumbled to herself, "that was some nightmare. Only six more hours . . . six more hours."

Six more hours until she had to wake up to her normal school schedule. Six more hours until she had the joy learning. Six more hours until her nightmare would end.

A rustle. A soft ping.

The girl sat back up a second too late. Blackness was all around her.

The knife.

A girl's scream pierced the calm night sky.

8:20 a.m. – Karlive Middle School

"Hey Nar," the boy said.

"Good morning, Jos. Ready for another day with. . . her?" He chuckled when Jos turned red, whether in embarrassment or anger, he didn't know.

"Ugh, just stop with that. I do not like her, I told you that a million times already," he replied, a little annoyed.

"C'mon, we all know you have feelings for her. It's like Mr. Obvious came to our school and it was love at first sight." Nar paused. "She barely knows you though. You have to actually talk to her if you want her to like you—"

"You know what, Nar, just go away. You're not helping anyone." Jos turned away from his friend.

"Well, you know what to do," Nar shrugged, letting the subject drop. "Speaking of Beece, you seen her around lately?"

Jos's sulk melted into a worried frown, "Now that I think of it, no, I haven't"

"Hah, sure. Like you weren't thinking about her before. But seriously though, I wonder where she is. Maybe she's late today," Nar said unconvincingly.

Ring Ring. Ring Ring.

"There's the bell again. See you in class, Nar," Jos said as he waved goodbye.

Jos walked to his homeroom class, starting a usual Monday. But little did he know that when he grabbed a new, crisp copy of the school newspaper, his life was about to change.

8:45 a.m. – Mrs. Live's Classroom

"Get out your reading books, children. A new trimester has begun. No talking. No chewing gum; Rachel are you chewing gum? Go spit it out! Take out your book and read! 15 minutes everybody, 15 minutes. You all should feel grateful that a teacher like me is giving you 15 minutes. You all are 6th graders, you should have your own book in your bag; Rachel, I said spit it out!" yelled Mrs. Live as the tired students crawled through the broken-down, metal door.

Since the old teacher was as blind as a bat, all the students in the class could read the school newspaper instead of the novella that the teacher assigned for homework. As the front page was read, a gasp in unison came from every gaping mouth as they all read the headline "Beece Miller found dead".

As the students continued to read the background info on the article and discussed the story between themselves, the teacher was puzzled. When the buzzing chatter grew, she stood up and drew herself to full height.

"Why are all you students talking to each other when I specifically told you to read silently?" spat out Mrs. Live. Her beady eyes caught sight of an abandoned newspaper on the floor. Stiffly, she bent over and picked it up, rolling it up neatly before turning around.

As she walked back to her aging desk, the students stopped talking . . . as loudly. They continued to discuss about how, why, when, and where until a piercing scream filled the small, 25-foot room. All eyes swerved to the front. Mrs. Live had dropped to the floor in a dead faint, a thin stream of blood trickling down her temple. Glassy, unseeing eyes were focused on the block letters on the grainy paper.

Time seemed to speed up as everyone just stared at the prostrate teacher. The next thing the baffled students realized was that there were white men in the room. Or were they men in white outfits? The students had never witnessed an unconscious, pale-faced body lying on the ground nor the chaos of the panicking medics. This new experience had all the students clamoring to catch a glimpse of the horrific sight.

Amidst all the commotion, Jos slipped out the door without anyone seeing, casually dropping the newspaper on the dirty carpet.

9:00 a.m. – Area 51

"Give me everybody that was associated with the death of Beece Miller. Give me names, addresses, times, anything that will help us get a jump-start," screamed Pinse at all the secret service agents sitting at multiple desks.

Area 51's control room was smaller than most people guessed, considering that it was a department where even the most important may not know its exact location. With more than 35 men inside-all in suits-sweating to no end, the air conditioning was set on "high." Even still, the temperature in the room was hotter than the desert that surrounded the place.

One way. Only one way to get out of the room, and even that was blocked by three, burly guards. All who were armed with two pistols and two times worth the ammo compared to a common policeman. If a bodyguard didn't have a gun, they carried a large, wooden baton.

The entrance at the front is a thing of its own beauty. A specialized password consisting of a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols that make up at least 12 characters was required to enter the undisclosed room. The door itself was a combination of different metals to make up a sturdy, unbreakable wall weighing over 20 tons. The automatic system created opened the door at the same speed of a snail, literally.

The security of this joint was high-tech, full-out machinery. There were 17 watchful security cameras (plus three hidden ones as well) with five men watching each security camera's footage. Upon pressing the small red button located in arm's length from the workers, every agent would be taken away in their chairs equipped with seatbelts and a course to safety.

The death of Beece made Jos leave his regular life and return to his secretive agent job. Jos—or rather Pinse—was the head of the CIA and every department below that. Instead of learning, computers were now Pinse's time and effort. He vowed to get revenge for the freak that killed Beece.

At the age of eight and a half, Pinse was taken in by the CIA and learned the ways of secrecy. He'd never questioned why he had been recruited so young, but instead rose to the challenge. His natural leadership and skill was easily recognized as he led Area 51 to prevent the alien invasion of '04. After that event, he temporarily retired to live a normal life and changed his name to "Jos." It was no small feat to have the entire U.S. government indebted to him. Upon the "death" of his secret crush, he had called in, asking for a favor. A big one.

"Get Jones Miller on the phone. Interview him. See what he knows," growled Pinse.

"Yes, sir," said his commanding agent.

"If he doesn't answer, bring him in for questioning. You know the procedure."

"Yes, sir."

He thought for a moment. "Meet me at the coffee shop afterwards. You know, the one down the street, a few blocks from my house . . . no, the other one . . . yeah, meet me there at precisely 12:45 tomorrow. Make sure you grill him about every miniscule detail."

"Yes, sir. Question, sir."

"Yes?"

"What happens if Jones Miller knows nothing at all and we find him telling the truth?" asked the agent.

"Search his house, interview neighbors, brush for fingerprints, then report to me," Pinse responded.

"Yes, sir."

9:20 a.m. – Cave 15

"Good work, my slave, it's on every news channel," whispered a raspy voice into the assassin's ear.

"It is my pleasure," whispered the man back.

A mix of gray and yellow teeth was seen in the dark cave.

"I want you now to take the life of the boy. If you do this successfully, I'll give you a raise."

Similar but cleaner teeth now seemed to be glowing in the pitch-black room.

"No problem," the assassin spoke. Nar turned and walked out of the dark, cold cave.

Tuesday

12:45 p.m. – Shawn's Coffee Shop

Pinse saw the moment his detective had walked in. The door swung open, the bell ringing and the friendly cashiers saying "Welcome!" He had been anxiously waiting for the news to arrive. All his mind could think about was Beece. What happened? Who did it? Why?

All night, the dreams about Beece that he once had had become nightmares. From the time his stumbled into his comforting bed, nothing in the world could make him sleep, for until the murderer of Beece was found, there would be no peace for him.

The second the agent sat in the wooden chair, Pinse jumped on him. "What have you got?" he questioned. Because of the eyes that were glaring at the man's solemn face, cowardice overcame him. Detective Bill attempted to shrink to the size of a quarter to escape the boy's threatening, blood-shot eyes.

After a deep breath, the man replied, "Beece Miller is not dead."

Shorter but intimidating, the boy stood up from his chair. The shop quieted down, as they all knew what was going to happen now.

Detective Bill braced for the impact.

Pinse tried to swallow the idea. Could Beece really not be dead? Could she be alive? The idea was impossible, but still. Could she?

A minute passed. Two. Three. Agent Pinse was still deep in thought. Finally, without warning, he sat back down and went back to his donut.

Expecting the worst, Bill flinched in shock, but then straightened his tie as a cover for his show of weakness. He cleared his throat. "Ahhh . . . wh-"

"Yes, I believe it." Pinse stared into the eyes of his partner. "Beece Miller is not dead. It is true, just tell me the story."

"Yes, sir," responded Detective Bill. "We found the body. Clean and all except a slight cut where the trachea is located. When we scanned the DNA and tried to match it with Beece Miller's actual DNA, it didn't match our records. Further investigation links the DNA pattern to one in the 60's during a failed experiment in stem-cell research. We concluded that the murderer, whoever it may be, is smart and has illegally acquired a cloning machine from the closed operation. We presume the murderer had entered Beece's house at approximately 1:38 a.m. Monday morning, entered her room, gagged and tied her up, made a fake copy of her with everything remarkably similar except the DNA, and left with Beece. There are no known motives for her capture, sir."

"Good work. Please continue to investigate," responded Pinse. And with that, he walked out of the coffee shop.

At the absence of the frightening teen, Detective Bill relaxed and called over a waiter. "Excuse me, could I get a chocolate donut over here, please?"

Wednesday

10:30 a.m. – Cave 13

"It's my own invention. The more you struggle, the tighter the rope gets," the boy said with a grin, "oh, and don't bother trying to escape, there's no way out."

Nar walked over to the table in the corner where he pulled out some matches, struck them against the rocks sitting on the side, and lit the candle.

The room was now dimly lit and Beece could now see that dirt and rocks surrounded her. She scanned the room for anything out of the ordinary, ignoring the fact she was underground. She tried to think of a way of escape. Hmm . . . Nar said that his invention was rope.

If I had something sharp enough, I might be able to cut through it. What do I have in my pocket today?

The girl surreptitiously rummaged through her belongings in her side pocket.

Cough drops . . . a bobby pin . . . house keys . . . tissue . . . her phone. Nothing of much use, though I may be able to cut the rope with the keys if they're sharp enough.

She began to pull out the keys as Nar began to speak.

"Welcome to Cave 13." Nar said with a smirk. He removed the gag from Beece's mouth and she took a deep breath of the stale air. Glaring murderously at her captor, she suddenly started screaming hysterically. "Where am I?! Does my family know where I am?! Why are you doing this?! How did you get into my house?! Wha-"

"Now, now. Calm down. All your questions will soon be answered," Nar responded with a sigh. He walked over to where a couch was. After looking for anything dangerous on the settee, he closed his eyes and fell backwards into the cushions. "Or not." Few minutes later, there was snoring.

Beece tried to look backwards to see the rope that secured her hands. No luck. She did notice, however, that she was tied to a wooden chair with every part of her free except for her arms. She had to release her hands before anything else to do sufficient work to guarantee her escape.

The girl started at the rope with her keys. Non-stop for 15 minutes, Beece furiously sawed at the twine, keeping one eye on the sleeping Nar. After 30 minutes, she sensed that there was no progress and her fingers felt close to dropping off. A different path had to be taken. The girl, once again, looked around the room for anything sharp.

A bent fork on the table . . . a fridge . . . rocks. She thought to herself. I guess I could use the sharpest rock and break the rope.

The girl walked, or rather hopped, over to where a jagged stone protruded from the wall. One good cut . . . one good cut.

She took a leap, barely missing the rope. She tried again and again. The rope wouldn't break.

Finally, right before Beece gave up, the rope snapped. The girl fell on the floor, drenched in sweat. Nar was still sleeping soundly on the sofa. Beece silently congratulated herself and stood up, wobbly-legged and numb. She brushed the excess dirt off of her and started walking over to where light from the outside world was shining through an opening.

The path was longer than she expected, but with every step, she could see the light become brighter, feel the wind become stronger, and smell the scent of flowers become more distinct. She kept on walking. 30 minutes passed. An hour. An hour and a half. Still, the girl persistently kept on walking.

When she reached the opening of the cave, Beece fell backwards into the grass. All she could think about was that she was alive. Beece Miller is still alive and surviving! The still alive and surviving Beece Miller fell asleep on the soft flower bed.

3:20 p.m. – Cave 13

"No! How could she escape!?" Nar screamed at the empty, unresponsive chair lying awkwardly on the ground. "My master will not be happy, not one bit. Hmm . . . maybe I could pretend that the girl died and he won't know.

Nar had a malicious smile on his face, "I could write a ransom note, then brave, chivalrous Jos will come for her when he thinks I still have her. But it'll be all a trap."

Nar grinned at his own genius. He laughed, a deep, evil laugh, directed at no one in particular. He kept this going for at least five minutes until he decided to continue with his plan. First I need a ransom note. Where would I get one? He thought. I guess I could write a pretty convincing ransom note for Jos. He flinched again at the mere mention of that name. He didn't like that name.

Nar started to walk to the table but froze when he felt something wet underneath his bare feet. He looked down, the first impression to him was: water. But there was no running water in his cave and he didn't bring any down when he came in.

A thought struck him. It must be Beece's sweat! He scurried to his desk where an invention of his that was made to scan DNA was. He scanned the liquid and it

matched! Nar bottled the pool of sweat into a small capsule and attached it to his letter.

He walked over to the table and pulled out a pen and a new piece of paper. As the pen flew over the blank expanse, his usually-messy handwriting changed as he wrote each precise letter. He took all precautions to make this handwriting completely different than his school penmanship. The scratching of pen on paper filled the silent room as he wrote:

I know what you know. I know where you live. I know how you think.

I know you know it.

If you ever want to see the girl again, meet me in the dark alleyway between Shawn's Coffee Shop and Mece's Donuts. $1.2 mil.

8:30 p.m. Friday.

Come alone.

The boy released a silent breath as he read and reread his letter. It was the perfect plan. Now all he had to do is get it to Jos. Easy. He thought to himself. I could just stroll over to his home, dump the folded up letter and gift into his mailbox, and leave.

And that was just what he did.

Thursday

7:45 a.m. – Area 51

Pinse had been working all night, connecting and cross-connecting recordings from video cameras to try and figure out where Beece was. A steaming cup of coffee sat by his desk and the need for caffeine calling him to drink some, but Pinse ignored the urge. The ticking of the wall clock lulled him to explore the sandy shores of a dreamland, but he pushed it to the back of his mind. No eating, no drinking, no sleeping. After hours of staring at the computer screen, he seemed to have laser vision.

Maybe a quick rest. He thought. I'll just close my eyes a little bit and rest for a few minutes. No worries, I'll be up and running in a few minutes. His droopy eyelids started to close. Blackness started to obscure his vision.

Knock knock.

His eyes opened and he started for the door. It swung open.

"Mail for you, sir," the agent said monotonously.

Pinse tried to stay awake. "Thank you," he replied. Nodding in affirmation, the man swiftly left, the door slamming behind him.

The boy walked back over to his desk and pulled out an envelope opener. He took a sip of the coffee. Even though it was no more than a few drops, the caffeine immediately took effect. Pinse ripped open the envelope, not using the tool he was holding, and saw two items pop out.

A letter and a small container.

The container seemed to carry a liquid substance. He immediately called over an agent. "Scan this mystery liquid. See what it is," he said.

"Yes, sir." The man left the room.

As the boy began to read the letter, his eyes widened. Every part of his body began to tingle, as if a Taser that was low on battery had struck him.

Pinse read the letter over and over again. Studying each word. Learning the mystery handwriting. By the end of the time he spent looking at the page, one would think he had every part of the note memorized.

But then he stopped. He had been trained to, when getting a ransom note, to not engage the threat unless it touched an emotional trigger. He had been trained to believe these to be a scam and to not go recklessly into it unless there had been proof.

Pinse threw aside the note and shook his head, attempting to rid his mind of these words and continued back on his work. His hand started in the direction of the computer mouse but he didn't reach it. The information from the capsule had returned.

"It's Beece Miller's DNA, sir," the man said, "Most likely perspiration."

Pinse froze.

"Thank you," he replied, his voice cracking with shock. "Please wait by the door for a little."

"Yes, sir."

He grabbed the tube from the agent's hand and reached back over to recover the letter. Pinse started to examine the sweat himself, as if he didn't believe the man to be telling the truth and that he could see the DNA's molecular sized double helix.

After a few minutes, the boy stood up and started for the door. He had work to do now.

"I'm going to go get Beece Miller back," he said, "I'm supposed to go alone but make a phone that I can get your help by the speed-dial of '1'.

"Done in a minute, sir." And the man left the room.

Pinse made one final look at his room. The one room that was his home.

The boy flicked the switch by the door, turning off the lights. He closed the metal door and walked into the familiar darkness.

Friday

8:30 p.m. – Alleyway between Shawn's Coffee Shop and Mece's Donuts

"Hello?" Pinse stared into the dark void.

No response.

"Anybody there?" The boy looked down at his watch. Yep, I'm on time.

Once again, deafening silence.

He started to inch forward, cautious of his surrounding even though he couldn't see anything through the shadows. All he knew was that he was in the right place at the right time to get Beece back.

Without warning, a snap was heard. Instinctively, he jumped backwards, in time to see a trap being sprung. A wooden pole emerged out of the supposed concrete and at-first loose ropes started to tighten around the pole until it couldn't be any tighter. Two ropes in two places. Exactly where his hands and feet would have been, were it not for his reflexes.

Pinse breathed a sigh of relief; he had dodged the trap that was meant for him. He exposed a small smile in the corner of his mouth and started to walk backwards to scan the area for more traps.

With his guard down, he accidentally triggered another trap of the same kind. Left with no time to react, Pinse was captured and tied to the wooden stake.

A headlight immediately was switched on as a second figure appeared from the gloom, a small smirk on his face.

"Look who it is. Why, it's Price Charming come to save his precious princess." The boy laughed. His blue eyes were focused on his prize.

The tied up prisoner saw who it was, "Nar," he said disgustedly. Even the name in his mouth made the boy gag. "Why?" he asked.

Nar walked around him, "That's for me to know, and you to find out," he said. "Enough talk. Time to settle this."

Nar jogged to get to the center of the darkness. He seemed to be pulling something out.

Mouth gaping, eyes widening, the boy saw what he had produced. To Pinse, it looked like a gun that had been enlarged, but after the explanation given by the inventor, it looked more like a giant death ray.

"Behold, my latest creation," the inventor spoke. His voice echoed in the alleyway. "I usually don't give my inventions a name, but just for you, I named this one 'La Sombra,' meaning 'The Shadow.'

"I only made one bullet for the special person I would get the opportunity to use it on, and that's you. I'm now going to etch in your name so that it is specialized." Pinse watched him take out a pocketknife and he could tell, from his perspective that Nar wrote down "Jos Butees." He loaded the one-and-only bullet into the machine.

The crazed gleam in cyan orbs. Exaggerated words. Strange actions of no significance. Nar may well be a teenage psychopath. Fright overtook Pinse's mind. Whether it would help or not, all he thought of to do at this point was to hold '1' to call his backup and hope they come in time.

Nar continued his description, "Different than all the other inventions I made, this one was created for the main purpose of elimination. Do you want to eliminate a person? A place? An object? You name it; with the unique bullets, a secret substance is injected into a compartment inside. The substance has the power to destroy everything in a few feet of its target.

"That is, if the blow doesn't demolish everything before the coating that protects the ammo melts away." He smiled. "This gun has the ability to shoot its ammunition over 2000 mph. The shock wave that is created devastates the entire object to death.

"With that said, when I push this button," he motioned to a black button that was labeled DEATH in big, red letters, "you won't see the world. You'll feel no pain. You'll see nor feel, not even smell anything. Only after, you'll witness yourself lying on the ground, blood oozing around you and mind you, this is the perspective of your soul." The maniac boy laughed once again.

"Welcome . . . to death." He spat, building on his advantage. Tears of joy had erupted from his eyes, "I had been waiting years for this. Hear me, years! All your repulsive and annoying comments, all over now." He was overjoyed, a blissful look rested upon his face. "Years, I waited for the word from my master, now, the time is here. Hah, this is the day of my life." His tears were now made of anger, built up over time.

Pinse didn't know what to do; nothing in his training had ever prepared him for this. Nowhere in the manual had instructed him on how to react, how to finish off the enemy. All he could do now is wait for the end to come.

"Goodbye Jos. I won't miss you," Nar said, smiling to no end.

His finger approached the black button.

"No!"

Time froze as a cry erupted from the shadows overhead.

Rewind —

8:30 p.m. – Alleyway between Shawn's Coffee Shop and Mece's Donuts

It had not been a picnic getting back to the city. Ten minute intervals of walking and that one hitchhike had finally gotten her back to civilization, but Jos was still in trouble. Beece had been looking for him all day now and when she finally found him, it wasn't in the way she expected

Seeing Jos looking at the ground, hand and feet securely fastened to the pole with rope, avoiding Nar's gaze scared Beece. She didn't know what to do or how to help. By habit, she started to mumble nonsense to herself, "What do I do . . . call the police? . . . what do I do? . . . ugh . . . what am I doing?" she asked herself.

She already knew what she had to do. Heck, she'd done it several times on accident, a talent shut-off in shame. But this moment called for it to save a life. Beece closed her eyes and focused on her mental structure. Suddenly, like a smart bomb hit her, she started to look at the world in a different light. Everything was now math and science related.

As she looked down from the rooftop of Mece's Donuts, above the bickering two down below, she realized that she was exactly 13'4½" off the ground. Wind speed was precisely three miles per hour heading northbound and the Earth was rotating 835 miles per hour. She knew that the equipment that Nar (who had 128,978 strands of hair on his head and was 5'3") was made of iron, steel, and bits of diamonds, capable of shooting ammunition at a maximum speed of 3526 mph before over heating and exploding in a cloud of ash and various metals.

Somehow, she knew all these things, and she knew they were correct. Her B- in math and C+ in science no longer served to truly document her intelligence.

Jumping down to the lower roof of Shawn's Coffee Shop, keeping in mind the angle of her knees and legs, she swiftly and silently crossed the drop to the bottom.

Beece, with her eagle eye vision, noticed the black button labeled 'DEATH' and inferred that, because it was the only button on the machine and there was no handheld detonation, the push of the button would cause the machine to charge its electric shooter. By seeing the bullet that Nar had etched with the name and placed inside the invention, and guessing the weight, she predicted that the bullet would fly through the air at exactly 2894 miles per hour, directly at Jos. In precisely .00038 seconds, Jos would be dead. Jos would be dead.

Hearing Nar say "Goodbye Jos. I won't miss you," sent a shock of horror through her. Without thinking, Beece shouted in grief, "No!"

Immediately, her hand clapped over her mouth in terror. Nar whirled around. "Who's there?"

She stayed still. Silent as the grave and immobile as a rock. When there was no response, the villain screeched. "Coward! Come out and face me!"

Only replied by the crickets and owls of the night, Nar shook his head and muttered, "Only my imagination…"

She relaxed. She had time. "Right," she whispered while emptying her pockets, a plan already forming in her head. Using her improvised items—cough drops, a bobby pin, her house keys, tissue, and her phone—Beece expertly dismantled the phone and retrieved its earpiece and speaker and kept it attached to its main chip. With a bit of tinkering, she altered the frequency of the speaker, making the vibrations short, strong, and severe. The girl jabbed the plastic-rubber case into the soft ceiling and used it as a slingshot. She wet the cough drops with her mouth and stuck them to the one-third piece of material—from the tissue packet—that was tied around the bendable plastic. One of the other pieces of tissue-plastic was tied, along with the support of the bobby pins, to secure rocks to the now-extremely-sticky cough drops. The third piece of material tied the tip of the case, carrying the cough drops and rocks, to a heavy rock on the ground. Finally, her house key was positioned to be touching the connecting piece of tissue between the ground and the case.

If it all worked according to plan, the earpiece would be a sound monitor, launching as soon as the shot fired. Since the plastic was somewhat rigid but was forced to be bent, the catapulting surface shot the missiles at the bullet at a speed of approximately 3000 miles per hour! Calculating the speed of sound and subtracting that from the time it would take the bullet to travel, she figured out where the bullet would be on its travel through the air and at what time. Programming her phone to make this minuscule delay, she timed it to vibrate at the perfect time. The rocks and cough drops would fly through the air and collide with the bullet right before hitting Jos, saving his life. At least, that was the plan.

Sweat poured down her face from all the intense thinking and calculating. She used the side of her shirt to soak up the sweat on her face. The cool wind lowed the temperature of her red face as she calmed down and took a break for a second. Now, all she had to do was wait for the button to be pushed.

Sirens were heard in the distance. Beece could see Pinse raised his head and could read his face and see him hoping to view police surrounding the area; but after the sounds died down, she saw his head lower in disappointment and despair.

Expecting shots being fired, words were not was she was expecting. When Nar suddenly changed his mind and started screaming at Jos, "You're going to die now. What are you going to do? No one to help you now! Hahaha." She barely concealed a small shriek but when Nar pulled out a small stun gun, it overcame her. A small yell was heard coming from Beece's own lips. She froze, suddenly unable to move or duck down to escape his searching gaze.

On ground level, Nar stopped. That noise again…who was that? He looked toward the roofs and his eyes locked onto Beece. He revealed his canines at her in a maniac smile and said, "Look who's here to join the party. Beece Miller, back to save Jos Butees." He was now aiming at Beece, who, frightened to death, didn't move a muscle. "Come down here now, or you'll be seeing darkness once again," he said with an evil grin.

Beece started her way down, carefully, cautiously. Alarming Nar would be no help. In fact, annoying Nar would only result in her paralysis. The girl jumped onto the concrete floor and slowly made her way to stand next to Nar, hands held up in surrender.

"Trigger that trap," he said as he pointed to a harmless-looking plate on the ground.

Beece did as she was told, immediately triggering a hidden pressure spot. She was tied up against a standing pole in less than ten seconds. Her eyes flicked to the hidden slingshot. Would the signals sent by the death ray be enough to trigger it? The angle would save Jos…but she may as well be dead.

Nar said, "Too bad my master wants the girl alive, or I would be aiming at both of you. Kill two birds with one stone, eh?" He laughed once again. Ok, just maybe…she would be spared.

"Just so you know, I never liked any of you and I never will." He pushed the button. A bang. A scream.

Page Break

There were two sounds that were heard through Pinse's ears: a loud boom and an explosion. The shot he could connect, but the explosion? Where had that come from?

He opened his eyes to see debris falling from the sky. What's that stuff that's coming down? Why is Nar on the ground? How am I still thinking? Wait . . . I'm not dead. I'M NOT DEAD! He looked over to his right to see Beece smiling tiredly. The high-impact shrapnel had left a bloody gash down the side of her face, but the radiance of being alive still shone through her smile.

"My invention worked," she said, "You're still alive."

"You invented something?"

"It was simply, really. I threw together some cough drops and softened steel alloy to create a force-resistant projectile. When it intercepted the bullet, the fibers of eucalpytic chemical ignited upon meeting proper heat and friction levels, therefore combusting it midair!"

Jos looked at the girl, speechless. Was he talking to Beece Miller?

"In other words," the girl started, "My invention blocked the bullet that was going to hit you."

"So . . . do you happen to know how to make something to cut these ropes?"

A smile broke out on his face.

"I'll figure something out," Beece replied, grinning in return. Relief was eminent.

"No!" they turned to see the maniac Nar screaming, "how could this happen? I had planned and perfected this invention for years, only to have it fail on me?" He bent down and tears of a different kind started to flow like a river. Bloodied, broken, and bottom-line pathetic, Nar continued to sob hysterically. Jos couldn't help but feel a stab of pity for the boy.

Police cars were now seen surrounding the rising smoke. Strident sirens could be heard for miles around.

"Hands in the air! You're under arrest!" the policeman said, his deep, guttural voice bounced off the walls of both eateries.

Both Beece and Jos were released with the help of the police and watched as Nar was taken away in handcuffs. Hours later, he would be put on trial and days later he would be found guilty for attempted murder, kidnapping, and misuse of government technology. But the pair who stood silently by the police squad wouldn't know any of this until later. As for now, all they felt was relief, an immense weight lifted off their shoulders. After some security procedures were taken, they surveyed the crimes scene, occasionally glancing at each other, turning their stares away awkwardly when caught.

The tense silence broke when Beece spoke. "I'd better go home. My parents would want to know that their daughter's still up and breathing." She started walking away, but mid-step, she looked back at him, a hopeful smile of her face. "See you on Monday!"

As the girl ran off into the distance, Jos half-raised his hand in hesitant farewell. "See you…"

Looking at his watch, he began his own trek home, a plausible cover story already forming in his mind. Passing by the police force and CIA agents inspecting Nar's gadgets, he overheard a few overawed whispers. "…extraordinary…advanced beyond imagination…twenty years beyond Sagan and Hadden…"

The walk home was filled with questions whirling around his head, questions that seemed to have no answers. How had Nar acquired that technology? Did he really make it? Who was Nar's "master"? Why was he wanted dead? How had Beece become so smart? How many times did he talk to her—?

Two.

His feet suddenly stopped moving as the answer flew to his mind. He had risked his life and job to save her. It was probable that he liked her beyond an average crush. He had spent every waking second thinking and worrying about her well-being and he had only actually interacted with her twice.

What if it always stayed like that? Him the lone guardian for the unsuspecting heroine. What if he never got another chance to just talk to her, to get to know her? What if she was actually dead if this ever happened again?

I'll talk to her first thing Monday morning, he vowed to himself, you can't go through an adventure like that without forming some kind of bond. Maybe this is a sign, a new chance for me.

But confronting his feelings for her…that could wait for a while. Now that Nar was behind bars, his secret was safe again. Just like no one knows of his previous life as head of the CIA, no one would know about his crush on Beece Miller. No one.

Saturday

8:30 a.m. – Cave 15

The television blared, broadcasting a national miracle all over America. "Breaking news. In Missouri, a kidnapping turned into a federal offense as Nar Himme, a student at Karlive Middle School, attempted to capture and murder fellow schoolmates, Jos Butees and Beece Miller. Illegal use of stolen government technology and rumored use of decommissioned cloning machines has led to the prosecution and the possible lifetime imprisonment of Himme. His final trial will be on the twenty-fifth next week. Investigators are still looking into motives and possible connections with the supposed death of Beece Miller. There is also the mystery of Ms. Miller's living state when her father, Jones Miller, filed a case on her murder only a few days prior. Tune in for a detailed account after the break. I'm Amy—"

"No!" The TV screen vibrated as a scream, loud with rage and insanity, shot towards it. The man slammed his fists against the cold, hard rock, leaving a round dent. Years of labor had toughened and hardened them into deadly weapons.

The same man now stood up and walked to the edge of the "room". Blood-stopping red orbs now faced the heart of his lair. "It's your turn now."

New eyes opened to reveal a sweet, comforting light brown color. There seemed to be no harmful intentions by the look in his eyes, but his menacing grin said otherwise.

"Take care of the boy," the master ordered, "and you will receive reward beyond imagination."

"Master, it is my privilege."

Agent Bill walked out of the dank cave, eager to fulfill his assignment.