Chapter 1: A threat of death

Ann Tapperty laid her head down on the desk she was sitting at, extremely bored. Mr. Michaels', her least favorite, and unfortunately Study Hall, teacher had put in a movie about beavers building a dam. The beavers kept running back and forth... and back... and forth. A glance around, showed that most kids were asleep, and those that were not asleep, didn't have the attention span for the movie, and instead were whispering. There were a few dedicated students around the room that were actually doing homework in Study Hall. It would be something that she'd be doing if she had any homework.

She sighed and muttered to herself. "This is no way to begin a birthday, especially my own." She was turning eighteen today, April 23. She angrily tried to refocus her attention on the movie, but it was no use. She slumped in the oak desk with writing on the top in ink, most of it slang, and tapped her fingers on the surface of it.

The room was small, compared to most others, as it was the Study Hall room. It was located on the third floor of the second building. The desks were smaller than most of the normal classroom desks as well. The walls, paneled with some kind of fake wood, smelled funny, just as the rest of the school did, and the television set had lost its color last week, so the beavers were in black and white.

"What the hell....?" A boy on the left side of her named Jeff Brown asked. He had black hair and dark brown eyes. "Oh my God!!! Did you see that?" He grabbed her arm and pointed to the roof on the other building the windows were facing.

"See what?" she asked him.

"Yeah," another girl, Lisa Elliot, said. She had light blonde hair and blue eyes.

"There was a guy and..."

This sparked Lisa's attention. "Guy? Was he hot?"

Jeff gave her a look that told her he thought she was nuts. "He jumped from the top of the shop roof!"

A boy behind him that had been talking to his friends glared at Jeff. "What the hell are you talking about? Who did what?"

"A guy.... He jumped from the roof of the shop!" Lisa said, grinning at him.

The boy, who Ann recognized as Gage Harris, started laughing. He had blonde hair, blue eyes, and was commonly referred to as Popular.

"It's true!" Jeff exclaimed defensively.

"Sure," he said sarcastically, then laughed even more.

Ann angrily pushed back brown hair that had gotten into her face. "Shut up, Gage," she said.

He gave her a glance, saying "No."

"If he says he saw a boy jump off the roof of the shop, then he did."

His eyes angrily met her hazel ones, trying to overpower her. Then he smirked, almost making her squirm. "Whatever."

Lisa jumped up to look out the window, a few others following suit. "I don't see anything," she said. "Gage was right, there's nothing there." With this, she sat down, meeting Gage's grin, and demonstrating to others that there was nothing to worry about.

Ann went back to watching the movie, but got shoved in the shoulder by Jeff.

"There he is!" he whispered excitedly. He pointed down, and Ann had to get up to see what he was talking about.

Standing on the ground and shielding his eyes was what looked like a boy. He wore a black tank with black pants. A shock of dark brown hair covered his head, and he looked a little scrawny from what Ann could see. She couldn't see his eyes for the obvious reason that he was too far down and that he was covering his eyes. Something by his pants glinted in the sun, catching her eye, but the bell rang and people started going to class.

Gage took a look at what Ann was looking at, then sneered. "Sure, Brown, that guy jumped from a two story building without hurting himself." With this phrase, he turned and walked out of the room.

Lisa ran to catch up with him.

Jeff glanced once at Ann, then walked out of the room. "You'd better hurry and get to class," he said flippantly over his shoulder.

She smirked a little. Her class was next door, and she already had her books.

The boy put down his hand and his eyes seemed to meet hers. That's silly, she thought to herself. He can't even see me. Doesn't even know I'm here, does he?

She shook her head, grabbed her books, then hurried out of the room. She turned back once to see the boy once more, but he was gone. "Coincidence, she muttered.

"Hey, Ann, I was wondering when you were going to show up," a girl with short curly blonde hair and blue eyes said.

"Hey Jaq," Ann said.

"Why are you so down? It's your birthday! You're now officially eighteen! Isn't that great?!?" Jaqlinn asked.

"I'm not allowed to have a birthday party," Ann muttered. "Mom says she wants to invite `influential people, people to influence' me. I hate being rich."

Jaq looked thoughtful. "Well, look on the bright side. At least you'll get a super cool birthday present."

"Dad's not coming home," Ann said sadly. "And he promised that this time he'd be there."

Jaq frowned. "Well, at least we'll be able to chill at school for a while before you go home. Hey, maybe you'll get a super cool sports car for your birthday. Wouldn't that be so cool?"

Ann couldn't help but smile. That was one thing that she loved about her friend. She could always brighten up her day. "So, guess what happened in study hall," she said as she walked into the Calculus room.

It was a room painted a strange light cream color. The floors were carpeted with a multicolored material that clashed. At least the desks were normal sized in this room.

"What?" Jaq asked, taking her seat, which was next to Ann's.

"Other than the fact that we watched a video on beavers that is enough to bore the socks off of anyone. I think Mr. Michaels enjoys torturing us."

"Yeah?" Jaq asked in her go on, go on, excited voice.

"A guy jumped off the shop roof."

"Say what?!?"

"It's true! I didn't actually see it, but Jeff did."

"Jeff Brown? Man, he's Mr. I'm So Serious It Hurts To Smile."

"Well, anyway, he saw a guy jump off the roof! We saw him on the ground afterwards."

"And?"

"And he was perfectly fine. Didn't have a scratch or bruise on him. No broken skin, no broken bones, not even a tear in his clothes."

"Wow...." Jaq said. "And I thought my day was interesting."

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen," the teacher said as he walked in. He was a balding man with gray hair framing his head like a halo. His eyes, which were a light brown the color of milk chocolate, were framed by glasses. His body was clothed in a meticulously ironed suit with a pinstripe tie.

And so class began.

Class ended, homework included, and they worked their way to band.

"So, the guy actually looked at you?" Jaq asked, quite interested.

"Hey guys," another girl, slightly pudgy with blonde hair and green eyes said.

"Hey Cass," they both uttered at the same time.

"That's what I said," Ann said. She nodded toward Cass, who was putting a few books in her bag.

"Oh," Jaq said, nodding.

"So," Cass said, "what are you getting for your birthday, Ann?"

Ann shrugged. "I don't know, and it's had to tell with my parents. I got a condo last year that's supposed to be next to the school I want to go to. Is that strange or what?"

Jaq laughed.

Cass just smiled. "Well, I'll see you guys at lunch, ok?"

Both girls nodded.

Cass walked away, wearing her `Devil may care' face and glaring at everyone who so much as looked at her.

"So," Jaq said as they stopped by her locker, "was this guy hot?"

Ann glared at her. "What kind of a question is that?"

"A very reasonable one," her friend answered. "I do believe that you found him to be hot!"

Ann blushed furiously. "What makes you think that?"

Jaq smiled. "You're blushing." She shut her locker door and walked with Ann to the other side of the hall.

"I am not," Ann replied, feeling her cheeks grow warmer. She threw her books in her locker and closed the door.

They walked down to the band room.

"If you say you're not...."

"I do," Ann said angrily. She bumped into somebody, but the person went by too fast for her to apologize. She shoved her hands in her pockets thoughtfully, then pulled out a crumpled piece of paper.

"What's that?" Jaq asked anxiously. "Is it a bad grade? You know I can't stand bad grades!"

"I can't either," Ann said, gently opening the paper. "The funny thing is, I never put this paper in my pocket."

"Stop goofing around," Jaq said nervously, but she peered over at it all the same.

When the paper was completely opened, it revealed a message and a small gold stone.

"Pretty," Jaq muttered, picking it up and turning it in her hand. "You've got a secret admirer!"

Ann started reading the message, then froze.

When Jaq squinted to read the scrawled writing, she paled.

Annari:

Happy eighteenth. Now, it's time for you to die. Before the day lets out, I am going to kill you.

"What is going on?" Ann asked out loud.

"Your name isn't Annari, it's Anneke, isn't it?"

Ann nodded, then glanced around hastily. Nobody was there.

"I don't want this any more," Jaq said, handing her back the stone.

It fell into Ann's hand with a plop and sent a jolt of electricity up her arm. What the heck was that thing? She pocketed it, throwing the paper away, then she and Jaq continued to the band room.

They entered the band class. People were making noise on instruments. Yes, with many instruments playing at once, especially in so big of a school, it's noise.

Ann and Jaq took their seats. Ann took out her sax, and Jaq took out her trumpet.

The band teacher yelled at the top of his lungs to get everyone's attention. He started to go through the agonizing process of role call.

When he was halfway through, the door opened and a young man with dark brown hair that was messy, but it somehow took her breath away, walked in. He was wearing a black tank and black pants. On his feet were sneakers. He did look scrawny, but the thing that shocked her the most was his eyes. They were a dark blue, almost cobalt, color, and with the light shining on them, they looked so beautiful, it did take her breath away. He was somewhat familiar. Then it hit her. He was the guy from Study Hall. She glanced at his side, where she had seen the metallic thing, but found it wasn't there.

She looked back at Jaq, and saw that she had seen him as well. "Babe alert," her friend mouthed.

Ann rolled her eyes. She looked back at him, and saw that he was looking directly at her, a gun in his hand pointed at her.

"Can I help you, young man?" the band teacher asked.

It was all the time she needed. Ann ducked and crept to the back of the room. She didn't like the way this looked. Either she was hallucinating, or the guy had a gun. Maybe he was from drama? Maybe it was a fake gun. She was probably looking to far into this. She glanced up, and heard the boy's voice. It was cold and had a hint of roughness to it, but it was soft, almost melodic. She angrily shook her head. Am I insane?!? This guy wants to kill me!

"I'm looking for Ann Tapperty."

The teacher's eyes narrowed, and Ann was far enough away from the door to see that he pushed a red button that started to flash. "I'm sorry, young man, but she's absent!"

Jaq frowned. "No she isn't," she said.

The young man smirked. This action made the heat rise to Ann's face. This just wasn't right, to feel this way about your killer, was it? Maybe he wasn't her killer. The letter was a hoax.... And pigs can fly. That flashing light was a reminder that what was happening was too real.

"Where's the girl, old man?" the boy asked. "You know why I'm here."

"I'm afraid I don't. I'm going to have to ask you to leave. You're disrupting my class."

"Mr. Ingleson, I don't believe I have made myself clear yet. You see this? This is a real gun! Do you know how many people there are in this class? If I have to, I'll kill each and every one of them until you tell me which one she is!" He glared around the room.

"But you already know which one she is, don't you?" the old teacher asked.

It seemed to Ann that he was stalling for something. Apparently, the young man realized that as well.

"What the hell are you getting at? I want her right here within ten seconds, or your life ends."

The old man's eyes widened. "Please. I have grandchildren, family. You wouldn't want to hurt them."

"I know you're an agent, Mr. Ingleson. I'm going to count to ten. Understand? Ten. If I don't get my demands, your corpse is going to be lying on the floor for all these students to gape at," he said, motioning to most of the class that was still talking.

A few people were trying to get out of the class by creeping, as Ann was.

Jaq fell to the floor beside her. "What the hell is going on?" she demanded. "This kind of stuff doesn't happen around here. That guy has a gun! It's a gun! Why would somebody come into our school with a gun?"

"We have to get out of here. He wants to kill me. It's the guy from the study hall class."

"Ok, so even if he's the hottest psychopathic killer I've ever seen, that doesn't excuse him!" Jaq whispered loudly.

They were two feet away from the only door, which was blocked by the young man, when suddenly, the door behind him swung open. His eyes narrowed fractionally.

Men wearing strange get-ups were standing before them holding automatic guns.

The boy turned and smirked at them. "What took you so long?"

"Whose side are they on?" Jaq asked.

Shots rang out through the room, scaring all the kids who were still talking. The soldiers fell to the floor.

The young man smirked. "You're time is up, Ingleson!" He pointed the gun at the old man, but more uniformed soldiers marched in. One kicked him backwards, and he went flying, and landed only a few inches away from the girls. He got up quicker than he had been knocked down and grabbed Ann by the arm. The uniformed men froze.

"Don't move! Don't move!" the young man said angrily.

People getting out of their seats to evacuate froze.

"Make any sudden moves and your `catalyst' will die!" the young man exclaimed.

Suddenly placed in a predicament they hadn't planned on, the men simply gaped at him.

"Now put down your weapons!" the young man exclaimed.

The men hesitated.

Ann felt cold metal bite into the side of her head.

"Do you want her to die? Is that what you really want?"

The men glared, and stood firm.

Frustrated, the boy pulled the trigger and shot Mr. Ingleson. A man stepped foreward, but got cut off by some kids escaping, one of which was Jaq.

"Your friend left you alone with a killer," her captor muttered into her ear. "And they say friends are so great. We are going to move to the right, and you are going to take a grenade from my pocket, or I'll blow your brains out, ok?" He paused.

She nodded vigorously.

"Good. Then, you're going to thrust it at the far wall, Annari." He paused again.

Once again, she felt herself nodding. It all seemed so surreal to her. It felt as if she was dreaming, maybe even sleepwalking. She almost expected to wake up at any moment.

"What did you tell her?" one of the men demanded.

"Never mind that, we'll find out soon enough," a man said, walking into the room.

Ann felt herself gasp.

Her father walked to the front of the men. "Hello, sweetheart. I came home in time for your birthday."

Her father was a man, muscular, with black hair and brown eyes. He was wearing a business suit, as well as a smug smile.

"So, the doctor's puppet is going to kill my daughter?"

"Why don't you tell her the truth, Mr. Tapperty, if that's even your name."

Ann's eyes widened as she looked at her father. What was going on? Is this boy telling me the truth? Daddy, please deny it! You have to be my real father. Save me from this psycho!

"Of course it's my real name. Now, hand me the catalyst, boy."

"If I kill her now, you won't use her for your own evil purposes."

"It's for the good of the USA. You'd never understand, boy."

"If I don't kill her now, you'll end up killing her, you know. Her body's only strong enough to summon, not control, at the moment."

What the hell are they talking about? Ann wondered.

Tapperty smirked. "That's all we need is for her to summon it, then hand the power over to us. As long as we can make her live, even in a coma, it'll obey our every command."

"What will?" Ann asked, even as she saw the last handful of people run out of the room.

Tapperty smiled at her, not answering her question.

"Daddy?"

"He's not your father," the boy said. "He never was."

"No!" Ann yelled, even as she knew he was right. She just had to hear him say it. "Daddy, he's lying! Please tell me he's lying!"

The man who she had known as `father' until today, smiled at her coldly. "He's lying."

The way he said it made it ring home. It made it perfectly clear that he was not what she had thought he was. And she cried for it. She cried for the lost feeling of love and safety, the lost feeling of trust between them.

"Stop it," she heard the boy say in her ear.

She was too caught up in her emotions to obey.

"Let's say we put an end to all this now, boy. We know you can't kill her," Tapperty said.

Ann stopped crying and looked at her captor, even as he still had the cold pistol pointed at her head.

His mouth was a thin line, whitening at the ends, and he looked like he was about to explode, when he grinned.

It was then that she knew that her father was wrong. He would kill her. It was probably what he had been born to do, to see her go limp in his arms, even as he knew he was going to be damned. It was a suicide mission.

"Really?" he asked. He took the gun away, and shot one of the men, a centimeter from Tapperty. "And why would you think that?"

Then she saw it, the crazy glint in his eye that she had somehow missed from before. He pointed the gun back at her. "Don't tell me anything that you don't know."

Tapperty looked at a loss of words. A bullet had gone zinging by his head. This boy was good, and he was ruthless. But why hadn't he killed her yet? "Perhaps you know that she is too valuable to be destroyed. Imagine the power she will yield at anyone's control-"

"But her own," the boy said angrily.

The gun slammed into her head again, and his grip tightened on her.

"I won't let that happen to an innocent person. Too many innocent people get caught in the greed of others and suffer a fate worse than death!"

"Now we're talking about justice? What about those men you killed?" Tapperty demanded.

"Don't you dare try to justify your cause!"

It was then that she heard the click near her head. He was going to go through with it.

She closed her eyes in anticipation. A gunfire sounded, and her captor's body slumped foreward a little with a mutter of "damn!" She looked behind her to see Jeff Brown holding one of the automatics that a dead man had had. He looked frightened, but immediately got patted on the back by Tapperty.

"Good work," the man said.

Clutching his side, which was dripping with blood, the boy angrily pushed her down, and pointed the gun at her. "Now, you're going to die!"

Another shot rang out, this time from Tapperty.

The young man slumped foreward a little more, and blood splattered on her clothes.

"No!" she cried. "Stop!"

Tapperty glared at her. "He was going to kill you!"

The words `a fate worse than death' ran through her head, and she reached into the young man's pocket and pulled out the grenade. She saw his look of surprised wonder.

"Anneke! Stop! What do you think you are doing?!? That boy, he's going to kill you, you know. You know that, don't you?" Tapperty yelled.

Putting an arm around his body for support, Ann started walking toward the wall.

Several men raised their guns, but Tapperty warded them off. "Fools! You could miss him and kill her!"

The young man was breathing heavily on her shoulder, sweat creeping on his brow. He took the grenade from her, pushed her away a little, and took the pin out with his teeth. Then, he threw it at the wall, where it exploded upon impact.

"Ann!" Tapperty yelled. "What the hell are you doing? He will kill you, as soon as he gets the chance! That boy is a bionetic!"

Bionetic? What's that?

But Ann didn't have time to ask, because he was already yanking her arm and pulling her through the gaping hole. The last thing she heard her father yell was, "You idiot! You blinking idiot! Morons! Go after them!"

The young man quickened his pace and led her to the parking lot.

A fire drill sounded, and people came out, but that didn't stop the two from fleeing.

A shiny black Lamborghini was parked to the side, and he led her to it. "You know how to drive, right?" he asked her.

Ann nodded, dully aware of all the eyes locked on both her and her captor.

He tossed her a set of keys. "Then do it!"