Kiah’s Soul-Shifting Journey 2: The Tech War
While I continue to search for my dad, the New Freedom Force trains for the impending war with Overseer Dunner and his evil son, Marcus. The hatred I hold in my heart for Marcus is holding me back—he knows every move I make—he is playing me. Willow, Overseer Dunner’s Tech City is impenetrable. The only way in is to play Marcus’s game—and risk losing Ryker’s love. My heart breaks at the thought, however I can’t stop now—the quadrant people are depending on me. The war rages on as I discover Marcus’s well–kept secret and Willow’s secret weapons.
It was written by a great leader and has been passed down through the ages: A beautiful young leader will emerge and lead an army of her peers to bring peace and unite the Quarters.
Some believe that I am that young leader; however, I am not convinced. I believe that we are all leaders who have come together to build a force to fight against the oppression of the people. We are the New Freedom Force. Our fight will not end until every quadrant citizen is released from the terror and poverty inflicted by the leaders of the four Cities of Technology.
Six months ago, we took down Grove, the Southern Quadrant’s City of Technology. Actually, we liberated Grove in the same way we had liberated Bell Town almost a year ago. As it turned out, the citizens of Grove were prisoners of Overseer Meyers much like the quadrant citizens were. The seeker-beams on top of the eight-foot walls surrounding Grove kept the quadrant citizens out, but they also kept the Grove citizens in. The Grove citizens lived an easier life than the quadrant citizens; yet, they were far from free.
On the night that we liberated the city, the night of the comet as I call it, the Grove citizens welcomed us with open arms. It would have been a great night . . . except . . . once it was all over, and the crowds in the street dispersed, Overseer Dunner sent a video message to me from his Eastern Quadrant Headquarters. “Time is running out,” he warned. Then with the help of his evil son Marcus, they held my dad’s badly beaten body in front of the camera. Dad looked closer to death than to life.
I call that night “the night of the comet” because as we were walking to Overseer Meyers’s Mansion, a huge ball of fire streaked through the sky. It had to be a comet. . . .
Overseer Dunner stares at me with his cold dark eyes. “So, what’s it going to be?” he says, while holding a gun to Ryker’s head. I have my own pistol aimed at the Overseer’s head. “If you shoot me, you’ll never find your father. I can also guarantee that I will get one last shot in, and your boyfriend will be dead, too.”
“Kiah,” Ryker says, “he’s going to shoot us anyway. Do not put your gun down!”
Without breaking eye contact, I relax my hand and lay the gun on Overseer Dunner’s desk. As he laughs loudly and relaxes his gun hand, I drop the dagger from my shirtsleeve and aim straight at his heart. While falling backward, he aims his gun toward Ryker again. In one quick movement, I grab the gun from the desk and shoot the overseer between his eyes. I untie Ryker from the chair and I cry.
“We’ll find him,” Ryker says as he holds me in his arms.
I focus and pop back into my body. I cling to Ryker. He holds me in his arms, smoothing my hair away from my face. “Any change?” he asks.
“No.” I wipe the tears from my eyes. “I killed him again. This time—with my dagger, but still no clue where he has Dad hidden.”
I have been soul-shifting almost everyday for the last six months, trying to find the location of my dad. Each time I soul-shift, to see where my dad is imprisoned, I find the overseer holding Ryker at gunpoint. Overseer Dunner always tells me that if I kill him, not only will I never find my dad, but also Ryker will die. No matter how many times I change the events of the scenario, the ending is always the same. I kill Overseer Dunner and save Ryker, but I never find any clues as to where he is holding my dad.
“We’ll find him,” Ryker says. “He must have told someone. He must have some sort of record of where he is keeping him.”
“Ryker, I followed him for almost three days. I’ve watched him at his computer. He knows when I’m there. That’s why he’s not giving any information. He knows when I’m watching him.”
“Kiah, that doesn’t make sense. How could he possibly know?”
“Why is it so hard for you to believe? You always know when I’m close. When I’m soul-shifting, you always know when I kiss you or tell you goodbye. How do you know?”
Ryker lays back on the pillow and stares at the ceiling. “I don’t know. I think it’s because I love you. I can feel your presence, but the overseer doesn’t have those kind of feelings for you.”
“Ryker, you know when I’m there because your love for me is so strong that it has no boundaries. Overseer Dunner’s hatred for me is as strong as your love is for me—his hatred has no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if I’m in this world or my soul-shifting world, his hatred connects his soul to mine. I think I could be dead and his hatred would haunt me.”
Ryker turns toward me and rests his head on his hand. “Kiah, this is wearing you out. You need to take a break. We’ll find your dad. I promise, we won’t give up, but you can’t keep leaving for two and sometimes almost three days at a time. Do you know how many times you’ve almost not made it back in time? Sometimes I think you forget that if your soul doesn’t rejoin your body in three days, you’ll die.”
I touch his face and try to smooth his worry lines away. When I look deep into his crystal-blue eyes, I melt into his arms. I feel bad because, the truth of the matter is, it is Ryker who is getting worn out. Whenever I soul-shift, my body is sleeping so that when I pop back into my body, I am rested. Ryker, on the other hand, stays awake the whole time I am gone. I have urged him to sleep and go about his daily routine while I am gone, but he will not. He stands guard over my sleeping body like I am a sleeping princess about to be eaten by dragons or something.
“I promise, I will take a week off. I won’t do any soul-shifting for at least a week,” I say. He smiles and pulls me closer to him. I wrap my arms around his neck. As our mouths meet, his hand slides up my spine under my shirt and electricity surges through my body.
“Ryker, we need—oh, sorry!” Max says after barging in, unannounced. Ryker groans and pulls himself away from me. “Sorry,” Max says again, snorting an embarrassed laugh. “I thought Kiah would be doing that thing she does.” He snorts again.
“That thing is called soul-shifting,” I say, pulling my shirt the rest of the way down.
“What do ya want, Max?” Ryker asks grumpily.
“Huh? Oh, yeah—oh!” He snorts another obnoxious laugh. “Yeah, I almost forgot. Sam said to tell you that the team is ready.”
“Tell him I’ll be right there,” Ryker says.
Ryker and I stare at Max who is still standing in the doorway. “You can leave now, Max,” I say.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. I’ll go tell him.” He closes the door and I roll my eyes.
Ryker laughs and lies back down beside me. He cups my face in his hands and kisses me. “I love you,” he whispers.
I smile. “I know.”
“I gotta go,” he says as he rolls off of the bed.
“Why does Sam have a team ready?” I ask as I pull on my boots.
“We’re going to drive south and visit some of the towns along the border. There are more troopers coming to our side everyday. Sam and I are going to talk to them to see if they know where the overseer is keeping your dad.”
“I hardly think that the overseer would confide in any of the troopers,” I say.
“Probably not, but they might have heard something.”
I look at him and wonder how I ever got lucky enough to have someone like Ryker love me. “You’ll be back early. Right?”
He smiles and pulls me into his arms. “Of course—I think we have some unfinished business,” he says.
We walk out of our room in the Overseer’s Mansion. After helping us overthrow her father, Sheria and her mother insisted that we stay at the Overseer’s Mansion while we are in Grove. Sheria and her friends have been going through Overseer Meyers’s computer since the day we liberated Grove. Braden has been trying to hack into the Eastern Quadrant’s main computer to get information on where Overseer Dunner is holding my dad. Apparently, Overseer Dunner has as much protection on his computer as he does around the whole stinking city. There has not been much progress in six months.
Ryker gives me another kiss and walks toward the training center. I walk in the opposite direction toward the New Freedom Force Headquarters. We renamed the Southern Quadrant War Headquarters to the New Freedom Force Headquarters.
I walk into the building. It looks like it did when I first entered the building with my mother. That seems like centuries ago. My mom had guided me here, back when I still knew soul-shifting as butterfly-dreaming. Mom still guides me, but she isn’t always with me when I soul-shift. When Overseer Dunner captured Dad, Mom made it her mission to find him. She reports back to me, but like me, she is mystified by my dad’s disappearance.
I walk down the hall toward Sheria’s office. “Hi, Kiah.” I turn and look at a girl in one of the cubicles.
I smile. “Hi, Lindy. How’s it going? Is Sheria in?”
Lindy is chewing a big wad of bubblegum and filing her long, polished nails. Lindy rolls her eyes and blows a big bubble. “Yes, her highness is in. She said to send you back when you come in.”
I giggle. “Rough day, Lindy?”
“I swear! That girl is more of a slave driver than her daddy was,” Lindy says.
I giggle and continue down the hall. Sheria’s first order of business, after taking over her father’s office, was to fire Vera, her father’s secretary. Vera had been extremely rude to all of the quadrant citizens. Sheria kept Lindy on, saying that every office needed a bubblegum-chewing blonde. “It gives the place character,” she had said. I didn’t really understand what she had meant by that, but then again, Sheria says a lot of things that I don’t understand.
I open the door of Sheria’s office. The office is filled with computers and technical things that I don’t even pretend to know anything about. There are about thirty people sitting in front of computer screens. Most of the people are friends of Sheria. They all grew up in Grove and this technology was a normal way of life for them.
“Kiah,” Sheria squeals, “like, where have you been? I haven’t seen you in like forever.”
“I’ve been busy,” I say. “What’s been happening here? Anything new on where Overseer Dunner is holding my dad?”
Sheria gives me a sad look. “No. I’m sorry,” she says. “Braden has gotten into his computer, but that man has so many secret files. I don’t know what kind of protection he’s using on his computer, but it’s more advanced than anything we’ve ever seen. The video we have of the city has picked up a few interesting things, but . . .”
She pauses, and I look at her. “What?”
“Well, we all feel like he is letting us see what he wants us to see on the video. It’s like he’s playing a game with us. We’ll make progress or see something, and then, a new code will be placed on his system or the camera will shut down. Then, we have to start all over. He’s always one step ahead of us. It’s like he leads us, then blocks us just before we can learn anything of value.”
“Has he hacked our computers? You know, like you hacked his?”
“No! It’s not like that. It’s more like he is right here in the room with us.”
“That’s weird,” I say. I look around the room. Nothing looks out of the ordinary, but I feel like Mark Dunner is laughing at us. “Have you gotten anything on the other two quadrants?”
Sheria shakes her head. “The Western Quadrant’s system is similar to the Eastern Quadrant’s. The Northern Quadrant’s system is totally impenetrable so far. I don’t know what kind of secrets they’re keeping, but their system is like nothing we’ve ever seen.” Sheria looks at me. “I’m sorry we don’t have better news.”
I give her a hug. “It’s okay. I know you’re doing all you can.”
After leaving Sheria’s office, I walk toward the training center. I know Sally is probably there. She spends much of her time training new recruits. As I open the door of the training center, I notice more activity than usual. I see Sally talking to Andrew. I smile when I see Andrew walking on his new leg with hardly a limp. The citizens of Grove insisted on giving our New Freedom Force fighters the best possible medical attention. Andrew’s knee had been shot up pretty badly in one of our battles with the Southern Quadrant troops. The doctors at the Grove hospital replaced his knee soon after we liberated Grove. He is still recovering from surgery, but he is using his leg without crutches, and he will soon be as good as new.
“Sally, what’s going on?” I ask as I approach her and Andrew.
“Oh, Kiah, I was just about to send someone to get you. Sam radioed in and—” Sally starts to say.
“Sally, what is it? Are they okay?”
“Oh, yeah. Sam and Ryker are okay. The team is fine too. It’s just . . . his radio was breaking up, so I’m not sure I understood him right . . . I think he said the towns are gone.”
“What?” I ask. “What does that mean? Where did they go? That doesn’t make sense.”
“I know. That’s why I’m not sure if I heard him right. He said to have all teams on alert and to have all of the ambulances here when they get back.”
We are all on edge about what could possibly be going on. After pacing the floor for at least two torturous hours, I hear someone yell that they are back. Sally and I run out of the building to the truck entrance. I see Sam get out of the truck on the driver’s side. When Ryker opens the passenger side door and steps out, I suck in a sharp breath. His shirt is covered in blood. “Ryker!” I scream as I run to him.
He is confused at first by the panic he sees on my face. When he realizes he is covered in blood, he holds his hands up. “It’s not my blood,” he says. “I’m okay. I’m not hurt.”
Relief washes over me. “What happened?”
“We need to have a meeting. Get everyone together while we get these people to the hospital.”
Max and the rest of the team are unloading several people from the back of the truck. I am in shock as I watch. There are women, children, and infants in the back of the trucks. They are all covered in blood. Some of them have gaping wounds. A woman whose arm is wrapped in a bloody towel holds an infant in her other arm. The baby is bluish and shows no signs of life. Max helps the woman off of the truck. As Max helps her to the ambulance, she jerks her arm out of Max’s grip and angrily bolts toward me. “You did this. You’re ‘The One,’” she hisses. “You’re the one who sent that madman into a rage. He won’t be happy until we’re all dead, just to get even with you.” Then, she spits at my feet and storms away.
I look at Ryker, and turn to walk away.
“Kiah!” Ryker says.
“I’ll get the meeting ready,” I say and continue toward the building.