Welcome to The Traveling Story!
What is the Traveling Story?
5 Authors. 5 Days. 1 Story.
Each season of The Traveling Story will feature 5 well-known authors collaborating on one original, kick-ass story, with each author writing one of five episodes.
Follow the story as it’s revealed on each author’s blog over the course of a week!
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1) No brainstorming, outlining, or discussion of plot ahead of time. The first author writes the first episode of ANY kind of story they want and the next author takes the story WHEREVER they want to go! The last author ends the story however they see fit!
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You should’ve read episode one already. If you haven’t, click here. Everyone with me now? Excellent. Now let’s proceed to my contribution.
by Ann Aguirre
I wished I didn’t sympathize with him. Logan had to be scared as hell, but his expression said he wouldn’t give up. He was already measuring the distance from here to the nearest exit. I shook my head.
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way. In either case, you’re coming with me.”
In answer he tried to spring past me, but I grabbed his wrist and hit him with a hypodermic. It wasn’t enough to knock him out, but in a few seconds, he’d be feeling quite agreeable. He shook his head once, twice, and then he didn’t struggle when I slung his arm across my shoulder. A quick glance around the platform told me that the exchange had gone unnoticed amid people rushing to make the train.
Hauling Logan wasn’t easy, but I was stronger than I looked. Once on board, I nudged him into a seat next to mine and rummaged in his pocket for his ticket. I set my backpack between my knees, aware that things could get dicey. Transit jobs were never easy, and when the quarry knew you were hunting him, things became even more complicated.
I turned to him, as the serum sometimes made a subject chatty as well as cooperative. “Who warned you we were coming? Has the underground tapped into government feeds?”
“Mmm… you’re pretty.”
I wasn’t, really, but I’d heard it before, mostly from guys I’d drugged. That said volumes on my social life. Playing the invisible, nondescript girl was my specialty, and I had been working that angle for over a year. Sometimes I missed short skirts, kick-ass boots, and tight jeans, but that style drew more attention than I could afford in my line of work.
He dozed most of the way to Philly, leaving me free to read. I kept half an eye on him, in case he was faking, but he must’ve been dead tired, because the tranq didn’t usually last so long. We were half an hour from our destination when he roused, and his green eyes widened when he realized his situation. Casually, I propped my boots on the seat in front of me, keeping him in check.
“Why didn’t you just kill me there?” he demanded.
“Those aren’t my orders.”
“But that’s what will happen to me, once you turn me over.”
I shrugged. “Once I handle my part, it’s not for me to worry about.”
“You’re a mindless drone, huh? Do exactly what you’re told. Have you thought at all about what they do to us?”
“You’re aberrant,” I said patiently. “Like a mental patient who’s too sick to realize he needs treatment.”
His mouth twisted bitterly. “I thought you might be different, but you’ve sucked down their propaganda, just like everyone else. Have you ever had a thought that wasn’t spoon fed to you?”
“Nobody made me take this job. I volunteered. I saw the pictures. I saw what you did to your family home.”
“I didn’t mean to,” he said desperately. “And I didn’t hurt anyone.”
“This time. What happens next time you lose control?”
In fact, I’d been lucky he didn’t flare at me in the train station, though I was prepared for such emergencies. I had extensive training in handling the aberrant, as well as how to protect the civilian populace. Not a surprise, since my mother had been training me since I was six years old. My mom was old school army; she served in the last war, before the aberrants popped. There were mixed reports on what caused it, but reputable scientists suspected it was a nerve agent used in the last middle eastern conflict. Soldiers who were exposed had all kinds of health problems, and their offspring? Aberrant.
“If I was a bad person, I’d take you and this whole train with me.”
In five seconds, I had another needle in my hand. “That sounded like a threat. Don’t make me dose you again.”
“You really think I’m your enemy, don’t you?” His shoulders slumped and he leaned his head against the seat in front of him.
Too tense to relax, I studied the slope of his back until we pulled into the train station in Philadelphia. I’d brought in almost fifty aberrants and until now, I’d felt good about my capture rate. But something about the broken loneliness of Logan’s posture plucked my guilt strings. I wanted to tell him it would be all right, but the truth was, I had no idea what kind of treatment programs were available for his kind. I only knew they couldn’t roam unchecked around defenseless civilians.
“They take us to internment camps, Francesca. Not hospitals.”
I was startled into stillness as the train stopped. My mother was a decorated war hero; she had a chest full of medals, and she always acted for the good of the country. She would never be involved in something like that, rounding people up and–no, I didn’t believe him. Anger boiled up.
“You’d say anything to get me to cut you loose. Get up. Don’t make me call the MPs.” Since the country went to martial law, the army shared policing responsibilities with the marines, but whenever they executed a public retrieval, it ended up all over the news, weapons were drawn, and sometimes it escalated quickly to aberrant DEFCON three.
“What if I have proof? What would you do then?”
“What kind?” God, this guy was driving me nuts. I had a childish urge to put my fingers in my ears to drown him out, but something about his earnest intensity made it impossible for me to ignore him.
“Come with me to a locker inside the station. If you don’t find what I have to show you compelling, then I won’t resist.”
It sounded like bullshit and probably a trap, but… maybe I owed him something for tricking him, pretending to be his ally before. I firsthand knew how much it sucked to have someone extend a hand and then yank it away at the last minute. My mom would clean my clock if she found out about this deviation from protocol; for inexplicable reasons, I nodded.
“I’ve got the hypo ready, if you try anything.” With that, I stood up and led the way off the train. The conductor was telling us this was the end of the line, all passengers must disembark, and I shivered a little as the cold wind tore through my jacket. Famous last words.
But when Logan led me toward the exit, I stopped. “Where are you going?”
“I lied. There are no lockers in the train station. The evidence is a little farther afield, but you promised to look at it.”
That should’ve been enough. I should’ve just dosed him again and towed him to the pickup location pre-arranged with my mother. How she’d known he had a ticket for Philly, I hadn’t asked when she sent me in, but he wasn’t wrong in his panic that Big Brother would find him via security cameras. He clearly didn’t understand how the system worked, however, if he thought Homeland Security needed to hack the feeds. They were the only protect we had from the aberrants, and we needed their intervention.
“If you start to go nova on me, I will put you down,” I warned.
“Not the first time I’ve heard that,” he said.
Uneasy truce established, I followed him out of the train station and let him lead me through the damp city streets. It was cold enough to spatter us with snow, dirty swirls that melted into puddles underfoot. I kept a sharp eye on Logan’s movements; the second he tried to run, I’d shoot him. Tranqs, obviously, as I hadn’t been in the field long enough to merit a firearm. My mom said if I kept up with excellent performance, I’d earn my first gun and a promotion.
The warehouse was enough to raise all my hackles. Broken windows showed shard of glass like monstrous fangs, and there were actual homeless people standing around a burning barrel. I hadn’t known there were any left in the cities; Mom had told me that the government had relocated them, helped them find jobs, and restart their lives.
“You brave enough to learn the truth?” Logan asked.
“Let’s get this over with.”
“Sure thing, soldier girl.” He yanked open the door.
In following, I expected to be immediately surrounded by his cohorts. That didn’t happen, but I left my finger on the panic button on my phone just in case. Already I had so much explaining to do that I’d be lucky if my mom didn’t bust me down to zero rank. Obedience was everything to Homeland Security, and I was a good cadet.
The office at the back of the storage area still looked reasonably functional, and the lights came on when he hit the switch. This had clearly been turned into an ops center with pictures, maps and things circled in red, but it was deserted at the moment apart from Logan and me. I circled, studying things curiously, but I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. A dark, awful feeling percolated in my stomach.
He put a picture in my hand, and my vision sparked out, dotting white and black. My ears rang, and I didn’t realize I was crying, until I put my fingers to my face. “That’s impossible. He’s dead, he died three years ago.”
“Look harder, Francesca.”
No, my mother was driving… the roads were slick. He wasn’t aberrant.
Yet unable to refute the evidence, I traced the letters that read DEWITT DETAINMENT. It was a grainy picture, taken covertly, and showed a boy clad in rags, thin to the point of starvation with a number stamped on his forehead, peering out through barbed wire.
And he was my brother.
Find out what happens in episode 3! Episode 3 – October 16 – Victoria Scott
FOLLOW THE STORY AS IT TRAVELS:
Episode 1 – October 14 – Claudia Gray
Episode 2 – October 15 – Ann Aguirre
Episode 3 – October 16 – Victoria Scott
Episode 4 – October 17 – Morgan Matson
Episode 5 – October 18 – Jessica Brody
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