Clear Springs Press




The Non-Conformity Chronicles

Chapter 11 - Arrival

"Victory and defeat are a matter of Spirit more than of body. One is never defeated as long as his Spirit is not defeated or broken. When a warrior falls in battle without surrendering or giving up, his Spirit grows stronger. When a warrior survives the battle without surrendering or giving up, his Spirit grows stronger. Of course, most warriors prefer surviving." - From The Non-Conformist Training Manual

         Albert woke to the sound of the shuttle's door opening. His sleep had been sound, but it had not been long enough. He looked out into the tube terminal and was surprised to discover that it was completely deserted. It was also cold. He took out his freshly printed down parka and put it on. Not even his invisible friends were anywhere to be seen.

         As he started walking across the deserted terminal, lights sensed his presence and came on automatically. All of the furniture and facilities of a typical terminal were present and impeccably clean. There just weren't any people. For the first time since his determined escape, he was feeling very alone and somewhat frightened. Internally, he felt a great battle raging between the insecure and frightened five year old and the mature adult that he was born as.

         Just inside the terminal was an unfamiliar sight. An array of vehicles were parked in neat rows. Vehicles weren't used in his city. As he watched a vehicle entered from the street, parked itself and shut off. From the markings, it was a patrol vehicle. He stepped behind a support column so the security personnel wouldn't see him. Nothing happened. When he cautiously approached, he saw that the vehicle was empty. It had driven and parked itself. Now he was really starting to get frightened.

         He stepped out onto the empty street and looked in both directions. It was dark, empty, silent and cold. As he moved, street lights would sense his presence and turn on, but he had no idea which way to go or to where. Finally, one of his invisible friends showed up, the one he called Pete.

         "Sorry I wasn't here when you woke up, man," Pete said. "We have all been really busy, but I can assure you that you are safe and there will be people here soon to take care of you. I need for you to head down the street in this direction. I'll show you where to go."

         The walk seemed endless. His backpack felt like it weighed a ton, his legs ached and he was tired, hungry and thirsty. As he walked along the dark, empty, cold streets, streetlights would activate as he approached and turn themselves off after he passed. Finally, in the distance, he saw a building that was fully lit. As he approached, he could see that it was a hotel.

         "This is the place", Pete said. "Go inside."

         He walked inside and was relieved that it was warm. The heat and lights were on but the building was completely empty and silent. He used the bathroom and went into the delicatessen, pushed a chair up to the shelves and helped himself to a sandwich and hot chocolate. He fell soundly asleep on the floor.

         When he finally awoke, he looked around and experienced the full weight of the emptiness of this huge place. He stood up on sore and stiff but somewhat rested muscles and started moving around and exploring his surroundings. Finally Pete showed up again.

         "Sorry again . . . really . . . really busy!"

         "What are you so busy doing?" Albert asked.

         "Well . . . your departure has caused quite a stir. Your parents are being audited, your school is being audited, your teachers are being audited and the Central Accounting network is being audited because they can't find any trace of what happened to you."

         "Is anyone in trouble?" Albert asked.

         "No. Well . . . at least . . . not yet." "They don't know what happened so they don't know what to do."

         "They found me with a genetic audit. Have they found anyone else?" Albert asked.

         "No. You were unique."

         "That is not true. There is at least one other. Her name is Annie. She is a student in my class." Albert replied.

         "That can't be, I would have known!" Pete replied.

         "She hides it. Would you know me if I hid myself?" Albert asked.

         "Good question. Look, I gotta go! You stay here till our mutual friends arrive. You can check into one of the rooms. They have beds and showers. Just stay off of the terminals until someone shows you how to use them without being tracked or detected. I'm going to check on your friend," Pete said and vanished.

         Albert was alone again. Even though hiding his secret meant setting himself apart from his parents and friends, he still missed them . . . a lot.

         Albert also wondered if Annie had invisible helpers as he did and why Pete didn't know about them if she did.

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