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Rated: 13+ · Book · Action/Adventure · #2043608
Never underestimate the courage of a child.
1890


The Young Misery was a well feared pirate ship, so well feared, it was hardly mentioned in any record of the time. She was also a slave ship. Her captain and crew were far worse than the usual slave traders of the time, they hunted and sold children. They did not care what color, creed, or race these children were, as long as they could work. If there were any number of young boys or girls on board a vessel they were attacking and looting, these pirates would take them aboard in chains to be sold with the rest of the ill gotten merchandise. They would then sink the ship. Those few who survived to tell the tale of their encounter with these pirates all spoke of an odd white hot light that would slice through their main mast like a knife through butter and literally cut their ship in two. These tales were, of course dismissed as madness but because of the fact that they stole children these pirates and their captain, Hannibal “the butcher” Grim, became the most hated and feared in all the seven seas.

It was rumored that these pirates sold the children to certain shady individuals in the Far East. The boys were to be used as cheap laborers and the girls to be used as objects of personal pleasure. The pirates were even rumored to keep a number of these children for their own purposes and pleasure. Many attempts were made to hunt these notorious villains down, none were successful. But on August 25, 1890, the hated pirate ship mysteriously vanished; she was never seen or heard of again. Some say the pirates were killed during a raid and those who had sunk them died in the process. Others say they were taken and killed by the shady individuals in the Far East they had done business with. But the truth was far, far more disturbing....

The Young Misery silently sailed towards its hidden harbor on a large island deep inside the Louisiana bayou. Her captain was in his quarters and did not see or suspect what was waiting for him. His crew on deck, however, noticed something was amiss but they too did not suspect the horror that awaited them. On the far end of the harbor, a small child dressed in rags spotted them approaching through a telescope and lit one lantern resting beside her on her high tree perch. On the dock, at the inner most end of the harbor, a boy near the age of fifteen, saw the lantern come to life through a telescope of his own. “They are coming.”

A smaller boy stepped up. “How many lanterns are lit, Stone?”

Paul Stone, the leader of the slave children, lowered his telescope. “There is only one for now, Matthews.” He sighed. “But the ship is still a good distance out.”

The slave children were all captured and taken to the island by the pirates from a number of different raids to serve their own purposes and pleasure. Paul was once forced to act as one of the crew. His sister’s fate was used to keep him in line. That all changed when he found that the captain had used his sister as an object of pleasure. He revolted, freeing over a dozen recently kidnapped children who would have otherwise have become more of their tortured slaves. Unfortunately, both he and his sister were captured and, as punishment, were sent to the pirate’s island hideout to be slowly, painfully, worked to death. After a long and trying year and six months, he, his sister, and all of the other slaves were ready to exact their revenge upon the hated pirates.

“Can we really pull this off, Paul?” asked a small girl.

“It’s the only chance we have, sis.” replied Paul. “If we fail here, Tina, we all die.”

Todd Matthew’s, the scavenger of the group, swallowed hard. “Do you think Brave will be okay out there?”

Stone swallowed a hard lump of his own. “Amanda knew the risks when she asked to be the look out.”

Amanda Brave carefully peered through the telescope again as the pirate ship came closer and cursed under her breath as she spotted a small number of children in chains standing on the main deck. Knowing what was a stake, she lit the second lantern, praying the pirates would not see it, and climbed down from her high perch to aid the others. On the dock, Paul looked through his telescope and cursed as well as he watched the second lantern come to life. But, as he lowered his telescope, he knew that there was no time for anger or sorrow. The pirates had to be stopped, at any cost.

“There are two lanterns lit! You know what we must do!”

Todd scowled. “They stole more kids and they are bringing them here! The dogs! They just won’t quit!”

“They brought more kids with them!?!” asked a small girl, frightened. “I thought they were just sailing out to the Far East for supplies!”

Paul placed a firm, reassuring hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Grace. We have a plan to rescue the children but we must first deal with the pirates. Just as we had dealt with the men they left behind to guard us.”

He pointed to a large pile of empty wine bottles and drained kegs of beer they had used to get the twelve pirates drunk so they could easily set them adrift. “We can not let those monsters get away with doing this ever again.”

Grace Powers, the youngest of the group, only eleven years old, had suffered the most out of any of the other children, she was the captain’s favorite and now she feared that she was heavy with child. She bowed her head, gently rubbing her slightly rounded stomach, then suddenly looked up at Paul with tears of determination forming in her eyes. “Let’s give it to them then.” she said.

“We are ready, Stone!” called a young but muscular boy, carrying a torch in his hand.

“We are only going to set off the first powder keg, Eve!” called Paul. “There are two lanterns lit and you know what that means!”

Don Eve, the strongest of the slaves, nodded and stood firm in front of a fuse which led under the ground to a power keg they had secured to the ceiling of a huge, cavern sized sink hole beneath the swampy floor of the pirate’s boxed in dock.

The slave children had discovered it and one other less than four hundred yards inland, beneath the large marsh island, shortly after the pirates left for the Far East. The two apparently ancient sink holes were connected by a narrow channel, just wide enough for a child to run or swim through, depending on the tide. There was a large, deep hole near the center of the floor of the sink hole found inland. It was both this hole and the connecting tunnel which allowed the high tide from the ocean to flood the two sink holes. That was which had inspired their revenge.

They had talked the twelve, already half drunk, pirates to allow five of the children to drink with them. The five children, who possessed an unusually high tolerance to alcohol, challenged the drunk pirates to a drinking contest and soon managed to cause all twelve of them to pass out from over drinking. Once the pirates were all sound asleep, due to the alcohol, the slave children securely tied the pirates’ arms and legs then dragged them to the dock where they piled them all into a large rowing boat. Their cruel captors had used the boat chase down and capture any slave who would dare try to escape them. The children removed the oars and set the large boat adrift in a current they knew would take the twelve drunk pirates out into the open ocean. That was six months ago. None of the children took any pleasure in sending twelve men to an almost certain death, but the pirates had to be stopped once and for all so no one else would have to suffer what they and a great many others had so long endured.

Once their captors were gone, the children then carried on with their last, desperate plan. They shored up the two sink holes as best as they could so they would not collapse before their revenge was complete then placed one full keg of gun powder in each of the two sink holes. Finally, the children painfully dug out a long, almost random, twisting maze of tunnels which were just big enough for a child to run or swim through. This maze branched out from a main tunnel, which fed tide water to the two sink holes and doubled back to the sink hole inland so they would all flood with the high tide. The children built the maze to hide the ruby crystals the hated pirates had used in their cannons after they were dealt with so they would never again be used to hurt people again. This was all a part of their plan for revenge, not just for them, but for all who had suffered at the pirate’s hands.

The plan was simple, the first powder keg, secured to the ceiling of the sink hole beneath the dock, would blow away the floor of the small harbor, sending the pirate ship crashing down to the jagged floor of the ancient sink hole. Inside the sink hole further inland, a second power keg, secured to the high ceiling by a rope and pulley, would be lowered into the deep hole in its floor with the fuse lit. The explosion would completely collapse the hole, forcing all of the high tide water to flow through the connecting tunnel into the sink hole beneath the dock. Finally, the slave children would completely seal the hole in the harbor floor using fallen trees and large rocks, blocking any means of escape. Come the high tide, the sink hole would quickly flood entirely, eventually drowning all of the pirates.

Once all of the pirates were dead, the children would hide the laser crystals inside their make shift maze and finish the digging so they too would flood with the high tide.

“Do not light the fuse until I say, Eve!” ordered Stone.

“You just point at me and I will light it!” said Don.

“The rest of you know what to do!” called Stone.

“Remember, they have showed us no mercy, so we shall serve them nothing less than the same!”
Two long wooden piers stretched out from the dock at a forty five degree angle to over one hundred yards into the harbor. On them, spaced out by about fifty feet, were ordinary, iron loaded cannons, placed there to give the ship cover in case the captain and crew needed to leave the harbor in a hurry. The Young Misery pulled in between the two piers and slowly sailed towards the dock. As the wind pushed it along, the crew on deck spotted a number of the slave children on the piers, each standing dead fast by one of the cannons, only the guns were pointed inward. As they passed, the children crossed their arms, glaring at them with a certain coldness that made them nervous. But the children had been placed on guard duty before, so they soon dismissed it.

“What are you looking at, stupid?” asked one of the pirates to the children.

The child responded by giving the pirate a sort of evil grin which forced the man to take a step back.
“There’s something amiss here, mate.” he said to another. “I don’t like it.”

“Oh, get off it!” laughed the other pirate. “They’re kids! What could they possibly cook up in their tiny minds?”

Seeing the ship approach, Paul pointed at Don and he lit the fuse. The thick, black string burned quickly and brightly, the flame following the string through the small hole dug into the ground towards the powder keg. As the pirate ship lightly bumped with the edge of the dock, Paul pointed at four other children who madly turned two wheels, causing two huge, heavy, steel gates to slowly swing closed behind the Young Misery. Both the pirate crew and their child captors jumped, startled, as the locks of the gates slammed into place with a loud, hollow clang. Immediately upon hearing it, four more children feverishly worked a number of manual pumps, quickly leaving the Young Misery resting perfectly in a massive metal frame which held the ship above the muddy floor of the dock, placed there so any needed repairs below the water level could be made to the ship. The pirates, sensing a revolt from the slaves made a dash for the cannons but froze dead in their tracks upon seeing a child behind one of five crystal cannons resting on the dock.

“Don’t even think about it!” challenged Paul. “All of our lanterns are lit and we are ready to use your own hot light cannons against you at anytime. Your lanterns are not.”

“What the devil is going on out here!?!” demanded the captain, emerging from his cabin. “Can’t you bloody swabs properly steer a ship into...”

The words died in his throat as he spotted a number of the slave kids standing firm on the dock with his own hot light cannons pointed at the ship.

“So, this is a revolt, is it?” he asked, staring at the children angrily. “Do you youngsters think you are going to take the ship?” He sneered. “You will have to kill us all to do that and, with these kids standing in the way, I do not think you will dare.”

Paul shook his head. “This is not a revolt, Grim.” he said, coldly. “This... is... revenge.”

It was at that moment the flame finally reached the powder keg, causing it to explode. The swampy floor beneath the pirate ship, which was barely strong enough to support her weight, gave way and the Young Misery fell into the depths of the cavern like sink hole. Grace cringed, holding back the tears, hearing the screams of the children on the deck as the ship fell but she managed stand firm.

Wooden planks flew out from the ship as the bottom of the hull literally exploded upon impact, throwing a number of pirates off of the high deck. The children, shackled to the deck were spared the fate of the pirates who were catapulted out to their deaths, onto the sharp, jagged rocks of the cavern like floor. A ton of treasure spilled out from the gaping holes in the hull, covering the sand bar the Young Misery was now uneasily resting upon. Many of the rubies inside the hot light cannons on the deck were shook loose from the jolt of the ship striking the sand bar and fell into the large pile of treasure, where it would be impossible to find them. One pirate jumped to catch one of the rubies but missed. “We’re doomed...”

“What now? asked Mathews, on the dock.

Paul swallowed hard. “Open the gates.” he said.

“What about the kids?” asked Eve.”

“The only way to rescue the children without freeing the pirates is through the narrow passage that connects the two sink holes.” said Stone. “The deck of the ship is too high off the cavern floor of the children to safely jump off, the sink hole must be at least half flooded for those kids to even have a chance.”

“But the only way we can get to that passage is though the maze.” said Mathews. “With high tide only minutes away, it is not going to be an easy task. It’s hard enough to find that tunnel when you are not holding your breath.”

“We will only have one shot to rescue those kids.” said Stone. “It’s risky but I will not stand by when there is even a remote chance they can be saved. Who is with me?”

“We’re with you, Stone.” said Todd and Don in unison.

A number of other kids also voiced their readiness to join Paul’s rescue attempt and he nodded in satisfaction. “Let’s go then.” he said.

“But what about the pirates? asked Grace. “Surely they can swim and eventually climb out of that hole.”

“They are not going anywhere.” said Amanda, approaching the group. She walked up to Paul with an ax in her hand and gave it to him. “I think the honor of chopping down the first tree should be yours, Stone.”

Paul shook his head. “There is no honor in any of this.” he said. “Besides, I must lead a team down into the sink holes to save those kids. The others can cut down the trees.”

He turned towards the mouth of the dock. “Open the gates!”

Four kids again frantically worked the two wheels, opening the two heavy gates, allowing the water flow in and slowly flood the sink hole. Once the gates were completely open, Paul gave a loud whistle to a small group hiding in the woods just beyond the dock and they began chopping the trees. In less than a minute, the first heavy tree fell, covering a large section of the gaping hole in the swamp floor.

“Those trees will cover the sink hole, keeping the pirates inside.” said Paul. “The trees will then be buried under all of those rocks.” He pointed at a number of heavy boulders resting at the edge of a small cliff over looking the dock. “It will seal the sink hole, and the pirate’s fate.”

“I suggest we get on with our rescue attempt.” said Todd. “In less than a half hour, the high tide will roll in .”
Paul nodded. “Let’s go then.” he said.

The small group walked away from the dock as the trees and boulders continued to fall, eventually sealing the opening of the sink hole along with the fate of both the pirates and their captors. Grace stood and sadly watched as the water from the bayou continued to flow into the large sink hole. From its darkened depths echoed the screams and pleas of the captive children, still trapped on board the pirate ship. As they reached her ear, she could not help cry for she feared there was nothing they could do to save them.

“May the Lord forgive us.”

Elsewhere, at a small row of ragged tents, Tina reached into one of them and retrieved a small, torn book. Upon it’s cover was the words, my journal. Her brother had had kept an account of their plight with the pirates, hoping it would, somehow, help them later. She was relieved that the nightmare was finally almost over, yet fearful that it has, somehow, only begun.

************************************************


1975


The S.S. A List was a luxurious riverboat built and used to serve people with a catered, relaxing, two week tour of the Mississippi river, making stops at a number of cities like St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. It was a tourist attraction that people talked about for years after, but the vessel had a dark history, which was what eventually forced it out of business. Children of various ages had vanished without a trace on a number of occasions. All of these very disturbing vanishings were blamed on a highly organized web, consisting of a number of various bands of river pirates. These pirates had been plaguing the shipping lanes and small harbor towns of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico on and off since the late 1800s.

Many bands of these river pirates were rounded up during an intense government crack down in 1930 but the web remained intact and a number of river pirates continued to elude the authorities as they terrorized small harbor towns and looted ships inside the gulf and all along the southern end of the Mississippi river. It was believed that the pirates had sold the children they kidnapped to a still existing child slave trade market somewhere in the Far East. But, on July 5th, 1975, all raids on the riverboat abruptly ended. The riverboat was purposely run aground at full steam on an island off the scheduled tour, attracting the attention of the passengers, the crew, and the riverboat’s owner and operator, Markus B. Grim. After the incident, Grim told the press that he applauded the quick thinking and action of a Louisiana policeman who had run the riverboat aground to prevent the pirates from escaping. The crash damaged the riverboat beyond repair, but Grim told the press that it was well worth it to keep the pirates from ever taking kids off it again. The small band of pirates who were captured all perished, along with their police escort in a ten car pile up before they reached the station to be questioned and the band of pirates who escaped capture were oddly never seen or heard from again. But, like the ill fated Young Misery pirate ship, the truth was far more disturbing...

It was during the riverboat’s final tour, a fierce storm was raging outside. Marcus Grim arranged a party below deck to keep the passengers entertained until it passed. As the passengers enjoyed the party, a member of the ships crew threw a heavy sack over a boy’s head from behind in his cabin and, with the aid of another, moved to secure his arms and legs with nylon ropes. But the boy had a few surprises in store for the two men. As the first man held him, he threw his feet up and kicked the second man in the face, sending him back a few steps, then elbowed the first man hard in the ribs, giving him the time he needed to squirm free, throw the sack off of his head as he ran out of his quarters.

“We got to stop him, Sam.” said the first one, running out of the room. “The kid will ruin everything!”

“Forget the scam, Mac.” said the second man, following. “The boss will kill us if he finds out we messed up at all!”

With the two crew men on the boy’s heels, he charged into the party room where he found his sister standing among the small crowd. She saw him running towards him and smiled. “What’s the rush, Max?” she asked, teasingly. “Are you getting sea sick already?”

Max quickly grabbed his sister’s arm on the run and dragged her along with him. “Let’s get some air, Mary!” he said.

“Hey!” protested Mary, running behind him. “What on earth has gotten into you!?!”

“Do you remember what dad said about all of the kids who were mysteriously disappearing from this boat?” asked Max, in between breaths.

“Yeah.” replied Mary. “The FBI had him take this tour so he could snoop around and try find out what was going on.”

“Well, I just found out!” said Max. “Two members of the crew just tried to kidnap me!”

Mary was shocked. “What!?! Are you kidding me!?!”

“Just look behind you!”

Mary took a glance behind her as she ran and swallowed hard as she found two crew members chasing after them. “What are we going to do!?!”

“We got to find dad and hopefully find some way to call for help.”

The two of them ran up onto the deck with the storm raging overhead to find their father fighting with three other crew members. Max released Mary’s hand, grabbed a large piece of wood that was lying on the deck and used it to strike one of the men in the head, rendering him unconscious. It was all the distraction their father needed. He quickly took up his nightstick he had dropped early in the struggle and used it to subdue the two men with a hard strike against the jaw.

“Thanks for the help, son.” he said.

“There are two or more thugs right behind us, dad.” said Max, still holding the heavy piece of wood. “What are we going to do?”

Max and Mary’s father, Zack O’Falcon, of the Louisiana state police knotted his jaws in decision.
“We got to stop these pirates once and for all.” he said. “The only thing I can think of is to run this ship aground. It will get the attention of everyone on board and if luck is with us, they will catch the crew in the act of trying to kidnap you two.” He swallowed. “But I’m afraid you two will have to play the bait.”

Max and Mary looked at each other, uncertain, then turned to their father and nodded.
Zack nodded back. “Let’s do it then.”

With that, Zack ran towards the pilot room as Mary and Max stood their ground on the deck, ready to face a small group of the notorious crew who charged towards them. Zack barged into the pilot room and took out the pilot with one punch.

“Hang in there, kids.” he thought, seeing his kids fighting against the crew. “I’m running the ship aground!”

Zack pushed the riverboat to full steam and steered it straight for the shore as the crew made quick work of tying up his two kids and forcing a gag into their mouths. As the shore quickly came closer, Zack suddenly noticed that they were no longer on the planned tour route but in a dense bayou off of the Mississippi.

“That’s how they did it!” he thought, astounded. “The crew would keep all of the passengers distracted for a time with some function below deck. Then, while they are all enjoying themselves, they would kidnap the one or more children, take them off of the boat somewhere off of the tour route, then return to it before the passengers know they ever left it!”

Realizing this, he feared even more for his children and pushed the riverboats speed as it charged directly for the rocky shore of a large island in the dense bayou.

“Don’t bother trying to struggle.” said one of the men. “Even if you could scream for help, no one can hear you over the storm.” He let out a short laugh. “You two are going to bring us a pretty penny once we get you to...”

His words were interrupted by a sudden, powerful jolt as the riverboat slammed full speed into the shore, throwing the five men and most of the passengers off balance. The riverboat flew over a number of small boulders, landing in the center of a nest of fallen trees, rotted with age. There was a loud cracking sound, as if the boat’s hull was splintering apart, then a second jolt shook the boat as it suddenly fell through the trees, finally settling on the shallow floor on the shore of the large island.

Once the riverboat had settled, Zack rushed out of the pilot’s room and took on the men who had tied and gagged his two children. As they all struggled, a large number of the passengers, along with Marcus Grim ran out onto the deck. They had come up to see what was going on and found two children, Max and Mary lying on the deck, tied and gagged with five numbers of the crew working on doing the same to their father, Zack.

“It’s those pirates I heard about!” declared one woman.

“They’re trying to take some more kids!” yelled another.

Grim cursed under his breath then rolled up one sleeve. “Not this time!” he said. “Get them!”

He and the crowd of passengers charged the small group and quickly subdued them. Max and Mary were released and the police were called. Within the hour, the five crew members involved in the attempted kidnapping were taken into custody while the police questioned Markus Grim.

“Well, your story seems to check out, Mr. Grim.” said the policeman in charge. “All of the passengers who had helped subdue the pirates stated that you were with them at the party when the pirates made their move. But I would not make any plans to leave town for a while. We may have a few more questions for you later.”

“Of course, officer.” replied Grim. “I am just shocked that those blasted pirates were right under my nose, working out of my own riverboat!”

“Are you going to repair her?” asked the officer.

Grim shook his head. “No, I believe I am getting too old for this tourist trade. Besides, after tonight, I don’t think the riverboat tour is going to make any business. As it so happens, this shore is part of a large piece of land I had recently acquired. Perhaps I can someday find some use for the riverboat here. But, for now, I think I am just going to count my losses and move on. I just hope you can find out what those pirates had done with all of the other kids they had kidnapped.”

“Oh rest assured, sir.” said another officer. “We will have all five of those pirates singing before the night is over. You have my word on that.”

With that, the police walked away to get statements from the rest of the passengers and the crew. Once they were at a safe distance, Grim pulled a cell phone from a pocket in his jacket and dialed a number.
“We’ve been shut down here.” he said. “Five of our men have been arrested. Make sure they never talk!”

“You two were very brave.” said Zack, giving each of his children a hug. “I am very proud of both of you.”
“Do you think the whole crew was in on this?” asked Max.

“I don’t know, son.” replied Zack. “There’s going to be a full investigation though.”

“I just hope that this sort of this doesn’t happen to anyone else.” said Mary. “Having someone try to kidnap you is an experience I would not wish on anyone.”

“I hope so too, Mary.” said Zack. “I certainly hope so too.”

The three then walked away from the riverboat towards a small number of other boats sent to take them to the nearest port town. But as they stepped aboard, Max could not help but feel as if he had not seen the last of the A list.

**********************************************



Present day


In the failing light of the day, on an abandoned river boat deep in the bayou, a door slowly opened on the third level and a small, frightened girl in a skirt and blouse crept out onto the walkway. She nervously looked about to be certain she was not being watched then turned to the open door where she had come. Beyond it were two young boys, each dressed in torn jeans and a soiled shirt. The smallest stood in the doorway on the other side of the room scanning the dim halls beyond. He turned to her, giving a thumbs up signal and the girl quickly, quietly, moved to the railing, over looking the lower levels. The girl could not help but shiver as she gazed out at the dark and eerie still waters of the swamp but despite her fear, she managed to summon enough courage to keep herself focused. She made one final, careful look at her two friends, then rose a crudely built radio to her mouth and hit the transmit button.

"Hello!" she whispered into the mike. "My name is Emily. Please, if anyone can hear me, we need help! We have been kidnapped! We are on the A List!"

The girl repeated her plea several times before her voice began to quiver with tears. She bowed her head, frustrated, as the tallest of the two boys cautiously stepped out onto the walkway and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"Why don't you get some rest, Emily." he suggested. "I'll take over tonight’s watch.”

"When was the last time any of us really had any rest, Tim?" asked Emily, near tears. "How do we know this homemade radio of yours is even reaching anyone out there?"

"It's all we have right now." replied Tim, barely holding his own tears. "It has to work." He clenched a frustrated fist. "It has to."

“What what if no one hears our calls?"

Tim sighed heavily. "Lord knows what will happen to us when they take us from here.” he said. “If we don't hear any word soon, one of us will have to try to make a run for it again. One of us is bound to make it all the way through the swamp to civilization."

Tears began to fall from Emily's eyes. Tim placed one arm around her, pulling her closer to him and she began to sob quietly on his shoulder. Emily knew that it was her turn.
Then, the smallest of the two boys carefully stepped out onto the walkway and gave Emily’s hand a gentle squeeze.

“Please don’t cry, Emily.” he said, quietly. “I’ll take the next run for you.”

Emily turned to the little boy and managed gave him a small, grateful smile. “Thanks, Joey.” she said. “But you already took two turns for Tim and I, you need to rest.”

“I can take it.” replied Joey, vainly trying to hide his tears. “Besides, you and Tim need to work the radio.”
"Be brave, guys." said Tim. "Our calls will be heard, somehow."

The three of them stared sadly out at the seemingly endless waters of the bayou, praying.

On the far side of the bayou, inside a rustic shack, a preteen aged child in overalls and Tee Shirt adjusted the dials of a ham radio with a second boy in similar attire standing behind him.

"Hello, Emily!" he called into the mike. "I can hear you! Please answer me, where the devil are you!?!"

The plea repeated and he sighed, turning to his friend. "It's no use, Luke." he said. "They can send a signal, but not receive it."

“She said she was on the A-List.” mused Luke. “Do you have any idea where or what that might be?”
Bob shook his head. “Not a clue.” he said. “What do you think we should do?”

Luke knotted his jaws in decision. “See if you can get a hold of any other ham radio operators out there.” he said. “Maybe we can triangulate her position.”

“Good idea.” said Bob, adjusting the dial. “I just hope nothing bad happens before we can find her.”

Hundreds of miles away, inside a neat, spacious office in New York City, a young man and woman were both seated in comfortable chairs while a second man carefully looked over a small pile of papers behind a desk.

“Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Topper.” said the man behind the desk. “We have a number of children on our A list who may catch your interest and most of the paper work we will do for you.”

“Will it take very long?” asked the young woman.

“Oh, there’s a few weeks to wait for the necessary paper work to move through.” said the man. “But it’s much better than waiting several years.”

“Have you found any children who match what we are looking for?” asked Mr. Topper.

“Oh, yes.” said the man. “I believe we have found a child who closely matches your needs.” He looked at the report and photograph of a brown haired, brown eyed young boy. “I believe you will be very pleased with him.”

“We are very anxious to start a family.” said Mrs. Topper. “When will we be able to take him home?”

“It should not take too long, Mrs. Topper.” said the man. Then he thought, “We first have to make him an orphan.”

On the other side of the nation, inside a grand bedroom, a small girl with shoulder length, fair blonde hair tossed and turned restlessly under the light covers of her bed as if to run from the disturbing images which were playing out within her mind. She saw herself at a younger age, close to five years old, running as best as she could from an ominous black van with tinted windows. There was panic on her face and tears in her eyes as she looked back at the van, which followed her slowly from a distance of two car lengths as if the mysterious driver was deliberately toying with the girl. Then, just as the street became deserted for a moment, the van quickly pulled up along side her. The girl paused, only for a moment, as the side door of the van opened. But when a man jumped out at her, she let out a short, high scream and dived through a clump of bushes, narrowly escaping the man’s grasp. She emerged on the other side of the bushes, her plain white dress torn and dirty, and quickly looked about for any sign of the van before making a mad dash for her house, only a few hundred feet away. Half way there, she let out another scream, spotting the van slowly driving towards her. She ran the final length to her house then, upon reaching the door, reached into the top of her dress and produced a small key, hanging from a necklace. Shaking and crying, the small girl tore off her necklace and fumbled with the key, desperately trying to thrust it into the lock. Eventually, the key went into the lock and she turned it, unlocking the door. But before she could shove it open to dive inside, someone grabbed her from behind, forcing a damp cloth tight over her nose and mouth.

She woke up, screaming, with her mother lightly shaking her, trying to wake her up.

“Let go of me!” screamed the girl. “Leave me alone!”

“Amy!” said her mother, sternly. “It’s alright, you’re just having another nightmare!”

Amy opened her eyes, revealing their gentle blue color, and looked about to find herself back inside her bedroom.

“Oh, mommy!” she breathed, tearfully, hugging her mother. “It was just terrible! Someone in a black van was after me! He grabbed me just outside my own door!”

“It’s okay, Amy.” assured her mother, comforting the girl. “It was just a dream; just a dream.”

She gently rocked Amy back and forth in her arms until she eventually fell back to sleep. “She’s been having these nightmares every night ever since we adopted her.” she thought. she suppressed a cold shiver. “It reminds me of myself when I was a little girl.”

She tucked Amy back in, quietly walked to the bedroom door, then turned and watched her slumber for a moment. “I only wish I could make it easier for her than it was for me when I was a child.”

Then, a tall, slender man quietly hurried into the room with a look of concern on his face. “Is everything okay in here, Becky?” he asked.

“Everything is fine, John.” replied Becky. “Amy was just having another bad dream.”

The man nodded, relieved it was nothing serious. “Come back to bed then.” he said. “We can all talk about it in the morning.”

The two of them quietly left the room, leaving Amy to her sleep.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Group 29.62k
Chapter 2 The Program. 40.27k
Chapter 3 CHAPTER THREE: THE MISSION 31.95k

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