by E. M. Gale
The school burns down and Aekira is home alone...
I blink open my eyes and take in the unfamiliar surroundings. Where am I? This isn’t the Lab. It’s a simple bedroom with one window, one door, a small closet, and a small bed which I am lying on. Could this be a simulation?
I carefully climb out of the bed and put my feet to the soft, carpeted floor. The carpet is the color of cream and the walls are off-white. The curtains over the window are pale blue and thin. Could this be a dream, maybe?
I walk over to the plain wooden door and open it into a small hallway. Voices carry down from the right, so I head that way. Maybe someone can explain to me where I am. As I draw closer, I can begin to understand some of the voices:
“…do we even know who she is?” a woman’s voice asks.
“No, but we couldn’t leave her in that place,” answers a man’s voice.
“What if she turns us in! She was in his Lab.”
A new woman’s voice speaks up, “relax, Fiona. You haven’t even seen her yet.”
I could now tell where the voices were coming from. A room off to the right at the end of the hall is filled with light and shifting shadows. As I peek around the corner at the three adults. The first woman’s voice belongs to a short, thin woman with spiky black hair. The other woman is tall, slightly chubby with a big bosom, dark skin, and short dark brown hair. The man is taller than the other two with close-cut, spiked, brown hair and a light spray of freckles over his face and arms.
After a short period, I finally work up the courage to talk to them. I slowly step around the corner and ask, “excuse me, but who are you and where am I?”
All three jump in surprise. The dark-skinned woman is first to recover. “Why, don’t you remember? Max, here, and I rescued you from that awful Lab last night.”
She indicated the man and herself with one hand while the other fidgeted nervously with her shirt. “My name is Jemimah and this here is Fiona. Welcome to our home, little one.”
I wanted to tell her that I was almost ten, but she seems so kind that I didn’t want to be rude. “Thank you.”
The man, Max, crouched down so that his soft, brown eyes were level with my own bright blue ones. “do you have a name?”
I look down at my feet. “Not really, Phil always just called me ‘it’.”
“I’m really starting to hate this ‘Phil’ guy,” Jemimah mutters.
Max chuckles. “Well, since you don’t have a name, we’ll give you one!”
“How about Squirt?” Fiona suggests sarcastically. I shoot her a look.
“Um, Amelix?” Max brainstorms. “Jessica, Jennifer, Abigail, Gabriella…”
“How about Aekira?” Jemimah offers. Something goes off inside me. A blurry memory sparkles into my brain:
A man is sitting in front of me saying, “hello, my name is William. I know this is probably strange for you to comprehend right now, but I woke you up so that I can give you a name. The name I am giving you is Aekira Rose Holsting. It was the name that I had hoped to name my first born, my daughter…”
The memory fades almost as quickly as it came. I blink my eyes twice. “I want to be named Aekira Rose.”
The three adults exchange surprised looks. Max nods in agreement. “Alright then, Aekira Rose it is.”
I beam up at them. “Now, can you tell me where my hair is?”
Six years later…
I carefully adjust my brunette wig so that it sits perfectly on my head. Special adhesive stickers along the edge keep it from falling off. I’ve gotten used to living a semi-normal life like all other teenagers. I have a phone and a laptop, go to high school, hang out at arcades, and drink soda.
Basically, ever since I was rescued from the Lab, I’ve been perfectly happy. I even have a boyfriend now named Ed. He is tall and dark-skinned like Jemimah and loves to play basketball. He is also very smart, like me, and enjoys going to the movies with me. He doesn’t care that I’m a cyborg.
My best friend, Addison, is a bit of a videogame nerd; she is obsessed with them and knows too much about too many of them. I, myself, enjoy mostly Nintendo games like the Legend of Zelda franchise. Addison says that those games are “old-school”, but I still like them anyway. She prefers the newer games like Smash Times Infinity and Fortnite United. Addison has no cares in the world and accepts everyone for who they are, even cyborgs like me.
“Aekira! It’s almost time for the school bus to be here!” Max calls to me. I rush out of my room with my backpack slung over one shoulder. “Oh, um, wait! I just got a text message from the superintendent. School has been canceled for the rest of the year. The school caught fire last night and burned down.”
“What!?” I exclaimed in shock. I liked our big high school. Koleland High was the best place to learn. Since it was in the Capital of Arian, it had lots of students and tons of funding. “When last night did this happen? It wasn’t on the ten o’clock news last night…”
“It doesn’t say…well, I guess you’ll have to stay home today. Jemimah and I both work late today. Don’t let anyone into the house, even if they are people you know. Call me if anything comes up, okay?” Max says with a concerned expression on his face. “Hey, cheer up, you only had two weeks left of school anyway.”
“Yeah, but who would do such a thing?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it was those rebels trying to make a statement again.”
I nod glumly. The rebels were an organization of men and women who defied the government. They were continually attacking government-owned establishments and defacing their property. Thinking about it, our school is owned and run by the government. It would make sense to attack it, I guess.
After Max and Jemimah leave for work, I call Ed. “Hey, Ed. Did you hear about the fire?”
“Yeah, of course. It is all over the news. And-“
“Hang on, I have another call trying to come through from Max. I’ll call you back in a minute.”
I end the call and accept the new one. “Max, what is it?”
“Aekira, listen to me. I need you to turn off all the lights. Make sure the TV is off as well. Find a good hiding place and stay there until you have my all-clear signal okay?” Max says in a panicked voice.
“What’s going on? What happened?”
“Aekira Rose, do as I say! When you are hidden, stay absolutely quiet, alright?”
“Okay, you will tell me what this is all about later, right?”
“Hopefully,” he replies before ending the call. I run through the house making sure all the lights are off before climbing into the big cabinet above the washing machine in the laundry room. I curl up tightly and wait. And wait. And, was that the front door?
I hear the murmur of voices coming from the living room. Is that Max and Jemimah? No, don’t go out yet. Max hasn’t given you the all clear signal yet. I hope he does soon.
Footsteps draw closer. I can hear multiple doors opening and closing around the house. I hold my breath and-
I curse in my head. My phone just went off! I forgot to turn it to silent. A couple pairs of footsteps burst into the laundry room. I put a hand over my mouth and nose to stifle my panicked breathing.
“Are you positive it came from here?” one asks. He has a gruff, deep voice.
“Positive,” the other replied. His voice wasn’t as deep, and it seemed less gruff.
“Search the cupboards, I’ll check the pantry and the closet.”
I tense, ready to fight if need be. I listen to the sounds of the cupboard doors next to me up and close one by one. The second one begins talking. “Man, that Max Archer is such an idiot. How long did he think his little hide-and-seek game would last?”
My breath catches. Why are they looking for Max? I hear the cupboard door directly to my right open and close. The first one replies, “yeah, he is an idiot. Though he did manage to evade us for six years.”
“What exactly are we looking for again?”
“Archer’s daughter. Boss thinks that he can use her to bait Archer out of hiding.”
“Man, Boss is so smart. I wish I had his brains.”
Then, the cupboard door opens. I stare into the eyes of the man before me. I’m doomed. How could I think that I could beat these two in a fight? They’re so big! And they are armed!
“Hey, sir. I think I found her,” the man says, tapping the shoulder of the other man who was looking through the closet opposite me. I shrink away as the man reaches for me.
“Good job,” the other man says. He smiles wickedly. “Now, miss. Don’t give us any trouble. We won’t hurt you as long as your daddy cooperates. Now, climb out of there with your hands where we can see them.”
“Why?” I work up the courage to ask. “I know who you are. I know who you work for. I am not going with you!”
And I mean it. I do know who they work for. The symbol on their uniforms is unmistakably his. The Man knows. The Man wants Max for some reason. The Man wants to find me through Max.
“Tell your thrice-accursed boss that he can’t have me! I will never step another foot in his foul Lab!”
The first man gives his companion a “what is she talking about?” look. The second man shrugs. “Tranquilizer her.”
I pull back as the first man pulls out a dart gun. “What are you doing? I’m not some rabid animal that needs to be put to…”
The gun goes off and the dart pierces my arm painfully. My head spins. My consciousness flickers. I lean forward and tumble out of the cupboard into the first man’s arms just as I black out completely.
The Man smiles at his two agents. "Good work, men. With Archer's daughter, we can catch Archer. What is this?"
"It's the girl's phone, sir," Agent X replies, placing the device on the desk.
Suddenly, the phone begins to ring. The Man smiles and accepts the call. Max Archer's voice comes over the speaker. "Aekira, I think it is all clear. You can come out now...Aekira?"
"Well, well, Max. It's good to hear from you again."
"You! What have you done to my daughter!?"
"Don't worry, she's safe, but she won't be for long. Surrender and tell me where the supercomputer is if you want to see your daughter again."
"I...How long will you give me?" Max replies with pain in his voice.
"A week. One week for all of you rebels to surrender to me and for you to tell me where the supercomputer is."
"Very well. You better not harm her or you'll never see the supercomputer again. I will personally destroy...it."