1. UNDERNEATH THE SURFACE
The sun rose over the ocean and the first rays of morning light shone brightly into the cabin of the yacht that floated on an empty sea. The blaring sun came too early, but Davin was grateful to have made it safely through another night. He looked down on Chelsea’s sleeping face and smiled. She slept nestled tight to his chest and breathed softly in her sleep. Then she spoke. “No.” Her eyes were still closed. “You can’t take him.”
Davin stroked her forehead and squeezed her even more tightly to his chest as he imagined the kind of nightmares that troubled her slumber. Maybe she was envisioning another security bot coming to take him away? Or Sandra Waverly paying them an unexpected visit? As he held her, the tension in her face slowly relaxed back into a peaceful calm. Then the engine suddenly roared to life, and her eyes shot open as the yacht jerked forward. “What’s going on?” she cried.
“Don’t worry,” Davin said, trying to calm her frantic awakening. “Tray just started the engine.”
“Oh.” Chelsea let out an exasperated sigh. “I was just having a horrible dream.”
“My brother,” she said.
“You think he’s in trouble?” Davin asked.
“I don’t know.” She thought for a moment. “I don’t think so, but in my dream he was hurt, and I couldn’t get to him. Someone was taking him somewhere. I’m worried about him.”
“Maybe you should get in contact with him.”
“Do you think we’ll be safe if we turn our PEDs back on though?” Chelsea asked.
Davin contemplated her question. He was beginning to realize just how many questions they didn’t know the answers to, and without their PEDs, he wasn’t sure what to do without information at his immediate disposal. “I . . . I don’t know, Chels.”
She buried her head into his chest and tried not to worry. She was also beginning to recognize the growing list of questions that were beginning to surface as they continued their quest to freedom and independence. California can’t come soon enough, she thought. She figured at least then she would be able to see with her own eyes what kind of situation they had put themselves in. But without the use of GPS, their journey had to be taken at a painfully slow pace. All they could do was gradually push forward each day and deal with any problems as they surfaced.
“We had better get up and help the others with breakfast,” Davin suggested after a while of lying on the bed in silence.
Chelsea nodded and rolled out of bed. She pulled on a clean outfit for the day and ran her fingers through her hair. She looked into the mirror that hung on the back of the door in their room as she wondered what they had gotten themselves into. Davin came up behind her and kissed her on the cheek. “Stop worrying so much. I can see it all over your face,” he teased, twisting her around and pushing his forehead against hers. “We’ll be all right. I promise.” Chelsea glared stubbornly at him, not wanting to let go of her concerns. He smiled. “We have nothing but things to be grateful for. We’re together, we’re on a luxury yacht, and we’re going to make a wonderful life for ourselves.” He waited for her to give in as he continued to hold her glare with his smiling eyes.
It was true. They did have a lot to be grateful for, but she wanted to know how exactly they were going to make this wonderful life they had dreamed up. She had become so consumed with plotting their escape from The Society and so enamored by the simple life they had vaguely envisioned for themselves that she had forgotten the truth of life’s harsh reality—independence comes at a cost. She was again reminded of the saying that had stayed with her since the day they had first contemplated leaving The Society, ‘Rebellion never goes without consequence.’ Consequences we will have to face soon enough, she told herself.
Davin continued to patiently wait for her to topple to his gentle persuasion. Then he rolled his eyes. “Would you just give up?” he asked as he chuckled.
“Give up?” she asked. “You want me to just forget that we have no idea what we’re doing or where our future could lead?”
“I want you to not worry so much,” Davin said sweetly and cupped her face. “Even if things get hard, I need you to believe in us. We’ll figure things out, Chels.”
She sighed. “Okay,” she said as he pulled her in for a hug.
“Now let’s go have breakfast and talk with the others to see what ideas they’ve come up with.”
They went upstairs to find that Enzo and Jax had already begun making breakfast. Gregory was rummaging through the fridge. “There’s not a whole ton of stuff to eat in here. It’s all just ingredients. What are we supposed to eat?”
“That’s why we broke into the pancake mix in the cupboard,” Jax said. “Look. Just add water.” He pointed to the directions as he smiled widely.
“Did you find any syrup or anything to go with it?”
“I found some jars of peanut butter yesterday,” Davin said, jumping into the conversation. “Spread some peanut butter on top and cut up a few strawberries.”
Gregory shrugged his shoulders. “Okay,” he said.
Semaj walked in just as Gregory walked over to the hanging gardens to pick some strawberries. “Sorry, I slept in a bit. I needed that— What are you doing?” he asked as he ran over to Gregory and stopped him from picking a strawberry.
“What’s it look like I’m doing? I’m helping make breakfast,” he said in disgust.
“You have to follow the schedule,” Semaj said, pointing to a list of meals on the refrigerator’s screen that he had allotted to each day of their journey. “I went through and assessed our food supply last night. I made a detailed menu so that we can make it to California without having to rely on fishing every day. Remember we have three more people than Davin and Chelsea planned on that we still have to feed. I told this to everyone last night!”
Enzo looked up from stirring the pancake batter with a guilty expression. He had not been listening very closely when Semaj had talked to everyone the night before. “Oops.”
“Geez, controlling much?” Gregory protested.
“I’m trying to make sure we have enough food.” Semaj glared at Gregory as he spoke. “What if we go to fish and we don’t catch anything? Did you even account for that?”
“Hey, Semaj,” Davin interrupted. “They just forgot. We’ll go fishing first thing after breakfast and try to get a supply going.”
Chelsea quickly studied Semaj’s scheduled menu. “How about you trade out your pancake and fruit breakfast in three days for this morning’s breakfast,” she suggested.
Semaj looked at his schedule. “Fine,” he said, switching the slots for that day’s egg breakfast and the pancake breakfast in three days. “But we need to follow the schedule from here on out.”
Gregory smiled and walked back over to the hanging garden. “Guess that means I get to pick strawberries after all.”
“Only two per person—tops,” Semaj specified.
Gregory huffed and started to pick sixteen strawberries exactly. Jax turned on the griddle that was next to the stove and put his hand over it until he could feel the heat rising. Then Enzo poured the first six pancakes into small circles from his freshly made batter.
“Come and get it,” Enzo yelled as he finished cooking the last of his batter and Lizzie finished cutting the strawberries. Tray opted to have his breakfast in the cockpit so he could continue driving the yacht, but everyone else gathered in the kitchen to eat their pancake breakfast and discuss plans.
“What we really need to decide is if and when we’ll reach out to our families,” Davin said after everyone had taken their first few bites. “I know Chelsea wants to get in contact with her brother. But we obviously need to be cautious about who we contact and where we land.”
“Where are we planning to land, by the way?” Semaj asked.
“Right now, our set course is somewhere between Tahoe and Death Valley Junction. That’s where there is still unclaimed land and where Chelsea and I plan to set ourselves up. Anyone who is willing to work is welcome to join us, but if you’d prefer, we can plan to drop you off in one of the more established towns where your families can meet you. However, if you have a preference, now is the time to speak up.”
“I’d like to reach out to my aunt in Oregon,” Lizzie piped in. “She’s loaded, and under the circumstances, I think she would take me in. If we could land more toward Tahoe that would make it easier for me to be picked up.”
“Okay,” Davin said. “Anyone else have any preferences?”
“Our family’s all the way on the east coast,” Enzo said. “If we want to see them, we’ll need to find a way to get out there since there’s no way our family could afford to help us.”
“Yeah, especially since Dad blew the last of his savings to pay for us to go to The Society,” Jax said with a sullen tone. Guilt swept over Enzo’s face.
“Well, you’re more than welcome to stay with us in California,” Chelsea suggested.
Enzo looked up and smiled slightly. Then he looked at Davin’s arm wrapped around Chelsea’s shoulders and looked down again. “I don’t think that’s such a great idea.”
“Why not, Enzo? We’d be off on our own and could make our own little tribe type thing. Live off the land—like our ancestors!”
“You two Native American or something?” Semaj asked.
“I think so,” Jax replied while scratching his head.
“We’re mutts. Same as everyone else,” Enzo clarified. “Some Native American, some Latin American, some European, and some Australian. No one’s just one thing anymore.”
“Well, either way. I think staying in California is a great idea. Why are you so against it?”
“I . . . I . . . just think we should visit Dad first and explain what happened. Let him know we didn’t mean for things to work out the way they did.”
“I’m sure he’s seen the video clip. We can just call him. He’ll understand.”
Semaj raised his hand to interject into the conversation. “I’d like to contact my father as well.”
“Gregory?” Davin asked as he leaned back and looked at Gregory who had been silent at the end of the table.
“I’m an orphan. I don’t have anyone to go to, but I don’t think I’m a live-off-the-land kind of guy either. I’ll figure something out,” he said as he shrugged and tried to remember how much money he had left in his bank account. Then he secretly wondered if he could file for a transfer to the Las Vegas Society.
“Both our families haven’t spoken to us in years,” Sara said as she looked up at Hammond, “so we don’t have anyone to contact, but since most of your PEDs have been destroyed, if anyone needs to use my PED, you’re welcome to do so,” she said with a smile.
“Thanks, Sara,” Chelsea said while secretly wondering why they hadn’t spoken to their families in so long. “I think it would be wise if everyone used Sara’s PED to contact family then, since hers is the least likely to have a trace on it. With any luck, no one even knows she’s with us yet.”
“Not likely,” Semaj replied. “I’m sure they’ve made note of every person missing from the Hawaii Society in the last two days.”
“You’re probably right,” Davin said, “but it’s still our best shot.”
“Do you have your PED on you?” Jax asked Sara. “We can call Dad now,” he said, looking at Enzo.
“Whoa.” Semaj jumped up. “Do we really think it’s a good idea to contact them now? We still have a few more days before we’ll reach land.”
“People may need a few days to make arrangements,” Chelsea replied.
“But we’re out here like sitting ducks. We don’t even know how people responded to our broadcast. We don’t know who’s on our side.”
“You’re right,” Davin replied, “but until we turn our PEDs back on, we won’t have any idea. We could be in danger right now for all we know.”
“Well, I for one would rather stay off the map for now,” Semaj said. “Until we arrive where there are some witnesses around, I’m not inclined to give away our position.”
“Anyone else agree with Semaj?” Davin asked. Four others slowly raised their hands. “Fine, how about we wait until we are a day out and then we’ll contact family?” Davin suggested.
“That’s better at least,” Semaj said.
“Then it’s settled. One day before we arrive, we’ll contact our families. For now, let’s clean up breakfast and do some fishing.”
Everyone cleared their dishes and placed their plates and silverware in the dishwasher to be cleaned and unloaded. Then they went to the swimming platform to begin their fishing for the day. Chelsea ran up to the cockpit to tell Tray to kill the engine and join them. When everyone had gathered around, Davin opened up the large supply closet at the back of the swimming platform and began pulling out the fishing equipment that Genevieve had instructed would be there.
“Everyone pair up. There are only three rods and two drones. Your partner can help get the fish in the cooler,” Davin instructed.
“We call a drone!” Jax yelled and stepped forward with Enzo.
“You a good flyer?” Davin asked.
“’Course,” Jax replied, pretending to be insulted. “I was the best in my class in middle school.”
Davin smiled. “Alright,” he said, handing him a drone. “Just don’t forget the call back button if you lose sight of it.”
“Peaches, my friend,” Jax said. “Don’t worry. I got this.”
Hammond and Sara grabbed one of the short fishing rods and found a comfortable position off the side of the swimming platform. Semaj and Tray grabbed one as well.
Then Gregory stepped forward. “Lizzie, would you like to be my fishing buddy?”
“Sure,” she said with a smile before grabbing a rod and running over to his side. She wrapped her free arm around Gregory’s and pulled herself close to him as they walked.
Gregory’s cheeks went red and a grin grew on his face from ear to ear.
“I guess that leaves us the other drone,” Davin said, turning toward Chelsea. “Let’s see if I’m still any good at flying one of these things.”
Davin went to grab the drone from off the shelf, but suddenly it flew off the shelf and glided perfectly around him. Davin whirled around to figure out what had happened and saw Chelsea holding the drone’s controller while the drone circled around her.
“Please,” Chelsea teased with a flirtatious grin. “Leave the drone flying to a professional.”
“You’re a professional drone flyer too, huh?” Davin asked.
“A master’s in video engineering requires drone flying certification,” Chelsea explained. “I have a bit of a natural knack for it as well,” she said with a smirk as she let go of the controller with one hand and caught the drone in midair as it began to fall.
“Aren’t you just full of surprises?”
Chelsea grabbed onto the fake bait that hung from the bottom of the fishing drone and pulled on the line that was wrapped on a reel on the inside. “Will you hand me the bait juice?” she asked Davin before locking the line in place.
“Sure,” he said, reaching over to the shelf inside the storage closet that had a large case of bottles of bait juice. The bottles contained a special mixture of natural smells that could attract a wide variety of fish, affectionately known in the fishing world as bait juice. Its effectiveness had made it a favorite among fisherman for many years but could only be used in deep-sea fishing. “So I’m to believe you’re a professional drone flyer and a fishing expert?”
Chelsea chuckled. “No. I just read Genevieve’s fishing instructions last night. Speaking of which, didn’t any of you guys want some bait juice to soak your bait in?” Chelsea asked the others as they went to put their lines in the water.
“Oh, sure,” Hammond said nervously while grabbing the juice and squeezing some onto the bait that resembled a small insect and was made of a extremely absorbent material.
“Wait a minute, did any of you read the fishing instructions?” Chelsea asked, eyeing each person.
“I did,” Semaj said.
She looked around at the others to see blank expressions on their faces. Then she whirled around to look at Davin. He raised his hands in the air. “I read through all the instructions the first day.”
The rest of the group stared nervously off in the distance. “Guys! We can’t just fake it like this anymore. We’re on our own. If we don’t figure out what we’re doing and make things work, then we won’t make it. No one’s going to take care of us anymore. It’s up to us to be self-reliant now.”
Hammond looked down at his feet.
“Speak for yourself. I’m going back to civilization when we get to land,” Lizzie said.
“Well, unless you want to lose your free ride to land, I suggest you pull your weight,” Chelsea replied with a stern expression and handed Lizzie a copy of the fishing instructions.
Lizzie begrudgingly took the instructions and began reading them over with Gregory.
“Here, Lizzie, I’ll take over. You just relax and get some sunbathing in. I’ll do our fishing,” he said, taking the instructions and the fishing rod from her.
Lizzie smiled and leaned back on the swimming deck. She liked that Gregory always let her have her way. She looked over at him. “So what are you going to do when we get to California?” she asked him. “You must have some idea of what you’ll do.”
“I really don’t know,” he responded, his smile fading. He finished reading the instructions and doused his bait in bait juice before clicking the button on the rod that made the bait go flying far out into the ocean. “I’ll figure something out. Anything’s got to be better than being locked up in a cave, right?” he asked jokingly.
Lizzie laughed, but only half-heartedly. She thought for a moment and then started to speak. Then she stopped herself until finally she let the words come out. “What if . . . what if you came with me to my aunt’s in Oregon?”
Gregory’s eyes lit up and he was no longer able to focus on his fishing line. “Really?” he asked. “You want me to come with you? But why? You don’t have to pity me. I think I could figure something out with one of the other Societies if I have to.”
“No,” she said. “It’s not that. I just . . . I think I’d miss you, Gregory.”
He smiled wide. “I’d miss you too.”
“Guess I’ve gotten kind of used to your goofy smile and silly look,” she said.
He looked away, offended, and pouted his lips forward, but then Lizzie suddenly leaned in and kissed him. His anger immediately vanished. He had been hoping for this moment for months, but he’d never believed it would actually happen. He put his fishing rod down and took in the moment.
Davin’s look turned to one of surprise when he turned to see Gregory and Lizzie kissing. “Looks like there’s romance in the air,” he whispered to Chelsea. She pulled her gaze away from the fishing drone momentarily to catch a glimpse of the end of their long kiss. She raised her eyebrows and gave Davin a look of surprise before returning her focus to the drone flying off in the distance.
“We got one!” Tray yelled.
Semaj pushed the button to reel in their catch. “Quick! Get the fish cooler, Tray.”
“Oh, right.” Tray ran over to the large cooler and quickly wheeled it over. The fish wriggled vigorously as it was pulled out of the water and into the air. When the end of the fishing line met the rod and the fish touched the top of the rod, Semaj pushed a button to send an electric shock through the end of the fishing rod. The fish immediately went limp.
“Ha! We did it!” Tray said. He grabbed the fish off the line and placed in it the cooler. Pushing the dimension markers to the edges of the fish’s tail and head, he measured its size. “Twenty-seven inches!” he exclaimed.
“Now we have to figure out what kind of fish it is so the cooler can fillet it properly,” Semaj said.
Tray shut the cooler lid and a screen popped up with a list of fish species to choose from. Tray and Semaj both compared their catch to the pictures shown next to each option available.
“I think it’s a type of tuna,” Tray determined.
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Semaj agreed, looking through the pictures of the different types of tuna. “It’s got to be this yellowfin tuna,” Semaj said, pointing to an image of a tuna with a blue spine and yellow fin and belly. “It matches perfectly.”
“Okay. So . . . we just select yellowfin tuna then?” Tray asked, looking at Semaj for direction.
Semaj rolled his eyes. “Yes,” he said. “Then you have to select the kind of cut you want. Then stay clear of the side because it will spit out the bones and the guts to be disposed of. You really should have read the instructions.”
“Hey, I’ve been busy driving us across the Pacific, okay?”
Semaj ignored Tray and selected the yellowfin tuna icon along with a standard fillet cut. The cooler began its scan of the fish to evaluate the exact cut it needed to make, and then a low hum indicated it had begun the cutting process. Semaj sat back with a satisfied look. “Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.”
“Nice catch,” Davin said as he came over and gave them both a pat on the back. “Who’s up for a fish dinner?”
“Hey, I think I got one!” Chelsea yelled over her shoulder. “It must be big though. It’s pulling the drone toward the water!”
Davin ran over and looked at the screen on the controller to view the camera footage from the drone’s perspective. Then he looked at the drone off in the distance as it sank closer to the water. “Maybe you’ll have to cut the line,” Davin said. “It will still work in water. As long as the fish doesn’t eat it, you should be able to get it back.”
The drone hit the surface of the water and began to sink deeper. “Before you cut it, hit the call back button and see if it can come back on its own.” Chelsea nodded and went to click the call back button. “Wait!” he cried.
As the drone sank deeper, Davin saw something below the surface of the water that he recognized. “Did you see that?” he asked Chelsea. Chelsea looked closer but couldn’t see what he was referring to. Davin pointed to the outline. “See? It’s a flag.”
Chelsea looked closer until she saw clearly the image of the flag of the United States of America. Davin turned and sprinted up the stairs toward his room.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Enzo called after him.
“They’re here!” Davin cried. “They found us!”
Chelsea cut the line and moved the drone closer to the surface of the water to reveal the outline of a submarine. Just then, Gregory’s fishing pole was pulled from the deck and began flying through the water. He jumped into the water to retrieve it, barely grabbing it before it was out of reach. He swam toward the platform with the rod in one hand and pushed the button to reel the fish in, but then he suddenly froze. “There’s something in the water!”
Enzo ran over and reached out his hand toward Gregory to pull him in just as the something swam past. “What was that?” he cried as he pulled Gregory onto the platform.
“I don’t know. It looked almost like a huge fish, but it moved mechanically.”
Everyone dropped what they were doing and threw their equipment into the storage room. Gregory struggled with the fish on the end of his line until Semaj came over and hit the shock button to make it go limp.
Everyone ran up on deck to find Davin, but he wasn’t there.
“Look!” Sara called as she pointed off in the distance. A huge US naval ship was approaching.
Davin ran up on deck with the broadcast camera and his PED in hand. “Quick,” he said, handing the camera to Semaj and turning on his PED. Thousands of notifications began popping up on Davin’s PED screen. He ignored them and pulled up an application that would allow him to send a live stream to all his social media accounts. “You want witnesses?” he asked Semaj. “You’ll have your witnesses. Turn it on and hit record. I’ll do the talking. Whatever happens, the whole world is going to be watching.”
To be continued . . .