Wednesday, 18 December 2013 14:59

Beta Tribe by Shari Klase

Beta TribeZandra clenched and unclenched her fists. Her breath came in quick bunches. “Just breathe normal,” she told herself quietly.

Zandra suffered from panic attacks. Her heart raced. She broke out in a sweat and she couldn’t think clearly. Usually it made sense in her harried, crazy life to have these attacks, but not now, not during Treaty Days.

Treaty Days were peaceful, congenial and quiet. It was ironic that Zandra had her panic attacks more on Treaty Days than on any other days of the year. She guessed it was because she couldn’t afford them at other times. Now when she could rest and relax, there really wasn’t any peaceful co-existence for her.

Her breathing slowed as she looked around at the smiling faces. There was no threat here, and yet, what lurked behind the exterior? They were more sinister than what they seemed at the surface. They were all analyzing, picking at each other’s brains, spying and counter-plotting. It was forbidden, of course, to exhibit overt warfare but strategizing in secret was performed by everyone. So Zandra’s attacks were really symbolic of attacks she knew would be thrust on her if only they could.

 

None of the people of any tribes could battle during Treaty Days. It was against the law. If discovered, there would be no jury, no trial, no arrest, just immediate and brutal execution, just like the executions carried out so effortlessly on Battle Days.

Treaty Days lasted one month out of every year. Thirty one blissful days of solitude to recuperate from the horror of war between the tribes.

“Hey dreamer, wake up!” Chaundra laughed as she startled Zandra by smacking into her.

Zandra whirled on her and caught her by the shoulders. “You’re lucky I didn’t kill you. Sneaking up on me like that.”

“On Treaty Days? And a fellow member of your own tribe? Wouldn’t be smart, would it?”

“Sometimes I forget it is Treaty Days. I wake up and I wonder if someone is watching me.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling,” Chaundra nodded. “But Festival Days are supposed to be about friendship.”

“Right,” Zandra responded sarcastically.

Festival Days were the last two weeks of Treaty Days. Everyone in the general vicinity of their local tribes was ordered to come together and celebrate. People she might kill a week or two later she must clap on the back and shout happy greetings.

“Good Festival!” she would say and they’d echo back, “Great Festival to you.” It was always important to one up the other in positive affirmation.

“Hey look! There’s Bacillus,” Chaundra burst out, interrupting her thoughts. “Acting like a big shot as usual.”

Bacillus had entered the Bow and Arrow Contest. Everyone from Alpha Tribe was annoying. They knew they were the number one tribe. Yet, as team leader Bacillus was the most aggravating.

“Like we aren’t all good with the bow. Better he should brag about how accurate he is with the sling,” Chaundra remarked.

“It’s hard to kill anyone with the sling. Bacillus has killed his share with that bow,” Zandra said then pulled her friend along. “I am tired of talking about this.” She could feel her pulse racing again. “Let’s not finish out the Festival. Let’s go somewhere by ourselves. Somewhere like Farcry Woods. Let’s camp out, light burning stones, eat forest fare and just have fun—like when we were kids.”

Children couldn’t hunt or be hunted. They lived in safe zones where the elderly cared for them until they came of age. Still they were trained in hunting, tracking and camping skills so they were ready when the time came.

Chaundra’s eyes widened. “But it’s forbidden to go to Farcry Woods during Festival Days.”

“Aren’t you a little annoyed at all this sham, Cha? I hate the pretense of being happy all the while knowing I’ll have to battle these same people two weeks from now, engaging them in conversation while looking for some edge so I can attack them more easily later. He’s good at the bow. She’s a wonder at swords. Stay away from him; he’s an excellent stalker.” Zandra sighed.

“We’re not as bad off as some,” Chaundra reproved her.  “After all, we are in Beta. Imagine if you had to live the life of a Psi or an Omega?”

“We were just lucky, that’s all,” Zandra hissed.

“If we got caught in Farcry Woods now, we might be executed or at the very least demoted. Then you’d know what you take for granted.”

“I don’t take it for granted,” Zandra corrected her. “I just want something better.”

“You are in the doldrums,” Chaundra laughed. “All right. I’ll go along with you. Festivals are kind of boring.”

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

The minute they stepped into Farcry Woods their flesh began to tingle. This is how it was all the time when they were in battle mode and they knew another tribe was near. The best way to jump ranks was to take down tribal leaders. Of course, the lower tribes couldn’t take down the upper tribes, but tribes closest to their own ranks were always on guard to raise their status. Delta would be in pursuit of Gamma and Gamma would always be prowling for Beta while watching out for Delta. Those like Chaundra and Zandra in Beta tribe would be eager to take Alpha down. Alpha, however, was almost impregnable. The highest ranked tribes were the most skilled and least vulnerable to attacks.

But they didn’t have to worry about battles and attacks now. They were only watching out for Body Bots, bodyguard robots scouring the woods for offenders. There were fewer Body Bots in operation than there used to be because few risked execution or punishment on Festival Days when all was frivolity and fun.

Still they had to be careful. Zandra had brought along dynamite sticks. Dynamite sticks were the most powerful weapon allowed in tribal warfare. Guns were outlawed centuries ago. The high tech days had proved to be lethal to humankind with the invention of tanks and nuclear missiles and stealth bombers. The tribal government, called the Founders, had elected to de-evolve to more primitive methods—bows, slings, swords, nets and clubs, with the exception of dynamite sticks, which were the only artillery that could take out Body Bots. However, dynamite sticks weren’t powerful enough to blow up buildings. The Founders didn’t want to use valuable resources to replace buildings anyway.

“So what made you decide on Farcry Woods?” Chaundra asked.

“It was Training Grounds,” Zandra replied.

“Yeah, well, it’s not used for that anymore. The equipment here is old and I think it may be condemned.” Chaundra grimaced.

Zandra sighed. “I know but when we were kids, we came here and I felt safe and happy. I haven’t really felt that way since.”

“Oh, so you want to recapture that. You know, Zan, I really don’t think it’s as easy as that.”

They were interrupted by a monkey’s cry. “I don’t remember monkeys here,” Zandra said.

“I guess after the Founders condemned it, they made it into a monkey habitat. That’s what I mean, Zan. Things have changed and we have to change right along with those things.”

“I don’t mind change, Cha, as long as it’s a good change.”

They picked their way through the woods, ever mindful of old traps and obstacles along the way. Rope vines hung down in various dilapidated forms. “Only fit for monkeys,” Chaundra said, giving a tug to one and watching it drop from the trees.

“Yeah, a shame. We used to swing on those,” Zandra added.

That night they took their fire stones and warmed up vegus. Vegus was rich and creamy like a buttery baked potato, at least that’s what they were told by the elders. Then they gathered fruit and ate that.

“Monkey food,” Chaundra smiled. “You know, this is fun. I don’t know why we haven’t done this before.”

“Probably because this place is off limits.” Zandra made a wry face.

Chaundra laughed. “Wonder why there are so many rules when all we do is fight.”

“It keeps us from reverting back to savages,” Zandra laughed.

They pulled out their ISC packs. Instant Sleep Converters easily transformed to tent and sleeping chambers. It was the one convenience they never went without. A good night’s sleep meant a rested warrior. Making mistakes because they were tired was a weakness that couldn’t be afforded.

“Good night, Cha. Thirteen more nights to go. Do you suppose we’ll be missed?”

“I don’t think so. Most are too happy and drunk to notice a few absentee tribal members,” Chaundra replied.

“Right,” Zandra responded, but she was too tired to talk more. Soon they were both fast asleep.

                                                                     *****

The next day as Chaundra and Zandra were reloading their packs, Zandra spoke up suddenly. “Have you seen my laser light?”

“No, did you have it out last night?”

Zandra nodded. “Yeah, I thought I heard a noise in the middle of the night and wanted to see what it was.”

“Did you?”

“Yeah, it was monkeys. I’m sure I put it back, though.”

Chaundra winced. “I hope they didn’t see you put it back.”

“They?”

“The monkeys, Zan. Don’t you know how smart they are and how curious?”

Zandra sighed. “I’ve got to find that laser light. It has my ID on it.”

“I know. I guess we better start looking. I’m sure they’ll get tired of it and drop it after a while.”

Both of them were feeling how futile it was to go chasing after monkeys in a forest. So it was with relief that they saw the offender hadn’t traveled far. However, he had traveled high. Above them in the tree tops they could see him swinging the laser light in arcs. The little pest had activated it and was enchanted by the beams of light cascading through the thick darkness of the canopy.

“There’s the beast now,” Zandra said, pointing to the monkey. “One of us will have to climb after it.”Beta Tribe

“It’s your laser light,” Chaundra pointed out.

“Thanks,” Zandra responded, then hoisted herself into the tree. Survival skills were taught from earliest ages so scaling trees was not difficult but climbing as fast as a monkey was. Zandra knew she had to be wily to sneak up on the fiend and catch him unawares.

She found foothold and handholds upward until she settled in a branch near him. She laid in wait for her best opportunity then braced herself and leaped. The monkey screamed in fright and anger as Zandra grabbed the laser from his grasp. In fury he flung himself at Zandra and knocked her off balance. She grabbed for any hold but all she got was a monkey tail. Monkey and girl both fell from the tree, hitting branch after branch on their way down. As if the fall wasn’t bad enough, when she would have hit ground, the earth caved in beneath her and down she fell further into a pit. She grasped wildly at the sides, slowing her fall and came to rest with a thud at the bottom.

“Umph,” she groaned as her leg twisted beneath her.

The monkey landed beside her. Zandra let loose of its tail and it leaped away from her to the other side of the pit, shrieking at her.

“Zandra, are you all right?” Chaundra shouted to her.

Zandra tried to stand but when she put weight on her left foot, it gave her an incredible burst of pain.

“I think I broke my foot,” she said. “What lousy luck to fall in this old trap.”

“I’d say it was good luck. If you hadn’t fallen into that trap, you’d probably be dead. If I lower some rope, do you think you could climb up?”

“Well, my legs are fine and one of my feet is okay. I gotta get out of here anyway.”

Chaundra unloaded the rope from her pack and threw it to Zandra. “Tie it around you and I’ll tie the other end around a tree.”

Zandra obeyed and then started hoisting herself up the sides of the pit. She felt like her foot was splitting with the pain but she long ago learned to weather through pain. The monkey, who had ceased hollering, jumped on top of Zandra’s shoulders, seeking an easy way out of the pit.

“Whatever, monkey. You nearly kill me and now I’m your buddy,” she said. Still he was a cute fellow.

At the top she fell in a heap. The monkey jumped from her shoulder and watched them inquisitively. Apparently he was not inclined to leave.

“I think you made a friend,” Chaundra said, “Kind of sweet.”

Zandra grimaced. “I wish he was a doctor. Cha, what am I going to do? We’ll never get back with me in my condition.”

“I could go for help,” Chaundra offered.

“And risk us both being demoted to Omega, I don’t think so. I don’t suppose there are any clinics nearby,” Zandra joked.

“Monkeys don’t need clinics. Unfortunately, they’re all abandoned,” Chaundra replied.

“Not all of them,” a voice boomed out.

Chaundra jumped in fright. Zandra would have also if she wasn’t incapacitated. Literally out of nowhere a figure had appeared. She was dressed in green for camouflage.

“Who are you?” Zandra asked.

“I am Lita,” she answered. “We call ourselves Otherworlders.”

“We—who is we?” Chaundra asked.

“All of us who have escaped from the tribal system,” Lita replied.

Zandra gasped. “You’re an outcast?”

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

“We prefer Otherworlders,” Lita corrected.

“But you’re not supposed to exist—that’s what they told us,” Zandra said with widened eyes.

“You were supposedly exterminated ages ago,”Chaundra added.

“I guess we would be if it was up to the founders. Luckily, we have technology that your tribal government gave up on long ago.” Lita smiled.

“Like how you came out of nowhere just now?” Zandra asked.

Lita nodded. “I shouldn’t be telling you any of this. In fact, I shouldn’t even be here. Our memory wipes have not proved trustworthy yet. But I couldn’t let you two call any attention to us. Come on, I can help you and get you on your way out of here.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Have you seen this broken foot?” Zandra asked.

“Of course,” Lita answered, “You both hold on to me and I’ll see that you are taken to Relief Facility 23.”

“Hold on to you?” Chaundra asked and gulped.

“Yes, don’t be shy. Transportation is very easy with Otherworlders. You’ll wish you had one of our devices after you’ve traveled this way.” She smiled and held out her hands. They took her hands and as they did, the monkey leaped on Zandra’s shoulders. They were instantly propelled to a large decrepit building.

“This is the clinic that’s going to fix me?” Zandra asked sarcastically.

“Looks can be deceiving,” Lita said. “We keep it like this on the outside to avoid suspicion. The Body Bots don’t register changes on the inside. I don’t think you should take your monkey inside,” Lita told Zandra.

Zandra frowned. “I don’t think I have any control over it. Besides, the way he reacted to me earlier, I don’t think I want to handle him.”

Chaundra pulled a ration bar from her pack and waved it in front of the monkey. The monkey, still on Zandra’s shoulder, swiped at it. Chaundra then tossed the treat on the ground and the monkey quickly leaped on it, seizing it. He eagerly removed the wrapper and stuffed it into his mouth greedily.

“Uh-oh, now you’ve fed it,” Lita warned. “Let’s go in before it follows us.”

Zandra leaned on Lita and Chaundra for support and hobbled into the building. Inside everything was neat and orderly; a direct contrast to the outside of the building.

“How do you keep this place a secret?” Zandra asked.

“Nobody but Body Bots comes around here, but we do have shields in place if that changes,” Lita replied. “We want things to seem as normal as possible to the Founders.”

A man approached Lita and the girls with a worried expression on his face. “Lita, who are these people?” he asked.

“We’re from Beta Tribe,” Chaundra chimed in.

He directed his attention only to Lita. “Are you crazy? You brought Othersiders here? You know how dangerous that is.”

“I couldn’t help it, Jovi,” Lita explained. “One of them was hurt and they could have attracted others.”

“So, what if they did? They would have been disciplined and that would be the end of it.”

“They were near Station 55,” Lita replied.

“What’s Station 55?” Chaundra asked curiously.

“It’s where our young ones are…”

“Lita!” Jovi interrupted her. “You shouldn’t be telling them anything. Our memory wipes are still experimental and who knows what information they’ll divulge to the Founders.”

“We used to live near that area, too, when we were young,” Zandra butted in.

Lita nodded. “We know. That’s why we converted it.” Then she stopped. “I’m sorry, Jovi, but they are just young girls. They mean no harm to us.”

Jovi sighed. “You’ve been an Otherworlder so long you’ve forgotten how Othersiders live. It’s kill or be killed there. That’s why we’ve separated ourselves. You shouldn’t have brought them here. What are we going to do with them?

“Are you going to kill us?” Chaundra’s eyes widened.

“Of course not!” Lita reassured her. “We’re a peaceful society. We hate killing of any kind. We never harm anyone here—except for an occasional Body Bot.”

“So what are we going to do with them?” Jovi asked again.

Lita took Zandra’s arm. “We’re going to fix this one up and then we’re going to discuss it with Council. We’ll figure something out,” Lita urged him.

“I guess we don’t have a choice. Exam Room 3 has a Mender Machine in it. Come on then,” he said and led the way.

                                                                                            *****

“We have nothing like this at home,” Zandra said, examining her foot which was now good as new.

Lita and Jovi exchanged glances. He was warning her but Lita wasn’t listening.

“You’d be surprised,” Lita replied. “The Founders have had Mender Machines for decades.”

“What do you mean?” Chaundra asked. “Technology is forbidden.”

“Yeah, that’s why you have Laser Lights and Sleep Converters,” Lita said sarcastically.

“Well, some modern equipment is necessary to be effective warriors—but Mender Machines…”

“Wouldn’t make you more effective warriors?” Lita raised her eyebrow.

“We have to limit ourselves somewhere…” Zandra replied.

“Your Founders don’t. They take conveniences for themselves and leave you almost all primitive warfare artillery.”

“Lita, you shouldn’t be saying any of this,” Jovi hissed.

“Why not? They should know that their Founders are corrupt!” she shouted angrily.

“That’s for them to find out on their own,” Jovi disagreed.

“They’ve found us. That’s like finding out on their own,” Lita said.

“Did they find us or did you find them?” Jovi asked her.

“Let’s not argue. What’s done is done. It’s for the Council to decide what happens next.”

“Don’t we have a say?” Zandra asked. “Maybe we can join you.”

“Join them?” Chaundra’s voice sliced through the air. “Are you crazy? Leave our family? Leave Beta Tribe?”

“Why not?” Zandra asked. “If what they say is true, our lives are all just a sham anyway. These people don’t war and they have technology to help each other.”

“If the Founders discovered them, there would be war and we’ll be caught in the middle of it,” Chaundra replied.

“The Founders already know about us. They just can’t find us. If we can help it, they never will,” Lita told them.

“If we start stealing Tribal members, don’t you think that might attract some attention?” Jovi questioned her.

“They are two girls. People die every day in tribal warfare,” Lita argued.

“We’re not looking for converts,” Jovi snapped back.

“But we know too much and it’s the simplest solution. If we join you, we remain quiet. We can supply you current information about the Tribes that will enable you to stay hidden,”Zandra reasoned.

“They will come looking for them. Beta Tribe is very prestigious,” Jovi warned.

“We’ll stage our deaths,” Zandra blurted out.

“What?!!!” Chaundra shouted in disbelief.

“We’ll return to Beta Tribe and when Battle Days begin again, we’ll “die”.Lita, you can help us. You can dress like Alpha tribe, pretend to blow us up with dynamite sticks or drown us in the ocean or whatever; with your disappear/reappear gadget, it will be easy for you.”

“No!!” Jovi and Chaundra both echoed.

“That gadget is called a Traveler and I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Lita said, smiling. “Just the sort of thing Adronica will love.”

“Adronica?” Zandra asked.

“Our Council Leader,” Jovi said grimly. “And she’s right. Adronica will love it.”

                                                                 ***

Adronica was a jovial curly-haired person with sparkling eyes. Zandra could tell just by looking at her that she had a sense of fun and adventure.

“So you want us to pose as members of Alpha Tribe so we can blow you up with dynamite sticks?” Adronica asked with the corners of her mouth turning up.

“Well, not for real, of course,” Zandra replied.

The other council members sat solemnly around a wide table used exclusively for matters of weighty business.

“It’s been a slow day,” Adronica smiled.  “Why not?”

One of the council members cleared his throat. “I don’t think this is a laughing matter. We have guarded ourselves with the utmost secrecy. If we are discovered or captured, it could be the end of our society as we know it.”

“Oh, I think there’s little chance of that. Zandra and her friend can make sure there is only one witness and someone a little addle-brained at that, someone young and inexperienced, as long as someone sees the actual event. We’ll whisk in, blow something up with lots of smoke, zap Zandra and Chaundra out and that’s about all there is to it.”

“I’m against putting our members in jeopardy for the sake of two girls,” Jovi said frowning.

“That’s why only Lita and I will be going,” Adronica responded.

“What about remains?” Jovi asked. “Won’t they want to prove someone was actually killed?”

“Nothing recognizable. They don’t do DNA testing, you know. I’m sure we can come with some spare body parts.”

“Ewww,” Chaundra remarked, turning green.

“It’s not like you haven’t seen them before,” Zandra replied.

“I know,” Chaundra nodded. “But they were never supposed to be mine before. I don’t remember ever even agreeing to do this.”

Adronica studied Chaundra. “It’s your choice. We will return you. However, if you don’t agree to this, we must attempt a memory wipe and they have been rather unpredictable, some have even removed all of the person’s memories.”

Chaundra gulped. “All memories?”

Adronica nodded. “Yes, we couldn’t risk it otherwise.”

“I guess I have no other option. I’ll do it,” she said weakly.

“Welcome to the Otherworld, Chaundra and Zandra. We are now your family,” Adronica told them.

                                                                                      ***********

As Chaundra, Zandra and Lita left the building; the little monkey met them and leaped on Zandra’s shoulder.

“I told you not to feed it,” Lita said, smiling.

“You know this little monkey might be just what we need for a distraction in our plan.”

“Plan? There’s a plan?” Chaundra asked, rolling her eyes.

“Sure, there’s one more week of Festival. That’s plenty of time to arrange our own murders.”

“Please stop talking about our deaths as if it’s a celebration. What if something goes wrong? How are we going to get in touch with you and Adronica?” Chaundra asked Lita.

“That’s easy,” Lita said, handing her a small round object. “This is your first piece of standard equipment. It’s a communication device, A CD. Just speak into it, but use it sparingly. We’re not sure if the Founders can tap into it in your own territory. We’re only taking a minimum of modern conveniences from our world; two CDs and one Traveler. We don’t want anything being accidentally left behind in Tribal lands.”

Zandra nodded. “Can that Traveler take us back to Festival Point?”

“Once I program the location into it, it can take us anywhere,” Lita told her. 

“I think we should be taught how to use it—just in case anything happens to you,” Zandra said.

“Of course,” Lita replied. “We’ll tie up all the loose ends and have you back at Festival Point by morning. Then Adronica and I will meet up with you again the first Battle Day.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Zandra said. “See, Cha, we do have a plan.”

Chaundra grimaced. “I only hope it works.”

,                                                                   ***********

Walking back into Festival, Zandra felt her throat constrict. She suddenly realized that she hadn’t had a panic attack since leaving her life as an “Otherworlder”. She breathed calmly and deeply. The little monkey on her shoulder chattered away in nervous fashion.

“It’s okay, Laz,” she reassured him. She had named the monkey after the laser light he had tried to swipe, along with a distant memory of a story she had heard once about someone coming back from the dead. She slipped Laz a piece of her nutrition bar. He grabbed it with greedy abandon. This was the first she had been separated from Chaundra since their adventure had begun. Chaundra had returned to her temporary quarters in Festival Point, grabbing anything she might need that wouldn’t seem suspicious if found missing upon “their demise”. But it wasn’t death she was thinking of at the moment. She was on the look-out for someone strategic to her plan. When she spotted him, she smiled and headed in his direction.

                                                          *********

Chaundra tapped her on the shoulder and Zandra jumped. “Would you stop doing that? I’m nervous enough as it is!”

“Wasn’t that Bacillus I saw you talking to, Zan?”

“Yeah, well, Donovon was with him,” Zandra explained.

“Oh, how’d it go?” Chaudra asked.

“All set. Dononvon’s going with us tomorrow. I told him I knew where some members of Alpha Tribe might be hanging out.”

“You said that with Bacillus there?”

“No, of course not. But it’s all arranged. Don’t worry.”

Chaundra frowned. “So we’re really going through with this? Leaving everything and everyone behind to throw in our lot with strangers? Are you sure about this, Zan?”

“Very sure,” Zandra said emphatically.”You’ll see. Everything will work out perfectly.”

                                                               **********

“What kind of weapons did you bring?” Chaundra asked Zandra before Donovon’s arrival.

“Everything but dynamite sticks. It’ll be no good being equally armed, will it?”

“What if Donovon brings some?” Chaundra’s eyes widened.

“Donovon? He couldn’t get a hold of a pair of brass knuckles. He won’t have anything worse than some dull knives. Why do you think I chose him as the easiest patsy I knew?”

Chaundra laughed. “Yeah, sometimes I forget we’re talking about Donovon.”

Donovon ambled onto the scene, shifting his backpack uneasily.

“Bring any artillery, Donovon?” Zandra asked.

“Knives and a net. It’s all I had.” He pulled out an assortment of chipped blades and ragged netting. Zandra winked at Chaundra.

“Don’t worry about it, Donovon. We’ve got plenty of ammo,” Zandra told him.

“Why’d you guys pick me?” he asked suspiciously.

“We figured you’d be game for anything. Besides you need some practice,” Zandra told him.

Donovon grimaced. “I guess you’re right.”

As they neared the rendezvous point, Chaundra looked at Zandra nervously. Zandra licked her lips. Her breathing was normal. She was poised for action. She would not have a panic attack now. Zandra nodded and Chaundra slipped out a protein bar. Laz snapped to attention at the sight of the treat. Chaundra threw it with great force out of Donovon’s eyesight but not out of Laz’s view. The monkey immediately jumped off Zandra’s shoulder and pursued the food in earnest.

“Darn!” Zandra said loudly, attracting Donovon’s attention. “Chaundra and I will have to get that monkey before it attracts attention. Wait here, Donovon.”

“W-w-wait? Are you sure it’s okay?”

Chaundra clapped him on the shoulder. “It will be,” she said and they both took off running after the monkey.

“Don’t move a muscle,” Zandra yelled back over her shoulder. Then she added on the sly to Chaundra, “He’ll be halfway to Festival Point before one kaboom of a dynamite stick.”

Chaundra laughed. Zandra grabbed the monkey who was gobbling down the bar. “I told you he’d make a great distraction. They headed quickly for the entrance to the underground cavern. They had chosen their positions well. It would be a safe area when the explosion occurred.

Lita and Adronica appeared out of nowhere dressed in Alpha garb. Lita waved a dynamite stick.

“That’s the signal. Go for cover,” Zandra told her friend. The girls only had to duck inside to avoid the massive explosion of the dynamite sticks, and then reappear after the coast was clear.

“Donovon will be back at Festival Point in no time,” Chaundra chuckled. “He’s sure to have heard that.”

“Yeah, he’s a born runner. If his dad wasn’t a founder, he never would have made Beta Tribe. He’s been molly coddled by everyone.”

They picked their way carefully back out of the cave as they heard footsteps and Lita’s hushed voice beckoning them. Adronica and Lita had lain their packs down and were unloading the bags they had brought with them.

Now that Zandra was at the crossroads, she didn’t know if she could do it. She fumbled in her pack nervously. Her face had gone suddenly white.

“Why so nervous now, Zan? We’ve done it,” Chaundra assured her, patting her shoulder.

“Yeah,” Zandra said, pulling out two cans.

“Is that gas?” Chaundra’s eyes widened. “Where did you…”

Too late for the rest of Chaundra’s words to form, Zandra had popped the top and thrown them toward Lita and Adronica. They hadn’t even been watching the girls’ activity.

Zandra pulled out a mask and slipped it over her face. Adronica and Lita fell to the ground, choking on the gas. Soon they were unconscious. Chaundra hadn’t even run. She lay on the ground with a look of astonishment on her face. Or was it betrayal? Zandra wasn’t sure. Zandra quickly tied up the two outcasts and took their CDs and Traveler from them. Laz was bouncing around them excitedly. Zandra’s heart was beating rapidly.

“Good work, Zandra,” Bacillus said with a wry smile as he and four of his fellow Alpha Tribe members entered onto the scene. “I gotta say I didn’t think you could pull this off. I wasn’t sure if I even believed you before you showed me that communication device.” Then he smirked at Chaundra. “Your stupid friend didn’t even have a clue.”

Zandra shifted nervously. “She goes free. It was our bargain,” she stated firmly.

“Yeah, yeah. She goes free. With all the Outcasts we’re going to bring in with that traveling device, we don’t need her. Congratulations, Zandra. It looks like you just made Alpha Tribe.”

Zandra smiled. Success felt good.

Additional Info

AUTHOR BIO: Shari L Klase lives in the beautiful Susquehanna Valley with her artist husband and writer daughter. She spends her days writing and playing with her incorrigible corgi, Lucy, and her nights cleaning schools and devising story lines. You can read about her writing wins and woes in her blog at sklase.wordpress.com.

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