Generation 2

Chapter Fifteen: Unearthing the Roots

We left as soon as the curfew would allow. The sun rose behind us, turning the sky light shades of pink and brilliant reds as large fluffy clouds floated lazily through the sky. On foot, Eden led the way with a vigilant eye. His longs legs kept our pace brisk and he was silent except for the occasional request for me to keep up. We passed vaguely familiar landmarks and intersections but my attention was caught on a row of thick, thorny bushes that lined the sidewalk. My memory of the riot was hazy at best yet I was fairly certain that we must have been close to the small park it had taken place in. Despite my certainty there was no evidence left behind to confirm my suspicions. All the blood that had been spilt was gone – washed away by rain or hoses. No tattered clothes or picket signs; just cars and the putrid smell of gasoline wafting off hot pavement.

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The police station had seen better days. Its small frame was abused with hateful slurs and angry spray paint. I couldn’t help but think whoever had been tagging it was brave. Eden probably would have thought they were reckless and stupid. I bit my bottom lip as we approached the glass doors. Two armed officers were standing guard, frisking every Berry that requested entry. A short line had formed and we quickly slipped into it without a word. I was fiddling with my thumbs, trying to get the butterflies out of my stomach, when Eden bent down and whispered in my ear, “Just smile. I’ll handle everything.”

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I nodded, felling the blood rush to my face as his warm breath brushed against my lobe. The butterflies went wild and I felt jittery all over again. When it was our turn to be examined by the officers Eden stepped forward but not before catching my hand in his own and pulling me close to his side. I looked up at him as he stared straight ahead, confusion written plainly on my face.

“Due to the overwhelming amount of Berries, we have to inquire about your reason for visiting before we can allow you entry.” The taller, green Berry recited smoothly. It was apparent he had been spitting that line out for an unknown amount of time.

Eden nodded, face stoic as he spoke, “We just wish to relay information about Thursday’s riot.”

My mouth went to drop but Eden’s hand gripped mine tighter and I remembered his earlier advice. Smile. I forced my lips up, flashing my weak smile towards the blue woman in uniform as her eyes swept over our forms in surprise.

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“We thank you for any information you can provide us with. Unfortunately, we still have to pat you two down.” He warned, though the hard edge of his voice had disappeared.

“Of course,” Eden stated, dropping my hand and spreading his arms and legs. The two officers silently went over his legs and waist, patting his chest down quickly. I followed suit, eyes clenched shut when green hands lingered on my breasts. They let us go without another word, moving to the side to allow us entry.

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Eden scoped up my hand again, leading me through the double doors and into the packed ten by ten lobby. Berries of all colors were congregated around three desks that lined the back of the room, eagerly awaiting their turn to ask questions or give information. I bit my bottom lip as Eden led me around the line and towards the back – where a sole officer stood to prevent unauthorized citizens from slipping into the hallway lined with cells and offices.

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The red officer rolled his eyes at our approaching figures, gesturing to the long line as soon as we were within ear shot, “No entry. Whatever your business is, please get in line. Someone will be with you shortly.”

Eden shook his head, “There is no time. I need to speak to someone immediately.”

“Sure you do, bud. Just like everyone else here-“

“I have information regarding the Uprising’s next move.” Eden interrupted and I thought he looked rather smug when a look of surprise took over the officer’s red features.

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“Right,” there was a pause before he continued to speak, “I’ll get someone to assist you straightaway, then.”

The man disappeared down the long hallway – simply putting up a chain to keep people out in his absence. Eden guided us to a row of abandoned plastic chairs, sitting down as he waited for someone to arrive and take care of us. I sat down next to him, hands clasped in my lap. I didn’t understand how lying to the police was going to help us find Noir. Was he hoping to lead them on a wild goose chase and then try to weasel some secret information out of them? He was a great conversationalist – he had gotten us out of trouble in Moon Pie Falls – perhaps he was extremely confident in his ability to pull wool over their eyes.

The red officer kept his promise and a new pink man came to our aid just a minute later, “Hello. I am Officer Gum.” He greeted, eyes pacing back and forth from me to Eden.

I merely smiled as Eden stood, taking the man’s hand in his own for a quick shake, “It is a pleasure to be of service, Officer Gum. My name is Eden Deluge.”

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After introductions and a second of small talk Officer Gum was motioning Eden to follow him down that long hallway, “Wait here, Snow. I’ll be right back.”  Snow? Who was Snow? I blinked up at him, dumbfounded, until I realized he was referring to me. Right. I nodded, forcing another smile as I waved at his departing form.

I vaguely heard Eden remark that I was his sister. Officer Gum replied that it was a shame that I was colorless. If only he knew the real shame was that I was a hybrid – a multi-colored taboo child. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind and tried to concentrate on what was happening around me.

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Minutes ticked by and soon I grew restless. Surely I could be of some help. My eyes darted around, scanning every detail of the lobby. The red guard had never returned to his post. The chain was securely in place – though not much of an obstacle should anyone really want to get past it. The three officers at the desks were so preoccupied with their work I was sure that they would never notice if I just slipped down the hall.

I wouldn’t go far, I promised myself. Just enough to peak through the windows, perhaps find out where they were holding the prisoners and if Noir was among them.

My stomach was whirling as I stood up. I half expected everyone in the room to turn towards me and stare. They didn’t. No one noticed me as I moved towards the chained off hallway. They didn’t even blink in my direction when I ducked under the cold metal. It was almost too easy.

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Now that I was committing the crime, I didn’t know where to start. I probably should have thought this through better – what if I got caught? What if someone had seen me and told a police officer? Would I be arrested? Hurt? Killed? I swallowed the knot that had formed in my throat and forced my feet forward. There was no backing out now.

It was empty and cold in the hallway. I made sure to step lightly, not wanting to make a sound, but sometimes my sneakers would squeak on the polished tile. I would flinch, half expecting alarms and red lights to start flashing, only to be rewarded with stark silence. I tried a few of the doors that lined the hall to no avail. They were all locked shut, their contents hidden behind wood and steel. I was getting pretty far, too far, when a knob finally turned. My eyes widened and I gradually peeled the door away from the frame.

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It was a large room which caused me to believe it belonged to a fairly high ranking officer. The wooden desk was cluttered with open files and photographs. A leather chair was situated in the nook and behind the chair was a large cork pin-board. All sorts of information were tacked onto its surface. Notes, plans, symbols, a map and one large photograph of the statue my father had created. I stumbled around the room before making my way in front of the board, examining the contents slowly.

There were numerous letters signed by different personals. Most seemed to be about decreasing the hostility in Bubbleport. They all had one thing in common. Next to the signed named was an intricate symbol. The circles and straight lines crisscrossed at their apex before diving back down. I knew that symbol. I had seen it somewhere before. I just didn’t know where. I traced the symbol with my eyes a few times, trying to engrain the sign into my memory, before I snatched one off the letters off of the board and folded it up neatly. I shoved it into my pocket, hoping it would come in handy.

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The next item that caught my attention was the map. Sugar Valley was circled in red with scribbles surrounding it. First known exhibit to host Can You See Me Now. I frowned, but continued to read. Possible home of the fiend and its family. Begin search here. My hand flew over my mouth. All those phone calls from my mother! Had they found my family? Were they looking for them? Were Mama and Papa on the run with Pandora?

A soft sob bubbled up in my throat and broke through my teeth as the door to the office opened up. I twirled on my heels, tears pouring down my cheeks, as the red guard from earlier stood in front of me.

“What are you doing in here?” He asked, suspicion and a hint of sympathy tinting his tone.

I choked back another sob as my mind went into survival mode. All the fear from before flooded my system, overloading it, causing me to speak without thinking, “I’m lost.” I wailed, wiping away the tears as they continued to pour out.

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“Lost?” He mimicked, “You aren’t supposed to be back here, period.”

“I know,” I moaned, “but I had to pee and everyone was so busy and you weren’t there so I just, I just thought-“ Coherent words ceased to spill from my lips after that, too broken up with hiccups and snuffles.

Red eyes glared at me and I thought for sure he was going to kill me on the spot. Take out his gun and put a bullet in my head. No one would know. I would die here, in this small room, never knowing if my parents were okay. He sighed, deep and annoyed, interrupting my frantic thoughts, “Follow me.”

I did just that, tears still seeping down my face as he took me to the women’s restroom. He stood outside the door, patiently waiting for me, until I finally reemerged. I was still crying, unable to hold back the waterworks, even once he had returned me to the lobby, “It’s fine. Just don’t do again, you hear?” He scolded, “I’ll get your brother.”

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I wasn’t sure how long it had been since Eden had left me alone. It felt like an eternity. I eventually ran out of tears to shed. I pulled my knees up to my chest, burying my face in my thighs. My arms wrapped as tightly around myself as possible, I waited for my teal ‘brother’ to return.

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I felt his calming presence before I heard him. It was an aura of peace and tranquility that usually surrounded him, “Come on, Snow. Let’s go.” I peeked over the ridges of my kneecaps, half expecting him to be angry despite the tone of his voice. He wasn’t. His hand was held out for me to take, lips pulled into a half smile. I took his hand wordlessly and we left without as much as a goodbye.

We were a good distance away from the station before I tugged my hand free of his grip, digging into my pockets. Eden watched me carefully, eyebrows raising as I pulled out the letter – but more importantly – my phone. I dialed my mother’s number, anxiously waiting for her to answer. All I got was her answering machine. I couldn’t let myself dwell on the implications. I mowed forward, onto the next question plaguing my conscious, “Do you know what this symbol is?” I asked before handing it over to Eden.

His teal eyes scanned the creased page – inspecting every speck and mark on the page. The more he read the further his lips pulled downwards. His eyebrows furrowed, lines appearing as his forehead, “Where did you get this?”

Eden had to have been informed about my little escapade. My face flushed and my eyes diverted to the side, “I took it from the office I was found in.” I mumbled.

He folded it up with precision, slipping it into his own back pocket, “That was careless, Princess. I told you stay put.” He lectured, taking off.

I jogged to catch up, knowing that he was right. Everyone was trying so hard to protect me. What did I do to repay them? Put myself in danger time after time after time, “I’m sorry,” I called after him, “I just felt so… useless.”

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His brisk pace did not falter but I caught him glimpse at me over his shoulder, “That symbol. It is the Resistance’s.”

“Oh… Why would the Resistance be writing to the police?”

“It would seem the police are now working for the Resistance, princess. Maybe the whole government, who knows.”

“Oh.” I didn’t know what else to say. If the whole government of Berry was on their side was this a battle we could win? Would it be better for everyone if I just went back into hiding or ceased to exist? Perhaps it was just not time for color-blind love and the resulting offspring.

“They’re bound to notice you stole from that office. They will be on the lookout for you. We need to get inside and stay away from police.” He ran a hand through his hair, sounding exasperated as he spoke.

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Just another mistake to add to my never ending list, “I’m sorry.” Apologizing wouldn’t fix the situation, I knew that. There was just nothing else I could do or say to make the situation better. I could, however, keep it from getting any worse. I stuck close to Eden’s side, trying my best to seem calm together even though each step brought me closer to falling apart.

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Generation 2

Chapter Fourteen: Thinnest of Maps

I wasn’t sure what time it was the next time I woke up. The sun was still up – the rays of light piercing through the dirt caked window over my head – but it could have been eight in the morning or four in the evening for all I knew.  A second or two of clearing sleep from my eyes brought my unfamiliar surroundings to my attention. Instantly, the reality of the previous night crashed around me and I scrambled out of the bed.

Noir. Eden. Shiloh. Where were they? Were they okay? My stomach dropped as I recalled Cephei telling me about the escalation of violence I had brought about. Another mistake; more deaths. Once again, I was the one at fault. I tried my best to push the haunting thoughts of my brother aside as I stumbled over to a nearby table. I was surprised to see my clothes in pristine condition – washed and folded. Deposited on top of them was my cell phone; the object I had been looking for. I turned it on, tapping my foot impatiently as it flickered to life. I held my breath as the boot-up phase finished and the screen displayed ten missed texts and calls.

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I was immediately disappointed when I realized they were all from my mother. It had been a few days since I spoke to anyone in my family – they were probably just worried. I prayed that Pandora was still telling them that I was staying with Ocean as I brought up Noir’s name in my contacts. I hit send, biting my lip just a tiny bit harder every time it rang.

“Hello,” My heart nearly stopped beating as that two syllable word reached my ear, “you’ve reached –“ My hand slipped away from my face, absent mindedly hitting the end call button as my mind went blank. My eyes slowly trailed over to the only door in the room, feet shuffling towards the exit. I tried twisting the knob both ways but it only budged an inch before I was met with resistance. I crossed my arm, staring at the knob in confusion.

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Cephei had locked me in my room.

I fell backwards, back onto the bed I had just managed to crawl out of. What did I do now? I didn’t have Eden’s number nor Shiloh’s.  There wasn’t much that I could do at the moment. I needed to wait for Cephei to get back from the station; hope that she had everyone safe and sound with her. I curled up, hugging the sole pillow close to my body as I buried my face into the top of it.

Luckily, it wasn’t too long before the door creaked open. Cephei peered in, looking tired but in overall better condition. It was amazing what clean clothes and shower could do.

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“Are you awake?”

I nodded, sitting up slowly. I rubbed the dry tears away, attempting to hide the fact that I had been crying pitifully for quite some time.

“I have some good news.”

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I began signing, mostly out of habit, but Cephei’s face scrunched up in confusion and I remembered that last night I had spoken to her, “Sorry,” I mumbled, my voice tickling my throat as it rose out of my mouth, “Um, did you find them?”

She pursed her lips, glancing behind her before her attention rested on me again, “I found… something. I’m not sure if they are who they say they-“

It didn’t even matter that they could be strangers, I was out of the bed and onto my feet before she had even registered I had moved. Cephei did not try to block my path. Instead, she moved to the side and allowed me to run out into the living room. I felt light, almost giddy, as teal and pink came into view. I did slow down, confusion contorting my features, when I realized that they were blindfolded.

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Cephei must have noticed my reaction, “I couldn’t risk them being spies for the Resistance. If these are your friends than you can remove their blind folds.”

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I closed the gap between myself and Eden, reaching up with a smile as I pulled the fabric gently over his head, “Princess,” He breathed, “I’m glad you are safe.” I nodded, tears stinging my eyes as I pulled him into a hug. He returned it – albeit with one arm, “Please, do not do that to me again.”

I drew away, holding his blue gaze until he adverted his eyes to Shiloh – who had already proceeded to take off her own blindfold and was making gagging noises at us. I rolled my eyes but took a few steps back to put space between myself and Eden. ‘Where’s Noir?’ I signed. I saw the frustration well up in Shiloh, I still didn’t know why my signing annoyed her so, but Eden answered me before she began her badgering, “He did not return last night. We went down to the station to look for him – and you – but he wasn’t there. Shiloh overheard Cephei inquiring about Noir and insisted that we be brought here in order to speak to –“

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Shiloh rushed to my side, interrupting Eden with nudge so she could stand in front of me. He merely raised his eyebrow at the pink girl, moving towards the couch silently. Shiloh’s hands were on her hips and her eyes were ablaze as she scowled down at me, “Where is Noir?” She demanded. I shrugged in response, biting the side of my cheek, “You don’t know? How can you not know! You were with him when it happened!”

I met her anger with another shrug. Moving to walk around her, I sought to find a piece of paper and pen so I could explain to Shiloh what had happened. For some reason, speaking to her just didn’t feel right. Her hand whipped out, long nails digging into my shoulder as she jerked me around to face her, “Look here ‘princess’,” She was seething, free hand shaking. I clenched my eyes shut; certain she was going to hit me, “This is your fault. Noir only went into that trap to save your scrawny hide. You need to fix this you useless little-“

“Stop it!” Cephei eyebrows were furrowed as she approached us, “You do not get to come into my house and treat my guest in such a manner, young lady. I only brought you here because you told me you were a friend of Estellise’s. If you followed me from the station because of some boy I am going to have to ask you to leave.” Cephei seized Shiloh’s hand from my shoulder.

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Shiloh snatched her hand back, glowering at Cephei, “I am a friend of Estellise’s.”

“Could have fooled me.” I heard Eden mutter behind me. There was a moment of silence – Cephei and Shiloh glaring at each other – until Eden spoke up again, “You’ll get further if you work with Estelle instead of against her, Shiloh.”

Pink eyes narrowed, arms crossed over her chest, “Fine,” Shiloh conceded, “We’ll work together.”

*

According to Shiloh there were only a few places that Noir could have ended up.

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The police were being tight lipped about who they had been arrested during the protest. Cephei hadn’t been able to determine if he was being held there or not and neither had Shiloh. The second was in a ditch somewhere – probably hurt, unconscious or dead. Then there was always the chance that he had escaped and was lying low with some of his friends from the city.

Shiloh volunteered to drive around the blocks surrounding last night’s protest. She also said she would try to get into contact with a few Berries she hadn’t spoken too in years but were good friends of Noir’s. Cephei was a member of the Uprising here in Bubbleport and thought it would be a good idea to head to the hideout in order to collect information and resources. She tried to convince me to join her but I was determined to head over to the nearest station myself. They had to release information about their captives eventually. Bail had to be posted and everyone knew that Berries had one phone call. Eventually they had to follow the normal rules and regulations.

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Eden offered to accompany me even though he, like Cephei, felt it was a waste of time. Not only a waste of time but perilous and reckless.  I had to wear my disguise, obviously, but there was another condition as well. I had to dye my hair. There were no ands, ifs or buts about it. It was the only way Cephei would even entertain the thought of letting me do such a treacherous feat.

As soon as I agreed to the conditions Cephei ran out to the nearest store to buy a container of bleach. It took hours to strip my strains of the bright yellow that usually tinted them. The chemical fumes permeated the air, burning my eyes and nose and filling my lungs. The best part of the whole experience was when Cephei was washing my hair out at the end. Her long fingers played with my long mane, nails scratching my scalp gently. I had almost fallen asleep on the toilet when I heard a snip and distinctively felt weight fall from my right side. My eyes flew open, blinking away the haze that had formed in my moment of reprieve.

“What was that?”

“I’m just cutting your hair.” She sounded so calm that I almost felt as if nothing was wrong. Then there was another snip and I realized the locks that used to fall to my lower back now rested below my shoulders.

“What? Why!” I exclaimed, grabbing up the rest of my hair and throwing it over my shoulder. As if that would protect it; like it would regenerate the length that had already been slaughtered.

“No one will recognize you like this, Estellise. Trust me.”

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I gritted my teeth but released my hair, “You could have asked me first.” I pouted, feeling much like a child as she quickly evened out both sides with a few more snips.

“I’m sorry. I just knew you would put up a fight.”

She was right – I would have argued until I was blue in the face to keep my hair. That didn’t quell the anger coursing through my veins nor did it stop the tears from flowing when I stood up and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, “I don’t even look like me.”

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“Exactly,” was all Cephei had to say to me before she retreated out into the living room.

I knew we didn’t have much time – Noir could be in danger or dying or worse – but I sat there mourning my hair until Eden came to retrieve me. I saw his reflection enter the bathroom. Watched as he paused, staring at the yellow strains that had been scattered on the title floor, before he finally flashed me a small smile.

“You look good.” He whispered.

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I wiped the tears away, sniffling until he twirled me around to face him. He frowned, eyes searching mine, before he finally bent down and gave my forehead a feather light kiss. Face blazing, I buried my face into his strong chest.

We stayed like that until my sniveling had ceased.

“Okay, you can go now.” I mumbled, untangling myself from his arms.

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Eden’s face contorted into one of utter disbelief before melting into wonder, “I-I-what?” He stuttered ungracefully. A flustered Eden was a sight to behold. Laughter bubbled past my lips and I nodded, trying to hide my smile behind fingertips, “Oh. I. Okay,” he paused, letting the words sink in slowly.

“Go on. I have to change,” I teased, ushering him out the door with a wave of my hands.

“Right.” He mumbled, shuffling towards the door slowly. I giggled, nudging him playfully though the doorway. He turned, still looking utterly confused, as I waved to him while shutting the door.