The twins walked into the room, nervous and unsure. It was dark inside, and a single light cast on a teenager at a desk, wearing what looked like a bicycle helmet. The helmet was connected to a computer, and the boy seemed to be staring at the monitor. One of the twins coughed. The boy pulled off his helmet and looked up at them. “What is it?” he said in a snide, arrogant voice. The other twin responded. “There was a raid,” she said, fearing what would happen to her when her leader found out what had happened. “On our holding facility on Elk Island. Three boats took every captive we had.” The teen cursed and spit into a small sink that was right next to him. Then, he slammed his fist against the desk, causing both the twins to jump. “Well, then,” he said, clearly annoyed. “Get more. Cornell was a gamble, anyway. Fawkston is only a few hours away by air. We set out in three days, is that clear?” The twins gulped and nodded. “Yes, Lord Ram.” they said simultaneously. Then, they walked out.
It was pretty hard to fall asleep when you were leaning over a fire escape, with a metal railing digging into your ribs, while watching two dozen invaders ransack a bodega in Harlem. But Abel and Leil were pretty close to dozing off, and so was the team two blocks away, who were gazing at a similar scene. After the Sea King invasion a week ago, Sham had every available soldier and guard spying on them. Rumors were flying around NYC about the tribe having slaves, and of course, their origins in New Zealand. Obviously, they had tribes there, which sparked everybody’s interest.
Twenty minutes later, the pack of Sea Kings moved out of the bodega and started looking around the apartment building next door. Leil pulled out her walkie-talkie and clicked it on, covering it with her hand as a blast of static nearly gave them away. She talked into the device: “Abel, Leil, location Glenwood Apartments third floor fire escape. Sea Kings have shifted position.” The team in the apartment on the next block picked up the message, and it relayed down the line of scouts until it reached Sham’s HQ, which was about forty blocks away in a vine-tangled alley. Sham’s message bounced back to them. “Ambush in forty-five minutes. Teams Seven through Fifteen withdraw.”
Abel and Leil hurried down the fire escape, running through the back streets until they got to HQ. Sham was waiting for them with new orders. “All right,” he said. “New plan. This group isn’t really of any importance to us. You two need to get to Rockefeller Center. Rumor has it that the Sea Kings are hosting a slave auction there. Leil shuddered. “You’re kidding me. Slaves? That’s… inhuman!”
“Well, it seems that the Sea Kings don’t think so. Now, get your butts down to Rockefeller Center.”
Half an hour later, Abel and Leil were walking around the old ice skating rink. The once-golden statue of Prometheus was already beginning to rust, and in the middle of the rink were about three dozen kids and teenagers of all ages. They were handcuffed to iron railings that must have been set up by the Sea Kings. The two had trouble watching. Most were crying, some just looked at the ground in defeat. One girl grabbed at Abel’s ankle. She was probably once beautiful, with long brown hair streaked with green. Her nails were at least two inches long. “Have you seen her?” she asked, sounding worn and haggard. “Have you seen Gel?”
Abel shook his head sadly, and moved on. Standing in front of the rusty statue was a teenager, at least fifteen, with salt-and-pepper hair and blue stripes on his neck that resembled gills. Even surrounded by this much sadness and lost hope, he still had a grin on his face, and was talking to a pair of older kids. The kids were haggling over the long-nailed girl. The gill-necked boy, obviously a Sea King, kept trying to raise the price, but the kids weren’t taking high for an answer. The boy looked a little desperate, so Leil walked over, and butted into their conversation. “I’ll take the girl,” she said. Abel quickly stepped forward, elbowing her, and whispering in her ear.
“What the heck, Leil? You know we can’t afford the price he’s asking for!”
“I don’t plan to afford it.”
Leil grinned at the Sea King in a manner that would have made Abel sick to his stomach, had it not been so.. well, enchanting. The Sea King smiled back, and handed her a scrap of paper with a small key attached to it. “Here, take her,” he said in an accent that might have been British, except for it’s sharper tone. Abel guessed New Zealand, which made sense, considering that the Sea Kings had originated there. The other two kids who had been haggling before started shouting about how she hadn’t even payed a single cent. But the Sea King grinned. “Those two nitwits weren’t offering a price that was anywhere near fair, anyway. The name’s Gil. Hope do be doing more business with you!” Now it was Leil’s turn to be sick to her stomach.
While walking away, the two read over the paper. It said, quite simply: 23-Belle. Belle must have been the long-nailed girl’s name. Abel and Leil quickly found her, and Abel used the key to unlock her handcuffs. The three walked over to an old Jeep, and drove through the empty streets to the Toys R’ Us. Inside, Sham’s military operation was in full swing. People were standing around, chatting about the latest rumors, while tribe leaders looked at maps of the city, with Xs over places were Sea Kings had been seen. Sham had turned a chaotic city into something resembling civilization, all through war.
Meanwhile, Abel and Leil had sat down Belle in their room. She was looking around nervously, picking at her nails and twirling her hair. “So,” Abel said. “Where are you from?” Belle looked around again, and then answered:
“I’m from New Zealand, like most of the other slaves. Me and seventeen other girls… were a tribe called the Modes. Fashion freaks and all that. Then came this other tribe… the Technos. They enslaved us, then locked us up on an island. One day, in the middle of the night, the Sea Kings came by boat. They took us all and set out for another city, up in Australia. Melbourne, I think it was. Then, we go across the Atlantic, and finally, to here. There are just twelve of us still around. Five are dead, but the sixth… oh, poor Gel. All alone, out there.”
Leil was writing all of this down on a piece of paper. Just then, Sham ran into the room. “The ambush was successful,” he said cheerfully. “Who’s the new girl?” Leil answered. “Oh, her?” Belle chimed in. “My name is Belle. The Sea Kings took me in as a slave, me and the rest of my tribe.” Sham looked at her, then shook her hand, and ran off. Belle followed. “What’s gotten into him?” said Abel, chuckling. Leil laughed back.
“She’s into him.”
Then, the two burst out laughing. Sham in love? The odds were better that the adults were coming back! But just then, a pair of guards walked up, holding a person between them. He was handcuffed, tanned, and bleached blonde. Gil. He winked at Leil, then twitched with pain. He had a black eye. “Hey, sweetheart,” he said in a seductive tone that didn’t really fit with his beat-up appearance.