“What have we got for this week’s report, Officer Lir?” Officer Sedna sits at her desk, tapping her foot impatiently. Officer Lir hands her a stack of papers.
“We patched up the last hole in the Euphea Wall, ma’am,” Officer Lir spoke in a quiet, quivering voice. “D-don’t want the R-rebels to spring up any more attacks.”
“That’s good news to hear,” Officer Sedna flips through the papers. “How many attacks this month?”
“Seven,” Officer Lir replies.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get rid of those Rebels!” Officer Sedna throws her papers down. “They are ruining everything! First, half of them escape during the Plague, and they try to break in when we’re trying to keep the rest of the citizens safe! They are attacking us like we are their enemies!”
“I don’t want to hear it!” Officer Sedna cuts him off. “We can’t worry about anything else! Now, get back to your duties.” Officer Lir eagerly rushes away from his boss.
Officer Sedna pulls out the Volition Papers out from her folder. This was something that would change the future of Euphea forever.
Our apartment overlooks the Sedna Lake, the largest lake in Euphea. It was named after the highest ranking officer, Officer Sedna. It’s blocked off by a large fence, since Euphea won’t let anyone into the water. Officer Sedna says it’s for our own safety, since we don’t even know what could be in the water.
The moon casts a white-glimmery reflection on the lake. I can see the lighthouse that sits on the water, past the gate. The light flashes over the water, with two Officers in it, scouting for anything and to make sure that no one gets past.
My bed squeaks as I slide into the covers. I glance at the clock and can’t believe what I’m seeing: it’s midnight. I quickly shut my lamp off, since no one in Euphea is supposed to stay up any later than midnight. I try to fall asleep, but I just keep thinking about the Volition tomorrow. I don’t even know what it is. Officer Sedna says it’s just a new way of order for Euphea, but I can’t understand how. Everything is fine the way it is. I close my eyes and try to drift off to sleep.
“River, wake up!”
I hear Aunt Ianthine’s voice. I blink open my eyes. “You have to get moving, your bags packed and ready, An Officer will be here in two hours to pick you up.” I quickly jump out of bed, get dressed, and then rush downstairs. Aunt Ianthine has breakfast, a simple baguette with jam, on the table ready for me to eat. Most of my bag is already packed, just clothes and some books. I am only allowed to bring one bag, which will be checked as soon as I arrive at the Euphea Hall. Once I finish eating, I set my bag on the table and check to make sure I have everything.
“River, I have one more thing for you,” I see Aunt Ianthine in the doorway, holding a crumpled piece of paper. She walks over to me and sets in my hands. As soon as I see it, I start to tear up. It’s a picture of my family. I see Father, Mother with a rare smile, and my older sister, Winter.
“Thank you, Aunt Ianthine,” I look up at her and manage to smile. I wrap my arms around her in a hug.
“I really don’t want to leave,” I tell her. “You’re the only family I have left.”
“I know, River,” Aunt Ianthine says. “I know.”
Three years ago, the Euphea Plague struck over Euphea, and most of everyone got sick. The ones who weren’t sick though left, in hope to find somewhere that was new and wasn’t plagued over with sickness. They scattered all over, but some of them formed to create Wyveria, and now, they are attacking us. Aunt Ianthine told me that my parents and sister died in the plague, along with several other families and citizens. After that, Euphea created a cure for the plague and cured the citizens they had left and kept them safe to this day. Aunt Ianthine has raised me since, since her husband and daughter both died in the plague as well. A knock on the door breaks our silence.
“That’s the Officer,” Aunt Ianthine says. I grab my bag and we rush to the door.
“I’m here to retrieve Miss River Reids,” the Officer says. I give Aunt Ianthine one last hug and then walk out to the Officer’s car.
“What do you think we should do?” I ask, lifting up the tent flap. Deston, my cousin, sits outside eating breakfast.
“I don’t know,” Destan replies.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” I demand. “All these attacks from our camp…are just to try and get River out! And you don’t know what we are doing?”
“Winter, calm down,” Destan says. “Mother and Father are planning with the others what we’re to do next. We’re holding a meeting tonight.” After I eat, I report to the training camp, and Waverly’s already there. Waverly is one of the trainers.
“Ready, Winter?” Waverly asks. I’m ready. I just want to get to be one of the top, so I can go out on a mission. After most of the day of training, Waverly releases me. She and I walk back to camp, where Destan and others sit around the fire, for the meeting.
“There you are,” Mother greets me with a hug. “We’ve been waiting for you. Where have you been?”
“Training with Waverly,” I reply. I sit between her and Seaton, another one of the trainers. Also here is Waverly’s three kids: Ripley, Llyr, and Zambezi. There are a whole bunch of us Warriors, but this is just our camp. Every camp has a different goal, but our camp’s goal is to get rescue River.
“Alright,” Father speaks. “To start this meeting off, I’m to announce the news of our latest attack: Darya and Evian were killed in the last battle.” My mouth drops. Darya and Evian? They were the top Warriors of the class, and they were also my friends.
“That’s terrible,” Waverly says. “We are losing more and more Warriors every day.”
“The Warriors in the east camp are planning a funeral for her tomorrow,” Mother adds. “We are all going as well. And the Warriors did not find out anything about the Volition.”
“We need to discuss how we’re to get River out,” I say, changing the topic.
“Why don’t we send Warriors to the Volition?” Mother replies. “We’ve sent them to the Euphea Hall before. We can choose three of us to go.”
“Let’s do that,” Seaton agrees. “Since we’ve never attacked the Volition before, we can send Warriors to damage the gate, and then sneak over to the Euphea Hall. I’m sure we can figure out some way to get in.”
“I want to go,” I say.
“It’s too dangerous!” Mother protests. “Why don’t some of the older Warriors go?”
“Let her go, Loire,” Waverly replies. “She’s done plenty of training, she’s doing really well, one of the highest of her class.”
“Her first mission,” Father says. “Loire?” He asks Mother. Mother then nods in approval.
“Alright, but I want to go with her.”
“That’s not going to work, Loire,” Seaton replies. “We need you here. How about Winter, Destan, and Llyr go?”
“Alright,” Waverly nods her head in approval. Llyr’s the highest ranking Warrior, so he gets the leadership.
“Pack your bags, because we leave in the morning,” Llyr replies.
I walk over to my tent, grab my knapsack, and stuff it with anything I might need: extra clothes, a spare pair of boots, rope, my pocketknife, and other necesities I might need. I also slip the picture of my sister in my bag. She looks just like me: dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and a warm smile. I really hope I can rescue her.
The Officer drives me to the Euphea Hall. She introduces herself as Officer Maris. There is mostly silence in the car, since most the people in Euphea aren’t very friendly. Once we arrive, she takes my bag and she shoves me in the line of sixteen-year-olds waiting to get in the Euphea Hall. Some girl cuts me in line, and another makes a face at me. An Officer greets me at the front window.
“Name?” She asks in a grumpy voice.
“River Reids,” I answer. She writes my name on a little notecard and hands it to me, with the Volition printed on the top. I get ushered inside by Officers at the front doors. The inside of the Euphea Hall is nothing I thought it would be like. Everything is either black or gray. Large pillars are in a row along the entrance, and along the halls. Large pictures cover every single wall. It doesn’t feel very exciting to be inside this building. I walk the long halls, following the other sixteen year olds to the auditorium in the Euphea Hall. Once we arrive, we sit in chairs that encircle the giant stage. My stomach does a few flip-flops while I’m waiting. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back to Aunt Ianthine.
I turn my head to see the girl sitting next to me. She has long black hair in a braid and green eyes.
“River,” I tell her. I try to just go back to my thoughts and feeling nervous, but this girl stands out to me. She’s the only one who’s been nice to me. I turn back to her.
“Niada, what’s something you are looking forward to after the Volition?” I ask her, wanting to bring up a conversation. Niada thinks for a moment.
“Probably, after going back home, baking with my sister,” She replies. “Me and my sister bake all the time. What about you?”
“Just being with my Aunt,” I answer.
I want to talk more, but our conversation is interrupted by a loud voice at the stage. It’s Officer Sedna.
We walk through the thick brambles and the masses of trees in the forest. It’s almost evening.
“You know how to cut through the Euphea Wall, don’t you, Destan?” I ask him. Only a few of us know how to do it.
“Yes, but it will take a while,” he replies. “You all have to stand watch while I work.” We walk even farther until we see the tops of buildings, which means we’re at Euphea. Destan takes a few things out of his knapsack and immediately starts to work on the gate. Llyr, Destan, and I watch around to see if there are any Euphea Officers. They don’t stand guard all the time, but they will take shifts. We wait at least forty-five minutes and then Destan stands up.
“There we go,” He says. There’s a small hole in the gate, which is small enough to slip through. Llyr goes first, then Destan. I look around, nervous, being my first time over on Euphea.
“Winter, you’ve got to go now!” Llyr yells. Suddenly, they run off and I’m standing there, and I see why: a Euphea Officer is coming. He immediately spots me.
“Hey!” He yells, running over to the gate. I run back into the forest and then slip behind a tree. The Officer won’t come on this side, they are all afraid of the Rebels. I take a deep breath.
That was close.
“Welcome,” Officer Sedna replies, in her all-cheery voice. “To the Volition. This is a new system I’ve created that will change Euphea. Something I think will change it for the good.” I sit there, nervous, staring at her fake smile.
“First off, I have to say, thank you all for coming,” She says.
We had no choice, I think.
“And, here’s how this is going to go: Officers will take you to your rooms, where you will be split up into teams. At 8:00 tonight, you’ll come back here and there will be tasks you have to complete.” She smiles again. After she finishes, a new Officer walks me to a room in the far hall.
“Where’s my bag?” I ask.
“Already inside,” he answers. I walk inside my room, and the Officer locks in from the outside. I realize there are no doorknobs on the inside. It makes my stomach feel queasy.
“River!” I turn around and see Niada running up to me.
“Niada, I’m so happy you are on my team,” I say, giving her a hug. There are three other girls in the room.
“They are Kendra, Marella, and Rialta,” Niada whispers to me. “They aren’t very nice girls.”
“Well neither are any of the girls here, besides you,” I point out to Niada. I walk over to the three girls.
“I’m River,” I introduce myself.
“We don’t care what your name is,” Rialta retorts. “And we don’t care that you are on our team.” I walk back over to Niada, feeling that this place isn’t going to be very friendly. Niada was the only one who introduced herself. She seems different. While Niada is changing, I sit on my bed looking at my picture of my family.
“I miss you so much,” I whisper. “I wish I could see you again.” Suddenly, the picture is snatched from my hands. I look up at one of the girls, Marella.
“No!” I yell out, trying to take it back. “Give it back!”
“What is this?” Marella teases me. “You miss your family that much?” She then tears in down the middle.
“No, no, no!” I can feel the tears sliding down. I can’t let myself cry in front of them, so I wipe the tears off my face. She rips it again and again, and then throws all the pieces on the floor.
I gather all the pieces of the photo in my hand. More tears slide down my face, and I can’t stop them this time.
It’s been nearly an hour since the Officer came, and I’ve just been waiting it out. I have to get to the other side, but not when the Officer’s standing there. But how? I don’t know where Llyr and Destan went. I walk back over to the Euphea Wall, peeking behind a tree to see if the Officer is still there. Great, they are now patching up the hole Destan made. Now how am I supposed to get over? I walk to the other side of the wall to see if one of our other Warriors left a hole when they tried to get through. I’m not sure which is easier: cutting a hole, or climbing the wall, since it’s so high. If you climb it, I’m sure that everyone in Euphea would see you.
“Winter!” I hear a voice and look around. I see Destan and Llyr on the other side, way at the far end of the wall, where there aren’t many buildings. Destan’s working on cutting a new opening. I rush over to them.
“I was so worried,” Llyr says. “This is your first time coming out here, if something happened to you, it would be my fault.” Destan takes a while longer, but once he’s done I slip through the hole and then greet them on the other side.
“Over here!” Destan says. “We have to get someplace to hide!” There’s a really old, abandonded building on the far side of Euphea, it’s a great place to hide, but it’s farther off from the Euphea Hall, which means it will take us longer to get to River.
“Do we have any ideas on how to get in?” I ask them, once we’ve taken cover in the building.
“Think about all the stories that Waverly, Seaton, Mother and Father tell once they’ve come back,” Llyr replies. “What tactics do they use? They always come back.”
“But usually with at least a few bruises or cuts,” I add.
“I remember one time Seaton told me he stole some of the Officer uniforms and then snuck in, when trying to steal some of their food,” Deston says. “We’re trying to get into the Euphea Hall, we can walk in dressed as Officers.”
“That could work,” Llyr says. “But they have a pretty high security, I’m sure they are going to check all the guards before they just stroll in. I’m sure they are prepared for that.”
“Well is there any other plan?” I ask.
“We can try that I guess,” Llyr agrees. “I mean, I don’t have any other ideas. We are tall enough to pass as guards, we just have to be ready to answer anything without hesitation, otherwise they’ll suspect us.”
“We could just take the uniforms from someone’s house. Somebody that’s an Officer,” Destan replies. “Every Officer has like five uniforms.”
“But not everyone is an Officer,” Llyr replies. “But I think all Officers have a little symbol on the front of their door, to mark their rank.”
“Let’s go then,” Destan says. We walk for a while, trying to hide out of plain sight. It’s a little hard since there are Officers everywhere, but we finally find a house that is marked. The sun is just setting now.
“How are we to get in?” I ask.
“The window,” Llyr points. “You stay down here and watch for Officers, I’ll climb up to the window.” Destan and I stand nervously on watch, while Llyr starts climbing to the window.
“Got them,” He says, jumping down. He hands each of us a bright white uniform with a mark on it.
At 8:00, another Officer comes to retrieve our team. I expect that we are to be heading to the auditorium, like Officer Sedna said, but instead, we turn a different direction.
“Excuse me, Officer, aren’t we supposed to be heading to the auditorium?” I ask. He looks at me.
“There’s been a change of plans,” he answers. We go down lots of stairs, and it feels more dirty and cold down here than it does upstairs.
“Where are we going?” I ask, shivering.
“Don’t ask any more questions,” he warns. Our team follows all the other sixteen year olds downstairs. Once we’re downstairs, we all stand around in the dark, cold room. There are a bunch of Officers standing near us. I then see other Officers clearing the way for Officer Sedna, who’s walking down the stairs. I can hear her high-heels click on the hard floor as she makes her way to the middle of the circle.
“Welcome,” she replies, smirking. She turns to all the Officers. The Officers then lead us to a very large room that doesn’t have anything in it. It doesn’t have any windows either. Officer Sedna then shuts the big door, and there is no doorknob on the inside either. There are two Officers on the inside, watching all of us.
“Was this there plan all along?” a boy asks. “I thought it was a new organization system! Are they keeping us in here?” He pounds on the door. “I want to go home!”
“Are we going back upstairs?” I ask the Officer.
“You won’t be going back upstairs for a long time,” he replies.
We change into the uniforms that Llyr got, and then walk up to the Euphea Hall. We stare up at the tall and grand building.
“If Euphea wasn’t such a bad place, I’d love to live here,” Destan replies. We stop at the front, where an Officer greets us.
“What are your names?” She asks.
“Officer Llyr,” Llyr replies. “And this is Officer Destan, and Officer Winter.” The Officer looks at us suspiciously, and I think our cover is blown.
“I don’t see your names on this list,” the Officer replies. “But I’ll let you pass. Officer Sedna said that a few of the Officers weren’t listed yet.” Once we’re inside, we take a deep breath. We try to stay calm and put on confident faces as we walk through the halls, since there are Officers everywhere.
“I have a plan on how we’re going to get River out,” Llyr says. “Just follow me.” We follow him down lots of stairs, and then he stops. He stops and then messes with the wires for a few minutes. Destan and I watch him in awe. Suddenly, all of the lights shut off and the whole Euphea Hall is engulfed in darkness.
“Why’d they turn the lights off?” Someone asks. I look around in the pitch black and can’t see anything. I try to find Niada in the darkness.
“Niada?” I call.
“I’m over here!” She says, and I walk over to where she is.
“I don’t think the Officers turned the lights off,” Niada says.
“Is it another attack from the Rebels?” Someone else asks. Immediately, that makes everyone more panicked. Most of everyone here is afraid of the Rebels. A minute later, an alarm blares through the Euphea Hall and I cover my ears. In all the panic and chaos, Officers start leaving our watch.
Suddenly, I am being grabbed by someone and start to shriek. I think it’s an Officer.
“Help! Help me!” I yell. “Niada!” I am carried up the stairs and I can’t see anything in the darkness.
“Shh,” someone says. It’s a girl. “We’re here to help you. To rescue you from this place.”
“We need to go back!” I demand. “My friend’s down there too!”
“We can’t rescue all those people.”
“Just my friend! Niada,” I say. “Please.” The girl turns to someone next to her, and I then hear someone running back down the stairs.
“We’ve got to go!” The two that are left rush me upstairs. Suddenly, I slip on the stairs and fall. My heat hits the hard floor of the concrete. Everything around me is blury and I start to feel dizzy.
“Stop!” I hear Officers yelling behind us. We get to Wyveria the same way we came to Euphea. Llyr is by my side, but Destan’s still in the building. He went back for River’s friend, Niada.
“We can’t go back for him,” Llyr says. “It’s too dangerous.” We run into the woods of Wyveria and run back to our camp. My legs feel really sore and tired.
Mother rushes over to us as soon as she sees us. Llyr sets River down in one of our tents.
“Thank goodness you made it back!”
Mother wraps her arms around me. “River’s finally safe.”
“Where’s Destan?” Father asks, coming out of his tent. Llyr lowers his head.
“He’s…he’s still back there,” I answer.
“I’m here!” We hear a shout, and look around. Destan comes running in our camp, with Niada.
“Where am I?” It’s River; She’s awake.
“I’m so glad you’re finally here,” I say, looking down at her.