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Sweat covers my body in a slick sheet, and the humidity of the sewers prods my desire for water and a
break more and more over the edge. A final burst of adrenaline pumps into my system as I dodge a punch that’s
aimed at my face and throw my own at Jenn’s left side at her rib cage. She does a fancy little roll to the left and
pops back up on her feet. After she’s stands, she swings her leg to try to knock my feet out from under me.
Problem is, I realize this too late and crash to the ground on my face. The cold, hard stone greets my
face and my sore body.
“Ow! That hurt, Jenn!” I yell in frustration as I roll onto my back and glare up at my best friend.
She seems to be unaffected by my glare. Unfortunately, this was the fifth time today during hand-to
hand combat practice that Jenn was able to hit me. I rub my face, trying to push the numbing pain away.
“Awwww, did I hurt poor little Samantha?” Jenn teases me as she towers over me.
I jump onto my feet, ticked off that she called me by my full name. She knows that I hate being called
“Sorry to disappoint, but you didn’t. Don’t call me that, Jennylyn,” I snap.
Jenn hates being called by her full name as much as I do, and we have a stare down. It lasts about five
seconds before we break into laughter. We both find it extremely challenging to stay mad, even joking, at each
other. We immediately stop laughing as Xander walks through the door. Jenn and I both straighten our military
training clothes and try to look like we were fighting for two hours. I could tell that we were both a little
surprised that Xander, the perfect soldier, was in the training room when he should be running his usual obstacle
courses through the sewer mazes.
Xander is my eighteen year old brother and is a year older than me. We both have the same brown
hair and emerald green eyes. That’s where the similarities end, and when the differences begin. He is five foot
eleven; I’m five foot four. Xander is lean and good looking as if he were a celebrity athlete. His hair is buzzed
cut to his scalp and mine is cut to my ears. He’s outgoing and funny where I am sarcastic and am a wise aleck.
He’s my polar opposite, but he still manages to not need me as much as I need him.
The biggest difference of all? He’s a mutant and I’m not. He runs at an average of 250 mph and I can
barely run a six minute mile.
“Jenn, I need Sam. She is wanted by the General in his office,” Xander says nonchalantly.
I stiffen at the little mention of the General. My friend looks at me with concern on her face. She knows
the tense terms I’m on with the General; the situation I’m in is like I’m being told to sprint suicides across thin,
melting ice. The General is exactly as his title says he is, the general. Also, a cute little fact to know is to never
ask him about his name or past; no one knows and he makes a pretty clear message that he won’t ever tell a
“Ok,” I say as calmly as I can.
I quickly look at Jenn and give her a wink and peace sign wave as I walk out of the room. Jenn responds
back with a peace sign. This is our little secret signal that tells her to talk to me telepathically. Jenn is a
mutant with telepathic powers. She can project thoughts into someone’s mind within a ten mile radius, read
their thoughts and talk to them. Despite her amazing mental powers, her telepathic powers are still limited;
consequently, she can’t control people’s body.
As I walk out of the training room, the dim flickering lights glare at me when I trip on a dip on the sewer
sidewalk. I mentally curse at my lack of coordination and the lack of light in the sewers.
I hate the sewers. It smells like the purest form of raw sewage mixed with dying animals. It looks
extremely disgusting and horrifying as well because the amount of people that are forced to live in the
underground sewers of New Orlando is at an overwhelming five thousand. In this section of the sewers, only the
military are permitted to be here. The rest of the sewers are open to any people from the surface. Many people
were driven from their homes and into the living conditions of the sewers, or they die by the hand of nature or
The Jups, or aliens from Jupiter, were the alien race that were suppose to become our allies with against
Saturn and Venus. We couldn’t be more wrong.
When the Earthen Council lowered the global shields and defense system in 2157, the Jups invaded
our atmosphere immediately, and took down our entire space defensive system, permanently. Earth became as
vulnerable as an alligator with no reptile scales. Now, with absolutely no way to defend ourselves other than
on Earth, any alien race could come and invade Earth. That is exactly what happened. Another wonderful thing
that happened was that not only did our supposed “ally” take down our defense system but they sided with the
Saturns, and Veninese (aliens from Venus); the entire extraterrestrial force call themselves the Jups because
Jupiter is the largest planet of the three. The Jups want to conquer the Earth to take all of our resources because
apparently our planet is the planet with the most ‘reliable’ and ‘healthy’ resources in the galaxy. In order to take
our resources the Jups would either have to conquer Earth and make humans eternal slaves or kill them all. This
is basically what the Jups told the Earthen Council and the Earthen Council knew that humans would refuse to
be slaves since we are a rebellious species. Consequently, the Earthen Council decided that humans on Earth
would fight the Jups to save our freedoms.
This resulted in complete turmoil.
The world was thrown into chaos because every other alien race is more advanced, intelligent, and
evolved than humans; it was a humongous disadvantage. As a result, their weaponry, strategies, and species is
extremely more effective and advanced than humans'. However, the minor yet important advantage Earthens
had was that they knew the planet’s terrain and secrets. Earthens also had mutants to fight the war, allowing
some people to hide and fight the Jups’ forces.
As the war raged on, the Jups and Earthens were both using resources carelessly in order to win the war;
this left the world’s natural resources scattered and ruined (they left animals and plants struggling to survive).
Xander and I haven’t seen an animal in ages. Plus, once the Jups landed on Earth, they slaughtered every human
in sight. They landed and deployed their warriors in Afro-Eurasia first. They wiped out China, India, Japan,
Egypt, England, France, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many other countries. After that, they moved onto
the other neighboring continents to cleanse them of humans.
When the invasion hit the news, most of the human population was terminated by the Jups; that’s how
quick they were to act. The remaining hid or fought head on.
My family hid.
It was Mom, Dad, Xander, and I in a quiet, friendly neighborhood in Miami II. I was fifteen and Xander
was sixteen; my parents were both in their late forties. When the invasion covered the news, my parents packed
all the necessary survival tools and we hit the woods to hide. Mom and Dad instructed Xander and I to pack
four thermal below-zero sleeping bags, ten water filters, five lighters, six flashlights, the first aid kit, pocket
knives, combat knives, clothes (hiking boots, comfortable and durable shirts, camo pants, thermal jackets, hats,
etc), fifty yards of rope, the hunting rifle, two pistols, a shotgun, three packs of batteries, five packs of bullets,
a duffel bag and four backpacks. My parents had all this stuff hanging around because they were paranoid ex-
military special operatives and marines. They were so paranoid that they bothered to keep weapons from the
2000s because the weapons wouldn’t be affected by powers shortages or the lack of power like the weapons
I was both grateful and devastated that we left Miami II. I was grateful because we weren’t going to
fight the most advanced beings of our time and we weren’t sitting ducks at home. I was mortified because I
knew I had to leave my dreams and teenage life behind: the music, clothes, grades, friends, fun, memories-
everything. I was expected to leave my entire childhood behind and move on with the snap of a finger.
Everyone knew that once the aliens invaded, nothing would ever be the same.
When we lived in the woods, we were always moving; we’d walk miles a day just to make it to another
city to make sure we didn’t risk the chance of getting spotted. We slept at day and moved at night; we became
the hunted as soon as we left the warm embrace of our home. We slept during the day so we wouldn’t have to
move in the light where there would be a higher possibility of getting killed. Of course none of us actually slept
at all since the fear of getting murdered kept us all awake. I remember Mom’s vivid green eyes always looking
so hopeful and strong when she’d tell us special operative stories to kill the time during the day. Dad would tell
his share of stories of when he was in military school where he and his friends would pull all sorts of pranks.
Mom was a smart and loving woman with emerald green eye and brown stick-straight hair to her waist; Dad
had black straight hair and lake blue eyes, and was the classic high school jokester stuck in a man in the late
forties’ body. However, they both were always dead serious when it came to surviving and the family.
Once we all got used to the nocturnal lifestyle, Mom and Dad would discuss “daily survival plans” with
and without Xander and I. The “daily survival plans” were mostly about how we were going to get food, where
we’d sleep, where and when Xander and I would do our drills. We’d get our food by going to abandoned food
stores and packing as much as we could carry. Also, by drills I mean preparation for the day we might have to
face a Jup or an unfriendly scavenger. Some drills were climbing trees, gun practice, fighting, hunting, brain
practice puzzles, etc. It was like military boot camp for teens. Dad’s strong spirit would always encourage us
to keep going, to keep pushing our bodies. This kept our bodies and brains healthy and fit. Our actual minds,
however, were a different story.
Xander was probably the most affected. He was a walking zombie for the first week. He’d grunt as a
response whenever I, Mom or Dad would try to talk to him. Back in Miami II he was the golden boy. He had
the ideal grades, sports performance, girl, car - everything. When we left he had to leave every little perfect
thing behind. After the first week, he would slowly wake up to the reality around him and accept it. Xander
eventually got his act together by the time I got sick. Whenever I look at Xander, I don’t see a trace of that lost
boy at all. All I see is a strong, fast, smart and superb soldier. My brother that I loved in Miami II vanished. I
tried to love the new Xander. He was one of the things I had left after all.
During the sixth week of living in the woods, I became very sick due to the lack of medication. I’ve
always had a weak immune system. I had a hard time keeping up with the usual traveling pace on foot and
struggled during the drills. After the first three days of being ill, I started vomiting everything I ate. After a
week of waiting the sickness out, my parents finally decided that I couldn’t go on like this and they’d go look
for medicine. I begged them not to go and they refused to listen. Xander was left behind with me to protect me
from Jups in my weakened state.
Mom and Dad left us in a well hidden high treehouse that we came across while I was sick. They also
left behind very clear instructions: wait five days for them to return, after that move on without them. After
ten days, I was no longer sick. Xander and I waited exactly one month, three days, twenty two hours, fourteen
minutes, and forty nine seconds until we decided that our parents, Elizabeth and Xavier Smythe the invincible
special ops and loving parents, were dead.
They were dead because they refused to watch me suffer.
They left and died because of me.
My. World. Could. Not. Stop. Shattering.
After Xander and I considered them MIA, missing in action, Xander and I couldn’t bear to say that they
were dead out loud. Xander became the leader between the two of us. It was an unspoken law that became legal.
He became the leader because I was always the follower in life whereas he was always the team captain and
class president. It also was because after the MIA I was no longer Samantha; I was Sam who was always on a
short fuse. Samantha was the most average girl in all of Deep Seas High. She had normal friends and lived a
normal life. Her grades were average. Her sports’ ability were neither spectacular nor horrible. That girl slowly
vanished when her family continued their journey with danger always creeping around the corner. The average
girl finally disappeared when her parents went MIA. The normal teen who was so passive she was a rock at the
bottom of a stream, died. The average teen that believed everything she heard was gone. That girl was replaced
with Sam. Me. I was always getting into worthless fights and challenging high ranking soldiers’ orders and
authority. Thus, Xander was left in charge because he was a leader and because he was a mutant.
When Xander was born, he was born with a birth defect- no legs. My parents would still love him the
same with or without legs, but they wanted him to have the same opportunity in life like everyone else. They
also wanted a son to become a military legend. My mom and dad looked for months for a promising genetic
enhancing program. After four months, they gave up, and only then did the government step in. They offered
my parents the opportunity for their son to have legs. They claimed they could give Xander legs for a deal and
my parents willing to allow scientists to experiment on Xander in order for him to have legs. The government
handed my mom and dad the opportunity of a lifetime; the opportunity screamed to accept the deal.
Elizabeth and Xavier Smythe couldn’t have been happier. They agreed on the spot.
When the “operation” was finished, Xander had a new pair of legs. However, not only did he have
legs, but he had legs that could potentially at run the speed of sound. Of course, this could only be achieved
with training; without training, Xander could run 40 mph without any effort. The government officials told my
parents that Xander could go to a camp for his entire life with other mutants like him, people with unique “gift.”
My parents refused to let their first born to be taken away from them when they just got him.
One year and three months after my parents were MIA, the General found us.
The General found us in Walmart in New Orlando looking for bullets. When we first saw him we were
surprised and scared because the General simply walked into Walmart whistling in pure delight like he was
coming home to a family Thanksgiving dinner. He also looked like a man before the war; he was clean, shaved
and in a crisp, unwrinkled military jacket- all niceties that were unreasonable to have during the lonely life of
surviving. We weren’t sure whether to consider this man brave or extremely stupid.
When the General came up to us, he looked between us and queried, “Why if it isn’t Elizabeth and
Xander swiped the General’s legs out from under him and pinned him to the ground with a military-
grade combat knife pressed to his throat in the blink of an eye. I was stood nearby aiming the hunting rifle at the
“Ho-how do you know our parents? How do you know who we are?” I stuttered with the least
intimidating voice ever.
The General smiled like I just told a funny joke; the look that was plastered on his face aggravated me
so much that I wanted to slap some fear into him. He’s pinned to the ground for crying out loud! He should be a
little bit scared. My grip on the hunting rifle tightened.
“Why it’s because I was part of their special ops team. Plus, I see both of them in you.” The General
paused then glanced at Xander. “Aren’t you a mutant?”
The question caught Xander off guard. However, he pressed the knife harder into the General’s neck.
“What do you want from us?” Xander said in a deadly quiet tone.
“The true question is: what can I do for you? I am the General of the New Orlando resistance. I can
provide you shelter, protection, food, and training in exchange for your service against the Jups. At the
resistance base, there is a mutant training program that you unfortunately never had the chance to be apart of.”
Xander never skipped a beat and asked, “What about my sister?”
The General took a quick look at me with a hint of disgust in his eyes. He replied with a voice that
showed no emotion, “Well, she isn’t a mutant. So she can’t come.”
“Then no. I won’t come. Not without my sister.”
I was honestly shocked in that moment because my brother was basically being offered the golden ticket
to survival and he was giving it up for me. Xander wasn’t a cold-hearted person or anything; it’s just that I was
not worth fighting for.
The General simply glanced at me with a stronger hint of disgust in his eyes, and painfully announced,
“I suppose she could come as well. But! She would have to train as well and participate in fighting against the
The General looked like he was in agony to say this.
And that’s where Xander and I are seven months later.
The situation between Earth and the Jups hasn’t changed. The only difference is that Xander and I are
under the rule of the General. Xander is fine with it because he is the perfect soldier and mutant in the General’s
eyes. I, on the other hand, am a totally different story. I am probably the only Smythe the General hates. It’s
because I am dead weight in the General’s eyes, and I have no skills as a pilot or soldier.
The General absolutely loathes me with a passion.
Xander and I walk through the poorly lit sewer paths to the General’s office; the ancient LED lanterns
flicker on and off and constantly wink out. The walls of the sewer was covered with disease-carrying looking
moss and brown looking sludge. I look down at the sewer floors to see where I’m stepping. When the resistance
set up the base they built a narrow path along the sewer water to walk on. It was still gross, but it was certainly
better than wading through millions of people’s waste.
I suddenly feel a little wave of energy enter my mind, it was the tiniest burst of energy. If I was cleaning
the sewer barracks, I wouldn’t have known that Jenn is in my mind.
Hi Jenn, I think in my mind.
Ugh, you finally know when I am tapped into your conscious, Jenn groans.
Yeah, you’re getting sloppy with the mind-tapping stuff, I tease.
She ignores me then asks, Are you at the General’s office yet?
Okay, tell me when. Oh! And please don’t think of anything weird, disturbing, and random while I’m in
your mind okay?
I roll my eyes. The first time that Jenn tapped into my brain it didn’t end well. I didn’t know that
she tapped into my mind and I was streaming my thoughts randomly. At first I was thinking about combat
strategies; then, I was angry thinking about the General’s orders. After that, I was trying to come up with an
idea to pull a sewer-related prank on the jerk-face soldiers. Apparently, my best friend found this hilarious and
almost had a seizure as a result of my spontaneous thought process.
Ahhhh, good times, good times, Jenn thinks.
It really bothers me that you know what I’m thinking. It’s also really unfair that the mind-reading thing
is a one-way thing too, I whine.
I know, darling, I know. Oh, by the way I’m smirking.
After our mini conversation, Xander and I arrive in front of the General’s door. It was actually a curtain
that was draped across a connecting sewer path. I almost laughed at the sight of the curtain because it was a
classic flowered patterned shower curtain. In the back of my mind Jenn was laughing hysterically.
Hey stop it. I’m trying to concentrate on surviving a conversion with the General.
Oh yeah. Sorry. Carry on. I wish you the best of luck, Jenn thinks in a mocking tone.
I push her and our mental connection to the back of my mind. I can’t afford to mess up anything in the
presence of the General. He already despises me.
Xander pulls the shower curtain to the side and we both step into the General’s office. I’ve only been
here a couple of times and neither visit was jolly or happy. In fact, they were all punishments for getting into
fights with other soldiers. The soldiers Xander is friends with would always pick on Jenn for being a wimpy
“mind freak.” I’d defend my friend and throw the first punch; they always got on my nerves anyway. The fights
would usually end up with me blacked out drooling on the ground (I personally think it was an unfair fight, and
in the General’s office for discipline.
The General’s office is the only place in the entire hundred mile square radius with so much comfort.
There’s a bed to the far left that isn’t made of the usual wood but is an original bed. All the way in the back of
the office is another curtain that hides the bathroom. In the middle of the room is a metal table with stacks of
paper and military weapons on it as if he wanted to make a message, “Don’t bother me unless you have a good
reason to do.” And the General himself sits in a swivel office chair.
“Sir, I have brought Pilot Trainee Smythe, sir!” Xander shouts and salutes.
“Yes, thank you,” the General says with a hint of pride in his gaze.
Pride is replaced with loathing when he looks at me. He looks at me almost waiting for something.
The General clears his throat and glares at me with his menacing blue eyes. He waves his hand in a
circle beckoning for me to say something like I’m a stupid five year old.
HEY! You dumbo! Salute him! SALUTE HIM! Jenn screams in my mind.
I ignore my friend and respond in a very irritated voice, “Sir, General, sir. What do you want?” I'm
already tired and sweaty today, what couldn't wait until tomorrow?
Xander’s head whips to me and he gives me a disapproving look. I feel bad that I’ve disappointed my
only family left.
“Sergeant Xander Smythe, why don’t you go outside and wait for Samantha,” the General says with
Xander backs out of the room giving me a look that clearly says, “Behave.” A small fire starts burning
inside of me; I hate being bossed around, including by Xander.
“Sorry, what I actually meant to say was, ‘Sir, hello. How was your day?’ ” I say with sarcasm dripping
from my voice as I drop into a curtsey.
The General's face scrunches with displeasure at my response. “Just remember Samantha, you’re already
on a short leash.”
“Don’t call me Samantha. It's Sam,” I snap for the second time today.
“Well, good to know. I called you here for a very important reason. If you don’t care to know then leave.
I have other matters to attend to.”
“Fine, what is it?” I ask with curiosity plastered on my face. What does the General want me for?
The General shakes his head in disappointment. Why is he disappointed? Huh? All he does is waltz
around with pretty little badges and ironed-on patches, and bellows at people to give him seventy push ups.
“Your brother, Xander William Smythe, is going to the war front to fight tomorrow,” the General
I stand there in the despicable little office in utter shock. My eighteen year old brother, my only family,
is going to battle against the most technological aliens ever. My brother, Xander Smythe, is going to war and
may never come back.
“Just remember, Samantha, if Xander were to lose communication with the base, you would have no
service to provide.”
In other words, if Xander dies or loses communication, I’m going to live on the streets, alone.
I will have to survive alone with a bounty on my head as a human being.
I mask my face in an attempt to hide whatever emotions I just showed the General, and then I give the
General a curt nod and salute, and then walk out through the curtain without being dismissed.
Outside, Xander is standing and pacing. He looks up at me with hope in his eyes. I walk away from him
and eventually break into a sprint to the gross and moldy barracks.
This was the single most stupid thing I could have done because my speedy mutated brother caught up
to me within seconds and grabbed my bicep in a bone shattering grip. When Xander trains, he does so with a
passion. I yelp in pain.
“What? What did the General say? All he said was that he’d tell you that I was going to the war front,”
Xander says, looking concerned and puzzled.
I shake my head while I hold back my tears and anxious thoughts that threaten to break the dam I spent
months rebuilding. I rebuilt the dam to protect myself from remembering, from worrying. I was a train wreck
after my parents were MIA. Plus, Xander is absolutely oblivious to the fact that the General hates me and will
throw me out for any reason when he’s gone. This forces a crack in the dam.
Talk to your brother. It’s going to be okay, Jenn says in an attempt to comfort me.
The little flame ignites into a wildfire that pumps through my system when Jenn’s presence appears in
my head again.
All I can think is that she knows. She finally knows about my past. I’ve never told Jenn or Xander about
my never-ending stream of thoughts and pains.
Go away! I don’t want you knowing my thoughts, I growl in my head furious.
Talk to your brother, Jenn pleads.
Leave, I demand. I can’t talk to her now-- she knows what happens in my head now.
Jenn’s energy leaves my mind in an instant.
I look my brother in the eyes and say, “It’s nothing. I’m happy that you’re finally going to the front.” I
force a smile onto my face. My smile is a fraud because Xander has been dying to fight the villains who killed
our parents. He should be looking at the real monster-- me.
Xander looks at me trying to see if I’m lying. He used to know me like the back of his hand. Heck, I
used to know him like the back of my hand. Now, we’re almost strangers to each other linked by memories in
the far past. Once he’s done trying to figure out my poker face he looks away.
“I’m worried Sam. Are you going to be okay?” Xander asks.
“I can take care of myself,” I snarl. I am not weak.
Xander absently nods and states, “I’m leaving at oh-five-hundred with the other soldiers.” Xander waits
for my response like I’m an untamed tiger.
I nod. I walk away with my chin held high and my gaze looking around the training place like I ruled it
where in reality I was trying to fight off tears. Xander simply doesn’t know me anymore because if he did, he’d
know that something was really wrong with my mental stability.
I turn the corner like an agile athlete, and I break into a sprint like a super-sonic hovercraft taking off.
Sometimes I like to pretend that if I run fast enough I could go back into time to Samantha and relive her life.
Her perfect little life.
* * * *
I wake up to a sore back and a pinched nerve in my neck. These are the usual symptoms of sleeping on
a mattress-less wooden bunk bed. The stench of the sewers slap me in the face when my senses finally wake up
What time is it? I can never gauge the time in the sewers due to the lack of clocks, moon, sun, and
My bunk is in the far back of the room while twenty or so bunk beds block my path to the small Dora
the Explorer watch that is nailed to the wall on the opposite side of the room. The small ancient cartoon watch
was one of the few watches that the base was able to scavenge from the invasion.
I climb and weave in between wooden posts. I think it took me at least five minutes for me to reach the
When I reach the watch I re count the tick marks for minutes and look at the hour hand again and again.
Dora says it’s 5:18.
I missed my brother. I literally missed him. He left. He is gone.
I didn’t get to say anything and I didn’t get to see him before he left.
I don’t know if I would say anything anyway because I can’t say goodbye. It’d be too painful. I
wouldn’t know if I was actually saying goodbye to Xander or to the brother whose ground I used to worship.
When I looked at Dora again, my fist makes contact with closest wooden bunk post. My mind wanders
somewhere else when the physical pain shocks my system. My mind is racing with too many “what ifs”
and horrific possibilities that could happen to my brother and I. He might not be the same brother before the
invasion, but I still love him. He’s my anchor. He had my back when I was hysterical about Mom and Dad.
He’s always been the one that pulls me back up on my feet. He couldn’t just walk out on me now-
STOP! my heart screams. STOP IT! We can’t handle it. We’re already too emotional.
I agree and continue punching the wooden post. My mind rebels against my body and tries to ignore the
excruciating pain in my hands and focus on my thoughts; my body drives me to start kicking the wooden post
with my socked feet. Eventually, my mind fades away into a land I don’t want to visit anytime soon.
My body finally accepts the physical pain and leaves me to deal with the resulting impulsive actions. I
feel my knuckles starting to bruise and bleed. The scarlet blood drips off my hand and falls to the cold tiles of
the barrack floor.
Jenn walks through the barrack door (curtain) and finds me sprawled on a random bunk staring blankly
up at the bunk above me with my own blood falling onto the ground. She gives me a peace sign wave and I
grunt in response.
She enters my mind once again for the millionth time and sits next to me on the wooden plank.
I try to harness my thoughts. I push most of my thoughts with a few stranglers into a box. I throw the
box into a safe with a spiny combo lock. I shove that safe into a vault and lock it with a classic lock and key.
I don’t need Jenn inside my mind knowing everything. Again.
Nothing, I think.
Surrrrrre and I wish the General was my daddy, Jenn retorts.
Whatever, I pause. Why do you care? I treated you like sewer sludge yesterday.
She hesitates then replies, True, but I care because you’re my friend.
What? Fine, I lied. You’re my soul sister. Happy?
A smile creeps its way onto my face. At least I have one person who cares about me.
Whaaaa? Xander cares.
I sit up so fast that I think I give myself whiplash. Burning hot rage and pure sadness pools into my mind
I think I flinched too. Jenn knows me too well.
She knows me so well that she knows how to pry info out of me without knowing.
Ahhhh. That’s what this is about, Jenn thinks with a sly look on her face.
No. Freaking. Duh. Not only did I have my little mood swing yesterday, but that’s the last thing he’ll
remember me associated with. He’ll think that I wasn’t there to see him off on purpose.
Duuuuuuude, chill, Jenn thinks all calm and carefree. She flops onto the wooden plank on her back and
props her feet on my legs; then she looks in the direction I’m still looking at-- the blank, bare ceiling.
HOW?! My last family member left for war and he’s going to war with the most technologically
advanced alien species ever and plus I’m on a short leash with the General and if Xander somehow manages to
get himself killed then the General will kick me out onto the streets and then-
SHUT UP! Stop, PLEASE! Jeez, I’m suppose to be the mind queen here. You just busted my mind. Ugh.
Jenn rubs her temples in circles. She’s such a drama queen.
Hey! I heard that! Jenn thinks and glares at me.
A ten year old kid walks into the room and is gaping at us in confusion. He probably thinks that Jenn
and I are mentally ill or something because Jenn and I are acting like people would in a conversation, except
that our conversation is one that he can’t hear.
“Hey, yo, kid. Scram!” I yell, annoyed that some random kid thinks I have mental issues. I wave my
bloodied hands at him motioning for him to skedaddle. The kid sprints out of the barracks with a terrified look
on his face.
You’re so mean, Jenn ponders.
So I’m told, I counter.
Hey, at least I beat you in the hand-to-hand combat for, like, the what? Fiftieth time?
You’re on little Samantha. Let the games begin.
She cuts off the telepathy link.
“Wimp,” I announce.
“Race ya to the training room!” I shout. I gracefully cartwheel out of the room and sprint after I give a
“Jealous, eh?” I retort. My gloomy shadow runs in front of me as the LED lights glare from above. The
uneven wooden planks creak below me. I swear that the last plank almost gave away to my weight.
A split second later all the ancient LEDs go off. And don’t turn on again. Every mutant and me are left
in complete darkness. I stop in my tracks and Jenn rams into my back. Screams throughout the entire sewer
underground base echo. It sounds like one of those cheesy horror movies from the 2000s.
My hand searches the air looking for Jenn’s hand. Our hands find each other’s.
I’m back, Jenn thinks nervously.
What just happened? I question.
I don’t know. Let’s go to the training room to see if that’s lit.
The training room is one of the most brightly lit, but still manages to still not be lit enough.
We walk to the training room unsure of what the LEDs’ outage means.
My thoughts start racing again. What if the lights out mean that the Jups finally found the base? And if
they found the base, that means that everyone is dead. And if everyone’s dead, I’m dead. And if I’m dead, I’m
dead. And I really don’t want-
CHILL, Jenn thinks awfully harsh.
When we get to the training room the entire room is dark. A lot of other mutants crowd the training
room as well-- a ton of sweaty, clammy bodies in one room; some people are rolling on the ground whimpering.
Why are they whimpering? I ask Jenn.
Let’s go to the Gen-
“ATTENTION ALL MUTANTS! YOU ARE TO IMMEDIATELY REPORT TO YOUR ASSIGNED
BARRACKS TO HAVE ROLL CALL AND YOU WILL STAY THERE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
SOLDIER SAMANTHA SMYTHE, THE GENERAL DEMANDS YOU TO BE IN HIS OFFICE,” blares
some sugar high teen who apparently has the “gift” to talk very loud, or deafen every living creature in the
Keep in touch? Jenn questions unsure.
Always, I reply.
I give her a pat on the back and blindly try to find my path to the General’s office. It is extremely
difficult because at least one hundred people are pushing me in one direction while I am trying to walk in the
opposite direction. It’s like a gazelle prancing against the wave of other prancing gazelles.
You’re comparing yourself to a gazelle? Wow, that animal is sooo fierce, Jenn mocks, obviously
I ignore her comment and ask, Which way is the office at the first fork? Left, right? I mean correct?
As soon as there is a break in the never ending stream of bodies I sprint towards the General’s office.
And at seventy five meters I crash into someone’s back.
“Hello Samantha,” the General’s intimidating voice slices through the unordered crowds’ noise.
“Sir,” I reply and scramble to step backwards.
“My reconnaissance team has told me that the Jups’ forces have set off a global EMP strike. This
affected all the technology around the world. Unfortunately, it still allowed their weaponry to function.” I nod
even though he can’t see me. “This further means that I haven’t been able to contact any of the soldiers.” A
pause. “Including your brother, Xander.”
My blood turns into shards of frostbite ice.
“Sir?” I say stupidly, pretending as if I don’t know what is going to happen next. I just need it to be told
to my face.
“This means that you have no service to provide for me or the base. Or in other words, you are no
longer a part of the Mutant Protection and Trainee Program, or the Resistance. This means you’ll be sent to the
Translation: I’m going to die. And it's the General's fault.
“Okay, boys take her up to the surface,” the General cruelly says.
A fist connects with my jaw and I slip into a semi-conscious. A group of male mutant soldiers catch my
body and put my head into a black hood. They kindly drag me by my armpits to a sewer ladder. They climb to
the surface and dash a hundred or so meters to the left, then right, then maybe left.
“Is this good?” Punk One says. His voice pierces my eardrums, it's so squeaky.
“Sure,” Punk Two replies with a normal sounding voice.
“Nah, let’s go another few hundred meters away from the entrance,” Punk Thr- wait I know that voice;
that’s Xander’s best military friend, Wilson.
“Sure whatever,” Punk Two says.
Before I know what’s happening I fall to the ground and I hear someone's fist make contact with
someone else's body. A thud results. I’m guessing the same guy hit the last guy because he squeals with a high-
pitched grunt and whimpers on the ground. The black hood is ripped off of my face. The moon glitters above
me and a crushed park bench is to the left. Surrounding me are brown, dying trees in the middle of the summer.
The face that comes into view is Wilson.
“Wha?” I say intelligently. I’m still recovering from the punch.
“I’m sorry. I had to help them ‘banish you.’ It was the only way I could possibly keep my promise to
Xander. Here take this. There’s a flashlight, matches, water filter, gallon of water, and sleeping bag. Sorry, I
couldn’t pack much when the EMP hit.” He hands me a camo backpack and continuously whips his head to the
left, right, and behind him. “There’s also a part of New Orlando where you’ll be able to stay safe. It’s near the
old Universal Studios area and any of the roller coaster buildings have been vacant of Jup activity for weeks.
I’m sorry, I have to go now. Good luck Sam,” Wilson blabbers in a rush way that is too quick for my semi-
conscious mind to handle.
“WAIT!” My hand lashes out and grabs his ankle. “What do you mean? I mean why?” I ask in utter
“I’m sorry I only have a short window to get back to base without suspicion. Xander made me swear
that I would do as much as I could in order to protect you. I mean Xander’s like a brother to me, but I also have
duties to fulfill as a soldier. So I did a little bit of both. But that's all I can do.” And with that he turns on his
heel and sprints into the night. What a brother.
I’m left dumbstruck and I stare at the full moon on my back. I’m at the surface.
I’m also at the surface of my hopeless thoughts.
What happens if Xander never comes back? If he does, will he find me? Or will he only find a memory
No, he’ll find me. He always have. He never left my side for anything. Even when I was sick.
If Xander dies in the war, I won’t have anyone to come and save me. Wilson made it pretty clear that he
didn’t want anything else to do with me. If Xander doesn’t come back, I won’t have anyone to lean on. I’ll fall.
I’ve never been so alone. I’ve never had to do anything by myself. I’ve always had someone to help me,
look out for me.
My mind goes around the merry-go-round with these thoughts. Over and over and over. My breathing
becomes erratic and I’m basically hyperventilating.
And then the merry-go-around falls off the track and crashes into me.
I’m in the open and I’m in the Jups territory. I might as well hold up a huge flashy sign that says
“COME AND GET ME! I AM ALONE AND SAD AND PREDICTABLE!!” I try to tame my wild breathes to
peaceful quiet breathes.
Once I calm down a little bit, my childhood memories unexpectedly hit me like an eighteen wheeler
from the 2000s. My past finally catches up to me and tackles me.
I’m above ground for the first time in months and I start to remember how much I loved the cool air
hitting my skin in the summer. In the summer, my parents used to host a family barbeque every weekend.
Xander and I would always play together with our cousins and do the coolest things. Once we got to build a
holographic city in our backyard. It was amazing. A picture of that day stays frozen in my mind with everyone
looking in awe and having the time of our lives as a family.
The memories from my happy childhood are coming back to me too fast.
A single tear falls. The dam breaks.
One memory throws a punch at me, Xander and I are swimming in the pool at five years old. We’re
playing water polo with our parents and cousins. I try to dodge the memory but it catches my rib cage.
Tears stream down my face.
Another memory roundhouse kicks me in the side when I remember I failed my first test in third grade. I
was so miserable, I thought I was going to fail my life.
I flinch and grip the dead, brown grass; the white, bright moon stares at me and clouds start to cover the
moon as if the moon was disapproving my show of weakness.
The memory of my childhood friend, Lilly, and I attending an end of the school year pool party in sixth
grade hook punches me in the face.
I start sobbing uncontrollably and tearing at the grass.
I’m introduced to my first boyfriend in eighth grade by one memory and I crumble to the ground. I don’t
I curl up into the most fatal position, a ball.
I’m kicked in the stomach when I remember Lilly, Xander, and I setting fireworks off on the high school
roof and gaze as they exploded above us- a new year, a new start.
I tense and curl up into a tighter ball. I wrap my arms around my legs and cower.
Memories kick me and punch me in the sides, face, legs, arms when I remember I killed my parents.
They died because of me. It’s my fault they’re dead.
I fade into nothing.
* * * *
I wake up.
The sun hits my eyes like I’m touching the sun. I haven’t seen the sun in ages. It radiates warmth like
my parents giving me their love.
A part of my soul gives way into the black hole in my body.
I get up and realize I never moved from the spot Wilson left me. I’m still out in the open like a deer on
I make a 360 and analyze my surroundings more closely. There is a park bench to my left and am
surrounded by dead bare trees. Behind me there are a bunch of crumbling if not crushed buildings that look like
they could possibly provide a little shelter; they’re at least a mile away. In the completely opposite direction, a
half mile or so, there is a brownish body of water. I make a mental note to remember that lake so I can filter that
water to drink.
I quickly grasp my camo backpack and head for nearest rubble filled building. I make it to ten feet until
my memories strike me across the face.
My memories now control me. The only other thing running my body is my stronger desire to live.
My soldier instincts urge me to sprint to the building, we’re in enemy territory. It might take me thirty
minutes to two hours to get to the closest building with a somewhat foundation that could provide shelter. I
debate whether or not to hike the distance for shelter or seek shelter closer to the brown lake. I settle for the
building because it would hide me from Jups and the Resistance (I’m pretty sure that the General would have
given orders that I’m a target; he hates me that much).
The entire area that used to have nice lined buildings are now covering the entire area. Every single
square inch besides the area I’m standing in is littered with papers, shattered tablets, and rubble. Crossbeams,
cement, roller coaster railings and tracks jut out from the ground and looks like a vampire stake festival.
I run as fast as I can out of the tree area and into the true open, feeling as exposed as a fat rat in the
barren desert. I feel like a rat being tracked down. I feel like I’m racing Xander to the hovercraft to get shotgun.
My ghost brother sprints neck and neck with me as I jump, leap, duck and maneuver the dangerous rubble. I
push myself harder than I ever have before. I have to push my history behind me. I can’t live like this.
Sweat quickly blankets my body after three quarters of a mile; the blazing sun and my thick and heavy
military uniform isn’t helping me stay cool either. I’m breathing like a sugar high hyena laughing. My past still
shadows me when I see the crossbeam.
My brain analyzes the metal spear too slowly.
I fall towards the jagged metal beam. It’s pointing up at an angle towards me and is about three inches
above the ground. It’s as if time has slowed down just enough for me to realize how stupid it was to sprint
through the rubble maze.
I land on my stomach with my arms underneath me protecting my face. Unfortunately, my left thigh is
pierced with the ancient piece of metal. The metal doesn’t go through my leg but it still goes in far enough to
have ripped some important tendons and muscles.
I do the last thing I should ever do in any situation. I scream.
Some people say that it doesn’t matter how deep you’ve been cut, it’ll still hurt.
Man, they couldn’t be more wrong.
When I was six years olds, I stacked a crate on top off a foldable chair to try and retrieve my birthday
balloon. As one can predict, I fell off and my upper bicep fell right onto the corner of my dad’s desk. There was
so much blood that my parents didn’t know where I was bleeding. That corner dug in less than an inch, and the
only thing that remains is a scar.
The jagged metal dug into my thigh like a son of a gun and dug in one inch. It hurt like the devil’s fork.
My vision goes in and out and random colors of the rainbow flurry my vision.
The morning sun isn’t helping my situation either, or the lack of shade and water. The sun’s heat pounds
on my back and neck. I think I feel the intensity of the heat on the back of neck.
The excruciating pain spreads through my body and is concentrating in my thigh.
I need to fight the pain. I need to fight. I need to ignore the pain. I need to get up and move into the
protection of the building. I have to. I have to live.
I pull myself up by doing a pushup thing. I put my heads underneath my shoulders and push up from
the ground. I gingerly bring my right leg into a kneeling position. I then use both of my hands to attempt to pull
my left thigh out of the metal spear. As soon as I tug on my thigh, the tiniest bit of movement, a tsunami of pain
rockets my nervous system. I grit my teeth together in order to not scream again. I swear, I almost cracked a
tooth in order to stay quiet.
A little voice in the back of my head whispers something else. It says to give up and stop fighting, fold
The pain almost feels like it dullens for a moment. I consider the choice of giving up. I wouldn’t have to
fight the pain anymore. I also wouldn’t have to live running from my past and the Jups. I could just give up and
it would all end. I could finally let my past consume me.
It sounds so good, so easy. For once in my life, something comes so easily.
A shadow suddenly covers me and I hear a squawk above me. It’s filled with fearlessness and bravery. I
slowly flip onto my back, ignoring the pain for a moment.
It’s a golden eagle.
It spreads its beautiful rich brown and yellow wings and soars high above me. The way it flies screams
dominance and power. It claims that it rules the world. Even though the chances of survival were barely more
than zero, he fought and never gave up. He survived the Jups; they didn’t kill him. He beat the Jups at their
own game. His presence in the world is living proof that the Jups can be beat. He taunts and mocks the Jups
everyday he lives, and every second he chooses to fight, he is defying the Jups. I used to think that no one could
possibly beat the Jups, and now, I stare at the most beautiful animal in the world and my paradigm flips. He has
absolutely no other of his species to support him and he’s doing fine.
All because he didn’t give up.
Hope, for the first time in forever, blossoms in my chest.
I get up painstakingly slow and hike over to the building. I do a limp-hop thing on my right leg to try to
reduce the pain on my left leg. At the building, I sit on a flat piece of cement under a slightly collapsed ceiling;
it provides the perfect amount of shade.
On the entire hike over I refuse to look at my thigh. Now, I have to in order to properly heal and survive.
I almost faint when I look at my leg. There’s so much blood that my thigh looks like road kill. I turn to
my right and throw up.
Now I really feel dizzy. I take off my back pack and search for the water. I chug half of it, (not smart).
With the remaining half a gallon, I decide I should pour it on my throbbing thigh. I gingerly rip my military
pants even more in order to access and clean my cut (and avoid touching any blood).
Then, I take both hands and grip the plastic gallon. I tilt the gallon of water towards the gash in my leg.
I tilt it, little by little. Come on, a little more. The tiniest drop of water falls towards my bloody thigh. It hits my
gash and I flinch even though I barely felt anything.
I’m not sure if I should be concerned that I didn’t feel anything or I should be gleeful. I should be
concerned because I just ruined my leg pretty badly and I poured some water on it and felt absolutely nothing.
Is it because of the many training sessions I’ve had? Or because my body is too numb to recognize any other
forms of pain?
After I dumped a cup of water on my gash I ripped my military jacket into strips of materials and
wrapped my thigh the best I could. I was left in a camo tank top, a jacket wrapped leg, a normal leg, and stuffed
Afterwards, I did a quick perimeter sweep and then entered the building looking for a more suitable
place to make camp. I wander the building for thirty minutes and decide that the first floor lobby is a good
place to crash. There is a little bit of ceiling to cover me if any precipitation falls and there are three walls that
surround me. The holes in the wall could be a possible escape route and attack position. This leaves me on the
offense and defense.
As soon as I roll out my sleeping bag, my stomach growls. Aw crab. I’m hungry. In fact, I’m starving.
I feel my face pale when my thoughts of not surviving rush to me too fast.
If I’m hungry that means I’ll have to eat, and if I have to eat I have to find food, and that means I have to
walk, and if I have to walk I might bleed too much, and if I bleed too much I won’t live. And if I don’t live, I’ll
die. I don’t want to die.
I sit on my sleeping bag with my legs extended in front of me and I search through my backpack for
food. Food is my what my life depends on right now.
My eyes glue to- to- nothing. There’s no food.
Any hope or determination I had left vanishes. I mean, what’s the point? The chances of living are
against me in every possible way.
With that heart warming thought, I instantly fall asleep.
I hope to see Samantha in my dreams.
* * * *
The last couple of days, including today, I'm giving into my weaknesses and allowing my starvation to
rule me. I only drank a little bit of water everyday from the remaining half gallon Wilson gave me. I mean it’s
not like I could survive the walk to the lake to get more water. I’d either bleed to death or a Jup would spot me
and kill me. Either way, I’d end up dead.
I've been killing time by visiting the place I’d thought I’d never go to. My past.
My past is reminding me of the time when Xander and I would play tablet games all the time at night.
We’d get into so much trouble with our parents. It was worth it though. It was fun. I like reliving these
memories, happy ones.
Sometimes I relive the bad memories. I stumbled upon the time when Xander and I fought. Not one of
those stupid sibling fights over a cookie or something, but it was about whether or not we should wait for Mom
and Dad. I said we should leave; they told us to. Xander kept saying that they’d come back, they always did.
Once Mom and Dad got stuck at the teleporter and they promised to catch Xander’s championship soccer game.
Xander and I thought they wouldn’t make it. They did though. They paid for a second teleporter ticket and came
right when Xander scored a goal. One time we were arguing, Xander actually blamed me that they didn’t come
back, that it was my fault they weren’t back. I knew that it was, but he never told me to my face before.
That was the day Samantha finally withered away. I’m kind of glad that she went away then. She was
weak. Samantha wouldn’t have survived.
But deep down, I believe that Samantha is okay. She wasn’t ambitious in life. She always took baby step
and took breaks.
That’s the paradise I’m seeking.
In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m seeking a break.
* * * *
Sammmm. Sam. Sam! Where are you?! someone cries in my dream.
They sound worried and scared. Why are they scared? I should be scared. I am scared. But I won’t be
when Samantha visits me.
Sam? Is that you? the person asks.
I think it sounds like a girl. Yeah. I sort of recognize her voice.
I want them to go away. I gave in to my past. I want to see Samantha. I want my past to become my
Sam! Please, don’t! Come on! Tell me where you are! I’m coming! Please. I beg you, the girl pleads.
Jeez, that girl is persistent.
Then it hits me.
How does she know what my name is? She knows mine and I don’t know hers. Ummmm, that’s odd.
Maybe it’s Samantha.
Sam! No! It’s me! Jenn! Where are you?! Please, tell me! Jenn shouts frantically.
That name sounds familiar. Do I know a Jenn?
Yes! You do! I’m Jenn from base! Your soul sister?! she cries. She sounds hysterical.
I try to talk to her. What’s your name again?
No. Your full name, I say because I know names hold power and identity. My family’s name does and
my full name does. Sam is the girl with the short fuse. Samantha is the girl I’m trying to meet.
Memories I didn’t want to remember fly back to me.
The first memory is when Jenn and I first meet when I stood up for her since she was being punched at
and teased. The next couple memories are me getting into fights with Xander’s bonehead friends. The following
ones are the General’s never ending threats. The more recent memories are Xander leaving for the war front, me
getting kicked out of the base, me being stupid enough to tear my leg open, and me going to shelter.
The first crumbled building, east of the lake, I reply.
It’s okay Sam. I’m coming. Hang on.
That’s the last thing I hear until Samantha finally pays me a visit.
* * * *
When I wake up I see a lean figure with black hair sitting in front of me sewing my thigh. My thigh is
now squeaky clean and nice feeling.
Out of all the emotions, thoughts, and things I want to say, I simply say, “Hi.”
“Hi Sam,” Jenn replies with absolute pure joy in her voice. Her dark brown eyes gush happiness.
“How’d you escape the base? Why did you leave the base?” I ask in confusion.
“Because, you’re my sister. You’re my best friend. We got each other’s back. I’d do anything for you;
you’d do the same for me,” Jenn responds in a tone as if I asked what two plus two was.
I’m shocked by how genuine Jenn sounds when she came to save me.
Jenn taps into my brain and says, It’s no biggie. Saving your life in the middle of a fallen city equals all
the times you stood up for me. Plus, I’m also here for a very important reason.
Jenn has a face on that is completely serious and business. What could possibly be more serious than her
saving my sorry butt?
I got a message from Xander three days ago, two days after you were banished. He told me to tell you at
I sit up straight. I can’t even describe the emotions that are swirling inside of me right now. I’m in
between pure delightfulness like a child getting ice cream expect a million times that feeling and when someone
dies. I feel like someone died because I gave up. I gave up on my brother and my best friend. Why? Because I
simply thought I couldn’t go on with the battle inside of me, life.
“Wha-what,” I clear my throat, “what did he say?”
Jenn tells me.
As soon as she tells me those three words, my world is no longer upside down and inside out. My world
instantly flips back to normal. My body’s pains from the past week is flushed out with hope.
When I hear Xander’s words, I swear to him, Jenn and myself that I would never stop fighting.
I would never let my memories conquer my present.
I would never stop being me.
Xander said three words that changed my world.
I’m coming back.