The sun poured through Alexia’s windows, disrupting her sleep and causing her to wake. She groaned, unhappy with her slumber being interrupted. She knew, however, that Walter would be calling them all into a meeting about Simon within the hour. Alexia yawned and stretched, raising her arms above her head and curling her toes. Her right arm nudged something warm, yet surprisingly not furry, while her left tangled in Oliver’s fur. Huh? She thought, wondering who the hell was in her bed besides Ollie. She rolled over, facing her mystery person and came face to face with Nick’s sapphire eyes.
“Good morning, sunshine.”
Alexia yawned again, memories of last night washing over her. “’Morning,” she grumbled. “Has Walter called the meeting yet?” She mumbled, barely coherent. Another reason to be pissed at Chase, once again he had kept her from getting enough sleep to be even semi-functional.
“Nope!” Nick responded, quite chipper. “Now, wake up! We can probably squeeze in a quick run before the big announcement.”
In response to that ridiculous suggestion, Alexia yanked the pillow out from under Nick’s head and whacked him with it. “Shut up, and pass me the blanket you stole last night. I’m going back to sleep until I get a com from Walter.” She rolled over, pulling along the blanket that Nick grudgingly handed her. She curled up and nestled into the blanket, on the brink of sleep once more when she heard a quiet ding in her ear, signaling an incoming communication, or com, on her com-link. Alexia groaned in frustration and sleep deprivation. “Activate com,” she said, answering Walter’s call as Nick did the same on his end.
“Alexia?” Walter asked, making sure she was on the link.
“Here,” she replied.
“Nick?” She heard Walter ask, after her confirmation.
“Awaiting your orders, boss-man!” Nick replied.
“Alright, we’ve got everyone on the link, then.” Walter informed them all, and Alexia could hear the smile in his voice.
“This is a mistake.” Of course, that would be the first thing that Chase said to everyone.
“Good morning to you too, Chase. I slept wonderfully after your fit of near hysteria last night, thanks for asking.” Nick quipped. Alexia smacked him and gave him a look that clearly showed her disapproval of his attempt to antagonize Chase.
There was sigh over the com-link. And there’s Connor, Alexia thought.
“Chase,” Walter admonished sternly. “We’ve been over this already. We’re going after Simon, and that’s final. I don’t want to hear anything that’s not constructive to this mission out of you again. We’ve taken a vote, and if you don’t like that then you can go join the Gov. where votes don’t matter.”
Alexia sucked in breath. This was the closest Walter had ever come to making a veiled threat at kicking anyone out of the Rebellion. Though he hadn’t been in charge for long, and truthfully, he wasn’t actually in charge, the group had just turned to him for guidance when the members of the old council and Jessica had died in a mission gone tragically wrong. He had taken the helm with grace, even though Alexia knew he’d much rather not bear the burden of responsibility. When Jessica had been in charge she’d made it clear that she wouldn’t accept any sort of misbehavior that might put the Rebellion in danger, and had actually kicked out quite a few individuals. She didn’t think Walter would take it that far, and certainly not with Chase, but the threat was definitely not an empty one. Even without throwing Chase out, Walter could certainly make his life miserable.
“Okay, well we should meet in the drawing room and go over plans before we make the announcement,” Alexia rushed in, before Chase could say anything else to get himself in more trouble.
“Seconded.” Connor put in quietly. The fact that he seconded her so quickly that no one else had a chance to respond told Alexia that he too was worried about what Chase would say next. Or maybe he was just as sick of the fighting as Alexia was. Connor rarely spoke unless it was to offer a point of view that hadn’t been given, or point out a flaw. Sometimes Nick joked that Connor thought words were an endangered species, and saying one was the equivalent of killing off a valued member.
“Alright. Everyone clean yourselves up, we need to be presentable and I’ll make sure Cooke brings breakfast to the drawing room. Meet up in 30.” The ding sounded, informing everyone on the link that Walter had signed off. Nick pressed his com-link in his ear, and Alexia heard the resulting ding, followed by a third.
Alexia quickly pushed the button on her com-link as well, before Chase could finish. After last night she wasn’t in the mood to deal with any more of his drama. She loved him, but she just needed a break right now.
“Well, I’m going to hop in the shower. I’ll meet you down there?” Alexia asked Nick as she threw off the blanket and climbed out of bed, heading towards her private bathroom suite. She was lucky that she joined the Rebellion at such a young age. Most of the newer recruits had to share a communal bathroom with dozens of showers and toilets, but she had a private bathroom, something she was incredibly grateful for. She no longer felt guilty about it, as she used to when she first joined the Rebellion. Absentmindedly, her hands went to the scar across her ribs. She’d earned this damn suite. It wasn’t just a bribe to keep her on the Rebellion’s side instead of her father’s anymore. She’d given up everything for this cause, and she refused to feel guilty about Jessica’s bribes anymore.
Nick snapped her out of her reverie. “I think I’ll nap with Ollie while you shower, and we can head down together.”
Alexia gave him a thorough once over. “I believe Walter said to make ourselves presentable,” she joked, faking a stern voice, as she placed her hands on her hips and gave him a mock glare.
Nick laughed. “Honey, this is about as presentable as I get, and you know it,” he winked at her.
Alexia laughed too. “Fine. But don’t give Ollie any more treats. Last time I left you unsupervised with him he was sick all day!”
Nick gasped, placing his hand on his chest and pretended to look offended. “What? Why, I never!”
Alexia stuck her tongue out at him and turned to go into her very luxurious bathroom. She shut the door behind her and leaned against it, taking a deep breath and shutting her eyes. Through the exchange with Nick her com-link had been going off non-stop, the mechanical voice informing her that it was Chase—of course. He couldn’t just leave her be. She took a deep breath and continued to ignore the dinging going on in her ear. She almost took her com-link out, but she wouldn’t break Rebellion rules, not even if she was alone in her bathroom. She shuddered, remembering the last time she took out her com-link and the horror that ensued. She hadn’t found out about the attack on Fort Benning until hours later, and by the time she’d made it there Jessica was already dead. Alexia still couldn’t forget her lifeless eyes staring back at her. Maybe her presence wouldn’t have made a difference, or maybe she’d have been lying next to Jessica, left lying on the ground like nothing more important than a piece of trash.
Alexia crossed the expanse of marble which, according to the history records of La Petite which were kept in the fourth and smallest library which was housed on Alexia’s floor, had been imported from Italy in the 18th century. She turned on the water and waited for it to warm up, wondering, as she had many times over the years, what life was like back then. When the world wasn’t so messed up. Or maybe it was just as messed up, and it had always been. Maybe she was just part of a selective group of people who realized exactly how messed up it was. She sighed. Sometimes she thought she could just go back, back to her life before Chase convinced her to join the Rebellion. Back to being a high ranking Gov. official’s daughter, who had all the privileges one could possibly have in the Inlands. Back to when life was so much easier. No one shot at her with lasers, no one tried to kill her. She didn’t have to make any decisions, because they were made for her.
Alexia stepped under the spray of treated water, a luxury in the Outlands, and her mouth twisted. That was the crux. She wouldn’t be able to stand the oppression for long if she went back. Now that she knew what true freedom was, she’d never be able to go back to her old life.
She didn’t think she’d be able to leave Chase, or his mom, Maribelle, or Nick either. She frowned thinking of Nick. He was one of the reasons why she fought for this cause, another, stronger, reason why she couldn’t give up and stop fighting, no matter how difficult or fruitless her efforts might seem sometimes.
She finished up washing, turned the water off and grabbed a towel. She sighed, while she didn’t miss the waterless cleansers available in the Inlands, she did miss the instant dry that came with standard wet showers. She walked to her closet and picked out an outfit that exuded control and authority, while demanding respect: tan form fitting pants, which were tucked into black knee high boots, a white cotton (in high demand after The Depletion) button down shirt, with a black vest layered over it. She added her utilities belt, which held her own laser and handheld, along with several other useful tools, such as a lock picking kit, and her leather (in very high demand since The Depletion, Alexia had stolen them from a Gov. shipment several months back) gloves. Though she was physically the smallest member of the council, at only five feet and one inch she might actually be the smallest adult member of the Rebellion, she could be intimidating when she needed to be.
As she gazed into the mirror, braiding her long chestnut hair, she thought about the upcoming meeting and how the hell they were going to get Simon back. She knew going after him was the right thing to do, and they certainly needed him, but she hoped that someone had some better ideas about how to actually get him than she did, because she was drawing a blank.
“Activate com—time.” Alexia said, her com-link informing her that she had ten minutes to spare before the meeting. With one last look in the mirror, assessing her appearance a final time, Alexia exited the bathroom.
Nick and Ollie were still passed out in her bed. She smiled, thinking of a way to wake Nick up that wouldn’t exactly be pleasant, before he grumbled, “don’t even think about it Lockheart.” Nick sat up, rubbing his eyes and he stood up. “C’mon Ollie. We got a nerd to save.”
He stretched as Ollie jumped off the bed and padded over to Alexia, nudging her hand with his head. “Morning sweetie,” Alexia said to Ollie as she scratched his favorite behind his left ear.
Nick crossed the room to her, twisting her doorknob and stepping back to let her and Ollie pass as he opened the door, allowing her to come face to face, or rather face to chest considering the height difference, with Chase. Chase looked past her and saw Nick and immediately a scowl crossed his handsome features.
“What the hell are you doing in Alexia’s room?” Chase practically growled and tried to push his way past Alexia and in to her room.
“Chase—“Alexia sighed, trying to explain that nothing he was thinking was correct, but Chase wouldn’t even let her finish.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Chase practically roared. Still trying to push past Alexia, Chase’s fair complexion was starting to turn an angry shade of red.
Sandwiched between Chase and Nick in front of and behind her, respectively, and with Ollie on her left and the door on her right Alexia was starting to feel claustrophobic. While Chase and Nick were both incredibly good looking, both fair haired and with blue eyes, and both over six feet tall, being sandwiched between wasn’t nearly as much fun as one might think or hope it would be.
Taking a deep breath, Alexia shoved Chase out of her room. She snapped her fingers and commanded Ollie out, then grabbed Nick’s elbow and pushed him out too, before following and locking her door, by swiping her hand in front of the scan pad while simultaneously pressing on her ring key.
“We’re going to be late if we don’t leave now.” Alexia said, heading for the grand oak staircase on the other side of the eastern wing of La Petite.
She really couldn’t handle Chase’s drama right now, especially when she knew she’d be getting another dose of it in the upcoming meeting. She headed down the stairs with the boys trailing behind her and finally made her way into the drawing room. According to her ring key, she had exactly one minute to spare.
She ignored both Chase and Nick, knowing that getting involved would only make things worse, so she sat in her usual chair, next to Walter , who sat at the head of the large oak dining table, and Nick, who sat right next to her on her left. Across from her Connor was already seated, and Chase took his seat next to Connor as Nick sat down too. Now they were just waiting on Walter. He strode in right just a few seconds before they could all rag on him for being late. Alexia didn’t think Walter had ever been late to anything in his life. He was the most punctual person she knew.
Walter walked in and stood the head of the table, in front of his seat. He pulled out a datachip and placed in on the table.
“Intel’s come through. We know where Simon’s being held, how many guards, what time their shifts change—we know everything we could possibly know.” Walter gestured to the datachip in front of him.
“Then why the doom and gloom act?” Nick asked, his brow furrowing in a frown as he leaned forward on his elbows, locking his fingers together and extending his arms on the table.
“Maybe because he finally realized that it’s a futile effort!” Chase all but exploded.
Everyone turned to look at Walter, wondering if he had changed his mind on the mission.
“He’s being held at Lock-Wood.” Walter said quietly.
Alexis sucked in her breath and tried not to flinch. Nick sat back and ran his hands through his curly blonde hair.
“Shit.” He breathed.
“Now, can we shelve this preposterous idea? That place is a fortress, there’s no way we can get in!” Chase stood up, pacing a short length beside the table and gesturing wildly.
“We have gotten in before.” Connor finally spoke.
Everyone looked at him, a look of disbelief crossing Nick’s features.
“Well, we have.” Connor said simply.
“Chase, sit down.” Walter commanded, taking his seat as well. “The information about Lock-Wood changes things,” he said simply, as he steepled fingers together in front of him. “We’re going to go over the information Intel’s compiled for us. Then we’re going to take another vote—“
“My vote’s not changing.” Nick interrupted harshly.
“Neither is mine.” Connor agreed. “Knowing this information only makes me want to back out even more. We’re not going to be able to get him out of Lock-Wood. Maybe if he was held at Brent-Cage, but even then, I don’t think we should waste resources on this mission.”
“You’re the one that brought up that we’ve gotten into Lock-Wood before.” Nick hissed.
“That method won’t work again.” Connor stated coolly, locking eyes with Nick. “I was simply pointing out the facts. And the fact is, breaking into Lock-Wood to retrieve that pet scientist of yours is only going to lead to casualties and captures. Neither of which we can afford after losing the last battle. We can’t go head to head with the Gov. again, at least not until we boost our resources.”
“My vote is definitely not changing.” Chase added. “Connor’s right. Alexia, you can’t seriously be considering going back in there—“
“My vote is final. I refuse to just sit here while they torture him.” Alexia raised her head and stared Chase right in the eyes. Calm. Cool. Collected. Confident. The 4 C’s. She’d learned them in prep school as a child. She’d had to practice this exact same look a thousand times a day. She’d had to be the perfect Colonel’s daughter. That look had made the help shake for fear of what she might do, and she would use her upbringing, the one that still made her sick to think about sometimes, to make sure Simon got out of there alive. Staring back at Chase, she made sure he knew she wasn’t backing down. “Walter?” Alexia turned towards him, asking what his decision would be. His only answer was a frown and a glance at the microchip.
“None of us are changing our minds, no matter what’s on that chip. You’re the only one who might, and you’ve already seen all the Intel. I’m sure you spent most of the night going over the specs and coming up with a plan, probably a brilliant one at that,” Alexia said gently and offered Walter a small smile. “You’re the swing vote, boss. What’s your call?”
“We go after Simon.” Walter raised his head, and gave the same look Alexia had just given Chase to the whole table.
“Fuck!” Chase shouted, and threw his hands up in the air. “You have got to be fucking with me!”
“The decision’s final. We’re going after Simon. Of course, you and Connor don’t have to come on this mission. You’ve got full autonomy, we all do. If you’d like to stay behind, that’s perfectly fine.” Walter said coldly, with clipped tones.
Connor sighed, sounding defeated. “So what’s this brilliant plan of yours? I really hope it’s a good one, because I don’t feel like dying anytime soon.”