Authors: Chris Morphew
Tags: #ebook, #book
âLuke was just telling me about this movie he saw last week.'
Mr Larson raised an eyebrow. He glanced at his watch, and then at us, clearly suspicious at the sight of three teenagers awake and ready for school with several hours to spare.
âPeter's been showing Jordan and me around town,' I lied. âYou know, showing us where to find everything.'
âAh, I see,' Mr Larson smiled, obviously not believing a word of it. âWell, in that case I'd better leave you to it. Good to see you being such a model citizen, Peter.'
âYou know me, sir, always helping!' said Peter brightly, as Mr Larson walked off toward the school.
âNice save,' said Jordan dryly as soon as Mr Larson was out of earshot.
I looked over at the two security guards up the street, still trying to get Crazy Bill to move along, and suddenly realised why that voice in the recording had sounded so familiar.
âThe security chief !' I said.
âHuh?' said Jordan. âWhat about him?'
âThe guy in the recording,' I said. âThe deep-voiced one. It's the security chief who met my mum and me when we landed here. Officer Calvin or whoever.'
âYeah, Bruce Calvin,' said Peter.
âYou know him?' Jordan asked.
âSure, he's been here since the beginning,' Peter said. âMy dad works for him sometimes.'
Jordan and I both turned to stare at him.
âOh, come on,' Peter rolled his eyes, suddenly realising what we were thinking. âThat's not â my dad has nothing to do with this!'
âHow do you know?' I asked. âI mean, if that's Calvin's voice on the recording â'
âWe don't know
voice that is on the recording!' snapped Peter. âAs if you can tell through all the static! It's probably just a couple of kids or whatever.'
âA couple of kids?' Jordan said. âYou think a couple of kids did all this?'
âAll what?' shouted Peter, getting to his feet. âIt's just talk! It could be anyone!'
âPeter, sit down!' I hissed.
âDon't tell me to â'
âShh!' Jordan cocked her head in the direction of another nearby security guard. He'd heard Peter's shouts and was staring in our direction, like he was deciding whether or not to come over and investigate.
Peter forced his face into a smile, waved at the guard, and quickly sat down. âLook,' he said, obviously struggling to stay calm, ânone of this is even real, okay? It can't be. A secret plot to wipe out the human race? It's ridiculous.'
âYeah,' I said, wishing I could believe that Peter was right. âUnless it's not.'
âYou actually think this is all happening?' said Peter, like he was going to take it as a personal insult if I said yes.
âI don't know.' I stared down at the concrete. âIt's not like I
it to be true. But we can't just ignore it.'
âSure we can,' said Peter.
âNo. We can't,' said Jordan. She grabbed Peter's laptop and opened it in front of her. âI want to hear it again.'
So we listened to the recording again. And again.
And each time I heard it, the knot in my stomach pulled a little bit tighter.
But what were we supposed to do about it? If you know there's a massive global crisis about to happen, surely you go and warn the people who actually have the power to do something. You tell the prime minister or the UN or whatever. You don't pull a couple of random high school kids off the street and try to make it their problem.
School went by in a blur. Ms Benson got stuck into Peter for not having his embryo slide show ready to present to the class. After recess, we ditched our stuff in the gym and went out to the field to muddle our way through a game of soccer. When we got to English, Mr Larson asked how much of
Shape of Things to Come
we'd all read, shook his head disapprovingly at our lack of commitment, and then put on the rest of the movie.
It was a completely normal school day, but there was no room in my head for any of it. I felt like the recording on Peter's computer had swollen up and taken over my whole brain.
Bits and pieces of it kept swirling around in my mind.
there won't be anyone left on the
only create panic
cleanse the outside world
A hundred more days and then this will all be over.
âHere's a bright idea,' said Peter, snapping me out of my daze as the three of us walked across to the bike racks at the end of the day. âWhy don't the two of you take the weekend off ? You know, like a cooling-off period. Forget about all this end-of-the-world stuff. Then next week, if you still want to be superheroes, you can start working out your master plan.'
âI dunno,' I said, rifling in my bag for the key to my bike lock. âI mean, if there's even a chance that all of this is actually happening, shouldn't we â' I stopped mid-sentence and pulled a crumpled scrap of paper from the bottom of my backpack.
âOh, crap,' said Peter.
I stared at the note. It had two sentences printed on it in big block letters, like the person who wrote it was trying to disguise their handwriting.
THIS IS NOT A JOKE.
MEET ME AT PHOENIX AIRPOART
7 P.M. SUNDAY
âIt's another message from your secret admirer, isn't it?' said Peter.
Jordan snatched the note out of my hand. Peter leant in close to read over her shoulder.
âGreat,' he said. âThere goes my weekend.'
The three of us met up out the front of the Phoenix Mall at lunchtime the next day. The mall wasn't exactly huge, although I guess it was okay for a town with only two thousand people. It was all on one level, with a food court at one end and a big supermarket at the other. And, of course, the whole building was completely spotless and new. You'd think I would've stopped noticing that stuff by now, but it still stuck out at me everywhere I went.
âNinety dollars,' Jordan muttered, pointing to a rack of clothes as we walked in. âWhat moron pays ninety dollars for a T-shirt?'
âY-yeah,' Peter agreed. He looked sideways at her and zipped up his jumper a bit.
I stopped off at the newsagent on our way past to pick up the new issue of
. Something normal from the outside world. But the magazine selection turned out to be pretty pathetic â only a dozen or so to pick from, plus a few copies of the
â and I came out empty-handed.
The food court was a big round area that bulged out of the end of the building, with curved plate glass walls that made you feel like you were stuck inside a giant fish tank. The whole place was packed out with kids like any mall on a Saturday. It seemed like half of Phoenix High was employed here, busy serving pizza and sandwiches and burgers to the other half.
We grabbed some food and took our lunch to a quiet corner in the park, where we could figure out what to do about the note in my bag.
As we walked outside, I saw a truck rumbling along the wide road that ran between the mall and the medical centre. It took a second to realise why the sight felt so weird to me. It was the first motor vehicle I'd seen in five days. The truck pulled to a stop outside the mall and two guys in white uniforms jumped out and started unloading big wooden crates from the back.
âSupply truck,' Peter explained when he saw me staring at it. He pointed along the road that the truck had just driven down. A few blocks away, it stretched into the bush and out of sight. âThat's the main road out of town, the only one that's actually big enough for a car to drive on. Trucks come in every day with supplies â you know, food and medicine and whatever.'
We kept walking until we found a quiet spot out on the grass, under an enormous tree.
âI looked in the town directory,' I said as we sat down. âThere's no-one called Tabitha anywhere in Phoenix.'
âCould be an alias,' said Peter through a mouthful of chips. Then, like he was agreeing with his own idea, he added, âYeah, it'd make sense to use an alias if they're trying to keep it all under wraps.'
âI thought you didn't believe any of this was true,' said Jordan.
âI don't,' said Peter. âBut if
was trying to blow up the world or whatever, I'd definitely be using a fake name. Anyway, speaking of all this being made up, I asked my dad last night about the work he did for Calvin.'
âWhat?' said Jordan, almost dropping her sandwich. âPeter, what if he â'
âCalm down,' said Peter. âI didn't tell him about the recording. I just said I'd seen Calvin in town yesterday and wondered, you know, what he was like to work with.'
âSmooth,' said Jordan.
âWhat did he say?' I asked.
âHe said he hardly ever deals with Calvin directly anymore, now that the security force is all set up. And even when he had actual meetings with Calvin, all he did was write up press releases and stuff for the local paper.'
âSo?' said Jordan.
âSo even if there
something going on, my dad would have nothing to do with it.'
âOkay, good,' I said, before Jordan had time to argue. Not that any of what he'd said actually proved anything. But Peter's dad was an issue for another day.
Jordan seemed to agree. She took another bite of her sandwich and then said, âSo, we're going tomorrow, right?'
âYeah,' I said, pulling the note out of my pocket and looking at it again. âWell, I want to anyway. Whoever this person is, they seem to have answers. And for some reason they want to give them to us.'
they've got answers,' Peter corrected.
âOkay, whatever, but how will we know unless we go to meet them?' I said. âIf it turns out that this
all just a load of crap, then we forget about it and move on with our lives.'
âAnd if it's not?' said Peter, though from the tone of his voice he clearly didn't think this was a possibility.
âDunno,' I shrugged. âI guess we figure that out when we get there.'
âRight,' said Jordan. She turned to Peter and said, âSo, are you coming or what?'
âYeah, all right,' he said, emptying the rest of his chips into his mouth. Then his eyes went wide. âWhoa, hang on. It's Larson!'
Jordan and I both spun around. âWhere?'
âNo, I mean your stalker guy, the one who's sending you all these messages and stuff. Five bucks says it's Mr Larson.'
âWhat?' said Jordan, raising an eyebrow. âWhy?'
âThink about it,' said Peter. âYesterday morning, when we were listening to the recording, who just
to be eavesdropping on our conversation?'
âSo what?' said Jordan. âHe didn't hear anything.'
âYeah, he did,' Peter replied. âHe heard me saying the recording wasn't real. And then, right after we came out of
, we found a note saying that it
all real and trying to sort out a meeting.'
âThat's true,' I said. âMr Larson could have slipped the note into my bag while we were watching the movie.'
âWhat about the USBs?' asked Jordan. âLuke and I both went straight home after school on Wednesday. There's no way Mr Larson could have made it around to both of our houses before we got back. One of us would've caught him.'
Peter thought about this for a minute, obviously not wanting to give up on his theory that easily.
âOkay,' he said. âAll right, but who says he did it in the afternoon? What if he went and dropped them off in the morning before school started?'
âBut that was before I even met him,' I said, shaking my head. âIt was my first day here.'
âYeah, and he already knew who you were, remember?' said Peter. âThe first time you saw him, he already knew your name.'
âOf course he did,' said Jordan. âThey'd all get told when someone new arrives. That doesn't mean anything.' She scrunched up her sandwich wrapper and stuck it inside her paper cup. âAnyway, if you're still convinced that this is some big joke, why are you so worried about figuring out who's behind it?'
âBecause whatever else is going on here,
sending us this stuff. And I reckon it's him.'
âBut why would Mr Larson be doing it?' I asked. âIt doesn't make any sense.'
Peter shrugged. âSince when can you expect sense from an English teacher?' He stood up, balled up his rubbish, and chucked it up into the tree. âGuess we'll find out tomorrow though, won't we?'
Jordan and Peter rode over to my place on Sunday afternoon. We'd figured my mum would be the least likely to ask questions about where we were going and, as it turned out, she was back in the office anyway. She's never been all that clear on the concept of âweekends'.
We rode out toward Phoenix Airport, backtracking along the path that Mum and I had taken into town on the night we arrived. It was only 5.30 p.m, but Jordan wanted us to get there early so we could get the jump on whoever was coming to meet us.
âHere's what I don't get,' said Peter as we rode along the winding dirt path. âIf you're planning a top-secret conspiracy meeting, why choose the airport? It's not the most private location, is it?'
âWhat if it's a set-up?' I said. âA trap or something. What if Mr Larson or whoever just wants to lure us away from the town?'