I sat under the dead, droopy branches of what used to be an oak tree on the cold dirt, catching my breath. Greyson laid next to me.

"What- in the hell- did we just do?" He panted. I leaned my head back to rest on the rotting trunk, and

Greyson peeled a shard of bark off of the tree and chucked it at me. It crumbled all over the front of my face and in my hair. "Greyson!" I squealed, pulling the pieces from my bangs. "Well, I wasn't asking for that kind of a smart aleck answer, Ash. You're not stupid. You know what I meant." He rolled his eye around for a minute- something must have gotten in it- then he looked towards me, the bright blue coloring in his eye piercing my bright green ones. " Where did you get that gun, anyways?"

I sighed. " Remember when you and Clay moved out for a while?" Greyson nodded. I continued. "Well, Mom got sick- you probably remember that too, and so it was pretty much just me and Claudia. Mom was sleeping, and Claudia told me that she needed to go shopping, but she couldn't leave me by myself, so she had to bring me with. She brought me to the black market. I memorized the entire walk there. All the passwords and codenames, and all the tunnels and alleys. And when we got there, there was so many things that I had never seen before. It was... amazing. She got what she needed, then we went back home. Mom was knocked out, she'd never even noticed we'd gone. I'd sworn never to speak about it. And I hadn't, until now." Images of the black market flashed through my mind- the dark alleys, the scarred faces of the dealers, the multiple racks of foreign items..

Greyson's eyes widened. "She took you to the black market? When was this?" I focused back on the memory. I remembered Claudia as being about my age, so it had to have been about 5 or 6 years ago. "I had to have been around 7 or 8 years old."

He shook his head. "I always knew Claudia wasn't the good girl she portrays herself to be. What did she get from the B.M.?" I groaned. "This wasn't twenty questions, last time I checked. Um, it was a, a knife, or maybe a dagger, a little white bag full of powder, and a glass bottle that had some black liquid in it."

Greyson's eyes got even wider. "You're not serious."

My brow crumpled in confusion. "Um, yeah I am."

"Claudia doesn't know what she's messing with. We need to go back home now, Ash. C'mon!" He darted off, but I stayed behind. I was not  going back there. It took a while for him to realize I wasn't following him, but when he did, he turned around. "C'mon, Ash! We have to stop Claudia! She has no idea what she's getting herself into." I looked down at my lap. "If you tell me what she's getting herself into, then I might consider going back. And I want a long, detailed explanation, Greyson."

He sighed, and plopped down on the brittle earth next to me. "The white, powdery stuff? That's explosive. And the black liquid? That stuff is a poison, one drop of it on any living thing, and it'll die instantly. Put the two together, and you have yourself a bomb so powerful, it can't even be put into words. It could literally blow the world and everything on it into pieces the size of molecules. If not smaller." He was shaking now, but I couldn't be sure if it was from the wind's chill, or the fact that he was really nervous about the bomb and/or Claudia.

"But why would she want to make that? How would she know that? Why would they make that stuff? Why is she keeping it for so long?" I asked. "This wasn't twenty questions, the last time I checked." He mocked. "Well, why whoever made it made it, I'm not sure. And how Claudia would know... well, she had to have snuck into Dad's bedroom. And why she's keeping it for so long? Letting it marinate. The longer it sits together in the jar or whatever she's keeping it in, the more powerful it becomes."

"What do you mean, that she had to have snuck into Dad's room?" Greyson groaned. "I said that aloud? Crap." He rubbed his closed eyes with his hand. "Dad was the leader of.. a special group that met in alleys and tunnels that you go through on your way to the black market. They were planning to rebel against Quesira."

The gears in my head were spinning. "How do you know that?" He sighed in exasperation- he was getting sick of my questions rather quickly. "I asked Dad where he went when he was gone late at night. He told me that he was just working late. I believed that for a while, but one night I heard him talking with Mom. I got.. suspicious. I started following him around when he left. I found him and his group and I would hide behind walls and listen to them. When I understood what was going on, for the most part anyways, I made my prescence very obvious. I almost got myself killed. But, when I explained that I knew exactly what they were about, they were forced to swear me in. And, since Dad died last year, I've been their leader. That is how I know all this stuff."

I stared into space, trying to contemplate all of the information I had just been given. Dad made this secret group, Greyson took over, Claudia.. How does she fit into all of this? It's going to be like one of those old movie things Mom always talks about. Claudia will end up being the bad guy, and me and Greyson will be the heros.. possibly. But Claudia? C'mon! She is the goodiest goody-goody I have ever known. That the world will ever know! Why is she making a bomb anyways?Ugh, I think too much.

"Ash! Ash, c'mon! We gotta start moving. It won't be long before S.Q.'s minions catch our scent." Greyson was shouting in my face. I snapped back into reality and stood up. Greyson took a quick glance behind us, but kept his eyes pointed toward whatever it was he was looking at. "Damn it! Ash, you still got that gun, right?" His voice was hushed to a whisper now. Confused, I followed his gaze. Sir Quesria's minions were heading right for us. We weren't in their eye range yet, but we would be within seconds. "Yeah." I whispered back, pulling my gun out of my pocket. "All right. Keep that handy, but don't shoot until they see us. If we can get out of here without any trouble, then we should. Got it?" We ran off into the Tangled Forest, hurdling over carcasses and tree limbs. I felt great; so alive- then I tripped over a log. Greyson turned around, and tried to help me up before S.Q.'s minions could sniff us out. I was almost up, when the many men- if they were even of the human race- came charging for us. I stumbled upwards, gun in my trembling hands.

"Put down your weapons, in the name of Sir Quesira, we command you!" The biggest of the crowd called out to us. "Put the gun down, then when they get real close, bring it back up and shoot." Greyson whispered in a barely audible voice. I did as he said, and threw my gun to the ground. He followed.  

"Now, by law, you must be Sacrificed. tonight. We will bring you back to your town's meeting place, and Sir Quesira will take it from there. You will go without any disrespect, disobeyment, or any trouble at all. Understood?"

I nodded my head slightly, waiting for my cue. They started to walk towards us,  silver handcuffs wrapped around their big sausagy fingers. I bent down, picked up my gun, and shot it at the closest one so quickly, I was barely aware of what I had just done myself. He fell to the ground, bleeding; dying. I shot at all of the rest of them and ran.

I looked to my left, expecting to see Greyson there, but he wasn't. I looked to my right- he wasn't there, either. I stopped and made a 180 degree turn backwards. I saw plenty of bloody, wounded soldiers, but not Greyson.

He had disappeared. And now I was alone.

The End

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