Part one, Planning. October 25th, 2001
Travis stepped up to the podium, his excitement growing as he looked out at the crowd of kids, some young as 8, some already seniors, and all of them there for the purpose to hear him, to hear him, their king! The room was rumbling with noise. He raised both hands above his head, and gradually it quieted.
"Fellow members of the Freedom, it is finally time to make our mark on the world!" The room went in to an uproar of cheering. Travis waited until the group lapsed into silence again.
"This is how." he said in a slightly quieter voice. No one missed a word, his charisma captivating them. Travis lugged a variety of bags and briefcases into view, and opened one of the briefcases. Somebody gasped as the contents were revealed.
"What the frick are you doing, Travis?" yelled Jack Treides, pushing to the front of the crowd.
"Preparing us for our true hour, my friend."
"We will show those who have resisted us who we are, and why we are their betters, not their peers."
"Those who have resisted us, where, Travis?"
"You know where, Jack."
Jack did. "At school." he whispered. "Goddammit, you're going to bring those, those guns to school."
"Of course not." Travis' patronizing tone didn't waver. "I wouldn't take all the glory for myself. You are, too."
"You can't do that! How can you even think of it, you sick SOB!"
Travis took a step off the podium, and another one towards Jack. "Do you realize just how easy it would be for me to kill you, right now? The pistols are loaded." he said in a soft, precise, dangerous voice. As if to demonstrate, he picked one up. Nobody in the hall had dared to do anything more than breathe since Jack stepped forward.
"It wouldn't serve my purposes to do so-it'd be too messy, too sudden, out of pure luck on your part, Jack. But I cant afford for you to tell anyone, either."
Travis stepped towards the briefcases, and pulled out a gun, and shot Jack in the stomach, twice. Then he stepped onto the podium again, eyes flashing and called out to the entire group.
"Jack Treides has just been hit rather unfortunately by a car. Anyone who thinks otherwise will suffer the same."
"What should we do about him?" asked someone from the back row, breaking the silence.
Travis shrugged. "Someone can just drag him home after the meeting." His eyes roved over the crowd, and lit upon a horrified gray-eyed girl. His mouth curled into a slight smirk. "Anna, why don't you do it?"
Anna swallowed and pushed a lock of blonde-brown hair out of her face. "Okay."
Travis flashed a winning smile at the group.
"Well then, now that that's settled...onto the planning for Monday-that's when we'll make our stand. I'll determine the time, and ring an extra bell when it's time-it'll be either recess or between classes. Either way, wherever you are, get out your...equipment, and, make sure that everyone knows your purpose. Take someone hostage, or shoot, if you have to. We will have them under our fist!" Travis pounded his fist on the podium, as if to demonstrate.
"God save us all." whispered Anna.
Part two, Mad dash. October 26th, 27th, and 28th, 2001.
Anna sat alone at a table in the frigid library. It was Friday, and school had just ended.
She stewed about yesterday's meeting. She knew she had to stop Travis when she'd watched him shoot Jack, Jack, one of her best friends since 2nd grade. His mother's look when she had told her that he had been hit by a car had only confirmed it. She had a weekend to stop a speeding bullet. Or rather, about a thousand speeding bullets.
She knew what she had to do. She didn't know how.
She grabbed a pad of paper and one of those cute, ridiculously small library pencils.
Who in the Freedom can/will help me?
Any friends of Jack:
Friends of mine:
Same as Jack.
People who don't like Travis:
People who fit the above, and aren't afraid of Travis:
Anna winced. She didn't feel like staying at the library any longer.
That weekend, Anna tried to think of some way she could, (hopefully in anonymity) overthrow Travis' plan. She couldn't. And time was running out. She tried to contact any of the people on the list, and found that they were out, or busy. Anna knew better than to think that this was just coincidence, but she couldn't do anything if the were going to mope around and avoid everyone, or worse, get psyched up for Monday.
Part three, Last Chance. October 29th, 2001.
Olivia tapped her pencil on the side of her desk. Just 2 minutes before Social Studies was over. Then she'd leave, get her books, have just enough time to ask Maria how her weekend was, and go to Creative Writing. It actually wasn't too bad for a Monday. Maria-a perky, intelligent 2nd grader that Olivia had befriended had had plans to go to the water park on Saturday, and Olivia wanted a review of the newest ride-not just for herself, but for the column she wrote for the school-wide newspaper.
Creative Writing was a favorite amongst all the 7th and 8th graders. Mr. Gantris was one of the most creative teachers in the school. Nobody could ever anticipate what his next project would be. He'd once assigned a completely egoistical story-the works: save the world, have super powers, be the smartest person in the world, exaggerate every single good detail about themselves. But there was a catch; the stories then had to be tied in with everyone else's. The entire class had to collaborate. It ended up as a group of kids who had to save the world by keeping the evil elephants of the world at bay. (the elephants had been suggested by the 7th grade class clown, Alyson Ips.)
Robert, rooted around in his desk for a sheet of paper. Miss Jants was asking the class if everyone was ready, and he could almost hear the chorus of 'yes' getting ready to reply. He turned to Lily, and asked her for one. She took one out of her desk and wrote a tiny note in the margin just before she gave it to him. He read it:
I bet 10 potato chips that she says last years 5th graders were much more efficient.
He caught her eye and shook his head in a slow, definite way. Way too likely to happen.
Madison felt her backpack for her gun. Yes, still there. When she'd joined the rebel group called the Freedom, she didn't know how far it would go. But she was in too deep now. They all thought she was loyal to the group. They'd kill her-literally. There were enough guns for the entire group, and they could kill her. She didn't doubt that they would, either. No, it was kill or be killed now. Weird concept for a vegetarian, she thought ruefully.
Caitlin sucked a mint. Mmm. Altoids. She snuck a peek at her teacher from the test. Checking the homework. Caitlin hated math class. Here was a slogan in case it ever opened a firm: Math; torturing Caitlin Metrowski for 10 years, and most especially this year, sophomore year. Well, maybe not the and most especially this year line. It wouldn't fit next year. Plus the entire thing lost a sort of ring when you added all that on.
She looked around. Madison was feeling her backpack and looking anxious. Caitlin decided to talk to her when the bell rang. Chris looked bored, which was natural. Chris hated math, too, but it was because, to quote him, The BS Restile put them through was stupid. Matt was staring at the test, frantically scanning for anything he'd missed. Matt was just as confounded about math as Caitlin, but much more careful about mistakes. Caitlin figured that she was barely scraping above Ds, so what was the point in looking for something she missed? If she missed it, she probably wasn't going to find it by looking some more.
Ella watched the clock, drowning out her teacher's babble. It didn't apply to her anyway. 9:59, thank goodness. Only about 4 hours and a half hours left of school.
She had no idea how wrong she was.
Josh heard the bell ring, and jumped a little, his grip on the gun tightening.
Rabbit, he chided himself. Travis will ring the bell, remember?
He gathered his books and moved out of the room. Sophomore year. Oh feel the joy. As far as anyone he knew was concerned, sophomores were just as screwed as freshmen. In his elder brother's opinion, they were even more screwed. To quote his brother, "One more year to get screwier, and this time go unnoticed."
Oh well. The thing planned for the Freedom would solve that.
Amy walked through the halls. Almost time for economics. Economics was okay, as far as she was concerned. A little boring at times, but on the whole okay.
But scarcity situations were the last thing on her mind.
"Hi Amy." said a nearby voice. Amy looked. Lily was there. She'd passed Lily without realizing.
Amy didn't question how Lily knew that something was wrong. They were the closest pair of friends in the entire 5th grade.
"I'm worried about that weird gang, or whatever you wanna call it. You know, the Freedom."
Lily shrugged. "They spray graffiti on a few buildings, at least 2 of them end up in the office every week, they're annoying, but I don't think there's anything to worry about. My sister says the leader, you know, Travis Kevza, is a real loser.
"Yeah, but Caitlin could be wrong. And you have to watch out for the losers."
Lily arched an eyebrow.
"Okay, which true-story murder mystery was on TV last night?"
"This isn't funny! For all you know, they could be planning to bring guns to school!"
"Stop being so paranoid. This isn't Columbine, you know."
Amy calmed down. "You're right. That whole school shooting stuff is over."
"I'm glad you think so."
Anna shot through the halls. This was her first chance to talk to anyone.
She caught a glimpse of a class filing out of 10A.
"Maddie!" she blurted. Her friend was shuffling in the crowd, brown hair with an orange streak through it hanging in her face.
"Can I talk to you? In...um...the bathroom?"
Once making sure nobody else was in the bathroom, they huddled together in a stall.
"What is it?"
Anna took a deep breath. "We have to stop Travis."
"What?! Are you crazy?! Did you see what happened to Jack?!" Madison was going into hysterics.
"Yes Maddie, I did see what happened to Jack. And that's how I knew that I had to do this. Are you going to help, or not?"
"I'm too scared. And there's no way you could stand a chance, Anna!"
"No. There's no way the world can stand a chance when cowards like you live in it." Anna said coldly.
The bell rang again, signaling that it was time to go to classes again.
And with it, a second bell rang.
Part four, Shots. October 29th, 2001:
Barbara grinned. This was what she had been waiting for, the moment of power. She drew her gun when she got back to class.
Everyone froze. Then, a shaky voice from the back.
"What are you doing?!"
"Showing the true power of the Freedom! Showing my power! You are all bound here for as long as I'd like. You mocked me, and more importantly, mocked the Freedom."
The class was under Barbara's thumb.
"Wait!" called Amy.
"What?!" snarled Barbara. She didn't want her glory interrupted, especially not by the girl she hated most.
Amy took a breath. "I'll make you a deal. You can ask me a question-any question, as long as it's something we could learn in school. Even if we aren't supposed to learn it until college or something."
"Okay." said Barbara, a slight grin on her face.
"If I get it right, you let someone leave. If I get it wrong, you kill me."
"Let me change the rules a little. If you get it wrong, you have to kill someone."
Amy clenched her jaw stubbornly. "Okay."
Maddie got out of the bathroom, and saw Travis waiting. Anna had climbed out the window to take a shortcut to the office, knowing it was probably too late.
"Hello, Maddie. The bell rang. Miss Parker told me to find you. Shall we go?"
Maddie nodded. I'm sorry, Anna.
In 7D, Sandra Eters drew her gun.
Henry Thath knew better than to agree. He ran towards the door. Sandra turned, and shot. It lodged into his rib, and the entire class heard him fall.
Sandra looked outside.
"Oh my God. What have I done?" she whispered.
Amy stepped to the front of the room.
Amy muttered to herself "...then 80, plus 16..." She looked up. "196."
Barbara checked it on a calculator. "That's right. Sam, you can leave." A worried looking boy hurried out of the room. Amy had never really liked Sam. He annoyed her, actually.
"Who was the first European to find America?"
"Leif the Red."
"Good-bye, Cally." In Amy's mind, Cally was mean, shallow, and lazy. Of course. She's letting the people I like least go first. If I make a mistake, she'll make me shoot someone who I'm friends with.
Alan held his gun with trembling hands. "You're being held hostage." His eyed all the students, and the teacher. Several desks were empty.
Some people had escaped. He wasn't sure if this was a good or bad thing.
Mark noticed a few kids running as fast as they could alongside him as he made a break for his BMW.
He climbed in.
"Get in the car!" he yelled. They all managed to, and he shot out, not caring where they were going as long as they could be safe.
Amy surveyed the room. All the people she didn't like were gone. That was good. At least someone she liked, or didn't mind would escape.
If she didn't make a mistake.
"What number is a prime number?" asked Barbara. "8, 14, 21, 18, or 9."
Okay, Amy, think. You know this. But the answer wouldn't come. You can't freeze up now!
"No." Barbara smirked. "Shoot Lily. Now."
Amy couldn't move. Couldn't pick up the gun. Barbara shoved it in her hand, and guided it towards Lily's head.
Alex saw Lisa Maphe walking along the sidewalk, trying to make it to the next home, less than ½ a mile away from the school.
"Hey! Lisa! Get in!" Lisa was an okay girl. They said hi to each other occasionally in the halls, but nothing more. She got in without a word, and they sped off in the direction of the residential district. When they got there, Lisa pounded on the door. It opened, and Alex shot in without a word.
"Hey! What's going on?" asked the puzzled young man. Lisa explained as Alex dialed 911.
"There's been a shooting."
Barbara's finger began pushing Amy's on the trigger. Amy jerked her hand downwards, just in time, and the bullet hit Lily in the shoulder. Blood began pouring out. Pouring out quickly.
Caitlin took her seat in the courtroom. Lily still wasn't out of the hospital, but she knew how much she wanted to be in this courtroom. She looked around. The survivors of the shooting were across the room. Many groups of friends were seperated, some too badly hurt to attend, some dead, and some torn apart by shock, grief, or anger.
She was lucky enough not to be a part of one of those groups. But she was too close to ones that were. She glanced at Maddie and Anna. They were one of those groups. Amy and Lily were another one. Barbara had killed Amy for "ruining everything." and of course, Lily was still in the hospital with the wound. Lily was probably also filled with self-loathing. Lily was one of those people who rarely felt anything but content. Maybe the world wasn't perfect, but it was good. But she was also one of those people who felt other feelings so strongly, so passionatly. If Lily had managed to move her head, or make sure the bullet killed her, Amy might still be alive, and be the one feeling rotten.
Travis was making his little declaration.
"I proclaim guilty. I do not plead, ever. I don't regret what happened, all the power, and I was king, I was the originator of it all!"
Caitlin felt like throwing up. Everyone else who had fired a shot, were going to do time as well, though not as long as Travis would, and with possibilities of bail and parol. But that wasn't the difference between them and Travis. The difference was, that all of them, except for maybe the exception of Barbara, felt guilty about it, felt remorseful.
The judge was laying out the sentence. All the others had already been given their fate; this was the last trial.
Everyone would be punished, everyone would go home, and go on with their lives.
But their lives would never be the same.
This turn of their lives would always haunt them.