I stared hard at the numbers on my bar-code. 9094. The plane hit some more turbulence. My thumb slid back and forth across the code as I studied, hoping with each pass the code would reveal something new. 9094.
"You know you can't erase it with your thumb."
I pushed my sleeve back down and turned towards the familiar voice behind me. "Hey Jarvis," I muttered, embarrassed. I remembered the back pack and the instructions. If I'd done what he said in the first place, I could've avoided a lot of trouble. "Sorry."
"Don't apologize." He sat down in the seat next to me. "You did a lot of good things in Phoenix. You helped people. The rebel movement is at least twice the size in Phoenix as it was before you started your little band. Every other city in the west has major rebel strong holds. Los Angeles, San Antonio, Denver, Salt Lake, Seattle, all of them are ready to attack but we had to wait to make a move until we had a good size base in Phoenix."
"Why not just take the other cities then? Why wait until you could take Phoenix?"
"Taking the other cities would have been useless without the capital, Phoenix. It would've been too easy for them to take back their cities if they could use Phoenix as an attack point. We should be ready to take the city in a couple of weeks. Once we have Phoenix, the other cities will fall like dominoes. We'll essentially control everything from the Rockies to the west coast."
"How can we take Phoenix? There aren't enough rebels there to take control. A couple hundred at the most."
"We're stronger than you think. You're right that there are only a few hundred rebels still inside the city. But rebels have been migrating from Arizona and New Mexico to Zion's Canyon, where our rebel camp is located. We have over 5,000 rebel soldiers trained and ready to attack. We've been ready for about a month or so. We're just waiting."
"Waiting? For what?"
"Robin Hood. 5,000 soldiers isn't near enough to take the city. They have at least 10,000 troops on hand to protect the capital. Most of those are located around the inner city and more specifically the capitol building where the president resides. We need you because the lower class idolizes you. When they see you lead an army across the fence, they'll fight. Although they are untrained, we can take the city with sheer numbers. We estimate 30-40k people in the lower classes. Isoli will never see us coming until it's too late. By leading only 5,000 soldiers into the city, Isoli will believe he can easily defend the capitol. Once the people start fighting, it'll be too late to do anything. Isoli is a coward. I'm willing to bet that he'll flee pretty quickly and leave his soldiers do die or surrender."
"But I'm not a general. I can't lead an army. Even if I could, those people would never fight for me. Most of them are too scared of the President." I scowled and looked out the window. We were flying fairly low. The sky had cleared and the bright moon revealed a deep canyon below, forged by a winding river.
"That's right; you're just a garbage boy. It's too bad. I didn't think we brought you here to clean out our dumpsters." I felt Jarvis' gaze on the back of my head. The comment stung. I didn't turn. I just stared at the approaching canyon below. He got up and moved to the front of the plane.
As we came closer to our destination, it became clear why the rebels chose the canyon for their camp. The high cliffs and narrow entrances made it easy to defend. The abundant growth made it easy to camouflage. Only someone who already knew the location would be able to find it. I searched for the camp as we crossed over the canyon but found nothing.
Warm air swept across my face as I stepped out of the private jet. Jarvis led myself and Dr. Braga (the elder) towards a waiting helicopter about 100 yards away. The private jet had taken us past the canyon and landed in a dessert a few miles north and to the west. The helicopter would take us into the camp.
The ride was rough, and we finally touched down inside the camp 15 minutes after takeoff. It had taken about 2 hours to get from the outskirts of Phoenix to the camp. Who knew how long it would take 5,000 soldiers to make the trip in reverse.
Jarvis grabbed my elbow and lead me off the helicopter. I yanked it away. "I'm not a kid. I don't need you to pull me along."
"Right." Jarvis let go and continued walking towards the center of the camp. I followed. We parted ways with Dr. Braga who headed towards a white building that looked like a hospital.
"Where are we going?"
"Senator Castle wanted to see you as soon as you arrived."
"Senator Castle, the one from Wyoming?"
"One in the same. He's organizing the rebel troops."
"Then why doesn't he just lead them into battle himself?"
" He's not a fighter, and the people won't follow him into battle. Soldiers fight for other soldiers, not politicians. The senator is a good man. He's brave, and he'd risk his life for them, but they don't know that. He wants someone to lead the people that has already risked his life. You'll have to tell him you're just a garbage boy." Jarvis picked up his pace as we neared the Senator's bunker.
We reached the front entrance and Jarvis flashed his security credentials to the two guards out front. We moved past them and down cement stairs. The lack of lighting made the stairwell look deserted. It was hard to believe that a senator was in there. Jarvis swung open the door, and we moved into a waiting room. My eyes adjusted to the brightly lit space. Jarvis walked to the other side of the office where a young blond woman with greyish-blue eyes sat behind a modern glass desk.
"Tell the Senator that we're here."
The young woman looked up and flashed a smile at me. "Right away, Jarvis."
I peered away sheepishly. She got up and walked towards a brown door near the corner of the small room. She wore a black pencil skirt and a white button up shirt with a collar. The top two buttons were undone revealing a small silver necklace with a diamond at the center. Her high heels made her body sway with each step. The tight dress followed the contours of her body. She cracked the door open and spoke inside.
A sharp elbow dug into my side as she turned back towards her desk. A small grin revealed that the elbow came a split second too late. She knew I was staring. I looked down at the ground and felt my face grow hot.
"He's ready to see you." Her voice sounded smooth and practiced. Like the kind you'd hear on the answering machine of a modeling agency.
"Wait here." Jarvis scowled and entered the other room. He closed the door behind him, leaving me alone with the blond secretary. I stared at her striking eyes as she moved next to me in front of the desk.
"You must be Micah, or should I call you Robin Hood?"
I blushed some more. I didn't have much experience talking to girls. And I never liked the nickname Robin Hood. It made me seem better than the other rebels who'd helped me. I tried to think of something to say. Her name, you should probably find out her name.
"And you are?" I relaxed a bit. Maybe this wouldn't be so hard. I could talk to a beautiful girl after all.
"I'm Zoe." She smiled to again, revealing her perfectly straight teeth. I smiled back.
Zoe moved closer to examine me. "What happened to your eye?" She took a tissue from the box on the edge of the desk and dabbed at the scab below my eye that had just started bleeding.
"Just fighting, and escaping high security prisons. Nothing serious," I bragged.
Zoe smiled again and inched closer. My muscles tensed as she rested her free hand on my chest and leaned in closer to look at the wound.
The brown door in the corner flew open and crashed against the adjacent wall. Jarvis stomped out and headed toward the entrance without looking at me. Zoe jumped back at the sound.
"The Senator will see you tomorrow. You'll be staying in the apartment next door. I'm sure you can find it, or maybe the Senator's daughter can show you the way." The door at the entrance slid shut as Jarvis began climbing the stairs.
"You're the Senator's daughter?"
Zoe grinned. "Come on, I'll show you to your room. I'm sure you could use a nice hot shower and some rest." Her hand slid off my chest and grabbed my hand. She pulled me towards the door and led me to my barracks.
We exited the office building and climbed the steps to the building next door. It looked more like a condo than a barracks. There were two adjoining houses. We approached the door on the right and Zoe handed me a key.
"Here's the key to your apartment. I've already furnished it with food and new clothes. You won't need this jumpsuit anymore." She playfully tugged at the zipper at the top of the suit. I realized I hadn't changed from the janitorial suit I'd stolen. It probably smelled awful. I cringed.
"I'll see you tomorrow." Zoe went on her tip-toes and kissed me on the cheek. Then headed down the stairs and up to the adjoining condo. I was still staring when she reached her door and turned the key. "Sleep tight." She smiled again and disappeared into her room.
My apartment smelled fresh, as if it had just been cleaned. I found the shower first. It felt nice. The hot water ran down my skin. I relaxed as a week's worth of filth washed off my body. The water burned my back as it ran over the still fresh scars from the prison whips. I turned off the water and walked down the short hallway to the bedroom. I put on some shorts from the open drawer and lay down on the soft bed. I smiled as I thought of Zoe, then I was asleep.