The first thing Zoey was aware of when she woke up was the fact that she was sitting up and hunched over. Stiffly trying to stretch out her limbs, she found resistance, and opened her eyes, remembering she had passed out earlier, suddenly on edge. She had been moved, she could tell, but she didn’t recognize the room she was in. She suspected that the people from the company was responsible, that, and usually her dentist didn’t knock her out and kidnap her for her appointments, even if she didn’t want to go see him. Other than being tied up, she seemed alright, and she took a moment to take in her surroundings.
She was alone, and the room seemed to be arranged like some sort of hospital-type room. Her head was still fuzzy, but the word that came to her was ‘sterile’ and she couldn’t disagree with it, seeing plain tile floors probably ordered from the most boring building decoration store one could find. It did strike her as odd that there weren’t any windows to the outside, just one large one facing the hallway, fluorescent lighting peeping through, but she figured if she ran a shady organization she wouldn’t want people peering in. There was a plant on the table in front of her, but it was fake.
She craned her neck behind her, realizing there was a small cot that she could see the edge of. This was the rudest awakening she could imagine, and it was only emphasized by the fact that she realised they could have laid her on a bed, but instead had decided to let her sleep off this gas sitting straight up in a wooden chair. She sighed, feeling nervous and not quite sure what she could do to free herself from this situation. She didn’t have to wait long, as someone entered with an id card they slid through some machine outside the doorway.
“I see you’re awake, how do you feel?” the woman asked, holding a clipboard and wearing a grey lab coat, as if she had been hired by an acting company and just told to ‘dress like a scientist… the most boring scientist’ as her outfit was so predictable it was as if she had stepped out of an old sci-fi movie.
“Hmmm. Well can I say angry? Confused?” Zoey barked, already fed up with what was probably about to be an interrogation.
“I have the option to check off agitated, if you feel that best describes you,” the woman replied, smiling at her own joke, but literally ticking a box off on the paper the clipboard held. “Could I have your name?” She asked, looking at the paper again.
“If you untie my hand you can have a very rude hand gesture,” Zoey offered, trying to mimic the woman’s orderly and matter-of-fact tone. She figured Ferris would be proud of her answers, but she hoped being this snarky wasn’t going to come back to bite her. She was just so livid. She’d had such a good time at the dance, and the whole murderous organization was just rubbing her the wrong way, which she found very justifiable.
The woman looked at her, smiling without humor. “I would think you would like to co-operate a bit more, seeing as to how you’re at the disadvantage here,” she told Zoey, her eyes steady, before turning back to her clipboard.
“Fine. It’s Zoey. May I leave now?” She asked, still pushing her luck but she was hoping the scientist would become frustrated and leave her alone.
“My name is Ms. Kistle, and no, obviously you may not,” the scientist replied, writing down ‘Zoe’ on her clipboard.
“That’s with an E-Y, by the way,” Zoey added, bitterness seeping into her voice. She wished she could throw something at the woman, maybe the plastic plant, angry with being here and with her calm demeanor. She knew that Ms. Kistle must be one of their best researchers; she wasn’t here as a scare tactic like the last guy. She was methodical, and taking down notes even if Zoey didn’t give her much to work with. Unfortunately, besides being able to tell that Ms. Kistle was smart, she could also tell that she was not feeling sympathetic to Zoey. Did she not have a problem with doing this at all?
“What have you heard about us? Not very much if you aren’t smart enough to not back talk us,” concluded Ms. Kistle, not giving Zoey the chance to even answer the question.
Zoey gave her a hard stare at that, and then decided to hit Ms. Kistle where it would hurt- her research. “I didn’t realize that most information was actually gleaned by being assumptive. Good to know. I’ve heard you’re pretty shady which is why I’m not really fond of co-operating. And this isn’t the first time I’ve met someone from your group, it’s just the first time we’ve had a chat,” Zoey reminded her, remembering the guy sent to threaten her with a gun.
“True enough, but do you realise the real danger you’re in around your new friends? Your new boyfriend?” Ms. Kistle tried. Zoey almost rolled her eyes at the thought of the group being dangerous. The scariest she’d seen was Atlas, and even now she knew despite his temper he was actually nice. They had only her best interest in mind, and had never threatened her life once, which was more than she could say about the company.
“I think you might have really high hopes but you also have it really wrong,” Zoey informed her, tipping her head to one side, and regretting it instantly due to the kinks she still had from sleeping sitting up, “Doug and I are working on a project together. On molluscs. I actually think we’re going to get a really good grade, too.”
“Oh, I’m sure you are,” replied Ms.Kistle in a suggestive tone.
Zoey stared at her blankly for a moment. “What are you trying to accomplish with that tone? Do you think mollusc is a secret word for dating? It’s a Gastropoda.”
“Anyway, I still have more questions for you. Do you know what their plans are regarding JARGON for anytime in the foreseeable future? Or anything regarding other dragons or artificial dragons?” Ms.Kistle tried, sounding a bit impatient, and not believing Zoey at all.
“JARGON?” Zoey scoffed, “they called the company JARGON?” Zoey paused, seeing Doug round the corner in the hallway, relief jumping into her throat.
Ms. Kistle noticed the distraction on her face, but with her back turned to the window. She slapped Zoey swiftly across the face with the clipboard, hard. Her face changed for only a second in that time, but it signaled that this scientist was more dangerous than she seemed.
Unused to such violence, or any violence, really, Zoey paused for a few seconds, moving her jaw to make sure it was attached, tears springing to her eyes.
“Please answer the questions when they are asked. I am growing tired of your unwillingness to cooperate,” Ms. Kistle told her, another smile playing on her lips. Which was an alarming sign as well.
Zoey took in a deep breath, seeing Doug out of the corner of her eye whip past the window, heading towards the door. “I’m sorry, could you repeat the question?” she asked in the most insolent way she could manage.
Rage flickered across the face of Ms. Kistle, giving Zoey a moment of satisfaction before she stood, raising the clipboard once more. Before she was able to strike, there was a creaking from the door on its hinges, and they looked over to see tendrils of plants growing through the cracks. The door let out another groan as the force from the plants popped it off its hinges, snapping them, and it fell into the room with a large bang. In stepped Doug, his green eyes blazing and face enraged. Zoey had never seen him that angry before, but she was certainly glad to see him that angry then.
“Oh sorry, that’s my drive. I’ll have to go now, as fun as this was,” Zoey told her, voice dripping with sarcasm, but also feeling quite good about her situation right now.
Ms. Kistle was probably not one of the fighters in this group, because she seemed unsure of what to do, until vines wrapped around her and pinned her to the wall, clipboard clattering to the ground and her pen breaking into pieces.
Doug rushed over to slice the ropes, one hand turning into a claw for a moment to do so.
“Neat trick,” Zoey told him, but he quickly pulled her to her feet, until she felt her knees buckle. “Sorry, give me a second,” she told him, hoping that the gases’ effects would wear off as she used her muscles.
“We have to hurry… Ferris is still looking for you, and the security team is looking for all of us,” he told her, sending a quick text to Ferris. She was holding his other arm to lean against as he texted one handed, trying to work her legs back into something solid.
She decided she was ready enough to run, but took his elbow to guide her, as she had no idea which direction she was heading in.
He glanced at his phone again. “He’s going to meet us by where we came in. Let’s go,” he told her, and they started to run.
She felt like he was mostly dragging her, despite her best efforts to lift her feet off the ground. Now that she was moving again she was feeling some strong vertigo and having trouble not feeling sick. She took note as he blocked people with trees or strung them up with vines, his magic falling somewhere between defensive and offensive. He stared straight forward as they ran, barely glancing at security from the sides before he sent them flying.
She noticed which rooms were in use and which ones were not, seeing people working over machines and recording data, despite the security breech. Alarmed by how many people worked in this building, and wondering how many buildings JARGON had, she tried to swallow but felt her tongue dry. She had pictured something smaller, grittier, not this clinical, businesslike, and removed from emotion place.
Glancing once more to the side as they ran across a bridge connecting two halves of an upper floor, she saw down to the lower floors. It was busy, and the height made her even more dizzy, but as she turned to look away she saw other people working in rooms, and someone was a room like she had been in, looking out at her. They locked eyes, even from that distance, but it was over in a second. She faced forward again, not sure if she was imagining things, and saw Ferris charge around the corner from the left, joining them, running towards a window.
He sent a huge boulder flying through the window and they both changed into dragons in an instant. All at once, she realized they were about to fly out of there and let out a little whimper, but she doubted that they had heard.
Lunging out of the window, they zipped away into the midmorning sun, Zoey clinging as hard as she could to Doug’s foreclaws.
When they had landed at her place, she quickly checked to make sure her parents hadn’t noticed her disappearance, and was slightly insulted to find them sleeping away peacefully. She opened the window to air out her room, holding her breath while she did so, and motioning that they could talk downstairs.
“It was mostly an interrogation and I wasn’t awake long enough for it to last very long. I dodged her questions as best as I could,” started Zoey, a little nervous as to what their reactions might be.
She was met with only concern, even in regards to Ferris, who wasn’t saying much but looked entirely relieved to have everyone back.
“Are you okay though? We can talk about it later once it’s clear in your head, but are you actually okay?” Doug asked, getting her a glass of water, but using a mug because it was the first thing he found in their kitchen. His hands hovered in the air as if he couldn’t think of what to say or do with them.
“I’m a lot better now, although I still feel pretty sick. I’m glad today is Saturday,” she told him, sipping the water carefully. She had a thought, and added, “today is Saturday, right? I wasn’t asleep for like, days?”
“Yeah, you’re good, it’s Saturday. The dance was last night, you weren’t out that long,” Ferris informed her. Doug gave him a look that was probably meant to tell him to be a little nicer but she was just relieved and couldn’t be bothered to be bothered.
“The scientist who was questioning me was named Ms. Kistle but I don’t know if she gave me a fake name. She was trying to figure out how much I knew, I think,” she told them, wanting to stay on track. “She asked me about their corporation and about your powers, but as I said, I dodged the questions so we didn’t get very far,” Zoey said, mind starting to clear a bit more.
They nodded and then began to talk to each other, but she didn’t pay that much attention, instead trying to muddle something over in her mind. Why would that other girl be there? Did she work there? She didn’t seem to, she looked too scared to be there on her own free will. Then she heard Ferris speak.
“This was a tactic to get information, but also to prove to us that we aren’t as bullet proof as we think we are. They work in fear mongering and torment, you know that,” he told Doug, trying to reassure him by adding, “I did quite a bit of damage to their headquarters before I met up with you guys, literally tore through many rooms trying to look for Zoey, and caused as much damage as possible. That’s my own little message to them, for them to stay away.”
“That’s good, but I don’t want them to get bold, you know. You know better than any of us what they do, when they feel like they can get away with anything,” Doug replied, his voice bitter.
“They won’t be able to do that again. You know I won’t let them. They shouldn’t have been able to the first time. Every time someone is captured, I will go, and I will tear apart everything trying to look for them. They won’t get away with this forever,” Ferris promised, sounding vicious.
Zoey held onto what he said, thinking. She wanted to pull the two strings together, but what if her muddled thought process was wrong? Still, it was worth a shot.
“Ferris, do you have a picture of your girlfriend on you?” she asked, causing his head to swivel first to her in confusion and then to Doug in accusation. She guessed he would because he was not so secretly passionate about keeping everyone safe.
Doug looked away sheepishly, telling his best friend, “she’s just scared.”
He sighed, reaching for his phone in his pocket, “yes, one second. That’s just what we’re saying though, that we won’t let that happen again.” He told her assuredly, handing her his phone, screen lit up brightly.
When her eyes met the girls’ eyes for a second time that hour she nearly dropped the phone, instead catching it before it fell. She found it hard to speak for a moment, her heart rate increasing again.
“Ferris…” she said, weakly, knowing now that this girl wasn’t a figment of her imagination. Remembering the missing posters around the school and town last year, not having spoken to the girl but feeling bad whenever she saw another search team on the news come back with no results. She hadn’t put two and two together before now, hadn’t known Ferris and Doug and all of them enough to know everyone.
“Are you okay?” he asked, bending down to take the phone from her. He was starting to look alarmed now, and she guessed her eyes looked wild.
She wouldn’t give it to him, shaking her head, letting the words form in her head before she dared to say them out loud, ”Ferris, she was there.”