There was a pause of course, as there is when anyone who has given up hope hears what they never thought they would.
“What?” Ferris asked softly, as if he hadn’t heard right before.
“I saw her, she was on a floor below me, and it was from far away, but I saw her, she looked at me. I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure if she was real, because of the gas, but I am sure now. I am absolutely certain,” Zoey told him, voice unwavering. She held the cell phone in her hand and pointed to it, as if he hadn’t seen the picture a thousand times before.
“How?” he asked, still in shock, looking at Doug for some kind of guidance, for help.
Doug was still processing it all as well, and then his shoulders sunk. “We never got to see her after we saw her death. You were closer than I was, but they took her away… and she didn’t say anything. They could have faked it somehow…” Doug trailed off, putting it together. “Neither of us are as fast as Oscar, so we couldn’t get there in time to stop them… or see what was going on. We only heard her on the phone, telling us where to go, which could have been a recorded message.”
“I did say they work in torment. And they know exactly how to torment me evidently,” Ferris replied, matter of fact. His face was grim, but there was a slow anger burning in his eyes. He faced Doug. “We have to go back and get her,” he told him, straightforward and serious.
“Of course we do, that doubt never crossed my mind,” Doug told him, with a nod.
“I should come too, I am the only one who saw where she was, even if only for a moment,” Zoey told them, expecting them to disagree but ready to fight about it. Instead, she found them thinking about it.
“Let’s add another dragon just in case then. Call Atlas,” Doug told Ferris.
She nodded, thinking about how tired she was. It occurred to her that Doug must be even more tired, having flown all day before the dance. She took another sip of her water, mulling over whether she had enough time for a nap, but figuring that they would want to leave as soon as Atlas arrived.
She left a note for her parents, saying she had a busy day planned with friends and would be back later. This was almost a half truth in a way, but also a nerve wracking one, as she was heading directly back into what they had just hurriedly escaped from. She went to change into jeans and such, knowing pyjamas were unsuitable for this kind of adventure.
Digging around in her makeup drawer, she added a small line of green eyeliner across her eyes, knowing that now was not the time for makeup, but half hoping that maybe Doug would notice and half telling herself how inappropriate this action was. If she really had to break it down though, it gave her something to do with her hands. She was terrified but didn’t want them to revoke her permission to come. They didn’t have to fly with her, and although they seemed cool with it before, if they knew she was feeling hesitant to go back, they might change their minds.
She touched the place on her face where Ms.Kistle had hit her with the clip board, and it stung. If she decided to report this to the police, that would be a nice piece of evidence, but for now, she wasn’t all that impressed with it. She figured it was time to go, and even though her stomach felt like it was filled with cement, she thought about the girl who she met eyes with, and pushed herself out of her bedroom. When she went back downstairs, Atlas was there, looking full of energy.
He also showed concern for Zoey, but made it clear that he was impressed she had decided to come along with them. “Oscar and Melody are on standby, just in case,” he informed Ferris.
Ferris was staring ahead, eyes focused and violent. He was ready to leave whenever and probably had been as soon as the news set in. “Can we go now?” he asked, and they all gave a nod.
Again, Zoey flew with Doug, but this time the vertigo was much better. She was a little nervous about the height and the speed they were going, but she didn’t want to be the spoil sport for everyone else. Besides, it was easier to get used to the speed and possible danger when you knew there was a mission to be done.
Arriving at the same base they had been at earlier, they decided against going in the same side they had just exited through despite its closeness to where Zoey had seen Rebecca, Ferris’ girlfriend. That wall had suffered such massive amounts of damage due to their breaking and entering, so there would most likely be people around either fixing it or posted as guards. They did have a slight element of surprise, because who would expect them to come back a second time in merely a few hours?
“She was on one of the lower levels, I was on a bridge, on an upper level, and I glanced down, that’s when I saw her in her room,” Zoey told them, and they circled down to one of the lower windows, landing before Ferris blasted a huge portion of the wall apart, towards them.
He stormed forward, grabbing a thin, nervous looking intern who had been standing in the hallway, just as he tried to scramble away. “Where is the room of Rebecca Danners?” he demanded, shaking the intern.
The intern let out a small cry, but gave no other response.
Ferris pulled the youth closer, his mouth suddenly crowded by sharp dragon teeth, his hands claws, partially transformed for the sake of fear. “Who can tell me where she is?” he growled, sounding even more impatient.
The intern struggled to get away, claiming to know nothing and Ferris snorted, dropping him, while saying, “you’re of no use to me, then.” and proceeded forward into the damaged room.
Zoey wasn’t sure what she was watching but she was glad Ferris was on their side, and kind of surprised to see Atlas being way calmer than Ferris, but in this situation it was understandable. Doug hadn’t stepped in at all, and she knew he was there as back up to his friend. He harboured a great deal of anger towards this organization as well, of course, and especially in this moment, having just rescued Zoey and now finding out Rebecca had been taken for months.
Still following forward, any security they came across was blocked in by massive rocks. “I don’t even have the time to deal with you right now, she’s been waiting for far too long already,” Ferris spat at them in passing.
They spotted someone with a key card who was trying to get into a research lab, looking a little frightened as the PA system announced a second security breech that day. She barely noticed Ferris until he was directly behind her, growling to ask her where Rebecca’s room was again. She shrank back, dropping her key card, and Zoey thought to pick it up, but she wasn’t even sure if it would work on Rebecca’s door. This worker was able to point shakily down a hallway, which looked like it opened up into a large space like the one Zoey had seen. They headed that way, Zoey close behind Ferris, but she wasn’t sure if he was listening to any input she had. He rounded the corner sharply and they saw that five security guards were waiting outside what must be Rebecca’s room.
Atlas charged forward, and Doug dove to back him up, vines grabbing whatever weapons they could reach before placing them far away from their previous owners. Atlas used sheer force, charging into the guards like it was a sport, sending out bursts of flames as a warning if they didn’t move fast enough. Ferris was set on the window, made of some sort of tempered glass, slamming boulders into it over and over, cracks beginning to show. Zoey didn’t see Rebecca but she guessed this was because she wasn’t standing in front of the window that was about to break. When the glass finally broke, Ferris leapt through the window and Zoey gingerly followed after him, trying not to slip on the slivers of glass. Atlas and Doug, having dealt with the guards accordingly, also slipped in.
There she was, the girl that Zoey had made eye contact with earlier this day. She looked amazed to see them there, and seemed almost speechless. So was Ferris, and he stood a few paces away from her.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t come until now,” he began, and she gave him a weak, but reassuring smile.
She looked as if she had been through a lot here. “They told me what they did. Not in order to ask for forgiveness or anything, but more to tell me that you weren’t going to come save me,” she paused to swallow back her emotion, and then turned to Zoey, tears in her eyes, “I knew you saw me today, I knew it!” she cheered, relief in her voice. Even through her emotion and distress, her voice was like a songbird, light and airy.
Amidst the chaos came garbled voices, making their way down the hall towards Rebecca’s room.
“We should have our reunion later, right now we need to get out of here… again,” Doug reminded them, and that seemed to break the spell.
Ferris rushed over to Rebecca, placing a light kiss on the top of her head, nervously. Zoey guessed he was a bit wary because he hadn’t seen her in almost a year and he wasn’t sure if they had tortured or brainwashed her. She reached out for his hand and together they all began running back through the path which they had come from.
Before they turned one of the last corners, Zoey glanced back in time to see Ms. Kistle rounding the corner behind them. She paused, making eye contact with the researcher, and shouting, “Wait! I promised to give you this earlier!” before bestowing upon Ms. Kistle two of the obscene hand gestures she had vowed while being interrogated before charging towards the exit. Atlas laughing uproariously, clapping before his hands formed into claws.
Reaching the outside, the dragons took off, but headed in a different direction than before. Landing in a clearing that was somewhat isolated, they walked down the street of a normal appearing neighborhood.
“Where are we?” asked Zoey, quietly.
“We’re near Rebecca’s house. Her parents have been searching for her since she disappeared. They can do what they want to us and not fear so many repercussions because of our desire to protect our secrets, but they literally kidnapped a fully human girl,” Doug informed her, looking serious.
Zoey had never considered this before. She wondered if they had planned on going to her parents for her kidnapping, but knew she hadn’t been gone long enough for anyone to notice, but the slap she had received earlier might be useful. Meanwhile, poor Rebecca was timidly walking down the street, looking underfed and as if she hadn’t slept well since being taken all those months ago. She glanced at Ferris every few minutes, as if she couldn’t believe he was there.
Ferris knocked on the door to her parents’ house, and her mother answered, shrieking when she saw her daughter in utter disbelief. “How did you…?” she started to ask, not having spoken much to Ferris since her daughter’s disappearance.
“We need you to call the police, Mrs. Danners…” Ferris began, and Rebecca added, “Mom, I’ve been held captive in that facility on Brook Street this whole time. Ferris, and his friends, found me today, after they tried to take this other girl here too.” When she said that, Zoey realized they hadn’t been introduced yet, and blushed a little. Rebecca’s mother ushered them in, phone already dialing the police, crying tears of joy that her daughter was returned to her.
The police asked a lot of questions, and promised that they would be investigating the facility as soon as they could. Rebecca leaned back in a chair, immediately tired after sharing her story, mostly about the abuse she suffered but staying away from why she was captured in the first place. It helped that Zoey was also taken that morning as they were able to say that perhaps the facility had been looking for patients and kidnapping them instead of finding them. It steered the conversation away from anything magical.
Ferris sat near her the whole time, his face like stone. When he was questioned, he answered in his straightforward way, but didn’t tell them anything they didn’t need to know. He was thankful that Zoey had witnessed Rebecca being there, and had been glad that they were able to find a way into the facility through some holes that ‘might have been caused by a rock slide or something’. He knew that even if his answers weren’t fully accurate, the explanations would be on the facility themselves, who he knew would do anything to cover up their shady practices. Even if they were able to do that, this might at least make them sweat. If they had to admit they created even one person who could smash through walls with the force of rocks, that would be concerning, but Ferris was also one of many involved in the studies.
Rebecca had cried a little during her explanations, saying that they had beaten her whenever she didn’t answer them right away or want to go through with their tests, which also normally involved pain as well, such as burning her, electrocution, and being held underwater. The medications they gave her were unexplained and often changed, and refusing them was not an option.
Zoey could see Ferris’ mind furiously working over that as Rebecca spoke, trying to figure out if they were actually testing for something or if they were just doing that to get information from her, but he couldn’t interrupt. For all they knew about JARGON, it could have been a bit of both. She had already said earlier, when they were flying back, that if they had tried to do something, it hadn’t worked, and Atlas had informed her that if they had tried to turn her into a dragon and it didn’t work, he didn’t remember anyone who had lived through that.
Doug wondered if they had been trying to figure out if she was a good possibility for the transformation, mostly because they were wondering if JARGON was continuing on with the project. Normally, the company would not have cared, and just followed through with the testing and written up the loss as normal, but knowing how much it would hurt the current dragons to change Rebecca probably made them a bit more hopeful to make it work.
They knew they weren’t sure what made the kids who lived survive the treatments. The parent’s who volunteered their children knew this before they gave up custody, being paid large sums of money as an incentive. Sullivan and Skyler were one of the only actual siblings that they knew had survived, partially because most people didn’t give multiple babies up, and because there wasn’t a connection that led them to believe if one child survived the rest would.
Rebecca’s parents were very grateful to have her back home, and hadn’t disliked Ferris before but now thought the sun shone off of him. They discussed with Rebecca when she would like to return the school, her arguing as soon as she could, and her parents wanting to keep her home for a good chunk of time.
Ferris believed that she would probably be in Lynda’s grade when she returned, since she had been gone for about a year and they had all went on to the next year, so he offered that as long as her parent’s cleared it with the school, Lynda could bring her homework and help her with it. They thought that was a pretty good idea, to start her out at home, and then maybe go back to school in a week or so. Rebecca looked exasperated with this decision, but agreed that it was probably the best idea due to being so tired. She pulled her knees up to her chest, and her mother went to grab her a blanket.
Zoey thought this was the best time to introduce herself, so she walked over and smiled. “Hello, I’m Zoey, sorry to have to meet like this,” she told Rebecca softly. She was one of those people that you probably felt like speaking softly to even when she didn’t look tired. She had a sweet face, a quiet voice, and doe eyes. Comparing her and Ferris was secretly really humorous to Zoey, as he was so abrasive normally. He seemed to calm down quite a bit around her, however.
“I’m Rebecca, and that is perfectly fine, you’re the reason I’m here right now and not still back there,” she told Zoey honestly, reaching forward and very gently giving her hand a squeeze, “also I should mention that I’m so glad Doug has been able to find someone too. We should double date sometime when I’m allowed out of the house again.”
There was a noticeable pause as Zoey was unable to think of something to say, but she could feel Ferris grinning again evilly. As glad as she was that Ferris was managing a smile, she felt that his reasons for doing so were not for her benefit. Rebecca paled, realizing her faux pas.
“Oh… are you not dating? I-I’m so sorry, ah…” she tried to stumble out something to save herself from this moment, face reddening.
Ferris began to laugh quietly, looking smug at Doug, who glared at him. Ferris chose to ignore this, instead turning to Rebecca and saying, “I love you so much, this is great.” She shot him a weak grin, and Zoey guessed it was because she missed his laughing, so she couldn’t even be mad at either of them. One glance at Doug told her he was thinking the same thing.
Soon after, they did decide they should leave her to rest to get used to living normally again and have some time with her family. Zoey could tell it was pretty hard for Ferris to leave though, feeling torn about not wanting to leave after just getting to see her again for the first time in so long.
Zoey was still going over the fact that Rebecca had thought she and Doug were dating. I mean, JARGON thought they were, and I guess he was the one to come and rescue her, so maybe it did look more and more like they were dating. She wondered if that was such a bad thing, as she wouldn’t be opposed to it, but then looked at him talking to Ferris and wondered if he could feel similarly, or just like a friend? What she did know was that when she went to bed that night she slept like a log, and assumed he was doing the same, after his long time away from sleep.
The next day was Sunday, and she spent it with Zabrina for the most part, but also on some homework she felt like she had been neglecting. Zabrina and Ted had been talking more, much to Zoey’s joy, and she wondered what her friend would say if she ran what she had been thinking about past her. She decided to give it a whirl, seeing as Zabrina always tried to give good advice and be supportive.
“So, Zabrina. I’ve been thinking, and I think I might have a little crush on Doug. Maybe,” Zoey started off, trying to sound cool and collected.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” her friend replied, giving her a quick grin when Zoey looked at her, gobsmacked.
“Am I really as easy to read as Ferris says?” Zoey asked, sounding a little nervous at what the answer might be but suspecting it to be true.
“Yes, but if it makes you feel better, I can just say it’s because we’ve been best friends for so long that I can always tell what you’re thinking?” offered Zabrina, with a polite smile. She then smirked and lowered her voice in a conspirator type way, saying, “you know, if Ferris is as close to him as he claims I would take that as a pretty good sign that he likes you too.”
Zoey scoffed at that, but secretly wondered if it was true. Her friend was pretty apt at picking up on things, and wondered if she should invite Zabrina to hang out with them sometime, but was a little nervous to after yesterday. She had explained a bit of what happened, answering her friends questions as best as she could, knowing she would be a strong ally when word got around on Monday. At first Zabrina had fussed over her, very concerned, but now Zoey knew she was trying to be as normal as possible for Zoey, for which she was grateful.
She hoped she could return the favour to Rebecca when she was allowed back at school, because she knew that for the hint of attention she got over her short hours of kidnapping, Rebecca would get it tenfold. Zoey’s parents had believed the note she left before, but she filed her own police report in order to help strengthen Rebecca’s case. She wasn’t sure if she should, or if it would just put the dragons in more danger, but they had decided that since their targets were both not involved in the previous experiments, that they would find strong enough evidence against them.
Involving the police meant they had to search her room and explain what was going on to her parents. This came as a shock to them but they were glad she was okay, always asking for all of the details of how she was rescued. She had to give them shaky details on how she was rescued, often using the fact that she had been gassed as a way of avoiding mentioning anything to do with dragons. Her parents and Rebecca’s had bonded over their mutual experiences, and were now calling her brave every chance they got, which was a little strange since she didn’t feel she was the real hero.