“Mary, wake up,” I whisper, lightly shaking the older woman. “I’ve got some bad news about our little escapade earlier today.”

“Is that you, Luna?”

“Come on, Mary. We messed up.”

My voice wavers as much as my hands. I don’t want to picture what will happen when they find the video footage.

“What happened?”

“There are cameras, Mary. We have to move now, or we’re in serious danger.”

Mary straightens dramatically, her eyes wide. “I did not think of the cameras.”

“Yeah, me neither. We’ve gotta figure out what to do and how to do it. The clock is ticking.”

“We must find a quieter place to talk. Others are still awake and could cause trouble.”

“True. Let’s bounce to the shed. We’ll grab our equipment and go from there.”

Sneaking out of the cramped lodging this late at night proves to be as much of a challenge as it sounds. Those that are still awake aren’t interested in us leaving, probably because of my Overseer status, but that doesn’t mean guards were going to be okay with it. When one rounds the corner, we make it look like we’re getting ready to sleep for the evening, heading for open spots on the floor. They spend a minute surveying and snooping, and eventually dip.

Finally, after thirty minutes of espionage, we enter into the cold December night. A few dense storm clouds threaten to break open, blotting the sky and full moon. How funny would it be if the first snow of the season came right when we’re ready to enact our plan?

A snowflake flickers down and lands on Mary’s shoulder.

Apparently not very funny at all.

“Let’s make this quick. I don’t think we wanna freeze to death.”

“What is the plan after we get the suits?”

“We’re going to grab Freckles, steal a ship, and fly all the way to Carmsborough. If we can, I’d prefer a cloudship, because that’s the only thing I’ve ever flown.”

I exclude the detail that I’ve never learned how to fly in the first place. The last thing I need is her flaking on me now. Like it or not, either of us are screwed if we decide to stay on the island.

“That sounds more like a dream than a plan.”

“It’s not like I had a lot of prep time, Mary. Do you have anything that could help?”

“Well, they never leave the ships unlocked. Even the cloudships. They keep the keys somewhere, but I am not sure where. Maybe in one of the last few rooms we did not check in the Administration building.”

“Okay, so we’ll get Freckles, grab an airship key, snag a ship, and get out of here. Piece of cake, right?”


I’m not totally convinced, either.

Despite a rally of panning spotlights and an occasional guard patrolling the grounds, we make it to the shed in good time and rush to equip our stolen gear. The radio and wrench jingle uncomfortably in the spacious pockets of my suit, bumping against my hips as I step.

As a test, I decide to switch on the radio. It emits a constant low static noise, signaling empty airwaves. I turn the volume just low enough that the static disappears, but loud enough for us to hear any late-night conversations.

“Would it be better if we could disable the video system for a short time?” Mary suggests.

“You’re full of good ideas, Mary. Any idea where the security room would be?”


“Fair. Let’s see if we can take care of that first.”

“This plan is beginning to sound less and less like a piece of cake, Luna, and more like a complicated way to get killed. I am worried for our safety.”

“It’s okay, Mary. We’ve got this big ol’ wrench on our side, and I think I’ve already demonstrated my willingness to use it.”

“And if they come at us with more than fists?”

“They haven’t yet, have they?”

She stays silent, but clearly isn’t content with my answer. The two of us tiptoe our way to the Administration building, once again being careful to avoid the spotlights and prying eyes of the guards making their rounds. I’m not sure how many are on patrol, but fighting them all is not an option, even if they’re unarmed.

“We’re getting word of two ambushed guards earlier today, as well as missing equipment from the mechanics shop,” a voice on the radio says, scaring us motionless. “Be on the lookout for anyone in a guard outfit that doesn’t belong. Security is going to be checking the tapes as soon as possible.”

“Roger that,” another voice crackles back seconds later. I recognize it as one of the mechanics from earlier.

“Our operation time is getting smaller and smaller,” I say to Mary. A bead of nervous sweat forms on my forehead, contradicting the snow slowly building up on the frosty grass.

“Let us go take care of the videos, then.”

We reach the mechanics shop, which, unsurprisingly, has closed its doors for the night. A quick yank on each confirms they’re locked.

“Are there any other doors that lead into the Administration building, Mary?”

“We could use the long hallway that attaches the Housing and Administration buildings,” she suggests, pointing to the makeshift connector. “It will not be easy, especially if they have it on lockdown, but that may be our only option. The front door to Administration is always locked.”

“I guess we’re sneaking through Housing again.”

We walk into the overpacked building with a little more intent than we left with. No point in the others not knowing we don’t belong. All we’re trying to do is stay away from the guards.

“You have my hopes higher than they should be, Luna,” Mary says, stepping over some of the already asleep bodies. “For the first time in a long time, I truly believe I will see my children again soon.”

Of course she has children. I never even considered the idea. She probably had a husband too, although I can’t imagine he’s still around if she hasn’t brought him up.

“How many do you have?” I ask, as if they wouldn’t be my parents’ age. Feels weird to think about.

“I have two. A son and a daughter. Oh, how I miss my mornings with Elouise when we sat and broke bread with each other. I want nothing more than to return to my old routine, but I am afraid that we will never be truly safe after we escape from this hell.”

“We’ll get you to your kids, Mary, and something tells me these goons have more to worry about than the two of us breaking free. They’re preparing for something much bigger, and we’re just a couple of road bumps in whatever plan they’re cooking.”

“I suppose. Well, what is your home life? Do you have family waiting for you?”

In front of us is the divider that leads to the Administration building. It’s strangely unguarded, which most likely means it’s also locked. I quietly try the door, praying nobody’s on the opposite side guarding it.

“Nah. My mom died five years ago, and my dad left long before that. It’s just Freckles and I. I’m not sure who I would’ve become if I hadn’t found the little robot dude at work one day. I might not even be alive without him.”

“I am sorry to hear that. Maybe when all of this is said and done, we can find a new place together.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I say, not focusing on what she’s saying. The knob turns, and the door slowly drifts open.

Nobody’s in the long hallway connecting the two buildings. We’re in luck again.

“Boss, we’ve got bad news regarding the new Plasmarizer,” a voice says on the radio, startling the two of us and a couple of people that were nodding off to sleep. I turn the knob a little further and hold it to my ear.

Slaphand’s booming voice crackles over the speaker. “Yeah, what is it this time?”

“Whoever was sneaking about yesterday might have damaged it, too. I’m standing in the security room trying to get the timestamp, but it could be a few hours.”

A string of swear words sounds off from the black box in my hand.

“We can’t afford another setback like this! I’m going to look at the Plasmarizer right now!”

The two of us stop at the end of the hallway. He’ll be walking our way, and the last thing we need is to run directly into the one man we’re explicitly avoiding.

Through the door, we can hear him yelling and stomping down the hall. We’re dead meat as soon as he finds out it was me again.

“I think we have to change our plan again,” I whisper to Mary. “We can’t destroy the video system if Slaphand’s walking around. He could enter in there at any moment.”

“Then we should lie low and grab only your cat and the keys,” Mary suggests.

I crank the doorknob as slow as possible and peek my head through the tiny crack. The hall is empty for now.

“Alright. Let’s get moving. There weren’t many doors left for us to check, but we should still hurry.”

We take soft and nervous steps towards the opposite end of the hallway. My neck is tense and my eyes are fixated on one of the last few doors we didn’t check behind.

Please be the one we need.

Every movement we make creaks slightly against the carpeted flooring. This time my senses are even more attuned to the noises compared to our first round of recon.

“Wait, creaking means empty space underneath the boards.”

“What?” Mary asks in a hushed tone.

“There’s a basement, Mary. We might have to search there, too.”

“Well, that figures.” Her eyes seem hollow, emphasizing the frown resting on her face.

We finally reach the door I’ve been honed in on, and I swing it open as if I do so every day. A flight of stairs leads into a dark basement, lit scarcely by a few gas lanterns hanging on the walls.

“I hate being right.”

Just to confirm, we check the other rooms. Like the hallway, they’re surprisingly empty, and don’t have what we’re here for.

“To the basement it is,” I say, reopening the door. Despite our best efforts, our shoes echo against the walls with every step until we reach the concrete floor, where the freezing temperature of the underground room hits us immediately. It feels as bad as it does outside, minus the snow part. Aside from a few extra doors lining the walls, the place is wide open and empty.

“I am tired of playing this door game,” Mary comments.

“Jackpot,” I say, pointing to the only labeled room: security.

“I thought we were going to skip the security room?” she asks.

“Well, we were,” I say, slipping the wrench out of my pocket, “but this is too good of a situation to pass up. You go ahead and check the other rooms. I’ll handle these guys.”

“Please do not do this, Luna. There is no way of telling how many people are in there. You may get us caught. Or killed.”

“I could also save us from being caught or killed, and I’m willing to take that risk.”

Mary shakes her head in disapproval but sneaks away to search elsewhere. I carefully open the security room door without a sound.

There are three men, all focused on seven monitors rotating between different rooms and the main hallway. Judging from the timestamp in the corner of each screen, they’re hunting for the incriminating footage from yesterday.

I close the door behind me as quietly as I opened it and lift the wrench over my head, ready to clock the man in the middle. My reflection faintly shows in the monitor screens, and the three turn just in time to watch me bring the makeshift weapon down.

With a loud bonk on his head, the man in the middle flops onto a keyboard in front of him, mashing buttons and messing with the monitors. The other two draw their fists and swing at me. I duck, but not in time to dodge their next attack. The guard to my left kicks and crashes into my arm, sending me tumbling.

I hate to say it, but this was a bad idea. Even if they hadn’t noticed me bringing the wrench down on my first target, I probably wouldn’t be able to take these two in close quarters without help. Mary was right–I let my heartache and need for revenge get in the way of rational thinking.

The man on my right also sends out a kick, landing square on my stomach. I fight the urge to throw up and claw my way to a standing position. Wielding the wrench like a baseball bat, I swing in front of me, not aiming for either of them in particular. They both dodge backwards, giving me a chance to lunge at the one on the right, weapon-first. It hits his shoulder, and he grunts with pain.

Keeping the momentum, I punch his side with my free arm, landing in between his hip bone and ribcage. The other man, apparently feeling lonely, jumps at me, rips me off of his partner, pins me against the wall, and wraps his hands around my neck.

“At least buy me dinner first,” I say, trying to break his grip with my own hands.

“Call the boss!” he yells to the other, looking away long enough for me to lift both of my legs into the air and kick off of him. Both feet plant on his calves, and push him harshly to the ground, butt first, head second. I also smack into the floor, but scramble back up quickly.

His partner grabs a walkie-talkie and presses the button, ready to alert the boss. Acting fast, I launch the wrench at his hand, which connects with the radio and shatters it in his hands. He winces, but any serious damage potential is blocked by the now-worthless radio.

We exchange a momentary glance, first at each other and then at the wrench, and both dive for it. I land on top of him and put him in a chokehold, hoping he’ll clock out without having the chance to use the wrench against me.

The man I’d kicked to the floor sits up and watches the two of us for a moment before realizing what’s happening. He moves to join in on the fun, raising his leg.

I try to roll while keeping the headlock intact, but my victim’s too heavy for me. A barrage of kicks hammers my exposed side, sending stars darting across my vision.

This fight has to end, and soon. Every new attack hurts more and more, threatening to make me black out. After a few more seconds, the man underneath me stops moving, and his grip on the wrench loosens. I can finally roll away from the next kick. My side is screaming in pain, but for now, I reclaim my makeshift weapon and stand as straight as possible, facing the last of the three men.

“Alright,” he says, “you wanna fight mano y mano? I can do this all day. Come here, you little bi—”

“How are things going?” Mary asks, swinging the door open and slamming it into the man’s face. He crumples to the floor with a thud. Wide-eyed, she peeks around the edge and sees her accidental handiwork.

“Why’d you open the door so violently?” I ask. I lightly touch my side, wincing at the raw pain.

“I did not mean to. It swung open more than I intended. Anyway, I found a ring of keys, so we have our ride.”

“Well, great work, Mary. And now, we don’t have to worry about anyone checking the—”

“Hey!” a voice shouts from outside of the room. We peek, panicked, and come face to face with two familiar-looking guards at the bottom of the staircase.

“Wait, you’re the two prisoners that knocked us unconscious and stole our clothes!” the other says, angry.

“Uh oh,” Mary says.

What an understatement.

Before we even have time to move, the guards speed back upstairs.

“We’ve gotta move,” I say, hysteria bubbling in my chest. Momentarily forgetting the searing pain in my side, I bound across the basement and hop up the stairs, blazing ahead of Mary.

“I’ll grab Freckles if you make your way to the airships, Mary. We can’t afford to lose any more time.”

I take a quick glance down at main hallway of the Administration building, and when I don’t spot any guards, I rush directly to Slaphand’s office.

Right as I move to grab the handle, the door opens. In front of me stands the big man himself, his abnormally large hands balled angrily into fists. He’s already left the room with the machine? How long was my fight in the basement?

I look behind me, ready to dart away, but four more guards, including yesterday’s victims, have blocked off our exit. Multiple guns are pointing our direction.

Mary was right. I shouldn’t have gone for the security room guards, and now my one chance of rescuing Freckles is gone. We raise our hands, and I drop the wrench, which lands loudly on the floor.

What have I gotten myself into this time?


About the author


Bio: Michael has always had a love for writing that stems from writing a short story about turtles on his family computer in second grade. From there, he never stopped writing, and wrote his first ten-thousand-word book in the third grade, igniting his passion for storytelling.

Now, the only thing stopping Michael from writing more is his schedule. Ideas like LUNA ON THE RUN and THE GHOST OF THE HINDENBURG keep him up at night, plotting his creative path forward.

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