I look up at the scoreboard.
Yoyo was eliminated. He’d only managed to get 2 points bringing his score to 17. He’d barely been able to get out of that place. I look over at the others. Naz is in the lead. That’s as clear as day. Right now I’m surprised when I turn in the white room and see Naz and Shiloh talking. They aren’t just talking. Naz is smiling. He’s enjoying whatever time he is having with Shiloh and for some reason, that is really getting under my skin.
I feel this jerking feeling in my ankle. It’s almost stunning. I quickly grab at my ankle when I hear this slight buzz. I silence it just in time because Star is over for me for some reason. The tall statuesque Antlien casts this huge shadow over me. He has no shirt on. It’s clear he’s noticing just how things have changed between Naz and Shiloh as well.
“Weird isn’t it?” Star asks.
I turn, “What is?
I look over at them, “I don’t give a shit.”
Star laughs, “Sure you don’t. It bothers you. But you knew it was coming. We both knew it was coming. We both caught how they looked at one another. Sneaking looks that bothered the both of us.”
He was right. It wasn’t hard to see the chemistry between them. Even now I watch how Naz has leaned up against the wall with Shiloh only inches away. I notice the way his hand twitches every few seconds until he finally gets it in his mind to reach over and grab Shiloh’s hand. He has this huge smile on his face as though whatever the fuck boring Shiloh was saying was the most interesting thing in the fucking world. He has this twinkle in his fucking eye that is irritating the fuck out of me.
“All I care about is the contest.”
“Bullshit,” Star states, “It bothers you the same way that it bothers me. If only there was something we could do. You know? If only there is a way that we could both end up with what we want.”
I’m confused at this. I look over at Star and for a minute I think I’m talking to someone else.
“What are you saying?”
“I’m sure you have some sort of plan, you know? To break them up or something?”
I can’t help but start laughing. I’m rolling. I’m laughing so hard that the others on the other side of the room look my way. I can tell they are all confused. I watch Star shuffle a little bit clearly uncomfortable by how hard I was laughing about this. It isn’t until I stop laughing and the others stop looking over that he leans over.
“You. Aren’t you supposed to be the Mister Goodie Two-shoes? Aren’t you supposed to be the one who always plays by the rules? Yet somehow you want to be sneaky because the guy you are infatuated with likes someone else? I think that’s just hilarious.”
What’s even more hilarious is he couldn’t even come up with his own plan. He was looking for me to come up with a plan for him.
I can tell he’s embarrassed and he should be.
“Laugh now. Sure I like Shiloh but Naz is halfway out the door.”
“I’m not worried about Naz. Sooner or later he’ll realize that Shiloh is the enemy.”
I notice my ankle buzzing again. This time Star looks over at my ankle. He seems to notice me grabbing it at that moment.
“Is he, what?” I ask.
He ignores my question and stares over at my ankle, “Everything OK?”
“Everything’s perfect. Excuse me…”
I get up immediately. In the corner of my eye, I can see Star looking at me with a suspicious look. He’s definitely noticing something. I quickly get to the bathroom where I pull up my pants until my ankle is revealed.
I look around.
No one is around
I immediately claw into my ankle with my fingernail. I dig so deep that I see blood coming out. As soon as the blood comes out something else comes out of my ankle. It is so small that I can barely hold it in my fingers. It’s the size of a pin. I grab it and open it up.
It’s a communicator.
The hologram appears in the room at that moment with Royce, the Demolisher and leader of ER appearing in the room. The hologram is so clear that it seems as though he is right in the room with me.
“Are you safe to communicate?”
“You almost blew my cover,” I state getting more irritated, “If you want me to get rid of your nephew you are going to have to make sure the other competitors aren’t all aware of the fact that I’m working for ER.”
Royce doesn’t seem even slightly interested in what I’m saying.
“I wouldn’t have contacted you if it wasn’t important. There has been an Upsetter attack in ER headquarters.”
I shake my head. I was sort of confused. Every once in awhile the Upsetter aliens would attack. You never knew who was an Upsetter. They could change shape. The problem with Upsetters, however, is that they never kept their form for too long. Or so we thought. That had changed on 2nd Earth for some reason. The Upsetters were able to keep their form longer and longer. They were able to maintain the way they looked. It made their attacks more frequent. But Upsetters usually attacked government buildings.
This was the first time the Upsetters were attacking the ER headquarters. It was strange. Very strange, but still I didn’t get why Royce had risked blowing my fucking mission to talk to me about this.
“What’s that got to do with us?”
“The Upsetter was caught. We tortured information out of the alien. The Alien let us know that they desire to destroy 2nd Earth.”
I shrug, “That’s not necessarily something unexpected.”
“What’s strange is how they want to do it. They attacked us because they don’t want Shiloh dead. They have a plan for him.”
I’m confused. So many factions in 2nd Earth. The government. The rebel ER groups and now the Upsetters. I stare blankly at him realizing that something strange was definitely going on. Something strange that I didn’t understand.
“This is above my head. You brought me here to make sure that your nephew was killed. I plan on doing that.”
“Your mission hasn’t changed,” he assures me, “Jonathan will End Reparations if his heir Shiloh is chosen. We must make sure that happens.”
“Jonathan is here.”
“He’s here,” I assure Royce, “He’s turned into someone named Anita.”
Royce shakes his head, “Impossible.”
“Jonathan can’t be there. He’s here. I spoke to him the other day.”
“It could be an imposter…”
“We argue about the fact that I married a human named Anne. Jonathan specifically had me seduce the daughter of an Admiral in hopes of gaining political advantage a while back. He was the only one who knew I went undercover. I know that the Jonathan here is real because he addressed this with me. I don’t know who you saw on that ship but it wasn’t Jonathan. It was someone who was using Jonathan’s face in order to convince others to do their dirty work.”
I’m so confused.
“Someone changed into Jonathan in order to get Yoyo to try and kill me. It was Anita or…or was it?”
I thought it was Anita. I thought it was Jonathan. Who was the person who tried to get Yoyo to kill me? Who was the person that was trying to sabotage the Reparations? Was it Anita? Was it someone else?
“Be careful,” he tells me out of nowhere, “The Upsetter we caught was not working alone.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying an Upsetter is amongst you.”
My heart drops.
“Do you know who it is?”
Royce thinks for a moment, “I have an idea. There was someone who volunteered…”
All of a sudden before Royce can tell me who the Upsetter is the lights go out. The hologram communicator that I’m using with Royce malfunctions. I’m sitting in complete darkness.
There is nothing but complete fucking darkness. It’s as though we completely lose all energy. I notice the device in my hand gets really hot all of a sudden. It was overheating.
It’s clear something has gone wrong.
I jump up and shove the pin device in my pocket.
“What’s happening?” I state when I run out.
“Some sort of attack…” Anita states.
They are all gathered in the room. Just at that moment, I see Naz and Shiloh emerge from a single pod. It’s clear to me that they had been together cuddling. Shiloh looks like he just woke up or something. He’s wiping his eyes. I notice something else. Naz and Shiloh are holding hands. I turn towards Star. He noticed it as well.
Dammit. Star has a point. Naz and Shiloh were definitely getting closer.
“How the hell do you know it was an attack?” I ask.
I’d seen Anita change into Jonathan but I’m so confused on whether or not that was the real Anita. What if it was someone who had just changed into Anita? Who’s to say that I’m talking to the real Anita now? All I know is that there was someone on this ship who wasn’t supposed to be here.
One of these people were an upsetter?
Was it Anita, the Familiar girl who was obsessed with Shiloh? Hell was it Star? He was looking to protect Shiloh as well. Then there is Naz who all of a sudden seemed very interested in being around Shiloh.
I was surrounded by three people who all wanted one thing as of now. They all wanted to make sure that I didn’t win Reparations and sacrifice Shiloh.
“Look,” Anita states.
We all turn and see a box just at that moment. The box is wired in the room. The lights are still off. It’s clear that whatever this box was it had a big influence on the entire area around us. I bend over to take a better look at the box.
“What is it?” Shiloh asks.
I bend down, “I don’t know.”
“It’s an EMP,” Anita states.
“An EMP,” Anita responds, “It’s a transient electromagnetic disturbance, is a short burst of electromagnetic energy. EMP interference is generally disruptive or damaging to electronic equipment, and at higher energy levels a powerful EMP event such as a lightning strike can damage physical objects such as buildings and aircraft structures.”
“Does that mean—” Shiloh starts off.
“Someone is trying to mess with the space station,” she explains.
There is a huge hush around the space station. I can tell everyone is feeling really awkward. We all look around.
“How the hell do you know that?” Naz asks her.
“Because she’s an Upsetter,” I state.
The entire room turns to me and then quickly turns to Anita. Anita is standing there looking down at the machine and then looking up at me. She’s entirely too comfortable with this device to not be the Upsetter.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she states, “I’ve worked with EMP devices at my government job back on 2nd Earth.”
“Really?” I ask squinting at her, “Seems very convenient.”
I don’t trust Anita…not for a second. Not for a fucking minute.
Shiloh shakes his head, “I do remember my grandfather saying that Upsetters were transient terrorists. He said that they used some sort of a nuclear electronic blast to destroy the first Earth. This sounds right in their wheelhouse.”
“It sounds right in HER wheelhouse,” I state.
Anita is staring at me. She just keeps this blank unemotional stare that shows the Familiar side of her clear as day.
“I am not an Upsetter.”
“That is a strong accusation,” Naz tells me, “How the hell did you come to that conclusion?”
They all look at me. I can tell them what I just heard from Royce. I can tell them how he is sure that an Upsetter is here on the ship. I can explain how he let me know for some reason the Upsetters attacked the ER headquarters because they knew that ER was planning to destroy Shiloh. For some reason, the Upsetters wanted to protect Shiloh.
And who else on this space station wanted to protect Shiloh more than Anita.
“She can change shape,” I state, “I saw her do it. I saw her have a conversation with Yoyo and change into Jonathan in hopes of convincing Yoyo to kill me.”
“I did no such thing,” she responds.
“You were hoping to convince Yoyo in the same way that you convinced Ragar.”
Anita has this blank stare, “I never spoke to Ragar…”
“Can Familiars change shape?” Star asks Anita.
Anita pauses, “We have the ability but Familiars find it disgusting to do. Only the outcasts from our planet did such a thing. The outcasts on our home planet were Upsetters. They were the ones who never passed their maze and never became functional members of society.”
I’m shocked. I had no idea how Familiars and Upsetters were related. I knew they were from the same planet but Familiars had gone out of their way never to talk about something like this. I notice something from Anita that I don’t think I’d ever noticed from any Familiar. Anita starts crying. Tears are rolling down her eyes.
“She’s crying?” Star asks.
“I’m highly offended!” Anita states, “For you to assume that I am a low-grade Upsetter is the highest insult that someone can give a functional Familiar. I would NEVER change shape. It is a disgusting practice.”
She almost spits the words disgusting. I have to admit that Anita shaking in the way she does and seeming so offended made it seem like she was telling the truth. It was as though I’d cursed out her mother by calling her an Upsetter. She’s so upset that she’s shaking. She’s so upset that I watch as Shiloh leaves Naz long enough to go over and comfort her.
“That’s enough,” Shiloh states.
“It’s not enough,” I respond, “There is an Upsetter on this spaceship.”
I didn’t care how convincing Anita was.
Shiloh shakes his head, “If you saw Anita change shape and become Jonathan then isn’t it possible that someone changed shape to become Anita?”
“You have a point but…someone is trying to destroy this space station.”
Someone wanted to stop reparations. Someone wanted to make sure that I didn’t win and sacrifice Shiloh.
“This isn’t a space station,” Star interrupts.
We all turn to him.
“We aren’t in space,” Star responded.
“We all saw the stars.”
“That’s not what we saw,” Star explains, “That day when I was staring out into the darkness while the rest of you were doing your masturbation trial I realized something. We weren’t in space. It just looked like space.”
“Then where are we?” I ask.
Star crosses his arms, “Underground.”
We all look at him. How long has Star been holding onto this and why was he bringing it up now. It was all very suspicious. It was all extremely suspicious.
“Come again?” Shiloh asks.
“I think I have an idea that we are underground,” Star states, “We aren’t in space. We are underground headed to the center of the planet. I believe…based on my experience and what I saw when I was looking out of that window that we are headed to the center.”
“The center of what?”
“The center of 2nd Earth.”
I can tell everyone is on edge. The lights still haven’t come on yet. It felt like we had stopped moving. For some reason, I preferred to be stuck in space then stuck in the ground somewhere. Star goes on to compare notes with Anita about what everyone saw. We had seen darkness with speckles in the distance that we thought were stars. Turns out, based on their conversation that they weren’t stars. They were minerals in the rock formations as we went deeper and deeper into 2nd Earth.
But where were we going?
“You need to stop making a scene,” Naz states.
“What are you talking about?”
Anita is talking to Star still. I watch Shiloh going to sleep. That leaves Naz walking up to me as I’m in the bathroom. It’s getting hotter by the moment. I hope I’m not imagining it but I feel like it’s harder to breathe.
Something was going on that I didn’t understand. We were stranded under here and the EMP had knocked out our power.
We weren’t moving.
We were just…stuck.
I am playing with the communicator trying desperately to get it back online. Royce seemed to know who the Upsetter was. He seemed ready to warn me about who to look out for. The lights flicker on just for a second and then turn back off. It’s as though the ship was trying to bring itself back online or something.
“Talking about Upsetters,” he states, “You’re making everyone nervous.”
“I’m saying the truth. How is there an EMP device that is just activated all of a sudden now that we are getting down the wire? Someone’s nervous that I’m still around. Someone wants to protect Shiloh.”
“Why would the Upsetter want to protect Shiloh?”
“Shiloh is the heir to Jonathan. He potentially can be one of the most influential citizens on 2nd Earth. If they can find a way to control him…”
“You sound desperate…”
He looks highly annoyed, “Desperate. You’re throwing around these accusations because you can’t take the fact that Shiloh and I are getting closer…”
I laugh at that moment.
“Just because you so easily turned your back on ER and everyone from the Stacks doesn’t mean that I’m willing to do the same.”
“I didn’t turn my back against anyone,” He responds, “I like Shiloh.”
“You barely know him. It just seems odd to me is all. You meet a guy who is literally against everything you stand for and you decide that you want to date him? I just think it’s odd. Then again all of you are acting odd. Just more proof there is an Upsetter running around.”
“No one is an Upsetter.”
“I can prove that there is an Upsetter.”
He gives a look, “How?”
“Royce. I have a way to communicate with him.”
“You can talk to Royce?”
“Yes,” I explain to Naz. “I have a communicator. It doesn’t have power yet but it seems like the EMP isn’t holding. I assume that the Upsetter was interrupted when he or she tried to turn it on. Someone stopped them. That’s how the power is coming back. Once the power comes back I’ll be able to have Royce confirm exactly who the Upsetter is.”
All of a sudden the lights flicker a little bit.
“It’s coming back.”
I pull out the communicator, “Great…let’s see what Royce has to say.”
“Here?” Naz asks.
“Why not here?”
He turns. Sure enough, Star and Anita were not too far from us. They were having a conversation. It was a full blown conversation. I think they were still trying to confirm that we were not in space but actually underground. They were the smartest people here so I assume they just wanted to make sure and share hypotheses on why we would be headed to the center of 2nd Earth.
“Back there,” he states, “We’ll have more privacy to talk to him.”
The lights were back on by the time we get to the bathroom. It’s private back here. I start playing with the communicator. It seems like it’s coming back online. I have to reach Royce.
“He’ll be happy to see you,” I explain, “He’ll be happy to know that I have a member of his group here with me.”
“I doubt that,” he states, “I don’t think he was happy when I volunteered.”
“Yeah,” he states, “I told you that.”
I shake my head, “No you didn’t. You told me you were chosen.”
Naz gives me a hard look. Just at that moment, the communicator was coming back on but I notice him twitch almost as though someone was holding their breath and comes back for air. I notice something that I didn’t notice before.
Naz’s eyes change color. For a moment it seems like they change quickly to Anita’s eye color. For a moment it seems like his whole body is going to change as well but he catches himself.
“Damn it. It always happens when I’m irritated…”
Naz shakes his head, “A shame. You would have been an awesome sacrifice…but I guess I’ll have to kill you now.”
That’s when Naz grabs me and begins choking the life out of me.
It’s clear that Naz is the Upsetter.