Okay, so this story has been sitting on my computer for the longest time, and I've been adding parts little by little. It's basically just little bits and pieces of what I think would have happened to everyone's lives after the end of Among the Free. This is also my first Shadow Children story, so I hope you like it.
Disclaimer: I do not (and probably never will) own the Shadow Children Series, or any of it's characters.
Luke Garner turned around, expecting to see yet another news reporter, asking for, as they put it, 'an exclusive story' on his bravery at the rally. He had already done four, and was actually getting tired of the spotlight. He had just exposed himself to the world; an illegal third child. He had spoken, and almost single handedly freed third children. The Population Police had been overthrown, but the fact that Oscar was out there wasn't helping his nerves much. Honestly, he just wanted to head back to the helicopter where Mr. Talbot and all his friends were waiting to take return to Hendricks School for the night. He also knew Trey and Nina would be mad he kept them waiting any longer.
But when Luke turned, that's not who he saw at all. A young boy, maybe a year older than him, wearing jeans and a green sweatshirt, with jet black hair and piercing eyes. The eyes stood out the most. They reminded Luke of a picture in an old book back at home; a picture of the sea, covered in fog with dark clouds in the sky. That was it. Eyes the color of the sea on a foggy day.
The boy rested his hands on his legs and took some deep breaths; he had obviously run to catch up with Luke. Once he had his breath back, he spoke, "Are you Luke?"
"Luke Garner? That third child?"
Luke rolled his eyes slightly at this. He had heard the expression countless times that day. "Yes, that's me."
The boy straightened up and examined him with slightly narrow eyes. "Hmm…yep, that would be it."
Luke was taken aback a bit. "What?"
The boy then shook his head, obviously remembering something important. "Oh, I'm sorry. Geez! Here I am, acting all nuts, and you probably think I'm crazy." The boy chuckled to himself before extending his hand. "I'm Carlos. Remember me?"
Luke blinked at him. Carlos? Did he know a Carlos? The only one he could remember was… "Wait? Carlos from the old chat room? The one Jen had?" he struggled with his old friend's name.
Carlos nodded sympathetically. "Yeah that's me. Anyway, I saw that whole thing, and the names clicked like two minutes ago. I just…I had to meet you. Thank you. Jen was always saying you had guts…looks like she was right."
"So I've been told. But wait a minute; Jen said you were in the rally."
"Yeah, I bailed last minute. I was the last one Jen was supposed to pick up on her way to D.C. I was surprised she didn't yell at me or anything. I think she knew it wasn't going to work."
Luke nodded sadly, remembering the last night he'd seen Jen. She had done that to him, too.
"Carlos!" a voice called out. The two boys turned around to see a woman with the same black hair as Carlos's calling to him. "Come on, sweetie, let's go! It's a long drive back home!"
"In a minute, Mom!" Carlos yelled back before turning to Luke. "Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks. From all of us." Luke nodded again, knowing what he meant. "Were using the old chat room again, too. All the third children. Jen's dad made it safe for us again. Maybe I'll talk to you, there."
"Free." Luke smiled, saying the password to the site.
Carlos smiled back as they shook hands again. "Free." He turned and started off. Luke turned too, and began to walk. "Oh, wait Luke!" Luke smiled and rolled his eyes. He had a feeling Carlos forgot things a lot as he raced back. This time, he reached into his jeans pocket and took out a piece of folded paper. "I almost forgot. Jen wanted me to give this to you. Before she…you know. She said if I ever saw you I needed to, or she'd smack me upside the head." Carlos smirked. "You know her." Carlos dropped the paper in his hand, then turned and ran off.
Luke stared down at his hand for a moment. Jen had left him a letter. Jen had left him a letter! Luke couldn't believe it. Treating it as though it were an antique document, Luke opened the letter.
If your reading this, then Carlos finally came through with something and gave you this letter. Who knew? I'm in the car right now, going all over to get kids for the rally. I already know this isn't going to work. There, I said it. You were right, and I was wrong. Everyone's chickening out, saying they don't want to die or anything. I know I'm probably going to die today. The Population Police will get us before we can make a big scene, and the whole thing will just be a piece of paper in a file folder somewhere. I died trying. And I'm ok with that. Now, though, it's up to you, Luke. You've got to fix this. You're brave and strong, even though you don't admit it. I believe in you Luke. You can do it. If you need help, Dad can probably provide it. He's really against the Population Police, even though he works for them. Well, I'm about done. Good luck, Luke. And don't chicken out! You're our last hope, so don't screw it up (I mean that in the nicest way possible)!
Luke read the letter over and over again. It was almost unbelievable. One of the last things Jen wrote. And it was for him. Tears stung the back of his eyes; he felt like crying, mourning his friend. Even when she about to die, she was brave. Luke could even see the wrinkles and darker spots in the paper where tears had most likely stained it.
"Well there you are!" he jerked his head up, only to have it smacked. "Where have you been!" Nina raged, "We've been looking everywhere for you! Come on, Luke…we're all beat and we want to go…." She trailed off as she caught sight of the paper in Luke's hand. "What's that?"
"Huh? Oh, nothing!" Luke quickly and carefully folded the note and stuck it in his pocket. "It's nothing."
Nina raised an eyebrow. "Ok… Well, come on! Let's go." Luke took her outstretched hand and let her drag him through the crowd, lost in his own thoughts. The sound of whirling blades grew the closer they got to the helicopter. Luke glanced up at the sky one last time before snapping out of his thoughts and going to greet his friends.
"So what are you gonna do?" Luke asked, watching the boy throw old jeans and T-Shirts into his suitcase, not bothering to see what was clean.
"Who knows, who cares? I'm eighteen, I can go wherever I want. I do have a fortune, need I remind you."
"You haven't needed it up to this point. I thought you'd changed, Smits."
He turned back and looked at Luke with a little sympathy. "I know. And I love your parents for all they've done, don't get me wrong. But I want to get out of here, I want to see the world…"
Luke smiled. "Well whose stopping you? Go, have fun. You deserve it."
"Hey, what's the idea?" a man with dark hair yelled as her was pushed roughly into an enclosed room with a table and two chairs, "I've got better things to do than be pushed around, you know!"
The prison guard laughed. "Yeah right. You've got two years before your up for parole, Poppy helper. Don't give me that." Poppy helpers were what anyone these days called people who had been in with the Population Police. It was a horrible term, but sadly enough, what most prisoners in the New Hampshire State Penitentiary were called.
"Let me out!" The man yelled again, pounding on the door he'd just been pushed through. "I didn't do anything!"
"Isn't that a lie."
He stopped at the voice. For the first time, he realized he wasn't alone. Spinning around at the oddly familiar voice, he spun to face a person he never expected to see again. "You…" he stared in awe.
Elodie dusted some dirt off her deep purple business suit and looked up at him, her face emotionless. "Hello Jason."
"Daddy, what's that?" a little girl with sandy blonde hair asked, looking at the old wrinkled piece of paper in the museum display case. Trey walked over and picked up his six year old daughter with a smile. "That, sweetie, is letter Jen Talbot wrote before she died."
"Who's Jen Talbot?" the girl asked.
"She was one of the first people to protest third-children laws. She helped free all third children."
"Like you, Daddy?"
The man smiled and nodded. "Yes, like me."
"Hey look," the girl said, pointing to the top of the page. "It says 'Luke'. Just like Uncle Luke! Was this his?"
The man laughed, a little sadly now. "Yes, sweetie. This was Uncle Luke's."
Carlos absently stirred his coffee with a little stick he had gotten from the counter at the coffee shop. His laptop was driving him crazy; it had chosen today to break down, when he needed to get some important papers into the office. Groaning, he banged the keyboard and slouched onto the table. He heard a giggle behind him. "Wow," the female voice sounded light and bubbly, "I hate modern technology as much as the next person but…"
"Yeah, well if you were in my position I bet you wouldn't be laughing," he said wearily, turning to face the voice. The girl he was addressing had long, dark hair, and looked to be part Mexican. She adjusted her pink tee and sat down next to him. "Sorry," she apologized, "I'm good with computers though; maybe I can help you."
"Good luck," Carlos said, giving his laptop an evil glare, "The thing locked me out."
The girl laughed. "Is that all? That's not so hard to fix…here," she tapped at a few keys, squinting for a few seconds before leaning back with satisfaction. "There we go. Now all I need is your password, and I can get you in."
"Okay," Carlos hesitated, "You promise you won't laugh at it?"
The girl nodded. "Promise."
"It's 'free'. I know it sounds simple but-"
"You're from the chat room?" she cut in, staring at him in awe. Carlos matched her look. "You are, too?" he asked.
The girl's look of shock turned into a smile. "Yes, I am. I knew Jen Talbot before she died; my name's Yolanda."
He grinned back. "You know I pictured you differently," he smirked before holding out his hand. "Carlos."
"Aunt Alia! Aunt Alia!" a little five year old girl cried, racing through her house. Her young aunt –who was sitting at the kitchen table looking over notes for her college exam, cringed slightly. She hated the term 'aunt', it made her feel so old. Leave it to her oldest brother to have his first kid at nineteen, when she herself had only been fourteen. She turned from her notes to the young girl. "What is it, Madison?"
The girl's blonde bangs fell in front of her eyes, taking away the 'cute factor' away from her pout. "Jamie and Ryan won't let me play with them!"
"Well, what did they say?" Alia asked, referring to the twin eight year olds upstairs, who usually left their little sister out of their own games.
"They said I was too little," Madison sulked, sitting on a chair next to Alia. "They're playing cops and robbers; I could only play if I was the hosage."
"You mean hostage, sweetie."
"Yeah," she replied absently. "Why can't I play, too?"
"Madi," Alia said carefully, "Let me ask you something; do you really want to play cops and robbers?"
"No," Madison admitted, looking out the window, "But it looked like fun. And I know how to play."
"The boys were probably playing it differently."
"But everyone knows what happens! The cops always win and catch the bad guys!"
Alia put a hand under her chin. "What if the cops are the bad guys?"
Madison looked confused. "Aren't the cops the good guys?"
Alia sighed and tousled the young girl's hair. "Not always; not when I was a kid…" she trailed off a little before turning her attention back to her niece, "Tell you what; how about I stop studying for a while and we have a snack and watch T.V.?"
Madison looked hopeful. "No boys?"
"Aww, come on Elodie, we always toast, enough already." Trey smirked. After all these years, Nina was the only one who had legally changed back to her original name, besides Luke of course.
"Well excuse me for enjoying our freedom." She glared
"Hey, if anything, we should be toasting this guy." Matthias held his drink up in Luke's direction, who was watching the yearly dispute between Elodie and Trey with mild amusement. He glanced up at his name being spoken, but only shrugged.
"I didn't do anything."
"Yeah right!" Alia smirked; she was still the youngest of the group at twenty-two. "You basically set us free."
"Yet you still can't find a decent job."
"Put a cork in it, Mark." Luke shot back with a grin.
"I'm just saying." They were gathered at Hendricks for their yearly celebration of the rally that freed them. Mr. Hendricks himself had passed away a few years ago and left the school to Trey; who was currently working on turning it into a museum to tell about the struggles third children had faced. It was the only time some of the group saw each other; Elodie lived in London working as a fashion designer, and Mark had a job in Seattle as a government agent. Others were there, too. Trey's daughter Cassidy, Mark's twelve year old son, who usually hung around Elodie's oldest daughter, Maria.
Everyone had basically moved on. They had found jobs, gotten married, and had children. But no matter what, every year, they would always do this. They'd come back with the kids and have a party; their own Fourth of July, as Matthias's son Jamie called it.
"Come on guys," Elodie insisted again, "If you do it, it'll shut me up."
"Fat chance," Percy muttered before standing. "Ok, fine! Here's to freedom."
"To life," Matthias added.
"Being free," Trey added, holding his glass up.
Luke took a deep breath and raised his glass. "To Jen."
Elodie looked at her friend with sympathy shining in her eyes. "To Jen." She whispered. "May she always be remembered."
"Your usually more festive," Elodie remarked, sitting down next to Luke, who was sitting away from everyone else watching the stars.
"Sorry to disappoint you."
"What's wrong Luke?"
"Nothing." He smiled at her.
"I worry about you, you know!" Elodie laughed, hitting his shoulder playfully. "Your practically a different person now. You throw everything you've got into working in that orphanage, you rarely talk about anything we did when we were younger. Your not married…"
"Interested in marring me?" he joked, "I never liked your husband, anyway. Too…British."
He shrugged. "I don't want to get married. I'm happy where I am."
Elodie rolled her eyes. "You've been saying that for six years."
"That's because it's true. Look," he said, getting to his feet, "If I go over there and have a good time, will you stop your harping?"
With that, the two got up and walked over to Carlos and Yolanda, who were in the middle of telling some story. The night was filled with laughter after that, and not one person noticed the extra laugh of a young girl roll through the grounds, apparently thrilled her plans had been crazy enough to work.
Hope you liked it! Again, this is my first Shadow Children story, so reviews are greatly appreciated.