The dull ache in his head was unpleasant, but not horribly painful. And it was quickly forgotten the moment Zack opened his eyes.
The first thing he saw was the foor. A floor that appeared to be made of black marble, about four feet below him. But that begged the question: what was holding him in mid-air?
He found he could turn his head from side to side, but the rest of his body was restrained. It was logical to assume that the apparatus he was suspended in was identical to the one he saw a few feet away on his left side. The apparatus that his twin brother Cody was strapped into.
Both teens were mostly naked, wearing nothing but stylized loincloths that barely maintained their modesty. Leather straps around their wrists and ankles immobilized their limbs, while two extra thick straps that ran across their chests seemed to be what held them most securely to the metal frames they were mounted on.
Zack had no idea how they had gotten there. Indeed, the whole situation was so bizarre that it was most likely some sort of bad dream.
But before trying to wake up, Zack called out to his brother to see if he was okay.
The ground was hard and cold, and Abby's face felt sore from being pressed against it. But once she'd opened her eyes and pushed herself up to her hands and knees, she had to deal with the fact that she didn't know where she was.
How had she gotten here? Her last memory was closing her locker and getting ready to leave school for the day. Why couldn't she remember anything else? And what the hell was this place? It appeared somewhat like a cave, though details were hard to see since there was little light.
"H-hello?" she called out nervously.
"W-who's there?" another voice sounded back. A voice that was high pitched due to fear and sounded at least a hundred times more nervous than Abby's. Which was quite significant, given how Abby currently felt.
"Where are you?" Abby asked as she got to her feet. "Did you bring me here?"
"No!" the scared voice replied. "I don't know where this is. I want to go home!"
Abby followed the sound and found a girl who looked to be roughly her own age, perhaps a little older, cowering against a rock wall. The girl was wearing a blue shirt emblazoned with the crest of the Tipton Hotel.
"Don't hurt me," the girl squeaked. Her face was a mask of fear. The eyes below her straight black bangs were filled with panic.
"I'm not going to hurt you," Abby said. She spied a name tag on the girl's shirt. "You're Millicent?"
The frightened girl nodded.
"I'm Abby." She held out her hand, which Millicent grasped and held onto, as if physical contact with Abby might somehow banish her fear.
"Do you know how you got here?" Abby asked.
"No. I was at work. And I stepped away from the counter to go to the bathroom. The next thing I remember is waking up on the ground.
"Hello?" a voice called out from far away. "Hello? We hear your voices!"
Millicent had thrown herself back against the rock wall in fright at the sound of the new voices. Abby took a moment to try and calm her before calling out a response.
Some shouts back and forth led the newcomers closer to Abby and Millicent…but also caused other voices, equally confused and lost to cry out questions as well. Eventually, this led to a group of over two dozen confused and frightened teenage girls to gather in the shadowy area that Abby had awoken in.
Many of the girls knew one another. Abby recognized more than a few of her classmates and other girls from school. Millicent felt a slight bit of relief at seeing her co-workers Maddie and Nia, as well as London Tipton.
All the girls had a similar story. They had been going about their normal lives…and then found themselves waking up on the ground in this strange place.
"Alright listen everyone," Maddie spoke up, exhibiting a take-charge attitude. "This is all very strange but if we're going to figure this out, we need to calm down and stick together."
"Who made her the boss?" Tiffany asked. One of the older girls, Tiffany was an heiress like her friend London. She was also one of the few girls in the group who seemed more angry than afraid. "I'm not going to follow orders from some nobody. I demand to be taken home immediately."
Nia stepped forward. "And just who are you expecting to take you home, Princess?" The black girl's tone was filled with frustration. "We don't even know who brought us here!"
Cowed by the more aggressive girl, Tiffany kept her mouth shut.
After sitting down and talking a bit, it was determined that most of the girls present had either been snatched from the Boston area or, oddly enough, from the cruise liner the S.S. Tipton. It was all very strange. Maddie wondered if there was some common connection between all the girls, perhaps something to do with London…since the heiress was a resident of Boston but currently resided on the ship…but there were a few girls there that London didn't know.
Eventually, a list was compiled of everyone there.
Taken from the ship:
Taken from the Boston area, attendees of Cheevers High School:
Taken from the Boston area, not enrolled in Cheevers High School:
Leslie (though she had graduated from Cheevers last year)
Then there were the twins, Janice and Jessica. Former attendees of Cheevers, they had been off at modeling school when they'd been taken.
And finally some girls that had been taken from elsewhere. Their presence made it even more difficult for Maddie to come up with any sort of pattern at first…but upon further questioning, it was discovered that each of them had either once been a guest at the Tipton hotel in Boston…or had been a passenger on the S.S. Tipton. These girls were:
"Have you figured anything out yet?" Dakota asked Maddie as the blonde girl studied the list she had assembled.
"No," the older teen admitted. "We're all connected, but I can't figure out exactly how."
"You mean besides the fact that we've all been kidnapped and are standing around doing nothing?" Barbara spoke up.
"Chill," Max told her annoyed friend. "Getting angry isn't going to help anything."
"Can't we just get out of this place?" London whined. "I've tried calling Daddy, but my cell won't work here."
"Maybe if we find a way outside, one of us could get some bars," said Abby. Like many of the girls, she had her cell phone with her, but all the devices were proving to be as ineffectual as London's.
And so the girls made their way through the darkened caverns. Suddenly, they saw a light. A light that appeared to have come out of nowhere. As they approached it, some slight glimmers of hope stirred within them. It looked very much like a way out.
The light did indeed prove to be coming from a large archway. Stepping through it, the girls found themselves in a large, well-lit room. The place was opulent. Black marble floors, golden pillars that reached towards the high ceiling. There was even the sound of soft classical music playing, though no band nor speakers were visible anywhere.
Of course, all these details were quickly ignored when the gilrs saw the raised dias in the center of the room. On top of the dias were two young men, strapped to some sort of bizarre structures. One of the males called out to them.
"Help! Can you get us…" he paused as he looked more carefully at the group. "Maddie?"
The stunned blonde, couldn't find her voice for a moment. But standing next to her, Bailey Pickett had no such problem.
"Zack?" the farm girl said in alarm before looking to the other young man. "Oh my God! Cody!"
She ran towards the dias even as many of the other girls spoke up in alarm. If Maddie hadn't been so worried for her longtime friends, she might have noticed how many of the girls were saying one of the boys' names. Almost all of them gasped out either "Zack!" or "Cody!"
But those gasps turned to screams when Bailey neared the bottom of the dias and a wall of flames shot up in front of her. She tumbled backwards and fell, fortunate to have avoided any burns. The flames vanished as quicky as they had appeared.
"Bailey! Are you alright?" Zack cried out.
Those words finally roused Zack's brother, who had remained unconscious up to that point.
"Bailey?" he said as his eyes fluttered open. At once, he was confused to find himself held captive and worried to see the frightened look on his girlfriend's face. "Bailey! Are you alright? What's going on?"
"Don't ask Bailey, sweetheart," a new voice sounded. A voice filled with cruelty. "I'll tell you what's going on. It's time you all knew about our little game."
Out of seemingly thin air, there was suddenly a back robed figure on the dias between Zack and Cody. the figure reached up to pull back the hood that hid her face, revealing a mass of wild thick curls and a face that more than a few of the gathered crowd recognized.
"Barbara and Max were the first to name her, speaking at almost the same moment.
To be continued…
author's notes: Oh no! Agnes? What's going on? Please review.