Chapter Six – Grace


In the midst of life, there is calamity; yet in the midst of calamity there is hope. Susanne, Ainslie, Weiminn, Wei Yan and I had been locked up, threatened and starved for a full day. I had not slept soundly at all, and now I was so exhausted that I could barely tell waking reality from dream. I’d heard what Blonde Beard had muttered about us. We were to be killed off as soon as it pleased them. We were of no value to them.

But there was still hope.

We were not alone any more. Our friends were with us — Megan, Katrina, Jess Wu, Sarah Jane, Yasmin, Jeena — and Melanie, Yan, Steph and Sze had found us. Pandemonium erupted as everyone joyfully greeted each other, some crying tears of utter relief, some clinging to anything, even the poles, out of gladness. I saw Megan hugging the balcony wall, trying to hide a rush of tears, and Katrina whispering her gratitude to the heavens.

Ainslie was the first one to come to her senses and realise what a racket we were making. She shushed everyone hurriedly, then turned to Yan, Melanie, Steph and Sze, who were the only ones still not captured. “You have to get out of here,” she told them with a note of urgency in her voice. “Blonde Beard dude and his riflemen will be back at any minute. If they see you…”

“We’re not leaving without freeing you guys,” Steph replied fearlessly.

There was a short silence before Sarah Jane spoke up with finality. “You can’t. These handcuffs won’t come off.” She indicted her right wrist, which was chafed red raw.

Sze gave a triumphant grin. “That’s what you think.” She swung something off her shoulder and I realised she was carrying her schoolbag. “We hid out in our lockers,” she explained as she unzipped her pencil case and produced a huge pair of scissors. She began sawing at the plastic handcuffs. They broke easily.

We were freed.

Ecstatic, Jess Wu leapt onto Sze and yelled, “I love you!”

Unable to believe our good fortune, I leant heavily against the railing and closed my eyes. Thank God. We had friends who would risk themselves to save us. I massaged my scratched and bleeding wrist. If the others hadn’t come along, Blonde Beard would have killed us. If the others hadn’t come along —

Irritated, brazen voices drifted up from the quadrangle. “Get down,” I hissed loudly, and everyone fell flat against the concrete to avoid being seen. Heart pounding, I peeked over the edge of the balustrade.

Impossible.

My stomach twisted in horror. I could not be seeing this.

There was a pile of bodies in the middle of the quad, and several black-clothed men were setting fire to it. I swallowed hard, unable to look any closer, unable to acknowledge to myself the sheer magnitude of the number of people killed in the seizure of the school. This was how they disposed of the dead.

The swank, well-dressed man with the snakeskin shoes strolled out of Wyslaskie Hall to watch the burning. He had a smug, arrogant air which made me instantly dislike him. From what I’d heard he was the director of this entire operation and also the head of an influential, wealthy gang called Steeal. He was only about thirty-five, with slick brown hair and a handsome disposition. Snakeskin put his hands in his white pants pockets coolly and I glimpsed a gun fixed to his belt. “Hurry up with it,” he shouted to the men who were doing the burning. His voice was strongly accented.

“Flash!” It was a definite female voice calling out. “Flash Fiorelli!” Without warning, Lady Leather Pants ran out from nowhere and approached Snakeskin, or Flash. Now I could see her features. She was young and very beautiful, with ebony black hair. She leaned near Flash and said something in a foreign language, then laughed lightly.

Flash chuckled too, a rumbling, coarse sound, and slid an arm around her waist possessively. “Ah, Vera,” he sighed, shaking his head.

Presently, two men came up to Flash and Vera. They walked in such a laid-back, swaggering manner that I was sure they were men of certain power. One of them was Blonde Beard, the other was an olive-complexioned man I’d never seen before.

“Riley Robson of Swiftwind and King Nicholls of Shadowblade. You have news for me?”

Blonde Beard’s name was King? What an arrogant, supercilious character — and he was leader of the Shadowblade gang. It seemed the other gangs were second in command to Flash and his dear Vera.

“No news,” King said with a carefree shrug. “None of the 400 have attempted any form of rebellion or escape. They know if one goes missing, it will cost the others dearly.”

“And our new base?” Flash turned to Riley Robson.

Riley shook his head. “Incomplete. The tunnel’s almost ready but we are yet to put in the lighting and electricity.”

Flash was irked by this. “We cannot live out of the Boarding House forever, you idiot,” he barked. “I want it done by Friday.”

“Impossible! Give us at least ten days.”

Outraged, Flash almost lurched towards Riley, but Vera put a hand on his arm to calm him. “Very well,” Flash said tersely. “Now, where is the Boxerfist warlord? The fat one. He has done nothing for us so far. Fetch him for me!”

Riley and King loped away, and Flash and Vera returned to Wyselaskie Hall. Flash was talking into a small speaker that looked like a walkie-talkie. Meanwhile, the mound of bodies blazed and become wreathed in flames, sending billows of black smoke up to the sky. I felt a fist of doom and despair punch me in the chest. I must have known some of those girls, and now they were —

I couldn’t bear the thought.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jeena whispered.

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea,” Melanie said, and began shuffling in a commando-crawl towards the Year 12 area. I tried to copy her but somehow I wriggled slower than everyone else and I ended up near the back. Megan was right in front of me and I was glad she was wearing shorts under her dress — that meant no bushy bits in my face.

One by one we slunk through the door and ran past the couches and lockers into Room 11. I shut the door firmly behind me and locked it. Crawling around had dirtied the entire front of my dress and left scrapes on my arms. I was an injured, battered mess. Breathlessly I scanned the room, wondering if there was anything of importance that we could take.

“We need to go back to the Aquatics Centre,” Megan said in a low voice. She looked worried. “Vanessa’s all alone in there — we have to get to her as quickly as possible.”

The rest of us nodded uncertainly.

“Then where will we hide out?” Yasmin asked. “Should we try to get out of the school?”

“Should we look for other friends?” Susanne said pointedly.

Weiminn grimaced. “It won’t be easy. There are men on the roofs and all around the school, scouring for us.”

“Yeah,” Sze said. “Flash and Riley and King will know that you guys have escaped.”

“We can work together,” Yan piped up. “Maybe to distract them –”

She was cut off by the most violent of explosions. Pure force rammed into me. Suddenly, the floor broke apart beneath our feet and I was plummeting through empty air, bits and pieces of debris falling around me. Distantly I heard petrified screaming and bricks crumbling.

The solid ground rushed up to meet me, too fast. I cried out and braced myself for a pain that would end it all.

Soreness shattered my side as I rammed into something. I gasped at the agony and tried to lift my head. I was lying on grass just in front of the Senior School carpark. I rolled aside sharply, just avoiding a falling brick that drove itself into the ground. A second ago, we had been standing inside Room 11. Now all that remained of it was a scattered, uneven heap of rubble and a deep crater in the ground. My mind swam. The explosion had come from underground. But why did the bad guys want to blow such huge holes in the earth? I thought back to Flash’s conversation with Riley Robson, about the base and the tunnel. It didn’t make sense to me, and there was no time to mull it over.

Weakly I staggered to my knees. Where were my friends? I saw Jess Wu and Jeena a short distance away, but no one else.

Roughly, someone scooped me up by the back of the neck and growled, “Foul creature. This one tried to escape!” he shouted.

Oh no. One minute of freedom and now I was caught again. I wrenched my head around to see my captor. He was one of the riflemen, insignificant. He leered at me, laughing wickedly, then saw Jess and Jeena. “Hoy! There are two more!”

The three of us stared at each other in alarm as we were grabbed by more men and carried over to a chubby, pot-bellied fellow with slanting eyes. The cold barrel of a gun was pressed to my temple. “What do you want with us?” I said, sounding scared instead of demanding.

Pot Belly sneered in distaste. “Escapees, are they?”

“Yes,” one of the men spat. “Shall we take them to Flash?”

Pot Belly’s eyebrows knotted angrily. “I will not have that witless English man ordering me around. I shall do with these three as I please.” His beady eyes flicked over Jeena, Jess and then me, and his flapping mouth spread into an unattractive smile. Then he said something in Mandarin to the men. I had no idea what it meant, but Jess and Jeena looked horrified.

“What did you say?” I demanded helplessly. “I don’t understand!”

Pot Belly cackled, pleased with himself, then nodded towards a truck. “Go.”

Two men dragged us to the truck. My legs skittered against the gravel ground as I fought to stay on my feet. They opened the back of the truck the tossed us in on top of a stack of crates and boxes. I landed on my front, bruised. The doors shut and locked, leaving us in near darkness.

Jess and Jeena were in hysterics. “The man said he was going to take us out to the gates and shoot us,” Jess said frantically. “In front of all the policemen. As a warning. We’re going to die, Grace.”

Appalled, I fell back against a crate and let my head droop down. It was useless. There was no escaping the bad guys.

“Hey,” Jeena said. “We can’t give up hope. We’ve got to think of something.” She jumped off one of the crates and as she did so, the lid slid aside. My eyes widened. The box was crammed full of small packages, and the packages contained a powdery white substance.

“Are they drug dealers?” I said, because it was obvious what the powder was.

We heard the sound of the truck doors closing and the engine started. The truck began to move down the driveway, towards the Burwood Highway exit. Panicking, I scrambled around, searching for a way out. Jess and I threw our weight against the rear doors, but they were made of metal and bolted shut.

Jeena reached between two crates and pulled out a metal rod, about arm’s length. “A crowbar,” she cried. “Will this help?”

Jess and I ran to her, almost tripping on the crates as the truck rolled over a hump. I steadied myself against the wall. Jess snatched the crowbar and reached up at the front end of the truck, trying to break one of the bolts that held the walls together. She was shoving the bar with all the strength she had in her skinny arms, and the bolt came off. The front wall of the truck carriage creaked and separated itself slightly. I glimpsed the tennis courts passing us by.

“Pass it here,” I said. Jess tossed the crowbar and I caught it, then pounded it against the bolt on the other side of the wall. The bolt broke apart. I took a cautious step backwards as the front wall of the truck toppled away from us. With a crash, it landed on top of the driving part of the truck where the two bad guys were. They were pinned underneath the fallen wall!

The truck swerved out of control, veering sharply onto Norman Oval. I shrieked as we crashed down the slope.

“Get out of here!” Jeena yelled. Gripping the edge of the truck, she slipped in between the side wall and the front wall and dived towards the grass. Beneath me, the truck rumbled and the front began to smoulder. It was on fire!

“It’s going to explode!” I shouted at Jess. Blindly, I ran out onto the fallen front wall and leapt with all my might, not caring how much it would hurt when I landed. I soared through the air, then the truck exploded massively behind me, throwing me even further. I’m flying, I thought with an odd sense of peace. Pieces of truck flew past me, still in flames. I felt a searing heat scorch the back of my legs just before I crashed onto the grass.

The blackness of unconsciousness threatened to engulf me but I fought it. My vision cleared and I saw Jeena and Jess both kneeling over me. “Grace, you’re burnt!”

I sat up wearily. “Where?” Instead of feeling sore, I felt completely numb.

“Er, on your legs,” Jess cringed.

I looked. I no longer wore socks, but bits of singed, brown material. Patches on my calves were blistering red. My shoes were tattered. “Oh, gross,” I said, and looked away.

“Come on.” Jeena helped me to my feet. Though her voice was steady, she looked anxious. “There’s the Pavilion. There are taps there.”

“Wait.” My eyes went to one of the men who was lying on the ground nearby. I ran over to him and searched him for weapons. He had a black, long-barrelled pistol, a huge knife in his belt and a rifle with sights. I put my eye to the sights and saw crosshairs for aiming.

“We’d better hurry,” Jess said. “The men on the roof could see us at any moment.”

“Just take everything.” Jeena snatched the knife and pistol and ran towards the Pavilion. Jess and I followed, stumbling up the steps. Jeena had already turned on the tap and desperately she threw cold water at my legs.

I almost laughed. “Relax, it’s not that bad.” I climbed up onto the bench and let the cool liquid wash over the burn marks.

Jeena gave the knife to Jess and kept the pistol for herself. Then she turned to me. “I think Flash is setting up an underground base.”

I blinked at her. “Of course!” It all made sense now. “That’s why he’s bombing under the ground. He wants to make a tunnel and move everyone beneath the school. We know that Flash is the leader of the alliance of gangs. So far we know of four gangs — Steeal, Shadowblade, Swiftwind and Boxerfist.”

“What I don’t understand is why they are so eager to keep 400 girls hostage,” Jeena nodded. “Why 400? It must cost a ton to feed them.”

Jess looked thoughtful. “Because their parents will pay anything to see that their daughters aren’t hurt. Flash and the others want money for whatever evil things they’re doing. This is a private school, and there are sure to be some really rich families.”

“So the 400 girls are being held for a ransom,” I agreed, gingerly poking my legs. “And of course, also as a security measure.”

“And the PLC girls are all too scared to escape because if one of them goes missing, twenty of them will be killed,” Jess added fearfully.

Jeena sighed heavily, as if there was a heavy burden on her back that she couldn’t shake off. “Why are they doing this? What do they want here in PLC? They can’t be doing all this just for money.”

“Drugs,” I told her, grinning.

Jeena shook her head. “No, they’re not drug dealers. They would keep everything much more secret if they were. They wouldn’t take over a whole lot of schools.”

I stared at her. “We’re not the only school taken over?”

“Apparently all the private schools in Melbourne have been targeted.”

There was a solemn pause, then Jess spoke slowly. “That was opium in the truck.”

“Opium!” Jeena said. “Like the Opium War in China!”

“Maybe they’re trying to get everyone in Melbourne hooked onto opium,” I chortled, my mind wandering off on a crazy whim. “Then they could start a business selling opium to all the addicts. They’d never run out of money. They could take over the whole city!” I stopped short, aghast. What if I was right?

Jeena and Jess were staring at me. “Maybe that’s it,” Jess breathed. “But how would they get everyone to take opium? They can’t just go out on the streets and expect people to buy drugs from them.”

“Something sneaky,” Jeena murmured, gazing out over the tree tops. Slowly she turned back to us, then stared at the tap and the water running over my leg. “The water supply! If they manage to put huge amounts of opium into the water system, the whole city could become addicted!”

“More than the city,” I gasped. “The state…the country.”

“People will do anything if they’re addicted to a drug,” Jess agreed gravely.

We drifted into an uncomfortable, edgy silence, each thinking over what was going on. The early morning breeze whispered through the nearby trees and brushed past us. I heard birds calling to each other in their language, as if everything was normal. It was the second day of February. How much longer would we be trapped inside the school?

I lifted the rifle again and put it to my eye, then swung it around, using a knob to adjust the zoom on the sights. There was a truck trundling in from the Parer St entrance, towards the carpark. I focused the vision. “A Coles Myer truck?” I said, bewildered. “They must have taken over the supermarket, maybe even the whole company.”

Jess blanched. “Now they can get their hands on anything they need — food, supplies.”

Looking troubled, Jeena took the rifle and peered into the sights. She scanned the school building and the surroundings. “Looks like all the parents have gone away, and most of the policemen too.”

My heart sank. Even the outside world had given up on us.

“Wait. There’s a police car out on Parer St. And there are some policemen inside. Maybe they can help us get out of the school.” Jeena sounded hopeful.

Jess glanced at me. “How are your legs?”

I switched off the taps and swung myself down from the bench. “They’re fine.”

Jeena ran towards the police car, waving her arms. “Help us!”

Beside me, Jess turned completely pale and leapt forward. “Stop! Jeena, stop! Stop!”

I stared at her, confused. I didn’t see anything wrong, but maybe Jess knew something I didn’t. “Jeena, stop!” I yelled.

Jeena whirled around and looked at us, hand on her hip. Then I saw. There were faint red lines running around the boundary of the PLC grounds — laser sensors. My gaze followed the lasers to the small boxes and wires fixed to the fence. The whole school was wired with bombs! No one could leave if they tried, because the lasers would sense them and trigger the bombs. How much of the school would explode? Everything?

Jeena turned and came face to face with the lasers. She gasped and stumbled backwards, then edged away. As she returned to the Pavilion I saw sweat beads on her forehead. “That was close,” she said.

Suddenly, Jess staggered and almost fell to the floor. Her left ankle had given way.

“Jess, are you okay?” I cried, and bent down to help her up.

“Yeah,” she assured us, but her face was taut with suppressed pain.

Jeena bent and pushed Jess’ sock down. Her ankle was already swelling up. “It’s sprained.” She gave Jess a concerned pat on the shoulder.

“Let’s go to the PE centre and get an ice pack for it,” I suggested sombrely. “And maybe we can find some bandages to wrap it up.” The PE centre seemed safe enough. None of the bad guys would want to use it.

“And we can get some socks and shoes for you,” Jeena smiled sympathetically at me.

We crept out of the Pavilion and ran for the cover of the nearest tree. I used to rifle sights to check for bad guys, while Jeena supported Jess. There were two men near the carpark, but they were distracted by the Coles truck so we crossed the road and ran stealthily to the PE centre.

To my relief, the door was unlocked. We slipped through and bolted it shut behind us. It was empty inside, and completely undamaged. I jogged up the steps lightly and into the teacher’s office, where everything was strewn about as if it had been searched. A bright red jacket was still draped across the back of a chair as if the PE teachers had left in a hurry. Which they probably had.

We searched the cupboards. I found socks and sneakers for my feet, which I quickly put on after disposing of my tattered school shoes, and a bandage for Jess’ ankle. Jeena retrieved an ice pack from the freezer, wrapped it in a cloth and pressed it against the injury. I discovered a first aid kit and promptly slapped some bandages over my knees and elbows to stop the bleeding.

There was food in the fridge. Not much, but enough to feed the three of us for maybe a week. Starved, we opened a bag of ham sandwiches and a bar of chocolate. In addition to that, we found pretzels, two containers of pasta, more sandwiches, a bowl of fried rice with cling wrap over it, two packets of chips, a jar of lollies and a packet of tim tams. There were two frozen pizzas in the freezer.

I peered into one of the larger cupboards and found a stash of clothes; lost property. I pulled out a black sweater and a black t-shirt.

“Are you changing?” Jeena said in disbelief.

“I’d rather wear this than a dress,” I said, and ducked into a corner where I put on the sweater and t-shirt with my PLC shorts. “Much better,” I grinned, stepping out, properly clothed.

Jeena and Jess stared down at their own dirty, torn PLC dresses, then dived for the clothes cupboard. Jess proudly posed and showed off her (stolen) Nike trackpants and PLC t-shirt. Once we were all dressed nicely and well-fed, I glanced around. “You know, the PE centre is a really good place to hide out. We have some food, water, toilets, showers — we could sleep in the gym on those mats…”

“We can use javelins and shotputs for weapons,” Jess put in excitedly.

Jeena stared at us, thrilled. “Yes! We could live here for a while, where we can be safe.”

“We can gather other survivors to hide here with us,” I continued breathlessly. “This can be like our own base camp. We can plot to overthrow the bad guys.”

“Er, don’t get carried away,” Jeena warned, smiling.

“Okay, okay,” I grinned, suddenly ecstatic. “First things first — we have to find the others. Yan, Kat, Megan, Wei, Suz and everyone else. Then we can bring them back here.”

“But we don’t even know where they are,” Jess said.

“They could be anywhere by now,” Jeena cried. “What if they’re buried under the rubble back there? What if they’ve been captured?”

I sighed and rubbed my eyes tiredly. I was exhausted and it was a struggle just to think. “We were talking about going back to find Vanessa. Remember? If they’re anywhere by now, they must be at the Aquatics centre.”

“There’s not much chance…”

I didn’t let Jeena finish. “We have to at least look.”

Jess looked at the food. “Will we come back? We really need this food.”

Jeena rummaged in a drawer and found a chain of keys. “We’ll lock the door to make sure our precious food stays safe,” she decided. She poked her head cautiously through the doorway, then crept out, beckoning me and Jess after her. We locked the door behind us, then hurried past the TV classroom to the other exit.

“Be careful,” Jess said. “Flash said that they were living in the Boarding House. There must be tons of bad guys around here.”

Silently, we slunk around the corner of the PE centre and crouched in a leafy bush, facing the Aquatics centre. I lifted the rifle and zoomed in. I could look through the glass walls and glimpse the pool. There was one lone man lounging outside the building, smoking a cigarette. His presence made us certain that there were more bad guys inside.

The guy picked his nose violently, thinking no one was watching, then dragged on his cigarette again. I held my breath and moved the rifle so that the crosshairs were right over his chest. Without thinking about it too much I pulled the trigger.

My grip slid slightly out of nervousness. The bullet hit him in the stomach.

“Grace!” Jess gasped in disbelief.

“He’s getting up!” Jeena cried softly. She aimed her pistol and shot. “Okay, let’s go.”

I checked to make sure no one was watching, then sprinted to the man we’d shot. I forced myself not to feel sorry for him but it didn’t work. Remorseful and ashamed, I took his weapons, including his extra ammunition, and followed Jess and Jeena into the Aquatics centre. His moans haunted me.

I gave Jess the man’s rifle and she grinned encouragingly at me. “We are ultra cool assassins,” she said, and I felt a bit better. Side by side we crept down the stairs and peered through the glass doors, surveying the pool. It appeared deserted. I pulled open the door and tiptoed through, ducking behind the counter.

I peeked around the corner.

A whole crowd of men, at least ten, were surrounding our friends! Vanessa was with them, but they were all being captured. I tightened my grip on the rifle and the pistol I still held.

Jess and Jeena looked at me, wide-eyed. “We have to do this,” Jess whispered, indicating our weapons.

“Hey!” One of the men jumped and pointed in our direction. “Hey! Did you see that?”

I leapt backwards, heat thudding wildly. They’d seen us! What now? I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. It didn’t occur to me that I had a gun in my hand. As the first man lunged towards us, arms outstretched greedily, I kicked out, closing the low metal gate that was beside the counter. The man tripped and sprawled onto the ground, and Jess rammed the butt of her rifle into his head. He slumped onto his face, unconscious.

Jeena was firing her pistol as they came near us — nowhere serious; in their legs and their arms. I fumbled for my own weapon and helped her. As the men keeled over one by one, clutching their wounds, our friends swarmed up behind them and beat them unconscious. Suddenly all the bad guys lay on the floor, groaning and cursing. We began taking their weapons and their intercoms, or radio transmitters.

“Let’s go,” Jess cried, knowing that other bad guys couldn’t be far away. She led the way out the doors and up the stairs, out the other set of doors and across the lawn, stomping on the bad guy we’d taken out earlier on. I’d never seen everyone sprint so fast, even Jess with her sore ankle. We made it to the PE centre without being spotted, flocked through the doors and bolted ourselves in.

“We’re safe!” I said triumphantly, fiercely hugging whoever was beside me. Everyone was cheering and laughing and mobbing one another. It was a riot of PLC girls. I was so glad to see that they were all simply alive.

“We thought you guys were dead!” Susanne cried, punching my arm violently. “We couldn’t find you or Jess or Jeena after the explosion.”

“We were caught by some of the Boxerfist guys,” I explained, grinning madly, “and they were going to shoot us dead, but we managed to escape!” I went on to retell our story in great detail, and then Susanne told me what had happened to them. They’d found Vanessa still in the men’s change rooms, hanging on the back of the toilet door. She had a pretty bad bruise on her head where Megan had bashed her against the toilet seat.

We trooped into the PE staff room where we found some ice for Ness’ head. The others goggled when they saw the food in the fridge. We rationed it out carefully, but although we tried to eat only meagre amounts, we ended up finishing all the ham sandwiches.

“It isn’t going to be easy to feed sixteen people,” I said after making a quick count of numbers. “How can we get more food when we can’t even leave the school?”

Katrina looked around the room. “So I guess we’re going to camp out here in the PE centre for a while?”

Suddenly, I felt a desperate need to run. There was something vital that I had to do, and I had forgotten about it for too long.

The PE centre change rooms were filled with the sounds of people doing their business on the toilet, and others waiting in line in dire need of bladder and bowel relief.

Feeling much better, I emerged and crossed to the taps where I rinsed my hands under the fresh, cool water, then took a sip to soothe my parched throat. I happened to glance in the mirror. I was a complete wreck, with mussed, tangled hair falling out of its ponytail, dirt and blood on my arms and legs, and soot blackening much of my face. Roughly I dragged my sweater sleeve across my cheek and reminded myself to take a shower later.

Slowly, the sixteen of us gathered in the gym and sat on the smooth wood floor, weary to the core. Almost everyone had some injury or another. Yet I sensed we were closer as friends. In this dark hour, we needed to pull together, to be able to rely and depend on one another. I looked around and saw Weiminn leaning on Katrina’s shoulder, Katrina and Wei Yan clutching each others arms securely. People hugging and afraid to let go because they feared to be alone when the next disaster came upon us. We couldn’t survive as individuals, but as a team…as a team, we were a force to be reckoned with, I thought, staring down at my battered, dirty hands and my rifle. As a team, we would stand up to Flash and his gangsters, and fight for our freedom. We would rescue the other survivors.

There was so much to do. We had to set up a roster for guarding the PE centre with a person watching at each door, to make sure we were safe at all times, bring out mats for us to sleep on, and assemble a weaponry, not to mention design an escape plan in case the bad guys sprang upon us suddenly, and figure out how to use the radio transmitters.

Yan Lin pulled a pad of paper out of Sze’s bag and uncapped a ballpoint pen. “We need supplies,” she said as she took notes. “We need food, blankets, towels, clothes, soap, shampoo and anything else we can get our hands on.” She wrote something in big letters at the top of the page, then held it up so everyone could see. “We need to get into their base.”

I looked at what she’d written, and immediately my pulse quickened with newfound excitement and energy. It said this:

MISSION ONE: RAID THE BOARDING HOUSE

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