This series continues
Lina did not jump. Much. She turned to look at the woman who had spoken.
She was wearing a much more formal-looking — no, that was the wrong word. It was nicer looking, but also looked more like it had been cut to fit her — version of the robe that the shitty kid was wearing, hers with a crest over the chest. She had golden hair pulled into a very practical-looking ponytail and, if she was wearing make-up, it was very understated.
She looked a lot more working-class than most of the women here. She also looked a little scary.
“Ma’am?” Lina didn’t move her hands. She tried not to look threatening anyway.
“We can be here!” the guy told her. “My father is —”
“I know who your father is, Dylan Lee. And I know who your mother is, Catalina.” She nodded at Lina.
Her mother? Not her father? Lina opened her mouth to ask, to say something, to—
“I’m going to have to ask you to get what you came from and head back to your camps or the social areas. This isn’t off-limits, but there’s been some suspicious activity around here, and I don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
“Nobody is going to-“
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Dylan. People who live on this hill, they think the campground is just a campground. You know that most of the time, that’s all it is.”
Lina stared at the woman. What else was it?
“They’re not going to care if your father runs The Organization’s LA branch—”
“He runs the whole thing!”
“That’s up for debate and I don’t have time to argue with you. They’re not going to care about your mother, either, Lina. So get some supplies and head home — back to your campsites, all right?”
“Dangerous people?” Lina took a step towards the woman. “I mean, they’re just — other people, aren’t they?”
“Well, The Organization has some enemies, as I’m sure all of your parents have told you. And while most people don’t know what the group taking over the campsite is or what we do, when Dylan here is wearing that—”
“What about you? You’re wearing the same thing!”
“I’m meant to be a target. You, I imagine, don’t want to be one. Go on, kids. Get your things and go.”
“Fine.” Dylan’s sulk was so loud it was almost its own word. “If she’s going too.”
“Of course I am.” Lina hurried up to the food tables & coolers and gathered what she’d come for — mac and cheese and hot docs for her little brother, who was throwing a tantrum and being ridiculously picky, chocolate for her, and some soppressata and pepperoni. That made her think of pizza, and she grabbed some cheese and a few other things.
“It’s not for grocery shopping, you impoverished little waif,” he sneered.
“It’s for pizza. Stop by our house and have some.” She smiled broadly at him. She didn’t think he would, but if he did, he’d have to deal with her father.
“Tent, it’s called a tent.”
“Mmmm. Stop by our campsite if you’re so curious. 107-B. I’m going to to make pizza.” She dropped everything into her shopping bag and turned to the – authority figure? Something. Nice robed adult. “Can I tell my mother you said hi, ma’am?”
“Tcha.” Dylan headed off in a huff; she’d noticed him grab some Twinkies or some such on the way out. Not her problem. He was, at the moment, not hassling her, and that was the useful part.
“I’m not sure she’d remember me,” the woman admitted. “Joann Jensen. We, ah.” She paused to give Lina a strange, assessing glance.
It was just long enough for someone to sneak up behind them. Or rather, for the person who’d been sneaking up to come around the corner of the pavilion, gun in hand.
Gun? What the hell? “Gun!” She pushed her hands up to one side of Ms. Jensen, pushing her forceshield forward and hoping it worked.
Blue light shot out of her hands in widening disks, heading towards the gunman – gun-person? – wrapping like little shields around the front of Ms. Jensen and Lina. The gunperson took a surprised step backwards, muttering, and then another one, and then another one, running into the pavilion.
“Right, I guess I can talk about your mother.” Ms. Jensen looked stunned — no, shocky. “Give me a second – how long can you hold that?”
“Don’t tell anyone! Please? I can — five minutes at least. That’s the longest I’ve tried it.”
“Don’t tell anyone? Catalina, do you know how amazing this is?”
“It’s – it’s a secret, all right?” She glanced over at Ms. Jensen uncertainly. This was, to say the least, not the reaction she’d been expecting.
“All right, all right. Here.” Ms. Jensen walked forward carefully and took the gun from the gun-person. “I suggest you leave quickly,” she told the person, and they fled.
“Nobody down there will believe them. People here — people here are a different case. Your mother is a different case.”
Lina dropped the force-bubbles to stuff her hands in her pockets. “My mother. She— The house.”
She had watched her mother pull a house— a cottage, really, a little thing — out of a briefcase, just keep unfolding it until it was a full-sized cottage. And then, walking inside, it had been three times as large on the inside as the exterior.
Next to that, the tent her father had remembered somehow to pack, a family camping tent she’d never remembered being large enough for twenty people on the inside, seemed a little anticlimactic.
“The house. Your mother has a knack for bending space. There’s a number of people here who have such knacks. I imagine your mother’s surprised you haven’t shown anything — why are you keeping it secret?”
“Because it’s freakish,” Lina whispered. She ducked her head and hunched her shoulders forward. “Normal people don’t do things like this. Normal kids don’t—”
“Have you ever been normal, Catalina?”
“No! No, I never have!” Her head shot up and she glared at the woman. “And it sucks. People like that jerk think I don’t belong here, I didn’t belong at High Hills, I didn’t belong in public school, I didn’t even fit in in Girl Scouts! How freakish do you have to be to fail at belonging in Girl Scouts?”
“I don’t know,” Ms. Jensen admitted. “But here, in the Organization — yes, even though I’m not one of the hoity-toity ones, I’m still part of the Organization; they need people like me-“
She hesitated, as if she’d gotten too caught up in her own issues. Lina wondered how many people in her parent’s little… social group? had been made to feel unwelcome. Why would you even have a cult – no, social group, she corrected herself; robes or not, she had no proof it was a cult – where you didn’t make people feel welcome? It seemed just flat out stupid.
“Anyway,” Ms. Jensen cleared her throat. “That sort of power is important. At least tell your mother, if you don’t want anyone else to know — and I’ll keep your secret. After all -” something about the woman’s voice changed. It grew just a little more formal and she stood up a little taller. “-you just saved my life. I owe you one.”
“Thank you.” Lina smiled, although she wasn’t feeling much like smiling. She wanted to run home and hide in a corner somewhere. “I guess I should take your advice and go back to my family’s camp now.”
“Think about my other advice, too, all right? Tell your mother.”
Lina, armed with a shopping bag full of food and some pretty awkward thoughts, fled.Want more?