Chapter 1

Who tied this knock? I’m tied to a chair with some laser infused lasso and two hulking figures are staring down on me like I stole something. What did I steal? I don’t even know where I am. They ripped some sack off my head as if covering my face would prevent me from assessing my whereabouts. They don’t get it. I don’t know where I am. I don’t even know what year this is. All I know is that Sui Lee put me to sleep as a child. Now, I sit here, a full woman with breasts I don’t even recognize and they have the nerve to ask me questions. I haven’t even seen my face in a mirror yet. Is my hair still black?

“Who are you?” the man asked. His mossy brown curls fell in his face and he swept them back along with the sweat that poured down his face. I didn’t answer. I didn’t feel the need to. I could smell the salt baked on him from years burrowing in lilac colored clay. Where were the ladies of the Enchanted Forest? They were the ones who were supposed to greet me during my awakening, not this rag tag bunch of zealots who found me literally wiping sleep from my eyes as my vision returned and a patch of yellow dandelions and the scent of lavender in the air reminded me of nature’s allure. So much for that joyous moment. I think I was dazzled by the lines on my palm when one of them yelled from the oaks and demanded I say my name. I didn’t tell them then and I’m not telling them now.

“He asked you a question,” a woman as tall as her male counterpart said. Her dark hair was pushed off her face with a gold head band. They both wore gold bracelets, a mark I suppose, that bound them. They both had some red tattoo with an anchor on their wrist.

“Where do you come from?” he asked. “And why were you in the forest alone?” he asked. The man took a seat and wiped his brow. He was sweating so much, it looked like he’d stepped out of a pool.

The twosome exchanged a glance of annoyance and stepped into a corner.

“She’s a plant,” the woman said. “Some decoy or agent of the Dirk.”

“The meter doesn’t read her,” the man said.

“Then she’s AI.”

“Or she was never plugged into the system,” the man said.

“Impossible.”

“Are you going to tell me your names?” I asked.

“We’re the ones asking questions here,” the woman snapped.

“Then ask a question that makes some sense,” I said. The woman took two steps my way, hauled her hand back and smacked my face so hard I could feel the embers flare off my cheek. I leaned forward in my chair, spun around and knocked her back hurling the chair’s side into her abdomen. I snapped my right hand through the lasso, snapped it’s end and slung the thing back like a bull whip. The woman still crouched on the floor grabbed her fire arm. I slung the rope like a snake, biting her on the arm and the fire arm fell. The man stood helpless, reached for a dart in his pouch. He didn’t want to sedate me. By the time he took a step forward, I leaped out the window, rolled down to the bottom of a hill and crouched in a ditch. I didn’t see anyone come after me so I ran straight from the forest. That’s when back up emerged, some 20 fighting men and women, camouflaged in the purple grass, sprang forward, harnessed me and again someone threw that stupid bag over my head. Within minutes I was back where I started. When the bag came off, this time there were four of them. The woman with the gold head band had her hand bandaged. The man with the sweeping curls was still sweating and still talking.

“We got off to a wrong start,” he said. “I’m Carcine.”

“I’m Rayla. Daughter of Kent Illmatic.”

None of them said anything, letting it all sink in. No one had seen me in years. I hadn’t even seen myself. They may not know me, but they know my father. His greatness was the looming shadow that kept them silent. I got the impression they weren’t silent very often.

“Hand me a mirror please,” I said. “I’d like to see myself. It’s been some time.”

Carcine snapped his finger, and another man, barrel chest and full bearded reached in a drawer and pulled one out. He held it in front of me.

I wasn’t 12 years old, that’s for sure. My eyes were darker than I remembered. My hair was curlier and longer than I recalled. I had a mole on my cheek. Where did that come from?

“I was put to sleep after the Dirk took over and my father disappeared with the other neo astronauts. Sui Lee thought it was the best way to protect me. The much touted teleport project failed.”

“The Dirk killed all the children of the neo astronauts,” Carcine said.

“Not all of them,” I added. “As you can see.”

“And you expect us to believe you were in the forest this whole time?” the woman said. “The very forest we reside in the whole time?”

“Your name?” I asked.

“I’m not telling you…” but she was interrupted by Carcine whose calm look seemed to settle her.

“Tara,” she said.

“And this is Juan,” Carcine said pointing towarded the bearded one. “And Chi,” he said nodding toward the other woman in the room whose mahogany hair was braided in patterns. Chi stayed in a corner, watching the door more than she was watching me.

“No, I don’t expect you to believe it,” I said. “But your belief isn’t predicated on me moving forward. Your knot tying skills are deplorable. Your speed is lacking, your clumsy attempt at a fighting stance is embarrassing. And you shouldn’t need 20 armed people to succumb me, running in a circle like a herd of elephants. What kind of revolution are you fighting and what kind of revolution do you expect to win with that amateur aim? Who trained you? Were you trained at all?”

“Who trained you?” Tara asked.

“No one,” I said.

They didn’t know what to make of me. If I were them, I wouldn’t know what to make of me either.

“You said Planet Hope was in peril,” I said.

 

“You weren’t around when we said that,” Tara said.

“Anyone within earshot could hear your pathetic attempts to whisper. The Dirk’s a dictator and everything’s in disarray. This is hell on our Earth and whatever you’re doing isn’t working. Let me help you. Let me help you win this war and restore peace to our beloved planet. I owe it to my father and I owe it to myself. That’s why I’m here and that’s why you found me.”