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Authors: G.P. Ching

Return to Eden (27 page)

BOOK: Return to Eden
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I hoped she couldn't tell how nervous I was, so I tried everything that I could to avoid her glazed-over eyes. Instead, I looked at one of those stupid motivational posters framed on the wall behind her—something about success being measured by the failures in life and a man standing on top of a cliff. Yeah, I'm sure
guy had a lot of successes…he ended up on a poster in some small town guidance counselor's office.

"I figured my grades were more important than being on the track team or something like that."

"I see…" she said, pressing her lips together and scribbling something on the yellow notepad on the desk in front of her.

This was my shot to get into my dream college, I had to think fast. I blurted the only thing I could think of. "But I'm doing an internship with Circe Operations Center this summer!"

"Really?" The recruiter put her pen down and leaned in, focusing her stare in my direction.

“Yeah, it’s something pretty classified, you know with all of the government work they do, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of information to include on my admissions essay.”

Great, I hadn’t even been to Circe, and I had barely spoken to my Circe-employed military dad since him and my mom got divorced.

“Well, I look forward to reading it." She smiled for the first time since she entered the building and I was finally able to breathe again.

* * * * *

That was how I ended up sitting next to my dad in his Air Force-issued Jeep as we took that long drive through the Arizona desert. I had no idea how he pulled the strings to get me into Circe, but being a colonel did have its benefits.

"Thanks again Dad." I really appreciate that you were able to help me get this internship." I tried to glance at him from the corner of my eye, but the only part of my mom's gene pool she graced me with was her terrible eyesight, so the peripheral vision out of the side of my glasses didn't work very well.

He smiled, patting my knee like it hadn't been seven years since I'd last seen him and that everything was perfectly normal between us. I didn't know many girls that were really close with their dads, but I’m sure they at least saw theirs on a regular basis. I barely even recognized mine when he picked me up from the airport. It was like the years had somehow drastically aged the face that my mom always said looked like Marlon Brando when he was a bad boy in
A Streetcar Named Desire.
But from what I saw, he looked more like Brando in
The Godfather
these days, with his receding hairline and crow's feet encasing his brown eyes.

"You're in for a real treat. Once the Columbia admissions people see this internship on your application you'll be first in line to pick out your dorm room." He grinned.

"I hope so. It's not like I really have much experience doing anything besides babysitting Elijah and blogging. I don't think those count as extracurriculars."

I saw my dad wince slightly at the sound of Elijah's name – the son of my mother and her new husband, Brian. My dad didn't harbor any ill feelings toward my mom or her new marriage, but nobody is ever really happy to hear about their ex in a new relationship, especially when it's with a guy like Brian. Brian makes model airplanes in his spare time and always calls me kiddo. He's the reason my mom moved us out to Winnebago in the first place. To have a "normal" upbringing that wasn't on a military base or living in her parents' basement. Or so she said, until I realized we were moving in with Brian and his cats.

The perk of living in a small Illinois farm town are that you know everyone around you, and the bad part about living in a small Illinois farm town is that you know everyone. So when I was the only girl who didn't fit into the WASP stereotype with my dad's olive skin and my mom's poor eyesight, it was pretty easy to get labeled as the weird girl fairly quickly. I got used to being picked on, and after awhile I realized that if I focused enough on my grades I could get the attention of all my top choice Ivy League schools. The only problem was they were looking for more than just a straight-A student.

"So this isn't like Circe from the Odyssey is it? We aren't going to be stuck here with some seductress for years on end are we?"

It was too late to take back the words, but I knew that's how my mom always felt about Circe. It was the seductress that took her husband away from his family.

My dad just laughed, shaking his head. "Well at least I know you still have your sense of humor."

After driving for miles with nothing but cacti and desert, a giant steel fence appeared out of nowhere and stretched so far I couldn’t see the end. The wall dwarfed my dad’s Jeep, making it look like we were approaching an iron giant. A pair of guards stared down from watchtowers that stood on each side of the large metal gate.

“Why all the big hoopla? It was never like this when you were stationed at Randolph.”

My eyes widened as my dad flashed his badge against a small computer screen on the tower, letting the doors creak open. I expected to be greeted by a giant fortress, but all that I could see was more desert and a large mountain range in the distance.

“Well, you know this isn’t like the other bases I’ve been stationed at. This one is a bit more classified." He squinted, not taking his eyes off the rocky path lying in front of us as the gate slammed shut.

“Where is this place anyway? All I see is more freaking sand and mountains. Don’t tell me I’m going to be camping." I scanned outside my window and saw nothing. Absolutely nothing but barren desert.

My dad sighed, squeezing the bridge of his nose. “Alex, you will not be camping. Circe is actually in the mountain range, so we have a bit more privacy when we’re testing equipment and don’t have to worry about all the air space.”

“Why would you need more privacy? Is this legal? Am I going to be smuggling something illegal for the government?”

Before my dad could answer any questions, the Jeep came to a screeching halt in front of the mountain. He came so close I thought we had hit it.

"It looks like we're here," my dad said, shooting me a sideways smile as he unbuckled his seatbelt and climbed out of the Jeep.

“Uh, Dad you know this is just a big rock, right?" I questioned as he grabbed my suitcase out of the back.

“I know." He had that stupid smile still plastered on his face like it wasn’t crazy that we were standing in front of a mountain in the middle of the desert.

He reached out and pushed against a big boulder. The whole mountain shook and suddenly two of the boulders slid apart. I jumped back as I peered into a small, windowless room covered floor to ceiling in mirrors.

“Going up,” a monotone voice droned.

“Shall we?" My dad extended his hand toward the opening.

My mouth gaped as I stared from him to the elevator.

“What the?"

My dad laughed, sliding his arm around my shoulders. “If you want to spend the summer here, you’re definitely going to have to get used to things like this." He led me toward the elevator, pulling me inside just as the big boulders slammed shut behind us.

“It was a mountain and then…" My mind was racing as I paced back and forth from wall to wall. I couldn’t tell if we were moving or still on the ground. I didn’t feel any sort of jolt and nothing seemed to vibrate around me.

My dad just laughed. “Oh, Alex.”

I stopped pacing and narrowed my eyes, “Do you think this is funny?”

"You have reached your destination. Welcome to Circe, Miss Bianchi." The same monotone voice hummed over the loudspeaker.

I slowly turned toward the elevator doors as they boomed open. Greeting me was a blinding white light, reflecting off of even whiter floors and walls that seemed to stretch forever ahead of me. People in silver jumpsuits walked around like nothing had interrupted them as they chatted to the person next to them or read from electronic devices.

“Yes, Alex. Welcome to Circe." My dad smiled down at me as we got off the elevator.

I swallowed hard. I couldn’t think of anything else to say or do. I had been to other military bases that my dad had worked on, but none of them could compare to this. With the high-arched ceiling and glowing lights, I felt like I was going through an airport boarding tunnel and not a military base.

“Vince, my boy, you made it." A man with a salt and pepper crew cut approached my dad.

“Walter, old man." My dad briskly shook the man’s hand and they started going on about some Air Force thing or another. "Hey Alex, give me a minute, will you?" My dad glanced in my direction before diving back into his conversation. I rolled my eyes and gave him a thumbs up. Not that I was expecting an introduction, but it would be nice to know what was going on.

I looked around the shiny white walls and people walking around in tight, silver jumpsuits. I remember Dad's last base looking more like a giant warehouse, but this was definitely different. It looked like a big hospital wing or airport terminal with all the white and bright lights. As I was lost in my own world, I felt something crawl onto my arm. I tried to flick off whatever was there when a cold, slimy hand gripped my arm, whirling me in the direction of a short, wrinkled woman who reminded me of some sort of a wicked witch from a cartoon.

“Um, can I help you?" I tried to pull my arm away from the woman’s grasp, but despite her small stature, she had the strength of someone five times her size.

She tilted her head up, and I could see that she was missing an eye, the empty socket oozing with a black liquid that glittered against her wrinkled face. The one eye she did have was the size of a large egg and was focused right on me. "You," she said in a voice that sounded like a hawk's cry and pointed a long, curled fingernail at me, "are a traitor!"

“Uh, Dad?" My body trembled from her words. I thought she was probably just some crazy prisoner of war or a refugee from some third world country, but I didn’t want her touching me or talking to me like I was the dangerous one.

My dad finally stopped his conversation as both men rushed toward the woman.

Her slimy hands reached for my neck, those long fingernails scraping against my throat.

“Must destroy the traitor,” she screeched. Her fingers swirled like tentacles around my neck and suctioned onto it like a vacuum. I wanted to tell her that she must have made a mistake. I'm just Alex, not some traitor. I gasped for air, but the more I struggled or tried to explain, the tighter her grip became and I started to lose consciousness.

At least eight men ran in and tried to pull her vice-like grip away from me, but they couldn’t move her while she mumbled in some cryptic language. I thought I was going to die, right there. My life flashed before my eyes— my parent’s divorce, the birth of my half-brother, and even the Columbia recruiter looking at me with those caterpillar eyebrows. I didn’t want to die like this.

Then the woman's grip loosened and the air whooshed back into my lungs. I gasped, relieved that I might actually survive. I tried to focus on what was in front of me, but all I could see was the outline of a very tall man in a silver jumpsuit.

“No!" she screeched. “You, of all of us, should know what she is capable of!”

I looked up to see a pair of coal black eyes staring at me as the man heaved the shaking woman away from my neck. The last thing I felt was the warm touch of his hand on my cheek before everything went dark.


Table of Contents

Glossary of Terms

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35


About the Author


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