Story

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe

beach-dawn-dune-662994

Photo by Melanie Wupperman from Pexels

I never thought I would enjoy Robinson Crusoe.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was assigned in a literature class I am taking this year as the second book of the semester. I entered into it with a slight sense of dread, trying to temper that with the hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it might. After all, how could a book with a single character for the majority of the story be interesting?

Much to my pleasure, Robinson Crusoe showed me.

Rather than purely an adventure story (though there is plenty of adventure both before and during Crusoe’s island stay), Robinson Crusoe is the exploration of a man’s heart.

At the beginning of the book, Crusoe is a headstrong young man. He would rather have his way than listen to the pleading and reasoning of his parents. So he goes to sea. After a few mishaps (and some good fortune), Crusoe is the only man to survive a storm at sea and is deposited on his island for most of the remainder of the book.

And this is the point where I believed I would lose interest and have to start forcing myself to read. But once the physical journey of Crusoe’s life slows, Defoe begins to emphasize the spiritual journey.

Being left alone on an island leads to plenty of hours for introspection. Fortunately for Crusoe, a few Bibles were preserved from the storm and he begins to read them, having never done so seriously before. From there, Crusoe surrenders his life to Christ. He is made into a new man and now sees his island as God’s providence rather than his own ill fortune.

Robinson Crusoe had its dull moments, of course. But overall, Defoe wrote a satisfying and convicting spiritual story. Often, when Crusoe recognized sin in himself, I came to see the same within my life. Unlike in many other stories however, Crusoe turned to repentance and Scripture at such turning points rather than his own intelligence or even depression.

Daniel Defoe’s classic adventure novel holds the treasure of biblical truth which the majority of books today fail to follow. Without waxing on about the depravity and darkness of most of today’s literature (if it can be so called), I will only say that the clear acknowledgement of God in Robinson Crusoe gave me great pleasure to read.

As to whether I would recommend this book, I would say yes. Read it. Push through the boring parts because there is truth and excitement just around the corner. Besides, it does us modern readers good to stretch our attention spans every once in a while. Especially for such a worthy book.

Kira

Following Orders: Blood on My Hands

Today’s post is a combination of a short story and look into the pre-novel life of one of my characters in Following Orders.

autumn-bright-daylight-615348

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

I gazed out at the courtyard as panic swarmed in my chest. Those arrow wounds were not from a crossbow and they all knew it. How long did I have before they reported to King Artimus and he made the connection to me? Not long.

What to do, though, what to do? I pulled myself away from the window and paced the room, cape billowing behind me.

“Glen, dear. Do calm down. It was only the first battle. At this rate, you’ll be in a frenzy before the war is over.” My mother sat with her embroidery across her lap, stitching tiny red flowers in a field.

I paused in front of her. “Yes, but how many have died already?” And because of me, I wanted to add. But I couldn’t bring myself to say that to my own mother.

“And many more will die. That is war. We must choose to be grateful that we are still here and still together. The king hasn’t sent your brother out yet and that is something which we must appreciate.”

I paced back to the window sill and clenched it so that my knuckles whitened. King Artimus had gone down to meet his men in the courtyard. The captain spoke with him, holding an arrow. A desert tribe arrow. King Artimus glanced up to where I stood in the window and I jumped back, wanting to be sick. He knew.

I had thought to bring peace between Aronway and the desert tribes. They had received me royally and I had convinced King Artimus’s court to welcome them as well. Treaties were outlined. I spent my days glowing with pride and pleasure. Then the chieftains had returned to their people, supposedly to help their land through the harvest season. They were to return at first frost. But they had returned much earlier and with weapons in their hands. I had no doubt the blame for this war would lay directly at my feet.

I had minutes at most. What to do? If I stayed, execution likely awaited me. If not that, then exile at least.

My mind settled on a quick decision. I didn’t take the time to question it, but swiftly bent to kiss my mother and strode out of the room.

Every soldier I passed on the stairs or in the corridors made my heart pound harder. Were they the ones sent to arrest me? But I made it to the kitchen door and out to the stables.

It was quick work to saddle my mare, despite my shaking hands, and I led her by the bridle to the side gate. The guards there didn’t move as I passed through and I mounted only once I was out of their view. I had to keep a steady trot through the city. It was too crowded to gallop and I didn’t need to attract any suspicion.

But once I was in the bright country, I kicked my horse into a gallop, my tears flying from my face in the wind. As I rode, I couldn’t help it: I looked back.

Kira

Following Orders: Homecoming Snippet

The main character of my current project is named Will. Will lives in Camelot under the rule of the royal Penndragon family. This week’s post is a piece of Will’s history – part of why he is the way he is.

blur-board-game-carved-wood-136349

Photo by George Becker from Pexels

I had been eight years old, half my age now. Even then, I had chores around the castle and our small home inside the walls. I was sweeping dirt out the front door when they came.

No one moved as the men trickled in. Seventy, maybe eighty. Of more than two hundred. They walked slowly, supporting one another and weighed down under armor and packs. A few stumbled and were helped up by their comrades. Bystanders eventually began helping, taking over the support of the wounded so the exhausted could have a break.

I and a few other children dropped whatever we had been doing and ran to the group as they went to the Great Hall. We darted through the men, each looking for a different face. A few gave cries of delight and hugged their fathers in a grip that said they wouldn’t let go. When they were strong enough, the men smiled and picked up their children. Others winced from the pain and carefully pushed their children away, tears on their faces, but joy in their eyes.

The last of us kept looking. Every face, every soldier. Some of the men shook their heads when they saw me. Others looked away and some smiled faintly.

I searched the whole group. Where was he? Where was he? I started running through them, looking at everyone twice, three times.

The last of them shut the door to the castle and I stared up at the wall of wood. No. I had just missed him. There wasn’t any other explanation. There couldn’t be.

I tried to convince myself of that, but I couldn’t quite do it. So I ran to my secret cave, a crevice in the outer wall of the castle that I believed was all my own. Once wedged inside, it was difficult for anyone outside to see me. Those who did ignored me, unconcerned with what a little boy was doing.

When I woke up, Sir Manchmal sat just outside my cave, back against the wall. His eyes were closed, but I could tell he wasn’t sleeping. Something seemed different about my uncle though. He didn’t look happy any more and he cradled his right hand against his chest.

He opened his eyes at my movement. “Will.”

The gentleness in his voice was too much and I looked away, swiping the tears from my eyes.

“When is he getting home?” I asked in a flat voice.

Sir Manchmal ran his left hand over his face, sighing hard. “We both know he won’t, Will. I’m sorry.”

I curled up into a tight ball on the ground and didn’t answer.

“He fought like a man, just like he taught you to be. The officers made sure he was buried with honor.” We both knew the words didn’t matter.

A half hour passed and I cried silently. The tears slid down my nose and dropped into the dirt. I wouldn’t let Sir Manchmal see me like that though, so I stayed in my cave.

“Your mother needs you, Will. She’s sad too.”

I sniffed.

“Now that your father is gone, you’re the man of the house. Can you be that?”

I sat up. “Yes.”

“Good. Then I also want you to be my squire. I’ll train you up to be a great knight and a great man, just like your father. Alright?”

“He wasn’t a knight.”

“No, but he lived like one.”

Kira

Staircase to Hell

One quick thing before today’s post:

I was published on the Rebelution this week! If you remember my post on complaining from a few weeks ago, they published it on their site under the name 5 Things I Learned on My Quest to Stop Complaining.

And now on to our regularly scheduled program. This week’s post is a short story I wrote based off of Dante’s Inferno (an epic poem about Dante’s journey through Hell on his way to Purgatory and, finally, Heaven). Please keep in mind this is all fiction and everything written here was done so on caffiene and with tongue firmly in cheek. My own mini epic is entitled…

Staircase to Hell

ash-background-beautiful-216640

Photo by icon0.com from Pexels

Forgetting a flashlight was my first mistake. Locking myself in was my second. I hadn’t meant to forget to prop the door open, but there you have it. The cellar was pitch black and smelled of wet cats. And I was stuck in it.

I banged on the door and yelled for a few seconds, despite knowing that no one else was home. It was just me and long dead wet cats for the next couple hours. Counting my blessings that I wasn’t scared of the dark, I settled onto the top stair with my back against the door and closed my eyes. Someone would be home soon.

Minutes ticked by – or maybe hours. The darkness morphed the time. I yawned and twisted around to get comfortable, to no avail.

Something at the bottom of the staircase flickered, just for an instant. I rubbed my eyes. Ridiculous. It was too dark to see.

But no. There it was again. A short flicker, then it died out. I rose to my feet and descended, running my hand along the wall to keep my bearings. The flicker came back and stayed. Was it my imagination, or were there a lot more stairs than I remembered?

I kept walking, down and down, the fiery light welcoming me in as I stepped deeper into the ground – for underground I must be. The steps kept going.

“Hello, my dear.” I screamed at the hissing whisper in my ear. I might not be afraid of the dark, but sudden silky voices out of nowhere do have an effect on me.

The echoing voice laughed and a figure shimmered into being in front of me.

“Surprise you, did I?”

“Who are you?” I was determined not to show my fear. Why did the man’s body waver like that in the heat?

“I am the Fuhrer. Surely you have heard of me!” He straightened up and somehow managed to look down his nose at me, despite being a few steps below.

“Hitler?”

He made an irritated noise in his throat. “Fuhrer will do. I am here to guide you through the depths of Hell. Your God has determined you should see it, and I am to accompany you.”

“Through Hell?” Fear was replaced by shock. Surely I couldn’t have heard correctly.

“Yes, Fraulein. Lass uns gehen.” He reached for my hand and all went dark again.

When I could see again, we were no longer on the staircase. Flickering fluorescent lights glinted off of miles of splotchy tiled floor. Every few feet, what I assumed to be a soul covered its ears and wailed. Each was surrounded by demons. Some only two or three. Others ten or twelve. The demons crowded in close, vying for attention. Some screeched, others laughed, and more babbled incoherent words.

“What is this place?” I had to yell above the noise.

“Why don’t you ask one of the shades themselves?” the Fuhrer suggested.

I looked around and chose a soul with only four demons surrounding it. “Who are you? And why are you here?” I shouted.

The soul raised its eyes to meet mine and groaned. “I am a nobody. You would not know my name should you hear it. But I spent all my life as the cause of agony for those who work for hourly wages. I gave no one my full attention, but talked on the phone while checking out, fixed my mascara while ordering food, and made countless cashiers wait to hand me change so that I might only finish replying to a text.”

I took a step back as one of the demons screamed to my right.

“That doesn’t seem so bad,” I yelled.

“Ooohhhh! I didn’t think so either. But I didn’t value the image of the Great One within the people I ignored. I considered their needs as nothing and my own distractions as monumental when I should have placed them above myself.”

I backed away and re-joined Hitler.

“Do they suffer like this forever?”

“Yes. For all eternity they must endure the demons all crying for their attention since they were so willing to divide it on earth. Kommen Sie hier. We have more to see.” He took my hand and the blackness returned.

This time the darkness cleared to reveal that we were in a hedge maze. The bushes towered high above on either side, closing us in. An assortment of animal like sounds, including the occasional human scream, rang through the air.

“What punishment is this?” I took a few steps forward, but retreated as the bushes just ahead rustled. Footsteps pounded the earth, coming nearer.

“Why don’t you ask Mr. King?”

A soul appeared from around the corner of the maze. He stopped abruptly at the sight of us standing there. He took off his glasses and rubbed them on his shirt, looking over his shoulder with terror in his eyes.

I leaned closer to get a better look at him. “Are – are you Stephen King?”

“Yes.” He glanced around, every muscle tensed.

“What are you doing here?”

“In life, as I’m sure you know, I wrote horror. I became deliriously famous and wealthy. But that good fortune came only at the expense of my readers. I preyed off of their fears – their terror provided my daily bread.”

“And your punishment is running through a maze?”

“My eternal burden is confinement to this labyrinth with the creatures of my creation. Every book I wrote, every movie adaptation. The monsters are here. Each of us in this place is given our own such arena.”

Something screeched nearby and Mr. King jumped. “I must go!” He vanished around the corner.

“I’ve seen enough,” I said.

“Oh, Fraulein…there is so much more!” The Fuhrer spread his arms wide and laughed.

“Take me back!” The screeching was coming closer.

“If you insist.” He grabbed my hand and the darkness fell.

I had never been so relieved to find myself alone in the black cellar. I leaned back against the wall, breathing hard, thanking God that it was over and determined to never forget a flashlight again.

Kira

Breath Stopped

dark-full-moon-lunar-53153

It had come down to this moment as I knew it would. And here I was, unable to do it. I had assured the captain I was capable of this mission. This would be my chance to rise above the common man in our band. I would become one of the heads, inferior in status only to the captain himself.

About time too, after seven bloody years of service and measly portions of the riches. I remembered stroking the finger that would bear my new gold ring as proof of my position as I spoke with the captain, telling him that I would not fail him, not in this imperitive moment. So he sent me off, alone, to complete the dreadful task.

I had killed before, certainly. Seven years in a band of thieves doesn’t come without a price of human blood. But it had always been a price I was willing to pay. The men I fought with and removed from this life were always giving just as much effort to my death as I was to theirs. And I couldn’t let that happen. So I killed and I ran. Later, I pushed the memories of their faces from my head with the help of a deck of cards and a jug of ale.

My assignment was simple: eliminate the captain of the King’s Guard without a fuss. We knew he would be home on leave this weekend, sent to spend a few days with his wife and children and take some time off from the stress of being constantly personally responsible for the king’s physical well-being. He was given a holiday such as this one in a regular cycle – every three months came with its promise of three days of leave – and my own captain had reason to want him dead. As did we all. The man had been nothing but trouble for our well established band since his appointment to his current position.

So it was my job to get rid of him while he was at his ease, taking a few days break from his professional vigil. That’s why I had crept into his house in the dead of night, opening the door without a creak and stepping softly through each room of the grand home that the man shared with his family. Though the city was a busy one, no one raised the hue and cry at this time of night. All were asleep besides the gutter rats and the watchman. No gutter rats lived in this sector and the watchman had turned the corner just before I stepped into the street.

I’d never thought of myself as an honest man or a good one. No need to lie to myself like that, as some of my comrades did. It would be hard to continue to tell myself that I was doing it for the greater good or some other such nonsense as I unclasped a bracelet from a sobbing lady’s wrist, so I didn’t bother. It was enough that I did it for my own good.That was probably why the captain was finally considering promoting me to be one of the heads, his leaders who never hesitated to be sure that his will was carried out by those beneath them.

The captain of the King’s Guard had become a rather wealthy man through his own seven years of service to a different master. His home was full of beautiful things which I kept from touching as I went. It was not the time for collecting trinkets.

It wasn’t hard to find the bedroom he shared with his wife and come up next to his sleeping form. My shadow blocked the moonlight through the window from illuminating his wife’s face and she shifted slightly. In the morning, the kingdom would be one beautiful widow richer.

I slid a short dagger from a sheath at my belt and held it a breath away from the clean-shaven throat I was prepared to cut. Breathe in, breathe out, and slice. That was the best way. I took my breath in.

“Dadda?”

I snapped around and raised the knife at the intruder.

A girl of about seven stared back at me, mouth wide open. She had been rubbing her eyes, but now they were frozen on me. The girl had blonde hair in waves to her shoulders and shivered in the thin nightgown that was her only garment. Her barefeet must have been ice on the floor.

I stepped closer to the girl, refusing to wake her father and my target. “Go back to bed,” I hissed. “Unless you want me to hurt you too.” I held my blade before her eyes, bending close to her.

“Are you going to hurt my dadda?” Tears began to well in her eyes, but she spoke softly, not rousing her parents. She brought her hands to her mouth, covering it, and let the tears fall.

I recoiled at the girl’s reaction. I had expected her either to flee or scream, but she stood fast, shaking from cold and fear. I shook my head and moved back to her father’s side. If I killed her father before she could wake him, I would have only her mother to deal with when she did cry out. I could handle a terrified woman.

I put the knife back to his throat, taking my breath once more. But my hand did not complete the sliding motion that would complete the man’s life. I tried again. I couldn’t do it.

“Please, sir, don’t hurt him.” The girl had lowered her hands a moment to make her soft plea before replacing them and resuming her position as a trembling statue.

I turned back to my target, frozen with indecision. I must do this if I wanted to be a head. But I made the mistake of glancing back to the girl. One of her tears fell to the floor. I shook my head and looked back to her father. Do it. Just finish it.

I bit my tongue and pulled the knife away. As I slid it into the sheath, I knew I sealed my fate. I paused next to the girl on my way out the door. “Not a word of this to anyone,” I breathed.

She stood shaking, giving me no reply, and I disappeared back into the dark.

Kira

Book Review: The Prisoner of Zenda

IMG_6057[1]

And now you see why I don’t usually take my own photos 🙂

After my post of a few weeks ago bemoaning the depravity of today’s literature, let me assure that there are indeed still excellent books in the world. Books that spin a tale of adventure and keep you up far later than is right (oops). The Prisoner of Zenda is one such book.

Rudolph Rassendyll is a typical young man with too much money, not enough ambition, and a peculiar connection to the royal family of Ruritania from several generations back. He is floating through life with ease – much to the frustration of his industrious sister-in-law. She takes it upon herself to nag him into becoming an attache to Sir Jacob. Rudolph takes it upon himself to go on a different trip entirely, visiting friends and going to see the coronation of the new King of Ruritania.

Once there, he stumbles upon the new king and his two closest advisors – Colonol Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim. The four spend an evening of celebration together which ends with much less joy than when it started. Rudolph is thrown into a role he never imagined having and holds the fate of all Ruritania in his hands. He must struggle with the king’s brother, Black Michael, to defend the throne, while keeping up appearances with the rest of the court – especially the Princess Flavia. And through it all, he must remember who he really is, though the rest of the world thinks him someone else.

Anthony Hope’s story of Rudolph’s misadventures in Ruritania is fast paced and written with the beautiful yet easily comprehensible language that seems only to spring from the 19th century. The style of the writing led me to be wrapped up in the fictional time and place of Ruritania and I even learned a new word:

compunction: a feeling of guilt or moral scruple that prevents or follows the doing of something bad (according to Google)

I won’t bore you with a lecture on why I love Anthony Hope’s language so much, but I will say that it was refreshing to have to work a little bit to stay engaged in the book. And the excellence of the story itself provided plenty of reward for the minimal efforts it required.

The Prisoner of Zenda holds within its pages an adventure novel, a romance, and a story of personal struggles and growth, all woven perfectly together to create one unified tale of a man thrown out of his own world and into one where much more is required of him. And, (maybe this is also typical of books of this time period) it was clean. I had no fear that The Prisoner of Zenda would take a dark or disgusting turn. It was a thoroughly enjoyable story from start to finish and one that I am glad to have read.

Kira

What’s your favorite adventure story?
Have you read any older books lately?

Why I Write

caffeine-coffee-cup-886470

Writing is my passion. That’s easy enough to see (and if you can’t see it, I will gladly tell you about it for a full three hours). I’ve loved to write for longer than I can remember, though some of my earlier ventures barely qualify as actual “writing.” I’ve poured a lot of hours into studying and practicing my craft, striving to become better and better. And there’s a reason for that. I want to share with you why I write and why I feel that it is such an important thing.

I’m sure that everyone has been to a library or bookstore at least once. Did you visit the teen section while you were there? Let me describe it for you.

Most every teen section in every library and bookstore is the same. As soon as you enter it, the books become darker – the covers are black, often with spidery silver lettering across them. There are lots of depictions of aliens, vampires, and “hot” teenagers locked in each other’s arms. If you open the books, you will get exactly what you bargained for. Dramatic betrayals, hopeless depression, and endless love triangles (or squares) fill hundreds of pages. All of them are gripping and keep readers turning page after page. But none of them are redeeming.

The Bible teaches that the things we think about are what will shape our hearts and, thus, our lives. Millions (if not billions) of people are consuming these sad excuses for books every day and having their minds conformed to the ideas and beliefs threaded through them. And every day more and more are being written, printed, and released to the population.

I write to fight against that.

It is my goal to create masterpieces that glorify God and present good stories. Stories that don’t end in tragedy and promote sin. I want my books to be of high quality and of high moral value. In a world that is so depraved and lost, I write to offer light and hope because I know the only true Source of that hope.

My explanation for why I write is not a long or fancy one. It is simply a desire to bring light to the shelves of libraries and bookstores so that teenagers are reading better literature than Twilight and thinking about things more redeeming than The Fault in Our Stars.

I believe that Christians who write have a responsibility to do that – to bring that light to readers through their work. And I pray that I do that with every word that I put on a page.

Kira

Why do you do what you do?
What keeps you going in the face of obstacles?

Your Testimony Is Not Boring

adult-business-conversation-1181712

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

How do you start your testimony?

Most of the ones that I’ve heard begin with the same sentence: “I was born into a Christian home.” It’s usually said dramatically or with an eye roll, trying to cover the embarrassment of having the same opening line as so many other testimonies. I’ve said it that way myself, several times.

So why do we consider that line to be such a bad thing? I think it comes down to the fact that we want our testimonies to be unique – different from everyone else’s. But have you ever heard two testimonies that were exactly the same? I haven’t. No matter how many times someone opens with “I was born into a Christian home,” they never go on to give a testimony identical to another believer’s.

God is doing something different and special in each one of our lives and it’s beautiful to see. He has an individual plan for all of us and that plan is good.

Maybe the awkward laugh after opening our testimonies has to do with something else. Maybe we think it’s not that special. We can’t claim to be former drug addicts or zealous Muslims or anything like that. We’ve been hearing the gospel since before we were born and we know the Bible stories by heart. After all, we were born into a Christian home.

I’ve struggled with the idea that my testimony is boring several times. It’s something that seems to keep coming back. But then God hits me upside the head with the fact that my testimony is what it is because He wants it that way. He put me in the Christian home and He saved me at a young age. He didn’t want me to suffer all the things that I seem to be jealous of (which, when I think about it, is kind of ridiculous).

Being born into a Christian home is a blessing. We needn’t be embarrassed by it – we should rejoice in it! We have the privilege of being surrounded by Scripture and the church from our first breath. Many believers would give so much to have had that, and yet we envy their “interesting” testimony.

Let’s give glory to God for our testimonies. He has done what is good in our lives. It’s our skewed perspective that leads us to believe otherwise. We don’t think our salvation story is all that amazing. But isn’t it amazing that we were saved at all?

On another note, your testimony doesn’t end at salvation. That’s really just the beginning. Your testimony is the story of your life as God’s child. Mine includes foster care stories, discipleship teams, and plain old emotional struggles. Some of those seem thrilling and some of them are average, day to day sanctification. But all of it is God’s work in my life. None of it is boring or accidental.

Your testimony is not dull. Your testimony is the work of our Creator and Lord in your individual life. Relish it – every detail.

Kira

What’s your testimony?

Please Read the Gospels

book-book-pages-encyclopedia-69004

Photo by George Sharvashidze from Pexels

Have you ever heard a story that you loved so much you could listen to it over and over again? Is there a book that you’ve worn through from so many re-readings? A movie with scratches on the disc because you have to watch it again?

Stories are incredible and many of them are so good that we could experience them again and again without growing bored. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched The Princess Bride or Annie. Whinnie the Pooh never gets old and Narnia will always have a special place in my heart.

But even those stories can wear down some eventually. I have to take a break between Doctor Who marathons and Lord of the Rings can only be seen so often.

But there is one story that is just as awe-inspiring and moving no matter how many times you read it. The gospel feels just as fresh the first time as the thirtieth, as we see our sin and then see what Christ went through to save us from it.

I’ve been reading through Luke for my morning devotions and I love to read all the stories of Jesus’s ministry again. The two that stand out, though, are His birth, and His crucifixion and resurrection.

My soul magnifies the Lord along with Mary and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46-47).  How could Christ have humbled Himself so much and been willing to suffer so much just so that I could be with Him? How could anyone love me that much?

And yet, God does love me that much. He loves all of His children that much. And the four Gospel accounts are refreshingly full of that love.

It seems simple to read through the Gospels over and over again. Shouldn’t more mature Christians be studying other parts of the Bible? We already understand salvation.

But the Gospel is the basis of Christianity. It is Christianity. They are encouraging and lovely and convicting and beautiful all at once.

Don’t forget to read the Gospels. Don’t forget the most important story ever told.

Kira

What’s your favorite part of the Gospels?

Adventure Novel (part 2)

You can read part one here.

matrix-2953869_1920

“Good, because we need to get down to work.” Jackson went to a small dresser on one of the walls and pulled open the top drawer. It, like everything else in this forgotten corner of civilization, was covered in dust. I sneezed.

Jackson crossed back over to me and held out a small round thing, roughly the same color as my skin. I took it and turned it over in my palm, examining it.

“It’s an earpiece. Put it in and get going. You’re going to be late for work.”

I shot him a look that said I definitely was not okay with this, but did it anyway. He checked to make sure it was in correctly, then spoke into a little microphone on his wrist.

“Testing, testing.”

I jumped when it came through loud and clear on my earpiece.

Jackson grinned. “I guess it works. You won’t be able to contact us, but Kat will be outside if anything goes wrong. Now go.”

“You still haven’t told me what you want me to do yet.”

He pushed me gently toward the staircase. “I’ll talk you through it. Just go.”


I was only a few minutes late, but Mr. Helsing’s secretary shot me a concerned look anyway.

“Morning, Natalie. Have they already started?”

“Yes. Here, bring in the coffee order and maybe you won’t get as many glares.” She handed me a styrofoam tray of coffees which I balanced with one hand while edging my way into the meeting.

Everyone turned to look at me and Mr. Helsing stopped midsentence. “Ah, Megan. So nice of you to join us.”

“Sorry I’m late.” I set the coffee in the middle of the conference table and six people turned to grab their drinks. The attention was no longer on me and I slid into a chair at the end of the table.

“As I was saying,” Mr. Helsing continued, “profit has spiked this past year due, I believe, to our marketing efforts.”

“Megan.” Jackson’s voice in my ear made me jump and everyone turned to look again.

“Sorry. Just remembered I forgot to feed my cat. Please, don’t mind me.”

Mr. Helsing gave me a very disapproving look before continuing once again.

“Megan, the virus is on a flashdrive in Mr. Helsing’s office. I’m told it’s in the top drawer of his desk. You’ll need to find a way to get in there, take it, and get out. You have two hours.”

In his office? And how did Jackson know where it was?

I pretended to listen to the meeting as my mind scrambled for an excuse to leave.

“One hour, Megan.”

I had to get out before Mr. Helsing went back into his office.

“Thirty minutes.”

Time for action.

I stood, once again attracting the attention of everyone in the room.

“Megan, is there a problem?” Mr. Helsing crossed his arms and glared at me.

“No sir. Sorry. I’m just not feeling well today. I think I need some water. I’ll be right back. Please, go on without me.”

“Be quick about it. We’ve got a lot to go over and I don’t want you missing it.”

“Yes sir.” I left in a hurry and went back out to the lobby. “Natalie, Mr. Helsing wanted me to grab something from his office for him. Could I have the key please?”

“Sure. What is it?” She handed me the key.

“Just a flashdrive. Thanks.”

I unlocked the door to Mr. Helsing’s office and stepped in, holding my breath.

Top drawer.

I opened it carefully and stared down at five flashdrives, all the same color.

“Can I help you find it?” I startled at Natalie’s sudden appearance in the doorway.

“Um, no thanks. Got it right here!” I held up one of the flashdrives and smiled, using my other hand to slip the other four into my pocket. I shut the drawer and slipped out past Natalie. She closed the door and locked it.

I headed toward the front door.

“Don’t you need to be getting back to the meeting?”

I stopped. “Oh, um…some of the drinks were missing. I’m just going to go around the corner and grab them real quick. It’ll only take a minute.” I offered her a reassuring smile and walked out the door, breathing a sigh of relief.

Kat caught up to me as I walked toward the base. “Do you have it?”

“I’ve got five. They’re all identical.”

“Well we’ve got to hurry. Time’s running out.”

Back at the base, Jackson had pulled up a computer and snatched the flashdrives from my hand as soon as I held them out. He began plugging them in and searching.

“Three minutes, Three minutes…” he muttered.

At number four, his eyes lit up. He began typing furiously.

Kat checked her watch. “Jackson…”

“I know, I know.” His fingers flew across the keyboard. I looked at my own watch, watching the seconds tick down.

Five. Four. Three. Two.

“Done!”

Jackson heaved a huge sigh of relief and sank back into his folding chair with a grin. “We did it.”

“And all thanks to you, Megan.” Kat smiled at me.

I smiled back. Just like in an adventure novel.