Chapter II: Bravery
"Courage is fear that has said its prayers."

He was a boy.  Even to me he seemed like a boy.  At first I thought he was just here to meet Osmosis the same as the girl getting irritated at the terminal.  I didn’t notice him come from anywhere in particular, just that by the time the nerd girl had given up on cracking the screensaver he was standing at the base of the metal stairs leading up to the office.  He was in his early teens at best, barely a hint of curling light hair on his chin showing that he was growing something, but it was a long, long way from becoming a beard.  His hair was light brown and came down to his ears ragged, unkempt but clean.  His clothes would be ordinary except for the hooded sweatshirt he wore in neon orange that made the bookish girl’s hair seem dull.  His eyes were sharp and lime green, and he wore the faintest of smirks that kind of bugged me.

“Given up on it?  I improved it since you last tried,” he spoke to the girl, and immediately it was apparent that he was the one.  For someone so small, his tone was commanding.  “I guess you’re the one who hacked in?”

“Cricket,” she responded with a chirping voice, glaring at him as if trying to figure out some complex puzzle, her eyes every bit as sharp as his own, if not brighter, framed by her neon blue hair.

“That’s the name you want to go by?” the boy asked, walking towards her.  She only nodded and leapt out of the chair before he could get too close.  The boy just sat, turned to face the room, and smirked that small way again.  “I’m Osmosis, welcome to my base.”


Base?  Was he some kind of militant?  He probably thought this was some game.  How could this kid hack so many computers (but hadn’t he just said that the nerd girl was a hacker too?) and get us all here?  It was just starting to irritate me when he spoke again, filling the long silence that was left after his self introduction.

“Okay.  You’re all too quiet.  Which of you is ‘Skit’?” he barely finished his sentence when the blonde boy spoke.  He was so quick that I imagined in a script that the first letter of his sentence would be superimposed on Osmosis’ question mark.

“That’s me, little buddy!” his disturbing grin reappeared, not matching his eyes, and I saw where he got the name in an instant.

“A pleasure.  Right.  ‘Bushi’?” the kid orange spoke again, and rather than speaking her reply, the asian – was she Japanese? – girl bowed her introduction and stepped forward.  Of course, I saw where her name came from too.  I could tell it was my turn soon, and something made me want to get in before this guy could call me out like off of some register, so I stepped forward.

“Name’s ‘Grave’,” I announced, “nice to meet you.”  Osmosis smiled and nodded, apparently pleased that I had stood out and said my thing.  The guy with the Cello case looked up too, apparently sensing that it was his turn.  He, like cricket, spoke only one word, but there was no sense of urgency in his voice, nothing but calm steadiness.



“Okay!”  Osmosis leapt up, standing precariously on the office chair that he had previously been sitting casually in.  All of a sudden he was the tallest in the room, and his oddly authoritative tone filled the empty air.  “You’re all wondering why I called you here – or why you came here if you invited yourself,” he looked pointedly at cricket, whose eyes remained fixed on her ‘puzzle solving’ of the boy.  “You all have a healthy disrespect for the law…”


It was during the three days leading up to this meeting that I had the time to think about whether I would go and what the implications were.  I was asked to take my weapon.  That meant concealing it, a massive crime, adding to the crime of my owning it in the first place.  I was meeting a hacker, and someone with the resources to gather people from far away without detection.  He was even more of a criminal than I would be for going to meet him.  I would be disregarding the stable life I’ve lead for two years and attempting to understand the mind of a habitual criminal, living in his world, if only for one meeting.  I would be armed, and I found I was a fair hand with the weapon I had chosen, so there was no need for any real fear.  It was only the night before the stated date that I decided to go.  I bought a sports bag, replicated it, and stowed the long sword within, and I tucked the ticket and paper into the side pocket…


“…That means you are the kind of people I need.  I need to expose some truths that have been evading me for too long.”  He was being serious, and his tone was incredible, I found myself listening with everything I had.  If something had exploded outside I wouldn’t have flinched if he kept talking.  “I tried for five years to find the truths I was looking for, but one thing has endlessly been by downfall.  There is only one of me.”

“We’re with you!” the blonde man called out, suddenly, striking a pose that made me want to hit him.

“What are you, ten?” I asked, glaring at him, “we’re talking about treason here.”

“I’m seventee-” Skit was interrupted by Osmosis’ commanding voice.

“I prefer to call it ‘Rebellion’, Grave.  And yes, we are talking about that, and it is a serious matter.  I don’t want any of you to become involved if you don’t have the heart to see the truth and to act on it.  If you aren’t going to follow through, leave now.”  I almost did.  But if there was some truth that I didn’t know that could make this treason justified, then I would have liked to discover it, so while one foot turned on its heel, my other stayed in place, and I decided to hear the boy out.

“I’m not leaving.”  Bullseye spoke up.  His voice was as low as before, and even though he had said three words, you might have believed he had never spoken at all.  I had almost forgotten he was there, even with the cello case.  The alias he had told me all I needed to know about that ‘unique’ method of transporting his chosen weapon.

“I’ll hear you out,” I added.

“And me!” Skit still spoke loudly, in opposition to Bullseye, an attractor of attention.

“I too,” Bushi finally spoke.  Her voice was lyrical, I could understand why she had been reluctant to unleash it on us.  Cricket, the uninvited guest, just sat on the floor and crossed her legs, still making her point noiselessly.


“Good,” Osmosis’ lips turned into a full smile, something far less irritating than his first smirk, “then let’s see how far you’re willing to go to attain the truth.”


That seemed to be some kind of conclusion, and Osmosis stepped down off of the chair.  What the hell just happened?  I agreed to treason; to betray the UNA and to fight against the establishment.  I think I read a quote in school that said it’s dangerous to be right when the people in power are wrong.  I felt it now.  I feared for what I’d agreed to.  But then I remembered another quote, something about the timid, the cowardly and the brave; how timid people fear before danger, cowards during, and brave people after.  I was fearful of the decision I had just made, which felt like a dangerous decision, but the danger was up and coming.  Was I timid or brave?  I was so lost in thinking about this analogy that I almost didn’t follow everyone to the arrangement of sofas in the middle of the room.


“I am after a certain someone who has been detained for a crime they did not commit.  Someone who I know has information about underhand dealings and work in the S.E.E.R.S. and can give it to me,” Osmosis explained as he took a seat, and I shook of my deep thoughts and took a seat in the circle with the others, “the trouble is that person will be moved to god only knows where via a private Vac-track tomorrow.  I need to prevent this.”

“We could sabotage the train,” the blonde suggested immediately.  He obviously had no trouble going all the way.

“No,” Osmosis interjected, “they wouldn’t realise until they had him on the train that way.  He would be surrounded by a special guard.  Currently he is held in a cell under ordinary security, that is where I need him to stay.”

“Then why don’t we make the track itself unviable?” I asked.

“How?” the Japanese girl chimed, “aren’t they sealed in massive vacuum tubes?”

“Explosives,” Bullseye said simply.

“Exactly; take away the vacuum and it’s done; they would take hours to repair and days to turn them into a vacuum again.”  My idea was least dangerous.  It could be done without moving the target at all and when there was no train in the tube.

“I like it,” Osmosis said, standing again.  I almost stood to follow him, but then it occurred to me; why should I?  I had done my part, and I was no expert on explosives.  Bullseye and Osmosis moved, and Cricket followed silently, still glaring, and I was left with the silent Bushi and the eccentric Skit.


“I liked my idea better.  It would have been more exciting to snatch him from the clutches of the guards,” he spoke at me when the others were over at the terminal talking amongst one another.

“It was suicide,” Bushi’s musical voice interjected, “besides, why do you think it’s us who are going to be doing the snatching.  All we’ve been called for so far is to help keep him in place.”

“Then why else were we asked to bring our weapons,” Skit rebutted, grinning his arrogant grin, but I understood his point.  It was true, we had been instructed to bring what we bought.  Bullseye obviously had some kind of firearm or missile weapon, I had a long sword, Skit must have had something fearful in that big long bag of his.  Bushi was an enigma and Cricket may not have had a weapon at all.  “Hey Oz!” Oz?  Skit had given the kid’s nickname a nickname.  I wondered if he could manage that with all of us.


The boy that had become our leader returned with Bullseye and Cricket in tow, still smiling.

“Yes, Skit?” he seemed perfectly calm for someone about to commit treason by blowing up a Vac-track.

“Are we going to be the ones busting this guy out?” again Skit was blunt and outspoken in his approach to this delicate situation.  I wondered if he genuinely had a mental problem.

“I plan to use some hired help for that, as it happens,” Osmosis answered, smiling, “I just wanted you all to bring your weapons to see if you were willing enough to do so.  Now, to today’s plan.”


The orange kid lead us all over to his terminal again, where he brought up an image of the state, which he zoomed to an area of dry flats immidiately south of the town we were currently in.

“Out here the Vac-track is guarded sparsely, about one patrol for every mile.  It’s a sand flat so nobody tends to venture out there.  This gives us a lot of blind spots to sneak into.  Bullseye came up with the idea to climb up onto the tube and apply a thermite charge to the top.”  I was impressed.  Whoever Bullseye was he was prepared to go to interesting lengths and knew how to deal with pyrotechnics.  “Now the best we could do for a remote device gives us thirty metres, we’ll have to ignite the charge and run to find cover.”

“Wait, what?” Skit looked puzzled.  “Isn’t thermite the stuff that melts through everything?”

“Yes, why?” replied our leader.

“Well why do we need cover when it’s just going to burn a hole in a tube?”


The blonde’s lack of technical ability astounded me.  I had to pray there was going to be some kind of use for him, else he’d bring each and all of us down.  I joined Osmosis in staring at him for a second before our young leader shook his head and explained.

“The Vac-track is a vacuum tunnel.  If we pop a hole in it it’s like the reverse of explosive decompression.  You know that thing that happens in space where living things go pop?” Skit nodded his acknowledgement, “Well this tunnel is going to implode, and nothing ever implodes without exploding afterwards.”


“Understood, captain.”  The man with a ten year old mind gave a mock salute and we all went back to looking at the screen.


“So who’s setting the charge?” I asked.  Naturally, it was a question that needed to be answered.  And wait, was I going along with this plan to blow up a national service?!  My mind boggled for a moment before I perked up to hear the answer.

“Bullseye knows how to set it.  But he’ll need someone to keep watchout for him in case one of the patrols comes into sight.”  Osmosis paused, waiting for volunteers.  He didn’t need to wait long of course.

“I’ll do it!” Captain idiot’s hand lifted into the air and I cringed.  I was about to offer myself as an alternative when Oz beat me to the punch.

“Someone who is less flamboyant.  Grave perhaps.”  He looked right at me, and I gave a quiet nod to acquiesce.  “Good.  The rest will come for support in case we get rumbled unless you have a good reason to want to stay.”  Cricket immediately planted herself on the ground with her legs crossed.  Apparently she wanted to stay here.  If she had come as a hacker and not a fighter (or at least weapon affectionado) it didn’t surprise me.


With that, we all nodded, gathered our things while Osmosis replicated the necessary charge and remote detonator, and gathered by the door.  Our fearless orange leader turned back just before we all left to look at the blue-haired girl who was still glaring at him.

“Don’t break anything.  The password is capital K, a n s a s fifteen,” he said, and then turned and lead us all towards our first political crime.