"My job is to get you out of here."
"There's a new group coming in."
"Give me a moment. I can figure out something if I get enough time."
The Great Jennifer Round-Up
Chapter 6 - Nothing Good Happens at 4AM
An alarm whooped, echoing off the walls. Laura covered her ears, trying to block the noise. "What the hell is that?"
Kristie had her own ears covered. "Fire alarm!" She had to shout to be heard over the din.
"Fire? We have to leave!"
"No!" Kristie blocked Laura's path to the door. "False alarm!"
"How can you tell?" Laura tried to find another path to the door.
Kristie removed her hands from her ears. She mouthed words Laura couldn't hear over the blaring of the alarm, then clapped her hands. The noise levels dropped, but the alarm continued.
Laura kept an eye on the younger girl. "What did you do?"
"I hate shouting." Kristie moved closer to the door. "You can't leave. It's too dangerous."
"There's a fire!" Laura took deliberate steps towards the door, trying to intimidate the younger girl through size and menace.
The young brunette mumbled a few words. Laura took another step. The floor didn't feel right beneath her foot. She ignored the feeling, took one more step. Her foot, though, remained fixed to floor. Laura looked down then at Kristie. "Care to explain?" The older girl struggled to lift her feet, one after the other. "I'm stuck."
"Good. Means you can't leave."
"What did you do?"
Kristie shrugged. "You don't want to know." She paced around the older girl, staying out of arm's reach. "And just how dense are you? People are breaking in and an alarm goes off, and you think it's real?"
"Excuse me for not coming from a war zone!"
"Once Jenn comes for us, we'll leave. Not before."
"If I burn to death, I am so haunting you."
Vamsi adjusted the duffel bag on her shoulder. "That's my cue," she shouted over the alarm. She reached for her laptop.
Caitlin snatched the computer out of her neighbour's reach. "I need this."
"So do I!" Vamsi stared at Caitlin for several seconds. "Never mind. Lock it up, password and desk drawer, if you have to leave."
Cassie got up. "Vammie, where are you going?" She smoothed out her nightgown.
"The less you know, the better. Goes for you, too, Caitlin. I'll come back when all this fuss is over."
"Wait!" Caitlin turned to Autumn. "Check the alarm circuits. See if the alarm has made it to the fire department."
Autumn held out her hand. "Give me the computer."
"Hey, whoa!" Vamsi shook her head. "I never saw this. It's your head, Autumn."
"Relax." Autumn received the laptop from the redhead. "First, I know how to mask my IP and MAC address. I'm not some wannabe." She sat down and started typing.. "Second, this will be so quick, it'll be a blip. I'm not trying to change anything, just check a status. The non-gothy twin could do this." Autumn checked the screen. "Tracing and . . . blocked. The alarm, not me. Someone's found their way into-- oh crap." Autumn looked over at Vamsi. "Can I join you?"
Caitlin got up to stand behind Autumn. She read the screen over her roommate's shoulder. "What's wrong?"
Autumn blanched. "Someone's using an old account of mine to block the alarm. Caitlin, if the Headmistress finds out, I'm toast. I don't want to go to North Korea!"
"No one's going to North Korea." Caitlin covered her ears. "Can you shut the alarm off?"
Autumn tapped at the keyboard. The alarm died. "Yes!" She winced at the loudness of her voice. "Got it," she said in a lower tone.
"Now what?" Vamsi asked.
Caitlin jogged to the door. "I'm getting the juniors and sophomores to round up the Jennifers. Vamsi, go if you have to. Autumn, go get dressed and get some water on for tea." The redhead checked her watch. "It's almost four-thirty. The Headmistress arrives at five-thirty. That gives us an hour to get everything under control."
Cassie raised her hand. "What should I do, Kitty-Cait?"
Caitlin sighed. "Try to stay out of the way."
Skye pulled Jenn down to the ground. "Wait."
Jenn pushed herself up to her knees. "What?"
"Someone must have shut it off."
Skye held the younger girl's arm to keep her from leaving. "But who? Let's wait a moment."
Jenn held her head up a little further to get a better look around. She recognized a classmate. "There!" She pointed the girl out to Skye.
Skye saw the girl, who appeared confused. "What about her?"
"She's one of the missing."
"Stay here." Skye pulled on Jenn's arm to pull her down again. The tall girl then crept towards the formerly missing Jennifer. Skye's quarry turned to look at someone to her right, away from the senior. The tall girl tensed. She took in the terrain, the long grass that could trip her up if she wasn't careful, the distance to the girl and the potential for her to raise an alarm. The girl shrugged to her unseen companion, then faced back forward.
Skye launched from her crouch. She sped across the grass, keeping low. The girl heard rustling approaching. Before she could cry a warning, Skye grabbed her, one arm around her midriff. The two girls fell to the ground. Skye covered the girl's mouth with her free hand, muffling her squeak of surprise. "Sh," the tall girl warned. She used her mass to hold down the writhing Jennifer beneath her.
Jenn ran over to join Skye. She knelt down beside her fallen classmate. "Let's get her back inside."
Skye hauled her captive to her feet, still maintaining a hold on her. "Move, brat." The tall girl manhandled the resisting Jennifer, keeping the struggling girl's hands pinned behind her back.
"Juliana, you scream and I will let not only let Sasha know who swapped out her bath oil but I will also tell your mother what you did." Jenn stepped in closer so that only Juliana and Skye could hear her. "Then I will make your life a complete hell. Got me?" Even with Skye's hand clamped over her mouth, Juliana was able to nod.
With the threat hanging over her, Juliana remained docile during the return trip to Jenn's dorm room. Jenn had two of her roommates take the girl to a bed and stand guard. Skye watched with amusement. Jenn sighed. "It gets better, right?"
"Define better." Skye nodded at Juliana. "What are you going to do with her?"
Jenn shrugged. "I don't know yet. Maybe ask her who took her and why. Why?"
"I know someone who can be persuasive and is looking for answers, too."
"The ginger witch?" Jenn smirked. "Will she hurt Juli?"
"Caitlin," Skye stressed the correct name, "won't hit her. Just put the fear of Caitlin into her."
Jenn pondered the offer. "I'll have her delivered."
"Thanks." Skye gave Jenn a warm smile. "Anything we find out, I'll let you know."
Caitlin marched in front of her conscripts, all taken from the junior class. "You may think it's unfair that you have to go out and get the Jennifers. I think it's unfair to everyone else that you utterly failed to keep them contained."
"Mine never left campus," Danielle called from the second line of juniors. "I don't see how I'm responsible for everyone else's screw up."
Caitlin met the girl's eyes. "Rule Three. Support your sisters. Not just your fellow juniors, Danielle, but the Jennifers who remained behind and are about to get trouble dumped on them because of the missing girls." Caitlin resumed pacing. "And, Rule Four. Danielle, you got caught, by me and mine, trying to cover up what happened. For the rest of you, you got caught failing your responsibility. Fortunately, for all of us, the Jennifers returned. Time to make up for failing." Caitling opened the side exit. "Go get them!" The redhead stepped aside as the juniors ran out on to the Academy's grounds. "Go! Go! Go!"
Once the last of the juniors ran out, Caitlin followed at a walking pace. She checked her watch, then the east. Light was starting to break over the horizon. The timing was getting too close. The Headmistress could very well decided to arrive early, just to throw everyone off kilter. Returning to the task at hand, Caitlin noticed a clump of Jennifers crouched under a tree. No junior was closer to them than the redhead. Caitlin marched over, not bothering with stealth. "Hey! You! Stop!"
The Jennifers raised their heads. One took off, reminding Caitlin of a rabbit. The other two just stared. "We weren't doing anything," one protested.
Caitlin stopped several paces away. "Pity. There is something you should be doing." She hoped that her stance was looming enough to intimidate the younger girls. "Do you know what that is?"
The remaining Jennifers looked at each other, then shrugged. "Dunno. What?"
"You should be in your dorms hoping that I don't tell the Headmistress that you were caught out past curfew!" Caitlin took a step towards the Jennifers. "Up, now! Get back to your rooms!" The red-haired started clapping a marching beat. "Let's go. Left! Right!" She marched the Jennifers towards the juniors and the girls they had rounded up.
Danielle met the group. "Thanks. We're getting a head count now." She shook her head. "Caitlin, this is going to take forever. And we're not sure we can get all of them."
A shriek shattered the morning grey. Caitlin ran towards the source, Danielle at her heels. Two juniors emerged frome the grey, one clutching her breast, the other holding the first up. "What happened?" Caitlin demanded.
"We couldn't see anything," the uninjured junior said. "We were checking the forest for girls and, well." She nodded at her friend.
The injured girl groaned. "I am going to find the brat who set that trap and force feed it to her."
"Where were you hit?" Caitlin asked.
The uninjured girl couldn't meet Caitlin's gaze. "The branch was at chest height. Got her right in the tit." She covered her mouth with her free hand. "A booby trap."
The injured girl slapped her friend's shoulder. "It's not funny!"
Caitlin turned to the hurt junior. "Can you get to your dorm without help?"
After a moment of thought, the girl nodded. "It's my breast, not my legs."
"Good. Go see how bad it is." The redhead turned back to the other girl. "You can go look for the Jennifer I lost." Caitlin pointed to where she first saw the clump. "There's one out there." When neither girl moved, Caitlin added, "Now! Move it!" Both girls ran.
The walkie-talkie in Caitlin's pocket crackled. "Caitlin, are you there?" Autumn asked.
The redhead retrieved the radio. "Autumn, what is it?"
"Skye's back. She has some news."
"Put her on."
"It's not the sort of news that works over a radio, Caitlin."
Caitlin sighed. "Do you have the kettle on?"
"Tell Skye I'll be right up. Caitlin out." The red-haired girl put the radio back in her pocket.
Danielle regarded the redhead. "Sounded important."
Caitlin shrugged. "Maybe. Liberate the second year dorms. Keep rounding up the Jennifers, get them back to their rooms." She turned to leave.
"Hey, Caitlin?" Danielle waited for the redhead to face her. "I don't know what it's worth, but I didn't want the situation to get out of hand like it did. I thought my year could handle the Jennifers. I mean, we were all Jennifers once, right?"
Caitlin gave the girl a quick smile. "They keep making better Jennifers. Get me a headcount when you're done, okay?"
Caitlin returned to her dorm. Inside, Autumn sat at the table with her tablet. Skye stretched out on her bed. On Laura's, a young girl with auburn hair sat, her hands behind her back and a fearful expression on her face. "I hope this isn't something that will involved the police and a shootout later?"
Skye sat up. "Brought you a present."
"It's not even my birthday." Caitlin sat down beside the girl. "Why is she tied up?"
"There's a Jennifer with issues," Autumn said. "She loves tying people up."
Caitlin nodded. "And this one is?"
"Juliana, one of the missing," Skye answered. "I thought you could use her for info. I'm sure she knows a lot and would love to go back to her friends with a clear conscience and all her teeth." Juliana gulped.
Caitlin patted Juliana's leg. "I'm sure you'll get to keep all your teeth. Putting them back may be the hard part." The redhead stood up again. "What about Laura?"
Autumn shrugged. "Probably still on the fourth floor."
"Cait, we can't leave her there."
"I know, ladies." The red-haired girl sighed. "If we go, though, we'd need far more troops than I can get right now. Jenn will get her back for us."
"You trust her?" Autumn shook her head.
"I don't have a choice."
Kristie sat cross-legged on the floor, tracing patterns in the air with her finger. Laura could have sworn that she saw electric green light at points, but the light didn't last long. The alarm had stopped ringing, eventually, leaving the two girls in silence. The young brunette, though, had shown no interest in coversation. Laura's legs were starting to ache. Her position was awkward, but her feet remained stuck to the floor. "Kristie, can I at least get some water?"
"Sorry." Kristie got back to her feet. "I wish I could, Laura. It's not your fault that everything's so messed up."
"Then talk to me."
"Anything. Girl Guides. Your family. The weather." Laura tried freeing her back foot again with no success. "What was it like in the Girl Guides?"
Kristie shrugged. "Fun, I guess. Were you one?"
"The closest I got were the cookies. I could really go for one right now."
"Me, too." Kristie leaned against the wall. "I guess that's out for us both."
"Why? Are we too old?"
"No, no." Kristie sighed. "Because we're here and because of why we're here. We're not normal girls here, Laura. Not even you." The brunette looked away from her prisoner. "There's so much that I want to do, too. Camping, skiing. Probably a boyfriend, though I'm not sure there. A dog might be better. I want to go to a school dance."
Laura gave the girl a sympathetic smile. "There's no dances here?"
"Who would we dance with? Each other?"
"That boys' school in town, Good-bye or Adios or whatever it is, it has dances."
"But boys can ask girls out. Not the other way." Kristie pushed away from the wall. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. I have other stuff to worry about."
"Don't we all," Laura muttered. "Kristie, look, even if you don't get a boyfriend now, there's always university. I'll bet that you're amazing in your favourite class, whatever it is."
"What about you?"
Kristie nodded. "Yeah. Don't most girls start here as Jennifers? Yet, here you are, no uniform, brand new. Actually talking to a first year student. You're the first senior to talk to me. Did you do that at your old school?"
A knock came from the door, "Shave and a Haircut". Kristie ran to the door and knocked twice, "two bits", then opened it. Jenn stood outside with two other girls her age. "It's safe."
Kristie waved her hand at Laura's feet. The older girl stumbled forward. She caught herself before hitting a desk with her face. "What's going on?" Laura asked.
"It's over, at least for now."
"Good." Laura slipped past Kristie and Jenn. "I'm going back to my dorm. You," she pointed at Jenn, "promised I could sleep late if I stayed with you. Four in the morning only counts as late if I've stayed up past midnight." Laura stormed away.
Once the older girl was out of sight, Jenn said, "I really want to see her face when she finds out I was going to let her go anyway."
"Someone is using our uniform to turn our Jennifers against us."
"Scopolamine? Sodium thiopental works far better, if you can find it. Amobarbital is good, too."
"There's a coffee shop in town, Neutral Grounds. It's a place where rival schools can meet without fighting."
"If this girl is nice, she'll forgive you."