Chapter OneDanger in the
Vicki Byrne saw the flash. A knife, she thought.
Her friend Janie turned and screamed as a
girl approached with the crude object.
"I'm sorry, Darla," Janie whined. "I'll get
you the stuff today. Tomorrow at the latest."
"You won't be gettin' me anything," Darla
snarled. "You're goin' down."
Janie scooted under the lunch table and
out the other side. Now only Vicki separated
Janie from harm. Danger in the Cafeteria
"I got no problem with you, Byrne. Outta
Janie hunkered down behind Vicki. She knew
the damage a homemade shank could do.
"I don't have a problem with you either,
Darla," Vicki said. "Put that away. We can
settle this without anybody getting hurt."
"I said I'd make her pay if she stiffed me
Vicki looked for a guard. Darla had waited
for the right moment to bring out the knife.
"I didn't stiff you!"
"Shut up, Janie," Vicki said. She turned to
Darla. "What if she gives your money back?
Then everything's square, right?"
Janie tapped on Vicki's shoulder and whispered,
"I don't have it."
"That's it," Darla yelled, pushing past Vicki
and lunging toward Janie.
Vicki grabbed Darla's arm and pulled her
down as a sharp pain invaded Vicki's side.
Someone screamed. A whistle blew. Shouting.
People crowded around, looking at her.
A guard pushed people away.
"She's bleeding!" Janie yelled.
Vicki felt woozy. The room spun. Something
warm ran from her side. The guard
shouted, "Leave the knife in! You'll do more
damage if you take it out!"
* * *
Judd passed the security gauntlet at Nicolae
High. There were more Global Community
guards this year. Mrs. Jenness, the principal,
kept watch at the front.
Judd had vowed to become valedictorian
of his class. Speeches he had heard during
the most tumultuous year in history left him
hollow. If he had the chance, he would use
the opportunity to give a speech his classmates
and their parents would never forget.
Judd had never had to work for good
grades. But his newfound faith had encouraged
him to study the Bible like never before,
and the discipline helped in other areas.
Before the disappearances, several students
had been ahead of him academically. Many
of them had vanished. The rest he could pass
with straight A's. He set his mind toward the
But Judd had problems. His father's
money was quickly running out. The
monthly bills, the trip to Israel, and the
expense of the Underground had drained the
account. If he didn't come up with an answer
soon, he would be forced to sell the house.
Throughout the summer, Judd and the
others had written Vicki. When she wrote
back, she seemed hopeful, but Judd could
read between the lines. Northside Detention
Center was an awful place. Pastor Bruce
Barnes told Judd and the others to keep praying.
He was working on a plan.
Between his many trips overseas, Bruce
had put the Young Tribulation Force through
a rigorous discipleship program. Ryan called
it Bible Boot Camp. Judd couldn't believe
how much they were growing and learning.
And it was fun. Each new insight and memorized
verse made him feel stronger. He had
once seen the Bible as difficult to understand.
Now each passage was a challenge, a
truth waiting to be uncovered.
When Bruce was away, Chloe Steele took
them through their daily paces of study and
memorization. Her friendship had meant a
lot to Lionel and Ryan as well. Nothing
could stop the pain of losing Vicki. They had
no idea when or if she would ever return.
"Thompson, in my office," Mrs. Jenness
The last time the two had been face-to-face,
Judd was in a police station under
suspicion for involvement with the Underground.
As soon as Judd was seated, Principal
Jenness said, "Your friend, Coach Handlesman,
is continuing his reeducation with the
Global Community. He probably won't be
back. At least not here."
"What does that have to do with me,
ma'am?" Judd said.
"If the coach really was behind the underground
newspaper as he claimed, that little
problem should disappear."
"And what does that have to do with me?"
Judd said without blinking.
"Maybe nothing," she said, studying him.
"Just listen carefully during the assembly.
The new directives from the Global Community
apply doubly to you."
* * *
Vicki awoke to searing pain and cried out.
"Lie still and I'll get you something," the
Blood stained the sheets. A bandage
stretched across her wound. Vicki was afraid
to look at it.
"You're lucky," the nurse said. "Didn't hit
any vitals. But we had to stitch you up and
give you a shot for infection. That was a
pretty rusty shank."
The nurse left as Mrs. Weems came in the
room. She was a large woman whose presence
was felt anywhere she went.
"Care to tell me your side?" Mrs. Weems
"I'm fine, thank you," Vicki said.
Mrs. Weems snarled, "You're a strange kid,
Byrne. You're different."
"Thank you," Vicki said.
"I hate different. To survive here you have
to learn to get along."
"That's what I was doing," Vicki said. She
explained what had happened.
"That was Janie's last chance," Mrs. Weems
"She didn't do anything."
"She was selling drugs," Mrs. Weems said.
"She'll be shipped downstate to an adult
Vicki had heard the hard juvenile cases
were being treated as adults, but she didn't
want to believe it.
"Come to my office as soon as you can
move. I have some papers that need to be
"Papers?" Vicki said.
"When you can walk, you're out of here."
"I'm going downstate too?" Vicki said, but
Mrs. Weems was already out the door.
* * *
The fieldhouse was full. Incoming freshmen
were required to sit in the front. Most hung
on Mrs. Jenness's every word. Several times
Lionel turned around and looked at Judd.
Lionel rolled his eyes each time. Mrs. Jenness
welcomed students and introduced key faculty
members. To her right were Global
Community guards in uniform.
"Looks like they're stepping up security,"
"Why do they need eight guards?" Mark
"It is our hope," Mrs. Jenness said, "that
when you look back at Nicolae Carpathia
High School twenty years from now, you will
think of a time of unprecedented peace and
In six years, I won't be thinking about this
place at all, Judd thought.
"Last year a faculty member caused great
anxiety on this campus," Mrs. Jenness said.
"He is no longer with us. We are grateful that
the Global Community peacekeeping forces
have been given the power to enforce the
Mark caught Judd's eye. "Sounds like trouble,"
"Belief is a private matter. Individuals must
come to their own conclusions. Our new
policies include zero tolerance for those who
push their beliefs on others. Any student,
faculty member, or other employee doing
this will suffer quick and severe punishment."
Judd saw several freshmen look at each
other. They had to wonder what Mrs. Jenness
was talking about.
"Students will be expelled, their records
destroyed. Hopes for higher education will
be lost. Those involved in any divisive activity
like last year may be sent to a Global
Community reeducation facility."
John leaned over and whispered, "Are
these just threats?"
"See all the extra cameras in the hallway?"
A freshman raised a hand. Mrs. Jenness
shook her head. "We'll save time for questions.
Now I want you to see another move
toward school unity."
Two students, a boy and a girl, walked on
stage and stood by the podium. The boy
wore black pants and a gray shirt. The girl
wore a black skirt and a gray top. On the left
shoulder of both shirts was a dove, the new
mascot of the school.
"I liked it better when we were the Prospect
Knights," John said. "It's hard to root for
a football team called the Doves."
Judd stifled a laugh.
"Beginning tomorrow," Mrs. Jenness
continued, "you may purchase these
uniforms in the school bookstore. Those
who object to our symbol of peace may opt
to wear this." She held up the same style of
shirt, but in place of the dove was a huge
* * *
Vicki winced with each step, but she had to
know what Mrs. Weems was talking about.
Blood oozed from her wound as she made it
to the office.
"You should have listened to me," Mrs.
Weems said. "You shouldn't have run away
from the foster family."
"I didn't," Vicki said. "When I became
friends with their disowned daughter, I knew
they wouldn't let me stay."
Mrs. Weems leveled her eyes at Vicki.
"Everyone in here is as innocent as Anne of
Green Gables. Learn from this, Byrne. Don't
get sent back here a third time."
Mrs. Weems shoved a stack of papers
toward her. "Sign."
"What are these?"
"It's your choice. If you'd rather stay
"No," Vicki said. "I'll sign, but-"
"You want to know where you're going?"
"You'll find out tomorrow."