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Skyler never thought he would get restless cooped up in the hideout. He assumed he would have been quite comfortable sitting inside, reading, drawing, exercising, or rough-housing with the other boys.
But he was fidgety by the end of day two. Skyler couldn't keep still while reading, and while exercising and playing with the boys helped burn off energy, it still wasn't enough. Wes and Jonah held out a little longer than he did, but soon all three were putting their heads together and trying to sneak out. However, Hannah and Grace were on to them and were around every corner. Kip was finally fed up and separated them, keeping them busy with minor tasks away from each other.
But during those few days while Skyler was cooped up and Cody was out tracking down Madison Carter, Skyler and Hannah settled into life with the Fence Jumpers. They were integrated into a few of the chores, and they made lots of friends. Hannah get along well with Claire and Grace, and Skyler enjoyed running about with Jonah.
Skyler also felt closer to his sister. While they had food, clothes, a warm bed, Hannah still looked out for him. He still felt safest with her, and she seemed more at ease when he was close by. It was hard sometimes at night when they had to part ways, though. Skyler knew he was being a baby, but after being with just Hannah for so long, it made him a little nervous being away from her.
Skyler had spent a week stuck inside, and he felt ready to burst. By then Wes' temper was easily set off, and Skyler learned to avoid him. Cody and his group had gone out once again. They were close to bringing the freelance reporter in. They had learned her usual haunts and would go out and loiter, hoping to catch her there and lure her with the usual Fence Jumper antics.
Kip wouldn't say anything about the device Skyler had snitched. Skyler suspected he was still upset over last week's fiasco, and Skyler tried not to worry about it.
Skyler looked up from his book as Hannah sat down beside him. She wore torn jeans and a black hoodie. Typical Jumper clothing. She had been out with a few Jumpers causing mischief to keep up appearances.
"Hey." Skyler forced a smile, but he couldn't ignore the stab of jealousy. "How'd it go?"
"A little boring." Hannah shrugged. "I tried convincing Kip to let you go-"
"I think he's still mad at me," Skyler said. "Wes is. I tried apologizing and I thought it was alright after, but sometimes they still seem upset..."
"Don't beat yourself up about it." Hannah leaned into him and bumped him with her shoulder. "They're not mad. Kip just wants to make sure it's safe for you guys to go out. Wes is just annoying because he's Wes."
"He's never annoying to you."
"What? Yes he is-"
"Come on, Hannah." Skyler looked at her, his temper finally breaking. "He's flirting with you nearly every night. Don't tell me you haven't noticed. He's being such a flirt it's almost gross."
"As a matter of fact, I have noticed." Hannah frowned. "I've tried letting him down easy, but he keeps coming back, if you must know. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to find someone who won't bite my head off about things I can't easily control."
With that, Hannah got up and walked away. Skyler grimaced. Why had he snapped at her? She hadn't done anything.
Skyler got up to go after her, but two figures came running into the main cavern. Skyler recognized Claire, and the boy with her he thought was named Dimitri.
"Claire?" Skyler frowned. They both looked worried. Dimitri was leaning against Claire for support. Skyler ran to help her and called for Kip. The older man came running.
"What happened? Why did you two leave your posts?" Kip asked as Claire and Skyler helped Dimitri sit down by a fire. They had watch duty, but what had happened?
"I'm not entirely sure," Claire said, looking frantic. "We were eating lunch, and... I blacked out. Dimitri did too, but he seems to have got it worse."
"Blacked out?" Kip frowned and looked at Dimitri, who stared with blank eyes. Skyler watched Dimitri. He looked sick. Claire seemed alright, just panicked. Maybe the panic abd adrenaline had helped wash away whatever had happened.
"I don't know!" Claire said. Skyler noticed everyone looking at them. Sound traveled really well in the cavern, and since Claire was talking loudly, everyone could hear her. "We just... I felt drowsy, and the next thing I remember is waking up on the catwalk where we were keeping watch. Dimitri was just coming to. I didn't want to leave him to get help, in case he rolled off the walk or something-"
"Hey." Kip turned to her and gripped her arms. She was in tears. "Everything's gonna be alright, I promise. You two must've been drugged."
"But how?" Claire asked. "Nobody came in. We would've seen."
"Who had kitchen duty?" Kip asked, straightening and raising his voice to spread through the room. "Who took lunch to the ones on watch duty?"
Everything was dead silent. But then a boy about seventeen stepped up. Skyler watched as his shaking hands clenched his jacket. He lifted his gaze to meet Kip's.
"In my room, George," Kip said, his tone flat. "Alastair, Hariett, you two have watch duty now. Make a sweep of the area just in case someone came in."
Skyler watched as George let Kip lead him away. The teens on watch duty hurriedly wolfed down the rest of their meal before scampering down the tunnel.
Skyler watched as Claire and another boy tried to help Dimitri come to his senses. The other kids started talking amongst themselves, but the feeling of worry rippled across the cavern. There was a traitor in the camp. Maybe more than one.
But why? It didn't make any sense. George was nice guy. Skyler had met him the night they sat down to watch a movie. He was quiet, but friendly and had made Skyler feel more at home.
Skyler turned to look for Hannah. Whatever was going on, he didn't want to experience it while his sister was mad at him.
Hannah came running up to him just as he turned. She hugged him. Skyler froze, startled, but returned the hug.
"Sorry for snapping at you," he murmured.
"It's okay," Hannah replied. "I should've held my tongue and temper. I knew you were getting restless. But after what just happened..."
"I don't know if anybody's going out." Skyler smiled at her. "But I think we could use some good news soon."
"The day's only half over," Hannah shrugged. "Who knows?"
Cody appeared in the cavern, yelling for Kip. Skyler turned to see him and another older boy - Davis - with a captive between them, blindfolded and gagged. Two other Jumpers followed behind.
Kip came running with George right behind. George stopped beside Skyler, who looked up at him questioningly.
"I'll live," George said quietly. "I didn't do it, you know." He nodded to the arriving group. "Who is that with Cody?"
"The reporter who took our picture," Skyler replied.
Cody and Davis were taking the reporter down the tunnel that led to Kip's room. Skyler tensed when Kip beckoned to him. Hannah nudged him.
"You want me to come?" She asked him.
"I'll be okay." Skyler shook his head. "She's already seen me, and that's risky enough..."
"I'll be out here." Hannah gave him a one-armed hug. Skyler jogged after Kip.
The reporter was now seated on a swivel chair that had lost the ability to swivel. Her arms were tied to the chair arms. Wes, Cody, Davis, and Jonah were in the room, and Kip stood before the reporter.
Kip looked up as Skyler entered, then pulled off the blindfold and gag. The lady sputtered and snarled angrily.
"Who do you think you are?!" She yelled. "What do you want with me?!"
"Calm down, Ms. Carter," Kip said. "We have a few questions."
"How do you know my name?" Madison narrowed her eyes. "Who are you people?"
"One of mine recognized you." Kip nodded to Wes, who smirked. Madison looked at him.
"I saw you last week," Madison said. She looked at Jonah. "And you. Where's the other one?" Madison caught sight of Skyler. "I remember you too. How old are you?"
"You're here to talk to me," Kip said, "not him. You were taking pictures of them. Why?"
"I'm a reporter." Madison shrugged. "I write articles on interesting subjects. I was asked to write about the Fence Jumpers. I don't know much about them, so I thought I'd hang around a place most likely to have them, and there they were. I took pictures as proof."
"Where's the camera?" Kip asked. Cody handed him a bag. Madison shifted, watching him.
"Don't destroy it," Madison pleaded. "It's really expensive."
"You will delete these pictures," Kip said, looking at the camera. "Every single one you took of them."
"Why should I?" Madison asked, leaning back and studying Kip. Skyler felt uneasy with her relaxed attitude. "What's in it for me?"
"We don't keep you here indefinitely," Kip replied smoothly. "Trust me, we have plenty of tunnels we can keep you in where you won't be a bother."
Madison stared at him. Kip looked steadily back.
"Why?" Madison asked. "What are you afraid of?"
"I don't want these kids' pictures out," Kip said. "You probably know enough about us to know they're basically fugitives. If they're pictures get out, wanted posters will be printed all over."
"Fugitives?" Madison laughed. She look at Skyler. "Him? He's, what, twelve?"
"Fourteen," Skyler snapped.
"Excuse me, fourteen." Madison rolled her eyes. "I've heard about you, yeah, but not enough to make an interesting article. You're vandals, you graffiti everything in sight and you trespass on private property. Boring."
"All the same," Kip said. "You can write enough without pictures. Delete them, and we let you go."
"Seriously?" Wes blurted. "They spent a week tracking her down--"
Kip looked at him warningly.
"Where do you come in with all of this?" Madison suddenly asked Kip. "I'm seeing five kids here, and one adult. So far the reports I've heard - which aren't many - are of people seeing kids."
Kip looked at her silently, considering the question.
"I take care of them," he said. "I make sure they have a place to come home to, to bring others like them to a place that's safe from the dangers outside."
"What dangers? Juvenile time or whatever for graffiti work?" Madison scoffed. "The horror!"
"Delete the pictures," Kip said, and untied her arms and handed her the camera.
"Come on," Madison said, leaning back and crossing one leg over the other. Her posture made her seem like the superior one in the group. "I want to know more. You people have always fascinated me, but there's never enough accurate information. Only speculation."
"Like we're telling you anything," Cody scoffed.
Madison looked at him, then at Kip.
"If these kids are fugitives from whatever danger there is besides juvie, what are you hiding from?" She asked him. "I mean, you look older than those three." Madison nodded to Cody, Wes, and Davis. "Why are you doing here, besides giving these kids a home?"
"I'm just like them." Kip shrugged. "I had a job, and I saw too much."
"Too much of what?" Madison asked. Kip's expression hardened.
"Are they deleted?" Kip asked.
"Yeah." Madison showed him. "But come on, tell me more!"
"No, you're leaving." Kip grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. Madison pulled back, sat back down, and crossed her arms.
"You tell me more about your... group," she said. She swatted Kip's hand away. "I'm not done! You tell me more, and I won't publish the pictures."
"You deleted them." Kip frowned.
"I did." Madison nodded. "But I always put them on my computer at home, too."
Silence pervaded the room. Kip grimaced. Cody looked frustrated. Skyler watched Madison. He felt angry and threatened, but he also admired her cleverness. That was why she had been so willing to delete them off the camera. She had them safely stored at home.
"I'll delete all the pictures I took of them yesterday off of my computer," Madison said. "If you tell me more. I'll even promise not to reveal any special secrets. I'll just use generic stuff and use accurate info to spin new theories or add to old ones. Just enough to satisfy my buyer."
Kip sighed, frowning and glaring at Madison, the reporter looked back coolly.
"Of course you could keep me here," Madison said. "And someone would come looking, and eventually my computer would be searched, and the pictures would be found. And if you let me go without letting me know more, the police will learn that I was kidnapped by Fence Jumpers, and I managed to escape and now I'm afraid that they might come to my house to catch me again. So my place would be guarded, and the pictures out of reach."
Skyler stared at her. How had she managed to come up with all of that so fast? How much of it was a bluff?
Kip looked upset, but he said nothing. Wes looked furious, and Cody had a hand on his arm. Davis and Jonah were watching Kip nervously. Madison looked pleased with herself, sitting in the swivel chair with arms and legs crossed like she owned the place.
"Fine," Kip said.
Everyone except Skyler started to protest loudly.
"Enough!" Kip shouted. "I don't like it either, but if we're going to make sure these pictures stay out of government hands--"
"Government?" Madison lifted an eyebrow. "Boy, you guys must be in huge trouble."
"You can't be serious, Kip!" Wes exclaimed. "We can't trust she'll hold up her end of the bargain!"
"We don't have a choice, Wesley!" Kip snapped. "I'm sorry, but we don't."
"Hey." Madison looked concerned. "I don't wanna cause trouble between everyone--"
"Well, you have. Congratulations." Wes glared murderously at her.
"--but I want to help." Madison glared back. "I wanna know what's going on. I'll hold up my end. I'll even let some of you come with me so you can watch me delete them."
As Skyler watched, the more he was siding with Madison. She didn't seem like the kind of person who would betray them. She had looked sympathetic, almost sad, when Kip had explained why he was with the Fence Jumpers.
"Kip?" Skyler risked speaking up. Kip looked at him.
"She should know," Skyler said. "If your theory is true, then shouldn't people know about it?"
Cody lifted an eyebrow and cocked a sideways smile. Kip studied Skyler, then nodded.
"All of you scoot," Kip said. "I need to have a talk with Ms. Carter. No, ma'am." Kip held up a hand to silence her. "You talk with me. Not the kids. They have enough on their plates without being interrogated by the one who has made them unsure of what would happen to them for a whole week."
"I understand." Madison nodded solemnly.
Kip nodded, looking grateful. He looked at the teens, and they filed out. Skyler looked back, and Madison smiled at him.
Skyler found Hannah and they retreated into the exercise room. The main cavern sparked with fear and panic. Skyler didn't want to feel scared anymore.
"What d'you think Kip will do?" Skyler asked, swinging his feet from where he sat on the monkey bars. Hannah sat next to him, her legs swinging in sync with his.
"I dunno." Hannah shrugged. "From what you've told me, it sounds like this Madison person is alright. She'll be fine."
"What will happen to us?" Skyler looked at her. "I don't want to move again."
"No one's moving anywhere," Hannah smiled at him. "If we were in that kind of danger Kip would have said so. If we do move, I promise you won't leave alone. I'll be right beside you."
Skyler smiled. Hannah wrapped her arm around his shoulders and hugged him.
"Kip will sort this out, don't worry," she murmured.
Skyler nodded. Then he and Hannah talked. Not about their future or current events in the hideout, but about each other. How they were doing, how they liked their new home and new friends. They asked about their friends, too, and joked and laughed about the mishaps they had. Skyler couldn't remember the last time he felt so at home and so safe.
Voices echoed down the tunnel and into the exercise room. Kip was speaking to the Fence Jumpers.
"C'mon," Hannah jumped down. "Let's go learn the verdict."
"--won't tell anyone about us," Kip was saying. "She's promised to not publish the photographs she took last week."
Kip looked around and watched the expressions of relief wash over the room. Skyler smiled at Hannah.
"In exchange," Kip said, "she has asked to be our friend."
Whispered broke out in pockets. Skyler frowned. A friend? That's it? No blackmail, no paying her off?
"I've told Miss Carter what we know, to an extent." Kip held up his hand for silence when a few Jumpers started to protest. "She wants to help. None of us are in any position to stay in town for too long without running the risk of suspicion or recognition. Madison, however, is under no such restriction. She has kindly offered to keep up with political events and write articles on politics, which will allow her to interview people of power and may give us more information.
"She has also kindly offered to bring supplies when we have need," Kip went on, smiling. "And, as thanks for letting her go and not stashing her in some unused tunnel, she has offered to bring back cake and doughnuts for tonight."
Silence killed the whispers. Everyone stared at Madison in shock, confusion, and something like excitement.
Cake. Skyler couldn't remember the last time he had had fresh cake. He and Hannah had never been able to afford it, and whenever they found containers of old cake at the back of bakeries, it was dry and nearly always moldy everywhere.
"Are there any questions?" Kip asked. "I want to make sure we're all on the same page, and we're all happy with this." Another smile quirked at his lips. "Although in my opinion, I think some of you were won over by the idea of cake."
A few Jumpers laughed. No one protested. Some looked a little nervous, but they said nothing.
"I promise," Madison assured them all, "your secret is safe with me. What you guys are trying to do... it's amazing, truly. I admire your guts, and I want to help you. Christopher tells me--"
A few kids laughed. Madison looked at Kip in confusion. Kip was trying not to smile.
"I'm called Kip around here," he said.
"Oh." Madison flushed. "Sorry. Kip tells me you guys need some supplies. I can do some shopping tomorrow and bring it all here. Things like aspirin, Ni-Quil, kitchen utensils, and fresh veggies will in your hands by tomorrow night. Let me know if there's anything in particular you guys need and I can make a list."
This set nearly everyone off. Kids were smiling; some of the girls were in tears.
"Aw, hey." Madison smiled sadly. "You guys don't need to worry. One adult has kept you alive this long. Imagine what two adults can do?"
Laughter pervaded the cavern, followed by cheering and applause.
"Alright, enough chatting," Kip said above the noise. "We can celebrate our new savior later tonight. Cody, Wes, you two will escort Madison away from here, and then tonight you two will meet her by the park and bring her back." He looked at Madison. "I hope you won't take offense at our caution for a day or two?"
"Not at all," Madison grinned. "I'd think you were stupid if you didn't time precautions."
That night, Skyler had the best strawberry-filled doughnut of his life. He savored the tart filling and the sweet glaze on top while Hannah had the confetti-cake of her dreams. There were so many flavors of cake and doughnuts Skyler hadn't known which to try first. It had taken Cody and Wes at least three trips from Madison's green car to the hideout. She had even brought four one-gallon jugs of chocolate milk and three one-gallon jugs of lemonade. The Fence Jumpers were wild with delight and were immediately won over. Even Kip was happy at the sight of the unexpected beverages.
Madison's peace offering was a huge hit, and everyone feasted on unhealthy cake and doughnuts and lemonade and chocolate milk. Hannah didn't even give Skyler a limit on how much he could have.
That night, Kip took Madison to her car, and the Jumpers cleaned up and crashed into bed. Skyler almost didn't make it into his bunk. He was unconscious before he could remember he hadn't changed into his PJs.