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Tribal Romeo & Juliet

Written by: dbc_winter

The Tribe fanfiction loosely based on Shakespeare’s great tragedy.

All characters are taken from The Tribe series. Nothing is mine; I just made up the storyline and the dialogues. Nothing would be possible without the wonderful masterminds behind The Tribe.

PROLOGUE

Life in the city was uneventful. Kids spent their days torn between home, school and their favourite hangout places. Some were taking part in competitions for the scientist of the year; others were stars of their school’s basketball team; maybe they dreamt of being a model, a chef, a teacher, a doctor; some had no idea what they wanted to do with their lives and some simply liked to cause trouble. Everyone was falling in and out of love with people they had never dared to even talk to; infatuated they were scribbling names of their crush on their maths books. Incapable of dealing with rejection, many rivalries were established.

Oh, yes, it was life like any other.

That was until a strange virus started spreading across the globe. It took only a few months for all adults to die and the once carefree, reckless teenagers, so inexperienced when it came to anything that didn’t include being head over heels in love, were left to rule the world.

At first, life seemed to be a never-ending party. They were no adults left to set rules; everyone was free to do whatever their hearts desired. They stayed up late, put on crazy makeup and dressed in once unaccepted combinations. They could eat whatever they wanted and most of all, there was no school! They didn’t need to study, do homework anymore. Indeed, life looked like an eternal blast!

But soon, party crashers walked in. Kids started fighting over food, they were stealing from each other and the city became a war zone. They discovered safety was in numbers and so the tribes began to form.

Over time, two tribes became the biggest and most respectful of all ? The Mallrats and The Locos (known also as The Locusts). Their leaders, Lex and Zoot, were known enemies although no one really knew what triggered the grudge between them. It was rumoured that it had started when as ten-year-olds both of them were invited to a birthday of the cutest girl in their class and only one of them was allowed to kiss the birthday girl on the cheek. Whatever the cause, the new world became their polygon to determine who is the strongest, more powerful once and for all. Only one could be the winner of the feud and consequently the ruler of the city. Honestly, none of them had any idea or plan what they would do if indeed they won but they didn’t really care.

Each tried to think of as many ways as possible to attract people on their side but eventually they reached a deadlock. For months, maybe even years, no one really cared much about measuring time, the city was divided into two parts and it would most likely last for many additional years, maybe even decades if a Mallrat and a Loco had not fallen in love.

This is a story of how two star crossed lovers brought peace to the city and ensured a better future for all but themselves.


To Be Continued.

CHAPTER ONE

The Mallrats

The Mallrats found their home in the mall.

Time for dinner was approaching and in her quarters in the second storey, Amber was trying on the dresses, with the help of her dress consultant, Zandra, and her personal assistant/servant/confidant/friend (it really depended on the day what she was called and how she was treated), Salene.

Now she was wearing a long, yellow dress. It looked perfect on her; however, it had a small tear by her ankles. Not that Amber cared, though. She had bigger problems in her life. As Salene was brushing and hair and Zandra trying to sew the hole, Amber was talking, upset.

“I really don’t understand why I have to marry him, you know!” she exclaimed. “I mean, I know why Lex wants me to marry that guy but ? it is just obsolete! It’s so like Middle Ages all over again, marrying because of economic reasons, politics, whatever! I know Lex wants to get the city and beat that Zoot but ? what about me? You’d think he would want his little sister to be happy, especially after her family took him out of the orphanage ? But no, not Lex! He wants to sacrifice my happiness for this stupid city!”

Salene and Zandra looked at each other. Of course, their position in the Mallrats was something every kid in the city desired. They had roof above their heads, food on the table every day and they were not slaves. Yet ? working for Amber sometimes truly seemed to be a torture. Her constant complaining was getting on their nerves. It reached its peak when Lex, the leader of the Mallrats and Amber’s adoptive brother, met a nomad named Sasha who apparently had hundreds of friends outside the city, up in the mountains. Seeing this as a perfect opportunity to get more men on his side and overpower Zoot’s empire, Lex convinced his sister to seduce Sasha and marry him so that he would not start working with The Locos.

“Sasha is not that bad, Amber,” carefully remarked Salene.

“Not that? whose side are you on, Salene? You were supposed to be on mine!”

“I am, I am, I’m just saying ? Lex could have picked someone worse for you to marry.”

“It is hard to imagine a bigger Mr Boredom existing! Like, every time we’re together, alone, he just keeps bubbling about nature and how great it is to travel around on horse ? I mean, seriously, Middle Ages, anyone? ? and all the people he had met on his travels ? What about me?! I spend my whole day curling my hair and he does not even notice! Where’s romance? There’s no romance at all! And he is supposed to be musically talented but all he apparently knows how to play with his flute is one melody and even that one is annoying! If he truly loved me, don’t you think he’s play something a bit more ? I don’t know, romantic?”

“Maybe he’s so in love with you that he does not know how to act around you?” suggested Salene.

Amber turned to her and looked at her with raised eyebrows.

“Are we talking about the same Sasha here, Salene?” she said. “As far as I’ll ever get with him is holding hands. Holding hands?! Been there done that ? in kindergarten!”

“Well, maybe you are overreacting, Amber,” said Zandra, still kneeling down, trying to sew the little tear. “I mean maybe Zoot will win and there will be no point in you marrying Sasha. Once Lex will be beaten, he won’t need Sasha’s contacts from outside the city to help him win, right?”

“Oh, god forbid! What are you thinking, Zandra? Then he will want me to marry the magnificent Zoot himself! To, I don’t know, improve his position in the newly established hierarchy!”

“Sometimes I don’t think you know what you really want, Amber,” sighed Salene and stepped back. She had plaited Amber’s hair and wrapped them in a bun, still leaving two curls to fall down by the side of Amber’s face. “Here. I think you look nice.”

“I do, I like it, thank you, Salene,” nodded Amber, looking herself in the mirror. “Ouch, Zandra! Be careful! You pinched me with a needle!”

“I am sorry, Amber, it’s just that the hole is so small?”

“Oh, just leave it! Ain’t like Sasha ever looks at anything below my eyes,” rolled her eyes Amber, crossing her arms and throwing herself in the armchair. “I really thought these things would be easier in this world; my parents were always so strict when it came to dating. No, Amber, he’s bad. He will use you. No, Amber, you are not going to the party. No, Amber, this skirt is too short. But no, now Lex is even worse! At least my mother didn’t pick a husband for me!”

Zandra sat down next to Amber.

“Well, maybe Sasha won’t even want to marry you,” she smiled.

“Nice to know at least one of us is an optimist!”

“Are you ladies ready? It’s time for dinner.”

Jay peeked into the room. He was Amber’s older cousin, the Ulysses of their world, a hopeless wanderer though life. He always appeared to be in a semi-dreaming state and many suspected not everything was in the right place in his mind. Hhe was often seen near city’s bridges near the line between Mallrats’ and Locos’ territories, apparently contemplating, and it was a general fear that one day he wouldn’t return to the mall for dinner.

“Sadly, yes,” exclaimed Amber, got up and walked towards the caf?.


Lex and Sasha were already in the caf?, waiting for the dinner to be served. The future groom seemed to be distant and Lex didn’t really know what to think of it. He certainly wanted the wedding to take place as soon as possible; he didn’t want to risk Sasha switching sides.

“It would be simple, really. If my men and your friends united ? we would overthrow Zoot in no time. He uses fear to gain followers but, I mean, if he’s outnumbered, he stands no chance, right? And after the win, we, if, of course, you are interested, we could shape the city into anything we want.”

“Certainly …” nodded Sasha.

“It’s just ? he’s been very secretive lately. My men haven’t seen him on the streets often and it makes me think ? is he planning something? I haven’t even heard his stupid car! And he is always driving around with that siren ? I am happy not to hear as I can’t stand it but ? he is about to do something. If only I knew what ?”

“Yes ?” once again nodded Sasha but Lex could see he wasn’t really listening him.

If Sasha didn’t have so many contacts that could help Lex win the city, he would lose patience a long time ago. Lex disliked the guy; he was impossible to talk to since he was constantly looking away and never listened. Lex certainly was happy to see Sasha so smitten with his sister but Sasha’s non-cooperation was annoying him.

He was indeed happy when Amber walked into the caf?.

“Ah, here’s my sister now!”

Amber smiled coldly at his brother who decided to ignore it. She sat down next to Sasha as Jay sat at the other side of the table. As a leader, Lex sat at the edge of the table.

Zandra and Salene, as servants, would eat later. They stood by the door, next to Ryan, Lex’s personal guard. He smiled shyly at Salene who blushed and tried to disguise her smile.

Zandra leant closer to her.

“Look at Lex, he’s wearing that shirt again,” she whispered. “It enhances his muscles, don’t you think?”

“If you say so, Zandra.”

“I have been looking forward to this the whole afternoon!” exclaimed Lex as the first plates were brought to them. “It smells so magically, don’t you think, Amber?”

“I’d say there are better smells than food. Like ? the flowers someone special has brought you. The pillow someone you love has slept on ?”

Sasha felt so uncomfortable. Amber was beautiful, there was no doubt. She could easily take away a man’s breath. Sasha too felt enchanted by her but ? it came so suddenly into his life. His world were travels, riding horses on green pastures, meeting new people, playing music for them ? he never thought much about getting a woman. Now here he was, she was promised to him and he doubted he even wanted her.

He didn’t even know what to do! He feared he would do too much, too soon. So he rather did nothing but that felt wrong too ? he was just so confused and Lex’s insistence to be in his company was not helping.

It felt so wrong to be close to this man. Amber was torn ? she instinctively wanted to run away from Sasha who was nothing, absolutely nothing like the man she yearned for since being a little girl. On the other hand, Lex was her brother ? she wanted and had to be loyal to him ? he did mean good, after all.

Knowing he had to do something, Sasha reached out for hand. Amber, who saw it coming from the corner of her eye, immediately pulled it away.

“Oh, my nail is broken!” she screamed. “Zandra! My nail!”

Lex got up as Zandra ran to her lady.

“Somebody! Zandra, help her!” he exclaimed.

Zandra looked at Amber’s nail only to find it to be in perfect condition ? maybe she would only have to her nails redone as the golden nail polish was coming off.

“It’s?” she started but Amber quickly frowned at her and broke her own nail. Zandra sighed. “Oh my ? I’ll go get clippers!”

She ran out of the cafe as if it would really be a medical emergency. Salene walked to Amber, pulled her chair closer and sat down. Lex too slowly sit down, looking lightly confused. Jay maintained a stoic look and Sasha looking down, trying to disappear from everyone’s radars.

“It’s really bad,” nodded Amber, seeing her brother’s doubt. “If it cuts in my skin, it might get infected?”

As Zandra returned with clippers, things returned to normal. Yet only till the main dish was served. Feeling like he was not supportive enough when his fianc?e encountered trouble, Sasha reached out for her hand again.

And once again she was swift enough to avoid it.

“Oh my, I’m so sorry,” she smiled as she yawned. “I really didn’t get much sleep last night ?”

“Oh, I do hope it wasn’t me!” exclaimed Lex. “I know I get sometimes carried away and talk too loud when I’m discussing the future ? Sasha and I had a very promising conversation last night.”

“Absolutely …” Sasha felt the need to nod.

“I’m very pleased to hear this, Lex. And no, don’t worry, it wasn’t you, I didn’t even hear you. It’s the full moon . It always gets the best of me ?”

“Oh, is it full moon again? I’ve been terrible at tracking time ? it does seem like something weird is in the air lately ?”

“Actually,” Sasha cleared his throat for the first time, “I met a woman once on my travels. She’s very knowledgeable when it comes to plants. She told me of this natural medicine that helps?”

“Oh that’s marvellous, Sasha!” exclaimed Lex. “Amber, maybe you two could ? you know ? go and visit this incredible lady?”

Amber frowned. The last thing she wanted was to go on a trip into the mountains, only with Sasha and maybe his horse. She was sure she would lose her mind from boredom.

“Well ? I don’t think she’s still there. She moves around a lot ?”

“And I do only have these problems from time to time! There’s no need for any kind of medication!” quickly added Amber.

“I’m sure it is partly because of nerves,” nodded Lex sympathetically. “You must be anxious about the future.”

In his quest to be unseen Sasha bent down, almost touching food with his noise. Amber almost choked on a piece of bread but refused any help from Salene. She turned to Jay who looked at her with his blank eyes.

“Please,” she formed a word with her lips.

He only smirked and put down the fork. He waited until swallowing the food, then he got up. He picked just the right time; he crashed into a waiter who brought another tray of food, this time a jug of strawberry juice. She didn’t see the impact coming and the jug flew out of her hands, landing directly on the table, with red liquid splashing everywhere.

For a moment, everything stood still. Nobody really knew what had just happened and they weren’t sure of what to do next.

“I’m so sorry! I didn’t expect?”

“I’ll help you clean up?” volunteered Jay.

Sasha only stared in disbelief as the juice was nearing him.

Lex got up.

“Will somebody take care of this mess?!” he shouted and the room became alive again, with Zandra, Salene and Ryan, along with other servants and guards coming to the table, many holding towels and napkins. They tried to wipe the liquid but it seemed they were only smearing it.

It was a moment Amber was waiting for.

“I better get out of here before it gets everywhere!” she exclaimed, got up so quickly that her chair overturned and fell backwards onto the floor. She lifted the bottom of her dress and ran out of the cafe.


CHAPTER TWO

The Locos

The Locos were staying at a hotel.

It was just after breakfast. Zoot and Ebony were in the garage, supervising the repainting of their favourite police car. Trudy was reading in her room and Bray decided to play some basketball in the yard.

It was a sunny day and the temperature seemed just right; it was not too hot or too cold.

Bray couldn’t care less about the stupid feud his brother, Zoot had with Lex, the leader of the Mallrats. He knew all too well Zoot had no idea how to lead the city; all he wanted was to spend days driving around in old, battered police car, playing hide and seek with innocent bystanders. Indeed he had no plan about the future of the city. He still found everything to be an unlimited fun.

Bray wondered how much longer it would last. Sooner or later the moment had to come when his brother would crash hard into the reality. Of course he would say something to him, but Zoot didn’t listen to anyone, especially not to his older brother.

It was excruciating for Bray, spending days cooped up in their home. Not to mention all the female attention he kept getting. Although Ebony was after Zoot’s power and Trudy his high school sweetheart, both girls were seeking Bray’s company as much as they could. Bray was handsome and it wasn’t making him happy. He was a loner at heart and being surrounded with people was often annoying him.

Actually, lately he was annoyed by pretty much everything. Playing basketball was the only time when he felt somehow content.


The book was indeed a good read. Trudy rubbed her eyes and got up to pour herself a glass of water. While walking to the table with a hug on, she passed the window. With a quick glance she saw Bray playing basketball in the yard.

His skin was covered with sweat and the sun reflected of it. She observed his muscles moving under his tight shirt. She had first seen in the old world, in their school’s gym, and had seen him numerous times since then but still she could not move her eyes off him.

And now, Ebony was nowhere to be seen.

Trudy forgot about the romance in the book; she was desperate for one in real life.


Ebony was in the garage, with Zoot. They were watching their men repainting and fixing one of the police cars which were the symbol of The Locos. It was still very early for Ebony; she preferred days when she slept in till lunch. Today Zoot desired her company and she could not turn him down. Not if she wanted to remain close to him and maintain a respected position in the tribe which was something she craved for.

“Red flames, add more of them,” he ordered one of the men. “They are not visible enough! Don’t you think so, Ebony?”

“I guess,” she nodded, trying to conceal yawning. “You know best, my dear.”

“We must be recognizable! We cannot afford people wondering if it is really us! You’re sloppy; don’t make me think you might work for that Lex! Anyway,” he turned back to Ebony, “I need your help. You are a woman so I think you could help me.”

“Well, certainly I am a woman,” smiled Ebony and looked at Zoot seductively, “And I am very, very good at being a woman, if I may say.”

He seemed to be completely unaffected.

“Good. I want to surprise Trudy.”

“Trudy?” Ebony spoke her opponent’s name as if it was a swear word.

“Yes, Trudy. I have been neglecting her a bit lately, with this Lex stuff and all, and I want to make it up to her. And I was thinking - how about a dinner with candles? Do you think she would like it?”

Ebony frowned. She disliked Trudy; sometimes she felt like she even hated her. Ebony was no fool; she knew Trudy was her biggest (and only) competition in The Locos; both longed for the company of two brothers. Only, Ebony struggled to get close to Zoot as he was head over heels in love with Trudy who was pushing him away and wanted Bray. Ebony found her to be so incredible selfish; she was taking both brothers from Ebony.

Ebony yearned to get rid of Trudy and now Zoot was asking her to help him with his date with Trudy. She considered recommending strangling her but Ebony was born manipulator and was not about to risk being thrown out of the tribe. Trudy could take brothers away from here, but as long as Ebony was still closed, there was chance of winning.

She breathed in to calm her envy.

“Well, it sounds very nice, Zoot.”

“Thanks.”

“Just - I mean, are you sure she wants it?”

“What do you mean? Of course she wants me!” exclaimed Zoot.

“I know, Zoot every woman would be happy to have you, it’s just - lately I’ve been noticing she became kind of close with our brother”

Zoot stared at her astounded.

“Are you saying Bray is taking my woman from me?!”

"No, no! I just, "

So typical of him. Zoot had a habit of blaming everything on Bray. His Trudy was perfect, incapable of doing anything wrong. She would have never dug her claws into Bray, of course not! Ebony’s morning was really turning into a nightmare.

“Maybe she is only trying to get your attention. I mean, you said it yourself, you are not with her much these days?”

“Stop making excuses for him! I know what he’s like! He always takes everything away from me!”

“But?”

“Just get out of my sight, Ebony! Just get out!”

Ebony was feeling so underappreciated. She knew she could help lead The Locos, the city even. Yet nobody saw the talent she has, even worse, sometimes she felt like nobody even noticed her! Trudy was so successfully dancing in the spotlight that darkness completely embraced Ebony! It was her pure kindness, being with The Locos; Ebony truly believed that if she, for example, decided to join The Mallrats, they would treat her nicer. Way nicer.

On her way to the room she too passed the window. And she too saw Bray playing basketball; only, now Trudy was also in the yard, walking to Bray.

Ebony clutched her teeth.

“Cow!” she hissed.


With a book in her hand Trudy carefully walked to Bray.

“Hi,” she said.

He held the ball and turned to her. He mildly smiled.

“Hello, Trudy.”

“I just - it’s such a lovely today so I came out to read. Better than, you know, being in my room, alone.”

“Cool,” he nodded and looked at her, feeling like she had not finished.

Oh, he was so handsome. Trudy’s head was spinning. She he only wanted her to leave.

“Well - I’ll just go sit over there and - read.”

“Ok,” he smiled, broke off their eye contact and continued his game.

Trudy only stood, looking him, for a few minutes. Feeling her eyes on him, basketball suddenly lost all its charm for him. He was relieved when she finally walked to the deckchair, lay down and started reading.

Poor Bray had no idea it was far from over; that he was about to be a prey, eyed by two skilled, longing predators.

Ebony was determined not to let Trudy have Bray. She put on swimsuits and her favourite robe. Then she too went to the yard.

Bray rolled his eyes when he saw her coming. Trudy only stared in disbelief.

“Witch,” she whispered.

Ebony breathed in deeply, aware that Bray was looking at her. She spread her arms, closed her eyes and let sunrays to fall on her face.

Then she walked to Bray.

“Hello, Bray!” she exclaimed. “Such a nice today, isn’t it?”

“I’ve had better ones.”

“Never praise the day before the … night?”

Bray felt uncomfortable; Ebony was standing far too close for his liking. He struggled to contain his urge to move back. And just to walk away. His perfect morning of playing basketball was already ruined!

Ebony’s eyes very obviously eyed his body.

“Oh, Bray, isn’t a bit too hot for you to play basketball?”

“I feel just fine.”

“Yes, but, aren’t you - a bit - hot?”

Trudy’s jaw dropped as Ebony wiped sweat off Bray’s forehead. She bit her lip, upset and watched Ebony walk to a deckchair on the other side of the yard. Ebony, aware of her rival’s defeat, only grinned at her with glee.

Trudy’s nostrils dilated as she breathed in with rage. Who did Ebony think she was? She, Trudy was here first! She saw Bray first! There was no way she would let Ebony mess this up!

She took off the shirt she was wearing; the one underneath was exposing way more than Trudy was usually comfortable with but this was time for all-in.

This was too easy for Ebony! Trudy was such a naive little girl, thinking she could compete with Ebony!

Ebony took off her robe, revealing the bikini she was wearing. Then she lay on the deckchair, perfectly aware that Bray was looking at them both, not knowing what to think.

Trudy was angry. Indeed she didn’t know how to react - but only until she looked around. She remembered putting some things in her bag before coming to the yard.

Sunscreen, more specifically.

She didn’t waste any time. She took tit from the bag, got up and walked straight to Bray.

“Oh god,” he whispered when he saw her nearing. He never wanted alarm to go off as much as he did in this moment.

“What the?” Ebony was offended. She was the one wearing practically nothing and yet Trudy was the one he was going to touch? It was outrageous!

“Bray, could you be so kind ?” Trudy smiled and handed him a sunscreen.

“Trudy?”

“Don’t say anything, Bray!”

“I don’t think I should?”

“Oh, don’t be silly, Bray! It I just a sunscreen! I can’t do it myself and I really don’t want to get sunburns.”

“But Zoot might think?”

“Zoot is not here, is he? Besides,” Trudy moved closer to him, “I never said Zoot is the one I want?”

Bray stared at her, his jaw dropped and he tried to think of any proper words. He should have stayed in bed the whole day!

Then the door flung open and Zoot appeared in the yard. Ebony’s smiled spread across her face as he ran to Bray and Trudy, enraged.

“What the hell do you think you are doing!?” he shouted.

Bray gave Trudy back her sunscreen and backed off, looking at the ground. Trudy sighed in unease. She had never even wanted Zoot. How the hell did she managed to get him and not Bray, the one she was yearning for?

“I was just?” she started.

“Not you! You!” Zoot yelled at Bray. “How do you dare seducing my woman?!”

“I was not?”

“It’s not his fault, Zoot, I asked him to put some sun?”

“You don’t need to defend him! I know his was!” dismissed her Zoot and ordered her and Ebony to leave. When they were gone, he turned to his older brother again.

“Trudy is my woman! Mine! Can’t you find your own?!”

“Nothing happened!”

“Do you think I’m blind? Or stupid?! Why are you always taking everything from me?!”

“I’m not! I don’t even like her!”

“You don’t have to like her to take her away from me! You just can’t stand me having something you don’t!”

“You’re crazy!”

“Be careful who you call crazy! Just because you are my brother it does not mean you are untouchable! One stunt like this and you are out! I am being very merciful; Lex would not be.”

“Don’t you think maybe you should focus on him and not on me?”

“I am focusing on him enough! Don’t tell me how to run my business! Besides, there’s not much to do right now. He has not done anything for some time now. Which makes me wonder ? is he only trying to make me think he’s not doing anything so that I would not see him coming when he strikes? You know what I mean?”

“No, not really.”

Zoot frowned.

“We are at war here. Why don’t you try focusing less on my woman and more on Lex?!” he said with his eyebrows raised, before turning and storming back into the building.

Bray only shook his head and sighed in disbelief. Indeed, lately he truly hated his life.


CHAPTER THREE

Captatrix

The morning should have been like any other for the inhabitants of the mall. There was no rain to fill their water tank; there was no attack either.

Yet, it seemed like a strange wave of energy and action had hit them. Everyone was excited, anxious and unable to sit still. Lex, especially, was something between a nervous wreck and army general.

What happened was that they intercepted the news of tribal gathering being planned for near future. Zoot, Lex’s rival, would doubtlessly attend.

The news was a sign that things might start moving again soon and Lex had every intention to be ready when that moment came.


Jack was one of the Mallrats that Lex was most proud of. He was the member of the elite group that would sway the success onto their side. Aware that this red-haired boy, a technological genius might be just the weapon he needed, Lex made sure he was treated just as if he was one of the leader’s family.

After the initial excitement about the news faded, Lex ran into Jack’s workroom. The boy, so contently isolated from the fuss, was surprised to see him.

“Yes?” he said with a voice that showed he would rather not be disturbed. He was working on improving the water system in the mall and was irritated because he just couldn’t get it to work. He preferred to be alone; things didn’t look at him with question marks in his eyes, anticipating the next brilliant invention.

“Jack, remember how you spoke of making this wind turbine to refill the batteries a while back? And I told you to focus on water system first as it was more urgent?”

“I do remember, Lex, especially because I didn’t agree with you. We had water before and why improve something that works just fine?!”

Lex decided to ignore the tone Jack was speaking in.

“Well, change of plans. I need you to build a turbine now.”

“What?!” exclaimed Jack.

“Yes, for the tribal gathering. I want to show Zoot how technically advanced we are comparing to him. It will shake his self-estimation.”

“Wait, what? What gathering?” asked Jack, confused.

“Tribes will meet, show off a little - Sasha already agreed to invite some of his friends - it is an opportunity for us to show how strong we are, erase that stupid grin off Zoot’s face.”

“And you need a turbine for that?”

“Have any better ideas?”

“And I am supposed to, what, use my magic wand and make it happen?”

“I am not exposing you to all these luxury to?”

“Have you got any idea how difficult it is to build a turbine? It will take me weeks!”

“Well, you don’t have weeks. The gathering is next week.”

“What?!”

“I told you in advance, didn’t I? I could wait till the evening before. Now stop whining, get to work. And if you need anything, just ask, ok?”

Jack stared at his leader in disbelief as he was walking away. Then he looked to the water system he was working on. An invention he had not even wanted but was forced to start working on. It took him weeks and now all his toiling was a waste.

“Idiots!” he exclaimed and pushed the thing off his working table, breaking it in into pieces.

Nobody cared anyway.


Sasha was in the cafe, entertaining the younger members of the Mallrats, Patsy, Cloe and KC.

He put down a flute after finishing a song.

“Do it again, Sasha, do it again!”

“Maybe later, I’m a bit tired now?”

"“Or can we have that play again where you used vegetables as puppets!” exclaimed Patsy happily.

“I don’t think so. Amber was not very pleased to see food being used like that?”

“She’s not fair. It’s also our food, just like hers. She can eat hers but we don’t have to if we don’t want to!” added Cloe.

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple.”

“She’s so annoying,” rolled her eyes Patsy, “I really don’t see what you want to marry her, Sasha.”

“Yeah, sometimes I don’t know either,” shrugged Sasha.

Lex stormed into the cafE, with Ryan following him close behind.

“Kids, out!” he shouted, “adults have to talk!”

Patsy and Cloe got up and sighed, tired of being treated as little kids. KC who associated himself with the girls although had some strong ties with Lex (mostly because of his background - he was practically a specialist in trading and scamming people).

“No, KC, you stay!” added Lex.

“Cool!” exclaimed the boy and threw himself back into the chair.

Sasha blushed again. He sensed Lex wanted to talk more about the gathering, as if Sasha hadn’t been forced to listen to him for the entre morning. He really didn’t have much to add to the discussion.

“So I had a very successful talk with Jack. He agreed to build a turbine for the gathering. Imagine Zoot’s face when he sees it! Maybe he really does have boxes of batteries stashed somewhere, but those will run out eventually. We will have a way to recharge them! We will never run out of power! I wonder how he’ll top that!”

“Indeed it will be very difficult,” nodded Sasha.

“Ah, this is such a blissful day!” smiled Lex. “You, Sasha, will bring your contacts - Zoot will be shocked when he sees the manpower the Mallrats have compared to him! Jack will build a technological marvel.”

“Lex, I don’t see why you bother so much with this,” said KC sceptically. “It’ just a gathering. No one said Zoot will be there!”

“Oh, he will be, trust me! And he will try to do the same, intimidate me! But, no, I am ready this time! I will win this round!”

“How can you be so sure that he too is planning something?”

“Because he’s pretending not to, of course!” exclaimed Lex. “I haven’t seen his car for days now! He’s trying to trick me into believing he’s resting - so that I too would rest - and then be outshined at the gathering.”

“Honestly, I don’t think Zoot is smart enough to think of this,” smiled KC.

“Thank you for your compliment. Of course I outsmart him for a mile, but, KC, never ever underestimate your opponent! Remember that! You can never know for certain who is working for him?”

“We have Jack. I don’t see how he could have anyone smarter.”

“And this is where the second part of my plan comes into play!” smirked Lex and leant forward. “Listen, KC, this is very important and very confidential. Under no circumstances you are allowed to speak of what will be shared with you, understand?”

KC’s eyes dilated in excitement and he grinned with pride.

“Yes, yes!”

“WE know that The Locos enslave people to do chores for them, right? And, Sasha, you told me about Troy, the guy that trades people for security and food. I think it is safe to assume he will also offer his services at this gathering. So, we can use this as a way to infiltrate with The Locos and spy on Zoot.”

Lex looked at his audience with glee in his eyes. There was something about him that made him look like a madman.

Sasha was the first to response.

“I could certainly talk to Troy about this.”

KC was thrilled to be involved in the meeting but he could not shake off a funny feeling in his stomach.

“And - what does this have to do with me?” he carefully asked.

“Well, KC - I trust you. I know you would never screw me over - not after taking you in, and giving you this cosy life - actually, you are one of the few people here I know would never betray me, so, I was meaning to ask you if you would be gracious enough to accept my offer and go spend some time with The Locos?” Lex smiled.

“You? I - Working for Zoot as a slave?!” stuttered KC, believing he misheard something.

“No!” patiently exclaimed Lex. “Not as a slave - as a spy. Just, Zoot won’t know you are a spy. But you will be doing something magnificently noble for us!”

“I will be a slave! They will make me do things! And I’ll spy on them at the same time?!”

“I don’t see what’s so hard to understand here,” Lex frowned.

“They are going to kill me!”

“Don’t be silly!” dismissed him Lex. “The Locos don’t go around killing their slaves; they are too precious and hard to get nowadays.”

“Indeed,” nodded Sasha, “it’s getting harder and harder for Troy to find strays.”

“But if they find out I’m a spy…”

“That is why you are going to do this, KC! You’re a born crook, best one I’ve ever seen, so stop making such a big fuss!”

“A fuss?! It’s my life that’s on the line!”

“Indeed it is, KC. You didn’t seriously expect me to just let you live here, doing nothing but consuming our precious resources, wanting nothing in return? I want something in return. And this is an honourable act many others would die to do for me!”

KC sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Do I even have a choice?” he groaned.

“No, not really.”


Zoot’s mood too was improving.

His favourite car was fixed and repainted just the way he wanted it. Days had now passed since the unpleasant morning event and he made peace with it. Still he firmly believed Bray was after his woman but a very nice meal he had had with Trudy since then made him calmer. After all, Zoot was Zoot and he could do anything for his precious lady while Bray could do nothing without Zoot’s permission. Surely Trudy was aware of that and would take it into consideration!

Finally he could think of something else but solely his love problems. News of the gathering was certainly a welcomed diversion.

There was a shortage of slaves; they would need some new additions, Zoot made a mental note for himself. Maybe he could also get some nice present for his girl - jewellery, shoes - he noticed she enjoyed reading but Zoot knew nothing about books. They were a waste of time before and especially now when there were no adults left! Her affection for spending hours and hours staring into printed pages was beyond him. Yes, he would avoid buying books. Perfume, maybe. He knew from experience people sold whatever you could think of at the gathering.

But slaves, slaves were a priority.

Zoot thought of Lex suddenly. No doubt the Mallrats would attend. That naive, foolish, incredibly irritating leader of theirs - gathering was an ideal opportunity to show him who the boss was! How could he not have thought of it before?!

The gathering would be social event; everyone lets their guard down there. They would all be there, he, his people - doubtlessly one of his men had to be weak part of the chain! One, at least one would certainly talk under proper circumstances? Zoot was making himself crazy thinking of secret plans Lex might be preparing for him. At the gathering he might actually get some answers, some indications of their future ?

He, Zoot was master of secret plans, special operations! He had this one on the bag already! Lex would never see it coming! Ah, he could already smell the sweet smell of victory.

Zoot had certainly not felt this good for some time.


CHAPTER FOUR

Rendezvous

“I’m sure you’ll have a great time!” exclaimed Salene and smiled.

“Salene, Lex arranged me a date with Sasha. I would have more fun with a corpse! He will go on and on about nature - it will be like biology class all over!” Amber rolled her eyes.

“That Lex is really something,” nodded Zandra. “He treats Sasha like he is a royalty or something when all he’s got are some acquaintances outside the city.”

“By this stage of war or whatever he calls it, he’s up to anything,” said Amber.

“I overheard Patsy saying earlier how much fun she had with Sasha in the morning,” said Salene, “so maybe he has a good day. Maybe he will surprise you, Amber.”

“Seriously, Salene? The guy is too scared of me to ‘surprise’ me.”

“Maybe he’s just a gentleman,” shrugged Zandra.

“You too, Zan? I’m afraid he’ll stay a gentleman even after the wedding.”

Salene sighed and looked at Zandra. She only raised her eyebrows.

Amber noticed the glance her servants exchanged.

“Hey, you two are cooking up something! What? Tell me!”

“Well, Amber, Sasha does seem to be a reasonable man, doesn’t he?” carefully said Salene. “Why don’t you just tell him that you don’t want to marry him?”

Amber laughed.

“Have you been paying attention, Salene?! I can’t do that! We don’t have anything to do with this wedding; it is all part of Lex’s plan! I can’t back out, I’m his sister! I have to help my brother, don’t I?”

“Yeah - but Sasha is not his brother,” pointed out Zandra. “And you’d have to be blind to miss that he does not love you any more than you love him! So why don’t we focus on him? He’s not obliged to anything; he can dump you!”

“But I can’t tell him that I don’t want to marry him, can I?” repeated Amber, as if she was talking to a child. “Lex would find out!”

“You don’t have to tell him! Just, make him dump you!”

“What do you mean?” Amber frowned.

“Well - Sasha is not a very … sensual man, right? And I doubt he’d want to live, sleep with someone who, ilkes to, you know. And if he thinks you want to?”

“Wait a minute - are you telling me to be a tramp, Salene?!” shouted Amber, offended.

“No! Just, imply that you are interested in, you know!”

Amber thought about her words for a moment. Salene did have a point. If she didn’t want to spend her entire life married with that nature buff, she would have to do something, soon.

“Well, that’s not such a bad idea, actually,” she said, deep in thoughts. She looked herself in the mirror; she was wearing a very elegant long dress. It hid her legs and it was by no means a low cut dress.

“But I will need something more… open.”


Sasha walked in the cafe where his scheduled date with Amber would take place. Lex was sitting at one of the table and raised eyebrows when he saw his future brother-in-law.

With sweaty hands Sasha sat down. Lex continued staring at him in disbelief.

“Dude!” he finally said after what seem like an eternity, “Lose the hat already!”

Sasha didn’t seem to understand so Lex repeated his statement.

“Sasha, don’t get me wrong but - you really don’t know much about women, do you?”

It seemed like the question caught Sasha by surprise. He blushed again.

“Women? Well, women are…?”

“Turned off by these kinds of fashion choices!” exclaimed Lex, leant over the table and took off Sasha’s hat. “Trust me, I know! I have a way with ladies which is something I doubt you can say!”

“Well, you do have a charm,” laughed Sasha and nodded, “with ladies, I mean. Just with ladies.”

Lex wasn’t sure what to make out of Sasha’s words so he decided to dismiss them.

“Women like compliments. They like to talk, a lot. About boring stuff, mostly. They hate to listen to anything that isn’t about them. They want undivided attention.”

“What do you mean?”

Lex sighed.

“Drop the nature talk. Leave the horse in the barn! And hell, don’t talk about women who can cure cramps!”

“That is?”

“All you ever talk about! That’s why I’m helping you! Look at Shakespeare; you read him school, didn’t you? He had a way of talking to his lady ? Compliment her. With nature, if you can’t think of anything better. Understand?”

“Well?”

“Women, especially my sister, want romance. And it said that a man, who can flatter solely with words, excels at other things too. And as long as they believe that, you have them on a leash.”

The more Lex talked, the more confusing it got for Sasha. He thought of running away, skip the dinner, go home, back to nature. These city people were creeping him out!

“You certainly seem to know a lot?”

“I do! Just have confidence, you’ll be fine! They want a guy who knows how to take charge!”

Sasha felt like his head was on fire when Lex got up and patted him on the shoulder. Indeed to an unaffected observer it would look like Lex was the one about to get hitched.

As Lex said he would go get her, Sasha was on a verge of panic attack.


In Amber’s quarters, girls encountered a problem.

Zandra found a perfect cocktail dress but Salene struggled to zip it.

“Oh, Salene, just pull up a zipper!” exclaimed Amber with clutched teeth.

“I can’t!”

“Are you telling me I gained weight?!”

“What? No!” stepped in Zandra. “I just brought the wrong number. Just suck your belly in, ok, on three.”

“This is a bad sign, I’m telling you!” whined Amber.

“One,”

“Lex is gonna kill me!”

“Two,”

“Don’t worry, we’ll make it!”

“Three! There, it’s perfect!” smiled Zandra. “Sasha will fall off his chair when he sees you!”

“Well, that’s not exactly what we want, is it?” smirked Amber. “Should I wear my hair up or down?”

Zandra opened her mouth to answer when the sound of nearing steps diverted her attention.

“I think somebody is coming!”

“It must be Lex,” Amber rolled her eyes. “I guess he wants to check on me if I haven’t run away yet.”

“I got it,” quickly said Zandra and sneaked out of the room, closing door behind her. Indeed it was Lex, only meters away when Zandra leant on the closed doors and smiled at him.

“Hello, Lex!” she exclaimed.

Lex frowned. She jumped out of the room far too quickly for his liking. He was sure something was happening; something he would not have approved.

“Hello?”

“Zandra,” the girl helped him. She saw the suspicion in his eyes.

“I knew that. I came to my sister. She’s late for dinner.”

“She’s still getting ready,” smiled Zandra. From the look on his face she could see he was about to push her away and barge into the room. He was so terribly impatient and presumptuous.

“She’s late!” he whined, “Sasha has been waiting for her for over an hour!”

“Well,” Zandra smiled at him with her eyes and stepped nearer, “it is a special night. She wants to look perfect!”

Lex loved women, all of them. They were his drug. He could not resist when he was close to one. If she was attractive, it was even better. He wondered how he had managed to never notice before how alluring this girl was.

He cleared his throat to stay focused.

“She knew that in the morning, didn’t she?”

Zandra was aware of her good looks and the effect it had on men. Making a boy crazy about her was like a walk in the park for her. And she could already see Lex drooling.

“Is that a new shirt?!” she quickly exclaimed and started staring at his chest.

“What?” it caught him by surprise.

“It’s really nice, it fits you perfectly!”

And Lex was won over. In a moment he managed to forget what he had come there for. All he could see was Zandra’s gigantic grin.

“It is, actually. Thank you.”

“It brings out your skin tone so perfectly! You’ve got some tan lately, haven’t you?”

“Well?”

“It looks perfect! It so - makes your upper arms look bigger, very large.”

“You think so?”

Lex thought back to the words he said to Sasha about women. Now he regretted not bragging more.

“You look like you spend your days in the gym.”

“I do work out from time to time,” smiled Lex, trying to sound modest.

“And it pays off,” Zandra looked at him seductively, with her eyes wide open. Lex was losing himself in the ocean of lust, and he would certainly throw Sasha out of the cafe, taking this girl on a date he had so carefully prepared for his sister, had the door not opened.

As Amber opened the door, Lex blinked. The unstoppable desire was gone and he was back in dull reality.

“Alright!” exclaimed Amber with best faked enthusiasm imaginable, “I am ready! And please, Lex, don’t ever come barging into my room again?”

Lex was at loss for words. Zandra only smiled before following Salene into the room by the cafe, in case something would go wrong and Amber would need help.

As Amber entered the cafe, Sasha was already sitting by the long table with golden tablecloth on it. The table was all set; plates were in their place and something that looked like Dark Roman Wine had already been poured in elegant glasses.

Sasha smiled timidly as he looked Amber. She was beautiful, yet again. He tried to dismiss his sweaty hands but at the same time believed they were the most obvious thing in the room.

“Hello, Sasha,” she greeted him in a low, seductive voice.

He had to grab the edge of the table to prevent falling from a chair. Women in short, exposing dresses were not something his heart was used to.

“H-h-hi?”

“You look very nice tonight,” she said and sat down by the other side of the table.

“So do you.”

“This old thing? Oh, it’s nothing, really,” she laughed, trying to look flattered.

Sasha remembered Lex’s words. Compliments, he heard his voice in his head.

“Well … It looks good on you,” he smiled. It was a stiff grin and Amber knew he was on the right track.

One of the waitresses brought a large pot to the table and the smell of soup spread across the room. She was about to put it on the table.

“Thank you, Danni, but I don’t think we’ll be having any,” said Amber. “It’s a bit too hot for a soup, don’t you think Sasha?”

For a moment Sasha thought she was talking to him. He blushed and in fear of stuttering only nodded.

“Let’s just skip to the dessert,” suggested Amber. She put her elbows on the table and leant her chin on her hands. She looked at Sasha, smiling, with a dreamy look in her eyes. Sasha felt how his legs were urging him to run away.

COMPLIMENTS! Lex once again shouted in his head.

Sasha cleared his throat.

“The thing you’ve got around your eyes, it makes them look like a sun. They shine like sun,” he started and with every additional word spoken he felt more relaxed, more confident. Maybe he was actually nervous for nothing, “or stars if there are no clouds on the sky at night which, here, in our climate, unfortunately does not happen often. Usually you don’t get to see too many stars. Which is sad because you don’t see many shooting stars either. And they are so lovely! Did you know?”

With every word he spoke, Amber’s smile was fading. She had no idea what the hell he was talking about. Moreover, she didn’t even want to.

“Oh, shooting stars? That’s when you can make a wish?” she quickly interrupted.

“Yes. But did you know?”

“It is such a terrible shame you didn’t see many of them,” sighed Amber and got up. She walked to Sasha and with every step she took he realized he was no longer protected with the length of the table. The closer she got, the more he struggled to breathe.

When she reached him, she sat on the edge of the table and crossed her legs. It might have been the wax she had used but his eyes were glued on them.

“Maybe we could pretend that we saw a shooting star tonight, that I am your shooting star? Tell me what your heart desires, what do you want me to do?”

She freed her hair and let curls fell onto her shoulders.

Sasha’s face was covered with sweat as she slowly touched his leg with hers. He struggled to collect himself.

“Your lips are the color of coral,” he said in a high pitched voice as she leant forward and he found himself staring like never before,“and your … Em…”

“My what?” she breathed in anticipation.

He decided to skin that line.

“Your sk-skin is white, like snow, like daisies.”

“I don’t want to be a daisy - that’s for little girls I want to be ? yours ?” she leant even closer and poor Sasha felt her breath in his skin as she whispered into his ear, “only yours ?”

“You smell like…” he had trouble focusing and words came out as disorganized, chaotic mess. He felt like he was on fire. “Your words are like music … like birds’ singing in the morning, blackbirds’ - they are especially nice. I had a chance to listen to them…”

She moved closer to his lips and Sasha had to remind himself to breathe. There was a waterfall on his face and a loud rock concert in his chest.

“Birds? No offense but … I don’t want to hear about bird now, I want - you?” she sighed and just as she was about to kiss her frog, Sasha’s self-preserving instincts kicked in. He let out a cry and leant back, trying to escape. His movement was so sudden that both he and the chair he was sitting on, flew to the floor.

She looked at him, scared he might have hurt himself but Sasha jumped back to his feet.

“I’m fine, don’t worry,” he hoarsed and indeed he felt no pain in his state. The distance between them was once again bearable. He finally started breathing again and felt human again. “A goddess? A goddess, you walk like a goddess.”

Relieved he was alright, Amber continued her little show. She knelt down, next to her undesired fiance. Sasha’s eyes dilated in horror as her fingers slid down his cheek.

“I will be your goddess indeed, tonight.”

He moved back, out of her touch.

“Actually, on the second thought - I am not feeling too well, it must have been soup.”

Amber laughed it off.

“But we had no soup, silly.”

“Then the one at lunch,” he muttered and climbed back on his feet.

“I will be the best burse you can imagi…”

But before Amber could finished, Sasha staggered out of the cafe, almost falling over the fallen chair in the process.

Amber let out a deep sigh of joy. It worked!

CHAPTER FIVE

Un Amigo Mio/Interlude

Ebony’s days were certainly not making her happy.

Since that dinner she had so generously yet unknowingly set up for Trudy and Zoot things were going downhill with the speed of sound. Zoot was a careless boy in love and spent as much time with Trudy as if she were his Siamese twin. He led the tribe from bed and made plans about tribal gathering in bath. He was overwhelmed with power, this magical boy, and didn’t need his strategic partner, Ebony, to help him. He totally forgot about her, actually. The two of them hadn’t spent enough time together for her to tell she had a plan. She could not form even a greeting!

Bray was no better. Every time the two of them found themselves in the same room, he made up some pity excuse and left. He avoided her as if she had the virus.

She was a stray with a home. Or house, since it had lost that warm, dysfunctional family charm.

Ebony was fed up with it. She deserved better.

She knew better.

She would get back into the spotlight, throwing Trudy off stage.

As the clock neared midnight, she sneaked into the improvised pharmacy the Locos had set up with help of one of their slaves.

The guard was sleeping like a rock. Just another proof of how much Zoot needed her, Ebony thought. Things in the tribe were falling apart and if they - no, if Zoot was not careful, all of them would end up being Mallrats’ slaves.

Ebony was nobody’s slave.

She took a bottle of Laxative off the shelf. In the morning, at breakfast, she would use Zoot’s reduced attention and put some into Trudy’s tea or whatever that annoying little uptown brat would be drinking. Above the recommended amount, of course; the amount had to unable Trudy from going to the gathering as Zoot’s companion.

Then the great leader of The Locos would have no choice but to take Ebony out for a dance! The gathering was a perfect opportunity to remind him why she was an ideal partner for him - intelligent, resourceful, crafty. She would enchant him enough to at least share the spotlight with Trudy. And eventually, she would climb back onto the top!

Oh, Ebony grinned just thinking about it!


Jay and Dal walked into Jack’s workroom and found their little genius bending over the table, frowning and cursing. Last days he was working on the wind turbine without rest but looked like he was going nowhere. It was especially evident for Lex who was getting impatient. This invention was the missing piece in his mosaic of success at the gathering.

Since he was too busy picking the right garment for the gathering with Zandra and Sasha was still in bed feeling unwell, he appointed Jay to bring Jack the little present he had thought of.

Dal was Amber’s childhood friend whose skills when it came to repairing things were impressive. Although he was officially working for Lex as an agricultural advisor, he was now told to help Jack with the turbine.

Jack didn’t hear them walk in. After standing silently for a minute , Dal felt like his position in the tribe didn’t allow him to take charge and speak up - Jay, still half asleep, drifting in his mind without any track of time finally cleared his throat.

Jack jumped up, and things he was working on flew into the air and crashed onto the ground. He turned to unwelcomed visitors with rage in his eyes.

“Look what you made me do!” he yelled.

Jay was completely unaffected. He tried to roll up the collar of his shirt to hide the hickey on his neck; the hickey everyone - minus Jack, probably - already knew about and were guessing and betting who caused it.

“Hi, Jack,” Dal smiled after finally realizing Jay was not going to say anything.

“No, there’s no need to apologize!”

“Sorry. How’s the turbine doing?”

“Look on the floor - how do you think it’s doing?”

“Lex sent me to help you making it.”

Jack stared pop-eyed.

“Ah, you are the one with magic wand!”

“No, I’m just good at fixing things.”

Dal thought Jack was about to throw him out, screaming he didn’t need any help. And indeed, this was the first thing that crossed his mind. But then he looked down, on what he had done so far - practically nothing.

He sighed.

“Well, I guess it can’t be worse than it is!”

Finally satisfied with hickey’s hiding place Jay smiled.

“Well, I’ll go tell Lex the good news!” he smiled.


And so everything was well on the morning of tribal gathering! The turbine was working; the right garments had been picked. As the two tribes were waking up before dawn, none suspected that this was a morning like no other before; nobody even dared to think that the end of the world they had known was once again nearing. Both leaders’ had intricate plans for the future so no one had any reason to believe that fate would introduce a completely different one, its own version, very soon.

See, this was the morning when two tragic love birds would meet for the very first time.

CHAPTER SIX
Evil, Glee & Fairy Tale Part I

Zoot’s temper was notorious and Trudy knew he was getting impatient. Yet there was nothing she could do to help!
He knocked on bathroom door again.
" Trudy!" he shouted. “We gotta go! We are gonna be late for the gathering!”
She gritted her teeth.
" I can’t!" she exclaimed. She groaned. Why, why was this happening to her, today of all days?
“What do you mean … you can’t?” Zoot rolled his eyes.
“I mean I can’t go!”
“Do you want me to call a doctor?” he asked and there was a trace of worry in his voice.
She fought tears.
“No,” she said, “just… Go to the gathering, Zoot. Just , go.”
Zoot shrugged. He was the tribe’s leader after all. He put too much effort into preparing for the gathering to stay behind with his sick girlfriend.
He turned around and walked away.
“Ebony!” he shouted. “Ebony, where are you? I need you!”
Ebony was already dressed up, waiting on Zoot at the entrance. What a thoughtful, reliable woman she was!
Trudy wiped away tears. Of all people he would take Ebony? It was too excruciating to even think about! She would have to spend the whole day in the bathroom while Ebony - Ebony would be with Zoot and Bray!

In her mind, Trudy already greeted life as a slave which she would doubtlessly get after Ebony would smitten the two brothers.

The gathering took place at the beach. Light ocean breeze was greeting the two tribes when they arrived.
Lex was pumped, Amber bored out of her mind, Salene grateful to have been invited to come along, Ryan was stoic, Sasha felt uncomfortable, Jay was wandering around, KC was trembling with fear at Troy’s, Jack doubtful about his invention and Dal was optimistic.
Everyone had a mission to walk around, listen, observe, find out about The Locos as much as they could and everyone was lost in their own thoughts, only half listening when Lex gave orders.

On the other side of the gathering, Zoot was confused, torn between excitement and worry; Ebony had the best day in weeks and was grinning uncontrollably; Bray could not wait for the meeting to be over. Meeting? It didn’t really involve lots of talk, to be honest. Locos were just standing, looking round, waiting for Zoot to take charge.
He should have sent everyone to walk around, listen and observe, trying to find out as much as they could about Mallrats and their plans. But Zoot was lost in his thoughts and could not focus on his surroundings.
Zoot found everyone’s eyes on him to be annoying.
He waves with his hand.
“Just go!” he yelled, “you all know what to do!”
He turned around and marched away. The Locos looked at each other, unsure of what his words meant.

Ebony rolled her eyes.
“You heard the man, let’s go!” she said and as if she threatened with a gun they all started running in different directions. Only Bray walked away slowly, with his hands in his pockets.
Oh, Ebony wanted to follow him so much!
But instead, she sighed and went after Zoot. She had a feeling he would need her.

Lex strolled around the gathering, looking for zoot. He bumped into several people he recognized as Locos but he didn’t bother dealing with them; he was convinced other Mallrats would do it. He, as a leader, would take care of Zoot.
He was already walking in third circle but he still hadn’t caught a glimpse of his target. Lex frowned. Where was Zoot? It didn’t make any sense. He HAD to be there somewhere!
Unless - like him he too was spying on the leader of the other tribe!
Of course, Lex had no idea that Zoot wasn’t playing hide and seek; actually he couldn’t care less about Lex at the moment. He was standing by the stand where jewellery was being sold. Definitely not a place where you’d expect to see a leader!

Ebony was perfectly aware of it. The leader should lead, win battles not drool over his girl who was a nobody anyway! Ebony struggled to hide how irritated she was.
" Silly Trudy!" exclaimed Zoot while looking at the earrings. Ebony knew that Trudy didn’t have earholes but refrained from saying anything. “How dared she get food poisoning on the day of the gathering?! Does she really have no idea how important this is?”
Ebony was silent. Certainly she wasn’t about to admit that Trudy was not the one who chose this day to be perfect for “food poisoning” .
“I give her everything I possibly can yet she is so undeserving?”
“Stupid of her, I know.”
Ebony looked around. The Mallrats, the useless stinky voles were everywhere yet Zoot hadn’t noticed! Didn’t even care to notice them, apparently! She was outraged!
“I just hope they are taking good care of her.”
“I am sure they are.”
“I will buy her something,” Zoot decided. “To make her day nicer when we get back!”
Zoot started looking at the necklaces and negotiating the price. The seller was either afraid of Zoot or simply honoured to have such an important costumer that he was prepared to sell it for basically nothing.

Ebony used this moment of Zoot’s inattention to step to some of their men. They just stood, catching sunrays with their faces, wasting time.
“You want to be slaves for the end of your lives?!” she hissed at them.
They looked at each other, confused.
“You will be just that if you don’t go find out what that Lex is up to!” she added.
She grinned proudly when they obeyed. There was no universe in which Trudy could compete with that!

Amber certainly had no intention to spy on The Locos. She wanted to crawl somewhere and hide from her brother and Sasha. Lex’s enthusiasm was making her insane and Sasha’s petty expression was sending creeps down her spine.
She dragged Salene with her as she walked down the shore, away from the gathering. Music was gradually fading and screams of seagulls were taking over.
“Have you seen him`?” suddenly asked Salene.
“Who?” quickly exclaimed Amber, looking around, fearfully. “Sasha? Is Sasha here?”
“No! Back there, have you seen Zoot’s brother?”

Amber looked at her in disbelief.
" Why? Why would I want to see his brother? I didn’t even know he had one."
“Oh my god, you don’t know what you’rw missing. He is just … oh my god. Why does he have to be a Loco?”
“Hmmm, wild guess, because his brother is their leader?”
" You don’t seem to be happy today, Amber," Salene remarked as she saw how her friend’s corner of mouths were turned down and eyelids were losing its battle with gravity.
“Oh Salene, you have no idea, I could not care less about this stupid gathering. What’s the point? If the Earth cracked and opened right now, and I would fall into that crack and cook in burning magma, I’d be happier than I am right now.”
“Don’t talk like this! You should not be sad; you are…”
“My own brother’s prisoner!”
“But you said it went well that evening with Sasha!”
“It did but - does it make me a bad person if I wish Zoot would win? Being a slave doing - whatever slaves do cannot be worse than marry that?”
“Don’t be so gloomy, Amber; I’m sure in the end…”
" You have no idea how happy you can be, Salene! You have a place to stay, you have food, you are safe, you wear these pretty dresses, you’ re my… well, you know, you are basically me! Just that you don’t have to marry that douchebag your life is a fairytale comparing to mine! Oh, I wish I was you!"

Salene’s life was by no means perfect, especially when she had to listen to Amber whining and whining with no end.
Ryan who ran toward them saved her from a pickle of answering.
“What is it, Ryan?” she asked.
" The dancing will start soon," Ryan responded, grinning.
Amber crossed her arms.
“What dancing?”
" You know, that weird spiritual girl suggested we take a moment and dance, it is supposed to bring us peace and make us happy?"
Oh, Ryan was living in his own perfect world! With his teddy bear eyes he naively believed dancing could actually improve one’ s misery. She could dance for hours but Amber would stay just as dismayed as she was.
" Oh, I don’t dare to show my face around there!" exclaimed Amber, " if Lex sees me, I’ll go straight to dancing with Sasha and puke into the ocean for the rest of the day, with my luck killing all flora and fauna in there. But you can go! Just go, have fun! You guys make such a cute couple. I’ll be fine, ain’t like anyonre’s here. I’ll be here, alone, happy, yay."

Music started and it was time for dancing.
Zoot was feeling sorry for himself, walking up and down. There was no way Ebony could make him dance with her.
Bray, on the other hand, was just as tall, handsome, angelic as ever and as always, Ebony could not resist reaching for this desired candy.
She walked up to him and made sure she put on the nicest smile she possessed.

“You want to dance, Bray?”
The majority of men could not say no to her. She was aware of her looks and the effect it had on men. No one really looked her in the eye but she didn’t mind.
Of all men, the one she wanted the most was immune to her seduction.

“Don’t think so Ebony,” he dismissed her and walked away, away from all, away from the noise, the chaos, into the freedom, peace and - Future.

Some coincidence - or was it fate - wanted Bray to walk into the same direction, to the same part of shore where Amber was. Both wandering souls were lost in their thought and didn’t perceive each other’s presence until they almost collided.

“Oh,” smiled Amber as her cheeks turned red.
“Sorry, I didn’t know this place was taken already,” he laughed and felt better than he did in a long while.
“Well, it doesn’t have my name on it so I guess it is just as mine as it is yours.”

There was something intriguing about this stranger. His smile was captivating and she could not look away.
There was something about her eyes. Her beauty took his breath away and he had to remind himself to breathe.
And so our woeful hero and heroine met for the first time, away from the world they lived in, in their own little universe that would end taking them and changing others forever.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Evil, Glee & Fairy Tale Part II

Ebony crossed her arms and looked around. Her stomach was turning upside down. They came to the gathering and yet, somehow they all ended up dancing. And she, of all people, the candy for men’s eyes, was alone. She went through so much trouble to get rid of Trudy - was this karma? Was she now lying in the bed she had made for herself?

In that case she refused to sleep at all. She would be awake, waiting for the maid to come and change the bed linen. After all, there were so many great things you couldn’t do while asleep!

“Ebony! Ebony!” She turned around the moment she heard Zoot calling her. And she saw him, running towards her. Oh, such a fairytale ending! He had an epiphany and realized she was the one! All’s well that ends well!

“What is it, Zoot?” she asked with a smile. She waited to be pulled into embrace and move slowly to the rhythm of music. She got none of it. Zoot stopped a few metres from her.

“Look! I found Lex! There he is!” her evasive lover pointed to the right.

Swallowing the disappointment, Ebony too saw Lex. Like a lost pigeon he was walking around without any noticeable direction. For a leader he looked pathetic. Although, Ebony thought, today Zoot really wasn’t much better.

“Now, Ebony, go to him and find out what the hell he’s up to.”

Ebony frowned.

“What?”

“You want me to send Ryan? You are a woman and he’s a guy!”

Well, if she was a woman, then how come Zoot was treating her like a male?

Irritatedly she walked up to him. She opened the upper two buttons of her shirt. If she was gonna do that she’d excelled at it.

“Well, hi, Lex, we’re lookin’ particularly?” she dispelled anger from her voice.

Although Lex was a man with poor control of his instincts, he recognized a fox when he saw one.

“Ha, Ebony, whatever you came here for, it ain’t gonna work!” he jumped backwards.

“What do you think I’m here for?”

“We both now,” he said with his partly closed.

“Then if you know I came to greet you, why don’t you greet me back?” she smiled. Lex had to bran all his strength not to smile back to this pretty, wily lady.

“Hahaha, Ebony, you’re smooth!”

“This isn’t the s of smooth!” she stepped closer to him. Before he could respond Zoot joined this party for two. He protectively stood behind Ebony, looking at Lex with warning, terrifying eyes.

Ebony’s heart skipped. If Zoot arrived the moment she was about to get closer to Lex it must have meant something, didn’t it? He could deny it but deep in his core, Zoot truly wanted her!

“Oh, hello, Zoot,” said Lex provokingly.

“Hello,” Zoot threw a glance at Lex. “Here you are, Ebony, I have been looking all over for you.”

“Zoot, I’ve got something to show you!” exclaimed Lex.

Zoot was not used to people talking directly to him without his permission.

“I am not particularly interested, Lex,” he hissed. Lex was already annoying him without this recklessness.

“It’s something you have never seen before!”

“I ain’t any more interested than I was 5 seconds ago,” the leader of the Locos sighed irritated.

“Think of batteries! They get empty, don’t they?”

“That’s why I have replacements. What’s the point?”

“Yeah, but when you run out of those?”

“I am Zoot, I never run out of anything.”

“Hypothetically speaking?”

“Hypothetically speaking, you are annoying me, Lex.”

“Then follow me, maybe your eyes will convince you if I can’t!” Lex rolled his eyes and with determined steps walked towards Jack and Dal who were guarding their invention, the wind turbine.

Zoot laughed in disbelief. Lex wasn’t serious about following him, was he? Zoot could have him for a morning snack if he wanted to.

But curiosity got the better of him. He sighed and followed, not casting another glance at Ebony. He didn’t even thank her for her efforts. Like any girl desperate for boy’s attention she believed it was because the scenery was too public to show emotions.

Jack moaned as he saw the great and terrifying leader of the rivalry tribe coming near him. He remembered the treatment he had gotten in high school from bullies like Zoot.

“Well, Jack, tell him!” proudly exclaimed Lex.

“Tell - what?”

“About the turbine,” Lex encouraged him.

Zoot looked at the little genius sceptically.

“Well,” Jack cleared his throat, “this is…”

“Metal junk?” suggested Zoot.

Jack could feel the bravery leaving his body. He was quite sure he would not be Lex’s priority to protect if this ended badly.

“No?”

“Just junk, then?”

“It produces electricity,” jumped in Dal, “with a couple of wires you can refill the batteries.”

“Yeah?” Zoot crossed his arms, not looking convinced.

“It is a never-ending source of power,” nodded Lex enthusiastically.

Zoot seemed to be thinking. Lex was convinced he hot through to him, finally and he could not hide his wining grin.

The suddenly his rival burst out laughing.

“And now you want me to give you a reward for it or something?”

Jack was already looking for a way out while Lex felt like someone hit him with a baseball bat.

“No!” he exclaimed, offended, “I’m just showing…”

“Off?” interrupted Zoot.

He was partly right, Lex could not deny.

“Well?”

“Shut up, Lex, I am not interested.”

“Weren’t you the one who always said it’s good to have a back-up?” Lex still wasn’t willing to let go.

“You were the back-up, not me, Lex,” replied Zoot, completely unaffected.

“You’re just jealous because I’ve got something you don’t,” Lex shrugged with his voice hurt. “And you can’t have it.”

Zoot laughed again and shook his head in disbelief. Lex was annoying him most of the time but every now and then, he was quite entertaining. Why would he, of all people, even want to have this immensely ugly hodgepodge?

He turned around to walk away again when he got an idea.

None of the Mallrats saw it coming; none tried to stop Zoot from pushing the turbine to the ground, causing it to break into billions of pieces.

It was like a slow motion. Dal stared with his eyes wide open. Jack’s hands rubbed his temples. Lex let out a silent scream and the peace was over.

Zoot just laughed.

“Yeah, right, now you don’t have it anymore either! And the world is happy again.”

The world was a heaven for Bray and Amber.

There was never a day more beautiful than this one. The sun had never before shone so brightly; the birds ad never sang this joyfully; the waves were hitting the shore in all its perfection and no one had ever experienced the feelings they were now losing themselves in as they sat, away from the gathering, so close to each other that their bodies almost touched.

Moments had passed since they met for the very first time yet it was like they had spent an eternity together already. They were two strangers who had known each other their whole lives.

They didn’t speak much. They were overwhelmed, surprised by how real it felt and slightly ashamed, afraid the other didn’t feel the same way. Really, there were no words that could express. The language was man’s creation and this was surpassing everything earthly by miles

“I haven’t seen you in town - are you from the countryside?” he finally asked. Words made the feeling vanish for a moment; it was just enough to collect himself and gain some control. The will had left him; he longed but didn’t give his body permission to lean closer to her, this queen, this goddess of his world. He feared it was too soon to touch her divine lips; experience its mighty warmth and delicacy.

This man was incarnation of all her hopes; it was Santa’s belated gift, a fulfilled wish from so many years ago when envying her favourite’s Barbie white wedding she asked the man in red for her own Ken; he was what Emma Bovary never got to reach; she was a Snow White and he her Prince Charming and they would live happily ever after!

“No, I’m from the city just - I don’t go out much.”

She couldn’t make herself tell the truth. Her heart knew it was not true, but she feared that he might not accept her had he known who she really was. Lex’s sister. She didn’t want to be Helen of Troy; yes, she wanted her Paris but she could not stand wars and blood and tears!

“Understandable,” he smiled. “But I… I don’t get it. How come you are here, not there, dancing with someone?”

“I’ve got no one to dance with.”

“Neither did I - till now.”

After what seems like an eternity of bleak, cold, unforgiving winter, spring arrives. Slowly life returns to the earth everything begins to wake up. Nothing looks back; everything cherishes the present and breathes in the fresh, rich, bursting air.

A flower sprouts, taking in the warmth of the sunrays, and in what seems like a moment, a blossom opens and it blooms in its lively, vigour colors. The beauty, the simplicity takes over the world and you cannot help yourself - when you see this little, null blossom, so insignificant comparing to its surrounding yet so beautiful in your eyes, your heart screams of joy.

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?” she whispered.

“Are you nobody, too?”

“Then there’s a pair of us, don’t tell!”

“They’d banish us, you know!”

Once again their faces got closer and closer. An invisible force, magnetism was drawing them to each other and it could not be resisted. Nor they wanted to resist; they would be fools for dismissing something so ? perfect and real and holy!

Jay interrupted them before they could kiss; in hindsight, one has to wonder, if this the first sign how their love story would end.

“Amber!” he shouted.

She jumped up, away from Bray. Whatever she felt, her body was still promised to someone else.

“What is it, Jay?”

“Your brother did the most stupidest thing.”

“Sounds like him!”

“We gotta go, he sent me to.”

Her heart cried as her cousin was urging her to go. She turned to her star-crossed lover.

“I gotta go,” she whispered, feeling tears gathering in her eyes. Last thing she wanted was to let go of him, of this magic she felt.

“Will I see you again?” he reached out for her hand, desperate.

“Come and find me!” she pleaded but moved her hand before she could feel the touch she yearned for.

“Where?”

“Follow your heart,” she said as a tear fell from her eyes. Now her hand found its way into Jay’s and he began dragging her away, out of the embrace of love.

Bray followed her with his eyes until she disappeared in the distance.