“Fuck,” Pandemic mutters as she lands with both feet into an outline of a single square on the empty school playground. She snatches up the rock she’s been using as a marker and with a sigh of disgust, returns to the top of the painted yellow squares. She’s been playing hopscotch for the last hour waiting for her friends to arrive, as Eradication’s text message had instructed. This strikes Pandemic as a little strange, since she didn’t remember Eradication mentioning a meeting this morning over coffee but, neither she nor Pandemic are much for communication in the morning, or even listening for that matter.

     It relieves Pandemic that none of her friends are what you would call conversationalists. They hardly ever interrupt her chain of thoughts, not that she’d notice. Although when she does realize they’re speaking to her, they’re usually shouting by then. But it’s times like these she wishes they’d just call on the damn phone rather than send text messages. The fact the five of them continued to use these throw-away phones, something Eradication had insisted early on, wasn’t helping any. She said they gave them all a level of protection from being hacked, whatever that means.

     Checking the generic phone again for the twenty-third time since she’d arrived, the time displays 11:15. Pandemic checks the message again to see if she’s somehow misunderstood it, but just like every other time she’s read it, it’s direct and leaves little room for misinterpretation.

     Mountain View Elementary School 10PM.

     “Screw this!” Pandemic huffs, before throwing the rock to the side and sending it skipping across the blacktop. “I’m out of here,” she mutters.

     As if the small flip-phone hears her, Pandemic feels it vibrate in her hand. She flips it open to see a new text message. Stay put. On our way, E. This makes Pandemic think even Eradication believes her name is too long.

     “You were supposed to be here over an hour ago, bitch!” Pandemic shouts at the phone as she snaps it shut. “Oh well,” she sighs. For a moment, she considers using the cheap phone as her new marker, but it still does stuff like vibrate, light up and play Pump It Up as it’s ringtone. Instead, she picks up another rock and tosses it into play, inside of the squares of the hopping game. She doesn’t know the rules, but she likes the way playing it makes her feel inside. In fact, playing any kind of game seems to make her happy, until they end. Pandemic almost remembers she might have played hopscotch once when she was little, but she doesn’t really remember being little. She just assumes she was younger once, maybe.

     She makes her first hop, landing in the lead square on her right foot with a satisfied grin. Her left leg is bent at the knee, keeping it at a ninety-degree angle as she contemplates her next move and as the police cruiser pulls in behind the school. As soon as the headlights hit her, the spinning blue lights come on and the beams go from low to high. Assuming the officers are just saying hello in a police sort of way, Pandemic waves a cherry hello, certain she hasn’t done anything to involve the police. At least not tonight anyway.

     “Don’t move!” comes over the loudspeaker. This seems stupid to Pandemic because the car is only twenty feet in front of her.

     “Why?” she asks, lowering her raised foot as her mood does the same.

     “I said don’t move!” the voice shouts again and Pandemic picks up on a hint of fear in the amplified words.

     “Not until you tell me why,” she shouts back, waving her hands around in a non-threatening but intentionally defiant manner. Although the bright lights from the car are making it difficult for Pandemic to see in the dark, she can make out the silhouettes of two officers getting out of the vehicle. “Hey guys. What’s up?” she asks, the cheer returning to her tone as she swings her arms back and forth.

     “I said don’t fucking move!” the driver shouts, as he and his partner pull something from their belts and point them at her. Pandemic assumes it’s their service weapons from the way they’re holding them in the traditional cup & saucer fashion.

     “Get on your knees!” the partner orders, stepping to the front of the cruiser and forcing Pandemic to look directly into the lights.

     “No,” she answers after frowning down at the ground.

     “We said get on the ground!” the driver shouts, joining his partner.

     “It’s dirty!” Pandemic replies.

     “On the ground! Now!” the partner screams.

     “Na-uh,” Pandemic answers with a shake of her head.

     “Get on the ground or we’ll put you there, bitch!” the officer demands as the two advance another step, still pointing their weapons at her.

     “Now you’re just trying to be mean,” Pandemic tells them, setting her hands on her hips. “And all those guns are going to do is piss me off.”

     “We know,” the partner says, pulling the trigger and firing the barbed pins attached to the filament leads from his modified Taser.

     Before Pandemic can react, her body seizes from the fifty thousand volts commanding her muscles to spasm. She drops to her knees, skinning them on the asphalt as her arms go rigid and the phone falls from her hand.

     “Hit her again!” the driver shouts.

     Another seemingly endless surge of electricity forces her fully to the ground, her muscles betraying her completely and curling her into a convulsive fetal position.

     “We’ve got her,” the driver says into the microphone clipped to his shoulder as he pulls out a set of thick zip-ties.

     “M-my f-r-riends are g-going to f-find m-me,” Pandemic stutters as the puckered skin around the electrified prongs begins to char and smoke. If she was able, she’d be smiling right now, knowing the hell her friends will deliver on these sons of bitches.

     “We’re planning on it,” the driver replies. switching off the blues.

     “A-and they’re g-going to f-fucking k-k-kill you!” she says through gritted teeth.

     “Juice her again,” he tells his partner as he kills the headlights. “And let’s get her out of here.”

     Five minutes and four more doses of electricity later, the two fake police officers have an unconscious Pandemic secured and loaded into the trunk of their car, after also shooting her up with horse tranquilizers. They drive around the school and take a left at the exit of the parking lot, as an older sedan rounds the corner down the block.

     “Do you think Pan’s still waiting there?” Hellbound asks from the backseat of the older sedan.

     “I told her to stay put,” Eradication answers.

     “Did you tell her about the flat tire?” Keening asks.

     “I told her to stay put,” Eradication repeats.

     “Did that cop car just pull out of the school?” Desolation asks, pointing at the fake cruiser as it passes.


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