Ted Kenner sat up straighter on his bed in an attempt to relieve the kinks forming in his neck. It was probably time to put the video game away, but he was so close to reaching level fifteen. When Jack created Resolution, he told Ted there was no way he was going to win against the computer. A game of strategy, the program had been written in such a way that the game learned from its opponent and continually came up with new strategies. No one in the entire Dome had made it to level fifteen yet. But then again, Ted had a lot of time on his hands.
The kinks wouldn’t go away no matter what position he was in, and he slammed the tablet down on the mattress in frustration. Rolling off the bed, he fell to the floor and did twenty-five push-ups, jumped to his feet and ran in place, then back down for twenty-five more. He grabbed a weight in each hand and curled his arms twenty times, and then repeatedly pushed the heavy objects straight up above his head. Depositing the weights back on the floor, he lay flat and went into a series of fifty push-ups, twisting his torso each time he rose to touch his elbow to the opposite knee.
After thirty minutes of cross training, he felt the familiar rush of adrenaline course through his body, relaxing his muscles and blasting away the kinks. He stood in front of the full-length mirror in his closet and checked out his physique. He had always been fit, but days spent under house arrest with little else to do but exercise was having an effect. He wished he could show it off in front of Nina Forbes. Before all this house-arrest business, he and Nina had been hitting it off. She was one of the prettiest girls in the Dome and, next to Leisel Holt, the most eligible. The Forbes were a very aristocratic family.
Though now that Jack was no longer the heir to the presidency, he wondered if Nina still liked him. He wondered if any of his friends still liked him. Ted had always been fairly popular at school, but this past year as the younger brother of the heir had been his best. Being related to someone with that kind of celebrity status had its privileges, although now that Jack was no longer the heir he was pretty sure those privileges were gone. In fact, he was pretty sure most people in the Dome associated the Kenner name with traitor.
Not for the first time since the wedding fiasco, Ted tried to put himself in Jack’s shoes. The power, prestige, and wealth were all his for the taking. Why did he throw it all away? Ted refused to believe Jack had done it out of love for an urchin girl. He knew his brother would never take advantage of the women they brought up from the Pit. The Kenners were firm believers in the unity of family and permissible adultery made a mockery of that. And hadn’t Jack looked just as surprised as everyone else when the girl’s veil had been ripped off? Something wasn’t right about the whole thing. Sure, Jack had been upset about having to marry Leisel. Far from being in love with her, he always said she creeped him out a little. But Jack had the strongest sense of duty of anyone Ted knew. He was passionate about toppling the Holt dictatorship and restoring democracy to the Dome. It was a quality he had always admired about his brother, though never envied.
Now his brother was missing and so was the future Ted had mapped out for himself. He had been looking forward to a simple, yet rich life. Once he graduated from the Academy – with honors and his name embroidered on the school’s prestigious black belt as the top martial arts student for his graduating year – he planned to apply to the air force. A lot of people thought maintaining an air force inside the Dome was laughable. But Ted knew if the earth ever did become habitable again, pilots would be needed to explore the new world. Besides, training to fly the helicopters was done on a simulator, and what better way to spend every day at work than on a fun computer game. Marrying Nina Forbes would only complete his perfect life.
But there was little chance any of that was going to happen now.
Depression began to nip at him, so he went in search of his parents. Martin Kenner sat at the table reading something on his tablet with a cup of coffee close at hand. Like Ted, he was still in his pajama pants. On the other hand, his mother, Ellen, was dressed and ready for the day as if her life had never been interrupted. From her tablet, the voice of a narrator droned out her favorite novel. He wasn’t sure if she was actually listening to it as she pored over the books scattered all over the coffee table.
“Still working on that defense, mom?” Ted asked.
“Yes. At least someone in this house is doing something to save our family,” she replied indignantly.
She was trying to put together a good defense for when they had to face the tribunal on charges of sympathizing with a traitor. Ted and his father were too realistic to waste their energy on that. If Holt wanted them guilty, there was no argument that would save them.
“Did lunch come yet?” Ted asked. He wasn’t really hungry, but he looked forward to the meals that were delivered three times a day. It broke the monotony and helped pass the time.
“Not for another half hour,” his father said.
“Do you want to spar until then?” Ted asked.
“I think I pulled something yesterday.” He rubbed the side of his leg as if to prove the claim.
Ted stifled a laugh. He knew his father was out of shape. Martin had never made it a secret that he thought investing so much time learning to fight a foe that didn’t exist was inexcusably ludicrous. They were the last of humankind. As a history professor, he believed that arming young adults with education was the best use of their time in the Dome. They didn’t need to know how to fight; they needed to know how to live in peace.
“I have to practice if you want the Kenner name on the belt again this year,” Ted said.
His father flashed him a tolerant smile and it rubbed Ted the wrong way. He knew his father didn’t think he stood a chance of getting his name on the belt. Not because he wasn’t good enough, but because the odds were good Ted wouldn’t be graduating from the Academy at all. He glanced at his mother, busy putting together their defense. Maybe she would actually come up with an argument that could save them from being executed as traitors.
Martin put down his tablet and stood.
“Move the furniture this time,” his mother said, without looking up from her work.
Ted and his father didn’t argue with her; they just did as they were told. Ellen was very much the nerve center of the family. While the Kenner men went about their careers and daily life, it was Ellen who led their quiet revolt against the Holt regime. It had been her ingenious idea to organize a ‘ladies tea’ – a guise where ladies belonging to Liberty could publicly meet and exchange information. It was through this network that she learned Leisel Holt was interested in Jack. And from that small grain of information, his mother had orchestrated Jack’s engagement and secured his position as heir.
“Martin, I’ve been thinking,” Ellen said. “Maybe it’s time to share the videos.”
Ted flipped his father over his hip and Martin hit the floor with a thump. A whoosh erupted from his mouth.
“What videos?” Martin asked, glaring at her.
Ted reached down and helped his father up, his middle-aged bones cracking in the silence that followed his sarcastic question. Ted had to agree with him. What was she thinking? There were cameras all over their apartment. In fact, they were probably being watched at this very moment. She knew better than to divulge the family secret. If the president ever suspected that videos condemning the original President Holt as a murderous betrayer existed, he would have their apartment torn up and obliterate them. The historical information was too valuable to let that happen.
She sat up a little straighter and smoothed out her perfectly coifed hair. “The family videos, of course. Your cousins have been asking to see them for ages.” It was a lie. Not a perfect lie, but at least a somewhat believable one.
It was painful for Ted to watch his mother slowly unravel. None of them had expected to be cooped up in their apartment awaiting trial for this long. The anxiety of their unknown fate was bringing them all to the breaking point. Yet the delay could only mean one thing; Jack was still missing. Not that Ted wasn’t worried about his brother, but his fingers were crossed that Jack would stay hidden for a long time for all their sakes. Holt couldn’t formally charge them with being sympathizers until Jack was first tried and found guilty of being a traitor. The law was on their side.
Ted ducked a right hook from his father, drove his shoulder into his middle-aged stomach, and flipped him again. His father moaned just as a knock at the door sounded through the apartment.
“Oh good, lunch is early,” Ted quipped. He hurried to answer the knock, leaving his father to pick himself up. Martin stood and stretched his aching back, grimacing at the loud cracking noise it made. “What the—” Ted started.
His parents must have heard the shock in his voice because they were standing beside him within seconds. Two Domers stood at the door.
“We’ve been instructed to collect Ted Kenner. He’s wanted for questioning,” said one of the guards.
“Now wait a minute!” Martin stepped in front of Ted. “He’s a minor. He doesn’t go anywhere without a parent.”
“He’s seventeen?” the guard asked.
“Yes,” Ellen said in a defeated tone. “Who requested him? What is this all about?”
“It’s just part of the investigation. No harm will come to him.”
“If you’re beginning the investigation, that must mean Jack’s been found,” she said.
“We haven’t been given any information, ma’am. Our orders are to bring Ted Kenner in for questioning. That’s it.”
“It’s okay, mom, I’ll go. Maybe I can find out what’s going on.
Ignoring his father’s protests, Ted stepped out into the hall with the guards. He didn’t think he was in any danger. The laws were very clear about being innocent until proven guilty. And this was just the beginning of the investigation, not the trial. However, his confidence faltered when the guards took him to the presidential floor and stopped in front of Leisel Holt’s suites. This wasn’t right.
Leisel answered the door, a broad smile lighting up her face. “Ted! How good to see you. I’ve missed you.”
She stepped forward and kissed his cheek. Reflexively, he pulled back. He hadn’t seen Leisel since the wedding fiasco and this certainly wasn’t the reception he expected from her. He assumed Leisel was furious with the Kenners.
“Good to see you too,” he lied.
“Please come in.”
Ted stepped past her into the living room, not quite sure why he was here. One of the guards followed him in, but Leisel halted him.
“That will be all, Desmond.” The guard gave her a confused look. “Thank you,” she said with a firm voice. Reluctantly, he returned to his post in the hall. Leisel closed the door.
“Please Ted, make yourself at home. I’ve really been quite distraught thinking about you cooped up in that apartment. How are your parents?”
“We’re fine, thank you. Well, other than we’re worried about Jack.”
“We’re all worried about Jack,” Leisel declared. Ted raised his eyebrows at her declaration. “Don’t look so surprised. You know, despite how horrible he’s been to me, I still love him. I can’t just turn off my feelings; although, believe me I’ve prayed that I could. You have no idea the hell I’ve been through.”
A tear escaped her eye and trickled down her cheek.
“Don’t blame yourself. I’m not sure what Jack was thinking, but I bet when we find him he’ll tell us it was all just a big mistake. I know my brother. He would never deliberately hurt anybody, especially you.”
Leisel wiped the tear from her cheek and sniffled. “And that’s all I want to do Ted – find Jack. Get to the bottom of what’s happened. He was always so loving … so attentive. How could he hit me and lock me in a closet? How could he marry that urchin girl? It doesn’t make sense. None of it does!”
“I don’t know what to say, Leisel. I don’t know why my brother did it. It was – like you say – out of character.”
“Be honest with me, Ted. Have you heard from him?”
“No,” he said. Leisel gave him a beseeching look as if he was holding back the information. “We’re not connected to the LAN. It’s part of our house arrest. We’re not allowed to speak with anyone.”
“But Jack’s so good with computers, I figured he would’ve found a way around that.”
“I wish I could tell you he’s been in touch. I wish I knew where to find him.”
With this news, her shoulders sagged and her head drooped. She looked pathetically defeated. “You were my last hope.”
“I’m truly sorry for what my brother did to you.”
“I do believe you, Ted. You’ve always been good to me.” She gave him a weak smile, but suddenly perked up. “I have an idea. If I get you connected to the LAN again, will you tell me if you hear from him?”
For a moment, he eyed her suspiciously before lowering his lids to veil his indecision. He would like nothing better to than to be online again. The uncertainty of how his friends were reacting to his arrest – to Jack’s betrayal – was driving him crazy. He may not like what he discovered, but at least he would know how much damage had been done.
Still, something about Leisel’s offer didn’t seem quite right… like it had been rehearsed. Is that why she brought him here – to lure Jack out of hiding? If that was her plan, it had one fatal flaw; Ted would have to be honest with her if Jack did get in touch. And his loyalties were with his brother.
“You can’t tell anyone, though. My father would be angry. This has to be our secret.”
“Then maybe it isn’t such a good idea. My family is in enough trouble.” Ted held up his hands as if to ward off any more misfortune.
“If he found out I had you reconnected to the LAN, then I would be in just as much trouble. I need to know I can trust you too.”
Ted realized that was true. They would be in this together.
“I won’t tell anyone.” He was sure his friends wouldn’t rat him out.
“It’s settled then,” she smiled, and raised her hand to stroke his cheek. He tried not to flinch. “You look so much like your brother.”
He took a step away from her. Ted didn’t want her getting any ideas about him now that his brother was no longer available. His own sense of duty wasn’t nearly as strong as Jack’s. “Good to see you again too,” he said stiffly.
She walked to the door and opened it. The two guards snapped to attention, ready to escort him back to his apartment.
“Please give your parents my love.”
Ted nodded and joined the two guards out in the hallway. The door closed behind him.
As the guards escorted him down the hallway, he scratched his head and wondered what that was all about.
Written by: S.M. McEachern Proofread by: Christina Galvez