My rational self fought against the whole venture at first. The risks were just too high. If we got caught, isolation would be the least of our problems. We had all heard the stories about the orphans that were sent to high level security institutions to receive special education to prevent them from turning into criminals. But life at the orphanage was unbearable and I didn’t want Max to grow up leading such a life, so I had to put my fears aside and get on with the training. For his sake. And for mine… a little bit…
So, every night I sneaked out of my room and joined the boys. And I have to admit that it felt like living an adventure. (Little did I know of what adventure would be like, when we got out of the orphanage). The danger of getting caught by the security system just made the whole thing even more… thrilling! We trained hard, pushed ourselves to the limit, learnt discipline and how to communicate with each other without needing words. We all had our ‘mind pads’ as all of you who have read the first novel know, but we had to train ourselves not to depend heavily on them, just in case we were caught and left without them. (‘Mind pads’ allow communication between people of Virtus by transmitting their thoughts to the person they chat with, as a text message. It is a device that taps on their neuron system.)
Alex’s enthusiasm was contagious. He kept the dream of escaping alive with tales of wonder about life outside the orphanage. I could almost taste the sweet flavor of freedom. The impact on Max was even more obvious. Day by day I watched him coming back to life. His eyes were sparkling and now there was always a subtle smile on his lips.
Alex taught us how to move without making any sound, how to disappear in the shadows, how to attack first when a fight is eminent, how to avoid hits, how to block them, how to anticipate your opponent’s next move. He also trained us on being fast, precise, always on balance, always have a straight face, never show fear, and always leave emotions out of a fight.
One night, we discovered a tiny storeroom that was unused for some time, near some of the kitchen staff’s apartments and decided to use it as our stash. We started hiding food and other supplies there, like blankets and flashlights, for our escape. We also started to keep our distance from the other kids and the orphanage’s personnel, trying to remain invisible at all times.
“It’s very important that people forget our faces”, Alex kept repeating.
“To be as if we never existed in this place”.
This is easier said than done. Especially when you are excited about something. And we were all really excited. Not only because we lived the dream of the escape everyday. But because we started having a secret bond with each other. This made everything special. It made us almost happy. And it is very difficult to be unnoticed when you are happy inside an orphanage.
And then, one night Alex announced that we’re ready.
“There’s nothing more I can, or need to teach you”, he said looking at us proudly.
“And now what?”, I asked.
“Now comes the hard part. We need to find a way to erase our files from the orphanage’s system and to bypass the security codes. And then we are out of here”.
“Max, could do that”, I said. I knew he could. My little brother is a genius on any software after all.
“The problem is that the security room is guarded 24/7”, Alex pointed out. “We will need a diversion to drive the guards out of there”.
We sat in silence struggling to come up with a solution. My mind was blank. It was so frustrating. We were so close now and I couldn’t-
“I have a plan”.
It was Max who broke the silence. We looked at him dumbfounded. It was his first words after months of silence. I felt tears burning my eyes. I jumped onto him and drowned him with kisses. I had never felt this happy in my life. He pushed me away after a while, exasperated.
“Spit it out, kid”, said Alex grinning.
He did. And it was a master-plan.
Told you, my little brother is a genius!