Shadowing Allie - Prologue, Chapter One, Chapter Two
By ---- J.
With my duffel bag slung over my shoulder and my water bottle grasped tightly in my left hand, I looked like a professional soccer player as I raced across the parking lot towards the soccer field behind Rose Canyon High School. I was angry with myself for getting out of the house late, only because I had typing an email to my best friend, Allie.
I was never late. I loved the fact that I was always right on time, sometimes even earlier than I needed to be, just because it created an ever-lasting good impression on the people who were there to see me arrive. Allie and I contrasted perfectly – she was the klutz, I was the perfect geek and soccer maniac. I was excited that Allie and I would be starting high school together this year, especially since we would be sharing some classes together.
My soccer practice started at three o’clock. As I pulled out my cell phone to check what time it was, it started to ring. The caller identification note at the bottom of the screen read ‘Al,’ which meant Allie was calling. The phone rang twice before I finally managed to flip it open and bring it to my ear.
I could hear my quick breathing echo through the phone line. “Hey, Al, what’s up?”
I was excited to hear Allie’s voice. “Nothing really,” she said. I wondered why she was calling, since I figured that she remembered I had soccer practice.
“That’s cool. You do know I’m going to soccer, though, right?” I cleared my throat and felt myself blush. Allie would tease me for the rest of my life for being late. “I’m kind of late.”
“Oh.” Allie didn’t seem to care. I bit the bottom of my lip as I crossed the road towards the soccer fields. It was getting hard to speak on my cell phone and hurry at the same time.
“Can we talk after?” I asked. “I’ll call you when practice is –”
“No!” Allie said so suddenly that I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. Something had to be going wrong – either Allie’s make-up, or hair, or just the general day. “I have to tell you something.”
“So tell me. Come on, Al, this isn’t like you.” I didn’t mean to sound annoyed, but the situation was slowly growing on my nerves.
“I have to go to writer’s camp,” Allie said so quietly, I could barely understand what she was speaking.
I froze in the middle of my wild chase across the soccer field. I could see my team on the other side, but Allie’s words were just too much. “Allie!” I cried. “You’re calling me now to tell me that?” Allie had told me she would probably be gone for a week or two during the summer and I didn’t mind too much.
“Bryan, I’ll be gone, starting tomorrow, until August.”
I knew that was what she was going to say. I had been prepared, over and over about what to respond. Yet the pain in Allie’s voice was real and I could barely choke out the lies that I had been taught to say.
“Oh. That long?”
“I’m sorry, Bryan. I know that you were looking forward to us hanging –”
“And you weren’t looking forward to it, Allie? Why are you suddenly changing all of our plans?” The lies rolled off of my tongue and glided through the air, striking their target.
Allie started to cry. “My parents decided for me, Bryan. Do you realize how much I begged to be allowed to stay at home?” I did realize how much Allie had begged. I had been told of her begging and pleading.
“Apparently it wasn’t enough,” I told her. “You’ve always managed to persuade anyone to do anything.”
“Yeah, well, apparently I’m not good enough.” Allie’s words stung me, as I had known they would. But I was prepared for pain and agony; I had known it would come.
First of all, forgive me. I’m not very good at telling my story, mostly because it’s so complicated. I’m also a guy, so you can’t blame me if sometimes I’m totally speechless. But, you know, telling a story isn’t that bad. You just have to find the time and the inner strength to let everything out so that the people around you can understand.
My name is Bryan Conhociolli. I am fifteen years old, starting high school this very year – in two months, three weeks, four days, ten hours, fifty-eight minutes and seven seconds, to be exact. I come from a full-blooded Italian family. On the other hand, our American roots go back to the late forties.
My mother, Isabelle, and my father, Adrian, moved here to the United States only because they were assigned to a mission of incredible importance; they had to find the remaining seventeen Mafia members that had escaped from Italy. The mission was never completed because my mother became pregnant and the UAB – Undercover Agent Bureau – strictly forbids a woman to participate in missions while in any state that may harm her health.
If I haven’t mentioned already, my mother and father used to work very tightly together. They were not married when leaving Italy and I was also conceived before their marriage. After five years of intense work together, they decided to marry. My mother was twenty-two years old, my father a year older.
Unfortunately, my parents have divorced. I don’t actually remember the time, because it was only a year and a half into their marriage, right after my second birthday. My mother doesn’t like to talk about those years in her lifetime because, at that one point in time, she reached the lowest point in her life. We’ve had problems along the way, of course, with money and life together, but it’s not that bad.
My story is a story that is one-of-a-kind, I think. Although at first I may not have thought so, my journey took place over a seven-week period of time and allowed me to venture into the depth of the human mind and heart. I never before thought that humans could make so many sacrifices for each other
I’ve mentioned the UAB. My mother and I both work for the Agency as field agents. We train as police officers, but also learn skills of the soldier, runner, lawyer, and street gangster. It’s a rather endless list of skills and rulebooks and studies. In the end, though, it allows us to do our job – scouting the United States for enemies, and then catching them.
It probably doesn’t seem like anything. I mean, how many police officers catch a bad guy each day? I’d say a lot. But our job isn’t of a police officer, even though we participate in their training. Like I said, we’re agents. We look for the enemies of the country, those who are terrorizing our people with threats of nuclear weapons, bombs, kidnappings and other circumspect stuff.
Agents work undercover. They dress in black and carry guns, paralyzing darts, and small machines called NETs, or National Enemy Trackers, which allow them to track enemies, record evidence, call Headquarters, communicate with other Agents in the area – all from one spot. It’s rather amazing.
My story has a lot to do with the UAB, although it is a mission that history has created for me. If I had not been born to Isabelle and Adrian Conhociolli, I would not have been faced with my challenge. Today it is difficult for me to look back upon past events. They evolved so quickly, so incredibly fast; I barely had time then to comprehend how my world was changing. I didn’t understand why at that point, and I also didn’t really want to be faced with the challenge. My mind, those days, was always on my best friend, Allison, who was embarking on a long journey of her own.
The television flickered in colors before me, shadowing the darkened walls of my bedroom with pale colors of green, red, white and black. The cartoon was old, probably from the early nineties, and told a story about a boy who called wolf. No, it’s not the traditional story we know by heart. It was some weird remake of tradition. I hated the fact that the artist was so willing to add irony to the story, so children would laugh.
It was Sunday. According to my alarm clock, it was ten thirty-four in the evening. I sighed as I leaned back and placed my head on the wall. My mother wasn’t home and I was starting to get seriously worried. Working for the UAB had done a lot of things to me – I was extremely cautious of external conflicts, but also of the ones that seem to engulf humans every day.
I pulled out my NAT and entered the security code for my mother’s machine; if she were in a secure location, the NAT would reveal it to me. If she was in the middle of a mission, the NAT would reveal only the general location – not the city name, not the population, but what her surroundings looked like. Nothing more, nothing less.
3996745axopo9975. Beep, beep. Beep. Beep. Beep, beep. “Error. Security number not found,” the voice read. My heart seemed to stop, the beating slowing down to an unheard thump.
“An error?” I whispered. “What?”
This had never happened before, mind you. It was the first time that the NAT did not recognize my mother’s security code, which meant that her code had been switched for security purposes, or the system had been breached. The possibility of that was almost impossible, because the NAT system had been created by a large group of professionally trained programmers and mathematicians over the course of a decade.
I tried for a second time, clearing the error message from the screen. 3996745axopo9975. “Come on, work, you stupid thing.” For a second, the machine was silent. Then, as soon as it had started, it ended.
The screen read: “3996745axopo9975. Security Log Deleted. Agent not found. Error. Security number blocked from system.”
I stifled a yelp by biting my lip. This was my first encounter with such an error message and I was worried. Is the system having technical difficulties? I wondered. At first, as I sat on the bed with my head leaned against the wall, I began to panic. Panicking was something that the Agency did not recommend. As an agent, you completely lost control over your senses if you began to panic.
“Bryan, do something,” I told myself. “Just do something.”
My first impulse was to call my mother, but then I knew that I would not be able to reach her. Without hesitation, I quickly entered the phone number to the UAB Security Board and placed the call from my NAT.
The first ring was answered with silence, but finally I heard the voice of Mike, a man in his late sixties who worked for the Security Department. “Hello?”
“Mike, that you?” I asked, just to be sure. I would not have been able to tell if this particular Mike was a fake and that the entire Agency was under attack, but I decided to take the chance.
“Yeah, son. How can I help you?” I was relieved that Mike recognized me.
“Well, there’s some major screw-up with my NAT. I tried to finger in my mom’s security code but came with an error message.”
“Really?” Mike asked. “You remember what it was?”
“Yeah. It read, uh, ‘Security Log Deleted. Agent not found. Error. Security number blocked from system.’ I don’t get it, though, Mike. Can you help?” I asked.
I did not receive a reply to my question. Instead, I heard Mike panic for the first time since I met him, six long years before that horrifying Sunday. “Oh, shit! You kiddin’ me, boy? No, you can’t be kidding me. That’s the error message for security breaching.” I could hear him murmuring to someone else. “Bryan, you get down here right now!”
I hate silence. I hate the power that silence has over the human body and its senses. Even if you are trained to ignore silence, there are times when shock overwhelms you completely. You lose control and begin a fight that ends up resulting in pure fear. I felt fear crawl up my arms as I clung to hope that nothing serious had happened. But Mike’s words echoed in my mind: That’s the error for security breaching.
Within a minute, I was dressed in my black shorts and a black T-shirt that read “UAB: United American Board.” It was not sold in stores, but reserved specifically for UAB agents undercover. I raced through the house and picked up my keys and identification card from the top kitchen cabinet, which I hung around my neck.
Every UAB member learns to drive a car when they turn fourteen years old. They have to endure two hundred hours of training, which may last more than one year, sometimes more than two, depending on how busy the agent is with other cases. I slid into the driver’s seat of the jeep and pulled out from the garage.
My navigator system flashed on and I checked the traffic message. I was informed that the County Road I usually took to the UAB Headquarters in Orlando, Florida, was highly condensed and that I needed to take some of the side streets.
If the situation had not been so stressful, this would have been exciting news. Driving on Orlando’s side streets was extremely fun, especially since the roads were used for street racing by many groups of gangsters. Today, though, I had to race on the side streets like a professional – heading towards the Headquarters, not the prize money.
If you have never seen Orlando, you would not know that it is not as Floridian as you would expect. It is a stereotype that the southern coast of the United States is filled with beach houses built from bamboo, while it is not. The southern coast enjoys a large amount of storms and must be properly protected from tornadoes and hurricanes.
The UAB Headquarters were located on the northern side of the city, a large luxurious office building that was used specifically for the United American Board; in other words, the Bureau used that excuse to direct the media and others elsewhere.
I parked my car in a reserved spot on the third level of the parking garage and slipped from the driver’s seat, pocketing my large bundle of keys in my jeans pocket. I walked around the car to the trunk and pulled out my gun and a duffel bag that carried the rest of the equipment I needed for training.
The third floor of the garage was empty, except for Mike’s car, which was parked in the furthest corner of the parking garage, away from speculation. It was an old Buick, repainted to a fiery red color, Mike’s favorite. He enjoyed working with cars, although found very time to do so because so much of his day was spent at the agency.
I strode across the garage towards the double glass doors. They looked like normal exit doors but no one could walk through them unless they had a special identification card that had to be scanned. I pulled out my card and smiled. The I.D. suited me well – it was a small black card that read, “Mr. Bryan Conhociolli, UAB Certification. Driver’s License provided. Permission to transport Alcoholic Beverages, Drugs/Other Substances, and Explosives.”
The picture of me was very well done and made me look much older than my fifteen years of age. I was dressed in a suit and posed in front of the Headquarters building, but in a spot that would not offer any evidence of the location to enemies who might come upon the identification card.
The identification card slipped slowly through the scanner, but for security purposes. After my picture flashed on the screen, I placed my right hand on the screen and braced myself for the DNA test. A small, almost invisible needle slipped through my skin into my blood and took a blood sample, which it tested within ten seconds.
I was in. Security inside the actual Headquarters was much tighter, but we had excellent camera-coverage of the garages and would not have any problems with the discovery that there was something not right. After the doors closed behind me, I turned down the left hallway and hurried towards the elevator.
After the metal doors opened and I walked in, I pressed the button for the eleventh floor. Then, I slipped my gun holder around my belt and pulled on my jacket. If Mike was going to have an assignment for me to do, I had to be ready. It was an agent’s job to be on call at all times. The only problem was that agents usually had to come into Orlando itself to be briefed for the cases. This took a lot of time, usually giving the enemies an advantage through their head start.
The elevator made no sound as it traveled upwards. There was no rumbling, as there usually is from a regular elevator. The numbers flashed quickly as the floors disappeared below me. Mike’s office was located on the twelfth floor, but I had to stop by my office and leave my duffel bag behind. It would only get in the way in the future.
The eleventh floor consists mostly of junior agents’ offices. They are spread out across the entire floor; in total, there are about thirty-five offices and eighty cubbies, depending on how much work an agent puts in. Most agents only do paperwork and cases that are strictly limited to Florida. They do not need the space or technology that is required for working on inner-state cases.