Sternius briskly walked down the corridors with Catherine and Sein, being held captive by the robots, following. The gears in Catherine's head were turning as she tried to figure out what to do. She looked at everything around her for some solution. On another corridor, she saw a Grand Official she recognized.
"You'll never get away with this," she said as loud as she could to Sternius without sounding suspicious.
"That's what the heroes always say to villains, in whatever fictional story you're quoting," he waved it off.
"But the heroes are always right," Catherine argued.
"Maybe in your fictional stories, but this is real life and this time the villain will-!"
"Sternius, what's going on?" Grand Official Richardson waltzed over to Sternius.
Sternius' eyes widened and looked so afraid that Catherine would have paid anything to have a picture of it. "The villain will never win, you villain, Catherine Forticep!" He corrected himself. He turned to Grand Official Richardson, "I caught them, Catherine Forticep and Sein Darnell."
"He's the one! He's the one who stole the data, twice. I have the proof right here," she held up the recording pen, "and the information is on a drive hooked up to his computer in his office."
She clicked the play button on the pen and it recited every word Sternius said from the point he caught them to when he led them out of his office. Sternius tried to grab it from her, but she held it away and Richardson took it before Sternius could. Sein smiled at her in approval. While they listened to it, the Grand Official had them walk back to the office to see the thumb drive. He saw the illegal information on the drive and finished listening to what Sternius said on the recording.
"Sternius, you are relieved of duty until further notice."
"You're going to trust a child's word over mine!" Sternius shouted in rage and shock.
"Actually, it's your word against your word," Catherine said.
"We will thoroughly examine all evidence and bring it to the judge. Security bots, release them and take hold of Sternius," he commanded the bots.
Sternius tried to get away, but the bots were faster. They held onto his arms and were unaffected by his kicking. They carried him away, their metals feet tread against the carpet.
"Serves you right," Sein said.
"You two, come with me, until I figure out what you do with you," Grand Official Richardson ordered them.
A week later, Catherine and Sein were staring out the window at the orange sky and pink clouds that hovered over the city. They were given a room at another government building to stay in while the trial was in progress. Catherine was wearing a composeum's blue dress with a gold crest of a phoenix. The phoenix had become the USA's new symbol after the bald eagle was almost never seen in the country anymore. Sein had a black guard's uniform.
They had just gotten done eating dinner in the kitchen, that was between the door for Catherine's room and the door for Sein's room on the wall opposite from the window.
"So, did you decide to help me because you were hoping you could somehow prove your innocence?" Catherine wondered.
"That was part of the reason, I had the plan on how I would prove my innocence for a while, although I never managed to convince myself to do it and I thought it was too late. But it's not the only reason. I also did it because you were like me, you just wanted a bright future with a prestigious job with the government, you were framed and on the run. I didn't want you to end up like me."
"I know I keep saying this, but you did good with recording everything Sternius said. Maybe you should be a composeum," he teased.
Catherine shook her head and smiled, "I don't exactly want a job that's all about collecting data and organizing it. Besides, it's a stroke of luck that I actually decided to record it when I reached in the wrong pocket and pulled out the pen."
There was a knock at the door and a woman named Katie walked into the room. Her blond hair was in a ponytail and her red dress was in the same style as Catherine's. "Hello, the judge has named Sternius guilty, which means you're innocent. He will spend the rest of his life in prison and performing level five community service."
"Ouch, level five, the jobs no one wants to do, like dung shoveling," Catherine laughed.
"Yep. And it's undecided what's going to happen to you two yet, but we know that's it's going to be good. At least better than being criminals," she smiled.
"Okay, thank you, Katie," Sein thanked her.
Katie walked out and the door clicked closed.
"I wish I could get a video of him doing level five service," Sein tried not to laugh.
"Me too, Lot," Catherine giggled. Then she realized she called him Lot "Oops, I said Lot again. I need to stop doing that."
"It's okay. I don't mind," Sein reassured her.
Catherine remembered something she saw a week ago. She turned her face to the ground and she stared at nothing in deep thought. "Did you see what I saw on the Code? I've been meaning to ask you this for a while, but we're either not alone, in an unsecure place, or I forget."
Sein got the same deep and sad expression that made him look ten years older. "Yes."
"You saw that..."
"That we don't trade with Russia..."
"Our peace treaty..." Catherine didn't have photographic memory, but it was like she could see every word in her mind as if it were still in front of her.
"They created a super weapon capable blow up half of the United States in 2179..."
"And they threatened to use it on us if we didn't comply and send them all the food, wood, metal, or whatever else they wanted."
Catherine felt anger well up inside of her. She hit her fist on her thigh. "It's not fair! We have to give everything to them. I thought they were allies. And no one knows about this. "
"They were allies, but you saw what it said along with the treaty: three years before it was invented, a cruel dictator became in charge of Russia," Sein reminded her. "It's not their fault, it's his. One cruel person in their system doesn't make everyone in the country bad."
"Why does no one know? Why did the Grand Officials keep it a secret?"
"What would everyone do if they knew that at any minute they could suddenly be blown up? Or if they knew that they were basically slaves that work to supply the dictator's demands? They would live in constant fear and depression. Tell me, if you knew that and you were a Grand Official, would you tell them? Are you going to tell them now?" Sein questioned.
"I-I don't know. Information is a valuable thing, and once it's told, it can't be un-told. I guess I won't for now. At anytime I could change my mind and tell, but I wouldn't be able to change my mind if I told it now," Catherine reasoned. "But this whole time they made us feel bad and believe we were the ones who destroyed our resources and home, but it was never us, it was them. People are going hungry while the 'important' people in our government are fat and happy."
"There's some corruption in our system too."
"Most people work more than they're paid for. If they're lucky enough to have a job in the system, they're told that they can work their way up to be an Official, when they probably never will."
"Their actually starting to have indoor farmers, that they claim grows food for the army, which is considered a position in the system," Sein noted.
"Ugh! I wish it would end. That we could somehow change it so we didn't have to deal with that dictator or Officials who take more food than they need."
"You've grown a lot."
"At first you were ignorant, loved the government and you were dependent on them. Now you're smarter, more knowledgeable, and independent."
Catherine thought about it. "I think I just realized why I applied to the school and wanted to get in the system."
Catherine smiled at the city and the people. "Because I wanted to make a difference and make everything better for everyone."
Yes, I know that the cover I drew is slightly inaccurate because she never actually saw the Code in person or was in the room, but it looks cool for a cover. Plus, I created it before I was finished with writing the plot.
I don't know if or when I will write a sequel, but if you want one, please tell me.