Before being pushed against his locker, Ben could feel the imposing cloud and braced himself.
“Watch where I’m going, geek!” the hulk in the letter jacket yelled as he and his friends continued on.
Pressing his palms on the metal, Ben peeled himself off the cold surface. He ran his hands through his short hair and straightened his hoodie. The bullying had been a daily occurrence since he had transferred two weeks ago. Ben knew he was smarter than most, and true, he wasn’t athletic, but at his last school, that didn’t matter. He had never experienced the classic jock-nerd rivalry before moving here.
“Rough break,” said a lanky boy who approached, “I’m Curt.”
“So, how’d you get on Jared’s hit list? You don’t look like his type. No glasses, some muscle tone. Unlike me.”
“We have a class together. I answered too many questions accurately.”
“So you’re new here?”
“Well, I’ve never seen you before, so that’s a giveaway.”
“You have to get a lot of new kids here, with the tower and all.”
“I think they mostly recruit childless people. Is that why you’re here?”
“Yea, my dad got a job there. It’s just the two of us.”
“He’s gotta be kinda old, right? I mean, normally they take on new grads.”
“He’s pretty high up, I think. But yea, he’s basically a genius. That’s where I get it.”
“How are you with computers?”
“Okay, I’m amazing.”
“Glad to here it. Come over to my house tonight. I want to show you something.”
Ben could hardly wait for school to be over. He didn’t realize how much he missed having friends until he made one. He road his bike to the address that he had been given, and rang the bell. Curt answered.
“Hey, come on in.”
Ben followed him through the sparsely decorated home.
“Your parents aren’t home?”
“No. My dad works long hours.”
“Bingo. Mine too.”
They came to a set of stairs and descended into the basement. Ben could hear the excited clacking of keyboards, and saw a wobbling glow crawl up the stairs.
“Welcome to the cave,” Curt said as they reached the bottom. The room was open, with a network of desks, computers, and monitors in a large circle. Two boys sat with their backs to each other and looked up as they entered. “This is Monster and Byte.”
“Hi, Monster. Byte,” Ben said, skeptical.
“Hey man,” Monster said as he turned back to his screen. “You hack?”
“Cool. Get ready to do a lot more,” Byte said.
“What do you guys do here?”
“Get into trouble. Most of the time without getting caught.”
They all laughed.
Ben clicked instantly with the life-long townies. Belonging to a group made the next couples months at school go easier. At first, spending so much time with his friends cloaked the fact that his father had been home less and less. It wasn’t until Christmas break rolled around that realized his father hadn’t been home except to sleep.
Worried, he hopped on his bike and headed for the tower where his father worked. As he pulled up to the massive building, he had to strain his neck to see the top. It truly was a starscraper. After he locked up his bike, he headed into the pristine building. The ceilings were tall, and the lobby was grand. He approached the front desk.
“I’m here to see my father, Charles Grant.”
The man behind the desk pressed a button on his shoulder and talked softly into his walky. He listened for a moment, then rose and told Ben to follow him. They made their way to the elevators. The people walking by seemed vacant to Ben, and he had an uneasy feeling. The elevators were made of glass. As they rose to the seventieth floor, he could see how large the building was. They were still far from the top, but the structure appeared to be it’s own city, with stores and restaurants, and many offices.
At last he arrived to his fathers office.
“What are you doing here?” his father asked.
“I’m worried about you dad,” Ben said, as he entered and the security guard stood outside.
“No need to worry. Things are going great.”
“You haven’t been home much.”
“I know, I’m sorry. But that’s all going to change.”
“Yes. We’re moving in here.”
“They have apartments, built right into the building. We can live here, then I’ll be around much more. They even have a school. Honestly, we should have moved in right away, but I was skeptical.”
“I don’t want to switch schools again.”
“Sorry, son. Company policy. Now, I’ve got to get back to work.”
“What happened to you? Are we even going to talk about this?”
“We just did,” his fathers said and motioned to the guard to escort him out.
Confused, Ben road his bike furiously to Curt’s.
“Woah, what’s wrong?” Curt asked as he saw the frustration in Ben’s face.
“Somethings not right at the tower. My dad says we have to move there.”
“It was only a matter of time.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mine lives there.”
“I told him I wouldn’t go. So he went without me.”
“See. That’s not right.”
“What can we do about it?”
“Let’s hack the tower and find out what’s really going on there.”
“We’ve tried. It’s impossible.”
“That was before you had me to help.”
Byte and Monster were already in the basement, watching YouTube.
“To your battle stations!” Curt yelled. “We’re hacking the tower!”
Excited, they took their places. They worked until their hands ached and their eyelids drooped. After thirty-three merciless hours, they finally got through the firewall. They cheered and celebrated. Five minutes later, a clean-up crew arrived at the house to fix the problem. Trapped in the tower, their parents never noticed that the four were gone.