Can the bonds of FRIENDSHIP overcome all odds?
The Code
Things Are Never As They Seem
Eventually, school ended and Travis slowly made his way to his locker. Most of the middle schoolers were in a hurry, but not Travis. He liked to take his time. He reached his locker and began to load his backpack for home. He glanced over and saw Dylan a few lockers away, hurriedly shoving his backpack full and slamming his locker door shut. Travis looked a little farther and saw Bethany waiting at the end of the hallway.
Travis frowned and turned back to his locker. They were probably going to walk home again, he figured. And they were going to talk and laugh all the way home, being the good, happy friends that they were. And Travis was going to ride home by himself, sulking as usual. He was beginning to get used to this routine.
Dylan met Bethany at the end of the hall and smiled. “Let’s go!”
Bethany hesitated, her eyes focused down the hall. “Could... Could we invite Travis to walk with us?” she slowly asked. “I mean, just so he wouldn’t have to make his way home alone.”
Dylan raised his eyebrows. “Are you nuts? Travis hates us both now! No way he would want to walk home with us.”
Bethany shrugged and started out the door. “It was only a thought.”
And neither of them brought it up again.
When the two friends reached Bethany’s house, Bethany suggested Dylan stay for a while. “My parents are working late today, and there are cookies on the counter.”
It was the cookies that convinced Dylan to stay. And after he had eaten a majority of the platter and had his fill, he walked with Bethany up to her room.
When they reached the top of the stairs, they stopped suddenly. “Why is my bedroom door open?” she asked, barely above a whisper. “I always shut it when I leave for school.”
Dylan shrugged and took a small step forward. “Beth, I hear voices in there, and they don’t belong to your parents.”
Bethany walked over to her door, keeping close to the wall. She listened.
“You get that rope tight and secure now, Agent. We don’t want the thing to escape.”
Bethany’s eyes grew wide and she clasped her hand over her mouth. Dylan tried to hold her back, but he wasn’t fast enough, and in two seconds, Bethany was standing in the entry of her room.
She wasn’t expecting to see what she saw. In fact, for a moment, she had convinced herself that it was all her imagination. But when she pinched herself and the image didn’t fade, reality slowly began to sink in.
There were three men dressed in dark gray suits in the center of the room, surrounding a very angry Sapphire. There were ropes tied around her neck and mouth, each being pulled tight in a different direction. Smoke was rising from her nostrils and small spurts of flame were leaving her mouth.
“Keep its mouth shut, fool!” one man hollered. “Do you want to get us all scorched?”
Bethany’s heart felt like it was being ripped out of her chest. No, this couldn’t be happening. No. Not to her Sapphire.
Dylan snuck into the room behind Bethany and began pulling her away. “We need to get out of here before they see us,” he breathed.
But Bethany had no intention of going anywhere. She had made a promise to herself that she wouldn’t let anything happen to Sapphire, and she wasn’t going to let three pompous men change her mind. She clenched her fists at her side and spoke with as much power as she could.
Silence overtook the room. The three men spun toward Bethany, surprise written all over their faces.
“It’s the young girl who lives here,” one man said, taking a step toward Bethany. “I’ll hold her off.”
“Don’t you dare touch me!” Bethany screamed, flailing her arms at the man approaching her. She punched and squirmed and kicked, but it didn’t have any effect on the man. He simply picked Bethany up and swung her over his shoulder, like a firefighter might carry an injured victim. He had strong arms and Bethany’s fits were useless against him.
Dylan lunged himself at the man, fists swinging wildly. “You put her down!” he screamed defensively, kicking the man in the knee. But, again, no effect. The man bent down, picked up Dylan effortlessly and swung him over his opposite shoulder.
The man then stood in the corner of the room, watching the other two men continue to try to tie Sapphire down. Bethany began sobbing on his shoulder as she watched Sapphire collapse to the ground in a final defeat. The men quickly tied up her legs while she was weak. The tallest man pulled a long syringe out of his jacket pocket and aimed it at Sapphire’s neck.
Bethany shrieked. “You can’t kill her! You wouldn’t!”
The man holding Bethany popped his shoulder to quiet her. “Relax,” he said. “We’re not going to kill it. In that syringe is about a teaspoon of a chemical that will make the beast unresponsive for a couple of hours.”
Bethany reached up and wiped her tears.
The man continued. “So, we’re not killing her, just putting her to sleep for a little bit.”
The man with the syringe drew his arm back and plunged the needle into the base of Sapphire’s neck. He injected the entire amount into her, then put the empty syringe back into his jacket.
Sapphire tossed and turned for a moment or two, but before long, she slipped into unconsciousness.
The two men who were handling Sapphire finished tying her up and began placing her in a large, black, fabric bag.
“Will she be able to breathe in there?” Dylan asked, concerned.
The shorter man nodded.
Once they had loaded Sapphire into the bag, the three men went downstairs and out the front door with Sapphire, Dylan, and Bethany in tow.
“Where are you taking us?” Bethany asked nervously.
The man who was carrying them set them down and pushed them into the back of a dark, black car. “To the police station to be questioned.”
Bethany looked at Dylan and gulped.
“It’s nothing bad,” the man reassured. “It’s just very important that we find out what you guys know about this creature of yours here.” He gestured to the black bag that the other two men were gently placing into the trunk of the car. “And from the police station, we can get in contact with your parents.”
Dylan and Bethany exchanged worried glances. Their parents? Oh no.
Bethany slunk as far back into her car seat as possible. What was she going to do? She couldn’t let them take Sapphire away. She couldn’t let them do tests on her and poke her with twenty different needles and rip off her scales as samples. Bethany couldn’t bear to think of what they might do to her lovely dragon, her fantastic friend. She began to think, harder than she had been before. Just how could she free Sapphire?
Dylan took a deep breath and stared blankly out of the window. He already knew what was going to happen. His parents would pick him up from the police station, rant for a solid hour about how disappointed they are that he kept such a secret from them, and then he’d be grounded for the rest of his life. How did he ever get involved in this, anyway? Surely this wasn’t his idea. He would have never gotten into something like this with Travis. In fact, Dylan never had any adventures with Travis. Everything they had ever done was the same old, same old. Nothing ever changed. They did the same tricks after school, talked about the same things, ate at the same table, even gelled their hair in a smilular matter.
Dylan’s eyes grew wide as he came to a sudden realization. Travis was holding him back. Travis was hindering Dylan from becoming all that he could. Travis was like a giant pot hole in the road of life. A worm in his apple. The air bubble in his pizza crust. The scuff on his skateboard. Dylan thought about all the fun he’d had with Bethany, and how open she was to Dylan’s thoughts and ideas. Travis never wanted to do anything that Dylan wanted to do. He never wanted to try anything new. Or maybe he did, Dylan thought. Maybe Travis was just afraid.
Dylan leaned over and poked Bethany. “Hey, can I see your pendant a minute?”
Bethany nodded and pulled it off her neck. “Sure.”
Dylan cradled the pendant in his hands and traced over the hieroglyphics with his thumb. Things are never as they seem.
Once Dylan had gotten to know Bethany, he had always thought that Travis was the bad guy. HE was the one with the sour attitude. HE was the one who forced Dylan to hate girls. HE was the one who had gotten so jealous. But, now Dylan began to realize: what if Travis wasn’t that bad after all? What if he was just confused? Afraid? Lonely?
Dylan’s mind was running like wild. Everything he had thought about Travis, it was all wrong. Dylan bit his lip. He had made a lot of mistakes with Travis, but it wasn’t too late to undo them. Dylan knew exactly what he had to say to Travis. Tomorrow at school, Dylan was going to tell Travis of the epiphany he had just experienced, and Dylan was going to fix everything. He had a plan.
Bethany knew that her parents would most definitely ground her for keeping Sapphire a secret. She had broken the trust, and it would take a while to repair it. So, why not take advantage of it while it was broken? Bethany figured her parents couldn’t get any more mad at Bethany than they already were, so Bethany knew what she had to do. She had to free Sapphire, and she knew exactly how. She had a plan.

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