The Twelfth Keeper(4)

By: Belle Malory

Hunter paused, standing next to her, holding a folded up napkin in his hand. He never introduced himself, never welcomed Kennedy to the neighborhood, or anything polite like that. Instead, he did the most perfect thing imaginable.

Pulling the napkin apart, he pulled out two warm squares covered in sprinkles. One of them he offered to Kennedy. “Pop-Tart?”

They’d been best friends ever since.

“They’re so obvious,” Hunter said under his breath.

His voice drew Kennedy away from the old memories, pulling her back to the present. “What are you talking about?”

He pointed to the wall where a news broadcast was on display. Kennedy couldn’t make out what the anchors were saying, but the headline read: DOE’S SEARCH FOR TWELFTH CONTINUES.

“That’s what these tests are for,” Hunter explained. “They’re trying to play it off as school immunizations, but everyone knows that’s bull.”

Kennedy arched a brow. Immunizations were nothing more than exactly that, immunizations. “Is this another one of your conspiracy theories?”

It was no secret how Hunter felt about DOE. For years he’d theorized that particular branch of the military was doing everything from planning the first war of the worlds, to trying to integrate humans with other life forms. Sometimes Hunter’s theories sounded plausible.

But most of the time he sounded batshit crazy.

“Think about it, Kenn,” he started.

Here we go.

“Most kids get their immunizations in seventh grade, and not again until college. We’re in the middle of our sophomore year.”

Kennedy shrugged. “Apparently they came out with new ones.”

He tilted his head to the side, looking at her as if she were stupid. “Okay, well then what about that weird kid that lives down the street? The one in the blue and white house?”

“His name is Simon Galinski.” She twisted her metal brace, idly circling it around her wrist. “And he’s not weird. He’s autistic.”

“Beside the point.”

“Which would be…?”

“He has to get the immunizations too.”

She still failed to see what he was getting at. “So.”

“He’s homeschooled, Kenn.”

She shook her head, refusing to believe another one of Hunter’s theories. She’d gullibly listened to him one too many times before. Many nights she’d even caught herself standing in front of her bedroom window, staring up at the stars, trying to catch a glimpse of the space station. Olympus was too high up to spot with the naked eye, but Kennedy still found herself staring…staring and wondering whether or not the things Hunter had told her were true.

Perhaps there were things going on up there the rest of the world could only imagine. Things that sounded crazy. But what if they were true?

Nope. Not going there again.

“They’ve been searching for years, Hunter. If the twelfth was alive, they would’ve found him by now.”

“You mean her.”


“Most likely the twelfth is a her. It would make an even male to female ratio. Six males. Six females.”

“Ah ha,” Kennedy said, catching a kink in his theory. “So if they’re looking for a girl, then why are you here? Why would they waste money testing the boys?”

Hunter smiled subtly, as if he’d already worked every possible detail out in his head. “DOE wants to stay inconspicuous.”

Oh boy. “Honestly, Hunter, you’re impossible.”

A tall kid sitting in front of them turned around. “It’s true,” he whispered over the back of his chair, apparently having eavesdropped on their conversation. “My dad told me the same thing. The immunizations are DOE’s cover. But it’s really just a ploy to find the twelfth.”

Hunter looked happy to have found someone to support his wild claims. “See, told you so.” He held up his hand to the kid in front of them. “Props, bro.”

Kennedy rolled her eyes as she watched them bump fists. She still wasn’t so sure she believed DOE was looking for the twelfth, but maybe it wasn’t as farfetched as she first thought.

Heavily emphasizing that maybe.

A moment later, Hunter’s name was blasted over the intercom. He was up next to see the physician.

“Time to be their monkey.” He stood up and stretched his long arms behind his head. “I’ll wait for you,” he said to Kennedy.

She nodded, wishing he didn’t have to go. Hunter had managed to take her mind off of the whole “about to be stabbed with pointy needles” thing.

Crap. Back to that again.

~ ~

One more shot to go.