"BOO!" Lelis woke up with a start and saw Cerein on her left. Cerein smiled, "You looked as if you were dreaming about your boyfriend,"
 "You have no idea how long it took us to wake you up," Max chipped in. Lelis looked around her, "I was sleeping?"  Deina shook her head.
 "No; just that you ignored our calls," Lelis replied with a weak "Oh," and went back to work. Kelly called out to all of them, "Uh, I need to go out for a while, OK? I, uh, need to drink some water," Deina was confused.
 "Kelly, the water cooler is right behind you,"
 "Uh, I know, but I like the water further away; bye," Kelly ran to the door and left. All of them stared at Kelly, "Strange girl," Max said.

 Kelly walked through the halls. She saw people all rushing past her, never stopping to greet each other. They're all too busy with their work, she thought. At first she constantly turned behind her to see if any of them were following and her steps were fast, but after a while, she stopped turning around and walked slower. She thought about why Calven hadn't come in after a long time. Although she refused to admit openly, she did feel concerned about Calven. She didn't know why, but after seeing him, she did sympathise with him.

 She laughed a little. Most of her friends, especially Ales and Cerein had thought her as fun-loving, crazy, bossy and a little mean at times. When she actually did a good deed, they would check her temperature and see if she was fine. Truthfully, she adored being crazy, but deep down inside she wanted to help others and make their lives happier.

 Not many people knew about the hidden characteristic in her, not even her parents or siblings. She kept that to herself and only helped when she was alone, without her friends.

 She reached the door to the meeting room. She silently pushed it open and saw a figure looking outside the window. She crept in and closed the door behind her. She tiptoed behind the figure and cleared her throat.

 Calven turned around with shock clearly written across his face. Kelly laughed. When she stopped laughing, she asked him, "Waiting for Dr. Jessi? I hope not. She won't be here until tonight and other people need to use the room,"

 "I know; I sat here while other people had their meetings," Calven said in his cold voice. Then he turned back to the window, "So, why did you come?" Kelly was taken aback by his rude tone. Although he did not mean it yet he spoke so harshly.

 "I can't believe I actually came to be concerned about you when you scold me instead," Kelly retorted. Calven looked at her in the eye. Then his face softened a little.

 "Is that why you came? Because you thought something happened to me? I thought none of you liked me," Kelly just listened, "Calven, you haven't been acting yourself lately. You don't do your duties until when everyone's asleep and then your performance in school is deteriorating. Mind telling me?"

 "What have you been doing, spying on me?" Calven laughed. Kelly laughed along until he spoke, "If I tell you why, promise you won't tell anyone?"

 "I know I play mean tricks on people; but I keep secrets unless I have to tell," Kelly explained jokingly.

 "Promise?" Calvin put out his little finger as a sign of promise. Kelly put out hers too, and linked it with his. "Promise,"

 Deina looked outside the window for a while. She gazed at the skyline and opened the door to the balcony. Outside she saw the sun attempting to break through the thick cloud of haze that cloaked the sky. She heard a voice behind her screaming out her name.

 "Deina! What are you, nuts? You can't possibly stand out there without a mask! Goodness, you want to die?" Deina turned and saw Cerein with her voice muffled behind her mask. She shook and turned towards the sky.

 "I want to look at the sky for the last time on Earth, Cerevesta. After that we'll probably never see a sky like this again," Cerevesta advanced closer to Deina and put her hand on Deina's shoulder.

 "Don't worry, Deina; when we move we'll probably get to see blue skies, just like our ancestors did," Deina looked at Cerein and whispered, "I hope so," Cerein looked at Deina and went back inside. She was one of the few people who could be friends with Deina and yet knew so little about her likes and dislikes.

 As many people said about Cerein, she was hard to get along since few people knew her past. When she found a friend she could trust, she would cling to that friend. One of the friends she could cling to was Deina. At first, Deina had despised her because of her strange behaviour. Of course, which person puts potato chips in hot chocolate, shakes the cup and then pour the whole concoction into an ice cream sundae because 'it tastes very nice'? Her, of course.

 However, Cerein had tried very hard to erase her past that was full of misery. Everyone said she led an easy life, what with being an only child and two loving parents? However, she was only happy on the outside. Classmates boycotted her because she was strange. Teachers teased and insulted her because she was weaker and couldn't play sports like other students. People who were supposed to be her friends told lies about her to others. Her relatives said she was a tomboy and refused to act ladylike unlike her other cousins.

 Her parents were the only ones who gave confidence to her to do well and believe in herself. Where would she be without her parents? Since then she had depended on her parents to help her emotionally. What happened then when she moved and met the others? By that time she had to learn how to mix in. Her parents had decided to let her be slightly independent. She took some time to fit in. When she did, then Deina came.

 Deina looked up and down and sniffed a little. She took out her handkerchief and blew her nose. Her eyes were watering. Dumb haze, she thought aloud. Then her memory flashed back to when she was 14.

 That boy she had known since she was small. Her childhood friend who always seemed to understand her feelings when she was sad, who laughed along with her when he was happy. Now he was gone.

 The boy had been so close to her, supporting her words and sharing the same thoughts and dreams. However, they had grown further apart by the time they were 14 and they had their first fight in so many years. That was the time when they grew apart and had their own friends. Their relationship was nothing more than classmates. That marked an end to half of her childhood memories. Although he might not have known it, but she knew part of her died when he left her on her own.

 She remembered when he decided to move to the colonies because he wasn't chosen for the Mainframe volunteers program. When they were 13, they made a pact that if one of them left for somewhere else, they would write to each other. Patiently she waited for his letters.

 2 years later, the letters still did not come. She knew he was gone forever. The only friend she had for solace was Max before getting closer to Cerein. But what happened to Max? Her parents resented the fact she liked to befriend boys than girls. She confided in Max, and their friendship had been slowly drifting apart.

 She looked down for a moment and hesitated for a while. Finally she looked up and yelled, "WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME?" She looked down and wiped her eyes with her sleeve and went back inside.

 "MAX!" Max jumped out of his seat. He looked around him and saw no one. He looked at the computer screen and blinked at it for a while. He rubbed his eyes and put his palms on his forehead. He leaned back on his chair and thought for a while.

 How was his life for the last two years? He had become from fun-loving and nice to quiet and studying all day. He was turning into Calven! He looked at Deina standing outside the lab. He thought of how he had made her suffer. She was one who needed friends to be with her all the time. So why did he leave her at her time of need? He had never felt so guilty in his life.

 When he was 13 he was gullible and fell prey to Cerein's tricks often. As he matured she ignored him more and they just joked, never played tricks on each other. Just then he realised he was growing up into a quiet person. Calven was another case. As he grew older, he just studied more but somehow no matter how much he studied he could never beat Deina nor Cerein, who studied very little or none at all.

 Max got up from his chair to get a drink of water. After quenching his thirst, he went back to his chair. The minute he sat down, he hit the floor and saw Cerein grinning evilly. She stuck out her tongue as she helped him stand up.

 "You can't say I've grown up anymore, Max," Cerein said as she went to her computer. Max laughed at Cerein's antics. No matter how, Cerein would always win. Max then saw Kelly and Calven enter the room, laughing together.

 "Why can't I have that kind of a lasting friendship?" Max complained as he grabbed his chair from Cerein and sat down to continue his work.

 As soon as Calven sat down, his computer greeted him. When he spotted the map of the country, he started typing furiously. As soon as he typed, he saw a picture of the Earth's core. It was blotched with dark colours. The words at the bottom read:

 He typed a little more and a picture of the Solar System with some green coloured words graced the screen:

 He shrugged and went back to his work. Suddenly, he heard a loud wail. He turned around and saw Cerein screaming. Kelly sprang from her seat and looked at Cerein's screen. Her mouth widened at the flashing words on the screen.

 "That's strange; the last time that happened, that was about 2 years ago. How can this happen all over again?" Kelly wondered. The screen went black. Cerein panicked, "Oh, great, this had to happen when I was monitoring the computer, didn't it?" Kelly sat down and tried to reboot the computer, but it refused to start. Kelly looked at Cerein, "Cerein, aren't you in charge of citizens' records?"

 The deadly silence filled the room. Finally, Lelis spoke, "The virus. Maybe it has activated itself already," Cerein put her hand to her forehead, muttering to herself. She shook her head lightly and one phrase repeated itself, "Oh, great."

 "How long do you think it'll take for us to redo the records?" Max asked. Cerein spoke, "That won't be necessary. I have backup diskettes. Luckily I just finished updating them. However, there *is* a slight problem,"

 "What?" Calven asked. Cerein held up one diskette only, "I misplaced the other six diskettes. They're somewhere in the room; maybe in my room too," Deina squawked, "Six? In that case, there are seven diskettes? At that rate, how much information can be put in one diskette?"

 "About 4 months of births, deaths, marriages, passports, credit cards," Cerein answered. Kelly joked, "Well, at this rate, we will never find the diskettes," Everyone glared at her. Calven spoke first, "Lelis, do you think the virus is the main cause of the computer shutdown?"

 "I don't know, Calven. I was just making a wild guess. I don't know if that is even true," Lelis said. Calven turned back to his computer and said, "Deina, you are in charge of monitoring sent files; check each and every file that is sent and received. The virus could easily be disguised as a file. Lelis, you are monitoring broadcasting system; send out a message to close schools and migrate sooner. In the meantime, Kelly, Max, you both go and help Cerein find the diskettes while I install this diskette in my computer and manage things for a while,"

 Cerein handed Calven the diskette and walked off. While all of them did their respective jobs, Calven looked at the diskette after installing the information. He looked at the records and checked to see if everything was there. After checking, he typed his name in the box given and saw his name in the record. He clicked on the name and saw his profile. He read and reread it till he had enough and closed his profile. His hand clenched and unclenched at the same time.

 "Sheesh, I know your room's neat, Cerein; but did you have to keep EVERYTHING in apple-pie order? This is going to take us hours to find the diskettes, especially since you forgot where you placed them," Kelly complained. Max just stared in amazement at the neatness of her room. Everything was in its place. Books were in the shelves. Her bed was free from any junk. Her toys and dolls were in a small chest at the foot of her bed. Her clothes were hung or folded in the cupboard between her bed and writing table. Her writing table was filled with odds and ends; and so was everything imaginable in all four corners of the room.

 "Well, it's not hard, we just have to check all the boxes of things I've accumulated over the past two years; other things are all in my parent's home in Saturn," Cerein consoled. Max shrugged and said, "Well, it could be worse," Kelly joked, "Yes; Cerein could have kept all 16 years of her stuff here,"

 Dr. Jessi burst into the room. She took in a few deep breaths and then started to speak, "Someone posted a sign saying that all records have been deleted. Is this true?" She glanced at Lelis, Deina and Calven. The trio looked at the ground. Lelis looked up and said, "Yes, but luckily Cerein made backup copies and Max and Kelly are helping her to find the other six diskettes,"
 Dr. Jessi heaved a sigh of relief, "At least I can count on all of you to do the right thing without having me to tell you. By the way, the government has decided to carry out evacuation. Before they do, they will discuss it with other governments. Lelis, can you send this message to the other countries?" Dr. Jessi laid down a note on Lelis's desk and left the room. Lelis picked up the note. It read:
 "Goodness, that's a short note," Lelis exclaimed as she prepared to send the message. Deina announced, "Calven, it's time we shut off the automatic system," Calven shot a glance at Deina. He replied, "No, we are not going to shut it off until Dr. Jessi says so, Deina," Deina rose from her chair and said, "This is a must. We are going to shut off the automatic system NOW," Calven got up and narrowed his eyes at Deina.

 "There is an announcement that the virus will hit the mainframe any moment. We have to shut off the auto system and screen all files! The virus is being disguised, Calven! Or do I have to nail it through your skull?" Deina's angry voice mocked after the first sentence. Calven looked at her and ordered coldly, "Nothing is going to shut down till a week from now, Deina! I know what I am doing!"

 "You know what you are doing? Then how come Cerein's computer crashed? The reason you are not shutting down is because you are afraid that you might be doing the wrong thing, aren't you? Then Dr. Jessi will mistrust you and all attention will go to Cerein, right? Face it, Calven, YOU ARE AFRAID OF CEREIN!" Deina screamed.

 Calven was not one to give in so easily. He glared at Deina and hissed, "I am not scared of Cerein. I am not scared of doing the wrong thing. If I was, I wouldn't become president in the first place. I know shutting the auto system isn't going to do any good," He slumped back into his chair.

 Deina sat down and waited for an answer. Lelis stared at Calven as he thought long and hard. Finally, he removed his spectacles and whispered, "Deina, shut down the auto system. From now onwards, we are going to stay here," At that crucial moment, Cerein, Max and Kelly burst through the door with six diskettes in Cerein's hand, "We found them!" Their joy was paused for a while as Max surveyed the situation: Deina was typing on the computer, Lelis was sending something and Calven was staring straight at the screen, typing furiously at something. Calven ordered, “Cerein, hand me the diskettes and let me install them. In the meantime, you can try to repair your computer. Kelly, help Deina monitor files. Max, watch over the communication and transportation system,” Calven ordered as he continued typing and at the same time receiving the diskettes from Cerein.

 Max stood among the noise around him. Then he looked at Lelis. She looked so miserable, so sad. He approached her and stared at her. She stared back, as if she knew  what he was going to say.
 "Calven ordered to shut down the auto system," Lelis whispered to Max. "They had a big fight because of that," Meanwhile, Max's left hand reached for Lelis's shoulder and rested there. Soon after, he felt another hand place itself on her  hand. Max looked at Lelis and back to his hand where Lelis's right hand grabbed it and held it tight. Both of them looked at the computer screen. Max took note of Lelis's long, black, wavy hair trailing down and moving as her head turned. Lelis turned back at him and smiled.

 "I want all this to end, Max," Lelis whispered she brought Max's hand closer to her chest. He just smiled. Slowly, his other hand slung over Lelis's shoulders as they both stared at the screen staring back at them.

 Calven woke up with a start. As he looked around him his hands fumbled for his spectacles. When he put them on, he saw the words on the computer screen flash clearly. Then he sat up straighter and looked around. Then he remembered when he had dozed off. However, he felt something warm above him. Only then did he realise that there was a brown blanket covering him. Beside him was a table with a plate of food and a drink. He looked around him to see if there was anyone else in the room.
 Suddenly, he heard a creak. He turned around and saw a dark figure grace the entrance. After a while, some light fell on the figure and it was Dr. Jessi. Calven heaved a sigh of relief. She walked to his seat and looked at the meal placed beside him. He stammered, "Dr.-Dr. Jessi, thanks for bringing in the food and the blanket. I-I really appreciate it," Dr. Jessi smiled and looked up at him.

 "Well, aren't you going to eat your food? It might get cold. Then after that, you might want to get some rest for tomorrow. After all, they have announced the evacuation. You won't be having any school from now on. Starting tomorrow morning, you will be doing your duties. I'm going to sleep now," Dr. Jessi brushed Calven's hair back and left. Slowly, he reached for the food and started eating it. When he was done, he slowly got up and left the room, knowing that he would have to return soon.

 Kelly tossed and turned in bed. Somehow, she couldn't get any sleep, no matter how hard she tried. Eventually, she got up and sat on the edge of the bed. She brushed her hair back and thought to herself, "Wonder if Calven ever got up? Hmm, wonder who's going to feed him? Dr. Jessi? Maybe. I haven't seen her around for a while already. Wow, all this wondering is making me sleepy. Maybe if I think of heavier issues, I may actually be able to fall asleep," She yawned a little and placed herself right under the covers, getting ready to sleep even more.

 "Dr. Jessi was just telling us about the evacuation. Does this mean that we'll be among the last people to stay? At that rate, there will definitely be someone who has to stay behind and watch the five of us go off? Somehow, I just have the right person to stay..." Kelly's voice trailed off as she fell asleep again.

 Deina sat under the sky. It was surprisingly clear with a lot of stars. Deina mumbled, "Probably God's last gift before he ends the world," She hugged her knees tighter as she looked up. Questions raced wildly through her mind. What will happen when the evacuation starts? Will there be as many lives lost as she had anticipated? Will they be the only ones left when the world ends? What about other countries? How long will it take for them to leave? Most importantly, who will be the last person to shut down the mainframe? The person who does that will be the only person who stays behind.
 Suddenly, Deina felt herself sneeze. She got up, looked at the sky for the last time and went down to sleep.  
 Hop on to Apocalypse - Part Three!
Comments? Critisism? New ideas? Don't keep us in suspense!
DJ Lesser (jndoris@tm.net.my)
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