New Rules


Despite his best attempts, Jack only ran across Carver by accident. There were still some things he wouldn't do, and one of them was break into the girls' dorm. And it wasn't really practical to just rush into their classes, he wouldn't be able to talk to them there anyways. Neither Carver nor Donlan seemed to frequent the canteen, and during after hours, when NO one was in class, they were mysteriously absent. No one, not even Janet, seemed to know where they went.

Janet gave him a rather knowing look when he asked where Donlan was. He'd been getting that look a lot recently, and it vaguely irritated him. He'd started asking for CARVER, rather than Donlan, because for some reason that never had the same affect.

But Carver was, if anything, more elusive. No one seemed to know ANYTHING about her, apart from the fact that she was Donlan's friend, and she was creepy. Jack heard several stories about an odd mythology report and one about a disturbing science fair proposal. The court seemed to be interested in her: she'd been called to some high-level meetings and was rumored to have crossed into Gilltie Wood on occasion.

Fascinating tidbits no doubt, and Jack had fun debating back and forth their respective likelihoods of validity, but mostly they were irritating, because they meant that there was NO way to track Carver down.

So on Thursday, when he caught a glimpse of red hair out of the corner of his eye, he abandoned his friends and his walk to class to flag her down. "Carver! Hey!"

With a slight pause, almost as though she'd been interrupted in something, Carver turned around. "Hello, Jack."

"Hey." The buzzing had momentarily quieted, and Jack suddenly realized how bizarre this whole thing must seem. "Uh… how's it going?"

"Fine, thank you," returned Carver, smiling politely if not pleasantly.

"Great. Great." Jack nodded, trying desperately to think of a casual way to work the conversation around to Zimmy.

Apparently it took him too long. "Is everything all right?" Carver tilted her head on one side.

"Yeaaaah…." Jack gave up. The information was too important to mess around with. "Listen. That one… friend of yours? From the power station?" Carver looked confused and he tried a smooth smile. "She had… black hair."

Carver's face cleared to be filled with a peculiar animation. "You mean Kat?"

"No, no." Jack waved his hand irritably. Not this again. "The other one. Her friend didn't speak any English."

"Oh…" Carver's face took on a more troubled expression. "… You mean Zimmy."

Zimmy…

"Zimmy." Jack nodded, feeling the sudden relief. "Yeah, that's right, Zimmy." The buzzing was back, but it had a new timbre, more frantic, eager somehow. The buzzing knew Zimmy. It wanted Zimmy.

Zimmmyzimmyzimmybzzzzzzzimzz zzbzzzzZimmyzbzzzzZimmy…

It NEEDED Zimmy.

All too soon, the relief drained away. The buzzing grew more frantic, more insistent. It pressed against his mind. Zimmyzimmyzimmyzimmyzimmy…

"What… what class is she in?" Jack managed.

Carver edged slightly away. "In… Chester, I think."

"Oh, Chester, huh?" Jack nodded slightly, stepping forward. "Right, right."

Once again, Carver stepped backwards.

Bzzbzznzzzzbzzzz….

Jack felt the edges of panic. She couldn't go! She was his only anchor right now, the only one who'd been in that… place. "So…" he started, and stopped. There wasn't a smooth way to lead up to this. "What's up with her?" As he said that, another question came out. "What happened?"

Carver looked at him, and for the first time, Jack saw someone who felt a hint of the nightmare he was living. Someone who was a part of the not-quite-rational world that he'd fallen into. Someone who understood, however slightly, WHY he had to know about Zimmy.

And all at once, the questions Jack had been burning to ask since that bizarre night came boiling out, without waiting for Carver's answers.

"That city she took us to..." He snapped, advancing on her again. "What was that place? How did she DO that?" Carver wasn't getting away from him, she was against the wall now, she HAD to answer him. "What's so important about that friend of hers?" The buzzing grew more demanding in his ears. Zimmyzimmyzimmyzimmy "Where is she RIGHT NOW?"

Something FLARED through the buzzing, and Jack caught a sudden flash of white out of the corner of his eye. He turned.

Standing directly behind him was a very large, very angry, white wolf.

"Oh," Jack managed, diplomatically moving aside to let the wolf slide over to Carver's side. "You have a… large wolf with you."

Somehow this made sense. In the not-quite-rational world of Zimmy and Carver, you couldn't expect ordinary solutions. Of COURSE Carver had a maniacal canine bodyguard. Of course it wouldn't be so easy as simply ASKING her for the answers.

He'd asked his full, he could see, staring at the growling wolf. He'd get no more answers here. "Okay. Cool." He nodded, moving off. Fair enough. He'd play by their rules. It was the only way to play.

Oddly enough, Carver didn't look frightened, or even discomfited. If anything, she looked oddly… concerned. Her blue eyes studied him calmly, yet intently.

She had a flower in her hair, Jack noticed suddenly. So did the wolf.

"Nice flowers." Jack grinned, and strode off down the hall, past their sight. He made it all the way down the hall and arounda few more corners before he stopped and rested against the wall. What… what had just happened there?

Zimmyzimmyzimmyzimmy…

Again the tickle on his chin. Jack brushed it away irritably.

What had happened was he'd lost his only lead, he realized. Carver would never talk to him again, and even if she did… she might not be as lost as he, but clearly Zimmy was a mystery to her also. Some sort of new tack was needed.

Zimmyzimmyzimmyzimmy…

Jack pressed his hands to his forehead. Shut UP, he thought, willing the buzz away. Focus! There was no way he could get into Chester—they were kept separate from the rest of the court, and really Jack didn't know much more about them than the thousand weird rumors around the school. He couldn't even break into their dorms, he had no idea where the dorms were.

"Mr. Hyland?"

Jack glanced up, startled, at the smiling bald man before him. He was dressed in a Court Security uniform, he noticed.

"Mr. Hyland, Dr. Zeizenbergen noticed you were not in class," smiled the man.

"Yeah." Another guard, much taller and slimmer, came into view. "And they sent us to get you. What're you doing all the way back here, kid?"

Zimmyzimmyzimm…

Jack's mind seized on the inconsistency in the man's words. How had they managed to find him so quickly, when he was 'all the way back here?' Dr. Zeizenbergen couldn't have noticed his absence more than five minutes ago. Which meant that they had a way of spotting him quickly, which meant he…

"You should not be shirking your education in such a manner, Mr. Hyland." The short man admonished him. "Many of your other teachers have noticed that you are… distracted in class. Are you well?"

The question was kind and understanding, and the man had a look of beatific innocence spread across his features, but Jack felt or else imagined just a faint hungriness to his stance. How was he so familiar with Jack? How had he pulled all this information so quickly?

"C'mon, kid, let's get you back to class," ordered the other, clapping a hand on his shoulder.

Shrugging, Jack went along with the guards. But inside, he couldn't help thinking: They're watching me.