“Her mom was on the phone again. Her mom had been on her phone for weeks, checking her texts, calling someone, or answering a call. Julia had been thinking about it forever and was determined to figure out the answer, and when Julia is determined to do something, it will be done.”
Julia skipped happily down the stairs into the kitchen. She was wearing flamingo pajamas. The pants were completely covered with rainbow flamingos. The shirt consisted of a pink flamingo, the yellow sun, and it said, “Summertime is the best time.” Summer is getting close, but it’s not here yet. Her mom was on the phone again. Her mom had been on her phone for weeks, checking her texts, calling someone, or answering a call. Julia had been thinking about it forever and was determined to figure out the answer, and when Julia is determined to do something, it will be done.
“Good morning, Mom!” she said with a smile. Her mom ignored her and shooed Julia away with a motion of her hand. Julia did not listen because she was upset that her mother was ignoring her. “Mother!!! Mom!!! Mama!!! MUM!! MOM!!!” she yelled.
“Um, sorry. Excuse me for a second,” Julia’s mother said. Her mother put her hand over the phone speaker. “Julia, enough with this behavior of yours. I am on the phone with someone,” she whispered loudly.
“With who?!” Julia said.
“Someone important. Now go watch TV,” she replied.
“But I want breakfast!” Julia complained.
“No, Julia! Make it yourself! Do not be so dependant!” her mom responded sternly.
“Why can’t you just make it?” she pleaded.
“I told you! I’m on the phone!” her mom replied.
“But Mom! I don’t want to make it myself! I do that every morning!” Julia moaned.
“Then you can live without it. Now go watch TV,” her mom answered.
“I don’t want to,” she said as she crossed her arms and pouted.
“I do not care if you want to or not! I am on the phone, so go!” her mom hollered. Julia stomped to the living room which was right in front of the kitchen.
“Sorry about that, my… dog was acting up again,” Julia’s mother continued with her call. “So what were you saying?”
“Dog? I am not a dog, right? She gone crazy?” Julia mumbled to herself.
Her dad marched in the room. “Hey, Julie!” he said. “You ready for school today?” he asked.
“Dad, do I look like a dog to you?” Julia questioned.
Her dad looked concerned. “Um, no? Should you?”
“I knew it, and also there is no school today. It’s Sunday,” Julia mumbled. There is something weird going on, and I am going to figure out what exactly that is, Julia thought.
Her dad rolled his eyes and laughed a little. “I gotta go to work. Make sure you wake up your brother for his baseball game, so he has enough time to get ready. Also, did you see outside there is a moving van. I guess someone finally moved into the house next door. Too bad that old couple had to move. They were such great neighbors,” he said.
Julia paid no attention to him. She had worse things to worry about. “Okay. Sure, Dad.” She snuck up the stairs and sat in the room filled with her old toys. She pretended to be reading a book.
Julia then realized her mom was in the shower. This was her chance to figure out what was really going on. Julia’s mom typically takes a thirty minute shower, so that was how long Julia had to figure out this mystery.
She tiptoed into her parents room and grabbed her mom’s phone. She opened up the text messages. There was a number, 408-487-9863. Julia ran to her room and grabbed her phone. On her notes, she put the same number.
Mystery person: 408-487-9863
Julia opened up her mom’s text messages. At the very top, it said that she had received 40 text messages from that number. She clicked on the number, and at that very moment the doorbell rang.
Julia jumped in fear. The shower sound stopped. Her mom’s footsteps got closer and closer. Julia panicked and ran behind her mom’s bed.
Her mom cracked open the door. “Julia!” she called.
“Yeah!” Julia answered back, not realizing that she was trying to hide from her mother.
“What are you doing back there?” she asked.
“Uumm… I lost my phone. Yeah. I was looking for it, um, under the beds?” she replied.
“Okay. Can you get the door, and also hand me my phone, please,” she said.
Julia grabbed her phone and handed it to her mom who was wrapped in a towel. Her mom quickly shut the door. Julia sighed and turned away.
“And Julia!” her mom called from the shower. “Be polite.” Julia rolled her eyes and walked to the door. She doesn’t need to tell me to be polite. I am very polite. She’ll see. I will make her proud, Julia thought.
Julia opened the door. In front of her was a family of four. “Hello. We are your new neighbors! It is very nice to meet you. I am Esther, and this is Richard. These are our two lovely children, Michael and Ella. May we meet your family?” the woman asked.
“Um, just give me a sec please. Um, you can wait right outside, please. Thank you,” Julia answered. She slammed the door in their faces.
She ran up the stairs to her mom. “MOM!!! We have new neighbors! They want to meet you!!” Julia yelled loudly, so the family knew she was trying.
“I don’t have time right now, sweetie. I am preparing for a very important meeting. Bring your father,” she said back. Her mom was switching from outfit to outfit, trying to look her best for the meeting. She still had the dark blue towel wrapped around her hair on top of her head.
“Don’t you know he went to work?” Julia questioned.
“Alright then, bring your brother… Did you or your father wake him up for his baseball game?” she asked.
Julia stressfully put her hand on top of her head and pulled her dark brown hair. “Oh my gosh. I knew I was forgetting something!!!”
She ran to her brother’s room a few feet away and slammed open the door, smashing one of his newly built Legos. “WAKE UP! WAKE UP!!! YOU ARE GOING TO MISS YOUR BASEBALL GAME!!!” she screamed.
“Julia, I just built that!” her brother angrily complained.
“Well, I’m sorry, but it is not my fault you left it by the door! Now get up to go to your baseball game!” Julia yelled. Julia and her brother, Sam, are very close in age. She is eleven, and Sam is eight.
“But I don’t want to go!” he yelled.
“SAM! GET UP!” Julia hollered, infuriated by her brother’s refusal to listen to her.
“Why are you so mean?” He pouted.
“I am not!” Julia answered. “C’mon, Sam. Why don’t you want to go to your baseball game?”
“Because,” he replied.
“Because why?” Julia asked.
“Because, because.” Julia noticed that Sam seemed really upset, and she felt sorry for him. She hugged him and sat on the foot of his bed.
“HELLO!!! ANYBODY THERE?!” the neighbors yelled.
“Oh my gosh. The neighbors. I totally forgot!!! SO SORRY! BE THERE IN A MINUTE!!!” Julia responded.
“C’mon, Sam. We gotta go meet the new neighbors,” Julia prompted.
“Okay,” Sam said. She dragged Sam down the stairs, and once they got to the door, she smashed it open as fast as she could. The family waited impatiently outside the door.
The father stared at his watch and straightened his red tie. The mother perfected the ruffles of her tight purple dress. She fanned herself with her elegant paper fan that was covered with all sorts of patterns. Her two twins stared at each other. It was easy to figure out the resemblance between all of them. The mom and her children had golden blond hair. The father had brown hair, but the two kids had his same pointy nose. And of course, they were all so perfect.
“So sorry. My mom is preparing for a meeting, and my dad is at work,” Julia said, ashamed.
“But you can meet me!” Sam added optimistically.
“Okay, no problem. We’d love to meet you, little one. What is your name?” the woman asked.
“Sam,” he answered.
“Oh Sam, we are delighted to meet you,” Esther said with a smile. The two kids beamed at Julia and Sam. Her mother ran down the stairs.
“Oh, um… hello, Chandlers. Pleasure to um… meet you here. Why exactly are you here?” Julia’s mom asked. Julia was shocked that her mother already knew these people.
“It almost seems like you don’t want us here, Leena. We are the new neighbors. Would it be alright if your children came over for a while?” Esther asked politely. Julia was very upset with this. She always hated being in other people’s houses if it was not her best friend’s house.
“Um, no, sorry. He has a baseball game to get to,” Julia’s mom answered quickly.
“No, no. We insist,” Richard assured. The two parents glared at Mrs. Wood. Mrs. Wood was intimidated by them.
“Um, sure. I’m sure it would be fine to be a little late. Why don’t you two go upstairs and get dressed,” she said.
Sam and Julia nodded obediently even though they had no idea what was going on. The two ran up the stairs and into their rooms.
“Why don’t you two go in the house. We’ll meet you there, okay?” Richard said to his children.
“Okay!” they answered.
“Why are you really here?” Leena questioned.
“Oh well, I wanted to get a head start on it. My children already passed. Will yours?” Esther responded. She stopped waving her fan and micheviously grinned at Leena.
They glared at each other. “Give me a second please,” Leena hissed. She held her hand to her chest, trying her hardest not to break Esther’s nose with her fist. She walked to the phone to call her husband, Noah.
Julia and Sam came running down the stairs. “C’mon, little ones. Let’s go!” Esther called in a kind, high-pitched voice.
Now, Julia wore a plain purple short sleeve shirt with jeans. Her dark brown hair was in a neat side braid. Sam wore a dark blue jacket with a neon orange Adidas symbol on the front. His sweatshirt covered his black shirt. There was a Minecraft creeper surrounded by TNTs. He wore his orange shorts that were loose and really big on him, but he liked them that way. His hair was still messy because he hated to fix it. The only time he ever did his hair was when his friend, Bella, came over.
The two siblings held hands and walked with their neighbors to their house, where Michael and his twin sister Ella waited patiently.
Julia and Sam walked through the small door and into their neighbor’s small town home.
“Alright, Julia and Sam Wood. We are going to ask you a few questions today,” Richard said.
“Why?” Sam replied politely.
“Well, we are doctors, and your mother asked us to make sure you are doing okay because she is so busy she does not have time to take you to the doctor’s office. Let’s go upstairs,” Esther said.
Michael and Ella sat in their living room and watched them all walk up the stairs. The twins both knew exactly what was going on, but Julia and Sam were completely unaware.
“So, Julia and Sam, how old are you both?” Esther asked.
“I am eleven, and my brother is eight,” Julia answered respectfully.
“It seems you Sam, are very smart. You have all A+’s and one A. Julia you have…” Richard stated.
Julia cut him off, “How do you know that?”
“One A, three A-’s, two B+’s, and one A+,” Richard continued. “It seems you have decent grades, but will they be enough? That is the question.” Esther elbowed her clueless husband. He understood exactly why.
“We…” Esther sighed. “Your mother told us about you. She is so proud of you.” Julia nodded. “So, back to the questions. Have either of you ever been in a pressured situation? Such as bullies, natural disasters, death of a close friend or relative,” Esther added.
“Uh, we have been in a 2.3 earthquake,” Julia replied.
“I have been bullied,” Sam said quietly. Julia gasped in shock. Her brother is usually an open book and tells her everything.
“Sam! Why didn’t you tell me?!” Julia exclaimed.
“I didn’t think it mattered that much. I didn’t really think you cared,” he whispered.
“Of course I care, Sam. I’m your sister, and I always care about what happens to you,” Julia said sympathetically. “Now, who was doing it?”
“This cantankerous, unscrupulous, utterly malicious bully named Darius,” Sam mumbled. Julia stared at her little brother. She had no idea he knew his vocabulary so well. It must have been because he had been reading so much. Sam had always been an amazing reader and could read pretty much any book, unless he felt like it was boring.
“Um, okay. That was lovely, but let’s continue,” Richard prompted. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be a scientist. What do you wanna be, Sam?” Julia answered.
“I wanna be… I wanna be a scientist, so I can work with Julia!” he stated. He stood up on the small brown couch and bounced up and down with excitement. He imagined it, him sitting with Julia solving math problems that would indicate when the Earth’s rotation would stop. She would have a purple lab coat, and he would have an orange one. They would solve it together and then laugh, realizing how simple their mistakes were before.
“Good heavens!” Esther squealed. “Do not bounce on the couch! Were you raised in a barn?!” She covered her mouth with her hand and fanned herself with her detailed paper fan once again. Sam quickly sat back down next to Julia across from the other small brown couch where their doctors and neighbors sat. Little did they know, the Chandlers were neither doctors nor their new neighbors. They were something far more important.
“I think that is enough questions, answers, and impersonating jackrabbits for today, children. Off you go,” Esther said, annoyed. Julia and Sam stood up and left the room. Richard got up from his seat and closed the door behind them.
“You can’t say stuff like that, Richard. You’ll give us away. It is a hard secret to keep. It may feel like you should warn people, but it is for the best that no one knows what is to be left of this world when the storm occurs. We will stop it. We just can’t tell anyone. The only people who will be aware of this are the few chosen engineers and scientists,” Esther whispered to her husband.
“But I don’t get why we cannot allow the real scientists and engineers to handle this,” Richard replied quietly.
“Because, Richard. The new generation of children has spent more time around technology. We have a much better chance using them. Besides, it will be quicker,” Esther answered.
Julia and Sam walked down their stairs and started to open the door. “Hey, guys. How did it go?” Michael asked. The two twins still sat in the same spot on the beige couch in front of the TV. Ella paused the horror movie that they were watching. It made sense because they were both twelve.
“How did what go?” Sam replied.
Ella looked around to make sure no one was listening. “The test?” she whispered.
“What test?” Julia asked.
“You really do know nothing,” Michael continued. “They, our parents, are part of a secret organization known as STORMx4. It stands for Support, Technological, Official, Rescuing Machine. The name in general means a storm that is combining four different types of natural disasters, a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, and tsunami. It will be a worldwide storm, and it will wipe out half of the planet. So STORMx4 is trying to bring together the smartest kids on the planet and use them to build a machine that will prevent this.
“So we could get picked?” Sam questioned. It was hard for Julia and Sam to process it all, that their worlds would blow up, unless a few kids could save it.
“Yes, that’s what we have heard,” Ella responded.
“Well, we have to warn the police officers and the firemen. And our parents,” Julia said stressfully.
“You can’t. We aren’t even supposed to know. You have to promise that you won’t tell anyone, not even your family,” Michael said quickly.
Sam looked up at Julia. They both really wanted to warn their parents, so that they could get to safety.
“Okay,” Sam sighed. The kids all heard footsteps coming from upstairs.
They all looked at each other. If Esther and Richard figured out that they were still there, the Chandler parents would for sure suspect something. Julia and Sam crawled swiftly and quietly to the door.
Julia twisted the door handle and then opened the door. Thankfully, their previous neighbors hated squeaky doors and had the door fixed. So if you opened the door, you could still hear the sound of a bee buzzing outside and pollinating the nearby flowers.
She cautiously closed it behind her. Sam and Julia ran back to their home. Their dad came home as quick as possible when he heard that his children could be chosen to rescue the world.
Noah and Leena held hands and leaned against their counter in the white kitchen. Noah rubbed Leena’s hand as she sobbed. Julia and Sam walked through the door.
“Is everything okay?” Julia asked. Their parents just came over and hugged them.
“Yes. Are you okay?” their father said concerningly.
“Yeah. Why?” Sam replied. Their parents looked at each other. “What?” Sam added.
“Well, there is a storm coming, and — ” their father had a lot more to say, but he was disrupted.
“Yeah, we know. It is a huge storm, and it will wipe out half the planet. We also heard that they are testing kids to see who will qualify to help build a machine to stop it,” Julia interrupted.
Both parents were shocked that their children already knew about this. “Our friends told us!” Sam said enthusiastically.
“Okay. Well, that is why I have been on the phone so much. I have been talking to the Chandlers,” Leena added. She looked down at her feet and clenched her husband’s hand. She leaned her head against his shoulder.
“And that’s why I have been so busy. STORMx4 has been contacting us. They believe they have discovered some potential inventors. The thing is, you just tested. They have seen your grades and know precisely what you struggle with. Our neighbors are the employees in charge of testing and watching you. They have been spectating you for a few days, so we have heard. Anyways, we are sorry for not telling you kids,” Noah said.
“It’s okay, Dad, but have people been stalking us?!” Sam continued. “Are they secret spy agents?!”
“Sure, Sam,” Leena laughed. The Woods all laughed together, just like they used to. Unfortunately, it may have been the last time the Woods would do something together, as a family.
A few days later, two white envelopes arrived. The days had been long and hard, but the Wood family tried to make the most of it. They played board games and spent time as a family. Now, came the moment of truth. Would the family be split up? Or would they stay together? No one knew.
Julia and Sam couldn’t bear to open it up in front of their parents. If they did make it, how would they tell them?
The two sat in Julia’s room. It was comforting in there. A pink light shone down on her fluffy purple pillows that covered her cozy blue bed sheets. Her queen size bed was overflowing with stuffed animals. Some were red, some orange, pink, blue, purple, green, magenta, rainbow.
She and Sam sat criss-cross-applesauce on her fuzzy purple rug near her bed. “We’re gonna open it on three, okay?” Julia said, looking at Sam. She tried her hardest to stay calm but couldn’t help but breathe a little fast.
“One,” Julia counted. “Two.”
“Three,” Sam added. The two siblings opened their envelopes and inside was a note. The note in Julia’s envelope read:
Dear Julia Wood,
I am sure you may not have been aware, but we have been watching you. We have been trying to figure out if you qualify for building a machine that could save the world.
We are sad to tell you, that unfortunately, you did not test at the right skill level. We are very sorry and hope you have future opportunities.
Please do not tell anyone about this message. This is a private organization.
Julia jumped up and down. She was so happy that she was not required to leave her family.
“Eeeeeeehhh!!!” she squealed.
Sam stared horror-struck at his letter. “What’s… What’s wrong Sam?” Julia asked.
“I — I — I.” He took in a shaky deep breath. “I qualified.” Julia stopped jumping and looked at her brother.
“No. There must have been some mistake. You must have read it wrong.” She snatched the note right out of his hands.
“Dear Sam Wood,” Julia read. “I am sure you may not have been aware… Blah. Blah. Blah. We are proud, and honored to notify you… ” She copped her mouth with her hand. “That you have qualified for this project. You are our youngest inventor and because our inventor closest to your age is a teen, the writing will not be so simple. You may bring one maximum person with you. Your grades and ability to catch on to things quickly are the reason you were chosen for this project. Please report to the STORMx4 organization, 98670, Main Street, Santa Clara, CA, with all of your belongings and clothes that you will need for the next few months. Congratulations,” Julia mumbled. She slouched down onto her bed. She was in denial. Her little brother, Sam, would leave her for a few months.
“I can’t do it,” he said. Julia didn’t reply. She just sat on her blue bed covers and stared at the note. Sam got up and ripped the envelope in half. He threw it on the ground and ran out Julia’s door. His parents were talking about how they would handle it if their kids did have to leave, when Sam pushed past them to reach the front door.
He opened it and ran to the park that was in the back of his small town home area. No one ever came there, so it was a great place to hide.
He ran to the farthest back corner, where a strong tall oak tree stood. He reached for the branch that was in front of him and pulled himself up. Tears streamed down his face as he climbed the tall tree. He pulled himself up to the next branch and stood on a small one below him because his arms weren’t that strong.
The branch supporting his foot snapped. He gasped. He clenched the thick branch tight. He held onto one side, and his body hung off the opposite side.
He had climbed this tree before, and the same thing had happened. But, that time he was with Julia. He broke his leg, but he was also only allowed to climb to the third brach up, which was pretty much ten feet off the ground. Now, he was two stories high.
He kicked his legs and pulled himself up farther with his arms. He swung his leg up and thankfully, it landed on the life support branch. He hugged the branch with his legs and arms.
I think that is enough climbing for today, Sam thought. He warily pushed himself up, so he sat normally. He held on with his right hand to a thinner branch close above him.
He still could not process the fact that he would leave his family behind. He knew that he would be trying to save, not just his family, but his friend’s families and their friend’s families. The point is, he would have one chance to try and save millions of people.
Sam pulled a paper airplane out of his pocket that he had made that morning. He stared at it. No more paper airplane making. No more friends. No more Mom. No more Dad. But worst of all, no more Julia, Sam thought. Sam had always been close with his mom and dad, but he was always the closest with Julia.
Whenever Sam felt like his world was going to end, Julia was there. He recalled that once he did terribly in a baseball game. It was a playoff game. If they lost, they would get second. If they won, they would gain first place in the league. The game was nearly tied, five to six. It was the last inning, the seventh inning. His team was one point behind, and they had two outs. It was up to him to keep them in and get a homerun for his team. One of his players was on the third base. All he needed to do was a single good hit, and he would win his team the game. It was his last pitch. The ball flew, and he missed it.
When he finished, he started crying and said it was all his fault. Julia comforted him and said, “If your players would have gotten more homeruns, then you could have been in the lead. It’s not only your fault. When a team loses, it is because of the whole team, not one player.”
But when he goes to STORMx4, Julia won’t be there to comfort him.
Sam stared at the sun, sinking beneath the horizon. The sky was a bright pink mixed with orange. Clouds were scattered. Sam sighed. He was always very outdoorsy. He would miss coming here. It’s a beautiful view, and it is really easy to think on that branch. Sam put his dark blue hood over his messy brown hair.
He lifted the paper plane up and threw it into the air. The plane flew through the sky, like a dandelion wish. Sam dreamed of being a paper plane and being free. He wouldn’t have to help STORMx4 because he would be busy soaring through the cool, crisp air.
He wiped away a few of the tears that were on his face. Should I go? Didn’t the note say I could take one person with me who could understand complicated words? Julia is good at that. Plus, she is good at math, the one subject I have an A in, she has her one A+. But, would it be okay with her if I pulled her away from her family, our family? Sam thought.
Sam climbed down from his thinking space and headed back home. He opened the door and walked in. His parents ran to the door.
“Oh, Sam. We are so sorry,” his mother cried. “Julia told us what happened.”
“Yes, Sam. We are really sorry,” his dad added. They hugged their son tight.
“Where is Julia, anyways?” Sam asked.
“Her room. Why?” his mother said, as she wiped her tears with a tissue.
“Just wondering. I’m gonna go talk to her,” Sam replied.
“Okay, sweetie,” Leena answered. Sam ran to and up the stairs. He walked across the playroom to Julia’s room. Sam lightly knocked on the door and cracked it open. His sister was on her bed, staring at the ceiling and cuddling her teddy bear stuffed animal. It used to be her favorite stuffed animal and her best friend. She would tell that stuffed animal everything, until Sam. Now, she can just tell Sam, but not this time.
“Julia… ” Sam said hesitantly.
“Sam, shouldn’t you be packing?” she asked, still staring at the ceiling. Her hands rested on her stomach and she crossed her ankles.
“The note says… ” Sam grabbed the crumpled note from the floor. “Since the closest inventor in age is a teen, you may bring one maximum person with you. So, I was thinking…”
Julia popped her head up. She hated to admit it, but she really wanted to go with Sam. And she was a little upset that he got picked and not her. She thought her grades were pretty good.
Sam continued, “Maybe, since you have one A+ in math and I have one A in math, you could… Maybe.”
Julia looked at him. Her, leave her family? She loved Sam, but she also loved her friends and her parents. They would be devastated. But, if she helps, her brother would not be alone. She could help save the world! Julia always wanted to be a superhero. This was pretty similar!
Julia was upset that STORMx4 would choose her little brother and not her. But, she wasn’t going to miss her chance to prove to them that they made a mistake, and they should have chosen her.
“I’ll do it, Sam. I’ll go with you,” Julia answered, after a little thinking.
“Well, let’s get packing,” Sam replied. He was sad to leave his parents. But, he was ecstatic that he would stay with his sister, his favorite person in the world. He couldn’t help but smile a little as he walked to his room, knowing that he would not be alone.
To be continued…