Austin Jageler '25, Writer

   Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right. The red knight jumped and stabbed the dragon mites before talking to the quest master.

     “Thou shalt go to the great dragon’s lair! Thou must travel or the eastern mountains to reach the beast’s wicked den.”

     “Oh. Hey, take a look at this.” Morgan took his eyes off the screen to read the headline Aiden was showing him. ‘Representative Lorene Jenson Apprehended.’

     “What happened with her?” Morgan questioned, turning his attention back to his game.

     “Says here she got caught buying black market gas-guzzlers.”

     “Really? Wouldn’t you think electric vehicles are good enough by now?”

     “Apparently she really liked her antiques. It couldn’t have been a mistake either. Those were banned back in the 20s. Oh! Look, look. Another Reference. Let’s see if Lorene can get this one through her skull.”

     “Why do you keep calling it that? You know that project’s part of the government by now.

     “Only government-funded and affiliated. Not actually a part of it.”

     “Whatever with your technicalities. What’s the vote on?”

     “Treadmills. Indoor exercising stuff. Could get people outside more.”

     “Yeah, I can get on board with that. Oh, it’s getting late. Bye Aiden. Thanks for having me Mrs. Routhout!” called Morgan.

     “Are you sure you don’t want to stay for dinner?” she called back.

     “No, no. I’ve got stuff at home.”


     Morgan packed up his stuff and left. The air was still and cold but his house was only a few streets away. Something in Morgan’s mind started to work. He thought about the game…the vote…the control…the…the rushing got louder. Louder and louder. Shouts and crashes could be heard from 86 Kultalt and throughout the block. Morgan scanned his keycard at the front door to be met with a wave of deafening sound. 

     “This is what I’ve been telling you, that stupid machine is not good for you! And you,” Morgan’s mother whipped around to face Morgan “I’m not dealing with you tonight. In your room!” she barked.

     “But I didn’t…” 

     “I don’t care!”

     “You should!” snapped back Morgan before heading upstairs to his room.

     “Former treadmill producer, Gyrotica, goes out with a bang. Outlets across the country are in burning ruins as protestors destroy their property based on the outcome of the most recent vote. The government has not gotten involved, claiming that is an issue between Gyrotica, the people, and interestingly, Referendote which they have closely partnered with in the past, though have seemed to be pulling away in recent times. Meanwhile, further…” the reporter’s voice suddenly cut off. Morgan fell back on his bed, head swirling…swirling…swirling…stop.



     20 faces popped into existence. A glow from the front of the room told him he had slept through the whole presentation on modern computing software and algorithms.

     “Morgan. Can you tell us something about the presentation?” Morgan looked slightly puzzled at the teacher but then caught his balance.

     “Well, uh. Oh! Yes. So, our technology has definitely advanced a bit in the last few years with wireless charging and other stuff like that.”

     “Yes, good, but how does that connect with the lesson? Oh, Hugo. Yes.”

     “Although we have had wireless pocket pad chargers for a while now, we have seen increased development on hacker detection software which I have done explorations on in my free time.” 

     “Very good!” Morgan took a disgusted look at showoff Hugo. “We should have time for a few questions…” BRIIING! “Oh, no we don’t! Just review the slideshow for homework.”

     Morgan picked up his one item and left for lunch. The cold, metallic surface of his computer reminded him of his walk home last night. 

     “Have you heard about the Gyrotica collapse?” Gareth appeared next to Morgan in the hallway. 

     “Yeah, I heard about that. There’s something about it… I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. What’s for lunch?”

     “It’s salad. What else would it be? We all voted for that a few years back.”

     “Yeah…that’s right.”

     The leafy pile flopped as Morgan’s plate hit the table. He stared at it in deep thought. He went for his fork but stopped himself. He cautiously put his finger in the salad and started to crush it.

     “Morgan.” He snapped up and took his hand out of the flattened leaves. The 5 other faces had weird looks.

     “We need to do something,” blurted Morgan.

     “What are you talking about?”

     “I’ve figured it out. The chaos, the destruction. It’s… it’s wrong.”

     “What is?”

     “Everything! The whole thing! Have you not seen it! It’s everywhere!”

     “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

     “You have to believe me!”

     “Morgan! Why are you yelling?”

     “I…I don’t know,” he responded quietly to the supervisor that had appeared.

     “I’d better not hear it again or you’ll get detention.”

     Morgan waited until the supervisor had wandered off. 

     “We all want what’s good but we don’t want what happens once we get there. In theory, we want people to get outside but we don’t want all these people’s lives being destroyed.”

     “Are you talking about the votes? That’s ridiculous. I don’t even know what your point is. We’re headed to class.”


     Left, left, left, up, up, down. More powerful dragon minions had appeared. He could see the lair’s entrance at the bottom of the hill. 

     “Morgan, your friends are here!” yelled his mom. Why would they be here? There wasn’t anything planned.

     Aiden and Gareth walk in uneasy looks on their faces.

     “You’re right. What do we do?”

     “Well… I haven’t thought about it. I wasn’t expecting to get this far. Why are you guys here?”

     “You’re right. We thought about it. There needs to be a change.”

     “But I don’t even know what to do.”

     “We’ve done some thinking. It’s the votes. We need to get rid of the votes.”

     “But it’s government software. We don’t have the capabilities to hack that.” He thought about it. Then it dawned on him. He looked at the other two’s faces. He knew they were thinking the same thing. Hugo. 


     “2004, 2005, 2006, 2007. Is that enough?” Morgan wondered.

     “Depends on how we ask. We all know he won’t willingly hack into a government-supported project,” replied Gareth.

     “And we can be sure that he’ll want more deurons than we have. How do we do it then?” 

     “We need to trick him. We need to tell him we are getting him to do something good. Though, I couldn’t think of anything good that would require the level of hacking we’re asking him to do.” said Morgan.

     “I’m sure we’ll find something.” 

     “What about just needing it for just curiosity? Kind of as an ‘in theory’ type of way,” proposed Gareth.

     “Yeah…yeah. That would work. How much do we offer him?”


     “Hugo! Wait. We need your help.” He suddenly stopped and spun around. 

     “Ah! Morgan. Help with the lesson?”

     “No, no. Me and my friends here were wondering if you could show us what it would look like to change what the votes say.”

     “You want me to hack the votes? I can’t do that.”

     “Just in theory. We won’t actually use it. That would be crazy. But we will pay you.”

     “How much?”

     “700 deurons.”

     “Hacking government-supported projects is not an easy task. I’ll need at least more than double that.”

     “We’re not asking you to hack it, just to show us what it would look like. Name your price.”

     “Oh, yes you are. People don’t just want to see stuff. They want to use it. I’m gonna need some hefty compensation if I’m gonna do what you want.”

     “You were tougher than expected.” Morgan shoved Hugo’s small frame against the wall. They all waited in fear as the metal sheet walls rumbled down the hall. Morgan turned back to Hugo.

     “You will give us what we want. No matter the compensation we give you.” A look of fear had manifested itself on Hugo’s face. He nodded quietly.

     “Morgan. Let go of him.” Morgan looked surprised down at his hands.

     “I want that code by Thursday,” he said sharply.


     Right, left, right, left. The red knight had reached the entrance of the great beast’s lair, but he stopped. Morgan thought about everything that could happen. What if he failed. The world would continue to go on as it did, but with great evil. If he succeeded, then all people would be grateful. The red knight plunged into the great depths below.


     “Here you go. I’m not happy about this but I am happier than what would happen otherwise.” Morgan snatched the chip from Hugo’s little hands. He looked around cautiously at all the people leaving the school around them before slipping the chip into his pocket.

     “I got it. Let’s go.” Morgan, Aiden, and Gareth all walked excitedly out of the school and to Morgan’s house.

     “Alright. So just plug it in here and that should work,” suggested Gareth. The computer screen blinked and flashed before showing a mess of a screen filled with different numbers and characters. 

     “Whoa. What’s this?”

     “Just hit that,” Gareth pointed out. It all shrank away revealing a line of text. ‘Bungee jumping banned for possible injury.’ Morgan fiddled around on the keyboard. A new line of text appeared. ‘Due to the possibility of injury, bungee jumping has been banned.’

     “That’s not gonna solve our problem. That just reworded the thing,” Aiden criticized.

     “Yeah, but now we know it works. Check it out.” Aiden pulled out his phone.

     “It says to ban school. Did you do that?”

     “Yeah. we got it!” They all gave high fives to each other.

     “Let’s leave it at that and see what happens.” They turned on the news and waited.

     “We have breaking news from the government. They received a notification that the votes have been tampered with. Since the message did not originate within the system, they traced the signal to what seemed like the hacking software that did the deed. This is highly…”

     “Hugo tricked us! We were never going to just get it our way!”

     “We’re gonna get that kid tomorrow.”


     “Hugo!” Morgan grabbed Hugo by the shirt and dragged him to the end of the hallway.

     “Why are you trying to sabotage us. We’re the good guys! We’re the ones fixing this broken society!”

     “You think you’re some kind of heroes? People like it the way things are!”

     “Then we’ll ask them. We’ll ask the people what they want. I suppose that’s what you want then, isn’t it.” 

     “More people realize what’s been happening than you think. You’re not the first. It’s just that some have thought about it longer than you.”

     “That’s fine. I’ll give you your vote. We’ll see who’s right,” Morgan snapped back. ‘For continuing the votes or getting rid of them for good.’ the numbers were in almost instantaneously. 50/50. All the group’s pocket pads lit up in a flurry of flashes and buzzes and rings. Real estate opportunities: homes are being sold by the thousand. E-Talk messages: Which side are you on? News reports: The government has severed all ties to Referendote. Stock updates: Weapons selling out across the country. But a huge red post blocked them all out. 

Government warning: Civil war has begun.