Authors: E.R. Arroyo
her!” Max calls, and I shake myself out of my trance. He stands over the guard
I shot in the knee, having just put a bullet in his head. I silently kick
myself for not shooting him in the chest to begin with.
follow Max to the back side of the building, where caretakers are carrying
babies and small children down the staircase behind Dylan. Dylan breaks
through the back door, not bothering with the access pad.
zip through the doorway and Dylan slams it closed.
, I think. Panicking, I realize maybe we should have taken the kids
and gone. But how could we have done that?
now?” I shout to Dylan, tired of calling the shots.
and Max corral the women away from the entrance, forcing them into a hallway
with no windows, where they hunker down, terrified.
guard pushes through the back door and Max takes him out just as quickly,
pushing the body back outside and closing the door again.
many are out there?” I ask, desperately, hoping he saw.
Max can answer, one of his guys yanks a rifle off the body of an Antius guard
and rushes up the stairs, and I follow after him, realizing what he’s going to
do. Without a word to one another, we bust out glass panes and find the guards
shooting up the back of Women’s. In the time it takes me to locate and shoot
one guard, my comrade shoots two, and there’s no one else to fire on.
downstairs, I nod for Dylan to try the back door again, this time making the
women take cover away from the doorway.
clear!” Everyone we’ve rounded up pours out the back.
men guard the door in case any soldiers come through the front while I creep
around to see what’s happening in the center of the compound. I see mostly
Refuge soldiers still standing. The sniper from the center tower is still
firing, and two of Emilio’s troops go down.
get them out of here.” I toss my pack at him and take off for the tower. On
my way, I duck and weave, wondering why only this tower is firing. I hear
Dylan calling after me, but can’t make out what he says.
Don’t follow me
I think as I realize I’m running into open battle toward a highly skilled
go straight for the ladder, thankful I don’t have to scale the post. Next, I
slip onto the deck and duck below the open windows, crawling around to the side
with the sniper. As I sit below the window, I calculate one bullet left in my
clip, but there’s no time to change it. He fires another shot, and one of the
blonde lady-soldiers goes down. After the next shot, I’m going to stand and
fire. And I can’t miss.
next shot doesn’t come, but boots do. The sniper comes out onto the deck to
take better aim, and he stands right in front of me. I vaguely recognize him,
making what I’m about to do even harder. I aim for his heart and fire into his
back. He drops his rifle, falling to his knees. There’s no blood on his
chest, but he clutches it, turning to face me. The bullet must still be in
guard I recognize--Red from the perimeter tower-- comes out of the hut and
takes in his fallen comrade, then takes in the sight of me. I jump on the
handrail and leap onto the roof like I did an eternity ago when this was just a
game. He fires but misses me. I run across the roof and swing over the edge,
throwing myself inside the room, feet first, through the open window.
stab Red in the back and pull the blade out but he turns to me, seeming
unfazed. He comes for me, swinging his gun my direction. Without a better
idea, I slice at his wrist. He drops the weapon and scrambles for it while
blood spills from his wrist and back. As he kneels to retrieve the gun, I stab
him again, the feel of my blade tearing into human flesh sickening me.
aim the spotlight at the other towers, and it looks like they’ve all been taken
We can do this.
head back toward the women’s center, knowing we can’t risk the men’s center.
We should get out while we’re ahead. We need to get out
. I search
everywhere for Max and don’t find him, so I assume he got the women and babies
catches my eye and I whip toward the underground building. Dylan’s on his
knees with Nathan standing over him. He jams a needle into Dylan’s neck and
Dylan tenses, gritting his teeth to keep from yelling. Pulling his gun, Nathan
drags Dylan to his feet and into the elevator. Blood oozes down Dylan’s face
from a wound near his eye and my heart lurches in my chest.
I release a guttural scream and run toward the elevator. Nathan smiles as the
doors close between us. The elevator disappears before I reach it. I fall to
the ground and pound on the top of the closed elevator shaft, screaming.
wasn’t Dylan fighting back?
lifted to my feet and swing a punch, blushing when I make contact with my
father’s chin. “Corinne, we have to go. We’re running out of ammo. We got what
we came for.”
has him. He has Dylan!” The burning in my eyes intensifies with my
desperation to get to Dylan. We can’t leave him behind. I
ponders for a second, looking over his shoulder. “How do we get inside?”
drop to my knees and punch in the code I used to call up Vance when I visited
Cornelius. I haven’t seen him since the day Cornelius died. While I wait, I
switch my clip. The elevator arrives and Vance stands inside it, looking
frantic. He pulls me into his arms, “Thank God.” As he releases me a bullet
hits him in the chest, right where my head just was.
groans, “Get out of here.”
Nathan took Dylan. We have to find him.” We pile into the elevator with him
and I help him put pressure on the wound. My dad fires shots out the elevator
until the doors close.
floor?” He’s pale, and weak. I don’t know how much longer he can hang on, and
there’s nothing I can do. Which floor? Where would Nathan take Dylan? He
looked me right in the eye, like he
me to follow. So where would
he want me to go?
floor. Labs.” He punches the button and wipes the blood from his finger
before scanning his print and his chip. When the elevator gets to eleven, Dad
helps Vance into a safe corner.
hear soldiers shouting and running, and we duck in the dark corner with Vance
until they pass.
the stairwell. All hands topside,” one shouts and they head the opposite
direction. When they’re gone, my father follows me down the hall.
hear Dylan yelling and run toward the sound. I turn a corner and then another
and no longer hear my father’s steps behind me. I stand for a moment not sure
if I should run back for my dad or keep going for Dylan. My dad is armed,
Dylan’s hurt. So I choose Dylan.
push through a door and into a large, white lab where Dylan is strapped to a
table with Sean guarding him. When he fires a shot, I move to the side and
slam into a metal cabinet with glass doors. As the back of my head slams into
it, the glass shatters and I drop my gun from the impact. It takes a moment
for me to get my orientation, and Sean’s sardonic laughter is pure evil and it
fills the room.
too dizzy to attack, and even though I’ve been fighting this whole time, this
feels different. I suddenly realize I’m terrified of Sean--he’s not a dumb kid
anymore, and we’re no longer the same size. It seems impossible, but my heart
beats even faster, and I fight to clear my head of the fear taking over. When
Sean advances, I snap out of it and pull a metal rack down between us then jump
on top of it, leaping at Sean.
my legs around him, I throw my elbow at his face two times before he gets a
fistful of my hair and yanks me to the floor. I scream on the way down,
grabbing onto his gun hand. I bite his wrist while twisting his arm the wrong
direction. He yelps and drops the gun and the clump of hair he pulled from my
scalp. He attacks me on the ground, and slams a heavy fist into my face,
rocking me. He slams another fist into my side, knocking the breath out of
me. I punch his jaw, but he keeps hitting me. I’m outmatched in every way and
getting desperate. I have every reason to believe I’m defeated where I lie,
and fight hard not to cry in front of him. I picture Dylan lying on the table
nearby, bleeding, bound, and drugged, and I have to do something.
think back to training, trying to remember anything that could help me. He’s
stronger than me. He’s bigger than me. I close my eyes as another punch rocks
me and I taste blood.
toss my hips to the side, trying to knock him off balance, but he’s too big.
As more blows to my ribcage rock me, I find a hole and slip my hand through it,
landing a hard punch right on his throat. He pauses for a moment, trying to
cough, and I wiggle onto my side and slam my right elbow into his ribcage,
right where Titus showed me.
reels back, but comes at me again before I can get to my feet. From the
ground, I drive my heel into the same spot I elbowed and wish to God I could
hear the bone breaking so I’d know I was doing it right.
balance on my left leg and drive my shinbone into his face. He reaches for his
fallen gun while catching my leg with one hand, pulling me with him. With my
hands now free, I go for the knife on my hip and pull it out. It’s still
bloody from Red. When he wraps his fingers around the handle of his gun, I jam
my knife into his neck and blood pours down his chest, and his grip on my leg
to catch my breath, I scrounge to my feet, my mouth gaping as I watch Sean
slump over. When I’m sure he’s down, I kick his gun away, then rush to Dylan’s
side and undo the straps. His eyes are glazed over, and his head bobs to the
side when I try to get him up.
let’s go.” I force him to hold his head up, trying to make eye contact with
him. “I need you. We’re in this together. You and me.” He can’t keep his
eyes open. “C’mon, Dylan.”
slap his cheek and find a cold piece of metal to hold against his face. His
eyes pop open, and they’re dilated from whatever Nathan drugged him with. He
flops onto his side and his legs fall over the table.
got you.” That’s a joke, he’s twice my weight. But I’m trying.
pull his arm over my shoulder and I groan when he puts his weight on me. Of
everything I’ve been through tonight, this should be easy. I help him shuffle
to the door until I realize I still don’t have my gun. I lean him against the
wall while I try to find it. I end up with Sean’s instead, but I don’t look at
the knife in his neck.
the hall and back toward the elevator, I hear ruckus in another lab. When we
pass the open doorway, I see Nathan standing across the room and my father
right by the door, both with guns drawn. Dad looks over his shoulder at me and
Dylan. With blood and cuts on his face, he yells, “Go!” But I don’t go.
Instead I enter the room, gun drawn, leaving Dylan at the door.
see you found my son, Dylan.” Nathan’s bloody, too. I’ve never been so proud
of my father.
you say his name. Don’t you dare.” I cock the gun.
really are a waste of a human being, you know that? All that passion, that
rage. You’re nothing but a juvenile delinquent who can run fast.”
he’s right about what I am, but it doesn’t change what
is. “You’re a monster. You want to know why this is
happening? Why we just evacuated half of your colony? Because you tried to
turn them into nothing. You can’t just erase the human spirit. People need
never knew you to be one for thinking. Congratulations on finally developing a
a coward, you know. You’re such a poor leader you have to manipulate people
into following you. I bet you were a nobody before the war. I bet no one
cared about you at all. Especially not Cornelius.”
the mention of his father, agony crosses his expression for a brief moment,
then his face contorts like he’s losing control.
killed him didn’t you?” I take a step toward him with both hands on the gun.
“Didn’t you?” I scream.
And why stop there?” He takes the gun off my father and trains it on Dylan.
As he pulls the trigger, I leap into the path and shield Dylan with my body.
Two shots ring out and I clench all my muscles, but the pain doesn’t come.
whip around and see my father slumped on the ground with two bullet holes in
my emotions can catch up to what I see, I unload my gun into Nathan’s chest. I
keep pulling the trigger long after I’m out, long after he drops his gun and
falls over. I barely register the gagging sounds he makes, until I realize my
dad is making them, too.
fall beside my father to find the wounds. Both bullets hit him in the chest,
and blood stains the corners of his mouth. “Daddy, no!”