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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/campfires/item_id/1540430-Cities-of-Dust
by Flaw
Rated: 18+ · Campfire Creative · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #1540430
2167 AD. Rebels are fighting against the government from within abandonned cities.
[Introduction] It is 2167AD and the government has become all encompassing, creating a gargantuan city the size of a continent known only as 'The Metropolis'. From within their shining spires, the most powerful men in the world control every aspect of human life within the Metropolis. Every citizen who is not entirely suited to the lifestyle is arrested by government troops known as the CoRE (Corps of Resistance Elimination) and are sent to a correctional facility from which few ever return. Those who do manage to esacpe the Metro, find their way to the abandon cities they used to inhabit over a century ago, far away from the Metro's influence. Here they are quickly assimilated into the local rebel group, often named after the city they are inhabiting. Continuing with the government's need for total control, the CoRE often attack the cities of old and the rebels attack in retaliation.

Well thats the basic context...

Our MC is one of these rebels. A young man in his late teens, Marco Keys has been a rebel all his life, insulated from the fighting by his father. But when his father is killed defending the city, Keys must quickly learn to fight and defend those he loves. It is a hard life and there are many fatalities in the skirmishes that become everyday life in Kaeren City. We join Keys in his first skirmish...

Rules
1. Swearing is allowed, though the bare minimum would be appreciated (try to keep it within the age rating, say 'He cursed', etc...)
2. There will be violence, but again, try to keep it within the guidelines.
3. There may well be scenes of an intimate nature, but again, keep it within the guidelines please.
4. Yes, it is the future, but try to keep it realistic to an extent (no aliens, no weapons that make people disappear or turn them into fluffy teddy bears...you get the picture)
5. Mail me with any queries, i'll be happy to help
(6) I'm new to this, so any help would be welcomed, thankyou :)
7. Have fun!
The last of the sunlight trickled through cracks in the boarded windows, the blacked room lit by haphazard chance. The grenade rolled graciously into the centre, its vents and shutters parting as if two pairs of lips were opening for a kiss.
The dappled light played so beautifully over the polished metal surface.
Key’s found himself mesmerised by it. He strained his eyes to make out the tiny writing stencilled to the side of the little canister. It read ‘CoRE’. That made him smile. He didn’t know why, but he felt like he should know what a ‘core’ was.
Oh well, he thought, nonchalant, it’ll come to me.
Something was pulling at him. He reached down to bat away the annoyance, to stop the interruptions to his simple pleasures of discovery. The canister was growing harder to see now. At first it seemed like he was on one of those...what was it? He strained his tired mind once again. It came to him in a rush. An escalator! He’d seen a few, but he’d never ridden on a moving one before. What an experience! Somewhere in the back of his mind made him open his mouth and tried to form the words ‘GOOD BYE CORE, HELLO ESCALATOR’ but he couldn’t.

Keys hit the ground hard on his front, feeling the vibrations shudder through his ribcage and the air rush from his lungs. He felt an arm round his middle. It was a man’s arm. Rico’s?
He didn’t realise the man had tackled him to the ground until it happened.
The incredible, high pitched wail of the explosion deafened him instantly.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw the accompanying flash of brightness over the top of the fabric chair he’d fell behind. He felt the penetrating white light reaching out to burn his retinas - stretching for the identical blackholes at the centre of his eyes. He blinked the spots away. Close, but not quite.

Weapons development had come on a long way since the time of escalators. New power sources had been developed to power massive machines; new mechanisms for firearms made them faster, more powerful and more accurate; new chemicals made to burn and blind and choke. But there were no new chemicals in the M06 Incapacitation Grenade which had rolled into the room, oh no. Just the classic mix of ammonium, mercury and magnesium, but with a modern twist.
The traditional flash-bang grenade had worked just fine for a few decades...until the rebels managed to steal some of the CoRE’s flash visors – transparent plates of modified, light-reactive glass which reduced the effect of the ten million candela flash of the grenade to a bearable level. Coupled with the earplugs some rebels managed to make from simple putty substances, the old stun grenades were made relatively useless.
That was until some bright spark had come up with the idea of gas-dispensing flash-bang grenades. The gas was a powerful opiate, designed to dull the senses, lower reaction times and, in some cases, cause unconsciousness.

Keys breathed in deeply. His chest was tight from its brief embrace with the floor. His ears rang as if a cathedral had been forced into his mind and a demented Abbott was relentlessly pulling the bells.
Cathedrals.
Key’s had read about them too.
A Non-Existent User
At the sound of the explosion, Ainsley Morgan began to run. It was second nature to her; explosions meant trouble. Stay away from trouble. Her mother had programmed it into her for thirteen years.

But her mother had been dead for two years, and all Ainsley could do was run.

Other rebels swarmed towards the sound of the explosion, determined to help any of their own that had been hurt. But Ainsley ran against the crowd. None of the others in the ruined city wanted her there, anyway. She was the freak, the outsider in a society of outsiders.

A second explosion rocked the area as Ainsley curled up in a crevice in the wall. Cold metal pressed into her back; she ignored it and ducked her head. Briefly, she wondered if anyone had been hurt. It was unlikely, but possible. Then she banished the thought from her mind. They didn't care about her: she wouldn't care about them, either. It was probably just another skirmish.

Ainsley sighed as the crowd began to filter back into the centre of the city, their expressions now bored. She climbed out of her hiding spot and moved to her favourite haunt: the decrepit building with the rows of mildewy seats and broken lights and weird-looking screens. The faded signs and posters said it was a 'cinema', whatever that was.

Ainsley curled up on a chair in one of the big screen rooms. With another sigh, she closed her eyes.

When she awoke, it was to the sound of cursing. Ainsley sat up, eyes wide. There was someone in her cinema. Holding her breath, she ducked under the seat and listened as footsteps echoed dully through the screen room. The person coughed and stopped walking.

Ainsley crawled through the spaces between the seats. The dim light wouldn't give her much of a view, but she could at the very least try and see who had invaded her cinema home.
Cathedrals.
Key's had read about them too. But he didn't have time to ponder where he had heard about them. Someone was shouting in his ear, loud urgent sounds. He rolled over onto his back, and took another deep breath. A patch of light played on the ceiling. It didn't belong in this world of explosions and loud noises.

"What do you think you're doing? Here. Put this on. Quick!"

It was a deep, male voice. Keys found a piece of cloth thrust at him, no bigger than the size of a napkin. A piece of elastic was attached to one corner, and ran to the opposite. A memory of his father coming home wearing one of these sprung to the front of his mind, and he slipped the elastic behind his head, making sure the material covered his mouth and nose. Keys wasn't entirely sure of their purpose, but it seemed the only logical thing to do with the item. He lay on the floor for a few moments longer, unsure of what was required of him. A strong hand grasped his shirt front and hauled him to his feet, and Keys found himself face to face with a tall, well built male. Rico.

Rico was 6 foot 4, and built like an ox. His muscles stood out beneath his bulging shirt, his face partially obscured by the cloth. CoRE had only recently started using their new flash grenades, giving the rebels no time to prepare a defence. Their only means to limit the intake of the gas was this measly cloth. Several of their skirmishes had been a complete failure due to CoRE's new grenades. They'd had to cut and run, pulling their 'wounded'.

"Great. The gas has got to you too."

His voice came out muted beneath the material. Keys opened his mouth to reply, but it was cut short by the arrival of the CoRE members, ready to clean up after the explosion. Rico took one look at Key’s mildly bemused state, grabbed him by the arm and dived for the elevator. Praying the power source was still active, he mashed the buttons on the inside of the carriage. The metal doors began to slide shut, just as the first visor peered around the corner of the room.


Entering a building, Thane began to curse trying to free himself of the guilt he felt for leaving his brother behind. Their plan had been to leave together from the Metropolis, but it hadn’t happened, he’d freed only himself leaving his brother behind to be punished. Three years had passed since that day, but he felt the guilty.
He looked around the strange building wishing he had learned how to read so he could know what the strange signs and posters said. The refusal to read had been his first rebellious act as a child and it had caused him trouble, especially before he escaped.
He began to walk around the building looking around. There were several sets of doors leading into other rooms. Choosing a door at random he entered one and looked around. Inside the room were rows upon rows of worn out red chairs. They all faced the same direction, looking at a large screen to the far end of the wall.
The room was dark, but from what he could see, it was empty. Perfect place to let out his frustration! Thane cleared his throat, he had once been told that the best way to make things better was to speak about what was wrong. He had strong doubts this were true, but it was worth a try. He knew that by speaking about problems it was best to have someone around listening, but Thane had no one, and even if he had, he didn’t want people to realize what a horrible he was. Maybe just speaking his problems aloud would help.
“Now what,” he yelled, “Jam and I were suppose to escape together, but no, he had to get himself caught! Damn Jamon just had to get himself caught. What was I suppose to do…”
Down in a few rows in, someone sneezed causing Thane to quit his rant. He began to walk towards the row the sneeze had come from. “Who’s in here?” he asked.
He looked down between the two rows of seats. Kneeling there was a girl staring at him.
“Who are you,” he asked her.
The tiny dial above the elevator door trundled its way to the number twelve behind age-frosted glass. Keys looked on dreamily, the effects of the gas making the numbers blur into each other. They were 12, now 78, then 1 and 2 and 3. Could the building really be that tall, Keys wondered. All he knew was that he hoped the elevator was coming down.
Rico hoped Keys was coming down.
Sitting there in the corner, with his weapon resting at his side and a glazed, pleased expression on his face, Keys looked like a toddler who had been given a lollypop. The effects of the gas would wear off in a few minutes, but those minutes could be the difference between life and death in a raid like this.
‘Bloody kids,’ the big man muttered, watching the dial creep from twelve to eleven.

At almost fourty storeys high, the old high-rise building was one of the tallest fringing Kaeren; its height making it an ideal vantage point for watching for CoRE activities out over the entirely desolate city suburbs.
Rico, Keys and eight other men had been stationed there for routine observation. Well...stationed was the wrong word. CoRE technology was advancing with every day, with the rebels having to make do with what little they could salvage from their small victories. They were always one step behind; indeed, it was entirely plausible that the CoRE could pinpoint each individual’s position 24/7, anywhere on the planet. Of course, such fatalistic pessimism was quickly dismissed.
Nevertheless, rebels never stayed in one building too long. Nothing wrong with being careful after all.

It was typical of the CoRE to come in the late evening. Sunset. Maybe the commanders back at the Metro just had a thing for the melodrama of it all. In any case, everybody knew that when the lowlights of CoRE skimmers could be seen out over the suburbs, they were coming for one thing: prisoners.
With a large portion of the rebel infrastructure deep underground – the last haven from CoRE satellite inspection – there was still a great deal about the rebel way of life that the CoRE did not know about. Sure, there was always plenty of above ground activity in the cities, but that was little more than families trying to scrounging a meagre existence from the ruins. Only interrogation would reveal the true extent of city life.
And those that were taken by the CoRE didn’t come back.

The seconds ticked by. Keys felt less muzzy now, his head beginning to clear. He felt like a fool as he climbed to his feet under the unscrupulous eyes of Rico. The noise of his gun rattling against the metal of the dusty floor was abrasive on his ears.
“I warned you about the gas,” said Rico in a rich baritone, turning to face the door once again.
“I know, I know,” said Keys apologetically, eyes cast down, “I just never thought it would be...like this...
”Nobody ever does,” said Rico, softening a fraction.
There was a clunk as age old gears crunched and brought the lift to an unexpected stop. The dial read ‘2’. Both men looked at each other.
There was noise on the other side of the door.
With a sharp ‘bing!’ the doors slid open.
Keys shook hid head, trying to clear the last of the effects from the gas. He drew his gun up, the butt resting in the crook of his shoulder. A quick glance across the carriage showed him that Rico had done the same, and was standing in a slight crouch, ready for action. As the doors slid open, a single figure came into view. Rico and Keys instantly trained their weapons on the woman stood before them. She took a step back with shock, hand in the air.

"Don't shoot, it's me."

"You're gonna have to be a bit more specific than that," Rico growled. For an answer, she took her right hand and pulled down the material that covered her face to reveal a soft feminine beauty. The removal of a standard issue CoRE helmet showed a mass of auburn hair. Faded black fatigues clung to a petit figure, a semi automatic hanging at her side by a strap that circled her chest diagonally. It could only be one person. Alicia.
A corridor stretched out behind the female rebel fighter, various doors and passages leading off it. It had once been a luxurious building. There were still patches of red velvet carpet underfoot, the remnants of crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. It was a place of faded grandeur, and for a moment Keys felt a bizarre sense of nostalgia. It was quickly dissipated by the echo of footsteps. Alicia had heard it to.
CoRE.
She threw herself into the carriage between Rico and Keys, throwing a glance at Keys' not entirely alert expression.

"Grenades," Rico growled by way of explanation. Alicia nodded her understanding. They got all the new guys. It was the ones that got over it in time that survived. She reached out one finger to press the button marked 'B'.
When used as a hotel, only employees had access to the basement. They would swipe their ID cards on the machine next to the buttons. But, when the Government had taken over, and everything had fallen into ruin, some bright spark with the rebels had re-wired the elevator. The basement had served as a brilliant entrance to this perfect vantage point.
The button lit up, the doors started to slide close. Keys began to heave a sigh of relief - he might just survive his first skirmish.
Without warning, the doors stopped closing, and the lights in, and outside the carriage turned off. They were stood in pitch darkness for what seemed like an eternity before the emergency power kicked in with a hum. Dim, red lighting lit the corridor. Power in the elevator was still out - it was being diverted to places that needed it more. The trio in the carriage looked at each other for a few seconds, before Keys reached over and tried it again. Nothing.
"Damn CoRE. They've cut the power. Brilliant." Rico hissed the words, the frustration clear in the tone of his voice. "Righto Keys, time to wake up." He reached over and gave his companion and small shake. "We've gotta find an alternative route to the basement. Ali, cover me."
Alicia took up her weapon, and moved to take Rico's position on the left of the carriage. Rico, in turn, had let his weapon drop at his side and had inserted his hands into the gap left by the doors. With a grunt and some brute force, Rico pushed the doors open. He picked up his weapon again, and motioned for the other two to follow him.
Keys heart was pounding. He wasn't expecting this. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Signing up for his first skirmish, going along on a recon exercise. Now this.
He heard the footsteps again. Closer this time. Rico and Ali, a few steps in front of him had froze. Then what he heard next made his heart contract with a brief moment of fear.
The crackle of voice comms.
"Insurgents heat pattern confirmed as being placed on the second floor. Primary objective: capture. Let's bag 'em and tag 'em."

"Defensive position! Now!"

Keys barely registered the words. Rico and Alicia had both opened the doors nearest to them, ducking inside the doorway to take up firing positions. Opposite sides of the corridor so they had all angles covered. For a few seconds, Keys was just left standing in the middle. Alone.
His limbs started to move of his own accord. He found himself crouched in a doorway, one behind Alicia. Keys forced himself to slow his breathing. Nice and steady, just like you were taught, he told himself. This was real. It was resistance or capture. And Keys had heard the stories of the CoRE correctional facilities. There was no way that was happening to him.
At the end of the corridor, there was a flash of colour. First glimpse of the enemy. They were wearing night visors. "How the hell are we supposed to keep up with people who use night visors?" he muttered under his breath.
With a sigh at the uselessness of it all, Keys flicked the safety off of his weapon and opened fire at the enemy.
“Who are you?” Thane asked the girl again, anger filling his voice this time. This girl he stood over had heard his secret. Nobody knew about Jamon but him, not one person. He wanted things to stay that way, he didn’t want people to know where he was from or what he had done to get there. He kicked one of the small lights attached to the outside rows chair in anger sending a crunching sound echoing though the room.

He turned and began to storm out of the room when he heard a voice say, “I am Ainsley.”

He turned around to see the girl standing. He took a step back as he looked at her. She looked to be about Jamon’s age. He shook the thought out of his head, “Why are you here and not helping the others trying to help the people with the explosion?”

“I could ask you the same thing.”

It was true she could, and he didn’t want to answer the question. “What I do in this city is my own business. I do not need to tell you anything.”

She gave him a sly smile and sat down in one of the chairs, “Neither do I.”

He rolled his eyes, girls in the Metropolis always thought they knew more then guys, why would it be any different here? He sat down in a seat as well, with no intentions of leaving anytime soon. This place knew part of his secret, it would hear the rest as soon as this girl, Ainsley, left.

“Why are you still in my cinema?” she asked taking notice of him sitting in one of the chairs.

Cinema, was that what this place was? He looked towards the large white screen and frowned, he should have guessed when he saw the room. “This is a cinema?”

She looked at him curiously, “Yeah, didn’t you read the sign outside? It said it on there.”

Though unnoticed by most people, his face dropped slightly as he began to lie, “Of course I can read, I just thought the building had been mislabeled. I’ve been in cinemas before and they look different, sort of.”

She gave him a small nod, which he took as her believing his lie of reading, but he wasn’t completely sure. He stood up to leave, not wishing to be in the building any longer. Cinemas for those less fortunate then he, people like Jamon.
"Do Not Resist!" boomed the CoRE declaration from seemingly all around them, as fire erupted all along the corridor.
It ocurred to Keys later that the CoRE were probably broadcasting through the buildings PA system.
He squeezed the trigger of his automatic rifle, trying not to grasp at it, as he had been taught. So much to remember. So many little things that could mean the difference between life and death.
I can't believe I'm doing this, Keys thought to himself. Shooting at people. Shooting to kill. People he didn't know.

He took aim at a CoRE man less than seventy yards away. He looked inhuman, almost robotic. Keys had been told that they were certainly, entirely au naturel; pure human, from head to toe. But with the full face mask on, the visor hiding any humanity in his face, the humanoid figure didn't look...human...at all.
He was crouched beside the wall, taking aim. Keys felt the panic rising in him. This was it. He had to do this right. This was his life. He aimed.
In his mind, he heard Rico's words of wisdom:
"Aim for the abdomen - that part doesnt move fast - and let the recoil of the weapon guide you to his chest."

The shimmer-fields the CoRE had developed some years ago had long since been catered for by traditional rebel training methods.
The outermost layer of the CoRE troopers suits were transparent and filled with a light refracting gel. As light fell apon it, it was reflected in a myriad of different colours. The slightest body movement would cause a disorientating rainbow for anybody to shoot at.
But as Rico so casually put it; "If you've hit them, they're hit - doesn't matter what colour they are."

Keys felt a round chip off the door frame behind his head and he was afraid.

He depressed the trigger of his weapon and watched the barrel flare into life once again. The bullets sprayed accross the wall just above the CoRE chameleon's head, bursting against the plaster like pebbles dropped into a still lake.

Suddenly renewed fire rained down upon the trio, forcing them to pull back into their doorways. The voice over the intercom was commanding their surrender once again. The red emergency lights, the flash of gunfire, the volume of noise. It all seemed so surreal to Keys, sitting there clasping his rifle, his salvation.

This can't be real, chimed his mind, life can't be like this. But he knew it was. He knew he had been living a sheltered existance, under the paternal wing of his father. This was real life, whether his father liked it or not.
God rest his soul.

Keys steeled himself. He wanted to live. And if to live was to kill, then kill he would. No matter how much he couldn't bare to use the word; murderer.

Rico signalled to him from accross the hallway. Hand signals. Finally, something Keys was good at.
He signalled back that he was unharmed. Rico nodded.
They both knew the truth. They both knew there was no way out of the coridoor, but forward past the CoRE. No way out but into the dragons jaws.
Where had he read that?


Keys felt odd. Time seemed to be moving in slow motion. Sound seemed muted. The incoming fire eased off, and Keys focused on the particles of floating plaster. Almost like snow he thought.
A movement from the corner off his eye caught his attention. It was Rico. Hand signals again. From what he could make out, Rico had a back up plan. Well...it was that or nothing...
Keys risked a glance around his doorway, wondering why the CoRE troopers had stopped firing. His heart froze for a second when he saw they were moving down the hallway towards them, weapons raised, knees slightly bent. The foremost soldier saw Keys peeking, and sent a burst of fire his way, causing Keys to pull back into relative safety. He glanced over at Rico again, and saw he had pulled a canister from his belt. This guy's just full of suprises he mused.

With a wicked grin at Keys, Rico pulled the pin out the grenade with his teeth, pulled his meaty arm back, and launched it as far down the corridor towards the advancing enemy as he could.
As Keys followed the grenades path, his eyes passed Alicia still crouched in her doorway...he had completely forgotten about her! He started to signal her, but she had already seen the device go flying past.

The grenade hit the floor, bounced a few times, and came to rest at the feet of a CoRE soldier. Keys didn't know what he was expecting, but it seemed like an age before an astoundingly loud bang occured, and thick, black smoke filled the end of the corridor. Keys reeled from the noise, but Rico was already up and running towards the explosion, only pausing slightly to grab his arm on the way past.
Keys didn't have a clue what they were doing...running towards death by all accounts. As he passed the doorway Alicia was hiding in, he noticed it was vacant.

Up ahead, Keys heard the piercing scream of a human in pain, followed by a gurgling sound, and a loud thud. As he reached the confusion, he saw a gloved hand fall outside the curtain of smoke, as though it was reaching for something, or pleading for help.
Ali he breathed.

Rico didn't appear to notice the body, and disappeared into the smoke. Keys hung around for what seemed an eternity, confused, bewildered. What had just happened in the last few minutes? His training hadn't prepared him for this - impromtu plans, charging headlong towards a certain death, insurmountable odds. He'd be told that they were up against an elite force with access to the most technologically advanced weaponry and armor. It seemed the rebels were correct, but these guys were still human.
In a moment of clarity, Keys understood what Rico and Alicia were doing. Close quarter fighting. He'd bet anything these guys were used to winning fights with superior weaponry, ranged assaults, only moving in once the enemy was subdued.
The Governement was a proud organisation. They'd only seen fit to give their troops rudimentary hand-to-hand combat training, resolute in the belief that no enemy of theirs would get close enough. Oh, how wrong they were Keys chuckled to himself, before diving into the smoke.
Thane walked out of the cinema without saying another word. As he walked onto the street, he shuddered, it was abnormally quiet. He became very alert as he looked around the street for any type of danger. As he looked, he noticed a building, about a block over, with smoke pouring out of the windows on one floor. Being curious he began to walk towards the smoke-filled building with caution.

As he made his way towards the building, Thane could sense a presence he knew all too well. Any normal person would be run away from this presence, but Thane cared not. If CoRE was attacking a part of the city Thane realized they would continue to attack or until they ran out of weapons. As he came closer to the next street he slowed down, if CoRE was involved he knew he’d need to be discrete as he watched the action take place.

Approaching the building he stopped. Outside of it sat a CoRE vehicle he knew all too well. They were the vehicles that had picked up Jamon as they tried to escape. He stared at them for a long time. They were a dark green color with large red lettering on it “CoRE” Thane might have been unable to read, but he knew those letters. The back of the truck contained two doors that hung wide open. Normally people sat in the back, sometimes soldiers, sometimes prisoners, other times there were both. In the back of this truck, it was empty.

Thane looked over at the building; this truck must be carrying soldiers who were attacking the building. Cautiously he moved closer and moved angles only to notice the driver and passenger seat were empty. He smiled to himself, CoRE really did have too much confidence in themselves, believing everyone would run the opposite direction.

Running to the truck he opened the driver side door and hopped in creating a plan as he went along. He knew that stealing the truck might cause them to raid the town a bit more, but they only had so many weapons they’d be able to use. They’d eventually run leaving the rebels to take them out.

Sitting in the truck he realized they had been smart enough to turn the truck off at least. This made things more difficult for him, because as well as needing the key to start the truck, he needed a code as well. Not having keys wasn’t a problem, but the code would do him in. He looked down at the keypad, there was a set of ten buttons with numbers from 0 to 9. On each of the buttons below its number also were a group of 3 to 5 letters per number, A through Z. Knowing he had but three tries to get it right he entered a 4 digit code.

“Access denied” a voice in the truck said.

Cursing he tried a new code only to have the voice deny him access again. Cursing he tried a new code, this time the voice was silent, a loud siren could be heard outside the truck though, warning the soldiers someone was trying to steal their vehicle. Thane cursed and began to fittle with the wiring to the car to make it start. The siren might lead them to the truck, but he could stall them out for a while. Several seconds passed and the car started up. He was about to hit the gas when he noticed a girl standing in front of the vehicle. It was Ainsley. She ran over and jumped into the passenger seat.

“What are you doing,” Thane yelled.

“Following you, what are you doing, trying to get yourself killed?” She shot back

“Yes, I was in fact,” he replied in a rather sarcastic tone.

She stared at him for several seconds, “How do you turn the siren off?”

“Enter the right code, but they will be coming any second now I guess so I’ve got to drive this away from here now!”

“Where is the keypad?” she asked.

He gave her a nod towards it. She picked it up and tried one last code, “2673” CoRE. The sirens stopped.

“Well what are you waiting for?” she asked. “Drive!”
Keys took a deep breath before bursting into the acrid cloud. He could barely see his hands in front of him, clinging desperately to the rifle which was, once again, his only hope. His muscles were tensing. Too tense, he scolded himself, don't hold so tight, keep a low centre of gravity, strike quickly and sweep the barrel of his weapon up and away from you. So much to think about. So much easier to take in when he was reading the words off the page of the book. No books to save him now.
He saw the shimmering silhouette of the man he was about to kill. He loomed out of the smoke, slightly crouched. His face mask had the number 189 stencilled above the right temple. The suits shimmer-field had reverted back to a wish-wash of grey-black, the light blocked from it by the smoke screen.
Once again, Keys was aware of how alone he was. The smoke was crushing. He felt like he was trapped under a grey sea, his lungs screaming for another breath.
Keys looked at his oppressor and he knew what he had to do.

CoRE 189 read the digits flashing across his visor as quickly as they came. The readout showed everything; his heart rate, core temperature, the rounds left in his weapon, the relative positions of his comrades to himself, the status of his environment (he'd already switched to his personal oxygen supply and administored dilute diazipan into his bloodstream to slow his racing pulse), everything.
187 and 188 were engaged with one of the rebels and had the situation entirely under control.
"One down..." 189 murmered, sounding gravelley as his voice interrupted the rasp of his breathing apparatus.
However, all information being recieved from 190 had ceased. He was apparently out of action and 186 was not responding either. No matter.
189 activated his thermals. The world suddenly became a haze of vibrant colours; reds, blues, oranges. The smoke seemed to virtually disappear.
But not fast enough.
A yellow creature exploded towards him, somewhere off to his right. It smashed upwards, pointing the barrel of 189's weapon skywards. The CoRE soldier quickly let go of his weapon - he did not want his fingers broken as they twisted in the weapons mechanism. He pulled back his now free arm to make a strike at the attackers exposed middle, but his arm was caught up with the other mans rising knee. The blow knocked the wind out of him and made him double over. All of 189's extensive training was screaming inside him head. There was another heavy blow to his head and he heard the mask crack a little. The sensors hissed as they tried to regather lost information. One of them told him he was on his back.
He looked up at his attacker. The visor flickered from thermals to smokey realism and back again, unbidden by the broken helmet. He saw the black weapon brought to bear apon him. Saw the bewildered face of his killer. The dark hair, sharp features, bright eyes. Then the incredible muzzle flash of the weapon.

The sensors went dead.
Keys stood over his victim, breathing hard. It had been a short, sharp fight, but he had prevailed. He had killed the CoRE trooper with a shot to the head - at point blank range it was pretty hard to miss.
The noises around him slowly filtered through his senses, reminding him that he was in the middle of some fierce hand-to-hand combat. For the minute or so that he was engaged in combat, all other disturbances had just been blocked out, leaving Keys to focus completely on his opponent.

A gruff yell caused Keys to snap back to attention. The short sharp breaths he was risking were burning in his throat, and he fought the overwhelming urge to cough the sharp taste away. He knew that would reveal his position, and the last thing he wanted was any suprise attacks...that was meant to be his job!
Moving away from the corpse on the floor, he silently made his way through the smoke. How long does this damn stuff last for he thought to himself. His throat felt like it was closing, and breathing was becoming more difficult by the minute. His attentions were soon diverted to the shadowy figure that was up ahead. A figure crouched. An easy target.

Careful not to make any sound, Keys slowly creeped up behind his would be victim. He raised his rifle, preparing to bring the butt crashing down onto the back of this persons head. As his muscles tensed, preparing to drive down with all the force he could muster, the figure suddenly swivelled sideways, sweeping a leg out and catching Keys completely off guard. He crashed to the ground, loosing his grip on his weapon. In an instant, his attacker was on him, taking advantage of having the upper hand.

Keys froze. This is it he thought to himself. The moment I've been dreading.

He scrunched his eyes up tight, waiting for the noise, the pain, wondering what would come after that. He could feel the weight of the man on him, his stale breath on his face. Something sharp was pressed up against his throat, forcing his head backwards.
For what felt like an eternity, Keys lay there, waiting for it all to finish.

"Marco?" It was Rico. "In the name of all that is holy, man, get yourself off the damn floor! There are still at least two more of them out there, and Ali is wounded."

As Keys pulled himself into a sitting position, he saw the figure on the ground that Rico was hunched over. The smoke was slowly thinning, but it was still too thick to see what wounds Alicia had taken, or if she was even concious. Rico's low voice cut through to him again.

"I'll take her, you cover me. Head for the stairwell, we might be able to make it to the basement undetected."

Stooping, he lifted Alicia with a slight grunt. She made no sound. Unconcious then thought Keys, or worse.
He remembered that Rico had his hands full, so it was up to him to cut down any resistance on the way. Heart pounding, Keys recovered his rifle, and started to make his way towards the faintly glowing exit sign.

* * * * * * * * *


CoRE 187 grinned beneath his visor. He had pulled himself and 188 back down the corridor to one of the doorways in which the rebels had previously been crouched in. Switching to thermals, he had tracked the insurgents through the smoke. CoRE trooper suits masked their heat signature, meaning they couldn't be tracked, and there was no mistaking them with the enemy.
The scrolling text on the inside of his helmet showed him that 189 and 190 were confirmed dead. 186 appeared to be missing in action - there was no heat pattern for him, and no communication for the last five minutes. They would go on without him.

"Sir?" a voice crackled in his ear. He turned his head instinctively to look at 188, but saw nothing. Switching back to night vision, the form sat next to him flickered into view. Now that 189 was deceased, 187 had squad command. Not that there was alot left to the original attack party.
Up ahead, the smoke had thinned considerably. The last time he had looked, the rebels had made for the stairwell. 187 had let them. He had a plan. If he could allow them to reach their hidden entrance, then maybe he could find a way to the underground rebel hideout. It would be brilliant.
Realising the only and only tropper was still waiting for his orders, 187 made a decision.

"Thermal optics off. Resume night vision. Follow me."

Switching channels, he made contact with CoRE HQ.

"Sir, I think there's something you might want to know..."
Thane and Ainsley drove, recklessly, in silence for several minutes. Thane would glance over at her every now and then studying her features. She was a young, but it was obvious to him she had lived a rough life. He noticed she looked to be about Jamon’s age, which took him by surprise.

“Watch out,” she yelled out.

He looked at the road and swerved. He had been so occupied looking at her he’d quit watching the road.

“You might have a death-wish but I don’t,” she went on to say.

Thane pulled the truck over, they had been driving for several minutes and he was sure they were far enough away that they need not worry about that fraction of CoRE catching them. She began to yell but he shushed her as he reached for the small scanner that was attached in the truck.

“Don’t shush me – What is your name, I don’t even know your name, but you don’t shush me I just saved our lives. Twice!” she yelled.

Thane rolled his eyes, “My name is Thane, and I didn’t need you to ‘save me’ if that’s what you call it. Now be quiet, I want to hear what’s going on and their reaction when they see their way out of this place is gone!” He turned on the scanner and listened.


“What do you mean 189 and 190 are dead? They can’t be dead,” bellowed the general stationed at CoRE HQ.

“Sir, the rebels surprised us sir causing a mass of confus-” 187 began before being cut off.

“Don’t you give me this nonsense about rebels surprising you. We are CoRE! Nothing surprises us!”

“Sir, I’m afraid there is more. 186 is MIA.

Thane turned the scanner off, his mind racing with a million thoughts in that second. He knew how to get Jamon back, but he needed a CoRE uniform if he was going to pull it off. He looked in the back of the truck, and to his luck, he found a dirty uniform. He smiled and began to put it on.

“What are you doing now Thane? You are going to get yourself killed wearing that uniform,” Ainsley said from the passenger’s seat.

“186 ain’t MIA no more. I am going to go cause CoRE a bit of trouble.”

Ainsley frowned, “What if the real 186 shows up? What will you do then? Die?”

Thane gave her a mischievous smile, “You said yourself I had a death-wish.” And with those words he jumped out of the truck and ran back towards the building, leaving Ainsley behind once again. He knew he should feel guilty for leaving her, but a part of him told himself that he’d be seeing this girl again. Now was a time to cause trouble and confusion among the CoRE.
'It's locked!' Exclaimed Keys, raising the butt of his rifle and crashing it down on the archaic padlock barring their entrance.
They had made it to the basement door without incident, leaving the smoke of the coridoor far behind. Keys wondered what the CoRE men would think when the gas cleared. Would they be disorientated? Would they realise one of their number was growing cold, his blood pooling beneath his helmetted head? Perhaps they already knew. Perhaps they were, at this moment, watching the trio through the network's cameras.
Keys shuddered a little. No that was impossible. They'd cut the power. Even the formidable CoRE could do little without power.
"Let me try," said Rico, "Here, take Ali." The big man had been carrying the wounded girl in his arms, like a baby.
In some ways, Keys has been intimidated by Rico when they met; his size, his physique, his deep voice and shaven head. But watching him now, with Alicia helpless in his arms, Keys saw the man Rico might have been. A friend, a borther. A father.
The big soldier gently passed Alicia into Keys's waiting arms. She was not a big girl, but Keys still feared dropping her. The adrenaline from the fight had still not worn off and his hanks shaked incesantly. He wondered if they would ever stop. As Keys adjusted his grip, he was intimately aware of his hands on her. She was a very pretty girl. But there was something else.
Something hot and liquid.
Blood on his hands.
Images of the dead CoRE soldier flashed in his mind.
He tensed unexpectantly. Alicia grimanced and moaned.
"Marco! Don't do that!" hissed Rico, "Hold her as still as you can. The more you move her the more it hurts. Shock rounds - haven't you read about them somewhere?"

He had. The shock rounds used by the core were electrically charged, low penetration shells. Almost like miniscule, highly powered batteries - once they penetrated the skin and embedded themselves in the muscles, the slightest movement rubbed tisue against the contacts and sent shocks through the body. It caused involuntary spasms and intense pain, but was only ever dangerous when they hit above the heart or the head. Alicia would be fine once somebody had dug the rounds out of her leg and abdomen.

With a crash, Rico shattered the metal lock and led the way into the darkness of the basement below.
The air was cool, if a little stagnant. Keys felt better down underground, more at home. The walls were damp and there were spider webs in the rooms shadowed corners. There was a layer of thick dust carpeting the earth beneath their feet - the unspoiled icing on a freshly baked cake.
Rico turned on his rad-light; a rare piece of CoRE garnered equipment; a small flashlight of adjustable strength, powered by an extremely durable, radioactive source. Rico wore this gem of invaluable technology attached haphazardly to the barrel of his rifle. It was with this, he led the way.
"Stay close, Keys," Rico said, "We're not out of this yet. This tunnel was only recently cut from our networks and it's not mapped yet."
"We're going in blind?!" exclaimed Keys. In his arms, Alicia's eyes were glazed with unconsciousness.
"Why do you think the door was locked on the outside? We haven't been up this way before. Deal with it."
And that was how it was. Rico leading the way through the thermo-cut tunnels; both light-bringer and protected for his incapacitated friends.
They moved at a brisk pace. Keys stumbled often, causing Alicia to stir with pain. At least his hands had stopped shaking. The darkness and the flickering light of Rico far from calmed his beating heart, but his breathing was more controlled.
He thought back to the dead-making he had done. He felt the exhilharation of squeezing that trigger; knowing it carried with it the power of a god. In his minds eye, he saw the bullet shattering the helmet visor, splattering it with blood and brains and what was left of his humanity. Taking a life was never something he had imagined himself doing. That was for others. Tougher men, like Rico. Burly, surly men of war. Not a bookish academic like himself.
But he was not a bookish academic anymore. He was a bookish killer. A murderer. A mere rebel to some. A defender to others. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a voice ventured the word, savior.
Keys looked down at the shadowed form, limp in his arms; so flawless yet so irrevocably damaged.
He wondered if she was a savior too.
Keys mindlessly followed Rico up the tunnel, the bouncing beam of the flashlight leading the way, illuminating their murky surroundings. Beyond the ray of light there was complete darkness. There was no way of telling if they were walking into a trap or not.

Rico stopped. So suddenly Keys almost walked into the back of him. He jolted as he pulled up short, and Ali moaned a little. Rico sent a reproachful glance back over his shoulder.

"We've come to a fork," he murmered, so softly Keys strained to hear what he said. "Hard to get your bearings down here."

Marco Keys glanced round the huge form of his comrade, careful with his load, and looked at what the flashlight illuminated. The tunnel was circular in shape, and the walls were made out of roughly hewn stone. Moss grew in small patches on the walls, and in the distance they could hear the slow ping, ping of water dripping from the ceiling.
Rico had been told about this tunnel before they left for their mission; a last resort just in case CoRE managed to suprise them. There was rumoured to be a large network of tunnels underground, disused tunnels that used to supply water to the whole city. In theory, if this place was properly mapped, you could reach anywhere in the city without CoRE ever finding out. Well, the last was just for the optimistic...CoRE always found out in the end.

"Dammit. Left or right, left or right? Help me out here Marco!"

Rico sounded frustrated, annoyed that they had left CoRE behind, but were now faced with another obstacle. Choose the right path, and you might get back to the rebel base. Chose the wrong path, and you could be wandering these tunnels for weeks, only to finally wither away from starvation and dehydration. No one would ever find your body down here. No one would ever know what happened to you.

Right, come on Marco. Think. The basement entrance is directly below the hotel entrance. That faces East. Tunnel entrance is off to the left. North. We've been travelling in a straight line, so we must still be facing North. And the base is...

"Rico, what direction is the base from here? From the hotel entrance?"

"I..uh. North-west."

"Then we go left."

Rico turned to face Keys fully, giving him a long hard look. Suddenly his gaze went beyond Keys, over his shoulder. A look of alarm spread over his hard features.

"You best be right about this Marco. We don't have time to stop and figure it out."

Keys looked at Rico quizzically, but the large rebel had already turned to move down the left hand tunnel. Then he heard it. The same thing Rico had heard. The unmistakeable sound off footsteps...
Thane quickly walked through the tunnels as quietly as possible. He had known of the tunnels for a while, though he had never shared the fact he knew about them to anyone. Of course who would he tell, he had nobody. He hadn’t wondered the tunnels before, and being there now was dangerous for him since he was dressed as a CoRE without a weapon to speak of, but if he could find the building’s entrance he could easily make excuse for the missing soldier’s absence.

As Quiet as he tried to be though his footsteps seemed to echo though the place.
Pat pat pat pat

Pat pat pat pat

Thane had been walking for several minutes before he came to a stop. Besides the sound of his footsteps, the tunnel seemed to loud. He crouched down towards the floor and began to listen intently to every noise around him. As he listened all his senses intensified, the musty taste of the dust covered ground lurked into his mouth while he smelled the intense smell of moss on the walls. He could feel a spider crawling on him, probably about to bite him getting its first meal in several days and up ahead he could hear, noises. The sound of water dripping from the ceiling was the most obvious but there was another sound. There were people ahead of him, whispering. He looked on the ground and noticed, for the first time, a set of footprints other than his.

He needed to find a way out of the tunnel quick. He looked around for an exit, only there was none to be found. His heart began to pound as it hit him he did not know these tunnels and he realized that he was lost. Closing his eyes he took a step towards the voices. He wasn’t thinking of the fact he had a CoRE uniform on or the fact he had no weapons. His one thought was to get out, to survive.

Following their path, Thane soon could make them out in the distance. Ahead of him stood two men, one was caring something. He paused unsure if he should bring attention to himself or if he should just follow them out.
The air was getting damper and cooler the further they went into the tunnel. That was good. The rebel tunnel matrix was, of course, intermittently linked with the local hydroshere and the squelching of their feet on mud meant they were close to water.
Keys hoped it was Kaeran River...if not they were way off course.
The mud was springy and nice to walk on in the mens thick boots, but it made a lot of loud noise that echoed through the tunnel. And not far behind, they heard that same noise cast by their persuers.
The waft of cooler air brought Alicia back around for a few moments. Her eyes were muzzy and unfocused, her head lolled on an unwilling neck as she looked up into Keys' face. There was pain in her movement, but the electricity-induced shivering had stopped for the moment.
"Let me go..." She murmered, each breath an effort. Keys looked quizzically at her, trying to stay close behind Rico and the rifle. "Let me go!" This time more forceful. He felt her delicate hands laid against his chest as she tried to push him away.
"Ali, Ali it's me, Marco," he said soothingly, "It's going to be ok, me and Rico are right here with you." Keys did not know where the words came from, only that they did not work.
"Let me go...CoRE scum!" She exclaimed, loudly. Too loud. The footsteps behind them paused for a second, and then suddenly they were pounding the ground in persuite - the scent of blood was strong as the hunt neared its end.
"Marco!" Rico implored, flashing the light over the surroundings and quickening theyr pace further.
They were almost jogging now. Keys soft words were doing nothing for Alicia, who cursed and fought in his arms.
"CoRE bastards! I won't... No...I won't...Not like them. You can't do this! You must...please...please don't shoot..." She went limp in his arms, unseen tears coursing down her face as she sobbed into the thin air.
Her words pierced the two men as they sped on; they both knew what Alicia had been through.

Four years Keys' senior, Alicia was a survivor for one of the most terrible disasters of modern history. 'Bloody Monday' was the widely coined term.
She was the daughter of a single mother - a Freedwomen, relatively knew to rebel life after her liberation from the Metro. It was very different for the five year-old Alicia to understand the cultural differences of her new lifestyle, but her mother - a teacher - soon founded a new life for them both. She began to work for a pittance at a local orphanage, teaching small children how to read, write and how to live the good life. Because there were many orphanages, all understaffed, for indeed there were a great many orphans. And far too little of the good life to go around.
Upon the previous owners death, three years later, Alicia's mother began to run the orphanage full time, with a host of helpers. All in all, there were over two hundred orphan children, eating, drinking, sleeping, living, learning; under her roof.
Plus Ali of course. She was the most treasured of daughters and for a further five years, she had a happy life.
But, with all good things, it did not last.
On Monday 29th of June 2157, the CoRE arrived.
Nobody knew how they navigated the tunnels to find the school. There were a million theories - conspiracies, infiltration, betrayal, luck - all feasible. But in the end it made no difference.
Nearly three hundred children held hostage, between the ages of two and sixteen. Negotiation was impossible - the CoRE 'would not negotiate with terrorists'. It was only after shooting was heard, ringing out loud and clear in the night, did the rebels take action.
After an intense shoot out leaving many dead and wounded, the orphanage was finally recaptured. But what they found was even worse than their nightmares.
Each room unlocked new horrors and unshackled further questions.
The first room held the bodies of Alicia's mother and her helpers, blindfolded and bound, slumped against the now blood stained wall.
But the second room was worse. Large and open, the crech area was usually a room of vibrant squeels of pleasure and screetches of indignation. Now, in their cribs, lay the bodies of the youngest children, all no older than four years old, all butchered systematically like so much meat.
The third room was empty. It soon became clear that it had held the males, now vacant. They would later be known as the 'Lost Boys' (or 'Butcher's Boys, depending on accounts) and there was vast speculation as to to their fate. It was the first recorded incident of CoRE abduction, a theme which would continue for the next decade.
The final room, contained the girls. Their bodies lay in a bloody, broken pile in the centre of the room, their eyes cold and staring, mouths agape. Many were naked, more still sported dark bruises and lacerations. In the corner, behind a screen, was a bloodied, naked, thirteen year old girl, whimpering in terror.

"Please don't...Marco...please don't...please don't let them..."
"You're safe now Alicia, you're safe with me, I promise."
Thane stayed back in the shadows as he watched the two men conversing up ahead. Maybe if he stuck with them, they would know a way out. With the dim lighting, it was impossible to tell if they were rebels or with CoRE. And he wasn't too keen to find out either.

The figure carrying something half turned, and murmered something, so quiet Thane could barely make out the mutterings. Startled by the movement, Thane took a rapid step backwards, right into a small pool of water...

* * * * * * *


"You're safe now Alicia, you're safe with me, I promise," Key crooned gently to the bundle in his arms. He could only imagine at what she was dreaming of. Rico's dark look suggested he knew something more to this, but Keys wasn't in the mood to press the issue. Now was not the time or the place. The sooner they got Ali to the rebel's makeshift medical establishement, the better. Although the low penetration shock rounds were not lethal, prolonged contact with one could cause irreparable damage to the nervous system. But how prolonged? Had they already run out of time?

Suddenly Rico whipped around, rifle already in his hands and pointing back down the hallway. He edged past Keys, ignoring his rapid questions about what the hell was going on. He had heard something. It wasn't the continual drip, drip of these disused tunnels. It was something else. Something made by a human.
As he turned around, Rico could have sworn he saw a shadow disappear around the bend of the tunnel. In this place, everything looked the same, and after what they'd been through he wouldn't be suprised if his mind was playing tricks on him.

Rico motioned for Keys to stay back with his precious cargo. He could handle this one.
Moving ever so slowly and quietly for a man of his size, Rico inched back up the tunnel. To the watching Keys, it seemed like an age before his comrade had disappeared around the bend, back towards the junction they had previously come to.

* * * * * * *


Thane pressed his back flat to the wall, trying to slow his breathing even though he was sure the noise of his pounding heart would give him away.
After his blunder, he had shot back out of view. Despite his stolen uniform, Thane had an awful feeling these guys would see right through his disguise and bring him in. Take him back to the Correctional Facility. Thane thought back to all the stories that had been told to him. Of course they were fictional...no one taken away by CoRE had ever been seen again, so the tales must be false.
And if these guys were rebels...well. CoRE was their most hated enemy. They wouldn't hesitate to shoot.

Thane was roused from his thoughts by the small, but undoubtable sounds of slow, measured footsteps making their way up towards the junction where he was hiding. He had hoped they wouldn't come to investigate. No such luck. If the two of them had come, he had no chance. A quick glance to his left up the tunnel showed him there was no chance of his making a run for it. It was dead straight for as far as he could see, so he would make an easy target for a semi-automatic rifle. There was nothing for it, he would have to stand his ground and fight. At least he had the element of suprise...or so he thought.

Thane slowed his breathing down as much as he could, preparing himself for the inevitable brawl. When he had judged the footsteps were almost upon him, he flung himself out in the vain hope he might suprise his attacker and gain the upper hand. No such luck.
Thane's opponent had second guessed him, and took a step back as he leapt from his hiding place. Off balance, Thane had stumbled, landing on his front. Anticipating what was coming, he had rolled sharply to the right, narrowly avoiding a large foot that had come smashing down in the place his head had been just moments before.
Scrambling to his feet, Thane grabbed a quick look at the enemy. Rebels! He was screwed. And this guy was huge! Before he had a chance to remove the trooper helmet he was wearing, the giant had moved in again, keep the fight going his way. Thane had got his balance back again, and quickly deflected two sharp jabs with the butt of the the rifle.
Why wasn't this guy just shooting him already? Ending it quick?
There was no time to even contemplate these questions, as the rebel moved in for the attack again. Taking a step to the left, he made as if to take another swing, and as Thane moved to block his left, the giant swung under his defense and caught a blow the right side of Thane's helmet. The impact was astonishing, and he was suprised the helmet didn't crack. But the blow had left him feeling disorientated. That was all the rebel needed.

In the split second where Thane had faltered, the huge guy had delivered a solid fist to his stomach, making him double over in pain. As Thane bent over, gasping for breath, the rifle butt found the gap between the bottom of the helmet and the trooper suit, and came down with a sickening crunch. Before he blacked out, Thane remembered thinking how good these bastards were.

* * * * * * *


Rico chuckled to himself. These CoRE troopers were nothing. The fight had been over before it had started as far as he was concerned. Well, now he had a prisoner or his own, one which would never been seen again by his own people. Now that was justice.
Thane awoke in what he assumed was still the tunnel. His head was throbbing from where he had been hit. The room seemed to be spinning around him. He went to grab onto his head or the wall or something to stop the spinning, but his hands were tied behind his back. He managed to hoist himself up and lean against the wall. His head was still spinning but knowing there was a floor beneath him and a wall behind him made Thane feel more secure.

“Don’t be trying anything stupid,” a nearby voice said.

Thane closed his eyes, going back into an unconscious state.

Jamon sat in the living room floor with a piece of paper with several lines on it. Thane smiled, it was a great map that no person would recognize unless told it was a map. Jamon looked up at Thane and smiled, “Does this look right?”

Thane examined the paper for a few seconds every road around their house was mapped out perfectly. “Jam, this is great. This will come in handy I am sure it will.”

Jamon took back the map and smiled, “I want to get more of the streets mapped out. If this does work then I want to have this around after words!”
He bent down to begin drawing the map out again when a voice entered the house, “Jamon is doing great, but Thane, Thane is a different story.” It was their mother.

“Quick put that thing away before she gets in here,” Thane whispered frantically.

Jamon gave Thane a small smile as he pushed the map into his history book and began acting as if he were studying. Jamon was the perfect actor when it came to deceiving their parents, but Thane not so much.

“Yes well Thane has always caused trouble, but I am sure he will straighten up, that is why we have created the program. He will be just as every other boy in this town in within a few weeks I can guarantee it,” another voice said as Thane’s mother entered the room.

She looked down at Jamon and smiled, “Jamon I am sure you have studied enough for that history test. Give me that book and you go up to your room and play. Mr. Mallous and I need to talk to Jamon alone.” She took the book from Jamon and sent him on his way, not looking at Thane once until Jamon was completely out of sight.

“Thane, it is a pleasure to finally meet you,” The man with Thane’s mother, Mr. Mallous, said holding his hand out to shake Thane’s hand. Thane though staring into the man’s eyes, did not respond.

“Thane,” his mother said in a new, more hateful voice, “say hello to Mr. Mallous. He took time out of his very busy schedule to come speak with you.” Thane looked away from Mr. Mallous to his mother. She was a very beautiful woman with long curly brown hair and a pair of blue eyes that seemed to laugh when Thane was no where near.

“I don’t see why I should say hello, I didn’t ask nor was I informed I would be seeing this man today.”

Mr. Mallous put his hand down and took a quick glance at Thane’s mother, almost a warning glance that she took notice of. She remained quiet and Mr. Mallous began to speak, “Thane, you have been accepted into a very prestigious program. This program was designed for children just like you in the Metropolis. You no longer will be going to your school but a new one just built, a boarding school. I am afraid that this is your last chance to get your act together before being sent to the correctional facility.”

“I get no choice in this,” Thane asked.

“No,” his mother responded, “you are a child you make no choices your father and I make them for you. That is why we are your parents, we make the choices that will best benefit you.”

“You will be leaving in two days. Trust me Thane, I am sure you will enjoy it.”


Thane opened his eyes again, the room was no longer spinning, but his head still hurt. He knew it may be impossible but he was going to have to convince these men he wasn’t CoRE but a rebel like them.
The supply alcove was welcome release - a light at the end of the tunnel. They were getting close to home! As the two weary soldiers and their invalid cargo collapsed into the dim light from a cloudy lightbulb, they could see their salvation.
There were crates and makeshift hold-alls lining the walls of the alcove, filled with all manner of supplies. There were no footprints on the dusty floor and the disuse of the area was clear - the stench of moulding foodstuffs was rich in the close air. It was a miracle there was power down here; some small generator sat in the corner, looking as if it should have broken down years ago.
Alicia sneezed in the dust kicked up by their passage, then groaned in pain.
Slumped down against the wall, Keys still had her resting in his lap, soothing her hair. He could feel the dampened shocks as they coursed through her.
"Rico, is there nothing we can do? These things, they're killing her," he asked fervently. Rico didn't turn away from his rummaging through numerous crates. He'd already found a coil of nylon cord to bind the CoRE troopers hands. He was not kind with the knots either.
"Killing her? No," he said over his shoulder, "They might make her into a vegetable - maybe she'll lose the use of that leg, I don't know."
Keys gaped.
"How can you be so blase?" he finally said, "She's your friend." Rico turned round to face him, with eyes like pools of ink.
"So were Tanny, Griffs and Jameson. And what of them now, do you think? Dead? Hopefully. Captured? Probably. You had no problems breathing in that gas like a stoner, even after I specifically told you to protect yourself. We could have put up a good fight in that building, if I hadn't pulled you out. You seemed pretty blase yourself, leaving the others to god-knows-what." Rico fumed silently. He had never raised his voice, but his words boomed and reverberated in Keys' head. It was clear where the blame lay now.
In his minds eye, Keys looked around the room where he had breathed in the gas. Saw the faces of Tanny, Griffs and Jameson...all covered with cloth. Heard their guns firing a futile goodbye.
The CoRE trooper murmered something about his mother. How hard did Rico hit that guy?
The big man spat on the floor and then turned back to his rummaging.
"She'll be fine Marco," He said quietly.
Silence decended like death on the alcove. Suddenly, the ground was shaking, great tremours disturbing the mounds of supplies. Alicia moaned once again.
"What's happening?!" stammered Keys, resisting the urge to throw Ali's limp body off him and take off down the tunnel. Rico still did not turn round, calmly searching still.
"You should know this Marco. Standard proceedure."
Suddenly it hit him. Phase one; observation. Phase two; entry. Phase three; capture and incapacitate. Phase four; search and extraction. Phase five; demolition.
The building of Keys realisation was gone, replaced by only so much meaningless rubble. Another ruin in a world of ruins.
The small lightbulb must have had a wire shaken free in the explosion, for it suddenly flickered out, leaving the group in a heavy darkness that threatened to crush their hopes.
Then Rico flicked on his rad-light. He was smiling; a rare sight indeed. In his bear-like hand, he held a short-wave radio. Hope had returned.

© Copyright 2009 Flaw, xx-xx, Zee, Barbara Alive, (known as GROUP).
All rights reserved.
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