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Chapter 17: Jungle biome- walled city

The sound of a large explosion shocked Terra awake from her sleep. She sat straight up in bed trying to make sense of the noise. She could feel her whole room violently shaking. It was pitch black, so she couldn’t see what was going on, but she could hear things falling off of shelves and breaking. It was a cacophony of clattering dishes and sounds of smashing glass combined with the intense roaring sound of rumbling coming from the ground all around her. The noise was immense and overwhelming. She wasn’t aware of moving but she was was out of bed before she knew it and somehow managed to stumble her way to her room door frame. She felt adrenaline kicking in,vibrating through her veins as she tried to find her balance. A loud rhythmic booming cut the noise of the rumbling. The pounding continued but Terra stayed crouched down in the doorway of her room. Eventually the rumbling and smashing surrounding her ceased, but the consistent banging continued. “Terra!” She could hear someone bellowing her name. She stood up slowly uncertain of the ground beneath her feet. The pounding continued to escalate until it stopped suddenly, she stared at her door unsure if she should go back into her room and retrieve her weapons. She found herself rooted to the spot from fear. Suddenly a fist burst through her door creating a hole big enough for a hand to get through. This snapped Terra out of her trance and she turned and raced into her room to grab her sword. She returned back to the living room just as her front door swung open and two forms stepped inside. She raised her sword and waited for their attack.

“Terra are you okay?” one voice said

“I came as soon as the shaking started.” The other voice announced proudly.

Their voice pierced her disoriented state. She closed her eyes and opened them again as their features came into focus. It was Dexter and Daniel. They both had frantic expressions written across their faces. Terra slowly lowered her sword while her heartbeat slowly started to slow.

That was before she heard the first scream pierce the night air. She stood still for a moment listening hard in disbelief. The scream came again, desperate, terrified... human.It was the kind of scream that made your blood run cold. It pierced the brain and ignited some primeval pathway. A fresh surge of adrenaline surged through her veins, calling to her instincts of fight or flight. It made the hair strand straight up on the back of her neck. A scream of hysteria and disbelief, bordering on terror.It had a raw quality, the realness of a person consumed by a pain that knew no end or limit. After a moment more screams followed, their cries were undoubtedly ones of terror, the cries of one with eyes locked wide and every muscle rigid. The next were of pain, garbling and pitiful.

Terra rushed towards her door unable to stop herself from responding to the cries of help. Dexter caught her in his arms and held her still. She fought against his hold ,struggling desperately as she screamed at him. “Let me go! They need help! I have to help them!” His arms tightened in response to her words as unyielding as a constricting boa. “You don’t even have shoes on,in order to help anyone first you need to make sure you yourself won’t become a victim. Get properly dressed then we will go and help.” Terra slowly stopped struggling as his words pierced through her sudden desperation.

“I personally think you should stay here while we protect you. It’s a woman’s place.You are learning how to protect yourself but that’s only for times when we aren’t around.” Daniel’s voice fully shook her out of her sudden urge to fight.

Dexter’s arms relaxed around her as they both stared at Daniel in disbelief. “What ?” He asked confused as he stood there with his arms crossed.

“Please tell me you aren’t serious right now.” Dexter said as he turned to faced Daniel fully.

“She should stay safe I don’t see why it’s such a big deal that I said what we are both thinking.” Daniel replied easily unfazed the hostility radiating from Dexter.

Terra was snapped out of her disbelief by the sound of screaming starting up again outside. Until that moment she realized that the screams from earlier had ended. She ignored Dexter and Daniel as their conversation escalated into a heated argument. She ran into her room and pulled on her cargo pants and shoes. She turned searching for the knife she kept strapped to her right leg. Once she found it she turned and slung her bow across her shoulders. Her sword was still in her hand and she spun and ran for her door. She’d only taken moments to equip herself but she couldn’t stop thinking of all the lives that were lost within that time span. As she hurled through the doorway of her room she came out into a room only occupied by Dexter. He turned towards her as she approached. “That idiot left. He said something about handling the threat and keep you safe.”

Terra rolled her eyes as she strode past him towards her door. “You owe me a new door when this is all over.”

“You can stay with me until it gets fixed. No worries.” He replied as he followed her through the broken door. Terra wasn’t ready for the sight before her eyes. Plumes of smoke rose from several buildings in the northwest corner of the city. She stared over the decimated city, in shock at the sight before her. The once proud stone buildings were reduced to heaps of rubble that undoubtedly crushed and trapped those who had sought refuge inside. Pillars of smoke rose into the sky around the area where the screams were coming from. Bomb like explosions racked entire city blocks as ruptured gas lines met sparks from downed electrical systems. Each one set the earth rocking like the aftershock of an earthquake. The air was thick with dust that had been forced off of the ground by all the chaos. People rushed by her in droves. Mothers clutching their children hands tightly as they ran with tears streaming down their faces. There were hundreds of them streaming through the streets pushing and shoving, each other roughly, almost causing a stampede. Dexter pushed her behind him, blocking her from being run over by the crowd. She peeked leaned around him to try to locate the threat. She looked towards the direction of the screams. As she peered into the thick smoke she could make out a large shape moving about. She leaned forward,attempting to move past dexter in her quest to see what was attacking the city. Finally after a moment it came into view. It towered over the city undulating in mid air. She could see an endless amount of legs waving in the air as it reared over the city. The giant centipede had an orange body with a black head and tail.It was humongous, and must have been thousands of feet long, and more than four hundred feet in diameter from the part of its body that she could see; Possibly, it was even larger. It whipped around in circles,moving faster than you would expect creature of its size to be able to as it attacked people with its paired pincer-like appendages. As she watched it drove down towards the ground and another piercing scream cut through the air. It continued through the city once the scream cut off, leveling homes and buildings, crushing fleeing families, and thwarting the efforts of the military forces gathered to stop it. It was unprecedented, horrifying chaos.

“Terra!” Dexter’s voice snapped her back into clarity. “There’s too many people and not enough medics, we’ve gotta help get them to the shelters!”

Terra couldn’t tear her eyes away from the terrifying beast. “But who is going to stop it? Its killing innocent people!”

“You don’t see the other hunters handling it? That is not where we are needed right now. Look around you,all these people need someone to help them. They need us right now.” He pleaded with her urgently.

She looked back towards the beast and for the first time she noticed the large crowd of people crowding around it attempting to bring it down. She turned her head to look back towards Dexter but her gaze caught on a little boy. He was cowering in the middle of street,attempting to curl up on himself. He had tears streaming down his face and he was screaming out something. She couldn’t make out the words over the pandemonium surrounding him but it didn’t matter. She moved around Dexter and ran towards him dodging through the crowd. He looked to be maybe three or four years old and he was completely filthy covered in rubble and dust. She leaned down and picked him up,protecting him from the ongoing stampede. She turned back towards where she left Dexter only to find him standing right behind her. “The shelter is this way, follow me.” Dexter gestured towards the center of the city and took off at a jog. Terra followed him closely, not wanting to get seperated in the frantic crowd. As they ran through the city she looked around in disbelief. Most buildings that were still standing had completely busted windows or they were on fire from the gas lines exploding. Her home had turned into a war zone overnight. Most of the people running in front of her or beside her had injuries. It became apparent how lucky she was to not have been in the initial attack zone of the beast. Looking around her she saw injuries ranging from broken arms to impladed items sticking out of people’s bodies as they desperately attempted to run. Their need for the safety of the bunkers more important than the pain they had to have been experiencing. The boy in her arms had gone silent once she’d picked him up and now he just clung to her shirt as he pressed his face to her chest. She felt a fierce need to protect him from the terror of the night. “We made it Terra.” Dexter said beside her. She looked up from the boy in her arms to see the entrance tunnel of the underground shelter looming before them. It was already packed from people rushing in front of them. They followed the flow of traffic deep into the earth until they came out into the underground cavern. It emptied out into a huge cavernous lobby that had hundreds of doors set into the walls. Terra knew from the academy that the whole shelter spanned the entire length of the walled city and even had tunnels leading out into the jungle itself.it had hundreds of rooms that each could hold up to a family of five,more if you didn’t mind sharing a bunk. The whole thing was reinforced with steel,it was the safest place for people who couldn’t fight to hide while a war was waged above their heads. Those who weren’t injured quickly made their way to the store rooms and set up a makeshift medical camp. Within moments all of the injured were placed on mats and being looked after. Terra was amazed at the efficiently in which the city came together. Those who weren’t injured nor medical personal quickly claimed a room and disappeared. Terra took the little boy over to an empty matt and gently sat him down. He continued to cling to her shirt and refused to let go until a doctor approached and helped gently pry him away. As the doctor checked him over and wiped grime from his face his wide eyes never left Terra’s. “Terra we have to go. Everyone here is safe, it’s the people still above ground we need to help.” Dexter said over her shoulder. Terra tore her gaze away the boy and looked up at Dexter. He held out a hand to her and that’s when she realized she was still kneeling on the ground. She took his hand and stood up, throwing another look in the boy’s direction before she followed Dexter back towards the bunkers entrance. She tried to figure out why he stirred such strong emotions within her and realized it was because he reminded her of her brother when he was a child. She threw another glance over her shoulder but her view was blocked by a fresh wave of people entering the bunker. Seeing the new injuries they all had she quickened her pace towards the entrance. They still had people to save.

They finally reached the end of the tunnel and came out to the city once again. There was a strange scent hanging interlaced with the smoke and ash raining down into their hair and eyes.Terra could barely see Dexter and he was standing right next to her.”What is on fire?” She yelled to dexter beside her. They were being pushed aside by people still pouring into the shelter. The crowd was beginning to thin, the majority of the city’s inhabitants either fighting or already hidden inside. “Look,there! It looks like the beast is on fire.” He pointed to the left and she followed his finger with her gaze. And there it was, it was massive writhing in the air while it burned like a torch. It flailed around in what she believed was an attempt to put itself out. Its movements became slower until it completely stopped moving and fell to the ground. Terra braced herself for the impact, she found herself enveloped in Dexter’s arms as they huddled against the wall for support. A thud just as powerful as the initial one which started the attack rocked through the city. Cheers rose up all throughout the city in response to the creatures demise. As if it were orchasted the sun broke through the smoke that clogged the air and Terra realized it was dawn. As the sun grew higher in the sky the cheers broke off as everyone still above ground took in the damage to their home. Smashed buildings stones lay across the ground like scattered rocks. Everywhere you looked windows were smashed out and huge fires burned, engulfing the majority of the city in its flames. Only one part of the city was still standing and that was the hunters dorms. They’d been the farthest from the initial impact of the beast and the fires that raged across the city were spreading but haven’t managed to reach that far yet. However there was a sober feeling to the air as the hunters moved throughout the remains of their destroyed city. As she looked around Terra felt tears slid down her cheeks. She’d lived here for most of her life and now it was gone. Destroyed in one night by a man who seemed to be determined to ruin everything. Suddenly a loud voice rang out over the city, Terra and Dexter stopped walking and looked upwards. It was a large owl circling above the city with a man perched on its back

“You all think you’re safe? Well you aren’t. Just because you defeated one of my pets doesn’t mean that you will survive the rest of them. You all think youre so much better than the rest of the biomes. You think you can try to take over all of them and none of us will notice?” The man laughed as the bird swooped closer to the ground and for the first time terra got a good look at him. It was tyler, looking just as she remembered him from the week before. He laughed as he surveyed the city. “This is only the beginning.” He declared dramatically then his bird turned and flew away.

The gate patrol fired hundreds of arrows at him that missed by inches. As he rode away Terra could still hear him laughing. She knew her mouth was wide open but couldn’t find it within herself to close it,she was frozen in shock. Dexter turned to her and grasped her face in his hands forcing her to look at him.

“ Hey,it’s okay. Breathe. Just breathe.Focus on me. It appears we are missing some important information and we will figure everything out. Just stay with me okay?” His brown eyes burned with a bright intensity as he stared into her eyes.

She felt herself calming slowly. “What is going on?” She whispered to him. “Are we the good guys or not?”

Dexter stroked her cheek with his thumb, smearing the ash already on her cheek. “I don’t know honestly. Not anymore, but we will figure this out. I promise we will.” Terra nodded her head and looked around for the first time. While she’d been trying to calm down people from the bunker had come out. She realized they were surrounded by hundreds of ash covered people laughing and crying as they hugged each other. Even with the death threat hanging over their heads they were glad to be alive in that moment and with loved ones. Even as the worry from the attack loomed over her she had to admit the relief at being alive was undeniable.

“How did he know of our plan to take over the other biomes? Who is he getting this information from? And then he announced it to the whole city. People will start asking questions soon and if they do that then we are fucked!” The president exclaimed as he paced in front of Chris,Deon,Jordan and Mia. “You all were in charge of your groups and instructed to guard that information with your lives and yet the very person we were trying to keep the information from not only knows it but most likely is scheming with the other biomes to take over our home now. He already destroyed our city, if we hadn’t added this bunker our whole city would have nowhere to live right now!” He stopped and threw a chair against the wall. “What do you all have to say for yourself?”

“Sir, None of our teams had any contact with anyone other than the biomes we visited and even still no one told of our mission.” Mia offered calmly.

“Same for my team sir.” Jordan echoed.

“And mine since we didn’t even get to the city of the aquatic biome sir..” Deon responded as well.

“Of course all of you have cover stories. You think I won’t find out which one of you it was. But I will and when i do just know that your life is forfeit and anyone caught planning with you has forfeited their own as well. This is my city and I will run it the way I goddamn want to! Do you understand me?”

Mia and the others exchanged glances before returning their gaze to the president. “Yes,sir.”

“My darling niece will take care of the aquatic biome. She will succeed where you all have failed me. And once she does we can wipe the desert biome off of the face of the earth for good.”

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