June 30, 2216
Ethan Silverspoon knew the Council planned to kill him if he didn’t pass this test.
He didn’t care.
If he died, no one would mourn him. His parents died when he was five because of people like him. He deserved death.
Ethan’s legs gave out as he stumbled across the open dirt field. It looked like the one in his grandparent’s neighborhood, where he used to play baseball with the boys, until The Black Riders made the area a ghost town. A small fire roared in the middle of the suburban neighborhood and gave off unbearable heat. The proctor, Taylor, stood over the fire and controlled it with an outstretched arm. His cool blue eyes settled on Ethan like knives. He took several aggravating steps toward the fire and stretched out his arm, but it was no use. No fiber in him allowed his limbs to summon the available water in his body, or in the air, to extinguish the fire. He felt sorry for the humans trapped in their houses through the ongoing test.
Ethan’s body pitched forward and he caught himself on the ground with his hands. The dirt and gravel dug into his palms, but didn’t pierce his flesh. He let his neck give way and his red hair fell with his head; the strands begged gravity to let them fall to the dry earth. His amber eyes settled on the temporarily upside down world behind him. None of the houses faced each other—it was a design to help cut down on traffic in neighborhoods—tightly packed with barely any grass and gray buildings with small windows. The garage hosted one old model Ferrari, but now accommodated three slim, round, cracker shaped hover cars. Each roof had its own dish that converted the light into electricity. There were no longer telephone poles or power boxes, Ethan thought their old design marred the city scape.
He dragged his head back up. The man watched Ethan with little interest. He was annoyed at the teenager’s lack of ability. Ethan didn’t blame him. Professor Taylor was one of the harshest graders at the Academy, but even the nicest teachers were unable to help him pass his element tests. When his eyes met Taylor’s, the sound around him cut out. He could hear the pounding of his heart and the growing hum of air-conditioners from the houses behind him. Ethan drew in a deep breath and the sound rattled in his ears. A bead of sweat ran down his cheek and fell to the parched ground.
“Put it out, Silverspoon.” Taylor growled. Despite the heat, Taylor was dressed in a professional black suit, over a white collared shirt. It was buttoned appropriately and a red tie was pushed up to his throat. He wasn’t breaking a sweat. With a flash of Taylor’s blue eyes, the fire grew substantially larger and Ethan choked on rising bile.
“I can’t.” Ethan shook his head. His weight dropped between his shoulder blades. The bones stuck up through his dark blue shirt.
Ethan leaned back on his knees—and the balls of his feet—before he reached down and pulled the sweat soaked shirt from his body. He threw it to the side and dirt clung to the fabric. He pulled back further and fell onto his butt. Ethan tugged up the hem of his jeans and pushed his high socks down so they bunched at his ankles. He stared at the fire across from him and kicked his legs forward. Taylor tapped his foot against the ground. The shaking of his leg made Ethan shudder. He didn’t want to cross a powerful, fully-trained elementalist—but he didn’t have the resolve to try. Ethan had no plans to do what Taylor wanted. Rather, he couldn’t physically do it. He took a steadying breath and propped his torso up with his hands extended behind him.
“Do it.” Taylor commanded.
Ethan didn’t grace the teacher with a response.
He couldn’t put out the fire. Ethan knew he wasn’t a Water elementalist—he was given too many chances already to prove his worth in all of the seven elements. He’d failed every time. He dropped his weight from his arms and his spine hit the solid ground behind him. Ethan winced as pain ripped through his body. The damaged nerves calmed and he took in the blue sky above him.
It was too hot. Clouds scattered. There were no birds. The sky was too blue. Ethan pushed his fingers through the dirt and tried to seek for that switch inside him that Taylor wanted to trigger. It didn’t exist. He was gifted the body of an elementalist from birth, but he wasn’t one of them. All he needed to do was wait until the Council called for him. He could have what he wanted—death.
“If you don’t pass this test it’ll be reported as another fail on your record.” Taylor warned.
“Awesome.” Ethan kinked his neck up so he could look behind him farther.
There was a wood fence close by. Wood wasn’t a popular choice anymore. People preferred the invisi-fences that no one saw until they walked into them. He noticed a knot missing in one of the pieces and he tried to identify what was behind it. The hole was too small. Ethan let his neck drop back and he stared up at the sky. A black dot formed at the corner of his eye and he focused on it. When he blinked, it vanished. He sighed. Heatstroke.
“Are you not going to try?”
“I have tried.” Ethan threw his arms up into the air. He clenched his fists and momentarily tried to focus on gathering water from his body. Nothing clicked. Sweat dripped from his fist and onto his cheek. Ethan pulled a face and used his sweaty shoulder to wipe it away. He dropped his hands back to the ground. He didn’t have the strength to move his body on his own.
The heat ebbed away and Ethan felt like he could breathe again. Taylor kicked dirt onto the fire and Ethan wondered if he could’ve passed the test that way. Professor Taylor probably would’ve forcefully kept the fire going. He mused. He’s a Fire elementalist after all. But then again, Earth is stronger than Fire… It took him a while to find the will to sit up. With a slow breath, he reached for his shirt and straightened out the muddy material. Ethan located the tag and tugged the Henley back on. It felt disgusting. His toes curled when the seams stuck to his skin in the wrong places. After a few moments he yanked it back off again. He’d go back to Elementōrum Patriam shirtless. Ethan turned back to Taylor, the teacher’s gaze was fixated on the thin, glass phone in his hand.
He looked back at the sky. A black dot on the horizon didn’t vanish when he blinked. It grew bigger and a smile taunted Ethan’s lips.
The transportation pod came to a halt in front of them. It didn’t touch the ground, nor did it disturb the ground with slipstream. Its gleaming, sleek, glass exterior shot off distracting and blinding flashes as it met the sun. The doors opened automatically and inside the circular doors were plush, blue velvet cushions. Taylor gestured for Ethan to enter the pod before him and he gladly took the opportunity.
No matter how much he hated Elementōrum Patriam, he’d rather be there with a known fate than on the Earth’s surface. He settled into the soft seat of the pod and leaned his head against the glass. His hair left streaks of sweat. When Professor Taylor boarded the pod after him, neither of them made a move to start a conversation. Ethan failed the examination with full knowledge that with the bad report, the Council would have no choice but to execute him.
The Council in charge of Elementōrum Patriam were unknown. They ran the country as any other government. They made laws and allowed the people to vote on important matters. The seven-member Council carried out their duties to the country without hesitation. They represented the seven natural elements in the world: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Storms, Fortune, and Life. The original Council were credited with creating their country. Nine of the cities were named after them. Ethan loathed the original nine. They’d separated the elementalists from the humans and created a divided world. They’d named the Uns as a separate entity that deserved to be caged in lawless ground. The nine created the law that killed people like Ethan.
Ethan failed the last of his tests. He didn’t need Taylor to input an official grade to know. Unable to control water, he’d almost drowned one of his fellow student three months ago. During the trial for Earth he’d opened large pit in the testing ground and trapped several professors at the Academy as well as other test takers. Ethan set the City of Garden on fire and destroyed a large section of endangered foliage. He wished he would’ve died then. He was a danger to society and the Council labeled him as a Rogue.
Rogues were killed personally by the Council. While they had the same mutated body as the elementalists, the mutation chose a form that refused to allow them to control one singular element of the seven. Instead, it created a “glitch” where they could control bits and pieces of the seven elements, but without any control. Ethan was dangerous. To spare their people the pain of dealing with a Rogue, the Council killed them. Ethan met his first Rogue when he was five-years-old. He remembered the experience well. The Rogue ran from Elementōrum Patriam and the Council followed him to the human world. He was decapitated in the middle of the street.
The silver transportation pod lifted smoothly into the air once Taylor was situated in his seat. Ethan cracked open one eye to watch his teacher; Taylor was occupied inputting Ethan’s marks on the examination. Once the results were completed, Ethan’s clear, glass phone alerted him. He pulled it from his pocket and stared at the notifications. Grade change. Examination input. A letter from the Council. It was expected. Ethan took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and unlocked his phone with his fingerprint.
He opened the email from the Council first. His phone changed color to blood red when he did. Pity settled on Taylor’s face. Ethan knew that none of the teachers wanted to fail a student into Rogue status, but after too many examinations, he’d stopped caring about the end result. He was already nineteen—the tests went on too long. Ethan’s eyes scanned the message.
We on the Council regret to hear of your failure on the Water element examination. We feared this outcome. We hope you will join us for breakfast and tea tomorrow morning. We will discuss your future promptly at ten o’clock. Please report to the locked door on the third floor by the tall windows. We are sure you know the one.
Enjoy the rest of your day,
Breakfast and tea. He snorted. It wouldn’t have made a difference if they’d told him, “we plan to kill you at ten o’clock tomorrow, please make sure you’re there.” Perhaps breakfast and tea was code for poison. He didn’t know how they would do it. Every Rogue death he witnessed ended with a different murder method. Ethan mused about his own death. If he had to choose, he’d rather decapitation by fire rope. It was cleaner and quicker.
The pod broke through the upper field of sky. In the distance Taylor and Ethan could see Elementōrum Patriam. The floating country that rested over the empty space of the Gulf of Mexico—too close to America for Ethan’s liking. On the outer southwest edge of the country was a large waterfall that fell from the City of Sides from the larger rivers inland. The river flowed far north of the dirty industrial zone in the city. No one wanted to work in the heavily polluted area. From there, they traveled northeast until they reached the center of the country. The ring city, City of Garden, surrounded the larger Academy. The Academy acted as the training grounds for elementalists. It was a city not unlike the mythical Mount Olympus. Historians had a sneaking suspicion that the ancient religious site was based on the elementalists’ country.
The Academy was surrounded by houses that glimmered with flashes of gold in the night and, in the day, shone like pure silver. If Ethan was a Wind elementalist, he’d spend his nights gazing at the city from above. The elevation of the land allowed the citizens to see the stars shine through the day. They winked down at those occupying the large outdoor study areas and cobblestone paths. The weather was maintained by the Storm elementalists, it rarely snowed, but it rained once a week. The sunny weather helped the students at the Academy remain positive about their education.
Large, wide spires rose into the sky. The Bullet, a train system without rails and their main transportation around the country, shot between buildings at light speed. Aqueducts, turned into paths, wove between and over smaller buildings. Several transportation pods lifted into the air and shot off across the landscape. A handful of towers floated in the air without support. Others were submerged under water in the large pond structure toward the south side of the Academy space. A few people dived into the pool and sunk to the lower buildings. Ethan envied those that studied in their natural element.
The transportation pod circled the Academy until it reached the entrance for the parking area. Several pods were pushed against the walls where elementalists worked on the mechanical parts. The other vehicles waited in neat rows and glistened in the low light of the work space. At the end of the long row of cars was a single set of doors. The pod stopped in front of them and opened the circular door for its occupants to step out. Taylor was first, Ethan close behind him. The program in the vehicle directed the pod away to the car wash and the elementalists headed for the doors back into the Academy.
On the other side, a man in tight, azure robes, with gold buttons and silver lining, waited for Ethan. He was one of the Healers from the Academy infirmary.
“I didn’t almost kill anyone this time.” Ethan gave the man an uneasy smile. The Healer sighed and gestured for the teenager to follow him.
During one of his two Life element exams, he’d mixed some chemicals together and created a deadly poisonous gas. He’d failed that test. He’s also caused an emergency evacuation of the infirmary. Healers ran the other direction when Ethan approached.
“I’ll see you later Mr. Silverspoon.” Taylor called after him. He wouldn’t.
The Healer gestured for him to follow for the mandatory health checkup. Ethan didn’t understand why he needed one.
The large windows of the infirmary let in large columns of light and gave Ethan’s red waves of hair a soft, fiery glow; the light often temporarily blinded patients as the sun moved from east to west. The white cotton sheets were itchy under Ethan’s hands, but they were more comfortable than the dorms. Soft downy feather pillows and mattresses made from finest polyester with soft cotton stuffing made the stay enjoyable. Ethan recalled how many elementalists tried to fake an illness to stay in the infirmary, but unlike humans, this plan was more likely fail, unless one ran across a kind Healer who took pity on the students. Blue curtains around the beds were rare. The Healers saved the drapes for highly injured elementalists, which didn’t happen often. The hospital reeked of iodoform. Ethan crinkled his nose at the pungent smell.
Ethan was restricted to a bed. The Healer that collected him from the garage made sure that he’d stay put by activating the invisi-walls saved for troublesome patients. He was an adult now, by a year, if the Healer told him to stay put, he would. He sighed—decided it was a security precaution in case there was a cart of chemicals nearby (not like he’d play with them for fun)—and adjusted the glass reader on a stand next to his bed. It contained information about his health records. Outside of medical needs, he was mildly curious as to what the Academy kept on file.
Name: Ethan Aaron Silverspoon
Birthday: June 1, 2197
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Red
Height: 5’ 10”
Time Spent at the Academy: 5 years
Non-Element GPA: 3.692
Element GPA: 0.0 Fail
He nodded along with the information. It was correct, except his hair color was once dark brunette. When he was around five-years-old his hair changed colors and the brown grew out. There was no scientific explanation for it. Several Healers thought it was strange when he first mentioned it. After that, he gave up on knowing why his hair changed color.
Ethan let out a huff and fell back against the bed. He pulled out his phone and opened the notification about his Academy grade change. To clear the banner, he opened the application and scrolled through his past results.
December 31, 2212- End of Eighteen Month Initiation to the Academy, GRADE: Pass
Elementalist subject shows positive signs for being able to control one of the elements. He is not affiliated with any of the currentlyinhabited elements. Individual testing will prove successful.
March 31, 2213- First Storm Element Test, GRADE: Fail
June 30, 2213- Second Storm Element Test, GRADE: Fail
September 30, 2213- First Fortune Element Test, GRADE: Fail
December 31, 2213- Second Fortune Element Test, GRADE: Fail
March 31, 2214- First Life Element Test, GRADE: Fail
June 30, 2214- Second Life Element Test, GRADE: Fail
September 30, 2214- First Air Element Test, GRADE: Fail
December 31, 2214- Second Air Element Test, GRADE: Fail
March 31, 2215- First Fire Element Test, GRADE: Fail
June 30, 2215- Second Fire Element Test, GRADE: Fail
September 30, 2215- First Earth Element Test, GRADE: Fail
December 31, 2215- Second Earth Element Test, GRADE: Fail
March 31, 2216- First Water Element Test, GRADE: Fail
June 30, 2116- Second Water Element Test, GRADE: Fail
If normal grades counted for anything, I’d be brilliant, Ethan thought. He coughed and looked across the room for the Healer that would tend to him before sending him back to the dormitories. With the ongoing examinations, the infirmary was busier than usual.
“How are you doing today?” The sweet voice of a Healer behind him nearly made Ethan fall off the bed. He rolled over slowly until he saw the woman, wearing the same blue uniform as the Healer from earlier, who was assigned to care for him. She had pretty blue eyes and black hair. “I’m Rose Sylvester.”
“Ethan Silverspoon.” He put out his hand. Rose took it politely and she gestured for him to sit up.
“I’ll be examining you today to make sure that all of your vitals are in the right place.”
“Alright.” Ethan sat up on the bed and allowed her to examine him.
They didn’t have a need to touch and he didn’t need to take off any clothes. Rose waved her hand over his body, the limb created a soft green glow, and information from the scan stored itself automatically in the glass screen by his bed. He could see his heartbeat on the monitor next to several other facts. One in particular was highlighted with red.
“You’re dehydrated.” She stated. “I’ll bring you some water while the rest of these stats update.”
Rose walked away and Ethan was left with the quiet space again. If water is my only issue I can drink water back at the dorms, he huffed. It was several minutes before Rose returned with a gallon of water. Once she’d assured that his other vitals were normal, his temperature was one-hundred-five, which was a little worrying because elementalists were meant to run at one-hundred-six minimum, but he was cleared to return to the dorms. On his way back, his mind drifted to a conversation with his Water element Professor the day before.
Professor Emma VonBerg approached him after class, he was held back because his things were scattered across the room. The more proficient elementalists in the class bullied him relentlessly, and nonetheless sent his belongings to the farthest corners of the classroom. He found one of his erasers under a nearby desk when Emma addressed him; he whipped up and cracked his head on the metal support beams. She quickly apologized for making him hit his head and handed him an ice cube from her hand, which he took to be polite.
“Ethan, you realize that if you fail this Water element test you are going to be classified as a Rogue elementalist.” Professor VonBerg took a seat in the next desk over. Ethan walked calmly back to where his things were and rummaged longer than necessary in the pockets.
“I am quite aware of the situation, yes.” He stated. His voice let her know there was a lifetime of fear behind his brown eyes.
“I suggest you do a bit of study and practice. It might help you with your exam tomorrow.” Emma suggested politely.
“No amount of study and practice is going to help me tomorrow if it hasn’t helped me thus far. I don’t think any of the teachers at this school would really be disappointed if I failed.”
“I’ve been instructed to give you this,” Emma held out a blood red envelope with black writing curling fancily into Ethan’s name on the front. She held it like it burned her fingers, barely touching the corner. He snatched it from her hand; he would let it burn him instead. He half expected it to shout at him, but it was a normal letter.
“Thanks,” Ethan mumbled and tossed his bag over his shoulder. He made to leave.
“And Ethan?” Emma called before he was out the door. He turned back. “Good luck.”
He climbed the flights of stairs numbly. He didn’t feel the marble under his feet or the railing in his hand. Ethan watched in envy as Air elementalists pushed themselves up effortlessly through the spiraling staircase. If they chose, they would never have to walk anywhere again. Water elementalists teasingly jetted water at the flying students; a few of the kind Fire elementalists stopped the water from hitting. Ethan ducked lightning bolts and bricks. The students glanced at the red envelope in his hand, but none of them said a word. He stumbled into the boys’ dormitory where he was staying with the other nineteen-year-old elementalists. They glanced up as he entered and hastily looked away. Disasters liked to take place around Ethan, especially when he was upset about one thing or another.
His bag hit the post of his bed with a loud clunk and Ethan landed with his own matching sound on the firm mattress. The letter still clutched in his hand poked painfully into his side. After a moment, he stole himself away and slit it open. Most of the other boys who hung around in the dorm left, the ones who stayed ignored him and acted as if the bed were empty.
Ethan groaned and rolled over. He pressed his face into the cotton material of the pillows. All Ethan was left to do was join the few boys in studying, or he could sleep. Yet, sleep wouldn’t come to him anytime soon. He went into the bathroom and filled his water cup to the brim. Ethan brought it back into the main bedroom and concentrated hard for the next few hours, but by the time the others returned for bed he could not bend the water in the cup. He would be better off turning the tap water on than attempting to bend anything to his will. Ethan fully resigned himself to being the odd one out. He accepted death.
John stepped across the brittle ground and stared up at the piece of land they communally placed in the sky. He twisted back to his companions and smiled at the collection of people from across the world. They wouldn’t be where they were, creating their own country for the Homo elementa, if it wasn’t for the effort of all nine of them. Diana swept back her brown hair and gave John a soft smile.
“Do we have a name for our country?”
“Elementōrum Patriam,” Ashlyn of Venice spoke up from the back of the group. She stepped forward to join John at the cliff’s edge; her dark brown hair followed the wind and whipped her dark skin. Ashlyn took charge of the Council after Diana gathered them together. They were spread around Pangea and they founded cities, safe cities, for the elementalist people. For a while they worked in harmony with the humans—they sent Life elementalists to heal the sick and Water elementalists provided water for the crops. Doubt fed into the human’s hearts and the elementalists found themselves at war with the other race. It was for their own safety that they created their own place to live. They would create new cities and only harbor those of their kind.
“A fitting name,” Elven agreed. He was from Ekurhuleni and was dressed in a colorful robe. He looked like a true king among the Council.
“Elementōrum Patriam, with the elementalist people.” Niragawa’ skin matched the color of his outfit, a turban on his head. He took a seat on the ground to better see the size of the floating country. Water flowed around them and filled the new crevice. The Council looked on in awe at the power of the elements combined into one force. During the process their eyes glowed with power—the color of their respective element; Diana wanted to feel that rush of power again. She craved war after seeing Moscow burned.
“We will end our wars with the human race today. Our people will be moved to our new country and there we will nurture our mutation in kindness.” John interrupted her musing. He spread his arms and stood on the precipice of the sheer break. “The earth gifted us the chance to control its Storms, to hold in our hands the balance of Life and Death—we can view the Supernatural universe as it is and stop time. We are allowed to change the Fortune of those around us, to make Fire, Air, Water, and Earth justly ours. It is time for the elementalists to rise.”
“And we’ll be the Council to govern them.” Elven smiled into the rising fog. The others nodded and took their own perches on the cliff’s edge.
The earth rumbled under their feet. Water met the bottom of the basin in a sudden rush. Matthew held them steady against the pressure. Ashlyn looked up in awe.
“A waterfall, in our country.”
“You’ll carry us up, won’t you Matthew?”
“Of course.” The white crystal around his neck flashed with power and he reached out to grab two hands in his.
When they all stood on the open edge near the new waterfall, they reexamined the spread of untainted land ahead of them. They could see the tips of mountains crisping the horizon. The air was thin at the new elevation, but they didn’t feel it. Their bodies were built to out survive the humans—it was why they tried to help them.
Diana turned back to see the view off the side of their country. “Do you think we’ll really be safe here?”
“Yes,” John’s eyebrows furrowed together.
“I don’t believe you.” Every city Diana touched burned. The humans destroyed and ransacked their precious cities—they’d come to their new country too. Moscow, Hong Kong, Pompeii, London, San Francisco. They were all gone. She took a step back against the edge and her balance faltered. Diana tumbled through the air and into the new lake. The group screamed and Matthew jumped after her; a red glow stopped him mid-flight. Diana’s body twisted in the air, her eyes were the same bright color as the crystal around her neck.
Her body slowed its descent and hung in the air. Diana’s mouth opened in a silent scream—the ground under the Council of eight quaked. The glow intensified and she controlled the elements, all nine as one. The Earth suffered under her awakened power. The land ripped apart underneath them. From their position in the sky on Elementōrum Patriam, they could see what Diana did. The whole Earth was torn into separate pieces of land. Seven continents in place of the one original. Eight with their creating in the sky. A new world for the humans and the elementalists. A new start. Diana’s body vanished into the crashing waves below and they knew she wouldn’t return to their side.
July 1, 2216
Ethan walked through the dormitory halls with a drop in his shoulders. He took the longest route through the building, but he had plenty of time until the Council expected him. He took the quiet moments of solitude to contemplate what his existence meant. As a child, Ethan was spared when his whole hometown was killed by poisonous gas. He was given too many chances to keep living and now he approached the end of the line. He took care to focus on each breath travelling in and out, in and out, in and out. One of them would be the last. He would breathe out and never in again—it was a surreal thought. Ethan never realized how much he liked breathing before.
His lasting legacy was how he approached his death and no one was there to watch. People would praise the day that Ethan left their world alone—he wouldn’t be a danger to functional elementalists anymore. Others would hear stories of all his misdeeds, but never of the boy resigned to death. The smile playing at the corners of his lips was the last his body would form. He focused on his heartbeat, brought his thumb to the pulse in his wrist. He counted. Twenty pulses that were uniquely his, twenty more at a speedier pace, twenty that meant he was alive. Sixty counts that wouldn’t prove his existence when his body stilled.
Ethan didn’t remember the rest of his walk through the cream halls and admiral carpet. He didn’t remember losing sight of the colored wall stripes that told him which classrooms he neared. His eyes registered the sign on the door that read: COUNCIL ROOM. Ethan scratched the space between his eyebrows and stared at the ornate bronze handle. Once he touched the knob, he committed to entering the Council’s domain.
Taking a deep breath, Ethan stretched out his hand and clenched it into a fist. He counted to ten, uncurled his fingers, and twisted the knob. It gave way under pressure and he pushed the door open. He couldn’t see anything short of a few feet into the space. The lights were out and the only illumination came from the hallway. He stepped into the dark and the door swung closed behind him. Ethan thought he heard footsteps before a hand pushed him forward. He tried to spin around, but as soon as he did, the person vanished. The darkness pulled him back. Adrenaline filled his heart—he could barely move.
Something forced him into a chair and he flew down the hall on the mobile furniture. He had no time to think about the dark around him. Ethan’s hair pulled back from his forehead. The chair hit an inhibitor and Ethan launched forward. He put out an arm to try and catch himself, but his right shoulder connected with the ground first and he rolled until he hit a wall. The teenager’s hair started a slow creep back into place and he lifted his left hand to speed up the process.
“Welcome Ethan Silverspoon, we’re so glad you could join us.” A female’s voice reverberated around him and the lights clicked on. He was momentarily blinded and Ethan shook his head to try and return his lost sense.
Floodlights exposed the football-sized room. Ethan took in his surroundings. He was encased by white walls that reflected the light. The walls, upon closer inspection, were stained with blood. It was dry and cracked. Security cameras in the corners observed the room. Above him was a silver box lined with windows, but they were dark on his side. The area resembled a fancy box for spectators at a sporting event, but this was an arena for inescapable death.
“I’m not ready to die.” The sudden realization shocked him to his core—he’d accepted his fate two days previous, but now he wanted hope. Ethan’s last wish faded. He could feel the fight and adrenaline draining from his body.
Hidden panels on the walls slid aside and six .30-30 Winchester Lever-Action Rifles exited, mechanically clicked into place, and another click loaded the ammunition. Slowly, Ethan pressed himself up against the wall as the many Rogues had before him. He closed his eyes and clamped his jaw. The guns took careful aim. They fired.