Awakening: The ALPHA Generation

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Chapter 21

The road is dark and lonely, making it a perfect escape route. We’ve long ago left the busy highways of the city surrounding the Hub, trading them for bare wilderness. Here the roads are long and never-ending, stretching out for eternity as they climb up steep hills and weave around the occasional trees. Above, the moon hangs heavily, surrounded by a blanket of stars. The clouds dispersed a while ago, leaving a perfect view of the night sky.

Xander and I sit in silence. Elle is still motionless in her seat, and Darren is focussed on the road. His brow is pinched like it usually is when he’s thinking, and his eyes are troubled. We’ve told him everything we know; how we stumbled across the footage of the Cleansings, how ALPHA spoke to us. He’s been silent since then, deep in thought.

The impact of what just happened has finally hit me with full force. The Redeemers – the people I trusted, the group I longed to be a part of – have been lying to us. To everyone. I trusted them wholeheartedly. That’s why I wrote those Clik posts, singing their praises like a good little citizen, spreading their propaganda. They had me fooled, convinced me of their honor and perfection. They led me by the hand, pumping my mind with lies until I repeated them to the world. I wrote Cliks talking about their ‘mercy’ and their ‘wisdom.’ The words I wrote on my post only days before hiss in my mind.

'As we’ve said so many times, I say again; may the Redeemers reign forever.'

I hate myself.

I hate myself.

Their imprint still lies under my skin, a permanent sign of their deception. I roll up my sleeve and stare at the black lines in disgust. A rotting sense of guilt and anger settles over me. Uncontrollable tears prick my eyes.

There must be a way to get rid of it. I won’t walk around the rest of my life with their brand on my skin. I want it gone. I need it gone.

Getting it was a mistake. Everything I’ve done in the last two years has been one complete act of naivety. Self-loathing crawls through my veins, calling up guilt and pain that had faded long ago. Memories of my parents flash behind my eyes – the signs I missed, the things I overlooked. I shake the thoughts away and look back to the marking. A fresh wave of revulsion washes over me at the mere sight of it.

It was all a lie; every single word, every fake smile and forced speech. The Redeemers knew the cruelty of their system, and they kept at it, leading the people of the Remainder by the hand. And we followed them. We never thought to question their Law. Everything the Redeemers have done and said has been a deception.

And ALPHA.

The memory of the system’s phantom voice echoes in my head. What could its purpose possibly be? Something deadly, no doubt; something evil. Why else would the Redeemers try to hide it? What could be so secret, that they would want to kill us over it? We’re witnesses to something horrible, and they want us gone.

From the driver’s seat, Darren heaves a sigh. “So, what now?”

I blink, resurfacing from the depths of my thoughts.

“If we want to be safe from the Redeemers, we should go to the Frostlands,” he continues. “Head down to Sector 1, bribe our way onto a ship, and find a fugitive network to hide with.”

“The Frostlands?” Xander echoes. “Who could ever live in that place?”

He’s got a point. The Frostlands - the huge, barren land of ice that sits at the edge of the world - is barely inhabited. No one wants to live on a freezing stretch of snow.

Darren shakes his head in response to Xander’s comment. “I’ve heard that there are small communities there, where runaways sometimes go. And there are barely any Redeemers there. They like to stay close to the Remainder.”

He’s suggesting that we become runaways. I don’t know if I could live like that; hiding in the corners of the world like a criminal, cowering from any kind of society. Plus we’d be running away from our problems, choosing our own safety over the Remainder’s. How could I ever do that? Hide while the Flawed are secretly murdered?

No one has responded to Darren. He glances back at us and raises an eyebrow. “Thoughts?”

I swallow and look at my hands. “We know a huge secret now,” I begin, taking time to form the words. “Everything we believed was a lie. The entire Remainder is still under the Redeemers’ influence, just like we were. And that thing, that AI – people need to know about that. Running away from this feels…wrong.”

Before anyone can respond, Elle stirs in her seat. Her eyes flutter open seconds later, and she lets out a soft groan, shifting. “What happened…?” she mutters, blinking slowly.

“You got hit with a tranquilizer,” Xander explains.

She rubs her arm, wincing a little bit. “I can feel it. How long have I been out? And…” She looks around her, taking in the view of the van and the darkness out the window. “…where are we?”

“You’ve been asleep for a few hours,” I say. “And right now, we’re in the middle of nowhere.”

“Which is the safest place to be, apparently,” Xander adds.

Elle nods slowly and then looks at me. “What…the Redeemers…” She swallows and tries again, taking in a shaky breath. “They were going to kill us, weren’t they?”

I avoid her eyes and nod. She lets out a long breath and is silent for a few minutes.

“So, Cleansings are…killings,” she finally says.

I nod again, and her shoulders tremble. She raises a shaking hand to her face and closes her eyes.

“It’s okay, Elle,” I tell her. “We’re safe now.”

When she opens her eyes again, they’re wide with fear. “They took us because we found ALPHA,” she whispers, her voice quivering. “They were trying to hide it, right? So they tried to…”

Suddenly her eyes widen, and her skin pales. “My family,” she says. “The Redeemers might think they know, too. If they suspect anything…” She puts her hands over her eyes. “They’ll Cleanse them. They’ll kill them!”

“We won’t let them do that,” I promise, moving closer to her.

“We need to get them away from the Redeemers.” Elle is in a panic now, her breaths ragged. “We need to save them!”

“And we will.” My voice is calmer than it should be. I feel detached from it, like it belongs to someone else.

Her eyes are glazed with tears now. She hunches over, staring at the floor. “They don’t even know what happened to me,” she whispers.

“It’s going to be okay,” I say, going over to her and putting my arm around her shoulder. “We won’t leave the Remainder without your family. I promise.” I look poignantly at Darren, who nods.

I mean what I say. The Dalals mean everything to me. They were always there when I needed them. A second family - a real family. So different from the broken one that waited in my home.

“We’ll make contact with your family as soon as we can,” my brother says to Elle. “But first, we have to figure out what our next move is.”

The easiest solution would be to hide away in the Frostlands and live out the rest of our lives in hiding. But I don’t think I could do that. It’s not right.

Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Yes, I was naïve and trusting, answering to the Redeemers’ call, bowing to them like some sort of servant. But if they think that they can silence me now, then they’re going to have a huge awakening.

I will not be silenced.

I will not hide away like a frightened animal, sneaking in the shadows for the rest of my life.

Instead, I’ll fight. I’ll scream their crimes from the mountains, rip back their false layers of goodness and mercy and expose the cruelty within, the darkness that festers beneath the skin.

But I can’t do that alone. I’m not strong enough.

“We can’t run away from this,” I say.

“Then what should we do?” Darren counters.

I pause to mull over the question. Alone, we won’t make an impact. The Redeemers are too strong.

But there are people who are willing to fight against them. People who resist the Redeemers’ rule. Groups of rebels already working to overthrow them. Already seeking justice. Waiting for the right moment.

I look back at Darren. “What if we join the Truth?”

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