Awakening: The ALPHA Generation

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Chapter 33

My eyes open hours later. My limbs are numb and heavy, and when I shift, spikes of pain dig through my body. I let out a groan and try to push myself into a sitting position, but a gentle hand stops me.

“Don’t try to move.” I follow the voice and meet two familiar eyes, heavy with exhaustion and grief.

“Elle?” I croak.

My friend nods. “Just stay still, Nat. We’re taking you back to the colony.”

I try to crane my neck but quickly still. Every movement sends raw pain through me. The zapper’s electricity travelled through my entire body – every part of me throbs. I look over and see Janet driving the car with Gray slouched over in the seat next to her, his eyes closed in a deep sleep.

“What happened?” I ask Elle, wincing at the pain that splinters across my jaw when I talk. “How did we get away?”

“We dragged you to the car after you were hit with that zapper. Somehow, we managed to outrun the Redeemers.”

I slowly shift into a sitting position, wincing at the pain that shoots through me with every movement. My eyes travel to the space between Elle and me, where the opened Confirmation of Cleansing Notice lies. The last few hours come rushing back.

Her family. My stomach twists at the fresh memory.

“Elle,” I croak. “Your family. I…I’m so sorry.”

She shakes her head, loose strands from her braid falling over her shoulders. “There was no way we could have saved them.” Her voice cracks, and I reach out to comfort her, but she pulls away slightly. “Save your energy,” she says softly, motioning for me to stay still.

My heart wrenches. Maybe if we had been faster, we could have saved them. They could have been alive right now. But we were too late.

Hatred for the Redeemers boils in my veins. I won’t let the Dalals’ deaths be forgotten. I’ll do everything to keep it fresh in my memory. I’ll use it to fuel my anger. My strength.

And I know exactly how to use that strength. The minichip holds all the information we need to trigger the Redeemers’ downfall. Soon they’ll be crumbling, ripping at the seams.

But first, there’s something I need to address.

“Janet,” I say, leaning forward so she can hear me. Gray stirs, but doesn’t wake. He’s clutching a pistol, like a child would a toy.

“Hey, you’re awake.” Janet glances back. “Took you a while. You okay?”

I grimace. “I think so.”

She nods, almost sympathetically. “You can see one of our medics when we get to the colony.”

“Janet,” I say again. “How did the Redeemers know exactly where we were?”

“I guess that first Redeemer called them after you hit him.”

“No, I mean before that. From the outside, our car looked normal. Why would he pull us over in the first place? And he seemed to come out of nowhere. Like he was–“

“- waiting for us,” Janet finishes, brow furrowed. She leans over and nudges Gray awake. “Hey Gray, wake up.”

Gray mumbles in acknowledgement, blinking his eyes open. “More Enforcers?”

“No, but we might have a bigger problem.” She motions to me. “Tell him.”

I explain my concerns to him. When I’m done, he lets out a frustrated groan.

“So, what are you saying? That we might have a traitor in the colony?”

“That might not be it,” I comment.

He looks at me in confusion. A moment later his eyes clear. “The AI?” he asks. “You think it alerted the Redeemers?”

“Maybe?” I say. “How else would they have known we were coming?”

“Do you really think It’s that advanced?”

Janet shares a glance with him. “If It is, then who knows what else It can do?”

Concern forms in Gray’s eyes. He looks at me. “...Could that thing hurt us?”

“Probably not physically,” I respond quickly. “But what if It can alert the Redeemers about what it sees? It could be watching us right now.”

Elle speaks up for the first time. “ALPHA might not be as strong as we think. When we first encountered It, Its presence only stayed in the room for a few seconds before disappearing. Maybe It can’t leave Its system for very long?”

“But what if It’s grown stronger since we discovered it?” I point out.

Gray holds up a hand. “We’ll look into that later. Let’s just focus on releasing the Cleansing footage for now.”

We agree, and I turn to the window, frowning as I look at the passing forest. Doubt festers in my mind, and one question lies at the center of it all.

Just how powerful is ALPHA?

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