Awakening: The ALPHA Generation

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Chapter 39

Janet dives under the dashboard just as more bullets come. She presses herself against the floor while screaming for us to do the same. Xander pulls me down, shielding my body with his.

“Get out!” Janet yells as she forces her door open. “Get out of the van, now!”

More bullets bursts through the van. I get to my knees and jump out, hauling Xander behind me.

The woods are in chaos. Vans and trucks are overturned between the trees, some soldiers kneeling behind them to hide from the invisible enemy. Nearby, Warrick’s soldiers move systematically, crouching behind logs and bushes as they shoot.

I spot Gray firing behind one of the flipped vans. Xander and I make our way towards him as I visually search the area for Darren.

“Enforcers?” I ask Gray when we collapse next to him.

He grunts and ducks to reload. “They somehow found out about our plans.” He points to the trees. “Some are up there, others on the ground.”

They knew. How?

“What do we do now?” Xander asks.

“It’s too late to retreat. We’ll fight,” Gray says simply. Xander and I prepare our weapons.

I begin sweeping the area, searching for a target. I spot an Enforcer hidden behind the bushes some distance away, engrossed in firing a deadly machine gun. I train the scope of my gun on the unprotected spot between his helmet and collar. He falls, and I move on to the next target.

Xander is doing the same, his face a mask of controlled emotion as he fires towards the trees.

The machine gun sits unattended. The sight sparks an idea. We need to take care of this ambush and get on with our plan. The mission must be completed, at all costs. And that gun will help.

I shoulder my weapon and tell Xander to stay back.

“What are you doing?” Gray asks between shots, but I’m already moving, sprinting into the line of fire. Gray yells after me, but I ignore him. My eyes are trained on the gun hidden in the bushes.

Cries for help and barked orders come from all directions. The voices are a mix of regal and rough, Enforcers’ and Truth members’ mingling into a cacophony of noise. Gunshots surround me. I pray the Enforcers aren’t using poisoned bullets.

My fears are confirmed when one of our men falls nearby. He grips the spot on his arm where the bullet hit, a trickle of blood seeping between his fingers. Poison? I hope for his sake that it will be over quickly. Some of the Redeemer’s poison works over hours, slowly eating away at flesh. He’ll be lucky if he’s dead within the hour.

Finally, I reach the gun. I crouch low to examine it. They didn’t teach us how to use these in training, but it seems relatively straightforward. I take a hold of it and aim up, pressing the trigger. A spray of bullets erupts from the barrel, shooting into the trees. Easy.

The next few minutes are filled with the sound of my own gunshots and the sight of my targets falling. I see now that the Enforcers are everywhere, surrounding us. I shoot some down from the trees. They fall with sickening thuds.

Suddenly, their shooting stops. There is no victory cry, no announcement of a battle won. It just ends.

Gray comes out from his cover. “They’re retreating!” he calls out. “Let’s get moving again. Stick with the original plan – get to the outpost!”

I leap from my spot and rush to the others. A quick glance tells me that Darren and Xander are both alive and well.

We start walking. Bodies lie scattered, some wearing Enforcer uniforms, others with mismatched vests and jeans. Among them, I spot the man who was shot with the poison bullet. His body is lifeless, the skin an unnatural shade, the pupils of his open eyes dilated; both results of the poison.

I pull my attention away from the body and to Gray. “How many have we lost?” I ask him.

“Too many. But we’re still enough to handle them. The element of surprise is gone, but we can still win.”

“Surprise?” I frown. There was no way they could have guessed we were coming; they must have been told by someone. But who? ALPHA? Someone else?

Before I can mention anything to Gray, Janet comes up to us, her face smudged with dirt and blood. “Stick to the plan?” she asks Gray, who nods.

Gray nods. “You’ll stay with me, Nat,” he tells me. “We’ll need you and your brother when we enter the outpost.”

“Got it.” I crane my neck and find Darren in the crowd. I catch sight of Xander a few feet away. I need to get to him.

With one last glance at Gray, I make my way between the other soldiers until I reach Xander’s side. Our eyes lock. His are round and heavy, full of fear and the growing guilt of the lives he’s already taken.

But I know that this is just the beginning. More blood will be spilled today – and soon.

I look away and focus on following Gray. Our group heads straight for the opening in the forest; for the outpost.

Enforcers are already there, waiting for us.

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