Carper, still back at the colony, has been alerted that we’ve taken the outpost. He’s on his way now, with the rest of the colony’s combat squad. Elle’s coming with him.
Xander and I search the distant halls of the outpost, looking for Treasurer Miller. The manhunt has been going on for hours now, but to no avail. Dread has already begun to seep into the group.
The outpost reminds me of the Redeemer Centre in Cativy. Clean and sharp, yet smaller and less imposing. The halls are wide and open, branching out in different directions. The building is composed of countless rooms; all places the Treasurer could be hiding.
We finally pause. Xander leans against the wall and watches as I pace the hall. My injured arm hurts with the movement, but I try to ignore the pain.
“We’ll find him, Nat,” Xander says softly.
I run a hand through my hair. “With so many people searching for him, he should have turned up by now.”
My friend sighs and pushes himself from the wall. “We’ve been searching for hours. Maybe it’s time to rest?”
I shake my head. “I can’t stop until-“
“You’ve been in battle,” he interrupts. “You’ve been shot-“
“-And you haven’t rested in hours. Like you said, lots of people are searching right now. No one will mind if you take a break.”
I let out a frustrated breath. “Fine. But let’s finish this area first.”
“Sure.” He motions to the hall. “After you.”
We begin walking, shoes squeaking against the tiled floor. The air is crisp and smells slightly of chemicals. The walls are white, the tiles as well. Everything has a sense of perfection about it.
“How many people do you think died in the battle?” Xander asks suddenly.
“I…I don’t know.”
He bites his lip. “There were a lot of bodies,” he adds quietly.
Before I can respond, we arrive at the end of the hall. Several small, simple doors stare down at us.
“What are these?” Xander wonders.
“Storage closets?” I suggest, opening one of them. As I expected, the inside is lined with shelves. Boxes of Clikbooks and tech sit on the ground in small, neat columns.
I step inside, peering around the piles of boxes. Nothing. Xander opens the next door.
We must find Treasurer Miller. If we don’t, this plan will fail. We’ll have to consider another type of leverage against the Redeemers.
We might have to tell the people about ALPHA.
But that’s a last resort. We have the outpost now. This place is packed with weapons we can use against the Redeemers. All we need to do is find the Treasurer. Then everything will fall into place.
Xander appears at the door. His face is drained of color.
“Xander?” I move towards him. “What’s wrong?”
He grips the door with pale hands. “I…I think I found the Treasurer,” he whispers, voice tight. Fear radiates from him like heat from a fire.
In response, he leads me to the next closet. The door is cracked open. I hesitantly open it.
The first thing I see is the blood. It pools under a body, glimmering red against the tiles of the closet floor and soaking into the man’s fine white suit. There’s a Leadership Squadron marking on his limp, colorless wrist.
Treasurer Miller. I let out a strangled gasp and stumble back, hitting my bad arm against the doorframe. My eyes close on their own, squeezing themselves shut as if trying to block out the carnage in front of me. Stay calm. Breathe.
The Treasurer is dead. How will we bring the Remainder to our side now? We took the outpost. People died so we could get to Miller. Was it all for nothing?
The scent of blood coats the air. Who knows how long Miller has been in here - minutes? Hours? And more importantly, who killed him? I quickly go through the events of the day, trying to remember exactly where each group was throughout it all. We were together at the battle, then split into squads. Afterwards, everyone was at the Core except for the men who cleared the outpost. Was it one of them?
Or maybe it wasn’t murder. Could he have somehow known what we were planning to do with him, and decided to take his own life?
I look back at the body. Hesitantly take a step closer. The light from the hall gives me a better view – the blood is coming from his side. He’s been stabbed. It’s clear that he didn’t do that to himself.
Someone killed him.
And chances are, that person – Redeemer or Truth – is still in the building.
I turn my attention back to Xander. His eyes are transfixed on the Treasurer’s body, his face filled with nervous horror.
“C-Carper should be here by now.” My mouth feels dry, the words hard to choke out “We need to find him. But we…we shouldn’t leave the body.”
Xander looks horrified at the idea of being alone with the corpse.
I motion to the hall. “You should get him. I…I’ll stay.”
He nods - a quick, jumpy movement - and hurries off. I sink to the floor and stare at the body.
Carper stands over the dead man and curses under his breath. Gray is with us, standing outside the closet with Darren and me while we wait for our Commander. Elle is with us, too, not wanting to be alone after her arrival. She looks nervous and won’t leave our side. Xander is gone, not wanting to stay on the scene.
Next to me, Gray rubs his temples in frustration. “There goes our confession.” He scowls. “Who would do this?”
“Whoever it was, they need to be found,” Carper says as he emerges from the closet to join us. “Gray, do you know where all your men are?”
“Most of them were accounted for after the battle, although I can’t be sure.”
“They were,” Darren confirms. “Most of Warrick’s, too, except for those who searched the building afterwards.”
I go over the list of those who were part of the search party. I don’t know many of them, except for…
I clench my jaw. Except for Ivan.
“I’ll want to speak with those in the search party,” Carper says. He looks back at Miller’s body and frowns. “But for now, our plan is ruined.”
Next to me, Elle clears her throat. “There’s still ALPHA,” she says softly. “It’s earlier than planned, but we could tell the Remainder about It and It’s secret network.”
“They didn’t believe the Cleansing footage,” Gray points out. “Why would they believe ALPHA is real?”
“Because…” Elle’s eyes are brighter now. “Because there’s no way we could create something that complex so quickly. And there’s also the certified Redeemer documents in the network region. We could leak the recording we took the day we discovered ALPHA.”
Carper nods, starting slowly, and then quickening. “How soon can you get it ready?”
“Within hours. Since this is a Redeemer building, their tech will have access to their Clik account,” she goes on. Her nervousness has been replaced by excitement. “It’s programed to appear on every feed in the Remainder. Anyone with a Clikbook will see it!”
“Good,” Carper says, looking hopeful. “But we need it out as soon as possible.”
“I can do it now,” she offers.
He motions to me. “You and your other friend will prepare the post with her, since you three discovered ALPHA.”
“Yes, sir.” I nudge Elle’s arm. “I’ll show you to the Core.”
With a brief nod to Gray and Darren, I start for the Core with Elle beside me. I feel a slight smile forming across my face as we go. We have a new plan. Maybe things will work out, after all. Maybe we will beat the Redeemers. Even without Miller’s confession.
The thought of Miller makes the beginnings of my smile dissipate. I glance over my shoulder, looking back at the open closet door. We have a new plan, but that doesn’t erase the fact that Miller was murdered.
And we don’t know who killed him.