The Remainder is in chaos. The post went out to every Clikbook user in the world. Everyone knows about the secret network region, and, more importantly, what it holds; ALPHA.
It’s all happened so quickly, that it almost feels unreal. Only this morning, the entire world was fully loyal to the Redeemers. But that’s changed now. The disclosure of ALPHA, Its network, and the files there, was enough evidence to convince them that we’ve been telling the truth all along.
Now that the people believe what we say about ALPHA, they’ve begun to believe our past revelations about Cleansings, too. Their trust in the Redeemers is broken.
The Cliks are exploding with responses. There are those who don’t believe us, but they’re outnumbered by the massive amount of people who are joining our cause. News of unrest and rebellion flood through the feeds.
The Redeemers haven’t said anything on the subject. Krane hasn’t made a speech to deny the existence of ALPHA. Their silence has only proven us right; they must know that, and yet, they remain completely quiet.
And that scares me.
The Redeemer way is to refute guilt. To manipulate those who doubt them. The fact that they aren’t even denying our accusations is terrifying. We don’t know what they’re planning.
As days pass, the rest of our soldiers move into the outpost. For the first time in months, we feel like we’ve won. This victory didn’t come as we planned, but it’s one all the same. Support for our cause is growing.
We have a chance now. A very, very good chance.
I sit with Xander on the edge of the forest, watching some of our men practice in the distance with our newly acquired weapons. It’s a strange moment of peace; for once, I feel light.
Next to me, Xander is quiet, twisting a blade of grass between his fingers. His eyes have lost their emptiness since the battle, but he’s been unusually distant since then.
I nudge his shoulder “You okay?”
“…Yeah,” he says after a moment. “I’m just…thinking. And listening.”
“Listening?” I repeat, confused.
He nods. “To the birds.” He looks to the trees above us. “It’s been a while since I really heard them, you know?”
I follow his gaze and stare into the trees, trying to hear past the sounds of the soldiers. It takes a moment, but my ears eventually pick up the sounds; chirps that harmonize with each other until they create a type of symphony, a melody of songs that meld into one.
Xander watches me and smiles lightly. “Hear them?”
I nod slowly, trying to pick out the individual chirps.
“Here, look at this.” He takes a small stone and hurls it into the treetops. The chirping silences, voices dying out one by one. They leave an empty hole in the forest.
Xander looks at me. “One stone, and they all disappear. Gone. It makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?”
I tilt my head, brow furrowed. “…What exactly are you trying to say, Xander?”
He shrugs, leaning back on his palms. “I don’t know. I was just thinking about everyone who’s died in the last few days. Miller, the soldiers in the battle.” He swallows. “The people I killed, too.”
I let out a breath. “You had to do it, Xander. Don’t feel guilty about something you had no choice in. And…” I lower my voice, picking at the grass. “They were just Redeemers,” I murmur, knowing what I’m saying sounds wrong.
He looks at me for a moment, then shakes his head, tan bangs spilling into his eyes. “They were people, Nat. They walked and talked and felt like us. They were alive.” His voice is husky, almost a whisper. “And now…they’re not.” He turns his face away from me to stare forward. “Even if they were our enemies, what gave us the right to kill them?”
My tongue moves to form words, but my voice doesn’t respond. I don’t want to listen to what he’s saying. I can’t afford to feel guilt. If I let one sliver of remorse crack through my walls, everything will come crumbling on top of me.
The sound of a hurricane firing breaks the moment, and Xander flinches, then looks where the soldiers are practicing.
“I wonder if we’ll ever have to use those,” he says, his voice straining at an effort of normalcy.
“Chances are, we will. Hopefully we’ll get a break first, though. I’ve had enough fighting to last me a few weeks.” I motion to the outpost. “Want to go find Elle?”
He nods, and we get up together and jog towards the building. Our conve
But deep inside me, I know that what Xander said was right. People are dying because of us. And our war has barely just begun.
How many more people will have to die before this is all over?