Awakening: The ALPHA Generation

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Chapter 44 - Nat

I sit in what once was a break area of the outpost. A few tables and sofas rest against walls or in neat circles around the room. These kinds of places are scattered around the building - something other Redeemer buildings don’t have.

Elle sits next to me on the unworn sofa, hunched over her Clikbook as she scrolls through Clik posts. I watch over her shoulder. It’s a peaceful, quiet moment; a welcome rest from the whirlwind of uncertainty that has been spinning in my mind about the last few days.

I’ve been thinking of the ambush at the outpost attack. There’s no way the Redeemers simply guessed that we were coming. So, unless ALPHA sensed us, someone must have told them. But who?

“Hey, Elle.”

“Hm?” She doesn’t look up from her screen.

“Is it possible to check the colony’s communication activities for the last…say, week or so?”

Now she looks up, brow furrowed. “That’s not easy. And I’m not sure it’s right, either.”

I scoot in closer. “This is important, Elle.”

She sighs in resignation and turns back to her Clikbook. “What exactly would I be looking for?”

“Calls to anywhere outside, made from our colony.”

Her fingers start working. “Mind telling me why…?”

I consider telling her. She doesn’t deserve to be left in the dark. But what if I’m wrong? She already has enough to worry about, and if this is just paranoia…

I shrug. “I’ll tell you later, when you find something.”

If I find anything.”

“Right. If.”

Darren enters the room then, waving at me. “Carper says that all combat personnel need to report to the Core. Time to figure out our next moves.”

Elle’s gaze jerks up from her Clikbook. Her grip on the device tightens.

Darren raises an eyebrow at her. “Everything okay, Elle?”

She nods and relaxes her grip. “I just…” She clears her throat. “I don’t want to be alone. Do you know where Xander is?”

“Training,” my brother answers, and Elle nods to herself.

I frown, watching her for a lingering moment. “Elle?” I prompt.

She glances up with glassy eyes.

“Are you okay?”

She drags her sleeve over her eyes and puts on a smile. “Of course. It’s just been hard, you know, being on my own.” Her voice cracks, but she hides it with a cough.

…Of course. All of this time, I’ve been so wrapped up in my own anxieties that I’ve completely ignored what she’s going through. She lost her family – her family – and I’ve barely even acknowledged her grief. I curse myself silently.

“Nat,” Darren says softly. “I’m sorry, but we really need to go.”

“Yeah. I know.” I look at Elle again. “I’ll be back soon. Keep searching the communication lines for me, alright?”

She nods without looking at me, and I reluctantly follow Darren out. We make our way down the roomy hallways.

“What were you two up to?” Darren asks, giving me a sidelong glance.

I hesitate, wondering if I should tell him my suspicions. But then I look over at him and see his concerned eyes, his sincere expression. I let out a sigh and launch into my thoughts about the ambush at Elle’s house and the Enforcer attack on our group the other day. When I’m done, he just looks at me, studying my face.

I pick at my nails. “Do you think I’m being overly suspicious?”

“Maybe.” He pauses. “…Any suspects?”

“Everyone’s a suspect right now, I guess.”

We enter the Core, where the combat personnel have gathered, and stand by the door.

Carper scans the room. “Where’s Warrick?”

One of Warrick’s men answers, “He’s in his quarters. Should someone to go get him?”

He nods, and searches the crowd. His gaze falls on me. “Spearse,” he says, then motions to one of the Core’s doors, and I follow the silent order.

It takes me a while to pin down Warrick’s location, but after asking a few members of his group, I finally make it to his door.

I gently knock and wait. No response.

I knock again, harder this time. “Commander Warrick?”

I try the doorknob, and it turns under my hand. I dubiously open the door, stepping into the room as quietly as possible. The room is empty, save for the few pieces of furniture. At the back of the room stands a second door, the light clearly on inside. I call out his name again, but no one answers.

At this point, I don’t really have another choice - other than returning empty handed. Sighing, I gently push the inner door open. Inside is a shiny bathroom with white tiled floors.

I freeze in the doorway. An ominous red streak leads to the bathtub.

The shower curtain is drawn, hiding the tub. As I walk to it, my footsteps are fearful. I reach out to grip the curtain and hesitate one last time before pulling it back.

A gasp catches in my throat.

Laying on his side at the bottom of the tub lies Warrick, his eyes glazed over with death. A knife sticks out from his back. The man’s face is pale and gray, his mouth open in what once might have been a scream.

I stagger backwards, my foot catching on the tile behind me and sending me falling backwards. I manage to catch myself against the wall. My eyes are fixated on Warrick, on the blood pooling in the bottom of the tub. There’s so much of it – there’s so much.

Run, a voice screams in my head. Run!

I stumble back into the hall and run as fast as possible, towards the Core. Something like a sob bursts from my chest as hysteria rises. If I don’t calm down, the panic will overpower me. I’ll drown beneath it.

I stop at a corner, hand over my racing heart. Get a hold on yourself. Calm down.

“What’s wrong with you?” a voice asks. I look up and see Ivan standing a distance away.

“W-Warrick…” I begin.

His eyes narrow. “What about him?”

“He’s…he’s dead,” I spit out, and point a shaky finger down the hall. “He was murdered in his room.”

Ivan falters, staring at me. “What are you talking about?”

“He’s dead. Murdered.” The image of his body flashes through my mind again. The murder was so clean; it must have been done by a trained fighter, someone who knew what they were doing.

It must have been done by someone who knew where to find him, and how important his position was to our colonies. An insider.

He was murdered by one of ours.

My mind skirts back to the attack on the outpost, where the Redeemers were lying in wait. ALPHA didn’t alert them – it was one of our own. Same with Elle’s house. And Miller’s murder. It was all done by a Truth member. Who knows what else they’ve done while our backs have been turned?

I need to tell Carper my thoughts. The traitor must be exposed.

Before Ivan can say anything else, I race down the hall. The group is still in the Core when I arrive. When Carper sees me, he looks behind me expectantly. “Spearse, where’s Warrick?”

I stare at the crowd, searching their faces, trying to find guilt in one of their eyes.

“Spearse?” Carper repeats, and I look back at him.

“Warrick has been murdered.”

The room goes silent. The Commander stares at me.

I turn my gaze back to the crowd, sifting through their faces. “Which one of you did it?” I ask. “Who’s the traitor?”

Darren shifts out of the crowd, moving next to me. He places a gentle hand on my arm. “Nat, what-?”

I pull out of his grasp, seething. “Who here killed Warrick?” I say again, my voice raising with rage. “Who?”

The crowd is silent. All I see in their eyes is pure confusion.

Ivan walks into the room, and I feel myself turn to him. Wasn’t he supposed to be at the meeting to begin with?

“Ivan,” Carper says to him. “What do you know?”

“Warrick is dead,” He says. “He’s in his room with a knife in his back.”

Murmurs scatter across the crowd, and a few of Warrick’s men start shouting, pushing through the crowd to get out to the hall.

“Everyone, calm down.” Carper orders. His command cuts through the voices, silencing them immediately. He looks at me, then at Ivan, and rubs his forehead. “I’ll go see this for myself.”

He leaves, and the crowd follows. Darren still stands next to me, his hand on my shoulder. He begins to say something, but someone calls him through the door before he can. He gives my shoulder one last squeeze before leaving.

I stand alone in the middle of an empty room, staring at the wall. A sensation of dread pools in my stomach. Somewhere among us hides a traitor. They’re planning our demise and leaking our secrets to the Redeemers behind our backs.

And we have no idea who it is.

Our group is beginning to unravel.

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