Awakening: The ALPHA Generation

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Chapter 45

Carper has gathered everyone for an emergency meeting. We’ve met in the Core, since it’s the only space big enough to fit us all. The people in the room eye each other dubiously; the tension in the room is so thick, it’s almost tangible.

Elle and I sit at a desk with Xander standing next to us. I can see Darren across the room. Janet sits a few desks away from him, with Gray standing loyally at her side. It’s the first time I’ve seen her since she was hit with that zapper - she looks well, except for the dark circles under her eyes and the slight slump to her shoulders.

I risk a glance at Warrick’s men, who’ve gathered across the room. As the second in command, Ivan has replaced Warrick as leader. He stands at the centre of the group, casually talking with his men.

I catch myself staring at him. He has a knife holster hanging from his belt. From here, I can’t tell whether it’s empty or not. Both the Treasurer and Warrick were murdered with a knife, I realize. Could Ivan be the one who…?

Carper stands in front of us all, arms crossed over his chest. He scans the room, resting on every person before moving on to the next. Something in his mannerisms remind me of a Redeemer’s.

He clears his throat. “As you know, Commander Warrick was murdered this morning.” Several people shift uncomfortably in their seats. “We have our suspects,” Carper goes on to say. His good eye flickers to Warrick’s men, hardly noticeable, and then to me. “But we need confirmation. If you know anything about the murder, it’s your duty to report it immediately. Does anyone have anything to say?”

There’s a moment of awkward silence. Some people shuffle their feet, other look at the floor or study the ceiling.

Ivan clears his throat. “Well-“ He looks at me with an even, bold gaze. “Isn’t the prime suspect usually the one who discovered the body?”

I start to rise, but Xander gently pulls me back down. I lift my eyes to Ivan’s. His gaze drills into mine.

“You’re suggesting Natalie Spearse killed Warrick?” Carper asks Ivan.

“I saw her leave the room. She looked nervous - maybe she was hiding something.”

This time I stand too quickly for Xander to stop me. “You’re lying,” I protest. “You didn’t see me leave the room - you were far down the hall when we met. And I wasn’t hiding anything!”

“It’s impossible, anyways,” Darren says from across the room. “She was with someone the entire morning.”

“Oh?” Ivan narrows his eyes. “And who was she with?”

“Me,” Elle says softly. “She was with me.”

A thin, narrow-faced man speaks up a few feet away from me. “How do we know she didn’t murder Warrick when she went to get him?”

Carper clears his throat. “We have little evidence that it was Miss Spearse. We can’t condemn anyone without solid proof.”

“But how can we trust her story?” another voice asks, this one feminine.

Gray pipes in. “She’s risked her life for the Truth. Why would she betray us?”

Janet nods. “During the battle, she tried to save me when I was hit. I trust her - she didn’t do it.”

“She’s a Redeemer!” someone shouts, and I feel myself tense at the title.

“She’s an ex-Redeemer,” Janet shoots back. “So is Darren. And we trust him.”

The same thin man that accused me shifts his eyes towards my brother. “Exactly. How do we know he didn’t kill Warrick either? Or that the two of them didn’t plan this together?”

Janet opens her mouth to argue further, but Carper quiets the group with a sharp, “That’s enough.”

Janet opens her mouth to argue further, but Carper quiets the group with a sharp, “That’s enough.” He folds his hands in front of him and glares at the crowd. “Those two have left their lives behind for our cause. They won’t be labeled as suspects unless we have actual evidence.”

A squeaky voice chirps, “But…they could still have loyalties to the Redeemers.”

My anger at their suspicion shrinks into a dull sense of hurt. We’ve risked everything for the Truth, and they still label us as Redeemers; someone who can’t be trusted.

Carper shakes his head, sighing. “When someone leaves the Redeemers, there’s no going back - the Redeemers don’t allow second chances.” He waves his hand in my direction. “The Spearses have cast away their lives for our cause. They’re part of our group now, and you’ll treat them accordingly. Understood?”

Murmured agreements hum from the crowd, and Carper nods in satisfaction.

“Good. As of tonight, there will be no private quarters. To reduce secrecy, you’ll be bunking in supervised groups throughout the outpost. You’ll be assigned a group later. Everyone is dismissed.”

The crowd disperses. I leave with Elle and Xander.

“What now?” Xander asks as we wander the halls.

“Well,” Elle says. “I have something to show you guys. Is there anywhere where we can be alone?”

“We can still go to my quarters,” I offer. “At least until tonight.”

We make our way to the living quarters, and eventually find my room among the many others. It’s small, with just a bed and a narrow desk in the corner. The walls are bare. The Redeemers don’t waste time on decoration, apparently.

Elle sits at the desk and turns on her Clikbook. “So, I did what you asked, Nat” she begins. “And I found a few things that are a bit…concerning.” She points out the text spread across the pixels. “This is the communication history for the techwave region our colony is in. Most of it looks normal, but there were a few records that caught my eye.”

“Mind telling me what’s going on…?” Xander asks.

I look to Elle, who says, “Honestly, I’m not completely sure. Care to explain, Nat?”

My first instinct is to protect them. They’re better kept in the dark. It’s safer that way. But after Warrick’s murder, keeping this secret is pointless.

I sigh. “When we went to get the minichip at Elle’s house, there was a group of Redeemers waiting for us.” Elle winces at the reminder of that day, and I hurry past it. “At the time I thought ALPHA had been watching us. But then we were ambushed in the woods, right before the attack.”

“But that could have also been ALPHA,” Xander reminds me.

Elle shakes her head. “Remember when we first found It? We felt Its presence.”

Xander shudders, but nods. “There was something in the room.”

“Yeah. If It had been in the room with us when we made those plans-“ She looks horrified at the thought. “-then chances are we would have felt It then, too. But we didn’t.”

“Exactly,” I say. “I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s not actually ALPHA who’s been uncovering our plans, but someone else. A traitor in our ranks.”

“Any ideas who?” Xander asks.

“Sure, lots.” I pinch the bridge of my nose, mentally going over the never-ending list. “But none with real evidence. Just…people I don’t trust.” Ivan’s face flashes across my thoughts.

Elle looks at her Clikbook again. “Is that why you wanted me to search the communication history for suspicious behavior? For contact with the Redeemers?”

I nod. “It’s the only way anyone could manage to get a hold of them, unless they were sending letters the old-fashioned way.” Which is unlikely - that type of service hasn’t been available since the Bloodletting.

Xander leans over Elle’s shoulder to watch the screen. “So, what did you find?”

“There are signs of communications outside the colony’s area. It spans over the past few weeks, even back when we first arrived. It’s a trace of some sort of call or message that passed through our area’s techwave region.”

I join Xander at her shoulder. “Couldn’t it just be people contacting relatives or friends?”

“That’s what I thought, too. But when I tried to investigate it, I found that the communication’s content is protected by a barrier, like ALPHA’s system was.”

I let out a long sigh, slumping against the wall. “Could you keep looking into it?”

“I don’t have much time-“

I give her a pleading look, and she yields, saying that she’ll try her best.

Someone knocks at the door – Gray. “I thought you’d be in here, Nat,” he says, walking in. “Carper wants to see you.”

“What for?” A fist of anxiety clenches in my chest as the accusations from earlier come to mind.

“He wants you to retell what you know about the murder. There are different stories floating around, but you’re the one who actually found the body.”

I press my lips together. Reliving the discovery doesn’t sound very appealing, but I nod all the same. “Alright. I’ll come.”

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