Awakening: The ALPHA Generation

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Chapter 48

The sound of explosions is deafening. In the distance, voices shout orders, but I can’t hear them clearly over the sound of gunshots in the outpost.

I lead the group now, with Xander close by, and Gray holding up the rear. My gun pressing against my peeling hand adds more pain to the sting of the still-working poison. The thought of the poison eating away at my skin makes me anxious, but I keep my eyes forward, telling myself that there will be plenty of time to heal later. I have bigger things to worry about.

Janet’s death is shocking. The fact that she couldn’t finish this fight with us is painful, but it’s given us new determination. It fills me with rage, reminding me of how ruthless the enemy is, and the stakes that are on the line. If we fail, many more people will share her fate.

And I can’t have that. Defeat isn’t an option.

We need to get to the armory. All we have to do is reach that room safely; then we can actually put up a fight.

The backs of a crowd of people running down the hall appear in my vision. I raise my gun, preparing to fire, but then realize that it’s our own men. Several barrels swerve back to face me before recognition falls on their features.

Carper stops the group and approaches Gray. My eyes find Darren in the crowd, but before I can make my way to him, Elle pushes her way back to me. She’s awkwardly holding a gun.

“You’re okay?” I ask when she reaches me.

She nods, and begins to say something, but Carper’s voice interrupts her.

“We need to get those weapons,” he’s saying. “That’s our only chance here.”

“What about the incoming Redeemers?” Gray asks.

“Right now, we have soldiers at each of the breaches and some engaging the Enforcers that got through. But we won’t last much longer.”

Carper orders that half of our group joins the defenses, and the other half continues to the armory. The defense group heads in the direction we came from. To my shock, Darren follows them.

“Wait,” I say as he passes me. “Come with us, Darren.” I don’t want to be without him. Not after seeing what happened to Janet. I need him close by, with me, where we can keep each other safe. Like it’s always been.

He glances at his group. “I need to help them defend the outpost. This is the kind of thing I was trained for.”

“Spearse!” Carper calls to me. “We’re going. Come on.”

I give my brother one last pleading look, but he shakes his head. “Go on, Nat.”

I reluctantly watch him run to catch up with his group.

“Let’s get moving,” Carper says. The remainder of the group starts down the hall, heading for the armory. I bite my lower lip and follow.

The trek to the armory is tense. Sounds of yelling and cries of pain echo through the halls as we go. Surprisingly, we make it to the weapons wing without hinderance. The place is deserted. How?

It feels wrong, almost unnatural. Why aren’t there any Enforcers here? Wouldn’t they be trying to guard this area? Maybe they haven’t gotten this far…?

Carper must be thinking the same thing; he sends out a few soldiers to scout ahead first. I’m one of them.

I give Xander a worried look before racing down the hall with the others. My body tenses as we go, expecting an ambush at any moment. But nothing comes.

I reach the entrance, glancing over my shoulder to see the others on my heels. Inside, it’s empty and silent. Racks of Redeemer guns line the walls, with cases of grenades, zappers, artillery, and every other horrible weapon they’ve devised stacked on the floor.

And it’s uncomfortably quiet. The deadness of the silence is like a void. I don’t dare to take a step closer as I wait for the others.

A young soldier comes up next to me. “What’s the holdup?” he asks as he peers into the room.

“Something feels off,” I say, stepping away from the door. “We should probably ask Carper-“

“It’s fine,” he interrupts, then calls over his shoulder to the others, “All clear!” Carper’s group begins quickly moving forward.

The young man steps through the entrance. Just as he does, something catches my eye. A small silver disk attached to the side of the doorframe. A sensor.

I take several steps back in horrified realization. The lack of Redeemers. The silence of the room.

“Get out of here!” I yell, already tearing through the incoming crowd.

I’m halfway down the hall when flames burst from the entrance. Like before, I’m tossed off my feet, this time slammed against a wall.

Chaos fills the hall. Those who were too close to the room writhe as flames climb up their bodies. My ears are ringing; a high, head-splitting noise that masks everything else. Even the screams of the soldiers are a hazy echo.

I force myself to my knees, cradling my head. I notice a body lying a distance away.

Not again. Please, not again.

Through the smoke, I get a glimpse of graying hair signed black. A weathered face, motionless.

Carper? I reach out for him, latching my hand around his wrist. He groans as I shift closer to him - alive.

“Commander?” I whisper. My throat is closed with heat, burning whatever words dare to come out.

I try to pull him away from the flames. His sleeve falls away, revealing his right wrist. My eyes fall on it, widening. I drop his hand like it's made of hot iron, staring at the ink etched into his skin.

His eyes flutter open and fall on his exposed skin, where thick, black lines form a crown of leaves that encircles a Redeemer symbol.

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