Awakening: The ALPHA Generation

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Chapter 56

“You’ve changed so much, Natalie.”

The voice comes from behind me. I glance over my shoulder and see Pamela standing in the door of the prep room, watching me as I check my gun for battle. We leave for the Hub in a few hours, and I want to make sure that everything is in working order. Xander was right when he said this all felt sudden – I’ve barely had time to prepare myself before the plans to attack were announced.

I look back at my gun, shoulders straight. “I changed a long time ago. You just weren’t there to see it.”

“Darren told me everything you’ve been through,” she says, ignoring the obvious distain in my voice. “I’m very proud of you.”

“Oh? Imagine that.” I tilt my gun to the side and examine. “If you’re going to give me another I’m sorry speech, get it over with. I’m leaving soon.”

“No, I won’t do that. It will just make you angrier.”

I raise my eyebrows. “That’s the smartest thing you’ve said so far.” Holstering my gun, I make a move for the door.

She holds out her hand, stopping me. “Natalie,” she begins, then pauses, sighing softly. “I just wanted to tell you to be careful today.”

I shrug her off. “Since when did you care about my safety?”

“I’ve always wanted you to be safe. It’s always been about that.”

“Oh yes, I’ve just been so safe since you left. With Dad dying, ALPHA, the Truth…you’ve done a marvelous job.” My words drip with venom. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a battle to win.”

I’m halfway out the door when she says, “I never meant for your father to get hurt.”

I turn around and look at her. Her face is sad, her gaze on the floor. For the first time today, I notice that there are dark circles under her eyes, like she’s spent the last few nights awake.

“I knew that leaving without telling him would feel like a betrayal. But I did that to keep him safe. I never thought he would...”

“But he did.” My words are devoid of any emotion. “Dad loved you, Pamela. And you left him without a second thought.”

“Without a…” Her gaze hardens. “Do you really believe I didn’t think it through? Do you think it was easy for me?” Her angry eyes meet mine. “I didn’t plan for things to go this way. I didn’t want them to.”

I try to keep my chin from quivering as I hold her gaze. “But they did. Sure, you thought it was the right thing to do. But you were wrong.” My breaths are ragged and wild, making my chest heave. “What you did broke my father.

By this point, hot tears are beginning to stream down my cheeks. I brush them away.

Pamela stares at me. Her eyes are heavy. She begins to say something and then stops. A moment passes before she speaks. When she does, her voice is quiet and husky. Grieved.

“I’m sorry.”

This time her words sound genuine. Pained. She is sorry – she’s in anguish.

I don’t forgive her. I can’t.

But I don’t turn away, either. We just stand there, acknowledging one another.

“I have to go, Pamela.” The name isn’t painful anymore. It doesn’t carry the same anger it did yesterday. It’s simply a name.

She nods, and I being to leave, before she speaks one last time.

“Stay safe, Natalie.”

I don’t respond as I close the door behind me.


The Sector 3 Hub is identical to Sector 7’s. It’s located on the edge of the wilderness, like everything here. The area around it is cleared, marking the end of nature and the beginning of industry. The building itself stands in the middle of the clearing, surrounded by other structures and vehicles.

We crouch at the edge of the forest, facing the Hub. The soldiers around me are silent, but I can sense their anticipation. My own excitement buzzes in my chest, a strange mixture of anxiety, dread, and the urge to fight.

Around me are some from our colony, some from Pamela’s. We’re group B. Group A, led by Carper, waits on the other side of the Hub. Other than the Commander, I don’t know anyone in Group A. Except for Ivan, of course, and his men.

When they attack, we’re to run across the clearing in front of us and head straight for the back entrance. According to our scouts, there’s a garage there with a door that will lead us straight to the Cleansing chambers. Just like the Sector 7 Hub.

Xander is next to me, finger tense on the trigger of his gun. I glance to my side, searching the crowd of people. Darren crouches at the front of the group, his eyes trained on the Hub. Gray is with us too.

My body trembles with anticipation, but I make sure to keep my head clear. I can’t mess this up. One thing’s for sure – I’m not leaving Xander’s side. I’m pretty sure he’s thinking the same thing about me, because he keeps glancing over at me with nervous eyes, as if he’s afraid I’ll fade into thin air.

My watch reads 6:29. One minute before our signal.

I’m not scared – I left fear behind at the colony. But nervousness is still there, fluttering in my stomach like birds gone mad. I breathe through my mouth to keep my head level, focusing on the gun in my hands and the tension in my muscles.

6:30.

On cue, a wave of sound comes crashing from the north. Gunshots and battle cries carry in the wind, and I can imagine the soldiers rushing in, guns raised as they charge at the Hub.

Without hesitation, Gray leaps to his feet and runs out into the clearing. I’m up before I know it, running with the rest of the group. Our footsteps pound on the ground like jackhammers.

The Hub is almost in reach when an ear-splitting sound comes from above. I look up in horror as I see a jet in the sky, the Redeemer marking on its underbelly. It spews bullets down onto those on the other side of the Hub. Onto Carper’s men.

This…this isn’t right. Where did the jet come from? How did it know to come here?

They were waiting for us. Again. Is this another trap?

“Keep going!” I hear Gray say. We keep running. This is our only option.

I hear the unmistakable shriek of a medusa being launched. I ignore it and plow forward.

We’re coming up to the back of the Hub. I can make out the form of a garage.

Finally, I lay my hand against the wall of the garage. A sense of relief buds in my chest as the rest of the group comes to a stop, ducking to avoid being spotted . The first part of the mission is done. We’re in the target vicinity. Now comes the hard part: getting into the actual building.

I cast a quick glance across the garage. It’s identical to the one in Sector 7. Memories of our escape flash through my mind.

“Everyone here?” Gray asks. The group gives him scattered replies. “Good. The door’s on the other side of the garage.” He points to the other end of the grayness, past columns of concrete and white vans. “Go straight.”

Nods all around. Gray gets to his feet. He ducks behind a column and waves us over. Our footsteps echo against the walls and bounce back to us like phantom voices. My gaze skirts from corner to corner, seeing imaginary figures and guns formed from paranoia.

I’m halfway across the garage now. I can see the door. Xander is right next to me, his arm pressing against mine as we weave through vans.

We’re almost there when I see it. A streak of white that disappears behind a column, the gleam of a gun.

Realization registers. I open my mouth to shout of warning, to let my voice meet the others, but it’s too slow, too sluggish, weighed down by time.

The Redeemers are faster.

The air rips with the force of bullets. White uniforms gleam from every corner, pouring from behind the vans, appearing like phantoms. Explosions and gunfire burst in my ears. I drop to the ground with Xander. Cries of surprise and pain break through the bullets. I see bodies falling, men and women dropping like ragdolls.

Where’s Darren? My eyes frantically sweep the scene, but I can’t find him, can’t identify faces or bodies. Xander is next to me, like a shield. My heart rages in my chest, pounding against my rips. Everything is unreal, like a dream. No, a nightmare.

“We need to get out of here!” Xander yells over the gunfire.

I’m only half-conscious of my response. He pulls me up, and seconds later we’re running, leaping over bodies and ducking under the Redeemers’ fire.

Darren. Panic racks my body and mind. My eyes snap from face to face, trying to find him. He can’t be dead. Not my brother, my protector, the person who has been with me for all my life.

Then, I see him. A light head peeking out of the chaos. He’s holding a gun, shooting out into the crowd. Fighting for us; for me.

But then I see who he’s with.

He’s surrounded by Redeemers, their white uniforms shining like burning stars in the middle of a black sky. He’s shooting, but not at them.

I watch as he aims for one of our own men.

No.

He pulls the trigger, and the man falls.

Stop. Stop it.

He tosses the gun aside and takes a fresh one from an Enforcer, using it to shoot down another one of ours, a fleeing woman.

This isn't real.

His face. There’s no remorse or pain on it. No sign that doing this is hurting him.

His expression is stony; cold. Hard. Like a Redeemer’s.

He’s betraying us.

The traitor. It can’t be. Not him.

The car next to me bursts into flames, throwing me off my feet. I pick myself up, still heading for the door, although any thoughts of the mission have fled.

My head spins with adrenaline and confusion. Gunfire bursts against my eardrums, mixing with screams and calls for help. I barely feel Xander next to me, his hand on my arm, guiding and protecting me.

I crane my neck to look over my shoulder. Darren stands a distance away, gun pointed at me, finger twitching against the trigger. In that moment, time stops; screams fade into the background, gunfire ceases for a sliver of a second. I stare at my brother, the one I’ve trusted, the one I’ve loved.

His finger flicks against the trigger. My mind begs me to move, but my body won’t follow the command. I’m stuck in place, watching as he shoots. The bullet speeds towards my beating heart.

For an instant, Xander is absent, frozen in time. Then he’s here again, in front of me to block the betraying bullet. His eyes meet mine - a message of comfort, of protection. An apology. A promise kept.

We’ll keep each other safe. Like we always have.’

He’s here with me.

And then he’s gone.

His body falls away. I watch as he crumbles to the ground. As his eyes grow dull, his life flickering out.

My consciousness slips through my fingers. I plunge into darkness.

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