I wake up hours later to the soft sound of footsteps outside my room. My eyes flutter open. A thin trail of light slips through the crack under my door. I rub my eyes and glance at the clock. Four a.m. I slowly crawl out of my bed and retrieve a sweatshirt from one of the many piles of clothes scattered across my floor.
I creak open my door and peek my head out, squinting against the light. Darren darts from one side of the room to the other, throwing food and supplies into an army pack. His hair and clothes are dishevelled, making him look like a young schoolboy who got up too late.
I clear my throat, and he looks up.
“Nat,” he says, voice croaking. “I thought you were asleep.”
“I was.” I run a hand through my hair. “What are you doing?”
He glances at his watch. Only now do I notice that he’s dressed in his Redeemer uniform.
“Darren, is something wrong?”
“No, no,” he says quickly. “There’s a small riot in Recoll. They need more men, and I guess they figured this would be a perfect chance to break in the new recruits.” He turns in a full circle, surveying the room. “Where did I put my Clikbook…?”
I take the device from its usual resting spot and toss it to him. “You’re obviously in no shape to be fighting.”
“I’ll be fine,” he says, waving away my worry. “I’m sorry to leave you like this, though.”
“I understand.” I give him a loose smile. “When will you be back?”
“I’m guessing sometime tonight. You can survive without me for that long, right?”
I scoff. “Of course.”
He checks his watch, and sighs. “I’ve got to go. Don’t get in any trouble.”
I give him my best innocent face. “Me? Get in trouble? Never.”
He gives me a smile and closes the door, leaving me in silence. The quiet is maddening, and I instantly feel the emptiness. It feels empty without Darren, too much of a reminder of the silent hours I spent in here years back, not daring to leave dad alone with himself.
To distract myself, I plunk onto the sofa and stream the latest Cliks. Thousands of new stories and posts have been added since last night, including a good amount of reports and opinions on the assassination attempt. I sigh to myself and swipe through the endless pictures and words popping up on my screen. We should have posted the same day it happened; the story is so diluted now, it’s hardly worth the effort.
Still, we haven’t Cliked in a few weeks, and this is the best chance. Maybe our ‘face to face with the killer’ ploy will make us stand out.
There’s plenty of time before I need to get ready, so I decide to get a head start on the post. The words come in a rush, telling the story of the man in the coat, the secret assassin. My post is definitely an exaggeration, but years of Cliking have taught me that the public wants fear and excitement.
I finish the post with a single line; ‘As we’ve said so many times, I say again; may the Redeemers reign forever.’
When I’m done, I lean back in satisfaction and read over my post. Perfect. I can post it later, once my friends have read it.
I toss my Clikbook aside and go get dressed. The required uniform for training sessions is plain; the solid white pants, shirt and jacket have always made me look more like a snowman than a recruit. When I’m done, I glance at myself in the mirror and nod in satisfaction. The Redeemer insignia stands out on the right shoulder of my jacket, a clear reminder of what’s to come. It’s kind of comforting to have it there.
When I step outside, I’m greeted by the crisp morning air. The town is slowly waking up; lights twinkle in windows, illuminating silhouettes shuffling through their homes, and a few cars crawl down the street.
Several people accompany me on the sidewalk, probably heading to work. I subconsciously look them over, finding Flaws and perfections in their stances, faces, and what little information I can scrape together about their personalities. A year of training has already taken its toll in me; I find myself examining people around me, separating them into categories.
The fresh sunshine warms my face as I cross the street, making my way towards my destination; the Redeemer Centre. The building is basically a tiny version of a Hub, with the same frame and design. No Cleansings take place behind those walls, though. Just business and training. After a year of building my skills, I know the place inside and out.
The Centre is massively different from the sleepy town it resides in. The hum of activity hits me the instant I walk through the front doors. The sound of heels clicking against the tiled floors scatters across the lobby, and the entire building glimmers under the morning sun that shines through the glass roof.
My footsteps seem too clumsy and wide in comparison to the Redeemers who practically glide across the tiled floor, moving from room to room. My eyes follow them through the glass doors that line the walls. Some hold stone-faced Redeemers conducting serious meetings. Others are brim with technology, beeping and clicking. Computers and network systems cram together, sometimes even reaching the ceiling.
There are only a few minutes left until I’ll be officially considered late. I quicken my pace.
There’s already a good amount of people lined up in the main area of the training wing when I get there. The main training director, Samson Hall – a stern, hard faced man with gray eyes and even grayer hair – strides up to me.
He glances at his watch and purses his lips. “You just made it.” He motions for me to take my place among the other trainees. “Welcome to Marking Day.”