Gunshots blared through the underground city. Booted footsteps pounded across the floor of cement and dirt. Shouts rang out, military signals echoing over dilapidated buildings as a swarm of EPs rushed forth, guns raised.
Booker’s heart felt it would pound out of his chest as he pressed his body against the brick wall behind him, only narrowly avoiding detection. This kind of action was what he lived for. It was what he had trained for every day of his young adult life as an officer of the Elysian Police. And now as a man, a criminal of the underground city of Tartarus, he was primed, focused, absolute in his drive. It had been weeks since he’d had his last hit of Silt, and though he cursed its loss, his head was clear for the first time in what was perhaps a decade or more.
“Over here! The fire’s still hot!”
“They went this way!”
There had to have been at least a dozen EPs, charging through Tartarus in search of their party of Resistance members. Eden Voss in particular.
Booker hated Eden Voss. He hated his stupid face, still handsome even despite the dark bruises and cuts of his recent abuse. There was something about his demeanor that didn’t sit right. The kid was too charming, too soft. He was an EP – just like Booker had been. Booker knew the way the mind of an EP worked – he was trained to follow orders, trained to kill. And worse than that, Eden was the stepson of President Tovar: he was dangerous. And for whatever reason, he had set his sights on Booker’s little brother. Booker hated Eden’s stupid smile and the stupid expression he got on his face whenever he looked at Micah – like Micah was something special, something precious.
But he didn’t know what a shit Booker’s little brother really was.
Their predicament had become exceedingly precarious. They couldn’t stay in one place for more than a few days. And today was no different. They had barely avoided the wandering EP scout who had stumbled upon their camp. With Eden being still wounded, and Micah insisting on staying with his lover, it was up to Booker to lead the EPs away, and provide the others with a means of escape. Whatever. He was well-suited for it. But he hadn’t anticipated that the solo scout would alert his platoon and bring the whole hive down upon them.
Booker watched from the corner of his eye as the man who was surely the commanding officer kicked at the hastily dashed remains of their fire. They had had only moments to squash it before retreating. But the heat still rising from the ashes gave them away.
“We just missed them, the bastards,” the EP spat. “But I’ll bet you anything we’re not too far behind their trail.” He looked around at the group of assembled soldiers, gesturing broadly at the surrounding area. “Spread out and search the perimeter. We find them. For Tovar. For Desmo!”
For Desmo. Booker ducked away, his heart beating fast. It had been nearly a week since the burning of Desmoterian, the underground prison where President Axel Tovar had once held all his gladiators. Men and women considered enemies and traitors, criminals and miscreants. And it was there that he had imprisoned his own stepson. In an effort to rescue Eden Voss, the Resistance, along with Booker himself had burned Desmo to the ground, releasing all the gladiators into Tartarus. And though Tovar was doing his best to round them all up again, he was having little luck. Tartarus was a big place.
As Booker slipped down a narrow alleyway, his long shadow narrowly betrayed him. He crouched low, picking up one of several crumbling bricks strewn over the ground. With all his might, he threw it in the opposite direction that Micah and the others had run. The resounding crash of brick-on-brick caused a ruckus of shouts.
“What the hell was that?”
“This way! I think I saw something!”
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