The EPs scurried forth, chasing the distraction Booker had created, and for a moment, he basked in their stupidity. This was almost too easy. Hadn’t they been taught better in the academy? Maybe Commander Green had gotten lax in his old age. 

     It didn’t matter. He turned to slip back into the darkness, only to come face to face with the ugly mug of a helmeted EP. Booker saw first shock and then rage register over the man’s face. He was about to open his mouth to alert his fellow soldiers when Booker lunged forward, covering the soldier’s lips with one hand and thrusting a knife into his throat with the other. Blood and spittle spewed forth, covering Booker’s palm as he carefully laid the EP down on the underground floor. Slowly, those eyes went unseeing. And Booker’s mind flashed with a memory he had long tried to staunch and force back. 

      Screaming. So much screaming. So many hearts ceasing to beat, so many lives cut short by his knife, his rifle, his bare hands. His knuckles bloody, his mouth a twisted grimace of pain and pleasure. He had enjoyed it. Every minute of it. Until it had become too much. 

     Snap out of it, Book, he urged himself. Now wasn’t the time to get lost in the madness of a past life. Micah was out there in the darkness with Eden Voss at his side, or slung over his shoulder like a nursemaid with a suckling whelp. And though Micah could take care of himself, Booker hated the idea of the two of them being alone. 

     Shuttering his feelings, Booker stole away from the aimlessly wandering EPs. Though they were well-armed, they didn’t know their way through Tartarus. Not the way that Booker did. Still, they’d gotten close. Too close. 

     Prior to the raid on Desmo, the Resistance had established checkpoints within the abandoned warehouse district of Tartarus. It was a wide and sprawling section of the underground city – stretching on for several miles, all abandoned and hardly manned. Why would it be? There was no work, no food, no life. But there was at least security in the crumbling, unfinished construction projects. Places to hide, anonymity. And without the tracking devices the government had installed in them to ensure their compliance, the Yellows were more than anonymous. They were ghosts. Lost to the system and more dangerous than ever. 

     Micah and Eden would be at another one of those checkpoints, hidden within the heart of the warehouse district. With August and Delta Stone. They would be safe. If they stuck to the plan set by Dr. Harker, they would be safe. Micah would be safe. Of course he would. Booker had taught him well from a young age. Keep your head down, your eyes open. Never let your guard fall. Always be alert. Always stay armed. And if the opportunity strikes, you take the killing blow. Never let your enemy strike first. 

     Micah had been Booker’s responsibility ever since the Fraturing, the event that had stolen their mother’s life and plunged them headfirst into Tartarus. Booker had failed their mother that day. He would never fail his family again. 

     As Booker pushed forward into the warehouse district, the shadows swallowed him up. Slowly, the desperate voices of the EPs faded from earshot and their forms disappeared from his view. Booker’s feet led him away towards the next camp, several miles from their last one. Booker’s path there was quiet, abandoned and bleak, a canvas of death and silence as far as the eye could see. Nobody lived in the warehouse district. Or else, nobody that mattered. Nobody with a tracker or a hope of going back above ground. 

      It was easy to stay hidden in the warehouse district. As long as you never stayed in one place too long, kept to small groups and knew how to avoid detection. But how long could it last for, really? How long before the government found them? Before Booker could no longer protect his little brother? Before he failed him again?

Copyright © 2020 – All rights reserved by Hellie Heat

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