Young Adult Fiction Writer

….And The Next Three Chapters

Here’s a few more chapters so you can meet the three main characters from Year Zero Book Two.

Part One

The Way Back








Chapter One


Julia leans her head against Harlan and takes his hand. He glances up and sees old lady Salazar looking at him.

She smiles. “Familia.”

He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t trust his voice right now. But he knows he’s found something he can believe in. Something he’ll fight for.

And Harlan Grundy holds that something’s little hand for all he’s worth.

The truck clatters and squeals, its load of escapees bouncing in the back as they hit bumps and potholes. The air outside is thick with the smoke of burning homes, a grim reminder of what they are leaving behind, but as they wind higher up the mountain roads, a pungent diesel odor from the truck’s exhaust replaces it. The rickety trucks broken muffler vibrates with each chug of the worn engine causing Harlan to grimace. It’s not particularly stealthy. ‘Janimus could’ve at least stolen something that wasn’t being held together with chewing gum and wishful thinking,’ he thought. He knew the Sons of Symes were wicked behind on maintenance. The Corporation had little interest in Symes or the surrounding towns which made up Precinct Twenty-eight. “And who can blame them,’ he think “I lived there and I don’t give two craps about it.’ Grudgingly he admits stealing it from the maintenance yard was a smart move. By the time anyone noticed it missing, they’d be over the wall.

But finding flaws in others was Harlan Grundy’s specialty. Especially when he was nearing feeling something akin to an honest human emotion about them. More so when that emotion threatened to cause him to show anything his father marked as weakness.

Harlan Grundy squeezes his eyes shut, trying to avoid the image of Janimus as it flashed before him. He was slumped against a concrete barrier, hands still clutching the gun he’d used to buy Harlan the time he needed to complete the mission and flee from the Liberty Camp. His eyes were wide and unseeing, but full of fear. Harlan had never seen fear quite like that before and it made him shudder with dread. He knew that Janimus had taken at least one bullet in the barrage, but he’d been too busy at the time busting people out of the camp to confirm just how many had hit their target. Besides, it didn’t matter if it was one bullet or one hundred which had done him in. Janimus had bought Harlan the time he needed to do the only decent thing he’d ever done. And that was all that mattered.

Harlan leaves his thoughts behind. He looks around the dim interior of the truck to see if anyone besides him is still awake. And if so, if any of them know Janimus’ real name. Because if he’s going to cuss him out for stealing crap trucks to avoid letting the tears which lie close come out, he’d at least like to call him by his real name. His eyes flick from person to person. Each one sound asleep. Finally, his eyes fall on the small figure of Julia, resting on his lap. Her long lashes closed in sleep, slight frame barely taking up any space in the cramped interior of the truck.

He was grateful that she was so young. Perhaps, it shielded her from the knowledge of what others had done in order to ensure her freedom. He looks down at her, small and delicate, peaceful in her dreams, unaware of the price that was paid to get her here, to this moment. He knows when she awoke, she would immediately begin peppering him with questions he’d be unable or unwilling to answer. And she’d soon come to feel the full weight of how much others had given for her sake. But for now, she held on to that innocence and he hoped it would protect her.

Harlan tries, but he can’t sleep. He’s still too full of adrenaline, of the thrill of battle. Besides the grip of his pistol is digging into his side a little from the odd angle at which he is sitting. But, at the time, it seemed the best way to sit so Julia could rest. With nothing else to do, he stares out of the back of the truck.

There isn’t much to see;

the pitch black of a moonless night

a blur of stars in the sky.

He makes out two faint orbs in the distance, the headlights of one of the three trucks behind them. He doesn’t know the people in those trucks, most of them are Zigs, and there was little time for introductions during their headlong flight towards freedom .

“Besides, what do I care what their names are. Names are for people you’re gonna see again, and when we get there, I’d rather not see most of these people ever again. Especially the Zigs,” he mutters to himself.

Everyone he knows, in even the most passing of ways, is in this truck.

He had been lying, still and as content as he was capable of being, under Julia’s weight for about an hour before the creeping fingers of boredom began to tap at the back of his brain. Gently shifting her, he slides out from beneath her and is about to make his way to the small panel separating the cab from the back of the truck to ask Ray if he wants a break from driving, when something in the deep, inky night sky catches his eye. He moves carefully over sleeping bodies, trying not to wake anyone as he makes his way towards the open back of the truck to get a better view of what has caught his attention.

The night is filled with the roar of the engine, the hum of tires on pavement, and the whistling of the wind as they cut through it. Occasionally a chill gust blows through the flap, and Harlan fights the instinct to close his eyes even when a stray bit of grit bites the edges of his watering vision. He doesn’t want to lose the objects that caught his eye; three pinpricks of light in the night sky. He watches them for a moment thinking, ‘Probably just stars, you fool. You’re getting too jumpy.’ They blink out of the sky for a fraction of a second, and then return. By the time the dots become globes; he knows they’re not stars. Stars don’t get brighter. Stars aren’t a vibrant red. And as they continue to grow, so too does his realization. “Oh! Shit!,” he shouts.

Harlan knows they have mere moments until the not stars are upon them. He sprints towards the panel, stumbling and tripping over slumbering bodies as he runs. Curses and cries of “watch it” cut through the air. He grabs the panel with both hands, yanking it off its rusty hinges with a loud crack, causing Winnie to bark in surprise.

“Get off the road,” Harlan shouts at Ray, ignoring the startled dog, “Get off the road now!”

Stephanie, who sits in the cab’s passenger seat is the first of the two human occupants to react. She pulls Winnie in close, clinging to her with a white-knuckled grip.

Ray looks about to protest the suggestion, but Harlan shouts. “Shut up and do it. Drones.” The far-off rumble of an exploding truck behind them spurs Ray into action, and he jerks the wheel hard.









Chapter Two


One Hour Earlier


Ellison Wilson, officially the Director of Media Services, but unofficially Director of everything else, strode to the bar with determination. He glanced briefly at the bartender, who nodded in recognition. With his right hand, Ellison grasped the tumbler of scotch resting on the bar counter. He swirled the drink around in the glass and smiled as he took in the sound of the rolling and bobbing ice, a part of his small ritual. To conclude his habit, he switched it to his left hand. The one missing two fingers and with limited range of motion. While most would have avoided using it, Ellison Wilson was determined to use it every chance he got. It was his act of defiance against the rebels responsible for its disfigurement.

It was during the early days after the coup. He rarely spoke that word aloud, as it was against the law. A law of his own making. But while he happily lied to anyone within earshot and called it whatever pleasant patriotic sounding euphemism they desired, in his head and heart, he recognized it was a coup. After all, he’d been one of its chief architects. Hell, he’d practically financed the whole thing himself. Mallory hadn’t the means as he’d recently suffered his fifth bankruptcy. This time it was some kind of beef snack stick he marketed under the unfortunate name MalloryMeat. As for Carrington, he was too stingy with the purse strings, and too weak to do the work that needed doing. Besides, every national crisis needs its victim. Every cause, its martyr. And every police state its justification.

Wilson stepped back and surveyed the room with a satisfied nod, knowing it was his vast network of contacts and immense, almost bottomless, wealth that had made this all possible. The thought of being CEO had been an alluring one, and he knew there were those who thought the role should be his, but the idea of being in the spotlight hadn’t appealed to him. It was better to remain in the background, let someone like Bobby Mallory take the heat if things went wrong. He imagined Bobby’s face when it all came crumbling down, panic-stricken as he tried to find a place to hide. Ultimately, he’d blow his brains out in a lonely bunker somewhere far away.

No, he had enjoyed the anonymity and freedom of the shadows. There he had worked on his own clandestine projects, like The Zero project. It had been a difficult endeavor but hadn’t shown much progress. Despite the years of research, his test subjects always failed. He had to discover what was missing before he ran out of shadows.

Back before the shadows had become too deep, things were different. At that time, he was known as General Wilson, a title he’d acquired just to try out for a bit. But that had always been his way. To try on different faces and see if they fit. If they suited him. In truth Wilson wasn’t even his birth name. He had changed it from Münch to distance himself from his family. Not because he felt any shame that the most of their fortune came from blood diamonds, but because others did. Without the name he was usually free to do as he pleased without much scrutiny. Even as a young man, he had preferred the shadows.

As General Wilson it had been his job to stamp out the last desperate cadre of resisters. And they all followed one man, John Lee. Lee, his wife Louise, and their daughter Kyra weren’t unknown to him. Or anyone. Thanks to a little anonymous financial help from Ellison, they had frequently made the news with their antigovernment stunts even before The Corporation had taken over. Well, maybe not Kyra. She was a kid barely out of diapers and had just been along for the ride with mommy and daddy. Nevertheless, Lee amassed a loyal following around the nation, and they would have made an excellent complement to the Sons of Liberty.

Ellison had known that it wasn’t going to happen. But still had felt he should try. He steeled himself for the possibility that he wouldn’t be welcomed warmly. Seventeen years had passed since he had last seen them, but their youthful friendship had been so vibrant that Ellison was sure that, despite the differences of opinion, the monumental damage done, some tiny spark of what they once shared remained. He remembered how enthralled they were by each other’s ideals, how they always were the trio who lingered after the rest of their group had said their goodbyes and stumbled back to their dorm rooms. Alone, they had debated the state of the country and made, what seemed at the time, pie in the sky plans about remaking the world, and who’d have to pay the price.

It had been foolish to show up unannounced. As soon as Ellison stepped through the door, he felt the tension in the air. Louise’s welcoming smile was marred by her awkwardness and there was an underlying discomfort in her voice as she spoke. Lee, on the other hand, turned to Ellison and began to describe in detail exactly where he should put his offer – his words becoming more vulgar and insulting with each passing moment. The punch that came out of nowhere quickly brought an end to their conversation and Ellison knew there was no way he could smooth things over. He collected himself calmly, ignoring the dull throbbing from Lee’s unexpected blow, and quietly made his way out of the room. But that sucker punch still burned bright and vivid within him, as if it had happened only moments ago. Ellison Wilson wasn’t a man who forgave easily, or ever.

A few months later, Lee and his rebels were making a hell of a last stand. The shouts and the screams and the gunfire rang out through the night. Like a pack of wolves, the Sons and the army were circling the camp. Not that anyone who wasn’t there knew. The Corporation already had a stranglehold on the media and the internet, and only snippets of the truth about what was happening on the ground were able to leak through. As far as most people knew, the Sons and the army were knocking the crap out of the rebels.

Except they weren’t. All he could do was stare at Lee’s compound through binoculars, unable to advance. Through them he saw the familiar face of Lee’s daughter, Kyra. Except her diaper days were long behind her. She had grown so much but she was still a kid, at least in his book. But kid or not, she was standing on her own two feet and wildly throwing herself into battle. He couldn’t help but admire her courage and skill, as she struggled to raise the awkward tube of an RPG to her tiny shoulder. He’d just begun imagining what he could accomplish if things had worked out different, and she was his right hand, when he heard the telltale hiss of the RPG being fired in the distance. Quickly, he dove. But not quick enough. Shrapnel from the explosion hit him in the shoulder and hand, the hot metal searing through his skin.

“The show is starting,” a bright, faintly British feminine voice calls, startling him from his trance.

He watched as groups of finely dressed people file towards the cavernous television room. He heads in the opposite direction, looking for a place to sit, and finish his drink in peace. Besides, he hates that red velvet and gold encrusted monstrosity. Mallory called it ‘classy’ but as far as Ellison was concerned, if you used that word, it probably wasn’t.

Not having much luck inside, he trudged for the veranda. The night is clear, the air a little crisp, and he slumped into a chair, stared off into the distance unaware of the majestic view of the valley below his seat provided. He’d just settled in when the voice came again. This time closer.

“Aren’t you coming to watch the Extravaganza, Ellison darling?” she asks.

He turned in his chair, and there she is, a few feet to his left. At first, he thinks he’s seeing someone else, because she looks so different tonight. Not at all like she usually does when she is doing the announcements, or at official party rallies.  But then he realized it is Polly Lafontaine. Her hair fell in waves of chocolate to bronzed shoulders which peaked from the top of her shimmering azure ballgown like a burst of sun on a cloudy day. Her smile, genuine and soft, not the carefully rehearsed half smile she used during announcements. It’s almost enough to make him want to go with her. Almost.

“Waste of time, Polly. I know how it’s going to end. I designed it that way,” he replies before he takes a sip from his glass.

Polly laughed, the sound to him like a bell calling the faithful to worship. His heart filled with the bittersweet longing of what could have been. He thought of how in another lifetime, he could have seen Polly Wilson beaming at him from across a white-frosted cake. But events had conspired against them, and he sighed, tucking away the secret fantasy for another day.

Her gaze seemed to see into his thoughts of those distant, fleeting encounters, as she softly asks, “Isn’t Emily auditing Precinct Twenty-eight?”

When the first syllable of his wife’s name left her lips, Bobby felt a familiar well of regret deep in his stomach. All the could haves and should haves of his life were suddenly suspended in the air like a swirling cloud of smoke. But he’d made his choice. It was the only one to make during the first few chaotic months after the revolution. Bobby Mallory was in a purging mood. And Emily Mallory was in a marrying one.

And although Ellison had moments of joy with her -she could be fun and vivacious in the right circumstances – a stark contrast to her father who was loud, blustering, and only interested in publicity and power. He also felt an incessant coldness from her. A lack of emotion, and a will to succeed, to beat her brothers to the seat of power, that drove an ever-widening gap between them. Still, better an unhappy marriage than an unhappier execution.

“Yes. I believe the plan is to begin the audit after the show,” he says in a low voice, his eyes still on Polly’s face.

She smiles sadly, obviously picking up on his mood change and understanding that it has something to do with his wife.

“Well, then you should come for at least part of it. It won’t be as bad as you imagine. Besides, everyone will be there, and it would be awkward if you didn’t make an appearance.”

He sighs heavily and looks out over the valley before them. “You’re right, of course. I’ll come down just long enough to make them think I’m showing my support and then I’ll slip away quietly before anyone notices.”

Polly’s laugh is cut short by a commotion from inside. They hurry towards the direction of the sound and enter the T.V. room. They push their way through the crowd of people trying to make sense of the chaos on the screen, the Manhunt security detail firing wildly in all directions.

Ellison’s eyebrows furrow as he takes in the scene before him. “What the hell is going on?” he asks no one in particular. The sound of his phone ringing slices through the air, jolting him out of his daze. He reaches into his pocket and yanks it out, immediately pressing the answer button without bothering to check who is calling. “Wilson,” he barks into the receiver.

“Wilson, get this crap off the air now,” the panicked voice of CEO Bobby Mallory shrieks.

“Of course, Bobby,” he grunts.

“I mean, we don’t want people to get ideas, do we? How could Hayes let this happen? How could you?”

Ellison takes a breath, his mind running wild with the possibilities. He could tell Mallory the truth. No one had heard from Hayes since he left The Shining City. But no one had thought anything of it. Hayes always did things his own way, and his silence wasn’t out of the ordinary, but Mallory wouldn’t find comfort in that.

Ellison stifled an exasperated sigh as Bobby continued to blabber, the man’s mouth going faster than his brain. The fool was taking his press far too seriously. Even worse, some of The Corporation’s inner circle was starting to treat him like he actually ran things. He should have handled this earlier, nipped this inflated ego in the bud but he’d been busy chasing down a lead on Lee.

“I’ll get to the bottom of it,” he says in a carefully measured tone.

Mallory’s voice rose to a shrill hysteria as he spits out a string of profanities, many of which don’t even make sense. Ellison is barely listening. His attention is suddenly drawn back to the television, and he abruptly hangs up. Mallory can wait, this is much more important. On the screen he sees a church steeple and in it, a silhouette that sends chills down his spine – it’s Lee. Not the one he’s been looking for, Kyra, but the one he thought perished in the bunker almost two years ago, John Lee. Before he can fully process what he is seeing, the steeple explodes in a rain of fragments. A second later the picture changes. A tank rolls down a street firing with purpose. Atop it sits a woman, oblivious to the danger she is in. Emily. He feels a hand grip his arm and he glances over – It’s Polly, her usually attractive face stretched into a grimace of fear.

His phone rings again. Absently he answers expecting to hear Mallory’s belligerent voice. Instead, it’s his aide whom he’d given the night off.

“Director Wilson, Sir. We’re getting a report from a local Son, Kyle Taylor, that a group of citizens and Zigs, led by a Harlan Grundy, and Jane Doe’s sister are using the chaos to make a run at escaping over the wall,” he says.

He’s trying to place the significance of the name Grundy, and what he means by Jane Doe but is distracted by Polly’s pointing a shaking finger at the screen.  He takes the phone from his ear and turns towards the TV. The Hunters are attacking the tank. Emily is in the middle of it all, whirling around with punches and kicks, trying to beat them back. A second later, she is swallowed.

“Oh, Ellison,” Polly moans.

But he doesn’t feel anything.

Anything but a deep, vengeful anger.

The darkness within him seemed to expand, consuming him completely. Despite all the times she had hurt him, despite the resentment he felt for her, he would not stand for anyone taking her life. His knuckles were white as he balled his fists, rage flickering in his eyes. No one was going to get away with killing her–not without orders from him.

He untangles Polly’s fingers from his arm.

“I have to go,” he says.

She simply nods.

He kisses her cheek and snaps the phone back to his ear.

“Call central. Tell them to cut the feed, and if any of the hunters still draw breath by sunrise, I’ll disappear the whole department. Then tell the Precinct Commander to deploy whatever decrepit drones they have in Precinct Twenty-eight. Find those zigs. Get my plane ready. I want to be on my way to the Precinct within the hour,” he says as he cuts his way through the chattering crowd.









Chapter Three


Seventeen Months Earlier

Kyra Lee’s hands trembled as she steadied the rocket launcher, her eye pressed against the sight. She carefully aims at an idling fuel truck, calculating the relatively few lives it would cost. There was already too much blood on her hands, the weight of her guilt pulled heavy on her chest. It was too already too much for a seventeen-year-old to endure. Tears welled up in her eyes as she pulled the trigger, silently pleading that this wouldn’t be too much for her shattered heart to bear.

Before Mallory came along, she never had a reason to push back against her father’s illogical and paranoid rhetoric. He was a master of finding conspiracies in simple things; he was always spouting off about corrupt government plans, secret plots by underground organizations, and powerful people with hidden motives. His theories were so full of holes, but he never seemed to notice the contradictions. She found it impossible to believe that the same federal government which he claimed was so incompetent and bumbling, could also be conspiring on such a grand scale. His conspiracy theories were just noise, and never seemed to help anyone. she had no reason to fight, no matter how much her dad tried to fill her head with his bullshit conspiracy theories. There wasn’t one he didn’t swallow whole. But she never did. They were all so full of how comes, what ifs, and contradictions. She’d never understood how it was possible to hold the opposing ideas that the federal government is both incompetent yet capable of planning elaborate secret schemes at the same time. And it didn’t accomplish anything anyway. The theories were distractions.

Everyone was so busy fighting the other side of the aisle just because they were the other side that they didn’t notice when The Corporation slipped in the backdoor and took everything from everyone. They had been quite clear about their motives from the get go, but no one wanted to listen or look out for each other. A few months later and she found herself eating rations in a bunker on her dad’s compound. And when she wasn’t doing that, she was firing RPGs at fuel trucks, or sniping frightened kids hardly older than she. No matter how many times she pulled the trigger, it never got any easier.

The truck went up in an inferno, and the fireball lights up the night sky like a sinister sunrise. As the waxing light spreads orange shining fingers over the littered field, she hears the screams of Sons of Liberty soldiers and watches them briefly claw at their burning bodies until they fall to the ground and grow still. She doubts they even truly knew what hit them. She tries not to care. “They chose their side,” she says to no one knowing that later in the night, in her dreams the screams of the Sons will return to her. Unacknowledged tears stain her cheeks as she  wonders what their lives could have been if they hadn’t let hate and fear strangle all the hope and possibility from it.

She drops the weapon. It’s useless now, its ammo exhausted. But everything in the compound was exhausted now. The ammo, the food, even The men and the women. No one expected The Corporation to arrive in such force, or so quickly.

She brings the binoculars up to her eyes, squinting to assess the damage. Then she her heart skips a beat as she sees a woman standing near the carnage. It’s not just any women. It’s Emily Mallory, well Wilson now according to the state propaganda machine. Her once long, flowing hair has been cropped close to her head, and she wears combat fatigues. She’s barking orders at a line of armed soldiers. In the middle of their formation stood a man with a headset hanging around his neck, most likely a radio operator. If she’d known Wilson was there, she’d have aimed a little to the right. That was blood she wouldn’t have felt, a missed opportunity of history. Not that anyone would know. Wilson wasn’t going to tell anybody she’d damn near been blown to pieces, and Kyra was certain she, and everyone at the bunker compound, wouldn’t be around much longer to tell anyone either.

Kyra turns away from the chaotic scene, knowing that the enemy could fire at any moment, and one of those scared kids might actually manage to hit something. She scrambles to a concrete barrier and ducking behind it, her hands grip the rusty handle of a hatch. She pulls it open and the hinges protest, screeching against the force. Then, with one final heave, she shuts it behind her and descends down a short ladder into the darkness. Her combat boots make a thunking sound with each step as she hurries into safety of the tunnels below.

She reaches the bottom, and her dad is there; he gives her a questioning look.

She points up the ladder, “I left it there. Out of ammo,” she says with a shrug.

Her dad heaves a disappointed sigh. “Never leave equipment behind,” he says.

She starts to protest but he holds up a silencing hand. “You can get it later. We might manage to scrounge up some ammo, you never know,” he says before turning and walking down the dark tunnel, shaking his head.

The image of her dad walking away like this is burned in her very DNA. Yet this time it felt much rawer, knowing that the Sons and Mallory’s army were closing in on them. She looks at his broad shoulders and broad figure growing ever smaller as he walks away without looking back, and she knew that he was leaving her with no way to bridge the hurt she had caused him, that they had caused each other. She’d stopped expected him to offer her some kind of consolation, and just like every other time, his silence said it all.

“I’m not sure how much later is left, Dad. Emily Mal… I mean Wilson is here,” she shouts after him.

That makes him stop.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

“Saw her with my own eyes.”

“Figured she’d show eventually, since her husband is here. Go to the barn and relieve Jasper. He’s got the Barrett. You’re not good at many things, but you’re far and away a better shot than him.”

The backhanded compliment stings, but she just adds it to the pile she’s accumulated throughout the years. Besides, her days, her father’s days were numbered now. What good would another confrontation do? She lets out a deep sigh and focuses her gaze on the floor as she begins to walk down the tunnel. As she’s passing her father, she feels his hand on her arm, and she tenses, readying herself for another rebuke or insult.

“Kyra, please look at me,” he whispers.

Kyra can’t remember her dad ever using the word please. At least when he was talking to her, and she turns her eyes to him. His shoulders are hunched with age, with regret.

“I know I’m a hard man. And we never really saw eye to eye. Might have been different if you were a boy, don’t know. But there’s not a day goes by that I regret having a daughter instead. And you are my daughter, no matter how hard I try to push you away for things which aren’t your fault,” he says.

As Kyra looks into her father’s eyes, she sees a hint of emotion. She knows he wasn’t one for physical demonstrations of love. She can’t help but feel a mixture of sadness and joy at this moment, because she knew this was as close as her dad would ever get to saying he loves her.

“It’s true we don’t have long left. We’re damn near out of everything, and we’re surrounded. If I could get you out, you and your mom, I would. But I can’t. So, seeing as we’re all going to die soon, I want it to cost Mallory. And as a father, I know what the cost of your only daughter will feel like. And I want that bastard, and his lapdog Ellison Wilson, to feel everything I’m feeling right now knowing that something you love is gone and there wasn’t a thing you could do about it. So, I want you, my darling Kyra, the most important thing in all the world to me, to deliver this message. Daughter to father.”

Even in the dim light of the tunnel Kyra can see the glistening in his eyes. A second later he wipes his nose with an arm and walks down the tunnel, the soles of his boots echoing off the walls of the corridor..

“I love you too, daddy,” Kyra whispers.


Kyra approached the ladder which led up to a squat, hardened structure on a small hill some sixty yards from the main compound. It had been her father’s joke to call it a barn, but it was nothing like the red painted wooden structures she remembered from the farms of her childhood. From inside its thick reinforced concrete walls one could see for close to a klick in every direction. When climbed through the hatch she saw Jasper hunkered down in a corner, cradling a glass bottle of gold liquid. He finished his drink with a satisfied sigh, and placed the bottle back in his bag before he smiled at her. “What brings you here, little lady?” He asks.

“My dad sent me to relieve you,” she replies.

“Alright,” he says.

Kyra watches him quickly gathering the few things he’s brought to the barn with him. He stops at the ladder leading down to the dark passageways and glances over his shoulder. “Hope you brought a book. Ain’t much worth shooting at. It’s mostly pimply, scared kids who probably thought the army was a good way to pay for college.”

“Emily Wilson is here.”

“You kiddin’ me?”


“You here to take her out?”

Kyra just nods.

Jasper drops his stuff to the ground with a clank. “Well, this I gotta see,” he says as he follows her to the Barrett and brings binoculars to his eyes.

“Where’s she at?” Jasper asks.

Kyra points in the direction her target stands, her rifle held steady in her hands. She takes a few deep breaths to steady her nerves and recall the details of the battlefield she has studied for the last three weeks. With skilled precision, she adjusts the gun and peers through the scope, instantly recognizing Wilson’s figure standing with her usual arrogance, as if daring someone to take their best shot.

“For my dad,” Kyra says in a voice more strained than she intends as she adjusts the scope.

Wilson shifts her position a little. She’s bringing a hand up to shield her eyes from the midday sun as her gaze shifts towards the sky. A second later a faint rumbling noise grows louder and louder until it reaches a deafening roar as a jet came into view. Her heart raced, and her body trembled as beads of cold sweat formed on her forehead. The radioman – Wilson had him call in an airstrike.

Kyra screams at protesting Jasper to move faster as she pushes him towards the hatch and  the howl of the jet engine fills the barn like a siren. She yanks open the tunnel hatch, kicking his bag down and shoving him headlong into the abyss beneath. Without hesitation she scrambles in after him. When she is far enough down, she slams the steel lid closed and jumps. She lands on something rigid and feels pop as it gives way. Jasper howls in pain “MY LEG! YOU BROKE MY F…” is all she hears before everything is thunder, and the barn falls in on them.



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