At the End of the Tunnel [A GONE Fanfiction]

In the span of two days, the FAYZ went from a slowly darkening hell to a clear dome that showed the outside world, and the Gaiaphage went from being a writhing mass at the bottom of a mineshaft to inhabiting the body of Diana and Caine's baby. The endgame is coming. Fast. The stakes have been set higher than ever before, and every eye on the planet is trained on Perdido Beach as the final battle of the FAYZ plays out for all to see.

Light, as imagined by me.

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2. Two

Two
71 Hours 23 Minutes

The FAYZ had a fan base.  Like it was the latest hit movie, or novel, or TV series. A gaggle of teenage girls swarmed the barrier, silently screaming as they held up signs, each having pre-set charity messages on them, such as 'Pray 4 Perdido Beach', or 'Never Forget the Kids'.

Dekka watched the whole scene with a mixture of amusement, irritation, and shame. To them, she was nothing more than an attraction; a temporary novelty. But she was also a symbol of hope; Dekka's presence here meant that the settlement at Lake Tramonto was now known. More kids were alive than they initially thought. At least for now; what they didn't know was that everyone in the FAYZ was playing the waiting game with the Gaiaphage, anticipating when it would strike. The barrier going transparent had been a little bit too coincidental; it served as a distraction whilst the Gaiaphage grew stronger. And it wasn't just emotional family reunions that kept the kids distracted. Unsurprisingly, the media's attention had also been drawn to the now clear FAYZ, an endless barrage of reporters down near Perdido Beach, holding bizarre interviews. Brianna had informed them that it was done by writing down their responses. Supposedly, Brianna had only watched a small part of one interview, but knowing the Breeze, as she called herself, she had probably taken the spotlight for herself.

It was all part of Brianna's charm. Brash. Boisterous. Care-free. If there was one positive thing about the FAYZ, it was that it had allowed for Dekka and Brianna to grow closer, even if it was more like a sisterly relationship than anything else. For the most part, Dekka had abandoned the romantic attraction for Brianna, but she was still the person she cared about the most in the FAYZ. And with the endgame coming up, Dekka found herself worrying more and more. There was a high chance that at least one of them would be put in harm's way when the Gaiaphage made its move, and if Brianna was among the evidential list of casualties... Dekka wasn't sure if she would be able to carry on if such a thing happened.

A camera flashed, causing Dekka to shut her eyes, to protect herself from the blinding light. Wiping her eyes, Dekka grimaced at the source of it. A news truck had pulled up just outside of the barrier, and a man with greasy brown hair and a messy goatee was setting up a camera, pointing right at Dekka.
"How wonderful," she muttered under her breath, watching as the man walked back to the truck. He came back holding a large tablet, and began to write a message on it.
Are you Dekka Talent? Dekka nodded, realising what this was. She was being interviewed for some news station. Excellent. The Breeze has told us all about you. Dekka felt her heart skip a beat for a moment, and her cheeks flushed. Brianna had mentioned her in one of the many interviews that she had most likely taken part in. It was both honouring and humiliating at the same time; it was so Brianna. The man was typing in another question, and Dekka stood there patiently, realising she had been roped into the one thing that Sam had explicitly told everyone at the lake not to do: don't sell stories to the news reporters. But she couldn't exactly leave. It would be far too rude, and it would draw even more attention; Dekka Talent, the girl who walked away from her interview.

However, at that moment, Dekka was thrown to the ground, a blur on top of her. She didn't even have to look up to tell who it was.
"Dekka! It's me, the Breeze!" As predicted. Dekka climbed to her feet, wiping the dirt off her clothes, and looked over at Brianna. She was doing some sort of giddy dance on the spot, a goofy smile on her face.
"Brianna," Dekka said, "What's got you so happy?"
"You know the news station I told you about yesterday?"
"Yeah,"
"Well, I told the reporter about the lake, and promised him an interview!" Brianna let out a light giggle, "Have you seen him yet? Tall guy, long hair in a ponytail, funny beard?"
"Brianna," Dekka said, "He's at the barrier, filming this." Brianna went red for a moment, and turned around slowly, looking at the FAYZ wall. Her eyes met the reporter's, and she gave a sheepish grin to the camera.
"Oh yeah," she said.
"So, Brianna," Dekka said, "Since there is literally no way that the news truck is faster than you, what took you so long getting here?"
"Oh, that," Brianna replied, pulling out a chunk of a chalkboard, complete with six chalks, "I needed something for the interview, and there was something else."
"What?"
"One of the kids told me that they'd seen Drake in one of the fields," Brianna's tone had darkened, her voice quiet, "So I had to go and check it out. There wasn't any sign of anyone hanging around, but half the crops had been taken." Dekka went silent, not even breathing.
"What?" her voice was a whisper, "Drake's taking food from the fields, presumably to feed the Gaiaphage, and instead of reporting to Sam or Edilio, you're playing celebrity?" Dekka did nothing to hide the fury in her tone.
"Geez," Brianna huffed, "I'm so sorry that I'd rather have one last minute of happiness before what is essentially the sick love-child of Satan and ET comes and raises all hell." Dekka glared dangerously at Brianna. This was the downside to the Breeze; she had the tendency to goof around during serious moments. "Come on, Dekka, we can tell the others later; I'm pretty sure the Gaiaphage can wait a half-hour." Dekka sighed, knowing she would regret her decision.
"Okay, Brianna, let's do this."

An excited giggle came from Brianna's lips, and she made a hand gesture to the man, who nodded. He turned to two women behind him, who were operating a large screen, which presumably showed what the FAYZ looked like on screen, and said something to them. They also nodded, and the man returned to the camera, using his free hand to count down from three. Once he was done, the screen flickered to life, showing the news station's logo, quickly replaced with Dekka and Brianna. Dekka looked at the bright screen as a reporter appeared in the corner, introducing the interview. The reporter finished talking, and the screen was filled with only Brianna and Dekka. Dekka's glance shifted to the man, who lifted up his tablet.
Good morning, Breeze and Dekka. How are you two girls dealing with the Perdido Beach anomaly? Seriously? This was what they were starting out with? Dekka bit back her words, watching as Brianna wrote down her answer on the chalkboard. Her power, speed, wasn't exclusively limited to running; Brianna could also write at extreme speed. Brianna's hand was a blur as crudely formed letters took shape. Finally, Brianna's hand stopped moving, and she lifted her chalkboard, showing the message.
It could be worse. We have a boat on the lake where we live. We also have freshly grown food. Dekka looked at the crowd surrounding the interview. Relief was plastered over their faces. But before it could sink in, Brianna erased the text on the chalkboard, adding to her statement. It's almost like a survival vacation. Except for the Darkness. It keeps trying to kill us. So does Drake. But I'm ready for them: they're no match for the Breeze! The reporter's jaw, along with Dekka's, dropped. Of all the things Brianna could have said, she had to mention the Gaiaphage and Drake Merwin. Dekka covered her face with her hand, shaking her head slightly. But she quickly returned to her previous stance; fairly reserved, with a slight air of politeness. She dared to look back at Brianna's chalkboard, and saw the latest addition to the current message. It'll be so much fun to kill them! :D The smiley face had just pushed it too far. Dekka grabbed the chalkboard from Brianna's hands, staring coldly at her.
"Hey!" Brianna protested, "What gives?!"
"You know what gives," Dekka snapped, "Casually mentioning the Gaiaphage and Drake to the world? I have to say that that's one of your more stupid moves."
"Hey," Brianna rolled her eyes, "I'm only telling the truth."
"You're telling horror stories!" Dekka told her, "Think about it; imagine you've never been inside the FAYZ, and some girl with super speed tells you about someone named Drake and some force called the Darkness trying to kill all the kids, and that she wants to kill them. Just think about how that sounds, and imagine that you're one of the kids' parents." Brianna's face went ashen.
"You're right," she said, "Damn, have I screwed up."
"Sam's going to kill you when he finds out, you realise?" Dekka groaned, and dropped the chalkboard to the floor, storming away from the barrier.
"What are you doing?!" Brianna called to Dekka, shooting a confused glance to the interview team.
"Getting away from here," Dekka said, "And you're coming with me; the interview's over. And if you don't, then I'll just have to tell Sam what you said." Brianna's eyes widened dramatically, and took a step forward.
"Wait for me!" Brianna walked up to Dekka, leaving the chalkboard on the floor, and leaving those at the barrier very confused.

Dekka's mind was racing, none of her thoughts relating to the failed interview, but instead on what Brianna had failed to prioritise. Drake was once more lurking around, taking food from the fields. Since he couldn't die, the food wasn't for himself, and there was no way that he cared about Diana enough; he probably wanted her to starve. Which only left one other person that would need feeding: Diana's baby. The Gaiaphage. It had recovered enough to be eating, which meant that they didn't have much time until it struck.

They reached the shore of the lake, and Edilio walked up to them.
"Hey girls," he said with a friendly tone, "What's with the urgency?"
"Edilio," Dekka said, short of breath, "We need to go see Sam: Brianna found out that the Gaiaphage is sending Drake to pretty much decimate the fields to feed itself." Edilio's face turned grim.
"This isn't good at all," he said, nervously grabbing his gun, "You're right; Sam needs to know of this." Edilio took off with Dekka and Brianna, the trio rushing along the shore, Brianna slowing her pace to match the others', towards the houseboat.

--

Sam and Astrid stood on the deck of the houseboat, hand in hand, looking over the lake. Astrid's grip on him was tense, like there was something eating away at her. She looked across the lake, where the FAYZ wall cut them off from the rest of the world. There was a small boat on the other side of the lake with two young men inside it, waving desperately at the barrier, hoping for one of the kids to interact. Nobody did. Just like Sam and Edilio had instructed; the kids weren't to get distracted by the outside world, and continue as normal. Caine had instructed this down in Perdido Beach, as well. But it didn't stop over half of the population of the FAYZ piling up at the highway, spending the past two days hopelessly trying to contact their families.

The carefully constructed society that they had all created was falling apart.

And that was on top of an even bigger problem; Gaia was out there, somewhere, growing, recovering, preparing to strike. And all those kids down there just made them an even bigger target. The endgame. That's what everybody believed it was; they all believed that the FAYZ was ending. That they would get out pretty soon. Exactly the same things that people had said nearly a year ago, after the first major battle in Perdido Beach. But this time, even Sam recognised that something had changed; there was an air of finality about the place. It gave him an uneasy feeling. He knew what the final battle would be; the kids of the FAYZ against Gaia and Drake, and potentially Diana as well, depending on her mental state. If she was still like what she was when Gaia was first born, then Diana was too weak to do anything but obey her child without question. And once that battle was over, the barrier would come down, and the FAYZ would be over. Or so he hoped. But knowing the Gaiaphage, as a final act, it would make it so that the kids would never get out of the FAYZ. The thought unnerved Sam to no end.

"Hey, Sam!" Edilio's voice snapped Sam out of his morbid thoughts, and he and Astrid looked over the other side of the boat, seeing Dekka, Brianna, and Edilio making their way on board, "We have to talk."
"This can't be good," Astrid said, her underlying tension turning into immediate concern for the situation, "Edilio's only like this when something bad's going on." She was right; Edilio was calm and collected, never stressing out over things that others would. He was wise beyond his years, and it was this attitude that had made him a powerful figure in the FAYZ. During this whole experience, he had gone from an illegal immigrant trying to lay low to the person in charge of Lake Tramonto. In fact, Sam was certain that if he died, everything would still go smoothly with Edilio in charge.

Brianna was the first to burst onto the deck, wide eyed, followed by a slightly out of breath Dekka and Edilio.
"Breeze," Sam said, "What's going on?"
"It depends," Dekka said in Brianna's place, "Which person's priorities do you want to hear?" She said this with a bitter tone, and Sam exchanged a glance with Astrid. This wasn't the first time that there had been tension between Dekka and Brianna, mostly due to Dekka's one-sided crush, and it should be clear that now wasn't the time for things like that.
"Dekka, I guess you'll be telling us then." Astrid said wearily, sighing.
"Okay," Dekka said, taking a deep breath, "Whilst Brianna was out getting interviewed for the hundredth time, a kid approached her in-between her sessions of playing celebrity." Dekka's slight scowl faded, replaced with a stony expression, "And they told Brianna that they'd seen Drake in one of the fields." An uneasy silence fell over the five of them, each one exchanging terse glances. To Sam, it felt as if they knew that a storm was coming, and the thick black clouds had appeared on the horizon, rolling in quickly. But this wouldn't be a storm; this would be a full-blown hurricane.
"That's it?" Sam asked, foolish for doing so. He knew that there would be more than that; Drake Merwin, also known as Whip Hand, wouldn't hang around somewhere so public for no reason.
"Sam, you should know better," Dekka said, "Brianna went to check out this field, and found that at least half of the food was gone." Sam froze, not even daring to breathe. He knew exactly what the servant of the Gaiaphage had done, and why.
"He's feeding Gaia," Astrid took the words right out of his mouth, "Which means that the body's recovering at a much faster rate than we anticipated." 
"This is just filled with problems," Edilio said, "Even if the Gaiaphage doesn't attack, it still needs to feed. Which means that our food supply will be gone, and we'll be starving once more."
"Let's just hope that Gaia doesn't acquire a taste for Nutella," Brianna said, folding her arms, "Because I don't want to go back to eating raw pigeon again."
"If there are any pigeons left," Edilio countered, his face in a deep frown, "If Gaia's appetite increases, then Drake'll end up picking all the food in the FAYZ to feed his master. And we're barely prepared to face the Gaiaphage as it is, never mind if everyone's starving as well."
"So what do you suggest?" Sam asked, "Get a group of people to go out and try to stop the Gaiaphage?"
"No," Edilio said, "It'd be too dangerous, and we can't lose anyone important right now. I'm thinking more along the lines of getting those with strong powers to guard the major fields."
"But most of them are in Caine's territory," Astrid added.
"True, but once we explain our plan to him, he'll most likely end up agreeing," Sam said, "He may be egotistic, but he isn't an idiot."
"So, when should we go down to see Caine?" Edilio asked.
"Some time today," Sam said, "In fact, we should go as soon as possible."
"But there is a chance that Caine will be wanting to start a fight or something," Brianna said.
"You're right," Sam replied, "Breeze, go and find Toto; we'll need him to make sure that nothing dishonest is said. The one thing we don't need right now is lying."
"Got it," Brianna said, and before Sam's lips formed a 'thanks', she was gone.
"What about the rest of us?" Dekka asked.
"Dekka, you and Astrid will stay here to keep everything under control whilst we're gone."
"Okay then," she said, nodding firmly, "I'll go outside and tell everyone to report anything to either me or Astrid."
"Okay," Sam said, watching as Dekka walked off the boat.
"I'll go get a truck ready," Edilio said, following Dekka, leaving Sam and Astrid alone on the boat once more.
"Sam, be careful," Astrid said to him in an anxious voice, "I know that you know how to deal with Caine, but just don't do anything stupid, okay?" Sam nodded, and before he could say any more, Astrid brought her lips to his, and Sam melted into the kiss, everything fading away until it was just him and Astrid, a slight wind blowing around them, and the faint hum of the truck's engine in the distance.

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