The Face of Death

Tegan Clair lives in the Protectorate, the last civilization on Earth, or so the government thinks. Tegan believes there's something else out there, something the government doesn't want to the citizens to know about. Desperate to explore beyond the walls, Tegan joins the Security, the most dangerous job in the Protectorate. Can Tegan uncover the truth, or will she find herself looking at the face of death?

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1. Prologue

Conner smiles at me and runs ahead. He beckons for me to join him, but I hang back a moment and just look around. We stand in the park, the only green we have in the Protectorate, probably in the whole world too. The trees bend over onto the dirt path running through it, making a fairy tale walkway, something out of the stories my mother tells me at night, the stories about princesses and happily ever after. Something that just doesn't happen here.

 

I scuff my feet along the dirt for a while, looking at the dust spinning around my ankles. I kick some stones, and the dirt coats my black shoes, they had been clean when we arrived. I shuffle my feet a bit further until I hear Conner call my name.


"Tegan," he waves his hand to me. "The pond's just this way, hurry up!"

 

I nod, trying to push my body to move faster, but instead my feet only feel heavier. The dirt is now mangled all behind me, messed up and uneven. I smile, I've made my mark. I walk faster, but something below me buried in the dirt catches my eye.

 

I bend down and brush the dirt away with my hands, the reddish-brown substance sliding under my fingernails.


"Conner!" I call, finding a silver chain. "Check this out!"

 

He runs over to me, his sneaker almost coming down on the dirt where I'm digging.

 

"Watch it!" I shout, and he recoils quickly, mouthing 'sorry' and looking around.

 

"What is it?" I ask, noticing his uncomfortable behavior.

 

"It's just," He sits next to me, cross legged, as always. "We aren't supposed to be digging in the park. Isn't this almost, stealing?"

 

I look up at him, a devilish look spreading across my face. "So?" I pull the chain from its burial ground, to find that there is a pendant dangling from the end, a locket.

 

"Is that jewelry?" He asks me, a frightened look across his face. "We aren't allowed to have jewelry," he says quietly. "It's unnecessary." He adds.


I shake my head and undo the clasp, putting it around my neck.


His eyes widen. "How do you even know how to put it on?"


 

I bite my lip. "I just do," I reply quickly, hopefully believable enough so that he

doesn't question me further. What I don't tell him is that my mother wears a necklace under her shirt everyday, and I've watched her countless times, unclasp it, put it around her neck and secure it. The necklace is a circle, with initials engraved in the center. My mother would never tell me whose initials they were, or what they meant, ignoring my constant pestering. The necklace became a sort of elegance mystery to me, and it was just one of the interesting things I loved about my mother, her sense for danger and disobedience.

 

Like I hoped he would, Conner says nothing, just looks at the ground where I'm digging. A green corner has popped out, and I'm desperately trying to excavate it without completely destroying it. It's wedged in tight between dirt, and it has a papery texture, making it easy to rip. I dig the earth around it, until Conner is able to delicately pull it loose.

 

"What is it?" I ask him. He holds it up in front of his face, examining it, I assume. What he's examining I don't know, it's just a dirty rectangle of paper with strange printings on it.

 

"I think it's worth something," he concludes and I roll my eyes. "No, really," he explains. "See this one right here," He points to the corner. "I think it's a value, like money."

 

I gasp. "Money hasn't been used for ages, Conner. It's used to by luxuries." When he gives me a blank stare, I add, "Unnecessary."


He nods. "But maybe it doesn't come from here."

 

That was the first time that idea had ever been brought up to me, but it certainly wouldn't be the last.


"I'm going to keep it," he states, and shoves it in his pocket. 

 

I stare at him blankly. "You? Keeping something unnecessary?" I shake my head. "You could get arrested. You could be killed."

 

"Don't be ridiculous, Tegan. I won't get killed." However, his hands find the pocket where the paper rests. "It's not like you don't take risks too."

 

His eyes skirt to my neck, where the necklace rests. Suddenly conscious of its presence in the open, I tuck it under my shirt.

 

"Well, now we've both got secrets." He murmurs, standing up and brushing the dirt off of his knees.

"Yes," I reply, absently. "We do."
 

That was when I was seven, and he was ten. Before I knew the dangers and secrets of our world.
 

Before Conner was taken from me on a raid.

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