Finding Atlas

Annabelle Tate doesn't remember what life was like before the Colony. All she knows is that life during it is dreadful. When a citizen turns 17 they're automatically tested on their loyalty, agility, intelligence and mental well being. If they fail they go through an elusive process known as "fixing." When Annabelle fails she's whisked into a world of espionage, archery, instinct and brutality to fight and inspire a dying nation she once sought allegiance to.

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4. Reckoning

RECKONING

 

               

                “People of the Colony … look before you, these are your kin no longer,” the Liberator more monster than man spread his massive palms wide as if he were some mythical savior. What hair he’d had was shorn so his scalp shone a rich bronze color. A few tendrils of russet hair clung to his forehead. He was colossal all broad shoulders and his face was composed of sharp angles and angry lines. This was the vengeful vindicator who’d plunge a knife into your gut—the knife that would cut the deepest and kill the slowest. 

 

             He continued on, his voice a deep rumbling of something ancient and untraceable. “Before you … your former sons and daughters have insisted on being broken and unfixable. They are misplaced puzzle pieces, anomalies in the otherwise perfect structuring of a utopian society.”

 

             I scoffed derisively and shrugged the hand of one of the Enforcers off of my shoulder. My eyes narrowed as they met the deadened ones of the man who would put us all to our death. Defiantly I fumbled in the dimness for Langston’s scarred hands and intertwined my fingers with his desperately. It was a silent protest of how we stood together, as one, in our unwillingness to be cut down.

 

             “Whatever you do don’t scream, don’t whimper, silence is the enemy of fear,” Langston mumbled in a hiss, his advice enigmatic at best. Still, I felt like the words had twisted out of my mouth from somewhere—a book from school perhaps? It sounded familiar, illicit and true.

 

             “… Now watch them as they fall, their defiance will be rewarded with death,” the Liberator’s left half of his face was concealed by a black mask crafted from synthetic material. Analgesics pumped into his veins fed from a massive to the wide expanse of his chest. He stood at least two feet taller than me, maybe more.

 

              He peered down into my face and I could hear the uneven breathing. I’d heard stories that he’d been gravely injured years before, back when he’d been a man composed of moralities and emotions.

 

             Now I shivered in the dimness and cool air of the cave. A hush fell over the crowd and my eyes instinctively closed as a metal blade pressed into my chin. The sharpness of the steel pushed against my flesh and my breath hitched in my throat. So this was death. This is how my demise would greet me—a blade slicing neatly across my throat, my blood coloring the ground crimson. He would make an exemplary promise out of me.

 

              My fingers curled and I bit my lip, forcing myself to glower at the cold eyes of the Liberator—his title a twisted misnomer. But it was when the knife dug in deeper, drawing droplets of blood, that I heard the thunderous rumbling of an airship. It had been suspended overhead, black corded wires flapping wildly in the wind the engines stirred up.

 

             My eyes narrowed and I could see Langston’s eyes widening, his beautiful face contorting in confusion. The lean body of what appeared to be a young man in his mid twenties slipped down the length of the wire. He wrapped his legs around the lower portion of the wire. His waist was strapped to the wire via a series of corded and knotted thick cables.

 

             I noticed his green eyes, tan skin and the self assured smirk on his handsome face. His straight dark hair was blowing in the wind. His gloved hand was outstretched, his whole body concealed in a black bodysuit.

 

             “Aidan Quinn what brings you here?” The foreign ancient voice hissed slowly from the mask. I’d never get used to the strangeness of the Liberator’s accent. The calmness of it was unsettling.

 

             “Cut the bull Ren, you’re not going to be murdering any of these kids today,” Aidan replied and my eyes widened at the sudden recognition. His smooth voice was familiar. To the Colonists he was a symbol of individuality, a promise of something undefined but shimmering in goodness. For the Liberator he was an adversary, someone who staged rebellions, plundering goods from the Elites to the emaciated in the other Provinces. He gave them a sense of hope that was otherwise nonexistent. To us he wasn’t a promise. He was a necessity and someone palpable and real.

 

             The Liberator chuckled and waved to the Enforcers who immediately trained their guns on the rest of the Purged. My eyes locked with Langston and I hoped with the fierceness I didn’t even know I had that he would be okay. I hoped too that Ellie, Miles and our parents would be fine, that my friends would be unharmed.

 

             “If you take them, then she will die,” the knife was cutting a thin red line into my throat. It took every ounce of me not to scream. I could imagine Ellie’s tears spilling onto her dress. I could picture Miles’s hands fisted, digging half-moon marks into his palms. My parents were probably livid. It was enough to make me shake with anger. It was enough to make an extremely foolish thought bounce around in my head. As soon as the words tumbled out of my mouth I instantly regretted it.

 

             “Take me then and spare them. Take me and make an example out of me,” my voice hoarse with dehydration rang throughout the cavern. I ignored the stinging of the thin cut across my throat. The Liberator withdrew the knife and tilted his head as if in deep thought. Aidan’s eyes widened in shock, I was sure he was wondering how absolutely stupid I could be. Had I not seen the fierce brutality the man towering behind me was capable of?

 

             “Take me …,” I repeated, my voice wavering on uncertainty. My mind was screaming at me to just shut up but my mouth refused to stop. I was relentless, daring myself to whirl around and face the imposing form of the Liberator. His gray eyes devoid of any sympathy crinkled in mirth. It sickened me literally. My stomach gurgled and roiled with convulsions.

 

             “Listen you don’t have to do this, you can come with me. I can give you a choice of freedom; don’t go with him he’s an absolute monster. You’ve seen what he can do! Don’t be rash, I know you think this is the right thing to do—“

 

             I cut off the desperation in Aidan’s voice and turned to face him.

            

             “I’ll be fine … listen I admire what you’re doing but I can’t have the blood of five people on my hands. No one likes the Purging,” I voiced what no one else would’ve had the gall to say.

 

             “Regardless of your choice, more people will die,” Aidan’s eyes were hard as they penetrated my gaze. I chewed on my lower lip, swallowing against the cold angry steel of the Liberator’s knife. It was Langston’s strong squeeze, his beautiful face smirking at me that sealed my fate. The dark haired girl two feet away from us loosened her grip on her cross and mouthed a small “thank you” to me. I didn’t have the heart to speak because attempting to escape would be difficult. There was no guarantee that at least one of us wouldn’t die trying to go with Aidan to safety—to true liberation.

 

             I stretched out my hand and grasped Aidan’s. His hands were calloused, scarred from various burns and injuries—the signs of a martyr in the making. I’d read in a textbook years ago, in Grade D that martyrs always died willingly for their cause. Today, I wasn’t ready to die because this death the Colony had lain out for me wasn’t a choice—it was a necessity. That’s what the Elites would’ve called it—a necessity.

 

             Somehow Langston, an Elite himself, had been unfixable and broken. Somehow he had failed. I clutched his hand and the twin brothers clasped their hands together. Aidan used his weight as leverage, pulled up and all I could hear was the sound of rattling gunfire. The air smelled like pennies and I assumed that this was what martyrdom felt like.

 

             

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