“How are we going to get in contact with Amelia?” Liliana whispers in my ear and I sigh before letting my fingers trail over the wooden desk located under the stage.
“I’m not sure. She’ll figure something out, wouldn’t she?”
At least, I hope so.
With our disguises and I epic ability to look like a man, Liliana and I were able to join the flow of soldiers with our heads held high, backs straight and lips pursed in defiance. Liliana was able to pull a facial expression that mostly consisted of a frown that made every other soldier that looked at her quickly look away. She looks deadly.
I’m not sure if I can say the same about me. I’m to skinny and feminine to really pass as a main. I just make sure to keep my head down and let Liliana lead.
A few minutes ago, spotlights were switched on and that’s when we both made the move to under the stage. I nearly ran onto it when Eliza let out a painful scream and fell to the ground, but Liliana grabbed my arm and reminded me I wouldn’t be doing her any favours rushing onto the stage.
We’re hoping that once she’s done her speech, she’ll find a way back down here and we’ll make a move. In the meantime, we search the desk for anything helpful.
“Look,” Liliana holds something up and I squint at it.
“Looks like it.”
She tosses it aside and we move onto the next section of the tent, carefully listening for any sounds before ripping it open.
I let out a squeak, nearly stumbling backwards into Liliana who lets out a huff.
“Look who it is.”
Collin sits at a desk, typing away at a laptop with his back towards us, fingers going a hundred miles an hour.
He whips around in his chair when he hears us and although he first looks confused, his confusion turns to surprise and than to one of happiness.
“I knew you couldn’t have died!”
He jumps out of his chair and the three of us embrace each other, my helmet knocking against Liliana’s whose knock against Collin’s bare head, making him wince.
“What are you guys doing here though?” he frowns, walking back towards his desk with us trailing behind.
“Rescuing Eliza, duh.”
“There’s only two of you and I heard that there should actually be three. Where’s Amelia?”
My first thought is to tell him immediately, but than I feel a flood of doubt. Somehow, seeing Collin working with them without so much as helping our side has planted... suspiscion.
I see it flicker across Liliana’s face and she answers before I can say anything myself.
“She’s preparing our hide out for when we get Eliza out of here.”
We swap glances, warning each other.
“Where’s your hideout?” Collin asks calmly, all matter-of-factly and I swallow a little.
“We’re not sure. Amelia said she’s give us a sign when she’s ready.”
“Oh,” he looks a little crestfallen. “Oh well. Good luck girls.”
With that, he turns his complete focus back to his computer.
We leave his tent and go back to the main area, listening to Eliza’s calm, but icy voice.
“My people, all the rebels, died for a cause that could never be done.”
Liliana snorts and I do the same.
Whatever they’ve done to Eliza, it must have been pretty harsh. It would take a lot to make her say that. To distract myself from thoughts of torture that now run through my head, I turn to Liliana and whisper,
“I don’t trust Collin.”
She nods quickly.
“Me neither. Something feels off.”
In sync, we both turn our heads to the tent flap, listening for the sound of his fingers tapping away.
All we can hear is Eliza though.
“Death, pain, torture. That’s what’ll happen when every single rebel is rounded up. Let this act as a warning to you all.”
“There’s only like, four of us left,” Liliana rolls her eyes, but my brain is running thoughts over and over my head.
I turn to her sharply, gripping her arms.
“Exactly. So why are they going through all this trouble to get a speech out to no one in particular?”
I had told them of the video I saw earlier, of Margaret confronting the officials in the city. I’m reminded of her words, about the rebels being safely stuck outside the city.
Liliana’s eyes widen at the same time mine do.
“She wasn’t lying than!”
“No, she wasn’t!”
When I had told them of the video, we came to the agreement that she was probably lying, that she knew we were hidden in the hospital somehow. We agreed that it was her way of trying to smoke us out.
Turns out we were wrong.
“That’s where we have to go,” I whisper forcefully, shaking Liliana’s shoulders. “We have to get to the city’s border.”
“We need to tell Amelia somehow. How are we going to find her, Alice? We didn’t think all this through.”
“Amelia will find us,” I say with absolute sincerity. “Somehow she will.”
We quickly hug each other, both jittery and impatient. Thanks to our revelation, we now want to get out of here as quick as possible, grab Eliza, find Amelia and run without a backwards look.
Looking up sharply, we both duck around the desk when we hear the sound of scuffling outside the tent and than voices. Eliza’s still going on about the failed idea of rebellion so it can’t be her.
We both squeak when a hand touches our back and we bang heads whirling around.
“Stay quiet,” Collin whispers, pressing a finger to his lips. “I don’t know what’s going on, but it can’t be good.”
We exchange frowns, chests rising and falling rapidly.
“How do we know you haven’t called them here to get us?” I say without thinking and Liliana shoots me a glare.
“Me?” his eyes widen. “I’m still a rebel, Alice. You can trust me.”
“That’s what they all say,” Liliana says quietly.
Collin opens his mouth to say something, but abruptly stands when we here the tent flap ripped back.
“Evening gentleman. I don’t think you’re authorised to be here.”
“Cool it, Collin,” a man drawls, dragging out the c sound. “You know why we’re here.”
“I’m afraid not,” he moves around the desk, leaving Liliana and I huddled close together, holding our breath.
“We know you’re one of them, the rebels,” another man spits. He makes it sound like we’re nothing but street rats, eating away everything and bringing diseases.
It makes me want to punch him.
“That’s not true,” Collin snorts and I can practically hear him roll his eyes. “I’ve worked alongside Lady Margaret for years.”
“So did Jackson.”
Liliana and I hold our breaths during the silence that follows, tilting our heads to hear. It’s deafly silent.
When the gun fires, we both jump and clutch each other tighter, closing our eyes as we here the body hit the ground with a thud. There’s another shot and another. I’m reminded of Toby over the grate... the bullets ripping flesh from his already closed down body. My stomach rolls as I imagine what Collin looks like now. I didn’t hear so much of a gasp of pain so at least he died quickly.
We wait for the sound of their jeering or at least, their receding footsteps. When they don’t come, Liliana and I nod to each other before rising onto our knees to peer over the desk.
Three bullets. Three men. One still standing.
“How did you do that?” I stand up shakily, pulling Liliana after me.
He doesn’t answer, to busy staring at his palms with a wide eyed expression. On the ground near his feet lies the gun that killed both the men,
“Collin, you okay?” Liliana steps around the desk and I follow, catching my hip on the corner and wincing.
“I’ve never used a gun before,” he sounds dazed and rocks backwards and forwards on his feet. “Never killed a man.”
“You killed two,” Liliana gestures, making me frown at her. “What? We’re in a war. He needs to grow a backbone.”
“Get back in your tent, Collin,” I whisper, shoving him towards it. Eliza’s stopped talking and I can now recognize the cool and calm voice of Margaret. “Please, she’ll be here soon. You’ll survive this thing if you stay here.”
“It’s to late now,” he shakes his head and steps away from us, looking up with tear filled eyes. “The gun shots? There’s probably a whole mob of soldiers preparing to barge in here right now. I just killed any chance you had of getting out of here. You know why? Because I’m a coward! I would rather risk the lives of others than sacrifice myself for a good cause.”
“We don’t have time for this,” Liliana shakes her head and gestures with her chin to the tent flap. “Alice, go see if anyone’s lining up. Prepare to fire.”
Nodding glumly, I shoot Collin a sympathetic look before marching to the tent and ripping back the flap.
No one’s milling right outside it so, after mouthing, “I’m going to scout,” to Liliana, I step outside.
If it weren’t for the tiki lights, I would probably have a struggle making my way through the side area of the stage searching for any soldiers preparing an ambush. It becomes apparent after a moment though that even though the shots were audible, it’s doubtful anyone could here.
The tent muffled it, but out in the open now, I can feel the stomps and the cheers coming from the soldiers in the square as Margaret talks about their amazing defeat, their power and the destruction that they alone have done. Sucking in a breath, I’m preparing to launch myself on stage to end this whole thing now when there’s a sudden silence.
“Who is that?” Margaret demands angrily and, getting the courage now, I launch myself onto the stage and stand beside the other soldier, nodding tersely before squinting into the crowd.
“Nobody shoot!” Margaret screams and I flinch. Along with everyone else it seems.
It takes a moment, but I soon locate who they’re looking at with the help of a spot lighter who turns a blinding beam onto Amelia who stands on top of a store’s roof, clutching some gadget in her hand.
“Miss!” someone shouts. “Permission to shoot, miss!”
“No don’t,” Margaret says more calmly now. “You’ll all probably shoot each other in the process. Hold fire.”
Without thinking, I stick my hand up in the air and wave it frantically, jumping from foot to foot.
“What the hell are you doing?” the soldier with red hair and green eyes turns on me and shoves me backwards, sending my helmet spilling off my head.
I freeze, mouth open as Margaret turns around along with at least half the soldiers, all having heard the helmet hit the stage in their frozen stage.
Than, without thinking, I pump my first once in the air like Amelia instructed and scream out,
I dodge out of red head boy’s way as the nights silence is interrupted by a cold, but clear crack.
Sprinting forward, I wrap my hands around Eliza’s wrists and tug her frantically, just as the soldiers seem to realise what’s going on.
“Come on,” I say around gritted teeth, but she simply points to her mouth, eyes wide.
She yanks free and runs for the podium, jumping over a clearly dead Margaret.
That’s when the shots begin to fire.
“Oh crap,” I hiss, ducking as I follow after Eliza’s whose now rolled off the stage, wincing when a bullet gets to close.
She waits for me on the cool cement, gesturing frantically to head to the right, but I shake my head.
“Under there,” I gesture under the stage as I struggle to pull the knife I took from a soldier from my belt. “Liliana and Collin.”
She looks up quickly at my words and then aims a gun right at my head.
“Dude!” I duck right before she fires and I turn to see the first soldier hit the ground.
There’s still more to follow.
Eliza shoots at the wave of soldiers as I rip into the closed off tents tarp with my knife, stabbing and pulling until there’s a big enough hole to get through.
“This is suicide,” I mutter as we sprint insides, looking over our shoulders to shoot the soldiers.
“Eliza!” Liliana cheers when we come through. “Come on, girl, we have to get out of here!”
Firing random shots at the sea of soldiers behind us, I make sure Collin follows behind Liliana and Eliza.
“You don’t understand,” he practically howls. “My plan... I had a plan and you’re going to destroy it!”
“Did it involve bombing the square?” I guess randomly since I just want him to shut up.
He sucks in a breath,
“How’d you know?”
“One step ahead of you, dude.”
I’m backing away, still firing at any soldier that appears when I hear Eliza gasp.
“I told you to... Oh.”
The red headed soldier stands in their way, watching us wide eyed.
“You’re rescuing Eliza?”
“How do you even know her name?” I turn my gun on him, preparing to squeeze the trigger.
“No!” he yelps, throwing up his hands. “Don’t shoot! I want to help!”
Collin, who decided to make a dash for the desk, looks up and frowns.
“Don’t risk it! Shoot him!”
But there’s another shot, coming from the redhead and I only have time to catch hold of Collin’s gaze for a second before he slumps forward onto the desk, body still.
“What did you do that for?” Liliana wails and I turn back around to see the redhead’s pale face.
“I... isn’t he working with them?”
There’s commotion behind me and I have to turn back around, grinding my teeth as I blink tears out of my eyes so I can fire.
“If you want to help us,” I yell over the gunfire. “You’re going to get those two out and away from the city, got it? There’s a shopping centre just out of here where we’re meeting up with the girl on the roof. I estimate that you have about five minutes.”
We’ve taken to long, I know that now. If it weren’t for the red head, Eliza, Collin and Liliana probably would have made it out before the soldiers could have thought to barricade the other way.
This is war though and wars are confusing. Even though I hear Liliana screaming my name, I’m too confused to answer her back as I fire left right and centre at the growing sea of men. When they stop coming, that’s when I know it’s time to leave.
“Crap, crap, crap,” I groan, turning on my heels and hightailing it for the tent.
Sure enough, I can heard the clicking of guns as the simply point them through the hole in the tent wall.
I’m lucky. I only get shot once trying to get out of there. The not so lucky part is it’s on my foot, ripping through my heel.
Pain explodes through my whole leg and I scream a loud and painful scream, but I never stop going, never stop limping out that tent to get away.
The red head got Liliana and Eliza away and I can see how now.
Someone’s used the tiki’s to set fire to the buildings around the square, acidic smoke rising up. Everyone’s as confused as I feel, stumbling into each other, shooting blindly into the smoke and even just collapsing to the ground.
Limping, I’m able to make my way around men as I head for the outer square.
Since I’m dressed like a soldier, I guess they just think I am one. Maybe they do have female soldiers after all.
I look up, blinking the smoke from eyes and search for the owner of the voice.
“YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF THERE! RUN!”
She screams the last word and, even though I can’t see her, I do as she says, turning my limps into mini sprints as I dart through the smoke, leaving behind confused soldiers who don’t deserve to die.
But they have to die for the sake of our cause.
Amelia’s standing at the end of the street, gesturing for me frantically as I make my way. I’m doing well too when I slip on the cement, cracking my ankle against the cement.
I scream in pain, trying to clamper to my feet again. It’s no use.
With one foot torn apart by a bullet and the other one twisted and swelling at the second, there’s no hope of me escaping the bombs.
“GET OUT!” I scream at Amelia who’s screaming for me to hurt. “GET OUT AND TELL ELIZA I LOVE HER!”
She shakes her head furiously and makes steps towards me. Sobbing now at the pain of my legs and the pain of this sacrifice, I scoop the gun up from the ground and point it at her, making her freeze in her tracks.
“RUN! RUN, AMELIA!”
She’s crying. I can see her shoulders shaking, but she nods as she clutches her chest.
She listens to my words and turns on her feet, high tailing it out of here without a backwards thought.
The soldiers in the square seemed to have figured out something’s about to go done and so, it’s with the screams of panicky soldiers, the thundering of boots and the crackling of fire around my, I close my eyes.
She’s the last person I think of before the bombs explode.