SHADE (for writelongandprosper)

Yellow for mild swearing and some scenes of a sensitive nature.

To the north, there lies the old lake. South, the mountains. The west of the city is bordered by desert. To the east, there stands a wall.

Myles Lakeman is 18. He is a man, and it is time for him to receive his mission. His mission? Survive the night.
Myles must capture the rebels, conquer the landscape and most importantly, escape the elusive Shades... but along this journey he meets a girl, a girl with a mission of her own: she must find her brother.
Together, they discover that their world is hiding so much more than they once thought: what are the Shades and where do they come from? What are the rebels doing? What is on the other side of the wall?

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11. Chapter 10: Myles

The earth-green blanket scratches against his skin, the silence of the dorm oppressive and stifling against the thoughts that spin endlessly around his mind. He has a duty, a mission that won’t end until he finds Lydia’s brother. The more he learns about the inner workings of the military, the more he loses trust in the establishment he has long called his home.

He had always thought that the soldiers were dispatched into the city every night to protect the citizens, not bring them in for ‘questioning’. He truly believed that Lydia was innocent, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and desperate to find the answers to the questions that plague her, day in and day out- but where did that leave him? Without consenting to be and without truly understanding why, Myles had become the enemy.

And then there was the issue of his match.

As the last person in his group to age, Myles had always been the last to do anything they considered here to be a major milestone in life. He had been the last to start lessons, the last to start training, the last to hold a gun and the last to receive his mission. He knew he couldn’t be the last ever- but he was the last of all of his friends.

It was for that reason, when he finally pushed past sixteen and their lessons drew to an end, he was left so completely on his own. His birthday was so much later than the others that they had neared the end of their preliminary training before he had even started. While Myles slaved away completing circuits in the gym, his fellow classmates had all progressed into the final stages of physical perfection. They didn’t have the time to so much as consider him. How could he, with his skinny arms and soft tummy, compare to the boys who edged on seventeen, who had become so strong that their arms were the size of tree trunks, their stomachs lined with muscle?

He had always been behind them, and even now those disparities remained. The boys lying in the cots surrounding him, snoring loudly with their arms tucked in close to their sides, had grown up almost a full year ahead of him. There were a few faces he didn’t recognise, those that were older still, whose paths he had never managed to cross. At the age of eighteen, each of the boys lying around him must already be a father to at least one child. Fatherhood: that was the one thing that Myles had never followed them into.

His match: that was what had frustrated him most.

On their fifteenth birthdays, the girls were taken into the reproductive program, their bodies tested for fertility and prepped for childbearing. Each female in the complex was expected to carry and raise three children, in order to sustain the population while allowing for those that proved barren or failed to pass the screening process.

The boys were led for questioning. Samples were taken, their eligibility tested. Each boy was selected to provide for three children with a girl whose genetics were compatible to create the most physically and mentally able children.

But Myles failed his test. He was the only boy in his class, as far as he knew, who was not allowed to be a father. He wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t smart enough. It wasn’t like he would have been able to spend any time with his match, or even with his children, but it would have been nice to know what it is like, or who it would have been.

He looks up at the ceiling, his tired eyes half closed against the dim glow of the fluorescent lights set into the concrete. He’d never been interested in any of the girls in his class anyway, not in the same way that the other boys would lust after them. Instead, he had found himself staring at the boys: their developing muscles, the thick hair that blossomed over their bodies. He had mentioned this to his father once, and had ended up shut in his room with a red handprint stinging on his cheek. It was then that he knew these feelings were wrong. From that moment on he kept his eyes down in the shower, his back turned on the other boys so they couldn’t see what the thoughts of them did to his body.

Having lain in bed for over an hour with no luck, Myles pushes aside the rough blanket and slides his body into a fresh uniform from a stack sitting on the low table at the end of the room. He dumps the torn, dirty and bloodstained one-piece from the day before into a deep hamper, slips his boots onto his feet and head back out into the hall.

The corridor is empty, and his footsteps bounce off the narrow walls as he tramps towards the recreation room. He dutifully takes his nutrition pill from the dispenser set into the wall, scanning his wrist against the wall panel to release his tailored dosage. Then he moves to a table set up against the far wall and pours himself a cup of boiling, black coffee. It scalds his tongue and burns his throat as he knocks it back, looking lazily around the room as he waits for the buzz to kick in.

There are two couches arranged into right angle, a battered coffee table similar to the one in tech sat in the space between them. A screen balanced on top of a low cabinet sits in the corner, used mugs and scraps of scribbled-on and crumpled paper scattered across the various surfaces distributed around the room. Two boys sit on chairs pushed into the corner; books from the library next door cracked open in their laps.

His eyes fall on the only other soul in the room: Nelly. She stands at the coffee pot, stirring sugar and milk into mugs of tea and coffee while her red hair dangles loosely over her face. “Hey,” he smiles, stepping up behind her and placing his used mug back onto the table. “I was just wondering… in our free time, can we like, leave HQ?”

“Do you mean go out into the city, or just go back upstairs?” She asks, tucking her hair behind her ears and arranging the four mugs so that she can carry them all at the same time. “I’m on a coffee run, walk with me?”

He follows her back down the corridor to tech, pushing the doors open as they walk. “The City is out of bounds unless you are on a mission. As for upstairs, you have to gain permission from a lieutenant if you want to go back up there. You have to give a reason for wanting to leave base, and it has to be good enough: the lift won’t work unless your access codes permit it.”

They step back into tech and Myles smiles at the small group of people sitting around the cluttered table. Nelly presses a mug into the hands of each of them, then walks over to the cabinets against the far walls and begins absently searching for something in the drawers. “So like, can you change my codes?”

Nelly sighs, closing the drawer she has open and putting her hands on her hips. “If I do that, I’ll be fired. This is the only thing I’m good for around here. I can’t survive out there.”

He knows she means the city, and the weight of guilt settles in his stomach. “Sorry,” he shrugs, playing with the handle of the drawer in front of him. He pulls it out and slides it back into its slot, his eyes running mindlessly over its contents until in his mind, something clicks. The battered notebook sits under a mess of wires and foam electrodes, the coding device slotted into a space at the very front of the drawer. As he slides it closed again, he makes a mental note exactly which drawer they are in.

“Did you need anything else?” Nelly asks, her back pressed against the edge of the cabinet. She holds a dozen electrodes in a small plastic bag in one hand, a collection of wires in the other. “Daniel needs some help testing something in the back room so if you’re done, you should probably go.”

A thin, bespectacled young man raises a hand from his position in one of the chairs positioned around the low table. He drains the last of his coffee and drops his mug onto the table, adding to the growing collection gathering there. How many mugs does this place have? Myles thinks absently, before shaking himself back into the real world and swaggering back towards the door. “I’ll catch you later,” he nods, watching as the rest of the group stagger to their feet and stumble back towards the workshop. “We should grab a coffee sometime.”

Just before he opens the door leading back into the hallway, he chances a glance over his shoulder. The techies have all moved back into the workshop, taking Nelly with them. Myles seizes his chance, running over to the drawer and extracting the keyboard, notebook and a handful of electrodes. He stuffs the electrodes into the pockets of his jumpsuit, tucking the notebook and nameless device against his chest and zipping his uniform over the top.

He ducks into the communal bathroom, locking himself in a toilet cubicle and emptying the pocketful of electrodes onto the top of the closed toilet seat. Next he withdraws the keyboard and the notebook from inside his jumpsuit and places them in his lap as he sits down on the floor. The notebook falls open easily onto the page Nelly had used earlier in the day and he flicks through the pages until he finds the code he needs: HQ Lift Access.

It’s more difficult than anticipated to connect the twisted wire to an electrode and stick it to the inside of his wrist- while keeping the notebook open on the required page and tapping the code into the keyboard. The device bleeps, the screen flashing green as the code updates. A pressure in his head makes his nose feel as though it might explode as he pushes himself back to his feet, dropping the codex onto the toilet seat and slipping out of the bathroom.

Trying to look innocent, Myles walks down the length of the corridor until he reaches the lift. Once he is safely inside, he briefly considers going down to the prison, rescuing Lydia and heading out into the city before they discover what he has done, but there are answers he needs first. He pushes the button for the twelfth floor and holds onto the handrail as the lift shoots upwards, the doors opening with a hiss to face a short corridor with white painted walls and a floor tiled like all the rest.

His footsteps echo down the hallway as he walks up to one of the scratched wooden doors set into the wall. He takes a deep breath, raises a clenched fist, and knocks.

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