“The Reestablishment,” Warner says, “is not interested in maintaining a facade of kindness. The civilians are nothing more than peons to them. They want power,” he says to me, “and they want to be entertained. They are not interested in fixing our problems. They only want to make sure that they are as comfortable as possible as we dig our own graves.”
“Yes,” he says. “It is exactly that simple. Everything else is just a joke to them. The texts, the artifacts, the languages. They just want to scare people, to keep them submissive, and to strip them of their individuality—to herd them into a singular mentality that serves no purpose but their own. This is why they can and will destroy all rebel movements. And this is a fact that your friends did not fully understand. And now,” he says, “they have suffered for their ignorance.”
He stops the tank.
Turns off the engine.
Unlocks my door.
And I’m still not ready to face this.
Anyone would be able to find Omega Point now. Any citizen, any civilian, anyone with working vision would be able to tell you where the large crater in Sector 45 is located.
Warner was right.
I unbuckle myself slowly, reaching blindly for the door handle. I feel like I’m moving through fog, like my legs have been formed from fresh clay. I fail to account for the height of the tank above the ground and stumble into the open air.
This is it.
The empty, barren stretch of land I’d come to recognize as the area just around Omega Point; the land Castle told us was once lush with greenery and vegetation. He said it’d been the ideal hiding place for Omega Point. But this was before things started changing. Before the weather warped and the plants struggled to flourish. Now it’s a graveyard. Skeletal trees and howling winds, a thin layer of snow powdered over the cold, packed earth.
Omega Point is gone.
It’s nothing but a huge, gaping hole in the ground about a mile across and 50 feet deep. It’s a bowlful of innards, of death and destruction, silent in the wake of tragedy. Years of effort, so much time and energy spent toward a specific goal, one purpose: a plan to save humanity.
A gust of wind climbs into my clothes then, wraps itself around my bones. Icy fingers tiptoe up my pant legs, clench their fists around my knees and pull; suddenly I’m not sure how I’m still standing. My blood feels frozen, brittle. My hands are covering my mouth and I don’t know who put them there.
Something heavy falls onto my shoulders. A coat.
I look back to find that Warner is watching me. He holds out a pair of gloves.
I take the gloves and tug them on over my frozen fingers and wonder why I’m not waking up yet, why no one has reached out to tell me it’s okay, it’s just a bad dream, that everything is going to be fine.
I feel as though I’ve been scooped out from the inside, like someone has spooned out all the organs I need to function and I’m left with nothing, just emptiness, just complete and utter disbelief. Because this is impossible.
“JULIETTE, GET DOWN—”
Warner tackles me to the ground just as the sound of gunshots fills the air.
His arms are under me, cradling me to his chest, his body shielding mine from whatever imminent danger we’ve just gotten ourselves into. My heart is beating so loudly I can hardly hear Warner’s voice as he speaks into my ear. “Are you all right?” he whispers, pulling me tighter against him.
I try to nod.
“Stay down,” he says. “Don’t move.”
I wasn’t planning on it, I don’t say to him.
“STEP AWAY FROM HER, YOU WORTHLESS SACK OF SHIT—”
My body goes stiff.
That voice. I know that voice.
I hear footsteps coming closer, crunching on the snow and ice and dirt. Warner loosens his hold around me, and I realize he’s reaching for his gun.
“Kenji—no—,” I try to shout, my voice muffled by the snow.
“GET UP!” Kenji bellows, still moving closer. “Stand up, coward!”
I’ve officially begun to panic.
Warner’s lips brush against my ear. “I’ll be right back.”
Just as I turn to protest, Warner’s weight is lifted. His body gone. He’s completely disappeared.
I scramble to my feet, spinning around.
My eyes land on Kenji.
He’s stopped in place, confused and scanning the area, and I’m so happy to see him that I can’t be bothered to care about Warner right now. I’m almost ready to cry. I squeak out Kenji’s name.
His eyes lock on to mine.
He charges forward, closing the gap between us and tackling me in a hug so fierce he practically cuts off my circulation. “Holy shit it’s good to see you,” he says, breathless, squeezing me tighter.
I cling to him, so relieved, so stunned. I press my eyes shut, unable to stop the tears.
Kenji pulls back to look me in the eye, his face bright with pain and joy. “What the hell are you doing out here? I thought you were dead—”
“I thought you were dead!”
He stops then. The smile vanishes from his face. “Where the hell did Warner go?” he says, eyes taking in our surroundings. “You were with him, right? I’m not losing my mind, am I?”
“Yes—listen—Warner brought me here,” I tell him, trying to speak calmly, hoping to cool the anger in his eyes. “But he’s not trying to fight. When he told me about what happened to Omega Point, I didn’t believe him, so I asked him to show me proof—”
“Is that right?” Kenji says, eyes flashing with a kind of hatred I’ve never seen in him before. “He came to show off what they did? To show you how many people he MURDERED!” Kenji breaks away from me, shaking with fury. “Did he tell you how many children were in there? Did he tell you how many of our men and women were slaughtered because of him?” He stops, heaving. “Did he tell you that?” he asks again, screaming into the air. “COME BACK OUT HERE, YOU SICK BASTARD!”
But Kenji’s already gone, darting away so quickly he’s just a speck in the distance now. I know he’s searching the vast space for glimpses of Warner and I need to do something, I need to stop him but I don’t know how—