Following Tanner's lead, Stephen and I slide on our red helmets. My visor immediately lights up with graphics and gadgets. This time, however, the graphics are blue, signaling that the technology has been hacked. I smirk to myself. These rebels have thought of everything.
A small map appears in the top right corner of my visor, a blue dot blinking to indicate my current position. The rest of my tech capabilities are widely expanded in comparison to the visor's previous state. Now I can display any controls I want while choosing who can hear me through my earpiece. As I absorb the new features, I tuck my hair under the collar of my red uniform. Tanner addresses the group as he adjusts the sleeve of his armor.
"Now remember," Tanner says through his helmet. His voice echoes into my ear, "walk in a tight pack like Screeners do. That means two-by-two with one person following behind. Stephen, you're running in the lead with me." Tanner waves Stephen closer to him, and Stephen obliges with a final, reassuring glance towards me.
"And I'm taking Holland," a female voice says. A Screener in the middle of the group steps next to me, and I faintly see a grin through her tinted visor. "Welcome to the dark side," she says with a laugh.
"Peyton, shut up," Tanner says.
Peyton's grin switches to a smirk that mocks Tanner's voice perfectly. "Tanner, shut up."
Rolling his eyes at Peyton, Tanner corrals us into a neat formation with Stephen diagonal from me. An ounce of fear threatens to settle into my stomach. This could be it. If we're discovered, we'll be killed. It still feels surreal, but every moment of rebelling is kind of satisfying. Plus Tanner and Peyton seem immune to fear and addicted to danger, a state of being I don't think I'll ever achieve.
I exhale, wrapping my fingers around the gun on my hip like Tanner does. His attention to detail is amazing, his stiffened spine has me fearing him to be a Screener. I match his physique before the building doors open to release us into the streets.
We take off at a jogging pace, actual Screeners crossing our paths or storming into the buildings in groups similar to ours. I keep up easily within our group, running naturally while trying to keep myself mentally calm around the actual Screeners. My boots thump against the pavement as I lose my thoughts in the methodical pounding.
The blue dot on my visor tracks my location with precision, displaying a zigzag path leading to a destination that cuts off from the map. The map also marks every remaining rebel in the city with a dot. There are still a few dots within the city, but all of them are on their way out.
"Having fun there?" Peyton says into my earpiece. I almost turn my head to face her, but I stop myself. I don't want to be the one to give up our cover because I didn't stay facing forward like I'm supposed to do.
"You could say I'm having fun," I say into the mic. It feels like I'm talking to Tanner's backside instead of Peyton herself. "Fun besides for the fact we're surrounded by killer Screeners with guns."
Peyton laughs. "And was it any different before we came here?"
"Valid point," I say, impressed by her quickness, "but it feels different being an enemy to the Screeners rather than just being a citizen,"
I continue with a huff, slightly winded. "Now we're officially criminals."
"Oh I wouldn't say we're criminals," Peyton says. "I would say we're kind of like vigilantes."
"We take the rules into our own hands and break them."
"That sounds pretty badass," I say, and Peyton laughs. I keep my voice communications open to the other group members, but we don't say anything else. We continue passing another two city blocks before we turn left and make a quick right. As we run, the number of Screeners lessens subtly. Tanner steers clear from the main part of town, heading for the surrounding woods.
The sun peaks out in the sky, sending golden rays and gray shadows across the street. My visor tints itself a shade of blue as it switches to sunglasses mode. I glance at the tiny map, verifying that we only have a few more stretches of streets before we're free.
Free. I've never been outside of the city before, and it's finally happening. Landon's comment about the Camps pops into my mind. Leaving the city for me is the same as going home for him. Yet freedom for us both is outside the Grand Rapids border.
I peek a glance over Tanner's shoulder to get a better view of our path. My eyes skim across a rather desolate street until I spot a group of Screeners at the very edge of the town. About fifty yards of weedy land stretches behind them, and the woods take over the rest of the way.
The assembly of Screeners shifts around a little, pacing and chatting rather than waiting stiffly. Assault rifles are strung across their bodies, and a small metal station of supplies stands next to them.
"Aw, crap," Peyton says. Suddenly my left shoulder is shoved so hard I stumble sharply to the right. Peyton pushes me a few feet farther into the shadows of the alleyway. While the rest of the group follows us, I regain my balance. Just as I open my mouth to yell at Peyton and call the operation a set-up, Tanner interrupts my train of thought.
"We've got a serious problem, guys."
"Problem? You mean disaster," Peyton says. "Those Screeners aren't supposed to be there. They're trapping us in this stupid city using checkpoints."
The situation clicks together in my mind. The Screeners were carrying assault rifles. Giant, massive guns that will identify us as frauds within seconds. We'll be shot before we can blink at them. "So what are we going to do?" I ask. "Tanner, you have a backup plan, right?"
"Yeah, a plan that takes us to the other side of the city," he remarks, defeated, "and that's too risky for us."
"We can either wait them out or search the perimeter for a different way," Landon says, popping into the conversation. "Those are the only options."
"What did Commander Liad suggest earlier?" Peyton asks.
"I left a message with his tech people," Tanner says, "but all he's going to say is figure it out and don't get killed."
"Great, now we're screwed," Peyton says, throwing her hands up in defeat. She kicks her boot against the ground, blowing off steam.
"Wait, I have an idea," I find myself saying. My hand digs in my pocket for the minibomb, and I hold it up for the group to see. Peyton whistles in shock, presumably grinning behind her visor.
"That could definitely work," Tanner says, impressed that I salvaged a minibomb in mint condition. "Way to go, Holland."
-- -- -- -- --
@samzeeburns and @storyzrok won the number-guessing contest! They correctly guessed my number: 23. jamietastic also guessed 23, but she doesn't count since she's my sister ;) sorry for short update; the next chapter is new and action-packed. i promise! the winning words were trapped and female! that's where Peyton and the border patrol Screeners are from ;)
Question: How would you feel if I updated this book on Wednesday's instead?
Follow-up Question: Choose a phrase: suprising encounter, surprising location, or surprising similarity.
YOU ARE READING
Welcome to the nation. Welcome to the place where everything is monitored... everything is portioned... everything is perfectly under control... Everything except the SkyTrain Holland Renner was aboard. In a matter of seconds, Holland finds herself...