Seven: Nothing Left to Lose

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A/N: The picture is Mikhail on the Lower Levels :)

"What's that supposed to mean?!" I choke, and Athena Simon busily glances around the room.

"I've had a long time to think about this. Years, actually." she breathes, pacing past me like a caged animal.

"Spit it out, Mom. You started this, you finish it," I say, standing up so her eyes meet mine. For seconds that burn like hours, she merely looks into my eyes, lips pursed as she fidgets uncomfortably. She's silent for far too long, until speaking.

"There's a second dome," she breathes, looking away from my shocked gaze. How many revelations can come in one day without me snapping?!

"How do you know?!" I hiss, now suddenly looking over my shoulder as well.

"I've been snooping around forever, ever since your father started wasting his days away under Lockman's orders. There's no radiation outside, Ari."

"Yeah, Kyros mentioned. What on earth is out there?"

"I'm not sure. Whatever they are, they're dangerous enough to keep up hiding inside the domes. Lockman's terrified of them, but he's even more afraid of losing his power. He'll do anything, and I mean anything, to keep people under his command."

I don't say anything, merely listening as I wait for my brain to catch up. Whatever is out there, it's deadly. Lockman is the bloodthirsty monster I feared. We're all in grave danger.

"How did you..." I start, but stop speaking as soon as Thea walks in quietly. Both my mother and I turn to look at her, and judging off of her expression, our poker faces might not be as good as we thought.

"Everything alright? Where's Titus?" she asks, looking around quickly and finding no one.

"Everything's fine, honey. Titus took Kyros for a walk," my mother tells Thea, going to greet her. I decide that's my cue to exit, hugging my friend quickly before leaving the building. It's early in the afternoon, and Callista and Felix are still at work. I need to go somewhere no one will come looking. I can't even go hide in the abandoned sector, because Kyros knows where it is now. What if I went to the Lower Levels? My buzzing brain misses the point that I've never gone there without Titus, and I jog towards the elevator to the bottom of our dome. I nod towards the Guardsman at the door, and step into the elevator. A few moments later, I step out into the dimly lit underground city. A girl with lime-green hair pushes past me with a slight glance at my face, but I ignore her as I roam the streets. Music blares loudly from a nearby building, filling my ears with sound. Multi-colored lights pulse from the building, and I let out a slight scoff. Dancing, at this hour? Who has time for that? From another building wafts the smell of food; something fried, though I can't place my finger on what. I debate going inside to find out, but decide against it. This isn't the time for food. A few people give me funny looks as I pass, seeing as I'm obviously a Topsider, but here, no one really cares about who I am or what I've done. Now, where could I go to hide? On the rooftops, people would get suspicious. On the streets, far too many people pay attention to me. An alleyway, slightly less sketchy than the rest, has a ladder up to a balcony on the side of a building, and I decide to head towards it. This could work out well, at least until my head clears a bit.

My hand barely reaches the first rung, feeling the coldness of the metal, before someone grabs my shoulder roughly. My weight is yanked backwards, and I let out a grunt of surprise as my back is slammed into the wall. Leering over me is a tall, heavily tattooed man, with orange hair and breath that reeks of alcohol.

"You're not from around here," he sneers, his dark eyes staring at me intently. Although I automatically assume his intentions are less than noble, I decide to pretend he means well if only to divert suspicion. Ignoring the nervous waver in my voice, I glare back at him with a fury I was unaware I possessed.

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