Chapter Thirty Four

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Dust and heat greet me on every side and it's all I can do to see. Or breathe. Rubble crunches underfoot and the roar of helicopter turbines is so loud that I can't hear anything over them. I must be on the road leading off to the Depot, because Members press into me from all sides, making it harder to move forward. Rubbing my eyes, I rush up to the Depot entrance and fling open the door, diving inside. Wheezing, I close the door and stand. The small apartment looks the same as it did when I left it this morning, except the trapdoor is already open. Sam must have managed to slip through it before I arrived.

Just as I'm about to start towards the hidden entrance, the front door opens again and Leah, Oscar, Sara, and Josh tumble through it, coughing and rubbing dirt off of their faces. Relief makes me dizzy for a moment, and I stumble backwards into the couch.

"Are you okay?" Leah rushes over to me. Her face is dark with caked-in rubble and smoke residue. Falling tears forge small tracks through the grime on her cheeks.

"I'm fine," I mutter urgently, grasping her hand for support. "We have to go warn everyone."

"Warn everyone? Of what?" She grimaces and wipes the tears from her cheeks. "Enna, what are you talking about?"

"An attack. The Depot is being attacked. The Trainees were purposefully led out of the way today for a reason." Leah stares at me in disbelief for a while. Her lips tremble several times before she speaks.

"I don't think--"

"I don't care what you think!" I shout. Something breaks inside me and I sit up straighter, pulling my spine taut. "Our lives are in danger right now, and your 'boyfriend' isn't as innocent as he seems. If you want to try to save people's lives, you can follow me." Leah blanches and stares at me blankly for a long time. Just for a moment, I wonder if I crossed the line with my friend. But then I realize that, now, it doesn't matter whether I did or didn't. We're in the same amount of danger either way, facing the same obstacles. Nerves buzzing with adrenaline, I stand and briskly make my way to the staircase that leads into darkness. Josh follows and--slowly--so do Oscar, Sara, and finally Leah. I descend the steps as quickly as I can without tripping.

When I start to detect lamplight from the Entry Hall, I slow my footsteps to a quiet shuffle. Once I reach the bottom of the staircase, I realize not only that the Entry Hall is empty and the security camera deactivated, but that I can hear only a single voice ringing through the damp air. It's drifting towards us from the entry tunnel. Leah and the others gather behind my shoulders, faces pale. My heart pounds in my chest. I realize that my friends depend on me now, because of the things I know.

"They're here," I whisper. I watch as all of their eyes widen in terror. "We're going to have to sneak to the end of the tunnel and listen in on what they have to say. Maybe, somehow, we can create some sort of plan to help people escape." Even though I know deep down that no plan we devise could possibly save everyone, my friends seem to believe me. They nod, and I lead them on through the tunnel.

It's funny, I think, how we always end up where we began. Here I am sneaking through this tunnel, fighting for my life, when only months ago I trudged this same route, scared and weak and unconfident of my future. But now I am almost certain of my future. Entering the Depot now is the equivalent of embarking on a suicide mission.

Trying to distract myself from the thought of my imminent death, I work to recall the memory of my first day here. I'd met Leah in the apartment entrance, then we traveled to the Entry Hall. Next, we were mistaken for intruders and attacked by Alex, Luke, and Matthew. And then I remember him.

Matthew... My whole body begins to ache so unbearably that I want to curl up on the floor until I'm found, and everything's over. I don't fully understand the feelings I have for him yet, but I am one hundred percent sure of one thing: I've never cared about anyone or anything so strongly in my life, and--despite his obvious faults and his brokenness--I can't bear the thought of him getting hurt. And hurt because of me! I'm the one who got him a position guarding the Depot today. What if that made him an easier target for John Elliot's cronies? I bite through my cheek and force the thought from my current consciousness. Thinking negatively only brings weakness, and now I need all the strength I can muster.

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