Chapter Three

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It was a quiet ride back to the compound.

Ruth, Rachel and Bane made their way back to the pick-up to use the emergency radio stashed under the driver's seat.

While Bane sat on a rock, crying himself into oblivion, Ruth radioed the compound for help and Kenneth and Sung arrived shortly after sundown.

The solar battery in the pick-up was useless now that it had been riddled through with holes from the poacher's bullets. Thankfully, the guys had been able to siphon gasoline out of the old cars that lined the highway leading to the compound and got a car running.

They'd brought along a hunk of blue metal, a van with paint chipped off from years of sun exposure.

Robotically, they all filed into the back, the shock of the night's events still fresh in their minds.

Sitting in the van, getting a good whiff of the cursed liquid that burned through the engine, Rachel couldn't help but hate this so-called gasoline.

She'd heard all the stories-- about a dying planet with very little resources and the war for survival. Because of the resources so many had taken for granted, entire nations had been thrust into a war that nearly destroyed humanity.

Rachel hated gasoline, hated the Council of Nations, hated everything the capital stood for. Without the Council of Nations initiating the Mark, Rachel and her people would have never been hunted. They wouldn't be sitting there right now mourning the loss of Elena and her baby.

If it wasn't for the CN, Carl and Jed would still be alive.

A sting at her arm shocked her out of her thoughts. Sung, a tanned man with dark, pinched eyes sat across from Rachel in the back of the old van. His face was scrunched up in concentration as he placed a few stitches into Rachel's arm.

She knew they were lucky to have him. He'd been a doctor before the transition--the period of time when the mark began to be implemented-- and he loved to tell fairy tales of a time before the Great War. A time where kindness had abounded, where the currency was paper money and where freedom was more than just a dream.

Sung taught that as the third world war raged on, the CN rose to power, creating an alliance between all the countries in North America. They banded together to fight a treacherous war over resources that would determine the survival of their people.

And then, in the blink of an eye, things had taken a turn for the worse. Disease had ravaged the world and the CN began to implement the Mark in order to ration the last of the countries dwindling supplies.

Little did the people know that this new change would strip away their humanity, making them unfeeling machines that only followed directions.

And Sung--being so close to the front-line as he was--had seen what the mark could do and he had refused it. But refusing the mark was a crime punishable by death and so he'd headed for the mountains, far from the city where no one could take his freedom.

Now here he was- thin, aging and scared like the rest of them. But he was alive, and he was free and that was what counted in Rachel's book.

............................................................................................................................

Rachel must have fallen asleep because the sound of the doors being drawn open startled her awake.

"Bane! Dear God, Bane! Are you okay? Is Elena okay? The baby?" A woman was waiting at the entrance of the van, a green shawl draped over her shoulders to shield her from the cold.

Rachel quickly recognized her as Elena's mother.

The older woman peered into the van, searching, and her eyes filled with confusion when she didn't find her daughter.

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