Chapter Twenty

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When we got back to the campsite, the fire was out. People were bustling about, piling sleeping bags and supplies left behind by the gang members onto the truck. The truck would be useful. The keys were thankfully still in the ignition, and it looked like we all would be able to fit if we piled in.

I quickly found Mace among the crowd of people and grabbed his elbow, shaking off the small worry that he'd ignore me. He hated me. It was difficult to think about that, though, when I knew I had to talk to him.

"What's going on?"

Mace didn't meet my eyes or even stop what he was doing as he responded. "Didn't Asten already tell you?"

"Yes...we're going to the Equator..."

"Then why are you asking me?" At last, he turned and met my eyes with a blank expression. It was slightly unnerving.

"Because I'm wondering why." He returned to organizing the supplies without responding.

"Didn't he tell you that too? It's safe." There was too much discomfort between us. The words he'd said the last time we'd conversed hung over us like a weight. Emotionally, I wanted to leave and not have to talk to him, but logically I knew that this was my best chance at reaching the Equator.

"But what's the plan?" I asked. The people around us were still packing supplies into the truck. I noticed Jadyn nearby carrying a box that looked impossibly heavy. But she didn't seem to be having trouble.

Mace stood up suddenly, grabbing the straps of the gray bag that he'd just finished packing. "We're going to stay at a building that we've used before during travel. There's no point returning to the compound and bringing everybody when we don't know if what we're doing is safe. From there, we'll plan our next move."

He grabbed the bag and walked away without another word. I watched him as he lifted it up and onto the truck bed, next to the other bags. There had to be enough supplies in there to last a year.

I felt Asten's presence before seeing him next to me. "Come on...we should go...," he muttered, walking towards the truck. His hair looked golden under the sun's light. Somehow, the clouds had parted if only for a little while. But the snow would come back soon, as it always did.

The back of the truck was packed. I ended up on the end, with my knees pressed to the metal wall as the truck began moving along the paved road.

I lost track of time as trees passed by and the sun began to make its way across the cloudy atmosphere. Then, we slowed.

Our destination was a nondescript rectangular building. The only distinguishing features were a pair of locked metal doors and a couple modern glass windows. A large sign hung from the front with the words "The Game Lot" painted in neon blue. If there were cars in the parking lot, I couldn't tell. The building was almost entirely buried under snow, except for a pathway cleared to get to the doors. The only reason we'd been able to drive here was because the gang members constantly cleared roads for their use. It didn't look like we would be bringing this truck any closer.

I hopped off the back of the truck and grabbed a gray bag to bring in. It was slightly heavier than I'd expected. In comparison, my backpack had to be a quarter of this one's weight.

After climbing up and then down the steep hill of snow, we made it to the doors. Rather than speaking through an intercom, the entrance only required a key. The actual interior of the place smelled like artificial grass and rubber. It was set up with four large artificial fields and a hallway where an arcade and snack bar waited.

"There's a meeting room behind the snack bar," Mace announced. "We're meeting there in five to discuss our plans for anyone who wants to come." He seemed a lot calmer now that we were safe. But I knew beneath that he still held resentment towards me.

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