Chapter Forty-Five

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We bounced around through a couple rooms, until finally being shoved into one that looked like a camp dorm room and being left alone. It contained two bunk beds, blankets tightly tucked into each. There was a futon by the wall too, probably for the fifth person in our group. And thankfully, although surprisingly, we were finally given answers.

By the looks of the place, we weren't the first people to be taken from what they called "the Wild" and we certainly wouldn't be the last.

An electronic screen hung on the wall above the futon. I'd known the Equator was a refuge, but electricity such as that seemed a luxury I was unused to. As we'd been brought through the compound, we'd passed plenty of similar screens, and I'd even seen the girl who'd walked us around glancing down at a phone every now and then. When we'd entered the dorm, the screen had already been lit up with a "Tap to proceed" showing in large bold letters on it. To all our surprise, a video began to play, explaining everything.

The Equator was the largest and most reliable safe haven left in the world, according to the video. Gangs were rampant just outside its walls, but everyone inside was protected. It began when a few scientists (or "heroic men and women who saved the world" in the video's verbiage) wanted to save humanity. They gathered a team a little after the rain began and started researching ways to protect humanity. Their empire was created near the Equator. Once word got it, people flocked towards it in hordes, bringing family, friends anyone still alive after the initial chaos. When the snow hit, and the gangs began coming out, the walls were built in order to protect all its inhabitants. Since then, the leaders had sent out military teams to help track down and save as many people as possible from the Wild. The people they saved were chosen to help humanity by fighting for it.

That's what they'd meant by Unit X. Even though the Equator was a safe place to live, there were still many threats to its existence. For any of us to become actual citizens of the Equator, we had to serve in its military for...an unspecified amount of time. In their words, we'd become citizens "once we proved ourselves". I wasn't sure how I was going to prove myself...but I hoped it would be soon. Our job until then would be to fend off gangs. Essentially, we weren't safe yet.

Still, I couldn't help but believe this was a miracle in itself. Even if they'd temporarily had us locked up...even if they weren't totally trustworthy...we'd made it here. We would be okay.

Well...I hoped we would.

Mace sat on the edge of his bed, with his head in his hands. Asten and January had already left to get dinner in the dining hall that the electronic board had shown while Jadyn was in the bathroom getting ready. We had suddenly been thrown into this new life where everything was so different...so clean. They gave us outfits to wear for different occasions in our closet and the shower was much nicer than the one in the Snow Society compound.

It was like being thrust into the past. I almost wanted to cry. It was all so unreal.

Even so, I could tell Mace wasn't happy. I pulled the sneakers that I'd taken out of the closet onto my feet, considering whether to say something. I was already pretty sure I knew what was on his mind.

"We can't just leave them out there...," he muttered, so I didn't have to bring up the topic. Them. For a second, I thought he meant everyone we'd lost during what'd happened at Grayson's camp and then afterwards in the snowy forest. But then I remembered the others. The rest of the Snow Society who had been left behind when all of us had abandoned them to go find Grayson. I hadn't really thought about them much. In my head, I was imagining them completely okay on their own. My mind went back to all the awkward looks I'd been getting for being a newbie and even the attempt to kill me. At least whoever had tried hurting me was likely no longer around.

"I don't think we really have a choice." I finished tying up my right shoe before moving on to my left.

"We should. I don't understand why they are so urgent about keeping us here...," he said while standing up, his face grave.

"They are just trying to help us."

"I don't trust them." He stared at the electronic board on one side of the room. "They could be watching us right now...hearing all of this...we know barely anything about what we're getting into. And aren't you a little disturbed by how they forcefully picked us all up from the forest? Nothing makes sense."

"They probably had been watching it...they mentioned going scouting for survivors."

"Sure, but it was an awfully convenient time for them to swoop in and convince us they're the good guys." He looked me directly in the eyes, a slightly accusatory look in them. As if I should be on his side for this.

"So, what? What are we going to do? Tell them that we'd rather be left to die?" I asked, lowering my voice.

"No. But I want to talk to someone in charge. I need to try getting them to send out helicopters to get the rest of the group. Why wouldn't they if their only goal is to 'save everyone' as they claim?" he commented.

"Okay, but maybe we shouldn't piss them off. Wouldn't that be worse for all of us?"

"I think it's necessary. If they say no, then we know we can't trust them. Because they'd be going directly against their own mantra."

I let out a sigh and frowned. This was too much to be thinking about when already my mind was reeling. "If that's what you want to do, I can't stop you."

He seemed to get more frustrated. "I just really don't trust them, okay? Right now, all of us are at risk. I'm positive everyone else is going through the same thing we are – being put in units, having this whole orientation thing... But I don't care. I just feel like something's off. All the other units we passed, there were only teenagers. That seems wrong to me. I know that most of the adults are members of gangs, but...why wouldn't they prefer saving some of them for these units rather than sticking to teenagers? Teenagers who are more gullible, more easily manipulated..."

I didn't know how to respond. I understood where he was coming from.

"Just keep your eyes open, okay? This all feels too...perfect to trust." He walked out, essentially ending our conversation. We'd be meeting everyone else at dinner, including the others from other units.

At least, that's what the video had told us.

But as I walked down the hallway to the cafeteria, I couldn't even focus on food. All I could think of was what Mace had said. I wanted to believe we were safe and just enjoy a new life where I didn't have to forage for food or fear for my survival every second of the day.

Yet I couldn't help but feel that Mace was right.

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