Chapter Fifty-Two

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I wasn't really sure where I was going.

The hallways were all dark since it was late at night. I sprinted through them anyway, hoping I wouldn't accidentally run into something. My feet pounded against the metal floor as I turned down another hallway. Light peeked out from the door at the end of it. An exit.

I needed an exit.

I barely stopped myself. I just kept running and used a little bit of force to shove the door out of the way and then...

Then I was free. Out of the hallways. Out of the stuffy, crowded room. Away from Mace who I thought had been my friend, even if he was drunk, even if he didn't know what he was saying. His words stung like a slap across the face.

I looked around at my new surroundings...and didn't understand.

I had always thought of the Equator as some broken down refuge where the few survivors had come together and made a place to live. A place without much luxury, just the remnants of old technology that surprisingly still worked. And people. But not that many.

Then, waking up in the military complex had changed my perspective even more. Gone were the visions of a ragged somewhat abandoned city. Instead I imagined everything to be more like the complex. Harsh, cold, cruel. Survivors prepared for attacks at any moment.

But in no universe would I expect this.

The world had been ravaged by the snow. Everything was destroyed with the frozen water leaching around abandoned houses and vehicles. Death filled every city and town. Nothing was left. And only rumors of a golden place beyond the annihilation kept people going. A place where the snow wasn't so bad, and the people were somewhat happier.

I was staring at the Equator.

Not at the military world I'd been staying at for less than a day, but a whole different one. A world unrecognizable, due to the fact that I don't think I could have even imagined it on Earth.

It was like I'd stepped into a time machine taking me years into the future.

I stood in the open doorway leading out onto a street. The pavement was black with painted white lines and lit up by the millions of neon lights and signs surrounding it. Unbelievably tall buildings stood on either side of it. I wondered how I hadn't noticed them before when we'd gone outside the complex. The wall surrounding the Equator had been pretty tall, so it did kind of make sense.

A car zipped past me as I took a step closer. I could smell hamburgers in the distance and it made my mouth water. This was a city. A perfect city from what I could tell. The ground was clean and everyone that walked down the sidewalk I was now standing on was covered in expensive clothing.

Somebody shoved into my shoulder and I stumbled back. I turned to glare at the perpetrator, but by the time my eyes fell on the scattered crowd, the person was gone. There were probably less people around because it was night. Less cars, too.

Something else was off about this place. Yes, it was a city. But it was more than that. I noticed that some of the ads that had been flashing neon lights towards the ground weren't just ads. They were flying in the air like they were carried by drones. This was the reason I'd felt like I'd stepped into the future. The technology here was advanced beyond that of a normal city. Another drone zoomed through the air above me, as the bright lights switched to a new ad.

It felt like I was in a dream land. It felt like I didn't belong.

I had to figure out what was going on. Usually, I was more cautious in situations like this, but my curiosity took over.

"Excuse me," I said loudly in the direction of a woman wearing a fluffy white overcoat. It was hard to hear myself over the noise of the city. I hadn't even realized the sound since it had just blended into the background of what a city was. Cars honking, people talking, drones flying by....the last one being just a bit unusual.

The woman paused in her hurry to get around me. A couple people who'd been walking close behind her glared at her before moving away. "Yes?" the woman asked, not bothered by the glaring. Her eyes were an unsettling light blue color.

"Where am I?" The question came out before I could think it through. It probably would have been better if I'd asked a more inconspicuous question, but it was too late now.

The woman stared at me like I'd lost my mind. "Honey....where are your parents? I can call them for you if you'd like...," she said, and quickly began unzipping her purse. I shook my head. She wouldn't be able to help.

"Nevermind...it's fine..." The woman nodded and gave me one last worried look before continuing on her way.

I probably should have moved away from the door at that point, but I was distracted. It was easy to get lost in the beauty of the city. I forgot all about training and what had just happened to make me come out here. I'd forgotten to close the door behind me, and that's where I went wrong.

It didn't matter how many people were around me. Nor did it matter that it was bright enough for anyone to see everything that was going on. Because if you were good enough, you could always bypass these obstacles. And that second, the guy who grabbed me from behind and pulled me away into a dark alleyway was good enough.

I tried screaming into the hand, but nobody heard.

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