Chapter Twenty-Four

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Life on the ship came to an eerie halt. Every living, breathing thing stopped to witness the embodiment of their imminent destruction, or at the very least, their impending capture.

The sky became infested with gray aircraft which cast shadows down on their upturned faces. A collective gasp of terror rippled across the crowds as the sun was blocked out, as if someone had abruptly turned off the lights, plunging them all into a world of darkness. A perfect omen, really, of what was to come.

A United States flag shone on the harsh metal of each aircraft. Instead of the freedom she knew it had once represented, the flag now only brought with it the promise of imprisonment.

The capital had found them. This was it, this was the end, in one form or another.

Juan cursed low under his breath and Hector tensed up beside her. As for her, all she could do was stare at the gray smudges staining the sky and try not to melt into a hysterical heap on the floor.

"Hey, come on. Snap out of it." Hector shook her but she hadn't realized he'd been standing in front of her until now. "Come on, we have to get to our jets."

"W-what's going on?" She asked stupidly.

"You heard Copenhagen, we need to prepare for a counterattack." He cast a glance over his shoulder and his eyes came back with a worry that mirrored the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. "We need to hurry."

"We're all dead. We are all so dead." Juan muttered as he pivoted around, ready to climb into the next available jet.

Rachel nearly tripped over her own feet as she tried to keep up. She saw a jerk of an elbow here, a head turning there, but for the most part everyone was still frozen with fear.

"Come on, don't just stand there! Attack!" It was Lou who administered the rallying cry that forced everyone into motion. He stood on the wing of a jet, one leg already in the cockpit, as he waved and shouted orders like a mad man.

It was at this precise moment, when the masses began to mobilize, that the capital chose to open fire.

Her breath caught in her throat as Lou was struck and his body slumped halfway into the cockpit.

Was he dead? Were they intent on killing them now? Maybe Nicolas had changed his mind. Maybe he had no use for them after all. Still, death seemed far more merciful than the alternative: being captured and marked.

Hector, Juan and Rachel ducked behind a jet. Bullets pelted the metal furiously. The deck was littered now with fellow soldiers who had been struck down as more and more bullets rained from the sky.

"Come on, we have to fight back!"

Rachel covered her ears and ran after the guys. She saw a man reach his jet, get inside and slam at the buttons on his control panels. But nothing happened. Frustration turned his face into an ugly thing-- he slapped the panel again but the aircraft did not budge.

As they passed another fallen pilot, she forced herself to look down and check the bullet in his back.

But it didn't look like any ordinary bullet. Kneeling down, she yanked the bullet from his spine and studied it. The entire time, more furious gunfire punished the deck of the ship, pitter-pattering as if it were only harmless drops of hail.

But it wasn't hail nor a bullet. It was a dart. A stun dart, like the one she'd been shot with when Hector and the masked men had rescued her from the capital.

"Hector, look!" The guys were a few yards up ahead now. She waved the dart in the air and he stopped to look.

It was a big mistake.

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