Chapter 1

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If I am gone, you take your sister and go find The Division, my dad said, he just never told me where they might be. When the brick shattered the living room window, the first thing I checked was his smartwatch. The 12 gauge shotgun, in the far corner of the room, I grabbed on the way out, duck-crawling beneath the windowsill, the glass shattering on my back, bullets pocking the walls, bricks thudding the pinewood floor on impact. Shit, it was intense, the screaming, my name, my sister's name - how did they know our names? That was when I realised, Gem wasn't in the room. I pumped off a few shells, holding the shotgun above my head. It didn't matter where I was aiming; it kept their heads down long enough that I could reach the door. Gem was on the other side, my slingpack in her hand, a Glock 18C in the other. I kissed her dirty forehead, promised it would be alright, pulled the door closed and pointed at the basement door.

"Down," I slung my pack over my shoulder. Gem didn't even blink. She held the Glock out like I showed her, like she had done a hundred times before, finger ready on the trigger; she kicked the basement door open and reached around it, using the door like a shield.

"Clear," Gem duck-walked down the first few steps.

"Wait," I said, the street was quiet. "Back up, quick."

Gem sprang back up the stairs; she pushed me up against the wall of the corridor, the straps of her rucksack taped tight with gaffa. "What?"

I put a finger to my lips, pointed the shotgun at the frosted window at the end of the corridor, past the door to the kitchen. Gem moved behind me, back to back we covered the basement, the window, the kitchen.

"This sucks, Mark."

"Shush."

"We have to get out, now."

"Quiet, Gem."

She was right, it sucked, but there was nothing we could do about it. If the looters wanted in we could shoot them, or we could die, there was no other play they seemed capable of. Get off the street, or die trying. That was it, the new law. The high-rises, the brownstones, they really had turned all jungly, seemingly overnight. Crouched beside me, one knee on the floor, Gem reached inside my high-top boots with her free hand and squeezed my ankle.

Quiet. The draw of the window. The maybe-chink of china in the sink. I couldn't tell.

It was Gem that fired first, a whole magazine. She emptied the Glock into three looters, ripping through their ragged jackets and satchels, splintering into the basement doorframe, burning through the hall wall.

"Changing mag," Gem called out. I covered her with the pump, and then I was up, knees bent and moving forwards, pumping one round after the other into three looters crashing through the window and into the kitchen. Gem nailed her fourth as he climbed through the window at the end of the hall.

"Window," I ducked down, fumbling shells from the loops on the slingpack into the shotgun. I jacked more shells into the pump.

"Got it," Gem said. She waited, Glock trained on the window. "It's quiet, Mark," she nodded at the basement door. "What do you think?"

"Shh," I could hear something weird, music from the street. A car stereo maybe. "You hear that, Gem?"

She leaned her shoulder against the wall, lifted her head. "Maybe," she whispered. "Cyrus?"

"Cyrus?" I almost laughed. "It's Bruce Springsteen, kid."

I heard Gem giggle. "Yeah, Springsteen. Dad's favorite. That's what I said." Gem released her mag, checked it, then clicked it home. "It can't be good, right? I mean, when do they ever play music?"

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