Chapter 34

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Heavy doors are wrenched open with all the violence of a thunderstorm.

I charge into the labs, a crimson cloud blinding me to everything but a narrow pinpoint. My soldiers and the intruders they've captured swim before me, coming into focus as I stand and scowl with my hands balled into fists.

"How many did we lose?" I bark the question at my officers but keep my eyes on the traitors.

"Twenty Brutes have been compromised."

My hackles raise further while my nails dig into my palms. Somehow, these so-called humanitarians broke into my laboratories and ripped twenty Brutes free of their life support. I take my time in studying the six people forced to their knees before me, recognizing most of them as members of the ongoing protest outside the Tower. One bushy-haired boy near the end of the line is noticeably out-of-place, his white jacket identical to those of the Technicians shuffling nervously alongside my soldiers.

Dr. Henley, the smart-mouthed Tech who challenged me over the Vane.

When I speak, it's through clenched teeth. "Shall I take a guess as to what happened, or would someone care to explain it to me?"

Through stammered explanations and a fiery cloud I learn that the guards happened upon a disturbance in the labs during the early morning hours. They found the door unlocked and intruders systematically pulling loose the tubes feeding the black poison into the Brutes. Without the tubes or the gears that allow them to be detached for a period of time, the Brutes expired and are now worth absolutely nothing to me.

Flames creep over my skin as I turn my focus to Dr. Henley.

"I take it that you were the one who unlocked the door?" My voice is dangerously low.

What little colour remained in his face has vanished. Henley's eyes are glued to the floor, only a slight tremble across his shoulders betraying his nerves.

"Well?" I ask again, louder. "Have you got anything to say for yourself?"

"It had to be done." Henley's words are muffled. He raises his chin, speaking more clearly. "The Brutes were never going to have a chance at freedom under you. We did the only humane thing."

"Humane?" I draw my brows together, trying to make sense of his reasoning. "You just killed twenty people."

"They were dead already."

A chill hangs in the air. I quake and step closer while I consider adding Henley to the pile of Brutes being carted from the labs.

"You shouldn't have concerned yourself with what's down here." I tell him. "Why couldn't you have just left well enough alone?"

"Because what you're doing is wrong." Henley spits. "If it was possible to turn the Brutes back into people then you would have figured it out by now."

I blink, looking around at the officers and Techs standing behind the protestors. Each of them is carefully avoiding my eye.

I feel myself bristle as the old defiance roars forth. "Difficult doesn't mean impossible. People said that overthrowing a kingdom was impossible, and that rain would never fall again. Everything is impossible until someone decides to keep trying."

"You can't speak for all of us." Henley bites back. "Just because the Runner thinks that this...this disgusting business is the right thing to do, that doesn't make it so."

"Then leave!" I shout. "I'm not forcing anyone to be here. Go somewhere else if my city isn't good enough for you, don't stay just to try and destroy what I've rightfully earned."

The Rain (Part III of the Runner Series)Where stories live. Discover now