Last night was sleepless for me. Micah and I helped Alora get set up in his bedroom for the night, and he took the couch. Left them alone for the night to spend time together. My hut isn’t far away, but knowing she’s here, within reach? I laid up thinking about her. It’s been really difficult not getting up and sneaking over to cuddle with her. To simply have my arms wrapped tightly around her and let her know that she’ll never have to deal with anyone who doesn’t love her for exactly who she is, not what she can accomplish.
I left them last night while they were bickering. He was telling her she isn’t allowed to work anywhere, while she was debating why it’s a good idea for her to help and contribute to the society since she’ll be living here. He said something about an adventure, like old times, before I snuck out for the night. Right now, Micah and Alora are still in Landow building Alora her own room while I’m stuck pretending to work in the scroll room. Well, I’m supposed to be working since one of the Boilers is on the fritz, but I can’t focus. They need time to become reacquainted with each other again, but knowing that doesn’t ease my frustration for wanting all her attention to myself. I’ve always been rather selfish.
Getting up from my seat at the desk, I walk to the shelving at my left. I might as well try to work while I’m here. I grab a random scroll and remove it from the shelf. An old, dusty roll of parchment comes along with it but I’m unable to catch it, so it bounces down to the clay floor in a cloud of dust. This isn’t the first time one of these blueprints has fallen from the shelf. Most of them are packed three or four in a cubby hole. However, this one is faded from age. It’s crinkled from being folded over and over again in different patterns before rolled and placed on the shelf where I accidentally happened on it. The paper itself looks thin, as if worn away by the years being unused.
Curious, I pick it up, replacing the scroll I originally grabbed. I lay the plans out onto the desk and it takes up the entire space. It takes me several minutes of looking over the paper before I realize why the layout seems so familiar. On the upper left corner shows the Boilers and how they will provide energy to a structure above it. No, a city. Holy bulge, these are the original blueprints for the entire city of Geha. My predicament forgotten, I take a fresh look over the plans, finding secret passage ways in and out of the city. I’ve never seen anything like this before. They must have been covered up and hidden for centuries.
I’m about to start committing the plans to memory when I hear some kind of ruckus out in the Boiler room. With a frustrated growl, I fold up the old scroll and place it as neatly as possible in my back pocket before seeing what the problem is. Burners don’t fight with each other, so the only possibility is a couple Loyals are creating complications. Today was supposed to be easy and quick so I could go back and help Micah and Alora with the hut. This is not something I want to deal with.
The door swings open easily, and I walk out of the room to find the Burners crowded up around the gate muttering to each other about something. When I make it to the edge of the group, I see several Loyals with guns pointed at us. I push my way to the front lines, making sure the older men are safe behind me. My senses are on high alert with the confusing scene unfold before me. It isn’t often Loyals come down here trying to get our attention with guns. One of them is yelling to us quiet down and pay attention to him. The Unfavorable settle down rather quickly with the threat of mortal injury or even death.
“Unfavorable,” the lead Loyal spits. The word is like venom on his lips, as if saying it will burn away his tongue. “We know that a Favorable girl was brainwashed and brought down here, kidnapped from her family. We, the citizens of Geha and Governer Cloudore, order the return of one, Alora Travene, by noon tomorrow. She will be brought to the gate or we will unleash a bioweapon that will kill everyone with Unfavorable DNA.”
“So that you know we are serious,” the Loyal continues, “we have brought proof to ensure your belief.”
The man advances on the crowd, picking someone from it and dragging the man into the middle of the Loyal group. He picks the Unfavorable up around the neck so that everyone can see the face about to be sacrificed. It’s Hawk. Before I have time to cry out or react to the fact my friend is about to die, there’s a needle shoved into his neck. The Loyal lets him go, and Hawk drops to the ground. His body spasms and he screams in agony from the unseen pain wreaking havoc on his muscles. After an extremely long 30 seconds, I’m grateful when his body stops convulsing knowing he doesn’t have to endure the pain any longer.
The men around me begin to mumble at the sight of their fallen brother. I try to lunge at the Loyals for killing my friend, but the men behind me hold me back while the Loyals train their guns on me. The guns don’t bother me. As long as I can rip the head off at least one of them to avenge Hawk before they got me, it would be worth it. I’m still fighting against the ones holding me back when the lead Loyal begins speaking again.
“This same concoction has been made in aerosol form,” he explains. “It will be brought down upon you, killing every Unfavorable, if Alora Travene has not been brought to the gate to Geha by noon tomorrow.”
The entire group of Loyals back out of the gateway and up the stairs to Geha with their guns pointed as us the whole time. Arms don’t release me until the weapons are completely out of sight. As soon as they’re off me, I rush the gate screaming profanity and punching the bars as hard as I can. All I’m left with is bloody knuckles.
Most of the Burners run out of the Boiler room, scared and on the hunt for Alora. I’m grateful that no one has met her yet, so no one knows what she looks like. Others are still in shock and go back to working. I slam my knuckles against the bars of the gate one last time before running past those still working and the elderly attempting to leave, pushing anyone in my way to the side. With Hawk dead, Micah, Alora, and Aukai are all I have left. I’m not ready to let anything happen to any one of them.
I have muscle, but I’ve never been very athletic. Still, I drive myself forward so that I advance on anyone who left the Boilers before me. Wind rushes past me as I continue through the main path and toward Micah’s hut. Not even the trade posts are manned. It’s too early to make any money off the villagers. Once his hut comes into view, I slow down so I can catch my breath before going inside. They don’t know what’s going on yet, but there’s no reason to cause chaos just yet. I don’t want to bother Alora when she’s trying to settle in here.
More anxious than I’ve ever been, I walk up to the door and open it as nonchalantly as possible to make it look normal. I stand in the doorway, left hand still on the door, I see that the table has been moved back into its original position and the siblings are sitting there eating an early dinner. They look happy and as if they’ve finally stopped arguing. They are getting along and here I have to give them the worst news they could possibly hear. I’ll tell Micah first so we can come up with some sort of plan so Alora doesn’t go running back to Geha.
“Hey, Ryder,” Micah greets me, cheerfully. He gets up and starts putting some stew into a bowl for me. “Finish up early at the Boilers?”
“Micah, can I speak to you outside please?” I ask, doing my best to keep my voice steady so it doesn’t give away my panic.
“Ryder?” Alora inquires. “What’s wrong?”
“Micah. Now, please,” I insist, ignoring Alora. She shoots a death glare at me, but it’s for her own good. She can be mad at me all she wants.
Micah sighs, but follows me outside. Alora grunts before the door shuts behind us though, stopping her brother in his tracks.
“Are you kidding me?” she demands. “I’m not a child guys. If you’ve got something to say, then you should be able to say it in front of me.”
“Not now, Al,” Micah coos gently. She calms down slightly, but crosses her arms in protest. He passes by me and I shut the door behind us. Stepping away from the hut, Micah stands close to me so we can whisper without Alora overhearing.
“What’s going on, Ryder?” Micah questions, worried.
“It’s bad, Micah,” I begin, allowing my panic to run rampant. “Loyals came into the Boilers today demanding Alora be brought there. They killed Hawk with some kind of bioweapon that can supposedly kill anyone with Unfavorable genes and will use it if she isn’t brought to them by noon tomorrow. More than half the Burners ran off after the demonstration to start looking for her. If it weren’t for the fact no one knows what she looks like, I would have forced her out of the village by now without a word.”
“You’re joking,” he breathes.
“I wish I were,” I say honestly. I can’t even look at him as I speak.
“Why do they want her so badly? No, it doesn’t matter. They can’t take her away, I just got her back…”
“I know, Micah.”
“You know? You say that, but you’re probably going to say we need to hand her over anyway to save everyone.”
“You haven’t been paying attention then,” I hint. For this, I look straight into his eyes so he knows I’m not lying or exaggerating the slightest bit. “Micah, she isn’t like any other girl I’ve ever courted. I wouldn’t give her up even if my own life were on the line.”
“I’m sorry about Hawk,” he sighs, some of his anger deflated. “He was a decent guy.”
“Thank you, he was. But we have more pressing matters to take care of right now. We can’t let anyone take her away.”
“Then what are we going to do?”
“Well, we need to figure out why they want her so bad,” Micah strategizes. “We need to see if she knows why they might be after her.”