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Unique Sample Chapter

Jayme and Miller are together, and I have a feeling the two of them will be just fine. Willow and Rosie show up as I leave the chamber, but I reassure them that things are under control and the two of them just need some space.

When I reach the open door of my quarters, dripping and eager to change into dry clothes, a collection of familiar faces greets me. All my friends, except Miller, sit around the table or on my bed waiting for me. I hesitate, and Enid jumps to her feet and rushes toward me.

“What happened?” she asks.

“Everything.” I don’t have the energy to provide details at the moment.

“Have you heard?” she asks.

Everyone else is staring at me expectantly.

“What?” I ask, twisting water out of my shirt.

“About the DMA!” Noah says.

My face falls. Can’t I just change? “Oh. Yeah. Just now.”

The questions come in rapid succession.

“What does it mean?” Leo asks. He’s perched on the edge of the bed, gripping it tight.

“D-do they really h-have a c-cure?” Boyd asks from the table.

“I won’t take it,” Rosie says.

“What if they find us?” Sho asks.

“Are we fighting back?” Noah asks.

“What’s our plan, then? What are we going to do?” Enid shifts her feet anxiously.

“I’m working on it.” Not completely a lie. But also not completely the truth. My head is reeling from the questions. “Just…” I hold up a hand and march across the room to my notebooks.

Noah vacates one of the chairs for me to sit. I sink into it as I flip open the notebook to a fresh page. My pen flies across the page as I write down everything I learned from the broadcast before any of it can drift away. I don’t want to screw up any of the details. Noah peers over my shoulder and I slouch to obstruct his view as I finish. Then I sit back, frowning. Noah tries to see it again and I snap the notebook closed.

“You’re awful quiet,” Sho says from the edge of the bed beside Leo. “What’s going through that head of yours?”

I lick my lips, unsure where to start.

“We will need to go up to Pax soon,” I say. “I won’t force anyone to come along, but the Directorate is forcing the Protectorate to act, and if we don’t help then we may as well have escaped Paragon for nothing.”

“How do you figure?” Leo asks, frowning.

I glance at the open door.

“The Directorate is beefing up the DMA’s numbers, most likely to attack the Protectorate. Once they find this place, we will be right back where we started. Which means we need to stop the Directorate before they can gather too many people to their side.”

Everyone nods, waiting for me to say more, but I don’t really know what else to say.

Noah punches a fist into his other hand like he’s ready to pound some heads. “Then we need to strike them now.”

Bri—the blonde girl always clinging to Noah—sits up straighter as if she agrees.

“With what?” I shake my head. “We don’t have any weapons to use against the DMA. The Protectorate doesn’t have the information they need to expose the truth. And even the collective Powers of the people in The Shield won’t be enough to fight back against the full force of the DMA.”

“Well, we can’t do nothing!” Enid says, crossing her arms. “So, what’s your plan?”

I open my mouth, fumble for a moment, then sigh. “I don’t have one this time.”

“You’re saying we just sit and take this?” Sho says, surging to his feet. “No!

Again, I work my jaw for the right words.

“Ugene!” Enid snaps, pulling my attention back to the room. “What can we do? We can’t just wait around.”

I bite my lip. There has to be a way to be sure that no one here is a spy. “Okay…I have an idea, but it’s completely crazy, and we will probably die.”

“Better than waiting for Paragon to claim us again,” Rosie says. “What’s the idea?”

“We have to get the people of Elpis to revolt against the Directorate.”

A stunned silence falls like a smothering blanket over the room. No one says a word. Noah, who was so eager to smash some skulls just a few moments ago, has taken a step back, arms hanging limp at his sides.

“But you…you said…” Enid fumbles to find the right words.

“That we can’t hold against DMA forces. But if the Directorate falls, their plan falls with them, and we can’t succeed unless everyone follows our lead.”

Boyd trembles in his chair and starts rubbing his hands together to cover it up, but it doesn’t fail my notice. He shakes his head just a little, and the fear in him makes his stutter worse. “I-I-I c-can-can’t…”

“It’s okay. I won’t force anyone else to do this. But I am leaving. Tonight. Willow and Doc agreed we need to go to Pax.”

Enid steps forward and takes my hand. “I told you. We finish this together or not at all. I’m with you no matter what.”

“I would rather go down fighting than hiding,” Noah says. “I’m in.”

Sho clenches his jaw and nods in agreement as well, along with Lily.

One by one, they all agree to join me, with the exception of Boyd. The ease with which they accept one of my hairbrained, off-the-cuff ideas—particularly a clear suicide mission like this—makes my stomach twist in knots. Noah was right. They follow me with blind faith… Right to their deaths.

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