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The Cornered Bear: Sammy Silvertooth's Guide to Revolution, #3

The Cornered Bear: Sammy Silvertooth's Guide to Revolution, #3

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The Cornered Bear: Sammy Silvertooth's Guide to Revolution, #3

Length:
518 pages
8 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 17, 2021
ISBN:
9781393642053
Format:
Book

Description

Is the revolution desperate enough to play with fire?

 

The Revolutionary Council convenes to discuss the increasingly dire conditions within the Dome and to determine Sapphire's fate. Two paths are solidified for the defective fox witch: death, or becoming the revolution's secret weapon. As matters escalate, Jorgen finds himself torn between his moral compass and Simon's cold, hard logic, leading him to make a decision that will put not only himself, but the entire revolution at risk.

 

Meanwhile, Amia's eyes are opened to the hard reality of the revolution as she joins Captain Song Hong's team in the fight to protect the clans from tax day. When a suspicious ally appears with reports of a missing clan, Amia, Ollie, and Molly find themselves pitted against a new government-made monster straight out of a nightmare. 

 

Will Sapphire survive the revolution? Can Simon and Jorgen overcome this newest obstacle with their conscience intact? Will Amia be killed in the night by the mysterious water shadows? 

 

Find out in the action-packed third book in the Sammy Silvertooth's Guide to Revolution series.

Publisher:
Released:
Mar 17, 2021
ISBN:
9781393642053
Format:
Book

About the author

Born in Texas, Aged in Korea Texas born and bred, Miranda New and her husband Steve moved to Korea in 2009 for a short break from life. Two sons, two dogs, and a lot of lizards later, they’ve admitted that they may never leave.  Miranda fell in love with Korea almost as soon as she got off the plane. She spent much of her life teaching other expats about the language and culture of the country. After writing her master’s thesis on the topic of second language self-identity formation, she became extremely interested in people’s self-identity and how it is influenced by their surroundings. Having struggled herself to form a second-language identity, Miranda uses her novels as an opportunity to explore the multitude of identities people create for themselves.  Miranda and her husband Steve have two adult sons and are currently in process to adopt a third. The process of creating a family out of four people who do not share blood-ties has also deeply impacted Miranda’s writing. Much of her work delves into questions related to what it means to be a family and how people end up in the relationships that they are in.  Miranda is dedicated to improving the plight of immigrants both in Korea, the States, and all over the world. She is also specifically interested in the rights and struggles of children, both those who are caught in various forms of slavery and trafficking, and those who live in war torn areas. Having spent more than ten years living next to North Korea, the struggles of its people stay close to her heart. She hopes that you will find joy and hope when you read her stories and that they will open your eyes to groups of people you might not have previously thought about.


Book Preview

The Cornered Bear - Miranda New

1

May 6 th, 2043 05:03

The soft green morning light trickled in through the open window of Ollie’s dorm room. Just outside his window, a bird was screeching. He sat on his bed, listening to his roommate snore. Gary was an obnoxious sleeper, which had bothered Ollie the first few months, but not anymore. There’d been more than enough time to get used to it, after all. Six months since they captured me. Ollie bit his lip. Stop it. No more whining, and no more tears. The day he let himself get captured had been the last day he’d had any control over his life. He was just a facility kid now. Ollie shook his head and sighed. Thinking about it only made him feel worse.

Anyway, it was already 5:00. If he wanted to get his daily exercise in, he needed to hurry. Careful not to hit his hands on the top bunk, he stretched. He allowed himself to be swallowed up in the pleasant feeling of his muscles loosening and straining. When the stretch transitioned from pleasant to tedious, he rolled out of bed and hurried to his closet to grab his gym bag. Despite the bleakness of his situation, he actually loved his room. It was clean, and most of the furniture was fairly new. I even have a closet. Something about a tiny room for clothes felt like a luxury. Every time he opened the door and walked in to find his clothes hanging neatly from their hangers, he smiled. Neat and orderly.

Gym bag in hand, he pushed open the door and crept into the hall. As long as he stayed in the building, there was no curfew in the facility, but that didn’t mean he wanted to go around drawing attention to himself. He kept his eyes trained on the floor and willed himself to be invisible. Please don’t let any of the older boys be up. They were the reason he had to go to the gym this early in the morning. He’d tried exercising with them a couple of times before, but it hadn’t gone well. They’d taught him a very important lesson: some of the monsters in the Dome looked like people. Am I going to end up like that? He shivered.

He stared at the carpet where the flickering overhead lights cast dancing shadows. That bastard Foxe. Every time he saw the lights it made him angry. How many times had his mother complained about the fumes from their little kerosene lantern? All of her pain had been meaningless because the lack of electricity had been just another lie. When he’d been with the revolution, Amia had endlessly raged about how Foxe and the government were using everyone for their own gain. At the time, he hadn’t understood what she was upset about, but at fourteen, it was beginning to make sense. Knowing that everything he thought was true might be lies left him feeling powerless. As a kid, he’d always felt helpless, but it had seemed natural then. Now it was maddening.

At the elevator, he hesitated. He hated this thing, but the gym was in the basement and the stairwells were dangerous. Hidden corners in general were dangerous. He jammed his finger into the down button. There was a ding, and the elevator doors slid open. With hands balled into fists, he stepped in. The dropping motion still made his stomach lurch. You’ve been riding this thing for six months. Get over it. His jaw clenched so hard his teeth hurt, but then the elevator stopped, and the door opened. He ignored the strong desire to run out. In the back of his head, there was always a fear that the doors would close too fast, either shutting him in forever, or slicing him in half. He kept telling himself it was stupid, but he just couldn’t shake it. Jaw still clenched, he stepped out into the lobby of the gym. As always, it was empty except for the staff member in charge of running it. The man barely glanced up as Ollie grabbed a set of earphones and an MP3 player out of a basket on the counter.

In the locker room, Ollie dropped his change of clothes on the bench, put the earphones in, and meandered out to the main gym. Every morning he worked through the same routine. First up was the treadmill. He scrolled through his playlist. What he needed now was something loud. He’d discovered punk rock last month and found it really cleared his head. If he kept the volume loud enough, the music eclipsed everything, giving him momentary reprieve from the memories.

With a touch, sound blared in his ears. When the treadmill started rolling, he took off. The treadmill was by far his favorite piece of exercise equipment. He loved the feeling of his feet fighting for speed against the tread. Today’s a fast day. The music raged and drove his feet forward.

Sweat began to dot his back and forehead. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a memory fought to overpower the music, but he quashed it. Memories were useless here, unless he was looking to get depressed. After all, his memories couldn’t save him from whatever the government decided to do to him, and they wouldn’t bring back any of his friends. Better to just forget. He kicked the treadmill up a few levels and let himself get lost in the music. After thirty grueling minutes, he hopped off and made his way to the weights.

As he stood in front of the wall of mirrors on the back side of the gym, he tried to keep his eyes away from the angry boy reflected back at him. Back home in Armaria, his family hadn’t had a mirror, and he still didn’t like the feeling of looking in one. Something about the reflection seemed evil. Maybe it was just the way he looked now. His light blue eyes had slowly but surely narrowed down until all that remained were two angry slits. His face, which had lost all of its baby fat last year, was too angular for his taste, cutting straight down into an almost pointed chin. Even his hair looked wrong now. It was short in the back and sides, but the top and front were a little too long, so his bangs hung limply over his left eye. It looked stupid, but they kept telling him the visitors would like it that way. Obviously he didn’t have any say in the matter.

Maybe that was it. It wasn’t that he looked evil; it was just that he looked exactly how the government wanted him to. They’d taken his home, his family, his freedom, and now they’d even claimed his body as their own. His eyes darted over to the black, red, and silver stud earrings they’d forced into his ears a month ago. We don’t want you looking like some backwater clan kid, the stylist had said as he pierced Ollie’s ears. He’d never forget the way the stylist’s nose had wrinkled when he’d said ‘clan kid.’ But everyone here was a clan kid. If they didn’t want clan kids, why the hell had they gone in and kidnapped them all?

He glanced at the clock. It was already 6:00. Time to get moving. After a quick shower, he hurried back to his dorm room. Gary was awake and getting ready, tying the drawstrings of his government issued sweatpants. They exchanged a nod. In all the time they’d been roommates, they’d never really talked about anything. What was there to say, honestly? How’d your family die? Did you see it happen? You ever think about killing yourself?

Gary opened the door, and Ollie followed him out into the hallway. They walked silently to the cafeteria. Breakfast was at 6:30. No exceptions. Anyone who tried to skip found themselves on the wrong end of a Taser gun. The government might be letting the clans starve, but here in the facility, kids ate, whether they wanted to or not.

Ollie filed through the line with the others, eyeing the steaming trays of food. Another rage-inducing reality. The food here was the best he’d ever eaten. As much as he wanted to hate it, he always found himself looking forward to meal times. He grabbed a shiny apple from a pile at the end of the line. Where do they get this stuff? He thought about the shriveled, mealy apples they’d had in Armaria. They’d been less than half the size of the ones here and tasted like wood pulp.

Keeping his eyes on his tray, he meandered out into the big open cafeteria. There were at least sixty kids already sitting at the long rows of tables. Some of them sat in little groups, laughing and chatting about sky only knew what. Most of the talkers were older kids who’d apparently found a way to enjoy the life they lived here. As for Ollie, he didn’t want to make friends. It just didn’t seem worth it anymore.

There was an empty spot at the end of a table in the back. He slid into the furthest seat, ensuring that at least one side of him would be free of neighbors. These days, most of the kids didn’t sit next to him anyhow. They knew he wouldn’t talk. It was funny because he finally understood Clipper. He’d always assumed it was some pre-existing mental weakness that had made Clipper go silent, but now he knew better. One day he just woke up and realized that nothing he said made any difference. After he figured that out, how the hell was he supposed to talk?

He scarfed down his food, hardly even pausing to breathe. It was the same every day. In the back of his mind, he knew that no one was going to take the food from him, but he’d made assumptions in the past and look at where they’d gotten him. If there was food, the best choice was to eat it and eat it fast.

After everything else was licked clean, he gnawed on his apple core. A roar of laughter erupted from a group of older kids sitting a few tables down from him. Ollie peeked at them through his bangs and scowled. They’d lived through the same hell he had, or some version of it. Yet here they were, smiling and laughing as though everything was fine. Stop being so happy! Ollie bit his lip and stood. He needed some air. The wall clock said it was only 6:38. Still plenty of time to take a walk.

He pushed through the front door into the pale-green light of the morning. His feet set a course to the walking path that ran around the facility. Just being out in the fresh air felt a little better, but in reality, he was just as trapped out here as he was inside. The path was a circle. Twenty minutes from now it’d bring him right back here to the front door. He wasn’t going to think about that right now, though.

The green Dome light danced through the trees. Green. He was so tired of all of this green. It was funny because as a kid, he’d loved it. He’d made his mom tell him stories about how Governor Foxe had created the Dome every night before he’d gone to bed. It’d made him feel so safe, knowing that someone like that existed. The first Governor. A man above reproach. Green, his mom had said, is the color of hope. The color of the Dome. Hope? Ha. Some hope.

There was hope in the Dome, but it didn’t belong to the clans’ people. And it sure as hell didn’t belong to him. Maybe that was why it was so hard to look at the green sky without feeling angry. It reminded him of the ruse that had been played against him. Against all of them. Not only had Governor Foxe managed to get exactly what he’d wanted, he’d managed to convince them all that he was doing them a favor. The reality that his mom and dad had died still loving that horrible man made Ollie sick to his stomach.

It was almost impossible not to think about it these days though. He’d seen so much of the government’s true face over the last six months. More so than he’d ever seen in the revolution. In the revolution, all he’d seen was the efforts aimed at the Domers. Fox witches, laboratories filled with monsters, occasionally a high-tech weapon. The government had seemed like a bunch of despotic killers. Had it turned out that they were, it might have been a lot easier to sleep at night.

What he’d found out since his capture was that they were really just opportunists. All this pain just so they can get a little richer. Ollie spat in the grass. He hadn’t quite worked out all the pieces yet, but the picture was coming clearer by the day. They were all just cogs in giant machine that filled Foxe’s pockets with cash. Fox witches trained in clans and brought young children to facilities. The kids were put to work doing any number of tasks. But why have fox witches at all? That was the part he couldn’t quite figure out. That and the weapons factories.

After they’d been captured, he and Molly had been in a facility that made weapons. Well, he’d only made circuit boards, but those circuit boards had been placed inside an array of guns and cannons. He hadn’t been stupid enough to ask why the government needed thousands of guns and cannons, and he hadn’t been there long enough to do much investigation into it.

Two months after their capture, a man had shown up looking for children to work in what he called the ‘showroom facility.’ Ollie hadn’t wanted to go, but they’d picked Molly, so he’d begged to go with her. The man had grabbed his face and turned his head side-to-side. He’ll do, he said, and then Ollie and Molly were loaded up with five other kids into a big government van. After a gut-twisting trip through the plains, they’d arrived here.

He made a full circuit on the path and began a second. It’s nice just to walk. Ollie willed his brain to focus on the grass and trees. Anything but memories of Molly would do, honestly. Maybe the chef will let us eat the leftovers after the clients leave tonight. Hosting duty had a few perks like that. When there were leftovers, the chef usually sneaked them to the kids.

Who did they say was coming? He could never keep it straight. Every day dozens of outsiders strutted into this little building to take a gander at the best the Dome had to offer. The first outsider he’d seen had been fascinating, but now they all looked the same: greedy men and women looking over a group of miserable kids while discussing profits. Some of them would ask him questions as he poured their drinks and cleared their plates. They staff had taught him the right answers to give so responding was never hard. What was difficult was stomaching the way they looked at him. That and pretending not to hear what they said while he was standing at their table.

They were right, these kids really are submissive. Foxe sure does know his business. He’d heard a dozen different variations of that line over the last few months.

He was shaken from his melancholy by an odd feeling in the back of his throat. It was followed immediately by a tingling sensation that traveled across his exposed arms and legs. He froze. The tingling moved up to his scalp. He ran a hand over his head to find that his hair was standing on end. Governor’s pants! Loud crackling flooded his ears. He glanced around wildly. Sand and leaves were floating up in the air, swirling in a cloud all around him. Breath catching in his throat, he started running to the front door. Oh, sky! Sky!

The crackling static intensified painfully until it exploded into loud, booming thunder. The green light around him flickered brightly, then it was gone. Instantly, a burning hot white light engulfed him. He tried to look up at the sky, but it was impossible. The blinding light forced his eyes closed almost immediately. His skin began to tingle and burn.

His first impulse was to run to shelter, but that would mean going back into the facility. No. He wouldn’t go back there, because they’d done it. One of them had managed to break down the Dome. That meant at least one of his friends was still alive. Maybe all of them. His heart pounded frantically in his chest. If there was anyone left alive, then he still had hope. Time to get out of here.

He forced his eyes to open into slits. Behind him, sirens were going off in the facility. Screams and shouts echoed out of the open windows. Staff members were barking orders. The whole place was in chaos. That’ll make it easy. He turned his attention to the fence. It wasn’t that high here, and it was usually only electrified at night. There was a guard in the tower who shot people trying to escape, but it seemed likely that he had other things to worry about at this moment.

Dropping into a crouch, Ollie crept toward the fence. He gave it a tentative touch. No electricity. With a glance over his shoulder, he clambered over it. The barbs at the top cut his hands and thighs, but adrenaline had kicked in, and he barely felt them.

On the other side of the fence, Ollie dropped back into his crouch and began making his way to the forest surrounding the compound. He was swallowed up in a new world of chaotic colors and confusing shadows. He’d seen colors in his room at night, but this was different. These colors were so real and bright. His head was swimming, nearly drunk on them. When he made it to the tree line, he abandoned his crouch and broke into a sprint.

Running was one of the few things Ollie excelled at, but the sunlight significantly hindered his progress. He misjudged distances and ran straight into several trees. Roots caught his feet and threw him to the ground. Each time, he was back up in a second, but it was too slow. Once the staff got control of the other kids, they’d be out looking for him. The thought of capture drove him forward.

As he ran, he worked out the logistics of his current situation. The compound was situated on the side of a mountain near the northwest edge of the Dome. The mountain hadn’t seemed that tall when they’d ridden up here, and the facility wasn’t on the peak. It seemed possible to get to the base by tomorrow, assuming he didn’t run into any problems.

He followed the slope of the mountain downward for hours. His pace slowed a bit as time passed, partially from exhaustion and partially from the sun exposure. In only a few hours, his skin had burned to the point that it was a vivid red. His throat was dry and scratchy. He would have given anything for a sip of water, but there was nothing, not even a puddle.

In the late afternoon, he came to the base of the mountain. He’d yet to find water, and his body trembled so violently that he was beginning to wonder if he’d drop dead right there. Before he could spend much time thinking about his potential demise, he realized that night would be coming in a few hours. What would it be like without the Dome? Would it be brighter? What if monsters from outside came in? Jorgen had never said anything about monsters outside, but how could he be sure? And what if- Shut up, Ollie. You just need to find shelter.

The sun began setting, and the whole sky lit up like fire. Ollie struggled to keep his eyes off the vibrant orange and pink glow above him. It was even more beautiful than he’d imagined it’d be, but there was no time for admiring the sunset. There’s got to be somewhere safe to sleep. The pinks and oranges were blending with a soft purple. At least he was pretty sure it was purple. He’d read about twilight in a book back in Armaria. This seemed to be it. He probably had less than an hour before it was dark. You’re going to end up sleeping on the ground with monsters. Get your head together.

He spied a tree towering over the others a few yards from where he was standing. Not my first choice, but better than the ground. He sized it up. There were climbable branches within his reach. Just have to pull myself up. As soon as he grabbed the trunk with his skinned and burned hands, he reconsidered the plan. It’s either this tree or the ground.

The idea of sleeping on the ground forced him into action. He grabbed the trunk and shimmied up. His whole body was shaking, both from pain and lack of energy, but he was soon rewarded for his effort. About ten feet up, he found three thick branches growing close enough together that he could lay comfortably on them. If he rolled the wrong way in his sleep, he’d go straight to the ground, but it didn’t seem likely that he’d sleep that much anyway.

Staring up through the leaves, he watched little white-hot dots of light begin to fill the sky. His eyes widened, and he stared in wonder. Stars. Not the sad little green dots that had spotted the top of the Dome like specks of mold; these were bright, vibrant pulsing lights. Sapphire had always talked about stars. She’d often asked him what he thought they’d be like in soft whispers as they walked across the fields. Had she been the one to knock down the Dome? Had it killed her? Even if she was alive, would he ever be able to find her?

No. How could he possibly find her? Whether she lived or died, she was gone. The excited hope from the morning died. Sure, maybe someone had survived, but it’d be impossible to find them. He didn’t know where they were. And now that the Dome was down, they could be anywhere. What if they go outside the Dome? He’d never be able to find them.

What he’d spent all this time hoping for had finally happened: the Dome had come down, and they were free. But it didn’t change the fact that he was left with nothing but some white lights in the sky. He was alone. Suddenly, he understood the truth that he’d fought so hard to ignore. Winning didn’t always mean you got what you wanted. Bright sky, there was never any point to any of this. After almost six months of stifling his tears, Ollie let them come.

In the morning, Ollie awoke suddenly to soft pinpricks on his skin. Sunlight was already pouring in through the leaves. Ollie looked around in shock. He hadn’t died after all. Relief rushed over him. He sat up, and his eyes instantly went to his legs. They were a bloody mess. He’d have to find some water. His stomach gurgled. And food.

The grim reality of his situation dawned on him. He’d spent plenty of time roving the wilderness prior to his team being captured, but he hadn’t ever been the one in charge. But you do know how to hunt. It was something. As for water, he was pretty sure he remembered there being quite a few streams in this region. Finding one might take a day or so, but it didn’t seem likely that he’d die of thirst.

First you have to get out of this tree. The climb down was worse than the climb up had been. The rough tree bark tore into his blistered and raw hands and legs, almost driving him to tears. Once he hit the ground, he paced back and forth to fight off the pain before turning his thoughts to weapons. Either a heavy rock or big stick would do for now. Whether he liked to admit it or not, he was no stranger to killing. He began walking.

A few minutes of walking produced a big stick, but nothing to hit with it. Fine. No animals meant he was going to have to find some sort of vegetable matter. He scanned the area around him. There were creepers and vines everywhere. Were they edible? He didn’t remember having ever eaten those. Amia had always been pointing edible plants out to him, but he’d never paid that much attention. He’d never expected to be out on his own like this.

On my own. An anxious fog flooded his brain, and he was suddenly positive that he was going to starve to death. For a moment, he considered going back to the facility. At least they feed me there. He grimaced. You really are a dumb kid. It’d be better to starve than be there. He started walking again. As he went, he scanned the trees and dirt desperately for something edible. The harder he looked, the more bizarre the world around him looked.

A good hour of wandering through the forest passed. He was so hungry now that he was considering chewing tree bark. Simon had made them chew it when they’d complained about being hungry. He’d hated it, but now that he was the one in charge of feeding himself, it was beginning to look more appealing by the minute. But I don’t have a knife to cut it with. He eyed a low hanging branch. I guess I could just break a branch off and chew on that.

He reached up and tugged on the branch. Something dropped down onto his shirt and clawed its way up his arm. Ollie screamed. In his panic, he grabbed the thing in his hand. He pulled it free of his shirt and started to fling it away when he realized that it was a rather large lizard. He stared dumbly at it squirming in his hand. Lizards are edible, right?

Not far from him was a big rock. Saliva trickled into Ollie’s mouth. In a flash, he was holding the lizard on the ground with the rock raised up over it. The poor beast struggled to get free, but it was too late. Ollie brought the rock down on its head. The lizard shuddered and thrashed, then it went still. Ollie removed the rock and gingerly picked up the still soft body. It hung limp in his hand.

He didn’t have a flint, and even if he did, it wouldn’t have been safe to make a fire. He’d just have to eat it raw. A wave of revulsion sent bile rushing up the back of his throat. He’d eaten plenty of raw meat before, but never like this. They’d always taken the skin off and cut it up first.

You eat it or you starve. He squeezed his eyes shut and brought the lizard to his mouth with a shaking hand. This is what the world really is. That hopeful garbage Amia was always going on about was all lies. For people like him, there were just dead lizards and scrapes and bruises. He ignored the seething revulsion in his gut as he bit down.

After the lizard had settled in his stomach, he started walking again. Now that the grumbling in his belly had quieted, his painful thirst became more pressing. Every swallow was becoming more and more painful. There’s got to be water out here somewhere. He tramped along through the leaves and creepers looking for any signs of water.

As the day wore on, a fog settled around his brain and he struggled to stay on his feet. Trees and roots seemed to jump out of nowhere and trip him. The very ground itself no longer felt stable, often seeming to twist or melt away under him. It’d been a long time since he’d been this dehydrated. The facility had always had more than enough water, and it was rare for any of the teams he’d been on to go more than a day without coming across a water source. How did they always find water?

Ollie fell to the ground for the dozenth time. He brought his hands under him and slowly pushed himself up. The ground seemed softer here. He brought his left hand up and stared at it. The dirt smudged between his fingers looked wet. He looked back down at the dirt under him. Definitely a little damp. Ollie froze and listened for the sounds of running water, but there was nothing. But there’s water here. He began clawing at the ground, scooping soil up. He remembered Simon telling them that sometimes there were underground springs. Maybe he could dig deep enough to get to water here.

He could almost feel each grain of dirt working its way into the open blisters on his hands. It only took a few minutes for the feverish desire for water to give way to a desire to stop digging. He stared down at the little hole he’d made angrily. What a waste. Now he was thirsty and filthy. The hole didn’t even look remorseful, but it did look darker than it had before. Ollie’s nose caught a whiff of the soft musty scent of wet soil. His tongue ran over his parched lips, and he began digging like a fiend.

After nearly an hour, he’d dug so deep his shoulders dipped down into the hole each time he reached in to scoop out dirt. The dirt was sticky with water now. Ollie had put a glob of it in his mouth, but that had only driven his thirst wilder. He dug ever further downward, his brain raving incoherently at him. If this hole didn’t end in water, he was certain it’d be his grave. And then, it happened. A little pool of water formed at the bottom of the hole. Ollie jammed his head down into the dirt and sucked. Muddy water filled his mouth, and he nearly danced for joy.

More digging led to more water, although never as much as he really wanted. He wanted an ocean of water. Instead, he had a muddy pool. After drinking until his belly was nearly bursting, Ollie leaned back against a tree and stared out at his surroundings. He couldn’t stop marveling at the sunlight in the leaves. He’d always assumed he knew what green looked like, but he’d been wrong. He’d known what Dome green looked like. This was different. He watched as the color shifted in the sunlight, and his mind floated off to a better place filled with fairies and talking trees. You’re thinking like Mom.

He looked down at his scab-covered legs and blistered arms. Mom. He bit his lip. She’d have been in bliss if she’d been able to see all of these colors. The thought brought tears with it, and he didn’t have any moisture to waste. He pushed the thoughts of his mother away with a shake of his head.

Looking for a distraction, he began looking himself over, searching for any pressing injuries. As his eyes roamed across his filthy T-shirt and shorts, he had a horrible realization. He wasn’t dressed in Domer clothes. The facility clothes were made out of some strange material he’d never seen before his capture. Even the shoes were different, something they’d called sneakers. He’d stick out anywhere he went. They’ll all know. Everyone is going to know.

What was he supposed to do though? He couldn’t take them off. How would he replace them? But what happens if someone sees me wearing them? After a moment of trying to find a solution, he gave up and leaned back against the tree. There was nothing he could do about that right now. Better to enjoy the success of having found water. His stomach gurgled. Well, if he could dig a hole for water, surely he could find better food than a lizard. Ollie leaned back and let himself enjoy the sunlight in the leaves.

2

August 3 rd, 2040 02:16

Amia sat up with a start. Something had woken her. But what? She was surrounded by darkness so deep she couldn’t even make out her hands in front of her face. Where am I? Everything clicked into place. They were deep under the city of Athens in the cavern Simon had brought them to. It had been two days since Jorgen returned. She looked around in the pitch black, trying to make out the kids.

The kids! What had woken her? Was it a threat to the children? She strained her ears, searching for anything within the inky blackness. The kids were murmuring in their sleep, Simon was snoring lightly, and Jorgen’s stomach was growling to her right. Mice were squeaking and scampering down one of the tunnels. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then she heard it. A sound she couldn’t place. An echo. Sky! What is that? She felt around in the darkness for the lantern. A hand grabbed her arm.

Shh. It was Simon. They sat frozen, listening in the dark. There it was again. Get up and get a sword! She pulled against Simon’s hand and started to rise, but he tightened his grip on her arm and pulled her down.

Wait, he hissed.

To her right, she heard Jorgen sit up. The echo was getting closer and closer. It solidified into a more familiar sound. Tromping feet. Not a few, at least a dozen. People? Why are there people? Simon had told her no one could find them down here. That it was the safest place in the whole Dome. Amia’s heart beat in a rapid staccato. What if they’re with the government? Down here in the sewers, there would be no witnesses. The kids. Almost all of them were marked with the revolutionary tattoo.

Dammit, Simon muttered.

Who?

I don’t know. Be quiet.

A pinprick of light pierced through the gloom. The darkness of the cave began to dissipate and thin. Hazy outlines and shadows slowly came into focus as the dot of light grew and the darkness gave way to it. Amia tensed and looked at Simon. His eyes were just barely visible now. She motioned to the light. We need to hide. We need to fight! We need to… Governor’s pants, what do we need to do? Simon’s eyes narrowed, and he shook his head. He turned to Jorgen. The two men seemed to be communicating something, but Amia couldn’t make out their faces well enough to guess what information passed between them.

Simon stood and motioned for Amia to stay where she was. She let out an angry growl and started to stand. For sky’s sake, just stay here, he hissed. He strode toward the light, leaving her sitting on the ground ready to crawl out of her skin.

Jorgen put his arm around her shoulders. We’re fine. Just calm down, he whispered.

A group of a dozen or so people exited one of the tunnels. In front was a tall, thin man holding a lantern. He and his companions’ expressions were all twisted into terrifying scowls by the lantern light. Amia squinted, trying to better understand who these men might be. Several limped heavily. Another’s left sleeve was dark with something she suspected was blood. They must be revolutionaries. Right? Government workers wouldn’t look like this.

Simon materialized from the shadows just a few paces away from the men. They halted, a few letting out gasps and yelps of surprise. Who the hell are you? the man with the lantern asked. There were several steely rings as swords were drawn from scabbards. A gun hammer clicked. They’ll kill him before he has a chance to explain.

The Revolution will not die, Simon said, extending his hand.

The man grasped it and replied, Not through fire or torture or beatings.

On the right-side of the cavern, the kids began sitting up. Their movement attracted the attention of the new group of revolutionaries. Several of the strangers began whispering back and forth and motioning to the kids. Amia grimaced. Would the revolution be angry with Jorgen for marking the Armarian children? She peered through the dim lantern light and tried to read their facial expressions, but they were too far away. Amia pulled her shoulder free from Jorgen’s grip and hopped to her feet. Keeping her eyes fixed on the group of revolutionaries, she padded over to Simon’s side.

Simon didn’t bother looking at her when she stepped up next to him. He’d probably have some choice words for her later. He can say whatever he wants. I’m not just going to sit and wait. She became aware of a presence behind her just as a sizable hand dropped on her shoulder. Jorgen. Amia wondered if he was here to help Simon or keep her in check. Probably the latter.

Simon Greggory, Simon said as he released the man’s hand.

I’ll be damned, the man whispered softly. Name’s Griffin Hale. We ain’t never met, but I’ve heard plenty ‘bout you. He looked at Amia, Then you must be-

Amia cut him off. Amia Risk. Stephanie Tently’s daughter, she said as she extended her hand. Even here, deep under the streets of Athens, she couldn’t escape her mother’s infamy.

That mean the rumors ain’t true? the man asked hopefully.

Simon shook his head. They’re true enough. They killed the Grackle. Took them about five years to find her, but once they did, well… Simon’s gaze slid to the ground as he trailed off.

Amia felt an odd twist in her stomach. She and Simon had never actually talked about her mother’s death. Just the one short conversation when they’d first met. Hearing the words sent a rush of bile up the back of her throat. The government killed my mother. But that wasn’t even the worst of it, was it? The government had pitilessly raised taxes up so high that her clan had begun to starve. Then, when Armaria hadn’t been able to pay, they’d sent fox witches to kill everyone. They killed Dad and Justin.

A distressed murmur went up through the revolutionaries. Amia felt her heart warm, and a sense of solidarity sprung up in her. They were the same as her. Didn’t Simon say people only joined the revolution when things got bad? These people had seen the same horrible things she’d seen, watched their clans burn to the ground, seen their children hauled off by fox witches to sky only knew where. That was why she’d joined, wasn’t it? Because she’d realized that the government was too evil to ignore.

Where you men in from? Simon asked.

Northern region. Been out on clan protection.

Simon cocked his head. Clan protection? What’s that?

I heard you’d gone inactive, the man said. Last year or so, fox witches have started going out and raiding clans. Not right sure why, but clans don’t stand a chance. Get burned to the ground, and all the children get taken away.

Yeah, I saw it happen in Amia’s clan, but I didn’t realize it was a common occurrence, Simon said. A shiver of rage ran up Amia’s spine at the mention of Armaria.

Well, we can’t do much about the source, but we’ve been sending groups out to areas that are coming up on tax day. If fox witches show, we help. If they don’t, well, we sneak off before the government can nab us.

Is tax day getting that dangerous?

Well, the government driven clans is fine, but the rest’re burning up, Griffin said.

Like Armaria. They were all burning like Armaria. Jorge squeezed her shoulder. Amia glanced back at him, and he gave her a questioning look. She realized her whole body was so tense her muscles were throbbing. Relax. It was easier said than done.

Our Little Sister Amia recently suffered the loss of her clan, Jorgen said.

My condolences, Griffin said.

Thank you. Desperate for a distraction to stave off tears, she focused her attention on the revolutionaries. They were the first she’d met, other than Simon and Jorgen. And perhaps her father, but she hadn’t known anything about that.

The group of men and women before her looked exactly how the government propaganda depicted revolutionaries, rough and violent. None smiled, and some were openly glaring. The soft warmth that was so easy to find in clans was nowhere to be found. In its stead were ragged clothes, knives and swords, and deep scars. She shivered. Her whole childhood had been fraught with stories of revolutionaries murdering and stealing.

The little bird and bear paw tattoo on her side throbbed slightly. You’re already marked for sky’s sake. And you know the government’s your enemy. The absurdity of the entire thing brought a bitter smile to her face. She’d spent her whole life

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