Legacy Chapter 10

Updated on August 21, 2018
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Evelyn has published 3 novels, Justice Lost, Rescue, and Spark into Flame, and 2 scifi/fantasy short stories in magazines.

Chapter 10

As they stepped into the hallway, a shadow swept over it, painting the walls with gray bricks. The tops of the walls morphed into crumbling rubble, and in the distance smoke rose from a burning Mag City during the Endless War.

Warzone. A holo I’d played quite a bit a couple years ago, before I got tired of the never-ending conflict.

Sym raised her gun. “We don’t want any trouble. But we’ll give you some if you try anything.”

“What faction are you?” said one beneath her opaque black helmet. They both wore black from head to foot except for a red armband. “I don’t see your colors.”

Sym sighed. “I’m not from any faction. I just want to get home.”

“There’s no such thing as no faction,” said the other. “If you think you can be neutral in this war, you’ll find yourself dead.” He gestured to me. “He looks half-dead already.”

“Yes, well, I rescued him from another faction. They were torturing him for information.”

“What faction are they?”

“Not yours.”

The woman gestured to the man. “Let’s go.” They lowered their guns and ran past us. As they neared, the woman grasped Sym’s shoulder. “Here’s some advice. Join the Vales. We’re going to win. If I see you next time without a color, or with the wrong color, I won’t hesitate to shoot.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

They ran the rest of the way down the hall and disappeared through the storage room door.

“Let’s go,” said Sym. I walked to the elevator and, grateful for the rest, leaned against the wall. Sym flipped from “100” to “1” on the glowing holographic controls. As the doors closed, muffled gunshots rang out from the storage room, along with a cacophony of screams. The sounds shut off completely when the doors eased shut.

Sym touched her arm. “I could put on a faction armband. But it’s more likely they’ll shoot on site if I’m the wrong faction than if I’m none.

“You have a holocom, right? Cade told me you were invisible when he found you.”

I nodded.

“Maybe you should at least put some holoclothes on, so you don’t stand out when we get to the ground floor. I doubt I’ll be able to get you an actual shirt till we get home.”

I lifted the com from my pocket. It would cover my wings too. Without my wings, I could almost pass for a reg—unlike Sym, whose height and blond hair marked her as Nobility.

I brought up the holoflage program and scanned Sym’s clothes. A moment later, a holographic black shirt and pants spread over me, identical to hers. I felt better, less vulnerable, though beneath it the wounds were still there, bound with pieces of Sym’s clothes.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“Better. I don’t really feel like myself yet, though….”

“Well, you were hit by lightning. Medpatches never quite fix all the symptoms of that.”

“Have…you ever been struck by lightning?”

“Not sky lightning. But me and my brothers used to stormdance quite a bit. I’ve got a lot of lightning—almost as much as Royalty—so I’m usually prepared for attacks. Except against Rhyth—he’s got about as much as I do, and he….well, he doesn’t play fair.” Her blue-purple eyes struck mine with an intense, searching gaze. I forced myself to meet it. “Cade told me you would find Echo for us.”

“Yes. I’ll go to the restricted zones and see if I can find him. It’s just that—my invisibility program isn’t working for some reason. I tried to hide myself from those Divine Humanists….but it wouldn’t work.”

“You made the program, right?”

I nodded.

“Then maybe you can fix it. You’ll have time when you get back to our house. Rhyth’s good at that kind of thing too, but he’s not always the most helpful. If it helps get Echo back, though….I hope he wouldn’t hold out on us.”

“I should be able to fix it,” I said, with confidence I didn’t feel. At least the holoflage was still working…and so was the sensor block, apparently, otherwise Ms would have swarmed the place by now. “Even if I can’t, I still have the sensor block, so maybe I can get inside anyway.”

“That would sure come in handy in Quarantine…. You must’ve thought you’d run into some trouble.”

“I wanted to be prepared. I’ve never been to Quarantine before.”

She tilted her head, deep shadows hinting secrets in her eyes. “How much do you know about why Echo disappeared?”

“I…just know that one day I was playing with him, the next day—no one would even talk about him. Like he’d never existed.”

“Cade doesn’t know. He was so young….but I was good at lurking in corners.” The ghost of a smile lifted her lips. “I put two and two together, and later I confronted Mom about it, and she told me the truth. Echo is only my half-brother. She had an affair with Flash Vale. Dad was kind of…setting out on his own during that time, and she was lonely, and Flash was, well—Flash. He made her feel loved. That’s what she told me, anyway. Besides being an affair, it was innocent on her end. She just got swept up in the romance of it all, and….She never had anything to do with the Vale family otherwise. She wasn’t wrapped up in their intrigues. Flash was just having another one of his flings, and Mom didn’t mean much to him. But Ember—” Anger sparked in her eyes—“he threw us in Quarantine anyway. All of us, except for Dad. We were sentenced for life. And Echo…By the Winged, I hope he’s only in one of the restricted zones.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have a suspicion. No proof, of course. But….he has Vale blood. Ember believes that DNA is absolute. If blood is tainted by that of a traitor, then that person is doomed to a fate worse than death.”

“So you think Echo is….” I couldn’t bring myself to say it. Dad could not have done it. Thrown an innocent little boy to a place of such horror…..

“In the Abyss. I don’t know, and Mom won’t even let me hint at it—but it’s the place he most likely is.”

“But—D—Ember wouldn’t do that! He’s just; he doesn’t punish innocent people.”

She gave me a strange look. “Maybe it’s like that on the outside. But not in Quarantine. Our family is being punished, and we are innocent. Even Mom. She didn’t mean to get involved with Flash Vale, it just happened. It could’ve been any number of dashing suitors….It was just our luck that it was the son of the greatest traitor in history.”

“But you’re only in here because Ember didn’t want to break up families. When you come of age, you’ll be able to get out.”

“If that were true, why didn’t Ember let us stay with our father, and just punish Mom?”

“I—don’t know. But if you appeal, I’m sure you can get out.”

“I am of age, since I just turned seventeen, but I don’t want to get out until we all can. I’m not leaving little Donita and Sharlee on their own. I could see if I could take them with me, but I don’t know if an appeal will work even then. In some families, there are third generations—other innocent children of the supposedly guilty, with little children of their own—and they have appealed, but were unable to get out.”

A sharp thud. The elevator shook and jolted to a stop. The large blue floor-indicator button glowed “10”.

“What—?” She scrolled to the 1st floor button and tapped it. Nothing happened. “Let’s see if the—”

The elevator doors slid open. Five black-clad figures aimed guns at us.

“Come with us,” said the one in the center.

“I know those things aren’t real,” said Sym. “So if you stun me, I’ll just wake up later.”

“We know they’re not real. We’re not on Flicker. But you can either come with us before we stun you, or after.”

“I’m not playing this game, okay? I’m done with Festival for the day, and I’m taking this man home.” She gestured to me. “He’s injured.”

“Is his name Cash?”

“Yes. How did you—?”

“Let’s go.” The leader waved her gun. “I’m not going to ask again.”

“What do you want us for if you’re not on Flicker and you know we don’t want to play?”

“You’ll find out.” She made a swift motion and the other four surrounded us. A gun prodded my back, and I stepped out along with Sym. Then, they marched us down the hallway and we turned left through a door. It opened to a half-collapsed building, where figures clustered around a fire, some of them sitting on piles of rubble, cleaning their guns or working on coms. Planes roared through a melon-colored sky; an explosion slammed into the silhouette of a skyscraper and it shuddered and crumbled, bursts of fire lighting the twilight as it came down. Even the air smelled like burning fuel. It was a very realistic holo. I could almost believe I was there, except I knew that the explosion was only gradations of light, and the guns could do nothing more than stun me unconscious—which I didn’t want to happen if I could help it. Maybe I could reason with these people, since they weren’t on Flicker. Why would they force us to play, anyway? It didn’t make sense.

A gun prodded me up to a man who was leaning against one of the steel beams that were still supporting the intact half of the roof. He wore a long coat over his black uniform, and its collar was turned up, as if against the cold. His brown hair was tousled; it spilled over his forehead. There was something familiar about him….

He turned toward us.

It was Cade.

© 2018 Evelyn

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