There was a light. It triumphantly shimmered, blinking through whatever gap it had crawled through. My heart broke free from panick’s strangle hold, and I ran to the light’s sweet embrace. There was some sort of hatch directly over my head, white rays burst through the cracks, shimmering softly. I pushed the hatch. It wouldn’t budge. I pushed harder, with no result. I was becoming exasperated. 3 hours spent crawling through the dark, feeling my way through a claustrophobic, humid, wretched nightmare, and this was my reward? A closed door? My face grew hot. My wounds shot pain in circles across my body. I was sure the humidity had infected them, it was stifling. I thought I would collapse, it felt as if a massive hand was wrapped around me, crushing me in its grasp. I began pounding on the hatch, calling for a rescuer…
The light flooded in, in huge waves it crashed over me, swallowing me whole. My eyes couldn’t open to greet it, it was too much. Thump, feet landed in the concrete tunnel, splashing water on me. I felt cold steel against my temple.
“Who the bloody hell are you??? If you move a muscle I’ll split your shiny white skull! Why are you in here??? How did you find this place??? Who sent you???”
I stuttered, trying to remember. Everything was moving so fast. The bullet.
“Major… ehm… Neil! Major Neil sent me!” I held out my token, praying to live.
“What the… and who the hell are you anyways?? Why would that bastard send a bloody kid through the tunnel… he’s out of his mind… Neil and his sympathies… COLONEL!!!”
A shadow was cast in the light, my eyes were adjusting to blazing white light.
“Jackson… who’s your little friend there?” A female voice projected from above. I assumed it was the Colonel he was yelling for.
I was starting to gain my sight back. Jackson was as scraggly as the other rebel I had met. He had a head of blazing red hair, and magnificent blue eyes, his stare was piercing me straight through. His face was asymmetrical, creased and angry. He stood about 2 centimeters shorter than I did, and did not match my width. I still could not see the Colonel, only her shadow cut out of the blinking white flood.
“He’s some rat Neil sent through, or so he claims. He does have this though.” He said, holding up the strung bullet. “Says Neil gave it to ‘im.”
The Colonel spoke. “Hmm. Well, the boy’s been shot. I’m sure Neil didn’t do that. He must have let him through, he’s harmless anyways. Jackson check him for weapons, just in case.”
Uh oh. They were in for a surprise, I held my sleevegun against my side. What if they killed me? I would have to risk it, starting a fight here would get me nowhere, I would be up against the Meeting and an apparently organized rebel army. I had always assumed the fighters in the streets were just gangs, stupid kids wasting their lives. Some were I was sure of. But this Rebellion: a single fighting force, maintained across Districts. They had to communicate somehow… They had this tunnel, perhaps they had others. Perhaps I really could leave Eden, if I could earn their trust…
“WHAT THE BLOODY DOORNAIL!” He found it. “Drop to the ground you scum!!!” He threw me to the tunnel floor, snatching the weapon and crushing me beneath his boot. “This bloody kid is a Waiter! They recruited a bloody kid!!” Jackson’s eyes were burning with rage.
I began stuttering. “No I’m not… I picked it up off of a man… I…”
“A man you what? Assassinated? Maimed? Psychologically tortured? Maybe you just…”
“JOHNSON! WITHDRAW!” The Colonel boomed. Johnson shrunk away and her boots landed next to me.
“…they killed my mom… I tried to stop them… I took it before I ran…”
She spoke in with empathy. “I know, kid. We’ve all got a story. Its okay.” She smiled down at me as I pulled myself up. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Colonel Wilde. This is Corporal Jackass.” He grimaced.
“The kids gonna poison us when we sleep, I’ll bet my ass on it.” Corporal Jackass muttered.
“Shut up, or I’ll take you up on that bet, and you’ll be rubbing my feet for a month. Go sweep the quarters Corporal, hup to!” the Colonel grinned as Jackson dragged himself by, growling under his breath. “Don’t worry, he’s an acquired taste. A good soldier, I wouldn’t want anyone else for this job. He’s had it rough. Circumstance has made him bitter, and pretty paranoid.” I nodded. I had heard rumors about how reds were treated by the Guard. I would expect paranoia if those rumors were true. He was the first I had ever met; they’re near extinct.
“Well Will, you’re gonna need some patches huh? I’ll hold onto this,” she said, hooking the sleevegun to her belt, “we’ll discuss where this came from later, and how all of this happened.” She ascended the nearby ladder leading through the hatch.
There was a huge light directly above the hatch, gushing into the tunnel. That was the source of the flood of white light. It was a good strategy to disorient possible intruders. The room I was now in was a very small, rectangular kitchen. It had concrete floors, but the countertops were wooden. Perhaps this District had vegetation, in E3 all that existed was row after row of short, gray concrete buildings. There was no wood, save a door or a rare chair or desk. Once the Colonel cleared the hatch, she dropped the heavy door behind her, and fastened several metal bolts across its top. The top of the hatch was even with the floor. She slid a heavy segment of counter over the hatch, effectively shielding it from sight.
“Come on, we’ll patch you up in here, you can meet my other men.” She led the way to a door, I followed as hastily as I could. I felt very weak. She led me into a room. There was a couch up against the wall, and a desk cluttered with supplies stationed opposite of it. She indicated for me to rest on the couch, and I did so without hesitation.
“I’ll be back with the doc, take it easy, you’re pretty hurt. You’re lucky to have made it this far. People don’t often survive an ordeal like this.” She shut the door and marched off. I laid back in the sofa and for the first time in an eternity, relaxed.
A bullet ripped through the wall a meter above my head.