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This was inspired by many other books and authors that i studied.
I always knew that this day would come. But that didn’t make it any easier. Many of years ago I am sure that girls enjoyed their 17th birthday. Even looked forward to it. But then WW3 occurred, demolishing all traces of the old world. Out of it rose our country, broken up unfairly into six clans. Eventually three of those clans grew tired of the harsh treatment and punishment from The Council, and they rebelled. They taught us about it in school, mostly to scare us and to make sure that it never happens. We learned about it every year, as they went into more detail every year. By last year I knew how brutally The Council’s strong and mighty army had easily put down the rebellion. The people stood no chance, and once they lost The Council destroyed any remnants of the old clans.
I woke up early, before the sun had even peeked over the fields. I slid out of bed quickly, careful not to wake my sister Rhea. I looked across to the other side of our small room at the other bed that my father and brother shared and saw my father was already gone. He must have gotten up much earlier. Usually he didn’t have to leave for the fields until sunrise, but because I was leaving today he got a few hours off and had to make up for that lost time.
I walked across to the floor, my footsteps not making a sound from years of practice, and quickly grabbed my coat. It was old and way too small, but it was better than nothing. We took what we could get around here.
I eased open the door, slipping outside into the crisp air. I shivered as I zipped up my jacket, taking in the sun slowing rising over the fields for the last time. Not many people were up at this time, but I’d promised my friend Sera that I would come and say good bye before I left.
I wrapped my hand around the old necklace around my neck. It was my mother's, and her mother’s before that. When I was little she told me the story of it many times. When her mother - my grandmother- was little, she lived in the Second Clan. They were not rich, but not poor either, just like most of the people in the Second Clan. She got it as a gift from her parents on her 17th birthday when she was sent to the war. She was trained to be a medic, but during one battle she founded a wounded enemy soldier and nursed him back to health. She hid him as she took care of him, and eventually they fell in love. But one day a Guard found out what she had been doing, and he shot the soldier. He found mercy on my grandmother, and instead of killing her too she was forced to go to the Third Clan and marry a farmer when her 10 years were up. The necklace was the only thing that I knew of from the other Clans.
My mother died when I was seven, due to complications from having my sister. Before she died she took the necklace from her neck and placed it around mine. I don’t think that I’ve ever taken it off.
I walked through our worn neighborhood, passing house after small house, each the same as the last. Cramped, dirty, and broken. Everything about this place screamed that we were poor.
I found Sera on her front porch. She was on the steps, wrapped in an old blanket and staring into to the fields, which were starting to be filled when men working hard to keep the cold and harsh conditions from killing the crops. She smiled at the sight of me, and I sat down beside her.
“One day, promise me that you’ll find me again.” Sera said, a tear sliding down her face as she took my cold hands in her own.
“You know how it is.” I say, wishing that I’d be able to make that promise. “They take us to different places all far away. And after that they send us to fight, and the war ranges over miles and miles.”
“We will find each other. We must. I can’t lose you.” Sera said, gripping my hands tight.”
“Sera I want that too but-” I was cut off by the Wake Up bell sounding over our clan.
Sera threw her arms around me, surrounding me in a strong embrace, then got to her feet, pulling me up with her. She gave me another quick hug and said, “Good luck Maron. I will see you again, I know it. Now hurry, you know what will happen if they find you out here this early.”
I wiped away a tear just as her mom opened the door and said in a quiet but firm voice, “Seraphina, get in here this moment before they find you!”
I turned and started towards my house, and almost missed it when Sera said, “Happy Birthday Maron.” I just turned and smiled at her, for we both knew that it would not be a happy day. I crept back, my feet making no sound on the frozen ground. I kept glancing around, making sure that there were no Guards around. I would get three days in the Discipline Hall for being out this early.
When I got back both my siblings were awake and dressed, each were making their beds when I entered. It broke my heart to think that in only a few hours I’d have to leave them. I had always taken care of them, ever since our mother died. In the First Clan that would never happen, but here in the Third Clan we weren’t allowed the strong medicines that they had.
I realized how small they were. The were thin due to the little food we were allowed here. But they were also so young. Kane was thirteen, and Rhea only ten. They turned as they heard me come in, and Rhea immediately threw her arms around me, tears already streaming down her face. I held her close, breathing in her familiar scent.
Finally she pulled away, and Kane handed me the small bag that I had packed the night before. We weren’t allowed much, just some clothes and other necessities.
I looked at them both, taking in their almost identical faces then said, “You guys must remember the rules. Don’t get in trouble, or don’t let them catch you. No matter how awful they are, don’t resist and never talk back to them. I don’t want either of you to have to go into the Discipline Hall.” My voice cracked but I continued, “I love you both so much. Don’t worry about me, just yourselves. Hopefully one day we will find each other again.” By then tears were streaming down my face.
The door opened as my father came in. Just seconds after the next bell rang, reminding everyone that they had to be at school or work in ten minutes. My father came over to us, and pulled me into an embrace. He murmured into my ear, “Maron, you’re strong. You can fight hard. You will survive, I know. Just do what they say, don’t waste your energy in resisting. You think that it strict and tough here, it is much worse there. I love you.” My father seldom said much, it was just one of many things that they war had done to him. I’d never heard him say that much, so it meant even more to me.
He pulled away and wiped the tears from my face just as the Guards rapped on the door. I quickly hugged my siblings, and reminded them I loved them as I walked out the door of the only home that I’d ever known.
I glanced out the window of the train, wondering what was going to happen next. I glanced around at the others. There weren’t many of us, it was just me and another boy from Third, a girl from Second, and three boys and a girl from First. I was amazed looking at the kids from the other Clans. I know that I should not have been surprised, I knew that we belonged to the poorest part of the poorest Clan, but I never really knew how much better and richer the other Clans were. They all looked like they had never missed a meal in their life, and their clothes were all clean and fit well. I was filled with silent rage for the Council. What did I do to deserve the awful life that I got? Why should they live the perfect life just because they were born in a different Clan?
They haven’t told us where we are going yet. I have heard that they will just bring us to where they need more people. We train for a few months, or more depending on what we are training to become. After that they send us to the war.
The train headed out of my Clan and into the wastelands beyond it. We must have been on the train for four or five hours when it finally pulled to a stop outside what must have been a training camp. I could tell right away that we were going to be trained to fight by all of the weapons and the lack of amenities.
There wasn’t much there, just a handful of run down cabins and tents. There were people and Guards all around, as well as the officials. The officials trained others when they finished serving their time in the war. Some of them were volunteers, but most of them were being punished for something that they had done before or during the war. They used to kill anyone who did something wrong, but between that and the lives lost to the war the population was decreasing fast. Now they just cruelly punish everyone. Back home people are sent to the Discipline Hall, but if you do something wrong during training or the war you are forced to either go to the Third Clan or become an official. It doesn’t matter the crime, you get the same punishment for stealing bread as you do for shooting one of your fellow soldiers. They have found the worst was to punish us, by not letting us to return home.
A Guard came onto the train and told us to get up and follow him. We did as he said, forming a neat line behind him. We did not know what the rules would be here, so we just tried out best to avoid doing anything that we might be punished for.
The guard brought us into the biggest cabin. Inside there were a few officials. They all stopped what they were doing when we came in. Two came up to us, one a young man who appeared to have just finished his time at the war, and the other an older woman with a stern look on her face.
The women turned and addressed us. “Hello, my name is Donna and this is Alec, and we will be your officials.” She spoke in a brusk, curt tone. “You will be training with us for the next three months before you are sent to the war.”
One of the boys from the First Clan spoke up and asked, “What are we training to be?”
Donna turned and scowled at him. “You will learn to not speak unless spoken too.” she responded, completely ignoring his question.
Fortunately the younger official, Alec I think his name was, answered his question. “You will be training to join Unit X-3425, which is a group that spies on enemy camps and does a lot of computer work.”
The girl from the Second Clan who had either not heard Donna or just ignored her asked, “What do you mean by computer work?”
Donna started to say something, but Alec cut her off, “You will try to hack into enemy files to gain information on their whereabouts.”
Donna, who was clearly not happy with the fact that Alec was contradicting her, said, “Follow me,” and preceded to walk out of the cabin.
By now it was starting to get dark out. The sun was setting over what looked like miles and miles of nothing. Donna lead us to a small circle of tents on the outskirts of all of the cabins.
“You will sleep here until room opens up in one of the cabins. Two people in each tent, I don’t care who you share it with. The wake-up will ring tomorrow, and five minutes after that you should be up and ready to go.” Donna said. She had a way of talking that made everything seem like an order.
I climbed into the nearest tent. The girl from Second followed me. I layed down, feeling the cold from the ground seep through my clothes. I heard the other girl do the same, and we layed next to each other in silence as the noises from the rest of the training camp quieted down until there were none left.
I thought the other girl was asleep until I heard her whisper, “What’s your name?”
I hesitated before responding, “I’m Maron. What’s yours?”
“I’m Cora,” she said quietly. She was quiet for a moment before saying, “Welcome to hell.”
“You too,” I said, and just like that my new life started.
We stayed at the training camp for the next few weeks. They worked us hard, both physically and mentally. For the most part they taught us how to use computers, and then how to hack into other servers. We learned how to code, and how to create and break firewalls and encryptions.
Everyday we were woken up at the crack of dawn. We completed the morning training, which was usually running. Then we went to breakfast, a small meal that usually consisted of a piece of toast. If we were lucky we got eggs too. After that we were rushed into the computer rooms where we spent the next several hours, with only one short lunch break in the middle. After that we had afternoon training. During that time they taught us how to fight, which included hand to hand combat and how to use weapons.
I did well in the physical training, but even better in the computer room. Cora and I became good friends. In that place you needed to have a friend that you could trust. Cora was much better at the physical training than me, she was the best in our whole group, but she was not as strong in the computer section. She struggled greatly and had a hard time understanding simple concepts. But every night as we lay side by side in our little tent, I helped her by talking through everything that we had learned. Overtime she became stronger at it. She was never as good as I was, but she was fairly decent.
Eventually we got to the point that Donna and Alec thought that we were ready to be brought to the computer headquarters. One day when we woke up, instead of going on a run they told us to get all of our stuff together. We did, and then followed them to where the train was waiting. We got on, and it then brought us even farther away from my home.
I fell asleep, so I didn’t know how long we were on the train. Cora shook me awake as the train pulled up in front of a super fancy and high tech set of building. We got off, and Alec showed us where our rooms were (we finally got actual beds to sleep on! Before then I had never had a bed to myself) and then showed us to the room where we would be working. The computers were a much more advanced than the ones that we had at the training camp, so Alec had us log on and play around with them so that we could get used to them.
I didn’t know how long we would be there, but I knew that it would probably a long long time.
I walked up to my computer, sliding my headphones on. I logged on, and then checked my assignment for the day. As usual, I was assigned to just making sure that the others in our unit did not get caught.
Halfway through the day I got very bored, so I decided to do some digging of myself. I went to the database and found the name of a high official of the enemy. I then hacked into his phone, getting all of his texts and emails. There was nothing good in his texts, but when I went into his emails I found one that looking interesting. It was addressed to one of the Council members.
I went to open it when the door banged open and Donna came in. I quickly went to a different screen and pretended like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. She made a lap around the room, looking over our shoulders at our screens as she did. When she came behind me she paused, and my heart was beating so hard I was sure that she could hear it. I knew exactly what would happen if I was caught doing something other than my assignment. But after a moment Donna must have believed that I wasn’t doing anything wrong because she continued around the room, and then left.
I waited for a few minutes after she left before I went back to the email. I scanned it, trying to understand what it was saying. It was from the enemy to the Council. The enemy was begging with the Council to not do it. Not do what? I wondered as I clicked through many more emails, but none of them gave me any further information.
I tried searching through the phones of many more enemy officials, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. I was suddenly struck with a great idea, but I knew that I’d have to be careful because if I got caught they would definitely kill me.
I glanced around the room to make sure that no one was watching me before I hacked into the Council’s server. I clicked through many documents, most of them irrelevant. I found a folder labeled “The Enemy”. Inside there were many documents talking about the rebellion, but then I found a letter to the Council from the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Clans. I expected it to be from the rebellion, but when I checked the date it was less than a month ago.
I gasped, causing many of the others to glance at me, but after a most of them were to busy to notice. I was shocked. The Council has been lying to us for years. I thought. They never destroyed the Rebellion, it is still going on. This is a civil war.
In the letter the other Clans were telling the Council that they needed to not do it. But again they did not specify what it was. But after more searching I found what “it” was. In folder marked “Classified” I found plans to bomb what must be the other Clans that apparently were still out there. So the Council had lied to us for years, and now they planned to end this war by killing millions of people.
I realized that I was on the wrong side. The other Clans were right to rebel. The Council only did what was best for them. They didn’t care about anyone. Plus they had been treating us horribly for years. I had to stop them from doing this.
But then the bell rang signalling the end of the day. I quickly covered up my digital tracks with a quick encryption and cleared my history before logging off. I followed the rest of the Unit as we filed out of the room. I ate my small dinner in silence, forming a plan in my head. The hardest part was how to make sure that I did not get caught.
I wanted to tell the others what I had discovered. I wanted to tell them that we were helping the wrong side, and that the Council had lied to us and that they were just using us to destroy the lives of millions of people. But I kept quiet, knowing that was the only way to stop what was going to happen.
I was thinking and plotting when I layed in bed, and by the time I closed my eyes I knew exactly what I was going to do.
The next morning I acted like I did every day, but I knew that this was not going to be a normal day. I had to be very careful if I wanted to pull it off.
When we got into the room I walked over to my computer, quickly logging on and reading my assignment. I was supposed to help crack the encryption blocking us from seeing the movements of the enemy's troops. Donna must have been suspecting that I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to so she probably wanted to occupy me.
I worked on the encryption for a few hours before deciding that I was safe. I broke back into the Council’s server and started deleting everything I could about the bombings. I only worked on it for a few minutes at a time, because I did not want to get caught. It is one thing to be caught not doing your assignment, but it is another to be caught deleting classified Council documents.
After I deleted all that I could, I went and tryed to disable the bombs that the Council had placed all over the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Clans. I also found that there were many more placed throughout the war zone. So not only were they planning on bombing the rebels, but their own soldiers as well.
It was going to be hard to break into all of the bombs and disable them. I would need help. I sent a quick email to Cora, giving as little information as I could in case someone read it. I just asked her to help me with my assignment. I wanted to tell her everything, but it was much too risky.
I could tell she got my email, because she meet my eyes from across the room and gave me a quick nod. Together we managed to disable all of the bombs in the Fourth and Sixth Clans, and all of the ones in the war zones. But the bell rang before we could disable the ones in the Fifth Clan.
During dinner Cora tried to asked what we were doing earlier, but I just shushed her and told her that I would tell her later.
I was woken up in the middle of the night by Cora screaming. I sat up in bed just to see someone grab her from her bed and pull and bag over her head. She was carried out of the room, the bag doing little to muffle her screams. I knew exactly why they were taking her, I was just surprised why they didn’t take me too.
I quickly crept out of bed and followed the sounds of Cora’s screams. Eventually she was brought outside and put into a large truck. They brought her up front, but I climbed in and hid in the back under blankets there. They drove for awhile before stopping. I heard the people up front get out. I waited a few minutes before I followed.
In front of me was a large building. Thankfully the door was propped open, and I walked in. The door led into a hallways lined with empty rooms. At the end of the hallway there was a large room, and I could see that Cora was in there. She was sobbing, begging two people standing with their back to me.
I darted into a room next to the big one, listening to what they were saying. I recognized Donna’s voice easily, but it took me a minute to place the other one. But based on what he was saying I could tell the he was a Councilman. I felt so bad, now Cora was going to get punished for something I made her do. She must have not set up an encryption to cover her tracks. She was never good at that.
I could hear them asking her how she knew about the bombs, and who she was working for. She told them that she had no idea what they were talking about, which was the truth but they didn’t believe her. I knew that I had to do something.
I glanced around the room that I was in. I spotted a small computer in the corner and rushed to it. I logged on, then quickly went to work disabling the rest of the bombs.
I got most of them done when I heard the Councilman say, “Tell them to make all the bombs go off now.” I didn’t know who he was talking too but I just knew that I had to act quickly. But then I heard the Councilman gasp in frustration.
“Someone is still disabling the bombs.” He said. Oh no! I thought just as a shadow appeared in the doorway.
“You!” Donna cried, grabbing me by the arm and dragging me into the big room. The Councilman turned to me, and pointed a gun at my head.
“What do you think that you are doing?” He asked, his tone calm but laced with anger. I started to answer him when a gunshot went off and he slumped in front of me. I didn’t have any time to react when there was another gunshot, and Donna fell. I turned to see Alec standing in doorway. He helped me too my feet, and then picked up Cora. I could then tell that they had broken her leg.
“We have to go!” He yelled, and we took off down the hallway. We ran into the truck outside. Alec slammed on the gas and we sped away from the building, bullets flying past us.
“What’s going on?” Cora asked from the backseat.
I started to answer when Alec said, “There is no time to explain.”
I found a portable computer on the ground, and went on, suddenly struck with an idea. I managed to locate all of the bombs, but instead of disabling some of them I sent a few towards all of the Council members. I then wrote down everything that was happening, including the part about this being a civil war and sent it to every screen that I could find.
“We have to get out of here.” Alec said.
“I know.” I said. “But where do we go?” We sat in silence for a few minutes before Cora spoke up from the backseat.
“We could take the train back to our Clans.” She said. “We could drop Maron off at Third, and then Alec could take me back to Second. We could both get our families and then go and hide in the woods. I know that it isn’t ideal but what other choice do we have? If they find us they will for sure kill us and our families.”
I didn’t say anything, but Alec said in a low voice, “She’s right.”
I started to interrupt, but he cut me off. “We have no other choice. Its that or be killed.”
“But we have to stop the Council, and the war.” I protested.
“Based on the information that you just sent out, I think that the Council is going to have another rebellion on their hands.” A small smile spread across my face as he continued. “The people will defeat the Council, and the Council won’t be able to stop them.”
I started to speak up again, but then Alec pulled up right next to the train. He quickly got out, and scooped Cora into his arms. I open the glove department, pulling two guns out from there. I pressed one into Cora’s hands as we ran for the train, and held the other out in front of us. We ran onto the train, quickly locking the doors. Alec set Cora on the ground, then said, “I’ll go make sure that there is no one else here and shut the rest of the doors. You get the driver to make this thing move.” I nodded as he took off in the other direction.
I spotted the train driver asleep in the driver's seat. I placed my gun to his temple, quickly taking his as well. He woke up quickly, and I put my hand over his mouth to muffle his scream.
“Please don’t hurt me!” He begged.
“I don’t want to. But you better make this train start and bring me and my friends to the Third Clan.” He silently nodded, and pressed a few buttons and then the train started to move, picking up speed as it went. I heard gunshots farther down the train, and started to go, but hesitated, not wanting to leave the driver. He noticed this and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything to you. You can leave and I will just keep us heading towards Third.”
I mutter thanks as I took off down the train, checking to make sure that Cora was okay. A few cars down I ran into Alec. He noticed the worry on my face, and murmured, “Don’t worry. A few soldiers still loyal to the Council caught up to us and were trying to get on the train, but I shot them.”
I smiled, relieved and let out a big breath. We were going home. I would see my family again.
The rest of the train ride was uneventful. Alec found a medical kit and wrapped up Coras leg. I slept for most of the ride. I was shaken awake by Alec as the train started to slow. I looked outside. It was dark, but I could see I was home. I stood up as the train stopped. I grabbed a gun, then gave both Cora and Alec a hug.
“I hope that we will see each other again when this is all over.”
A tear slipped down Cora’s face as she said, “Thank you for all you have done.”
I nodded as I crept out of the train, not trusting my voice. Silent tears crawled down my face as the train started moving again and I ran towards my house. I ran inside the house, waking my father and siblings.
They all stared at me in amazement and shock. “Come on!” I whispered. “Get all of the stuff that you want and we have to go.” We that they all bolted up, hustling around the small room gathering their things. I told Rhea to get my stuff, and that I would be right back.
I left the house and then quietly went into Sera’s house. I woke her, and she was equally shocked to see me. “Get all your stuff, and tell the rest of your family to get theirs too. Meet us out here in five minutes. Trust me.”
She did, sliding out of bed and running to her parents. I went back to my house where my family was now ready.
“I’ll explain later, I promise.” I said as I lead them out the door. We stopped to pick up Sera and her parents and brother, and then we ran for the woods.
I took Rhea’s hand in mine, and held my necklace in the other. It was the only thing that had been with me the entire time. It’s over. I thought as we walked farther and farther from our Clan, and everything else the Council had created. We are finally free.