Simultaneous shots rang out from the gunmetal forged in The Mole and Naomi’s hands as they stepped out of the floating car. The two Sentinels dropped where they stood at the front of The Millionth Street Tower.
Crowds of people fled the sidewalks as the echo bounced off the walls of the city. Dempsey took his vehicle and zoomed off to the substreets in waiting.
An emptiness fell over the Cloud City like the dense fog that graced The Byways with its presence countless times. The Tower stood like a Sequoia among a dense forest of dwarfed buildings.
As the group entered the lobby, they were met with a wall of gunfire from posted guards. Blood seeped out of wounds dealt to Jonas and one of the volunteers, but all went quiet. Springs from Naomi’s weapon expelling its magazine sighed throughout the echo chamber of that marble construction. The Mole’s magazine was next.
Naomi peered around a concrete pillar, her gun trying to buck her off like a wild mule. Two Sentinels go down. She regained cover and saw the devastation of her group. Two physically wounded, but all were mortified. The Mole took the violence in stride and kept firing at the remaining two guards until they too were devastated.
Bliss cowered behind a pillar like nothing more than cannon fodder. Martha pressed against Jonas’ wound as he held in the pain from escaping his lips.
Naomi moved to the exterior elevator doors but they were locked from the other side. The Mole checked the stairwell doors only to find the same result.
“We’re stuck down here!” Naomi said.
“I can try to lock pick it.” The Mole held up a small screwdriver.
“Hurry up! We might already be too la…”
Just as the word grazed her lips, the lobby televisions turned on. Like a breaking news story interrupting your regularly scheduled viewing, it showed the live video of Isaac and The Crest. Locked down in the lobby, they were forced to watch the situation on the wall mounted screens.
The Mole didn’t know whether to fully focus on the lock or the TV, but he continued lockpicking, often pausing to see what was happening on screen.
The display showed Isaac down on his knees with the devilish man casting a shade down on him.
“God, what is he doing?!” Naomi couldn’t peel her eyes away from the LCD.
“He’s doing…” The Mole paused while finicking with the lock. “…what everyone else was too scared to do. What we were too scared to do for so long until he came around.”
“It’s people like this…right here! That want to make all of that sacrifice null…” The Crest’s voice echoed throughout the lobby as Naomi and the others clenched their teeth in fear of what was about to happen. Surely, there is no way that Isaac makes it out of this alive, Naomi thought. She was right.
The group watched in horror as Isaac stood over the poisoned leader, grasping at a glimpse of hope that seemed so unattainable. It was.
Naomi, devoid of enough energy to even let out a scream, hung her head in the deepest sorrow that can be carried by the heart with it still functioning. Isaac fell to the floor and behind him, so did The Crest. Both laid out like chalk outlines of themselves and the group grew eerily silent.
Even in a victory larger than the defeat, they couldn’t look up and experience it.
“Get the door unlocked.” Naomi mumbled.
The Mole snapped out of his daze and continued picking the lock. There went the first pin, then the second. He listened to the mechanics of the thing as if he were admiring the bloodworks of a patient through a stethoscope. Then the third pin was set and the door opened.
“Martha, you guys stay down here. You…” She pointed at one of the volunteers. “Go get Dempsey and have the car ready.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, she disappeared through the doorway. The Mole stood beside her in silence as they watched the elevator floor indicator tick down one by one from sixty.
“He just wiped out an evil from this world that will change the Districts in unforeseen ways.” The Mole said, staring at that light.
“People didn’t even see him as human anymore. I almost forgot that was the case. But he’s gone now.”
“And so is Isaac. Another one gone. Noah, the sibling, and now Isaac…my parents.” Tears suctioned to her eyeballs as if it were against her gene code to cry, even in this amount of sadness. “Everyone is gone now.”
“Now, no one else has to die. Isaac gave us that opportunity. We can finally end this.”
The ice cold room nipped at the back of Naomi’s arms. She thought back to finding that body laying out in the alleyway. She never knew that that moment would turn into this.
“We can’t let the chance go to waste. The Crest is dead, but it’s not over yet.” As the light slipped down closer to floor one she was coming to the realization of what just happened. “There’s no way that we can go back to The Byways after all this. They’ll slaughter us.”
The Mole knew it to be true. He filed through all of the connections that he had stored away in that head of his. Every hint of a town hidden away that he may have heard in passing during his time in the Cloud City.
“There may be a place that we can go.”
The elevator dinged and the doors opened like the pearly gates, ready to reveal a reality that they had only dreamed of.
As the cold steel box lifted them to the heights of The Millionth Street Tower, Naomi ran through possible scenarios in her head. Was this all a dream that she would wake up from when they reached the sixtieth floor? Was the seemingly live footage on the TV just some elaborate scheme to get the members of Daybreak all in a single place? What if Isaac was a mole for The Upper Echelon. She had never seen him before they found him. What if it was all a big plan to find would-be rebels before they were able to perform said rebellion?
That’s when her mind stopped running in place and she realized her silliness. The rebellion had happened. It was happening right then. Isaac was and had always been a core factor in that rebellion. She imagined some would say that the rebellion was born in this very moment, but she knew that it wasn’t. It was born in that makeshift clinic with a mute man that had woken up to realize his whole life had been stolen from him. It was born down there in The Byways, in mud and sludge. But now, that rebellion would be known all throughout the Districts and everyone would know the name Daybreak by the end of the night.
It was as if Naomi had become weighed down by the gravity of the situation before she realized that it was just the elevator’s inertia pushing on her as it came to a stop at the top floor. The doors opened and the director stood up from his chair in shock. He had been frantically pressing on the console buttons trying to open the door to the studio.
He swallowed his panic with a gulp. “You won’t be able to get in there. The doors are loc…”
The muzzle expelled fumes from its cylindrical shape as Naomi lowered it down, waist level. The smoke rose up against her hand, forming beads of gunmetal infused condensation. Like the sweat of death. She swiped it away like a dust feather.
The Mole didn’t say a word. He couldn’t be shocked by anything anymore. They were truly in it now and he realized it. They were all in.
She marched over to the studio door and peered in the little glass pane above the door handle. Isaac had barred it off good. Then she looked up, gazing at the bodies.
First, Isaac’s. He was laid out on his side, facing away from her. She was glad that she couldn’t see his face. It left it open ended for her, maybe it wasn’t really Isaac. That’s the thought that Naomi could keep in her mind, at least.
Then she looked at The Crest. He was slumped over in some sort of contortionists yoga pose. Somehow, still kneeling, but also face first on the floor. His poisoned veins bulged inside of his skin. Naomi felt nothing at that moment.
The Mole stood over the studio console and the would-be director beneath it. He studied this deliverer of propaganda that had been firing on all cylinders the past few years. Now, it sat idle.
“You didn’t die for nothing.” She whispered, hoping that the words would reach Isaac wherever he was now. “Let’s go.” Naomi left the studio’s glass window, but the fog from her words remained.
Naomi entered the elevator, turning around to notice The Mole had stopped dead in his tracks. His face veered off to the right at a doorway.
“What is it?” She asked. The elevator dinged, Naomi reaching her hand out to stop it from closing. “Hey?”
“Naomi, you have to come here.” He waved her over, not taking his eyes off of whatever was on the other side of that door.
She walked over to him, giving him a stare before she finally followed his glare to what was so hypnotic.
It was Noah, alive. He was in standing restraints, similar to the ones Isaac was in, but he was alive. He was asleep, but he was alive.
The gun fell from Naomi’s hand and crashed to the floor as she swung open the door and ran up to him. She held his face and knew that he was with her.
“Noah! It’s me! Naomi!” She squeezed his body and couldn’t let go.
The Mole began removing the restraints from Noah’s hands and feet, catching his body as it slumped over. Tubes ran all up and down Noah’s body, but Naomi knew that these were different.
“How is he still alive? Why would they keep him alive?!” She said it with hysterical concern.
“I think this might have something to do with it.” He handed Naomi Noah’s body and grabbed a folder from the table. “What is Omniblood? And who is Harvy Riddle?”
“I don’t know, but we need to get Noah out of here.”
“I’ll get him. You hold the elevator.”
Naomi couldn’t take her eyes off him the whole ride down to the lobby. A breath of fresh air. She had almost forgotten what it felt like to be happy and even in this happiness, she wasn’t sure if she was getting ahead of herself.
What is Omniblood? She thought. It must have been something important if they had kept him alive this long to, what? Test it? Make it? She only hoped that she would get an answer straight from Noah soon.
Who is Harvey Riddle? Surely the man that had done this to her brother, but who was he really?
Martha, Bliss, a beat up Jonas, and the two remaining volunteers waited in the lobby for Naomi and The Mole to return.
“There’s sirens wailing all throughout the city. We have to go!” Martha said as she was waving them on. “Dempsey is right outside with the car!”
As they got closer, Martha realized just who The Mole was carrying.
“Noah?! He’s alive?!”
“Like you said, we have to go! I’ll tell you about it on the way.” Naomi said.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Dempsey’s car whipped through the siren-clad skyways before dipping down into the substreets.
“We can’t go back to The Byways.” The Mole said.
“What? Why?!” Jonas said in an excruciating clench of the teeth.
“They know we came from there, Jonas. They are going to ransack the the whole village.” Naomi said.
“She’s right. It would be foolish to head back there so soon.” The Mole stared out of the window. “I know a place we can go though. There’s a place called The Plaza in the next district over. I only heard about it in passing when I worked in the city. The Upper Echelon didn’t talk fondly of it, so I’m sure we’ll be safer there.” He said it with a subdued confidence, but no one questioned him. “Dempsey, take us there.”
“You got it.”
Naomi didn’t care. Nothing else mattered to her right now. Her brother was back. She thought that she had lost everyone she had ever cared about, but he was back. Noah was back.
She watched the beads of rain merge with one another on the window. She tried to keep track of each one before they trailed off and became another puddle in the substreets.
She didn’t know what was in store for her, but as Noah’s head slumped over onto her shoulder Naomi knew that she wouldn’t have to face it alone.