“I’m awake,” Wells whispered back.

“Me too,” came a low voice in the other direction. It was Graham, but he didn’t have that usual snide ring to his voice. He sounded as though all the bravado had been leached right out of him.

Wells’s pulse jumped with as much adrenaline as his body could muster. “They were stupid to put us together.”

Graham let out a faint snort. “What difference does it make?”

“We’re getting out of here,” Wells whispered. “But it’s not going to be some mad dash, all right? They have sniper rifles, grenades, god knows what else that they haven’t shown us yet. The only way we’re going to be able to do this in any kind of smart way is to bide our time and play along.”

“With what?” Wells heard his cage wall rattle as Graham gripped it. “This whole ‘worshipping the planet, taking over everything, you’ll learn’ bullshit?”

“Yes,” Wells said. “Exactly. They act like we’d be lucky to be among them. So let’s make them think we’re learning.”

“Like hell I am,” Graham spat. “The next time they open this cage, I’m out of here. I don’t care how many skulls I have to crack.”

“They’d shoot you before you had the chance,” Eric said wearily. “I agree with Wells. It’s the only chance we have of finding a weakness and getting back home.”

“What home?” Graham whispered bleakly. “What the hell is even left?”


“Felix was still alive when they got me.” Eric’s voice was pinched as he said his boyfriend’s name. “I saw him across the field. He was helping kids run toward the infirmary. Maybe he made it. Maybe he’s waiting for me.”

“We’re all better people down here,” Wells said. “Even you, Graham. I saw you at the creek that day, teaching Keith how to fish. Coming to Earth has made us braver. Nobler. Stronger. We’re not like these Protector psychos. We know Earth has forgiven us, but that doesn’t mean our work is over. That’s why we have to get out of here. That’s why we have to make it back home.”

There came a little shuffle, as if Graham was sitting up. He sighed, and then after a long pause, he said, “Fine, you win, mini-Chancellor. If you think we need to play along… I’ll play along. And we’ll take these bastards down while we’re at it.”

“If Earth wills it,” Eric said, a smile in his hushed voice.

“If Earth wills it,” Wells repeated with a snort.

Wells curled onto his scratchy bedroll, his heart pounding with fatigue and fear, but finally laced with a tiny drop of hope.





Eight bags sat in a row in the afternoon heat, tidily stuffed with supplies, ready to be hoisted and carried away down the long, uncertain road.

Bellamy surveyed the contents of his bag and started to unpack it. Dried meat, apples, a hunk of cheese, half a loaf of charred bread, and a rolled woven cloth for bedding all went in a neat pile that he would return to the people remaining at camp. The only things Bellamy required were his bow and a quiver of arrows, along with one small leather canteen for storing water they sourced along the way. No need for a bedroll. He had his own small hunting knife, and any food they needed, he could hunt and forage for along the way.

“Come on everybody,” Paul shouted, clapping in slow, maddening rhythm. “Bags up, feet on the ground, no time like the present.”

Bellamy turned away and rubbed his temples. If this idiot kept talking this loudly, the raiders would pounce on them the second they set foot on the trail.

Some of the children poked their heads out of the lean-to he’d helped cobble together. One small girl rubbed her eyes with a confused frown and stared at him. Bellamy gave a wave and she smiled shyly back, then ran out as fast as she could, hopping back and forth on chilly bare feet.

Bellamy picked up an apple to offer to the girl if she promised she would share it, but she was already crooking a finger for him to come closer. He grinned and cocked an ear for her to speak into.

“Are you going to find Octavia?” she whispered.

“I sure am,” he said, rocking back to look into her eyes, smiling through the jolt of pain shooting through his chest.

She leaned over to whisper again, “Will you tell her we love her and we miss her and we want her to come home?”

“I’ll do better than that,” Bellamy said. “I’ll bring her back myself.”

Before he had time to blink, he felt little arms wrapping themselves around his neck in a warm squeeze. Then the girl flitted away like a bird and disappeared back into the tent.

With a sigh, Bellamy stood and turned to see Clarke at the end of the row of bags, unpacking her food to leave behind, just as he had. She held a bright purple apple up to him with a rueful smile and put it aside. He grinned back, then felt it fade as Paul came stomping up.

“Do you really think it’s a good idea to be rearranging our bags right now? We’ve got to get going.”

“I’m all done,” Bellamy said, standing up, pleased to note that he was a good two inches taller than Paul. “Just ensuring that our people don’t starve to death while we’re gone.”

Paul didn’t seem to note the sarcasm in his voice. “You’re leaving your food behind?”

“We don’t need all this,” Clarke piped up, waving to her own discarded supplies. “We’ll be quicker with lighter packs, don’t you think?”

“Good thinking, Griffin,” Paul said, placated. Bellamy rolled his eyes.

The other members of the expedition were waiting at the edge of the clearing. There had been over twenty volunteers, but Max and Rhodes had whittled the group down to eight key members. Along with Bellamy, Clarke, Luke, Paul, and Felix, there were three Earthborns known to be skilled fighters, foragers, and trackers. A young woman named Vale, a stocky man named Cooper with a scar across his cheek, and a girl a little older than Bellamy, Jessa, whose brother Kit, a Councilor, was among those taken by the raiders.

At first, Rhodes and Max had expressed concern about Luke’s limp, but he’d refused to back down. “With all due respect, Councilors, I’m one of the best marksmen we have,” he’d said with impeccable politeness. “And I’m not putting this rifle down until I’ve used it to rescue Glass.”

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