“It’s okay,” Wells said to the boy as a line of Colonist guards crashed through the bushes, shouting for them to get on their knees.

They all raised their hands and obeyed, falling into the wet dirt just as one of the guards yelled, “Clarke! Wells! I can’t believe it… you made it! You freaking made it!”

Clarke peered up with a smile, exhaling slowly. “Willa. It’s so good to see you!”

Willa offered Clarke a hand up, and the other six lowered their guns, glancing around at one another with their eyes igniting.

“Just the four of you?” one of them asked.

“We’ve left a slightly bigger crowd a half mile back,” Wells said. “It’s all of our captives, our rescuers… and then some.”

The guards exchanged a wary look.

“Take us to the Council,” Wells ordered. “They can decide what we’ll do next… if we’ll welcome in these new friends.”

Willa shot him an appraising look, and shrugged. “That sounds fine to me.” She turned to lead the way. The other guards glanced at one another, then followed after her.

“You’ve got this,” Kit whispered as they started into camp. Wells glanced at him, surprised. Kit smiled. “If you could convince a bunch of terrified cult members to start a rebellion, I think you can talk our people into taking in a few refugees.”


“I hope you’re right,” Wells said, bracing himself as they came upon the first sight of the camp.

It wasn’t pretty, but there were also signs of hope. A deer was roasting over a cooking fire on one side of the camp, while men and women were hard at work rebuilding log cabins on the other. The infirmary was still intact, a comforting line of smoke rising upward from its chimney.

Clarke’s step quickened at the sight of it. He knew she couldn’t wait to get to her parents.

“Go ahead,” he told her. She grinned and sprinted toward it, her long hair flying behind her.

Kit veered off too, rushing to greet some Earthborn friends who were teaching a group of Colonists how to grind grain for bread.

That left Wells and Cob and the guards headed to the camp’s central bonfire, where two men stood in stooped conversation.

Rhodes was the first to turn, then Max. The Earthborn leader’s face went from shocked to joyous in a single blink. Before Wells could get a word out, Max crossed the space between them with his arms wide open, gathering Wells in a tight hug, a sob bursting out of his throat.

“My boy,” he said, bringing tears to Wells’s eyes. “You made it. I hoped, but I didn’t know…” He drew back, beaming. Then he nodded, proudly. “You made it home.”

“Not all of us made it,” Wells said, swallowing down a lump in his throat. “We… we lost Graham.” He winced, imagining the look on Lila’s face when he told her. Although she played it cool, Wells knew she’d started to develop real feelings for Graham over the past few weeks.

“I brought others too,” Wells said. “Some are Colonists, believe it or not, from a dropship that landed to the south of here. And some”—he motioned to Cob—“are new friends altogether.”

Behind Max, Rhodes raised his eyebrows, disbelief apparent on his face. “New…? How many?”

“Fifty-four at last count, though a few people left in search of their former homes. And I’ll vouch for our new friends myself… they’re good people.”

Max and Rhodes exchanged a look. Then Rhodes nodded.

“If you trust them, we trust them,” Rhodes said. “And we could certainly use all the help we can get in rebuilding for the winter. Bring them in. Were you followed?” he asked, glancing at the guards. “Do we need to establish a perimeter?”

“No more than you’re doing, I think,” Wells said. “Between our uprising and everything your search party managed to do, I don’t think we’ll need to worry about the Protectors again.”

“They call themselves Protectors?” Max asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Villains always think they’re the heroes,” Rhodes said with a strained, sad smile. Then he turned to Wells, brightening. “What do you need from us next?”

“The basics,” Wells said quickly. “Food, water, rest, medical help.”

Rhodes nodded and reached out to shake Wells’s hand.

“Welcome back… Councilor Jaha.”





“Spiraea tomentosa,” Clarke’s mother said softly, pressing a nondescript green leaf against the flat of her own hand. “That’s my closest guess. A tea made from this one helps stomach upset, according to the book.”

Mary leaned over to tap the old dusty tome that Max had given her during her recovery: a pre-Cataclysm book about local herbs. In the days that Clarke and the others had been gone, her parents had taken on a new initiative, bolstering the camp’s dwindling supply of medicine by reproducing materials from the Colony and experimenting with local plants.

Clarke peered down at the leaf, memorizing each detail, but it was her mother’s hand that held her attention… warm, soft, alive. Dr. Lahiri said that her mother had healed up in record time.

“This one is called boneset,” Clarke’s mother went on, laying a plant with delicate white petals onto the table. “They used to think it helped set fractured bones, thus the name, but it was just superstition, unfortunately. It does, however, have some use in treating fevers, so I’m going to keep playing with it and see what we can develop…”

“You’re amazing,” Clarke said, hugging her mother gently, careful not to jostle her injury.

“‘Amazing’…” Clarke’s father walked in from the field, where he’d been helping dig foundations for new cabins. He dusted his hands off on his trousers with a grin. “That’s high praise coming from a girl who just stormed a fortress.”

“Hardly,” Clarke said, flushing. “I didn’t do it alone.”

“But you did it,” her mother said, her eyes shining. “We’re proud of you.”

Clarke felt proud too, looking around at the quickly rebuilding camp. Their people may have been damaged by the attack—but they hadn’t been defeated. They’d healed up and set to work.

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