Book Update

Posted: September 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

Hey y’all. It’s been a while since I’ve given an update about the book, so I thought I would take the opportunity to do so right now.

It’s still in the editing stage. For the past few weeks, I’ve been going through a second round of edits. Most likely, it will need a third round, which is the standard for all my books (I can’t think of one where I was satisfied with just two).

Thank you everyone for your patience. Best case scenario is all the hard work I’m putting into it will mean it comes out late October, but it’s still too early to promise that. I had expected it out by out by now but…for the most part…this book still seems to be missing that something that made me so happy with all the others. I’m not sure whether that is my imagination or whether it’s the truth, but all I know to do it to keep refining and tweaking until I can get it into reasonable shape.

So, if it’s taking longer than expected, then that is the reason. It’s just a matter of sitting down and going through the words, which I am definitely doing. I’m glad you guys are interested and asking for updates, and if I don’t give updates too often, it’s because the book is still in the same general stage as it’s always been. When it’s out of my hands and with my editor, then I’ll definitely post about it here as that is the next major milestone.

Again, thank you for your patience and hopefully the wait will be worth it!

When Makara left the room, Raine let out a heavy sigh. The girl couldn’t know how worried he was about Ohlan, and even he could admit that if Ohlan was headed somewhere, it wasn’t to found a new settlement in the Wasteland, as he had previously discussed with him.

“What’s our COA?” Green asked.

Raine cracked his knuckles one by one as he considered.

“We got to go after him,” he said.

“If he’s been gone a few hours, he’s halfway to Carin by now,” Green said. “He knows just about everything we do.”

“Everything that matters, in any case,” Raine said. “It’s still a question of whether they can assault this place. We gave ‘em a hard licking last time.”

“They’re warring the Krakens right now,” Green said. “Ohlan picked a bad time to leave.”

“Someone must have tipped his hand.”

“Makara?”

She had overheard Ohlan and Cyrus discussing his betrayal. It was possible – perhaps even probable – that Ohlan had figured that out.

Suddenly, Raine stood, his senses going on high alert. Green reached for his handgun, but before he could get a word out, Raine was out the door.

He checked both directions, but Makara was in neither one. She had left two minutes ago, but Raine already kicking himself for letting her go in the first place.

He ran up to nearby guard. “Corley, did Makara go by?”

Corley pointed toward the mall. “That way, Boss. What’s up, something wrong?”

“Lock down HQ,” Raine said.

Corley’s eyes widened. “Sir?”

“You want to explain what’s going on?” Green said, running out of the office.

Raine was about to explain when an explosion sounded from the direction of the concourse. Raine’s skin went cold as the floor vibrated beneath his feet.

Raine sprinted for the escalator, taking the steps two at a time.

When he reached the bottom floor, a cloud of dust rolled over him.

He covered his mouth with his arm, hacking and coughing even as he pushed forward. As the thunder of the explosion dissipated, he could hear the screams of both the frightened and the wounded.

The dust cleared just enough for him to see ahead into the concourse, where rubble had piled onto the floor. There were several unmoving bodes trapped beneath the concrete, and the sun shone through a large gap in the wall.

“We’re being bombed!” a female voice wailed.

Someone was trying to pull up a slab of wall that had pinned an elderly man to the floor. Raine rushed over to assist.

“Let me help you with that,” he said.

Together, he and the man lifted the concrete up, just enough for the man to escape.

“You all right?” Raine asked the man.

The man nodded, even if he was favoring one leg.

“Can you see him to medical?” Raine asked the man who had helped him, only now taking note of his face.

He froze.

“Ohlan!”

His brother looked at him, flashing a smile. “I’ll get him to medical right away.”

As he turned to go, Raine grabbed his shoulder. “Wait! I thought you…” Raine considered, wondering whether he should be reaching for his gun.

“It was an act, Raine. I’m on your side. Always have been. And I learned about this attack…I was just a few minutes too late. I rushed back to warn you,but…”

He trailed off helplessly. Raine just watched him, stunned.

‘It was a bomb. A plot. I’m sorry I couldn’t stop it in time.”

Raine only now found his tongue. “Someone…overheard you speaking to this man named Cyrus. I thought…”

“I’ve always been on your side, Raine. I don’t agree with everything you do, but…” He coughed from the dust, which was still thick. “Maybe we can talk about this later. Even if I couldn’t stop this, I learned a lot that will be of use.”

Raine nodded dumbly. He had been prepared to go out and kill Ohlan at the first opportunity he got.

Now, he didn’t know what to thin.

“You could have told me, Ohlan.”

“You would have never agreed. They still think I’m working for them, Raine. Still. Isn’t that useful to you?”

“So you’re a spy, now.”

Ohlan gave a coy smile. “We all have our talents, brother. I’ve always worked better in the dark.”

“And my men? I thought you all were deserters. Jesus, Ohlan, I was about to go out there and hang you myself!”

“Well, you know now. As far as your men…they never really left, of course. They were watching my back in case my meeting with Cyrus went bad.”

“This won’t happen again,” Raine said. “Ever. Even if you’re still loyal to the gang…and a big part of me doubts that…I need to know I can trust you. You can’t do shit like this and expect to get away with it, Ohlan, or I’ll kick you out of the Angels myself.”

“Secrecy was vital,” Ohlan said. “You would have never allowed a Reaper into the mall. I had to do that, Ohlan.”

“Why?”

“To let them think I was really on their side. You have to trust me, Raine. I got this under control.”

“Whether you are or you aren’t, I’m in on everything you do now,” Raine said. “Play spy if you want to. Just let me in on what’s going on.”

Ohlan nodded, and it was all Raine could do not to heave a sigh of relief.

“Let’s clean this place up.”

Makara ran to Raine’s office the next morning before remembering that running would only serve to arouse suspicion. She forced herself to walk, going unnoticed with the exception of two middle-aged women setting up their fruit stall in the center of the concourse for market day.

Makara made to look as if she were interested in the tired fruit and vegetables being offered up, but otherwise made it through the market quickly so she could get to the end of the concourse, where the opening to the Angels’ HQ lay open, empty save for a few guards making their rounds.

Samuel was to come later. It was probably being overly cautious, but if anyone had an eye for detail, it was Ohlan. Samuel had even suggested Ohlan probably had a network of spies working within the mall; if he suspected Makara of anything, then surely she was being watched. Thankfully, it was somewhat normal for her to go see Raine, even if they didn’t see as much of each other lately, so meeting with him this morning shouldn’t be considered suspicious.

Even so, Makara couldn’t help but be nervous. She did feel as if she were being watched, and she resisted the temptation to look around, where dozens of people had now gathered in the market to purchase goods, some of whom were arguing and haggling. As she passed a grizzled man whose dark eyes ran over her, the thought crossed her head that he might be working for Ohlan.

She shook the thought away as she pressed forward, into the former department store that now served as the Angels’ center of operations.

As she stood in the center of the marble floor, she looked around to make sure Raine wasn’t on the bottom level. It was entirely possible that he wasn’t here in the department at all. Just as often he spent time outside. Currently, he was overseeing a construction project designed to build walls at various choke points to defend against a potential attack. Makara had no idea whether he would be out there now, but if he was, then she would have to wait until later.

She went for the defunct escalator, allowing her thoughts to drift as she made the journey up. When she was younger, she had seen Raine almost every day. Even now, at age twelve, she still thought of him like a father. She felt guilty about that; after all, her own father had died in order to see her safely into the last copter out of Bunker One.

She shook that thought away. She couldn’t think about that now, that cold, dark, snowy night that had changed her life forever. The white-glowing eyes of those demons still haunted her dreams. She had almost forgotten about them, but at times, her thoughts would drift back to that horrible night.

She almost gave a start when she realized she had reached Raine’s office door. It was shut. Either he was meeting with someone or he wasn’t in, otherwise it would be ajar. Raine wasn’t really an office man, but he said that having an office was useful for meetings, and it gave him a place to put his personal belongings, especially the books he had collected over the years.

Back when she and Raine were on more familiar terms, she had often read those books. She realized how long it had been since they had talked. Part of that was Raine, part of it was her. It was hard to remember who had started drifting away first.

Makara let out a sigh, and knocked.

She was just about to turn away when, to her surprise, the door opened. But it wasn’t Raine who answered.

“Lieutenant Green?”

His face had been wary, but upon seeing that it was her, his green eyes softened.

“Better get inside,” Green said.

He opened the door wider, opening Makara’s view until she could see Raine sitting behind his desk, his fingers steepled. His dark brown eyes were lost in thought, and Makara could instantly see that something was wrong.

“Raine?”

At her voice, the spell was broken and he looked up. He didn’t say anything, only smiling sadly, before looking back at his desk.

“What’s wrong?” she managed. Her voice cracked a bit at the end there; Makara didn’t like seeing Raine looking like that.

“My brother’s gone,” he said, ominously. “I knew this day would come. I knew it…but I still can’t believe it.”

“Boss…should we be talking about this with Makara here?”

He waved one of his large hands. “She’ll find out, anyway. The entire gang will.”

“What happened?” Makara asked. “Are you talking about Ohlan?”

Raine gave a slow nod.

“There’s something I need to tell you about him.”

Both Green and Raine looked at her, waiting for her to continue. Now that it was time to tell him, Makara felt as if she couldn’t. Raine was already devastated that his brother had left the gang. How much more would it hurt if she knew he was plotting to kill him?

She had to say it, though.

“He’s going to try and kill you, Raine. I overheard him talking about it with this Reaper guy in one of the department stores on the other end. I don’t know how he got in, but I heard it. I was going to tell you yesterday, but…”

He nodded, and Makara was surprised to see that the news wasn’t exactly news to him. If anything, he looked even more deflated.

 “Where’d you hear this?” Green asked.

Makara explained everything she had overheard between Ohlan and Cyrus. Once done, she then had to ask her question.

“That meeting you guys had yesterday…was Ohlan there the whole time, or only for part of it?”

“He arrived late,” Raine said. “Why?”

“It was him, then. Just minutes before he came to that meeting, he was plotting against you!”

“This is serious, Raine,” Green said. “If we let him get away with this…”

“I know, Dan. I know that. He’s already gone, and has taken ten of my best men.”

“If they went with him, then they aren’t your best men,” Green said. His eyes were angry, and he looked as if he wanted to spit.

“Not just men. Cahors was one of them. So was Albright. Those men sat on my council, one time or another. Worse…they’ll know exactly where we are.”

“Well, there’s no avoiding that.”

Raine chuckled darkly. “It was my brother’s idea to move here. Fool that I am…I listened.”

Green looked at Raine in disbelief. “Wait…if it was his idea for us to move here, then he knows something that we don’t. If he’s really working for the Reapers…”

“Pray that he isn’t, Dan. Pray he only wanted to get a fresh start somewhere.”

Makara knew that was wishful thinking, especially with what she heard.

“I don’t think prayer’s going to help us out much here, Boss,” Green said.

Raine’s eyes went back to Makara. It seemed as if, at least for a moment, he had forgotten she was there.

“Thank you, Makara. But one thing before you go: I don’t want you ever going off on your own in this place again. It isn’t safe.”

She nodded. “Okay.”

It was quiet for a moment, but before Makara turned, she plucked up the courage to ask, “What’s going to happen now?”

Raine looked at her and flashed a smile. “I’ve got nothing to worry about. I’ve got Green, I’ve got my loyal soldiers, and we got more info on him than you think. It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s tried to kill me. In the end, they all find out they’re not as smart as they thought.”

“But were any of them your brother?”

It was rare for Raine to be struck silent, but he was at that.

Already, Green was showing her the door. Makara followed his lead.

“Be careful, Raine,” she said. “That’s all I’m saying.”

“Not a day over twelve and you’re acting like you’re grown,” Raine said, with a smile. “I’ve been nothing but careful my whole life, Makara. You have nothing to worry about.”

Makara nodded, but the words didn’t do much to convince her.

The walk back to her apartment was a long one. She felt a lot of things – fear for Raine’s life and fear for the Angels’ future, but more than anything else, anger at Ohlan’s betrayal. Hundreds of people worked hard to survive to survive here, and all it took was one to mess everything up.

Whatever Raine might think about it, Makara resolved in that moment to do whatever she could to stop Ohlan. And that meant finding out who was working for him, if there were any.

When Makara got home to the apartment she and her brother shared, an apartment that once been a small store on the mall’s third level, she immediately told him everything that had happened with Ohlan, along with seeing him in the meeting with Raine not fifteen minutes after.

For the first time in a long time, Samuel seemed troubled. Makara kept waiting for him to answer, to suddenly come up with the solution she hadn’t thought of on her way here.

To see him without an answer when he always seemed to have one just made it worse.

“Are you…sure?” he said, at last.

“I know what I heard, Samuel,” Makara said. “It was him.”

Samuel gave a slow nod, and went right back to thinking.

“What are we going to do, Sam? What if Raine…”

Makara couldn’t bring herself to say it.

Samuel opened his mouth to speak, but stopped short. Whatever he had been about to say, apparently he decided it wasn’t worth saying. Samuel always chose his words carefully, and that habit was driving Makara crazy right now.

“I don’t know, Makara. Raine has to be told, obviously. What worries me just as much is that an agent of the Reapers got in here in the first place. Cyrus, you said?”

Makara nodded impatiently. “They were talking about…killing him, Samuel!” The idea, said aloud, seemed ridiculous. But Raine was a powerful man, and he had many enemies. One of which, apparently, was his brother. “There are lots of unsecured entrances to this place…I’ve explored the entire complex pretty much. For all the ones Raine has blocked, there are still plenty more. I find new ones almost every week, and not all of them are on the ground level. There’s a whole basement section that I’m still exploring…”

“Maybe you shouldn’t do that anymore,” Samuel said. “At least, not alone. With all the ways into this place, I’s a little too convenient for the Reapers that we moved here. There is more space, and it is deeper in Angels’ turf…but what does that space matter if it can’t be controlled?

“What about Raine?” Makara pressed. “What do we tell him?”

“Are you absolutely sure it was Ohlan?”

“He all but said his name. It was the same, gravelly voice. I’d recognize it anywhere.”

“Then how was he able to join Raine so quickly?”

“I don’t know,” Makara said. “He must have while I was outside trying to get back in. If that’s the case, then I barely missed him.”

And if Makara was truly unlucky, then either one of them might have seen her when she left, if they also left soon after.

She pushed that thought away. “I still need to ask Raine if Ohlan was at the meeting the entire time. If not…then I don’t know what to think.”

“Do you think Ohlan suspects you of knowing anything?”

Makara thought about it. He had looked at her curiously when she walked into the meeting, but there was no telling whether he actually thought she knew anything. How would that even be possible? Ohlan was an intelligent man, so Makara wouldn’t put it past him to be suspicious, even when there was no real reason to be. What Ohlan had noticed, without doubt, was her reaction upon seeing him in the meeting with Raine. Makara had always been uneasy around Ohlan, so perhaps that might be written off.

Then again, her gut told her she had reason to worry.

 “We should wait first,” Samuel said. “Until tomorrow, at least. If we go back now and Ohlan sees either of us, it will only make him suspicious. If he suspects you, then surely he’ll be making a note of your actions.”

“Like…he’s watching me?”

“Possibly. Not directly, of course, but he always has those people who follow him around. Those are people who might be more loyal to him than Raine. We can’t be too careful, Makara. We’ll just stay home tonight.”

She hated the thought that she was being watched. She didn’t notice anyone looking at her strangely on her way home, but then again, someone who was following her wouldn’t want to be seen.

“There’s nothing too suspicious about me coming here,” Makara said, after thinking for a moment. “I was supposed to see Raine tomorrow, anyway.”

“So was I,” Samuel said. “We can go at the same time. Once Raine knows, that’s when we can take action.”

Makara nodded. Despite Samuel’s confident words, she could only wonder if it would be that easy.

Makara ran faster than she ever had in her life. This part of the mall wasn’t occupied, and the only illumination came from the skylights through which filtered weak, red sunshine, but even in the dimness, Makara was able to find her way back. She felt relieved as she entered the main concourse of the mall, where electricity had been rigged and people milled about on each of the three levels. As she lost herself among a crowd, she finally felt safe.

The Angels’ new location had attracted lots of people – though it had been a few months since the move, the number of people under the Angels’ care had almost doubled.

Makara searched the crowd for any face she might know, but everyone here was a stranger. Newer people were given homes further out from the main hub of Angel activity, so Makara jogged deeper within, forcing herself to slow down. She didn’t know who to trust, and someone might know that Ohlan was having a meeting with this Cyrus in that store, and if they saw her running from that distraction, they might be suspicious. A few cast glances her way, but she was already out of earshot by the time anyone could think to ask why she was running.

Raine was most likely in his office, which had been set up in an old department store. She took the steps of the defunct escalator two at a time, and within moments, she was racing through the entrance.

Or at least, she would have been, had there not been two thickly muscled guards barring her way.

“Can’t let you in, Makara,” one of them said. “Raine’s orders.”

“It’s important,” Makara said. “Mark, right?”

“What’s this about?” the other guard drawled.

“I can’t tell you, but I need to see Raine right now.”

“He’s in a meeting,” Mark said. “Otherwise, I’d let you right in.”

“When’s it over?”

He shrugged.

Makara chewed her lip worriedly. She knew Raine would want to hear her news immediately, but she was old enough to know that Raine was the only person she could trust, with the exception of her brother.

She stalked off, going to the railing and staring over the side. She looked in the direction from which she had come, half-expecting Ohlan and Cyrus to show up. But of course, neither did. She didn’t even know what Cyrus looked like.

There were multiple entrances to the department, so there was a chance some of the other doors weren’t covered. The only one she could guess would be left unguarded were some of the exterior doors that had once been fire exits. She could only hope, with the power on, that it wouldn’t trigger any sort of alarm.

Not just anyone was allowed outside, though, but Makara had her ways. There were way too many entrances for  guards to cover them all. Blocking the superfluous entrances was one of Raine’s priorities, but he hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

If Makara could go back into the abandoned part of the mall and leave though one of the stores, then she could wrap around back to Raine’s headquarters. It meant going outside, which was always dangerous, but it was important that Raine got this news as soon as possible.

Makara walked down the escalator until she was on the ground level. She walked quickly through the mall until the sounds of people were a low din behind her. She turned into a store which she knew would lead outside. She navigated the broken shelves and aisles of what had once been a supermarket. She found the exit easily enough; through the broken glass came the slanting rays of red sunlight. There were just a couple hours until evening, but getting to Raine’s department should take no more than five minutes.

She ducked carefully through the door which still had shards of glass sticking to its frame, and was soon outside. She looked at out at the reddened ruins beyond, and then checked in the direction of the department store in which she had overheard Ohlan. She saw nothing out that way, so she turned right, edging along the wall of the massive mall.

On her left was a vast, open space covered with dust and debris. Half-buried in the rubble were the frames of rusting cars, which Makara knew must have been sitting there ever since Dark Day. She couldn’t help but feel exposed as the cold wind blew – that space had to have been a parking lot, once, and it would be easy for anyone to see her from the ruins on the other side. She quickened her pace.

After just a couple of minutes, she reached the department Raine was in, turning right through a revolving door. She gave a push, and the door spun easily enough. At least, until it got caught on something, but by shouldering as hard as she could, Makara pushed the door forward. It spun so quickly that she tripped, and before the door could push against her, she used her momentum to dive forward into the building.

She grunted, then stood and brushed herself off. A quick scan revealed no one in sight, though she could hear the din of voices coming from the mall from up ahead. Hearing that sound oriented her; there would be an escalator nearby.

She walked through the wide open space, her boots barely making any noise of the white-tiled floor. She nearly jumped when she saw some guards sitting on some couches nearby, but they seemed for focused on their card game than on her. They didn’t even look up as she walked by, though surely they knew that she was there. Apparently, the guards inside didn’t have orders to kick anyone out who was already in.

With newfound confidence, Makara walked up the escalator to the second floor. Another guard passed her on the way down, even nodding at her as he did so. One she reached the top of the landing, she turned up a final escalator, and upon reaching the top, saw the backs of the guards that had originally told her she couldn’t enter. They were facing out toward the mall at the department’s entrance, chatting away. Makara had to stifle a giggle, because she found the thought of them turning around and seeing her standing funny.

Growing quickly serious, she went deeper into the store, and heard the sound of Raine’s voice, though it was too far for her to make out anything. She walked until she came to an open door, where inside there was a round table surrounded by chairs, each filled with a different person.

As she stood in the doorway, Raine paused in the middle of this sentence, his eyes widening a bit at seeing her. Makara was about to speak when she noticed someone most unexpected at Raine’s side.

It was Ohlan.

“We’ll be done in a minute, Makara,” Raine said. “Go find your brother.”

She blinked in disbelief. There was no way Ohlan could have gotten here this quickly after she had left him there in the store. She couldn’t help but stare at him in disbelief, and Ohlan gave a smirk, as if he knew what she was thinking.

Does he know? Did I just misunderstand something?

“All right,” she said, weakly.

She turned around and walked away from the room. She didn’t know whether to feel confused, or frightened. She couldn’t see how Ohlan could possibly be there. Ohlan never really named himself, and neither had Cyrus. Had she just been mistaken?

No…it had to have been Ohlan.

She decided to ask Raine later if he had been at the meeting the whole time. And whatever the particulars, he still needed to know that his brother planned to betray him.

Despite Makara’s first impressions, she was beginning to like the mall more than the old office building. For one, there was more room, and secondly, there were a lot of places to explore.

The mall was bigger than any building she had ever been in, and that included Bunker One. She could wander through it for hours – not just the main thoroughfares, but all the various stores, some of which were buildings in their own right. One of these departments had staircases and five different levels, filled with empty racks, broken display cases, shattered tiles. Makara was still in the process of exploring it, and it was to this department store that she was headed.

It was dark inside, but Makara had excellent night vision – so long as she kept the lights coming from the thoroughfare behind her, she could find her way back.

But even Makara could get lost sometimes. She was exploring the top level of the department when she found she couldn’t remember the way back. A lot of people would have panicked in a situation like that, and even though Makara was ten, she was calm and composed. She knew that if only she walked around enough, she would find the stairs, and half an hour later she did, sure enough.

As she made her way downstairs, she could guide herself to the department’s exit on the ground floor.

But it was when she came to the second level that she realized she wasn’t alone.

She stood still, breathing as softly as possible. She heard voices – they weren’t far, but they were also talking so quietly that she couldn’t hear very well. Her first instinct was to run, but of course that was foolish. If she ran, they would hear her and she would get caught. She thought about calling out, but that wasn’t wise, either. How was she supposed to know whether or not they were friendly? Decent people didn’t hang around in an empty department store in the dark.

Then again, Makara was here.

Against her better judgment, she crouched and crawled forward, so as to better hear. Makara’s heart pounded; she knew this was stupid. Even with how well she could see in the dark, she might bump into something. Even the smallest sound could give her away.

And yet, she felt herself drawn inexplicably forward. She strained her ears to listen.

“We’ve been waiting for months,” the man said. “Now’s the time to strike.”

Makara couldn’t place the voice, but the next she recognized instantly: Ohlan’s.

“Patience,” Ohland said. “If it was time, I would have done something by now.”

“I wonder about that sometimes,” the man said. “Lord Black will not be pleased at your progress. Or lack of progress”

Ohlan grunted. “Lord Black will be even less pleased when he discovers we have failed because we jumped the gun.” There was a pause. “Have you ever played chess?”

“No,” the man said. “I don’t see what has to do with…”

“Raine and I played, growing up. When we were kids in the 20’s, we’d play all sorts of games. Raine’s a brilliant tactician. I know no one better at thinking on the fly as Raine is. Where he fails, though, is long-term strategy. I’ve tried to get him to listen to me about this, many times. This place we’re in now…it’s the direct result of his lack of foresight. The longer I draw this out, the longer I have to bring my plan to fruition…the better the results”

“The longer he’s in charge, the worse of it’ll be,” the man said. “If not for your brother, the Angels would be running L.A. by now.”

“That’s true,” Ohlan agreed. “We’re playing a game, though. Maybe it doesn’t seem like that to you, but I know my brother. More than that, my brother knows me. He suspects me. Maybe more than that; it could be that there is no doubt in his mind as to my guilt. All he needs is a pretext. The smallest pretext. If he does that, then this will all have been for nothing, it’s all for nothing, and I’m hanging by my throat.”

“You’ve been saying this for months,” the man, so soft that Makara could barely hear. “Lord Black will hear of it.”

“Lord Black must play by the rules of the game as much as any other man,” Ohlan said. “Were he here…I’d tell him that myself.”

“You wouldn’t kill him? For what he did to your wife?”

On that point, Ohlan was silent. “My brother is the one responsible for her death. Only he deserves the blame. I see Black as nothing more than an actor in this farce. Men like him come and go in a flash, like a flare in the sky. His flare is rising, but all things must fall.”

“You realize who I am, right?”

“Of course,” Ohlan said. “Just know Raine isn’t to be underestimated. It can’t be something so simple as killing my brother. For all his faults, the people are loyal to him. Someone would rise to take his place. Green, perhaps. I’ve thought of this before. Green, more than Raine, might make a more dangerous enemy.”

“Carin wants Raine out of the picture. He’s too charismatic, too smart, too unforgiving…the longer he stays alive, the more time the Angels have to lick their wounds. Carin can’t allow that.”

“Your solution is to make a martyr of him?”

“Anything is better than waiting!”

“That’s where you’re wrong,  Cyrus. Sometimes…maybe even most of the time…waiting is the best thing you can do. My brother doesn’t make mistakes often.”

Makara racked her brain, but couldn’t remember anyone named Cyrus. With a start, she realized that their steps were heading toward her.

She backed away as quickly as she dared toward the stairway. She stopped, and there was moment of painful silence. A silence which Cyrus broke.

“What do I tell Carin, then?”

“You tell him what I told you last time.”

“He doesn’t have another few months, Ohlan. He wants results.”

“And so do I,” Ohlan said dangerously.

Makara didn’t stay to listen longer. She headed for the steps, walking slowly until she was sure she was out of earshot.

Then, she ran.

Makara watched as the last of the trucks being loaded, signifying the end of another chapter of her life. She had lived at Lost Angels HQ for three years now. The place had been the source of a lot of memories, both good and bad. The good ones had been good, and the bad ones had been…well, terrible.

Even if it had been months since the attack, the building would always bear the scars. The exterior wall of the former office building had never been repaired. Only the wall had been built back up, if not to its former strength. There was no point in building up what was going to be abandoned, anyway.

Raine and the Angels had found a new, better place. No one had known about it until the very day of the move; no one but Raine’s inner circle, any. He hadn’t even told her about it, and like that, there were dozens upon dozens of trucks, spirting away all the important articles in the Angels’ possession, leaving the least important things behind to get later. Such was the importance of keeping the location secret, since an entire gang on the move was a prime target to an opportunistic Black Reaper.

Raine had announced that morning, however, that Angel scouts had reported the way clear – the Reapers were involved in a turf war with the Krakens, making this the perfect time to move. If they were busy killing other people, the Angels could be busy moving house. Within their new home, they could lick their wounds to fight another day.

“We should get on the truck,” Samuel said. “That’s the last of ‘em.”

He wasn’t looking at her, rather, at the line of trucks waiting outside the main gate beyond the wall. Most were just idling, waiting for the order to get going.

Makara nodded, standing up and following her brother. He had gotten tall, even though he was only a few years older than her. Now fourteen, his height and broad shoulders made him look several years older. Besides that, he was smart. He often read an entire book every day, even on top of his normal duties. He gravitated toward anything that had to do with science, would speak for hours with Dr. Luken, a scientist who had worked with Dr. Cornelius Ashton in the Bunker One L-Levels.

Makara only wished she had some talent of her own. So far, the only thing she seemed to be good at was getting into trouble.

She and her brother hopped in the bed of a truck and others piled on after them.

A few minutes later, the trucks began rolling down the broken streets. They passed decrepit towers crumbling walls for what seemed to half an hour, twisting and turning at random intersections. Makara tried to keep track of where they were going, but before long, they were well out of range of anywhere she had been allowed to go. She and some of the other kids had snuck out of HQ a couple of times, but she had never gotten this far before.

Makara was starting to wonder just how far this new base could be…and then, they arrived.

The truck made a final turn, and they were going down, dropping below the streets, underground.

They were in what appeared to be a parking garage. There was a mass of people milling about between crates and vehicles, and only a small amount of Angels controlling the chaos. Some of the people were exiting through a set of doors, apparently leading into the building the parking garage was connected to.

Makara watched for a moment at the place that was to be their new home.

“It’s awful.”

Samuel chuckled. “It’s not so bad. Being underground is much safer than being above ground.”

Makara didn’t doubt that, but she would miss not being able to go outside as easily as in the old base.

“Let’s check out the inside,” Samuel said. “This is just the entrance, after all.”

Samuel hopped down from the bed of the truck. Makara followed him through the crowd, until they joined the stream of people entering through the glass doors. It was packed, but by the time they made it through, Makara was surprised to find herself in vast, cavernous space. Three balconies ran in a line while staircases connected all the various levels. There were little alcoves along the balconies, where people were already congregating. Plenty of sun flooded through the top of the building through skylights.

“A shopping mall,” Samuel said.

“A what?”

“A mall. Where people shopped.”

“Yeah, I got that. It’s just so…big. Almost as big as Bunker One.”

“There were a lot of people back then,” Samuel said, striding forward.

Makara wondered where he was going, until she realized he was joining a line.

“We’ll get our room assignments here,” Samuel said.

“Will we be close to Raine?” Makara asked.

“Probably.”

Assuming that was true, Makara thought that this place might not be so bad after all.