David Chavez wearily made his way to the fourth level common room. Terra and the baby were already curled up and asleep when he left their apartment. He wished he could just crawl into bed with them. He knew the baby would be awake in a few hours. Night and day meant nothing to his little princess.
Despite his sleep deprivation, tonight’s meeting was too important to miss. Reyes had told him in the mines this morning that Summer had confirmed Crystal’s prediction. President Holt had something planned for the Pit. A final solution, Reyes had called it. David was of the opinion they needed to act now. If they waited too long, there wouldn’t be any hope for the Pit… for his princess. Her life was just beginning.
The common room was even more crowded than when he had left earlier to see his wife to bed. He noticed that the number of young ladies attending the meetings had increased exponentially. He mildly hoped it was because they were actually concerned about the future of the Pit, but knew the reason had more to do with the fact that Reyes Crowe was back on the market.
He hovered in the doorway for a few minutes, observing the people in the crowded room. Some had already heard the news, others had not. Were they prepared to go to war? To put their lives on the line? David fervently hoped so. He couldn’t fight the bourge on his own and he refused to just stand by and watch his family be murdered.
He made his way through the crowd, squeezing through a hoard of girls, to make it to the long string of tables that had been pushed together. Reyes was already there, an all-female fan club gathered around him. They hung on his every word. It occurred to David that perhaps Reyes should be conducting the meeting.
“Hey Dawn, how about giving David a chair,” Reyes said to the pretty girl beside him.
Her chest heaved a dramatic sigh. Reluctantly she vacated the chair.
Raine was seated on the other side of Reyes and David absentmindedly noticed Reyes hadn’t asked him to move.
“Thanks,” David said to her, ignoring the sneer she shot at him. “There’s quite a crowd tonight. I’m not sure everyone’s going to fit at the table.”
Bron was seated across from him and he nodded in recognition. Before the Alliance had been created, her presence here would have had everyone in the Pit on edge. But now most people had come to accept her as the leader of the bourge side of the Alliance. A few more guards were seated around the table and more were at the door acting as both sentinels and members of the group.
Most of the people seated at the table were representatives from the different levels. David noted that Reyes and Raine were there representing the sixth level, not the man who had been elected. What was his name? David couldn’t remember … obviously a forgettable rep. And in that respect the two young men were a better choice anyway. Reyes’ presence commanded attention and Raine’s intelligence guided the duo.
“They can stand and listen just as well,” Reyes pointed out.
“We better get started. It will be lights out before we know it.”
Reyes stuck two fingers in his mouth and let out a loud whistle. Conversations throughout the room faded and everyone turned their attention to David. They all knew Sunny and Jack had left him in charge and most honored the choice.
“I’m sure it’s common knowledge, but for those who haven’t heard, President Holt’s mistress has given the Alliance some valuable information. She confirmed the rumor Crystal started. The president plans to eliminate us,” David announced.
A din of excited chatter erupted in the room. For some, the news came as a shock. For all, the idea was too horrific to actually accept as truth.
“But it’s still just a rumor, right?” someone yelled out.
“That’s what we need to discuss. Do we believe it or not? And if we do, how do we proceed?” David asked.
“The Holts have been threatening to blow us all to smithereens if we don’t give our complete loyalty since the beginning of the Dome! And this president is the craziest one of them all. There’s no doubt in mind he’ll do it.”
“Nobody can be that insane. How can he blow up the Pit without killing everyone in the Dome?” a man asked.
“I think Crystal’s song was a figure of speech. Shutting off our ventilation system will effectively kill everyone down here,” David said.
“He’s right,” Bron spoke up. “President Holt has the ability to seal off the Pit forever. I just don’t know why he would do it. The Pit is too valuable.”
“The bourge have always been loud and clear about us being unwelcome guests. Maybe they’ve decided to do something about it,” a man said, eyeing Bron suspiciously.
She shifted uncomfortably and nervously looked around the room.
“I promise you that if a conspiracy does exist, I was never part of it,” she said vehemently.
“We need to trust each other if this Alliance is going to work,” David said in a loud voice. He was becoming impatient with all the distrust. It was impeding the entire revolution. “The question we need to address tonight is how do we proceed.”
A latecomer came through the door, temporarily creating a distraction. It was during meetings like this that they were at their most vulnerable. All it would take was a group of Domers to come marching in and they would be exposed as traitors. Luckily it wasn’t a Domer. It was just a young man, late for the meeting.
“Hey Angel, you find your sister yet?” Raine asked the young man. Angel shook his head.
Angel and his sister, Abby, were well-known in the Pit since siblings were very rare. Though twins were not unheard of, normally the first born would be allowed to live and the second would be culled. But Abby was born with so many complications the doctors decided to let nature take its course. So they allowed her to go home with her parents to live out what they expected to be a short life. Everyone was amazed that the bourge had let her live…or maybe they had just forgotten about her. Either way, she was a precious rarity that everyone wanted to protect.
“It’s been a few days. She’s probably gone,” Reyes said matter-of-factly.
Raine shot him an angry glare. Reyes was being insensitive. Angel’s sister had been missing ever since the battle that erupted following Crystal’s execution. Although everyone suspected she was dead, Angel wasn’t giving up hope of finding her alive. And other than hope, what else did they have in the Pit to inspire them to keep fighting?
Raine turned his attention back to Angel. “Don’t give up, man.”
“Maybe the uniforms can get us some guns,” Reyes said, looking at Bron.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Bron replied.
“Why not?” David asked.
“Because the last battle fought down here resulted in a few minor cave-ins. Imagine what a lot of gunfire would do. Besides, there’s no place to train any of you to use a gun.”
“We can use the mine during the day. It’s not like there are any Domers left down there,” Reyes snickered.
“There are no women in the mine. How do we learn to use one?” asked a woman at the table.
“The men will protect you,” Reyes said, as if it was an intuitive fact. The woman glared at Reyes, but it made no impact.
David dropped his head, chafing his closed eyelids with his thumb and index finger. He just wanted to go home and live his life in peace.
“Gunfire is the last thing you want in a mine. Even the slightest amount of gas can set off an explosion. The guards down there are trained to use their gun only as a last resort,” Bron said.
“I knew we couldn’t trust them. They want us to be willing victims,” a man from the crowd accused Bron.
“That’s the last thing I want!” Bron glared at her accuser. “I would like to point out that, according to Reyes’ story, the president’s mistress also said not to give Holt what he wants. What if war is what he wants? And ask yourselves if you will ever stand a chance of winning sealed away down here? I say it’s time to come up with a strategy to get out of the Pit. Or at the very least, an escape route into the Dome. The next battle should be fought up there.”
“What about Sunny O’Donnell?” a woman asked. “Have we heard from her? Are they alive? I mean, if its okay outside, we don’t need to go war. The Treaty will come to an end.”
“No one’s heard from them. They’re dead,” someone else chimed in.
“Enough!” David yelled. “It’s barely been a week since Sunny and Jack left the Dome. I think it’s a bit early to assume they’re dead.” He looked at Bron. “However, it would be foolish to just sit here and wait for them to save us. I agree with Bron – the next battle should be fought up there, but we’ll need the weapons to fight with.”
“What do you think, Joe?” Bron asked the guard sitting next to her.
“It’s doable,” he said.
“Alright. We’ll see what we can get our hands on,” Bron said.
There were a few disbelieving snorts from the crowd that David chose to ignore.
“It’s twenty minutes to lights out. I suggest we all get back to our homes,” David said.
The sound of chairs scraping against the floor filled the room as the crowd prepared to leave. David shuffled out of the common room with everyone else, glad to be finally going home. He was exhausted.
The guards at the meeting took up their usual posts at their assigned levels. It still felt strange to think of them as comrades instead of adversaries. It made life in the Pit a lot less stressful.
Terra and the baby were still asleep when David arrived home. Silently, he undressed and slipped into bed behind his wife. It felt good to be back with his family, alone in their cozy home.
He propped himself up on his elbow and watched his baby daughter as she slept. A chubby little thumb rested halfway between her parted heart-shaped lips. He watched the rise and fall of her chest with each breath she took until she hiccupped a big sigh. He held his own breath, waiting for her squawks to begin. But she just pushed her thumb back into her mouth. David exhaled.
Smoothing out his wife’s hair, he used it like a silk cover for his tattered pillow. He closed his eyes and breathed in the scent of her. A peaceful calm came over him.
This was what life was supposed to be like.
Written by: S.M. McEachern Proofread by: Christina Galvez