This story is by Rae B Zuka and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I stare at the paper in front of me, at a name I know all too well–Sarah Ruby, the newest rebel leader. The file says she started the Rebellion last year, but I know that this isn’t true. And now she is sitting on Death Row, a few rooms down from my office.
I look into her file and read over her crimes. Her most serious–hacking into the president’s computer and gaining access to, well, everything. They are going to torture her before they kill her to find out how she managed to hack it. It was quite easy. The president’s password was ‘Ilovelucy!27’ after his abnormally old cat, Lucy. The president never shuts up about the old cat, so anyone eavesdropping could have figured it out. Everyone else’s password was harder, but at least carelessness got the Rebellion what it needed, plus a whole lot more.
The current Rebellion formed after the demise of the last, much weaker rebellion five years ago, under the charismatic leadership of Sarah Ruby. Back then, it was just four of us who were tired of suffering under the current regime, where food shortages and violence were equally common. We began plotting and solidifying our ideals, which Sarah was able to convert into a version that others could support. Sarah had a silver tongue and a way of inspiring people. Because of that, she became the figurehead, and without her, the government believes the Rebellion will fall apart. But they don’t know about me.
I began installing the tech of the building, including the cameras, so I understand their processes and systems. I was the rat lurking in their wires, with the ability to cut the cameras at any second. Slowly, I moved my way up the ranks, gaining access to more and more information. Everything was going as Sarah and I planned, but the government decided to notice how much of a threat she really poses.
I take the picture of Sarah, who is a red-haired goddess, out of the file and slide it into my wallet. It clearly shows the defiance in her emerald eyes. Putting the wallet into my bag, I pull out my pistol and pray that the thirty minute-long “scheduled security camera maintenance” will be long enough to do what I need to do. I tuck the pistol in to my pants and then grab my bag and Sarah’s file.
I walk down the hall, going unnoticed because of the excitement in the surrounding rooms as the government agents plan what to do with Sarah and her followers. Now that the figurehead was in custody, the Department of Defense felt it could make easy work of the rest of the Rebellion.
I make my way to her room. In my head, I debate and rethink my decision. I could stay in this limbo, and I wouldn’t be happy or free, but it would be familiar. It would be simpler to stay here. But the Rebellion must not die. The innocents do not deserve the fate that the government has planned. The Rebellion has the only chance to stop it.
The government plans to set off a nuclear weapon in the middle of the country to start anew, cleanse the population of the imperfect. All of the important people and their families will leave the country, under the guise of a company trip. Anyone who survives the bomb will be forced to comply with building the “New Continent.” Agents will start moving the nuke once word gets out about Sarah’s death. They all think that they have won.
I open the door to Sarah’s room. I notice the blood first–blood dripping slowly from the hands of two agents. They yell at me to leave but I do not listen. And Sarah–oh God, Sarah–is beaten and bloodied with a broken nose and black eyes, and she probably has more injuries I just can’t see. But she just smiles a wide, toothy grin and says, “There’s my beautiful, beautiful girl. I’ve missed you.”
The agents, taken back by what she said, pause and look at Sarah for a second. Then they turn back to me, but I have already pulled my gun out and pointed it at one agent. His eyes widen a bit and BAM. The shot rings in my ears as I aim at the other agent.
He pulls his own gun out and points it at me. He slowly begins to talk to me about how I can come back from this, how we could twist a story in my favor about what has happened here.
I begin to lower my gun as my eyes drift to Sarah. Sarah Ruby, the cause of all of what has happened here today. Sarah, the leader of the Rebellion we started together.
The agent is still speaking, but the thoughts in my head drown out his voice. Half of me wants to believe that I can come back from this, back to ‘normal’. It might be true; he can’t prove anything about my involvement with the Rebellion. But the other half of me is all for Sarah, and the moonlit dinners we shared talking about a better future.
Sarah stares at me in disbelief as I lower the gun to my side. Tears well up in her eyes, which scream at me in betrayal. The agent lowers his own weapon and sets it back in the holster. He begins to move towards me, but I move quicker. One shot, and he is on the floor.
I move fast–my thirty minutes is almost up. I untie Sarah and hand her my bag, which carries all the evidence that we need to prove the government’s plans. We each grab one of the agents’ guns and turn to one another.
Her emerald eyes lock onto mine with uncertainty. I can sense her inability to fully trust me after the moment of weakness where I almost believed in the government, even though it has proven to be genocidal. We used to be able to communicate with just a gaze. Now, her eyes still speak a thousand words, but I can no longer read them.
I believed in this Rebellion with all of my being; I helped found it. I sent myself here to aid the Rebellion, but it proved to be a job I could never truly fulfill. It was years upon years alone, losing myself in this persona. I remember all of the nights I spent resenting Sarah for being free, despising her words that gathered this following in the first place. I hated her righteousness as much as I admired it.
But these are issues we can reckon with after we are safe.
“The quickest way out of here is the emergency exit at the end of the hall, but there’s no telling what we’ll find on the way,” I say, breaking the silence.
“We thought something like this would happen, and I’d be captured,” Sarah says. “I have someone waiting in a coffee shop, ready to signal our getaway car. All we have to do is wave him down from the alleyway.”
I was shocked by her words and her trust in me, for I did not know my own choice just mere minutes before saving her.
“At least one of us has to make it back to them with the bag,” I say. “It has to be you.”
“It better be both of us,” Sarah replies, her voice hoarse from the blood gurgling around her lips.
So we make a break for it, guns raised and ready to shoot anyone who gets in our way.