In the mirror I saw a fifteen-year-old brunette staring into the dark brown eyes of her reflection. "Are you ready to go, Makayla?" I turned to see my best friend putting her black hair into a ponytail.
"Faith, don't rush me okay?" I pleaded.
"Well, you have millions of kids waiting for the eighth member of the council." She urged gently. "You know how the A.V. kids like to get things done and over with. They want to start the live news feed. Now."
I sighed. "I just don't like to be the bearer of bad news."
"Someone has to tell them." She gently grabbed my hand and led me out into the empty, earthy hallways. We walked passed door after door to the elevator.
"Everyone was so happy about the peace treaty signing." I agonized.
"We can withstand a few more months in the underground cities." Faith comforted. She hooked her arm into mine. "Besides, the other council members will be right there sharing the bad news too."
"I suppose so." I accepted. Faith pressed the 'Down' arrow to call the elevator. We stepped inside as the doors opened. "Things just seemed to be going so well." The doors closed.
"No one could have seen it coming." Faith consoled. "There was no way anyone could have prevented it."
The doors opened again. Teens were running around with headsets on. Wires and extension cords covered the ground. The stage had a blue background sheet behind a wooden table. The seven council members were sitting, waiting in their seats.
A black boy with a clipboard jogged toward my direction. "She's here." He said into the headset. "Get into position."
I took a deep breath and walked slowly to my spot in the center of the table. As I sat down, the set became quiet and the director counted down. "Five…" She began. "Four…three…two…" She held up one finger and the 'On Air' sign illuminated over the elevator door.
"Good evening kids of America." I announced. I took a deep breath and tried not to tear up. "We all thought that the peace treaty that was supposed to be signed today would end World War Three and we would be released from these bunker cities." I bit my lip.
"Unfortunatley," Nate said for me. "the world leaders were ambushed. The treaty signing was a trap. We won't be able to return home. At least, not yet."
"In other news…" Rachel began her part. "We are all aware of the army enrollment rule. My sister turned seventeen a few days ago and because of the rule, she was deported." Tears streaked down her face. "I'll be taking her spot on the council."
"I'm sorry Rachel." I apologized. "She won't actually see a battle until she's finished with the three year training program." I tried to reassure the sad-eyed, thirteen year old blonde.
Faith hugged her. "I'm sure you'll do great on the council."
"Thanks." She wiped a tear off her cheek. "I have to go do some paper work that my sister didn't get around to." She headed for the elevator.
"You okay?" I turned to see Nate.
"I'm fine." I lied. His dirty blonde hair told me that he had been wearing his baseball hat backwards all day.
"If you say so…" He shrugged. "but I'm not so sure."
"Nate!" The brown-headed Ben called as he jogged across the room. "We have to get back to our own cities."
Nate turned to me. "I'll see you at the meeting tomorrow." He walked towards the elevator with Ben.
Faith nudged me. "Here comes the carrot-top dictator." I turned to see Jamie. Her face was almost as red as her hair.
"Makayla? Has my brother left yet?"
"Yeah, he just left with Nate." I replied.
She folded her arms and grimaced. "I can't believe that he's ignoring his job as mayor of city three."
"Actually," Faith objected. "Your twin is the one who told Nate that they had to get back to their cities."
Her expression softened. "Good. So my lecture last night worked." She headed towards the elevator.
"Why does everyone have to leave so soon?" Faith asked.
"The council members have to order more supplies this month." I reminded her. "It's a semi-annual thing, remember?"
Faith shrugged. "That's not my responsibility. How am I supposed to remember?"
"You do the paperwork with me." I chuckled.
"Right." Faith smirked.
I grinned. "Let's go file out the order."
When we reached the first sublevel, the hallways were crowded. "Recreation hour." I muttered as I pushed through. We finally managed to get back into my dorm. I grabbed the papers out of my desk and laid them out on the coffee table. "Let's start with vegetables and fruit." I sighed.
"Who cares about that?" Faith asked. "Can't we start with the ice cream?"
"Because of funding, we won't be given anymore sweets." I said simply. "That money will be used for the troops."
"Oh." Faith shrugged. "Okay." She grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil. "We just put in the same amount as last time, right? The population is still twenty-four million."
"Yup. So for veggies, we need one billion, six-hundred forty million, seven-hundred thousand cans." I calculated. "Just for the next six months."
"Wow…" Faith awed. "It never ceases to amaze me how much we need."
Four-seventeen. I thought. I'm late for the meeting. I rushed through the second sublevel hallways. "I'm late. As usual." I ran into Faith as I turned the corner. "Oops! I'm so sorry!"
"It's fine. Just get to the meeting." Faith grinned.
"Could you do me a favor?" I asked. "I haven't gotten around to checking the militia's reports for the day."
"I'll do it, don't worry." Faith giggled. "Now go do your council gig."
I nodded and ran down the hall, opened the door and entered the enormous room with a round, mahogany table in the middle. "I'm so sorry. I lost track of time."
"We figured." Nate admitted. He gestured to the empty seat next to him. "Sit, we haven't started yet."
I took my seat and grinned. "Good. Now, let's here the latest reports on the war."
"Three major battles have happened in the past week." Rachel began. She placed three pieces of paper down on the table. "One in the icy tundra near the Arctic base, and the other two near Guam."
I nodded. "How bad were those?"
"The Arctic base was taken over. We lost about a thousand soldiers." Rachel stated. "They're holding the other two thousand or so hostage."
I sighed. "It's better than them being dead, I guess."
Ben nodded. "Both battles near Guam we won. There was hardly any bloodshed."
"Good." I sighed. "Not too bad then. I take it that you guys have already submitted the forms?"
"Yes." Jamie retorted. "You should really consider getting organized." She held out her hand for me to give the papers to her.
I rolled my eyes and handed them over. "I was in a video conference with my dad."
"Oh, that's right." I turned to see the pale, black-headed, blue-eyed boy that we've all come to know and love, speak. "Today was your monthly conversation with your dad. Sorry we had to interrupt, but business is business."
I nodded. "It's no biggie, Lewis. We're getting everything in on time, right?"
"Yeah, and it's not like a huge emergency." Lewis agreed. "We haven't encountered one of those since we were first evacuated into the bunker cities."
As if on cue, Faith rushed in and said in a panicked tone, "We've been discovered."
"What do you mean?" The strawberry blonde, Cathy, asked.
"I mean that an enemy army is right above us." Faith explained. "They brought drills. So they're most likely trying to find the cities."
"Initiate a code blue." Ryan proclaimed. "We have to get everyone to the lower levels."
Faith nodded and ran out into the hallway.
I glanced at Ryan and Rachel who were only thirteen. They didn't want to be on the council, but by inheritance from older siblings, they had to. They're great additions, Ryan especially, but even though he gave off a calm façade, I could see the fear in his almond brown eyes.
"Prepare the militias." I stated. "Get ready for a full out invasion."
"But we need to know what they have." Ryan pointed out. "What kind of weapons, how many soldiers, and what vehicles they have."
"I'm on it." Nate volunteered.
"I'll go with him." Ben stood. "We'll simply head up to the surface and do a simple recon."
"It's risky." Cathy warned, her worry voice showing. "Can't we send a robot or something?"
"I doubt it'll do any good." Lewis shrugged. "It moves too slow. And if they find it, they'll just destroy it."
"Or hack the signal and find out where the video feed is being fed to." Ryan added.
"We'll be fine." Nate reassured us.
We sat there, in a control room, in sublevel nine. The army, so far, hasn't begun to drill. The blue light flashed above our heads. The siren stopped after about fifteen minutes.
"They haven't reported back." Cathy worried. "Why haven't they reported back yet?"
"That'd be because we haven't left the hangar yet." Nate chuckled through the radio.
"Oh." Cathy forced a smile. "Right. What are you doing? Why don't you get it over with?"
"We're getting suited up." Ben's voice said plainly. "You know, bullet proof vest, semi-automatic rifles and everything."
I couldn't help but smile. Cathy was always caring about our well-being. "I'm sure they'll be fine." I lied, but tried to make it sound convincing.
Cathy sighed. "You're a horrible liar."
Faith hugged the fourteen-year-old. "Everything will be fine. After all, Nate's dad is a Military commander and Ben's dad is an Air Force General."
A faint smile grew on Cathy's lips. "True."
"Alright, we're heading out." Nate's voice sighed.
"Be careful." Cathy, once again, pleaded.
"Don't worry about us." Ben reassured. "We'll be fine."
"Ben." Jamie said plainly. "Don't kill yourself."
"Glad I can always count on ya sis."
We waited in choking silence for what seemed like an eternity. "We see them." Nate's voice whispered. "They've situated themselves about a mile from the main entrance."
"What do they have with them?" Ryan asked. His chocolate skin made him a simple shadowy figure in the dim light.
"About five drills, twenty tanks, and maybe ten thousand soldiers." Ben listed calmly. "As for guns, we can't see them from this angle."
"Can you get a closer look?" Lewis asked. "But if you don't think you can, don't go."
Radio silence followed.
"Maybe." They whispered.
"Why are you whispering?" Faith asked loudly.
"We're about fifty yards from the camp site. Crammed within the lower crevices of the mountain." Ben explained. "We don't want our voices to echo. Keep your voices down."
Faith nodded. "Okay. Sorry."
Radio silence grasped the room. I glanced at Rachel. She was biting her nails. "Tell them to come back. We've learned enough, haven't we?"
"I guess we have." I reached out my hand to grab the radio. It burst to life with the sound of guns.
"We're heading back." Ben panted. "We got too close. We'll head in through the lower mountain pass."
"We need to get militia units in the upper caves." Ryan commanded suddenly.
It took me a second to understand what he wanted to happen. "You want to fire at the enemy as they approach."
Ryan nodded. "It'll not only cause a distraction, but it'll also hurt them."
"We may expose ourselves." Jamie argued. "They'll know where we are."
"They already know that we're here." I retorted. "Besides, the mountain passes are well hidden and with the militia attacking, they'll be too distracted with protecting themselves than with trying to kill your brother and Nate."
Jamie fell silent. For the first time, she was speechless. "Do what you have to do."
I watched as the militia lined up for their weapons and armor. "The goal is simple: attack from above, but when Nate and Ben are safe, you retreat."
"What if they pursue?" One of the minutemen asked.
"Get out and get out fast. We'll detonate the explosives to create an avalanche on them." I restated the plan that was made earlier.
The radio in my hand crackled. "They need assistance now." Lewis's voice said in a slightly panicked tone.
"Ten-four." I said back. "Alright, show time!" I jogged into the passageway with the unit close behind. Darkness swallowed us whole. I turned on the flashlight and saw the beam cut through. Soon we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I glanced down and there was the enemy with their automatic rifles and desert camouflage.
"Fire." I said to them. A barrage of gunshots pelted the soldiers four stories below. It didn't take them too long to react with their own gunfire. Then, just like planned, another unit fire on them from the other side of the narrow ravine. More soldiers fell. More came in as backup.
The ground shook and an explosion threw rocks into the air. I glanced out into the flat desert. Tanks. I dreaded. We're safe in the caves though.
Two more blasts crashed into the sides of the mountain. "Bring on the catapult and the grenades." I ordered into the radio.
"Roger that." Though Faith was two stories above me, I could see the mischievous grin on her face as she ordered her unit to aim for the tank.
My unit continued to fire on the enemy as they tried to climb the steep walls. They were trying to do the same thing on the other side. I grabbed the radio. "Unit two, fire on the soldiers climbing towards us. We'll fire on those climbing towards you."
"Roger that." Ryan responded. Bullets flew towards the wall on our side. Bodies dropped and cries of pain were barely heard over the piercing sound of guns.
I nodded to my unit. They did the same. Normally, I would grimace at the sight of death, but this is war. You don't think about that in war. You think about surviving. You think about protecting your people. At least, that's what I was thinking at that moment. I knew that I couldn't afford to fail.
That's when I thought I heard a missile explode. I turn to see that the tank was in pieces and on fire. Another tank rolled in behind it. It was destroyed almost instantly with a flurry of grenades.
"Ben and Nate are safe!" Cathy's voice squealed excitedly. "They're safe. Fall back. I repeat, fall back."
We made our way down the tunnel. Once my unit was safely inside, I pressed a rock. It sunk into the wall. A keypad popped up. I typed in the code that released the steel door and locked in place. I punched in another code that would surge the equivalent amount of voltage as a lightening bolt through it.
The people who made these bunkers wanted to make sure we were safe. I grinned. I jogged back into the hangar, locking it the same way as the tunnel.
"Miss me?" Nate asked. He had taken off the bulletproof vest and was sitting on a bench. A medical trainee was checking his head wound.
"Scared me is more like it." I smiled.