We were now at Ancora, unlocking the gates and slipping inside. I tried asking the guardians if they could keep the gate open, but they looked so horrified at the thought that I didn’t press them. We would just have to unlock the gate again, but we had plenty of time. Almost forty minutes! In nine minutes the alarm at Acinert would go off and thirty minutes after that… The end.
But not for these villagers. Not if I had anything to do with it, and I did.
After Jay had left us in the darkness, I had comforted Rosie until she was able to tell me what had happened to her. What she said confirmed my suspicions that Jay had bugs and cameras all over Ancora. Rosie had been brought in the day before, after she realized how stupid the law was that said Lloyd and Verna were unable to be together because of their color. She had gone to her mother to ask her questions and not long after that, some workers showed up to bring her back here.
Rosie explained that she had been left here all night without any food or water, and it wasn’t until a few hours before I got there that she found out her fate. Jay had shown up and told her that since she found the laws of Ancora to be ‘stupid’, then she would be forced to leave. Rosie hadn’t known that meant death, and I immediately relieved that Jay had thrown me in with her–so I could save her from this fate.
“Okay,” I said as we jogged into town. “Jay said that there was a timer in the Meeting Hall. It’ll be in the walls, or under the floor–I think.”
Rosie went a little faster so she could grab my arm. “Miss Danevbie, it’s Wednesday,” she said and I wasn’t sure why that was so important–then I remembered. Every Wednesday at eleven AM the villagers had a meeting. And it was about five till.
“That’s good,” I put in quickly. “It means everyone will be there. Except… the guardians, right?”
Rosie nodded. “Everyone, no matter the age. Except the two guardians. My mom and dad will be there. You’ll save them. Right?”
“Of course, I’ll save them,” I promised as we went towards the Meeting Hall. “We’ll save all of them.” I looked at Kellen who seemed worried. “We’ll just convince them to leave and go out through the gates. We have plenty of time.”
It took a lot longer than I wanted to convince the townspeople of Ancora. I spoke for several minutes, using the lie that Jay gave me: an opposing military power had planted explosives. It helped that I was well-liked in this town, and that Rosie backed me up. The Wings were very well-liked in this town, so between me and Rosie we were able to impress upon them the dangers.
“We have half an hour,” I said, checking my watch. “So let’s go.”
“What do we do?” asked someone. “Ancora is gonna be ruined? What about us? These are our homes, our lives–what do we do?”
I bit my bottom lip, glancing at Kellen who stepped up. “I know it’s going to be a big change, but you’ll adjust to life outside these walls. Please–let’s talk after we leave. I know we have some time, but we should get far from here as quickly as we can.”
As we headed to the gates, I could hear the grumbles and complaints behind me. I was angry about that–not at them, of course. It wasn’t their fault. But this was all they knew and they were being pulled up by the roots. They had no clue what awaited them, and only knew a little of technology. Dozens and dozens of human beings, their lives ruined by that thing. But not destroyed. I would not let their lives be ended.
I stopped when I saw the gates. The guardians were pacing around and looking terrified, and I didn’t blame them. There were great shutters over the gates. I jogged over, grabbing the nearest guardian. “What happened? Wh–the gates?”
“Doctor Dearg showed up!” he whimpered. “She–she said that there was an emergency and this was for our best and… and…”
“Can you open it?” I demanded, quickly going over but seeing that it was futile. The shutters were attached to outside the gate and they were strong. We could unlock the gate but they opened outwards. I reached through and pounded at the wood. It seemed strong, and I doubted it’d be easy to get it open.
We were trapped. The fear I had been trying to control started inching up my body. I wanted to scream, and I wanted even more to just cry. But I was able to hold everything in when I saw Rosie staring at me. I had to stay strong. For her, for all the villagers. So I turned around and faced Kellen. “We need to get this broken down,” I said, trying to sound like someone in charge. “We’ll need tools. Anything! The sharper the better.”
I gazed over the crowd and fixated on the whites and the greys. The farmers and the carpenters. “Do you guys have saws or any kind?” I asked the greys, knowing they wouldn’t have any power saws. “Pickaxes or–very sharp tools? Shovels will work too,” I added to the whites. “Hoes. Sharp tools. Go! Collect them! Everyone else!” I turned as the whites and greys ran off. “I want everyone to stay here, but if you have any sharp tools at home… Or anything heavy, that could be used to ram the shutters and help break it.”
I had no idea how thick these shutters were, but I had the feeling they were thick enough to cause us precious time. Kellen came up next to me. “I’m going to the Hall,” he said quietly.
“Wh–why?” I asked, swallowing my fear.
“I’m going to try to find the thing and–” He stopped and went very pale. “I know enough about mechanics. Maybe I can stop it, or slow it, or–“
“Blow yourself up!” I put my hands on my hips and glared. “No! Nobody is allowed to go to the Hall!”
Kellen seized me and gave me a passionate kiss. “Don’t worry,” he said, letting go. “I’ll be okay.”
“N–no! Kellen!” I started to follow him as he took off, but the whites and greys were already returning. I saw things I had asked for, though not very much. I cast a miserable look at Kellen’s retreating back, and then divvied the tools up between the strongest of the group. They had a hard time of working since they had to try to get past the holes in the gate, and I wasn’t even sure if this would work. Even if we made a hole… we wouldn’t be able to get through the gate. But maybe if we got them unlocked, we’d have enough strength to pull them inwards enough for people to get through.
Something to worry about when it happens, I thought. “I’ll be right back,” I said to no one in particular, and then I headed to the Meeting Hall. Kellen was pulling up the floorboards and he had already found a trail of wires.
“Get out,” I said, storming into the room. “I don’t want you near this thing.”
“Lune, getting through the gate is gonna take a while,” he said, purposely not meeting my gaze. “A lot longer than what we have. I need to… try. You need to get out. Okay? Go back, help them get through.”
I ran over and knelt down next to him. “I can’t do anything out there. They’re working on it. Kellen, please don’t do this. Even if you do find it… if you mess with it, what if you–you–“
I couldn’t finish the sentence. The tears were coming and Kellen paused from his work long enough to wipe away the tears. “Shh! Luna, don’t cry. Please. Why don’t you get some of the others to see if there is a way over the fence.”
“You know as well as I do that you can’t go over the fence,” I grumbled. “It’s far too high.” I began helping him pull apart the floor, feeling numb. This wasn’t happening. This could not be happening. A bomb, all the death–this wasn’t the real world. This was a dream. This couldn’t be real.
“Found it!” Kellen said and I looked up. “It doesn’t look too complicated.”
“Jay said it was decades old,” I said, crawling over to him and seeing the wired thing in the hole. It didn’t look like much. “That should make it easier, right?”
“This isn’t that old,” he mumbled, looking at the explosive carefully. “The wires around the room are but this–this is maybe a year old at most. She must have switched these things out every so often.”
“NO!” I screamed as he reached down. He fell backwards, eyes huge, looking as though I had hit him or something. “I know what this is! I helped–I helped…” I began sweating when I saw the timer. 23 minutes, 40 seconds. “The timer. I helped build it. It was for the military. We had to work on a timer that wasn’t easily disabled or fixed.”
“Of course,” Kellen said, his voice practically a growl. “OF COURSE!”
“No!” I said, trying to keep him quiet. “No, it’s good–I know how this works. But you can’t touch it. If you so much as touch the timer, mess with the wires, push any of the buttons–you’ll get a nasty zap. See that little protruding bit? It won’t kill you, but it will hurt. Bad.”
Kellen scowled. “So what do I do? Ignore it? We have twenty-two minutes. Are we going to get through the door in time?”
“Your phone…” I moaned, realizing how horribly stupid I truly was. “Jay took my phone–but you still have yours!” Kellen’s face lit up and he shuffled through his pockets until he pulled his phone out. He flipped it open and started to press buttons when he just stopped. “Wh–what are you stopping?” I asked.
“It’s not working,” he said quietly. “She must have disabled it.”
I closed my eyes, feeling ill. She probably did do that since our phones were from Acinert. So they would work from inside the building and in Ancora. Regular cell phones would not work at all here so we were given these things upon employment. And perhaps not only was she able to disable whichever phone she wanted, but she could listen in…
The thought of that creeped me out. Jay listening into my phone calls.
But now wasn’t time to dwell on it. Now was the time to dwell on the fact that we might have our ending a bit sooner than any of us wanted. I needed to remember everything about this timer, though I hadn’t worked too much on it. I had mostly drawn up plans for the electric shock. I knew there was a way around it… but what?
As I thought, a little voice nagged me at the back of my mind. A little voice pointing out the fact that it was going to be hard to escape this in the time allotted. We needed to stop that explosive, or if that failed, slow it down long enough to give us enough time to escape.
I would get out of this. For my babies, for my family, for Kellen, and for the fact that I wanted to wring that little green-eyed snake’s neck, great-aunt or not.