The Discover Scouts

Reads: 27  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
When he and his fellow Discover Scouts-to-be are brought to a new planet to reform them to be the perfect colonizers of a new planet, Lycanere must try to find a way for him and everyone else to escape. But can he do it when the brainwashed Discover Scouts try to kill him and his friends?

Submitted: October 18, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 18, 2018

A A A

A A A


 

The battlefield was covered in mangled bodies and blood. Two armies fought each other mercilessly; one a human militia equipped with guns, and the other a hunched, big, furry, dark, and animalistic alien species. While the humans’ guns’ red lasers illuminated the field and took down the aliens, the aliens jumped onto the humans and tore them apart as if they were pieces of paper. The humans were obviously losing. No matter how much they shot, the aliens still outnumbered them and were much fiercer and faster. There’d be no way to kill them all.

“Retreat!” Lycanere yelled. He was human, tall, muscular, and only fifteen with dark brown skin and dreadlocks peeking out from underneath a helmet on his head. He adjusted the helmet and held his gun close to him as he turned around and charged back to the human base: a large, black complex within a luminescent purple dome-shaped force-field.

He kept his eyes on his retreating army around him. He watched as some of them would stop, turn, and shoot at their oncoming pursuers as if they thought they could still win this fight.

“Don’t waste your ammo! Just run!” he yelled.

Lycanere listened to the screams of his people as the aliens pushed on and killed them; jumping onto their backs and ripping them apart.

He’d been through this too many times already. He hated hearing their screams. Don’t look over your shoulder, he thought as he ran. He didn’t want to see them dead again. Don’t look over your shoulder. He didn’t want to see that he’d lost again. Don’t look over your… but he did. Yet, instead of seeing his people, he saw an alien running full bore at him only a few yards away.

“Shit.” He turned back to the base. He could make it there in a few seconds. He’d been trained for this. But when has my training ever worked.

He could hear the alien behind him as he dashed towards the force-field. Three feet away. Two feet away. One foot away.

Down.

It was on his back.

Lycanere ripped off his mask.

He was back in the game room sitting on a large white metal chair stuck to the ground, electrical impulses rippling through it, with the white mask in his hands. He looked up at the large screen in front of him, the words “GAME OVER” scrawled across it in blood red. It switched to a high score screen full of the top ten scores beside three initials. Every single score was prefixed with the word “LOSS.” The top score read “LOSS – 180 MIN – MAD” and the second “LOSS – 175 MIN – LYC.” Three of the other scores read LYC and the rest MAD. His new score flashed on the screen. “LOSS – 178 MIN – _ _ _.”

“L. Y. C,” he said aloud. The initials appeared on the screen as he said each one. He watched his new score take the second-place spot and push one of MAD’s off the screen.

He exhaled and accidentally gazed up out of the large window behind the game screen into the empty and quiet vastness of space. He turned away immediately, not wanting to be reminded of his future so soon, and looked around the game room. It was full of many white metal chairs, masks, and screens. There was no place better on the ship than this.

The room’s only door slid open, and Scout Master Mike entered. He was middle-aged and just as dark as Lycanere. He held a sandwich wrapped in plastic wrap in his hands.

He approached Lycanere, his eyes on the game screen.

“Beating Conqueror’s War isn’t gonna get you outta here,” he said.

“Doesn’t matter. I’m never gonna win or pass that MAD guy.”

“Girl, and you have the second highest score on the ship, Lyc. The game’s hard.”

“That’s an understatement. It’s not even realistic, they randomize the alien’s physique every time. It’s always something different.”

“When is war ever realistic?”

Mike handed him the food.

“Thank you.” Lycanere unwrapped the sandwich and took a bite.

“You gotta stop skipping lunch, brother.”

“You’re still bringing me food, aren’t you?”

Mike rolled his eyes. “You need to familiarize yourself with the others. Ostracizing yourself will only make it worse once you--”

“I’ll be fine.”

Lycanere turned back to the screen. Mike reached over and turned it off.

“One more game, Mike,” Lycanere pleaded.

“Not enough time. We’re landing soon.”

“Enough time for me to lose.”

“You’ve already won to me, Lyc.” He gave Lycanere a side-hug and rubbed his arm.

Lycanere stayed quiet. His best friend Reggie had won, being the only person in the universe in the last forty years. Yet, he wasn’t here with Lycanere right now, despite who he was. That’s because he won, Lycanere knew.

Mike placed a hand on Lycanere’s shoulder. “I just wanna let you know that, no matter what happens here, we’re still kin.”

“Not blood.”

“Don’t matter. We’ll always be Rats, so we’ll always be brothers. Working together ‘til the end.”

“I’m a--”

“Wolf. I know. But you’re still part Rat, and that means you’re my brother and I will love you like one ‘til the day I die.” He hugged Lycanere again. “I don’t care if you’re a failed colony unifier, and neither will anyone else here. So, you shouldn’t either.”

Mike’s watch beeped and he glanced at it. He nodded and walked back towards the door which slid open again. “Come with me. Scout’s Honor is only ten minutes away.”

Lycanere approached the older man. “How long will we be there?”

They exited the room into a steel and silver hallway with barely enough width for them to walk side-by-side.

“A few days. We’ll get you coupled, name you Discover Scouts, and then go to Jovial-10 to drop you all off. Then, you’ll be there for the rest of your life.”

They reached a door at the end of the hall and it slid open. There was a ramp descending into a huge room in front of them: the unloading dock. Children and teenagers filled the room. There were sixty of them in total, including Lycanere.

“Coupled?” Lycanere said.

They make their way down the ramp.

“Yeah, if you were at lunch when I explained it…” he stopped and exhaled, “You and some girl, I apologize in advance, have been chosen to be coupled together. You’ll impregnate her and your babies will roam Jovial-10. It’s our whole ‘normal’ thing we push. Parents love it.”

“And if I don’t want to be coupled?”

Mike sighed. “I know you don’t want to be, but just do it, please. For your parents. If you don’t, you’ll get put in the Reformation Tank, and, trust me, you don’t want to be there.”

“Is there any way to avoid being coupled?”

“I mean, you could choose to be a Scout Master like me. Then, you don’t have to do that whole coupling thing, but then you’d have to go around the universe taking unwanted kids from their parents… and that’s just not fun. I mean, you could still have kids if you want. Or, you can be like me and sign that right away.”

“Because you’re a Scout Master?”

“No.”

They pushed through the crowd until they reached the front of the ship where a ramp-wall faced in towards them.

“I know you, Lyc, and this place isn’t you. You shouldn’t be here. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry or not, I’m still stuck doing this for the rest of my life.”

“I know. I don’t want to do this to you. Hell, I didn’t want this done to me. But it happens, and we’re stuck with it until someone can change that.” He looked into Lycanere’s eyes. “I’d advise you to only do what your heart says while here. Your troop needs you, and Corporate values you much more than they do me. You’re the big mission, Troop 10, the colonizers of Jovial-10, the two-sunned mega-earth. Our A-team.”

“A-team? Is there a B-Team?”

Mike shook his head. “No, not yet. We run off of the hexadecimal system here. A is 10, B is 11, and so on up to Z being 35. Therefore, your troop, Troop 10, is our A-team. Troop 11, when it’s made, would be B-Team, and so on.” He turned from Lycanere. “The system’s kinda important to know if you ever wanna be a Scout Master. Just in case of an emergency or anything like that. Never know when you’re gonna need a gun.”

The ship rumbled as it landed.

Scout Master Mike patted Lycanere’s shoulder. “Time to make you into a Scout.”

The ramp-wall dropped down slowly, Lycanere tense as his new future awaited him. When the ramp hit the ground, the fresh outside air flew in and hit them. In front of them were a group of Discover Scouts. They all wore the same thing: tan hats and button-up uniforms with nametags on their left chests over a badge reading “Reformed Scout,” their troop numbers, being one through nine, on their right arm, and a plastered smile on all of their faces intermingling with their dead eyes. They all looked the same though they were physically diverse, their smile and eyes digging into Lycanere’s mind. He shuddered uncontrollably.

Scout Master Mike awkwardly laughed and brought his mouth to Lycanere’s ear. “That’s why you don’t want to act up here.”

Lycanere looked at the scenery beyond them, trying to divert his attention from the braindead Scouts. Behind them were purple trees and a large semi-circle of ten log cabins. It would’ve been the perfect picture for a camping brochure. 

Scout Master Mike stepped forward in front of the Reformed Scouts. “Hello, my Reformed Discover Scouts! Please, make your way inside, collect our lovely scouts-to-be’s items, and bring them to their appropriate dorms. Any questions, find me.”

The Reformed Scouts all moved together and made their way into the ship. Lycanere and his new troop moved to the side, away from them. They stared at the Scouts as they moved past them like drones.

“Everyone else, follow me!” Scout Master Mike yelled. Lycanere took one last look at the Reformed Discover Scouts before descending out of the ship. He made his way across the purple grass to Scout Master Mike who stood in the center of the semi-circle. The others followed.

Once all of Troop 10 was in front of him, Scout Master Mike smiled and cleared his throat.

“Welcome Troop 10 to Scouts’ Honor! This is our only stop before going to your new home on Jovial-10!” His excitement was matched with silence for a few seconds.

“I’m sorry for interrupting, Scout Master Mike, but what was wrong with them back there?” a girl asked. Lycanere glanced at her. She was young, probably his age, and short with dark brown hair and almond shaped eyes. She smiled and blushed once she saw Lycanere’s eyes on her. He faked a smile in return and looked back to Scout Master Mike.

“Well, Miss Lee, those are the Reformed Discover Scouts,” Mike said. “If you do not follow the rules here, I will have to make you into one of them. It’s not all bad, though. You won’t have to leave this place if you’re reformed, and just look how beautiful it is here!” He spread his arms, a forced smile on his face. He looked down at the obviously terrified Troop 10 and frowned. The Reformed Scouts were making their way out of the ship to the log cabins, ignoring them.

“I don’t want to do that to you, so please don’t make me. You think I like seeing that? You think I want to be a part of that?”

“Then, why are you?” another girl asked. She was younger, no older than thirteen. She had light brown hair and was even shorter than the last girl, but she dressed as if she were mature. She wore a loose, low top and small shorts, and she held an electronic cigarette in her hand.

“Sadly, Miss Lowe,” Scout Master Mike said, snatching the e-cig before she could bring it to her lips, “Just like you guys, I was forced into this. I guess we could empathize for each other now, can’t we?” No response. He sighed.

“This can’t be ethical,” Miss Lee said.

“There’s no ethics out here. If you don’t follow the rules, you get reformed. Don’t like that and you can put it up with my bosses at Corporate. Simple as that,” Mike said. “Now, let’s go take a tour! I promise, it won’t take too long. We haven’t done much to this planet yet. Don’t have the money to.”

He swooped his hand around the direction of the log cabins.

“You’ll live in these. Six to one cabin. Today, you’ll be randomly put in them. After the coupling tomorrow, you and your partner get to choose two other couples to live in these with. You will also share your homes on Jovial-10 with those two couples, so, I suggest you start meeting people now.”

“What’s after the coupling?” Lycanere asked.

“The consummation, of course. That’s why the women had to take that pill so they’d all be ready and fertile for this special event. Corporate believes that it’ll be better to raise the next generation together as a troop on Jovial-10. A minimum of thirty babies… all the same age at the same time… Marvelous.”

He awkwardly laughed and walked off down a path in between the center of the log cabins towards the trees. “Next up, the Reformation Center.” Lycanere and Troop 10 followed.

Miss Lowe ran up beside Lycanere, dragging Miss Lee alongside.

“Martia Lowe, thief, United Colonies of Earth.” She groped his bicep instead of shaking his hand.

“Hi,” Lycanere awkwardly said.

“And this is my friend.” She nudged Miss Lee.

“Kakine Lee, Pilot of Universal Researchers of Zevlon-6,” Miss Lee said. She stuck out her hand and Lycanere shook it. He looked into her brown eyes, beautiful and alluring, and the image of Reggie came to his head. Reggie had similar eyes. Reggie, the epitome of leadership and being a Wolf. There was nothing Reggie had that Lycanere didn’t want.

They entered the path amongst the trees. It was narrow, just enough space for the three of them to walk side-by-side. Lycanere could already see the end of the path coming up.

“And you?” Martia asked.

“Lycanere Robinson. Wolf of Quoryine’s Moon Colonies.”

“Wolf?” Martia said, nudging Kakine again. “Never heard of them.”

“Never heard of thief either,” Lycanere said.

“That’s because it’s not a job,” Kakine muttered.

“It’s why I was sent her. I’m a jack of all trades and people got mad that I used that to my advantage. You name it, I can do it,” Martia said.

“Yeah? Beat Conqueror’s War then,” Lycanere said.

“Videogames are for nerds,” Martia said. “But I’m pretty sure Khaki could do it. She’s been telling me all day about how good she is in a cockpit.”

Lycanere looked to Kakine. She blushed.

“It’s a battle simulator. Give me a ship and no one can take me down,” she said.

“Well, if you can fly a ship that well then why are we still here?” The voice came from behind them. They turned and saw its owner: a teenage boy whose skin was burned, scaly, and a mix of dark brown and red. He walked with a limp and one of his arms was crippled and stuck to his chest. Lycanere could tell he’d once looked normal and handsome.

Martia jumped at the sight of him. “Ugh! What the hell happened to you?”

He looked to Lycanere and ignored Martia. “Pirelavs Copher. Chemist of Horus’ Sunspot. Pleased to meet you all.” Lycanere shook his hand. He turned to Kakine and shook her hand as well. Lycanere watched Martia roll her eyes and look away from the burned boy.  

They exited the path and entered a large clearing.

“Wow,” Lycanere said.

In front of them stood a long and large rectangular wooden abode. Only one floor, it was a beautiful masterpiece with columns and arches that Lycanere never imagined encountering. The columns were each carved into shapes of different planetary systems, and the arches were asteroids with burning tails. Breaking off from it were two more forest paths, one going east and another west. Mike stopped and turned back to the troop as they all filled the clearing.

“This is the Reformation Center. It’s where we’ll meet and eat. Trust me, the food isn’t as good as this place looks.” He laughed, but no one joined. He sighed and glanced down at his watch. “Speaking of, dinner’s in four hours. Can’t wait.” He waved his hand towards the west path. “Come on! Let’s go!”

“Wait,” Martia said. She pointed to the east path. “What’s that way?”

“More cabins. Where I sleep. The usual.” He walked on. Kakine looked to Lycanere as if to question if they should follow. Lycanere nodded and walked on.

“I’m just sayin’,” Pirelavs whispered, “You can fly a ship, so let’s steal the one we came in on and get out of here.”

“I’m sorry, did we invite you to talk to us?” Martia said.

“Why would you even want to try that?” Lycanere said to Pirelavs, ignoring Martia. “You want to become like those others?”

“Oh, they wouldn’t dare with me. I’m lame. I’m surprised they didn’t just kill me the second my parents signed me up,” Pirelavs said. Lycanere glanced behind them to see if anyone was listening. The closest person was a dwarf, a little taller than four feet, who looked to be in his late teens and had a full beard and scowl to match. He glared up at Lycanere as he hobbled behind him. Lycanere looked away.

“It’s not a good idea,” Lycanere whispered.

They walked on down the new path, this one longer, towards what looked like another cabin at the end. Scout Master Mike whistled to himself, oblivious to the talk of betrayal behind him.

“Even though I’d hate to agree with dragonkin over here, I think it’s a good idea,” Martia said. “What about you, Khaki? You have your joystick with you. You can do it.”

Kakine looked from Martia to Lycanere, then shrugged. “I could fly it, but--”

“What happens if they locked us out the ship and only Mike can lower the ramp?” Lycanere said.

“I have my tools. I could open anything with enough time,” Martia said.

Lycanere paused for a second, not knowing what to say. He could see another wood cabin in the distance which he only assumed to be the Reformation Tank. “Do you even know how hard it would be to take over a ship.”

“We could do it,” Pirelavs said.

“With what weapons?” Lycanere said.

They walked on, silent, before Pirelaves spoke up again.

“I heard of your group, the Wolves of Quoryine’s Moon,” he said. “You’re supposed to be warriors, hunters, and leaders. You always find a way to win, even when the odds are against you.”

Lycanere walked on, ignoring him.

“Or, at least, you’re supposed to.”

The sounds of their footsteps, Scout Master Mike’s whistling, and the talking of the rest of their troop behind them filled Lycanere’s ears as he thought about what Pirelavs said.

“I’m not saying it can’t be done,” Lycanere said as they neared the Reformation Tank. “I just don’t think it’s the smartest choice. If we fail…”

They reached the Reformation Tank at the end of the forest path. It was just a small wood cabin with a metal door that looked no more significant than the rest. The only thing about it that caught Lycanere’s eyes was the unique lock on the metal door: a large metal handprint scanner which was placed between the door and its contour to make it impossible to break out of from the inside. Above the scanner Lycanere could see the words “For Scout Master Use Only.”

Lycanere looked at Scout Master Mike as the man turned and faced them with disgust on his face.

“My new family, this is the Reformation Tank!” Scout Master Mike yelled. “This is where you’ll go if you cause me any problems. Now, it may look like an ordinary cabin, but inside it is a mind-warping machine. You go in there, and bam! You’ll come out reformed.”

“Can we take a look inside?” Martia asked.

Mike shook his head. “Only ones that go in there are me and the Reforms-to-be.”

He walked towards them, making his way through them to the back of the group. “Well, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed the tour. Let’s head back.” He led them back the way they came, Lycanere and his group now at the runt of the party. The dwarf glared at Lycanere as he turned before hobbling after the others. Lycanere ignored him.

“Just think about it, guys,” Pirelavs said. “We’ll set the people who fight against us on fire, take over the ship, and--"

“There’s no way we could take over a ship,” Lycanere stated. “Besides, I wouldn’t want to leave the others.”

“They’ll obviously come with us. There’d be no reason not to. We’re escaping a future that none of us wanted. What’s not to like about that?” Pirelavs said.

They walked on. Thoughts blossomed in Lycanere’s head. “Maybe,” he finally said. “We’ll see.” He glanced back at the Reformation Tank, feeling that his day in there would come if they went through with this plan.

***

When they arrived back at the cabins, the Reformed Scouts had already put everything away. Mike pointed to a cabin, labelled A through L, and called out six names before moving to the next. Martia was sent to Cabin B, and Pirelavs to D.

Mike pointed to Cabin E. “Rebella Ares, Kakine Lee, Benjamin Miles, Mars Moon, Lycanere Robinson, and Comissa Rogers.”

Kakine smiled at Lycanere. “Guess we’re living together.”

He smiled. “Maybe we’ll live in the same cabin after the coupling, too.”

She looked into his eyes. “You promise?”

“Yeah. Of course.” She smiled and stared into his eyes only to be interrupted by the dwarf pushing past them and walking into their cabin. Kakine looked at him with disgust.

“Just ignore him.” Lycanere said. They followed the dwarf and a few others into the cabin.

They entered and looked around. It was large, and full, just three king-sized beds: one on the left wall, one on the right, and one against the back wall. Their luggage filled the room, two peoples’ items, one male and one female, on each wall.

“They’re really pushing this coupling thing,” Kakine said.

“Why couldn’t it have been bunk beds?” Lycanere said.

“Be happy with what you got,” a scruff voice said. Everyone looked at the dwarf. “Bunk bed or not, you still got a bed. Just be happy you’re not sharing it with a guy.” The dwarf turned away to his items on the back wall. Lycanere glared at him, then turned away to search for his items. Kakine already found her luggage against the left wall and was sifting through it.

“I don’t think they would’ve taken anything,” Lycanere said.

“Not why I’m looking.”

He spotted his stuff beside hers and approached it. She noticed, looked up at him, and smiled.

“Looks like we’re sharing a bed,” she said.

He awkwardly laughed. “Yeah, guess so.”

He sat on the bed and watched her go through her stuff, only to discreetly pull out a bottle of pills. Lycanere saw the bottle but could not see what it was, only making out the word “Hormone” on the side. Kakine took one and threw the bottle back into her bag. She swallowed it dry and dug back through her bag.

“Whatcha looking for?”

She pulled out a black tube with a red button on top. “This.” She showed it to him. “The Joystick. Slap this onto any ship and you can override it and fly away.”

She handed it to Lycanere and he examined it. He’d never seen something like it before, so simplistic yet so powerful. He felt eyes on him and looked over to the dwarf who glanced away the second their eyes met. Lycanere handed it back to her.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to do, but I want you to keep this on you. Don’t let it out of your sight,” Lycanere demanded.

“Will do, Captain,” she joked. He laughed with her, though he kept back the admittance that he liked the title.

***

Dinner came quickly. Scout Master Mike came to them and ushered everyone to the Reformation Center.

Inside was a large room filled with wooden benches and tables. Columns decorated the walls and multiple arched windows gave a pleasant look to the green, serene outdoors. The Center had three back rooms. The back rooms on the left and right had closed doors with something etched into them that Lycanere couldn’t see from where he stood at the entrance. The middle room lacked a door.

Many of their fellow scouts-to-be were already at benches eating sandwiches and chips and drinking water off of wooden trays by the time they were inside. Lycanere spotted Pirelavs and Martia sitting with each other at their own table, far away from the others, waiting for them. They smiled and waved at each other.

Reformed Scouts exited the middle room with trays with food on them and delivered them to those who hadn’t been served yet.

“Sit wherever you want,” Scout Master Mike told them, “but I suggest you meet as many new people as you can. You’ll be living with them all soon enough.”

Lycanere turned to Kakine. “Go sit down. I gotta ask Mike something.” She walked off.  

“What’s up?” Mike said.

“Do you have a bathroom around here?”

“That’s what you want to talk about?” Mike laughed, then looked out the window. “You see it.”

“Oh.” Lycanere went to go outside only for Mike to grab his shoulder.

“There’s a better one in the back-left room. The door has a keypad on it. Twenty-eight, twelve, twenty-four, thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight. It’s the code. Means SCOUTS.”

“You sure you should be telling me this?”

“It’s just a bathroom, Lyc. Besides, we’re brethren. There’s nothing back there that would make me second-guess giving the code to you.” He then repeated the code once more.

“Thanks.”

Lycanere walked to the door and saw the keypad on it. Above, etched into the upper-center of the door were numbers:

28 30 25 25 21 18 14 28

Lycanere didn’t know what to make of them. He looked at the keypad. Ten numbers were on it, zero to nine, and a button which read “enter.” He put in the code, opened the door, and saw a hallway inside. He stepped in and closed the door behind him, hearing it lock.

At the end of the hallway was a door with “BATHROOM” carved into it. He walked towards it and spotted another door halfway down. It was open and full of a whole bunch of food and a huge shopping cart that was obviously used to bring it in. He walked on down to the bathroom.

When he exited the hallway, he closed the door behind him. He looked over at his new friends, then curiosity hit him. The other door. Scout Master Mike was nowhere to be seen.

Lycanere walked to it and saw a keypad on this one as well. The numbers on this door were different from the others. This collection was long:

18 23 12 10 28 14 24 15 10 23 14 22 14 27 16 14 23 12 34

Lycanere looked them over and over, but made nothing out of them. He turned away and walked to his friends’ table.

“That door leads to something,” he said, pointing at it.

“We saw you go in the other one,” Pirelavs said as Lycanere sat down.

“It’s just a bathroom and a supply closet. Mike gave me the code to get in.”

“What was it?”

Lycanere couldn’t remember. He’d forgotten as soon as the door opened. “They were just numbers. He said they meant SCOUTS or something. There’s numbers on the door too, but I know they’re not the code he gave me.” Lycanere glanced back at the doors.

A Scout came out to him swiftly and placed a tray with the same food as everyone else in front of him.

“So, I hear you and Kakine are livin’ together now.” Martia teased.

“Yeah, same bed and everything,” Lycanere said.

“Like you two were destined or something?” Martia said.

Lycanere saw Kakine blush.

Pirelavs cleared his throat and grabbed their attention. “So, what are we thinkin’ about the plan?”

Lycanere caved in. He’d been thinking about this enough to trust in his judgment.

“There’s a way to beat them,” he said. “Get the others on our side, create a distraction, and flee to the ship. Then, we’ll rid of the adults on it since we outnumber them, attach the joystick and get out of here. How we’ll do that is still unknown to me, but we can do it.”

They looked at him as if he were a genius.

“It’s going to be hard,” he said. “We need to work together like a team for this to work.”

They smiled at him.

“You’re a natural born leader, aren’t you?” Kakine said.

Lycanere shook his head. “If I was, I’d still be on Quoryine’s Moon right now with my family. And I would’ve beaten Conqueror’s War.”

“Man, that shit’s hard and no one ever wins. Closest person I ever saw was Madison, over there. She’s amazing,” Pirelavs said. He pointed to a tall and strong, short light brown haired, butch. MAD, Lycanere thought. He knew her name and who she was now, but nothing else.

“I just want to know when we’re going to do this? We’re only here a few days,” Kakine said.

“Let’s sleep on it. Get an idea after coupling, get our couples on our side, and work from there,” Lycanere said. He glanced back at the door with the long collection of numbers on it. “Maybe find out what’s in there.”

“Lyc,” he heard. He looked over his shoulder to see Scout Master Mike walking over to them with the dwarf by his side.

“This here is Benjamin Miles, engineer of the Plutonian Brotherhood. He’s the eldest member of your troop, and the only person who voluntarily came here in years. He was sitting by himself over there, and I thought it’d be great if he had some friends. So, who else to ask than my own brother?” Scout Master Mike smiled.

Lycanere smiled back. “Go ahead and sit down, Benjamin.” The dwarf sat beside Martia, across from Lycanere.

“Thanks,” Mike said before walking to the front of the room.

“So, you and Scout Master Mike actually brothers?” Benjamin asked in his scruff voice. The four all had their eyes on him. Lycanere knew that not a single one of them favored him here.

“No. He’s part of one of my colonies,” Lycanere said. Silence.

“What’s up with you? No one volunteers to come here,” Pirelavs stated.

“Unless they have a good reason. And, it so happens I do. I’m a midget. I’m coddled ‘cause I can’t reach the things I need to, no woman wants me, and I’m no help to my people.”

“So, you thought you’d be a help in populating a new world?” Martia joked. “Who’d want you?”

Benjamin laughed at her. “It’s not who’d want me, it’s that someone will be forced to have me. I’ll be appreciated here. You’ll see.”

“HELLO, DISCOVER SCOUTS OF TROOP 10!” Scout Master Mike yelled over them. Everyone quieted down and turned to him. “Tomorrow you will come back here at sunrise for the coupling, so make sure to get good rest. Your couples were chosen by Corporate looking at your DNA and choosing who should go with who from it. I won’t lie, I even convinced them to let me have say in a few to get some more preferable couple choices." Lycanere could feel Mike’s eyes singularly on him though they darted from person to person.

“After two rounds of the consummation tomorrow, you’ll all be given the titles of Discover Scouts. Then, finally, you’ll be on your way to your new home. I wish you all the best. Thank you.”

Everyone applauded.

Lycanere’s crew turned back to Benjamin.

“I saw you go in that door,” Benjamin said. “How’d you get through the lock?”

“Mike,” Lycanere said. “How else?”

“What’s the code?”

“Why?”

“Just wonderin’?”

“There’s just a bathroom back there,” Martia said. “And a supply closet.”

“Still wanna know.”

“I don’t remember,” Lycanere said.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not. I know there were six two-numbered entries and it meant SCOUTS, but that’s all.”

“Hmm.” Benjamin rose from the table. “It was nice meeting you guys.” They watched him hobble over to the back-left door, look at the numbers on the door, then the keypad, then walk over to the other and do the same.

“Weirdo,” Martia said.

“We should’ve told him about our plan. The more people on our side the better,” Pirelavs said.

“No. It’s better we didn’t. He came here on his own volition,” Kakine said. “He’d rat us out.”

All of their eyes stuck to Benjamin as he walked out of the Reformation Center. If one thing was certain, it was that they could not trust him.  

***

It was Lycanere’s first time in bed with a girl, to his parents’ dismay. The room was dark, the only moonlight coming in through a window and splashing across Kakine’s face. She faced him, her joystick in her hand. He hadn’t let her let it go. He couldn’t with that dwarf around.

He glanced up to make sure that Benjamin still wasn’t in the room. He’d left only a couple minutes ago, most likely to pee, and Lycanere didn’t want to talk to Kakine with him here. Lycanere doubted that the others in the room would say a thing if they heard them. They’d want to help. Why wouldn’t they? He thought.

He laid back down and looked into Kakine’s beautiful brown eyes. He searched for a feeling in them, of something, anything. The only thought that he could muster was how similar they were to Reggie’s eyes. Reggie. The man who became the leader of Lycanere’s tribes instead of Lycanere.

“Talk away,” he whispered to Kakine.

“Are we actually going to do this?” she whispered back, a smile stretched across her face.

“Of course. Why do what these people want us to when we can make our own worth by doing something else?”

“Like what? Where will we go?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, but we don’t belong here. None of us do. Not those Reformed Scouts or Mike or Benjamin. We should be our own people.”

She nodded and rolled over so that she was looking up at the ceiling. “We need to go somewhere that we’ll be loved regardless of who we are. Thieves, scarred people, dwarves, whatever… There has to be a place for us somewhere. And it’s not on Jovial-10 with children.”

“You don’t want children?”

“Not that I don’t want them, I just don’t want them to think of me like how I do for my parents,” she said.

Lycanere took in her glowing skin. “Why are you here?”

She didn’t say anything. Instead, she rolled over and faced her back to him. “My parents were disappointed in who I am.”

“They didn’t want you to be a pilot?”

“More like, they didn’t want me to be me.” She sighed. “You’re here because you’re not a good leader, right?”

It was his turn to stall. “Kinda. I’m the failed unifier of two colonies… And I’m kind of the same as you. My parents didn’t like who I am.”

Silence.

“Do you like who you are?” Kakine said, her eyes on the wall instead of him.

He thought about it only for Reggie to pop back into his mind again. “Yeah. Do you?”

“Yeah.”

***

With sunrise came a knock on their door. Without hesitation, it swung open and they all turned to see Scout Master Mike with a smile on his face.

“Rise and shine, scouts-to-be! Time for the couplin’!” They groggily got out of bed, still in their pajamas, and followed Scout Master Mike out of the room.

All of the other soon-to-be scouts of Troop 10 were outside, being ushered out of their cabins by the Reformed Scouts.

“Go tell everyone to meet us at the Center,” Lycanere heard Mike tell one of the Scouts. The young man ran off to do his master’s bidding.

Scout Master Mike turned to their group of sixty, a smile on his face.

“I hope you’re all excited. This is the true next step into becoming a Discover Scout. Now, I wasn’t allowed to do this, but I always love watching you guys be able to. Follow me!” He skipped off, running down the path to the Reformation Center. They followed.

Martia and Pirelavs found Lycanere and Kakine quickly.

“We need to do this thing, like, now,” Martia said. “I don’t want to fuck anyone here.”

“You wanna do it today?” Lycanere said.

“If we don’t, we’re going to end up doing something none of us want to. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to be pregnant at thirteen,” Martia said.

“She’s right,” Kakine said. “No matter who we’re paired with, if we don’t get out of here we’re going to face the consequences.”

“We need to revolt now,” Pirelavs said.

“You’ll be overrun and thrown into the Tank,” they heard. “You wouldn’t stand a chance against the Reformed Scouts.” They turned and saw Benjamin beside them.

“When’d you get there?” Kakine said.

“Were you eavesdropping?” Pirelavs added.

“I’ve always been here. And no, I was just listening from close by.”

“Leave us alone, shrimpy,” Martia said.

“Very funny,” he responded. “What’s even funnier is your chances of taking over the ship against the Reformed Scouts. Ironically, I could do it by myself, but you guys aren’t me.”

“And how would you do it? Punch everyone in the balls since you’re eye level with them all?” Martia said. He ignored her.

“Lycanere, I found out your door problem,” Benjamin said.

“How?” Lycanere responded.

“I’m a genius. That’s how.”

They were getting closer to the Reformation Center. It was only a few yards away.

“Tell us,” Lycanere said.

“I got an idea last night after you told me about the doors. You said the code was six groups of two numbers and spelled out SCOUTS. By that logic, the S’s of SCOUTS would have the same two-digit number. I started with the thought that the numbers were in numerical order, A being one, B being two, and so on.

“Then, I assumed that the numbers on the door are related to the code to make it easier for the Reformed Scouts. They were 28 30 25 25 21 18 14 28. There aren’t thirty letters in the alphabet, so I moved all letters over by four so that A equaled four and Z equaled thirty and wrote my findings. It spelled out X Z U U Q N J X. Of course, that’s not a word. So, I kept moving the letters over one until I found it out. You said it was a supply closet, and the answer was supplies. S U P P L I E S.”

They’d reached the Reformation Center. The Reformed Scouts were already entering. Lycanere felt his heart pumping. Then the numbers clicked in his head.

“The hexadecimal system,” Lycanere said. He remembered the words that Scout Master Mike had told him about it back on the ship. It was their key.

“You’ve heard of it?” Benjamin said.

“Mike told me that they use it here. Every letter is assigned to a number. A is 10, B is 11, all the way up to Z being 35.”

“Precisely,” Benjamin said. “So, SCOUTS would be 28 10 24 30 29 28. I tried it out last night, and the door opened. Then I went to the second door. 18 23 12 10 28 14 24 15 10 23 14 22 14 27 16 14 23 12 34. Spells out ‘In case of an emergency.’” IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY, the words hit him again. Mike had said those words to him too when discussing the hexadecimal system. He was telling me how to get inside. But Lycanere didn’t know where to go from there.

“So, what’s in there?” Pirelavs said. They were at the entrance. It was time.

“I don’t know. I don’t know the code. Weapons, I’m thinking. Whatever it is, I’m sure you guys will want to find out.”

“Why are you telling us this?” Lycanere said.

“I try to help when I can, even if I think it’s wrong. Besides, I think it’d be safer if you stayed here. We could all live happily together on Jovial-10 and be who we want with our kids. We’ll be our own rulers there.”

“We don’t want to be,” Martia said. “At least not there.”

“I’m just warning you guys in advance. If you want to continue your plan, find out what’s inside that room. It could save or kill you. But, I believe that staying here is right for us. We are unwanted by our own people, so we might as well find a way to appease them and become a part of the collective. If you can’t follow that logic, then don’t blame me when you get caught. This is on you.”

He went to walk on but Lycanere grabbed his shoulder.

“You’re not going to tell Mike are you?”

Benjamin cocked a smile. “Depends on what you do.” He shook Lycanere’s hand off and entered the Reformation Center. The group exchanged looks.

“Should we trust what he said?” Pirelavs asked. “He may have been lying the whole time.”

Kakine shook her head. “His assessment of the hexadecimal system was correct. He was just trying to help, dick or not. We need to find out what’s in that room. Knowing what it is may or may not save us.”

They hesitated, then entered the Reformation Center.

Everyone sat at their unassigned tables in their own groups again. The Reformed Scouts filled all of the untaken seats. Benjamin didn’t sit with them this time. Instead, he was at the edge of one of the tables filled with Discover Scouts, staring at the “IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY” door.

Scout Master Mike stood at the front of the Center, a collection of papers in his hands. “GOOD MORNING REFORMED SCOUTS AND DISCOVER SCOUTS-TO-BE!” He yelled. “Here, I hold the results of your couplings chosen by Corporate and myself. I’m glad that today has come and hope that you all will look back on it one day with glee in your hearts.”

The Reformed Scouts cheered and applauded. No one joined them other than Benjamin. Lycanere saw the disgust of this moment on everyone else’s faces. He looked around and tried to count the number of Reformed Scouts – there were more of them than there were members of Troop 10, and they were closer to the “Emergency” door.

Martia looked to Lycanere. “Now?” she mouthed.

Weighing his options, he was starting to believe that Benjamin was right. Right now was not the time to try to escape. Without a proper plan there was no guarantee of possible success. He shook his head at her.

“We can’t let this happen,” she whispered. “I don’t want this.”

“None of us do, Martia,” Lycanere said.

“So, what are we going to do?” Pirelavs said.

“Get coupled and convince our couples to join our side. Then work from there,” Lycanere said.

“We’ll be carrying a ship of pregnant people,” Kakine stated. “I don’t think that’s safe.”

Lycanere looked around as Scout Master Mike rambled on about what an honor this moment was.

“We can’t do anything right now. We’ll lose and be thrown into the Tank,” Lycanere said. His eyes hit the Reformed Scouts, lost in Mike’s words. It struck him that they’d all once been individuals like he and his friends. “We can’t let that happen.”

“Well, we need to do something,” Martia demanded.

“I’m thinking on it.” He thought about the ship and how it would most likely go bad if they tried to take over right now. He thought about how they’d need to get the Reformed Scouts out of their way. He thought about what was behind the “Emergency” door. He thought about what Reggie would do.

Conqueror’s War. He needed to unite his people and fight back. Of course he had known this, but he actually needed people in order for that plan to work.

“We need to stop the consummation,” he said to his friends. “Do something to cause a halt.”

“Like what?” Martia said.

“And lastly, before I call out the couples, I wanted to tell you a stipulation of the consummation!” Scout Master Mike yelled, a smile on his face. “A Discover Scout will be watching each pair of you to make sure you consummate. I know it’s awkward, but we need children for our planet to thrive. Now, our first couple is…”

The group looked to each other. Lycanere smiled.

“That. One Reformed scout to each pair of us,” Lycanere said. “Take each scout out, find out what’s behind that door, then get out.” Lycanere barely paid attention to the names Scout Master Mike shouted. He watched as people moved around the room to join their pair before turning back to his group. Kakine was watching the other Troop 10 members too.

“What about them?” Kakine said. “We can’t leave them.”

“We won’t. If we take out our three Scouts, they’ll take out theirs. They’re not stupid. They’ll join our cause.”

“Does it even matter if we find out what’s behind that door?” Pirelavs said.

“It might. Just think. If the left door’s code is SCOUTS, what would the right’s be?” Lycanere asked.

“SCOUTS,” Pirelavs joked.

“Something that relates to emergencies, maybe?” Kakine said.

“Ugh, this is gonna take too long. I can just try to break it open,” Martia said.

They all stared at her.

“You can do that?” Pirelavs said.

“I already told you guys I could. I have my tools with me and could probably do it within a couple of minutes. Have you not been listening to me?”

“Why didn’t you just say this before?“ Kakine said.

“I didn’t think the door was that important. I honestly think we should just flee and not worry about it. Besides, I told you all that I had them on me. I even told you back on the ship, Khaki.”

“I remember, but I didn’t think we were going to need them,” Kakine said.

“We didn’t think we were going to need your joystick, either,” Martia said.

“Pirelavs Copher!” Scout Master Mike said, bringing them all back to reality. They turned to Scout Master Mike. “And Genevieve Hugh! Our seventh couple of the day! Pirelavs, go sit with your new love.” The Reformed Scouts cheered.

Lycanere watched Genevieve stand up and look for Pirelavs. The young woman was right beside Madison. She had peach skin, curly light brown hair, and a cute face. She was no older than sixteen. He turned back to Pirelavs who was trying to hide his bad arm from Genevieve’s sight.

“After this, we’ll all go to the same cabin together. Then, we can be together and make sure this plan works. Tell Genevieve to tell her friends about our plan. We will get out of this place together,” Lycanere told Pirelavs.

“And after the revolt?” Pirelavs asked.

Lycanere looked at his group. “We’ll come back here. Immediately. We’ll open that door and go from there.” Pirelavs nodded and left the group. Lycanere watched him go and saw Genevieve grimace upon seeing her lover-to-be. Lycanere sighed, feeling bad for the young man whom he’d recently met, and turned back to the others.

Scout Master Mike continued to announce names. Lycanere went back to whispering to his friends.

“Kakine, after the revolt, I need you to get to the ship and get everything ready. Tell the people on board that Scout Master Mike got a call from Corporate and they want the ship ready now. We may not have to use the joystick if that works.” He turned to Martia. “We’ll come back here together with our partners. We’ll break in that door and find out what’s going on from there. We got this. We’ll leave today.”

Martia smiled. “Yessir.”

Kakine’s face lit up when Lycanere turned back to her.

“What?” he asked.

“You’re a great leader.” she said.

He blushed. He wanted to tell her his family didn’t think so, that Reggie was a true leader, and that he wasn’t good unless he beat Conqueror’s War, but he kept it to himself.

“Thank you,” he said instead.

“Kakine Lee!” Scout Master Mike yelled. They turned back to him. Lycanere saw Kakine place her hands on the table, getting ready to rise. “And Lycanere Robinson! Our tenth couple of the day! And y’all don’t even have to move. How cute.” The Discover Scouts cheered. Mike winked at Lycanere. Why? Lycanere thought. It was obvious this had been done on purpose. Why her?

He turned to Kakine, and she was blushing.

Martia giggled. “Guess you two are consummating soon.”

Kakine froze. “That’s not good,” she said.

“Why not?” Martia said.

She stalled for a quick second. “Because we’ll have less people on our side now. The more people the better.”

“I guess you’re right,” Martia said, awkwardly.

“And next is Martia Lowe!” Scout Master Mike said. “And Benjamin Miles.”

Applause from the Reformed Scouts. Lycanere and Kakine stared at Martia.

“Shit,” they all said together. Lycanere believed this would’ve been comical if the situation they were in wasn’t so dire.

They watched Benjamin rise from his seat and hobble over to them.

“We can’t convince him,” Martia whispered as Scout Master Mike moved on to the next couple. “What are we going to do?”

Lycanere saw Benjamin getting closer out of the corner of his eye. “Knock him out too. There’s five of us and one of him. He’s super short. He shouldn’t even be a prob--”

“It’s a pleasure that we got chosen to be together,” Benjamin said, stoic, as he sat next to Martia.

She grimaced.

“Don’t think I like this anymore than you do. You’re young and stupid and look like a whore. Pretty, but a whore nonetheless,” Benjamin told her.

“I’m not sleeping with you,” she said, moving away from him.

“Don’t think you have much of a choice,” Benjamin said. “Trust me, the disgust is mutual.”

They bared out the rest of the coupling, anger and silence between them. Lycanere’s thoughts rumbled inside his head. The Reformed Scouts were enough to worry about, but adding Benjamin made it worse. The only person who’d voluntarily come, now inside their plan. And there was nothing they could do about it.

“Now, it’s time to choose your cabin groups. After that, you will return to your cabins with your new group and three Reformed Scouts to begin the consummation. That’s right, nine of you in one cabin, with six of you doing the asteroid belt tango…” He smiled. No one laughed. “I’ll give you a few minutes to get into your groups.”

Pirelavs brought Genevieve over to them, completing their group. He glared at Benjamin. “We’re sharing a cabin with him?”

“Not like you could lose Martia now, could you?” Benjamin retorted. He smiled at Pirelavs’ dissension.

Pirelavs turned to his three friends. “This is Genevieve.”

She waved and took a step closer to Lycanere, blatantly checking him out. Kakine stuck to his side as if they were conjoined. Lycanere wanted to laugh at her protectiveness. At how she now was acting like his lover. Such a ridiculous concept, her as a lover. One his parents would’ve wanted.

Genevieve brought her head to Lycanere’s ear and whispered, “Pirelavs told me everything, and I told my friends. We’re in. They’ll do whatever they can to help.”

They separated.

“Thank you,” Lycanere said.

“Anyone want to tell me what’s going on here?” Benjamin asked. They ignored him.

Everyone was in their groups and Scout Master Mike sent out Scouts to move their luggage over to the appropriate cabins. Luckily, they’d get to stay in Cabin E.

Lycanere counted the Scouts in the room then. There were one hundred and seventy-two. He didn’t know if his measly sixty, counting Benjamin, stood any chance at all against mindless drones like these. Nor did he have time to find out.

 The groups were all escorted out together. Lycanere looked to his friends as if to telepathically tell them it was time for the plan to take charge.

They were brought into Cabin E and led to their beds. One Reformed Scout stood over each bed.

“Get undressed,” the Scouts said together. “Begin. Don’t make this hard.”

“Don’t worry, I am,” Pirelavs joked. Genevieve laughed at his joke, though Lycanere could tell she couldn’t stand to look at his scaled and burned skin.

“Hurry up now,” a Scout said. They pushed the groups onto their beds. Kakine was pressed up against Lycanere. He felt something hard push up against his abdomen as the Scout pressed Kakine into him. She quickly moved out of the way and smoothed out her shirt down to her thighs.

“Stop, don’t rush us,” Kakine pleaded.

“It’s time for consummation,” their Scout said.

Benjamin was the only one undressing, taking off his shirt. Lycanere looked at Kakine, then Martia and Pirelavs. They nodded to each other.

Lycanere bulldozed into his Scout, picked him up by the waist, and rammed him into the wall across from them. All of the air in the Scout fled from his body. He let the Scout fall and turned on the others as they charged at him.

Pirelavs moved forward and kicked one Scout’s leg out from under him, while Kakine tripped the last. Martia ran to her luggage and dug through it for what Lycanere assumed were her tools. Benjamin looked on, confused. When his eyes hit Lycanere’s, he bolted out of the room.

“You stay-- Shit!” Pirelavs ran after Benjamin.

Genevieve and Kakine dealt with the other two Scouts as Lycanere delivered heel after heel into his now moving Scout’s head, stomping on it and smearing the wooden floor with the man’s blood. Once the Scout went still Lycanere looked at what he’d done.

He glanced up at his friends and saw fear in their eyes. He’d killed another human being and felt dirty, disgusting, and deplorable because of it. He wanted to cry.

“Got it!” Martia yelled, pulling out a small tool wallet. Lycanere watched her slip it into her back pocket. She turned and looked at the three Reformed Scouts on the floor, one whose blood was forming a puddle under Lycanere. They locked eyes.

“Let’s move,” Lycanere said.

They emerged from the cabin to see another couple cabin groups doing the same. Genevieve’s friends, including Madison, were amongst them. They were all in this together.

Lycanere looked around for Pirelavs but saw him nowhere. There was no time to wait. Lycanere hoped he’d come back quickly.  

“Genevieve, get as many others as you can and revolt. I don’t think we have time to go to the Center,” he told her. “We need to make a break for it now. If Benjamin got to Mike or anyone else we’ll be in big--”

They heard the cock of a shotgun. “Lycanere. I told you not to do this.” It was Scout Master Mike. He’d emerged from the path from the Reformation Center with a whole group of Scouts and Benjamin, all armed. Pirelavs was in their custody. Mike aimed the shotgun at Lycanere.

“You’re not gonna shoot me, are you, brother?” Lycanere said.

“Brethren don’t turn on each other,” Mike replied. He looked at everyone who’d already turned and revolted. “I was told that you all were coaxed into doing this by a certain group of individuals,” he said. “I will give you all one chance to turn back around. You were misled and do not deserve punishment, unlike the ones who spearheaded this disgusting plan. Go back inside your cabins now and continue your consummations or go to the Reformation Tank with these buffoons.”

No one moved. Lycanere was proud.

“This is your only chance. Continue your revolt and maybe you won’t even see the Tank. Maybe the last thing you’ll see is a gun aimed at your face,” Mike said. “We had them just in case of an emergency like this.” He looked at Lycanere, a smile on his face. Those words again, in case of an emergency. Lycanere felt stupid. There’s guns in that room, he knew at once. Mike had already hinted to it back on the ship. There was no way they could ever have won. Not unless we’d gotten to the guns first.

Lycanere glared at Benjamin who was not smiling like he thought he’d be. Instead, his face was plastered with a frown as if he despised what he’d done.

Mike put the barrel of the gun to Lycanere’s head after no one moved again. “I guess your leader’s life it is then.”

“No!” Kakine yelled. “Turn back, everyone. Please. If we lose him, we’ll be sure to lose more.”

“We don’t want children,” Madison said. “We don’t want this.” Her voice was strong, demanding… and manly. Lycanere admired her already. But he didn’t want her to die.

“None of us do,” Lycanere said. “And that’s why we did this. But your lives are much more important than this. Don’t give them up fighting a battle that we’ve already lost. Don’t be thrown into the Tank to become like these mindless drones. With or without children, at least you can still be yourselves. At least you can still be alive.”

They hesitated, but listened to him. They turned around and went back into their cabins. Scout Master Mike removed the gun from Lycanere’s head.

“You too, Genevieve,” Mike demanded. “Go inside your cabin.”

“But Pirelavs is my partner,” she said.

“Benjamin is now. These four are our problem, not you. You only made a stupid mistake. They made a horrifying decision.”

“Mike, please--” Genevieve cried.

“They planned this and believed it would work. You joined only because it would’ve been better for you. Trust me, I know none of you want this. Hell, I don’t want to see you guys do this. But this is my job. Our job. Now go back inside and consummate with Benjamin. Your new life is coming soon, and you better prepare for it.”

There were fresh tears on her face as she went inside. Scout Master Mike glanced at Benjamin and nodded. Benjamin handed his gun to a Scout and walked towards his cabin. Lycanere and the others watched him. When he reached the door, he turned and locked eyes with Lycanere. There was something in that gaze; not mockery, but sympathy. As if to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ But why would you be sorry?

“You four,” Scout Master Mike said, pulling Lycanere’s attention back to him. “Come with us.”

The Reformed Scouts surrounded them, and they began their walk down the path, Lycanere beside Scout Master Mike. Mike pointed his gun at the ground as they walked, no longer posing a threat.

“I hate doing this to people,” Mike said.

“Then why do you?” Lycanere said.

“It’s my job. I have to.”

“You don’t have to do anything, Mike,” Lycanere said.

“Yes, I do. If I let you go, the Reformed Scouts will snitch to Corporate and I can’t handle that. Then, they’ll make me into a Reformed Scout just because ‘they can’t waste a body.’” He sighed and shook his head. “What were you thinking, Lyc?”

“That I could free everyone from a life no one wants to live.”

“No one ever wants to live. You’re born into this world with genetic faults and societal pressures and must live a life you never asked for. Luckily for you, you were able to use your unwanted life to help the universe by coming here to spread more life and continue on the human legacy.”

“I didn’t want to come here.”

“No one does. Not even Benjamin. Everyone was sent here by someone who didn’t want them and didn’t think they were adding anything sustainable to life. A parent, a teacher, the government, maybe themselves, whoever. They were all sent here to go to their own isolated places far from society in order to help our kind flourish. Yet you decided to revolt to try to find your own place in a universe that sees your existence as worthless instead of fulfilling the role Corporate wanted you to. And, honestly, I admire you for that.”

Lycanere paused. “I was doing it for the betterment of people like me.”

“And that’s where you and I differ. I wish I had the balls like you, Lyc. I wish I could’ve led people to fight against ‘the Man’ and try to live the lives they wanted to.”

“You can,” Lycanere said. “What’s the point of life if you can’t be an individual? Why just be another undistinguishable bee in the colony?”

“Because every colony needs those bees to keep it going.”

They passed the Reformation Center and headed down the path to the Reformation Tank.

“Listen, Lyc. Before we get here, I just want to tell you that I’m sorry for this. I would’ve never sent you off like your parents had, regardless of our shared origin. I think you’re a great kid, but because of your own decisions you may be about to lose everything that makes you that. And I’m sorry for that.”

Lycanere nodded. There was no more fighting back. They lost this one. “I’ve always respected you, Mike. I’m glad we met.”

“Me too, brother.” He gave Lycanere a fatherly side hug. Lycanere smiled, though he knew he shouldn’t be.

They were nearing the Tank. Only a few yards away. The time had come.

“I just want to know a couple things before I lose everything,” Lycanere said.

“What?”

“Why are you here? And why’d you choose Kakine for me?”

Scout Master Mike hesitated. “My father made me come here. They see us all as abominations.”

Mike went silent after a few seconds. “I was about your age when I started having a problem with younger boys. My father was a Scout Master then and he decided that I would not be coupled, but instead be a celibate Scout Master for the betterment of society. I had to sign a document and everything… If I’m ever caught doing anything with anyone, they have the right to turn me into one of these guys.” He pointed at the Reformed Scouts with his gun. “He wanted to make sure that I never touched anyone again. And I’m glad he did it. I understood my problem and knew it was wrong even back then. There’s just some problems medicine can’t fix. At least not yet.” He shrugged.

They reached the Tank. Scout Master Mike walked up to it and unlocked it with his handprint. He walked back to Lycanere and looked at his Scouts.

“Bring the others in and go back to the Center. I’ll meet you there. If you see any of these four out there before they’re reformed, shoot. Keep your guns on stun. I don’t want you killing anyone.” They followed his orders. Kakine looked back to Lycanere as they led her inside. He faked a smile as if to tell her everything was okay, though he knew it was far from that. Mike continued to talk once the Scouts were on their way back to the Reformation Center.

“I knew you’d never consummate, so I chose Kakine. Tricked Corporate and everything. She’s pretty, but, as I’m sure you know, she’s not what she seems. She’s like you. Kinda. And neither of you deserve to be here. Unlike me. I did that for you.” He smiled and hugged Lycanere.

They separated, and thoughts slammed through Lycanere’s head.

“You knew all of this was going to happen,” he noticed.

“Those Reformed Scouts would tell on me in a heartbeat,” he said. “You were never going to be a Scout. I knew it from the moment I saw your name on the list to join us. You’re not like that. You wouldn’t just change because everyone wants you too. You wouldn’t just take everyone’s bullshit. You’re different. You’re the change we need. But I can’t just let you change us or I’ll lose this job and never have the chance to get another one. You need to do this yourself.”

“How the hell do you expect us to get out of this then? You can’t just bring us in here and expect us to--”

“Either you’ll find a way or not. If you do, as I believe you will, expect me to act against you to the fullest extent that I can. I must do my duty no matter what you do. Without this job, I am nothing. Society already wants me dead.”

Tears came to Mike’s eyes and he exhaled. “I just want you to know that I love you… I wish you good luck in there.” He patted Lycanere’s back and led him up to the Tank. He opened the door and walked Lycanere inside.

There was nothing different inside this cabin from the others except for the lack of windows and a pipe coming down from the ceiling. There were the three beds like in the others, and it looked more comfortable than terrifying.

Scout Master Mike stood at the door, ready to run out, as they looked around. Lycanere thought of bum-rushing Mike and taking him down. They could do it right now, and they should do it. But we won’t make it far, he remembered. The Reformed Scouts would be at the Reformation Center waiting. With their guns. Unless we tricked them. But Mike had a gun too. It wasn’t safe. But maybe we should try.

Mike took a step outside and began to close the door as if he sensed Lycanere’s dissension.

Lycanere grabbed the door. “How does this thing even work?” He was trying to stall to think of a way to trick the Reformed Scouts or to just escape. He was hoping the others saw his plan too. Now was the time for action.

Mike pushed Lycanere away with the barrel of his gun. “It’s a switch on the other side of the cabin. I flick it on, gas comes in, you change. It’ll go off after thirty minutes, but no one’s lasted more than ten.” He paused.

“I’m sorry that I have to do this. Even if I faked this, Corporate would find out and I’d lose my job. Good luck, guys.”

Scout Master Mike quickly closed the door and they heard it immediately lock. There was no lock on the inside, but instead a metal cover exactly where the hand-scanner was on the outside. It would be impossible to try to kick down the door. They’d be stuck in here, sealed inside only to become mindless.

Lycanere turned to his friends. He was sure they all could hear Mike walking around the cabin and then… FLICK. The switch was on. A green gas slowly started to roll out of the pipe above their heads.

Pirelavs plopped onto one of the beds. “I’m sorry, guys.”

“It’s not your fault,” Lycanere said.

“I couldn’t catch Benjamin. He’s fast for a little guy.”

Kakine sat on a different bed and looked down at the ground, sadness covering her face. Martia put her ear to the door and closed her eyes. Lycanere examined them all. He went to take a deep breath in, then stopped and looked up at the green gas etching across the ceiling. It wasn’t moving down, but across, as if it was trying to feel out the dimensions of the room before going any further.

“This is it, huh?” Kakine said.

“It was fun,” Pirelavs said back. “I guess. I mean, it was up until the explosion.” They said nothing back. “It happened in my lab. This girl and I were working on something, but then we started to fool around. We ended up knocking over some stuff and then the explosion happened. I became this fucking half-lizard looking creature, and she was obliterated whole. I was lucky.” He shook his head. “I just feel so--"

“Shut up, please,” Martia said. She looked to Lycanere. “You think Scout Master Mike is gone now?”

Lycanere shrugged. “I can only assume.” He looked back up at the green gas which stuck to the ceiling and finally began to move down as if it was more gelatinous than gaseous.

Martia took her tool wallet out of her back pocket and smiled. “They didn’t even bother to check us.”

Lycanere smiled back. “They probably didn’t expect us to have anything.”

“Even if they did, I’m sure they doubted it’d help us,” Martia said.

She opened up the wallet and began to go through the tools. Lycanere looked over her shoulder at them. They were all small and silver, and each one looked like it would break if too much force was exerted onto it.

“Can you break us out of here?” Pirelavs said.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen this type of lock before. I’m gonna need to burn through it.”

“How?” Lycanere said.

She pulled out a small rod with a circular top to it. She pressed a button on its side and a blue laser of fire emerged from it, standing three inches from its circular top. Lycanere saw Pirelavs lean up and gaze at it. The laser was hot just to look at, singing Lycanere’s nose hairs even though he was a few inches away. Breathing near it made him feel as if fire was rushing down his throat. He looked up at the smoke it gave off.

“I don’t know if that’s smart,” Pirelavs said, “Gas and fire--”

“It’s our only way out. Either we break out this way, or we lose ourselves,” Martia said. “Trust me, this is why I’m here. They were just lucky I couldn’t find a way off of the ship.”

Lycanere nodded to her and she moved to the door.

Lycanere sat next to Kakine as Martia worked away. He heard the scream of the metal as the laser dug into it. He stared up at the green gas above them. It was moving a lot faster now, already half-way down the room. It’d be on them soon. He tried to stay calm, though his insides already wanted to scream in fear.

“Lycanere,” Kakine said.

“Yeah?”

“If we don’t get out of this, I want you to know that I’m very happy to have met you. I think you’re a great guy and, I just never thought I’d meet someone like you.”

He smiled and side-hugged her, feeling her warmth against him. He looked at her and noticed she was beaming. Someone will truly love you one day. I’m sorry that can’t be me, he thought. But he couldn’t tell her that.

“And you’re a wonderful woman… You all are great people. I’m happy we met each other. Just think, if we survive, we’ll have a great story to tell the future generations.”

The three, excluding Martia, awkwardly chuckled together. Martia sawed through the lock carefully. Lycanere tensed up as the gas got closer to them. If it hit them or the fire, they could be nothing within seconds.

“Do you need help?” he asked Martia.

“Don’t talk to me right now,” she demanded. The gas was billowing down now. If they had been standing, their heads would’ve been in it. It was only a few inches away. What had once been slow and steady was now fast and overcoming.

“I should’ve just slept through this,” Pirelavs said.

Lycanere motioned for them to get onto the ground. He led them, laying on his stomach on the hardwood floor and sliding over to Martia who was on one knee. She wasn’t even half-way through the lock, but the laser was working. The green gas was about a foot from her head.

“Martia--” Lycanere went to warn her.

“Shut up.”

The metal screamed as the laser ripped through it. The gas above was coming down in puffs that moved like groups of bees towards them before rejoining back up into its mass collective.

She was half-way through. The gas was a few inches above her head. They all watched it except for her.

“Martia, we’re not going to make it,” Kakine said.

“Save your breath,” Martia commanded. The laser ripped through the metal. The gas reached her head. She stopped. Lycanere knew she felt it on her.

She immediately went back to dismantling the lock on the door.

The gas reached her eyes when she was three quarters down. She started crying, and the veins in her head throbbed. Lycanere watched as she closed her eyes and continued. He felt her pain.

She unconsciously inhaled when the gas reached her nose. Immediately, the laser turned off and she fell over. Pirelavs reached out and caught her body, but her head still hit the ground. She was out cold.

“Is she one of them now?” Kakine asked.

Lycanere didn’t hesitate. He grabbed the laser, took a deep breath underneath the gas, and continued her work.

His head entered the gas, and his body immediately screamed at him. It felt as if someone was pushing on every tiny part of him that was enveloped in the gas, including his eyes. He was crying before he noticed it. He felt as if his nose was pushed in and it was hard to resist taking a breath. He tried to ignore it all, and pressed the button on the laser, letting it dig into the metal barrier.

The gas reached the bottom of his chin when he was out of breath.

He bent down under it, inhaled, and turned to his friends.

“Get ready to run.”

He went back into the gas and felt its oppressive push on his body. It was already up to his chest, crawling down his body like tendrils, the laser so close to the gas’ grasp. If it hits the laser… he didn’t want to continue his thought. He was almost through the lock. They were almost safe.

The gas rolled down his body now, getting closer and closer, the laser matching its speed as it seared through the lock. Lycanere needed another breath. His body cried for him to take it, just a quick one, one enough to sustain him, but he was afraid that by the time he came back up the gas would’ve reached his hand and they’d be out of luck.

He was being choked, restricted, and crushed by the gas. His chest and neck were being compressed and compacted. The tops of his arms were stuck to the sides of his body, and the bottoms holding the laser quivered. The laser was a centimeter away from completion. The gas was right above it. Just a little more, and… CLINK. The laser went through the last of the metal. He turned it off and smiled. But he was not finished. The door could only swing in, not out, and it was still closed.

Lycanere’s fingers dug into the hot, burning metal between the door. He held in his breath and screams as he wedged his fingers in between the new slit in the metal. It felt as if his fingers were melting, but he bared through it. Lycanere swung the door open and immediately fell over outside into the fresh air.

He took a deep breath and crawled out of the Tank. Kakine and Pirelavs followed, Martia in Pirelavs’ arms.

Pirelavs reached back into the cabin and pulled out Martia’s tool wallet. Lycanere watched him slide it into his pocket as they moved away from the cabin.

“Lyc,” Pirelavs said a few minutes later as they stood outside, taking in air and looking at the cabin which the gas had now filled and was flowing out of. Martia laid on the grass beside them, unconscious.

Lycanere looked at his bubbling, burned fingers for the first time before turning to Pirelavs. “Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

“Martia did most of the work.”

“Yeah, but I can’t thank her until she wakes up. So, thank you.” He looked at Lycanere’s fingers. “You’ll be fine. Don’t worry. I know it hurts.” They stayed silent for a few seconds before Pirelavs spoke again. “Lyc?”

“Yeah?”

“Pass me the laser.”

Lycanere gave it to him. Pirelavs pressed the button and let the laser come out. He smashed the bottom of the laser against his scaled skin several times. Lycanere looked on in fear and wonderment.

“Don’t worry, I don’t feel a thing,” Pirelavs assured.

“What are you doing?”

The bottom of the laser was beat in. Pirelavs let go of the button, and the laser stayed on.

“Breaking it. Run.” He threw Martia over his scaled shoulder and launched the laser behind him at the cabin. Lycanere watched him take off. He looked at Kakine, and they ran after him. They all peered over their shoulders back at the cabin as they ran.

The laser didn’t even make it inside before it hit the gas. Lycanere watched the cabin explode into green and purple flames, scorching high into the sky. The fire tore at the clouds and trees around them and the cabin began to fall apart almost instantly. Surprisingly, the fire didn’t spread any farther than the gas reached, as if the gas was keeping it in place. The forest was still safe and untouched.

They stopped half-way to the Reformation Center and stared at the cabin. It was ablaze, the heat kicking off and travelling through the wind towards them. Lycanere turned to Pirelavs who was gazing at the fire as if he’d fallen in love. A smile was etched across the scaled man’s face, and the fire was reflecting off of his eyes. It was as if Lycanere was peering into the eyes of a man at the peak of ecstasy. A man on the edge of arousal. Pirelavs, the man of fire. And a fitting name at that. Lycanere began to question if that was even the young man’s true name or something he just told everyone. Regardless, one thing was for sure, there would no longer be a Reformation Tank on Scouts’ Honor.

“Two possibilities now. Either they think we’re dead or alive,” Lycanere said.

“Let’s hope it’s the prior,” Kakine said. “We shouldn’t continue down this path. We need to go through the forest.”

“To where?” Pirelavs said.

“The Reformation Center,” Kakine said. “They have guns in there.”

“But we don’t know the code,” Pirelavs said.

“We have the rest of Martia’s tools. Either we do this or hide. We’ve already lost our helpers, but getting guns may get them back,” Kakine said.

“Not now. Let’s wait ‘til night when everyone’s asleep. We’ll go to the Center then. Let’s hide for now,” Lycanere said. He motioned for them to move and they ducked into the trees.

The Reformed Scouts and Mike came by within ten minutes with a huge hose and many fire extinguishers. Lycanere watched through the trees as they put out the fire. He spotted Benjamin and Mike standing off to the side amongst them.

“What did you do to those girls?” Benjamin said.

“Told them to go back to their cabin. I wasn’t gonna punish them for tryna help Lycanere. Besides, they’re the ones who’ll be pregnant. They’re not men.”

Benjamin chuckled. “That doesn’t seem fair. If I was a Scout Master--”

“Well, it’s a good thing you’re not.”

Benjamin glared at Mike. “Stop rejecting me. Just train me. I could be a great Scout Master.”

“You’re gonna have a kid now. I can’t train you to be a Scout Master,” Mike told him as they stood off to the side near the trees.

“I’m infertile. Let Genevieve help the others some other way. I’ll be no help. I rather by a Scout Master than anything else,” Benjamin said.

“And why didn’t you tell me this on the ship?”

“I wanted to learn the ins-and-outs of what it truly meant to be part of the Discover Scouts. To feel worthful in this world. It just hit me now that becoming a Scout Master may be the only proper way to do that.”

Scout Master Mike nodded and patted Benjamin’s shoulder. “I’ll speak to Corporate for you.”

Two scouts, one male and one female, approached the two, moving almost robotically.

“No bodies?” Mike asked the woman.

“Negative. Probably destroyed in the fire,” she responded.

“And their bones just burned away too?” Mike laughed. The Scouts didn’t respond. “Well, I warned him. You two and Ben come with me.”

“Yessir,” they all said.

He turned to the others and yelled, “The rest of you watch out for them! You see them, you shoot! Only stun, remember. People can always be useful.”

“Yessir,” the remainder said.

Mike walked on, the two Reformed Scouts and Benjamin following behind.

They stayed silent for a few moments as they watched the Scouts finish putting out the flames.

“They wouldn’t kill us, would they?” Kakine asked.

“Mike told them not to,” Pirelavs answered. He laid on the ground beside Martia, letting her use his good arm as a pillow. “Then again, he threatened to kill Lycanere, and they seem like buddies. Who knows what they’ll do to us.”

“I don’t think Mike has it in his heart to kill one of us,” Lycanere said, “but the Reformed Scouts are not him. They’re not even humans. They’re pawns.”

“They might as well be aliens,” Pirelavs said.

Lycanere watched them for a few more seconds before sitting down himself. Night would come soon, and they needed to act by then.

***

Martia was still unconscious what seemed like hours after sunset, Pirelavs asleep beside her. He was talking to himself.

“No, no, please… don’t send me,” he mumbled. “It wasn’t on purpose this time, I promise… I’m still good. I’m not worthless.”

Kakine was dozing too, her head on Lycanere’s shoulder. Lycanere sat up against a tree and watched her drool, trying to make sure it missed him as it dripped from her bottom lip.

He nudged her, and she stirred awake. She looked up at him and wiped her mouth.

“Time to go,” he said.

She rose and stretched. Lycanere moved over to Pirelavs and tapped his shoulder.

“I’m not worthless. I’m not--”

“Pirelavs,” Lycanere said. The young man startled awake and looked up at Lycanere. “It’s time to go.”

Pirelavs turned from Lycanere to Martia.

“Try to wake her up,” Lycanere told him.

“And if she doesn’t?”

“Just try,” Lycanere said.

Pirelavs gently shook Martia. “Hey, Martia,” he said.

Kakine tried to help, pushing Martia forcefully.

“Marty, wake up,” she said. No response.

Kakine put her ear to Martia’s chest. “Still breathing.”

Lycanere shook his head. “We need to go.”

“We can’t leave her,” Kakine said.

“We can’t bring her, either. She’ll encumber us,” Lycanere said.

“I’ll watch over her. If anyone comes, I can carry her out of here.”

“You have a bad arm,” Lycanere said.

“We’ll be fine.” He dug into his back pocket, withdrew the tool wallet, and threw it to Lycanere. “Just, please, don’t leave without us.”

“We’d never,” Kakine said. “We promise.”

Pirelavs looked to Lycanere who nodded in approval. They wouldn’t have made it this far without Pirelavs or Martia. Leaving them would be a disservice to their work and friendship.

Lycanere and Kakine silently and quickly moved out through the forest towards the Reformation Center.

“I don’t know about this,” Lycanere said.

“They’ll be okay… We’ll be okay,” Kakine reassured.

Within a minute, they could see the Center’s massive planetary columns.

“We’re gonna get these guns and bring them to the others. We’ll fight together and get out of here. I promise,” Lycanere said, more to himself than Kakine.

They reached the edge of the forest, right beside the clearing. A Scout stood outside, attentive with an assault rifle in her hands.

“You got your joystick?” Lycanere whispered.

“Of course. How are your fingers?”

He looked down at them. They were scarred already, red and blotchy, but he could still move them. “I’ll be okay.”

They stared at the Scout whose eyes scanned the area. Lycanere looked down and saw rocks at their feet.

“Got an idea.” He picked one up, feeling pain in his fingers, and launched it across the path at the forest opposite their side. The Scout looked up and began to move towards the sound, scanning both in front of and behind her. She swung her gun around as she moved, aiming at everything. Lycanere tensed as the barrel aimed at them, but it swung by all the same. The Scout hadn’t seen them.

“Come out of there and I won’t hurt you,” she said.

Lycanere advanced slowly, making his way to the edge of the forest right beside the path, hidden behind a tree. He looked back at Kakine who was staring at him in shock. He smiled.

The Scout made her way to the path and looked over at the other side. Lycanere pounced out of the trees at her. She heard him before he could land. She turned and fired, red lasers searing through the sky. The shots were loud, reverberating and singeing the air. Lycanere’s body tensed as it flew on top of hers, knocking her to the ground. He heard Kakine gasp behind him. His shoulder screamed and burned, but he let the burn drift to the back of his mind as he wrestled the gun from the Scout. He looked down at her, a girl no older than him, and saw the grimace on her face – her teeth clenched and her eyes wild like a hungry animal’s.

He wrenched the gun from her, flipped it around, and knocked her out with the butt.

He turned and saw Kakine emerging from the trees, ripping a piece of her shirt off. Lycanere’s shoulder throbbed in severe pain as she reached him and rapped her shirt around it. There was a hole through the top of it and it was steaming and bleeding.

“Fuck,” he said, his teeth digging into his bottom lip as she tightened the shirt around him.

“What were you thinking?” she asked. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

The Reformation Center doors were kicked open. Of course, someone had heard the gunshots.

“More will come,” he said as he lifted the gun and looked at its side where there was a movable lever beneath two words: “stun” and “kill.” It was under “kill.” He switched it to “stun” and aimed at the Center, seeing a male Scout exit it. Lycanere’s shoulder screamed as he aimed at him.

He fired a yellow laser. Headshot. The Scout fell, paralyzed. Lycanere collapsed and grabbed his shoulder. He wanted to scream as loud as he could, to have his pain scorch the air like his fresh skin had only seconds ago, but he kept it in.

Kakine fell to his side and helped him up, taking the gun from him.

“We need to get in there, now. Give me the gun,” he demanded her.

She looked him in his eyes longingly. He didn’t have time for this.

“Kakine--"

“Lycanere, I got this.” But she didn’t move from her spot, but just kept staring. Lycanere awkwardly looked away, trying to listen for other Scouts. Someone else had to have heard the shots.

“Lyc,” Kakine said. He turned to her.

“Let’s move, Khaki. Have the gun if you want.” He took a step forward and she grabbed his arm.

“I just… If we get ambushed and killed--”

“We won’t.”

“But if we do…”

She kissed him. He pulled away instinctively.

“Kakine, I, uh… Now’s definitely not the time for that.”

“Then when is the right time? I don’t want to die and never have been able to at least kiss a guy. I thought you liked me?”

 “Kakine, I’m gay.” He’d told few people before, but it felt good to say it again.

She stopped. “Really?”

“Yeah.” He glanced back to the Reformation Center. “That’s why I’m here. Well, that’s the big reason why. My people thought that I couldn’t continue my lineage, and that I couldn’t be a leader, and that I couldn’t be manly if I’m gay. So, they sent me here. But they’re full of shit. I just wasn’t strong enough for them. If I had been, they’d have looked over it like they have for others.” He looked down at the ground, away from her eyes.

“Oh. Sorry for my assumption.” She walked off towards the Reformation Center.

“Kakine,” Lycanere said.

“Yeah?” She didn’t turn around.

“Mike told me he chose you to be with me for a reason. He said you were different than you looked.” He still couldn’t put his finger on how.

“I’m intersex, but my parents decided that I should be a boy at birth. Though I still have male parts, I do not want them and never have. My parents were very displeased with that decision,” she said. And she walked on towards the Reformation Center, silent. Lycanere hesitated before following, watching the strong woman hold the gun as she got closer to the Center.

It all clicked. Mike had chosen her to help Lycanere with an escape plan that he wanted in but couldn’t dare ask to be in. He’d be outed by his own men. He couldn’t afford that. He was just another soul whose life was taken by an unjust cause. Another life Lycanere wanted to save.

He looked down at the unconscious Scout beside him, then ran after Kakine. His shoulder and fingers throbbed with every step, but he did his best to ignore it all. He needed to match Kakine’s strength. They were equals now. They knew each other’s big secrets. And there’s no better connection than that.

Lycanere had expected the Reformation Center to be pitch black inside when Kakine opened its doors. Instead, a lamp sat on one of the tables with a gun beside it, a person behind the two objects.

“I’ve been waiting for you two,” they heard it say.

“Benjamin,” Lycanere said.

He went to grab the gun from Kakine, but she moved away, her gun already up and aimed at the dwarf.

“Good evening to you two, too,” Benjamin said. He didn’t move to grab his gun. He just sat there, his feet up on the table, relaxing as if he was safer than ever before.

He yawned when Kakine was only a few feet from him.

“It’s good to see you guys. I was hoping you’d survived, though it would’ve been much smarter to stay hidden. Nice job with the Tank, though. I admire your work.”

She stopped. Lycanere took a step forward, a hand on his shoulder.

“What?” he said.

“Tell me, Lycanere, who in the right mind would come here voluntarily?” Benjamin said. He withdrew his feet from the table and stretched. Kakine kept the gun aimed at him.

“Why are you asking me? You did.”

“I know I did, but why? Please, remind me.”

Lycanere didn’t like this game, but he played along. “You felt worthless and thought this place could make something out of you.”

“Exactly. And something it did.”

“You want to be a Scout Master,” Kakine said.

“You heard that?” Benjamin laughed to himself. “Damn. You guys were closer than I thought.” He walked away from them towards the “IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY” door.

“That, my lovely lady, is called getting into the system. If you guys had just died or escaped instead of coming here, that would’ve made this easier on me. Much easier.”

He reached the door and turned back to them.

“What are you up to, Benjamin?” Lycanere said. He took another step forward, trying to hold his shoulder.

Benjamin stalled for a second before saying, “Are you guys sure you want to do this? I heard those gunshots, too. Everyone probably did. You’re going to be found and killed pretty soon.”

You’re not killing us,” Kakine said.

“I should be, but that’s not why I’m here.” He turned to the keypad. The two got closer to him, moving slowly, Kakine still aiming the gun at him.

“Sixteen, thirty, twenty-three, twenty-eight,” he said as he pushed in each pair of numbers.

“GUNS,” Lycanere formulated. He understood it immediately. Mike had hinted to it. Twice. He’d been trying to help them, and wanted this to happen.

Benjamin threw open the door and flicked on a lamp inside. There was a huge arsenal of them. A closet of guns and grenades and knives and all types of weapons that Lycanere could dream of lied inside.

“They’re not very creative, but I wouldn’t have thought of it before seeing Mike put the code in.”

Lycanere looked inside the room.

“In case of an emergency, they could kill everyone on this planet. In case of an emergency, they could protect this planet,” Benjamin said.

“From who?” Lycanere said.

He faced them again, his face stoic and strong. “Me.”

“You?” Lycanere heard people running outside. He noticed the others had heard it too.

Benjamin turned to them and began to speak quickly. “No one volunteers for this shit unless they are the most self-deprecating, patriotic piece of shit out there. I may be short, but I am not that. I am a human being, and my worth is more than just being some thrown away soul that no one wants. More than just being some type of civilizer for a planet that normal people will take over in due time. If you see it as I do, you’ll know there’s no hope for us. The normal people will continue to spread and breed for as long as they can. Our kind will be ousted and destroyed, sent further and further into the universe until we reach the edge of something we believed was infinite. I will not be one of those people who is involuntarily thrown into a universe-wide eugenics movement. I will not be someone who is just thrown to the wind because of my deformities and differences.”

Lycanere could hear people running up to the Center. They were close. Benjamin motioned for them to enter the gunroom. They entered under his discretion.

“In truth, yes, I’m up to something. I was hired to come here by people like us to find out the secrets of this place and destroy it from the inside out. So, I had to play the part. I had to volunteer and act as loyal to the Scouts as I could. You guys only aided in helping me.” He then slammed the door closed.

Lycanere saw the gunroom’s lamp’s light peeking out underneath the door. He flicked it off. He could feel Kakine’s eyes on him though he could not see them.

The Center doors opened.

“Benjamin!” they heard Mike yell.

“Scout Master Mike!”

“We heard gunshots. The two Scouts out there are both down. One’s stunned and the other’s unconscious with a bloody nose.”

“I was wondering what was taking them so long.”

“You didn’t hear anything?”

“Of course, I did, but after no one came in here I figured everything was okay.”

“We should hide,” Kakine whispered.

“No. We might knock something over if we move,” Lycanere said.

“So, no one came in here?” Scout Master Mike asked.

“Nope,” Benjamin said.

“And you just sat here doing nothing?”

“I was just walking around. Pacing. Trying to think about what I’m going to do to those four traitors when we find them.”

There was silence. Lycanere heard Kakine move.

“Stop moving.”

“If we find a grenade, we can kill them all right now,” she said. He heard her begin to feel around on the ground.

“Scouts, go search for them outside,” Mike said.

“Yessir!” they shouted. Lycanere heard the Center doors open and the Scouts rush out. Kakine began to move faster and then…

The code was quickly entered, and the door opened. Scout Master Mike looked down at them, his face blank. Lycanere saw Kakine on the floor, her hand right next to a grenade.

“They’re gone,” Mike said. “Come on out.”

Benjamin stared at Mike in shock. “What’s going on here?”

“I told you if I found you I was gonna have to act against you to the fullest extent I possibly could,” Mike said.

Kakine didn’t hesitate. She stood back up and aimed her gun at Mike. Lycanere shook his head and pushed the gun down.

“He would’ve left them in here if he wanted to kill us.” He turned to Mike. “Why aren’t you holding up to your promise?”

Mike smiled. “I will be. Just wanted to give you a fair chance.”

“How’d you know they were in there?” Benjamin said.

Mike turned on him, a new light in his eyes. “I may seem stupid, but I’m not. No one volunteers to come here, Ben. No one wants to do this. You were just too enthusiastic. So, I knew I could trust you to hide them for me.”

He motioned for Kakine and Lycanere to come out of the room.

“What if the Scouts come back?” Kakine said.

“Then I’ll pretend to have found you and hopefully you can escape again.” Once they were out of the room, Mike stepped in and pulled out a few handguns and a couple grenades.

“Bring these back to Mister Copher and Miss Lowe. Please, only use the grenades if you have to, and keep the guns on stun,” he demanded, giving them the guns and grenades. Lycanere took two guns and a grenade and Kakine took the remainder, both attaching a gun and grenade by carabiners to their beltloops.

“Why are you helping them?” Benjamin said.

“Because what we do here is immoral, but maybe we can start changing things on this planet now that the Tank is gone,” Mike said. “I don’t like making kids participate in this organization, but I’d love to have volunteers. Actual volunteers who want to be here not because they’re unwelcome in society, but because they want to start a new one. A true Discover Scout should be discovering who they are and what it means to be part of a larger society, not discovering how much their own people hate them and how useless they are.”

Mike sat down at a bench and looked at the three. “Don’t get me wrong, some of us deserve to be in these positions of sadness. We’ve gotten rapists and murderers and… pedophiles. I don’t think they should be here furthering our civilization either, but they should be elsewhere. Even farther away from society. People like you three don’t deserve this. You’re at the times you should be accepting who you are, not being weighed down by it.”

His eyes fell to the ground. “Next time I see you, my Scouts will be with me. Get out of here before then, if you can. All three of you. Get everyone you can to help. The Reformed Scouts will come swinging at full force, and I must act like I’m on their side or I will lose my life. This is the time to start the change.” He stood up and gazed at Lycanere’s shoulder, bloody and throbbing. He cringed.

“I want all of you to get out of here without another shred of blood being dropped. Make it fast, make it quick, make it silent. If anything, just make it.” He turned around and began to walk out. When he reached the doors, he stopped. “Please, come back for me if you can.”

He left. The three looked at each other before moving.

Benjamin grabbed his gun. “Let’s move.”

They exited the Center and the night sky above was beautiful, though Lycanere knew the beauty was just hiding the ugliness of Scouts’ Honor. He also knew he was going to have to use the gun in his hands soon, though he didn’t want to.

Kakine led them with her assault rifle up, running into the trees by the path. Once inside the forest, they moved swiftly like deer through the woods. Kakine led them back to where Pirelavs and Martia had been, but the two were not there.

They stopped and examined the area for them. Within seconds, they heard many others in the trees with them and knew that the Scouts were nearby. 

“Guys!” they heard a loud whisper. They turned and saw Pirelavs hiding behind a tree close by. They ran to him and hid behind their own trees. Martia was still passed out in front of him.

Pirelavs glared at Benjamin the second he saw him. “What’s he doing here?”

“Helping us,” Lycanere said.

They froze as more Scouts ran behind them. Pirelavs waited a few seconds before speaking again.

“They were coming towards us, so I moved. I didn’t want to go far. I didn’t want to lose you guys.”

Lycanere smiled. He withdrew his extra gun from his belt and gave it to Pirelavs.

“Stun them if you see them,” Lycanere told his friend.

“We might as well take them out of their misery,” Benjamin said.

“You could say that about us, too,” Pirelavs retorted. Lycanere was happy the burned man was on his side.

Pirelavs turned to Lycanere. “You got all of this from the Center?”

“Mike,” he clarified.

“What? Why?”

More Scouts ran by. They would be on them soon.

“He’s on our side. Come on. Let’s get the others and get to the ship.”

Pirelavs slung Martia over his shoulder and they began to move through the forest away from the path in the same direction as the path from the Reformation Center to the cabins.

“Do we even know if going this way will lead to the cabins?” Pirelavs said.

“Where else would it lead to?” Benjamin said. He turned to Kakine. “You have your joystick, right?” All eyes were on him, the creeper who knew too much about their plan even though he was the only one they hadn’t wanted in on it.

“Of course,” she said.

“Give it to me. I have a plan.”

“Now’s not the time,” Lycanere told him.

“Just trust me. I’ll save us all if you just give it to me.”

“Why should we trust you?” Pirelavs said.

“I’m the only one with resources on the outside, and I can get us help. Give it to me now, or I’ll find some way to just take it from you.”

Everyone looked to Lycanere. He felt like their leader, the person who held all of their lives in his hands. They had to go now, and he felt he had to trust Benjamin. He nodded to Kakine and she handed Benjamin the joystick.

“Thanks. I’ll be right back. I promise.” Benjamin ran off. He was fast. Pirelavs went to run after him, but Lycanere grabbed his shoulder. He didn’t know how to feel about this, but he knew he had what he had to say.

“We need to trust him.”

They started to move farther down through the forest, hoping they’d come out on the backside of the cabins.

“What happened to your shoulder?” Pirelavs asked.

“Got shot being risky. I’m lucky to be alive.” They ran on, Lycanere holding his throbbing shoulder with his burned fingers.

Lycanere glanced behind him and tried to see if they were being followed as they rushed on. They’d be found soon enough. There were many more Scouts than them, and they weren’t exactly being silent.

They saw the edge of the forest coming up quickly and the backs of the cabins were in their sight.

A red laser flew by Lycanere’s head and scorched into a tree in front of him.

“I thought they were supposed to stun us!” Kakine yelled.

“Stun or kill, we need to get to cover,” Lycanere said.

More lasers followed. Lycanere looked to his friends as they ducked and ran around the trees.

He turned and saw a few Scouts in the distance. He aimed and shot. A small yellow laser flew from his gun at a Scout. Headshot. Down. He was great at this.

More Scouts emerged amongst their brethren and shot at the four. A laser flew past Lycanere and knocked a Scout out. He turned and saw Kakine, firing away with no remorse. He looked back to the Scouts who were being shot down one after another by her. Lycanere was beginning to consider she truly could beat Conqueror’s War if she ever played.

“Run!” she yelled at him as she took off. He took another shot, knocked a Scout down, and ran after Pirelavs who had reached the back of the cabins.

More red lasers flew by, just missing them. Lycanere’s heart raced. One good shot and that was it.

“COME ON!” Pirelavs yelled from beside a cabin.

They made their final strides and reached Pirelavs. They hid in front of the cabin and listened to the Scouts all approach from all directions. The ship was only a few yards from them, the loading dock already down though Lycanere was sure it had been up before.

Lycanere moved quickly and kicked open the cabin door. He led them inside, shutting it behind them. It was their cabin, and the only person in it was Genevieve.

“I thought you guys were dead,” she said.

“We escaped,” Pirelavs said, “but the Scouts are coming for us.”

Lycanere looked out of the window ahead at the ship in front of the campsite. They could make it if they ran.

Pirelavs spoke his thoughts. “Let’s run for it.”

“What about the others?” Kakine said.

“We can’t save them,” Pirelavs said.

Lycanere watched the Scouts enter the campsite and approach them. He got an idea, and he knew he was going to hate himself for it. But he had to. “Get cover.” He opened the window.

“What are you doing?” Kakine said. Lycanere pulled a grenade from his hip, the pin flying off.

“Get down,” he demanded. They all dropped to the floor. Lycanere turned back to the Scouts. There weren’t many of them, no more than thirty, but it was enough to do damage to their army. “Hey drones!” They all aimed their guns at him. He launched the grenade and ducked.

Lasers flew through the window, singeing the cabin interior, but the lasers stopped as soon as they began.

“RUN!” a Scout barked.

The sound of the grenade going off was earthshattering. It erupted, and Lycanere saw a bright light emerge through the window as if the sun had somehow manifested itself onto the planet.

They all waited a few seconds, silent and breathless. There was nothing at first, and then there was running.

“He’s in there!” someone yelled.

“Get ready to fight,” Lycanere said.

A rumbling sound shook the ground beneath them. Lycanere knew that sound, as he was sure everyone else did. The Ship.

They all looked out the window. Most of the ground was a hole littered with body parts, blood, and guns from the destroyed and dismembered Scouts. The sight was disgusting, and Lycanere felt sickened over what he had done, but it was only one of the horrible sights of the moment. Lycanere saw Scouts and his fellow Troop 10 members all outside with their eyes on a glowing object in the sky: the ship elevating higher and higher towards space.

“No way,” Pirelavs said.

Lycanere glared at the ship. “That dwarf.”

He saw Scout Master Mike run out into the middle of the campsite and look up at the ship. He threw his arms like a child having a tantrum.

“NO! NO! NO!” Mike yelled. He sharply turned and spotted Lycanere. Their eyes met and Lycanere saw pain and tears on Mike’s face. He and his friends ducked back down under the window though he knew Mike was already approaching the cabin.

“Scout Master Mike,” one of the Scouts said.

“Shut up,” Lycanere heard Mike respond as he reached the door. Pirelavs aimed his gun at the door, and Lycanere pushed the gun down.

“No,” he told Pirelavs. “Not him.”

The door was kicked open and Mike entered followed by a couple Scouts who had their guns aimed at the group.

“Execute on command, Scout Master,” one Scout said to Mike.

“I told you guys to stun them. STUN.”

“Corporate says--”

“I don’t care what Corporate says, Piper. And you can tell ‘em I said that. Now get the fuck out!” Mike demanded the young female scout.

“But--”

“Let me deal with them myself! I’m the Scout Master, not you. Now get out! NOW!” The Scouts ran out of the room.

Mike shook his head in anger and glared at the group.

“What the hell have you done?” he growled.

“We were just trying to get out of here like you told us to,” Lycanere said.

“Yeah, but I didn’t expect you to leave me. I thought that you had the decency to…” He stopped and blinked a couple times. “Wait… You didn’t leave.”

“Nope, we didn’t,” Kakine said. “And I’m pretty sure we thought you wanted to stay to keep your job anyway.”

“I was hoping you guys would have abducted me or something. Anything.” He sat on a bed in defeat. “But, you didn’t leave. So… who did?”

“Benjamin,” Pirelavs said. “He stole Kakine’s joystick and got away.”

“How did that tiny man get through the ship and everyone in it and pilot it away?” Mike asked.

Lycanere shrugged. “Your guess is as good as ours.”

Mike sighed. “Do you think he’s coming back?”

Lycanere nodded. “Most likely to destroy this place and everything it stands for. He’ll get the law on his side. People will join him in anger. They won’t like what this place truly is.”

Mike chuckled to himself. “He’s gonna have quite the time then.”

“Why’s that?” Pirelavs said.

“Corporate will be on their way once my Scouts report this to them. They’ll relieve Scouts’ Honor of us six for the problems we’ve caused, and either take the rest to Jovial-10, or rid of them too. By the time Benjamin gets back, there may be no one left to save.”

The words sunk into Lycanere, digging into his skin and soul.

“Corporate can’t do that,” Kakine said.

“They can, and they will,” Mike said. “And that’s not even saying if Benjamin can get people on his side to come and protect the youth that they excommunicated from society.”

Mike made his way to the door and took one last pitiful look at them. “I’m sorry, guys. We’ve lost this one. Once Corporate gets here, we’re all done.”

“No. We haven’t lost yet. Let’s get guns and fight back,” Lycanere said.

“The Scouts aren’t gonna like that,” Mike said. “They’ll shoot me down the second I act against them again.”

“Then don’t. We need someone on the inside,” Lycanere said.

Mike smiled. “What’re you thinking, brother?”

***

Scout Master Mike had disarmed them and locked them in the cabin. Two Scouts stood guard outside of them, armed and ready for anything. It was the only thing he could get Corporate to agree on after arguing with them over the phone for what seemed like hours. The Scouts and Corporate wanted to kill them, but Mike’s reluctance to kill children and the fact that Benjamin was out there possibly getting the law on his side against them had helped the group. The law had scared Corporate much more than any of them had thought it would.  

“They’re coming, but just to bring the other Scouts to Jovial-10,” Mike told the five, including the still unconscious Martia. The Scouts had only let him in here to tell them the news. It was that, and then he’d be unable to ever enter again.

“And us?” Lycanere asked.

“They have other Reformation Tanks and other Scouts’ Honors. Don’t worry, I’ll be joining you.”

Lycanere sighed, expecting such.

They all looked to Martia.

“From what you told me, she’ll be fine,” Mike said. “You have to be fully submerged for like five minutes for it have its true effect on you.”

“When will she wake up?” Pirelavs said.

Mike shrugged. “I’m no doctor.”

Mike walked to the door to leave them for the last time. “It’s up to you guys to break out of here. When Corporate comes, we’re all going down. So, think of a plan and get ready for Corporate. Beating them is the only way out of this one.” He left then, and the five were by themselves.

“Do you think Benjamin is really coming back for us?” Genevieve asked.

“If he wants to destroy this place like he said he did, he will,” Lycanere said, “but that could take years. Even with the law on his side, no one truly cares about us. We’re not wanted or accepted. People would turn a blind eye to us and just pretend we don’t exist.”

“What’re you saying?” Pirelavs asked.

“We’re better off not worrying about Benjamin. Corporate will get here long before him,” Kakine said.

“No one is coming to save us,” Lycanere said. “Not any time soon. This is on us. It’s either we fight back or die. And I refuse to become one of those brainless zombies.”

Pirelavs looked at all of them, his limp arm up to his chest. “So, if they catch us, we end our lives?”

Lycanere and Kakine nodded. They looked to Genevieve. She hesitated, but eventually nodded.

“We need to get out of here, get everyone on our side, get the guns, and rid of the Scouts. Then, we’ll handle Corporate when they come,” Lycanere said.

“And how do you expect to get out of here?” Genevieve said.

Lycanere turned to Martia. “We have her tools. We can try to break out with them.”

“Or just break the window,” Pirelavs said.

“And let everyone know we’re out of here?” Lycanere said. “We need them to think we’re inside.”

“There are guards outside,” Kakine said.

“We’ll dispatch them. Two of you can wear their clothes and look inconspicuous. We’ll work from there.”

“Are we killing them this time?” Pirelavs said.

Lycanere shook his head. “No. No more death. I don’t want to throw another grenade, and stunning lasts an hour. Just stun them over and over until we get away.”

Pirelavs nodded in agreement.

“Even if we try to get out of here, they’ll hear us moving around. They’ll know what we’re doing once we touch that door to break it open,” Genevieve said.

Lycanere knew she was right. There had to be something else. Another way.

“Does anyone have anything in this room that can help us?” Lycanere said. Kakine and Genevieve shook their heads.

Pirelavs got up and moved to his luggage. He started to dig through it. He pulled out a rectangular lighter designed to look like a red dragon’s mouth.  

Pirelavs flicked the lighter’s top up, the top of the dragon’s mouth being lifted, a small beam of purple fire arising from the lighter.

“So, whaddya think?” he asked them.

“How is that going to help us in any way?” Kakine said.

“I cut through the back wall with it, its concentrated but--”

“It’ll set this place on fire,” Lycanere said.

“And they’ll rush to put it out! We’ll escape, and bam! Activate plan flame and run!”

“No,” Kakine said. “We’re not--”

Something hit the ground outside. Thud. Thud. They stopped, falling silent.

“What was that?” Genevieve asked, standing up slowly from the bed.

Lycanere heard movement behind him and turned. He saw Martia’s hand on her head.

“Guys,” he said.

All eyes were on her as she rubbed her head and pushed herself up.

“What happened?” she said.

The door’s knob started to jiggle. Everyone turned back to it, silent. There was whispering outside. Something metallic grazing itself against the door. Then… click.

The door swung open and four young women stood in front of them, the two guard Scouts knocked out by their feet. Lycanere recognized them as other girls of their troop. Genevieve’s friends. Their leader, a tall and strong butch, stood in front of them. Lycanere was happy it was her. MAD. Madison.

The four entered the cabin, two girls dragging in the unconscious Scouts and closing the door behind them. Genevieve ran to her and hugged her.

Madison and Genevieve separated, and Madison stepped in front of them, she held one of the Scouts’ guns in her hands. Martia rose from the ground as if she were meeting a lieutenant.

“Madison Crux of Aura,” she said. “Armed Forces.” She approached Kakine and stuck out her hand. Kakine shook it. She did the same to Martia, but only nodded to Lycanere and Pirelavs.

“Nice seeing you again,” Pirelavs said.

“These are my girls, Beatrice Yrten of Fellsha, chef.” Beatrice stepped forward, tall, lanky, blonde, and beautiful. “Vyana Worx of Welldon, fisher.” Vyana, a short dark-skinned woman with green eyes and arms like a bear’s, stepped forward. “And Erinza Pearl of Mars, miner.” Erinza, a small, toned, pale girl with short black and red hair, and a young and cute face, stepped forward, holding the other gun.

Lycanere introduced his group the same way to the four, all except for Genevieve whom they already knew.

“You’re MAD, from Conqueror’s War,” he finally said, as if admiring a god.

“And you’re LYC,” she responded. “Nice to meet you.” She looked to Genevieve. “She told us about your plan to revolt and leave this place back during the coupling. We’ve seen all that you’ve done and have been trying to help since. We even tried to break you out of the Tank, but Mike caught us. We don’t want to go off to Jovial-10 with Corporate. So, now, we’re here. And we’re going to break out of this together.”

“Thank you, Madison,” he said. “We need to get the others on our side and--”

“Already done. We did that without you,” Erinza said. Her voice was high, yet strong.

“And we need to get weapons,” Lycanere said.

“That’s up next. That’s why we need you,” Vyana said.

“You got them before. You can get them again,” Beatrice said.

Lycanere looked from one to the other. They worked great together. He could only admire their team as much as they admired his.

“Strip the bodies, girls,” Madison then demanded. Vyana and Beatrice went to the Scouts. Madison turned to Lycanere. “Their clothes are our sizes, so you and I are going. We’ll wear them and sneak in.”

“Kakine’s a better shot,” Pirelavs said. “And Lycanere’s shoulder is screwed up.”

“I wouldn’t risk losing her. She’s the pilot, isn’t she?” Madison said. It was a rhetorical question. “And you have an entire lame arm. Lycanere at least seems to be functioning. Our scores are pretty close on Conqueror’s War, after all.”

She looked to Erinza, and the girl threw Lycanere her gun. Lycanere caught it and flipped the switch to “stun.”

“Let’s go,” he told her.

They exited the cabin just a few minutes later, garbed in the Scouts’ clothing: their tan hats and button-up uniforms with nametags on their left chest over a badge reading “Helper Scout.” On Lycanere’s right arm was the troop number 7, and Madison’s 5. Her name tag read Wylla and his Tye.

They walked down the path towards the Reformation Center. “Keep your head down, don’t look suspicious.”

He followed her orders, his gun tight to his chest. She was better at this, he noticed. For all he knew, she could’ve been masquerading as another person since birth. She blended in.

They passed by a couple other Scouts on their way down, Madison nodding to them as if she’d known them for years. They nodded in return.

The two reached the Reformation Center doors easily and quickly. Two Scouts stood outside of it, armed beside the doors. Lycanere kept his head down, his hat casting a shadow over his face.

“We’re here to take over your shifts,” Madison said.

“We’re not supposed to be relieved ‘til after dinner,” one of the Scouts said.

“Corporate wants their best on the front line in case Troop 10 tries anything. You’re some of the best, aren’t you?”

The Scouts smiled, showing some humanity left in the husks that they were.

“We’re on it,” one of them said. They ran off, and Lycanere and Madison took their positions.

“What if they go to the cabin?” Lycanere said.

“My girls can handle them. We’re not helpless.”

Once the two were out of sight Madison opened the Reformation Center doors and they entered the building. It was empty, luckily. They moved right to the “IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY” door and Lycanere opened it.

“What was the code?” Madison said.

“Sixteen, thirty, twenty-three, twenty-eight.”

Madison peeked into the room before entering. “Wow,” she said, seeing all of the weapons inside.

“There must be like some type of wheelbarrow or something to carry them,” Madison said.

Lycanere remembered instantly. He moved to the “SUPPLIES” door and punched in the code.

“What are you doing?” Madison asked.

“There’s a cart of food in here. We can use that.”

He opened the door and swung it open. They ran to the supply closet and opened it, revealing the closet full of food and the cart. They unpacked the cart immediately, Lycanere moving as fast as he could while his shoulder and fingers throbbed.

“We could fit so much in this,” Madison said. “We just gotta get these to our troop somehow.”

“I got a plan,” Lycanere said.

“Spit away.”

“You ever play against the Sorians in Conqueror’s War before?” he asked.

She smiled. “Sorian Spinner?”

“Of course.”

They finished unpacking the cart and pulled it out of the closet. They turned and then, whoosh. A flush echoed from the bathroom. Lycanere’s back tensed as he looked to Madison. She jetted towards the door to get out. The bathroom door swung open behind them. Lycanere turned and saw a Scout.

“What are you guys--”

Lycanere shot him down, yellow laser to the head. His shoulder screamed with the ferocity of the shot, but he ignored it. The shot reverberated throughout the air. Everyone must’ve heard it. They were screwed.

They burst out of the hallway, ran to the gun room, and filled the cart with everything they could as fast as they could. The Reformation Center doors opened. Lycanere turned and aimed. Scouts poured into the Center. Lycanere released fire.

Yellow lasers filled the room, flying at the Scouts at lightning speed. Lycanere’s trigger finger moved faster than the eye could see, taking Scouts down with ease. He heard Madison moving quickly behind him. And then fwhoosh. Something flew over his head at the tens of Scouts in the room.

“No!” Lycanere yelled when noticing what it was.

Madison grabbed him and pulled him into the gun room, slamming the door shut.

The Reformation Center exploded, the gunroom’s door blowing off of its hinges. Smoke and fire filled the air. The top of the Reformation Center was gone, and its columns were destroyed. Body parts laid all over the Center’s remains.

Lycanere looked to Madison and the cart. It was full of weapons. He wanted to cry. No more death, he thought to himself, but death was all that existed around him.

Madison saw his face and couldn’t keep eye contact with him.

“You’re a good shot,” Madison said, breathing heavy. “And you’re smaller. Be the spinner.”

Lycanere laid on the bottom of the cart, uncomfortably on top of guns above the wheels, his gun aimed at the smoke. Madison stood behind the cart and pushed him forward. He released fire into the smoke. He couldn’t tell if he was hitting anything, nor did they have time to check.

They rushed out of the smoke down the path towards the cabins, Lycanere trying to swivel his body to check both in front of and behind him as the Sorians would do in Conqueror’s War.

She adeptly steered him right to the cabins where he shot any Scout that came in sight, which were only a few. They reached his cabin and the door opened. She pushed him inside and pulled a gun from the cart. She faced outside, ready to shoot anyone approaching.

“What the hell’s happening out there?” Pirelavs said.

“We got caught,” Lycanere said, getting off of the cart.

“Grab a couple guns. We need to move. They could throw a grenade in here and kill us all easily.”  Their group moved and grabbed weapons. “Make sure to only them them. Lycanere’s not a fan of death. Let’s move,” Madison demanded. Lycanere looked around the room to see the two Scouts they had captured tied to bedposts, their mouths stuffed with clothes. Tears slowly fled from their eyes. Even aliens cry. But that didn’t mean he should forget all of the wrong they’d done and stood for now.

Once they were all armed, Madison motioned for them to move out.

“We need to get the others,” she said. She turned to their group, “Fan out. Lycanere and I can hold it here. Get everyone else.” They listened to her as if she was their commander.

She looked around, aiming her gun in all directions. “After Mike caught us trying to break you out of the Tank, we started to talk to everyone and got them on our side.” She looked him in his eyes, calm as can be. “You’re the reason this all is happening. I thought we were at a loss forever, but you proved to me that we’re not. Just us, the top two of Conqueror’s War, dispatched most of a mindless army. Just. Us. You’re just as much of a leader here as I. Don’t ever doubt yourself. You’ve taught me not to.”

Lycanere let her words sink in, not knowing what to say in return.

Their Troop 10 compatriots were already being led from their cabins to the guns.

“Have you ever come close to beating Conqueror’s War before?” Madison asked him.

He shook his head. “My, uh, friend Reggie beat it. You probably heard of him. The legend, Regenold Wyland, only winner in forty years. One hundred ninety minutes.”

“That’s your friend?”

Lycanere nodded. “He’s in charge back at home now. He’s great. Amazing. Handsome and everything. I wish I was as good as him.”

Madison raised her eyebrow. “He’s only a friend?”

Lycanere shrugged. “Yeah.”

Madison chuckled. “My friend Tyva almost beat it. Like, she was this close.” She held her pointer finger and thumb barely a centimeter apart. “She’s a true born general. She told me once, ‘Madin, all you gotta do is find who you are and use it to your advantage. Even when you lose, at least you’ll still be you.’”

“She called you Madin?”

She hesitated. “It’s my birth name… To keep this short, no one here was impregnating me no matter how hard they tried. Some surgeons are just amazing.”

Lycanere looked down, letting her words sink in. He glanced back up at her after a second. “So, you haven’t come close either?”

Madison laughed. “No, not at--”

She raised her gun and aimed at an approaching person from the path that Lycanere hadn’t even noticed. It was Mike.

Lycanere pushed down Madison’s gun.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“He’s on our side.”

Mike approached, his hands up. Scouts appeared behind him, all armed. There were tens of them, probably one hundred. Mike was the only one unarmed. Lycanere turned to see his entire troop behind him, armed and ready. They were all on his side, ready to fight for their lives.

“We would like to ask for you to put down your weapons,” Mike said. “If you don’t, they have been ordered to relieve the Discover Scouts of your entire troop.”

“And who ordered this?” Madison said, her voice strong and unafraid.

“Corporate,” Mike said. Lycanere realized the Scouts must’ve called Corporate after the Reformation Center was decimated. Troop 10 had screwed themselves even more. He was even more afraid that if they put down their guns they’d be shot without hesitation. But what’s stopping them now?

“No,” Lycanere said. “We want freedom. We don’t want to be pawns for the world to just move freely.”

“Don’t think that’s up to you, right now,” Mike said. He was sweating. “Not up to me, either. I just don’t want to get shot, and I rather you guys not get shot either.”

“We’re going to be killed anyway,” Lycanere stated. “We might as well fight for--”

A rumbling sound filled the sky. They all looked up and saw it: a ship was landing.

“Corporate,” Madison said. She didn’t hesitate. She fired at the Scouts. Mike, unharmed, dropped to the ground, defensive, and crawled away, as the battle commenced.

“For the Unwanted!” Madison screamed.

“For the Unwanted!” Troop 10 chanted. Yellow lasers exploded from their guns. Lycanere quickly joined, a smile on his face.

The Scouts retaliated immediately. They fired back, and they fired hard. They had the numbers and they could shoot. Lycanere’s group was inexperienced, smaller, and nothing compared to the Scouts. Lycanere’d been preparing for this for a long time now, and it was time to show the universe who he is.

Yellow and red lasers illuminated the already desecrated field. Bodies of both sides fell as if they’d never been standing.

Lycanere looked at his people and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Surround them! Shoot and move! Shoot and move! Don’t stay stationary!” They fanned out, though their numbers began to dwindle even before they started. Sixty turned to forty, and their bodies fell faster than the Scouts.

“Run through!” Madison yelled at him, moving alongside as they circled the Scouts.

“That’s suicidal!” Lycanere yelled.

“This whole thing is!” Madison screamed. She rushed towards the Scouts, firing and stunning one with a headshot. Lycanere followed, running into the group of Scouts and shooting them from up close. Some others followed his lead, but less survived than he’d hoped.

The ship landed, and the earth shook. The ramp fell and Lycanere looked back as someone ran out. It wasn’t Corporate, but Benjamin. And he was by himself with a gun in his hand. He ran to Lycanere like a madman, despite the overwhelming red lasers flying by, and reached him within seconds.

“What are you doing?” Lycanere asked, shooting a Scout down.

“Saving you guys. I told you I’d be right back.”

They shot at Scouts and swapped positions.

“I left to get help, but noticed it was probably too late, so I came back. I came right on time I guess.”

“Well, you ought to get back to the--”

Something smashed into his shoulder and pain rang throughout his body. Lycanere screamed and fell to the ground, looking up to see a Scout over him. The Scout aimed her gun and zap, she fell. Kakine was over him now, offering a hand down to Lycanere as she shot down another Scout. He took it and she lifted him up.

“Don’t lose focus. Be careful,” she told him.

“Look. It’s Benjamin,” Lycanere said.

She saw him. “Great timing. Next time, don’t leave your friends.”

Lycanere didn’t give them time to argue. Their numbers were nothing compared to the Scouts who had only lost half of their army. They could not win. “RETREAT!” he yelled over everything at his troop. “RUN TO THE SHIP!”

Benjamin was first to take off, followed by those who had heard Lycanere.

Lycanere spotted Madison across from him on the other side of the Scouts. They locked eyes for a quick second and then both took off. He was still holding Kakine’s hand.

They moved together, rushing towards the ship. Benjamin had already disappeared back inside of it. Lasers flew by them, just missing. Lycanere saw his army aiming back at the Scouts who were running after them.

“Don’t bother with them! Just run!” Lycanere yelled.

Lycanere heard the screams of his people as the Scouts pushed on, taking them down. The Scouts shot them and lowered their numbers, filling Scouts Honor with the smell of burning flesh and death. Don’t look over your shoulder, he thought to himself, his hand clamping around Kakine’s. Don’t look over your shoulder. He did. There was a Scout running full speed at him not too far away. The Scout stopped and aimed and… BANG! Mike smashed into the Scout from the side.

“Shit,” Lycanere said. He let go of Kakine’s hand.

“Lyc--”

“I need to help Mike,” he told her. “Go to the ship. Now.” He aimed at approaching Scouts and shot them.

“You’re going to die,” she said.

“I’ll be fine. Go.” She stalled and looked him in the eyes as if this was some romantic moment, as if she could kiss him and it would mean the world. But it didn’t. It wouldn’t. “I love you,” she said, and she ran to the ship.

He had to admit, he loved her too. But not in the same way.

He ran to Mike who laid on the ground, wrestling the gun from the Scout on top of him. Scouts were running at them, less worried with Lycanere than the escaping Troop 10. He shot at them, headshot after headshot, until he reached Mike who kicked his Scout off of him and shot him in the head.

“Lycanere--”

“Let’s go.” Lycanere reached out a hand to his friend.

Mike grabbed it and they moved off quickly together.

“I can’t believe you came back for me.”

“We’re brethren. Why wouldn’t I?”

They ran, Lycanere hoping luck would be on their side for once. Mike aimed behind them, shooting. Lycanere watched Kakine make it into the ship, followed by Pirelavs and Martia. He watched Genevieve be shot down, then Erinza and Vyana. Madison stopped before entering the loading ramp. She turned around, aimed, and released the clips of two guns at the Scouts, tearing through their army before her own body was decimated by others from afar.

Mike and Lycanere pushed on as fast as they could. The ship was close, but the Scouts behind were closer. He could hear their lasers behind him as he and Mike launched themselves towards the ship.

Three feet away.

Two feet away.

One foot away.

Down.

A laser ripped through Lycanere’s oblique and he fell to the ground. Mike looked at him, desperate. He went to pick Lycanere up only for a laser to fly right between the two.

“Go!” Lycanere screamed as lasers shot by them. “GO!”

Tears rolled from Mike’s eyes as he ran into the ship.

Lycanere used his last bit of energy to push himself up and stagger forward. He saw Kakine on the ship looking at him. Then Benjamin, Pirelavs, Martia, and Scout Master Mike. He reached for them, and felt his insides start to slide out. He fell over.

He heard Kakine’s cry followed by the ramp rising. The ship rumbled, then rose into the air. Lasers continued to shoot at it as it flew high into the sky. Scouts ran past Lycanere and shot with all of their might, but their actions were futile.

Lycanere rolled onto his back, tasting blood in his mouth, and looked up to the sky. He smiled as he watched the ship leave the atmosphere. They may not have won this battle, but they had escaped, and that was all that mattered. This was just the start of a revolution to change the universe for the better, and he was happy to have been part of it.

Now, all that was left on Scouts’ Honor were him and the Scouts, and he’d be damned to let them take his life away as they had always planned.

Lycanere fought against the pain in his body and his urge to scream as he lifted the gun to his head. His finger was weak, and his will weaker, but that didn’t stop him from pulling the trigger.

His family would’ve been proud of the leader he’d became.

END


© Copyright 2018 Mythos9. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Science Fiction Short Stories