“Best not to trust anyone,” Booker said gruffly. “Let’s just do the damn thing, yeah?”
“Yeah,” she said as she pulled away, setting her bag down and easing the immense weight off her shoulders. She peered around the room before her gaze eventually settled on Eden. Recognition flittered over her dark features almost immediately. “And you must be Eden Voss, hmm?”
She approached, holding out a small, withered hand. Eden took it, his eyes roving over her features, trying to discern her intentions. She seemed cognizant of his observation and smiled gently. “You can trust me, young man. What you’re about to do is very brave. Very foolish but very brave. The Resistance will be in your debt.”
“Axel Tovar must be stopped,” he said and she raised her eyebrows in contemplation.
“On that, we’re agreed. I’ll get set up then, shall I?”
Clara instructed Eden to stand at the back of the warehouse, against the backdrop of a plain brick wall. With the assistance of her EP guards, she removed the set-up for two large battery-powered lights that shone brightly on Eden’s face, illuminating him in a harsh white glow. After retrieving a small black hand-held camcorder from her bag, she said, “This camera will have a direct signal to every home in Elysian. If they’re tuned in, they’ll see you. We’ll only have a few minutes but I’ve installed an anti-track on the signal. It should give us enough time to get the message out and get the hell out of here before they can trace the signal. So talk fast kiddo. After we’re done, we won’t have time to slap each other on the backs. After we’re done, we run. Understand?”
Eden nodded. A sheen of sweat had broken out over his face. His heart was racing unnaturally fast. He felt he might vomit and pass out all at once. Perhaps even shit himself. God, he hoped he wouldn’t shit himself.
“One more thing,” Clara said. “What we’re doing…it’s treason, you understand? It’s punishable by death. Whatever you think you know, it’s nothing close to the truth, nothing close to the full extent of his depravity. Axel Tovar is merciless. If he finds us, he will do more than kill us. He’ll torture secrets from our flayed skin and broken bones.” She paused as if remembering. “What we’re doing today will not be taken lightly in the Capitol. You’ll more than put a target on your back, Eden. You’ll have tied your own noose, climbed the podium, and stepped off the ledge.”
Silence. All eyes on Eden. Finally, he opened his mouth. “I understand. Let’s begin.”
“Three…Two…One…” At the final wave of Clara’s hand, the recording device flared to life as a red light solidified just beside the lens. Clara nodded at him. It was happening. Eden’s eyes flickered to the faces that watched him from behind the camera —Micah, looking pale and tense and Booker poised beside him. Delta, too, seemed to freeze, hands clenched into tight fists at her sides.
Eden forced himself to speak. “This is a message to the people of Elysian. My name is Eden Voss. I am the stepson of President Axel Tovar. I grew up in his household, attended the Agoge Police Academy. And I’m here to tell you that President Tovar is not what he seems.” Eden’s voice did not betray him. He could barely believe his good fortune. It hadn’t broken or caught in his throat. He pushed forward.
“President Tovar called me a traitor, forced me to fight in the Games. But today, I call on you, the people of Elysian, to question those words that have been presented to you as fact. For over ten years, President Tovar has promised Extraction to the people of Tartarus. Rehoming and freedom. But that is a lie. For over ten years, President Tovar has told us, People of Elysian, that we are alone and at peace. But that too is a lie. The outer regions lay in disrepair, the result of a military attack on its own people.The Fracturing was never intended to protect the people of the outer regions. It was intended to purge the weak and sick and to remove those Tovar deems undesirable from his sight.
“People of Elysian, I urge you, ask questions. Ask yourself what is in the outer regions and beyond. There is no life there. The Extraction is a fallacy. Tovar does not intend to rehome the people of Tartarus. He means to exterminate them. Beyond the Dead Sea, there exists another world. A world we were told does not exist. The Isle of Justis, a nation primed for the fight against Tovar. A nation Tovar does not want you to know about. Ask yourselves why Tovar would keep this from you. Why?
“Do not trust President Axel Tovar. Do not submit to his questioning. Do not bend to his will. The President is seeking purification. He will send the Elysian Police to purge those he does not see fit to be a part of his perfect Elysian. He will not hesitate. His intention is to destroy. Tovar is a monster. His words are not truthful and they are not ordained by God. He killed my mother, his wife, Lady Annaliese Tovar. And he will continue to kill, to burn down, until there is nothing left but ash, rubble and death.
“I beg of you, people of Elysian: Question your government. Do not submit. The Resistance stands united. We serve Elysian. We will not support tyranny, genocide, injustice. Join us. Pick up arms. Fight back. Where there is justice, you can find us. Where there is goodness and love and hope and joy, there we thrive. Find us. Help us change this world for the better.” Eden ended his message by placing a hand to his heart in a salute. He bowed his head, finally able to catch his breath as a collective gasp seemed to ruminate through the occupants of the warehouse. Eden composed himself, forcing his heart to steady in his chest.
He had done it. They had done it. All around him, eyes were wide and joyful, and smiles were pulled taut over hopeful faces. They looked both terrified and thrilled. Eden swallowed, turning to Clara. “Is it done?”
The old woman nodded. “It’s done. Now we need to get the fuck out of here.”
A loud tumult sounded in the distance, an echo of shouts, heavy footsteps. Eden saw Clara’s eyes widen as she reached to stow away her equipment.
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