Chapter 1: Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
“Daddy!” A blonde dynamo barreled into Jake Griffin’s arms, snuggling into his chest.
“Princess!” His smile had always found a place in his expression but never so wide and joyous as when his little girl was in his arms.
“Jake.” Abby’s tone is positively frigid and her crossed arms are twice as welcoming as her glare.
“Abigail.” Jake preferred nicknames over formality, but there is so little wiggle room for him with Abby already. Deep down he knew that any kind of misbehavior on his part would only cause Clarke to suffer at her mother’s hand.
“We talked about this Clarke.” Abigail removed the little girl from her father’s embrace and set her down. “Like we practiced.”
Clarke’s face pinched in frustration, her lips just a centimeter away from being a pout, but one look at her mother and slumped shoulders straightened. Clarke folded her hands in front of her and gave her father a piercing look. “Jake Gwiffin, it is vewy good to see you.” She held out a chubby hand.
Jake ached for his princess. She’s growing up too fast, already turning into a clone of her mother at the age of five. He stuck out his pinky for Clarke to shake with a wink, drawing a giggle from the somber girl as she took it. “It’s good to see you too princess, now why don’t you tell me about your day while your mama goes back to work.”
Clarke dragged her father away, telling stories about how one of her dolls was going to kill prime minister Ken because he stepped out of line, something she informed her father was a very bad thing to do. Then she got up with a big grin and grabbed a brace of new throwing knives and demonstrated to her dad exactly how her doll was going to do the deed.
Jake winced at the thunk of steel burying itself in her wooden target, but the ever-present shadow of Marcus Kane stopped him from talking about morals and that killing was a bad thing. Instead he smiled and played along.
“Stepped out of line huh? How can you be sure?” Jake tried to smile but it didn’t reach his eyes.
Clarke didn’t seem to mind, she just tugged him down by his chin and spoke into his ear, “Teddy is spying on him for me.” She whispered loudly, too excited about her little plot to contain herself. “I trust teddy with my life. That’s how I know he’s telling the truth.” Clarke puffed out her chest, waiting for his praise.
It took Jake a few moments to wipe the concern off his face and Kane took the opportunity to make it all worse. “And what would you do if you found out teddy was lying to you princess?” His tone is warm but Jake can detect the clear mockery of his nickname for his daughter.
“We take him out!” Clarke declared, giving a little grunt of effort as she threw a dagger into the chest of her beloved bear. “Aren’t you proud of me daddy?” Clarke turned her thousand watt smile on Jake and he forced his horror down deep.
“Of course I am sweetie, I’ll always be proud of you.” He promised, opening his arms just in time for his whole world to snuggle into his chest. The world that was getting darker every day. A world Jake worried wouldn’t be saved if he waited much longer.
Jake was only allowed one week every six months. Abby claimed it was a fair enough deal that would keep his influence on Clarke to a minimum, but sometimes he wondered if the mother of his child took pleasure in his growing horror. With each visit Clarke only got bigger, her stories and drawings more grim. Her greetings more robotic.
Soon all of her tales involved hit squads and burning down buildings, stealing important documents and weapons and a hundred other things that a little girl should never think about. Things that served to bring Jake’s well hidden temper to the surface. And one night while Clarke was practicing her sneaky feet, she heard her daddy’s angry voice from mama’s office.
That is bad. Clarke knew. People who use their angry voices at mama are crossing the line, and they always go the same way. She also knew that mama gave her cookies for learning secrets, so Clarke used her sneaky feet to get right up next to the door to hear what daddy was saying.
“That little girl is eight years old!” Daddy shouted, slamming his hand down on something… Wood, Clarke decided. Probably mama’s desk. She wouldn’t like that one bit.
“No she isn’t.” Mama sounded calm but Clarke could hear her secret anger and shivered, glad that mama wasn’t secret angry at her. “Clarke is an asset, and she will be used as such. I thought you would understand that by now Jake.”
“Is that what you were doing when you had her help sabotage Senator Pike’s car? Using an asset?” Clarke frowned. She always felt proud when mama called her an asset, it meant she did a good job but… When daddy said it, her tummy felt sick.
There was a long moment of quiet and the next time mama spoke, Clarke could hear a secret happy. It was almost as scary as the secret angry. “What’s your real problem Jake?”
“You’re turning my daughter into a monster!” Clarke felt her heart hurt like when Uncle Marcus made her burn all of her old drawings. She tried to move away from the door but Uncle Marcus was right behind her. Clarke jumped, biting back a squeak. She would be in big trouble if mama caught her using her sneaky feet. That’s why they’re called sneaky.
Uncle Marcus put his hand on her shoulder and held her right next to the door, forcing her to listen. “You need to learn how to listen to bad secrets.” He instructed.
Clarke felt tears spill down her cheeks, but she did as she was told. “She isn’t your daughter jake, you’re a glorified sperm donor.” Mama laughed, but it wasn’t happy. “You’re lucky I let you near her at all.”
“You won’t get away with this Abigail, she’s just a kid. What you’re doing is sick, I won’t stand for this anymore.” Clarke closed her eyes and tried to take deep belly breaths to calm down the hurt and fluttering in her heart. Jake had said the secret words, the words that meant daddy was a traitor. He called her a monster and yelled at mama and daddy betrayed her.
She felt Uncle Marcus watching her, but she didn’t need any prompting for this. Clarke is a good girl, and an asset, and when someone betrays her mama she has to take them out. Clarke scrubbed away her tears and pushed the door open, “Daddy?” She couldn’t stop herself from sniffling.
“Princess?” Daddy looked so sad, then he looked at mama and he was so angry that Clark felt afraid of him for the first time. “What did you do?” He snapped at mama.
Mama looked very calm sitting at her desk. That scared Clarke too. “I think you should ask yourself what you’ve done Jake. You did all the talking.”
“Daddy,” Clarke played with the hem of her nightshirt, teddy bears with kites, “Why did you say those mean things?”
Jake couldn’t bear to see her look so distraught, he scooped up his little princess and kissed her golden curls. “Clarke I was- I was angry, sometimes when people are angry they say things they don’t mean to.”
“And that’s why we don’t get angry, right Clarke?” Abigail gave her daughter a pointed look.
Clarke nodded and looked her father in the eyes, “We don’t get angry, we get even.”
“Wha-” Jake looked down at the small hole in his shirt and the knife in his daughter’s hand. He sank to his knees as blood soaked both of them.
Clarke tried to keep her face still and free of tears as she watched her daddy die. A hand landed on her shoulder, startling her but she calmed at the sound of her mother’s voice. “That’s my good girl.”
Clarke’s knife moved with a certain care and artistry that very few managed to master by the age of ten, her hands were steady as she held down her victim and sliced open his stomach. “The longest anyone has ever survived like this is eighteen hours.” She informed her victim, trying to use facts and trivia to keep herself detached.
The man’s eyes went wide from the pain of the cut but he didn’t scream until she began to reach inside him and pull out his small intestine, like she was pulling rope out of a basket. “Did you know that there aren’t any pain receptors in your internal organs?” She looked up at him, her eyes shining but he couldn’t tell if it was delight, curiousity or something else. “I could just reach inside you and cut off a part of your liver and you wouldn’t even feel a thing. Isn’t that strange?”
She quirked her head, smiling through the little droplets of blood that had splashed on her, “Your only real worry is going to be blood loss right now. If my knife is clean, and I don’t cut any major veins or arteries I could just leave you like this forever.” She gave a gentle tug on his gut, stretching it a little, “Maybe shock is the problem, all that pain and terror is very hard on the body.” Clarke informed him in a calm voice, talking over his screams.
His face was in the equivalent of a muzzle, holding his jaw shut and limiting the amount of air he could receive. It both muffled the noise of his screams and kept him dizzy and disoriented, on the edge of hyperventilation. But his eyes, Clarke couldn’t escape the panic and fear in his eyes, the utter helplessness of a caged animal. “Do you know what the best part of my job is?”
He was breathing hard, eyes wide and wild as he shook his head. Though they were barely human noises, Clarke could hear the begging. “If you tell us everything we want to know, then I get to put you back together again, like humpty dumpty.” She promised.
The man nodded frantically. Clarke sensed his desperation and knew that he was broken, that he would do anything they asked, but a firm hand on her shoulder stopped her. Clarke looked up to see Abby Griffin, no longer her mama, only her boss. “Wait, I think he needs to understand the gravity of the situation he’s in. Leave him. We’ll be back for our information in a few hours.”
Clarke looked at the ground, the blood that seemed to have become one with the Earth and nodded. She knew what happened if she fought, Abby wouldn’t let her put him back together again, Abby would make Clarke kill him in the slowest most painful way that she could. Her hands trembled as she stood from her chair and followed her boss out of the room.
Clarke vomited in the bathroom, her whole body shaking with what she’d done. With the monster she had become. Before... Things had been different, she didn’t know that it was all so wrong. But after what happened to daddy, she had begun to feel sick at the sight of blood. Her hands would get all shaky when she held a gun, to the point that Mr. Kane didn’t let her train with guns anymore, saying she was wasting his time.
Abby punished her for that. Punished her for being weak. For caring about people. For finding enjoyment in stitching people back up again. Abby didn’t call her a good girl anymore, or an asset. Abby didn’t even talk to her anymore. Everything was going so very wrong, and Clarke could feel her whole life slipping through her fingers like so much blood, but she didn’t understand why or how to fix it.
Clarke sat in her bed unable to sleep. The man’s eyes had been open when he finally died, boring into hers with the promise that she had made him, the promise to put him back together. Her eyes were dry, and her hands busy recreating his face before it had been twisted with pain and fear. Her headphones were plugged into the tiny receiver her friend had made before she died.
Yet another friend gone because Clarke had been weak. But she was determined to make it right somehow, to fix what had happened to daddy and to Raven and to all the others she didn’t know about. “She’s useless.” Abby sounded tired with an undertone of anger that seemed to always be there now.
Clarke sat up a little, turning up the volume on her receiver. “Abby you need to give her time.”
“No, I’ve given her more than enough time.” Her tone was final, and Marcus didn’t respond. Someone sat down and Clarke knew that was her mother. Marcus never sat down, not even after running for miles and miles with Clarke. “I’ve wasted ten years on that damn kid, ten years.” Something glass shattered and Clarke flinched. “What am I going to do with a trained assassin that can’t even kill someone without losing her lunch?”
“Killing Jake broke her.”
“It was supposed to fix her.” Abby snapped, “The only reason I dealt with that bloody idiot was so she could kill the fool when he let his heart get in the way. Again.” Clarke recoiled from the knowledge that her killing Jake was planned.
“Perhaps she was too young.” Marcus was still calm, he was always calm.
“No, she’s always been too soft.” Abby gave a sigh.
“Maybe she can have a different use.” Marcus began moving, and despite his expert sneaky feet, Clarke could hear it. Mostly because he was walking closer to the little bug Raven had made for her, and even though she was two floors away listening on a little headset, Clarke’s throat went dry and she felt herself pale. He knew.
The door creaked open, thundering in her ears. Marcus took a few steps out the door and she could hear his faint footsteps moving in a neat circle right next to her mic.
Her grip on her pencil was so tight that the wood creaked against her palm and her heart pounded so loud in her ears she couldn’t hear her panicked breaths.
The world went dark and fuzzy around the edges as her brain began running out of oxygen.
The door creaked again.
Marcus walked away from the doorway and began speaking again. “There’s always the mountain.” He suggested.
Clarke almost didn’t hear him, she felt like passing out from the relief of not being caught. Biting her thumb brought clarity back to the little world that was the headset around her ears. “The mountain…” Abby mused, the pleased tone of her voice would have been enough to terrify Clarke at nearly any other time, but now she was just too relieved at remaining safe to be afraid. “Such a valuable gift, my daughter already well trained, I imagine they would be very pleased with that offer.”
“I imagine they would be most content with the tribute, not to mention solidifying our loyalty to their cause rather permanently.” Marcus also sounded pleased and that was scary. More scary than being caught. Neither Abby nor Marcus were ones to sound pleased, unless something very, very bad was going to happen. They liked it when bad things happened.
“There’s also the potential of an inside man, we could tell her it’s a secret mission, she likes those,” Abby scoffed, “Less bloody than normal missions.”
“We would have to prepare her for the intensity of their measures.” Marcus mused, “You know how brutal their induction is, you modeled Clarke’s little debacle with her father after the mountain’s methods didn’t you?”
Abby chuckled, “She may be soft, but she’s my daughter. Give her the worst you can, I guarantee you she’ll be ready for anything they give her in three months.”
“Would you care to bet on that?”
“Oh I’d stake her life on it.”
Clarke removed her headphones before she had to listen to the next part. Abby and Marcus always made a lot of wet noises after conversations like that. She knew about kissing and sex and all the noises that came with it, but she already felt sick and hearing those noises from her mother made her feel gross inside. After the first time she accidentally listened too long, Clarke learned when to take off the headphones.
Now though, now she had to push aside all of those thoughts and plan. The mountain was a bad place and Abby made friends with them so that they would allow Skaikru to act with autonomy, something that the other twelve families couldn’t do. Well, Abby called them families. Clarke was starting to think they had two very different ideas of what family meant.
Marcus told her that the best way to out yourself on a mission is to comply when they did what you wanted them to, so she had to not comply. She would have to make this difficult for herself so that they didn’t know she was in on the secret. Clarke laid out a few different responses for the potential outcomes that might happen in the morning, planning until her head hurt. When she thought of everything she could, Clarke curled up on her bed with her stitched up teddy and allowed a few tears to finally escape.
In the morning she was woken with a rough hand on her ankle, dragging her out of the pile of drawings she slept on. Clarke yelped and struggled, twisting in her captor’s grip and kicked at their wrist while she scrambled for something to hold onto. She caught on the door frame, and with two more kicks to her captor’s wrist she yanked out of their grasp and scrambled back to her room. Clarke threw herself under her bed, grabbing the dirk she’d hidden there.
As soon as the hand grabbed her leg and dragged her back out into the morning light Clarke twisted and slashed out. Her stomach dropped when Marcus caught her hand and squeezed so hard she had to let go of her weapon. “Is that all you can do?” He snarled, “I thought I taught you better than that!”
Clarke whimpered before he slapped her across the face. “I’m sorry! I was-”
“Surprised?” He got up in her face and Clarke recoiled, “That’s the point! You are never supposed to be surprised, you are weak.” He spat the words out like he could catch her weakness if he said them with any more care.
The word struck a chord in the girl and she gave an angry shriek, “I’m not weak! I am Wanheda!” She launched herself at him, catching herself on his chin as she swung over his shoulders and wrapped her legs around his throat. All of the fear and the panic that had overwhelmed her last night was gone, lost in an anger that made her see red.
Marcus reached over his back at the girl curled around his skull and grabbed at her pajamas, looking for purchase. She bent one of his fingers back so far it dislocated and Marcus grunted, his face turning the same shade as a tomato. He changed tactics, smashing her back against the wall, trying to keep his balance while doing as much damage as possible. Two solid impacts with the wall and Clarke’s grip loosened enough that he could pry her legs off his neck and throw the girl to the ground.
She landed in a tousled heap, gasping for air. She was exhausted from the outburst and knew that if he wanted he could hurt her very badly.
“Better.” He cleared his throat.
Clarke looked up and felt a moment of satisfaction when she saw the band of bruising forming around his neck. Marcus looked her over, “Dress yourself and be downstairs in five minutes.”
Clarke pushed herself to her feet and did as she was told. While she chose a shirt with a pink elephant on it, Clarke wondered what would have happened if she had not fought him off the first time. The child looked to the knife that lay forgotten on the floor and tucked it into the pocket of her pants before she left her bedroom for an unfamiliar morning.
Her first lesson was something Mr. Kane called sensory deprivation. He walked her to the basement, explaining that this was the first step in her new training. She would be left alone until they felt she had control of herself, and they would test that control.
He said it was a reward, and Clarke beamed up at him with the glee of a child but she knew that this was the first of her many punishments for being weak.
He opened the door and declared this to be her new room. Clarke walked in as she was supposed to and watched him close it behind her. When the lock clicked shut, Clarke was left in the dark with nothing but her thoughts to disturb the silence. “Mr. Kane?” She asked and felt her voice fall flat in the room. It sounded empty. She sounded empty. Alone.
Clarke felt around the room for the walls. She started where the wall was supposed to be, there was nothing but smooth plaster in front of her hands so she scooted across it, searching for some kind of seam in the walls. Some sign of a vent or a door. Some way for her to get out. She had to get out.
She must have walked around the room a dozen times and Clarke was starting to lose track of which wall was supposed to have the door on it. Where did the door go? Was the door there in the first place? The walls began to close in on her, tightening around her as the oxygen began to run out.
Clarke dropped to her knees and crawled across the floor, searching for something different, anything different. The texture was the exact same. She collapsed in frightened sobs, curling in on herself as she awaited the next phase of her torture in the perfect darkness.
Eventually even Clarke didn’t have the energy to panic anymore, she remembered her lessons to count her breaths to stay calm. One. Two. Three. Think past the fear Clarke, what is the purpose of this exercise? She ran her fingers through her hair, searching for a texture that was different, some point of reference to focus on. I can’t see, and I can’t hear. Everything is the same, so I will panic, hyperventilate, and lose all sense of myself.
Then when he comes back in here I will freak out too much to be strong. This is how he makes people weak, feeling too little and then feeling too much. Clarke took another breath. I should use this time to plan.
She spent her time picking apart everything she could remember about her mother’s secrets. Especially everything she had said about the mountain. Clarke remembered her mother mentioning something about how no one ever left the mountain, just their assassins the reapers. The reapers delivered all of their demands and punishments and everything else that needed doing. As far as anyone in skaikru knew, no one had ever seen a mountain man for real.
Clarke would probably become one of their reapers, acting on their orders in the same way that she was originally intended to for Abby. Except she would be a spy. Abby wanted her to overthrow the mountain, thought she could do it. Maybe her mother didn’t think she had what it took to be a monster, but Clarke knew she could be the one to kill the monsters.
“Those are some big thoughts there princess.” Jake Griffin sat down next to his little girl, drawing her out of her thoughts.
She couldn’t look at him, but Clarke smiled just a little bit. “I had to grow up fast daddy.”
“I know you did.” He sighed, “Your mom is a piece of work.”
Clarke nodded, “I don’t want to talk about her..” She chanced a glance at him, worried that he would have those same horrifying dead eyes but he didn’t. They were warm and alive with a smile. “Can I tell you some stories instead? Like I used to?”
“Of course you can princess.”
She entertained him with stories for as long as she could, until her voice faded out and everything went still again. Clarke could only hear her heart thumping in her ears. Slow and steady, marking each passing minute for her.
Clarke counted the beats. One, two, three, four…. Eight thousand sixty-two, eight thousand sixty-three, eight thousand-
Blinding light shot through the cracks in the door and Clarke gave a shriek of pain, covering her eyes. The noise just as bad as the light and Clarke didn’t have enough limbs to hide herself all the way. She curled in on herself, screaming in pain as rough hands lifted her off the floor.
Her captor scooped her up and carried her to a cold place. “Shut up.” Marcus snapped, tossing Clarke to the ground. She landed on the ground in a whimpering heap, curled so tightly around herself that Marcus is impressed with the feat of flexibility. Instead of complimenting her like he would have four days ago, he kicked her in the ribs.
Clarke let out another scream, sobbing into the floor. “Why are you doing this to me?” She gasped in a ragged whisper. Her voice broken by the hours spent talking to herself.
“Because I can.” Marcus tossed a bucket of water on the kid, soaking her to the bone, “Tell me your mother’s name.”
Clarke shook her head, hugging her head. Shivers racked her tiny body.
“Tell me the name of your teacher.” He snarled, grabbing Clarke by her hair, dragging her to a metal bucket.
“I don’t know.” She sobbed, clinging to the words she was trained to use but it was a close thing. Everything hurt twice as much as it should have, and she could feel everything screaming inside her skull. Clarke just wanted to hide in a dark room, in the quiet where she could get used to all the noise and light again, slowly.
Marcus shoved the girl’s face into the bucket full of cold water, holding her down while she flailed and screamed. He’s never done this with Clarke before, never been this ruthless. When her flailing slowed down, Marcus lifted her head back up, “Tell me their names and I will let you go back to your warm room, I’ll even give you lunch, whatever you want to eat.”
“I don’t have a mother.” Clarke mumbled, “I work for Charlie, and m-my teacher is named S-samuel.” She glanced up at the man she used to call her uncle and didn’t recognize the stranger standing there. The ruthless eyes of the man ready to suffocate her as part of some stupid training program.
“That was quick.” He growled, “Are you sure those are their names little girl?”
Clarke shivered, rubbing her arms as best she could, “N-n-no, th-that’s them..”
Marcus grabbed the girl roughly and her head rolled back. Clarke was out cold. She didn’t break the first time, impressive to say the least. Abby was right, this kid isn’t going to break easy. The next resurface will be harder than the last.
“Take her back to the room.” Marcus passed her off to one of the guards, “Give the kid something to eat for when she wakes up.”
The man nodded, carrying a sleeping Clarke over his shoulder.
The next time that Clarke woke up, she was back in the dark and the silence, but with a smell in her nose that made her gut snarl. She reached out towards the smell only to bump into glass. The glass began to fall over and Clarke gave a yelp, catching it frantically. She heard a clink and felt water splash on her hand.
Before anything else can happen Clarke slurped the water off her hand and chugged down the contents of the cup. Setting down the cup, Clarke ran her hands over the floor, searching for the other glass thing that had clinked against her cup.
Her hand met the edge of a plate and searched for anything on the plate. Her hand met bread and Clarke grabbed the sandwich, chowing down on it with the ferocity of a wild animal.
Her stomach clenched in on itself, aching like the worst flu she’d ever had. Clarke had gone without meals as a punishment before, but never so many in a row. She wasn’t sure how many many was, but Clarke was beginning to feel the pain of eating so much after going without for so long.
Phase two has begun, now he’s gonna starve me too. Clarke grimaced, tears streaming down her cheeks as she gripped her gut. Abby said three months. How many more do I have to go? How many have passed already?
Marcus watched Clarke curling in on herself, rocking on the floor in her little tank. She survived the first four days with flying colors, only panicking for a few hours in the beginning, perhaps he underestimated the kid’s tolerance for this kind of life. Clarke is no killer, but she learned her lessons well.
Three months passed the same way. Clarke would get ripped out of the tank and beaten, cut, doused with water and questioned brutally. Sometimes it was a day between sessions, sometimes it was weeks.
Sometimes Clarke broke and Marcus punished her severely. The first time she lay on the ground for two weeks with a broken leg before Marcus began his normal routine again. Her will broke a dozen times, and Clarke’s body wasted away from lack of food and water, but she learned how to adjust, to lash out in little ways. Clarke became willful, even in her moments of defeat and Marcus saw her break as an act of defiance. Clarke would glare at him with burning anger in her eyes as she spat out his name. His name but never Abby’s.
As far as Abby was concerned, that meant Clarke was ready. On the girl’s eleventh birthday, Marcus dragged Clarke out of her isolation chamber and sat her in a metal chair. “Happy birthday, you passed.”
Clarke glared at him through slit eyes, ignoring the pain of the light stabbing her in the skull. “That’s it?” She croaked.
“That’s it.” He waved at one of his men, “Eat. When you’re ready.”
Clarke couldn’t help the small happy noises she made as she put the bread and cheese into her mouth over the course of an hour. Her stomach clenching and unclenching as she tried to eat as much as possible. Clarke licked the crumbs off her fingers and glanced up at Marcus, “So what’s the catch?”
Marcus allowed himself a smirk, “It’s a shame you’re ruined for fieldwork.”
“I’m gonna cry.” She snarked, plenty feisty now that he couldn’t take her food from her.
“Good,” Marcus nodded, “You’ll need that for your next mission. Clarke, what we have been doing is training you for your first real mission.”
Clarke recoiled, vaguely remembering a conversation about the mountain, a conversation from years ago. “I thought you said I was ruined for fieldwork?”
“This isn’t the field. You are going to be a spy, infiltrate an enemy base. All you have to do is be a little kid again, learn your lessons, make new friends and wait.” Marcus spread his arms like that was everything.
“What enemy? Skaikru doesn’t have enemies.”
“No, but we have some very mean friends. You’re going to do just what I taught you. Learn secrets, keep them, and when the moment is right, use them to bring these people down.”
“It’s not your job to ask why.” Marcus flexed his jaw and Clarke recoiled, backing down.
“Yes sir.” She stared at the floor, “W-when do I start?”
“You will have a week to recover, eat some real meals.” Marcus nodded, “Then you will be sent to the mountain. Feel free to tell whatever lies you want, but just know that if you tell them anything about me, about your mother, about your relationship to the leaders of skaikru, then you are as good as dead, and so is your mother. You’ll be trapped in that pit forever, all alone because if you talk, you are killing us all.”
Clarke nodded, staring at the floor. Compliance is necessary. “I won’t talk.” She glanced up at him, that same angry fire in her eyes, “That’s what you were proving with this right?” I won’t talk because I want to be there when you die Marcus. I want to be the one to put the knife in your back.
“It is, I just wanted to remind you what all of this means Wanheda.” Marcus used her proper name, reminding her of everything she’d done for her mother.
Clarke nodded, feeling the familiar pang of guilt and hatred that came with hearing her name. “I won’t talk.” She muttered the words, fighting everything inside of her to stay quiet, to keep her anger contained.
Clarke didn’t sleep in the next week. She twitched at the sound of voices and the feeling of a touch on her skin. Nights were dark, but even they felt too bright to her eyes. Too loud. She ate, she drank and when exhaustion overwhelmed her, Clarke stole precious minutes of sleep. That week felt surreal, like a part of her many hallucinations in the dark, a dream that would end with a snap of Marcus’ fingers.
Chapter 2: For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
Clarke finally sees the object of all the Kru's nightmares. The mountain, and the Reaper program.
Clarke woke up to the sound of a car door slamming shut and rough hands on her arms, hauling her out. She opened her eyes and frowned, everything is still dark. Clarke grabbed at her eyes and felt the tight cloth of a hood. “Where am I?” She began to flail, fighting against the hands that held her.
The handlers dumped Clarke on the ground and ripped her hood off. Above her stood a man with a square jaw and a pleasant smile on his face. “Welcome to the mountain Clarke.”
“Who are you?” She looked at the men around her, trying to memorize their faces.
“I’m Dante Wallace.” He held out his hand to her, “Your new boss.”
She pushed herself to her feet and tried to remember her mother’s instructions on how to meet a new person. Clarke folded one arm behind her back and extended the other one to shake his hand. “It’s very nice to meet you Mr. Wallace.” She smiled at him.
Mr. Wallace laughed, looking to the others present. “I like her, she’s cute!”
The others chuckled with Mr. Wallace, save one. A woman with a cold look on her face, “Are you sure that this is the infamous Wanheda? This little kid looks nothing like the assassin.” She grabbed Clarke and lifted her by the shoulder to stare her in the face.
Clarke was up on her toes, trying to support herself. I’ll show you Wanheda. She bent her legs and dropped in a crouch as the woman was thrown off balance. On hand clasped over the one on her shoulder and the other shot out to hit the woman’s knee. The woman went down but only part way before Clarke grabbed her arm in both hands and twisted, forcing the woman to the ground or to let her arm be dislocated.
“You asked for Wanheda.” The little girl spat, bracing her leg on the woman’s shoulder and twisted, dislocating it with a little grunt of effort. The woman beneath her gave a yelp of pain. Gone is the quiet, frightened little girl. Here is the cold assassin.
Polite clapping surprised her and Clarke backed away from her victim, hands folded in front of her. Clarke kept her head down, focused on the floor in front of her while Dante Wallace continued to clap. “I think we have our proof right there captain, but I do believe ‘Wanheda’ is a little melodramatic for the program. For now,” He clapped a hand on Clarke’s shoulder, “Let’s just call you Clarke, hmmn?”
“Yes sir.” Clarke nodded, feeling the same unease from his touch as she did from Abby’s hand.
“Now let’s get you settled.” He squeezed her shoulder. “Wells, take Clarke down to the school, she should have some time to meet her fellow trainees.”
A tall black guard nodded, “Yes sir.”
Clarke looked down the long hallway of identical doors each designated with an ‘L’ and a number. “This is you.” Wells stopped them outside a door labeled ‘L6’.
L6, this is my new home. Clarke took the cold handle into her palm, glanced over to Wells, “Thank you.”
“The rest of your division will be returning to their rooms in a few minutes. Take some time to get acquainted with your new room.”
“Yes sir.” Clarke ducked her head and entered her new room.
The walls are a light blue, beds have white and grey sheets, and two small desks under the window. Well, not a real window, but a rectangle with warm light coming from it that felt almost like the sun. One of the desks had papers and notes neatly stacked in the corner and two perfectly sharp pencils in a cup. The bed on the left side of the room had two square blue pillows and one wide tan one.
This one belongs to my roommate. Clarke looked to the other bed and sat down on it. She curled up against the wall and waited for the next invader in her space to spy and report on her every movement. I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl.
She was not forced to wait long.
A girl bounced into their room, looking about a year older than Clarke, dark skin and a mane of dark kinky hair. She turned to Clarke and the two girls watched each other in silence. She has sad eyes. Clarke decided. “Hi-” She gave a little wave, “I’m Clarke.”
The girl sighed, “Luna. I was hoping to have my own room for a little longer, the last boy washed out really fast.” She gave Clarke a hopeful look.
Clarke smiled and it was almost as bright as Luna remembered the sun, “I don’t like losing.”
Luna couldn’t help returning that smile, “I guess we will have to get used to each other then.”
Clarke uncurled herself from the corner and scooted to the edge of the bed while she watched Luna put away all of her books and things in very specific locations. “So what is it like down here? They called it a school?”
“It’s not a school, not a normal one.” Luna grimaced, “This is the reaper program.”
Clarke shook her head, “I don’t know what that is.”
“Skaikru.” Luna’s face turned into a sneer. Clarke’s smile fell away and before Luna could spit more curses, she felt for the girl. “Your kru doesn’t recognize the threat of the mountain, you give over your children willingly to the boogeymen. Reapers are the agents of the mountain, killers and liars who kidnap the children of the other krus to fill their ranks.”
“Oh.” Clarke looked down at the ground, “So you were kidnapped?”
“Almost everyone here is, only Skaikru are here by choice.”
Clarke kicked her feet, “I’m not here by choice, my mom said I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t useful.” She fought back the tears that always seemed to well up when she thought about how useless Abby knew her to be. “She gave me to the mountain.”
“I never thought about it like that.” Luna frowned. Both girls stood in silence before Luna stuck her hand out, “Start again? Pretend there are no krus and it’s just us.”
Clarke took it, marveling at the novel sensation of choosing to be touched. “Just us.” She gave Luna that thousand watt smile again.
Luna squeezed her hand gently, “Did you get your uniform yet? We all have to wear them.”
Clarke shook her head.
“Then I’ll show you.” Luna nodded towards the door, “We have an hour after classes end to ourselves before dinner.”
Clarke nodded, following Luna’s lead down the hallways. As soon as they left the living quarters Luna released Clarke’s hand and the blonde had to fight off the pang of regret that came with it.
“Down that corridor is the mess hall and gym, we can go in for food or to exercise during free time, but they are off limits during class hours.”
“So we could just get some food there if we were hungry?” Clarke gave Luna a curious look.
Luna smiled, “We will get food on our way back.” It was hard not to like this innocent child with her sweet demeanor and her polite questions. A hard thing to balance with the determined fire in cold blue eyes when the girl promised not to lose. “For now we need to get you some things. You will need notebooks, pencils, uniforms and pillows. They let us pick the colors.”
Color is such a little thing when they take away all your choices and make you hurt people to survive, but Clarke still smiled. Then she remembered where she was, and what she was here to do. Why are you being nice to me?
Luna noticed the thoughtful look on Clarke’s face and reached out to take her hand, pulling her to a stop in a little corner. “Hey,” She put a hand on Clarke’s cheek, “This is a bad place, and if you aren’t ruthless then you wash out. But there are ways, you just have to learn them okay? Ways to bend the rules, to be so useful they can never get rid of you no matter what you do.”
Luna gave Clarke a small sad smile, “I can afford to be nice to you because of what I can do. That’s why. So don’t worry okay? I don’t need to step on you to get ahead.”
Clarke nodded, still suspicious. “Okay.”
“Good,” Luna tucked an unruly curl behind Clarke’s ear, “Don’t trust me, or anyone. Now let’s go get those uniforms for you.”
She ducked into a room and held the door open to her, “Hey cockroach, we’ve got a new recruit.”
“Don’t call me that.” A surly voiced kid muttered, his eyes sunken deep under short black hair. “It’s Murphy.” He turned his sullen glare to Clarke, “Color.”
Clarke looked to Luna. “What color pillows?” Luna clarified.
She turned back to Murphy in time to see him place a pile of black pants and grey shirts onto his little counter. “Color kid, or you get black.”
“Uhm, red and orange?”
“She speaks.” He exclaimed unenthusiastically, “And I pegged you for pink.” He put the pillows on the desk and slapped down a black laundry bag. “Put your stuff in there to carry it back. Your notebooks and pencils are at the bottom.”
Clarke did what she was told, tucking everything from the counter into the laundry bag. It was just big enough to hold everything he’d given to her and still close all the way. “Thank you Mr. Murphy.”
“Oh god,” He rolled his eyes, “She’s cute, who the hell puts a cute kid in the program? Get out of here.” He shooed them out, “I’ve probably got twenty more of you kiddies coming in later.”
Clarke walked out with wide eyes, sticking close to Luna’s side, clutching her new laundry bag.
“Don’t worry about Murphy, he’s all bark and no bite.” Luna gave her a small smile, “He’s going to be stuck in there forever passing out care packages to the new kids.”
“Is that a punishment?” Clarke knew just how awful being stuck in one place could be.
“Not to him, he likes it.”
Clarke watched Luna’s eyes, the sadness and the fondness there. Maybe she was good at what she did, but there was a weakness in her heart that Clarke could exploit if the need ever arose. “What are the different divisions?”
“Let’s see,” Luna began counting them on her fingers, “There’s leadership, wetworks, infiltration, communications, engineering and general. Most recruits go to general until they are given a speciality.”
“But I’m different.” Clarke mumbled.
“You are.” Luna nodded, “You’re in the best division to deal with it though, we’re taught not to let our emotions or attachments get in the way of the mission. The other L’s will take it out on you quietly, prepare yourself for some teasing, names. That kind of thing.”
Clarke frowned, “Are you going to do the same to me?”
“I’m not even in your classes.” Luna patted her hair, “Besides, there’s a reason I’m in leadership. It’s because I know how to swallow my pride.” She offered a sweet smile.
“Promise you won’t be mad?” Clarke didn’t know if she could handle another person throwing her away so soon.
Luna swallowed hard and looked away, “That’s a dangerous word Clarke.”
Chapter 3: From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
It's orientation time, and Clarke gets to meet the rest of her classmates
“All new recruits will remain in the mess after breakfast for their orientation. The hall is off-limits for the duration.” The voice was metallic, unrecognizable in the speakers. All the quiet conversations around the mess hall went so still that for a moment it almost felt like the isolation chamber. Clarke looked around at all the somber faces and paused on Luna’s,”What’s going on?”
There is so much more beneath the question, fear and doubt and an understanding that the others in the room seemed to mourn for the new recruits. “It’s nothing.” Luna shrugged off the question, “Eat up. Orientation can take a long time.”
Clarke pursed her lips and looked down at the scrambled eggs and toast in front of her. “I’m not hungry anymore.” She pushed the tray away, wondering how Luna would respond.
The older girl seemed to fight with herself before looking away again. Shame. The older girl is ashamed of her behavior, she responded the same way when Clarke asked for a promise. It’s all the answer that Clarke needs. The torture under the mountain begins right here. “Don’t lose.” Luna finally muttered, pushing herself away from the table and she joined the other members of the reaper program.
Clarke watched as all but thirty kids filed out of the room in an orderly fashion, all dressed in the same black and grey that Clarke wore. The Captain from yesterday walked into the room with a sling around her arm and a dirty look for some of the recruits, her gaze landing squarely on Clarke. The girl shrank under the gaze, leaving her eyes on the floor. The Captain scoffed, “Alright recruits, move the tables to the walls and line up in front of me. Five wide, seven deep.” The kids all looked between one another and a few began laughing at the idea of following orders.
Clarke saw the growing rage in the woman and got up, dragging her heavy table towards the wall with a grunt of effort. One of the recruits snorted, “Look at the pretty princess already sucking up.” There was a bout of laughter that was stopped by The Captain.
The woman grabbed the boy by his shirt and lifted him from his chair, “Let me explain something to you.” She nodded to one of the guardsmen that escorted her in, “This is one of your fellow recruits, he graduated from the Reaper program four years ago. Reaper, explain what happens to recruits who fight our program.”
The reaper took the kid from her grip and held him off the ground with one hand, pulling a heavy knife in his free hand. “No no no what the hell are you doing?!” The kid flailed and kicked at the man holding him up. The reaper looked the child over like a piece of meat and Clarke considered what she would do to the kid. She would have him killed as an example to the rest, but then she also wouldn’t let them have colored pillows and rooms. Their uniforms were built to make them feel faceless, nameless. They were not supposed to have any chance to be an individual.
The reaper gritted his teeth, “Stop moving or I’ll cut out your tongue.”
The boy looked around and saw no one trying to help him, no one was going to save him. He stopped moving, stiff as a board with terror. He gave a jittery nod and went still. The reaper nodded, “Open your mouth.” The boy’s eyes went wide and after a moment's hesitation the boy opened his mouth slowly. The reaper smirked and drew his blade over the boy’s lip, splitting it open. The kid didn’t even breathe, let alone fight. He was scared shitless. “Here is your fearless leader.” The reaper turned the kid around, “He is lucky that today is orientation otherwise I would have cut out his tongue.” The man gave a dark chuckle, “But there’s time still in the day. Move the tables.” His last sentence was barely loud enough to be heard, but it made an impact.
There was a beat of stunned inactivity before the rest of the kids got up and joined Clarke in moving tables. Even she had stopped to see what the reaper would do. He’s too merciful. If they treat us like children then that is what we will be he- Clarke stopped herself, she was mentally berating the soldier for only cutting the boy’s lip instead of slitting his throat. It’s better if they aren’t ruthless, better for me. If the others have hope then I have a chance.
As soon as the tables were out of the way, the children rushed to their positions, jostling one another to avoid being placed in the front row. Clarke was pushed towards the front with more than one glare and a mutter of ‘stupid princess’. They think I am to blame for their little friend’s stupid play? Hate me if you like, but I will not get myself killed to be popular with you idiots.
The Captain watched their mad scramble and jostling with pure annoyance. “Kipling, Wells.” She gestured at the mess in front of her and her guards began moving the recruits into position, stationing them exactly four feet apart from one another. Some of the recruits fought the positioning only to receive a slap to the face from the guardsmen. Clarke allowed herself to be adjusted without a fight. Compliance is key.
Behind The Captain stood a giant white wall with the words discipline painted across it in large black words, a gaudy display, but Clarke has seen worse. “Welcome to orientation.” She stood at rest, a pose Clarke had learned from Marcus as a way to wait for long periods of time. “You are now part of the reaper program, you will learn how to be the perfect weapons for your new home. Wells, what are the rules of the program?”
Wells looked straight ahead, “You keep up or you wash out ma’am.”
“Today is your first opportunity to prove that you can keep up.” The Captain explained, “You will stand in formation.” She turned around to leave.
“Hey for how long?!” The loudmouth blurted out.
“Until enough people wash out.” Kipling, the scary one snapped. “Back in formation.”
Loudmouth stepped back into his place, his face red with shame. “This is bullshit.” He mumbled.
“Shut up.” Another kid hissed, “Or we’ll all be in trouble.” At least someone understands what washing out means, this idiot is going to get us all killed or worse. Clarke settled into a parade rest and took deep measured breaths, waiting for this Captain to lose patience will not take long.
It was six hours of staring at ‘Discipline’ on the wall before the first kid began to sway. A girl with short blonde hair and fading bruises on her arms, most likely from her capture. She stabilized herself for a few minutes, but then collapsed to the ground in a dead faint. Clarke only caught the edge of it in the corner of her eye, but she definitely saw the movement of seven other recruits towards the fallen girl. A gun fired at the ceiling and everyone froze. “Back in formation.” Wells snarled.
He walked over to the girl and hauled her back up to her feet and shoved a marker into her hand. “Put your name on the wall.” She stumbled over to the wall and wrote her name on the white concrete. Wells took the pen from her and put a ‘1’ next to it. “First to fall.” He announced loudly, “Get back in formation.”
“She almost passed out you dumbass!” One of the recruits shouted, their voice familiar to Clarke. A fiery girl Clarke remembered from one of her few interactions with the rest of skaikru, one of the few moments of childhood that Abby had allowed her. “Someone has to help her.”
“She couldn’t keep up.” Kipling replied, pulling out his knife again, “Would you like to join her on the wall?”
The girl.. Octavia Blake Clarke reminded herself, she stopped arguing. The rest of the recruits resumed their places, the few outspoken ones shut up, and the rest shut down. The girl sat down in her place, staring with shame at her name on the wall for everyone to see. Soon enough the other recruits began dropping over the next few hours and their names joined hers, forming a rank based entirely on the weakness of their bodies and minds. In ten hours, two-thirds of the recruits were sitting on the floor, whether from outright collapse or choosing to sit down.
Clarke finally understood Luna’s insistence that she eat a hearty breakfast, the concern is adorable but misplaced. After so much time she felt the pangs of hunger and the lightheadedness that came with it, but she is nowhere near her breaking point. The ache in her legs from standing still was reduced by the subtle flexing of her muscles, but without walking it was difficult to work off the stiffness. “Captain,” Kipling spoke into his wrist cuff, “Eight left, How shall we proceed?”
Clarke chanced a glance behind her and saw seven other recruits still standing, all staring up at the names on the wall or glaring at Kipling. Of the two glaring at Kipling, one was Octavia, now eleven years old and built like a runner with her long brown hair and skinny frame.
“Yes ma’am. I’ll keep you informed.” Kipling settled back into his stance, a stance that is almost exactly the same as Clarke’s but with the comfort of one who practices it often. We are going to stay here until everyone gives up. Clarke grit her teeth. I will not lose. The previously submissive blonde raised her eyes to Kipling’s face and glared at him with all the strength and will her little body contained.
I will not lose. Clarke shook out her shoulders and steeled herself against the complaints in her stomach. This is just the same as that room, and no one will ever break me again. Fourteen hours and five more of the recruits put their names on the wall before sitting down on the ground in their place. A few murmured to each other about the potential for food but Kipling pulled out his knife and began playing with it. That was enough.
Sixteen hours and Wells wrote down Octavia’s name on the wall after the girl collapsed to the ground in a dead faint. Clarke looked to the two guards, I’m the last one standing. Kipling pulled a granola bar out of his pocket and began munching on it.
With no one left to fight against, no one left to compete with, Clarke could feel her body giving in to exhaustion. She has survived worse, but never has she been expected to do it while standing. Had she been curled on the floor, she would have stayed there until she died. Clarke would happily die before she submitted, but her body is reaching its limit.
“Just sit down!” Loudmouth snapped.
“Yeah, we’re tired.” A girl shouted.
Someone muttered under their breath, “This is bullshit, if she wants to die doing this then just let her, but let us go to bed. You made your fucking point.”
Kipling smirked, “You can leave.”
“Seriously?” Loudmouth got to his feet, “Thank god.” The others agreed with his sentiments, pushing themselves to their feet.
“Hey, these two need the nurse.” A boy said, “Somebody help me get them up. There is a nurse right?”
Clarke listened to them talking, muttering, moving around behind her, but she didn’t move, eyes still on Kipling. They fought a silent battle of wills, neither one willing to submit to the other. Someone slammed their shoulder into Clarke, “Hey princess, you hear him? You fucking won so move it.” Loudmouth again. This guy is going to be a problem if he doesn’t learn how to shut that mouth of his.
“She isn’t done.” Kipling replied. “She stays there until she gives up or gives out.”
The other recruits went still. Loudmouth glared at Clarke and for a moment she thought she saw a hint of pity in his eyes, but then he rolled his eyes. “Whatever. She’ll give up as soon as we’re out of the room anyway.”
The recruits chatted amongst themselves, beginning to make predictions about how long Clarke would last before she gave up. She rolled her shoulders to loosen them and grinned before looking up at the words on the wall. Discipline. I’ll show you what real discipline looks like. After the new recruits filed out, Clarke heard some individuals enter the room and begin moving the tables and chairs.
Six hours later, Clarke was feeling the beginning of a high from so much time without sleep, the ache in her legs fades to the back of her mind. Wells left a few hours ago to see to his duties around the facility, but Kipling, he clearly wants to see Clarke fail and she knows it. She won’t give him the satisfaction of giving in, of showing weakness.
The smell of food wafts through the air and she takes a deep breath, savoring it. “One is still there.” A girl hissed, “She’s all alone, what’s she doing?”
A light slap and a hiss of pain, “Kid has guts.”
“That won’t last long.” The girl muttered, “Wasn’t there another kid like that?”
“Griffin.” Clarke swayed as shock punched through her weakened defenses. “Whoa, almost lost it there.”
The girl snorted, “Told you. That other kid lasted what, two days before they passed out?”
“Yeah, they broke young, graduated the program at fifteen.” There was a pause and Clarke felt her heart sink. Is there any part of my life that isn’t a lie? “Guess he lost the will to keep fighting.”
“Everyone loses the will eventually.” The girl mumbled, “She’ll be no different.”
Their conversation moved out of earshot, but more filled in their place. Two more hours passed and the rest of the recruits filed into the mess hall for their breakfast. I wonder if Luna is here, is she’s waiting for me to give up too? She told me not to lose so that has to count for something right?
“Hey, leave her be.” No one dared approach Clarke since Loudmouth told her to sit down. Breakfast ended forever ago, and Clarke is barely holding onto her desire to fight at this point.
A brief touch on her hand let Clarke know that someone was behind her. “Hey, I get it,” Octavia. “But there’s more than one way to win, and hurting yourself isn’t it. You made your point, lets go.” Clarke set her jaw and lifted her chin just a bit. I’m not giving up on this. “Fine, I’ll be here to drag you to the nurse when you pass out.” The girl snapped, throwing herself into a chair.
Kipling tucked his knife into the sheathe and gave Clarke an expectant look, challenging her to keep going. Clarke took a deep breath, don’t let your pride get in the way of your mission. She walked up to Kipling, her knees buckling at the sudden movement, she almost tripped before she straightened up. She held out a hand to Kipling.
He snorted and rolled his eyes, giving Clarke the pen. She walked over to the wall and wrote, ‘Clarke #27’. She gave the pen back to him and walked towards the line for the mess hall while everyone in the room watched her.
Without any consistent exposure to strangers, she wanted to dive into a corner and hide herself from their eyes. She wanted to grab the nearest person and shake them to pieces. She wanted to collapse in a corner and sleep. Instead, Clarke grabbed a roll and a bottle of water and turned around to look at the room.
She avoided all the eyes turned on her, pretended she couldn’t see them and started back towards Octavia, the girl waving her over. Clarke sat down and hunched her shoulders against the staring eyes, her fist clenched to keep it from shaking. “About time.” Octavia stuck her hand in front of Clarke, “I’m Octavia.”
Clarke looked at it and straightened, pulling the pleasant smile Abby had beaten into her and shook Octavia’s hand. “It’s very good to meet you again. I’m Clarke.”
Octavia blinked in recognition of the formulaic response, “Clarke??” She leaned forward, her grip still tight on Clarke’s hand. “Oh my god, how did they get you? I thought your mom was part of the council.”
Clarke pulled her hand back and focused on her roll. “I disappointed the chancellor.” She mumbled, “So they sent me here.”
Octavia left her hand on the table between them, “Hey,” Clarke glanced up at the softness of her tone, “Your mom is gonna be okay, they aren’t going to do anything to her, you know that right? No matter how well you do here, it’s not going to impact her.”
Clarke ripped off a small piece of bread and ate it, nothing like the exuberant child that Octavia remembered from their playdates before her mother died. “She’s fine. This is my punishment.” Clarke unbottled her water and chugged it, glancing at the clock, “Do we have to go to classes today?”
Octavia shrugged, “Not as far as I know. The girl in charge of general division, Harper, she said that we will get an assignment after orientation, a fos to shadow.” She paused, “Why didn’t I see you in our dorms?”
Clarke pursed her lips, “I was assigned to the leadership program, I share a room with that one.” Clarke pointed out Luna, “Her name is Luna. I guess, maybe she’s my fos? But she said we wouldn’t be taking the same classes...”
“Already assigned huh?” Octavia looked down at the table, “That doesn’t sound like a good thing.”
“Of course it’s not a good thing.” Loudmouth shoved Clarke hard, “It means she’s sucking up to the reapers already, damn Skaikru.”
Octavia slapped the table and stood up but Clarke beat her to the punch. She spun in her chair and stuck her foot in front of the boy. He tripped and fell to his knees. Clarke shoved him flat on the ground and kicked him in the stomach, flipping him over onto his back so she could kneel over him. He tried to punch her and Clarke knocked his hand away, latching her hand on his throat, “What’s your name.”
“You don’t even know my name?” He spat, flailing under her. Despite the fact that Clarke wanted to pass out, he still wasn’t strong enough to fight off her grip. “You stared at the fucking wall for a day and a half and you didn’t even read the names of the people you were forcing to wait there? What are you, a fucking robot?”
She growled, squeezing his throat.
“It’s Finn you piece of Skaikru scum!” He flailed again, looking over Clarke’s shoulder at Kipling who was watching it all with a bored expression, “Aren’t you gonna stop her? She’s fucking crazy!”
“Look at me.” Clarke slapped Finn, more to shock him than to hurt him. “No one here is Skaikru, or Trikru or any other kru. We are reapers now and if you want to stay here you need to do more than just give up after the seventh person falls over.” His eyes were wide, staring up into intense blue ones and losing himself to the fear and her words. “I don’t know about you but I plan to survive this place, so I’m going to do whatever needs to be done, and that includes snapping your neck Finn, so stay out of my way.”
Clarke released him and stood up, grabbing her roll and nodded to a shocked Octavia before stalking out of the room.
“When you said you did not like to lose, I did not realize how much you meant it.” Luna sat down by Clarke and ran a hand through blonde locks. “You almost broke the record you know.” The girl was curled up in the corner of her bed dozing in and out of consciousness, a paradox in comparison to the cold hearted mercenary that made a statement in the mess hall.
Clarke nodded, “I heard some people talking.”
“You know it’s not exactly a good idea to make a splash.” Luna rubbed the girl’s back, “Too many eyes, too much competition.”
“Nothing they do can hurt me.” Clarke muttered, “Not any of them.”
“You are such a little fish,” Luna murmured, trying to figure out how to soothe this girl who felt so small in this room. “You do not have to rule the ocean in one day Clarke.”
Clarke shook her head and looked up at Luna, “You are the fish in my ocean,” Her eyes were full of anger and sadness, “I am not making a splash, but informing you all that I have arrived. It’s not you who should not be trusted, it’s me.” She shrugged out of Luna’s arms and stood up, “I should find out who my fos is going to be.”
“Stop.” Luna caught Clarke’s wrist, she raised her hands as soon as Clarke turned on her, “I don’t want to fight you, but whatever there is for you here, you don’t have to fight it alone. I can be here for you without knowing anything.”
“Love is weakness Luna, you would do well to learn that.” Clarke opened the door.
“Without love, are we really living?” Luna asked softly.
Chapter 4: And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Clarke gets introduced to her classes within the mountain, and starts to build a better picture of the way things work in this confined little world.
Clarke wandered the halls until she found one of the graduated reapers, identified by the white face paint they wore. “Excuse me,” She waited for the imposing woman to look down at her, “How do I find out who my fos is? I was assigned to a different division than the others.”
“You don’t get one.” The woman replied, “If you have your division assignment then you don’t need one. Follow one of the recruits in your division until you get the routine.”
The girl frowned, “But Luna said-” The woman glared at her and Clarke ducked her head, “Sorry, thank you for helping me.”
“Don’t apologize.” The reaper said, “It’s a sign of weakness.”
Clarke nodded, “Thank you again.” The woman smirked and nodded, something in her eyes besides annoyance. Clarke pursed her lips but didn’t question further, so far her accomplishments were against a surprised Captain and a child with no training. She didn’t want to push her luck against a fully trained and prepared reaper.
The next morning Clarke dressed and walked to breakfast with Luna, silently following the older girl through the facility, observing guard rotations and patterns and memorizing the layout. Luna did her part to seem aloof to the rest of the L’s in the hall, she holds a high position among them, but all it takes to fall behind is to take in a failure. Or worse. Luna looked to Clarke, head held high with her golden curls, pretty face and stellar performance so far.
Taking on someone born for this life could be the thing that shoves Luna back to the bottom of the ranks. No one likes to be shown up, and it’s even worse to be shown up by an eleven year old girl who looks like a porcelain doll. A skaikru ripa. Luna shook her head and sat down at a table with Clarke, she knew what protocol is with new recruits; Keep up or wash out.
Clarke is different.
An unfamiliar girl sits down next to Clarke without so much as an ‘if you please’. Luna raised an eyebrow, her training taking over while she dealt with her confusion. The girl offered a weak smile, “I’m Octavia.”
Luna nodded and began eating, still watching Octavia. She flinched a little and turned pink, “I used to be skaikru.. Clarke and I knew each other before we got sent here. She-” Octavia would have just kept going to avoid the silence and Luna’s disconcerting eyes but Clarke put a hand on the new girl’s wrist.
“Stop talking.” Clarke looked around, “You can’t just spout off everything you know when you get uncomfortable.”
Octavia turned to Clarke with a glare, “She’s the one just staring at me like she can see into my head and read my thoughts or something!” She protested.
Clarke looked to Luna, “Stop doing that, it’s not polite.” She turned away with the expectation of compliance and Luna found herself doing as she was told, “You, calm down. Everyone is going to stare at you, and me and every other recruit. The rules are built to make us fight each other so we don’t think about escaping the mountain, orientation is made to turn us on each other from the very first minute. Learn to shut your mouth before someone shuts it for you.”
Octavia recoiled from the harsh words, looking down to her food with shame coloring her cheeks. Luna couldn’t help admiring Clarke’s assessment of the mountain, it wasn’t until her third quarter that Luna had come to the same conclusion and at that point it was too late to build any form of relationships with her fellow recruits. “You should be kind, not everyone thinks beyond the moment Clarke.” Luna chided softly, to Octavia she offered her hand, “I am Luna kom Floukru.”
Octavia took her hand with awestruck eyes, “Your people are pirates right? Sailing the seas and hijacking boats right?”
Luna chuckled, “Ships. Yes, Floukru operates a fleet in the Atlantic.”
“A whole fleet…” Octavia whispered to herself, “That’s amazing..” Clarke silently agreed with Octavia, but didn’t want to tip her hand any further. Marcus would have beaten her black and blue for letting even half as much information about herself and her knowledge show. She’s supposed to play dumb at the middle of the pack and take the mountain by storm, but… I don’t think I can do it alone.
Clarke looked to Luna and Octavia, I suppose I’ll have to start right here.
Luna watched Clarke’s face, the slight pinch of her brows as she considered a plan. Such a young face for such serious thoughts, and yet Luna found herself wondering what kind of plots this child with a heart of stone is constructing.
“If you need to ignore me I’ll understand.” Clarke said, looking up at Luna. “I’ll be in your classes, and well…” Clarke smiled just a little bit and Luna smiled, remembering Clarke’s words. I don’t like to lose.
“What am I missing?” Octavia looked between the two girls.
“I don’t plan to hide.” Clarke shrugged, “People like Finn are going to be mad, I’m letting Luna off the hook.”
“You don’t need to protect me Clarke.” Luna stood up, “Come on little fish, it’s time to make a splash. Octavia,” Luna nodded to the girl. Octavia waved, trying to catch everything happening.
Clarke followed her roommate through the light tan hallways, noting the measured pace of each recruit, the distance of two feet they maintained between each other. She adjusted her steps and matched pace with Luna. Her careful attempts to fit in put a smile on Luna’s face. This girl is adorable. Luna’s path took them to their first class, Basic infiltration.
Clarke sat down in the front right middle row, near the door and in a good space to analyze the face of each recruit to enter the room. Not as secure as the back left corner, but lower profile than a paranoid recruit’s first choice. Luna smirked and sat three rows behind Clarke, and one chair to the left. The perfect spot to watch how her girl infiltrated the classroom. Luna is starting to enjoy having a seken, even if it isn’t official.
The girl stayed quiet, listening attentively to the instructor. Luna looked down at Clarke’s pencil, the way it moved across the page taking notes faster than their instructor was speaking. It also didn’t look like a normal script, maybe some kind of shorthand or a secondary language to keep her notes to herself? Revealing, while also concealing.
God does this kid do anything that doesn’t hint at more secrets?
“What is the best means to infiltrate a social environment? Like a house or a party?” The instructor asked.
Clarke raised her hand, “Make a friend. Observe someone who is close to the target, but not in the inner circle, and become their friend. Usually through some kind of charitable act that makes them feel indebted to you, and use that obligation to gain gifts and favors. They will invite you with them, induct you into the circle, but you’ll remain on the outskirts where you can come and go without too much attention.”
The instructor raised her eyebrows and looked around the classroom, “Exactly. People respond to personal debts very strongly, specifically debts that are brushed away by the lender. They feel the need to make up for it time and again, going above and beyond the minor situation they owe you for. That kind of obligation makes manipulation effortless.”
More than Luna’s eyes were on Clarke now, but the girl kept scribbling away in her notebook, ignoring the instructor. Ignoring the head of the infiltration division.
“Look at her, disrespectful little robot.” Tristann muttered, looking over to Luna, “She should be controlled. You’re her Fos.”
Luna went cold. This is her first choice in relationship to Clarke, abandon her seken to the wolves, or throw herself down the hole with the kid. “I don’t know Tristann, she certainly seems to know more about infiltration procedures than you do.” Luna looked him over, “Though I suppose that’s to be expected from someone in wetworks, all the subtlety of a skyscraper.”
He stiffened, “You’re defending that little shit?”
She put on a confident smirk, “No, I’m condemning you, there’s a difference Tristann.”
He narrowed his eyes, “Big talk for someone who washed out of wetworks.” He glared at Luna, cracking his knuckles, “Remind me how you got out of getting canceled?”
Luna smirked to herself and the instructor called out, “Tristann, explain how you would get out of this situation.”
He looked up at the board and went pale. There were symbols all over the board laying out a mission plan, but the instructor hadn’t listed any of the complications that he was supposed to be dealing with. Luna’s grin grew wider as the instructor turned to her, “Luna?”
“If the target were beginning to suspect me as an infiltrator, then I would identify myself as such and inform the target that I am here on behalf of the general.” She gestured to the marker on the board that indicated military personnel, but not their ranking, “Clearly his wife has an interest in the fairer sex and I have been hired to seduce her as foreplay for a threesome.”
The instructor raised her eyebrow, “Certainly a unique approach, establishing a reason to leave the party, potential hostages and building a rapport with the target over shared secrets. I’ll allow it. Tristann, meal penalty you should be aware of your surroundings at this point.”
Tristann nodded, sinking lower in his chair. Luna looked over to him, “I survived because I’m useful at more than just shooting things.” He shot her a nasty look, but just like Luna he knew he was nothing more than a kicked dog in that moment.
The rest of their class passed with relative ease. Luna wondered why they bothered leaving advanced students like herself and some of the others in her year in the basic classes, but then it did provide someone who could actually answer the questions.
The speakers let out a low tone and everyone began putting away their books and materials. The instructor gave them a few things to consider, and alerted them that next class session would be the beginning of a project before dismissing them. They sat for a few moments of confusion for the new recruits, then the tone sounded a second time and everyone stood and proceeded to their next class.
Clarke waited at her desk until Luna filed out and followed her back, feeling odd about the idea of standing around in the hallway. That felt like the kind of thing that would get someone in trouble.
Clarke frowned as she trailed after Luna, realizing that she had yet to see anyone get in trouble besides the one who failed to answer the instructor’s question. She looked around herself to the Reapers stationed in the halls, thought about her fight with Finn. No one spoke to her, reprimanded her, they just ignored it. Either that is her one free pass, or the rules are very different here.
Luna walked into a classroom full of wide tables and odd implements. Honestly it looked a lot like Raven’s- Clarke stopped dead in her tracks. The girl shoved her way through everyone else in the doorway and charged into the instructor’s assistant. The assistant that Luna had seen rip hundreds of students to pieces over their poor designs, who practically taught the engineering classes since her first day.
That assistant. That assistant is hugging her seken? Raven has been a recruit in the Engineering division for as long as anyone can remember, some have wondered if she is a fully fledged Reaper just hiding out as one of the recruits but… She’s never hugged one of the recruits before.
“How did you get here baby girl?” Raven hooked a hand around Clarke’s neck and held her in close, whispering low, “Is this legit?”
Clarke shook her head and hugged her friend before backing up a step, tugging her hair down over her face to hide the emotion there. “I’m sorry you ended up here.”
Raven smirked, “That’s the rub kid.” She looked to the rest of the class who was frozen, watching the exchange, “Sit your asses down!” She snapped, sending the recruits scrambling for their seats. “By the end of today I want to see a fully functional audio transceiver. New recruits, sit your asses by someone who looks intelligent because that’s going to be your partner for the next quarter.”
A couple of recruits shuffled their seats around quickly, already embarrassed to be causing a problem. Clarke remained in her seat, with no one on either side of her. Raven raised her eyebrow but said nothing. “Alright bitches,” Raven started explaining the process to them.
Luna kept an eye on Clarke while she worked on her own transceiver. Luna’s partner did most of the work with a few questions for the older girl, leaving Luna the time to watch Clarke. This girl sat down to her workstation alone, intentionally alone. She won’t have a partner for the rest of the quarter, but Clarke doesn’t seem bothered by it. She doesn’t seem to mind being entirely alone, but Luna worried that independence would bite the girl in the future.
There were no questions, no lecture during this class to distract Raven, nor the instructor who occasionally poked their head into the classroom. So when Clarke buried her head into her notebook once more, Raven had no choice but to confront the girl about it.
“Alright geniuses, you have twenty minutes to finish your transceivers and I’m seeing notebooks out?” Raven spread her arms, “What the hell? You done kid?” Raven slapped her hand down on Clarke’s table.
The blonde looked up and pushed over her project, “I am.”
There was a crowd of scoffs and giggles from the others, waiting for Raven to rip this kid a new one for messing around. “Perfect, then let’s get it to work.” Raven gestured to the girl.
Raven smirked and dug one out of her desk. “At least you’re confident. The rest of you could learn a thing or two.”
Clarke ignored the eyes on her, activating her transceiver and paired it to Raven’s receiver. She put the bud next to her ear just for a second to check if it worked and then handed it to Raven. Raven checked out the small bug, recognizing her own design and rolled her eyes. “Emori,” Raven tossed the transceiver at the girl. “Wait for a count of five and then drop a line. I’ll wait five and then I’m back in here.”
Raven stepped out of the room and everyone waited on baited breath, counting under their breath. “Hey watch this.” Before they hit five, Emori ran over to the far corner of the room behind the desk and left the transceiver there. Back near her chair, Emori grinned at one of the boys sitting next to her, “There’s no way she can hear me.”
They counted down once more, and Emori snagged the piece of tech and sat down just moments before Raven came back into the room and held out her hand. “Gimme.”
Emori tossed it back to Raven. The instructor’s assistant slapped it down by Clarke, “Shitty range, but not bad.”
“No fucking way!” Emori snapped, “That thing was across the room. What did I say?”
Raven looked at her, “Excuse you?”
Emori stood up, “I said, tell me what you heard.”
“You mean before I heard you thundering across the room? Or do you mean when you said there’s no way I would hear this?” Raven raised her eyebrow, “You’re lucky I have shit to do today or I’d have your ass kid. Now get back to work, cus so far that kid is the only one who’s finished her assignment.”
Raven gestured to Clarke who was already back to scribbling away in her notebook. The assistant scoffed and waved the other recruits back to their projects. “If a day one recruit can build this shit, I think we can safely say that anyone who doesn’t finish is gonna earn themselves an extra hour in hand-to-hand with my good friend Kipling.”
More than half the class shot Clarke nasty looks even the ones who are more than capable of doing their assignment, simply being put at risk of a demerit is worthy of ill will. Especially training with the dreaded Kipling, that guy takes way too much pleasure in causing pain.
The day continued like that, even at lunch Clarke seemed to make enemies. She sat at the wrong table, ignored when Ontari and her squad from wetworks wanted her to move, and she put Ontari on the ground.
Ontari as the lead recruit in wetworks has been throwing her weight around for three quarters now, pushing to move on in the program to become a Reaper. She drank the kool aid in every sense of the word, and when she put her hand on Clarke’s shoulder, everyone thought it was the fresh meat who would get pulverized.
“Don’t touch me.” Clarke said.
“She speaks!” Ontari yanked on Clarke’s shoulder and turned her around, “Well then recruit, why don’t you explain to me what the hell you’re doing in my goddamn chair.”
Clarke started up into the eyes of the older girl and stood. Luna frowned when Ontari took half a step back. “I don’t explain myself.” She replied in a cold voice, grabbing Ontari’s hand from her shoulder, “To anyone.” Clarke twisted Ontari’s wrist and contorted her hand to put the teen on her knees.
“Don’t touch me again.” She snapped, rotating Ontari’s arm and slammed her to the ground. “Next time I break your arm.” Clarke released Ontari and sat down in her chair again. Luna couldn’t bring herself to sit anywhere near the train wreck in action that is Clarke. She watched Clarke isolate herself from the other recruits, building up a wall of bad intentions. They had a whole hour dedicated to sitting down and staring at the words discipline, honor, loyalty and responsibility on a shitty projector and still seemed to insult someone.
By the end of the night, Clarke dropped to her bed looking exhausted. Luna felt awful for not standing up more for the girl, but it is difficult to shoot yourself in the foot for a kid intentionally throwing herself down a pit.
Luna sighed and sat down next to Clarke, rubbing the girl’s back. “What was that all about today?”
“A beginning.” Clarke leaned against Luna’s side, too exhausted to reject the comfort.
Luna ran her fingers through silky golden hair, trying to understand this nutty little kid who seemed ready to take on the world. “And what are we beginning?”
“We?” Clarke looked up.
“We.” Luna nodded, “I’d be an awful fos if I left you after your first day.” She teased.
Clarke nodded, “It would be tactically unsound to allow me to walk away with more secrets. You should really commit part-way and then leave as soon as you have all the most vital information.” Her analysis was intense, honest, and disturbing.
“You sure you aren’t a Reaper?” Luna asked, looking down at the little girl in her arms, “Because you rule those classes like a Reaper.”
“Might as well be.” Clarke muttered, “But I don’t answer to the mountain.” Luna raised her eyebrow in a silent question and Clarke shook her head, “That’s vital information.”
“Ahhh, I see how it is.” Luna smirked, “I’ve become your pawn now?”
Clarke giggled, “Maybe.”
“Well then game on.” Luna poked Clarke’s side, “May the best girl win.” Clarke flailed and smacked at Luna’s hands, the two of them falling into a tickle fight that lasted until both girls fell down panting for air.
“Tie?” Clarke glanced over at her new.. Friend? As far as she understood the word, Luna was her friend. That didn’t mean she had to trust her.
“Tie.” Luna panted, sitting up, “Okay, homework time. We need to prepare for our classes.” She thought about how well Clarke performed, “Well, I do.”
Clarke nodded, curling up in the corner of her bed. “I have my own homework to do.” Luna frowned at the girl, but Clarke refused to give her anything. She considered the idea of looking at Clarke’s notebook while she is asleep… Luna felt the sickness in her gut at the thought. No, that’s the whole reason I left wetworks. She will open up to me on her own.
“Calling birdbrain.” Clarke muttered into her transceiver that Raven had slipped her during their greeting hug a month ago.
“Yeah that’s not gonna fly barbie.” Raven responded in an equally low tone. “I’ll take Skynet.”
Clarke rolled her eyes, “Fine, Skynet. What’s the deal on punishments down here?”
“Mob rule honey, anything goes so long as you don’t get caught.” Raven replied, “So we have a run of the joint.”
Clarke frowned, “There has to be something that gets you in trouble. There have to be consequences somewhere, how are they keeping everyone in check?” She needed to get things into motion before the others got comfortable in their positions.
“Don’t go there kid.” Raven’s voice went from playful to serious in seconds.
“I have no idea how long I have until my roommate gets back, what are they using to keep everyone in check?”
“The mines.” She whispered, “Just, just don’t go there man.”
“Who got sent down there last?” If Raven wouldn’t tell her, then she would find someone else, she needed to find someone else. She would not let herself become complacent with friends and classes and normality. Just because the mountain was not fighting her didn’t mean that the mountain isn’t still her enemy.
“Give me a name.”
“Roan okay? Nobody screws with him, he started in the mines and he was in bad shape when they moved him up here.”
“Talk to you later.” Clarke turned off her transceiver and left for the gym. If she needed to work off steam from a rather intense punishment, that’s where she would go to beat someone’s face in.
Clarke walked into the combat gym, noting all the weights, treadmills and sparring equipment. It’s a well put together space, but she wasn’t exactly interested in any of that. Clarke needed to find someone who hated her enough to try and mess her over.
She tried not to grin at the sight of Ontari’s little pack of friends. She walked over to them and waited for someone to point her out. Finally someone bumped Ontari and jerked their head over at Clarke.
Ontari turned around, “What do you want princess?” She snapped.
“I was looking for someone to spar with, and I thought you would know who they are? I’m looking for Roan?” Clarke sounded concerned and unsure.
Ontari took advantage of that perceived weakness. “Roan is right over there princess.”
“Thank you.” Clarke beamed at the girl, surprising her in so many ways. Ontari narrowed her eyes at the new girl who walked her way over to the biggest guy in the room without a worry in the world.
Clarke stood behind him to wait. She didn’t wait long.
Roan bounced on his toes, slamming his fists into the dummy so fast that Clarke struggled to keep an eye on his hands. She tracked the way his muscles moved in tandem with his limbs, that tracking gave her just enough warning to duck when he turned, swinging at her.
Clarke raised her hands, backing up a step. This guy is nearly sixteen, a year older than Ontari and twice Clarke’s size, she can smell her defeat in the air. “I’m not here to fight.”
“You told them different,” He nodded to the people behind her. “So what are you here for?” He narrowed his eyes at her.
“I need to know what you did to get into the mines.”
Roan stiffened and he looked this child over, “You are playing a dangerous game.”
“I am.” Clarke looked him dead in the eye, “Want to help me play?”
“I don’t help fresh meat.” He replied with a frown, “Come back when you’re competition.”
The girl narrowed her eyes at him, “No.”
Roan tilted his head, long stringy hair obscuring his face. Even Clarke could admit that she was a little afraid of this person. “No?”
Clarke tossed her hair over her shoulder, stiffening her spine, “No. I’m not going anywhere until you tell me.”
He raised his eyebrow and tossed a towel over his shoulder, “I’m not into hurting little kids.” Roan brushed past Clarke, “At least wait until you’re taller.” He muttered.
Clarke narrowed her eyes and followed after him, keeping that measured distance that has become like second nature to her. Roan rolled his eyes and kept walking. He disappeared into the showers and Clarke waited right by the door.
He walked out and paused when he realized that Clarke was still there. Roan turned his back on her again and left her jogging to catch up to him. Roan stopped by the mess hall and grabbed himself a snack. He went to his room to study, and in the morning when he got up for breakfast, that kid stood up from the wall and began following him again.
“Clarke,” Luna caught the girl when she came back to their room for sleep, “I don’t know what your angle is with Roan, but you need to stay away from him.”
“I’m not backing off until he tells me what I need to know.” Clarke replied, comfortable enough to allow Luna to leave her hand on Clarke’s arm.
Luna flicked Clarke on the head, “Hey, listen to me! Your little scheme thing you have going here isn’t going to work if you’re dead.”
“I don’t lose.” Clarke replied, unphased by the idea of dying.
“This isn’t about losing!” Luna snapped, “You’re going to die! If you stick around with Roan, and keep poking your nose where it doesn’t belong then you are going to die Clarke.”
The girl looked up at Luna and shrugged, “You seem to think that I care if I survive this.”
Chapter 5: Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
Clarke's determination to succeed is finally paying off, but what of her success is based on merit, and what is based on the machinations of the mountain itself?
She showed up to his classes, and his workouts, and his meals. Roan dealt with that kid’s bullshit for a month. Half her time as a recruit she spent shadowing his ass and finally he snapped.
“Are you done yet?” He rounded on Clarke, glaring at the girl.
She glared right back, “I don’t know, am I tall enough for me to kick your ass yet?” She’d spent just enough time talking with Raven to start picking up on his language choices.
“Fine.” Roan sniffed and gestured, “You want to fight, let’s go. Gym, now.” He turned away from his class and led her back to the sparring mats where another class was just getting into session.
Roan shoved aside the kids on the mat and tossed his bag into a corner. “You guys want a demonstration?” He looked to the instructor just long enough to receive a nod before he looked at Clarke, “You sure you want to do this kid?”
Clarke put her backpack down by the edge of the mat, not trusting it outside of her reach, not trusting the other recruits with her things. “Done worrying?” Clarke snapped.
The other recruits exchanged looks and smirks, something has the robot princess on fire and she’s finally showing a real reaction to someone. Bets started getting passed around in the form of notes, collecting in the palm of one of the infiltration kid’s hand.
Roan bounced on the balls of his feet and moved around the mat. Clarke matched his circling, crouched low to the ground. The other recruits didn’t dare to blink for fear of missing something. There was a flurry of kicks and punches, Clarke dodging most of Roan’s hits, ducking under them with speed letting Roan tire himself out. He landed a couple of punches, enough to get some whimpers out of Clarke.
Roan landed a hard punch to Clarke’s side and she stumbled back to the edge of the mat with a shocked look on her face. “Still time to back out.” Roan offered.
“I don’t lose.” She growled. Roan dropped a couple of punches to the air, loosening up his shoulders and came at her again. It was like a gear shifted in Clarke’s head and all of a sudden the robot princess was back with a vengeance.
Clarke went off the defensive and she started taking more hits from Roan, her body absorbing so many hits as she landed ruthless kicks on his joints, aiming for knees and ankles. Clarke got smashed around for the first flurry, but after her key hits on Roan he wasn’t moving as fast as he was before, or hitting as hard.
Finally Roan stopped trying to hit the kid and he grabbed her, yanking her into a chokehold. Clarke squirmed and wiggled in his grip but Roan didn’t budge. Her face turned red as she she was losing air, she swung her weight around trying to get him off balance but nothing was working.
Clarke started seeing spots. She had to do something or she was going to lose.
Right when everyone thought the robot princess was done, she burst into action. With a grunt, the girl brought her legs up and around Roan’s neck, trapping him and yanking hard.
Both of them flipped and Roan landed on his shoulders, the rest of his body falling to the floor with a snap. Clarke kept her legs wrapped tight around his throat, locking her ankles behind his head as she gasped for air.
Roan slammed his fists into her thighs, trying to get her to let go, but this kid wouldn’t budge. Finally, when Roan began to feel the edge of unconsciousness creeping in on him, he tapped out. The recruits around them gave a collective groan except for the few smart cookies that had bet on the robot princess.
Clarke unlocked her legs and rolled off, panting hard from pain and the exertion. “Fine.” Roan panted, “You win.” He offered her his hand and Clarke shook it. They laid on the mat breathing heavily while the instructor explained their movements, tactics and how to fight each of their strategies.
Clarke glanced over to her pack and groaned. Someone stole it. Again. “Murphy is going to kill me.” She muttered, pushing herself to her feet. Her muscles screamed. If Clarke was able to walk tomorrow it would be a miracle. “This isn’t over.” She said to Roan.
He waved his hand at her and nodded. “Vengeance and shit.” He agreed, grunting as he flipped to his feet. Clarke nodded and took off running for the supply room. Luna always gave her such an aggravating look when Clarke returned to their room without her bags, and every time someone took her things, Clarke could never find them again.
At this point Clarke had stopped bothering to look for her missing things. They didn’t matter, and no one could learn anything from it. So instead she stopped in front of Murphy’s supply room, bracing herself for the coming storm.
“Murphy,” She started.
“Fucking again?” Murphy snapped, “This is just pathetic kid! What is this, the fifth time in a week?”
“Fourth!” She snapped back, “It’s getting better.”
He narrowed his eyes and pulled out a notebook and a pencil, “I can’t get you anymore bags until the last ones show up, I’m not in charge of requisitions, just recycling from washouts.”
Clarke took it with a nod, “Thank you Murphy.”
He huffed, “You know it would be a lot easier if you just drowned Ontari in a toilet, she’s not going to back off until you wash out.”
“She will.” Clarke gave him a little smile, “She’ll get bored, and then maybe she’ll start wondering about what I’m writing.”
He raised an eyebrow and leaned an elbow on his desk, “What are you writing on those notebooks?”
She grinned, “That’s the question isn’t it?”
Murphy shoved himself off the counter, “Pheh, it’s probably fantasies about how you want to cut off all her hair in the night or something girly and stupid like that.”
“Probably.” Clarke nodded, still smiling at him.
“Now you’re just trying to reel me in. What are you playing at kid?” He accused, surprised to find himself enjoying the back and forth they were doing.
“Something.” She hugged the notebook to her chest, “Thanks Murphy!” She ducked out of the supply room and jogged back to her dorm only to find Roan sitting outside her door.
“You know that Ontari walked by your room twice in the last fifteen?” He asked, raising his eyebrows up at her.
“How do you know Ontari?” She tilted her head adorably.
“She was Azgeda before all of this, like me.” Roan rolled up his sleeve to reveal scars on his arms.
Clarke gasped and knelt by him, “What is that?” She ran gentle fingers over it, her eyes full of curiosity.
“It’s my identification, that’s how Azgeda communicates. Everyone has a defined rank, job and position within the family, and it’s not very often that you move around.” He shrugged, “It’s our way of doing things, just like Skaikru does their council thing, and Trikru has their tattoos.”
Clarke nodded, filing that information away for a future thought. “So, what did you do?”
Roan scoffed, “You can’t do what I did kid.” Clarke’s face twisted in frustration and Roan raised his hand to stop her before gesturing to her dorm. “Inside.”
She huffed and nodded, letting him into her room. Thankfully Luna was out, otherwise it would have been problematic to convince the older girl that Clarke did not in fact desire to die a horrible death. “Better.” Roan settled himself on Clarke’s bed, “Fewer recruits, still listening ears.” He reminded her.
Clarke shook her head, digging through her desk for the implement that Raven had slipped her, “I have a jammer.” She tossed her activated device into Roan’s lap.
Roan’s face split into an evil smirk, “I like it.” He examined the device and nodded his approval at the design, “Fine, so you can’t do what I did. You can’t. I told the leader of Azgeda to go fuck themselves with a cactus.” He chuckled, ducking his head, “Worth.”
Clarke sighed, rubbing her temples, “So it’s hopeless?”
Roan shook his head with a smile, “Where there’s a will there’s a way, if you want into the mines, then you can get there. You just have to fuck with their heads.” Clarke tilted her head in a question. “Just wait, you kicked my ass on those mats. Not to mention how you fucked up the captain, you’re on your way to the top with your performance.”
Roan nodded to her, “You’re welcome by the way.” He gave a playful little bow, “Maybe you don’t lose kid, but maybe you’re just too cute to beat.”
Clarke grit her teeth, “Whatever you have to tell yourself.”
“Chill out kid,” Roan raised his hands, “That last shit you pulled was all you, good hold too.” He rubbed the bruises on his neck, “But we were both showing off. I guarantee you that by the end of next quarter you’ll be a provisional Reaper.” Roan smiled, “Gives you access to their heads, lets you fuck with them however you want, and if you do it well enough, then you’ll get your shot at the mines.”
Clarke frowned, a Reaper already. Murphy has been here for three years and he hasn’t made it yet, but six months in the mountain is all she needed? “What does it mean to be a provisional Reaper?”
“Means you start taking missions, going out with the bosses. It means Ontari stops stealing your backpack.” Roan scoffed, “She’s not exactly imaginative is she?”
“No.” Clarke flashed him a bit of a smile. “Thanks Roan.”
He shook his head, “Don’t thank me. It’s bad stuff down there, but if you want it, I’d rather you get it and have a chance of getting out you know?”
Clarke smiled softly, “I know. Thank you.” That alone was far more consideration than her own mother had ever given her. Clarke sat down beside Roan and started writing in her new notebook while he watched, Roan frowned at the foreign script.
“What is that?” He leaned over her shoulder trying to read it.
Clarke shrugged, “It’s shorthand.” She looked over the symbols, “I used to have the key for it…” She frowned, “I’m pretty sure I could make it again if you wanted to learn.”
“Keep it.” He messed up her hair, “Everyone needs their secrets.” He pushed himself off the bed.
“Roan,” He paused by the door, “How do you keep your secrets?”
“You’ll see, when you get out of the mines.” He left the room.
Luna found Clarke sitting in the dorner, thinking about what he said. “Do you want to talk about it?” Luna asked, brushing her hand over a bruise on Clarke’s neck.
Clarke doesn’t manage to get out of bed the next morning, and the day after she has enough meal penalties to keep her from eating for two more days. She started going to classes again and in a few days it was like nothing had happened. No one acknowledged Clarke’s existence, or if they did it was to try to trip her up or make snarky comments about her.
Clarke sat through her classes, only speaking when spoken to and otherwise keeping to herself. She made no more trouble, and despite replacing her notebook at least once a week, no one but Murphy complained about it, and Clarke got into the habit of transferring all of her notes onto a secondary book she kept in the space between her bed and the wall.
Luna worried and Octavia and Raven tried to keep Clarke smiling every once in a while. By the end of the quarter, no one could keep a smile on Clarke’s face. “Mr. Wallace is speaking today, attendance is mandatory.” Luna rubbed Clarke’s shoulder, concerned by the lack of energy the girl had shown. It felt like she was giving up.
Something happened with Roan and then Clarke starting closing herself off from everyone. Luna sighed, “Come on little fish, it is time to get up.” She grabbed Clarke and hauled her out of bed, “I’m not watching you starve again.”
“I don’t care about meal penalties.” Clarke muttered, “None of this matters yet.”
“Oh my god, you’re worse than Ontari.” Luna growled, shoving Clarke out the door. “This whole nothing matters but the mission thing is a load of crap. Come on.”
Clarke put her head down and did as she was told, glowering adorably at everyone. “Come on cutie, put a smile on that face.” Raven slung her arm around Clarke’s face, “You look worse than I did when I had to shoot myself in the knee.”
Clarke’s head popped up and she stared at Raven in shock. “You what?”
Raven snorted, “You should have seen your face.”
“What the hell!” Clarke punched Raven in the side.
“Ow, watch those bony bits, and your mouth. You’re starting to sound like the rest of us princess.”
“Don’t call me that.” Clarke muttered.
“Call you what?” Octavia plopped herself on Luna’s other side and leaned over the girl’s lap, “Girl are you being a cranky pants again?”
Clarke rolled her eyes, “Don’t even go there, Wallace is here.” She nodded to where the man in charge of the mountain stood in front of the giant letters in the mess hall.
“Recruits!” He wrapped his fingers around his podium and grinned so wide it looked unnatural, “Welcome to the end of another quarter. You’ll all get three days to yourselves while we help transition new recruits we’ve gathered in, and get our program graduates into their new quarters. Please take the time to enjoy yourselves.
“I know that some of you feel that your being here is a punishment, whether you were sent here or found. I want you to know that this place is just the first step to becoming a part of something so much bigger than yourselves. You have the chance here to become a strong, capable individual with the ability to help your fellow lost and abandoned souls.
“I hope you see this as an opportunity, and use this knowledge to empower yourselves, to become something more. Together.” Wallace smiled down at all the recruits like a grandfather would, his heart full of pride and self-satisfaction at what he has made. “The names of our new Reapers will be posted on the wall.”
Raven scoffed, “He makes it sound like a prep school for job security.” She muttered.
“It is.” Clarke replied, “If all you want to do is kill your own people.” She pushed herself off her chair along with a few others who were too excited to see the results to wait. “I’ll be back.”
Clarke trailed after the other eager beavers, staying to the edge of the milling crowd. Everyone was talking with energy whether they moved on or they had to stay in this hell-hole of a facility. Sure, the provisional Reapers still lived here, but they didn’t have to attend classes or stay in the same rooms with all the new recruits.
They got their own rooms, their own schedule and most importantly, Reapers get to go outside. Missions to steal, to kill, to infiltrate, just like any other kru. Maybe that’s how all of them rationalized it, they were all going into the business anyway, so now they can learn to do it better, to work harder and maybe escape back to their people someday.
Clarke chuckled to herself. No one escapes the mountain.
“Where is that little-!” Ontari’s voice went over the crowd and soon the girl with a mouth miraculously bigger than her attitude shoved her way out of the crowd, “You!” She got up in Clarke’s face, carefully avoiding touching her. “How the hell did you graduate? I’ve been waiting three quarters for this, and you’ve barely been here and you get in? How the fuck did you do it?” Ontari brought her hands up to shove Clarke, then she remembered what happened last time, Clarke’s threat from last time. She hesitated, clenching her hands into fists.
Clarke smirked, she wasn’t going to have to wait for three more months for this, she wasn’t going to have to wait at all. Wallace is playing right into her hand. The girl glanced down at Ontari’s fists, “That’s how.” She looked back up, “You’re afraid to even touch me. You’re older, bigger, stronger, and should be more experienced, but you’re just terrified to throw down again.” Clarke grinned and turned away from Ontari. It was a stupid little power play, but she had to do it, to reassert to everyone that she deserved to be promoted.
She expected the shove, the violent push to her shoulders that would finally make Ontari feel better about being a big girl. So when it came, Clarke let herself bend over instead of falling stiffly. She brought her leg up to maintain her balance and kicked Ontari in the pelvis, sending the girl stumbling back.
“Don’t pick a fight you can’t win.” Clarke said.
“Just you wait princess.” Ontari straightened up, clutching her middle, “You aren’t the only one to make provisional, so you’d better watch that back of yours because I’m gonna break you.”
“You can try.” Clarke returned to her people.
“What was that about?” Octavia asked, looking nervously over Clarke’s shoulder. “Ontari looks pissed.”
“I made provisional.” Clarke sat down, looking equal parts energized and saddened.
“Oh shit..” Raven sat back against one of the tables. “This is bad.”
Clarke shook her head, “It’s necessary.”
Raven raised her eyebrows, “Girl you know I’m with you all the way, but seriously? You want to be a Reaper? You. You know you’re going to have to-”
Clarke flexed her jaw and Raven shut her mouth. “I know why I’m here, it’s to prove a point to them and to me. I’m not going to let her do that again Raven.”
Raven nodded, looking down at the floor. She and Clarke had been together for years, she was Clarke’s designated companion right up until she had become a bit of a bad influence in Abby’s eyes and she ended up getting sent to the mountain. Another valuable tribute of a useless asset that just made the mountain stronger.
But Raven knew how Clarke’s mother could be, and just how awful she was as a person. If Clarke said it was necessary then Raven would go with it and try to keep Clarke alive through all her crazy ass schemes. “Okay.” Raven nodded, “Just don’t do anything stupid.”
“You’re kidding right?” Octavia frowned, “She’s still just a kid. Clarke you’re going to get killed.”
“I’m leadership.” Clarke replied, “They don’t need to wait for me to grow up because they can shove me in a command center calling the shots until they think I can make it to the field safely.” She looked between the three girls who had wormed their way into her plans through kindness and familiarity. “Don’t worry about me, just keep yourselves on top. I get to do all the hard work.” She allowed herself a smile.
Luna, the only one to remain silent through all of this, got up and walked away. Clarke’s stomach twisted on itself and her smile faded to nothing. It only took the girl a minute to decide she needed to follow her friend.
“Luna?” Clarke sounded small and timid, two words that the blonde never thought would apply to her personality.
Luna sat with her back to Clarke, hunched over a textbook. She didn’t respond, so Clarke sat down next to her and touched Luna’s shoulder gently. “Luna?”
The older girl said nothing and Clarke felt something she couldn’t explain. It was like someone ripped off all her blankets and poured ice on her. Clarke inhaled deeply and got up, putting her things together to move to her new room. It had only been three months, but this blue room with the orange and red pillows felt more like a home than her house had in years.
Clarke closed herself off from all the things she had let herself enjoy about this experience, reminded herself that she was supposed to be alone. I was never meant to find friends here, so grow up and let them go if that’s what they want.
She packed everything into her laundry bag except for her pillows and laid down. Someone would come down to give her a new room assignment eventually and then Clarke could leave behind all the childish attachments she built here.
In the morning Clarke stood in rank with twenty new Reapers. The Captain looked them all over with their bags slung over their shoulders and passive expressions. These are the ones who have become soldiers instead of children. The Captain walked along the ranks giving everyone a lanyard with a number and their name on it. “Your number will be your room number, you’ll report for pictures for your ID tags after lunch, and your briefing for your first mission is tonight. Congratulations.”
It was all said with a minimum of enthusiasm. Her tone was so passive that even Clarke had to suppress a smile, Wallace made such a big deal out of everything and now it’s this anticlimactic ‘get to work’.
The routine, while unfamiliar is so robotic that honestly it feels like everything else in the mountain. Follow everyone else, do what’s expected and go through the motions. Despite not knowing anything about this new section of the mountain, navigating ended up being pretty easy.
Lunch happened in a mess hall a lot like the one for the recruits except there seemed to be more jostling for positions. Of the Reapers in the room, only the ones with Clarke had lanyards on, the rest had badges clipped to their waists. Among those with clips, they were segregated by age.
All the older Reapers in their thirties were hanging out at the long row of tables right next to the food lines. As the tables got further from the food line, the Reapers got younger and younger until they were in their mid teens like Ontari, Tristann and a few of the other provisionals.
Clarke swallowed hard, she is by far the youngest Reaper here and as such, at the bottom of the pecking order. This would be a lot more difficult than being a recruit.
Chapter 6: And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well, And better than they stroke; why swell'st thou then?
This is where things really start to move faster. We're going to skip a few years of training and missions just because, but I might throw them in later, or as one-shots.
Please guys, as always, let me know what you think, and thank you for your support!
Two years. That’s how long it took Clarke to be allowed into the field. By the time she was going on her first field assignment all of her friends had become fully fledged Reapers in their own rights as well. Raven ended up replacing the old head of engineering one year after Clarke was promoted. At seventeen, Raven broke a half dozen records herself, one of them for having the biggest ego in the mountain.
As a division head, Raven is exempt from fieldwork but Octavia.. Well Octavia took wetworks division by storm as a recruit and as a Reaper. Now she’s the point leader for every strike team that Clarke has directed for six months. Most friendships are discouraged, but the way Octavia and Clarke work together is so coordinated and efficient that it would be cruel and unusual to separate the dynamic duo.
Luna on the other hand, well she graduated, became a Reaper and technically belongs with Clarke and Octavia in the pecking order but… She refuses to talk to Clarke, to have anything to do with any of them now. Sometimes Clarke thinks she can feel Luna’s eyes on her during combat training, but when she sneaks a look, Luna is always staring straight ahead with unfocused eyes.
However Clarke can’t waste her time thinking about that, she would never waste her time like that. Clarke tucks herself into the corner of the mess hall with the file on her next mission, working to memorize every inch of it.
This mission is to infiltrate a Trikru facility and plant an explosive device within their machinery that will detonate in the early hours of the morning right after they start the machines warming up. It will be written off as a tragic malfunction, and Clarke will have accomplished her first mission, a solo mission.
It did not surprise her that she was alone, nor did the idea escape her that a mission with explosives always have the opportunity to go wrong. Wallace may not be a Reaper, but he is not stupid either. No one running this program could ever be so stupid as to think that a shining star like Clarke could have been sent as a gift. She’s clearly a trojan horse waiting to be welcomed in, and in the end she doesn’t need to be welcomed, not if she manipulates the inherent flaw in the system.
At exactly 0300 hours, Clarke reported to command already prepped and ready to go. “Reporting for duty.” She stated, standing at rest in the command hub, watching others going about their business, other reapers from leadership directing their missions into small headsets. A dozen monitors tracked the active operations.
Clarke ignored them, she would never undermine the mountain by mucking up an individual mission. “Clarke.” Her op leader offered her an earpiece.
Clarke swallowed, trying to keep herself passive. To ignore that this was the first time Luna had spoken to her in years. “I was under the impression I was taking this mission alone?” She took the piece and fit it into her ear, using the movement to look down at the floor.
Luna pursed her lips and Clarke could see how frustrated Luna was with this assignment. “You were.” Luna shifted her stance, “The powers that be have decided you need supervision. I suppose you haven’t been as subtle as you thought.”
Clarke tossed her hair over her shoulder, ignoring the jab for the inconsequential comment that it was. “Wallace is simply a fan of my work, likes to share it with the newer Reapers. I’m sure he’ll show it as a training video.” Fat chance of that, he’s as much a fan of Clarke as she is of him, it’s why they get along so well during their little chess game.
The few operations he’s observed of hers have almost always included one of them questioning the other’s orders and ending up being very wrong. At this point they have a form of mutual respect where they stop making themselves look stupid in front of the other and smirk when the other screws up.
“Wallace suspects you.” Luna replied, looking Clarke over, “For good reason. Clean up your act, and move your ass to transport Reaper.” She waved her hand at Clarke, “I’ll give you the breakdown on the operation while you’re in motion.”
“I already have the brief memorized along with every other pertinent piece of information.” Clarke replied, turning her back on Luna, “I expect you’ll have an easy job up here.”
“I expect so.” Luna muttered.
Clarke sat in the back of the tactical truck in an uncomfortable silence, her earpiece taking what should have been a soothing moment into a tense venture. She sighed heavily and checked her watch.
Clarke stepped out of the truck and into the night with a deep breath. There is no substitute for fresh air in an open space. It tastes like possibility. The truck left at an easy pace, everything established with the understanding that confidence is two thirds of any pretense.
Her moment of reflection over, Clarke approached the facility with a similar ease. “I’m approaching the target, no visible guards or cameras.” She informed Luna, keeping her eyes ahead while she pulled out the dark oily substance she’d snuck into her go-bag.
“Infrared indicates six guards total, you have three minutes before their round approaches your entry point.”
“Got it.” Clarke acknowledged, closing her eyes and smearing the dark paint across each eye and three blackened fingers down her lips. She hadn’t drawn her mask in a long time, but Marcus had made her practice until her fingers were stained black and the motion was perfect.
Solid black in each eye socket and three vertical lines to create a crude skull mask. Wanheda has returned at last.
Clarke pulled out her wire cutters and made quick work of the fence, slipping through the small slit with ease. From there it was a quick jog across the open yard to the most central of the three buildings. She slid down to a knee in front of the door and began working on the lock.
“What’s taking so long? You have two minutes before your entrance is discovered.” Luna growled in her ear.
“And yet you’re still talking like I’m running out of time.” Clarke muttered, opening the door and sliding inside. She closed it carefully behind her and re-locked the door. “Besides, who knows when they will notice the fence, I could be here all night if I wanted to and no one would know, so chill your jets.”
“You spend too much time with Raven. Plant the bomb and get out.” Luna snapped.
Clarke shook her head, “Working on it. You can’t sit back and ride my ass the whole op, especially if I’m supposed to be quiet.” She navigated the factory like she’d been going there for years, exploring the massive machinery. “What do they make in this place anyway? The brief never said.”
“It doesn’t matter, finish the mission.”
Clarke nodded, already ignoring Luna in favor of looking through some of the boxes. “You seeing this stuff? Why are we blowing up a clothing factory? Trikru or not, this is a lot of work for clothes.”
“Clarke.” Luna snapped, “Plant the bomb and get out.”
“Bomb is already planted.” Clarke mumbled, going through more boxes, looking for something that could be incriminating, something illegal of some kind.
“If you have accomplished your mission, then you need to move to the extraction point.” Wallace informed her.
“Dante, how sweet.” Clarke cooed, “You came to see me off on my first field mission. You know, I would love to go to the extraction point but I want to see this through.”
“Clarke this is not a play-date, move to the extraction point.” Luna ordered her.
“Send your boys home. I’m going to keep an eye on things here. Just to make sure it all pans out, right Wallace?” Clarke sealed up the boxes she’d opened, knowing that he couldn’t say anything. There wasn’t time to send another Reaper, and even if they did, it would throw the whole ‘accident’ part right out the window.
“Of course.” Wallace didn’t seem angry on the surface, but Clarke could hear his not so secret anger. “Luna will handle the rest of your mission, but I do hope to see you for your debrief.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Clarke replied, finding herself a nice safe corner to hide in. A high up corner in fact. “You know this view isn’t bad.” Clarke took deep breaths, enjoying the mixture between thick air and a high point.
Luna gave a long suffering sigh, but she stayed with Clarke for the next hour. Clarke took in her momentary freedom, and Luna dealt with the frustration of her agent going off mission. It was nice. For one of them.
Clarke checked her watch and frowned when workers began moving into the facility, packing boxes and moving them into trucks. “That does not look like an empty factory.” She muttered, moving to the ground. “Luna there’s still twenty minutes before the machinery blows and there must be a hundred people in here and more are filing in.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Luna this facility is active, fully active right now.” Clarke noticed more than one pair of curious eyes watching her, noticing her dark hood and face paint. She ducked into an office and shut the door. “Please advise.”
A man was sitting at the desk, and at Clarke’s appearance, he stood up. “Who the hell are you?”
Clarke held up a finger to silence him. “Luna, you there?”
“Excuse me, you can’t just walk in here!” He snapped.
“Just a second.” Clarke muttered, she walked over to the man and spun, slamming her boot into his left temple. He dropped like a six foot tall, man shaped rock and Clarke sighed. “Luna, you give me a direction or I’m taking my own. We have a truckload of civilians digging into something that’s going to be a hot zone in… Fifteen minutes.” Clarke growled.
“I-I don’t know.” Luna didn’t sound cool, collected, or assured. “It was supposed to be empty, this was supposed to be about the facility.”
“Luna.” Clarke spoke low, looking around, “I need you to sound confident, I need you to be calm right now. Can you do that?”
There was a moment of silence and Clarke could practically hear the way that Luna changed her breathing, her attitude, and the way that she pulled her shoulders back. “Of course.”
“I’m going to go off mission, and you are going to be mad at me. Order me to move to the extraction point, tell me to get back on task, whatever you need.” Clarke ordered her, “Make it clear that this is on me, because it is.”
Another moment of silence and then Luna’s words were firm, “Get back on task, the explosive has been placed and the timer set. Move to the extraction point.”
“No problem boss.” Clarke smiled, “Just as soon as I set off the fire alarm. I love those spur of the moment fire drills don’t you?”
“This is not part of your mission parameters.” Luna snapped, “Move to extraction.”
“On my way.” Clarke promised, yanking down the fire alarm and listening to the music of the klaxons. “Ahhh, the dulcet tones of chaos in the making. It’s fine boss, our mission was the facility, any people in the way, well those aren’t necessary.”
“I’m going to have to write you up in my report if you can’t follow orders.”
“I hope you do, because this is more fun than I’ve had in years.” Clarke stepped out of the office, “Come on! Everybody out! This is not a drill!” She shouted, “Everyone move in an orderly fashion towards the nearest exit.”
Clarke moved with the crowd, keeping her head down and her hood up. They moved together like one giant stream of people out of the building. Together they gathered outside while the different managers did headcounts. Clarke edged her way to the back of the crowd, moving with the ease and patience of a bored employee.
“Are you out of the building?” Luna asked.
“Free and clear.” Clarke assured her, “Thanks for the assist, but next time tell the Captain that I don’t need help.”
“Sure you don’t.” Luna scoffed, “You are helpless without me.”
Clarke smirked and stood back, waiting for the bomb. When it finally went off the ground shook beneath them all, shaking everyone to their knees. The building went up in smoke, the walls shredding from the shrapnel and a gout of flames and smoke consuming the whole structure, damaging the adjacent buildings. Clarke’s smirk fell away.
“Touche Wallace.” Clarke mumbled, had she stayed for the whole event she would be dead. No wonder he let her stay, two birds and one stone. That was not a bomb for machinery, that was the explosion with shrapnel and fire and so much destruction. That bomb had only one purpose.
Screams brought Clarke back into the moment, reminded her that she was not in fact safe in a van, driving away from the scene of the crime. She ran to the front of the crowd and saw the two other buildings catching fire. There were still people inside those facilities.
Clarke raced to the first one, yanking the doors open to see growing clouds of smoke building up inside the tight space. “This way! Everybody out!” She did the same for the next building, but the smoke was thicker, the flames brighter.
“Clarke what is going on?” Luna demanded.
“Delay evac, I need to get these people out. The secondary buildings caught.” Clarke alerted her, “I’ll update you further when I know.” She pulled a filtration mask over her mouth and ran into the building, her eyes watering from the intensity of the smoke.
She wasn’t familiar with the floor plan of this building but it was close enough to the first one that she made do. Clarke pulled down her mask long enough to yell, “Is anyone else in here?”
“Over-over here!” A flurry of coughs followed the muffled call.
Clarke pulled her mask back up and chased after the voice. She found a trio of people, two women, one with muddy blonde hair, and the other woman with dark skin and hair, they had a girl with them.
As soon as the women saw her they pulled away. Damn war paint. Clarke growled her frustration and removed her filtration mask and offered it, “Put it on the kid and let’s go.”
They dark skinned one took it and put it on the girl, “Who are you?” She snapped.
“A friend.” Clarke replied, “For now. Let’s get you out of here.” Clarke urged them forward, guiding them through the thick smoke. Soon enough they were all coughing, all except the girl, she stumbled and tripped in the darkness, falling to the ground. Clarke scooped her up and carried the child through the burning facility, wincing at the heat searing through their skin.
They pushed through the smoke into the bright sun and Clarke set the girl down, checking her breathing. There wasn’t any. “Oh come on kid,” Clarke removed the mask and checked for a pulse. “No, no, no.”
“Tris? Tris wake up!” The blonde pushed Clarke aside and started shaking the child, “Tris honey, you have to wake up, you’re going to be okay.”
“Who are you?” The dark skinned woman snarled, grabbing Clarke by the collar of her shirt. She hauled Clarke to her feet and glared at her.
Clarke closed her eyes as Luna began yelling in her ear too, asking what was going on. “Quiet.” She looked at the woman, “Mourn your dead, and be grateful there were not more.”
“What are you talking about?” The woman snarled.
Clarke hooked her arm around the woman gripping her and headbutted her, knocking her back and loosening her grip. “The mountain sends its regards.” Clarke informed the stumbling person, “I’m sorry.” She backed up and ran through the crowd, losing herself among the other faces.
“Mission accomplished.” Clarke informed Luna, interrupting her mid-rant about how irresponsible Clarke is being, and how that message was not supposed to happen, and a bunch of other things that Clarke didn’t care about. “I’m evacuating now.”
Luna gave a heavy sigh, “Idiot.”
Clarke climbed into the truck and stared at the floor of the vehicle, “Yeah.” Most likely.
Clarke spent a long time waiting outside Wallace’s office. The more time he spent ignoring her, the more anger he expressed, a weakness that she should be exploiting, but Clarke couldn’t get the image of that child out of her head. That child that she killed. She killed for an opportunity to someday take down the mountain. The mountain that might never fall.
She ran a hand through her hair and sighed. She messed up. Big time. Never let the collateral damage distract you from the goal, or maybe, maybe she wasn’t supposed to let the goal distract her from the collateral damage…
“He’s ready for you now.” The Reaper watching the door informed her.
She entered Wallace’s office with a straight back and passive expression, standing at ease in front of his desk. “Clarke.” He smiled, leaning back in his chair. “When you first came to us your mother told me you would be a problem.”
“I have accomplished all of my missions.” Clarke replied passively.
“So you have.” Wallace nodded, flipping open a folder, “Perfectly, and to the letter.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Oh that wasn’t a compliment.” He looked at her over the top of manila papers. “Your last mission you went off program, staying behind, helping survivors out of the wreckage, your team lead even mentioned something about you pulling the fire alarm. Which she told you not to do, while she was reprimanding you for going off mission.”
“Yes sir.” Clarke knew that anything she said would be problematic at best.
“You know, I can’t decide if you’re a problem, or one of the best Reapers we have trained in this program.”
“Only one way to find out sir.”
Wallace narrowed his eyes at Clarke, “True enough. You know I think you’re ready for the next level of the program Clarke.”
She frowned, “Next level sir? I was under the impression that I am a Reaper.”
“Oh you are.” Wallace smirked, “But there is another training program that we allow our best and brightest to partake in. And I do believe that you will find exactly what you deserve there.”
Clarke nodded, “Thank you sir.” Every word out of his mouth made her less and less confident in her position. Reminding her that she is at this man’s mercy until she can take over the mountain, until she can accomplish her goal.
“You are very welcome Clarke.” Wallace smirked, “You report to the mine immediately.” He stood up, “Welcome to project Cerberus.”
Chapter 7: One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
After a semi-time skip, We see Clarke under the influence of the red and the ways that the drug has affected her. A new arrival in the mines is going to remind her of her original mission.
Trigger warning probably? there is a great deal of talking about some of the sensations of detox and violence, it's pretty vague but vivid enough imagery that it could be upsetting.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Red. Everything around her washed with the color of blood, the taste of glass shards, the smell of rust. She felt bones break under her hands, her muscles flexing and moving and draining her of energy with each fight. But everything flavored with red.
The faces, dozens of them dragged on the ground next to her, pleading, begging, screaming but in place of words all that she heard was the thunder of her heart. The moans of relief that slid through her lips at each new injection. The red. Her savior. Her demons. She remembered the mask, the white chalk and black that she painted over her eyes after each new batch of red.
Her face gone, replaced by a servant to the red. Anything that resembled it, everything that brought her it, she worshipped, followed and obeyed.
That is what they called her. Wanheda is the best. The best gets the most red, and she always got the most red. She brought body after body into the mountain. Faces that left as soon as they had come, and sometimes, in the agonizing pauses between the red she would remember them.
The space between red was the worst, colors hurt her eyes, blinding her to the redness and making her bleed. She would see blues and browns that made her scream and twist in the colors, fighting the white blackness that filled her vision without it. Without the red she is nothing. Without the red there is no her.
Time between red stretches out into a million years of yearning. Yearning for something unknown. An unknown that she only understands between the red, an unknown that makes her want to expand that space.
But then she tastes red and the world falls away in the haze. It's been too long since she has seen red, other colors begin to filter through and they burn in her eyes and her head. Everything hurts and nothing matters more than the red, but something seems to think that this feeling is right. These colors are supposed to be there.
A new one is here. Without the haze it seems familiar, she doesn't think of this one as competition or a meal. This one seems to have a reaction to her and she fights them off, beating and breaking with the strength of the red fueling her limbs.
Blood rushes in her ears and she can almost feel the broken glass rush of red. But all she sees is brown, and something that numbs her to the space. She feels wrong, like the sound of the ones who bring red, but from the inside. It confused her, and this one stays a little further away now. This one follows her to her bed by the fire, curling up and closing her eyes.
She quirks her head and watches this one seem to disappear to another place. She can not remember a time when she is not moving, searching for the red or taking it from the others. This one is so quiet, so still. She watches until more color seeps into the world and the red calls to her, demanding her.
She grabs this one and yanked it behind her, searching for another to deliver to the ones for trade. This one is to be protected.
She walks as far as she can but there are none to be traded, but still she gathers with the others, hoping for the red. She can always take it from the others. She will not suffer the space between the red much longer.
She flinches when the ones who carry the red arrive with their sounds that feel like glass needles burrowing into skin and snapping into shards that hide in her veins. She backs away and drags this one with her, this one doesn't flinch from the sound but they will. They will.
The others offer up their trades, shoving them into the hands of the red holders and falling to their knees for red. She grits her teeth, there will be no stealing red this time. She will twist into nothing without the red. She is nothing without it.
The holders approach her and try to take this one, they show her red and the trade is clear, she aches to let go but she can't. She won't. They make the sound again and she fights it this time. She holds on tight and snarls at the holders of the red and attacks the one holding this one.
She feels the bones break, the blood flowing over her skin but without the red she does not feel the haze or hear the moans of red. She feels nothing. She is nothing. She finally understands.
Glass shattered in her hands and red flowed over her fingers burning and searing it's poison down her arms. The others tried to stop her, to steal the red from her but she breaks them all, destroys the red and grinds it into the dust beneath her
She scrubs at her arms, screaming in pain and trying to get the red off of her, the red that is joining with her blood. This one rips their shirt and helps wipe away the red. This one is panicking and sounds fall from their lips like a fountain.
She shakes her head, fighting the pull of the red, the desire to lick the remainder from her arms and suck it from the shirt in her hands. This one grabs her face and she isn't angry, she isn't hurting, she isn't fighting she isn't anything. Without the red she is nothing. And now she will be nothing.
She follows this one, letting herself be dragged away from the growing pools of red spreading across the ground and reminds herself that this one is safe. This one is something to be protected.
It isn’t until her heart stops pounding in her ears and her hands stop shaking that she finally understands the sounds pouring from this one’s mouth. “-we need to get out of here, Clarke tell me you know a way out of here.”
Clarke. That is what she used to be, before the nothing, and before the red. This one wanted to leave the mines? “Dozens.” Speaking felt odd, not growling and snarling and grunting her intentions, but forming words to communicate.
This one stopped in her tracks and looked back at her, her face spreading into a toothy snarl but without the accompanying sound. This one lunged at her, wrapping thin arms tightly around her waist. “Oh thank god you’re okay, I thought you died!”
She frowned, oddly okay with the tight embrace. “I have a job to do.” She couldn’t remember what kind of job she was supposed to do, only that it was important that she do it. She remembered there being something, something worse than the red, something she hated.
“Clarke.” This one sounded upset, and she didn’t want this one to be upset. “You have got to stop this, you can’t just decide to overthrow the mountain and do it! It’s not possible.”
“Because I tried, I tried to fight back and I got sent here. You can’t fight them unless you’re inside and you can’t get inside unless you conform to their system.”
“Why?” She didn’t see any means by which they could hurt her more than the glass beetles under her skin or the ache in her heart when this one was in pain. If all she needed was to reenter the mountain, then all she needed to do was wait for the next delivery of red.
“Why is this so important to you?” She snapped.
“Because…” She narrowed her eyes, trying to remember. A flash of golden hair and a malicious smirk that felt familiar, but there were no words to describe the need she felt. It’s like the red, stronger than the red. She doesn’t have the red anymore but she is not nothing, she wants to end the mountain. She wants to hurt the person who hurt her. “I need to.”
This one frowned, and then let out a long breath. “Fine.”
She closed her eyes, feeling something akin to relief wash over her. “Let’s just get you somewhere safe, and I can take care of your wounds Clarke.” This one said. She.. Clarke, took this one’s hand and led them to one of many safe places she had claimed while living in the mines. The walls marked with images she’d drawn during the dreamlike state induced by the red.
She ran her hands over the images. She didn’t remember drawing them, but they felt like something she wanted, like something familiar. Among the many shapes and creatures there was a face. Clarke looked back to her companion, recognizing the same face as the one on the wall. She didn’t want to forget again.
This one looked around for a minute before zeroing in on a chair-like rock. She pushed Clarke into it, “I’m going to take care of your wounds okay? You with me Clarke?”
She nodded, watching the walls and the entrance while this one washed her arms clean of the red’s sting, and the blood underneath it. Eventually the pain in her arms dimmed and she looked down at bronze curls. Luna, her name is Luna. “How did you get here?”
“I washed out.” She shook her head and Clarke was sidetracked by the was soft curls bounced. She hadn’t seen or felt anything soft in years. “After you got sent away, I forgot to be careful and obedient.”
Clarke put her hand into the soft curls with a tiny smile, “Good.”
“Good? Clarke I could have died, if you hadn’t been here I would have died. I was a mess!” She snapped, leaning out of reach, “How is that good?”
“You are here.” She knew that all of those things were bad, but they didn’t happen.
Luna looked at the ground, hands fisted in her lap.
Clarke frowned and crouched in front of her, trying to understand what is wrong.
“You could have died, and the last thing I did was call you an idiot for trying to help people.”
Clarke put a hand on the girl’s cheek, marveling again at how soft it felt, “I’m here.”
“Are you?” Luna turned her face into Clarke’s hand, “It feels like a nightmare.”
Clarke frowned, trying to figure out a way to help Luna, to explain that if this were a nightmare she wouldn’t be in half so much pain. She wouldn’t feel so tired or the deep anger that had pushed the red from her mind with a burn that felt almost as good. Luna didn’t seem to be heartened by Clarke’s newfound desire to do… something, and Clarke frowned at herself, frustrated by her failure.
Finally Luna made the move herself, pushing herself into Clarke’s chest and pulling the confused girl’s arms around her. It only took a moment, but then Clarke was smiling a little, holding this soft warm person in her arms and the anger was a little less important. The pain a little less important. “This is good.”
They fell asleep like this, well, Luna fell asleep like this. Clarke slept in short stints, waking up at the slightest noise. When Luna first woke Clarke was asleep, but as soon as she looked up, Clarke’s eyes were open and alert. “Do you always cuddle this much?” Luna joked.
Clarke shook her head, “No. I kill things.”
Luna snorted, “Okay, we need to work on your sense of humor.”
Clarke shrugged and tucked Luna’s hair out of her face, enjoying the little smile that showed up. “We need to work.”
That little smile disappeared. “Where do we start?”
Clarke moved Luna gently and started digging in the corner of the little alcove until she pulled a homemade axe out of the dirt. “Here.”
Luna took it, looking down at the wicked looking edge on the steel. “Where did you get this from?”
Clarke gave her a feral grin, “The mountain. Come.”
“They gave you weapons?” Luna pushed herself to her feet and stumbled after Clarke, “Where are we going?”
Clarke shushed her and crouched low, her boots crunching in the loose gravel while she crept through the relative darkness. Luna followed as best she could, shuffling along. She wasn’t as quiet as Clarke mostly because she was afraid of hurting herself by running into something.
After a few moments, Clarke reached back and took Luna’s hand, guiding her steps through the dust and reassuring her that she was not alone. It was something Clarke had not needed when she was first thrown into the mines, but then the darkness was never a stranger to her.
Luna didn’t see the change in location so much as she heard it. Her footsteps sounded harsher, more flat, and they echoed just a little bit as the walls and floor got harder. Then Clarke was climbing through a hole and helping to guide Luna’s legs through the opening. “The mountain.”
Luna squinted, a dim light illuminating the concrete hall and the rusty pipes and fraying wires tacked to the walls. “This is it?”
Clarke nodded, “I found it.” She gestured to a roughly hacked away sheet of metal.
Luna looked at the odd serrations on her axe blade, and they just so happened to match up near perfect with the tears in the larger sheet. “What were you doing all the way down here? We must be at least an hour or two from that hiding spot you showed me.” She frowned, “And even further from where we slept before.”
“The red.” Clarke shrugged, “We wander.”
“Okay.” Luna nodded, trying to understand. The only thing she really got was that whatever those guys in the Hazmat suits were injecting into the other people-monsters, it wasn’t a good thing. Especially not if those burns on Clarke’s arms were anything to go by, let alone the heavy welts on her neck.
Clarke put a finger to her lips and pointed up to a poorly maintained ladder above them, “We climb.”
Luna followed in silence, wondering where all of this was going to end up taking her. They climbed long enough that Luna’s arms were beginning to burn pleasantly from the exertion when Clarke finally stopped at one of the circular vents along the way and climbed inside. Together they slide across the smooth metal and Luna realized that the easiest way to move was to place her palm flat on the metal and drag herself forward.
The passed quite a few junctions, and some of the ducts open into rooms, most of them empty. One however, was thoroughly not empty. Luna tugged on Clarke’s pants, not wanting to think about what the material was made of and stared between the thick metal slats.
Inside was a series of stainless steel tables with chemistry equipment on them, cabinets full of fluids in glass beakers, some colored, and others clear. Beyond them were hundreds of cages with pale, skeletal bodies in them. Some were mobile, but most of them looked barely capable of moving on their own.
Clarke shook her head and Luna stared at her with wide pleading eyes but they had no effect. Clarke’s expression remained stone cold. She gestured for Luna to follow her again. Luna spared a final look for the people locked in their small cages
After what felt like ages dragging themselves through cramped quarters, Clarke stopped next to Luna and pointed to the vent beside them with a curious look on her face. Wallace.
He sat in a chair at a nice desk, much like the one he used in the reaper facility, and he was reading something from a tablet in front of him while a few nervous looking individuals reported to him. “And how is the harvest looking?” He glanced to one of the individuals before his eyes returned to his tablet. Clarke bared her teeth at him.
“Well, I’m afraid Mr. Wallace…” The woman trailed off and Wallace glared at her.
“Whatever you’re afraid of, I assure you I’m worse.”
“There’s been a hiccup in the Cerberus program.” The woman blurted it out before she could chicken out again.
“Meaning?” He sounded bored, “We’ve had dozens of hiccups.”
“One of the Cerberi, self-designated Wanheda attacked our technicians and killed them, then she destroyed the entire supply of R35 they were carrying.” The woman shrank in on herself with each word.
“Did the technicians simply forget to use their tone generators?” Wallace is pissed, leaning forward in his chair with his tablet forgotten on the desk.
“No sir, she ignored them. We’ve never seen this kind of reaction to R35 before. We conditioned our recruits for violence, but most of them cannot tolerate the pain of the generators or the pain of ignoring the addiction. To be frank sir, it’s an anomaly we’ve never accounted for.”
“Where is she now?” Wallace snapped.
“Well, she’s missing sir.”
He threw his tablet at the woman’s head. She ducked out of the way to avoid getting brained, but she cried out when it impacted her shoulder with a crack. “Find her.” He snarled, “And when you do, we are going to pry her apart piece by piece until we know how she managed to do this. Do you understand me?” At a dozen frantic nods he slammed his fist down on his desk, “Then move!”
Everyone in the room moved for the door in a controlled panic. The girls remained in the vents above his office for a bit longer, but Wallace was hunched over his tablet, frantically going over something. Luna only looked away when she felt a tug on her shirt, Clarke pulling her forward.
Luna followed with anger building in her chest. As soon as it felt like they were far enough away, Luna grabbed Clarke’s leg and held on tightly, “You knew that Wallace was here and you didn’t do anything about it? You’ve been here for years Clarke!”
Clarke shrugged, “It did not matter.”
“It didn’t matter? What are you talking about? Taking him down has been your goal since you got here, even I knew that.”
Clarke shrugged, “I was looking for red.”
Luna narrowed her eyes, “What is that stuff?”
“Bad.” Clarke muttered, scooting away from Luna’s intensity.
Luna took a deep breath, trying to calm down, “Okay, so you’ve just been wandering around down here looking for… Red, and when you find it you don’t care about anything?” Clarke nodded, “Okay, so what else did you find down here?”
Clarke shook her head, “I didn’t look. No Red.”
Luna rubbed her temples, “Okay,” She curled in on herself, trying to think their way out of the problem. At this point Clarke was in a weird semi-helpful state and Wallace was probably turning all of the people down here on a manhunt for them.
Clarke waited in her corner, frustrated by how slow her brain was working. Nothing she tried was working, most of her thoughts were caught up in wondering if there was any red here that she might have missed. “Wait a minute.” Luna grunted and shifted in the cramped space, pulling a small device from her pocket. “Raven,” She said, tucking it into her ear, “Raven are you there? I found Clarke.”
Luna sat there for nearly an hour, shifting every few minutes to become comfortable again, saying Raven’s name every ten minutes and also a few choice insults that made Clarke’s eyes wide. Clarke watched Luna, remaining so still it was eerie.
Luna shot up so fast she hit her head on the top of the vent, “Raven!” A clang shot down the vent like a bell that had Clarke clutching her ears and curled up on the ground with a moan of pain. “Clarke are you okay?” Luna scooted over and checked Clarke’s head, “Yeah she’s here. You know the range on these things sucks.”
Clarke grabbed Luna’s hand and pulled her deeper into the vents. Luna realized she’d just made an assload of noise and allowed herself to be led while she spoke with Raven. “Alright, uhm, where to start.. she’s fine actually, like she’s doing really good. Very spacey, but she’s alive.” Luna murmured, remembering to keep her voice down.
“There’s some kind of drug thing I think they gave her and I don’t think it’s mixing well. On the bright side, I think we’re in the mountain. The real one, not just the training facility. I just saw Wallace in his office yelling at some aides about Clarke.” Luna hesitated, “She uh, she’s Clarke?”
Luna scoffed, “Yeah at this point I think I know where Octavia learned it from.” Luna paused, listening to her earpiece, “Did you just say that Wallace walked past your office? You… Oh my god. Either he has clones, or the training facility is actually inside the mountain.”
Clarke perked up, glancing over her shoulder at Luna. She held out her hand to Luna for the earpiece. “Uhhh, Clarke wants to talk to you.”
Luna winced and handed over the small device. Clarke examined it before putting it in her ear, “We are on S3.” She tapped a giant three on the wall, “We came from the mines. Mines go outside.” Clarke knew that it was important, she knew that that meant something.If anyone would figure it out, she could depend on Raven to do it.
“Nice to hear your voice again.” Raven sounded… relieved? “Still dedicated to the cause?”
“We came from the mines.” Clarke repeated, getting frustrated with herself and Raven. The answer to everything sat on the tip of her tongue, but all she could think about was the itchy sensation of glass beetles. Clarke stopped moving to scratch at her neck and arms.
“I heard you the first time, but I don’t know the layout of the mountain, I’ve never been able to access those files, or any part of the mountain outside of our own.”
Clarke grimaced, her nails digging into the raw welts on her arms, “There’s something!” She kicked the vent, “I’m missing!” Luna drew back just in time to avoid getting kicked when Clarke threw herself at the walls, crashing into the walls and ceiling of the vents, bashing herself against every hard surface in range to try and stop the itching.
“Oh my god, wait a minute, I think I just heard something?”
Clarke hesitated, kicking the wall twice, “Did you hear that?”
“Yeah, and I think the rest of the mountain did too. Get out of there, find a place to hole up and I’ll rig a tracer for your earpiece.”
Clarke nodded, “The reapers are training herel.” She informed Luna, “They heard me.” She passed the earpiece back to Luna and started moving again, “Raven will find us.”
They kept moving and crawling through the vents, moving seemingly at random. Luna was completely lost and her stomach snarled its protest. She hadn’t eaten in forever. Clarke glanced over her shoulder and put a finger to her lips before starting to mess with one of the vent openings.
“Wait, shouldn’t we be waiting for Raven?” Luna hissed.
“Reapers find us first.” Clarke replied, using her nail to turn the screw. She grimaced when it began to tear but it distracted her from the crawling under her skin.
“Clarke what are you-”
Clarke shot her a look and Luna shut up, letting the blonde do what she wanted. Clarke opened up the vent and carefully removed it, sliding out of the vent and to the ground. “It’s safe.”
Luna climbed out of the vent and dropped to the ground, “Where are we?”
“Raven’s room.” Clarke looked around at the organized space, “I think.” She started digging through the desk. She was reassured by the utter mess inside the drawers. Clarke found a few different snacks inside and tossed them to Luna. “Eat.”
“What about you?” Luna held out a granola bar.
“No.” Clarke settled into the cramped space between the bed and the desk to wait, popping a couple of white pills into her mouth and crunching them slowly. It was the only thing that Luna had ever seen Clarke eat, and she ate a lot of them, she kept a pouch of them on her hip.
Luna sat on the bed and watched Clarke while she munched on those snacks. She hadn’t seen Clarke sleep for more than a few minutes since she found her in the mines. It was beginning to worry her. While she watched, Clarke’s eyes closed, hopefully in sleep.
Half an hour later Clarke’s eyes popped open and then the door opened. Raven’s eyes nearly popped out of her skull and she scooted into the room, shutting the door behind her, “Are you guys crazy? Everyone is looking for you right now!”
“Not here.” Clarke shrugged.
Raven blinked, “Clarke? Is that you?”
“Whoa..” Raven ran a hand through her hair. “You look rough kid.” It was an understatement, but she didn’t want to make Clarke feel bad. Her hair was a matted mess, her face smeared with white powder and some black oily substance that made her look like a ghost, and her clothes looked like pieces of leather with dried meat bits hanging off of it layered over the reaper uniform.
“You got even more talkative, I’m impressed.” Raven waved a hand when Clarke shrugged again, “Nevermind. I assume you have a plan?”
Clarke shook her head, “Can’t think.” She scratched at her neck again.
Raven frowned and tugged Clarke’s hand away from her neck, “That does not look good. How long have you been scratching?”
“Since the red.”
“Yeah you need to not do that anymore.” Raven looked over at Luna, “What exactly is she on?”
“That red stuff. They were injecting the others who were down in the mines with it as some kind of reward.” Luna confirmed.
Raven scoffed, “Sounds like the kind of fucked up slave system Wallace would come up with.” She checked Clarke for any other scratches, “You have any samples of the stuff? It might help us to know what she’s detoxing from.”
Clarke yanked herself out of Raven’s grip, “No. You can’t have it!”
Raven raised her hands, “Okay, we won’t, but then you need to get clean honey, because this whole thing kinda hinged on whatever you thought you had on the mountain.”
Luna frowned, “You planned for this?”
“Yeah.” Raven nodded, “Clarke was planning to go into the mines pretty much the minute you told her about it. She figured the key to taking down the mountain was there.” She pursed her lips at Luna, “You would have known that if you didn’t turn your back on her the second she needed you.”
“You walked away.” Raven snapped.
Clarke stepped between Raven and Luna, breathing heavily, her fingers twitching towards her knife as she glared at Raven. “Stop.” She growled.
Raven took an involuntary step back. “Uhh, Clarke?”
Raven mimed zipping her lips and took another step back, pressing herself against the wall in the small room. She didn’t necessarily think that Clarke was big before, but with that look on her face, Clarke felt like a giant.
Clarke loomed over Raven and everyone in the room heard her stomach add in a snarl that would have been funny in any other situation. Her nostrils flared and Clarke turned away from Raven, “Find as many as you can to fight the mountain.” She stalked towards the door.
“Uhh, where are you going?” Raven asked, terrified of this new Clarke and also how insane she was acting. Clearly the ones who made it back from the mines got it easy.
“Hungry.” Clarke drew her knife and left the room.
Luna paled, “I really hope she’s going to the cafeteria.”
Raven nodded, “I really hope she doesn’t remember all of this.”
Luna swallowed, “So we need an army huh?”
“Yeah.” Raven nodded.
“I-I know where to start. Can you get Harper in here?”
Thank you guys so much for your support. We are coming around the final bend here for Clarke's story and I'm not sure I'm totally happy with it, but I think that posting it will help me to decide where my problem is. In case anyone is confused about the time because there have been some rather significant skips in the last few chapters, Clarke was twelve when she was sent into the mines, and now, four years later is when this chapter takes place. I just don't think it's reasonable for such strong mental and physical conditioning to happen in less than six months.
Chapter 8: Death, thou shalt die
The mountain is falling, in a rush, everything begins to come together just as Clarke falls apart. The real question is what will be left?
Raven got to Harper just moments before a full lockdown sounded and everyone in the facility started running for their dorms to lock themselves into their rooms. The Reapers ran for their designated armory. “Come with me.”
“What are you talking about, I need to do a headcount!” Harper protested.
“This is more important.” Raven insisted, “Now come with me and we’ll see about taking care of all your kids.” That was all that Harper needed to hear, everyone knew that she remained in charge of general division because she acted like everyone’s mother. Making sure that they received a fos, and kept them on track until they understood the way of the mountain.
Before Harper, entering the mountain led to a lot more deaths. Raven honestly thought Harper was left alone because the recruits had a much higher survival rate, and with the right leverage, she could tell you most anything you wanted to know about everyone in the mountain.
Raven pushed Harper into her quarters and it only took the older girl a few minutes to recognize Luna, “I thought you washed out!” Harper scooped her into a tight hug, then pushed her away quickly for an inspection, “You’re a mess. What happened to you?”
“I did, I am, the mines.” Luna replied in quick succession, “But it’s not important. I need a list of everyone you would trust to fight against the mountain.”
Harper frowned, “You aren’t considering..”
“It’s in the process of happening right now.” Luna pointed up at the flashing lights, “You remember princess? The kid who almost broke the record at her orientation? She’s out there doing god knows what to the Reapers.”
“Oh god…” Harper sat down, staring at the floor.
Luna could only give her a few minutes to process before she was in Harper’s space, sitting beside her, “I need that list. Anyone who isn’t with us is going to die with the mountain. Reapers and recruits, and we can’t afford traitors.”
Harper ran a hand through her hair, “I can give you one better. May I?” She gestured to Raven’s worktable that had a few carefully organized projects waiting to be finished.
“Sure.” Raven frowned, wanting to see what Harper had in mind.
Harper sat down at her desk, “Did you two keep those little pins I gave you when you first arrived at the mountain?” She started digging out the soldering kit and a screwdriver set.
Luna nodded and Raven shrugged, “I lost mine.”
“I give one to every kid who walks in here. The ones I trust get a note with a three color code on it. The smart ones that I trust will connect the two.” Harper smirked, hunched over her own version of the pin.
“You sly dog!” Raven grinned, “You slipped a long radio transmitter under my nose? How come you aren’t engineering yet?”
“Because I’m good at everything.” Harper replied, “I’m no genius, but I’m good.” She narrowed her eyes and after a few minutes the pin was blinking yellow. “It’s broadcasting to hold for further orders.”
“I guess all we need is a plan.” Raven grinned, looking to Luna, “You want to show me were you found Wallace’s office? I could have some fun in there.”
Luna nodded, “Through there.” She pointed up to the vents.
Harper whistled, “I knew a few kids who used to wander those things, most never come back.”
“That’s because they lead to the mines.” Luna replied, climbing up into the vent, “They either escaped, or they’re dead. Very very dead.” She muttered, remembering the hunting parties she had run from when she first woke up in the chute.
Clarke wiped the blood off on her sleeve and stalked further into the lab full of emaciated bodies, they were all faces she had seen delivered, or the faces of ex Cerberi. The ones who went too long without the red.
She shoved the corpses aside trying to find any trace of the red or the white pills they were given alongside it. She was almost out and she knew that if she couldn’t find more, if she couldn’t taste it again then she would taste like nothing. Just like the other ones in this room.
Clarke dug through the cabinets finding nothing but syringes and gauze and other things that didn’t matter. Then she spotted a locked door.
She walked over to it and ripped the padlock off the door and kicked it in with a roar. She needs the red. Clarke walked into the lab and found vials of who knows how many substances, but the only one she could focus on was the batch labeled R35. Even if her skin weren’t crawling with the need to see only one color and to feel it burn through her veins, she would have recognized that bright red anywhere.
She grabbed at one of the delivery guns on the table and with shaking hands she poured the vial into the gun, her brain already beginning to haze over in anticipation of the red. Clarke slid to her knees and pressed the needle to her neck. She felt as much as heard the thump on the back of her head, and her vision was swallowed by black.
Clarke woke with a pounding headache and her gut twisting in agony. She moved to curl in on herself and there was a resistance, ropes tied around her wrists. Clarke pulled at them, testing the strength of the knots.
“She’s awake!” Someone exclaimed, a girl.
“Let me out!” Clarke snarled, arching her back as she strained at the ropes, trying to pull them off, or rip away the moorings.
“Shit! Someone hold her down!” A couple of bodies landed on top of her, weighing her limbs down and she felt the ropes pull taut, forcing her back to the ground.
Clarke let out a sound that wasn’t human, something between a scream and a roar that had everyone in the room terrified for the moment she broke free. Because everyone in that room knew it wasn’t an if, it was a when. Her wrists were already raw from pulling, and the bolted down desk they’d tied one leg to had bent with the force of her struggles.
Clarke thrashed and flailed, trying to throw them off of her and get free, screaming and yelling. One person got too close and Clarke bit a chunk out of their arm.
“Clarke!” Luna threw herself on top of the girl and held up something small and red.
The whole room went silent save for panting breaths and the quiet whimpers of the bitten boy. Clarke stared at the little red pill, her whole body straining lightly towards it, like a dog fighting their instinct to just take the treat from your hand.
“Do you want this?” Luna asked.
Clarke nodded, “Please..” She whimpered, leaning her head a little further forward.
“You can have the red, when you tell us how to destroy the mountain.” Luna replied. She hated this, hated seeing Clarke tied up and flailing like a wild beast, but as far as she knew, Clarke was the only one who could destroy the mountain once and for all. And from what Asiya had said about the contents of the vial Clarke had nearly injected herself with, there was no easy way to come down from it.
She couldn’t afford to let Clarke die, not just for herself, but for the others too. “Can’t think.” Clarke begged, “Need, red.” She struggled a little bit and Luna tucked the pill behind her back.
“That isn’t how this works. You tell me how, and I give you the red.”
Clarke squeezed her eyes shut and arched her back again, but this didn’t look like an intentional struggle, it looked like genuine pain. She fell back against the concrete with tears in her eyes, and when she spoke again, it sounded like a monster had inhabited her body. “Hungry.”
Luna looked to Asiya for guidance. The girl was being groomed to become the next medical officer and as such, was really the only one who could even guess at the contents of the drug. She and Raven had worked out the little pill to give Clarke her dose slowly, and hopefully give it to her as a way to let her detox from it, really detox.
“The steroids in the cocktail would affect her metabolism, she could very well be starving. I doubt we can give her enough food to handle it though, the bowels can only absorb so much nutrient-wise.”
“Pills.” Clarke choked out, squirming again, “White pills.” She clenched her fists and arched so hard that two of the moorings for her ropes creaked, bending under her strength.
“I don’t know what she’s-” Asiya started.
Luna ignored her, scrambling for Clarke’s hip pouch, she pulled out a little white pill. “This?”
“Yes!” Clarke curled herself forward, her shoulders stretched to their limits as she tried to get at the little white pill. “Hungry!”
Luna gave her four of the white ones, remembering that Clarke usually grabbed that many when she began munching on them. Luna dropped them into Clarke’s open mouth and sat back as the older girl chewed and swallowed the pills, falling back to the ground. “Red?” Clarke asked hopefully.
“How do I take down the mountain.” Luna demanded.
“Wallace.” Clarke closed her eyes, “Numbers.” She shook her head, “Need red.”
“Numbers? Does anyone know what she’s talking about?” Luna looked around to the hundred odd recruits and reapers gathered around her.
“Clarke had me get her the components to a keystroke monitor, maybe she recorded some important numbers? A code to something?”
Clarke nodded, groaning, “Red, please!”
“What do those numbers do?” Luna grabbed Clarke’s face to make her focus, hating herself for putting this girl in so much pain. “Just tell me and you can have the red.” She begged.
Clarke shook her head, “Can’t, need it.” She turned away, seemingly unaware of the amount of strength Luna had put into holding her in place.
“Stop it.” Octavia finally snapped, “She can’t help us if she’s dead. We have control of the sector, we’ll worry about taking down the mountain later. We can evacuate through the mines and get our people to safety.”
“It’s not that simple, if we leave then they plug the holes and keep going!” Ontari snarled.
“Of course you want to kill her, you’ve had it in for her since you met her.” Roan rolled his eyes.
Octavia pushed past them, grabbed the pill from Luna and looked at Clarke, “We give you this, you help us.”
Clarke nodded eagerly, her mouth open. Octavia dropped the pill into her mouth and Clarke swallowed it. The blonde relaxed, expecting the wave of red, the haze of blood over her eyes, but it didn’t come.
“Liar!” Clarke snarled, bucking Luna off her chest and pulled at her bonds so hard that one of her hands slipped free.
“Stop her!” Someone shouted and a dozen bodies threw themselves onto Clarke’s struggling form, holding her down through weight more than anything else. Clarke grabbed at one, squeezed their neck so tight she could almost feel it snap, and then three sets of hands pried her off.
She fought and fought and fought so hard that the first hints of the haze washed over her eyes. Clarke felt the wave of ecstasy wash over her and her eyes rolled back into her head as she dropped back onto the floor.
“Okay, why are we keeping the crazy princess?” Ontari asked, soothing the bruises on Benjamin’s throat, “She’s going to get us killed.”
“She’s going to help us take down the mountain.” Raven snapped, “So back off, or we’ll throw you back to the wolves.”
Ontari narrowed her eyes, “I’m not stupid enough to think the mountain kept me around to do me any favors, I’m just saying that we have a homicidal maniac with a serious drug problem laying on the floor and we aren’t killing her.”
“Stop arguing.” Harper knelt by Clarke’s hand and carefully relocated the girl’s thumb. Clarke didn’t even twitch, she hummed to herself with a tiny smile on her face. “She’s in pain and lashing out, you’ve seen her stay cool under pressure a dozen times. They did something to her, and we owe it to her to kill the mountain and let her see it.”
Clarke sighed, eyes opening lazily, “You should leave.” She smiled, “I will kill the mountain and make mommy so proud.”
Raven went pale, “That was disturbingly articulate.”
Clarke rolled over and slowly began untying the rope on her wrist. Harper backed up a little bit, “Maybe we should help her?”
“I’m all for crazy girl going on a suicide mission.” Ontari shrugged, pulling out a knife and cut the rope at Clarke’s foot.
“You should leave.” Clarke informed her with a partly feral grin, looking genuinely pleased with Ontari.
“Okay creepy kid, leaving. Anyone know the way out?” Ontari looked around.
“I can find it.” Roan nodded, “But how is Clarke going to survive?”
Clarke got the rest of her limbs free and stood up, stretching herself out. “I am the mountain slayer.” She grinned, “I never die.”
One of the other guys shrugged, “I mean she isn’t wrong, none of the clans will let the memory of her die.”
“Fuck the other clans.” Someone snapped, “They left us in here as much as Wallace did.”
“I’m going to eat his liver.” Clarke chuckled darkly, walking over to the small pile of arms and munitions they’d gathered and picked out a hunting knife.
More than half of them took a step back at that and traded looks of mixed fear and awe. Luna fought off the shudder of revulsion and looked to the others, “Okay, Harper, Roan, you two get everyone out, take all the weapons, and if you see anyone down there you shoot to kill. I’m going to keep an eye on Clarke and make sure she completes her mission.”
“I’m with you.” Octavia stepped towards Luna.
“Same, there’s no way you’re getting into his office without my genius.” Raven cracked her knuckles.
“You’ll need some real muscle too, no offense to you kid.” Ontari nodded to Octavia, “But if someone needs to put the princess down, it should be be me.”
Octavia frowned but she didn’t argue against it. “Okay,” Harper looked around, “General division, engineering, infiltration, you’re with me. All other divisions go with Roan, and the strike team is with Clarke. Rendezvous five miles west of the mountain, wherever that is and light a bonfire to signal your location.” Harper made sure everyone understood.
Harper looked to Luna, “We will keep the fires burning for six hours after the mountain goes down, make your way there if you can. If not…”
“Mebi oso na hit choda op nodotiem.” Luna nodded, “We’ll do what we can, you just worry about getting our people out of here.”
“Agreed.” Harper nodded.
Clarke walked out the door.
“Shit!” Ontari grabbed a handgun and ran after her, “Asset is moving, goodbyes are over.”
Octavia snagged a pair of weapons and dragged Raven out of the room with Luna close on her tail.
The room was silent after they left, silent until Harper stood up, “Alright, everyone divide into squads of ten with one squad leader. Squad leaders are responsible for everyone, if someone from your squad falls behind, you’ll get thrown back in after them.”
The children divided themselves out into teams in only a few minutes. A few minutes that Harper used to figure out their path with Roan. He was foggy on details, but overall they had a decent enough exit plan.
Their fight was over as soon as they forced the rest of the Reapers out of their sector.
Meanwhile Clarke stepped over the bodies of dead Reapers, humming to herself. She leaned down, checking the temperature of one and sighed, “Too cold.”
“What’s too cold?” Ontari asked, gun pointed to the ground, eyes scanning for any mobile enemies.
Clarke looked over at Ontari with an intense kind of insanity in her eyes, “If we were playing hot and cold, you would be too cold.”
Ontari raised an eyebrow, “Well how about we heat things up huh? I’m not a huge fan of crazy barbie, I prefer the robot princess if we’re being honest.”
“Princess was never a robot.” Clarke shrugged, starting to walk again when the rest of their strike team joined them. “Wanheda was waiting to strike, just like mama taught her to.”
“Well your mama was fucked up. Also I get you’re Skaikru, but taking on the name of your famous assassin is egotistical at best.” Ontari commented.
“It’s not egotistical, she is Wanheda.” Raven replied.
“Wait what?” Octavia was shocked.
“Not the time.” Luna snapped.
Clarke grinned and found the door for Wallace’s office and gave it a kick.
“I don’t think that’s going to work.” Raven commented, “If you just-”
“-Let me get the keypad-”
The door flew open.
“Red hot.” Clarke entered the room in a crouch, narrowing her eyes at the empty office. “Chicken.” She climbed the bookcase to put her face into the camera, “I was going to eat your liver Wallace.” She sneered, “Now I am hungry.”
“Clarke,” Luna snapped, “You can eat his liver later.”
“Never thought I’d hear that sentence.” Octavia muttered.
Clarke growled and ripped the camera out of its moorings, hopping back down to the ground. She tossed the useless tech out of the way and sat down in Wallace’s desk. “Mama had a desk like this.” Clarke smiled, lifting a panel in the wood out of the way revealing a small console. “She always taught me to find secrets.” Clarke ripped the sleeve off her shirt. “This is his secret.” She showed Raven the numbers.
“I could kiss you.” Raven informed her, perching in Clarke’s lap to start typing into the console.
“More red?” Clarke asked, resting her chin on Raven’s shoulder.
“Harper has it. We need to make it out of here safe if you want more red.” Raven informed her, “So I’m going to do this,” Raven jotted down the numbers on Clarke’s arm, “And you are going to get us out of here okay sweetie.”
Clarke nodded and got out of the chair, giving Raven her seat. She closed the door to the office and started ripping apart the bookcases lining the walls, tearing through the thin wood like it was made of paper.
Luna, Octavia and Ontari watched the destruction with mild appreciation. “You have to admit the girl is motivated.” Octavia murmured.
Clarke yanked over a bookcase and found a seam in the wall. While Raven opened up a program and tried to bend it to her will, Clarke bent steel to hers. Slowly, but surely, breaking her way through the door.
She was panting heavily, and red in the face when she finally dented the door enough to make it swing open. Raven glanced over, “I’m not sure detox is the right plan, she’s like a comic book hero.”
Ontari slapped her upside the head, “Even I’m uncomfortable with what is happening to the princess. Just tell me you figured out what she has.”
“Self-destruct codes. They have fucking nuclear weapons stored on the top floor, and somehow Clarke has the self-destruct codes cut into her arms.” Raven looked up to Ontari, “You want to explain that one?”
Ontari watched Clarke creep into the now open doorway, her body bent into an aggressive crouch. “I dunno, explain how she went from Jane to Tarzan.”
“Drugs.” Raven shrugged, standing up from the desk, “I think that’s it. The timer is set for five minutes. I figure it gives us a head start, and stops them from overriding the destruct code.”
Ontari nodded, then shot the display. “No touch screen, no override. Let’s go.”
Raven glared at her, “Fucking wetworks.” She muttered, going into Clarke’s secret door.
“Five minutes, pick up the pace!” Octavia urged, breaking into a run.
“This way!” Clarke called from far ahead.
Ontari hesitated at the front of the pack when she saw the pile of bodies with a multitude of wounds on them. “Clarke what is this?” She shouted, hopping the bodies.
“Hungry.” Clarke was waiting at the end of the hall, sucking on one of her fingertips. “Won’t open.” She kicked the door gently, wincing a little.
“Raven, tell me you know how to open this door.” Ontari growled.
Raven huffed and shoved past her, opening up the panel and started tracing wires. She muttered to herself for what felt like ages before ripping out the ends of a few wires and touched the ends. “Got it.” The door popped open and Raven broke into a jog, her leg brace squeaking.
Clarke lifted Raven up and tossed her on her back, running casually even with the extra weight. “Quiet time.” Clarke informed them, leading the way into the caves on the other side of the door. She’d never seen these caves before, but she knew that no one in the mines would dare to mess with Wanheda, not Wanheda with fresh red. Better red. This red was lasting so much longer than the rest.
She could still taste that burn in her veins and the haze on the edge of her vision. She felt good, warm and powerful. Like the first time she had the red and for hours she felt like a goddess burning in her own skin, ready to shed her own flesh away for something better, something more.
She heard her heart pounding in her ears, the colors faded from the world until everything was just different shades of red. Clarke reveled in the sensations, the heat of a warm body on her back, the smell of sweat and flesh filling her nose. The only reason she didn’t turn and eat her fill was because these ones had more red, more red is better than more food.
The tunnel twisted and turned but it never branched off, and by the time they reached the edge of the tunnel and saw trees and grass and the dark night sky, a rumble began in the mountain. A rumbled followed by fire and explosions.
Clarke picked up the pace and set Raven down at the edge of the trees. Then she turned around to watch the beautiful explosions of red, pink and white across the sky, lighting the sides of the mountain harshly. Clarke saw in the harsh light a figure running down the side of the mountain.
“Rats fleeing the ship.” Luna muttered, glaring at them.
Ontari lifted her gun, “No one gets to leave alive.” She glared at them.
Clarke slid into a crouch, “Hungry.” She took off in a dead sprint back towards the mountain as the rest of the mountain continued to explode, cascading as the entire structure crumbled into dust, in a fractured scar of the monument that was there before.
Both she and the figure stumbled, but she could only see red. The figure before her wasn’t seeing red, wasn’t required to live for her to get more red, in fact, the holders of the red wanted this one dead. As far as she is concerned, that makes this one food.
She tackled the figure to the ground, her knife digging into the figure’s spine. She turned him over and grinned, “Wallace.” Clarke’s eyes gleamed, “I promised to eat your liver.”
“No-no-no, you don’t want me, you want red.” He dug through his bag frantically and pulled out one of the injection guns, showing it to Clarke, “You want red don’t you?”
She looked down at the drug and then back up to Wallace, her head tilting like a curious animal. “Both is good.” Clarke drove her knife into his chest and took the injection gun, kneeling back and slid the needle into her neck.
Her eyes rolled back as everything went red.
Chapter 9: Epiogue
This is it, the end of the mountain and the beginning of something new, an introduction to the next step in their war against the people who allowed the mountain exist.
Six months later.
Raven found Clarke in her usual perch, curled up in the corner of the balcony just by the speakers where no one could talk, and she could just let the beats sink into her skin. That’s how Clarke described it anyway. Raven didn’t mind the sound as much, but she did like the view quite a bit.
Between Harper and Luna, well those two worked a minor miracle in building the Rig. It went from a ramshackle bar under a nearly bankrupt apartment complex to a decent enough nightclub with all the space to house their people upstairs.
Raven smirked, she had been the one who got them the funds, with a little help from Monty, the other resident genius in their little band. Between the two of them, they found most of the mountain’s accounts and cleaned them out, it helped that Wallace used permutations of the same damn password for everything.
After that it was just a matter of elbow grease and some word of mouth, which in a college town goes a lot further than anyone really expects and they had a successful-ish business.
“You staying here all night?” Raven asked, just loud enough to be heard over the speakers.
Clarke nodded, holding on to the wrought iron railing, her legs dangling down over the middle of the dance floor. Her eyes were focused on the bar by the front where Luna was pouring drinks with Gaia, Costia and Tesla. They had hired on a real bartender for maybe two months before the guy started asking too many questions about everyone. That was when he got disappeared.
After that Luna took over the bar, and Clarke took up her new perch. Watching tired, stressed students from Polis University file in, flirting with Luna and the others, getting their drinks, sometimes bearing their woes and hopes before they lost themselves on the dance floor. It was an endless cycle that continued every night.
“It’s really not healthy to do this Clarke.” Raven informed her, “You need to do something with your life besides person watch.”
Clarke turned to Raven and the older girl swallowed. Clarke had been mostly weaned off the red with a lot of pain, hassle, screaming, and a disgusting amount of organ meat that Asiya and Lincoln had assured her was necessary to keep Clarke’s body from eating itself from the inside. But her eyes never turned back from that intense, terrifying blue that reminded her that this was the girl who somehow managed to demolish the mountain while high off her ass on what Lincoln had described as ‘the most aggro shit he’d ever heard of’ which is saying something coming from the ex-wetworks guy.
“I am going to destroy Skaikru, and all the clans. That is something.”
“Something that doesn’t involve putting your enemies on a pike.” Raven patted Clarke’s shoulder, reminding herself that the wild animal from the mountain was gone. Mostly.
Clarke turned back to her person watching.
“Dude.” Raven grabbed Clarke by the chin and made her turn to look, “I am going to enroll you in the university, in fact, I already did. You’re welcome. You can run your new crime fighting empire from there okay? Because this is starting to worry everyone. Especially her.” Raven pointed to Luna.
Clarke followed the direction of Raven’s finger and sighed, nodding. She knew that there was going to be no way to argue with Raven, and with the funds they had siphoned, anyone from the mountain who had wanted to go to a normal high school or college had that opportunity. She might as well take advantage before Raven actually started trying to act like her mom.
Raven and Harper took turns being Madi, Benjamin and Katsein’s parents whenever there was an issue at the high schools.
Clarke and Octavia took care of any problems with the college. Though now, she supposed it would be Ingan, Roan and Ontari that would begin handling that once they graduated from the Polis Police Academy in a month.
“Have you found anymore shipments?” Clarke looked over at Raven.
Raven rolled her eyes, “Subtle. Yes, we have some people on it.”
“I’m going too.” Clarke stood up.
“Hey!” Raven got up and followed Clarke, “I know this is your personal vendetta against the mines, but you can’t just throw yourself in there, you’re not objective about this Clarke!”
Clarke didn’t respond until they were in the back room where the noise of the music was reduced to light thudding, “I haven’t been objective since I was six years old, it hasn’t stopped me yet.”
Raven huffed, “Fine, but Tristann is team lead on this one.”
Clarke’s face twitched, “Sure.”
Clarke’s footsteps took her to the basement where previous owners had stored backup booze which now sat in orderly crates in the corner, while the rest of their operation filled the rest of the lower level. She entered in the six digit code ‘RE4P3R’ into the keypad under the handle and took in the sweet smell of home.
A handful of her people were talking with one another while hovering over a bank of computers, watching a heist on a truck carrying weapons from Azgeda get taken over by her people. The mission is delicate, and the weapons even more so, hence the extra hands on deck to watch it.
Clarke walked over to the four man squad in black and grey, “Hefa,” She hesitated, glancing down to the scarred over bite mark on his forearm, then back up to his face. “I’d like in on the drug hit.”
“So polite.” Tristann grinned, “Wanheda is always welcome to join us, just try to keep yourself aimed at the enemy this time.” He teased. The other three laughed and traded eager grins.
Clarke nodded, grabbing her gear. She didn’t understand it, how they could treat these missions like a game now that the mountain had no power over them. They had stolen from every one of the thirteen clans, though Skaikru had a special place in everyone’s hearts and took the brunt of their rage. Somehow, after the mountain her people spoke to her with awe, and a smile.
They messed around like children, joking about their different codenames and how silly it all sounded. Clarke didn’t understand how they could risk their lives with a smile on their faces for her-her obsession. She had looked them in the eyes and asked them to keep fighting, to keep getting hurt, or even dying, and somehow they all looked back and agreed to do it.
“Hefa, your crew is good to go, Skynet says that we’ll have a thirty minute head-start on them, so plan your ambush carefully.” Bellamy briefed Tristann, Bellamy organized most of their ops with his mother hen attitude that almost managed to match Harper’s. Hence his codename being nomon, or mother in Trikru’s not-so secret language.
Clarke listened carefully while she strapped on her various knives, and the one handgun that everyone was required to carry on a mission, no matter their fighting preference, and finally she slid the earpiece Raven had designed into her ear.
Tristann clapped Bellamy on the shoulder, “Don’t wait up for us.”
-To be continued