Deena stared at the plains, wringing her hands. Moro said he would bring their daughter to her before the meeting at the Hall. She didn’t trust it. He liked to change his mind and hurt her.
Her head ached. Dreams haunted her sleep with faces of her children and friends, lost in the Siege. Mags was chief among them. She whispered in Deena’s sleep, “The time approaches. Be ready.” Deena’s mind was unclear, but her bones somehow knew…something.
She watched Moro pull into the parking space next to hers outside her tiny shack. He took their daughter’s small hand and led her to the door. Relieved but anxious, Deena met them there.
“Thank you,” She muttered, eyes averted.
Moro smiled. Terror washed over her. Since the Siege, he had not offered any generosity regarding Thea.
“I’ll see you both at the Hall tonight.” His cold glare took Deena’s breath.
As she held Thea’s hand she whispered her thanks again and ushered their daughter inside.
As he drove across the once thriving metropolis of Boren, Moro’s smile faded. The mandatory meeting for this small city in Inhofall, what used to be known as Oklahoma, would be sweet. His hand moved unconsciously to his chest. His ice blue eyes turned to stone.
“Momma, I got to pet a horse!” Thea squealed.
Deena smiled with effort. “That’s wonderful, honey. What color was it?”
“Brown, with white patches. Daddy said his name was Paint. His friend Jenko said he was…a relic. What does that mean?”
“It means we don’t have many left since the Siege. Most of them were taken by Hecates when he took power.”
“Just like everything nice was taken, like Rhea and Will. And Mags.” Thea’s smile faded. Deena cringed at the sadness in her child’s eyes.
“Yes, honey. We must get ready. Hecates will be at the Hall soon.”
Thea nodded solemnly as she allowed her mother to braid her brown locks in the style expected of all females of Inhofall.
Moro clicked a button on his ear piece. “It’s all set. I just have to make sure I get my daughter out first.”
A gruff male voice replied, “Don’t worry. Everything will go as planned.”
Deena and Thea drove to the Hall in her ancient Honda. Most of the roads had been obliterated during the Siege. The path she chose was hidden in the tall prairie grasses, used by a few of Boren’s residents.
The Hall was a monument to pain. Once used for Mozart concerts, dance recitals, and school activities, it now housed mandatory meetings in Boren. All music, dance, and the arts—those dance recitals Rhea had performed, the Spelling Bee Will had won in the district—were banned by Hecates. Deena’s hands trembled as they parked.
Walking toward the Hall, Deena held Thea’s hand while her other went to the small of her back. She felt it there, a comforting friend in this dangerous new world. The metal detectors shouldn’t sound, but she still feared Hec Team would discover it. With deep, ragged breaths, she led her daughter through the security station. No alarms sounded.
Moro stood in his dusty Hec Team uniform at the end of their assigned aisle. Still, Deena winced at the sight. He stood so close to terrorize her, remind her who was in charge. Something about him felt off, though. From a few seats away, she could see his smug expression. A dream from last night tugged at her memory. Mags’ voice so urgent. “Watch Moro. It’s happening.”
What’s happening? Deena’s brow creased with frustration. Whatever it was, she could smell the hate, palpable in the Hall and on her ex-husband’s face. Its stink had lingered since the Siege.
Hecates was led to the podium by his Hec Team. His blonde hair glared under the lone bulb that lit the stage. The rest of the Hall was shrouded in darkness.
Still, Deena watched Moro. His smile had returned. The few seats between him and their daughter were empty, an unusual occurrence. Deena’s skin prickled with fear. The emotion was a place she had inhabited since the Siege.
Her hand moved to the contraband knife she had carved from flint rock. She pulled it from the small of her back, holding it close to her thigh, out of sight. Maybe she was overreacting. Moro always accused her of it. Still, bad things happened when she doubted herself. She lost so much. Something was wrong, and she wasn’t willing to take chances.
Hecates droned on about the Mission, his successful takeover and implementation of a better way of life in Inhofall.
Moro’s lips moved as he stared at Deena. He kept touching the outside of his jacket. The feel of the plastic device there brought him glee. Soon he would set off the bomb placed by him and his comrades of Inhofall. But first, he had to get Thea out. The plan–Hecates and the Hec Team go off the stage first. Then, he would grab his daughter. His revenge complete.
Deena watched Moro in the darkness. He nodded toward another Hec Team member.
Hecates was ending his speech. The audience cheered obediently, but Deena didn’t stir. She saw it now. They were moving out. Hec guards stood at each exit.
Like a lioness, she sprang from her seat and took Moro down. She slashed his neck, smiling as his eyes glazed over. Ripping open his jacket, she found what he had been caressing.
Everyone else was watching Hecates leave the stage.
Taking Thea’s hand, she ran for the closest exit. The guard opened his mouth to protest, but her knife cut him short. He slumped against the wall.
Safely outside she picked up her girl, running as she pressed the button. The blast nearly knocked her to the ground. Thea screamed. Then they were in the Honda, speeding away.
Deena smiled at the dark cloud rising in her rearview mirror.