The 100 (The Hundred #1)(3) by Kass Morgan

CHAPTER 3

Bellamy

Of course the smug bastard was late. Bellamy tapped his foot impatiently, not caring about the echo that rang throughout the storeroom. No one came down here anymore; anything valuable had been snatched up years ago. Every surface was covered with junk—spare parts for machines whose functions had been long forgotten, paper currency, endless tangles of cords and wires, cracked screens and monitors.

Bellamy felt a hand on his shoulder and spun around, raising his fists to W/block his face as he ducked to the side.

“Relax, man,” Colton’s voice called out as he switched on his flashbeam, shining it right in Bellamy’s eyes. He surveyed Bellamy with an amused expression on his long, narrow face. “Why’d you want to meet down here?” He smirked. “Looking for caveman p**n on broken computers? No judgments. If I were stuck with what passes for a girl down on Walden, I’d probably develop some sick habits myself.”

Bellamy ignored the jab. Despite his former friend’s new role as a guard, Colton didn’t stand a chance with a girl no matter what ship he was on. “Just tell me what’s going on, okay?” Bellamy said, doing his best to keep his tone light.

Colton leaned back against the wall and smiled. “Don’t let the uniform fool you, brother. I haven’t forgotten the first rule of business.” He held out his hand. “Give it to me.”

“You’re the one who’s confused, Colt. You know I always come through.” He patted the pocket that held the chip loaded with stolen ration points. “Now tell me where she is.”

The guard smirked, and Bellamy felt something in his chest tighten. He’d been bribing Colton for information about Octavia since her arrest, and the idiot always seemed to find twisted pleasure in delivering bad news.

“They’re sending them off today.” The words landed with a thud in Bellamy’s chest. “They got one of the old dropships on G deck working.” He held out his hand again. “Now come on. This mission’s top secret and I’m risking my ass for you. I’m done messing around.”

Bellamy’s stomach twisted as a series of images flashed before his eyes: his little sister strapped into an ancient metal cage, hurtling through space at a thousand kilometers an hour. Her face turning purple as she struggled to breathe the toxic air. Her crumpled body lying just as still as—

Bellamy took a step forward. “I’m sorry, man.”

Colton narrowed his eyes. “For what?”

“For this.” Bellamy drew his arm back, then punched the guard right in the jaw. There was a loud crack, but he felt nothing but his racing heart as he watched Colton fall to the ground.

Thirty minutes later, Bellamy was trying to wrap his mind around the strange scene in front of him. His back was against the wall of a wide hallway that led onto a steep ramp. Convicts streamed by in gray jackets, led down the incline by a handful of guards. At the bottom was the dropship, a circular contraption outfitted with rows of harnessed seats that would take the poor, clueless kids to Earth.

The whole thing was completely sick, but he supposed it was better than the alternative. While you were supposed to get a retrial at your eighteenth birthday, in the last year or so, pretty much every juvenile defendant had been found guilty. Without this mission, they’d be counting down the days until their executions.

Bellamy’s stomach clenched as his eyes settled on a second ramp, and for a moment, he worried that he’d missed Octavia. But it didn’t matter whether he saw her board. They’d be reunited soon enough.

Bellamy tugged on the sleeves of Colton’s uniform. It barely fit, but so far none of the other guards seemed to notice. They were focused on the bottom of the ramp, where Chancellor Jaha was speaking to the passengers.

“You have bt

Bellamy barely suppressed a snort. The Chancellor had some nerve to stand there, spewing whatever bullshit helped him sleep at night.

“We’ll be monitoring your progress very closely, in order to keep you safe,” the Chancellor continued as the next ten prisoners filed down the ramp, accompanied by a guard who gave the Chancellor a crisp salute before depositing his charges in the dropship and retreating back up to stand in the hallway. Bellamy searched the crowd for Luke, the only Waldenite he knew who hadn’t turned into a total prick after becoming a guard. But there were fewer than a dozen guards on the launch deck; the Council had clearly decided that secrecy was more important than security.

He tried not to tap his feet with impatience as the line of prisoners proceeded down the ramp. If he was caught posing as a guard, the list of infractions would be endless: bribery, blackmail, identity theft, conspiracy, and whatever else the Council felt like adding to the mix. And since he was twenty, there’d be no Confinement for him; within twenty-four hours of his sentencing, he’d be dead.

Bellamy’s chest tightened as a familiar red hair ribbon appeared at the end of the hallway, peeking out from a curtain of glossy black hair. Octavia.

For the past ten months, he’d been consumed with agonizing worries about what was happening to her in Confinement. Was she getting enough to eat? Was she finding ways to stay occupied? Stay sane? While Confinement would be brutal for anyone, Bellamy knew that it’d be infinitely worse for O.

Bellamy had pretty much raised his younger sister. Or at least he’d tried. After their mother’s accident, he and Octavia had been placed under Council care. There was no precedent for what to do with siblings—with the strict population laws, a couple was never allowed to have more than one child, and sometimes, they weren’t permitted to have any at all—and so no one in the Colony understood what it meant to have a brother or sister. Bellamy and Octavia lived in different group homes for a number of years, but Bellamy had always looked out for her, sneaking her extra rations whenever he “wandered” into one of the restricted storage facilities, confronting the tough-talking older girls who thought it’d be fun to pick on the chubby-cheeked orphan with the big blue eyes. Bellamy worried about her constantly. The kid was special, and he’d do anything to give her a chance at a different life. Anything to make up for what she’d had to endure.

As Octavia’s guard led her onto the ramp, Bellamy suppressed a smile. While the other kids shuffled passively along as their escorts led them toward the dropship, it was clear Octavia was the one setting the pace. She moved deliberately, forcing her guard to shorten his stride as she sauntered down the ramp. She actually looked better than the last time he’d seen her. He supposed it made sense. She’d been sentenced to four years in Confinement, until a retrial on her eighteenth birthday that would very well lead to her execution. Now she was being given a second chance at a life. And Bellamy was going to make damn sure she got it.

He didn’t care what he had to do. He was going to Earth with her.

The Chancellor’s voice boomed over the clamor of footsteps and nervous whispers. He still held himself like a soldier, but his years on the Council had give whcil hadn him a politician’s gloss. “No one in the Colony knows what you are about to do, but if you succeed, we will all owe you our lives. I know that you’ll do your very best on behalf of yourselves, your families, everyone aboard this ship: the entire human race.”

When Octavia’s gaze settled on Bellamy, her mouth fell open in surprise. He could see her mind race to make sense of the situation. They both knew he’d never be selected as a guard, which meant that he had to be there as an impostor. But just as she began to mouth a warning, the Chancellor turned to address the prisoners who were still coming down the ramp. Octavia reluctantly turned her head, but Bellamy could see the tension in her shoulders.

His heart sped up as the Chancellor finished his remarks and motioned for the guards to finish loading the passengers. He had to wait for just the right moment. If he acted too soon, there’d be time to haul him out. If he waited too long, Octavia would be barreling through space toward a toxic planet, while he remained to face the consequences of disrupting the launch.

Finally, it was Octavia’s turn. She turned over her shoulder and caught his eye, shaking her head slightly, a clear warning not to do anything stupid.

But Bellamy had been doing stupid things his whole life, and he had no intention of stopping now.

The Chancellor nodded at a woman in a black uniform. She turned to the control panel next to the dropship and started pressing a series of buttons. Large numbers began flashing on the screen.

The countdown had begun.

He had three minutes to get past the door, down the ramp, and onto the dropship, or else lose his sister forever.

As the final passengers loaded, the mood in the room shifted. The guards next to Bellamy relaxed and began talking quietly among themselves. Across the deck on the other ramp, someone let out an obnoxious snort.

2:48… 2:47… 2:46…

Bellamy felt a tide of anger rise within him, momentarily overpowering his nerves. How could these assholes laugh when his sister and ninety-nine other kids were being sent on what might be a suicide mission?

2:32… 2:31… 2:30…

The woman by the control panel smiled and whispered something to the Chancellor, but he scowled and turned away.

The real guards had begun trudging back up and were filing into the hallway. Either they thought they had better things to do than witness humanity’s first attempt to return to Earth, or they thought the ancient dropship was going to explode and were headed to safety.

2:14… 2:13… 2:12…

Bellamy took a deep breath. It was time.

He shoved his way through the crowd and slipped behind a stocky guard whose holster was strapped carelessly to his belt, leaving the handle of the gun exposed. Bellamy snatched the weapon and charged down the loading ramp.

Before anyone knew what was happening, Bellamy jabbed his elbow into the Chancellor’s stomach and threw an arm around his neck, securing him in a headlock. The launch deck exploded with shouts and stamping feet, but before anyone had time to reach him, Bellamy placed the barrel of the gun against the Chancellor’s temple. There was no way he’d actually shoot the bastard, but the guards needed to think he meant business.

1:12… 1:11… 1:10…

“Everyone back up,” Bellamy shouted, tightening his hold. The Chancellor groaned. There was a loud beep, and the flashing numbers changed from green to red. Less than a minute left. All he had to do was wait until the door to the dropship started to close, then push the Chancellor out of the way and duck inside. There wouldn’t be any time to stop him. “Let me onto the dropship, or I’ll shoot.”

The room fell silent, save for the sound of a dozen guns being cocked.

In thirty seconds, he’d either be heading to Earth with Octavia, or back to Walden in a body bag.

CHAPTER 4

Glass

Glass had just hooked her harness when a flurry of shouts rose up. The guards were closing in around two figures near the entrance to the dropship. It was difficult to see through the shifting mass of uniforms, but Glass caught a flash of suit sleeve, a glimpse of gray hair, and the glint of metal. Then half the guards knelt down and raised their guns to their shoulders, giving Glass an unobstructed view: The Chancellor was being held hostage.

“Everyone back up,” the captor yelled, his voice shaking. He wore a uniform, but he clearly wasn’t a guard. His hair was far longer than regulation length, his jacket fit badly, and his awkward grip on the gun showed that he’d never been trained to use one.

No one moved. “I said back up.”

The numbness that had set in during the long walk from her cell to the launch deck melted away like an icy comet passing the sun, leaving a faint trail of hope in its wake. She didn’t belong here. She couldn’t pretend they were about to head off on some historic adventure. The moment the dropship detached from the ship, Glass’s heart would start to break. This is my chance, she thought suddenly, excitement and terror shooting through her.