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3AM really wasn’t the best time to be finishing reports, yet here Lexie was, using the dim light of the old computer in front of her to guide her pen along the paper, the third cup of coffee that evening resting on a stack of old newspapers nearby. Every so often she would glance up at the screen, just to make sure everything was okay. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There was no reason to be concerned.

Yet, she thought.

Taking another sip of coffee, Lexie stared at the report blearily, waiting for the words to come into focus. The metal desk, warm with the radiation from the machinery, invited her to lean onto the table and doze off.

Lexie finally finished filling out the form she was on and let the pen fall, glaring at the formidable stack of reports she had yet to complete. She could do those now, and not have to worry about them later.

Or she could go to sleep. That seemed like an equally nice plan.

Silently apologizing to the future Lexie who would have to deal with these later, she stood and stretched upwards, her stiff joints popping and cracking loudly. She poured the leftover coffee into one of the tabletop plants and wove her way around the untucked chairs strewn around the tables.

She almost missed the quiet beep of the alert. It was nearly drowned out by the low hum of the computers. But it was just loud enough to catch Lexie’s attention.

There had only been a few at first, and farther out. But now over fifty red dots had accumulated on the main monitor, and they were only about fifty kilometers away from the barrier.

They were back.

Lexie hastily sprinted to the alarm switch and pulled it, prompting a shrill, scream-like sound to rip through the facility. The bright fluorescent lights flickered on, piercing the near darkness and blinding her. She squinted, waiting for her eyes to adjust.

Forty-three kilometers.

They were losing time.

Behind her, the doors opened, and a handful of confused and panicked people poured in. Lexie saw Clementine squeeze through the crowd and stride over to her, her faded red hair sticking up at random angles.

“Do the Mordarai have no concept of cooldown time?” She rubbed at the dark circles under her eyes in exasperation. “We just fought them like a week ago.” Before, they might have been able to take this on. There didn’t seem to be many Mordarai out there. But Lexie evaluated the team in front of her now. Covered in bandages, barely put together after the last devastating fight. Not to mention their size had been just about cut in half. There were too many things that could go wrong, too many liabilities she had to account for.

They weren’t going to survive this.

Honestly, she blamed herself. She hadn’t anticipated just how many guards were going to be positioned in the prison the night they broke in. She hadn’t mapped their routes, or shifts, or thought to sneak in through the back to avoid detection. But none of that had mattered to her at the time.

It should have.

The Mordarai had known she was coming. They had known exactly who she would bring. They had made it seem easy, lured her into a false sense of security. Everything was quiet until Lexie found Lilly.

Or rather, her body.

Their leader, their glorious, powerful, confident leader, Lexie’s sister, was dead.

Then the Guns came. Only she and Clementine had made it out to the remainder of the patrol she had brought. The Guns had made quick work of it, only leaving three survivors.

They had laid the perfect trap, and Lexie had fallen right into it.

“Two hundred Guns and three Rams!” Jack yelled from the balcony above them. Lexie looked back at the monitor. The dots were three kilometers out.

“Smith, what do we do?” Clementine asked desperately. “We’re not going to win this.”

The group looked at her expectantly. Waiting for her to make a call.

“Smith?” Jack materialized beside her.

They all waited.

She didn’t know what to do.

Lilly would have told them to fight, to resist until none of them were left standing.

Or they could surrender, and face the consequences for deviating from their corrupt society. Consequences that Lexie was sure would lead to their deaths.

“Alright, here’s what we’re going to do.” She straightened up, turning towards Clementine. “Lanhardt, take Reed and a small group to the artillery. Bring every last gun we have.”

“Our ammunition is low,” Clementine countered. “Are we seriously going to fight the Mordarai?” Silence. Lexie’s eyes flitted from person to person, absorbing the anxious expressions on their faces. For a split second, the back of her mind nagged at her, telling her to turn herself in.

But only for a second.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you.” Lexie stepped onto one of the desks, addressing the entire group. “There are a lot of Guns out there. A lot more than there are of us.” A murmur rose from the crowd, silenced when Lexie cleared her throat. “I am not the leader my sister was, but she would tell us to fight. We’ve come this far, and surrendering would make all that we’ve accomplished for nothing!” Her words hung in the air, surrounded by the quiet of the room. Clementine and Jack exchanged glances.

Lexie gestured at the screen, at the red dots practically at their doorstep. “If we go out there, we go together. United. If you’d rather go out and surrender, do it now.” She paused, expecting the population of the room to at least halve, but nobody moved. Jack looked around, then stepped forward until he was just inches away from Lexie.

“Well, it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere, so what’s the plan, Captain?” He said, a smirk on his face. Lexie turned back to the monitor.

“The guns. Bring them. The rest of you, come with me.” She hopped off the table and led her team to the front gate. She pressed the combination into the keypad, and the metal doors slid open to reveal the forest that surrounded their bunker. From behind them, the others had returned and were distributing weapons. When Jack reached her, he pressed a cold pistol into her hand, then took his place next to Clementine.

Lexie eyed the gun, running her hand over the chrome exterior and the blue display that confirmed Clementine’s previous statement about the lack of ammunition. She maybe had enough juice to take down one Gun, maybe two if her aim suddenly perfected itself in the next five minutes.

It wasn’t much, but it would have to be enough.

The group moved onto the outer platform. In front of them, maybe half a kilometer out, was the exterior wall of the city, where the Rams were most likely positioned, ready to pulverize it in a second.

The crackling sound of electricity pierced the air. The Rams were charging up.

“Snipers, get into position,” Lexie ordered. Clementine and another man moved to the edge of the platform, pointing their rifles at the wall. Lexie took a deep breath, her grip on her pistol tightening.

“If we die today, the first thing I'm going to say to you two in the afterlife is ‘I told you so,’” Clementine said, her gaze not leaving the scope of her gun. From beside Lexie, Jack started laughing.

“That’s the spirit, Clem. If we go down, might as well go down laughing, right?” he chuckled.

“Oh, shut up.”

“Love you too, sweetie,” he responded. Lexie smiled mirthlessly at her friends, glad that just for a second, things were okay.

The world shook as the walls crashed to the ground.

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