Hope for the best, but expect the worst, Marcus's voice echoed from the back of Eve's mind. After she let Charlotte slide off her back, she straightened and took a deep breath of fresh, non-recycled, so-far-not-deadly air. If this was the worst, then it wasn't too bad.
Taking another breath, she turned her head and examined the area. Thick, bright green vegetation blanketed the ground and trees. Furry vines hung over branches and curtained down to the ground, blending back into the grass. Out into the forest, a dense layer of fog stretched between trees and made anything beyond a few meters impossible to see, but that didn't stop the delinquents from trickling in. They ran and leaped through the virgin woods, their shouts of glee echoing in the vastness as they threw caution to the wind. Then, out in the field, she spotted Clarke's golden bob of hair bouncing behind her.
Eve told Charlotte to stay close, and then they both made their way through the tall grass.
It was time for a plan. After securing Dr. Griffin's daughter and the Chancellor's son, she'd contact the Ark through the communication panels on the first level and then map out their journey to Mount Weather. Easy-peasy.
That is if she didn't run into Bellamy Blake or his sister. Otherwise, the worst was yet to come.
"At least they gave everyone jackets. It's freezing down here," Eve said, shivering as she stretched the ends of her sleeves over her hands. She looked at Charlotte, expecting her to agree, but instead, Charlotte gave her an amused smile. "What, you don't think so? Look, watch." Eve exhaled a breath that turned a brisk, foggy white before it disappeared into the air. "It's like being in a damn icebox."
Charlotte shrugged. "Space is like a hundred degrees below or whatever. I don't think anything can get colder."
"Oh, I've got a few ex-boyfriends that'd disagree with you on that," Eve joked. Charlotte turned to her with an inquiring expression. "Oh… I'm guessing you've never been called a cold bi-" She paused. "Nevermind."
The younger girl smiled with amusement. "A cold bitch? No, I haven't."
"Then there's still hope for you."
"Thanks." She chuckled. "I guess."
Eve smiled and watched as Charlotte worked her way through the grass, her short legs lifting as high as possible. "You know," she said, sliding her cold hands into her pockets, "you should smile more. Really brings out the shine in your eyes."
Charlotte didn't respond, only smiled for a moment more before a frown pulled at the corner of her lips, the gleam dwindling.
Eve frowned. "You all right, sweetie?"
"Yeah," she assured, though the gloom persisted. "It's nothing."
With her head hung low and shoulders hunched over, Charlotte stared at the ground. "It's just—" She paused and took a breath, looking out into the distance with glistening eyes. "My mom used to say something like that."
Shit. Eve wanted to smack herself across the face. Nice going, Logan.
"Oh," she said, like an idiot, while the guilt tried to drag her straight into the dirt, "I'm sorry, Charlotte. I didn't know."
"No, it's okay." She shook her head. "It's not your fault."
Eve's insides twisted as she watched Charlotte regain her composure, wiping the water from her eyes with the back of her sleeve, sniffing the tears away. Eve knew those feelings all too well—loss, pain, despair—and the strength it took to push them back into their hollow depths, ignoring them when they tried to claw out. After a few years, Eve found a way to live with the pain, but Charlotte's was fresh—the wound still a gaping, bleeding mess. And it didn't help that the girl was alone since her parents' execution, in a prison of all places.
It also didn't help that Eve had been the one to sign off on their executions. Like she'd done for so many others.
Eve took a breath. "I know it's hard moving forward when you've lost everything," she began, hoping to reach Charlotte, if even for a moment, "and even harder when you're on your own…but it doesn't have to be. I lost my parents when I was young, too." She met Charlotte's sad gaze. "If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here for you, okay? When you're ready."
Charlotte's eyes welled with tears again, her lips pressed into a tight purse as she resisted the urge to cry. "Okay," she choked with a slight nod of her head.
With a sympathetic smile, Eve wrapped her arm around the girl's shoulders and soothed her arm. Charlotte leaned into her side and sniffled as they continued on their path, treading through the uneven terrain that sloped and dipped every so often.
Shouts traveled through the air from a distance. Eve turned her head to find two groups of the older boys facing each other, their expressions pressed into scowls as they snarled like dogs. She narrowed her eyes, hoping to get an ID on them, but they were too far. "What do you think that's about," she asked Charlotte.
Charlotte pulled away from her side to take a better look. Then, after a moment, she said, "gangs. That's probably Drew and Kettrick. They're always fighting."
"Do they get violent?"
"No." She shook her head. "They just act like they're gonna, but they never do. They like to pretend they're badasses."
Eve laughed. "Not like you, huh?"
Charlotte looked up at her with a cheeky grin. "Duh."
They threw their heads back and laughed, Eve's smile fading after a few seconds as her eyes drifted back to the boys standing behind Drew and Kettrick, the ones watching and listening. The dangerous ones weren't the loudmouths. It was those that stood back and waited. The ones that walked around corners with shivs in their sleeves.
Clarke remained only a few meters ahead now, still aimlessly finding her way through the field. Eve slowed her pace and scanned the area for anyone looking over the age of seventeen, specifically with dark, slicked-back hair and a guard's uniform—or their younger sister who held an unrelenting look of detest. But the Blakes were nowhere to be found, the open green field filled with only the prisoners that decided to not run off into the woods.
She cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted for Clarke.
Clarke stopped in her tracks, the loose strands of her golden hair moving in the breeze as she turned around and searched for the source of the call. Her gaze landed on Eve and Charlotte. She eyed them as they approached. "Yes?" she answered with suspicion in her voice.
"It's Logan. Eve Logan." Eve brushed the hood back for a moment before letting it fall in place. Charlotte appeared at her side, peering around at the others with curiosity. "This is Charlotte. Charlotte, this is Clarke."
The girls gave each other an acknowledging smile before Clarke returned her attention to Eve. "Why would they send you?"
Eve raised an eyebrow. "Well," she replied with a scoff. What the hell was her problem? "If you prefer someone else, Griffin, I'm sure we can make a call."
"No. I mean, when my mom said they'd send someone to help us, I didn't expect an officer. At a time like this? That's insane."
Eve glanced down at Charlotte, wondering if she heard that last bit of information. Fortunately, the girl seemed more occupied watching the nearby explorers pick up small objects off the floor than listening to their conversation.
"Things have changed since we last met," she explained, not interested in elaborating.
"You mean when you arrested my father?" Clarke said tartly, folding her arms across her chest. "Or when you arrested me?"
Ah, there it was. The source of Clarke's ire. How could Eve have forgotten?
Though, she hadn't. She just didn't expect Clarke to throw it in her face so soon, especially at a time like this. Not with people lurking around.
"Lower your voice," she warned her, trying to keep her own voice down. Before you get me lynched. "I was doing my job. If it hadn't been me, it would've been someone else. You know that."
A year ago, Clarke's father, the Ark's senior engineer and deputy resource officer, had discovered a fault within the oxygen generators. And then, one month later, the Chancellor sent her to arrest him. He was executed as a traitor, and his daughter was sent to solitary prison not long after. Eve, at the time, hadn't known the truth. She'd only been told they were conspiring to endanger the Ark's safety, which had been good enough for her.
In hindsight, she should've questioned it. She should've questioned a lot of things.
A silence stretched between them as Clarke continued to glower, looking for any reason to continue the conversation. But then, finally, she relented, her shoulders relaxing as she sighed heavily. "I know," Clarke admitted. "I'm glad you're here. Really. We're gonna need all the help we can get."
"I'm here for anything you and Wells need."
Clarke's good nature quickly disappeared again, her brow furrowing. "And what about everyone else?"
Right. Of course. Eve peered over at the open field and watched a group of teenagers roll in the dirt while others ran maniacally through the trees touching everything in sight. "Look, check this out!" one shouted as he pointed at a particular patch of dirt. Another ran across the grass to show them something that resembled a mushroom.
Please don't eat it.
A hundred teenagers. What the hell did Clarke expect her to do with a hundred rowdy teens that were fresh out of prison on a planet no one had set foot in a hundred years?
"Let's just start with you and Wells," she told Clarke. "If you want to help them, that's up to you, but don't expect them to cooperate."
Clarke pursed her lips and then looked over at the nearby groups as if a plan would magically manifest—an attribute surely learned from her scholarly parents. Eve had met Clarke on a few occasions when she was a regular patient in the Ark's infirmary, during her earlier years of training—much to Dr. Griffin's dismay—and that's how Eve knew something was different about her. The young woman no longer beamed with wonder or merriment; her features held a darkened mood, and the natural smile from before had flattened to a tight line. Clarke had changed.
By how much? Eve wondered. A year of solitary Confinement could have altered her perception of people—of the Ark. Did she secretly hate the Ark now? Was Clarke holding a grudge against those that sentenced her father to death and locked her away? Was she that different from everyone else on the dropship?
Can she be trusted?
After a few seconds, Clarke's scowl waned into one of concern, but the determination remained in her observant blue eyes. "They need guidance," she affirmed. "Bringing back the supplies from Mount Weather will show them working together is the best option right now until the Ark arrives." Satisfied with the idea, Clarke nodded to herself and then turned back to Eve.
"All right," Eve agreed, "sure. Mount Weather, it is then. Just, uh, one thing." She checked on Charlotte, who was now looking up at both older girls, her attention fully drawn. It wasn't that Eve didn't trust her, but the fewer people that knew her identity, the easier it'd be to keep things quiet and under control. "Marie's fine."
Clarke's light eyebrows furrowed. She motioned to say something when her gaze flicked down to Charlotte before slowly trailing across the field to all the other delinquents, and it dawned on her what she meant. "All right…Marie," Clarke said. "What's the plan, then? How do we get to Mount Weather?"
Eve glanced around, not liking how close they were to listening ears, no matter how preoccupied the prisoners seemed. Then, seeing a hill a few meters away surrounded by tall trees and large shrubbery, Eve nodded over at it. "Follow me."
The hill hadn't been as steep as it looked from afar, and once reaching the top, the girls paused for a moment to admire the grand valley below. Fresh air wafted against their faces and into the loose strands of their hair.
The mountain ridge ahead was a pale shade of blue, almost melding with the sky, while a dense mist drifted along its base and in between the other mountains. It sloped across the valley like a line of massive dunes covered in trees and grass. The overgrowth enveloped everything in its path. Eve couldn't help but feel a bit daunted by the display. The journey to Mount Weather wasn't going to be a stroll.
As Clarke and Charlotte continued to stare in awe, Eve pulled a map from her back pocket. She unfolded the sheet and then offered it to Clarke, who managed to rip her gaze from the sight.
"This is where we are"—Eve directed to a spot on the map before delineating to a location a few inches away—"this is Mount Weather." She lifted her finger off the page and pointed across the valley. "Where we're supposed to be." Mount Weather rested to the east coast of a lake connected to the ocean, and according to the glorious view, they were nowhere near a lake.
Clarke examined the map, her gaze glancing between the paper and the valley before dropping her arms with a heavy sigh. "They dropped us on the wrong damn mountain. It's going to take us all day to get there."
"Why so serious, princess?"
The girls looked over their shoulders to find Collins strolling up the hill, his beanie-less black mane flowing in the wind as he found a spot next to Clarke. He shot them a friendly grin before looking toward the mountain.
Eve slowly uncurled her fingers from around the handle of her gun.
"It's not like we died in a fiery explosion," he continued.
Clarke pursed her lips, returning her attention to the map. "Try telling that to the two guys who tried to follow you out of their seats," she commented.
"I'm sorry, what?" Eve turned to Clarke, who shrugged. She looked over at Collins with a scowl. "We lost two people?" He didn't respond, his downcast eyes answering for him as he stared at the ground, guilt-ridden. Eve blinked with disbelief. Not only was he responsible for costing the Ark three months of oxygen, but he also managed to get two people killed on the first day because of his stupid antics. "Unbelievable," she huffed. If it weren't for Charlotte standing next to her, she'd have lunged at the kid.
"I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt."
"Don't say another word," she warned him. "I told you to remain in your seat. Now two people are dead. How many more need to die because of you, Collins?"
"How many more?" he asked, confused. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means," her hands curled into fists at her sides as she turned to face him, ignoring Clarke's disapproving stare, "that if you put another person in danger, I will wring your fuckingneck!"
"Okay, stop!" Clarke protested, stepping in front of Eve before she could make her way toward him. "This doesn't help anyone. We just need to move on from this and learn from our mistakes." She looked over her shoulder at Collins, who stood there frozen with shock, and then turned back to the fuming woman. "Okay?"
Eve still wanted to rearrange his pretty face. However, when Clarke raised her eyebrows at her, she couldn't help but think of Marcus. Marcus, who was depending on them to survive. With reluctance, she nodded and then shot Collins a stern glare. He looked confused in response, but ignorance wouldn't save him. She'd make sure of it.
"Looks like a twenty-mile hike," Clarke commented, breaking the tension, "but if we leave now, we can get there before sundown and be back tomorrow. I simply need to map out a course."
"Sounds good. Let's regroup in ten." Eve spun on her heel and made her way down the hill.
"Wait! Where are you going?"
"The Ark needs to know the Ground is safe. I'm gonna check on our comm systems."
"Good idea," Clarke nodded. "I'll meet you at the dropship."
Confident in her ability to map a path to Mount Weather, Eve left her to it, ignored Collins, and proceeded to the dropship. Charlotte followed not too far behind. As she made her way, she listened and watched for any sign of the dark-haired siblings, hoping they weren't lollygagging around in the metal vessel. When she reached it, she slowed her pace and listened for voices inside.
"Why do you hate him?" Charlotte's voice appeared.
Holding her hood over her face, Eve looked over her shoulder. "Hate who?" she whispered, gesturing to Charlotte to come closer.
"That boy. On the hill. The one you said you'd wring his fu-"
"Hey!" Eve spun around. "Don't even think about it."
Charlotte swallowed those last words. After a moment, Eve turned away and stepped onto the ramp. "I don't hate him. He's just a punk."
"Then why'd you threaten him?"
The dark void of the ship's interior looked clear—no meandering bodies or echoing voices. Confident that no one was inside, Eve turned and faced Charlotte. Curious eyes stared back, waiting for an answer that she didn't want to give.
She sighed. "Because I lost my cool. I shouldn't have done that, and I'm sorry you had to see it. "
"But you wanted to hurt him, right?"
Eve ran her tongue over her teeth as she thought of her answer. "No," she replied, though that wasn't entirely true, "and yes."
The young girl went silent for a moment as she pondered her words. "But you would have, right? If Clarke hadn't stopped you?"
"No, of course not." Maybe.
"But he deserved it," she reasoned, "for getting those guys killed."
Eve furrowed her eyebrows. "Deserved? If he did, I wasn't the one to decide." She'd never been the one to decide, and she never would be. Not on the Ark, and most certainly not on the Ground. "Charlotte, where is this coming from?"
"Nevermind." She retreated, breaking eye contact.
"Whoa, hey." Eve took a step closer. "Hey, you can talk to me, remember?"
Charlotte swallowed hard, her sad eyes staring back at Eve, and when the silence stretched on, Eve let out a sigh. Children weren't her specialty. Growing up, she spent most of her time around adults, and the kids she encountered scurried at the sight of her uniform. Charlotte wasn't a child, she knew, but with the way she looked at her, sad and small...well, Eve wished she was someone else right now. Someone with tact. She lowered herself onto one knee. It was best to speak to children at their level, Marcus had once said.
"Go on, Char. Tell me what's happening." As Eve hoped, the nickname chipped at Charlotte's walls. She opened her mouth to respond when a loud clatter echoed from the levels above. Looking over her shoulder, Eve eyed the open hatch atop the ladder.
"Someone's up there," Charlotte whispered.
With light and slow steps, Eve stood and walked over to the ladder. Deep thumps and shuffling appeared, one at a time and in the same area—indicating one person's presence. Most likely a male, she figured, from the weighty sound of their footsteps.
She waved towards the door. "Wait outside, Char."
"It's all right," she assured, keeping her voice as casual as possible. "I'm just gonna check if they need help."
Charlotte gave her a look of uncertainty, but after a few seconds, she nodded, her head hanging low as she walked away. Eve watched her leave before sighing and looking up at the ladder that led to the top floor where the communication links were located. Hopefully, Clarke would show up soon.
With silent steps, she ascended the ladder. When she reached the top, the clatter went quiet along with the trampling. Had they heard her? She unholstered her gun. Peaking over the edge, she spotted the person. They stood still, head hung low as they stared down at the communications console, clearly frustrated with whatever they were doing. With a brief scan of the room, she spotted no one else, just the tall, swarthy fellow in front of her wearing a red bomber jacket sewn from the finer threads of polyester offered on the Ark.
Holstering her weapon, she pulled herself up. "Any luck?"
Wells nearly jumped around his skin. "Jesus," he exclaimed as he spun around with a hand over his chest. "You scared the hell out of me!"
"You look like you're going to throw up," she teased, walking past him and toward the consoles. "Not a good idea. You're gonna need that protein for our way to Mount Weather."
Regaining his composure, he gave her an unamused look. "You mean the scraps they gave us in prison?"
"Hey, getting arrested was your idea."
Wells frowned at her.
She went around the counter and then crouched, her eyes landing on a labyrinth of burnt circuitry.
"I had to. For Clarke," he explained. Eve glanced up at him with an impassive expression before reaching for the cables. She shuffled through motherboards and hard drives, hoping to find something salvageable. He sighed. "You think I'm an idiot, don't you?"
"Who cares what I think." She tossed a bundle of fried cables over her shoulder before pushing her search further into the compartment. "But it would've been nice to have one less person to watch over."
"I know my father sent you to protect me," he said. "But I can take care of myself."
She stood, rubbing the grime from her hands over her trousers before folding her arms across her chest. She raised an eyebrow at him, waiting for another pissy remark.
After a few seconds, Wells frowned, guilt washing over his face. He sighed. "I'm sorry, sir. I just...I wish things were different between Clarke and me. I wish she didn't hate me."
"First of all," she said, walking to the far wall, "until the Ark lands, call me Marie. The last thing I need is you calling me sir in front of the whole damn prison population." Plopping down in a vacant seat, she let out a heavy sigh. The consoles were destroyed, meaning there was no way to contact the Ark. "And second, she wouldn't hate you if you'd tell her the truth."
"No, I can't." Wells shook his head. "I can't do that to her."
Eve smiled to herself, holding back a laugh. Oh, teenage love. They'd just lost all connection to the Ark, and Wells was still sulking over his childhood friend. She guessed if she'd gotten herself arrested and sent to Earth for a girl, she'd also be annoyed. Her smile faded as the thought trudged up old memories.
"Good," she murmured, keeping her mind on the present. "Don't tell her. Not yet."
"Clarke needs to focus on what's happening here. Not on her mother, who's a billion miles away…and on the Ark, might I add."
Wells stared at her, her insinuation sinking into his brain. "Clarke would never turn on the Ark."
"Right. Just like she would never believe you turned on her father." Wells flinched as if she'd struck him, and then his gaze dropped to the floor. "Shit," she sighed, "I shouldn't have said that."
"No, you're right," he said with a half-hearted nod. "She shouldn't know the truth. At least not yet." Wells looked back at Eve for a moment before turning to the communication frame. "Nothing then?"
Eve pursed her lips. "So far. We need an engineer."
"Those are back on the Ark."
"Yup." They both stared at the console in defeat for a long time before an idea came to her. "Actually… there's Monty Green."
A smile stretched across her face. "The solution to our problem."
After giving him a brief description of Monty, Wells turned on his heel. "Great. I'll go find him," he assured, making his way toward the hatch.
As Eve watched him disappear, a smile spread across her face. Clarke was wise in many ways but a fool to believe Wells had anything to do with her father's execution. He was a good friend—loyal and dedicated—and if he'd taken her up on her offer, he would've made a fine guardsman on the Ark.
Maybe Eve's life would've turned out differently if he had.
She spent the next five minutes rummaging through cables and spare parts for anything useful. She didn't find much to her dismay besides long wires, sharp broken pieces of metal, and busted pipes she hid in a corner to keep out of unwanted hands. Eve was wreathing wire together when aggressive voices echoed from downstairs. She listened half-heartedly, debating if she should bother making an inquiry, when Wells's voice appeared, asking someone to relax. Sighing, Eve hastily stored the bundle into her pocket and then stood, wishing Jaha junior stayed home.
Rushing down the hatch, she gripped the sides of the ladder and slid her way to the bottom. When her boots hit the floor, she took a step back and grimaced at the smudges on her hands. She turned toward the door, not delighted to see a group of delinquents in front of Clarke and Wells.
"We're just trying to figure out where we are," assured the Chancellor's son.
The group sauntered forward, and Eve's blood boiled when she realized which pale, flat-faced seventeen-year-old led them.
John Murphy .
The son of Alexander and Linda Murphy, both of whom died after his father's execution for thievery. Linda drank herself to death, and after, Murphy took it upon himself to set fire to the arresting guard's quarters, nearly killing him inside. She could still remember the infirmary's sterile and medicinal scent as Jacob lay invalid in a bed, half of his body covered in bandages, whimpering in pain each time they moved him. As far as she knew, Jacob was still recovering.
Her hands curled into tight fists, her knuckles turning white. Murphy was a murderous and vengeful prick, and right now…he was a little too close to Wells. She dashed across the room.
"We're on the ground. That not good enough for you?" Bellamy's voice appeared.
Her boots screeched against the metal floor as she came to a halt, nearly stumbling forward and out into the open for everyone to see. Grabbing the door frame, she pulled herself against the wall. Eve remained still, her heart pounding against her ribcage as she listened.
"We need to find Mount Weather. You heard my father's message. That has to be our first priority," Wells replied.
"Screw your father!" Octavia's voice appeared. "What? You think you're in charge here? You and your little princess?"
"Do you think we care who's in charge?" Clarke stepped in, the tone in her voice making it clear she was telling, not asking. "We need to get to Mount Weather. Not because the Chancellor said so, but because the longer we wait, the hungrier we'll get, and the harder this will be. How long do you think we'll last without those supplies? We're looking at a twenty-mile trek, okay? So if we want to get there before dark, we need to leave now."
"I got a better idea," Bellamy countered. "You two go, find it for us. Let the privileged do the hard work for a change."
The crowd cheered in agreement. Eve rolled her eyes and shook her head. Bellamy.
Clarke continued as if any of the prisoners would listen after spending months—years in a windowless cell with less than adequate meals and constant negligence from those that put them there. They were angry, and nothing Clarke could say would steer them because she still didn't understand how much everyone despised the Ark. And in their eyes, she was the Ark.
This could get dangerous. Eve pulled her hood on, brushing back any loose strands of hair, and took a deep breath. As she stepped out into the open, a few glanced her way, but most remained fixed on the discussion. She hopped off the ramp with casual strides and found a place past the shrubbery and a few meters behind Murphy's group. Charlotte's blond braids and oversized green jacket were nowhere to be found.
Lowering her head and folding her arms over her chest, Eve glowered as Clarke and Wells continued their efforts—a waste of time and energy that could be used on their journey to the mountain. Bellamy and Octavia stood side-by-side to the ship as they glared at Clarke and Wells with annoyance and resentment. Bellamy stood brawny and tall—taller than most—and if Eve didn't know any better, she'd think he was still training to be a guardsman; a year of janitorial work hadn't impeded his physical stature in the slightest. The younger Blake, Octavia, hadn't grown much, but her demeanor did change. She was no longer the timid and quiet mouse under the floorboards, her bright blue eyes locking on Clarke and Wells like a hawk, ready to attack.
But it wasn't they that made the first move.
Murphy stepped forward and shoved Wells to the ground. "Look at this, everybody—the Chancellor of Earth," he announced, earning a laugh from the crowd.
Eve ran her tongue over her teeth with discontent, watching as Wells regained his footing.
"You think that's funny?" Wells challenged.
Murphy chuckled sneerily and took a cheap shot at his ankle, sweeping Wells's foot out from under him. He landed with a loud thud.
"Wells!" Clarke shouted, lunging forward to his aid only to be restrained by Murphy's goons. Unable to get loose, her head snapped in different directions to search urgently through the crowd before looking to the dropship. "Marie!"
Eve remained still. She wasn't about to risk exposure just because Murphy wanted to put on a show.
Clarke shouted for her again.
"Who you callin'?" Murphy taunted. "No one's coming to save you. Not here." He smiled as she squirmed to get free, reveling in his moment of power because no one cared enough to oppose him, no one cared enough to stop him.
Dropping her arms to the side, she stalked through the crowd, weaving between bodies—ready to pounce if Murphy moved closer to the Chancellor's son. If he wanted to put on a show, she'd give him one.
She was a few meters from the scene when a hand landed on her shoulder. Eve stopped and looked to her left. One of the older girls stared back at her with emerald eyes. A poofy auburn braid trailed down the center of her head and into a long tail. If it wasn't for her thin eyebrows and the light rose color of her lips, she could have passed off for a boy.
Zoe Monroe, the smuggler.
She'd been incarcerated for smuggling contraband for Nygel, one of the Ark's culinary techs and the unofficial black market dealer. Not that Eve could ever prove any connections to Nygel. Using blackmail and bribes to prey on the weak and desperate, Nygel was as psychopathic as she was cunning, using her own people as bargaining chips when the heat from the Guard grew too much. Eve despised the woman, which is why she had spent most of her efforts trying to bag the old bitch. If it weren't for the untimely and suspicious disappearance of a willing informant, Eve would've watched Nygel float a long time ago. And maybe Monroe wouldn't have gone to prison like so many others.
Monroe shook her head at Eve and flicked her chin toward the ship. Turning back, Eve watched as Wells returned to his feet, limping from the injured ankle.
"All right," Murphy grinned, "let's dance."
Holding his fists before his face, the Chancellor's son prepared himself for a fight. Murphy taunted him with feigns and pranced around, goading for a reaction Wells wouldn't give because he chose to be patient. To watch and wait, and allow his opponent to make the first mistake. Eve smiled. He remembered his training well.
Just as quickly as it'd begun, the exchange came to an abrupt end as Collins dropped in from a perch. He landed with grace, making everyone murmur in awe while Murphy took a step back, startled by how high Collins had fallen.
He faced Murphy with a firm expression. "Kids got one leg," he said, shrugging over to Wells. "How about you wait until it's a fair fight?"
Murphy glanced past Collins's shoulder, seemingly weighing his options, but Eve could see the struggle. It was one thing to fight someone from Alpha Station and another if Murphy started fighting one of his own. He'd risk losing favor with the others. Luckily, he didn't need to think much longer as Octavia approached Collins with a coy remark, distracting everyone's attention. Murphy walked away, his posse following close behind.
"Doesn't take long for them to start measuring dicks, does it?" Monroe commented, her gaze following Murphy and his gang as they turned the corner and disappeared behind the ship.
"A whole hour, if you can believe it," Eve replied, watching as Clarke scurried to Wells's side.
"I was hopin' they'd get in a few throws. My money was on the Chancellor. Well-" she shrugged, "-if I had any."
Eve turned towards Monroe, staying vigilant as Bellamy stepped forward to talk to his sister. Or more like argue as they barked at each other. "Is that why you stopped me? To get your money's worth?"
"Nah," she drawled. "Just figured it'd be a shame to watch that pretty face get busted. You might need it later."
Eve raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really? And why is that?"
"How many girls you see out here?" Monroe gestured to the scattering crowd. Eve glanced around, knowing the men outnumbered the girls by five to one. "Yeah, the guys'll be running this shit in no time…and they like pretty faces."
Eve scoffed. "Know what else they like?" She leaned in. "Their balls attached." An amused smile stretched across Monroe's freckled face. "So, no. No one's taking advantage of anyone. Not under my watch." Just because the Ark wasn't around, it didn't mean they'd all resort to savagery. Not if she could help it.
"If you say so, boss."
Eve looked back to the dropship. Clarke was tending to Wells's ankle while the siblings had distanced themselves, stepping further away. But where the hell was Charlotte? She cursed under her breath. She didn't have the time or luxury to go searching for her, especially not right now.
"You know," Monroe's raspy voice appeared again. "If you're trying to pretend you're not some stuck-up guard, you're doing a shit job."
Eve's eyes widened to the size of the moon, her body tensing. Then, she slowly turned her face to the bold, green-eyed girl that'd suddenly become a problem. "A guard?" Eve asked in disbelief. "Me? That's insane."
Monroe laughed. "Right. And you suck at lying." Her dark eyebrows furrowed curiously up at her. "You don't remember me, do you?"
Eve's mind rushed with memories and thoughts, trying to connect whatever dots Monroe implied, but she couldn't, and the only reasonable assumption was that Eve had been the one to arrest her.
"Nah," Monroe answered her thoughts. "You wouldn't. Too busy keeping everyone in line to remember some girl stealing rations from a culinary station on Mecha."
Like a lightbulb flicking on, the memory appeared as clear as day, and Eve did recognize her. The deep green eyes belonged to a little girl she came across a few years ago after Eve had been promoted to Major. During a busy day at the distribution center, people were huddled around the provision pods, waiting to receive rations, when Monroe took the liberty to use them as cover to sneak into a pod and help herself to a food dispenser. She had the tools and the time, and if it hadn't been for Eve's last-minute decision to alter the patrol routes, the little sneak would've run off with a month's worth of food. Instead, Eve arrested her and threatened to take her to the Floating chamber. Monroe cried so hard, she hadn't realized she'd been taken back to the housing units instead.
"You let me go," Monroe said.
"I did." Eve nodded slowly, remembering the shock on her tear-stung face when she ordered her to go home. Then she scowled at her. "I also told you to stay out of trouble."
Monroe laughed again and shrugged. "Can't help myself, I guess." Then, glancing over at Clarke and Wells, she said, "try not to stand around like you own the place. Really gives it away." She turned and then made her way into the field.
As Monroe sauntered off, Eve sighed, her shoulders hunching forward. That was the fifth person to know her identity. At this rate, she'd be dead within days. Eve cursed under her breath.
"Hey!" she shouted, making Monroe stop and look over her shoulder at her. Eve hesitated, giving her idea a second thought before deciding she really had no choice. "I need a favor."
Monroe's eyes lit up. Then, with a happy pep in her step, the young girl trotted back over. "What's in it for me?" she asked with a sly smile.
Eve snickered, beginning to understand how she'd ended up in Nygel's circle. "I'll owe you one. How's that?"
A look of contemplation crossed Monroe's face, her eyes squinted and lips pursed. Then, after a long moment, she nodded. "All right. Whaddya need?"
"I need to find someone," she said. "And because of my lack of stealth that you so eagerly pointed out, I could really use your help."
"Who is it? What they look like?"
"Her name's Charlotte. Twelve years old. About this tall"—Eve raised her hand to her chest—"has blond hair with braids. If you see her and I'm not around, keep her out of trouble."
Monroe raised an eyebrow. "You trust me to do that?"
Eve shot her a look. "Can you do it or not?"
"Yeah, jeez," she answered, holding her hands up in surrender. "I can do that."
"Thanks." Eve extended her hand. "I'm Marie, by the way."
Monroe looked at her hand for a moment before shaking it. "Figured, since you were ready to beat the shit out of Murphy."
She smirked. "If only."
Seeing Bellamy and Octavia still at a distance, Eve kept her head low as she made her way towards Wells and Clarke, the latter of which was assessing Wells's ankle. Then, with her back to the Blakes, Eve crouched low next to Clarke.
Clarke greeted her with a scowl. "I called you. Twice! Where were you?"
"I had it under control," Wells insisted, earning a doubtful look from both girls. "I did," he grumbled.
"I know, I'm sorry," Eve replied, glancing over her shoulder.
"What is it?" Clarke whispered.
Eve looked around. The only concern was a small group huddled a couple meters behind Clarke, but they seemed too engulfed with their own conversation to be eavesdropping. She gave Wells a quick glance before looking at Clarke with a wary expression.
"We have a problem," she said. "The Blakes know who I am."
Clarke looked over at the two with less tact than a rhino.
"So?" Wells uttered.
Eve pursed her lips. Out of all people, he should've understood why it was a problem considering he was already attacked for being one of the privileged. What'd he think would happen if they found a guard in their midst?
"So," she continued, not hiding the annoyance in her tone. "If they share that information with the rest of the class, then I'm going to end up with more than just a sprained ankle. And I can't do my job if I have to keep looking over my shoulder every second for someone that wants payback."
"But you're not a guard anymore."
"They won't care," Clarke remarked, her gaze dropping to Wells's ankle. Sighing, she nodded. "Okay, we'll avoid them for as long as we can until we find a way to contact the Ark and then-"
"So, Mount Weather, when do we leave?" Collins appeared out of nowhere, his hands in the pockets of his green-blue aviator jacket.
Clarke looked back at Eve, silently promising to continue the conversation at a later time before standing.
"Right now," she answered and turned back to Wells. "We'll be back tomorrow with food."
Wells stared at them with a doubtful expression, his gaze lingering on Collins for a moment. "How are the three of you gonna carry enough food for a hundred?"
"I'll stay with Wells," Eve assured, only to earn another scowl from the young blonde.
Before she could object, Collins appeared with two young men under either shoulder. To his right, the boy was a taller, scrawny fellow with brown, shaggy hair rumpled under a pair of sizeable black safety goggles situated around his forehead. An older boy of the same height with black, kempt hair and softer facial features was to his left. He held a blade of grass between his fingers as he grazed it beneath his nostrils. She recognized the first as Jasper Jordan and the second as…Monty Green.
"Five of us. Now can we go?" Collins asked impatiently.
"Wait." The three boys frowned as Clarke turned back to Eve with a worried look. "We need you," she whispered.
"Sounds like a party. Make that six."
Eve spun away, pulling her hood closer to her face as Octavia gleefully approached their newfound group, followed by her protective older brother.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Bellamy demanded.
"Going for a walk," Octavia sneered, shrugging his hand from her shoulder. Then they argued for a good long moment.
Wells watched them closely before leaning towards Eve, his voice a subtle whisper. "You need to go with them."
She shook her head, Clarke's voice loud in the background as she scolded Spacewalker for trying to remove his wristband. "You're injured. I won't leave you here alone while everyone is pining for your head."
"I'll be fine. I can take care of myself. You know that."
"Really? Because Murphy took you down pretty quickly. Since when do you let people get into your space?"
Well sighed. "He caught me off guard."
"You know better," she chided. "I taught you better."
"I know," he admitted with downcast eyes before looking up at her with pleading ones. "But can you please go with them? I don't want to see her get hurt."
"Okay. Now let's go," Clarke ordered the group, watching each of them trod off in the right direction before turning back to Eve. "Are you coming?"
Wells continued to stare, resembling a sad child as he silently pleaded. He didn't know it, but he was putting her in an awkward position. Her orders were to protect them both, but if there were a choice between them, it was the Chancellor's son who needed to be placed above all else.
But against her better judgment, she sighed, unable to believe she was giving in to puppy dog eyes.
"You better be in one piece when I get back," she warned, pointing at him.
"I promise." He smiled.
Eve gave him one last annoyed look before standing and stepping over him. She would've helped him up, but Bellamy was still close, and it wouldn't take much for him to recognize her. Walking off alongside Clarke, she could feel his gaze dig into her back as he watched his little sister walk off into the woods with five complete strangers.
After reaching a safe distance to talk, Eve whispered over to Clarke, "the best way to do this is for both of us to be upfront. Stay five meters behind me and keep the others on track. I'll clear the area as we go."
Clarke stared at the uncharted forest. "Do you really think something could've survived the radiation after all this time?"
"Maybe, maybe not." Eve shrugged. "Either way, it's twenty miles into unknown terrain without food or water and with four other teenagers that haven't seen the outside of a cell in a long time…so let's just say I'm not in the mood for any surprises."
Clarke pursed her lips and nodded in affirmation. Then, picking up her pace, she headed to the front of the group, only to be slowed down by Octavia. Eve made her way past them to find a reasonable distance in the lead, wanting to be the first to see or come across anything in their path.
Feeling the handgun's weight and the knife clanking subtly inside her boot, she was ready to make the journey to Mount Weather. And maybe by the time she returned, the Earth would have cracked open and swallowed Bellamy Blake whole.