knocking on heaven’s door
Tatiana Penvrane had once seen the good in everyone. After she’d seen what anarchy did to people, what mob mentality was, and how human nature was so weak to impulses of the heart and mind, she’d started to lose this mentality – but if this alliance held and her people were restored to her, Tatiana thought that there might be a chance in her heart that she’d hold these ideals once more.
Tatiana Penvrane of the Sky People was exhausted.
It had been nine months since she’d been imprisoned in solitary confinement. Six months since she and ninety nine other delinquents had been shipped to the earth. Two months since the rest of the Ark had followed the 100 to the ground – and in those two months, she’d been to hell and back.
At first, there had been the pain that had come with being cast off by people she’d once trusted to an uninhabited world – or so they had thought, which had led to the next trial of their journey, a war with the people on the ground, who they called the Grounders. And just when it seemed as if there had been a chance to win that battle, the humans on Mount Weather had swooped in to kidnap many of her friends under the guise of rescuing them – it had been two months since Tatiana had escaped the facility herself, but she could only imagine the tortures that her friends must be going through.
She wiped the sweat off of her head with the back of her hand, still bent over a map. There was a rustle beside her and a woman slid down, blonde hair shifting on her shoulders as she leaned over to study what Tatiana was looking at. Evette Quinn-Nichols – a medical volunteer from the Ark. Formerly, she’d worked with the brunette’s mother, but after all the crises on the Ark, including the one that had killed Josephine Penvrane, it was Evette who’d been left in charge of the medical department.
“Still looking for a way into the mountain?” she asked, her voice low. She passed over a water bottle, a silent reminder to stay hydrated.
The brunette laughed, a dry, brittle sound. “I’m trying,” she returned before casting aside the map sullenly, “But no, I can’t find anything, except for this ridiculous giant entrance that’s sealed from the inside.”
“You could always knock,” Evette suggested with an amused shrug.
Tatiana snorted. “Yes, because I’m sure they’ll just hand back our friends if we ask nicely. The last I heard,” she lowered her voice as if someone nearby would eavesdrop (but they all knew better), “The scientists on the mountain were studying the blood of the 100 to see what living in space did to us.”
The woman considered this and then nodded. “That’s probably their first idea on how to get back down to the ground and survive the radiation out here. Though, honestly, there’s not enough of Sky People left in the mountain. The 100 have turned into the, what, forty-something?”
The brunette nodded. “That’s why we’ve got to stop the mountain men before we become known as the zero.”
“Got it.” The blonde stirred and rose, stretching out her limbs. “Anyway, I should be headed back to the medical station to take care of Liam Taylor and Song Zhu – did you hear what happened to them?”
“No, what?” Tatiana was on high alert, craning her neck to look up at the other.
Evie’s lips curved up slightly before dipping again. “They were out in the woods gathering some fruit and making out – or that’s what we think, at least, because they haven’t confessed to that part – when they were attacked by grounders. Fortunately, they managed to get away before it was too late, but Song’s broken his arm and Liam’s got a cut on his jaw.”
The young woman on the ground sighed and rose as well. “These damn grounders keep getting in our way,” she grumbled. “When are they going to see that we all just want to get our people back from the mountain?”
She moved away from the other woman now, map still in hand as she passed by the medical station, moving instead to the part of the ark that had been turned into a workshop. Behind a table cluttered with scraps of metal and oil popped a familiar man with dark hair, who gave the woman an apprehensive look as she came in.
“Radio’s on the fritz,” Daniel explained, pointing to the contraption, “But I can patch it through if you give me a little bit longer.”
Tatiana glanced at the makeshift clock affixed to one of the walls and frowned. “Will’s meant to check in every three hours, so that gives you three minutes. Can you get it working by then?”
The other’s response of a short laugh was a surprising bit of happiness in the brunette’s day. “I can get it done in one.” He shot his younger sister a cocky look and she rolled her eyes. Ever since their parents had died during the trip down from space on the Ark, she thought that he’d been growing more detached in everything but his work as an engineer, including the cute mechanic who worked with him, but it was nice to see him up to making a joke once in a while.
Said cute mechanic, a woman about her brother’s age by the name of Mia Perkin, was at the other end of the workshop, bent over a design of the schematics of the door of the moment. “If Will can’t find a way to get that door open from the engine room on the inside, there’s no way we’re getting it open out here,” Mia confided in Tatty from across the room.
Daniel shook his head. “It’s useless unless someone inside the mountain disables the alarm and – oh, here we go!” The radio crackled under his touch, and the brunette girl snatched it up and held it close to her ear before narrowing her eyes at her brother.
“It doesn’t work.”
“That’s because, sister dearest, I have managed to finally get the video feed working,” Daniel explained with practiced patience, sighing as he took back the radio and turned it to reveal the small camera. He flipped it open and a dim image flickered onto the screen before it solidified into a figure of a young man with dark hair peering over.
“Tatiana?” William Shimizuno’s voice flared uncomfortably and everyone in the workshop winced before Mia rushed over with a wrench and got the volume under control. “Thank god. I thought that the Grounders had captured you.”
“Where would you get that idea from?” Tatiana replied, perplexed.
Will shrugged. “I overheard some of the mountain security guards talking about how they believe the Grounders are trying to destroy your camp and have started picking you off one by one.”
“What?” The brunette glanced past the other two to peer out of the flap of the mechanic’s tent, looking toward the entrance of their base. The gates remained stubbornly closed, so she could at least content herself with the idea that the grounders weren’t yet prepared for an attack. “We’ll work on that problem. How’s it going inside of the mountain?”
“You tell me.” There was a small disturbance and the camera was shifted to reveal a boy and a girl, both of whom Tatiana recognized immediately.
She leaned closer into the camera. “Collander! You’re alright?”
“I’m alright,” the boy replied with a shrug. “They’ve started trying to take our blood – voluntarily, but Cassia,” here he indicated the girl beside him, “Says that they’re going to start forcing us if we stop willingly donating our blood to the mountain people.”
The leader of the Sky People regarded Cassia apprehensively; despite the fact that the girl had helped her escape, Tatiana still didn’t exactly trust her. It had something to do with her inherent distrust of the mountain and all of the people that occupied it, including the ones who tried to help her people, but she offered the girl a curt nod. “Any other new developments?”
The three on the mountain exchanged a look. “Lydia Eames, the head scientist, thinks that using blood isn’t enough. She wants bone marrow from the forty,” Cassia confided.
Tatiana blinked. “Er, isn’t that extremely dangerous? Can’t extracting enough of it kill someone?” Belatedly, she thought of her mother, who would have known the answer, and then quickly dispelled that image and made a mental note to ask Evette about it instead.
“That’s the problem.” Cassia nodded solemnly. “They’re still researching other ways – what I’ve heard is that Lydia doesn’t want to do it unless she’s got no other option – but they haven’t discovered anything as effective to stopping radiation poisoning.”
“So they’re willing to let our people die in order to let theirs live more comfortably,” Tatiana realized.
Will nodded. “Basically.”
There was a scuffle from somewhere off the camera, and the three on the mountain glanced sideways in alarm. “We’ve got to go,” Collander added hurriedly, “Keelin Donovan’s putting up a fight so they won’t take her blood, but they’re not listening. We have to stop it.”
“Yes, right,” Tatiana nodded and then focused on Will. “Remember, you have three hours before you need to check in.”
He nodded once more before turning off the camera, and the image on the screen disintegrated until the screen was left black. Wordlessly, Tatiana handed the device back to her brother and Mia, who both bent over it at once. They bumped heads, and Mia looked up and smiled shyly at Daniel, but he was too occupied with trying to maintain a more stable connection the next time they had to communicate with their people on the mountain. How oblivious. Tatiana rolled her eyes at her brother before leaving the tent and the engineers to their task.
Outside, some of the other leaders of the Sky People were gathered in the center of the camp, all of them looking mildly alarmed. She caught sight of Chastity, one of Will’s close friends, her red hair vibrant in the dim light of the late day as she gazed in curiosity over toward the gates. Tatiana moved up to Elijah; he’d once been the chancellor back when the Ark had been in space, but now that he was on the ground, he was in Tatty’s territory – the two had had a nearly constant struggle since he’d reached the ground over who was the true leader of the Sky People.
“What’s happening?” she questioned him, turning her hazel eyes toward the gates. She could make out a small procession of shapes just outside the gates, but that wasn’t right; they hadn’t sent out anyone that day to hunt, gather food, or scout out the grounders.
“They’re grounders,” Eli replied, glancing sideways at the girl and then thoughtfully back toward the gate. “I thought that they’d come to massacre us or to burn down the entire camp, but they haven’t moved yet. Their commander wants to conference with our leader.”
Hazel eyes flitted sideways to rest on Elijah as Tatiana considered him thoughtfully. “They’re not evil, you know,” she added after a moment. “Remember Lilly Middleton, their old leader? She agreed to help us get all of our people out of the mountain, and we could have done it if someone hadn’t put an arrow in her side.”
Elijah blatantly ignored the accusation. “We should go meet her.”
“You,” he clarified with a somewhat weary sigh. “It’s you they asked for, since you’re the one who speaks for the forty inside the mountain. I’ll send a small guard with you –“
“No, that won’t be necessary. I’ll just take one more person to act as another diplomat.” Tatiana motioned for Chastity to follow her as she turned toward the gates, and Eli walked beside her, his long strides making it so that he was impossible to shake off.
“We don’t know what they want yet. They could hurt you,” he insisted, but she shook her head.
“If they want to meet me, they need me alive. Besides, they have people inside the mountain as well. Lilly and I were the only ones who’d managed to escape it,” Tatiana explained as she opened the gates and stepped out cautiously into the clearing.
In the time during which the Sky people had been considering their next move, the Grounders had already sent up a tent outside. Tatiana was surprised that her own people hadn’t tried to attack or burn the tent to the ground (since the Ark had seemed to foster a trigger-happy population who had no qualms about trying to take out grounders), but she suspected that on both sides, people were sick of their war when they had a common enemy.
When she entered the tent with Chastity, Tatiana came face to face with their leader, a girl who looked about her own age with blonde hair and black paint around her eyes like a mask. Standing beside her was a man with red hair and a dark haired woman with a very serious expression on her face. All three were facing her. Tatiana swallowed and took a step forward.
“Stop.” It was the dark haired woman. She held out her hand and for a moment, the girl was bewildered before she understood, drawing out her dagger and laying it flat in the other’s hand. Near the commander, the ginger man offered her a small smile as if thanking her for their compliance. Tatiana suspected that it was a formality, but she had a feeling it served a dual purpose; the grounders and Ark people might want an end to their war, but they still didn’t trust each other.
“You wanted to meet me.” It was a statement, not a question. Tatiana fixed her gaze on the commander, setting her jaw in determination.
The other nodded. “Yes. You’re Tatiana Penvrane of the Sky People, are you not?” When Tatty nodded, the blonde continued. “I’m Seren Jones, the leader of this clan of Grounders. This is my lieutenant, Dawn.” The severe-looking woman inclined her head at the sound of her name. “And this,” she shot the redhead an almost venomous look, “is Emrys. We’re here to discuss the possibility of an alliance.”
While Tatiana had a feeling this would jeopardize the mission, she couldn’t help the tiny bubble of anger that burst forth anyway. “And what happened to the alliance that I proposed even before the men from the Mountain captured our people?”
Seren didn’t look perturbed. “You weren’t useful to us then. But now we have a common goal to rescue our people. And, if I understand correctly, you formed a brief alliance with Lilly before she was killed by the Mountain Men.”
So the grounders didn’t know the true circumstances surrounding the death of their last leader. Tatiana wisely kept her mouth shut instead of enlightening them, which would no doubt shatter the fragile alliance that they were building now. After pausing a moment, the brunette nodded. “Alright. We’ll work together to get all of our people back. They’ve been forcefully taking blood from your people for years, and now they’re starting to do the same to mind.”
This caught the commander’s attention. “And how do you know that?”
Tatiana swallowed, caught mildly off guard. “We, er, have a man on the inside,” she explained shortly, uncomfortable with diverging their battle plans yet when their alliance was so new and delicate.
Seren nodded and then changed the topic, glancing sideways at her lieutenant. “We understand that your people fight with guns, just as the mountain men do. However, I think that any attack on the mountain would require a new form of attack as well. Dawn has kindly offered to teach her skills in fighting to your people if you share your knowledge on shooting with us.”
“We have many excellent shooters back at camp,” Tatiana affirmed with a nod. “I’m sure that they would be excellent teachers.”
Seren cleared her throat at the lieutenant, who sighed. “I’m to take one of your people as my second and train them personally to be a warrior in the true way of our people,” Dawn explained, perhaps a bit sullenly.
Tatiana turned sideways, making contact with the redhead beside her. The two shared a look of understanding before Tatiana turned back to Dawn. “You can train Chastity here. She’s one of our best warriors.” She caught the surprised look that Chastity shot her from the side, but Tatiana wasn’t lying.
“She does defend herself quite well,” Emrys murmured from beside the commander, and Seren, Dawn, and Tatiana all glanced at him in confusion. Sensing their alarm, Emrys’s eyes widened. “We’ve met a few times,” he confessed.
Chastity shrugged. “He saved me from you lot,” she explained, glancing back toward the commander and lieutenant.
Seren merely raised an eyebrow at Emrys. “We’ll discuss this later,” she replied, in a voice that indicated that this wasn’t the first time she’d suspected something like this (and that his punishment for what was no doubt disobedience would not be pretty). Chastity and Tatiana locked eyes again and the other raised her eyebrows in question, but the redhead rolled her eyes and mouthed that she’d explain all of this later to her.
Tatiana turned back to Seren. “So we’re agreed, then? This is an alliance. Your people do not attack mine, and mine do not attack yours. From now on, we train each other. Am I clear?”
Seren looked taken aback to be addressed in this way; Tatiana guessed that she’d been raised as the commander since she was child and had always ordered others around or made terms such as this one herself. Still, she nodded. “We start training tomorrow morning,” she responded curtly and then motioned toward the opening of the tent, indicating that their meeting had concluded.
Shooting the grounders a last backward glance, Tatiana and Chastity carefully reentered their camp. It was Eli who quickly reached for the lock on the gates behind them, but Tatiana stopped him. “It’s alright, they’re our allies now.” She glanced back at the tent, “They won’t be hurting us.” Or so she hoped. Prior to having landed on the ground, Tatiana Penvrane had once seen the good in everyone. After she’d seen what anarchy did to people, what mob mentality was, and how human nature was so weak to impulses of the heart and mind, she’d started to lose this mentality – but if this alliance held and her people were restored to her, Tatiana thought that there might be a chance in her heart that she’d hold these ideals once more.
From the engineering tent came a shout and then Daniel and Mia bounded out of the tent, carrying the radio communications device in between them. Tatiana broke away from Chastity and Elijah abruptly, saved from having to explain for the moment. “What’s going on?” she asked her brother and the other mechanic sharply. “Will’s not meant to check in for more than two hours.”
“It’s not Will,” Daniel explained solemnly, and, as if on cue, a voice rang out from the radio – not in video form, but in an unadulterated, clear voice that seemed eerie to the young woman.
“People of the Ark,” the woman spoke. It was Lydia Eames; Tatiana would have recognized that voice anywhere. This was the same woman who had told her about how the people on the mountain couldn’t step outside without suits on for fear of getting poisoned by the radiation. The hunger in her voice for knowledge as she explained to Tatiana that the key to survival was in the blood of the people from the Ark was a chilling memory that the brunette doubted she’d ever forget.
Lydia continued speaking. “By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of our plans for your friends. Don’t fear, the bone marrow removal won’t kill them – as long as all of you people on the Ark are willing to donate your bone marrow willingly. We promise that that’s all we want.”
“She’s lying,” Mia hissed, her eyes stinging. Tatiana glanced up at her and was reminded that the woman’s twin sister, Madison, was one of the forty people still in the mountain. “They’ll find new ways to use our blood or our organs for their own gain.”
The brunette couldn’t help but agree, but she refrained from speaking as Lydia continued, “You have three days to make your choice before we start the surgeries. You’ll let me know you’re decision if I see you all outside of the mountain, unarmed, by dawn three days from now.” The radio crackled and then it was static again.
“She shouldn’t have been able to hack this,” Daniel murmured under his breath. “It’s an encrypted feed. The only way that they should be able to get into this is if they’re using Will’s radio. Which means he’s likely been –“
“Captured,” Tatiana finished her brother’s thought with a worried nod, wondering exactly what to do next. The mountain people already knew about their man on the inside and their attempts to rescue their people – what they didn’t know, however, was that rather than trying to destroy each other, the grounders and Ark people had formed an alliance. Three days might not be enough to fully train their forces, but it was enough to buy them some time.
She strode away from her group, moving back to the gates. The others in camp watched her with guarded curiosity, clearly worried even if they had no idea of the new developments that Tatiana hadn’t yet disclosed to her people. “Seren!” she called out.
The flap of the tent opened, and the commander stepped out curiously, flanked by Emrys and her lieutenant. “There have been some new developments. We start training now.”
For a moment, the two held each other’s gaze; hazel eyes meeting ones streaked in black paint before finally, reluctantly, Seren nodded.
Tatiana turned and prepared herself for another war.