The last half hour had been a flurry of commotion—men, guns, and orders. Eve stood in the corner of the room, her back pressed against the cold bunker wall, her heart destroyed in more ways than she could handle.
Cassie was coming. In spite of all Eve’s efforts to save her, her daughter was going to deliver herself to this madman. She watched Emerson pace the room, his face smug and determined. It was as if he’d forgotten she was even there.
Ever since Cassie had made radio contact, Eve had become part of the background, a forgotten pawn. Her purpose had been served, and now she was as insignificant as the cement walls or the ceiling. She had no idea what would come next.
But she knew she had to stop it. And she knew she needed answers.
Once Cassie arrived, it’d be too late. It was clear the man in the room was unstable. Whatever his sick game was with her daughter, she needed to prevent it.
She eyed the gun on the table, contemplating making a lunge for it. It was about ten feet away—close enough that she could trace the contours of the metal, but far enough away to be a gamble.
She inched closer. She needed to bridge the gap.
Before she could make progress, the door slammed open and two armed guards rushed inside. They gave her a passing glance.
“What should we do about the light we saw earlier?” one of them asked Emerson.
“Tell the others to keep moving toward it,” he instructed. “We need to snuff it out. Preserve the darkness.”
She recognized the look of resolve on his face. It was the same expression he’d wore at the Institute meetings—the look of a man who made all the rules. A few hours earlier, though, when Jared’s radio had gone silent, she’d seen his face soften.
It’d only been for a few seconds, and she might’ve missed it if she hadn’t been staring at him so intently. When it sounded like he’d lost Cassie, the corners of Emerson’s eyes had wrinkled with concern, and he’d pursed his lips.
Was it possible he felt for the girl? That he cared for her more than he let on? Even though he wasn’t her flesh and blood, perhaps he viewed her as his creation. It was a warped perception, but at the same time, the man wasn’t exactly sane.
Emerson stood in the center of the room, giving direction to his subordinates. If he cared about Cassie, it was impossible to tell now. A few more people had meandered into the room, and he was speaking to them like a crazed televangelist, waving his arms and raising his voice. She recognized a few of the faces as some of the people who’d first captured her, and she felt a surge of hatred. The Dark Worshippers. They’d abused her creation. Destroyed the Institute’s vision.
She’d built the weapon as a safeguard; it was never supposed to be used unless absolutely necessary, and only then, for security measures. It was never meant to destroy. The idea seemed like a contradiction, and it was one she’d wrestled with over many sleepless nights. And now it was one that would weigh on her for the rest of her life, however short that life might be.
Right now, her focus was on Cassie. She needed to keep her safe. Given Emerson’s apparent mental state, there was no telling what the man might do.
Nine years ago, she’d agreed to keep Cassie, to raise her as her own, but she’d never been apprised of the details of her daughter’s involvement. Many of the Institute’s teams were siloed; for safety’s sake, the details of each project were kept from the others. As her contract stated, she’d kept the appointments; she’d brought her daughter to the Institute once a month. She’d done as she was asked, and she’d never told Jared. And now they’d betrayed her.
Emerson had known everything, and he’d used it to his advantage. He’d known about her trouble conceiving, and he’d twisted it for his own personal agenda. She wasn’t sure what his motives were, but clearly he had a plan.
Eve’s anger mounted. Bastard.
The others had left the room, and all at once, it was just she and Emerson. He sat down behind the desk and stared at her. For a second, it was almost as if the two were engaged in an Institute meeting, rather than a meeting between captor and captive.
Emerson looked at Eve, then off into the distance. A wistful look crept across his face. “We’ve all known something like this was going to happen, Eve. How many times had we talked about it? That was the reason we worked so hard, and so fast. We were the first to develop this technology. It only made sense that we’d be the first to use it. The darkness was inevitable. We just helped usher it in.”
Eve shook her head, staving off tears. The man was sick. Delusional. Although she’d known it before, she was certain now—there’d be no reasoning with him.
“This all happened a little quicker than I expected, but I intend to make it work. My group will be the new leaders, the ones people will rely on, the ones people will follow. There’ll be casualties, sure, but when the dust settles, we’ll rebuild.” He paused. “Things will finally be the way they were meant to be.”
Eve didn’t answer. She covered her eyes, feigning tears. In the time Emerson had been speaking with the others, she’d been moving closer to his desk. She uncovered her face, making sure he was looking away.
Then she sprang for his gun.