Strike
guy’s face. “But—”
    Bova jammed his weapon into the guy’s gut and pulled the trigger.
    The guy let out an anguished cry and fell to the ground. Dead.
    Shocked gasps rumbled through the crowd.
    Bova was coldly oblivious. He did an about-face and strode back to us.
    Kent and I sat in the dirt, staring up at him.
    I tensed up, ready for the shot.
    Bova stood over us.
    “Thank you,” he said. “That was quite surprising, and entertaining. The best bout we’ve had in weeks. Perhaps tomorrow evening the two of you will do us the honor of fighting each other. Two friends. A duel to the death. That will be quite the show!”
    “Forget it,” I said.
    Bova laughed. “Don’t count on that, Zero Three One One. Don’t count on that.”
    He walked past us toward his jeep, still laughing as the guards dragged the dead prisoner to the other vehicle. Moments later both jeeps roared to life and drove away, forcing the spectators to scatter or be run down. No sooner were the jeeps gone than the floodlights came back to life, bathing the clearing in harsh white light, making the assembled squint and cower.
    Kent and I sat in the dirt. Nobody came to help us or to see if Kent was okay. We watched in silence as the crowd dispersed and shuffled back to their barracks. Eventually, we were left alone in the center of the dirty field.
    “I’m not going to fight you, Rook,” Kent said through gasping breaths.
    “Don’t worry about it. We’ll take it one day at a time. Are you okay?”
    “Better than the other guy.”
    “What happened to my mother? And Tori? Did they make it?”
    Kent massaged his throat and shook his head. “I don’t know. I remember you getting blown out of the door just before we hit. I saw stars, man. Literally. I was hurt so bad I had streaks of light flashing past my face. Must have been a concussion. It was all just a jumble. I couldn’t focus on anything, so I don’t know what happened to them. Next thing I knew I was in the hospital plugged into an IV.”
    “Yeah, same with me.”
    “I’m sorry, Tuck. Maybe they made it, but I just don’t know.”
    Kent had nothing to be sorry about because he had done something for me that only a few minutes before I wouldn’t have thought possible.
    He had given me hope.
    “You know we’re square in the middle of Retro-central,” he said, his voice finally clearing.
    “I do,” I said. “I know something else too.”
    “What’s that?”
    I looked up at the giant steel dome that loomed over the camp to see a black plane rising up, lifted by its musical engine.
    “They’re going to wish they never brought us here.”

SIX
    “I can’t move, Tucker,” Kent said.
    Now that the adrenaline had left his system, the pain from the beating had taken hold.
    “It’s hard to breathe. I think I have a couple broken ribs. My knee is totally out of whack too.”
    “We gotta get you to the medical building. That miracle juice will fix you up.”
    I stood up and tried to help Kent to his feet, but he howled in pain.
    “I can’t,” he cried. “Jeez, that scum really did a number on me.”
    “I’ll get help,” I said.
    “From who? The guards don’t care. Neither do the other prisoners. Everybody stays in their own little orbit so they don’t draw any attention.”
    “Well we can’t stay here.”
    Kent tried to get up again, and again he sat back down, wincing with pain.
    What had been a fiercely hot day had quickly become a cold desert night. The barracks were dark. No guards were around. We were alone . . . until a set of headlights appeared, moving our way.
    “Great,” Kent said sarcastically. “What are they going to do now? Kill us for being out past curfew or something? That Bova guy is a real piece of work.”
    There was nothing we could do but wait and see who—or what—was coming our way. The vehicle was quiet, which made sense as it got closer. It was an electric golf-cart looking thing. At the wheel was a Retro guard. He glided up

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