“This year, you may sign up with a sibling or relative.” There was a gasp from the crowd. Never before had they allowed pairings. This meant that two teens from a family would risk their lives for the better good, but the family would get double the compensation. Noelle also added in the back of her mind, double the grief.

Not all of the young adults returned. Those that did often had traumas or behaviors that distanced them from others in society. People gave them a respectfully wide berth in the tunnel passages. Only a few returned in good health, but none of them ever talked about their missions.

“Not only will you participate alongside a member of your own family, you will also have the opportunity..” Why pause for dramatic flair? They were already listening attentively. “ go above ground!”

A huge collective gasp led to a low buzz of chatter. Above ground? Was it safe? Noelle felt a hand slip into hers, waking her from her thoughts. Her sister Elora, eyes shining, imploring, squeezed it.

View this story's 2 comments.