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The Lie that Saved the World Chapter 15: Resolve

by VengefulReaper


Warning: This work has been rated 16+.

Ethan felt the ground reverberate at the subsequent explosions. The first one had triggered off a chain reaction in the west wing of the bunker. The cracked walls that once flimsily held the base together began to cripple under the pressure of the ocean from the outside and the explosions from within. From the little Ethan gathered in his semi-conscious state, Steve, Breach, and John would attempt to cut off the leak from the main base below the bunker where most of the operatives were stationed.

The structure rumbled once more. Ethan’s eye beeped red, highlighting the crack in the side wall that was swelling. “…Water…” he muttered, shakily pointing to the wall.

Amber shot Ethan a concerned glance, then shifted her gaze to Jim. “We need to hurry up. The base below might be safe, but this one is going to get flooded.”

They quickened their pace. Ethan, not being able to keep up allowed his feet to be dragged across the concrete floor, placing all his weight on Amber and Jim’s shoulders.

“Steve, come in!” Jim yelled over the rumbling. “Steve!”

“…Copy! We’ve contained the leakage. The lower levels have been isolated from the flooding. I’ve given the order to the ops below to prepare the subs in the hangar. If you can make it to the medical sub up top, we can meet you at the rendezvous point.”

“Roger that! See you top-side.”

Jim turned to Amber. “Can you patch him up on the medical submarine?”

“It doesn’t look too bad,” Amber said. “I can keep him stable for now, but we have to get him to a burns ward when we reach the surface.”

Jim’s ears twitched. “Water. High pressure. How far are we from the sub?”

“It’s the door at the end of the hallway. Not far,” Amber replied.

Amber and Jim supported Ethan on their shoulders as they navigated through the narrow corridors now flooded with water. With every step, Ethan's body throbbed with pain from the explosion he had barely survived. His mind was a haze, his thoughts struggling to keep up with the urgency of their escape. The smell of seawater rushed through his nostrils and clouds of dust from blasted concrete blurred the way in front of him.

The emergency sirens wailed. Alarms flashed. Red lights illuminated their path as they stumbled through murky waters. The chaos was a lifeline for Ethan. The only thing keeping him from passing out was the periodic wailing of the sirens, the constant blinking of the alarms, and the gushing of water. As long as he focused on that, he’d stay awake.

Waves of excruciating pain rushed through his body as the saltwater brushed against his burned flesh. The adrenaline, the will to survive, was what pushed him through the pain. He gripped Amber and Jim's shoulders tightly.

Amber winced under Ethan’s grip. "…The salt waters. Shit…Hang in there, Ethan! We’re almost there!"

The bunker's structure shook like an earthquake, nearly throwing the three off their feet. Jim balanced himself by reaching out to the wall for support.

Suddenly, a portion of the ceiling collapsed just ahead of them, blocking their path with rubble and wreckage. Jim looked to Amber who returned his gaze equally concerned. There was no way of getting past this rock. The ironclad reinforcement still stood strong, keeping the water from leaking through the ceiling as well.

Ethan reached out and placed a hand on the wall of the corridor. “…Water.”

High-pressure water gushed through the cavity violently. It pushed the loose debris out of the way. It was small, but the hole was large enough for the three of them to move onward. pushed the remaining, smaller boulders aside.

“Let’s go!”

Through the maze of collapsing corridors, they pressed forward. The submarine, their only chance at escape, was only a few meters away now. It was well within reach.

They reached a flooded intersection, where two passageways beckoned. A barrage of steel doors had descended as part of the lockdown sequence. The seconds felt like hours as they struggled to discern the safest path.

Amber made a split-second decision, turning left as Jim and Ethan followed, water splashing around them with each hurried step.

A loud explosion reverberated through the water, causing the corridor to shudder violently. The blast had triggered a cascade of oxygen pipes. Within minutes, oxygen levels would drop over and above the flooding. With no time to spare, they raced to the submarine room, the water washing over their ankles now. Ethan was dragged along like a corpse, unable to keep up with their speed.

Finally, they reached the entrance to the docking bay where the submarine was stationed. Jim accessed the watertight room with his palm.

“Get in! Now!”

The three entered and quickly slammed the steel door from above. The submarine floated on the water, awaiting their departure. Amber configured the submarine and released the locking mechanism on it. The lights turned on and the hydraulic door of the submarine slowly opened with a buzzing sound.

Amber and Jim locked gazes. “On three. One…Two…Three!”

They heaved Ethan into the waiting submarine. As the hatch sealed shut, the distant rumble of the base's collapse faded into the background.

Inside the confines of the submarine, the chaos outside became a muted echo. Ethan hauled himself onto the bed. His breaths were deep and heavy, but a sense of relief washed over him. The adrenaline that had carried them through the flooding base now subsided.

They had survived the crumbling bunker. The chaos and panic were now fading, replaced by the anxiety of uncertainty. Will Steve and the rest of the infils make it? Will they ever be able to access the base again? What was the fate of the operatives in the lower levels? What was the fate of the country now that the Alliance had been shook to its core?

As the submarine released from its docking station and Amber entered the coordinates for the rendezvous point, Jim examined Ethan’s wounds and placed a painkiller patch near them. It stung at first causing Ethan to gasp but the pain faded just as quickly. He let out a sigh of relief and closed his eyes for a brief moment.

His senses began to return to normal. The throbbing migraine that hindered his vision and his thinking lifted like a cloud clearing from the sky. Adrian’s interference was still present. The flashes of images still flicked through his mind.

What the hell was that?

As the sub exited the base into the open ocean, Amber placed it on autopilot and walked to the medical bay to examine Ethan.

“Third-degree burns,” she observed. “If you stayed in that explosion your entire body would have been toast.” She began to wrap a white bandage around the wound to prevent further exposure. "We need to get you to the hospital once we meet up with the rest. The painkiller should take away the pain for the next 24 to 36 hours. I don't suggest straining your injured limbs."

“Thanks for pulling me out.”

“I’m starting to figure out that you’re quite accident-prone,” she replied, folding her arms. “But you did the right thing. The explosion could have destabilized the base below if it wasn’t contained.”

“I didn’t even know teleporters could blow up,” Jim said. “Who the hell approved of their installation?”

“Steve?” Ethan suggested.

“No,” Jim dismissed, scratching his chin. “The base was erected well before the Alliance division was instituted. It was a former military testing facility for high-pressure subs. The lower levels were added with the formation of the Alliance.”

Ethan lifted his uninjured arm to his forehead. The images still bothered him, like an itch that he couldn’t scratch.

“That painkiller should have numbed pretty much everything,” Amber said. “What’s wrong?”

“Adrian messed with my head,” Ethan muttered. “He stuck some type of fragmented message in it. I have no idea what it is or how he did that.”

Jim blinked twice in surprise. He held his head in his hands and let out a frustrated sigh. “I’m so bloody confused!”

“Well, it’s not actually in my head. It’s in the database of my eye that is synchronized with my brain activity. It’s how I am able to see my HUD, but it’s more than that,” Ethan pondered. “When I first got my eye implanted, I stared at my friend’s phone and something really weird happened.”

Amber and Jim listened attentively. Ethan was surprised that this was new to them considering Adrian was among the sec-users of the Alliance. Surely, they had to have encountered similar symptoms or problems with him.

“I saw everything. Every pixel, every bit, every register. Thousands of packages of information were thrown at me at once, rushing through my brain. Even with that information, it was all just a mess… like an incomplete puzzle. That’s sort of how I’m feeling with these images.”

“Are these images important?” Jim asked. “…To us.”

“Adrian told me just before he escaped that I knew what he did, who he was, and where to find him.”

“You two seem to have quite the history,” Amber said.

Ethan sighed. “Unfortunately, yes.” He sat up from the bed. “A few years ago, I needed some Secronium for an invention of mine. I called it a DNA Deconstructor. Using the power of hybridized Secronium, it was able to pinpoint specific infected cells and blast them with radiation, deconstructing the virus on a molecular level. It’s sort of like…very, very precise chemotherapy…almost to a genetic level.

“That device could singlehandedly decommission the use of bioweapons since it was basically a universal cure for anything biological warfare could throw at it. To acquire that Secronium, I had to outsource it from the belt…illegally. But the prices on the black market were far too high. So, I stole it and smuggled it back to Earth myself. This is when I met Adrian. He went by the name Scorpion and was the ruler of a network of syndicates.

"Later on, once I had enough funds and things got too risky, I hired a middleman named Storm. His job was to keep the Secronium supply coming to me. From what Adrian let slip during the interrogation, Storm's either caught or six feet under. Adrian doesn't let theft from him slide. To put it bluntly, this is personal now. And with him knowing my face and my past actions…"

“You’re in big trouble,” Jim finished. “You’re a potential target.” He stroked his chin in thought. “Duncan and the council must never know anything about you. He can’t know that you’re a Secronium user, nor can he know about your discoveries regarding the Secronium isotope.”

Ethan nodded. “I’m your wildcard.”

“Exactly. Who else knows of your research?” Jim asked.

“I never got to write a thesis on it,” Ethan said. “The only person who’d actually know about this is my former boss, Maxwell Summers.”

Jim and Amber’s eyes grew wide. “Who?”

“Max Summers,” Ethan reiterated innocently. “Come on. You have to have at least heard of that bastard.”

“Duncan must already know, then,” Jim sighed. “Max is a council member. He must’ve raised it when Steve told them about your recruitment a few days ago.”

“Max destroyed my device, and I destroyed its blueprints, though,” Ethan countered. “At least that’s what I told him to do.”

“Is it really destroyed?” Jim asked.

Ethan bit his lip. There was a fair chance that Max had not done as Ethan advised. His invention could still be out there. “I don’t know.”

Jim looked outside the submarine window. “We need to tell Steve this when we meet up. This is far bigger than just a singular bioweapon, Ethan. His plans may stem back much farther than I initially thought.”

“It doesn’t look like a plan,” Ethan said. “Something’s off about him. What he’s doing… or trying to do isn’t making any sense.”

“You can’t reason with a madman, Ethan.”

“No, no, not that,” Ethan replied, waving his hands. “He’s tried to kill the man who Beltian refugees look up to, he’s set a bioweapon that could kill the very people he’s trying to save, he’s taken control of Iassor but refused to take the throne, relinquishing his political influence, and then he comes in here and says he wants to ‘free’ his people. It literally makes no sense!”

Amber and Jim looked at each other. “Maybe those images inside your head can make sense of it.”

“And if they don’t?”

“Then from what Adrian told you, we’d at the very least know exactly where he is and have evidence for what he did.”

“I suppose it’s all up to me now…”

Ethan's gaze remained fixed on his bandaged arm. Mr. Singh's words echoed in his mind. They were a reminder that sometimes, the choices he made were driven not just by desire, but by destiny. Somehow, he was here for a reason.

His fingers traced the edge of the bandage. This was his chance to grasp something meaningful before his time ran out. The notion of revenge had once driven him, but now it seemed secondary to the quietly approaching threat slowly bubbling under the surface.

There was no turning back now, no room for doubt. In the midst of this war between nations, he found himself an unexpected wielder of power, holding a key that could tip the scales toward chaos or order, toward salvation or destruction.

Ethan knew that the time for secrets had passed. The truth, no matter how haunting or unsettling, had to be laid out to Amber and Jim at least. Amber had confided in him, and Jim had already come to know of a secret that could send him to prison.

Ethan's voice cut through the tension that hung in the air. "There is one more thing I need to tell you."

Jim's exasperated sigh echoed through the room, a testament to the overwhelming storm of information brought to his attention in such a short period of time.

"How the hell do you have more to tell us?" Jim's frustration was evident. "This is far too much for one day."

Amber, dismissing Jim's outburst with a brief yet venomous glance, leaned forward. "What is it?"

"When you picked up Secronium traces in my blood during your scan, you weren't entirely sure of the effects it had on my body, right?"

Amber nodded slowly, recollecting her statements. "...right..."

A deep breath filled Ethan's lungs. "It wasn't just regular Secronium. It was the isotope.”

Amber's brow furrowed, the implications of Ethan's statement not yet fully sinking in. "So? What are you saying?"

"The reason I was so eager to join the Alliance was because I don't have all the time in the world. I have three years to live."

Amber's eyes widened, her shock rippling through the air like a silent tremor. Jim's earlier frustration seemed to dissolve into a heavy silence. He sat upright in his seat. He didn’t know if he was imagining it or not, but he felt the gazes of pity fall on him. The type of gaze he’d always hated.

“I…I’m so sorry, Ethan,” Jim said. “I didn’t know.”

Ethan's resolve remained firm. "I didn't tell you this to garner sympathy or pity. I told you because you need to know the truth."

After a prolonged silence, Amber spoke up. “We can get you out. We can find a way out for you. Wipe your ID, change your biometrics, anything.” She sighed, cursing under her breath. “You don’t deserve to spend the rest of his life in this… hell hole of misery. You don’t deserve to be pulled into this.”

"She's right," Jim added. "You need to go out there and live your life, not be trapped here with us."

Ethan smiled gently. “Live my life? My life has been a collection of poor, self-centered choices. If there’s one thing I can be proud of before I die, it’s that I made a decision that doesn’t only benefit me. I’m finally doing something for someone else.” His smile turned into a frown. He dropped his head. “It’s just a little screwed up that a death sentence was what made me care."

"So you're not out for revenge?" Jim asked.

"Yesterday, it was my top priority. Considering what happened today, I’d be a fool to keep it there."

"Are you sure about this? Really?" Jim asked.

Ethan clenched his fists. "Yeah. After all... what the hell do I have to lose?"


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Mon Sep 11, 2023 9:33 pm
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Rose wrote a review...



Greetings Storyteller!

Beyond my beloved horizon, I'm setting sail into uncharted pages with an itch for adventure. Through binoculars, I spy with my little eye a captivating story titled “The Lie that Saved the World” that deserves a good review. So without further ado, let us begin.

Image

I. It all Begins at the Beginning
It's not even the beginning and BOOM! reverberation of an explosion.
You've a build a pretty strong and suspenseful beginning, a beginning that sets the stage for something promising. "Cracked walls", "pressure of the ocean from the outside and the explosions from within", "the leak", those are all concepts that introduce themes such as survival and conflict.

Your story is giving me Mission Impossible vibes, not only because the protagonist's name is "Ethan" (I'm actually wondering if his surname is "Hunt") and there's an organization called the "Syndicate", but also because of the genre of your story, or should I say novel.
I didn't start reading from the first chapter, but after I stumble upon this new chapter of yours I decided to give it a shot. After all, stories about impossible missions and huge threats can be just incredible.

II. Writing Style & Variety
Your writing style can be described as descriptive but also action-oriented, you're painting a clear picture of the scene. To "show" the intensity of the situation you use vivid language, this helps the reader to actually experience the whole thing. This is a good thing, because the reader can then connect more with the character(s).

However, you could consider creating more tension when writing and action scene or writing about a character who's having a near dead experience, like Ethan in this case. You can make it seem as if it's the end of everything, as if they failed, or as if they are going to fail.
Sometimes it's okay to make things a bit more dramatic, it can definitely add to the suspense layer of the story...

III. That Part
The part where you describe the explosions, crumbling walls and the urgent escape creates a vivid sense of danger. The dialogues are jsut right for the scene, you describe their personalities in no time.
The mention of Adrian and the mysterious images in Ethan's head add a layer of mystery to the plot, and there are definitely some unanswered questions and literally put a huge dark question mark at the end of the story, a question mark that holds an answer you would really want to unravel.

And can we talk about the twist that suddenly twisted the the whole plot? Ethan is dying? The main character? The hero? That is an extremely sad thing, but also a very good plot twist.

IV. All In All
It was a genuine pleasure to dive into this. Your story skillfully blends thrilling action, high-stakes danger, and complex characters and it creates a gripping narrative. It takes readers on a cinema experience from the explosive start to the discovery of hidden truths, all while exploring themes of sacrifice, survival, and doing what's right.
I feel like I should start reading from the beginning of this captivating story.

V. Seek Inspiration Beyond
Feel free to check out Williwaw Chapter 1 by @Messenger for some extra inspiration and ideas to spice up your own storytelling!

That's it, that's all.
Hoping the review has been of value to you!

Yours in Puzzling Shadows,
Rose




VengefulReaper says...


Thanks for the review, Rose!

This story isn't necessarily inspired by Mission Impossible but the bunker sequence was, actually lol. I am kind of wary of making things *too* dramatic (like anime-level dramatic) but that kind of makes my story lack it as well. I agree that it would be a really nice place to add some drama so I'll definitely take that into consideration on my finale edit!

Thanks again for the super insightful review!
-Reaper



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Fri Aug 18, 2023 12:46 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Reaper! Lim here with a review!

General Impressions

The action scene in the first half or so was believable and paced very well. The shared goal of the characters to reach the submarine made the flow of the scene clear, even though there was a lot of chaos going on around them. The dialogue in the second half felt true to the characters, though it was more of a static scene than the first part. The conversation about Adrian seems to me to be building up to some secret about the world and the Beltians that only Adrian knows about, which I suppose will appear in the next part.

"How the hell do you have more to tell us?" Jim's frustration was evident. "This is far too much for one day."

This line made me laugh – maybe because I hadn’t expected a sudden burst of emotion like that in a largely serious backstory-and-plot-focused exchange.

Characters

I liked Jim’s interjections throughout the second half. It humanises the character because I can definitely believe having information like that thrown at you after a very stressful situation would set you off. It’s also sets up the contrast of this moment:
After a prolonged silence, Amber spoke up. “We can get you out. We can find a way out for you. Wipe your ID, change your biometrics, anything.” She sighed, cursing under her breath. “You don’t deserve to spend the rest of his life in this… hell hole of misery. You don’t deserve to be pulled into this.”
"She's right," Jim added. "You need to go out there and live your life, not be trapped here with us."

I really liked this display of compassion. Like the previous thing I pointed out, it makes the characters feel more believable and well-rounded.
Ethan bit his lip. There was a fair chance that Max had not done as Ethan advised. His invention could still be out there. “I don’t know.”

That seems like a pretty big slip-up! It kind of makes me wondered why Ethan would have just trusted Max like that. I don’t think they seemed to have a good or trusting relationship, based on that time when they met in the restaurant. Maybe younger Ethan was more naïve?
However, I like the thought of this chapter marking the end of ‘Part 1’ or the first novella in a series. It feels like Ethan has made a decision after being conflicted on what to do with his life in the preceding chapters, so there’s a sense of closure.

Plot

I’m glad we returned to the topic of the mysterious images Adrian put into Ethan’s head last chapter, because I was curious about that.
“Adrian messed with my head,” Ethan muttered. “He stuck some type of fragmented message in it. I have no idea what it is or how he did that.”

I hadn’t thought it might be a message at first, but that would be a sensible motivation for him to put images into Ethan’s mind. I wonder what Adrian would want to tell Ethan though, since as it stands they’re on opposing sides.
Ethan was surprised that this was new to them considering Adrian was among the sec-users of the Alliance. Surely, they had to have encountered similar symptoms or problems with him.
This was interesting: would all sec-users have some kind of optical or sensory modification? I feel like the idea of there being a distinct group of ‘sec-users’ hasn’t quite come into focus until now, but that might just be my bad memory.
As a side note, I got a bit confused by this line in the chapter
With every step, Ethan's body throbbed with pain from the explosion he had barely survived.

I think earlier on, Amber made it sound like his injuries weren’t that serious:
Jim turned to Amber. “Can you patch him up on the medical submarine?”
“It doesn’t look too bad,” Amber said. “I can keep him stable for now, but we have to get him to a burns ward when we reach the surface.”


Overall

I liked the action sequence and the ‘focusing’ that happens in the conversation that follows. I think this chapter leaves me with some idea of what to expect from the rest of the story: Ethan’s got to solve the mystery of what Adrian is trying to accomplish, and his secronium-related powers and disease might help or hinder him along the way.

Hope this helps, and keep writing!
-Lim




VengefulReaper says...


Thanks for the review, Lim!

There are a few more things I wanted to wrap up before part 1 ended but yeah, you could say this is one of the closing chapters. I'll have to rearrange and edit it quite a bit if I want to structure it as a novella.

I initially intended a much more 'grand' scale of things which is why I kind of hyped up the Alliance to be so 'high and mighty', but I shifted gears to a smaller scale (at least initially).

As a small request... say I end part 1 somewhere around here (maybe one or two chapters in the future just to round things out), I feel like thus far, the structure of the story needs tweaking after reading over it... though I'm not sure where to start. You've been the most insightful of my readers and have kept up-to-date (for which I am so grateful), so I thought I'd ask you for some direction (doesn't have to be too specific) if you have any ideas.

Thanks for your reviews so far, Lim!
-Reaper



Liminality says...


Hi Reaper! I'm glad you've found my reviews helpful! I think a smaller scale works for this story - it being smaller keeps the stakes more concrete/ tangible, and still has plenty of plot tension c:

As for structure, I think something I noticed about this story is that there's quite a number of important events that happen in the characters' past that are not explicitly shown or highlighted to the reader in a scene. I wonder if keeping the relative importance of those events in mind might help make the structure feel more cohesive, if that's what you're going for? For example, if the main plot is about the conflict between Ethan and Adrian, it might be good to have a scene or flashback featuring Adrian even as early as the prologue chapters, because that helps set it up for the readers that 'hey, this character and their shared history will be important later'. Not sure if that makes sense but that's what came to mind for me ^^'




I am proud of my self, the reason why some of you might disagree with me a little with, but nevertheless I still proud.
— Oxara