Chapter 1

"Prisoner 299, face to the wall and hands behind your back!" came the barked order as the door was ripped open to the small cell. Marie scurried to obey the order of one of the guards. With only nine years she was a small scrawny girl with wavy blonde hair and steel grey eyes.

Her hands were cuffed together behind her back and she was roughly led out of her cell. As she was brought onto the hallway she could see similar things happen to the other prisoners. They were all led out of the sky box. Marie's heart started to beat faster in fright. Had the council finally decided to float them all, regardless of their age? But that could not be true, no one under the age of eighteen had ever been floated as far as she knew.

"What is happening?" she asked the guard who had cuffed her with a pleading look. The man looked uncertain "I am actually not allowed to tell you, but you all will find out soon enough."

"We will all be floated, won't we?" Marie whispered horrified.

The guard just shook his head but remained silent.

If they were not floating them, what was happening then? When Marie caught sight of an air lock in front of them she panicked. She had seen here father been floated. She had been too young to remember much, but she would forever remember the air lock and the look of pure horror as his body was sucked out into space.

Nevertheless the guard had no problem to physically overpower her and now more or less carried her through the air lock.

She did not recognize the part of the ark they were in now. She was put onto one of the seats and strapped into the seat belts. Before the guard stepped away he took her cuffed hands and undid the cuffs but kept her right wrist in a firm grip. The guard took out some kind of wristband and fastened it around her wrist smugly.

Marie clenched her teeth against the sharp pain shooting through her wrist. It felt as if needles had been sharply put under her skin. The guard looked at her apologetic and finally left her. Marie looked around the strange room nervously. More and more prisoners were forced into their seats and geared with the same wristband.

The last prisoner to be brought in was unconscious. A blonde teenager, who Marie knew was the daughter of the medical chef of the ark.

The door to the room was sealed without any further information and Marie could see that they all felt the same uncertainty.

Suddenly the screens came to life and the chancellor Jaha was addressing them.

Marie could not believe her ears. They were sent down to earth?

The teenage boy sitting next to her addressed her suddenly.

"What can a kid have done to get into the sky box?" he sneered at her.

Marie blinked at him, speechless for a moment, before she gathered her voice back "I tried to steal medicine from the med bay for my mother."

The boys sneer lessened noticeably and spoke in a softer voice now "My father was floated for steeling medicine for me when I was sick as a child. I am Jonathan Murphy by the way."

Marie took a closer look at the boy, without the sneer on his face he looked nicer.

"I am Marie Matthews" she answered a little bit shy. She did not know anyone of the other criminals and it could not hurt to know someone.

"Nice to meet you, Marie. But call me John. And how old are you?" John asked.

"Thanks, likewise. I just turned nine a week ago" Marie told the teenager and continued to listen to Jaha's message from the screen as she did not want to see the pity in John's eyes.

The doctor's daughter had obviously woken up, Marie could hear her fighting with the dark skinned boy next to her. Then one boy loosened his seat belts and floated through the small space without the gravity.

Marie had to smile, the floating looked like fun. Two other teenagers undid their seat belts and joined the first boy in his floating. The doctor's daughter lectured them about the dangers but they totally ignored her.

Suddenly the ship gave a hard jolt and continued its course down to earth heavily jerking. Marie screamed when the first jolt happened and John sitting next to her took one of her hands and gave a reassuring squeeze.

Marie gave him a small thankful smile but kept a firm hold on his hands while her other hand was clenched around the seat belt.

The ship got a harsh impact as it landed on the earth. Marie screamed again when the floating boys were shot onto the ground of the ship. Her head smashed back into the seat and she looked on rather dazed. John pried her fingers of his hand and unfastened his own seat belt. With shaking fingers she also undid the straps of her seat belt while the other teenagers were already scrambling to the exit. Marie stood up with weak legs and saw the doctor's daughter lean over the two boys who had joined the first one to float, they were laying still on the floor.

"Are they dead?" she asked uncertain.

The older blond girl just nodded her head sadly and hurried to the exit as another teenager wanted to open the latch for their exit. She was obviously trying to dissuade them from just opening the ship to the outside air. But what else were they supposed to do, Marie wondered silently? They were not given any resources so they would need to find water and food quickly.

Marie had always liked to read as soon as she was able to read that is. She had read that a healthy human could survive without food for around three weeks but only around three days without any water. They were all relatively thin as the rations in the sky box had been even smaller than the rations normal workers got. But water would be the most valuable thing for them in the weeks to come.

The blond girl had obviously lost her argument with the boy on the hatch as he pressed a button next to the door and it blasted away. Marie was momentarily blinded by the bright light now suffusing the small space of the drop ship.

The teenagers in front of the queue to the outside were already jumping outside looking around in wonder, some screaming in joy.

Marie remained at the back for a few moments trying to hold her breath afraid to breathe this polluted air. But the others seemed to be just fine outside, so she took some shaky steps in the direction of the opened hatch.

Her mouth hung open in silent wonder at what she was seeing. She was frantically looking around trying to take in all the details at once. Everything seemed to be green around them. But not just green everything looked so much full of colour and just alive.

They had landed in what seemed to be a forest. It looked wild and untamed, untouched from civilization. Marie wondered if the whole world now looked like that, after it had been wiped clean of the human race by the nukes. Marie wondered if there were animals around. Looking behind here she could see that the drop ship had destroyed some trees and set their trunks aflame. The others seemed to be unaware and were running wild around her like they were high on something. In the other direction she could see some big mountains on the horizon and started to hope this was not the Mount Weather Jaha had spoken of, it seemed to be pretty far away from them.

The doctor's daughter was trying to urge them to start towards the mountain to reach it before the sun would be gone for the night. The one who had opened the hatch wanted to send her off alone. Marie wondered how one young woman should be able to carry the things needed for all of them?

She wanted to offer to join them but was rebuffed as being too young and not much help anyway. Sulking Marie left in the other direction into the woods. When she was barely able to hear the activity of the other 100 at the drop ship, she slowed down and looked around.

Marie felt in love with the forest on first sight. Everything was so vibrant and so overwhelming. There was no constant humming anymore from the machines keeping the ark going. She let her eyes roam over the trees around her.

Her eyes whipped back as she thought to have seen movement in the leaves of the trees in front of her. As she tried to focus better on the area she thought she had seen the movement in, suddenly a bird busted from the tree on the left to her with a loud screech. Marie was startled by the sudden appearance of the bird and watched it as it flew off into the sky. She dismissed the prior movements to that of another animal, registering in her mind that there obviously were still animals around. If they managed to catch animals they would have a food resource already.

Marie whipped back around when she heard the sounds of someone approaching her from the direction she came from. John stood behind her with a sloppy grin on his face "Might not be safe here outside on your own, Marie".

"Because I am too young and too small?" Marie inquired moodily. She had seen that she was by far the youngest of them. If no one of them felt responsible for her, she feared she would soon be forgotten entirely. So she had to fend for herself from now on.

John shrugged his shoulders and narrowed his eyes at her "You seem tough enough to survive if need be. So what are you searching for here?"

"Water" she replied, also she had forgotten that because of the view finding water had been her first intention.

John just nodded at her "Then let's go."

Marie smiled at him and started again further away from the drop ship. John followed her silently, her silence was not strained just companionably.

"I have already seen a bird" Marie told John.

John looked around with wonder on his face after hearing that.

"Do you think it might be possible that some humans have survived as well?" Marie inquired thoughtfully.

John shrugged his shoulders "Don't know, don't think so, but recording to our earth lessons we should have died from the radiation already. So, who knows?"

Above them in the trees a lone warrior was silently following them from tree to tree, listening on to their conversation and observing the intruders to gather as much information as possible to report back to his general.