Title: Bet Her Life
Genre: YA Sci-fi/Thriller
Today is my 6,570th day of life. When you say you’re eighteen, people think you’re young. But when you throw around a number like that—almost 7,000 days—they start to realize no one is as young as they think they are.
The fog falling from Manhattan’s nuclear shield is particularly thick today. The misty air has chased everyone inside and 34th street is uncharacteristically empty. Most people would say that today is dreary, but not me. Today is the day I break free. I’m going to take New York for everything its got, and then I can leave. I’ll take Samantha and we’ll go far away, where the war can’t touch us. Today, I’ll have enough money to put working for Ares behind me.
My phone chimes as I turn onto 8th. Two messages. The first is from Ben: Dream Team is in position for offensive. No opposition sighted. Good to go.
The second from Samantha: Come see me before you become primo number guy.
I can’t help but laugh. Sam’s nickname for my job has always made me smile.
Madison Square Garden’s hulking cubical shape looms out of the mist. Architecturally it's probably the ugliest building ever designed. But despite that, and the weather, there’s still quite a crowd waiting in line for a chance to get in. Good. I want as many people as possible in the audience tonight.
I walk up the line to the front. Joe, one of the biggest guards the Viperas have, is on duty. He nods to me and waves me in front of the people in line to the scanner. I put my eye to the sensor as it reads my retina. It’s merely a formality, but I watch as my name scrolls across the door panel. Welcome, Mark ‘Cash’ Johnson. I head inside, confronted by the smell of sweat, smoke, and over-heated metal.
Before this most recent world war started, this was performing venue. Now it’s the biggest betting center in the city and the seat of the Vipera’s regime. The inside of the Garden is dark and smoky, filled with the blue light of video screens. It’s still a stadium, a giant screen facing each side of the room, and each seat with a little screen of its own for personal betting. The result is a flickery and dizzying light that gives you a headache if you’re here for too long, which I always am.
I glance at the closest screen. The satellites are currently looking at the northern front up in Montana--Contention Point 162. A group of our soldiers are facing off with an enemy unit, this one made up of Chinese troops. The numbers scrolling across the bottom of the screen tell me that two hundred thousand dollars total is being bet on this exchange, and the odds of the Chinese winning are pretty high—seventy-two percent. We’re way outnumbered. The Chinese launch an incendiary device, and three Americans die. As their green life signs fade within the image, I hear cheering from the far side of the Garden.