War has destroyed everything Marcus Brown holds dear. He battles for his life and freedom inside a juvenile prison facility and only finds solace in the arms of his lover, Cory York.
The world has been nearly destroyed by greed. Young male prisoners must battle in the ring to win their freedom. Marcus Brown needs to win his next few fights and he can finally leave Ravanald Maximum Security Prison for Young Men--where he's serving an eight year sentence for stealing apples to feed his starving sister. When he wins his final fight, he'll never have to look into the face of Warden Paul Honeycutt, the man responsible for making Marcus's life a living hell, along with all the other inmates in the facility. But if he wins his freedom, he may have to leave behind his lover, Cory York, the only ray of sunshine in Marcus's dark existence.
CONTENT ADVISORY: Contains moderate violence/gore.
"Are you sure you'll be okay?" Ava, Marcus's ten-year-old sister, asked as he prepared to leave.
Marcus had gotten her comfortable in the abandoned warehouse they now called home. "I'll be fine. I'll only be gone for a few minutes and then I'll be back with some food."
They hadn't eaten in three days. He didn't care about himself, but Ava had always been sickly and needed nourishment. Since their parents' death a little over a month ago, Ava seemed to have gotten worse. The doctor said she had something wrong with her heart which made her sound breathless most of the time. She had wasted away to skin and bones and he needed to find her some food fast.
The grocery store down the street always displayed apples out front. Marcus planned to swipe a couple of them when it was safe to do so. "Don't worry and don't come out."
They had to keep their whereabouts a secret from the authorities since he was just thirteen and not considered old enough to care for his sister. He couldn't even get a job, which really didn't matter since there were none around to get. He made sure Ava couldn't be seen should anyone enter the warehouse and then left.
Marcus pulled up the collar of his threadbare coat to fight off the cold. The sidewalks were littered with people walking around trying to stay warm. Since the war, hardly anyone had a home to call their own. The economy had turned so bad people were begging in the streets and stealing just to survive another day. His parents had been murdered by the self-imposed military group called the Guardians of Justice, a bunch of killers who didn't like people who spoke against them. His parents were just trying to help some neighbors they knew. No one survived the slaughter except him and Ava, and only because they hid. He'd covered Ava's eyes and led her away hours after the shooting stopped. They'd walked for two days until Ava couldn't take another step. Marcus found the warehouse and had barricaded them inside to keep warm.
Marcus neared the store. There were still a lot of people milling about. Maybe he could use them to his advantage, like camouflage. He walked over to the front of the store, peering inside. The shop's proprietor worked busily behind the counter. Marcus eased over to the basket and began stuffing apples in his pockets and beneath his shirt.
"Hey, you, boy. What are you doing?"
Marcus looked up quickly. Shit. The cops. "Nothing." He ran dropping some of the apples.
One of the cops followed.
Marcus ran down the street quickly, hoping to lose him. He stumbled over some trash on the sidewalk and nearly ran into a barrel someone had built a fire in to keep warm.
"Halt," the cop shouted.
Marcus ignored him and continued to run. Just a little farther and he'd be back safe in the warehouse.
Marcus looked behind him but no longer saw the officer. Good. He slid open the warehouse door and slipped inside. He secured the door and Ava appeared. She'd come out of hiding even after he explained to her it wasn't safe to do so.
"Did you get food?"
Marcus handed her the apples he'd managed to save. He stooped to pick up one of Ava's small balls and put it into his pocket.
Ava's eyes lit up like coal in a hearth.
A bomb exploded around them, blowing out the doors and windows of the warehouse.
Ava screamed. "Marcus!"
Men in black suits, helmets, and carrying shields and guns entered the warehouse, flipping over things and searching the place from top to bottom.
Ava cried and clung to Marcus. "I'm scared!"
"Get them," one of the men said as Marcus and Ava tried to escape.
Two men approached. Ava continued to cling to him. One of the men grabbed her.
"Leave my sister alone," Marcus shouted. "She hasn't done anything. She's sick."
The other guy carried Ava out the warehouse.
"Help me, Marcus!" Ava screamed.
"Don't cry, Ava. I'll come for you. I won't let them get away with this."
The other man punched him in the face. That was the last thing Marcus remembered before waking up in a cell.