We are taken to a room in a basement. It is fortified. It's the only area that wasn't affected by the explosion. The terrorists hold us at gunpoint. As we go to the basement, we see that there are prisons. The holding cells are clear and the electricity seems to be active down here.

"Move," the terrorist says.


She nudges me forward with her gun. I look over at Rahmell. He's a little ahead of me. I notice at that moment the holding cell is full of men.

Rahmell and I are shoved in the large holding cell full of people. There is barely any place to stand. It is a common jail area. It's clear that they've taken this area over from the District.


"They aren't killing everyone," I tell Rahmell.


I'm a little relieved. I remember the dead bodies upstairs. I remember the piles of rotting flesh just above us. I don't know why it makes me feel somewhat better to know that they aren't killing everyone. Maybe Rahmell and I had a chance. Maybe we would survive after all.


Rahmell looks around the huge cell. It's so crowded with people. The room should just fit about 10 people at most but there are three times that many in this cell. The looks on the faces of these men are crazy. They are afraid.


Rahmell shakes his head, "These are all fertile men."


He nods, "I know them. Fertile men from the district. The feminists are gathering them up like a herd. They're killing everyone else."

"Well luckily you're a fertile man, they won't hurt you."

"What about you?" He responds.


"I'll be OK," I respond.

I'm lying to him. Sooner or later, they'll realize I can't have babies. Eventually I'll end up like Karington or Quincy or hell even Shaddius. They didn't need ambassadors. These women were only sparing men that were able to make babies. If you couldn't make a baby then you were useless. If you couldn't make a baby, they were going to kill you.


Rahmell doesn't seem too convinced about that.

He leans up against the wall at that moment. Rahmell isn't saying it but he's scared. He's afraid of what's going to happen.


"Excuse me?" I ask one of the guys in the cell. "How long have they been holding you in here?"


The men look me up and down. He doesn't respond. He turns away. I wonder if he recognizes me as an Amazon. I wonder if that's the reason, he's being so antisocial. I am beginning to notice that a couple of the other guys in the cell are giving me dirty looks as well. It's almost as though they know who I am...or at least who I was. The Amazons have turned on me. They've left me out to dry. I meant nothing to them.


My grandmother had used me. If these men knew that, they'd realize I was no threat to them. Not anymore at least.


Rah pulls at my shirt signaling the wall, "Just be quiet Gemmy. Sit with me. Don't mess with anyone."

He has a point. People are afraid. They are scared and even worse than that. They are angry. They are really...really angry.

"I have to use the bathroom," I tell Rahmell.


"There's one over there," Rahmell states.


He points to the corner of the room. There are several men around there.


"There are...people in here."

Rahmell shrugs, "You don't have that much of a choice Gemmy."


I'm struggling.


Rahmell knows me well enough, "You still have that issue."

I nod embarrassed, "Yeah."


Rahmell puts his hand on my shoulder. He walks me to the other side of the room. We are in the corner of the room all of a sudden and I feel Rahmell watching guard as I start to pee. He's making sure to block me and making sure that no one watches me.


As I'm peeing, Rahmell is slowly talking to me.


"Fuck this is so embarrassing," I state.

It's not the fact that I'm peeing in this crowded cell.


"I can't believe you never got over peeing in public," Rahmell tells me, "I remember I used to always have to watch your back as you peed. Your sisters would make fun of us but I didn't give a damn. You were my little buddy and I'd make sure you were comfortable...even if it was embarrassing as hell."

"You still my big buddy?" I ask Rah.


"Rah...this toilet isn't flushing..."

Rahmell turns around as I stare at the toilet. It's not flushing. It's one of those fancy toilets from the District. There are no handles or anything like that. It seems broken though.


"What the FUCK!" a guy says sitting close to the toilet, "You better make that thing flush. It's bad enough these crazy bitches have me in a cell. I don't want to smell piss."

He's annoyed. He's riling up the other guys as well. The room is too small. People are too much on edge. Rahmell comes over to the toilet to try and assist but it's clear that the toilet is broken. I feel myself flush with embarrassment. Could this get any worse honestly?


"FLUSH THE FUCKING TOILET!" another guy says.

This guy is bigger. He gets in my face. He gives me a hard shove at that moment. You would think I had done more than taken a piss in this toilet from how they are reacting. I should have known though from the stares I was getting before. These people knew who I was. Some at least. The ones who didn't must be hearing now based on the low whispers and the points.


He gives me a hard push at that moment, yet again.


"Yo get your fucking hands off of him!" Rahmell states pushing the guy back.


The guy falls to the ground but another guy comes out of nowhere socking Rahmell hard in the face! As soon as Rahmell falls to the ground, I lose it. I jump forward ready to pummel the guy who punched Rahmell but as I prepare myself to be jumped by these guys I realize something else is happening.

Someone has beaten me to the punch.


The guy who hit Rahmell is attacked. His head whips back as though something snatches him from the back. He is swept off his feet by one person while the other person delivers a heel to his abdomen making sure that he hits the floor with additional force. I can hear bones crack when he hits the floor.

As he squirms in pain I notice, the other men around us back off.



It's not just Beryl. Pearl and Ruby are there. I'm standing next to them and I watch as Pearl delivers a sweeping kick to the guys ribs.


"Look he's pissed himself..." Ruby laughs at the man.


She's right. The man has pissed himself. He struggles out of the way clearly smelling like piss his damn self. He crawls to the other side of the cell attempting to put the least amount of attention on him as possible. The other Stingers begin to laugh at Ruby's joke.


"You boys always get yourselves in trouble huh?" Beryl asks.


I don't know why tears form in the corner of my eyes. I find myself running forward. It may be the only time in my life that I have hugged the Stingers and the reactions let me know that they aren't expecting it. I stand there hugging them silently for a few minutes and it literally takes a few minutes for them to pat me on the back.


"You boys look like shit," Ruby states.


"You don't know what we've been through," I state.


I walk over to Rahmell and help him off the floor. His nose is still bleeding and I help him tilt his head up to prevent it from bleeding. The Stingers surround us and with them around it is clear that the Fertile men aren't anywhere near interested in fucking with us anymore.

"We kind of do," Beryl responds, "We were in this cell alone. Then the feminists came and took over the jails. They brought all these men."

"Just when I was getting comfortable," Pearl smiles flinging her hair away from her pretty face and seeming for the first time ever quite girly.


I sigh at that moment.


"Grandma's gone crazy. I don't know what she's planning on doing---but there's no way to stop her."

The girls don't respond. They just stand there looking at one another. I'm a little confused about it.


"They know," Rahmell states.

He isn't saying it as though he's wondering. He's saying it as though it's a fact. When I look over at the Stingers, I can tell by the look on their faces that they aren't all the way confused by this. I look at them at that moment and I just feel sick to my stomach.


"When we were jailed the First lady of the District Anastasia came to see us," Beryl states, "She offered us a job."

"What job?"

"She wanted us to plan the attack. When we refused they kept us locked up," Pearl responds.


I am relieved that they didn't know the entire time. The fact that stingers refused is something that I don't understand though.

"Isn't this what you wanted?" I ask, "Female empowerment?"

"Listen, men are useless," Beryl responds, "But we don't hate all men. We love you. You're our little brother. What they are planning...we can't be a part of it. It's cruel."

My heart is touched. After feeling, so much betrayal from my grandmother and even Amethyst I felt like my family was done for. The fact that my sisters were sitting here right now blows my mind. The fact that they didn't turn on me feels good.

"You know what she has planned---spit it out," Rahmell responds.

"I don't like his tone," Beryl states.


Ruby looks at Beryl then stares Rahmell down, "Not at all."

"Melly..." I warn him.

Rahmell is being aggressive. He's being like all the rest of these guys with their misplaced anger. He was blaming the Stingers just for the fact that they were female and he'd been hurt by females. That was enough to make him angry. That was enough to make him not want to trust them.


Rahmell shuts up when I warn him luckily. He just leans his head back up and attempt to stop his leaking nose again.


"Something's happening," I state.

The guards outside our cell are getting antsy. They are talking among themselves. The majority of them leave. Only two remain. It's almost as though something is gathering their attention. Luckily, I am able to spot it.


"She's here," Rahmell whispers to me, "Ma Zoe."

"Why would she come here?" I ask, "To make demands?"

"This isn't a hostage situation Gem. She would have made demands already."

"Then what does she want?" I ask.


"That's your grandmother."

Rahmell is right. He shrugs. He doesn't know what she wants. I look at the stingers. I have a feeling they have an idea. Maybe they knew something from a long time ago. Maybe they had time to figure it out. When I look at them, it becomes clear to them that they need to start talking.

Beryl is the first one to open her mouth, taking the lead for her sisters.

"This is where the end begins," Beryl states and crosses her arm.


"Beryl you're scaring me. Is Grandma going to make her demands so all this craziness can stop."

"There are no demands in genocide," she responds.


The word scares the fuck out of me.


"Gem. They are calling this mission Zero."


Beryl nods, "Patient Zero. Years ago, Grandmother released a virus in an attempt to kill a large population of men. She succeeded. However, it didn't have the effect she wanted. There were men who still had power. So...she plans on doing it again."

My heart races.

Rahmell looks over at me, "But all the men who are still alive are either immune or vaccinated."


The immune were people like Rahmell...the fertile.

The vaccinated were men like me. We were infertile. The vaccination took away our ability to reproduce.

"This is a new virus. This is a stronger virus that was developed," Beryl, explains, "You see them all leaving. They are excited. They are celebrating. Patient Zero is the first person who has a disease. It's the first person to spread it. It's what they've been working on this whole time. It won't kill the immune men but it will kill everyone else. Gem...it will kill the vaccinated men."

My heart drops.

Rahmell looks over at me.


They all look at me. They don't know what to say at that moment.

"This is their plan?" I state.


Beryl nods, "Yes. That's why we couldn't help them. It'll kill you and all other infertile men. It'll leave the population of men in the United States at less than .02 percent."

Did these women hate men so much?

"It'll kill me."

Rahmell grabs my hand. Not even Rahmell's touch can comfort me right now though.


"No it won't," Beryl responds.

"What? Why not?"

"Because we are going to break out of here tonight," Beryl responds, "And stop them."




"How can we trust them?" Rahmell asks me, "After what happened with Amethyst I'm not so sure I can trust any of them."

Rahmell looks over at me. We are apart from them. The Stingers have been planning and plotting for the past hour. They keep it between them but I'm not too concerned. That's how they've always been. The three of them speak the same language when it came to getting things done and I would only slow them down if I tried.

I'm scared though. I'm nervous as fuck.

Hearing that Ma Zoe was planning on releasing another outbreak scared the fuck out of me.


"|I'm one of them. I'm still from New Florida. So are you."

"I'm not talking about people from New Florida. I'm talking about women. Period," he responds, "Back in the day they had a movie called planet of the apes. I swear this is like planet of the women. These women can't be trusted. They just aren't...one of us."

"We can't think like that. Regardless of what society thinks. Men and women belong together..."

Rahmell shrugs.

"You think? Cause every time I was with Amethyst it felt like I was forcing it," he responds, "I didn't need to force it with you."


I have to admit that it's kind of cute. I lean over and kiss Rahmell. His lips are soft as fuck. Yeah there is no forcing it between us. We kiss for a few minutes and for a while I forget where we are. For a while, I forget we are in a cell. I forget my grandmother is about to release an outbreak. I forget that the entire fate of the world is in the balance.


All I think about are how soft his lips are pressed up against mine.

My mind is consumed of his tongue entering my mouth exploring it. His tongue is wet, warm and full of passion. It kind of scares me. It's almost like he's kissing me as though this is the last time we'll ever get to kiss.


"Yeah we're not forcing it at all," I agree licking my lips.

He licks his. There are fertile men around us who clearly are noticing the heavy heated raw lip-smacking going on between the two of us. However, they don't seem weird about it. It makes me wonder if they've participated in this kind of stuff as well. The relationships between men and women overall in what used to be the United States seem very...distant...to say the least.


"I belong with you," he responds, "That's it. I don't trust females. No offense. I just think we should keep an eye out for all of them...including the Stingers."

"I trust them. They told us about Patient Zero."

"I suppose."

"They are family. I know that doesn't mean much nowadays but trust me. I trust them...even if they don't have a dick," I respond.

It feels funny saying that but that is what this has come down to. Women weren't supposed to be trusted.

"Didn't you want a family?" I ask.


He shrugs, "I still do..."

"So what happens if we stop my grandmother?" I ask Rahmell.


Rahmell doesn't seem to understand what I'm getting at. He leans up against the wall. He looks at me. Damn he's sexy. Even with us looking beat up the way we do I still think Rahmell is the sexiest man in the world.


"What do you mean?"

"What if Amethyst wants to be a family."

"She tried to kill us."

"Yeah but she's still pregnant with your baby," I respond.


Rahmell sighs.


"I know. It's just...complicated."

I sigh as well. That's not exactly what I wanted to hear.


"Maybe if we get out of here you should convince her to have an abortion," I suggest.

I dunno where this comes from.


"She'd never do that," he responds.


"Force her."

"I'd never do that," he tells me sharper than before and giving me a hard look, "I want her to have this baby Gem. I mean I want to be with you but you know how important having my own child is for me."

I'm struggling with this.


"Rah I can't give you that. I know I can't give you family but this is wrong. Having a child with a woman you don't love is wrong. Having a child with a woman like Amethyst is dead wrong."

I can't understand why he would want to bring a child into the world on terms like that.


"Why do I feel like you're asking me to choose between my unborn child and you?"

"Because maybe I am."

Rahmell moves his hand off of me. He's not holding my hand anymore.

"Don't make me choose."


"You won't like the choice Gem," he warns me.


He gets up at that moment and he moves to the other side of the room. He doesn't talk to me for the next hour. He doesn't even look at me. I have the feeling that I've pissed him off.


I know I may have gone too far. I'm just jealous. Females are able to give men something that men just can't give them. Listening to Amethyst you would think women were the most powerful thing in the world. You would think that men...especially gay men were just a weak substitute for a real woman.

There is a bitterness that is forming within me.

I want to be able to give Rahmell a family. I want to be able to be there for him. It isn't fair.


It's late when a fight breaks out. I'm shocked at that moment when I see that it's Ruby and Pearl. I watch Ruby toss Pearl to the ground at that moment. My sisters fought all the time but I'm just shocked that they choose now to start fighting. God knows what they are fighting about this time.

"You think you're so fucking cute!"

Petty shit.


I roll my eyes and attempt not to watch. The men in there are cheering and being quite loud. Ruby punches Pearl. Pearl knees Ruby. They are fighting as though they are in some type of cage match all of a sudden delivering devastating roundhouse kicks to one another. Blood, sweat and tits are everywhere.


The guard opens the gate.

"Knock it off!" the guard is saying.


The guard has her gun in hand. You'd think that would stop Pearl. It doesn't. She has Ruby by the hair. I think she is going to rip Ruby's hair straight out of her head. That's when I notice something. I notice Beryl sneaking out from behind the open door.


Then Pearl throws Ruby.


She literally tosses Ruby like a stone at the lady with the gun. It's like some crazy wrestling move when Ruby pins the woman to the ground. Pearl grabs the gun that the guard drops and shoots the guard in the leg.


Another guard runs up but doesn't realize Beryl is behind her.


In a matter of seconds, Beryl clubs the second guard.


Beryl looks over at me.


Rahmell is on his feet before I know it and he makes his way over to me. We stand there and look at one another kind of stunned that the stingers were able to fool the guards so easily using their own bodies like it was nothing.

"Don't just stand there. We have men to save."

The Stingers lead the way. The fertile men were released on their own. Several of them decided it's best to just stay in the cell. I guess they figured they weren't going to die either way. Even in this time of craziness, the fertile men were the most valuable assets. They were needed no matter how this situation turned out and they seemed to know it.


The Stingers are legitimately a three women army. I swear Rahmell and I just learn to stay out of their way as we lag behind. The Stingers clear out one hallway after another. They have no real strategy. They dive in shooting anything that walks with no cares or concerns but somehow we're still alive and it's working.


It's clear we must be getting closer to my grandmother because security is increasing.


"Still don't trust them?" I ask Rahmell as we turn the corner.


"If you trust them I'm OK with them," Rahmell states crossing his arms, "But Gem...what if we can't stop your Grandmother. We should just get Amethyst and leave."

I sigh. His concern is still Amethyst and his unborn baby.


The Stingers open the door to the main hallway. They have guns but the people on the other side of the door have guns as well.


Ma Zoe is there!

She's standing and she's not alone. The president of the District is at gunpoint by his own wife. Amethyst is standing there.


Then I notice my other sisters. Opal and Diamond.


They are both...there...



"My granddaughters...oh thank God. I figured it was someone else," Ma Zoe states.


My grandmother has this smile on her face. The other terrorists haven't lowered their guns but the way Ma Zoe is acting it's as though she is relieved that it's just the stingers and I.


There is a standoff.


"Take another step and we'll shoot," Beryl warns her.


"It's me...your grandmother," Ma Zoe states.


She has that look on her face and for a moment, I am fooled. I'm not as strong as the Stingers. I'm not as cold as them. I remember the kind grandmother that I thought I knew. I remember the woman who just took care of my grandfather.


Then I remember.


"Where is Grandpa?"

"Grandpa died..." Ma Zoe states, "Unfortunately."

I look over at Diamond and Opal. They are standing there. They don't have weapons but they aren't resisting either. It's almost like they've given up. All of a sudden, I'm afraid. If Ma Zoe was able to convince Diamond not to resist her then maybe she would say something to the Stingers as well.


"You mean you poisoned him," I state.


Ma Zoe looks over at me, "Yes Gem. I poisoned him."


All of a sudden, I feel sick to my stomach.


"Looks like we've got ourselves a standoff," Beryl acknowledges.

She's right. The terrorists have guns pointed at us. We have guns pointed at them. Well at least the Stingers do. Rahmell and I have no guns pointed at us. I look at Rahmell and I realize that maybe he was right. Maybe I shouldn't have let the Stingers take the weapons like this.


"We're on the same side," Ma Zoe states, "Look. I've brought your sisters...Diamond, Opal and Amethyst. It's a family reunion."

"Put down your guns sisters," Amethyst responds, "We aren't your enemy."

"Yet you want to kill me?" I ask.


Ma Zoe looks at me.


"I'm sorry Gem. You are a necessary sacrifice. It is unfortunate you were born with the weaker chromosomes."

My heart is shaking. I look over at Diamond and Opal.


"Do the two of you feel this way?" I ask.


Diamond and Opal look at me. They have their heads lowered.


Opal responds barely opening her mouth, "Maybe we can save Gem...somehow. If we have to kill all the other men Grandmother then maybe we can save Gem."

Opal is so weak. I roll my eyes at how stupid she's being. God knows what Ma Zoe has said to convince her.


I look at Ma Zoe moving closer to the Stingers in an attempt to convince them.


"Turn your weapons on the men, Beryl," Ma Zoe states.

"That's Gem and Rahmell," Beryl responds, "I raised Gem myself and I damn near grew up with Rahmell. I'm not going to kill them."

"They aren't us," Ma Zoe returns.

Rahmell is worried. He looks at me.

"Beryl...shoot her," I state, "They killed grandfather."

"Your grandfather...the weakling," my grandmother asks, "Beryl if we don't do this attack you will be prosecuted. You and your sisters. You think the men care or know the difference between us. They were attacking our borders. I did what I had to."

"Genocide is not necessary," I argue.


"Yes. It. Is," my grandmother, argues, "And so is sacrifice. Shoot them."

Amethyst nods, "Shoot them."

Beryl is hesitating, "There has to be another way. You're all my family. We can all just walk out of here..."

"They building is surrounded by men with guns," my grandmother states, "You say you want strength. Your are nicknamed the Stingers. Now it's time to sting. Now it's time to show men exactly what a woman is capable of. I understand you love your little brother Beryl. But Gem is a sacrifice for the greater good. Beryl this is what you wanted."

"I didn't want genocide."

"You wanted strength. Look outside. An hour ago, we were surrounded from all sides. Soldiers from every government. The entire world is watching what happens here."

Beryl signals to Ruby, "Check."

Ruby goes to the window. It takes a few seconds. She must be blown away by what she sees because she returns and nods. When she returns, Beryl exhales a little bit.


Beryl shakes her head, "Kill them all for what I care...except Gem. He's family."

"A virus won't discriminate," My grandmother, states, "We will release enzymes from case zero and all men who were previously given a vaccine will die. Period. Beryl you make your choice now. You stand with us or you don't. Gem is a sacrifice that has to be made. Just like your grandfather."

Beryl is struggling. Clearly.

"Just like my husband," first Lady Anastasia says holding the gun to her husband's temple. I watch as he squirms. The president is still alive at least but clearly not for long.

"Stand with us...." Ma Zoe tells Beryl.


I'm left out. I'm completely left out just because I'm a man.

My own grandmother is calling me a sacrifice.

I look at Rahmell. He doesn't trust the Stingers! The stingers are giving me reason to worry as well. Why are they even hesitating? Why haven't they stopped my grandmother yet? The Stingers were standing around thinking. They never seemed like the thinking type. They ALWAYS ran in headfirst. Now things were different.


I was losing them and I knew it. Maybe it's the sound of hovercrafts overhead. Maybe they knew that enemies to the Amazon had this place surrounded all of a sudden. They were desperate. Maybe they actually were starting to believe the bullshit my grandmother was talking about strength or whatever. Why was strength so important to these women?

"Let him leave...and I'll stay," I say.


Rahmell looks at me, "What?"

He has no idea. I'm losing my influence on my sisters. I knew the stingers well enough to know that they were going to turn. I had to make the right choice. I had to make one final deal in this god-forsaken convention.


"Let Rahmell GO and I'll stay...no one has to die. This started as family. It will end as family," I state.


Beryl nods, "Rahmell go."

It's clear she was hoping I'd say that.


"I'm not leaving. Not without Gem. Not without Amethyst."

Amethyst laughs, "I'm not going anywhere with you."

There is laughter all across the room.


"Don't get ahead of yourself bitch. I want Gem for love...I just want you for my child," Rahmell cuts the laughter short with a snide viciousness that I actually don't expect."

Diamond looks over at Amethyst, "You haven't told him?"


Amethyst laughs, "He has no idea."

"No idea about what?" Rahmell asks.


I'm confused as well.

"You think I wanted this child for shits and giggles? No. This child was the plan. The baby is Patient Zero," Amethyst says.


To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com