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DUTTON BOOKS 2 ñòðàíèöà
Day after day, I push the rock that the Society has given me up the hill, over and over again. Inside me are the real things that give me strength—my thoughts, the small stones of my own choosing. They tumble in my mind, some polished from frequent turning, some new and rough, some that cut.
Satisfied that the poems don’t show, I walk down the hallway of my tiny apartment and into the foyer. I’m about to open the door when a knock sounds on the other side of it, and I start a little. Why would anyone be here now? Like many of the others who have a work assignment but who have not yet celebrated their Marriage Contract, I live alone. And, just like in the Boroughs, we aren’t encouraged to visit one another’s residences.
An Official stands at the door, smiling pleasantly. There’s only one, which is strange. Officials almost always travel in groups of three. “Cassia Reyes?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say.
“I’ll need you to come with me,” she says. “You’re required at the sorting center for extra work hours.”
But I’m supposed to see Ky tonight. It seemed that things were, at last, aligning for us—he was finally assigned to come to Central, and the message he sent telling me where we could meet arrived just in time. Sometimes, it takes weeks instead of days for our letters to go through, but this one came quickly . Impatience floods over me as I look at the Official, with her white uniform and her impassive face and her neat insignia. Don’t bother with us anymore, I think. Use the computers. Let them do all the work. But that goes against one of the Society’s key tenets, one that they tell to us from the time that we’re small: Technology can fail us as it did the societies before ours.
And then I realize that the Official’s request might hide something more—could it be time for me to do what the Rising has asked? Her face remains smooth and calm. It’s impossible to tell what she knows or for whom she really works. “Others will meet us at the air-train stop,” she says.
“Will it take long?” I ask her.
She doesn’t answer.
As we ride in the air train, we pass by the lake, dark now in the distance.
No one goes to the lake here. It still suffers from pre-Society pollution and isn’t safe for walking in or drinking. The Society tore out most of the docks and wharves where people long ago used to keep boats. But, when it’s light, you can see that there are three piers left in one spot, jutting out into the water like three fingers, all equal length, all reaching. Months ago, when I first came here, I told Ky of this place and that it would be a good spot to meet, something he could see from above that I have noticed from below.
And now, on the other side of the air train, the dome of Central’s City Hall comes into view, a too-close moon that never sets. In spite of myself, I have a little stirring of pride and hear the notes of the Anthem of the Society singing in my mind whenever I see the familiar shape of a Hall.
No one goes to Central’s City Hall.
There’s a tall white wall around the Hall and the other buildings nearby. The wall has been here since before I came. “Renovations,” everyone says. “The Society will open the stillzone back up again soon.”
I’m fascinated by the stillzone, and by its name, which no one seems to be able to explain to me. I’m also intrigued by what’s on the other side of the barrier, and sometimes after work I take a small detour on my way home so that I can walk next to the smooth, white surface. I keep thinking of how many paintings Ky’s mother could have put along the length of the wall, which curves back in what I imagine is a perfect circle. I’ve never followed it all the way around, so I can’t be sure.
Those I’ve asked are uncertain about how long the barrier has been here—all they say is that it went up sometime in the last year. They don’t seem to remember why it’s really here, and if they do, they’re not saying.
I want to know what’s behind those walls.
I want so much: happiness, freedom, love. And I want a few other tangible things, too.
Like a poem, and a microcard. I’m still waiting for two trades to come in. I traded two of my poems for the end of another, one that began I did not reach Thee and tells of a journey. I found the beginning of it in the Carving and knew I had to have the end.
And the other trade is even more expensive, even more risky—I traded seven poems to bring Grandfather’s microcard from my parents’ house in Keya here to me. I asked the trader to approach Bram first with an encoded note. I knew Bram could decipher it. After all, he’d figured out the games I made for him on the scribe when he was younger. And I thought he’d be more likely to send the microcard than either of my parents.
Bram. I’d like to find a silver watch for him to replace the one the Society took. But so far the price has been too high. I rejected a trade for a watch earlier today at the air-train stop on my way to work. I will pay what’s fair, but not too much. Perhaps this is what I learned in the canyons: What I am, what I’m not, what I’ll give, and what I won’t.
The sorting center is filled to capacity. We are some of the last to arrive, and an Official ushers us to our empty cubicles. “Please begin immediately,” she says, and no sooner have I sat down in my chair than words appear on the screen: Next sort: exponential pairwise matching.
I keep my eyes on the screen and my expression neutral. Inside, I feel a little tick of excitement, a tiny skip in the beat of my heart.
This is the kind of sort the Rising told me to look for.
The workers around me give no indication that the sort means anything to them. But I’m sure there are others in the room looking at these words and wondering Is it finally time?
Wait for the actual data, I remind myself. I’m not just looking out for a sort; I’m also looking out for a particular set of information, which I’m supposed to mismatch.
In exponential pairwise matching, each element is ranked by assigning an importance to each of its properties, and then paired to another element whose property rankings fit optimally. It is an intricate, complicated, tedious sort, the kind that requires every bit of our focus and attention.
The screen flickers and then the data comes up.
This is it.
The right sort. The right data set.
Is this the beginning of the Rising?
For a brief moment, I hesitate. Am I confident that the Rising can bug the error-checking algorithm? What if they didn’t? My mistakes will all be noted. The chime will sound, and an Official will come to see what I’m doing.
My fingers don’t tremble as I push one element across the screen, fighting the natural impulse to put the element where my training says it should go. I guide it slowly to its new location and slowly lift my finger, holding my breath.
No chime sounds.
The Rising’s bug worked.
I think I hear a breath of relief, a tiny exhalation somewhere else in the room. And then I feel something, a cottonwood seed of memory, light and flitting on the breeze, floating through.
Have I done this before?
But there’s no time to follow the wisp of memory. I have to sort.
It’s almost more difficult to sort incorrectly at this point; I’ve spent so many months and years of my life trying to get things right. This feels counterintuitive, but it is what the Rising wants.
For the most part, the data comes through quick and relentless. But there’s a short lag while we wait for more of it to load. That means that some of it is coming from off-site.
The fact that we’re doing the sort in real time seems to indicate that there’s a rush. Could the Rising be happening now?
Will Ky and I be together for it?
For a moment I picture the black of ships coming in above the white dome of the Hall and I feel the cool air through my hair as I rush to meet him. Then the warm pressure of his lips on mine, and this time there is no good-bye, but a new beginning.
“We’re Matching,” someone says out loud.
He breaks my concentration. I look up from the screen, blinking.
How long have we been sorting? I’ve been working hard, trying to do what the Rising asked. At some point I became lost in the data, in the task at hand.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of green—Army Officers in uniform moving in on the man who spoke.
I saw the Officials when we first came in, but how long have Officers been here?
“For the Banquet,” the man says. He laughs. “Something’s happened. We’re Matching for the Banquet. The Society can’t keep up anymore.”
I keep my head down and continue sorting, but at the moment they drag him past me I glance up. His mouth is gagged and his words unintelligible, and above the cloth his eyes meet mine for a brief moment as they take him away.
My hands tremble over my screen. Is he right?
Are we Matching people?
Today is the fifteenth. The Banquet is tonight.
The Official back in the Borough told me that they Match a week before the Banquet. Has that changed? What has happened that would make the Society in such a rush? Data culled so near to the Banquet will be prone to errors because they won’t have much time to check for accuracy.
And besides, the Match Department has its own sorters. The Matches are of paramount importance to the Society. There should be people higher than us to see to it.
Perhaps the Society doesn’t have more time. Perhaps they don’t have enough personnel. Something is happening out there. It almost feels like they’d done the Matching before, but now they have to do it again at the last minute.
Perhaps the data has changed.
If we’re Matching, then the data represents people: eye color, hair color, temperament, favorite leisure activity. What could have changed about so many people so quickly?
Maybe they haven’t changed. Maybe they’re gone.
What could have caused such a decimation in the Society’s data? Will they have time to make the microcards or will the silver boxes stay empty tonight?
A piece of data comes up and then gets taken down almost before I see it at all.
Like Ky’s face on the microcard that day.
Why try to have the Banquet like this? When the margin of error is so high?
Because the Banquet is the most important celebration in the Society. The Matching is what makes the other ceremonies possible; it’s the Society’s crowning achievement. If they stop having it, even for a month, people will know that something is very, very wrong.
Which is why, I realize, the Rising added the bug, so that some of us could Match incorrectly without getting caught. We’re causing further havoc with an already compromised data set.
“Please stand up,” the Official says. “Take out your tablet containers.”
I do, and so do the others, faces appearing from behind the partitions, eyes bewildered, expressions worried.
Are you immune? I want to ask them. Are you going to remember this?
“Remove the red tablet,” the Official says. “Please wait until an Official is near you to observe you taking the tablet. There’s nothing to worry about.”
The Officials move through the room. They’re prepared. When someone swallows down a red tablet, the Officials refill the containers right away.
They knew they’d have to use these, at some point, tonight.
Hands to mouths, memories to nothing, red going down.
The little seed of memory floats past again. I have a nagging feeling that it’s something to do with the sort. If I could only remember—
Remember. I hear footsteps on the floor. They’re getting closer to me. I wouldn’t have dared to do this before, but trading with the Archivists has taught me to be stealthy, sleight of hand. I unscrew the lid and slip the paper— remember—into my sleeve.
“Please take the tablet,” the Official tells me.
This isn’t like last time, back in the Borough. The Official standing in front of me isn’t going to look the other way, and there’s no grass beneath my feet to grind the tablet into.
I don’t want to take the tablet. I don’t want to lose my memories.
But perhaps I am immune to the red tablet, like Ky, and Xander, and Indie. I might remember everything.
And, no matter what, I will remember Ky. They’re too late to take him from me.
“Now,” the Official says.
I drop the tablet into my mouth.
It tastes like salt. A drip of sweat running down, or a drop of tears, or, perhaps, a sip of the sea.
The Pilot lives in the Borders, here in Camas.
The Pilot doesn’t live anywhere. He or she is always on the move.
The Pilot’s dead.
The Pilot can’t be killed.
These are the rumors that people whisper in the camp. We don’t know who the Pilot is, or even if the Pilot is male or female, young or old.
Our commanders tell us that the Pilot needs us and can’t do this without us. We’re the ones the Pilot will use to take down the Society—and it’s going to be soon.
But of course the trainees can’t help but talk about the Pilot any chance they get. Some speculate that the Chief Pilot, the one who oversees our training, is the Pilot—the leader of the Rising.
Most of the trainees want to please the Chief Pilot so badly you can feel it rolling off them in waves. I don’t care. I’m not in the Rising because of the Pilot. I’m here because of Cassia.
When I first came to this camp, I worried that the Rising might use us like decoys the way the Society did, but the rebellion has invested too much in our training. I don’t think they’ve trained us to die. But I’m not sure what kind of life they’ve trained us for either. If the Rising works, what happens next? That’s the part they don’t often talk about. They say that everyone will have more freedom and that there won’t be Aberrations or Anomalies anymore. But that’s about all they’ll say.
The Society is right about Aberrations. We’re dangerous. I’m the kind of person a good citizen imagines coming up behind them in the night—a black shadow with hollow eyes. But, of course, the Society thinks that I already died in the Outer Provinces, another Aberration cleared away.
Dead man flying
“Give me a couple of steep turns,” my commander says through the speaker on the panel. “I want a left turn to a south heading and a right turn back to the north heading—one hundred and eighty degrees on each.”
“Yes, sir,” I say.
They’re testing my coordination and mastery of the ship. A coordinated turn with sixty degrees of bank exerts twice the force of gravity on the air ship and on me. I can’t make any abrupt corrections or changes or the ship might stall or break apart.
As I perform the turns, I can feel my head, my arms, my whole body sinking into the seat beneath me, and I have to strain to hold myself upright. When I finish, my heart pounds and my body feels unnaturally light at the lifting of the extra pressure.
“Excellent,” my commander says.
They say that the Chief Pilot watches us. Some of the trainees think they’ve ridden with the Chief Pilot—that he’s disguised himself as a trainer. I don’t believe that. But it’s true he could be watching.
I pretend that she is too.
I turn the air ship in the sky. When I first came up it was raining but now all of that is below me.
She’s far away right now. But I’ve always hoped that through some trick of distance and desire she might look up and see something black against the sky and know it’s me by how I fly. Stranger things have happened.
And soon I’ll be finished with my practice flight and they’ll send me out on my real assignment for the night. When they handed out the assignments last week, I couldn’t believe my luck. Central. At last. Later tonight, she really could see me flying, if she looks up at the right time.
I bank again and then begin to climb. We only fly alone like this when we’re on a training run. Usually, the Rising has us work in groups of three: a pilot, a copilot, and a runner who rides in the hold and takes care of the errands—the forays into the Society that the Rising conducts as stealthily as possible. I like it best when they let the pilots and copilots help the runners and we sneak through the streets of a City on a mission for the Rising.
Tonight, I’m assigned to stay with the ship, but I’ll find a way around it. I’m not getting that close to Cassia and then staying on board the whole time we’re in Central. I’ll find some excuse to leave and run to the lake. Maybe I won’t come back, even though in some ways I do fit in with the Rising better than I have anywhere else.
I’ve had the ideal upbringing to work with the rebellion. I spent years perfecting the art of being unnoticed in the Society, and I had a father who didn’t accept the way things were. I understand him better up here, where he has never been, than I ever did on the ground. Sometimes a line from the Thomas poem comes to mind:
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
If I could do what I really wanted, I’d gather up everyone I care about and fly them away. I’d swoop down first in Central, for Cassia, and then I’d get everyone else, wherever they might be. I’d find my aunt and uncle, Patrick and Aida. I’d find Cassia’s parents and her brother, Bram, and Xander and Em and all the others from the Borough where we grew up. I’d find Eli. Then I’d soar back up again.
You could never fly with that many in this ship. It’s too small.
But if I could, I’d take us somewhere safe. I don’t know where yet but I’d know it when I saw it. It might be an island somewhere out in the water, where Indie once believed you could find the Rising.
I don’t think the Carving itself is safe anymore—but I think out in the old Enemy territory there must be some other secret place where we could run. If you go to a museum now, you see that the Society has changed the Outer Provinces—made them smaller on the map. If the Rising fails to overturn the Society, by the next generation the Outer Provinces might not show on the maps at all. It makes me wonder what’s out there that I know nothing about and how else the Society might have altered maps over the years. There must be a world past the Enemy territory. How much has been erased and taken away?
I wouldn’t care how small the world became as long as I had Cassia at the center of mine. I joined the Rising so we could be together. But they sent her back to Central and now I keep flying because that’s the best way I can think of to get to her, as long as the Society doesn’t shoot me down.
There’s always that risk. But I’m careful. I don’t take unncecessary chances like some of the others who want to impress the Chief Pilot. If I die, I’m no good to Cassia. And I want to find Patrick and Aida. I don’t want them to think that they’ve lost another son. One is enough.
They think of me as their own, but they always saw me as who I was. Ky. Not Matthew, their son who died before I came to live with them.
I don’t know much about Matthew. We never met. But I know that his parents loved him very much, and that his father thought Matthew would be a sorter someday. I know that he was visiting Patrick at work when an Anomaly attacked them.
Patrick survived. Matthew did not. He was just a kid. Not old enough to be Matched. Not old enough to have his final work assignment yet. And certainly not old enough to die.
I don’t know what happens after we die. It doesn’t seem to me like there can be much past this. But I suppose I can conceive that what we make and do can last beyond us. Maybe in a different place, on another plane.
So. Maybe I’d like to take us somewhere higher, above the world entirely. It’s colder the farther up you climb. It could be that if I flew us high enough, all the things my mother painted would be waiting, frozen.
Dead man breathing
I remember the last time I saw Cassia, on the bank of a river. The rain had turned to snow and she told me that she loved me.
Dead man living
I bring the ship in fast and smooth. The ground comes up to meet me, and the sky shrinks down from being all that I can see to a line on the horizon. It’s almost completely dark.
I’m not dead at all. I’ve never been more alive.
The camp feels busy tonight. “Ky,” someone says as they pass by me. I nod in return but keep my eyes on the mountains. I haven’t made the mistake of getting too comfortable with people out here. I’ve learned my lesson, again. The two friends I had in the decoy camps are both gone. Vick’s dead and Eli’s in those mountains somewhere. I don’t know what happened to him.
There’s only one person here who I’d call a friend, and I knew her from the Carving.
I see her when I push open the door to the meal hall. As always, even though she stands near some of the others, there’s a little circle of isolation around her, and people look at her with admiring, perplexed expressions. She’s widely regarded as one of the best pilots in our camp. But there’s still space between her and everyone else. I’ve never been able to tell if she notices or cares.
“Indie,” I say, walking up to her. I’m always relieved to see her alive. Even though she’s an errand pilot like me, not a fighter pilot, I always think she might not make it back. The Society’s still out there. And Indie’s as unpredictable as ever.
“Ky,” she says without preamble. “We’ve been talking. How do you think the Pilot’s going to come?” Her voice carries, and people turn to look at us. “I used to believe that the Pilot would come on the water,” Indie says. “That’s what my mother always told me. But I don’t think that anymore. It’s got to be the sky. Don’t you think? Water isn’t everywhere. Sky is.”
“I don’t know,” I say. This how it always feels to be with her—a mixture of amusement and admiration and exasperation. The few trainees remaining around her mutter excuses and start across the room, leaving us alone.
“Do you have an errand tonight?” I ask her.
“Not tonight,” she says. “Are you off, too? Want to walk to the river?”
“I’m on duty,” I say.
“Where are you going?”
We’re not supposed to tell each other where our assignments are, but I lean closer, so close that I can see the dark blue flecks in the light pools of Indie’s eyes. “Central,” I say. I waited until now to break the rules and tell her because I didn’t want her to try to talk me out of going. She knows that once I get to Central, there’s a chance I might find a way to stay.
Indie doesn’t blink. “You’ve been waiting a long time for an assignment there,” she says. She pushes her chair away from the table and stands up to leave. “Make sure you come back,” she says.
I don’t promise her anything. I’ve never been able to lie to Indie.
I’ve just started eating when the siren sounds.
Not a drill. Not tonight. This can’t happen.
I rise with the rest of the trainees and head outside. Figures, fast and dark like me, run for the ships. By the looks of things, it’s a full drill. The runways and fields are crowded with ships and trainees, all following procedure to prepare for the time when we all run one massive errand to take over the Society. I switch on my miniport. Report to Runway 13, the message reads. Group Three. Ship C-5. Copilot.
I don’t think I’ve flown that ship before, though it doesn’t really matter. I’ll have flown something like it. But why am I the copilot? I’m usually the pilot, no matter who I’m flying with.
“To your ships!” commanders call out. The sirens keep on shrilling.
When I get closer to the ship I see that the lights are already on and someone’s moving inside the cockpit. The pilot must already be on board.
I climb the steps and open the door.
Indie turns to look at me and her eyes widen in surprise. “What are you doing?” she asks.
“I’m the copilot,” I say. “Are you the pilot?”
“Yes,” she says.
“Did you know they were putting us together?”
“No,” she says. She turns back to the panel to start up the engines on the ship, a sound familiar and unnerving at the same time. Then she glances over her shoulder at me, her long braid whipping around. She looks angry. “Why waste two of us on the same ship? We’re both good.”
The group commander’s voice comes in from the speaker in the cockpit. “Begin final checks in preparation for departure.”
I swear under my breath. It’s a full drill. We’re actually going to take flight. I can feel my trip to Central slipping away.
Unless they send us there on our drill. There’s still a chance.
Indie leans forward to the speakers in the cockpit. “We’re missing our runner,” she says.
The door opens and another figure in black comes in. For a moment we can’t see who it is, and I think Maybe it’s Vick, or Eli. Why not? I’m paired with Indie, which feels almost as unlikely.
But Vick is dead and Eli is gone.
“You’re the runner?” Indie asks.
“Yes,” he says. He looks to be about our age, maybe a year or two older. I don’t think I’ve seen him before, but we get new people all the time in the camp. I catch sight of a few notches on his boots as he walks over to the hatch.
“You were in the decoy villages,” I say. There are a good number of us here who were decoys at one time or another.
His voice is flat. “Yes,” he says. “My name is Caleb.”
“I don’t think I knew you there,” I say.
“You didn’t,” he says, and disappears into the hold.
Indie raises her eyebrows at me. “Maybe they put him with us to equal things out,” she says. “Two smart, one stupid.”
“Do we have cargo for this drill?” I ask.
“Medical supplies,” Indie says.
“What kind?” I ask. “Is it real?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “The cases are all locked.”
Moments after Indie lifts us into the sky, the computer in the cockpit starts spitting out flight code.
I pull it out and read it.
“What does it say?” Indie asks.
“Grandia City,” I say. Not Central.
But Grandia’s in the same general direction. Maybe we could keep going past Grandia and on out to Central.
I don’t say anything to Indie, not yet.
We leave behind the dark spaces near the mountains where our camps are located and soar over the Boroughs on the outskirts of Camas City. Then we move over the City itself. There’s the river that goes through the City, and the taller buildings like the Hall.
A circle of white loops around them.
“How long has that been there?” I ask. I haven’t flown directly over the City in almost a week.
“I don’t know,” Indie says. “Can you tell what it is?”
“It looks like a wall,” I say. “Around City Hall and some other buildings.”
My uneasiness deepens. I keep my eyes on the control panel, resisting the urge to look over at Indie. Why is there a wall around the center of Camas City? And Indie and I have never been paired up to fly together before. Why now?
Is this how Cassia or Xander felt when they found out they were Matched? This can’t be right. All the odds are against it. So how is it happening?
Indie’s thoughts must be running along the same track as mine. “The Rising matched us up,” she says. And then, as Camas City disappears beneath us, she leans closer to whisper to me. “This isn’t a drill,” she says. “It’s the beginning.”
I think she’s right.
The medic finishes examining the little boy and stands up. “Your son is stable,” he tells the parents. “We’ve seen this illness before. People become lethargic and drift into a sleep-like state.” He gestures to the other medics, who come forward with a stretcher for the child. “We’ll take him to the medical center immediately, where we can give him the best possible care.”
The mother nods, her face pale. The father stands up to help with the stretcher but the medics move around him. “You’ll need to come with us,” the medic says to the boy’s parents. He gestures at the three of us Officials, too. “You’ll all need to be quarantined as a precaution.”
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-09-15; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 5; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ