:



DUTTON BOOKS 7

:
  1. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 1
  2. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 10
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 11
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 12
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 13
  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 14
  7. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 15
  8. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 16
  9. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 2
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 3

And then Im thinking of Cassia, that long-ago day in Oria when she jumped into the warm blue pool.

Indie breaks to the surface, wet and laughing and shivering.

Even though shes beautiful, with a certain wildness in her eyes, I cant help but think, I wish Cassia were here.

Indie sees it. A little of the light in her eyes disappears as she looks away from me and pulls herself from the river, reaching for her uniform and slapping hands with the others. Someone else jumps in and the crowd hollers again.

Indie shivers, wringing out her long hair.

And I think, I have to stop this. I dont have to love Indie the way I do Cassia, but I do have to stop thinking about Cassia when I look at Indie. I know how it feels when people look right through you, or worse, see you as something or someone other than what you are.

A formation of air ships flies overhead and we all glance at the sky, a reflex now that we spend so much time there.

Indie climbs up on one of the rocks next to the river and watches the others jump in. She leans her head back and closes her eyes. She reminds me of one of the little lizards in the Outer Provinces. They might look lazy, but if you try to catch them, theyll run away, fast as the lightning that breaks the desert sky before the summer thunderstorms.

I climb up next to her and watch the river and all the things that float and swim along itbirds, debris from the mountains. You could build a dozen boats from everything that races past in an hour or two, especially in the spring.

Wonder if theyll ever let either of you fly on your own, Connor says. His voice is loud, of course, so that everyone can hear, and he comes closer, trying to intimidate us. Hes huge and hulking, at least six foot three. Im only six feet even, but Im much faster, so Im not worried about a fight. He wont catch Indie or me if we decide we need to run. Seems like the Pilot always has the two of you paired up. Like he doesnt think either of you can fly without the other.

Indie laughs out loud. Thats ridiculous, she says. The Pilot knows I can fly alone.

Maybe, Connor says, and hes so easy to read, the dirty thing hes ready to say obvious before he can even spit it out, the reason he has the two of you fly together is because youre



The best, Indie says. Of course. We are.

Connor laughs. Water drips off him from his jump into the river. He looks soaked and stupid, not fine and shining like Indie. You think a lot of yourself, he says. Think youll be the Pilot one day? He glances over his shoulder to see if the others are all laughing, too, at how ridiculous this is. But everyone stays quiet.

Of course, Indie says, as if she cant believe hed even ask.

We all hope for that, a girl named Rae says. Why not? We can dream now.

But not you, Indie says to Connor. You need a different dream. Youre not good enough to be the Pilot. And I dont think you ever will be.

Really? he says, leaning in, a sneer on his face. And how do you know that?

Because Ive flown with you, she says, and you never give in to the sky. Connor laughs and starts to say something, but Indie keeps talking over him. Youre always thinking about yourself. How it looks, what youre doing. Who will notice.

Connor turns away from her. Over his shoulder he says something crude about Indiewhat hed do to her and with her if she werent crazy. I start after him.



It doesnt matter, Indie says, her tone perfectly unconcerned. I want to tell her that its dangerous to be so oblivious to people like Connor. But would it do any good?

The funs over. People start back to the camp for dry clothes. Some of the pilots and runners shiver as they walk. Almost everyone went into the river.

As we walk, Indie begins to braid her long, wet hair. What if you could bring back anyone whos gone? she asks me, keeping up her line of questioning from before. And dont say Cassia, she adds, with a little huff of impatience. She doesnt count. Shes not dead.

It feels good to hear Indie say that, even though of course she doesnt know for certain. Although, if Cassia sent me a message, thats a good thing. I close my fingers around the paper again and smile.

Who would I bring back from the dead? I ask Indie. Why would you ask something like that?

Indie presses her lips together. For a moment I think shes not going to answer, but then she says, Anything is possible now.

You think the Rising might be able to do what the Society never could? I ask. You think the Rising has figured out how to bring people back to life?

Not yet, she says, but dont you think they will someday? Dont you think thats the Pilots ultimate purpose? All the old stories and songs talk about him saving us. It might not just mean from the Society or the Plague, but from death itself

No. I speak low. You saw those samples in the Carving. How could you bring anyone back from that? And even if you could use the sample to create someone a lot like the original person, it would never be the person themselves. You cant bring anyone back, ever. Do you see what I mean?

Indie shakes her head, stubborn.

Right then I feel a push at my back, shoving me off balance and toward the river nearby. I have barely enough time to reach my hand into my pocket and close my fingers around the paper before I hit water. I hold my hand up high and push off the bottom of the river as hard as I can with my feet.

But I know the paper is still wet.

The others think my fist is raised in some kind of salute, so they start cheering and calling out and raising theirs back. I have to play it off, so I call out, The Rising! and they all pick up the cry.

Im certain it was Connor who pushed me. He watches from the shore with his arms folded.

 

Camas River runs near our camp, too, and as soon as the others are out of sight changing clothes in the barracks, I run down to the flat stones at the edge of the water, unfolding the paper as I go. If he ruined her message to me

Part of the writing at the bottom is ruined. My heart sinks. But most of it is legible, and its written in Cassias handwriting. Id know it anywhere. Shes changed our code a little, the way we always do, but it doesnt take long to puzzle it out.

 

Im fine, but most of my papers were stolen.

So dont worry if you dont hear from me as often.Ill find my way to you as soon as I can. I have a plan. Ky, I know that youre going to want to come find me, that youre going to want to save me. But I need you to trust me to save myself.

Spring is coming. I can feel it. I still sort and wait, but Ive been writing letters everywhere I can.

 

I was right. This message is old. The Plague has sped things up and slowed others down. Trading isnt as reliable as it used to be. How many weeks ago did she write this? One week after the Plague arrived? Two? Did she ever get my message or is it sitting in the pocket of someone lying still in a medical center?

 

Sometimes, when I feel that it isnt fair that were telling each other our stories in bits and pieces again, I remind myself that we are luckier than most, because we can write to each other. That gift, the first of many youve given me, means more to me each day. We have a way to keep in touch until we can be together again.

I love you, Ky.

 

Thats how we always end our messages to each other. But theres more this time.

 

I couldnt afford to send two separate messages all the way to Camas. I havent asked this of you before; Ive tried to talk to him in different ways so that the two of you wouldnt have to share. But can you find a way for Xander to see this, too? The next part is for him and its important.

 

Thats when I see that the code switches into numbers partway down the page. It looks like a basic numerical code, and near the bottom of the page it blurs into waves of ink on the paper from when I fell into the river.

Im tempted to decipher it. She knows I could, but she thinks she can trust me.

She can. I wont ever forget the way she looked at me in that little house in the Carving, when she realized Id hidden the map to the Rising from her. I promised myself then that I wouldnt let fear make me into someone I didnt want to be. Now Im someone who can trust and be trusted.

I have to find a way to get this message to Xander, even if its incomplete. And even if giving it to him makes it look like I am untrustworthy because part of it is ruined.

I pin the paper down on the flat stone with a small rock so that the wind can pull the water from the page. It wont take long for the messages to dry. Hopefully the others wont miss me.

When I turn back, I see Indie walking across the rocks. Shes changed into a dry uniform and she sits down next to me. I keep one hand on a corner of the paper, afraid to let go in case the wind picks up and sends the message sailing. For once, Indie doesnt say anything. Doesnt ask any questions.

So I do. Whats the secret? I ask Indie.

She looks at me and raises her eyebrows. What do you mean?

Whats the secret to flying like you do? I ask. Like that time when the landing gear malfunctioned and you brought the ship in fine. Wed scraped along the asphalt of the runway, the ships metal belly sending up sparks, and Indie hadnt seemed flustered at all.

I know how spaces fit together, she says. When I look at things, they make sense to me.

Shes right. Shes always had a good sense of proportion and position when it comes to concrete objects. She carried that wasp nest because she liked the way it fit together. When she climbed the walls of the canyon, she made it look easy. But still, excellent spatial reasoning aloneeven if its practically intuition the way it is for herdoesnt account for how good she is at flying and how fast she learned. Im not bad myself, but Im nothing like Indie.

And I know how things move, Indie says. Like that.

She points to another heron over the water. This one skims along the river, wings outstretched, following a current of air for as long as it lasts. I look at Indie and feel a sharp ache of loneliness for her, like shes the bird. She knows how things fit together and move, but so few people understand her. Shes the most solitary person Ive ever known.

Has it always been that way?

Indie, I ask, did you take a tube from the Cavern?

Of course, she says.

How many? I ask.

Only one.

Who?

Just someone, Indie says.

Where did you hide it?

I didnt keep it for long. It got lost in the water when we went down the stream to the Rising.

Shes not telling the whole truth. I cant tell where the lie comes in, but theres no way to get Indie to talk about something when shes decided to keep her own counsel.

You and Hunter are the only ones who didnt, Indie says. Take one of the tubes, I mean.

Of course. Because Hunter and I accept the truth about death.

Ive seen people dead, I tell Indie. So have you. When theyre dead, theyre gone. You cant bring them back.

We are the ones who are alive. Here. With everything to lose.

What if you needed to get something over the walls of the barricade? I ask Indie, changing the subject. Would you say thats impossible?

Of course not, she says. Just like I knew she would. There are lots of ways to do it.

Like what? I ask. Im grinning. I cant help it.

Climb, Indie says.

Theyll see us.

Not if were fast, Indie tells me. Or we could fly.

Theyd catch us for sure that way.

Not if its the Pilot who sends us in, she says.


 


CHAPTER 12

XANDER

Theres always a feeling of excitement in the medical center when the cures come in. Its one of the few times we get to see people who are really from outside the barricade. Weve got medics and patients coming in all the time, but the pilots and runners who bring the cures are different. Theyre not tied down to the medical center or even to Camas.

And theres a chance that we might see the Pilot. The rumor is that he brings in some of the Camas City cures himself. Apparently the landing within our barricade is one that only the best pilots can manage.

The first ship drops down from the sky onto the street they use for a runway. The pilot brings the ship to a stop yards away from the marble steps of City Hall.

I dont know how they do that, one of the other physics says, shaking her head.

Neither do I, I say. The ship turns and comes toward us. It goes a lot slower on land than it did in the air. As I watch it come in, I wonder if someday Ill have a chance to fly in one of those ships. There are so many things to look forward to after we get everyone cured.

 

We physics open the cases in the medical storage room and scan the tubes with our miniports. Beep. Beep. Beep. The Rising officers from the ships bring in the cases one after another.

I finish scanning the tubes in the first case. As soon as I do, another appears in front of me.

Thank you, I say, reaching out to take it from the officer. I look up.

Its Ky.

Carrow, he says.

Markham, I say. Its odd using his last name. Youre in the Rising.

Of course, he says. Always. He grins at me because we both know its a lie. There are about a thousand things I want to ask him but we dont have time. Weve got to keep the supplies moving.

Suddenly that doesnt feel like the most important thing in the world anymore. I want to ask him how and where she is and if hes heard from her.

Its good to see you, Ky says.

You too, I tell him. And it is. Ky holds out his hand to shake mine and we grip tightly, and I feel him press a piece of paper into my palm.

Its from her, Ky says in a low voice so the others cant hear. Before anyone can tell us to get back to work, he heads for the door. After he disappears, I glance over at the rest of the people delivering cures and find a girl with red hair watching me.

You dont know me, she says.

No, I agree.

She tilts her head, scrutinizing me. My name is Indie, she says. She smiles and it makes her beautiful. I smile back and then shes gone, too.

I shove the paper into my pocket. Ky doesnt come back again, at least not that I see. I cant help but feel like were playing at the tables back in the Borough, when he was throwing the game and I was the only one who knew. Weve got another secret. What does it say on that paper? I wish I could read it now, but my shift isnt over. When youre working, there isnt time for anything else.

 

Ky and I were friends almost from the beginning of his time in the Borough. At first, I was jealous of him. I dared him to steal the red tablets, and he did. After that we respected each other.

I remember another time when Ky and I were younger. We must have been thirteen or so, and we were both in love with Cassia. We stood talking near her house pretending to care what the other was saying but really waiting to see her when she came home.

At some point we both stopped pretending. Shes not coming, I said.

Maybe she went to visit her grandfather, Ky said.

I nodded.

Shell come home eventually, Ky said. So I dont know why it matters so much that shes not here now.

Right then I knew we were feeling the same thing. I knew we loved Cassia, if not exactly the same way, then the same amount. And the amount was: completely. One hundred percent.

The Society said that numbers like that dont exist but neither Ky nor I cared. I respected that about him, too. And I always admired the way he didnt complain or get upset about anything even though life couldnt have been easy for him in the Borough. Most people there saw him as a replacement for someone else.

Thats something Ive always wondered about: What really happened to Matthew Markham? The Society told us that he died, but I dont believe it.

On the night Patrick Markham went walking up and down the street in his sleepclothes, it was my father who went out and talked him into going back home before anyone called the Officials.

He was out of his mind, my father whispered to my mother on our front steps after he took Patrick home. I listened through the door. He was saying things that couldnt possibly be true.

What did he say? my mother asked.

My father didnt speak for a while. Right when I thought he wasnt going to tell her, he said, Patrick kept asking me, Why did I do it?

My mother drew in her breath. I did too. They both turned around and saw me through the screen. Go back to bed, Xander, my mother said. Theres nothing to worry about. Patricks home now.

My father never told the Officials what Patrick said. And the neighborhood knew that Patrick wandered the street that night because he was grieving his sons deathno need to give any of us a red tablet to explain that away. Besides, his distress reminded us all of the need to keep Anomalies away from everyone else.

But I remember what my father whispered to my mother later that night when they came down the hall together. I think I saw something else in Patricks eyes besides grief, my father said.

What? my mother asked.

Guilt, my father said.

Because it was at his workplace that everything happened? my mother asked. He shouldnt blame himself. He couldnt have known.

No, my father said. It was guilt. Real, intelligent guilt.

They went into their room and I couldnt hear anything more.

I dont think Patrick killed his son. But something happened there that I havent been able to puzzle out.

 

When my shift finally ends, I head for the small courtyard. Each medical wing has one, and its the only place where we have access to the outdoors. Im lucky: The only other people here are a man and woman deep in conversation. I walk to the other side of the courtyard to give them privacy and turn my back so they cant see me open the paper.

At first, all I do is stare at Cassias writing.

Its beautiful. I wish I knew how to write. I wish shed taught me. A little surge of bitterness goes through me like someones shot it right into my veins with a syringe. But I know how to get over the feeling: remember that it doesnt do any good. Ive been bitter before about losing her and it never gets me anywhere. More importantly, thats not the kind of person Ive spent my life trying to become.

It takes me only moments to decipher the codea basic substitution cipher like we learned back when we were kids and the Society tested us to see who could sort the best. I wonder if anyone else figured it out before the message got to me. Did Ky read it?

 

Xander, Cassia wrote, I wanted to tell you that Im fine, and to tell you some other things, too. First of all, dont ever take one of the blue tablets. I know the Rising has taken the tablets away, but if you come across any of the blue somehow, get rid of them. They can kill.

 

Wait. I read it again. That cant be right. Can it? The blue tablets are supposed to save us. The Rising would have told me if that werent true. Wouldnt they? Do they know? Her next sentence tells me that they do.

 

It seems to be common knowledge within the Rising that the blue tablets are poisonous, but I didnt want to leave it to chance that you would find out on your own. I tried to tell you on the port and I thought you understood, but lately Ive been worried that you didnt. The Society told us the tablets would save us, but they lied. The blue makes you stop and go still. If someone doesnt save you, you die. I saw it happen in the canyons.

 

She saw it happen. So she does know.

Theres something about the blue. She tried to tell me. I feel sick. Why didnt the Rising let me know? The tablets could have killed her. And it would have been my fault. How could I make that kind of mistake?

The couple in the courtyard is talking louder now. I turn my back to them. I keep reading, my mind racing. Her next sentence offers some relief: at least I wasnt wrong about her being in the Rising.

 

Im in the Rising.

I tried to tell you that, too.

I should have written to you earlier, but you were an Official. I didnt want to risk getting you in trouble. And youve never seen my writing. How would you know that the message was from me, even if the Archivists said that it was? And then I realized a way that I could get a message to youthrough Ky. Hes seen my writing. He can tell you that this is really from me.

I know that youre in the Rising. I understood what you were trying to tell me on the port. I should have realizedyouve always been the first of us to do the right thing.

There is something else that I wanted to tell you in person, that I didnt want to put down in a letter. I wanted to speak to you face to face. But now I feel that I should write to you after all, in case it is still some time before we meet.

I know you love me. I love you, and I always will, but

 

It ends there. Water damage has made the rest of the message crinkled and illegible. For a second, I see red. How could it be so conveniently destroyed right at the critical spot? What was she going to say? She said she would always love me, but

Part of me wishes the message ended right there, before that last word.

What happened? Did the paper get ruined by accident? Or could Ky have done it on purpose? Ky played fair in the games. Hed better be playing fair now.

I fold the paper back up and put it into my pocket. In the minutes that Ive been reading the note the light has gone. The sun must have dipped below the horizon beyond the walls of the barricade. The door to the courtyard opens and Lei comes out, right as the other couple goes inside.

Carrow, she says. I was hoping I would find you.

Is something wrong? I ask. I havent seen Lei in several days. Since she wasnt part of the Rising from the beginning, shes not working as a physic but instead as a general medical assistant, assigned to whatever team and shift needs her most.

No, she says. Im fine. Its good to work with the patients. And you?

Im fine, too, I tell her.

Lei looks at me and I see the same question in her eyes that I know was in mine when I had to decide whether to vouch for her or not. Shes wondering if she can trust me, and if she really knows me.

I wanted, she says finally, to ask you about the red mark that the patients have on their backs. What is it?

Its a small infection of the nerves, I say. It happens along the dermatomes in the back or neck when the virus is activated. I pause, but shes part of the Rising now, so I can tell her everything. The Rising told some of us to look for it because its a sure sign of the Plague.

And it only happens to people who have actually become ill.

Right, I say. The dead form of the virus they used in the immunizations doesnt lead to any significant symptoms at all. But when a person is infected with the live Plague virus, it involves the nerves, resulting in that small red mark.

Have you seen anything unusual? she asks. Any variations on the basic virus? Shes trying to figure out the Plague on her own and not taking what the Rising says for granted. Which should make me uneasy about having vouched for her, but it doesnt.

Not really, I say. Now and then we do have people who come in before theyre completely still. I had one who was talking to me while I gave him the cure.

What did he say? Lei asks.

He wanted me to promise him that hed be all right, I say. So I did.

She nods, and it strikes me how exhausted she looks. Do you have a rest shift now? I ask her.

Not for a few hours, she says. It doesnt matter much anyway. I havent slept well since he left. I cant dream. In some ways, thats the hardest part of having him gone.

I understand. Because if you cant dream you cant pretend that hes still here, I say. Thats what I do whenI dream: Im back in the Borough with Cassia.

No, Lei says. I cant. She looks at me and I hear what she doesnt say. Her Match is gone, and nothing is the same.

Then she leans a little closer and to my surprise she puts her hand on my face, very briefly. Its the first time someone has done that since Cassia, and I have to resist leaning into Leis touch. Your eyes are blue, she says. Then she pulls her hand back. So are his. Her voice is lonely and full of longing: for him.


 


CHAPTER 13

CASSIA

At first the area near the Museum seems empty, and I clench my jaw in frustration. How am I supposed to earn my way out of Central if no ones trading? I need the commissions.

Be patient, I remind myself. You never know when someone might be watching, waiting to decide whether or not they want to speak up. Im the only trader here right now, which wont last long. Others will come.

I see movement out of the corner of my eye, and a girl with short blond hair and beautiful eyes comes around the corner of the Museum. Her hands are cupped in front of her, holding something. For a moment I think of Indie and her wasp nest, and how carefully she always carried it in the canyons.

The girl comes closer to me. Can I talk to you? she asks.

Of course, I say. Lately, weve mostly done away with the passwords of asking about the History of the Society. Theres not as much need for them anymore.

She holds out her hands and there, sitting inside of them, is a tiny brown-and-green bird.

Its so strange that for a minute I stare at the bird, which does not move in any way, except for the wind tossing its feathers gently.

Theyre a shade of green I recognize.

I made it, the girl says, to thank you for the words you wrote for my brother. Here.

She gives me the bird. Its tiny, sculpted out of mud, and then dried. It feels weighted and earthy in my palm, and the feathers, tiny torn pieces of green silk, only cover the wings.

Its beautiful, I say. The feathersare they

From the square of silk the Society sent me after my Banquet a few months ago, she says. I didnt think I needed it anymore.

She wore green, too.

Dont hold the bird too tightly, she says, it might cut you, and then she pulls me out from under the trees shadow, and the parts of the bird that arent feathered turn starry. They glitter in the sun.

I had to break the glass to get the silk out, she says, so I thought I might as well use it. I crushed it, and then, when Id made the bird, I rolled it in the pieces. They were almost as small as sand.

I close my eyes. I did something similar, back in the Borough, when I gave Ky the piece of my dress. I remember clearly the clean snap when I broke the scrap free.

The bird shimmers and seems to move. Glitter of glass, feathers of silk.

It looks so close to living that I have a momentary urge to toss it to the sky, to see if it will take wing. But I know I will hear only the thud of clay and see the scatter of green when it hits the ground, the shape that made it bird, flying thing destroyed. So I hold it carefully and let this knowledge rise within me like a song.

I am not the only one writing.

I am not the only one creating.

The Society took so much from us, but we still hear rumors of music, hints of poetry; we still see intimations of art in the world around us. They never did keep us from all of it. We took it in, sometimes without knowing, and many still ache for a way to let it out.

I realize all over again that we dont need to trade our artwe could give, or share. Someone could bring a poem, someone else a painting. Even if we took nothing away, we would all have more, having looked on something beautiful or heard something true.

The breeze dances the birds green feathers. Its too beautiful, I say, to keep to myself.


: 2015-09-15; : 6;


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