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DUTTON BOOKS 4




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  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

You can store your items here, the Archivist said. The fee is minimal.

Instinctively, I drew back. No, I told her. Ill find somewhere else.

She raised her eyebrows at me. Are you certain you have a secure place? she asked, and I thought of the cave where the pages had been safe for so long, and the compact where Grandfather kept the first poems hidden for years. And I knew where Id hide my papers.

Ive burned words and buried them, I thought, but I havent tried the water yet.

In a way, I think it was Indie who gave me the idea of where to hide the papers. She always talked about the ocean. And even more than that, it might have been her odd, oblique manner of thinkingthe way she looked at things sideways, upside down, instead of straight on, seeing truth from unexpected and awkward angles.

I want to trade for something right away, tonight, I told the Archivist, and she looked disappointed. As though I were a child who was about to spend all these fragile beautiful words on something shiny and false.

What do you need? she asked.

A box, I said. One that fire cant burn, and that wont let in water or air or earth. Can you find something like that?

Her face changed a little, became more approving. Of course, she said. Wait here. It wont take me long. She vanished again along the shelves.

That was our first trade. Later, I discovered the womans identity and learned that she was the head Archivist in Central City, the person who oversees and directs the trades but doesnt often execute them herself. But, from the beginning, shes taken a special interest in the pages Ky sent me. Ive worked with her ever since.

When I climbed out from underground that night, clutching the box full of papers in my chilled hands, I paused for a moment at the edge of the field. It was silver grass and gray and black rubble. I could make out the shape of the white plastic that covered the other excavations, protecting them from a Restoration interrupted and not yet resumed. I wondered what that place used to be and why the Society decided to abandon any attempts at bringing it back.

 

And then what happened next? I ask myself. Where did I put the pages after I took them from the Archivists hiding place?



For a moment, the memory tries to slip away like a silvered fish in a stream, but I catch hold of it.

I hid the papers in the lake.

Even though they told us the lake was dead, I dared to go into it because I saw signs of life. The bank looked like the healthy streams in the Carving, not the one where Vick was poisoned. I could see where grass had been; in a place where a spring came in and the water was warm, I even saw fish moving slowly, spending the winter deep below.

I crept out through the brush that went up to the edge of the lake, and then I buried the box under the middle pier, under the water and stones that pattern in the shallow part where the lake touches shore.

And then a newer memory comes back.

The lake. Thats where Ky said hed meet me.

 

Once I reach the lake, I switch on the flashlight I keep hidden in the brush at the edge of the City, where the streets run out and the marsh takes over.

I dont think hes here yet.

There are always moments of panic when I come backwill the papers be gone? But then I take a deep breath and put my hands into the water, move away the rocks, and lift out a dripping box filled with poetry.



When I trade the pages, its usually to pay for the exchange of messages between Ky and me.

I dont know how many or whose hands the notes will go through before they get to Ky. So I sent my first message in a code I created, one that I invented during the long hours of sorts that didnt require my full attention. Ky figured out the code and changed it slightly when he wrote me back. Each time, we build upon the original code a little, changing and evolving it to make it harder to read. Its not a perfect systemIm sure the code can be brokenbut its the best we can do.

The closer I get to the water, the more I realize that something is wrong.

A thick cluster of black birds has gathered out near the edge of the first dock, and another group of them is congregated farther down the shore. They cry and call to each other, picking at something, some things, on the ground. I shine my flashlight on them.

The black birds scatter and screech at me and I stop short.

Dead fish lap along the bank, catch in the reeds. Belly- up, glazed-eyed. And I remember what Ky said about Vick and the way he died; I remember that dark poisoned stream back out in the Outer Provinces and other rivers that the Society poisoned as the water ran down to the Enemy.

Whos poisoning the Society s water?

I shiver a little and wrap my arms more tightly around myself. The papers inside my clothes whisper. Underneath all this death, somewhere in the water, other papers lie buried. Its early spring, but the water is still frigid. If I go in to get the pages now, I wont be able to wait as long for Ky.



What if he comes, and Ive gone home cold?


 


CHAPTER 6

KY

Were getting closer and closer to Grandia. Its time to tell Indie what I want to do.

There are speakers in the cockpit and down in the hold. The commander of our fleet can hear anything I say, and so can Caleb. So Im going to have to write this out for Indie. I reach into my pocket and pull out a stick of charcoal and a napkin from the camps meal hall. I always keep these things with me. Who knows when the opportunity to send a message to Cassia might come along?

Indie glances over at me and raises her eyebrows. Silently, she mouths, Who are you writing to?

I point at her and her face lights up.

Im trying to think of the best way to ask her. In the Carving, I said we should try to run away from all of this. Remember? Lets do that now.

If Indie agrees to come with me, maybe we can find a way to get Cassia and escape with the ship. I only get one word written downInbefore a voice fills the cockpit.

This is your Chief Pilot speaking.

I feel a little jolt of recognition, even though Ive never heard him speak before. Indie draws in her breath, and I shove the charcoal and paper back into my pocket as if the Chief Pilot can see us. His voice sounds rich and musical, pleasing, but strong. Its coming from the control panel, but the quality of the transmission is much better than usual. It sounds like hes actually on the ship.

I am also the Pilot of the Rising.

Indie and I turn to look at each other. She was right, but theres no triumph in her expression. Only conviction.

Soon, I will speak to everyone in all of the Provinces, the Pilot says, but those of you taking part in the initial wave of the Rising have the right to hear from me first. You are here because of your decision to join the Rising and your merits as participants in this rebellion. And you are also here because of another important characteristic, one for which you cannot take credit.

I look over at Indie. Her face looks beautiful, lit up. She believes in the Pilot. Do I, now that Ive heard his voice?

The red tablet doesnt work on you, the Pilot says. You remember what the Society would have you forget. As some of you have long suspected, the Rising did thiswe made you immune to the red tablet. And that is not all. You are also immune to an illness that is even now overtaking Cities and Boroughs throughout the Provinces.

They never said anything about an illness. My muscles tense. What does this mean for Cassia?

Some of you have heard of the Plague.

Indie turns to me. Have you? she mouths.

I almost say no but then I realize that I might have. The mystery illness that killed Elis parents.

Eli, I mouth back, and Indie nods.

The Society intended the Plague for the Enemy, the Pilot says. They poisoned some of the Enemys rivers and released the Plague into others. This, combined with continued attacks from the air, completely eliminated the Enemy. But the Society has pretended that the Enemy still exists. The Society needed someone to blame for the ongoing loss of life of those who lived in the Outer Provinces.

Some of you were out there in those camps. You know that the Society wanted to eradicate Aberrations and Anomalies completely. And they used your deaths, and the information they gathered from them, as one last great collection of data.

Silence. We all know that what he says is true.

We wanted to come in and save you sooner, the Pilot says, but we werent ready yet. We had to wait a little longer. But we did not forget you.

Didnt you? I want to ask. Some of my old bitterness against the Rising fills me, and I grip the controls of the ship tightly, staring out into the night.

Back when the Society created this Plague, the Pilot says, there were those who remembered that what is water in one place becomes rain somewhere else. They knew that releasing this disease would come back to us somehow, no matter how many precautions were taken. It created a division among the scientists in the Society, and many of them secretly joined the Rising. Some of our scientists found a way to make people immune to the red tablet, and also to the Plague. In the beginning, we didnt have the resources to give these immunities to everyone. So we had to choose. And we chose you.

He chose us, Indie whispers.

You havent forgotten the things the Society wanted you to lose. And you cant get the Plague. We protected you from both. The Pilot pauses. Youve always known that we have been preparing you for the most important errand of allbringing in the Rising. But youve never known exactly what your cargo would be.

You carry the cure, the Pilot says. Right now, the errand ships, covered by the fighters, are bringing the cure to the most impacted citiesto Central, Grandia, Oria, Acadia.

Central is one of the most impacted cities. Is Cassia sick? We never knew if she was immune to the red tablet. I dont think that she is.

And why is the Plague in so many places? The largest cities, all sick at the same time? Shouldnt it take longer to spread, instead of exploding everywhere at once?

Thats a question for Xander. I wish I could ask him.

Indie glances over at me. No, she says. She knows what I want to do. She knows that I want to try to get to Cassia anyway.

Shes right. That is what I want to do. And if it were me by myself, Id risk it. Id try to outrun the Rising.

But its not just me.

Many of you, the Pilot says, have been paired with someone you know. This was intentional. We knew it would be difficult for those of you who still have loved ones within the Society to resist taking the cure to your family and friends. We cannot compromise the efficiency of this mission, and we will need to bring you down should you try to deviate from your assigned course.

The Rising is smart. Theyve matched me with the one person in camp I care about. Which goes to show that caring about anyone leaves you vulnerable. Ive known this for years but I still cant stop.

We have an adequate supply of the cure, the Pilot says. We do not have a surplus. Please dont waste the resources many have sacrificed to provide.

Its so calculatedthe way they paired us up, the way theyve made just enough of the cure. This sounds like the Society, I say out loud.

We are not the Society, the Pilot says, but we recognize that we have to save people before we can free them.

Indie and I stare at each other. Did the Pilot answer me? Indie covers her mouth with her hand and I find myself, inexplicably, trying not to laugh.

The Society built barricades and walls in order to try and contain the illness, the Pilot says. Theyve isolated people in quarantine in the medical centers and then, when space ran out, in government buildings.

These past few days have been a turning point. We confirmed that the numbers of those fallen ill have reached a critical mass. Tonight, Match Banquets all across the Society fell apart, from Camas to Central and beyond. The Society kept trying to reconfigure the data, right up until the last moment, but they could not keep up. We infiltrated the sorting centers to accelerate the problem. It wasnt difficult to throw the Matching into disarray. There were silver boxes with no microcards and blank screens without Matches all across the Provinces.

Many people took the red tablet tonight, but not all of them will forget. The Match Banquet is the Societys signature event, the one upon which all the others rely. Its fall represents the Societys inability to care for its people. Even those who did forget will soon realize that they have no Match and that something is wrong. Theyll realize that people they know, too many of them, have disappeared behind barricades and are not coming back. The Society is dying, and it is our time now.

The Rising is for everyone. The Pilots voice drops a little as he repeats the motto, becomes deeper with emotion. But you are the ones who will begin it. You are the ones who will save them.

We wait. But hes finished speaking. The ship feels emptier without his voice.

Were going to save them, Indie says. Everyone. Can you believe it?

I have to believe it, I say. Because if I dont believe in the Rising and their cure, what hope is there for Cassia?

Shell be fine, Indie says. Shes part of the Rising. Theyll take care of her.

I hope that Indies right. Cassia wanted to join the Rising, and so I followed her. But now all I care about is finding Cassia and leaving all of this behindSociety, Rising, Pilot, Plagueas soon as we can.

 

From above, the rebellion against the Society looks black and white. Black night, white barricade around the center of Grandia City.

Indie drops us lower to prepare for landing.

Go first, our commander tells us. Show the others how its done. Indies supposed to land the ship inside the barricade on the street in front of City Hall. Its going to be tight.

Closer to the earth. Closer. Closer. Closer. The world rushes at us. Somewhere, the Pilot is watching.

Black ships, white marble buildings.

Indie hits the ground smoothly, greasing the landing. I watch her expression. Its one of closely guarded triumph until the ship stops and she glances over at me. Then she smilespure joyand hits the controls that open the door to the ship.

Pilots, stay with your ships, the commander says. Copilot and runner, get the cures out.

Caleb hoists up cases from the hold and we each shoulder two of them.

You first, he says, and I duck through the door and start running the second Im down the stairs. The Rising has cleared a path through the crowd of people and its a straight shot to the medical center. Its almost quiet, except for the sound of the fighters covering us above. I keep my head down, but out of the corner of my eye I see Rising officers in black holding back the Officials wearing white.

Keep moving. Thats not only what the Rising has asked us to doits my own personal rule. So I keep going, even when I hear whats coming across the ports in the medical center.

Now that I know the Pilots voice, I can tell that its him singing. And I know the song. The Anthem of the Society. You can tell by the way the Pilot sings it that the Anthem has now become a requiema song for the dead.

Im back in the Outer Provinces. My hands are black and the rocks are red. Vick and I work on figuring out a way to make the guns fire back. The other decoys gather gunpowder to help us. They sing the Anthem of the Society while they work. Its the only song they know.

Here, a woman in Rising black says, and Caleb and I follow her past rows and rows of people lying still on stretchers in the foyer of the medical center. She opens the door to a storage room and gestures us inside.

Put them on the table, she says, and we comply.

The Rising officer scans the cases weve brought with her miniport and it beeps. She keys in a code to unlock the cases. The pressurized air inside makes a hiss as it escapes and the lid opens.

Inside are rows and rows of cures in red tubes.

Beautiful, she says. Then she looks up at Caleb and me. Go back for the rest, she says. Ill send some of my officers out to help you.

On the way out, I risk a glance down at a patients face. Blank eyes. Body still.

The mans face looks empty and undone. Is there even a person inside? How far deep has he gone? What if he knows whats happening but hes trapped there waiting?

My skin crawls. I couldnt do it. I have to move.

Id rather die than be down like that.

For the first time, I feel something like loyalty to the Rising stir inside of me. If this is what the Rising has saved me from, then maybe I do owe them something. Not the rest of my life, but a few runs of the cure. And now that Ive seen the sick, I cant compromise their access to the one thing that can help them.

My mind races. The Rising should get control over the trains and bring cures in that way, too. Theyd better have someone good working on the logistics of getting the cure out. Maybe thats Cassias job.

And this is mine.

Ive changed since I ran off to the Carving and left the decoys to die. Ive changed because of everything Ive seen since then, and because of Cassia. I cant leave people behind again. I have to keep running in this damn cure even if it means I cant get to Cassia as soon as Id like.

 

Back on the ship, I slide into the copilots seat and Caleb climbs on board after me.

Wait, Indie says. Whats that you have?

Calebs still holding one of the cases.

They need all the cures, Indie says.

This is cargo were supposed to bring back with us, Caleb says, holding up the case for us to see, which doesnt prove anything. It looks exactly like the ones we just took out. Its part of the errand.

I didnt know about that, Indie says, sounding suspicious.

Why would you? Caleb asks. Something in his tone sounds dismissive. Youre the pilot. Not the runner.

Indie, our commander says. Come in.

Were all here, Indie says, but weve got some extra cargo. Our runner brought back a case.

Thats approved, the commander says. Is there anything else?

No, Indie says. Were all clear. She glances over at me and I shrug. Apparently theyre not going to tell us anything more about Calebs second errand.

We wait for the other ships to take their turns departing from the street in front of the buildings. The computer sends us code again for our destination. Indie reaches for it first.

Where now? I ask her, even though I think I know what shell say.

Back to Camas, she says, to get more of the cure.

And then? I ask.

Then we come here again. This is our route, for now. Theres a hint of sympathy in her voice. Someone else will take cures to Central.

Theyd better, I say. I dont care if the Pilot hears. In fact, I hope he does. Why not? Long ago people used to say what they wanted out loud and hope that someone would give it to them. They called it praying.

Cassia has something tangible thoughthe papers from the Carving. Shes only used a few of them to send messages. There must be plenty left for her to use for whatever she needs, maybe even enough to bargain for a cure. Cassia knows how to trade.

We start down the makeshift runway, building up speed.

The white and black uniforms on the ground grow smaller and smaller. We lift up. Its not long before the buildings disappear, too, and then its all gone.

I can still hear the Pilot singing the Anthem of the Society.

Im digging a grave for Vick. All day long, he talks to me. I know it means Im crazy but I cant help hearing him.

He talks to me while Eli and I pull spheres from the stream. Over and over Vick tells me his story about Laney, the girl he loved. I picture it in my mindhim falling in love with an Anomaly. Telling Laney how he felt. Watching the rainbow trout swim and going to speak with her parents. Standing up to celebrate a Contract. Smiling as he reached for her hand to claim happiness in spite of the Society. Coming back to find her gone.

Is that whats going to happen to me when I finally go to look for Cassia?

Cassias changed me. Im a better person now because of her, but its also going to be harder than ever to get to her.

Indie brings us higher.

Some people think the stars must look closer from up here.

They dont.

When youre up here, you realize how distant they really arehow impossible to reach.


 


CHAPTER 7

XANDER

Somethings happening. But, because the quarantine cells are soundproof, I cant hear anything except the tired sounds of the Hundred Songs.

Through the walls of my cell, I see Officials and Officers staring at the miniports in their hands and the larger ports arranged throughout the Hall. For a few seconds, everyone looks frozen, listening to whatever is coming from their ports, and then some of the people move. One walks over to a quarantine cell and enters a keycode. The person inside the cell steps out and heads for the main doors of the Hall. Another Officer moves into his path, trying to intercept him before he escapes, but right then the doors to City Hall burst open. Figures in Rising black swarm inside.

The Rising has begun. The Pilots speaking and I cant hear anything.

The Officer releases someone else from a cell. That person heads for the doors, too, and the Rising officers in black hold back others to let her pass. Some of the workers look bemused. Most of them put their hands up in the air in surrender when they see the Rising.

Its got to be my turn soon.

Come on.

A Rising officer appears in front of my cell. Xander Carrow, he says. I nod. He holds up the miniport, checking my face against the Risings picture of me, and enters a code into the keypad on the cell. The door slides open and Im out.

The Pilots voice comes out over the ports. This rebellion, he says, is different. It will begin and end with saving your blood, not spilling it.

I close my eyes for a second.

The Pilots voice sounds right.

This is the Pilot and this is the Rising.

I wish Cassia and I were together for the beginning.

I start for the door. All I have to do is leave City Hall and walk across the greenspace to the medical center. But then I stop. Official Lei is trapped inside her cell. No one has let her out.

She looks at me.

Is it a mistake that shes still locked in her cell? I pause at the door for a second. But she shakes her head at me. No.

Come on, one of the officers says, pointing me toward the door. Ive got to go. The Rising is happening now.

 

Outside, its chaos. The Rising has cleared the way from City Hall to the medical center, but theyre pushing back Officials, some of whom have decided to fight. An air ship screams overhead, but Im not sure if its ours until I see it spray warning shots down into an empty spot near the barricade. People scream and step back.

The Rising has thoroughly infiltrated the Army throughout the years. Its strongest in Camas, where most of the Army is stationed. Things should go smoothly here. Its deeper in the Society where we might have some infighting. But with the Pilot the only one speaking from the ports, the rest of the people should follow soon.

Another fighter ship comes over, protecting a heavier-looking ship that drops down to land. When I get to the door of the medical center, its guarded by Rising officers. They must have already secured the inside. Xander Carrow, physic, I tell one of the officers. He glances at his miniport to check my data. Runners wearing black sprint from the landing field where the ship came down. They carry cases marked with medical insignia.

Is that what I think it is?

The cure.

The officer waves me inside. Physics report to the office on the main floor, he says.

Inside the medical center, I hear the Pilots voice again, coming from the ports all over the building. Hes singing the Anthem of the Society. What would that be like? I catch myself wondering. To hear the music in your head and then have it come out sounding right?

Two officers drag an Official past me. Hes weeping and holding his hand over his heart, his lips moving along to the Anthem. I feel sorry for him: I wish he knew that this wasnt the end of the world. I can see how it would feel that way.

When I get to the office someone hands me a black uniform, and I change into it right there in the hall like the others are doing. I roll up the sleeves because its time to get to work, and I throw my white Official uniform down the nearest incineration tube. Ill never wear it again.

 

We separate the patients into groups of one hundred, the head physic on duty tells me. He smiles. As the Pilot said, some of the old systems from the Society will remain in place, for now. He points to the rows of patients, whom the Rising personnel have been referring to as the still. Youll be in charge of making sure they get proper care and of overseeing the cure. Once theyve recovered and moved on, well move new patients to your area.

The ports are silent. Right now theyre flashing pictures of the still in Central.

Central: where Cassia is. For the first time I feel a hint of worry. What if she didnt join the rebellion and shes watching this? What if shes afraid?

I was so sure Official Lei was part of the Rising.

Could I be wrong about Cassia?

Im not. She told me that day on the port. She couldnt say the words outright, but I heard it in her voice. I know how to listen, and I could tell she made the jump.

Were waiting for more nurses and medics to come in, the head physic says. Are you comfortable giving the cure for now?

This is not like the Society. The lines are already becoming blurred. The Society would never have let me do the work of a medic after my promotion to physic.

Of course, I say.

I scrub my hands and take one of the tubes from the cases. Next to me, a nurse does the same. Theyre beautiful, she says over her shoulder, and I have to agree.

I remove the cover on the syringe and slide the needle into the line so that the cure flows into the patients vein. The Pilots voice comes over the ports in the medical center and I have to smile because his words fit perfectly. The Society is sick, he tells us, beginning his message again, and we have the cure.


 


CHAPTER 8

CASSIA

I cant wait here any longer. My whole body trembles with the cold.

Where is he?

I wish I could remember what happened earlier today. Did the Risings sort come through? Did I do what they needed?

For a minute, anger shivers through me along with the cold. I never wanted to be here in Central. I wanted the Rising to send me to Camas like Ky and Indie. But the Rising didnt find me fit for flying or fighting, only for sorting.

Thats all right. I am allied with the Rising, not defined by them. I have my own poems and I know how to trade. Perhaps its time to use the papers from the Carving to bargain my way out of this place. Ive waited long enough.

I look down at all the little fish bodies bumping along the shore, slapping into each other. I shudder at their glossy, dead eyes; their scaly, slick stink. Theyll brush against my hands when I reach into the water to get the box. Their smell is so strong that I think I can taste their flesh in my mouth. It will linger on my skin when Ive finished.

Dont look. Get it done.

I prop the flashlight on the ground under the dock and peel the papers from my wrists and set them down. I draw my hands up in my sleeves just enough to cover them over so I have a barrier between my skin and the water. As I wade out, I try not to feel the fish against my legs, the steady bump-bump of dead little bodies in a lake that used to be a safe place. I hope my clothes are enough to protect me from whatever poisoned this lake.


: 2015-09-15; : 8;







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