Remember, I tell myself, Day killed Metias. Day killed Metias, Day killed Metias.
The words echo empty and uncertain in my mind.
“Yeah,” I say to Thomas. My voice sounds like a stranger’s. “I think I really did it.”
THE GIRL WHO SHATTERS THE SHINING GLASS
THE WORLD’S A BLUR. I REMEMBER GUNS AND LOUD voices, and the splash of ice water over my head. Sometimes I recognize the sound of a key turning in a lock and the metallic smell of blood. Gas masks look down at me. Somebody won’t stop screaming. There’s a medic truck siren wailing all the time. I want to turn it off, and I keep trying to find its switch, but my arms feel weird. I can’t move them. A horrible pain in my left leg keeps my eyes and cheeks moist with tears. Maybe my entire leg’s wasted.
The moment the captain shot my mother plays over and over in my head, like a movie stuck on the same scene. I don’t understand why she doesn’t move out of the way. I yell at her to move, to duck, to do anything. But she just stays there until the bullet hits her and she crumples to the ground. Her face is pointed right at me—but it’s not my fault. It’s not.
The blurring comes into focus after an eternity. What’s it been, four or five days? A month, maybe? I have no idea. When I finally open my eyes, I see that I’m now in a small, windowless cell with four steel walls. Soldiers stand on either side of a small, vaultlike door. I grimace. My tongue is cracked and bone-dry. Tears have dried against my skin. Something that feels like metal cuffs binds my hands tightly to the back of a chair, and it takes me a second to realize that I’m sitting. My hair hangs over my face in stringy ribbons. Blood stains my vest. A sudden fear seizes me: my cap. I’m exposed.
Then I feel the pain in my left leg. It’s worse than anything I’ve ever experienced, worse even than the first time I got cut in that knee. I break out in a cold sweat and see stars flicker in the corners of my vision. At that moment, I would give anything for a painkiller, or ice to put out the fire in my injured thigh, or even another bullet to put me out of my misery. Tess, I need you. Where are you?
When I dare to look down at my leg, though, I see that it’s wrapped in a tight, blood-soaked bandage.
One of the soldiers notices me stirring. He presses his hand against his ear. “He’s awake, ma’am.”
Minutes later—maybe it’s hours—the metal door swings open and the commander who ordered my mother’s death strides in. She has her full uniform on, cloak and all, and her triple-arrow insignia shines silver under the fluorescent lights. Electricity. I’m in a government building. She says something to the soldiers on the other side of the door. Then it swings shut again, and she saunters over to me with a smile.
I’m not sure if the red haze clouding my vision is because of the pain from my leg or my rage at her presence.
The commander stops in front of my chair, then leans down close to my face. “My dear boy,” she says. I can hear the amusement in her voice. “I was so excited when they told me you were awake. I just had to come and see you myself. You should feel pretty lucky—the medics say you’re plague-free, even after spending time with that infected lot you call a family.”
I jerk back and spit at her. Even this movement is enough to make my leg tremble from white-hot pain.
“What a beautiful boy you are.” She gives me a smile laced with poison. “A pity you chose the life of a criminal. You could have become a celebrity in your own right, you know, with a face like that. Free plague vaccinations every year. Wouldn’t that have been nice?”
I could tear the skin off her face right now if I weren’t tied up. “Where are my brothers?” My voice comes out as a hoarse croak. “What have you done with Eden?”
The commander just smiles again and snaps her fingers at the soldiers behind her. “Believe me when I say I would love to stay and chat with you, but I have a training session to lead. There’s also a person much more eager to see you than I am. I’ll let her take it from here.” The commander exits without another word.
Then I see someone else—someone smaller, with a more delicate frame—enter the cell with the swoosh of a black cape. It takes me a minute to recognize her. No more torn trousers or muddy boots; no dirt on her face. The Girl is clean and polished, her dark hair pulled back into a high, glossy ponytail. She wears a fancy uniform: gold epaulettes shine from the top of her cloaked military robe, white ropes loop around her shoulders, and a double-arrow insignia is printed on both sleeves. Her cape hangs all the way to her feet, swathing her in gold-trimmed black. An elaborate Canto knot holds the top of her robe firmly in place. I’m surprised at how young she looks, even younger than when I first met her. Surely the Republic wouldn’t give a girl my age such a high rank. I look at her mouth—the same lips I kissed are now coated in a light sheen of gloss. A cracked thought hits me and I want to laugh. If she had not led to the death of my mother and my capture, if I did not wish she were dead, I would find her absolutely breathtaking.
She must’ve seen the recognition on my face. “You must be as thrilled as I am to meet again. Call it an act of extreme kindness that I requested your leg be bandaged up,” she snaps. “I want to see you stand for your execution, and I won’t have you dying from infection before I’m through with you.”
“Thanks. You’re very kind.”
She ignores my sarcasm. “So. You’re Day, then.”
I stay silent.
The Girl crosses her arms and regards me with a penetrating glare. “I suppose I should call you Daniel, though. Daniel Altan Wing. I managed to get that much out of your brother John.”