Day didn’t fail his Trial. Not even close. In fact, he got the same score I did: 1500 / 1500. I am no longer the Republic’s only prodigy with a perfect score.
“GET ON YOUR FEET. IT’S TIME.”
The butt of a rifle hits me in the ribs. I’m yanked out of a dream-filled sleep—first of my mother walking me to grade school, then of Eden’s bleeding irises and the red number under our porch. Two pairs of hands drag me up before I can see properly, and I scream as my wounded leg tries to take some of my weight. I didn’t think it was possible for it to hurt more than it did yesterday, but it does. Tears spring to my eyes. When my vision sharpens, I can tell that my leg is swollen under the bandages. I want to scream again, but my mouth is too dry.
The soldiers drag me out of my cell. The commander who had visited me the day before is waiting in the hall for us, and when she sees me, she breaks into a smile. “Good morning, Day,” she says. “How are you?”
I don’t reply. One of the soldiers pauses to give the commander a quick salute. “Commander Jameson,” he says, “are you ready for him to proceed to sentencing?”
The commander nods. “Follow me. And please gag him, if you don’t mind. We wouldn’t want him yelling obscenities the whole time, would we?” The soldier salutes again, then stuffs a cloth into my mouth.
We make our way through the long halls. Again we pass the double doors with the red number—then several doors under heavy guard and still others with large glass panels. My mind whirls. I need a way to confirm my guess, a way to talk to someone. I’m weak from dehydration, and the pain has made me sick to my stomach.
Now and then, I see a person inside one of the glass-paneled rooms, cuffed to a wall and screaming. I can tell from their tattered uniforms that they are POWs from the Colonies. What if John’s inside one of these rooms? What will they do with him?
After what seems like an eternity, we step into an enormous main hall with a high ceiling. Outside, a crowd is chanting something, but I can’t make out the words. Soldiers line the row of doors that lead to the front of the building.
And then the soldiers part—we’re outside. The daylight blinds me, and I hear the shouts of hundreds of people. Commander Jameson holds up a hand, then turns to her right while the soldiers drag me up to a platform. Now I can finally see where I am. I’m in front of a building at the heart of Batalla, the military sector of Los Angeles. An enormous crowd has turned out to watch me, held back and patrolled by an almost equally large platoon of gun-wielding soldiers. I had no idea this many people cared enough to see me in person today. I raise my head as high as I can and see the JumboTrons embedded in the surrounding buildings. Every single one has a close-up of my face accompanied by frantic news headlines.
NOTORIOUS CRIMINAL KNOWN AS DAY ARRESTED,
TO BE SENTENCED TODAY OUTSIDE BATALLA HALL
DANGEROUS MENACE TO SOCIETY FINALLY CAUGHT
TEEN RENEGADE KNOWN AS DAY CLAIMS TO WORK ALONE,
NO AFFILIATION WITH THE PATRIOTS
I stare at my face on the JumboTrons. I’m bruised, bloody, and listless. A bright streak of blood stains one thick strand of my hair, painting a dark red streak into it. I must have a cut on my scalp.
For a moment I’m glad that my mother isn’t alive to see me like this.
The soldiers shove me toward a raised block of cement in the center of the platform. To my right, a judge cloaked in scarlet robes and gold buttons waits behind a podium. Commander Jameson stands beside him, and to her right is the Girl. She’s decked out in her full uniform again, stoic and alert. Her expressionless face is turned toward the crowd—but once, just once, she turns to look at me before quickly looking away.
“Order! Please, order in the crowd.” The judge’s voice crackles over the JumboTrons’ loudspeakers, but the people continue to shout, and soldiers push back against them. The entire front row is clogged with reporters, their cameras and microphones shoved in my direction.
Finally, one of the soldiers barks out a command. I look over at him. It’s the young captain who shot my mother. His soldiers fire several shots into the air. This settles the crowd. The judge waits a few seconds to make sure the silence holds, then adjusts his glasses.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” he begins. “I know this is a rather warm morning, so we’ll keep the sentencing brief. As you can see, our soldiers are present and serve to remind you all to keep calm during these proceedings. Let me begin with an official announcement that on December twenty-first, at eight thirty-six A.M., Ocean Standard Time, the fifteen-year-old criminal known as Day was arrested and taken into military custody.”
A huge cheer erupts. But as much as I expected this, I also hear something else that surprises me. Boos. Some—many—of the people in the crowd don’t have their fists in the air. A few of the louder protesters are approached by street police, cuffed, and dragged away.
One of the soldiers restraining me strikes me in the back with his rifle. I fall to my knees. The instant my wounded leg hits the cement, I scream as loud as I can. The sound’s muffled by my gag. The pain blinds me—my swollen leg trembles from the impact, and I can feel a gush of fresh blood on my bandages. I almost keel over before the soldiers prop me up. When I look toward the Girl, I see her wince at the sight of me and turn her eyes to the ground.
The judge ignores the commotion. He begins by listing off my crimes, then concludes, “In light of the defendant’s past felonies and, in particular, his offenses against the glorious nation of the Republic, the high court of California recommends the following verdict. Day is hereby sentenced to death—”