I thought I’d answered well enough. At least, I was careful to say things that I thought would please him.
But then they led me onto a train, and the train took us to the lab.
The memory makes me shiver even as the sun continues to beat down, baking my skin until it hurts. I have to save Eden, I say to myself over and over again. Eden turns ten . . . in one month. When he recovers from the plague, he’ll have to take the Trial. . . .
My injured leg feels like it could burst right out of my bandages and swell to the size of the roof.
Hours pass. I lose track of time. Soldiers rotate in and out of their shifts. The sun changes position.
Then, just as the sun mercifully starts to set, I see someone emerge from the elevator and make her way toward me.
I HARDLY RECOGNIZE DAY, EVEN THOUGH IT’S ONLY BEEN seven hours since the sentencing. He lies crumpled in the center of the Republic seal. His skin looks darker, and his hair is completely matted down with sweat. Dried blood still clings to one long strand of hair, as if he chose to dye it. It looks almost black now. He turns his head in my direction as I approach. I’m not sure if he can see me, though, because the sun hasn’t completely set and is probably blinding him.
Another prodigy—and not just an average one. I’ve met other prodigies before but certainly never one that the Republic decided to keep hidden. Especially one with a perfect score.
One of the soldiers lining the circular stand salutes me. He’s sweaty, and his pith helmet doesn’t protect his skin from the sun. “Agent Iparis,” he says. (His accent’s from Ruby sector, and his uniform’s row of buttons are freshly polished. Pays attention to details.)
I glance at the other soldiers before looking back at him. “You’re all dismissed for now. Tell your men to get some water and shade. And send an order up for your replacements to come early.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The soldier clicks his heels together before shouting a dismissal to the others.
When they leave the roof and I’m alone with Day, I remove my cape and kneel down to see his face better. He squints at me, but stays quiet. His lips are so cracked that a little blood has trickled down to his chin. He’s too weak to talk. I look down toward his wounded leg. It’s much worse than it was this morning, not surprisingly, and is swollen to twice its normal size. An infection must’ve set in. Blood oozes from the edges of the bandage.
I absently touch the knife wound at my own side. It doesn’t hurt as much anymore.
We’ll need to get that leg checked. I sigh, then remove the canteen hanging at my belt. “Here. Have some water. I’m not allowed to let you die yet.” I dribble water on his lips. He flinches at first, but then opens his mouth and lets me pour a thin stream in. I wait while he swallows (he takes forever) and then let him take another long drink.
“Thanks,” he whispers. He lets out a dry laugh. “Guess you can go now.”
I study him for a moment. His skin is burned and his face drenched with sweat, but his eyes are still bright, if a bit unfocused. I suddenly remember the first moment I saw him. Dust everywhere . . . and out of that emerged this beautiful boy with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, holding his hand out to help me to my feet.
“Where are my brothers?” he whispers. “Are they both alive?”
I nod. “Yes.”
“And Tess is safe? No one’s arrested her?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“What are they doing with Eden?”
I think back to what Thomas told me, that the generals from the warfront have come to see him. “I don’t know.”
Day turns his head away and closes his eyes. He concentrates on breathing. “Well, don’t kill them,” he murmurs. “They didn’t do anything . . . and Eden . . . he’s not a lab rat, you know.” He’s silent for a minute. “I never got your name. Guess it’s no big deal now, is it? You already know mine.”
I stare at him. “My name is June Iparis.”
“June,” Day murmurs. I feel a strange warmth at the sound of my name on his lips. He turns to face me. “June, I’m sorry about your brother. I didn’t know anything would happen to him.”
I’m trained not to take the word of a prisoner—I know that they’ll lie, that they’ll say anything they can to make you vulnerable. But this feels different. Somehow . . . he sounds so genuine, so serious. What if he is telling me the truth? What if something else happened to Metias that night? I take a deep breath and force myself to look down. Logic above all else, I tell myself. Logic will save you when nothing else will.
“Hey.” I remember something else now. “Open your eyes again and look at me.”
He does as I say. I lean over to study him. Yes, it’s still there. That strange little blemish in one of his eyes, a ripple in an otherwise ocean-blue iris. “How did you get that thing in your eye?” I gesture at my own. “That imperfection?”
Something must’ve sounded funny, because Day laughs once before bursting into a coughing fit. “That imperfection was a gift from the Republic.”
“What do you mean?”
He hesitates. I can tell he’s having trouble forming his thoughts. “I’ve been in the lab of the Central Hospital before, you know. On the night I took my Trial.” He tries to lift a hand to point at his eye, but the chains clank together and drag his arm back down. “They injected something.”
I frown. “The night of your tenth birthday? What were you doing in the lab? You were supposed to be on your way to the labor camps.”