No surprise on his face, no emotion in his eyes. He clears his throat. “So they are.”
“What are they doing?” My voice rises. I glance to the protesters in the square, then back up to the roofs. None of the soldiers have dust bombs or tear gas. Instead, each one has a gun slung around his shoulder. “They’re not dispersing them, Thomas. They’re trapping them in.”
Thomas gives me a stern look. “Hold steady, June. Pay attention to the crowd.”
As my eyes stay turned up toward the roofs, I notice Commander Jameson step out onto the top of Batalla Hall flanked by soldiers. She speaks into her mouthpiece.
Several seconds pass. A terrible feeling builds up in my chest—I know where this is going.
Thomas suddenly murmurs something into his mike. A response to a command. I glance at him. He catches my gaze for a second, and then he looks toward the rest of the patrol standing on the platform with us. “Fire at will!” he shouts.
“Thomas!” I want to say more, but at that instant, shots ring out from both the roofs and the platform. I lunge forward. I don’t know what I plan to do—wave my arms in front of the soldiers?—but Thomas grabs my shoulder before I can step forward.
“Stay back, June!”
“Tell your men to stand down,” I shout, scrambling out of his grasp. “Tell them—”
That’s when Thomas throws me to the ground so hard that I feel the wound in my side break open.
“Damn it, June,” he says. “Stay back!”
The ground’s surprisingly cold. I crouch there, for once at a loss, unable to move. I don’t really understand what just happened. The skin around my wound burns. Bullets rain down on the square. People in the crowd collapse like levees in a flood. Thomas, stop. Please stop. I want to get up and scream in his face, to hurt him somehow. Metias would kill you for this, Thomas, if he were alive. But instead I cover my ears. The gunshots are deafening.
The gunfire lasts only a minute, if that—but it seems like forever. Thomas finally shouts an order to cease fire, and those in the crowd who haven’t been shot fall to their knees and throw their hands up over their heads. Soldiers rush to them, cuffing their arms behind their backs, forcing them together into clusters. I push myself up onto my knees. My ears still ring from the gunfire. . . . I scan the scene of blood and bodies and prisoners. There are 97, 98 dead. No, at least 120. Hundreds more are in custody. I can’t even concentrate enough to count them.
Thomas glances at me before stepping off the platform—his face is grave, even guilty, but I know with a sinking feeling that he feels guilty only for throwing me to the ground. Not for this massacre he’s leaving behind. He heads back toward Batalla Hall with several soldiers. I turn my face away so I don’t have to watch him.
WE RIDE UP SEVERAL FLOORS UNTIL I HEAR THE elevator’s chains come to a scraping halt. Two soldiers drag me out into a familiar hallway. They’re returning me to my cell, I guess, at least for now. For the first time since waking up on the gurney, I realize I’m exhausted and slump my head against my chest. The doctor must’ve injected me with something to keep me from flailing too much during the operation. Everything around me looks blurred at the edges, as if I’m sprinting.
Then the soldiers come to a sudden stop halfway down the corridor, a good distance away from my cell. I look up in mild surprise. We stand outside one of the rooms I’d noticed earlier, the ones with clear glass windows. Interrogation chambers. So. They want more information before they execute me.
Static, then a voice comes through one of the soldiers’ earpieces. The soldier nods. “Let’s take him in,” he says. “Captain says he’ll arrive shortly.”
I stand inside, waiting as the minutes tick by. Guards with blank faces stand at the door, while two others hold my shackled arms. I know this room is supposed to be more or less soundproof . . . but I swear I hear the sound of guns and the vibrations of distant screams. My heart pounds. The troops must be firing on the crowd in the square. Are they dying because of me?
More time passes. I wait. My eyelids grow heavy. I want nothing more than to curl into a ball in the corner of my cell and sleep.
Finally I hear footsteps approaching. The door swings open to reveal a young man dressed in black, with dark hair that falls over his eyes. Silver epaulettes sit on each shoulder. The other soldiers click their heels together.
The man waves them off. Now I recognize him. This is the captain who shot my mother. June had mentioned him before. Thomas. Commander Jameson must’ve sent him.
“Mr. Wing,” he says. He approaches me and crosses his arms. “What a pleasure to formally meet you. I was beginning to worry that I’d never get the chance.”
I will myself to stay silent. He looks uncomfortable being in the same room as me, and his expression says that he really hates me.
“My commander wants me to ask you some standard procedural questions before your execution date. We’ll try to keep it cordial, although of course we started off on the wrong foot.”
I can’t help choking out a laugh. “Really? You think so?”
Thomas doesn’t reply, but I see him swallow hard in an effort not to react. He reaches into his cloak and pulls out a small gray remote. He points it at the room’s blank wall. A projection comes up. Some police report, with pictures of a person I don’t recognize.
“I’m going to show you a series of photos, Mr. Wing,” he says. “The people you’ll see are suspected of Patriot involvement.”