I rise, walk over to my computer, and pick up my glass of water. I stare blankly into it. Somehow, the sight of my fingers’ disjointed reflections against the glass startles me—reminds me of Day’s bloody hands, of Metias’s broken body. This antique glass was a gift, supposedly imported from the Republic’s islands of South America. It’s worth 2,150 Notes. Someone could’ve bought a plague cure with the money spent on this glass that I use to drink water out of. Maybe the Republic doesn’t even own those islands. Maybe nothing I’ve been taught is true.
In a sudden fit of anger, I lift the glass and hurl it against the wall. It shatters into a thousand glittering pieces. I stand there unmoving, trembling.
If Metias and Day had met somewhere other than the hospital’s back streets, would they have become allies?
The sun changes position. Afternoon comes. I still don’t move from where I stand.
Finally, when the sunset bathes my apartment in orange and gold, I break out of my trance. I clean up the shining shards of broken glass. I dress in my full uniform. I make sure my hair is pulled back flawlessly, that my face is clean and calm and devoid of emotion. In the mirror, I look the same. But I am a different person inside. I’m a prodigy who knows the truth, and I know exactly what I’m going to do.
I’m going to help Day escape.
I TRY TO BREAK OUT OF MY PRISON TONIGHT. THIS is how it happens.
As night falls on the third to last day of my life, I hear more shouting and pandemonium coming from the monitors outside my cell. Plague patrols have completely sealed off the Lake and Alta sectors. The steady rise and fall of gunfire coming from the screens tells me that the people living in those sectors must be facing off against the troops. Only one side has the advantage of guns. Guess who’s winning.
My thoughts wander back to June. I shake my head, amazed by how much I’ve allowed myself to open up to her. I wonder what she’s doing right now and what she’s thinking about. Maybe she’s thinking about me. I wish she were here. Somehow I always feel better with her. It’s as if she can completely sympathize with my thoughts and help me channel them away, and I can always take comfort in her lovely face.
Her face might give me courage, too. I’ve had trouble building up my courage without Tess, or John, or my mother.
I’ve been thinking about this all day. If I can find a way out of this cell, and arm myself with a soldier’s weapons and vest, I have a fighting chance to get out of Batalla Hall. I’ve seen the outside of this building several times now. The sides are not as slick as the Central Hospital was, and if I manage to break out of a window I could run along one of the ledges wrapping around the side of the building, even with my healing leg. The soldiers won’t be able to follow me. They’d have to shoot at me from the ground or the air, but I’m fast when I can find footholds, and I can tolerate the pain in my hands. I’ll have to find some way to break John out too. Eden probably isn’t in Batalla Hall anymore, but I remember quite clearly what June said to me on the first day of my capture. The prisoner in 6822. That must be John . . . and I’m going to find him.
But first I have to figure out how to get out of this cell.
I look over at the soldiers lined up against the wall and near the door. There are four. Each wears a standard uniform: black boots, black shirt with a single row of silver buttons, dark gray trousers, bulletproof vest, and a single silver armband. Each has a close-range rifle and an additional gun in his belt’s holsters. My mind races. In a room like this, with four steel walls that bullets could bounce off of, the rifles probably use something other than lead ammo. Rubber, perhaps, to stun me if needed. Even tranquilizers. But nothing that can kill me or kill them. Nothing, that is, unless it’s shot from a very close range.
I clear my throat. The soldiers turn to me. I wait a few more seconds, then make a gagging sound and hunch over. I shake my head as if to clear my thoughts, then lean back against the wall and close my eyes.
The soldiers seem alert now. One of them points his rifle at me. They stay silent.
I keep up my act for another few minutes, gagging twice more as the soldiers continue to watch me. Then, without warning, I pretend to dry heave, then burst into a fit of coughs.
The soldiers look at each other. For the first time, I see an uncertain light come into their eyes.
“What’s wrong?” one of them snaps at me. It’s the one with the cocked rifle. I don’t answer him. I pretend to concentrate too hard on holding back another heave.
Another soldier glances at him. “Maybe it’s the plague.”
“That’s nonsense. The medics checked him already.”
The soldier shakes his head. “He was exposed to his brothers. That young one’s Patient Zero, isn’t he? Maybe the medics didn’t pick it up back then.”
Patient Zero. I knew it. I gag again, trying to turn away from the guards as I do it, so they think I don’t want their attention. I heave and spit on the floor.
The guards hesitate. Finally, the one with the cocked rifle nods at the soldier standing next to him. “Well, I don’t want to stick around in here if it is some weird mutated plague. Call for a bio team. Let’s have him brought to the medical ward cells.” The other soldier nods, then raps on the door. I hear it unlock from the outside. A soldier from the hallway ushers him outside, then quickly relocks the door.
The first soldier walks toward me. “The rest of you, keep your rifles on him,” he says over his shoulder. He holds out a pair of handcuffs. I pretend not to notice his approach, so busy am I with my gagging and coughing. “Get up.” He grabs one of my arms and pulls me roughly to my feet. I grunt in pain.