“Someday you’ll die in a worse way than he did,” I snap back.
Commander Jameson lets out a laugh. “Ill-tempered until the end, aren’t you?” She releases my head and tilts my chin up with a finger. “What fun you are, my beautiful boy.”
I narrow my eyes. Before she can stop me, I dart out of her grasp and sink my teeth deep into her hand. She shrieks. I bite down as hard as I can, until I taste blood. Commander Jameson slams me into the wall. The hit knocks me loose. She clutches her hand, performing an agonized dance while I blink, fighting to stay awake. A couple of soldiers try to help her, but she shoves them away.
“I’m looking forward to your execution, Day,” she snarls at me. Her hand oozes blood. “I’ll be counting down the minutes!” Then she storms away and slams the cell door behind her.
I close my eyes and bury my head in my arms so that no one can see my face. Blood lingers on my tongue—I shudder at the metallic taste. I haven’t had the nerve to think about my execution date. What does it feel like to stand in front of a firing squad with no way out? My thoughts wander around and then zoom in on what June whispered to me. You won’t be able to do it alone. You’ll need my help.
She must have discovered something—who really killed her brother, or some other truth about the Republic. She has no reason to trick me now. . . . I have nothing to lose and she has nothing to gain. I wait for the realization to sink in.
A Republic agent is going to help me escape. She’ll help me save my brothers.
I must be losing my mind.
I LEARNED AT DRAKE THAT THE BEST WAY TO TRAVEL UNSEEN at night is by rooftop. I’m practically invisible at that height—the people on the ground keep their attention fixed on the street—and besides, up there I get the best view of where I’m headed.
Tonight I’m on my way back to the border of Lake and Alta, where I’d gotten into the Skiz fight with Kaede. I need to find her now, before I have to return to Batalla Hall in the morning and go over details of Day’s botched escape with Commander Jameson. Kaede is going to be my best ally for Day’s upcoming execution.
Shortly after midnight, I get dressed in all black. Black hiking boots. A thin black aviator jacket. Knives at my belt. A small black backpack strapped to my shoulders. I don’t bring my guns—I don’t want anyone to track me to the plague sectors.
I make my way to the top of my high-rise, until I’m standing alone on the roof with the wind whistling all around me. I can smell the moisture in the air. A few terraces still have animals grazing at this hour. The sight of them makes me wonder whether I’ve been living over an underground meat factory all this time. From here I can see all of downtown Los Angeles, as well as many of its surrounding sectors, and the thin rim of land that separates the enormous lake from the Pacific Ocean. It’s easy to pick out where the wealthy sectors border the poorest ones—where the steady light from electricity gives way to flickering lanterns, bonfires, and steam power plants.
I use an air rope launcher to connect a thin cable between two buildings. Then I glide silently from high-rise to high-rise until I’m well out of the Batalla and Ruby sectors. Here the going gets a little trickier. The buildings aren’t as tall, and the roofs are crumbling, some threatening to collapse entirely if too much force hits them. I choose targets carefully. A few times I’m forced to aim the launcher lower than the roof, and then shimmy my way to the top once I get to that side. By the time I reach the outskirts of Lake sector, I can feel sweat dripping down my neck and back.
The lake’s edge sits just a few blocks away. When I take a good look across the sector, I see that red tape lines almost every block, and plague patrol soldiers with gas masks and black capes stand at every street corner. Xs mark rows and rows of doors. I see one patrol going from door to door, pretending to do another routine sweep. I have a hunch that they are doling out cures right now, just as Metias said, and in a few more weeks, this plague will have “magically” trickled away. I make a point not to look anywhere close to where Day’s house is—or perhaps, was. As if his mother’s body might still be lying there on the street.
It takes me another ten minutes to reach the place outside of Lake where I met Day. Here the rooftops are too fragile for my air rope launcher. I carefully inch my way down to the ground—I’m agile, but I’m not Day—and follow shadowed alleys to the lakefront. Wet sand crunches under my feet.
I make my way through the back alleys, careful to avoid the streetlights, the street police, and the endless street crowd. Day once told me that he’d met Kaede in a bar here, at the edge of Alta and Winter. Now I scan the area as I go. From the rooftops I could already tell that there were about a dozen bars that matched the location and his description—here on the ground, I count out nine of them.
Several times I stop in an alley to gather my thoughts. If I’m caught here and anyone discovers what I’m doing, they’ll probably kill me. No questions asked. The thought makes my heart quicken.
But then I remember my brother’s words. It’s enough to make my eyes sting, to make me clench my teeth. I’ve gone too far to turn back now.
I wander through several bars without luck. They all look so similar—dim lantern light, smoke and chaos, the occasional Skiz fight happening in a dark corner. I check each fight, although I’ve learned my lesson about standing far enough away from the circles. I ask each bartender if he knows a girl with a vine tattoo. No Kaede.
About an hour passes.