I take a deep breath. I need a miracle now.
Several minutes later, they lead me out. I do what John says and keep my chin up, my eyes blank. Now I can hear the crowd. The sound of them rises and falls, a steady tide of human voices. My eyes skim the flat-screen panels lining the hall as we pass by—the people in the square look restless, shifting like waves on a stormy day, and I pick out the lines of soldiers fencing them in. Now and then, I see people who have a bright scarlet streak painted into their hair. Soldiers are going through the crowd and rounding them up for arrest—but they don’t seem to care.
At some point, June joins us and falls into step near the back of the soldiers. I glance behind me, but can’t see her face. The seconds drag on. What will happen when we reach the yard?
Finally, we arrive at the halls that lead into the firing squad yard.
That’s when I hear Thomas, the young captain, say, “Ms. Iparis.”
“What is it?” June replies.
Then, words that seize my heart. I doubt she planned for this.
“Ms. Iparis,” he says, “you’re under investigation. Follow me.”
MY FIRST INSTINCT IS TO ATTACK THOMAS. THAT’S WHAT I would have done if he’d caught me without so many soldiers around. Lunge at him with everything I’ve got, knock him unconscious, then reach Day and make a run for the exits. I already have John. Somewhere in the halls that lead back to his old cells lie two guards passed out on the floor. I pointed John to the ventilation shaft. He’s waiting there for me to make my next move. I’ll free Day, shout out a signal, then John will emerge from the wall like a ghost and escape with us. But I can’t win a fight against Thomas and all these guards without the element of surprise.
So I decide to do what he says. “Investigation?” I ask him with a frown. He tips his cap politely, as if in apology, then takes one of my arms and begins leading me away from Day’s soldiers.
“Commander Jameson asked me to detain you,” he says. We round the corner and head for the stairwell. Two more soldiers join him. “I have a few questions for you.”
I put on an air of annoyance. “Ridiculous. Couldn’t the commander pick a less dramatic moment for this nonsense?”
Thomas doesn’t reply.
He leads me down the stairwell, two flights down, until we enter the basement where execution rooms, electric grids, and storage chambers line the halls. (I know why we’re down here now. They’ve discovered the missing electro-bomb that I gave to Kaede. Normally, inventory check wouldn’t happen until the end of the month. But Thomas must’ve had it done this morning.) I keep the rising panic off my face. Focus, I remind myself angrily. A panicked person is a dead person.
Thomas stops us at the bottom of the stairs. He puts a hand on his belt, and I see the gleam of his gun’s handle. “An electro-bomb’s gone missing.” The dangling lights overhead cast mean shadows across his face. “Found it missing in the early morning after I went knocking on your apartment door. You said you were up on the roof last night, right? Do you know anything about this?”
I keep my eyes locked steadily on his face and cross my arms. “You think I did this?”
“I’m not accusing you of anything, June.” His expression turns tragic, even pleading. But his hand doesn’t move away from his gun. “But I thought it was quite a coincidence. Few people have access down here, and everyone else was more or less accounted for last night.”
“More or less accounted for?” I say it sarcastically enough to make him blush. “That sounds vague. Did I show up on the security cams? Did Commander Jameson put you up to this?”
“Answer the question, June.”
I glare at him. He winces, but doesn’t apologize for his change in tone. This may be it for me.
“I didn’t do it,” I say.
Thomas looks unconvinced. “You didn’t do it,” he repeats back at me.
“What else can I tell you? Did they do at least another pass on the inventory check? Are you sure something’s missing?”
Thomas clears his throat. “Someone tampered with the security cams down here, so we have no footage.” He taps his gun. “It was quite a precise job. And when I think of precise, I think of one person. You.”
My heart starts beating faster.
“I don’t want to do this.” Thomas’s voice grows softer. “But I did find it strange that you spent so much time questioning Day. Do you feel sorry for him now? Did you set something up to—”
He never gets to finish that sentence.
Suddenly an explosion rocks the entire corridor, throwing us against the wall. Dust rains down from the ceiling, and sparks flicker through the air. (The Patriots. The electro-bomb. They’ve set it off in the square. They came after all, right on schedule, right before Day is to enter the firing squad yard. Which means all the guns in this building should be disabled for exactly two minutes. Thank you, Kaede.)
I shove Thomas hard against the wall before he can regain his balance. Then I yank the knife out from his belt, reach for the electric grid box, and pull it open. Behind me, Thomas reaches for his gun as if in slow motion.
I take the knife and slice through all the wires on the bottom of the electric grid.
A pop. A shower of sparks. The entire basement goes black.
I hear Thomas curse. (He’s discovered his gun is useless.) Soldiers stumble over each other. I quickly feel my way to the stairwell.
“June!” Thomas shouts from somewhere behind me. “You don’t get it—it’s for your own good!”