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“You think the Rising might be able to do what the Society never could?” I ask. “You think the Rising has figured out how to bring people back to life?”
“Not yet,” she says, “but don’t you think they will someday? Don’t you think that’s the Pilot’s ultimate purpose? All the old stories and songs talk about him saving us. It might not just mean from the Society or the Plague, but from death itself—”
“No.” I speak low. “You saw those samples in the Carving. How could you bring anyone back from that? And even if you could use the sample to create someone a lot like the original person, it would never be the person themselves. You can’t bring anyone back, ever. Do you see what I mean?”
Indie shakes her head, stubborn.
Right then I feel a push at my back, shoving me off balance and toward the river nearby. I have barely enough time to reach my hand into my pocket and close my fingers around the paper before I hit water. I hold my hand up high and push off the bottom of the river as hard as I can with my feet.
But I know the paper is still wet.
The others think my fist is raised in some kind of salute, so they start cheering and calling out and raising theirs back. I have to play it off, so I call out, “The Rising!” and they all pick up the cry.
I’m certain it was Connor who pushed me. He watches from the shore with his arms folded.
Camas River runs near our camp, too, and as soon as the others are out of sight changing clothes in the barracks, I run down to the flat stones at the edge of the water, unfolding the paper as I go. If he ruined her message to me . . .
Part of the writing at the bottom is ruined. My heart sinks. But most of it is legible, and it’s written in Cassia’s handwriting. I’d know it anywhere. She’s changed our code a little, the way we always do, but it doesn’t take long to puzzle it out.
I’m fine, but most of my papers were stolen.
So don’t worry if you don’t hear from me as often. I’ll find my way to you as soon as I can. I have a plan. Ky, I know that you’re going to want to come find me, that you’re going to want to save me. But I need you to trust me to save myself.
Spring is coming. I can feel it. I still sort and wait, but I’ve been writing letters everywhere I can.
I was right. This message is old. The Plague has sped things up and slowed others down. Trading isn’t as reliable as it used to be. How many weeks ago did she write this? One week after the Plague arrived? Two? Did she ever get my message or is it sitting in the pocket of someone lying still in a medical center?
Sometimes, when I feel that it isn’t fair that we’re telling each other our stories in bits and pieces again, I remind myself that we are luckier than most, because we can write to each other. That gift, the first of many you’ve given me, means more to me each day. We have a way to keep in touch until we can be together again.
I love you, Ky.
That’s how we always end our messages to each other. But there’s more this time.
I couldn’t afford to send two separate messages all the way to Camas. I haven’t asked this of you before; I’ve tried to talk to him in different ways so that the two of you wouldn’t have to share. But can you find a way for Xander to see this, too? The next part is for him and it’s important.
That’s when I see that the code switches into numbers partway down the page. It looks like a basic numerical code, and near the bottom of the page it blurs into waves of ink on the paper from when I fell into the river.
I’m tempted to decipher it. She knows I could, but she thinks she can trust me.
She can. I won’t ever forget the way she looked at me in that little house in the Carving, when she realized I’d hidden the map to the Rising from her. I promised myself then that I wouldn’t let fear make me into someone I didn’t want to be. Now I’m someone who can trust and be trusted.
I have to find a way to get this message to Xander, even if it’s incomplete. And even if giving it to him makes it look like I am untrustworthy because part of it is ruined.
I pin the paper down on the flat stone with a small rock so that the wind can pull the water from the page. It won’t take long for the messages to dry. Hopefully the others won’t miss me.
When I turn back, I see Indie walking across the rocks. She’s changed into a dry uniform and she sits down next to me. I keep one hand on a corner of the paper, afraid to let go in case the wind picks up and sends the message sailing. For once, Indie doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t ask any questions.
So I do. “What’s the secret?” I ask Indie.
She looks at me and raises her eyebrows. What do you mean?
“What’s the secret to flying like you do?” I ask. “Like that time when the landing gear malfunctioned and you brought the ship in fine.” We’d scraped along the asphalt of the runway, the ship’s metal belly sending up sparks, and Indie hadn’t seemed flustered at all.
“I know how spaces fit together,” she says. “When I look at things, they make sense to me.”
She’s right. She’s always had a good sense of proportion and position when it comes to concrete objects. She carried that wasp nest because she liked the way it fit together. When she climbed the walls of the canyon, she made it look easy. But still, excellent spatial reasoning alone—even if it’s practically intuition the way it is for her—doesn’t account for how good she is at flying and how fast she learned. I’m not bad myself, but I’m nothing like Indie.
“And I know how things move,” Indie says. “Like that.”
She points to another heron over the water. This one skims along the river, wings outstretched, following a current of air for as long as it lasts. I look at Indie and feel a sharp ache of loneliness for her, like she’s the bird. She knows how things fit together and move, but so few people understand her. She’s the most solitary person I’ve ever known.
Has it always been that way?
“Indie,” I ask, “did you take a tube from the Cavern?”
“Of course,” she says.
“How many?” I ask.
“Just someone,” Indie says.
“Where did you hide it?”
“I didn’t keep it for long. It got lost in the water when we went down the stream to the Rising.”
She’s not telling the whole truth. I can’t tell where the lie comes in, but there’s no way to get Indie to talk about something when she’s decided to keep her own counsel.
“You and Hunter are the only ones who didn’t,” Indie says. “Take one of the tubes, I mean.”
Of course. Because Hunter and I accept the truth about death.
“I’ve seen people dead,” I tell Indie. “So have you. When they’re dead, they’re gone. You can’t bring them back.”
We are the ones who are alive. Here. With everything to lose.
“What if you needed to get something over the walls of the barricade?” I ask Indie, changing the subject. “Would you say that’s impossible?”
“Of course not,” she says. Just like I knew she would. “There are lots of ways to do it.”
“Like what?” I ask. I’m grinning. I can’t help it.
“Climb,” Indie says.
“They’ll see us.”
“Not if we’re fast,” Indie tells me. “Or we could fly.”
“They’d catch us for sure that way.”
“Not if it’s the Pilot who sends us in,” she says.
There’s always a feeling of excitement in the medical center when the cures come in. It’s one of the few times we get to see people who are really from outside the barricade. We’ve got medics and patients coming in all the time, but the pilots and runners who bring the cures are different. They’re not tied down to the medical center or even to Camas.
And there’s a chance that we might see the Pilot. The rumor is that he brings in some of the Camas City cures himself. Apparently the landing within our barricade is one that only the best pilots can manage.
The first ship drops down from the sky onto the street they use for a runway. The pilot brings the ship to a stop yards away from the marble steps of City Hall.
“I don’t know how they do that,” one of the other physics says, shaking her head.
“Neither do I,” I say. The ship turns and comes toward us. It goes a lot slower on land than it did in the air. As I watch it come in, I wonder if someday I’ll have a chance to fly in one of those ships. There are so many things to look forward to after we get everyone cured.
We physics open the cases in the medical storage room and scan the tubes with our miniports. Beep. Beep. Beep. The Rising officers from the ships bring in the cases one after another.
I finish scanning the tubes in the first case. As soon as I do, another appears in front of me.
“Thank you,” I say, reaching out to take it from the officer. I look up.
“Carrow,” he says.
“Markham,” I say. It’s odd using his last name. “You’re in the Rising.”
“Of course,” he says. “Always.” He grins at me because we both know it’s a lie. There are about a thousand things I want to ask him but we don’t have time. We’ve got to keep the supplies moving.
Suddenly that doesn’t feel like the most important thing in the world anymore. I want to ask him how and where she is and if he’s heard from her.
“It’s good to see you,” Ky says.
“You too,” I tell him. And it is. Ky holds out his hand to shake mine and we grip tightly, and I feel him press a piece of paper into my palm.
“It’s from her,” Ky says in a low voice so the others can’t hear. Before anyone can tell us to get back to work, he heads for the door. After he disappears, I glance over at the rest of the people delivering cures and find a girl with red hair watching me.
“You don’t know me,” she says.
“No,” I agree.
She tilts her head, scrutinizing me. “My name is Indie,” she says. She smiles and it makes her beautiful. I smile back and then she’s gone, too.
I shove the paper into my pocket. Ky doesn’t come back again, at least not that I see. I can’t help but feel like we’re playing at the tables back in the Borough, when he was throwing the game and I was the only one who knew. We’ve got another secret. What does it say on that paper? I wish I could read it now, but my shift isn’t over. When you’re working, there isn’t time for anything else.
Ky and I were friends almost from the beginning of his time in the Borough. At first, I was jealous of him. I dared him to steal the red tablets, and he did. After that we respected each other.
I remember another time when Ky and I were younger. We must have been thirteen or so, and we were both in love with Cassia. We stood talking near her house pretending to care what the other was saying but really waiting to see her when she came home.