Page 5


I grope forward and find her hand, squeezing it tight. I stumble down behind her as my father herds us to the basement. I have no idea what his plan is. The only thing down here is a dank, meagrely stocked root cellar. Mom rushes to the basement wall and a moment later she slides a stack of bricks out of place to reveal a narrow tunnel.
Amie and I stand and watch; her wide-eyed horror mirrors the paralysing fear I feel. The scene before us shifts and blurs. I can’t wrap my head around what they’re doing even as I see it happening. The only constant – the one real thing in this moment – is Amie’s fragile hand clutching my own. I hold on to it for life, hers and mine. It anchors me, and when my mother wrenches her away, I shriek, sure I’ll vanish into nothing.
‘Ad,’ Amie cries, stretching out to me through Mom’s arms.
It’s her fear that spurs me back to this moment, and I call out to her, ‘It’s okay, Ames. Go with Mommy.’
My mother’s hands falter for a moment when I say this. I can’t remember when I last called her Mommy. I’ve been too old and too busy for as long as I can remember. Tears that have been building up wash down her face, and she drops her hold on Amie. My sister jumps into my arms, and I inhale the scent of her soap-clean hair, aware of how fast her small heart beats against my belly. Mom circles us and I soak up the strength of her warm arms. But it’s over too quickly, and with a kiss on my forehead, they’re gone.
‘Adelice, here!’ My father shoves me towards another hole as Amie and Mom disappear into the passage, but before I enter he grabs my wrist and presses cold metal near my vein. A second later heat sears the tender skin. When he releases my arm, I draw the spot up to my mouth, trying to blow off the burning.
‘What...’ I search his face for a reason for the techprint, and looking back down, I see the pale shape of a flowing hourglass marking the spot. It’s barely visible on my fair skin.
‘I should have done it a long time ago, but...’ He shakes off the emotion creeping into his voice and sets his jaw. ‘It will help you remember who you are. You have to leave now, honey.’
I look into the tunnel that stretches into nothing. ‘Where does it go?’ I can’t keep the panic out of my voice. There’s nowhere to hide in Arras, and this is treason.
Above us a stampede of heavy boots breaks across the wooden floor.
‘Go,’ he pleads.
They’re in the dining room.
‘There’s food on the table! They can’t be far.’
‘Search the rest of the house and cordon off the street.’
The feet are in the kitchen now.
‘Dad . . .’ I throw my arms around him, unsure if he will follow me or go into another tunnel.
‘I knew we could never hide how special you are,’ he murmurs against my hair. The basement door bangs open.
But before I can say I’m sorry for failing them, or tell him I love him, the boots are on the stairs. I scramble into the hole. He restacks the bricks behind me, shutting out the light. My chest constricts in the darkness. And then he stops. A large crack of light still streams in to the tunnel from the basement. I can’t move.
The bricks crash onto the concrete floor and light floods back into the tunnel. Choking down the scream fighting to loose itself, I struggle forward in the dirt, away from the growing light. I must keep moving forward. I try to forget Dad, and Mom and Amie in the other tunnel, as I crawl through the cold soil.
Keep moving forward.
I repeat it over and over, afraid that if I stop I will be paralysed again. But somehow I do keep moving forward, further and further into darkness, until cold steel clamps down on my leg. I scream as it digs into my skin and begins drawing me back – back to the light and the men in boots, back to the Guild. I tear against the packed dirt of the tunnel, but the claw is stronger and each desperate lunge I make back towards the darkness drives the metal deeper into my calf.
There is no fighting them.
As they pull me from the escape tunnel, someone jabs a needle in my wounded leg. I thrash as the liquid burns through my calf, but suddenly I’m calm. When one of the officers helps me stand in the damp basement, I smile at him. I can’t remember being happier.
‘Patch that up,’ barks a tall official coming down the basement stairs. He’s not like the others, who are dressed in typical soldier’s regalia. He is older and very handsome. His jaw is too smoothly sculpted to be natural, but the slight grey peppering his styled hair gives away his age. His nose, eyes, and teeth are too perfect, and I bet he’s been taking advantage of renewal patches. He has the kind of face they put on the Stream to read the news. I blink dreamily at him as a medic begins cleaning the wound from the claw. A group of women scurry down behind the official and begin wiping my face and combing my hair. It feels so nice I want to fall asleep. The only thing keeping me awake is the cold, gritty concrete under my bare feet. I’ve lost my shoes in the struggle.
‘You gave her too much,’ the official grumbles. ‘I said get her Stream-ready, not dose her out of her mind.’
‘I’m sorry. She was really fighting us,’ one of the officers tells him. I can hear the grin in his voice.
‘Fix it.’
A moment later another needle pricks my arm, and I stop smiling. I’m still calm, but the euphoria is fading.
‘Adelice Lewys?’ the official asks, and I nod. ‘Do you understand what’s going on?’