Page 94


‘This area is quarantined, sir,’ he states in a voice that’s all business.
‘I know,’ Erik says, pushing me forward. ‘Here’s why.’
‘Um, I need to check with—’
‘Cormac sent me for her,’ Erik informs him, ‘but go ahead and call it in. He loves waiting.’
The guard’s eyes shift from him to me, and a chill ripples through my arms, raising goosebumps. It suddenly occurs to me that Erik might not be my friend; he might be leading me right into Cormac’s hands.
‘Go on up, sir,’ the guard says, stepping aside.
I keep quiet as Erik follows me up the stairs.
‘Any ideas?’ he mutters as we spiral through the tower.
I shake my head, and he moans behind me. If he is playing me, any plans I share with him could be turned against me. Not that I’ve thought of any.
When we reach the final twist in the staircase, Erik grabs my arm and drags me into Loricel’s studio. The walls are empty without the default image shimmering on them. I keep my eyes glued to the floor, but even without looking up, I see several sets of shoes around me: perfectly shined wingtips, red satin heels, and several pairs of thick boots. Between them, knees slump against the floor.
‘Darling,’ Cormac says in an irritated voice. ‘So nice of you to join us.’
I take a deep breath and lift my eyes. In the corner, Jost – fresh blood trickling from a cut near his left eye – is being held down by two burly guards. Not far from him, Maela and Pryana are watching me with looks of triumph on their faces.
‘Speechless!’ Cormac proclaims, stepping into my line of sight and blocking my view of Jost. ‘Never thought I’d see the day. Guess we found her hot button.’
Erik’s grasp on my arm tightens, but I don’t react to Cormac’s taunts.
‘I suppose this changes your ridiculous plan for her,’ Maela sneers. No need to play nice if they’re going to kill me.
‘We’ll proceed with the remap and go from there,’ Cormac says in a quiet but firm voice.
‘She’ll be a better wife then anyway,’ Maela says, but while she looks pleased by this, Pryana’s eyes flash with anger. She must not have heard their whole plan until now. Can it be that she’s actually jealous?
Jost, who hasn’t moved since we entered the room, shifts against his captors and glares at them.
‘Don’t like the sound of that, huh?’ Maela says in a mocking tone.
‘Shut up, Maela,’ Cormac orders.
Her victorious smile fades, and she steps back towards the empty wall.
Cormac turns to Erik, who’s still holding me in place. ‘Where was she?’
‘In the research area, sir,’ he says.
I’d hoped he would rat me out and, at least, confirm my suspicion about him, but Erik’s answer leaves too much room for interpretation, and I still can’t be sure what side he’s on. I was in the research area, but why not tell them I was in the repository? Is he still buying me time?
‘Enough of this,’ Loricel says from across the room, and I turn to look at her. She keeps her gaze on Cormac and doesn’t meet my eyes.
‘We need to find out what she was doing,’ Cormac says, striding to the loom. ‘Pull up the corresponding piece of the weave.’
Loricel moves to the command panel and enters a code. The brilliant weave of the compound glides back onto the loom.
‘Loricel was gracious enough to patch up the little hole you left,’ Cormac tells me. ‘But I’d like you to show me exactly what you did and where you went.’
I shake my head, reeling from the sting of her betrayal. ‘Ask her,’ I practically spit at them.
‘Let me rephrase that,’ Cormac says in a measured tone. ‘Do it or I’ll kill him right now, and then I’ll rip your precious sister.’
One of the guards removes a thick black club and presses a button on it, sending steel spikes shooting out from the top. He holds it over Jost. My eyes meet Jost’s, and he shakes his head slightly. But this isn’t about us any more. We have to protect Amie and Sebrina.
The whole room must hear my heart racing now, but I speak slowly, careful to stay calm. ‘Fine,’ I agree.
Erik drops his grip on my arm, and I walk to the loom. Running my fingers over it, I frown. ‘It’s not here,’ I announce, turning past Loricel to speak to Cormac.
‘What do you mean?’ he asks. ‘Loricel, where is it?’
Loricel knits her eyebrows, and she leans in towards the loom. ‘I must have put it back in the wrong spot.’
Cormac pinches the bridge of his nose and squeezes his eyes shut. ‘This,’ he says with a sigh, ‘is why I need you, Adelice.’
He mutters something that sounds a lot like ‘incompetence’ under his breath and motions for Maela to join him. ‘Go com Dr Ellysen—’
‘Ambassador, he’s already off-compound for the evening,’ Pryana interrupts his order, standing at a companel. Maela glares over at her.
‘Then,’ Cormac snaps, ‘call him in and tell him to prep the remap. I’m not putting this off an hour longer. If she won’t do what’s best for Arras, then she doesn’t deserve a second chance.’
‘Yes, sir,’ Pryana says.
‘Yes, let’s just finish this up and have her transplanted all at once. And, Pryana,’ he adds, ‘tell him to prep for Adelice’s remap in the morning.’