Thomas seems taken aback by my tone. “You’ll have your troops,” he manages to say. “And I hope to hell you’re right.”
The feel of Day’s lips, our heated kiss, and his hands running across my skin—it should all mean nothing to me now. Worse than nothing. “I am right.”
I return to the alley before Day can find me missing.
DURING THE FEW HOURS OF SLEEP I MANAGE TO GET before dawn, I dream of home.
At least, it seems like the home I remember. John sits with our mother at one end of the dining table, reading to her from a book of old Republic tales. Mom nods encouragingly to him when he gets through an entire page without flipping words or letters around. I smile at them from where I stand by the door. John is the strongest of us, but he has a patient, gentle streak that I didn’t inherit. A trait from our father. Eden is doodling something on paper at the other end of the table. Eden always seems to be drawing in my dreams. He never looks up, but I can tell he’s listening to John’s story as well, laughing at the appropriate places.
Then I realize that the Girl is standing next to me. I hold her hand. She gives me a smile, one that fills the room with light, and I smile back.
“I’d like you to meet my mother,” I say to her.
She shakes her head. When I look back to the dining table, John and Mom are still there, but Eden’s gone.
The Girl’s smile fades. She looks at me with tragic eyes. “Eden is dead,” she says.
A distant siren shakes me out of my sleep.
I lie quietly for a while, eyes open, trying to catch my breath. My dream is still seared into my mind. I focus on the sound of the siren to distract myself. Then I realize I’m not hearing the normal wail of a police siren. Nor is it an ambulance’s siren. This is a siren from a military medic truck, the ones used for transporting injured soldiers to the hospital. It’s louder and higher-pitched than the others because military trucks get first priority.
Except we have no injured soldiers coming back to Los Angeles. They get treated at the warfront’s border. The other thing these trucks are used for around here is to transport special plague cases to the labs, due to their better emergency equipment.
Even Tess recognizes the sound. “Where are they going?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” I murmur back. I sit up and look around. The Girl looks like she’s been awake for a while already. She sits several feet away with her back against the wall, her eyes pointed out toward the street, her face grave with concentration. She seems tense.
“Morning,” I say to her. My eyes dart to her lips. Did I really kiss her last night?
She doesn’t look at me. Her expression doesn’t change. “Your family had their door marked, didn’t they?”
Tess looks at her in surprise. I stare at the Girl in silence, not sure how to respond. It’s the first time anyone other than Tess has brought up my family to me.
“You followed me last night.” I tell myself that I should be angry—but I don’t feel anything except confusion. She must have followed me out of curiosity. I’m amazed—shocked, really—at how silently she can travel.
But something seems different about the Girl this morning. Last night she was as into me as I was into her—but today she’s distant, withdrawn. Have I done something to piss her off? The Girl looks directly at me. “Is that what you’re saving up all that money for? A plague cure?”
She’s testing me, but I don’t know why. “Yes,” I say. “Why do you care?”
“You’re too late,” she says. “Because today the plague patrol is coming for your family. They’re taking them away.”
I DON’T HAVE TO SAY MUCH MORE TO CONVINCE DAY TO move. And the medic truck sirens, almost certainly headed for Figueroa and Watson, have come by just as Thomas promised they would.
“What do you mean?” Day says. The shock hasn’t even hit him yet. “What do you mean, they’re coming for my family? How do you know this?”
“Don’t question it. You don’t have time for that.” I hesitate. Day’s eyes look so terrified—so vulnerable—that suddenly it takes all my strength to lie to him. I try to draw on the anger I felt last night. “I did see you visit your family’s quarantine zone last night, and I overheard some guards talking about today’s sweep. They mentioned the house with the three-lined X. Hurry. I’m trying to help you—and I’m telling you that you have to go to them right now.”
I’ve taken advantage of Day’s greatest weakness. He doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t stop to question what I say, doesn’t even wonder why I didn’t tell him right away. Instead he leaps to his feet, pinpoints the direction that the sirens are coming from, and darts out of the alley. I feel a surprising pang of guilt. He trusts me—truly, stupidly, wholeheartedly trusts me. In fact, I don’t know if anyone has ever taken my word so readily before. Maybe not even Metias.
Tess watches him go with a look of increasing fright. “Come on, let’s follow him!” Tess exclaims. She jumps to her feet and takes my hands. “He might need our help.”
“No,” I snap. “You wait here. I’ll follow him. Keep low and stay quiet—someone will come back for you.”
I don’t bother to wait for Tess’s reply before I take off down the street. When I look over my shoulder, I see Tess standing in the alley with her wide eyes locked on my vanishing figure. I turn back around. Best to keep her out of this. If we arrest Day today, what will happen to her? I click my tongue and turn on my mike.